wisdom

LEAVE THE WORLD A BETTER PLACE THAN YOU FOUND IT

pexels-photo-235648.jpeg

Steven Hawkins, the Cambridge Scholar, died today. He is a wonderful example of a man who made the right choices and made them work. His mind was strong but his body weak. He suffered from a debilitating illness yet he continued to work. You see, you have to believe in yourself with the same conviction you have to believe in God. If you could ask Jeff Bezos, (Amazon), the Oracle of Omaha, (Warren Buffet), Bill Gates (Microsoft), and the many others who are billionaires what is the one thing they believed in when the moments of doubt had them stalled…they would tell you…they believed in themselves. They all had failures in their career. Think the Edsel, the Ford fiasco, think Zap Mail, the billion dollar FedEx failure, there are many many others that gave doubt to the men in charge. At every time, in everyman’s life, you have to go with your gut and you may be wrong. Think Custer, and his last stand. Studebaker, Packard, Stutz bearcat are examples.

Believe in yourself and you may be wrong. And that is how I think God operates. “Trust in Him with all your might, lean not on your own understanding, in all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your paths strait.” Not for your glory but for His. Don’t be afraid of failing to get what you intended from your effort. You know that because of your faithfulness in trusting Him, He got from your effort what He wanted for His purposes. God is in the bowling business, He knocks over a lot a pins with one ball.

Don’t let money deceive you. Business is the best game I’ve ever played, and money is just a way to keep score, but there are a lot of unhappy rich men. There are a lot of unhappy poor men. There are a great many things that contribute to happiness. We haven’t done much in adding to Aristotle’s definition that he made in his book Nicomacion Ethics. He said, “Happiness is the only human emotion that is complete in itself. There is nothing that can be added to it.” I’ve often considered that was the reason Thomas Jefferson (a well-read philosophy scholar) included it in the Declaration of Independence... “Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.”

And what about the number one killer of finding your full potential…a girl/boy. The urge to merge is great and having babies is the millstone to hang around your neck. What I say for boys goes for girls. You work to provide food and shelter for your family, period. And debt. You borrow money for personal consumption items and you have sold your soul to the devil. Debt robs you of your freedom of choice. You can’t quit the job and go to school. Make the mortgage payments. And where will you live? Is this job in the place and under the conditions you want to live during your life? What I’m saying here is, “Life is not a dress rehearsal.” You don’t get a chance to double back and do over. And time is in short supply.

It is said that without Ruth there would be no Billie Graham. Without Pierre Curie there would be no Madam Curie. Yes, there are those who find the soul mate to help them with their chosen field. And such a relationship is precious as diamonds. I wish I could tell you how to find such a relationship, but I can’t. It takes mutual respect, both as a person and as a professional. It takes a since of humor. It takes a large amount of humility, and compassion. It takes forgiveness and thoughtfulness. And most of all it takes love. A deep abiding gratitude for and appreciation of the object loved. And it must endure over time. The girl or boy you fell in love with at 18 is not the same person at 30, nor 40, nor 50, nor 60. You are floating down the steam of life…together. And it is a hard ride. Leave the World a better place than you found it.


This article was written by Lawrence McGrath.

Originally titled: 4th Message for Millennials

Lawrence wrote the book: A Cry From The Heart: A Personal Essay

Click here to purchase his book on Amazon.

Mr. McGrath is an author, father and grandfather. A retired marine pilot, lawyer, college professor, college president, bank president, and consultant.

EMOTIONAL INTELLIGENCE - WELLNESS-MINDFULNESS

pexels-photo-208165.jpeg

Mindfulness involves an awareness of the here and now, and a mindset that is open and receptive to new ideas, information and experiences. In substance abuse treatment, mindfulness can be a way to cope with feelings, stress, triggers and urges and a way to manage stress and anxiety. Mindfulness can be the difference between responding effectively to the trauma symptoms that often co-occur with substance abuse, and a relapse to substance use to escape the unpleasant symptoms.


 Mindfulness, if practiced regularly is a positive skill that counteracts one’s self-destructive behavior. It is not an escape or a means of avoidance. It is a way of staying present with pain and discomfort, rather than fleeing from pain and discomfort. Instead of staying compulsively busy to avoid an urge, running from an urge or giving in to an urge by using; a person practicing mindfulness observes and accepts the urge, and rides it like a wave – knowing that every urge has a beginning, middle and end - and that this one too will pass.  


Mindfulness is a way of engaging the mind in response to any stressor, situation, interaction or activity that is causing any distress on the Physical, Emotional or Spiritual of you. Mindfulness helps a person recognize strong urges or feelings as invitations to accept or decline after careful consideration, rather than commands to act immediately. Mindfulness allows a person to remain calm under fire, then choose a response to a stimulus that is in his/her short-term or long-term best interest.


Skills Defined


There are mindfulness skills that need to be learned and practiced. When practiced routinely, it will be easier to call upon the skills at any time and to apply them when needed. Part of the beauty of mindfulness practice, is that the practice does not necessarily require sitting in a certain position or closing the eyes. Mindfulness can be practiced and skills during activities and as part of the activities. Some essential mindfulness skills are:


Awareness: Awareness involves focusing attention on one thing at a time, while at the same time recognizing that there are many things going on. Some of these things are external such as sounds, odors, touch, and sights, while some of these things are internal, such as our feelings thoughts, urges, impulses, etc.


Non-judgmental: The emphasis is on observing without judging or labeling things as “good” or “bad.” The idea is to observe my angry feelings without judging them as bad or feeling a need to get rid of them or do something about them. It’s like holding my anger at arm’s length and just noticing that this is anger. Then understanding that not only is it anger, but that it’s ok that it is anger and even understandable that anger would be there.


Present Moment: A present moment focus or being in the present moment means fully participating in the present without being distracted by guilt from the past or worry and anxiety about the future. It means engaging in activities that are meaningful today, not just mindlessly doing what I have always done or going through the motions without attention to what I am experiencing.

 

Open Mind (or Beginner’s Mind): An open mind or beginner’s mind is childlike (not childish). It is being open to new experiences and seeing them as they are; not how you have judged them to be or think they should be. If I attend an event with the mindset that “this is going to be a waste of time,” I have a preconceived notion about the event that prevents me from experiencing the event as it is. Likewise, if I already know it all, I’m not open to learning anything new, or experiencing the joy and bliss of learning.

A Beginner’s Mind is what a child has who experiences something for the first time.


This article was written by Marc Baisden, MACP, MIN

Click HERE to Learn more about Marc Baisden.

https://www.alignable.com/anchorage-ak/recovery-intervention-services

THE TRUE WELL-SPRING OF WELL-BEING


pexels-photo-1666021.jpeg

It is natural and fundamental for living beings to want to be happy, healthy, and free from suffering. Life would not have persisted for nearly four billion years were living things not motivated to, and reasonably good at, seeking favorable circumstances and avoiding unfavorable ones.


When you consider much of what people do in our day-to-day lives, it is mostly in service of meeting our needs for food, clothing, shelter, and a sense of safety, satisfaction, and happiness. We don’t necessarily awaken each morning and say to ourselves how much we hope it’s swamped at the office, or that traffic will be absolutely gridlocked, or maybe we’ll get into a car accident so we can practice with being grateful for the time we have.


Yet we know, despite our deepest desires for how our life will be, that all sorts of things can happen, and many of them range from a little annoying to utterly devastating. Our children can become addicted to the painkillers in our cabinet the dentist prescribed us last year. We can get laid off from our jobs. We can be raped or mugged or murdered or diagnosed with untreatable cancer. We can be vegetarian, alcohol, tobacco and drug-free, run marathons, and still, have a heart attack at age 60. As the old saying goes, people make plans, and God laughs.


When trouble comes, we all get through it one way or another, sometimes more gracefully than others, always hoping to get back and remain in calm seas for smooth sailing. Then something else comes along: the flu, a torn meniscus, a child who develops asthma or depression. It will never remain smooth sailing for long; that’s just not how life works. And yet, somehow, we keep hoping that life will be something other than what it is.


It sounds crazy. Maybe it is. It seems human aspirations are doomed to be awkwardly incompatible with the vicissitudes of life. Indeed, in most if not all of us, there is an undercurrent of dis-ease, a fear about what is to come, that the moment of something terrible happening might be in our future, and not just someone else's whom we read about in the news. So, what to do?


About twenty-five centuries ago, a man named Siddhartha Gautama, better known as the Buddha, left home in search of a resolution to human suffering. After many years of searching, of trying many different things, and close to death and despair from neglecting his physical health and making little progress towards his goal, he had a breakthrough when he simply let go and let the storms in his mind be as they were. He settled more and more deeply into his pure, conscious awareness of all of his sensations, thoughts, and feelings. What he discovered was that human beings suffer when we want life to be different from how it is.


But it's not the desire per se: it's our attachment to it, our belief that our beliefs about how life should be or could be, are more important than how life actually is. This, of course, is foolish. It's not that we have no control over our lives and circumstances, it's that that control is forever limited, and many things will happen that we do not expect, and perhaps do not want.


Yet what he also discovered is that if we can detach from that belief that our wishes are more important than reality, we can begin to find real peace.


The key lies in our conscious awareness. The more we identify with and rest in our awareness, the more we can just be with the truth of how things are in this moment, the more a kind of magic starts to work on us.


We naturally let go of a struggle with life that is deeper and subtler than we ever imagined. We may never want to be sick or hurt or die but are no longer ill-at-ease with the difficult truths of life. It is analogous to someone who is so unfit that they cannot climb a flight of stairs without getting seriously out of breath, who then slowly begins to exercise, a little more with every passing week, until perhaps a year later, they are able to run a marathon. Their body naturally transforms by being more and more active.


So it is with a meditation practice where we simply rest ever more deeply in our awareness of what is. In doing so, we find well-being that is beyond sickness and health, beyond happiness and sorrow, beyond birth and death.


In some sense, finding this power within us changes nothing: we can still dream and plan, take care of our bodies and minds with healthy food, exercise, and rest and relaxation. We still take care of others. In another sense, it changes everything, because it transforms our relationship with every aspect of our lives, and frees us to do all of these things with greater presence, love, and patience.

This article was written by Joshua Sandeman

Click HERE to Learn more about his work.

www.linkedin.com/in/joshua-sandeman

GRATITUDE FOR A NEW LIFE

pexels-photo-1076429.jpeg

If you're a regular consumer of social media, you've most likely seen this question pop up on your news feed: "What if you woke up tomorrow with only the things you were thankful for today".  It makes us all stop and think, in the moment at least, and offer up a few sentiments to the universe before going on with our previously-scheduled programming of stress, worry, and negativity.


But what if you considered making gratitude part of your everyday life?


Gratitude is a positive emotion. While some define it as "the state of being grateful" or "expressing thanks", I like this definition best:


“Gratitude is a thankful appreciation for what an individual receives, whether tangible or intangible. With gratitude, people acknowledge the goodness in their lives. As a result, gratitude also helps people connect to something larger than themselves as individuals – whether to other people, nature, or a higher power." -- Harvard Medical School


However you elucidate it, feeling and expressing gratitude has a positive impact on both you and others. I challenge you to find an article or video describing the ill-effects of gratitude.  There are many reasons why we'd want to develop a heart of gratitude, and here are just a few.


A Healthier Body

According to Robert Emmons, leading researcher on gratitude and its effects, those who practice gratitude in a consistent manner report a host of benefits including stronger immune systems, lower blood pressure, and are less bothered by aches and pains. (https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/why_gratitude_is_good). In an article published in the National Communication Association’s Review of Communication, Stephen M. Yoshimura and Kassandra Berzins explored the connection between the expression of gratitude and physical health. They found that gratitude consistently associates with many positive health states and reduced reports of negative physical symptoms. (https://www.natcom.org/press-room/expressing-gratitude-makes-us-healthier-who-wouldn%E2%80%99t-be-grateful)


“Gratitude can be an incredibly powerful and invigorating experience. There is growing evidence that being grateful may not only bring good feelings. It could lead to better health.” – Jeff Huffman

 

Peace of Mind


Gratitude can also benefit our mental health. Emmons conducted multiple studies linking gratitude and mental well-being. His findings were that gratitude can increase happiness and decrease depression. And a study published in 2014 in the Journal of Applied Sport Psychology found that athletes can increase their self-esteem, an important component of mental wellness, by expressing gratitude. (https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0022440507000386)


"Results indicated that counting blessings was associated with enhanced self-reported gratitude, optimism, life satisfaction, and decreased negative affect." In a separate study, children who practiced grateful thinking showed signs of more positive attitudes toward their family and at school. (Froh, Sefick, & Emmons, 2008).


Sleep Tight


And how about that elusive but necessary thing called sleep? A study done in 2016 by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicated that more than one third of Americans don't get enough sleep. (http://www.healthcommunities.com/sleep-disorders/overview-of-sleep-disorders.shtml) Struggling to doze off, waking in the middle of the night, tossing and turning, starting the day feeling exhausted-- sound familiar? Try gratefulness as a sleep aid. One study showed that those who were grateful fell asleep quickly and slept more soundly, supporting evidence that more grateful people may sleep better because they have more positive thoughts when they lay down to go to  sleep. Gratitude predicted greater subjective sleep quality and sleep duration, and less sleep latency and daytime dysfunction." (https://www.jpsychores.com/article/S0022-3999(08)00422-4/fulltext)

 

Make new friends


Gratitude can help with creating new relationships. A study led by UNSW psychologist Dr Lisa Williams and Dr Monica Bartlett of Gonzaga University showed that the practice of thanking a new acquaintance for their help makes them more likely to seek an ongoing social relationship with you.  "Our findings represent the first known evidence that expression of gratitude facilitates the initiation of new relationships among previously unacquainted people," says Dr. Williams.


But how?


Gratitude acts as a strengthener of our positive emotions, like exercise is for muscles. This practice of appreciation eliminates feelings of envy and angst as it allows our memories to be happier. Through gratitude, we experience positive feelings, which in turn help us thrive after disappointments and failures. It shifts our attention away from toxic emotions and makes it harder to ruminate on negative events. In a study done by Joel Wong and Joshua Brown in 2007, involving 300 subjects who were seeking mental health counseling, they found that when people are more grateful, they experienced brain activity which is distinct from neurological activity related to a negative emotion such as guilt. In addition, they exhibited a greater neural sensitivity in the medial prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain associated with learning and decision making. (https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/how_gratitude_changes_you_and_your_brain)


Now what?


Though we may understand the many benefits of expressing gratitude, incorporating it into our day-to-day lives can be tricky.  Life's pressures bear down on us and staying thankful often doesn't come naturally...negativity does. But with a little effort, it is possible to maintain an attitude of gratitude.  Here are some ideas to try:


1-Eat thankfulness for breakfast.  Literally, don't allow yourself to get out of bed until you've said, out loud, at least 5 things you are thankful for, whether great or small.  Pause after each and soak in the warm, positive feelings that are associated with each. It's a healthy and optimistic way to start each day.


"Wake at dawn with a winged heart and give thanks for another day of loving." — Kahlil Gibran


2-Fill a thankful jar.  Find a colorful jar at a local thrift shop and set it somewhere you can see it throughout the day. On a scrap of paper, jot down anything and everything that happens each day that makes a positive impact on you:  a kind word from a colleague, a surprise gift from a loved one, the beautiful sunrise on your way to the office, the aroma from your pumpkin spice latte. Wad these up and throw them in your jar, then, at the end of the year, spend an evening reading through each special moment. You'll feel like the richest person in the world.


3-Say it.  Get in the habit of saying "thank you", to everyone you interact with...the barista, the security guard, your coworkers -- even those you don't get along with.  And don't forget to thank yourself -- self-love is an important part of maintaining a positive outlook -- and taking time to appreciate your own accomplishments, achievements, and successes can help with that.  "I appreciate you" is a great ending to almost any email or text!


4-Let gratitude tuck you in at night.  Before going to bed, try opting out of scrolling through what everyone else in the world is doing, and instead, journal about a positive event from today It may be as small as, "I got out of the house without spilling my coffee", or as grandiose as realizing a long-term goal -- but no matter the significance, get in the habit of writing the positives down.


"Gratitude is the fairest blossom which springs from the soul."– Henry Ward Beecher


And who knows, your own attitude of gratitude may be just the encouragement someone else needs. Don't be surprised if, as you grow in expressing gratitude, that others will want a piece of the pie.  Joy is contagious and when others seeing you living a life of physical health, mental health, sleeping deeply and enjoying healthy relationships -- to name a few -- they will want to learn your secret.  If not for yourself, consider developing a heart of gratitude to be a light to others.


“At times, our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person. Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us.” – Albert Schweitzer


 

This article was written by Amy Sargent.

Click HERE to Learn more about her work.

http://the-isei.com/home.aspx

The Kind of Love that Knows No Limits

pexels-photo-953057.jpeg

As the saying goes, “You are not a human being having an occasional spiritual experience. You are a spiritual being having a temporary human experience.” And there is no better time of the year to affirm that for yourself than Easter.

For me, the Easter story is a dramatic demonstration and profound illustration of something that I believe is just as true for you now, as it was for Jesus over 2,000 years ago—that you are in this world, but you are not of this world.

How so? Your true essence is spirit, not body. And unlike the body, your spirit is eternal and indestructible. Your authentic self is, in a word, divine—an individual expression of that all-pervading energy that many of us call God. And you are here for one purpose, and one purpose only: to express your divine nature in the body, and in the world.

And what, exactly, is that nature? Love. Unconditional love. Divine love.

It’s the kind of love that knows no limits . . . the kind of love that forgives—no matter what. It’s the kind of love that Jesus fully expressed throughout his life, right up to the final moments of his earthly existence. And it’s the kind of love that you, and I, and all of us are called upon to express on a daily basis.

Today, and every day of the year, may you remember who you are, and why you are here. May you remember that the journey of life is not about getting somewhere. The journey of life is about being something. It’s about being the love that you are in every single moment of that journey. And it’s about experiencing the absolute joy that your love brings to the journey, and brings to each and every spirit that you encounter along the way.

Happy Easter!


This article was written by Steven Lane Taylor.

Click HERE to Learn more about his work.

WEBSITE: www.rowrowrow.com


RELATIONSHIPS AND TRAUMA, PART 1

pexels-photo-1415131.jpeg

Trauma affects, or almost “infects” relationships. The partners of individuals with unresolved trauma bear burdens that can be both practical and personal.

Practical Burdens

The lives of partners of trauma-affected individuals are burdened in practical ways because they must often fill in for their loved-one who is in some way “not there” to help with the daily demands of life. The spectrum of “not there” can range in severity from mild impairment to highly dysfunctional. Not only is the individual “not there” to help, they can add to the partner’s burdens with their trauma-related demands and needs for care. Trauma-affected individuals can have symptoms (including depression, anxiety, sleep disturbances, sexual dysfunction, mood swings, chronic fatigue, panic attacks, physical pain and disease, See Chapter 1: “Understanding Trauma”) which require care or accommodation. They can also have self-destructive behaviors (addictions, infidelity, risk-seeking activities) which result in negative consequences to the relationship.

Personal Burdens

Partners of trauma-affected individuals are also burdened personally within the relationship. Trauma-sufferers often want to avoid their pain by staying numb, isolating themselves, and refusing to be vulnerable. By limiting the amount of relating or connecting they do with their partners, they reduce the level of intimacy in their relationships, which removes the likelihood of having to feel pain. Partners become a “threat” to the traumatized individual’s sense of safety because they challenge the individual’s carefully constructed defenses against feeling.

The story of Brandon, a veteran of the war in Iraq, illustrates the desire for “numbness” shared by many traumatized individuals:

“But when he was home, the numbness began to wear off. He began to feel the emotional and physical pain of his experiences. Without the tools to successfully confront those feelings and learn to interact with his civilian family and friends, the feelings were completely overwhelming. The symptoms of his trauma were so intense that they were unbearable. Many service members, such as Brandon, feel that the only way to find relief is to be numb again.”
From Chapter 7: “A Note to Veterans and Their Loved Ones”

— Click HERE to speak to highly trained and experienced psychologists online. https://onlinetherapies.com

Self-medication through substance abuse is one way trauma-affected individuals attempt to remain numb, with often devastating effects on their relationships. They often turn to drugs and alcohol, I explain in Chapter 7, “because they want to numb symptoms of trauma. These substances keep the feelings and memories at bay. Their symptoms return when the high wears off, however, and the need to alleviate these symptoms creates an addictive pattern. It isn’t accurate to say that they want to abuse drugs and alcohol. Rather, the issue is that they will do anything to feel ‘normal’ again, or at least, comfortably numb.”

Partners of trauma-affected individuals often feel alone and rejected on some level. They may feel they must always tread lightly in their relationships. They may end up feeling helpless and powerless to make a difference in the lives of their suffering loved ones. Trauma-affected individuals often promote these feelings of powerlessness, because they are committed at all costs to maintaining control and protecting themselves from feeling their pain. Instead of cooperating with their partners by working through their traumas in order to have better relationships, they can actively resist and thwart their partner’s compassionate efforts. This conflictual, combative pattern, if it continues, can destroy trust within the relationship.

By Dr. Peter Bernstein

To read more of his articles, please visit: http://www.bernsteininstitute.com/blog/


*** "This article was written and originally published when Peter Bernstein, PhD was a licensed psychotherapist. His practice has evolved and he is currently a life coach, mentor and consultant."



ESCAPISM & FITNESS HABITS

The links between my painful past and fitness became clear to me after a period of major inner turbulence. I knew that most compulsive behaviors had their roots in traumatic experiences, but I never connected my obsession with fitness with my lingering inner pain from the past. I believed I was a strong person who had overcome pain because I had a fit and healthy body to prove it, as well as a life that seemed to be driven by (and built on) authentic and exciting experiences. However, the truth was that my fitness habits, to a great extent, were escapism.

Much love! 

Valeria  

To be healthy is to be loving.

OUR OWN CREATED PRISON

Given how exercise, diet, and even therapy can become traps for a painful emotional reality, it’s crucial for us be aware of the fundamental causes of our suffering.

Think of how we might sometimes consciously (or unconsciously) believe that we are not good enough or not worthy of happiness. When this happens, we then begin to work hard in pursuit of this worthiness.

As a result, anything external that gives us the illusion that we deserve happiness for our effort will also become our own created prison.

This cycle of sustaining habits out of fear turns exercise and diet (or whatever our external source of happiness is) into negative forces, thus compounding the root problem as we live for our bodies and for conditioned emotional stability through abusive mechanisms.

This can cause disharmony within the heart, creating a state of mind where true happiness cannot exist.

Much love! 

Valeria  

To be healthy is to be loving.

 UNHAPPY HEART IN A FIT BODY

flowers-reflection-yellow-flower-wallpaper-computer.jpg

Susan had a session with me at two in the afternoon. I was not feeling well after Destiny’s encounter. During lunch, my thoughts had been much more centered on love and kindness, and this reflection was hovering over me when Susan arrived. She’d been training with me for a couple of months.

I began chatting with her about these tender reflections. In the middle of our session, I said, “Susan, you know what I’ve begun to realize?”

 “What?” she asked.

 “That the foundation of health is love; how can we feel comfortable in our bodies if we are not in love with life? Does that make sense to you?”

** Check this Keto book to become more fit. Learn more here**

She looked at me as if she was thinking about it. Then she said, “Valeria, can you please get the mat for my next buttocks workout?”

We continued with the session as if I’d never brought up the insignificance of a fit body without a loving heart and a happy mind.

Much Love!

Valeria Teles

THE SUN, THE MOON, AND THE TRUTH CANNOT HIDE

flowers-hot-warm-breeze-summer-flower-wallpaper-for-desktop-1920x938.jpg

Karen was my last client for the day. We met at seven sharp, right after Steve.

Karen was an obese woman I trained twice a week. She was thirty years old, weighed 250 pounds, and was 5’ 2”. However, these numbers don’t say anything about her as a person. She was a painter who owned her own gallery in Manhattan. The serenity in her eyes and the way she smiled for no reason introduced her to me before she even told me her name.

She had been married for more than five years to someone who was in good shape. I knew this because her husband came to pick her up after our sessions. The conversation we had the first day we met left me pondering about life for days.

I asked the same question I asked every client before we began the program: What are your three main fitness goals?

Karen said she only had one goal: to enjoy the workouts.

I recall looking into her eyes as if she had not understood my question. I rephrased it, and this time I was more specific.

“I understand, Karen, and I will ensure that the exercises will be fun, but what I meant was, how many pounds do you want to lose?”

Again, she answered with a smile and said she didn’t care about the weight; she just wanted to feel good during and after the workouts. Furthermore, she said it didn’t matter if she didn’t lose any weight at all. Her peaceful eyes and joyful smile reinforced the truth of her words.

I could not believe this woman and how out of touch with reality she was. She was obese, for God’s sake! She could actually die of a heart attack at any moment, and my mind refused to believe that anyone could be at peace with a body like hers. It couldn’t be possible.

I insisted. I tried to force her to make a deal with me, and asked her to agree on losing one to two pounds per week.

Once more with the same serene, happy look on her face, she replied that I didn’t understand her. Patiently, she repeated that she was fine with her weight and that she enjoyed her work. She was a person who loved and was loved by her family and friends. Her life was a blessing, and she was grateful for what she had. There was nothing else to be added or removed to make her happier. The workouts with me were just to get her body moving while she had some fun.

I wasn’t amazed by her attitude, because I neither understood nor believed in what she was saying at the time. Nevertheless, after our encounter that day, I went home thinking about her, and I remembered a thought I’d had when I was a teenager, one that had returned many times throughout my life.

I would die young.

I believed I would not reach the age of thirty, despite being physically healthy.

Perhaps intuitively, I knew that my heart could fail at any time because of my lack of understanding of what life was really about: love and kindness.

I am convinced that Karen became my client for a reason—to teach me that to be healthy is to be loving. She trained with me for almost a year, and never lost any weight.

Karen was the healthiest client I ever had.

 

Much Love!

Valeria Teles

CHOOSE TO BE THRILLED!

bugs-office-spiders-arachnids-glasses-secretary-paperwork-spectacles-creepy-crawlies-ladybug-background.jpg

We have the choice to change our minds when we can't change the situation we find ourselves in. Instead of perceiving a commitment to finish our work with dreadful anxiety, we can live in these moments with a sense of excitement.

Embrace the challenge of being creative, thus tapping into the unborn parts of the mind that are not habitually conditioned to perceiving external events. 

The main difference between anxiety and excitement is the energy behind these feelings: one is driven by negative thoughts (anxiety), and the other by positive ones. All of the unnecessary suffering in our lives is self-created, and so is our happiness. 

When we are able to perceive reality with an inner “eye” that can’t see itself, our hearts will have become the source of unconditioned joy. 

 

Much love!

Valeria

TRYING TOO HARD

nature-flowers-petals-plants-garden-rain-drops-sparkle-weather-storm-free-images-1080P-wallpaper-middle-size.jpg

I now see that my "fit and healthy" lifestyle was made up of a series of these kinds of experiences. I was very disciplined, but this discipline was turning me into the opposite of a loving and happy person. I came to realize that the pursuit of a fit and healthy body could only be a positive thing if we’ve already recognized our spiritual hearts as perfectly fit to provide us with a life of happiness and peace. In other words, although a fit body can improve our health, earn compliments that boost our self-esteem, and give us a temporary “high” of accomplishment, without a content mind and joyful heart, our happiness won’t last long. When our health and feel-good states depend on external conditions and constant hard work, this can propel us into an endless, destructive cycle.

Much love!

Valeria

LOSE WEIGHT - FIND JOY

flowers-nature-koffee-nice-food-day-flower-wallpaper-samsung-1920x1080.jpeg

Below you will find a sample of the diet that I was on for about two years before I competed with WBFF – World Beauty Fitness and Fashion. This dietary system, combined with weight lifting, can be of great help for losing weight, staying in shape, and building muscle and strength. But as I have mentioned throughout my book, Fit for Joy, this type of regiment mainly focuses on the physical body, which is only one aspect of our being. We are so much more than just our bodies! The approach to fitness that works the body in isolation from our mind and our spiritual heart is not what I do today, professionally or personally. My work at the moment is about integrating conventional physical fitness with spirituality.

These meal suggestions are only to illustrate what my personal journey was like. They are not approved meal-plan recommendations.

BREAKFAST Option One

8 oz cold water with a probiotic supplement

1 tablespoon matcha green tea + ½ lemon

7 walnuts

1-2 whole eggs

BREAKFAST Option Two

1 salmon filet oven-roasted with coconut oil

5-10 walnuts

Steamed Kale

BREAKFAST Option Three

Steel-cut oats, almond milk, berries

Green tea

 

LUNCH

Any lean meat of your choice: white fish (sole, cod, flounder, or halibut), grass-fed red meat, tuna fish, wild salmon, chicken breast, turkey breast, sardines in water.

Eat with steamed veggies or a green salad.

Avoid sauces; instead use olive oil, apple cider vinegar, and avocado oil for salad dressing.

Snack - Best Options:

1 tablespoon spirulina shake with ½ oz. frozen organic berries and a teaspoon of coconut oil

Green juice (no fruit added)

Protein shake (whey protein)

Nuts (walnuts, macadamias, pecans, Brazil nuts)

Raw coconut flakes

Celery, cucumber, or carrots with almond butter

Kale chips or dried seaweed

Raw cheese (unpasteurized)

Sweet potato chips (homemade)

 

DINNER

The same options as lunch

*Important – Avoid:

Alcohol

All sugar and sweets

Regular fruit, except for berries and green apples

Starchy carbs such as pasta, bread, rice, wheat wraps, white potatoes, etc.

 

DRINKS

Water

Kombucha drinks or tea

All kinds of tea, but especially green tea (no sugar added)

Coffee (no sugar added)

 

OTHER DETAILS

Sleep 8 hours or more per night

Drink a gallon of water every day, as well as green tea

All vegetables and fruit should be organic

Adding lemon to your meals is great – it alkalizes the body

You can have a small piece of dark chocolate 85% cacao or higher, but not every day

Use stevia powder as the only sweetener

 

Much love!

Valeria

 

 

CALLING FOR FITNESS AND SPIRITUALITY

forces-of-nature-spiritual-christ-jesus-love-1920x1080.jpg

My six o’clock client was not a regular. A fellow female trainer had had to leave due to an emergency, and asked me to take her client that day. I filled in for her as a substitute trainer.

Steve was a fifty-seven-year-old businessman who seemed to be under a great deal of stress. I could tell this just by being around him for a few seconds. He gave me a serious, almost intimidating impression, and breathed heavily. We were introduced in a hurry by the other trainer as she ran out the door.

Steve looked at me with an expression of quiet impatience. He was in good shape and looked strong. His chest area was well developed, leading me to think he must have been lifting heavy weights for years. I could tell he was very proud of his chest.

Before I could ask him about his training routine, he gave me the workout for that day. His program had only four exercises: barbell bench press (155 lbs — 12 reps), incline chest press (50 lb dumbbells — 12 reps), floor push-ups (20 reps), and incline dumbbell flies (20 lbs — 12 reps). If you understand something about muscle-group training, you will notice that Steve’s workout had only chest exercises.

I looked at his program and said enthusiastically, “Great! Let’s do it!”

I set up the barbell and began the first workout on the list. I was ready to spot him if he needed it, standing close to the bench behind his head. As he ended each rep, I cheered him on by saying things like, “Great job, Steve. You’ve got it! Nice work! Keep the energy! You can do it! Wonderful! You are doing it right! Don’t give up! One more left! Nicely done!”

In truth, I was talking to myself. I needed to hear my own enthusiastic words, given the day I’d had. I noticed something unusual when I took a glanced quickly at Steve’s face to make sure he was okay. He was looking at me and smiling as he lifted the heavy weight. He’d finished lifting without saying a word, but he smiled. I didn’t exactly understand the reason for his happiness, but I was glad his serious and stress-filled expression was gone.

 

Considering he was a new client, I didn’t feel comfortable enough to begin a conversation about my early insights into fitness and kindness. Nonetheless, I asked him trivial questions, which he didn’t answer. I don’t know about you, but I enjoy interacting with others when I’m with them. I like separating things: There is a time to be fully alone, and a time to be fully with others. In a trainer/client relationship, there are moments to focus on the exercise, moving and breathing properly, and also moments when we can talk.

 

Steve’s behavior was making me feel incredibly awkward. Concerned but trying to stay cool, I followed him around with my cheerful chatter. His behavior didn’t change. The studio was quiet; there were only a few people working out with their trainers. No one seemed to notice how uncomfortable I was around Steve.

Once again in my life, I felt stuck. I didn’t want to stay there, but I couldn’t leave. I tried to stay calm and do my job well.

We went through the workouts. In the end, Steve was sweating, still with a smile on his face. Before we said goodbye, he asked for my name again, then mentioned that he liked my training style. He also inquired if I could train him from that day on. I politely explained to him that my schedule couldn’t fit another client.

In truth, if my heart had not begun to guide me toward fitness and spirituality, I would have accepted his offer. 

Much love!

Valeria Teles

 LIFE OR BODY TRANSFORMATION?

flowers-garden-flower-rural-bird-field-rose-hd-quality-1920x1080.jpg

Diana was next. We met at five in the evening.

She came in ten minutes early and hustled past me on her way to the locker room, saying, “It’s been another busy day. Give me the hardest, most beast-mode circuit you’ve got, Valeria.”

My energy was very low at this point. I really didn’t want to train another client, especially a high-energy person like Diana. She was thirty-four years old and exercised every day in the morning before she went to work. Her jogging sessions lasted an hour. She usually met me in the late afternoons for her weight training.

Today was an upper-body session. While she lay under a sixty-five-pound loaded barbell, doing twelve reps of military presses, I asked her, “What is the most important thing in life to you, Diana?”

She was so focused on her reps that I wasn’t sure she’d heard me. As usual, she was having a serious conversation with the barbell. We didn’t tend to talk much. Her workout mood had always been to get the job done as well as possible and then leave the studio.

A few seconds later, she put the bar back on the rack. The next exercise was ab work, and she knew it. We had the circuits programmed in advance. She moved briskly to the yoga mat on the floor to do a set of twenty reverse crunches.

Her breathing was heavy. The circuit was intense. She was never happy with anything light or easy. I was still waiting for an answer to my question as I kept track of the number of reps, but I didn’t ask it again.

On the floor, while doing a quick stretch—bending her knees close to her chest while keeping her legs together—she said, “The most important thing to me is to keep moving forward through the days. When I wake up in the morning, I have a to-do list in my mind. I just go through it naturally. It’s a clear, focused, and precise daily plan I accomplish by the end of the day.” She finished her answer by the assisted pull-up bar, after fifteen reps.

Diana had been moving fast for the last thirty minutes. She performed all her exercises with the same focus and precision as she checked off her to-do list.

“Do you like your job?” I asked.

She was so focused on her spider plank ab work that her favorite movie star would have gone unnoticed had they walked by us. Sitting on the mat, wiping her face, she said that she got her job done, made great money, and was proud of herself. She worked out hard in one of the best fitness clubs in New York, and could afford my high personal training fees. She laughed and added that she ate out all the time, traveled, went out with friends for drinks; serious relationships and love were too complicated to give attention to.

You know that feeling when there’s nothing you can say to someone because they’re too busy listening to their own thoughts? That’s how I felt.

After we finished the workout, I reflected on how Diana’s life was not that different from her to-do list. It was programmed. She’d been in a cycle of living according to rehearsed habits, and her life had turned into a running race with no finish line or winners, an existence driven by nonstop actions. There was no space left to even think about love.

Diana followed the exercise program and ate clean while training with me. She achieved the fit and athletic look she wanted in three months. Her body composition transformed, but I wish her life had, too.

Much Love!

Valeria Teles

FLAT BELLY ONLY!

flowers-white-artistic-touch-photography-beauty-yellow-black-closeup-nature-jasmine-flower-wallpaper-desktop-1920x1080.jpg

My next appointment was with Destiny at noon.

She called to say she would be almost twenty minutes late. I stared out at the street from the studio. There were many things going through my mind that day, even though my feeling of unhappiness was not connected to any of them. It was cold and windy outside, and I expected Destiny to come rushing in any minute.

Destiny was one of the most cheerful clients I had. She always went straight to me with a big smile, and gave me a tight hug and a kiss before we started training. She was a mother of two kids, taught school, and was overweight. Destiny was a high-energy woman with a very unusual fitness goal: to lose belly fat only. She trained with me three times a week.

When we met two months ago and I asked her about her fitness goals, she told me her husband would love to see her with a smaller belly, wearing the new pink swimsuit he’d bought for her that summer. She shook a colorful water bottle and took a sip, adding that she knew she was a bit overweight, but she liked her voluptuous body—except for her belly fat. Her husband had said all she needed to do to look great was lose belly fat.

It was not the first time I’d heard this kind of fitness request from a client, and I was used to it. I proceeded to explain to her that spot reduction was not possible with exercise and diet, and that while working out with me, she’d lose fat in her body overall, not only around her belly. Despite this, she was excited to get started. I don’t think she understood me.

We started training from that day on. She was doing great. Destiny had lost almost twenty pounds so far.

After a long, melancholic wait by the window, she came rushing in. She looked serious and worried. It was the first time she didn’t greet me with a hug and kiss. I hoped nobody had died.

We sat down on the sofa in reception. I faced her, but she looked down. She said she’d wanted to meet me in person to say something important. She didn’t want to send an email.

“What’s wrong?” I asked.

She said she couldn’t do it anymore; I had helped her reduce her belly size and feel better, but she’d noticed that her thighs and buttocks were shrinking, too. It wasn’t what she’d expected. She was looking down the whole time, about to cry.

I listened to her quietly. I didn’t have much to say.

Destiny thanked me, then stood up and walked away.

 

Much Love!

Valeria Teles

 

 

LET IT BE JOYFUL

If we can learn how to create space for action without losing touch with the joy in our hearts, we can live with serenity.  We become stressed, anxious, and depressed because we have limited our minds to act (and react) according to our psychological, emotional and physical aspects only. 

Think of it this way: when we are in our hearts, living a kind and positive life, we can be overloaded with thoughts and physical activities. However, our peaceful state won’t change as long as we don’t identify with our "must do" actions (and likes and dislikes), but rather keep ourselves open to embracing it all. What is amazing is that we can live in that space, starting right now, by recognizing we are joyful and serene beings living a human life!

Much love! 

Valeria  

To be healthy is to be loving.

OUR OWN CREATED PRISON

Given how exercise, diet, and even therapy can become traps for a painful emotional reality, it’s crucial for us be aware of the fundamental causes of our suffering.

Think of how we might sometimes consciously (or unconsciously) believe that we are not good enough or not worthy of happiness. When this happens, we then begin to work hard in pursuit of this worthiness.

As a result, anything external that gives us the illusion that we deserve happiness for our effort will also become our own created prison.

This cycle of sustaining habits out of fear turns exercise and diet (or whatever our external source of happiness is) into negative forces, thus compounding the root problem as we live for our bodies and for conditioned emotional stability through abusive mechanisms.

This can cause disharmony within the heart, creating a state of mind where true happiness cannot exist.

Much love! 

Valeria  

To be healthy is to be loving.

ESCAPISM & FITNESS HABITS

The links between my painful past and fitness became clear to me after a period of major inner turbulence. I knew that most compulsive behaviors had their roots in traumatic experiences, but I never connected my obsession with fitness with my lingering inner pain from the past. I believed I was a strong person who had overcome pain because I had a fit and healthy body to prove it, as well as a life that seemed to be driven by (and built on) authentic and exciting experiences. However, the truth was that my fitness habits, to a great extent, were escapism.

Much love! 

Valeria  

To be healthy is to be loving.

PAST: "LESSONS OF LOVE"

Bringing back our traumatic experiences is one way to understand the pattern of our limited view of life, especially a spiritual one. We must learn to reinterpret hurtful past events as “lessons of love,” in the sense that we recognize that everything that happens to us is an effect of a cause we have created ourselves. It took the Buddha’s teachings of karma for me to understand my own life and mind. However, it’s my belief that we don’t have to be Buddhists to see how painful past events can turn our present lives into a nightmare when we view them as purely negative.

Much love! 

Valeria  

To be healthy is to be loving.