Today we ask you to release your shame.

Release your shame.

Whatever causes you to feel a sense of shame – let go of it.

Let go of your shame about your physical appearance.

Let go of your shame about where you are in life, how you are not measuring up to where you think you are supposed to be.

Let go of your shame about the mistakes you have made in the past.

Let go of your shame about the clutter in your home or office.

Let go of your shame about not being good enough at what you do.

Let go of your shame about not meeting other people’s expectations.

Let go of your shame about not meeting your own expectations.

Let go of your shame over your failures.

Let go of your shame about how you have not been a good person.

Let go of your shame about not being more evolved than you are.

Let go of your shame about your physical health issues.

Let go of your shame, let go of your shame, let go of your shame.

It is one thing to make amends to someone if you truly feel that you knowingly or unknowingly wronged them.

But being ashamed about your body, your bank account, how you are just not good enough — this doesn’t do anyone any good. This kind of shame is purely harmful.

When you feel this kind of self-negating shame, you will inevitably lash out at the people around you, even the ones you love most. Especially them.

If you are ashamed of your body, then you will shame your loved ones about their bodies — whether or not you intend to.

 If you are ashamed because you are not good enough, you will shame your loved ones for not being good enough — whether or not you intend to.

That is how toxic shame is passed down through the generations, and that is how you came to feel so ashamed in the first place.

But it can stop.

Babies are not born feeling existential shame. Babies are not born hating their bodies and feeling like they can never be good enough. These are learned behaviors.

And anything that is a learned behavior can be unlearned. All that is required is conscious awareness.

Also you must examine any beliefs you hold about shame being good and valuable — for example, that feelings of shame and worthlessness goad you into action.

You will not work unless you shame yourself for being so lazy. You will not maintain your physical appearance unless you shame yourself for being fat and ugly. You will not clean your house unless you shame yourself for being such a slob. You will not be a good, moral person unless you shame yourself for having sinful thoughts.

This is all complete nonsense. Beliefs like these are the cause of no end of human suffering, disease, and violent behavior. Truly, these thoughts, which may sound quite normal to you, are utterly insane.

If people dropped these insane beliefs, they would be vastly more productive, far healthier and more well-ordered in their lives, and much kinder and more compassionate to all humans.

In other words, people aren’t the problem. Toxic shame is the problem.

Without your shame, you would be healthier, more productive, and kinder to yourself and those around you.

Your shame blocks all of those things.

Without toxic shame, you will naturally be moved to make amends and apologize, should that situation arise.

Without toxic shame, that situation will arise much less frequently.

So you might want to ask yourself: why am I holding on to my shame? What does it do for me? 

It does not make you a better person.

Once this begins to sink in, notice how often you feel shame in any given day. Just notice how often feelings of shame come up for you. You might be surprised. 

After observing the pattern for a while, gently question it. Is the shame you are feeling really valid here?

Can you imagine living a life without shame as your motivator to do things? Can you imagine how much the people around you would benefit if you weren’t consciously or unconsciously shaming them for being the way they are?

It is totally possible for a child to grow up without a toxic sense of shame. And such a child would be highly productive, healthy, and compassionate toward others.

So just look at the ways to reduce the level of shame in your daily life.

You will find that all of your life issues — health, relationships, work, prosperity — all of those things will benefit if you simply release your shame around them.

Releasing shame is one of the simplest and most powerful things you can do to bring healing and positive change to your life.

Why not try it? You have nothing to lose but your self-loathing.

And just because everyone else feels shame about everything doesn’t mean you have to, as well. You are not betraying your parents and families if you release your shame.

Far from it. One human free of shame is a gift to the world, a blessing to whomever she touches.


Today we ask that you release your fears around the future.

Release your fears around the future.

What does this mean?

It means recognizing and accepting the truth that it is absolutely impossible for you predict the future with accuracy. All predictions are, at best, an educated guess. In reality, you cannot know your future.

Yet most people spend a great deal of time agonizing over the future, as if they know what’s going to happen.

If you look back on your life to date, you will find that generally things did not go exactly according to your plans. Unexpected events occurred. Many of your schemes and fantasies about your future never came to pass. Many of your fears about your future also never came to pass.

If you take an honest look at things, you will see that you probably wasted a great deal of time and energy locked up in mental projections of situations that never came to pass.

 The things you hoped for and feared as a child, as a young adult. How many of things came to pass as you imagined them?

This is not to say that none of your wishes came true, or that none of your fears were realized. Of course some of what you imagine in the future does come to pass, although often not exactly in the way you expected.

The point of this exercise is to be realistic about how often this actually occurs. What percentage of the time does the future unfold as you imagine it? Looking at yourself in the past, how accurate was your imagination, when you envisioned your future — for good and ill?

So just sit with that.

Because however accurate or inaccurate you were in the past regarding your predictions of the future, you are equally inaccurate now.

Some things can be predicted. It is safe to say that winter will be followed by spring. It is safe to say that if you live long enough, your physical body will age and pass away. Certain things are fairly predictable — although nothing in this reality is ever absolute (just ask the dinosaurs).

Obviously in life it is necessary to make plans for future events. If you intend to travel somewhere, you must make arrangements. And that requires a certain amount of thinking about the future.

A certain amount of planning for the future is useful and necessary.

In general, however, humans spend far more time thinking about the future than is useful. And all this time spent in worried projections is not useful. Just the opposite: it is destructive.

Worrying about the future, especially about events that are completely beyond your control, is not useful. This negative use of the imagination poisons the present moment. It drains you of vital energy needed to attend to what is right in front of you today. It causes depression, anxiety, impairs decision making, causes impulsive behavior, and places intolerable stress on the body, triggering disease.

Worrying about the future is, quite simply, bad for your health. It is also bad for the people around you, the loved ones that you worry about.

That is why it is helpful to reflect back in your life, and consider the accuracy of your future predictions.

How often did you guess correctly? Five percent of the time? Ten percent? Perhaps you have led an unusually predictable life, and you were right twenty-five percent of the time. A number this high would be quite rare.

Whatever the realistic number is for you, sit with this. It is safe to say that this number applies to all of your future predictions, right now. Right now, you are five percent or ten percent correct about what will happen. The rest, you have wrong.

The truth is, you don’t know what is going to happen. Even if you are correct about some of the big things, you have no idea how those things will unfold, what twists and turns your life will take.

Therefore the path of wisdom is to let go of trying to predict the future, let alone control it. There will be ups and downs, joys and sorrows, pleasures and challenges. The things you worry and fret over today will seem trivial tomorrow.

At the moment of your death, you will not wish that you had worried more. You will wish that you had lived more, been present more, enjoyed life as it as unfolding.

So do this now. Get out of your head, and the dark cloud of fear of the future. Those things are not happening now. Most of those things will never happen, not the way you think. Come fully into this moment. Deal with things as they arise. There is plenty for you to do in any day without worrying and brooding. Just do that, and all the rest will fall into place.



Today we ask that you find quiet.

Find quiet.

You live in a world that is increasingly noisy. It used to be that only busy cities were full of constant noise. But in the modern world, even country homes are filled with blaring televisions, and pinging smartphones. It is harder and harder to escape the fizz and buzz of human activity and noise.

And there is nothing wrong with this: the buzz of the human hive, all this interconnectedness and communication. This is an exciting and vibrant time.

However, all things must be balanced in order to maintain health.

Activity must be followed by rest. Noise must be followed by quiet.

Everything in your reality follows this rhythm: day, night; waking, sleeping. The inhale is always followed by the exhale.

Noise and stimulation must be followed by quiet and restoration. It is a simple law of your physical universe.

Violating this law leads to burnout, exhaustion, and illness.

This is true for all humans. Even someone who constitutionally thrives in noise and activity will burn out if not given periods of rest.

And this is doubly true for those who are predisposed toward thriving in a peaceful, quiet environment.

In earlier times, there were niches for quiet people: they became priests, monks, scholars, and scribes. They lived on farms, they lived in the woods. They followed the rhythms of the seasons. The nights were long, and they slept deeply.

But now everyone is expected to be lively and sociable, to network and sell themselves. To be plugged in, available, and “on” at all hours, late into the night. This is especially hard on the sensitive souls, the ones with the quiet dispositions.

If you are such a person, it is absolutely necessary that you carve out space in your life for quiet, peace, and true downtime away from the noise and the buzz.

The most practical place to start is by turning off and spending time away from one’s electronic devices: the phone, the computer, the TV. This alone is an enormous step for most modern people.

Notice the resistance you may feel around stepping away from electronic devices, the stories that come up. For example: your work requires that you are always available. Or: after a long work day, all you want to do is unwind with your favorite TV show. Or: what if you miss an important text?

But really, if you sit with this, you may see that the world is not going to end if you spend a little bit of time away from your electronic devices.

You might resolve to have one TV-free night per week. Just one night a week in which you sit quietly, perhaps reading a book, listening to music, cuddling your pets, or taking a bath.

Or you might designate time on the weekend during which you will not write emails or texts, or check social media. If you do not think you can make it a whole day without doing this, perhaps you can give yourself an electronic device free morning on a weekend.  From waking until lunchtime, you will not email, text, or check social media. Try to commit to the practice for a set period of time: you will do this for a month, let’s say.

What many people will find, after initial resistance and “withdrawal,” is that they come to deeply enjoy and relish such quiet mornings or evenings. And that even a small amount of regular, scheduled quiet time can be enormously restorative for the body, mind, and nervous system.

Many people know that eating sugary, processed food isn’t good for the body. It takes some effort, but cutting these foods out of one’s diet has an enormously positive impact on one’s overall well-being.

It is the same here. A constant diet of sensory stimulation via one’s phone, computer and TV is easily as destructive to one’s health as a poor diet.

Overstimulation is particularly destructive for children — as much, if not far more so, then sugary food.

There is no reason to feel bad or guilty about the habit of being continually plugged into electronic devices. It is the cultural norm in this time period. Most people in developed countries do it.

Of course, in the recent past, it was the cultural norm for most people to smoke cigarettes, or subsist on a diet of processed food because it was quick and convenient.

Therefore it is always wise to question the prevailing cultural norms of whatever time period you happen to be living in.

So: just gently question the practice of “always being plugged in.”

Particularly do so if you consider yourself a sensitive person who does not generally do well with a lot of noise and activity.

Play with creating quiet niches in your life: a TV-free-evening here, a text/social media free morning there. Make it fun and enjoyable. Imagine what you will do in that open, quiet time. Maybe you will go for a walk and really be present with the sights, sounds and smells of the world outside. Maybe you will curl up with a book. Maybe you will take a lovely, guilt-free nap.

Just decide. Say that Thursday night will be your dedicated TV-free night. Or that Saturday, from waking until lunch — that will be your quiet morning. You will try it for two weeks. Make it a small, easy thing to commit to. So you can see that the world is not going to end if you are unplugged for a brief period of time.

Don’t make a big deal out of it. Just play with it. See how it feels.

If you are someone who in any way feels burned out — just a little bit of quiet time will go a very long way toward restoring a healthy balance.


Today we ask that you take baby steps.

Take baby steps.

What does this mean?

Many modern people live in a constant state of “overwhelm.” There is too much to do, and nothing seems to get done. People are running around all over the place, exhausted, and yet they do not seem to get anywhere. 

There are many factors at play: never before in history have people been so distracted, their attention divided and broken. At the same time, never before in history have people demanded and expected so much of themselves.

Basically, modern humans have a habit of biting off far more than they can reasonably chew. And this is causing a great deal of life indigestion. 

So what is the remedy for this?

As with many seemingly complex problems, the answer here is not all that complicated: Simplify. Do less. Focus.

Yet while many people understand in theory that it would be good to simplify their lives and be more focused, somehow this does not happen. 

That is because your culture promotes the idea that being very busy and overwhelmed means you are doing something right. It is the mark of a virtuous, hard-working, successful person.

Beyond that, the modern lifestyle of electronic devices breeds distraction, building the sense that there is far more out there than one can possibly take in: more information, more entertainment, more emails and texts, more social media updates than one can possibly keep up with, and so on.

So this is what is going on.

Getting things done is, in truth, not all that difficult.

There is a task you wish to accomplish. You break it down into steps. You perform the steps. The task is done.

If you wish to mail a package, for example, you must pack it appropriately, then deliver it to a place from which it can be shipped.

All tasks break down this way, into small, bite-sized steps.

The problem arises when you want to mail the package, but also you are thinking about twenty other things you have to do today, and you check your phone twenty times, and you start other tasks, and so the day passes and the package is not mailed, and you feel like a bad person, but you justify to the judge in your head how very very very busy you are…

It is okay if you do not have time to mail the package today. Getting things done requires you to be realistic about your time and limitations. What does not help is thinking that you should be doing more than you can reasonably do. 

And herein lies the real problem. Culturally, modern people are conditioned to believe that they should be capable of doing a great deal more than they can reasonably do. If people did not believe this, they would actually do more.

Is this clear? It is because people believe they should be doing more than they can reasonably do, that less gets done.

Imagine shouting at a toddler who is just taking his first baby steps: “You should be walking already! You are too slow! What is wrong with you?! You will not be able to compete against the other toddlers if you don’t hurry up!”

This would be insane. What’s more, it would effectively paralyze the toddler, delaying if not outright preventing the process of learning to walk.

Yet this is exactly what most people are doing to themselves all the time.

Everything in life requires “baby steps.” Everything is a process. When people lose sight of this, and become fixated on achieving results as quickly as possible, a kind of madness sets in — and very little gets done.

You cannot bully a toddler into walking faster (although some parents, in their mad competitiveness, actually try this).

Likewise, you cannot bully yourself into doing more than you can reasonably do.

So maybe the cultural image of the “Busy, Overwhelmed, Overworked Person” is not healthy. Maybe instead of agreeing with the idea that a good, hard-working person in this age must be exhausted and overwhelmed, one should question this.

If you saw a parent yelling at a toddler to walk faster, you would probably think “That is not good.” You would question it.

So question the ways you yell at yourself, or others, for taking “baby steps.”

No baby can simply get up and walk with assurance. There is always a learning process involved.

Beyond this, how well do you think a toddler would learn to walk if he were in a state of constant distraction — say, if he were plugged into a toddler smartphone? Obviously, this would slow everything down.

If you are experiencing overwhelm, please find ways to step away from your electronic devices. Pay attention to how often you check them, and make a conscious effort to do this less.

Give yourself the time, space and freedom to take baby steps — without yelling at yourself that you ought to be going faster, and doing more.

Imagine the relief you would feel if you stopped believing that you should do more than you can do.

With all that relief, things might get accomplished magically.


Today we ask you to be true to yourself.

Be true to yourself.

Do what feels good, right, and harmonious to you.

This sounds like it shouldn’t be so hard, but for many people, this is harder than competing in an Olympic sport or climbing Mount Everest.

Why is it so difficult to be true to yourself?  To be true to your unique, individual nature?

There are many reasons for this.  Humans are social animals, interdependent on one another.  Children naturally seek out the approval of parents, teachers, and peers.  If parents, teacher, and peers continually tell them that they must be different from who they are and suppress their natures, they will generally do so.  It is a simple survival tactic.  Humans do what they must to survive.

But of course this particular survival tactic leads to no end of misery.  Suppressing your true self is like going through life with your dominant arm tied behind your back.  You are cut off from your strength.  You feel chronically frustrated.  Something is wrong here.  You lose feeling in the tied-up arm, but it still aches.  You sense it is there.

So it has ever been for homosexuals who felt shame around their natures and tried to live as heterosexuals.  So it has ever been for women who lived out traditional mother/wife roles when it was not their nature to do so.  So it is for people who spend their days doing things they have no real interest in, to please their families and fit into society.  

Historically, and in modern suppressive societies, people did these things because they wanted to physically survive and not be punished.  In modern, more tolerant societies, it is not so cut and dry — but people often still believe that they have no choice, that they must live inauthentically if they want to survive.

There is no judgment around any of this.  If you are a woman living in society dominated by a fundamentalist religion that requires you to cover your body and face in order to physically survive, you must do so — even if it goes against your nature.

However, many people living in modern, basically tolerant societies live in constricted ways, in jobs and relationships that are not harmonious for them.  Generally physical survival is not on the line in these situations.  But people believe it is — such as when people remain in disharmonious marriages for the sake of the children, or make major life choices to please their families.

This is not to say that you are a victim if your day-to-day work is not a “dream job,” or if you have not found your “soul mate,” and so on.  It is completely possible to engage in very mundane, humble work in a way that honors your True Self.  For example, if a mundane, humble job gives you the space and freedom to engage in creative expression that brings you joy, then that is in alignment.

However, if you are in a profession with a large salary and all the trappings that come with it, yet feel hopeless and suffocated — that is not in alignment.

So the question is: how can you be true to yourself?

First of all, you cannot be true to yourself if you don’t know who you are.  Once you know who you are, it is much easier.

Consider the case of the woman living in a religious society, who must cover her body and face.

Perhaps she is a true believer in the religion.  In that case, there is no conflict, because her actions are in alignment with her beliefs. 

On the other hand, she may believe that the religious law is suppressive.  She does not like dressing in this way.  However, she knows she must engage in the practice because she wishes to physically survive.  Here there is discomfort, but no conflict.  She knows who she is.  She knows that if she lived in a different place, she would not dress this way.  So she does what she must, for the time being.

The problem arises when the woman is conflicted.  She has been indoctrinated into the religious culture, and thinks she should believe in what she is doing, but something feels wrong.  She feels guilt and shame over having these doubts.  Covering her body and face makes her unhappy, but she doesn’t know why, and feels like a bad person because of it.  She does not know who she really is.  Her True Self is calling her to reject the religious doctrine, but this is frightening.

When you know who you are and what you are about, you do not suffer in this way.  You may be uncomfortable living in a society that is hostile to your self-expression.  But you do what you must.  You are like a spy for the Resistance working against the Nazis in World War II.  You do not believe in the dominant culture.  You wear a disguise in order to protect yourself, but you know what your mission is, you know where you come from.  You then may work in subtle ways to bring about change.  

In this way you are always seeking greater harmony, always moving toward greater freedom, even living in a suppressive environment.  If you make compromises along the way, it is always with the understanding that you are working toward that which is more harmonious with your True Self.

So that is what it means to be alignment with the True Self.  It means you feel no shame about who you are.  Perhaps you are a woman required by religious law to cover your body.  You do so without the belief that there is anything shameful about your body.  Perhaps you are a homosexual living in a culture that treats homosexuals with violence.  Of course you must hide who you are — but without any shame.  You are like a spy for the Resistance among the Nazis.  You are integrated, and acting from a place of power, even if to someone else’s eyes you do not appear powerful.

Therefore it is possible to be true to yourself even when living within a suppressive society.

It thus follows that it is possible to be true to yourself in a more open, tolerant society.

This simply means rejecting things that you have been taught by your families, peers, and cultures that make you feel ashamed about who you are and what feels good to you.  It does not mean that you need to have a violent confrontation with your family and culture. It just means deeply knowing, without shame, that their way is not your way.

Of course, that is a very challenging thing to do.

But it is much harder in the long term to live in out of alignment with your True Self, feeling shame about your nature, in a state of chronic misery.

So if you feel unhappy and constricted in your life, look to ways you might be out of alignment with your true self.  

In particular, look at beliefs that you may have picked up from your family, peers, and culture that make you feel ashamed about who you are, and ashamed of doing what feels right and good to you.

People in open, tolerant societies like to think they are progressive.  But in many ways they are just as intolerant as obviously suppressive societies.

Sometimes it is easier for a woman in a burka to feel more in alignment with herself than a woman in a business suit.  It all depends on knowing what you really are about in life.

Be true to yourself.  Do what is harmonious with your nature.  Even if you must make compromises, know what you do and why, and always work toward the greater good.




children playing

Today we ask you to relax and trust.

Relax and trust.

Most people live in a state of chronic tension and mistrust.  The world is a bad, dangerous place.  You must be on constant guard against threats and enemies.  The minute you relax, you are going to get hurt.  

People locked into this way of being think that it keeps them safe.  But really it just perpetuates the dangers people wish to avoid.  Tense, vigilant, defensive people tend to be impulsive and aggressive.  They do not think clearly, and do foolish, regrettable things.

Tense, vigilant people start wars.  They attack others without provocation.  They increase danger in the world.

That is why it is so important to cultivate a relaxed, trusting way of being.

Relaxed, trusting people create peace.

Tense, mistrustful people create wars.

This happens on a small, individual scale, and on a widespread, global scale.

Of course, relaxing and trusting is not always so easy.  In fact, relaxing and trusting is quite challenging.  For many, it’s much harder to relax and trust than to be tense and wary.

That is because most humans endure many traumatic experiences in their lives, and this breeds tension and mistrust.  People are like abused cats and dogs — growling and hissing at the world, because they have been treated unkindly.

Many people devote their lives to rehabilitating abused animals.  They treat animals with love and kindness, so that they can gradually relax and trust again.

It is much easier to rehabilitate a traumatized animal, than a traumatized human.

That is because abused cats and dogs do not sit around reliving bad experiences in their minds.  While they may become reactive around certain triggers, given enough time and care, most animals become more relaxed and trusting.  Animals do not hold on to their pasts.  They do not seek vengeance, or demand justice.

So part of learning to relax and trust means letting go of the past.  It means letting go of the need for vengeance, or justice.

While many people ardently believe that wrongdoers must be brought to justice, in general the human desire for vengeance and justice only perpetuates violence in this world.  People can hold on to their grievances and traumas for generations — something no animal can do!  There are people in this world still fighting wars that are centuries old.  Parents pass these historical traumas down to their children, teaching them to hate certain enemies, teaching them that the world is a hostile and dangerous place.

Going against this tide, teaching people to relax and trust — truly this is some of the greatest work any human can do in this world.

But how can people relax and trust, when the world is in fact cruel and dangerous?  That is the question.  Isn’t it wisdom to teach children to be on their guard against threats?  

Of course it is necessary to teach children not to stick their fingers in electrical sockets, or run out into the road in front of moving cars.  That is only intelligent.

But it is just as important to create a relaxed environment for children, in which they can learn and explore and feel safe.  Where they can trust the world around them.  Where they can trust people.  This is the essence of good parenting, and the most useful thing anyone can do for a child.

Children should be taught not to stick their fingers in electrical sockets — but they should not be taught that their world is hostile and dangerous.

But tense, vigilant parents have a way of raising tense, vigilant children.

So relaxing and trusting — it must begin with the individual.  You can’t teach others to relax if you can’t relax yourself.  It must begin with you.  You, and no one else.

Are you a person who can relax, and trust?

If not, why not?  What are all the things that are stopping you?  Usually people have a long list.

And it is fine to make a list.  It is even better to write down all the reasons you can’t relax and trust today.  

Because if you carefully examine your list of reasons, you may discover that they are not quite as true as you might believe.

Maybe you have a stressful, high pressure job.  You think you cannot relax because then you won’t get the work done.  Certainly you can’t trust other people.  Unless you stay on top of things, they will let you down.  Or you will fail their expectations and they’ll judge you.  

But wouldn’t cultivating some time and space today to relax your body and mind only help your job performance?  Perhaps if you had a more open, trusting attitude toward people they would feel more relaxed around you in turn, allowing better communication.  This doesn’t mean you should be a doormat.  But softening your wariness of others, giving people a chance, assuming they are innocent until proven guilty — isn’t it possible that this would only improve your work relationships?

There are few situations that can’t be improved by cultivating relaxation and trust.

Yes, there are times and places where people mean to do others harm.  There are criminals and crazy people in this world.  Some people cannot be trusted, it is true.

But most people can.  And it is important to remember that.

Some people are dangerous.  They are like electrical sockets.

But most people are basically good.

It is good to teach children to avoid electrical sockets.  But it is more important to create space for children to play freely in parks and playgrounds.  Adults should supervise, but it is good for children to play and explore and feel safe in the world.

Unfortunately, many children grow up to believe that the world is nothing but electrical sockets.

And many adults walk around in life like the world is nothing but electrical sockets.

Usually this is because they have been shocked a few times, or many times — and now all they can think about is how much they fear and hate electrical sockets.  

If you are like this, the remedy is to give yourself time and space to play and explore safely, like a child.

Seek out places where it is easy for you to relax.  Seek out people that you trust.

Spend as much as time as you can in those places, with those people.

Become a person other people can trust.

If enough people relaxed and trusted, and helped others to relax and trust — your whole world would heal.


Today we ask you to cultivate healthy practices in your life.

Cultivate healthy practices.

What does this mean?

It just means creating space in your life to do healthy things as a regular practice, rather than a once-in-a-while, temporary, or “special” thing.

This means moving away from the need to pursue short term goals.  It is not about losing ten pounds; it is about eating well for the rest of your life.

That is what a practice is.  It is about creating rhythms in your life that continue indefinitely, as predictable as the seasons.  You just do it.  Sometimes a practice may be interrupted for a time.  But there is always a movement to return to the practice.  The rhythm is integrated into your system, and given enough space it will reassert itself.

Healthy practices usually require some conscious effort, especially at the outset.  This is what differentiates a healthy practice from an unhealthy habit.  Unhealthy habits are also repetitive, but they tend to be unconscious and compulsive.

So eating well requires some conscious effort, especially when it is a new practice.  Snacking on sugary processed food happens as an unconscious compulsion.

The good news about healthy practices is that they are not all that difficult to maintain, once you gain some momentum.  The more you do it, the easier it is to do.  It is like having a house plant.  When you first get a house plant, you have to make a conscious effort to remember to water it.  After a while, it becomes a habit.  That is, if you wish the plant to live.

The problem arises when people have short term goals.  That is not about creating a practice.  That is about upending your life: you are going to lose ten pounds in a month, and will make a big push to do so.  You are going to finish a novel by the end of the year, and will make a big push to do so.

When most people set goals or make resolutions, it is generally counterproductive.  It is like, someone decides that their home would be improved by a house plant.  They are so enthused about the idea that they go out and buy ten house plants.  For a little while they are very gung ho about all these new plants.  But it is not sustainable.  It is too much of a commitment, they lose interest, the plants die.

Someone would be much better off starting out with one plant.  That way, you can see what works for you, and it is not so overwhelming.  If the first plant dies, you can try again with another.  That is how you create a long term practice.

When you make a big push to do something, it can feel very exciting — especially if you meet the goal.  You did it!  You lost twenty pounds!  You ran a marathon!  You feel very special.

Practices are not about feeling special.  When you do something as part of a routine, it is, by definition, nothing special.  You eat well, you get some exercise, you go to bed early.  You meditate for twenty minutes three times a week.  You water the plant.  Nothing special going on here.

That is what makes practices sustainable over time.  The person who makes a big push to lose weight usually gains it back after the push is over.  The person who eats well as a habitual practice may experience gradual weight loss, but also may never appear “thin” — that may not be his particular body type.  However, he feels better overall.

Practices are all about moderation.  They are not about extremes, they are not about pushes, they are not about ego gratification.  They are about setting up habits that you can sustain for the rest of your life.

So today look at the things you do in your life that are practices.  

Also look at the ways you have made big pushes in the past, perhaps with mixed results in the long term.

If there are positive changes you would like to create in your life, how can you make them a practice?  How can you make these changes nothing special — as ordinary and routine as brushing your teeth, or walking the dog?

How can you move away from the “big push” model?  There are times and places in life when a “big push” is required — babies are, of course, born with a “big push.”  But big pushes should be rare, the exception rather than the rule.  If you are always making big pushes, you will exhaust yourself — and in the long term, accomplish far less than you think.

In nature, things unfold gradually, over time.  Watching a tree grow is not exciting, day to day.  Watching a baby learn to walk and talk is not exciting, day to day.  It is all very gradual.  Some days there are big breakthroughs, but they do not come from a “big push.” The changes come from the gradual accumulation of a steady practice.  Baby steps.  On one hand, these processes are nothing special.  On the other hand, they are miraculous.

One reason people prefer goal-oriented pushes over steady practices is because, when a goal is achieved, people feel like they “deserve” a reward.  There is a celebration when you meet a goal, especially if there was a lot of struggle involved.

On the other hand, since there is nothing special about a steady practice, why reward yourself for it?  You don’t pat yourself on the back for brushing your teeth and walking the dog.

But really, if you think about it, brushing your teeth and walking the dog — these things are important, and worthy of celebration.

So it is good to appreciate yourself for your steady practices.  Just as you cheer a toddler’s baby steps, even if he falls, even if walking is still months away — you must appreciate and cheer on your own baby steps.

It is as important to appreciate yourself for choosing the healthy meal over the sugar snack, as it is to applaud yourself for meeting the big deadline.  It is as important to cheer yourself on for taking a walk as it is to congratulate yourself for finishing a marathon.

If you do not applaud yourself for the little good things you do on a regular basis, you will be less motivated to do them.

Your culture is oriented toward celebrating big things.  You applaud the person who loses 100 pounds on a radical starvation diet.  You applaud your champion athletes and your billionaires.  But you do not know how to applaud the small good things people do.  You do not know how to create steady practices, only the roller coaster ride of big wins and inevitable failures.

That is why your culture is unbalanced, your lifestyles unsustainable.

Build stable, healthy practices into your daily lives.  They are nothing special and not exciting, and yet they are worthy of appreciation.  It is important to go for a walk, it is important to eat your vegetables.  It is nothing special — and yet the whole world benefits when ordinary people make healthy habits a part of their daily lives.