Friday, September 11, 2009

THE POWER WITHIN

Author Marianne Williamson’s Miracle Thought Of The Day on Oprah.com invokes poet Ralph Waldo Emerson’s famous quote - “What lies behind us and what lies before us are small matters compared to what lies within us” - to steer us to the “power within.”

Williamson goes on to say that too many are enraptured in the past and future - even though they don’t exist, except in one’s mind. In the present, she says, we are able to experience what lies within us, and no matter what has happened in your past. And every moment that we spend neurousing about the past or future, we withhold the power, attention, and focus on what is available to us in the moment. In the present, the power of new beginnings is available to each of us. We all have the power to tap into what is available to us now.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

CUONG’S SPIRIT SERIES

The most precious gift we can offer others is our presence. When mindfulness embraces those we love, they will bloom like flowers.

***
Smile, breathe and go slowly.

- Thich Nhat Hanh
In keeping with the theme of being in the “moment,” noted Buddhist monk, teacher, author, poet and peace activist Thich Nhat Hanh offers many insightful words on the topic of mindfulness. His Peaces Is Every Step and The Miracle of Mindfulness serves as guides on purposeful living in every moment of your life, in everything you do.

We know it is hard to be mindful, but it is simple to do. Try it. As he says: Smile, breathe and go slowly.

Thich Nhat Hanh

Monday, September 07, 2009

FRIENDS: REPLACED IN 7 YEARS

Apparently, when it comes to close friends, you replace them with new ones every seven years, according to research from Utrecht University in the Netherlands.

Really? I don’t believe you replace close friends, what I consider my family of friends - ever! But I do think that during the “discovery” stage of any friendship, you might find it not right for you or them. Hmm, can someone at Utrecht University do some research on that?

Whatever, I like being a “Special Guest Star” - like Heather Locklear - so I can come and go as I’d like, and not have to put effort into anything. Does that make me a bad friend? Yeah, probably.

Heather Locklear


Sunday, September 06, 2009

‘UNFRIEND’ YOUR SIGNIFICANT OTHER

According to sex therapist Ian Kerner, you may want to ‘unfriend’ your significant other to bring the mystery and excitement back in your love life. And in doing so, you might gain a lover.

The darn status updates - that I abhor so, so much ’cause nobody gives a shit what’re you’re eating or who you’re blowing - creates a sense of disconnection. Says the article: a “Facebook marriage” replaces mystery with the mundane. Some comments from his patients:
  • Let’s see, yesterday my wife: Felt bloated, realized she has nothing to wear, posted yet another adorable photo album of our boys..., was missing Michael Jackson and, oh yeah … DID NOT HAVE SEX WITH ME!
  • He’s always been the jealous type, but now he’s like a stalker. Every new friend is an interrogation. It’s like I’m being monitored by the thought-police!
  • Do I really need to know that my wife is about to do something totally nutty like go have a second cappuccino? What happened to the wild woman I fell in love with?
For the love of God, please dumbasses, stop updating your lame statuses! - nobody cares where you’re going, who you’re with, or what you’re wearing. Just shut up and stop it with the status updates already!

Saturday, September 05, 2009

BE MINDFUL: HERE’S HOW!

Last time we talked about the importance of mindfulness. According to Ellen Langer, a psychologist at Harvard and author of Mindfulness, “Everyone agrees it’s important to live in the moment, but the problem is how.”

Overriding the distraction reflex and awakening to the present takes intentionality and practice. From Psychology Today, here’s how you can do it:
1. To improve your performance, stop thinking about it (unselfconsciousness):
The key is to focus less on what’s going on in your mind and more on what’s going on in the room, less on your mental chatter and more on yourself as part of something. “When people are mindful, they’re more likely to experience themselves as part of humanity, as part of a greater universe,” explains Michael Kernis, a psychologist at the University of Georgia. That’s why highly mindful people such as Buddhist monks talk about being “one with everything.”
When you focus on your immediate experience without attaching it to your self-esteem, unpleasant events like social rejection, seem less threatening... Instead of getting stuck in your head and worrying, you can let yourself go.

2. To avoid worrying about the future, focus on the present (savoring):
Often, we’re so trapped in thoughts of the future or the past that we forget to experience, let alone enjoy, what’s happening right now. We sip coffee and think, “This is not as good as what I had last week.”
Instead, relish or luxuriate in whatever you re doing at the present moment—what psychologists call savoring. “You could be savoring a success or savoring music,” explains Sonja Lyubomirsky, a psychologist at the University of California at Riverside and author of The How of Happiness. “Usually it involves your senses.”
Why does living in the moment make people happier? Because most negative thoughts concern the past or the future... Savoring forces you into the present, so you can’t worry about things that aren’t there.

3: If you want a future with your significant other, inhabit the present (breathe):
Living consciously with alert interest has a powerful effect on interpersonal life. Mindfulness actually inoculates people against aggressive impulses, say Whitney Heppner and Michael Kernis of the University of Georgia... “Mindfulness decreases ego involvement,” explains Kernis. “So people are less likely to link their self-esteem to events and more likely to take things at face value.” Mindfulness also makes people feel more connected to other people—that empathic feeling of being “at one with the universe.”
Mindfulness increases the gap between emotional impulse and action, allowing you to do what Buddhists call recognizing the spark before the flame. There’s no better way to bring yourself into the present moment than to focus on your breathing. Because you’re placing your awareness on what’s happening right now, you propel yourself powerfully into the present moment.

4: To make the most of time, lose track of it (flow):
Perhaps the most complete way of living in the moment is the state of total absorption psychologists call flow. Flow occurs when you’re so engrossed in a task that you lose track of everything else around you. Flow embodies an apparent paradox: How can you be living in the moment if you’re not even aware of the moment? The depth of engagement absorbs you powerfully, keeping attention so focused that distractions cannot penetrate.
Flow is an elusive state. All you can do is set the stage, creating the optimal conditions for it to occur.
The first requirement for flow is to set a goal that’s challenging but not unattainable—something you have to marshal your resources and stretch yourself to achieve. The task should be matched to your ability level—not so difficult that you’ll feel stressed, but not so easy that you’ll get bored. In flow, you’re firing on all cylinders to rise to a challenge.
To set the stage for flow, goals need to be clearly defined so that you always know your next step. You also need to set up the task in such a way that you receive direct and immediate feedback; with your successes and failures apparent, you can seamlessly adjust your behavior.
As your attentional focus narrows, self-consciousness evaporates. You feel as if your awareness merges with the action you’re performing. You feel a sense of personal mastery over the situation, and the activity is so intrinsically rewarding that although the task is difficult, action feels effortless.

5: If something is bothering you, move toward it rather than away from it (acceptance):
We all have pain in our lives. If we let them, such irritants can distract us from the enjoyment of life. The problem is we have not just primary emotions but also secondary ones - emotions about other emotions. We get stressed out, the primary emotion is stress. The secondary emotion is feeling, “I hate being stressed.”
The solution is acceptance - letting the emotion be there. That is, being open to the way things are in each moment without trying to manipulate or change the experience—without judging it, clinging to it, or pushing it away. The present moment can only be as it is. Trying to change it only frustrates and exhausts you. Acceptance relieves you of this needless extra suffering. If you feel anxiety, for instance, you can accept the feeling, label it as anxiety - then direct your attention to something else instead. You watch your thoughts, perceptions, and emotions flit through your mind without getting involved. Thoughts are just thoughts. You don’t have to believe them and you don’t have to do what they say.

6: Know that you don’t know (engagement):
You’ve probably had the experience of driving along a highway only to suddenly realize you have no memory or awareness of the previous 15 minutes... Autopilot moments are what Langer calls mindlessness—times when you’re so lost in your thoughts that you aren’t aware of your present experience. As a result, life passes you by without registering on you. The best way to avoid such blackouts, Langer says, is to develop the habit of always noticing new things in whatever situation you’re in. That process creates engagement with the present moment and releases a cascade of other benefits. Noticing new things puts you emphatically in the here and now.
If we see the world with fresh eyes, we realize almost everything is different each time—the pattern of light on the buildings, the faces of the people, even the sensations and feelings we experience along the way. Noticing imbues each moment with a new, fresh quality. Some people have termed this “beginner’s mind.”
Remember, living a consistently mindful life takes effort. But mindfulness itself is easy.
You can become mindful at any moment just by paying attention to your immediate experience. You can do it right now. What’s happening this instant? Think of yourself as an eternal witness, and just observe the moment. What do you see, hear, smell? It doesn’t matter how it feels—pleasant or unpleasant, good or bad—you roll with it because it’s what’s present; you’re not judging it. And if you notice your mind wandering, bring yourself back. Just say to yourself, “Now. Now. Now.”
Become aware of being alive. And breathe. As you draw your next breath, focus on the rise of your abdomen on the in-breath, the stream of heat through your nostrils on the out-breath. If you’re aware of that feeling right now, as you’re reading this, you’re living in the moment. Nothing happens next. It’s not a destination. This is it. You’re already there.

Friday, September 04, 2009

MINDFULNESS: WHY IT’S IMPORTANT

“Breathe,” God said to him over the phone, when he asked how to live in the moment. “Whenever you feel anxious about your future or your past, just breathe. Try it with me a few times right now. Breathe in... breathe out.”

It is that simple. Buddhism, meditation, and even Thich Nhat Hanh talks about it. But we simply don’t do it. Here from Psychology Today on the wisdom of why we should breathe to be more in the present moment of life:
Life unfolds in the present. But so often, we let the present slip away, allowing time to rush past unobserved and unseized, and squandering the precious seconds of our lives as we worry about the future and ruminate about what's past. “We’re living in a world that contributes in a major way to mental fragmentation, disintegration, distraction, decoherence,” says Buddhist scholar B. Alan Wallace. We’re always doing something, and we allow little time to practice stillness and calm.
...We dwell on intrusive memories of the past or fret about what may or may not happen in the future. We don’t appreciate the living present because our “monkey minds,” as Buddhists call them, vault from thought to thought like monkeys swinging from tree to tree.

Most of us don’t undertake our thoughts in awareness. Rather, our thoughts control us. “Ordinary thoughts course through our mind like a deafening waterfall,” writes Jon Kabat-Zinn, the biomedical scientist who introduced meditation into mainstream medicine. In order to feel more in control of our minds and our lives, to find the sense of balance that eludes us, we need to step out of this current, to pause, and, as Kabat-Zinn puts it, to “rest in stillness—to stop doing and focus on just being.”
We need to live more in the moment. Living in the moment—also called mindfulness—is a state of active, open, intentional attention on the present. When you become mindful, you realize that you are not your thoughts; you become an observer of your thoughts from moment to moment without judging them. Mindfulness involves being with your thoughts as they are, neither grasping at them nor pushing them away. Instead of letting your life go by without living it, you awaken to experience.

Cultivating a nonjudgmental awareness of the present bestows a host of benefits... Mindful people are happier, more exuberant, more empathetic, and more secure. They have higher self-esteem and are more accepting of their own weaknesses. Anchoring awareness in the here and now reduces the kinds of impulsivity and reactivity that underlie depression, binge eating, and attention problems. Mindful people can hear negative feedback without feeling threatened... As a result, mindful couples have more satisfying relationships...

Living in the moment involves a profound paradox: You can’t pursue it for its benefits. That’s because the expectation of reward launches a future-oriented mindset, which subverts the entire process. Instead, you just have to trust that the rewards will come. There are many paths to mindfulness—and at the core of each is a paradox. Ironically, letting go of what you want is the only way to get it.
The next installment will cover how we can be mindful, but if you absolutely can not wait a day! then check out books from Thich Nhat Hanh or on Buddhism or Taoism.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

ABS WATCH ’09

Do you think I’m fat? Just asking...

Watch out Zac Efron and new 90210 hottie Trevor Donovan! I’m totally binging and purging, so I’ll catch up to you both very soon!


Wednesday, September 02, 2009

DON’T LOSE LEVERAGE

I don’t sleep with my friends - mainly because they think I’m ugly. Oh, I digress. Apparently, there’s a benefit to it: friends who want their friends horizontally lose leverage. You, my friend, do not want to lose leverage!

According to Psychology Today all friendships, and I should also add relationships, start with a flare of attraction, and while that doesn’t necessarily mean it will turn into something, it can get tricky when one wants something more.

“When one friend is waiting for another to suddenly fall in love with him, a nasty power imbalance develops that can threaten the long-term viability of the relationship. If you’re the piner,” Nando Pelusi, a New York City-based clinical psychologist, suggests “working through your own sensitivity to rejection so you can deal with the imbalance in an honest and non-dogmatic way.”

That’s big! So, whatever you do, don’t lose leverage, dumbass!

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

HIS FRIENDS SUCK MORE

I can’t think of a group of people that hate me more than this one: my boyfriend’s friends. I know, I don’t get it either. Have they met me? What’s not to love? Whatev -

Well, we all need to just move on. According to Psychology Today, here’s how:
  • Accept that people come in packages, which includes friends and family. You will connect with some, toss others, tolerate a few, and dislike/detest/hate many. (They use “few,” but...) They key is that your partner shouldn’t automatically drop people you don’t happen to like, nor should you stop seeing pals that he doesn’t care for. Instead, “everyone has to move over a little bit.”
  • Meeting admirable friends of your partner affects his reputation. (Okay, fine, so no more racist or sexist jokes around them. Ugh!) And while disliking most of his lame-ass friends is not automatic grounds for ending the relationship, but “if your concerns about his friends mirrors your concerns about him and his values, then you should take that as a warning.”
  • So, let bonds form naturally between all parties. Don’t complain about your partner’s friends. So, instead nurture friends who genuinely like both of you. (Wow, that’s gonna be very hard)
Really?!? No complainin’? At all? Have you met his friends? Ugh, this is gonna be very, very hard! Very!