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Best of Intent 2013: The Hangouts from The Science of Survival to Coping with Bullying

The creation of The Chopra Well – the Chopra YouTube channel – has allowed us to do many awesome things, but one of them that means the most to us is having been able to host several Google+ hangouts with inspiring people around the world. We did one for the launch of The Chopra Well last year, but in 2013 we tried to step it up a notch. In April the Chopras hosted a hangout series called “Aspire to Inspire” which covered an array of topics each day of the week. Mallika also stepped in to host a hangout on Mindfulness as part of another series. What we found was that these hangouts enabled us to have in-depth serious conversations with experts and people with first hand experiences to enlighten ourselves and our audience about the world around us and the capacity for the human race to do great things.

As we wind down on 2013 and reflect on the year we’ve had, some of these conversations really stuck out. If you missed them the first time around or simply want to revisit them we’ve reposted a few of them below.

1. The Science of Survival – Deepak & Sanjiv Chopra

Deepak and Sanjiv discuss the physical, mental and emotional process of surviving a trauma or deep loss. Paralympic snowboarder and activist Amy Purdy and pro-surfer Bethany Hamilton who had her arm bitten off by a shark at age 13 join in to share their stories of loss and overcoming these significant challenges.

2. How Mindfulness Can Change Your Life – Mallika Chopra

Mallika and a knowledgeable panel of experts look at the role of intention and other mindfulness practices in living a more meaningful and healthy life. The discussion will help answer questions about how to turn goals and aspirations into reality; understanding the difference between an intention and a goal; and the relationship between intention and other practices that lead to mindfulness such as meditation, prayer, service, and yoga.

3. Coping and Surviving Bullying – Gotham Chopra

Gotham Chopra is joined by poet Shane Koyczan, whose video for “To This Day” went viral due to it’s honest, heartbreaking prose about the lifetime effects of bullying. Other guests include: Martin Shervington who will offer insight from his experience in psychology and life coaching, Margot Leitman – a comedian who just released her first book “Gawky: Tales of an Extra Long Awkward Phase,” and Kevin Epling, the National Co-Director and Michigan representative for Bully Police USA.

4. Supporting our Veterans Overseas and When They Come Home – Mallika Chopra

Mallika Chopra is joined by Levi Newman, Rob Schware, and Rick Collins to discuss veterans and PTSD. Newman is a veteran with over 10 years of service and a writer for Veterans United and the Huffington Post. Schware is founder of the Give Back Yoga Foundation, which helps soldiers returning from duty transition back to civilian life and provides resources to deal with PTSD and other mental disorders that occur after time in the field. Collins is the founder of Vet360, a charity that gives Veterans upon their return home a 30 day program to help educate, counsel and prepare them for civilian life.

5. Coping with Loss – Mallika Chopra

Mallika Chopra hosts a discussion on “Coping with Loss.” She is joined by Todd Hartley, CEO of WireBuzz who lost both of his grandparents at the same time; Chelsea Roff, who has been featured on CNN and the Hallmark channel with her story of coping with a mother who has alcohol induced dementia; and Laurel Lewis who practices as a hospice nurse and also runs Death & Dying Dinner events in Southern California. (You may remember Laurel from 30 Days of Intent!)

Which of the hangouts were your favorites? Tell us in the comments below!

How to Define Success for Yourself

hikingPeople like to be comfortable. We also like to make sense out of the chaos that surrounds us.

We find the best way of doing this is to rank and organize everything around us; including accomplishments. It can become so easy to see a family member or a friend living the life that “you should be living,” and look upon your own accomplishments with much less fervor. So what if I asked you if you’ve lived up to your life and career expectations; what would you say? How would you judge yourself?

The truth is that everyone will have a different answer, because we all have a different definition for success.

You’re a Unique Snowflake

Like I mentioned before, it’s supremely important that you don’t compare yourself to friends and coworkers.  Seeing the accomplishments of others and trying to measure up to their standards makes it nearly impossible to be satisfied with yourself. This is especially true in regards to social media. As enjoyable as it can be, social media provides people the opportunity to show only a “highlight reel” of their best moments. This is often self-deflating as you and I only see our bloopers.

The thing is is that there’s no traditional finish line in life, because life isn’t a race. There’s no timer telling you that you have to have a college education by the age of 23, be married by 28 and start having children by 30. At least, I hope there’s not, or someone’s going to have to take back the degree I finally earned at the ripe old age of 33.

Look in the Mirror

It may be hard to admit, but if you look hard enough, you’ll most likely find someone in the world that is better than you at something. For example, I like to think I’m the best video game player on earth. I try and remind my 10-year-old boy of that “fact” every day. Nevertheless, I think we could both agree that it’s not entirely true.

That’s why it’s so important to set realistic goals that are both manageable end enjoyable. There’s no goal in the world that’s too large if you set your mind to it; you just have to take the right path to get there.

A good metric to determine your own success is to simply compare what you’ve done in the past with what you’re doing right now. What have you accomplished in the last year? Are you happier now than you were six months ago? What have you done to improve yourself?

You might surprise yourself and realize that maybe you’ve done more than you thought. You might even decide that it’s time to make a change. Either way, never forget that it’s never too late to do something big.

Start With What You Know

Here are some of the questions I asked myself. Your questions and answers may vary:

  • Was I a successful writer five years ago? Nope. Am I now? I’d like to think so!
  • Are you more fit than you were last year? Not even close. This is something I need to work on.
  • Am I happier now than when I first separated from the Army? Infinitely!
  • Have I become a more well-rounded person in the last two years? I can honestly say, yes!
  • Did I own a house 10 years ago? No. Do I now? Yes!

It’s not a foolproof plan, nor does it fix every problem, but it’s a start. Ask yourself, and you’ll find the answers you’re looking for.

Take hold of your life today and make the changes that will ultimately make you happier, more successful and lead you to your dreams. Only you can determine if you’re successful, so make sure it happens.

Photo courtesy of Johnson Cameraface.

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.

Veterans and PTSD: Mallika Chopra Hosts Live Google+ Hangout

In today’s Google+ hangout for our ongoing series, “Aspire to Inspire,” Mallika Chopra is joined by Levi Newman, Rob Schware, and Rick Collins to discuss veterans and PTSD. Newman is a veteran with over 10 years of service and a writer for Veterans United and the Huffington Post. Schware is founder of the Give Back Yoga Foundation, which helps soldiers returning from duty transition back to civilian life and provides resources to deal with PTSD and other mental disorders that occur after time in the field. Collins is the founder of Vet360, a charity that gives Veterans upon their return home a 30 day program to help educate, counsel and prepare them for civilian life.

Join us right here or at The Chopra Well YouTube channel for this in-depth conversation on a topic that affects all of us in one way or another. Submit your questions in the comments section below or using the hashtag #AspireToInspire!

Make sure to join the “Aspire to Inspire” community for more discussion and information on the other hangouts in the series!

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