Monday, February 6, 2012

How to Create a Positive Thought Maintenance Program (Read Time: 3 min.)

Ever experience a great start to your day: fully showered, fresh off of some sort of peace practice (meditation, yoga, tai chi, affirmations) only to get in the car, get on the highway and find yourself pissed off and cursing at the idiot driver who just cut you off and nearly caused an accident?

There's peace and joy in having quiet time but it's one thing to get into that space and quite another to live there. Contrary to popular belief, peace of mind, albeit our natural state, takes work to maintain.  Let's not sugarcoat this.  We live in a world that treats negativity as if it were "realistic" and holds positivity as some Pollyanna foo-foo that liberal, "spiritual" people practice.  That's why we have a media outlet whose ratings skyrocket based on the delivery of bad news.  Good news doesn't sell because good news has no drama.

But what if you'd like your world to be less filled with drama?
What if you'd like to be able to be stuck in traffic and feel as peaceful as you did early that morning in yoga class?
Is there a way to maintain your peace and presence in a world that's always demanding you go faster, higher, and harder than is optimal for you?

Yes, there is and it's called a  
Positive Thought Maintenance Program (PTMP). 

Do you have one?

Better yet, do you know how to KEEP one?  

Here's the reality:

A. Positivity won't be a mainstay of your life until you create consistent time and devote persistent energy to it.
B. A PTMP is as necessary as brushing your teeth and would be far less painful to implement if you'd CHOOSE to see it that way.
C. Most people don't have PTMPs in place because of laziness.  You have to do more than wish for positivity.  You have to actively pursue it, embrace it and be it.

Would you like to know how to develop your own PTMP?  
Here's how I developed mine:
  1. Choose your positivity practice.  Mine consists of morning prayer, bible reading, gratitude list, and mirror work (saying affirmations in the mirror).
  2. Create non-negotiable space in which to consistently fulfill your positivity practice.  I'd love to be able to tell you that I do my positivity practice at morning and at night but I tried that and what I discovered was this: I'm a morning bird and when I hit about 10 pm at night, I'm tired, ready for bed, and there's no OOMPH to any work I do in the mirror and I fall asleep when I attempt to meditate at night so I cut out the nightly affirmations/meditations and, instead, I either listen to an inspiring audiobook on my ipod, Corciolli (classical music), or read a book that inspires and teaches me.  That thirty minutes is what my body is equipped to do at that hour and it works.  But you've got to COMMIT to a timeslot, a time of day, and the number of days per week that you're going to fulfill this practice.  I fulfill my PTMP six days a week.  On Sunday, in its place, I watch church on my iPad. 
  3. Hold yourself to it.  In the words of William James, "Suffer not one exception."  Period, the end, that's all they wrote folks.  This is where the drill sergeant in me comes out.  You have to fulfill your PTMP even when you're tired, even when you have 10,000 other things to do (that's why it's called a NON-Negotiable), even when you're not in the mood and ESPECIALLY when you're not in the mood.  The moment you stop holding yourself accountable is the moment you give negativity the open door to step back into your life.  Yes, it's that stringent.  Yes, it's that diligent.  But isn't your peace and joy worth that?  Of course it is. 
  4. Notice how much MORE effective you are when you institute and hold to your PTMP.  It amazes me how much calmer, more productive, peaceful, and joyful I am when I hold to my PTMP.  I'm able to weather the storms of life in a highly empowered way.  I'm able to see opportunities I wouldn't have been able to see through negative eyes.  Life feels joyous and is joyous when I've done the most important work of my day first.  Remember: we make times for the things that are important to us.  If you say positivity is crucial to your life, show that it in how you arrange your daily schedule.

FINAL POINT: You are a soul in a body, not a body in a soul.  Do what it takes to nourish and guide that part of you which is eternal, ever-present and in need of your love and esteem.  Without your soul, your body goes no where... 

Thursday, February 2, 2012

5 Simple Steps to Keep the Past From Holding Your Life Hostage (Read Time: 3 min.)

Is the past holding your life hostage?

Do you live with the regret, bitterness, resentment, or guilt of a previous mistake?

OR do you mistake forward movement for past healing?

It's easy to point out the people who live on the extreme side of having the past hold their lives hostage.  These are the folks who are angry, bitter, resentful, and guilt-ridden.  But those people are not MOST people who actually have the past keeping their lives stuck.  More than that, what's even trickier about this particular topic is the fact that wishing for a better past is an epidemic most people don't know they're contributing to.

Your life might look absolutely normal.  You do what you have to do.  You're moving forward step by step.  Things are working out.  You feel peace most of the time.  Life is good.  But what's underneathe all of that? 

In the quiet, subtle moments of your life,
where do your thoughts take you?

The past's ability to hold your life hostage isn't measured by how much action you take.  It's extent is identified by how much the actions you take are based on the wishing for a better past.  There are ultra-successful people who think they're over a past pain who haven't even taken the time to both feel and heal it.  Until you've acknowledged your pain and grieved your loss, the past is a bedfellow you won't be able to get rid of.

So how you do you keep the past
from holding your life hostage? 

Here are 5 simple steps:
  1. Acknowledge and embrace the pain.
There is no healing what you aren't willing to feel.  If the past is going to stay there, you have to be willing to own what it was that hurt you.  You've got to call it what it is, say what you have to say, get it off your chest so it can stop running your life.  Acknowledge your pain.

2. Grieve the death of a dream.
Every person has a vision for what they wanted life to look like.  There's nothing wrong with grieving the loss of a past that wasn't what you had hoped it would be.  Give yourself the room to cry over what never was.  Own the fact that you had hoped things would've gone differently and accept the fact that they didn't.  It takes time to grieve.  This isn't a one day or one week or one month process.  You have the right to grieve so do it.

3. Forgive yourself and others.
Forgiveness doesn't begin with the other person; it starts with you.  You have to forgive yourself for what you did, didn't, should or shouldn't have done.  You have to look yourself in the eye and remind yourself that you did the best you could with with you had.  You have to be able to see the humanity of yourself so you can embrace the humanity of the other person.  Forgiveness is an inside job that leads to an outside excavation.  When you forgive yourself, you set yourself free...

4. Let it go.
The same way you can clench your first and then unclench it is exactly the way you let the past go.  Every time a thought from the past comes up, you have a choice: hold on or let go?  It may take you a thousand times in a day to let that past thought go but the more you do it, the easier it becomes to catch and release.  If you're going to usher in a future unlike the past, you have to be willing to let go that which no longer serves you.  Clench and release as much as you need to so you can let go what you have to let go of.  Let it go...

5. Take one step forward... and then another... and then another...
Once you've let it go, it's time to step forward from an empowered place.  People mistake forward movement with progress.  You can move forward in the shadow of the past and, to everyone else, it looks like you're making progress... only you aren't.  In order to make true progress, you have to let the past go and step into the place of being your most empowered self.  When you can be who you might've been (no matter what happened in the past) and live and act from that place, you are now in a position to take one powerful step at a time.  You don't worry about ten steps down the road.  You are fully present in this moment doing this action and that is enough.  Take one step forward, whole mind into present action, and then do it again and again and again...

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