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Do you have a sense of purpose in your life? What helps you get out of bed in the morning? What gives your life meaning? Many of us get so caught up with the hustle and bustle of everyday life that we lose sight of the big picture. Taking time to think about what is your life about is important. How are you serving some purpose greater than yourself? When we have a sense of purpose, our lives are richer and more satisfying. Not surprisingly, studies show that having a sense of purpose has a positive impact on longevity. Life transitions are excellent opportunities to re-examine and re-establish our sense of purpose. Mid-life events such as, divorce, empty nest, retirement, or the death of a spouse are times when many people feel a void in their lives, perhaps even a sense of loss of purpose. Take some time to ask, who am I now? What do I want? How do I want to be of service? What is my purpose?
It’s summer!! Time to head to the water. You probably know intuitively what scientific studies have verified: we get psychological benefits from spending time next to, in, or on the water. There is even a term for it – Blue Mind is the mildly meditative, relaxed state we experience around a natural body of water. That is the reason why I look for locations that are on the water when I plan a retreat. I am excited to offer two different retreats on the shores of beautiful Lake George at the historic Wiawaka Women’s Retreat Center this summer, where there are ample opportunities to be near, on, or in the water. (See Events for further details). So if you are planning a vacation, going on a retreat, or taking a day for rest and relaxation, consider giving yourself the gift of Blue Mind and head for a natural body of water.
When was the last time that you truly listened to someone, and completely focused on what that person was saying? If you are like most people, you listen with one ear. Perhaps you look at your phone, or drift off and think about your to-do list, work, the kids, sex, what you want for dinner, or a host of other topics. The most common distraction from fully listening is focusing on what you want to say when the other person stops talking.
Have you had the experience of having someone’s undivided attention when you were talking? Pretty powerful, isn’t it? How would your relationships change if you made an effort to truly listen? If you want more harmonious, understanding, and loving relationships, try it! Make eye contact, leave the distractions behind, and listen with both ears. You’ll be amazed how this simple practice will impact your relationships.
Whether you realize it or not, about 80% of your thoughts are negative. Do any of these phrases ring a bell?
-I’m too fat/too skinny/too short/too tall/too angry/too passive/too….
-I didn’t do that right/I blew it/I failed/He blew it/….
-I hope no one saw that/I’m so embarrassed/If anyone knew that about me I’d die…
-Who does she think she is/He is so bossy/She is clueless/He is so dumb…
-I should have called him/He should have called me/She should have returned my call…
-I don’t have enough time/I’m too busy/I’m so stressed…
-It’s too cold out/It’s too windy/I wish it weren’t snowing/Why does it have to rain today…
These negative thoughts have a powerful influence the way you act and feel. But you don’t have to be controlled by them. Here are a few example of how you can actively take charge of your thought processes-
1) Don’t believe everything you think. In fact, I would encourage you to not believe most of what you think!!
2) See these negative thoughts as junk mail. No need to open them, just toss them in the trash. Don’t worry there are plenty more where they came from.
3) Recognize that you are thinking negatively, and challenge yourself to change the negative thought into a positive thought. For example- turn “She should have called me” into “She’ll call me when she gets around to it, or if it’s so important, I’ll call her.”
There have been thousands of scientific studies demonstrating attitudinal, emotional, and cognitive effects on physiology, health, and healing. Despite this, most people don’t grasp how to use this to their benefit. For instance, we know that a positive attitude is health promoting. It sounds simple enough. It is simple, but not necessarily easy for most people to incorporate a positive mindset. In fact, many people actively resist making this change for fear of being perceived as naive or a Pollyanna.
Here is a simple exercise that you might want to focus on for the next week. In this exercise, you are not trying to change your negative thinking. Notice when you are making negative predictions. Just notice. Notice how you feel physically, emotionally, spiritually. Observe without judgment how you treat others, and treat yourself. See if you can be compassionately curious about yourself.
For example, “I don’t want to go to this meeting. I know it is going to be really boring.” Notice how you are casting human attributes onto a meeting. A meeting is just a meeting. Whether you are bored or not is your choice. You have primed yourself to be bored. You have externalized the reason for your expected boredom onto the meeting. Notice, are you tense, angry, frustrated, feeling trapped, defensive, tired, tuned out, or assigning negative attributes to people or ideas?
Here’s another example. Let’s say you are meeting your friend John for coffee. Before you even leave the house you might be thinking “I know John will be late. He’s always late. He’s so inconsiderate.” Notice how easy it is to be filled with anger, resentment, and judgments about something that hasn’t happened, let alone the negative feelings you are projecting onto your friend. Perhaps you tense your jaw and shoulders, as you recall other times when John was late. When John arrives you put on a game face and are jovial when inside you are burning.
I am starting off the New Year with much awe and gratitude for my work. At the end of 2015, a cluster of my coaching clients were finishing up their work with me around the same time. As each of them was wrapping up, they looked back on the transformation they had undergone. Some had let go of destructive relationships, others made positive changes in their careers, others had straightened out their finances, while others had given up self-harming habits. However, while each of them had made concrete changes in their lives and were grateful for these changes, what they focused on was the shift they had experienced internally. They described seeing their lives through different eyes. Where once they might have seen problems, felt trapped or felt like victims, they were now able to accept responsibility for their lives. Each of them described feeling more empowered, freer and happier than ever. Ultimately, the one thing they all had in common was that they had elevated their level of consciousness.
“No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it.”
Physicist and Nobel Laureate, Albert Einstein (1879-1955)