Be what you want

It is impossible to create immunity from the harmful, painful, and at times devastating statements and opinions at times, but I think there is a better way to insulate ourselves and promote hope than by making sweeping statements of separation or reacting with anger and fear.  Be honest, when was the last time that you effectively persuaded someone to change their values or character by simply ‘telling them something”?

We do not need lessons to teach people, we need to be models of what we hope for.  You don’t have to quit your job and become a full time activist, just be truly active in your life.  If you are reading FB posts that hurt your heart, commit to posting something that lifts you up.  If you see a negative news story that causes you to feel fear or uncertainty; acknowledge your fear and make a decision to move past that fear.  If you find yourself feeling anxious and uncertain, empower yourself with knowledge and seek out your own answers.  It’s not about avoiding pain it or pretending fear doesn’t exist, it’s about finding ways to appease it.

Make a commitment to express gratitude every single day, tell someone you love them, offer help to someone in need, be thoughtful about your communication with others, be open to the possibility of hope, and make a conscious decision to express compassion in every single interaction you have.  If you think of the most powerful ‘lesson’ you ever learned, think about how that came to be….chances are that it was through your own action and decisions.  If I had to ‘tell’ someone just one thing, I would simply share the wise words from Gandhi’s- “Be the change you wish to see in this world.”

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Lose interest in negativity

I am amazed how much energy I have committed to negative people and their experiences.  I used to think that I toxic people were drawn to me for some reason. I would find myself completely worn out and thinking “Why is everyone around me so unhappy?”  And after a while, my frustration would get to the point of pure exhaustion. And I would wonder how I could stay positive with so much negativity around me and even worse, I would think things like, “Maybe I just need to be more negative too.”

Finally one day, I heard someone make the simplest of statements.  They were talking about how to navigate unhappy co-workers and all the drama that can suck the life out of your work day.  The statement was something like this, “You have to become disinterested in the negativity. Begin to consciously decide that you have no interest in it and it will cease to impact you.”

My initial reaction was to sit down.  Those words were so simple, yet profound.  It made so much sense.  The reality was that I had to acknowledge my own interest in the negativity, the drama, the tragedy of it all.  I mean, we have have an entire culture that thrives on reality television and pop culture that perpetuates heartache, grievances, and chaos.  And I DID find that interesting.  I like to think it appealed to my character that believes someone can persevere through hardships but the reality was that by paying attention to the gossip or negative stuff, I didn’t have to pay attention to myself and acknowledge painful feelings or experiences of fear or insecurity.

So I began to digest this idea of disinterest.  I sat with it for a day or so and then I became excited. I wanted to try this out the next day.  I began my day as I usually do and sure enough, within an hour I had my first opportunity to practice disinterest.  Someone was complaining about another coworker and their ‘tone’ and remarking on a recent interaction that was, according to this person, totally unbelievable.  I recognized how easy it would be to comment and not only become interested but engaged in the conversation.  But instead, I smiled and simply choose to think about a positive quality about the very same person who was being talked about and quietly walked out of the room.

The opportunities kept coming.  It happened when someone cut me off in traffic, when my bank made an error on a deposit slip, when someone criticized me for a mistake, and when I spilled coffee down my shirt.  It’s not about ignoring these things or pretending they don’t happen.  Its about recognizing what I can learn and figuring out how I want to move forward.

As I become more in tune with opportunities that present for my disinterest, this amazing thing happens…I simultaneously become more open to the possibility of hopefulness and gratitude.  My environment has not changed, the landscape is the same, yet my capacity for love, tolerance, and understanding has only increased.

It is not like I am suddenly immune to negativity but now I am better at allowing myself to truly assess my own feelings of stress, insecurity, or fear.  Accepting the reality of the situation enables a healthier and happier way to appease my heart than getting consumed by the chaos.  Some times are easier than others, but I am committed to the practice of becoming less interested in the negativity and much more interested in love, understanding, compassion, and kindness.

Presence for Presents

Pile of gorgeous gifts

Pile of gorgeous gifts (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I love the holidays.  I love anything that brings people together and nurtures connection with each other.  Unfortunately, a by-product of all this connection is the much dreaded gift exchanges and holiday purchases that sometimes overshadow the spirit of the season. This post is created in the spirit of including some presence in the presents of the season.  🙂

Here’s the deal.  The best presents for people are rarely advertised on the front of a store ad.  There are not “limited quantities” of an honest expression of love and gratitude.  Yes, you can put objects in a package and tie a pretty bow around them, but when you are truly celebrating another person it is less like a chore and more like an opportunity.  An opportunity to express yourself and the meaning of your relationship and an opportunity to engage in a delightful experience of kindness.

The catch is that it may take more than a few minutes of late night online shopping to find a true reflection of all these things.  This is where the idea of presence comes in.  I’m not suggesting you spend hours in meditation to figure out the perfect gift.  But maybe spend a few minutes figuring out what each person likes, what words represent their personality, what activities do they enjoy, or what dream have they ever expressed to you?  Sometimes if you can just write down the person’s name and jot down the first 6-10 descriptors that come to mind when you think of that person…it could be helpful in you figuring out something that would truly celebrate who they are.

Another exploration of your presence is to reflect on something that you really want to share with people this holiday season.  What has inspired you lately?  What has made your heart sing?  Is there a way to share that with the people in your life?

Consider this an invitation for all of us to include a sense of presence for the presents we all buy/make and distribute this year.  This comes naturally to some people and not so naturally for others.  If you are needing a little inspiration to get your creative ideas flowing consider these strategies to incorporate presence this season:

-Gift an experience instead of just a ‘thing’.  This could be in the form of movie passes, a coupon for a painting class or workshop, or tickets to a musical concert.  Depending on the experience, maybe you can even share the experience with them!

-Gift positivity.  Create affirmations for your friends.  There are a ton of sites that include affirmations for all sorts of categories ranging from love, friendships, workplace, and spirituality.

-Gift inspiration (in the form of famous quotes, calendars, or photography).  Take your own photo and frame it or type up your favorite quote on cardstock.

-Gift music.  Burn a CD with your favorite songs from this year or something they may not normally listen to.

-Gift gratitude.  Make a gratitude jar/container.  Label it and create a starter kit for them.  If you are feeling particularly grateful, include notes of gratitude from you to them and place them in the jar for them to read later.

-Gift silly.  Create coupons for ‘night off from cooking/cleaning the kitchen.’ or “all day pass to watch sports on tv without complaint.’

-Gift practical.  If you know someone writes a lot, gift them notebooks and pens.  If you know someone who drinks tea every day, pick up a variety pack of flavors for them.

-Gift connection.  If you are missing someone, gift them cards with envelopes and stamps so you can stay connected.

-Gift your gifts.  If you make the best oatmeal raisin cookies ever…gift them to people along with your secret recipe.  This works for any food item that is your claim to fame.  🙂  Include an uplifting movie and you have a family gift ready to share.

Whatever you do….make it fun.  Make it goofy.  Make it real.  And make it personal.  Those are the things that make it meaningful.  Not only do I believe that is the true spirit of the holidays, but I believe it is the core of our spirit each and every day.

Wishing you peace, love, and good health this holiday season.

 

What’s on your ‘to-do’ list today?

Here’s the deal, we have a ton of stuff that is expected of us each and every day.  Some times it comes from our own internal ‘to-do’ lists and often it’s a mixture of responsibilities that come from work, family, and this thing we call life.  As I was working through my own tedious tasks today I couldn’t help but notice that none of my important items had to do with me, my well-being, or pretty much anything that made me feel light inside.  So I paused for a minute, jotted down a few things that I could (and would) do before my head hit the pillow tonight.

I list 21 items below but the idea is not to do them ALL today or maybe even all this week, but it’s a great start.  I simply wanted to write them down so I could work through a little every day.  It’s not an exhaustive list and I encourage you to add or adapt your own actions, but hopefully it will give you a nudge (if you need it) of inspiration to pause and pay special attention to your best resource, YOU!

Pick 1 or 2 or however many you think you can realistically do today and feel free to repeat the same list for tomorrow.  I truly hope and believe that any one of these actions would improve your overall sense of well-being, feeling of peace, or even relief (even for a just a moment).  I do offer a bit of explanation with a few of the items, but mostly that is for comical benefit.  I tend to use humor as a primary coping mechanism (hence, all the smiley faces all the time)!

  1. Smile. 🙂  See…it’s already working!
  2. Forgive yourself for something (could be for getting frustrated easily or maybe it’s just easing up some of that negative talk within your own head…)
  3. Hug yourself (or someone else). If you need instructions on hugging yourself:  take your left arm and place it on your right shoulder.  Then take your right arm, place it on your left shoulder.  Now squeeze.  I know, sounds silly, but works every time!
  4. Trust yourself.  If this seems too daunting, then start by asking yourself what it means to ‘trust yourself’.
  5. Write out a gratitude note.
  6. Replace a complaint with a positive statement.  Note:  the more you practice this one, the more you notice those around you who could use the practice!
  7. Slow down (yes, this is vague…it is supposed to be as only you know what that means for yourself.  Take it as literal as you like 🙂
  8. Hold the door open for the person behind you or perform any other random act of kindness.
  9. Say good morning (to everyone)!
  10. Tell someone you love them (this could be yourself as well….if you choose self, I recommend saying it in front of a mirror.  It has more impact when you see yourself saying it).
  11. Choose to be happy today (the whole day).
  12. Sit quietly for 5 minutes.  No talking, just listening.  Can be done with eyes open or closed, your choice.
  13. Embrace change.  Again, figure out what that means for you to ’embrace change’.
  14. Let go of something that no longer serves you.
  15. State a dream of yours out loud (doesn’t matter if anyone else hears it).
  16. Write out a definition of ‘love’ without using a dictionary.  Describe what it feels like, looks like, and how you know it exists.
  17. Practice patience.
  18. Stretch your body (arms, legs, whatever makes sense for you).
  19. Listen to your body (instead of a clock) to tell you when you are hungry and tired.
  20. Take 5 deep breaths.
  21. Smile.  Listed twice because it’s just that awesome!

Will these things change your life?  Probably not.  Will they lighten your heart? I surely hope so.  Be intentional today and move yourself and your well-being to the number one item on any of your ‘to-do’ lists!