Tag Archives: peace

Living fearless in a fear-filled world

I was heartbroken last week. As I listened to the news of the NAU shootings Friday morning my heart ached, as it often does when I hear of tragic events. My heart ached for the ones involved, their families and a whole community that is forever shifted. It seemed to be a week of many events causing this heartache and for a moment, it felt like too much. I looked in the backseat of the car, saw my daughter happily playing and I couldn’t help but feel the fear. Maybe it is that this news was so close to home, maybe it was that this news came after tragic shootings in Oregon, or maybe it was just that I know these things happen every day whether we hear about it or not. Whatever it was, my instinct was to run and hide. I wanted to pack up my whole family, move to a cabin in the woods and keep them safe forever.

Ridiculously unrealistic, I know, but it was my first thought.

I wanted to know everyone was safe. I wanted to keep them from the arms of a potential tragedy that seems to becoming “normal.” I thought of all the children in this world and wondered what exactly it was that we were handing off to them. Knowing that my fantasy was most likely not the turn my life was going to take, I asked myself quietly; “Then what do we do? How do we handle such painful events?” Softly the answer came; the answer I knew but had a hard time feeling.

We love.

It is often said in spiritual teachings that there are only two true emotions, fear and love. All other emotions stem from them and both serve a purpose. Love allows us to embrace the best things in life and live the truth of who we are. Fear is meant to keep us safe, ensure we stay out of harms way. Often fear was useful when we were in a different world; a world where dangers of being attacked by a bear in our sleep was the norm. In today’s world, while there still may be life-threatening moments when fear can step in and serve us, most of the time it is an illusion for the majority of us.

We are afraid of what may be lurking in the minutes, hours, weeks and years that lay before us. It causes us to make choices that may be blocking us from truly living from love, living in the moment and really experiencing joy. It may be a tragedy that triggers it and makes us overprotective parents or it could be something such as afraid of failing that causes us to misspeak in a presentation. The fear can also cause us to push so hard against what we don’t want to happen, we become consumed by what we are running from instead of creating what we truly want.

Loving through these moments makes us redirect and focus on what we do want, not what we don’t. This doesn’t mean that we bury our heads and hide from seeing what is happening in the world, it means using our fearful response to determine what we do want so we can shift our attention there.

So instead of being swept away with fear for your family, go home and hug them a little tighter. Spend more moments talking and less being distracted. Send love to those involved in a tragedy.   Don’t focus on the panic and what fear tells you should be done, instead ask yourself how you can use this lesson to love deeper. When fear arises, ask yourself what it is you truly want and shift your thoughts to that instead of thinking about what you don’t want to happen.

Even in the days when fear truly was saving us from a life-threatening situation on a regular basis, love could easily overcome fear if we had to protect our loved ones, proving that it is powerful enough to lead the way.

It is about time we let it.

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The Gift of Illness

Throughout life there are some triggers that tend to make the work of being positive and peaceful a lot harder.  Illness tends to be one.  Illnesses leave us not feeling positive and energized so our mind quickly follows.  We tend to feel the pain a little deeper and see the limits that we now have for doing what we want.  It takes over our thoughts, causing us to focus on how we are going to fight it off which inherently makes our body a battleground.  Before we know it we are frustrated, angry and miserable.  Our body is now our enemy, getting in the way of living life and causing us to rely on others, which many of us struggle with.  Dealing with an illness is not an enjoyable experience, but our thoughts tend to make it more difficult.

Although we often struggle to see it in the moment, anytime we are faced with a new illness we are given a great gift.  Our body is our best wellness teacher and it is designed to prevent pain and heal.  When this doesn’t happen, something has gone wrong.  If we are not listening to our body often, checking-in with how we feel and modifying our behavior for optimal health, then we will be more prone to illnesses.  Using these situations as reminders to check-in with how we are treating ourselves can help to avoid the negative perspective we tend to fall into.  Our illness may be a sign that we need to start eating healthier, begin to integrate new vitamins or stop overextending ourselves.  Understanding that this situation is our body’s way of letting us know something isn’t working will allow us to approach healing with a sense of gratitude for the messages we are receiving.

Instead of approaching the process of healing with anger and aggression, using love and compassion can allow us to grow from the experience.  We can love ourselves deeper for redirecting us and begin to heighten our self-care to bring our body back to balance.  Using the same level of care and concern that we would if someone we loved were sick, we can focus on how to best heal and rest instead of resenting the situation.  This simple perspective shift will not only help us maintain an inner peace while sick, but it will also allow our bodies to heal quicker.

We can also learn a great deal about our bodies when we are sick.  Finding which methods of healing work best for our body, understanding the causes of the illness and ways to prevent in the future are all tools that we can use throughout the rest of our life.  Experience is a wonderful teacher and often the most uncomfortable situations make the most impact.  This knowledge can then also be shared with others when they are in similar situations.  This could allow quicker healing of our friends and family or anyone we may come in contact with.

Being open to learning and recognizing the benefits that can come from an illness will make the situation a lot easier and keep it from interrupting your inner peace.  Treating an illness as another experience to love yourself more, respect your body deeper and learn about something new, can help manage the natural negative tendencies we can have.  When keeping a positive perspective, being given the opportunity to heal will allow for a deeper connection to your body and appreciation for the many gifts it brings.

A few thoughts from silence…

The last few days I have been tucked away on a silent retreat.  Reflecting on this experience, I feel compelled to share a few of the many lessons I learned in this time.  Although this will be different (and longer 🙂 ) than my usual posts, I hope you will find some of these insights to be as valuable and as empowering as I do.

Since many people may be wondering what a silent retreat is, I will give some context Silenceby sharing a little about the retreat itself.  It was just what you would think, a bunch of people in silence.  No television, no computer, no phone, no books, no talking.  While there was time for walking, meditating, yoga, etc., a large portion of my time was purely spent sitting and thinking.  It was lead by two incredible souls, Cassandra Wallick (amazing yoga teacher and owner of Gilbert Yoga) and Patty Van Herpen (one of the most gifted cooks I have ever met), who both added fun, insight and love to the whole retreat.  We were blessed with cool nights and warm days in northern Arizona that allowed for us to absorb the depths of green pine trees, blue skies and lots of fun critters.

Below listed out are just some of the interesting realizations I had along the way.  The insights from this experience will inspire many of my future posts since I had much time to reflect on exactly what this site is about, finding true fulfillment.

It’s easier than you think – Everyone I talked to prior to going on this retreat said, “I could never do that”.  While I understand the hesitation, I had some myself, it really is easier than you think.  Aside from finding it hard not to say things like “Good Morning”, “Thank you” or “Bless you” when someone sneezes, I felt a strange sense of relief to not have to talk.  Not feeling the pressure to fill the air with noise was freeing and rewarding.  Our bodies crave some silence, and I found after just a few moments my nerves relaxed and my body and mind felt peace.  This peace is something that we need in order to give our minds and bodies true rest from the daily stimulation we encounter and we can benefit greatly from adding it into our lives.

Mindful eating– I am a super fast eater and I generally do so with some sort of distraction whether it is reading, television or a conversation.  To eat in silence and be challenged to slow down and truly experience every bite was new to me.  Really focusing on my food gave the experience a sense of wonder I have never had while eating.  I not only fully enjoyed every bite (especially because it was amazing food), but I developed a deep sense of gratitude for having food to eat.  Meal by meal this gratitude expanded from the earth for providing the food to all the people that were involved in getting it to me (farmers, truckers, store employees and of course who cooked it).  This practice also made me incredibly aware of the nutrition in the food I was eating.  Coming back I find myself not wanting to eat anything that won’t feed my body health and energy.  If you have never tried truly sitting and focusing only on your food while you eat, you are missing a simple but powerful joy in life and I highly recommend it be a practice you start.

True relationship building – I am eternally grateful to the women who shared this experience with me, without them I don’t believe it would have been the same.  Being with people for days without really knowing much more than their first name sounds like it would be a bit strange, but I felt a connection and a relationship form with each person without us saying a word.  We shared experiences, meals, and meditations all without talking or sharing stories of who we are.  This allowed a bond to form without any judgments or perceptions.  We can make so many assumptions about people when we learn what work they do, where they live, if they are parents, etc.  This experience showed me that when you take away all of that, there is a deeper level of connection you can build with people.  Not attaching our perceptions, judgments and assumptions to peoples stories can create a genuine knowing of who they are, a lesson that will change the way I shape relationships forever.

Where do you spend your time? – I was so amazed by what I found myself missing and what I didn’t even think about.  The only activities I really missed were reading, writing, playing with my dogs and listening to music; all things I never give enough time to.  I did not miss checking my phone for e-mails or texts.  I did not miss randomly scrolling through Facebook or getting lost in random Internet sites for hours.  I did not miss television.  This really brought me back to assessing what it is that I do with the time I have and if I am spending it on things I love.  I also found myself doing things that don’t always get time in my daily life, but I truly love, like taking slow walks, sitting with a cup of tea and staring at the trees or journaling.  If you have not recently assessed where you spend your time, take this as motivation to do so.  It is incredible how much time we can spend on things that don’t truly matter to us if we don’t bring awareness to it.

You don’t need anything – Aside from clothing, I didn’t have any of my “stuff”.  And I didn’t need it either.  We grow attachments to odd things in our lives and sometimes feel as though we need them.  As long as we have food and warm clothes, we don’t really need much else.  Finding a way to detach from the things we carry with us can be very freeing.  There is a sense of simplicity when you have less attached to you and it allows your mind to freely explore what things truly matter.  This is an easy lesson to practice daily by just minimizing what we buy and letting go of the things we don’t need.

Living in the moment – Once you spend enough time in silence, your mind does this amazing thing and temporarily stops the chatter.  When this happens, you are able to fully just be in the moment you are in, absorbing every ounce of it.  This awareness brought the most incredible sense of joy and gratitude.  Truly experiencing everything the current moment has to offer without the mind distracting you is where the beauty in life truly lies.  True happiness is here, in this moment, if you keep your mind from pulling you away from it.  There are no problems, no fears, and no regrets in this present moment.  Bringing this knowing to the everyday is key in truly living all that life has to offer.

I realize that many don’t have the ability to spend days in silence, however even if you add in some time to your daily life you will see these benefits.  Give yourself space to think, to process your emotions and thoughts.  Release the pain from your past and fear of the future in order to be in this very moment, embracing all of it.  This simple act of bringing some silence into our lives can bring more joy than we realize.  May this inspire you to take a step to limit the noise in your life and truly find the beauty in silence.

True Relaxation

How do you relax?  Do you have a relaxation routine?  Is it with a massage?  Reading books or taking naps?  Maybe it is sitting and watching television every evening?  Perhaps you are one of the many people who don’t feel they have time to relax so this whole line of questioning makes you laugh a little.  The challenge we face in our fast paced world is that we view relaxation as something we have to make time for and essentially it is a luxury.  We don’t necessarily think we have time for it or need it until we are ill or have our bodies twisted up with knots from stress and overuse.

The key thing to realize however is that while all of these activities could be part of your overall self care routine, they don’t create true relaxation.  They are temporary fixes before we get released back into our chaotic life.  While finding time for these things is Breatheimportant to recharge in some ways, true relaxation comes from a state of living in peace.  It is more about the mindset we are living from rather than what activity we are doing.  Our need to create time to relax is a signal that we can use to identify when we have stepped away from living a peaceful life.

In order to achieve such a state of blissful relaxation, we first have to realize that stress isn’t real.  Yup, you heard me.  Stress isn’t real.  It is simply us thinking about the past with regret.  Perhaps we are worried about something in the future.  Sometimes it is because we take on more than we could handle in one moment and don’t give ourselves permission to say no.  Whenever we feel overwhelmed, anxious or stressed it is simply because we are not living from a peaceful and calm mindset.  Achieving this takes an awareness of your thoughts and your body.

Here are some simple things you can do to start creating true relaxation in your life:

  • Listen to your mind – We let our thoughts easily wander from the past to the future.  It could be listing out things we need to do or all the things we have done wrong.  It takes a conscious effort to keep our thoughts in the present moment, the only place that really has the potential to be stress-free.  Be aware of your thoughts and lovingly redirect them back to the present moment whenever you can.
  • Listen to your body – Our bodies are amazing teachers.  Muscles tightening up, shoulders hurting or the onset of a headache can all be signs that we have stepped out of a place of peace and we need to get back.  Taking deep breaths whenever you feel these things and bringing yourself back to the present can let stress melt away.  Your body will tell you when you aren’t thinking, eating or treating it right.  You just have to do the work of listening.
  •  Say no – We want to please everyone and do everything.  Sometimes it is a lack of courage, other times it is a fear of guilt but always it leads us to a place where we take on much more than we can really handle.  The stress and guilt about potentially missing commitments can be far worse than the simple act of saying no kindly.
  • Forgive yourself – A lot of stress we carry is from pain we have caused ourselves.  We are our own worst critics and it easily causes stress that keeps us from feeling relaxed and free.  Loving and forgiving yourself are the most critical pieces of living a relaxed and happy life.

Happy relaxing everyone! 🙂

Creating Peace

Every year on September 21st the world takes a moment to celebrate International Day of Peace.  In honor of this great day, it is the perfect time to evaluate how to bring more peace into your personal life.

There is a common misconception that living a peaceful life means creating a life completely absent of anger, drama or fear.  An image of a calm, uneventful and slow-paced life comes to mind.  Some people may crave this sort of life, while others want to avoid it because they love the energy that comes from a more fast-paced life.  This image, however, is somewhat impossible unless you live a life in complete seclusion with zero human interaction.  Human relationships are messy and human beings are full of messy emotions.  Living a peaceful life is about how you manage interactions with others and how you balance your life.  Being a calm and content person regardless of the situations you are in is what creates lasting peace in your personal life.  In order to do this, we need to find ways to balance our lives and our emotions so we are able to enjoy and learn from everything life brings, not just the good stuff.

As with all things, finding your way to a peaceful life is also a very personal journey.  Some of us need to work more internally and some need to work on how we interact with others.  If you are looking for ways to bring more peace into your life, here are a few suggestions on areas that may help you.

  • Relax – I am often astonished at the number of people that don’t know how to relax.  It isn’t a personal flaw, but more a symptom of society that labels any moment of “unproductive” time as a waste or being lazy.  We go, go, go until we are exhausted and then we search for an effortless activity, such as watching TV, for relief.  For some this is genuine relaxation, but for others it is the only thing they have energy left to do.  To feel more peace in every area of your life, your body and mind need downtime that works for you.  It may be playing music, reading, taking a bath, socializing or taking a walk.  Whatever may speak to you, integrating a routine of relaxation into your life is key to balancing your energy and emotions.
  • Process your emotions – We tend to numb our emotions.  Some of them are bitter, painful and unpleasant.  Some, on the other hand, are beautiful and wonderful.  All of them are necessary.  Numbing one means numbing them all.  Trying to cut out anger, frustration and fear to simply glide through life would also mean cutting out all the wonderful emotions of love, joy and excitement.  All emotions need to be embraced and explored in order to experience the type of inner peace that brings a blissful life.  Holding emotions back or avoiding situations that may bring these emotions causes inner chaos that blocks inner peace from entering your life.  When you are in a situation that causes some of the “negative” emotions, take a moment to acknowledge them instead of avoiding them.  Then take steps to work through them in a constructive manner.  This may mean journaling, addressing another person in the situation or taking some minutes in silence to understand what is triggering the feeling.  Every person will handle this differently but a key to peace is facing the emotions directly.
  • Be yourself – One of the most stressful things we can do to ourselves is trying to live up to who we are supposed to be instead of being who we truly are.  If you are not living your truth, you will never feel completely at peace.  Accepting who you are, loving who you are, and living who you are is critical in feeling constant peace.  It is not always easy to be true to who you are, but the work is worth it.  Spend time alone, learning who you are, what you want and what you like.  Make a commitment every day to honor that and remove the things that do not.  You are beautiful and perfect the way you are.  The more you live that way, the more peace you will feel.
  • Practice forgiveness – We all know that conflict is the opposite to peace, but many do not understand how holding grudges or anger towards others can be a key blocker in feeling inner peace.  Forgiving others and yourself is the single most empowering act you can take.  This is appropriate in all situations, even if it is not someone who has harmed you personally.  This can be someone who you disagree with, such as a politician or a manager in the company you work.  This may be someone who has harmed a friend.  It may also be someone from many years ago that you have almost forgotten about.  Holding anger towards any of these people, regardless of how small or how distant they are is going to keep that conflict in your life.  Make a list of anyone who you haven’t forgiven yet.  You may be surprised of the names that come up once you get started.  Work through the list, one by one, and forgive them so you can be at peace.

Creating peace in your own life is the first step in creating a peaceful and loving world.  I wish everyone a wonderful International Peace Day and hope you can create permanent peace in your own lives.

Peace Bell at UN Headquarters in NYC

Managing Stress

You know the feeling, we all do.  When your muscles ache with tightness, your brain can’t stop thinking and you feel like there is so much to do you can’t stop for a second.  Stress is something that we all deal with from time to time.  It often creeps up on us and then suddenly we are at a breaking point.  Stress is a perception of situations.  It isn’t actually a real tangible thing, however it does create real and tangible symptoms if we let it.  Many people end up with pain, some become overweight from emotional eating, others sluggish from drinking too much, etc.  These are all things that we do when we get into this state when we let stress become real in our life.

Another symptom when we are feeling stressed is our lack of compassion for others.  We begin getting short tempered or just tuning out to others because we already have too much to think about.  Next thing we know we hurt someone unintentionally because we became more focused on us and whatever is causing our stress, rather than the people that matter most to us.  If we do this long enough or often enough we can seriously damage meaningful relationships in our lives.

The good news is stress that is something you can mitigate in your life.  It would be unrealistic to think you can instantly remove it however there are things you can integrate in your life to minimize the chances of stress getting out of hand and causing an impact.  Doing these things all the time will also help you from being venerable to stress.

Eating well – When we are stressed often we change our eating habits and become less concerned with that we are choosing to eat.  We gravitate to what is quick and easy or what gives us comfort.  Often these are things like sugars, unhealthy carbs, alcohol, etc.  All of these things cause inflammation in the body and will deplete your energy levels.  It will cause you to feel worse, therefore more sensitive to stress and you eat more of it.  It is a vicious cycle and your body pays dearly for it.  Think about what your patterns are when you are stressed and try to come up with healthy options to eat/drink instead of your normal defaults.  This will help relieve some of the effects stress has on the body.

Stretch – Although a complete exercise routine would be ideal, when people are so busy adding an hour of exercising every day may seem overwhelming.  Integrating stretching a couple times a day for a couple minutes does wonders for helping with stress.  It helps relieve the tight muscles and gives you a couple minutes to break from everything to get re-centered.

Sleep – Often when we get busy the first thing we cut out is time to sleep.  It is either because we keep completing tasks past our bedtime, or we want to squeeze in relaxation time before we sleep and didn’t give enough time for it.  Either way, the more sleep you steal from your body, the more stressed you will become and the less productive.  Sleepy bodies and brains don’t work nearly as well as rested ones.  This is one thing you shouldn’t ever compromise.

Meditate – Meditation helps you train your brain to make space for quiet.  This allows you to stop constantly thinking about the running to-do list.  You can’t force these thoughts to quit in meditating but focusing on something else, like a mantra, your breathing or a prayer, helps your brain rest from the thoughts.  This calmness will become more natural and occur in a non-meditative state as well.  This will help you sleep better and focus on one task at a time.

Ask for support – Support may be someone just listening so you can get emotional stress out or it may be asking someone to help do things for you.  Whatever the case may be, it is important to recognize when your plate is too full and you need help.  Friends and family want to see you healthy and happy.  Helping you get there is a key part of these relationships and I am sure the day will come when you can help them.

Find a beautiful place – Find somewhere close to your home where you can go and look at something beautiful often.  It can be nature, art, watching kids play, amazing architecture, etc.  Whatever it may mean to you, seeing beauty helps you focus on the good in life and remove the focus from the stress.  Taking a few breaths and enjoying a moment of beauty can help you feel calmer instantly.

Never forget, stress isn’t real.  It is a perception and allowing that perception to bring havoc to your life isn’t necessary or healthy.

Let go of what doesn’t matter, focus on what does, and honor your health and wellbeing always.

The sky is one of my close by Beautiful Places 🙂

Waking Up to Grace

As I was driving the other day I went to make a right turn.  I quickly looked to the left so I could proceed and experienced a moment of complete awe.  In that second I was blessed to see the sky in the early moments of sunrise and it was incredible.  Here in Arizona we get amazing sunrises and sunsets daily; but this one in particular was breathtaking.  Rich deep reds swirled around shades of purple.  Light oranges bleeding into rich golds.  All offset and surrounded by the dark sky as if it was being framed and hung on the wall.  The mountains beneath it resting peacefully with a blend of cactus’s and palm trees anxiously awaiting the light.  The inner peace and appreciation I felt in that moment is something that took me completely by surprise and I won’t soon forget.  It was a moment of complete stillness and grace.

As I sat there staring (luckily no one was coming behind me so I got to sit for a minute or two), I gently gazed around at all the cars going by me.  It was early so there were many and I wondered how many people were missing this moment when the opportunity was right in front of them.  Often I hear from people that state they feel disconnected, rushed, and empty.  I thought to myself, this is a perfect moment that can give us the feelings we so greatly strive for and many people are literally driving away from it.

When I suggest to people that they can find the connection and grace they are looking for by being in the moment, I often hear that we don’t have time to be in the moment…as ironic as that may sound I am sure many of you relate.  Multi-tasking has taken over to the point where we live in a state of being rushed and compiling lists and thoughts in our heads.  One of the beauties of the world today is we are constantly finding ways and making gadgets to help us save time.  A simple example- you can do anything you have to do sitting in a waiting room on your phone; check e-mail, carry on 5 conversations while texting, order dinner and pay a bill all in the span of about 15 minutes.  Not too long ago time waiting for the doctor, getting an oil changed, or waiting for a meeting to start was fairly unproductive time.  We maybe socialized, flipped through a magazine, watched the TV mounted on the wall.  This actually gave us moments of relaxing that are now filled with tasks.  Everyone is on their phone doing something.  The question I often wonder is, if we have now taken this unproductive time and turned it into time when we get more accomplished that they were able to in a whole day prior to the wonder of computers; what are we doing with the time we are saving?  Where did it go?

This simple example can show how we have condensed so much into minutes that we have the time to stop and see these moments of grace that exist.  They are all around us, waiting to be uncovered.  We can take a moment to experience things like this if we would be open to seeing them.   Allow yourself to leverage the benefits of living in this time and commit to actually seeing what is around you versus living in your head.