The “I put my heart and my soul into my work, and have lost my mind in the process.” ~ Vincent Van Gogh
In the old days, before meditation, if someone would have told me “you have lost your mind” I would have been upset. Today, if someone told me “you have lost your mind” I would be excited and thank him or her for noticing. We spend so much time in our lives in our minds – we are thinking about the past or wondering about the future and we miss out on living in the present moment.
We only have NOW, this present moment. My goal is to get out of my mind, to put more space between my thoughts. One of the ways that I lose track of time and there is more space between my thoughts is when I am involved in the creative process of painting or quilting. I truly have lost my mind and I don’t think about the past or the future; I am engrossed in what I am doing and am living in the present moment.
The other way that I get more space between my thoughts and into a place known as the "gap" is with my daily meditation process. I still have thoughts during meditation, we all do, but I get more space between my thoughts during that stillness and silence. And the best part is that since developing a daily meditation practice, the gaps between my thoughts after meditation is much greater because of the daily exercise of the mind.
What do you do where you lose track of time and lose your mind?
How could you live more in the present moment?
"Love is what we are born with. Fear is what we have learned here. The spiritual journey is the unlearning of fear and the acceptance of love back into our hearts." ~ Marianne Williamson
Today is a good day to focus on love; to love yourself, to love your family and friends, and to love everyone. The last part of the phrase might be difficult because there might have been someone who popped into your head that you said. “I can’t love them.” That is when you need to examine why you can’t love them? Are you angry with that person? Do you believe they caused you harm. You always get to choose how you respond to anything that happens to you in life. When something that we label as bad happens to us, we may be angry with that person. We need to examine the situation and look at why we are upset and how long we want to hold on to the anger. We need to see if we have a core issue that is based on fear and whenever something like this happens; we react like we did from an earlier time.
One of my core issues is that I don’t think I am good enough. Somewhere in my childhood, I learned the lesson that I’m not good enough. However, through therapy and dealing with the issue, I know that I am good enough. But, there are times in my life, when I make a mistake or something happens that I immediately resort back to thinking that I am not good enough. That is when I practice awareness, examine the fear, and accept love of myself back into my heart.
Do you have more love or fear in your life?
How can you unlearn fear and accept love back into your heart?
“How much of this is hard because of the situation, and how much of it is hard because I am seeing it as hard or I am making it hard?” You might be surprised to find that struggle is the offspring of perception and projection more than reality. Then ask yourself, “If I were willing to let this be easy, how would I be approaching this differently?” If you can discover a vantage point even a bit freer than the one you have been holding, you will take a significant step from struggle to peace.” ~ Alan Cohen
I went golfing with a friend and learned that I was what Alan Cohen calls a “Hardaholic.” My friend got me to realize that for a woman I was a good golfer. My problem was my perception, I usually play with men who crush the ball and my other women role models are LPGA players on TV who also crush the ball. I do not crush the ball, yet neither did my friend and she had an amazing round of golf. She hit the ball down the fairway, chipped to the green and putted the ball in the hole. My perception was that I needed to crush the ball and hit it hard, when in reality; I need to come from a different vantage point and quit struggling to hit the ball far and work on accuracy. I was making the situation hard because of my perception of reality and in my reality I do not hit like a man or professional women golfers.
Mindful living has me at peace on the golf course. During this round as I struggled, I never got upset or compared myself to the other golfers in my group who were all much better. I just enjoyed watching my friend play a terrific round of golf and I was happy for her. I loved being out in the sunshine and admiring the beauty of nature. But, I learned a great lesson today and I will approach the game from a different mindset and see if I can bring even more peace to the game. Always be open as you never know who will be your teacher and what lesson you will learn!
Are there any areas of your life where you are a hardaholic?
How can you change your perception so you can move from struggling to peace?
“One of the most loving things you can do for another person is let them make their own mistakes, learn their own lessons and endure in the contrast of a life they don't really want. People only really change when they've hit rock bottom - sometimes the most loving thing you can do for a person is to let them and be there to help pick up the pieces. Permanent change comes from within, no one can give it to you." ~ Jackson Kiddard
It is sometimes easier for us to look at someone else’s life and see what they need to do or not do, than to see what we need to do in our own life. We watch someone else spiraling out of control and just want to tell them what to do. But, we need to realize that we are watching their world, through our eyes. Our life and perspectives are different from theirs and we must understand we may not truly know what is best for them or their journey here on life.
I have friends and family and it is difficult to watch them struggle – I don’t want them to experience pain. But, you know what, we all experience pain. From the major pain in my life, I have learned the biggest life lessons. I couldn’t learn from the words or advice of others, as that was an intellectual exercise and I was only in my head. I learned the most from actually experiencing something deeply. Plus, the rebel in me didn’t want to be told what to do. I had to learn the difficult lessons in life from within.
I know that I had to learn the lessons myself and unfortunately my friends and family must learn their own lessons in their way. I offer help and assistance as I see fit, but let them know that I am there for them with a shoulder to cry on and a listening ear.
Do you let friends and family make their own mistakes?
Do you agree or disagree with Jackson Kidders’ quote?
“Keep away from people who try to belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the really great make you feel that you, too, can become great. When you are seeking to bring big plans to fruition, it is important with whom you regularly associate. Hang out with friends who are like-minded and who are also designing purpose-filled lives. Similarly, be that kind of a friend for your friends." ~ Mark Twain
I retired after thirty years in education. I thought I would have tons of free time to do everything I wanted to do. However, I feel busier than I did when I was working with my art, meditation instruction and practice, volunteering and daily life activities. I realized several years ago that I couldn’t say yes to all of the social and other opportunities that came my way.
I am busy and I do socialize, however I have come up with criteria about what I will say yes to when an opportunity comes my way. You will need to determine your criteria, but tor me at this stage of my life, spirituality and creativity are my focus of attention. Therefore, if an opportunity comes along, I think about whether it will enhance me creatively or spiritually. If it doesn’t, I say, “No, I am unable to do that.”
I used to think that I had to explain why I couldn’t do something and give a reason, but I have learned from the experts that I just need to say no without an explanation and detach from caring what others think about my answer of No. It wasn’t easy initially, for the pleaser in me, to say no, but with more practice I have gotten better and stronger at saying no. I am still busy, but I am doing things that nurture my soul with like minded-people on a spiritual and creative path.
Do your friends support or belittle your ideas and plans?
Are you able to say No? Do you have criteria for when to say Yes or No?
“Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better” ~Albert Einstein
Recently after going for a hike in nature, I was blissed out for the rest of the day. Everything went smoothly and seemed to sparkle. I wrote several blog entries from a place of pure inspiration. I was calm, peaceful and experiencing life from a place of centered awareness. Life was grand.
I believe that one of the best antidotes for stress is nature. When I become aware that I am getting stressed out or depressed, I take a break in nature. I simply watch the hummingbirds and bees move from plant to plant serving their divine purpose. The flowers are blooming gloriously and the sun is shining brightly. They don’t appear to be struggling; nature teaches me the most important lesson and that is to go with the flow.
It is nice if you live near a park, beach, or forest, but if you don’t, then find some place outside where you can spend a few minutes and take in nature, plants, birds, or animals. I just go to my backyard or take a walk in my neighborhood. Take a few minutes to explore with your senses - what do you smell, taste, feel, hear or see? Take a deep breath and slow your pace and just be with nature. And for a bigger dose of the calming effects of nature, plan some free time to go outside for a hike, walk on the beach, go to a local botanical garden, spend time at a lake, camp in the forest, or whatever nature activity brings you joy.
How often do you spend time in nature?
What do you learn when you are immersed in nature?
"The wise know that too much doing and a thing won't get done. The secret to manifesting on the highest level is to find the perfect amount of doing and non-doing to allow the doing to be done. Sometimes much more can be accomplished simply by letting go and trusting." ~ Jackson Kiddard
We live in a society that attributes success to getting lots of things done. Many of us view ourselves and others based on the accomplishments of the day. We look at our endless “To Do” list and are happy when we have crossed off numerous items. However in having established a mindfulness and meditation practice, I no longer view “doing” as I once did. In fact, I think it is more important to “just be” during the day than to crossing things off my “To Do” list.
I still have a “To Do” list, but it isn’t as important to me to cross things off as it to make sure that I was present and mindful as I do everything in my life. I feel successful at the end of the day not by looking at the quantity of things I have done, but to look at the amount of time I was focused on the task at hand and not thinking of something else while I was completing the task. Many times when we are washing dishes, cleaning, driving and our minds are thinking about the past or worried about the future.
To many people, meditation seems like doing nothing, yet to me it accomplishes so much. Meditation first thing in the morning sets my day so that I approach the busyness from a state of stillness and I am much less reactive and calmer as I go about the day. During meditation I am “being” instead of “doing.” I am getting in touch with who I am at my core.
It took a long time for me to learn to delegate. Many times I would want to control things and I thought that if I did the job that it would get done right and I would have thought of all of the things that might go wrong and I had them covered with back-up plans. I also thought that it would take me longer to explain how to do the task to someone than to just do it myself. But, I learned that Kiddard was right and that when I let go and trusted that the other person would do the job that more things were accomplished and I was less stressed and tired because I didn’t do it all. Plus, many times it ended up better because the other person did it in a way I hadn’t thought about and I had more time and energy to devote to the part I took responsibility for and the situation was a success.
What is the perfect amount of “doing” and “non-doing” for you?
Do you agree with the statement, “Sometimes much more can be accomplished simply by letting go and trusting?” Do you follow that philosophy?
“I say, follow your bliss and don’t be afraid, and doors will open where you didn’t know they were going to be. If you follow your bliss, doors will open for you that wouldn’t have opened for anyone else.” ~ Joseph Campbell
This week, I went on a hike with a friend in Honey Bee Canyon and we came upon the opening in the picture. We went through the opening and on the other side was a beautiful canyon. We could have been afraid and not gone through, but the bliss we found on the other side was our favorite part of the hike. Joseph Campbell’s philosophy to “follow your bliss” is one of my favorite life lessons. We weren’t frightened of the unknown and when we went through the door, we were well rewarded with nature in all its glory. I follow this philosophy when I paint, hike, ski, meditate, practice yoga and pretty much do anything. Someone asked me the other day, “are you always like this or just on a caffeine buzz?” and I realized that I live from a state of bliss.
When you follow your bliss, the doors will open. They may not be the doors you were expecting to open; sometimes they will be more magnificent and exciting than the ones you were planning to go through. You can live your life being afraid and anxious or you can be open to the uncertainty and ambiguity of life and live it to its fullest. I choose to explore all of the possibilities that life has to offer and express gratitude.
Do you follow your bliss?
Can you share a time when you followed your bliss and doors opened for you that you weren't expecting?
“Don't Take Anything Personally. Nothings others do is because of you. What others say and do is a projection of their own reality, their own dream. When you are immune to the opinions of others, you won't be the victim of needless suffering." ~Don Miguel Ruiz
How many times in our life have we said that someone did something to me and now I am sad, mad, or angry? For most of my life, I took things personally. I had a boss and she would say things to me and I would take them personally and be upset for hours, days, and sometimes a week. What a waste of time and energy.
With the practice of meditation and mindfulness, I have come to see that I have a choice when someone says something to me. First, I try to become reflective and not immediately react. This doesn’t happen all of the time, but much more frequently now because of the mindfulness practice. Then, I examine if the statement rings true for me. If it is true, then I choose a course of action and resolve the situation and move on. However, as Don Miguel Ruiz states above, most of the time the statement is their issue and based on their projections of the world. Since the statement is usually about them, I let go of it and don’t suffer. We must realize that everyone is doing the best job they can at their current level of consciousness and they might not be as conscious as you.
It is always important to remember that no one does anything to us. Something might happen. A person might say or do something. But we get to choose how to respond. You can choose to be sad, angry, or depressed because of what they said, but it is totally up to you. You are in the driver seat and the more you see the beautiful person you are on the inside, the less likely you will let the opinions of others ruin your day. It takes practice, but it is well worth the effort to bloom and live from this place grace and happiness.
Do you take things personally?
Do you blame others for how you feel?
What can you do to become immune to the opinions of others?
“Life is the opposite of school. In school we study and THEN get the test. In life, we get the test and then we learn.” Mastin Kipp
Everyday life is our "school." When we are pay attention, we can learn the most valuable lessons from everything that happens in our life. I don’t know about you, but I did not get a manual for life. We show up and things start happening. The most important thing that I have learned recently is that awareness is the key to being successful in life. If I am aware, I will see that something just happened and it triggered an emotional response. The response might be anger, joy, frustration, love, sadness, happiness and so many other possibilities. But, if I am aware, I can reflect and respond from consciousness instead of having a knee-jerk reactive response. I can bring compassion and equanimity to life’s tests. Meditation has helped me achieve a greater level of present-moment awareness.
Life gives us many tests each and every day and we get to choose how to respond to these tests. I have learned from my tests in life that I suffer far less when I go with the flow of life instead of trying to battle the current and control situations. My days are more peaceful when I deal with challenges as opportunities for growth. I know that being on earth means that I will be presented with a multitude of tests; it is up to me to be conscious and aware of the opportunities to learn and grow.
How do deal with the “tests” of life?
In what ways could you improve your techniques for dealing with the tests and learn more efficiently?
"It's more important to be kind than to be right." ~ Wayne Dyer
I follow Deepak Chopra’s Seven Spiritual Laws of Success. It is a great book and a wonderful way to live life. Each day there is one specific law to observe. Wednesday is one of my favorite days because it is the Law of Least Effort. On this day we practice acceptance and take responsibility for our actions. We accept and surrender to whatever is happening at each moment. I don’t impose my will on Wednesday. It is a day that I don’t insert or assert and let go of trying to prove my point or convince others on my point of view. It truly is more important to be kind that to force my point of view on someone else.
Wednesdays have taught me that when I give up the need to defend my point of view I am much calmer at the end of the day because I haven’t spent so much time and energy on this process. It doesn’t mean I don’t have a point of view, it means I listen and am open to other peoples point of view.
It is amazing what you learn when you listen to other people’s points of view. You don’t have to accept them all, but you can learn so much about the other people and about yourself. And sometimes, those crazy people, with their crazy points of view have something to offer you.
How important is it for you to be right?
Is it more important to be kind than to be right?
It's not your job to like me - it's mine. ~Byron Katie
Learning to like myself was one of the most difficult lessons in life for me to learn. I did everything I could to get the approval of others so that they would like me. I was a people pleaser and in my mind I would try to figure out what I could say or do to get everyone to like me. What I didn’t realize until later in life was that I needed to like myself and that was all that mattered.
At one point in my life, I was fortunate to have been selected as the Student Regent of the Arizona Board of Regents. It was a valuable lesson for me because, as a people pleaser, I was going to make a lot of people unhappy. I did not have thick skin, yet I would open the University and local newspapers and see caricature pictures of my head on a stealth bomber and read negative things about myself. I learned that in every decision we made, we would upset a portion of the population and they did not like me. I learned to make the best decision possible and detach from what people said about me and how they felt about me. Now, I come from a place of authenticity and don’t worry about getting other’s approval. I learned to like myself and love myself.
Do you like yourself?
What do you do and how do you react when someone doesn’t like you or says something negative about you?
Burt Goldman shares these Five Rules of Happiness
1. If you like something, enjoy it.
2. If you don’t like something, avoid it.
3. If you don’t like something and can’t avoid it, change it.
4. If you can’t or choose not to (important distinction there!) avoid or change something you don’t like, then accept it.
5. You accept something by changing your perception of it.
In my art studio, I have posted many quotes and concepts to inspire and center me. The quote above is one of my favorites. It has five easy, yet profound steps. We want to make sure that we keep doing the things we enjoy and make time in our busy lives to do things we enjoy. The second step seems obvious, but if you don’t like doing something, then don’t do. We need to ask ourselves why do we continue to do something we don’t enjoy, and if we can stop doing it, then by all means, don’t do it any longer.
One of the things that I came to realize is that there is a finite amount of time in the day and I can’t do everything or be with everyone. I decided what was most important to me and was focusing on spirituality and creativity. Now, I spend my time and energy getting together with friends who enhance life spiritually and creatively. I now say NO to those activities that don’t enrich my spiritualty and creativity. It is important to look at your life and see what you can eliminate.
But, there are things in life that we can’t avoid. I know that it is important to go to the Dentist every six months; I can’t change that. Okay, I could change that and not go, but I don’t want gum disease. I love the important distinction that Goldman points out – I get to choose. So many times in life, we feel that we don’t have a choice, but we actually do. I now have changed my perception of going to the Dentist. I no longer dread or fear it, but now look at it as a time to practice mindfulness. I practice my breathing techniques while I am there. I see that the universe is giving me time to practice deep breathing and relaxing my body. Plus, I really love my dental hygienist and Dentist, so I get to hear what is going on in their lives which is very uplifting. Changing my perception makes the situation much better.
How can you employ Goldman’s Five Rules of Happiness in your life?
Peggy Steffens is an artist and Chopra Certified Meditation Instructor
My goal is to build a community with like-minded individuals who want to grow, share and learn from one another. Please post comments to enrich the experience for all.