Thursday, October 21, 2010

Simplify, simplify

Imagine how much more peaceful our lives would be if we lived more simply. “Most of what we say and do is not essential. If you can eliminate it, you'll have more time, and more tranquillity. Ask yourself at every moment, 'Is this necessary?'”said Marcus Aurelius. “Our life is frittered away by detail…simplify, simplify," wrote Henry David Thoreau.

So how do we simplify our lives so experience greater peace? Here are a few ideas:

Enjoy the moment. Notice the beauty around you: a flower, a butterfly, a smiling child, a cloud floating across the sky. Experience bliss as you focus on the simple beauties of living. Notice the sweetness of breathing in and breathing out. Savor the gifts of sight, hearing, touch, taste, and smell.

Listen to something beautiful. Enjoy the song of a bird, the kind voice of a friend, the hum of the dishwasher. Choose to listen to music that soothes your spirit and nurtures your soul. Avoid music that encourages violence, immorality, or unkindness, for that creates disharmony in our spirits.

Eliminate distractions. Turn off your cell phone, computer, or television set whenever possible and do something creative. Write in your journal. Paint. Sing a song. Learn a new skill. Consider the endless possibilities of living more simply and fully.

Find ways to live on less. Make a simple meal for dinner. Donate unused clothes to charity. Choose something fun to do that is free: go for a walk, play a board game, visit with friends. A simpler life is a richer life, for it frees us from the burdens of debt, anxiety, and greed. Leonardo da Vinci aptly said, "Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication."

Read something that inspires you.
We can change our lives by reading a great book, and they are free for the reading at any public library. Find some authors can inspire you to live your best life. I have been inspired by Wayne Dyer, Henry David Thoreau, Marianne Williamson, Mother Teresa, Thich Nhat Hanh, Catherine Marshall, and countless other writers. The Psalms are masterpieces of peace. A Chinese proverbs states, " A book is like a garden carried in the pocket."

Choose peace. We either choose peace or something else. Our every thought, word, and deed either brings us closer to peace or to turmoil. Decide that you will be content with your life just as it is. As you live in a spirit of gratitude, you attract greater abundance and peace into your life. I have discovered I can be happy in both meager and magnificent circumstances as I choose peace.

© Carol Brown

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Standing Strong in Difficult Times

Recently, my husband and I traveled to Carmel, California, and hiked out to a ledge where a lone cypress tree clung to a barren bluff by the ocean. As I enjoyed the magnificent beauty of the setting, I thought about how sometimes life is like that tree. As we hang onto faith, courage, and peace when the winds and trials of life buffet us, we become like this little tree, standing strong in difficult times.

My friend, Dianne, has discovered how to face great trials with faith and courage. Her recently published book, Our Journey of Hope, inspires me to hang onto hope when life seems bleak and hopeless. This is Dianne's description of their journey, "What would you do if doctors declared you only had twelve months to live? What is the measure of a man who defies that disheartening declaration for over ten years without remission? In "Our Journey of Hope" I share our story of how my husband kept fighting cancer and living life. He dealt with many surgeries and setbacks but continued to move forward with courage, optimism, and faith. The epilogue shares personal lessons learned from our immediate family, including Ford, myself, our children, their spouses, and our older grandchildren. Twenty people personally connected to Ford's battle with cancer express their feelings and faith about Ford, family, and God's plan for us all."

Dianne's husband, Ford, has a few days left in this life. I visited with Dianne a few days ago before my husband and I left on a business trip and was again amazed by her strength and serenity. Amid the sorrow of caring for her husband during his final days on this earth, she exudes peace and hope: hope for a better world where Ford will no longer suffer, hope that the Lord will sustain her as a widow, and hope that God will continue to carry them both in their new journeys. If you know anyone who is dealing with cancer, this book may provide them comfort and courage.

Les Brown said, "Just because fate doesn't deal you the right cards, it doesn't mean you should give up. It just means you have to play the cards you get to their maximum potential." Ford and Dianne have done just that. I love this quote by Maya Angelou, "One isn't necessarily born with courage, but one is born with potential. Without courage, we cannot practice any other virtue with consistency. We can't be kind, true, merciful, generous, or honest."

May you find peace amid the struggles you face. May you find inside yourself the courage to endure trials and disappointments, and may you stand strong as you place your trust in a Higher Power.

© Carol Brown

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Finding Peace through Gratitude

Nothing brings us peace faster than showing gratitude to others and to God and showing compassion to yourself and others through forgiveness. Today, thank someone. Forgive someone. Notice the peace that gratitude and mercy bring.

Consider who you can thank:

• Your parents for giving you life

• Your children for allowing you to be a parent

• Your friends for standing beside you when times are difficult

• Your enemies for teaching you how to love

• Your neighbors for allowing you to be charitable

• Strangers who allow you to serve even the “least of these” among us and who teach us that everyone is truly a child of God

• Teachers who care

• Cashiers, babysitters, maids, waiters and waitresses who work so tirelessly and make such a difference in the world

• Leaders who serve with love and integrity

• Everyone who has blessed or does bless your life in small and great ways

Now, think of someone who can forgive:

• A parent who was less than perfect

• Yourself for being less than perfect

• Your friends who aren’t always there when you need them

• Your enemies who often know not what they do

• Your neighbors who are not always charitable

• Strangers who are not always kind

• Teachers who do not care

• Others who have harmed us in small and great ways

Showing gratitude. Forgiving someone. Such small acts make such a big difference in our lives. Such small acts that create a heaven on earth. Such small acts that can heal broken hearts and bring us peace.

© Carol Brown

Monday, October 4, 2010

Choose Peace

Our thoughts either steal our peace or give us peace. Recent brain research have proved that our brains can be retrained and that we can change from stressful to serene thinking. Consider how the following types of thoughts can destroy one's peace:

• Holding onto grudges and grievances

• Refusing to forgive yourself

• Self-pity

• Believing no one loves you or cares about you

• Feeling unappreciated

• Remembering negative thoughts or experiencing

• Focusing on the things you don’t have

• Noticing the faults in yourself and others

By studying peace and living in harmony with thoughts and actions that foster peace, we can move from a life filled with stress and misery to one filled with happiness and joy. Consider how the following thoughts and attitudes can create peace:

• Letting go of grudges and grievances

• Forgiving yourself

• Celebrating your life

• Experiencing God’s infinite love for you personally and for all of His children

• Appreciating others

• Remembering positives thoughts and experiences

• Focusing on the things you do have

• Noticing the things that you and others do well

• Letting go of grudges and grievances

• Forgiving yourself

• Celebrating your life

• Experiencing God’s infinite love for you personally and for all of His children

• Appreciating others

• Remembering positives thoughts and experiences

• Focusing on things you do have

• Noticing the things that you and others do well

• Expressing gratitude

Today, choose peace.

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others."--Marianne Williamson

© Carol Brown

Friday, October 1, 2010

Happy for No Reason

Marci Shimoff in her book Happy for No Reason, writes:

"One evening a Cherokee elder told his grandson about the battle that goes on inside of people. He said, 'My son, the battle is between the two 'wolves' that live inside us all. One is Unhappiness. It is fear, worry, anger, jealousy, sorrow, self-pity, resentment, and inferiority. The other is Happiness. It is joy, love, hope, serenity, kindness, generosity, truth, and compassion.'

"The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, 'Which wolf wins?'

"The old Cherokee simply replied, 'The one you feed.'"

According to scientists we have about 60,000 thoughts a day, 95 percent of which are the same thought you had yesterday. For the average person, 80 percent of those habitual thoughts are negative. That means that every day we think 45,000 negative thoughts!

The good news is, we can retrain our brains! Here are a few ways we do this:

• We can focus on positive images, thoughts, and sounds instead of negative ones.

• We can condition our minds to celebrate the beauty around us.

• We can journal about the good things in our lives.

[Ms. Shimoff says that Dr. Robert Emmons at the University of Southern California found that those who wrote about things they were grateful for on a weekly basis enjoyed better health and were happier than a control group who did not keep journals.]

• We can remember positive statements. Here are a few of my favorites:

This, too, will pass.

With God all things are possible.

I am a beloved child of God who loves me infinitely.

I can do all things through Christ Jesus who strengthens me

We can rewire our brains by consciously changing our thinking patterns. Our brains our very plastic, and we can train them to think thoughts that bring us happiness. Ms Shimoff says, "When you're happy for no reason, you bring happiness to your outer experiences rather than trying to extract happiness from them. You don't need to manipulate the world around you to try to make yourself happy. You live from happiness, rather than for happiness."

© Carol Brown