5 Common Regrets and How to Avoid Them

“I don’t regret the things I’ve done, I regret the things I didn’t do when I had the chance.” ~Unknown

If you had a second chance at life, what would you resolve to do differently? What would you regret from your past if you had the power to change it in your future?

In 2011, Bronnie Ware wrote a wonderful book called Top 5 Regrets Of The Dying.

As a palliative care nurse, Bronnie spent several years working with patients during their final weeks of life. She documented the dying epiphanies of her patients and began to notice some similarities—five in particular (hence, the title of her book).

It’s a beautiful reminder not to take life for granted and to live a life you would be proud of.

Regret Is a Terrible Thing to Witness

For many years I have witnessed the regret of the living—my fellow patients, in over five different hospitals, both interstate and internationally. I’ve been a patient in many ward types (intensive care, cardiac, vascular, orthopedic, infection control, plastics, emergency, and rehabilitation, just to name some). But palliative care has not been one of them.

I spent over a year in hospital. The first time, and the majority of that time, was in rehabilitation. Over the years I’ve returned for more surgery, and again I would pass through rehabilitation wards for several days or weeks.

In regab at 25, learning to walk again.

Above: In rehab, learning to walk again.

Where the purpose of a palliative care ward is to provide care at the end of life, the purpose of a rehabilitation ward is, as the name suggests, to rehabilitate people and teach them to live again.

There’s always an eclectic mix of people in a rehab ward. Some were stroke patients, like me. Some were learning to stand with a new prosthetic leg following amputation, like me. Others were adjusting to new methods of movement without using their arms after open-heart surgery. Also like me.

Regardless of the reason we were all in the hospital, one thing we all had in common was that, unlike Bronnie’s palliative care patients, eventually we were going to go home to start living again.

The hospital can be a very lonely place, and many patients, despite their wounds and ailments, were simply craving conversation.

I’d frequently chat with my fellow patients. It was a good way to pass the time and distract ourselves from the monotony of repetitive (but important) rehabilitative movements.

My fellow patients, all strangers, would often open up to me in a way that I would not experience had I started talking to that same stranger in the outside world.

Similar to Bronnie’s experiences, I heard a lot about regret. But following the confession of regret would come resolutions to do things differently “this time around.”

I’ve paraphrased these most common responses that I’ve heard over the years in rehab—the top five regrets of the living.

1. I wish I’d experienced more.

Upon reflection, many of my fellow rehab patients regretted not having experienced more, and vowed to do so once they “got out.” The experiences ranged from various things to do, see, or hear, but the most common was the regret at having not traveled more.

The sad irony was that many patients, like me, would be leaving the hospital in a wheelchair or with restricted movement. So experiencing more travel would not be an option.

Resolution: From now on I’m going to experience more.

2. I wish I’d listened more.

Many patients regretted not listening more to the advice of their doctor, family members, or well-meaning friends. I remember one larger woman who recalled her doctor advising her to lose weight. At the time, she believed he was “fat shaming” her and had not listened, until she had a resulting stroke.

One man regretted not having listened to his “nagging” family who had warned him against frequently poor diet choices. Diabetes took his leg and left him with regret.

Resolution: From now on I’m going to listen more.

3. I wish I hadn’t been so afraid to fail.

With their second chance at life, many patients were prepared to step out of their comfort zones in the future. Some patients had been so close to death (arguably the ultimate failure) that they no longer feared so many little failures in their day, such as failing to live up to other people’s expectations.

Resolution: From now on I won’t fear failure.

4. I wish I’d stood up for myself more.

Patients regretted not having voiced their opinions more frequently and stood up for themselves and their values or beliefs. Some had spent years in unhappy relationships or unfulfilling work, and it was only their hospitalization that had been their catalyst for change.

Resolution: From now on I’ll stand up for myself more.

5. I wish I hadn’t waited so long to…

The regret of procrastination was also common, and something that resonated with me. Patients said that they wished they’d done a certain something sooner—pick up the phone, seen the doctor, reunite with a friend… The list went on.

Resolution: From now on I’m going to stop waiting and start doing!

There were many similarities between the regrets of the dying and the regrets of the living.

However, the key difference was that my fellow patients and I all had an opportunity to take action on our regrets of the past and ensure they would not be regrets of the future.

What This Means for You

Going back to my question at the beginning of this post: If you had a second chance at life, what would you do differently?

It’s normal to have regrets. If you’ve ever had menu envy, you’ll regret not ordering X instead of Y.

I have regrets, but I make a point of not dwelling on them. Sure, I have relationships, jobs, or situations that I regret not leaving sooner, but those failures have helped make me who I am today.

So don’t be afraid to experience more. Step outside your comfort zone and live life on your terms, free from regret. Listen more to those who only have your best interests at heart. Stand up for yourself, embrace failure, and stop waiting for someone else to live your life for you.

Take it from my fellow rehab patients who have been there before. Those who have regrets but also have the opportunity to reflect on this regret and resolve to make changes.

Take the blinkers of and stop procrastinating. Take responsibility for your own life and your own happiness. We all have challenges, but we all have choices.

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About Lisa Cox

Lisa Cox is on a mission to muse and is committed to helping you Find Fearless Freedom. She is an Australian based, award-wining Writer (Author, Copywriter and Blogger), public Speaker and consultant. Lisa’s website, including social media links is at www.LISACOX.CO

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Two Kind Words That Can Change or Save a Life

“Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.” ~Leo Buscaglia

My fiancé and I escaped to the northern wilderness. We wanted to build our home and our life off grid, off the beaten path, far from civilization.

It didn’t matter that I was a city girl who couldn’t handle a chainsaw, fix a pickup, or read the warnings of wind and sky. My fiancé was a mountain man, skilled in survival. That was all we needed for a life in the middle of nowhere. Alone, but together, and we loved it.

We were independent and resourceful. Nothing fazed us. My fiancé had a solution for everything: broken generators, shortage of water, staying safe on hikes through the hills that we shared with wolves, coyotes, and bears.

Never once did we doubt our ability to survive.

And never once did we think that our biggest challenge would come from anything other than the wilderness itself.

Our days were consumed by nature. We were always one step ahead. One step ahead of hungry bears, deadly windstorms, drought, wildfire, and maintaining the only road that connected us to far-flung humanity. We were always one step ahead.

Until we weren’t.

All of a sudden, my fiancé lost his appetite, his skin turned a pea soup green, and his jeans hung off him, a size too big.

The wilderness was no place to get sick: lack of cell-phone access, few doctors, often-impassable roads, and a five-hour drive to the nearest hospital. Suddenly the idea of “challenge” took on a whole new meaning.

Finally, after many delays, tests, comings and goings, a diagnosis was confirmed: cancer. My fiancé was stoic. But the news hit me with hurricane force.

Our world flipped upside down.

Suddenly we were thrown into the scary unknown, a place far more challenging than the wilderness of the bush.

Surgery was booked. My once strong, ever-so-independent mountain man was forced to let go, to place his trust in the skill of a surgeon and the goodwill of the universe. I was terrified, but in my role of “pillar of support,” I acted brave by swallowing my fear.

In the faraway town where the operation would take place, I would sleep at the Easter Seal House. It was close to the hospital and affordable. But it was also a dorm.

The idea of sharing accommodation added to my stress. I was an introvert; I’d been living in the bush. The last thing I wanted was to socialize with strangers when my mind was consumed with worries for my man.

But there was no choice.

The following day, the operation, they said it would last a few hours. It took much longer. Then finally some news. “All is well, ” the surgeon said. And the relief of it almost felled me.

I thanked the surgeon; thanked the universe for throwing a lifeline. There would be a tomorrow, after all. And a tomorrow after that.

Two days later, results showed a spread of the disease.

We were not in the clear after all.

That night, I stayed as late as possible at the hospital with my fiancé. I wanted to curl up in his narrow bed, but he was hooked up to so many tubes and wires, and the eighteen-inch wound running down his belly was tender and sore.

When I reluctantly left to walk back to the “dorm,” the night was late and frigidly cold. My mood was as black and as slippery as the ice underfoot. All I wanted to do was to curl up and cry. The thought of facing a group of strangers sunk me further.

At the front door of the Easter Seal House, a small group of old men huddled under the outdoor light, sucking on cigarettes and stamping their feet to stay warm. They looked as miserable as I felt.

Inside, a new guest had arrived to share my room. She was setting up an oxygen machine that would keep her lungs safe through the night. The room was too cramped to make use of my offer to help, so I retreated to the lounge.

The TV in the lounge blasted a comedy. I slipped into the only spare spot, at the edge of the threadbare couch. A plump woman with bleached blond, coifed hair and rose-polished nails giggled wildly at the antics of the TV characters.

My mood was too dark to laugh; instead, I was flooded with gnarly judgments about the stupidity of TV, of sitcoms, of sharing accommodation with strangers.

I told myself I don’t belong with this group, with this coifed blond giggler and her rose-polished nails. As the judgments in my mind exploded, my mood turned surly.

At the break for an ad, the volume on the TV spiked. The blond reached for the remote, decreased the sound. One small mercy. A few minutes later, volume up again. Part of me wanted to seize the remote and hurl it out the window.

The sitcom resumed. Some inane stunt threw the giggler into hysterics.

Suddenly, she turned in my direction, clearly wanting to share the joke that I so obviously didn’t get.

Quickly she scanned me, and whatever it was that she saw prompted her to switch the TV right off, right in the middle of her show. She turned back to me again, this time swiveling her entire body right around to face me.

“Tell me,” she said.

And then I saw. Past the pristine rose nails and frilly sweater, past the coifed bleached hair and perfect makeup, I now saw a pair of soft, welcoming eyes. “Tell me,” she repeated in a gentle invitation.

And I did. And something inside me broke. All the feelings of tension and sorrow melted as I accepted her invitation.

I told her about my fiancé’s surgery, the cancer, its spread, and the hope for future treatments. I told her about my fears for our isolated life in the wilderness. How would I manage? And she listened. She listened with gentle eyes. She listened with her whole body, nodding, as if to say, “I hear you, I understand.”

And it amazed me, this gentle space that she had created through the depth of her presence. It amazed me how her kindness helped me peel open months of fear and anguish. Her invitation to tell my story was an invitation I didn’t even know I needed, yet desperately did.

One by one, the old smokers lumbered back in from the frigid night. They and others joined us. A semi-circle formed around the woman and myself. Haggard, jaundiced faces, bandaged arms; it struck me how all of us were wounded in one way or another, fellow travellers on a shared and complicated journey.

By the time I finished my story, a soft gratitude had filled my heart and eased my worries. My burden shared was a burden halved.

In the wee hours before dawn, sleep came gently in a way that it hadn’t for a very long time.

I never saw that woman again. But her generosity, in switching off a sitcom that she so clearly enjoyed to welcome instead my story, was a gift.

It allowed me to move past a sense of disconnection from others, to share my vulnerability, to be heard and understood. And it gave me solace and a feeling of connection when I needed it most.

Above all, that woman and her gift of compassion showed me that no matter how small, an act of kindness truly does have the power transform a life.

It transformed mine. By lightening my load, it created space for the challenges that lay ahead.

So many of us walk around carrying heavy burdens, desperate for a sense of relief. It may seem so simple, but two little words can dramatically ease our pain and our suffering. Such simple little words: Tell me.

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Full Moon May 2016; Welcome the Shadow

This weekend we are experiencing a ripe full moon illuminating our skies. This astrological event occurs when the sun and the moon are at opposite sides of the sky. It can feel like a pull, or an expansion and may not be comfortable; however it’s a blessing in disguise because you become aware of your shadow side.

The sun, which in astrology represents our conscious awareness, is shining it’s light on the moon. Symbolically the moon represents hidden parts of ourselves, old patterns and the subconscious. Essentially what is happening is that these deep places within us bubble up to the surface.

The gift is the awareness.

Let’s imagine that you have a storage unit filled with old belongings. In fact you forget what’s even in there and the lights are broken so it’s not easy to look around and take inventory. A full moon is like someone handing you a flashlight. Now you can go into the storage unit and explore what’s actually there and what you’ve been holding onto.

Let’s say you uncover an old book. Now you aware that it’s there! Now that you know it exists you can make a choice. To welcome to book back into your life, or release it.

This process of exploring old things you are holding onto is ultimately a good thing, however it’s definitely an emotional experience. Most of the time it takes an a emotional trigger to occur (such as an argument or honest conversation with ourselves) to realize that you are still holding on.

This is happening now. The triggers will bubble up, however if you remember that they are teaching you and that there’s a treasure on the other site of your reaction; the journey becomes easier.

Notice what’s causing you stress this week. Is there something you are ready to let go of?

This full moon is intertwined with Mars retrograde. We are becoming aware of where we must update our beliefs. If there is an area of your life where you are playing it small and safe, this full moon may invite you to come have an adventure.

This is a process. Each individual is updating their belief structures and realizing that they have huge amounts of potential. It’s not always easy to step into your full potential, but it is always worth it.

Be gentle with yourself and give yourself time to release. There is no race and urgency is an illusion. Instead get out that flashlight and take an honest look at what you are holding onto to. Next think about what you may want to release.

Finally know that when you accept who you are and believe in yourself, there is nothing you cannot do.

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About the Author: Shannon is the editor for The Master Shift blog. She is a writer, artist, astrologer, teacher, assistant, emotional healer and more. Shannon loves to help others discover a passion and excitement for life. She is available for personal astrology chart readings. One of Shannon’s passions is emotional healing; she is a HeartSpeak practitioner. This is a system that identifies the emotional stress behind physical symptoms and works to clear and replace these stressors with healthier feelings. Above all else Shannon’s intention is to BE a part of the Master Shift by centring in a space of love and transforming planet Earth as we know it.

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Follow Your Heart, Not Your Fear: How to Make Choices That Are Right for You

Follow your heart

“Unnecessary fear of a bad decision is a major stumbling block to good decisions.” ~Jim Camp

Twenty years ago, my wife and I decided to move from Montréal, where we had lived for the first 35 years of our lives, to Nova Scotia, 800 miles away, where we had no connections whatsoever. Neither a small decision, nor undertaking, since this involved our four kids and the entire contents of our house (not to mention a dog and two cats!)

Why were we moving? We were not moving because of a job opportunity; we enjoyed the life we had in Montréal. And there was nothing—as far as we knew—waiting for us in Nova Scotia. Nothing, except our future, the next stage of our lives.

But we both had a strong, clear feeling—a felt sense—that it was time to leave. And we both had a strong, clear feeling that Nova Scotia was the right place to move to. Simple as that.

There were lots of reasons to think that we shouldn’t make this move and take all the risks involved. In the year before we moved, every attempt I made at getting work there fell through. Every attempt I made at finding a house to rent fell through. It was literally only three weeks before we moved that we finally had a place to move to!

There was plenty of worry, stress, and anxiety, plenty of thoughts saying that this was a bad decision.

By this point in my life, though, I had learned to listen to my intuition, and to the signals of my heart, to guide me in my life choices.

I had learned not let my thoughts (that is to say, my worries, doubts, fears, anxieties, and apprehensions) paralyze me in my decision-making. I had learned to have more confidence in what my body felt than in what my mind said.

There was a time when I would have wasted a lot of time and energy debating back and forth, and then made a choice I was neither sure was the right one, nor fully happy with. For the first three decades or more of my life, I was a person who struggled intensely with making choices and decisions.

I was usually afraid of making the wrong choice, and unsure of how to know whether I was making the right choice. Aside from any question about “right versus wrong” choices, I worried about what others would think, or how others would feel, if I made this or that choice.

This indecision, this self-doubt, resulted in significant stress and anxiety—sometimes, to the point of feeling too paralyzed to act at all—as well as resulting in wasted time, lost opportunities, and regrets.

Over the years, I worked in therapy on overcoming anxiety and other issues, and learned and practiced meditation and mindfulness, and yoga. Over time, and with consistent practice, I gradually learned how to find a calm center in the midst of those conflicted thoughts.

I also learned how to tune into my heart, with heart-focused meditations.

I discovered that my heart would always tell me what I really needed. There was always one clear answer from the heart, about what was right for me in any given situation. And when I experimented with acting on those choices, the outcomes were always good, and I never felt doubt or regret. There was a consistent sense of acting in alignment with my true self, my true purpose…my truth.

The fundamental basis for this approach to making decisions is mindfulness. Being mindful means being able to “sink down” below the turbulent surface of thoughts, projections, fears, and perceptions that all clamour for my attention when I have a decision to make. It means having a still center from which I can then be aware of the quieter, and subtler, signals in my body, my heart.

When you mindfully tune into your heart, when you separate from your thoughts and emotional reactions, you discover that the heart has a very clear, although sometimes, a very subtle, way of saying “yes” and “no.”

A sensation or feeling of opening, relaxing, warmth, moving toward, is a “Yes.” A feeling or sensation of closing, hardening, pulling back, tensing is a “No.”

I have learned to trust that this response from the heart tells me what is best for my overall, integral being, for my physical health, my mental health, my social relationships, my family relationships, and the unfolding of my life purpose.

Mindfulness is the basis from which this approach to decision-making stems, but making decisions this way as a practice also enhances my ability to be mindful in everyday life.

It is an exercise in letting go of attachment—attachment to desires and fears; attachment to expectations of myself, of others, or of the future; attachment to thoughts about what I “should” do; attachment to what other people might think and feel.

Most of our stress, anxiety, indecision, and doubt around making decisions is rooted in fear. We fear unknown outcomes, or we fear negative outcomes that we project might happen.

Fear reactions always serve to dissociate us from our true and integral Self in the moment.

In his book The Biology of Belief, Bruce Lipton talks about how a cell is either in defence mode or in growth mode; it cannot be in both at once. The same is true psychologically.

If we are—even just in our thoughts—engaged in fear, and trying to defend ourselves from negative outcomes, then the choices we make will be based in trying to protect ourselves from whatever it is we fear; they will not be grounded in hope, confidence, and faith; they will not be conducive to growth and thriving.

It isn’t necessarily easy to resist the fear, and to listen to your heart. Our brains are wired to prioritize safety; this means that the brain will pay attention to fear and let it guide our thinking. It takes practice and perseverance to find a calm center beneath and within the fear; it is the work of mindfulness, applied to actions.

Mindfulness is fundamental as it trains you to detach from the narrative of the fear-based thoughts. But making decisions to act in ways that challenge those fears takes the challenge up a notch.

Part of the solution is reminding yourself of what has always happened in the past when you acted according to these fears. You will find that there is always some kind of dissatisfaction or disappointment, if not outright frustration, that resulted.

Part of the solution is working on reducing those fears (try Energy Psychology techniques or, my favorite, Logosynthesis); and part of the solution is in “feeling the fear and doing it anyways”—pushing through the fear, and experiencing the positive outcomes.

I have come to make all my decisions in this heart-centered way, and I have never been disappointed. On the one hand, I can say that I have never been disappointed because the outcome has always been good.

On the other hand, there is a feeling that comes simply from making a decision this way, based on a felt response in the body, where I physically experience my body saying yes or no, that allows me to detach from expectations about the outcome altogether, and to feel good and confident about my decision, regardless of the outcome.

I feel good and strong simply because I am making the decision that I know is right for me.

The outcomes we wish for are not always the outcomes we need, or that will be best for us. The outcomes we wish for are often based in a sense of lack, longing, or insufficiency. In my emotional heart I may fear, I may want to avoid something, or I may long for something, desire it.

In my energetic heart, the response will not be based on any sense of fear, avoidance, lack, or insufficiency. It is based in a consistent, integral sense of Self, in relationship to others, to the world, and to life itself.

I used to be afraid of confrontation, or even of risking a confrontation by displeasing people. So when it became clear that the dynamics of my (birth) family’s gatherings were too stressful for my wife, and detrimental to her well-being, I was forced to look at it more closely and acknowledge that I felt uncomfortable in those situations, as well.

I had the usual reaction: “But it’s my family! I can’t just decide not to go for Christmas!” But in my heart I felt clearly that the right choice was to stop attending. Having to take this action and tell them caused me a lot of anxiety.

I was afraid of the anger and rejection I felt certain would come of it. I delayed and avoided.

When I did tell them, I was met with confusion, anger, and blame. The response I feared did happen. What didn’t happen is what I really feared—that I would not be okay if they were unhappy with me.

I was okay…We were okay. It made my relationship stronger because my wife knew I would take her needs seriously, and act on them, even though it was uncomfortable for me. It made me stronger, because it helped me to realize that even if I made other people unhappy, I could still be okay.

Knowing I was making the right choice for myself, there was a clear distinction between what other people might think was “right” or “wrong,” and what I knew in my heart.

Letting go of fear opened me up to growth.

The more you practice decision-making in this way, the more you develop an incredible sense of freedom, an ability to move in this world in a way that is true to yourself and to your life purpose. It helps to cultivate the “courageous self-acceptance” and the “fearless heart” described in Buddhist teachings.

And when making your decisions becomes clearer, less stressful, and less conflicted, it makes your relationships with others a lot easier. You let go of people pleasing, of guilt, of feeling like you have to explain yourself or even to compromise yourself and make decisions that aren’t right for you.

You may be afraid that if you act according to your heart, you will make people angry. And that may be exactly what happens. But your great fears of the consequences of people being angry with you never happen. You realize that even if you have to deal with loss, you have regained something of yourself.

Relationships become simpler as you feel a sense of wholeness, of integrity. You know you are acting with integrity, and so you feel comfortable affirming your choices. You feel less defensive when people disagree with you. This is a freedom we should all wish for each other, and grant each other.

And, in case you were wondering, nineteen years later, we still love living in Nova Scotia. It is home now, and we would never think of leaving. Within a couple of months of moving here I was working full-time. It has been a great place to live, to work and to raise our children and we would never think of leaving.

Our hearts drew us to a place that became home in a way that the place we grew up and began our adult lives in could never quite be. Our hearts drew us to our destinies.

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A Simple Way to Calm Yourself When Feeling Strong Emotions

Peaceful Woman

“This is the root of Self. You are not your thoughts; you are aware of your thoughts. You are not your emotions; you feel your emotions…. You are the conscious being who is aware that you are aware of all these inner and outer things.” ~Michael Singer

I sat across from my colleague with a growing sense of discomfort. I had accepted an assignment from the boss, but I heard from my colleague an undercurrent of questioning and uncertainty—or so it seemed. It was so subtle that I couldn’t quite tell what was going on.

Did she not believe I could do it? Nobody else was stepping forward to meet the need. Was she saying it’s better to go with nobody than with me?

All I knew for sure was that I wasn’t hearing this outright. I decided to let it go, head on home, think about it tomorrow, and be fully present with my family instead. But the next morning as I pulled into my parking spot in front of the office, a subtle agitation rumbled in my stomach.

I walked into the quiet building and set my things down in the office, distracted by my disquiet and wishing I could focus on my task list. The thoughts prickling at me wouldn’t let go.

I laid my pen down and asked myself, “Okay, what’s going on?”

In my top drawer I keep a deck of “grok” cards that I bought from the folks at the Center for Nonviolent Communication. Each one has the name of a need or value—things like “hope,” “trust,” and “balance” show up in this deck. I frequently use these when I can’t quite put a finger on what’s bothering me.

I flipped through the cards and sorted them as I went. In the “not now” pile went cards like “freedom,” “competence,” and “creativity.” In the next pile, the “Maybe?” pile, went cards like “security,” “meaning/purpose,” and “friendship.”

I went on sorting between just these two piles until I hit one that resonated: “Acknowledgement.” That went into a new pile: “Yes.”

A couple of cards after it I found “Appreciation.” That went into the “Yes” pile too, and then I noticed something really interesting happen: I got angry.

Usually when I sort through these cards, the experience of finding the right word to put on my current needs or values results in feeling more settled, more clear. Frequently my agitation will be replaced by a sense of gratitude, or courage to act in a way that helps me meet my needs.

Typically, that is the value for me in identifying my needs. It helps me find a more straightforward and effective path toward getting those needs met. But it didn’t happen this time.

Instead, the voice in my head just became louder and more insistent.

My coworker should be grateful for my willingness to take on this new project! She wasn’t going to step in and do anything. Why wasn’t she acknowledging that I was making a sacrifice on behalf of the team?

This narrative swept me up. It threatened to pull me under.

Slowly, I started to notice another, quieter voice saying, “Why am I getting so upset? That doesn’t usually happen after I go through the GROK cards. What can I do for myself that won’t be so negative?”

I’m going to admit this was an odd experience for me. I don’t typically have this second, quieter voice. Or, if I’ve had it, I haven’t been able to hear it.

But I did hear it this time, and it called to mind Michael Singer’s book, The Untethered Soul. I read it just about a month before.

“You are not the voice of the mind,” he wrote. “You are the one that hears it.”

He suggests that when we’re bothered by something, we can change what we identify with. Rather than identifying with all of those thoughts and feelings, we can instead identify ourselves as “the observer” or witness of what is being experienced.

As I felt myself getting swept up in defensiveness against my coworker, I decided to try it. What would happen, I wondered? I started up a new voice in my head that said, “I am not all of these thoughts and feelings. I am the observer who is noticing that Amy is having a powerful experience.”

It was almost meditation, but not quite the same as my usual practice. Michael Singer might say I was doing it wrong. A psychiatrist might have a lot of questions for me—I don’t know.

What I do know is what happened inside myself. As I identified myself as “the observer who is noticing that Amy is having a powerful experience,” I relaxed. I let go of the waves of negative thinking.

I realized that I could talk to myself the way I would talk to a dear friend who is feeling unacknowledged and underappreciated. I realized I could give myself compassion.

I imagined telling myself, “I’m sorry you haven’t been appreciated. That’s hard. You are still okay.”

I admit I feel extra vulnerable as I type that out. Part of me doesn’t want to admit that I talk to myself in this way. On the other hand, this was such an amazing experience!

I was able to walk myself through processing my own needs and emotions in ways I’ve never done before. As soon as it happened, I wanted to shout it out to the rest of the world, “Hey, I’ve found a path that looks like it leads somewhere good! Come check it out!”

Do you ever feel the emotional undertow of unpleasant, uncomfortable feelings? Have you tried to resist them without success? Perhaps it would help to identify yourself as the observer.

Accept that the feelings and thoughts are there, but instead of identifying with them, try identifying yourself as the observer or witness who is noticing that this experience is flowing through.

Perhaps you already know this part of the path. Have you tried a practice like this? What works for you?

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The Face Everything Technique: Why Avoiding Difficulties Doesn’t Work

By Leo Babauta

We are, all of us, amazing at avoiding things.

Our minds are less “thinking machines” than they are “avoiding machines.” And the incredible thing is that we aren’t even usually aware that we’re avoiding thinking about something.

I’ll give you a few examples:

  • Right now you’re reading this article but probably avoiding the difficult thing you don’t want to think about.
  • We are constantly checking messages, news, feeds, notifications … to avoid doing something we don’t want to face.
  • When we’re facing difficulties in life, we try to tell ourselves that’s it’s OK because (fill in the blank), or get busy with some activity or numbing agent (like alcohol) so we don’t have to face the difficulties.
  • When a problem comes up, our reaction is to want to go do something else, put it off.
  • We put off paying bills, doing taxes, dealing with long emails, dealing with clutter, because we don’t want to face these difficulties.
  • We put off exercise because it’s uncomfortable.

In fact, there are thousands more examples, every day, that come up and that we don’t even notice, because our minds switch to thinking about something else.

Try this right now: pause for a minute and think about what difficulty you’re avoiding thinking about right now.

You will either notice a difficulty you don’t like, or your mind will quickly turn to doing something else before the minute is up.

What you’ve done is part of what I call the Face Everything Technique … which I’ll explain in a minute, after we talk about why avoiding everything is an ineffective strategy.

Avoidance Doesn’t Work

Our minds want to run from whatever discomfort, pain, difficulty we’re facing … and this is a good strategy for temporarily not having to deal with difficulty and pain. So in the present moment, we might feel some temporary relief.

But what it does is relegate us to a life of running. A life of distraction and never facing what ails us. We keep ourselves busy, but never learn to deal with what’s inside us, what’s in front of us.

This means we are at the mercy of our fears, of our discomforts. We are like little children who don’t want to do any hard work, but want the latest shiny fun thing.

This results in not working on the important work (or at least putting it off until it starts to get painful). The same is true of exercise, healthy eating, finances, clutter, relationships, and more.

In the end, we usually have to deal with these things, but they’ve just gotten worse. It would have been better to face them early on, when they weren’t such a big deal.

The Face Everything Technique

This technique is based on the idea that it’s better to be aware of things, and to deal with them like an adult, instead of running.

And if we do, none of it’s that big of a deal.

Here’s how it works:

  1. Create awareness by asking, “What am I doing right now?” Throughout the day, set reminders or put little notes that remind you to ask, “What am I doing right now?” The answer might be, “Checking Facebook,” or “Switching to a new browser tab,” or “Eating some chips.” Something simple and mundane like that, but just ask yourself what you’re doing, to start to bring awareness.
  2. Next, ask yourself, “What am I avoiding?” When things get difficult or uncomfortable, we automatically switch to something else. We run. We avoid, like crazy. You’re doing it all day long, but not realizing it. Ask what you’re avoiding: some fear, some difficult task, some difficult emotion, some discomfort, or just staying present in the current moment? Name what you’re avoiding.
  3. Now face it. Just stay with this fear, discomfort, difficulty, in the present moment. Not your story about it that you’re telling yourself in your head, but the actual physical feeling in your body in the present moment. How bad is it? You’ll find that it’s No Big Deal. Stay with it for a little longer. And a little longer after that — challenge yourself.
  4. Take appropriate action. Now that you’ve faced it and have seen that it’s not such a big deal, you can act like an adult rather than a little child: you can decide what the best action is right now. If you’re afraid of doing some task, but you’ve faced it and seen that the fear is not such a big deal … you can remind yourself that the task will benefit you and others, and is much more important than your little fear. If you’re avoiding a difficult conversation with someone because you’re angry, you can see that the anger and offense is not such a big deal, and you can talk to the person calmly and appropriately, with empathy and compassion, and figure out a solution.

Of course, not all problems will just evaporate using this method, but I can tell you that you’ll be able to face many more things as you practice this method. You’ll get better at dealing with discomfort, instead of running from it as most people do. You’ll get better at not procrastinating, and doing uncomfortable tasks. You’ll be more present and more willing to stay in the moment rather than needing distractions all the time. Not overnight, but with practice.

You might have the urge to dismiss this article, to avoid practicing this technique. That too is avoidance, and I urge you to face it this moment.

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Source: Zenhabits.com

This Moment is Enough

By Leo Babauta

I was in a plane descending into Portland for a quick stopover, and I gazed upon a brilliant pink sunrise over blue and purple mountains, and my heart ached.

Instinctively, I looked over to Eva to share this breath-taking moment, but she was sleeping. I felt incomplete, not being able to share the moment with her, or with anyone. Its beauty was slipping through my fingers.

This was a teachable moment for me: I somehow felt this moment wasn’t enough, without being able to share it. It took me a second to remind myself: this moment is enough.

It’s enough, without needing to be shared or photographed or improved or commented upon. It’s enough, awe-inspiring just as it is.

I’m not alone in this feeling, that the moment needs to be captured by photo to be complete, or shared somehow on social media. It’s the entire reason for Instagram, for instance.

We feel the moment isn’t enough unless we talk about it, share it, somehow solidify it. The moment is ephemeral, and we want solidity and permanence. This kind of groundlessness can scare us.

This feeling of not-enoughness is fairly pervasive in our lives:

  • We sit down to eat and feel we should be reading something online, checking messages, doing work. As if eating the food weren’t enough.
  • We get annoyed with people when they don’t act as we want them to — the way they are feels like it’s not enough.
  • We feel directionless and lost in life, as if the life we have is not already enough.
  • We procrastinate when we know we should sit down to do important work, going for distractions, as if the work is not enough for us.
  • We always feel there’s something else we should be doing, and can’t just sit in peace.
  • We mourn the loss of people, of the past, of traditions … because the present feels like it’s not enough.
  • We are constantly thinking about what’s to come, as if it’s not enough to focus on what’s right in front of us.
  • We constantly look to improve ourselves, or to improve others, as if we and they are not already enough as we are.
  • We reject situations, reject people, reject ourselves, because we feel they’re not enough.

What if we accepted this present moment, and everyone and everything in it, as exactly enough?

What if we needed nothing more?

What if we accepted that this moment will slip away when it’s done, and saw the fleeting time we had with the moment as enough, without needing to share it or capture it?

What if we said yes to things, instead of rejecting them?

What if we accepted the “bad” with the good, the failures with the attempts, the irritating with the beautiful, the fear with the opportunity, as part of a package deal that this moment is offering us?

What if we paused right now, and saw everything in this present moment around us (including ourselves), and just appreciated it for what it is, as perfectly enough?

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Understanding the Purpose of Life

If you find a girl in a forest talking with her camera about deep idealistic topics, that’s probably me! I’m AlexTheIdealist and I’d be happy if you wandered with me and shared your views and opinions, I really want to know! I’ve started uploading these videos because there’s not many people in my life who would like to talk about these topics so I hope I’ll find some like-minded people here!

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Five Ways to Nurse Your Ego to Health

By Patrick Cole

Five Ways to Nurse Your Ego to Health

Low self-esteem is a common problem among us. Even those who you will deny it might find hard to say that they have never faced a situation in which they were left with a bruised ego – either a bad breakup, a job loss or just a bad hair day.

Of course, some of us take these moments a bit more to the heart. It also might lead to several conditions and complexes, from a simple and long crying day to depression. So, if you are dealing with any of these situations right now, here are five ways that you can apply to your life so to try to nurse your ego to health, and make yourself feel worthy again.

1 – Accept your flaws

It might sound strange that the first way mentioned here regarding how to nurse your ego is accepting your flaws, but this is the pure and simple truth.

If you wish to ensure that you will become happier about the person that you are, you will have to accept that you aren’t perfect. But the goal here is not to feel sorry for yourself, but to forgive yourself, and to understand that you are worthy of a great life despite it.

2 – Nothing out there is perfect

On the other hand, you should be sure that nothing and nobody are perfect out there. People have flaws and problems even if they are billionaires, sex symbols, or the CEO of the biggest companies in the world. Tabloids are full of countless stories of anorexia, bulimia, cheating, bankruptcy, corruption, and more from the world of celebrities, just as an example.

So stop comparing yourself to the others and rest assured that most of what you call perfection is just Photoshop and good PR. Understand the world is as we dream it, and get ready to build yours.

3 – Congratulate yourself

If nobody is there to do it, do it yourself. If you are getting compliments, do it anyway. Being able to congratulate yourself even for your smallest accomplishments will nurse your ego and make you feel good about yourself. That is to say that you don’t need to get a promotion or win the Olympic Games so you can congratulate yourself. Anything significant that happens in your life should be used as an excuse in this case.

This is called positive self-talk, and it is a proven way to boost self-esteem. It also means to stop listening to your inner critic when it doesn’t have anything useful to say. You can also take short self-appreciation breaks throughout the day and make it part of your routine.

4 – Keep a list of your best characteristics

If you tend to forget how good you are and your best achievements in life, make a list of them and keep it where you can find it. Don’t be shy or afraid to be overestimating your qualities – here what matters is what you consider as important. Remember that this is your private list and that you can write whatever you want.

So put everything into words and you will see how writing is good for your brain – and how it will make you feel better about yourself. Studies have proved it, and you can see their applications in the classroom and real life in many schools and universities nowadays.

5 – Help other people

We all know that we should be doing it just to be a helpful part the community, but it is also true that supporting other people is a great ego booster. Nothing better than hear a thank you or see the smile on their faces after giving a hand to someone. So, make of love your true goal, and look for volunteering opportunities, or, at least, try to be more available when you know that you could be of help. It might be what you just need to feel better about yourself.

In Conclusion

There is nothing wrong in nursing your ego if what you are looking for is to increase your self-esteem. And the simple and easy five ways listed above will help on your mission that makes yourself a happier person, proud of who you are and of your achievements.

And rest assured that it will reflect on the way that you see and participate in the world. So this will be a win-win situation for everybody, starting with you.

About the Author: Patrick Cole is an entrepreneur and freelancer. He is also a contributing blogger for several websites. Patrick loves self-education and rock music. Connect with Patrick via FacebookGoogle+, and his professional blog.

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How Spiritual Health Affects Our Lives

The “holy trinity” of body, mind and spirit is something that many people take for granted, and we do not respect this connection between the most important elements our being. To be more precise, the majority of people are concerned with only one aspect of this triangle – physical health. That is why our gyms are always full and why fitness regimes and diet products are being advertised everywhere around us, but this dedication to our physical health should not be done separately and we should always try to have balance in our lives.

The balance between good mental health, strong and vital body, and a satisfied and positive spirit is very hard to achieve in today’s hectic world or problems, meetings, appointments, and obsession with money. Our mental health is bombarded with stress while our bodies are living in polluted homes, eating unhealthy food and breathing dangerous toxins, and then it is no wonder that our spiritual “part” is “damaged” as well. However, there are certain ways that can make our spiritual entities more satisfied, and although there is no universal formula – some of those actions could restore your spiritual balance and make you happy and positive once again.

For example, many people have found spiritual satisfaction in religion, whether it be institutionalized religion or some other non-tradition form of spirituality. However, this should be done with caution, simply because dangerous cults pray on those who search spiritual balance and they can bring more harm than good.

Since every human being is unique and different, it is hard to say the exact “formula” for good spiritual health, but a lot of people have benefited from the introduction of meditation into their daily routine.
Regular sessions of deep breathing and contemplation are also a good thing, and overall spiritual health can also experience a significant boost if we invest in our mind and body. By reading and learning new stuff, or by taking regular exercise, we can improve our physical and our mental health, and these two elements will lift our spiritual levels as well.

Good spiritual health is extremely important, simply because we cannot have inner peace, hope and comfort without some sort of spiritual balance. If we want to give meaning to our lives and to lead productive and satisfying lives, our spiritual health needs to be one of the priorities. The benefits of having a good spiritual health include better mood, fewer anxieties, more happiness and satisfaction, fewer visits to the doctor’s office, and so on.
People who have found spiritual balance are more productive and perform better at their jobs, which is also beneficial for the whole community since we all affect each other in more ways than we can imagine. Also, strong spiritual health can give us mental balance in life, which can affect our relationships and our social interactions. If our mind and soul are “in the right place”, our lives will be filled with love and happiness, and this is something we all crave for.
Our mental health is bombarded with stress while our bodies are living in polluted homes, eating unhealthy food and breathing.

Happy mothering! It’s good for your health.

© Glow Images. Models used for illustrative purposes© Glow Images. Models used for illustrative purposes

Today’s woman is multi-faceted. She can be a wife, daughter, sister, aunt, mother and grandmother. As a mum, she juggles her life with raising children, running a home, work or study. As a grandmother, she often plays an important role in looking-after her grandchildren. For these women, mothering is a serious responsibility and a treasured privilege. While it’s a demanding life, it can be made easier when it incorporates happy mothering which is good for your health.

Celebrate Happy Mothering

Each year Mother’s Day celebrates the contribution women make to family life and acknowledges the importance of mothering. My earliest participation in this celebration, was the morning I proudly carried the breakfast tray into my mother’s room for the first time. Serving my Mum breakfast in bed was my way of thanking her for the love and caring she was giving me. Of course, I didn’t fully appreciate all she was doing to raise me to be a happy, healthy, good person. Yet my mother did this each day with boundless grace and love.

TIPS:

– Relish the challenges of parenting. Be pleased that you’re doing your best as a mother.

– Take pleasure in the fact that you get your children to school each day so that they can receive a good education; that you’re able to feed, clothe, and give them a safe, loving home; that through your efforts you are giving them a good start in life.

– Be glad to “Direct your children onto the right path (so that), when they are older, they will not leave it.” The Bible, Proverbs 22:6.

– Feel satisfied that through your spiritual values and example, your children will become model citizens, knowing right from wrong, treating everyone with respect and kindness, and being a blessing to others at home, school and in the community.

– Have inner contentment. Find joy in allowing meditation or prayer help you be a happy mother. “Take time to be holy, Be calm in thy soul; Each thought and each motive beneath His control.” – W.D. Longstaff .

– Be grateful for your mother’s nurturing and the selfless caring that women around the world give their own children and others. “Happiness is spiritual, born of Truth and Love. It is unselfish; therefore it cannot exist alone, but requires all mankind to share it.” Science and Health p. 57 – Mary Baker Eddy.

– Be joyous. With the help of a divine Mother-love you can fulfill your parenting tasks with poise and grace, and celebrate happy mothering.

This article has been published on Motherpedia. Read more by me on Motherpedia…

Also published in Around Point Cook and Around Hoppers Crossing Community newspapers in print and online via Issuu.

Beverly Goldsmith is a health writer and practitioner and teacher of Christian Science healing. Twitter: @GoldsmithBev

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I’m a Practitioner and Teacher of Christian Science healing in Melbourne, Australia, who also writes on the connection between spirituality and health, and how thought affects health. I like to share tips and ideas with readers on how to live a happy, healthy life.

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Source: Spiritualityandhealthconnect.com

Mind Over Matter? Mindfulness Meditation For Pain Management

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Pain is subjective. It is a sensory and emotional experience that can be influenced by countless factors, ranging from expectations to mood or even faith. Chronic pain can be highly despairing and significantly affect one’s quality of life and emotional state. The currently available analgesic treatments don’t always work, and pain researchers keep searching for more effective options for pain management.

In the last decades, there have been many studies proposing that mindfulness meditation can reduce pain and improve health, both in experimental and in clinical contexts.

Mindfulness meditation is a cognitive practice that involves paying full attention to whatever internal and external experiences are occurring in the present moment, as you experience them. It is a technique that combines focused attention on breathing with objective non-judgmental acceptance of arising thoughts and sensations. This means accepting an experience with an even mind, not judging it as good or bad.

One of the main doubts regarding the analgesic effect of mindfulness meditation has been how exactly it happens. It could be argued that mindfulness meditation could simply reduce pain through a placebo-like effect, or due to the context of participating in a meditation intervention, including expectations, shifted attention, the setting, body posture, breathing, or other processes associated with the simple awareness or belief that one is practicing meditation.

Recent research

In 2015, The Journal of Neuroscience published a study whose goal was to precisely determine whether or not the neuronal mechanisms of mindfulness meditation-induced pain relief were similar to those of placebo analgesia, or if they were due to contextual influences.

The study combined different approaches, including psychophysical, physiological, and brain imaging methods, to test the hypothesis that mindfulness meditation reduces pain by activating specific neurological mechanisms, different from those of placebo analgesia. Given the impact that the context of a meditation intervention can have on pain perception, as mentioned above, the study also compared the effect of active mindfulness meditation with a sham mindfulness meditation technique – one that would lead the participants to believe that they were practicing mindfulness meditation, but that would only engage relaxation mechanisms.

As had been hypothesized, it was found that mindfulness meditation decreased pain intensity and unpleasantness beyond the analgesic effects of placebo or sham mindfulness meditation. Furthermore, effective mindfulness meditation engaged brain mechanisms that were indeed distinct from those of placebo-induced analgesia or sham mindfulness meditation.

Whereas sham mindfulness meditation-induced analgesia was associated with lower respiration rates, reflecting a relaxation response, mindfulness meditation-reduced pain ratings were independent of respiration rate and were achieved via neurological mechanisms of pain modulation. Mindfulness meditation decreased the activation of brain regions involved in processing sensory information and in the cognitive modulation of pain. This study indicated that mindfulness meditation is an active cognitive practice, whereas a placebo effect arises from a more passive cognitive state.

What was still to be understood were the details of how mindfulness meditation induces the analgesic effect, what neurochemical pathways it activates in the brain. The same research group from the aforementioned study now aimed at trying to find an answer for that. In a new study, also published in The Journal of Neuroscience, they hypothesized that, given the high concentrations of opioid receptors found in brain regions associated with the cognitive modulation of pain, and the known involvement of endogenous opioids in the cognitive inhibition of pain, maybe this system could be part of the mechanisms of mindfulness meditation-induced analgesia.

Using naloxone, a drug that blocks the effect of opioids, it was shown that the inhibition of the opioid system did not affect analgesia induced by mindfulness meditation. In the control group, on the other hand, the blockade of the opioid system induced an increase in pain perception, as expected. Although there are many other neurotransmitter systems which can account for the analgesic effect of mindfulness meditation, these results are still surprising – the opioid system is one of the main modulators of pain and the fact that it apparently has no influence on the mechanisms of mindfulness meditation-induced analgesia is intriguing.

The authors of this study speculate on some alternative explanations for this effect. They suggest that “mindfulness meditation may be a complex, cognitive process that likely engages multiple brain networks and neurochemical mechanisms to attenuate pain.”

Mind over matter

Indeed, there is mounting evidence indicating that mindfulness meditation activates brain regions associated with the contextual evaluation of pain. A reduced activity of the thalamus has also been reported; this is important because the thalamus is one of the main structures in pain processing – it receives sensory information, processes it, and then transmits it to the cortex, were it reaches consciousness. The fact that thalamic activity may be reduced due to mindfulness meditation therefore indicates that it may somehow diminish sensory processing, or that it may prevent this sensory information from reaching conscious awareness.

Although there is still a lot to be learned about its processes, what seems somewhat clear is that mindfulness meditation may be an interesting alternative approach to pain management – it’s mind over matter.

References

Brown, C., & Jones, A. (2010). Meditation experience predicts less negative appraisal of pain: Electrophysiological evidence for the involvement of anticipatory neural responses Pain, 150 (3), 428-438 DOI: 10.1016/j.pain.2010.04.017

Grant, J., & Rainville, P. (2009). Pain Sensitivity and Analgesic Effects of Mindful States in Zen Meditators: A Cross-Sectional Study Psychosomatic Medicine, 71 (1), 106-114 DOI: 10.1097/PSY.0b013e31818f52ee

Zeidan, F., Adler-Neal, A., Wells, R., Stagnaro, E., May, L., Eisenach, J., McHaffie, J., & Coghill, R. (2016). Mindfulness-Meditation-Based Pain Relief Is Not Mediated by Endogenous Opioids Journal of Neuroscience, 36 (11), 3391-3397 DOI: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.4328-15.2016

Zeidan, F., Emerson, N., Farris, S., Ray, J., Jung, Y., McHaffie, J., & Coghill, R. (2015). Mindfulness Meditation-Based Pain Relief Employs Different Neural Mechanisms Than Placebo and Sham Mindfulness Meditation-Induced Analgesia Journal of Neuroscience, 35 (46), 15307-15325 DOI: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.2542-15.2015

Zeidan, F., Gordon, N., Merchant, J., & Goolkasian, P. (2010). The Effects of Brief Mindfulness Meditation Training on Experimentally Induced Pain The Journal of Pain, 11 (3), 199-209 DOI: 10.1016/j.jpain.2009.07.015

Zeidan, F., Grant, J., Brown, C., McHaffie, J., & Coghill, R. (2012). Mindfulness meditation-related pain relief: Evidence for unique brain mechanisms in the regulation of pain Neuroscience Letters, 520 (2), 165-173 DOI: 10.1016/j.neulet.2012.03.082

Zeidan, F., Martucci, K., Kraft, R., Gordon, N., McHaffie, J., & Coghill, R. (2011). Brain Mechanisms Supporting the Modulation of Pain by Mindfulness Meditation Journal of Neuroscience, 31 (14), 5540-5548 DOI: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.5791-10.2011

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Further Reading

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