Liking feels good, plus it encourages us to approach andengage the worldrather than withdraw from it.
Your brain continually tracks whether something is pleasant, unpleasant, or neutral. In essence, is it a carrot, a stick, or safely ignored? Naturally, we like – we enjoy – what’s pleasant, dislike what’s unpleasant, and wish what’s neutral would get pleasant pronto.
Natural opioids – pleasure molecules – are released when you see things you like; on the other hand, disliking things can activate the neural networks of pain. Liking things feels good, so we approach them; disliking things feels bad, so we avoid them.
We are hardwired to like some things, like the sweetness of sugar, and dislike other things, like shivering from cold. But most situations are in the middle and formed of many parts. Consequently, our response to them – liking or disliking – depends a lot onwhat we pay attention toand on our own perspective.
Lately I have been thinking a lot about the concept of entitlement -- that feeling so many of us have that we are owed something, that we have rights or deserve something to be the way we think it should be. Think of the times you have thought or had someone say to you:
“I deserve to be treated a certain way, given certain things, or taken care of in a particular manner, because I am your child, parent, or friend.”
“You owe me because I was there for you.”
“The Universe should reward or repay me because I am a ‘good person.’”
"The moment a woman comes home to herself, the moment she knows that she has become a person of influence... who is respected and recognized, the resurrection of the world begins." — Joan Chittister
I've Been Thinking...
The other day, my daughter Christina watched the documentary“RBG”about Ruth Bader Ginsburg and said she couldn’t believe how much this one woman has done in her lifetime on behalf of other women. She said it got her thinking about all the other women who have done so much, yet whose stories we know so little about.
“It’s crazy that so many women my age don’t know about all of the barriers they’ve broken for us,” Christina said. “We don’t know enough about what these women have accomplished, or about what they’re still doing to instigate change.”
Amen, I thought. Amen to acknowledging all that has been done before us, and all that’s still being done. Amen to taking a moment to acknowledge all the women whose shoulders we stand on.
Christina’s words came to mind this Tuesday when I learned that veteran journalist Cokie Roberts had passed away due to breast cancer complications. I gasped when I heard the news.
Like me, Cokie was a child of politics who found her calling in journalism. When I was starting out, Cokie, Barbara Walters, Linda Ellerbee, and Nancy Dickerson were among the women who were out there working hard so that women like myself could succeed.
To simplify and summarize, our brain has three primary motivational systems – Avoiding harms, Approaching rewards, and Attaching to “us” – that draw on many neural networks to accomplish their goals.
Lately, I’ve started to realize that a fourth fundamental human motivational system could be emerging as well.
Our hunter-gatherer ancestors depended upon their habitats for food and shelter. Today, over 7 billion of us are pressing hard up against the limits of Lifeboat Earth. To survive and to flourish, cultural and perhaps biological evolution are calling us to love the world.
The world is near to hand in the food you eat, the air you breathe, and the weather and climate in which you spend your days. And then in widening circles, the world extends out to include complex webs of life and the physical characteristics of the land, the sea, and the sky.
Have you ever had a gut feeling, decided not to listen to it, and then later regretted that decision?
This has been the case for so many people. In the last 30 years of my work, talking with tens of thousands of individuals, nearly all have said they regretted ignoring their gut feelings. In fact, never in all those years have I heard someone say, “I had this gut feeling, this inner voice, and I went with it, and boy do I regret it.”
It’s time to do the math. When we regret ignoring that small, inner voice 100% of the time, we should learn that trusting it is the obvious way to go.
We know we should listen to that gut feeling, and yet we override that small voice all the time because we doubt it; we think we’re not enough; we think we couldn’t possibly know more than the authorities or those who have come before us and so on. What we must understand is that we are built of creativity and are destined to come up withnewanswers and solutions – to bring new ideas that work and to be innovative – and oftentimes those ideas start with that small, inner feeling in our gut.
“In the midst of movement and chaos, keep stillness inside of you.” – Deepak Chopra
How are you? I hope that you were able to take some time away this summer to rest, reflect, and recharge.
My August break abruptly began with a death in my family. It was sudden and heartbreaking, and it stopped everyone and everything in its tracks.
As I flew back to LA after the funeral that was held for my cousin’s 22-year-old-daughter, I thought a lot about the fragility of life. I thought about the suddenness of death, and how it upends us in different ways.
When I got home, I looked at my calendar and, for the first time all year, it was clear. I breathed into the emptiness and didn’t allow it to make me feel empty, invisible, or irrelevant.
Before my August break, people asked me, “Maria, aren’t you worried about losing your momentum on social media, with your Sunday Paper, and with NBC?”
“Yes and no,” I replied. “I’m sure I’ll lose some momentum, but I’m certain that what I’ll gain in return will be more meaningful and more profound.”
Sitting on the couch, I felt it coming. It was late at night and the world was fast asleep. It was slowly making its way to me and I started to feel terrified. “What do I do now?” I asked, addressing no one in particular. And then, it begins: “I can’t do this. I don’t have what it takes!” I was starting to feel overwhelmed and if I didn’t get hold of it, it would lead me down a deep hole the way Alice did when she followed the rabbit.
This is just one version of a very real, very human process of going downhill emotionally. I’ve been through many different types of it countless of times before and I doubt it will ever stop happening. The difference is, this time around, I got it under control. I got myself out of it fast—through gratitude.
Our minds have an annoying habit of continually warning us to watch out, be careful, stand back, or say no to any new situation. Perhaps left over from prehistoric times when humans often encountered oversized predatory beasts outside the safety of their caves. Not so helpful today though. Certainly there are things to be concerned or cautious about, but not every choice we make is fraught with danger. Over-cautiousness keeps us frozen in fear and inertia.
A high frequency is necessary to feel love and joy, and to manifest your dreams. Learn two secrets to keeping your frequency high.
I have discovered that there are two choices I can make that, together, invariably put me into a high frequency and bring me inner peace and joy. While either of these choices are always beneficial, together they are incredibly powerful!
We all know how important gratitude is, but the problem is that often we express our gratitude in a fairly rote manner. The kind of gratitude I’m referring to is moment-by-moment gratitude for every big and little thing, and the overriding gratitude that we are never alone – that spirit is always here for us.
There are simply endless opportunities that we have daily to help others. It feels good to us to help, and it feels great to the recipient, too! Scientific studies have shown that giving of our time, energy, or money greatly helps boost all of those feel-good chemicals our brains just love.
Here are seven real benefits – backed by science – of how contributing to the lives of other people can help us find peace.
A Longer Life – If you want to enjoy a long, healthy life, start volunteering! Find out what kinds of things you can volunteer for at your childrens’ school, make scarves for the homeless, or help deliver food to those who are home-bound. Studies show that the people who contribute in these ways will actually lengthen their lives due to an increased ability to handle stress, a reduction in depression, and an increased immune system strength. The caveat is that you can’t just do it once – it needs to become a consistent part of your life in order to reap the health benefits.
The overarching theme coming this week, and the energy in the weekly reading, revolves around the art of changing perspective while being compassionate with ourselves and allowing for the space we need to look at our limiting beliefs. In a time of transformation – global and personal it’s so important not to fall prey to the “omg there is so much more healing to do!” voice, and take account of how far you have actually come. If you’ve been even slightly awake and on track with your quest for a more practical spiritual life, you will have learned a lot along the way. Now is not the time to get stuck in the mire of more work to do. It’s not about effort anyway.
It’s about perception and perspective.
I am always incredibly grateful that my mission is being a small part of the Big Shift and offering people a way to gain inspired insight so that we can all learn to see ourselves in a new light.
Some days can be tough. During the times that are most trying, it’s difficult to let go of worry, anxiety, frustration and sadness. To a certain extent, we train ourselves to keep our feelings of upset flowing. We replay endless loops of negative thoughts that keep us anchored to our problems. I know how difficult it is to look on the bright side, especially if you’re in debt or have other financial fears.
But that’s exactly when you need to keep yourself open yourself to humor and gratitude. Allowing in more positive feelings can shift your outlook and help you to make decisions in alignment with where you want to go, instead of staying stuck where you are.
When you meditate do you know that if you focus on gratitude everything in your life changes for the better? Today, my brain was on the fried and crunchy side. I was feeling a lot of resistance to a situation that is turning out to be different than I wanted and so was feeling frustrated. To top it off I left my blog to the last minute. I’m not always “on” when it’s time to write a blog and so I needed help and fast. I know this works 1000% so I meditated, tuned into Spirit, held my heart for 10 minutes, and allowed gratitude to permeate my whole body, breathing deeply. Then I knew I should choose an Oracle Card from my Oracle Card deck “Wisdom of the Oracle” for a message. I would write about it if it felt right.
Every time you approach an Oracle for wisdom and guidance you automatically tune into synchronicity and the flow of what’s most needed to be in coherence with Spirit, and in alignment with the highest good. So I prayed for what I needed to write in this blog and asked for a subject to focus on for “the highest good” for everyone who reads this, then I shuffled and chose a card.
You know, even though I was called to bring this Oracle Card deck to life even I forget sometimes how uncanny it is when you ask the question, “What overarching message do we need to know to live our best lives now?” And then get a powerful answer.
There was a major shift that occurred in the 60’s, the shift from what you callabsolute reality; thinking that what you saw and what your thinking mind thought it understood was only one kind of reality. And there was another experience of reality.William James, of course, had said that many years before, if you remember his quote,
“Our normal waking consciousness is but one special type of consciousness, whilst all about it, parted from it by the filmiest of screens, there lie potential forms of consciousness entirely different. We might spend our entire life without knowing of their existence, but apply the requisite stimulus and there they are in their completeness”.
It’s interesting that William James said that when he was a professor at Harvard. I was thrown out of William James Hall for doing what he said.
Up until the 60’s, the primary spiritual containers were the organized religions of this culture. They were primarily the holders of the ethical constraints of the culture. They motivated people to behave ethically through fear and through internalized superego. The primary mediator between you and God was the priest, so there was a priest class. What the 60’s did throughpsychedelics, initially, was blow that whole system apart. Because it made the relationship to God a direct experience, once again of the individual. Of course the Quakers have had that, and had a long history of it as did other traditions. But in terms of mainstream, this was a new conceptcoming into the culture, which was spiritual and not formally religious.
What does “home” mean to you? A place? A group of people? A memory? Or is it a feeling deep inside that touches your heart and soul? All of these perhaps. Our own life experiences define what home means to each of us. I grew up in Illinois, later lived in California, and then settled in Massachusetts for more than 30 years. Massachusetts is where I met my life partner, Anne, and where we were married. I’ve always loved both coasts, but I didn’t realize how much the Northeast had become home for me until I moved away and then returned for a visit.
“My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor and some style.” — Maya Angelou
My friend Clay wrote me the other day to tell me about a book he’s reading. It’s calledSeven Ages of Paris,and in it, the French writer Colette is quoted as having said the following just before she died in 1954:
“What a beautiful life I’ve had. It’s a pity I didn’t notice it sooner.”
That quote landed on me like a thud. I hope you’ll stop and absorb it, too. Make a silent vow to not be Colette, like I did.
Now, to be honest, I’ve been in Colette’s heels before. When I was younger, I was constantly running through life as I juggled work, my children, my parents and all the other obligations coming my way. My to-do list was pages’ long, and it was all of my own making. I wasn’t noticing anything along the way because I was just trying to get everything done and start all over again.
My family is in the ﬁnal stages of relocating to Arizona from Alaska. We will be in sunny Arizona 10 months of the year, and enjoying Alaska’s cool summers two months of the year. We frequently use air travel into and out of Alaska . This time I wanted to experience a longer journey out, maybe even savor the experience of leaving Alaska. Entering or exiting the 49th state has two unique options during the summer months. We can drive the Alaska highway system into Canada and then into the lower 48 states, or use the ferry system. Both are about 4 or 5 days of continues travel.
A friend graciously accompanied me on the ferry. We drove my car, that was packed full of photographs and other treasures, onto the ferry just before midnight on Monday. Both of us had sleeping bags, food and Dramamine. Our sleeping arrangements included chaise lounges, minus the cushions and sleeping bags. We felt lucky to score two of the lounges. It took us a short amount of time to ﬁnd where we wanted to camp for 4 and a half days.
So many things change. Leaves fall, friends move away, children leave home. My dad died a year ago, and my mom about ten years before that. I don’t know about you, but I’m getting older (darn, there is no fooling the mirror).
The world changes, too. Evolving technologies alter jobs and lives. Elections happen and different people take charge. New restaurants open while others close.
Experience itself is always changing, right at the front edge of now. So are the neural substrates of this moment’s experience, fleeting coalitions of millions of synapses coming into being even as they disperse, while the molecular structures of individual synapses themselves are dynamically constructing and deconstructing in the blink of an eye.
One of the key wisdoms I’ve come to know in my life is to always appreciate what is here, rather than search for (and lament) what is not. If you hold the latter focus, you will always find something missing. If you hold the former, the world will open up around you in miraculous ways. Some people call this a gratitude practice, and that’s a good name for it. Life on Earth is so rich with experiential treasures, so much to be grateful for.
In every moment, there is a surplus of wonder in your life. The air you breathe, the sky above you, your friends and family, all of them precious beyond words. Yet, not every person, event, experience, or detail in life is always within your perceptual field. You can have one particular experience today and an entirely different one tomorrow, each of them seemingly separate. If you expand your awareness, however, both experiences are connected.
We live on a planet of polarities, and we are learning to navigate it, to find balance and harmony within that world. The middle path is one that is inclusive of everything within each moment. You don’t get lost in opposites, which can lend itself to only experiencing loss. Instead, you see everything around you as part of a greater network of meaning and connection in the universe. There is no absence, only presence.
Join Panache Desai every morning and for support in reconnecting to the wellspring of calm and peace that lives within you and that has the power to counterbalance all of the fear, panic, and uncertainty that currently engulfs the world.