Are You Making the Most of the Days of Your Life?

Tonight I learned that my 51-year-old cousin has colon cancer that has spread to her lymph nodes. She’s got a husband, two older kids and six months of chemo–I hear–in front of her. My cousin and I aren’t close friends but we share the bond of family and I love her. I pray that she will beat this incredible challenge and thrive.

I learned about my cousin’s condition on a phone call tonight with my mother. It reminded me of how vulnerable we all are, going about our lives thinking that we are free from harm–that something bad will never happen to us. I’m guilty of this big time and I know that this thinking gets in the way of me getting totally serious about taking total control of my life.

The Days are Numbered Mindset

I think that the biggest gift that we can all give ourselves is the constant realization that our days are numbered. I’m embarrassed by the fact that I am a native Californian who has never been to Yosemite. I’ve wanted to learn Spanish but I haven’t lifted a finger. There are so many other things that I’ve said I wanted to do that I haven’t followed through on. As I now feel the clock ticking, I see that everyday decisions make a difference in the quality of our lives.

Learning about my cousin has given me the desire to want to see her life dreams carried out. At the same time it has inspired me to focus on my own. What are they? What are yours?

 

What’s Your Story?

I happened across a news piece online the other day that featured a man who was my boss some twenty years ago. Come to find out he had recently been appointed the CEO of a major LA media organization. I was very happy to learn how my former boss had risen to such heights in his career and reached out to him via LinkedIn to tell him so.

I know this man as being the salt of the earth. And there was something about the period of time that we worked together in a New Hampshire division of a worldwide publishing company that feels like there is a bond there. Most of us were in our early 30’s. We took our jobs seriously yet there was a lot of camaraderie and fun. My boss was beginning to make a name for himself as a magazine publisher and I was his second in command who ran the finances and operations.

I wasn’t surprised that within a few hours my former boss responded with a kind note. I was very happy to hear from him and the way he sought an update made an impact that has lasted.

“What’s your story?” he asked.

While collecting my thoughts to answer his question it struck me that my story is not simply what I am doing today. Rather it is an evolution best described by a few key highlights that has led me to where I am today. Sometimes those highlights have been highs and sometimes they’ve been lows. Being able to now see my story as a journey helps put things in perspective.

I may want to feel more successful in my business today yet I have to acknowledge where I’ve come from to appreciate how much I have accomplished. And if I am able to look at my life as a story I can imagine how I’d like the story to play out and make the appropriate choices. I feel more in control.

What’s your story and how might you like to change it?

Meditation: Priceless Gifts for Free

I hate to admit this, but I’ve been neglecting my meditation practice lately, big time. I’ve allowed myself to become “too busy.”  The result?  Well, let’s just say that I haven’t been my usual joyful self. I gave myself an inner boost this morning, though, and it made such a difference that I felt inspired to share.

Here are just some of the benefits you might receive in a 20-minute meditation:

  • Be reminded that your life is not about the outside world and all its complications.
  • Experience a sense of privilege to have been given the opportunity to live.
  • Feel closely connected with the energy behind all of life.
  • Remember how you are really supposed to show up.
  • Become refreshed with a deep sense of peace and joy

Would you agree that this list of benefits reads like a seminar you might pay hundreds of dollars for?

Meditation is free. Here’s a great wikiHow article to help you get started.

I’d love to hear your comments on what meditation has done for you.

10 Simple Tips for Managing Stress

I’ve been invited by Dress for Success San Francisco to give a presentation next week on managing stress. As I finished my initial preparation, it occurred to me that with all that is happening in our world these days, everyone could benefit from these 10 simple tips:

  1. Eliminate the idea of lack. Recognize that opportunities to create more abundance are all around you. It’s just a matter of focusing on them and following through.
  2. Look to see a benefit in the stress point – a silver lining or a valuable lesson learned. Choose to see tough economic times as opportunities to work hard and learn how to do what you do better to get and keep the job.
  3. Exercise your right to respond peacefully. A challenging situation does not require an emotionally charged response. Your choice to react peacefully does not mean that you agree with or support the stressor; rather it demonstrates your choice to minimize its negative impact.
  4. Take 15 to 20 minutes a day to sit quietly, relax and surround yourself with the energy of peace.
  5. Learn to accept things you can’t change. Choose to believe that the universe knows more than you about what is best.
  6. Find an exercise you enjoy and do it regularly.
  7. Avoid negative people and environments as much as possible. Do whatever you can to surround yourself with peaceful influences.
  8. Learn to say no. Don’t promise too much. Give yourself enough time to get things done.
  9. Trust in the goodness of the universe. Expect that what you need will be provided.
  10. Join a support group or seek out professionals if you can’t cope on your own. Consider seeking help as a sign that you are smart enough to know it and strong enough to go for it.

I Can: The Secret to the Life You Want

Worry is nothing more than holding mental pictures of things you do not want.

–from I Can, by Ben Sweetland

I found this passage yesterday in the very first self-help book I ever bought. I can’t remember when or where I got my copy of I Can. All I know is that it is the 1978 edition of the book originally copyrighted in 1953.

The memory of this book came to me as I was thinking about my dreams for my work life and fighting the doubts that were darting through my mind. It was as if I was wrestling with what I knew I believed about my own potential and possibilities intellectually versus the doubtful thinking that seems to come so naturally. I really do believe I can do or be anything. But why does it have to be so hard fighting off the demons trying to tell me otherwise?

Can you relate?

Raising Your Vibration: Everyday Tips #1

Those of you who have followed me for awhile have probably noticed that I haven’t been writing much lately. I’ve recently launched a new personal development firm, Inner Architect, and I’m in the midst of writing a new book, Inner Architect: How to Build the Life You Were Designed to Live. The result is that I’ve missed sharing my voice, that inner spirit that I believe is within all of us.

I continue to be surprised at the popularity of my articles about raising your vibration. So I want to do more to service that topic, beginning today.

Raising your vibration is not about esoteric ideas that you can employ every other Saturday during meditation. It’s all about making little shifts in how you show up in ordinary life that transform the energy of what you put out into the universe.

Today’s tip for raising your vibration: Watch Your Language

My father, who I adore, spent his career as a longshoremen on the docks of San Francisco and Oakland, so I am very familiar with “colorful” language. My dad has mellowed over time, and now retired for over 10 years, I honestly can’t recall the last time I heard him swear. Words that used to shock and embarrass me are gone. What remains is an energy of peace and a willingness to share life experiences.

Without even knowing, my father has raised his vibration in a way that influences everyone he meets.

Britney Spears: What Has She Taught You?

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I am constantly looking for the meaning that lies below the surface of an event that has touched my life. I do this because I believe that we are all connected in a divine effort intended to lead us to a higher place. Our connectedness means that we are all in this together. And as much as it may seen difficult to relate, even in all her celebrity mistakes, Britney Spears is a part of our “we”.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to see Britney Spears go up in flames like Anna Nicole Smith. I think we all agree that she needs help. So why don’t we do what we can to help her? And what is that, you might wonder? By consciously thinking about what you have learned from observing her life, and imagine yourself surrounding her with that energy.

Britney has taught me the value of what I sometimes take for granted—my sense of self and my desire for a life with meaning. She’s also shown me that who we were isn’t any indication of who we can become. She’s been an example of how bad choices can ruin the most promising of lives, and that there is always a different choice that can take us around a new corner. While I can’t force these concepts down her throat, I can help her, even if it is just a smidgen of help, by visualizing her understanding what’s she’s taught me. And if enough of us amplify this kind of energy, just maybe she’ll finally get it.

Celebrity Mistakes: Is Jail the Only Justice?

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Lindsay Lohan’s plea deal with provisions for only one day in jail is undergoing some fiery attack. Did she really get off easy?

The message behind this particular question is that punishment is a sentence that can only be experienced outside of ourselves. It acknowledges only the black and white that we can see, taste and touch in the outer world, and fails to consider the goings on of our inner world. If punishment is meant to equate pain, any question about justice should consider first that the greatest pain is that which is felt in the heart.

So when we ask if Lindsay Lohan got off easy, shouldn’t we first take a walk in her shoes? Sure, those shoes are very different than yours and mine. They walk a very different life, one that is watched closely by millions, one whose mistakes are revealed under a microscope on steroids. I don’t know about you, but it seems a lot less painful to spend a few months quietly tucked away serving a very private little jail term than having all of mainstream America pointing out how badly I’ve screwed up.

www.sanctuaryforchange.com

Interview: Inspiration for Happiness

www.sanctuaryforchange.com

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I am delighted to share my space here today with Dr. Susan Gregg, author of The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Short Meditations. I had the honor of asking Susan some questions about the path to happiness and inner peace. I found her answers very inspiring and wanted to share them with you:

SH: I understand that you were schooled in the ancient Toltec tradition with don Miguel Ruiz and Sister Sarita. What is it about the Toltec teachings that resonate so deeply with you?

SG: Ever since I was a young girl I have been fascinated by the idea of freedom and the essence of the Toltec tradition is experiencing personal freedom.

SH: The choice to feel happy is something you focus on in your teaching. Do you find happiness a more organic choice living in Hawaii than one might find living in the mainland states? What is it about Hawaii that calls you?

SG: I believe we can be happy no matter what is happening around us – we can be in the midst of tremendous change and still be happy. So I can be happy in the middle of an airport when I have been traveling for 28 hours, as is the case when I go to Europe once a year to work in Lithuania.

I love Hawaii. I love the people, the feel of the land, the smell of the air and the climate. It is easy to say of course I am happy – I live in paradise. I live in the country surrounded by luscious greenery. But the essence of what I teach people is how to be happy no matter what. I have seen people who are miserable in Hawaii. I love Hawaii so of course I live in a place that is most suited to me and reflects inner self.

Happiness is always just a thought away – so I invite people to think that thought. I used to have a coffee mug that said blossom where you are planted – I blossom here and wherever you are you can blossom and grow too.


SH:
A question was posed by one of my readers recently asking for some advice on how one can stay focused on positive thoughts despite the pull of the outside world. What would your advice be?


SG:
Life is emotionally neutral. Life is and then we tell ourselves a story. I suggest people let go of the idea of positive and negative. When I watch the news I see events – some people make choices based on judgment and fear. If I perceive them as bad or judge them, it is like trying to put out a fire by throwing gasoline on it. So when I watch the news I send those people love.

I find it much easier to change my perspective than to stop having negative thoughts. If I say don’t think about a red fire truck you immediately think about one. I frequently ask myself, “How can I see this through the eyes of love?” and “What would love do?” Seeing through the eyes of love allows me to see the love in everything.


SH:
How did the decision to produce Idiot’s Guide to Short Meditations come to you?


SG:
My literary agent contacted me and asked me if I would be interested in writing it. I love meditation and always do guided meditations for my groups so it seemed like a wonderful fit. I really enjoyed writing it and have gotten wonderful feedback from readers.


SH:
What would your advice be for someone who wants to start a meditation practice, but doesn’t know how to begin or feels intimidated?


SG:
The easiest way to start meditating is by simply focusing your attention on your breath. Whenever your mind wanders just gently bring it back to feeling your breath. I also suggest people set aside time each day to meditate – even if it is only a few minutes. Spiritual practices take practice and with practice meditation becomes easier and very rewarding.


SH:
What would you tell them to expect in their early days of practice?


SG:
They will have lots of thoughts and that’s okay. Just like going to a gym – if you go regularly and work out, eventually your body will get in shape. Allow meditation to be easy and allow whatever happens be okay. My mantra about meditation and life for that matter is allow it all to be easy and effortless and savor every moment. Savor learning how to meditate, you can only be new to meditation when you are new to it – so savor being new to the process.


SH:
You have been a teacher of human potential for many years. How would you describe the evolution of human consciousness that you’ve experienced over the years?


SG:
Life just keeps getting better and better. Once we connect with our spirit magic and miracles become a part of every day life. And I have watched people make it so much harder than it needs to be. I did for a long time until I realized I could enjoy it all.


SH:
Is there any other specific message you’d like to leave with our readers here?


SG:
Give yourself the gift of happiness. Be willing to let go of your limiting beliefs and allow yourself to feel the love that always surrounds you. We never experience life. What we actually experience is our personal story about life – change the story and your experience changes. Once you realize you are making up the story may as well make it a good one!

SG: Thanks so much for having me. Aloha from paradise.

I’d encourage you to check out Susan’s book. Follow the link to her site to obtain a personally autographed copy.

Thanks for visiting. Here’s to choosing happiness!

Susan Hanshaw
susan@susanhanshaw.com