Yes, you know it, I know it, the holidays are coming up. With the holidays comes travel and when there are a lot of people traveling for most of us that’s stressful. It doesn’t matter whether it’s traveling via trains, planes or automobiles we could all use a little help in making this world a better place to move around in. What’s something we can all do that not only reduces travel stress, but also makes the world a better place?
It’s all about learning how to be the “Ambassador of Compassion” and here’s how you do it:
You may remember the story of Pavlov’s dog. Ivan Pavlov was a Russian psychologist who made the conditioned reflex famous. He rang a bell and at the same time introduced the dog to a bowl of food. Every time he introduced the food, the dog would salivate. Eventually all Pavlov had to do to get the dog to salivate was ring the bell because the bell was now associated with food in the dog’s brain. In this same way our brains have a “conditioned reflex” to try and get away from stressful or uncomfortable feelings. As it does this the body contracts and the mind frantically looks for solutions piling on more stress to the difficulty that is already there. There is a simple practice to play with that can help you break free from this stress cycle and into choice, perspective and freedom.
Why do we have it in our heads that we’ll only help another person out if we get something back in return. Maybe it’s because at the core we always need to get something back for survival. Or maybe it’s because as kids, if you want a toy that another kid has you learn to ask for it, but it often works better if you have something to trade. Fast forward to adulthood, we’re happy to help others out, as long as we get something back. Unfortunately, the mentality of expecting something back drives mental and social dis-ease. However, if we understand at a deep level that when we give without being attached to any expectation of getting return, we get so much more, true happiness.
All research points to the reality that when we do things for other people as an act of altruism or compassion, we feel happier.
Perhaps the 13th Sufi poet Rumi said it best, “Don’t turn away. Keep your gaze on the bandaged place. That’s where the light enters.” The entrance into all that’s beautiful in life is in what’s vulnerable. When something or someone is vulnerable before us we feel connected and connection is at the essence of feel well. This is because ultimately all things and people in life are connected and to feel connection is a feeling of belonging, it’s a feeling of being home. But to feel vulnerable we have to be brave and in this lies the freedom we long for.
The problem is our brains and our culture equates vulnerability with weakness. One of my newest favorite researchers and authors Brene Brown says, “Vulnerability sounds like
Throughout the last number of years mindfulness, the practice of cultivating awareness, has gone mainstream into all kinds of sectors and ages of life. Researchers have a seemingly unending amount of data at this point to its efficacy for health and well-being. For many it’s a kind of feel-good aspirational practice to be connected to or identified with. However, the reality is, it’s completely useless unless it’s actually practiced in daily life.
We can all write and read blog after blog, book after book or go hear speaker after speaker, but until we actually implement this into our lives, it’s fairly useless. Not much changes unless we put something into practice.
Take gratitude for example.
It’s become such a cliché to say, “be grateful” that many people roll their eyes when they hear this. But when’s the last time those same people practiced a gratitude ritual in their
Everyone has ups and downs in life, sometimes they’re more extreme than others. Today I am thrilled to bring you an interview with Toni Berhard, someone I deeply respect and a longtime practitioner and leader in mindfulness. She is author of her newest book How to Wake Up helping us navigate these ups and downs with greater ease and also the past award winning book How to Be Sick which speaks of how to live with greater peace with chronic illness. Toni was dean of students at the University of California Davis School of Law and the writings and practices in these books have been inspired by over 20 years of personal practice.
Today, Toni talks to us about why it’s so hard to be present to our lives, practices that Toni finds to be personally impactful, why we have to navigate joy, and some personal advice for the rest of us.
Elisha: You say that the key to peace and well-being is to be present for your life as it is. Why is that so hard to do?
While regrets are things that most of us don’t want, they can actually be good. They are teachers from the past for the decisions of today and tomorrow. They tell us what we would have liked to have done differently if we had known then what we know now. One of the greatest regrets people who are dying have is wishing they had been more present to life to have made different choices like not being so focused on other’s expectations, spending more time with close relationships, not working so hard, having the courage to express feelings, and not buying into the negativity so much and choosing happiness.
But life is routine and routine is resistance to choice. But that can all change for us right now.
To live in the future without regrets, think about what in life are you allowing to be routine? As soon as we see the routine, we step into a space of awareness, a “choice point” to live the life we want to live, without regrets.
Have you allowed…
I’ve always been interested in the wisdom of our elders and often do a practice with students and clients when they’ve seemed to veer off the path of what truly matters in their lives. I ask them to project themselves forward many years from now looking back onto this very moment right now, what do they wish they would’ve done? Bronnie Ware is an Australian Nurse who spent many years working in palliative care caring for those who were dying. She eventually published a book called the The Top Five Regrets of the Dying.
Regrets can be seen as something that’s good if they give us insight into what we can change today for the better. Here are the Top 5. Use them as north star to help guide your actions in the days that follow toward an even more fulfilling life. Although we can veer off the path, when we notice the star, we can always come back to it.
Top 5 Regrets of the Dying:
We are a culture driven by the motto “more is better.” If we turn on the television or glance over at the magazines at the checkout line in any grocery store, we see the sensational “bling” and the “more” we are looking for.
Our minds automatically say, “If I just had a bigger house, a partner, more money, a snow cone, etc., then I’d be happy.”
Waltor Landor accurately said, “As soon as we wish to be happier, we are no longer happy.”
But from time to time we’ve heard this notion before, so why do we keep falling into this unhappiness trap, what’s wrong with us?
One of the secrets to wiring our brain toward happiness is in the simple understanding that what we practice and repeat starts to become more automatic. Call it a happiness or resiliency habit and it’s something that anyone can create. We all have thoughts and behaviors in our lives that lend themselves toward unhappiness, a neutral state, or happiness. While the brain defaults toward paying attention to negative stimuli to keep us safe, we are active participants in our health and well-being and can nurture a happier and more resilient brain.
Here’s a suggestion to start with that comes from the 365 Daily Now Moments: