3 Common Holiday Stressors—and How to Cope

3 Common Holiday Stressors—and How to Cope

By Tris Thorp

Holidays are a time for coming together with loved ones to celebrate seasonal festivities. And yet, the holidays can be one of the most stressful times of year for many people. Pressure to spend money, time, and energy on things that society deems important can leave you feeling overwhelmed, exhausted, and fearful of what may happen if you don’t keep up with the Joneses.

Most Wonderful Time of the Year?

“It’s the most wonderful time of the year,” sang Andy Williams originally in 1963. As children, it’s likely that the holidays were a time of excitement, anticipation, wonder, and cookies! Things were so much simpler when you didn’t have to work long hours and worry about being spread thin from the cost of gifts, décor, and travel. You were free from planning the guest list and the menus, and you didn’t have to fret about challenging family dynamics.

Stressors Increase During the Holidays

As adults—both young and seasoned—you’re now aware of all that goes into holiday expectations and the guilt associated with not following through with what society has deemed appropriate. As if life hasn’t become busy enough, you’re now faced with how we’re going to manage everything from our finances to finding extra time to plan, shop and entertain, and the ensuing exhaustion. For some, the holidays may bring up emotions of sadness or loneliness from the loss of a loved one or not having that special someone to share them with. Regardless of your individual stressors there is a percentage of people who would rather pull the covers over their head for two months and sleep through all of the end-of-year celebrations.

Dee:

“What society has deemed appropriate”.  Key words for me and from which I try to stay away.  Lived there most of my life, trying to be what society deemed appropriate.  I lived in fear that I wasn’t performing well enough.  My expectations were so high and I could never achieve what I thought was good enough.

I turned to substances when stressed by not living up to expectations of society (really my expectations).  I was so worried about impressing you and not feeling good about myself that I was an absolute mess.

After many decades of living this way I hit my bottom.  I found myself in a treatment center for alcoholism and that’s where I slowly began to understand and eventually love myself.  It’s been a long yet rewarding journey to not turn to substances and away from life.  Today I get to go to bed being thankful for being the best I can be, for doing the best I could, for being me, and loving me.  And if that’s not good enough for Society, that’s okay; it’s good enough for me and my Higher Power of My Own Understanding.  Period.

According to a 2015 survey conducted by Healthline, a consumer health information site, 62 percent of respondents described their stress level as “very or somewhat” elevated during the holidays, while only 10 percent reported no stress during the season. Three of the biggest holiday stressors are finances, time, and energy. Let’s explore how the effects of stress in these three areas can show up.

Stressor: Money and Finances

It should come as no surprise that money tops the list of holiday stressors. According to a 2012 Holiday Stress Report from the American Psychological Association, stress has a major impact on lower middle class citizens who feel “the weight of stress from work plus the seasonal rush to find time to get everything done. In addition, their worries about money are heightened by the commercialism of the season and the pressure to spend a lot of money.” Commercialism plays a huge role in holiday stress with in-your-face pressure to spend, spend, spend!

Dee:

A big change I’ve made is no holiday gift-giving.  My husband is anti-“Hallmark” holidays and the commercialism that comes from them.  I now agree and do my gift-giving when I find something that touches my heart for that special someone all throughout the year.  So that special someone receives a gift “just because I’m thinking of you and love you” that is not crunched underneath a stack of boxes under the Christmas tree or on the birthday table.  A gift that is special and alone and can be appreciated all by itself on a “nothing” day.  And no standing in long lines at the post office or fighting the crowds in department stores.  This has worked beautifully for me.

Stressor: Time

The holidays can increase your stress when it comes to your time and how it’s spent. Some people get generous holiday leave from their careers while others find themselves working up to the last minute and having to return again the day after.

Another big consideration is managing the expectations of others when it comes to how you choose to spend your time. Or the expectations may be self-imposed: “I should go see my family but I’d rather sit on my couch and watch all seven seasons of Game of Thrones than travel 2,500 miles.” Or, “I’m supposed to go to the company holiday party but I have no time to shop for a new dress and shoes.”

Dee:

Go with what feels right in your heart, not your head.  My head rationalizes me into self-destruction.  I cannot afford to go there.  I have a God Box in which to put my problems, get a good night’s sleep, and get the answer I need when “I’m ready to hear it”.  We all have clouds in the sky.  Embrace your problems and dilemmas, being thankful for them, and then let them go into the clouds, being swooshed far, far away.  The answers will come if you have a Power Greater Than Yourself to run the show.  That Power is NOT you!  Have faith!

Stressor: Energy—Mental, Emotional, Physical

Another major player in holiday stress is the mental, emotional, and physical toll it takes on you. The misconception is that you can become drained of your energy. It’s impossible to be depleted of energy. Energy is something you have an endless supply of because it’s what you are made up of, at least from a quantum-physics perspective.

However, you can be mentally scattered and defocused. You can feel emotionally overwhelmed and experience physical exhaustion. Where you are putting your attention is where your energy will flow. If you’re not monitoring where you’re directing your energy, it is possible for you to feel the effects of being pushed and pulled in several directions, giving you the impression that you’re drained of energy.

Dee:

It’s so hard for this alcoholic in recovery to find that happy medium, that balance, that “everything in moderation”.  And I pay for it.  Daily.  Everything is so “common sense”, right in my face, yet I am an all-or-nothing personality.  I work hard to find that happy medium regarding my mental, emotional and physical well-being.  I’m a work in progress.  The seeds have been planted.  It’s up to me to nurture those seeds…and my well-being.

How to Cope: Find Your Place of Harmony

The biggest favor you can do for yourself and everyone around you is to find your place of harmony in the midst of all that is spiraling around you. Stress can be described as how you respond to life’s obstacles and challenges. Much of the stress you encounter during the holidays (or any other time of year) can be managed effectively by bringing your awareness to your:

1.Perception and interpretation of what’s happening

2.Highest possible intention or outcome

3.Decision about how you are going to proceed

Dee:

Again, the God Box, the faith, the knowing I am not in the driver’s seat, but along for the ride to learn and grow how God sees fit knowing what I can and cannot handle.  No reacting.  Just accepting that everything is perfect at this very moment in front of my face.  I’m right where I need to be.

How to Cope: How Are You Perceiving and Interpreting What’s Happening?

Everything you experience is run through your internal filtering system which is where you evaluate or analyze what happened and you try to make sense of it. Your rational mind is always trying to understand, distinguish, and categorize what you experience as good or bad, right or wrong, scary or safe.

With increased awareness, you can consciously begin to shift the way you are choosing to perceive and interpret your experiences. This puts you in a position to see what’s happening through a different lens and let go of your mental and emotional conviction of what you believe is the reality of the situation. For example, “I’m not in a financial position to afford gifts for my family and friends” could be your reality. Looking at from another perspective, however, you may not have extra money this year for gifts but you can still give people the gift of your attention, love, appreciation, and affection.

Dee:

And what better gift is there than mindfulness, being in the moment, giving the gift of respect and attention and true caring that each and every one of us deserves?  Eye contact.  Full attention.  A genuine hug of compassion.  Didn’t cost a penny.  And this is a gift I try to give everyone who enters my “Dee bubble” on a daily basis.  Again, this takes work and mindfulness, but is so worth the effort!

How to Cope: What Is Your Highest Intention in This Situation?

As you find yourself getting caught up in the melodrama of emotions, the frenzy of “will I get everything done in time?” and the stress of feeling spun out, stop and ask yourself “What is my ultimate highest intention in this situation?” What is it that you want and need to do with your time? Is your intention to have a calm, relaxing, and enjoyable evening with friends? Do you want to move through the situation with effortless ease and grace, while deciding how you will choose to spend your time?

Dee:

Just do your best and feel good and love yourself for that.  No expectations; no disappointments.  Easy.  It’s not all going to get done the way you “expect” but it will all get done the way it is supposed to.

How to Cope: How Do You Want to Proceed?

What do you really want? How would you love for things to turn out? Now it’s time to decide what action you need to take. This can be difficult for some people because it may involve enforcing boundaries with others.

Dee:

Boundaries are healthy, especially in this day and age in a society of go-getters.  Again, listen to your heart.  Know that YOU come first.  Try to get balanced and realize you are NOT in control.  Everything happens for a reason.  Everything will turn out perfectly.  YOU are perfect!  So don’t try to take it all on upon your shoulders.  That’s your head talking.  Breathe and do your best.  Say “no” when that feeling gnaws in your gut and be rigorously honest.  Much appreciation and respect will follow.

At the end of the day, keep your awareness on your perspective. Stress will always be a part of life, and at the same time, there is always something to be grateful for—whether it be the tray of fudge your mom left in the fridge or the quality time off with close friends and loved ones. If you can find and focus on something you appreciate about the holiday season, you’ll be well on your way to managing the stress of the holidays.

Dee:

Mele Kalikimaka!  Wishing you a calm and stress-free holiday.  You can do it!

Aloha, Dee

For those interested in Art with a Message of balance and calmness, please visit my website at www.DeesignsByHarris.com.  Mahalo and have a great day!

From the Chopra Center

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How to Find Gratitude in Your Hardest Moments  

How to Find Gratitude in Your Hardest Moments  

By Tris Thorp

One of the main pillars of today’s mindfulness-based practices is the art of cultivating gratitude. You may hear it as a theme in yoga class, read about it in self-help books, hear about it in seminars and retreats, or see it every day in your social media feeds. Cultivating gratitude every day can be a powerful catalyst for creating a more positive mindset.

You may know from experience that steeping yourself in gratitude can be a feel-good practice of bringing to mind the things you feel blessed to have in your life. You may know that sharing your gratitude with others creates a ripple effect and has a positive impact on those around you. Meditating on or making daily lists of the things you are thankful for on a regular basis is a great way to focus on what is good in the world, especially during times when there is so much uncertainty, anger, and fear swirling about.

Gratitude comes in many forms and how you experience it can vary a great deal, depending on your intention. It’s easy to hone in on the things you are grateful for when life is going well. A good economy, a happy family, a loving relationship, a successful career, and good physical health are laced with blessings. Your happiness stems from positivity, and its usually times like these that you may take your success, your relationships, your happiness, and your health for granted. Things are going so well that you may forget you are invulnerable to disharmony, loss, poor health, pain, and suffering—until it’s knocking on your door. It’s in your not-so-wonderful times that you may lose sight of the good that still exists around you.

Just like acknowledging all the amazing things you are thankful for in your life, there can also be a great deal of insight and healing available (http://www.chopra.com/articles/cultivate-the-healing-power-of-gratitude) when you can feel gratitude in your hardest moments. Remembering how difficult things once were and how far you’ve come since then creates a significant contrast in your mindset that can be highly productive.

Can you remember a time in your life when you felt the heartache from a breakup with someone you cared for deeply? Now, all these years later, are you able to look back on the situation and be thankful in some way that things ended when they did? Maybe you wouldn’t be married to your current spouse or have the children you have today. Can you think of a time in your life when you were overlooked for a job promotion only to realize down the road that it would have been the worst job ever? Looking back on your life, you may find times when something happened that seemed awful in the moment and, had it not happened, you wouldn’t have something even better in its place today. There is so much to be learned from your past painful experiences and turned into gold if you’re willing to shift your perception just a bit.

Likewise, you may have something difficult happening in your life today—an important life decision, an impending breakup, confusion about what you’re supposed to be doing with your life—and if you settle into a space of being completely honest with yourself (even when it’s unpleasant), odds are that you know there is something bigger, better, grander awaiting you on the other end. This is where finding gratitude comes in. You may be thankful for your own courage and determination or appreciative of your health as you are healing from a physical, emotional, or mental challenge. Perhaps you can find gratitude for your humility and grace in how you handled a difficult conversation, or appreciation for the fact that you have a roof over your head.

Dee:

Ok, I need to lighten up, right here, right now.  Just because these last few weeks I’ve been thrown curve balls when I’m used to, and grateful, for a calm, peaceful, uneventful life.  Thank goodness I have tools such as these articles and my AA toolbox to get me through a bit of “real life”.

I’m gonna spew here for just a bit, to take the power out of what ails me, so bypass, here if it makes you nuts.  During the Thanksgiving holiday my family came to visit.  While brushing my teeth one morning my crown just fell out.  Negative Dee:  “Shit.  I’ve had nothing but problems with my teeth.  More money.  More time.  More pain.  Whah.  Whah.  Whah.”  Positive Dee:  Call the dentist.  He gets me in right away.  Ok.  Not just the crown fell out but my tooth was still in it.  Extraction.  Not a big deal.  I’ve had plenty.  The offer of pain meds.  NO.  I can’t go there.  Not again.  Remember, Dee, that you have a high tolerance to pain and, PLEASE, remember the relapse that came from pain meds a few years ago.  Gratefully since then, I’ve stayed close to the fellowship of Alcoholics Anonymous and didn’t allow myself to get complacent…again.

On my way home from the dentist I stop to visit a friend.  When I go to leave the car doesn’t start.  I’m told the starter motor is faulty.  Negative Dee:  “Damn.  We just replaced the starter a few warranty months ago.  More money.  More time.  More pain.  Whah.  Whah.  Whah.”  Positive Dee:  We’ll order another starter motor because we can.  We have the money.  We’ll get the car in up and running properly again.  Not a big deal.  I wasn’t stuck in the middle of commuter traffic during rush hour.  And even if, I’ve got AAA.

I’m gonna pick these papayas before the birds and geckos eat them all.  I’ll just step on this branch like I’ve done many times (not realizing how big the fruit now is, and how plentiful).  “Down will go baby, cradle and all.”  The branch breaks off.  I’m about 10 feet above the ground, lava rock.  I stop.  Upright.  I gather my thoughts.  The barbed-wire fence next to the tree has stopped me from breaking any bones had I hit the ground.  Negative Dee:  “I hurt.  I’m stuck down here in lava rock and tall California grass bare-foot.  How am I going to get back up to the house?  Whah.  Whah.  Whah.”  Positive Dee:  I’ll climb up the rock wall up to the house like American Ninja Warrior.  Hey, Dee, that barbed-wire fence saved you from breaking your bones.  And when your foot stopped you at the bottom of the fence, it stopped you just in time so the barbs didn’t rip into your cherished private parts.  Ok.  So a few scratches and just five stitches.  Get over it.  You know you’ll climb that tree again.  It’s fun.”

This past weekend was crazy crunch time for this stained glass/mosaic artist.  More shows and more work than what I’m used to.  I get to the art fair, set up my display, and realize I’ve set it up back to front.  Stupid.  Negative Dee:  Why would everyone else around me have their displays set up toward the grass while I thought setting up toward the parking lot made sense?  Really?  I’ve got to take everything down and start over when this is the one time I had it together to be set up on time?  Why am I never set up on time?  Why am I always the last one to tear down and go home?  Why do I always have some much breakage of stained glass and mosaic pieces?  Whah.  Whah.  Whah.”  Positive Dee:  What a beautiful place at this old Hawaiian Church to get to turn my display around (and my attitude).  You know, Dee, being a little more mindful and in the moment wouldn’t hurt you a bit.  You know, everything is perfect right here, right now.”

Yesterday’s show “I“planned to go smoothly.  After the back-assward show the day before I strived to be totally prepared to get the day off on the right foot.  Premade my lunch.  Car with new starter was loaded up.  Clothes were laid out.  Went to bed early.  Set the alarm so I could even have some quiet time before going to the show.  When I awaken my alarm hadn’t gone off.  My phone, my alarm, had powered itself off even though it was 100% charged.  I should be at the show setting up right now and I’m just getting out of bed.  Negative Dee:  For real, God?  I’m doing my best to turn my will and my life over to you.  You know I hate surprises and do my best to avoid them.  I’m going to call in and say I’m not going to make the show.  But some of the people I met at yesterday’s show are expecting me to be there today.  And yesterday was a profitable show and today could be the same.  What am I going to do?  Whah.  Whah.  Whah.”  Positive Dee:  Shut up and suit up.  Everything happens for a reason.  Be grateful.  You’re never set up on time anyway.  Just get your tent up, take your time, enjoy the moment.  I pray a a lot while driving to the show.  The radio is not working and just works when it wants.  I sing.  I pray to get out of self-will.  My car veers to the side of the road to pick up a hitchhiker and her dog, “Toto”.  I never pick up hitchhikers.  What gives?  But she and Toto got me out of my stinking thinking.  We had a mellow enjoyable ride to the green market where I set up, or tried to, and made plenty of sales.  I turned my attitude around, or my Higher Power did.

As human beings, we all run into various situations and circumstances that range from slight annoyances to overwhelming tragedies. Even in the most difficult times, if you can slow things down in your mind just long enough to connect with your heart, you will be able to find something, even if it’s just a small shred of appreciation, that will pull you through.

Gratitude is a practice of creating a state of emotional prosperity. It’s about focusing on the good things you have. It is as relevant to be grateful for the positive outcomes from your past negative experiences as it is to be thankful for the amazing things in your life. It’s not about pretending that things were okay when they weren’t, and it’s not about ignoring the way you’re feeling when things aren’t good. Rather, it’s a practice for reevaluating what is important for you to focus on at the end of the day to help you stay positive, calm, centered, and balanced.

Dee:

Gratitude.  Humility.  Sobriety.  Recovery.  When I allow them to, when I shut off my head and live from my heart, when I remember I am not in control and turn my will and my life and me over to the care of God as I understand God, I’m in a good, loving, compassionate and peaceful place.  Being a recovering alcoholic has given me this gift.  Alcoholics Anonymous has given me this gift.  The fellowship has given me this gift.  Most importantly, my Higher Power has given me this gift.  To share my experience, strength and hope with those who enter my “Dee Bubble”.  To make positive out of negative.  To have hope.  To know we’re not in this alone.  And then to have icing on the cake with articles and various tools such as this to help guide us and take us to the next level.  Pretty sweet, yeah?

Aloha, Dee

For those interested in Art with a Message of Aloha, Recovery, Inspiration, of “good stuff”, please visit my website at www.DeesignsByHarris.com.  Mahalo and have an awesome day!

Use this guided visualization to journey through an upsetting time, find something positive that came about as a result of what happened (or what’s happening), and cultivate gratitude (http://www.chopra.com/free- programs/attitude-of-gratitude) for it.

Find a nice, quiet space where you won’t be disturbed.
Silence your phone, close the door, and settle into a comfortable seat in your favorite spot.
With your eyes closed, begin to breathe slowly and deeply.
Feel your body begin to relax from the top of your head down through your shoulders, arms, torso, hips, and finally down through your legs.
Bring to mind a time in your life when things were not going so well—a time when something happened that caused you confusion, pain, or suffering of some kind.
As you think back on this time, take in what happened during this experience.
Now begin to travel forward in your mind observing as you navigated through this situation.

Put your awareness on the person you were then—doing the best you knew how at that time.
Next, notice that where you are currently at in your life is a very different time, space, and experience. See how far you have come and become aware of the different person you are today.
As you reflect back on what happened, ask yourself, “What is the gift, positive lesson, or wisdom I received from having had this experience?” This difficult time that happened has somehow provided you with insight or knowledge that it happened for some reason that you weren’t able to see at the time.
Ask yourself, “What are you grateful for now as a result of what happened back in your hardest moments?” When you’re ready, take a few more deep breaths and open your eyes.
Do some journaling if it calls to you.

If you’re new to personal growth and things aren’t exactly spectacular in your life, it’s sometimes easier to begin by focusing on the positive things you have to be thankful for—and why you’re grateful. When you’re down in the dumps it can be a real mood-killer to try finding the silver lining in a situation that just plain stinks.  As things improve in your life and you’re feeling stronger (spiritually, mentally, emotionally, and physically), looking back on the less-than-positive experiences you’ve had and finding the gifts from those times will become easier. The biggest thing to remember when practicing gratitude is to meet yourself where you are in the moment and work with what is most readily available to you while you journey on toward greater happiness and healing.

Get the resources you need to create positivity and fulfillment each day – no matter what is going on in your life – 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

Tris Thorp
Vedic Educator and Lifestyle & Leadership Coach

Tris Thorp is one of today’s leading experts in the field of emotional healing. Having spent the last decade traveling the world, being trained by and sharing the stage with Dr. Deepak Chopra in the field of consciousness and mindfulness-based practices, Tris has a real gift for integrating the ancient spiritual teachings with modern-day mindfulness to help people all over the world let go of their past and create an empowered new future. You can learn more about Tris’s work at http://www.tristhorp.com (http://tristhorp.com). Tris is Board Certified by the Association of Integrative Psychology as a Trainer of NLP, Master Practitioner of Neuro Linguistic Programming, Hypnosis,… Read more (/bios/tris-thorp)

The Chopra Center

My Time, Your Time, and Our Time

“We spend precious hours fearing the inevitable. It would be wise to use that time adoring our families, cherishing our friends and living our lives.” – Maya Angelou
Today’s meditation shows us that we all live our lives according to our own tempo, rhythm, and flow of time. Our bodies and minds thrive when we follow the daily rhythms of sleep and activity that work best for us. Difficulties arise when we try to impose our style of personal time on others. Our meditation practice helps us listen and tune in to our own unique approach to personal time, and that teaches us to respect everyone else’s approach as well.

I’m doing it for us…

Oprah:

Welcome to Day 12 where we’ll gain fresh perspective on the importance of integrating my time, your time, and our time, within the construct of your own relationships.  Whenever I sense dissidence between coworkers, audience members, viewers, family or friends, I like to use the phrase, “Meet them where they are.”  That means in order to better align what matters most to you with what matters most to the people in your life, you need to have knowledge of their core belief systems, their needs, their priorities and their lifestyle.  Not everyone sees life the way you do.

Fixating on your own ideal personality traits is not only destructive to you, it excludes your partner from revealing his or her true self, and that is a recipe for dysfunction.    There are people who find time management restrictive.  They like to leave things loose

and spontaneous.  A more structured person might interpret this as flighty or flaky or even rude.

Don Miguel Ruiz, the author of The Four Agreements, once told me, “At the root of any personal drama lies assumptions.”  Without allowing yourself to be taken advantage of work to find common ground, assume nothing, examine why schedules put your partner or coworker on edge and further excavate why you take planning and punctuality so personally.  When you meet people where they are you love them at a level where they can receive it.  In return they love you with their fullest heart.

Dee:

This time scheduling reminds me so much of a trip I made to Australia with my family.  When I think about how this all happened I am reminded that I had stopped going to AA meetings, stopped giving what was so freely given me when I needed it most, stopped letting my Higher Power run the show, etc.; in other words, I was back in my diseased stinking-thinking but just hadn’t drank…yet.

Anyway, we all agreed on what we wanted to get accomplished during our visit Down Under.  We had x amount of days, x amount of time, and x amount of miles (or kilometers) to cover.  I did the spreadsheet thing and put together an itinerary.  It was horrendous.  Everybody hated me and we were so stressed out sticking to the game plan that no one was having a good time.

So the next year when my husband and I made the trip back Down Under to once again visit his family and friends, I let my husband know he got to come up with the game plan.  He didn’t.  Everyday was spontaneous.  It was awesome.  We did everything and visited with everyone we wanted to.  No stress.  No time line.  With plenty of time to enjoy the moment.

Moral of the story, at least for me, is not to get complacent with my recovery.  Everyday I must remember that I am an alcoholic with an alcoholic way of thinking.  I must remember that my Higher Power has everything in control and is doing the driving; I am just along for the ride of my life!  So today, staying close to the fellowship of A.A., I go with the flow, live in the moment, and am spontaneous.  I am happy, joyous and free once again.  I have contentment and peace beyond my wildest dreams!

Let’s listen to Deepak and then we’ll meditate together.

Deepak:

In family and relationships there’s no single time management that fits every person’s needs.  All of us are biologically programmed to have our own daily rhythms of sleep and activity, hormones and brain responses.  From childhood, minds and bodies naturally find their own time frame.  Sleep research shows some people are early risers while others are late risers.  This pattern holds for life if the person is allowed to observe their own circadian rhythm.

Problems arise when we expect others to adhere to our own personal time frame.  To someone used to rushing a relaxed approach to time is wasteful, lazy, impolite and the other person’s fault.  To someone used to letting things happen in their own fashion a precisely organized sense of time feels pressured, controlling, overly anxious and, perhaps, a sign of insecurity in the other person.

This is the clash between my time and your time, which we’ve all experienced.  From the ego’s viewpoint, my time is better than changing to accommodate your time can be irritating and frustrating.  In reality any style or personal time is just that; it’s personal.  There is no workable way to handle time until two people decide to mesh.  They begin to respect and accommodate the other person’s different style.

This creates an opening for something new…our time.  Our time is mutually agreed upon.  One partner can rush around all day while the other doesn’t.  But when they come together such differences are forgotten.  Our time is open, honest and considerate.  People are quick to say, “I don’t have time for this,” or “Why are we arguing about the same thing over and over?”  But the real meaning behind these words isn’t about time but space.  “I don’t have space for you means that the other person isn’t given openness and emotional access.

When you create our time you also give the other person space.  Our time means going beyond ego limitations whether relationship itself is given to grow.  That won’t happen just by making time to be in the same room together.  Your intention must shift from me to us.  There should be a place for close physical contact and emotional bonding.  Our time can’t be taken for granted.  A living relationship has needs that arise every day.  When two people agree on a simple fact it becomes natural to respond to those needs the way you tend to your own.

Dee:

Deepak’s words of wisdom remind me so much of the relationship my husband and I have.  We are both busy doing our own things.  We are blessed to wake up and go to bed together, eat our meals together, and share daily tidbits of life together.

We used to spend one day a week traveling and exploring around the Big Island of Hawaii where we live.  But we stopped.  We got busy.  When I suggest we take a day trip he tells me he is busy with this project or that.  When he suggests I do something with or for him, I deliver the “I am busy with the business and I’m doing it for us” bullshit.  Today I know better.  I stop and realize how blessed I am to have him here in my life.

Earlier this year my husband was care-flighted to Oahu for triple-bypass surgery.  This was very sudden following a cardiologist consultation.  All we had were the clothes on our backs.  I am ever so grateful to have been rigorously committed to my recovery at this time or I would have drank.

As he was under the knife the hours seemed like an eternity.  I found a Pandanus tree on the hospital grounds which kept me busy weaving lauhala bracelets.  It also kept me connected not only to my Higher Power but to the spirit of Hawaii.  When the stinky thoughts of gloom and doom and hearing the doctor tell me he didn’t make it and flying home alone snuck into my head, I embraced those thoughts and then let them go in the clouds that so beautifully surround our islands.

I’m happy to say my husband pulled through his surgery and has a clean slate of health.  I’m also happy to say that his snoring no longer annoys me nor keeps me awake.  I think of it as the ocean, sometimes calm, sometimes tsunami strength.  But if I think of my life in quiet without my husband…   I won’t go there.  And when I get cranky because of the whiskers in the sink after he shaves, or the food on the kitchen floor when he cooks, I’ll miss all that when he’s gone.

Valuable, valuable lessons my Higher Power has given me to help me to a higher level of greatness and compassion.  Today I get to love my life, love myself, and everything in between.  This I owe to a Power Greater Than Myself and to the fellowship of Alcoholics Anonymous.

Aloha, Dee

For those interested in Art with a Message of Aloha, please visit my website at DeesignsByHarris.com.  Or to subscribe to my email list for updates of inspirational art in my line, stories behind the art and me, the artist, and for occasional discount offers, please subscribe at https://mailchi.mp/f96bf32af105/welcome.  Mahalo and have a spontaneous day!

As we prepare to meditate together let’s take a moment to consider our centering thought, “I cherish our time together.  I cherish our time together.”  Now let’s prepare for our meditation.  Make yourself comfortable and close your eyes.  Begin to be aware of your breath and just breathe, slowly and deeply.  With each breath allow yourself to become more deeply relaxed.

Now gently introduce the mantra, “Ananta Swa Bhava.  Ananta Swa Bhava.”  This mantra means “My true nature is endless in time and space.”  This mantra helps you recognize yourself as infinite unbounded awareness.  Repeat it silently to yourself, “Ananta Swa Bhava.  Ananta Swa Bhava.  Ananta Swa Bhava.”  With each repetition feel your body, mind and spirit open into an expanded state of awareness.  Whenever you find yourself distracted by thoughts, noises, or physical sensations, simply return your attention to silently repeating the mantra, “Ananta Swa Bhava.  Ananta Swa Bhava.  Ananta Swa Bhava.”

CENTERING THOUGHT

I cherish our time together.

SANSKRIT MANTRA

Ananta Swa Bhava
My true self has no limits or boundaries.

From Deepak and Oprah’s 21-Day Meditation Series, “Making Every Moment Matter”, a Chopra Center Meditation.

The Biology of Time

“The distinction between the past, present, and future is only a stubbornly persistent illusion.” – Albert Einstein

In reality, time is not a fixed experience that follows the ticking of the clock. It is a fluid, changeable experience. Our bodies measure time in multiple ways depending upon the biological function in various cells and according to different biological rhythms. Our chronological age can vary dramatically from our biological or psychological age. We can change our experience of time through our beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors. In today’s meditation, we learn that the more we abide in present-moment awareness, our minds and bodies, our beliefs and behaviors, become attuned to the cycles of Nature. Life flows with the timeless rhythms of the universe.

OPRAH:

Welcome to Day 2 – The Biology of Time.  Today our focus is how to gain a better understanding of the biology of time.  I’m always fascinated by the inner workings of the body.  Each one of us has an internal clock that regulates just about every process within our own bio-system.  When I think about my own heart quietly pumping away as it has done for the last 63 years bringing life to all other areas of my body. sometimes I think about that, it just makes me want to weep at the miracle of it.

I’ve come to appreciate that my body operates at its own pace, breathing, blinking, seeing, and listening all through nature’s course.  All I have to do is stay attuned to it and will experience that wonderful state of flow where everything within me is aligned.  I realize that my body, just like yours, operates with precision.  It knows that I function best on at least 5-1/2 hours of sleep.  Anything less than that and I notice a lack of focus, listlessness, a waning energy, along with less sharper thinking.  I don’t use an alarm clock…yet.  In perfect rhythm I wake up naturally in between 7:16 and 7:23 every morning.

Most work days are filled with projects I’ve committed to, replying to emails and travel and attending meetings.  The pace can sometimes be hectic but, no matter what, everything for me begins and ends with stillness.  I describe it as a conscious awareness of my presence within the greater presence of all…everything there is.

Whether I’m paying attention to the way the sun is rising or how the mist is rolling in over the trees, I pay attention.  In that moment there’s no 3 o’clock meeting to think about or 6 P.M. dinner to plan and I don’t think about the inevitable daily challenges that arise.  I really have mastered staying in the moment.  I simply trust that when the time comes my whole self will be fully connected to the moment and rise to meet each task just as it did when I first opened my eyes.

Now let’s listen to Deepak and then we’ll meditate.

Dee:

It seems for me as well that just a few moments after opening my eyes in the morning the list of “to do’s” starts to take over my brain.  Before the fog lifts and totally fills my head, I stop to enjoy the moment, to be grateful, and to turn my will and life and “to do” list over to the care of God as I Understand Him.  In other words, I let my God drive while I enjoy the ride in the passenger seat knowing that all my cares, worries, and “to do’s” will be taken care of just the way they’re supposed to.

If I try to control and perfect my to-do list myself I become pretty overwhelmed pretty quickly.  My head takes over; my heart gets turned off.  Old behavior comes into play.  I forget to stay in conscious contact with my Higher Power.  I forget to be humble and grateful.  So I turn it all over and everything that needs to get done today gets done, usually in a way more successful way than I could have ever done myself.  Pretty sweet!

Deepak:

Looking at carefree children playing we may say wistfully, “They’re having such a good time.  I wish it could last forever”.  But children lost in play have stepped out of time; their experience has nothing to do with clocks, deadlines, or anything of the sort.  This is an important clue about how to approach the reality of time which is a fluid and malleable experience.

We assume time is like an arrow moving in a straight line from past to present to future and measured by a ticking clock.  But time is actually measured by your cells.  It’s a biological function in the body.  The body has dozens of clocks that control long periods of time like when baby teeth appear, or puberty or menopause.  There are medium-term clocks for things like sleep and digestion along with short-term clocks like the rhythm of your breathing and heartbeat.

Our biological age is not necessarily tied to our chronological age.  The body of a stressed-out, unhappy 30 year-old may function like a 50-year old’s body.  How we interpret our experience affects our biology.  Chemical changes in the brain determine whether time is racing or slowing down.  Moments frozen in time are human perceptions.  Even the experience that time vanishes when we go to sleep is an experience based in biology.

So looking at time from the inside isn’t simply psychological.  It’s the right perspective for changing anything you want.  Einstein had a profound thought about this when he said, “The distinction between the past, present and future is only a stubbornly persistent illusion.

Go past the illusion and you realize two amazing things.  First, you are the master of time because your beliefs, attitudes and lifestyle choices alter all the effects of time.  Second, if past, present and future are illusions, you are timeless.  This may seem beyond our experience but in our meditation practice we discover that our present awareness is already timeless.  Ever-present awareness is who and what we always are.  That state of peace and calm allows us to navigate the world of clocks and deadlines without being overwhelmed by it.

Dee:

Weird to think about when I was active in my alcoholism, the “good” Dee was still in there waiting to come out.  Now that I am in recovery I must remember that the “bad (alcoholic) Dee is still in there waiting to come out.  Being active in alcoholism and being active in my recovery definitely alters my beliefs, attitudes and lifestyle choices during that time.  The “getting out of self and feelings” that occurs while active in my disease might seems comforting for the moment, but the fact that “more, more, more” comes into my brain when the first drink enters my body is so not comforting.  It’s slavery.  It’s negative.  It’s sick!

Staying in the present moment of recovery always gets me back into gratitude and humility.  I am so grateful that today I do not HAVE to take a drink.  I have a choice today.  My choice is to pass for right now so that I can avoid the “more, more, more”.  I can experience the state of peace and calm so as not to be overwhelmed by clocks and deadlines.  Peace, calm, gratitude, recovery for me all comes with and from a solid relationship with a Power Greater Than Myself.

Mastery of time is a mind-body project because both are involved in how we experience and process time.  Pay attention to your natural biorhythms, especially sleep.  Sleep resets biorhythms that have become distorted during the day.  Time becomes your friend when you attune yourself to the flow of life as your body is meant to experience it.

Dee:

While actively drinking my mind and body were enslaved to alcohol.  Life got in the way of my drinking.  I never slept; I just passed out and came to.  Good REM?  I think not.  I am now fortunate to sleep most nights without an alarm clock waking me in the morning.  Just my body and mind excitedly saying, “Sweet!!!  We’re ready to take on the day!!!”  I once again feel friends with not only time, but life itself, and, more importantly, I’m friends with ME!

As we prepare to meditate together let’s take a moment to consider our centering thought, “I attune myself to the flow of life.  I attune myself to the flow of life”.  Now let’s prepare for our meditation.  Make yourself comfortable and close your eyes.  Begin to be aware of your breath and just breathe slowly and deeply.  With each breath allow yourself to become more deeply relaxed.

Now gently introduce the mantra, “Shara Vana Ya.  Shara Vana Ya”.  This mantra attunes our mind and body to the cycles of nature.  As you repeat the mantra feel your mind and body absorb the beneficial influence of the universe.  Repeat it silently to yourself, “Shara Vana Ya.  Shara Vana Ya.  Shara Vana Ya”.

With each repetition feel your body, mind and spirit open into an expanded state of awareness.  Whenever you find yourself distracted by thoughts, noises or physical sensations in the body, bring your attention back to silently repeating the mantra, “Shara Vana Ya.  Shara Vana Ya.  Shara Vana Ya”.

CENTERING THOUGHT

I attune myself to the flow of life.

SANSKRIT MANTRA

Shara Vana Ya
My awareness is aligned with the creative power of the universe.

Dee:

My awareness is aligned with the creative power of the universe, my Higher Power, my God of My Own Understanding.  Life is sweet.  I wouldn’t go back one day, one minute, one second.  I finally feel a contentment with myself and my life that took 62 years to achieve.  Today I have many good years to give back, to live with purpose.  When I was 20 I had nothing and felt like a waste of space on the planet.  Nope.  Wouldn’t go back one second.

Aloha, and have an awesome day loving yourself…Dee

For those interested in Art with a Message of Inspiration, Recovery and Hope, please visit my website at www.DeesignsByHarris.com.  For those interested in signing up for my email updates with new products, the story behind the art and me, the artist, and special deals, please sign up for my email updates at https://mailchi.mp/f96bf32af105/welcome.

From Deepak and Oprah’s 21-Day Meditation Series, “Making Every Moment Matter”, a Chopra Center Meditation.

HOW TO LET LIFE FLOW

Day 14 – How to Let Life Flow 

“Let everything happen to you, beauty and terror. Just keep going.” – Rainer Maria Rilke
Today’s meditation is about learning to let your life flow without resistance or effort. Living in the flow is not something you figure out, or practice to get right. Living in the flow is a state of consciousness; it is the natural consequence of being self-aware in the moment. In that state of expansive, open, accepting awareness there is no feeling of lack or sense of threat. So there is no need to defend yourself, be aggressive, or resist in order to feel safe and complete. To live in the present is to flow with the universe.

Dee:

Living in the flow is something I learned to do once I was in recovery.  I learned a whole new way of life…to live from my heart, rather than from my brain.  Until getting clean and sober I rationalized everything.  As an intellectual human being I “thought” that the brain controlled everything, that whatever I set my mind to, I could get.  My mind could not get me sober.  Letting my mind go and living from my heart, in the flow, got me sober.

Oprah:

Welcome to Day 14, our final day in week two – How to Let Life Flow.  One of my favorite words right now is “flow”.  Have you ever heard an athlete, artist or musician describe what it’s like to be in the zone?  They use words like tunnel vision, complete calm, or ultra-focus.  Some even liken it to a spiritual experience, a state of elevated awareness where time feels like it’s slowed down or completely falls away.  Most of us have been in the zone at one point in our lives.  It’s that exhilarating stretch when you know you’ve found the most powerful current and everything just seems to fall into place.

Dee:

In the zone brings back an entirely different experience to me.  When I was still very active in my disease, I offered to babysit my neighbors’ child.  When they brought her to my house I had been drinking, probably most of the day.  I don’t remember.  All I remember is that I didn’t babysit.  I really don’t remember that as I was in a blackout.  But my kids told me that they came…and they left.

I hate blackouts.  Not knowing what I did is the most awful, gut-wrenching feeling.  “Fishing” for clues is a horrible task.  I could never say that “I drank too much, can’t remember what I did, please tell me.”

Quite a long time later when I was sober and working my steps I got the guts to visit my neighbors, to make my amends.  Gut-wrenching again.  Fishing again.  They told me that when they brought their daughter over so they could enjoy a nice dinner together they found me “zoned” out.  Thus, in the zone holds a different meaning to me.

So then, what causes us to get off track or feeling like we’re suddenly swimming upstream?  Basketball legend Lebron James is considered one of the most intensely focused competitors to ever play the game.  And I once asked Lebron what could possible cause an MVP like him to lose his rhythm on the court.  His response was profound.  He said, “I get off my game when I start playing for others rather than playing for myself.”

This is true for all of us.  We fall off-course the minute our intention shifts from following our heart to responding to what we think others believe.  Spiritual teachers call that mindset “egoic”.  It’s that false self creeping in, constantly trying to take us down, or to prove, or to show, or to show off.  When that happens do what you can to find and follow your flow again,  That’s what I teach all of my girls.

Dee:

Throughout most of my life I was a people-pleaser.  I know now that I was not comfortable in my own skin.  I did not know who and what I was.  I had no purpose.  I had no Higher Power.  I was living from my brain and not from my heart.  I did not love myself.  Thus I would do whatever it took to make you feel highly of me because I didn’t.  I would put you first, before my family and, definitely, before me.

Today, in recovery, I know, I feel, that I no longer have to do that.  I am finally comfortable in my own skin and even love myself for who and what I am…an alcoholic in recovery who has a Higher Power, who has a purpose to carry the message of experience, strength and hope, who can live from my heart…the flow…and stay out of my head.

If you’re in a situation where you feel out of place, uncomfortable, or it’s just not coming together, change direction; find your flow.  Follow the natural rhythm of your own life and you will find a force far beyond your own because you’re connecting to the force.  That’s all there is.

Let’s listen to Deepak teach us to let life flow and then we’ll meditate.

Deepak:

Change is inevitable, as we all realize, but we accept some changes while resisting others.  We push for the outcomes we like and reject the ones we dislike.  We hold expectations that some major event, getting married, having a child, earning a promotion, will make everything better.  And when things don’t turn out the way we anticipated we are disappointed.  These patterns of expectations and disappointment stop the flow of life, as many people experience on a daily basis.

Dee:

I love the slogan I learned in AA, “No expectations, no disappointments.”  Going with the flow is a way better, easier, freer way to live!

The opposite of flow is resistance, pushing against what is happening right now for your desired outcome.  Flow is about living without preconceptions or resistance.  However, people will say, “Sometimes I have to resist if I face a situation that is harmful or headed for failure.”

But flow isn’t about passively giving in to everything and, certainly, not giving way to negativity and failure.  Instead flow involves a trust in life to bring what is needed.  In any given situation you are open and offer no resistance.  If the present moment calls for strength, it arises.  If the present moment calls for a creative breakthrough or comment that soothes tension, it arises.

Dee:

Recovery has gifted me with a Power Greater Than Myself, a God of My Own Understanding.  It has taken many “one day at a time”s to be able to trust, surrender to, accept and embrace this Power.  But I have experienced time and time again that if I do trust and let things happen, if I turn off the self-will and control, that things do happen greater than I could ever have anticipated.  I do get what I need, not what I want.  It’s so perfect!

Any and all responses, including love, insight, truth, creativity and kindness, are available when you’re in the flow.  There is no cut and dry response.  You are as flexible in your response as life itself.

Clearly the way of life ingrained by society isn’t like this.  We are trained to have automatic reactions.  We feel safe behind the familiar boundaries the ego has created.  Being totally open without expectations may initially sound threatening.  But in meditation we experience that this open, unbounded awareness is safe.  In fact, contrary to the ego the only place without fear is total openness.  It is the place where the present moment can do whatever it likes because we are secure in ourselves.  We don’t need to defend our ego boundaries and we don’t suffer because our expectations weren’t met.

Living in the flow is an experience that needs to be nurtured and understood firsthand.  There are definite stages of letting go…working through old fears, dropping your fixed reactions and learning the art of allowing.  As the ego loses its grip a more holistic way of life evolves.  Only in wholeness can there be flow.  Achieving this new state involves a journey into a new conception of time.

Dee:

Yet another reminder from the word “wholeness”.  While in a 21-day treatment program every morning in Group we were required to introduce ourselves and say an affirmation.  My affirmation was, “I am a good person.  I am a whole person”.  Wow.  This brings back so much transitioning from active alcoholic to grateful alcoholic in recovery.

I hated myself.  I looked myself in the mirror every morning physically putting the letter “L” on my forehead because I was a loser; I could not go a day without drinking.  I felt like shit.  I was a waste of space on the planet.  I had no purpose.  I was so not “a good person” nor “a whole person”.

Is it odd or is it God that today much of my business comes from mosaic affirmations, motivational and inspirational quotes.  And I get to share with customers and people who enter my “Dee bubble” how I got started with affirmations, if they inquire.  They love it.  I love it!  The rigorous honesty.  The openness.

As we prepare to meditate together let’s take a moment to consider our centering thought, “I let my life flow without resistance.  I let my life flow without resistance.”  Now let’s prepare for our meditation.  Make yourself comfortable and close your eyes.  Begin to be aware of your breath and just breathe, slowly and deeply.  With each breath allow yourself to become more deeply relaxed.

Now gently introduce the mantra, “Aham Brahmasmi.  Aham Brahmasmi.”  This mantra  means my individuality is the totality of life.  It reveals that our present moment awareness is always in relationship to everything and everyone in the universe.  Repeat it silently to yourself, “Aham Brahmasmi.  Aham Brahmasmi.  Aham Brahmasmi.”  With each repetition feel your body, mind and spirit open into an expanded state of awareness.  Whenever you find yourself distracted by thoughts, noises, or physical sensations, simply return your attention to silently repeating the mantra, “Aham Brahmasmi.  Aham Brahmasmi.  Aham Brahmasmi.”

CENTERING THOUGHT

I let my life flow without resistance.

SANSKRIT MANTRA

Aham Brahmasmi
The true nature of myself is the wholeness of the universe.

Dee:

Mahalo for your time in sharing this meditation experience with me.  This is one small way I get to share my purpose…sharing my Experience, Strength and Hope.  If I don’t give it away, I can’t keep what was so freely given me when I needed it most.

Aloha, Dee

For those interested in my mosaic affirmations please check out my website at www.DeesignsByHarris.com.  Mahalo and have a great day!

From Deepak and Oprah’s 21-Day Meditation Series, “Making Every Moment Matter”, a Chopra Center Meditation.