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Archive for March, 2009

I Will Never Let Someone Else Make Me Unhappy: Will You?

March 29th, 2009 No comments

I have done some thinking about myself, others, and feeling happy. I have walked and talked in circles up inside of my head, exploring nooks, crannies, and unknowns that are now known to me. I have thought deeply, analyzed much, and have thus discovered some of my own conclusions regarding my personal feelings of happiness and how others may or may not be affecting that internal state. At the same time, I have given some thought as to how my actions and words may or may not be affecting the personal happiness of other people.

For now though, I would like to focus on how I feel inside when I think of how other people act toward me and how I interpret those actions inside of my own mind. By taking time with this process and understanding it, I can come around full circle and begin to appreciate how I see myself and how others have the potential to negatively or positively affect how I see myself or how I am feeling inside. No matter what value I decide to ascribe to the words and actions of other humans, I cannot help but think that the value I eventually decide to ascribe can only be my individual perception or my take of how the world is impacting me.

My perception of reality and the people around me begins inside of my own mind or brain. It is in my brain where I begin to try and make sense of the world, complex and changing as it is. For my mind to successfully assess my environment, a whole bunch of collaborative processes has to take place. While this kind of collaboration is rather complex, there is no need to pick it apart bit by bit. Nevertheless, my perception and my feelings of happiness are produced inside of my mind and that is a fact.

This fact, does not change however, the reality that it is almost impossible to avoid the outside world and the people that exist and move within it. Tomorrow I will wake up, go about my day, and probably pass by and interact with at least a handful of people. Everytime I run into another person or interact with another person is a chance for me to have my perception altered. That is, every person whom I come across in my life has the potential to influence my decision-making, thought patterns, and how I am feeling.

While this is true for all of us, it is very important to remember that each interaction has the ‘potential’ to alter or influence how we are thinking or how we are feeling on any given day.

So long as you or I or anyone else can remember that others only have the ‘potential’ to influence or impact our general well-being, the more likely we are to reach and achieve higher levels of happiness and understanding of self. This is not to say that the words and actions of other people should be completely disregarded of interpreted as pointless dribble or incoherent fluff. Rather, this is to say that the mind, if well-trained enough, has the ability to build and incorporate its own psychological filtering process.

This means that you or I have the ability to receive thoughts and feelings from other people without incurring a negative experience.

While this may appear to be a trivial concept, it is actually one of the most difficult lifelong interactive skills to master. In other words, it is so easy to let other individuals sway our emotions and thought processes. It is so incredibly easy to let another person get under our skin and rub us the wrong way. In this way, we have evolved as a naturally defensive and protective species. We have been conditioned over hundreds of thousands of years to be reactive, especially as we exist in a harsh and unpredictable environment that poses certain risks and fluctuating threats.

Despite all of unknowns that we are facing on a continual basis, it remains exceedingly critical for you or I to be mindful and aware of the people who we decide to let into our minds. It is important to think about the thoughts and feelings that are entering our mind from the mouths and minds of other people. Ultimately, I am in charge of how I feel. I am in charge of how happy I allow myself to be. So are you. You are in charge of how happy you feel.

By the same token, but just speaking backwards, no one else has the ability to strip you of your happiness and confident state of mind. Other people may be able to jostle it, shake it, even turn your world upside down. Remember, you are the skipper of your own mind – you get to filter out that which disquiets you.

Train your brain, enhance the stronghold inside of your mind. You can love and welcome people into your life and still have an iron core. You are strong enough to not let someone else make you unhappy.

Where do you stand? Are you easily influenced or impacted by the thoughts and feelings of other people in your life?

Be good to yourself,

Matthew R. Polkinghorne

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Life-Balance Check: Have You Felt The Pulse of Nature Lately?

March 10th, 2009 No comments

Just the other day, my wife and I decided to break free of the urban grind and spend some quality time in a mountainous region of Southern California. Before leaving we did a bit of research and discovered that a place called Idyllwild would likely be a relaxing retreat. Idyllwild, CA is an unincorporated mountain town perched some 5,500ft above sea level, resting beneath the daunting peaks of the San Jacinto mountains.

It goes without saying, life in an unincorporated mountain community moves at a much different pace. There is no mad rush and there is no burning desire to be the next best thing since sliced bread. People just kind of come and go as they please, not being overly consumed with personal greatness and oozing adoration from other individuals. Mountain people live a simpler life, not counting every last second like it will be the last of their life – they have a unique and unusual ability to take the day as it comes, feeling satisfied by the day’s end.

The shops are small and the restaurants, far from crowded. There seemed to be a general ease about this town and an accompanying ease of the people. Getting lost is really a non-issue. If you lose your way, it is as easy as asking any keeper at one of the many stores – they are all locals and know the small town like the back of their hand.

Idyllwild, California really is a warm and cozy place to visit. Although the air is thinner, it is also much fresher. Breaths of fresh and clean oxygen are guaranteed to recharge your spirit and clear your mind as you enjoy a care-free day in this little town. If you really want to indulge (as my wife and I did), then drop by Jo-Anne’s for lunch and have a piece of chocolate “suicide” cake to bring your meal to a grand finale and proper end. After your last bite you may feel a nagging feeling of guilt – let this feeling pass and wash down that piece of cake with a frosty beer (a pale ale or Blue Moon will likely do the trick). After basking in your guilt-free indulgence, start thinking about a place to lodge for the evening. There are plenty of quiet Inns that hug the edge of Strawberry Creek.

Idyllwild is littered with pine, cedar and evergreen trees. Make sure to take a moment of your time and admire the beauty and agelessness of these incredible trees – they provided us with countless breaths of life-giving air. Not only are the trees a sight to behold, nature is always scattering about in your peripheral vision.

In particular, Idyllwild is filled to the brim with the California grey squirrel. Strangely, these grey squirrels appear to be unmistakably different than any other grey squirrels I have ever seen. Besides being twice the size of any grey squirrels I have ever seen, they also have the shiniest and fluffiest coats I have ever beset my eyes upon.

Seriously, these squirrels are mutants! You should see how quickly they tear an acorn or nut apart – the outer shells are ablaze as the squirrels chuck them aside while feasting on the innards. These creatures have the art of nut cracking down to a fine science. Really, this is the first time I have compared any squirrel to Rambo! It must just be another testament to the cleanliness and freshness of the mountain air.

There is no need for me to carry on for too long here. I think my message is clear – the squirrels are jacked and they mean business – I know I would not wrestle one of them for a nut placed in fair ground. Just read the “Town Crier” (the local newspaper in Idyllwild), it backs up everything I am saying about these squirrels. In fact, the Town Crier would be my indisputable reference for foolproof evidence of this natural phenomenon.

Moving away from the humorous side of things, there is a main message to this post. The main message is to be aware of your current self. How are you feeling? When you ask yourself this question, what does your gut say? What doesn’t it say? Try not to rationalize every detail of your life. Give yourself a chance to thoughtfully reflect about the many parts of your life. When was the last time you took off for a day? Has it been too long?

You may want to consider Idyllwild, California as a quick life-boosting retreat. Now I have said it, you won’t regret it! Be like the grey squirrel! Run around for awhile, exploring the rejuvenating aspects of the outdoors amidst the simplicities of a mountain town.

Where do you stand? Have you visited a place like Idyllwild, California lately?

Be good to yourself,

Matthew R. Polkinghorne

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Harness The Power of Guided Imagery To Relieve Stress

March 4th, 2009 No comments

“The stress of sameness” is the same as saying I am doing the same thing over and over again and I do not know why I am doing it anymore.

If you are having any thoughts or feelings related to this idea, I want you to do me a favor and open up your mind to an imagery exercise. After you have read through the presented imagery exercise a couple of times, I want you to close your eyes…and live it through your senses. By doing this, it is my hope that you will overcome the stress of sameness and routine that we all face on a daily basis.

Imagery Exercise (Picture yourself as a little boy or little girl again):

Go back to the time when you were little and young. Go to a summer lake retreat. See yourself walking down to the shore on the beach. Look out onto the lake and see the waves capsizing  in the deep blue water.  Look down at your feet at the shore side. The waves are lapping in, gently cooling your feet. There is a canoe beside you, and no one else is around. The canoe wavers back and forth very subtly, coaxing you to hop in and go for a paddle. Now, look across and beside to all of the adjoining shores and feel the breeze move through your hair. You run your hand through your hair, almost mimicking the strength of the wind.

Thoughtfully, you refocus your sight on the shores and feel an incredible sense of relaxation wash over you. You feel complete, and you feel whole. You are alive and it feels good to be alive. With that replenishing feeling coursing through you,  it is time to step in the canoe and head out onto the water. As you move away from shore, you hear the sifting of sand beneath you during the dislodge. It is just you now – you and the water. You make a few paddle strokes and get past the raft. The wind is blowing stronger now and you use determination to power you forward.

As you get midway through the lake, you begin to see a distant vision of the far shore. Satisfied with the progress made, you place the  paddle down perpendicular to the canoe. You stretch back and relax, letting out a deep breath and breathing in the freshness of woodland air. Enriched by the cleanliness of the air, you lean back and tilt your head up toward the sun, welcoming the warm rays of sunshine on your face and in your soul. You are alive again and your lungs are expanding and contracting freely.

Just off to your right you see a small rock-faced inlet where there is fish, turtles and life. The giant evergreens tower above, casting long and lazy shadows. They sway in the wind with such distinct and profound effortlessness. The trees are a part of nature and they are a part of you. They are there for you – rekindling your senses.

Awakening from your dreamlike state, a feeling of weightlessness sets in. There is not a piece of you that does not feel whole – you are complete. And by being completely complete, you are also nothing at the same time. And almost nothing is as satisfying as feeling like nothing. To feel like nothing is to feel weightless.

In the wake of your weightlessness, you pick up the paddle and let the droplets of water skim down the edge of your oar. You refocus your sights on the distant shore and dip the paddle in the water again. You hear the gentle ripping sound of the paddle in the water. You dig in again and see the small swirls of water eddy away behind you. You are satisfied with your progress, invigorated again to move toward the final destination – the distant shore that is your destiny.

**If you have the time, please read this exercise a couple of times. After you have done that, close your eyes and let your senses do the rest.

We all know what it is like to experience the monotony of life. It is normal. It is just fine. Sometimes though, the sameness and boredom can overcome us. It is in these times when you need to close your eyes and indulge and awaken your senses to remind yourself that you are alive.

Where do you stand? Feel free to share thoughts or comments.

Be good to yourself,

Matthew R. Polkinghorne

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