4 Important Lessons You Learn Through Difficult Times, by MAURA HUGHES

While difficult times can feel like a deep dark hole that we can’t escape and we often wonder “Why is this happening to me?”, there is a silver lining to tough times. It’s through the difficult times in our life, that we are able to grow. It’s when we are tested that we are able to rise, push through and come out the other side stronger, braver and bet

No one wants to struggle. No one wants to even admit their struggling. We all want to have Photoshopped versions of our own lives that fit perfectly into an Instagram square. But life does not work like that. Every one of us will be faced with a variety of tough times in their life. It is one of the few things we can really count on.

The truth is, there are some important lessons in life that we are only taught through difficult times and they can become the silver lining to the darkness.

1. Who your real friends are.

It’s an unfortunate and often time brutal truth to learn that someone we once thought would be there no matter can’t be counted on. Difficult times have a unique way of trimming off the fat in our lives. If someone does not truly care, they will not make the effort to be there. End of story. The realization that someone you love doesn’t make you a priority can knock you off your feet but it will save you time and energy that would have been spent trying to be there for them in the future. Eventually, you will learn who really matters, you will be grateful for them and you will have cleared out some emotional space for someone who will be there for you, through thick and thin.

2. The depth of your strength.

“It builds character,” was my mom’s favorite response to any complaint I had growing up. As annoying as that line was, it is true. Nothing builds our strength like surviving difficulty. Nothing forces us to leverage what we have, dig deep and come up with every ounce of integrity, patience and strength like a hard time. When you survive something, your internal scoreboard registers it. Imagine as if your internal synapses are pushing an extra win into your win/loss column and the next time you go into battle, your will take an inventory of what your winning record is and bulk up your confidence that you can survive and thrive, no matter what you are facing.

3. What really matters in life. 

Difficult times tend to turn our worlds upside down and anything that is nailed down to the floor will go flying. Sometimes it’s comforting to know what actually does stick, what is still hanging in there after the world goes awry. Because when we’re right side up again, we’ll be able to look a little more closely at those things, take a bit better care of them and love them even more for being unmovable. Most of us spend most of our days worrying about everything but what we should be worrying about. But after a difficult time, we’re less likely to worry as much about the little things and focusing on those unmovable pieces in our life that really matter.

4. How to be grateful. 

Difficult times leave us with a lasting impression. They alter us and change the way we view our lives. We have learned who and what matters in our life and undoubtedly we have a greater appreciation for them. Surviving hardship gives us a broader perspective on what hardship really is. You will look back on the things you use to complain about and be thankful they are your only worries. After we have survived a difficult time, we are given a deep gratitude for our life.

Difficult times will happen. To find the light, we have to go through the darkness and while you’re in the midst of it, try to take a deep breath and remember that the lessons you are learning will shift your view of life. You will learn what matters, who matters, how strong you are and how lucky you are to exist. That’s what difficult times teach us and they are some of the most important lessons we can ever learn.

Original Post; http://www.purposefairy.com/80874/4-important-lessons-you-learn-through-difficult-times/

Loss: A Journey Of Survival

Dealing with loss is never an easy process.  It can take the joy right out of your soul in seconds, and change everything you have every know.   It can even change you.  Are you ever the same after losing someone?

There are all kinds of loss.  Loss of a parents, grandparents, siblings, children, friends.  Loss of ideas, concepts, and hopes.  Loss of dignity, pride and self.  It doesn’t matter whom, or what the loss is, it all ends in the same way – pain, confusion, hurt, anger.  It can put us in a very dark place.  A place that is there which leaves us questioning our meaning of existence, our beliefs, and ourselves.

I’ve had a lot of losses in my life.  My first “loss” was when my parents divorced.  I was six years old and I remember the time period – it stands still in my mind.  It’s a whirlwind of events, but for some reason the moments I remember are played so slowly.  My parents were just not meant to be, and I clearly understand that now, as a grown woman, but as a little girl my world was shattered.  I remember asking my Dad to stay in my room so that I could sleep.  I asked him to sit beside me for nights because I feared losing him.  I feared waking up and not finding him there anymore – not knowing where he went.  Life as I knew it was different from the rest of my friends and I was scared.  I did not understand the concept of Mommy and Daddy not being together anymore.  What did that mean for me?

Years later I lost my Grandfather. This was the first time I had physically lost someone.  I lived in a different city, and remember the phone call from my Dad.  Hearing words of loss is never easy.  Trying to figure out how to deal with it is something that you are unaware of when you are 13 years old.  I cried, as I hurt.  I lost my Grandpa – which little girl doesn’t cry?  I was a child still.

Love is stronger than death even though it can’t stop death from happening, but no matter how hard death tries it can’t separate people from love. It can’t take away our memories either. In the end, life is stronger than death.” ~ Unknown

1998 was one of my most challenging years.  I was working with elderly people.  Loss was inevitable in this job.  It was also the year that my Step-Dad and Grandma were both diagnosed with cancer.  I remember that summer being filled with confusion, and many tears.  Cancer is a hellish disease.  I thought I was “trained”.  My medical experiences had prepared me.  I had a full understanding of how this disease would take its toll, and take the very life from my loved ones.  Watching them die in front of you is much different from receiving news on the phone – I took a leave of absence from my job and devoted my time, knowledge, experience and love to both of these people, my family members.  I took over palliative care – spent nights in the Cancer Agency, and palliative care homes. My efforts of love and devotion could not win the battles that were in their lives, and eight weeks apart was just too much for me.  I looked at death in a different way now – I was scared of it, and it had its control on my life.  I was scared to drive, I was scared of my loved ones driving,  I was scared of accidents, I was scared of disease.  I went so far as to not order food from a restaurant for delivery for fear of something happening to the delivery man and me being responsible for taking away someone from this earth who was loved my friends and family in their lives.  I was scared of everything in this world that would potentially take away someone I knew, someone I cared for, or worse – someone I loved.

One could say I did not handle this well … and nearly 20 years later I still feel scared of death.  I’ve lost more friends, and family.  And each time it takes away my faith in reality in this whole life process.

If you don’t realize the source, you stumble in confusion and sorrow. When you realize where you come from, you naturally become tolerant, disinterested, amused, kindhearted as a grandmother, dignified as a king. You can deal with whatever life brings you, and when death comes, you are ready. Lao Tzu

And then loss, at its finest … miscarriage.  This is not only a physical loss, but this is an emotional loss.  Horrific, and indescribable.  I have had two successful pregnancies between 2011 – 2013 and have two beautiful boys.  Why would I think that this would happen to me?  But apparently,”This is common”, they would tell me.  “We are surprised this has not happened to you yet!”, another would say.  Wait? What?  Am I really hearing this?  The idea of not seeing my babies heartbeat on my ultrasound, or feeling them kick and move in my belly was sad enough, but the reality of “what could have been” broke my heart to pieces.  What would my baby have looked like?  What would she, or he have grown up to love?  Would they have had the most beautiful smile, just like my two boys?  What caused this?  Was it me?  Was is God’s plan?  Was I being punished?  What did I do wrong to deserve this? Am a I horrible person?  What did I do in my past live to deserve this?  Did someone hate me so much that they wished this upon me?

My baby would have been born last week, and so i’ve sat here going through the motions and trying to understand loss a little better.  Making an effort for Loss and I to become pal’s so I can empathize a little easier.  What is it that causes us the tears, that horrible ache in your heart, the feeling that causes those uncontrollable tears.  Because my mind wants to identify it, and grab it and throw it away and never think of it again, or do I?  If I am able to figure out what I can do to block those emotions does that make me a horrible person?  Heartless?

There is a sacredness in tears. They are not the mark of weakness, but of power. They speak more eloquently than ten thousand tongues. They are messengers of overwhelming grief… and unspeakable love.  ~ Washington Irving

I realize now that it is nothing that anyone can prepare for, prevent, or even accept gracefully.  Loss is horrible, and it breaks you down.  Only time can heal, and that is because of the distance it creates between you, and when it happened.  Time … will eventually heal all losses.

And after the tears stop I sit back and think just how lucky I am to be alive and to have experienced all of these memories, especially the ones that hurt so much, the losses that broke me into pieces, and tore my soul apart.  I pick up the mess I have turned into, and I remind myself that I hurt because I loved so much, because I cared so much, because I let things matter to me from the deepest parts of my being … because at the end of the day what it comes down to is that some people are never this lucky.  I am blessed.

 

 

 

Good Riddance; Letting Go and Moving Forward

With each year, as we approach the closing of the year, we begin to reflect on life reminiscing about the past years adventure, contemplating the things that we had hoped to experience, or move away from.  Every year is the same story – we have 365 days to try to get it right.  Some of us go full force with guns blazing, and others of us get sidetracked, or simply give up.  Unsuccessful, you learn to accept that some challenges were not met head on, and prioritize them into your current set of goals in the new year to come.

Every year I have the intention to work on “me” – convincing myself to let go of things that hurt or caused me to feel in a negative manner, and figure out better, more cathartic methods, of trying to overcome obstacles in my life.

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The past few years have been devoted to learning how to balance family, friends, and my career.  It has not been easy.  Each day I work through how to put 150% effort into each of these really important things in my life … there never seems to be a cut and dry answer, and sadly when I do have days when I feel like life is feeling balanced, and my efforts are evenly distributed amongst my family, friends, and career, I find that the one thing I do forget about is myself.

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My goals for the past year included finding a job that I dreamed of – being in an environment that I not only loved, but felt comfortable, challenged, and motivated.  I wanted a job I was passionate about, and not just a job that I would “settle” at.  

My family goals were to be a better mother, and wife – which, I am still not sure exactly what that means.  Does that mean I smile more so than not? or am I just never grumpy, or bitchy towards my husband? 

My friends goal was to weed out the manipulative, negative, and hurtful persons, and get closer to the ones that I felt had a more authentic, genuine, and loyal persona.  The biggest challenge over the past two years  was being disappointed in people’s expectations of me, and individuals lack of loyalty and respect towards the friendships that I shared with them.  I am sensitivite to things that are said to me, or behind my back.  I am an emotional being, as most of us are, and have let things take effect on me far more than they ever had the right to be in my world.  Slowly I am learning that i’ve kept far too many negative people in my life for much longer than they should have ever been there for.  It wasn’t “them” that was doing something to me, it was “me” allowing these individuals the “right” to be in my world.  Unlearning the rule of “be nice to everyone” was difficult because I felt that it was going against all of what I knew to be “right” – what God taught, what elders preached.

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Did I get it right last year?  when I sit here and write out my view on where I started, and ended in 2015 I feel like there was a progression.  But do I feel 100% satisfied?  No.  I think that goals are great, and working on creating a better, positive, and more fulfilling life, in general, is a healthy thing to desire.  There is nothing wrong with wanting the best for yourself.  It is not selfish when you want the best version of your life – creating this will make you a better person in return.  There is always room for improvement, and that is one of the beautiful things about this life – we have the right to create our own choices – our own path, and our own destination.

Each year we have the chance to start over again, to move forward from the hurt, the lessons, the challenges, and try to do it right. Celebrate the accomplishments you made this year, and reevaluate where you would want to be a year from now.  Hold yourself accountable for what you want in your life, and make it happen.  In a few days you will be able to close the door on this chapter, and move forward into the next.  What you choose to bring with you is up to you – take life lightly, love with all of your will, and remember to make yourself a priority in 2016 xo

2016 New Year celebration display with the date outlined with fiery sparklers in green and blue on a black background

 

 

 

 

 

Quality over Quantity: The Re-evaluation Of Friendships At Face Value

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This past year has been extremely busy and challenging.  No one can predict what life will hand you.  It has taught me not only about myself, but has shown me much about the friendships that I have in my life.

It has shown me that not everything is in my control.  That my personal best is my own form of “perfection” and that was something that I desperately needed to wrap my head around and accept.
It has shown me the characteristics in friendships that mean so much to me – the things that I need and deserve in my life.  The things, that without, would be deal breakers:
Supportive people who do not look for gains or opportunities to benefit themselves, or take advantage of others in any way shape or form.
Loyal people who will say what they need to your face rather than behind my back.  We always find things out, so it’s just best to say it to their face.
Empathetic people who understand that I do not have any time for myself but are still okay with a friendship that has been reduced to a few random emails, phone calls, or text messages – because THAT is the ONLY amount of time I have in the day to spend on “myself”.   I miss my girly dates and I wish to have more of them in the future!
Face Value – what you see is what you get.  There are no games, there is no hidden agenda, there is no stress.  The friendship is just “easy”.  It’s real.  It’s safe.
Authentic people who genuinely care for my wellbeing -they don’t make me feel guilty, or insufficient as a friend.  They make efforts to maintain a friendship that may seem one-sided at times without making you feel stressed out.  You know you can count on them in a heartbeat before you even need to ask.  They realize that sometimes things are unbalanced, but they just let you know it’s okay to just be yourself.
To those people in my life, THANK YOU.  Thank you for being a QUALITY friend.  For showing, unselfishly, what a real and true friend is.  For lifting me up when I feel like a failure as a friend, or mother and for bringing positivity back into the word friendship, because, let’s face it – there are not many of you “quality” people out there.
You are God’s personal angels.  It is his way of whispering in my ear and letting me know that I really am going to be okay in this life – and everything will work out as planned even when life feels chaotic xo

No Bad Days: Getting Over Emotional Hurdles

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Do you ever have those days where no matter how hard you try, no matter how many positive affirmations you mumble under your breath, no matter how many minute of silence you sit in meditation, no matter how many ways you look at a situation … it’s just an “off” day?

A few months ago I found myself pulled into some involuntary drama.  It wasn’t out of anything less than support for my best friend as she found out her husband was cheating on her.  Needless to say I was there, without any hesitation, for weeks and weeks of crying and figuring where her life would go from there.  I support her no matter what but boy oh boy was I left feeling like I was mentally drained, in emotional chaos, and in a huge bundle of mess that I didn’t even know how to begin to evacuate these negative feelings.

Was it because I had previously gone thru the same issue in past relationships, was it that I was that empathetic that I could feel her emotions?  I don’t know, all I know is that I felt drained and it’s a rut that has taken a long time to get out of – months.  I feel like I am still being pulled under the current … not a specific reason, or something I can place my finger on … it’s just a feeling of negativity, lonliness and sorrow that stemmed from the beginning of those specific events.

One could argue that at seven months pregnant my hormones would be the culprit for this one … but nah, that wouldn’t be fair to blame as I should be in charge of my mental state, right?

I saw a post today and it resonated with me … I felt that it was the higher beings way of saying, “Hey, you … stop being so damn selfish. Snap out of your mood and put on your big girl pants.  Your life is great – take a look”… and in an instance I had to agree with my subconcious … it was right … again!

I have a loyal and devoted husband.  Albeit I could argue endlessly about his domestic capabilities, but that’s a battle not worth fighting in the grand scheme of things.  I have a son, so innocent, that loves me without boundaries.  I am his all, and everything… and I have a loyal dog, and a beautiful baby boy on the way!  What more could a girl ask for, really!

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I read this, and I say to myself.  Pink is my favorite colour.  Life is good.  I have all I could possibily need in the form of my family.  I don’t need anything else in this world in order to survive because I have everything that money cannot buy, and I am one lucky girl!

Today, I will walk outside, breath in the fresh air and thank god that I have my family, my health, and my life.  I will pull myself out of this rut and remind myself of who I am, and where I want to be.  Im living it, right now, and that’s more than enough for me to be thankful for!

My Secret Life: Chronicles Of An Enlightened Me

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Growing up in a very religious family I never gave my beliefs a second thought, after all, the religion I grew up with was the only one I knew so in my mind it was the only thing that existed in the world.  Everyone in the world was Lutheran.  My uncles were pastors.  All of my relatives on my maternal side were devoted to the church in one way or another – pastors, the wife of a pastor, children of pastors.

Right on queue, I was baptized as an infant, weeks old.  Enrolled into a Lutheran private school from pre-school through grade 7, followed by a private highschool.  Confirmed at the age of 13.  I went to church every Sunday.  Taught vacation bible school (religious summer day camp for elementary level  children).  I lived the life of a “good” Christian child.

My mother “officially” wore the title of black sheep when she and my father were married.  My mother, a French Canadian of Irish and German decent.  My father, born Canadian of Japanese decent.  The “black sheep” title was kicked up a notch when my parents divorced.  I was 6.  This was definitely frowned upon by my extended family, and the church.  We all  felt it.  Afterall, my mother did marry a Japanese Canadian.  My maternal (German) Grandfather’s very own words,”You should marry one of your own”!  I loved him to death, but never could grasp those words … after all, how could you love me when I was a combination of all of the things you did not want to accept?  Culturally I felt that I did not identify with any one race … was I “white”, was I “asian”.  My life was a bit confusing to me.

When I enrolled in college I found myself in a public school system with public school system friends.  My “religion” was no longer thought of morning, noon and night.  I was now viewed as the “black sheep” of the family.  I was not the daughter of a pastor.  I skipped curfews, got caught experimenting with alcohol in my late teens, a tad rebelious I suppose.   I had many friends that were of many different religions; Hindu, Jehovah, Catholic, Orthodox, Sikh, Atheists, Buddhists … the list goes on.  What?  How can these all exist?  Afterall, there’s only one religion … Lutheran, right?

It can all be so overwhelming to people when they try to understand religion, or make sense of all of them.  What I have found when trying to see where the common denominator was is that they are very common, more common that one would think.  Religion and beliefs are everywhere.  One commonality that I noticed was that most of the religions I heard of had a person/ God/ higher being who was the main focus.  The next thing that followed were the rules you were to obey.

My spiritual journey led me to a faith that couldn’t be summed up in one title.  Sure, I believed in a “God” or a higher being, but I didn’t know who I was referring to – God, Jesus, Allah, Buddha? … they all seemed similar to me and all of them were trying to better a person from their own points of view.  I felt at “home” with the faith of my paternal Grandfather – the Buddhist faith.  Now, when I refer to Buddhism I should clarify that I am by no means a monk.  I am a married women. I drink wine and on occasion I eat non vegetarian meals.  I am a mother with a beautiful son and one child on the way so clearly I have been intimate with my husband.   The fundamental core of Buddhism, the Four Noble Truths and the Noble Eightfold Path, do not have any mention of any god(s) or any notion of worship of any deity. They are purely ethical and meditative guidelines based on the truths of psychological suffering due to human existence. 

The Four Noble Truths

1. Life means suffering.

To live means to suffer, because the human nature is not perfect and neither is the world we live in. During our lifetime, we inevitably have to endure physical suffering such as pain, sickness, injury, tiredness, old age, and eventually death; and we have to endure psychological suffering like sadness, fear, frustration, disappointment, and depression. Although there are different degrees of suffering and there are also positive experiences in life that we perceive as the opposite of suffering, such as ease, comfort and happiness, life in its totality is imperfect and incomplete, because our world is subject to impermanence. This means we are never able to keep permanently what we strive for, and just as happy moments pass by, we ourselves and our loved ones will pass away one day, too.

2. The origin of suffering is attachment.

The origin of suffering is attachment to transient things and the ignorance thereof. Transient things do not only include the physical objects that surround us, but also ideas, and in a greater sense all objects of our perception. Ignorance is the lack of understanding of how our mind is attached to impermanent things. The reasons for suffering are desire, passion, ardour, pursuit of wealth and prestige, striving for fame and popularity, or in short: craving and clinging. Because the objects of our attachment are transient, their loss is inevitable, thus suffering will necessarily follow. Objects of attachment also include the idea of a “self” which is a delusion, because there is no abiding self. What we call “self” is just an imagined entity, and we are merely a part of the ceaseless becoming of the universe.

3. The cessation of suffering is attainable.

The cessation of suffering can be attained through nirodha. Nirodha means the unmaking of sensual craving and conceptual attachment. The third noble truth expresses the idea that suffering can be ended by attaining dispassion. Nirodha extinguishes all forms of clinging and attachment. This means that suffering can be overcome through human activity, simply by removing the cause of suffering. Attaining and perfecting dispassion is a process of many levels that ultimately results in the state of Nirvana. Nirvana means freedom from all worries, troubles, complexes, fabrications and ideas. Nirvana is not comprehensible for those who have not attained it.

4. The path to the cessation of suffering.

There is a path to the end of suffering – a gradual path of self-improvement, which is described more detailed in the Eightfold Path. It is the middle way between the two extremes of excessive self-indulgence (hedonism) and excessive self-mortification (asceticism); and it leads to the end of the cycle of rebirth. The latter quality discerns it from other paths which are merely “wandering on the wheel of becoming”, because these do not have a final object. The path to the end of suffering can extend over many lifetimes, throughout which every individual rebirth is subject to karmic conditioning. Craving, ignorance, delusions, and its effects will disappear gradually, as progress is made on the path.

The Noble Eightfold Path

The Noble Eightfold Path describes the way to the end of suffering, as it was laid out by Siddhartha Gautama. It is a practical guideline to ethical and mental development with the goal of freeing the individual from attachments and delusions; and it finally leads to understanding the truth about all things. Together with the Four Noble Truths it constitutes the gist of Buddhism. Great emphasis is put on the practical aspect, because it is only through practice that one can attain a higher level of existence and finally reach Nirvana. The eight aspects of the path are not to be understood as a sequence of single steps, instead they are highly interdependent principles that have to be seen in relationship with each other.

1. Right View

Right view is the beginning and the end of the path, it simply means to see and to understand things as they really are and to realise the Four Noble Truth. As such, right view is the cognitive aspect of wisdom. It means to see things through, to grasp the impermanent and imperfect nature of worldly objects and ideas, and to understand the law of karma and karmic conditioning. Right view is not necessarily an intellectual capacity, just as wisdom is not just a matter of intelligence. Instead, right view is attained, sustained, and enhanced through all capacities of mind. It begins with the intuitive insight that all beings are subject to suffering and it ends with complete understanding of the true nature of all things. Since our view of the world forms our thoughts and our actions, right view yields right thoughts and right actions.

2. Right Intention

While right view refers to the cognitive aspect of wisdom, right intention refers to the volitional aspect, i.e. the kind of mental energy that controls our actions. Right intention can be described best as commitment to ethical and mental self-improvement. Buddha distinguishes three types of right intentions: 1. the intention of renunciation, which means resistance to the pull of desire, 2. the intention of good will, meaning resistance to feelings of anger and aversion, and 3. the intention of harmlessness, meaning not to think or act cruelly, violently, or aggressively, and to develop compassion.

3. Right Speech

Right speech is the first principle of ethical conduct in the eightfold path. Ethical conduct is viewed as a guideline to moral discipline, which supports the other principles of the path. This aspect is not self-sufficient, however, essential, because mental purification can only be achieved through the cultivation of ethical conduct. The importance of speech in the context of Buddhist ethics is obvious: words can break or save lives, make enemies or friends, start war or create peace. Buddha explained right speech as follows: 1. to abstain from false speech, especially not to tell deliberate lies and not to speak deceitfully, 2. to abstain from slanderous speech and not to use words maliciously against others, 3. to abstain from harsh words that offend or hurt others, and 4. to abstain from idle chatter that lacks purpose or depth. Positively phrased, this means to tell the truth, to speak friendly, warm, and gently and to talk only when necessary.

4. Right Action

The second ethical principle, right action, involves the body as natural means of expression, as it refers to deeds that involve bodily actions. Unwholesome actions lead to unsound states of mind, while wholesome actions lead to sound states of mind. Again, the principle is explained in terms of abstinence: right action means 1. to abstain from harming sentient beings, especially to abstain from taking life (including suicide) and doing harm intentionally or delinquently, 2. to abstain from taking what is not given, which includes stealing, robbery, fraud, deceitfulness, and dishonesty, and 3. to abstain from sexual misconduct. Positively formulated, right action means to act kindly and compassionately, to be honest, to respect the belongings of others, and to keep sexual relationships harmless to others. Further details regarding the concrete meaning of right action can be found in the Precepts.

5. Right Livelihood

Right livelihood means that one should earn one’s living in a righteous way and that wealth should be gained legally and peacefully. The Buddha mentions four specific activities that harm other beings and that one should avoid for this reason: 1. dealing in weapons, 2. dealing in living beings (including raising animals for slaughter as well as slave trade and prostitution), 3. working in meat production and butchery, and 4. selling intoxicants and poisons, such as alcohol and drugs. Furthermore any other occupation that would violate the principles of right speech and right action should be avoided.

6. Right Effort

Right effort can be seen as a prerequisite for the other principles of the path. Without effort, which is in itself an act of will, nothing can be achieved, whereas misguided effort distracts the mind from its task, and confusion will be the consequence. Mental energy is the force behind right effort; it can occur in either wholesome or unwholesome states. The same type of energy that fuels desire, envy, aggression, and violence can on the other side fuel self-discipline, honesty, benevolence, and kindness. Right effort is detailed in four types of endeavours that rank in ascending order of perfection: 1. to prevent the arising of unarisen unwholesome states, 2. to abandon unwholesome states that have already arisen, 3. to arouse wholesome states that have not yet arisen, and 4. to maintain and perfect wholesome states already arisen.

7. Right Mindfulness

Right mindfulness is the controlled and perfected faculty of cognition. It is the mental ability to see things as they are, with clear consciousness. Usually, the cognitive process begins with an impression induced by perception, or by a thought, but then it does not stay with the mere impression. Instead, we almost always conceptualize sense impressions and thoughts immediately. We interpret them and set them in relation to other thoughts and experiences, which naturally go beyond the facticity of the original impression. The mind then posits concepts, joins concepts into constructs, and weaves those constructs into complex interpretative schemes. All this happens only half-consciously, and as a result we often see things obscured. Right mindfulness is anchored in clear perception and it penetrates impressions without getting carried away. Right mindfulness enables us to be aware of the process of conceptualization in a way that we actively observe and control the way our thoughts go. Buddha accounted for this as the four foundations of mindfulness: 1. contemplation of the body, 2. contemplation of feeling (repulsive, attractive, or neutral), 3. contemplation of the state of mind, and 4. contemplation of the phenomena.

8. Right Concentration

The eighth principle of the path, right concentration, refers to the development of a mental force that occurs in natural consciousness, although at a relatively low-level of intensity, namely concentration. Concentration in this context is described as one-pointedness of mind, meaning a state where all mental faculties are unified and directed onto one particular object. Right concentration for the purpose of the eightfold path means wholesome concentration, i.e. concentration on wholesome thoughts and actions. The Buddhist method of choice to develop right concentration is through the practice of meditation. The meditating mind focuses on a selected object. It first directs itself onto it, then sustains concentration, and finally intensifies concentration step by step. Through this practice it becomes natural to apply elevated levels concentration also in everyday situations.

When I read the philosophies I see that it is based merely on moral concepts.  Right versus wrong and the consequences of your actions, also known as karma.  I am not forced to believe in a “god”, I am not forced to believe in a set of rules  in which, if I disobey, I will thrown into the depths of hell.  In my interpretation Buddhism is a “soft” religion … a gentle hand guiding me along a route that will ultimately bring much more emotional satisfaction to my life.  Buddha was a simple man who strived to allow others to develop peace and love in their everyday life.  Simply put, suggestions to for one in order to obtain and live a peaceful and beautiful way of life.

In a nutshell, I have bonded with the philosophies that this religion has exposed me to.  I feel that I can identify with it.  It is such an interesting guide and has many facets that allow me to believe in whatever I want or choose to become.  Buddhism has guided me along by its “scriptures” but allowed me to make the final decisions in my day-to-day life.  Ultimately, allowing me to be me – whoever that may be!

The Sane Asylum: Peace Of Mind In A Chaotic World

Year after year I found myself questioning my sanity. Why was I always feeling overwhelmed, mentally exhausted, frustrated, anxious… the list went on. I just didn’t feel “right” .. like there was a heavy weight on my shoulders. A feeling like something was about to go wrong, all the time. I felt off-balance and foreign to myself.

I tried everything you could think of … spas, long walks, exercise, long drives, yoga, long baths, easy listening music, candles. I would feel better for the moment but honestly, nothing seemed to truly help. My mind was racing at mock speed and I was feeling mentally drained and unfulfilled in life.  After meeting my husband in 2006 I began a more spiritual journey.  He was someone I admired.  Cool and calm in all situations.  Chilled and relaxed.  Nothing seemed to bother this guys.  I envied what his mind must feel like and yearned to learn how his carefree outlook could be a learned behaviour by myself. It’s been a long work in progress, but one of the very few things that I have learned really helped me in achieving this was meditation.

At first I thought of meditation as “hokey” … What? You want me to sit in the middle of a room and “om”, and “chant” … you must be out of your mind!

Meditation has been around since the beginning of time and has played an important role in many traditions, religions, beliefs, and cultures.  In our Western society we seem to be bombarded with the stress of everyday existence.  So much so, that we spend most of our free time trying to find an “out”, or a way to “release” the stress we accumulate each day.  We spend any and all spare time we can by  running, yoga, walking, meditation etc.

In addition to my husbands chilled demeanour, my ancestry has also played a part in my spiritual awakening.  I am half Japanese and my Grandfather was Buddhist.  He passed on many years ago, as did my Grandmother.  I took my curiosities about the Buddhist faith and headed to the temple with a friend.  We arrived one morning on a day when the Monks were in prayer.  At first it was a little strange as I had never seen this in person.  After a few minutes, I found myself mesmerized by the euphoric sounds and tones and oddly enough, I was at peace.  God truly gave me a gift that day.

I left the temple feeling at peace.  My shoulders felt so light and I felt calm and relaxed.  Nothing could ruin my day, I was ready to conquer the world.  I wanted that feeling to last forever, but how?  Become a monk?

I was able to take a recording of the prayer home.  It was in the form of a portable recorder that the temple gave to individuals that day. I took it home and as I sat on my floor, cross-legged, I decided to turn it on.  I closed my eyes and focussed on my breathing.  After a few minutes of feeling odd, curious if my husband was going to burst into the room and wonder what I was doing, I began to feel at ease.  I was able to let go.  I was meditating.

When you meditate, you clear away the information overload that builds up every day and contributes to your stress.  Some of the benefits include:

  • Gaining a new perspective on stressful situations
  • Building skills to manage your stress
  • Increasing self-awareness
  • Focusing on the present
  • Reducing negative emotions

I made a conscious effort to spend time in meditation. I created my own little area with a beautiful table filled with a statue of Buddha, candles, asian wood carvings, insense, Buddhist prayer beads, and water that had been blessed by the monks that day .  It was my serene, calm peaceful place.  My very own meditation room.  Over time I noticed a marked improvement on my concentration, my anxiety, my level of stress on a day-to-day basis, my sleep.  The list went on.  It has also taught me a lot about patience … the technique of breathing in and breathing out.  This cannot be rushed.  You must slow everything down and learn to appreciate each second.  Allowing your stress inside of you to be exhaled with each release of air is truly cathartic.

My meditation room has now turned into my son’s bedroom but every night before I go to bed, as I lay in bed, I listen to meditative or calming ambient music and I focus on my breathing.  My affirmation goes a little something like this, “I have learned lessons from everything that God has put in my path today.  I learn from and keep the good.  I gather all of the negatives and breathe them out as I am now done with them.  I breathe in clean and pure energy, and release the negative.  Namaste“.

Taking time to decompress from the stresses of everyday life is something that every single one of us should learn to do.  We owe it to ourselves to take time to recharge and refocus our energies into a more positive mindset.  Meditation is just as important in our lives as daily physical fitness. If you haven’t tried it, I think you should.  Besides, you have nothing to lose, right?

“By sitting and mindfully breathing for ten minutes a day, in as little as eight weeks you strengthen the part of the prefrontal cortex involved in generating positive feelings and diminish the part that generates negative ones.” Richard Davidson, PhD.