Archive for the ‘Happiness’ Category

“Do not worry if you have built your castles in the air. They are where they should be. Now put the foundations under them.” – Henry David Thoreau* (Photo taken at Lululemon)

What’s holding you back from committing with 100% energy to your dreams, passions, and goals? For me, I held myself back in a very sneaky way: by over-committing my time. Sound familiar? It seemed I could never turn an opportunity away because they all seemed so exciting! Saying “YES” too often became a big pitfall. As you may already understand, when you have six or seven projects happening simultaneously, they all suffer because you can’t nurture them all as much as is needed. So, I consciously chose to cut down on as many commitments and activities as possible, saving only those that seemed the most valuable and pertinent. This truly has reduced my stress and increased my satisfaction with my life because I am progressing toward my most important goals much faster now. All of the energy I previously scattered among several projects can now focus like a laser beam on the very special projects I’m keeping.

The process hasn’t been easy, and it isn’t without sacrifices. For example, I want to grow an online yoga and nutrition business. I’ve worked on this slowly in the last several months, but I’m unable to develop into something significant without giving it more energy. So I’ve had to make some radical changes, such as cutting back at work. I’ve found myself facing a lot of fear and resistance around this because of fear and a limited mentality, for a lot of reasons. Dietitian jobs can be difficult to acquire and the hours each week can be undependable. My particular circumstances require that I work an awful lot plus commute. This eats up most of my free time (and some of my profits) that I would be investing into a business. I feel frustrated and sad because I’m not working toward fulfilling other dreams that I know will bless countless people if I do what it takes to manifest them. This has taught me how important it is to me to create something I feel passionate about doing.

It requires conviction and confidence to move forward toward my goals, even though I sometimes feel mired in fear and self-doubt. As my teacher Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, what you resist, persists. By resisting, avoiding, or down-playing my unpleasant feelings, I’m not really moving past them. My new practice has become this: look fear in the face and question my stories around it. I’ve also learned to be more mindful of my thoughts and feelings and to challenge my beliefs. I notice how other successful entrepreneurs are following their dreams, and so am consciously building new beliefs with inspiring stories that give me the psychological momentum to propel forward.

What thoughts, feelings, or beliefs are holding you back from committing with courage? Please tell me about them below. Let’s cheer each other on to move forward with courage and strength! Let’s be a community of conscious and loving beings, supporting each other to move toward our highest ideals.

Please like, subscribe, rate, and share this post! And thanks for reading. =-)



* Source: Brainyquote.com


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Most of the suffering in our lives is the result of an ignorant understanding in what we think will bring us happiness. Some would argue that all of our suffering is a result of this misunderstanding. So listen up, because this post will help you understand where happiness is and where it is not.

 If happiness were in money, then every rich person should be thrilled and soaked in bliss, right? And yet we all know of rich people who are miserable. Then why do most of us continue pursuing money as though it does make us happy?  We all chase things that hold the promise of happiness – a new job, new car, new relationship, new vacation, new iPad. And when we get these things, how long does the thrill last? Within a few months at best, we start complaining about the very things that we thought would make us happy. “If only I could get a job”, soon becomes, “Is it Friday yet?”, which becomes, “I need a vacation!” which becomes, “I need to make more money to fund my vacations!”. Another classic example is this: “I would be happy if I could just get a partner”, soon becomes, “I would be soooo happy if I were married”, which becomes, “We would be happy if we had kids”, which turns into “We would be happy if we could get some time away from the kids”, and on the story goes.

It isn’t NEWS for any of us that happiness isn’t in things, nor is it news that all beings want happiness. The Dalai Lama says that happiness is a human right. If this is so, then why aren’t we all just damn giddy? If we all want to be happy, then why is it lost among so many of us?

For one thing, we keep ourselves miserable by strapping on the illusion-goggles that happiness is found in acquiring things. While we can’t deny that money, a car, a house, a promotion, a relationship, a great education and more can all make your life darn comfortable, we must acknowledge they also come with a certain amount of stress too, don’t they? You have to worry about managing your money, maintaining your car, paying your mortgage, keeping your marriage, raising the kids right, pleasing the boss, maintaining your health, and keeping up with the status quo. Frustratingly, any happiness we find is short-lived, and it’s a damn rip-off when we consider all the energy it took us to acquire our momentary happiness. It isn’t long before we start thinking that we want a better job, a nicer car, an upgrade to our tech gadgets, a sweeter relationship. And very often, it is the case that we should change our life circumstances to improve our lives (that’s a separate topic). But in order to advance beyond our cycle of suffering, we must begin with understanding where we will and will not find happiness.

First, stop tricking yourself into believing that objects, relationships or people have the power to make you truly happy. Believing that our joy comes from objects sets us up for great disappointment. Embrace that they are impermanent and they will always change, whether we like it or not! Then, when things change, you will not be unhappy. Even if the new job or relationship are absolutely perfect and we swear that we are unalterably happy, it is only a matter of time before something happens that rearranges the whole picture: job responsibilities change, we get laid-off, etc. Our relationships are fragile too, as not only are humans imperfect beings who are incapable of delivering you true happiness, but people also get sick, get old, die suddenly, or we outgrow each other. It may seem as if the joke is on us and that life is working against us. But that’s not the case either. Recite this mantra over and over until you are absolutely comfortable with this fact: The nature of everything is change. If we can work in rhythm with this nature, we will succeed more often at finding happiness. But if our happiness is dependent upon things staying just as they are and never changing, then we are in for some very unhappy awakenings.

Second, develop a spiritual practice. It will help you develop the tools, skills, and insight to handle life’s challenges. A spiritual practice helps us avert much of our suffering simply because we learn to change our mental afflictions that promote pain and suffering. It also helps us create a new context for understanding our lives, which results in deeper fulfillment with life. These qualities alone almost invariably translate to a happier life. Pick any practice that appeals to you. Every major religious tradition has the same basic moral underpinnings, and will lead you to a similar place of satisfaction and peace. If it does not, then you need to examine this and make adjustments. Many teachers, myself included, will caution you to choose a path that is time-tested. Choose something that people have validated through trial and error for a very long time. Many new spiritual paths on the market today are “young” and have not been rigorously tested over time. And whatever path you choose, you need to personally test it! Having faith in something does not mean “blind faith”, and we should not take the words and practices only at face-value. Test everything thoroughly to be sure that it is working for you.

Third, practice and study your chosen spiritual tradition. It can only help you when you use the spiritual tools you are given. This is also the hardest part because many of us are too lazy, too scared, or too arrogant to actually practice the tools and wisdom we receive. Yet practice is where the fruits of our labor ripen and help us to understand elusive happiness much more.

Why, do you think, is happiness elusive? Where do you think happiness is found? What spiritual practice are you pursuing for a happier life? Please share your thoughts with us in the comments box below.

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This is the third posting of a series in radical forgiveness. Please visit the first post “Finding Forgiveness” for Part I or “Finding Forgiveness Part II”  as well.

Forgiveness action plan: Lama Marut assigns the first week’s work to write a list of all the people who have caused you pain in any form. Write down what each person did to you and how you feel about it. For the entire week, we are asked to concentrate on one or more of these people to see how we feel about each of these people. Evaluate the feelings around it: how does it feel to have this anger, pain, resentment, hatred? Are these feelings helping you progress toward your goals? He reminds us that happiness comes from keeping your eyes wide open. He emphasizes that forgiveness does not mean condoning hurtful behavior, as hurtful behavior causes suffering for the offender as much as for the offended. Remember the golden rule? What goes around, comes around.

Going through the week: Pay attention to your feelings without trying to cover them up or denying them. On a daily basis, write down your experiences in your journal. Have you already downloaded the free audio provided by Lama Marut? The last 15-20 minutes of the podcast contain a meditation to help facilitate this process. (Inciting Happiness Part I).

In summary for this week’s “Finding Forgiveness”, remember this nugget: you can summon the energy and courage required to face the negativity all at once and take back the reins for your happiness. Or, you can choose to continue on the same path: anger, resentment, & challenging afflictions steering your life, mind, body and spirit. They slowly suck all the innocence, joy and goodness right out of your heart and soul, replacing it with scar tissue from the battles of life. It may surprise you to learn that the energy required is the same for both options, and perhaps even more if you do nothing.

Weigh out the cost of happiness and freedom versus anger, blame, and misery. What is your life – your very short and precious time in this body – worth to you? Will you remain comfortable with this reality that you have always known, even if you know you aren’t as happy as you could be? Or will you take the reins to your life back and steer yourself toward a joyful, peaceful, vibrant reality?

I will share my surprising experience with this forgiveness process. Please share your experiences with me too!

With love,


For additional support, you may also visit the free resources on Lama Marut’s website.

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Please visit the last post “Finding Forgiveness” for Part I of this journey.

How the forgiveness journey begins: In week #1 (this week), Lama Marut asks us to look our pain square in the face. This might sound easy, but it does require the wisdom to know why it is essential in order to fuel our courage to take action. First, we must admit that we are actually in pain. Many spiritual practitioners are in denial of their pain, which retards their progress and prolongs their suffering. In order to cure the disease, you must first acknowledge that you have something which needs treatment, right? This is a tricky topic for spiritual practitioners, as we often interpret that we are magically beyond anger and sadness. Getting angry represents failure for some people on the spiritual path, because we somehow think that we are supposed to look and feel and act with bliss and perfection, never having negative reactions to negative situations, EVER! I can’t think of anything more impairing to a seeker’s progress than such notions.

Break it down & keep it real: Satya is a Sanskrit word for “truthfulness”. Ask yourself, “Am I being truthful about my feelings?” When we deny our pain, we are not being truthful. Lama Marut says that if we weren’t suffering, we wouldn’t be seeking out help from a spiritual path to begin with, and we need to recognize that we are indeed suffering. One of the noble truths of Buddhism is that “life is suffering”. As Lama Marut puts it, you can’t heal until you feel. Even long-time practitioners must periodically return to this basic step to heal from the battlefields of life. This is a natural process that we can embrace by thinking of it as an essential “tune-up”. We tune our cars and instruments; we need to also tune our bodies, minds, emotions, etc.

Some of the causes of suffering:
1. Our views on the world and our experiences within it, such as:

*  Not getting what you want
*  Getting what you don’t want

2. Ignorance

* Denying our feeling, which does not allow us to properly address them. Ignoring our unpleasant feelings will not make them go away. Instead, they will fester and emerge in other negative ways that continues to feed the fires of our suffering by reinforcing its causes (the cycle of Karma)
* Holding the wrong worldview, such as believing that your good or bad actions toward others will not be consequential for you

3. Delusion – Thinking that we are something that we are not.

*  Thinking that “I am an angry person”, instead of “I have anger right now”.
* Thinking “I am a hunky athlete” identifies you wrongly as this body,and sets you up for deep disappointment when you grow old and your good looks and health fall away.

Ultimately, the aim of this practice is to find forgiveness. Lama Marut makes it clear in his teachings that before the truth can set you free, it will piss you off and scare the hair off of your chest. Addressing your unhappy feelings takes great courage and commitment. He tells us that forgiveness is “not a superficial version of turning the other cheek . . . that leaves us feeling victimized and martyred.” He drives home the point that forgiving is not the same as forgetting, and that forgetting can be a form of repression. He reminds us that holding grudges drains our energy and takes a toll on us physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually. He goes as far to say that not forgiving is actually killing us. I don’t think this is a stretch of the imagination. When comparing a child to an adult, it’s not hard to see a large difference in lightness of spirit, quickness to smile, ability to sleep, and overall health. The expression “carrying the weight of the world on your shoulders” speaks volumes about how difficult and unhealthy it is to carry around our grudges. Ask yourself this: “How can I be happy and peaceful and simultaneously hold a grudge?” Lama Marut calls this the “sharp pain from the dagger of anger” in your mind. Said simply, anger and resentment are destroying your happiness and peace of mind. “Feeling upset cannot help me realize my hopes . . . to become happy,” Lama Marut reads, as he likens this process to becoming the butterfly from the caterpillar. Becoming the butterfly is painful but ends beautifully.

Coming next: action plans for becoming the forgiveness warrior. (Some of you may have already noticed I’m breaking these original parts into manageable segments. =-)
Free Podcasts from Lama Marut on this topic: Inciting Happiness, Part I

Lama Marut’s Website

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I cannot think of anything more deteriorating to our health, beauty and relationships faster than an unforgiving spirit. If happiness is a natural condition (as wise men and children tell us), it can sure come with a lot of work! In “Inciting Happiness” by Lama Marut, he takes us through a 5 week journey of intense personal transformation. Each part of the series has a theme, and is supported with the practice of a meditation, awareness and contemplation. It requires courage, tenacity, and a strong desire to end your own suffering. This particular teaching is taken from Buddhist context, and I believe that these lessons are non-secular in that they are powerful and important for all humans, regardless of religious beliefs. My intention is to invite you into this journey so that we can all be happier beings, which will bring happiness to those around us. Every week, I will post my personal notes from the weekly podcasts, with links, and notes from my personal journey. My goal is to create a community of love and support for transforming our lives with wisdom from masters and ancient traditions.  Are you ready to learn more?

Why do this work?  We can’t exactly get beyond our suffering until we examine it and understand it. And we can only be truly happy after we get beyond our suffering. Not taking the steps to free ourselves from our personal afflictions is like starving ourselves from love, from the nectar of life itself. We delude ourselves in believing that we are winning when we hold a grudge, or that being unhappy is somehow a sign of sophistication and success. These are prevalent and unhealthy delusions in our society!

Life is short and none of us know when our turn will come to die. Why would you waste your precious life energy by spending it on anger, resentment, and delusion? Why would you consciously or unconsciously chain yourself to a rotting, diseased tree? This is exactly what you are doing when you continue to live as though anger and resentments are inconsequential, or worse, virtuous. When you are unaware that you are holding on to them, you cannot change them, and they feed on your spirit like cancer feeds on cells.

Life is impermanent and we have very little time to actually get things right in life and find true happiness. Knowing this helps us to appreciate that our time and energy is precious. We can stop taking the miracles of life and love for granted by opening our eyes and our hearts. We can start doing this by stop killing our precious time and energy and by focusing on things that connect us with our loving, peaceful, jubilant nature.

To Health and Happiness,


This practice is emerging from Lama Marut’s free podcast: “Inciting Happiness, Part I”

Lama Marut website

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This guest post is graciously provided to us by Dr. Fiona Murphy.:

Fiona Murphy, PhD

Following a suggestion that Frances made to her yoga students, I’ve been keeping a “gratitude journal” for several months–every night writing down ten things for which I am grateful (and trying to repeat myself as seldom as possible).  It’s a low-key behavioral technique to cultivate an attitude of gratefulness, and an openness to the beauty of the world and the gifts of this life.

The number ten is arbitrary, but it forces me to get creative and not always name the same stuff.

For instance, I’m grateful to have a job in this economy, but unless I push myself to think about gratitude, I rarely remember to be grateful for having enough food to eat.  If I’m casting around for things to put on my nightly list, I’ll remember small things, like how much I enjoyed the smell of the river that day.  And things that are so big that they never even cross my mind, like how grateful I am not to be in fear for my physical safety.  The exercise also serves to make me recall things in the past for which I was profoundly grateful at the time, but my mind has since moved on and I’ve allowed myself to forget (isn’t that always the way it goes?).

I can talk to someone who is having, say, liver problems, and I’ll now remember to be grateful that my liver works so well that I never even think about it at all.  Things like that. I might be enjoying the feeling of slipping into fresh sheets, and I’ll remember to be grateful that I’m so privileged as to be able to keep my body and my things clean. Or maybe it can be smaller than that–just being grateful for the feeling of fresh sheets. That’s something nice in itself, no?

When I’m feeling overwhelmed by the negative, like how damaging my family of origin was, I make myself remember to be grateful that I escaped from that nightmare with a greater degree of spiritual and psychological health than my other family members, and thereby try and find a way to have gratitude even regarding a dark circumstance.

I described the journal above as a simple behavioral technique, and I do find it to be a form of cognitive therapy in that it fosters in me a greater sense of gratitude throughout the day, not just when performing this one action nightly.  For example, now, in yoga class or at the gym, I tend to appreciate more what my body can do rather than feeling disappointed or frustrated about what it can’t.  (Thank you, Frances, for always emphasizing this!)

That’s about it.  It takes about 5 minutes daily, and whether my items are as big as feeling grateful for the sun that makes things grow or as small as appreciating a wave from a mellow driver on the road, it’s all just grist for the mill.


Fiona Murphy

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No matter how much experience you have with yoga, all of us need a review of the basic tools from time to time. Before George Winston became a professional pianist capable of dancing his fingers through complex chord and tempo combinations, he started out the way any beginning piano student must start. He learned each key, then learned chords, and learned to play well by practicing many basic warm-ups and basic drills. He practiced regularly in order to become a master. In fact,  most musicians return to the basic warm-ups and drills at the beginning of any music session. This practice of returning to basic skills is universally found in martial arts, dance, singing, and yoga.

If you are a beginning student, take the time to acquaint yourself with the fundamentals for a safe yoga practice. This means learning how to align your muscles and bones properly, and how to move your joints safely. Learn simple, basic breathing techniques. Find a qualified teacher, someone you resonate with, and take the lessons to heart. You won’t be great at first; get over it! You will reap all that you put in to your practice. Earnestness brings the most impressive results.

The stronger your foundation, the better your building blocks for future excellence in yoga. What makes excellence? First, it is learning to practice safely and patiently. Your yoga practice should make you both strong and supple. If the practice supports healing, you are practicing with excellence. If your practice is leading to injuries – which can happen in mere seconds or can develop slowly from repetitive mis-use – then it is harmful, and you need to review and refine your basic skills.

No matter how advanced your physical practice may be, make plenty of room to regularly review the basics. We lose the knowledge of them when we don’t use them.

I’ve found a wonderful yoga video from Yoga Today on Alignment. Taught by Neesha Zollinger, it reviews the most basic principles of alignment as taught in Anusara yoga. In my experience with numerous yoga styles, Anusara is comparable to Iyengar yoga in its precise attention to detail. It is also very upbeat and light-hearted, often cuing yogis to align themselves with their true nature, and to “step into Grace.” I love this because this is the original purpose of yoga – aligning with the enlightened nature within us that can set us free from sorrow and suffering. On the contrary, if you are not learning to properly align and develop fine awareness about how to move through yoga poses safely, then you are aligning away from your enlightened nature and into a state of pain and suffering. In addition, lighthearted is beautiful because I have found that most yogis need help with lightening up in their practice. (Admit it, yogi’s often take themselves waaay to seriously!)

The trick here is that this class is only free on Yoga Today  for a few more days. Since it adds several new classes weekly, there is a quick turnover that makes for a large library of excellent content! To view it for free, watch it today. You can choose from a huge selection of classes to download  for a mere $3.99 – tell me the last time you attended a yoga class for that price? By Sunday, this class will cost $3.99 to download, and it’s absolutely worth it, especially for beginners. I hope this helps make yoga more accessible to you because of the cost, convenience, and comfort of doing it at home. If you have never ever done yoga, or have done it 1008 times, you will gain something from this fundamental class with Neesha.

In this class, students use a mat, two blocks, and a strap. If you do not have all of these tools, you may substitute in the following ways.

  • Temporarily, use a flat blanket folded lengthwise to replace a yoga mat. Get a yoga mat ASAP. =-)
  • Replace the two blocks by stacking a couple of fat textbooks. Stack them neatly and symmetrically so that the two stacks are comparable in height. If you are stiff and/or new to yoga, you will likely find that purchasing yoga blocks and taking them with you to your classes will make quite a difference in reducing chances of injury and improving your stretches.
  • Replace the strap with an old tie or jump-rope. Some people use a long towel. In 14 years of practice, I’ve never found a tie to be essential in yoga. However, if you enjoy yin yoga or restorative yoga, a strap is a nice addition for holding stability in your lower body so that you can relax effortlessly.
So, what else is holding you back from establishing a routine, safe yoga practice? What are your lingering hesitations? Please let me know if you think you would benefit a review of the many styles of yoga available, to help you find the right style for you. I’m looking forward to hearing about how I can help you have an enjoyable, more consistent yoga practice.

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