Archive for November, 2009

With the holidays coming up, I have been thinking a lot about Thanksgiving. We all know the history behind it, of course, but do we really know what “Thanksgiving” means? Over the years, holidays have become so convoluted, polluted, and commercialized. The stores start selling decorations and themed food for the following holiday before the present holiday is even over just to get a jump on the sales, and it has turned into a means to industrialize what is supposed to be a time to spend with friends, family, and significant others. To business, then end justifies the means.

But when it comes right down to it, what is the true definition of “holiday spirit?” Rarely does a family just get together to celebrate thankfulness, really appreciating what we have, which is the true reason we should be celebrating “Thanksgiving.” Instead we think about what we don’t have. It has turned into a stressful occasion: Getting up at 3am to put the turkey in the oven and worrying that it won’t come out right, fighting with the family over stupid, petty disagreements, getting to the stores by 4am for Black Friday to be the first to get the newest hot toy of the season that your kid just has to have, etc.

On a personal note, the holidays this year are especially hard for me to endure. For the last seven years, I have been fortunate to enjoy spending the holidays with not only my family, but also my wife’s family. There are certain traditions devoid of the commercialization of the holidays and it’s just the family spending time together, being happy, no stress. With the separation of my wife and I, that will not be happening, and honestly, I’m trying my damnedest to stay positive and really examine thankfulness and what it means. But it’s tough. It hurts that I won’t be able to be with a significant other, sharing love together for the rest of the family, like I’ve been able to do for the last seven years. There is a huge void in my heart, and I have felt very alone, and the holidays make that loneliness so much more apparent. I feel at times I don’t have anything to be thankful for, due to losing my wife and my job at almost the same time.

I have to keep in mind that I do have a lot to be thankful for:

1. I have my family. They aren’t going anywhere, and I have their support 100% in these trying times in my life. Without them, I would be homeless at the end of this year, and no, I’m not being dramatic. That is a cold, hard FACT.

2. I have my son. He loves me unconditionally, and brings so much joy into my life. He has been following in my footsteps by playing guitar non-stop and is wanting me to teach him new things every day. There is a sense of pride there, that makes me feel wanted.

3. I’m alive. I woke up this morning. My health isn’t the greatest, and have a lot of medical problems, but I am thankful for today because I woke up once again.

4. My wife. Even though we are separated, on our way to a divorce, we are still great friends. We talk every day, and rarely fight. I am thankful for that, because I see so many nasty divorces, and I don’t want to go through that. So yes, I am still thankful for my wife, even though this is a very sad time in my life to endure.

On this journey, I have learned that there are changes I needed to make to attain the happiness I deserve. Being thankful, even in the midst of hardships, suffering and potential emotional breakdowns, is one key to attaining that happiness that has eluded me for so long. So this Thanksgiving, even though I am going to miss my mother-in-law’s legendary stuffing, and will be unable to spend the holiday with someone I’m in love with, I will still appreciate being with my son, my mom and step-dad and my sister and brother-in-law and his family, because now they’re all I’ve got, and I’m thankful for all of them.

We need to take the focus off of what we DON’T have, and keep our thoughts focused on being thankful for what we DO have. What are you thankful for this Thanksgiving?

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Change Your View

Posted: 11/15/2009 in Positivity, Spiritual

I wrote recently about changes I am making in my outlook on life. I was laid off from my job a couple of weeks ago, and until today, I honestly had no place to live after the first of the year. Initially, I was just stunned, considering the fact that I have recently become separated from my wife. The shock of that huge change in my life is hard enough, but then I was handed my exit papers and my world just sort of crashed. My attitude was that I had lost everything: first my family and now my job and pretty soon a place to lay my head at night due to no income.

But that lasted only a short time. Thanks to the knowledge I continue to gain from the books I’ve been studying, I have been able to change my mindset, and see the good in these situations. I know that there is a better job out there for me that will make me happy, and I can help people. In fact, I have a second interview tomorrow with a company that does just that!

The old me would be constantly worried and stressed about my current situation in life, but since I have decided to change my view, I have actually been very relaxed about it. I know in my mind that it will all work out in the end and I will be happy with the outcome. I have forced myself to not be depressed about this, because if I let the depression take over (and trust me this used to be easy for me) then I would fall right back into the trap of alienating the people around me who love me and truly want to help.

Thanks to my wonderful family, things have already started looking up, so it is true that if you change your view, you can change your life. Focus on the positive that can come from a negative situation. We always hear these uplifting quotes about positive thinking, but how often do we truly put those insights into our mindset and take action?

I would like to hear from you about how changing your view of a negative situation had a positive outcome!

Wisdom Den

Posted: 11/08/2009 in Social, Spiritual

I just returned from the first meeting of the Wisdom Den, hosted at Elemental Holistic Healings in Fair Oaks, CA. This is a group social that begins with a guided meditation by Angie Weckworth, then the group discussion is led by Sonia A.

From their site:

“This group is designed to encourage growth and provide inspiration to those who have a desire to reconnect to Themselves, their Highest Self, and to One Another! Based on the understanding that we are ALL ONE at our core being, when we help ourselves we are helping one another and vice versa.”

Every month when we get together, we will be having a guided meditation, then an open discussion of the assigned book of the month. This month we will be reading The Celestine Prophecy by James Redfield. Almost everyone that was present in tonight’s class has read the book more than once, and I haven’t, so I am looking forward to it and hoping I have something to contribute to the discussion since I am pretty much a newbie. There are some great books on the list for months to come, so I am very excited!

Angie and Sonia are good friends of mine, so when I found out about this, I couldn’t wait. Angie has been a strong influence in my life over the last few months as I have embarked on this journey by giving me a list of books to read, so I knew this would be the perfect venue for me to connect with like-minded individuals. Sonia and I have had some great discussions, and she has been a huge influence on me as well, giving me some priceless insight into my situation, and life in general. Angie and Sonia are amazing women and I’m proud to call them friends!

If you are in the Sacramento, CA area, I would strongly encourage you to join the group. Also, please check out Elemental Holistic Healings, as they offer massage, hypnotherapy, Reiki energy healing, etc.

Happiness Part 2

Posted: 11/08/2009 in Happiness

In my first post on Happiness, I addressed a few key concepts that relate to being happy that I have learned from reading The Art of Happiness by the Dalai Lama. It is continued here:

5. By practicing warmth and compassion toward others, we can overcome loneliness and separation, which are also sources of unhappiness. We can transform suffering to happiness by realizing that we are not going through something that someone else hasn’t already gone through. Suffering is a natural fact of human existence and by courageously facing our problems head on, we can achieve freedom from this suffering.

6. The process of change: Education (learning that negative emotions are harmful and positive emotions are helpful) ->Conviction/Commitment to change ->Determination ->Action ->Effort, which is most critical in implementing change. You must have the desire and willingness to make the change, and a sense of urgency is a key factor.

7. Develop patience and tolerance. Forgiveness is the product of patience and tolerance, and by practicing these, you can learn to let go of anger and resentment. Realize that the past is the past. Being angry about a situation does not change it, or resolve it, it only causes more suffering and unhappiness. Forgiving and forgetting are two different things. There is nothing wrong with remembering negative events, but learn to let go of the negative feelings associated with the event.

8. Love is the utter, absolute, and unqualified wish for the happiness of another individual. True love is unselfish.

In summary:

The Art of Happiness is understanding the source of our happiness and setting priorities in life based on the cultivation of those sources, using inner discipline to replace negative mental states (anger, greed) with positive mental states (kindness, tolerance, compassion, forgiveness). The Dharma, or virtuous states of mind, cannot coexist with negative states of mind. Training the mind to bring inner discipline is the essence of a spiritual life, cultivating positive mental thoughts into daily actions, which is the fundamental method of achieving happiness.

I would suggest to anyone who is going through challenging experiences in their life to check out this book. The insights contained within it are priceless, and if we can apply the concepts in our daily lives, we can make changes for the better, starting small and the potential for global change. In this day and age, there is a lot of negativity. To see it, all you have to do is jump in your car and drive for five minutes, and it will be proven by the amount of road rage on our highways. If we could all practice a little kindness and compassion towards others, it will be returned to us, because in my opinion, kindness is infectious. Want proof? Try opening a door and letting someone go in before you. It may not happen every time, but more often than not, when I do it, in general I get a smile and a “thank you.” Even if I am having a bad day, that immediately makes me feel better, and it makes me happy that I showed kindness to another human being.

Wishing you all happiness!

 

 

Happiness Part 1

Posted: 11/08/2009 in Happiness

Considering all that I have been through over the last few months, one factor of my life that has constantly been on my mind is happiness. For many years, I have not truly been happy, due to many tragedies that I have experienced. I won’t get into any details, but since the year 2000, I have gone through a divorce, my father passed away, I was diagnosed with Congestive Heart Failure and had open heart surgery, lost one of my twin boys to Cerebral Palsy, and am now going through a second divorce.

For many years, I have not made the conscious decision that I deserve to be happy, and to be quite honest, I don’t really know how to be happy. After going through all of these experiences, my way of dealing with them has been to close myself off, internalize my pain, and unfortunately drive away those closest to me, which was unintentional. Of course, I have done many things with my loved ones that make me happy, but as with all things, there is the factor of impermanence. The fun times only last so long, and then it’s back to reality; such as the vacation is over and you have to go back to work, and feeling completely free from the confines of everyday life, bills, and responsibilities comes to an end. It is at that point where life started to wear on me. Anxiety, worry, and stress were all my normal emotions, which were manifested as irritability, and even anger, and making my loved ones feel completely unloved by me.

I have realized that the real problem lies within myself and how I react to the stresses of life. Coming to that conclusion, I decided to educate myself and make personal changes to my philosophy of life and how I view the world and my place in it.

At this time, I am reading The Art of Happiness by the Dalai Lama. A few things I have learned are as follows:

1. Our purpose in life is to seek happiness: The source of happiness in our lives is how we perceive our situation and how satisfied we are with what we have and finding contentment. We can achieve contentment by not having what we want, but to want and appreciate what we have.

2. Happiness vs. Pleasure: True happiness relates to the mind and heart. Happiness that depends on physical pleasure is unstable and impermanent, such as the vacation mentioned earlier.

3. We must have mental discipline: we need to identify and cultivate positive mental states and identify and eliminate negative mental states. An undisciplined mind brings about suffering, which is also impermanent, but it’s how we react to the suffering and deal with it is how we can achieve happiness in any situation.

4. The practice of Dharma is a constant battle within, replacing previous negative conditioning and habits with new positive conditioning.

I will address more insights I have learned so far from this book in Happiness Part 2. As always, comments are welcome!

The First Step

Posted: 11/03/2009 in Uncategorized

As the saying goes, a journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step. This blog is my first step. I have made many changes in my life in the last few months due to some experiences that have rocked me to the very core of my existence. This blog will be my account of this new journey I have decided to begin. I hope others will benefit from what I will be sharing here. Comments are always welcome!