Winning the Game of Life

20130812-092555.jpgThere was a poster demonstration for the summer students that stayed on campus to do research this summer. While attending the session two things became obvious. First, science has moved along so far, so fast, that I am way out of date. The second thing that I noticed is that I’m on the “other side” now. A classmate of mine was there and he mentioned that when we were in school, there were a lot of “old farts” that were teaching us and taking us through our rounds. We are the old farts now. It happened so quickly.

It is astonishing, when you get to a certain age, to look back and realize that it went by in the blink of an eye. Getting caught up in the day to day activities, meeting deadlines, planning for the future and focusing on all of the matters that need attending each day, blurs the passage of time. Then, almost suddenly, you realize that years have passed.

When my girls were young, I would ponder what it would be like when they were in school during the day, then, when they no longer needed constant supervision. These periods seem to be long and lingering. Now, grown, with lives of there own, the past is just a memory and all of the milestones that I used to anticipate have passed and have largely been forgotten.

It goes so quickly. Conversations now are often about someone that has retired from working or have left us completely. It is a new perspective. The questions of career, marriage and children are largely behind us and this opens new opportunities and presents a sadness.

I liken it to a board game. At the beginning, the dice are thrown and how well you do early makes a huge difference in how the game plays out. If you manage to get the good properties or sets of properties early, you are set. Now, most of the properties are owned by a few of the players and it is just a matter of a few more dice throws before someone comes out a winner. The game has played itself out.

This sounds melancholy and sad, it is anything but. The trick is to have enjoyed each move, to have savoured the time and any lucky throws you had while the game was being played. It is good to know that there may still be some get out of jail free cards left in the pile.

There appeaars to be a certain amount of responsibility to share this perspective with those that are younger. To let them know that it does pass really quickly and that they need to stop, take stock and see if they are on the right path. It is too easy to travel down the wrong road for a huge amount of your life and have it disappear into memories.

Our generation was taught that a certain amount of “paying dues” was required for success. This entire notion seems dated. With the tech boom and a constantly shifting economy, it is difficult to argue that doing anything, for any amount of time, that you truly despise is worth while.

There is the reality that we all must have money to ensure food and shelter, but how much money is enough money? Are we really playing a cosmic board game where whoever has the most property wins? Or are we playing an ongoing game with the winners being those who realize early that enjoying the game means that you’ve done what you came here to do?

With the frantic pace of life, that continues to speed up, I fear that large numbers of people will grow old before they realize that this is not a dress rehearsal for some future performance. The dance is now. Life does not begin when you graduate, lose weight, get the promotion or have the baby. Life is now. This is it. It is important to stop, take stock, look around and realize that today is all we have and tomorrow is not only forever elusive, but holds no guarantees.

I may still be reeling from the loss of Robin Williams. He is a man that I never knew, but I somehow expected him to always be there, creating more comedy, contributing to the happiness in the ether. Many people that I have loved are no longer in my life. They have either gone onto the next thing, or are simply memories, even though I may see them again in the future.

Anyhow, this is the mood I’m in. As I dash through my days quickly and each year ticks off, I feel somehow responsible to make sure that those around me realize that life does end. We don’t know how long we have or how long those that we love have. So stop, assess and enjoy.

My classmate and I made a futile attempt to explain this to the young students that we were talking to at the time. We told them of how fast it went. We discussed how the tables had turned and we were now the “old farts” and we tried to impress upon them that they too, if they were lucky, would become the next group of “old farts”.

With the summer sun shining, a new school year on the horizon and hopes and dreams of the future, I fear our message was lost. They had too much to do, too much too see and too many dreams for the future to realize that today is what is really important.

10 Ways to Improve Your Life TODAY, in under an hour

IMG_3383In order to truly enjoy your life you need to make yourself a priority. You are the only one that will always be there and it is up to you to make sure that you treat yourself well. Regardless of how much work you have, the people that rely on you or how many other things are competing for your time, if you are not enjoying yourself, what is the point? There is no future where you can say, there, I’m done; now I can enjoy myself. This is it. Enjoy today.

1. Recognize that you don’t know anything (1 minute)

A lot of conflict in our lives stems from our convictions. Wars have been fought over differences in belief systems. All malicious gossip stems from the certainty that we know what is right and that someone else is not following the rules. It is not possible to actually know anything for sure. Even facts have often turned out to not be true, or is the world flat? Everything that we think we know is based on our past experiences and our perception. New experiences can change our perception and therefore can change what we “know”, so why are we so sure of ourselves?

Why this is valuable

Once we recognize that we don’t know what others are thinking, why they did specific actions or what is truly, unequivocally true, we no longer believe the stories we are telling ourselves about what is going on. This frees us from judgment and the need to fight to support our points of view. This one change in perspective can transform how you feel about your relationships, your life, your opportunities and your history. It has the ability to free up all kinds of energy for creativity and inspiration and to let you enjoy yourself instead of defending your position.

2. Go outside (2 minutes)

A quick, free gift that we can give ourselves is to simply go outside. This can be done by taking an extra two minutes during the time that you would normally walk between your vehicle and the building you are headed for. Experience being outside, for just a moment, pay attention to the natural surroundings, the sky, the breeze, the temperature…

Why this is valuable

We are all part of nature. We were designed to feel the sunshine, experience the breeze, enjoy the natural scenery or at the very least, scenery different from the interiors that we are used to looking at. This is a reminder that we are part of a larger whole and that we are connected to nature. This can help you relax, feel grounded and like you are part of something timeless.

3. Take the time to “feel” your body (3 minutes)

Start at your toes and work your way up your calves, thighs, up and up, you get the picture. No judgment, just observation. Is there any tightness, pain, vibration, heat, cold, irritation, lightness etc.?

Why this is valuable

Our bodies are great sources of information. Some call it intuition or a “gut feeling”, but the truth is that they are collecting and sorting data at lightening speed and we need to pay attention to it. By learning what your body sensations are, you will develop an understanding of how you feel day to day. When a change occurs, you will notice it more readily and this helps you “hear” what your body is trying to tell you. Being in touch with your body helps you become whole. It allows you to respond to its needs rather than forcing it to behave how you want. This will increase your contentment and your experience of joy.

4. Dream of something that you would like in your life (3 minutes)

What would you like in your life? How would you like your life to look? What would you like to be doing right now? Allow yourself to indulge in pretending that you already have what you just thought of. Be grateful for all of the things in your life that you already have. Indulge in fantasy for three minutes.

Why this is valuable 

All accomplishments require some kind of vision. Before a building can be built, someone had to dream of the building and put that vision down on paper (or into a computer program) so that others would know what to build. Your life is like that. If you want something, believe that you can have it. Picture it. At the very least, it will make you feel good, positive and hopeful for three minutes.

5. Think of something that you would like to do and plan to do it (5 minutes)

This is a more concrete example of what I said above. You know you want to visit a city, see an exhibition, go for a hike, a canoe or a drive or any of a million activities that you already know you want to do. Take five minutes now and plan to do it. Set a date, invite those people you would like to share it with and put it in your calendar.

Why this is valuable

There is nothing more concrete that you can do to bring happiness into your life than doing things that you enjoy. It will not get done if you do not schedule it in (sad but true, often) so do that now. Five minutes, do the work to make a plan and schedule it.

6. Do something that you actually enjoy (5 minutes)

This is even MORE concrete than the examples above. Indulge yourself for five minutes. Look at photos you like, go outside again, watch a video, sing in your car or your shower or where you work (if possible :-)), dance, apply a moisturizer to your face, give someone a hug, tell a joke, do your nails, take some photos, do a puzzle etc., You know what you like to do.

Why this is valuable

It is easy to forget that many of life’s simplest pleasures are right at hand all of the time. When we stop to think about it and indulge, we enjoy ourselves here and now.

7. Do a random favour for a stranger (5 minutes)

An under-appreciated way to bring immediate joy into your life is to commit a random act of kindness. Some popular examples are: “pay if forward”, where-in you pay for the person behind you in line at the drive-through; helping someone to their car when they have several packages; and of course the simple act of holding a door for someone. Be creative.

Why this is valuable

If you do one small gesture for someone today it will make you feel better immediately and it may put them in a better mood as well. This also has the potential to create a ripple effect.

8. Express any emotion that you have for five minutes (10 minutes)

I probably don’t have to tell you that bursting into tears at work, yelling at someone you don’t know or becoming incapacitated by grief or loneliness is simply not acceptable in our society, or more to the point, not acceptable in public. Truth is, we still have to feel these emotions and express them (however loud and uncomfortable that may be).

Why this is valuable

Unexpressed emotions stay in your body and are lurking there waiting for your guard to be down. Just when it is most inappropriate, they are expressed. If they are not expressed they fester. This can manifest as illness, addiction, inappropriate behaviours and depression. The energy required to not express or feel emotions is much greater than the energy required to release them. Letting yourself feel whatever it is you are feeling, for five minutes a day, (no judgment allowed) will increase clarity and inspiration. It is important to realize that you don’t have to know why you feel the way that you do. Just allow yourself to feel whatever it is that you are feeling. Ten minutes are allotted because you will need some recovery time before you can resume your ‘normal’ life.

9. Walk for 10 minutes (10 minutes)

Your body will respond immediately to this gentle movement. I am not talking about high level exercise, the need for special foot wear or even tracking distance. This is a chance to just move your body in a natural way.

Why this is valuable

We were designed to have some movement and this small contribution will enhance your mood, your immune system and your outlook. Add in good scenery (even if it is the latest styles) or good company (if you can interest a friend) and you double the bang for your ten minutes.

10. Take fifteen minutes to do nothing (15 minutes)

This one is last because it is the largest time commitment and quite frankly is the most beneficial of all of the above. Sit, stand, lie down or do any repetitive activity that does not require too much attention (it’s not very beneficial if you get hit by a car) and just pay attention to your thoughts, your body and the environment (even if you are indoors). Come to appreciate the fact that your mind continues speaking to you regardless of whether or not you need to remind yourself of anything. Pay attention to this moment only. Do not plan for the future or worry about the past. Do not get engaged in the thoughts that appear in your mind, just try to observe the words. Be here now.

Why this is valuable

Doing nothing, sometimes called meditation, sometimes called mindfulness, has been shown to benefit every aspect of your life. It decreases stress (and all stress related bad habits), improves mood (which makes you more productive and more likely to have friends around), increases your immunity (which means less time wasted being ill or not feeling well) and helps you understand the importance of the first 9 Ways to improve your life. It gives your brain a break and allows you to stop thinking obsessively about things. Think of it as rebooting your brain. Rebooting your brain for joy…

Our Thoughts Create Our Perception of the World

Releasing Emotions

The Most Important Moment is Now

Recommended Reading

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The Joy Diet 

How to focus on the things that can bring joy into your life today.

 

 

 

http://www.wendypowell.ca

Stranger than Fiction

100-0201Stranger than Fiction” a movie I rewatched recently on Crackle because I enjoy the messages in it. The movie takes a stab at determining if self-will or destiny reigns supreme. It asks, “How do you want to live your life?” Ultimately, it examines the relationship we have with ourselves and the world around us. As a Coneiya (ko-NEY-yuh) practitioner, this is one of the things that I teach awareness of.

We can get so caught up in the conversations we have with ourselves that we completely miss the life we are supposed to be living. In the movie, Harold Crick counted and calculated every aspect of his life and experienced it through numbers; 32 teeth brushed 76 times. Then he became aware of a second voice that was not his own, “With better vocabulary.

Symbolically, this second voice could represent the fact that the voice in our heads is NEVER who we are. It can be difficult to realize this because it is our closest companion, but it is simply the word generating part of our brain, doing what it does best, which is generating words. When you are having trouble making a decision, who are you arguing with?

It wasn’t until Harold found out that his death was imminent that he was shook out of this trance. This is apropos because many people are ripped out of this self talk delusion because of a great loss or tragedy. The delusion is thinking that the voice in our heads talking to us all day is very important, perhaps the most important part of who we are. It is not. These words are just a series of things that we’ve decided to say to ourselves, like, look both ways before you cross the street. We repeat truths in neuronal assemblies like deep treads in a well worn road. The trick is to get out of the rut and start taking control of how you steer.

Another message that I like in this movie comes from a man helping Harold during this difficult time in his life. The man suggests that Harold enjoy his life to the fullest in the time that he has left. This inspires Harold to buy a guitar and learn how to play it. It is important to include the things in our lives that we enjoy.

That is so obvious that it feels silly mentioning it, but too often we get so fixed in our patterns that we don’t even stop to think about how we would want to spend our time. We decide that we will do all of the things that we enjoy when we retire or win the lottery or at least not today. Adding joy to your life today is much more satisfying than listening to all of the things that you have gotten into the habit of telling yourself.

How do you want to live your life? What have you done today that was enjoyable? How much of your life is routine? Are you telling yourself that it is not OK to focus on what you love?

Harold had become unobservant. He was counting everything around him and calculating instead of engaging in his life. What are you focused on? How much you eat, shop, drink, watch television? What you SHOULD be doing with your time? Those rumours you heard? Time to wake up and pay attention. Cool movie. I recommend it.

 

Great Leap

20130427-212345.jpgIt was a puzzle that I couldn’t figure out. I simply did not have enough information. My three-year-old self was standing at the top of the staircase that was just outside of my bedroom. At the time, we lived in one of the A-frame houses that were built en mass to house the soldiers that were returning from the war.

The ceilings in these houses were ten feet high and the staircase reflected that. It was made of solid wood, as was the remainder of the house, and ended in a small landing that also opened into the living room and exited to the outside.

The question was a simple one. If I jumped, would I make it to the landing? I knew that gravity would take me down. What I couldn’t determine was whether or not I could make it out far enough to miss the stairs and land at the bottom. There was only one way to find out. I jumped.

I was elated. I caught enough air to get the sensation that I was going to make it. It felt as though I was in the air for an extended period of time and I would never have to walk down the stairs again. This was thrilling and exciting.

I suppose it could be argued that I could’ve remained safe and unsatisfied, forever wondering whether or not I would’ve made it, but that is so much less fulfilling.

The joy in living comes from taking chances like this. There is no doubt that I could’ve hurt myself, but aren’t we hurting ourselves by always staying as safe as possible? How much of your life have you spent doing exactly the same things that you did the day before and the day before that? You may live to be 110 but does that count if most of those years were repeats of the year before?

Then I hit. The momentum from the jump took me the rest of the way. I tumbled all of the way to the landing. No worse for wear, I felt proud of myself for answering my question and that I had set a great mystery to rest. If I had flown over the staircase and made it to the bottom safely it would have been a great triumph and everyone would agree it was worth the risk, but wasn’t it anyway?

This willingness to take a great leap has brought all kinds of opportunity into my life. What do you wish you had the “guts” to try? Take another route to work. Go to a new type of event. Wear a different colour. You will be amazed how much more stimulating you will find your life if you try something that you’ve always wanted to try. Even if you hit the last few stairs and tumble to the bottom, at least you would have experienced the exhilaration of being suspended in the air, if only for a moment.

 

 

 

Happy New Year 2011

I know that I hardly contacted you over the summer. That’s likely to happen again. I have decided to be true to myself and even though I was hoping to get newsletters out about once a month, it would’ve been in conflict with how I wanted to spend the summer. As Martha Beck says, “You have to live it to give it!” I wanted to sit by the pool and read magazines, swim and walk the dog. I did not feel like writing many newsletters so I didn’t. But anyhow, I’m back. I hope that you enjoyed your summer.

How did you feel when you read the above paragraph? Did it make you question my dedication to this business? Did you think unkind thoughts about my drive or motivation? Did you hear yourself disagreeing with me or judging me for being so open and honest about how I wanted to spend my time? Interesting….

If what I wrote made you uncomfortable, or if you found yourself answering yes to any of the above questions I want you to stop and ask yourself why. We have all been raised in a very competitive society. Many of us see our self worth in terms of how much “stuff” that we have. Admitting that I found joy, not in promoting myself but rather, in indulging myself, may seem antithetical to running a business, but my business is about finding your right life.

My purpose is to help as many people as possible learn to enjoy their lives. By saying something that is considered almost politically incorrect, I hope to have helped you identify your biases, to see the thoughts that you may still believe that may not be serving you anymore.

Life is about living. It is not a race to the finish line. There is no one handing out stars for the person that was the most selfless, for the one that got the least amount of sleep or for the person that has the most stuff when they die. It is about now. Being here now and enjoying what is in front of us, at this moment.

September is the true beginning of my New Year. I know that the year on the calendar changes on December 31, but my life always changes in September. The summer is coming to a close and leisure time shifts from outdoor to indoor activities. Schedules get determined. School starts and all of the programs begin, including one of mine. This is the time in the year to really set the pattern that you’d like to see until the spring.

So how are you going to enjoy your life more? What do you want to do today that would be self-indulgent? Things are about to get busy again, so remember that you are the most important person in your life and it up to you to find time for yourself.