apple

Today we ask that you focus on what is conducive to your health.

Focus on what is conducive to your health.

What does this mean?

Most of you who are open to reading this message have a basic sense of what is healthy for you, and what is not.

You know what kinds of foods are healthy.  You know that it is good for you to exercise your body, and so forth.

You know the difference between an apple and “junk food.”

What is “junk food”?  It is food that lacks nutritive value, often involves chemical processing,  and contains unhealthy sugars and fats.  While its flavors may satisfy an addictive craving — and it may offer a cheap, quick fix — usually it does not sit particularly well in your body.  If your lifestyle involves a great deal of “junk food” consumption, your physical health will deteriorate.  You will gain weight, and be prone to diseases.

This is how you know that junk food is not conducive to your health.  Because it makes you sick.

In general it is not all that hard to determine what is unhealthy.  Usually the pattern is similar to junk food: while the unhealthy behavior or substance may satisfy a craving and offer a quick fix, repeated indulgence deteriorates your health.

Conversely, healthy behaviors and substances increase your health.  They make your mind and body healthier.  You feel better — not a quick fix, necessarily, but a lasting improvement, often one that occurs gradually.  Over time, you may even find that your habits change: you now crave apples more than candy bars.

And by the way, it is okay to have the occasional candy bar.  It’s just when you are eating candy bars every day, that the problems arise.  

Just as there are healthy and unhealthy foods and substances, there are healthy and unhealthy behaviors.

A healthy person is someone who generally does things that are harmonious for his well-being, and the well-being of others.

A healthy person tends to increase feelings of well-being — for himself, and others.

An unhealthy person tends to increase feelings of disharmony and dis-ease — for himself, and others.

In stories, heroes are generally individuals who increase harmony and well-being in the world, while villains are those who increase disharmony and dis-ease.  

That is how you can tell the difference.

Obviously there are a great deal of disharmony-increasing people and situations in your reality.

And the existence of those people and situations tends to be very upsetting for those of you who wish to increase health and well-being in the world.

However, focusing your attention and energy on disharmonious people and situations is, generally speaking, unhealthy for you.

For example: you are going about your business, and suddenly someone says something very rude to you.

Now your whole day is ruined.  You brood over this rude person, and what he said.

Doing this is an unhealthy habit.  It’s like eating junk food.  It may satisfy a craving — which is to get back at this rude person, to imagine all the remarks you might have made.

But the more you do this, the worse you will feel.

Likewise, when you spend all day brooding over distressing, fear-inducing news, you are not helping anyone or anything.  You are only increasing dis-ease.

You may say, “Well, I need to stay informed.”  But in truth, any information that you truly need to hear will find its way to you.  

However, stewing in a morass of fear-inducing news just puts you in a foul mood, making you more prone to lash out at your loved ones and those around you.  

So no one is being helped, and you are only increasing disharmony in the world.

That is why this behavior is unhealthy — like eating junk food.

If you really want to increase well-being in the world, you must learn to wrest your attention away from all the disharmonious people and the things they do that you don’t like — before you sink into a foul mood over it.  

You do that by choosing to focus your attention on that which increases your feelings of well-being.  Go for a walk, and look at the trees and the sky.  Cuddle an animal.  Meditate, do yoga, ride a bike, go for a swim.  Do something that is genuinely helpful for yourself or someone else.  Express appreciation for something good in your life.  That is the equivalent of “eating an apple.”

That is what it means to focus on what is conducive to your health.

Indulging in black feelings about this or that person, or this or that situation, really is like eating junk food.  It is okay to do once in a while, if you must — but do it every day, and you’ll get sick.

So if you are someone who wants to be healthy, and tries to maintain healthy habits — keep this in mind.

Everything you take in is “food.”

What you take in through your mouth, you digest in your intestines.  What you take in through your eyes and ears, you digest in your mind.

So eat good food, if you want to be healthy.  

Focus your attention on what is conducive to your health.

be patient

Today we ask that you be patient with the process.

Be patient with the process.

Modern humans tend to be very goal-oriented.  You want to get there now.  You cannot wait.  Everything needs to be done already.  It should have been done yesterday!  That package must be delivered today!

This is very destructive, and leads to a great deal of unnecessary stress, wasted energy, and exhaustion.

Good things in life cannot be rushed.  Everything takes its own time to properly grow and develop.

The seed becomes the plant in its own time.  It cannot be rushed in its process without being damaged.

The child grows into the adult in his own time.  He cannot be rushed in his process without being damaged.

If you wish to climb a mountain, you cannot rush to the summit.  You must ascend in gradual, measured stages.  You must make camps along the way, and acclimate to the altitude.  Those who do not proceed to the summit in gradual stages do so at great peril.

The Titanic was rushed in its voyage across the Atlantic.  What a waste that was.

All this rushing and impatience is a sign of collective anxiety.  People rush when they are nervous, edgy, and insecure.  

Often people who rush around in life pretend that they do so out of a kind of confidence — “Look at how fast I do things, see how powerful I am!”

But the teenager who speeds in his car says the same thing.  

Rushing is not a sign of confidence.  It is a sign of anxious insecurity.

Truly confident humans are generally quite measured and deliberate in their actions.  They do not waste energy.  When it is absolutely necessary to move with speed, they do so.  But only when it is necessary.  Truly secure people do not need to rush around all the time in order to prove that they’re worth something.

Secure people take their time.

This is evident in the act of lovemaking.  A good lover does not rush.  That is a sign of insecurity and immaturity.  A confident, experienced lover allows the process to take time.

So it is in life.

People who constantly rush and push and force their way in life are like unskilled lovers — insecure and immature.  Don’t mistake all that rushing and pushing as a mark of confidence. The rushing is an act, a front — as with the speeding teenager.  

People who allow things to take time, who are comfortable letting the process unfold naturally — they are good lovers of life.  They can enjoy the cup of coffee, the blooming flower, the sunset, the baby’s smile.  

That is the secure person.  Not the one who screams because his package is late.  

So keep this in mind.  Notice your level of patience — and impatience — around the process.

The Titanic did not sink because of any defect in its design.  It did not sink because of the iceberg.  It sank because it was rushed.

 

do less

Today we ask you to do less.

Do less.

The time in which you live is in many ways defined by constant activity. 

Not long ago, work in an office ended when you stepped out the door.  People had evenings and weekends truly away from work.  Now work is continuous, because people are constantly accessible via electronic devices.  And expectations are higher than ever.

So people today do more and more and more, and still never get enough done.  Lives are spent in a constant flurry of hectic activity, multitasking, overscheduling.  Caffeine and other stimulants are imbibed in order to keep up with the relentless pace.  Naturally, people are so overstimulated during the day that they cannot get to sleep at night, so drugs are required to help people go to sleep.

And yet for all this doing, are people really getting more done?  Are they more productive?

Or is there a lot of wasted energy?  A lot of storm and fury, signifying nothing.  People sitting at desks, texting and playing games, pretending that they are very busy.  Or busy people who are so exhausted that they cannot think straight or remember things.  

Consider that it will take an exhausted, distracted person at least twice as long to accomplish a task as it would a clear-headed, well-rested, focused person.  Can you see the problem?

So: if you feel like you don’t do enough, even though you’re exhausting yourself trying — and you still want to do more — the answer is simple:

Do less.

If you want to do more, start by doing less.

That is why meditation is a useful tool.  Meditation is an act of “doing nothing.”  You sit and stare at a wall.  You listen to your breathing, and observe your thoughts.  

And yet anyone who engages in the practice can tell you that a lot happens in the midst of all this sitting about, doing nothing.

Reducing activity and stimuli is a form of mental decluttering.

Think about a cluttered work space.  It takes you at least twice as long to find anything in the mess.  And the mess is so daunting that you tend to avoid it — procrastinating just to get away from the wretched pile of things to do.  

But a clean work space is inviting.  It’s no problem to find anything you might look for or need.  Good ideas come easily in an uncluttered space, because there is room for them.

So: if you want to do more, do less.

That doesn’t mean go completely slack in life and turn into a vegetative person who watches TV all day.

It just means, slow down.  Declutter.  Give yourself more space, more room to breathe, to look around and see the sky and trees.

It means, all this constant activity isn’t getting you want you really want.  Multitasking just means you are paying a little bit of attention to a lot of things.  Imagine how far you might go if you gave all your attention to one thing for an hour.

That is why if you want to do more, you must start by doing less.

Many people are afraid to do this because they think it will look bad.  They are afraid they will be judged for not appearing to be busy enough.  So they must keep up the appearance of being constantly busy.  If you ask them how they are, they will always tell you how exhausted and overworked they are.  Then you cannot judge them.

This leads to a very crazy “Alice in Wonderland” reality, in which people are pretending to be very busy in order to maintain an appropriate image, while in reality they are just checking their electronic devices.   

In truth, if you become a more focused and effective person, an attentive and deliberate person, don’t you think people will be attracted to that?  They might wonder what your secret is.  

Your secret is that you do less.  You do more by doing less.  You might even sit staring at a wall for twenty minutes, appearing to be doing nothing at all.

Life gets much easier, when you stop worrying about what other people think of you.  Just because everyone else is constantly crazed and exhausted doesn’t mean you have to be like that, too.  Everyone used to smoke cigarettes.  Humans are notorious for doing things that are unhealthy and counterproductive.

You happen to live in the age of constant activity and stimuli.  It is not healthy.

Quit it, as you would any unhealthy habit.  

Do less, and you will accomplish more.

be friendly

Today we ask that you be friendly.

Be friendly.

What does this mean?

Really, it means be open, be trusting.  It means believing that life is essentially good, that it is good to be here in this life on Earth.  It means appreciating all that is good around you.

So you are friendly toward this new year.  You are friendly toward the day ahead of you, and what it brings.

You are friendly toward the people you may meet this day.  You are friendly toward the animals and the plants.

You are friendly with yourself.   You are friendly with your body.  You are friendly with the person you are today.

For many people, it is challenging to be friendly.

That is because they are wary and mistrustful.  They approach life like frightened animals — tense, vigilant, ready to fight or flee at the first provocation.

And it is understandable.  They may have been taught to be frightened of life, and may have had many bad experiences that have reinforced this fear.

Many people are like abused dogs.  It is a dog’s nature to be friendly, but if a dog has been mistreated, he will be defensive, frightened, aggressive.

How do you rehabilitate an abused animal?

Mainly by being friendly toward it.  You create a space in which the animal feels safe, and loved.  Slowly — sometimes very slowly — the animal gradually relaxes, and becomes friendly in return.

It is the same with humans.

If you want good relationships in life, it is wise to treat people the way you would treat an abused dog that you wish to rehabilitate.  Be friendly.  Be patient.  It may take a while, but eventually most people relax and become friendly in return.

You cannot really do this with other people, if you cannot do it with yourself.

You, too, may feel like an abused animal — scared, defensive, reactive.  Always on the verge of fight or flight.  Wary, mistrustful.  Growling at the world, hackles raised.

If that is the case, it is necessary for you to rehabilitate yourself.  To create a safe, loving space for yourself, in which you can relax and let your guard down.

But that space cannot exist if you are always judging and attacking yourself in your own mind.

Judging and attacking yourself in your own mind is a form of self-abuse.

Animals are not capable of self-abuse.  While animals can be traumatized, they are not capable of reinforcing the trauma through self-abuse in their thoughts.

That is why it is generally far easier to rehabilitate a scared, defensive animal, than a scared, defensive human.

But you have to start somewhere.

And the place to start is just by being friendly.

Can you just be friendly?  Can you adopt a basic attitude of friendliness?

As if you were gently holding out a treat to a scared animal.  “Come here.  You’re safe.  I won’t hurt you.”

Can you look at the ways in which you tend to be unfriendly — to yourself, and others?

Being friendly doesn’t mean: drop your healthy boundaries, and be a doormat.

It’s just an attitude.

Do you know the idea in the judicial system, that a person is innocent until proven guilty?

Being friendly assumes that life, reality, the universe — it is innocent until proven guilty.

It means assuming the people you meet today — they are innocent until proven guilty.

Be friendly, unless you are given true cause not to be.

You are also innocent.  And, in truth, nothing you have done or will do will make you guilty in the eyes of a loving reality.  You will never be “condemned for your sins.”  But that is another matter.

For now, just be friendly.

Friendly people generally find that life is friendly in return.

So if you are finding life to be unfriendly, perhaps look at how you might be friendlier.

Start with yourself.  Make friends with yourself.  The rest will follow.

 

 

stop trying so hard

Today we ask you to stop trying so hard.

Don’t try so hard.

What does this mean?

Modern society is obsessed with achievement, with status, with perfection.  People are expected to constantly push themselves, to be super-people.  Super-workers, supermoms, super-athletes.  You must be super, and superior.  You must be rich, prize-winning, and have children who excel in school and sports.  And this is just in order to feel okay about yourselves — to feel like you are worth something.

No wonder so many people are miserable, anxious, and depressed.

For this superiority must be continually worked for, struggled for, fought for.  Drop your vigilance for a moment and you may lose, fall behind, fail.  If a child does not get into the right kindergarten, he will not be on the proper track for a prestigious college!

This is madness.  This is a very crazy way to live and think.

Really it is nothing new.  In earlier times, people used to beat themselves because they were afraid of not being good enough to get into Heaven.  They used to beat their children, too, to make sure they were moral, virtuous, and perfect before the eyes of their God.  To make sure that this God would not judge them and find them wanting.  Of course, they lived in constant fear.  One immoral thought, and they would burn in Hell!

“Enlightened” modern people would rightly consider this behavior crazy, but they do the same thing.  Only now it is about status and achievement.  They must make sure they are members of the rich and successful elite, and make sure their children do the same.

So all day long everyone is trying very hard.  Trying very hard to be perfect, to be the best at whatever it is they’re doing.

This takes many forms.  It is easy to look back on the stereotypical “perfect mother and wife” of the 1950’s in America, and see how restrictive that role was, how backwards.  But modern “liberated” women are slaves to a perfect image in other ways, just as insidious.

Stop trying so hard.

It’s sacrilegious to say, isn’t it?  

Don’t try so hard.

In a culture where you are constantly exhorted to try as hard as you can, go the extra mile, punish yourself to make the win and be better than the rest.

It’s a bit subversive, isn’t it?  To say “Don’t try so hard.”  “Stop trying so hard.”

Don’t try so hard.

Stop trying so hard.

Have you ever had the experience of releasing the need to get something that you’ve really wanted?  Of letting go of the need to get that thing?  Only to wind up getting it?

There is a reason for this.

When you are desperate for something, you are tense and nervous.  And this creates an energetic block that actually repels the thing you want so desperately.

This is very obvious in romantic pursuits.  When someone exudes an air of desperation, of nervous tension, is he or she particularly attractive?

But that is what are you doing when you are trying very hard.  You are clenched, nervous.  You must be perfect — or else!

Or else what?

Someone might criticize you for not trying hard enough, is what.  Usually it’s just the voice in your head.  Occasionally it might be another person.

So what if someone criticizes you.

The voice in your head may say, it’s a very big problem if someone criticizes me!  If I don’t try hard all the time, I will lose my job!  I will be a bad parent who damages my child!  My partner will leave me!  No one will want to be with me!  I will wind up poor and alone!

But is that really true?

Look at the fears of what might happen to you if you stopped trying so hard.

Most of them are probably not true, if you really examine them.

And of course the paradox is that if you stop trying so hard, you will actually relax.  And this will make you a better worker, parent, partner — you name it. 

It may be impossible to accept this.  You may be utterly convinced that your constant struggle to be the best you can be, to be a Super-You, is the only thing keeping the wolves at bay.  That you must try very, very hard to be good, to be worth something, to be loved, to be safe.

But do you really think that medieval people who whipped themselves and their children to get into Heaven were right?  They believed absolutely that God would not love them if they didn’t whip themselves for their sins.  Do you believe they were right?  Or do you think they were crazy?

They just believed certain things.  They believed in Heaven and Hell.  A little self-flagellation was a small price to pay to escape the fires of Hell.

A modern person might say “Hell is not real.”

But Hell is very real for those who believe in it.  It’s so real, in fact, that they put themselves there in their minds, and experience real terror.

Non-religious modern people may not fear Hell in this way, but they fear other hells.  “No one will love me, I will be poor, I will be a failure.”

Probably the hell you project in your mind is no more real than the fire-and-brimstone Hell religious people fear.

If you stop trying so hard, you will not go to “Hell” — whatever Hell is for you.

In fact, when you let go, and stop trying so hard — that is the way to Heaven.

It could be said that “Heaven” is a place where no one has to try hard at all.  In Heaven, you are loved, and you are safe, and you do not have to try hard for these things.

So maybe if you believe that you are loved, and you are safe, and you do not have to try hard for these things — if you believed that right now, maybe you will find yourself living in Heaven on Earth.  

It’s worth a try.

 

be gentle

Today we ask that you be gentle.

Be gentle.

What does this mean?

Who doesn’t like being treated gently, in life?

Animals and children respond best to gentle energy.  So do you.

But most people aren’t gentle with themselves.  Most people are hard on themselves.  Most people are really rather mean to themselves.

People believe that getting anywhere in life requires the use of force.  You must push and demand if you are to get anywhere.  You must scream in order to be heard.  And you cannot be kind to yourself — otherwise you will be lazy and not get anything done.

Really these beliefs are quite barbaric.  And they are absolutely wrong.

Think about what happens in your body when someone gets in your face and forcefully demands something from you.

You tense up.  Your body goes into “fight or flight” mode.  You automatically feel resistance, because the forceful energy with which this person is coming at you feels like an attack.

Now think about what happens when someone is gentle with you.  When someone gently asks you for something.  Aren’t you more likely to feel generous toward that person?

It is the same with all things.

When you forcefully attack yourself, when you are pushy and demanding with yourself, you automatically resist this energy.

When you yell at yourself for eating the dessert and putting on weight, isn’t there another part of you that wants to sneak off and eat that dessert all over again?

Whereas if you are gentle with yourself, if you are kind and understanding, you are actually far more likely to change the behavior.

So be kind.  Be gentle.

Be gentle with yourself, and others.

This does not mean you will be a doormat who gets abused.  It does not mean you will be a lazy person who does nothing.

On the contrary.  If you learn to be gentle, you will become a much more effective and productive person.

People who constantly force, push, demand and scream waste a lot of energy.

People who get things done in a gentle way save energy.  They also spare themselves and others a lot of unnecessary suffering.

Be gentle with the universe, too.

Many people want to “manifest” things.  They have long lists of demands for the universe, for God.  They make all these demands and then get frustrated when they don’t get what they want.

But maybe it would be different if they only asked gently.

And maybe let the universe have a say in it, too.  Maybe sometimes the universe has better ideas, or has something to contribute beyond what you can perceive.  When people are pushy and demanding, fixated on what they want and must have, they have tunnel vision.  They cannot see possibilities, or “think outside the box.”  But when they are gentle, they are open to things they might have never dreamt of.  

relax

Today we ask you to relax.

Most people want to relax.  There are many professions, even industries, dedicated to helping people relax, not to mention many drugs that serve this purpose.

And yet people are still not at all relaxed.  If anything, people are more stressed and tightly wound than ever.

Why is this so?

People believe they have no choice in the matter.   Life is stressful.   Their jobs are stressful, their relationships are stressful, the world is stressful.  It would be nice to relax, of course, but they can’t afford it.   Even if they can, they’re far too busy.

So that is what people think.  They wish they could relax.  Who doesn’t want to relax?  But external circumstances always prevent them from doing so.

In truth, people do not relax because they do not believe in relaxation.  They do not value it. It is not a priority.  Because of this, many modern humans have all but lost the ability to relax.

People may want to relax.  But they have been taught, since childhood, that resting is a sign of laziness.  If they are awake, they ought to be doing something productive.  And they should be awake more.  Modern humans on average sleep less than any generation in human history.  Forgoing sleep is considered a mark of productivity and virtue.

If people believe that relaxation is lazy, unproductive, and a sign that they’re weak and worthless, they won’t do it — no matter how much they may fantasize about it.

Moreover, modern humans are addicted to continuous stimulation.  Their eyes are always on a screen, always checking, always alert, always taking in new information.  Never have humans been so restless.

People have no idea how detrimental all of this is to their health.

It is no exaggeration to say that the vast majority of physical and mental illness in developed  countries is caused, quite simply, by chronic lack of adequate sleep and rest, accumulated over many years.

This really is true.

Relaxation and sleep are just as important to human health as exercise and a good diet.  A human cannot be truly healthy unless he is capable of frequent deep relaxation.

And this will not happen if he believes that relaxation is lazy and unproductive.

People know that eating well and exercising is good for them, even if they don’t do it.

But people don’t really believe that rest and relaxation is actually good for them.  They may know they want it, but they don’t understand that it is absolutely necessary for their mental and physical health.

So please understand this.

Rest, relaxation, and sleep are absolutely necessary for your mental and physical health.

Human beings thrive on a minimum — a minimum — of eight hours of sleep at night, plus short daytime naps.  If one sleeps less at night, more daytime napping is necessary to make up for the deficit.  These naps can be brief — even ten to twenty minutes can help immensely — but they are essential.  

If this were truly understood, society and business would promote sleep, napping, and relaxation in order to massively increase productivity and efficiency.

This measure would also radically address your overburdened health care systems.  All major diseases associated with developed countries — cancer, heart disease, and diabetes — are strongly impacted by sleep and rest, and the lack thereof.  Mental health is also powerfully affected by sleep and rest.

If you replaced the belief that “relaxation is a sign of laziness” with the belief that “relaxation is absolutely vital to your health,” it is far more likely that you would create more space in your life for sleep and relaxation.  You would also be more likely to help your children learn good sleeping habits.

Of course, this is only true if you are someone who values your health.  Most people think they value their health, but often there are other things they value more — like money, achievement, proving they are worth something, or even just being stimulated and entertained.  When health is not a true priority in your life, this will be reflected in your experience.

That said, if you do honestly value your health, learn how to rest.  If you have forgotten how, you must relearn how to do this.  Shut off your screens, for a start.  Take a true break.

Is it possible for you to have a guilt-free day of rest?  A “lazy day”?

Would it relieve your guilt if you knew that every “lazy day” you give yourself measurably increases your health, well-being, and productivity?  That every nap you take, that every moment of true unwinding you grant yourself actively reduces the agents of physical and mental disease in your body?

So please.  Take a rest.  Guilt-free.  It’s good for you!

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