Tag Archives: Compassion

What does it mean to be ready?

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A lot of my healing over the years stems from the need to accept myself – my whole self. I think everyone has varying degrees of this experience embedded in their lives – wanting to fit in and feel “accepted” by their families, peers, communities – whoever it may be. For me I experienced a heightened sense of this need growing up adopted-Korean in a predominantly white community. Being inherently different on the outside forced me to make peace with the world one part by accepting myself and one part by trying to fit in desperately. Let me tell you only one of these parts worked.

As a teen attending Korean Culture Camp, I went through self-esteem classes each year. Definitely one of my least favorite aspects of camp. Really all I cared about was mandu (Korean dumplings) and plum candy. (I paid for that care later in life – will save for another post). But the self-esteem classes at the time weren’t especially helpful or practical. I just thought of it as fluff – acknowledging that my peers and I were prone to lower self-esteems than everyone else and yet not recognizing that we were not feeling open or receptive enough to share about it or even identify this about our very nature. It was one of those classes you just go to to only wait for it to be over. You maybe even feel worse about yourself, afterwards knowing that you have a bad self-esteem. It’s victimizing. So then what to do with oneself? [Go to the camp store and buy some more potato snacks, right?]

Well years later I can say an important part often missing from those early self-esteem talks was the readiness factor. It is possible that at camp they touched on the idea of self-compassion, but it took me until my post college years to really understand that practicing self-compassion could alter the effects of low self-esteem. Funny how education and learning works…you can only retain and understand the message when you are ready, and messages become clearer to you when it becomes personal.

At the same time, if we all waited until we were completely “ready” we would never move forward. (This is a popular topic among the new parent camp, believe me, I hear it all the time :)). So what does it mean to be ready? And why does it matter?

Of course there is no simple answer. But I find there is this delicate balance with the readiness factor – you cannot push yourself somewhere you are not ready to be (or you can, but you may force yourself into a healing crisis), but you also must push yourself beyond what you believe is possible at times. The key I’ve found for me is not doing too much of one or the other. Do a little of both. Let the busyness inside you settle, and stir up the well-rested parts within you.

I always say in my yoga classes, if you tend to move and breathe slowly, allow yourself to increase the pace of your breath, or viceversa, if you are a person who breathes fast and is moving quickly all the time, let yourself slow down your movements. It’s good to switch things up, it keeps us well and it challenges us to be better people.

In what parts of your life are you putting on the brakes because you are not ready and sincerely need more time? In what ways are you ready to move forward but are stalled because of habit or fear?

Challenge: This week find a way to either slow down or speed up something that needs attention in your life.

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8 Ways to Happiness & Satisfaction in Your Life

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happiness_250Spring has sprung, or at least that’s what I tell myself! Despite the cold weather and snow sprinkles we’ve seen the past few days, my body still senses a new season approaching. I can also see and hear it at appointments with coaching clients – showing up in bright clothing, with new-found motivation and general excitement around goal-setting. Spring is a time when moods begin to shift. People are waking up from winter and getting ready to move around more. Everyone’s energy climbs with the lengthening of days. It’s great.

But for some of us, just the thought of a new season isn’t enough to get us ticking. Thanks to Sonja Lyubomirsky of University of California, this post includes some helpful practices that will make your days brighter as you wait patiently for Spring to show up more fully. I also added some of my own suggestions to the mix, so I hope you enjoy!

1. Count your blessings. So maybe your life isn’t perfect. Nobody’s is. However, research shows that if we pay attention to the things we have in our lives that are going well, our overall happiness is greater than our peers who do not practice gratitude. Not sure how to be more grateful? Try out one of these practices:

  • Start a gratitude journal. Each week, pick one day to write down 3-5 things that make you feel grateful. Try to switch it up so your entries vary. Be sure to include the big and the little things that make you happy. If it brings you joy and gratitude, write it down.
  • Pay a gratitude visit. Write a testimonial to a friend, teacher, or mentor, or even better, pay them a visit and read them the letter in person. Studies have shown that this one act can give you a whole month’s worth of feeling happy…that would buy you until May!
  • Three Blessings: Martin Seligman finds that an exercise he calls, Three Blessings, can provide you with three to six months of satisfaction. Every day write down three things that went well in your day and why. Keep this up over time and see what happens.

2. Practice self-care. Do you chronically go to bed late, wake up early, and then feel lousy the rest of the day? How do you feel when you get enough rest? Better, right? Sometimes the key to happiness is as simple as getting enough sleep. Such a simple answer but for many of us so hard to execute. Understanding what you need to do to keep your body and mind at optimal functioning is important. Start by making a list of your basic needs and try to check a few off the list each day.  Experiment with it, and practice, practice, practice. The more you are able to work what you need into your life on a regular basis, the easier it will become.

3. Be compassionate. Being kind to other people for the sake of being kind is so good for your well-being. Pay it forward. It makes you feel generous and capable, and it builds your self-efficacy – your belief that you can do it! It also gives you a sense of community and connection to others which provides you with acceptance, smiles/appreciation, and reciprocated kindness. All of these results will bring you more happiness. Being kind to others puts you in a good mood, it’s that simple. Just make sure that it is genuine. If it is not something you are doing from your heart you will not get the same benefits.
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4. Have fun. On average babies laugh 300 times a day. Adults laugh 20 times a day. These figures are staggering and affect our ability to be happy. In order to raise the bar, do things that you enjoy every once in awhile. Smile. Smile when you look at yourself in the mirror. Smile at someone else. Smile with your eyes. If you really can’t get yourself to smile, hold a pencil or pen between your teeth, and your body will passively start to generate some positive feelings. Do this while looking in the mirror and you may actually start laughing 🙂 If you find yourself too busy to “do” something fun each week, try to work on enjoying or simply noticing the parts of your day that are fun or pleasurable. 

5. Forgive, forgive, forgive. The time you spend mulling over experiences and people that bother you or have wronged you is time wasted. Being angry or resenting others will only suck the energy and vitality out of your life. Write a letter of forgiveness to the other person and send it to them, or just strike a match and let it burn away. Let it go. Work on practices that help you let things go. Yoga is a great framework to help with forgiveness. Through breathwork – breathing in nourishment and letting go what no longer serves you – you can change your life and learn to let go. Meditation is another great way to work on forgiveness. Imagine a person in your life that you love a lot and focus on sending them all your love and compassion. Then repeat with the same focus and feeling but send your love to someone who you are trying to forgive. It’s not easy, but it helps. The sooner you can detach from being angry at others, the sooner you can achieve freedom and happiness in your life.

6. Spend time with friends & family. Study after study shows that after you reach a level where your basic needs are met, where you live, more money, your job title, or even your health status will NOT make you more happy. What does make you more happy appears to be strong personal relationships. When you are busy chasing life, if you want to be happy, do not forget this piece. When you are too busy for your friends and family, reconsider. If you don’t want to see your friends or family, ask yourself why. If it is because the people make you feel rotten, then build a new community. Always surround yourself with people who support you, and make sure to take time for these special friendships as they will bring you the most joy.

7. Find meaning in your life. As mentioned in the healthy retirement blog post, having a purpose is central to our ability to be satisfied and happy. For a lot of people this is tough. What this one boils down to is a lot of self-study – the ability to know yourself inside and out. What makes you tick? The better you know yourself the easier it will be to understand what drives you and motivates you. Knowing your strengths and finding ways to realize them in the world can boost your happiness and feelings of satisfaction. If you have trouble with pinning down your strengths, ask people that know you well and that you trust. See what they say. You might be surprised or you might receive affirmation in what you already know about yourself.

8. Show up. Get engaged in what you do. Dig into the good, the bad, and the ugly. The more you disconnect yourself from your surroundings, your work, your friends, your family, the worse you are going to feel about your life. Life is not easy, but if you come to the table with your eyes and heart open, you will have a better chance of being resilient to the daily stress and challenges that life ultimately brings. If you try to avoid or ignore the hard stuff, you are only going to cause more trouble for yourself down the road. The best thing you can do for yourself is show up and be an active participant in your life. Nobody else is going to live your life but you. So go out there and live out your legacy!

I hope this post gives you a little inspiration, I know it revs me up! It can be a little overwhelming, I know – believe me. But what I find works best for me is to pick one or two items to focus on at a time.

How many of these 8 practices do you have in check? 

Which ones do you feel like you need to work on right now? 

Any other practices you find helpful in your own life that you would like to share?

“The world is changing and we are part of that transformation.” -Paulo Coehlo

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Whatever God means to you – whatever it is that connects you to you, to others, and to something larger – this compilation of words excerpted from  Coelho’s The Valkyries will  inspire you. It fits right in with the theme of Mandala Reflections. Coelho’s words make me want to sit down with his book set: The Valkyries, The Fifth Mountain, and Veronika Decides to Die.  A special thanks to my dear friend, Irene, who shared these quotes with me after she finished the first book. Thanks, dear!

We, at this moment in history, must develop our own powers.  We must believe that the universe doesn’t end at the walls of our room.  We must accept the signs, and follow our heart and our dreams.  We are responsible for everything that happens in this world.  We are the warriors of the light.  With the strength of our love and of our will, we can change our destiny, as well as the destiny of many others.  The day will come when the problem of hunger can be solved through the miracle of the multiplication of the bread.  The day will come when love will be accepted by every heart, and the most terrible of human experiences – solitude, which is worse than hunger – will be banned from the face of the Earth.  The day will come when those who knock at the gates will see them open; those who ask will receive; those who weep will be consoled.  For the planet Earth, that day is still a long way off.  But for each of us, that day can be tomorrow.  One has only to accept a simple fact: Love-of God and of others-shows us the way.  Our defects, our dangerous depths, our suppressed hatreds, our moments of weakness and desperation – all are unimportant.  If what we want to do is heal ourselves first, so that then we can go in search of our dreams, we will never reach paradise.  If, on the other hand, we accept all that is wrong about us – and despite it, believe that we are deserving of a happy life-then we will have thrown open an immense window that will allow Love to enter.  Little by little, our defects will disappear, because one who is happy can look at the world only with love-the force that regenerates everything that exists in the Universe.”  “We are not alone.  The world is changing, and we are part of that transformation.  The angels guide us and protect us.  Despite all the injustice in the world, and despite the things that happen to us that we feel we don’t deserve, and despite the fact that we sometimes feel incapable of changing what is wrong with people and with the world…love is even stronger, and it will help us to grow.  Only then will we be able to understand the stars and miracles.”

Did you like this post? Please stay tuned – in the months to come Irene and myself and some other women are starting a communal blog together (so exciting!)… and we think you’re going to like it!