Have you ever struggled with a decision?

Have you been so paralyzed by difficult choices that you end up doing nothing?

Of course you have! We all have. Especially in today’s world, because we are all confronted with way too many options!

I recently struggled with a decision. I was about to take action on something, but paused just long enough to realize it just might be motivated by my Aries impulsiveness. It’s gotten me in trouble before, big time! I didn’t want to make another decision that was going to end up in a lot of emotional pain… again! So, I called a friend. Sure enough, she told me it was a stupid idea. She saved me from making a costly mistake. (This is why we need our girlfriends – especially the ones who’ll “tell it like it is,” and won’t pussy-foot around being nice!)

In reality, I already knew it was a bad idea. That’s why I hesitated. If it had been a good idea, I would have felt a sense of certainty. I would have felt pleased and maybe even felt a sense of peace about the decision. Instead I felt enough caution to call a friend. I could have saved myself the phone call if I had paid attention to what I was feeling.

Our emotions are our friends. They are our internal alert system that lets us know what is good, or bad, for us. They are the barometer of what is going on inside. The challenge we all face, however, is that we are taught in our society that emotions are to be suspect. They can’t be trusted. They pull you off kilter. It’s better to keep you emotions in check and be ruled by your ‘mind.’

This is partially true. Our ‘mind’ is a great tool for analysis – for evaluating both sides of an argument. It helps us weigh facts and make practical decisions. However practical decisions are not always the best decisions. I once made a career decision based on what I thought would provide the best financial security for our household. What I really wanted to do, however, was to take a more interesting, but lower paying, position. I have never been unhappier in any job in my life! My decision was practical and logical, but I was miserable. I quit 6 months later! I had made the mistake of not taking my emotions into consideration.

Our emotions are our internal alert system. When we are angry, we’re being alerted that someone might be taking advantage of us, or treating us poorly. When we are fearful, we’re being warned to pay attention; danger may lie ahead. If we are edgy, nervous, or secretive about our actions, then we’re about to do something that isn’t in our best interest. When we feel pleasure, joy, or a sense of peace, our emotions are letting us know that whatever we are doing is a positive thing. Embrace it!

When we are busy thinking or worrying our way through a decision, we drown out our inner wisdom, which is linked to our emotional alert system. Worrying is a waste of time and confuses the matter. Instead, just grow calm and let your mind quiet down.

Once you are more relaxed, think about one choice you are facing. Listen – not to your mind running analysis – but instead, pay attention to what you are feeling in your body. Just notice your feelings. Then, one by one, weigh the other options. Take notes if you must, but just pay attention to your feelings.

If you feel anxious, nervous, pressured, burdened, fearful, distressed, cautious, or unease of any kind, then that choice may not be the best decision. If you feel calm, relaxed, a sense of ease or contentment, or even relief and/or happiness, then most likely this is the better course of action. Sometimes your choice will be the one that makes you feel less distress… or more joy.

I’m not advising that you ignore the practical elements needed to make a good decision. I am suggesting, however, that by accessing your inner wisdom and paying attention to your emotional reactions, you will be able to make better decisions that will end up being for your highest good and greatest joy.

If you are confused or feel uneasy about the decisions and choices you have made, or are about to make, please give me a call today and requests a 30-minute complimentary consultation.  Call Joy 415-819-8769 or email me.

 

As children we buy into the beliefs of our parents. Sometimes those beliefs can be real downers such as: “Life never promised you a rose garden,” or “You only get ahead from hard work and effort,” or “I’m always waiting for the other shoe to fall,” or “Bad things always happen to us.”

In my family the belief was the “hard work and effort” litany of good German stock immigrants. Sure enough, a large part of my life has been hard work and effort, not because the validity of that belief, but because I bought into that belief.

I had a revelation several years ago that “life’s lessons can be learned with ease and grace.” I’ve been reflecting on that thought and, slowly, it has been integrating into my belief system. The result? … My life has gotten easier and more joyful.

Last week I wrote about accessing your Inner Wisdom. By allowing space in your life for quiet moments you gain access to the more reflective and wiser part of your mind. In our fast-paced, results-oriented society you may think you are getting a lot done. You could be even more innovative and productive, however, if you gave yourself permission to rest more and reflect. Then you could have more “revelations.”

Revelations are messages from your Inner Wisdom, which is directly connected to the highest source of consciousness in the universe. Some might call this consciousness Higher Power, God, Goddess, the Divine, The All That Is. The Divine communicates to us through our Inner Wisdom, which is also sometimes called the Higher Self or the Wise Mind.

One way you can actively engage your Inner Wisdom is to stop and take a step back when you are faced with a challenging situation. Then you can view the situation from a larger perspective. Going through two divorces and raising two sons (who, though awesome men now of whom I’m very proud, were more than a bit of a hand full as teenagers) was tough!  At that time, life was pretty miserable.  I thought life was nothing but drama, pain, and struggle.

Eventually, I was able to step back and view my life from the bigger picture. What I saw was not a wretched dead-beat drama-queen, but a woman who faced many difficult challenges, including her own vulnerabilities and character flaws, from which she learned invaluable life lessons. That was a time of huge personal and spiritual growth for me. Now, I not only draw on my training, education and skills when I work with my clients, or mentor women in my group work, but I also have a vast storehouse of life experience and understanding from which to tap into. My life was not just a miserable existence; it was my training ground preparing me for my life’s work.

You actively engage your Inner Wisdom when you step back from any situation and ask, “What can I learn from this situation?” or “What good thing can come out of this situation?”

I’ve come to realize that we didn’t incarnate to play in the “Rose Garden.” We came here to learn some pretty important lessons during our embodied walk upon this earth-plane.  You can learn those lessons with a lot more ease and grace, however, if you take time to stop and rest. Give yourself some quiet time to reflect and allow your Inner Wisdom to come through. This will enable you to step back and ask the serious questions of “Why is this happening?” Be honest with yourself as you search within for the answers.  Then you can reap the reward – the gold nugget – the lessons you can learn from your experience.

Look for my article next month on “Accessing Your Inner Wisdom Part Three” in which I will share on how your emotions are a big part of your inner wisdom and should be given more weight when making important decisions.

If you feel you are stuck in the drama and misery of your life and can’t find your way out, then give me a call today and request a 30-minute complimentary consultation. You deserve a more joyful and satisfying life.  415-819-8769 or email me TODAY!

Do you feel as if you’re constantly running from one thing to the next?

Are you too busy to even make that important “To-Do” list?

Do feel torn between the many choices and decisions you must make?

Then you’re probably so caught up in the immediate minutia of your life that you aren’t taking the necessary time needed to step back and get the bigger picture. When you can see the bigger picture of your life, then everything begins to make sense. The non-essentials naturally begin to fall away and you can focus on what truly matters.

The earth plane has been called “dense.”  It’s as if we live under a veil of unknowing. Therefore we tend to operate “blind,” taking action – or not – hoping all the time that we are making the best move.

Once in a while, however, the veil lifts and we have one of those “Ah Ha” revelations – those moments of insight when the pieces start falling into place, completing the puzzle that’s confounded us for days, weeks, sometimes even months. Sometimes we receive greater understanding of a situation, or a person, or the “big picture” of our life, or even of the universe. This is our inner wisdom speaking to us.

Treasure these moments of revelations! Everything becomes clearer when we have them. Don’t you wish you could have them more often? The truth is, you can! Your inner wisdom is available to you whenever you need it.

Our society is based on “doing,” “results,” and “productivity.” Too little value is placed on taking time to “be” – to slow down and go into silence. This is when our inner wisdom can flow through the veil of “not-knowing” into our consciousness.

Let’s face it, though. We’re all too busy – so busy we’re often hyped up and can’t slow down. When we have a quiet moment, instead of connecting with our inner wisdom, we grab our cell phones to see what tidbit of information or connection it has for us. We hardly ever let our minds just coast.

Thomas Edison, one of America’s greatest inventors, knew the value of quiet moments. He frequently took “little naps.” Sometimes, when he was challenged with one of his inventions, he would rock in his rocking chair with ball-bearings in his hand. When he drifted off the ball-bearings would drop on the floor and wake him up. That moment of lucid thought before falling asleep often generated a brilliant idea, or the solution to the problem he was contemplating. These are moments of revelation!

You can have those moments too. It just means slowing down, letting yourself daydream, spend quiet moments looking at the sunset, or a beautiful view, or taking a quiet walk in nature. It means taking moments to relax without the TV, the cell phone, the iPad, or the computer.  Just sit in silence!

A great way to create space for silence is to set aside 5 to 20 minutes a day. Just sit quietly, taking deep, slow breaths. The only thing you do is follow your breathing. If your mind is busy, you can try silently saying a word or phrase such as “peace,” “letting go,” “serenity,” or the Sanskrit word “Om.”  If your mind strays, just pull it back to focusing on your breath. This practice actually strengthens your mind and improves concentration and focus.

When we quiet our bodies and let our minds free float, not only do we give ourselves valuable time to de-stress, but we also begin to let our inner wisdom flow into our consciousness for revelations.

After you become accustomed to sitting in silence, you’ll find that your inner wisdom will begin to offer up insight, help with decisions, and strengthen inner resources so you can confront life’s many challenges with greater calm and clarity.

Look for my article next month on “Accessing Your Inner Wisdom Part Two” in which I will share tips on how to actively engage with your inner wisdom to enhance your life.

If the busyness and stress of your life is depriving you of the well-being and happiness you deserve, please give me a call today and request a 30-minute complimentary consultation.  Call Joy 415-819-8769 or email me.

photo credit pixabay

It seems like there’s a new fitness trend coming out on the daily, which can feel overwhelming if you’re still figuring out how you can clock 10,000 steps a day. While staying active on a regular basis is crucial for overall health, it’s important that you don’t neglect other areas of self-care in order to retain balance in your life. But there’s no reason to stress — it really is easier than you think to get everything done. Proof lies ahead.

Schedule Exercise

You may think that you have the willpower to hit the gym after work, but then comes a happy hour invitation that derails your best-laid plans. This is why it’s key that you schedule exercise as you would a meeting at work or church on Sunday morning. “After establishing how much extra time you have in a day, pick a few days and times of the week that appear best to you and enter it as an appointment on your schedule as a repeating appointment. This will reduce the risk of over-scheduling and help you visualize and mentally prepare for the workouts.”

Other tips for working out with a busy schedule include:

  • Do Something You Enjoy: The key to making exercise more effortless than arduous is by finding something you truly enjoy doing. While this may take a little experimentation, it’s worth it once you figure out what it is that motivates you to lace up your sneakers. While fitness experts will tell you to challenge yourself and work outside of your comfort zone, establish what you like doing first before immediately feeling as though you have to up the ante — you’re liable to burnout before you even get started.
  • Take Baby Steps: Setting small goals leading up to one large goal is an easier way for you to keep your eye on the prize without becoming discouraged. Even baby steps can be a seriously positive effect on mental health which is just what you’ll need to keep going.
  • Use The Buddy System: Having someone hold you accountable for your actions (and vice versa) can be a helpful way to stay on track — because you’re liable to feel bad about ditching out on your friend who’s already at 5:30 a.m. spin class. Studies actually show that healthy competition is one of the best forms of workout motivation.
  • Stay Active Throughout The Day: Squeeze in activity throughout the day by parking your car farther away so you’re forced to walk more, investing in a desk bike chair, taking a stroll on your lunch break, getting up several times throughout the day – anything goes as long as you’re moving.

Need more? Read through this guide to find additional tips on squeezing exercise into an already jam packed schedule.

Plan Meals

A big part of self-care is what you put into your body, but a busy schedule can make it difficult to eat well — especially on the go. Dedicate a day each week to plan your meals ahead of time — ideally, prepping ingredients and/or meals to take to work and have on-hand when you get home at the end of the day. This includes healthy snacks so you can resist the temptation of the vending machine.

Get Quality Sleep

Sleep is the key to a functioning metabolism, regular weight, emotional stability, and energy, so without it, balance is completely thrown off. To ensure that you get a proper night’s rest every time your head hits the pillow, there are some key actionables you should adopt into your daily routine: go to sleep at the same time every night, don’t oversleep on the weekends, avoid lengthy daytime naps, expose yourself to natural light during the day, avoid computer screens at least two hours before bed, exercise during the day, avoid big meals at night, implement relaxation techniques, make sure your sleeping environment is decluttered and conducive to sleeping.

Balancing exercise with overall self-care can take some trial and error. Make a list of the items that are most important to you so you can prioritize them in an effective manner. Any step that you’re taking towards overall well-being is definitely a step in the right direction.

by guest contributor Sheila Olson. You can find out more about Sheila at  http://fitsheila.com

 

We can always choose to perceive things differently. You can focus on what’s wrong in your life,
or you can focus on what’s right. – Marianne Williamson

 

Once upon a time, I was a negative person. I was very reactive and went wherever my mind took me. Sometimes that was down a deep rabbit hole of what 12-step programs call “Stinking Thinking.”

The lens through which we view our lives can influence the situations in which we find ourselves. Positive thoughts can create more positive circumstances. Conversely, negative thoughts often fuel increased dissatisfaction and disappointment.

Before I discovered hypnotherapy and metaphysics, I was stuck viewing life through a negative lens. Now I know, and teach my clients, that your mind is a muscle. We have the ability to create our own reality. Each one of us is in charge of our thinking. If we can change our thoughts, and our attitude, we can literally change our lives.

I have included some negative thinking behaviors below. By becoming aware of your negative thinking behaviors you can begin to change your thoughts and create a happier and more peaceful life for yourself.

 

1.  Avoid “black and white” or “all or nothing’ thinking.

When we view people and/or situations as “black and white” or “all or nothing” we do ourselves, and the people we encounter, a great disservice. Our perspective is rigid and narrow. There is not much room for interpretation, flexibility, or negotiation. In reality things are often more gray and, if we allow for it, can offer a fresh perspective from which more options can be realized.

Words like always, never, impossible, terrible and perfect are examples of “all or nothing” thinking that can trap us in a handicapped and limited way of perceiving the world. It can lead to an emotionally unbalanced perspective of the circumstances we might find ourselves in.

Here are some statements that offer more “grey”:

Even though I sometimes do dumb things I am still an intelligent and competent person.
Even though I love my partner, sometimes I find him extremely frustrating.
Even though I like parts of my job, there are other parts that I find boring.

2. Stay away from exaggerations and over-generalizations.
“You are always late.” “You are always so critical.” “I can never do anything right.” These are examples of over-generalized or exaggerated statements. The telltale signs of an exaggerated statement includes worlds like never, always, should or everybody. Over-generalized statements are a form of negative thinking. They are accusatory and can create discord in a relationship. A way to reframe, “You are always so critical,” might be to say, “At this moment I am experiencing you as being quite critical of me. I have noticed in the past that you are frequently quick to criticize, but seldom voice your approval. I would appreciate it if you would spend more time applauding me for the things I do well.”

The second statement is more truthful and less exaggerated. As a result, it can lead to a more positive outcome.

3. Is it more important to be right or happy?
There are some people who seem to have a need to be right. This can lead to an argumentative attitude and can create discord in their relationships. There are some issues that deserve our full commitment. But there are others that in the larger scheme of things aren’t worth fighting about.

For instance, I have some political and spiritual convictions that are very different from the rest of my family. I could engage in heated debates and bring discord to our time together. However, I love my family. I don’t get to spend as much time with them as I would like. I find we have plenty of things in common to talk about. I would rather spend my time strengthening our bond than arguing about who is on the “right” political or religious side.

To find peace, happiness and closeness we sometimes need to just let things go. I can still maintain my convictions without having to argue about them.

4. What is the good in that bad thing that just happened?
I have a friend who has had a lot of adversity. Yet he is one of the most positive people I know. His secret – he always tries to find the good in whatever bad thing happens to him.

We can choose to have a positive or a negative mental filter. Persistent pessimism can become a habit if we aren’t careful. Chronic negative thinking can become the lens through which we view the world – the proverbial glass that is half empty.

Too often we think that we are supposed to have a perfect life of success and happiness. The reality is that we learn our lessons and grow wise though the challenges we face during our walk upon the earth. It is not the challenges we face that counts; it is how we choose to view and deal with them. We can claim victimhood (and there was a time when I played the damsel in distress!), or we can figure out what resources we have and work towards a resolution. When we do the later, the lessons we learn and the resiliency and inner strength we build is invaluable.

I had two friends. Both were laid off when their companies closed. One went into a depression, coping with alcohol and prescriptions drugs. He lived a wasted life. The other, though also depressed, drew on her resources, developed a strategy for getting back on her feet, followed through with her plans, and is now a much happier and fulfilled person. She found the good in the bad thing that happened to her. So can you!

5. Don’t should on yourself.
When we should on ourselves we are passing judgment, often negative ones, about our actions and behaviors.

When we say things like “I should make more money, I should have made better choices, or I should have done better in school, we are only seeing the negative and are unable to see what might be positive. Should statements put our thoughts and attitudes in a box and constrain us from seeing other options. When we are stuck in the negative we are out of balance; our perspective is skewed.

In reality, we often make choices based on what we know at a given time, or on what resources or abilities we have at the time. I have found that people are generally trying to do the best that they can in any moment. Blaming ourselves for lack of knowledge, or ability, or resources is pointless and debilitating. It would be better to replace the should with something more positive like, “I did the best that I could with the skills, knowledge and ability that I had at the time.” This is a more supportive and truthful statement.

6. Celebrate.
We seldom take time to give ourselves a much needed and deserved pat on the back. We go from one achievement to another with hardly a moment to recognize what we have accomplished.

When we stop after a productive day, a productive session with a client, or a meaningful conversation with a child and tell ourselves we did a “good job,” it affirms that we are OK. That we have value. That we are successful in our lives.

It is important to celebrate the good things when they happen. Setbacks do and will happen. Challenges and obstacles will present themselves. This fact makes it all the more important to stop and congratulate ourselves for our success no matter how small. Emotional health is about balance and realizing that good things do happen. Remembering this can help us to deal more effectively and have hope when we are challenged.

If you are struggling with negative thinking that is keeping you stuck in unhappiness and disappointment, then give Joy a call to find out how you can create a happier more fulfilling life for yourself. Call 415-819-8769 or email Joy today.

From the time we were very small we were surrounded by people bigger than us and a world filled of unknowns. We were warned about kidnappers, people who might do bad things to our bodies, about crossing the street, not taking candy from strangers, etc. Sometimes it was the very adults who were supposed to keep us safe that hurt us and are the source of some of our greatest fears and deepest wounds.

It is these underlying childhood fears that create limitations in our lives. It can be the fear of ‘not being enough’: good enough, smart enough, pretty enough, etc. Or it can be the fear of being visible from raising a hand at school or to just being in a social setting. Or it can be a fear that breeds distrust in your fellow human beings, or a fear of driving, or a fear of failure, or even of success.

These fears lie hidden in our subconscious, sometimes referred to as the Shadow Realm. As we grow up we learn to hide our fears. We develop all kinds of coping mechanisms that range from outbursts of anger, to defensiveness, or feigning submissiveness in order to protect ourselves. Or we find ways to soothe ourselves with food, drugs, video games, partying, etc. Eventually, however, our coping mechanisms stop working. Or they lead to more problems making our lives unmanageable at times. Then, when faced with situations similar to what we fear, our old wounds can be triggered and we find we’re acting like the child rather than the adult.

This is the shadow stuff that we often don’t want to look at. Yet when we take time to face our shadow stuff that is when we can discover some amazing things about ourselves. Often we find that what we have been fighting or running from is actually the source of some of the greatest lessons and wisdom. It can be a rich reservoir of information that can transform our lives in amazing ways.

This happened to me. At one time I was embittered because my whole life had turned upside down – my relationship, my job, my health, my family. It was the worst time in my life! But I was given a gift. I was shown that it was my attitude that was toxic. I was the one who was polluting everything in my life. When I made the choice to change my attitude that was when my whole life changed for the better. If I had not been willing to face my shadow, I don’t even know if I would be alive today – things had gotten that bad.

Breaking out of the old patterns requires doing shadow work. It’s about being honest with yourself and asking some of the tough questions:

  • Where do these feelings of lack and limitation come from?
  • What is the source of your feelings of loneliness?
  • How can you fill yourself up? Is your glass half empty or half full? Why?
  • How can you take responsibility for where you are in your life?
  • How can you be whole and complete with who you are?
  • How can you be more fully engaged?
  • What are your interests and passions that bring purpose and meaning to your life?
  • What are your special gifts?
  • And what can you do to bring more fullness and joy into your life?

I have found working with counselors and coaches to be very helpful. What I have come to understand is that where you put your focus is where your life expands. When you are focused on the problems, when you are focused on what is not working in a relationship or your life, then that is where you tend to ‘cycle.’ And that is what expands.

By shifting the focus to what is working ‑ to what you like about yourself, your life, your relationship, what brings you joy, what makes you feel good ‑ when you start focusing on these things, then that is when your life starts to improve.

We don’t heal by beating ourselves up and focusing on the negative. We heal by learning to have compassion for ourselves, by seeing our value, knowing we deserve, and most of all, beginning to love ourselves.

Yes, we need to work on our shadow – but not by continuing to beat ourselves up. It is time to transform that inner bully. It’s time to find compassion for ourselves knowing that we have always done the best we could with the knowledge, training, and skills we had at the time.

I’ve done lots of things that I regret in my life. I look back at some of my past experiences and think, “How could I have possibly done that?” I start to berate myself for being so stupid, unkind, or thoughtless. Then the feelings of shame start to strangle me with guilt.

This is when I make myself stop and ask, “Did I know any better at the time? Did I have access to the knowledge I have now? Did I have the skills or training that I have now?”  Usually the answer is NO! The reality is that at that time I was floundering, in a lot of personal pain, and doing the best that I could. Finally, this is when I am able to have compassion for myself and begin to heal some of the wounds from my past.

You can do the same thing. When you start beating yourself up, this is when you can start to ask some of the hard questions – not by berating yourself, but by trying to learn from your past.

  • What part did I play in creating this situation?
  • How could I have done better?
  • What can I learn from this?
  • What do I want for my life from this point forward?
  • What am I willing to invest so I can have the life that I want and deserve?

This is when you can begin to change your life for the better.

This is the benefit of working with your Shadow. Yes, looking at the past can be unpleasant. But when you look back with compassion for your younger self, then you begin to love yourself and find the courage and hope to build a better future. You deserve a great life!

If you want a better life and are struggling then give Joy a call to find out how she can help you live a more joyful life. Call 415-819-8769 or email Joy TODAY!

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.

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.

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.

 

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”.

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“Decades of clinical research has focused and shed light on the psychology of human suffering. That suffering, as unpleasant as it is, often also has a bright side to which research has paid less attention: compassion. Human suffering is often accompanied by beautiful acts of compassion by others wishing to help relieve it. What led 26.5 percent of Americans to volunteer in 2012 (according to statistics from the US Department of Labor)? What propels someone to serve food at a homeless shelter, pull over on the highway in the rain to help someone with a broken down vehicle, or feed a stray cat?

“What is Compassion?
What is compassion and how is it different from empathy or altruism? The definition of compassion is often confused with that of empathy. Empathy, as defined by researchers, is the visceral or emotional experience of another person’s feelings. It is, in a sense, an automatic mirroring of another’s emotion, like tearing up at a friend’s sadness. Altruism is an action that benefits someone else. It may or may not be accompanied by empathy or compassion, for example in the case of making a donation for tax purposes. Although these terms are related to compassion, they are not identical. Compassion often does, of course, involve an empathic response and an altruistic behavior. However, compassion is defined as the emotional response when perceiving suffering and involves an authentic desire to help.

“Is Compassion Natural or Learned?
Though economists have long argued the contrary, a growing body of evidence suggests that, at our core, both animals and human beings have what Dacher Keltner at the University of California, Berkeley, coins a “compassionate instinct.” In other words, compassion is a natural and automatic response that has ensured our survival. Research by Jean Decety, at the University of Chicago, showed that even rats are driven to empathize with another suffering rat and to go out of their way to help it out of its quandary. Studies with chimpanzees and human infants too young to have learned the rules of politeness, also back up these claims. Michael Tomasello and other scientists at the Max Planck Institute, in Germany, have found that infants and chimpanzees spontaneously engage in helpful behavior and will even overcome obstacles to do so. They apparently do so from intrinsic motivation without expectation of reward. A recent study they ran indicated that infants’ pupil diameters (a measure of attention) decrease both when they help and when they see someone else helping, suggesting that they are not simply helping because helping feels rewarding. It appears to be the alleviation of suffering that brings reward — whether or not they engage in the helping behavior themselves. Recent research by David Rand at Harvard University shows that adults’ and children’s first impulse is to help others. In fact, when we are taxed, our first impulse is to help others, suggests research by Francesca Righetti of VU University Amsterdam. Research by Dale Miller at Stanford’s Graduate School of Business suggests that this is also the case of adults, however, worrying that others will think they are acting out of self-interest can stop them from this impulse to help.

“It is not surprising that compassion is a natural tendency since it is essential for human survival. As has been brought to light by Keltner, the term “survival of the fittest,” often attributed to Charles Darwin, was actually coined by Herbert Spencer and Social Darwinists who wished to justify class and race superiority. A lesser known fact is that Darwin’s work is best described with the phrase “survival of the kindest.” Indeed in The Descent of Man and Selection In Relation to Sex, Darwin argued for “the greater strength of the social or maternal instincts than that of any other instinct or motive.” In another passage, he comments that “communities, which included the greatest number of the most sympathetic members, would flourish best, and rear the greatest number of offspring.” Compassion may indeed be a naturally evolved and adaptive trait. Without it, the survival and flourishing of our species would have been unlikely.

“One more sign that suggests that compassion is an adaptively evolved trait is that it makes us more attractive to potential mates. A study examining the trait most highly valued in potential romantic partners suggests that both men and women agree that “kindness” is one of the most highly desirable traits.

“Compassion’s Surprising Benefits for Physical and Psychological Health
Compassion may have ensured our survival because of its tremendous benefits for both physical and mental health and overall well-being. Research by APS William James Fellow Ed Diener, a leading researcher in positive psychology, and APS James McKeen Cattell Fellow Martin Seligman, a pioneer of the psychology of happiness and human flourishing, suggests that connecting with others in a meaningful way helps us enjoy better mental and physical health and speeds up recovery from disease; furthermore, research by Stephanie Brown, at Stony Brook University, and Sara Konrath, at the University of Michigan, has shown that it may even lengthen our life spans.

“The reason a compassionate lifestyle leads to greater psychological well-being may be explained by the fact that the act of giving appears to be as pleasurable, if not more so, as the act of receiving. A brain-imaging study headed by neuroscientist Jordan Grafman from the National Institutes of Health showed that the “pleasure centers” in the brain, i.e., the parts of the brain that are active when we experience pleasure (like dessert, money, and sex), are equally active when we observe someone giving money to charity as when we receive money ourselves! Giving to others even increases well-being above and beyond what we experience when we spend money on ourselves. In a revealing experiment by Elizabeth Dunn, at the University of British Columbia, participants received a sum of money and half of the participants were instructed to spend the money on themselves; the other half was told to spend the money on others. At the end of the study, which was published in the academic journal Science, participants who had spent money on others felt significantly happier than those who had spent money on themselves.

“This is true even for infants. A study by Lara Aknin and colleagues at the University of British Columbia shows that even in children as young as two, giving treats to others increases the givers’ happiness more than receiving treats themselves. Even more surprisingly, the fact that giving makes us happier than receiving is true across the world, regardless of whether countries are rich or poor. A new study by Aknin, now at Simon Fraser University, shows that the amount of money spent on others (rather than for personal benefit) and personal well-being were highly correlated, regardless of income, social support, perceived freedom, and perceived national corruption.

Stay tuned for next week’s article in which I will share how compassion is both good for your health and can help change the world.

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.