Why I Sit in Silence Every Morning

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When I talk to people about how to create a meaningful life, one of the first things I recommend is that they sit in silence first thing every morning.  Sitting quietly before they shower, before they have breakfast or coffee, before they do anything else.  I also suggest they sit in silence every evening just before going to bed, but if they are just starting out, it’s the morning time that I think has more impact.

I came across a quote by Julia Cameron that explains why to sit in silence–some of what is accomplished by the practice:

When we seek daily spiritual guidance, we are guided toward the next step forward for our art. Sometimes the step is very small. Sometimes the step is, “Wait. Not now.” Sometimes the step is, “Work on something else for a while.” When we are open to Divine Guidance, we will receive it. It will come to us as the hunch, the inkling, the itch. It will come to us as timely conversations with others. It will come to us in many ways–but it will come.

The guidance does come, but not always in ways I’m looking for it . Sometimes I  don’t notice that I’ve received guidance until I look back over the day or week or month–or longer.  When I look, though, I see it; it’s there.

Do you have a practice that helps you connect with the Divine?  Feel free to share in the comments below.  Thanks!

Please pass this post along to a friend.  Thanks!

Your Friend and Pep Pal,

Lauren

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Inspiring Quotes to Help You Press On In Spite of Fear

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These quotes are powerful and speak for themselves:

Each of us must confront our own fears, must come face to face with them. How we handle our fears will determine where we go with the rest of our lives. To experience adventure or to be limited by the fear of it. –Judy Blume

 

Fear keeps us focused on the past or worried about the future. If we can acknowledge our fear, we can realize that right now we are okay. Right now, today, we are still alive, and our bodies are working marvelously. Our eyes can still see the beautiful sky. Our ears can still hear the voices of our loved ones.  –Thich Nhat Hanh

 

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.  –Theodore Roosevelt

 

First of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself – nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.  ― Franklin D. Roosevelt

 

People always fear change. People feared electricity when it was invented, didn’t they? People feared coal, they feared gas-powered engines… There will always be ignorance, and ignorance leads to fear.  ~ Bill Gates

 

The best remedy for those who are afraid, lonely or unhappy is to go outside, somewhere where they can be quiet, alone with the heavens, nature and God. Because only then does one feel that all is as it should be and that God wishes to see people happy, amidst the simple beauty of nature. ~ Anne Frank

 

I was set free because my greatest fear had been realized, and I still had a daughter who I adored, and I had an old typewriter and a big idea. And so rock bottom became a solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life. ~ J. K. Rowling

 

Procrastination is the fear of success. People procrastinate because they are afraid of the success that they know will result if they move ahead now. Because success is heavy, carries a responsibility with it, it is much easier to procrastinate and live on the ‘someday I’ll’ philosophy. ~ Denis Waitley

 

Remember that you are a teacher; you are helping people, making them feel safer, taking them from fear to love, from ignorance to knowledge. ~ Stuart Wilde

 

Of all the liars in the world, sometimes the worst are our own fears.  ― Rudyard Kipling

 

I have loved the stars too fondly to be afraid of the dark.  – Galileo Galilei

 

Fear is a darkroom where negatives develop. ― Usman B. Asif

 

The cave you fear to enter holds the treasure you seek.  ― Joseph Campbell

 

The key to change…is to let go of fear. ~Rosanne Cash

 

Do not let your fears choose your destiny.  ~Unknown

 

I hope a few of these quotes rang true to you.  Keep them handy and refer to them often.

Your Friend and Pep Pal,

Lauren

Reading Books

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In Friday’s post I shared with you a few resources that I thought could be helpful to you as you build a meaningful life.  I also told you that I’m still reading and digesting all the information in the books.

This got me to thinking…perhaps you’d like to know my process for reading non-fiction books.

There are so many books in the world and, being an avid bibliophile, I’d like to read them all!  If you’re like me—even just a little bit—you, too, probably have an enormous to-be-read pile of books and magazines beside your favorite easy chair.  I know there is no way I can ever read each book from cover to cover like I wish I could.  And, to be honest, some books I don’t particularly care for, not because they’re “bad” books but rather it’s because they aren’t a good fit for me right now—later on they may be the absolute perfect book that is right on the mark, and I have found this to be the case with several books I had stopped reading.

So, with the knowledge that I have limited time to read yet so very many books that have captured my curiosity, I know I must have some sort of sorting or ranking system.

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Let me say here that I am a HUGE fan of libraries and I encourage each one of you to get a library card!  I’m also a IMMENSE fan of the consortiums that the libraries in my area have formed that enable patrons of one library to borrow books from another library within the system.  I’m a firm believer in and a steadfast supporter of everyone having barrier-free access to information so that they can pursue their interests as well as improve their lives.

At the library, I usually take out every book that seems interesting.  I err on the side of taking a book home if I’m unsure about it.  This sometimes results in an enormous stack of books to bring home but I can always return books that aren’t quite what I was looking for at the time.

When I get home, I schedule time to go through the books.  When I review the books, I look at the table of contents to get a feel for the information that’s covered.  Next, I’ll do a quick read of the first few pages to give me a feel for the style and tone—whether it’s a more formal and serious tone or if it’s lighter and breezy.  Then I’ll do a quick read of the first few pages and then skim the rest of the book, sometimes jumping pages and sections ahead.

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Doing this tells me whether or not the book is right for me at the time as well as if it has the potential to deliver on the promise of the title and subtitle.  I don’t give a lot of time to this, perhaps 5 – 10 minutes per book.  The ones I’ve put to the side are then scheduled to go back to the library.

Do I sometimes return a book that could have been a big help?  Yes.  But the library keeps books in their collections for years so I always have the opportunity to take it out again.

Are there books that pass this first stage of sorting that turn out later on to not have been of as much value as I had originally thought?  Yes.  Coming up next, I describe a second stage of sorting that weeds out these maybe-can-maybe-can’t-be-helpful-books.

After I’ve done the first round of winnowing down of my book pile, I take the time with the remaining books to read them a little closer.  I still do a combination of quick reading, skimming, jumping over the examples and anecdotes, but I also slow down to read the parts that are resonating with me and I mark these passages or parts of the books with either a slip of paper or a sticky note—never by folding down the corner of a page (it damages the book and shortens it’s lifespan).  This process takes a little longer, usually a half hour or more per book.

If I notice that I put only a few markers in a book, in a Word Doc, I’ll jot down the passage that I thought was interesting and save it to a file in my computer.  These books are then returned to the library.  As with the books that didn’t make the initial cut, sometimes I return a book that could have been helpful but, as I said, I can always take it out of the library at a later date.

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I go back through my pile of books, by now it’s only ones with several paper slips or sticky notes marking interesting pages.  This is my pile of books that have a lot of potential.  I go through these books paying attention to the markers I’ve put in them.  The point of this is to winnow the books down to around 3 and no more than 6.  There’s no magic in this number range, it’s just one that seems to work for me.

Finally, I’m left with 3 to 6 books that I’ll read cover-to-cover, marking pages, taking notes, and oftentimes sitting and gazing off into space as my mind mulls over a point I just read.  These are the books that I’ll usually renew as many times as the library will let me!

How do you read books?  Feel free to share your tips and techniques in the comments below.  Thanks!

Your Friend and Pep Pal,

Lauren

A Meaningful Life: A Few Resources

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http://www.publicdomainpictures.net/view-image.php?image=19743&picture=love-of-books

 

Here are a few books I’ve come across that may help you think about what would make your life meaningful and how to go about designing it.

I’ve listed the books in alphabetical order by title:

Image courtesy of Amazon.com
Image courtesy of Amazon.com

Designing Your Life:  How to Build a Well-Lived, Joyful Life by Bill Burnett and Dave Evans

I found this book to be very interesting because the authors show you how to use a design mindset rather than an engineering mindset when creating a life full of meaning—your dream life.

The authors explain the difference between design thinking and engineering thinking as the difference between thinking to create (design) and thinking to build (engineering).  With engineering thinking, you are building something, say, a house or a bridge.  There are templates, formulas, similar things that others have already built.  You may have to use a little design thinking—for instance, the terrain may pose challenges that haven’t really been solved before so you and your team have to be creative—but for the most part, you’re working with a number of “knowns”.

In design thinking, you’re basically making stuff up and trying it out, tweaking it or making more stuff up, trying that out, tweaking…etc..  You know what you want to achieve, but there are no templates, formulas, or “knowns” to work with.  You have to get creative, brainstorm, try out all sorts of things, refine and remake, try out things again…etc..

The authors point out that these are two different types of thinking.  One is not superior to the other, in fact, both types of thinking are needed to live in the world.  It’s helpful to have a clear understanding of these types of thinking because if (when!) you get stuck, it could be that you’re bringing the wrong type of thinking to the situation.

The book focuses mainly on design type thinking with explanations, examples, anecdotes, and “homework”.

 

Image courtesy of Amazon.com
Image courtesy of Amazon.com

Everything Happens for a Reason:  Finding the True Meaning of Events in Our Lives by Mira Kirshenbaum

According to Mira Kirshenbaum’s research and observations, the events in our lives fall into at least one of the categories of meanings.  The categories are:

~to help you feel at home in the world;

~to help you totally accept yourself;

~to show you that you can let go of fear;

~to bring you to the place where you can feel forgiveness;

~to help you uncover your true hidden talent;

~to give you what you need to find true love;

~to help you become stronger;

~to help you discover the play in life;

~to show you how to live with a sense of mission;

~and to help you become truly a good person.

In the book, she explains each of the categories and includes examples and anecdotes.  This can be helpful in making sense of something that may have happened years ago and is still negatively impacting your life.  It can help you find, understand, and accept the gift.  Then it can help you let it go so you can move closer to a life full of meaning—your dream life.

 

Image courtesy of Amazon.com
Image courtesy of Amazon.com

The Power of Meaning:  Crafting a Life that Matters by Emily Esfahani Smith

In this book, Emily Esfahani Smith includes examples and anecdotes, but she also adds some of the current research on meaning, what it is, and how to go about adding meaning to your life.  Don’t let the fact that it does contain the results of research deter you from picking up this book!  The author has a very engaging style and a talent for making the information easily understandable.

She distinguishes between a life aim of being happy versus a life aim of having your life matter.  Aiming for happiness can lead to striving for ease and a life with few problems and challenges.  There’s nothing wrong with this, however, it probably won’t satisfy that deeper *something* that you may be longing for or craving.  This is because your focus is primarily on yourself and your life, and looking to the outside for help and solutions.

Emily Esfahani Smith states that a life of meaning—a life that matters—on the other hand will usually NOT be easy and most likely will present you with MORE challenges, obstacles, and problems.  This is because your focus will be on how you—with your talents, your skills, your knowledge, your know-how, your abilities, your uniqueness—can contribute to the greater whole of the world—even if it’s “only” in your tiny community or neighborhood.  Your focus is on something much larger than yourself, and you’re looking within for the help and solutions—reaching deep within yourself to uncover and discover the gold and treasures within to then share with others.

She also makes other distinctions—perhaps they’re better called definitions—such as what Purpose means and how it doesn’t have to be a Big Thing like solving world hunger.

 

In my opinion, all of these books bring excellent thoughts to the topic of creating a meaningful life.  I recommend that you at least take a look at them.  Feel free to let me know what you think of them.

I am still in the process of digesting all the good stuff in these books.  I’ll definitely get back to you with other nuggets and tips that I glean from them!

Do you have some resources that you use?  Feel free to share in the comments below.  Thanks!

Your Friend and Pep Pal,

Lauren

PLEASE NOTE:  The links to these books on Amazon.com are NOT affiliate links.  I do NOT make any money on whether or not you click on the link and I do NOT make any money on whether or not you purchase any of these books.

A Meaningful Life: First Step in Creating One

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http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Lake_Piano.jpg

 

As we talked about in yesterday’s post, you don’t have to be famous or to have a Great Passion since childhood in order to lead a meaningful life.

It isn’t too late—or too early—to have a life of meaning.  You aren’t too far off track, either.  Even if you hate your job, and your family is driving you nuts, and you don’t particularly like your friends because you’ve discovered they’re more like frenemies, and you’re bored, and you have no idea how to turn your life around….

You can start right here, right now, right where you are with who you are.  You can start by changing the way you think about the things you do every day.

As always, start with baby steps.  Doing too much too soon and having high expectations will set you up to trip and fall, so choose only one thing for the baby step.

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http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Teddys-on-line.JPG

As an example of infusing a task with meaning, we’ll choose keeping your home neat and clean.  For many people, this is a drudgery and it’s frustrating because it’s a never-ending job.  Instead of thinking along those lines, try infusing it with meaning.  Think of straightening and tidying your home as a gift you’re giving yourself and your family.  You want your home to be warm and inviting so you and your family are always ready to eagerly welcome friends and loved ones when they visit.  Also, you want your home to be an oasis of calm in the topsy-turvy world.  And you want your home to be serene and a place where you and your family can relax and recharge.  When picking up around your home, think of these reasons—and any others that ring true for you.

Is it easy to change your thinking and start infusing with meaning tasks such as these?  No, it isn’t.  You may find that you’ll feel silly, telling yourself that you’re deluded and are being foolish.  A thought might pop into your mind that this exercise is a waste of time, and you may feel that this won’t change anything.

Stick with it!  This exercise will be the start of the change you want!

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http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Hot_Air_Balloon_2012_-_2_-_Reach_for_the_Stars.jpg

Keep an open mind and heart.  Allow this exercise to take you where it will.  As you stick with infusing moments in your day with meaning you’ll notice that your life will expand.  You’ll feel more purposeful and energized, your attitude will improve, and you’ll uncover interests you either forgot about or ones you didn’t know you had.  The best part is you’ll find that some of these interest will deepen into the passions you’ve been searching for.

Keep following one little meaningful moment after the other!  You can do it—I believe in you!

Your Friend and Pep Pal,

Lauren

A Meaningful Life: An Additional Thought

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http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:L%C3%A9on_Perrault,_1894_-_Mother_with_Child.jpg

 

Yesterday we talked about how self-actualization, purpose, and meaning work together. I gave a few examples and today I want to add an additional thought about creating a meaningful life.

As I said yesterday, we often think of famous people when we think of those living meaningful lives. Their accomplishments are huge and their impact is enormous.

It seems that from a young age they are just a little bit different from those around them. Even though they may claim to have been unremarkable children, they seem to have had a drive or passion or strength of spirit that was just a little more than the other children in their school and neighborhood.

All of this adds up and then makes us think that in order to have a life full of meaning, we “should have” started when we were young by knowing we were cut out to do something different, something more. And, we think that from a young age, there “should have” been something that captured our attention, almost to the point of obsession. And since none of this happened to us we think that a meaningful life is not meant for us.

But that isn’t true!

Those of us who are mere mortals can still have a life that’s rich, fulfilling, satisfying, that brings us contentment and joy, where we feel we’re making a difference and that our lives matter. Even though history may never record our names or achievements in the annals of time, our lives can be deeply profound.

So don’t write yourself off or think that your life is wasted. If you’re still breathing—if you’re still on this side of the dirt (on top of the dirt instead of underneath it)—then you can still have a deeply profoundly meaningful life.

I believe in you!

Your Friend and Pep Pal,

Lauren