Sunday, October 28, 2012

3 Lessons I Have Learned to Create a Great Relationship

Romantic relationships involve sharing our lives with another person in a way that we just do not with other people, like family or friends. This can be wonderful in so many ways but also challenging in many others. For most of us, there is always room for improvement in how we deal with these challenges and opportunities to make things better. I am far from being an expert on these matters and my relationship is not perfect…how can it be when it is comprised of two imperfect individuals?

But, I think my pairing is pretty solid, and my interest in personal development and improving my life has taught me some pretty important lessons that are applicable to relationships; applying this information helps keep things running smoothly most of the time and for this reason, I would like to share a few of those lessons I learned; do I apply this wisdom every time the opportunity arises? Of course not, but I do enough of the time to make an impact, and that is what we are going for here, not perfection.

Do What Works for You

When it comes to relationship advice, you will find no shortage of it. Expert opinions abound. Everyone has their own idea of what makes a good relationship and what a happy, healthy one ‘’should’’ be like. Now, while I agree that there are some objective markers of a healthy union, such as not verbally or physically abusing each other, most other things are subject to the two people who are sharing their life together. You and your partner will find the greatest happiness by doing what works for you and not forcing certain things that may not feel right simply because someone else thinks that is the best way.

For example, my boyfriend and I prefer to sleep in separate beds and throughout our current trip through SE Asia, anytime we secure a two-bedroom house, we do just that. Why? Because we think it is more comfortable and we get a better night’s sleep having our own space. Also, it is kind of nice to wind down and relax in your own room before going to sleep. Now, since many people are of the opinion that people in a relationship ‘’should’’ share a bed, anyone who does not must be having problems or must not love each other. Now, while I have no doubt sleeping in separate rooms at night could be something a couple having problems might choose to do, simply making this choice is not an automatic indicator of an unhappy union. Getting a good night’s sleep is paramount for mental and physical health, and sleeping in our own space is one of the ways we best achieve that, so that is what we do. How many people suffer through lack of sleep because of their partner’s snoring, different sleeping schedule or other issues simply because they believe that a couple is ‘’supposed to’’ sleep in the same bed?

Do Not Hold Your Partner Responsible for Your Feelings

This is a tough one, but something that I have come to realize is very important in creating a good relationship. I definitely struggle with applying this one, but I am making some decent headway. No matter what our partners say or do, they are not responsible for how it makes us feel. This may seem strange to us because had they not said or done a certain thing, we would not be feeling this way. True, but they did not cause anything, they simply triggered something within us, whether it is an insecurity, unresolved issue, festering resentment, bad memory of past experience or one of the million other things we can carry around inside. No one can ever make us feel a certain way, that is all on us.

If your partner criticizes you in some way, you will only get mad or feel hurt if there is a part of you that believes what he is saying is true. If you are someone who is especially sensitive to other people’s energy, such as myself, you cannot blame your partner if his sadness, anger or whatever other negative feeling is assaulting you energetically, and making you feel like crap. When you find yourself reacting negatively to something your partner says or does, try to think about what is making you feel this way because it is not him or her, it is something else. Investigating this will not only help you communicate and work on resolving issues in your relationship more successfully, it will improve your life overall.

Put Your Ego to the Side

This is another toughie and you probably – most likely definitely --will not do it every time, but even just sometimes can make a world of difference. Our pesky egos…they can really get in the way of our happiness, especially when it comes to our relationships. How many times have you dragged out an argument because you could not end it until you wore your partner down and were declared victorious? How many times have you continued to be mad at your beloved, long after you have gotten over the actual incident that angered you in the first place, because you felt the need to punish her for hurting you, for doing something that upset you? How many times have you taken things personally that actually had absolutely nothing to do with you?

One of my primary missions in tending to my personal development is developing a greater sense of peace in my life and I find that the amount of peace in my life is directly proportional to how often I can put my ego to the side. While I still may feel that itch to be ‘’right’’ sometimes, for the most part, I have let it go and have learned to adopt the ‘’let’s agree to disagree’’ mode more often. I have developed a greater awareness of when my ego is causing me to be angry rather than the severity of the actual incident that triggered the anger—this helps me let things go more quickly. After all, by trying to punish the other person, we make ourselves feel crappy at the same time and it does not seem worth it to me.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Law of Attraction: It is Not the Money You Want...

Money is one of those things that we have a love/hate relationship with. It is necessary to survive in the modern world. We know it cannot make us happy but not having money can create a lot of unhappy situations. Having gone through some pretty serious financial struggles, I definitely prefer having some cash in my pocket. We say we do not care if we have a lot of money and we have lots of negative feelings towards people that have a lot of it—hence the great pleasure we get from seeing rich and famous celebrities falter in the public eye. Why? Because we are jealous of their wealth.

You probably developed an interest in law of attraction because there are things in life that you want and you do not have them; you are sick of not having them and you want to find a way to get them. Most of the things people want to attract require money to purchase; if you are looking to pay your debts, money is the only thing that will take care of that.

But, it is not money you actually want, you want what it can bring you, whether it is the peace of mind that comes with having money to pay your bills or the exhilaration you believe you will experience from traveling the world. You could have rooms full of money but if you could not spend it, it would be useless.

So, you have probably set a lot of intentions to get more money and you just focus on money and numbers. This has its place for sure, but we have a lot of weird energy around money, which explains why so many of us struggle with obtaining it; we want it but it has been drilled into our head that wanting to have it is wrong. Rich people are immoral and their wealth is based on taking something away from someone else. It is spiritual to be poor. The list could go on and on. When you are contending with all of this, money is not going to come to you, at least not in the amounts you desire.

But, because it is not the money you actually want, you need to be shifting your focus elsewhere…towards the things that you want to buy with this money. It is easier to feel good and visualize about these things. When you start focusing on money exclusively, I bet you experience a lot of of unpleasant feelings and situations. You think about your past and present financial situation and cannot see how it could ever change significantly. You start worrying about those overdue bills. You start trying to logically figure out the ways you could get this money to come to you ,and since the logical mind limits our thinking so much, you probably start to get discouraged because you cannot possibly see any path that will bring you to where you want to be. In the attracting game, all of this will not bode well for you.

When you set clear intentions regarding the things you want to attract into your life and feel good about it, you have set very powerful forces in motion—forces that do not make any sense to our logical minds. Just focus on what you want and less focus on the money, especially if thinking about it starts bringing up bad feelings. You cannot possibly anticipate all the different ways your income could increase or the different opportunities presented to you to make money. By feeling good about the things you want, you will get more money in some shape or form.

Another thing I would like to add is that in some instances, you may get the things you want without even needing money to get them—you could win a contest, have someone buy your desired item for you, or experience some other situation where you get what you want without having to acquire the money yourself to get it.

You will surely have moments when this is a struggle, I get it because I have been there. But, the great thing is, as long as you are feeling good more than you are feeling badly, you can still make amazing progress. Remember to focus more on the things you want, not the money you will need to acquire them.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

3 Tips for Helping Bothersome Things Bother You Less

Unless you are the Buddha, you are probably going to have your moments when you get annoyed, angry, or frustrated about something. Unless you are living in a cave somewhere, you are going to be among other human beings who do things differently that are bothersome to you in some way, are unaware they are being bothersome or are totally aware and just do not care.

One of my biggest challenges to overcome is being able to handle being around people better without getting annoyed by everything they do or say. I always say I love humanity but hate people. Being aware that my annoyance or anger at others is an issue for me, I have become more conscious of my feelings when these things happen and I am making a concerted effort to react differently so I feel more at peace with whatever is happening around me, even when I prefer the circumstances are different. I wanted to share some things that have helped me and hopefully they will help you.

If You Are Not Going to Address the Issue, Own Your Inaction

How many times do we seethe with annoyance at something, yet do absolutely nothing to address it? Maybe we feel embarrassed, feel badly or do not like the idea of speaking up and confrontation. Maybe in certain situations, saying something seems like more trouble than it is worth. We just sit there, feeling pissed off and the feeling builds as the situation continues. Whatever the reason for our silence, if we own our inaction, we will deal with the annoyance much more easily because we realize that we are choosing not to address it; people are not just going to read our minds and stop doing what they are doing and if we are not going to say anything, that is on us. I find when I look at things in this way, I deal with the situation better and do not feel as agitated.

Our apartment we are renting in Hanoi is set up so the top floor, which is where our apartment is located, is completely open from the stairway…no door, anyone can just walk in—had I known this beforehand, never would have rented it. The deck outside is where the laundry gets hung it seems, and two times yesterday, someone who lived downstairs just walked right up and through with no announcement. Being someone who is very private, I was not thrilled with the set up of the apartment as it was and this incident did not make me happy. But, I did not say anything because what can I say? That he cannot come up there? Not an option. I could have asked him to announce when he is coming up, but I just did not even feel like getting into a discussion about it. We are only staying here another week or so; we were not living here permanently. I realized I was choosing not to address it and by doing that, he had no way of knowing I did not like it, so I cannot blame him. Owning my choice on how I was dealing with the situation removed a lot of the negativity I felt about what happening.

Realize the Fleeting Nature of Everything

We know that nothing lasts forever. But, in the moment of negative feelings, we get very consumed by them and let them overtake us. We are not aware of this fact in that very moment and it causes us a lot of mental suffering. If we can remember this idea of impermanence in these moments, we can strengthen that space where we can observe what is happening and how we are feeling without getting too caught up in it. Knowing it will pass eventually and we will not have to be dealing with it forever makes it easier to withstand while it is happening. The set-up of our apartment here in Hanoi is just one of the many problems that we have here, but whenever I find myself getting agitated about it, I just remember that we are leaving very soon and heading to Bali, one of our favorite spots in the world for two months, where we have two beautiful houses lined up for us in two of the most beautiful areas of the island. Remember that this too shall pass.

Keep Perspective

No matter what is happening, we always have a choice on how to view it and how to respond. Naturally, we will not always take the best route due to the foibles of our human mind, but becoming more aware of this power of choice, we can definitely make some important strides. My travels have produced plenty of situations that have been excellent practice for shifting perspective. I may get annoyed at a bus running late or a hotel not being as nice as I thought it would be—hardly serious problems I would say. If the most bothersome thing to happen to me in a day is not having snacks and a comfy blanket on the overnight bus to beautiful Phuket, Thailand where a great house and awesome beach are waiting for me, life is pretty good I would say. If you the long security checkpoint at the airport has you seething, think about how lucky you are to be taking a trip. If the line at the DMV is annoying, think how lucky you are to have a car. If the slow waiter at the restaurant is annoying you, think how wonderful it is to be able to go out for a nice meal. You get the picture.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

3 Key Ingredients for Creating Your Ideal Life

So many of us look at other people with envy, wishing we could have a life like theirs, wishing we could be more like them. We have all these blocks that make us believe that they are somehow special and we are not; we think that we are stuck on our current path and that we are just not meant to do the things we want to do. Nothing could be further from the truth. You can live any type of life you want, you just need to do some work on yourself and be willing to make uncomfortable decisions--two things that most people are not really willing to do, which accounts for the unhappiness and dissatisfaction many people feel with their current circumstances.

While I am far from an expert and certainly not free of fears, blocks and limiting beliefs, I think I have made great strides in the living my life made to order department. My ultimate goal was to develop mobile sources of income so I could travel for as long as I want whenever I want. I value my freedom more than anything else in this world and living a life where I experience it as much as possible was non-negotiable for me. AS I write this, I am 16 months into a trip throughout SE Asia, making a living off freelance writing jobs. So, in that sense, I feel somewhat qualified to speak on the subject of creating your ideal life and I would like to share a few important tips that are necessary ingredients in the process.

You will never get what you want until you figure out what exactly that is. Most of us spend a whole lot of time complaining about our lives and what we do not like. This is in no way the same thing as focusing on what you do. The energy in this mode of thought is toxic and will just keep you where you are and continue to bring more of what you do not want down the pike. Have you ever really, truly thought about what type of life you want? What would make you happy? If you are not living that reality currently or in the process of working towards it, then the answer is likely no because anyone who has truly gained that clarity would no longer settle for a life that makes them unhappy.

We rely far too heavily on logical thinking and trying to figure everything out, plan each step, be in total control of the process. While logical thought and operating in this mode certainly has its place in certain areas, it has no place in creating your dream life. If you are truly going to go after the things you want, you will need to drastically alter your current belief system and strengthen your faith. You need to be okay with not knowing how you will get what you want. You need to believe it will come in some way. You need to stop trying to logically figure out how things will happen because you cannot possibly anticipate all the ways you will get from A to B; you never know what opportunities will arise, what people you will meet, what ideas will just pop into your head. You will have moments when this faith will waver and all the old fears and doubts will come rushing to the surface; you need to weather these times and fall back on faith. Trust me on this one. Be willing to believe in good things. Know that there are things that happen in this world that we cannot understand or prove in a scientific manner.

Getting Comfortable with Being Uncomfortable
This is a biggie because this is one of the major stumbling blocks to pursuing your dreams. There are going to be lots of time when you are going to feel uncomfortable, sometimes extremely uncomfortable. As a human, you will have your doubts and fears and you will need to act in spite of them. You will wonder sometimes if the struggles are worth it. People may criticize or judge you and it will make you feel shitty and you will wonder if everyone else is right and you are wrong. You need to get comfortable with the discomfort because it is going to show up a lot. But, it does not last all the time, it passes eventually. If you can learn to be comfortable with being uncomfortable, you will ride out these rough patches more easily and you will not be deterred from your goals. It is all just par for the course.

Friday, August 31, 2012

Thinking about What You Do Not Want Does Not Help You Get What You Do

It can be hard to pull our attention away from the things we do not like about our lives or the problems we face. We naturally prefer more pleasant circumstances and negative emotions can have a strong pull. We are conditioned to think more negatively and worry, fear, doubt and anxiety come easily to us. We have no problem going to these places and staying there for prolonged periods of time. We do not like it but it is comfortable and familiar and we are always drawn towards that, no matter what kind of crap storm that creates in our lives.

I have learned lots of stuff in my journey to better myself and my life and one of the most profound and life-changing lessons was the realization that we focus on expands. By putting our attention and energy to all the stuff we do not like, all the bad things that have happened to us in the past and all the bad things we hope to avoid in the future, we are blocking the good things from flowing in.

It is vital for you to know that focusing on what you do not want will not help you get what you do. It is all about energy. Focusing on what you do not want is in no way the same as focusing on what you do. They do not accomplish similar goals. Getting clear on what you do not want can be a springboard to figuring out what you do, and some focus has its value, but you need to shift it as best you can whenever you find yourself going there.

If you continue to complain about everything and worry about all the stuff you hope does not happen, you will just continue to get more of that stuff, I promise you that. It took me a long time to really realize this and it is a lesson I am still learning in many ways, so I get how hard it can be.

When you get clear on the things you want and think about them in a positive way, amazing things will happen, things you cannot anticipate or figure out right now, especially from a space charged with negativity and doubt.

So, the next time find yourself not liking something, think about what you would prefer to have, be or do and laser in on that. Once you start paying attention to your thoughts, you will be astounded to realize how little time you actually spend thinking about what you want and how much is spent thinking about what you do not. Only when the balance shifts to the former most of the time, will you begin to see any changes. Trust me on this one.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

When People Make You Feel Guilty for Pursuing Your Own Happiness

Guilt is a low energy emotion. A lot of things that make us feel guilty really should not, but our crappy programming and belief that we should never be too concerned about our own happiness weaken our defense against this feeling. One of the biggest barriers to pursing what we want in life is other people, whether it is family, friends or just society at large. In your pursuit of happiness and well-being, you may upset some people with your decisions and they are going to make you feel badly. It is important to defend yourself against this at all costs or you will end up living your life for other people.

Know That No One is Responsible for Anyone Else’s Happiness

You are not responsible for anyone’s happiness nor is anyone responsible for yours. Happiness comes from the inside and no matter all the wonderful people you have in your life, all the money ,the great job and anything else on the outside, none of it will matter if we do not address our internal issues. We put too much stock in other people to provide for our happiness all the time. That is why we have such a hard time getting over a break up, even if we know this person was the worst possible match for us. That is why parents lay guilt trips on their kids all the time; they expect that their children owe them for all the sacrifice required of raising them and all of their choices should be of benefit to them.

I am not saying screw everyone and do what you want with no regard for anyone else. I am not talking about doing things that are truly hurting other people. What I am saying is that you should not feel guilty about doing what makes you happy simply because someone else does not like it.

Because nothing outside of us can ever make us happy, you giving in to someone else’s desires will not do much anyway. No one else is ever someone else’s key to happiness, well being and peace of mind. If anyone is trying to make you feel like you are responsible for making them happy, know they are in the wrong, not you.

Distinguish Between Truly Hurting Someone or Merely Upsetting Them

So many people fail to do what they truly want in life because of other people. We are made to feel guilty for wanting anything for ourselves; we are taught to always put other people’s needs before our own. I call bullshit on this one. Again, I am not talking about being a total a-hole and stepping over others to fulfill all your whims. I am not talking about letting your children starve so you can get a manicure. I am talking about the things that we want that will not truly not hurt anyone; the things that are perfectly okay to want for yourself; the things that upset people because pursing your needs will interfere with their needs and they do not like that.

I know it is hard to face opposition to our choices, to hear that other people do not like them and wish we would do something else, but that is their problem not yours. As long as you are not truly hurting anyone, you should do whatever you want. Remember, no one is responsible for anyone else’s happiness.

People’s Criticisms of You Have Nothing to Do With You

Whenever we find ourselves being judgmental or critical of others, we know deep down it has nothing to do with that person and it is all about us and our issues. If people are giving you flack for your life choices, it is because they are unhappy with theirs, plain and simple. If we can remember this, it will make it a lot easier to do what we want in life because we will know all the junk coming from everyone else is all about them and nothing about us.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

What the Death of My Father Taught Me About Dealing With Grief

Life is full of loss. This is not to sound pessimistic , because I am surely not that type of person. It is just a reality that we face. Relationships end. Friends betray us and we may no longer speak to them. People we love die, sometimes long before we expect them to. I have experienced all kinds of loss in my life, but the most difficult has been the death of my father. He was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer when he was only in his late 50’s. Other than the fact that he smoked, he was very healthy and vibrant and had he not had that nasty habit, he probably would have lived a long, healthy life.

I started grieving his death even before he died because at the stage of his diagnosis, I knew the end was coming sooner than later. He really started to suffer near the end and when he actually died, the primary emotion I felt was relief. From the day I found out he was sick until right before he died, my days were filled with constant fear and anxiety of thinking about what was happening, of fearing one of the things we fear most—the death of our parents. I was in a bad state of mind almost constantly.

I was devastated of course, but after experiencing such high-charged emotions, the feeling of it being over and him being gone and finally at peace was a whole different realm. I just felt sad and kind of empty. He died in June 2008 and I still think about him every day. Sometimes, the feelings are as raw as if it just happened. Sometimes I still feel this sense of shock, like I cannot believe it actually happened. His death triggered a lot of changes in me and in many ways, my life is better than it ever has been, but I carry that sadness with me always.

We just want the sadness to go away, but it probably will always stay with us so the key is finding ways to deal with it. It is okay to feel sad. It is okay to grieve. We do not just have to ‘’get over it.’’ But, we need to find ways to carry that grief without it overwhelming us, without it making us bitter about life. We have to find a way to keep the bad things that happen to us from defining us and our existence.

Accept that Your Life Will Never Be Perfect

I am very into personal development and for the longest time, I had this idea that I could create some perfect life. When my father got sick and died, that definitely put a kink in my plans. How could I have a perfect life when I lost one of the people I love most in my life way too early? How could I be happy with such a huge hole in my heart? I had a lot of anxiety about that, that I would never have that perfect life, that complete and utter happiness would elude me. Over the years, I have finally learned that there is no such thing as perfect, that being happy is not about having a perfect life, but that being happy is about the choices we make and how we choose to deal with the circumstances of our life, not the actual circumstances.

Accepting the imperfection of our existence makes it easier to deal with the death of my father because I realize that I can still be happy while still carrying around sadness. I realize that being a happy person is not about being happy all the time or having nothing to be sad about. Accepting things as they are can take us a long way in dealing with the unpleasant aspects of our life.

We can grieve for the people we lose and for the type of life we will never have due to the losses we experience, but it does not have to keep us from being happy with the life we have now.

Stop Thinking that Bad Things Should Not Happen

Bad things happen all the time. We witness it every day. We know this. Yet, when they actually happen to us, we cannot believe they actually occurred. We have this idea that bad things happening are unfair and that they should not befall us. While thinking this way is understandable, our resistance to bad things and our refusal to accept them as part of our lives makes it a lot harder to deal with issues like the death of people close to us. On top of feeling badly about the loss, we feel all these negative emotions about it being unfair, about not understanding it, about thinking that they should not happen.

I study Buddhism and one of the core tenets is this acceptance. I still feel great sadness over the death of my father and I think it sucks that me and my family had to go through all of that. But, when I learned to give up my resistance to not wanting to experience bad things, dealing with the bad things, like losing my dad, became easier. I was able to carry around my grief better, I did not resist it as much.

Let Yourself Feel Your Feelings Without Judgment

While I think about my father every day, I find my emotional responses kind of come in waves. I can go a long time without really feeling anything intensely. Then there are other times I cry like it just happened. Strange things will spark these intense reactions.My father always used to wear Chapstick brand lip balm and I remember he would kiss me good bye before going to work ;I always associated that smell with him. One time someone near me was wearing it and I could smell it, and intense sadness washed over me; I felt this overwhelming urge to cry so once I got some privacy, that is exactly what I did. Simply smelling a certain smell brought me back to very specific memories and it was almost too much to handle.

The last couple of days of my father’s life were spent in hospital bed on a morphine drip; so many awful memories that did not really affect me until much later after he died. Every once in a while, I will think of those terrible 48 hours and it is an intense sadness, thinking of his suffering. I will get powerful flashbacks of certain things that happened in that room. I hate dwelling on it but I feel better when I let myself cry and feel the anguish instead of telling myself to shake it off since it happened over four years ago.

Feelings of grief can be really intense and we would rather not feel them sometimes, but in my experience, letting myself experience them helps me. Do not judge your feelings. Do not feel stupid if something like smelling Chapstick makes you want to cry for a loved one you have lost. We intensify our pain when we do not let it out. I know it is scary sometimes, but if we can let ourselves have those uncomfortable moments, we can truly heal.