The Lost Art Of Listening

“We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak.”

Do you know the secret to a better marriage? Do you know the best way to connect with your children? Do you know what will make your friends know that you are there for them and you really care? What is this magic solution?

It’s listening! Listening is an essential part of communication that we often take for granted.

I’m often guilty of not listening. My head is somewhere else, thinking about my shopping list, what I forgot to do on my website, preschool…

Are the rest of us good listeners? Apparently not. At Mind Tools I read that “depending on the study being quoted, we remember between 25% and 50% of what we hear. That means that when you talk to your boss, colleagues, customers or spouse for 10 minutes, they pay attention to less than half of the conversation.” We are definitely heading in the wrong direction if this is true! Maybe listening is a skill that is a lost art.

In the above picture, you see the Chinese symbol, “Ting”, representing the verb “to listen”. There are 5 elements that make up the symbol. It breaks down like this:

• Ear – We need ears to listen.

• Eye – The non-listener looks elsewhere. The listener makes eye contact.

• Heart – Effective listening involves understanding the underlying emotions in the speaker.

• Undivided Attention – Active listeners focus their attention on the person that is speaking.

• King – True listening treats the other person as someone who is important.

So, how to do you start to actively listen?

1. First of all, give your full attention. Look at the person in the eyes.

2. Ask meaningful questions. I sometimes come up with some questions before I go places since I have trouble with small talk. For instance, I like to ask where someone grew up or how a couple met each other.

3. Don’t be somewhere else in your mind while you listen. It’s obvious when someone isn’t interested in what you’re saying. So don’t plan your shopping list or think of what you’re going to say next while someone is talking.

4. Don’t answer your cell phone, especially if you’re talking to your kids. I know sometimes you have to answer. But try to put it on silent ring. I see many mothers pick up their kids and stay on the phone as they walk to their car. This is an important time to hear about your child’s day.

5. Mirror the person’s body language.
Have you ever noticed that when you’re having a great conversation, you and the speaker unconsciously mirror each others body language? This behavior tells the speaker that you’re on the same page.

6. Use encouraging words.
Say words like “Go on” and “I agree” or “How interesting!”

7. Don’t interrupt!
I’m very guilty of this as I come from a family that all talks at the same time. (My mother calls this singing in harmony.) But active listening involves not putting words into others mouths or stopping them to put in your two cents.

And then there is being a good example for your children. They will do as you do and become active listeners if you model this good behavior.

“Listen or thy tongue will keep thee deaf… “
~ Native American Proverb

Active listening is a skill. It doesn’t come naturally for everyone. Active listening requires practice and thought. Active listening is engaging and will make the people in your life much happier.

What if the person you’re talking to doesn’t want to be an active listener for you? Then follow Winnie the Pooh’s advice:

“If the person you are talking to doesn’t appear to be listening, be patient. It may simply be that he has a small piece of fluff in his ear.”
~Winnie the Pooh (Milne)

Like what you’ve read and want the newest posts from The Zen Mama’s Blog sent directly to your email? Just enter your email address below. I promise it won’t be shared:

Enter your email address:

Delivered by FeedBurner

** Dog picture from Natural Horse Lovers and Picture credit and reference for meaning of symbol:
The 30 Inch View, Posted by Kent Hatcher.

Posted in Changing Ourselves, Parenting, Positve Thought | Tagged , | 7 Comments

9 Traits To A Healthier and Happier Life from the Blue Zones

Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated. ~Confucius

I love to read a good book. One that inspires me to live a better and live a longer life with mental clarity and little if no disease. The book that has inspired me most recently (I’ve reread it for the second time!) is The Blue Zones: Lessons for Living Longer From the People Who’ve Lived the Longest by Dan Buettner. The book shows that by improving lifestyle, “people can look and feel better at every age and add 12 years to their life expectancy”. It’s a perfect book to start out the new year in a positive way if you’re looking to change your lifestyle and your health. In fact, I like it so much, I’m going to give the book away to one of you.

Dan Buettner started out by writing in 2004 by an aritcle for National Geographic about people who were living longer lives without debilitating diseases. He traveled around the world with lovgevity experts and found pockets in the world where people were living to 100 years – 10 times more often than people in the US. He and his team found five places in the world where this is taking place and tried to unlock their secrets to a healthy longevity.

The book is an easy read with lots of stories about the Centenarians. Here are the 5 identified Blue Zones Buettner and his researchers originally found:

Sardinia, Italy
This island is off the coast of Italy and is home to some of the longest living men. They come from an ancient culture, have respect for elders and loyalty to family. They also drink a stong wine called Cannonau.

Okinawa’s Ushi Okushima still gardening at age 109 from The Blue Zone

Okinawa’s Ushi Okushima still gardening at age 109 from The Blue Zone

Okinawa, Japan
Okinawa is part of small culster of islands off the coast of Japan. Here the researchers found Japan’s longest living people. They love family, small amounts of food and finding a purpose in life.

Loma Linda, CA
The Seventh Day Adventist’s community in Loma Linda, has the most centenarians in the US. Faith, purpose and eating a mostly plant based diet might be part of their secret.

Ikaria, Greece
Ikaria, a Greek island in the Aegean Sea is another Blue Zone. People here are three times more likely to reach age 90 than in the U.S. They don’t get as much cancer, heart disease or much dementia. This chapter started with one of my favorite stories. Short version: a man with cancer (who had immigrated to the US) came back to his old home, Ikaria, to die at 65. When Dan Buettner met him, he was over 100!

Nicoya Costa Rica
This area of Costa Rica has some of the healthiest centenarians. They were hard workers with many gardens, their family lived nearby and they have a “plan de vida”! (purpose)

9 Ways to Thrive and Live A Long Life!

9 Ways to Thrive and Live A Long Life!

Dan Buettner’s team of medical researchers, anthropologists, demographers, and epidemiologists found that all these cultures shared these 9 traits:

1. Move Naturally – Centarians don’t go to a gym. They move naturally, bending, walking often gardening. They are outside all the time, moving! Yoga is a great activity helps to keep moving naturally if we don’t do as much as these centenarians.

2. Have A Purpose – In Okinawa it’s “Ikigai” (icky-guy) and in Costa Rica call it “plan de vida”. In other words it’s… “why I wake up in the morning.” Know that a sense of purpose is worth more healthy older years.

3. No Stress – Stress leads to chronic inflammation, associated with every major age-related disease. I love what Dan Buettner writes:
“Okinawans take a few moments each day to remember their ancestors, Adventists pray, Ikarians take a nap and Sardinians do happy hour.”

4. 80% Rule – “Hara hachi bu” – the Okinawans say this before their meals. It’s translation means to stop eating when they are 80% full. It’s a 2500-year old Confucian saying said before meals. The 20% gap between not being hungry and feeling full could be the difference between losing weight or gaining it. All Blue Zone people eat their largest meal at mid-day and their smallest meal in the late afternoon or early evening.

5. Plant based diet – Most Blue Zone people can’t afford to eat a lot of meat. Meat is eaten maybe five times per month. Most eat their own vegetables or buy them at a local market.

6. Wine @ 5
 – Most people in the 5 Blue Zones (not the Adventists) drink alcohol regularly, 1-2 glasses a day. They often have the drinks with friends, family and often with food. This time helps them let go of stress and keep them connected. An interesting fact: Moderate drinkers outlive non-drinkers.

7. Belong
 In A Community – Most centenarians were part of a community and connected to faith, whether it is a church based or praying to the ancestors. That didn’t seem to matter.

8. Loved Ones – Successful centenarians in the Blue Zones have close ties to family. Grandparents and other relatives are a big part of their children’s and grandchildren’s lives.

9. Be Part Of the Right Tribe
 – The centenarians chose to be with people who also have their healthy behaviors. Obesity, unhappiness, smoking and other bad habits can be contagious. So can positive thinking, eating healthy and exercising. Chose your tribe carefully.

Here is Dan Buettner when he spoke at TED in 2009. This video is 22 minutes long but totally worth it! You’ll feel better after watching it.

I’m giving away a copy of The Blue Zones: Lessons for Living Longer From the People Who’ve Lived the Longest away! Leave a comment below to win Dan Buettner’s book and let me know what you do or would like to do to live a longer and happier life.

***I found this information and the images found

Like what you’ve read and want the newest posts from The Zen Mama’s Blog sent directly to your email? Just enter your email address below. I promise it won’t be shared:

Enter your email address:

Delivered by FeedBurner

Posted in Book Review, Health, Positve Thought | Tagged , , , | 14 Comments

Stretch (Not Stress) Yourself In The New Year!

“Never be afraid to try something new. Remember, amateurs built the ark. Professionals built the Titanic.”

A few years ago we were in Mexico. We looked at the map and saw a great hike we could take to a delicious restaurant. What we didn’t know is that we were about to go out of our comfort zone and stretch ourselves! We climbed rocks and hillsides with ropes while following our 20-year-old son. We ended up at our goal…a beautiful tropical beach at that delicious little restaurant.

Another travel adventure… to Costa Rica a few years before. We hesitated to stop at this roadside Ceviche stop (see above picture). Our hesitation? You should never eat seafood at a little roadside stop in a hot, humid developing country! The seafood might be bad. So we passed it by. Then we realized we’d gone down the road too far once more. We turned around and passed the roadside ceviche again and this time stopped. We were just too hungry! And we love ceviche. It was incredible! Later we were sorry we hadn’t ordered more.

Travel has often helped us to leave our comfort zone and stretch ourselves but not stress ourselves.
We do a lot research. This learning is so much fun, looking at maps and hotels online. We find out as much as we can and then go for it. When you land at the airport, you’re not quite sure what to expect. To take a ride in a foreign taxi, try out a new monetary system, new food, or a new language can be a little scary. We love traveling outside the comfort zone. We all feel empowered when we return home.

Kids leave the comfort zone often, whether at school, playing with friends or at sports practice. They don’t even know what risks they are taking. What a risk it is for a baby to get up and walk again when she’s fallen; or a student to walk into a new classroom; to raise your hand to answer a questions and possibly be wrong; deciding to try a new food or drink; to get back on the bike when you’ve fallen and skinned your knee. Children have billions of neurons talking to each and are building new ones all the time as they learn something new.

What makes us adults hold back? Why don’t we “get back on the bike” when we’ve fallen? What is it about getting older that makes us hesitate? Our love of routine and the comfortable, our fear of failing? Sometimes we like to stay with the familiar even if it makes us unhappy. Human are the only species that have the capacity to imagine something going wrong in the future.

“What great thing would you attempt if you knew you could not fail?”
~Robert H. Schuller

By risking failure and trying something new you often find out more about yourself.
You feel fulfilled. Stretch yourself out of that rut. You’ll often find that it’s easier than you thought. What are you afraid to try? What do you have to lose? What are you putting off?

• a career change?
• a book to write?
• time with your kids?
• a trip to take?

Why else is it important to do something new?
You are helping your brain. Children are constantly creating new “synapses” between neurons. Think of it as a big telephone system, with the synapses being the wires. As we age, synapses can deteriorate. Besides age, stress, lack of stimulation, or toxins can help speed along this deterioration. Scientists have found that learning something new can helped rewire the brain. Synapses can grow back. It’s like brain exercise!

What can we do that our kids do so naturally? Do you have to jump out of a plane to try something new? No, there are simple things to do. Here are 9 brain exercises to get you started:

1. Change routine in the morning. If you’re a late riser, wake up early. If you’re always up, early sleep in.
2. Eat at a new restaurant, order something new at an old one.
3. Cook a recipe that you’ve never tried.
4. Do puzzles, mental ones or with pieces.
5. Take a class or learn something by yourself on the internet (like reading about doing something new!)
6. Learn a new language. There are some great videos on youtube.
7. Brush your teeth with your left hand if you’re right handed and vice versa.
8. Listen to another radio station.
9. Do mental math.

You can learn a lot about trying new things from your kids. And as they get older, they can learn from you stretching yourself. Then they won’t afraid to try something they’d like to do when they’re an adult.

So, in 2018, take a hike that’s a little challenging or try that roadside ceviche! You may end up with the meal of a lifetime!


And remember…If not now, when?

“A ship in harbor is safe – but that is not what ships are for.”
~John A. Shedd

Posted in Brain Research, Inspiration, Positve Thought, Travel | Tagged , , , | 6 Comments

The Best Gift Doesn’t Come In a Box…

Conditional Love - the best holiday gift“And the Grinch, with his Grinch-feet ice cold in the snow, stood puzzling and puzzling, how could it be so? It came without ribbons. It came without tags. It came without packages, boxes or bags. And he puzzled and puzzled ’till his puzzler was sore. Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before. What if Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store. What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more.” ~Dr. Seuss

So what’s the gift you should give your child (or spouse, parents, in-laws, co-workers) this year? The gift I’m thinking of won’t cost you a dime. It’s UNCONDITIONAL LOVE! What is unconditional love? It’s accepting a person, faults and accomplishments, no matter what they do. Pure and Simple. Unconditional Love is the greatest gift you can give your children or other loved ones this Christmas.

Continue reading

Posted in Changing Ourselves, Holidays, Parenting, Positve Thought | Tagged , , | 5 Comments

11 Ways To Slow Down During The Holiday Season

“Smile, breathe and go slowly.” – Thich Nhat Hanh

I think I hear it and say it everyday:
“I don’t have enough time! I’m too busy!”

And now the Holiday Season is on it’s way…it can be overwhelming!

And quite honestly it’s true! You have kids, sports, groceries, laundry, cooking and often a job. Throw in a holiday party and you may come undone! When your children are young, they need your attention all the time. You often need to be with them where ever they’re playing.

Part of feeling busy is your perception of time. We all have a natural way of looking at time that is part of our basic personality. Do you see the world as a busy place? Then it is! If you can change the way you look at your day, maybe you can be less busy and feel like you have extra hours in your day.

Continue reading

Posted in Balance, Letting Go, Mindfulness, Positve Thought | Tagged , , , | 3 Comments

An Attitude of Gratitude Can Change Your Life – 21 Quotes For This Thanksgiving

ZTIPS:Gratitude Hendry Beach

When things are tough or I’m a little down I turn to GRATITUDE as a pick me up and a way out.

Gratitude is much more than being thankful. Thankfulness is an expression of happiness. Being thankful is telling someone you appreciate what they have done. Being thankful is being glad it didn’t rain on picnic day. Being thankful is happiness from a gift.

Gratitude is thankfulness taken to the next level. It is a heart-felt and intellectual acknowledgement of all that is good and maybe not so good in your life. It’s embracing uncertainty. To feel gratitude towards the bad things that have happened to us knowing that will lead you a new opportunity.

Here are 21 quotes that will inspire you to from simple thankfulness to heart-felt gratitude:

“Develop an attitude of gratitude, and give thanks for everything that happens to you, knowing that every step forward is a step toward achieving something bigger and better than your current situation.”
~Brian Tracy

“It is not good for all our wishes to be filled; through sickness we recognize the value of health; through evil, the value of good; through hunger, the value of food; through exertion, the value of rest.”

~Greek Proverb

Continue reading

Posted in Gratitude, Positve Thought, Quotes | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

The Future Is Now… 9 Ways To Live In the Moment

From Eckhart Tolle's Book, The Power Of Now

From Eckhart Tolle’s Book, The Power Of Now

“Do not dwell in the past, do not dream of the future, concentrate the mind on the present moment.”
~ Buddha

There are so many things to take away us from the NOW. Thoughts of the future, regrets from the past, technology, concerns over your children’s lives, the news and the fear it generates, the economy and who’s to blame. Maybe you have health issues or financial worries. All these concerns take us away from the NOW and put you back in the past or into the future. This leaves you with the inability to appreciate this very moment and feel peace.

When we were young parents we learned a lesson on appreciating the NOW. We won a trip to Hawaii from a radio show contest about 16 years ago. We were thrilled. We got to stay at the Embassy Suites with a full breakfast (always important with kids!) and a rental car for 5 days. Little did we know that we’d be getting one of the biggest lessons we’d ever learn in life, “Don’t wish your life away!”

Looking back, we should have been appreciating the moment but we had just been thinking about the future and retirement. We woke up very early because of jet lag. The sun was just rising and the sky was pink and dark blue, the air warm and balmy and the ocean was just the right temperature. I sat on a beach chair with the baby, while The Zen Papa watched the boys, ages 5 and 7, chase the waves. A man in his 60s came up to the Zen Papa and they began to have a conversation. He was in Maui and retired. He had brought his whole family to be with him and his wife. The Zen Papa made this wistful comment to this man, “I can’t wait until I’m retired.” The man’s pointed his finger at the Zen Papa and said, “Don’t wish your life away.” It was a moment we’ve never forgotten.

Living in the moment seems simple but is not always easy. Here are 9 ways to NOT wish your life away and stay grounded in the present:

1. Before you put your feet on the ground when you wake up, think a pleasant thought or think about something nice you can do for someone else that day.

2. Close your eyes. Use your other senses besides sight. What are the smells? What do you feel on your face, the sun or wind? What are you hearing? If you are eating, then really taste the food instead of just eating to satisfy hunger. When you open your eyes you will be more attentive to the present moment.

3. Instead of always feeling stressed or anticipating some anxiety, go out and do something! Take a walk in a beautiful spot, workout; get your body moving and your blood flowing.

4. Be mindful, slow down. Wake up early and enjoy the coffee with your loved ones. Actually stop at every stop sign. Take a deep breath and as you exhale, drive away. Pay attention to where you’re driving and what you’re doing at work.

5. Make a list on paper, so that you don’t have Monkey Mind, that chatter or the running list that is always in your head.

6. Be quiet in nature. I try to go outside and watch the sunset or sunrise each day. I listen and watch the wildlife in our yard. Look at the stars. All simple things, I know, but it works.

7. Have a real conversation. Listen to what a person is telling you. Practice active listening. Look in their eyes, ask questions. Participate. Don’t think of something else while they talk.

8. BREATHE. Many eastern practices have helped people to breathe and live in the moment. Meditation and yoga are just two examples. Andrew Weil has a great breathing exercise.

9. Remind yourself of how lucky you really are. Gratitude can help you to remember this. Gratitude reminds you of all that is positive in your life.

While we never knew his name, the retired man on the beach in Maui left a big impression on us. And while we often dream of the future, we try to stay grounded in the present and remind ourselves daily of how lucky we are!

Running from the waves in Maui

Running from the waves in Maui

“You must live in the present, launch yourself on every wave, find your eternity in each moment.”
~Henry David Thoreau

Like what you’ve read and want the newest posts from The Zen Mama’s Blog sent directly to your email? Just enter your email address below. I promise it won’t be shared:

Enter your email address:

Delivered by FeedBurner

Posted in Mindfulness, Positve Thought | Tagged , , | 3 Comments

Unlock Your Creativity With This Wonderful Book!

Inspiration from the book STEAL LIKE AN ARTIST

I once had an argument about creativity with someone I once knew. He said that there is no such thing as creativity. I argued the point 6 ways to Sunday. But he remained adamant. His main point was that everything has already been done even if it was done by the ancient Romans. My main point was that didn’t matter because you didn’t know that ancient Roman and so you were able to be creative. In the end we agreed to disagree but I knew in my heart that creativity is a real thing.

Then I met my husband, who stated early on in our relationship, “If I had a boat I would name it Creativity.” I loved it! (and him!)

And yet when asked the question, “How are you creative?” my answer always was, “Oh, I’m not creative.” Because to me creativity = being able to draw. And I can’t draw. Then one day my middle child once told me, “You are creative mom. Look at your photography!” That remark totally changed me. My whole creative world has opened up thanks to my husband and three children who are extremely creative in many ways!

Since then I have pursued all my creative dreams from the photography he was talking about to writing…and now painting or any little projects that come my way. It doesn’t matter if the end product good or bad. It’s the process!

Then today I read this great little book this morning over coffee. It has inspired my creative process even more.

Great book I found at a second hand shop today.

Austin Kleon has 10 short chapters filled with wisdom to his younger self. In doing so he gives all his readers advice about how to start or change or inspire your creative life. It’s great advice for you and it’s great advice for your children or the people in your life.

From Amazon: You don’t need to be a genius, you just need to be yourself. That’s the message from Austin Kleon, a young writer and artist who knows that creativity is everywhere, creativity is for everyone. A manifesto for the digital age, Steal Like an Artist is a guide whose positive message, graphic look and illustrations, exercises, and examples will put readers directly in touch with their artistic side.

When Mr. Kleon was asked to address college students in upstate New York, he shaped his speech around the ten things he wished someone had told him when he was starting out. The talk went viral, and its author dug deeper into his own ideas to create Steal Like an Artist, the book. The result is inspiring, hip, original, practical, and entertaining. And filled with new truths about creativity: Nothing is original, so embrace influence, collect ideas, and remix and re-imagine to discover your own path. Follow your interests wherever they take you. Stay smart, stay out of debt, and risk being boring—the creative you will need to make room to be wild and daring in your imagination.

Early this morning I did a quick read through. Then I did another quick read aloud with my husband over coffee. Now I’m read again and taking notes. I love it and will buy this inspirational book for my creative friends – which is everyone! Now don’t say “I’m not creative!” because I know you are. I’ll be giving away my copy of the book. Just let me know below in the comments how you’re creative and I’ll enter your name in the giveaway!

Thanks Austin! And you can check out Austin’s website here.

Find this book on Amazon:

Posted in Book Review, Changing Ourselves, Creativity, Inspiration | Tagged , , , | 8 Comments

15 Quotes by Louise Hay In Remembrance of a Life Well Lived

Louise Hay died recently at age 90. She was an American author, positive thinker and one of the founders of the self help movement in the United States. She left an abusive home and life, healed herself of cervical cancel and remained positive throughout it all. She eventually founded Hay House Publishing enabling like minded authors an venue for their amazing thoughts and ideas. Two of my favorites authors published by Hay House are Wayne Dyer and Dr. Christiane Northrup.

Louise Hay’s many books are many filled with positive affirmations. She even made a movie called You Can Heal Your Life: The Movie. (Read more about Louise Hay life on her website here.) I’m reading her book, YOU CAN HEAL YOUR LIFE right now. (See the cover below!)

Here are a few of her inspiring quotes that I love and I hope will inspire you, too!

“I am in the right place, at the right time, doing the right thing.”

“Every thought we think is creating our future.”

“Remember, you have been criticizing yourself for years and it hasn’t worked. Try approving of yourself and see what happens.”

“I have noticed that the Universe loves Gratitude. The more Grateful you are, the more goodies you get”

“I am willing to release the need to be unworthy. I am worthy of the very best in life, and I now lovingly allow myself to accept it”

“You have the power to heal your life, and you need to know that. We think so often that we are helpless, but we’re not. We always have the power of our minds…Claim and consciously use your power.”

“Love is the great miracle cure. Loving ourselves works miracles in our lives.”

“Life is really very simple. What we give out we get back.”

“I say “Out” to every negative thought that comes to my mind. No person, place, or thing has any power over me, for I am the only thinker in my mind. I create my own reality and everyone in it.”

“I do not fix problems. I fix my thinking. Then problems fix themselves.”

“I will not be distracted by noise, chatter, or setbacks. Patience, commitment, grace, and purpose will guide me.”

“Think thoughts that make you happy. Do things that make you feel good. Be with people who make you feel good. Eat things that make your body feel good. Go at a pace that makes you feel good.”

“Each day is a new opportunity. I chose to make this day a great one.”

“As I say YES to life and life says YES to me.”

“Know that you are the perfect age. Each year is special and precious, for you shall only live it once. Be comfortable with growing older.”

Goodbye Louise! You will be missed! Your words will live on and continue to inspire many.

I am giving away a copy of You Can Heal Your Life to give out to a reader. Please leave a comment below telling me which quote you like best and why and I’ll enter your name for the drawing!

Want more of Louise Hay? Watch this interview.

Posted in Book Review, Positve Thought, Quotes | Tagged , , | 12 Comments

7 Quick Ways To Do An Gratitude Adjustment Today!

Cultivate the Habit of Gratitude

We take so much for granted and often don’t appreciate what’s good in life. That’s where gratitude comes into your life. Practicing gratitude changes the way we look at life. Gratitude is a habit. We can get out of this habit when we concentrate on the negative aspects of life. However, like any habit, you need to practice.

Gratitude will make you happier and healthier. Once you started you’ll find more and more things that you’re grateful for.

Here’s seven gratitude adjustments to help you practice and make your habit stronger:

1. Wake up thinking something wonderful will happen today.
As you think so shall it be.

Continue reading

Posted in Changing Ourselves, Gratitude, Positve Thought | Tagged , , , , | 3 Comments