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        Christine Schader (AKA: Smiley) is a neuroscience nerd, an inspirational speaker, author of "The Happiness Connection", and a heart centered life, happiness, and money coach (holding some of the highest credentialing in the financial industry and owning her own financial planning firm).  She is passionate about sharing the science behind Health, Wealth and Happiness, and how to apply that science to achieve your goals, dreams, and desires while simultaneously tapping into expanding joy, happiness, and bliss daily. Christine lives with purpose and passion and loves inspiring and empowering women to achieve their greatest versions of themselves and teaching them to not be afraid to Shine and brightly at that.  
       She views herself as a lifelong student of God, love, and happiness. She has a beautiful retreat center on the Lake in Sandpoint, Idaho, has been married for over thirty-five years, and has two amazing adult children. In her spare time, you can find her hiking in the gorgeous Pacific Northwest, enjoying life with her friends and family, or clicking away at the keyboard on her next book. To reach Christine please email her at SoulTuned@outlook.com, her book is available at http://www.amazon.com/dp/B075C5L7VD 
        Could you stand to be just a little bit healthier?  How about a little bit Wealthier? Maybe even Happier?  Well this article is for you! As a life, happiness and financial coach and author on these subjects, I’ve been sharing the science behind happiness and success for decades and it all really boils down to this…
 WTF?
        Oh, now, come on—that stands for “where’s the focus?” not what you were thinking!
What you focus on, is what will grow. Think about it this way: you move toward what you think about. If you’ve ever taken a defensive-driving course, the instructor probably told you that if you hit a patch of ice or have an emergency circumstance, you should look in the direction you want to go, not where you don’t want to go. You end up moving the vehicle in the direction you look.
       The same holds true with your thoughts. You move your life in the direction of your thoughts. Therefore, you want to prime yourself to have thoughts that create the happy successful life you want.
       Happiness and success are skills. You actually have to train your brain by strengthening the neuropathways to fire for what you want.
Scientific research has given clarity about how we can rewire the brain for happiness and success; and with a basic understanding of this science we learn how our thoughts and words literally become reality.
 
 The Science
         
     Neuroplasticity shows that many aspects of the brain can be altered throughout life. Our brain is not rigid and set but rather malleable like plastic.  Scientific research teaches us that this neuroplastic change can happen when we change our behavior, environmental stimuli, thoughts, and emotions.
In other words, you can actually physically change and rewire your own brain simply by changing your thoughts.
        Hence, we want to help select our thoughts. —and one of the easiest ways to select our thoughts or “prime our life” is to influence our thinking using affirmations, affirmative prayer, visual reminders and intentions. We want to “set” ourselves up for success by wiring our brains.  The brain is incredibly influenced by priming. For example, if I were to say “wash” and then show you “so_p,” you would likely fill in the missing letter with an a, creating the word “soap.” On the other hand, if I said the word “eat,” you would likely fill in the missing letter with a u to form the word “soup.”
That’s because our brains are fast, jumping to conclusions based on previous experiences and programming. This is due in part to the reticular activating system (RAS).
        The RAS is a small part of the brain—a set of neurons and neuro-fibers located in the brain stem—yet it plays a vital role. It allows us the ability to focus and filter information that is let into our conscious mind.
Our brains take in incredible amounts of information every second and the RAS helps screen what parts of that information we actually need to pay attention to. We are created to filter down to what is really important and focus on it. The brain is designed to pay attention to things that keep us alive. We are also crafted to seek pleasure instead of pain. The RAS is helpful in filtering what gets through, deciding what’s important.
The thing is, our thoughts help set up the parameters of what we decide is important. Here’s an example of your RAS in action: Have you ever noticed that when you decide to get a new (to you at least) vehicle that you start noticing that same make and model all over the place? There are not more vehicles of that make and model, you just told your brain to start noticing them.
         Our brains are amazingly powerful, so use your brain for yourself instead of against yourself. Now you know that what you focus on grows, and that you should prime your life. BUT…
How do you tell your brain what to think about while you are in the midst of a tragic situation, a crisis, or a stressful moment? Here is where a great deal of the magic of designing a happy life exists.

     Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies    our growth and our freedom.
  —Viktor E. Frankl
 
       I could not agree more. I’d also add that mastering the space is where a considerable amount of your happiness lies. So how do you do that?
You want to exercise and train your brain to pause before you immediately respond. To have an opportunity to choose what thoughts you want to run with.
       Why do you have to learn to pause? Because if you don’t, your brain will hijack you.
Remember that it’s our thoughts that create our emotions, which create our perceptions, which create our beliefs, which create our responses and behaviors, which affect things like our relationships and ultimately shapes our entire life.
 
Therefore, the secret to sustained happiness is to learn to expand the space (create a pause) between stimulus and response so that you can decide how you want to respond instead of having your fast brain decide for you.
       You have over 60,000 thoughts per day, and most of those are the same thoughts you had yesterday. If you want to change your life, you need to change your thoughts. In order to do that, you need to learn how to create a pause, in order to allow yourself time to decide what you want to think.
       Remember, the brain has this amazing ability to do some awesome editing. It then presents an immediate response due to all your years of programming and your RAS. As a result, you view that response as reality, the only truth. In fact, though, that was only one option or way of seeing the world out of literally tens of thousands of choices.
We can actually retrain our brain to respond differently. We can program it to pause between the immediate situation (the stimulus) and our response. Then we can decide which response we want instead of going with the first edited choice presented by our fast brain.
        How do we do that? We slow down our fast brains so we can create the space to choose. We exercise and strengthen the ability to pause between stimulus and response, and we allow ourselves to see several ways of looking at the situation and deciding carefully which choice we want to feel and which way we want to lean.
The magic lies in the pause and realizing you can change how you are feeling at any moment, even while in the midst of a situation.
 
MFI
 
        And how do you create the pause? You need to craft and master “interrupter skills.”
What do I mean by that? You need to be able to purposely construct an interruption to stop the current thought flow and ultimate reaction so that you have the ability to have another thought—any other thought.
       If you do not pause, you will continue to feed your current thoughts, emotions, and feelings. And more and more chemicals to match those thoughts will be dumped into your body, which will create even more feelings and thoughts and more chemicals.
       So next time, when your mind is doing a number on you (a mind freak-out or more bluntly a mindfu@k), how do you interrupt your brain so you can even entertain a new thought? I have developed several MFI (“mind freak-out interruption”) skills.
       For example, when in a situation with another person, one of my favorite MFI skills is to remind myself that I am the author, star, and director of the Christine show and to ask myself how I want my star actress to respond in that moment. How do I want this happy ending to happen? How would my highest self, respond? And then I can shift. Sometimes, I actually say “plot twist” out loud and choose a new scene.
When my mind is simply playing over and over a situation and continually feeding a response that results in a feeling I don’t want, I seek to interrupt that cycle.  I may just need a distraction from the situation, so I get up and go for a walk, see a movie, pick up a book, or call a friend. Other times, I imagine I have a large “pause” button in my brain that I can push at any time.
     Do anything to stop the negative, unwanted self-talk or thoughts so that you can allow another possibility to be entertained.
 
Shopping for Happiness
 
        So now, you’ve mastered the pause. You’ve created and are practicing your own interrupter skills. Now what? How do you choose another thought?
This is the easy part: you get to go shopping! Shop for how you want to feel. Shop! Woohoo! Shop to your heart’s content! Shop, shop, and shop some more!! It’s the best shopping ever, because you are shopping for happiness.
Creating the interruption allows you space for another thought or way of looking at things. You now have the ability to ask yourself, “Is there any other way to look at this? How could this be useful? Are the things I am telling myself true? Is there another way to interpret this? How can this be useful? What else could this mean? What can I learn from this?” When you can change your perceptions, you can change your life.
      Perception is active not passive.  YOU control your thoughts. You get to choose how you want to look at any situation. Remember, situations do not have inherent meaning. You assign a situation meaning based on your fast brain. Past experiences, values, and beliefs about yourself and others determine how you interpret the event.  When you shop for happiness you allow yourself the ability to choose another way to look at the situation, to see things differently and to lean into how you want to feel about it. You get to choose how you view it and pick what serves you, what feels good. In coaching we call this ability to shop for happiness- reframing. When you can shift how you look at things you can shift your experience of it.
        Give yourself at least four or five other ways of looking at it before choosing. Often, I suggest throwing out the first and second thought and continuing to come up with alternative options until you find one that moves you in the direction you want.
I’m not talking window shopping here. I want you to actually try the thought on, see how comfortable it is. You know, when you go shopping for a new pair of jeans, you most likely don’t buy the first pair you see. If you are like me, you take a dozen pairs into the dressing room. You put them on, and you see if they stretch and move with you, if they’re comfortable, if they’re a good match for your body type. You try on pair after pair until you find the one that fits just right.
        Well, I want you to do the same for your thoughts. Try them on. Do they feel good? Do they make you feel expansive, light, better? Or are they tight, constrictive, and limiting? You’ll most often find that you want to lean into the good.
Keep in mind that all of life is energy, and that energy is expansive. If you want more joy and happiness in your life, you need to lean into that energy. I will most often choose to lean into the good—not always, mind you, but most often.
So, give yourself a chance to shop for how you truly want to feel.
 
Remember, it is never the thing, it is always what you think about the thing!
 
Once you understand that every thought you think, every word you speak, and every belief you hold is a brushstroke in the painting of your life, you begin to see the magic you bestow upon the creation of your life’s masterpiece.
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Kate Olson, CPC, CHt, is a Life Coach, Integrative Master Hypnotherapist, EFT & NLP Master Practitioner & Trainer and Reiki Master located in Seattle, at Northern Lights Life Coaching www.northernlightscoaching.net & Embrace Change Hypnosis & NLP www.embracechangehypnosis.com.  Kate offers workshops & classes, as well as, individual and group coaching. Her emphasis is on assisting clients in finding Path, Purpose and Peace. Kate focuses on integration of mind, body, spirit wellness. It is her mission to help clients find joy through connection, creative expression and embracing change.  She is passionate about creativity, travel, personal growth and enjoying life. She has two other wellness-related businesses Salt Works Pods, offering Salt Therapy and Total Wellness Products. offering natural healing products. All four businesses operate as Dba's under Total Well Resources, LLC.  Kate is a speaker, author and retreat facilitator.  She is also a radio show host on Contact Talk Radio,   www.ctrnetwork.com/embracechange  "Embrace Change with Kate ".  
        As I write this, I am myself grappling with self-motivation & self-discipline. For myself, I much prefer to be motivated rather than having to use discipline.  I guess I am a bit of a rebel, as I always seem to want to balk a little at being pushed, even by myself for my own good!  Perhaps that’s one of those limiting beliefs I should work on?  However, finding the motivation isn’t always easy and keeping it up over a long period of time can be extremely challenging.  Self-discipline is needed to keep up the level of performance we need to reach and maintain our desired goals. This is a push, pull scenario and it turns out we need both the push and the pull to keep us moving productively toward our dreams.
       How can we find that balance between the push and pull where we don’t feel we are either bullying ourselves or get stuck because we can’t find that motivation at times?  First, we have to realize that it is a synergy and not an either/or situation. We need to use both motivation and discipline on a continuous basis and use them as our fuel and tools to accomplish what we want and need. And, maybe if, like me, you have beliefs or ideas that are making things more difficult, work on letting those go!
       As I sit here pushing myself to write this blog, I am reaching for that motivation that will make it a little easier. I haven’t found it yet, so the pushing is needed, but I am hoping before the end some positive and inspiring motivation will pull me up the hill. You can always feel it when it kicks in. It’s like stepping on the gas or something clicking into place or that “aha!” moment when we finally get it!
        I think discipline is harder for me now partly because I have created a life that is pretty motivating and inspiring to me most of the time and that is generally a good thing.  In the past, I had to discipline myself more often because a lot of what I needed to do were things I did not like or want to do.  I could not have functioned without a lot of self-discipline.  I did it, but I wasn’t happy most of the time and I didn’t like my life.  I was pushing myself up hill all the time and it was exhausting!  Now the things I love doing are constantly pulling and sometimes propelling me forward.  Still there are things I need to do that require that push.  Right now, due to some temporary circumstances, there are more of those than I’d like.  I feel a little exhausted looking at the hill I need to push myself up and possibly like there is a mean taskmaster with a whip following behind me beating me up a bit.  How can I change this picture, scenario and circumstance?  
        I am really framing this as I go, and see that some reframing is needed! Can I look at this differently in a way that will change the picture in my head and the reality of my feelings and actions? Luckily, I know that I can and so can you --- with whatever pictures and limiting beliefs you have hanging around in your head making life more difficult and not serving you well!  This is something I learned in a useful context as part of my NLP (Neurolinguistics Programming) training and in studying neuroscience.  So, here I am getting a little excited about seeing how I can change my reality and using these amazing modalities to make my reality a little easier, better or more of an energy flow that feels “good” or “right” to me and removes that resistance or blocks I am currently feeling.  Whoa! That feels good!  I think something is beginning to click and lead me in the right direction to make a big change in my picture of discipline.
        With what I have going on in my life right now, I really need that!  A big dose of self-discipline could propel me forward and make all the difference between a big win and a big crash!  Let me look at the big picture and concentrate more on how that looks, how that feels!  Hmmm? I’m liking that picture! I’m feeling good about how it seems real!  It seems like I could actual get there and maybe it wouldn’t be hard!  Maybe it would be easy with just a little push from me and some self-discipline.  It feels like a reward and not something I want to rebel against.
       I am going with this now and I think it may work! Changing my thinking on the push and pull and the feelings behind it, does change things! We can all do this with whatever is holding us back and keeping us stuck!  We are not limited by our thoughts. They are literally something we have created, and therefore, have control over! It is up to us and that is so empowering!  We just have to start recognizing and using this amazing power when we feel resistance and our energy is not moving and flowing forward for our highest good.
        To break it down, when you find yourself blocked and resisting what you know you need to do, recognize that you are dealing with those push/pull dilemmas where changing the pictures in your mind and your feelings about them is needed to make things work and find that balance between self-motivation and self-discipline. You need to get them working in synergy.  There may be more than one picture or limiting belief involved and you might have to work on all of them to get things in line, as with me, in my current situation I needed to change my picture and feelings around more than just self-discipline in order to resolve the issues blocking my best energy and keeping me struggling.  The process of doing that though is the same. You have to first recognize the picture, thought, or limiting belief that you have created and that it is holding you back. Then go about reframing and changing that picture to one that is going to make it easier to flow forward toward your desired outcomes. Different picture, different thought, different feeling and different actions equal different outcome.  It isn’t easy, but it does work and is so worth it!  Now watch me ramp up my self-discipline and get motivated to change my story in a big and positive way!
 
    “True excellence is a product of synergy!” – Mack Wilberg
 
       Creating a synergy between self-motivation and self-discipline will keep us moving toward our goals and using tools to remove any blocks or limiting beliefs we have created and will allow us to take action and keep our energy flowing positively forward!    
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 About the Author: Shelley Abrams spent close to 25 years as a corporate technical writer before branching out on her own in 2010. She loves writing, research and the diversity being a freelancer offers. She’s contributed to blogs on spirituality, personal development, mindfulness, and health and wellness. She has written and maintained philosophical and spiritually based content for a paid membership site. She has an MBA, as well as a certificate in non-fiction writing. When she’s not writing, she likes being out in nature or just reflecting in the quiet. She finds history, geography, philosophy and meta-physics fascinating. She also loves traveling, meeting new people and experiencing different cultures. To learn more about Ms. Abrams’ writing experiences, visit her website at www.write2spec.com
​Struggle. When you hear this word what image does it conjure up? For me, I think of conflict, obstacles, defeat, stress, overwhelm and being beaten down. Struggling often paralyzes us, makes us fearful and unwilling to keep pushing forward, and for many it becomes a vicious cycle that one cannot escape from. Struggle is suffering and suffering is struggle.
 
It is our nemesis, yet while we resist struggling, we also accept this reality in our subconscious because we’ve been told through millennia that struggle is a natural, inherent part of life. In many schools of thought, struggle is even desirable, as it “builds character”.  We’re constantly told that struggle is necessary for success, that it makes us stronger, that it makes us who we are! And who are we to argue? After all, it’s influencers like spiritual teachers, religious leaders, philosophers and personal development gurus who have engrained this into our psyche over the years.
 
“Success is not measured by what you accomplish, but by the opposition you have encountered, and the courage with which you have maintained the struggle against overwhelming odds.” Orison Swett Marden
 
STRUGGLE VS SUFFERING – IS THERE A DIFFERENCE?
 So, let’s take a step back. What exactly is struggle? How is it defined, and how did the concept that struggle is necessary come about?
 
The dictionary defines struggling as “striving to achieve or attain something in the face of difficulty or resistance.” It is similar to the definition of suffering, which is “the state of undergoing pain, distress or hardship”. Suffering and struggle have become synonymous over the centuries when talking about becoming better (as in a better person, better society, better world, etc.).
 
“Out of suffering have emerged the strongest souls; the most massive characters are seared with scars.” Khalil Gibran
 
The concept of struggle goes back eons, with Heraclitus of Ephesus being credited with saying that struggle is the father of everything. As time passed, struggle was tantamount to natural selection - “survival of the fittest”. Scholars like Thomas Hobbes and Matthew Hale wrote about the struggle for resources amongst humans. Immanuel Kant felt that the “inner and outer struggle” was the catalyst for one becoming a “viable citizen of the world”. These theories were brought into mainstream thinking by Robert Thomas Malthus and Charles Darwin in the 18th and 19th century.
 
Suffering as a concept is as ancient as that of struggle. First, suffering was equated with knowledge, as noted in ancient Greek mythology and early Christian theology as told through origin stories such as the Garden of Eden. Next, suffering and punishment became one and the same. This theory was supported by all the major religions of the world, from ancient times through the Middle Ages. In essence, this belief says that if your God was displeased at how you lived your life, God punished you and you suffered accordingly. If you changed your behavior – persevered – you were granted relief and you became a “better person”. Even today, many people consider adversity and struggle as punishment for not believing or acting a certain way and more importantly, they feel they deserve it.
 
From there, the belief that struggle was suffering and suffering was punishment evolved into the undesirable need for wanting, or craving. This was particularly true in Hindu and Buddhist teachings. Basically, this viewpoint says that if you crave something, you are seeking pleasure and pleasure leads to more craving. In turn, you must suffer because you are no longer on the path to enlightenment. To avoid this form of suffering, you must let go of the need for want and experience the quiet mind. This belief still exists today – that in order to be happy, one must understand that the source of suffering is wanting.

 Eventually suffering morphed into being a necessity to finding happiness and success, which is the belief held and taught by many spiritual teachers, philosophers and religious leaders of the modern era.
​LIMITING BELIEFS
 So now that we know how struggling and suffering came about, let’s explore limiting beliefs. A simple definition is that a limiting belief is something which constrains us in some way. Generally, limiting beliefs are something we acquire throughout our lives as a result of our experiences, especially those that overwhelm us as a child. It is a coping mechanism our minds created to help us accept, adapt and endure - in other words – to survive!
 
A couple classic examples of a limiting belief are “I’m not worthy”, or “I will never be successful.” You might have failed at something as a child even when you tried your best. You begin to doubt yourself and tell yourself that you can never be successful. Voila, you have created a limiting belief! Perhaps your family berated you when you asked for something or didn’t live up to their expectations, by telling you that you didn’t deserve it. Over time, you adopt the mindset that you are never worthy of the things you want or the good things that come to you. Wow, you’ve created another limiting belief. It happens that easily and quickly.
 
Whatever the trigger was initially, these experiences and thoughts become beliefs that you live by. They are buried deep in your subconscious yet they drive everything you do. And they affect all areas of your life. They manifest as oft repeated cycles of overwhelm, worry, fear, beating yourself up and self-sabotage. You feel stuck and don’t believe there is anything you can do to change it no matter your actions or how many times you’ve tried. This happens even when you get a fleeting taste of victory (as in overcoming the challenge). You don’t believe you deserve it. The cycle of struggle starts anew.
 
If we’ve been told all our lives that nothing comes easy, that struggling and suffering is necessary to be who we are - to be strong, to succeed, to find happiness - we come to accept suffering and struggling as the only way to get what we are seeking. We don’t like it, we resist it, but we also resign ourselves to it - que sera sera.
 
     “If you come to accept a limiting belief, then it will become a truth for you.” Louise Hay
 
Don’t get me wrong. Everyone faces challenges in life. It is part of being human. But believing that challenges can only be overcome through adversity, struggle and suffering is limiting and holds you back from your true potential.
 
OK, NOW WHAT?
 So how do we get past this? We have to let go of the limiting belief that struggle is a necessary evil to become our best selves and to live the life we are meant to live. This doesn’t mean giving up or thinking that the challenge you face isn’t real. It just means you “stop being afraid of what could go wrong, and start being excited about what could go right.” We also need to believe that any challenge we encounter offers us a lesson to learn and the need to take action – not retreat from action.
 
“I believe my life has no limits. I want you to feel the same way about your life, no matter what your challenges may be.” Nick Vujicic, Limitless
 
To do this you must first acknowledge that struggle (or suffering) is a limiting belief you have.
 
Next, spend some time in a quiet reflective state with a pen and paper and ask yourself what thoughts (limiting beliefs), good or bad, contribute to the challenges you currently face. For example, you feel like you “struggle” financially because you never seem to have money left over at the end of the month to do something fun. Given that, a related limiting belief you always tell yourself might be “I can never afford that”, or “I’ll always be in debt”.
 
Once you have identified your limiting belief, replace it with something affirmative. For example, I constantly hear myself saying (to myself and others) “I can’t afford this”. I do this unconsciously whether it’s true or not. Every time I say or think it, I’m reinforcing a limiting belief that I struggle financially. To overcome this, I make a concerted effort to rephrase “I can’t afford this” to “I choose not to buy this right now as I have other priorities”. In doing so, I tell the universe and my mind that I am making a choice, rather than giving into a feeling of hopelessness and a pattern of believing I lack abundance.
 
Then, start acting like you believe your new narrative. Using my example above, I allow myself an occasional splurge or I visualize that lifelong trip I’ve always wanted to take with excitement. Don’t be reckless of course, but do believe it can happen for you!
 
And finally, let go of the limiting belief – surrender the struggle. Be flexible, try to see things with new eyes and plot out a new course of action that embraces the challenge and overcome it, rather than succumbing to it.
 
Do this and you’ll find that struggle is no longer your reality.
 
“Begin today. Declare out loud to the universe that you are willing to let go of struggle and eager to learn through joy.”  Sarah ban Breathnach
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Kate Olson, CPC, CHt, is a Life Coach, Integrative Master Hypnotherapist, EFT & NLP Master Practitioner & Trainer and Reiki Master located in Seattle, at Northern Lights Life Coaching www.northernlightscoaching.net & Embrace Change Hypnosis & NLP www.embracechangehypnosis.com.  Kate offers workshops & classes, as well as, individual and group coaching. Her emphasis is on assisting clients in finding Path, Purpose and Peace. Kate focuses on integration of mind, body, spirit wellness. It is her mission to help clients find joy through connection, creative expression and embracing change.  She is passionate about creativity, travel, personal growth and enjoying life. She has two other wellness-related businesses Salt Works Pods, offering Salt Therapy and Total Wellness Products. offering natural healing products. All four businesses operate as Dba's under Total Well Resources, LLC.  Kate is a speaker, author and retreat facilitator.  She is also a radio show host on Contact Talk Radio, www.ctrnetwork.com/embracechange  "Embrace Change with Kate ".  
​        Sometimes it is necessary to move forward, change course or let go when you have been pursuing a particular course or goal for a while. This is always difficult, and especially when we may feel we are giving up on something that is or was important to us. How do we decide if and when it is the right thing to do? 
         The idea that we need to keep going, “never give up - you will eventually succeed” is drilled into us and when something is important, we definitely don’t want to give up too soon and fail to achieve a goal we have worked for and really want to achieve.  However, things do change. Priorities can change, new opportunities may present themselves or information may come to light that changes your goals, desires, priorities or perspective on something. How do we know when it is not only time, but necessary to make the shift and let go of an old vision, in order to pursue a new direction and new or different vision? This is not quitting, but something else. It is not that we feel it is too hard, out of reach or we have self-doubts about our ability to achieve the goal. It is realizing that something has changed and as a result, it is our desire and in the best interests of our highest good, according to our values and intuition to move in a new direction.
         Giving up one valued vision and replacing it with something new that now feels right for us, is not easy, but sometimes we need to make this tough decision. It becomes easier if we are in touch with and trust our intuition, but fighting with our logical reasoning may still be a battle. Is there a process that we can go through to make this decision feel better and make it easier for us to “turn the page”, so to speak?
         There are definitely some questions we should ask ourselves and possibly some assumptions and beliefs we need to evaluate and question in order to make this process move forward and feel we have come to a valid and necessary decision.  I am at such a point in my own life now and I have recently watched a couple of other people go through this difficult, but necessary process, so it has been on my mind as to how we can proceed with the least amount of difficulty, knowing we are doing what is right for us and not quitting or giving up on a prior goal. There are a number of circumstances in life that tend to lead to these types of changes and then there are the ones where we are propelled forward by something previously unacknowledged or some amazing opportunity.  Some of the circumstances that may lead to the necessity to make a change in direction are things like health, the death of a spouse or loved one, divorce or dissolution of a marriage or partnership or a change in economic status for any number of reasons. These are circumstances that we do not generally choose, but they are thrust upon us by life and we have to adapt.  They can leave us in complex circumstances that require us to change direction and reevaluate previously set goals and aspirations. The whole framework on which those goals and aspirations were based has changed and we must see things in a new context and move forward with a new outlook.  Many people have made these kinds of transitions and changed their goals, plans and the course of their lives in adapting to them. It was what they had to do to move forward and not quit on life. 
​       It can be very much the same when we make a change and decide to go in a different direction for reasons that are not so obvious or are more a matter of choice than those thrust upon us by life circumstances.  We are still seeing a significant shift in the parameters that we previously used to set our goals and aspirations, and therefore a need to reevaluate and consider a different direction.  It can be due to a perspective that we did not previously see, a change in some contributing factor or an opportunity that did not previously exist or was not part of our awareness.  It can also simply be the passing of time.  Many people as they get older and realize they have less time to live will change their priorities. This is a matter of coming to terms with an inevitability that always existed, but we had not considered it in the same light and deciding that perhaps one thing is more important to us than another.  We can not always have everything we want or aspire to and it sometimes becomes necessary to decide what is more important.  Do you want to travel or invest in an expensive hobby?  Is it more important to have money in the bank or experiences and stories to remember? Is owning our dream car or a home with a view a priority or would we rather spend time doing things we love with family and friends. Sometimes we can do both, sometimes we need to make a choice, even when it comes to our dreams and goals.
      Asking ourselves the tough questions to become fully aware of what our values are and what is most important to us is the key to making these decisions and feeling comfortable with “turning the page” and moving forward.  You have to really know that you are following your bliss and not giving up something for something lesser.  When you know you are choosing what you value most, you will be able to move forward without regret and know you are doing the right thing. Even when the decisions are hard and something is left behind with perhaps, bittersweet laments, you will know it is the right thing for you right now!  So, turn that page and get started on creating your new journey and masterpiece story! 
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About the Author:  Edie Weinstein, MSW, LSW is a colorfully creative journalist, inspiring transformational speaker, licensed social worker, interfaith minister, editor, radio host, BLISS coach, event producer, Cosmic Concierge, the author of The Bliss Mistress Guide To Transforming The Ordinary Into The Extraordinary and co-author of Embraced By the Divine: The Emerging Woman’s Gateway to Power, Passion and Purpose. She has also contributed to several anthologies and personal growth books. Edie has interviewed such notables as Ram Dass, Wayne Dyer, Debbie Ford, don Miguel Ruiz,  J Marianne Williamson, Grover Washington, Jr., Noah Levine, Shirley MacLaine, Dennis Weaver, Ben and Jerry and His Holiness the Dalai Lama.  She calls herself an Opti-mystic who sees the world through the eyes of possibility. Edie writes for The Huffington Post, Psych Central, Beliefnet, Elephant Journal, The Good Men Project, Expanded Family, Meaningful Mom, Bucks Happening, Montco Happening, Hunterdon Happening, as well as a growing number of other venues. Edie is the founder of Hug Mobsters Armed With Love, which offers FREE HUGS events on a planned and spontaneous basis. She also facilitates a workshop called Cuddle Party which is a 3 1/2 hour opportunity to engage in safe, nurturing, non-sexual touch by consent. Communication and boundary setting skills are taught as well.  www.opti-mystical.com 
        Like many who are reading this, I am a Renaissance person, a serial entrepreneur, what I refer to as ‘professionally polyamorous,’ with many overlapping career paths offering financial support and emotional gratification. It has been this way for as long as I can remember. Throughout my adult life, I have been a lifeguard, swim team coach, massage practitioner, teacher for adults and children, practice patient for a medical school, social worker, addictions counselor, bereavement specialist, therapist, ice cream parlor scooper, waitress, artists’ model, clown, life coach, journalist, editor, book author, magazine publisher, interfaith minister, radio host, event producer, PR Goddess, greeting card writer, organ donor educator, support group facilitator, as well as active volunteer. I refer to myself as a ‘Cosmic Concierge,’ which means that I am well connected and know how to help people find resources.  My path continues to unfold before me.
        Periodically, I find myself (or lose myself) in feeling as if I am not doing enough fast enough for my nagging, nudging inner critic. That’s when I do something that I recommend for overachieving Type A’s…I Google myself! When in doubt, you can check it out too. You may be surprised at what you have accomplished.
      When I do that, I got a goofy grin on my face as I shook my head and think, “Wowie, that woman is busy!” When I can view myself from an outsider’s perspective, I can allow myself to relax, at least for the moment. Then, in typical fashion, I am off to the races again.  I chalk it up to being the daughter of a mom who, in my early childhood, worked from home as an Avon Rep., gate guard at our community pool in the summer, columnist for our local newspaper and designer of doll clothes. I would laugh at the cosmic coincidence that her boss for that last job was Mrs. Handy. In addition, she too was a volunteer, at the hospital, with Girl Scouts, and at the elementary school my sister and I attended. When Jan and I were old enough to be latchkey kids, she went to work as a switchboard operator at Sears until she retired at 65.  My father focused on one job for decades as a milkman for two different dairies and then shifted gears (no pun intended) and became a bus driver for SEPTA (the regional transportation company). Both instilled in me a sense of responsibility and told me that I could do whatever I wanted professionally as long as I enjoyed it and could support myself. They never said it would be single focused, thank goodness. Not sure how someone can remain in the same job for a lifetime. My curious mind is always reaching for new ideas. 
​       As the Grammy and Academy Awards have just occurred, I found myself fascinated with the success stories that played out on the screen. There was a time when each of these folks were not household names. I was delighted to hear that Brandi Carlile won Best American Roots Performance and Best American Roots Song for “The Joke”, and the album the track comes from, By the Way, I Forgive You, was named Best Americana Album. I initially heard this kick ass singer songwriter on member supported Philly based radio station WXPN around 10 years ago. The stirring song honors people who are marginalized and endangered, being seen as out of the mainstream. 
Rami Malek who rocked the screen and world as he embodied Freddie Mercury in the epic Bohemian Rhapsody was handpicked after being seen in the television show Mr. Robot. It was the role of a lifetime and likely will catapult his career even further.
          These are just two examples of those who likely had big dreams that they fed, watered and nurtured. I wonder who was on their team of yaysayers and if they faced naysayers who told them they wouldn’t reach that pinnacle. When I hear acceptance speeches, I am touched as award winners thank their families, friends and colleagues who lifted them aloft.
         In my own life, are many who fall into the first category and blessedly no one in the second group. Despite that, I still waver and doubt that my own vision for my life will play out the way I desire, all evidence to the contrary. It’s then that I turn to tried and true tools.
        One is what my friend Ruth Anne Wood calls Scripting For Success which is a vast toolkit of ideas to bring to here and now reality what we may only have mused about casually.
 
How to cultivate your glorious garden:
  • Decide the crop you want to harvest. If you want watermelon, don’t plant tomatoes. You can’t get what you want, until you know what you want.
  • Prepare the soil. Don’t plant on rocky, litter strewn surfaces. It is unlikely that any healthy crop will take root.
  • Design the pattern and layout. Sure, scattering seeds randomly may yield something, but is it what you envisioned?
  • Dig deep. If you place the seeds on top, they will blow away in the wind, or wash away in the rain.
  • Weed out discontent and doubt or they will choke out the new growth.
  • Nurture what is there, showering it with love and praise.
  • See the finished product even while it is in process; keep your eye on the prize.
  • Sometimes ‘shiny new object syndrome’ will kick in and distract you, in part as a way of protecting you from fear of failure.
  • Have accountability partners who will keep you on track. These are folks who will remind you of your commitments.
  • Create mini-goals for yourself if tackling intentions all at once seems too daunting and enjoy checking them off.
  • Offer yourself small rewards for these micro milestones.
  • Spend time with those you admire who have reached their goals and keep climbing higher. Remember that birds of a feather flock together.
  • Remember that one hand washes the other, so it is important to be of mutual support to others. Don’t make it all about you even as you are being ‘shamelessly self-promoting’.
  • Find a mentor. For the past 30 some years, Dr. Yvonne Kaye has been mine. From the get-go, she inspired me with these simple words, “Discipline is freedom,” which provided the structure from which my creativity could flow, and my free-spirited nature could emerge.
  • Know that you are worthy to have your dreams and desires come to fruition.
Count me in as an ardent admirer and cheerleader!
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Kate Olson, CPC, CHt, is a Life Coach, Integrative Master Hypnotherapist, EFT & NLP Master Practitioner & Trainer and Reiki Master located in Seattle, at Northern Lights Life Coaching www.northernlightscoaching.net & Embrace Change Hypnosis & NLP www.embracechangehypnosis.com.  Kate offers workshops & classes, as well as, individual and group coaching. Her emphasis is on assisting clients in finding Path, Purpose and Peace. Kate focuses on integration of mind, body, spirit wellness. It is her mission to help clients find joy through connection, creative expression and embracing change.  She is passionate about creativity, travel, personal growth and enjoying life. She has two other wellness-related businesses Salt Works Pods, offering Salt Therapy and Total Wellness Products. offering natural healing products. All four businesses operate as Dba's under Total Well Resources, LLC.  Kate is a speaker, author and retreat facilitator.  She is also a radio show host on Contact Talk Radio, www.ctrnetwork.com/embracechange hosting "Embrace Change with Kate ".  
          We are by nature creatures of habit. Habit as defined by the dictionary is “an acquired behavior pattern regularly followed until it has become almost involuntary”, and forming a rote and ritual pattern of behavior is part of our learning and development process and how our brain works in all of our learning processes. Neural pathways are formed by repeated behavior. After enough repetitions an action or behavior becomes natural and given the same stimuli, we perform that act or behavior without even thinking about it. It simply seems like the right, natural and correct thing to do. Habits have gotten a bad rap and sometimes we think of them only in the negative sense because so many of them are formed without intention, starting when we are so young that we don’t even realize we are making a choice. When you are a baby and you feel hungry you naturally cry, signaling distress and discomfort. You don’t think about it, you just do it. However, it doesn’t take long before you learn that crying gets a favorable response (in most cases) from your caretaker and results in you being fed and those uncomfortable feelings being relieved. You learn that crying results in a reward or favorable response so crying becomes a habit whenever you feel uncomfortable, a need or a want. This makes habits well-rooted in our behavior and often difficult to change, however, the good news is we can just as easily cultivate good habits as we can bad habits.
         According to Neuroscience, there is an area of the brain that deals with the formation of habits and as I mentioned that involves forming new neural pathways. Research has determined that it takes about three weeks to form a new habit. (Sharon Eakes, The Systems Thinker, www.thesystemsthinker.com) if we repeat a behavior consistently over a period of three weeks it forms a new neural pathway or circuit in the brain and becomes an unconscious response and what we call a “habit”. This is really good news as it gives us evidence that it is not necessary to spend a lot of time fighting or trying to change “old habits” which are no longer serving us, but that we simply need to form a new “more positive and desirable” habit.  By doing it repeatedly for about three weeks, that newer, stronger neural pathway will replace the old one. This is also a natural part of our learning process and we do it on a regular basis as we are growing up without thinking about it consciously. 
         I mentioned that a baby learns to cry when they are hungry to communicate need and discomfort. Over time this becomes a habit whenever the baby feels discomfort, need or want. As the child grows and develops other ways of communicating this feeling and state develop. The crying behavior becomes undesirable, unacceptable or annoying and the child learns a new response to communicate discomfort, need or want. They don’t consciously think about this in most cases, but the feedback they are getting stops working in a rewarding and positive way and they learn that other behaviors are more effective and as they start repeating those more acceptable and effective behaviors, in a short time they learn that asking for food verbally is working better and it becomes the new habit when they feel hungry. Any parent who has ever tried to force a child to stop crying will be able to tell you just how daunting a task that is. However, giving the child a new behavior to perform and practice when they experience certain feelings works marvelously well.

    “Moral excellence comes about as a result of habit. We become just by doing just acts,
     temperate by doing temperate acts, brave by doing brave acts.” --- Aristotle

       While many habits are formed without conscious intention, it is also possible to form new habits by intentionally repeating a specific action or behavior over and over again until it forms that new neural pathway and becomes a habit. There are some tips that are very helpful in forming new habits:

  • Focus all of your energy on creating the new behavior and pay no attention to stopping, resisting or changing the old habit. Our energy goes where we focus our attention.
  • Imagine yourself doing or already having the new behavior or habit. See yourself as you wish it to be. 
  • When you are faced with frustration, annoyance, fear, anger or any other feeling related to the “old habit” note that feeling by stating it. Say, “I feel angry” or “I feel frustrated” out loud or silently and you will find it dissipates or clams the feeling. 
  • Neutralize negative feelings by being self-compassionate. For example, say “Even though I still carve sugar, I truly and completely love myself and respect my body with loving acts.”  This will help you get back on track when you stumble or feel weak.
 
      The very best discovery that has been validated by recent studies is that “you can teach an old dog new tricks” and it is possible to form new neural pathways throughout our lives. This is called neuroplasticity and tells us that we can form new habits through out our lives and the more we do so, the healthier our brains will be and stay as we age. We never become to old to change and new desirable habits that serve our current needs and goals can be cultivated throughout our lives.   
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How I realized I had a happy childhood.
       I was attending my first seminar with Dr Richard Bandler. You can imagine my excitement. I was in a presence of a living legend – a co-creator of Neuro-linguistic Programming. Probably the best part of NLP seminars is watching volunteers being brought on stage in various degrees of distress and misery. This time, Dr. Bandler selected a very prim and proper looking young man in a business suit with a red tie. I watched with fascination as this very serious-looking man started giggling and then laughing and beaming, as he was led into hypnosis from one pleasant, joyful memory to another. Those were not small reserved smiles! Oh, no! That man was glowing and glistening with delight! When Dr. Bandler finally had him face some disturbing events in his past, the man apparently couldn’t remember how bad it felt in the first place. His whole attitude changed. He didn’t even look the same!
      Then Dr. Bandler looked at the rest of us with a twinkle in his eyes and said, “Here is what I want you to do. Grab a partner and do with each other, what I just did on stage.”  I raised my hand with a question.
“Yes?” asked Dr. Bandler.
“Dr. Bandler! I cannot do this exercise!” I said.  “You said, ask them to remember a good memory, but I have no good memories. I didn’t have a happy childhood!” And with this, to my own astonishment, I broke into tears. Here I was, at the NLP seminar with Dr. Richard Bandler, bawling my eyes out, sniffling, my shoulders shaking, making a spectacle of myself. No, I didn’t want to go into my past. I locked that door. How could he not see that I couldn’t bear facing my pain, my fears, my struggles. Just one memory, which immediately popped into my mind, brought a waterfall of tears. That, alone was enough to ban time travels.
         In this memory I was in a school yard, looking at three bullies, who were laughing and pointing at me, as I tried to say something in my defense. The problem was, I couldn’t, because I stuttered so badly, all I could do is to struggle and stomp my feet and clench my fists, which apparently was hilarious. It is hard for me to imagine that at this point I truly believed that I had a terrible childhood and didn’t have even a glimpse of joy.
       Intellectually, I knew I must have had some good things happen to me, but I also knew there were experiences I didn’t want to revisit. It is so hard for me to imagine that time when I didn’t know that our past could be changed, re-invented, re-experienced, re-evaluated and re-enjoyed. As Dr. Bandler likes to say – it is never too late to have a happy childhood.
       In order to change the past, we first need to find the original recording or memory of the event. Not the later narration or rationalization. I mean the original sensory experience. Whatever experiences you were sensing with your eyes, ears, nose, skin, taste buds, olfactory sensors, and whatever was felt and experienced in the moment as the event unfolded. This can be done through various hypnotic techniques, such as the affect bridge, timelines or various metaphors.
      In the affect bridge technique, a person is asked to travel from the most recent event, that caused a particular emotion, to more and more recent events linked by the same emotion. I see in my mind such events as islands, connected to similar islands through bridges. Each bridge is made from a certain emotion. You can imagine walking from one island to another way into the past, until you reach the very first episode, where this emotion was first experienced.
          In the timeline technique, you imagine your life as a road. You either walk back into your future, or you float above the timeline, until you find this first event. Some metaphorical techniques include turning pages of the book of your life, walking through the long hallway with many doors leading into your past events, walking down the spiral staircase from one memory to another etc. Whatever technique is chosen, it has to accomplish one important task – revivifying the original sensory experience. It is a good practice to teach a person (or yourself) to step out of the sensory experience into the observer position, if the emotion becomes overwhelming.  When you realize that you can always reduce the intensity of a feeling by stepping out of the sensory experience into a more detached viewing point, emotional time travel becomes much easier.
It is important to treat this past event as if it is happening now, in a sense it is.  Always use the present tense, when talking about the event. Our brain is not that good at distinguishing real events from vividly imagined or remembered events. Whatever we imagine, affects our feelings and even our mind and body, as is it is happening now.  
However, the power of the hypnotic time travel is that we can make changes. For example, what will happen if a person reexperience the memory, while having a different neurochemistry? What will happen if this person is given new knowledge to help form new, more up-to-date, more functional and more useful beliefs about the event?  
​        This is exactly what Dr. Bandler did for that young man on the stage in his example. He made the young man laugh and he led him through a sequence of delightful, pleasant memories, which saturated his body with feel-good neurochemistry. The curious thing about neurochemicals is that it takes a while to make them and reach the point of saturation, but once you accomplished this, it also takes a while to flush them out of the body. When we look at the same traumatic experience from a much more resourceful state, with much more knowledge and much more life experience, we can find new ways to respond.
       I was back in the school yard, looking at my tormentors. Only now, I was looking at this experience from a more resourceful state.  I knew I survived. I knew, that eventually I graduated from the Russian Medical University, got my Ph.D., moved to the U.S., studied hypnosis and developed a fascination for the powers of the human mind. I felt strong and I felt compassion for myself and even for those three boys, who couldn’t feel compassion because nobody taught them how to feel it. No one had probably shown them any compassion. I felt proud of that young girl who had such a challenging condition and was able to accomplish so much! Pride and compassion will give you a pretty good dose of neurochemistry! What if you add a splash of gratitude, a touch of joy and a generous dose of unconditional love? Hey, it is your brain, you can do anything you want in hypnosis!
And as if the door opened and was flooded with luminous light, a flow of memories – not pain, but of joyful shenanigans and fun adventures – took over and spread all over my timeline. I did have a happy childhood! How could I ever believe that I was a miserable child?
       Now, looking back, I feel horrified that I could live my entire life being afraid to open the door into my past. I feel so relieved that I escaped the sad fate of carrying baggage full of painful memories and miserable emotions into every relationship. It is very unfortunate that so many classically trained therapists still believe that it is important to make a client relive their most painful experiences again and again in order to get insight and understanding.
       From what we know now, from modern studies in Neuroscience, all it does is to create less resourceful states and saturate the body with even more stress and pain inducing neurochemicals.  It is very difficult to gain new insights if we look at the same memory with exactly the same internal states and from the same perspective. NLP and hypnosis do away with that painful reliving of painful memories. Once you change the neurochemistry of the memory, it will never be the same. We don’t like hearing the same joke. So why reexperience the same pain?
      Would you like to discover how you too can now have a happy childhood? Would you like to find out how much fun and pleasure you can remember, reexperience and reclaim and dig out your good memory treasure chest? As Dr. Bandler likes to say, there is delight at the end of the tunnel. And when we start thinking, instead of remembering, when we start using our brains with purpose, when we fully decide to take control of our thought process, we can leave behind the darkness of misery and fall in love with every moment of our beautiful and delightful life.  
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Kate Olson, CPC, CHt, is a Life Coach, Integrative Master Hypnotherapist, EFT & NLP Master Practitioner & Trainer and Reiki Master located in Seattle, Northern Lights Life Coaching www.northernlightscoaching.net & Embrace Change Hypnosis & NLP www.embracechangehypnosis.com.  Kate offers workshops & classes, as well as, individual and group coaching. Her emphasis is on assisting clients in finding Path, Purpose and Peace. Kate focuses on integration of mind, body, spirit wellness. It is her mission to help clients find joy through connection, creative expression and embracing change.  She is passionate about creativity, travel, personal growth and enjoying life. She has another wellness-related business offering Salt Therapy, Salt Works Saltariums.  Salt Therapy offers an all natural treatment solution for respiratory and skin problems.​ All three businesses operate as Dba's under Total Well Resources, LLC.  Kate is a speaker, writer and event facilitator.  She is also a radio show host on Contact Talk Radio, www.ctrnetwork.com/embracechange hosting "Embrace Change with Kate ".  
​        Boundaries and limits are of primary importance to our health, well-being and happiness. They are the basis for self-care, self-esteem and self-love. When we fail to set boundaries and limits, we allow our lives to spin out of control and are unable to maintain the lines that define our needs, self-perception and place in our world. It is our job to define the boundaries of what behaviors we will allow from others and the limits of our own behaviors. Think of boundaries as the rules we enforce on others in interacting with us to keep us feeling safe and respected. Think of limits as the rules we impose on ourselves to keep us behaving in alignment with our standards and with the acceptable standards of others.
        What happens when we don’t have strong boundaries and limits? We get pushed around and end up feeling out of control or we end up pushing the boundaries of others in unacceptable ways. Either way we are out of balance and will feel overwhelmed, exhausted and disoriented or out of alignment.
        How does this happen? It usually happens when we say “yes” when we’d like to say “no”, do things we really don’t want to or allow others to infringe on our space, push us to do more than we’d like to or feel comfortable with or be out of sync with our values.
        It has probably happened to most of us at some point or in some context, but most of us do learn that to be happy we need to have these boundaries and limits. Some people let this get out of hand though and it can lead to anxiety, depression and lack of direction, over-whelm and even physical and emotional illness. There is usually anger and resentment involved feeling that others are imposing their will on us. While this may be true, we are actually creating the situation in not taking the responsibility to establish strong boundaries and limits for ourselves.
        What can we do if we realize we have not set boundaries and limits for yourselves in a specific area of our life or in our lives, in general? It is not always easy to dramatically change our behavior patterns all at once. It is usually easier to take small steps changing one thing at a time and letting the people in our lives get use to the new behaviors, as well. There are tools, such as, hypnosis, NLP (Neurolinguistics Programming), EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique) or CBT (Cognitive Behavior Therapy) to aid in these behavior changes. These techniques take advantage of the way our brain works to make it easier to replace old habits and behavior with new behaviors and rewire our brains to make these changes automatic.
         If every time you go to lunch with a particular friend you find you feel exhausted and overwhelmed, ask yourself why? Are you letting them push you past your comfort level and failing to set the boundaries that align with your true feelings? To keep our boundaries strong, we have to be aware of our feelings and adjust our behaviors and what we allow from others on a continuous basis. We have to be tuned in to our inner voices and the messages we receive on a body, mind, spirit level. There is no other way to keep strong boundaries and limits and maintain harmony and balance in your life than listening to your inner wisdom and paying attention. Give yourself this gift. You deserve it!
          
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About the Author:  Thomas E Ziemann is a motivational speaker and spiritual researcher. Tom delivers engaging, uplifting lectures on Relationships, Life Purpose, Meditation, and Anger Management. Both of Tom’s books; The Department of Zenitation: A Layman’s Guide to Making Spirituality Work in Real Life & Taming the Anger Dragon: From Pissed off to Peaceful have received critical acclaim from some of the finest spiritual authors, writers, and experts in their respected fields. Tom is a proud father of two brilliant daughters, married to his best friend, and a loving Cat Daddy for their 9 cats. He lives near Portland, Oregon      
Looking back; some 55 years which I’ve lived upon this big, blue beautiful marble in space; it’s remarkable where I’ve been as where I’ve come to. Had you known me in my youth; you would have seen a disheveled, wimpy, scared, black eyed and bruised, unconfident, small stature boy who perfumed the putrid stench of urine well into his early teens. The clumsy dork that everyone incessantly teased picked on and ridiculed.  That shy kid you loved to hate and beat the crap out of because it somehow made you feel superior. A dour boy whose unrequited love of his parents created a lifelong, angst replete with fiery rage from his uncontrolled “Anger Dragon” within that followed him into his middle age. That deep seeded anger left a wake of painful, loveless, tarnished relationships, a broken marriage and premature greying hair. The physical and emotional abuse inflicted by his parents had far reaching ramifications as well as deleterious effects.  Yeah, sadly that was me. I HATED who I had become; a self-loathing, sanctimonious, perfectionistic, pompous ass.
 
I get the question from time to time; “Tom, what the hell happened to you…from that timid little dormouse you used to be to an Enthusiastic, Motivational Speaker and Hope Broker?  What I will share in this brief chapter may not work for everyone; however, it did work for me.  Please join me on a brief sojourn          
                                     
 It was after graduating high school back in 1981, I met an enlightened man who changed my life. His name was Johnny Norman; a guidance counselor for the Chicago Public Schools as well as an accomplished Taoist Master. He never judged me; rather he graciously offered to take me under his loving tutelage. What made his teachings different from most other Martial art schools was that he concluded every class with a different type of meditation. He knew literally hundreds of different kinds. I was blessed to study under this incredible man for well over a year before joining the Navy. While Kung Fu helped my confidence. It was the meditation techniques which helped me focus my monkey mind and to find some inner peace. Still, the anger I was holding onto towards my parents darkly colored every other area of my life. I found myself to be an Anger-Holic. A perfectionistic “A ‘hole” …a total judgmental bastard. All for what? Why?
 
When I hit 50, many of the answers seemed blatantly obvious to me. What allowed me to finally face my inner demons were 2 things…First, the Big F   Forgiveness. Until I came to terms with the fact that my parents did the best they could within the awareness they had my life would never change.
 
It was as if a huge spiritual weight was lifted of my chest once I let go of all the self-pity I was harboring.  Secondly, I was finally able to object ably see myself in an unflattering light. The truth can be painful, yet it’s equally liberating. The question to ask yourself with brutal honesty is; “Can you handle the truth?”
 
Once I was emotionally and spiritually mature enough to accept myself as I was, it allowed the healing process to commence. For the first time in my life I was able to simply admit how screwed up I was. I took ownership of my past mistakes and made a vow to myself to change. To make right the wrongs I had done where possible and give back. Both of my earlier books “The Department of Zenitation” and “Taming the Anger Dragon” delve quite deeply into the processes which share more intimate details than time allows here. While there are no perfect prescriptions defining what makes one happy and how to heal oneself.
 
I will share a few things I found invaluable along my path.

​At 50, the healing began when I began to evaluate and deeply examine my beliefs; all aspects of my mental make-up…mental, emotional, spiritual, philosophical, political and so on. Not so much what I was carrying as factual for me; more importantly, why I believed so. How did I come to these preconceived notions? Were they still valuable to me? Had I grown beyond these preconceived ideas? Did they still have merit? Had I delved deep enough into their importance? Once I felt I had a good grasp of my beliefs, it allowed me to go deeper…
 
Who am I? Why am I here? Each question took me deeper, an existential quest so to speak. This line of questioning begged an honest answer; what was my life purpose? Once you can answer that, I promise you that your life will change provided you heed your inner calling. I immediately knew that mine was to help others define their own purpose. What’s yours?
 
When you are in touch with your core being, your answer will become apparent. You will have a choice; that point on your path; to go for your dream or not. Don’t worry what others will think about yours, that’s not important. What does matter is you took the time to contemplate why you are here. Don’t worry how you will accomplish your goal. Leave that to a higher power. Remember that there is nothing worth wild for free in life. One must work to make things happen.
 
You will know how important what you say is your life purpose by the amount of time you spend daily thinking about it and working towards its fruition. Once I defined my life purpose, it allowed a number of things to really sink in. First it helped me know myself deeper than ever before. It allowed me to love myself as I hadn’t previously experienced. What an amazing peaceful feeling! I speak not of a narcissistic love, but of an acceptance of all my good parts as well as my faults. No judging, just acknowledging them. This is a freeing exercise which I whole heartily recommend you doing.
 
You cannot love another fully without first loving yourself. Understanding one’s strength and weakness is invaluable as it shows us where to focus our attention on. Using one’s gifts to work on areas where we fall short is nothing less than magical. Being the right person will make finding the one a much easier task. I realize this may all be a lot to take on all at once, that’s not the purpose. Don’t try to conquer everything you’re unhappy with at once. Simply choose your battles as they come. Big changes and rewards come with time and daily focus on the problem. Taking time daily to add to your understanding of things will help immensely in rounding out one’s life.
 
I have a thirst for knowledge; an unquenchable desire to know something about everything. Not to be an expert on every subject, simply wise enough to be able to ask intelligent questions. Real wisdom is grown that way.
 
In my earlier years, I took things so personal. It ruined many burgeoning relationships. Not taking myself too seriously has been a blessing. As the great American Buddhist teacher, Pema Chodron often says; “Lighten up on yourself”. We generally receive the love that we believe we deserve, so open your heart to all possibilities.
 
Happiness…I could devote an entire book to this one. Happiness then is not about what happens to us; rather, it’s how we choose to respond to what happens to us.  One secret to happiness is to do what you like; the reward of a successful life is truly liking what you do. Happiness is not about having what you want; it’s about wanting what you already have. It is not determined by what’s happening around you, but rather what’s happening inside of you. It takes one area of one’s life to be off kilter to play emotional havoc. Maslow spoke in great depth about this fact in his hierarchy of needs.  The best definition of real happiness I’ve ever heard is; someone to love, something to do, and something to look forward to. Powerful wisdom indeed.                                                                      
 
​Let’s break this parable down. “Someone to love” can also be equated to something one loves. For our discussion I will focus on the relationship aspect. Relationships, good or bad, can have a profound effect on one’s emotional being. Having a significant other who you love is paramount to a long fruitful relationship. They can add many years of health as well. Believing you are worthy of having such a relationship is only part of the equation…once you get that dream partner that when the work begins.                                                                                           
 
Sadly, many people have chosen to stay in a lack luster relationship as opposed to being alone. They are dying a slow spiritual death by doing so.
 
No one can tell you what a meaningful relationship is; by discovering who you are will define what you’re looking for and what will create greater joy in your life. As I’ve discussed in “Taming the Anger Dragon” knowing you and your partners “joy triggers” will make finding and keeping a relationship blossoming a snap. Relationships are never easy, good ones are incredibly fulfilling. Timing plays a huge role in this so keep an open heart. Choosing the right partner is critical. Seek to be in a relationship where both partners never stop trying.
 
So, what’s the secret to creating lasting magical relationships? Mutual respect is the key. Act loving, enthusiastic; be in the moment when you’re with people.
Put that cell phone down when having a conversation. Use reflective listening to really understand what your partner means and their needs.
 
The perfection trap has doomed many relationships…, Don’t seek a perfect person, they don’t exist. Instead cultivate a relationship with someone who’s perfect for you; one who accepts you with all your faults, imperfections and visa- versa.  The starting point is not with your partner; it’s with you. If you are dissatisfied with yourself, I can promise you that you will never find a person who can truly and fully satisfy you.
 
Here’s a question to ponder; What’s more important in a relationship, to be loved or respected? Respected of course. Why is that true? Love is extremely important; you can love someone and not respect them however if you respect the other love is the byproduct.
 
OK, we’ve discussed the relationship portion of the 3 legs of happiness; Next let’s discuss the “something to do” aspect.  As the great neurologist and psychiatrist Viktor Frankl documented that people who have a reason to live generally do despite unfathomable obstacles. His message is simple; know what you love to do. One’s career can supply much happiness and self fulfilment as doing the thing that makes your heart sing. So how do you know what yours is? What do you love doing? A great exercise is creating your bucket list.
 
Creating a bucket list is one of the best ways to find out who you really are. Simply stated your list is nothing more than a specific list of every dream you’ve ever had. The key point is to not judge it. Allow your beautiful mind to flow. Let your deeply hidden wants and aspirations flow on paper. One’s latent talents can be cultivated and create incredible joy in ones later life. Be creative! Don’t let the lack of money or means to be a barrier on your list. As it’s been said, the universe conspires to make your dreams come true if you know what they are; want them with all your heart, not simply 100 other incompatible things. Burning desire combined with definiteness of purpose, specificity and action make dreams become reality.
 
Moving on to the “something to look forward to”. This simple act has allowed people from all walks of life to live longer, more fulfilling lives. If they could just make it to one more Christmas, to see their children get married, to see the birth of their grandchildren. The list goes on. Ironically a good number of the signers of the declaration of independence all died on July 4th, Coincidence? I think not. It’s my belief they all had a reason to go on. So, I ask you, what’s yours? We come now to the last part of this chapter. To make the case for how I got here from whence I came from is a daunting consideration; Put another way…                                            
 
“How I learned to dance through the Tsunami”.
 
When pondering my life, I can’t make one single argument identifying one incident that was the reason for setting me on my path. Certainly, many catalysts.      
 
I’ve learned that real forgiveness is a true healer. I don’t do it for the one who wronged me; I do it to give myself inner peace.
 
I’ve learned far more from my failures than my successes. I’ve had the good fortune to learn vicariously from others, in other words I didn’t have to experience what they did to glean the lesson or the hurt they endured.
 
As mentioned “Taming my Anger Dragon”, using anger and my pain for fuel was a necessary part in breaking my anger cycle and addiction. Coming to the realization I was miserable in my life gave me the courage to face my inner demons.
 
Taking calculated risks has added to my life 10-fold. In no way could I have accomplished anything without risking.
 
Music has been a soothing, life altering tonic; I use it daily to help calm my inner beast known as anxiety.
 
Daily meditation has been a lifesaving, sanity activity. Teaching meditation classes has made me a far better student. Learning proper breathing techniques has literally saved my health.
 
Making peace with past was a big part of the healing I required. Sharing my vulnerabilities on the written page has helped me enormously; the plus side was there are many others out there who also carried much of the same pain and fear I did. They can gain helpful insights by reading my plight without having to endure the same.
Being able to see myself in an unflattering light was the key part in coming to terms with my short comings, thereby accepting myself as I was and using my faults as a starting place for change. Taking the time to know myself completely was a tremendous gift to myself.
 
Realizing life isn’t fair helped me to become self-sufficient and strive to accept tragedies easier. Bad things happen to everyone. I am not being singled out by a vengeful God.
In life, there is no free ride; when I want more, I must work smarter/harder to obtain my dreams and desires.
 
Using gratitude as a part of my everyday existence changed my life immediately for the better. Taking time daily to appreciate where I am, how truly blessed I am, what gifts I have, who is in my life and all the gifts bestowed upon me right this second.
 
Practicing random daily acts of kindness to people who can never repay me has changed my life immeasurably.
 
Becoming my own best friend helped me create amazing friendships around the world, some stemming over 40 years!
 
To be able to ask others for help was a biggie for me.  As the old Chinese adage says: “He who goes through life with   a clenched fist receives nothing.”
 
Learning to delay immediate gratification has been a heaven sent, financially freeing realization.
 
Being able to share my deepest feelings with my wife and close friends without fear of having them judge me has been a miraculous experience. 
 
Learning to communicate effectively has certainly changed my life. Learning to LISTEN without trying to figure out what the other was saying before they finished was a big one for me. To give honest praise and appreciation to the people and employees in my life has been key to my success.
 
Writing down my goals has allowed me to live a fuller life than   I ever believed possible.              
Giving something back daily (even a kind word) may be the greatest gift to myself I’ve ever received.
 
Helping charities and non-profits raise donations has given me a deep sense of accomplishment; self-satisfaction that I only dreamt about in my early years.
Seeing the joy my sculptures create in the eyes of the receiver and onlookers has filled me with a great sense of joy.
 
Allowing the love that I have desperately sought my entire life to flow to me, rather than chasing it allowed me to give more love back than I ever believed possible.
Knowing and working daily towards my life purpose has given me inner peace. Helping others identify theirs has been beyond gratifying. Spending time daily with all nine of my wonderful cats has added many years of happiness to my life. Working in my garden and yard has created joy and satisfaction that come from seeing one’s effort pay off.
 
Home entertaining, cooking for my friends and family has been one of the greatest gifts I have ever given myself. Generosity begets the same.
Developing the passion deep within has pushed me to greater height’s than I believed I was capable of.
 
Keeping true to my deepest beliefs such as “The Truth is one and the paths are many” has helped me keep an open mind unhampered by prejudice and judgement.
 
Writing several books has been life changing to say the least. It helped develop my confidence and hopefully create joy for my readers.
 
Public speaking has given me the deep satisfaction of helping others find their own way.
Becoming a “Hope Broker” has added an indescribable joy which eluded me most of my life.
 
Finding the woman of my dreams late in life showed me that amazing things come to those who never gave up hope. By becoming the person, I sought rather than just searching for her has given me the loving marriage I had always desired.
                 
“I wish each and every one of you the inner peace you are seeking. Much Love.” --Thomas E Ziemann
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Stacie Prada was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis in 2008 at the age of 38.  Her blog, “Keep Doing What You’re Doing” is a compilation of inspiration, exploration, and practical tips for living with a chronic illness while living a full, productive, and healthy life with a positive perspective. It includes musings on things that help her adapt, cope and rejoice in this adventure on earth. Please visit her at http://stacieprada.blogspot.com/   
Keep Doing What You’re Doing! Can I do it?  Should I do it?  
        In each moment I start to struggle, I think about pushing and accepting my limits, and I think about whether I’m coming from a place of weakness or wisdom.  Everyone has limits, and people with chronic illnesses have an added layer of issues to consider.  I think it pushes us to be experts at monitoring our health, considering all of the risks and gains, and making wise decisions about doing what we think is best for us in each moment.
       If I go for a jog, I’ll monitor my body to see if I can do what I set out to do. If I struggle too much, I’ll debate with myself as to whether I need to change the plan.  If I feel awful when I wake up in the morning, I’ll tell myself that if I just take a shower I can see how I feel and adjust my day if needed.  When I plan for my future, I consider what’s likely, what I’m afraid may happen, and whether I’ll be able to live well emotionally and financially for anything within the range of possibilities, good or bad. 
     Just thinking about my options and spending time weighing what’s best in the moment takes energy.  My self-talk includes asking myself what would make me feel stronger in this moment.  If I realize that the words I’m saying to myself are making me feel weak, I try to think about what I need to hear to feel stronger.  How can I frame this situation into feeling like I’m deciding from a place of strength and wisdom?
       I might find myself thinking, “this is hard, why am I pushing myself, and all of these (fill in the blank) reasons make it silly for me to try.”
      I don’t want to be stubborn or expect too much, but I also don’t want to sell myself short. If I do less than I anticipated, it can feel like I’m succumbing to weakness.  Yet I think it’s important to consider that I may be exercising wisdom.
      It’s moments of weakness that push us to gain wisdom.  When things are easy, we don’t need to work smarter or get wiser.  We can muscle our way through them without much thought.  When things are tough, we can do without, find a new way, or change our 
expectations. When I realize I may not be able to do what I set out to do, I can tell myself I’m sick, I’m weak, and my future is going to be worse.  I might accurately tell myself that continuing to push myself will cause consequences not worth the gain. That if I do less today, it may help me avoid injury and it may help me be able to do more tomorrow. 
           I can be both weak and wise, and it can help me do better in the long run. 
         I ran a race after a really low point physically due to my Multiple Sclerosis.  A few weeks prior, my fitness ability was compromised by my MS fatigue to the point where walking half a mile was taxing and caused me to suffer.  I debated whether I’d need to call a friend to come pick me up and drive me home. It was a new low point for me physically, and I wanted to cry.  It startled me and depressed me. I chose to push myself to walk home, and I gave myself permission to go as slowly as I needed to get there.  I also gave myself permission to change my mind and change the plan at any moment along the way. I made it through, and looking back I think either decision would have been right for me. 
         I had a friend once say out loud at lunch, “I’m debating whether to have dessert.”  A few minutes later, she took a piece of cake and said, “I won.” I think either decision in a lot of situations could be judged as winning. There’s almost never a clearly right or wrong decision.  It’s just a million little decisions that add up to good or bad judgment overall.
        In the moment of any struggle, the decision may be the same whether it’s made from a place of weakness or wisdom.  What really matters is where my head is when I decide. When I’m struggling and not sure what’s best for me in the moment, it helps me to ask myself these questions:
      If I slow down or quit, will it help me in another way?  Will it maintain my health, my relationships or avoid injury?  Will it accomplish another goal I have?  Will it build strength, help with recovery, improve my relationships or save my sanity?  Will I have regrets if I stop now? Can I slow down and still accomplish the goal? Might I achieve the main reason for the goal another way?
     During the race I did, I asked myself a lot of questions.  I weighed how hard it was in the moment, and I assessed how much farther I had to go to the finish line. I asked if continuing would cause injury.  I decided that I could alternate between jogging, walking and running without hurting myself.  I focused on what I could do so that it drowned out the negative, demotivating thoughts swirling in my head.  I asked myself what I needed to hear in that moment to make me feel strong and wise.  The questions turned to a mantra, “You can do it…stride, stride, stride…good form…breathe in, breathe out…you got this…pace to finish strong…”
       It wasn’t all talk, and it wasn’t denial. I felt stronger, and I became stronger.  I ran with purpose, and I slowed down when it felt right.  I felt powerful both physically and emotionally.  
         With both the one-mile walk where I barely made it home without help and during the race where I found my stride, I asked the same questions of myself.  My performance was drastically different, and my ability dictated both experiences.  For the disheartening walk, I decided it was good that I tried to do it. Even though it was too much, I decided it was better that I tried and faced my limits than if I’d stayed home and not exerted any energy at all.  With the race I pushed up against my limits, backed off and pushed them again.  On that day, my body was ready to do more.  These two moments of weakness and strength were only weeks apart. In both of them I believe I practiced wisdom and poised myself to finish strong sooner or later. 
        These questions work for me with any decision I’m facing.  When I look within myself and am honest about the possibility that I’m acting from a place of fear and weakness, it helps me find my path to deciding from a place of genuine strength and wisdom. 
        Doing something or not doing it can come from any mindset, and it really matters what I believe to be true when I decide.  To someone else, the decision and outcome they perceive may be the same, but the intent behind it will determine whether I feel defeated or victorious. 
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