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Serenity Hacker

Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. Don't resist them; that only creates sorrow. Let reality be reality. Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like. ~Laozi

Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. Don’t resist them; that only creates sorrow. Let reality be reality. Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like. ~Laozi

When a new year rolls around we often look to things that might improve our lives: small changes we can make, new habits we can adopt or old ones we can shed.

Sometimes, we get so caught up in small self-improvement tweaks or keeping the status quo that we neglect the real issues: the toughest, most transformative changes, the ones that will have the most impact on our lives. But this is no accident.

In general, we avoid the most meaningful changes with everything we’ve got. Because they’re big, and because of their transformative power, we’ll call them “Big Changes”.

Most often, the Big Changes have to do with one of the following:

  • Work
  • Relationships
  • Living Circumstances
  • Physical or Emotional Health
  • Facing Addiction
  • Some Other Fundamental Life Change Keep Reading…
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There is a terrible hunger for love. 
We all experience that in our lives – the pain, the loneliness. 
We must have the courage to recognize it. 
The poor you may have right in your own family. 
Find them. 
Love them. ~Mother Teresa

Sometimes it seems that all the positive psychology out there tends to neglect one very basic thing: We all suffer. If we are human, we will suffer, and to deny that is denying a very important part of our existence.

Sure, we don’t want to suffer, but alas, we do, and sometimes there’s nothing we can do to avoid it: things happen that are beyond our control, and we hurt because of them. If we take the positive psychology movement at its initial face value, it negates something very vital. Something that’s very much a part of the human experience, and we cannot live a rich, full life without acknowledging it.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s important to cultivate a positive attitude, but not to the point where we become desensitized. The relentless pursuit of happiness, the focus on it to the exclusion of pain and suffering, is very limiting. It may initially feel safe, but the insulation required trying maintain this state in the face of all things becomes suffocating, both for ourselves and the world around us.

When we judge our own pain or that of others as not valuable or negative, we deny part of our humanness. And in doing so we live in a fragmented state, disconnected from ourselves and from others.

Suffering is a common thread that is shared by all of human existence. And being in touch with our own suffering helps us cultivate compassion, for ourselves and for others. Yet we try so hard to disconnect to that which makes our existence wholer and more meaningful. Where is the compassion for ourselves, and for our neighbors? Do we really, as the human race, want to continue to disconnect from something that unites us all?

Listen to how the news is conveyed. Machinegun style, bulleted facts about death, accidents, horrific and disturbing events. Behind those news items, real people are hurting. Families have lost loved ones. Our very human brothers and sisters are suffering. Where is the emotion? Where is the compassion?

The content of the news is negative, we all know that. But the very way the news is communicated sends a dangerous, inhuman message for society to internalize: Do not connect with suffering, do not connect with compassion. Disconnect from your emotions if they are not positive, and disconnect from others, too.

If Mother Teresa delivered the same news stories, or Jesus, the Dalai Lama or Buddha, would they be able to convey them in the same manner? How different would they sound, and what effect would that have on those of us who watch and listen?

I think we’d be moved.

Keep Reading…

Today, a comment got me wondering where restlessness comes from. I think we’re restless most often when we feel “stuck”.

Think left and think right and think low and think high. Oh, the thinks you can think up if only you try! ~Dr. Seuss

Think left and think right and think low and think high. Oh, the thinks you can think up if only you try! ~Dr. Seuss

Stuck in our careers, homes, relationships, circumstances, way of lives… whatever, you name it. Or maybe you can’t name it. Maybe you just feel stuck and can’t articulate where it’s coming from. Sometimes, this has a lot to do with our thought process.

Then later I heard something interesting:

“Imagination is always either leading us toward enlightenment, or it is leading us away from enlightenment.

There is no such thing as stuck.

We are always moving in one direction or the other.”

This struck me for two reasons.

One, because I really believe there is something extremely special and undiscovered about the imaginative faculty; it’s one of the topics I like exploring here at Serenity Hacker. The idea that it can lead to enlightenment (or deeper happiness) really intrigues me.

And two, because sometimes, I feel a little stuck, myself. I think everyone out there can relate to that.

But could it be that simple? Is the power of our imaginations in our thoughts either causing us misery or leading us toward enlightenment and more fulfillment? Maybe, in some ways it really is that simple…

Keep Reading…

meditation

In order to live free and happily, you must sacrifice boredom. It is not always an easy sacrifice. ~Richard Bach

When was the last time you sat and just let yourself be bored for more than a minute or two?

I mean, really sat and just let boredom be there, kind of zen-like, while doing absolutely nothing about it?

If you’re like most people, probably not recently. Maybe not ever. We’re programmed not to do this.

We live in a world of constant distraction, instant gratification, and sensory overload. And we’ve become gluttons for it, enslaved by the cycle of trying to avoid boredom. We’re addicted to distraction.

The amount of them available to us is unlimited. We can turn on the television, sit down at the computer, check email, Facebook, call or text someone, find something to clean, have company, do more work, or even take a nap. Ever find yourself standing with the fridge open and you don’t know why? That’s the sort of thing I’m talking about.

These behaviors clutter our minds and our lives, and keep us from connecting with our deepest selves. We believe we do these things because we’re bored and we think if we were “busier” we wouldn’t do them at all, or we’d do them less. This may be partially true, but really this way of thinking just feeds the cycle. The truth is that there’s a bit more to boredom than meets the eye.

Keep Reading…

tree

Forever is composed of nows. ~ Emily Dickinson

Living your dreams can seem like a lofty goal. Sure, we all have things we want to achieve, stuff we’d love to accomplish, and dreams we’d love to have come true.

Whether we know what we want, or even if we don’t, sometimes we feel a vague sense of dissatisfaction with life.

It feels like something’s lost… something’s missing.

Perhaps you’re at an in-between place, unsure of the future. Maybe there are circumstances preventing you from living life how you’d really like to. You still go about taking care of your obligations and chores, tasks and responsibilities, but life seems routine and uninspired. Goals begin to lose their luster and nothing seems energizing.

I know when I end up in this place, it means I’ve stopped creating. I’m not talking about creating in the traditional sense. I’m talking about the creativity required to consciously create the life you want, the one of your dreams, day by day, one moment at a time.

I’m not talking about the big things here. They require lots of waiting and some of them may never happen. The biggest things, the things we might feel are lacking and are wishing for most, are really just symbols. Symbols for simpler, more meaningful experiences we can create right now. The stuff happiness is made of.

Creating puts us back in touch with our aliveness. We are all part of that miraculous energy that makes everything new, lighter, and more joyous. Every one of us is co-creating our lives everyday, whether we do it consciously or not. So why not include your dreams in your daily experience?

The trick is to break those big dreams into smaller parts and incorporate those into your life: Keep Reading…

People say that what we’re all seeking is a meaning for life. I don’t think that’s what we’re really seeking. I think that what we’re seeking is an experience of being alive… ~Joseph Campbell

We don't stop playing because we grow old. We grow old because we stop playing. ~Confucius

We don't stop playing because we grow old. We grow old because we stop playing. ~Confucius

Do you ever look at yourself or your life and feel you’re just not measuring up? Are you too hard on yourself? Do you wish you could be more carefree?

No matter what we do to have a more positive outlook, sometimes doubt and insecurity creep up and steal our joy. When this happens, we look around and it appears that everyone else has it right or better, and we’ve got it wrong.  Our shortcomings need tending to, and fast. We get overly focused on what’s “wrong” with us, put off delight, and wonder why we have to try so hard when it seems like others don’t.  It’s a lousy place to be.

Last time I felt like this, I read the silliest quote from a professional clown. It put an instant smile on my face and immediately brought back the light-heartedness that had been missing from my life. Keep Reading…

Keep Yourself on Your To-Do List

Keep Yourself on Your To-Do List

Sometimes we’re not just busy, we’re too busy. Going all day from one thing to next. There’s not enough time in the day and still so much to do. We’re running on empty. Life gets this way at times no matter how much try to avoid it.

But sometimes, we’re so caught up with being productive, we don’t realize our way of life has become destructive. It can be by our own doing. At other times, it’s due to circumstances beyond our control, at work or at home. Let’s face it, we’ve been encultured to value productivity and achievement above all things. Even above ourselves. Keep Reading…

The original box puzzle dates back to 1914. Draw four straight lines by connecting all the dots without lifting your pen from the paper. (Answer at end of article)

The original box puzzle dates back to 1914. Draw only four straight lines and connect all the dots without lifting your pen from the paper. (Answer at end of article)

When is the last time you used your imagination to solve a problem or achieve a goal? And I mean really used your imagination?

Kids use their imaginations all the time to do almost everything. Where adults are expert at identifying and solving problems, kids don’t even see them as such. Hence, they live and approach life from a vastly different plane. And it’s refreshing.

They’re more in touch with their dreams. They go about achieving their goals with a mindset of possibility. They could even be considered better at solving problems. Yes, kids lack the refined analytical skills and critical thinking functions that we as adults rely on. But that’s exactly my point. What we’ve got that kids haven’t developed yet is exactly what gets in our way.

We’ve gotten too good at our logical, left-brained functions. When faced with something new (say a goal or task) we set it up as a problem to solve. That way we can analyze things, organize ideas, compare options, make lists, formulate plans, and hypothesize outcomes. We’ve become experts at solving things. At home, at work, and at play. These skills work so well we tend to apply them to everything, even when they don’t work. Sometimes we think ourselves into complete exhaustion! Yet we’re still unable to solve a persistent problem or achieve a long-desired goal, no matter how important.

Then some one comes along and tells us to be creative, use our imagination, or think outside the box.  Huh?  Wait.. what?! We stop, think for a moment, and interpret that to mean finding even more options, or better somehow different solutions. So we get busy thinking even harder: analyzing, comparing, theorizing, postulating, and formulating ourselves into oblivion. Nothing changes. Nothing’s inspired. Nothing’s different. We’re totally stuck inside the box.

Kids don’t think in that box. They haven’t acquired it yet, so they’re free of all the limitations and restrictions imposed by it. The box suggests squareness and rigidity, constrained and unimaginative thinking. Because they live by their imaginations, kids don’t see things as problems.

Kids perceive things from a right-brained, intuitive place. For them, life is a series of endless possibilities, dreams to realize, and desires to manifest.

What would happen if you approached life in the same manner?

How, living in a mostly left-brained world, can you apply more imagination to your dilemas, your goals and your dreams? Following is a list of what children do with their imaginations. It takes a little practice, but contemplate these and chances are you’ll start to remember some long-forgotten things. Try a few. Get inspired. You may even begin to really Think Different:

Keep Reading…

I am content in my later years. I have kept my good humor and take neither myself nor the next person seriously. -From Einstein's Collected Essays

I am content in my later years. I have kept my good humor and take neither myself nor the next person seriously. -From Einstein's Collected Essays

Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited; imagination encircles the world.” ~Albert Einstein

Have a problem you just can’t figure out? A challenge that’s proven too difficult to overcome? Why not try an Albert Einstein approach?  Yes, Einstein took on the biggest challenges the world had to offer at the time and became a world renowned physicist. His accomplishments and achievements in the field of science are immeasurable.

Though our own problems may appear miniscule in comparison, Einstein’s attitude and approach to challenges is still quite relative relevant, even on the smallest of scales. Whether you’re dealing with simple mundane issues like getting more organized, or bigger life hurdles like beating long-standing bad habits, his wisdom about problem solving might just provide that “stroke of genius” you need to see things differently. Keep Reading…

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“If you are patient in one moment of anger, you will escape a hundred days of sorrow.” ~Chinese proverb

Ever argue and wonder how it got to where it went? Usually after a heated argument neither party can even agree on how the argument escalated or who said what. That’s because often during times of intense conflict we react from a place within us that is off-center: triggers are pushed and our past conditioning kicks in and takes over. We react to our own feelings instead of the message. The result? The argument intensifies, the resolution seems out of sight and both parties feel worse than before.

Our initial reactions subconsciously arise from feelings based on past conditioning, past relationship patterns and dynamics, our own defenses, insecurities, or sense of inadequacy. Without awareness of this process or the skills to counter it, we fail to address what is being communicated to us.  This fuels the argument rather than resolve it, and eventually takes both people to that place that they don’t even know how they got to. The real problem then becomes obscured and thus a solution is almost impossible.

Instead of reacting, we can choose to respond. Responding involves actively listening and a heightened awareness of the triggers and feelings that arise within us during the argument. We must make the conscious choice not to act on those feelings and triggers and in doing so we stop reacting. Then we can be mindful, centered, and choose a real response to the message. This takes a little practice and skill but can quickly diffuse an argument, and often avoid one altogether:

1. Listen with Everything You Have. And That Means Listen!
Don’t interrupt, even if the other person is going on and on. Let them finish, and while they are speaking make eye contact and let them know you hear them. It’s amazing that even after a long, drawn out argument neither person feels really heard, so listen intently.

2. Don’t Take it Personal.
Listen from a place of selfless compassion and don’t take it personal. Put yourself in the other person’s shoes. Try to discern their message or what they are feeling rather than giving your attention to the reactions and feelings that arise within you as they speak. Granted this takes practice and patience, but it is really key to understanding the message that is being communicated.  When we get caught up in what we feel about what the other person is saying we stop really hearing what they are saying. We take it too personal. This can be a challenge when how the other person communicates is offending you.  But try to focus on the message rather than on the delivery.  If the delivery bothered you, you can choose to address that later if you’d like.

3. Take a Moment Before You Respond.
When the other person finishes, you don’t need to respond right away.  Take the time to think of what you would like to say.  It’s okay to be silent and thoughtful for a moment. Clear out all those reactions that are based on your own feelings before you speak. When you do decide to speak, make sure you what say includes the following:

Keep Reading…

skyheart

The past may be gone forever..and whatever the future holds, our todays make the memories of tomorrow.

There’s almost nothing more rewarding in life than close relationships, be it with a spouse or loved one, friends, children, or our families. One of the things that all of the most cherished and satisfying relationships have in common is lasting memories.

Memories, especially joyful ones, fortify relationships and increase their endurance, especially through difficult times. We really don’t “plan” on creating happy memories, they just seem to happen, yet we’d all like it if we knew we could have more of them. But how do we go about intentionally making them happen? What are the things that we remember most?

Sure, a vacation might do the trick, or another big life event, but these don’t always occur very often. And even though we really can’t guarantee that we’ll be able to create more joyful memories, there are manageable things we can do in the present that deepen bonds, increase mutual joy and aliveness, and raise the odds that we’ll have more memorable times to look back on in the future. Most of these involve, at least in some way, breaking from our routines.

Even good relationships tend to stagnate when routine sets in…  time slips by, without any real memories being made. This is when we look back and wonder where the time went… there are no real markers to set things apart. Keep Reading…

Make it a New Habit: Drink an 8-12 oz glass of water right before you snack to reduce hunger.

Make it a New Habit: Drink an 8-12 oz glass of water right before you snack to reduce hunger.

What happens when you have a hankering for a snack? Do you sometimes need to have something sweet, salty, or greasy, right away? I know this happens to me, no matter how disciplined I might be at any given time.

Sometimes our energy is just zapped and often our body cries out for something to keep us going. The first instinct is to grab some soft, sweet sugar-filled goodness or something to “munch” on, usually of the crunchy carbohydrate variety.

We all know that snacking can be the downfall of a healthy lifestyle, but there are some things you can do if you must snack that will help you avoid  the extra pounds.

Keep Reading…

This is a guest post by Srinivas at The Skool of Life. Follow him on Twitter.

You can't stop the waves, but you can learn to surf. ~Jon Kabat-Zinn

Water has an endless horizon; there is no limitation when you look out into the water. There’s nothing to interfere with the mind’s eye projecting itself as far as it can possibly imagine. ~Billy Joel

In many ways we are all surfers in search of our perfect wave. A few months back I shared my thoughts on creating your own definitions for success and failure and to me, those are the waves of life that we are all riding.

The perfect wave is something that provides an absolutely effortless ride. It peels across the ocean for what seems to be an eternity, a ride we hope will never end. The thought of danger is overpowered by adrenaline and excitement… It’s pure bliss at its very best, the type that puts an ear to ear smile across your face.

When you’re on it, you’re not thinking about the future and you’re not looking back. You truly are living in the moment. True success, in any aspect of our lives, often feels something like this.

How to Find Your Perfect Wave Checklist

1. Define What It Is to You. The quest for the perfect wave is something that most surfers spend a lifetime on. To one, it might be an exhilarating 20 foot wave, while to another it might be one that’s 2-3 feet and provides a longer, more balanced ride. The point is, for each and every person the perfect wave is something different, yet it’s always about embracing your strengths, likes, and deciding the wave that is perfect for YOU. It’s often easy to get caught up in societal definitions of success and failure, of what we “should” or “shouldn’t” want or be doing. But, when we define for ourselves what our perfect wave is, discovering it becomes much easier. Keep Reading…