Some Like it Hot

IMG_0056Is it Hot Enough For You?

Do you remember shovelling snow, hating the slippery roads, wearing layers upon layers and still being cold? This heat wave is the weather that we were all looking forward to as we stepped into deep water secretly hidden under a thin layer of ice, soaking us through to our socks. True happiness comes from knowing one’s self and getting in touch with how we truly feel and what we truly want.

Focusing on external circumstances like the weather (what can we control less?), especially if we aren’t enjoying them, can be a bad habit that is often used to avoid paying attention to what we are feeling. Do you find yourself shopping when you don’t need anything and spending more money than you have? Do you eat when you are not hungry and past the point of being full? Do you need a drink in order to face your day, or perhaps several? People do many things to distract themselves from their feelings. If you do anything habitually, that you know you probably shouldn’t be doing as much as you do, you may be trying to avoid your emotions. Click here to read more…..

In order to truly get in touch with what you want it is necessary to stop thinking about what should be making you happy. It is easy to get pulled into the idea that the next promotion, the next purchase, the upcoming holiday is what will make us happy. These are all future events and are not happening now. It is important to become aware of the less tangible, more satisfying aspects of your life. Especially in North America, we are all about the logical, scientific mind. We are quite confident that if you can measure it, test it and quantify it, “It” is real and worth our attention. We are driven by…click here to read more….

I want to welcome you to your life. Some things can be changed, some cannot. The trick is to experience your life to the fullest and to allow yourself to indulge in your passions. So stop thinking so hard and doing so much and enjoy the weather before the snow returns.

My Brain in the Pool

IMGP0470Breath, stroke, breath, stroke, the rhythmic splash of the water and the bubbles when I exhale become the focus of my mind. I love swimming. It is relaxing for me and a good example of not sitting in the lotus position to meditate. I completely “fall” into the rush of the water, the curl at the turn and my brain shuts off.

I still have thoughts, don’t get me wrong, but swimming is one of those types of activities that you don’t have to pay attention to your thoughts. You can observe your thoughts and then just feel the waves buoying you around. This can be the same in running, walking and hiking assuming that you are not in a place that requires vigilance. Or, you could sit still or lie down and let your mind relax.

We all need to take some time to turn our brains off. It gives them a break. Observe your thoughts for a while. See what you are thinking without making it important. If the thought came into your mind this time, it will return, no need to focus on it.

As little as ten minutes a day is all it takes to begin to receive the benefits of meditation. Better sleep, better concentration, better health… the list goes on and on. Why not turn your brain off today, if just for a little while?

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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

41VXCK7WTGL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_AA300_SH20_OU15_

 

The Joy Diet 

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

 

 

 

http://www.wendypowell.ca

Right Brain/Left Brain — Chapter 7

I am in my office again. I just finished a pretty easy week at work. I was only covering my own desk, which meant that I had a reasonable amount to do. There are definitely ebbs and flows of work and this was a particularly light flow.

It is 6:00 p.m. EDT and it is pitch black outside. I wish that they would recognize that there has not been justification for Daylight savings time for over a hundred years and remove it. It is such a great example of how we deny the fact that we are animals in praise of our “greater knowledge,” from our logical brains. Daylight savings time throws entire populations into jet lag without even a change in sun patterns to help them adjust.

I first experienced an understanding of this disconnect in grade four when I had a crush on my classmate. It was during this time that I decided that my brain would be in charge instead of my natural inclinations. I had to take control of how I was acting. By nine years of age I had already learned that what my logical brain wanted should take precedence. Now I am spending more time trying to reconnect with what I actually want, not what I “should” want. I find this interesting.

It has long been known that the brain has two hemispheres. These look almost identical and it can appear as though they would do the same thing but they do not. There is a great video by Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor during which she explains her experience after having a stroke that knocked her left-brain “off-line” so to speak. She explained that her right brain is connected to a greater knowing, a connection to the energy that is all around us.

At the risk of over simplifying this, the left-brain is the logical, thought producing hemisphere. It spends its entire day generating words that form thoughts. These repeating messages occur over and over again until we believe them. This is the part of the brain that says things like, “You shouldn’t do that”. The right side is more of the artistic side, but I like to call it the animal side. It is the part of the brain that knows how to survive and what it enjoys.

So we get ourselves into situations where the two sides of our brains are arguing. I was already having this argument at nine years of age. It occurred again when I was trying to decide whether or not to resume my marriage. Funny thing. The right side always won. This is true in other aspects of my life. The vision disturbances and the crying were both my body, or my animal side telling me that I was not OK despite the fact that my logical brain could come up with all kinds of quantifiable arguments about the logistics of leaving.

Stop for a moment and consider the fact that you are reading this sentence. To most people, this is experienced as “hearing the words” in your mind. As you read this, you hear the words, “As you read this” in your mind. Is this true for you? Is this how you experience reading to yourself? If it is, I have a question. Who is listening? Let me propose a possibility. It is not our bodies, our animal side or our right brain that is in control. It is also not our thoughts, the words that we tell ourselves or our left-brain that is in control, it is you, the one listening to your brain read the words.

One of the ways that this conflict plays out in our society is through all of the rules that are shared about how we should live that if followed, take us further away from the knowledge that we instinctively have about how to take care of ourselves. The media goes crazy condemning foods and then exonerating them. Telling us how much sleep, exercise, food and television we should indulge in. It does not take a genius to see that this is not working. It might be time to get back into our bodies and begin to listen to what they are saying.

Our bodies need to be cared for, not tortured. The food restriction, the belief in things like, “no pain, no gain” and our crazy schedules do not respect the fact that our bodies are where we live. We need to learn to listen to the messages that they are sending us about play and rest; enjoyment and focus; hunger and movement. Reconnecting is the key, not learning the newest fad.

All bodies will want to move. It may not be “exercise” but they are designed to be doing things. Our bodies know what they want to eat and when they are full. Also, we know how much sleep we need. In our overbooked lives, it is easy to let our left brains convince us that what we need to do is more important than taking care of ourselves. These brain over body arguments all need to be reexamined.

Recognize that the part of you that is listening to this as you read it to yourself, can see both sides. You can hear the left brain spewing rules about how you should behave and the right brain desiring more freedom. You know what you actually want and taking time to be quiet in wordlessness will help you connect to this knowing more and more.

This is an excerpt from my book, “I Woke Up In Paradise”.

Read the entire book.
Read the entire book.

Some Like it Hot

IMG_0056Is it Hot Enough For You?

Do you remember shovelling snow, hating the slippery roads, wearing layers upon layers and still being cold? This heat wave is the weather that we were all looking forward to as we stepped into deep water secretly hidden under a thin layer of ice, soaking us through to our socks. True happiness comes from knowing one’s self and getting in touch with how we truly feel and what we truly want.

Focusing on external circumstances like the weather (what can we control less?), especially if we aren’t enjoying them, can be a bad habit that is often used to avoid paying attention to what we are feeling. Do you find yourself shopping when you don’t need anything and spending more money than you have? Do you eat when you are not hungry and past the point of being full? Do you need a drink in order to face your day, or perhaps several? People do many things to distract themselves from their feelings. If you do anything habitually, that you know you probably shouldn’t be doing as much as you do, you may be trying to avoid your emotions. Click here to read more…..

In order to truly get in touch with what you want it is necessary to stop thinking about what should be making you happy. It is easy to get pulled into the idea that the next promotion, the next purchase, the upcoming holiday is what will make us happy. These are all future events and are not happening now. It is important to become aware of the less tangible, more satisfying aspects of your life. Especially in North America, we are all about the logical, scientific mind. We are quite confident that if you can measure it, test it and quantify it, “It” is real and worth our attention. We are driven by…click here to read more….

I want to welcome you to your life. Some things can be changed, some cannot. The trick is to experience your life to the fullest and to allow yourself to indulge in your passions. So stop thinking so hard and doing so much and enjoy the weather before the snow returns.

A Good Reason to Make Meditation a Part of Your Life

IMG_5178Especially in North America, we are all about the logical, scientific mind. We are quite confident that if you can measure it, test it and quantify it, “It” is real and worth our attention. We are driven by accomplishments and the accumulation of stuff and it feels like we are all in a great race to be the biggest, best, richest or most powerful.

These “goals” are often future illusions that are created in our minds and accepted as a real reality of who we are and what we want. But, stay with me here, what if we were wrong? Maybe not completely wrong, but at the very least misguided. What if the ultimate purpose of our lives was to enjoy ourselves, to live in harmony and to be compassionate towards one another? Would that be such a bad world to live in?

In every moment we have the choice to be driven and focusing on the material world or we can be peaceful and recognize that there is always a connection with everyone and everything else. We are not alone and we do not need to be struggling all of the time. This may seem like a foreign concept to some, but it is something that can be achieved. It can be experienced by simply making room in your day to stop thinking. Stop the mind chatter and allow yourself to just experience being. In spiritual circles this is referred to as meditation. In scientific circles this is referred to as mindfulness and in religious circles it is referred to as prayer. Call it whatever you want. It is the opportunity to stop the daily race into the next moment and hang out in this moment for a while.

Why would we want to do this? I don’t think anyone can explain it better than Jill Bolte Taylor; so I’ll let you watch her video and I’ll meet you back here in a few moments.

http://www.ted.com/talks/jill_bolte_taylor_s_powerful_stroke_of_insight.html

How was that? Did that give you any incentive to learn how to connect with your right brain? Well, if it did, let me give you some tips. First, this must become a daily practice. I know that we are all told that we should do many things everyday and they feel like just another chore, another check box to mark off, but this one will actually create more space in your life. Taking time to do nothing has the ability to actually make you more productive, improve your health, your attitude and your sleep, so in the long run it does not take up time, it actually frees up time.

There are many different ways to get in touch with your right hemisphere. The “classic” example is to sit quietly and to clear your mind. This is almost impossible for most people. Our left brains are so dominant, that we need to actively learn how to not pay attention to the word generating part so that we can experience the other side of our brains. It is sufficient to let your mind talk and talk while you are sitting but to just observe what it is saying. Sit outside of the thought, as it were. Notice the thoughts that are occurring but do not get engaged in what the thoughts are saying. This requires you to activate the right side of your brain, which would be doing the “observing” of the other side of the brain, and how it goes on and on.

It is not necessary to sit. You can do any activity that is methodical and does not require you to think too much. This could be walking, swimming or any other simple movement. You could do yoga poses or lie on the floor. Lying on the floor can be effective because it is probably, not necessarily, something that you don’t often do. It is also difficult to get up, unlike sitting, making being still easier. Any activity that does not require much thought will work. Even doing housework can be made into a meditative activity as long as the focus is on the activity, not the words that are going through your mind.

Julia Cameron, author of “The Artist’s Way” recommends writing morning pages. She says that you should write three pages daily. The pages are not thought out structured sentences. The writing is stream of consciousness writing. No one is ever going to read these pages.

Hopefully, you have seen why connecting with your right brain is something that is worthwhile. Give different types of meditation a chance and see what works for you. Do it daily for a while and watch how the quality of your life improves. Good Luck!

The Most Important Moment is Now

IMGP1996

As science and spirituality continue to merge on many fronts, one of the more interesting discoveries is that meditation is being “discovered” as a treatment for many psychological disorders. Not only are people with serious problems benefiting from this practice, many people with everyday issues like anxiety and overeating have seen benefits. In addition to that it has been shown to slow some of the effects of aging (Epel, 2009 and Turner, 2010).

Now, stay with me here, I’m not going to tell you that you have to sit in the lotus position and say OOOvHHHMMMNnnnn for hours on end. Meditation, or as it is referred to in the scientific literature, mindfulness, can be achieved just by ignoring your brain for a while. The definition of mindfulness is generally thought to have two parts: focusing on the present moment and accepting what is without judgment (Coffey, 2010 and Bishop, 2004).

The key to all of this is that you must make this moment the most important moment. Worrying about the future, fretting about the past, planning what you need to do next, rethinking upsetting conversations, must all take a back seat. The moment of meditation needs to be the most important moment–while you are doing it. You can get back to worrying about what you are going to do if you happen to run into someone that you don’t like, or whether or not you should buy a dog or two cats–later. For now, recognize that everything is OK and that you do not have to do anything or plan anything for the next fifteen minutes. You may find that you do not want to go back to worrying when you are done.

In order to meditate you must sit, walk, run, swim, bike, lie down or ski. Well anything that you can do that allows you to disengage your mind. Walking in heavy traffic, for instance, would not be suitable because if your mind was not engaged there is a good chance that you would be pulled back into thinking about your surroundings pretty quickly and abruptly. The key is that it needs to be an activity, or no activity, that allows you to “turn off your brain”.

I am not going to tell you that you have to stop that word generating part of your brain that has nothing better to do than jabber all day about this and that and all of the things that you have to do and what happened several years ago at the beach when that large….but I digress. What you need to do is not pay attention to those thoughts. When words come into your mind (and we both know they will) simply observe them and pay no further attention.

It can be helpful to visualize the words as bubbles that float to the surface and pop, or as cars speeding down a highway off into the distance, or any other visual that you may find useful. What we are trying to avoid here is paying attention to the words. So, if you suddenly remember that you haven’t fed your pet fish, recognize that it won’t matter in the next 15 minutes. You will remember again. If you start to think about how angry the clerk made you at the store, see the words individually, don’t get pulled into the story, just observe that you had a thought and let it fall away.

The key is to just be aware of the fact that your brain is generating words and to not care about what they are saying. Right now, in this moment, it is not important. It can be helpful to focus on your breath and keep bringing your attention to your breath. If you are moving during this time you might focus on each step or each stroke. You may just pay attention to all of the sensations coming from your body and the words being generated by your mind. Just accept them and do not engage with them. Do not criticize yourself for thinking, just notice and bring your attention back to your body or your breath or your movement.

The next step is to start to notice other things. How does your body feel? What are the sounds and smells around you? Is it cold, hot, midlin? Take note of these things, but don’t get engaged. For instance if you realize it is too cold, it is not the time to get a sweater. You can wait until you are done, you won’t freeze to death in 15 minutes (not in a place that you’ve chosen to meditate in anyhow). This is a great exercise in learning to observe your thoughts in a way that allows you to see how transient they are and that they occur even when you are paying attention to something else. But, more on that at another time.

So to recap, you want to be focused on the moment and to accept it for whatever it is–even if your fish is starving to death. Meditating in this way for 15 minutes a day is all that it takes. What is there to gain from doing absolutely nothing for 15 minutes everyday?….well, a lot actually. Meditation, or mindfulness, has been shown to decrease stress, depression and illness. It has been shown to slow the aging process and it is key in helping to break bad habits such as smoking or gossiping. So, by taking the time each day to recognize that the most important moment is now you can improve your life. Now that is easier than dieting or exercising wouldn’t you say?

51j5nO-sxRL._SL110_ This is the ultimate book to explain a greater understanding of what living in the moment means.