The Power of Presence (or How to Reduce Stress By Doing Nothing)

Stress. A simple word, short and easy to understand. It affects everyone and can come from anywhere. We know when we are stressed out, and with some thought we can figure out what is causing our stress. What nobody tells us however, is how to properly handle stress. In this post, I will share with you a powerful way to dramatically reduce the amount of stress in your life. Yay!

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There are many causes of stress. It could be caused by problems at work, relationship problems, financial problems…the list goes on. It amazes me that despite all of our education, we are never taught how to properly deal with stress. Sometimes I feel like I’ve had more than my fair share of stress, a sentiment I’m sure we can all relate to. I have read countless books on psychology and positivity in an attempt to reduce stress, and this is what I have found.

Stress is mental. 

Of course it is, you say. That’s obvious.

But is it obvious? It seems to me that most people talk about stress as something outside of themselves. Your boss is stressing you out, your spouse is stressing you out, your (fill in the blank) is stressing you out. While these situations may be negatively influencing you, they are not the ultimate cause of your deteriorating peace of mind. Your reaction to these situations is the real culprit. If you can change the way you react to stressors, you can dramatically reduce the amount of stress in your life.

Now I’m not saying that you should ignore your problems, or blame yourself for them. If somebody or something is bothering you, it usually benefits you to address the situation. But until the situation is resolved it is important to remember that you are in control of your own mind, and stress is mental. You are letting them stress you out. Stop letting other people take your peace of mind!

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Now for the good part. When you feel like you are getting overwhelmed and you are letting situations get the best of you, here is a technique you can use to calm down and take back your peace of mind.

The technique is very simple. All you have to do is go somewhere quiet, preferably a place that you love or a place in nature, and clear your mind of everything but the present moment. Don’t think about the troubles of the past or the worries of the future. Just focus on the present moment. Inhale slowly through your nose and then exhale slowly out through your mouth. Keep doing this while focusing only on the sights, sounds and feelings of whats going on around you. You could even do this with your eyes closed and focus purely on the sensations of the present moment. After awhile, you begin to feel connected with everything around you. You begin to feel at one with the universe, and your problems will start to lose their hold over your mind.

This process of clearing your mind and breathing in the present moment has been used for thousands of years and to this day is one of the best techniques for reducing stress. It’s called

MEDITATION!

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That’s right! You don’t have to be a Buddhist monk to meditate, and you don’t even need to be sitting. You can use this technique and meditate anywhere. At home, at work, at a stop light, in line at the store, walking through the woods, standing in your favorite place…anywhere. If you practice this daily, you will begin to notice that you have more control over your thoughts and emotions. You will no longer be a victim of circumstances. You will control how you react to situations and in turn, you will control your stress. 

Just remember:

Be still, be present, and breathe!

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A New Way of Living

I actually wrote this a couple years ago, but recently came across it and thought I would share!

 

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I met a man during the summer of 2011 in Mexico named Jason.  This man was from a wealthy family in Dubai.  What was interesting about him was that unlike most people, whose lives are like broken records that constantly repeat the same things over and over, his was entirely devoted to traveling and experiencing new people and places.  He had traveled all over the world, and was in fact currently on a journey which started in Mexico where I met him and his plan was to travel down through South America visiting multiple countries, then take a boat to Antarctica and travel there.  When I asked him if he had enough clothes and gear, he replied that he would buy what he needs as he needs it.  While his stories of his adventures and the people that he met were very interesting, it wasn’t until later that I realized how profound his lifestyle was.  Here was a man whose life was dedicated to traveling, meeting new people, observing new cultures, trying new things.  Basically here was a man who was actively living his life, not passively letting life go by.  That was the foundation of my new way of living.

 

 I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking, “but he had the money to do that, I would do the same thing if I had that kind of money.” While this is true, the principle of what he was doing, how he was living his life, can still be applied to your own life.  Let me explain. 

 

For most of us, we have a job and we have to work in order to pay the bills.  This is generally unavoidable in life.  Where we go wrong though is that we start to make our lives a routine.  We tend to develop a set schedule, we do certain things at certain times, and we become very predictable.  We develop a comfort zone in our lives, and we unknowingly stay in that comfort zone for a majority of our lives because it makes us feel safe, feel in control.  Your comfort zone manifests as “likes” and “dislikes.”  You like doing something, or you don’t like doing something.  But if you’re honest with yourself, you will notice that in many cases you are making judgments about situations you have never experienced before.  How could you possibly know if you will like something or not until you have actually experienced it?  You can’t.  The real tragedy with this comfort zone is that you end up going through life without trying as many new things, without meeting as many new people, and without having as many meaningful life experiences as you could have.  

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This got me thinking about my own life, and my own personal protective mental barriers and walls, my own comfort zone.  I thought about all of the times that I automatically and unthinkingly said NO to something.  All of the missed opportunities and things I didn’t try, people that I didn’t meet, all because I was too “busy” or “didn’t feel like it.”  These were all excuses.  The real reason we don’t do as many new things as we should is because we become content with the few things that we know.  It’s natural to have a few select things that you really like doing, that’s the nature of favorites, but it becomes a problem when we don’t try new things anymore because we are content in doing just our favorite things.  There may be an awesome person or an amazing experience out there, but you just haven’t discovered it yet. And how does it feel to know that by never trying new things, you are guaranteed to never discover better things.  You end up living a very narrow and walled off existence.

 

The thought process that really propelled me to break out of my routine existence and challenge my mental barriers was thinking about how even the smallest decisions can dramatically affect the direction of your life.  Some call it the ‘Butterfly Effect.’  For example, one night while I was a senior in college I went to two parties, and my group of friends I was with was debating about going to a third one.  Some were for it, some were against it.  Ultimately it didn’t really matter…or did it?  At that third house party, I met a girl who I ended up having a very close, year and a half long relationship with.  I can’t even begin to describe all of the events and life changing experiences that were the consequence of just that one seemingly small decision to go to another party. 

 

One small chance encounter, one random new person that you meet, one new experience you have, could start a chain reaction that produces a dramatic and unpredictable effect on your life.  I took this idea of the butterfly effect, and the idea of breaking out of your comfort zone, and formed a new outlook on life, a new way of living that would guarantee that you get the most out of life. 

 

It can be summarized as follows:

 

By forcing yourself to stay socially active and purposely breaking out of your comfort zone, you are giving yourself the opportunity to experience as many new situations and meet as many new people as possible.  Meeting all these new people and having all these new experiences will set off an ever increasing number of chain reactions in your life that will ultimately lead to a more fulfilling life experience.     

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New experiences lead to new people, and new people lead to new experiences.

 

Now get out there and LIVE!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rediscovered: A Year and a Half of Wisdom

When I was younger, an old man once said to me “I remember when I was your age, boy, what I would give to be younger again.”  I politely nodded my head in agreement, and thought nothing more of the matter.

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It has been a year and a half since I last wrote in this blog.  In fact, I had totally forgotten about it.  Out of the blue I received an email notifying me of a new follower, and low and behold I have somehow reached almost 2000 views on this page in my absence.  I would like to take this time to write about some important life lessons that I have learned in the last year and a half.  I hope these pieces of wisdom will serve you as well as they have served me.

Never dwell on the past or what could have been”

There is a major difference between reminiscing about the past and dwelling in the past.  To reminisce is to occasionally think back to what has happened before.  The thoughts themselves have no lasting impact on your present emotional state, and you resume life as normal afterwards.  To dwell in the past means to live every day longing for things that are already gone: lost loves, old friends, people who have passed away, the good old days, etc…  Not only are dwelling on these memories emotionally taxing, they are preventing you from moving forward and living your life.  You need to learn to let go of the past, so that you can create a better future.  Do whatever you can to let go, you deserve it.  This leads us to our next topic which is to

“Learn from the mistakes of your past, and use them to become stronger.”

There are two main paths that you can go down when something bad happens to you.  You can either let it define you and spiral downwards, or you can learn from it and use it as a catalyst to make you a better person.  The easy way (and the common way) to deal with hardship is to feel sorry for yourself.  You start thinking things like “why me? why now?” The problem with doing that is that you lose all control of the situation.  You start to feel depressed and hopeless.  But you are stronger than that!  The other path you can take when something bad happens to you is the path of learning.  It is the path of personal growth.  It is the path of success.  If you fail, great!  What can I do better?  If you are rejected, great!  What have I learned?  If you feel depressed, great!  What can I do to make myself feel happy?  If you would just take the time to look, there is a lesson to be learned from everything!  Learn these lessons, and use them to your advantage!  Which leads us to maybe the most important lesson.

“Always think on the positive side.”

Every situation has two sides, the positive side, and the negative side.  The problem with the majority of people is that they default to the negative side of every situation.  And i’m not just talking about verbal complaining, it’s the debilitating mental negativity.  “This line is taking forever!” “This traffic sucks!” “That person is an idiot!”  “I hate my boss!”  “People always let me down!”  And on and on and on it goes.  Sound familiar?  This is how many people think day in and day out.

What if I told you there was another way to think, even about ‘bad’ situations?  A person who is deliberately trying to be positive (and it does take explicit intent sometimes) would phrase things a bit differently.  “What a long line, it could be longer though!” “This traffic is crazy, I hope nobody got in an accident!” “Everyone makes mistakes, he’s not an idiot.” “My boss can be annoying, but surely he has some good qualities?”  “Not everybody has let me down, I have some good friends!”

In many instances thinking on the positive side is simply seeing things from a different perspective.  It is a transition from selfish thinking to fair-mindedness.  It is a transition from being controlled by your emotions, to controlling your emotions.  Why should you take the time and energy to think this way?  YOU WILL BE A MUCH HAPPIER PERSON!  Happiness is infectious!  Life will be more enjoyable, people will like you more, you will be more successful, and you will improve not only your own life, but the lives of all the people around you!  You will be a more loving person.

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One day, you will be that old man or woman, and with this knowledge you can say, “I’ve had a lot of experiences in my life, some good, some bad, but I don’t regret anything.  My past has made me who I am, my mistakes have made me stronger, and my love has changed the world.”

 

Lovelight

While looking up at the night sky, I thought about how even after a star burns out, we can still see its light for thousands of years.  Similarly, even after a love is gone, the effects of that love continue to be seen throughout our lives, and it becomes part of who we are.  Here’s a poem I wrote expressing these ideas.  Enjoy!

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Lovelight

The flame of love never dies,
for even after a fire ceases to shine,
the radiance once emitted can never fade.
It continues ever to shine among the stars,
to the very edge of the universe,
illuminating the sky of our souls.

As bitter night follows the glistening day,
the brilliance that was can still be seen,
shimmering in the heavens of our hearts.
But do not mourn the passing of the light,
for we are descended from stars,
and nothing gained is ever truly lost.

And among the ashes of love departed,
there lies a smouldering ember,
born of love’s eternal flame.
A silent glow,
waiting,
to ignite the fire of love again.

“The Secret” Revealed

Hmmmm, where to begin… I guess a life-changing fact will do.

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You have the power to get anything you want in life.

This statement is absolutely true.  I’m talking any possible thing you want.  A million dollars?  Sure.  A Lamborghini Aventador LP 700-4?  Yep.  A mansion like Tony Stark’s in Iron Man?  Absolutely.  How about a faithful, loving partner?  Why not.

“What?!  How can I get these things?” I can hear you saying.  “What’s the catch?”

Ah yes, the catch.  There definitely is a catch, or “key,” to getting everything you want in life.  This catch has been called “The Secret” by some, and every successful person in history has used this “secret” whether they recognized it or not.  It is a secret that is available to anyone, yet few are aware of its existence.  It is my pleasure to reveal to you this secret in hopes that you get everything you want out of life.  Here goes.

There are many quotes and sayings floating around out there about hard work and success.  Most are written by successful individuals in their respective professional fields.  Here are some examples:

Mark Twain

Mark Twain

“To succeed in life, you need two things: ignorance and confidence.” -Mark Twain

“I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life and that is why I succeed.” -Michael Jordan

“Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.” -Winston Churchill

“In order to succeed, your desire for success should be greater than your fear of failure.”  -Bill Cosby

These are quotes by different people in different periods of history, and yet all of these quotes have one thing in common.  On the surface they all deal with themes such as perseverance, confidence, and courage in the face of failure.  And while it is true that these things are indeed very important, they are actually only side effects of the real underlying cause for success.  So what is it?  What is so powerful that it can cause dreams to come true?  Simply put,

You have to BELIEVE that they will come true.

This is the secret.  It cannot be overstated.  You have to believe, believe, believe.  You have to believe in your dream so thoroughly that it is no longer a question of whether or not it will happen.  You have to KNOW that it will happen.  Henry David Thoreau is absolutely right when he said,

“If one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with success unexpected in common hours.”

Did you catch what he said?  He said that you WILL get what you want, it’s not a question.  And what’s more, it won’t take you forever to get it.

In order to achieve, you first have to believe.  

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This picture is from the book/documentary called “The Secret.”  In this book, they explain a concept called “The Law of Attraction.”  The Law of Attraction has been interpreted differently by different people, but in essence it says:

  • The Universe is made of energy
  • Your thoughts contain energy
  • The energy of your thoughts will attract a similar energy from the universe

For example,

Tony Stark's mansion

Tony Stark’s mansion

Let’s say that you really, really want this house.  You look at pictures of it every day, and you make it your dream to own it.  Plenty of people have similar dreams, yet almost none of them get what they want.  Do you know why?  It is because in the backs of most of our minds, sometimes unconsciously, we tell ourselves negative things such as;

“It’s too expensive” or “I don’t have that kind of money” or “It’ll never happen.”  

…And you’d be right, you’ll never get it.  At least not with your current mindset.  These kinds of habitual, negative thoughts that are constantly running through our heads, telling us what we can’t have or can’t do, will guarantee that we wont get what we desire!  Remember Henry Ford’s famous saying,

“Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t — you’re right.”

If, however, you looked at pictures of the house everyday, imagined yourself owning it, imagined throwing parties in it, imagined having the money to afford it, and really believed every single day that you would get it, the Law of Attraction states that eventually, one way or another, you would get it, because the universe is corresponding to the positive energy of your thoughts.

“What do you mean when you say that my thoughts have energy, aren’t they just thoughts?”

Now we’re getting into some highly debatable, ridiculously complicated stuff (aka Quantum Physics).  To keep it simple, I will just say that there are theories out there that support the idea of thoughts as having energy because thoughts help create your perception of the universe, which is itself made of energy.  And if you don’t like the scientific answer, how about the fact that most religions consider thoughts as having power, such as the power of prayer or meditation.  Or if you’re more into the metaphysical, what about the 6th sense (extrasensory perception), where you can sense things with your mind (like that creepy guy a couple tables over).

This could be yours, if you truly believe it to be!

This could be yours, if you truly believe it to be!

Anyway, the main point is to think positive thoughts, and to eliminate your habitual negative thoughts which keep you from your dreams.  If you think positively, you will attract positive things.  Likewise, if you think negatively, you will attract negative things.  If you really want something, eliminate the negative thoughts, start thinking positively, and truly believe that you will get it.  The universe will be compelled, by the Law of Attraction, to give you what you want.  Guaranteed.

For more information on this “secret,” check out the book “In Tune with the Infinite” by Ralph Waldo Trine.  It may come as a surprise to you that it was written in 1897, over 100 years before the book/documentary “The Secret.”

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Farewell friends!  Remember, you have to believe!

Coke Machines and Aliens

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I’m not sayin’ this Coke machine was made by aliens…but it was aliens.

Ok, before I start I would just like to say that yes, I did borrow the idea for the title of this post from the extremely creative movie title Cowboys and Aliens, sue me.

Anyway, I saw this strange, alien-looking Coke machine the other day. It wasn’t the first time that I had seen one, but on this particular occasion it got me thinking. No, not about coke or crazy soda mixtures (don’t do grape sprite), but about aliens. That’s right, ALIENS.

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Common perception of aliens

The picture above represents what people commonly think of when they hear the word “alien.” Have you ever wondered why? Of course, every stereotype has its roots, and the same is true for aliens. Without getting into huge amounts of detail, the basic story of why we think of aliens like this is as follows:

During the 1950’s and 60’s there was a wave of “flying saucer” sightings all over the nation. Among the hundreds, if not thousands of sightings during this time, there were also scattered reports of people witnessing these saucers landing, or crash landing. A few of these reports included people witnessing the occupants of these flying saucers exiting the craft and walking around. The most well documented and publicized case was the Kelly-Hopkinsville encounter in 1955, which included dozens of eye-witnesses (including several policemen and a state trooper), remarkable individual corroboration, and extensive investigation by numerous government agencies. This incident, and other similar incidents, caught media attention, and journalists took the eye-witnesses descriptions and turned them into the “little green men” that most people associate with aliens today. This media depiction soon became a Hollywood depiction, and thus our stereotypical alien was born.

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Close Encounters of the Third Kind

Does all of this alien mumbo jumbo sound like crazy-talk to you? Apparently it’s not so crazy. A recent survey for National Geographic found that “thirty-six percent of Americans think aliens have visited Earth, and almost 80 percent believe the government has kept information about UFOs a secret from the public (Cline USNews.com).

Now, I have always considered myself a very logical person, and yet, I have always believed in extraterrestrial life. “Ha! You are a fool,” I can hear you say. That may be true, but first, let me explain my reasoning.

I should start by saying that, believing in the possibility of extraterrestrial life is not the same as believing in little green men with laser guns (see Mars Attacks). As I have said above, this is simply the stereotypical media portrayal of extraterrestrials (aliens). The word extraterrestrial is defined as “outside, or originating outside, the limits of the earth (dictionary.com).” By this definition, if we found single celled organisms on Mars, or more likely, in the subsurface oceans of Jupiter’s moon Europa, they would be considered extraterrestrials, or ALIENS!!!

I can already hear your rebuttal, “Ok, fine, technically that is true, but I’m talking about REAL aliens, the ones you see in movies. THOSE are not real.”

Again, I would have to disagree, and in fact, I believe that it is almost a certainty that such lifeforms do exist. Let me explain. When people say that they don’t believe in aliens (extraterrestrials, not certain landscapers), what they are really saying is that they don’t believe that intelligent, complex, multi-cellular extraterrestrial organisms exist. And I would agree that this would seem exceedingly unlikely given most people’s limited knowledge of the universe. Let me enlighten you non-believers.

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Hubble Ultra Deep Field

The picture above is an image taken by the Hubble space telescope called the Ultra Deep Field. The Hubble was pointed at a very small, dark section of the night sky, and gathered data from September 24, 2003, through January 16, 2004. What this image reveals is that even in an apparently empty section of space, we have evidence of over 10,000 galaxies! And this is just one very small section of space viewed from earth.

My point is that we can use this data to estimate the number of galaxies in the visible universe, which is thought to be about 100 to 200 billion galaxies. Using what we know about our own galaxy, the Milky Way, and our neighboring galaxies, recent estimates indicate that each galaxy can contain as many as 500 billion stars. If you do the math, in this case 200 billion galaxies x 500 billion stars in each galaxy, you get a staggering total of 1^23 stars in the visible universe. To those who are scientifically challenged, that is a 1 with 23 zeros after it. Which looks like 100000000000000000000000 when written out. Our sun is just one of these stars. Our entire solar system, all eight planets (or 9 for you old timers), all revolve around just one of these unfathomable number of stars.

“What the hell are you talking about,” I can hear you say. “What does this have to do with aliens?”

This has everything to do with aliens. If we assume that the evolution of complex, intelligent life is extremely rare, we also have to keep in mind the extraordinary vastness of the universe. If intelligent life could evolve in our solar system, and there are 1^23 potential solar systems in the universe, intelligent life may not be that rare.

There is a very high probability of intelligent life evolving in our universe due to the sheer unimaginable vastness of the universe.

The sheer vastness of the universe makes statistically rare things, like the evolution of intelligent life, much more probable. How vast is our universe? Nobody knows, it could be infinite. The farthest object we can observe is 14 billion light years away. Meaning it takes light going 299,792,458 m/s (or 670,616,629 mph) 14 billion years to reach us. Yes, it’s that big.

ImageAnd if you don’t believe me, believe Stephen Hawking when he says, “to my mathematical brain, the numbers alone make thinking about aliens perfectly rational. The real challenge is to work out what aliens might actually be like.”

Are we really naive enough to think that we are alone in the universe?

What do you think? Does the sheer enormity of the universe increase the odds of intelligent life? Or are we really one of a kind?