Jim Blake Unity Practice For Life

A Gratitude Practice: Thanksgiving for Every Day

daily gratitude practice, thanksgiving for every day

Greetings, friends! Today’s topic will seem a little out of season since it’s not November, but we are about to embark on a discussion of gratitude and thanksgiving.

“Why?” you might ask.

Well, as we are about to find out, there are countless benefits to being grateful year-round. A regular gratitude practice helps us live happier, healthier, and more productive lives. So let’s get into it, shall we?

Focusing on What’s in Front of Us

The dictionary defines gratitude in this way: "the quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness." Let’s call it the conscious practice of feeling and sharing appreciation for the people, events, circumstances, material, and nonmaterial blessings in our lives.

Taking a few moments to reflect and rest in the feeling of being grateful allows us to feel abundant and richly blessed. It does so by moving our focus to what we do have rather than those things we don’t have. As a result, we feel more positive, joyful, and aware of the many things that are in our lives—things we might otherwise take for granted were we not practicing gratitude!

Some say being thankful moves us to a state of bliss because we see how much value already exists in our daily lives. Many spiritual masters have told us gratitude can relieve our mental and emotional suffering.

The Science of Gratitude Practice

Today even science has begun to recognize and document the benefits of gratitude. Clinical studies have found being grateful increases healing and recovery in our bodies. How is that possible? Being thankful increases the production of dopamine, serotonin, and oxytocin—all proven to create positive mental states and overall wellbeing physically, mentally, and emotionally.

Even better, being grateful requires no special training. It can be a morning or evening practice of simply being still and taking inventory of those things you have to feel thankful for in your life. Many folks who have already discovered the wonderful power of gratitude use a daily gratitude journal.

Even more simply? Others have learned to incorporate the practice throughout the day by silently feeling grateful in the moment for all the many little things (events, circumstances) that go right during each day of our lives.

The First Step to a Thankful Path

The important thing is to find and start a gratitude practice that works for you. We know the documented philosophical and scientific benefits. Leaders, teachers, and ordinary people of all kinds have stated that this simple practice completely transformed their daily lives, changing their outlook and perspective on what is truly important.

May your gratitude practice be just as transformative. Let gratitude be our practice, for as we know, practice makes progress.

 

SHARE

#practices4life are practical tips for living a happier, healthier, and more peaceful life from Jim Blake, CEO of Unity World Headquarters at Unity Village.

Jim Blake

“Here I share techniques I have learned for living a more balanced life. Some of these can be mastered, while some we will 'practice' for the rest of our lives.

The important thing is to keep trying because with every effort, we get better. And improvement is the goal—to make this life experience better for ourselves and those around us.”—Jim

Follow Jim on Facebook and Twitter: @iamjimblake or on LinkedIn: linkedin.com/in/iamjimblake.

April 2018

Greetings, friends! It’s late April and I think spring has FINALLY arrived in the Midwest, which means we are about to witness great change all around us and in our routines. The landscape turns green and flowers bloom. Birds, squirrels, rabbits, and critters of all shapes and sizes return, and the temperature changes dramatically. We begin to spend more time outside than inside. For most of us this is one of the most welcome and delightful changes we encounter each year. Which brings us to our topic for this month’s column—change. 

Here is something interesting for you to consider; I dare say it may blow your mind.  One ancient teaching—well over 2,000 years old—can dramatically shift the course of your life every single day. It is the simplest practice we have discussed since we started our journey together. That’s right, it is both the simplest practice and can have the single biggest impact on your day-to-day experience. 

It is this: Make change your friend. Let me say it again. We need to make friends with the fact that everything in life changes. Why? Let me explain. 

Nothing in life—in our lives, other people’s lives, nature, or anywhere you look—will ever, ever remain static. At some point everything will change. It is universal law. It has been happening for billions of years in the natural world and it happens in our families, jobs, businesses, neighborhoods, and so on.

Either fortunately or unfortunately, to everything there is a season. Sometimes change is terribly painful in our experience, like the death of a friend, family member, or pet. Sometimes it is joyful such as an exciting new job or getting married or having a baby. Other times change is the welcome result of moving through a particularly difficult period—recovering from an illness, a divorce, or healing from an injury. 

What I want us to spend time on today are those daily, weekly, monthly run of the mill changes that are going to occur in life. Those that occur in people, places and things that aren’t life-threatening but are a part of the evolution of life. 

First, let’s own that many of us just don’t like change. But unless we want to spend our lives constantly disappointed, we must begin to accept that some level of change is going to happen in our lives pretty regularly. This will begin to bring some mental peace. 

Second, for the changes we really don’t like—and here is the terribly unfortunate kicker—most of us dig in and create our own mental and emotional suffering by reacting negatively and having what is usually a very unconstructive reaction. In truth, whatever it was we DIDN’T want to change did what it can’t help but do: It changed.

We can spin in our own negativity about this change for very long periods of time. Often, we are telling anyone and everyone who will listen how unhappy we are about this change—a reorganization at work, a loved one moving far away, a new business coming to the neighborhood, etc. This just prolongs our mental and emotional anguish.

Most of the time, this resistance does nothing but create suffering. This is why recognizing that the world is going to evolve and change—and making change your new friend—is so profound.

It allows us to completely release the need to resist change and instead be emotionally and mentally open to changing with the world around us as it evolves. I don’t know about you, but I would like to be as welcoming to every change in my life as I am to springtime after a long, harsh winter. I think I would be far less stressed and worried, and far more peaceful and happy, if this were my approach to all the change that is inevitable in my life. 

Don’t get me wrong, there are times for proper resistance, in addressing social justice issues, for example. I am not referring to those sorts of things here. I am referring to our own individual, mental, and emotional resistance to change when the entire world is going to change no matter what we do.  

So why not consider an alternative approach? Why not make change our friend? If we do, we will dramatically reduce our own mental and emotional stress, and we will evolve into that which is new much more easily and quickly, without disturbance to our internal well-being.

That, after all, is our goal to live happier, healthier, and more peaceful lives. Be well, my friends, and make change your friend. 

This is our practice, and practice makes progress.

 

SHARE

#practices4life are practical tips for living a happier, healthier, and more peaceful life from Jim Blake, CEO of Unity World Headquarters at Unity Village.

Jim Blake

“Here I share techniques I have learned for living a more balanced life. Some of these can be mastered, while some we will 'practice' for the rest of our lives.

The important thing is to keep trying because with every effort, we get better. And improvement is the goal—to make this life experience better for ourselves and those around us.”—Jim

Follow Jim on Facebook and Twitter: @iamjimblake or on LinkedIn: linkedin.com/in/iamjimblake.

December 2017

Greetings, friends! It’s the time of year when we begin anew. How many people would like to get more done in life? How many of you would like to be less stressed?

For this month’s practice, I offer you one simple change to ease the pace of life and allow you to get more done every day—even for the most motivationally challenged.

When I share this practice, you might groan out loud.

Why you ask? Because:

1. It seems counterintuitive.

2. You will have already formulated two excuses why you can’t do It.

Are ready for me to unveil this ancient secret of productivity and creation? I will do so with an old Zen proverb:

You should sit in meditation for 20 minutes every day. Unless you’re too busy, in which case you should sit for an hour.

That’s right, friends, sitting completely still in the silence is the secret to getting more done in your life. Look, I didn’t believe it either. It did not make sense to me. But when I began this practice years ago, I was a young executive with crushing responsibility, trying to earn my master’s degree at the same time.

Fortunately, I was deeply entrenched in a network of people who believed in this sort of thing, and I was convinced to give it a try. Researching the scientific perspective, I learned that meditation:

  • Reduces stress and helps control anxiety.
  • Improves concentration and memory retention.
  • Increases self-awareness and kindness.
  • Increases happiness and self-esteem.
  • Increases acceptance.
  • Slows aging, reduces blood pressure, and benefits cardiovascular and immune health.

I didn’t expect what came next. Like most, I was constantly feeling overwhelmed by the pressure of things that needed to be done—professionally, in school, and in my personal life. I began a simple five- to 10-minute practice of sitting in the silence each morning. I did it very consistently. (Consistency is the absolute key to success for this.) Within a few days, my life began to change beyond those benefits I listed earlier.

The more meditation I did, the more I relaxed, the less worry I carried and the less I struggled. Life somehow became easier to navigate. My to-do lists were accomplished with ease, and my life was much less tumultuous.

Meditation is the art of relaxing the body and quieting the mind. When quieting the mind, you are clearing out excessive thoughts, many that are critical and negative (as we have discussed in previous columns).

By clearing the mind, we remove the resistance that keeps us from creating what we really want. We open up to clarity, ideas, and opportunities that will serve our goals and desires rather than undermine them. Without the negative chatter, you will be amazed at how much clarity you gain.

It seems paradoxical to think you can slow down for a few minutes a day to become healthier and more productive, but it is true. Elementary schools, first responders, and organizations of all types and sizes around the world are now incorporating meditation practices into their daily routines with amazing results.

Let me address those two excuses I mentioned earlier:

1. I don’t have time to meditate. Really, you don’t have time NOT to meditate! It doesn’t have to take 20 minutes. Just begin by being grateful for a few things, then sit in silence for five minutes. Start there and see where it grows.

2. I don’t know how to meditate. Guess what? There is no “right” way; there are thousands of techniques. Start simple with something that works for you. The practice differs from person to person. Focus on your breath going in and out and just feel what you feel. Gently observe your thoughts with no judgment, and relax in the moment.

The most important part: Be consistent. Make it a priority. Meditation must come first so it will become a new habit.

Let’s start this new year with a meditation practice that will bring us more peace and better health, with greater clarity and productivity.

This is our practice, and practice makes progress.

 

SHARE

#practices4life are practical tips for living a happier, healthier, and more peaceful life from Jim Blake, CEO of Unity World Headquarters at Unity Village.

Jim Blake

“Here I share techniques I have learned for living a more balanced life. Some of these can be mastered, while some we will 'practice' for the rest of our lives.

The important thing is to keep trying because with every effort, we get better. And improvement is the goal—to make this life experience better for ourselves and those around us.”—Jim

Follow Jim on Facebook and Twitter: @iamjimblake or on LinkedIn: linkedin.com/in/iamjimblake.

November 2017

Greetings, friends. As I pen this month’s column we are experiencing the coldest day of the year thus far.

Many of us love the fall season for its gift of change and the wonderful colors in nature. Others of us see it as the inevitable warning from Game of Thrones, “Winter is coming,” which means cold and often nasty weather and gray days are ahead.

If you are in the latter group, fall is tolerable but it’s what comes afterwards that we resist. And that’s what we will discuss in this month’s column: how to recognize resistance and its impact on our experience, as well as the practice of acceptance and its benefits in our paths to live happier, healthier, and more peacefully.

If you are a sci-fi fan, you will be familiar with the often-quoted saying, “Resistance is futile” from the Star Trek series. I wonder whether the writers understood they were peppering the world with an ancient universal truth as well as a powerful life lesson.

You see, resistance to anything that has shown up in our lives really is futile. Whatever is before us has already occurred, and there is nothing we can do in this moment to change the fact that this circumstance is now here.

This is where it gets troublesome. The natural human instinct is to resist anything we don’t want in our lives. As a result, our minds begin to chatter, and often we create our own suffering for hours and sometimes days because we are unhappy with the current situation. We expend copious amounts of time and energy agonizing over the unwanted situation, wishing things were different, complaining and suffering mentally and emotionally in an effort to resist what is.

Resistance is futile because we really cannot change what is before us. However, we can change everything that happens after an unwanted circumstance shows up.

This is where the practice of acceptance comes in. Many people misinterpret the meaning of acceptance by assuming we just become doormats to life and accept every circumstance that shows up, giving up our power to do anything. That is not at all what this practice is about.

It is actually quite the opposite. The power and practice of acceptance is a method for allowing us to move beyond the needless suffering of the experience and move more quickly to focus on positive action steps to deal with our circumstances.

Here’s an example: Let’s combine our mind, energy, and emotion and think of them as a computer processing engine. Let’s pretend that each day we have a limited amount of processing power in this computer processor. As luck would have it, an unwanted circumstance shows up in our experience—a problem at home, something goes wrong at work—you choose the scenario.

The moment this unwanted situation shows up, we have two options for using the limited power in our computer processor. We can spend our power in a state of denial and resistance, complaining and agonizing, or we can quickly accept what is and use our minds, energy, and emotion to focus on how we can solve or move through this experience without the needless suffering our minds generally create for us.

The practice of acceptance is not about lying down and letting life events run over us but rather minimizing the wasted time in resisting those unwanted events, minimizing our own internal chatter/suffering about them, and moving quickly to the next steps to move past the experience.

We can choose to accept the situation, knowing that we would prefer something else to happen, and focus our attention on putting a more preferable experience in its place. There is an old saying, “Change is never painful, only the resistance to change is painful.”

It is important for us to note that even with the practice of acceptance, some life events—although we are not resisting—still can and will be painful. Serious health issues in ourselves, close friends, or family members; death, or any major loss or change in circumstances can result in emotional or physical pain.

The caution here is that pain and suffering are not the same thing unless we are in a state of resistance. The healthiest approach is to be completely open to the truth of what we are experiencing, fully feel and express our emotions (don’t suppress them), and allow them to flow through us.

It is perfectly normal and healthy to express our emotions around serious life events. Our practice is to minimize the resistance and struggle by focusing on positive and healthy steps to recovery and dealing with these events.

The next time an unwanted circumstance shows up in your life, may you pause, take a deep breath, and be thoughtful about where you choose to spend your time, emotion, and energy. May you spend it not in a state of resistance but in a state of acceptance so that you may live healthier, happier, and more peacefully.

This is our practice, and practice makes progress.

 

SHARE

#practices4life are practical tips for living a happier, healthier, and more peaceful life from Jim Blake, CEO of Unity World Headquarters at Unity Village.

Jim Blake

“Here I share techniques I have learned for living a more balanced life. Some of these can be mastered, while some we will 'practice' for the rest of our lives.

The important thing is to keep trying because with every effort, we get better. And improvement is the goal—to make this life experience better for ourselves and those around us.”—Jim

Follow Jim on Facebook and Twitter: @iamjimblake or on LinkedIn: linkedin.com/in/iamjimblake.

September 2017

Hello, friends. With summer wrapping up and school starting and vacation schedules falling to the wayside, you may now be busier than ever as a permanent road warrior traveling between work, practices, games, events, and more. Whether you are an overscheduled parent or just plain overscheduled, this month’s column is for you.

We are going to take a break from the mental aspects of our practice and work on self-care. I can hear it already: “Jim, when do I possibly have time for something like that?” More important, what happens to us if we don’t make the time to nurture our well-being? Here’s a hint, it’s not good for us or anyone in our orbit. So first, let’s define what the different aspects of self-care look like.

There are four pillars to ensure we are functioning at our absolute best. By the way, everything I am about to share with you is scientifically proven at this point in our human evolution; there are countless articles on each of these individual health elements. Due to limited space, I won’t cite the research here, but Google can help you find it.

The first pillar, and maybe the most critical, is sleep. Adults require seven to eight hours of sleep a night. No book, television show, news show, social media stream, or work (especially) should interfere with our sleep. Sleep contributes to better brain function, weight loss, mood enhancement, and immune system function. If your argument is that you are working late at night because it absolutely must be done, my rebuttal is that you are not doing your best work late at night, AND you are setting yourself up for lackluster performance tomorrow! Lack of sleep contributes to lesser overall mind and body function and dramatic mood swings as well as poor decision-making. Read that last part again. Prolonged lack of sleep leads to bad moods, bad decisions, and bad health. Need I say more?

The next pillar is food. A healthy diet is not one-size-fits-all. What works for one is not necessarily the right choice for someone else. But I will say, please eat real food at least three times daily—lots of fruits and vegetables as well as enough protein, especially if you are exercising regularly. The “real food” part is the most important. Foods that are manmade/highly processed contain chemicals that mess with our moods and impact our brain function, decision-making, and sleep patterns. Be mindful of what you put in your body. It really does make a difference.  

The third pillar is exercise, any kind (I can hear you booing me). Walking, yoga, dancing around the house, anything to get your heart rate up. Exercise has many positive long-term benefits, not the least of which is that it releases endorphins, the powerful mood enhancers that contribute to a feeling of well-being and stress relief!

The final pillar is hydration. The rule for maximum hydration and ideal system function is a half-ounce of water for every pound of bodyweight. We are 80 percent water, so it is important to stay hydrated to keep our systems functioning at their highest level.

We tend to ignore these pillars because they seem too basic, but in making these four changes, you will not believe how much better you will feel every day. Consider what happens without the first two. Lack of sleep causes poor mental function and altered mood, which usually manifests as crankiness/short temper and poor decision-making. The same holds true with lack of food or poor diet. In fact, a diet lacking in proper nutrition has been proven to have the same or even worse side effects as not eating! So please, get your rest, take your diet seriously, stay hydrated, and exercise a few times a week. This will provide a good foundation, ensure your mood and  biological systems are stable and consistent, and help your mental function.

Finally, even with a solid foundation in place, consistently doing the basics described above, we must go further to ensure our overall health and wellness. We must identify something beyond our day-to-day routines that brings us rejuvenation and a sense of renewal. It may be a round of golf, a spa day, a fishing trip. Identify it for yourself and make an intentional effort to schedule it on a regular basis. My personal rule is every six weeks; that is about the maximum amount of time I can go in full-on execution mode before I need a day to just let go and exhale and take a break. Our sense of well-being depends on our commitment to self-care.

So what happens if we don’t do this part? We begin to take on more stress and even resentment. Overwhelming feelings of burn-out, depression, lack of appreciation build up, and that can lead to neglecting the four pillars. Which leads to a snowball effect of poor self-care. And then we don’t treat those around us very well either. All because we didn’t take care of ourselves.

To be the best version of ourselves, in doing whatever we need to do, we need to make ourselves a priority and take time for physical and mental care. First, do it daily with the four pillars and then allow the time needed for a well-deserved break from the routine. There is a powerful connection between rest, diet, mental, and physical health and how we show up in the world. Do yourself and those around you a big favor; practice great self-care! You won’t regret it and neither will they.

This is our practice, and practice makes progress.

 

SHARE

#practices4life are practical tips for living a happier, healthier, and more peaceful life from Jim Blake, CEO of Unity World Headquarters at Unity Village.

Jim Blake

“Here I share techniques I have learned for living a more balanced life. Some of these can be mastered, while some we will 'practice' for the rest of our lives.

The important thing is to keep trying because with every effort, we get better. And improvement is the goal—to make this life experience better for ourselves and those around us.”—Jim

Follow Jim on Facebook and Twitter: @iamjimblake or on LinkedIn: linkedin.com/in/iamjimblake.

August 2017

Greetings, friends. I hope you are enjoying the scents, sights, and sounds of the summer—it is the season of sizzling food on the grill, bare feet on freshly mowed grass, a cool dip in a pool, and concerts in the park. It is also my hope that our work with thoughts, perceptions, and experiences impacts your daily reality as you savor your summer.

We have mostly been working on handling things that occur outside of ourselves. As we move forward, I would like to focus more on the self, starting with self-talk and exploring the detrimental effects of the negative inner voice.

Sadly, many of us remain unaware that we are indeed our own harshest critics. We move through our days with the endless chattering mind we learned about earlier—and much of the time it is blathering on about us! It is judging how we look, what we should or should not have said, whether we are in the right job, the right house, the right relationship, and on and on. You name it, we have an internal opinion about it and it is usually overblown and out of touch with the reality of the situation.

This may not even be our own voice. If we grew up in a household with critical parents, relatives, or siblings, we may hear one of their voices and not even realize it. In fact, recent psychology suggests that in the case of the passing of a critical parent, adult children struggle mightily with the grieving process because of a profound sense of relief, combined with a tremendous sense of guilt and shame for feeling freed and relieved—all without a great deal of understanding of these feelings. Fortunately for some, guided professional grief counseling navigates them through those emotions, ultimately allowing them to focus solely on grieving the actual loss of the parent. 

So why is it important that we manage this critical voice if we all have one? This negative self-talk and negative thinking has an impact, a ripple effect, if you will. It leads to needless pressure on ourselves as well as anxiety, fear, anger, and if left unchecked, even depression.

For example, how many times have you left a meeting or a social situation where you felt like you had really blundered and were terribly embarrassed, only to have your friends, coworkers, or others barely remember the situation? This is the power of our inner critic. Something we created in our minds to be mountainous turns out to be barely an anthill. Think about the minutes, hours, or sometimes days of energy, emotion, and stress that we put into these scenarios—we can find ourselves spinning from the anxiety and fear created by the negative self-talk.

Even as we commit to something as simple as a morning workout routine or a healthier diet or a new mindfulness practice, we catch ourselves skipping a step or missing a day and the inner critic starts in—often leading to a complete abandonment of the initial effort, over one perceived mistake.

What can we do to better manage the mental chatter of the inner critic? First, be deliberate about observing our thinking and become aware of the inner critic. Some experts advocate giving it a silly name to add some levity. After all, it is hard to take the inner critic seriously with a name like Negative Nellie or Toxic Tom.

Once we notice it, here are some options:

  • Ask ourselves this: Would we talk to a friend this way in the same situation? What would we say to a friend in this same situation? Whatever we would say to a friend is what we should be saying to ourselves.
  • Try to minimize the situation into the reality it deserves. We know the tendency of the inner critic is to overemphasize. By taking a step back and examining the reality of the situation, we can identify the actual size of the problem and be completely confident in how we move forward in dealing with it, if it needs to be dealt with at all.
  • Stop the spiral of supercritical thinking by saying, “I see that I am having a negative, critical thought; is this the ultimate truth, or can I see this differently?” In almost every case, if we are responding from our highest self and not from emotion, we will be directed to a higher level of thinking that results in liberation from the problem that sent us down the spiral in the first place.
  • Stop holding ourselves to ridiculously high standards that no human can possibly meet. Adherence to perfection is simply not a standard we hold anyone else in our reality to, yet we seem to expect it of ourselves. We must learn to embrace our own imperfections with compassion and understanding and at the same time balance that with the will to do better as we become more aware. Thus, the reason for our practice—to become more aware so that we can do better!

Becoming aware of and maintaining at least some semblance of control of the inner critic will most certainly put us on a path to a more peaceful existence. This will help us achieve a happier and healthier life as we navigate an already complex world. No need to beat ourselves up along the way! May we find the compassion and patience for ourselves that we would feel for a child that is learning and growing, because we are learning and growing.

This is our practice, and practice makes progress.

 

SHARE

#practices4life are practical tips for living a happier, healthier, and more peaceful life from Jim Blake, CEO of Unity World Headquarters at Unity Village.

Jim Blake

“Here I share techniques I have learned for living a more balanced life. Some of these can be mastered, while some we will 'practice' for the rest of our lives.

The important thing is to keep trying because with every effort, we get better. And improvement is the goal—to make this life experience better for ourselves and those around us.”—Jim

Follow Jim on Facebook and Twitter: @iamjimblake or on LinkedIn: linkedin.com/in/iamjimblake.

June 2017

Greetings, friends. Welcome to June, the beginning of summer and the end of the first half of the year. We are going to take what we have learned in columns one and two about changing our thoughts and monitoring our perceptions and combine the techniques to dramatically impact our daily experiences. And then we have the whole second half of the year to practice!

This month’s practice is important because it creates a foundation for everything else we’ll be working with this year. Some might consider this a pretty provocative concept, so are you ready? Here it is …

Every single day, you have the power to choose your life experience.

I know, I know. I can hear the myriad responses now. “Jim, I don’t choose the weather, the rude people, the malfunctioning computers, appliances, automobiles, and so on. Nor do I choose the serious events in life that happen to me, my family, or my friends.”

I get it, and I am not suggesting that we are somehow in control of every event that may occur during the course of our lifetimes. What I am suggesting is that by working with the techniques we have discussed over the last two months (associated with our thoughts and perceptions,) we can better manage our experiences—not just in the moment, but in the following hours, days, and weeks.

Life offers a spectrum of experiences, so for this discussion, we will use a common example followed by a more complex one. We’ll start with something simple that many of us experience on a regular basis. Most of us live a life that is over-scheduled—our days are filled with back-to-back appointments and responsibilities. A mishap like a traffic jam or a flat tire can ripple negatively through an entire day. We’ll spend it running late for every appointment, apologizing for our tardiness, and feeling stressed and frustrated.

Here’s where our practice comes in. During the triggering event–let’s say a flat tire–our emotions can get the best of us and we can become angry, upset, and stressed. We may tense our bodies, use poor language, experience increased blood pressure or heart rates, and have all sorts of negative thoughts that spin uncontrollably in our minds. A single event can make us grumpy and resentful for an entire day.

Now consider this: How many decisions will we make during the day from this grumpy, angry place that we might have made differently if we were in a happy place? How might those different decisions have changed our day, our life, or the lives of others, had we not been so frustrated when we made them? It’s interesting to consider the ripple effect a single event can have, isn’t it?

So what’s the alternative? Using our practice, when a stressful everyday event happens, we can notice that our mind has become a bit unwieldy with spiraling thoughts. We can slow our breathing, remembering that these are just thoughts. None of the scenarios the mind is chattering about have actually occurred, and there are countless possibilities for how this moment and the rest of our day can still be positive and turn out great.

We can begin to accept the fact that this event has occurred—we have a flat tire—and allow ourselves to feel a few moments of frustration. (Notice that our practice never involves avoiding or stifling our emotions; we just don’t get stuck in them.) Then we can also begin to accept that our flat tire will have some sort of impact on our day; however, what that is remains to be seen. We are not foretelling doom and gloom!

From this space, we make the conscious choice not to let a flat tire ruin the next few hours or the entire rest of our day, impacting everything else that we do through negative thinking and a sour mood. Each time fear or worry starts to creep in, we can force a smile to our lips and affirm something positive, like this: “I am open to the possibility that everything is going to work out perfectly.”

I know some of you just read that sentence and said, “Okay, Jim, that sounds nice but I have important meetings and being late could have significant consequences.”

I understand, but let’s look at it logically. Would you rather try to overcome the circumstances of an unforeseen event from an angry, worried, stressed-out space, or are you willing to try something different? Are you willing to respond by choosing to reorganize your day from a calmer place where you have accepted your flat tire and are open to the possibility of everything working in a perfect way? Which response do you think will render the best mindset for decision-making?

Let’s move into a complex scenario, like a job loss, an unforeseen change in circumstance, a personal illness, or one involving a family member or friend. I have experienced every one of these difficult events very deeply at one time or another. There were times when I felt completely powerless and helpless about my own circumstances or those of a loved one.

As difficult as it is, we must do our best to make choices about how we are experiencing extreme events. We must try to make choices about our thoughts, perceptions, and emotions that will render the greatest service to ourselves and to our loved ones. We must allow ourselves to feel our emotions fully, but over and over we must also try to manage our thoughts and perceptions so they don’t turn fearful, negative, and worrisome. We must try to keep replacing them with something that is either positive or at least neutral.

There will be scenarios where you just can’t think of any positive thought to bring forth as a replacement mindset. That’s okay. Do your best to muster up something neutral like, “This negative thinking is not serving me” and just be in a neutral place. By getting yourself out of the cycle of stress, fear, or negative thinking, you will be in a better position to provide yourself with the best mental and emotional state for healing. You will also be in a clearer state for supporting loved ones who may also be moving through this difficult circumstance.

The goal of our time together is to live happier, healthier, and more peaceful lives. The foundational component of better living is managing our thoughts and perceptions. Events are going to happen. It is our responses to them that shape our experience of life. The more in touch we become with our thoughts and perceptions, the more clarity we will have to manage and change them positively, controlling our experiences in the short and long term.

From small to large, from inconsequential to monumental, with practice we can better choose how we are going to experience events rather than feeling tossed around by them. We can’t control all of life, but we don’t have to feel powerless either. We can take back our control in the form of our response to the events of life by working with our thoughts, perceptions, and responses—starting with everyday events.

This is our practice, and practice makes progress.

 

SHARE

#practices4life are practical tips for living a happier, healthier, and more peaceful life from Jim Blake, CEO of Unity World Headquarters at Unity Village.

Jim Blake

“Here I share techniques I have learned for living a more balanced life. Some of these can be mastered, while some we will 'practice' for the rest of our lives.

The important thing is to keep trying because with every effort, we get better. And improvement is the goal—to make this life experience better for ourselves and those around us.”—Jim

Follow Jim on Facebook and Twitter: @iamjimblake or on LinkedIn: linkedin.com/in/iamjimblake.

May 2017

Greetings, friends. I hope your spring season is off to a fabulous start. As a recap, our practice last month taught us to “garden our minds” by learning to observe our thoughts and even change them if we so desire.

This month, we will be working with the concept of perception. Perception is loosely defined as the process of interpreting stimulus. However, interpretation of any stimulus is always accompanied by reference to our past experiences. For example, someone who has never seen an automobile would be unable to identify one, but a person who had seen automobiles before would be able to identify them easily. Hence, perception may then be wholly defined as a process of interpreting a present stimulus based on past experience.

So now that we have a working definition of perception, let’s discuss why it’s meaningful to understand the part it plays in our daily experience. This next statement may be the most significant take-away from this month’s column. Based on the definition above, everything we witness and take in through our five senses is filtered through our past experiences.

Why is this so important? Because sometimes our past experiences and conditioned preconceived judgments can lead us to misinterpret or misjudge present moment experiences. Consider the famous experiment described by Gene Weingarten in a 2007 Washington Post article.

Joshua Bell, a world renowned musician, quietly surfaced from the subway in Washington, D.C., unkempt in a T-shirt, jeans, and ball cap, and proceeded to play for more than 40 minutes on a priceless Stradivarius violin. His performance went largely unnoticed while more than 1,000 people passed by, dropping just over $30 in a cup. How many of those same 1,000 people would have or may have in the past, shelled out over $100 per ticket to watch this same man play? Were they led astray by their perception about the people who play on the street? Or was it their perceptions about his appearance?

In this example, it would seem that past experiences related to street musicians led to a missed opportunity to have a better-than-front-row experience listening to a premier violinist demonstrating his craft for a mere donation.

Now consider a more practical example. Let’s say that our office hours begin at 8 a.m. We encounter a coworker who consistently shows up at 8:15. Our past experience has taught us to always follow the rules and be on time. As a result, our perception of this coworker may not be a positive one since everyone else on the team seems to be able to honor the 8 a.m. start time.

However, would we perceive the situation differently if we knew she was a single parent with a child whose school doesn’t open until 8 a.m.—and that she has made special arrangements with the supervisor to make up the time by staying late?

As you can see, we must carefully monitor our perceptions of present moment experiences lest we miss once-in-a-lifetime opportunities or harshly and undeservedly misjudge people around us, both known and unknown.

Sadly, perception is likely the source of over half of all miscommunication in relationships of every kind. You see, our individual past experiences can become triggers for how we interpret tone, specific words, or even phrases that may bring up painful memories from our past. Because of this, we must always be mindful of separating this present moment experience from those unrelated experiences in the past. Otherwise, we risk visiting and assigning a range of historical reactions to the present moment that don’t belong.

Our practice for the next few weeks is to become more aware of our perceptions and, much like our thoughts—if we no longer agree with what we first perceived—we can change our minds.

Remember friends, practice makes progress.

 

SHARE

#practices4life are practical tips for living a happier, healthier, and more peaceful life from Jim Blake, CEO of Unity World Headquarters at Unity Village.

Jim Blake

“Here I share techniques I have learned for living a more balanced life. Some of these can be mastered, while some we will 'practice' for the rest of our lives.

The important thing is to keep trying because with every effort, we get better. And improvement is the goal—to make this life experience better for ourselves and those around us.”—Jim

Follow Jim on Facebook and Twitter: @iamjimblake or on LinkedIn: linkedin.com/in/iamjimblake.

April 2017

Friends, I am Jim Blake. Welcome to the first installment of #practices4life—practical tips for living a happier, healthier, and more peaceful life.

I will share with you techniques I have learned and continue to practice every day. Some of these you and I will master, while some we will “practice” for the rest of our lives and may never master. The important thing is to keep trying because with every effort, we will get better. And that is the ultimate goal: improvement … making this life experience better for ourselves and those we love and interact with.

So let’s begin with what will be the most important and maybe most challenging practice: Getting inside your own head. That’s actually where most of life experience happens. You may be thinking “Jim, life does not happen inside my head; life is what occurs on the outside.” True, but how we experience life depends on what we think about those things that are occurring before us, near us, and to us. How it works is we witness what is happening—then form our thoughts and judgments almost instantaneously.

There’s more: You and I are not our thoughts. We are the “It” somewhere inside that is having the thoughts. The mind is the generator of the seemingly endless voice we hear in our head every day all day. We are all much more than our minds and as such, can choose to observe or change these thoughts. So we can actually just examine the thoughts going on in our head OR if we want, we can shift them to something completely different! Try it right now. Instead of thinking “Jim has really lost it,” reread the last few sentences and immediately change your thoughts to “I understand what he is saying, and I can change my thoughts that quickly!”

There, see, you did it!

Okay, why is this practice even useful? There is a saying, “Your mind is a garden; your thoughts are the seeds. You can grow flowers or you can grow weeds.” So as spring unfolds, it is a perfect time to begin the practice of tending to the garden of our minds.

Our practice for the next few weeks is to become aware of negative thoughts and see if we can somehow change them to positive ones. A simple way to do this is to notice the negative thoughts and say to yourself, “I release those thoughts that no longer serve me.” Then try to think of the opposite occurring or think of something completely different. Give it a try and see how your mood and mental health shift in accordance with your new way of thinking.

Remember friends, practice makes progress.

 

SHARE

#practices4life are practical tips for living a happier, healthier, and more peaceful life from Jim Blake, CEO of Unity World Headquarters at Unity Village.

Jim Blake

“Here I share techniques I have learned for living a more balanced life. Some of these can be mastered, while some we will 'practice' for the rest of our lives.

The important thing is to keep trying because with every effort, we get better. And improvement is the goal—to make this life experience better for ourselves and those around us.”—Jim

Follow Jim on Facebook and Twitter: @iamjimblake or on LinkedIn: linkedin.com/in/iamjimblake.