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

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

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

Bad Luck is a by-product of Bad Habits

Bad habits are hard to break and good habits are hard to form. At least this has been my experience…

Sometimes I get so busy and so overwhelmed I forget to do certain things that help get me set up for success in any given day.

My number one problem is starting out the day with a bad attitude, but if I do certain things when I wake up to set my attitude right for the day, my day goes so much better, even when things don’t go my way, or as planned.

*A great attitude becomes a great day, which becomes a great year, which becomes a great life.

Not sure where that quote came from but I read it daily as part of my morning routine to help set my mind right for the upcoming unknown.

Back when I was drinking heavily and hating everything and everyone around me, I had a lot of bad luck.

Because I didn’t write things down in my calendar, I would miss appointments for things that would help me.

Because I constantly fought the flow of life instead of going with it, I would become increasingly, and visually, frustrated and people didn’t want to be around me.

Because I wasn’t interested in anyone but myself I didn’t have anyone to go to when things got really bad. The only place I had to go was into my own head (which I discovered later is a very dangerous place for me to be).

Things would never go my way and life got really hard.  I lost jobs. I lost friends. I lost my will to live. I was never helpful to anyone else because I was obsessed with myself. I would run out of gas and have to walk because I wouldn’t get gas when I could. It was hard to get a job because I had a bad reputation. I would eat unhealthy food that made me feel like crap.

And none of this was ever MY fault…

I knew I had to make a change or I would be miserable until I died and I didn’t want that.

I started researching ways to improve my life and how to change bad habits. Just about everything I read said to quit drinking so I did. I also read a lot about having an attitude of gratitude and began writing 6-10 things every day that I’m grateful for. This practice has helped me immeasurably. I can be grateful for my job now even when I have a bad day there. And bad days get fewer and farther between.

Here’s what I do daily to get my head screwed on right:

  1. Practice gratitude:  I make a quick list of things I’m grateful for. I try to always include a few things that I sometimes take for granted that I don’t always think about every day. For example a reliable vehicle and power, water, and gas. I also include people, like my husband who puts up with my crap, real friends, and great co-workers who push me to be better.
  2. Plan my Day:   I sit down with my calendar and go over places I need to be at what time, and tasks that need to be done. Then I figure out what order to do everything in. This includes making time to do something that puts me closer to my long-term goals, to improve myself just a little bit every day.
  3. I ask my higher power for help:  I ask for help to keep my thoughts away from self-pity and self seeking motives. I ask for insight about any problems that may arise. I ask to remember to pause if I get upset instead of reacting immediately. I ask for guidance on how I can be helpful to to others and how I can pack as much as possible into the stream of life. I ask to be helped to be kind and loving to everyone I come in contact with.
  4. End of Day:  I review my day to see what went well and what didn’t. I take a moment to enjoy the good parts, and I think about solutions to the bad parts. If I owe an apology I do it as soon as possible. I ask for my fear to be removed and for help being better the next day.

 

The mind is a powerful thing. It can make or break a person. People consumed with negativity always have a bad day, no matter how well it’s going.

I don’t hang out with negative people anymore. They brought me down. I keep them at arm’s length now. My serenity depends on it. I’ve seen a positive person have a worse day than a negative person and end their day in a much better place. Those are the people I want to be around these days.

I don’t play the victim. I look for a solution.

I don’t look for sympathy. I help someone else out instead.

I try to be the listener, not the talker.

I try to be the giver, not the taker.

I know the rewards will come soon enough. If I can achieve peace within myself, I will never have a bad day.

I try not to put things off. Why put off til tomorrow what I can do today? I try to stay ahead of the game. I enjoy my down time so much more when I’m not worried about what I have to do later.

I’m not the person who complains and tries to make everyone as miserable as I am. I’m the one who lifts morale.

I don’t believe in luck anymore. I believe everything happens for a reason. I don’t  have to know what the reason is either. I just know that when I do these certain things, my days go better and my life improves a little bit more every day.

I do this, and good things happen to me.

 

“You can’t fully commit to your personal growth if you’re still committed to your bullshit.”  ~ Neghar Fonooni

~Thanks for reading – LC

Sunrises and Sunsets

I like sunrises better. They’re quieter.

A chance to meditate and plan the upcoming day.

A chance to reflect on the day before.

A chance to be grateful to see another day begin.

I like to ride my bike to the lake in the dark and see the sunrise. I like the mist and the morning dew. There’s little to no traffic. The loud assholes haven’t hit the roads yet.

Peaceful.

Serene.

The feeling that it’s a brand new day and you can mold it as you please.

Sunsets are cool too, but they’re not as quiet or comforting. There’s still traffic moving too fast, assholes blowing their horns like their time is more important than anyone else’s…

Not by the lake though.

There’s more foot traffic than at dawn, but still pretty peaceful.

A chance to reflect on the day.

What good did I do today?

What good shall I do tomorrow?

Sunsets are a time to unwind and begin to relax.

I like sunrises and sunsets. Especially at the lake.

I think I’ll ride there tomorrow for the sunrise.

Willingness

Lack of willingness held me back for so long I really don’t know how I made it this far. I always had to have my way in order to be happy, and I didn’t know how to live life on life’s terms. I had to live life on my terms. I didn’t know there was any other way. I wasted so much of my life trying to manipulate people and situations to suit my own agenda. I was constantly struggling and fighting against the flow instead of working with it.

I just wasn’t willing to do the right thing. I wasn’t willing to be helpful to others. I wasn’t willing to do what it would’ve taken to make my life better because I thought it would be easier to try and change everyone and everything else.

I was dead wrong.

After becoming so sick and tired of being frustrated and angry all the time, somehow I finally managed to find the willingness to begin to transform my sick and selfish mind. I became willing to live in joy, to love and be loved. I became willing to let people in and to let people help me. I didn’t fight anymore. I became willing to take suggestions. I became willing to take into account other people’s points of view.

I became willing to do the work it was going to take to turn my life around. It hasn’t been easy, but it’s been well worth it. And even though it hasn’t been easy, it’s been a whole lot easier than trying to fight and manipulate and argue my way through.

Before I could change my mindset, I had to become willing to change. I had to be willing to be honest with myself and others.

I had to become willing to do things I didn’t really want to do, but that I knew would good in the long run. I had to be willing to stop taking the easy way out to have things become easier in the long run.

I had to experience a lot of pain to get to the point of becoming willing. I caused a lot of pain too, and now I am willing to make amends for it.

I don’t know where I’d be right now if I hadn’t found the willingness to change, but I know it would be in a much darker, worse place than I am right now.

 

~Thanks for reading – LC