How Your Birth Order Can Influence Who You Are August 14, 2013 No Comments

Here’s an article by George Dvorsky on birth order worth reading..

How Your Birth Order Can Influence Who You Are

GEORGE DVORSKY

As many parents can attest, siblings tend to be more different than alike. Some of this may be the result of our birth order, and how we’re subsequently raised. What’s more, birth order may influence our health and sexuality too. Here’s what you need to know about how your birth rank affects your life.

Birth order is an incredibly difficult area to study, and as such, is considered highly controversial.

There are so many factors to consider outside of a person’s familial rank by age, including the spacing in years between children, the total number of children in a family, socioeconomic status, the sex of siblings, and environmental circumstances during upbringing. It’s not easy to isolate traits that are dependent on birth order.

And indeed, a 1983 meta-study by Ernst and Angst, which looked at birth order studies done between 1946 and 1980, threw much of this area into question. Many psychologists, to this very day, minimize the role of birth order and its effects on our personalities. And the preponderance of conflicting literature on the matter hasn’t helped, either.

But over the course of the past four decades, psychologists have continued to look into the issue — and they’re discovering that there may in fact be something to it.

Birth Rank and Personality

Alfred Adler, a peer of Freud and Jung, was one of the first theorists to use birth-order position for assessing clients. But the most important modern psychologist to rigorously study the topic was MIT’s Frank Sulloway.

In his 1996 book, Born to Rebel, he considered five major personality traits, namely openness, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism. Birth rank, he argued, has an influence on all of them.

Sulloway showed that firstborns were more conformist, while laterborns were more creative and more likely to reject the status quo. He also made the case that people tend to have more in common with someone of their own birth rank than their own siblings.

This seminal book, while celebrated by many, also kindled a firestorm of controversy. Researchers like Jeremy Freese attacked Sulloway’s methodology, accusing him of manipulating of the data. Since the publication of Born to Rebel, there have been hundreds upon hundreds of studies exploring the topic, with conclusions spanning the gamut.

But back in 2010, in a much-needed update to the Ernst and Angst meta-study, Daniel Eckstein and colleagues decided to do another exhaustive analysis of the existing literature. They looked at the results of 200 birth-order studies to see if any consistency could be found in lifestyle characteristics. They discovered that some personality characteristics were indeed being consistently matched according to birth rank.

First-borns, they learned, tend to experience high success and achievement. Only-borns desire achievement. Middle-borns are highly sociable. And the youngest children have a pronounced desire for a social life.

Looking at other studies, there appears to be a connection between birth order and career interests. A 2001 study showed that laterborn children go in the direction of arts and outdoor related careers, while onlyborns, and possibly firstborns, tend to prefer intellectual pursuits. The researchers aren’t saying that it’s an inborn, genetic effect, but rather something that’s enforced by parental guidance.

Relatedly, birth order position also appears to influence our competitiveness. Researchers have found that firstborns pursue “mastery goals,” where competence is determined by others.

 

Psychologist Bernd Carette writes:

These results are in line with the notion that, presumably due to a differential treatment by their parents during early childhood, firstborns prefer self-referenced standards to evaluate their competence. That is, they approach tasks with the desire to develop knowledge, skills, and task mastery. On the other hand, secondborns tend to evaluate their competence in terms of other-referenced standards. They are more strongly inclined to approach tasks with the desire to demonstrate competence relative to others.

Interestingly, birth rank also affects how dominant and extroverted we are. A recent study showed that firstborns show more of the dominance side of extraversion, while laterborns exhibit more of the sociability aspects of extroversion. Firstborns, it would seem, are actually less dominant or assertive than laterborns. The researchers suspect that strict and overprotective parenting of firstborns may be the reason, which causes them to grow up submissive.

Depends On Who You Ask — And When

A 1998 Canadian study, after looking at 1,022 families, found that firstborns are more conservative, more achieving, and more conscientious. Laterborns were assessed as being more rebellious, liberal, and agreeable. But these results came in from intra-family assessments — and that’s a potential problem.

For example, a different study found that people outside the family, such as spouses, friends, and peers, provide different evaluations — which often show none of the expected birth-order differences!

Which is not a complete surprise. It’s possible, if not blazingly obvious, that personality assessments are inherently problematic by virtue of the fact that people behave differently around different people. What’s more, family dynamics will have an impact on both behavior and perception — including characteristics that don’t get seen or expressed outside the family context. So, while birth order has a measurable impact on personalities and the perception of them within a family, it’s an effect that may not often transcend the immediate family environment

What’s more, as Michael E. Lamb and Brian Sutton-Smith have argued, sibling relationships evolve over the course of a lifetime. They’re continually adjusting to changing dynamics and circumstances — adjusting to competing demands of society and inherent biology.

Intelligence

One particularly controversial area of birth order studies is the ongoing debate about intelligence. Firstborns consistently rank higher on intelligence tests. The going theory is that they get more attention and resources from parents.

Indeed, Robert Zajonc says that firstborn children are almost exclusively exposed to adult language, whereas laterborn children experience the less mature, childish speech of their older siblings. This may subsequently explain why firstborns tend to score higher on tests of verbal ability. As for non-firstborns, their older sibling(s) frequently assume the role of parents, answering their questions and offering perspectives, albeit less capably.

Other factors, of course, include socioeconomic status (the smaller the family, the more time and resources that can go around; also, large families tend to fall within lower socioeconomic groups). As well, the age of the mother at the time of birth also appears to be a factor (younger moms tend to be less educated, have lower incomes, and are more capable of producing larger families).

Sexuality

Not surprisingly, birth order can also influence our relationships. In 2009, Timothy Hartshorne and his team showed that, similar to Sulloway, people have a lot in common with people of their own birth ranks. Furthermore, the psychologists found that we’re more likely to form long-term platonic and romantic relationships with other people of the same birth order — an effect the researchers say cannot be explained by other factors, such as family size.

Studies have also shown that sexual orientation correlates with a man’s number of older brothers. And in fact, each additional older brother increases the odds of homosexuality by about 33%.

The going theory is that mothers become increasingly immune to certain antibodies with each subsequent pregnancy. Accordingly, the anti H-Y antibodies produced by the mother during a pregnancy pass through the placental barrier to the fetus, which in turn affects various aspects of sexual orientation in the fetal brain.

A follow-up study by the same research team noted:

The results indicate that the proportion of homosexual men whose sexual orientation is attributable to fraternal birth order constitutes a minority, but not a negligible minority, of all homosexual men. The fraternal birth order effect may reflect the progressive immunization of some mothers to Y-linked antigens by each succeeding male fetus, and the concomitantly increasing effects of antimale antibodies on the sexual differentiation of the brain in each succeeding male fetus. Interestingly, only biological older brother’s predict men’s sexual orientation, strongly suggesting a prenatal origin to the fraternal birth-order effect.

 

Health

Birth order can also have an impact in unexpected areas.

For example, researchers found that firstborn children have a greater difficulty absorbing sugars into the blood and have a higher daytime blood pressure than later born children. Firstborns, therefore, may be at a greater risk of metabolic and cardiovascular diseases in adult life. They surmise that this difference may be attributable to physical changes in the mother’s uterus during her first pregnancy.

Japanese researchers have also discovered that first-borns may be more susceptible to food allergies.

First-borns may also be predisposed, for unknown reasons, to high-functioning autism (or what used to be called Asperger’s syndrome). It may have something to do with birth stoppage, obstetric complications, or immunological processes — but scientists aren’t really sure. Relatedly, closely spaced pregnancies have been linked to autism.

Researchers have also found a decreasing risk with increasing birth order for certain childhood cancers (but the opposite for acute myeloid leukemia). In terms of an explanation, the researchers write, “It is possible that firstborn children have higher estrogen exposures that may contribute to greater risk of cancer than later born children. Estrogen levels in maternal and umbilical cord blood samples are somewhat greater in first pregnancies compared with second or third pregnancies.”

Also, children with older siblings are more likely to experience respiratory symptoms at four years of age. One possible explanation is that children with older siblings have more exposure to respiratory infections at an early age than oldest or only children.

 

Additional reporting by Joseph Bennington-Castro.

Improve Your Evening Ritual for a Better Night’s Sleep July 26, 2012 No Comments

Here’s a helpful article about establishing an evening pre-sleep ritual.

To this list, I would add “Meditation and Prayer.”

Sweet Dreams!

>billy


Improve Your Evening Ritual for a Better Night’s Sleep

Aaron Lynn

Simply put, a good evening ritual is supposed to help you get a good night’s sleep. It’s also supposed to help you rest, relax, and reset in preparation for the next day. I like to think of it as a set of interrelated components that help you get a better night’s sleep. Let’s take a look at each of them.
Here’s the order that I’d recommend as a starting point for building your own evening ritual. Obviously, each component can be swapped with another, and unlike your morning ritual, everything is fairly interchangeable:

  • Social media clearing
  • Write down stray thoughts

  • Eat something light

  • Use the bathroom

  • Visualization exercises

  • Light stretching

  • Read some fiction

  • Sleep

    Social media clearing

    This is a fancy way of saying check your email, your Facebook, your phone, your twitter, and anything else that people use to communicate with you, and then turn them off or put them on silent. Consider it the last time you’ll be checking all these devices for the day. If you use an alarm to wake up in the morning, now is the time to set it.

    Journal entries

    It is basically checking your daily outcomes against what you had planned in the morning, and doing some quick analysis. It provides a closure to the productive aspects of your day.

    Write down stray thoughts

    Grab a notebook and write down everything that’s leftover in your mind—essentially, clear your thoughts in preparation for sleep. I personally find that physical pen and paper works better than typing into a computer or tablet.

    Eat something light

    Eating something light (like fruits and nuts and yogurt) seems to help with energy levels in the morning. You’ll have to experiment with this one—it works differently with different people, and I had a hard time tracking down any conclusive studies about pre-bedtime food, sleep quality, and morning energy levels.

    Use the bathroom

    A hot (or cold) bath as one of your last activities during the day helps calm you down and puts you in the right frame of mind for relaxing and sleeping.

    Visualization exercises

    You can either do visualization exercises before going to sleep, or as you’re going to sleep (i.e., after lights out). The options for visualization exercise are endless: you can do breakdowns of your business or life, your goals, your outcomes, you can picture your best self, you can picture yourself sleeping, and so on. Anywhere from 5-30 minutes is fine, depending on what you’re comfortable with.

    Light stretching

    Some light stretching before sleep fools your body into thinking that it’s already relaxed and resting.

    Read fiction

    Remember when you were a kid and you used to read or have someone read to you before going to sleep? It’s little wonder that children tend to sleep really well. Nothing disconnects you better than going off to the fictional world of your choice and leaving all the thoughts, ideas, worries and responsibilities of the real world behind. 15-30 minutes should be more than enough.

    Note: This means reading. No TV. No video games. No web browsing. And don’t read anything that overstimulates you either.

    Sleep

    If you’ve done everything above, sleep should come pretty naturally at the end of your evening ritual.

    Best practices

    Here are some additional concepts for crafting a better evening ritual:

    Don’t stop moving morning to night. The more you do during the day, the more energy you expend and the more you’ll have a natural tendency to fall asleep at the end of the day. If you can fit in some daily exercise, that’s even better.

    Give yourself enough time to sleep. For most people, this is from 7-9 hours. Any less and you’re really damaging your daytime productivity (no matter what the sleephackers say). More is usually better than less, and realize that if you’re slightly hyperactive (like me), you’ll need more sleep than other people. Check out AE Thanh’s excellent article on sleeping your way to the top of productivity.

    It’s fine to sleep in on weekends. Mostly because we don’t get enough sleep during the week, and sleep debt is cumulative. Use your weekends to pay it off. Remember that nobody’s sleeping schedule is perfect, it’s all give-and-take.

    Evening Rituals: Getting Better Sleep With a Little Preparation | Asian Efficiency

      Aaron Lynn is a productivity consultant, systems thinker, blogger and all-round efficiency aficionado. He provides advice about time management and personal productivity at Asian Efficiency.

      Win Every Argument May 10, 2009 Comments Off

      Being right feels wonderful. Life would be sweet if every time we disagree with someone they would bow to our superior intellect and admit they are wrong. Since that seldom seems to happen, we learn how to argue, debate, bully, cajole, guilt trip, whine, seduce, deceive, punish and reward the ones we love to get our way.

      Difference of opinion is not necessarily a bad thing. Conflicts arise in every relationship and expressing our needs is healthy and necessary. A pattern of arguing, though, can be hurtful and damaging to a relationship. It is helpful here to make the distinction between argument and compassionate conflict resolution.

      Anatomy of an Argument

      Arguments occur when the needs of one person are in conflict with the needs of another. For example, you’ve been cooped up inside all day and need to crank up some tunes. I need peace and quiet to finish writing a brilliant article about arguments. Who will win this conflict? If the music stays off, I win and if the music is turned up, you win. If we choose a pattern of argument, we could fall into using unproductive strategies.

      The Debate Team Strategy This strategy is based on coming up with a devastating logical construct so clever it blows the other person out of the water. You win and your opponent loses. There are many books dedicated to debate tricks and deceptions that enable you to win a debate this way. Logical arguments work quite well in courtrooms, debate teams or computer programs. There are set rules; winners and losers can be determined by those rules.

      The Yes Dear Strategy When debating with your partner doesn’t work, the next thing we try is to kill our partner with kindness. There is no way she can argue with me if I agree with everything she says. This is possible for awhile; some people even pull it off for years. It might keep the peace; but it is a false peace. Resentments build up over time and it hides our true Self. It is a passive way to control our partner.

      The Shut Up Strategy When we can’t take being fake-nice anymore we try being a bully. We yell and scream and throw things. We boss people around (or try to) and use phrases we swore we never would like “Because I said so!!!” This is an aggressive method of control.

      The Stone Wall Strategy When all else fails, we just stop saying or reacting to anything. This can be an extension of the Shut Up strategy. When we get upset, we just grit our teeth and bear it, and push it under the surface. This is also known as emotional cutoff and is the most dangerous of these strategies. If left unchecked it can be a most serious threat to the relationship. Total emotional silence kills relationships.

      The Yes Dear and Shut Up strategies seem like they are on opposite ends of the spectrum, and they are on the Passive / Aggressive continuum.  With both methods, though, we are trying to control the other person. From this perspective, they are two sides of the same controlling coin. It takes an act of faith in yourself and your partner to give up the need to be in control, stand in your integrity, and share your true Self. Many of us feel we have two choices in an argument; give in or stand our ground. It can be liberating to know that there is a third choice: compassion.

      We win every argument by recognizing we are in an old pattern of fear and anger, and stepping out of that pattern. In the past, the most important thing might have been to argue long and loudly until we “win.” How would things change if we recognize our most important goal is to lovingly connect? What will take us to this goal; blame and anger or love and compassion? Each disagreement is an opportunity to choose love over anger, leave blame behind and step into compassion. Here are some tools to do just that.

      See the Pattern Arguing becomes especially destructive when it becomes a pattern. You will never step out of a pattern if you don’t see you are in one. Be present and check inside yourself. Is your heart rate and breathing increased? Is your speech loud and rapid? Do you have a closed body position? Do you feel angry or hurt? These are signs you have fallen into the argument pattern again and is the first skill you need to step out of this cycle.

      Heart Centered Listening Instead of listening for logic flaws with your critical self, listen for the meaning of the words with your compassionate Self.

      Keep on Topic In order to get more ammunition we will often dredge up a laundry list of every slight, insult, and mistake that has ever happened in the relationship. There’s time enough for those past hurts. Stay in the moment. What’s present for you right now?

      Both Win We are equal partners in this relationship. We are on the same team. If one wins, we both win; and if one of us loses, we both lose. Work on a solution together.

      Right and Wrong (hint: there is no right and wrong) When we fall into the pattern of argument, we lose sight of our larger goals and must be right at all costs. We can either be right, or we can be loving.

      I’m Upset Because Every argument begins this way, but as long as the conversation stays on this subject, the argument never ends. Arguing is a mental sport and the smarter you are, the more likely you are to try to solve everything on the mental level. A loving resolution requires compassion, which comes from the heart, not the head. To be effective, we must move our energy from our head to our heart.

      It’s Not about the Toothpaste It is almost always true that whatever the topic of your argument, it is not the real reason for the argument. You insist on leaving the cap off the toothpaste even though I’ve told you a thousand times it really bothers me. How could you upset me like this? Say it with me: it’s not about the toothpaste. The toothpaste is the trigger and we choose to go into a pattern of upset. The trigger points to a hurt place inside we feel needs protecting. Not every argument will be about trivial things like loud music or tubes of toothpaste. Sometimes we will argue about huge, life-changing things. The same tools apply so practice on the small things.

      Exit the Argument and Reconnect When an argument is done, it is done. Successful couples learn how to exit an argument. It’s important for us both to have our say and to work on a creative solution together. When the argument is over, reconnect with a smile, a loving touch, or tender look that says I’m still with you.

      What does this move into compassion look like? In the argument described on the first page, the obvious issue is whether the music is turned up or not. That seems trivial, but the music is only the tip of the iceberg of what’s going on. The larger issues are: Do you still see me? Do you still hear me? Am I smart enough to write a good article? Is the fun going out of our relationship? Do you still want to dance with me? Do you still love and want to have a life with me? These questions are not trivial; they are deep and complicated. In fact, it is much easier for me to pick a fight about music levels rather than face these deeper issues.

      These issues take faith, courage, and compassion.

      “We argue to get our needs met, and our needs will never get met by arguing.”

      Billy Lee Myers, Jr.

      Working with Projections May 6, 2009 Comments Off

      “Outer experience is a reflection of inner reality.”

      What is a projection and how do we know we’re experiencing one? Projections happen when we experience an internal out-of-balance emotional reaction to a person or situation then blame that person for our reaction. Any time someone pushes our buttons, in the positive or the negative, we are set up to go into projection.

      Positive projections happen when we put someone up on a pedestal. We see only their good and they can do no wrong in our eyes. When our heroes fall, they fall hard, and we can come to despise those who do not live up to our unrealistic expectations. It is important to remember we are projecting positive attributes that are inside ourselves onto another person. If we didn’t have those qualities inside ourselves, we literally couldn’t see them in others.

      Negative projections can be a bit more challenging to work with, but have a huge potential for our growth and learning. Here again, we are projecting what we consider a negative attribute that is inside ourselves onto another person. Any time someone does something that causes a strong reaction inside us (anger, fear, sadness, worry) there is a projection present. When we say “This guy did that and he made me so mad!” what we are really saying is his action triggered us and we chose to go into a pattern of anger.

      This can be the challenging part of projections for many people. It can feel so good to get mad at someone else and blame them for our anger. We can feel superior in knowing they are wrong and we are right. But as long as we blame the other person, we give away our power. They can control our mood just by repeating that action. If we take responsibility for our responses though, we take the first step toward owning our own power and staying centered.

      Anatomy of a Projection and How to Work Your Process

      1. Something happens in the physical world that triggers you. (My brother called me stupid.)
      2. You have an emotional reaction. (I feel angry, hurt, sad, or afraid.)
      3. You go into judgment. (He’s a jerk; only jerks talk that way.)
      4. You now have two choices:

      a.       Continue to blame and make the other person wrong and enjoy being self-righteous. If this is your choice, you will go back to step one and the pattern will continue.

      b.       Recognize you are running a projection and you have an opportunity for healing and growth.

      1. If you choose “b,” look into the mirror the other person is holding up for you. (How do I do the same thing to myself? In what way do I see myself as stupid? What judgments do I hold against myself?)
      2. What does the mirror tell you? (My mirror is reflecting to me I am afraid of not being smart or good enough. Do I deserve to be loved if I make a mistake?)
      3. Accept this pattern without making yourself wrong for having it. (I take 100% responsibility for this pattern, knowing it has nothing to do with my worth and value as a person.)
      4. Move into compassionate self-forgiveness. (I forgive myself for judging my brother as a jerk. I forgive myself for judging myself as being less than, not smart enough and not good enough.)

      Projections are not for the faint of heart. Working with them really is an advanced technique because it requires you to own for yourself the very thing you think you despise in other people. Our opportunity is to feel the upset, then follow that line of energy back until we find the place inside that needs healing.

      The power of owning a projection is to release yourself from old patterns that no longer serve you and to come to a place of compassion for yourself and others.

      If only it were all so simple! If only there were evil people somewhere committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?”

      Alexander Solzhenitsyn

      Love Yourself May 2, 2009 Comments Off

      It’s a good idea to love yourself. It’s easy advice to give and so common it approaches cliché. When we take a good look at what it takes to truly love ourselves though, we find it takes faith, courage and willingness to change. We can begin to look at what it takes to love ourselves by exploring a few key concepts.

      Self-esteem

      Self-esteem is the way we see ourselves, a mental picture we carry in our mind. When we have high self-esteem, we love, trust, believe in and respect ourselves. People with high self-esteem have better relationships, careers, school performance, less anxiety, depression, sleep disturbances, eating disorders, alcohol and drug addiction.

      Some people have a self-defeating pride which is rooted in insecurity. People in this category overcompensate for this insecurity and this leads to seeing other people in a hierarchy; everyone is below them.  When self-worth is dependent on being super-human, any small mistake threatens self-worth.

      A self-defeating shame is on the other end of the spectrum. People in this category see others as above them in a hierarchy. They see themselves and sub-human and attempt to keep themselves safe by keeping expectations low.

      People with self-esteem see others as fellow human beings, neither in a one-up or one-down position. People have different abilities, yes. I might be able to play the piano while you can run a six minute mile; but these are things you can say about us, not who we really are. They can recognize areas of improvement without judging themselves as less than. They embrace humanity in themselves and others.

      External vs. Internal Self-Worth

      External self-worth is measured by money, social standing, popularity, beauty, personal achievements and is constantly changing. We feel good about ourselves when we get into our favorite school, feel bad about ourselves when we fail a test, love ourselves when we graduate, hate ourselves when we can’t find our dream job. Are we worthwhile or not? In this case, it depends on what has happened around us lately. If human worth equals external accomplishment, then only the rich and powerful have worth. By that logic, Donald Trump and Adolph Hitler have more worth than Mother Teresa. (Schiraldi)

      A baby is an icon of internal self-worth. She can’t walk, talk, feed herself, drive a car – she can’t even use an Excel spreadsheet for crying out loud! By any external measure she is without accomplishment. But if you see a mother gaze into the eyes of her newborn child for the first time, it is abundantly obvious she is the most precious thing on earth. This baby doesn’t have to earn love, she is love.

      Unconditional self-worth means separating external events from our true inner value, our Genuine Self. When things must always go our way before we can be fulfilled, we give away our power to live our own life. Living a life of love and joy is just too important to put in anyone’s hands but our own.

      This doesn’t mean we can’t strive for excellence and ask for positive things in our lives. Rather, we embrace the uplifting events and learn from the challenging events and recognize neither one defines us.

      How to Love Yourself

      • Unconditional Self-Worth. I recognize I am a precious, important and valuable person. I don’t do anything to earn this self-worth; it is a birthright.
      • Unconditional Self-Love. I choose Love even though there are imperfections. I acknowledge the things I would like to change without self-judgment, blaming, or making myself wrong. My mistakes do not define me.
      • Positive language. I notice when my inner-critic gets more attention than my inner-counselor and give my inner-counselor a voice. I notice internal or external self-criticism and substitute a positive statement.
      • Self-forgiveness. Healing is the application of Loving to the places inside that hurt. (Hulnick) I forgive myself for judging myself as being less than, of not being worthy of love. Each self judgment I release moves me one step forward in loving and accepting myself.

      This short paper only serves as a brief introduction to self love and compassion. Other areas worth exploring include self-care, positive body image, service to others, and spiritual growth just to name a few.

      So how can we overcome a lifetime of negative messages and learn to Love ourselves? Love is a choice, one we choose one moment at a time. When I look inside myself  I must ask, at this moment:

      Am I in my Loving?

      Am I in Compassion?

      Am I in Integrity?

      If the answer is no, then my true life’s work is clear.

      Every moment we are alive we have the choice to love ourselves or blame ourselves.

      Which will you choose?

      “Small things with great love. It is not how much we do, but how much we put into the doing.
      It is not how much we give, but how much Love we put in the giving.”

      – Mother Teresa

      Meditation April 25, 2009 Comments Off

      Work, school, relationships, and family obligations can all pull us in different directions. When something happens to upset us, we can feel out of balance and uncentered. How can we find our center?  There is so much pressure to accomplish and do things. How can we learn to be a human-being instead of a human-doing? How do we learn to just be? Mediation has been used for centuries to get beyond the day-to-day pressures and find a place of stillness. This centered place is healing and beneficial without needing to be figured out. We all have a place of inner knowing and peace inside us. We can get to that place just by letting go of our struggling and allowing it to come to the surface.

      • On the Physical Level, meditation slows the heart rate, decreases blood pressure, lowers metabolic rate and oxygen consumption, encourages sleep, and lowers muscle tension.

      • On the Mental Level, meditation decreases the severity and frequency of circular thought patterns, calms catastrophic thinking, lower negative self-talk and promotes self-compassion.

      • On the Emotional Level, meditation decreases stress, depression and anxiety and is an effective tool in working with panic attacks.

      • On the Spiritual Level, meditation opens the door to connect with our Higher Self, increases mindfulness and awareness of Spirit. It can be a path that leads toward a higher level of consciousness.

      How to Meditate

      Meditation can be as easy as taking ten breaths. We all breathe all day long, what makes these ten breaths special? It is meditation when we bring our attention and mindfulness to the process of something we take for granted.

      1. Find a quite, peaceful spot where you won’t be interrupted. Sit in a comfortable chair with your feet flat on the floor. Release any expectations of how your session “should” go and accept what is. You don’t have to try hard to meditate, you have to release trying.

      2. Bring your attention gently to your breath. Don’t try to control it, just notice it flow in and out of your body. When you are ready to begin, breathe in on a count of four. When your lungs are full, hold it for a beat, and then breathe out on a count of four. When your lungs are empty, hold it for a beat, and then repeat the cycle. One full breath is one cycle in and out; repeat this ten times.

      3. If you prefer, you can meditate on a quality. Breathe in and say in your mind the word “Love” (or Peace, Acceptance, Joy) and say it again when you breath out. For panic attacks you can breathe in “I Am” and breathe out “Safe.” “I am safe” can be an affirmation and a mantra.

      4. Focus on the physical sensations of breathing. How it feels flowing into your nostrils, filling your lungs. You can imagine the air as healing white Light, flowing into your body, bringing peace to everything it touches. If your mind wanders, just notice it without judgment and allow you attention to return to your breath.

      5. When you are done, open your eyes and stretch your body. How is your breath now? Does your body feel different? Start with 5 – 10 minute sessions each day and work up to 30 minutes per day. Returning to meditation each day is more important than the length of the individual sessions.

      Remember, you can not fail at meditation; don’t worry about doing it “right.” If you show up each day and open yourself to Love, healing, trust, and compassion, they will gradually become a part of you.

      “Breath is the bridge which connects life to consciousness, which unites your body to your thoughts.”

      – Thich Nhat Hanh

      How to Do Free Form Writing April 19, 2009 Comments Off

      1.    Notice the anger. When you feel yourself going into upset, notice. Your attention is a very powerful force for change. Get out a pad of paper, a pen and:

      a.    Write the anger out onto the page.
      b.    Don’t worry about spelling, punctuation, even words.
      c.    Don’t think, feel. This is less of an intellectual exercise; it’s an expression of the heart.
      d.    Keep writing until the anger is spent. If you still feel upset, keep going.

      2.    Destroy the pages; don’t read them.

      Reading the pages will take the energy back in. Ideally, burn the pages, but if that’s not practical, tear them up into little pieces or run them through a paper shredder. The idea here is to feel the anger, experience the anger, have that energy run down your arm, through your fingers, out the end of your pen, and then out onto the page.  When you burn the page, the line of energy has been released and is then lifted up and out.

      3.    When the anger goes out, self-forgiveness goes in.

      Look into a mirror, look into your eyes and lovingly say out loud “I forgive myself for judging myself for ________________.” Fill in the blank with your self judgment.

      4.    Anchor the learning with “the truth is…” statements.

      Whenever you remove one thing, replace it with something of equal or greater value. When you remove a negative judgment about yourself, replace it with a positive statement. For example:  “The truth is, I am a beautiful (smart, strong, powerful, loving) person, perfect just the way I am.”

      “In the course of the journey, we can expect that many times we will lose that balance point and be pulled to one side or the other. But we will regain it, because there is a wisdom in our very bones that knows that the balance point between our humanity and our divinity is the seat of our compassion – the home of true happiness.”

      – Ram Dass

      Becoming Assertive April 17, 2009 Comments Off

      Being assertive means being self-aware, knowing what you want, connecting to your genuine Self, and then believing in your right to ask for what you want. You are aware of your basic rights as a human being, and you give yourself the same respect and dignity you would give to another person. Being assertive is a way of expressing your sense of self-worth. You are in touch with your genuine Self and are able to communicate that to those around you.

      •    A submissive communications style is when a person defers to the wishes of others, while ignoring their own needs and rights. You may stuff your true feelings until you unexpectedly explode in anger. You might feel guilty for expressing what you want. People pleasers are often submissive because they are overly invested in appearing “nice” or the “good guy.” They are afraid if they are honest about what they want, it will anger those around them.

      •    An aggressive communications style is on the other end of the spectrum. People in this category communicate in a hostile and demanding manner, getting their way through force and intimidation.

      •    Assertive behavior occupies the middle ground between these two extremes. With this communications style, you are able to ask for what you want, or say no, in an honest, direct way. You take responsibility for meeting your own needs without feeling guilty, while respecting the dignity of other people. The first two styles attempt to control the other person directly or indirectly, while the assertive person expresses their genuine Self and no control of the other person is intended. The idea is high involvement with low attachment.

      How to Be Assertive

      •    Be aware of your own feelings, wants and needs. You can only be assertive when you are clear on your own feelings and directly communicate them to others.

      •    Recognize your basic human rights. You have the right (like everyone) to ask for what you want, to say no to impossible demands, to express your feelings, to change your mind, to make mistakes and not be perfect, to expect honesty from yourself and others, to be angry at someone you love, to live in a safe environment, to learn and grow, have your feelings respected by others, and to be treated with dignity and respect.

      •    Use assertive body language. Maintain eye contact without staring, keep an open body position (don’t cross arms or legs), face the person directly, don’t back off or move away, speak in a calm, strong voice.

      •    Learn to say no. It is important to set boundaries on what you are willing to do for other people. Is what the other person asking of you in conflict with your needs? With people you’re not that close, you can just say firmly “No, thank you.” With someone close, you might want to give an explanation of why you are declining.

      Learning to be assertive will help you receive more of what you want. It will take some practice and thought to change this old pattern and it may feel awkward at first. Practice in your journal, practice with a friend or counselor, practice an assertive dialog with yourself. Start using assertive behavior with small, less critical situations and gradually move to more important and challenging areas.
      People respond positively when you are honest about your feelings. You live a fuller, richer life when you are connected to and honestly express your genuine Self.

      “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”

      – Eleanor Roosevelt

      Holding a Safe Space April 10, 2009 Comments Off

      One of the most precious gifts we can give another person is the gift of our attention.

      Sometimes when you talk to anther person, it’s obvious when they are nodding, thinking of the next thing they want to say and are waiting for you to take a breath to say it. Holding a loving, safe space for someone to share is the opposite of that.

      Seeing the Loving Essence is seeing ourselves and the other person through the eyes of Loving. This is a recognition that there is no need to solve someone else’s problems, or “fix” them by giving advice. For right now, you don’t have to be a human doing, but a Human Being. Just being with another person, being fully present, is a sacred, life changing experience.

      Active vs. Passive listening. Passive listening is mechanical and requires little energy; if you are awake, you can hear sounds. Active listening requires focus to separate the noise outside the window from what’s being said in the room. It is listening with the intention of understanding the content of what’s being said.

      Heart Centered Listening takes this concept a step further and separates the content of what’s being said from the underlying meaning. Only 10% of what we say is content information, the string of words or transcript. The other 90% is body language, tone of voice, eye contact, breathing rate, pupil dilation, perspiration, and rapid or slow speech. We pick up on these non-verbal clues all the time. If someone yells “I’m not upset!!!” we instinctively know there is something going on beyond the literal meaning of those words.

      How to Hold a Safe Space

      1. Center your Self within yourself. Bring forward your Divine Spark or Authentic Self.

      2. See the Loving Essence. Always be aware you are listening to another Divine Being, respectfully honoring their experience.

      3. Heart Centered Listening. By respectfully listening from a centered, non-judgmental place, discern the difference between what is said and what is meant.

      4. Allow the person the dignity of their own process. Always remember the person before you has all the inner resources to effectively deal with their situation.

      Holding a safe space for yourself and others becomes easier with practice but goes beyond learning a skill or technique. It is a way of being, a space you hold inside yourself. This space is possible in every conversation, every encounter and is the essence of all healing.

      “One true Self speaks to another, using the language of the heart, and in that bond a person is healed.”

      Deepak Chopra


      Anxiety April 9, 2009 Comments Off

      Having some fear is normal and is even helpful. A small amount of fear helps us remember to look both ways before crossing a busy street, or tread carefully around heights. Fear is caused by a real, concrete situation: physical danger, failing a test, or going bankrupt. The cause of anxiety is often more difficult to explain. The source is more internal than external; a vague, distant, or even unrecognized danger. Anxiety can be so intense and long lasting that it conflicts with the ability to lead a full and free life.

      Anxiety affects your whole self, and causes reactions on three levels:

      1. Physical level: rapid heartbeat, muscle tension, shortness of breath, sweating, dizziness, trembling or shaking, nausea, numbness, chest pain, trouble sleeping.
      2. Mental level: negative thoughts that spiral out of control, self-limiting beliefs, negative future fantasies, thoughts of dying, going crazy, getting out of control.
      3. Emotional level: fear, panic, anger, sadness.

      To work with a pattern of anxiety, it is important to do work on all levels.

      1. Reduce physical symptoms by: nutrition, exercise, breathing exercises, meditation, positive visualizations, developing assertiveness, getting sleep.
      2. Change negative self-talk by: affirmations, ideal scenes, self-forgiveness, identifying catastrophic thinking and irrational beliefs.
      3. Identify, explore and express feelings by:  journaling, free from writing, hitting a pillow, digging in the garden, talking out feelings in therapy.
      4. Connect to Genuine Self through: prayer, meditation, setting intentions.

      If you are experiencing challenges with anxiety, you are not alone. Fifteen percent of Americans report having diagnosable symptoms of anxiety and almost everyone has felt anxious at one time.

      A Cherokee elder,  spoke to his grandson saying “There are two wolves fighting inside me all the time. One wolf is called Love and the other is called Fear.” His grandson asks, “Grandfather, which wolf will win?” “The one I feed,” said the elder.


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