Sunday, May 30, 2010

Ten Rules for Happier Living

Ten Rules for Happier Living

1. Give something away (no strings attached).

2. Do a kindness (and forget it).

3. Spend a few minutes with the aged (their experience is a priceless guidance).

4. Look intently into the face of a baby (and marvel).

5. Laugh often (it is life's lubricant).

6. Give thanks (a thousand times a day is not enough).

7. Pray (or you will lose the way).

8. Work (with vim and vigor).

9. Plan as though you will live forever (because you will).

10. Live as though you will die tomorrow (because you will die on some tomorrow).

(author unknown)

© Carol Brown

Thursday, May 27, 2010

The Peace of Loving Ourselves

For every person who is vain, arrogant, and proud, there are many who do not truly love themselves. (And, many proud folks aren't doing a terrific job of loving themselves as well.)

How often do you say to yourself: "If only I were...smarter, thinner, more successful, more clever, wiser, kinder, etc."? We usually compare ourselves to someone who is at his or her best or do a fictitious ideal, someone who does not even exist, and then we wonder why we don't measure up. When we compare ourselves with others, we will not experience true peace.

You may feel that the thought of truly loving yourself is impossible. But if you know how to love others, you have the capacity to love yourself. The secret is to love ourselves with the same love that we willingly share with our dearest friends and family members.

Jack Kornfield writes that the Babemba tribe in Africa gather together in a special meeting if someone in their tribe has done something reckless. In his book The Art of Forgiveness , Kornfield writes:

"Then each person in the tribe speaks to the accused, one at a time, each recalling the good things the person in the center of the circle has done is his lifetime. Every incident, every experience that can be recalled with any detail and accuracy, is recounted. All his positive attributes, good deeds, strengths, and kindnesses are recited carefully and at length."

Sometimes the meeting can go on for days. When the ceremony is finished, everyone celebrates and embraces the person as he returns to full membership in the tribe. Imagine the healing that occurs when one who has hurt others is healed by the loving words of his friends and family.

Imagine how we would feel if we repeated that ceremony on our own lives. When we mess up, instead of berating ourselves, imagine how we would feel if we remembered the good things we have done. Eventually, we can learn to replace critical voices in our minds with kind voices. This may take time and effort, but we will experience greater peace as we treat ourselves more gently.

Of course, this kind of mercy does not mean that we should go out and be our worst self and then instantly forgive ourselves. Instead, loving ourselves means that after we do our best, we turn away from our mistakes, asking for forgiveness when appropriate, and turn towards loving ourselves.

Each of us is a unique, one-of-a-kind, miraculous creation. We are created in God’s image. We are His children. Loving ourselves means not only remember who we are but what we can become. It means exchanging pain for peace, self-loathing for self-loving, criticism for kindness. As we begin to truly love ourselves, we open our hearts to receive the joy, happiness, and peace that God waits to give us.

For a few moments, reflect on the love that a caring parent feels for his or her child. Then try to multiply that love a million, billion, trillion times over. That is an infinitesimal amount of the love that God feels for you. Father John O”Donohue said, “May you learn to see yourself with the same delight, pride, and expectation with which God sees you in every moment.”

© Carol Brown

Friday, May 21, 2010

Be Kind to Yourself

Thomas Kempis said, “First keep peace with yourself, then you can also bring peace to others.” We experience inner peace when we show kindness and compassion to ourselves, yet sometimes we are kinder to others than we are to ourselves. As we treat ourselves with mercy and gentleness, it becomes easier to treat others that way.

Notice the things you say to yourself throughout the day. How often do you criticize yourself? How quick are you to blame yourself for innocent mistakes?

This morning I scolded myself for driving through mud after getting my car washed yesterday. I stopped the negative self-talk when I remembered that because of road construction near our home, I had no other choice than to drive along a dirty road to get to the grocery store. Even if there was no road construction near our home, when I chose to blame myself for being human I moved from a place of love into a place of fear.

During the past week I’ve heard many of my friends and family members blame themselves for mistakes they did not make. My daughter, Melanie, a nurse, told me how frustrated she was when she was caring for a sick neighbor and did not take her to the hospital as quickly as the neighbor needed to go. The part of the story she needed to remember was they her neighbor, also a nurse, refused to go to the hospital. I reminded her that she had done the very best she could do under the circumstances. In fact, when Melanie and her doctor-husband, Chris, took their neighbor to the emergency room that night, they saved the woman’s life.

Whenever we find ourselves saying “I should have…..(taken my neighbor to the doctor sooner) or” I would have…..(prevented suffering and medical complications if I had taken my neighbor to the doctor sooner), we are not being kind to ourselves. Most of us do this far too often, but as we learn to monitor our thinking patterns, we can replace critical thoughts with compassionate ones.

Sometimes we need a loving friend to remind us to do this. However, we can also become a loving friend to ourselves and remind ourselves that we are doing the best we can with the knowledge and experience that we have. If you are tempted to berate yourself, replace that thought with something positive. Remind yourself that you are a incredible human being who is created in the image of God. Express love to yourself for the good things you are doing. Be bold. Tell yourself, “I love you. I love you unconditionally. I am perfectly and wonderfully made."

If you make a serious mistake, make amends, ask for God’s forgiveness, and then forgive yourself. Show yourself the same mercy that God shows you. Don’t dwell on your past mistakes. Instead, give yourself the same compassion that you would give your dearest friend.

Think of the many ways you can show kindness to yourself. Develop a talent. Take good care of your body. Learn something new. Do something you enjoy, whether it’s taking a nature walk, soaking in a hot tub, or reading a good book. Spend a few moments each day loving God and feeling His love for you. Write down a list of the good things you have done in your life and refer to that list if you are feeling sad.

As we fill up our own reservoirs of love and kindness, we can then radiate that love to others. "How far you go in life depends on your being tender with the young, compassionate with the aged, sympathetic with the striving, and tolerant of the weak and strong. Because someday in your life you will have been all of these." (George Washington Carver)

© Carol Brown

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Four Questions that Can Change Your Life

Byron Katie was consumed by anger, self-loathing, addictions, and misery. Living in a half-way house, she had a flash of insight in which she discovered that she had the power to change her life by changing her thinking. Her breakthrough, called the Work, has helped thousands move from a place of sorrow to a place of peace.

You begin the Work by writing about someone that you have not fully forgiven. You describe how this person angers, confuses, saddens, or disappoints you and why. Next, you discuss how you want the person to change and what you want them to do. After that, you tell what this person should or shouldn’t do, think, or feel. Finally, you write down what this person needs to do in order that you can be happy, what you think of them, and what is it that you don’t want to experience from this person again.

You move into a place of loving kindness and gentleness as you ask the following questions:

1. Is it true?

2. Can you absolutely know that it is true?

3. How do you react, what happens, when you believe that thought?

4. Who would you be without that thought?

After you mindfully answer those questions, you then turn around your answers. For example, if you say, “My spouse does not listen to me, “ instead you say, “My spouse does listen to my spouse,” “I don’t listen to me,” and “I don’t listen to my spouse.” After considering these statements, you find three genuine, specific examples of how this turnaround is true in your life.

One might argue that this type of thinking condones violence or abuse, but, in fact, the Work speaks forcefully against abuse. Instead, it allows us to move forward in our lives by refusing to let any abusive person destroy our peace of mind. It also helps us to realize that we can become our own worst enemy when we ruminate on the faults of others without realizing that we, too, are guilty of similar behaviors.

The Work enhances the teachings of Jesus, who taught us that we cannot honestly judge others when we ourselves have similar weaknesses. He said, "Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.

"Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, 'Let me take the speck out of your eye,' when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye” (Matthew 7: 1-5 NIV).

This teaching can be turned around. Since God asks us to love others as we love ourselves, we discover when doing the Work that we experience sorrow when we continually berate ourselves for making mistakes that others make as well. As we show the same loving kindness to ourselves that we show to others, we experience spiritual healing. Of course, we ask for God’s forgiveness when we sin, but we also need to forgive ourselves after we have experienced His grace.

Katie reminds us that there are three types of business in the universe: mine, yours, and God’s. She explains that much of our suffering comes from trying to live outside of our own business. She says, “When I think, ‘You need to get a job, I want you to be happy, you should be on time, you need to take better care of yourself,’ I am in your business. When I’m worried about earthquakes, floods, war, or when I will die, I am in God’s business.”

When you practice the Work, you discover that you don’t have any business because your life runs beautifully as you detach from your negative thinking. You also discover that the way that you view and judge others is a reflection of your own thinking. As we release others from judgment, we free ourselves as well.

Katie offers some free worksheets to help you get started. You can find them at She teaches us that suffering can challenge us to inquiry and that as we discover the truth about our thought-induced suffering, we recognize that we no longer need people and situations to change in order to find peace. Peace is inside us, waiting to be found.

© Carol Brown

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Reducing and Eliminating Stress

We live in a fast-paced world that encourages us to be busy, productive, and successful. We seldom hear that we need to be peace-filled, calm, and content in order to be happy. We assume that if we buy more, do more, and achieve more, we will be more fulfilled only to discover worldly things may provide temporary pleasure but not permanent peace.

Doctors, psychologists, therapists, health professional, and religious leaders know that when we live with constant anxiety and stress, we risk becoming emotionally or physically ill. Unfortunately, the hectic pace of life can destroy our quality of life. Some simple practices can help us reclaim our ability to live a healthy, balanced life.

Consider how the following will help you life a more peaceful, joy-filled life:

• Daily renewal. Setting aside a few moments each day for meditation and prayer can be an inspiring process. Taking a few moments for reflection, for listening to the sounds of nature, and for self-renewal can be priceless.

• Weekly renewal. We need to taking one day a week to rest from work, shopping, and daily chores so that we can recharge our spiritual batteries and increase our peace of mind. Taking time to worship, to praise God, and to remember our many blessings can be a healing time on that day. Each Sabbath, we can deepen our relationship with the Lord, with our loved ones and neighbors, and with ourselves. We can learn how to better love ourselves. As we remove ourselves from worldly things, we can discover the purpose for which we were created.

• Monthly renewal. Spending a few hours each month eliminating clutter from our surroundings, planning ways to live more prudently, and planning activities that will bring balance and restoration to our souls can be invaluable. When our homes are free from clutter, we experience greater serenity. As we discover how to live on less and incorporate activities into our lives that foster healing and wholeness, we experience greater peace. A simple walk in the park, spending time with good friends and family members, and reading inspirational literature can edify us and enrich our lives.

• Yearly renewal. Taking a few days each year to go on a retreat or to return to a natural environment can be most healing. Whether you camp in the woods, spend time beside a sea shore, or visit a National Park, as we spend time amid God’s glorious creations, we experience greater peace. You cannot purchase peace in a mall, a catalog, or a store. You find it as you spend time savoring the beauties of nature.

• Continuous renewal. Throughout the day, as we open ourselves to peaceful thoughts, words, and activities, we discover the path to perfect peace. As we meditate on God’s perfect love for us, live in a spirit of mindfulness and contentment, we can experience peace amid sorrow. Although we may not have financial abundance, good health, or an ideal job, we can experience serenity as we center our hearts on a Higher Power. He has promised that as we yoke ourselves to Him, we will experience rest.

As we renew our bodies, minds, and spirits daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly and as we make self-renewal a part of our everyday living, we discover that peace is inside us, waiting to be discovered and nurtured. As we live balanced lives, we will discover ways to define our lives not by what we do but by who we are. We will recognize our life’s purpose and realize that God’s is waiting to help us fulfill it one with each breath we take, thought we think, and word we speak.
© Carol Brown