The Art of Being Present

What is the advantage in being Present? How do you achieve the state of Presence? In moving along your path in life, when should you strive for “being fully in the Moment?”

Have you ever had the telephone conversation or the face to face meeting with another person who was clearly “somewhere else” and not tracking your communication? In our busy world, this happens all the time. You have to repeat yourself or you feel insecure that you were not fully heard or understood. You have to question your communication partner to “check in” and to know that they were not so distracted that they did not receive your important communication. People clearly have a great deal on their mind and they are being torn away by the invasion of of text messages or other manifestations of interrupting technology. We are so “plugged in” that it is difficult to invest fully in the conversation with the person in front of you or on the other end of the telephone. A client may not feel fully connected with you if you are lost in another thought and this may cause a transaction to go poorly. Your friend or family member may get frustrated with your lack of focus and may lash out at you in frustration. These situations happen all to frequently. Many people do not have the awareness, and then the control, to be able to quiet the distractions and really focus on the present moment and this is sad.

Missing the moment that will never come again is a loss that you can not ever recover!  There are times when you can multi-task but human interaction is very important and should not be short changed by your distracted and disrespectful pursuit of multiple thoughts or activities. Remember when this happened to you and how you felt this lack of respect and consideration! If for no other reason, you will miss out on the most joyful and satisfying moments in life if you are not present!

Achieving the state of “Presence” requires that you reduce internal and, if possible, external distractions. Begin by NOT thinking of your answer or response before your communication partner finishes their statement. Listen! Listen with ALL of your senses. If you require clarification, ask supportive “open ended questions.” Make eye contact. It is rude to not focus your vision upon the person who is speaking. If possible, feel the emotion of what is being said. Use your intuition to read “between the lines.” There are many times when you may need to clear your mind and relax your body to reduce internal distractions and this may benefit from learning how to meditate and to find yourself in the present moment. If you can be present, you will be happier and healthier. Your relationships can improve. You can find interpersonal success more easily.

Being fully present can become more a positive habit if you practice and learn more about what is distracting to you, AND, learn to let this go. Remember, that the respect you show in listening and interacting can be beneficial for personal learning and will improve your relationships. It will even SAVE YOU TIME in the long run. Try it and see for yourself.

If you manage other people or want positive outcomes with your family, learning to be fully present is a mandatory skill and life enhancing experience.

Blessings to you on your path and watch most carefully each foot step on your journey toward consciousness.

More information and support can be found at: www.mastersofthejourney.com and our Facebook page www.facebook.com/mastersofthejourney

Are California Weddings Stressful?

As I prepare for my son’s March California Wedding, I am reminded of the last California family wedding I attended. The following is a written account of personal survival and, I must report, marital success… (From about 6 years ago…)

I am in the airport returning from a California wedding in the coastal mountains just north of Santa Barbara. It was probably the best wedding I have ever attended. For me, except for the stress of getting there and now back, it was fairly easy as weddings go. My wife’s family was celebrating the great choice my wife’s niece made. Kaitlyn and Will are really a great couple and I wish them the best of luck, happiness, health, and a long life together. Now the dysfunction of the two colliding families is something special to behold. What a weird combination of people and yet the dance floor was completely full of happy, well-behaved people who had indulged in a great deal of food, family stories, and alcohol.

If you have not participated in a “California Wedding” then let me explain… You do not over dress unless you want to look like a tourist from the East Coast. You find your way to the top of the mountain or the sand of the special beach or by the mystical river-lake-rock formation-ski area or whatever natural phenomenon that the wedding planners assume would be the test of your physical, emotional, and spiritual limits. You must really want to be there because the heat, dust, gale force winds, or attack of insects will be proof of your love for the marrying couple. It becomes a spiritual experience of survival that bonds you with your fellow wedding witnesses. Be prepared for poetry, music, ring bearers that are dogs, cute little flower girls who have to be dragged through the wood chips to accomplish their task, and of course the late start because someone important or something important has gotten lost or is late getting to the remote location. Hopefully, the open bar has NOT open prior to the ceremony or else the ceremony will have many added contributions that were not included on your program.

After the beautiful and spiritually bonding and uplifting ceremony, you may have to find your way to the port-a-potty line and start eating and drinking to re-hydrate after sitting in the sun for way too long. Your next task is to find the reception and the California wines and of course your place. I heard that the father of bride needed a double shot of tequila to prepare for his role of walking down the aisle and telling his stories at the wedding and then the reception. He looked fairly sober. The groom in his flip flops was relaxed. The bride was spectacular in the handmade wedding dress that her loving, and talented, mother had created. (Mom, of course, was a bit stressed but radiantly glowing in the moment.) The ring bearer dog was well behaved and did not jump up on the bride as had been feared. The band and played surf rock for the first set… Of course, this is coastal California and the graying surfer dudes loved the vibes…

Hey, it was a perfect wedding. My wife smiled a beaming radiant smile. She held her two sons. She saw her Florida based step mom. She loved the warm California evening and everything about this wonderful event. Somehow late that night, we made it back to our hotel and began to feel the sadness that this much anticipated event was coming to an end. My plane will be boarding soon and we will fly back to Seattle but I know that I survived the California wedding, the new in-laws, and the California sunburn (that is required as proof of participation.)
Kate and Will, I say again, we love you and have the best life together. We know you will.

Holiday Survival

Happy Holidays… They are headed our way, ready or not!

I know that for many people this is easier said than done… It is the season for high expectations of happiness, joyful family gatherings, and limitless supplies of good food and cheerful gifts. Most of the time, expectations seem to mess things up! This time of year can make people irritable if not crazy because we expect so much of ourselves and the people around us. Sadness, depression, and anxiety begin to peak at this time of year for many people. Many people are struggling with financial challenges, even homelessness and these people can feel left out of Happiness in the Holidays. Illness and losses of family or friends, even from the past, can make this season difficult traumatic to celebrate. The short days and Winter weather for those of us in the Northern Hemisphere also can take an emotional toll on the Holidaze. There may be changes of schedule, travel, or dietary changes that can make positive, joy filled celebrations a bit difficult at this season of the year.

Consider the Holiday Survival Tips from the article below. This can be found in a more printable form at the Stress Education Center’s website, www.dstress.com, on the “Articles” page.

Please take good care of yourself and have some sympathetic understanding of people you may meet who may be struggling during the Holiday Season.

Holiday Survival tips
10 basic strategies to more gracefully survive holiday stress. Written by L. John Mason, Ph.D., Author of the Bestseller; Guide to Stress Reduction.
Are expectations of happiness in the holidays making you sad? Do you want to be happier and healthier this holiday season? Would you like to enhance your holiday stress management skills?

This holiday season will be stress filled. World economic swings and terrorism have created conditions that have changed our holiday celebrations. Attitudes towards travel, being with family, celebration in the face of fear and sadness, will make this year’s holiday season different than in years past. Adjustments will help to create new ways of participating in the holiday events. These can be both positive and negative. Consider new traditions in self-care. Search for community support that will open your heart to the joys that are possible in this season. Remember the things that are the most stressful are the things that you care the most about, but have the least control over. World events, the economy, the way people respond, and our families (and children) are major stressors that we wish we could control, but often cannot.

1. Schedule Time for Self-Care! Regular exercise and time for stress management are a must. Find what techniques work best for you, and use these tools. This is non-negotiable time devoted for your health and well being.

2. Eat Well Moderation is the key. Do not use alcohol or drugs for stress management. Do not “over” celebrate. Avoid fast foods.

3. Avoid Caffeine Minimize the impact of caffeine on your life.

4. Plan the Holiday… Set some limits. Do not over spend your financial and emotional resources.

5. Control Your Expectations of: Happiness, Joy, Sadness, and Loneliness

6. Be Nice to Others Give compliments and smile. Around negative, anxious, or rude people, take a breath and remember that you do not need to get pulled into other people’s holiday misery or their craziness.

7. Reach Out for Support Talk with “stable” friends or family, or clergy, or mental health counselors.

8. Humor Helps… Have Fun Laugh daily, if possible.

9. Stay in the Present! Mentally and emotionally, do not be consumed by things that happened in the past or fear events in the future. Enjoy the people you are with and make the very best of the situation that you are in.

10. Find the True Spirit of the Holidays Share “the Spirit” of this holiday with those people who you love or care about. Give love and support to the people of the world. Volunteer or go out of your way to be thoughtful and kind. A smile or a hug can go a long way. Sometimes it is just listening… Show others that they have value and that you are aware of their special qualities.
Even learn to let others give to you!

The Secret to Finding Balance in Life

There are major areas in your life that when left unattended can lead to a lack of balance and prevent you from full life satisfaction. You can be a victim to a lack of awareness regarding these areas and suffer from physical or emotional symptoms including anxiety, depression, headaches, pain, abdominal complaints, and reduce productivity (due to unconscious distractions.) With awareness and action you can use your new balance to be more productive, prosperous and healthy.

Find the 8 essential areas of your life and learn to honor the ones that you do not make time for in your life. This will help to re-prioritize your life and give you greater balance as you pursue your long term goals and aspirations. The 8 essential life areas include: career, finance, family, friends/relationships, education/life long learning, health, creativity/aesthetic, and honoring the spirit. If you do not have a plan for honoring each of these 8 areas then you may not have balance and may have to fight to sustain emotional and physical health and well-being.

The first two areas are obvious and many people spend time and energy working to fulfill these areas. Career relates to your work and the satisfaction that you may achieve through being productive. Many people need to address their work/career if they find themselves under-satisfied by the job that they are employed to do. Training and mentoring can lead to more appropriate career paths. Finance includes current and future plans for financial stability and security. Long term planning is required and impulse control is necessary to help maintain your long-term planning until you achieve your financial goals. There is a great deal of support regarding these two areas and so society tends to focus on these areas but these do always provide life balance or satisfaction by themselves.

“Family” is an area that relates to the closest relationships that we have. The importance of having close ties to your family can vary a lot. Some people require large amounts of contact with parents, siblings, and children. If this were true for you, you have to make time to maintain these relationships. Some people are not as connected or attached to these close family relationships and so they may require less time and attention to maintain their balance. Career and other life distractions can move this area to a seemingly lower priority but this can be a huge mistake and in some cultures, family, is the highest priority. This support is very important and should not be shuffled to lower priorities. If you neglect this area, you may suffer emotionally and physically. Remember that “quality” of time with family is more important than quantity. Do not miss your opportunities for good, close connections even if your schedule is an issue.

“Friends/Relationships” like family are important, but individual needs vary. Time with chosen, “healthy” friends is important. This support both giving and receiving is critical for most humans. These are relationships that can be as intimate as husband/wife, boyfriend/girlfriend, or intense coupling that seems born into our genetic code. When your life is tested by change or tragedy, close, healthy friends and relationships can be critical. Time in your life may need to be allocated to find, build, and maintain these relationships. We all have different levels of needs. Remember that the quality of these contacts is more important than quantity, though people with need for drama in their lives may want to argue about the need to quantity of time for relationships.

“Life-long learning” is the pursuit of knowledge or wisdom that allows you to move forward in your life. Sometimes it is specific to career development but it can also relate to information that can allow for better decision making or following a passion in your life. To not expand your knowledge can lead to a weakening of memory. Studies have proven that an active mind is less likely to suffer of the early onset challenges like dementia. Life is more interesting when you challenge yourself to expand consciousness and information.

“Health” is a “no-brainer” when it comes to balance and life satisfaction. Investing time and energy in keeping fit and eating “right” is an individual but necessary requirement for the most productive life. Bad habits can, and should, be changed, either reduced or eliminated. Substance abuse is a very temporary distraction from pain or anxiety (fear-anger) and does not offer long-term solutions but can lead to long-term impairments. Challenges can “run” in families but this is no excuse for caving in as a victim to poor health. Time spent on health and wellness actually saves you time and money, in the long run. Companies who tract wellness programs often find a cost benefit of $5, or more, for every $1 spent on wellness. This is true for the quality of your life and even your levels of productivity. DO NOT USE “no time” as an excuse. You will save time by practicing stress management, getting regular exercise, and eating better.

“Creativity and Aesthetic” pursuits are not simply producing arts and crafts. Not everyone has talent for this type of creative endeavor. Everyone does have an appreciation for some form of art or natural beauty and we must invest resources in finding the activities that touch your aesthetic needs. Maybe a hike or trip to a museum will meet your requirements and give you balance. Planning a once a month visit to experience a beautiful natural environment or man-made work of art, or going to a performance, or listening to uplifting music can all qualify for creating satisfaction in this area. Being distracted by TV, video games, or movies may not be enough… Exploring your requirements for quality aesthetic exposure is important and is often ignored, with poor long-term results in life satisfaction.

Finally, “Honoring the Spirit” is an area that requires attention. There may be an over-lap with attending to aesthetic or creative pursuits because pursuing the spiritual requirements may have more to do with feeling good in your heart than chasing a philosophy. So religion or religious pursuits do not always involve the true celebration of spirit. Religion can be cerebral or political in ways that may feed the mind but not always the soul/spirit. Do not take this area lightly. When you do not know how to nourish your true spirit you run the risk of having fears and anxieties about important transitions like death/dying, parenting, or aging that when left unresolved can lead to serious emotional imbalance. Everyone has different requirements for honoring or celebrating spirit. Do not fall into the trap of taking on someone else’s belief. FIND YOUR OWN PATH.

If you are unclear how to pursue engaging in any of these areas in your own life, consider finding a mentor or life coach who you can trust to assist you at examining the specific needs you may have in your unique situation and life. If you need assistance, consider the Stress Education Center for this life coaching (www.dstress.com.) But remember, honor your own needs and find a way to incorporate these areas into your life. Life satisfaction may be the biggest and best reward. Take good care of yourself.

Caregivers and Stress

There are no easy answers. You love or care for another person and there is no way that you can “fix” the person. They may be sick or hurt or in some sort of difficult situation and no matter what you do, you can not make the “challenge” go away. You are, by some definition, a “victim.” You have “no control” over what happens or how your person of concern is going to respond to their situation. Sometimes you have to “just sit on your hands” while the situation “plays out.” I do not like being in this situation. I want to be actively doing something to help, or at least running around trying to get the healing energies flowing, but this does not always prove useful or may not have any degree of success in changing the situation.

Parents feel this way about their children as they put their kids out into the world to live and to learn the lessons of life. People feel this way when their aging parents begin to fail. Spouses will often feel this kind of helplessness when their partner has been impacted by a severe health or financial challenge. Indeed, most of us who have made it into adolescence have experienced relationships that can evoke this feeling of concern without the power or control to save, or at least help, our friend, family member, schoolmate, or co-worker. People are “caring creatures” much of the time. Our need to nurture and care are “higher functioning” activities that often set us apart from other creatures on our planet. But, though we are often born with this desire to nurture, we are not taught how to deal with stress or anxiety of caring for another person (or pet) when we can not really fix the situation.

Caring without having control can cause anxiety and can lead to depression. In my own life, as a caregiver for my wife, I have experienced the closeness that caring can bring to a relationship and yet the stress and depression that can come from a situation that does not come to a positive resolution, is very difficult to live with. As I have advised others, I practice stress and anxiety management. I get regular exercise. I try to eat in a “healthy” way. I maintain friendships that are positive and therapeutic. I keep busy and productive. BUT, I have those moments when I lie awake, with a mind that will not stop its endless chatter, filling me with worry and concern for my beloved partner. There is not much else I can do but worry, but worry is not helpful.

There are times when my consciousness will drift into a place of spiritual insight and feel the power of these lessons. Though my heart is heavy and my mind races with anxious thoughts, deep inside I touch the source of some unclear wisdom regarding the “point” and the lesson that I am struggling to learn. My only thought for you, if you find yourself in this predicament, is to calm yourself as much as possible (not an easy request) and then go deep within to bask in the light of unconditional love. Find and celebrate the lesson. In this case remember that you can not “push the river.” Sometimes we must just find the feeling and the wisdom of acceptance.

And, do not forget your need for self-care to help sustain you through this difficult lesson. Also, celebrate every moment. Try not to live in the past or in the future. As is said, “Be Here Now!”

Please take GOOD care of yourself!

The Power of Connection

People are basically “social creatures.” Since the dawn of human history, one main trait that separated humans from many in the animal kingdom was the need/desire to band together into communities for survival. We learned to hunt in teams. We have learned how to create different roles and expertise that helps the “tribe” survive and thrive. For example, some people: grow food, some prepare food, some build structures, some care and educate the young members, some minister to the health and spiritual needs of individuals, some protect the tribe, etc. There are a very few of us who can survive without any other people or outside assistance and people who do not require the assistance of other people are rare and these individuals seem to be a vanishing breed.

Relationships with other people have become more complicated. In today’s world, we have family relationships, business/work relationships, spiritual relationships, creativity/productivity relationships, educational/mentoring relationships, and many other attachments related to services that require relationships. Family and friends are necessary for most people. Our earliest survival as an infant requires bonding relationships with care-giving family or friends. (Many physical and emotional challenges develop when children are neglected or do not have strong, trusting bonds with their caregivers.) But most of us have developed an even greater requirement for caring relationships that go beyond the need of physical survival. We now have expectations of emotional connections within “committed relationships” that seem emotionally necessary for survival. This may be a dramatic overstatement of survival, but expectations can, and do, get developed into mental and emotional issues that appear to be necessary for quality of life.

For example, our society, or at least advertisers, has created an “emotional need” for us to be “home with family during the ‘Holidays’.” In the United States, that means that you should be lonely or guilty for not being with “loved ones” during Thanksgiving or Christmas Season. Depression rises. Suicides spike after the “holidays.” Substance abuse increases to cope with emotions of “loneliness” or to help us survive time when we are trapped with family that we have successfully avoided all year long. Financial stress increases. Travelling becomes more stressful. So we need to increase our awareness of the potential emotional victimization we can have to these expectations of connection.

Putting the downside of expectations for connection aside, it is time to address a more significant, day to day, reality of connection. Most of us can improve our quality of life and increase our personal productivity by mental or emotional or spiritual connection with another person or with a group of trusted, like minded people. Our physical health improves. (There have been research studies on increased longevity of married men vs. single men, for example.) Our emotional health improves, if we are involved with healthy people in healthy relationships. We thrive spiritually when we can connect with people or institutions that create an open focus of our higher consciousness. Conversely, when we lose a “loved one” we can lose our physical or emotional health. With a “loss,” our source of loving acceptance can be altered or removed leaving us a gaping hole in our emotional support foundation.

We must understand this possible situation and learn to manage our levels of self-care to adjust for self-nurturing when we experience a significant loss of love and connection. When aware, we can be better prepared for the situation and hopefully avoid becoming a victim to this circumstance. Losses of connection can happen suddenly or over time. They can be from planned lifestyle changes, like moving or job changes, or from random acts that are beyond our control. Regardless, we benefit from discovering our unique needs and requirements for healthy connections. We will do better when we can know how to reach out and get appropriate, positive support when it is needed.

“No man is an island,” is part of a quote by John Donne in 1624 that can be understood to mean that humans benefit from connections and the loss of any connections may contribute to a reduced quality of life.
Please consider how to develop and maintain “healthy” relationships with relatively “healthy” people or institutions. Your physical, emotional, and spiritual health can benefit from “good” connections.

Note: Connections with family are NOT always healthy. Connections at work are not always healthy. Unfortunately, connections with friends are not always healthy, though you have more control over who you have as friends. Please recognize “healthy” relationship connections and nurture these.

Unconditional Love

Everyone benefits from loving or by being loved. It is human nature to want to “connect” with other people and the exchange of energy, for some people LOVE, is the very best part of the connection. Not everyone admits to needing or wanting love, but people who do claim to not need love are often in denial, for their own reasons.

Pets need love. Most people enjoy their pets because of the exchange of love and devotion that can come from this bond. Babies need love to thrive and survive. Babies need food, water, and a reasonably warm physical environment, but babies will not thrive without human contact and the exchange of a “loving energy.” If you do not believe me, read the studies of children raised in Eastern European orphanages where deprived babies lack physical, mental, and emotional development when raised without quality human contact. My point is that 99% of us require human bonding to thrive and part of this connection is labeled as love.

Getting the love that we need has been one of the complicated human dilemmas. People often strive for love and often can be disappointed, or worse. Timing is everything when it comes to connecting with other people for love. In most families a certain amount of love is exchanged because people connect more easily with other people whom they share genetic material. Parents usually love their own children, in part due the bond of sharing genetic material. But even in this relationship, if the timing is not correct, the bond of familial love can be weak or possibly non-existent. A challenge can exist if you look for, or expect, “unconditional love.”

By definition, “unconditional love” is given unconditionally. This often means, with no strings attached or no expectation connected to the sharing of this loving energy. “Pure Love” can be defined as unconditional. When a mother bonds with her new baby, a hormonal and genetic driven instinct can take over where the mother feels very strongly connected with her young offspring. Not every mother feels this way because, stress, survival, drugs or medications may interfere with this bond. When a mother is too stressed and possibly concerned with her own survival, this distraction can overcome the “chemistry” of maternal bonding. Fathers can also develop a loving connection and bonding with their offspring but this may be more challenging than simple maternal chemistry.

Beyond parental connection, there are a few other opportunities for connecting and developing unconditional love. Children raised with other siblings or people other than parents can develop attachments especially when mutual needs are met by these relationships. There are even times when close friends and “significant others” (life partners) can develop a chemistry that can include forms of unconditional love.

By my definition, “Unconditional Love” is pure connection and the sharing of energy that is given with NO EXPECTATIONs of any return. Thus unconditionally shared. To bask in the light and warmth of unconditional love is healing, nurturing, empowering, and enlightening. For many of us, it seems to be a rare and special experience. For some lucky ones of us, it is not so rare. I believe that most of us are born with an innate knowledge of what unconditional love and pure higher consciousness really is. We know it and can celebrate it when we can stumble upon it, unless we are in a “survival” moment. It is my belief that we can search for this pure form of love and energy, and we can occasionally find it. For me, such a time came when I was in a meditation near sunset and I experienced myself as a molecule of water surrounded by all other living things who were also represented as a molecule of water in a golden river of “life.” I felt the overwhelming feeling of connection and pure acceptance. (As if all other living things could resonate with the same vibration as we shared the movement along the “river of Life.”) This is not a common or even daily experience for me, but it is a feeling and memory that I will never forget. I have also seen this described by people interviewed after having a near death experience (NDE.) Perhaps, this is what “heaven” is like…

My wish is that every conscious living entity will be able to experience this brief, and lasting, feeling of celebrating in a state nirvana and know what is like to be free from fear and hate. Seek and celebrate any interlude you may have with Unconditional Love. Share this when you can… Peace!

Comments? www.dstress.com (wellness@dstress.com) or call 360-593-3833