Tag Archives: peace

Staying Present

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Peaceful beach sceneA few years ago, I became highly “accident prone.” I broke three toes in three separate incidents, one of which necessitated a fairly involved surgery with a lengthy recovery time.  I repeatedly bumped into things and hit my head on at least ten different occasions.  After one of my head bumps led to an emergency room visit and a CAT scan, I decided I needed to look more closely at what was going on with all of my accidents.

Not Paying Attention

I came to the conclusion that a large part of the problem had to do with not paying attention to what I was doing.  My mind was always on what I had to do next, not on what I was doing in the moment. I frequently rushed around and felt frantic about getting everything done in a timely fashion.  I was always running late to appointments and often drove too fast and somewhat recklessly trying to reach my destination on time.  Needless to say, I was not living my life in a relaxed fashion!

A Simple but Significant Decision

A little over a year ago, I decided to allow myself more time to get things done and to be more mindful about my actions. This one simple decision made a significant impact on my life.  Not only did I stop bumping my head, arms, and toes every few days, I also found myself feeling much more calm and peaceful.  I began paying more attention to what I was doing in each moment instead of living for the future, whether it be two minutes or two years later.  Without really intending to start being present as a spiritual practice, I experienced strong benefits in that realm.  I started to become more of the person I wanted to be – happy, peaceful, calm, and joyous.

Spiritual Practices

I have read that even washing the dishes can be a spiritual practice.  At first I scoffed at such a suggestion, but I now know the veracity of that claim.  When one is fully present to whatever action he or she is taking, a stronger connection to divine energy is experienced. As someone who has tried and failed to meditate in the traditional sense over the years, I learned that there are many forms of meditation. Some are more sedentary and include the lotus position and mantras, while others are more active and involve being completely focused upon whatever actions one is taking. The latter works better for me, at least for now.

I remember attending a retreat which included an activity called walking the labyrinth.” This exercise is a type of “walking meditation in which one walks through a maze-like circuitous path to the center of a labyrinth and back out again.  There is only one way in and one way out, so there are no decisions to be made along the way.  If desired, one can set an intention or ask a question before entering the labyrinth, but neither of these actions is necessary.

The activity of walking the labyrinth quiets the mind in a way similar to traditional meditation. I enjoyed this activity very much and have since learned that there are labyrinths all over the world.  According to the Labyrinth Society, there are six labyrinths within ten miles of where I live!  Perhaps a regular visit to a local labyrinth should be an integral part of my effort to experience “the power of now” (by the way, I highly recommend Eckhart Tolle’s wonderful book by that title!).

Slipping Back Into Old Habits…

A few weeks ago, my husband and I were gearing up to go on a trip for several days.  Unfortunately, I did not allow myself enough time to get ready to leave and found myself frantically rushing about and still far behind our planned schedule. It is no big surprise that I hit my head, forgot to pack a critical item (underwear, believe it or not!), and ended up in a foul mood.  I had gone to bed late and wanted extra sleep in the morning, so I didn’t allow myself the additional preparation time which would have rendered the entire morning far less stressful.  I was thinking a step or two ahead instead of focusing on what I was doing in the present moment.

Fortunately, I didn’t hit my head hard, I was able to purchase underwear once I reached my destination, and felt much calmer and in better spirits shortly after we were on our way.  But I did learn a valuable lesson from my negative experience.  I need to honor my commitment to give myself more time than I need to get things done and to be fully present to whatever I am doing in any given moment.

Louise Hay’s Insights

I also decided to take a look at what Louise Hay has to say about accidents and being “accident prone.”  Like everything else in life, Louise believes that we create accidents as a result of our negative thought patterns. She also states that accidents are expressions of anger and indicate built-up frustrations resulting from not feeling the freedom to speak up for one’s self.

Accidents can be related to rebellion against authority or anger toward ourselves. The accident is a way to punish ourselves and to receive sympathy and attention from others.  The area of our bodies in which we experience pain from the accident can give us a clue as to which area of our lives we feel guilty about (see Chapter 15 of “You Can Heal Your Life” for “The List” of physical problems and probable causes).

A Wake-Up Call

Whether you believe Louise Hay’s explanations for accidents or decide that they signify the need to be more careful and present, accidents can represent a “wake-up call” for you to make changes in your life.  Either way, the message is to look within and examine your thoughts and behaviors more thoroughly.  It is never a good idea to just go through the motions of life in a virtual fog.

All too often, people numb themselves out through addictive behaviors, “busyness” and projection of their feelings and motivations onto others. While I have definitely done all of these things in the past and sometimes slip into such maladaptive tendencies from time to time, I choose to be fully present to my thoughts, my motivations, and my life. There is beauty and richness to be had in all of life’s experiences!

I need neither future nor past, but to learn to take today not too fast.” ~Jeb Dickerson

Having spent the better part of my life trying either to relive the past or experience the future before it arrives, I have come to believe that in between these two extremes is peace.” ~Author Unknown

Missing Tile Syndrome

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Today’s post focuses on a concept introduced by author Dennis Prager in his book, “Happiness is a Serious Problem.”  I highly recommend this book as a concise and extremely informative book on the often elusive subject of happiness.  Dennis presents a number of life-changing philosophies in his book, but one of the best is the concept of the “missing tile syndrome.”

Imagine this Scenario…

Ceiling TilesImagine that you are in a dentist’s office having your teeth cleaned and are thus focused on the ceiling above you.  As you glance around the room, you notice that one of the ceiling tiles is missing.  Although the majority of the ceiling is pristine and perfect, you would likely be transfixed upon that one missing tile for the remainder of your visit.

As human beings, we have a tendency to focus on what is missing instead of on what is present.  That is fine for ceilings, as they can be perfect.  The danger is when we apply the same focus and filter to our lives…

Even if we have a wonderful and full life, there are always areas which we feel can be better.  The positive side of this is that we continue to focus upon learning and growing and bettering our life circumstances.  The downside is that we may end up obsessing on that which is missing to such an extent that it detracts from our happiness.

Examples of “Missing Tiles”

A few examples will help to illustrate this point…  I had a friend who struggled with infertility issues a number of years ago.  She lamented to me that everywhere she went, all she saw were pregnant women and babies.  I also knew a divorced woman who would venture out on the weekends, only to notice couples kissing and holding hands all around her.  These two women were so completely focused on what they didn’t have, a baby or a partner; they felt as if they were the only ones in their respective positions.

I can think of a few personal instances of “missing tile syndrome” in my life.  I mentioned my obsession with straight, sleek hair in a previous post.  I used to feel that every woman I saw had beautiful, frizz-free hair and that I was the only one around who struggled with managing coarse, frizzy locks.  Similarly, I have often lamented my thick hips and thighs and felt they were out of proportion with the rest of my body.  When I would be out and about, all I would see would be slim-hipped women with model slim legs.

Focus and Gratitude…

Of course, not all women are pregnant, not everyone is coupled up, and not all women have sleek hair or slim thighs.  However, when one is suffering from “missing tile syndrome,” the focus is only upon what is lacking, not on what is present.  When we focus on what’s wrong instead of what’s right in our lives, we are generally less happy as a result.

As I’ve mentioned previously, gratitude is one of the primary keys to happiness and well-being. If we look for what’s right in our lives, we will surely find a number of things to celebrate.  Similarly, if we look for what’s wrong, we will be guaranteed to find those missing tiles.

Dealing with “Missing Tile Syndrome”

Awareness of “missing tile syndrome” is a first and powerful step, but Dennis Prager offers some additional suggestions for how to effectively deal with this problem.   He suggests that you do one of the following things in regards to your missing tile:

1. Get It

If you determine that your “missing tile” is absolutely essential to your happiness, you can find a way to get that which is missing in your life.  For example, if my friend with the infertility issue was unable to have a child of her own (fortunately for her, she was finally able to get pregnant…), she could have chosen to adopt a child.   Although her initial desire was to give birth to a child, adopting a child would have given her what she dearly wanted, a child to love and to raise.

2. Forget It

Although this option may not seem feasible, it is a viable solution in certain cases.  There are some missing tiles which cannot be gotten.  Dennis Prager wrote about sharing custody of his son with his ex-wife following his divorce.  Whereas he had previously gotten to spend each and every day with his child, that was no longer the case after his marriage ended.  He found himself seriously missing his son when they were apart, but he couldn’t change the fact that they now spent less time together.  Consequently, he had to dismiss the desire to be with his son all the time and instead focus on making their time together as enjoyable as possible.  When they were apart, Dennis would keep busy doing other things he enjoyed and he gradually came to accept the new situation.

3. Replace It

Sometimes, we are not able to get the exact things we want in life, but we can discover a viable replacement with which we can be satisfied.  A somewhat trivial example may concern a man who is fixated on buying a new Porsche but doesn’t have the money to make such a purchase.  This man may choose to either buy a used Porsche in good condition or he may end up purchasing a domestic sports car at a lower price.

A more serious example of replacing a missing tile may involve a woman who wanted to be an Olympic gymnast but never made it to the upper echelons of competition.   This woman may choose to open her own gymnastics studio or become a coach to young children.  By doing one of these things, she can still pursue her great passion for the sport even though her initial goal was not reached.

Personal Conclusions

Let’s get back to the personal examples which I mentioned above.  After my trauma following my recent attempt to obtain straight and sleek hair (see the post “Perspective and Appreciation”), I have decided that I need to forget about getting this missing tile.   I am choosing to accept the reality of my hair and to be grateful for what I have.  If I find myself feeling sad about the hair which I do not have, I will focus on the aspects of my appearance with which I am satisfied.  I will reflect upon my positive qualities and be grateful for those blessings instead of thinking about the “missing tile” of perfect hair.

The same is true for my thighs.  I have done all I am willing to do to make them slim and muscular.  I work out regularly and I eat well, but my thighs have not assumed the desired shape.  Since I am unwilling to pursue liposuction or extreme diet or exercise measures, I feel I need to forget the “tile” of perfect thighs.  I choose to focus on the fact that my legs are strong and effectively carry me through life.  I also choose clothing which puts less emphasis on my thighs and more emphasis on the body parts which I more readily embrace.

Self-acceptance and gratitude are key in terms of dealing with “missing tile syndrome.”   Be grateful for your blessings in life and put your focus there.  Work on accepting yourself and your life as they are, and stop lamenting your supposed “flaws” to the detriment of your happiness and inner peace.   Although I know these topics will continue to surface as I proceed with my “healing project,” I will close with the ever famous and always powerful Serenity Prayer:

God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; the courage to change the things I can; and the wisdom to know the difference.

May we all live in peace and serenity and embrace our life challenges with courage and wisdom!

Perspective and Appreciation

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Most of us have things about ourselves which we don’t like or even hate, and we often waste a lot of time and energy resisting or fighting these things.  For most of my life, one of my “hates” has been my hair.   I have very thick hair, so thick that hairstylists have often commented that I had enough hair for two or three people.  In addition, my hair is naturally wavy and predisposed to frizz, tendencies which are intensified by the humid Southern California weather.

My God-given hair was not the type of hair I wanted.  I wanted the straight, sleek hair of a Scandinavian girl – or Jennifer Aniston.  I have been fighting my hair texture for as long as I can remember with countless hair products, daily flat-ironing, and a multitude of chemical processes.  None of these armaments ever worked to my satisfaction, so I continually searched for the next best thing.

Magic Bullet or Nightmare?

This past November, I thought I had found it.  I spent about four hours and over $300 at the hair salon getting what is known as a “keratin smoothing treatment.”  The result was not the nirvana I had anticipated; instead it has been a nightmare which I couldn’t have imagined.  I experienced some serious breathing problems from the formaldehyde released by the chemical process, and since the product was bonded into my hair, I was unable to remove it despite repeated washings.  Consequently, I opted to cut off close to half of my hair in order to minimize the deleterious effects.

Just when I thought I was past the worst of my nightmare, a delayed side effect occurred.  I started to lose large amounts of hair on a daily basis.  By the time I realized what was going on, I had lost so much hair that I could see parts of my scalp at my hairline and my ponytail diameter was only about half of what it used to be.   Fortunately, I think the hair loss has subsided at this point, and because I had so much hair to begin with, it is not as noticeable as might be expected.  However, I am still planning to see a dermatologist to make sure I am able to salvage my hair.

Two Key Lessons…

This is surprisingly difficult for me to write about and I am not sharing this experience to garner sympathy.  I have learned a great deal from this particular struggle and the point of this post is to share my insights.  I have titled this post “Perspective and Appreciation” because those are the two key lessons I’ve gained from my hair experience.

I would love to be able to turn back the clock such that I had never gotten the so-called keratin smoothing treatment, but I have come to understand that I needed this experience to learn what I needed to learn.  The Universe has been trying to teach me the lesson of appreciation and self-acceptance for many years.  Instead of appreciating what I had, I continued to fight it and wish for something different.

Taking Things for Granted

My hair is only one aspect of myself which I would berate and negate. While I would often receive compliments on my thick and lustrous hair, I would never take them in.  I was filled with hatred for my hair because it wouldn’t bend to my will.  Because my hair wasn’t sleek and straight, I didn’t show any love or appreciation for it; all of the energy I gave to my hair was negative.

Now that my hair is no longer long, thick or lustrous, I have been given the gift of perspective.  How true it is that we often don’t appreciate what we have until it is gone.

How often do we take things – and people – for granted until they are no longer in our lives?

Declaring a Truce

I am declaring a truce in the war against my hair.  I am now treating my hair more lovingly and am showing appreciation for the hair that is left on my head.  I am affirming throughout the day, “I love and appreciate my hair.”  I believe that this love and appreciation will help me to save my hair.  It was not only the chemicals which destroyed my hair; it was also my negativity and distain.

How many of us treat ourselves worse than we would treat our worst enemy?  How many of us are our own worst enemy?  How much would we thrive if we were to begin to treat ourselves the way we treat our treasured pets or children?

New and Empowering Vows

From this moment on, I vow to treat myself with much more love and appreciation.  I vow to start looking more at what’s right about me instead of what’s wrong.  I know that I will stumble along the way, as old habits are hard to break.  However, the perspective I have gained from my hair trauma has shown me that I must break those old habits.  It’s time to stop beating myself up and start appreciating all of the wonderful characteristics which I know I possess.

Will you join me in my new and empowering vows?  Many of us wish and pray for peace in the world, but peace begins from within.   Stop fighting yourself and choose to love yourself instead.  I know it’s hard, but we can help each other to live a more peaceful and loving existence!