Carl Sagan once wrote, “We were wanderers from the beginning”. As far as we know, this is true: our ancestors were nomads, crossing savannahs and jungles and forests, ever restless, in search of the next meal or friendlier climes. From the beginning, we were never entirely satisfied with our lot. The relentless push to civilization seems motivated by a single-minded desire for an ever-better life; one where at last we have beaten back the caprice of life to know happiness, satiation, and safety.
It is more than this: beyond the callings of our basic animal appetites, a deeper yearning seizes our hearts and minds. We want to know the world and our place within it. We want to understand this mysterious life, an inchoate hunger far more difficult to feed than an empty stomach. Perhaps it is in part borne of our social nature: a basic instinct to feel safe and certain through connection with something larger than ourselves. Perhaps it lies even deeper; with the arising of the human mind, the cosmos is expressing a need to behold and understand itself — a brilliant flash of sentience that illumines Indra’s Net, bearing witness to its glory.
Whatever the origins, we long to belong, and to understand. The nomadic spirit runs deep within us, we are restlessly in search of a home that seems ever to recede over the horizon, an elsewhere whose very appeal is its unattainability, its mystery, its promise of salvation and peace. The irony for this restless, curious wanderer is that we have always been home, and we have always belonged. Throughout history, we have had moments of insight that this deepest hope is true: that we are profoundly at home in the universe. This truth has never changed, but our yearning imagination has wandered far and wide, leaving our hearts heavy with anxiety, a nameless dissatisfaction with life.
For centuries we have seen ourselves as separate from Nature and pitted against her in a titanic and desperate struggle to dominate and survive. We are struggling heroically to awaken from this nightmare.
Though it is true that life is tenuous, the world often dangerous, there is no adversary Out There, only an internal struggle to embrace this life just as it is — beauty and ugliness, miracle and horror. It would appear to be a basic truth of our human psychology that when we fully recognize our Oneness with the world, something in us lets go. It is somehow impossible for us to be at war with the world when we see that the world is us and that we are it. Peace fills our hearts and we come forth changed beings, manifesting the miracle without the distortions of struggle. Life may remain difficult, but it is enchanted with new meaning — it is, in the words of Sǿren Kierkegaard, no longer “a problem to be solved, but a mystery to be lived”.
Yet although a few of us in each age set down the struggle, most of us do not. It is a core purpose in my life to pursue an end to the delusion of separation and to convey what meager understanding I achieve to others in the hope, however vain, that this Great Peace can spread itself more broadly among us in the coming years. It is my belief that the science of today tells a powerful story about our kinship with the whole of the world, revealing quite clearly that this restless nomad has wandered far and may wander much farther still, but has never, not even for a moment, left home.
This article was written by Joshua Sandeman
Click HERE to Learn more about his work.
It takes courage to show up for prosperity.
What if you just showed up for yourself today? What if all it took to build the prosperity you crave was to be profoundly present in your own life, in your own body, in your own story? Do you have the courage to live with this depth of belief and authenticity, to be alive in the moment regardless of the risks?
It is safer to live in the past, ruminating, remembering, re-writing, and grieving, than it is to live in the present. The past is familiar territory; we know what will hurt and what we can rejoice in. We made that great play, or we missed the mark. We chose love or career or adventure, for good or bad, and we know how the story goes. There is safety in this predictability, even if it is painful.
It is easier to worry about the future, or to spin great stories in which we play the starring role, than it is to begin the work before us. Our dreams are safe, requiring no investment of energy or time. And we can blame our unfulfilled dreams on some vague past event that we label as a pivotal moment, spreading the blame across space and time and people. We can create amazing futures, but only from the present. We can learn from our past, but only when we are alive now. It is only in this moment that sensuality and love exist. It is only in the now that we can experience and build and create and grow. We are truly alive only in real-time, in the gift of this moment.
And when we have the courage to incarnate fully in the moment we have the power to create a prosperous reality. When we face our fears of being wonderful beings of light, when we are willing to release the wounds of the past, we will without effort find we have embraced our deepest truth and power. This is the home of love and manifestation, and the foundation for prosperity.
This article was written by Elisa Robyn
Click HERE to Learn more about her work.
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.
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.
Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood was a television program that was on public television for 50 years. Which is a good example of leaving the world a better place. But the important thing Mr. Rogers said to the children was “This program is make believe. Make believe is fun but it is not real. It is important that you know the difference between realities and make believe.” Many people have not learned the difference. Take the message of the Christian God.
It all starts with the Bible. Read Bart Ehrman’s book Misquoting Jesus to see a razor sharp clarification of how we got the book called The Bible. There are many people who swear it is the infallible and inerrant word of God. Some add “In the original texts.” There are no original texts. And it is the infallible and inerrant word of God because they believe it is, not because it is. But it is your challenge to find out what the real truth is about God. The intensity of a person’s belief does not increase the truthfulness his argument. That is the main thing to be weary of. People who, for whatever reason, claim that God is real and alive in their lives elevate their personal experience to be a fact of life for all, are in error. He may be. But that experience is personal to the believer. It cannot be transferred. Think of a beautiful sunset or sunrise. You cannot replicate that experience in words, logic, song, or force in another human being to have that same experience and you cannot replicate a personal experience with God either.
The force and the duty to replicate the experience is strong. Parents raise their children in obedience to the dictates of their religion. And as George Orwell wrote, “One cannot appreciate the naiveté of a child to believe what an older person is telling them is the truth.” That places us in Aristotle’s plight who said, “It is easier to teach a man who is ignorant than one in error. The ignorant man can hear the truth you have spoken, but the man in error must first be convinced that what he believed to be true is in fact false, before he can accept the truth.” That is why you will have a hard time finding the truth. What you believe about everything is probably false or incomplete. But have a teachable spirit and a humble attitude and it will make your path smoother.
Now here is the question, “Is God a fact in human existence?” How do you answer that question? Do you first have to believe he is a fact in order to believe he is real? Or do you have to believe there is a God before you can make him a fact if your life. Or do you have to have a personal experience that causes you to believe God intervened miraculously in your life in order to make God a fact in your life. My study indicates all three, and probably more, have proved God is real. But it is a personal experience that does not establish God as a fact for another who has not had a personal belief experience. It follows then, for any person to say, “My belief is more accurate than your belief,” is wrong. If God is an infinite reality, human knowledge begins and ends in the senses. Infinite things cannot be sensed-only believed to exist. Therefore, human knowledge cannot have certain knowledge about God. That is why people who speak with certainty about God are not to be believed.
But the pride of man is limitless. And nearly everyone who believes speaks with authority about the reality of God. Why they are not satisfied to believe themselves and leave everybody alone I don’t know. You have to know what you know and why you know it. Be comfortable in your own skin. All of the world’s religions are directed toward Love. The issue here on earth is to learn how to love through the ages. We need, we all need, to learn the definition of love that can stand for all humankind. Forget about the dogma your religion has taught you. Forget about the rituals your dogma has taught you. The motivation to Love has a new and different definition.
Love is the deep abiding gratitude for and appreciation of the object loved. If we can all do that we will fulfill the admonitions of the world’s religions.
This article was written by Lawrence McGrath.
Originally titled: 2nd 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.
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).
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.
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)
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.
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.
This article was written by Steven Lane Taylor.
Click HERE to Learn more about his work.
If you are like me and are inclined to engage in physical activity, integrating fitness and spirituality is essential. For many, many years I struggled to answer the question, “How do I take good care of my body but not fall for preconceptions about physical attractiveness and health?”
The answer was very simple, yet also highly complex and paradoxical. The closer you live to your spiritual heart, the less you tend to engage in purely physical activities and beautifying methods, even if they promote a healthy body and high self-esteem. This is because your spirit knows that sickness, old age, and death are inevitable. The time we have on earth is too limited to concern ourselves with the impermanent aspect of our existence. Every second becomes a valuable chance to recognize our true nature and to realize who we are in the spiritual reality.
When you know that there is a lot more to you than a body and a thinking mind, but you don’t know how to access that deeper part, you end up struggling between the two. This journey in limbo can be interesting, especially because it can teach you to have compassion for your own body. The paradox is that even giving attention to thoughts about fitness and health can lead you to believe that you are a physical being whose psychological needs must be met in order to feel good or to be whole. At this level, you are not living a spiritual existence yet.
However, this is all part of the journey to reaching the happy you. Listening to the heart, so that we can live more and more as a spiritual being can bring our existence to a conscious space where life becomes a loving and joyful adventure that renews itself with every moment.
The moment we choose to recognize our experiences in the world as lessons of love, life turns into a lucid dream. This recognition can come from the depths of our hearts or from spiritual awareness—brought about through the senseless suffering caused by our minds. Either way, the main difference between a nightmare and a lucid dream is a shift of our perception grounded in love. In the dream of life, there are many mountains to climb every day, and they might crumble, the dust might blur our vision, fear might replace our hope, but if we have faith and recognize our own essence, WE will never fall again.
Nothing in the past can hurt us when we have learned a lesson from it. Nothing can happen in the future that is not happening now. Our job is to recognize in the present moment the peace and joy in our hearts.
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.
"After days of dwelling on my detached feelings and memories of the past charged with discontent, there was a moment of silent melancholy and then a question. This question would change everything: ‘What would you do if you were still alive?’
I knew the answer well.
I’d listen to my heart..."
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.
When I met James for our first assessment session a few weeks back, in the same private fitness studio in downtown Manhattan where we’d be meeting today, he said to me, “I want to look like you.” I remember hoping he meant to look fit and healthy, not ripped and starving while wearing high heels, as I was in my online competition pictures. James had found me through my website, where I’d posted these images.
He needed to lose about twenty pounds. Taking care of his health seemed to be a priority for him. However, he mentioned he had just broken up with his girlfriend, and that his main goal was to get in shape before joining a dating website.
I was meeting him for our fifth session.
“How are you feeling, James?”
“I am very well,” he replied, but there was a sad look in his eyes that told a truth his words wouldn’t. His heart was broken.
“Let’s get started.” I gave him some warm-up exercises. James was an easygoing, friendly person, and I instantly felt comfortable talking with him about matters of the heart. So I asked him, “What is the meaning of life to you?”
“What a big question for a Monday morning,” he said, trying to concentrate on his plank hold. After a moment, he added, “I think the meaning of life is to be happy.”
“What makes you happy?” I asked, curious.
“I’d like to have my girlfriend back,” he said, looking at the floor.
“So your girlfriend gives meaning to your life?” I ventured, trying to express my doubt.
He was quiet for a moment. We moved on to the squat rack. Eventually, he said, “Well, for that, she needs to understand me better and love me for who I am.” He looked at himself in the mirror and squeezed his belly.
“What do you mean by that?”
“I mean, that way she would complete me and I would be happy. I like having someone to share my life with. The special moments, you know? Someone to travel with, talk to, sleep with, go out to dinner with, and maybe have a child with. A partner. This is who I am. I’m used to being with someone. It’s tough being alone.”
James’s last sentence didn’t make sense to me. “In my opinion,” I told him, “knowing who you really are requires being alone. Being with other people because we are used to it is only another way to escape from knowing ourselves.”
How ironic it was that I needed to hear that, too!
By the time I’d finished sharing my thoughts, James had squatted for ten minutes. He’d burned quite a lot of calories, and had his hand on his chin in the Thinker’s pose. I left our session hopeful, wondering if he’d understood what I’d said, and pondering it in my own thoughts as well.
Before our meeting the week after, he sent me his picture. He was standing in front of the mirror and showing his belly. The message read: Look, Valeria! I have lost three pounds already and my belly is looking smaller. You are amazing! I am going to sign up for a dating website today—I am tired of being alone! I will see you later.
I met my first client of the day at seven in the morning.
Angela was a thirty-five-year-old married woman living in Manhattan. I reached her building thirty minutes early, and waited for her for another ten. When she arrived in the lobby to greet me, I remember wondering why she’d hired me. She was petite, young, and in great shape.
We walked to the gym, which was empty. She turned on the air conditioning and the lights. Our session began and we went through the initial protocol, a dynamic warm-up.
She looked down the entire time. I asked her unimportant questions to break the silence, but her answers were brief, accompanied by a shy smile. I felt my presence was enough for her. Throughout the workout, Angela only spoke a few words, moved in a slow, controlled way, and never looked straight at me. I felt like I was at a funeral and I didn’t know who the dead person was. I felt awkward, trying to cheer her up or at least alleviate the silence. I pretended I was participating in a comfortable and normal situation between two people.
When the workout ended, we planned our weekly schedule and said goodbye to each other under the same gloomy cloud. This was a client whom the best exercise and diet in the world would never help to feel joyful. It was never about fitness for Angela. She was looking for a friend.
I left her building feeling very down. I couldn’t pretend to be her warm friend while also being a trainer. Her sadness was my sadness.
There was no time to be unhappy, though. My next client was James, and he needed me downtown at ten. I crossed the street and entered the subway station.
WISHING YOU JOY, PROSPERITY, AND PEACE FOR 2018!
If we can walk, we can dance,
If we can dance, we can laugh,
And when we laugh, life becomes a RE-creation of our dreams!
Here is one of my favorite timeless poems. It inspires willpower, kindness, faith, self-love, and more.
If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:
If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;
If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:
If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!
If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!
By RUDYARD KIPLING
Snow is softly falling
Dreams are calling
Likes bells in the distance
We were dreamers
Not so long ago
But one by one
We all had to grow up
When it seems the magic slipped away
We find it all again on Christmas Day
Believe in what your heart is saying
Hear the melody that's playing
There's no time to waste
There's so much to celebrate
Believe in what you feel inside
And give your dreams the wings to fly
You have everything you need
If you just believe
Trains move quickly
To their journey's end
Are where we begin again
Ships go sailing
Far across the sea
To get where they need to be
If you just believe
If you just believe
If you just believe
May the heart guide our next steps!
Source: Song "Believe” by Josh Groban
Thanksgiving celebrates the spirit of gratitude.
It's an acknowledgment of love.
Appreciation of truth.
The gracefulness of life.
Recognition of "God."
Responsiveness to peace within.
Thankfulness for the divine GIFTS we share in our HEARTS.
May this time of the year remind us all of what really matters in life!