Embrace Gratitude and Watch Life Change



“You simply will not be the same person two months from now… after consciously giving thanks each day for the abundance that exists in your life. And you will have set in motion an ancient spiritual law: the more you have and are grateful for, the more will be given you.”
~Sarah Ban Breathnach, author of Simple Abundance

I love November! It’s the month I renew my gratitude practice. From the beginning of the month all the way to our great American gratitude holiday of Thanksgiving, I try to remember the ways be grateful. A gratitude practice can start out slowly but it becomes a habit as we flow into the hectic month of December.

What is gratitude?

Gratitude is much more than being thankful.

Gratitude is thankfulness taken to the next level. It is more intense. It is feelings that range from slightly emotional to tearing up. 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. It’s feeling gratitude towards the bad circumstances that have happened knowing that it will lead to a new opportunity.

Why practice gratitude?
There are many reasons to practice gratitude!

• Better physical and mental health – all sorts of studies have shown (for more information go to GreaterGood.com) that gratitude relieves stress, depression, lowers blood pressure and even adds more years to your life. Grateful people even sleep better.

• Better relationships – when you appreciate and are thankful for those in your life it naturally strengthens relationships.

• Better quality of life – you can’t be grateful and feel another negative emotion like anger, worry or envy. But you can be grateful and feel other positive emotions like optimism and joy.

• A sense of contentedness – which I think is true happiness.

How Do You Practice Gratitude?
You can cultivate gratitude. You can learn it. And like all habits, practice will make you better at feeling it.

Try these 7 exercises to practice gratitude and make it into a habit.

1. Start your day and end your evening with the positives of the day. Reflect on something good before you fall asleep and the first moment you wake up even before you put your feet on the ground.

2. Write it down! Next start a gratitude journal. I try to write in a gratitude journal every morning over coffee – just write three things each day. Or just write one amazing thing. It can be small, an event, a person, a feeling or something creative. Remember nothing negative and no material items please. I’m grateful to be able to get to my job each day rather than I’m grateful for my car.

3. Say thanks! I recently read these three simple rules for saying “Thank You”.

1. Simply say the words, “Thank You”.
2. You MUST say it with SINCERITY.
3. You MUST say WHY. (and it helps to explain why in some detail)

So think of someone close to you that maybe you take a little for granted. Thank that person for something simple that they do all the time. Be specific. Be genuine. He or she will be amazed and you’ll feel unbelievably good.

4. Try this exercise: Try thinking about what life would be like without the good things in your life. This could be people in your life, a job or a home for example. What would life be like without these things? Things can always be worse.

5. Watch your language! What kind of words do you use to describe your life? Unlucky, bad day, disappointment, lack of ______? OR do you use words like: lucky, blessed, fortune, fortunate, and abundance? Change to these positive words and others, even if you don’t believe it at first.

6. Do you see your life through your material goods? Are you down when your don’t have enough possessions, your clothes aren’t great, your car is old, you don’t have the latest phone? Try feeling gratitude for air, water, a good night’s sleep, snow, rain, sun and the necessary items that keep us alive.

7. Pay it forward! Try doing this anonymously. We all hear of people buying Starbucks coffee for the person behind them. What about taping a quarter to a gumball machine? Or it doesn’t have to cost anything. What about leaving a cute note on someone’s windshield? And if you have kids, include them in these activities.

Try these seven simple steps and see where it leads at the end of 7 days. Yes, in just seven days you can feel happier! Let me know in the comments below how it works for you or any other ways that you practice gratitude.

“In daily life we must see that it is not happiness that makes us grateful, but gratefulness that makes us happy.”
~Brother David Steindl-Rast

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Look For The Good and You Will Find It

Paris, Je t'aime!

Paris, Je t’aime!

“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.”
~Fred Roers

For those of you who don’t know, my husband and I are taking a little time off and spending the fall in Paris. We are having the time of our lives here in Paris. We are wandering the many districts, going to art museums, buying scarves, eating at great restaurants, trying out the language, taking cooking classes and meeting up with old friends and new ones. The French/Parisians are friendly, helpful and kind. Many take the time to talk to us in shops or stop and give us directions. I’m even working on Zen Mama book #4 hopefully to be ready sometime in the near future.

So, as you can imagine, it’s kind of crazy being in a place where a terrorism attack has actually taken place. I am sitting in our rented Paris apartment tonight at about 2 am after the attacks have taken place, saddened by all I’m hearing… helicopters and sirens, reading reports on google of death and terrorism. It’s horrifying. The images are heart wrenching. I am heart broken. Facebook was asking me to confirm my safety.

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21 Ways To Let Go of Anger

Save yourself from sorrow!

Save yourself from sorrow!

Kids change your life. We all know that! Before I had kids I imagined all the ways. Was I ever surprised that I often found myself getting angry! I thought of myself as a very calm person. I was never really angry before I had kids but suddenly something would just begin to bubble inside and I’d erupt. Not exactly the best thing for a mother to do to her children. Then I came across this Khalil Gibran quote:

“If your heart is a volcano, how shall you expect flowers to bloom?”

I knew I needed to change. That’s when I decided to become a “Zen Mama”.

What’s the motivation to stop being angry? It’s one of the best ways to happiness for you and the people in your life.

Anger puts others on the defense.
It shames and humiliates them.
It can lead to anxiety.
Anger can give you health problems.
Anger causes guilt.

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Posted in Changing Ourselves, Letting Go, Parenting, Positve Thought, Simplifying Life | Tagged , , , , , , | 10 Comments

Life is Fragile

(Found at Pinterest/http://observando.net/page/2)

(Found at Pinterest/http://observando.net/page/2)

I often find myself outside contemplating how amazing life is! I feel very lucky and filled with gratitude. How well life is turning out!

However, as we all know, life can change on a dime. A healthy, happy person can be in life one minute and the next she’s gone. I recently heard that a very close friend of mine had died suddenly. We had recently been making plans to see each other soon, writing emails back and forth. And now that opportunity will never happen.

“Life is Fragile” is the title of the first post I ever wrote. I was making a website for my fledging book, How To Be A Zen Mama. It was September 2009. I saw the word “blog” and clicked on it out of curiosity and have been writing ever since. Thus the first blog post was born. My dear friend was one of my biggest supporters. She would often send comments and ideas for blog posts. She loved life, her children and husband. She loved her many friends from all walks of life. She loved to travel and cook. We had a lot in common!

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Five Videos for the Mindfulness Beginner

Mindfulness“The present moment is filled with joy and happiness. If you are attentive, you will see it.”
― Thích Nhất Hạnh

“The best way to capture moments is to pay attention. This is how we cultivate mindfulness. Mindfulness means being awake. It means knowing what you are doing.” ~Jon Kabat-Zinn

“Mindfulness isn’t difficult, we just need to remember to do it.”
~Sharon Salzberg –

“In today’s rush, we all think too much — seek too much — want too much — and forget about the joy of just being.”
~Eckhart Tolle

I’m getting ready to teach a Mindfulness Workshop with my good friend Tricia Gast. (It’s not too late to join us…see below!)

Mindfulness is being in the moment, being aware, without judgment. All worries and distractions seem to fall away when you practice mindfulness.

This is the simplicity of mindfulness. You are fully present in the now. You are engaged in whatever you are doing. You are no longer dwelling in the past or worrying about the future. Mindfulness ends suffering, because the present moment is perfect.

Yet, while simple, it is often difficult to practice.

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Are You A Validator?

Thank you for the compliment!

Thank you for the compliment!

“I can live for two months on a good compliment.
~Mark Twain

Earlier this week, I was in the Denver airport waiting in line with all the other people to go through Security. I picked a line and as usual it turned out to be longer. I looked ahead to see what the matter was. The TSA (transportation security admin) agent was acutally talking to people. As I got closer, I could see he started by saying hello and then, after stamping the boarding pass, he would say something very nice to each person he was speaking.

Now if you’ve been in the airport usually the TSA people are intimidating or just bored. But not this guy. Everyone was smiling in his line.

The Zen Papa and I call these people “Validators” after watching a wonderful short film a few years ago. (see below) If you’ve never seen this short film, it’s a fable about a parking attendant who gives his customers REAL validation – dispensing both free parking and free compliments – (Please watch and become a validator!)

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Posted in Inspirational Movie Monday, Parenting, Positve Thought | Tagged , , | 12 Comments

Be Your Own Super Hero With Beginner’s Mind

Zen Tips from Suzuki's Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind

Zen Tips from Suzuki’s Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind

I posted this two years ago and now I need the reminder on how to maintain “Beginner’s Mind”. Plus I’m headed back up to Shadow Mountain Lake to do some paddle boarding!! Enjoy the reposting!

“See the day as obstacle free with only possibilities.”
~ the Zen Mama

A few months ago I was out on the end of our friend’s dock on Shadow Mountain Lake in the mountains of Colorado. Our friend was telling us how she’d started paddle boarding and wanted to teach me how. I knew while she told me that I wouldn’t try it. I was worried I would fall in the water. Shadow Mountain Lake is very cold! And another excuse was, I hadn’t brought a change of clothing. But I followed her outside with the Zen Papa and listened to her instructions, fully ready to say, “Thanks but no thanks.” I’m not really much of a risk taker. I’ve been like that since I was a child. Better to be safe. I didn’t ride the roller coasters or ferris wheels. And I was totally OK with that.

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Posted in Positve Thought | 21 Comments

Paying Attention to Mindfulness

Mindfulness is an important part of life.

Mindfulness is an important part of life.

A few weeks ago, while on auto pilot and thinking too many thoughts, I got to my destination without even paying attention to the drive. Then there was one night last week I couldn’t sleep as I made all sorts of lists in my mind of things I needed to do. My distracted mind or Monkey Mind had taken control! I was falling into the trap of our culture and being too busy. (Do you remember what I think of busy? Read more here about the 4 Letter Word). I had too much going on in my head. I realized that I needed to take the time out to be more mindful!

What is Mindfulness?
It’s paying attention “on purpose”. It’s being aware without judgement. Mindfulness has its roots in Buddhism. It’s the 7th part of the Eightfold path.

Left on its own our mind wanders back into the past and forward into the future. These thoughts can include worry, anger, disappointment, fear, grief and self pity. You suffer with these thoughts because the past is gone and the future a fantasy. Let go of these thoughts, paying attention to the now without judgment. This creates a stillness and peace in the mind. When using mindfulness in your life you tend to be here now. And now is usually filled with contentment.

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Posted in Meditation, Mindfulness, optimism, Positve Thought, Zen Mama Class | Tagged , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

How I Didn’t Diet…9 Ways To Lose Weight and Not Be On A Diet

Not the best shots... but you get the picture!

Not the best shots… but you get the picture!

“The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.”
Lao Tzu

“Yes I lost weight and no I’m not on a diet!”

This is the answer I give people when asked about my recent weight loss. I love to eat and cook. I’ve never worried about losing weight. Whenever I contemplated a “diet”, I balked. I really don’t believe in diets. They deprive you, which in turn, makes you binge later down the road.

We’ve always eaten fairly well. Because we love to eat, we sometimes ate a little too much at one sitting. Maybe I put a little too much salad dressing on. A little too much mayonnaise in my tuna salad…definitely! Or had too much bread because it was just out of the oven and then after that, we ate more bread with dinner, too. A little processed food? Maybe. But not too much. The occasional fast food. Sure. And as we lingered at the table, I’d continue eating unconsciously because the food is right in front of me! Yup, always.

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Posted in Balance, Health, Recipes, Zen Meals | 14 Comments

11 Quotes And A Poem To Inspire You On Mother’s Day!

I hope you’ll enjoy a Mother’s Day post from a few years ago! Enjoy your day!! In honor of Mother’s Day, my kindle books, HOW TO BE A ZEN MAMA and THE ZEN MAMA’S BOOK OF QUOTES are $.99 all weekend! click here: http://amzn.to/1ImXdsM

“In teaching (and mothering) you cannot see the fruit of a day’s work. It is invisible and remains so, maybe for twenty years.”
~ Jacques Barzun

Mothers, as we know, are very influential in their child’s life. I don’t think we even know how much we influence them. We mainly influence them by example. We act, they look.

Each stage with our children is about letting go. From the moment our children lift their heads up and roll over, they are working towards independence and we need to let go at each stage. We don’t have to worry (but we will anyway!) because hopefully if we were doing our job of setting a good example, they were watching. Remember that saying? “Do as I say, not as I do.” Children are always watching you!

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Posted in Holidays, Parenting, Positve Thought, Quotes | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment