Wednesday, April 04, 2018 joyreichard Uncategorized No comments

Life for us humans on planet earth is becoming ever increasingly stressful. Many of my clients complain of feeling overwhelmed, stressed and anxious. They complain that at work they are expected to do more with less frequently meaning longer hours, more work, the lack of adequate supervisors, challenging co-workers or subordinates, and the resulting feelings of overwhelm.  This stress is amplified with the worries of maintaining a lifestyle that is becoming ever more expensive. Just turning on the news in an attempt stay up with the latest from Washington, let alone the world, adds to this stress load. In addition, our individual stress impacts the quality of our personal relationships compounding the overwhelm and anxiety we are already experiencing in our lives.

We are a stressed-out society, and stress is a killer.  Stress eats up our limited resources spiritually, emotionally and mentally, as well as wearing down our physical body.

Stress is the silent virus. Its symptoms mirror real physical and emotional ailments.  Physically it shows up as digestive issues (irritable bowel syndrome, acid reflux), fatigue, or headaches. Mentally it reveals itself as forgetfulness, poor concentration and focus, confusion, and negative thinking. Emotionally it manifests as lack of enthusiasm, motivation, and irritability. Apathy, burn-out, and feelings of helplessness and hopelessness are spiritual symptoms of stress. Stress can intrude on our relationships in the form of nagging, bickering, blaming and intolerance.

Does any of this sound familiar to you?

Stress makes coping with normal daily activates increasingly difficult. There are several things you can do, however, to cope with stress.

1. Schedule time daily for some extra self-care – a soothing bath, reading just for pleasure, a walk – especially when it is sunny out, a cup of tea while gazing out the window thinking of absolutely nothing.

Here is a recipe from Dr. Lisa Moore, my Network Chiropractor and aromatherapy instructor.

• 6 drops lavender (Lavender angustifolia)
• 2 drops clary sage (salvia sclareaI)
• Dim the lights, light a candle, and soak in this soothing bath while taking deep relaxing breaths. You can add some relaxing music if you like.

2. Schedule something pleasurable each week – a hike in nature, a trip to the ocean, a massage, an afternoon just for you, or a special outing with a friend or a special someone.

3. When stress starts to build take a few minutes to relax. Relaxation can help you release, re-focus, and renew. One simple relaxation exercise that I share with my clients is:

• Close your eyes and imagine you are in a beautiful spot – the ocean, redwood forest, a beautiful mountain meadow
• Take three deep breaths, exhaling slowly
• Count backwards from 10 to 1 while imagining you are sinking deeper and deeper into relaxation
• Relax all of your muscles
• Relax your mind
• Then visualize being in that beautiful spot, breathe in the fresh air, absorbing the serenity and peace around you
• Then when you are ready count yourself back from 1 to 5

(Click HERE for the audio file of this simple relaxation for your enjoyment.)

Take a few minutes and try this on you own or to listen to this visualization! You can do this simple relaxation exercise in just 5 to 10 minutes. Afterwards you will feel more relaxed, you will have greater clarity and focus, and you will have an increased ability to cope with whatever comes your way.

If you are experiencing symptoms of physical, emotional, spiritual, mental, and/or relational stress and need help finding relief, then please contact me and come in for a complementary 30 minute phone consultation to find out how you can cultivate more peace and calm in your life.  415-819-8769 or email joy@joyreichard.com.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018 joyreichard goddess , Personal Growth and Development , Spiritual Growth No comments

When I think about activism I’m taken back to my own days in the 60’s when protest marches were common place. I remember the angry arms, fists raised in the air, and loud voices over megaphones blasting out about injustices.

When I think of the spiritual activism I think of Martin Luther King and his non-violent protests that brought out the masses and lobbied for transformation and civil rights reform. I also think of Mother Teresa, that little body of fierce compassion and conviction who swayed the conscience of the powerful to support her causes.

Spiritual activism is not about religion, or even about being religious. But it is about being willing to take a part in creating change – and to play that part with the spirit of compassion, love, a sense of the interconnectedness of all beings, and the determination to stand on conviction.

Buddhists hold sacred the tenets of compassion, mercy, altruism, and loving kindness, among others. According to some strains of Tibetan Buddhism, practitioners will meditate on Tara, a female deity, to develop these qualities. Believing that everyone can achieve enlightenment, Tibetan Buddhists claim that Tara can remove obstacles that get in the way of personal growth and the cultivation of activism.

Tara was said to be born from the tears of the Hindu Lord of Compassion, Avalokitesvara. He dedicated his existence to rescuing all humans from suffering. But eons ago it was a very bad age with people behaving terribly to one another. Just as he rescued one person, another would fall. He became frustrated and began banging his head against a wall from the futility of his efforts. Because he was blessed by the Buddha, instead of wounds or bruises, two large eyes emerged on the back of his head. From the eyes tears fell. From the tears emerged Green Tara and White Tara.

Green Tara pledged to help by removing obstacles from the path of humans so they could walk the path to enlightenment with greater ease. White Tara vowed to help humans by increasing their fortunes and extending their lives. Together they help Avalokitesvara making it easier for us humans to receive blessings and to achieve enlightenment.

These deities serve as models for us about the meaning of compassion and spiritual activism. They have the altruistic mindset of service, not for personal fame or aggrandizement, but because they care about our human condition. They want humans to live better lives so they in turn will become enlightened spiritual activists who work for the betterment of humanity. The Taras stay focused on the positive, on what they can do, continually helping us to overcome obstacles, especially our negativity, so we can envision a better world for all.

The Taras understand that all beings are interconnected. When one human achieves enlightenment and can live more in a spirit of compassion, then they have a positive influence on those they touch, raising the vibrations of people around them. As one of us becomes more compassionate and caring, then they demonstrate to others the power of compassion and the importance of standing up for your convictions.

Look at both Martin Luther King and Mother Theresa, two humans who strove for enlightenment, embraced compassion for their fellow beings, and pledged their lives to work towards their convictions. One human can inspire others and start a movement for peace, freedom and equality.

It’s also important to note that each Tara had their assigned tasks. They did not take on everything, like so many of us humans try to do. They chose selectively where to put their efforts rather than being all over the board. It’s important for us to also use wisdom and discernment when we select a cause to fight for. When we focus, we can apply 100% of our efforts and thus have a chance to make a difference. When we splinter and apply our efforts among multiple causes, which are all very important, we dilute our effort, and end up making minimal impact. This is an important truism for all of us to keep in mind.

Take time to reflect on the lessons from Green and White Tara. Become a spiritual activist; take a stand and make a difference. But come to your activism with an altruistic and compassionate heart. Remember to focus on the positive. Stand for what you are ‘for,’ not what you are ‘against,’ so your mindset can stay positive.

Always remember that we are all interconnected. What we are and what we do has an impact on those around us. Your bad mood can dampen the mood of others. When you are full of joy, it radiates to those around you lifting their moods. Finally, choose what you commit to with wisdom and discernment. Remember it is always better to under-commit and over-deliver than to over-commit than under-deliver.

If you, and I, can commit to these gems of wisdom, then we will have a chance to change the world – together!

 

This article was inspired by a blog posted in 2015 on http://fiercelove.wordpress.com

 

Do you still carry a grudge over something that happened years ago?

If so, you just might be the person who is suffering the most!

I’ve been doing a series of articles on the qualities we need to cultivate in order to achieve a higher state of ‘Being-ness.” According to many well-known metaphysical teachers, we are living during a monumental time in which humanity is experiencing a shift to higher consciousness. We are shifting from 3rd dimensional consciousness to 5th dimensional consciousness.

When a person reaches 5th dimensional consciousness, it’s claimed that they will experience a permanent state of peace, bliss, love, and joy. The catch is, however, that in order to “ascend” a person must first cultivate a consistent state of being that is compassionate, forgiving, loving, tolerant, and accepting. This has led me to question what these traits actually are, and how they might benefit humanity.  The following is the second article in a two-part series on Forgiveness.

Holding a grudge can harm you
There are some negative consequences of holding onto a grudge. According to the Mayo Clinic, if you continue to carry a grudge you might actually pollute other relationships and new experiences with your anger and bitterness. There is a danger of allowing your old toxic memories of past wrongs negatively impact what is going on in the present. This might lead to depression or anxiety. Or it could morph into feeling that your life lacks purpose or meaning. For some it might cause you to feel disconnected from spirit or your spiritual beliefs. Finally it might hamper your ability to maintain valuable and enriching connection with others.

How can you reach a state of forgiveness?
Forgiveness comes when you make the decision to be honest with yourself. It takes making the conscious effort to reflect on the situation with more compassion while attempting to view it from a much larger perspective of yourself, the other party, and the situation.

To begin, you might reflect on the particulars of the situation, such as how you’ve reacted, and how the resentment and bitterness has affected your life, your health and your well-being. Has it enriched your life with joy and meaning, or has it kept you cycling in anger and bitterness? Then you might consider the value of forgiveness and the impact it could have on your life. Sometimes by actively choosing to view the other person with compassion while trying to understand them and their situation, you will find that the ability to forgive will naturally happen. This is easier if you move away from viewing yourself as the victim and eliminate any belief that the offending person has any control or power over your life. In reality, they only have power if you give it to them.

As you let go of grudges, you’ll no longer define your life by how you’ve been hurt. You might even find compassion and understanding.

Forgiveness isn’t easy
I’m not claiming that it is always easy to forgive. This is especially true if the other person doesn’t want to admit wrong and/or doesn’t speak of his or her own sorrow. If you find yourself stuck and having trouble forgiving, then try one or several of these suggestions:

  • Consider the situation from the other person’s point of view.
  • Ask yourself why he or she would behave in such a way. Perhaps you would have reacted similarly if you faced the same situation.
  • Reflect on times you’ve hurt others and on those who’ve forgiven you.
  • Write in a journal, pray or use guided meditation — or talk with a person you’ve found to be wise and compassionate, such as a spiritual leader, a mental health provider, or an impartial loved one or friend.
  • Be aware that forgiveness is a process and even small hurts may need to be revisited and forgiven over and over again.

Forgiveness and reconciliation
It’s important to remember that forgiveness doesn’t always lead to reconciliation. If you’ve had a close relationship with the offending person prior to being hurt, then forgiveness might lead to reconciliation. This doesn’t always happen, however. Sometimes you are able to forgive, but the relationship never quite seems to go back to the way it was.

If the offender has died or is unwilling to communicate then reconciliation might not be possible to achieve. Sometimes reconciliation isn’t appropriate. Still, forgiveness is possible — even if reconciliation isn’t.

Forgiveness isn’t about getting another person to change his or her actions, behavior or words. Forgiveness is more about how it can change your life by helping you to find greater peace, happiness, and emotional and spiritual healing. Forgiveness can also take away the power the other person might still wield in your life.

Forgiveness is a process that takes time
Remember, forgiveness is a process. Your ability to forgive may not happen overnight. Nor can you force someone to forgive you if you should realize that you just might have to take some responsibility for what happened.

People need to move to forgiveness in their own time. Whatever the outcome, allow yourself to move to a state of forgiveness. Forgiveness is important for your own health and well-being. Then commit to treating others with compassion, empathy and respect.

To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was YOU!

If you are harboring bitterness, anger, and/or resentment and are having a hard time letting it go, then give Joy Reichard a call to find out how she can help you move to a state of forgiveness so you can find more peace and happiness in your life. Email Joy today or contact Joy at 415-819-8769.

Adapted from words of wisdom obtained from a Mayo Clinic article on forgiveness.

Wednesday, March 07, 2018 joyreichard Personal Growth and Development , self help , Spiritual Growth No comments

Has someone hurt you in the past?  Maybe betrayed a trust? Offered unwelcomed criticism? Placed blame unfairly?

When someone hurt you, did you have you have a hard time letting it go? Did you harbor anger, resentment, or even thoughts of revenge?

Have you found it difficult to embrace forgiveness and move forward?

I’ve been doing a series of articles on the qualities we need to cultivate in order to achieve a higher state of ‘Being-ness.” According to many well-known metaphysical teachers, we are living during a monumental time in which humanity is experiencing a shift to higher consciousness. We are shifting from 3rd dimensional consciousness to 5th dimensional consciousness.

When a person reaches 5th dimensional consciousness, it’s claimed that they will experience a permanent state of peace, bliss, love, and joy. The catch is, however, that in order to “ascend,” a person must first cultivate a consistent state of being that is compassionate, forgiving, loving, tolerant, and accepting. This has led me to question what these traits actually are, and how they might benefit humanity. The last two articles focused on Compassion. The following is a two-part series on Forgiveness.

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Nearly everyone has been hurt by the actions or words of another. Perhaps your mother criticized your parenting skills, your colleague sabotaged a project, or your partner had an affair. These wounds can leave you with lasting feelings of anger, bitterness, or even vengeance.

I’ve harbored bitter feelings towards a couple of ‘exes’ for a long time. During a recent illness that lingered for 6 weeks I was given way too much time to process these old hurts. I did a lot of reflection on forgiveness and compassion and why these too human characteristic are so important.

Wise elders from all traditions have told us that if we don’t practice forgiveness, we might be the ones who pay most dearly. By embracing forgiveness, we’re told that we can also embrace peace, hope, gratitude and joy.

Forgiveness can lead you down the path of physical, emotional and spiritual well-being.

Defining forgiveness
Generally, forgiveness is coming to terms with the wisdom of letting go of resentment and thoughts of revenge. Although you might always remember the act that hurt or offended, eventually there is realization that forgiveness can lessen its grip on you and help you focus on other, more positive parts of your life. The process of forgiveness can even lead to feelings of understanding, empathy and compassion for the one who hurt you.

Forgiveness doesn’t mean that you deny the other person’s responsibility for hurting you. Nor does it minimize or justify the wrong. It’s possible to forgive the person without excusing the act. Forgiveness allows you to find a place of inner peace that helps you go on with life free from the feelings of resentment and bitterness.

The importance of forgiveness
Letting go of grudges and bitterness can help you create a life with more happiness, health and peace. The Mayo Clinic claims that forgiveness can lead to:

  • Healthier relationships
  • Greater spiritual and psychological well-being
  • Less anxiety, stress and hostility
  • Lower blood pressure
  • Fewer symptoms of depression
  • Stronger immune system
  • Improved heart health
  • Higher self-esteem

Why is it so easy to hold a grudge?
When you’re hurt by someone you love and trust, you might become angry, sad or confused. Dwelling on these hurtful events or situations allows grudges filled with resentment, vengeance and hostility to fester and take root. Our imagination is so powerful that rehashing these negative feelings can inflame the hurt and pain so that it crowds out positive feelings. Then you might find yourself swallowed up by your own bitterness or sense of injustice. Has this ever happened to you?

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Next week I will share with you why grudges are damaging to you, as well as causing hurt to the person we are upset and/or angry with. I’ll also share some steps on how to forgive and move towards reconciliation, if reconciliation is a possibility.

If you are harboring bitterness, anger, and/or resentment and are having a hard time letting it go, then give Joy Reichard a call to find out how she can help you move to a state of forgiveness so you can find more peace and happiness in your life. Email Joy today or contact Joy at 415-819-8769.

 

Adapted from words of wisdom obtained from a Mayo Clinic article on forgiveness.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018 joyreichard Personal Growth and Development , self help , Spiritual Growth No comments

Last week I stated that according to many well-known metaphysical teachers, we are living during a monumental time in which humanity is experiencing a shift to higher consciousness. We are shifting from 3rd dimensional consciousness to 5th dimensional consciousness. When a person reaches 5th dimensional consciousness, it’s claimed that they will experience a permanent state of peace, bliss, love, and joy. The catch is, however, that in order to “ascend” a person must first cultivate a consistent state of being that is compassionate, loving, tolerant, forgiving and accepting. This has led me to question what these traits actually are, and how they might benefit humanity. To better understand ‘compassion’, I was drawn to an article in Psychology Today, “Compassion: Our First Instinct, Science shows that we are actually wired for compassion, not self-interest”. Last week I shared Part One of the article. Here is Part Two.

Why is Compassion Good for Us?

Why does compassion lead to health benefits in particular? A clue to this question rests in a fascinating new study by Steve Cole at the University of California, Los Angeles, and APS Fellow Barbara Fredrickson at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The results were reported at Stanford Medical School’s Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education’s (CCARE) inaugural Science of Compassion conference in 2012. Their study evaluated the levels of cellular inflammation in people who describe themselves as “very happy.” Inflammation is at the root of cancer and other diseases and is generally high in people who live under a lot of stress. We might expect that inflammation would be lower for people with higher levels of happiness. Cole and Fredrickson found that this was only the case for certain “very happy” people. They found that people who were happy because they lived the “good life” (sometimes also known as “hedonic happiness”) had high inflammation levels but that, on the other hand, people who were happy because they lived a life of purpose or meaning (sometimes also known as “eudaimonic happiness”) had low inflammation levels. A life of meaning and purpose is one focused less on satisfying oneself and more on others. It is a life rich in compassion, altruism, and greater meaning.

Another way in which a compassionate lifestyle may improve longevity is that it may serve as a buffer against stress. A new study conducted on a large population (more than 800 people) and spearheaded by the University at Buffalo’s Michael Poulin found that stress did not predict mortality in those who helped others, but that it did in those who did not. One of the reasons that compassion may protect against stress is the very fact that it is so pleasurable. Motivation, however, seems to play an important role in predicting whether a compassionate lifestyle exerts a beneficial impact on health. Sara Konrath, at the University of Michigan, discovered that people who engaged in volunteerism lived longer than their non-volunteering peers — but only if their reasons for volunteering were altruistic rather than self-serving.

Another reason compassion may boost our well-being is that it can help broaden our perspective beyond ourselves. Research shows that depression and anxiety are linked to a state of self-focus, a preoccupation with “me, myself, and I.” When you do something for someone else, however, that state of self-focus shifts to a state of other-focus. If you recall a time you were feeling blue and suddenly a close friend or relative calls you for urgent help with a problem, you may remember that as your attention shifts to helping them, your mood lifts. Rather than feeling blue, you may have felt energized to help; before you knew it, you may even have felt better and gained some perspective on your own situation as well.

Finally, one additional way in which compassion may boost our well-being is by increasing a sense of connection to others. One telling study showed that lack of social connection is a greater detriment to health than obesity, smoking, and high blood pressure. On the flip side, strong social connection leads to a 50 percent increased chance of longevity. Social connection strengthens our immune system (research by Cole shows that genes impacted by social connection also code for immune function and inflammation), helps us recover from disease faster, and may even lengthen our life. People who feel more connected to others have lower rates of anxiety and depression. Moreover, studies show that they also have higher self-esteem, are more empathic to others, more trusting and cooperative and, as a consequence, others are more open to trusting and cooperating with them. Social connectedness therefore generates a positive feedback loop of social, emotional, and physical well-being. Unfortunately, the opposite is also true for those who lack social connectedness. Low social connection has been generally associated with declines in physical and psychological health, as well as a higher propensity for antisocial behavior that leads to further isolation. Adopting a compassionate lifestyle or cultivating compassion may help boost social connection and improve physical and psychological health.

Why Compassion Really Does Have the Ability to Change the World

Why are the lives of people like Mother Teresa, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Desmond Tutu so inspiring? Research by APS Fellow Jonathan Haidt at the University of Virginia suggests that seeing someone helping another person creates a state of “elevation.” Have you ever been moved to tears by seeing someone’s loving and compassionate behavior? Haidt’s data suggest that elevation then inspires us to help others — and it may just be the force behind a chain reaction of giving. Haidt has shown that corporate leaders who engage in self-sacrificing behavior and elicit “elevation” in their employees, also yield greater influence among their employees — who become more committed and in turn may act with more compassion in the workplace. Indeed, compassion is contagious. Social scientists James Fowler of the University of California, San Diego, and Nicholas Christakis of Harvard demonstrated that helping is contagious: acts of generosity and kindness beget more generosity in a chain reaction of goodness. You may have seen one of the news reports about chain reactions that occur when someone pays for the coffee of the drivers behind them at a drive-through restaurant or at a highway tollbooth. People keep the generous behavior going for hours. Our acts of compassion uplift others and make them happy. We may not know it, but by uplifting others we are also helping ourselves; research by Fowler and Christakis has shown that happiness spreads and that if the people around us are happy, we, in turn become happier.

Cultivating Compassion

Although compassion appears to be a naturally evolved instinct, it sometimes helps to receive some training. A number of studies have now shown that a variety of compassion and “loving-kindness” meditation practices, mostly derived out of traditional Buddhist practices, may help cultivate compassion. Cultivating compassion does not require years of study and can be elicited quite rapidly. In a study Cendri Hutcherson, at the California Institute of Technology, and I conducted in 2008 with APS Fellow James Gross at Stanford, we found that a seven-minute intervention was enough to increase feelings of closeness and connection to the target of meditation on both explicit measures, but also on implicit measures that participants could not voluntarily control; this suggests that their sense of connection had changed on a deep-seated level. Fredrickson tested a nine-week loving-kindness meditation intervention and found that the participants who went through the intervention experienced increased daily positive emotions, reduced depressive symptoms, and increased life satisfaction. A group led by Sheethal Reddy at Emory with foster children showed that a compassion intervention increased hopefulness in the children. Overall, research on compassion interventions show improvements in psychological well-being, compassion, and social connection.

In addition to questionnaire measures, researchers are finding that compassion interventions also impact behavior. APS Fellow Tania Singer and her team at the Max Planck Institute conducted a study that looked at the effects of compassion training on prosocial behavior. These researchers developed the Zurich Prosocial Game, which has the ability to measure an individual’s prosocial behavior multiple times, unlike many other prosocial tasks that only measure prosocial behavior in individuals once. Singer found that daylong compassion training did in fact increase prosocial behavior on the game. Interestingly, the type of meditation seems to matter less than just the act of meditation itself. Condon, Miller, Desbordes, and DeSteno (in press) found that eight-week meditation trainings led participants to act more compassionately toward a person who is suffering (give up their chair to someone in crutches) — regardless of the type of meditation that they did (mindfulness or compassion).

More research is needed to understand exactly how compassion training improves well-being and promotes altruistic behavior. Research by Antoine Lutz and APS William James Fellow Richard Davidson at the University of Wisconsin-Madison found that, during meditation, participants display enhanced emotional processing in brain regions linked to empathy in response to emotion-evoking cries. A study led by Gaëlle Desbordes at Massachusetts General Hospital indicated that both compassion and a mindfulness meditation training decreased activity in the amygdala in response to emotional images; this suggests that meditation in general can help improve emotion regulation. However, compassion meditation did not reduce activity for images of human suffering, suggesting that the compassion meditation increased a person’s responsiveness to suffering.

In collaboration with Thupten Jinpa, personal translator to the Dalai Lama, as well as several Stanford psychologists, CCARE has developed a secular compassion training program known as the Compassion Cultivation Training Program. Preliminary research spearheaded by Stanford’s Philippe Goldin suggests that it is helpful in reducing ailments such as social anxiety and that it elevates different compassion measures. In addition to having taught hundreds of community members and Stanford students who have expressed interest, we have also developed a teacher-training program currently under way.

Given the importance of compassion in our world today, and a growing body of evidence about the benefits of compassion for health and well-being, this field is bound to generate more interest and hopefully impact our community at large. CCARE envisions a world in which, thanks to rigorous research studies on the benefits of compassion, the practice of compassion is understood to be as important for health as physical exercise and a healthful diet; empirically validated techniques for cultivating compassion are widely accessible; and the practice of compassion is taught and applied in schools, hospitals, prisons, the military, and other community settings.

Excerpted from “Compassion: Our First Instinct, Science shows that we are actually wired for compassion, not self-interest”, Psychology Today, posted Jun 03, 2013, Emma M. Seppälä Ph.D.