Tag Archives: heart

Delighting Your Heart: How to Easily Take Responsibility for Your Own Happiness (and Six Reasons You Want to)

A photo by Aidan Meyer. unsplash.com/photos/MApzyeDS-gM

My need for external reassurance as a woman came home to me many birthdays ago. I decided to test everyone (especially Honey) by making no reference to my personal holiday during the entire month of January. The results were devastating. Not a single soul—parent, child, sister, friend, husband (gasp)—remembered. The red-letter day came and went without a whimper. Now, before you scream “Revolution!” (which I came close to doing at the time) let me add this: Honey was under huge pressure at work, serving tirelessly at church, and acutely worried over finances. He comforted, cuddled, and counseled with tenderness. It’s just that his calendar was off.

When I realized that accusation would never produce a bottle of perfume, the truth hit me like a whiff of cheap cologne: I had been thinking for too long that it was my guy’s primary job in life to make me feel good, to heal all my wounds, to spend every possible minute with me, to be emotionally available and responsive 24/7, to always want what I want. I had set myself up for disillusionment.

Thankfully, I wised up and made a course correction that stuck. My birthday is now advertised far and wide and way in advance. I am responsible to ask for and inspire special attention on January 27. Healthy, balanced doses of giving and receiving from family, friends, God, and myself, keeps my tank full. His three little words (“I love you”) then top me off and overflow into a puddle at our feet.

And that’s the secret. Fill your own tank by taking responsibility for your own happiness.

There is a simple way to get started, or continue, in the habit of filling your own tank so that you can give from abundance while receiving with confidence. I don’t mean to make it sound easy—we are talking about the greatest challenge of a woman’s life, the seesaw between nurturing herself and nurturing others—but I know you can do it.

Here’s how: Continue reading

Weird Valentines

They say that some things get better with age.
And then, there are some things that just stay weird.
May we present a selection of the weirdest vintage Valentine’s Day cards we could find on the internet.
We invite you to send anything that strikes your fancy on to your loved one*.

*Explanation for your choice of Valentine to your loved one not included.

valentine1valentine 8 valentine2 valentine3 valentine4valentine6 valentine5
valentine7 vintage

xoxo, Intent.com

7 Quotes to Inspire Self-Love

This week you’re going to see a lot of advertising geared towards finding your soulmate or getting the best gift for your significant other. It’s the holiday of love after all, right? But we believe love isn’t just about finding a partner – there are so many different types! Each day this week we’re going to showcase a different “type” of love. Today we want to focus on the love for yourself, because until you can look at yourself with pride and joy you really aren’t capable of truly loving someone or anything else. So go ahead and pick up one of those pink and red bags of chocolate, and keep it for you! You deserve it because you’re awesome. In case you forgot, here are a few great encouraging quotes to help you get in the self-love mood!

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What are your favorite empowering quotes? Share them with us in the comments below! Let the self-love begin! 

Recharge Yourself Daily for Optimal Use

iStock_000002911722XSmallBy Jan Bruce

I’ve never been one to shy away from a challenge—ever. No matter what phase of my life or career. I hold ambition, drive, and resilience high on my list of values, without question. But I’ve also experienced first hand what it is to drive too hard, demand too much from myself and others. There is a sweet spot between ambition and anxiety, the point at which you operate optimally. You know what that feels like: the adrenalizing challenge of being spurred on, but not so much so that you’re weighed down by exhaustion.

This is an ongoing challenge for me, and for you, I presume: Knowing when and how to push harder—and to back off. The key isn’t to just get bigger, tougher, stronger, nor is to eradicate stress (good luck with that!). It’s to recalibrate and recharge, which are often overlooked or postponed, until it’s too late. In fact that is why I’m so passionate about the work I do at meQuilibrium—because I believe there is a formula for managing your response to the world out there and the thoughts in here.

Given how connected and driven people are (or feel they need to be) these days, making time to rest can feel like slamming on the breaks when you’re going 70 miles an hour. Moreover, as we “work” longer and longer hours, the idea of taking time off to rest and recharge can become increasingly daunting, especially if this time off serves as a total contrast to our normal routines.

I love vacation, and I make sure to take them—but I, too, know the dread of walking away from your email, your desk, knowing it’s all going to pile up in your absence. If you’ve ever needed a vacation from your vacation, then you know what I mean.

It’s tempting to think that a day spent lounging in sweatpants, eating whatever you want and watching back-to-back episodes of your favorite TV series is the perfect antidote to six days of non-stop business. But instead of following the “feast or famine” framework of rest and effort, I challenge you to think about one little thing you can do every day to ground and renew yourself.

Case in point: My brother regularly pulls 12- to 15-hour days at his work, and I can’t remember the last time he took more than two consecutive days off, let alone the last time he had a vacation. I was always baffled by this. How did he keep it going without an escape?

I finally understood his secret when I visited him one weekday and observed his daily routine: He’s fortunate to live in a beautiful rural area and makes a point of spending a few hours outside each morning, swimming, running or just enjoying the solitude. In those few hours, he gets the benefits that most of us associate with a vacation: time unplugged, outdoors, away from the demands of the day.

Here’s the kicker, though: He does this every day, and that’s why the rest of his busy, high-pressure life is sustainable. For him, normal life and vacation cease to function as the two binary options for how he spends his time. Because he has found a way to get the benefits of a little vacation every day, he’s not caught between the competing pressures of rest and effort.

Stop thinking about rest as the opposite of effort and start thinking about it as the foundation of effort. What can you do every day to build in a little more relaxation or pleasure, to draw you out of the moments that wind you up and leave you so tight you feel like you might snap? It could be as simple as indulging in a really good latte every morning or a walk with your dog. Find something energizing to come back to every day or every week to help you to recharge without forcing you to disengage. You’ll be well on your way to finding a more sustainable balance.

Like this article? Follow these similar intents on Intent.com

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Jan Bruce is the CEO and founder of meQuilibrium.com 

Gift to the Soul: The Space of Presence

Photo Credit: Kalliope Kokolis
Photo Credit: Kalliope Kokolis

For many of us this is a season when it feels that we are going faster and faster. Everything’s racing, through school semesters, wrapping up work commitments, entering the holidays; the currents of life are in full tilt.

Given the time of year, one student fell into a period of intense stress resulting from a cycle of classes, studying, working and little sleep. He didn’t realize how long he had neglected to write home until he received the following note:

 Dear Son,
Your mother and I enjoyed your last letter.
Of course, we were much younger then and more impressionable.
Love,
Dad

As you know, it’s not just students. Some months ago a friend described getting caught in this state busy-ness while trying to get her daughter to school. She was busy getting things ready while her daughter was trying to show her something. Every time her daughter would call her over she would say, “Just hang on a moment. I’ll be there in a second.” After several rounds of this, the little four-year old came out of her room tired of waiting. She said to her mother, hands on hips:

“Why are you always so busy? What’s your name? Is it President O’mama or something?”

Along with the speediness we have the sense that there is not enough time. It’s interesting to observe how often we are living with that perception. It is usually accompanied by a squeeze of anxiety:

“I’m not going to be prepared,” and a chain of insecurities. “There’s something around the corner that is going to be too much,” “I’m going to fall short,” “I won’t get something critical done.” There’s this sense that we’re on our way somewhere else and that what’s right here is not the time that matters. We’re trying to get to the point in the future when we’ve finally checked everything off our to-do list and we can rest. As long as this is our habit, we are racing toward the end of our life. We are skimming the surface, and unable to arrive in our life.

Thomas Merton describes the rush and pressure of modern life as a form of contemporary violence. He says:

“…to be surrendering to too many demands, too many concerns, is to succumb to the violence.”

When we’re speeding along, we violate our own natural rhythms in a way that prevents us from listening to our inner life and being in a resonant field with others. We get tight. We get small. We override our capacity to appreciate beauty, to celebrate, to serve from the heart.

Our mindfulness practice offers us the opportunity to pause and rediscover the space of presence. When we stop charging forward and open to what’s here, there’s a radical shift in our experience of being alive. As we touch into this space of Hereness, we access a wisdom, a love and a creativity that are not available when we’re on our way somewhere else.  We are home, in our aliveness and our spirit.

 © Tara Brach
Enjoy this video on: The Space of Presence

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For more information visit: www.tarabrach.com

Wordplay Wednesday: What If You Had to Really Give Your Heart Away?

Screen shot 2013-11-20 at 4.07.44 AMA few months ago a friend and I were talking about fairy tales and how they always end after the first kiss – after the initial decision to be together. You never see the work it takes to keep a relationship together. We grow up with these romantic notions embedded in our consciousness but all we ever see are two people who agree to give their hearts to each other, but we never see them actually do it, and that’s the hard part.  After that conversation I wrote the following piece about what it would look like if we had to literally follow through with the phrase “I’ll give you my heart.” 

There’s a difference between deciding to give your heart to someone and actually doing it. Deciding is relatively easy; it just sort of happens. Someone shows up and you have no control over your reaction to them, the attraction, the pull. Sometimes there are obstacles before you can actually voice the decision and some people like to wait, just to be sure. Ultimately, it’s an inside job. Your gut decides long before you ever choose to put words to it. Mentally you never really had a choice. It is the end of the fairy tale, get on your white horse together and ride off into the sunset.

For some people that’s enough – to just say the words, living on the idea that you decided to give your heart to someone, and you really would if you had to, but again, have you ever thought about what it really means? I like you so much I want to give you possession of my most vital organ. How do you even do it? Literally, how do you give your heart to someone? Would you hand them a scalpel and let them carve it out of your chest?

I’ve had a lot of people tell me that it’s easy if it’s the right person. Maybe I’ve seen too many episodes of Grey’s Anatomy, but if the idea of someone – even the most well-intentioned person you know – holding a knife to your chest doesn’t make you nervous then I think you’re doing something wrong. There’s a reason they leave it at “ever after.”

I’m not saying it’s impossible. I’m not discouraging it any sort of way. I’m just recently realizing that it isn’t as easy as Disney made it out to be. It’s actually really hard, and confusing, and terrifying, because it doesn’t just fade to black when the finale kiss ends in real life. You have to actually get out that scalpel at some point. You can delay by asking them, “Are you sure?” a few dozen more times, but if you’re going to do this for real then it means unbuttoning and letting them see the scars of all your previous hack jobs.

So you take a deep breath. One more “Are you sure?” just in case, and proceed, slowly. Lay yourself out. Take a deep breath. Close your eyes. Begin. It’s a delicate procedure and there’s no harm in being cautious. It’s barely started when the scalpel grazes over the bruise left over from that night seven months ago that left you feeling mortified and so stupid. You wince and the knife stops. Suddenly you’re freaking. out. because all you can think about are all the other scars still to be uncovered. The one from that guy who said it was a friendship ring but really they were engaged and you were too obsessed with your own feelings to see he was in love with someone else. Or the one from that time you said “forever” but he couldn’t  pretend to care enough to pick you up from the train station. There are dings and scrapes from all the ones before him that hurt you, that just walked away.

Now he’s wondering if this is just too hard. Maybe there is too much damage to continue. You don’t blame him because, honestly, you can’t tell if you’re more nervous that he’s going to walk away or keep going. You were naive enough to think you could just cringe your way through it, simply grit your teeth and bear it until it was over. You miss the kissing part. That was nice, warm and comfortable. The kissing was full of promise and this is full of fear. Can’t you just go back there and put the messy stuff off? Maybe that’s best for a little while. There are no words for how terrified you are of the possibly that he’ll finish cutting you open and find nothing but scraps and broken pieces. It’s far too much to ask of anyone to try and put it all back together. No one signed up for that.

Breathe. Just remember to breathe. Calm down. Yes, you have scars. Everyone does. But that night seven months ago that made you feel so stupid? That’s why you cherish anyone saying they can open up to you so much. The guy with the rings? That’s why you’re always honest, no matter how inconvenient it can be. That time you said forever? It’s why you never make promises you can’t keep. You’ve been hurt, a hazard of being human. Wounds heal and yes, leave scars – you’re not perfect (it’s okay, no one is). The scars make you who you are and you are more than damage. Believe that. You have to – it’s the only way to make him believe it too, that it’s worth picking up again. Be brave and don’t sweat the small stuff. Take a leap of faith. Trust.

Breathe. Just remember to breathe. Save your strength, because after you find a way through all of that you still have to convince him to hand the scalpel over to you.

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Do you have a favorite or original poem you would like showcased on Wordplay Wednesday? We’d love to share it! Email the poem to editor@intent.com, and we will feature it in the series. Click here to view past Wordplay Wednesdays.

Lessons from kayaking: Finding a Way to Be With Fear

Leaving the Marina with Morro Rock in the background and the MorMost of us spend a lot of our lives tensed up in fear, or pushing against fear.
The fear might be fear of:
  • Something going wrong
  • Not being good enough
  • Not being loved
  • Losing something or someone we hold dear
What fears do you live with?
The key to being with fear is in contacting what is here now, rather than trying to push it away. Here’s a story from the river that helps us understand that.  In kayaking, you learn about what is called a keeper hole. It’s a swirl in the river that catches a boat or a body and pulls it down under the water.  You can drown because you get stuck in that swirling current and you can’t get out of it.  If you get caught in a keeper hole, the only way out is actually to dive right into the center, down as far and deep as you can, toward the bottom, because if you get to the bottom you can swim out the side of the swirl.
So you do the opposite of what your instincts tell you to do.  Your instinct, of course, is to fight your way to the surface.  But it won’t work; you’ll keep getting pulled into the hole.  No, you have to dive down into the hole.
It’s like that with fear.  Our instincts are to pull away, to ignore the fear, or to distract ourselves.  We naturally want to escape the pull, the uncomfortable sensation, of fear.  But the skillful way of dealing with fear, just like the keeper hole, is to go into the center of it.
The training in facing fear is to directly contact it…to lean right in.  This is not something to do if your fear is from trauma.  It could be too overwhelming.  If you are dealing with trauma, you might need someone to work with you on that fear.  So you might try finding a thought that brings up fear,  a mild or moderate fear, and letting yourself feel the sensation.  Breathe right into the place you feel the fear, really letting yourself experience it for a moment.  On the out breath, let the fear disperse into the vastness of space around you, or the ocean you are part of.  See and feel the fear moving out into that larger space.
When you are kayaking on the ocean, or on a large lake, you can sense yourself as part of that spaciousness.  Allow the fear to disperse into the spaciousness.  You might find that it is possible to be with the fear, rather than push it away, when you are aware of your oceanness.
© Tara Brach
Enjoy this talk on Finding the Juice in Fear

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photos by: mikebaird & mikebaird

Absolute Cooperation with the Inevitable

Mystic Poppies.The modern-day mystic and Jesuit priest Anthony de Mello once said: “Enlightenment is absolute cooperation with the inevitable.” This statement struck a deep chord within me. It seems to me that what he meant was to be absolutely open to life as it is.

Think about the Gulf Stream in the Atlantic Ocean that flows from the tip of Florida up along the eastern seaboard. If you were to put a straw in the water, aligned with the Gulf Stream, it would move with the flow of water. The water moves through it and carries it along on the current. Everything is aligned; it’s total grace. Now, if it’s misaligned, and it’s not moving with the flow of water, it gets spun around and moves off course.

Aligning ourselves with the flow of aliveness is an essential part of our mindfulness practice. Like the straw, if we move out of alignment, we’re moving away, spinning about, in reaction…in some way unable to be one with the flow of grace. So we seek to stay aligned, letting the flow of life move through us.

What are some ways that we remove ourselves from the channel through which our life flows?

I noticed this happening the other day when I was driving home. I have my own accustomed speed, and the person in front of me was going much, much, much slower. You know what that is like, don’t you? Now, I wasn’t in a rush to get somewhere. I wasn’t on my way to the airport to catch a plane, but it didn’t matter. I was driving at a speed that felt really different from my preferred speed. I was experiencing impatience and anxiety, and it was building. Everything in me was leaning forward. I felt like I couldn’t be okay unless the situation changed.

So I paused, mentally. I recognized that I had a demand that something be different than it was at the moment, and I tried to let go of it. This example is a small thing, but this happens in many ways, some small and some much larger, in our human experience. We get caught in feeling that happiness is not possible unless things change. Consequently, we cause ourselves tremendous unhappiness, because we’re demanding that things be different.

It’s interesting to notice how this happens. I think it arises from our social conditioning about what brings happiness. We are led to believe that we need certain things to be happy: “If I can get this job,” “If I can earn this much money,” “If I can buy a house in that neighborhood,” then I will be happy. Or we might think, if only I were healthier, or thinner, or if my boss quit so I could have a different boss, or if I had a different spouse…and on and on.

We wait for things to be different in order to feel okay with life. As long as we keep attaching our happiness to the external events of our lives, which are ever changing, we’ll always be left waiting for it.

What if we were to pause and align ourselves with the current?
What if we moved with the flow of what is?
What would that mean for you in your life, right now?

Aligning with what is here is a way of practicing presence. It allows us to respond to our world with creativity and compassion.

What is actually happening is that we’re opening to the universal intelligence, the universal love that can flow through us when we’re aligned. When the straw is aligned with the current, the Gulf Stream flows through it. When we’re aligned with the flow of our lives, there’s a universal wisdom and love that flows through us, which is our true nature.

© Tara Brach

Adapted from Radical Acceptance  (2003)

Enjoy this talk on: Absolute Cooperation with the Inevitable

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For more information visit: www.tarabrach.com

photos by: hipea & h.koppdelaney

5 Quotes on the Importance of Family

Magazines-24-711. “Ohana means family. Family means nobody gets left behind or forgotten.” – Lilo & Stitch (Walt Disney Studios)

Disney has ways of making all of us cry, but one of the universal “Hold on, let me grab the tissue” moments was when Stitch reminded Lio what “ohana” means. No matter what our family looks like or whether they are blood related to us, family sticks together.

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2. “I don’t care about whose DNA has recombined with whose. When everything goes to hell, the people who stand by you without flinching, they are your family” – Jim Butcher (source)

Family isn’t always about blood relations – it’s about being there for each other. Don’t get so caught up in logistics.

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3. “Perhaps they are not stars in the sky, but rather openings where our loved ones shine down to let us know they are happy.” (source)

Our loved ones may not always be around when we need them, but know that they stay with us even when they go.

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4. “Families are like branches on a tree. We grow in different directions yet our roots remain as one.” (source)

We may move on from our homes, but families help us keep our feet firmly planted on the ground.

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5. “Family is not an important thing, it’s everything.” – Michael J. Fox (source)

We can trust a man who got his start in Hollywood on a show called “Family Ties” to know a thing or two about family bonds. Plus Michael J. Fox is just an all-around good guy.

Lift Yourself Up with a Gesture of Kindness

almost mayThe next time you find yourself in a bad mood, take a moment to pause and ask yourself, “What is my attitude toward myself right now? Am I relating to myself with judgment … or with mindfulness, warmth, and respect?”

Typically, you’ll find that when you’re anxious, lonely, or depressed, you’re also down on yourself in some way, and that undercurrent of feeling deficient or unworthy is what’s keeping you cut off from your own aliveness, as well as your feeling of connection with others.

The way of healing and homecoming begins with what I call “a gesture of kindness.” You might for instance put your hand on your heart—letting the touch be tender—and send a message inwardly. It might be “It’s okay, sweetheart.” Or  “I care about this suffering.” Or, “I’m sorry and I love you.”  Often, it’s simply,  “This, too.”

Sometimes, this gesture of kindness includes saying “yes” to whatever’s going on—the yes meaning, “This is what’s happening, it’s how life is right now … it’s okay.”

If you’re really down on yourself, you can also say “Forgiven, forgiven.” Not because there’s something wrong to forgive, but because there’s some judgment to let go of.

As you offer yourself this gesture of kindness, take some moments to stay with yourself, to keep yourself company. Allow whatever most wants attention to surface, and sense that you are the loving presence that can include and embrace whatever’s arising.

Then, see if you can widen your attention, and notice what or who else is floating in your heart space. Perhaps you’ll intentionally offer a gesture of kindness to a friend who’s struggling with disappointment, a family member dealing with illness, or a teen caught in self-doubt.

As you continue to practice offering yourself and others this gesture of kindness, you will discover that this response to life becomes increasingly spontaneous and natural.  In time, you’ll recognize it as the most authentic expression of who you are.

—Tara Brach,  Labor Day Weekend, 2013

Enjoy this short talk on Dedicating to Kindness

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