Attention!

#truelove #allowing #dating

GPS for the Soul – The Huffington Post
Attention!
Where you look is where you go. Whatever you put your attention expands and impacts what you experience and create in your life.

Consider: Where are you looking? What are you paying attention to?

When we allow ourselves to engage in worry, obsessing or regret, our attention quickly slips away from the type of thinking that supports our intentions. When we are distracted by social media, reality TV, advertising and the gazillion other stimuli that compete for our attention, we diffuse our focus from the things that are most important to reaching our goals.

You may have the best intentions in the world but without focused attention, they are just good ideas rather than your reality.

That’s why I am sharing an “Attention Training” practice in today’s vlog

Attention training is different from meditation because it is solely about building your focus muscle. It is not about connecting to a Higher Power or your intuition. You do not need a quiet place to practice. In fact, it is even better to do your attention training in noisy places for the added challenge! I explain the process in detail in the video and guide you through a short practice to be sure to watch.

Why this matters is because the ability to focus your attention on what you choose is not only fundamental to your success, it is a key to your well-being. What we pay attention to can either deplete us or bring us more peace, productivity and prosperity. However since our monkey minds can be so easily distracted, they need training!

Your mind is a terrible boss but a great employee. Attention training is a way to make your mind work for you in an optimal way.

I have committed to practicing attention training three times a day for five minutes at least five days a week. I have already seen an increase in my ability to focus on what matters most thanks to learning this process from Scott Coady, founder of the Institute for Embodied Wisdom.

Oh and don’t stop meditating!! Consider attention training another tool to add to your optimizing your life toolbox.

I want to hear how attention training is going for you so be sure to head on over to the blog and share!

Love,

Christine

The Palmist: A Short Story from Birds of Paradise Lost:
The Palmist is a short story collected in Andrew Lam’s latest book, Birds of Paradise Lost. It was published in March of 2013 and won a Pen/Josephine Miles Literary Award and is currently a finalist for First Fiction of the California Book Award 2014. It was read on Selected Shorts by Tony-winner James Naughton, and by the author himself on American Public Media, Thestory.org

The palmist closed up shop early because of the pain. He felt as if he was being roasted, slowly, inside out. By noon he could no longer focus on his customers’ palms; their life and love
lines had all failed to point to any significant future, but blurred and streaked instead into rivers and streams of his memories.

Outside, the weather had turned. Dark clouds hung low and the wind was heavy with moisture. He reached the bus stop’s tiny shelter when it began to pour. He didn’t have to wait long, how- ever. The good old 38 Geary pulled up in a few minutes, and he felt mildly consoled, though sharp pains flared and blossomed from deep inside his bowels like tiny geysers, and they made each of his three steps up the bus laborious.

It was warm and humid on the bus, and crowded, and a fine mist covered the windows. He sat on the front bench facing the aisle, the one reserved for the handicapped and the elderly. A fat woman with rosy cheeks who stayed standing gave him a dirty look. It was true: his hair was still mostly black, and he appeared to be a few years short of senior citizenship. The palmist pretended not to notice her. He leaned contemptuously back against the worn and cracked vinyl and smiled to himself. He closed his eyes. A faint odor of turned earth reached his nostrils. The palmist inhaled deeply and saw again a golden rice field, a beatific smile, a face long gone; his first kiss.

The rain fell harder on the roof of the bus as it rumbled toward the sea.

At the next stop, a teenager got on. Caught in the downpour without an umbrella, he was soaking wet, and his extra-large T- shirt that said “Play Hard . . . Stay Hard” clung to him. It occurred to the palmist that this was the face of someone who hadn’t yet learned to be fearful of the weather. The teenager stood towering above the palmist, blocking him from seeing the fat woman, who, from time to time, still glanced disapprovingly at him.

So young, the palmist thought, the age of my youngest son, maybe, had he lived. The palmist tried to conjure his son’s face in his mind but could not. It had been some years since the little boy drowned in the South China Sea, along with his two older sisters and their mother. The palmist had escaped on a different boat, a smaller one that left a day after his family’s boat, and, as a result, reached America alone.

Listen to author Andrew Lam read The Palmist on American Public Media Thestory.org

Alone, thought the palmist and sighed. Alone.It was then that his gaze fell upon the teenager’s hand. He saw something there. He leaned forward, and did something he never did before on the 38 Geary. He spoke up, rather loudly, excitedly.

“You,” he said in his heavy accent. “I see wonderful life!”The teenager looked down at the old man, and arched his eyebrows.”I’m a palmist,” said the palmist. “Maybe you give me your hand?”

The teenager did nothing. No one had ever asked to see his hand on this bus before. The fat woman snickered. Oh, she’d seen it all on the 38 Geary. She wasn’t surprised. “This my last reading, no mon- ey, free, gift for you,” the palmist pressed on. “Give me your hand.”

“I don’t know,” the teenager said, scratching his chin. He was nervous. He felt as if he was caught inside a moving glass house and

that, with the passengers looking on, he had somehow turned into one of its most conspicuous plants.

“What, what you don’t know?” asked the palmist. “Maybe I know. Maybe I answer.”

“Dude,” the teenager said. “I don’t know if I believe in all that hocus-pocus stuff.” And though he didn’t say it, he didn’t know whether he wanted to be touched by the old man who had wrinkled, bony hands and a nauseating tobacco breath. To stall, the teenager said, “I have a question, though. Can you read your own future? Can you, like, tell when you’re gonna die and stuff?” Then, he thought about it. “Nah, forget it,” he said. “Sorry, that was stupid.”

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The bus stopped abruptly at the next stop, and everyone who was standing struggled to stay on their feet. But those near the front of the bus were also struggling to listen to the conversation.

“No, no, not stupid,” said the palmist. “Good question. Long ago, I asked same thing, you know. I read same story in many hands of my people: story that said something bad will happen. Disaster. But in my hand here, I read only good thing. This line here, see, say I have happy family, happy future. No problem. So I think: me, my family, no problem. Now I know better: all hands affect each other, all lines run into each other, tell a big story. When the war ended in my country, you know, it was so bad for everybody. And my family? Gone, gone under the sea. You know, reading palm not like reading map. You feel and see here in heart also, in stomach also, not just here in your head. It is, how d’you say, tuition?”

“Intuition,” the teenager corrected him and tried to stifle a giggle. “Yes,” nodded the palmist. “Intuition.”

The teenager liked the sound of the old man’s voice. Its timbre reminded him of that of his long dead grandfather, who also came from another country, one whose name had since changed several times due to wars.

“My stop not far away now,” the palmist continued. “This your last chance. Free. No charge.”

“Go on, kiddo,” the fat woman said, nudging him with her el- bow, smiling. She wanted to hear this boy’s future. “I’ve been listen- ing. It’s all right. He’s for real, I can tell now.”

That was what he needed. “OK,” the teenager said and opened his right fist. The old man leaned forward, his face burning with seriousness as he trailed the various lines and contours and fleshy knolls on the teenager’s palm. He bent the boy’s wrist this way and that, kneaded and prodded the fingers and knuckles as if to measure the strength of his resolve. He made mysterious calculations in his own language, mumbling a few singsong words to himself.

Finally, the palmist looked up and, in a solemn voice, spoke. “You will become an artist. When twenty-five, twenty-six, you’re going to change very much. If you don’t choose right, oh, so many regrets. But don’t be afraid. Never be afraid. Move forward. Always. You have help. These squares here, right here, see, they’re spirits and mentors, they come protect, guide you. When you reach moun- taintop, people everywhere will hear you, know you, see you, your art, what you see, others will see. Oh, so much love. You number one someday.”

The palmist went on like this for some time. Despite his pains, which flared up intermittently, he went on to talk of the ordinary palms and sad faces that he had read, and the misfortunes he saw coming and the wondrous opportunities he saw squandered by fear and distrust. Divorces, marriages, and death in families he read too many. Broken romance, betrayals and adulteries, too pedestrian to remember. Twice, however, he held hands that had committed unspeakable evil, and he was sick for a week each time, and once, he held the hand of a reincarnated saint. How many palms had he read since he came to America? “Oh, so many,” he answered his own question, laughing. “Too many. Thousands. Who care now? Not me.”

When the palmist finished talking, the teenager retrieved his hand and looked at it. He found it heavy and foreign somehow. Most of what the palmist said made no sense to him. Sure he loved reading a good book now and then because reading was like being inside a cartoon, but for that same reason he loved cartoons even more. And even if he got good grades he hated his stupid English classes, though it’s true, he did write poetry, but only to himself.

But he also played the piano. A singer? Maybe a graphic artist? Maybe a movie star? He didn’t know. Everything was still possible. Besides, turning twenty-five was so far away, almost a decade away.

Before she got off the bus, the fat lady touched the teenager lightly on the shoulder. “Lots of luck, kiddo,” she said, and wiped a tear from the corner of her eye.

Nearing his stop, the palmist struggled to get up, wincing as he did, and the teenager helped him. The teenager wanted to say something to the old man but he did not. When the bus stopped, he flashed a smile instead and waved to the palmist, who, in turn, gave him a look that he, in later years, would interpret as that of impossible longing. In later years, too, he would perceive the palmist in various lights, cruel or benevolent or mysterious, depending on how he fared in his quest, and once, in a fanciful moment, the palmist would appear to him as the first among many bodhisattvas in his life, and indicate that theirs was an inevitable encounter in the cosmic sense of things. At that moment, however, all he saw was a small and sad-looking old man whose eyes seemed on the verge of tears as he quietly nodded once to the teenager before step- ping out into the downpour.

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The teenager lived near the end of the line, past the park. As usual, the bus was near empty at this stretch, and he sat down on the bench that the palmist had previously occupied. He could still feel the warmth of the vinyl.

With everyone gone now, he grew bored. He turned to the fogged-up window behind him and drew a sailor holding a bottle standing on a sloop. It sailed an ocean full of dangerous waves. The boat, it seemed, was heading toward a girl with large, round breasts in a hula skirt and she was dancing on a distant shore. Behind her, he drew a few tall mountains and swaying palm trees. He hesitated before mischievously giving her two, three more heads and eight or nine more arms than she actually needed to entice the drunken sailor to her island, and then he pulled back to look.

Among her waving arms, the teenager saw a rushing world of men, women, and children under black, green, red, blue, polka- dotted umbrellas and plastic ponchos. He watched until the people and storefront windows streaked into green: green pine trees, fern groves, placid lakes, and well-tended grass meadows.

The park . . . beyond which was the sea.

Hear Andrew Lam read “Grandma’s Tales” on Thestory.org

The rain tapered off, and a few columns of sunlight pierced the gray clouds, setting the road aglow like a golden river. The boy couldn’t wait to get off the bus and run or do something–glide above the clouds if he could. High above the clouds, a jet plane soared. People were flying to marvelous countries to take up mysterious destinies.

With repeated circular movements of his hand, he wiped away sailor, boat, waves, and girl. Where the palmist’s thumbnail had pressed into the middle of his palm and made a crescent moon, he could still feel a vague tingling sensation. “A poet!” he said to him- self and gave a little laugh. He looked at his cool, wet palm before wiping it clean on his faded Levis. “What a day,” he said, shaking his head. “Boy, what a day!”

Andrew Lam is editor at New America Media and the author of "Perfume Dreams: Reflections on the Vietnamese Diaspora," "East Eats West: Writing in Two Hemispheres," and "Birds of Paradise Lost," a collection of short stories about Vietnamese refugees struggling to rebuild their lives on America’s West Coast.

Ode to the Universe
I love the universe.

2013 was an awful year for me. Between my divorce, move, breaking my heel for the second time in a year, and turning 40, I felt like Lieutenant Dan in the movie Forrest Gump, when he was raging against the awful storm that ironically caused their shrimp company to thrive.

You see, in 2013 I learned several valuable lessons about the universe.

1) When the universe tests you, challenges you, and you fight it, that usually doesn’t work out well for you. Because whatever lesson the universe is sending you, you need to hear — even if you’re not ready for it, even if you don’t want it, even if some days it seems a little too much.

2) The universe has your best interests at heart. Even though it hurts, sometimes. Even though you don’t always get what you want and quite often things you do want get taken away from you.

3) Every time you feel like you’re gaining ground, the universe will pull the rug out from underneath you. In the battle of You against the universe, you’ll never win.

4) The universe is not your adversary. It’s your gift — your greatest strength because the universe shows you your greatest weaknesses.

For these lessons, I am truly grateful.

An amazing thing happened when I stopped blaming the universe for whatever happened in my life that I didn’t like — when I stopped fighting. When I turned to the universe and said, “Bring it! I’m ready.” I found peace.

When you do that, the universe will still test you and challenge you, but in a much gentler way. Instead of sending me Cosmic 2x4s, I now get gentle nudges. Instead of bemoaning, “Why me?,” I have learned to embrace those gentle nudges and laugh at myself. And, most importantly, thank the universe for sending me exactly what I needed at that time in my life.

When one man broke my heart, the universe sent me his cartoonish doppelgänger so that I would realize he wasn’t worth my tears.

When I was in denial about my eating disorder, the universe sent me a friend who got in my face and flat out told me I had a problem.

When I said I wasn’t ready for a relationship, the universe sent me a man to test my claim.
When I decided I was lonely, the universe sent me friends.

When I got upset, the universe sent me a shoulder to cry on.

And most importantly, when the universe sent me a hard lesson, it also sent me love and laughter to accompany my tears.

What I have come to realize in 2014 is that I am never alone. The universe/God/higher power/whatever you want to call it, has your back. Ask and you shall receive — it may not be what you wanted, mind you, but it will be what you needed.

Know that you are never alone, you are always loved, and whatever you’re doing right now — even if it’s not your “best,” it’s good enough. You’re doing the best you can. We weren’t put here on this Earth to struggle. Life is a journey. You don’t learn your lessons until you’re through. But life is also a gift — one that we never know when it will be taken away from us. So embrace all that life has to offer. Learn to laugh when the universe sends you another lesson you didn’t want. Ask for help — you’re not weak for doing so. And love — love until your heart breaks wide open. Yes, sometimes it will hurt, but the universe will always send you the healing you need. All you have to do is ask.

The No. 1 Key to Living and Dying Well
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Some of the greatest life wisdom is articulated by the dying. In her book The Top Five Regrets of the Dying, Bronnie Ware shares what she has learned about the dying by serving as a caregiver to many. She notes:

… of all of the regrets and lessons shared with me as I sat beside their beds, the regret of not having lived a life true to themselves was the most common one of all. It was also the one that caused the most frustration, as the client’s realization came too late.

So, what does it mean to be true to yourself? A lot of people throw around the term “authenticity” to describe it. On some level this term suggests that there is a truth that resides within each of us that is unique to our specific being. It also implies that there is an opportunity to somehow maximize the experience of living our life and meeting our death that involves being attuned to that truth and living a life that is a reflection of that truth. But, how do we do this? How is that different from simply living and doing the best we can? What does it look like? What does it feel like?

In the process of living, we come to know things about ourselves — experiences we love and those that leave us unengaged. We discover certain talents, abilities, and inclinations within us. My favorite food group will always be chocolate, for example — that’s simply not negotiable. Each of us will have different preferences from the same menu in a restaurant — or the de jour offerings of a given day. As time goes by, if we pay attention — if we listen to that pure, inner voice that simply says an enthusiastic “yes!” or an emphatic “no!” — we come to learn that that voice seems to have our best interest in mind. It is not the voice of our ego preferences or greed. It comes from a far deeper place than that — I sense mine in the area of my solar plexis.

The real challenge is that there are other voices that we hear too and our inner voice of truth often gets lost in the shuffle. Our insecurities and fears speak to us. Our wants and desires demand our attention. Outer influences, norms, and authorities seek our allegiance as well. What do you do when your parents or teachers — the gods of your youth — are steering you in a direction that doesn’t match your fragile and emerging sense of self? When outer authorities or social norms insist you do or be something that is in conflict with your sense of who you are, what do you do? Do you trust the outer authorities, perhaps out of fear of the consequences of not doing so, or do you somehow hold to your inner truth, in spite of the judgment, rejection, and ridicule that might bring upon you? I know a man who paid a heavy price for following his passion to become a concert pianist when his father insisted he stay in Idaho to tend the family potato farm. What must it be like for a child who knows he or she is gay to survive and find a path through a family or world that may judge and reject them? What do you do when you know that how and what you are is likely to never be favored or acceptable to your family or the society you live in — even though you are a good person?

It’s ironic that it’s just not that easy to simply be yourself. But, maybe therein lies the secret to living and dying well. The real prize in life is to come to know your very own truth and to learn to be obedient to that truth in a way that does not harm others. They may not like it, but if we are lucky, we teach them how to love us in spite of our differences. We teach them to respect our ways of being and to let us be. You have to be willing to claim the privilege of being yourself in a social context. It’s not an easy path and typically takes dedication, devotion, endurance, and sometimes the willingness to proceed without the support and understanding of those we love. It requires listening to inner truth and figuring out how to honor it. It takes time to develop this inner attunement. But the prize is a peacefulness, an experience of being who you are rather than resenting yourself and others for what you didn’t get to do or be or have that was essential to you. To know that you are living your life with obedience to what you know to be your truth may be as good as life gets — especially when you find a community of support of others who are walking to the beat of their own drums as well.

Take a look at your life and ask yourself these questions:

• If I were to die tomorrow, would I have any regrets? If so, explore what you could do right now in your life to prevent yourself from reaching the end of your life with those regrets.

• Is there anyone in your life with whom you are not at peace? If so, what are you willing to do about that either within yourself or in relationship to that person?

• Are you at peace with yourself? If not, what changes could you make to bring yourself to a state of inner peace?

As long as we live, it is never too late to be ourselves and to make peace with our choices and the people in our life (past or present). So, if you want to live and die really well, befriend, honor, and love yourself madly and deeply.

I welcome your thoughts on this and encourage you to share them below for the benefit of others.

If you would like to know more about me, please visit my website.

If you would like to suggest a topic for a future blog or ask me to address a particular situation or issue, please email me here

Approaches You Don’t Know About for Helping Someone With Substance Abuse
If you are a family member of someone with a substance problem, you have probably heard suggestions that include distancing yourself, using tough love or detaching until your loved one bottoms out and decides to change. You can turn on the TV and hear about interventions and celebrity rehab stays. What you probably have not heard is that families can be tremendously helpful, can influence change in their loved one, and can influence positive change in themselves. There are strategies for helping that have been proven in studies to be very effective but have been very poorly disseminated into the public and into the professional treatment world… but they exist!

Family members who are worried about a loved one’s substance use understandably feel everything from annoyance to terror and desperation. And there’s a huge range in what might provoke worry: maybe there’s concern about a wife’s increased drinking after the kids went to college; maybe a friend is looking more disheveled and could be using pills; maybe an adult son doesn’t return calls anymore and smokes a lot of pot; maybe a brother is back in treatment, again, for methamphetamine abuse.

As a psychologist working in the field of substance abuse treatment, I am in direct contact with families every day with a full range of serious problems. I know that substance abuse problems vary in terms of severity, fright and heartbreak, and yet I am optimistic! Not because I’m naïve or think these problems are no big deal, but because I know change is possible. In research and clinical work alike, I’ve seen the evidence over the past 40 years that families and friends make a difference in helping someone who struggles with drinking, drugs or other compulsive behaviors. Often, it is the critical difference.

There is in fact a science of change: methods like Motivational Interviewing, family and individually-based cognitive behavior therapy (CBT), Community Reinforcement and Family Training (CRAFT), and certain medications, all have clear rates of success in both getting people into treatment and also achieving successful outcomes. Unfortunately, these approaches are only recently becoming more widely used and the culture and many programs continue to operate under a “belief” system rather than what scientists, researchers and doctors have worked so hard to give us — options for change that are effective with a wider range of people struggling with substance use disorders.

One myth about substance abuse that prevents people from getting help — and inhibits people from trying to help them — is that treatment is equated with intensive, residential “rehab” and believed to be the starting point of all change. But in fact, there are many treatment options and substantial evidence that outpatient treatment is at least as effective in most cases and often a better place to start. Since 1996, the American Society of Addiction Medicine has recommended starting with the least intensive treatment that is safe. (1) Dr. Mark Willenbring, former director of the Treatment and Recovery Research Division of NIAAA, describes how the vast majority of people who could benefit from help don’t get it, in part because the system is designed to treat the most severe problems, while the culture dictates waiting until someone “hits bottom” — in other words, waiting until problems become severe. (2)

Family members and friends are left with the assumption that they must wait until things get worse, then get their loved one into rehab if they can. They get this message from the media and from certain treatment providers despite strong evidence that reaching people early, when their problems are less severe and more treatable, leads to better outcomes. Thankfully, the treatment system is starting to change. The evidence supports many ways to effectively help people with substance use disorders and help their loved ones as well.

One of those approaches is called CRAFT (Community Reinforcement Approach and Family Training), which is a scientifically supported, evidence-based, clinically proven approach to helping families of substance abusers. Dr. Robert Meyers at the University of New Mexico developed CRAFT over 20 years ago, and all the subsequent research on this approach has concluded the same thing: given the right tools, families are a powerful engine for positive change: two-thirds of substance-abusing people who were initially resistant to treatment agreed to go to treatment (after an average of five family sessions). (3)

Additionally, the vast majority of participating family members (spouses and parents typically) reported being happier, less depressed, less angry, and having more family cohesion and less family conflict than prior to their CRAFT sessions, whether or not their loved one engaged in treatment. CRAFT’s effectiveness in engaging substance users and improving family functioning is found across substance types, relationship types, and ethnicities, and is starting to be used in broader contexts like in parent-to-parent peer coaching (see video below). This is an approach that does not require family members to disengage — which to most parents feels plain wrong! — but rather helps them utilize the strength of their love and healthy desire to help by honing communication skills, reinforcement strategies, self-care and problem-solving, which transforms relationships for the better.

Substance abuse can be devastating, but more people need to hear the good news: Things can get better. Families can feel better and the motivation of people abusing substances can be affected by their relationships in a very positive way.

Need help with substance abuse or mental health issues? In the U.S., call 800-662-HELP (4357) for the SAMHSA National Helpline.

References:
1. American Society of Addiction Medicine, ASAM Patient Placement Criteria for the Treatment of Substance-Related Disorders (Chevy Chase, MD: American Society of Addiction Medicine, 1996).

2. Mark L. Willenbring, “New Research Is Redefining Alcohol Disorders: Does the Treatment Field Have the Courage to Change?” Addiction Professional (September-October 2008).

3. Jane Ellen Smith and Robert J. Meyers, Motivating Substance Users to Enter Treatment: Working with Family Members (New York: Guilford Press, 2004), 270-271.

Nicole Kosanke, Ph.D., is the director of family services at the Center for Motivation and Change, where she specializes in working with family members of people abusing substances and in the assessment process for families and individuals with substance abuse issues. Dr Kosanke has been working in the research and clinical practice of substance abuse treatment for many years. She has most recently co-authored a book called Beyond Addiction: How Science and Kindness Help People Change that is a compassionate and science-based family guide for navigating the addiction treatment world, understanding motivation, and training in the use of CRAFT (Community Reinforcement and Family Training) skills.

You can follow Dr. Kosanke on twitter at @kosankephd and you can follow CMC on twitter (@_TheCMC) or on Facebook.

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