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Notice the gift of the rain puddle

 

Let us continue our discussion on expanding our awareness in life to notice blessings rather than just focusing on problems and issues.

Here is a lovely poem, particularly apt in the current fall weather we are having in North America:

Gifts of the Rain Puddle
Beth Kurland

I woke up from a funk today of too many bills
too many emails to return, not enough time –
From that irritability that creeps in insidiously like a dark shadow ready to swallow us all
if we let it in.

I woke up to discover
that I inherited a small fortune!

Actually,
if truth be told,
would you believe that I forgot that it was here all along?

My neighbor reminded me this morning –
the little guy in the overalls and dirt filled fingernails.
I saw him laughing hysterically
as he jumped in a giant puddle,
a leftover gift from the torrential rains;
as he soaked himself,
and went back for more,
then began running and shrieking
through the wet grass
with his unsteady gait
until he fell down in a heap,
all smiles.

I...

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Expand your awareness

One of the hallmarks of emotional reactivity is that it causes us to have tunnel vision.

When we are in the midst of a reacting to a trigger, our entire attention is focused on the cause of the irritation and upset. As a result of this, we fail to notice everything that is beautiful and good around us.

While there are solid biological reasons for this reaction when we are in the midst of a true life and death situation and need to focus our attention on the threat, this kind of reaction does not serve us well in the vast majority of triggers and upsets that we face in our daily lives. It simply causes us to lose perspective and become reactive.

One of the ways to develop mental and emotional balance is to intentionally expand our awareness to include what is going right around us. When we do this, by definition we put the problem or the irritant in its rightful place.

Expanding our focus is NOT about denying what is bothering us or not dealing with it. It is about having a realistic...

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Don’t take it personally



Salaams and Good Morning !

Here is your daily dose of Wisdom for Living Your Best Self!

A very effective step towards equanimity is to practice taking things less personally.

Let us understand this through a Taoist fable from Chuang-Tzu, which I learnt from one of my teachers, Rick Hanson.

Here is how he tells it:

It is a beautiful day and you are floating in canoe with a friend on a slow-moving river on a beautiful Sunday.

Suddenly there is a loud thump on the side of the canoe, and it rolls over, dumping you and your friend into the cold water. You come up sputtering and realize that somebody swum up to your canoe and tipped it over on purpose, for a joke and is now laughing at how annoyed you and your friend are.

How do you feel when you experience this?

Now let's imagine a slightly different scenario.

The scene is exactly the same: same boat, same river and same beautiful but cold river. Your boat is hit, tipped over and you are cold and wet. Except that when you come up and...

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Develop a mantra

A highly effective way to practice equanimity is to talk to ourselves in the third person. In this process we become our own coaches for the moment and talk ourselves through the situation.

It is fun to come up with a creative mantra that we can use as a signal to calm down.

When I find myself getting triggered, I imagine a big hook waiting to hook me into a predictable and familiar overreaction. A reaction that will most surely cause me to regret what I say. I then remind myself:

"Come on Marzia, remember to 'engage brain before operating mouth'".

Using your first name in the 3rd person in this way is a highly effective way to remind yourself of your values and coach yourself through a situation which would usually trigger you.

So go on, develop a mantra or two for yourself to help you when you find yourself getting triggered.

Here is a really good example (a 9 min video clip):

 

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How do we develop equanimity?

As we said, Equanimity means to keep cool even in difficult situations and not get triggered in response to what others say or do.

Keeping cool does appear to come naturally to some people. For most of us though, it takes intentionality and practice. The good news however, is that it is a learnable skill. We can learn how to respond to others based on our values rather than react angrily to something they said that triggers us.

How do we develop equanimity?

The first step is to recognize and understand the concept itself.

When someone pushes our buttons or triggers us, there are several physiological signals that tell us that we getting triggered and in danger of reacting. Our breathing becomes more shallow, the heart begins to race, we may begin to feel a build up of tension in our muscles (especially in the hands, the neck and shoulders), we might feel pressure building up behind our eyes, or in our temples.

All these are the body's signal that it is going into fight or flight...

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What emotional reactivity looks like

We have been talking about emotional reactivity in communication and the opposite of reactivity which is equanimity.

Before we talk about how to develop equanimity, let's get clear on recognizing reactivity.

Sometimes we think that if we are not screaming or shouting and we look calm, we are not reacting. But our calm surface might be covering up an internal storm. This is not equanimity.

Looking calm and being calm are two very different emotional states.

Emotional reactivity is as much about what is happening internally than it is what appears on the outside.

If we are having negative thoughts and ruminating about what someone has said, we may be internalizing or "imploding" rather than exploding which is equally unhealthy. Equanimity is not about gritting your teeth and bearing it.

If we shutdown or stonewall during a stressful conversation, we are anything but calm. We are using emotional distance as a way of managing our reactivity which will hurt us and our relationships.

...

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Beyond effective communication - Mindful Communication

Today let us expand our definition of effective communication.

The skills of effective communication, which include excellent use of language and grammar, saying what we mean and meaning what we say, are extremely valuable in a professional, public and sometimes personal context.

In personal relationships, however, the skills of effective communication may not be enough to connect authentically with others and to build relationships.

In personal relationships, I prefer to use the term Mindful Communication or Conscious Communication.

Mindful communication goes further than effective communication in building relationships.

Mindful communication is communication that is intentional, purposeful, conscious and compassionate. It is communication that comes from the heart and aims to reach the heart of another. To communicate mindfully means to have a "heart to heart" with another human being.

To communicate mindfully we focus on:

Self-empathy: a deep and compassionate awareness of our...

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But why is communication so challenging?

Yesterday we talked about how miscommunication was quite common and that most of us could do with some reminders on how to communicate better.

There are many many reasons why the message gets lost in translation between my mind and your ears.

Let's try and understand a few of them.

I have an idea in my head, and I want to convey it to you. I try to convey it to the best of my ability. You then have to take my words (assuming that you heard them correctly), decode and understand them to the best of your ability and make meaning out of them.

Both our abilities to convey and receive these messages are of course impacted by many factors.

I will convey my message based on my skill at using language, what certain words mean to me and my tone and body language (which may confirm or conflict with the message).

I also have underlying emotions that colour the way I speak. If I want to go out for dinner, for example, I might ask "What shall we do for dinner" because it feels safer than making...

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Pursue excellence (Imam Ali (as)’s wisdom)

The worth of every man is in his pursuit of excellence.

Imam Ali believed that whatever is worth doing, is worth doing well.

Do not try to be quick in what you do, but try to do it well, for surely people will not ask you: "How long did it take you to finish what you were doing?" Surely they will ask you how well you did it.

Are we pursuing quantity over quality in our daily actions?

Whether it completing a project at work, laying the table for dinner or being emotionally available to our children, how can we take the time to do at least some things really well every day?

The satisfaction of a job well done far exceeds the relief at getting something checked off our 'to do' list.

Don't you think?

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Wisdom from Louise Hay (Quotes to live by)

Those of you who know Louise Hay's work, may have heard that she passed away peacefully last week at the age of 90.

Louise Hay was one of the founders of the self help movement and her book, Heal Your Body, was first published in 1976, long before it was fashionable to discuss the connection between the mind and body. After the publication of You Can Heal Your Life in 1984 (which has more than 50 million copies in print worldwide), Louise started to inspire and uplift millions with her words of wisdom, now contained in over 30 books for adults and children.

You can read much more about her work and legacy here.

Although criticized by some for her "woo-woo" new age messaging and lack of scientific backing for her work, there is no doubt that Louise's words have supported millions of people through life's challenges. Even if we don't entirely buy into Louise's messaging (and I do have my reservations!), there is so much we can learn from her about helpful versus unhelpful thinking.

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