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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.


I’m very excited because I have finally finished a cooking video for you. I had a lot to learn about shooting, editing, and producing. This video is in honor of colorectal cancer awareness month and my goal is to share with you foods and herbs that prevent or fight cancer. This is so exciting because we have our health in our hands. Nature provides us with a powerful pharmacopeia of medicines that rival anything modern medicine can provide. Don’t you think?

My goal in this video is to teach you a simple recipe using powerful anti-cancer foods. Please view, comment, share and enjoy.

Thanks for your support, my friend!

With love,

Frances

Enjoy!


March is ringing in with two very FABULOUS topics: NUTRITION AWARENESS MONTH  and COLORECTAL CANCER AWARENESS MONTH. These topics are surprisingly related, and it is my intention to help reveal the connections between nutrition and cancer. My girlfriend, Chelle, was diagnosed about three months ago with colorectal cancer, stage III. She is  30 years old. Her nurses are shocked at her story because she has this terrible disease at such a young age. Most people diagnosed with colon cancer are at least 50 or older. Nonetheless, Chelle is strong and spirited, and the nurses who help oversee her chemo love and adore her as though she were their own family member. I join these nurses in being deeply concerned for Chelle – and for others with cancer – and in praying for her full recovery.

This month, let’s explore together some of the many foods and lifestyle factors that prevent cancer. Your feedback is important, so please share your comments and ask your questions! Also, a quick update on the anti-cancer nutrition interview – for personal reasons, Gretchen is no longer available for the interview and I am working on creating the replacement.  I need a little time to work this out. Thank you for your patience and understanding! I guess this is part of my learning curve in creating interviews with experts. My intention is to continue interviewing experts on specific topics of interest to you. Please comment on the topics you are interested in learning so that I can work on delivering valuable subject matters for you! =-)

I want you to view the following video on foods that starve cancer. I’ve watched it several times and it continues to reveal new information each time. Minute 12:01 he discusses what foods to eat. Minute 12:54 shows food list of cancer fighting foods.

Eat to starve cancer

With Love,

Frances


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,

Frances

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


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

Finding Forgiveness


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,

Frances

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

Lama Marut website

Anti-Cancer Nutrition


Most of us know someone who is a cancer survivor or is currently fighting this ravaging disease. I’ve taken a strong interest in cancer prevention and survival largely because I’m shocked over and over at how confused many healthcare providers and consumers appear when it comes to cancer and nutrition. I’ve met several people who tell me that their doctors believe there isn’t a connection between nutrition and cancer. Yet some nutrition professionals and researchers argue that the cancer-nutrition connection is almost 100%! When I talk with patients or families, they are often confused about what the connection is, and often consume foods that I think no cancer patient should consume (and these foods are provided by the hospital!). What further confuses patients is that the education around the connection is inconsistent, or even influenced by profit. For example, formulary companies have helped set industry standards to promote weight maintenance among cancer patients. This is achieved with high calorie, high protein supplements – also sold by these companies – and are vigorously promoted in many hospitals.

Interestingly, I’ve heard oncology dietitians emphasize normalizing weight as quickly as possible, which is definitely a different message. Many dietitians promote reducing inflammation, and our diets and body weights are two very effective ways to achieve this.

Often, the advice dietitians might give for anti-cancer nutrition is opposing that which hospitals are promoting. What’s up with that?

While most of us now know that there is a wealth of evidence-based research exposing the links of cancer to nutrition, it is true that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. In other words, preventing cancer through good nutrition holds more promise than curing cancer through good nutrition.  While I don’t expect MDs and surgeons to provide substantial nutrition education to their oncology patients, I do believe they are practicing responsible medicine by referring their cancer patients to a Registered Dietitian. It is a red flag if your oncologist does not believe that nutrition and cancer are related, as it is a sign that he or she likely lives under a rock in the bottom of the sea. To be fair to yourself and your provider, carefully clarify your MD’s position on nutrition and cancer to ensure you are understanding his or her philosophy. And ask for a dietitian referral if your MD doesn’t offer it initially.

 
So, what are the best answers for preventing and surviving cancer through nutrition? What does your body weight have to do with cancer? How do we chart the mucky and mischevious rivers, known as “nutrition guidelines”?

 

Join me as I interview Gretchen Gruender, an expert oncology dietitian at Seattle Cancer Care Alliance. She works closely with cutting edge oncologists and medical teams, guiding her patients with solid diet and lifeststyle advice. She will guide us along this river, giving us the tour of latest progressive insights behind nutrition and cancer. She will help us to identify the information we really need to know in cancer prevention and survivorship.

Are you interested in this topic? You have an opportunity to involve yourself in the audience. What questions do you have for Gretchen? Please write them in the comment box below, or post them on my Facebook page. I will select some of the questions to ask her on the show, and I will post this interview on my webpage for your review.

Love and Health,

Frances