Make the Best of the Rest of Your Life

The world is our mirror. It reflects back to us the content of our predominant thoughts. We may think we are positive people, but we all harbor negative judgments, fears, insecurities. In fact, human beings have an inclination to be negative.

According to a report on the Cleveland Clinic Wellness site a while ago, “Each person has an average of 60,000 thoughts a day! That’s one thought per second in every waking hour! Amazingly, 95 percent are the same thoughts repeated every day. On average, 80 percent of those habitual thoughts are negative.”

With that amount of ANTS (automatic negative thoughts), we can’t be living the best life possible. All too often we helicopter-1598077_640function on automatic pilot, letting our impulses and conditioning control our lives. While negative thinking, worry, stress and fear are natural, we can rise above them.

We have instincts but we also have choices. We have fear but we also have love. There is ugliness in the world but there’s also beauty. There is hatred but there is also kindness. There is darkness but there is also light. The choice is ours.

In the following letter written by Fra Giovanni in 1513, he urges a friend to see beyond the shadows…

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I am your friend and my love for you goes deep. There is nothing I can give you which you have not got, but there is much, very much, that, while I cannot give it, you can take.

No heaven can come to us unless our hearts find rest in today. Take heaven!

No peace lies in the future which is not hidden in this present little instant. Take peace!

The gloom of the world is but a shadow. Behind it, yet within our reach is joy. There is radiance and glory in the darkness could we but see – and to see we have only to look. I beseech you to look!

Life is so generous a giver, but we, judging its gifts by the covering, cast them away as ugly, or heavy or hard. Remove the covering and you will find beneath it a living splendor, woven of love, by wisdom, with power.

Welcome it, grasp it, touch the angel’s hand that brings it to you. Everything we call a trial, a sorrow, or a duty, believe me, that angel’s hand is there, the gift is there, and the wonder of an overshadowing presence. Our joys, too, be not content with them as joys. They, too, conceal diviner gifts.

Life is so full of meaning and purpose, so full of beauty – beneath its covering – that you will find earth but cloaks your heaven.

Courage, then, to claim it, that is all. But courage you have, and the knowledge that we are all pilgrims together, wending through unknown country, home.

And so, at this time, I greet you. Not quite as the world sends greetings, but with profound esteem and with the prayer that for you now and forever, the day breaks, and the shadows flee away.

What are You Choosing to See and Be?

We can bemoan the injusticecandle-1342414_640 in the world or we can be a beacon of light in the darkness.
We can separate or we can join. We can be guided by fear or by faith. We can be apathetic or enthusiastic. We can surrender to our genes and conditioning, our regrets and grievances or we can take responsibility for what we think and feel and do. Relinquish that responsibility, and the power of choice is forfeited.

As you make your daily choices, remember…

Focus of attention creates. Change your mind and you change your life.

It is never what is happening that upsets us. It is always what we think about what’s happening.

Happiness comes from inside not outside.

Gratitude = great attitude. Pessimism and cynicism are hazardous to your health.

Growth comes from going beyond our boundaries.

The greatest ally or enemy you will ever have is your own thinking.

There is beauty in the world and in our minds.

Take time to relax and refresh yourself.

Take time to discover and pursue what you really enjoy.

Be kind to yourself, patient and forgiving. Take the lessons from your mistakes and let the self-recrimination go.

Take time to be kind. Wherever you are, there is someone you can make a little happier.

Make kindness your daily modus operandi and change your world. Annie Lennox

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Compassionate listening is an act of love, and a gift more precious than words. Take time to listen.

Open your mind to new ideas. Open your heart to a pet, a child, a lonely neighbor.

Most of us have built walls around ourselves. We are in a constant state of self-defense. We are afraid of being hurt, disappointed, betrayed, rejected. Our fears imprison us. Let the walls down.

So often time it happens, we all live our life in chains, and we never even know we have the key. The Eagles

The key is choice. Set yourself free. If you don’t like what you’re seeing, thinking, feeling, doing, choose again.

Adapted from: Make the Best of the Rest of Your Life

Why You Need To Be The Opposite Of A Know-it-all

A little boy visited the seashore for the first time. He was mesmerized by the ocean, the sand, the smell of the air. For the longest tikid-869188_640me, he stood at the shore’s edge looking out to sea. He heard his parents say, “What is he looking at?” and thought to himself, “They look where I look, but they do not see what I see.”

How often we look but do not see, hear but don’t listen. We think that by labeling something we know what it is. We believe that our opinions are valid and based on irrefutable fact. And so, at a certain point, our minds shut down and we stop paying attention, experiencing, learning and growing. Mentally snooze too long and the brain begins to atrophy.

Little children ask hundreds of questions a day. They have what meditative teachings call a Beginner’s Mind – open and eager. A Beginner’s Mind may be the key to vitality and lifelong enthusiasm. banner-1090827_1280

 Interest and ongoing learning reduce the risk of brain deterioration and can keep mind and memory sharp indefinitely. Brains are thrill seekers. They love new, novel, exciting experiences. Stimulation is health food for the brain. Try something different, unusual to increase brain activity. Follow the same routine day after day, you go to sleep and the brain functions on automatic pilot.

For an experience to create new neural connections, star-209371_640it must engage your attention, senses, contemplation and action. Simply observing without interacting is not enough. Traveling and exploring, playing games, interacting with people, creating, studying, learning a new skill are mental stimulants. Life becomes a great adventure, a journey of self-discovery and expansion when you look at everything as if seeing it for the first time.

ASK YOURSELF: What can I learn today? What can this object or person teach me? What would make me want to jump out of bed in the morning and greet the day with enthusiasm? How can I be more creative? Where would I like to go? What would I like to study, learn? What skill would I like to develop?

Learn something new every day!

The average adult retains…

10% of what he READS
20% of what he HEARS
30% of what he SEES
50% of what he HEARS & SEES
70% of what he SAYS

90% of what he SAYS & DOES

As you can see, retention doesn’t come from just reading. To incorporate what we learn, we must use it. Learning is a 3 step process.

1. EXPERIENCE: First, we have an external experience that is relayed to the brain through the senses. That experience is fleeting unless reflected upon.

2. REFLECT: To imprint and retain something, we must reflect on what we experience, see, hear, learn. Does it make sense? How does it fit with what I already know? How can I use it?

3. ACT: Act upon what was learned, put it into practice, share the information. The action can be as simple as talking or writing about what was learned. Knowledge is integrated – becomes yours – when you act on it.

When we see the same things or people repeatedly, we cease to pay attention. We hear without listening. We glance at objects without really seeing them. We ignore the familiar or what appears dull. When we dismiss something or someone as dull, we miss the potential treasure behind the façade. 

The true secret of happiness lies in taking a genuine interest in all the details of daily life. William Morris

Interest wakes up the brain, activates the mental faculties. We can initiate interest with concentration. Interest naturally produces concentration but concentration produces interest. Take the time to observe, probe, explore, question, and you will be richly rewarded.

Train your brain to concentrate and be more observant…

Pick up a magazine and find a picture, one you would normally ignore. Concentrate on it for about 20 seconds. Observe as much as you can. Be aware of the mind’s desire to wander, but stay focused and absorb as much as possible.

Turn the picture face down, pick up a pen and write down everything you remember about the image – items, people, colors, design. What was the picture’s purpose? Did it have any affect on you? How would you describe it to someone else? Go back and see what you missed.

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If I hadn’t asked you to concentrate on that picture, you wouldn’t have recalled anything about it. No attention = no retention. But because you paid attention, you discovered some interesting things, didn’t you? Concentration and observation are essential to learning. They reveal information we would normally miss.

Our minds are very busy. Today, more than ever, distractions abound. Paying attention, concentrating for any length of time isn’t the easiest thing to do, but we can develop and strengthen the ability.

  • Deep breathing and exercise fuel the brwoman-481769_640ain with oxygen so your focus is sharper.
  • Meditation releases stress, clears the mind and inspires creative thinking.
  • Retention is better if we read/study for two 1/2 hour sessions rather than one hour straight. 
  • Avoid interruptions and distractions. It can take up to 15 minutes to regain full concentration after losing it.
  • Concentrate on key ideas, what is worth learning and remembering.
  • Review what you learn. Restate the message in your own words – verbally or in writing.
  • Get a good sleep. The brain integrates newly learned information during sleep.
  • Ask questions. What is this about? How does it apply to me? What can I do with this information?
  • Refresh your memories. Mentally review what you learned in the days to come.

Interest, exploration, experimentation and learning build dendrites and protect against Alzheimer’s. Particularly music-72483_640good dendrite builders are learning a new language or how to play a musical instrument. Travel is mentally and socially stimulating. It provides novelty and breaks us out of routine. We build our brains when we explore new places, study cultures and customs, endeavor to communicate in another language.

The important thing is to keep an open and inquisitive mind. Don’t be afraid to be a beginner. Instead of acting like you know it all, try acting like you know nothing. Question. Observe. Listen. You’ll grow your brain and find life much more interesting.

Adapted from: Make the Best of the Rest of Your Life

The One Ability You Have to Have to be Happy

Henry and Elizabeth grew up in the same dysfunctional household. Elizabeth felt emancipated when she went off to college. She put her home life behind her, focused on the present and goals for the future. She is now a happy, successful adult. When Henry went to college, he whined about his parents to anyone who would listen. After a while, people portrait-915230_640stopped listening. Then he started drinking. He was in and out of rehab for years. It was one way of making his parents pay – literally – for their mistakes. He sent his parents scathing letters and called them in the middle of the night to berate them. Henry, now 35, is incapable of maintaining a job or relationship. 

A man sooner or later discovers that
he is the master-gardener of his soul,
the director of his life.
 

James Allen

Responsibility = RESPONSE – ABILITY

We may not have control over what happens to us but we choose how we respond to what happens.

In the play, A Death in the Family, James Agee penned these words…

It’s a kind of a test, Mary, and it’s the only kind that amounts to anything. When something rotten like this happens, then you have your choice. You start to really be alive, or you start to die. That’s all.

You have your choice. Learn, grow, forgive, be a bigger, better person – start to really be alive. Or start to die because when we stop learning and growing, we begin to wither. It’s a matter of choice. How we interpret an incident or view a person, the meaning we assign to something are all choices. Perception, reaction, attitude are all choices. These choices not only determine how we feel, they influence what we experience.

The brain and the eye may have a contractual relationship in which the brain has agreed to believe what the eye sees, but in return the eye has agreed to look for what the brain wants.
Daniel Gilbert

It’s a cycle of cause and effect. An experience may cause you to develop a certain perception. That perception then causes you to look for such experiences. Your brain is a most obedient servant – it seeks and finds what you’re looking for. Where is your primary focus of attention? What are your expectations, desires? What are you looking for?

Until we take responsibility for our well-being and  happiness, we will be at the mercygirl-31156_640 of the weather, the media, the government and every person who crosses our path. Those who expect life or other people to be responsible for their happiness assume the mindset of a victim and forfeit personal power. Victims may enjoy blaming others but they don’t enjoy life.

Feeling in control of one’s own happiness and well-being, feeling some degree of control over one’s life is essential to self-confidence and happiness. Of course, we all have setbacks along the way but knowing that we are response-able gives us the strength to make the best of each experience.

The best years of your life are the ones in which you decide your problems are your own. You do not blame them on your mother, the ecology, or the president. 
You realize that you control your own destiny.

Albert Ellis

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Adapted from: Make the Best of the Rest of Your Life