Archive for the ‘Positive Thinking’ category

Life Coach Lesson: Understanding Your Internal Border Patrol

January 29th, 2013

Border Patrol Image - smExcerpt from LIES That Limit: Uncover The Truth Of Who You Really Are

Through conditioning we blind ourselves to the best of who we are.  We become untrusting, too busy, too intellectual, too committed to rules and ideas that, in the end, don’t serve our growth or expand awareness of our Spirit and Purpose. We collude with the internal Border Patrol, limiting our self-expression and access to what is best and right for us.  We become too afraid to touch our core, our Spirit, our own divine nature.

What’s in the way of accessing your true nature?  LIES – Labels, Illusions, Excuses and Stories.  You allow LIES – the cultural story about what’s true, real, and important – to come between you and your Spirit.  LIES dull the connection to your core and your calling.  LIES enforced by The Border Patrol make you afraid to let your Spirit rule your life, guide your actions and decisions, and keep you aligned with the truth of who you really are.

Convincingly, The Border Patrol will say, “If you start talking about this weird, woo-woo stuff, you’ll lose everything you’ve worked so hard to achieve and acquire.”  The Border Patrol will persuade you to stay out of that foreign territory of Spirit and Purpose and keep your feet planted firmly on the ground.  It will tell you to leave all that nonsense alone, and threaten you with, “If you don’t, you’ll become an outcast, ridiculed and humiliated for your beliefs – rejected by the people who love you.”

Adopting the ways of the world, what you mistakenly call life takes center stage.  Your connection with your core Self is lost.  Soon, you forget you’re the creative force in your life.  You give up authorship.  You lose faith in your ability to be sure of who you are, why you’re here, and what’s right for you.  The controlling, self-sabotaging power of The Border Patrol takes the driver’s seat in your mind.

The Border Patrol is expert at generating fear of losing love.  In reality, no one could ever love you less than this internal agent of oppression.  When speaking to you, The Border Patrol’s words seem logical, make sense and sound reasonable and protective.  After all, you don’t want to jeopardize your safety and security.  But, what you don’t understand is its cunning, loveless nature.  Blindly, you yield to the authority of The Border Patrol, agreeing to live LIES in exchange for a false sense of security.

Talk about selling your soul to the devil!

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5 Tips for Keeping Your Holiday Spirits Bright

December 11th, 2012

We tend to react to familiar situation in familiar ways.  That’s clearly true any time we find ourselves back in a familiar situation – like celebrating a holiday with our family of origin or our in-laws.

Without thinking, old ingrained patterns of behavior kick in.  When the pattern is constructive, the gathering tends to feel like the blessing and celebration of life it’s intended to be.  But, when there is stress and strain in relationships, what could be a joyful time is marred by negativity.

So, if you’re thinking about how you can avoid family dysfunction this holiday season, look no further.  Here are 5 tips for that will help you keep your holiday spirits bright.

1) Make conscious choices about how you react.  If your experience of holiday gatherings is less than peaceful and enjoyable, this year instead of interacting and responding like you usually do to the stressors, make a conscious choice to do all you can to make the gathering you’re part of a positive experience – for yourself and everyone else.

At every turn, when old, familiar negative thoughts and reactions well up, ready to burst forth, before you respond, take a deep breath and remember your decision – your conscious choice – to do all you can to add peace and enjoyment to the gathering.

 2) Set boundaries and share them.  Setting boundaries is not easy.   Your decision impacts others in the family or social group.  It’s helpful to tell them, in advance, that cousin Robin will not be with us this year.  Or what the new house rules are:  a no shoes policy, no smoking in the house or no gifts.  Giving your guests early notice about changes to traditions provides them an opportunity to get used to the idea or to decide they’d rather not join you this year.

When you set boundaries, the dynamics of the relationships may also change.  Be ready to hear and accept other’s reactions.  You don’t have to argue the point, agree, disagree or feel pressured to alter your decision.  Simply acknowledge that you hear and understand how they feel.   Then, be patient as everyone, including you, adjusts to the changes.

3) Remove yourself from caustic situations. If you experience the behavior of another as unkind, abusive or disrespectful, don’t hesitate to remove yourself from the environment.

Go to another room.  Take a walk.  Sit in your car.  Drive around the block.  If need be, excuse yourself from attending the gathering and find another time to connect with everyone.

 4) Wait 2 minutes before responding to anything that infuriates you.  This is a good practice in any situation.  Reflex responses are often defensive and tend to escalate tensions, anxiety or anger.  Take a few deep breaths.  Go get a drink of water. Stand outside.  Do something to clear your mind and allow your breathing to return to normal . . . a sign that you – the grown up, rational you – is back in control.

When you rejoin the setting, since the moment of tension has probably passed, no comment may be necessary.  But, if you feel compelled to say something, remember the conscious choice you made to do all you can to add peace and enjoyment to the gathering.  Respond with that in mind.

5) Use their actions as lessons on how NOT to be.  Family and loved ones offer us a great opportunity to learn about ourselves and the limits we place on our willingness and capacity to demonstrate compassion and love.

Accept your family and friends as they are.  Many holiday fights and frustrations come about because we want our loved ones to be different than they are.  We CANNOT control how others behave so don’t even try.

Remember, at the heart of every individual and family is a real need for love and acceptance.  This holiday season, and every day, consciously decide to bring love, peace, compassion, acceptance and enjoyment to life – yours and everyone around you.

Happy Holiday!

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The Post-Sandy Gift of Rumi’s “The Guest House”

November 27th, 2012

Many of you wrote in response to last week’s post, “Hurricane Sandy: My Personal Pivot Point.”  Your words were kind.  Your offers of help were genuine and generous.  You opened up your homes, extending an invitation to visit, escape the chaos and rest.  And, knowing that you’re praying for us, enveloping us in loving thought, is uplifting.  Thank you!

One message I received contained an inspirational piece of Rumi’s writing.  I sat with it for quiet a while, feeling into its meaning, acknowledging its depth and significance.  I share it with you, hoping it sparks a flame of recognition within you.

The Guest House

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.
 
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.
 
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.
 
The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.
 
Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

Rumi ~

From The Essential Rumi, versions by Coleman Barks

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On Who’s Shoulders Do You Stand?

November 20th, 2012

Thanksgiving is a beautiful holiday – a day of appreciation for the amazing legacy I’ve inherited and the abundance with which I’m blessed.  With heart-felt gratitude, this Thanksgiving season, I’m reflecting on and appreciating the many people on whose shoulders I stand.  Their lives and contributions have eased my path.

I’ve been the beneficiary of the hard work, achievements, scrimping and saving, sacrifices, inventions, services, risk-taking, genius and generosity of all who’ve come before me, and those who are here with me now.  I’ve benefitted from:

  • those who have loved me and those who didn’t.
  • from good fortune and misfortune.
  • from opportunity and its absence.
  • from trusted friends and valuable enemies.
  • from times of expansive joy and wonder.
  • from times of contraction, sadness and loss.

With every event comes an opportunity to mine it for gold.  Used well, whatever happens helps me learn, grow and evolve.  For each opportunity, I’m thankful.  Everyone I’ve ever met, and those I’ve known and loved for a long time, have all helped me, hoisted me up, even some who may have imagined they were holding me down.  I stand on their shoulders with reverence, respect and gratitude.

Alone, I do nothing.  Alone, I’ve created nothing.  Alone, I’ve accomplished nothing.  The Unconditional Love of God, the clear Guidance of Spirit, the love of those who parented and raised me, the generous spirit of those who pray for me, and the kindness of those who think and speak well of me.  All of these people support me.  Their positive energy and intentions fuel and sustain me; they help me to be buoyant and resilient.  Be they my predecessors or contemporaries, my good ideas are stimulated by their great work and way of being.  For all, I’m grateful.  To all, I say, “Thank You!”

No matter where you are in the world, taking time to reflect on that for which you’re thankful, and remembering those on whose shoulders you stand, is a good investment of time and energy.  You don’t need a special holiday to celebrate and honor all of the good, wonderful people who have lifted you, and the more than adequate supply with which you’ve been gifted.

Continually, make Thanksgiving an everyday practice.  Honor those on whose shoulders you stand – those who have come before you and paved your path in significant and subtle ways.

Happy Thanksgiving!

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Hurricane Sandy: My Personal Pivot Point

November 13th, 2012

Me in post-Sandy cleanup mode.

When the bus pulled up to our lane, the kids yelled, “Oooh!  Look at your house.”

Looking out the window, we saw nothing but a curl of smoke where our house once stood.  Exiting the bus, mouths gaping in disbelief, tears streaming down our faces, my brother Lee and I ran, trembling, into the waiting arms of our Grandmother.  Our house burned to a pile of smoldering ash while he and I were at school and Granny, our guardian, was visiting her sister who lived a few miles away.  I was eight years old.  My brother was six.

About nine months before the fire, our mother and father left to “go up north to work.” Motivated by a vision of becoming landowners – sharecropper and housekeeper no longer – they left us in the care of our beloved Granny and sent “boxes” frequently.  Though they felt like special gifts – arriving by mail from our parents “up north.” In reality, they were just things we needed.  A winter coat.  A hat and gloves.  New underwear and socks.  A pair of shoes.  All necessities.  All consumed by the fire.

It’s good the fire occurred when no one was at home.  We had so little, it would have been tempting to dash in and save it.  But, by the time Granny and her sister, Aunt Mary, arrived to meet our school bus, there was nothing left – nothing but the four stacks of cinder blocks our ragged, frame house once sat on and a curl of smoke rising from still warm embers.

“Normal” was gone.  We were homeless.  No plates, no food, no table to sit at and eat.  Nothing to wear.  No place to bathe or sleep.

The community – a lot of whom were family members – gathered to help.  Even in that world of stark racial divide – South Carolina in the early 1960s – several whites came forward to assist.  Their concern and generosity were a surprise.  Mr. Rogan, owner of the general store, gave us food.  Mr. Fox and Mr. Joseph gave Granny, Lee and me clothing.  The tradition of the black–white racial divide vanished, for a moment.  The usual walls were replaced by compassion.

While I didn’t know it then, this scary, frighteningly sad moment was a pivot point – an experience that would change the course of my life.  Within days, our parents arrived and brought us back to Bristol, Pennsylvania where we made a new life.

Up north, in an integrated world, I developed a perspective and way of life that differed from the one I knew in our little rural, segregated southern town.   The house fire was the pivot point that redefined my life experience. It set up a change in environment and introduced experiences I wouldn’t have had if we remained in South Carolina.

That fire was the last time something happened to my home that I didn’t plan for, expect or want.  That is, until Sandy arrived on Monday, October 29th.

Wisely, my husband Bill and I evacuated the day before as directed by Governor Chris Christie.  I remember feeling very sad, heavy with grief, as we packed up select essentials and headed inland.

Finally, on November 2nd, we were permitted to return home.  Breathlessly, we drove down the main avenue surveying the homes and streets.  There was evidence of damage, but not bad.  We looked at each other and took a deep breath as Bill made the left turn onto our street.  It was filled with several inches of sand, dried seaweed and ocean debris.  But our house was standing.  No broken windows or missing shingles.  Amazing!

Walking around back, we found the door to the lower level wide open.  Busted, broken away from the frame, it collapsed under the pressure of surging seawater.  Powerful and insistent on having its way, the ocean entered the lower level and filled it with about four and a half feet of salty, sandy, corrosive seawater, setting heavy furniture and appliances afloat.

With a nervous glance, we walked up the steps to the next level.  It looked fine – just as we left it.  The next level was fine, too.  Hugging and feeling thankful, I cried with relief.  We had lost a level of living space, but our house still stood, intact and absolutely fixable, though quite a mess.  What a mess!  Ultimately, the vast majority of the lower-level contents had to be discarded, sheetrock and insulation removed, all mechanical and electrical systems and appliances replaced.

Doing what needs to be done to clear out the ruined, preserve whatever is salvageable and keep up with existing professional commitments, I’ve been overly busy and haven’t taken time to feel my feelings. I haven’t made space for my emotional reaction to this loss.  Someday soon, once all that was wet is dry and free of mold and mildew, I’ll sit down, breathe deeply several times and let my feelings flow.  Right now, I’m pressing and moving through – doing my best to mitigate the damage.

While I’m no where near homeless and enjoy many pleasures and creature comforts I could not have imagined back when my house burned down, I know this experience is a pivot point.  The particulars are not clear at this moment but intuitively, I’m confident this is yet another life-defining event.  How and in what way?  I don’t know.  How will the flood influence the next segment of my life?  I’m not sure.  What’s the lesson in this experience?  I invite it to reveal itself to me.  I’m open to learning and making the most of this important pivot point.

In the meantime, I’ll keep drying out, clearing out, cleaning up and making space for what comes next – lessons, insights, inspirations and changes.  All a natural part of life’s ebb and flow.

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Power Comes From Listening More and Talking Less

October 23rd, 2012

Listen more. Talk less.

Try this for just one day and notice the impact on you and on others.  Listen more.  Listen to understand.  Listen to learn.  Listen to empathize.  Listen to validate.

Don’t worry.  You won’t become invisible, powerless or less impactful.  In fact, you will become more visible because you’ll stand out as someone who cares in a world full of people who are busy pushing their agenda, selling their ideas, jockeying for position.

You may find these three techniques helpful to listen actively for far more effective communication.

Mirror the speaker’s message.  In other words, accurately restate the content and emotional tone of the speaker’s message by paraphrasing what you heard.  This is a good way to demonstrate that you understand what was said.  And, it allows the speaker to clarify important points, you may have missed or misunderstood.

Empathize with the speaker’s feelings or emotional state.  Let the speaker know that you hear how they are feeling about the topic of discussion.  Name the emotion you believe the speaker is experiencing.  Use phrases like you sound happy or sad, scared, angry, concerned, etc. Or, I image you’re feeling frustrated, joyful, etc.

Validate the speaker’s point of view.  Confirm that you understand the situation through her eyes and can appreciate why he or she feels the way they do, even if you don’t agree.  To practice validation, use phrases such as… “I can see why you say that…”  Or, “Given what you’ve said, I understand why you conclude…”

Talk less and listen more.  Then, notice how many people – at home and at work – will compliment you for being such a great listener, for caring or for affording them the opportunity to talk through something that was concerning them.

Emotionally intelligent people engage in active listening.  To power up your effectiveness as a communicator and your credibility as someone who genuinely cares, try it and watch your personal and/or executive presence emerge.

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You Already Have What You Need To Live Your Dreams

September 25th, 2012

I’ve shared over the last few weeks that through the magic of mirror neurons, you can dance like Beyoncéread minds and change the people around you.  After this final installment, you’ll know how to put mirror neurons to use to achieve your goals!

Scientific data suggests you already have within your mind the tools you need be more of what you want to be – more successful, higher performing, purpose driven, inspiring, admired and committed to your personal and professional growth.  Knowing you have these tools and putting them to  use will also have an enormous impact on your self-esteem and sense of confidence.  Need a dose of that today?  Just keep reading.

Mirror neurons, special cells in the brain, allow you to improve your performance by rehearsing an action or scene in your mind.  Whether it’s a sensitive conversation you need to have with a colleague or friend, an important presentation, your golf swing or that new piece of piano music you’re learning, without lifting finger, you can get better.  Professional athletes and others who understand the creative power of their minds have used this technique so successfully that it’s a standard in elite training systems.

Because observation of excellence improves performance, top performers watch those who are the best in their field.  They watch and learn, mirroring in their minds what they’re witnessing.  They perform the act while watching it being carried out by someone else.  In other words, “If I see you do it, I mentally do it, too.”  Imagining your self perfecting a skill is just as effective as observing known experts perform at their best.

If you’re interested in achieving the extraordinary, these findings about mirror neurons confirm the value of giving thought to your vision, daily and moment-to-moment.  Literally rehearse your new skill or improved life circumstance.  Feel it, think about it and act as if it’s real today.  Do it all in our mind.  Doing it internally will help it become your external reality.

Put your mirror neurons to work in service to your dreams and goals.  Mental practice, visualization and imagery are all part of the elite performer’s secret of success and self-mastery.  You can make it a part of yours, too.

Learn more about mirror neurons:

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Want to Change the People Around You?

September 18th, 2012

LIES That Limit discusses culture – familial, racial, religious, regional, national, etc. – Each has its intended and unintentional impact in the way culture is passed on, not only through the rational, spoken messages we receive, but also through invisible, energetic exchanges.  Now, I understand such transmissions to be the magical work of mirror neurons.  Now, that’s cool!

Mirror neurons provide clues as to how culture is transmitted and why it’s so hard to change.  Because we mimic what we see, we tend to keep doing what we see those around us doing.  We imitate what we observe, making our behavior clearly and easily influenced by those around us.  People who live together, work together, play together, hang out together begin to act, sound, feel and think alike.  Our behavior tends to be a reflection of what we see.  The same is so for those around us.

With every feeling you experience, every intention you hold, and every action you take, you’re having a significant affect on others.  Your feelings, thoughts and behavior stimulate the same thoughts, feelings and behavior in those around you, through the action of their mirror neurons.  They can read your thoughts, feelings and intentions.  To extend the logic, the more consistently you engage in a certain behavior, carry a certain feeling and intention, the more likely you are to shape or contour – influence – the behavior of others.

At home, leading by example is more than a catch phrase or way to keep kids from behaving badly.  Mirror neurons are another argument for walking the path you want your children to walk — which is infinitely more effective than, “do as I say.”  Often you hear parents wonder, “Where on earth did she pick that up?”  Now we know there’s a chemical reaction that shapes these behaviors. Actions you take that you don’t think your kids pick up on or that you might not be aware of are working their way into your children’s brains.

If you work in an organization – on a team or lead a group – you can positively affect the culture by maintaining a positive pattern of feeling, thought and behavior.  Your consistent, repetitive behavior will impact the mirror neurons of those around you and they will, sooner or later, begin to reflect back to you what they’ve experienced.

To change the culture of your organization or your household, hold firm and stay the course.  As Gandhi said, “Be the change you want to see…” and notice how others will eventually mirror back to you your beliefs and behavior.

Learn more about mirror neurons:

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You Can Read Minds

September 4th, 2012

Here’s a bit of information about yourself you may not have known.  It can support your professional development, up your Emotional Intelligence – and boost your self-esteem.

You can read minds!  Did you know that?  And, in all fairness, you need to know that others can read your mind, too – your thoughts, feelings and intentions.  According to Giacomo Rizzolatti, we’re born with the ability.

In a New York Times article, “Cells That Read Minds,” Rizzolatti and other neuroscientists describe a special class of brain cells responsible for this ability.  They’re called mirror neurons.  Their discovery provides insight into how you learn to walk, talk, smile; why you can understand how others feel and empathize with them; why you like sports and the arts; the intangible way culture gets passed on from generation to generation; and why the kind of media you watch and interact with really does matter.

Dr. Rizzolatti points out what most of us know at a gut level:  understanding the actions, intentions and emotions of others is central to our survival and sense of safety.  We have the ability to understand what others are thinking, feeling and what they may do based not on rational thought, but on feelings.  This fascinates me because, intuitively, I’ve always known this to be true.  In fact, LIES That Limit discusses the constructive and destructive aspects of being tuned in to what others are thinking and feeling, and the impact it can have on the choices we make.    Now, science provides additional evidence to prove the point.

Pay close attention; your psychic ability may just be the by-product of active mirror neurons.  Given your natural ability to anticipate what others are thinking, feeling and are about to do, you can work at better understanding where they’re coming from and why.  Here’s an example:  on a recent flight, squeezing into the seats next to me were two people who I assume to be a mother and her thirteen to fourteen year old son.  From their conversation, it seemed they were coming home from a trip abroad…so lots of time together, in close quarters – airplanes, hotels, restaurants, etc.

As they fell into the seats, the mother began speaking to her son in a way that felt like yelling, to me.

“You always do that.  I told you to stop.  You’re rude and embarrassing.  I told you not to behave that way.  It’s not nice.  I don’t want to have to tell you again.  Don’t push people or push your way through crowds.  Wait your turn.  Have I not told you this before?!  I’m tired of telling you about your behavior.”

On and on, she went.  I felt badly for the young man.  Having been the child of a mother who, out of a sense of responsibility for raising a well-behaved child, had no qualms about public chastisement, I felt for him.  I looked deeply into the pages of my book to avoid his eyes.  I imagined, or sensed, he was feeling humiliated at the public dress-down he was receiving.  Sitting next to me, I was aware of his breathing and, peripherally, his icy, frozen stare, eyes locked straight ahead.  He was doing so to control himself – to not yell back or strike out.

After she quieted down, I thought about the mother and wondered why she felt the need to speak to her son so harshly, and with many strangers bearing witness.  I went into my “Why is she doing this!?!”  The more I pondered the question/judgment, the more I could sense her thoughts and feelings, too.  The awareness that came floored me.  This woman was TERRIFIED that her beautiful son, whom she loved and saw great promise in, would not grow up to be a fine, respectful, courteous man.  She was afraid that he would become another pushy, ill-mannered person who doesn’t know how to live well in the world with others.

Suddenly, I felt empathy for her.  I could clearly relate to the way she was feeling.  It was an anxiety many Moms carry; myself included.  While you and I may not have spoken to our child in that way, and in front of others, the terror would be quite the same.

I believe my mirror neurons helped me empathize with both parties in this situation. At a feeling level, I understood what was going on in each of them.  With that, judgmental thoughts about the mother subsided.  They were replaced by empathy and respect for her genuine concern for the son she loved, and her intentions to raise him well.

Could mirror neurons help you to be more empathic – more emotional intelligence?  Try it and then decide.  Instead of judging them, tune in to the people around you and, even if you don’t agree with them, notice how much of their thoughts, feelings and intentions you can discern.  You’re bound to surprise yourself with how much information you’ll receive.  You really can read minds, thanks to the mirror neurons in your brain!

Learn more at GoCognitive.net and in the American Psychological Association article “The Mind’s Mirror.”

 

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100% Full Proof Guaranteed Way to Instantly Reduce Stress

July 31st, 2012

Guest Blog by Kyle Ruffin

One day, I found myself, as I often do, staring with anger at a woman in the supermarket who was wearing an outfit that was absolutely inappropriate for her.  Not only was it too tight, it was clearly designed for a girl half her age.   I stared and stared, while my mind devised insults that would put this woman in her place once and for all.  If I could just say the right words to her, she’d thank me, run home and set this outfit, and no doubt other hideous attire in her closet, on fire.  But of course, that was the least likely outcome.  So why was I investing so much emotion in this complete stranger?

How many times a day do you find yourself in this state of mind?  Working yourself up over a total stranger or a situation that you either can’t control or doesn’t concern you?  When you do, your blood pressure goes up.  Your chest tightens.  Your heart starts racing.  The tension in your face and around your eyes intensifies.  Your forehead pinches so much that your eyebrows feel like they might touch.  We ALL do it.  Waste valuable time and expend angry emotion that benefits no one – especially not ourselves.

We live in a society where passing judgment is truly our favorite pastime.  My guess is that’s what makes Reality TV so popular.  We can sit on the couch and legitimately judge the ridiculous actions of someone who will have no impact on our lives what so ever.  Why do we even care if the Bachelorette sleezes her way through the latest batch of men?  Or another has-been TV star has fallen from grace into the clutches of dysfunction.

We’ve been judging others for so long and we do it so often that it’s a reflex.  Experts (and I’m no expert) would probably say it’s a hold-over from the human evolutionary period when we needed to make snap judgments about whether the approaching thing was going to eat us.  In most cases today, it serves no purpose.  Admittedly, there are situations where it’s good to size someone up before they can do us harm.  When it comes to superficial judging, we’re better off without it.

I’ve consciously decided to turn the tide by taking control of my mind and emotions in this area.  In the same way people use Mindfulness techniques to reduce stress, I’m using these techniques to stop judging others.  Since judging is such an involuntary reaction, it’s very hard to head it off at the pass, but as soon as I realize what I’m doing, I just stop.  Instantly, I feel the tension melt away.  My shoulders lower.  My chest unclenches. My disposition lightens and I sometimes even find myself smiling ever so slightly – finding humor in the ridiculousness of self-righteous stance.

Kyle Ruffin

Kyle Ruffin

Give it a shot.  I guarantee you’ll feel the difference.

There are plenty of legitimate reasons to pull out the judgment card.  So, if that heart-racing, brow-squinching feeling is something you crave, just wait a few minutes.  Real danger is bound to present itself.

 

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