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!

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.

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.

 

I have long been a fan of Wayne Dyer. He introduced me to the concepts of manifesting and unity consciousness thinking about 17 years ago. I have read many of his books and appreciate his wisdom. I found this article on his blog and wanted to share his thoughts with you. I hope you also come to appreciate his wisdom. (I’ve made a few of my own changes and additions and have put them in parenthesis.)

 

One Indivisible Family

by Dr. Wayne W. Dyer

“No man is an island, entire of himself; every man is a piece of the continent,
a part of the main….”

John Donne, 1624

Are you familiar with these classic lines? Here seventeenth century metaphysical poet John Donne expresses the idea of oneness and unity consciousness. Ancient mystical wisdom tells us that in the garden of the mystics, distinctions such as I, you, he, she, and they do not exist. To reach a higher state of awareness and bliss in our lives, we must understand the truth of that first line, “no man (or woman) is an island.” That can happen only when our ego gets the message.

Our ego insists that we are separate from others and defined by where our boundaries stop and others start. Similarly, our ego tells us that we are separate from our environment and that we are here to sort of push it around as we desire. Yet mystical teachers and poets are always reminding us of our connectedness and the oneness of everything and everyone. We must look beneath the surface and beyond appearances to grasp the unity consciousness they speak of.

Imagine a wave or a drop of water considering itself apart from the ocean. It is weak when separated, but returned to its source it is as powerful as the ocean. Thinking of ourselves as separate from others, we lose the power of our Source and diminish the whole of humanity. When you see yourself as connected to everyone, you stop judging others and begin to see all of us connected to the same unseen silent life force.

Compassion becomes an automatic reaction when you see all of humanity as one undivided and indivisible family. Viewing all others as family members lets you feel more compassion and love toward them. John Donne’s words remind us that we all need each other.

Here are some unity consciousness ideas to practice:

  • Stop viewing yourself as distant and apart on the basis of your geography, or your isolation from those who are struggling elsewhere. When you become aware of someone suffering on another shore, say a prayer for that person, and see if you can experience in your heart your oneness with that person.
  • See (the Divine) in everyone and everything and behave each day as if (the Divine) in all things truly mattered. Try to suspend your judgments of those who are less peaceful, and less loving, and instead know that hatred and judgment are the problems in the first place.
  • Use fewer labels that distinguish you from “them.” You are a citizen of the world and a member of the human family, and when you stop the labeling process you begin to see (the Divine) in every garden, every forest, every home, every creature, and every person, and inner peace will be your reward.

If your judgmental thinking is getting in the way of you enjoying a loving, joyful and peaceful life, then please contact me to request a 30 minute complimentary consultation to find out how I can help you embrace the life you want. Call 415-819-8769 or email Joy TODAY!

Our country was founded on the concepts of individualism, independence, and freedom. It’s founding was fueled by the drive to not only survive but to succeed. There was stiff competition, lots of opportunity, and the desire to conquer and own. People fought hard to ‘make it’; sometimes ruthlessly, sometimes driven by necessity, other times by greed or the desire for power and control.

Through their efforts our foremothers and fathers established a great country. Yet these same principles may be just what will bring about our demise if we don’t stop, assess the state of our lives, our country and the world, and begin to evolve our consciousness. Our survival no longer depends on more individualism and independence, but on realizing our interconnectedness to all things; that our survival depends on our ability to unite for the common good of all.

Fortunately, an increasing number of people are beginning to understand that everything is interconnected; that nothing operates in isolation. Systems theories and mainstream science is beginning to point strongly in this direction.

I began to understand the interconnectedness of all things when I had to take a life science class in college. The class on environmentalism changed the way I perceived the world! It introduced me to a world within our world; the delicate web that exists among all species and the elements (earth, air, fire and water) in an ecosystem. It’s now common knowledge that even the element fire plays a crucial role in some ecosystems. Pine cones will only release their seeds when subjected to fire, and fire cleans out the undergrowth making room for new growth. Redwoods thrive in areas where there is an abundance of fog. They get a large part of their water from the moisture in the air. The interrelatedness of all things in an ecosystem is amazing, miraculous and quite revealing!

Unfortunately, too few people understand the true scope and significance of the interrelatedness of all things in the environment. The fight to save one species may seem superfluous until you appreciate the delicate balance between all things within an ecosystem. The extinction of one species impacts the life cycle of another, possibly causing it to also fail. Ignorance of this delicate web can lead to the failure of a critical mass of species and elements causing the collapse of the entire eco-system. Species are becoming extinct at an alarming rate. Think global collapse!

Our evolution as a species depends on a greater awareness of the unity and interconnectedness of all things!

The Buddhists have always known about the interconnectedness of all things; physicists now confirm it.  Nothing that happens is an isolated event.  This interconnectedness also applies to us, the human species. Scientists are now aware that even the act of observing an experiment impacts the experiment. There is also a growing awareness that the more we label something, the more we actually isolate it.  The wholeness of life becomes fragmented and separate just through our thinking about it!

Many are also becoming aware that we are mirrors for each other. Meaning that often times what you might react to about another can also be found within you. This can range from friendliness and love, to less attractive qualities such as jealousy, selfishness, attention seeking, or control issues. As we allow ourselves to become aware of this, we become aware of our own ego and, thus, become more consciously aware.

Just as an ecosystem is interconnected, so are we as humans. To denigrate, disempower, and destroy one part of our species impacts the whole. Misogyny, racism, sexism, bigotry, genocide, slavery, poverty, war, intolerance, turning a blind eye to our neighbors, be it next door or another country, hurts us all. As a species we need to raise our consciousness and realize we are all interconnected. What hurts one part hurts us all.

The Women’s March that will take place across the nation this Saturday, January 20th is an expression of unity consciousness and interconnectedness. The mission of its organizers is to create a safe and healthy environment in which to nurture all families, and to create a better society for all people of all races, cultures, gender or gender orientation, disabilities, workers, immigrants, religious beliefs, etc.

The mission moves beyond the individual need to the needs of all people and the environment because we are all interconnected. When we unite – all the people – amazing things can happen.

As more people raise their consciousness and become aware that we are all interconnected, we have the opportunity to shift as one into a more peaceful and loving world. Isn’t that what we all truly want?

If you feel called, take action and join the movement this Saturday, January 20, 2018

https://www.womensmarch.com/

It’s easy to make those New Year’s Resolutions. Keeping them is a totally different matter. Too often by February many of us are back to the same old habits and behaviors.  There are millions of pounds not lost, thousands of gym memberships lying fallow, and way too many cigarette packs being sold. Some of you may be thinking, “why even bother with those New Year’s resolutions this year?”  In the battle of wills, you always seem to be on the losing side!

So, what if you knew that there was a way to keep those New Year’s Resolutions?

Are you curious?

IT IS POSSIBLE to keep those resolutions and change your life! You just need a new strategy that will help you stay on track.  Here are five tips on how you can make your New Year’s Resolutions stick.

Visualize
It’s hard to make any kind of change if you only rely on your conscious, rational mind.  You can have all the right reasons, but if you don’t engage your subconscious, then long-lasting change will be difficult.

Think back to the last time you were able to make a significant change in your life.  You may have daydreamed or fantasized about what it would be like before you even took action to make that change.

Our habits and behaviors are stored in the subconscious, and the subconscious is resistant to change. Logic and rationale alone aren’t enough. You must communicate with your subconscious using both images and your imagination if you want change to happen. This is the very same stuff our dreams and fantasies are made of!

So when you are working on your New Year’s resolutions, allow yourself to delve into your imagination! Take time to create vivid images of those things you want to change.

Empower Your Resolutions with Desire
Visualizing is important. But you also have to fuel your resolutions with the proper emotion. Incorporating emotions is like adding color to a black and white movie. It fuels your goals with depth and power which will help bring your intention into form.

For example, if you want to increase exercise because you think you should exercise more, your resolution will be short-lived. This is because there’s no internal fuel to keep the desire alive through the boredom, distractions, and the busy lives we all seem to be leading. However, when you imagine how much better you will feel, how much more energy you will have, and how much better you’ll feel about yourself- then you’ll have the inner fire that will guarantee success.

The importance of passion
My grievance with The Secret is that it infers that manifesting simply involves visioning what you want, feeling the emotions of having it, and sitting around waiting for it to happen. WRONG! Envisioning your intentions and fueling them with emotions is central to successful manifesting! But doing the work, taking action, is a must!

Self-discipline is not about ‘banging your head against a wall.’ It does require, however, that you are committed to doing the work, being consistent, and following through.

This is where passion comes in. Doing the work can be grueling if you aren’t passionate about what you’re trying to accomplish. A runner can feel lukewarm about running, but will run anyway because they know it will help keep their weight down and build sustaining power.

On the other hand, a runner can feel passionate about running because they love the feel of strength in their legs, the speed of gliding over the land, and the ‘high’ of stretching their endurance to capacity. It’s the passion that fuels long lasting change. It’s like adding HD to a movie.

Achievability and believability
Sometimes our New Year’s resolutions fall short even though we visualize the outcome, feel the success of having it, and energize it with passion. This is because deep down inside we don’t believe it’s possible.

When this happens we’ve usually taken “the sky’s the limit” track, rather than making our resolution achievable and believable. Maybe you won’t win a triathlon. But, maybe you can find a running buddy who inspires you to get out and run several times a week. Maybe you can’t run five or ten miles, but you can start with a mile or two.

Doing what is believable and achievable is enough. It helps you overcome the self-defeating thoughts like: “I’m not good enough so why even try?”

Stay Positive
Implementing new behaviors can bring up a lot of emotions.  Believe it or not, there is a part of us that assumes keeping everything the same is in our best interest.  So even when you really want to change, you may feel tired, bored with the effort, irritated because you aren’t doing it right, or because it’s taking too long, or you may even feel anxious. These are resistances, and they are normal. But they don’t need to stop your progress!

Cravings, resistance, negative self-talk, it’s all going to happen when you’re trying to make a change. So when you have these thoughts or feelings, just acknowledge them as old behaviors and habits. Then focus on how good you’re going to feel when you achieve your goal, or succeed at putting into action your new behavior or habit. I’m focusing on losing those 6 pounds I put on over the year. I already know how good I’m going to feel when I can zip up those pants again! That’s what is keeping me on track.

By implementing these five simple tips you’ll find that you can keep those New Year’s Resolutions with greater resolve.  Remember to:

  1. Visualize
  2. Empower with desire
  3. Infuse with passion
  4. Make your resolution achievable and believable
  5. Stay positive

If you find that you still lack the motivation to accomplish your goals, please contact me for a free 30-minute consultation to see how transformational life coaching with hypnotherapy can help you achieve success in 2018.

Call Joy at 415-819-8769 or email Joy@joyreichard.com today.

For more information, visit my website at healingwithjoy.net.