Cultivating Compassion

We spoke Monday about LOVE and how important it is to first be kind and compassionate to ourselves. To me, love is really the inherent spirit that lives inside each of us. We are all born with an immense capacity to love and be loved. It is this driving force that fuels all relationships. Oftentimes, our experiences will dictate how we view ourselves and others. Perhaps, we gave our heart to someone once and got hurt. Maybe we were taught as a child to “be tough”. Possibly, we didn’t have loving behavior modeled to us. Whatever reasons we have had for building up our defenses against love, research now shows that we can change our brain circuitry by our thoughts and emotions.

Researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison found that positive emotions, such as love, compassion, and kindness could be developed much like developing the skill to play an instrument. They found that brain circuitry was markedly changed after individuals engaged in compassion meditation, as Tibetan monks had done for years. It reaffirms that our thoughts and, more importantly, the emotions that go along with them, create physical responses in our bodies. And, if you think about it, these become the beliefs and perceptions we have of the world. We create our lives out of these perceptions.

How can we harness and practice loving-kindness in our lives? Although, I think silencing our minds and spending a few minutes each day to meditate creates astounding benefits, there are other simple tactics you can utilize.

Be still. Appreciate your uniqueness. Pause to take in the beauty of nature. Laugh. Eliminate self-criticism. Know that each person in your life is doing their best. Forgive those who have wronged you. Feed your soul. Be grateful for your trials and tribulations. Pray. Surrender to the Higher Power that lives within you.

How can you radiate love today?

The Greatest Love of All

I share a common global sentiment today as we grieve the recent loss of an amazing singer, Whitney Houston, who really brought a sound of sweetness to our ears like no other. I, like many other girls, grew up singing her tunes and attempting with immense fervor, through the small depth of my lungs, to hold the final note of her famous song, “The Greatest Love of All”.

It is fitting to discuss the concept of love as we remember her and embark upon Valentine’s Day tomorrow – a day we essentially celebrate love in all forms – not just the intimate love between two people, but the love we hold toward our families, friends, and most importantly, for ourselves. Loving ourselves, really means valuing who we are. It is a knowing that we are worthy and deserving of all that is good in life. I believe that each and every decision we make in our lives is in direct correlation with how much we value ourselves. Many times we vere off path, making decisions that mirror our thoughts of inadequacy, imperfection, and insecurity. Sometimes we fall short in pouring into our own souls, the love and care that will allow us to grow and prosper.

There is a certain energy that is emitted by someone who is filled with love. Unlike conceit or pretense, it comes from a place that is pure and authentic. I think children are born with this. Unfortunately, as we grow up, we are shaped by judgments, criticisms, projections by others who may not be happy within themselves. We begin living through their views of how we should be, act, and live. The concept of what love is becomes warped and confusing.

The truth is we all come into this world with a deeper richness, a soul, that is the essence of who we are. When we speak and live from this depth, we are always moving in the right direction. Many believe this is the Divine Spirit, God, or the Universe speaking to us, guiding us, challenging us to honor our own unique beauty and individuality. This is what I call LOVE. It is the most powerful energy that lives inside us.

“The Greatest Love of All” was a song whose lyrics I wanted to live by, even at a young age. It taught me that love really starts with yourself, and if you can honor that, you will inevitably create a ripple effect through the rest of the world. How do we do this? **Check back Wednesday to read more on Spirit and how to tap into this powerful energy.

Deepali’s Piece of Wellness: What can you do this week to honor yourself? What makes you unique, and how can you celebrate that?

Going with the Flow

Anyone who knows me, knows that I am not the kind of person who takes a passive approach to life.  I’m someone who creates a vision, sets goals, and focuses on pressing toward them.  I believe in sitting in the driver’s seat of life.  I believe in never taking “no” from someone who doesn’t have the power to tell you “yes”.  I am one of those people who will keep pressing on and on and, oftentimes, continue holding on during times I know I just need to quit.  I don’t mean quitting on my goals, but knowing when a situation has changed enough and perhaps leading me toward another path.   

Letting go, is one of the kriyas that I have long struggled with.  I’m sure there are many of you, like me, who feel the need to control everything in your life.  In fact, many of us try to manage the outcomes of our lives so much that we actually get in the way and sabotage the good that is flowing toward us.  Sometimes, our peripheral vision has more to show us if we just take our blinders off.  It opens us up to a bigger picture and opportunities that lie in the background. 

So, yes we need to continue to set goals or resolutions in the new year, but remember we always have the choice to re-evaluate and determine what is working for us.  When we know we’ve reached a dead-end, it’s best to back up and take a U-turn.  And an even better strategy other times?  Let go, take the passenger seat, and allow a greater force to guide us toward another destination.  I continue to learn this.

Have a Great Weekend!  

Dreaming a New Dream

The other day I attempted to console a good friend who questioned the next step to take in her life.  She had recently come short of passing an exam she needed to pass in order to work in her profession.   The reality of the present situation forced her to question her existing vision and life path.  Does she continue to work toward achieving her dream profession?  Does she take the current circumstance as a sign to take a detour and carve a new path?  Does she still feel passion for the profession in the midst of discouragement?  It got me thinking about our vision – not just the picture of our immediate stimuli, but the greater vision we hold for ourselves.  How do we navigate through the maze of life when the things we envisioned for ourselves do not manifest as we thought and hoped they would?  How do we re-create our vision and begin to dream a new dream?

Let’s face it, life is full of challenges.  Things may not always go as planned, but it is important to have a roadmap.  I have always been a big believer in creating dreams or visions for my life.  There is no way to achieve the things you desire unless you first create a mental image of it in your mind.  I think we all do this to some degree.  We do this when we decide on a career path to take, or when we visualize a life partner, or when we imagine our dreamhome.  Many times during our journey, we hit roadblocks – you don’t get the job you want, you go through a divorce, you lose your dream home to another buyer.  What do you do next? 

The thing about creating visions is that they can always be re-created.  Part of our own roadblock is the attachment we hold to the old vision.  It takes a lot of strength to let go and surrender to the idea that another path is not only possible, but it can be greater and more fulfilling than you could have even envisioned for yourself.  You may still achieve all that you desire, but it may not be in the way or in the timeframe you thought.  Perhaps, during the process, you may discover you have a new desire.

Oftentimes, the reality of our situation doesn’t make sense to us.  It’s not supposed to.  Steve Jobs, in a speech he gave to Stanford University Graduates in 2005, states, “You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something — your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever”.

Remember, life doesn’t end when it doesn’t go as planned.  The most successful people will tell you that the times in which they felt lost or as though they had failed, were actually the catalyst for creating, or re-creating a better dream and a brighter future.  Be willing to take the risk in creating and re-creating! 

Deepali’s Piece of Wellness:  Have you given up on your dreams, because life hasn’t turned out as you expected?  Can you start creating a new vision for yourself today?  What does it look like?  **More tomorrow on how to get clarity on a new vision!

A Spiritual Connection Within

This evening, I ventured out to try a new yoga studio.  I have been in search of a vinyasa practice that would be a good fit for me.  The minute I walked into the studio, I immediately felt a certain energy in the room.  The class had not yet begun, but I just knew that this was going to be the place for me.  I certainly used my intuitive sixth sense on this, and I was correct. 

Yoga has been a part of my life, exercising the mind and body, for some time now.  As we discuss the topic of SPIRIT this week, I thought about the strong link between spiritual connection, or enlightenment, and yoga.  Through yoga practice, we strengthen our spirit by bringing our energy inward, starting with an awareness to our breath.  It is the first kriya, or action of our soul.  By turning inward, we can access that part of us that connects to something greater – that intuitive energy we discussed, the divine power that resides within us, and our authentic selves. 

The path to spiritual wellness can take any form.  It can involve prayer, meditation, affirmations, and/or any specific belief system you espouse.  The important piece is that you find purpose and meaning to the flow of your life.  Although yoga is my conduit for this flow, being mindful does not have to come only through yoga.  You can easily start your day with an intention, just as we do at the beginning of yoga class. 

What do you hope to give of yourself today?  What answers are you seeking today?  Where can you find peace today?  When we intend something, we are connecting to that higher power and we are believing in it.  We are believing and having unwavering faith that  something larger exists within us and for us.

The Intuitive Sixth Sense

I spoke briefly last week about what many deem our “sixth sense”.  It is our INTUITION.  People call it the “gut sense” –  likely because we feel a real visceral response inside our bodies.  Our muscles may contract or expand, our stomach may tie itself in knots or release, our hearts may beat faster or slow down.  All these responses give us some clue to the answers we may be seeking.  Whether it’s picking out what to wear on a given day or deciding whether to buy that home, we do always have some “sense” into what we are feeling in the moment. 

Oprah devoted last month’s O Magazine to the topic of intuition.  She talked about this innate power that is always available to us if we just listen.  It was interesting to read that all animals have an intuitive sense and prepare themselves to act on it, accordingly.  Humans are the only creatures that, despite hearing, seeing, and “feeling” the signs, actually choose to deny or ignore them.  Why is that?  I guess because we are conditioned in such a way since birth.  We are told what to do, how to act, who to marry, where to live, when to retire, etc.  The voices that usually take precedence exist outside of ourselves.  So much of how we live is dictated by our need to seek approval from others.  We all want to feel validated and worthy, so much that we may forget what is our own truthful path. 

So, what exactly is this intuitive sense?  Call it what you will, but I believe it is our spiritual intelligence.  It is God, the Universe, the Divine Spirit – whatever that power is for you.  And, I do believe that it always exists in us.  I have leaned on it and trusted it a lot in my life.  It didn’t always make rational sense to those around me, or for that matter, to myself, but somehow I knew it on a visceral level. 

There will be those times that you need to tune down the analytical, left side of your brain to give rise to the right, more intuitive side.  Believe in your intuitive sense.  Believe in your Spirit.  Believe that there is something within you that is greater than you can see.  Lean on it, trust it and use it to guide you.

Deepali’s Piece of Wellness:  When making decisions for yourself this week, no matter how small, take a moment to listen to your gut.  Can you learn to trust it?

Where does your happiness live?

How many times have we said to ourselves and others, “I just want to be happy” in life.  To most, happiness can range from contentment to pure elation and joy.  Sure, there is truth in Joseph Cambell’s simple advise, “follow your bliss”, but how many of us really know what that is?  Do we ever just stop and ask ourselves what exactly we want to be, do, or have in this lifetime? 

There is currently a plethora of books and motivational speakers discussing the science of happiness.  Psychologist Martin Seligman provides the acronym PERMA to summarize many of Positive Psychology’s findings; “humans seem happiest when they have Pleasure (tasty foods, warm baths, etc.), Engagement or (aka Flow, the absorption of an enjoyed yet challenging activity), Relationships (social ties have turned out to be extremely reliable indicator of happiness), Meaning (a perceived quest or belonging to something bigger), and finally Accomplishments (having realized tangible goals)”.

When I look at Seligman’s PERMA, I think the pleasure principle is inherent in most of us.  We all intuitively know what brings us that instant gratification in various capacities.  I think the other principles, however, take some serious thought.  It’s easy to think that we’d be happy the minute we won the lottery or the instant we met our ‘soul mate’.  But have we sat down and pondered how much money we really need to thrive in this world?  How would you recognize your soul mate if you haven’t really thought about your values and what you want out of a life partner?  The truth is, many of us can’t pursue happiness unless we know what gives our life meaning, what we want to achieve, and what healthy relationships look and feel like.  We chase happiness in hopes of catching up to something that ends up being elusive, at best, unless we know the unique experiences for which we are searching.

I recently read Jack Canfield’s book, “The Success Principles”.  One of his assignments is to write down 30 things you want to do, be, and have.  It is an exercise on becoming absolutely clear in what you visualize for your life.  I felt silly when I first sat down to write down 90 items, but it ended up being a lot of fun.  Because there were no limits, it was quite empowering and gave me clarity on what was most important to me in life.  That’s what happens when you peel back the layers, stop judging yourself, and listen to your authentic voice.  You start living your truth. 

Only then can you follow your bliss and be on your way to experiencing true happiness.

***Stay tuned for more on the science of happiness Wednesday****

Deepali’s piece of wellness:  Exercise your mind and get excited about writing down 30 things that you want to be, do, and have.  You will have a much easier time hearing the sound of joy when it comes knocking on your door!