Sometimes the Universe sends you just what you need to hear in an unexpected moment. I hope these words will be as meaningful for you, today, as they were for me.
May I be peaceful, happy and light in body and spirit.
May I be safe and free from injury.
May I be free from anger, afflictions, fear and anxiety.
May I learn to look at myself with the eyes of understanding and love.
May I be able to recognise and touch the seeds of joy and happiness in myself.
May I learn to identify and see the sources of anger, craving and delusion in myself.
May I know how to nourish the seeds of joy in myself every day.
May I be free from attachment and aversion, but not indifferent.
Richness has nothing to do with money, but rather a cool mind, free of tension and anxiety..
I heard these salient words at my exercise class last week and I thought how true they were. I am sorry I do not have the original source, and this time, Google could not help identify it.
How blessed one is to have a mind naturally free of worries of the future or regrets of the past. I needed to learn these simple lessons over time and many years.
It is worthwhile paying attention to those bad habits that rob you of mental strength.
Keep them in check as Marc and Angel point out:
When you’re sad, you might hunch your shoulders and look at the floor, but doing so keeps you in a depressive state. Put your shoulders back and smile, however, and you’ll feel an instant boost in your mood.
Feeling sorry for yourself, giving up after your first failure, and giving away your power are just a few of the habits that can wreak havoc on your mental weightlifting routine.
Giving up those unhealthy habits will help you work smarter, not harder.
How many times has someone vented about their problems and a likely response is, “Why don’t you just xxx….[insert their suggested solution]. Notwithstanding there are occasions when someone does directly asks for advice, the act of suggesting solutions to others, rarely succeeds in solving the other’s problems.
The diplomat, Dag Hammarskjold said:
Not knowing the question,
It was easy for him
To give the answer.
Robert Bolton, People Skills, 
We seldom understand the full complexity of another person’s situation. In conversations, we only receive basic facts and have no real way of determining the most appropriate course of action for someone else, without knowing the complete picture of what is going on for them and the associated ramifications of suggestions.
Certain ways of responding to friends can even hamper conversations, may trigger feelings of inadequacy, anger or perhaps dependency. The other person might become angry, submissive, argumentative or be very resistant to change.
Ever wondered why this is so?
Responding with solutions, in these situations, often shuts down productive conversation and discourages the person from discoveringtheir own solution. Dispensing solution focused advice may often be seen by the other person as an insult to their intelligence. It’s implying the solution is blatantly obvious and they are incapable of solving their own problems!
Furthermore, we are most likely to bring to the table our own bias, history and prejudices. What works for one person may never work for another.
Logical Advice and Argument
When emotions are heightened, referring to the logical thing to do, or logical solutions, may only serve to infuriate or frustrate the other person. It can alienate a conversation by creating distance between people for they interpret those words as conveying a lack of empathy or a failing to understand.
Logical options rely on facts, and typically disregards discussion of a person’s emotions. When people have problems, their feelings are at the forefront of their minds. Dealing with their emotional response in the first instance, might allow for some brainstorming logical pathways at a later time.
Diverting the Conversation
Some of us are so uncomfortable hearing of another person’s difficulties, we might change the subject or divert the conversation away from the difficult topic and towards one that is more palatable or comfortable.
So we know what doesn’t work. What can help enhance conversations and others in regard to problem solving?
Nurturing the person’s ability to determine their own solution by being a sounding board for their thoughts and frustrations.
#2 Ask Open Ended Questions
The old advice of using open ended questions can help.
Start with How, What, Why, Where and Who. Something that allows the person an opportunity to explain a little more, rather than a straight yes or no answer, which might block further dialogue.
Paraphrasing the other person’s thoughts back to them summarizes the problem. In this way, you might rephrase the issue to check you have heard hem and understood their situation correctly. If you haven’t, this gives the other person a chance to clarify things.
“If you set your goals ridiculously high and it’s a failure, you will fail above everyone else’s success.”
Most of the effort in problem solving is in firstly correctly identifying the real problem. Once it has been identified, a problem becomes much easier to break down into chunks. Find 15 minutes each day to slowly work through an issue that you have been procrastinating about.
“Success usually comes to those who are too busy to be looking for it.”
Henry David Thoreau
Problems aren’t something to be ignored in the hopes they will disappear. A new problem might be seen as a new opportunity to progress further to the common goal.
“Success is walking from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm.”
“If you are not willing to risk the usual, you will have to settle for the ordinary.”
“Society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they shall never sit in.” ~Greek Proverb
The Chinese sages also appreciated their value:
Let us not forget the importance of creating nature; fostering and nurturing Mother Earth.
Trees provide so many benefits to our everyday lives. They filter clean air, provide fresh drinking water, help curb climate change, and create homes for thousands of species of plants and animals. Planting a Billion Trees can help save the Earth from deforestation.
Helping to Plant Trees
Depending on location, it costs between $1-$3 to plant a tree including ongoing maintenance and stewardship. Including organizational overheads, I see this as a real bargain, especially for something that might last 70 years!
The Nature Conservancy’s Plant a Billion Trees campaign is a major forest restoration effort with a goal of planting a billion trees across the planet.
So you don’t have the time or don’t want to get your hands dirty? I hear you, but you can still support the various organizations around the world depending on your preferred location.
“The mind is its own place, and in itself can make a heaven of hell, a hell of heaven.” -John Milton
We hear it all the time. Mindfulness. The advice to practise mindfulness as a way to deal with troublesome thoughts.
Why does Mindfulness help?
It’s impossible to stay strong when you’re rehashing something that happened last week or predicting that horrible things are going to happen tomorrow. Mindfulness is about staying present in the moment. And since the only time you can change your behavior is right now, it’s important to be able to focus on the here-and-now.
Our minds become more resilent to stress and less prone to anxiety, if we maintain focus on the here and now; meaning the present moment. The future and the past are, after all, not our reality, but only mental constructs over which we have no, or little, influence. Trying to live in two dimensions at once creates stress for ourselves.
The present moment is the only real time concept we can fully experience, with our senses.
Confucious understood this saying,
“Remember, no matter where you go, there you are.”
Buddha considered the secret of good health was not to mourn the past, or worry about the future, cautioning against anticipation and encouraging the use of each moment wisely and earnestly.
As if each moment was a priceless gift.
Because each moment is a priceless gift that will never return again.
Staying mindful removes the immediate stress for a mind that might continue to worry or dwell on what has gone before.
The present moment is a concept so very difficult to grab hold on to; for it is transient, dynamic and we might rail against letting it go. Even as we ponder its nature, it has passed us by. Gone.
Some of us keep the past, or future, alive in our minds, through repetitive thoughts. Our minds, in idle moments, stray back to past events, or happier times. If those thoughts are negative, and we think them often enough, we can do ourselves real mental damage or initiate a stress reaction in our body.
Strategies for Mindfulness
Stay in the moment
Look around you and note your environment
Notice where your focus lies and your own body’s natural breath
Is your breath short, sharp and shallow, or deep and long? Focusing on the breath is a way to stay mindful
Be Mindful and Ground yourself with the following exercise
Questions for the Self
Are you able to be mindful, keeping thoughts aligned with the present moment?
Can you break your day down and stay with those moments?
Besides Grounding, what is it that helps you to do this?
It is fairly well recognized that counting your blessings, as opposed to your burdens can have a huge impact on your psychological health.
Studies have demonstrated that showing gratitude for even the most basic things can have reduce depression and increase contentment.
How to Find Gratitude in life?
Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life.
It turns what we have into enough and more.
It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity.
It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend.
Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.”
We cannot travel to, own, earn, win or consume happiness, but we can find it in gratitude in our daily lives, as Albert Clarke said,
“We must see that it is not happiness that makes us grateful, but the gratefulness that makes us happy.”
Many writers and philosophers considered thankfulness to be the highest form of thought, almost a spiritual experience. Acting thankful is something that inevitably leads to gratitude.
Buddha took this to an extreme.
Let us be thankful, for if we didn’t learn a lot today, at least we learned a little, and if we didn’t learn a little, at least we didn’t get sick, and if we got sick, at least we didn’t die; so, let us all be thankful.
Gratitude as a Daily Habit
Marc and Angel suggested making gratitude a daily habit by:
..intentionally identifying three things in your life you are grateful for. It could be as simple as feeling thankful for the clean water that comes out of your faucet or appreciating the cool breeze on a warm day.
List the things you feel grateful for over dinner, or make it a habit to identify what you’re thankful for before you go to bed. Over time, being thankful becomes like second nature, and you’ll experience benefits ranging from improved sleep to greater immunity.
Marc and Angel
Do you make gratitude a daily habit?
For me, feeling and showing gratitude can reset my mind from its daily worries, anxieties and concerns. Concerns that, at times, feel quite overwhelming.
Thinking of the things I am grateful fore, can help ground me, re-focusing my attention on what I do have, on what is around me.
Many aspects of my life are not ideal, are unfair and may never change. And yet, there is still so much I can be grateful for, even in circumstances not so ideal.
Could you identify three things you’re grateful for each and every day?
Thanks largely to social media, much of the world already knows the basic facts – the planet is warming, carbon emissions are increasing, biodiversity is decreasing and all this and more threatens mankind’s existence on planet earth.
Martin Fredricks of IVWords was a recent guest at StPA, writing about how we talk about the climate crisis, and the reactions of others, in everyday conversations.
Do climate sceptics, or those in authority, want to hear more shocking statistics and dire warnings? Will it galvanise support for change and encourage the immediate action that is needed? Possibly. Possibly not.
More likely is that some will turn a deaf ear, place it in the too hard basket or choose not to believe it will happen, at least in their lifetime.
Repeating facts, figures, and ghastly predictions is merely preaching to the choir, and can actually be counter-productive by provoking anxiety in those who already know the planet is in danger. We don’t need to reiterate that things are getting worse.
Endless and ongoing debate with climate deniers wastes time, precious time as it a sceptic’s own confirmation bias skews their perceptions and blinds them to any logical explanation.
So what might increase awareness and understanding of the climate crisis?
Personally, I believe we need to focus on solutions. Hope for OUR future is in finding solutions to climate change and reversing environmental damage.
I want to hear ideas and suggestions of things the ordinary man and woman can do, or have already done, in their own corner of the world. Ideas, positive ones. Give us solutions and tips on how we might at least stabilize the environment deterioration, if not improve it.
Context and expert guidance on steps we can enact for ourselves or in collaboration with authorities and others, that is relevant to each individual area is vital.
For it is when we sense that feeling of community, of connection and of common goals, we are more likely to succeed and others, even sceptics will join us in positive action and change.
Please share in the comments below the positive initiatives happening in your corner of the world. Here is some initiatives in mine.
‘Green’ Environmental Initiatives in Moreton Bay, Australia
In my own little area I find:
Habitat protection on private properties – Grants for Land dedicated for Wildlife
Reforestation and mass tree plantings and maintenance with recycled water by active Bushcare groups
Glass recycled for re- use in the manufacture of new glass bottles and conversion to glass sand for use in asphalt, filtration, drainage, coating, resin and sandblasting applications.
Plastic collections for recycling by residents, as well as general recycling in Council kerbside collection
Walk to school days promoted to discourage use of petroleum driven vehicles
Over 75% uptake of solar power panels by new and established homes aided by Government subsidies and rebates
Do you ever think about what youwant to happen in a forthcoming situation? Or does worry get in the way and you tend to focus on what you don’t want to happen?
The Ego and Finding Fault
It seems our ego focuses naturally on the negative aspects, due to an outdated evolutionary adaptation and we are then in a postion that makes us hard-pressed to see positives.
Fault finding comes from believing your happiness comes from the world according to your liking.
We then tend to find fault with whatever is going on, to blame others or circumstances, especially where the outcome has been less than, what we consider, satisfactory.
This may have helped us survive in pre-historic times, where man-eating beasts lurked close by, but is hardly relevant to modern life. Now, our egos flood our brains with self-critical thoughts, most of which are not terribly accurate and anxiety quickly follows.
Lee Jampolsky once asked a stressed-out salesman,
“What is the real purpose of a sale?
Replying about his own needs and that he wanted to boost his sale stats, Jampolsky then encouraged the salesman to instead direct his thought focus outwards – ie. so that his real purpose in a transaction or interaction would be that he was genuinely interested in the person he was selling to, in being patient and kind and, to try to ‘see’ the customer’s heart.
To the salesman’s surprise, his sales rose significantly and he was no longer so stressed when he followed that sageful advice. His customers picked up on those non-verbal and verbal signals that he ‘cared.’
Without the ego naturally defaulting to negative, there is room in our minds for all sorts of alternative thoughts.
Contemplating a more positive goal at the beginning of any situation may help influence the outcome, (even if you are not convinced of its worth, at first).
What Went Wrong?
Don’t waste your precious time on analysing what went wrong with a situation. Ignore those feelings that you have been short-changed in lifeas they tend promulgate the victim concept, which only makes you feel worse.
Think about what your goal is, making it pertinent to your perception and personal actions and see what happens.
We can attract the exact things that we give thought oxygen to or dwell on.
Jampolsky believes that we can direct ourselves to be peaceful inside regardless of what is happening outside.
Christmas time may be a source of stress or joy. Compounding those yuletide stresses, the Covid pandemic continues to rage, so there was little cause for joy in many parts of the world.
Marlene inspired me to think of the year’s outcomes in terms of ‘gifts,’ some good and of course, some bad. We’d do well to focus on the better aspects for our own well-being. So, what if any, positives can be noted?
Lessons from the Pandemic
Whether we like the lessons or not:
This awful year has taught us patience and more appreciation for things at home.
This dreadful year has been a godsend for parts of the environment and animal world.
The pandemic afforded us time to develop or re-discover DIY home projects.
This deadly virus has potentially increased family tensions but has given extra time with loved ones. I will take as a blessing option, thanks.
Rates of family violence and alcohol consumption rose, yet levels of air pollution diminished due to fewer vehicles on the roads. The night sky was/is full of stars hitherto unseen in cities, as air quality improved.
Peak hour traffic congestion eased and commuter accidents lessened.
Workplaces were forced to become more flexible, benefitting those caring for someone, at home.
Money from saved travel and workplace costs, (uniforms, ancillary items, office durables and rentals), could instead be spent on other items that bring joy.
Extroverts suffered from social isolation but many introverts thrived.
..some Australian online [alcohol], retailers have reported 50% to 500% increases in sales compared to the same period in 2019.
This pandemic has uncovered a festering mal-contentment at the interplay between politics and society and offered diametrically opposed opportunities and grief.
Unemployment rose sharply and many lost businesses, their livelihood, or their lives. In some places, political decisions and divisiveness led to civil unrest. Financial ruin became rampant. Mental health nosedived.
For each one of us, the impacts may be very individual. With no short term end to Covid in sight, the heightened emotions the pandemic brings, remain uncomfortable and difficult for many folks to manage.
How do we deal with those difficult emotions?
Dealing with Difficult Emotions
Write Down Your Thoughts
Sometimes it can be cathartic to transfer those strong emotions into written words. Blogging can be great therapy.
Slow Down and See Each Moment
Ironically, the pandemic has made me feel grateful.
Grateful for things I DO have and it ensured I did slow down and appreciate the individual moments that pass by.
Grateful for our country’s relative safety bubble.
We can be grateful for modern science working hard to solve the virus riddle.
Grateful that I have not been touched by financial ruin, separation or Covid itself.
Grateful that even though my workinglife ended prematurely, I now have time to enjoy retirement activities with the Moth.
Grateful that I have daily incidental conversation with the adult children who came home due to financial reasons.
Grateful that I can let unimportant things slide.
Grateful to have the awareness I am so much more than just my emotions/feelings.
Grateful that emotions and feelings change as the world moves and changes. Everything must change for, just like bad weather, nothing ever lasts.
In this New Year of 2021:
If I feel sad, I will sit with that feeling of sadness.
If I feel loss, hurt or rejected, I will accept that feeling, not deny or think that I ‘shouldn’t,’ feel that way.
If I feel frustrated or inadequate, I will sit with that until the feeling passes. I won’t feel tormented that these emotions are wrong or bad, but rather let them ‘slide.’
Let it slide.
Not quite the same ‘sliding,’ as the lyrics of the song suggest, but the personal reminder is contained in that catchy melody; the melody that is today’s earworm.