7 Virtues for Self-Improvement

7 Virtues for Self-Improvement 

By Melissa Eisler

Virtues are universal moral habits that are widely recognized as good character traits. By practicing virtues every day, you can build and live a purposeful and value-driven life. After a week of focusing on doing good, you’ll notice that you’re attracting more positivity and happiness into your life. 

Some might say that virtuous qualities are innate or developed early in life, but you can also learn and cultivate virtues so that they become more prevalent and habitual in your daily life. By practicing being more virtuous, you can live a more intentional life with greater fulfillment, peace, and joy. Here are seven common virtues. Focus on one a day for a week to gain insight into yourself and bring more joy to those   around you. 

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Dee:

I always thought I was a good, kind person.  But it wasn’t until I got into recovery from alcoholism that I discovered that I was a mean and self-centered human being.  That word “thought” in my first sentence is a word I am grateful to be releasing from my vocabulary.  Being in recovery, becoming more a spiritual being, means for me I no longer have to think so much, to understand it all, but to feel and to live from my heart.  What a foreign way to live my life, but so freeing!

When I left a 28-day alcohol treatment program it was suggested to stay on track that I attend AA meetings and do what was suggested to me there.  I did.  I attended meetings.  I got a Big Book.  I got a sponsor.  I worked the 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous with my sponsor.  I got into service.  I got better.

Working the Steps with my sponsor showed me how fear-based I had been living my life.  With that fear came defensiveness and selfishness.  I knew no other way.  I hadn’t been taught a different way to be.  That part of my journey didn’t come until I reached rock bottom and then found recovery. 

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When I made my amends to my kids they told me how mean I was.  I was baffled.  Just like alcohol is cunning, baffling and powerful.  When I got the drink in me I turned into another creature; it brought out the worst in me.  And I certainly didn’t like “that” person.  As a matter of fact, I loathed and hated her and called her a loser when I saw her in the mirror.  I also had no purpose and felt I was a waste of space on this planet.  How sad is that to have lived 50 years of my life purposelessly?  Again, my journey with a Higher Power in my life today that knows “When the student is ready, the Master appears.” 

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I don’t know if that mean person in me is really who I am inside or who I became when the alcohol changed me.  It doesn’t matter.  Again, no need spending precious energy dwelling on that.  All I know is that today…finally…I am comfortable in my own skin and can truly say I love myself for who and what I am and what my journey has given me.  Virtuous qualities innate or developed, learned or cultivated?  Doesn’t matter.  Today I live as rigorously honest as I can, being me, not fearing your thoughts of me.  Today I turn my will and my life over to the care of a Higher Power Greater Than Me.  And today I emanate something good that I don’t even know is happening that attracts people to me in a wonderful way.  Do I understand this?  Nope.

1. Acceptance 

Are you facing a challenge in your life right now or experiencing an emotion you would rather not face? Join the club—this is part of the human experience. The trick here is to reduce resisting experiences that come your way, where you are unable to affect change. Practicing acceptance does not necessarily mean you like, want, support, or endorse everything you cross paths with.

Rather, it means you’re choosing to allow it to be there without resistance, when you can’t change  it anyway. 

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To practice acceptance, identify anything in your life you feel you may be resisting. Notice if there is something you can do to change the situation for the better, and if not, begin the process of releasing that resistance and embracing acceptance. Just as the familiar Serenity Prayer states, “God, grant me serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.”  

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Dee:

When something is bugging the hell out of you I can suggest that you embrace it, thank it for coming, and then let it go…whisked away into the clouds softly and forever.  Well why can’t I walk my talk?  Because I need to dwell in my doo doo for just awhile longer, beat up on myself, and wait to get to that point where I can no longer take it.  Why can I not remember for myself that everything is perfect at this moment? 

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2. Authenticity 

To be authentic is to feel at home in yourself and be true to your values. Authenticity is important in creating healthy relationships, but it can also be challenging to practice on a daily basis due to fear. You may fear that if you showed up as you truly are—saying, doing, and feeling the things within you without censoring yourself— that others might reject you.  

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To practice authenticity, do something that truly reflects your deepest needs, wishes, and values. Give up changing your behavior because of the desire to be liked. Speak up for yourself and say/do what’s in your heart. 

Dee:

Finding out who I am and what makes me tick by working the Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous was the most eye-opening journey I have ever walked.  I feel such a weight off my shoulders knowing how fear-based I lived most of my life and why.

Today I accept it, embrace it, and let it whisk away whilst concentrating on self-love and self-care.  Turn my head off.  Meditate.  A bit of yoga.  Get out in nature.  Enjoy quiet.  Write. 

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Today I get to live in rigorous honesty.  I was so exhausted from lying, hiding and cheating for decades in my active disease.  No more.  I’ve got to use my energy in positive ways.  And today my Higher Power has given me purpose…to share my experience, strength and hope with whoever enters my Dee bubble and might need a ray of light and inspiration, a glimpse of hope, some optimism, and knowing no one needs to go through anything, ever, alone!

3. Compassion 

Sara Schairer, founder of Compassion It, a nonprofit dedicated to the social movement of fostering daily compassionate actions and attitudes, defines compassion (https://chopra.com/articles/whats-the-difference- between-empathy-sympathy-and-compassion) as “the willingness to relieve the suffering of another.” It can be difficult to sit with your own suffering or observe/feel it from someone else. But like the other virtues, compassion is a skill that gets easier with practice.  

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Practicing compassion for someone (this can be yourself) who is suffering can come in many different forms. To get started, read Sara’s article (https://chopra.com/articles/4-steps-to-finding-peace-through-compassion) and follow its four steps. Before you know it, you will be connecting with others and yourself in a more meaningful way. (https://chopra.com/free-programs/discover-your-purpose-toolkit?_ga=2.12561396.1726373736.1526314196- 557740326.1524243263) 

Dee:

One thing I do daily to keep myself centered, grounded, humble and grateful is to thank my Higher Power for everything, and I mean everything.  If it doesn’t go my way or isn’t what I want I know there are no coincidences and that I am meant to learn from it, grow, and become a better person.

I also ask my Higher Power to help me to be mindful, compassionate, respectful and loving.  That means for me to make eye contact with you and give you my complete attention.  Shut my head off from my to-do list.  I ask my Higher Power to help me not judge, to put myself in your shoes.  I have no clue what your life is like or what you’ve been through.  But your sharing your journey with me will help me better understand and, again, grow and be a better person. 

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4. Curiosity

When you’re curious, problem solving becomes easier because you see more options, paths, and ways of solving a problem than your non-curious counterparts. You question more; you gather more opinions; you don’t stop at the first solution–which can lead to greater possibilities. 

To truly embrace an attitude of curiosity means you begin to question things in your life and the world around you with no attachment to the answer. This last part is the key. Even if the subject at hand is something you know a lot about–pretend like you are getting to know it for the first time and with wonder, begin to inquire, observe, and learn. To do this without judgment requires an incredibly high degree of openness. Embracing curiosity involves playfulness, lightness, and openness–all fun qualities to practice, so remember to enjoy the process! 

Dee:

Of course I have curiosity.  Thank God for Google.  But if I can’t get the answer I need, if technology isn’t going smoothly today, I let it go for now.  If I feel the answer to my curiosity isn’t going to be something that serves me favorably, I let that go, too.  I only have x amount of energy and I must pick and choose how I spend my time.  I always choose to spend it in a positive way.  A way that will help me and others to achieve our highest good.

Another option I always have waiting for me is my God Box.  If I’m in a dilemma and don’t know which way to turn or what choice to make, I put it in the God Box.  This alcoholic wants instant answers and gratification.  I’m learning my Higher Power is teaching me patience and faith. 

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5. Forgiveness 

Forgiveness can be difficult to achieve, especially toward loved ones who you feel have wronged you in some way. To forgive is to let go of anger and bitterness, making room for peace and love. 

To begin practicing this virtue, focus on someone to start forgiving. Read Deepak Chopra’s 7 Steps to Forgiveness (https://chopra.com/articles/the-7-steps-to-forgiveness) to get you started, and then put those steps into action. 

Dee:

It’s been easier for me to forgive others I feel have wronged me by putting myself in their shoes.  Again, I have no idea of their journey nor hardships.  I also live by Don Miguel Ruiz’s agreement of “Don’t take things personally” from his book, The Four Agreements.

If you want to live a positive, light life, let go of the negative shit, the wrongs done to you and the hardships you face.  Try to look at the glass half-full and make a positive out of your negatives.  I promise you there is a positive.  Remember to be grateful for this moment.  There are many on this planet who would love to live in your worst day! 

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6. Courage 

There are different types of courage, including physical strength, endurance, mental stamina, and innovation. No matter the type of courage you’re trying to embrace, the presence of fear is part of the process. Ultimately, courage doesn’t mean that you aren’t afraid, it means that you take action despite your fear. As Nelson Mandela said, “I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who  conquers that fear.” 

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To practice being courageous, you’re going to have to face a fear in your life. It can be something small, like singing in the shower, or something big, like confronting (https://chopra.com/articles/mindful-confrontation-9- steps-to-handle-conflict-in-a-healthy-way) a friend. You choose where to begin. Another good way to practice courage is do something new every day. This widens your comfort zone and allows you to experience things you may not otherwise try.  

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Dee:

How many times have we dreaded something we have to face, dwelled on it until it made us sick and sleepless only to find out once face that it wasn’t that bad?  Today I just want to cross if off my damned “to do” list and move on, rather than moving it to the next day, the next day, week, then month.  For pity sake.  It’s a negative.  Embrace it.  Do it.  Let it go. 

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7. Detachment 

The Law of Detachment (https://chopra.com/articles/the-law-of-detachment) states that you should detach yourself, and your ability to be happy, from a desired outcome. Otherwise, attachment to a specific outcome will show up as disappointment when/if that outcome doesn’t happen. 

Find out what you’re attached to—is it a goal? An object? A person?—and follow these five steps (https://chopra.com/articles/5-steps-to-detaching-for-a-happier-life) to detach for a happier life. 

Dee:

“No expectations…no disappointments.”  I love this quote, affirmation, slogan I learned in AA.  So true.  Expectations for me means going into the future.  Why am I going there?  All I have is this moment here and now in front of my nose.  So don’t shit on it.  Why am I “thinking” I can control people, places or things?  My Higher Power has got my back and will protect and guide me on the journey best for me.  So  stop it, Dee.  Detach.

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If you’ve made it this far and kept up with the recommended practices, you’ve probably gained some wisdom along the way. Wisdom—another virtue [noun: goodness, virtuousness, righteousness, morality, integrity, dignity, rectitude, honor, decency, respectability, nobility, worthiness, purity; principles, ethics.]—is about utilizing knowledge and experience with commonsense and insight. 

Which virtue did you find the most challenging to practice? Which was the most fun? Take the knowledge and experience you’ve gained from these exercises and see how you can incorporate these virtues into your everyday life. 

Dee:

My most challenging virtue is walking my talk…staying positive, optimistic and in the moment.  But when I bring myself back to earth and get right-sized with my Higher Power, everything falls back into place, including myself.  

The most fun virtue is just being me, that kid in me, spontaneous and goofy…all about fun!  I stress to my kids who are adults now, “Never grow up.  Never lose sight of your passions!”  And with that I thank you for taking time to read this.  I truly welcome any feedback.

And if you find yourself in a funk know that you are not alone.  Contact me.  Contact the wealth of support services in your area.  Together we can get through anything and make this world a better place!

With warmest aloha, Dee Harris

For those interested in Art with a Message of Well-Being and Self-Love, please visit my website at www.DeesignsByHarris.com.  Mahalo and enjoy!

Remember the intention of focusing on your virtues is for you to become more aware of your actions and live a value-driven life—not to master each virtue after one day. See if you can find ways to practice virtues each day. Over time, they will become daily habits. 

Get personalized guidance to create a clear roadmap to self-improvement with the Chopra Center’s Discover Your Purpose Toolkit, which includes a free e-book, worksheet, 1:1 discovery session, and guided meditation. Get your free toolkit now. (https://www.chopra.com/free-programs/discover-your-purpose-toolkit) 

About the Author 

Melissa Eisler (/bios/melissa-eisler)
Certified Leadership & Career Coach, Yoga & Meditation Instructor, Author 

Melissa is the Senior Content Strategist at the Chopra Center. Also an ICF Certified Leadership and Career Coach (ACC) and certified meditation and yoga instructor, she is passionate about motivating people to live a healthy, balanced, and purposeful life. You can learn more about Melissa’s coaching practice at MelissaEisler.com (https://melissaeisler.com/). Melissa is also the author of The Type A’s Guide to Mindfulness: Meditation for Busy Minds and Busy People (http://amzn.to/1J1dYvz), a practical guide for new meditators in the modern world, and the creator of mindfulminutes.com (http://mindfulminutes.com/), a… Read more (/bios/melissa-eisler) 

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Holding Space: The Art of Being Present with Others

Holding Space: The Art of Being Present with Others 

By Adam Brady

Holding space is a conscious act of being present, open, allowing, and protective of what another needs in each moment. The term has been growing in popularity among caregivers, healers, yogis, and spiritual seekers. It’s a broadly used phrase to define the act of “being there” for another. The effects of this practice, however, go much deeper than simply offering support. 

Consider the individual words for a moment. To hold means to embrace or encircle someone or something in your grasp. Physically, this might take the form of a hug or the cradling of a hand in yours. But you can also embrace someone non-physically with your intention, attention, and energy. Space refers to the immediate environment you are sharing with another. This, too, may be the physical space of a room, but more frequently refers to the mental and emotional environment you are in with others. Put together, these words embody the principle of surrounding the environment with your awareness (https://chopra.com/articles/the-three-qualities- of-awareness) in way that provides comfort and compassion for all. 

Holding space involves several specific qualities of consciously relating to others, the sum of which are greater than the individual parts. Let’s explore these attributes and see how they can deepen your ability to hold space for others. 

Safety 

A key component to holding space is the quality of safety. For others to be open, genuine, and oftentimes vulnerable (https://chopra.com/articles/5-ways-to-feel-less-vulnerable), they must feel secure and have a sense of trust. People won’t let down their defenses until they know it is safe to do so. 

Like a medieval cathedral nestled within the city’s fortress walls, you need to create an environment in which all who enter feel protected from harm. This safety implies an unspoken “sheepdog” mentality that serves as a guardian and authentically maintains confidentiality, transparency, and impeccability in all you say and do. 

Dee:

I’ve learned from Alcoholics Anonymous the importance of anonymity.  Anonymity is the spiritual foundation of all our traditions, ever reminding us to place principles before personalities.  I treasure this tradition and I strive to live it as best I can.  I try my hardest to treat others as I would like to be treated.  Anonymity, confidentiality and, more importantly, respect are the behaviors I endear; therefore, I sow.

I have also learned in A.A. to practice rigorous honesty.  So I do.  Opening up myself whole-heartedly to those who enter my Dee Bubble has gained me much trust and more openness from those I encounter.  When I share my experience, strength and hope, they seem to feel less threatened by sharing the events in their lives with me.

The Four Agreements written by Don Miguel Ruiz has taught me to live impeccably with my word.  Impeccably…without sin.  I try to live the way Thumper’s mom taught him, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.”  That doesn’t mean I won’t stand up for myself or my rights, or for those I feel cannot do this for themselves.  I do have boundaries.  I do have self-respect and self-worth.  And so do you.

But I try not to waste my energy on negative things, and this includes words and thoughts that don’t serve my highest good.  So I have blocked myself off from gossip.  Bullying and name-calling has never been an option.  Having been bullied as a child, I realize how harmful words can be.

Suspended Self-Importance 

A vitally important aspect of holding space is the understanding that it’s not about you. When you hold space you must make the conscious decision to leave your ego (https://chopra.com/articles/is-the-ego-your-friend-or- foe) at the door. Holding space is about serving others and your personal concerns or needs are not part of the process. Suspending your sense of self-importance can be challenging and should be considered a prerequisite for the practice. If you aren’t able to put your ego in the back for a time, you’ll be ill-suited to be present for the needs of others. Holding space requires radical humility and the willingness to be a temporary caretaker of the feelings and concerns of another. 

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Dee:

Not only have I learned in AA that I have no control over people, places, nor things, I have also learned that the world does not revolve around me.  I am so grateful for having worked the 12 Steps with many women and each time learning so much more about myself and becoming a better human being.  Please note that I do not represent Alcoholics Anonymous.  I share my experience, strength and hope with you as a true believer in this Program and in its miracles.

So one of the things I learned to help me get out of myself and out of my head was to be of service.  It works.  It feels good; I feel good.  I learn to give back what was so freely given me when I needed it most…hope, compassion, empathy, a safe place to hang out.

I also learned from working the Steps what a selfish, fear-based, all-about-me piece of work I was.  Yet I had no purpose, no reason for living.  I was so empty in my active disease and even before as I had no god nor power greater than myself, no god of my own understanding, no nothing.

Today I no longer have to live in fear.  I no longer have to hate myself.  I no longer have to have your approval.  I can just be me and be okay with that.  But I’m not just okay, I love myself for who and what I am with all my defects of character, with all the incomprehensible demoralizing things I did in my past.

Today I have a Power Greater Than Myself, a Higher Power of My Own Understanding and making.  I turn my will and my life over to the care of this being.  I have faith that everything is happening for a reason, that there is a journey out there for me that serves my highest good.  So if I just go with the flow and trust in the process, my head is quiet, my life is calm, and a beautiful and purposeful life appears before me. 

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Living in the moment has been such a precious gift in my sobriety.  I no longer have to dwell on my past but to embrace it and use it in a positive way.  I no longer have to worry about the future as there might be no future.  Again, I am not in control.  So I make sure that I stay present and not shit on the moment before me.  This helps me to stay humble and grateful for what is right before my nose.

Attention 

One of the most precious gifts you can give another is the gift of your full and complete attention. However, listening attentively without the need to respond, interrupt, or comment is a skill that takes considerable practice to master. Even with the best of intentions, your ego may sneak back in; it looks for opportunities to subtly make things about you instead of the other. 

When holding space you must work diligently to maintain eye contact, be free of distractions, be fully attentive, and cultivate an openness or “space consciousness” in which there is no “me,” but rather the ever-present witness of the sounding board of consciousness. 

To this end, make the commitment to cultivate what British author Stuart Wilde called silent power by resisting the urge to speak unless you are asked to. This, coupled with your full awareness, can be a profoundly powerful experience for those in your presence. Your attention, focused and all-inclusive of whatever is happening in the moment, opens the door for others to see the reflection of their own soul in you—the Self talking to itself. 

Dee:

As I drive to the Pure Kona Green Market early every Sunday morning to sell my art I center my thoughts to the folks who will enter my Dee Bubble that day.  I ask my Higher Power to help me to be mindful, respectful, compassionate and loving.  I no longer base my prosperity of the day on financial rewards; I base my prosperity on the interactions I have with those I get to know and meet, with nature and nourishment I put in my body, and with the day as it unfolds.  When I start my day with this attitude, my day always unfolds in spectacular ways.  The financial rewards come if that is what is meant to be.  But the new interactions I have with other like-minded human beings never disappoints me.  I learn.  I grow.  I add these new experiences to my Experience, Strength and Hope Box to share with you.

Practice Acceptance 

Holding space is all about allowing—allowing this person or group to feel what they feel. Allowing them to say what they need to say. Allowing yourself to be whatever they need you to be right now. Holding space, therefore, isn’t about controlling anything. Your role is that of a guardian of the space. Like two cupped hands filled with water, you are there to hold the other with your awareness. In doing so, you must allow that experience to take whatever shape it will. 

Accept this moment as it is. Accept others as they are, without any desire to change them, or wanting them to be something different. This, too, can be a challenge since you are conditioned to immediately try to change things you think should be different. But, in holding space, practicing acceptance gives others a priceless gift—the freedom to be just as they are. (https://chopra.com/live-events/seduction-of-spirit)  

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Dee:

Another valuable gift I have learned from AA is not to judge, not to take other people’s inventories.  In other words, I mind my own business and make sure my side of the street is kept clean.  I have no clue what other’s have gone through, what makes them tick, what makes them who they are.  But when I quiet down my head and listen to their stories with a mindful, present, and respectable heart, I get to experience their journeys and, again, add them to my Experience, Strength and Hope Box to share with others in an anonymous and general way to help them along their journeys.

Keeping my side of the street clean means accepting and loving myself for who I am.  Self-care is key.  I cannot be there for others if I have unresolved doo doo going on in my own life.  So that is where my priority lies before I can reach out to others.  Am I in a good space?  Is my life free from poison arrows?  In other words, am I mindful of what is right in front of my nose?  If I am then I am in tuned with my Higher Power.  I am aware that everything is perfect at this moment.  I am able to love myself and my life for what it is, but not only love it, but embrace it for all its glory.  Then I know I am humble and grateful.  I can now help you to that place.

Non-judgement 

Holding space is an impartial process. You’re not there to pass judgement or to evaluate another. When you judge another’s experience you create additional mental static that will only get in the way and obscure the truth. In the moment when you’re holding another’s fears, suffering (https://chopra.com/articles/a-modern-take-on- the-roots-of-suffering), or grief, your opinions are irrelevant. 

Unless you’ve been through what they’re going through, you’ll never truly understand their feelings. Being there is enough. Good and bad are merely a matter of perspective and in this moment, your perspective isn’t the one that’s important.  

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Dee:

I love that I am able to see the glass half-full, that I can turn any negative into a positive.  That is me and that is how I choose to live.  With hope.  With light at the end of the tunnel.  So again, I quiet my head (it’s not all about me) and I open my heart.  I get mindful and respectful.  I make eye contact.  I give you my full attention.  I listen.  I feel.  I have new experiences.  I grow.  I become a better human being.  I share with you how you can turn your negatives into positives.  We thrive…together.

Compassion 

Although you non-judgmentally practice acceptance with your full attention, that doesn’t mean you wouldn’t prefer things to be better. Compassion (https://chopra.com/articles/4-steps-to-finding-peace-through- compassion) is an essential quality for the practice of holding space. To embrace another in acceptance is an act of compassion in and of itself. In your openness to the pain of others you are essentially saying, “How can I help you? I don’t want you to hurt. What can I do to help support your highest good?” Even if not spoken aloud, these intentions to relieve the suffering of others are the essence of compassion. 

In many cases, simply being a loving presence can bring about a deep sense of relief that eases the pain of another. The world can use more compassion, so the practice of holding space provides an opportunity to continually build this vitally important skill.

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Dee:

I remember how alone I felt when I was a practicing alcoholic.  I was ashamed that I could not go a day without drinking.  I was confused as to why I could not get a grip on my drinking.

The miracle came when my Higher Power stepped in and told me this part of my journey was over.  He felt I had suffered just enough to not take my own life, but to share my experiences with others feeling just as alone.

He sent me to rehab.  He taught me about alcoholism.  He had me feel that there was hope and gave me a group of like-minded folks going through the same confusion and hardship.  And when my 28-days was done with these professional counselors and GOD (Group Of Drunks), He sent me to the rooms of Alcoholics Anonymous.  This is where the real magic begins.  To learn I have a toolbox for living.  I have a book (The Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous) that spells it all out for me as suggestions, with testimonials, and the whole nine yards.  Yes, this is where the real magic begins.

Because I grew up in a society (yes, America) where we are taught at a young age to suck it up, be strong, achieve more shit, more material stuff, more power, step on those who get in my way, I was a hot mess.  How do I share with those who might get in my way of achieving this “stuff”.  How can I let them or anyone know I am suffering?  What a crock of shit!  I had to unlearn all that bullshit!

We ALL have our obstacles.  We ALL have life to endure.  But why do we feel we have to endure?  Let’s embrace it in all its glory…together.  I feel such a part of in the rooms of Alcoholics Anonymous.  We are one big family (no, not a cult) who genuinely care about the well-being of others in the rooms.  And we take that compassion to the real world, where it trickles out over the entire planet, one small wave at a time, one day at a time.  It’s magical!

But whether you are an alcoholic or not, you may have some obstacle that feels so huge that there is no hope in sight.  You are not alone.  There are many others out there going through what you are experiencing.  You’ll know when you let your guard down, when you shut your head off and open your heart, who you want to open up to.  Just let it happen.  What do you have to lose?  Remember, it’s not all about you.  If you keep it closed up because you want to save face, get over yourself.  In a minute that person you shared with won’t remember what you said anyway.  You’ll probably never see him/her again.  Unless this was a like-minded, caring and compassionate person who realizes there are no coincidences and that you were put in his life for a reason…so that you can thrive together.

Witnessing 

Witnessing allows you to play a special part while holding space—that of the observer. Like in quantum physics, the observer is what triggers the collapse of the wave of potential into a particle, the non-local into the localized phenomenon. But this doesn’t involve any action on the observer’s part. In holding space you’re just there as the witness, almost like a fly on the wall. Naturally, you can participate if requested to do so, but essentially your role is that of the watcher. 

It is said that when Gautama (the future Buddha) was on the verge of enlightenment, he was tempted by the forces of darkness and their king, the demon Mara. With his entire demon army descending upon them, Mara demands the Gautama produce a witness to his awakening. Gautama simply touches the earth with his fingers and says, “The earth itself is my witness.” With this gesture, Mara and his arm vanish, and Gautama becomes the Buddha or Awakened One. Like the earth the Buddha touches, you are the witnesses to those who you hold space for. 

Through the practice of holding space, you serve as a container for which the healing and transformation can take place. It’s a powerful gift of presence that you can give to others through the quality of your attention. 

Spend six transformative days expanding your awareness and deepening your presence at Seduction of Spirit, our signature meditation and yoga retreat led by Deepak Chopra. Learn More. (https://www.chopra.com/live- events/seduction-of-spirit) 

Dee:

I remember learning early on in sobriety that if something is bothering me (let’s say, a resentment), write it down, say it out loud, better yet, share it with another human being, and that will take the power out of it.  Why do we keep all this shit bottled up in us?  Am I the only one going through this and every other human being out there is perfect and might think less of me?  Bull shit.  We are all human beings and we’re in this together.

Why do so many humans sit at the bar and share their shit with the bartender?  Why do so many humans pay millions of dollars and spew their junk with therapists?  Why do so many humans go to confession on Sundays?  To take the power out of what’s ailing them.  So share it.  Embrace it.  Then release it.  Let yourself be free of negativity and open up your limited disc-space for positive things. 

Mahalo for reading this and allowing me to share my experience, strength and hope with you.  Have a great day and share your gifts!

Aloha, Dee Harris

For those interested in Art with a Message of Hope and Inspiration, please visit my website at www.DeesignsByHarris.com.  Mahalo and enjoy!

About the Author 

Adam Brady (/bios/adam-brady) Vedic Educator 

Yoga teacher, author, and martial artist Adam Brady has been associated with the Chopra Center for nearly 20 years. He is a certified Vedic Educator trained in Primordial Sound Meditation (/articles/what-is-primoridal- sound-meditation), Seven Spiritual Laws of Yoga (/teach/seven-spiritual-laws-yoga-teacher-training target=), and Perfect Health: Ayurvedic Lifestyle (/teach/perfect-health-certification-program), and regularly teaches in the Orlando, Florida, area. Over the last several years, Adam has worked to introduce corporate mind-body wellness programs into the workplace within a large… Read more (/bios/adam-brady) 

Taken from the Chopra Center

Quiz: Are You an Empath? 

Quiz: Are You an Empath? 

By Judith Orloff, MD

Empaths are highly sensitive, finely tuned instruments when it comes to emotions.  If you are an empath, you feel everything, sometimes to an extreme, and are less apt to intellectualize feelings.  Intuition is the filter through which you experience the world.  Empaths are naturally giving, spiritually attuned, and good listeners.  If you want heart, empaths have got it.  Through thick and thin, you are there for others—a world-class nurturer. 

Challenges of Being an Empath 

The trademark of empaths is that you know where others are coming from.  You may be able to do this without taking on people’s feelings.  However, for better or worse, you may also become an angst-sucking sponge.  This often overrides your sublime capacity to absorb positive emotions and all that is beautiful.  If you are around peace and love, your body assimilates these and flourishes.  Negativity, though, often feels assaultive and exhausting.  

Thus, you’re a particularly easy mark for emotional vampires, whose fear or rage can ravage you.  As a subconscious defense, you may gain weight as a buffer.  When thin, you’re more vulnerable to negativity (a missing cause of overeating).  Plus, your sensitivity can be overwhelming in romantic relationships; you may stay single if you haven’t learned to negotiate your special cohabitation needs with a partner.  

When empaths absorb the impact of stressful emotions, it can trigger: 

Panic attacks
Depression
Food, sex, and drug binges 

A plethora of physical symptoms that defy traditional medical diagnosis from fatigue to agoraphobia 

Empathy doesn’t have to make you feel too much all the time.  If you can center yourself and refrain from shouldering civilization’s discontents, empathy continues to make you freer, igniting your compassion, vitality, and sense of the miraculous. 

Quiz: Are You an Empath? 

To determine whether you’re an emotional empath, take the following quiz.  Ask yourself the following questions: 

Have I been labeled as too emotional or overly sensitive?
If a friend is distraught, do I start feeling it too?
Are my feelings easily hurt?
Am I emotionally drained by crowds?  

Do I require time alone to revive?  

Do my nerves get jarred by noise, smells, or excessive talk? 

Do I prefer taking my own car places so that I can leave when I please? 

Do I overeat to cope with emotional stress?
Am I afraid of becoming engulfed by intimate relationships? 

If you answer “yes” to one to three of these questions, you’re at least part empath. Responding “yes” to more than three questions indicates that you’ve found your emotional type. 

Recognizing that you’re an empath is the first step in taking charge of your emotions instead of constantly drowning in them.  Staying on top of empathy will improve your self-care and relationships. 

How an Empath Can Find Balance 

Practice the following strategies to center yourself. 

Allow quiet time to emotionally decompress.
Get in the habit of taking calming mini-breaks throughout the day.  Breathe in some fresh air.  Stretch.  Take a short walk around the office.  These interludes will reduce the excessive stimulation of going nonstop. 

Practice guerilla meditation.
To counter emotional overload, act fast and meditate for a few minutes.  This centers your energy so you don’t take it on from others. 

Define and honor your empathic needs.  Safeguard your sensitivities.  Here’s how. 

If someone asks too much of you,  politely tell them “no.”  It’s not necessary to explain why.  As the saying goes, “No is a complete sentence.”
If your comfort level is three hours max for socializing—even if you adore the people—take your own car or have an alternate transportation plan so you’re not stranded.
 not dead center.
If you feel nuked by perfume, nicely request that your friends refrain from wearing it around you.  If you can’t avoid it, stand near a window or take frequent breaks to catch a breath of fresh air outdoors. 

If you overeat to numb negative emotions, practice the guerilla meditation mentioned above—before you’re lured to the refrigerator, a potential vortex of temptation.  As an emergency measure, keep a cushion by the fridge so you can be poised to meditate instead of binge.
Carve out private space at home.  Then you won’t be stricken by the feeling of too much togetherness. 

Over time, add to this list to keep yourself covered.  You don’t have to reinvent the wheel each time you’re on emotional overload.  With pragmatic strategies to cope, you can have quicker retorts, feel safer, and your talents can blossom. 

Dee:

When I first read this article I thought I may be an empath.  I was a giver, not a taker.  I put myself last catering to your needs first.  But I realized after working the 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous with my sponsor that I was fear-driven.  I didn’t feel good about myself enough to put me first.  I tried to impress you because I had no self-worth.  

Having worked the Steps I now realize that I no longer have to live that way.  Number one, I no longer have to drink everyday so I have more clarity.  Number two, I have been able to understand now what makes me tick and I no longer have to react when I get that “oh-oh” feeling in my gut.  I can step back for a moment, take a look at my part, remedy that, and move forward in a positive manner.  Thirdly, today I have a Power Greater Than Myself who has my back and guides me through life on life’s terms.

Before getting sober I intellectualized and rationalized everything.  I lived from my head and not my heart.  In AA I have learned to change everything so I now go with my heart, with my gut feelings, my intuition.  And I have found that this is the easier, softer, less exhausting way to live.

I have also learned to look at things, at life, in a positive and optimistic way.  The glass is half-full.  When I live this way I attract more of the same and I flourish.  When negativity enters my life, my mind, my gut, it feels uncomfortable.  I remember that I am not in control of people, places or things.  I get back in the moment, grateful and humble.  I remember that my Higher Power has my back.  I embrace the negativity and thank it for visiting, let it know that it does not serve me, and then I let it go.

I remember how exhausted I was living in negativity (lying, hiding, sneaking) when I was active in my alcoholism.  Drinking everyday, passing out, coming to, blacking out, eating poorly, never getting good sleep, I was a zombie.

I am so grateful that I am no longer that person, but I must always remember that the disease is still in me, waiting for the pinhole of weakness in me to surface.  That awareness and cautiousness keeps me close to the fellowship of AA.

Alcohol is just a symptom of my disease.  My brain is what was really sick.  My thinking.  My pre-frontal cortex of my brain kept me obsessive and compulsive.  With that awareness I can today change my stinking thinking to live a life guided by my heart. 

My feelings are no longer easily hurt as I finally feel good in my skin about who and what I am.  I know that I am doing my best.  I know that not everyone will like me, nor me them.  It’s all good.

I no longer am emotionally drained by crowds, but I prefer solitude.  I enjoy the company of like-minded folks, but keep myself separate from those who are not.  Today I have boundaries.  I come first.  My sobriety comes first.

More often than not I live a quiet care-free life.  But when life happens and events occur, they no longer have to become chaos and drama.  They are just life.  I look at my part.  Am I in HALT (hungry, angry, lonely, tired)?  Have I forgotten to live in the present moment (worrying about the future or fretting about the past)?  Have I forgotten that a Power Greater Than Myself is control?  Have I gone back to thinking instead of feeling?  Have I forgotten that everything is perfect at this very moment?

If so, I take the time necessary to re-focus, re-balance, re-center.  Quiet, meditative time.  I get outside.  I remember to breathe, to stretch, to move.  My mind settles.  I get rid of negativity by making it a positive.  I get patient and put things in the God Box.  I take care of myself.  I get thankful.  I get humble.

Thank you for reading!  

With warmest aloha, Dee Harris

For those interested in positive, inspiring art with a message, please visit my website at www.DeesignsByHarris.com.  Mahalo and enjoy!

Adapted from Dr. Judith Orloff’s book The Empath’s Survival Guide: Life Strategies for Sensitive People (https://drjudithorloff.com/empath-survival-guide-description/).

Discover how to navigate the world as your authentic self with ease, strength, and grace at our Chopra Women’s Retreat. Learn More. (https://chopra.com/live-events/womens-retreat/).

About the Author 

Judith Orloff, MD is the NY Times best-selling author of The Empath’s Survival Guide: Life Strategies for Sensitive People.  Dr. Orloff is a psychiatrist, an empath, and is on the UCLA Psychiatric Clinical Faculty. She synthesizes the pearls of traditional medicine with cutting edge knowledge of intuition, energy, and spirituality.  Dr. Orloff also specializes in treating empaths and highly sensitive people in her private practice.  Dr. Orloff… Read more (/bios/judith-orloff-md) 

(From https://chopra.com/live-events/womens-retreat/may-2018) 

 When You Feel Like Crap, And What To Do About It 

 When You Feel Like Crap, And What To Do About It 

by Josiah Samuel Harry 

The Mindfullness Show is back for another season. In this season (Season 2), we will be discussing the hottest topics relating to pop culture and news around the world.

You are vertical and ventilating, but you still feel like crap.  Every success initiative you employ seems to flop.  Your dreams and goals appear to be out of reach, and you’re no longer enjoying life as you once did.  Even the universe itself seems to be conspiring against you.  So how do you get yourself out of the shitty mood and get back on the path to success? 

Start your day with positive affirmation.  Make it a habit to avoid thoughts or conversations that undermine your dreams.  Do not give power and energy to negativity or anything that will deplete your mental strength.  Instead, you ought to retrain your focus on motivating energy.  Do your best to use positive words when talking.  Start your day with statements like: “I am so happy and grateful to see another beautiful day” or “I love myself for who I am” or “I will put forth my best effort and accept responsibility for my success and happiness.” 

Dee:

I use positive affirmations regularly.  I am a firm believer they work, to at least get me back in the moment in front of me.

When I was in an alcohol treatment program our group started our day reciting an affirmation we chose for ourselves.  I chose “I am a good person.  I am a whole person”.  Well, for starts, I’m in rehab so I’m not feeling real good about myself.  As a matter of fact, I feel like shit, a loser, a waste of space on the planet.  I cannot go a day without drinking.

The treatment program taught me I have the disease of alcoholism.  Then one day at a time, doing what was suggested to me there and in the rooms of AA, I began to get better.  I continued repeating that affirmation daily.  It took a long time but eventually I did feel like a good person and a whole person.  Today I not only feel it, I know I AM it!

I am also finding that it takes a lot of energy to be in a shitty mood.  It’s so much easier and lighter to be positive and optimistic.  So there’s another choice I have made to better myself and my life.  The energy I have today will be used in a helpful, hopeful, and useful way.

So if I feel shitty or have shitty thoughts I say, “Thank you for coming.  I embrace you.  You do not serve me, so please go.”  And then I allow those feeling and thoughts to be whisked away into the clouds.

Shift your paradigm.  A paradigm is a host of thoughts, ideas, and experiences that frame one’s reality.  In order to see success through its fulfillment, it necessitates adopting new beliefs that bridge your ridiculously-impossible dream with effort, skill, passion.  If your goals are small, then your effort will follow suit, and your success outcomes will likely be small.  This isn’t to say that bigger is always better, but sometimes it is. 

Dee:

I hope to never give up being a kid with a wild imagination and dreams and hopes.  If I give that up why bother going on?  There is nothing to look forward to or to be excited about.

I allow the dreams and hopes to surface from my heart and not my head.  My head seems to stifle my aspirations with rationalizations and fear.  My heart fills me with joy and potential.  Therefore, I choose to live today with a new m.o…from my heart and not my head…from that angel on my shoulder and not the devil on the other shoulder.   

And I have found that living this way, and by turning my will and my life over to the care of a Power Greater Than Myself (as suggested in the rooms of AA), I DO get to experience the Promises (pages 83-84, Chapter 6 “Into Action”, in Alcoholics Anonymous, written by Bill Wilson and Dr. Bob)…in a way far greater than I could ever have imagined!

Match your actions with your ambitions.  If your goal is to establish a functional stable Mars colony, then you will need a spacecraft large and powerful enough to get you to Mars.  In order to experience high-level success, you must prioritize and devote a ton of time to the tasks that will get you closer to your goals.  Don’t let the mantra: “Everybody wants to be a winner until it’s time to do what winners do” define your reality. 

Dee:

Actions speak louder than words.  Walk my talk.  But I don’t want to.  I don’t have time.  It’s not fun.  

I used these excuses in my business I started five years ago.  Putting together an online business requires knowledge and computer skills.  Didn’t light a spark in me 5 years ago.  It was suggested to me to do certain things that, again, didn’t float my boat.  So 5 years later with just a so-so business I have chosen to better myself and my business.

I have enrolled in on-line courses, narrowing down to one particular instructor who fits me and my needs.  Hours, months, years of research.  I am finally doing what is suggested and the spark is starting to ignite.  You see, “When the student is ready, the master appears.”  Now is my time, not 5 years ago.

So the last few months I have poured myself into redesigning my website, focusing on my brand and target market, concentrating on policies and procedures.  And today I am exited to do this.  When the time is right…when I am right…it will happen!

Pivot.  To pivot is to change direction and make necessary adjustments to get you on a path that will lead to considerable growth and success.  When you conclude that you are no longer on the correct path based on experience and evidence, then it is time to redirect your time, money, and effort to another success initiative.  Sometimes you have the right idea, but there isn’t a market for that idea, yet.  So fish where the fish are, and remember to use the right bait. 

Dee:

So changing my direction and remembering who and what I am…an alcoholic in recovery with a purpose to share my experience, strength and hope…I have concentrated my efforts on a business to do just that…offer compassion, mindfulness and optimism to those who are seeking that.

I remember how important affirmations are to my life so I share them with my target market in a fun and beautiful way.  I have created art with a message to offer enjoyment and a reminder to stay in the moment and embrace who and what you are, right here, right now.  It’s finally making sense to me.  The fire is finally lit and the kid in me is excited to go to work every morning like being in a candy store.

Persist.  To persist means to rise to the occasion when your best performance is needed most—and that’s every day.  Remaining focused on accomplishing your goals in the face of opposition, setbacks, and unforeseen challenges is hard work.  Achieving your greatest potential takes time—meaning years, even decades.  Nonetheless, if you desire to experience unparalleled success, then you must be willing to stretch beyond the limits of your creative endurance. 

The common denominator among the five points above is perspective.  That is, setting high and realistic expectations for yourself and celebrating the path you are on while learning and growing. 

Dee:

So this journey of improving my business is interconnected with my journey of improving myself and my life in recovery.  Yes, we do all have to earn a living and I have chosen a path that allows my passion to thrive.

And it takes heaps of time, endurance, patience…improving my life and my business.  It is exciting to know that I am right where I need to be and that my Higher Power has my back and is guiding me in the direction that is best for me, one that serves me by serving HIm.

Yes, I’ve got to keep everything in perspective.  Remember to stay in the moment which means to stay grateful, and humble, and to Turn It Over.  It’s all interconnected.  We are all interconnected.  No coincidences.

Mahalo for being here.  With warmest aloha, Dee Harris

For those interested in checking out my Art with a Message of hope and optimism using motivational quotes and affirmations, please check out my website at www.DeesignsByHarris.com.  Enjoy!

Josiah Samuel Harry | May 8, 2018 at 5:17 pm | Tags: #america, #beauty, #blog, #blogging, #inspiration, #life, #lifestyle, #love, #men, #motherhood, #motivation, #parenting, #success, #women, #writing, awakening, Blogger, josiah harry, josiah samuel harry, natural, nature, New Post, News, Personal Development, Self Empowerment, self-improvement, the mindfullness show, When You Feel Like Shit, 

Since you’re here… 

…I wrote a book about love with the aim of sparking a national conversation about tolerance, diversity, and inclusion. The goal is to get Choose Love Not Hate into every home and school, and make our communities places of intercultural learning and hubs of compassion. It would mean the world to me if you ordered a copy of Choose Love Not Hate today. Thank you. 

Tuesday, May 8, 2018, 12:18:46 PM HST 

http://josiahharry.blog/2018/05/08/when-you-feel-like-crap-and-what-to-do-about-it/ 

How to Forgive Others When You Feel Hurt

How to Forgive Others When You Feel Hurt

By Heidi Paavilainen

I remember a time when I was young I got upset with two of my friends and stopped talking to them for two years. I can’t even remember why I got upset, but at that time it made sense to me to hold on to my hard feelings. At that young age, I thought that my behavior was reasonable and I didn’t understand that the only person I was hurting by holding onto my feelings was myself.

Dee:

I reacted the same way when I was younger because I, too, did that “thinking” thing.  From a young age I was taught to “think” and if I thought about it hard enough and wanted it badly enough, it would happen.

Off on a tangent for a moment.  No matter how hard I wanted to stop drinking each and every day, I couldn’t will power up enough thoughts to make that happen.

Back to thinking.  I learned, once I was gifted with sobriety and a life in recovery, that thinking wasn’t my friend.  It only rationalized me into many a dark hole and a life of feeling like a loser, a waste of space on the planet.

Once I left the alcohol treatment program I did what was suggested, go to AA.  And there I did what was suggested.  Go to meetings, get a sponsor, work the steps, and get into service.  But the hugest transition for me came when I got to make up my own Higher Power, a Power Greater Than Myself, over to which I could turn my will and my life.  That’s when the thinking went away and living from my heart became my “go to”.

Over the years I came to understand more that I didn’t need to take the behavior of another person so personally. That’s when forgiving suddenly became easier. What looked like a personal attack before now looked like a behavior of a person who was suffering, and therefore unable to act from a place of kindness (http://www.chopra.com/articles/4-magical-side-effects-of-kindness).

Dee:

I live by Don Miguel Ruiz’s The Four Agreements.  “Don’t take anything personally” has taken the power our of unkind words and actions directed at me.  And I, too, can now put myself in that person’s shoes, knowing that I am unaware of the journey they are on, but able to be more compassionate and less judgmental when people behave like assholes.

Taking on this perspective opened me up for a new understanding of seeing my experience of other people more objectively. Not only did I learn to forgive more easily, but it also became easier for me to show up from a place of compassion.

Here are a few tips to help you see your situation from a wider perspective when you find it difficult to forgive another person.

1. Know That It’s Never Personal

Understanding where the other person is coming from and how their behavior has nothing to do with you makes forgiving them a natural response.

When someone says or does something that hurts you, they are not reacting directly to you—they are reacting to their own thinking. They are not reacting to the reality as it is, but rather to their own perception of the situation.

When you are able to see this at a deeper level, you can become less reactive. If the other person does something that hurts you, instead of taking it personally, try to become curious. What makes them act like that in the first place?

Dee:

And when I feel a true connection to that person I can be mindful and respectful and really listen to his words and actions.  I can offer hope and optimism and share that everything is perfect at this very moment.  It’s all just part of the journey through life to bring us to greatness…or, at least peace, knowing we made it through to the other side wiser and stronger.  Yes, this too shall pass.

However, if I don’t feel that true connection, if that person has walls up and is not open to compassion, then I walk away.  He is on his own journey.  We have boundaries too and must respect them and ourselves.

2. Know That You Are Always Doing Your Best

You, like everyone else, are always doing your best you can with the tools and knowledge you have in the moment.

What looks reasonable to you when you feel the anger burning inside often looks like a mistake afterward. If you had known this in the middle of the storm of your emotions, you would not have acted from that place. But you didn’t know.

This is why you may sometimes do things that you regret later. The more you understand this, the more innocence you can see in every act of unkindness—yours and others’.

Dee:

AA has given me a toolbox for living (by the way, I do not represent Alcoholics Anonymous, the organization.  My words are just that…my words, my opinions).  When I get that uncomfortable knot in my gut I know that this situation isn’t serving my highest good.  I embrace the feelings, thoughts and emotions, then ask that they be taken away.  I let them go into the clouds.  I also ask myself why I allowed them to make me so uncomfortable in the first place.  I find that I am either usually in a place of HALT (hungry, angry, lonely, tired) or I have become disconnected from the present moment; therefore, disconnected to my Higher Power.  When I get back centered, knowing I am not in control of people, places, or things, I can go about my business freely.

3. Remember That Anger Clouds Thinking

When you feel stressed, upset, or angry, you lose your ability to see the moment clearly and objectively. Your perspective narrows, your negative emotions blind you momentarily, and you see everything in a more negative light than usual.

Your feelings of hurt are overshadowing your experience. When you see this and take a moment to allow your mind to calm down, your understanding of the situation becomes deeper.

In the heat of the moment, you might do or say things that you regret later (http://www.chopra.com/articles/how-to-transform-past-challenges-into-learning-experiences). You might be in the middle of an argument and say something that really hurts the other person. Deep down you know that you don’t really mean what you are saying, but your heated emotions override your ability to think clearly.

Dee:

I hate myself when lower myself to someone else’s level.  I know I’m better than that and that I shouldn’t do it.  It doesn’t serve me, right?  But it feels so damned good.  And sometimes I’ll make an amends to that person, even when I feel they don’t deserve it.  But I deserve it.  To move on with a clean plate.  And I learn from it.

Why am I using my precious energy on such negative shit?  Why am I giving away my power to such a useless cause?  Because I’m human.  I grow.  I get back in the moment.  I’m grateful.  I’m connected again.  I move on.

Every act that comes from a place of unkindness is coming from a mind that is struggling.

Whenever you do things that hurt other people, you are suffering inside. Understanding this allows you to forgive others more effortlessly and gives you an opportunity to see your situation from a wider perspective. Not only will you realize that you don’t need to hold onto your negative emotions, but you can also recognize the humanity in every single person.

Everything resolves, one way or another, with the understanding that comes when your mind is calm.

What all this means is that you can forgive and choose to continue your life without the weight of your past, regardless of whether you still want to have the other person in your life, or not.

”Forgiveness is the discovery that what you thought happened, didn’t.” ~ Byron Katie

Dee:

I learned awhile back that if a situation really bothers me I should look at it (better yet, write about it) from three different perspectives.  One, from my perspective.  Two, from the other person’s perspective.  And, three, from an outsiders perspective.  It’s really enlightening.  Try it!

Thank you being here.  With warmest aloha,

Dee

If you are interested in Art with a Message of Hope and Encouragement, feeling good about you and your life, please visit my website at www.DeesignsByHarris.com.  Enjoy and mahalo!

About the Author

Heidi Paavilainen (/bios/heidi-paavilainen) Transformative Coach, Yoga Teacher, Writer

Heidi helps people connect more with their inner wisdom so that they can find their own answers to the questions they are facing in life, enjoy a greater sense of well-being, and have relationships that feel good. Learn more about Heidi (http://www.heidipaavilainen.com/), and find out how she can help you make positive changes in your life. Read more (/bios/heidi-paavilainen)

From The Chopra Center 6/20/17

AND SO ROCK BOTTOM BECAME THE SOLID FOUNDATION ON WHICH I BUILT MY LIFE

AND SO ROCK BOTTOM BECAME THE SOLID FOUNDATION ON WHICH I BUILT MY LIFE

by Dee Harris

   I was just blessed with a 5-Year Chip.  “What is that?”, you ask.  Chips in Alcoholics Anonymous represent milestones of time achieved in sobriety.  There are 24-Hour Chips, also called Desire Chips.  There are monthly chips.  There are yearly chips.  These all represent surrender and acceptance and the time we have being clean and sober.

   “Surrender to what?”  For me there are many words I’ve learned since birth that hold negative connotations.  Surrender was one of them.  I’ve had to unlearn much of what I adopted from society.  

   Today surrender for me means I accept that I am an alcoholic.  I’ve learned that alcoholism is a disease that I did not choose, nor can I will-power away.  Kind of like being a woman or of Chinese descent.  It is what it is.  Period.  Therefore, surrender is no longer a word in my dictionary holding thoughts of loss.  In this case for me, it actually denotes thoughts of victory…accepting the cards I’ve been dealt and being okay with them, but more so, even thriving from them.

   “So what’s the big deal with these chips?”  Even though one of the slogans I learned in AA is “There are no big deals”, receiving these chips IS A BIG DEAL to me.  You see, I’m an alcoholic.  That means I have a physical allergy to alcohol and a mental obsession to it as well.  

   Believe you me that I have tried every imaginable remedy to NOT drink everyday, morning, noon and night.  Why was it that drinking was all I could think about?  Aaahhh…done with work.  Now I can drink.  Aaahhh…work week is over.  Now I can drink.  Aaahhh…holiday.  Now I can drink.  Well that snowballed into everyday that ends in “Y”.  Now I can drink.  It snowballed from “now I can drink” to “I have to drink.”  Drinking took over my entire life, my mind, body and soul.  Shitty, yeah?

   So for an alcoholic who has reached rock bottom, who cannot live a normal life without drinking, any length of time in sobriety IS A BIG DEAL.  But I am here to share another big deal that I’ve learned along my journey through life.  Once I built that solid foundation of a life in recovery, there are no guarantees that I get to keep it.

   Why would I want to keep it?  Because I don’t HAVE TO DRINK today and everyday.  I don’t have to live my entire life in negativity and despair.  I don’t have to hate and loathe myself.  I don’t have to feel I’m a waste of space on the planet.

   Today I get to have a purpose to share my experience, strength and hope with the world.  That includes sharing my journey with other alcoholics who are struggling with or trying to get to sobriety.  But that also includes sharing my journey and optimism with everyone who enters my bubble who has demons with which they are dealing.  We all have them.

   Alcoholics Anonymous, the fellowship, the Big Book, the Twelve Steps, have gifted me with a life beyond my wildest dreams!  Please note, that I do not represent the organization of Alcoholics Anonymous in any way, shape or form.  Everything shared here is my opinion.  My growth from using these tools have awarded me self-love, self-worth, and self-respect.  I had none of that before getting sober.  

   Why?  Because I lived in fear.  The experiences I received from society ingrained in me that more is better…more power, more money, more beauty, more material things, more of all that stuff that would never make me happy inside my being.

   So I lived a life trying to impress you.  I lived a life of a lie because I didn’t love myself.  Today my story is to stress to you that you do not have to live this way.  Be true to yourself.  Love yourself.  Accept yourself for the gift that you are.  Gifts that only you have!  And share those gifts.

   Ok.  Back to having no guarantees of keeping this most awesome life in sobriety.  You see, my life got good.  I stayed sober.  I actively participated in my recovery with the AA fellowship and did all that was suggested.  One day at a time.  But more and more good stuff kept being served up on my plate.  I couldn’t keep up.  And one day at a time I sacrificed my AA ties for the gifts of sobriety.  I went to fewer meetings.  I stopped giving back what was so freely given me when I needed it most.  I separated myself from the newcomer so I forgot what it was like struggling to get sober.

   I “thought” I was staying connected to my Higher Power, a Power Greater Than Myself, to which I vowed to turn over my will and my life.  But without staying active with the AA fellowship, my thoughts once again took over.  Dee’s will once again took over.  I was fooling myself and had no genuinely interested party to call me on my shit.

   When offered that shot of tequila the words vomited from my mouth, “No, thank you.  I haven’t had a drink in 13 and a half years.”  Vomit.  Just words.  No meaning.  No heart.  So when that drink was left for me, it yelled at me.  My insurance policy had lapsed long ago when I stopped going to meetings.  So I drank it.

   Immediately the devil and the drink, the disease of Alcoholism, took over every fiber of my being.  Immediately I wanted more.  Thus, lying, cheating, hiding and all the negativity that comes with my drinking once again reared its ugly head.  You see, the disease was doing push ups waiting for that pinhole of weakness to arise.  And it did!

   Once being exposed to AA and going back out (drinking, drugging), actively using will never be the same.  We have learned where this disease will take us.  To the gates of insanity, hell or death.  “Thinking” that I was having a nervous breakdown, my doctor told me to simply get back into AA.  Never even occurred to me; that’s how sick I was.

   Once again I am on that pick cloud of life in sobriety doing everything suggested by the fellowship and my new sponsor.  I take a 1-Year Chip.  And then…

   I guess I wasn’t truly ready to surrender to this disease.  I needed to play Russian Roulette just one more time.  When my dentist asked if I had any pain pills before extracting a tooth (and I did check off on the admission form that I AM an alcoholic; so what?), this happy little kid in a candy store elatedly said, “No!”  Off and running again. So when there was no pain and plenty of pills left, I knew I had blown my sobriety, so I drank them down.  

   Hey, I was actively involved in AA and the fellowship.  What gives?  My Higher Power gives.  He gives me lessons and a journey to bring me to where He needs me to be.

   A few more months of enjoying the high of lying, cheating, hiding.  Hitting meetings and repeatedly saying, “Hi, I’m Dee.  I’m an alcoholic.  I drank last night”.  Then drinking again.  Going through an out-patient program.  Hitting my knees.  Hoping through osmosis that I would stop drinking.

   Surrender and acceptance.  Today I have a 5-year chip.  I also have a 1-year chip.  And a 13-year chip.  No guarantees, boys and girls.  Please, do not “Keep Coming Back”.  PLEASE, DO NOT EVER LEAVE!!!

   Much aloha to you and thank you for reading.  Know that you are not unique and definitely not alone.  We are here for you.  Not to judge you but to love you until you can love yourself.  Know not to feel guilt nor shame.  Just accept and surrender.  Let’s ride this pink cloud together…forever and ever!

   Aloha, Dee

For those interested in Art with a Message of Recovery, Hope and Optimism, please visit my website at www.DeesignsByHarris.com.  Mahalo and enjoy!

No Regrets: 10 Ways to Start Each Day with a Clean Slate 

No Regrets: 10 Ways to Start Each Day with a Clean Slate 

By Tamara Lechner

“Forget regret, or life is yours to miss”—Jonathan Larson 

There’s a Buddhist parable called The Second Arrow. The story explains that in life, pain is inevitable. You will experience the pain of loss, betrayal, diagnosis, or grief. The pain is likened to being shot by an arrow and is outside of your personal control. However, when you get stuck pulling on the arrow and complaining about the arrow to show people that you have been shot, the subsequent pain, anger, and suffering is entirely your fault. This is the second arrow. 

Living a fully present life keeps you from rehashing your mistakes, your breakups, and the job you should have taken. It allows peace of mind. You may know this already and yet pain from the past intrudes on your present- day happiness. Here are a few tips to help you avoid the second arrow. 

1. Practice Gratitude 

Being truly grateful keeps you in the moment. When you focus your attention on something or someone, your feelings of reverence will keep you in the moment. Gratitude (http://www.chopra.com/articles/how-to- develop-a-gratitude-mindset) happens in the now, no matter when the experience that you are grateful for actually happened. 

Dee:

Getting in the moment takes practice.  Concentrating on what is right in front of my nose is not an easy task when thoughts and events are whirring through my mind and in front of my eyes.  But when that happens I feel yucky.  And when I feel yucky I thank those feelings for coming, let them know they are not serving me, then ask them to leave.  That takes effort as well but is part of getting back in the moment.  When those feelings are whisked away in the clouds I am once again present…for that I am grateful.

2. Make a No “What Ifs” Rule 

Spinning on what might have been keeps you from moving forward. Your thoughts may seem to circle back again and again to the things you think you could or should have done differently. When you catch yourself thinking a “what if,” just recognize that you didn’t and move forward. 

Dee:

As I age my energy seems less.  So the energy that I can scoop together I choose to use in a positive way.  Why would I want to zap it all up by wallowing in the past of “what if’s”?  Also the disc space in my brain is about full.  I need to free up some space by deleting and trashing information that I no longer use, nor need.  So I make more disc space by relinquishing the regrets and resentments that I might be holding on to, again, into the clouds.  Ta Da!  Lots of room now for the adventures and learnings I am supposed to experience today!

3. Reframe Your Past to Make You the Hero in Your Life Story 

You may tell your story in a way that doesn’t paint a flattering picture. Try to rethink your scenario in a way that has you in a position of power. For example, if you regret not going to college, instead of continuing to tell a story of regret, decide to either make a plan to get to college or to tell a story that supports the path you chose instead. 

Dee:

I entered sobriety with such guilt and shame and “incomprehensible demoralization”.  I actually hated myself and wondered why I was even taking space on the planet.  Lo and behold, I today have come to terms with those feelings of self-loathing and realize now that was the journey necessary for me to get where I am today.  Today I have purpose.  Today I have peace.  Today I “get to” share my experience, strength, and hope with others who are in that dark place of self hate, confusion or hopelessness.

4. Get Physical 

Take a dance class or a yoga class, or give surfing or rollerblading a go. When you choose an activity that requires your focus to balance or to learn a sequence of motions, your brain will be busy doing something other than ruminating on your past. 

Dee:

It works!  I am not a health nut but I have found that getting out of this chair and getting my blood flowing works wonders on my mental wellbeing.  This is such common sense but is way harder for me to do than letting go of my shitty thoughts.  I feel like I can carry the weight of the world on my shoulders after a yoga class, meditation or a hike in the woods.  I’ve got to stop making excuses and put “physical” on my To-Do List.

5. Make a To-Do List 

Having a plan for today keeps you from feeling ungrounded. If you fill your day with meaningful tasks (http://www.chopra.com/articles/5-reasons-to-never-ditch-your-to-do-list), you will have something to keep you from falling back into the pattern of regret. 

Dee:

My To-Do List, just like yours, runs off the page.  But I’ve disciplined myself to not get overwhelmed with this list and strive to check off just three To-Do’s per day.  This seems to work for me as most days I can accomplish way more than just three things.  But on the days that it’s a struggle to get anything done, three things is not such a big deal.

6. Go Outside 

Nature is like a natural reset button on your brain. The chemicals it releases when you get fresh air and sunshine help to overcome the ones released when you are sad, angry, or anxious. Use nature to sweep away the negative. 

Dee:

I am so grateful to live in Hawaii.  Most of my day, everyday, all year round, is spent outdoors.  “Hey, wait a minute.  That’s not fair,” you say.  “Life isn’t always fair” is what I taught my kids.  Besides, living on the Big Island with Madam Pele’s plumes of poisonous gases isn’t all fun and games.  Feel better?

I do still spend as much time as I can outdoors until my eyes burn and throat feels scratchy.  There is something magical about feeling the wind (God wrapping His arms around me) and hearing the birds.  I can’t get that from the mole hole of indoor living.  Now go outside!

7. Remember, Happiness is a Choice 

In every moment, you have the choice to be happy. Victor Frankl, Austrian neurologist and psychiatrist who survived the Holocaust and founded the “Third Viennese School of Psychotherapy,” is quoted as saying, “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.” If you are choosing regret as a pattern, consciously make the decision to replace regret with a different emotion. Happiness (http://www.chopra.com/articles/where-do-you-stack-up-on-the-happiness-scale), hope, excitement, or curiosity are a few good ones. 

Dee:

I choose to live in a “glass half full” state of mind.  When negativity comes my way, I turn it into a positive.  Living with optimism and hope changes not only my mindset, but my physical and spiritual wellbeing.  Life is too short, energy is too precious, and brain disc space is too limited to fill it with negative.

8. Start with a Mantra or Affirmation 

If your day begins with a thought like, “Today is the first day of the rest of my life” or “I’m excited for what today will bring,” it keeps your focus on the present and future. Choose a positive affirmation (http://www.chopra.com/articles/daily-affirmations-your-hour-by-hour-positivity-plan) to start each day. 

Dee:

When I found myself in a treatment program for alcoholism, one of the exercises we did each morning before meditation was to repeat an affirmation aloud to the group.  The affirmation I chose was “I am a good person.  I am a whole person.”

If you recall from above, before getting sober I felt anything but good nor whole.  I was a piece of shit who hated herself for not being able to go a day without drinking.  I had no self-control nor self- will.  I would look in the mirror and say, “Loser.”  I hated that the drink was more important than my kids.  It was my life.  I was exhausted living a life of hiding, cheating, deception and lying.  I couldn’t go on any longer.  Thank God I didn’t kill myself or anyone else.

Today I am so thankful for that affirmation and still repeat it to get myself back in the moment of gratitude and humility.  It brings me back in the moment and to a Power Greater Than Myself.  I finally feel good about myself, who and what I am, my journey.  It all happened perfectly, just the way it was supposed to.  “I am a good person.  I am a whole person.”

9. End with a Highlight Reel 

Getting to sleep can be difficult if your thoughts keep circling to what could have been. Try counting your blessings instead of counting sheep. It makes for a nice transition from waking to sleeping state and sets your mind up to begin positively the next morning. 

I start my day with thanking my Higher Power for the journey we will take together today, that He is in control and I am not.  I am just along for the ride to experience and learn from the events I am supposed to encounter today.  I just ask to do my best, to be mindful and respectful, compassionate and loving.  His will; not mine.

I end my day by reviewing today’s events and being thankful for doing my best and the “we” of my Higher Power and me.

10. Avoid Comparing 

Social media like Facebook or LinkedIn has a way of showing you the highlight reel of your friends’ lives. Make sure you don’t compare their highlights (http://www.chopra.com/articles/comparing-yourself-again-4-tips-to- survive-social-media-envy) to your unedited version. 

Life isn’t a contest. Wherever you are at this time is exactly perfect for you; otherwise, you wouldn’t be there. Discover Deepak Chopra’s daily habits to find peace and happiness—no matter what is going on in your life—at our Weekend Within retreat. Learn More. (https://www.chopra.com/live-events/weekend-within/) 

Dee:

I feel it is so important for you to feel good in your own skin.  To love and accept yourself as the perfect human being you are at this very moment.  If you can do that, social media doesn’t matter.  Our society-fed bombardments of wealth, power and beauty don’t matter.  We have to unlearn all that to get us to a place of self-love and self-worth.  It can be done.  It takes time and patience.

For me the Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous, the Fellowship, and a good sponsor helped me to peel away the onion skin of what makes Dee tick.  I understand who I am now and why I did what I did.  I understand now my journey through life that lead me to today.

I wish this for you and with that,

Aloha, Dee

For those interested in Art with a Message of Inspiration and Affirmations, please visit my website at www.DeesignsByHarris.com.  Mahalo and enjoy!

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Section: Personal Growth (/articles/139/all)
Topics: Psychology (/articles/all/50) Personal Growth (/articles/all/27) 

About the Author 

Tamara Lechner (/bios/tamara-lechner) Certified Instructor: Meditation 

Tamara Lechner is a happiness expert and Chopra-Certified Primordial Sound Meditation (/articles/what-is- primordial-sound-meditation) Instructor. Her mission is to be so happy that those around her cannot help but step into her light. She enjoys writing, speaking, and teaching about how a positive mindset affects business, relationships, health, and life satisfaction. Tamara is often found throwing epic parties or walking barefoot in the sand. Join her on The Happiness Trajectory (http://www.ahamoments4u.com/free-online–the-happiness- trajectory.html), a free online mindset reboot, or find out more about her at… Read more (/bios/tamara-lechner) 

(http://www.chopra.com/live-events/weekend-within)