Several years ago, I was at a local grocery store and had a full cart of food. I was checking out when I noticed the man behind me. He didn't wear fancy clothing and didn't look clean. He had a small basket with about 10 Hungry Man frozen meals and a few other items. I had a strange feeling inside and told the cashier to add his groceries to my bill. She relayed the news to him and his demeanor immediately changed. A small smile appeared on his face as he asked "Are you sure?" I said "I am 100% sure. Please allow me to pay for your items sir". His smile grew bigger and tears appeared in his tired eyes. "Thank you. You have given me hope in the good of people again. No one has ever done anything like this for me before", he said. I gave a warm smile, told him I was glad to help, and wished him a good evening. As I went to my new truck in the parking lot, I watched the man walk to his vehicle - a very old one with plastic duct taped in the place of some windows. He needed grace. And I needed to be reminded that I would never have too much to prevent me from lending a helping hand or demonstrating the essence and purpose of humanity - COMPASSION. If you think you are so far above the homeless or the people who have less than you financially, mentally, emotionally, spiritually, etc., you might find yourself in their position sooner than later so you can in fact discover how close you are.
We cannot seek or attain health, wealth, learning, justice or kindness in general. Action is always specific, concrete, individualized, unique. - Benjamin Jowett
Most days we utter generic words of our great intentions. We are all in varying positions through which we can make a difference in people's lives. Kindness does change people. It is not a sign of weakness. You can restore someone's hope in humanity or have a powerful impact that they remember for the rest of their life. Instead of being generic about your intentions, be genuine and ACT.
Here are 10 ways to keep kindness going and to be genuine.
Goethe said "Kindness is the golden chain by which society is bound together". I believe this to be true. Through kindness and compassion, we are all connected. When we act kind and feel kind towards others, we develop a certain inner happiness and peace. Living in self allows us to be at peace with our surroundings. Too often we underestimate the power of kindness and caring. IT CAN CREATE THE HOPE WE HAVE ALL BEEN WAITING FOR!
As you go throughout your day, what if you had to speak aloud your intention for each action?
Do you dislike your intentions? Do your intentions disappoint or embarrass you? Would they disappoint others?
Do your actions actually align with your intentions? Are your actions for the benefit of all? I encourage you to be clear with yourself about your intentions. Then, remember actions always beat intentions.
Now, we can all probably say and reasonably justify to ourselves that all of our actions serve (or at some time) served a positive purpose. Remember that your intentions should aid you in taking greater control of your life. Without intention, you may stray anywhere. If your actions do not seem to reflect your intentions, I encourage you to find new actions that successfully achieve the positive intentions.
Your truth is reflected in your actions. Be aware of your actions and acknowledge the intentions behind your actions. Try to improve your actions and intentions. Write down your intentions and demonstrate your commitment to your intentions through your actions. Is there noticeable change in your behavior over time or have you been stagnant? Use examination of self to shed light on your truths and aim to be better than you have ever been. AIM TO BE YOUR VERY BEST!
Mindfulness is a hot topic amongst spiritual leaders, Western philosophers, and psychologists that is deeply rooted in Buddhist traditions. It is widely used by psychologists to positively alleviate mental and physical conditions.
What is mindfulness and is mindfulness for you?
Marlatt & Kristeller define mindfulness as “bringing one’s complete attention to the present experience on a moment-to-moment basis”. Jon Kabat-Zinn defines mindfulness as "paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally" and "the art of conscious living". Kabat-Zinn is a famous teacher of mindfulness meditation and the founder of the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction program at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center. He is sometimes referred to as the father of modern mindfulness. I recommend reading Kabat-Zinn's book titled Mindfulness for Beginners.
Mindfulness for Beginners is a good primer for understanding this basic idea that is being studied in depth by many of our respected philosophers and spiritual leaders and a topic that is reported to help children and adults in EVERY aspect of their lives.
Mindfulness is for everyone!
AWARENESS vs. THINKING
One of the things that caught me by surprise in Kabat-Zinn's book was the concept of adjusting one's default setting. The state of thinking is our default setting. Mindfulness emphasizes being aware over being lost in thought. I had never really thought how much time I spend thinking when I could be enjoying the present moment. Throughout the day, there are multiple instances when I am physically present but mentally absent and disengaged. Kabat-Zinn compares thoughts to the commentary one hears during a sporting event. The commentary reflects someone else's views and opinions of the event. The sporting event would be viewed and experienced differently without the commentary.
Thoughts are the self-generated voice-over of life. Mostly these thoughts are about the past or future. Kabat-Zinn says that "thinking completely dominates our lives and colors everything we feel and do and care about". Sometimes, it is the continuous negative thought pattern reel. What if we silenced the outside and inside voices once in a while? Life could be experienced differently with an increased focus on being aware of the here and now without the often annoying, negative, and destructive voice-over. Think - is your mind full OR are you being mindful?
Mindfulness is noticing when we are lost in thoughts and being aware enough to deliberately return to the present moment experience.
BEING vs. DOING
Mindfulness is being instead of doing; it is being present now.
The state of doing is the mindless rush of the day where we multi-task from sunrise to sundown. I often spend my work day multi-tasking over 10 tasks at a time. I bounce from one task to another all day and. sometimes, I do not complete any tasks. Then I mix in social and family events/tasks with work events/tasks. The to-do list never seems to get shorter. The state of doing is the non-stop juggling of all aspects of our life all day every day. The state of being is being present for the moment of right now. It is forgetting about the to-do-list long enough to focus on a singular task in front of us. Just be. |be aware|
Do you need daily reminders to be positive? Think about the places you go every day and add built-in positive reminders. If you can increase your positive thinking, then I believe positive actions are not far behind.
Here are 5 simple ideas for putting positive reminders around you:
1) You may get in your car at least twice daily. Get custom positive car license plates or a positive key chain.
2) You probably visit your bathroom and sink in your home multiple times each day. Put a positive decoration in your bathroom or near your sink. Vinyl decals are a nice low cost addition to any wall.
3) You may sit at your work desk for 8+ hours a day. Put some positive décor on your computer desktop or on your desk.
4) You probably type multiple passwords into a variety of accounts each day. Use a positive password for a reminder each time you use it.
5) You may look at your phone dozens of times each day. Put a uplifting background on your home screen and screen saver. Try getting a phone case with an uplifting message.
I usually wake my son up in the morning with an energetic and fairly loud "Rise and Shine" in the hopes that he will jump out of bed enthusiastically ready for the day. What usually happens is that he rolls over slowly, peeks from under the covers with a squinty-eyed scowl and asks if he can sleep at least five more minutes. How do you wake up in the morning? Is it Rise and Shine or Rise and Whine?
As adults, our wake up routine can be far more calculated than the wake up routine of a child. How can we get from rising to shining? I offer to you that personal vectoring can help tremendously. What is personal vectoring? Personal vectoring is self dialogue intended to carry you in a specific direction. A few years ago, I started a practice of saying a daily silent prayer or statement of intention prior to opening my eyes. It goes something like this:
Thank you for allowing me to rise and see another day. Thank you for the blessings you have granted me throughout my life. Thank you for the opportunities this day will offer. Help me to say positive things to people. Help me to smile and acknowledge people. Help me to be productive and open to learning. Help me to listen better and to be energetic. Help me to be progressive - to be part of solutions. Help me let go of negativity. Help me to stay focused. Now Rise and Shine Bhakti!
This self dialogue can go on for one to three minutes. Then I open my eyes and go about my day. Does it help you might ask? It certainly cannot hurt. My days don't always go as planned but often this self dialogue follows me throughout the day as I interact with others and choose my reactions to my dynamic environment. While my actions are not always perfect, I have become more aware of my surroundings and my reactions and I find it easier to identify where improvement is warranted.
I believe that starting the day with statements of intention is an fruitful examination and acknowledgement of self. Acknowledgement of our existence and associated gratitude as well as recognition of areas requiring improvement is healthy. It doesn't have to be out loud. Next time you wake up, try these five simple steps:
Do you notice all the little things in your lives or do they pass you by? Did you notice the world around you today?
Do you walk through life in a daze feeling overwhelmed, underachieved, entitled, and unsatisfied? Do you only celebrate the big stuff?
Is there anything "small" you are grateful for? Can you find a reason to celebrate right now?
There are 86,400 seconds in one day. How many of those have you used to say Thank You or to express gratitude?
The first step to gratitude is being present and aware. Being present allows you to experience a recurring colorful touch by life. If you are in a daze, you are unable to acknowledge or appreciate the small things or the things that are just always there. It's time to wake up. Suman Rai says "Choose happiness today by taking life moment by moment, complaining very little, and being thankful for the little things that mean a lot".
I challenge you to stop and TAKE TIME today to appreciate the small things and moments that are contributing to your life. Count your blessings. START by being grateful for the ability to read this article. 1/3 of the world has no access to the Internet and over 700 million people in the world cannot read. Now, take 5-10 minutes to write a list of 15 things you are grateful for. Here's mine:
Take this list and put it in a place you go often. Revisit it when you are feeling down or dazed. Add to it too!
Always be blessed and be a blessing.
My name is Bhakti Mary. I grew up in Hattiesburg Mississippi - a state with the worst education system in the United States - dead last, #50 of 50. Growing up, I watched my father work as a janitor for a minimum wage $4.25 per hour for the Main Street United Methodist Church. He was the only black man to work in the church; no minorities attended the church. This week when I looked at the online gallery of the church, I saw many pictures that reflected a diverse congregation but this wasn't the case in the 80s and 90s. My mom was a stay-at-home mom. We grew up vegetarian; the word "fast food" was not in our vocabulary. We grew most of our food in a garden....a garden on part of the nearly 5 acres our 980 sq ft home built in 1952 sat on. We dug up the land by hand with the few shovels we had and planted beans, potatoes, and other vegetables every year. Today this home is not worth much money. But then, it was all we had...7 of us lived in these 980 square feet.
I really didn't like growing up and I was sad about it for a long time. If you're feeling sad about your home situation, I can certainly understand - but trust me when I say it won't last forever. Life's struggles will become greater AND life's rewards will become grander. We grew up in a manner that my father felt was right and a manner he could afford which meant no furniture, no television, no radio, no friends over to the home, no telephone conversations, no after school activities, no summer camps, no sports, no designer clothes, no nails done, no hair did, no allowance etc. My mother sewed a lot of our clothing and even other items such as backpacks. Can you imagine going to high school with clothing your mother sewed?
Even though I grew up in just one state - Mississippi-, I have since travelled to 14 countries and all over this beautiful land called the United States. I am an Air Force Academy graduate. I don't run away from home any more. My home today is larger than the house I grew up in - you don't have to stay where you are today and where you are today is no guarantee of where you will be tomorrow. But you do have to be HAPPY just where you are. You have to always be life's student and you have to always move towards love. Your faith in a higher power will also certainly help you feel love and grace. My heart is as full as it has ever been and it still has room to grow.
I have a handsome 9 year old son who respects his elders, expresses thankfulness, and brings a smile to the face of most people he meets. I am a divorced woman and my son knows and loves me AND his dad equally. I teach him the lessons I am going to share with you today. I share them because I care...in this moment, I take very seriously my opportunity to experience my life with you in front of me.
Alright, let's talk about the lessons!
The Bible says in Proverbs 12:11 “Whoever works his land will have plenty of bread, but he who follows worthless pursuits lacks sense.” Nothing replaces hard work. Consciously and deliberately develop the habit of working hard. Not everyone knows how to work hard. You can also develop the habit of working smartly. But most of us can learn to work hard before we learn to work smart.
Can you think of a time when you really worked hard at something? How did it feel?
A simple practice you can adopt today is to always do your homework. Don't wait until the last minute either. Do it before you play video games or watch tv.
My three siblings and I did not have a college fund and none of us ever received any money from our parents after the age of 18. We had to work hard for everything we ever got. REALLY HARD! But when an opportunity came along, we didn't sit on the sideline. We got in the game - we waited in the line, we practiced hard, we looked for heroes and followed them. I may still go to a party from time to time, I may hang out with my friends - but I also have two college degrees and continue to educate myself every chance I get. I also work two jobs. I write about some of the things I am here to talk to you about today. I raise my child. I take care of a house. Life is about balance. As a child you must play, but you must also work hard.
Another simple practice that will help you to work harder and more effectively is to avoid doing more than one thing at once. Don't eat and watch TV for example. Enjoy the food, and then enjoy the entertainment.
What are some ways you can work harder?
BE GRATEFUL. (LOVE LIFE)
The Bible says in Psalms 118:24 This is the day which the LORD has made; we will rejoice and be glad in it and in 1 Thessalonians 5:18 In everything give thanks. In everything...Experiencing gratitude in every present moment deepens your awareness. You have so much to be grateful for. When you think of things you can be thankful for, you will find that your mood can improve. I am thankful for this chance to share some of the most important lessons I have learned with you today.
What is something you are thankful for today?
I know what it's like to be that little kid searching for love - love from parents, love from friends, love from that crush...and the search will continue but there's something you need to know - it's a secret that I will share with you today. Love is inside of you - it always has been and it always will be. Everything you do is an expression of how much you love. If you succeed at loving yourself, everything will be okay.
A simple practice you can adopt today is to thank God for one thing each morning before you get out of bed.
What are some ways you can express your love for living?
DON'T LET FEAR STOP YOU.
The Bible says in 2 Timothy 1:7 For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline. Don't operate out of fear and don't always take the convenient path of least resistance. Don't dodge failure.
What is something you are afraid of?
I have always been afraid of new opportunities. I now try to notice when my heart when it pounds a little harder out of fear, and I realize that just then, it might be time to take a chance and to be brave.
A simple practice you can adopt today is to talk to your parents about something you have been afraid to talk to them about. Ask them how to be brave and how to have courage when you feel sad, fearful, or disappointed. Listen with the intention of understanding and learning.
What are some ways you can overcome fear?
REALIZE THAT NO ONE OWES YOU ANYTHING.
Try not to feel entitled to anything. Entitlement is when you think that someone HAS to do something for you or give you something. Most of the things that you believe should be done for you DO NOT have to be done for you. Recognize that you must earn good deeds. The golden rule definitely applies. You cannot act out or misbehave and then expect people to respond in kindness. When have you used the golden rule?
When I was growing up, I felt entitled to things other than what I had which caused me to run away from home several times and to even steal things that did not belong to me, or to demand things from my parents. Now, I have learned to appreciate the things that I have and to find gratitude. When you feel entitled to something, you are saying that you don't need to work for it. Take care of all of the things that your parents or family has worked hard for AND find something you are willing to work hard for.
A simple practice you can adopt today is to start using "please" whenever you ask for anything and use "thank you" when you receive something. That something could be something as simple as a hug or a smile.
What are some ways you can use the golden rule in the future?
DON'T MAKE EXCUSES.
No excuses. Stop right now from making excuses for your bad behavior. Just own your actions and work to do better next time. That's all people who love you want -- progress towards better choices. What is something you want to be better at?
I learned the hard way that when I mess up, no one cares WHY. I just admit my mistake and learn the lesson. Someone once told me - that in every experience good or bad, there is a lesson. Focus on the lessons - use them to turn ordinary experiences into extraordinary experiences. Don't get stuck in the mistake world. Be amazing by LEARNING YOUR LESSON.
A simple practice you can adopt today is to start saying the words "I will do better next time" when you get in trouble for something. Actually mean it though.
What are some areas you can stop making excuses in?
It is my hope that you will remember this conversation in times when you feel fear, when you want to make an excuse, when you want someone to give you something, when you feel lazy or when you feel ungrateful. Life is not a box of chocolates. It is a journey where you must learn and practice good habits starting right now.
One of my all time favorite phrases is "semper ad meliora". It is a Latin phrase that means "always towards better things". Surround yourself by people who encourage you to do good today and to do even better tomorrow.
When my son was a toddler, my father advised me that I needed to bring him up with some religion. He emphasized that it did not matter which one as long as there was one - one that gave him something to believe in. I think what he meant was to raise him with a belief system.
Live in Self is religion neutral. While religions can certainly inform one's belief system, it is not necessary to be a part of a specific religion to have a robust and healthy belief system. Live in Self is a online community and forum where readers and contributors have an opportunity to discuss beliefs openly.
A belief system is what supports you and gives you comfort; it is your belief of how you fit into the universe. The important thing is that you do not have to prove your belief system to anyone. You don't have to justify it either. Your belief system requires no template. It is unique to you. It is the steering wheel and all of the software and hardware behind it. Occasionally, you may upgrade or personalize/customize your software and hardware. Then, all you have to do is turn. If you find yourself turning in the wrong direction, just make a correction; some corrections may be slight or gradual and some may be very sudden and pronounced.
A robust belief system steers you through your actions and reactions. At the core of my belief system is compassion and the golden rule. What is at the core of your belief system?
Have you ever listened to the words you speak? This is what Linus Mundy suggests as Idea #20 in the book Slow-down Therapy for rediscovering time and life. It made me think - so many times I have been advised to listen to others when they speak. But there is probably equal benefit to actually listening to the words I say. Audrey McLaughlin says "When you listen, it's amazing what you can learn. When can you act on what you've learned, it's amazing what you can change." And don't we all wish to be the change?
Listening goes farther than hearing the words you speak. It also involves a self examination with the goal of truly understanding ourselves. In the book Seven Thousand Ways to Listen: Staying Close to What is Sacred, Mark Nepo defines listening as "the doorway to everything that matters. It enlivens the heart the way breathing enlivens the lungs. We listen to awaken the heart...to stay vital and alive."
The act of listening is difficult due to all the external and internal distractions. But I am interested into opening the door to life. Here are some benefits I think we can reap from listening to ourselves speak:
- Talk Less. Listen to your words and consider whether you really need to say what you are saying. You don't like listening to BS, so be part of the solution and stop uttering it.
- Talk at the appropriate tone and level. Instead of raising your voice to speak to others, go to them and then speak at a reasonable level. No one else needs to hear the conversation. Remember your tone is what usually makes people tune you out.
- Speak unto others as you would have them speak onto you. As you speak, think - would I like to be spoken to this way? While this can be hard when you're in a heated or engaged discussion, take time to think after if you embodied the Golden Rule.
There's always another conversation coming up during which we can listen to ourselves and learn ways to be better.
Our abilities to control our emotions can TRANSFORM a day, a week, or even a year from sweet or sour. I have severed friendships, other relationships and even a marriage over what I believed to be a very controllable issue - the issue of controlling self in passion zones. In my personal life, I have found it important to NOTICE the areas which I am passionate about and the areas, things, or people which I CARE the most about. I discovered that these were the areas or "passion zones" that activated the most extreme inner emotions. They were the areas where I found myself acting out of someone's best interest or saying more than necessary or being noticeably expressive.
We all have these "passion zones" in our personal (including spiritual) and professional lives. I will describe some personal examples. Professionally, I really cared about saving the government resources, and I really cared about people being valued. When it appeared either of these were out of balance, I began to notice verbal and physical changes in myself, and on occasion, I lost self control. When I lost self control, everyone around me knew it. Everyone knows when you lose it too.
Personally, I cared about my son and was willing to defend him at all costs. This created a zone of tunnel vision in which I could not see past his feelings enough to really see what was in his best interest. This resulted in a loss of my parental control, a degradation of my ability to take my parental responsibilities seriously.
Spiritually, I believed in the greater good and I still do! Believing this about everyone and everything seemed misplaced at times but I have maintained this personal core belief. Let me describe this belief further. I believe that everyone is capable of pressing on to greater things. I believe I have a responsibility to encourage others to never give up on life, on their dreams, on grandiose achievements. One area that I believed would help someone to PRESS ON was knowing the truth. I grew up with a father who was always brutally honest - or so I thought. What is so brutal about honesty -- honesty can be objective and subjective and sometimes its subjectivity makes it hard to swallow. Honesty up front can be better than a stream of lies. It allows one to correct their course much earlier and propels one towards success sooner.
The point is a loss of control in any area of 'self' can have predictable or unpredictable consequences. A self examination can REVEAL the circumstances driving this loss of control. Some will be self-inflicted and some will be external. If you find it to be a circumstance outside of your span of control, then change your reaction. If it is a circumstance inside your span of control, then look at the benefit of changing the situation.
In the case of my work passion zone - government resource saving and person valuation, I CHOSE a two prong approach - to listen longer before speaking, and to continue valuing others (practicing what I preach). In the way of valuing others, one specific action I took was to give people the benefit of the doubt more often (this didn't always work out with my son). I chose to examine my role and the expectations of my level of involvement for each situation. This was a recurring dynamic process. I realized that not everyone needed my input and give the opportunity most people reached the same end state I desired without my inputs. Trying to relax and take deep breaths while listening in a conversation helped tremendously. I felt a hidden sense of personal accomplishment - no one knew but I was making small victories in the way of controlling SELF.
In the case of my personal passion zone - my son- I chose to listen to other inputs from people I trusted and cared about. I implemented ideas of others and watched the results roll in. In most cases, I was receiving sound advice and needed the alternative opinions to fill up my parenting toolbox. No one knew it but making the tough choices sometimes made me cry or made me sad but those emotions were an afterthought as my son continued to mature.
In the case of my spiritual passion zone - compassion- I continue doing a deep dive to examine how to insert compassion appropriately and frequently in my thoughts and actions.
What are your 'passion zones', and how do you control your SELF in these zones?
I began to think recently about what emotions I spread and what emotions I pick up from the people I interact with.
When my son was little and even now, I refer to him as Oscar (for Oscar the Grouch from Sesame Street) when he is in a foul mood. He dislikes this because in my opinion, it is a sign that I recognize and acknowledge his emotion. What if our friends did this to us - identified our emotions? Would we then be more aware? The first step to being aware of what emotions we are spreading is to be aware of our current emotions and to avoid denial of emotions. I am becoming increasingly aware of how my emotions impact the people around me. This awareness also helps me understand how others' emotions are impacting me.
So what are emotions? Jack Mayer describes emotions as the bridge between thoughts, feelings, and actions. Think about what is going on in your life right now. Notice the emotions you are exhibiting. There is probably a connection between the two. Do you feel fear, anxiety, depression, sadness, loneliness, shame, guilt, or frustration? Do you feel love, compassion, joy, contentment, happiness, or acceptance?
If you are struggling to identify your emotions, it is possible that you are busy suppressing them. The tell tale signs of disconnected people may be someone who ignores others feelings, someone who pretends things don't happen, someone who abuses substances such as prescription drugs, alcohol, recreational drugs, or food, someone who is compulsive and/or excessive, someone who is consistently superficial, or someone who is too busy to feel. I'm sure you could add some signs to this list as well. Whatever you are feeling should not be trapped or buried inside. Ask yourself if you operate out of fear or out of love. If you are unsure, ask a friend. Odds are they already recognize your emotions.
The truth is that hiding our emotions can make us tired and depressed. We may find ourselves overreacting to minor situations, walking about with a feeling of uneasiness, unmotivated, and unaware. If you think this will not affect the people you love, think again. “The more you identify with a person, the more likely you are to catch the emotion. Much of this occurs and we are completely oblivious to it.” says John Cacioppo, Ph.D., director of the Center for Cognitive and Social Neuroscience at the University of Chicago.
I challenge you to be more conscious and aware of your emotions. What are you spreading? If you can access the cause of your emotions, you can avoid passing them on to people who don't deserve it. For example, if you have had a terrible day at work, you can refrain from passing it on to your children and spouse when you arrive at home. Become an expert at dissolving or diffusing your negative emotions. Try positive thinking techniques to transform into a more joyful and uplifting person. This exercise will make you more in tune with what emotions you are spreading and soon you will become someone people want to be around.
Ms. Bhakti Mary
I am an optimistic, positive, generous and driven author who is passionate about self-improvement.
The essence of who you are does not lie in the past. What matters is what you are willing to do NOW. You are the presence.