Tag Archives: 4th of july

Party Like a Colonist: the Original 4th of July

This weekend is the 4th of July! It usually means fireworks, BBQs, and red, white & blue.
It can get pretty wild, but the truth is it’s nothing compared to cannon fire, burning effigies, and melting statues down into bullets like the original colonists. We love this retelling by History Channel of the original 4th of July party!
How do you celebrate Independence Day?

5 Ways to Be Present and Start Living Your Real Life

Screen Shot 2013-07-17 at 12.29.21 PMBy Levi Newman

We live in an age of distraction. Technology, around every corner and in almost every pocket, clogs life’s airwaves and makes it difficult to be mindful of the moment. Even as I type this (on a computer, no less) I can hear a television blaring a movie in the other room. My son, I’m quite sure, is on his Xbox 360 ,and my wife has checked her phone no less than 35 times in the last 10 seconds.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not one to take a trip without bringing along my iPad, but there has to be boundaries. That boundary should begin when we start to miss life as it unfolds in the present.

This idea has been running through my mind because of the 4th of July. I was sitting in the park watching fireworks with my family, equally enjoying the colorful explosions overhead and the look of excitement on my children’s faces, when I took a moment to glance at the crowd in hopes that I’d find the same delight amongst the masses. But what I found closest to me was disheartening—a man was watching every second of the event through the viewfinder of a large camera, never once bothering to look up and observe the beauty with his own eyes.

It was in this moment that I realized that we often squander the precious seconds of our lives because we are not mindful of the moment. That’s not to say we shouldn’t capture important events, but how often are we trying so hard to record something for posterity that we miss out on the importance of the memory for our own brain?

This is why living in the moment, or mindfulness, is so important. We should embrace life, letting our thoughts and feelings surround us until we’ve given active, open attention to the present. When you’re mindful, you observe your thoughts and feelings from a distance, without judging them good or bad. Mindfulness means living in the moment and awakening to experience.

This way of thinking should apply to every moment, not just the bright and shiny ones. When we’re at work, we should fantasize less about clocking out at five and more about the task at hand. Not only would this make you a better worker, which has its own benefits for you and your employer, it would help you appreciate those around you.

When we’re living in the moment it also keeps us from dwelling on intrusive memories, such as past problems or uncertainty about the future. This decision to take active control of each moment isn’t an easy undertaking. Most of us allow our thoughts to control us, not the other way around. Because this sense of balance often eludes us, we need to stop concentrating on doing and focus more on just being.

The true reason to be mindful is simple: mindful people are happier, more exuberant, more empathetic and more secure in their relationships. This allows for reduced stress, an improved immune system, lower blood pressure and often alleviates chronic pains. Not to mention that being accepting of who you are and what you’re doing allows for a higher self-esteem and the ability to acknowledge and improve upon one’s weaknesses.

Here are a few simple steps to get you started on the right track.

1. Reduce your self-consciousness. In other words, dance as if no one is watching. Being able to be comfortable in your own skin is difficult, but allowing yourself that freedom is important.

2. Avoid worrying about the future by focusing on the present. If you’re so wrapped up in what’s going to happen tomorrow, you’re not concerning yourself with what is happening around you, which may ultimately prove to be more important.

3. Improve your relationships with others by taking control of your emotions and avoiding action and impulse. There are going to be times when you may feel like lashing out or losing control, but taking a few moments to collect yourself and be mindful of your responses can make all the difference in the world.

4. Make the most of time by losing the watch. Time often dictates every second (no pun intended) of our lives, so much that we may cut off the enjoyment of an event just to stick to a set schedule. Planning is important in life, but so is spontaneity. Take time to enjoy both.

5. Avoidance isn’t a solution. If you have a problem, the only way to improve your life is to tackle it head on. If you allow things to fester without addressing them you run the risk of things getting much worse before they get better. It’s OK to fear not having the answer, but being mindful of needed actions will help you through the toughest times.

* * *

Levi Newman, a 10-year Army veteran and graduate of the University of Missouri. Levi currently serves as the senior author for the Veterans United Network. He also works as the Director of Outreach for Veterans United Home Loans, where he builds and maintains relationships with businesses, organizations and individuals. To keep up with Levi, follow him on Google+!

A Million Reasons to Volunteer This 4th of July

Screen Shot 2013-07-03 at 10.40.44 PMBy Levi Newman

I’d like to believe that most of us are actively looking for ways to live healthier, more meaningful lives. It may be a “glass half full” way to view life, but to me you should always be looking to do more with the time you have. That’s why I think we should become more responsible citizens of this planet by finding ways to make a positive difference in the lives of others.

Think about it; we’re always asking for help from dieticians, aestheticians, yoga instructors and life gurus, but how often do we ask what we can do for someone else? I’m going to let you in on a secret that I’ve been using to fill my own health and wellness needs—it’s called volunteering.

Wait, you mean you’ve heard of it? Okay, you caught me, it’s not a secret, but it is amazingly good for you!

There are a million and one reasons to volunteer at either a local or global level, but let’s focus on just a few. For starters, people who volunteer are linked to having better mental, physical and emotional health. According to a study by the UnitedHealth Group and Optum Institute, 76 percent of people surveyed said volunteering made them feel physically healthier, while another 78 percent reported lower stress levels. Researchers at the London School of Economics have even found a correlation between the amount you volunteer and the chances you’ll have of being “very happy.” In essence, the more you volunteer, the happier you become.

Of course, I don’t need statistics to tell me that if I trimmed my waistline and dropped some stress that I’d be a lot happier.

Did you also know that people who volunteer are more likely to land paid employment? In fact, people who volunteer are 27 percent more likely to find a job according to research by the Corporation for National and Community Service. Looks like all that time you spent passing out meals on Thanksgiving could pay even more dividends than you imagined.

Let’s not forget the social aspect. Your selfless service helps your community grow and come together. In today’s society we can sometimes lose those close ties because of social media, so it’s imperative that we build strong bonds with those around us. And while making new friends, expanding your social network (hooray for jobs!) and even boosting your interpersonal skills are important facets, we’re not even scratching the surface of the benefits of volunteering.

We’ve talked all about the selfish—in a good way—reasons we should volunteer, but let’s talk about how volunteering our valuable time affects those in need.

The single most important thing you provide those you serve is hope, and even a little hope inspires. Giving your time, time you may have otherwise wasted on some mundane, forgettable task, could have been time used to inspire someone that may have all but given up on life. It doesn’t matter if it’s volunteering at a food bank like Feeding America, or rebuilding communities around the globe with Team Rubicon, the point is that you’re providing a service to people that truly need help.

Volunteering is one of the few activities on earth that benefits the givers as much as the recipients. That’s why when you’re looking to take on a new hobby, project or adventure, choose something that can impact someone’s life in a positive way. It doesn’t matter if you decide to start down the street at a local church, or choose to take on the big jobs with the United Nations, know that you’re making the right decision.

Mahatma Gandhi once said: “You must be the change you wish to see in the world.” If we’re all looking to be happier people living more fruitful lives, I challenge you to take those words and volunteer to be that change. Here’s hoping I see you out there.

* * *

-1Levi Newman, a 10-year Army veteran and graduate of the University of Missouri, currently serves as the senior author for the Veterans United Network. He also works as the Director of Outreach for Veterans United Home Loans, where he builds and maintains relationships with businesses, organizations and individuals.

5 Classic American Dishes Made Healthy for 4th of July!

Screen Shot 2013-07-03 at 1.12.33 PMHolidays almost always provide an excuse to have a feast, right? Unless the occasion calls for fasting, in which case a feast may come later. But for the most part, we celebrate, we commemorate, and we chow.

The 4th of July is no exception. This is a day many Americans spend grilling meat and veggies, squeezing lemons for lemonade, and making blueberry pancakes and apple pie. Because what better way to celebrate independence than to merrily flip hot dogs on the grill, surrounded by friends and family? It’s a bit of a stereotype, perhaps, but we’ll bet many of you have had at least one, if not many, Independence Days that exactly fit that bill.

The unfortunate reality is that many of the “classic American dishes” we enjoy on this and other holidays are not all that healthy, and some are downright vicious to our health. Luckily, there are ways to make some of these beloved recipes more healthy so that you and your family can enjoy an Independence Day feast without worrying about the consequences.

Here are 5 of our favorite recipes:

  1. For Breakfast: Eating pancakes for breakfast is kind of like having dessert in the morning, but it is a holiday, after all. To ease your mind a bit, these delicious blueberry lemon pancakes are made with half white flour and half whole wheat flour, which will at least add some fiber to balance out the 2 tablespoons of sugar. Enjoy with maple syrup, jam, butter, or just one their own!
  2. For Lunch: After that yummy, but heavy, breakfast you may want something light and green to munch on for lunch. Potato or pasta salad is typically the go-to picnic dish, but since we’re already enjoying lots of carbs and starch for breakfast and dinner, opt for something with more fiber. This kale slaw is the perfect choice for a light, refreshing midday meal.
  3. For Dinner: There’s perhaps no dish more classically American than a burger and fries. But this year, instead of wasting the calories on meat, cheese, and a big bun, get creative with this amazing veggie burger recipe. Lentils, mushrooms, and walnuts provide the main substance of the dish, packing lots of protein, fiber, and potassium. Serve these burgers with mustard, whole wheat buns, and sweet potato fries for something classically delicious and blessedly worry-proof.
  4. For Refreshments: It’s summer, it’s hot, you’re thirsty – you’re going to want something delicious and cool to sip throughout the day. Instead of buying juice or soda from the supermarket, make your own fresh-squeezed lemonade! It’s the only way you can control how much and what kind of sugar goes into sweetening your tasty beverage. This recipe calls for 4 cups of sugar, but try using maple syrup, coconut sugar, date sugar, or stevia as alternatives.
  5. For Dessert: Ice cream, ice cream, we all scream for ice cream! Ginger, peaches, and the sweet coolness of a dessert you can savor as fireworks paint the sky above you. Try out this recipe and be prepared to never eat another flavor of ice cream again.

What are your favorite 4th of July recipes? Let us know in the comments section below!

6 Iconic American Novels to Read for Independence Day!

Screen Shot 2013-07-02 at 1.48.00 PMThe number one lesson of “best of” lists is: It’s nearly impossible to make a “best of” list. Especially when you’re talking about American literature. This country may not make the best cars or electronic dance music, but we’ve produced some amazing works of literature over the years.

If you went through American public school education – and even if you didn’t – you’re bound to have read many of the classics: Catcher in the Rye, The Great Gatsby, Of Mice and Men, etc. Here is a list of 10 iconic American novels that may not have made it into your formal education, but which are certainly worth reading.

From a wide range of authors, decades, and thematic settings, these books paint a rich, complex, and often troubling picture of this amazing country many of you out there call home. It might not be the light beach reading you’re looking for on July 4th, but take some time this weekend to reflect on the true importance of our national holiday. And grab one of these epic works to help you commemorate the day.

  1. Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison. Set in the mid-twentieth century, this book tells the story of an unnamed African American man making his way through a harsh and inhospitable world. From growing up in the South, to attending a prestigious black college, to seeking out work in New York City, the man encounters antipathy nearly everywhere he turns. A poignant look at racial tension in this country dating all the way back to our founding and straight through to modern times.
  2. Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck. Caught in the dusty, impoverished South during the Great Depression, the Joad family hits the road for California. Like so many families before them, and so many who would follow, the Joads find nothing but further pain, poverty, and misfortune in their quest. Lush descriptions, noble characters, and gripping scenarios will get you through this long and sometimes traumatic book.
  3. In Cold Blood by Truman Capote. To be honest, this book isn’t a “novel,” but it still makes the list. Here’s why: Journalistic, stark, and six years in the making, this is not only the best crime book ever written, but one of the greatest American works of literature. It tells the horrific story of a quadruple murder by two deeply troubled men who, by the end of Capote’s sensitive re-telling, you almost empathize with. Or maybe not. Give it a read and tell us what you think.
  4. My Ántonia by Willa Cather. Young Jim Burden goes to live with his grandparents after his parents die, and he soon falls in love with the free-spirited neighbor girl, Ántonia. Though written from Jim’s perspective, the novel is organized according to the stages of Ántonia’s life, from girlhood through motherhood. Her struggles mirror the stark nature of the American prairie, which Cather illustrates so adeptly, and both are juxtaposed against Jim’s own privileged, modern existence. You’ll fall in love with the characters as much as you do their environment.
  5. Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy. If you’ve never read McCarthy before, then be forewarned: His books are exquisitely written and often disturbingly violent. This book is no exception. The protagonist spends much of the novel among a notorious scalp-hunting gang in the mid-nineteenth century Southwest. And make no mistake, scalps will be cut, babies will be killed, and your stomach will turn more than once while you read this classic work. But as a portrait of the American West, in all its vicious rawness, it doesn’t get any better than this.
  6. Dune by Frank Herbert. This list wouldn’t be complete without a science fiction novel, and Dune is one of the best out there. Set in an intergalactic future in which “spice” is the number one prized commodity, this book is both mythic in proportion and intimate in human dimension. Paul Atreides is the young hero gifted with super-human powers that will, hopefully, help him save civilization from the evil forces out to destroy it. (And when you’re done with this one, there are 5 sequels to keep you reading for weeks to come.)

What’s your favorite American novel? Let us know in the comments section below. Happy reading!

 

Read the previous post in our book series here!

Sparks Will Fly With This 4th of July Homemade Ice Cream!

Screen Shot 2013-06-27 at 5.19.41 PM

By the time 4th of July rolls around, we’re in the thick of summer. It’s hot; our kids are getting restless; and it’s been a few weeks since the last good summer party. Lucky for us, the joyous, rowdy national holiday arrives just in time, complete with parades and fireworks to set the festive mood. Like many celebrants, you may be hitting the beach or the park this year for a picnic, then catching fireworks once the sun sets. It’s a common and beloved routine, so perfectly simple you might find yourself searching for a way to spice things up…

Ever made ice cream from scratch? That’s right, no more excuses. Let this summer be an opportunity to undertake some new projects you’ve had your eye on but haven’t had the time/patience to try out. Case in point: homemade ice cream!

Ginger and peaches come together in this refreshing recipe to create the perfect summer dessert. Your kids will love it; your friends will beg you for the recipe; and Independence Day will go off will all the spice and spark it deserves.

Ginger Peach Ice Cream – Two ways

Ingredients:

  • 6 fresh ripe peaches diced
  • 1 Pint Heavy Cream or whipping cream
  • 1-2 Cups Half and Half or Whole Milk
  • 1/2 to 1 Cup sugar depending on preference
  • 1/2 to 1 1/2 tsp. Wakaya Perfection Organic Ginger Powder (to taste)

Instructions:

  1. Lightly whip heavy cream to aerate for 2-3 minutes
  2. Add sugar to blend
  3. Pour into a large bowl and add additional milk
  4. Puree half of the diced peaches and add ginger powder to taste
  5. Stir in diced peaches and puree until well blended
  6. Pour into ice cream maker and follow manufacturer’s instructions

Or have some fun and make Ice Cream in a Can!! Here’s how:

In a 1 lb. coffee can mix all ingredients. Seal can lid well with duct tape. Put small, sealed can inside larger 3 lb. can. Pack ice and 1 cup salt around small can. Put lid on large can and duct tape closed. Roll back & forth on a large towel (optional) for 15 minutes. Open large can and dump ice and water. Wipe small can dry and open. Stir mix, scraping sides of can. Additional ingredients, eg. cookie crumbs, chopped nuts, can be added now. Reseal small can and place back in larger can. Repack with salt and ice. Continue rolling for 10 minutes more. Open large can and dump ice and water. Wipe small can dry and open. Enjoy!

 * * *


308415_642560165773441_1538239119_nWakaya Perfection Ginger Powder has been featured in the LA Times, New York Times Gift GuideOprah’s favorite things and many more!

July 4th is right around the corner, and now is the perfect time to stock up on Wakaya Perfection’s 100% organic ginger powder to use in your favorite recipes! Visit WakayaPerfection.com to find more healthy recipes (like the Ginger Lime Creme Brulee or Mushroom-Stuffed Pork Chops) and stock up on Wakaya Perfection Organic Ginger to use in your kitchen. 

Use the promo code THRIVE and receive 15% off your next purchase!

3 Steps to Proclaiming Your Psychological Independence

The West is in a constant war with reality.

Perpetually dissatisfied with what is, we are desperately trying to perfect it. This one and only reality seems never enough and we feel ever entitled to more: bigger houses, bigger (hybrid) cars, bigger (Anime-sized) eyes, bigger market shares, bigger tax deductions, bigger incomes, bigger bonuses, bigger breasts, bigger penises, bigger egos, and bigger wars. We have been culturally programmed to endlessly optimize and supersize, to constantly perfect ourselves and everyone else around us. Our appetite for more has been kindled to the level of insatiability. No wonder we feel psychologically starved and existentially empty.

We have been taught to chase the unattainable: to be more than what we are at any given point in time. We are a culture of idealistically naive strivers unable to be content with what is if only for a moment. This absurdly unrealistic goal (to be more than what we are at any given point in time) comes with the high cost of psychological dependence. Feeling chronically imperfect, we sell out for reassurance, validation and approval. Feeling chronically incomplete, we compete in consumption and stuff ourselves beyond measure.

This chronic deficit of self-acceptance becomes a matter of national deficit and undermines the socio-political independence of our society. Long-term sovereignty of a nation rests with psychological independence of its constituents. A nation of psychologically insecure denizens is at war with itself, and is, thus, divided.

On this 4th of July, 2012, and onward, I encourage you to proclaim your psychological independence – from a hollowing-out and incessant desire for more. Your individual psychological health is part of our collective wealth. Self-help, self-care, self-awareness and self-acceptance are patriotic. Stop waging war on yourself: you are doing your best, nonstop, all the time. On some level you know it. Make it official. And as soon as we do, as a nation, we will shift the paradigm from conspicuous consumption of goods and calories to the era of conspicuous compassion and moderation.

Proclamation of Psychological Independence

1. We confuse perfection with imperfection, but there is no difference (between these two) unless, of course, you compare what is with what isn’t.

Explanation: What’s real is real, what’s not is not.

Here’s a brief inventory of what exists on this planet at any given point in time: the planet, of course; the animal kingdom; and you (the humankind) with its fantasies of what still could be. My point is this: there is no other reality at any given point in time aside from the one that actually is. We can now envision and imagine a theoretically better world and we can compare it to the real world that exists and we can say: “I don’t want this actual world, I want that theoretical world.”

Suffering is borne out of this very comparison: the ideal always beats the pants off the real. In any comparison of what is with what isn’t, in any comparison of reality to fiction, fiction always looks prettier. So, as we envision what still could be, we ignore what still is. But here’s the existential glitch: there is only what there is at any given point in time. If we don’t know how to be content with what is, we are stuck chasing the tail of desire, constantly optimizing, supersizing, perfecting.

Bottom-line is this: perfection is a state that is beyond improvement; reality is the best that it can be at any given point in time (even if it had been better at some point in the past or if it can be still perfected at some point in the future); if so, then whatever is, at any given point in time, is the best that it can be, i.e. perfect. If this momentary reality (the one and only we have at any point in time) is perfect, then it is only not enough when we compare it with what isn’t (i.e. our idealistic and naïve visions of still could be).

2. If I could be this very moment better, worse or other than what I am right now I wouldn’t be myself. But I am, perfectly imperfect.

Explanation: At any given point in time, you are what you are. That is self-evident.

What this means is that at any given point in time (like right now) you are not less, not more, but exactly what you are, i.e. all you can be (right now). If you were in any way different right now, you wouldn’t be you, but you are you, exactly as you are. What this means is that right now you are the best that you can be. Why? Because you cannot be any better right now. Sure you can be better at a later point in time, but we are talking about this moment, the one and only moment that there is, in which you are exactly what you are, not worse, not better, but just you. Doing the best that you can (at any given point in time) = being the best that you can (at any given point in time).

I see this as inevitable perfection. You have arrived in this moment, perfectly imperfect, with nothing amiss and fully realized. Self-realization isn’t when you are more than you can be at any given point in time; self-realization is when you realize that you are this real you, not the perfectionistic figment of imagination of what you should be right now. Understand this in your bones: you are what you are and that’s enough. Accept your inevitable perfection at this moment and perfect the future if you still so desire. Self-acceptance isn’t the end of striving (no, you can still strive, just without that overcompensating urgency and rushed desperation) but a beginning of psychological independence.

3. It is always like that, not just during this now but at any now that you are alive. Present is perfect.

Explanation: You are doing the best that you can and, therefore, being the best that you can be, not just now, but always.

Sure it might not seem so when you compare you to not-you (i.e. to some theoretical you that never exists or to others who are, by definition, not like you). But if you compare you to you, as you are, then you are always doing the best that you can do and, therefore, being the best that you can be, non-stop, without fail.

Think this through until this becomes self-evident: there is no past right now nor is there any future in this moment, there is only this, this moment, this now, and it’s always like that. You are always in some kind of now, in which you are only what you are, not more, not less, but just enough. Reality does not short-change us: there is no celestial lay-away in which the reality is withholding better versions of itself until a later time. Right now, which is always, there is only this, this moment, however it is, not less, not more, such as it is, perfectly imperfect.

Look around for a moment: everything is what it is, if a door is half-ajar, it is half-ajar, if it is closed, it is closed, if it is open, it is open; if the sky is azure blue, then it is, if, however, it is overcast, then it is overcast. And so are you – in this moment, which is always, – all you can be, perfectly imperfect. Accept this ordinary, self-evident perfection of what you are in this moment and, if you still need to, perfect the future. Savor the new unhurried calmness of this continued self-optimization: when perfecting yourself from the platform of self-acceptance, you take your time living.

From Conspicuous Consumption to Conspicuous Compassion

Am I oversimplifying? Hell, yeah! My mind is still green (and I do hope it stays this way), but it does (fortuitously) know that the greener pasture on the other side of the hill is just an optical illusion, just the Jungian shadow of our insatiable, culturally-kindled appetite for more.

I’ll be writing and talking about all this jazz of self-acceptance and inevitable perfection as long as I breathe. My motive has nothing to do with altruism but self-preservation. You see, the world of self-rejection is a merciless jungle. If I can help you accept yourself, my guess is that you’ll be kinder to others, which, in turn, will translate into a hopefully less hostile world all around. Self-acceptance means psychological independence, i.e. a world in which people mostly mind their own business, meeting their psychological needs in-house, without psychological blackmail or relational warfare, without surface-deep resource-intense contests of egos and psychological careerism.

When we realize that we are doing the best that we can and being the best that we can, at any given point in time, eventually it dawns on us that everyone’s like that and that, my fellow mind, becomes a platform for forgiveness and compassion. When you stop attacking yourself you automatically call a truce on the world at large. It is for this and only this reason that I keep jabbering about self-acceptance: self-acceptance powers compassion and compassion – at the end of the day – is just another form of self-care. On this July 4th and every day onward, be psychologically independent, even if you are in debt otherwise!

Now, somebody, toss me a veggie hot-dog and a couple of sparklers. Time to light up the sky!

Adapted from Present Perfect: a Mindfulness Approach to Letting Go of Perfectionism and the Need to Control

www.eatingthemoment.com

www.drsomov.com

Happy July 4th! Share With Us Your #Freedom Intent For A Chance To Win One-Month Membership with YogaDownload.com

Intent.com believes that freedom is as simple as an intention to free ourselves. Liberation is a mindset and we have the power to change our karma and create our own destiny. 235 years ago this week, colonial Americans acted on their intentions to create a place of openness and freedom.

Today, many of us find freedom in a yoga or meditation practice, so this week, we’re partnering with YogaDownload.com to celebrate all the ways we free ourselves from the things that restrain our naturally creative spirits.

Starting today until the end of the 4th of July weekend, tell us your intent to create a path of freedom and you could win a one month membership to YogaDownload.com, giving you the tools to bring your yoga practice wherever you go. Use #freedom when you post your intent. And happy 4th of July!

Proclamation of Psychological Independence

The West is in a constant war with reality: perpetually dissatisfied with what is, we are desperately trying to perfect it. This one and only reality seems never enough and we feel ever entitled to more: bigger houses, bigger (hybrid) cars, bigger (Anime-sized) eyes, bigger market shares, bigger tax deductions, bigger incomes, bigger bonuses, bigger breasts, bigger penises, bigger egos, and bigger wars. We have been culturally programmed to endlessly optimize and supersize, and to constantly perfect ourselves and everyone else around us. Our appetite for more has been kindled to the level of insatiability. No wonder we feel psychologically starved and existentially empty.

We have been taught to chase the unattainable: to be more than what we are at any given point in time. We are a culture of idealistically naive strivers unable to be content with what is if only for a moment. This absurdly unrealistic goal (to be more than what we are at any given point in time) comes with the high cost of psychological dependence. Feeling chronically imperfect, we sell out for reassurance, validation and approval. Feeling chronically incomplete, we compete in consumption and stuff ourselves beyond measure.

This chronic deficit of self-acceptance becomes a matter of national deficit and undermines the socio-political independence of our society. Long-term sovereignty of a nation rests with psychological independence of its constituents. A nation of psychologically insecure denizens is at war with itself, and is, thus, divided.

On this 4th of July, 2010, and onward, I encourage you to proclaim your psychological independence – from a hollowing-out and incessant desire for more. Your individual psychological health is part of our collective wealth. Self-help, self-care, self-awareness and self-acceptance are patriotic. Stop waging war on yourself: you are doing your best, nonstop, all the time. On some level you know it. Make it official. And as soon as we do, as a nation, we will shift the paradigm from conspicuous consumption of goods and calories to the era of conspicuous compassion and moderation.

Proclamation of Psychological Independence

1.

We confuse perfection with imperfection

But there is no difference

Unless, of course, you compare what is with what isn’t.

2.

If (at this very moment) I could be better, worse or other than what I am right now

I wouldn’t be myself.

But I am, perfectly imperfect.

3.

It is always like that, not just during this now

But at any now that you are alive.

Present is perfect.

Proclamation of Psychological Independence Explained:

1.

We confuse perfection with imperfection but there is no difference (between these two) unless, of course, you compare what is with what isn’t.

Explanation: what’s real is real, what’s not is not.  Here’s a brief inventory of what exists on this planet at any given point in time: the planet, of course; the animal  kingdom; and you (the humankind) with its fantasies of what still could be.  My point is this: there is no other reality at any given point in time aside from the one that actually is.  We can now envision and imagine a theoretically better world and we can compare it to the real world that exists and we can say: “I don’t want this actual world, I want that theoretical world.”   Suffering is borne out of this very comparison: the ideal always beats the pants off the real.  In any comparison of what is with what isn’t, in any comparison of reality to fiction, fiction always looks prettier.  So, as we envision what still could be, we ignore what still is. 

But here’s the existential glitch: there is only what there is at any given point in time.  If we don’t know how to be content with what is, we are stuck chasing the tail of desire, constantly optimizing, supersizing, perfecting.  Bottom-line is this: perfection can be defined as a state that is beyond improvement; reality is the best that it can be at any given point in time (even if it had been better at some point in the past or if it can be still perfected at some point in the future); if so, then whatever is, at any given point in time, is the best that it can be, i.e. perfect.

2.

If I could be this very moment better, worse or other than what I am right now I wouldn’t be myself. But I am, perfectly imperfect.

Explanation: At any given point in time, you are what you are. That is self-evident. What this means is that at any given point in time (like right now) you are not less, not more, but exactly what you are, i.e. all you can be (right now). If you were in any way different right now, you wouldn’t be you, but you are you, exactly as you are. What this means is that right now you are the best that you can be. Why? Because you cannot be any better right now. Sure you can be better at a later point in time, but we are talking about this moment, the one and only moment that there is, in which you are exactly what you are, not worse, not better, but just you. Doing the best that you can (at any given point in time) = being the best that you can (at any given point in time). I see this as inevitable perfection. You have arrived in this moment, perfectly imperfect, with nothing amiss and fully realized. Self-realization isn’t when you are more than you can be at any given point in time; self-realization is when you realize that you are this real you, not the perfectionistic figment of imagination of what you should be right now. Understand this in your bones: you are what you are and that’s enough. Accept your inevitable perfection at this moment and perfect the future if you still so desire. Self-acceptance isn’t the end of striving (no, you can still strive, just without that overcompensating urgency and rushed desperation) but a beginning of psychological independence.

3.

It is always like that, not just during this now but at any now that you are alive. Present is perfect.

Explanation: You are doing the best that you can and, therefore, being the best that you can be, not just now, but always. Sure it might not seem so when you compare you to not-you (i.e. to some theoretical you that never exists or to others who are, by definition, not like you). But if you compare you to you, as you are, then you are always doing the best that you can do and, therefore, being the best that you can be, non-stop, without fail. Think this through until this becomes self-evident: there is no past right now nor is there any future in this moment, there is only this, this moment, this now, and it’s always like that. You are always in some kind of now, in which you are only what you are, not more, not less, but just enough. Reality does not short-change us: there is no celestial lay-away in which the reality is withholding better versions of itself until a later time. Right now, which is always, there is only this, this moment, however it is, not less, not more, such as it is, perfectly imperfect. Look around for a moment: everything is what it is, if a door is half-ajar, it is half-ajar, if it is closed, it is closed, if it is open, it is open; if the sky is azure blue, then it is, if, however, it is overcast, then it is overcast. And so are you – in this moment, which is always, – all you can be, perfectly imperfect. Accept this ordinary, self-evident perfection of what you are in this moment and, if you still need to, perfect the future. Savor the new unhurried calmness of this continued self-optimization: when perfecting yourself from the platform of self-acceptance, you take your time living.

From Conspicuous Consumption to Conspicuous Compassion

Am I oversimplifying? Hell, yeah! My mind is still green (and I do hope it stays this way) but it does (fortuitously) know that the greener pasture on the other side of the hill is just an optical illusion, just the Jungian shadow of our insatiable, culturally-kindled appetite for more. I’ll be writing and talking about all this jazz of self-acceptance and inevitable perfection as long as I breathe. My motive has nothing to do with altruism but self-preservation. You see, the world of self-rejection is a merciless jungle. If I can help you accept yourself, my guess is that you’ll be kinder to others, which, in turn, will translate into a hopefully less hostile world all around. Self-acceptance means psychological independence, i.e. a world in which people mostly mind their own business, meeting their psychological needs in-house, without psychological blackmail or relational warfare, without surface-deep resource-intense contests of egos and psychological careerism. When we realize that we are doing the best that we can and being the best that we can, at any given point in time, eventually it dawns on us that everyone’s like that and that, my fellow mind, becomes a platform for forgiveness and compassion. When you stop attacking yourself you automatically call a truce on the world at large. It is for this and only this reason that I keep jabbering about self-acceptance: self-acceptance powers compassion and compassion – at the end of the day – is just another form of self-care. On this July 4th and every day onward, be psychologically independent, even if you are in debt otherwise!

Now, somebody, toss me a veggie hot-dog and a couple of sparklers. Time to light up the sky!

Resources:

360° of Compassion

Reflections on the 4th of July

Or, why you might want to feed your children a little American History this summer.

I regret to report, the following was a real conversation, as best I can remember it.
   
Mom: “What do we celebrate on the 4th of July?”
   
Son (doesn’t matter which one): “The end of slavery.”
   
Mom: “Uh, no.”
   
Other Son: “Abraham Lincoln’s birthday?”
  
“No.”
  
“The day Abraham Lincoln was assassinated?”
 
We watched National Treasure 2 – Book of Secrets on DVD last night, in which President Lincoln was prominently featured. Apparently they had Lincoln on the brain.    
 

Mom: “No. It has nothing to do with President Lincoln, slavery or the Civil War. You are almost a century too late.”

Older son (whose class did an entire unit on American history last year): “Oh, oh, oh. I know. It’s the day the first person signed the Constitution.”
   
Mom: “No. A very important document was signed, but it wasn’t the Constitution. That came later.”
   
Son: “The one where they say you have freedom of speech, and everything?”
   
Mom: “No, that was the Bill of Rights, and they came after the Constitution. What was signed on July 4th, 1776?”
   
Second son (with superior grin, now that he has caught on): “It was the Declaration of Independence!”

Mom: “Very good. Now who declared their independence, and from what?”

Older son: “Um, the slaves declared their independence from the constitution.”
   
Argh.
    
We had a lovely July 4th yesterday… very low key. (Finally, a sunny day!) We spent the morning in the pool, and went out to lunch. Our evening was spent at home, roasting marshmallows and watching the neighbors’ fireworks.
   
I wonder if they would have done better on my little quiz, if we’d gone to a parade, or something. Maybe a barbecue.
   
Might have inspired them to ask a few clarifying questions.
    
I received an email yesterday, from a young man in Belarus, who’d spent a month with us one summer several years ago. He wanted to send good wishes on our “Day of Independence.”

At least someone is paying attention.

Hopefully, your children already know about one of the most (the most?) important days in our nation’s history. Either way, I invite you to put some history on your family’s summer vacation schedule.
   
Most of us live near some historic sites. These are the places that you think about going to see for years, but don’t actually make it there until you have out-of-town guests.
   
Or maybe you remember that you never actually made it to one of these real national treasures, until you are moving out of town eight years later.
   
Such was the case with me.
       
I used to live in a little seaside town just outside Plymouth, Massachusetts.

It was only as I was watching the movers load all my worldly possessions into their van, that I recollected I had never made time to visit the 1629 homestead of the pilgrims John and Priscilla Alden, which sat about a mile from my house.

Argh. Again.

We’ve done better since then. The boys’ have been to Paul Revere’s house and the Old North Church in Boston, which they vaguely remember. I was pleased to hear them recite “One if by land, two if by sea.”
Especially since we were there just last October.
   
We will have to go back to Washington, D.C. The only thing my older son could recall about our visit there a couple years back was the “giant pencil”, which he misidentified as the Lincoln Memorial. 

Bringing history alive takes a lot of work. And sometimes really long car trips.

But oh, what a gift to our children!
   
   
Recommended Reading:

Jumpstart your study of American history with a little summer reading.

The DK Eyewitness books are usually a good bet for kids – especially boys. Color photos combined with text in manageable bites are an effective way to introduce subjects to less-than-avid readers. Try out Presidents and American Revolution, and see how you like them!
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