Category: Living Skills & Issues

Practice till You Get It Right

Practice till You Get It Right

Once you have gotten the right and wholesome world view, your mind formulates some life principles to be used as guidance in life. Your life principles become a compass that guides you in everything you think, say and do.

There are, however, some important life skills you need to cultivate and fine-tune if you were to set the wheel of transformation in motion.

Some of the essential life skills are:

  1. Mindfulness
  2. Letting Go

Theoretical knowledge will not transform you. Only when you put what you know into practice can you begin to see the changes you desire.

So… Practice! Practice! Practice!

Daily Mindfulness for Personal Transformation contains practical tips, tools and skills that are essential to your practice.

We invite you to join us in practicing and sharing the skills and tools you use for personal transformation. We are a happy family of serious practitioners who are keen and willing to share our experiences with you. Sign up now for our newsletter and begin the sharing.

Relationship is a source of worldly happiness

Relationship is a source of worldly happiness

Very often we work so hard to build a career that we forget to spend time to build relationships. Someone once told me that whatever it is in life that you want, you will find that it eventually has to come from someone else. Thus, your success and happiness in life – and I am referring to worldly happiness here – is dependent on someone else.

When we are able to see that, we can start to remove the non-essential things and focus more time and energy on what is truly important in our lives.

This short video clip below reminds us of what is truly important in our lives.

Understanding the Grieving Process

Understanding the Grieving Process

What is Grief?

Grief is often defined as intense sorrow caused by a loss. We grieve when we expect to lose or have lost someone or something that we are attached to. The intensity of our grief is proportionate to the degree of attachment that we have to the loss. In other words, the more attached we are to the other person or thing, the greater is our grief when the loss occurred.

The pain of loss can sometimes feel overwhelming, and is often accompanied by a mixture of emotions and thoughts. It is important to know that grieving for the loss of a loved one or something that we treasured and valued is a natural reaction. It is alright to feel sad, hurt and confused when we are grieving. Often, the grieving process can take a long time before we can move on with our life.

Causes of Grief

Some of the more common causes of grief are:

  • Death of a loved one
  • Divorce or separation
  • Loss of a job
  • Miscarriage
  • Death of a pet
  • Loss of health
  • Financial loss
  • Retirement
  • Loss of a friendship

Stages of Grief

According to Dr. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, there are five stages of grief. They are:

  • Denial: “This can’t be happening to me.”
  • Anger: Why is this happening? Who is to blame?”
  • Bargaining: “Make this not happen, and in return I will ____.”
  • Depression: “I’m too sad to do anything.”
  • Acceptance: “I’m at peace with what happened.”

Dr. Kubler-Ross observed these stages in her patients who were terminally ill. While these may be common reactions to loss, it is also important to know that each person experiences grief in his or her own unique way. Variation is common and is to be expected. Also, it is not necessary to go through all the stages in order to heal.

Four Tasks of Mourning

William Worden suggests that there are four tasks one must accomplish in order for the grieving and mourning processes to be completed appropriately, and life equilibrium to be re-established. They are:

  • Task 1: Accept the reality of the loss. …
  • Task 2: Process your grief and pain. …
  • Task 3: Adjust to the world without your loved one in it. …
  • Task 4: Find a way to maintain a connection to the person who died while embarking on your own life.

Accepting the reality of our loss is necessary for healing to occur. The more we resist this new reality, the longer it will take us to get through our grieving process. As we gradually accept the loss and move on, we establish a new equilibrium. Pain and sorrow subside. Confusion is gradually replaced by new outlook in life and new purpose.

For most people, life goes on. Some may even find a renewed vigor and appreciation of life.

Pathological Grief

However, there is a handful who may continue to have symptoms of grief that are far too long, too debilitating and too intense. This would be considered pathological grief and would require consultation with a psychiatrist.

Why It’s So Hard to Admit You’re Wrong

Why It’s So Hard to Admit You’re Wrong

Despite your best intentions and efforts, it is inevitable: At some point in your life, you will be wrong.

Mistakes can be hard to digest, so sometimes we double down rather than face them. Our confirmation bias kicks in, causing us to seek out evidence to prove what we already believe. The car you cut off has a small dent in its bumper, which obviously means that it is the other driver’s fault.

Psychologists call this cognitive dissonance — the stress we experience when we hold two contradictory thoughts, beliefs, opinions or attitudes. For example, you might believe you are a kind and fair person, so when you rudely cut someone off, you experience dissonance. To cope with it, you deny your mistake and insist the other driver should have seen you, or you had the right of way even if you didn’t.

“Cognitive dissonance is what we feel when the self-concept — I’m smart, I’m kind, I’m convinced this belief is true — is threatened by evidence that we did something that wasn’t smart, that we did something that hurt another person, that the belief isn’t true,” said Carol Tavris, a co-author of the book “Mistakes Were Made (But Not by Me).”

She added that cognitive dissonance threatened our sense of self.

“To reduce dissonance, we have to modify the self-concept or accept the evidence,” Ms. Tavris said. “Guess which route people prefer?”

Or maybe you cope by justifying your mistake. The psychologist Leon Festinger suggested the theory of cognitive dissonance in the 1950s when he studied a small religious group that believed a flying saucer would rescue its members from an apocalypse on Dec. 20, 1954. Publishing his findings in the book “When Prophecy Fails,” he wrote that the group doubled down on its belief and said God had simply decided to spare the members, coping with their own cognitive dissonance by clinging to a justification.

“Dissonance is uncomfortable and we are motivated to reduce it,” Ms. Tavris said.

When we apologize for being wrong, we have to accept this dissonance, and that is unpleasant. On the other hand, research has shown that it can feel good to stick to our guns. One study, published in the European Journal of Social Psychology, found that people who refused to apologize after a mistake had more self-esteem and felt more in control and powerful than those who did not refuse.

“In a way, apologies give power to their recipients,” said Tyler Okimoto, an author of the study. “For example, apologizing to my wife admits my wrongdoing; but apologizing also gives her the power to choose whether she wants to alleviate my shame through forgiveness, or increase my shame by holding a grudge. Our research has found that people experience a short-term increase in their feelings of personal power and control after refusing to apologize.”

Feeling powerful may be an attractive short-term benefit, but there are long-term consequences. Refusing to apologize could potentially jeopardize “the trust on which a relationship is based,” Mr. Okimoto said, adding that it can extend conflict and encourage outrage or retaliation.

When you refuse to admit your mistakes, you are also less open to constructive criticism, experts said, which can help hone skills, rectify bad habits and improve yourself over all.

“We cling to old ways of doing things, even when new ways are better and healthier and smarter. We cling to self-defeating beliefs long past their shelf life,” Ms. Tavris said. “And we make our partners, co-workers, parents and kids really, really mad at us.”

Another study, from the Stanford researchers Carol Dweck and Karina Schumann, found that subjects were more likely to take responsibility for their mistakes when they believed they had the power to change their behavior. This is easier said than done, though, so how exactly do you change your behavior and learn to embrace your mistakes?

The first step is to recognize cognitive dissonance in action. Your mind will go to great lengths to preserve your sense of identity, so it helps to be aware of what that dissonance feels like. Typically, it manifests as confusion, stress, embarrassment or guilt. Those feelings do not necessarily mean you are in the wrong, but you can at least use them as reminders to explore the situation from an impartial perspective and objectively question whether you are at fault.

Similarly, learn to recognize your usual justifications and rationalizations. Think of a time you were wrong and knew it, but tried to justify it instead. Remember how it felt to rationalize your behavior and pinpoint that feeling as cognitive dissonance the next time it happens.

Mr. Okimoto said it also helped to remember that people were often more forgiving than you might think. Traits like honesty and humility make you more human and therefore more relatable. On the flip side, if it is undeniably clear that you are in the wrong, refusing to apologize reveals low self-confidence.

“If it is clear to everybody that you made a mistake,” Mr. Okimoto said, “digging your heels in actually shows people your weakness of character rather than strength.”

Source: New York Times

A Look at the Principle of Mutuality

A Look at the Principle of Mutuality

The Principle of Mutuality is a universal principle that says that every interaction we have with another is based on mutual agreement. By this, we mean that the interaction must be fair and beneficial to both parties. Only in this way can the interaction become truly meaningful and healthy.

The acceptance of this principle is implied in every relationship. Problems arise when this principle is violated. Violation can be at the conscious level or the unconscious level.

Taking What is not Given

At the conscious level, we violate this principle each time we consciously intent and act to take from others what is not given. This includes the taking of intangible as well as tangible things. Tangible things are things like properties, belongings, money and even this body. Intangibles are things like life, rights, space, time, self esteem, choices, values and trust. Avoiding taking tangible things from others without their explicit permissions is easier as it requires coarser awareness. Avoiding taking intangible things from others, on the other hand, requires more awareness and attention on our part.

We also often violates the principle of mutuality in an unconscious way. By this I mean that we are not fully aware of having violated this principle. Perhaps we did not have the conscious intention to take what is not given to us but due to our lack of self awareness, we nevertheless violated it. To prevent this unconscious violation requires a much higher level of self awareness from us. It requires courageous introspection and the examination of our habitual mental tendencies. Only then can we eliminate this unintentional violation of the principle of mutuality.

Giving Away our Power

Another source of problems with this principle is when we ourselves give away our power to the other party. Most often, we do this unconsciously and unintentionally. When we do not know how to be assertive with our rights, we dis-empower ourselves. When we do not even know our own rights, we do not know what we have given away. Thus, knowing our rights and being assertive are two essential elements to empowering ourselves. Knowledge is required for the former and courage for the latter.

Two to Tango?

The principle of mutuality is a spiritual principle that governs relationships. When adhered to, it can bring forth spiritually fulfilling encounters and outcomes for everyone in the relationships. This is the ideal spiritual relationship. It is a win-win and is conducive to growth and personal transformation.

Although every relationship involves two or more parties, it does not mean that if the other party chooses to violate this principle, you on your own cannot adhere to it. In fact, irregardless of whether the other party is aware of or adhere to this principle of mutuality or not, you can continue to live in accordance with it.

The Right Attitude

All it needs to succeed with this principle is to have the right attitude. What is the right attitude? When interacting with another, ask yourself “How can I make this interaction beneficial, meaningful and fulfilling to all concerned?”

I see this approach working out very well in my work as a general practitioner. As soon as a patient walked into my consultation room, I ask myself “How can I make this encounter a wonderful experience for him/her?” Most people are already quite apprehensive when they see a doctor, so simply by being warm and friendly, and making them feel at ease begins the process of healing for them.

I believe this approach is suitable for all types of interactions, including personal, social and business, and strongly encourage that you give it a try. You would be amazed at the results.

 

The Principle of Mutuality in Relationships

The Principle of Mutuality in Relationships

There is a universal rule or principle that, if properly practiced and adhered to in every layer of societies, will bring about peace, prosperity and justice for all. This principle is called the principle of mutuality. Elsewhere in the scriptures, it is also known as the Golden Rule or “do unto others as you would want others to do unto you”.

The principle of mutuality is based on the recognition that life is precious to all living beings and that every being has the equal right to life, liberty and self expression, provided that in expressing yourself you do not trample on another being’s similar rights. For this principle to work effectively, there is a need for openness, honesty and courage, and the realization that we are all subjected to the universal law of cause and effect. You reap what you sow.

In practical terms, what this means is that you have the same universal rights as everyone else. You do not have more rights than another. Neither do you have less rights than others. This is irregardless of whether you are rich or poor; a Christian, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist or Jew; a European, Asian, African or Aborigine; a male or female; or whether you are smarter or dumber than others. Likewise, in corporations and governments, you have these same rights to demand for equal justice, regardless of whether you are the governed or the governor.

In our relationships with others, this principle is particularly important in bringing about an equal and enriching partnership. When adhered to, it brings about respect for each other, fair play and sharing of roles and responsibilities. It encourages personal and mutual growth, as well as spiritual development. However, putting this principle into practice is not easy as it requires a high degree of self awareness, a non-judgmental attitude and especially the taming of the ego.

The ego has this attitude that “I am more important than you”. Thus we often see how it tries to manipulate every relationship to its own advantage at the expense of others. In a position of power, it will abuse its power. We see this in government and institutional leaders as well as in homes and families. We see this in teacher-student relationships as well. Even among friends, we need to be aware of this dynamics.

If I ask you to examine your own key relationships, such as husband-wife, parent-child, and employer-employee relationships, are you able to honestly say that these relationships are equal and fair for all concern, or are they heavily leaning to one side? One simple way to know whether our relationship is balanced is to see how happy the two persons in the relationship are. If it is well balanced, then both are equally happy. If either one is unhappy or both are, then an unequal dynamic exists. The more it diverts from the center, the more unhealthy the relationship is, and the more important it is for you to do something about it. Leaving such one-sided relationships in status quo only serves to perpetuate this inequality in your relationships as well as in society. In addition, inaction on your part breeds contempt for yourself and squashes your personal and spiritual growth.

Now is as good a time as any to re-examine all your relationships.

Cultivate a Friendship with Death

Cultivate a Friendship with Death

Why We Fear Death

“Men fear death as children fear to go in the dark.” – Bacon

There may be a thousand reasons why we fear death, but most of all we fear death because we fear the unknown, and death is an unknown entity to most people. We fear that dying may be painful and we do not know what will happen to us at the point of death.

Some people fear death because they imagine the dying process to be very painful. Death is not painful. In fact, death is often very peaceful and silent even for those suffering from cancers or other terminal illness.

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How to speak mindfully

How to speak mindfully

words

There are two components to communication. There is the speaker and there is the listener. So when we talked about mindfulness in communication, we must remember that mindful listening is equally important, not just mindful speaking. Since we have covered mindful listening in a previous post, today we will cover mindful speaking.

Just like mindful listening, when we talk mindfully, we should start by dropping whatever it is we are doing and just focused on what we want to say. Again, it is important to establish good eye contact with the listener.

In addition to these two points, here are a few extra tips to speaking mindfully.

1. Clear your head of all assumptions

It is always a good idea to clarify what the listener already knows instead of making assumptions that he already knows it. Then it becomes easier to tailor your speech to what is relevant to him. Likewise, the listener should also make it a habit to verify and clarify any points he is unsure about. Making unnecessary assumptions can lead to misunderstanding.

2. Before you speak, pass it through the Triple Filters test

Whenever we communicate something, it is important to reflect first before we say it. The Triple Filters test, attributed to the wisdom of Socrates, is a good way to reflect on what you want to say. The first filter is TRUTH. Is what you say true? If it is not, do not say it. Even if it is true, we then need to filter it at the next level.

The second filter is GOODNESS. Ask yourself, is it beneficial to the listener? Will it do him good, or otherwise? If it will not benefit him, or may even harm him, what would be the wisdom of saying it to him? On the other hand, if it is true and good, then we pass it through the third and final filter.

The third filter is APPROPRIATENESS. For appropriateness, we need to look at whether it is appropriate in time, in place and in person. Is it the right time to say it? Is this the right place for it? Are you the right person to say it, or is this the right person to say it to?

Passing your speech through this Triple Filters test will make sure that your motive for speaking is good and not due to some hidden selfish agenda.

3. As you are speaking, be mindful of a few things

The first thing to be mindful of when you speak is to notice whether the words you choose are appropriate and accurately send the message you intended. Next, watch the tone of your voice. Is it friendly and warm, or hostile? Is there any hint of criticism or judgment? Be mindful also of your body language, gestures and postures. Remember that a warm friendly speech is always more welcoming than a harsh speech, and the listener is more likely to be receptive to it.

It may be difficult to be mindful of all the above when we first practice mindfulness in speaking, but as with all skills, with constant practice it will become easier. Once you have become good at it, you will notice the transformation in your relationships with others in a positive way.

How to Listen Mindfully

How to Listen Mindfully

Recently my 11 year-old son talked to me about a piece of drawing he had just completed. While he was explaining his drawing to me, my eyes were on the ipad in front of me and I was nodding to every statement he made. He then paused for a while and said, “Daddy, I feel like you are not really here for me when I am talking to you.”

Sadly, this type of mindless listening happens way too often for most of us, and is often the source of many misunderstandings and relationship problems. It also sends a wrong message to the other person – one that says “You are not important to me right now” or that “I am too engrossed in my own thoughts to bother with your needs”.

It is important to remind ourselves that attentive listening is a major component in our daily conversations. This becomes even more important in relationships that we treasured, such as our relationships with our spouse and children, our parents, siblings and close friends, and even colleagues and clients at work.

So, here are five tips to remember when we listen to another in a conversation, so that we may become a better and more compassionate and mindful listener.

1. Stop whatever you are doing

It is good to remember that whenever someone wants to talk to us, it means that they have something that they considered as important to say or share. We should stop whatever we are doing and turn our full attention to that person instead to continuing with our task. This first step is important because when we stopped what we are doing and turn our full attention to that person, we are indirectly telling him that he is important to us. This habit also benefits us in the long run as it reduces our habit of being too self-centered or self-focused to the detriment of others.

2. Maintain eye contact

Have a good eye contact with the other person. This will indicate to him that you are ready to listen and that you consider what he intends to say to you as important enough to give your full attention. Not maintaining any eye contact with him sends the wrong signal that he is not important enough to warrant your attention. It is also socially considered rude to not establishing eye contact with another person when he is talking to you.

3. Clear your head

Often we start off our listening with lots of thoughts and preconceived ideas in our head. This is neither accurate nor helpful to us when we want to listen compassionately to another person’s story. What we want to achieve is to understand what the person is telling us, from his perspective and his unique needs. By remembering to clear from our head all these preconceived ideas and thoughts, we put ourselves in a better position to be totally with that person when he talks.

4. Do not assume

Be aware that we often have the habit of making assumptions or taking for granted certain things or norms as true without actually establishing their truths. So, when listening to another person, consciously set a new habit of not making any assumptions at all. This means that we will have to listen with impartiality, without any prejudgments or biases. Furthermore, if we are not sure of any facts, we should ask pertinent questions to establish the facts as truth or otherwise. Clarifying a statement made not only shows that you are listening but that you are trying to understand well what the other person is experiencing or going through.

5. Put yourself in the other person’s shoes

Empathy is key to compassionate listening. So learn to put yourself in the other person’s shoes or see from his perspective. Recognize that his perspective of life can be and is often very different from yours. Just because he is experiencing life from his perspective does not make it wrong, just different. So avoid the common habit of judging him from your own perspective of life.

If you are able to remember these 5 tips whenever you listen to another person, you will be a good and compassionate listener.

The Science of Generosity

The Science of Generosity

Generosity is an act of giving that is associated with a broad range of positive emotions, such as kindness, love, compassion, joy, empathy, hope and awe. The benefits derived from an act of generosity come not only from its external actions but more from its internal state of mind.

Studies have consistently showed that an act of generosity that generates good, positive emotions creates the most benefits, not just to the giver but also to the recipient and society.

Here is a list of the benefits of generosity:

  1. Generosity benefits the Giver

Being charitable is good for the giver in terms of both body and mind. Acts of generosity and kindness enhance your physical health by strengthening your immune system, reducing the risk of cardiac events and increasing your lifespan.

People who are generous are also likely to have healthier psychological well-being. They have a greater sense of self worth, self confidence and sense of purpose in life. They are also generally happier. Generous people are less prone to anxiety and depression. According to Barbara Frederickson, they tend to have more positive emotions and therefore more likely to flourish with greater creativity and productivity. They are also more resilience, coping better with challenges and obstacles.

  1. Generosity benefits the Recipient

People who are at the receiving end of generosity get what they needed or wanted. They feel a sense of gratitude – which is another positive emotion – and a greater trust in humanity.

  1. Generosity benefits the Society

 The act of generosity enriches humanity as a whole. It spreads good feelings all around, leading to more similar acts of kindness from others. In this way, it also promotes harmony, peace and joy. It enhances our trust in humanity.

 Generosity in Marriage

A study done by University of Virginia under the National Marriage Project found that couples who score high in generosity index tend to report greater happiness with their marriage. Generosity here does not necessarily refer to material gifts. What is more important is generosity of thoughts, words and actions, i.e. thoughtfulness.

In addition, children of parents with higher generosity index tend to grow up having the same kindness towards others, leading to happier relationships and life.

Generosity at Work

According to Jodi Glickman, the author of “Great on the Job”, generous people share information readily, share credit often, and give of their time and expertise easily. What comes across is a strong work ethic, great communication skills, and a willingness and ability to collaborate. Leaders and managers who are generous engender trust, respect and goodwill from their colleagues and employees.

With all the evidence from scientific researches pointing to the many benefits of generosity, it is now up to us to incorporate it into our daily lives and enhance our own happiness and well-being.

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