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Your Fate is in Your Own Hands

The Awakened Heart Project.With An Open HeartThis post is part of The Awakened Heart Project

Week 26 and 27: Your Fate is in Your Own Hands 

“When you doubt your power, you give power to your doubt.”

~Honore de Balzac


Life Lesson 26: Your Fate is in Your Own Hands 

This week, the focus is on personal strength and believing in yourself. It’s critical to accomplishing goals, and achieving the life you want. If you can’t believe in yourself, what else do you have going forward? The first part of this weeks lessons is a Buddhist story. Read it with a clear mind and be open to the stories lesson.

believe in yourself

“Fate is in Your Own Hands”

Once upon a time, there was a general who was leading his army into battle against an enemy ten times the size of his own.

Along the way to the battlefield, the troops stopped by a small temple to pray for victory. Read more

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It Doesn’t Matter How Fast You Get There, If You’re Headed In The Wrong Direction.

The Awakened Heart Project.With An Open HeartThis post is part of The Awakened Heart Project

Week 24 and 25: It Doesn’t Matter How Fast You Get There…If You’re Headed In The Wrong Direction.

“Slow down and enjoy life. It’s not only the scenery you miss by going to fast-you also miss the sense of where you are going and why.”


-Eddie Cantor

Life Lesson 24: It Doesn’t Matter How Fast You Get There…If You’re Headed In The Wrong Direction.

We’ve all done it. We’ve put ourselves on autopilot and headed in the direction of our dreams. Day in and day out, we work. We create lists, we’re ambitious, and we focus all of our attention on completing the tasks that will get us to our dreams. However, when we finally arrive at “our dreams”, we realize it isn’t a dream at all. We look back and ask, “What was I thinking?” Then we realize, we weren’t thinking at all. We were simply going.

One common example of this is the career-focused person who thinks they’ll be happy at the top of the company. They work like crazy for years. They sacrifice friends, family, and leisure time. They tell themselves things will be different and easier at the top and then they’ll have time for x, y, and z. But when they get to the top they realize the hours are still long, they’re disconnected from friends and family and they missed out far too many experiences to count. Reality sets in and they realize everything they lost along the way wasn’t worth the gain.

Granted, not everyone feels this way when they get to the top. And many people feel this way without ever getting to “The Top”; whatever place that may be for you. What’s important is that you’re headed in the right direction for you. YOU are the only one who can decide what direction is the right direction.

rat race

Don’t get caught up in the speed at which you accomplish your goals. Don’t get caught up in societies expectations of where you “should be” in life. Albeit, this is incredibly difficult in today’s world. Here’s an interested story on the topic: Read more

The Yin and Yang of Life

The Awakened Heart Project.With An Open HeartThis post is part of The Awakened Heart Project

Week 22 and 23: The Yin and Yang of Life  

“I wanted a perfect ending. Now I’ve learned, the hard way, that some poems don’t rhyme, and some stories don’t have a clear beginning, middle, and end. Life is about not knowing, having to change, taking the moment and making the best of it, without knowing what’s going to happen next. Delicious Ambiguity.”
-Gilda Radner 

Life Lesson 22: There is Still Fortune in Misfortune…If You Open Your Eyes! 

You’ve heard this metaphor before: You can’t control the storm, but you can learn to surf! That’s exactly what life is all about. It’s about enjoying the ride, -even the bumps. Take every obstacle in stride, and learn from every experience, -good or bad. You must remember, YOU ARE NOT THE ONLY ONE THAT HAS TO FACE PAIN, OBSTACLES, FRUSTRATIONS, SADDNESS AND ANGER. Not a single one of us is immune to the ups-and-downs of life.

Yin yang

You might think that certain people have had made. That certain people have everything handed to them, or that they just lucky and don’t know the meaning of hard work or hardship. This may be true for a very small percentage of people walking this planet, but I know it is not for the majority. For most people, work was a very real part of their success. For most people, adversity, let downs, screw ups, and set backs, existed often on their life journey. There are more than a few people that even found themselves at a total loss and moving forward required completely starting over. It sucks, but life must go on, and so, it’s the only real option.

Karen Salmansohn, author of How to be Happy Dammit uses “The Fortune  500 Club” and “The Misfortune 500 Club” to help explain the Read more

The Joy of a Warm Summer Day

The Awakened Heart Project.With An Open HeartThis post is part of The Awakened Heart Project

Week 21: The Joy of a Warm Summer Day  

The present moment is filled with joy and happiness. If you are attentive, you will see it.
― Thich Nhat Hanh

 

All I Want To Do Is Sit In The Sun 

I don’t know about you, but here in Minnesota, we’re really getting the start of spring and summer these days. Sure it’s been raining quite a bit this week, but when it’s not, and the sun is shining, there is nothing I want to do more than to be outside. I don’t always find the time to write these posts prior to Monday’s, so sometimes I find myself feeling very conflicted without my time. Today, I spent some time this morning putting together the patio table and chairs for the deck just so I could type outside. Right now it’s sunny and beautiful but come this afternoon, storms will be back in the sky.

What’s the point of me telling you this you ask? Every chance you get to do something that brings you peace, happiness, and joy, you should take it. A moment outside might seem insignificant, especially if you live somewhere where the seasons don’t change, but for me it’s incredibly important. I NEED the sun. My body, mind, and spirit instantly feel reconnected and exuberated when I’m outside and the sun is shinning. The warmth on my skin brings me soo much comfort. It’s almost hard for me to explain the affinity I have for hot summer days; there is just something about it that overwhelms me with happiness. I’m especially grateful today as I know rain will soon be upon me.

Life's beautiful notice it

Every one of us will have Read more

We Are All Beggars Until We Begin To Look Inward

The Awakened Heart Project. With An Open HeartThis post is part of The Awakened Heart Project

Week 20: We Are All Beggars Until We Begin To Look Inward 

“Happiness is inward, and not outward; and so, it does not depend on what we have, but on what we are.”

~ Henry Van Dyke

The External World Keeps Us Disconnected  

With all of the external stimulation we have at our constant disposal in today’s world, it has become difficult to spend any time, consciously stimulating our inner self. We spend time watching television, sitting on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google, (“googling” to our hearts content), reading on our computers or ereaders, watching movies, texting, emailing, shopping, -buying our way to happiness, building our ideal happiness on Pinterest…I could go on forever, but I wont.

It’s not hard to see that we’ve created a very external world where introspection is perhaps a rarity; where searching for happiness and inner peace are found outwardly. The problem with this is that happiness and inner peace CANNOT be found outwardly. The attempts we make to do this fail, -clearly they fail, or we wouldn’t be consuming as much as we consume. We wouldn’t be spending so much time disconnected from ourselves as we do.

We all want happiness, but we don’t understand how to get it. We spend our days in constant pursuit of happiness but never find it. We ask ourselves, “What will make me happy?” But we usually end up concluding that external items will answer this question. We think, maybe I need a new carIf only I weren’t singleIf only I had more moneyif I buy this, I’ll be happy. We also spend our days blaming our unhappiness on Read more

How Buddhists’ Use Rain to Help Increase Mindfulness

mindfulness

Some years ago, a group of Buddhist teachers developed the mindfulness tool ‘RAIN’ (an acronym for the four steps of the process) to help heal difficult emotions. In todays world, feeling our feelings has become somewhat of a “no-no”. People are constantly looking for quick fixes, the next pharmaceutical, -a way out. But in truth, the only way to heal, is to feel. If you never learn this truth, you will continue to experience the same pain, feelings, and frustrations over and over again. You must heal, process, learn, and let go. You cannot store away your past. You must accept it, and learn from it.

True,  sometimes it’s hard to sit in our emotions. Being aware of our feelings and accepting them, is critical to our physical health as well as mental. Physiologically, mind, body, and spirit, are all intertwined.  

Tara Brach of Yoga Journal puts it like this:
Yes, there are times when being present feels out of reach or too much to bear. There are times when false refuges can relieve stress, give us a breather, help lift our mood. But when we’re not connected to the clarity and kindness of presence, we’re all too likely to fall into more misunderstanding, more conflict, and more distance from others and our own heart.

As a means to help others heal from emotional difficulty, RAIN was developed. The beauty of RAIN is that it can be accessed at any moment, no matter where you are. It simply asks you to direct your attention to clearing your mind, and the process is simple, and stress free.

I love how Brach describes the beauty in this method: The steps give us somewhere to turn in a painful moment, and as we call on them more regularly, they strengthen our capacity to come home to our deepest truth. Like the clear sky and clean air after a cooling rain, this mindfulness practice brings a new openness and calm to our daily lives.

Here are the four steps of RAIN:

R – recognize what is happening.
A – allow life to be just as it is.
I – investigate inner experience with kindness.
N – non-identification.

RAIN directly deconditions the habitual ways in which you resist your moment-to-moment experience. RAIN begins to undo these unconscious patterns that cause you to cut off your feelings, and in turn your mind and heart to the world around you, as soon as we take the first step.

the_girl_in_the_rain_by_best10photos

Recognize What is Happening

Recognition, quite simply is seeing what is true in your inner life. This means recognizing and focusing on your present thoughts, emotions, feelings, and sensations in the present moment. And when you begin to be mindful of these, your heart and mind will gradually open allowing you to connect with your experiences more fully; you will discover that some parts of your experience are easier to connect with than others. According to Brach, one way to think of it is like this: You might recognize anxiety right away, but if you focus on your worried thoughts, you might not notice the actual sensations of squeezing, pressure, or tightness arising in the body. If your body is gripped by jittery nervousness, you might not recognize that this physical response is being triggered by your underlying belief that you are about to fail.

Work on this by asking yourself this simple question: “What is happening inside me right now?” Focus inward. Listen to your heart, mind, body and spirit with compassion and patiences.

Allow Life to Be Just as It Is

This means, letting what is be just that, and accepting it that way. That is, accepting your thoughts, emotions, feelings, or sensations. Sometimes sitting in our feelings is difficult and uncomfortable so we look for a way out, -and quickly! But don’t. Be present with “what is”, and when you do, your awareness of your inward motion will increase which will in turn give you a different quality of attention for “what is”.  Allowing and accepting is important because it aids in the healing process.

Investigate with Kindness

Investigation means  to follow your natural instinct to know and understand the hows and whys of where you are currently. It’s important to recognize what is going on inside yourself, but it’s also important to ask, “What does this feeling want from me?” It is not until the “why’s” are understood that truly dealing and healing with emotions can happen. Avoiding investigating these reasons will only allow them to control you passively each day. They will present themselves in a disguised manner, but will nevertheless, run-a-muc in your head, heart, and life. .

An important aspect of  investigation is that it needs to be done with kindness. It is the kindness that provides healing and freeing. Whatever surfaces in this process, welcome it with kindness.

Nonidentification: Rest in Natural Awareness

Nonidentification means that your sense of self or identity is not defined or limited by your emotions, feelings, and life experiences. It is thought that when identification with the “ego self” is loosened, -that which does identify with emotions, feelings and life experiences, we begin to live and love more openly and embrace natural awareness.

Although the first three steps of RAIN require some intentional activity, the N does not. You are asked to simply rest in natural awareness and liberate yourself through mindfulness.

This post was adapted from the article “Let it Rain” via Yoga Journal. 

Letting Your Worries Go

This post is part of The Awakened Heart Project

Week 19: Letting Your Worries Go

“I keep the telephone of my mind open to peace, harmony, health, love and abundance.  Then, whenever doubt, anxiety or fear try to call me, they keep getting a busy signal – and soon they’ll forget my number.”

 – Edith Armstrong

Letting Your Worries Go

Worry is unfortunately a very real part of most of our minds. This pattern of thinking has perhaps increased in the last 300 years as well. As humans, our worries are no longer simple or basic; that is, surviving. We’re now worried about the mortgage, college, how we look, the home we have, how others perceive us, are our children popular, or did I marry the right person? Am I in the right career? Should I have gone on vacation? Do I have enough saved? Are my parents proud of me? The list can go on forever and ever; I’m not going to bother.

Despite the plethora of things we have to worry about these days, it is possible to get back to basics; -at least cut the list dramatically! Before we get into the how, I want to share a little story with you.

“THE TROUBLE TREE”

The carpenter I hired to help me restore an old farmhouse had just finished a rough first day on the job. A flat tire made him lose an hour of work, his electric saw quit, and now his ancient pickup truck refused to start.

While I drove him home, he sat in stone silence. On arriving, he invited me in to meet the family. As we walked toward the front door, he paused briefly at a small tree, touching the tips of the branches with both hands.

After opening the door, he Read more

Weighing the Cost and Benefits For Your Happiness

This post is part of The Awakened Heart Project

Week 18: Weighing the Cost and Benefits For Your Happiness

“Happiness is always a by-product.  It is probably a matter of temperament, and for anything I know it may be glandular.  But it is not something that can be demanded from life, and if you are not happy you had better stop worrying about it and see what treasures you can pluck from your own brand of unhappiness.”

 ~Robertson Davies

Weighing the Cost and Benefits For Your Happiness

Everyday, we have commitments. We have them to ourselves, to our work, to our families, etc. But what happens when our commitments begin to become obligations we not longer value? Well, you begin to resent them, and with the endless obligations, our lives begin to feel like giant resentments.

So, how do you change that? You have to have Read more

How to Embrace Vulnerability and Ultimately Live a Life of Purpose and Meaning

This post is part of The Awakened Heart Project

Week 17:  How to Embrace Vulnerability and Ultimately Live a Life of Purpose and Meaning 

“Owning our story can be hard but not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it. Embracing our vulnerabilities is risky but not nearly as dangerous as giving up on love and belonging and joy—the experiences that make us the most vulnerable. Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light.” ― Brené  Brown

How to Embrace Vulnerability and Ultimately Live a Life of Purpose and Meaning 

In the last Awakened Heart post, (read it HERE if you missed it)  you were asked to watch Dr. Brené  Brown’s “The Power of Vulnerability” TED talk. This is one of my all time favorites TED talks and I hope it’s one of yours now too! Dr. Brown has managed to sum up years worth or research into some of the most invaluable information we as humans have ever received; The purpose of life is to find meaning in it, and to connect with others, and the only way to connect, is to be vulnerable.

When you think about what it takes to be strong, honest, courageous and authentic, you may or may not include vulnerable to your list. In fact, synonyms of vulnerability include: defenseless, sucker, susceptible, unsafe, weak, and in danger. Quite the contrary to anything strong and courageous!

BreneBrownQuote2-640x300

Image credit to Brene Brown and the Ordinary Courage blog

As humans, we thrive through honest, vulnerable, Read more

The Power of Vulnerability

This post is part of The Awakened Heart Project

Week 16: The Power of Vulnerability 

“Owning our story can be hard but not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it. Embracing our vulnerabilities is risky but not nearly as dangerous as giving up on love and belonging and joy—the experiences that make us the most vulnerable. Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light.”
― Brené Brown

The Power of Vulnerability 

Last week we talked about judgment; where it stems from, how it impacts our world, and how to stop judging others and ourselves. The thing about judgment is that it typically comes from places that harbor our own insecurities.  Think of it this way, if we completely accepted our own faults, and were not afraid of others realizing them, what would be the point in judging others? There would be none. One of main reasons we judge is to protect our own egos. But that’s not going to get us very far on the road of personal growth and transformation.

As a part of letting go of judgment, this week all you’re asked to do is watch a video and reflect on what it means to be vulnerable and how letting go of judgment can help you do that. Truly, the only way to let go of judgment is to allow yourself to be vulnerable. Next week we’ll discuss vulnerability more thoroughly.

Brene Brown Quotes

Brene Brown is a researcher that I highly admire. Her work stems Read more

We Must Learn to Let Go of Judgment

This post is part of The Awakened Heart Project

Week 15: We Must Learn to Let Go of Judgement. 

“We should be lenient in our judgment, because often the mistakes of others would have been ours had we had the opportunity to make them.”

―Unknown

Part 1: Do Not Judge Others

Judgment: it’s a word that has a lot of weight behind it. The words that come with judgment are most often heavy, cold and unkind. There is nothing to gain when we judge. Nothing. If you know of something, please comment and let me know, because I can’t think of one thing.

When you judge others and others judge you, you put negative energy out into the world and in your heart. You’re also spreading a message that is likely not 100% truthful. Judgment is based on personal beliefs and schemas. Therefore, when you judge, you’re really showing many of your true colors. Sometimes, these colors are uuggglllyyyyy! These colors can easily out weight the beautiful colors underneath. We all know the saying, “Let your true colors shine!” But if your true colors are dark and sullen, then your “shine” will look much more like a dark cloud. I don’t know about you, but I’ll take a sunny day, over a raining day, ANY DAY! But hey, we can’t be a masterpiece all the time. We’re human. Not a single one of us is perfect.

Which brings me to my next point… Read more

How Happy Are You Right Now?

This post is part of  The Awakened Heart Project

Week 14: How Happy Are You Right Now?

“Man is fond of counting his troubles, but he does not count his joys.  If he counted them up as he ought to, he would see that every lot has enough happiness provided for it.”

~Fyodor Dostoevsky

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How Happy Are You Right Now?

With the crazy, busy lives we live day in and day out, it’s easy to lose sight of what really makes us happy. Answer this question: How happy are you RIGHT NOW? Do you even know? Is it difficult for you to answer? We often confuse our own happiness with what makes others happy. You probably know what makes your children happy, or your parents, or your friends, but what about you? Are you aware of what brings you happiness and joy? Awareness of these little things that bring a smile to our faces, and contentment in our hearts can be difficult to harness. Focusing on internal Read more

Taking Your Goal Setting and Life Setting to the Next Level

This post is part of  The Awakened Heart Project

Week 13: Taking Your Goal Setting and Life Setting to the Next Level

“The road leading to a goal does not separate you from the destination; it is essentially a part of it.” ~ Charles DeLint

Goals, Changes, and Perceptions

Last week we talked a lot about setting goal. We worked on defining and refining existing goals and identifying negative perceptions and beliefs that have hindered your ability to successfully accomplish goals from the past. If you have not completed the exercises from last weeks lesson, I recommend you do so now. It will be difficult to continue on in the coming weeks without having set some real goals, -or even just one! We’re all on a different journey here and all seek change in different ways. Your goals are yours alone.

Pushing Forces vs. Opposing Forces

Last week we discussed Outside and Inside Forces. We established that, A body will remain at rest until acted upon by an outside force. A ball will remain on a table until nudged right? Yes! This is also true for humans. We will remain stagnant until acted upon by an outside force. Or, in many cases, an INSIDE FORCE! The uniqueness we have as humans is that we have the choice to choose the inward forces as our primary means of transportation; that is, our heart and minds. I encourage you to really think about that for a minute. Outside forces can push us yes, but outside forces don’t always push us in the right direction. They often push us in the direction that is best for the outside forces.

So we have these two forces: one working against us, and one working for us. This week you’ll evaluate these forces and rationalize them. Sometimes wanting changes to occur and actually making the changes are two difficult tasks to bring together. A useful question to ask yourself is, whether you’re committed to activity of change or the results of that change. Wanting the result is what is really most important. You can think of the analogy of someone driving with his or her foot on the gas going full speed into the world. You think, “Yeah! They’re going for it!” but if there’s no destination in sight, no place they’re headed, they may end up driving in circles with nothing but an empty tank to shoe for it. You must be committed to not only the activities along the way, but truly wanting the end result of change.

freeimages.co.uk nature images

No change will ever exist without actually making changes. But the things holding us back are often used as blinder making us believe that we can’t make the changes. You tell yourself, “It’s not the right time”, or “I don’t have the money”. This internal dialogue will absolutely hold you back. So if you really WANT the change, you have to Read more

A New Perspective on Making a Career in Your 20s

career

I just completed a guest post for a great blog called 20 Somethings in 2013: Stories of men and women in their twenties  about my experience in the career world since graduating from college. When the author, David, first asked me to write a segment about my journey thus far, I was a bit apprehensive and surprised. Why? because my journey as been very different from most of my peers. I wrote back to David and explained that I would be happy to write something, but I wanted him to understand that my experiences, and choices have been very different from my peers and I wanted to make sure that he understood that others may not find my story as helpful or insightful. To my surprise, David still wanted my contribution. Pretty cool! You can check it out HERE.

One of the great aspects of this blog is that it features posts written by twenty-somethings who discuss their experiences and opinions about beginning a career in this economy. There’s a lot of diversity which I really love about the featured “20 somethings”.

If you’re in your 20’s, just starting out, or simply interested in the many careers and career pathways people are seeking in todays world, I recommend checking it out. It has a lot of great information as well as great bios from other 20 somethings.

Nina Shadi Signature Length

How to Define and Accomplish Your Goals: Beginning Steps

This post is part of  The Awakened Heart Project

Week 12: How to Define and Accomplish Your Goals: Beginning Steps 

“One half of knowing what you want is knowing what you must give up before you get it.”

 ~Sidney Howard

Free Yourself to Be Yourself

The last few weeks we’ve spent a significant amount of time discussing how fear and beliefs from the past create a wall hindering forward movement and personal growth. Fear is a very real part of stagnation in life. If you want to create your great life and build a life where your dreams and aspirations can be realized, releasing yourself from the shackles of your fears is your first priority.

FYI: A body will remain at rest until acted upon by an outside force. A ball will remain on a table until nudged right? Yes! This is also true for humans. We will remain stagnant until acted upon by an outside force. Or, in many cases, an INSIDE FORCE! The uniqueness we have as humans is that we have the choice to choose the inward forces as our primary means of transportation; that is, our heart and minds. I encourage you to really think about that for a minute. Outside forces can push us yes, but outside forces don’t always push us in the right direction. They often push us in the direction that is best for the outside forces. What do I mean by that? Well, your boss might push you to complete a task and do it in a particular amount of time. His task and time frame may be ridiculous and appear almost impossible to you. You may think, “How in the hell will I ever do this? Why would he even ask this of me?” In truth, his motivation is likely for the betterment of the company, or even himself. Don’t think it’s for your betterment, its most likely not. So you get motivated to complete his task at whatever cost. You scarifies your personal life, time with your kids, exercise, sleep, etc., etc., etc. You tell yourself that this outside force is critical to your wellbeing because it’s your job and you need it to survive.

Then one day, you wake up and an inward thought emerges from your mind: What if this wasn’t Read more

With a Hardened Heart, Your Life Will Always Be Empty

This post is part of The Awakened Heart Project

Week 11: With a Hardened Heart, Your Life Will Always Be Empty   

We could never have guessed

We were already blessed

Where we are…

 -James Taylor

Your Week of Reprieve

The past few weeks the posts have been long, and the material somewhat “heavy”. This week, I’m giving you a bit of a reprieve. This week I will leave you with a story I hope you will reflect upon throughout the next seven days. It will help you prepare for the next chapter of The Awakened Heart Project. Although the material this week is lighter, take 20 minutes to answer the reflection questions, as they will help you prepare for the coming weeks as well.

I hope everyone has been enjoying the “Life Lessons” thus far. I’m looking forward to this next chapter with you beginning next week. And with that, a story…

Between Peace and Joy

With an Open Heart

One day, a woman who found a folded sponge all dried and compressed, and tucked inside the hardened fold was a message she’d been seeking. She carried the hardened sponge to the sea and, up to her waist in the deep, she watched it unfold and come to life in the water. Magically, the secret of Read more