Monday, July 27, 2009

Our Brains on Joy

I’ve been thinking lately about mind training and the notion of brain washing our minds for positive and happy changes in our lives. The thought of brain washing has had a bad rap in our culture but the truth of the matter is that our thinking is constantly being manipulated through advertising, films, television and the news. We get it whether we want it or not. Unfortunately, it is mostly negative input, which often leaves us feeling tired, depressed or unhappy and then we wonder why our lives are not better. Let’s face it; our world is skewed toward negativity. We take it in as a matter of fact because it is disguised as relevant, important and sensationalistic. Let’s begin to feed our brains a better diet to see what happens to our physical world.

I was challenged this week with an old, habitual thought pattern (and who knows where it came from). A circumstance arose that elicited a dormant thought stream of fear and paralysis. I became determined not to let it dictate the patterns of my life. I wasn’t interested in its origin; I just wanted to change it. Going back to the source to figure out where thoughts began can frequently make matters worse causing a downward spiral of cause and effect. Another teacher of mine, Terry Cole Whitaker, used to say – and I paraphrase here – “Once I throw out my trash, I’m not inclined to go through it again.” Lecturer and author on “A Course In Miracles,” Jacob Glass, drives home the point by using an example of a car's GPS system. He explains that if your GPS goes offline for some reason and you become lost, when it comes back online the first thing it wants to do is help you find your destination. It does not say, “How in the world did you get here? This must be your mother’s fault.” Years of analysis may not always be the answer. As Byron Katie says, “I’m a woman in a hurry.” Let’s be in a hurry for good to come our way and make a conscious effort to judiciously select thoughts that we take on as fact, and question the ones that are habitual but not true. It requires vigilance. And like any habit, the more you practice the easier and more ingrained it becomes.

I would encourage you this week not to focus and replay thoughts that make you feel bad. These thoughts will not create the future that you want. Remember, we have 60,000 thoughts per day; 87% of those thoughts are negative and repetitive. 99% of all those negative thoughts are a gross misrepresentation of reality; they are simply not true and they are unreliable. Why would we want to continue to think or believe them? Talk about a happiness downer. As author, Anne Lamott warns, “My mind is a bad neighborhood and I shouldn’t go there alone.”

I would encourage you to simply begin to focus on the positive aspects of your life. Let’s leave the morbid statistics, warnings and fear to the advertisers trying to sell us something. If you look for more beauty you will begin to notice it everywhere. Let’s make an effort to stay away from the four emotional cancers: comparing, competing, criticizing and complaining. Continue to appreciate and write lists of things that are going right in your life; compliment yourself and others more often. Seek out activities that make you feel good – funny movies, intimate moments with friends and family and materials that inspire you (books, articles, blogs, YouTube videos, etc.). Remember, this is your life. It’s time to begin ignoring negativity and disturbing, repetitive thoughts and leave them behind for the lies that they are. Let’s begin a new regime of happiness and let’s do it with confidence.

Here are some new suds for your brain:

1. Happiness is vital. It isn’t some airy-fairy, vapid stance that we assume just to be nice. It is a choice – a powerful choice that changes everything. It provides essential hormones and chemicals for health, youth and vitality; it is contagious on every level: spiritually, emotionally and cellularly; it changes the way we begin to think about ourselves. As a result, things begin to shift because the circumstance we attract are vastly different. Money may not bring happiness, but happiness may bring money – think about that one for minute.

2. Thought creates. When we change our thoughts, which are the first act of creation, we change our lives. Napoleon Hill, author of Think and Grow Rich, writes, “Thoughts have the peculiar quality of becoming their physical equivalence.”

3. Thoughts are attractive – they invite similar vibratory thoughts. The more depressed or morbid our thoughts, the worse we feel. Conversely, the better our thoughts, the better thoughts we attract and the better we feel, which causes a cascade of universal, chemical and relational support for better circumstances in our lives. It is an upward spiral.

4. Habits are just thoughts we keep on thinking. They are not set in stone and they can change with heightened consciousness, awareness and vigilance. Remember what my teacher, Dr. Vetura Papke used to say, “Put a gatekeeper up at the portal of your mind.”

Let’s begin the process of positive brain washing by exposing our brains to more joy, appreciation and happiness; then we will begin a powerful transformation of our lives.

I leave you this week with a prayer, by Macrina Wiederkehr, author of Seasons of Your Heart: Prayers and Reflections. “Oh God, Help me to believe the truth about myself no matter how beautiful it is.”

Monday, July 20, 2009

Vacation Time

I’ve been thinking lately about appreciation and what an incredibly powerful tool we have at our disposal. Frequently, however, we set it apart from our daily lives and compartmentalize in with kind acts, good deeds and churchy things when, in fact, it’s one of the most potent acts in our arsenal for happiness.

If you’re facing a challenge in your life right now I would encourage you to drop all your strategizing and planning and adopt a stance of appreciation. We seem to think that the only way to achieve a goal or solve a problem is to be proactive and assertive, get out there, “brain storm” and get the job done. I can’t think of anything more unsettling than a storm in my brain. That kind of “strategery,” as our previous President so aptly put it, has the effect of that proverbial bull in a china shop. It often makes things worse. We don’t immediately think of appreciation as a jumping off point in solving problems in our lives, but it is. Appreciation is not passive. Again, in our backwards world, we put the cart before the horse, set our minds on overload and try to manipulate our way out a dilemma – doesn’t that make for an exhausting day! I have a friend who says, “you cannot think your way out of situation that you’ve acted your way into.” We must engage our hearts and the wisdom of our infinite higher selves to create anew. One of the best ways I know how to do that is through appreciation.

This week I was consoling a friend who suffered a loss – of material things – and I was trying to get him to focus on all the other amazing things he has in life and he has many. He said to me, “I know I should be more appreciative, but…” As if to say, “I know I should floss, but…” It’s that qualifying “but” that keeps us in a state of suffering and just ruins our ability to recreate any situation.

I would encourage you this week to make an appreciation list. I know I’ve said it before but let’s ramp it up – write down the things you appreciate in your life; qualities that you appreciate in the people you know and love and in the people with whom you might be having trouble. This is one of the most powerful things you can do to transform a relationship. Even if there is only one tiny thing you can find to appreciate about a person, write it down and ride it for all its worth this week. You will begin to notice a change. Write down things that you appreciate about a situation that you might be going through – especially those that seem troubling or problematic – mine it for its value. You’ve heard it said that we only have control of how we “react” in any given moment, but I would postulate that if we appreciate and change our minds about a situation, the reaction phase of counting to 10 before we pull out all of our hair, will never come. It’s a new way of thinking and again, we’re here to retrain and transform our minds. Make a list, add to it every day and read it every evening.

It’s summer! Give your brain a vacation from all its strategy and “best” thinking and let your heart and intuitive higher self sweetly and powerfully engage in appreciation. Rest in the knowledge that all is well and getting better.

I leave you this week with a quote by Meister Eckhart who said, "If the only prayer you say in your life is thank you, that would be enough.”

Monday, July 13, 2009


I've been thinking lately about the power of the moment. We hear so much about it: "stay in the present; all your power is in the moment; live in the moment; all we have is the now;" and it's all been profoundly punctuated by Eckhart Tolle's guide to spiritual enlightenment - in the oh so popular (thanks Oprah) - The Power of Now. But really, how does that notion parlay into our lives today? What does it really mean for life in the 21st century?

These are exciting times because scientists are now corroborating spiritual theories that great thinkers have been postulating for years. It seems that our minds need proof for what our hearts have known to be true for a very long time - we are spiritual beings having a physical experience. As we said last week, form follows thought. This week we’re exploring how much power we possess in the now. In the moment, we have the power that determines our next moment - it creates our future. Again, it's backwards in the world. We think we have to decide our future, make plans and go from there when actually the reverse is true. We must stay out of the future and power pack our now with as much vitality, happiness and joy that we can; and in doing so we set the blueprint for the next moment and, consequently, our future. We set in motion a chain that not only bodes well for a happier future, but also makes us happy in our present. How much are we postponing our happiness as our lives pass us by?

We frequently live in the past where we tend to judge ourselves right or wrong, or compare ourselves with someone else who has done it way better than we ever could. It has us wondering if we'll ever get it right (compare and despair). That makes our present miserable and sets up the next moment (remember we attract what we focus on) less than desirable. Or, we're in the future of “hope” and “what ifs.” Hope might sound like a positive notion but many times it sets us up for a fall, "why isn't it happening now?" or "I have to work hard, sacrifice, give up things now to get what I want in the future." It never works. That future never comes. It's like waging peace through war - it just doesn't work. We must make a decision to make our present happy and milk it for every bit of life and joy that we can in order to ensure a future of the same. If we deliberately choose joy, we are happy in our moment and we set a precedent for the future.

Scientist Masuru Emoto (The Hidden Messages in Water) tells us that water exposed to positive words, beautiful music and stimuli that is joyful, respond molecularly and create beautiful, healthy, vibrantly formed crystals; while those exposed to negative stimuli create malformed and fragmented water molecules. Pharmacologist Candice Pert, who studied brain biochemistry and discovered endorphins and serotonin receptors, questions the use of brain altering drugs like Prozac and Zoloft. Her research has convinced her that how we think and what we feel generates all the biochemical materials that our brain needs. She says, "We are hard—wired for bliss…our mind, body and spirit are inseparable.” Doctor Christiane Northrup (The Power of Joy) says, ". … If you do not put joy into your agenda deliberately, because it creates these biochemical changes in your brain that are so beneficial, increasing serotonin, decreasing cortisol and stress hormones, making you sleep better, all that. If you don’t do deliberately, what do you do? - You do it by default. You do it through sugar, drugs and alcohol."

As we said last week, we must mind our thoughts. This week I am encouraging you to make a deliberate choice to add joy into your moments. Listen to music that you love, watch movies that make you laugh, find something to compliment in a friend, relative, co-worker. It feels so good to compliment someone. Let's try to suck joy out of every moment. Even if you’re at a job that you don’t particularly like, find something to enjoy. When you are doing chores (to do lists seem endless these days) put on music, dance, make them joyful - this is our lives. Enjoy your children in simple moments. Time passes quickly, and if we're joyful in the moment it will impact us cellularly, biochemically and spiritually causing a happy life for ourselves and others - it is contagious.

I leave you this week not only with a quote, but also with a video that makes me happy every time I watch it. It's a true testament to one man's unmitigated joy and its worldwide contagion. The quote is from Dr. Northrup who said in one of her lectures, "Every thought you think creates a cascade of biochemical changes in your body that are measurable. And every cell in your body communicates instantly with every other cell in your body. And every cell in one of your bodies, believe it or not, communicates instantly with every cell in my body. And I’m thinking the energy shift that we do [tonight] is the best hope for…the war in Iraq, peace on the planet, cleaning up all kinds of pollution…this is the only thing that will change anything."

Monday, July 6, 2009

Reality Begins With A Thought

I've been thinking lately...this business of deliberately making happiness a primary focus and making sure that our thoughts remain as positive as possible is quite a task and requires practice and persistence. A Course In Miracles calls it a radical mind training. I had a wonderful teacher, an old metaphysician and one of Ernest Holmes' first Practitioners in The Church of Religious Science, Vetura Papke, who would say, "Put a guard up at the portal of your mind." She knew how powerful our thoughts were in creating our reality and how easy it was to let thoughts of negativity become our primary mode of thinking. We live in a world that lends itself to negative thinking, "Nothing is easier than negativity - the entire culture plays into it," so says leading OBGYN, best-seling author and teacher, Christiane Northrup. It's as if we have had an unspoken agreement, a group consicousness, if you will, that lends itself to worry, complaining and the proliferation of bad news. Negative thinkers have been branded as significant and even erudite, while positive thinking people have often been deemed as airy-fairy or kooky. But there is a significant shift taking place, and the change is a direct result of a cumulative change in thinking. It turns out that it's not so kooky afterall.

I started writing this blog because the economy and world culture began shifting so significantly that people started to question what it is that really constitutes happiness. Was it only the security that came with our 401ks? - Or in having it "all?" Not so much, as we watch those things evaporate right out from under us. We are beginning to understand that true happiness comes from the inner landscapes of our own lives and in our connection with each other. This understanding has called for a significant change in our thinking - our most creative and powerful tool in changing our lives and, as hackneyed as it might sound, in changing the world. Consequently, the journey within becomes the most important thing we can do.

So what now? What can we do today, right now? We can train our minds to think on other things and it's not that much different than working out a muscle. It becomes easier with practice. Write a gratitude list every day; write down what went right. I know it sounds simple, but it is profound. It shifts the gears of our thinking away from "what's wrong," "what always goes wrong for me," "my dumb luck," and the worst thing that we do: keeping score of how many things go wrong. We build a case for the pattern to continue. As much as you can this week, begin to be conscious of things that are going right. Try to detach from the "story" of who you think you are (check out Byron Katie under Teachers and Tools for more on that) and begin to redefine yourself by your positive virtues. Write down, right now, three things that you like about yourself. We must begin to see ourselves as the powerful, infinite beings that we are.

Some of today's most important and influential medical researchers and scientists are telling us that the most powerful chemistry set that we have--to combat diseases, chemical imbalances and even genetic patterns--lies between our ears. We have the power to affect signifiant changes in our bodies, our lives and in the amount of joy we gleen from every day...and it all begins with a thought.

I leave you this week with a quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson who said, "What lies behind us, and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us."