Child listening

Today we ask that you listen.

Listen.

To listen, you must be calm and still.

Many people do not know how to listen.  That is because they do not know how to be calm and still.

As a result, humans have great difficulty communicating with each other.  That is because communication requires good listening.  If people can’t listen to each other, how can communication occur?

What happens then is that people are conditioned to scream and shout in order to be heard.  Since no one is listening, you must scream and shout.  How else will you attract the attention of busy, distracted people who don’t listen?

Of course, when people are screamed at, they become defensive.  They usually shut down even more.  They are more likely to scream back at you than actually listen to you.  Or else they will ignore you.

Wars are started in this way.  Most human drama arises in this way.

To be a good listener, you must first learn how to listen to yourself.

If you cannot listen to yourself, how can you listen to anyone else?

To listen to yourself, you must be calm and still.

What is going on with you?  What is your body telling you?  Are you tense?  Are you tired?  Are you sick?  Can you listen to what your body is saying to you?

What is your inner guidance telling you?  All of you have inner guidance.  It is like an internal compass that always points to the North Star.  Your inner guidance will point you toward the light.  But only if you are able to hear it.  To do that, you must be very calm and still.  Most people do not have enough stillness in their life to access their inner guidance.

That is why it is good to cultivate time and space in your life to be calm and still.  Even if you can just find a few minutes a day to cultivate calmness and stillness, that can make a huge difference.

It is the beginning of really learning how to listen to yourself.

If you learn how to listen to yourself, you will discover that you no longer have the same need for other people to hear you.  You will not feel the same need to scream and shout in order to be heard.  You will not need to share your drama with everyone on Twitter in the hope that someone out there will listen.

If you are a good listener to yourself, you will no longer feel like you are not being heard.  That is because you are being heard — by you.

This, in turn, will make you a good listener to others.  It will make you a good communicator.

If the world had enough good listeners and communicators, most conflict would be resolved.  Truly, this is so.

It all begins with listening.

So listen.  Listen.

relax

Today we ask that you value relaxation.

Relax.  It is good for you.  Really, it is the best thing for you.

It is strange, but many humans do not know how to relax.  They are incapable of letting themselves deeply unwind.

For many, relaxation is something they regard with suspicion.  It is a sign of virtue to be constantly productive.  Relaxation just means you are lazy.

On a deeper, level people fear that something bad will happen to them the moment they relax.  This is called hypervigilance.  It is a belief that the minute you fully drop your guard and unwind, something terrible will happen.

For most people, this belief is not fully conscious.  But if you’re a person who must constantly be busy and active, if you are restless, and sleep poorly at night, this is a sign of hypervigilance.  There is a part of you that cannot relax fully because it believes something bad will happen you do.

Beliefs that workaholism is a sign of virtue and that relaxation is lazy are really very insane.

If people could relax deeply, a staggering amount of physical and mental health issues would be “cured.”

The human body requires frequent periods of deep rest and relaxation.

You simply cannot experience true mental and physical health unless you allow your body and mind to fully relax on a regular basis.

If you truly understood the connection between the inability to relax and physical and mental illness, you would not take this advice lightly.

Relaxation is absolutely essential to your well-being.  It is not a luxury to be indulged in on rare occasion.  It is as essential to your health as exercise, and a good diet.

This means that even if you exercise and eat well, you will not experience real health unless you also incorporate deep rest and relaxation into your lifestyle.

You can take expensive supplements, eat pure organic food, go to the gym, and do rigorous yoga — but if you cannot relax, you will still experience physical and mental health issues.

We cannot overstate this.

Many people view relaxation as unproductive.  They even resent the basic human need for sleep, seeing it as unproductive, valueless time.  No wonder they do not sleep well!

If people relaxed more, the pharmaceutical industry would be in serious trouble.

So how do you relax?

First of all, acknowledge the value of relaxation.  

Examine your beliefs about what constitutes a good work ethic, and what you consider “lazy.”

And then look at ways you can cultivate more true “down time” into your life.

“Down time” does not happen when you are watching TV, sitting in front of a computer, or checking your phone.  

“Down time” does happen when you meditate, take a nap, cuddle with an animal or young child, or go for a walk outdoors.  Not a rigorous jog, but a walk — where you are present enough to notice the trees and the sky, and hear the birds sing.  

“Down time” happens when you stop and smell the roses.  When your mind is quiet, and you can just be.

This should not only happen when you are on vacation once or twice a year.

For true health, “down time” needs to happen every day.

You may need to schedule down time into your calendar.  

Can you give yourself even twenty minutes a day of quiet, meditative time?  Can you schedule yourself a nap time, as you would for a child you loved and cared for?  

Even just taking a daily twenty minute nap would create a radical health improvement for many people.

Please do not underestimate the value of relaxation.  It is as essential to your well-being as the nutrients in the food you eat.

And if you cannot relax, examine your beliefs around relaxation.  Are they really true?

one thing at a time

Today we ask that you do one thing at a time.

Do one thing at a time.

If you have issues with productivity, feeling overwhelmed, or burned out — do one thing at a time.

In the modern world, there is this thing called multi-tasking, which is a very ridiculous idea that productive humans are supposed to do many things all at once.

Trying to do things all at once just means things get done poorly and inefficiently — or not at all.  It is not an intelligent way of doing things.

Many of you may have experienced what it is like to talk to someone on the phone when they are distracted by what is on their computer or phone, or by some other activity.  The person cannot really focus on what you are saying.  It is hard to communicate clearly, and you do not feel listened to.  You cannot have a good conversation this way.

It is like this with everything.  You cannot do many things at the same time with any sort of clear focus, or attention.

If you believe multi-tasking makes you more productive, this is simply not true.

If you really want to be effective and accomplish things, learn to do one thing at a time, and one thing only, with real focus.

If you are working on a project, do that.  Do not also check your phone every two minutes.  

If you are cooking a meal, do that.

If you are caring for a child, do that.

Just do what you are doing with your full attention.

If you want to spend time looking at social media or browsing the internet, then do that.  But just do that.  Set aside a specific time to do that.  Set a timer.  Give yourself fifteen minutes of just doing that, and nothing else.

The voice in your head may argue that you do not have enough time in the day to get things done without multi-tasking, but this is an illusion.  It is not true.

If you do things one at a time, with your full attention, you will accomplish far more than you think is possible.

This really works.

Notice your level of distraction, how your mind flits from task to task, thought to thought.

A distracted person is like a fluttering butterfly, blown this way and that in a breeze.  There is not much power there.

A focused person is solid, and present.  Like a rock, you are there, fully.  No breeze can blow you about.  There is a huge amount of power there.

If you are someone who believes there is never enough time in the day, if you feel constantly overwhelmed — then do this.

Do one thing at a time, and do it with your full attention.

This includes taking breaks, and resting.  If you are resting, really rest.  If you are stimulating your mind, you are not actually resting.  You are still busy doing something.  When you rest, rest.  

Try it.  What do you have to lose?

boredom

Today we ask that you reevaluate your feelings around the word “boredom.”

Most people associate boredom with something unpleasant.  “Ohhhh, I’m soooo bored!”

Modern people are so averse to boredom that they cannot tolerate it even for a moment.  They cannot stand in line at the post office, or wait to be served a meal in a restaurant without whipping out their phones, their little entertainment devices.  They check email and social media, they play games, they keep themselves stimulated.

Life needs to be constantly exciting, enriching, entertaining, and dramatic.  Even little children need to be continuously involved in “educational activities,” or given electronic entertainment in order to keep them occupied — and not bored.

But people are really missing out on life by building this intolerance to boredom.

You see, boredom is quite beautiful.

Great bursts of human creativity have traditionally arisen out of boredom.  The bored child is moved to imagine new worlds, to daydream.  Insight often comes to people when they are taking a shower, or washing the dishes — in short, doing something “boring.”

It’s in these “boring” times that the mind has a chance to process what it has taken in, build connections, and expand.

To the overstimulated, over-caffeinated modern brain, lying in a field looking up at the trees and clouds is “boring.”  Going for a quiet walk by yourself outdoors is “boring.”  Going fishing is “boring.”

And nothing is more “boring” than meditation.  Sitting cross-legged, staring at a wall!  What could be more boring?

Yet it is precisely in these “boring” spaces that really interesting things happen.

Modern humans tend to assign value judgments to activity.  Valuable activity is considered “productive,” “educational,” or “entertaining.”

Activity that does not appear to be productive, educational or entertaining is not valued.

It’s like everyone runs their lives as if they were a legal office, trying to maximize their “billable hours.”  Productive time is worth something, unproductive time is not.

But this is all quite crazy and backwards.

“Boring” activity, or non-activity, is just as meaningful and valuable as stimulating, seemingly productive activity.

When you are standing in a line, or waiting at a restaurant, and you refrain from stimulating yourself with your phone — if you can wait patiently, and mindfully, in a “bored” state — this is in truth far more useful than keeping up to date on Twitter.

If you are someone who feels stressed and overwhelmed, or has difficulty focusing or sleeping, it would be helpful for you to cultivate a greater tolerance for “boredom.”

When life is continuously stimulating, educational, entertaining, and dramatic — this is a recipe for exhaustion, anxiety, and burnout.

Everything you do is good.  Taking a shower is just as important as impressing the boss in the meeting.

It’s just as a important for your child to play a “nonsense” game in the park as it is for him to perform at the piano recital.  Children require unstructured play time in order to flourish.  It is okay for a child to be bored; it will inspire him to use his imagination.

Boredom can be beautiful.  And if you cultivate a spacious mind, it will no longer be boring.

It will be peaceful.  And joyful.

biting off more than you can chew

Today we ask that you value moderation in all things.

Value moderation in all things.

This is difficult for humans, especially in modern times, when so much is continuously available.

There is a very immature, yet powerful part of the human brain that believes that if one thing is good, then ten things must be better, and a hundred things are better still.

But this is not true.  “Too much of a good thing” is not a good thing.  It is harmful.

For example, for the human body to thrive, a moderate amount of sugar must be consumed in food each day.  Without glucose, the body and brain cannot function.

But too much sugar consumption causes all manner of disease, and obesity.

Most of you understand this about sugar, even if you may struggle with regulating your consumption.

But there are other things that modern humans overdo, without understanding the harm that they are causing to themselves.

In order to thrive, all humans require a moderate amount of neurological stimulation.

The human mind needs to learn, to problem solve, to take in art and music, and to be positively stimulated with different forms of information.

However, modern humans, plugged into technology, are far exceeding what is healthy in terms of neurological stimulation.

You are asking your brains to take in far too much information and stimuli, just as you are asking your bodies to take in far too much sugar.

The result of chronic neurological overstimulation is, as with sugar overconsumption, disease.

Chronic neurological overstimulation causes attention deficit disorder, focus issues, anxiety, depression, insomnia, mental illness, fatigue, and a host of unpleasant symptoms.

Neurological overstimulation is just as bad for you as eating too much sugar, and in some ways worse.

In order to thrive, healthy humans require a moderate amount of adaptational challenge, which might also be called “stress.”

When you engage in physical exercise, you are challenging your body to adapt and change.

Whenever you change your routine, you are challenging your mind to adapt.  Starting a new job, moving, having a child — these are all major adaptational challenges.  But even smaller things, like traveling, or having an out-of-town guest stay in your home, are adaptational challenges.  They are “stressors.”

It is healthy for humans to have a certain amount of adaptational challenge in life.  This is what allows you to expand your horizons, and grow.

But in excess, adaptational challenge becomes unhealthy “stress.”  And too much stress causes mental and physical illness.

The question to ask yourself is this:

Am I biting off more than I can chew?

Ask this about sugar, about information, and about challenge.

Are you consuming more sugar than your body can process?  Do you have difficulty regulating your weight, or your energy?

Are you consuming more information than your brain can process?  Do you have difficulty regulating your attention and focus?  Are you easily distracted?  Are you anxious?  Is your mind constantly churning?  Do you have difficulty sleeping?

Are you taking on more challenge than your body and mind can process?  Do you feel stressed?  Are you anxious?  Do you have difficulty relaxing, and sleeping?  Do you feel overwhelmed by life?

If any of this applies to you, the remedy is simple:

If you have weight and energy issues, look to your diet.  Eat less sugar.

If you have attention and focus issues, anxiety, or insomnia, look to the amount of information you take in.  Cut down on your TV and internet consumption.  Watch less.  Read less.

If you are stressed and overwhelmed, look to your schedule.  Look to the amount of activity you take on.  Do less.

You may think this is impossible, but this is not so.

Overconsuming sugar is an addiction.

Overconsuming information is an addiction.

Overscheduling and taking on too much challenge is an addiction.

The first step in dealing with an addiction is to acknowledge that what you are doing is unhealthy for you.

If you do not believe that eating too much sugar is unhealthy, you will not change.

If you do not believe that consuming too much information is unhealthy, you will not change.

If you do not believe that leading an over-scheduled, stressful lifestyle is unhealthy, you will not change.

And that is okay.

But if you are feeling sick or crazy, part of you probably would like to feel better.  And that requires changing your habits.

Practice moderation in all things.  

Sugar, information, and challenge are all necessary for human health — in the correct amount.

But too much can kill you.

Don’t bite off more than you can chew.  Practice moderation.

Happy_Girl

Today we ask that you make health and sanity your first priority.

While it should be obvious that without health and sanity, it is impossible to truly enjoy life, most people do not place an appropriate level of value on health and sanity.

While most people would probably say that yes, they do value their health and sanity, at the same time most people value other things more.

Many people make wealth and status their number one priority.

Others make their physical appearance their number one priority.

Others value achievement and public recognition of success as their number one priority.

Others value moral superiority and virtue as their number one priority.  This is often the case with religious people.

In each of these situations, the person is engaged in competition with others.  Wealth, status, physical appearance, achievements and recognition, moral superiority — all of these involve a hierarchy, a system by which some people are judged to be more worthy than others.  

Of course, these systems are completely arbitrary, varying widely according to one’s culture, nationality, the time period one happens to live in, etc.

Valuing your health and sanity is not competitive.

Yes, there are people who turn physical health into a competition — who can do the most difficult yoga poses, who can eat the purest diet, etc.  But, you see, that is not sane.  

That is why you must value your health AND sanity.  

When you value your health and sanity as your main priority, above all things, there is no sense of competition.  Your individual health and sanity has nothing to do with anyone else.

Your desire is simply to feel good, balanced, harmonious and stable in your body and mind.

When you contemplate an action, you evaluate it according to whether or not it is conducive to your health and sanity.  If it is not conducive to your health and sanity, you do not do it — even if you are feeling a strong impulsive craving.  

This is a very intelligent way of making choices.

Ask: Is what I’m about to do healthy for my body and mind?   Do I feel sane?

Again, there is no sense of competition here.  The ego is out of it.  It is just about what you sense to be harmonious for you, or not.  

If you find yourself feeling sick, unbalanced, or crazed, that is an indication that you need to get quiet with yourself, ground yourself, and reorient yourself toward health and sanity.

Can you see that if you make this your consistent, daily practice, your life experience will become much more enjoyable?

So, if you are struggling with life, ask yourself:

What do I value more than my health and sanity?

Is this thing really worth more to me than my health and sanity?

If you make health and sanity your number one priority, what you will find is that over time, everything else falls into place.  

 

the gift of space

Today we ask that you recognize the value of space.

Recognize the value of space.

What does this mean?

Space is what exists when other things are absent.

An open space does not have much “stuff” in it.

When there is a rest in a piece of music, there is silence.

Unscheduled “free” time is spacious, compared with scheduled time.

Modern humans have a very unfortunate habit of needing to fill up space.

“Stuff” is valued more than “space.”  So people’s lives become cluttered.

People’s living spaces are cluttered with too many objects and possessions.

People’s schedules are cluttered with too many activities.  If someone does happen to have a moment of “free time,” it must instantly be occupied — either with something “productive,” or something “entertaining.”

People’s senses are cluttered with too much stimuli.  Walk into many homes and work places, and there is a TV always blaring somewhere in the background.  People are always checking their phones and computers to see if anything “new” has happened in the past minute.  

No wonder people are so miserable.

It is quite impossible for humans to be healthy without sufficient space.

To be health, a human requires rest, silence, and room.

Is this clear?  You cannot be healthy without adequate rest, silence, and room.  

This is why meditation is so helpful for people.  It gives you a period of rest, silence, and room.

Without rest, silence, and room, there is no space for your energy to expand into.  You will feel constricted, overwhelmed, crushed, and claustrophobic.

The side effects of this are chronic anxiety, and stress-related health issues.

If you experience these issues, ask yourself:

How can I give myself more space?

How can I give myself more breathing room?

How can I have less “stuff” in my life?

You can start by getting rid of the clutter in your home and work space.

You can start by easing up on your schedule.

You can start with a meditation practice, even of a few minutes a day.

It doesn’t matter where you start.  Just start somewhere, and do your best to follow through.

How can your life be more spacious?

If you believe it’s impossible to experience more space, start by giving yourself the gift of silence.

Turn off the computer.  Turn off the TV.  Turn off your phone.   

Just do that, and right away, you will have more space.  You will have more room to breathe.

Try it, and you will see.

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