25 Ways to Make a Difference in the World Every Day

“The way to gain a good reputation is to endeavor to be what you desire to appear.” ~Socrates

When I started Tiny Buddha, my main goal was to make a positive difference. I think that’s a goal many of us share.

I’ve stumbled upon countless blog and books written by people who say their purpose in life is to help people.

I suspect it’s how most of us infuse our lives with meaning: trying to somehow leave the world a better place than we found it.

I recently read a somewhat old blog post by ex-Microsoft employee Scott Berkun that got me thinking about this collective fascination with making a difference in the world. He wrote:

“We rarely need big things. As soon as someone starts talking about changing the world or radically reinventing something odds are good he’s talking from his ego, not his heart. Unless he’s working on bringing safety to the scared, health to the sick, or opportunity to the poor, the reinvention serves a want (or an ego), not a need.”

He went to explain how on his last day at Microsoft, he gave a lecture and one of his colleagues thanked him for the first time, saying he’d never expressed his admiration before because he assumed it was apparent. According to Scott:

“…it takes a better man to acknowledge goodness in others than it does to merely be good oneself. Anyone can criticize or accept praise, but initiating a positive exchange is a hallmark of a difference maker.”

What a beautiful idea. I couldn’t agree more.

Still, I don’t know if it’s possible to completely relinquish the ego, and I also don’t know if that’s a bad thing. I suspect some of the people who invented or reinvented “big things” to bring safety to the scared, health to the sick, or opportunity to the poor were, at least on some level, driven by the desire to be remembered for making a difference.

It’s human nature to want to create some type of legacy—to not just do good things but also be known for them. There’s no need to vilify that type of desire when you consider it’s primal in all of us.

So much is uncertain in life, particularly what happens after we die. We can’t understand or control where we’re going, but we can influence what we leave behind. Why feel guilty for natural human instincts when those same instincts contribute to a lot of the good in the world?

That being said, we can simultaneously make major contributions to society—both to help other people and feel good about our choices—while making a difference in our everyday lives. We can do things both large and small, for others and ourselves, every day if we choose to.

With that in mind, I recently asked on the Tiny Buddha Facebook page. Some of my favorite responses include:

1. Wake up. ~Karen Maezen Miller

2. Make a difference in yourself, for the better. Such an inward difference always has rippling outward benefits. ~Hansoul Kim

3. Remember there are three poisons: greed, anger, and ignorance. Do not deny their existence but turn them around and you have generosity, compassion, and wisdom. ~Clifton Bradley

4. Make it a habit to respect everyone. ~Margarita Medina

5. Consider the people you see each day. Sometimes I get wrapped up in things I am working on— fundraisers etc. But the coworker, family member, pet right next to you are the people you can truly reach and touch. ~Amy E. Moore

6. Operate from a place of love. ~ Erika Gonzalez

7. Be kind to others. In this busy world people become self consumed and forget that kindness goes a long way. ~ Ana Stuckart

8. Acknowledge the light within myself and in others. Not always easy to do but feels so powerful when I am able to do so. ~Maria Thieme

9. Talk to someone that you think might be in distress. You may make the difference of a lifetime. ~Alexander De Raadt St.James

10. Simply show up. Just by put your soul into it. If you show up physically with the soles of your feet, the heart, mind, and soul will have a chance to follow or catch up. You may not want to be there in the beginning, but showing up allows a committed chance at making a difference everyday for the people you love, the people you will meet, and the eventual person you will become. Show up. ~Holli Grant

11. Smile. ~Seret Rafferty

12. Be more involved in the world. You can’t be spectator forever. ~Christina Breeden

13. Be the change you wish to see in the world! ~April Spears paraphrasing Gandhi

14. Be gentle and practice sympathetic joy. ~Susan Cross

15. Start really listening to the people around you. Your family for example. People crave for attention. People feel loved when given attention.. Give love. And listening is an act of love. ~Leoni Erica Tayamen

16. Listen. Give. Do. ~Phyllis Fenander

17. Teach your kids by example; be caring, open minded, have good manners and remember to smile. ~Paivi McKittrick

18. Look into your child’s eyes. Stop what you are doing, sit down, and just look into them. Do that every day and you will change the world. ~Noel Cocca

19. Be a true you…positive energy attracts. ~Jane George

20. Love. ~Stephen Kreins

21. I quote the great Horatio Lee Jenkins: “Don’t worry—everything is going to be awesome!” ~Carl Dangers

22. Find someone that needs a smile and give them that smile, once a day for the rest of your life, and like a ripple in a pond it will be carried onwards. ~SoulLife Searcher

23. Speak without saying a word. A lot can be said without words. ~Ralph Rocha

24. Learn to be aware of all the wonder we have around us, let the past be in the past and not part of the future. Choose life every day, be grateful for whatever you have, and most important share, share, share—spread as much love as you can. ~Lula Insfran

25. Hakuna mattata, one love, pay it forward. ~Kerin Colby

How are you making a difference in the world?

Photo by Tony the Misfit

How Using Our Gifts Brings Joy to the World

Happy

“Man is only truly great when he acts from his passions.”  ~Benjamin Disraeli

Like many of us, I had a difficult childhood. My parents’ relationship was unhappy and unhealthy, and their misery left me feeling alone, afraid, and anxious most of the time.

My environment was so unpredictable that I often withdrew from family and friends, losing myself in the comfort of my own creativity.

I fell in deep and indescribable love with music at a very young age. The radio became my confidant, my protector, my therapist, my escape. I would sing and preen and pose like a rock star, imagining thousands of frenzied fans singing my songs back to me with tears in their eyes.

Music inspired me to do everything. Create art. Write songs. Sing. Dance. Act.

By the time I was a teenager, I knew exactly who I was and what I wanted to be. I was a good writer—infinitely curious about people and what made them tick. And music was my passion.

I wanted to travel the world as a rock journalist, follow my favorite bands, write about their lives and music, and live like a rock star. And one day I would start my own band, get onstage, and be a rock star. Those things would be my “gift” to the world.

But it never happened.

I listened to people who told me my dreams were too big. That jobs for rock journalists were few and far between. That I wasn’t being realistic and would never make a good living that way.

So I did what I thought I should. I found a stable corporate writing job that offered health benefits and a nice retirement plan. And eventually, I lost touch with the creative, spontaneous, audacious girl with gigantic rock-star dreams.

I shifted my focus to a more responsible, practical life. I had no time for frivolous hobbies or daydreams. And very soon, I was restless, bored, angry, and miserable.

I changed jobs often and with every new job, my misery deepened. My anger escalated. I wasn’t sure why.  

I blamed the work. I blamed the environment. I even blamed the people I worked with.

It was only through an extended bout with depression that I uncovered the greatest source of my anger and unhappiness. During a therapy session, my counselor encouraged me to think back to when I was happy in my life.

“What were you doing that made you happy, Angela?” she asked. “How did you spend your time then? How did it make you feel?”

I realized that I was happiest when I was using my creative gifts: music, writing, art, and performance. Using my gifts made me feel like me. And hiding them away was making me miserable.

So I committed to re-discovering my creative self and honoring my gifts. It was scary for me, so I started small. I committed to one hip-hop dance class.

And suddenly the damn was broken. Before I knew it, I was singing again, designing jewelry, taking photographs, teaching myself to play the guitar. Anything and everything that sparked a creative fire in me was fair game.

And very soon after, I felt happy! Like me. Like I had taken in a huge breath and finally let go. I became more positive, more optimistic, more joyful than ever.

This journey has taught me so many things about the gifts we’ve all been given and why it’s so important to honor them:

Our gifts are an expression of our deepest selves.

They’re not just things we “do” with our time. Our gifts reflect who we are at our very core, and who the world needs us to be. When we deny that, we deny our true nature and cause ourselves great pain.

Using our gifts keeps us aligned with a purpose.

Our gifts point us in the right direction, help us focus, and show us a clear path to joy. When we discover our gifts and learn how to use them, we no longer worry about who we are and why we’re here.

Using our gifts builds our confidence and self-esteem.

Many of us have to push past a great deal of fear and resistance to use our gifts. Every time we do that, we feel more confident about pushing even further, and more certain that everything we’re doing is a step in the right direction.

Our gifts fill us up and validate us.

Using our gifts make us feel whole and deeply fulfilled. Having that measure of happiness in our lives keep us from seeking fulfillment and validation in empty vices, material attachments, addictions, and unhealthy relationships.

Our gifts help us help others.

When we do what we’re good at—what we truly love to do—and we share it with the world, it helps other people find their way, too.

I’ve started writing again and getting back in touch with that audacious girl with huge rock-and-roll dreams—the one who still jumps up and down and screams out loud when her favorite band comes to town. I think the world really needs her.

I’m also working with a mentor who encourages, guides, and supports me with an incredible amount of patience, compassion, and humor.

This journey has been tough. I’ve spent a lot of time questioning and second-guessing myself and my gifts. But I’m thrilled to report that I’ve finally surrendered. In fact, should I ever backslide into questions and self-doubt again, I’ve asked my mentor to reply as follows:

“Shhhhhhh. Faith, Angela. Keep writing.”

Photo by sFret.

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About Angela Brown

Angela Brown is a writer, Reiki practitioner, singer/songwriter, musician, artist, dancer, meditator, yoga enthusiast, and voracious reader who has an absolutely unhealthy obsession with music. She is sharing her Reiki services and her journey to self re-discovery on her web site: www.soulmuchbetter.com.

Living Your Legacy: How Will You Touch Others’ Lives?

Kindness

“The greatest gift is a portion of thyself.” ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

Recently a friend asked me what kind of legacy I want to leave for future generations. It was an unexpected question that really got my wheels turning.

Usually when people pass away there is a huge focus on the things they owned and who gets what, and the idea of handing down ideas and values was a totally new way to look at it.

What if the most important gift we can give our descendants is not a tangible item, but a piece of ourselves?

It seemed revolutionary!

So I started thinking about the things my loved ones (the ones still living and the ones who have passed) have shared with me.

I thought back to the backyard parties my grandparents used to have with friends, food, and music. My grandfather played guitar and sang us children’s songs in Spanish.

My dad’s sisters had been dancers in their youth, and as kids we would play for hours in my grandmother’s attic, trying on their colorful costumes and playing make believe. My mom’s sisters and brothers shared their love of games and books with us.

Some things were passed on and taken to heart. These are the ones that I want to continue as part of my legacy.

My grandparents on both sides demonstrated deeply held faith and never missed church on Sunday. Even at ninety-five my grandmother still gets upset that the family won’t let her walk to church whenever she wants.

My path isn’t the same as theirs, but I hope to inspire a deep connection, with self, loved ones, and with the divine.

There is magic in connection. Take the time to listen. It’s so easy to hurry through life, but it’s over too quickly and there is so much to learn and enjoy when you stop and take in the stories that are shared with you.

The stories of my grandfather bringing home people who needed a meal are family legend, and I have seen my dad fill a bag of groceries from our refrigerator to give to a young mother who was in need.

A few years ago my brother gave his Christmas money to a single father who needed holiday gifts for his kids. And those are just a few examples.

I like to say that generosity runs in my family. I am but one link in a long chain of sharing and lending helping hand to those who were in need.

And what I know is that the energy of giving is extremely powerful, and generous actions will bring you as much blessing as it brings to those you help. I hope to be a good example of generosity in action.

I have vivid memories of all of these things. They have become a part of who I am and I hope they will become part of future generations.

I’ve also learned a few things of my own that I want to pass along.

I hope I can leave others with a belief in the goodness and the magic of the world outside their door. Because I know that there is beauty everywhere, you just need to open your eyes and take it in.

And I want to be a reminder that you should keep going when things get hard. If I learned anything through my own hardships and challenges, it’s that I was stronger than I ever thought.

Going through divorce, financial struggles and bankruptcy, job loss, entrepreneurship, moving to a new state—all challenging—all tested me in ways I never could have imagined. I came out the other side stronger than ever before, and I will again when the next challenge pops up.

I want to remind people not to think about how you will find the strength; instead, just keep moving and the strength will come.

Looking at what I have taken in from others and also what I have learned from my own experiences has been a powerful exploration of who I am and what I hope to leave behind.

And I realized that in order to be that example, in order to pass on these beliefs and values, I have to live them consciously, right now.

Knowing the legacy I want to leave behind helps me stay focused on what I’m doing in the present so that my goals are in line with that legacy. It offers a concrete sense of purpose in choosing what I am giving my energy to.

And the whole concept of legacy can be a deeply powerful way of connecting with others. Looking at your roots, ancestral, blood family, cultural, spiritual, or whatever avenue you choose to explore, connects you to those who have gone before you.

Planning the legacy you are leaving behind connects you to those whose lives you touch, and that they touch, and so on, potentially for generations to come.

I encourage you to take some time and really look at the things you carry on from past generations. See what you need to leave behind, as well as, what you want to carry forward.

What’s your legacy?

Photo by SonicPower451

Realizing You’re Enough Instead of Trying to Fix Yourself

You Are Good Enough

“If you concentrate on what you don’t have, you will never, ever have enough.” ~Oprah Winfrey

Seven years ago I discovered a world of healing, energy, and spirituality. It came at a particularly hard time in my life. Everything that could go wrong seemed to have.

First, I picked up a bug while travelling, which left me unable to hold down food for over eight weeks, and doctors told me there was nothing more they could do.

Then, there were secondary infections, which I learned I might have to live with for life.

I was being bullied at work and then walked away from my friends. Both of these experiences were extremely stressful and a great source of pain. Then, two weeks after moving to a new country to start afresh, one of my best friends died suddenly.

The first twenty-five carefree years of my life exploded in my face, and confusion set in.

In a desperate quest to find answers, happiness, and peace again I went searching, and what an awesome world I found!

It started with discovering kinesiology and developed into a learning of healing foods, chakras, and energy healing. Yoga and meditation followed, along with personal development seminars and stacks of self-development books.

And all for a good reason—each of these disciplines was quite literally changing my life.

One by one, they helped me unravel subconscious layers from the past and release old stagnant energy, emotions, and beliefs that were no longer needed.

For example, if I felt angry and frustrated from work, I would pop in for a kinesiology session and walk away upbeat and happy. If I got upset after an argument with my husband, I’d run off to heal the part of me that was causing this to arise, and skip home loving and free.

To say these quick fixes became addictive would be an understatement.

Then, over the last year I kept getting the same lines repeated to me over and over again. Healers telling me my work with them “was done,” my kinesiologist telling me I’d “got it” a while ago now, and friends reflecting left, right, and center that “I’m there.”

The problem was that I could not see it. Surely there is no final destination, and besides, there were still so many things to fix. I didn’t feel “there.”

My addiction to fixing myself had kicked in. Even though I know we are all human and will never be perfect, I felt the need to keep on clearing as much of the imperfect away until I got “there.”

But “there” was not coming, at least not in my eyes, and frustration started building. I believe this addiction formed due to a deeply hidden belief that I was not fundamentally good enough.

I thought that if I healed enough, sooner or later I would be “fixed.” I would be good enough—but I was missing the truth, the truth that we are always good enough exactly as we are.

We will all encounter lessons as we walk through life and, of course, healing can help us move through these, but fundamentally, we are always already good enough. This part I was slow to grasp.

Along this journey I had walked away from a career in advertising to follow my passion for nutrition, leveraging all I had learned to become a coach. What I didn’t see coming was the second cousin to “healing” and the old pattern formed under the guise of “business development.”

All of a sudden I would never be a success unless I had mastered a zillion courses on marketing, sales, coaching, webinars, and list building.

No matter what I did I couldn’t hold on to the money I was making—so I looped back into the healing world looking for answers to my money blocks.

Then came the clincher: My income dramatically increased—and, you guessed it, I still spent every cent each month on the next skill I needed to learn or block I needed to clear.

At the same time I noticed I was getting angry with healers and “experts,” as they repeatedly told me what I already knew.

Something wasn’t adding up any longer. Luckily, the person I turned to for advice supported me to process the most amazing realization for myself:

I discovered that I had been through an intense period of learning, that over the last seven years I had been absorbing “universe lessons.”

It was time to step out of the Universe-ity classroom and start truly living all that I had learned. And with so much knowledge under my belt, it was also time to pass it on to others.

It’s not that we will ever stop learning—it’s just that we have to start using the tools in our everyday lives, as opposed to conducting an ongoing search to fix ourselves.

Through my journey, I have learned that it is common for us to get these lessons in the spiritual realm, but not bring them to life in the physical world.

At some stage along the path I had started focusing on what was still “broken” instead of how amazing things had become.

I was so blinded by this thought pattern that I was unable to receive the joy and pleasure already surrounding me.

By shifting from the energy of “not enough yet” to realizing I already am, I’ve found the peace to step forward and apply all that I’ve learned, and inspire others to do the same.

I now know that I am already so much more than “enough,” and it’s now time to graduate from Universe-ity!

So I invite you to check in on your own motive for healing. Are you desperately trying to fix a part of you that you deem wrong, shameful, or bad? Or, can you accept that you are already perfect exactly as you are now, shadow and all, even if you still have room to grow?

Are you ready to relax and let your journey unfold exactly as it is supposed to?

Photo here

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About Amanda Daley

Amanda Daley wakes up most mornings with so much energy she (almost) doesn’t know what to do with it. Her signature program, The Fuel Formula, is dedicated to helping busy, driven women achieve that same experience via clean eating, simple stress management, and bucket loads of joy.

How to Heal From Rejection: 5 Steps to Soothe the Pain

Feel Alone

“Never confuse a single defeat with a final defeat.” ~F. Scott Fitzgerald

I spent years training as a psychologist, waiting for the day I would graduate and finally have time to explore my second passion—writing.

When I opened a private practice I left my mornings free, and over the next fourteen years I wrote six screenplays, two novels, and a children’s book. But mostly I wrote letters, thousands of them, to agents, editors, and producers, asking them to read my work.

They rejected every manuscript I sent them.

After fourteen years of rejection, my mood, my confidence, my motivation, and my hope of ever being published or produced were fading. I felt too drained, too wounded to continue writing. I knew I needed to heal.

Since I was a psychologist, my first move was to check out the latest research on rejection. I was especially curious to see if anything was known about why rejections cause such strong emotional pain. (As we all know, social and romantic rejections can be excruciating.)

What I found was rather surprising. Functional MRI studies revealed that the same areas of the brain become activated when we experience rejection as when we experience physical pain. In other words, rejections hurt because they literally mimic physical pain in our brain.

I also discovered there are five things we can do to sooth the emotional pain rejections elicit, as well as to speed our psychological recovery:

1. Stop the bleeding.

One of the most common reactions people have to a rejection is to become self-critical. We list all our faults, lament all our shortcomings, and chastise ourselves endlessly. Romantic rejections cause some of us to employ an inner dialogue so harsh that it verges on abusive. We then convince ourselves we somehow deserve it.

Yet, by kicking our self-esteem when it’s already down, we are only making our psychological injury worse, deepening our emotional wounds, and significantly delaying our recovery.

2. Revive your self-worth.

The best way to restore confidence, motivation, and especially self-esteem after a bruising rejection is to use a self-affirmation exercise. Self-affirmations remind us of our actual skills and abilities and by doing so, affirm our value in the domain in which we experienced the rejection.

The exercise has two steps. First, make a list of qualities you have you know have value, and second, write a brief essay about one of them. (I wrote about what I believed was my strongest attribute as a writer—my perseverance.) By writing a couple of paragraphs about one of our strengths, we remind ourselves of what we have to offer and revive our self-esteem.

3. Connect to those who appreciate and love you.

Getting rejected also destabilizes our ‘need to belong,’ which is why we often feel so unsettled and restless after a romantic or social rejection. Our need to ‘belong’ dates back to our days of living in small nomadic tribes, when being away from our tribe was always dangerous and sitting among them was a source of comfort.

One way to settle ourselves after a rejection is to reach out to our core group—be they friends, colleagues, or family members—to get emotional support from them and remind ourselves we’re valued, loved, and wanted.

4. Assess potential changes.

At times we might need to reassess our strategy, especially after multiple rejections (or in my case, many hundreds).

Perhaps the friends who’ve fixed us up with romantic prospects who are never interested aren’t the best matchmakers. Maybe our online profile or pictures need to be updated, or it’s possible we’re getting rejected from potential jobs because we need to brush up our interview skills.

My own aha moment (an insight that was obvious to everyone except me) came when a writer friend said to me, “Fourteen years, huh? Have you thought maybe you should skip the novels and write about psychology, since you know, that’s what you do…?”

5. Try again soon.

Another common reaction to rejection is to avoid any situation that might expose us to additional pain. We might not want to date for a while, or go on new job interviews, or make new friends, or in my case, start another writing project.

But that’s an impulse we have to fight.

Avoiding situations only makes us more fearful of them. Hesitant as I was to start writing again, I decided to heed my friend’s advice. I did a few months of research and started writing again. This time, it was a non-fiction proposal for a psychology/self-help book.

I held my breath and sent it to an agent. She liked it and submitted it to several publishing houses.

They did not reject it.

Rejection is a form of psychological injury, one that can and should be treated. The next time your feelings hurt after a rejection, take action, treat your emotional wounds, and heal.

Photo by Tanya Little

Let Yourself Be Instead of Pushing to Get Things Done

Just Be

“When you try to control everything, you enjoy nothing. Sometimes you just need to relax, breathe, let go and live in the moment.” ~Unknown

Recently I went to an annual fall retreat for my graduate program. This was exactly what my heart was longing for up until this point. I felt overworked by school and overwhelmed by the busyness of the city and suburban life. I needed something different, something that would help me feel more grounded and at ease.

We went out to Middle-of-no-where-on-top-a-mountain, California where the only sign of civilization was the four-way highway down below. I’m originally from Middle-of-no-where, Illinois so being in nature felt like home to me.

I’m very familiar and comfortable with nature, and I felt I had been greatly neglecting that deep desire to connect with nature once again.

This was not the first time I felt disconnected. During my eighteen months living abroad in Korea I hardly spent time in nature. With so many buildings, cars, and people, I felt easily overwhelmed with other people’s energy and completely out of balance.

Many of us feel this way in our modern day technology and go-go-go lifestyles. We tend to feel drained, tired, easily irritated, and stressed.

Because of this imbalance, I noticed it was common to have fleeting thoughts like:

“Agh, why the heck can’t I find a parking spot?!”

“Darnit, I’m going to be late. People, get out of my way!”

“Why on earth does this line have to be so long?”

Though I noticed that many of these thoughts come and go rather quickly, the energy produced from them would “stick” and make it harder to be present.

These types of thoughts are very common because our habitual minds (or egos) want things done now rather than to simply be during the experience and get things done in our own time.

Our ego is the part of us that likes to reject the moment and focus on the future rather than accept what is in the present so we can experience joy. 

So rather than being anxious and frustrated about not finding a parking place, we accept the moment and trust that, regardless of this minor obstacle, everything is wonderful and as it should be.

Although my intention for the retreat was to feel relaxed, rejuvenated, and refreshed, by the end of the day I didn’t quite feel this way. I felt my time there wasn’t long enough. I wanted to spend time being present with the sound of the crickets and to marvel over the smells of nature so much more.

Despite my inner longing for more time to connect with nature, I felt my responsibilities were forcing me to go back.

However, once I returned to suburban life, I didn’t fall into typical morning and day routine. I kept feeling my body pushing me to do something else. I woke up and went for an early morning walk. This time, without my phone—just my keys.

As I walked, I noticed and marveled over the large evergreens outside of my apartment. I noticed the maple leaves on the ground with beautiful fall colors. I listened closely to the sound of water fountains and allowed myself to feel peace from the sounds.

This peaceful feeling carried into the afternoon where I avoided watching television or doing any work. Rather, I simply did yoga—and not in a structured, routine video kind of way but simply a “do the move I feel I need to do right now” kind of way.

I realized I didn’t need an escape from the city; all I needed was an escape from myself—my own mind. All I needed was to just sit back, relax, and just be without any motive or push to do things.

In our society we are hardwired to always be doing something. We tell ourselves that we have to go grocery shopping, do laundry, take out the trash, exercise, work, study, watch TV, and so on. How often do we do things without the pressure to do but rather to be?

Why don’t we simply be when we take out the trash? Why don’t we simply be when we exercise? Why don’t we simply be when we clean our house or apartment?

To “simply be” means to be connected. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter what we are doing but rather the feeling behind the action. In other words, what thoughts are you having during the activity? 

Are you in your mind, rejecting the moment, or accepting what is? Are you complaining about having to do the activity or are you making the most of it? Are you all preoccupied with all the other things you need to do today or are you simply being present with what you are currently doing?

When we reject, complain, or are preoccupied with thoughts about the past or future, we create this inner pressure within ourselves that causes the symptoms of stress. However, if we simply accept what is and choose to enjoy and really take in what life has to offer, at that moment, then we can be stress-free.

When we let go of the need to push and “get things done now,” we can actually enjoy ourselves. When we choose to accept the present moment, we can then experience a sense of peace, calm, and joy of life. We can enjoy the moment for what it truly is.

Think of all the various things you need to do today, tomorrow, or this week. What tasks can you shift yourself from “pushing to get it done” into simply allowing yourself to be so you can simply enjoy the moment?

Perhaps you can focus on the present while…

  • Exercising
  • Cleaning the kitchen floor
  • Doing dishes
  • Watering your plants
  • Feeding your pet
  • Walking in the morning
  • Driving to work

When we choose to let go and just be in the moment, we can fully enjoy what life has to offer us right now, with no formal nature retreat required!

I challenge you to choose a daily task this week where you are going to try to simply be while doing it. What can you start doing today to help you be more present?

Photo by Hartwig HKD

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About Jennifer Twardowski

Jennifer is a self and relationship life coach and teacher. She helps 20-something women overcome codependency and people-pleassing so they can create fulfilling relationships and live empowering lives. Learn more about Jennifer at jennifertwardowski.com. You can also follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

Mystical Moments: 10 Ways to Feel More Engaged and Alive

Meditation

“Your daily life is your temple and your religion. Whenever you enter into it take with you your all.” ~Kahlil Gibran

I had to learn the hard way that you don’t have to walk across hot coals or move to the desert and eat locusts and honey in order to have a mystical, life-changing experience.

As a young man I was anxious and driven, always looking ahead to another goal, always hoping to find some ultimate experience. I believed that life was a challenge that needed to be constantly tackled. Often, this meant feeling overworked and pulled-apart, and I failed to enjoy the journey of life.

I joined the Peace Corps with the naïve goal of saving the world and finding some kind of grand purpose. Instead, the complexity of our world’s problems befuddled me.

I went abroad to help people and they ended up helping me.

Growing up surrounded by wealth, I didn’t understand true kindness until my poor neighbors shared their simple meals with me. Raised in a culture where we are encouraged to hoard our wealth, I did not understand generosity until strangers welcomed me into their crumbling homes and offered me gifts right off their shelves.

As I’ve gotten older, had kids, and experienced successes and failures, I’m still learning that the true measure of our lives is the way we enjoy the simplest experiences.

Perhaps the gap between rich and poor does not matter as much as the gap between those who can enjoy the moment and those who can’t. And this is what the great mystics have always said.

After trying to climb mountains, I learned that sometimes the simplest, most down-to-earth things, like how you eat an orange or enjoy the smile of a child, are the moments that make life amazing.

A mystical experience is any experience where you pause and touch the perfect, wonderful present moment in a tangible and fresh way. Life is full of great opportunities. Be an instant mystic. Here are ten simple ways (nudity and drums optional).

1. Play with a child. Play like a child.

Children are the ultimate Zen masters. They come out of the womb fully enlightened, completely living in the moment, taking every experience in without all the extra layers of thought and worry we pile on. Then, sadly, they become adults.

But you can get some of this back by dropping the rake, the bills, and the dishes in order to push toy cars, throw leaves, and make snow angels. Lose yourself in the moment. Act silly. Make a fool of yourself.

Mystics often are mistaken for idiots. No kids available? I can loan you three, or I’m sure you have a friend or neighbor who would oblige as well.

2. Laugh hard.

Humor is a great way to shake off painful emotions and transcend the everyday.

After a tough day, my wife and I will hit the internet and watch a few Saturday Night Live skits or some of the Colbert Report just to loosen us up and remind our heads that life should not be taken too seriously. A family tickle fest never hurts either.

3. Attend a new spiritual service.

Historically, church functioned as a weekly stopping point for people to reflect and connect. That’s great. But church can become a rut, especially if you go every week to hear the same book read by the same person who usually says the same stuff.

Try a new service. Unitarian. Wiccan. Buddhist. Catholic. I recently tried out a Quaker service. We sat in complete silence for an hour. At first, I was petrified. I wanted to run out screaming. But then I settled into this beautiful state of relaxed peace.

4. Read a mystical book by an enlightened person.

There are so many great spiritual books out there that can help you step out of your frantic, everyday life and get you to look into to the soul. Eckhart Tolle is a current best-selling author with lots of good stuff. Fr. Anthony DeMello’s Awareness is wonderful and challenging. I love reading Allan Watts as a way to stretch my spiritual imagination.

Pick up a Zen book, like Zen Flesh, Zen Bones, and puzzle over some of the classic riddles (called Koans). Or grab a classic in mystical living by the likes of Brother Lawrence, Meister Eckhart, Rumi, or Lao Tzu.

5. Walk alone in the woods or by a river.

No headphones. No talking. Walk slowly. You’re not working out your body; you’re working out your soul. Use a simple mantra or mindful phrase, like “In-Out, Deep-Slow, Calm-Ease, Smile-Release,” to stop your incessant thinking.

Spiritual master Krishnamurti once summarized the essence of all mystical practices in two words: “don’t think.” When you’re alone in nature, your ego falls away, leaving you with yourself.

6. Stargaze.

Head to the country at night and lay out under the sky. Stargazing is a great way to remember the vastness of the universe. Inside us is that same vastness. We are made from atoms that were once part of the cosmos.

Being mystical is not about floating away on a cloud of euphoria. It’s about fully being in the perfect moment. The stars are there every night. Are we?

7. Listen to a great symphony or opera.

A mystical experience can be any experience that forces you to slow down and activate new parts of your brain, triggering insight and expansive thinking. I love indie-rock, but after a long day of work, music without words gives space for my spinning brain to slow down.

8. Fast.

Fasting has been used as a mystical practice for centuries by nearly every tradition out there, and that was back when food was hard to come by! It’s a great way to test your self-control, learn to deal with difficult feelings, let go of ingrained habits, and commune with those less fortunate in the world. And it’s free. (Of course, with eating disorders on the rise, please make sure this practice is right for you by consulting with your doctor.)

9. Volunteer.

Get outside of your life, literally, and wrap yourselves up in someone else’s. I recommend spending time with the elderly, people who were alive before iPhones and Google (hard to believe). Consider not telling anybody what you’re doing; otherwise, volunteering just becomes another way to strengthen the ego.

10. Meditate.

Meditation is the mystical practice used for millennia by countless great spiritual thinkers. It’s been proven by scientists to extend life and increase happiness. Isn’t it worth giving a try?

Stop your mind for a few moments. Look for the one inside you who knows you know. Count your breathing. Use one of Thich Nhat Hanh’s simple mindful meditations: “Breathing in, I smile; breathing out, I relax.”

By meditating, you change yourself and the world. You transform your soul with silence and transform the planet by creating a small, but powerful, pocket of peace.

If you really struggle with sitting still and calming your mind, use some light yoga. There are many great instructors out there who combine meditation techniques with yoga. Try ten or twenty minutes for a few days in a row. Notice the changes. You’ll be surprised.

A mystical moment is simply any moment when you are fully alive, in the present, embracing what is happening. Doing dishes can be a mystical experience! But if all else fails, there’s always sitting naked in a cave beating a drum.

Photo by Cornelia Kopp

Avatar of Andrew Andestic

About Andrew Andestic

Writer, musician, father, jail teacher, and wanna-be mystic Andrew Andestic founded Tall Trees Grow Deep, a site devoted to creating and sharing universal activities that inspire contemplation, compassion, mindfulness, and awesomeness in our young people.

Release the Fear of Not Measuring Up and Share Your Light

cartwheel

“You’re imperfect, and you’re wired for struggle, but you are worthy of love and belonging.” ~Brené Brown

I believe that it is part of the human condition to want love and connection with others. For some of us this comes much more naturally and abundantly than it does for others.

The universal thing we all share is that at some point along our life journey, there will come a time when our self-worth is on the table for questioning.

I can clearly recall the first time my self-confidence was rocked. I was seven years old and full of energy, life, and good old-fashioned cheer.

I spent endless summer hours skipping rope, riding bikes, playing tag with the neighborhood kids, and had recently discovered the art of performing cartwheels on the back lawn—what a rush!

At the time we lived in a duplex. My mom was a single mom. My dad passed away when I was only six months old, leaving my older brother Eric and I behind.

Of course I didn’t realize it at the time, but while my mom was the most amazing mom around, I didn’t have a male role model in my life and must have really felt that loss.

My mom and I still share a giggle over a story from when I was two years old. I very eagerly staggered out into the street during a holiday parade to profess my love or “wuv” for the policemen and firemen as they passed by.

It just so happened we had a police officer living next door to us. It was a warm summer evening and he had guests out on his deck enjoying a barbeque. I also just so happened to be outside once again, perfecting my cartwheel.

I remember gearing up to showcase them my newly honed skill. I composed myself and very deliberately set off down our bumpy, sloped lawn toward their deck.

I gave them one impeccable cartwheel after the other, without any break in between, until I reached the end of the lawn and the start of the blackberry bush.

I turned to face them with a victory smile and a silent “ta-da!” but instead of receiving anticipated applause and approval, I was met with roars of laughter and a snicker: “Wow, what a showoff this one is!”

I was instantly deflated and utterly crushed.

I clearly remember feeling the heavy pit in my stomach, and the accompanying sting of tears and hurt I fought back as the heat rose from my belly to my cheeks. At seven years old I stood there with my heart wide open, looking for approval only to feel squashed and ashamed.

Fast-forward another twenty-eight years and it all sounds a bit silly to me now, yet somehow the hurt is still quick for me to recall.

This was, of course, not the experience that taught me the great life lesson of expressing and honoring my worth as a human being.

That came much later with far more extensive bruises, bumps, and lessons, but this memory is one that stands out to me because it was the first time I ever thought to myself “Maybe I am not good enough, and maybe I never will be.”

I don’t believe there is a human out there that doesn’t have this inner child in them that yearns for the reassurance that they are okay. Most of us have had at least one experience somewhere along the line that has left the lingering question of whether or not we are good enough.

I think we all carry these wounds around with us. Some of us face unthinkable things and suffer from much deeper wounds and fears than others.

I guess the point is, at any given time we are surrounded by others that have felt insecure and unloved, that worry about being worthy of belonging and can relate to what may be one of our biggest fears.

I just can’t help but think if we all gave ourselves permission to not be so hard on ourselves, or to each other, the ride could be a little gentler. When we come back to that place in life where our hearts are open, we are less likely to be so critical of others and of ourselves.

The simple act of sharing a heartfelt smile with a stranger on the street, or praising a young child for being completely amazing by just being who they are, is empowering and contagious.

When we loosen our grip on our fear of looking foolish or not measuring up, and instead share our light and love with others, the magic of life seems to naturally unfold.

The best part is, we help give others the courage to do the same, to find their way back to remembering how totally awesome and worthy they are right now as they are.

I should add that while I never did become a gifted gymnast, I will on occasion bust out my best cartwheel moves on the back lawn with my kids, or on the beach just because. Now I always follow it up with a “ta-da” and a pat on the back I deserve for purely being human.

Photo by Louise Palanker

Avatar of Emily Madill

About Emily Madill

Emily Madill lives on Vancouver Island, BC with her husband and two sons. She has a BA degree in business and psychology. Emily has published several esteem building books for children and was recently published in Chicken Soup for the Soul, Think Positive for Kids. She has also published a collection of inspirational articles for adults titled ‘Reflections’. Learn more at: www.emilymadill.com.

Overcoming Tragedy: 3 Ways to Create Your Own Silver Lining

Silver Lining

“In the midst of winter I discovered that there was in me an invincible summer.” ~Albert Camus

These words may ring true for anyone who has been through difficult times, then found themselves stronger as a person, or doing things they would have never thought possible.

In May 2011 my brother was kidnapped from his home while working in Nigeria. After a truly horrific ten months he was murdered during a rescue attempt. It was an experience that has left scars we expect never to fully heal.

What happened next genuinely surprised and moved me. I saw the ordinary people around me transform their grief into something new, something they can always look back on and remember that they survived this tragedy.

I am really excited to share just three of the inspirational stories I have seen with you. Hopefully, they can help to bring positivity into your life, as well.

Get Active

Whether it is a 5K run around a local park or a fortnight-long bike ride across the Pyrenees, completing a challenge in memory of a loved one is probably the most popular way to start healing and make some sense of tragedy.

Many people undertake a challenge to support a charity. Millions of heroes each year will complete a race for life or other sponsored event to raise money for a cause that is dear to their heart.

However, not all physical challenges need to be about money. I am certainly no psychologist, but I would bet that there is something healing in the way people stretch themselves when they undertake something extraordinary in memory of a loved one.

Alastair’s Story

Alastair lived with us for a couple of years while we were younger. After finding out about Chris and being unable to attend the Charity Football match we arranged, he decided to challenge himself to an unearthly task.

He set himself the challenge of running from his home in Penrith to Boundary Park Stadium in Oldham to arrive during a game. This is a whopping distance of 107 miles, up and down hills all of the way.

Memories of Chris as a child spending hours talking about Oldham Athletic FC or kicking around a football in the back garden kept him going, and though he had to walk some of the way, he completed his monumental challenge.

Thirty-six hours after he left his home he arrived at Boundary Park, barely able to stand, feet bloody, legs aching, exhausted, triumphant.

Say Yes

Sometimes a death or tragedy can give someone the push to ask some questions about your life. It seems like a cliché but it really is a good time to take stock, look at areas where you are not happy, and make positive changes in your life.

Throughout the last couple of years I have seen people getting a new job, learning a new language, changing a relationship, giving up smoking, or losing weight after suffering a loss, because often a loss helps us remember how precious life is.

Alannah and Marc’s Story

Chris was a born traveller. He started young, taking down tents in France, followed by a year in New Zealand and his ill-fated time in Nigeria. He made us all jealous in his ability to get up and leave everything behind to conquer new places, never letting anything get in his way.

Alannah and Marc were two of Chris’ closest friends. Both were hugely affected by his loss. While Alannah is well travelled throughout the world, Mark has not really experienced other cultures but always planned to at some point.

After Chris’ death they decided that they could not put things off any longer and needed to take action if they were going to see other countries. They have worked tirelessly and are now only a couple of weeks away from packing in their jobs and setting off with a one-way ticket to see the world.

Unleash Your Creativity

Sometimes tragedy can unlock creativity. So many stories and pieces of art or music are rooted in sorrow that the list of examples would be vast.

The ability to express yourself, to channel your despair, is a gift borne out of love.

Justine’s Story

Justine is our younger sister and, like all of us, she was crushed when we found out that Chris would not be coming home. In his place we got his suitcases filled with the clothes he would not be wearing again.

We each took from these clothes what we wanted to, either to wear or just to keep a bit of him close.

Justine took the rest of the clothes away with her and started working to turn them into blankets for our mum, herself, and Chris’ girlfriend—pillows for me and our mum as birthday presents and twenty heart shaped pillows for Chris’ cousins.

It is an act of such beauty to spend countless hours creating these magnificent gifts, which we will all treasure. I don’t even want to imagine how many tears were shed cutting up shirts or ties, but the end result is as close to a hug from Chris as we are ever going to get.

My Story

I will end today with my story, not because it is in any way remarkable but because it is mine.

After losing Chris I wanted to tell his story.  I wanted everyone to know about the person he was, not just a picture in the paper. The words on a gravestone were not enough; I wanted his story to be told properly.

I looked at the online memorials available but they were not right for me, not good enough for Chris. I didn’t want a portion of the Internet stagnating as time goes by. I wanted a physical presence that would be around to tell the story of his life and his death to future generations.

Not finding what I wanted, I set up my own website, which was a whole new world for me. Over a period of a few months, working evenings and weekends, I managed to set up a website that allowed me to tell the story I wanted to tell.

Importantly for me, it also has the physical presence I wanted by linking to a QR code, which is printed on a plaque and placed on a bench in his favorite park.

Now people in the park can scan the code with a phone and find out about the man Chris was. The reason for setting up the website has been fulfilled. I have learned how to design websites and have been able to offer comfort to other families who have lost loved ones by telling their stories.

If you can find a way to help others, change your life in a positive way, or create something that will leave lasting memories, then you can find a silver lining to your tragedy. It will not bring your loved one back, but if you can do something that would make them proud then you can start to heal as well.

Photo by Llima Orosa

Avatar of Benet McManus

About Benet McManus

Benet McManus is the creator of Always Remembered; a website dedicated to helping families; telling the stories of their loved ones through QR codes which link to online memorials. Benet lives in Manchester, England and hopes it will stop raining one day. Follow him on Twitter here.

How to Get a Great Start to Your Day: 7 Simple Tips

“When you arise in the morning, think of what a precious privilege it is to be alive – to breathe, to think, to enjoy, to love.”
Marcus Aurelius

“Every morning we are born again. What we do today is what matters most.”
Buddha

It’s still dark as your alarm bell goes off. You pull up the curtains and the cold winter is waiting for you outside of the window.

As you stumble out of bed and into the shower a new day begins.

So how can you make it more likely that it will be a good or even great day?

Well, in my experience, what you do early in the morning often sets the tone for the rest of the day.

So let me share 7 simple tips that have helped me to create both better mornings and days.

1. Plan the night before.

Put down just 1-3 of the most important things you want to get done on a to-do list.

By keeping the list very limited it becomes easier to actually get the most important thing(s) done. And to not start procrastinating by doing a few of the less important and often easier tasks that I know I always used to add to a longer to-do list.

2. Prepare the night before.

Reduce the stress during your morning by getting the simple details out of the way the night before. Pack your bag. Prepare and pack your lunch. Put your keys, wallet etc. in their “home” if they are not already there so you can quickly find and grab them before heading out the door.

3. Keep a simple reminder on your bedside table.

What you see during your first minutes after you have woken up can in my experience have quite the effect on the morning and as an extension of that the whole day.

So try putting a small note with a reminder on your bedside table.

Three things you could put on that note are:

  • One of your favorite quotes. A powerful and timeless quote is one of the easiest ways to charge the mind with positive emotions and to find a helpful perspective. So write down one of the own favorite quotes. Here’s a list of 101 of them about happiness if you want some help.
  • Set a low bar for happiness. I love this simple reminder. I tell myself: “Today I will set a low bar for happiness”. And then I keep that thought in mind for the rest of the day as best I can. It helps me to feel grateful for the little and everyday things that I too often take for granted like having a roof over my head and all the tasty food I have available. It makes it easier to stay positive and to find a simple happiness throughout the day.
  • Write down your most important whys. Last week I described a quick exercise that I use to recharge my motivation again. It involves finding your deepest and most personal reasons for why you want to make a positive change in your life. Keeping these most important reasons written down on your bed side table can give you a powerful start to your day and make it easier to stay on the right track from the moment you get out of bed.

4. Go slow.

When I start my day slowly and keep doing things at a slow pace then it becomes easier to keep the stress away. It becomes easier to focus on what I am doing and keep my priorities in mind.

When I go slow I stay in the present moment more of the time and so less negative feelings come my way and I appreciate the everyday things in life more because my attention is focused outward and not aimlessly inward towards what happened in the past or may happen in the future.

When I start my day slowly I sometimes get worried that this slow pace will mean that I get less done during my day. But at the end of the day I most often discover that I got more done. Because I did things well the first time and because when I go slow I tend to spend less energy on draining feelings and on having my attention bouncing around between many things.

And so I have more energy during the last few hours of my workday to spend on things that matter to me.

5. Get some positive information into your mind over breakfast.

Start your day with something that does not depress you or makes you feel powerless to change your life or the world in some small or bigger way.

Add inspiration and optimism by for example:

  • Reading one or a couple of new posts from positive, funny or uplifting blogs or websites.
  • Listening to a podcast that boosts your motivation.
  • Reading a chapter from a book that inspires you.

6. Start your workday with the most important task.

Find the most important task on the very limited to-do list you created. Do it first thing when your workday starts.

This task is in my experience often quite hard so it is easy to fall for the temptation to procrastinate. If you feel that urge, then just be still and do nothing. The most powerful part of the impulse to procrastinate by checking email or Facebook passes pretty quickly.

When the worst is over then go easy on yourself instead of trying to push yourself hard.

Tell yourself that you will only work for 1-3 minutes on this important task. Then you can stop if you like. But you may not want to do that once you have gotten started. This seems to be the case for me most of the time.

Because getting started is most often the hardest part.

7. Build a right thing string.

Doing what you deep down think is the right thing will make you feel good. It will boost your self-esteem and put a spring in your step for an hour or more.

One way that I like to do that is by creating what I like to call a right thing string.

Here’s what you do:

Do something that you deep down think is the right thing. Do it right now.

Give a genuine compliment to someone at work or in your life. Help someone who seems lost with directions. Unclutter your work space for 2 minutes. Go and work out.

Then add another thing that you think is the right thing to do.

Have an apple instead of an unhealthy snack. When you feel like judging someone in your life or on TV or in the newspaper try to find a kinder and more understanding perspective. Smile and ask how someone’s day is going (and really listen to the reply).

Then add another thing. And another.

Build a small string of doing the right things during for example 10-30 minutes to boost your energy and the positive feelings you have about yourself and your life.

Continue the string during your day as best you can.

After you have added a right thing to your string – no matter how small it is – make sure to take a few seconds to pause and to appreciate the good thing you did.

I usually think one of these things to myself:

  • Awesome!
  • Well done!
  • That was a good thing to do.
  • That was fun! (and then I smile to myself).

This boosts the positive mood within and ups the motivation to add another thing to your string.

If you break the string, no worries. Don’t beat yourself up.

Take a deep breath and then start a new string instead.

Image by Infomastern (license).

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