30 Days, 30 Ways to Be Your Best

Here are 30 ways you can practice implementing the Fourth Agreement: Always Do Your Best into your daily life:

Day 1: Begin by reading some thoughts on how to implement the Fourth Agreement.

Day 2: Start by talking to yourself better.

Talk to yourself

Day 3: Practice the art of having enough.

Day 4: Always doing your best takes practice, so practice a little every day.

Aristotle Quote

Day 5: Sometimes the hardest part of the journey is believing you’re worthy of the trip.  ― Glenn Beck, The Christmas Sweater

Flawless

Day 6: You’re at your best when you are not comparing yourself to others.

Day 7: It doesn’t take anything complex to be happy, but it does take a commitment to be loving.

Day 8: Stop competing with someone else’s standards for living.

Authentic Self

Day 9: “Waking up to who you are requires letting go of who you imagine yourself to be.” ~Alan Watts

Day 10: We are at our best when we are in the service of others.  Up to 10,000 are said to have died in Tacloban city, due to Super Typhoon Haiyan, and hundreds elsewhere. Hundreds of thousands are displaced. The storm is now heading for Vietnam.

Be of service. Please make a donation to the Philippines Red Cross to help provide clean water, food, shelter and aid to the region.  If your curious about the conversion – $1USD=~43 Philippine Pesos. 

Better Person

Day 11: This is the only way you can be all you can be……

Day 12: Employ frequent and often use of the Best. Mantra. Ever!  Svaha!  Originally used in Vedic ritual to make oblations to the sacred fire, svaha is loosely translated as “an offering”, “to offer it up to the Universe”, or “so be it”.

You do what you can as an offering to the Universe, and then let things happen as they may.  We do our best when we try, not when/if we get the outcome we expect, demand, or hope to get….sometimes that isn’t the outcome the Universe had in mind for you anyway.

Day 13: Let it go and MOVE ON.

Plot Twist

Day 14: Dare we all make this prayer to live every moment of every day – good or bad?  “Dear God,” she prayed, “let me be something every minute of every hour of my life. Let me be gay; let me be sad. Let me be cold; let me be warm. Let me be hungry…have too much to eat. Let me be ragged or well dressed. Let me be sincere – be deceitful. Let me be truthful; let me be a liar. Let me be honorable and let me sin. Only let me be something every blessed minute. And when I sleep, let me dream all the time so that not one little piece of living is ever lost.” ― Betty Smith, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

Dangerous (4th Agreement)Day 15: You only have NOW to give to this moment, this person, and to you.  We often use the phrase, “Someday, I’ll….”, or “When I’m retired, I’ll…..”, or even “I don’t have the money or the time to do…..”.  All the while you are missing NOW – get out there and DO what you came here to do!

Day 16: We often overcommit to others to gain their acceptance, yet under deliver because we aren’t honest about the amount of time or energy we truly have to give to a person, a project, a cause.  Practice the Power of NO more often.  Quantity may go down, but quality will increase ten-fold, and you will feel much more effective in  your relationships.

Day 17: These are great reminders for how to practice being your best.

Reiki Principles (4th Agreement)

Day 18: Part of being your best means you learn from all of the ways that you were not your best.  You make the effort to understand what the ramifications were to yourself and others when negative events occurred.  People mistake the idea of not living in the past as somehow to mean that you forget the past altogether.  We don’t forget the past, but do learn from it and we forgive ourselves and others for it.  If you want remember why it is important to be a better person, go see 12 Years of a Slave….it will make you want to be better, to others and to yourself – it is a reminder of a history that we never want to repeat, but need to forgive one another and heal from.

Life story

Day 19: What story about your past, or the things done in the past, fits you best – one of anger, or one of redemption?

Day 20: Learn that “failure” is all a matter of perception.  http://becomeomblog.com/2011/12/13/fail-forward-faster/

Day 21: Let go of the incessant need to be perfect.

perfectionism quote

Day 22: Remember ”Three things in human life are important.   The first is to be kind.   The second is to be kind.   And the third is to be kind.” —Henry James

Day 23: Just Stop.

sometimes stop

Day 24: We spend too much time dwelling on mistakes.  Rather than beating yourself up, over and over and over, learn the lesson, forgive yourself, and MOVE ON already.

love yourself

Day 25: It’s time to challenge your self-defeating beliefs.  When the negative thoughts arise, ask yourself, “Is this true?  Is this necessary?  What would my best friend say?” Then, you can begin to reframe your thinking to become more compassionate, more kind, and more productive.

who holds you back

Day 26: You will be tested time and time again until you get the message the Universe intends to send you.  Be open to receiving it.

Paulo Coelho Quote

Day 27: “…Use it every way you can.”

your body

Day 28:  Today and everyday, practice gratitude.  A good way to go about it is to write down 5 things you are thankful for at the end of each day.

Day 29: Sometimes we focus so much on what we want to do when we grow up that we forget who want to BE and how we want to feel.  Focus your energy how you want to feel about yourself in the days ahead and what kind of friend you want to be both to yourself and others….what you want to do will blossom from there.

Socrates Quote

Day 30: Be good to yourself http://wp.me/p4494P-8i

Agreement 4 always-do-your-best_1x

30 Days, 30 Ways to Practice the Third Agreement

Take 30-Days to challenge yourself to practice the third agreement: Don’t Make Assumptions – you’ll be surprised how often you do!  😉
Day 1: We often make assumptions when interacting with others as to what they are thinking, feeling, wanting, etc. by what they either say or do and how they act, etc.  This can lead to unnecessary distress and suffering since we also tend to forget the second agreement while making these assumptions: Don’t Take Anything Personally.  
Day 2: Lesson from a recent thread on Facebook: 

Friend 1: Yes, buttmunch, just watch me struggle to load 55lbs of dog food into my cart and don’t offer to help. 

Friend 2: Didn’t the generation (maybe 2) before you burn some bras and shit so that you could lift that bag of dog food      yourself?   BTW, even though I might let you struggle with a 55lb bag of dog food, I’d at least be holding the door open for you.

Friend 1: I’m not saying I’d accept your help. I mean I clearly did it and then loaded it into my car by myself but I think the offer should exist.

Friend 2: Sooooo…… you’re one of THOSE people. Hmmm…. and you wonder why #chilvaryisdead?

Friend 1: I wanted it then. My shirt was kinda delicate.

Me: I’m confused….if you weren’t going to accept the help, why are you upset that it wasn’t offered?? Explain lady…

Lesson:  This woman is all upset about why some guy didn’t offer to help her load dog food into her cart – help she didn’t want anyway.  What she failed to think about was, what if the guy had just recently had surgery?  Or what if had just gone through chemo?  What if he had just been in a car accident earlier that week and was still recovering from whiplash?  We don’t know why he didn’t help her, so here is a good rule to follow:
       A.) ASK for help when you need it and do not assume people should just offer it 
       and
       B.)  ACCEPT help when it is given to you because it shows that you have a   certain amount of grace (and class)
Day 3: I attended a rally, a couple of weeks ago, for those continuing to seek justice in the unnecessary death of Trayvon Martin.  People were encouraged to sign up to speak and had 45-seconds to say what was on their mind about the acquittal of Zimmerman.  The only rule was “no hate speech, keep it productive.”  Many of the people that spoke, you would expect to see up on stage at a rally like that – political activists, community leaders, mothers, fathers, young people about Trayvon’s age.  
Then a white man, approximately in his late 40s stepped up to the microphone.  He looked like life hadn’t always been kind to him, wore slightly tattered clothes and was missing several teeth.  He wasn’t used to speaking in public and words were hard to find, but his overall sentiment was that of sadness that a young man went to the store, to get a snack, in a neighborhood he aspired to live in, and never made it home due to senseless violence.
After listening to him, I realized that I was surprised by what he said because I had already prejudged him based on his appearance…..I had assumed (and profiled) him as a redneck bigot, when nothing was further from the truth.  I do so much work to let go of judgment and was ashamed to see that it still exists, even in my own thoughts, about people of my race….it caused me great concern then about what judgments I still harbor towards others and how easy it is to assume we know someone simply based on how they look.
Day 4: “You should never assume. You know what happens when you assume. You make an ass out of you and me because that’s how it’s spelled.” ― Ellen DeGeneres
Day 5: 
Day 6: Do you ever feel rejected because of social media?  If we allow ourselves to make assumptions as to why someone is/isn’t interacting with us, it can hurt quite a bit.  
“When we feel rejected because we assume someone’s inaction is sending us a clear ‘message’—we’re wrong! That person is not trying to send us a message at all. In fact, we tend to read far more into such omissions than we should….although there are a thousand ways to feel rejected on social media, nine hundred and ninety of them are probably not personal. Assuming the worst in these situations will not only cause you unnecessary hurt, it can make you reach incorrect conclusions about your friendships and assume problems exist where they do not. The most important thing to remember about social media interactions is that you lack huge amounts of information about what might be going on for the other person. So give people the benefit of the doubt, and if you’re worried about the relationship, send the person a “hello, what’s new?” text or email. Chances are their response will reassure you that all is indeed well between you.”  Read the entire article.
Day 7: Many times when we believe negative things that others say about us – two agreements are broken – “Don’t Take Anything Personally” and “Don’t Make Assumptions”.  
 
Day 8: There have been at least 20-30 times I have rode in the car with Scott where he makes a left turn on red from a two-way street to a one-way street.  Every time he does this, I yell at him that it’s illegal and really needs to stop doing it.  All he ever says to me is, “Okay,” yet he keeps on doing it.  Finally, I decided I would do some research so that I could show him the law that states explicitly you cannot make a left hand turn on red from a two-way street onto a oneway street.  And you know what?!  It turns out Scott is right!  While there are only a handful of states that actually allow this, Florida is one of them.  When I came to him with my admission of error, he said, “yea, I wondered how long it would take you to Google it.”

Lesson: Don’t rely on your own information as absolute and don’t assume all States laws are created equal – some are more asinine than others.

Day 9: “Don’t go by reports, by legends, by traditions, by scripture, by logical conjecture, by inference, by analogies, by agreement through pondering views, by probability, or by the thought, ‘This contemplative is our teacher.’ When you know for yourselves that, ‘These qualities are skillful; these qualities are blameless; these qualities are praised by the wise; these qualities, when adopted & carried out, lead to welfare & to happiness’ — then you should enter & remain in them.” – Buddha
Day 10: Don’t assume the stories you tell yourself are correct. “All of the fear, the worry, the story was created by me….all of the assumptions were my own….all of the anxiety was self-inflicted.  http://www.bendingoverbackward.com/2012/12/assumptions.html
Day 11: How many do you still hang onto? 
Day 12: “Assumptions are the termites of relationships.” –Henry Winkler
Day 13:  Let go of fear. 
Day 14: Good advice to help break the cycle of our assumptions: http://www.iliagarcia.com/2013/06/27/dont-get-carried-away-by-your-assumptions/ 
Day 15: “The greatest progress in life is when you know your limitations, and then you have the courage to drop them.” –Yogi Bhajan
Day 16: Don’t expect anyone to read your mind.  
Day 17: “Euclid taught me without assumptions, there is no proof.  Therefore, in any argument examine the assumptions.” –E.T. Bell
Day 18: Stop the drama. 
Day 19: “Assumptions are dangerous things to make, and like all dangerous things to make — bombs, for instance, or strawberry shortcake — if you make even the tiniest mistake you can find yourself in terrible trouble. Making assumptions simply means believing things are a certain way with little or no evidence that shows you are correct, and you can see at once how this can lead to terrible trouble. For instance, one morning you might wake up and make the assumption that your bed was in the same place that it always was, even though you would have no real evidence that this was so. But when you got out of your bed, you might discover that it had floated out to sea, and now you would be in terrible trouble all because of the incorrect assumption that you’d made. You can see that it is better not to make too many assumptions, particularly in the morning.” Lemony Snicket, The Austere Academy
Day 20: Use these Three Little Words.
Day 21:  Racial profiling is based on a list of assumptions made simply based on the color of one’s skin, the clothes that they wear, and the way that they walk.  By doing this, law enforcement officers quickly assess whether or not they believe you are a threat.  Unfortunately, this causes many people to be the target of unnecessary harassment due to false judgments.  George Zimmerman did this to Trayvon Martin and he made the gravest of errors in doing so.  Let this be the constant reminder to us all why we must never profile people simply based on how they look.
Day 22: Another good rule to follow – drop your baggage.  
Day 23: “Your assumptions are your windows on the world. Scrub them off every once in a while, and let the light in.” ― Isaac Asimov
Day 24: 
Day 25: “I have a dream that my four children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” — Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr
Day 26: Or just try doing once what you tell yourself you “cannot” do, and you will break that assumption too!  
Day 27: Think about how much time and energy you waste on your assumptions.  Then decide if you have better ways to invest your time.  
Day 28: Always do your own research into any thought, belief, or story (internal or external) before you blindly follow it as truth.  Often times, our thoughts are false statements driven by a negative belief that we have carried on for far too long.  Yet, under cross examination, crumbles because there is no truthful foundation for which is was built upon, just something we were “told” and therefore, thought “it must be true.”  You are scientists, studying your mind and your life, examine the data, test theories, experiment, and then draw conclusions based on evidence, NOT assumptions.  
Day 30: Make this your New Mantra!
 
 

30 Days, 30 Ways to Practice the Second Agreement

The second agreement is by far the most challenging, I think.  Practicing it for 30 Days was the best way to make it a habit.  Here are some tips, inspirations, or motivators to stay on track…..

Day 1: Read the recap of the beginning of my practice two years ago….Don’t Take Anything Personally
Day 2: Remember…..”A negative look from someone else may mean nothing more than they’re constipated!”  – Daniel Amen
Day 3: We often forget that Karma means action – action comes from thought.  If you want to act differently, then you must think differently.  Instead of taking something personally, think about the other person who is saying these insults about you….what their life must be like?  And then we can act from a place of compassion, rather than anger, towards them.  
Day 4: If choose to take something personally, just remember – The only folks you ever need to get even with are the ones who are good to you.
Day 5: When you take things personally, you allow people to poison you with their negative thinking. 
Day 6: Here’s a nice little reminder from George Takei:
Here’s a little Internet tip: If you feel offended by something someone else posts, remember two simple rules:

         (1) It’s not about you.
         (2) If you try to make it about you, you’ll sound ridiculous.

        –Uncle George

Day 7: Don’t give other people permission to degrade you.  

Day 8: At least half of the items on this list of things we think about too often can be dealt with by implementing the second agreement.  Which ones do you think they are?  
Day 9: “Whatever happens around you, don’t take it personally…..Nothing other people do is because of you, it is because of themselves.” –Don Miguel Ruiz
Day 11: Rather than feel affronted by someone who is rude, just realize why they behave that way.  
Day 12: We can allow what others say to poison our spirits, or we can choose to focus on our own goodness.  
“As my sufferings mounted I soon realized that there were two ways in which I could respond to my situation — either to react with bitterness or seek to transform the suffering into a creative force.  I decided to follow the latter course.” — Martin Luther King Jr.
(This is probably one of my favorite quotes of all time!)
Day 13: Often times we fear the idea of being “alone” because we have been made to believe that it is a sign of personal failure to make people like us.  When you stop taking things personally, you can focus on liking yourself enough to enjoy hanging out by yourself – ALONE – because it leaves you feeling better than if you had conformed to someone else’s expectations just to get them to like you.  

Day 14: Too often we chastise ourselves for having any wounds, but they leave so many beautiful scars – the scar of compassion, the scar of empathy, the scar of understanding, the scar of faith, and the scar of finding love for oneself again. Remember this, as you start to untangle yourself from old agreements that caused you suffering, “The wound is the place where the Light enters you.” — Rumi  
Day 15: Sometimes, we keep friendships that are not healthy for us simply because we worry about how the other person will feel more than how dysfunctional the friendship is.  Instead of worrying about taking care of another person’s feelings, you first have to worry about whether or not the friendship is healthy for you.  
Day 16: “Just as being truly compassionate doesn’t mean always being sweet and nice (sometimes it means being cold, harsh), being truly honest doesn’t mean speaking your thoughts and feelings as they arise. Other awarenesses and intention must be at work—and a recognition that the truth is not solid.”  – Susan Piver Browne, from “Right Speech”
Day 17: This meme is a two way street. Remember that the next time you take something personally – it is the other person’s choice to behave the way that they are behaving and it is none of your business why they made that choice. Instead focus on the choices you have – you can choose to take it personally and stay inside the circle of their personal misery, or you can move forward and take care of yourself. Your sweetness of mind is your business – invest in it, cultivate it, nurture it, and it will grow and give you plenty of reward.

Day 18: Taking things personally means you are making an effort to conform to another person’s ideal way of being.
  “I think the reward for conformity is that everyone likes you except yourself.” — Rita Mae Brown
Day 19: When you stop taking what others say or do so personally, you begin to live your life on your terms, rather than at their mercy.
Day 20:  If you take things personally, a break-up can be devastating.  I know from experience that you feel as though you will not survive the heartache.  After I allowed someone to have that much power over my sweetness of mind, and I was left a shattered mess, I decided it was time to make a serious change in how I approached relationships.  The second agreement is one of the new agreements I had to make if I hoped to regain my sense of self. 

Day 21: Unburden yourself from trying to please everyone.  By not taking things personally, you are free to succeed at being your true, authentic self.

Day 22: “Whatever you believe you will experience.” –author unknown.  If we believe what others say about us is true, especially if it is negative, we will begin to experience these opinions as our own personal truth.  
To change your experience, you must change your beliefs.  In order to change your beliefs, you must change your thoughts.  Practice this everyday!  
Day 23: When you stop taking things personally, you stop participating in another person’s personal drama.  

Day 24:  “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” –Eleanor Roosevelt
Day 25:  Your damned if you do and damned if you don’t, so do what you want and don’t do what others want you to do. 
Day 26:  You’ll be a lot better off when you can stop taking things personally.  
Day 27:  Not taking things personally also means that you don’t involve yourself in business that does not concern you. 

Day 28:  “People are lonely because they build walls instead of bridges.” ~Joseph F. Newton (psssst….we build up walls when we take things personally…)
Day 29:  As I walked through the challenge of implementing the Second Agreement a couple of years ago, here is what I learned: Agreement #2 Follow Up
Day 30: In short…..

30 Days, 30 Ways to Be Impeccable With Your Word

For 30-Days, we focus our attention on how to implement the First of the Four Agreements.
Day 1: Read the Blog Post on The First Agreement
Day 2: Be aware of your same old reactions….

Day 3: “You are what you do, not what you say you’ll do.” ― C.G. Jung

Day 4: Skip the Gossip…..

Day 5: Just say NO to magazines!  This morning at the airport, a nice airline employee was offering people magazines to read while we waited for our flight.  She asked me if I would like to read a juicy gossip magazine.  My reply was “no” and she seemed shocked by this.  Honestly, I didn’t want to read it.  I have better things to do and so do you, especially if you want to clear the negativity out of the messages you are constantly bombarded with on a daily basis.  Reading gossip magazines is some of the worst information you can consume.  They only offer endless ways to judge others and feel bad about ourselves – put them down and pick up a good book instead.
Day 6: T.H.I.N.K.!
Day 8: Yesterday, as I was leaving to go to an event, I saw a couple walking across the street from my building.  The woman was pushing a bicycle and the man was walking, sullenly, a couple of feet behind her.  Normally, I would probably not have noticed them walking there, other than to note two people were walking on the sidewalk.  But, this couple grabbed my attention because the woman was screaming in such a vile and hateful way to the man that it caused my heart to wrench in my chest.  She openly berated him in public, and he willingly accepted this treatment.  
Now, I have no idea what events led up this argument and I am not going to make any assumptions as to who is at fault or who is to blame, but it brought back memories of a past time in my life when people I loved spoke this way to one another and it saddened me deeply.  No one deserves to be spoken to in such a manner, because nothing productive comes of it.  Even if you are hurt, even if the person has deeply wounded you in some way, by using words in such a hateful way, you are affecting your own state of being in a negative way.

If your emotions have gone racing off into the wild, it may be worth considering a time out and allow them to roam free for awhile before you choose to continue the cycle of hurt and pain between two people.  If you can’t speak to someone without an intensely negative reaction, consider allowing yourself space away from that person until you have given yourself the appropriate time to heal.  Sometimes, that takes a lifetime….or more….but the more time you spend in a toxic situation or around toxic people, the deeper effect it will have on your own sweetness of mind.

Do you really want to be around someone who pushes around a bicycle and screams at people they claim to love in public?  Do you want to be the person who is being yelled at by a crazy woman pushing a bicycle around in public?

No??
Best to work on being impeccable with your words my friends…….   
Day 9: To challenge yourself to be impeccable with your words, what’s one constructive thing you would say about the person you least like?
Day 10: “It’s not the existence of beliefs that’s the problem, but what happens to us when we hold them rigidly, without examining them, when we presume the absolute centrality of our views and become disdainful of others.” – Sharon Salzberg (“Faith”, p. 63)
Day 11: What’s something nice you would say about your boss?
Day 12: A Quote by Heather O’Hara
Day 13: What does “sin” mean to you?
Day 14: Sin means doing something to intentionally harm yourself.  It isn’t about what any religion deems as moral, it is about what you do to damage your sweetness of mind.  When you speak badly about yourself, or drink too much alcohol, or eat too much food, you generally don’t feel well (mentally and/or physically).  This is sin – it is simple and it isn’t about trying make you guilty so that I can control your behavior.  Being free of sin – being impeccable – means you upgrade your choices to speak better about yourself (and others) and choose better food and less to drink so that you feel more alive (physically and/or mentally).  This is impeccability. 
Day 15: Self-Defeating beliefs are the agreements that we have made with ourselves that we are often not even aware of, but are full of negativity and cause us to be vulnerable to painful mood swings as well as conflicts in personal relationships.  This is an attitude that is built into your personal value system and can be the root cause of our negative thinking.  Start to bring awareness and observance to some of these common self-defeating beliefs:
  1. Perfectionism (comes in many forms):  Emotional – “I should always feel happy…” “ I should not feel angry, anxious, vulnerable, jealous, etc……”; Performance – “I must never fail..or make a mistake.”; Perceived – “People will not love me if I am flawed”
  2. Fear of rejection (or disapproval):  “I need approval to be worthwhile.”; “If I am not loved, then I am not valuable”
  3. Fear of failure: (this was the most challenging one for me, until I failed and lived to realize that failure is not the end of the world)  “My value as a person is dependent on my achievements (intelligence, status, looks, etc.)”
  4. Fear of Being Alone: “If I am ‘alone’, then I will be sad and unfulfilled.”
  5. Conflictphobia:  “People who love each other shouldn’t fight…”
  6. Entitlement: “People should behave/speak/act the way I expect them to be” (also known as Narcissism)
Which one of these most accurately reflects your self-defeating beliefs?

Day 16: You are not trying to be a martyr, or beat yourself up by recognizing these old agreements, the old words we use that cause us pain and suffering.  Through this practice, you are trying to remove sin against yourself.  More importantly, you are practicing how to love yourself through this process.  Knowing your self-defeating beliefs gives you the opportunity to revise them into something more suitable for cultivating your sweetness of mind.  
Day 17: Remember to speak kindly to your inner child as well….
Day 18: This is one of my favorite articles ever written!  It is an example of the kind of effect that the impeccability with words can have on our state of being: 


Day 19: Start to Untwist Your Thinking….it’s time to catch yourself in those moments of criticism and judgement and examine the evidence.  Instead of assuming the thought is true, check for actual evidence that supports the thought.  Maybe do a Cost-Benefit Analysis to list out the advantages and disadvantages of a negative thought, or self-defeating belief, or destructive behavior pattern.  Then, as you would speak to a child, or your dearest friend, substitute language that is less emotionally charged and more compassionate and accepting of your faults and imperfections.

Day 20: If you knew the person standing in front of you was going to die tomorrow, how would you speak to them?  If that person was you, how would you speak to yourself?  This is how we should always approach our interactions with one another – as delicate beings who are deserving of love and compassion.
Day 21: Increase your capacity for empathy. 

Day 22: How often do you commit to things and not follow through?  
Day 23: “If you always tell the truth, you don’t have to remember anything.” –Pinocchio This includes telling it to yourself (and whilst making commitments….)

Day 24: Do you have friends who make commitments and rarely follow through?  Once or twice is understandable, but how often do you allow this to happen without saying something? 
Day 25: So, I didn’t pick this image in association with the open letter I have written to yoga teachers.  I actually had it selected a week or so prior, as I was planning the rest of the posts for the 30-day challenge, but of course the Universe will always reflect back what the thinker thinks into it…..


Day 26: This about putting your “words” into action today……or rather not using words at all……. “The first duty of love is to listen.” – Paul Tillich

Day 27:  From a recent article in Psychology Today: “What is the single biggest determinant of your happiness? Not wealth, fame, beauty, or power, but how others—particularly those closest to you—treat you. When people close to you are nice to you, you can’t help but feel happy; when they mistreat you or avoid you, you are bound to be unhappy.”  
As the courts weigh in on the right to marry whomever you choose, maybe they could bear in mind that treating others with equality will uplift their state of being.  Their duty is protect EVERYONE’S constitutional right to pursue happiness….let them be impeccable with their words/actions for all of us.
Day 28: I just think these are some really beautiful words….
Day 30: It’s that simple…..
 

Cultivate More Gratitude

 “Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life.  It turns what we have into enough, and more.  It turns denial into acceptance, chaos into order, and confusion into clarity….It turns problems into gifts, failures into success, the unexpected into perfect timing, and mistakes into important events.  Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.” – Melody Beattie
As someone who tends to function with an All-Or-Nothing mindset, it is necessary for me to find opportunities that help expand my narrow point of view and absorb the brilliance that still remains in the world.  My therapist mistakes me for an idealist.  This has to be a joke because I know that nothing in life will truly ever be what I would consider ideal.  How’s that for all-or-nothing thinking, huh?  Soooo….even though my therapist believes me to be an idealist, I would consider myself more of a realist.  While I desperately want (or hope) people to treat each other well and do the right thing, I know that most of us really are just selfish assholes.  
Nine times out of ten we will choose our own compulsions over altruism.  Now, I would like to think that, after years of practicing yoga, I have outgrown most of my attachments, but in truth there are still many things I cling to.  As a human being, and a member of the animal kingdom, I am hardwired to choose survival over helping another in need.  The need to survive is inherent in all of us.  Some of us believe we “need” more than others in order to survive, however.  Left unchecked, we start to believe that there is not enough to go around.  This causes many of us to operate from a place of lack, which leads to a hoarding type of mentality.  
During bouts of depression, it is easy to allow this mode of thinking, and these perceived inadequacies, to govern my emotions.  A depressed person believes that there is not enough kindness or love to go around, since we obviously are incapable of feeling it towards ourselves.  Therefore, it makes it exceptionally challenging to extend goodness to others.  The person who believes that they are not worthy of love and affection constantly seeks affirmation and approval from others out of the fear we will be abandoned by those we love.  This insatiable need for validation will eventually drive others away because it is impossible for them to fill a void left by one’s own meagerness.  When the loved one leaves, it confirms our original notion that we are inadequate.  We get caught in a cycle, seeking out a variety of ways to inflict abuse upon ourselves, either through bad relationships, alcohol or drugs, to further prove just how unworthy of love we truly are.
The Buddha taught his followers that all of life is impermanent and that it is our denial of this impermanence that causes our suffering.  Generally, we are grateful for that impermanence in relation to the negative aspects or events of our lives, because the pain they cause passes with time and light eventually returns to our hearts.  Yet, there are times when we forget to pause and recognize the relief, the gratitude, we feel when that pain has passed, but instead let it negatively impact our choices forever forward.  By not allowing ourselves the feeling of gratitude when bad things happen, we can get stuck lamenting over life’s disappointments.  
Rarer still are we thankful for the impermanence of the positive aspects of our lives.  There is profound irony uncovered within the statement, “All good things must come to an end”.  When we are in the moment, fully embracing all that is good, we deny the truth that the moment inevitably ends and are left dismayed because it didn’t last forever.  We become fearful that the  the universe will be unable to provide us with enough happiness in the future, and we also know it can’t last.  Indeed, ALL of life is impermanent.  Holding onto things, money, or people will only cause us great suffering, especially when those things, or people, are no longer a part of your life.  It’s even harder still when you haven’t been able to admit that to yourself just yet.
Our aversions are sometimes easier to understand – we generally avoid things that make us uncomfortable or that we are fearful of.  But, as a friend of mine explained recently, attachment and aversion are two sides of the same coin.  We cling to the positive attributes of life, while denying that they are impermanent.  If we cling to an idea, to a thing, or to a person as our only means to happiness, we will never experience contentment and will remain in a perpetual state of suffering.  The same holds true for our aversions.  If we ignore a negative attribute of life, an event, or a person, we give ourselves a false sense of security that nothing is wrong with the world.  When the bubble of denial is burst, we have a harder time accepting things as they truly are, rather than how we think they should be.  In order to experience true happiness, we need to  understand that positive and negative must exist in unison.  
Most recovery programs, whether it be from substance abuse, co-dependency or depression, ask their disciples to morph endless feelings of discouragement into hopefulness by finding things to be grateful for.  Rather than focusing on what is missing from life, they are taught to appreciate what is currently available.  Think of it this way…when you focus on what is absent from your life, you are no longer living in the present moment.  By giving attention to what went wrong in the past, or wishing for how things should be in the future, we miss out on what is currently happening right in front of us, in this moment.  Cultivating gratitude helps to make us aware of what is abundant in our lives right NOW., it brings us back to the present everyday goodness in our lives.  
Often times, days will sail right past me and I don’t even notice where the time went.  This can be blamed on various distractions like work, phone calls, emails, Facebook, text messages, but really it is an overall lack of mindfulness.  So, for the month of November, I opted to complete what I termed a “gratitude challenge”.  For 30-days, I tasked myself to find five things every day could be grateful for and then I shared them on Facebook.  By providing an inventory, to the general public, of each day’s events, people, places, and things that were either pleasant or unpleasant it helped prompt me to pay a higher amount of attention to life happening around me.  It is after all, only MY LIFE – I guess I should sort of be aware of what happens to it…..right????
Then, a week or so ago, a friend of mine and I were speculating about what we might do to change our lives if we had the chance to travel back in time.  It really got me thinking about how the events and people of my life had shaped me.  If I went back and changed the bad parts, in order to avoid the pain, then the good parts may not have happened.  All of the good things grew out of all of the shit.  It reminded me how truly grateful I am for the struggles that I have endured, nor do I have any regrets, in my life. Each of those awful moments was a stepping stone that took me to the beauty that lies before me now.  Of course, there is a certain amount of anticipation in not knowing what the future holds, but I liken it to that feeling you have before leaving on vacation – you know the journey won’t be perfect, yet it will be amazing.  Once we can accept what has happened in the past is over and done, and we don’t have much control over what is planned for the future, we can find peace.  It is that sense of peace that allows me to move forward free from attachment, or aversion, and also free from suffering – this is when my life truly began.
To all the victims from Sandy Hook Elementary, I am grateful to be reminded of the importance of working for peace in this world.  We do so in your honor and in the honor of any person who has ever had to endure suffering and violence in their lives or in their hearts.  Pray for Peace.