HOPE: THE MAGIC INGREDIENT YOU NEED IN LIFE

Hope: The Magic Ingredient You Need in Life

By Melissa Eisler

In a world full of fear, stress, and sadness, it can become second-nature to develop a negative worldview. There seems to be more pain than you can heal, more dissent than you can mediate, and more uncertainty than you can make sense of. In times like these, what options are there to comfort yourself and bring forth positivity?

The difference between those who let their circumstances bring them down and those who choose to embrace the goodness of life and find that comfort lies with the important element ofhope.

Hope is a powerful antidote to feelings of despair and desolation. A life marked by hope is a life marked by optimism, regardless of where you find yourself It doesn’t mean that you are always happy or that you can’t feel emotions like hurt, sadness, or anger, but it does mean that your view of your circumstances – and those of the world around you – goes beyond what is actually happening.

When you hold onto hope, you begin to understand that you are part of a greater narrative that includes both global and personal experiences of joy and suffering. Simply put, hope brings perspective. It can sustain you during the hard times and bring even more fulfillment to the good times.

While hope acts as the perpetual light in the midst of darkness, it’s not easily cultivated in the dark. Develop your hope muscles while times are good so that you can better tap into it when life takes a turn for the worse. Here are four ways to cultivate hope.

Seek Inspiration

Hope requires a dependence on something greater than yourself. Where it’s honoring a Higher Power or recognizing that the Universe has pieces at play that are beyond your control, hope is built on the understanding that you and your circumstances are not the epicenter of what

makes the world move. Tapping into that understanding helps you gain perspective and allows you to not depend simply on your feeling about a particular situation.

Dee:

Before getting clean and sober I had no Higher Power…I had no hope. I was spiraling fast into the depths of hell. But having no religion in my background I had no clue about Heaven and Hell, God, Devil, any of that. But from my experiences growing up I felt that drugs and alcohol were what the Devil was all about.

By the grace of a Power Greater than Myself I miraculously found myself in a treatment program. There I learned that I could have a Higher Power of my own understanding. So I made one up. It was full of good…kindness, love, warmth, forgiveness, happiness…and everything that gave me hope. Over the years my Higher Power has developed and strengthened and has guided me to strengthen as well.

Today I turn my will and my life over to my Higher Power. I let it do the driving and teach me what I need to learn as I ride along in the passenger seat. I turn my control over to this entity and find my life is so much easier, lighter and rewarding that I could have ever imagined possible!

Use times of prayer and meditation to reflect on the good in the world, starting with what you are thankful for in your immediate surroundings (including opportunities you’ve had and loved ones who surround you). Then, reflect on your broader community. Instead of harping on the negative things happening in life, see how people are caring for each other and improving the lives of those around them. See the world how it could be and recognize that your sense of being is found beyond the temporal world. Get inspired by all the good there is in the world – because it is always there, it is sometimes just buried under the muck.

Dee:

I strive to keep negativity out of my life and look at the glass half full. Even in the darkest, most hideous events, I can find a pinhole of positivity. These events seem to bring people and communities together, to love and show compassion, to be of service and just “there” for one another. Most of us human beings are full of goodness; we just don’t sell news.

Surround Yourself with Positivity

Oftentimes, the who and what you surround yourself with dictates whether or not you have a positive or negative worldview. There is power in surrounding yourself with positive people, environments, and experiences that bring you joy and encourage you to become the person you want to be. This doesn’t have to mean that your life has to be all rainbows and butterflies, but it does mean that you should put some effort into surrounding yourself with elements that create a positive life.

Dee:

Today my life is full of like-minded people in recovery. We have all come from depths of hell in our own ways to find the light and hope in a life without substance abuse. We are all so grateful

and humble for this new life and our purpose is to share our experience, strength and hope with all who are struggling.

Not all of us in recovery are happy, joyous and free. Some are still pretty negative and on their pity-pots. When they choose to remain there for this part of their journey I must distance myself so not to jeopardize my own sobriety, serenity and chi. But not without first stressing that I am here for them when they are ready to turn it over to a Power Greater Than Themselves.

This also means purposefully distancing yourself from negativity. Creating boundaries to protect yourself from negativity can be challenging. It might mean limiting time with a life-long friend or family member who is always complaining, turning off the somber news reports you’ve become addicted to, or switching joys to avoid a toxic workplace. While it can be difficult to make these types of life changes, saying no to negativity and yes to your well-being can create a life that will sustain you through good times and bad. By leading a positive life, you are honoring your own needs.

Dee:

I oftentimes get to spend weeks at a time with family members who ruffle my feathers. Sometimes I can walk into a room and cut the tension with a knife. I try to be mindful and in the moment, grateful for this time together. I try to make it count. But it takes energy that I feel I should not have to expend to make “quality” time with loved ones.

Turning that time into a positive helps tremendously. Remembering all the positive things that they have done for me humbles me. Tuning in to “I have no control over people, places and things” and “They are on their own journeys” reminds me that everything is perfect in this moment. I call my sponsor. I go to a meeting.

Get Involved in Your Community

One of the most effective ways to get out of your own cycle of self-reliance and tap into hope is to serve others. Your community has local organizations that need volunteers to help pack lunch bags for the homeless or build houses for families in need. You can use your professional skills to create a marketing campaign for a hospice care organization or raise funds for a cancer research center.

When you get involved in what’s happening in your community, you are exposed to different people with different views. You get a front row seat as a witness to people taking care of one another. It can restore your faith in the goodness of people and help you realize that everyone has issues they are facing; it’s not just you. While you may not be able to completely change someone’s circumstances, you can help bring joy and perspective to their situation. This helps to create a more holistic view of your own life, seeing that there is good amidst the bad.

Dee:

Because I am a recovering alcoholic most of my community involvement revolves around Alcoholics Anonymous. I learned early on that service is critical. Suiting up and showing up for a meeting is service. There I can give back what was so freely given me when I needed it most…experience, strength and hope. That is my way of saying “Thank you for this awesome

life”. I also get great joy from speaking at DUI Classes once or twice a month. If my message can give one person a glimmer of hope, then my purpose was served.

Celebrate

The truth is, there is always something you can celebrate in your life. Celebrations are usually reserved for big milestones – birthdays, anniversaries, job promotions, and births – but you also have the opportunity to celebrate the little things. Take your spouse out for a casual dinner as a “job well done” for cleaning the house. Treat your kid to an ice cream cone for presenting her class project.

And the most fun celebrations don’t even have to revolve around an accomplishment. Declare next Tuesday your favorite day of that week and buy lunch for your co-workers, drive outside the city to star-gaze with a loved one just because you want to, and wear your fanciest clothes to dinner tonight just because you’re worthy of something special.

By creating a rhythm and mood of celebration, you can train your mind and heart to recognize the good in your life. This hope can sustain you through the thin and thick of life. Regardless of what you’re facing, what you see on the news, or how dire your circumstances may seem, hope can help you look at your life and say, “I’m glad to be alive.”

Dee:

Just remember to stay in the moment and know that everything is perfect at this very moment… especially YOU! You are not in control and there is a Higher Power that has your back…to guide you, protect you, teach you, love you. That Higher Power is your hope!

Aloha, Dee Harris

For those of you interested in positive and hopeful Art with a Message, please visit my website at http://www.DeesignsByHarris.com. Enjoy! Mahalo and have a hopeful day!

About the Author

Melissa Eisler
Certified Yoga and Meditation Instructor and Writer

Melissa is the Senior Content Strategist at the Chopra Center. Also a yoga instructor, she is passionate about motivating people to live a healthy, balanced, and purposeful life. Melissa is 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 personal blog about mindfulness and life balance in the digital age. Melissa teaches Vinyasa classes at her favorite studio in San Diego, meditation and yoga to kids and families in the oncology ward…(Read more (/bios/melissa-eisler).

Taken from The Chopra Center

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How to Be Mindful Without Meditation 

How to Be Mindful Without Meditation 

By Sara Schairer

Do you ever find yourself avoiding your meditation cushion? Whether subconsciously or on purpose, you’re not making the time to sit.  Or have you tried meditating, and you’ve decided it’s not for you?

Luckily, meditation and mindfulness are not one in the same. You don’t have to meditate in order to be mindful. Mindfulness is a nonjudgmental awareness of thoughts, sensations, surroundings, and emotions, and meditation is one tool for developing mindfulness but isn’t the only tool.

When you are consciously bringing your wandering mind back to the present moment, you are cultivating mindfulness. You can do that in everyday life by tuning into your surroundings.

Dee:

I often remind myself that all I have is this very perfect moment, right here, right now, in front of my nose.  I’ve got to notice it, savor it, cherish it.  It will never come again as life changes constantly and I am always in transition.

When I allow myself to get in the moment, I am truly present, truly grateful.  There are no thoughts or regrets of the past.  There are no worries or anxieties of the future.  Just now.  Feeling the breeze.  Hearing the birds.  There are no coincidences of everything happening within and around me at this very moment.

Experiment with using your senses to notice these new things as you move throughout your day, and see what happens.

1. Notice Your Bed

When you first wake up, notice the feeling of your sheets against your skin and your mattress and pillow supporting you. Feel the air against your face, and notice the air temperature.

2. Take a Mindful Sip 

Stop for a moment to savor your morning beverage of choice. Smell and examine your coffee or tea before taking a slow sip. Close your eyes and wholly feel and taste the liquid on your tongue before swallowing.

3. Savor Your Shower 

Have you ever truly paid attention in the shower? What does the water feel like as it hits your skin? Notice the soap as it lathers, and tune into the feeling of the soap on your skin. Mindfully massage your scalp as you shampoo your hair.

4. Cherish Your Family Members 

If you have children or a partner at home, can you notice something new about their morning routines? With nonjudgmental curiosity, observe their moods, energy levels, morning greetings, and favorite breakfast items. What can you notice that you’ve never seen them do before?

5. Consciously Commute 

If you drive to work, try tuning into the feel of your steering wheel in your hands, and notice the air conditioning or heat against your skin. If you’re on a train, subway, or bus, first pat yourself on the back for taking mass transportation. Then tune into the feel of your seat, and take in your surroundings by noticing who is with you and what you can see and hear.

6. Look Up 

Pause to take in the sky above you. Are there clouds? What do they look like? Do you see any birds or trees? Can you see something in the sky that you’ve never seen before?

7. Truly See Your Colleagues

Is there something new you can notice about your coworkers? Perhaps the person next to you listens to classical music or has photographs of her family on his or her desk. Maybe your boss has a skip in his or her step today.

8. Slowly Munch on Lunch 

Before digging into your lunch, take a moment to examine it. What colors and textures do you see? What does it smell like? Take a small bite and allow your mouth to take it all in by noticing what the food feels like. Is it crunchy or soft? What tastes do you observe? Does the flavor change as you swallow? Try to take several slow and mindful bites. If your mind wanders, try to bring it back to the process of eating.

9. Take a Hike 

Stretch your legs in the afternoon with a walk around the block, and allow your senses to engage with your environment. Can you see something that you’ve never seen before, whether it’s on the ground, on the side of a building, or high in the sky? What do you hear? Tune into each step and notice what your legs do and how they feel with each step. Also notice your feet and the important job they have.

10. Scan Your Body 

Take a moment to close your eyes and tune into your body. Start at your toes and move up, observing each body part until you reach the top of your head. Be curious about what you find, noticing any tension, lightness, heat, pain, or other sensations. Notice if the mind wanders and creates stories about those feelings. If so, see if you can bring the mind back to the sensations without judging them.

Dee:

I use this method of scanning my body when I feel tense, when I allow myself to be riddled with tension.  I begin with totally tensing up my entire body.  And then I relax.  Starting at my toes, concentrating on them, feeling them, I release any tension.  I work my way up to my body this way.  Every part of my body up to my head, fully concentrating on each body part and releasing all tension.

I trip on what each cell in my body is doing without my awareness.  It’s magical how each cell has a purpose without my control or intentions.  They just happily go through the day doing their business, keeping my body as strong and healthy as they can.  When I have an injury or sickness they gear up the army and concentrate on the body part that is no longer strong or healthy.  They know what to do.  I can’t tell them what to do.  They fix me.  I’m better.

My brain, my heart, lungs, every organ in my body do their own thing as well.  My thoughts seldom go to what they are up to.  They know what to do.  They do it without my awareness or permission.  Again, their purpose is to keep me as strong and healthy as they can.

My eyes blink, I cough, I have an itch, my hair grows.  Again, without my control or awareness.  Our bodies are so amazing!

11. Notice Your Social Media Use 

Do you have a habit of checking Facebook or Instagram without even knowing it? Start tuning into those habits and see if you can be more intentional with your time. Once again, don’t judge yourself for the time you spend on social media, simply observe it.

12. Appreciate the Sunset 

Step outside to take in the unique colors of the sunset, and try to notice something you’ve never spotted before. Is there a cloud shape that reminds you of something or someone? What colors do you see? How does the air temperature change once the sun dips below the horizon?

13. Glimpse at the Moon and Stars 

The night sky offers up a feast for your eyes. When is the last time you truly looked at the stars and moon? Take the time to examine what’s beyond the atmosphere and allow yourself to feel awe if it arises.

14. Listen to the Sound of Silence 

As you make your final moves toward bedtime, stop, close your eyes, and listen. What do you hear, and what don’t you hear? Can you notice the sounds or silence with curiosity, allowing your ears to hear the texture of each sound?

Practicing mindfulness throughout your everyday life can help train the mind to focus on the present, with or without cushion. Observe what happens when you make noticing a priority.

Dee:

Last year as I was sitting on the beautifully manicured lawn of the Queen’s Hospital in Honolulu, mindfulness and living in the moment became a priority for me.  My husband was having heart surgery and I was waiting to hear from the doctor how the operation went.  

I remember my head bouncing from thought to thought.  It was a long month being away from home with just the clothes on our backs when we were Medivac’d immediately from the Big Island to Queen’s following a heart consultation.  I’m a busy person.  I NEED to keep busy to keep out of my thoughts and to keep sane.  I found a lauhala tree on the grounds, pulled and prepped leaves (lau) and started weaving bracelet after bracelet.  The island, the aina (land) and mana (spirit) provided me sanity and serenity.  Again, no coincidences.

But as my husband lie on the operating table and knowing that the end of his life could be near, my thoughts bombarded me with fear.  I started thinking about how I might be flying home alone.  I thought about calling my sons to help me clear out Dad’s belongings.  I thought about living in a home and having a life that would be so empty and void without my soulmate.

And then the mindfulness kicked in.  “Shit, Dee!  He’s not dead yet.  Get up to the waiting room and be there when he comes to.  Everything happens for a reason.  You’ll be okay and never alone.  If God has a purpose for Graeme greater than what he can do on this planet, be accepting and joyful for that.”  I made my way up to the waiting room.  And today…we live happily ever after.

One more thing.  I am an alcoholic in recovery.  During my quiet times on the Queen’s lawns I would sometimes think about how a drink would take the edge off.  Thank goodness I’ve stuck closely to AA and the fellowship which reminds me that it’s the first drink that will kill me.  I’ll be off and running.  I’ll be sneaking drinks and hiding booze.  I’ll have to cover up the smells of alcohol on my breath.  AND I WON’T BE FULLY PRESENT FOR MY HUSBAND who needs me NOW!  I don’t drink.  I get humble.  I get grateful.  I use the toolbox for living that Alcoholics Anonymous has given me.  I weave more bracelets.

With warmest aloha, Dee Harris

For those interested in Art with a Message of Hope and Inspiration, Recovery and Being in the Moment, please visit my website at www.DeesignsByHarris.com.  Mahalo and have an awesome day!

Learn the keys to conscious living from the comfort of your own home with our Primordial Sound Meditation Online Course, led by Deepak Chopra. Learn More. (https://www.chopra.com/online-courses/primordial- sound-meditation/on-demand)

About the Author

Sara Schairer

Sara Schairer is the founder and executive director of COMPASSION IT (http://compassionit.com/), a start-up nonprofit organization and global social movement whose mission is to inspire daily compassionate actions and attitudes. She created the one-of-a-kind reversible COMPASSION IT wristband (http://compassionit.com/wristbands/) prompting compassionate actions on six continents, 48 countries, and all 50 states. Wristband sales fund compassion education programs for youth, teens, and adults. As a public speaker, Sara encourages her audiences to “compassion it” in their daily lives. A Stanford-certified instructor of Compassion Cultivation… Read more (/bios/sara-schairer)

From The Chopra Center

Smiling Is Powerful Medicine: Research on How Smiling Can  Improve Your Health, and Relationships 

Smiling Is Powerful Medicine: Research on How Smiling Can  Improve Your Health, and Relationships 

By Karson McGinley

No matter where you find yourself on this planet or what language you speak, you’ll know a smile when you see one. While cross-cultural studies reveal slightly different meanings ascribed to smiling, they appear throughout the lifespan of all human (and some non-human) beings. Scientists have identified three different kinds of authentic smiles as well as identified the traits of a fake one.

What can all the research on smiling do for you? More than you might think. Psychological researchers have found many benefits to the act of smiling that include improved relationships, improved mental health, and even increased lifespan! Keep reading to learn more about some recent findings on smiling than can take your life from good to great with a simple curve of the mouth.

Dee:

I have always valued my smile.  I have been blessed with a “good” smile, but I haven’t been blessed with strong bones that hold my teeth in my mouth that make a “good” smile.  The photo above is a mosaic frame I gave to my prosthodontist of with a photo of us.  This wonderful man helped me get my smile back when my teeth and implants were falling out of my mouth, due to deteriorating bone.

Smiling Is Good for Your Health 

You likely tend to think of a smile as a result of positive emotions or stimuli, but it turns out that your smile can actually affect your stress levels and productivity, too. When scientists asked participants to engage in a challenging task, they found that the smiling folk had lower stress levels and heart rates than the non-smiling group. Some people were asked to hold chopsticks horizontally in their mouths to simulate the shape of a smile, and even those people saw the positive effects of the smile on their faces.

Dee:

I’ve heard that looking in a mirror and smiling while talking on the phone (especially at work) can make a world of difference on how that conversation plays out.  If you smile during that conversation I bet the end results will turn out greatly more positive than if you frowned or had no smile.  I bet your stress level and productivity will be more healthy by your smile, as well!

Smiling also releases endorphins, which improves your mood, helps you to relax, and lowers your blood pressure. And because smiling is contagious, the benefits of your smile extend beyond your own body to the people you engage with.

Smiling May Help You Live Longer 

So if smiling can contribute to less overall stress, and lower stress levels prolong lifespan, then smiling prolongs lifespan, right? Right! A compelling study at Wayne State University studied photos to classify the smiles of 230 baseball players. They found that the players with partial smiles lived on average two years longer than players who didn’t smile at all; those who had the biggest smiles lived roughly seven years longer than then non-smiling ones.

While it might be frightening to think about your school-age yearbook photos having any indication of the span of your life, it may be time to turn that frown upside down to make up for lost time.

Dee:

My granny lived just shy of her hundredth birthday.  She was always smiling.  I never heard her say anything negative or anything bad about anyone or anything.  Her mindset led her to a long and happy life.

I try to live my life like that today, being optimistic and hopeful, joyful and content.  Even though life throws curveballs at us each and everyday, can we not take the time to remember just three things for which we are grateful?  Can we not know that at this very moment everything is perfect and just as it is meant to be?  What are we going to do with this moment?  Be at peace or shit on it?  I choose to be at peace.

Smiling Improves Your Relationships 

Looking for a date or a mate? People find you more attractive (and thinner) when you smile. Studies show that different areas of the brain light up when looking at pictures of people who are smiling versus not smiling. People who are smiling to any degree are generally labeled more attractive (and women are considered more trustworthy than those with neutral expressions. The next time you are in a social situation and want someone to talk to you try smiling and see what happens.

Dee:

I remember an old beau telling me how much more beautiful I am when I smile.  Agreed.  When looking at photos of myself without my smile, “Yuck!”  Scary!”  “Ugly!”

As I practice daily smiling and centering on a life deserving of smiling, staying in humility and gratitude, my photos sure are more pleasing.

Smiling Improves Effectiveness in the Workplace 

The benefits of smiling extend beyond interpersonal relationships to the work environment. Smiling at your coworkers creates moments of connection that lead to greater productivity and teamwork. People in the service industry prove to have a more positive effect on customers when they smile. And people in leadership positions tend to favor their employees who smile more regularly. However, be careful, as some studies have shown that smiling too much can prevent you from being hired, as it can make your potential employer find you to be less serious or competent. One article suggests that smiling only at the beginning and end of an interview is enough to show that you are friendly, but not so friendly that you would be taken advantage of or manipulated.

Dee:

I remember my boss and customers always ribbing me for smiling all the time.  I would just reply, “Sure beats the alternative”.  Why not smile?  All we have is this moment in front of our noses and it’s good, yeah?  It brings me into gratitude.  I sure like living realizing my glass is half-full, and not half-empty.

Smiling Improves Your Mood 

Yes, you smile when you’re in a good mood, but smiling can also put you in a good mood. When participants were injected with botulinum toxin (a neuromuscular blocker) that would paralyze the frowning muscles in their faces, their moods improved and their depressive symptoms decreased. This finding suggests that the facial expressions involved in a true smile are part of a feedback loop that affects your emotions. People who frown during unpleasant procedures report more pain than those who make neutral or relaxed faces, inferring that the feedback loop works both ways.

Dee:

I’m being reminded of the countless hours I’ve spent in the dentist chair.  Not always pleasant.  But when I remember to breathe, that everything is perfect at this moment, that the end result is worth this discomfort, I can release my tension back into the clouds.  It does not serve me.  Being stress free and in the moment helps tremendously to get back into gratitude and serenity.

Also, I try not to expend what little energy I have on thoughts and feelings that do not serve my well-being.  I spent so many wasted hours on researching why I had bone-loss.  I could have been using that energy for something more positive.  I did, however, later find out by my periodontist the simple reason for bone-loss in my mouth while the rest of my bones were strong and healthy.  None of that research nor delving into my past of “could have’s, would have’s, should have’s” made any difference of where I am now.  I shall expend my energy in a positive direction moving forward, not backward.

What Constitutes a Real Smile? 

The botulinum toxin studies also point to the importance of the eyes and forehead when smiling authentically.

The Duchenne (or genuine) smile involves not just the muscles around the mouth, but also the ones that cause the cheeks to raise and the eyes to crescent. People who smile just with their mouths (think of the “say cheese” smile when taking a photo) don’t experience the same rewards as those who are smiling with their entire face; they do experience some of the benefits, just to a lesser degree.

People who tend more easily toward Duchenne smiles self-report better life satisfaction and marriages, however, so it may be worth learning how to smile with more of your face in the long run.

Dee:

Just be who you are…perfect at this very moment.  It will show up in your smile if you are comfortable in your own skin and love yourself.  And you should feel good about yourself.  You’re doing and being the best you can…right now.  You have gifts that no one else on this planet has.  Cherish them.  Share them.  Not only will your self-love and self-worth show up in your smile, it will emanate from every fiber of your being, felt by everyone around you, and the trickle-down effect is magical! 

Practice Makes Perfect 

Practice makes perfect—especially for men. Researcher Marianne LaFrance says that women smile more than men (mostly because they’re better at social intelligence and judging what is going on with other people). But far and away, children win the smiling contest. One article reports that children smile, on average, 400 times a day, whereas the happiest adults only smile 40-50 times a day.

If that doesn’t give you a kick in the pants, consider it this way: speaker and entrepreneur Ron Gutman says in his popular Ted Talk on the hidden power of smiling, that smiling is like a superpower. But unlike the power to fly or to become invisible, this one can be learned, practiced diligently, and improved upon.

So watch a funny movie, play more with your kids, and practice calling to mind someone who really lights you up when you’re posing for a picture. The smile on your face could literally make you happier, healthier, more effective, more attractive, and live a longer life. Doesn’t the thought of that make you smile?

Dee:

Just like any- and everything in our lives that we want to change, practice makes perfect.  The seed has been planted.  It’s up to us how badly we want to change.  See the glass half-full and not half-empty, living a positive and optimistic life, living in peace and contentment; they all come from baby steps.  Keep at it.  You will get results beyond your wildest dreams!

With warmest aloha,

Dee Harris

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

*Editor’s Note: The information in this article is intended for your educational use only; does not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Chopra Center’s Mind-Body Medical Group; and is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health providers with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition and before undertaking any diet, supplement, fitness, or other health program.

About the Author 

Karson McGinley, Yoga Teacher, Life Coach, and Joy Seeker

Karson McGinley is the founder of Happy-U ( H olistic A pproach to P ositive P sychology & Y oga) and the co- owner (along with her husband) of Happy-U Namasté Yoga Center (http://happyunamaste.com/) in San Diego, CA. A teacher for over a decade, Karson works to bridge the gap between the ancient wisdom of yoga and the modern science of happiness through her yoga classes, workshops, and Happy-U’s Teacher Training program. Karson’s classes are inspired by what goes on in the modern day life of a joy-seeker, using the power of music, laughter, and storytelling to take her students on a journey within.

From The Chopra Center

REVEAL YOUR PURPOSE AND TAKE INSPIRED ACTION

Reveal Your Purpose and Take Inspired Action 

By LouiseLaffey(/bios/louise-laffey)

If you were adventurous of spirit and chose to embark on the feel-your-feelings experiment (https://chopra.com/articles/how-to-trust-your-flow-and-own-your-power), you’ll know that putting down those old familiar mental identities of thinker and doer is not for the faint-hearted.

It takes courage and conviction to live a different way of life to those around you, but once you’ve been bitten by the “being-ness” bug there’s no turning back! You’ve tasted the joy and freedom that comes from living in clear flow and you’ve rediscovered the power that can turn dirt into gold.

Let the Universe Show You the Way

Even if you think you haven’t taken the full plunge into being-ness, rest assured you’ve already tasted a little bit of the magic that comes from feeling your feelings and allowing the Universe (https://chopra.com/articles/how- to-recognize-signs-from-the-universe) to openly show you how things really work. You know you live in a vibrational Universe. You’ve had plenty of synchronous signs dropped in your lap to make you sit up and pay attention to the fact that you are not the one actually running the show (although a part of you still thinks that you are).

Dee:

What a total life changer…not only being able to go a day without drinking but turning my will and my life over to a Power Greater Than Myself, that I got to make up!  A new and weird thing to learn was living through my heart and not my head.  Totally against how I lived my whole life up to that point.  I was intelligent.  A thinker.  Anything I put my mind to I could get.  So why could I not go a day without drinking?

Allowing my Higher Power to do the driving and me to kick back in the passenger seat enjoying the ride, the lessons, the interactions, my life, was so foreign.  But once I tried it and found that obligations were being met, my life became more interesting and exciting.  I wake up now wondering what the day holds, excited to learn from experiences both “good” and “bad”. 

The good news is you’re at a point in your awakening where you understand you have the power to create. Now you want to know how to use that power with greater effect.

Unearthing Your Purpose

You want to use your power for good—for a purpose (https://chopra.com/articles/discover-and-fulfill-your- lifes-purpose) bigger than yourself. Usually it’s to help someone or something you feel passionate about. You want to leave a positive, meaningful impact on the world. The only problem is that you don’t always know exactly what that purpose looks like or how you’re going to make that purpose happen from where you are now. Even if you do have some sense of clarity, your purpose doesn’t always unfold as fast as you want, when you want, and most of all, how you want.

It can lead to a terrible sense of frustration. You can drive yourself crazy trying to work out what you are supposed to do with your life. The problem may be that you are making the same mistake by going into your head to try to solve your questions. Stop thinking! Go inward and start feeling your answers.

Dee:

I got sober awhile ago, but did not stay sober.  As a newcomer I did everything suggested in AA.  I felt I floated on that pink cloud for many years.  But as we get sober one day at a time, we also get “unsober” one day at a time as well.  My life was good…until I stopped attending meetings, staying connected to the fellowship, giving back what was so freely given me when I needed it most…and I forgot what it was like to be a newcomer.  Slowly I got back into my head and stopped living from my heart.

Shift Your Focus Inside

When you shift your focus inside, the lights suddenly turn green. You begin to ask yourself questions with a fresh sense of openness and freedom, curious to feel and hear the answers to come. Instead of bouncing straight into your thoughts (https://chopra.com/articles/noticing-when-your-thoughts-argue-reality), take a few moments to sit quietly with your feelings and wait with the nothingness. And then, there it is, your next clear step. The perfect instruction to move you forward with ease and grace: inspired action. No confusion. No fuss. Perfect timing.

Dee:

Having slipped after over 13 years of sobriety I was scared shitless that I wouldn’t make it back into AA, the fellowship, and sobriety.  The only requirement for AA is the desire to stop drinking and I didn’t have it.  I checked myself into an outpatient program having spent 28 days in a treatment program my first time around.  Being an alcoholic was confirmed to me with that first shot of tequila offered me, even when I said, “No.  I don’t drink.”  It yelled at me to drink it and I had no defense, no insurance for which I pay premiums by going to meetings and reaching out to those in need.  I told myself I was fine but I needed the fellowship to call me on my bullshit.

After going to daily meetings for weeks” and confessing “I drank last night”, I finally surrendered and accepted I had to do what was uncomfortable to me.  Making calls to four women each night to say, “Hi, I’m Dee and I am not in the sunlight of the spirit”, seemed ridiculous.  But it worked.  Something worked.  I stopped drinking and once again I can live from my heart, not my head, and float on that pink cloud once again.

Act on Inspired Action

You will recognize an inspired action when it arrives; it compels you to move. You can’t see it coming before it lands but when it does, there’s no mistaking it. It will come to you complete, with the energy of Truth you’ll find hard to ignore. And while your mind will try to tell you otherwise, it’s much wiser than thought. An inspired action is always simple, clear, and precise. It may turn up as a feeling that it’s the time to go, the place to be, the person to meet, or the thing to see.

Whatever its sign, it will always leave you with a smile as it magically shows how this piece of the puzzle fits perfectly into the moment that’s about to unfold.

Dee:

When I’m waiting for answers to come to dilemmas that perfectly arise in my life to teach me something, to help me grow and be a better person, I put that dilemma in my God Box, quiet my mind and know I will get good orderly direction when I’m ready.  When the student is ready, the master appears.  How do I know?  I’ve experienced it, many times, to my wonderment and gratitude.

Be Your True Self

The more you practice navigating your life through feeling your feelings, the more you realize a big part of your purpose is learning how to follow inspired actions. As your willingness to trust the process grows, so will your confidence and success.

Every inspired action will bring you a stronger, clearer sense of your best direction and a new sense of wonder, as opportunity after amazing opportunity opens up with effortless flow. And with it, the awareness of a physical sensation within, the feeling of a vibrant, river-like momentum noticeably moving through you. Step by step, the Universe will teach you how to use your power with purpose for your highest good—how to live in your true flow by being more of your true Self.

Dee:

When I left rehab in 1998 my counselor told me it was a waste for me to go back to being a grocery checker.  Resentment!  I was a good checker.  It was a good job.  But now that I’ve left that job to pursue my love of art, I’m finding I am creating art with a message of hope, of recovery, of unity.  I am also finding that when I sell either online or at a market the connections I make with other like-minded people is amazing.  It’s a win-win.  They get to bring home my art that inspires and offers optimism and I get to pay my bills and grow to be a better person.

Let Go of Fear

When you consciously choose to trust your inner wisdom to guide your steps, you realize universal energy is always showing you the path of least resistance, the most efficient way for you to use your energy so you can fulfill your purpose. If you can loosen the mental grips, the misinterpretations you have imposed upon your feelings by simply observing them in the moment, you begin to let go of your fear, the “into-fear-ence” (a term coined by author Michael Brown in The Presence Process) that has been blocking your natural flow. You can open your hands to receive the moments of magic that are waiting for you. The more you can allow yourself to open up with childlike curiosity to what is being given to you in each and every moment, the more you will discover how to surf the waves of your emotions with a new sense of awe.

Dee:

Today I strive to live in the moment.  I no longer have regrets of the past nor worry of the future.  I know that everything is perfect at this very moment and there is a plan and purpose given me from my Higher Power.  And that plan is to share my experience, strength and hope with others whether alcoholics, drug addicts, those suffering from mental problems, abuse, or life itself.  That’s what “I get to do” each and everyday with excitement and anticipation!

Every day you are offered thousands of opportunities to notice this one moment, the perfect moment to connect you back into your feelings. You have the opportunity to go back into your Self and embrace the energy of love that can propel you to heights only your soul can imagine.

All it takes is a willingness of heart to trust in your flow and try your experiment. Only you can ask the questions that will light up your life, and only you can feel the answers that will fill up your heart. Keep feeling, seeking, exploring, receiving, and most of all, believing.

Gain clarity on why your life is the way it is, what’s holding you back, what you really want, and how to get it at our Chopra Women’s Retreat. Learn More. (https://chopra.com/live-events/womens-retreat/).

Dee:

Getting sober doesn’t happen overnight.  I did not become an alcoholic overnight.  I had to shed a lifetime of defects (thanks to the 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous!).  Through experimental “fake it ’til you make it’s”, trial and error, hope and optimism, I finally get to love myself for who I am, with my alcoholic thinking and behavior.  I have a tool box to help me get back on track.  I have a fellowship that calls me on my bullshit.  Life is so much easier and way more meaningful and rewarding.

Aloha and mahalo for taking the time to read my blog.  For those interested in my Art with a Message of Hope and Recovery, please visit my website at www.DeesignsByHarris.com.  With warmest aloha, Dee Harris.

About the Author, Louise Laffey (/bios/louise-laffey) Guest Speaker 

Once a young lawyer and an intuitive spiritual seeker, Louise Laffey, struggled to reconcile what she viewed as two separate lives. As a lawyer she enjoyed many of trappings of the modern world, but always felt like she was compromising herself and her values to meet someone else’s agenda. She escaped to South America, where she embarked on the spiritual journey that led her to create the process of fully aligning prosperity with her purpose. For the past nine years, Louise has travelled the world, teaching more than 50,000 people from over 20 countries to identify and clear the unconscious blocks standing in the way of their prosperity, freeing them to consciously create more wealth and abundance in… Read more (/bios/louise-laffey)                                                                                                                         From The Chopra Center

10 Ways to Align with Your Purpose or Dharma

10 Ways to Align with Your Purpose or Dharma

By Nicolette Stinson

What would happen if you stopped trying to “find your purpose” and instead started vulnerably showing up as you are, ready to be of service?

The spiritual Law of Dharma states that for every special talent, the world has a unique need that can only be filled by the expression of that talent. You can make the fullest use of the Law of Dharma by committing to serve others through your unique creative expression, in whatever form that takes.

Dee:

Before getting sober I had no purpose. I oftentimes “thought” that I was a waste of space on the planet. Of course, drinking every day, having to drink every day, and living in that negative so-called life, didn’t help me get more positive nor purposeful.

 

Once you get out of your head and stop pondering what you are meant to do with your life and instead take action to serve others in any way you can, you begin to align with purpose. What gets in the way of most people taking action in this way is the courage to go for what they truly want, take chances, and be fully seen.

Dee:

I know, I feel, today that finding my purpose was no coincidence. I really believe

that everything happens for a reason and that at any given moment everything is perfect. Of course, I didn’t see nor feel that in my disease of alcoholism. I didn’t realize that that was my necessary journey to bring me to where I am today. Purposeful. To share my experience, strength and hope with that one person who needs a glimmer of hope at this moment.

Aligning with your purpose in life requires visibility and vulnerability. It requires pouring your heart into something that means the world to you with detachment and expressing yourself without expectation of outcome.

Dee:

I am so passionate about my sobriety, my recovery, my journey. Today I live, breathe, and bleed this gift and sharing it with you. My life, my relationships, my work, my everything comes from my sobriety.

I would not be so passionate about it if it weren’t good. But it’s awesome! To have a sense of purpose, gratitude and humility was so unfamiliar to me before getting sober. Today I have choices. I have a choice to not drink or drug which I truly did not have before surrendering and asking for help. But unless I give it away…this sobriety, these choices, this hope and compassion…I cannot keep it. I must give away what was so freely given me when I needed it most in order to keep it. I don’t want to let this go.

Aligning with my purpose of sharing my journey…my experience, strength and hope…did not come easy. It did require visibility and vulnerability. I was most uncomfortable sharing my rigorous honesty on social media. But in order to keep this gift I had to crawl out of my comfort zone and be ready for bigger and better gifts. I listened to my heart, quieted the fear in my head, and just did it.

But I did it in a roundabout kind of way. Having just taken an early retirement from the grocery business to go full-throttle as an artist, it was suggested I use social media to promote my business. Not knowing at the time intending to

promote my art I was really promoting recovery. That was my life. My everything. I continue promoting that message today. The art and business comes later.

Researcher Brene Brown, in her research on vulnerability, found that letting yourself be seen as well as loving and serving without expectation is key to living life with a deep sense of worthiness or purpose.

Dee:

When I first got sober back in 1998 I had such guilt, remorse and shame. I was so blessed to get sober in a treatment facility that taught me about the disease of alcoholism. I did not choose to be an alcoholic any more than I chose to be a female or of Chinese descent. I was born this way and had to not only accept these facts, but embrace them and love them which eventually led me to being able to accept, embrace and love my disease…and myself.

I was introduced to Alcoholics Anonymous (for which I am NOT a representative nor spokesperson, but a true believer!) which gave me a toolbox for living. I learned about me, Dee, and what makes me tick. I got to choose a Power Greater Than Myself over to whom I could turn my will and my life. I got to stop living from my head and enjoy and be comfortable living from my heart. Things started to look positive, hopeful, to make sense. The puzzle pieces really started to fit together.

I began to realize the fellowship in AA loved and served me without expectation which only strengthened my purpose and gave me confidence. I also realized that I was not unique, nor alone on this journey. What a comfort and a weight lifted from my shoulders! Today I can serve without expectation. No expectations, no disappointments.

If your purpose ultimately blossoms through your willingness to show up, be seen, and be of service, then perhaps the important question is not “How do I find my purpose?”, but is instead, “How can I authentically show up in service for those who need me most today?”

Dee:

The first half of my first 13-1/2 years of sobriety I suited up, showed up, and did everything AA suggested I do to have a better life and stay sober. But, one day at a time, I found myself in complacency and busy-ness enjoying the gifts of

sobriety. I stopped giving away what was so freely given me when I needed it most. I stopped connecting with newcomers and forgot my journey. I drank.

But even though I spewed out the words, “No, thank you, I haven’t had a drink in 13-1/2 years”, I drank that shot of tequila that yelled at me and that was left for me in case I changed my mind. I was weak, complacent, selfish. My insurance policy had lapsed by ceasing going to meetings and sharing my recovery. My Higher Power has such a sense of humor…and such a plan for me. With that first shot came an immediate urge for more…along with the guilt, shame, hiding, lying, and all the negativity that comes with being active in any disease.

I want to spend my energy in positive ways today, not searching for the next high, then hiding it. It’s way too exhausting for me living that way. Today, once again in recovery, one day at a time, I am happy, joyous and free! and careful to stick close to the fellowship of AA.

Below are 10 ways you can discover your own answers to that important question and align yourself with your purpose or dharma:

1. Be Yourself

Here is the chance to use that timeless advice from your mother, “Just be yourself, honey, and everyone will love you.” The more authentically YOU that you are, the better chance you have of connecting with the people who need you most. Plus, it’s so much easier than trying to be someone you aren’t. Don’t put on an act or try to be someone else, be yourself and share where you are NOW in your journey with others.

Dee:

Wow! This says it all! Before getting sober I was so fear-based. All of me was about winning your approval as I had no self-confidence nor self-worth. I sacrificed everything to look good for you on the outside until I had nothing left to give.

AA’s Twelve Steps have changed my life. It just happened to work out this way on my journey through life. By working the 4th, 5th and 6th Steps I could finally understand why I was the way I was. So freeing it’s magical!

Today I can love myself for who I am with all my flaws and imperfections. I no longer worry about whether or not you will like me. If you don’t, you don’t. I don’t take it personally. You and the rest of the world are on your own journeys. I

just have to take care of me and answer to that Power Greater Than Myself. If We are on good terms, if I’m doing and being the best I can, then We’re good.

If I stay in the moment, in the present, in the space in front of my nose, then I shall give you my full attention, respect and compassion that you deserve. You were also not put in “my bubble” at random; there are no coincidences. And sharing myself with you in a rigorously honest way might just give you that glimmer of hope you didn’t have before we met. I can go to sleep thankful.

BUT…there are those other kind of people out in the world who don’t live in the sunlight of the spirit. Their words and actions can hurt. But only if we let them and have not yet reached that place of self-worth and self-love. Again, everyone is on their own journeys, some not so pretty, some brought up in negativity and hatred. You know, we ALL have our “diseases”. Just offer compassion and respect.

2. Be Consistent

You will create an impact with your efforts to live inside your purpose when you keep showing up even when it feels like you aren’t creating any real results. When you keep putting yourself out there in the same consistent way every day eventually you will hit a tipping point and your efforts will bear fruit. Be consistent in not only how often you put yourself out there, but also in the way you show up. People trust and respond to consistent efforts.

Dee:

For me that means I have to walk my talk. I can write these blogs and pitch sermons until I’m blue in the face, buy my actions speak louder than words! I wouldn’t be fooling anyone but myself. My head would start running the show again. I would distance myself from my Higher Power. Gratitude and humility would disappear.

I’m not going there. Not today anyway. From past experiences, at least with alcohol addiction, not walking my talk wasn’t so apparent while my head told me everything was peachy until I picked up that shot of tequila. Then I realized that was my head, and my disease, talking, telling me everything was just fine. Cunning. Baffling. Powerful.

 

3. Be Bold

Stay in action and don’t be afraid to say what you think and what is really happening with you behind the scenes. Authenticity and vulnerability are bold, and they will help you align with your true purpose.

Dee:

There’s that Rigorous Honesty I’ve learned about in AA. If I lay the cards out on the table for you at the onset, I don’t have to spend energy later wondering what I said or how I behaved later. I’ve lived through many a black-out and never want to go there again.

I trust my gut to pick up on your vibe whether or not you are receptive to my journey. My gut has never lied to me and no one has ever walked away disgruntled or in disbelief. I have only received hugs and words of kindness for sharing my true self and my life with you.

4. Be Helpful

Show up with value and solutions. People will notice you and respect you if you help them solve a legitimate problem they are facing or fulfill a desire they have. Being genuinely helpful will help to attract people and opportunities into your life. Give to others without expectation of anything in return.

Dee:

This is like being an AA sponsor. Being in the moment. Attentive. Respectful. Listening. Anonymous! Noticing tone and body language. Making sure they truly want my rigorous honesty (which sometimes is not what they want to hear) and knowing what comes from me is only my opinion or suggestion. And being thankful to the recipient for trusting me and allowing me to share my experience, strength and hope. Keeps me humble. Keeps me grateful. Keeps me sober.

5. Be Choosy

Don’t dilute your energies. Being specific with the way you want to serve will help you align with your purpose. You won’t find fulfillment in trying to be everything to everyone. Determine what specific kind of effect you want to have in your service to others. Choosing your “signature” style doesn’t limit who and when you serve, it simply focuses your energy to the impact you want to create.

 

Dee:

2017 has been year of growing my art business. 2016 was a year of growing my recovery service. 2018 will be a year of happy mediums. All I know is that no matter which direction my Higher Power drives me in the new year, I shall enjoy the ride and continue the excitement of learning, growing, and sharing. My gut (no pun intended) is also pulling me in the direction of more Dee time (nature, quiet time, meditation, exercise, and FUN)!

6. Be Friendly

Being kind and showing up as a friendly face will do wonders for you in aligning with your purpose and make you happier while you do it! Spread joy always.

Dee:

Being friendly for me means I’ve got to stay in the moment…grateful and humble. I remember being a grocery checker with customers always saying, “Why are you so happy?” I would reply, “Sure beats the alternative.” And that is how I try to live my life. In the positive. My head, but especially today my heart, can turn any negative into a positive. Any glass half empty to half full. Such an awesome way to live!

Also when a grocery checker my boss would ask if I wanted to go into management. Although I tactfully didn’t say this, “Hell, no, I’m happy. Why would I want to be like you?”, I would reply, “Thank you for asking, but ‘No”, I’m happy right where I am.”

Although I don’t feel I have a mean bone in my body, I can so easily think nasty thoughts and have fun with them. However, I do remember when making amends to my kids they told me how mean I was when I was drinking. Today, one day at a time, I choose to not become that person. Today I am truly happy, joyous and free!

7. Be Imaginative

Try new things, let your mind and imagination wander. If you are feeling burnt out or like you have plateaued, try to implement something new that you never even thought about doing. Adding creativity and variety to your life will allow you to open up to new possibilities and opportunities that may bring you into deeper alignment with your purpose.

 

Dee:

I have such the imagination, and a sick one at that. I love horror flicks. I love living in a make-believe world. I’m kinda Disney. I don’t wanna grow up…I’m a Toys’R’Us kid. And that is me. And I thrive on being me, in my honesty.

I wake up each morning excited to take on the day. The day in which my Higher Power drives me around in our pink convertible Cadillac and I go along for the ride learning and experiencing what I need to experience, growing to the next level, and then sharing that. It’s like a magic carpet ride!

8. Be Vulnerable

Be willing to be imperfect. The only way to move forward is to take action and get feedback. Sometimes this requires you to be vulnerable and jump before you are totally “ready.” As mentioned in the introduction, being willing to be vulnerable dramatically increases your alignment with purpose.

Dee:

Back in the day I was afraid to get negative feedback or make an ass of myself, because I had no self-worth. Today I’m okay with that. I learn from every experience. I get better with every experience. I grow with every experience. I am not perfection; I am progress. And I love the journey I’m on being a human being with a positive outlook. One day at a time I leave my comfort zone. Tiny baby steps. If I don’t like it, I go back. Learning. Growing.

9. Be Savvy

Stay on top of the trends that are happening in the world. Keep yourself educated and find new and creative ways to serve others and the planet. Life as you know it is currently changing at a faster pace than ever before, so being savvy and resourceful will allow you to be of service in a way that is innovative and transformational and aligns with the collective purpose of the planet.

Dee:

I’m a news junkie. I told you I had a sick imagination, but I have a sick sense of humor as well. Although the news is fully inundated with negative shit, I realize that that is what sells news. I know that there are those out in the real world who live and feel like me. We’re good people. And from our actions we start that ripple effect of positivity and hope, love and kindness. Tiny baby steps.

 

10. Be a Star

Don’t be afraid to claim your gifts, get out there, work, and create meaningful relationships. Let your light shine and be a light for others!

Dee:

I am not asking for kudos, money, notoriety, none of that. I write because it makes me feel good. I go to meetings because it makes me feel good. If somethings is ailing me, I put it in the God Box, write or share it in one way or another, and take the power out of it. Sharing my experience, strength and hope is my way of giving thanks for this awesome life with which I’ve been blessed. If I don’t give it away, I cannot keep it!

When I was leaving the treatment center for alcoholism I remember (and copping a resentment as well) my counselor saying to me going back to real life as a mom, a wife, and a grocery checker, that what I was doing was such a waste. I was proud of what I was doing and I did it well What did she mean? Today I understand my purpose, coming only from this journey of mine through life. The pieces of the puzzle are all starting to come together, to make sense. Dang exciting!

Wishing you all a “glass half full” New Year! With warmest aloha, Dee Harris

For those interested in checking out my Art with a Message of Inspiration (the reason I started this blog three years ago), please visit my website at http://www.DeesignsByHarris.com. Mahalo and enjoy!

Get the resources you need to gain a clear sense of direction and purpose 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.

About the Author

Nicolette Stinson

Certified Coach, Yoga Instructor and Perfect Health Instructor

Nicolette is an online personal brand strategist for coaches and wellness professionals. She is also a Certified Coach, Chopra Center Perfect Health Instructor, and Yoga Teacher as well as an avid student of mindfulness, creativity, personal development, and spirituality. Visit http://www.nicolettestinson.com to learn more.

From The Chopra Center.

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

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