The Power of “The Pause”

Somewhere in my recovery I learned about a powerful tool that I like to call The Pause. I figured out, with some help, that I didn’t always need to reply with a quick snarky answer, or any answer at all in some cases. The Pause has kept me out of a lot of trouble since I started using it…

The trouble with it is actually remembering to use it. In the heat of the moment it’s easy for me to just blurt something out that may or may not be helpful or kind. I keep practicing though, pausing before I speak or act out, and it is now becoming almost second nature.

I try to ask myself and answer the 3 questions guaranteed to keep me in line:

1. Does it need to be said?

2. Does it need to be said now?

3. Does it need to be said by me?

When I’m irritated at a person or situation, the answer to all three of these questions is usually “no.” I can save myself a lot of grief later by utilizing The Pause and keeping my mouth shut now. The same principle can be applied to actions, not just words.

Another helpful set of questions I can ask myself before speaking that has been shared with me is T.H.I.N.K.

1. Is it True?

2. Is it Helpful?

3. Is it Inspiring?

4. Is it Necessary?

5. Is it Kind?

Practicing The Pause has helped make me a better person, and happier as well. It has enabled me to open my mind to other ideas because I’m not using my brain to quickly come up with a quick retort or snappy comeback.

The Pause has been an essential tool in my spiritual toolkit. It has saved me from having to make thousands of apologies and amends for my words and actions, and I’m sure it can do the same for you.

Just practice.

~Thanks for reading
LC

Homemade Chicken Stock or Broth

Making your own chicken stock or broth at home is easy and is a great way to use the bones instead of throwing them away.

When I buy chicken I usually get the dark meat quarters which is the leg and thigh still attached. Dark meat is cheaper than breasts, and more flavorful.

Then I cut the bone off of the end of the thigh opposite the leg, then separate the leg and thigh. I also take off any extra skin hanging off the side.

I take a few of the thighs and remove the skin completely and take out the bone. Then I freeze all the chicken in meal sized portions to pull out as needed.

After that, I put all the bones and leftover skin into a stock pot. I put the skin in with it because later when it cools, it’s easier to peel it off the top.

Next, I add some aromatic veggies like celery, onions, and smashed garlic cloves. For a darker, richer stock roast the bones first and also add carrots. It’s not necessary to peel the onions or garlic. They will be strained out, and the nutrients from the skins will be in the stock. If you wash your carrots well you don’t need to peel them either.

Also throw in some black peppercorns, bay leaves, and whole sprigs of thyme.

Then, fill the pot with cold water. You want to start with cold water because sstarting with hot water draws out more impurities and clouds the stock. I know some chefs that even start their stocks with straight ice.

Turn on the heat and let it ride for an hour or two. I like to get it almost to a boil then cut back the heat and let it simmer, never letting it come to a full boil.

Next, strain it into another pot.

From here you have a couple of options..

You can cool it now and then skim the fat off the top, and use it, or you can reduce it even more for a thicker, more gelatinous stock. Either option is good, it just depends on how thick you want it to be. Since I’m going to be using it for stew, I’m going to reduce it some more.

After it cools, the fat comes right off!

What your left with is a luxurious flavorful liquid that can be used as a soup base, in velouté, substituted for water when making rice, and much more!

I don’t add salt to my stocks. I save that for when I make the actual dish. Many of the store bought broths and stocks have salt in them. I prefer to make my own so I have complete control over what goes in.

With store bought stocks you also never know for sure the quality of the ingredients. The best stocks use high quality items and the only way to know for sure is to make it yourself!

It is time consuming, but luckily it freezes well so you can make a big batch and freeze it in smaller portions. This way you can just pull out a little at a time as needed.

Next time you feel like homemade chicken noodle soup, you’re ready to go!

Broth is even easier because you don’t use bones, just the meat and veggies. This is an even quicker and simpler way to make your soup base, although it won’t be as thick and full bodied. It will still be delicious!

For chicken broth, just throw some skinless boneless chicken, onions, celery, smashed garlic cloves, bay leaves, and a sprig of thyme into a pot, cover with cold water, and bring to a simmer. Simmer about an hour or so. Strain out the broth, and use the chicken for chicken salad, or whatever you’d like!

Enjoy!

~Thanks for reading
LC

Anger is a Luxury I Can’t Afford

Time is money.

When I think of all the time I’ve wasted over the years being angry at people and situations, I get even angrier. I’ve literally wasted several hours in a day many times just sitting and fuming over things I’m mad about.

Is it productive? No.

Is it helpful? No.

Does it make me feel better? No.

Does it make my life better? No.

Is it justified? Yes!! No.

I can’t control how other people act but I can control how much space they take up in my head and my own actions. Anger, to me, is related to fear. Many times when I’m angry, it’s usually because something didn’t go my way, which plays into my fears.

Fear of rejection or failure. Fear of things not working out. Ego, jealousy,  worry, the list could go on…

Anger takes a lot of time. Wouldn’t my time be better spent thinking about things I’m grateful for and people I love?

Acceptance and the ability to move on, and not let people live rent free in my head for too long, are paramount to my recovery and personal growth. I can guarantee you the people I’m angry with usually have no idea just how much power they have over me and how I spend my time obsessing over them. And I can guarantee they are not wasting their valuable time thinking about me.

So why do I do it? Why do I waste my time obsessing over people and things I have no control over? When there is an assault on my sense of self (ego), it affects my self esteem, which can send me into a downward spiral of self pity and self degradation. In this spiral, I get to control what is said about me, and I get to control the outcome in my own head, even if it isn’t even true or even possible.

I can also turn it around.. I can choose to accept the reality of my anger, adapt to it, and acknowledge it from a more practical point of view. A viewpoint that is not self-centered.

I can remember the serenity prayer:

“Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”

These days, as the result of LOTS of practice, I’m much more aware of when I begin that downward spiral and I know how to take action to reverse it as soon as possible.

I don’t have time for anger. I choose to be grateful for what I do have.

I choose health and happiness.

 

~Thanks for reading
LC

Meditation: A Tool for Better Health and Better Life

Meditation is an invaluable tool that has helped me in my journey to a better, healthier life. I haven’t mastered it and I hope I never do. For it’s the practice and learning process that keep me moving and growing.

Like a shower is for cleaning your body, meditation cleans the mind and soul. When I first sit down, getting still is the hardest part. My mind is still racing, full of different thoughts, things I need to do later, things I have done that bother me, things that make me happy, or sad. Good thoughts, bad thoughts, worry, regret, future plans, etc… All this stuff flying around in my head, in no particular order, makes it difficult, but not impossible, to calm my thoughts and feelings.

One thing I’ve come to realize is this: Feelings aren’t Facts.

Meditation helps me to sort out my feelings and thoughts, acknowledge them, learn from them, and let them go.

Carl Jung stated that “what you resist not only persists, but will grow in size.”

I acknowledge my thoughts but I don’t dwell on them.

I start by getting into a comfortable position, usually lying flat on my back. I close my eyes and take 20-30 deep breaths breathing in through my nose, and out my mouth. When I first begin, it’s really hard to count. Sometimes I lose count and have to start over, depending on how much junk is flying around up there. Sometimes I imagine the numbers I am counting appear, and then slowly drift away and fade as I count.

Once I get to 30, I stop counting, but continue to breathe deeply. I think about a large piece of white paper. Whenever a different thought pops into my head, I go back to the white paper. Blank. I concentrate on my breathing. How it feels when the air goes in my nose and out my mouth. This process takes as long as it takes until I reach the point where I’m not concentrating so hard.

When junk thoughts enter my mind, another thing I’ll do is imagine those floating up and fading away, like clouds. It takes a lot of practice to get calm, but the end result is well worth the trouble. I come to, feeling refreshed, less stressed, and better equipped to handle life as it comes at me.

I’ll probably never get to the point where I can just turn stress off immediately, but it’s in the practicing where I find the real me and achieve personal growth.

 

~Thanks for reading
LC

 

 

Why I Keep My Trash Can Clean

Emotional garbage can fester and eventually stink up everything around it. Keeping spiritually fit and conducting a daily inventory of my actions, thoughts, and feelings every day is imperative to my overall happiness.

Much like the physical garbage can in my kitchen, my mind and body accumulate trash. Poor eating, poor thinking, and poor actions build up a kind of filmy layer of scum that is much easier to clean and sanitize than if it’s left to rot.

My daily inventory includes reflection and ideas for action. I identify the character defects in play and then look at the opposites.

Resentments, anger, jealousy, condescending thoughts and words, arrogance, hatred, fear, frustration, selfishness, hard-headedness, guilt, sarcasm, hurt pride… These are all things I need to be wary of because these are the things that run me off the rails and into a severe downward spiral if left unchecked.

What are the opposites of these?

Resentment :: Contentment, Happiness

I’ve discovered it is possible to choose joy, live in happiness, and to love and be loved.

Anger :: Calm

Deep breathing exercises and taking the time to re-center myself help with this. Anger and resentments are luxuries I can’t afford.

Jealousy:: Admiration

What can I learn from this person? What do they have I don’t? What is it about them I can emulate to improve myself ?

Condescend:: Respect

It’s important to show people respect even when I don’t like them. I can learn something from someone even if I don’t think they possess the same level of education or experience as I have. At the very least I can learn what not to do, and show them the same courtesy I would to those I actually do respect. Perhaps by setting a good example I’ll be able to be helpful to them

Arrogance :: Humility, Modesty

It helps me to remember we are all human and that mistakes will be made daily. No one is perfect, even me. First I have to learn to give myself a break. When I can forgive myself for my imperfections, it makes it easier to forgive others for theirs.

Hatred :: Love

I don’t have to like everyone, but I have to love them. My sanity and sense of well being depend on it. Hatred is a very heavy load to carry around all the time. It will wear me down in a very short time if I don’t keep it in check. It’s also a lot easier to hate than to love, which is why this is something that requires constant vigilance.

Fear :: Faith, Calmness, Confidence

I connect with my higher power on a daily basis. I ask for my fear to be removed and my attention directed to what it would have me be. I turn over my will to my higher power. When I try to force my will I become disconnected and the fear takes over. Being connected helps me stay calm knowing everything will happen the way it’s supposed to. Even if it’s not the way I think it should be, I have faith that there’s a reason for it.

Frustration :: Satisfaction

This goes hand in hand with fear. When progress is not being made the way I think it should be, I need to look at how I can be helpful instead of looking at how it should’ve gone. Criticizing something that is already done is not helpful and adds to the frustration. Having faith that things will work out in the end, even if it’s not the way I wanted it to go, helps me achieve the feeling of satisfaction.

Selfishness :: Generosity

‘Tis better to give than to receive. Getting what I want at the expense of others doesn’t make me feel good. Giving to others in need does. Generosity builds confidence, goodwill, and awareness of others. I am not in this world alone. We are all in this together. This is one of the best deodorizers for my “trash can”.

Hard-Headedness :: Realistic

I’ve learned that being right just for the sake of being right, isn’t right. It doesn’t make me feel good in the long run. It creates animosity and is generally unhelpful in every way. Its much more practical and realistic for me to collaborate and hear others thoughts and ideas.

Guilt :: Peace

What’s in the past is done. I can’t go back. I can only try my best to correct my past behavior. Only once I can forgive myself can I move forward.

Sarcasm :: Sincerity, Kindness

A first cousin of anger, sarcasm is the gateway into all the other defects. It’s a very quick way to begin the decomposition of garbage in my “trash can” and the smell, and consequences are horrendous. Before opening my mouth I try to remember to ask myself the following questions:

  1. Is it True?
  2. Is it Helpful?
  3. Is it Inspiring?
  4. Is it Necessary?
  5. Is it Kind?

This is known as the “THINK” method of speech. It has really been a game changer in my quest for self improvement.

Hurt Pride :: Let it go

As stated above, no one is perfect. The sooner I can get over myself, the sooner I can move on. Dwelling on the words and actions of others doesn’t do any good. Those are things I can’t control. Sulking leads me into that downward spiral that is very difficult to get out of. It’s better for me to laugh something off and learn from it than it is to fixate and worry.

Keeping my trash can clean every day helps me be better equipped to deal with life on life’s terms. Not mine.

Eating healthy foods and getting physical at least once a day are also important building blocks in my inner transformation.

When I put junk in my body, junk comes out of my mouth.

When I do something active every day, no matter how brief, I feel physically better and get a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction. This carries over into my mood.

A great mood becomes a great day, which becomes a great year, which becomes a great life.

~Thanks for reading
LC

Am I Still Learning?

I remember back when I knew everything. It actually wasn’t all that long ago…

I didn’t need to listen to anyone because I had all the answers. When I asked you a question I already knew the answer, I just wanted to see if you would lie to me.

I had a closed mind and there was nothing anyone could tell me that would, or could, change my mind.

Because I was right and I knew everything.

It turned out, much to my surprise, that I in fact did NOT have all the answers. That there actually were people out there who knew more than me. This realization made me feel like a fool.

I was worthless and stupid. The most worthless and the most stupid person on the planet. Of all time, living or dead. There was no one worse than me.

My ego had me thinking I was all or nothing. Never in the middle.

I was at the end of my journey. I had stopped learning. I had hit my bottom.

The good thing about hitting bottom is, there’s nowhere to go but up. Or die. I was so convinced I was so worthless that I couldn’t even possibly get suicide right so I chose to go up.

I chose life.

I chose to listen rather than speak.

I chose to open my mind.

I chose to learn all I could about how to improve my life.

And then I took action.

Every day I choose to expand my mind and explore views other than my own. I choose to be a worker among workers and a friend among friends rather than let my ego dictate that I should be at the top of the heap. Because I know that will just end up with me feeling like I’m at the bottom. Under the heap.

I choose learning over fear of the unknown. I accept and adapt to situations rather than force my will.

I choose joy and happiness over fear and anger. I choose gratitude over resentment.

What will I learn tomorrow?

~Thanks for reading
LC

Anger and Resentments… Gratitude

We’ve all been there..

So I just wrote the greatest masterpiece of my life. (not really) I’ve probably never written anything that great before and I probably never will again!  (sure I will) This is the one that will be considered the new standard in literary greatness! (yeah right)

Wait, what just happened… where did it go? What did I do? It was just here.. PLEASE tell me I saved it.. WHAT? I didn’t? I always do! NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!

It’s gone.. I got in the zone and didn’t save as I went.. How could this happen.. I spent almost an hour on this! I can’t do this again. I’M SO *%&#$@ MAD NOW!!!

First I was angry that all my work disappeared.

Second I got mad at myself for not saving my work. I even almost cried.

I was angry and resentful at my computer. Then at myself again. I called myself stupid and a lot of other names that I won’t repeat here.

In the past this would’ve ruined my whole day. Maybe even my whole week, but ever since I’ve been practicing gratitude, mindfulness, and deep breathing, and a spiritual program of recovery, I now have the tools to be able to let it go and learn from the experience.

I remembered something a dear friend of mine told me one time when I was going on and on feeling bad about myself and calling myself names. She said to me, “I’d appreciate it if you wouldn’t talk to my friend like that.” Her friend was me! I understood what she was saying and every time I start getting in that self deprecating mode I remember what she said to me.

Then I paused and thought about what had just happened and what I could learn from it.

Then I was grateful that I had that learning opportunity, one that will never need to be repeated.

I will sleep well tonight and not go to bed angry or hating myself. I am human. I made a mistake. No one died and the world didn’t end.

By practicing appreciation and gratitude for what I do have my mood quickly changed and I have re-centered myself.

It takes a lot of work but it gets easier with time and practice.

 

~Thanks for reading
LC

Set Yourself Up for Success

The best way I’ve found to set up my day for success is found in my morning routine. After I make my coffee (first things first haha..), I think about the day ahead, what needs to be done when, and set my priorities.

I make a list of things and/or people I’m grateful for. This helps to keep me balanced and humble rather that resentful towards things I don’t have and people I don’t particularly care for.

I remind myself that things don’t always go as planned and tell myself to be ready to adapt to any changes that might arise.

I make sure I eat something. Healthy is best, but in a time crunch that’s not always an option. As long as I have something in my stomach to keep me from getting “hangry”, I can make it until I have time to prepare something better.

I get still and quiet, and practice deep breathing and meditation for 8 minutes, where I try to clear my mind and bring myself back to center. This was very difficult when I first started out. My mind would still be racing after the full 8 minutes, but after a lot of practice it got easier to calm my mind. If I don’t have time for the full 8 minutes I do less, but I do a minimum of 10 full deep breaths where I focus solely on my breath, the flow of air in and out. I find when I do this I have a much easier time with the things that go wrong during the day.

I also remind myself to pause if I become irritated. I remind myself that I can restart my day at any time. I try to work with things rather than against them. When I try to force my will upon situations rather than adapt to them it always leads to a bad day.

I remind myself to be kind to everyone even if I think they don’t deserve it. I remind myself to think of others and to be helpful rather than selfish and self-centered.

What can I do for others? What can I pack into the stream of life?

I look at where I went wrong the day before and try to take corrective measures to amend that behavior. This takes a lot of practice..

I remind myself that it’s ok to not be perfect. Not just for myself, but other people too. This also takes a lot of practice..

I don’t dwell on worry or remorse. When I do I’m not useful to others. I try to focus on the next indicated thing.

I remind myself to not dwell on fear but to direct my attention to love, tolerance, and acceptance.

When I do all these things I set myself up for success and even if my day doesn’t go as planned, it’s still a good day.

And lastly, I remind myself that a great attitude becomes a great mood. Which becomes a great day. Which becomes a great year. Which becomes a great life.

~Thanks for reading,

LC

Humility, Why is it Important For a Healthful Life?

The Cambridge English Dictionary defines humility as the feeling or attitude that you have no special importance that makes you better than others; lack of pride.

When we can recognize other people’s value as well as our own while keeping our heads up, and we can achieve a practical recognition of our weaknesses as well as our strengths, we have achieved sincere humility.

AA has taught me a lot about humility in that I, in fact, had absolutely none when I thought I did. I have learned that humility is the opposite of self-righteousness, ego, pride, and self-esteem. While I feel it’s important to have a little bit of these qualities, humility helps keep them from getting out of control and helps to keep me “right-sized”.

Having some humility has helped me a lot in being able to go with the flow of life, rather than constantly trying to battle to get things to go my way. It makes no difference in the grande scheme of things whether or not my way is right or not. This was a very tough pill for me to swallow, but I was finally able to do it.

Humility keeps me human.

Humility has given me more freedom to enjoy life on life’s terms. Not mine. This in turn opens me up to be able to be more helpful to others, which in turn helps make my life better.

Humility has given me the ability to forgive myself for not being perfect and to be comfortable in my own skin. I’m also more forgiving of others which has helped heal and strengthen my relationships with other people. We are all here on this earth together. I’ve found that it’s much easier to get along with people in spite of our differences than it is to try to change other people to suit me.

Holding on to grudges and hate was slowly killing me. I see that now. Gratitude, forgiveness, appreciation, compassion, and acceptance serve me much better than excuses, blame, being mean spirited, holding a grudge, or being right just to be right ever did.

And I owe it all to humility.

 

~Thanks for reading – LC

Living Life on Life’s Terms – My New Reality

  1. I’m not an athlete anymore.
  2. I don’t have the picture perfect body of a model.
  3. I make mistakes every day.
  4. I don’t always eat right.
  5. Sometimes I talk too much.
  6. Sometimes I don’t talk enough.
  7. I’m not really smart.
  8. I’m not always comfortable with other people.

But… And…

  1. I’m active every day and exercise when I can.
  2. I’ve learned to accept my body.
  3. I learn from my mistakes.
  4. I eat healthy, but indulge myself from time to time.
  5. I compliment people and lift them up.
  6. If I don’t have anything nice to say, I keep my mouth shut.
  7. I’m always learning.
  8. I’m comfortable in my own skin.

 

No one can keep me down but me.

When I’m helpful and of service to other people, my life gets better.

When I stop fighting everything and everyone, and practice acceptance and gratitude, my life gets better.

When I give up control, I get set free.

I don’t have to be the best of the best to have a place in the world. I don’t have to be on top of the heap.

I don’t have to let life get me down, especially over things I can’t control. I don’t have to be at the bottom of the heap.

I can live my life, and be a worker among workers, and a friend among friends, right here in the middle of the heap.

The world goes on without me. It doesn’t need my negative input. I get an amazing sense of comfort and freedom in that realization.

My life has gotten better.

 

~Thanks for reading – LC