Choose Joy

There once was a man who decided to take a sabbatical to a remote monastery. It was in a beautiful location, perched on a mountaintop, near the Alps. One fine day when the weather was pleasantly warm, he ventured out alone. Upon finding the perfect, scenic location, he laid down a blanket, settled in, and began his daily meditation. After a bit of time, he opened his eyes to see that a monk was traveling nearby on foot. In a gesture of good will, the monk wandered over to say hello. The monk was curious about the guest. Taking a seat beside him, they began to discuss their travels and what had brought each of them to this particular destination.  Then, after a few moments of silence, the monk, searching for more answers, asked the question, “Tell me, what is it that you wish for?”

Taking in a deep breath, the man surveyed his surroundings, contemplating an answer. The monk, patient as he was, asked again, “What is it that your heart longs for?” After a brief pause, the man provided the monk with a list of things that he thought, once achieved, would make him happy. He voiced each one with articulation and emotion. He felt in his heart that if he could just get all of the things on the list and be successful financially, then he would find joy. The list included material things, the repair of a tattered relationship, and a new job. The monk could see how the man was looking for things or people outside of himself to make him happy, not realizing that happiness is ultimately an inside job; it starts within. So after listening  intently, with a bit of pause, the monk asked one additional simple, yet nagging question: “What if you choose joy first?”

In my younger days, I can recall thinking that happiness was somewhere in the distance, somewhere in my future. I thought that someday, something would happen, and happiness would be achieved. Author Gregg Braden calls this type of thinking preoccupation destination addiction. This thought process assumes two things:

  1. That certain events must take place for happiness to be achieved
  2. That the current moment holds no significance

These assumptions couldn’t be further from the truth. In reality, all that matters is now. Do your thoughts partake in time travel? How much time do you spend with thoughts devoted to the past or future?  

Doctors have pondered the connection between our mental and physical health for centuries. Emotions and Health, NIH Medline Plus said in 2008, “Until the 1800s, most believed that emotions were linked to disease and advised patients to visit spas or seaside resorts when they were ill. Gradually emotions lost favor as other causes of illness, such as bacteria or toxins emerged, and new treatments such as antibiotics cured illness after illness.”

What are the implications of mental health on our physical health?

According to Dr. Fabrizio Mancini, “optimists live longer.” He says, “fortunately, many people are asking: Is there a better way to stay healthy? Is there a better way to get healthy? Isn’t there something better out there? The answers are yes, yes, and yes. Once this concept sinks in, you’ll want to make self-healing a continuing operating principle in your life. There are many simple lifestyle options that can help your body self-heal. For example, exercise is self-healing and even a 10-minute walk can make a positive impact on mental and physical health.”

You might consider the following linear process of thinking: Our thinking affects our emotions, our emotions affect many aspects of our life, including our physical and mental health. Your body responds to the way you think, feel, and act. In fact, your body reacts the same to an event as it does to a thought that mimics the event. This is often called the mind-body connection. When you are stressed, anxious, or upset, your body tries to tell you that something isn’t right. For example, high blood pressure or a stomach ache might develop after a particular stressful event. Therefore, if we can keep our thinking in check and in a healthy state, we can experience enormous positive ramifications. In fact, the following physical symptoms may indicate that your emotional health is out of balance:

  • Unexplained fatigue
  • Depression, hopelessness
  • Headaches
  • Changes in blood pressure
  • Trouble fall or staying asleep
  • Stomach issues
  • Changes in heart rate
  • Sexual issues
  • Stiff neck, sore back
  • Excessive sweating
  • Changes in weight

Therefore, addressing our thoughts is our pathway to peace. Joy is possible no matter life’s outward appearance. Your perspective is the key. Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% your response to it. What does Joy look like for you? As you follow along with these blogs, we will address thought patterns and how they affect our capacity to feel joy. We will address the key differences between happiness and joy, and we will provide strategies to not only get you to that feeling of pure joy, but to keep you there, no matter the circumstances happening around you. That is where we find the golden nuggets, that pot of gold under the rainbow. Yet, unfortunately, many people aren’t even looking for the rainbow.

We need not bow down to the negative conditions of the world nor give them our energy; we can rise above these things. There is much good to be found in the storms of life, and as you learn to dance in the rain, every step gets you closer and closer to who you really are, which is joy. To quote Ask and it is Given, “The basis of life is freedom, the result of life is expansion, but the purpose of life is joy.”

Stay tuned and travel with me as we discover what life is really meant to be. Open your heart to your true purpose, to choose joy!

Let us give Thanks

We are coming upon the time of Thanksgiving when we gather with those we love to feast on turkey and other traditional foods which include stuffing, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie. Although John Adams and James Madison designated days of thanks during their presidencies, it was Abe Lincoln who proclaimed it a national holiday. For 36 years, a noted magazine editor, Sarah, Josepha Hale, published a number of editorials and sent scores of letters to governors, senators, presidents and other politicians launching a campaign to establish Thanksgiving as a national holiday. Abe finally heeded her request in 1863 at the height of the Civil War.

About half the pilgrims survived the first winter in Plymouth. What a risk they took in the yearning for prosperity and land ownership in the “New World.” After spending much of that first winter on the ship suffering exposure, scurvy, and outbreaks of contagious disease, they managed to befriend native American tribes who taught them how to cultivate corn, avoid poisonous plants, and extract sap from the maple trees.

With gratitude they celebrated a three-day feast. Pilgrim chronicler Edward Winslow wrote:

“Our harvest being gotten in, our governor sent four men on fowling, that so we might after a special manner rejoice together, after we had gathered the fruits of our labors; they four in one day killed as much fowl, as with a little help beside, served the Company almost a week, at which time amongst other Recreations, we exercised our Arms, many of the Indians coming amongst us, and amongst the rest their greatest king Massasoit, with some ninety men, whom for three days we entertained and feasted, and they went out and killed five Deer, which they brought to the Plantation and bestowed on our Governor, and upon the Captain and others. And although it be not always so plentiful, as it was at this time with us, yet by the goodness of God, we are so far from want, that we often wish you partakers of our plenty.”

The origins of thanksgiving may preempt the Pilgrim’s feast of 1621. Ancient history depicts annual celebrations spanning cultures, continents, and millennia. The Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans all feasted and paid tribute to their gods after the fall harvest. In 1565, the Spanish explorer Pedro Menéndez de Avilé invited members of the local Timucua tribe to a dinner in St. Augustine Florida, after holding a mass to thank God for his crew’s safe arrival.

In current times we celebrate with parades and marching bands, and we pardon one or two turkeys from slaughter, sending them off to a farm for retirement. And as you celebrate with family this year, let us not forget the original intention of thanksgiving, to thank God for not just the autumn harvest, but for his divine providence. In the words of Zig Ziglar, “Gratitude is the healthiest of all human emotions. The more you express gratitude for what you have, the more likely you will have ever more to express gratitude for.”

https://www.history.com/topics/thanksgiving/history-of-thanksgiving

Message to (my Younger) Self

Life holds many mysteries. As a child, we want time and space to hurry along so that we might be allowed the freedom to make our own choices and forge our own path. Yet, as we complete the apex of our mid-life, we proclaim that it is moving too fast. As we approach the finish line, we start to evaluate the choices we’ve made and the journeys not taken. We search for meaning and purpose in our lives. We seek to understand who we are and why we are here.

At midlife, we are not the same person we were in our 20s. Our character has been refined by the circumstances of our life, some chosen, some chosen for us. Free will is always available providing the opportunity to make meaningful choices or damaging ones, with the likelihood that we alternate between the two.  As I contemplate the many choices I’ve made in this lifetime, I seek to learn and understand their origins, while forgiving myself when I went astray. From this current vantage point, if I could speak to my 20-year-old self, I would share the following 8 caveats:

Don’t make assumptions: When you make assumptions, you are believing that something that has not happened yet, is inevitable. When in fact, 100% of your assumptions could be false. The real damage occurs when you change your behavior based on a false assumption. It can bring about immense, unnecessary hurt to those that you care about.

Love the body you have been given: Genetics plays a large role regarding our physical features and the weight we carry. We should always seek to lead a healthy lifestyle, but do not compare yourself to others. Their challenges may be different than your own. Accept and nurture yourself and always make time for self-care.

Kindness Matters: Just as dictated in the Disney animation Lion King, there is a circle to life. What you choose to put out into the world, will circle back to you. Choose wisely, yet do not mistake this for being a people pleaser. A people pleaser acts from a place of fear due to a lack of self-love. Make kindness a priority in your life. Bless others as you wish to be blessed.

Choose your friends carefully and distance yourself from those that do not honor you: Friends will enter and exit your life story at different stages and don’t be afraid to show them the door if they show disrespect. You are uniquely special and deserving of great love and abundance. To draw in those that honor and respect you, seek to be, in character, the person you wish to be with. And don’t seek to rescue or change someone else. Let them be them and you be you. Just know when to walk away.

Evaluate negative emotions for root cause: Aristotle once said, “knowing yourself is the key to all wisdom.” We learn a great deal from our parents, including coping skills. When we experience a negative emotion with repetition, such as frustration or disappointment, it may signal a need for healing. it may be helpful to investigate it for a root cause from the past. Did it originate with a childhood experience? Are we simply regurgitating what we’ve learned, even though damaging?

Do not fear the tests: Of one thing you can be sure, as you forge through life experiencing all it has to offer, you will be tested. The size of the test can change, but there is opportunity for growth and learning with each and every one. As you conquer more and more challenges, you will grow in confidence and character. Do not fear that which will make you stronger.

When someone treats you unfairly, do these 2 things: The feeling that someone has betrayed you can be one of the hardest to endure. The first step is to confront them with love. Clear the air. If you do not do this, you risk wallowing in bitterness all the days of your life. It also gives them the opportunity to provide their insight. As much as we value our own personal perceptions, sometimes they are wrong. No matter the outcome of the first step, the second step is that of forgiveness. We all come from different backgrounds and people usually do what they do based upon past experience. The event may actually have nothing to do with you. Forgiveness doesn’t absolve them, it releases you.

Love people more that things: When we leave this journey and take the last breath of this lifetime, we will take nothing with us. No material things that is. What we do take with us are experiences with those we love. Relationships have great potential for cultivating joy, acceptance and love. Those memories and those feelings should be cherished, for it is those jewels that will cross the veil. Love and respect all persons, for we all come from the same source from which we all return.

There is much more yet to learn in this lifetime I am certain. This list will grow longer. There will be more challenges and more tests, but there can be joy in all things. As we learn and grow from each experience, we cultivate a better life for ourselves and those around us.

Are there reasons that our 20-year-old self stumbled about a bit? Certainly there are. If she were to read this list, perhaps she would understand it to represent the journey set before her. As we seek to become a better person tomorrow than we were yesterday, perhaps this list of caveats could be entitled, my life’s lessons to learn, or maybe even, “my life’s purpose.”

WHERE HAS LOVE GONE?

There is a saying that Love heals all wounds, but if Love has disappeared out of the hearts of many, how can there be healing? And then that begs the question if Love is gone from many hearts, what has taken its place? The answer, for a number of people, is hatred and malice. Thankfully, we don’t have to continue along this ill-gotten path.

We can start the change within ourselves. We can show Love to those that do not seem to want it or want to return it. If enough people begin to Love the unloved or the unloveable (as deemed by society), change can occur. You just need to ask yourself, am I willing to take a leap of Faith and be the first one? Will I use the strength that I’ve been given to withstand the attacks from those that wish to see True Love wiped from this earth?

Those that have Love in their hearts, need to be the ones that step forward, while others step back. We need to stand in the gap for those that are not strong enough yet or who have not seen the True definition of Love in their life. Many have only seen a world view of love, which boils down to being nothing more than lust or a box full of scars.

Let us wake up the Love that dwells within each and every one of us and watch the miracles begin to multiply exponentially.

What Would You Do?

Sometimes life will present us with circumstances that require the use of contemplative discernment. In such a case, do we do what is easy and what seems to provide us with the greatest reward, or do we do what is right, knowing that the consequences may not be in our favor?

There is a video circulating of an interaction between a police officer and a suspect, as filmed from the officer’s vehicle webcam. The clip begins after the suspect has been placed in handcuffs with his arms behind his back. Shortly thereafter, the police officer begins to choke on his gum. His hand then moves to his throat and he begins to gasp for air. He backs away from the car, falls on his back, and continues gasping, with legs flailing about.

The suspect, seemingly uncomfortable, begins glancing about. There seems no one else in the vicinity. With the officer continuing to gasp for air, the suspect moves to his side and yells to the officer, “throw me your keys. (for handcuffs) I’ll help you.” Yet, the officer continues to flail about, both hands on his throat now, gasping in panic. The suspect again barks out, “throw me the keys and I will help you.”

Being in a vulnerable position, this is a decisive moment for the officer. If he does nothing, suffocation seems eminent. And yet, there are risks involved with taking action.

What could happen?

He could throw the keys to the suspect, who could subsequently remove the cuffs and run away.

He could throw the keys to the suspect, who could remove the cuffs and possibly proceed with acts of aggression. He could take the cops weapon, steal the officer’s car, and/or more.

He could throw the keys to the suspect, who could remove the cuffs and potentially save his life.

In all these scenarios, the suspect removes the cuffs when keys are provided. What happens after that is a mystery at this point in the story. Some would say that the officer has no choice, he must attempt to save himself. Others might describe the latter action as selfish and not true to his duty. To take action will take trust, the officer needs to trust that the suspect will do the right thing.

So here is how it played out…

After the second request from the suspect, the officer managed to grab the keys and throw them at the suspect’s feet. The suspect then lowered himself down, while remaining on his feet, and picked up the keys from behind. After a return to standing, he used the keys to release the cuffs, then proceeded to throw the keys and cuffs to the ground. Without hesitation, he proceeded towards the head of the officer. He bent down, reaching his arms under the officer’s shoulders he managed to pull him to his feet. He then began the Heimlich manuver. With the first thrust, nothing happens. After the second, the officer is continuing to gasp and has difficulty trying to remain on his feet. With each thrust, they are moving closer to the car and camera. The suspect, now having to also hold the officer upright, continues using all his might to thrust a third time, fourth time, and a fifth. He is not giving up. Finally, after the fifth thrust, a wad of gum flies out of the officer’s mouth, landing on the hood of the car.

What happens next is also amazing. The officer leans on the car, coughing and gasping, trying to regain some level of composure. Meanwhile, the suspect walks back over to the handcuffs and picks them up. He returns to the officer, hands him the cuffs, then turns around, putting his hands behind his back.

 What do you do when you think no one is watching?

Although continuing to cough, the officer appears quite relieved that the ordeal is over. Making eye contact with the suspect he says, “man, you saved my life. You are free to go.”

This story has a happy ending. It turned out well because someone chose to do the right thing and in doing so, invoked a double blessing. He saved someone’s life and by this action, gained respect and freedom. So it is possible that doing the right thing can provide everyone with the best possible outcome, even when not seen initially.

What would you have done as the officer?

What would you have done as the suspect?

Would you call yourself a person of character? People of character do the right thing, not to boast, but to align with their true nature, for we are always called to authentically Love One Another. At the root of everything, Love is who we are. When provided with a challenge such as this, we must remember, the time is always right to do the right thing.