Surrendering to what is does not mean you give up

I made it to the top of this volcano, El Teipe in the Canary Islands, one step at a time

Iyanla Vanzant said it best: You do not tell people how to love you. You can, however, choose if you will participate in the way they love!

How compassion helps in your healing

Focus on the things that separate and we will be fractured as a people. Focus on the things that unite and we will watch love blossom.

Want to feel more compassionate toward that irritating neighbor? Just imagine that you both are fans for the same shoe designer and watch the annoyance melt away. According to new novel research by psychologist Paul Condon the mere act of feeling a mild association with another -- that you share a love of gardening or the same baseball team for instance -- creates a connection that can greatly amplify your compassion toward a total stranger, even if that stranger is grating on your last nerve. The striking news is welcome to those who seek peace in the world, both in their personal and outside space.

It makes perfect sense that science is backing what the sages have said forever. The word itself tells the story: compassion comes from the Latin word com pati which means to suffer or bear with.  When we are in sync with another human being - or creature, for that matter -- the walls that separate us from the "other" fall and open that pathway to soul to soul connection.

Compassion heals, believe it

Feeling compassion for another or experiencing someone's compassion toward you heals. This moving story of a Tibetan man who was healed from cancer by the act of a town's compassion and flowers should be enough shift your perspective on the subject.

How to be compassionate when you are not feeling it

Before you can walk in some one's shoes or feel their pain, you must first have to feel like this person is similar to you in some way. Think or visualize that his person shares your love of bacon or romantic comedies or Broadway or anything that truly makes you happy, it might do the trick. YOu  might have to try really hard if the person is really a jerk. But try it today.

When you're compassionate, you sprinkle love in your midst and help in the healing of another and in the process, yourself.

Focus on the things that separate and we will be fractured as a people. Focus on the things that unite and we will watch love blossom.

Deepak Chopra in today's 21 Day "Free to Love" Meditation Challenge put in another way: one compassionate act creates compassion around the world.  It's like the butterfly effect, the flutter of a butterfly's wings in China can create a beautiful trade winds in Africa.

“To write something, you have to risk making a fool of yourself. - Anne Rice

And it's not just writing. To create anything, means having to risk being rejected, admonished, criticized and yes, laughed at. And it doesn't end at creating art, I think this risk happens when we live authentically.  To do so is to allow yourself to be vulnerable. And you've read my earlier post on living naked, Emotional venerability sucks but it seems to be ground zero for growth or a great work of art. Yet to live dishonestly hiding your true essence because of fear of being laughed at is to risk emotional and spiritual death. Hiding who you are to yourself and others will catch up sometime, somehow.

Nine little things you can do today to brighten your day

Someone who is nice to me and not nice to the waitress is not a nice person Ricky Martin once said. Amen!

Service people get shit all day long, sometimes from their bosses, other times from clients. Don't be that person who is nice to a celebrity or someone you deem "important" and an asshole to someone in a "lower rung." It's called rankism and consciously or not many of us practice that form of discrimination or abusive behavior. You know the deal and you know the people, some folks are nice to their bosses but nasty to the cleaning lady who empties their basket at the end of their work day.

One of the most important lessons my momma taught me was this: at the end of our lives the fact remains that everyone is the same, no one is better than you and you are not better than anyone. Even Kings and Queens eat, shit and die. Perhaps hers was not an elegant way of expressing the truth that behinds the masks, we're all spirit and yes, equal.

The thing is that you never know what a human being that is providing you with something -- coffee, cable, lunch, a clean building, safe elevator, access to your money etc-- is going through. But you can be that person who makes their day (and life) a little brighter and in the process bring light and glory to your day as well.

Practice giving love and receiving love today no matter how famous, wealthy, or cute the people you come across today are. 

As Nirmala Raniga, who guided the 10th day of the 21-day Chopra Center Meditation Challenge said: our hearts our comforted when we give because we know that giving is good.

You can, with grace and love, be that person who offers beauty and light to anyone you meet today and in the process bring a little joy to your day.

Three ways to tap into your intuition

Your source of pure intelligence is within. Trust it.

One of the most beautiful ways I've heard intuition described was by Brent Bec Var, a vedic counselor and meditation teacher, who said that intuition is "a sacred message obtained directly from the source of all knowledge, the mind of nature, the cosmic computer, universal intelligence."

While intuition may be felt as a pang in our gut, the place that is most responsive to these hunches is the heart. Whenever we need answers to big or small questions, wise men and women of the world always advice that we need to look within. The solutions we crave live in the pure space of our hearts.

Know this for sure: the heart is always and forever correct. It is only when we refuse to listen and follow that inner voice where regrets come in. "I should have listened to my gut," is always the first thought when things don't pan out as we hope. The heart always right because it relays the message of our spirit.

Trust your gut: Everyone one of us is born with intuition. But as we experience life and all of its disappointments, sadly, we lose trust in ourselves, are crippled by fear or making the wrong choices and we ignore our intuitive and all knowing heart. The good thing is that no matter how much we ignore our hunches, they never stop. We just can't hear them!

Have faith in the truthfulness of your heart: Try these three practices that help remove the roadblocks to your intuition so that you can directly connect to those sacred messages that live within:

If your heart could talk, what would it say?

If its true what the sages say, that the heart has only four basic needs, then attention is the first and most important step to healing the heart.

The center of our existence is our hearts. It's in this space from where our entire life begins because it's the chakra where love resides. Living with a healthy and open heart clears the way to wellness--of body and spirit.

This second week of the Chopra Center 21 Day Meditation challenge will explore ways to open the heart and making it receptive to receiving and offering love. Today's meditation was a simple and yet profound: sit with your heart and listen to it. Just listen. When was the last time you sat silently and listened to your heart? What stories did it tell you? 

Forgive and be free

Today's Chopra Center's "Free to Love," Meditation challenge explored the topic of forgiveness, a universal theme so many of us grapple with. Left untreated, anger, hate, and resentment can cause physical illness and certainly create wars.

I love Nelson's Mandela's quote: resentment is like drinking poison and then hoping it will kill your enemies. Remember that next time you are seething with anger after being wronged.

Learning to forgive clears the way to love and brings emotional health and peace. Forgiveness is an essential to a happy life.

One of the most helpful books I've read on the subject is Colin Tipping's  "Radical Forgiveness." Tipping offers something compelling, he teaches that one  powerful way to let go is to refuse to be a victim. Reading Tipping's powerful message helped me heal from the long held anger I felt toward my father for abandoning my family. I was not his victim and I was tired of feeling like an abandoned child. I'd realized that my dad had reasons that had nothing to do with me when he left and in thinking so, I felt tremendous compassion for him since he missed many beautiful moments in my life as well as in the lives of my four brothers and sisters. After a good cry, I sent him a silent prayer and wished him love and light. I went to bed feeling free, lightness and joy.

How to let go of the past

The past, however long, has a stubborn way of staying in the present. And it's usually the most painful memories that have a grip on us. For many, the past is like a scary movie that plays on a continuous loop. And turning it off is a life long journey. But in order to live a more joyful life we have to replace this metaphorical film filled with new images that lift our spirit, make us laugh and help us soar.  Today's Chopra Meditation explored the question on what steps to take to release the past.

Releasing the past takes conscious effort, commitment, and daily practice. We get used to living with painful memories much in the same way an addict gets used to using drug. And just like it's hard for an addict to let go of a drug, it's difficult giving up something that is a part of our lives. For many, the past is like a comfortable companion that we've become accustomed to living with.  Until of course we are ready to be free!

Are you able to see your life through the eyes of love?

I began Chopra Center's "Free to Love," Summer 21-Day Meditation Challenge today and the intention of the day is powerful one that is worth contemplating:

"I am ready to view my life through the eyes of love."

Are you able to do that?  The space of love feels amazing. It's not a privileged space of the few, it belongs to all, to you! And you don't need super powers to arrive, everyone is welcome, it is your birthright.

The thing is that when you are unable to see your life through the eyes of love it is impossible to experience life as it should be experienced because the energy of love is where it all begins. How can you experience life through the glorious wonder that is love if your view is cluttered with grime? Is it time for a clean up?

What is the story you tell yourself about you?

The story of your life begins with birth. What were you told about your birth? Were you told you were an accident, a disappointment or a gift? Know that whatever the circumstance of your birth, you are a blessing!   

 "Take a day to heal yourself from the lies you've told yourself and the ones that have been told to you." 

Maya Angelou

Don't cheat yourself by dreaming little dreams...

Be bold, be brave, dream big. Think big like the tiny ant.

Do you think that an ant thinks twice about lifting a piece of food that is 100 times her weight? Nope. She goes forward with gusto. During one of my goddess hikes with a fellow goddess, I dropped a cranberry and then noticed how two little ants moved the huge piece of fruit, many times their size and weight, to their hole, miles away. They are the mightiest of all because they think they can, and they freaking can!

Next time you think small, don't. Think big like an ant.

Three essentials to a happy life

Happiness requires something to do, something to love and something to hope for." A Swahili proverb.

An eternal truth: we are meant to be happy. Not fake happy, like when someone asks, "How are you?" and you respond "Good," but really mean something else but for the sake of social niceties, you say what you think others want to hear. The kind of happy that I am talking about can light up the sky, makes you glow, and brings joy to others! That is the kind of happiness that I think is accessible to each of us, each day, all day long. 

During a trip to Israel this spring I was blessed to have met a Ud, an 80-something year old Holocaust survivor. He taught me a profound lesson on happiness.--that no matter what pain you have endured, you can be happy. The human spirit is tenacious, resilient, stubborn and somehow, someway, will find its way to joy. 

Ud was just a child when he was imprisoned by the Nazis and "lived" in a concentration camp for three years before he was rescued by the end of the war near death. His entire family was killed, including he thought, his big brother who was imprisoned with him. I use quotes round the word lived because you can't call living what he did in three years amidst hate, death, loss, and violence. And yet, he survived and later, thrived. Ud moved to Israel after the war, fell in love, had children, and lived a full life. Decades later, he found out his brother was still alive in Poland but had converted to Catholicism. He'd not told a single person in his new family of his ordeal as a child or that he was a Jew. The two brother's eventually rekindled their relationship and were close before his older bother died. 

As Ud shared his story I noticed that his eyes sparkled. Happiness lived in his heart. He glowed. Yes, he saw how grotesque and gruesome humans beings can be toward one another. But, he did not let those painful memories get in the way of his happiness. He had access to happiness and he took it. He also was filled with hope and purpose.

I asked him, how is it that he managed to find happiness after what he'd gone through? "Of course," he said. "Why not? It's better to be happy."

Three essentials to happy

How to write a love letter, to yourself

When was the last time you wrote a love letter to yourself?

Most of us would find it easy to sit down and pen a love letter to someone we love and list all the reasons why you love this person. And that is indeed a beautiful thing. Expressing love to a child, a lover, a friend, or a family member comes easily.

Love, I find, flows more easily out than in. I've seen it with mothers who love their children more than they love themselves, wives, grandmas, husbands. But, as important as it is to express love to others, it's vital to also show love to self. It's the story of balance.

Words are powerful. They carry energy that lingers. Something a mother says -- a sweet compliment or a nasty cut down -- when a child is young takes root and lives, inspiring, or crippling the person decades later. A beauty queen may have won a contest in front of the world, but if as a child, she was not cherished as the true queen that she is, the public accolades or diamond tiara doesn't matter. One never really knows what pain festers inside. We all hide the dark spots and pretend, until we can't anymore. Which is why writing a love letter to yourself once a year  is an exquisite idea. It reminds you of all the lovely things that you are.

See what comes out when you sit down and tell yourself all the reasons why you love you.

Healing Effects of Silence: 10 Reasons Why Silence is Good for your Health

"We are more than our words," Laurie Anderson

Have you ever been silent for a 24-hour period? Does the thought of not speaking distress you or bring you images of bliss?

Silence is a funny thing modern day culture. It provokes strong emotions--you either love or it despise it.  Those uneasy with silence are terrified to keep company with themselves. They busy their lives with lots of external chatter in order to bury the intelligent and ever knowing voice inside--the silent witness that observes all thoughts and emotions. On the other hand, there are folks who are so comfortable with quietude, that they could be in the middle of Times Square and tap into the boundless quiet energy that exists within.

In American culture, silence is not golden. We live in a loud society where noise is king and queen. Culturally speaking, we are not encouraged to be silent. But in every culture around the world, days of rest and quietude are celebrated and encouraged and though called by different names--it's really the same thing: a day to be completive, to be still and to deepen the connection with the divine.

Silence heals

There is not doubt that silence heals. In the chaos and demands of modern day society, the healing power of silence is more urgent than ever. It is especially important to encourage silence in children, it's a way to feed their imagination.

Keeping silence on a regular is necessary because it brings inner calm and joy. Over the years, I've come to love, cherish and cultivate silence in my life. The more I experience silence, the more I am enchanted by it.

Love it or loathe it, silence is really great for you. However, it's not something that just happens, you must be committed to it, actively cultivate it and make time for it. 

Learn to meditate in 21 days, for FREE

In my earlier post on The Art of Listening I wrote about how meditation was one of the tools that helps sharpen listening skills.  But the benefits of meditation are countless, from helping boost your immune system to fighting off depression and reducing stress and anxiety. 

Why meditate? It will bring you peace of heart, joy and an openness of heart -- basics to a happy life. In other cultures, like the Highlands of Tibet, people weave meditation into everything they do, from making tea to tending their gardens there is a tranquil way in which everyday life unfolds. And before you start listing the many ways that we in the industrialized world cannot do that, i.e. slow it down a bit, you might want to check out this fantastic piece from Psychology Today. 

If you've been thinking about meditation but didn't know how to start, the Chopra Center's FREE Summer 21-day meditation challenge which starts next week is a great way to begin.

Happy meditating.

Are you a good listener? Four easy things to try today

Listening is an art and it's an art form that is sadly being lost. According to the dictionary, the word listen means to pay attention, to apply oneself, and to wait attentively for a sound.

In the strictest meaning of the word, are we really listening?

Turn on the TV and watch the pundits, journalists, and reality show stars talk over in each other. It's a competition of who can get in a point first and be the loudest. Shouting is so common in normal conversation these days that it's become a modern day sport.

In a room full of shouters it's worth asking, can you really listen?

But it's not just the shouting on television or in our homes that frustrates our ability to listen. Another hindrance to listening is the judging that takes place. When a friend shares a story most of us, rather than simply hearing the person out, rush give our opinion or to solve the issue. Rather than offering an ear, we impose our thoughts and opinions.

And this is the thing, most of the time, people just want to be heard. They don't want advise, they don't want opinions, nor do they want to be saved. They just want a compassionate ear and open heart to be able to speak their pain freely. Most importantly, people also don't want to feel judged. 

The yes or no question that determines how long you will live

Is there someone in your life whom you feel comfortable calling at four in the morning to share your troubles to?

According to Harvard psychiatrist George Vaillant, if you answered yes, you are likely to live longer than a person who answered no! Vaillant called this master strength and it's the capacity to be loved.

Valiant's insight comes from a four decade old research called The Grant Study. He writes that, "it is social aptitude, it's not intellectual brilliance or parental social class that leads to successful aging.  Warm connections are necessary and -- if not found in a mother or father -- they can come from siblings, uncles, aunts, grandparents, friends or mentors."

What was fascinating in his work was the power of strong sibling relationships. Valiant found that 93 percent of men who were thriving at age 65 had been close to a brother or a sister when young. But, it doesn't have to be a relative. Bonds with other human beings, blood relations or not, are essential.

"The only thing that really matters in life," he told an interviewer, "are your relationships to other people."

His words reminded me of a recent fortune cookie message I came across: good friends equal long life.   Relationships matter. They alter our brain. But good, solid bonds don't just happen, they take time,  effort and commitment.

This weekend, take the time to build strong relationships.  Remember, where there is love, there is health.
Happy Fourth of July

Discover the healing power of baths, they are meant to do much more than clean our bodies

Today, I wanted to contemplate healing waters and the hidden power of baths. Baths, in most of the worlds cultures, are meant to scrub more than dirt and grime off out bodies--they are help clean the inner layers of our souls.

On a recent trip to the local botanica (spiritual herb store) I saw baths promising all kinds of things-- to attract lovers, money, clients to a sluggish business, fortify relationships,  break em, and even repel bad energy. It was a vibrant cornucopia of choices. I've no doubt that all those baths work! 

Baths are good for the body and do wonders for the soul. Baths with a purpose are potent.  Depending on what I am looking for--relaxation, revitalization, protection, or what it is my body needs, healing from sore muscles, replenishing the skin, relieving stress -- I have a bath recipe. In fact, I believe that baths should be part of every healing prescription, like an apple a day, I prescribe a bath a day to keep the doctor away! 

When I am not traveling, it's almost a guarantee that I take one bath a night. Medicinal, restorative, sensual, there are so many delicious recipes that it seems I have a bath for whatever ails. They are my baths with a purpose. Taken with faith, they are guaranteed to work.