Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Getting Inspired For The New Year

2010 wraps up this Friday, and we break open a fresh new year. I found it busy at the gym this morning, so perhaps many of us are thinking about getting back on track, or doing a few things healthier or differently for the start of the new year that unfolds soon. There is also conversation that goes on,internally and with loved ones, about whether to choose a new years' resolution or not.Perhaps this year you would rather get inspired about something rather than make a resolution, and it might be a better way to approach change.

There is kind of a negative connotation to new years' resolutions. As if they have to mean giving up something you like,or setting up an ordeal for yourself, like a crazy workout schedule that it will be hard to follow through on. Resolutions also carry with them a sense of doom, like failure in carrying through on them may be inevitable.Let's consider some positive ways to get inspired for a new year instead.

What could you get inspired about for the new year? You could commit to a month of giving yourself 15 minutes of quiet everyday, and see what bubbles up to the surface about your life. You could challenge yourself to say 'no' more often this year to give your life some more open space. You could get inspired about embracing more fun this year with your partner.It could be comforting to commit to create a home environment that is less cluttered and more relaxed for you to be in.You could try a new activity or plan a trip you always wanted to take. It could be your year to express your love or appreciation more frequently to the people who matter in your life.You could be inspired to listen more and lecture less.

There are an unlimited number of ways to find inspiration. A new year is a blank canvas on which you have the chance to create new patterns and experiences.You don't have to resolve to do something austere and icky. You can add something positive to your life. This is definiely a good year for commiting to being the best partner, parent, and person you can be. Be inspired and share the challenge with a close confidante who can hold you lovingly accountable.

You may also want to visualize saying goodbye and dropping off old emotional baggage at the train station. You could leave certain negative emotional patterns in the old pages of your 2010 calender,like rushing,impatience,grudges,criticizing and judging others,or being stubborn, inflexible or demanding.The most emotionally healthy people can shift perspectives and see things from someone else's perspective. There is power in visualization, so drop off any negative emotions at the station that you need to.

Let's move forward into the brand new year open to experiences and the deepening of authentic relationships with others.Let's take time to do the self-care we each need to do to feel balanced.Let's begin again in an inspired way; lighter,kinder, and with a reverence for life and love that knows intuitively that we are not here forever.Happy New Year! You can make it one of your very best.

Monday, December 20, 2010

It IS a Wonderful Life

At the holiday season, many people have a favorite holiday movie they like to watch, like Miracle on 34th Street,National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation,the Charlie Brown Christmas Movie, or Elf. It is a fun tradition to watch them again every year, and share the experience with a loved one or two. My favorite is the 1946 Frank Capra classic,It's a Wonderful Life. There are so many valuable lessons in that movie about what is really important in our lives. The movie is based on a short story, The Greatest Gift, by Phillip Van Doren Stern.

In the movie,It's a Wonderful Life, Jimmy Stewart plays a compassionate, but despairing businessman who gets helped by an angel to see what life would have been like if he had never existed. Stewart gets to see the impact on his wife, Donna Reed, his brother, and the community he lives in, if he had not been present. In the end, Stewarts' whole town comes together to help Stewart and his family solve their financial crisis on Christmas Eve.There are tears all around (including my family room) as the touching scene evolves. You can see on Stewart's face the love and deep tenderness and appreciation he feels for his family and friends.

What an appropriate reframe for each of us this holiday season. How essential it seems to not hyperfocus on gifts, lists, or the house being perfect. Every holiday season, no matter the economy, or health challenges, or even loss, there is still much to be appreciative of. What a wonderful time to write or express to those you love how much they mean to you, or what your life would be missing without them in it. It might be the most valuable gift you can give.

Too often, as life gets hectic, we focus on the negative, or what we don't have that we want.In the end, its not about stuff.It's the people in our lives, and our warm memories of our experiences with them, that matter.Being really present with your family or friends this season is the key; slowing down to share some relaxed time together and soak in the feelings of warmth and connection. It occured to me after visiting my elderly grandmother one night this week how much each of us can do to listen to others' stories and reach out to those who don't have the health or ability to connect deeply very often,or get a warm smile or a hug. Perhaps you can think of someone who could use your reaching out to them at this holiday season.Pretty much everyone can be touched by a strangers' sincere smile amid the holiday hustle.

In closing, I borrow from Desiderata, which teaches us "...In the noisy confusion of life, keep your soul. With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Strive to be happy".It is, truly, a wonderful life as long as we are here to experience and share it with others. Don't let your love and caring go unexpressed, or miss out on the important things by obsessing on the stupid stuff.I am wishing a Happy New Year to my valued readers!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Good Advice: The Four Agreements

If you are looking for a meaningful book to give as a holiday gift, I recommend Don Miquel Ruiz's 1997 classic,"The Four Agreements".Ruiz had a near-death experience which led to a life of reflection and self-inquiry.He made the study of ancient wisdom and spirituality his passion.A little self-reflection is good for all of us as another year winds to a close.

Here are the four agreements:

1.Be impeccable with your word.This means using your energy in the direction of truth and love for yourself and for others.It means avoiding gossip. If you are impeccable with your word will make you happy and bring you peace.You are honest and speak the truth.Your life will be less complicated, and you will live in love, rather than fear.When you live in integrity and are impeccable with your word, you will like yourself better.

2.Don't take anything personally."Personal importance", or taking things personally is the height of selfishness. It assumes everything is about you.It also makes you too vulnerable to predators.Think of it as people who try to feed you negative emotional garbage,and if you eat it,the negativity becomes a part of you.If you take things personally, you can get easily offended and hurt. Try not to take either praise or criticism personally. If you are at peace with yourself, what other people say about you isn't your concern. Avoid the needless suffering of taking things personally. Even if others lie to you,they lie to you because they are afraid you will discover they are not perfect.If someone doesn't treat you with love and respect, it is a gift if they leave you.Your heart will eventually heal. By practicing not taking things personally, you will avoid much hurt and upset in your life.

3.Don't make assumptions. We believe our assumptions are true,and they often aren't.
We create emotional poison through acting on our assumptions. This creates lots of drama and pain. Making assumtions in our relationships is asking for trouble, because you DO have to say what you want in relationships. Don't assume your partner should or does know what you want, or reads your mind. That's an irrational expectation. Don't assume people will change. Find someone you respect and don't have to change at all. Imagine your life without any assumptions about the people who are close to you. Instead of assuming things, ask questions and develop an attitude of curiosity about others.

4. Always do your best.You will have a different capacity at different times in your life. Your moods or health can change, so your personal best may vary depending on circumstances. If you always do your best, you won't judge yourself harshly, and can avoid guilt and blame.Enjoy your work. Our actions to do our best honors God. If you do your best always, you will build a beautiful life.

Ruiz is an insightful writer, and helps the reader to get some valuable perspective on our lives and relationships.Here's wishing you a 2011 with more personal freedom, and emotional well-being.You and your relationships will benefit from putting the four agreements into practice on a daily basis. Living the four agreements will help you mature emotionally into the person you were designed to become.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

The Gift of Forgiveness

There are only a couple of weeks left until we wrap up 2010. It seems an appropriate time to think about mending fences in our lives, and see what we can each do personally to apologize, forgive, and lighten the emotional load we take into the fresh new year. As each year passes, the enlightened soul realizes that our time on the earth is finite. The years pass more and more quickly. Sometimes we can't even remember why we carry a grudge against a family member or friend.It is time to unpack the baggage.

Healthy people apologize freely. They realize noone is perfect, not even themselves. Often in the quickness of daily life, we forget to consider the impact of our words, actions,or tone on the people who are close to us. We may disappoint others and let them down. I have seen family members melt in my counseling office when a heartfelt apology is given freely, with the genuine intent to learn and do better in the relationship. Apologizing to anyone you have hurt this year will likely bring you closer, but,at the very least,it will give you more peace internally. To give a satisfying apology, one must be able to get past the ego and pride, and recognize our own human frailty.

Forgiving others for the hurt they may have caused you is something smart that emotionally intelligent people do often. Holding grudges and resentment is like eating poison every day. Why would you want to do that? One of my favorite lines from the Course in Miracles is,"Do you want to be right or do you want to be happy?" There is no benefit to holding on to resentment, and it could negatively impact your mental or physical health.Forgiveness is something you do for your own well-being, not because someone earns it. After all, if we aren't perfect, how can we expect that everyone else is going to read our script?

This Christmas season, be generous with your apologies and your forgiveness. Doing your part to own your own shadow self,in Jungian terms, makes it easier for others to do the same. By apologizing for your own thoughtlessness, selfishness, or hurtfulness to those you love, and forgiving their slights towards you, you will be better prepared to begin the new year with lighghtness and more room for joy.I wish you a happy holiday season and a lighter 2011!

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Appreciating Your Partner

Today, take a moment to reflect on what you appreciate about your partner. Often we take our partner for granted, or perseverate about their shortcomings. It is so much better to think of your love relationship as a living, dynamic thing and that you are never in a steady state with each other. You are either growing closer together, or drifting further apart at any particular time. what wonderful things can happen when you take complete responsibility for making your partner feel loved and appreciated.

Here are some suggestions to get you going:

Reveal what makes you feel loved to your partner.
Lavish specific praise on your partner for the kindnesses they show you and how they brighten your life.
Be emotionally brave, honest,and let yourself be vulnerable.
Ask for what you need from your partner.
Criticize only in private.
Surprise each other often in little ways that say ,"I thought of you".
(Doing the unexpected can keep your love alive.)
Kiss often.
Say "I love you".
Say "thank you" and "please".
Listen to the meaning behind the words.
Offer to help as needed.
Develop empathy for your partners' point of view.
Share your dreams.
Talk about your fears.
Create your own special traditions as a couple that mean something to the two of you.
Honor one another in front of friends, family,and strangers.
If you have a complaint about the relationship, speak directly with your partner, never to others.
Negotiate the housework and other mundane tasks.
Cultivate romance.
Hug and kiss hello and goodbye.
Schedule time to be alone together.
When you fight, be specific, and ask for what you want in the future, or next time.
Hold hands.
Celebrate the special qualities about your partner that attracted you in the beginning.
Play together.
Have high energy fun together as often as possible.
Forgive one another.
Keep your word.
Love yourself. Believe you deserve to be treated well.
Be faithful and protect the relationship from harm.
Make plans for the future together.
Talk about your coutship.
Make your relationship your priority.

Follow these instuctions, and your partner should feel well loved and appreciated, and you maintain your investment in being a part of something wonderful that lasts!