Elevate Your Thoughts with Awareness

dont hold me downToday, seven minutes after climbing out of bed, I spilled a two-pound canister of cat food on the carpet in my office. That, my friends, is a lot of kibble on the carpet.

But, after the initial, loud cussing outburst, I was okay. Pulled the vacuum out. Cleaned up the mess and begin to familiarize myself with the Ode de Cat Kibble that now is wafting around my desk.

Sure it was a hassle, but it was done. No need to carry it with me into the day.

I have learned over years of practice that how I respond to any moment whether it’s spilled cat food or a doctor saying ‘you’ve got cancer’ will determine how the next moment goes. You can let single moment grow into a train-wreck of a day, or you can let it pass into something better.

Of course irritating, messy, scary things happen, but how you respond will determine the quality of your life.

Knowing this, allows you to decide what you’ll bring to the moment.

Elevate Your Thoughts

The great teacher and head of the Meditation Museum, Sister Jenna says that our purpose isn’t to stop the dynamic, flow of life, but to “accumulate the thoughts and attitudes” that allow us to elevate the life experience for ourselves and the world.

To do this, we must let go of the limiting ideas and attitudes and think and feel from higher consciousness – the place where peace and love and kindness and joy and openness reside.

When you do this, it feels better  — after all living with peace is so much more comfortable than living with hurt and hostility  – and you also become a positive difference in the world. Simply by choosing to respond to difficulty with awareness, compassion and love you diffuse a difficult moment and elevate the experience for all.

There are many ways to do develop this kind of awareness so that you can elevate the moment. Meditation helps. Solitude and prayer and gratitude and the practice of savoring and self-compassion and mindfulness are good practices too.

But in all of this, there one little practice that does more than anything else to help me develop my awareness.  It’s the practice of watching your thoughts.

I know it sounds  a little woo-woo, new-agey. But for me, nothing has been more practical and powerful when it comes to diffusing my angst in the moment.

In Wednesday’s post, I’ll tell you how to do it.


Artwork by Erin Cairney White

Five Questions to Create a Better Life in 2015

Question shiny

Happy New Year! I’ll be back Jan. 12 with all new posts to support our growth and joy in 2015. In the meantime, here is a new post to get you thinking. Ask yourself the questions below and set the mood for an awesome year ahead. 

One of the best ways to live deliberately – to actually become aware of the life you are living to create the experiences you desire – is to ask good questions.

When we ask questions our brains and instincts circle around searching for the answers until they come up with something that speaks to our questions.

You ask, “why am I not having success?” and you will get plenty of answers as to your failings. But, when you ask “what can I do to become more successful?” you will also get the answers to that question and those answers will put you on the path  to creating more of what you would like.

So this New Year, choose good questions, and the answers you seek will actually guide you toward greater health, abundance, love, peace and self-awareness.

Here are five questions that can super-charge your growth and success in 2015.

  1. How can I serve? We all want to contribute something positive to the world, but we often get mired in the daily routine and forget that we do best when we are making a difference.
  2. How can I live close to my values? To answer this question you’ll need to identify the things you value most so this is really a two-parter. Studies by psychologists including Steven Reiss have shown that when we know what we value and we do things each day to stay close to those values, we experience happiness. Not just the one-off variety that passes quickly, but sustained happiness that lingers.
  3. Who and what do I love? Ask this often, daily. List everything. The simple noticing of the things we care about translatse into Big Gratitude and that improves our moods, health, relationships and everything else that matters. When we dwell in fondness – thinking of the things we love about a person or thing – we tend to discover more things to be fond of and this is oh, so good for your relationships and moods.
  4. How can I create more abundance in my life? Stronger relationships, better health, more money, bigger fun. These things make up an abundant life and they belong to those who ask and take action. Often though we focus on lack. We ask questions like “how am I going to pay these bills?” “Why do things never go my way?” “Why do I never have enough?” Instead, try asking the how questions — “How can I find new work opportunities?” “How can I lose the weight I want?” “How can I improve my marriage?” and allow your mind to go to work on big-time, abundance-building answers.
  5. Who am I? Alright, this one is a bit esoteric and philosophical but valuable just the same because when we really contemplate our very essence, we connect to the higher energy of ourselves — the core of light and love and peace that we all are. It’s hard to get our undies in a bunch and worry about all the little details of life when we realize that we are connected to that Universal energy and comprised of the same elements that make up the sun and the oceans and the mountains the stars. Perspective people and this question helps us create it.

Ask these questions. Pose more of your own. And allow your mind to ponder the answers as you sit in meditation or go about your daily business. Your instincts will flair too and you’ll arrive at a knowing – a settled feeling — when you get close to the answers that will serve you now.

Don’t be afraid to ask new questions and to change your mind, either. Be open to the journey wherever it leads knowing that when you ask a good questions the answers lead to a better life starting right now.

Awe is the Secret to a Creative Life

The surest way to a more creative life is to start living. To engage an experience the world.  To connect with others, to listen well, to learn and grow and love and experiment and explore.

I’m not just talking about the paint-like-Picasso kind of creativity. I’m talking about the kind that infuses your life with passion, helps you solve problems, improves relationships and illuminates meaning in life. To live creatively is to go through the days with a open-hearted kind of curiosity and the awareness that you can make something out of any situation. The kind that allows you to experience awe.

Awe is a big-time emotion that can have a big-time impact on our lives. As described in Monday’s post, when we experience awe, we are more likely to reach out and share and connect with one another. Sounds something like this: “Hey did you see that race?” “Check out the full moon.” Or “Isn’t this song, just powerful?”

But, awe goes further than just inducing good feelings. It also creates a sense of meaning, and purpose. Every time I look at the waves of the Pacific crashing into The Cove along Oregon’s North Coast, I am touched. It’s awesome, no matter what else is going on, no matter how many times I’ve seen it. When I think of the creatures that can survive in those tide pools and rough surf,  from the tiniest hermit crabs to the largest whales, I feel full of life. Moved by it.  And I feel like I matter too. Knowing that something as awesome as the ocean and the creatures within it exists, give my life meaning too. It reminds me that we are all an integral part of something bigger and wonderful and mysterious. Awe can help us tap into that and inspire us to live on purpose. It raises us up and in turn we raise the level of our life.

Want more of those AWEsome moments? Here’s how to get them.

Go big. Take time to be the small piece of a larger whole. Go stargazing or whale watching. Become part of a flash mob or sing out loud at a live concert. Whenever we can get a little perspective, add our small voices to unified, larger one and recognize ourselves as part of larger whole, an important part of the Universe, feelings of awe often take root.

Go out. Check out your environment. Nature is awe-inspiring (and stress relieving) check out the oceans, or a corps of ants constructing their pathways. The buds on the cherry tree outside my house are awesome when they return every spring.  And I love thinking about the amazing salmon who return to the same waters each year. I don’t understand all the science behind it. Doesn’t matter.  I like the wonder of it all. I like not knowing how it all works, but trusting that it does.  Even man-made structures can provide major awesomeness. Think Egyptian pyramids or the Golden Gate Bridge. Get yourself out in the world and look on it with curiosity and awe.

Go looking. Remember the video clip of the young Autistic boy who finally gets a chance to play basketball and he hits all those three-pointers to the glee of his teammates who mob him after the game? Or Susan Boyle showing up Simon for the first time? We are surrounded by awesome moments in nature, in people, in ourselves. Find a way each day to see, hear, experience something amazing. It’s inspiring.

Remember, no matter what you’re doing, you’ve got to take notice. Become aware and present to the moments of your life. With quiet awareness wonder shows up and makes for a truly awesome experience.


portions of this post first appeared on this site in 2011.

Can Gratitude Help You Lose Weight?

Happy Thanksgiving! Love a holiday that’s geared toward noticing the goodness in our lives.

But, alas, it’s also about eating.

Before you freak over the cream in the mashed potatoes and sugar in the pumpkin pie, here’s a little-known fact about gratitude the makes it even more awesome — it helps us with self-control and that can help us lose weight and even make smarter money decisions.

According to researchers at Northeastern University, gratitude reduces the impatience that can cause us to make poor choices a la eating two servings of potatoes (because we are hungry in the moment) when one works just as well.

When we practice gratitude we tend to slow down, become more patient and less selfish. All that helps us make better decisions, so that we are less likely to make an impulse buy or serve up on too many sides, too soon.

How to Practice Gratitude

Put your practice in place now with these three tips:

1. Name three things you are grateful for – go small if you have to — the breath in your body, fresh water to drink, the home that you live in, the device you are reading this on.

2. Feel the emotion of appreciation and gratitude for those three things.

3. Then consider the cause of them.

See that? Gratitude practice is easy-peasy and you don’t have to wait until Thanksgiving to give it a go. Do this daily, all year round, and not only will life feel just a little easier, but you might just make it through the holiday meal without needing to loosen your belt.


**portions of this post appeared previously in Imperfect Spirituality

Three ways to feel more grateful

I’m often asked for “quick-tips” to jump start the day and ways to power up a better mood. Gratitude is the answer. It is both the easiest and most powerful practice I know if you want to quickly shift from bad feelings to better and it often leads to curiosity and compassion. 

So take a look at the post first published on this site a couple of years ago and fire up the gratitude and appreciation in your life. It will be a  difference-maker in your day.

Resarch by  psychologists like Robert Emmons indicates gratitude improves our moods, health, and overall well-being. People who practice daily gratitude also felt better about their lives overall and were more likely to reach their goals.

It’s also good for relationships.  When I give thanks that Mr. J is doing the dishes, I’m also noticing him and his goodness and reflecting, for a moment, on all that he brings to my life. That’s a good thing.

And the great thing is, gratitude is not limited. It can be accessed by anyone, anywhere, anytime and it just takes a moment.

Looking for ways to count your blessings? Here are three quick gratitude habits.

1. Say Thank You. This habit requires you to stop and take stock of what’s happening right now. Say this regularly to yourself, to the conditions that surround you, to the people who help. Use it as a way to be present and as a reminder that even the challenges you face offer lessons and opportunity for gratitude.

2. Pick five. Make it a personal goal to find at least five different things to be grateful for every day. Lots of people list theirs in a daily gratitude journal – which is illuminating and helpful. Often I just name five things to myself in the morning and before bed. But holding yourself accountable for at least five will keep you noticing things to be grateful for all day long. Don’t be afraid to smart small. If life feels hard right now, you can still be grateful for your breath or your cat or a mug of hot soup or the beautiful tree outside your window.

3. See the gift in the garbage. It is an exercise in mindfulness and present-living, as well as gratitude to notice the goodness even when things are bleak. It may take a little effort, but it’s worth it because there’s a positive payoff at the end. Connecting to the goodness that remains in life, even when it’s hard, is healing and it reminds you that darkness is never absolute.

From a little pinpoint of light there can be life again.


Photo by: Stock.xchng