awareness

ALCOHOL — SANITY — REALITY

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A stronger realization of the evil in drinking hit me recently when I stumbled on some news on Facebook. No, I was not dipping into the Sacramental Wine. A father who had had a couple of bottles too many took hold of the steering wheel and drove himself, his wife and stepmother to the embrace of death. Luckily, thanks to a Good Samaritan who was close to the murder (or manslaughter) scene, his son was rescued from the sinking car.

A quick Google search will, however, lead us to countless other stories of a drunkards killing strangers, killing family and friends, or even himself. Why then do we choose to surrender our sanity — and even our humanity — to this liquefied femme fatale called alcohol?

Statistics, according to the Drug-Free World Foundation, establish that alcohol kills more teenagers than all other drugs combined, and is a factor in the three leading causes of death among young persons: accidents, homicides and suicides. Not only that; youth who drink are 7.5 times more likely to use other illegal drugs and are fifty times more likely to use cocaine.

It has also been shown that at least 40% of violent crimes occur under the influence of alcohol. What is more, alcoholic drinks are getting cheaper by the decade. They are becoming more and more affordable, so no one is left out from this global entrapment.

It is therefore not doubtful that alcohol has wrought great havoc not only on our quality of life, but the quantity of the living. Though thinking right — in other words, sanity — can have its downsides, and though not easily forgetting or repressing sour memories can draw us into melancholy, alcohol is no true escape route. It does not offer an exit from the premises of our problems. It only switches off the light for a moment.

The problems — though invincible — remain. It gives us temporary breaks from challenges such as poverty, unemployment, strained relationships and so on; and many a time, it leads to permanent damages.

Away from the figures, the writer has personally experienced how alcohol can often embitter an otherwise great marriage and relationship. (Usually) the father spends a great deal of his income buying it for himself and friends, and he spends most of what remains trying to clean up at the hospital: liver disease cancer, malnourishment, gastrointestinal problems, osteoporosis and so on. He also spends a great deal of his time arguing with his wife and beating his kids — all for silly or no reasons at all. He even borrows or steals from his wife to fuel this indulgence of his. And so, there is nothing left in his pocket for the upkeep of his family, nothing left in his time for keeping up with his family and nothing left in his head to realize this tragedy.

For the youth, though the character and plotline may differ, the story often heads for the same ending: misery. It is a vicious, almost never-ending, cycle wrapped in shame and anguish. If we shut our eyes to the place of peer pressure, then it is either pain leads you to the consumption of alcohol or the consumption of alcohol leads you to pain — or both.

You are facing problems with your studies, your secondary school mates have all graduated and are probably married, and your project supervisor is there making life hell for you. Or your girlfriend whom you love dearly just left you bitter for leaving for sweeter pastures. Or you flunked your final-year examinations, have to sit in classes with your juniors for a year. So you decide to seek solace in the flames of alcohol. Well, stop! Don’t.

Don’t submit your sanity to a bottle of fizzles or wood soaked liquid before it makes you a fizzle yourself. Don’t hand over the baton of your senses, even for a night, for that is your greatest weapon against life’s challenges. You do not win by running. You win through strategy and hard work — and a drunken man is not capable of both. Alcohol is a drug like all others. It has got a glittering package. It has got a sweet voice. It even looks great from the top.

But underneath all these is a quicksand of unending, yet limitless, misery. Trust me, it is not worth it. But don’t take my word for it; check the statistics. Look around you. See what you do not want to see and see the reality for yourself.

Center for Healing, Growth, & Recovery Ministries

Reverend Marc Baisden, MACP, CMHC, Min. (C) 2019

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

A POWERFUL HABIT — GRATITUDE — INFINITE POTENTIAL

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The enlightened give thanks for that which most people take for granted.

As we are spiritually maturing - expressing gratitude and giving thanks is not simply something we do when something extraordinary happens, or a miracle occurs in our lives. We want to make thanksgiving and appreciation our way of life.

It is not merely the way we start our days through the morning routine. Nor how we end it with our evening routine. Gratitude becomes our life.

There is a beautiful expression; the enlightened give thanks for that which most people take for granted. Just for a brief moment, pause and contemplate how much you have to be grateful for at this moment.

Let’s give thanks for who we are. For where we are, and for where we are headed.


The enlightened give thanks fully knowing that God is forever for them and that everything is working for their good.

We have a powerful and beautiful body. A body that perpetually performs a significant number of actions and functions. Without us even having to be conscious of it.

We have financial abundance enough to have the device to read this article. There is love all around us. We all have intrinsic perfect health.

Each of us is a unique and perfect expression of God. There is infinite potential within all of us.

There is air to breathe, water to drink, food to eat. We have gifts, talents, and abilities to share. We are an awakening individual. In any given moment there is so much to give thanks for, to show appreciation for.

Gratitude is a high energetic vibration radiating more good into our lives.

As all is energy with different vibrational frequencies. Gratitude is a high vibration. It sends the vibrational message that all is good and well. That we are provided for and that we have all our needs are met. It says that all is working for our good.

As is law, whatever our predominant our feeling tone is, will radiate out from us and ultimately come to manifest in our lives. Being grateful keep us in a vibrational harmony to receive more and more good. It is the key that opens the doors to the storehouse of infinite good. Allowing good to increasingly flow into our lives.

The more grateful we are, the more will we be given to be thankful for. That is the law.

Now, expressing gratitude and giving thanks is not only a means to make ourselves open, available and receptive to more good to flow into our lives. It also is a great and beautiful way of enjoying greater health, both mental, emotional and physical.

Becoming still, connecting with all the good that we have, expressing gratitude for it, releases endorphins and other feel-good hormones in our bodies. This allows our intrinsically perfect health to move through our bodies. Thus they may replenish and heal any sickness and illness within it.

As with all of learning, repetition is the key. In order to cultivate gratitude we need to time and time again, bring our attention to the good. Moment by moment by moment.

Building and strengthening our gratitude muscles is tough work, There are no shortcuts to it. We need to do it, and keep doing it until we have formed a habit out of doing it.

When being grateful has become a habit, it has become our way of life. Which will move us way up on the spiritual mountain we are here to ascend.

All is working for our good – personally and collectively

At all times there is something to be grateful for. Absolutely everything is working for our good. Sometimes it may be hard for the surface mind to perceive the good, but underneath the surface, all is truly working for our good. Personally as well as collectively.

God is forever for us, never against us. God is always guiding us along our path of growth and unfolding. This is so, whether we realize it or not. Every challenge is a blessing. Sometimes in disguise, sometimes in plain sight.

In any given moment there is so much to show appreciation for, to be grateful about. Who we are, where we are, the lessons we get to learn, the mission that has been given us. That all of our needs are met, the guidance, we receive. All the good and perfect things that are present in our lives.

Before we incarnated onto the planet, our soul made a plan for what lessons we needed to learn. These are the challenges we now face. Nothing comes into our experience uninvited, and so we might as well give thanks for it all.

Gratitude truly is a beautiful and powerful way of life.

This article was written by Daniel Roqueio

Click HERE to Learn more about his work.

https://www.theloveandlightstore.com/

Daniel Roquéo is a freelance writer and founder of The Love & Light Store.

He helps individuals, entrepreneurs and businesses do what they may not have the time, inspiration or the skills to do for themselves. Bringing their passions to life through the written word.

TRUST — CONNECTION — HAPPINESS

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Are you someone who builds trust or someone who tears it down?

The ability to build trust is a competency of high emotional intelligence. Being trustworthy means to be ethical when working with and relating to others. It means doing the right thing even when you know no one will find out. When you are a trust builder, others have confidence that your actions are consistent with your words and know that you have their best interest at heart -- not only your own. If you are a trust builder, you demonstrate respect for others’ experiences, understand the hurt that deceitfulness can cause, and bring more value to relationships than pain.

Those who are strong in this competency tend to share information about themselves and don't keep secrets. They treat others consistently and with respect, and maintain high standards of personal integrity. They maintain a lifestyle that they don't have to hide from others. When you hear them talk about something, you know that their actions will match up with their words, and you can count on them to deliver on their promises and commitments.

Those who aren't so strong in this competency aren't able to build open, candid, trusting relationships. They've most likely developed a reputation for lacking integrity, and often make promises that they do not keep. They will do what serves them best even if it means undermining another person to get what they want. They lie about little things, and lie about big things. If you ask them what their values are, you may get the 'deer in the headlights' look, as they often have troubles defining their standards in the name of being 'open-minded' or 'non-judgmental'. They tend to blame others for their mistakes and withhold information to keep them out of 'trouble.'

“Earn trust, earn trust, earn trust. Then you can worry about the rest.” --Seth Godin

It's impossible to lead without being able to build trust.  When others begin to doubt you, they will think twice about following you and question whether or not you are worth teaming up with. They will mistrust your ideas and direction, and worry that you may be putting YOUR best interests before their own.

It's true that it takes a long time to build trust but only an instant to destroy it.  One self-centered lie or act of deceit can ruin how others view you for days and months to come.

Why are some trust breakers? For many, the practice of deceit stems from deep-rooted fears…fear of being accepted, fear of being known, fear of punishment, fear of self, fear of being held to expectations, fear of letting others down, fear of being disliked, fear of being an disappointment...the list goes on and on. The thing is, we all have fears. We all want to be liked and accepted and valuable in others' eyes.  But the difference between trust builders and trust breakers is that the trust builders face their fears by understanding that honesty and authenticity are what bring about those results, where trust breakers think dishonesty will get them there. But a life of deceit won't bring about deep, meaningful relationships that we all desire.

“It is true that integrity alone won’t make you a leader, but without integrity you will never be one.”  -- Zig Ziglar

Not sure if you're a trust builder or a trust breaker?

Look over these statements, and give yourself a score for each, using this scale: 1= Always, 2=Almost always 3=Occasionally 4=Almost never 5=Never

1.     I share my thoughts, feelings and decision-making rationale.

2.    I am able to establish trusting relationships.

3.    I am open to others' ideas and willing to be influenced by others.

4.    I treat people with respect.

5.    I am able to influence others as a result of talking with them.

6.    I have developed a reputation for integrity.

7.    I treat all people fairly.

8.    I say what I believe rather than what I think people want to hear.

9.    I strive to behave consistently with my expressed beliefs and values.

10.I practice what I preach.

11.I focus on solving problems rather than blaming or hiding.

12.I admit my mistakes.

13.I deliver on promises and commitments.

14.I ask others for their opinions.

15.I listen to people's thoughts, feelings, and concerns, and am able to feel empathy.

16.I solicit feedback about my performance.

17.I acknowledge the contributions and worth of others.

18.When there is a problem, I work directly with those involved to resolve it.

19.I treat people consistently.

20.I follow through on the things I commit to do, even if it's not convenient for me.

Now, add up your scores and see where you land, below:

1-20 - Your ability to build trust is high

21-40 - Your ability to build trust is moderately high

41-60 - Your ability to build trust is moderate

61-80 - Your ability to build trust has room for improvement

81-100 -  Your ability to build trust needs serious improvement

“Trust is the glue of life. It’s the most essential ingredient in effective communication. It’s the foundational principle that holds all relationships.” --Stephen R. Covey

If your ability to build trust needs some work, take heart. We are talking about behavior--what you do, not who you are. Behaviors can be changed. If you would like to shift from being a trust breaker to a trust builder, here are some developmental tips to try:

  • Team up with an emotional intelligence coach to help you set goals and hold you accountable as you begin this journey.

  • Practice listening to others in a way that allows you to know what's on their minds and in their hearts.

  • Always deliver on your commitments.  No excuses. If you are one who tends to promise then cancel --stop making the promises in the first place. 

  • Be emotionally available to those around you -- share the things in your heart without stretching the truth to make yourself look good.

  • Never knowingly mislead or lie.  If you catch yourself doing it -- stop and admit the truth.  It's so very freeing and you'll find people respect you when you admit it in the moment.

  • Articulate your values to those around you and ask them if your actions match up.

  • Admit your mistakes without blame or shame.

  • Get in the habit of putting others' needs in front of your own.

  • Check to see if what you do in secret matches up to your public persona -- if not, in which arena are you not being true? Then ask yourself why.  Just being aware of the gap is a good start to changing behaviors.

  • Forgive yourself of past mistakes.  If you've spent a lifetime lying, it's never too late to come clean and make a fresh start.  

The next time you find yourself in a situation where you're not sure if you should be honest or not -- keep this in mind:  

“For every good reason there is to lie, there is a better reason to tell the truth.” -- Bo Bennett

Putting aside your patterns of lying, deceiving and hiding, and stepping into the brave new world of integrity will open up the doors of opportunity for stronger, healthier relationships. Yes, it's going to take some work and effort. It may feel uncomfortable to begin to let others truly know you. You may face rejection and at times, disappoint people. But though it's can be a difficult process to shift behaviors, it's worth it. Becoming someone others can trust will help you develop the connection, both at work and in your personal life, that you need and desire. 

This article was written by Amy Sargent.

Click HERE to Learn more about her work.

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

INSTITUTIONALIZED MINDS AND CONFLICTED LIVING — PART TWO

         

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After the Kinkul has lived in its Kinkul Motel (Remember, Mommies and Daddies don’t know Kinkul Motel is the name for baby), for about two years, baby starts to act differently than before.  It happens when Mommy or Daddy, or someone standing near, shouts “No” to baby and sometimes slaps baby’s hands or bottom, when the Kinkul is driving baby to something Kinkul wants and which is something Mommy and Daddy don’t want baby to have.  The Kinkul doesn’t feel anything, but baby feels a lot of pain and baby doesn’t like pain one bit.  When baby feels pain it lets out a caterwauling cry all by itself.  You don’t like pain either do you?


Remember; Kinkul does not have a memory but now baby starts to develop one,  Baby remembers when it gets smacked for reaching for one thing and not another.  When Kinkul wants baby to reach for something, baby remembers getting smacked for, baby starts to act independently from the Kinkuls desire.  In a  way, the baby is telling the Kinkul “not now” and for some reason, Kinkul doesn’t bite baby because it didn’t get what it wanted when it wanted it.


Mommy and Daddy think they are training their baby to “behave.”  Doing what your Mommy and Daddy tell you to do when they tell you to do it is behaving.  What baby really learns is if you are bigger and stronger  than the other person and can use force against that person, you can get what you want when you want it.


Something else start to happen to baby and proves the last point is true.  Baby starts saying words and seem to understand the words Mommy and Daddy are saying.  Of course, the Kinkul doesn’t understand words.  Understanding words requires memory and a Kinkul doesn’t have a memory. But words are a powerful force that baby quickly learns to use to get what it and the Kinkul wants when they want it.


We notice the baby begins to want things the Kinkul never thinks about.  When baby plays with other babies and it wants something the other baby has, baby uses force to take it away from the playmate.  Mommy or Daddy blames baby for being selfish and shame baby for being selfish.  But baby doesn’t understand selfish.  Baby is just getting what it wants when it wants it.  Who cares if the other  kid is crying because it doesn’t get what it wants when it wants it.  Besides, baby is bigger and stronger that the other kid so baby is supposed to get what baby wants.


By the time baby gets to be five or six years old, baby can’t tell the difference between what the Kinkul wants and what baby wants.   Its O.K. to talk at home but not O.K. to talk in a place Mommy and Daddy call church.  Or it’s O.K. to spill your drink on the grass but not on the carpet.  Baby has learned it is good if baby does what Mommy and Daddy tell baby to do and bad when baby doesn’t.  Baby doesn’t know what is good or what is bad, except baby gets spanked for one and praised for the other.  Are you confused about what is good and what is bad?


It is hard to learn how to control the Kinkul.  It is especially hard  when Mommy and Daddy are not there to tell you.  But I believe the Kinkul lives with you all of your life.  It seems to me, the secret to a happy life is to learn when the Kinkul is controlling your acts to get what it wants when it wants it or whether you are acting in control of yourself.  Now that you know about your Kinkul, it is easy to see the Kinkul acting in other kids and people of all ages.  When I learned to tell the difference between my wants and the Kinkul’s wants, it became easier and easier to keep Kinkul from biting me by telling it “Not now!”  


When I could tell my acts were to get something I wanted, I was able to think about it and make sure that what I wanted was good for me, helpful to others, considerate of others, and that this was the right time for me to have it.  I’ve never been able to make friends with my Kinkul, but now, maybe it will be easier for you and me to be friends.


I do not present the Kinkul as a fact.  Kinkul is just an allegory for the human condition that I have never heard described in any other term than Original Sin.  All of the grandchildren I’ve told these stories to identified completely with IWWIWWIWI.  Now when they are acting selfishly I tell them, “Looks like your Kinkul is biting you.”  They stop their behavior, they look at me and smile, and then we laugh with each other and they do not return to the selfish behavior-and I like that.


My Kinkul stories are presented here because I submit for your consideration that it is not the concept of Original Sin and the concomitant sin nature of humanity that causes people to have problems with social interaction; rather it is the unchallenged, initially rewarded, and culturally reinforced approval of IWWIWWIWI  and the presumption that is appropriate to use force to get it.


By eliminating the presumption that a child is evil because of the myth of Original Sin a child may be able to be raised without the parent’s righteously playing the blame and shame game. 


We know the blame and shame game produces guilt and low self-esteem in a child.  Maybe society could begin to help children transition from the selfish prompting force of wanting what they want when they want it which is as natural as its skin, to the controlling its compulsive body instincts in a mature manner without blame and shame.


This article was written by Lawrence McGrath.

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.

INSTITUTIONALIZED MINDS-CONFLICTED LIVING


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            Every religion has their members admit they are not what their God would have them be.  An example is one segment of  Christianity.  It says it is the result of the Sin Nature that is the result of the original sin of Adam and Eve and transmitted to every human like DNA.  


Their human reasoning, as to the cause, gives remarkable human Institutional reason for the cure.   First they divided sin into Mortal and Venial sin.  They must first be confessed to a priest, and if you die without making another mortal sin you go to heaven.  If you die with an unconfessed mortal sin, you go to hell.  If you die with an unconfessed venial sin you go to Purgatory and after that time in Purgatory you get to go to heaven.


            Don’t laugh.  One billion souls live every day under that curse.  They live because they believe in the Institutional truth in the Sin of Adam and Eve is the reason for their “Sin Nature.”  Others say it is ratified by the Atonement of Jesus Christ “who died for your sins.”  If you believe in Him that will do the job of confessing.  Why do you have a sin nature?  Organized religions have failed in their mission because their leaders fell in love with their dogma instead of their god.  Something has to change!  What has to change first is our belief in why people act selfishly.  Well I will give you another perspective.  It is the unchallenged, initially rewarded, and culturally reinforced approval of  “I Want What I Want When I Want It.  (Hereinafter identified as IWWIWWIWI, The Kinkul.)


            Did you know there are thousands of Kinkuls born every day.  Kinkuls look like this when they are born.  (Baby picture),  Their mommies and daddies call them babies, but they are not…they are Kinkul motels!  What makes them a Kinkul motel is the IWWIWWIWI caterpillar.  Some how that ol’ Kinkul gets inside the baby and they arrive in this world together at the same time.  No one knows where the Kinkul lives, but I think it lives in the baby’s brain right behind the eyes and just between the ears.


            At first, the Kinkul is very helpful to the baby.  When the Kinkul is hungry it bites the baby.  And you know what happens then, the baby lets out a big caterwauling cry.  And you know what happens then?  Mommy and Daddy, and anyone standing close, comes fluttering to the Kinkul and starts feeding it with good tasting stuff.  The Kinkul likes that and so does the baby.  When the Kinkul feels wet, or thirsty, or cold, or hot or tired, the Kinkul bites the baby and the baby lets out a big caterwauling cry and Mommy or Daddy or anyone standing close come fluttering to the Kinkul and makes the Kinkul comfortable.  The Kinkul likes that and so does baby.


            The IWWIWWIWI caterpillar is as natural to the baby as its hands and toes.  The Kinkul uses baby’s caterwauling cry to get what it wants when it wants, long before baby is able to use its hands or feet.  The Kinkul knows, long before baby knows, that it’s hungry, or thirsty, or wet, or cold, or hot, or sick.  The Kinkul is as much a part of a baby as its heart and just an invisible to Mommies and Daddies.  That’s why a Kinkul that wants what it wants when it wants it isn’t being bad…it’s just being a Kinkul, which happens to live in a Kinkul motel, that Mommies and Daddies call baby.


            After baby has lived with Mommy and Daddy for more than a year, neither baby nor the Kinkul has reason to think it shouldn’t get what it wants when it wants it, even when it doesn’t know what it wants.  Mommy and Daddy and anyone standing near has made sure that what a Kinkul wants, a Kinkul gets, and baby likes that.


            Think on it.  The only tool, or weapon, a baby has to fend for its life, is crying.  And it works.  Why wouldn’t it think selfishly.  What else does the baby know exists?  It is how the institutions handle the maturational process that signifies why the institutional minds create conflicted living.  



This article was written by Lawrence McGrath.

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

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

COMPASSION IS THE HIGHEST FORM OF LOVE


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Love is the total giving of oneself without agenda; not asking for anything in return or holding anything back. Compassion, being one of the highest forms of love, is the understanding of lack of understanding in another being, as well as within ourselves. It allows for us to express loving kindness in the face of ignorance.


It has been said that the only problem we only ever have is ignorance. This is true. None of the harmful deeds us humans perform are born out of malice or ill will. They merely arise from a small and limited perspective of the true nature of reality.


Most individuals are trapped in the egoic illusion of lack and separation. The ego’s mantra is: I am not enough, and there is not enough. Caught in that misperception, an individual believes that the only way for them to be and have enough is to try to get it from the world. And so they move through life seeking worth and validation from the outside world. They live under the impression that they have to compete for it and to ultimately (hopefully) win it.


From this perspective, hurting or harming another individual, seems legitimate since life is a competition. Like the survival of the fittest if you will. This is the life in and with the ego.


Choice is a function of awareness


Now as we grow and unfold spiritually. As we mature. As we come into greater and greater insights, we realize that we live in a cosmos where there is only abundance and unity. There is only one Divine Whole. And nothing is ever separated from anything else.


As we realize this, we also begin to realize that when someone is in the grip of the ego, there is no need for blame or guilt. They are merely more or less temporarily unconscious.


From this higher perspective, we realize the futility of placing blame when someone does something we are triggered by. They are merely reacting that way because the lack they the understanding to act in any other way. They have merely gone unconscious, and we happen to be in the vicinity of them at that moment.


Much in the same way we don’t blame a small child for not yet having learned to read, ride a bike or not make a mess when eating. We realize that they are in the process of learning. In that process, they have only learned what they have learned in any given moment.


It is said that choice is a function of awareness. This means that in order to be able to make a choice - we need to be aware that we get to choose. If we are not aware that we have a choice then effectively cannot make that choice.


Compassion is the understanding of lack of understanding.


Compassion then, is the understanding of this. It is the understanding that when an individual reacts as oppose to responds, they do so merely because they are not aware of the options.

They are not aware that there is another way. That they can choose to respond to a situation or circumstance with love rather than fear, worry or doubt. Obviously the same goes for us.


The best response to any situation, any circumstance, any individual is that of love and compassion.


Choose love and compassion over fear, worry, and doubt.


And so, whenever we are faced with the ignorance or unconsciousness of another individual – we may gently remind ourselves that it has nothing to do with us. We need not ever take it personally. At this moment they are merely unconscious. And we just happened to be there to witness and experience it.


We may also remind ourselves that all is working for our good. As we encounter an unconscious individual, we get to practice being loving and compassionate. In other words, it is a great blessing in terms of growth and unfolding.


And so, rather than placing blame and guilt, playing out the victim card as to being the victim of another’s harmful actions - we may choose to pray for and bless them. We may choose to pray for their wellbeing, for their peace of mind. We may call forth the perfect and Divine health that resides within each being. We may choose to take on the perspective that they too are on a journey and that they too, in the process of waking up, of learning - are exactly where they need to be.


This is compassion. This is loving kindness in action. Praying, blessing and wishing someone well - even when what they did or did not do, may seem harmful and hurtful.


The Love of God dwells within each of us, we merely need to become aware of it and choose it.



Daniel Roquéo is a freelance writer and founder of The Love & Light Store.

He helps individuals, entrepreneurs and businesses do what they may not have the time, inspiration or the skills to do for themselves. Bringing their passions to life through the written word.

https://www.theloveandlightstore.com/

EMOTIONAL INTELLIGENCE - WELLNESS-MINDFULNESS

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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


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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

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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

RELATIONSHIPS AND TRAUMA, PART 1

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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."