Grateful for the little things

I started this practice of writing what I am grateful for everyday some time ago . This sounded like a good idea, except that I was repeating myself writing things like:

  • grateful for my family
  • grateful for my work
  • grateful for all the opportunities
  • grateful for my home
  • grateful for my health

Maybe I’m a bit slow, but it occurred to me that I was writing about being grateful for macro level things in my life, and missing the little things in life. It all seemed a bit forced, and it appeared I really wasn’t grateful for anything I was just writing it down because it seemed like a good idea. You know everyone tells you that if you can express how grateful you are you will be happier and more content. It is also true that life is not so much made up of big events and accomplishments as it is small things that happen everyday that often go unnoticed or unappreciated. There is a quote I like that makes this point.

The little things

If you take this philosophy and start applying it to your grateful journal, you begin to look at things with more of a mindful approach, paying attention to those little events that make up your day. Now instead of repeating those macro level themes or conditions in your life, you now begin to record those little experiences. Here are a few examples that help make my point:

  • Grateful for the person at the cafe where I was buying some breakfast items who just gave me a banana, showing her appreciation for my patronage.
  • Grateful for the rain that poured last night, just after I had put fertilizer on the lawn.
  • Grateful for spending last Sunday morning with a three month old baby, walking and singing songs to him.
  • Grateful for how attractive my wife is as she walked by me this morning with her workout clothes on.
  • Grateful for my manager at work who always greets me with a smile, and has something nice to say.

See the difference? These are little things, but they are positive events that compose your day and should be things that you can appreciate. These little things bring you closer to the world you live in, and as you begin to notice these things you are beginning to live in the moment, where real appreciation resides.

Hopefully you can begin to notice these little things, the people, and events for your own grateful journal. If you can’t find time to write them down at least notice that they are occurring and be grateful.

Namaste

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The world belongs to you

I was thinking about a quote that I posted to Twitter and my blog yesterday. The quote is as follows:

“Be content with what you have; rejoice in the way things are. When you realize there is nothing lacking, the whole world belongs to you.” Lao Tzu

Lao Tzu Lao Tzu was a philosopher and poet of ancient China. He is best known as the reputed author of the Tao Te Ching and the founder of philosophical Taoism, but he is also revered as a deity in religious Taoism and traditional Chinese religions. Wikipedia

I hesitate to over analyze this quote as it is so well written, and I would never attempt to modify it, but we can at least use this time to appreciate what it is telling us. To be content with what you have may be best understood as to be content with the material possessions, vocation, and relationships. The next statement says to rejoice in the way things are, not be satisfied with the way things are but to rejoice in them. If one can find contentment in what they have and rejoice in the way things are it leads to a realization that nothing is lacking. If a person can then have an attitude that nothing is lacking then the world belongs to you. Breaking it down to something we could begin our mediation sessions with we might form an affirmation like:

  • I am content with all I have
  • I am overjoyed by the way things are
  • I lack for nothing
  • My mind is clear of distractions
  • I can accomplish anything

If my mindset consists of continuously wanting something, feeling depressed about not having it, comparing myself to others I will surely compromise any chance for contentment. All the shiny objects you desire fade away once they are under your possession, the new car feeling quickly fades, and you become a junkie to materialism looking for another fix. The endless cycle of desire, acquisition, and never enough, only begets unhappiness. Try to start each day with the affirmation above to begin reversing the years of your addiction to things and comparison to others.

Thanks Lao Tzu.

Namaste

It’s Thanksgiving again

It’s is Thanksgiving again, so what does that mean to most of you, watching 15 hours of NFL football, spending time with your family, eating turkey and all the things that come with it? I received an email from my mother today, and where she was thankful for her children and I thought maybe there is more to this day than just stuffing my face and watching 3 football games in a row.

Maybe this holiday is really about acknowledging what we are thankful for, and in that case let me give it a shot:

  • I am thankful for my family who always has my back no matter how stupid I act or whatever I do.
  • I am thankful for my wife who accepts me for all my faults.
  • I am thankful for my work that has provided for me and my immediate family for so many years.
  • I am thankful for living in the U.S.A. where I have been blessed with so much opportunity.
  • I am thankful for those who follow my blog and read my rambling philosophical writing.
  • I am thankful for having a comfortable place to sleep and enough food to eat.

While I am thankful for so much that has been bestowed on me, I am also concerned about the many who do not share my good fortune. My wish for all of you is that you can be grateful for what you have this thanksgiving day.

Hopefully we can all find something to be thankful for. Even when we struggle there is always something we can be grateful for. I wish you all the best this holiday weekend!

Namaste

 

Sitting on the mat

I was sitting on the yoga mat today meditating as is my custom in the morning after my yoga practice, and I had a couple of thoughts. Like so many of you I find myself thinking about my next conquest, role, position, material thing, or maybe just what lies ahead that day. I always try to turn off the noise when I meditate, either by forcing a thought pattern that will override all these future oriented thoughts, or sometimes I just try to sit and listen. I’m getting to be about 75% sucessful at this most days, but it’s not yet perfect. If you cannot just sit and listen to the sounds around you and drown out the chatter in your mind then you might try focusing your mind on the following themes:

  • Now – Think about now just sitting on your mat, tell yourself there is only this moment. You might repeat the phrase “live in the moment, now is all we have” or something like that.
  • Compassion – You may also consider just thinking about compassion. You might say to yourself “I will be compassionate with everyone I encounter today”.  In addition to this you might say to yourself “I will seek to understand and not judge”. Again use your own words, just focus on the theme of compassion and the words will come.
  • Grateful – A third method I use is to just spend some time reciting a running list of what you are grateful for.  This might include your family, spouse or significant other, children, friends, pets, dwelling, your work, your health, or anything else that you are grateful for.

Often I use all three themes during meditation. When it is all working you feel in the moment and you are enjoying just sitting there. You may find that this is one of the most wonderful moments in your day, when you are really present and not working towards something or for someone else. You will also find that sitting on the mat as I call it prepares you for the challenges of the modern world, making it all a bit more easy to be mindful during whatever chaos comes your way.

Namaste

 

Embracing the Monday Goals

If you have read some of my prior posts you know that I was advocating that you set a goal each Monday that will lead to making positive changes in you life. These might be losing weight, exercising more, eating better, overcoming some unhealthy addiction, starting a business, getting a new job, repairing a relationship, and the list goes on and on. I’ve been taking my own advice and am now on my fourth goal or fourth Monday. What I have begun to realize is that most of the goals I set are ongoing and require a frequent investment in time to achieve, so they tend to pile up and require a lot of dedication to achieve them. This is a good thing, but sometimes it might be wise to throw in some easier to achieve goals in the mix. Here is an example of how you might intersperse some goals that can be more easily achieved or at least require less ongoing time to support:

Week 1: Do something everyday towards a business you have started. Clearly this will be one of those ongoing goals that requires effort overtime, categorize this as a big goal.

Week 2: Make changes to your diet to include more fruits and vegetables. This is one of those easier to achieve goals and doesn’t have a lot of overhead associated with it.

Week 3: Practice yoga six days a week. Again this is a pretty big goal and has no end date, you achieve this goal 6 days a week so we might categorize this as a big goal.

Week 4: Make a commitment to donate $500 a year to the United Way. Here is a pretty easy to achieve goal that only requires minimal effort. For those of you who work for a corporation this is simply filling out the pledge card once a year.

Week 5: Commit to calling your parents or siblings once a week. This is somewhat of an in between goal, not a huge time commitment but it does require some discipline.

These are just a few examples of goals that have an ongoing cost, and those that are a bit easier to achieve. Does the fact that a goal requires a big commitment make it more important? Maybe but take the goal for Week 2 of adding more fruits and vegetables to your diet, and Week 4 of donating $500 per year to the United Way; one might suggest these are both pretty important things to do. We all have limited time, so those goals with a high ongoing costs must be things you are extremely committed too. It is always a good idea to have some goals that you can achieve more quickly but that still have a positive impact on your life or the life of others.

Monday Motivation

Goals this week

Last week I wrote about how exercise and meditation that is focused on gratefulness sets you up for a great Monday morning instead of a difficult transition from weekend to work week. Today I would like to ask a little more, so instead of just starting out with a great attitude we need to view this day as a chance to start anew.  Pick something you want to change about your life, which shouldn’t be too difficult for most of us.  Here is a list of a few goals that apply to many people:

  • This week I am going to stick with my exercise program.  No excuses, no more days missed because someone else set your priorities.
  • This week I’m going to kick a bad habit I have.  This habit might be over eating, smoking, drinking too much, loving your cell phone more than your friends or family, too much time with video games, gossiping about family/friends/co-workers, and the list goes on and on. You know what is holding you back, so pick one.
  • This week I’m going to think about what I eat and make some good choices. You know what I mean; you don’t need to be a nutritionist to know when you are eating garbage.
  • This week I’m going to focus on positive interactions with everyone I encounter. What will it cost you, but practicing a little self-control, maybe a bit of empathy, or being less judgmental.

goals

So we are starting out a new week and we will make one change, from my list above or something else that has been weighing heavily on your mind. I’m not advocating you give it all up and join the monastery, we don’t have to make a radical change, but make a change and do it now. The result is these changes will accumulate, they will make you stronger, and they will build on each other.  Let’s take a look what 4 short weeks could do:

  1. Week 1 – I started running/walking 3 days a week
  2. Week 2 – I stopped drinking anything with sugar in it
  3. Week 3 – I volunteered at the local food pantry
  4. Week 4 – I stopped gossiping about people I work with

These aren’t huge things that take tons of planning, but you are now creating good things in your life.  After a month of just changing 4 things I now have a good exercise habit, rehydrating without the worthless calories, giving back to your community, and taking the high road with your co-workers.  Now that was just the first month.

Your homework should you choose to accept this challenge is to write down 4 goals, one for each week in the month and start working on one every Monday. When you reach the fourth week, write down 4 more. I just started a Google doc I called “Weekly Goals” so I can see how this flows over time. Sometimes we get hung up on making elaborate plans with no due dates or simply unreasonable ones; this method keeps you focused on one goal for the week not some daunting list. The approach is one step at a time and it is based on achievement, and it takes minimal planning. I also would start with those goals you can achieve, don’t set yourself up for failure, as you begin achieving some of your initial goals, you can make them more challenging, but you must first embrace the mindset that you can change and this takes time.

It is important that you choose 1 or 2 goals for the week and they should be those of the highest priority. This means choose a goal or two for the week that will have an impact on your personal development, family,  or career. Here is an example of goals I set for a 4 week period:

  • Week of 4/9
    • Study for the AWS Developer Associate certification
    • Meditate for 15 minutes each day
  • Week of 4/16
    • Study for the AWS Developer Associate certification
    • Create YouTube Channel
  • Week of 4/23
    • Review and take the AWS Developer Associate certification exam
    • Schedule a meeting with an attorney to setup a will and trust
  • Week of 4/30
    • Install new hinges and pulls on kitchen cabinets
    • Start writing a gratitude journal every night

Note that some of these goals you have committed to each week may be an ongoing activity that improves your life over time. For instance in the goals I mention above meditating for 15 minutes and writing in your gratitude journal are an ongoing process.

This methodology asks you to prioritize what is most important to you and requires a commitment on your part. On the flip side failure to follow your plan leaves you no where, and you continue to just exist, living the same life you have now.

Start slow and choose one small but significant goal for each week and over time you begin to feel a sense of achievement that comes with taking care of those important things that will enrich your life.

Namaste

 

 

Grateful on a Monday

grateful for this day

There probably is no more important time to count your blessings if you will than on Monday morning. Many of us struggle with the thought of going back to the rigor of a job after a nice weekend, others have no issue with it. I’m the former most of the time, so I have taken it upon myself to not suffer the transition from weekend to work week as some type of burden or weekly negative event.  Instead of starting the week out with some whiny negative attitude, the whole paradigm needs to shift. Here is my recommendation, start your Monday morning with a bit of exercise, which might be running, yoga, Pilates, walking, or chasing your significant other around the house, whatever gets you heart beating and breathing hard.  The intent here is to burn off some energy and get into a state of relaxation.  The next thing to do is sit down on the floor, close your eyes and meditate on the following:

  • Give thanks to (God, Mohamed, Buddha, or Yourself) for being alive and healthy
  • Think about the positive ways you will interact with everyone today
  • Be thankful for what you have (look around it is all relative)

As you are focusing on these few thoughts take deep breaths inhaling and exhaling through your nose and try to drown out the noise in your head that is wanting you to think about To Do’s.  See what happens when you get off the floor, get ready and drive into work.

Are you calmer?

Do you have a more positive outlook on the day?

Can you smile without faking it?

If you can say Yes to these three questions you have found a way to start out your Monday, and any other day of the week in the best possible state of mind.

What are you grateful for today

Namaste