Striking oil with your own feelings

Are you drowning in your own feelings? Many of us are and don’t even realize it. For some reason, we find it difficult to to express emotions that make us feel vulnerable. These are what I call softer emotions, such as: love, compassion, asking for forgiveness, giving forgiveness, humility, expressing that something hurt you and so on.

I’m not saying we don’t have these feelings. I’m saying we find it rather difficult to give voice to these feelings. Thus we internally drown in them. Your feelings are your driving force of life, whether you have them buried deep inside or right on the surface.  To listen to my podcast on emotions, click here.

It is far easier to cover the vulnerable feelings up with anger. Instead of humility and asking for forgiveness, anger takes over. We become defensive and start blaming others. Instead of love and compassion when someone needs it, we become angry at the inconvenience of their neediness right this moment. When someone has hurt us, rather than expressing that with vulnerability, we cover it with anger and keep others at a distance.

Anger seems to be the King of All Emotions. It is easily held on to and easily expressed. It trumps all other emotions and is our fall-back as well as our push forward. Anger sits right under the surface in us, while all the other emotions get stuffed deep inside. It would take the world’s most powerful oil drill to get access to them. But when we strike those other emotions and allow them to rise to the surface, then we have struck oil. We have struck it rich!!

Give voice to those vulnerable emotions. Only you can operate the oil well. Only you can let them out. And only you will fully appreciate the true value they bring as they rise.

For help in teaching your kids how to get in touch with their own feelings, check out my new site The Black Belt Mom.

I am beginning a mini-series on Empathy in Parenting.

Episode 86 Out-of-Control Obsessing

Episode 86 Out-Of-Control Obsessing: 5 Powerful Steps to Become an Effective Manage of Your Own Mind

In this episode, I am going to give you 5 steps to stop the out-of-control obsessing that intrudes the mind on a daily basis. These effective steps put you back in control of your own mind and thus your own life.

What is an obsession? An idea or thought that continually preoccupies or intrudes on a person’s mind. A persistent, disturbing preoccupation.

I know I have found myself in situations like this: I am in conversation with someone. They are talking about something, and I am engaged at first. Then some thought will cross my mind that stays and takes up residency. Now my mind is preoccupied. I am absorbed in thought and not hearing a word that is being said. Well, it doesn’t take long for that person to realize it usually. They lose motivation in the conversation and move on in their life. I then feel bad and usually try to reconnect with them.

When someone says that they are obsessing about something, this doesn’t usually have a positive connotation. Usually they are looking for a way out, some relief from this persistent preoccupation.

An obsession intrudes on your mind. It is almost as though you have no control over it. You find yourself back in thought about it without even knowing how you got there.

What are we obsessing over in life?

Negative situations – we replay them over and over again. Even though the situation is long gone, we keep it alive inside us for days, sometimes years.

Money – How can I get more? How can I pay my bills? What if my money runs out? How can I afford to send my kids to college? How will I ever be able to retire? Money is a quick way to a high stress level.

Time – Being too busy. How can I get everything done? This must all be done today (even though there may be no real reason for that other than you just want it over with). No one understands how much I have to get done. I can’t possibly add one more item to my schedule.

What is an obsession really?

An obsession is simply an addiction of the mind. Addictions are an escape from reality. They are things that make us feel better, no matter how temporary, about ourselves and our world. They quickly get out of control. If you are an addict, you lose the ability to manage whatever is the focus of your addiction. It has intruded and is extremely persistent.

An obsession is mismanagement of the mind. Any obsession is a mismanagement of the mind and is destructive. It interferes with the process of creating a healthy and positive life.

You must learn how to be a manager of your own mind.

5 Powerful Steps to Become an Effective Manage of Your Own Mind

Within a company, what do managers do? The Wall Street Journal answered that question.

  1. Sets goals and decides what work needs to get done to meet those goals
  2. Organizes, divides the work into manageable chunks, selects an order, basically makes a plan of attack.
  3. Motivates and communicates, builds the team
  4. Measures, sets appropriate targets and yardsticks, analyzes and appraises
  5. Develops people, people are a company’s most important asset and a manager develops that asset.

Apply these steps to your own mind

Sets goals

Do you have goals or are you just floating along in life? Without goals, we drift aimlessly. 

Setting goals takes courage. Once a goal is set, we will either succeed or fail. So there is risk involved. I never said this path would be easy. But I do promise that it will be rewarding.

Goals come in a lot of different areas of life. Physically – losing weight, getting in shape, eating better….. Emotionally – showing more compassion, connecting with family better….

This first step is to set your goals and then decide what work needs to get done to meet those goals. What will it take to accomplish them?

Organizes your steps

So now you take those goals that might seem unreachable, and you make them more manageable. You make a plan of attack. You don’t have to be able to see the entire path yet. Just see what you need to do now.

Motivates and communicates

This is the most important step in my opinion. The manager can have the best plan in the world, but if the workers can’t stay motivated to get it done, then the plan is useless. Do you motivate yourself? Most people will answer that with a huge NO. We are all much too quick to talk negatively to ourselves. I’m not good. I can’t get anything done. What was I thinking when I made this goal and elaborate plan? This’ll never happen.

If this is how you talk with yourself, you might as well stop now. You can’t win against that sort of talk.

How does an effective manager motivate his people? He sees the positive things they do and recognizes and rewards them. An effective manager meets with his people and listens to them. He creates a positive work environment and respects his workers.

So do you motivate yourself? Do you see the positive things you do and reward yourself with them? Those rewards can be anything from kind words to yourself to an evening out with a best friend. Communicate with yourself with positive and motivating words

Measures, analyzes and appraises

Set yourself appropriate targets and appraise your progress. Appraise means to set the value of something, to determine its quality. Appraise the value of the thoughts in your mind on a regular basis. The thoughts that are not helpful to you, discard them. Keep only the thoughts that move you in a positive and forward direction.

Develops people

Are you developing yourself? You are your greatest asset! Think about it. You can process millions of memories and thoughts everyday. Along with the adrenaline to fight a bear to save your child, you also have the gentleness to calm an upset baby. You can experience hundreds of emotions everyday and spend a lifetime learning, never feeling like you have run out of room.

This is better than any computer money will ever buy.

As you learn to better manage your mind, the results are huge!

Focus on what you want in life

Life brings us what we dwell on, like we are a magnet. 

If you are obsessing over negative situations, life will bring you more to dwell on. You see, the universe is quite logical. If you are spending all that time focused on negative situations, then life concludes that you must like having the negative situations to ponder and dwell on. So it will give you more of them.

The opposite is also true. If you are obsessing on positive things and positive situations, then life will determine that this is what you want more of. You will find yourself experiencing more and more positive situations to dwell on.

So be careful what you spend your time and energy thinking about.

The universe is listening!

 

Your Independence Day: 3 Priceless Freedoms We Too Quickly Sacrifice

Your Independence Day: 3 Priceless Freedoms We Too Quickly Sacrifice

Are you free? Really free? Do you decide how you spend your time? Do you have freedom?

Think about your last 24 hours. Did you spend it the way you would choose? Did you do the things you want to do? If you could choose how you would spend the next 24 hours, what would they look like?

Creating a life on our own terms is not an easy thing to do. We have demands coming at us from every direction. We are surrounded by other people’s expectations and needs. In many ways, we are not free!

We willingly sacrifice our own freedom every single day. Many times we aren’t even aware of it. We do it all by ourselves too. No one is forcing us. No one is twisting our arm. We just do it.

Here are 3 priceless freedoms that we are much too quickly willing to sacrifice!

Freedom from the past

We drag along the past almost as though we have no choice, carrying it in our hearts and in our minds. We are experts at burying past pain inside so deeply that it can’t possibly escape. It remains there forever and weighs us down year after year.

The past doesn’t exist anymore. You must let it go. No need to bring it along. All it does is weigh you down. You can find freedom from the past. It is more simple than you may think. Accept the past for whatever it was and live in the now.

The past is gone. It will never return. Those experiences, thoughts, feelings, etc. are all gone. Yes you may remember them, but you are remembering them now. You are sitting here today remembering a past event. Keep the emotions and feelings you have now present during the process of remembering. Don’t let the old pains and hurts creep in. You don’t have to live the situation again every time you remember it. When you can stay present to now, then it is easier to accept that past for what it was, process it, and move forward.

Don’t stay trapped by your past. Even good memories can bog you down. Don’t cling to memories that you want to freeze in time forever. 

Letting go of even the happy past

When our boys were little, I heard other moms say: Don’t you just wish you could stop time and keep them little forever. Or I don’t ever want them to grow up. I heard grandmas saying: Oh, if I could just go back to when my kids were little. It was as if they were still trying to live in that past.

As a young mother, the thought of watching my boys grow up was overwhelming. I cherished their young years and innocence, and I couldn’t imagine sending our firstborn to kindergarten. That will be impossible. So I tried to enjoy the time I had with them as much as I possibly could. I stayed present to them. When I was with them, I tried to be all the way with them. Amazingly, as the time came for our oldest to go to kindergarten, it was okay. I was ready, and so was he. Yes I cried, but they were just as much happy tears as they were sad.

As each phase of life has come for them, we have embraced it. When they graduated from elementary school, when our oldest boarded a plane for France, when they went to high school, even when they started driving a car. Now our oldest is looking forward to college. What a huge step! WOW! Yes in a way time flies. But in a way it simply marches along, day by day.

In not clinging to their past years, I have had more of me to spend along the way. More of me to be present with them through their childhood. Spending time with them was spending me time.

Find your freedom from your past. Look at it and remember as you need and choose, but don’t live there. It doesn’t exist anymore.

Freedom from the future

Just like the past, the future doesn’t exist either. It is a figment of your imagination. Think about it. That future conversation you are dreading isn’t reality. You don’t know how it will happen or if it even will happen. But yet how much of your present energy are you willing to let it burn?

Maybe you are stressing over a medical bill that you know is coming your way. Well, it isn’t here now, so be present to now. Filling your mind and heart with worry now only makes you suffer now, as well as those around you. You don’t know what will happen between now and when that bill arrives. Don’t sacrifice your present energy for that future worry.

Let it go. It eats you up with worry and anxiety. Quit imagining things that don’t exist right now.

I told you that I refused to spend my boys’ childhood clinging to the past. Another way that I refused to spend my time with our boys was in worrying about the future. Many parents spend their energy worrying about their child’s future: their future mate, future job, future college, etc. That steals just as much energy from your present as clinging to the past.

The future will come when it is time. Let it. Trust it and relax.

I’m not saying you can’t make plans. If you want to make a plan for saving money for college, that’s great. But these plans are happening here and now. Do what you can now and don’t worry about the rest. You don’t know what the future holds.

What if now is all you get?

A sobering and yet amazingly freeing thought hit me one day. The thought raced through my mind, “What if these years with the boys in their childhood are the only years I get with them?” I don’t know whether they are or not. What if they don’t survive into adulthood, what if I don’t survive into their adulthood? Do I really want to spend this precious time with them wrapped up in a past that is already gone or in a future that doesn’t exist? Absolutely not!! This time I have with them now is my time with them.

There is no guarantee of the future. And honestly the future doesn’t matter. If I can’t be present to them now, I won’t ever be able to present to them. All I have is right now – but that is a most precious thing. In fact, it’s everything!

Freedom from a life you did not choose

Many people are living a life that they didn’t choose. We allow outside pressure as well as internal pressure guide our choices and actions.

Does this ring true with you? Are you doing what you want to do? Do you spend your time and energy in a way that is your choice?

At the beginning of the podcast, I asked you to think about your last 24 hours. Did you spend it the way you would choose, and did you do the things you want to do? If you could choose how you would spend the next 24 hours, what would they look like?

Who do you think is choosing your life for you?

You? Your parents? Your friends? Your boss? Your mate? Your church? Your beliefs of what you think the world wants of you?

Are you doing what you do because it is expected of you? Maybe even because you think it’s what is expected of you, whether it really is or not? Because you thought that’s what everyone wanted you to do? Are you doing it to make someone else happy?

We are limited by others at times in our life, but this is only part of the story. We are never more trapped than when we are limited by our own beliefs.

Our Limiting Beliefs

  • A belief that the world is against you is a prison.
  • A belief that you are worthless and no good imprisons your heart and suspends you in mediocrity.
  • A belief that everyone else has what you should have gotten locks you into jealousy and envy.
  • A belief that everyone is judging you freezes you with fear and anxiety.
  • A belief that you must respond to everyone’s needs and help save the world leaves you exhausted and insecure.
  • A belief that you must protect your image at all times and always look perfect by appearance and action leads to panic attacks.
  • A belief that you must feel good all the time traps you into chasing after empty indulgences.

I’m not talking here about having the freedom to live a self-indulgent life, full of selfishness and empty pursuits. These are just as limiting, if not more so.

I’m talking about the freedom to live a life that comes from deep within, a life that leaves a legacy of your choosing.

You need to ask yourself – What drives you to get out of bed every morning? If you are doing it out of obligation or for the supposed happiness of other people, then getting out of bed each morning will begin to get more and more difficult.

You need to ask yourself – Where is your vibrant passion for life? Where is your appreciation for life’s spark? What makes you genuinely happy?

Nothing external can save you

Quit waiting on someone or some kind of luck or opportunity. You must find peace within.

You have to be the one to let go of these self-oppressing beliefs, as no one can do it for you.

I have heard many people say that they are their own worst critic, and I understand that, as I have been there too. It stinks. I want to be my own best ally, my own best friend. Maybe we think that if we become that then we are being too easy on ourselves and won’t push ourselves. But don’t you want your best friends to be the best they can be. Don’t you encourage them and support them. Why wouldn’t you do that to yourself?

Where have we learned to be so hard on ourselves? It just doesn’t make sense.

Don’t let anyone else choose your life for you. I think that is what Jesus meant in Scripture when He said – He who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me. And he who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.

He knew that you will not find happiness by living a life that someone else has chosen for you. Even people you love and care about. It’s okay. He is giving us permission to live our own lives. You can still love the your father and mother, son and daughter, but claim your own life. Make it yours and yours alone.

The Motivation Manifesto by Brendon Burchard

I am reading a fantastic book that I just purchased. Here are some thoughts from it.

“This is the ultimate misery – living a life that is not our own.”

“We relinquish our free will to a society of strangers that speaks not of liberty and courage but of conformity and caution. Our true self is subjugated and a pseudo self emerges, a mere reflection of a society that has lost its way. “They” start running our lives and soon we are not “us” anymore, just walking zombies filled with the commands of others’ preferences and expectations…..And then we see the worst of human behavior – a mass of people who do not speak up for themselves or others but rather do only what they are told.”

“Freedom requires responsibility to choose who we are above and beyond our immediate impulses, needs and social pressures, so that we can genuinely express the type of person we want to be, live the life we truly want to live, leave the legacy we desire.”

“The great demand is clear – We must be conscious and responsible for our beliefs and behaviors if we are ever to be free.”

Episode 84 Smartphones: 5 Surprising Ways They are Just Like Your Own Mind

Episode 84 Smartphones: 5 Surprising Ways they are Just Like Your Own Mind

Smartphones have become a force to be reckoned with in our world. They are everywhere – schools, homes, churches, places of work, grocery stores, gas stations, sports events…. You just might be blown away by the similarities between these phones and your own mind.

You might find some of this to be offensive. I understand, but I encourage you to listen all the way through. Those of you who find it offensive are almost certainly the ones that need to hear this.

Here are the 5 Surprising Ways that Smartphones are Just Like Your Own Mind

I. Our smartphones and our mind are both with us 100% of the time

Obviously our mind is with us all the time. The phone is quickly catching up. It goes with us to work, the store, a friend’s house, even to bed. In fact sometimes, I think we are looking at the phone to replace our own mental capabilities. Unfortunately this easily leads to intellectual laziness

Hear this personal experience – I used to naturally memorize someone’s phone number when I heard it the very first time. I never used a phone book or speed dial, and I never needed it. I knew the phone numbers of all my students without even trying.

That all changed when I started storing them in my phone. Now I don’t even know my own brother’s phone number, and I struggle to keep any numbers straight. Is that because I lost some mental ability? No. It was just naturally there and easy to keep because I had to dial the numbers in every time. Now that they are stored in the phone, I no longer dial them each time and my mind has succumbed to the laziness that follows.

2. The Smartphones and our mind can be a black hole of wasted time and energy

The phone absorbs our time without our awareness. We easily get lost in games, social media, videos, texting, etc. It is a vortex that consumes hours and hours without you even knowing it

The mind is no different. We can easily get lost in hours of replaying negative situations and worrying over future events. All these hours of replaying are hours of wasted energy.

3. Smartphones and our mind create a wall around us

Anyone trying to connect with a person while they are on their phone experiences a wall. When the phone is in front of your face, your ears just don’t work the same. Spontaneity and genuineness are gone.

 

When someone is lost in the thoughts of their mind, it is the same. They never hear you. They may smile and nod, but it is as though they aren’t even there. Again, spontaneity and genuineness are gone.

4. The Off Button for smartphones and our minds just seem to not work

I have news for you – the off button does work!!

Phones can be silenced or even better powered down all together. Your life won’t end. The world won’t stop rotating. It will be okay.

Do you know how to turn your mind off? Many people say, “I can’t quiet my mind. I’ve tried, but I just can’t do it.” They think that to stop thinking is simply impossible. I assure you that not only is it possible, it is necessary. Everyone needs to give their mind and their phone some time off everyday.

5. Both the smartphones and the mind are incredibly powerful tools

They both contain endless capabilities and unlimited potential.

Your own smartphone is millions of times more powerful than all of NASA’s combined computing in 1969, the year we landed man on the moon

The power of your mind blows that away though. It is the most powerful computer you will ever have, the most complex structure in the universe. Nothing can match its abilities, or even compete.

Choose how you use your phone, and choose how you use your mind too.

Episode 83 – 7 Easy Ways to Become Happier and Calmer

Episode 83 – 7 Easy Ways to Become Happier and Calmer

How’s your life? Are you happy? Are you filled with stillness? Are you stressed and agitated? Is calmness a regular part of your life? In this episode, I will give you 7 easy ways to become happier and calmer.

Imagine you are standing in a refreshing mountain stream. The cool water feels marvelous on your bare feet. You wade around in the water, feeling the smooth rocks under your feet. As you walk around, your feet are stirring up the water and the dirt on the bottom. This makes it very difficult to see the bottom of the stream.

You know that this stream is filled with sparkling gorgeous rocks. So you cause your feet to be still. You patiently wait for the water to settle down. Now, as stillness comes, you can see the bottom more clearly. The beautiful rocks shimmer in the sunlight and clear water. They seem to light up and sparkle just for you.

You would never be able to see and experience these beauties if you did not let the water be still and peaceful.

Finding the Stillness Inside

We are the stream. The sparkling rocks are the treasures deep inside our own hearts. These treasures are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, compassion, etc. The muddiness in life is our own agitation, our own busy-ness, and our own stress. Our water is often very stirred up and murky. We are churning with emotions, mental activity, schedules, stresses, places to be, things to do, etc. That murky water is hiding the very treasures inside of us that we seek, the soft spot where we find peace, love, and happiness. To find those treasures, the path is through stillness.

How do we clear the water?

So how do we clear the water? Just like in the stream – by being still. Stop moving, doing, thinking, analyzing, performing, organizing, hurrying, and fixing. Just be still. All the murkiness has to settle back to the bottom, just like it had to settle to the bottom of the stream. As it settles, the brilliant colors of your rocks once again sparkle in the sunlight from above. Be still and let your water clear. Be still and find peace. Be still so you can see God deep in your own heart.

You are the water. The treasures lie under the surface, but so does the dirt. You get to choose whether you stir up the dirt or not. You get to choose if the sparkling rocks are visible or not. When you feel yourself getting all worked up, picture the murky water of the stream. Choose to not live your life that way. Choose to be still.

How do you find stillness and be happy?

Quit rushing

Rushing is a terrible habit. I say habit purposefully. We get so used to driving in a rushed mindset that even when we aren’t in a hurry we find ourselves fussing at a slow driver or griping about missing another light. What’s the big hurry? Sitting at another traffic light is just a few more minutes of your life. Spend those minutes in a way that is pleasing. Listen to a song, look at the trees and birds, notice the people around you. Don’t sit there and stew, feeding your feeling of rushing.

Leave your house earlier – I hate that feeling of rushing to get out the door or of frantically driving when I know I will be late. That is not a feeling I ever want to have. I would rather be somewhere 10 minutes early than have that feeling ever again. Just do it. There isn’t anything at your house that is so important that you can’t leave a few minutes earlier. You just have to make it a normal for you.

Don’t cram so much into your schedule

Lighten your schedule. I used to be of the mindset that each day I had to get as much stuff done as I possibly could. One day, I realized that I was driving myself crazy. Why? There is no rule that says I had to keep going at that pace. I started clearing out my list. Wow, what a difference it has made for me! I still find that I need to do it more.

Prioritize your self-care

This means good sleep, good nutrition and good exercise. These are the backbone of you. Self-care has many other aspects, but these 3 are the essentials. Make them a non-negotiable priority for you.

Be present

Find activities that encourage you to be in your present moment. Many people who find stillness in their life practice meditation, yoga, taichi, or other such mindful activities. Find what works for you. In the society we live in, it isn’t enough to just say you will be present. We have too many distractions from our present moment. You must be purposeful about it and practice it everyday. Teach your mind to be where you are right now. The mind likes to run off a lot. It will take you many places, except where you currently are. Help your mind and your body to be in the same place. Teach your mind to focus on only one thing – the current task at hand, whatever that is.

Don’t take life so seriously

Smile a lot, whether you feel like it or not. When the muscles in the face create a smile, it naturally feels good. It releases neuropeptides, stress-fighters. It fires off the neurotransmitters – dopamine, endorphins and serotonin. These not only relax your body, but also lower your heart rate and your blood pressure. Serotonin is a natural anti-depressant. Create a way to remind yourself to smile. Put a rock in your pocket and smile every time you feel it.

Open up

Share your emotions with others. There is power in sharing your emotions. Just getting things off your chest can make your entire world seem better. We seem so afraid to talk to others about our true feelings. Let go of the fear. What are we afraid of – their judgment? Maybe we think they need us to be strong so we are afraid of letting them down. Many times, when we open up and share our feelings, we learn that the other person has similar feelings and was afraid to share them too. You are not the only one who doesn’t share your feelings. Many many people don’t. So it is very likely you are sharing with someone who is also afraid of sharing. So not only are you helping yourself, you are helping them too. Now they will find the strength to open up too.

Accept life

Life is unpredictable. The best laid plans will go awry. Expect that. Make the plans anyways, but be ready to change at any moment. Spending energy resisting reality is a terrible waste of that energy. No matter how hard you resist, reality still exists. The sooner you accept it, the sooner you will be at peace. Your heart will be still, and you can create a positive path forward.

 

Episode 82 Let Go of the Inhibitions and Live

Episode 82 Let go of the Inhibitions and LIVE

In this episode, I will explain how our own inhibitions get in our way and work against us. They make it almost impossible to create the type of life many of us desire. Let’s talk about how to get rid of them.

For more reading, check out my blog post from 2014.

Inhibitions – Massive Internal Roadblocks

Our own inhibitions create massive internal road blocks. Sometimes it easy to grasp the reality of this by looking at physical examples. I’m going to give you two.

Inhibitions in Taekwondo Free Sparring

Free sparring is our practice of fighting skills. The guard is one’s defensive position. If your guard is all tense and tight, you aren’t going to block very well. When a student spars with a rigid guard, their blocks are slow and short. Intensely they are thinking, “Here comes a kick. I must block it.” Their thoughts are so powerful that it actually inhibits their movement. So the kick may be coming to the right side of their head. Their block may go to the right side of their head. But because of their rigidness, their muscles are not free to extend, and the block will often stop short of the desired target. Therefore, they still get hit. What got in the way? Their own tension and rigidity. In other words, their own defense got in the way of actually keeping them safe.

When a student is SO afraid of getting hit, this creates an extreme amount of tension and rigidity. It almost guarantees that they will get hit. When a student learns to trust their own blocks, they begin to relax. They start trusting their own ability to protect themselves. Then the most amazing thing happens, that trust actually causes the abilities to strengthen. Their own faith makes them stronger.

How does this work?

When one’s guard relaxes, their muscles are freer to move.  The reflexes are much faster when one is relaxed, and the muscles themselves move quicker. Another advantage is that the relaxes muscles reach a little further. The absence of tension allows them to extend to the end of their range. A relaxed guard is a much more effective guard.

Now we have a more proficient guard, but that’s not all. Another wonderful result of a relaxed guard is the release of inhibitions. A student who is so afraid of getting hit will not move around much. They will not try using very many techniques and new techniques become extinct quickly. The techniques they do throw will come only one at a time. They will stay far away from their partner’s reach and often run in a big circle around them. Their own techniques will be rigid and short, never reaching the partner that they are not willing to approach. When they do kick, they are in an incredible hurry to return to their tense guarded position. So their leg flies out in an abrupt and ineffective front kick, returning with lightening speed to its perceived safe zone.

On the contrary, a student who trusts their own guard lets go of the inhibitions. They are open to trying new techniques and combination of techniques. They are more willing to extend these techniques in an attempt to reach their targets. They are willing to get closer to their partner. All of this is necessary in order for their skills to improve. Students without inhibitions are willing to engage.

Inhibitions in the Music World

A music student who is tense and extremely guarded will experience some similar issues. Imagine a singer trying to perform with tension pulsing through their bodies. Their neck remains stiff and tight while they try to sing long, beautiful high notes. This is not a pleasant experience to them or their audience members.

How about a pianist who is so tense on stage that their hands shake? Playing fast passages is impossible. Calm and gentle music is not obtainable. In their own attempt to protect themselves, they make their job a whole lot harder

What are you protecting yourself from?

What are they protecting themselves from? In the martial arts, clearly you are protecting yourself from potential physical injury. But what about in music? I don’t think many musicians are worried about physical injury on stage. No one is going to approach the stage and deliver a flying side kick or knifehand strike.

The threat in the music world is what others will think of you. If I miss that high note coming up, people will think I am no good. If I forget my words, people will laugh at me and that will hurt. As a pianist, if I mess up, people will think poorly of me. It is all about what we perceive others to think of us. We are constantly on the guard to make sure they are only given the opportunities to have good thoughts about us. We try so hard to be perfect that we actually guarantee that we will fall far short. It is our own tension and rigidity that once again works against our ultimate desired outcome.

How do we relax?

So how do we relax? Same way – trust. As musicians though, what are we trusting? Our training so far. All those hours of practicing. The work we have done. If you can’t trust all the practicing, then why are you practicing?

Now if you haven’t done the work, good luck on convincing yourself to trust that work. You can’t trust practice hours that you haven’t spent. See, your heart knows. But if you have done the work, you can learn to trust that. Then your guard will relax. The inhibitions will start to fall away.

What happens then? A musical performance where you can feel more connected and more engaged. Your relaxed muscles give you more freedom. This freedom can be used for expression, imagination and engagement. All of which lead to powerful musical performances. In fact without them, performances are bland and boring.

 

Inhibitions in Life

If you are going thru life afraid of what everyone else thinks of you, afraid of “messing” up, afraid of getting hurt by others, then you are doing the same as these students. You are living with rigidity and tension, both of which are actually causing your problems.

Remember in sparring, your own rigid defense causes you to get hit. Same in life. Imagine this scenario –

John and Beth are on a first date. John is a nervous wreck. He wants so badly to be liked by Beth. He is terrified of saying the wrong thing or doing something she doesn’t like. So his guard is up. His defenses are rigid and tense. Have you ever been in this kind of situation? You know, when a person tries so hard to be liked that they ruin it all by themselves.

You see, John’s rigidness causes his words to be tense and nervous. It almost guarantees that he will say the “wrong” thing. His conversation will be awkward. The harder he tries the worse it will get.

Our own inhibitions get in the way all too often. Just let go of them. Do you really care that much what others think of you? Does it really matter in the grand scheme of life? And do you have any control of it anyways?

The answer to all of this is no. It doesn’t really matter. The people who love you are still going to love you. The people that hate are still going to hate you. No matter what you do or say. No, you don’t have any actual control over what others think of you.

So quit spending all that energy in that way. It is exhausting to worry over what others think of you. What if I do this? What if I say that? I shouldn’t have said it that way. Do they think I’m stupid? Did I hurt their feelings?

Let your guard down and relax the tension in you. This will greatly improve not only your life, but also the lives of those around you.

Quit taking Life so Seriously

In order to let go of the inhibitions – quit taking life so seriously. People who are all wrapped up in what others think of them are some of the most serious people I have ever met. Everything matters. Every little word, every little look, every little action, everything. They analyze every little thing and draw major conclusions from them.

Quit taking life so seriously. Smile a lot. Do something today that takes you out of your comfort zone. Something fun. Something that breaks your own inhibitions.

Here are some examples –

Give a total stranger $10

Swing on a public swingset, singing while you do

Chat with 3 people you don’t know – people in the store, at the gas station, etc.

Crank up some music and dance

 

Episode 81 Hugging: Is It Only About Feeling Good?

Episode 81 Hugging: Is it only about feeling good?

In this episode, we will focus on the many wonderful benefits of hugging. It’s a long list, so hang on. Everything from lowering your blood pressure and decreasing inflammation to calming the mind and encouraging healing. Let’s go!

So how many of you are huggers? Do you like to hug or is it just plain torture for you?

For some of us, hugs only happen at holidays when grandparents come to town. Yet for some of us, hugs are a regular part of our daily life.

No Hugs are Created Equal

Everyone is different. Hugging one person may feel warm and inviting. It’s as though positive energy passes from them to you. Just that simple hug all of a sudden makes your world happier and less stressful. It’s amazing how much brighter everything can look after a single hug.

Some people, however, are like hugging a tree. You know, that person who just stands there, stiff as a board. Often times, they hold their breath. As soon as you start to hug them, you are sorry that you did. But it’s too late. Knowing that you have already committed to the hug, you feel obligated to press forward. Their arms may move around you, but they don’t embrace you or welcome you. It is as though you have invaded their territory. Making a quick retreat is your only path.

Some people just can’t stand hugging. I don’t mean they don’t like it. I mean they would rather be greeted with a hand grenade and a box of scorpions. Why? What is it that they find so bad or so offensive about a hug? Is it an invasion of their personal territory? Is it insecurity about their ability to hug and connect? Is it an unwillingness to be vulnerable? If hugging just isn’t your thing, tell me why. I want to know.

Research on Hugs

Scientists have researched hugs. Of course they have. They have researched everything! Okay. Well…was this a waste of their time? Absolutely not! For me it was validation as to why I like hugging so much. Why other people don’t like hugging will always remain a mystery to me?

Benefits of Hugging

  • Lowers risk of heart disease
  • Reduces stress
  • Fights fatigue
  • Boosts your immune system
  • Fights infections
  • Eases depression
  • Decreases feelings of loneliness, sadness and anger
  • Combats fear
  • Increases self-esteem
  • Diffuses tension
  • Balances your nervous system
  • Speeds up healing from sickness and disease
  • Reduces inflammation and tension
  • Reduces perception of pain
  • Relaxes your muscles
  • Reduces anxiety and worry
  • Increases blood circulation
  • Lowers blood pressure
  • Calms the mind

The list of the benefits of hugging is a long one. It goes on and on. Let’s take a closer look at a few of these.

Hugs Help with Healing the Body

They strengthen the immune system by stimulating the thymus gland, which is located directly behind the sternum. It regulates and balances the body’s production of white blood cells, which keep you healthy and disease free. A tight and firm hug, chest to chest, stimulates that thymus gland.

Reduces pain by releasing endorphins which block pain pathways.

Reduces inflammation by lessening the release of cortisol, the stress hormone. Cortisol leads to inflammation in our body. Its constant release has drastic effects. We need to become more aware of this and find ways to cut back on this hormone in our bodies. In other words, stress reduction must become a priority for us. One way is to hug more!

Hugs Heal Loneliness, Depression, and Anger

It instantly boosts oxytocin levels, the “bonding hormone.” Oxytocin, released by your pituitary gland, is a naturally occurring hormone in your body with incredibly powerful, health-giving properties. It promotes attachment and bonding.

Hugs Reduce anxiety and stress

Hugging relaxes muscles, releases tension in the body, sends calming messages to the brain, increases circulation, reduces pain, lowers heart rate, and lowers blood pressure.

The hormones that are released in the body after a hug aren’t just good for happy feelings — they can also help your physical health. When someone touches you, the sensation on your skin activates pressure receptors, which then send signals to the vagus nerve, an area of the brain that is responsible for (among many things) lowering blood pressure.

The effects of a hug on your body are physical. It actually changes your body’s current state in positive ways.

Creates happiness

Increases the production of serotonin.

Serotonin impacts every part of your body, from your emotions to your motor skills. Serotonin is considered a natural mood stabilizer and the chemical that helps sleeping, eating, and digesting. A person experiences depression and loneliness when their serotonin levels are low. Serotonin also helps reduce depression, regulate anxiety, heal wounds, and maintain bone health.

Seratonin pushes toxins out of your body. It is the thing responsible for nausea and diarrhea. You may think, Great? I don’t want that around. But this is how your body pushes out toxins that just don’t belong there. Without this, the toxins would remain. You know, sometimes you just feel better after you throw up. You have serotonin to thank for that.

Hugging teaches us to let go and be present in the moment. It connects you with your own feelings, boosting your self-esteem.

Improves Relationships

Hugging teaches us how to give and receive. It shows how love flows both ways. It’s an investment in the relationship. Hugging encourages empathy and understanding, builds trust and sense of safety, makes you warm and fuzzy inside, helps you feel protected and loved, and increases feelings of commitment and intimacy.

Hugs Travel Both Ways

It doesn’t matter if you are the toucher or the touchee. Just as much benefit exists for the person doing the hugging as the one receiving the hug.

Hugs cross a boundary that words cannot cross. A hug communicates a lot. Your feelings and emotions can be felt in your hug, much greater than words. But what’s so wrong about that?

If you want to know how I feel, come here. Let me give you a hug. If you want me to know how you feel, let me give you a hug. Now we can understand each other. And with understanding, comes compassion.

From an article in Collective Evolution

“Hugging! We often hug each other when we are happy or when we see the person we love most. We often feel joy and happiness when hugging another person, and a hug can convey a lot about how we’re feeling and how we feel about each other. Each time we sincerely hug someone, we are actually conveying our love and joy for that person in a way that can never be explained through our words alone. We feel all our burdens ease away while we are in a hug, and those worries are replaced by increased feelings of happiness and trust.”

Hugging? You ask why?

 

To read more about the benefits of hugging, I am posting links to various resources. These include – US News, Huffington Post, Dr. Mercola and the Cleveland Clinic. Check them out.

 

MindBodyGreen

US News

 

Huffington Post

Dr. Mercola

Collective Evolution

 

Cleveland Clinic

Don’t forget – open your arms and your heart will soon follow. Hug someone today!

 

Episode 80 One Minute of Happiness: Don’t Underestimate the Power of a Mini-Vacation

If you want to be happy, then be happy!

In this episode, I’m going to teach you a method for building happiness. It’s a simple approach and extremely effective. If you can be happy for one minute, you can be happy for a lifetime.

But you have to want it! Do you really want to be happy? I mean, really want it. If you do, then go get it.

I can hear you saying – but you don’t understand what I’m going through.

You don’t know how much stress I am under. You don’t know how busy I am. No one understands.

Oh, really!

I assure you that no matter what you are going through in life, there are others who are going through worse. Look around you. Do you really believe that you are the only one who knows a stressed schedule or a frustrated life?

Quit blaming your situations for your own lack of happiness. That is just an excuse and an escape from taking responsibility for your own life.

If you want to find happiness, look inside your own heart.

Nourish your own happiness

You have to nourish your own love and your own happiness. NO ONE can do it for you!! They just can’t. They simply cannot penetrate into your heart and give you happiness.

No situation is going to magically bring you happiness that you haven’t managed to find within yourself. It just won’t happen. You  must go there yourself.

Love, compassion, and happiness all come from within and they all come from the same place. They share roots. Those roots go deep. When you open your heart to true genuine love, you feel it inside in a very deep place. It is a feeling of deep joy and deep peace. When you allow yourself to go there, you feed those roots. As this root system gets fed, they grow stronger and deeper.

While at first it may be hard to find that place, over time you will get much better at it. You will know when it lights up with energy. That feeling will come more and more often. Each time a little stronger than the time before. It will become familiar to you, nourishing to your soul. You will crave it. Each time you wander away, you will feel a strong pull to find your way back.

I believe over time, it becomes your home, your sanctuary, your holy of holies. It is the place where you find God, your Creator.

Where to start

Start with one minute. Can you be happy and at peace for one minute? No matter what is going on in your life. For one minute, none of it matters. What’s the harm of letting it go for one minute?

No harm. It won’t make it go away. It won’t show that you don’t care. It won’t make your world explode. Sometimes we hold on to all the worry and stress almost like it is a security blanket. Really? When my son was little, he had a security blanket when he slept. It was soft and comfy. Holding on to worry as a security blanket would be like giving him a concrete block to snuggle into. Can you just see a toddler trying to find comfort and calmness from a concrete block? As absurd as they may seem – it is exactly what we are doing when we hold on to the stress and worry like a security blanket. We seem almost afraid to let it go.

So start with one minute. If one minute is too long, then start smaller. 30 seconds. 5 seconds, if you have to. Start somewhere. Getting started is the most important step.

Make it part of your day now

Do this often throughout your day. A minute here and a minute there. And then just watch how it affects you. It will start to creep into your life. One day you will notice that your stress level is surprisingly different. Your heart will feel happier, lighter and more at peace. Headaches will start to disappear. Sleep will improve. Often excessive weight will drop off. Relationships will improve. The world just looks brighter. Situations that in the past would have caused you to blow up don’t have quite so much power now. You’ve quit reacting and you’ve started living.

You will treasure these breaks in your day. They will start lasting longer, allowing you to carry the happiness into the daily rhythm of your life.

How much more effective would you be in life if you functioned from this place of peace and happiness? Wouldn’t you handle life’s problems better? Perhaps be more productive?

Don’t start by trying to change who you are. Who you are is who you are. You are where you are because of the millions of events that have brought you to here. Trying to change that is a lot overwhelming and leads to more stress and anxiety.

Reminders

Simply offer yourself these one minute vacations from the stress. You deserve it! I think you can afford one minute, even as much as ten times a day. How about 20 or 30? Put little reminders around you to help you remember.

I like to use things from nature – rocks, seashells, leaves. I have a rock on my desk that is shaped like a heart. It reminds me to settle my thoughts and allow my heart to have a little break.

In my van, I have a seashell that is my reminder. It is a small spiral shell with tons of little holes on it. It reminds me that even with all the holes we have, we are still beautiful. It’s okay to be broken. It’s okay to be imperfect. The holes simply makes the happiness shine through even more.

Put some reminders around you. When you see them throughout your day, stop what you are doing. Remember it only takes a minute. You can afford it! For one minute, let go of the stress and be happy. After all, if you can be happy for one minute, you can be happy for a lifetime!

Other podcasts on happiness

Happiness: Quit Faking It and Start Living It

Happiness Part 2: Stop Faking It and Start Living It

Happiness: Who’s Got Your Keys?

 

Episode 79 Are you Preparing for Your Own Death? It’s Never Too Soon to Start!

Are you Preparing for Your Own Death? It’s Never Too Soon to Start!

In this episode, I am going to tell you why and how you should be preparing for your own death right now. This isn’t morbid. It isn’t scary or sad. But rather it is extremely motivating and has the potential to make your life vibrant and powerful. I encourage you to listen with an open mind and an open heart.

Lessons from People Who are in the Final Months of Their Life

Have you ever known and interacted with someone who was near the end of their life? Or maybe you had a good friend who was with someone near the end of their life? I’m talking about people who know they are near death – elderly who have lived a long life, someone fighting a terminal illness.

When you spend time with these people, what do they talk about? What do they value? Often, they value their relationships. They talk about the people in their lives, their family and their friends. They reflect on memories and times past. They just can’t seem to get enough of it. They want as much time as they can with their family members and dear friends. They cherish that time, like they are trying to memorize how it feels.

Someone who is near their own death is often very present. They seem to just absorb every moment of their life to its max. They don’t want to miss anything.

If Death is at Your Door

So if you found out that you have only a few months left to live, what would change for you? How would you spend your time? Consider these options –

  • Absorbed in social media
  • Inhaling as many movies and shows as you can
  • Conquering levels in your latest and greatest games
  • Reading every novel you can get your hands on
  • Sending out group text messages telling people you love them
  • Calling everyone who is near and dear to you and enjoying the sound of their voice
  • Getting together face-to-face with those you love
  • Worrying over how the world will exist without you
  • Spending time in nature
  • Building your relationship with your God – whether it’s a brand new relationship or a life-long one

How would you spend your final few months on this earth? And are these drastic changes for you or just a deeper version of your current life?

You Are Dying

I have news for you – YOU ARE DYING!!

Every single day of your life is one day closer to the end of your life.

I don’t say this to scare you or depress you. This isn’t bad news. But it is reality! I say it to jolt you into living!

Make the Most of Now

You see, I don’t want to be one of those people who get to the last few days and am trying desperately to make the most of it. I don’t want to be frantically trying to get in touch with people to tell them I love them.

I want them to know that I love them now. I want to spend that time with them now. I want to memorize how they look, how they smell, how they sound and how they feel. I want to make the most of every single day.

I don’t want to wait until the last few months of my life to try to live. I want to do it now! I mean – what is the point of living after all? Isn’t it to live?

Perspective Change

Someone who knows they are about to die takes on a very different perspective than the rest of us. Their perception of time just radically changed. All of a sudden the past just doesn’t seem to matter anymore. The future just got a whole lot less important. It’s their now that really matters.

I want that perspective now. I’m not waiting anymore! You see, I’m dying! Just like you.

We all are. From the moment of birth, each moment of our life brings us closer to the point of death.

Exercise for Practice

These are some sentences I wrote. I read them everyday to remind me to live now –

  • I am eating in order to eat.
  • I am talking with my friend in order to talk with my friend.
  • I am showering in order to shower.
  • I am walking in order to walk.
  • I am mowing in order to mow.
  • I am reading in order to read.
  • I am loving in order to love.
  • I am living in order to live.

Two Ways to Mow the Lawn

All of these have to do with our focus. In order to really be present to our lives, we need to practice being present. Taking mowing the lawn for example. You can mow the lawn in 2 different ways (maybe other variations too). You can mow it in order to hurry up and get it done, thinking how much you will enjoy a tall glass of lemonade after. Or you can mow the lawn in order to mow the lawn. Then when you are done, you can drink the lemonade in order to drink the lemonade.

Only on one of these will you actually enjoy the lemonade. The second way. If you can’t be present while you mow the lawn, then chances are you can’t be present for the lemonade either. Here’s the scenario – you are hurrying to mow the lawn, eager to sit down in the shade and drink your lemonade. Then when you get done mowing, you think, “Whew! Finally!” What often follows is that while you are drinking the lemonade, your mind has moved on to what follows. It is hurrying to get to whatever is next. Before you know it, your lemonade is gone and you don’t even really remember drinking it.

Here’s an alternative – While mowing, you stay present to the task at hand. You mow, knowing that you are caring for your yard, enjoying the fresh air and occasional breeze. No matter how many other responsibilities you may have in life, right this moment you have nowhere else to be. Because after all, if you had somewhere else to be, then that is where you would be. Now as you successfully finish mowing the lawn, you pour a fresh glass of lemonade and sit in the shade to enjoy.

Learning how to be present to your life right now is for all your activities. It doesn’t matter whether that is mowing or drinking lemonade.

If you can’t stay present with one activity, you won’t stay present with the other one either.

Don’t Live in the Future

You don’t know what the future holds. All you really have is right now. As you are raising children, you might be looking ahead to their future. You might be trying to mold children so they might grow up and be wonderful members of the world. And there is nothing wrong with that. That is a valuable cause, and every parent should desire this for their children.

But we too easily get wrapped up in the future and forget one very important thing – enjoy your life right now. Consider the possibility that your child might die before adulthood. Don’t be afraid of that thought, you truly do not know what the future holds. But rather let that thought inspire you to make the most out of every moment you have right now.

 

Episode 78: 5 Effortless Secrets to Manifest Compassion

Episode 78 – 5 Effortless Secrets to Manifest Compassion

Effortless – These steps are centered around removing effort from your life. We actually work very hard to make our own lives difficult. To find true compassion inside you requires that you quit working so hard against this. We are wired for compassion if we would just get out of the way. 

Secrets – All of these steps take place inside you. As you begin to make internal changes, people will wonder what happened. They may look for external reasons for the difference they see in you. But this is your secret. You can tell them or just let them wonder. Enjoy the newly found compassion.

Manifest – means to become evident, apparent or obvious. Compassion already exists inside you. You don’t have to create it. It’s there. It simply is waiting for the right conditions in order to come forth, to manifest.

Compassion – to suffer together. To feel another person’s suffering.

Notice that the definitions don’t say anything about fixing other’s problems. It isn’t about that. Compassion simply states – I am here for you. It’s about helping to carry the burden. Nothing magic to say, nothing magic to do.

Benefits of compassion –

Scientific studies say that people who practice compassion produce 100% more the anti-aging hormone, DHEA and 23% less cortisol, the stress hormone.

Compassion is one of the main tools for manifesting happiness, not only in those around us, but in ourselves as well.

5 Effortless Secrets for Manifesting Compassion

I. Assume the best in others, not the worst

When a driver cuts you off, many if not most people assume the worst. That the driver is rude and inconsiderate, selfish and snobbish.

Imagine for a moment that you are a considerate and patient driver. For some of you that may be harder to imagine than others. Try hard. Now you just found out your spouse had a heart attack and was taken to the hospital. The officer contacted you, asking you to come to the hospital. You jump in your car and speed toward the hospital. So wrapped up in your worry about your spouse, you accidentally cut a driver off as you try to make your exit. The driver assumes that you are an arrogant, selfish and rude individual. They lay on their horn, flash their lights at you and follow you to the hospital. In the parking lot, they continue yelling at your for your selfishness.

Little do they know that your spouse is inside fighting for their life. They do not know that you are a very patient and calm driver. All they know is what happened right that instant, and they assumed the worst.

To nurture compassion in you, start assuming the best in people. Imagine that there is a reason. Maybe it is something tragic in that person’s life or maybe they are just having a really bad day and are struggling with the stress of life. Regardless, give them the benefit of the doubt.

2. Don’t take everything as a personal attack

I believe that a high percentage of other people’s words and actions have absolutely nothing to do with me. Guess what? That is true of you too. Even among your own friends and family, and even more so with strangers.

That person in the grocery store who just annoyed you did not do it just to make your life miserable. They may have just nearly run you over with their cart, but their action had nothing to do with you personally. No it doesn’t make it okay, but it also isn’t okay for you to fly off the handle with anger.

Things we are quick to take offense at –

  • Drivers slowing down in front of us
  • Drivers changing lanes into us
  • Drivers this and drivers that – just plain drivers
  • Slow cashier at a restaurant
  • Rude clerk at the gas station
  • So-called dirty look from a stranger
  • The friend we want to talk to who needs to run because of other obligations
  • A friend doesn’t return phone calls
  • A family member tells us they don’t like our shirt

They are allowed to not like your shirt. It is not a personal attack for someone to have a differing opinion. Like I said, their words and actions have to do with them and their perspectives, not you!

3. Focus on the commonalities

The more individualistic we become, the more compassion goes out the window. Individualism separates us. It invites competition and judgment. I’m different than you leads to attitudes such as – I am better than you. My way is better than yours. You do it your way, and I’ll do it mine. You are on your own.

Compassion on the other hand looks for the commonalities. We are all human beings. Even the most diverse of us has much in common. We need food, water and shelter. All of us have feelings and thoughts. We crave attention and love, want to avoid suffering, and have a drive towards happiness.

A practice I once read in Zen Habits. They state that it came from an article in the Ode Magazine.

Whether you meet up with friend or stranger, use this simple 5-step approach to connect with your commonalities. See how much it changes your perspective of them.

  1. Step 1: “Just like me, this person is seeking happiness in his/her life.”
  2. Step 2: “Just like me, this person is trying to avoid suffering in his/her life.”
  3. Step 3: “Just like me, this person has known sadness, loneliness and despair.”
  4. Step 4: “Just like me, this person is seeking to fill his/her needs.”
  5. Step 5: “Just like me, this person is learning about life.”

We all feel the same things. We all experience fear, regret, anxiety, happiness and so on. Others are no different than you and me. They are on a path too and doing the best they can at the time.

4. Nurture positive feelings

When we become angry, how easy is it to hold on to that anger for awhile?

It seems to just feel good to be angry. When you hang on to it, you are nurturing it and allowing it to grow. Whether you really want the anger to grow or not doesn’t matter. If you water it, it will grow. You water it by giving it your mindful attention and allowing the feelings to fester.

Instead start nurturing feelings of compassion. A key element to compassion is the desire for the suffering of others to cease. A truly compassionate person desires this not only for family and friends but for complete strangers too. So how do we nurture these feelings? Maybe you don’t even have a glimpse of this desire. No worries. You can plant it and nurture it. It will grow!!

Exercise for nurturing positive feelings

Start by imagining that you are suffering in some way. Sickness, injury, broken relationship, financial worries, etc. Now how would you feel if there was one other person who truly desired that your suffering would end. This is a person with no hidden agendas. They have nothing to gain from helping you. They are simply compassionate. Imagine how that would make you feel. Feel the compassion from your very heart.

Now bring to mind someone that you know, someone that is suffering. What if you were that other person who truly desired for their suffering to end? Maybe it isn’t a situation you can do anything about. That’s okay. That isn’t the point of this exercise. Compassion doesn’t mean you fix everything. Sometimes you can’t, for various reasons. And sometimes you simply shouldn’t. Compassion is about opening your heart for that person. You can look at them and say, “Dear friend, I am here for you.”

It isn’t about fixing everything or removing all suffering. It is about opening our hearts, being genuine and truly present.

5. Practice compassion with yourself

Be loving toward yourself. Talk nicely to yourself.All that practice we get at negative self-talk just leads us to be more negative with others. It is after all the language we are the most used to. What you practice is what you will do.

Imagine this. You have never met yourself before. You are a stranger to yourself and you are meeting for the first time. How would you talk? What type of language would you use? Would you be polite? Would it be fake and shallow? Are you suspicious and guarded? Or are you comfortable and relaxed? Are you busy trying to make a good impression or secure to be who you are?

As you get to know yourself, focus on being relaxed and accepting.

Let your guard down.

If you walk up to a complete stranger in a fighting stance with your hands in a guarded position, that person is going to react to that. They will feel threatened and defensive. The same is true even when your guarded position is internal. They may not know why they feel defensive, but they will feel it. It’s as though you walked in ready to fight.

The same is true if you walk into a room full of friends or family. If you come in with your internal guard up, tense and ready to go, you will find yourself in conflict and no one will really know why. That guard can be felt even before a word is spoken.

The best thing you can do for yourself is let your own guard down. Let your muscles relax, your heart, your mind. Quit fighting with yourself so much. You deserve a break. And be patient about it. Practice progress not perfection. You will slip some. Years and years of negativity won’t disappear overnight. But if you start practicing compassion with yourself, you will notice immediate changes about how you react in situations. Things that in the past would have made you fly off the handle just don’t seem to have the same power anymore. Life will begin to look very different. You will find yourself being more and more peaceful.

If you’re not going to take care of your heart, who will?