It's easy to forget that we are all perfect in our own design. Sometimes we muck it up with habits and choices that do not serve us. 

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A Love Letter from Andrew Harvey to His Most Sacred Places

I hope everyone has a chance to travel the world and see places that feed them spiritually. Two places very sacred to me, influencing my life and spiritual path, are India and Sri Lanka. My early years in India shaped my sense of unity with all religions. The sights, smells, and sounds of India are like no others. It is quite simply the most transformative place on earth.

My favorite place is Benares, also known as Varanasi. It is on the banks of the Ganges river and a major religious hub. Buddha is believed to have founded Buddhism here when he gave his first sermon in nearby Samath. Varanasi has been my sacred home for 40 years. Hindus believe that dying here and getting cremated along the banks of the holy Ganges river allows one to break the cycle of life, death, and rebirth and attain salvation. Varanasi is also an important cultural and creative center in India, well known for its silk fabrics, perfumes, ivory works, and sculpture.

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Receive Faces

What do their faces say to you?

The Practice:
Receive faces.

Why?

As our ancestors evolved over millions of years in small bands, continually interacting and working with each other, it was vitally important to communicate in hundreds of ways each day. They shared information about external “carrots” and “sticks,” and about their internal experience (e.g., intentions, sexual interest, inclination toward aggression) through gestures, vocalizations – and facial expressions. Much as we developed uniquely complex language, we also evolved the most expressive face in the entire animal kingdom.

Our faces are exquisitely capable of a vast range of expressions, such as showing fear to send signals of alarm, interest to draw others toward an opportunity, or fondness and kindness to increase closeness and the sense of “us.” These expressions include seemingly universal signs of six fundamental emotions – happiness, surprise, fear, sadness, anger, and disgust – as well as more culturally and personally specific expressions. For example, I know that very particular look that crosses my wife’s face when she thinks I’m getting too full of myself!

Of course, there is no sense in having evolved an extraordinary transmitter – the face – unless we also developed an extraordinary receiver: our remarkable capacities to recognize, sense, and infer states of mind in others from subtle and fleeting facial expressions.

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How To Let Go Of Negative Thinking And Be Happy

“An experience is inherently neutral. Your reality is determined by the story you make up within yourself.”

We have all had negative thoughts in our lives. It often seems safer to give in to the negative thinking than questioning it. However, this will only rob you of happiness and cause you suffering. Listen to this short, powerful episode to learn 3 simple keys to overcome negative thinking, deal with your inner critic and be happy.

Some Questions I Ask:

  • Do you ever get caught in negative thinking? 
  • How are you interpreting things?
  • Who does the negative voice in your head belong to?Is it really yours?
  • Is there a payoff for being negative?
  • What can you learn from this experience?

In This Episode You Will Learn:

  • The reason we gravitate towards the negative.
  • The importance of dealing with your inner stuff to perceive events accurately. 
  • 3 keys to dealing with negative thinking.
  • How being aware of your thoughts will help you stop the negative pattern.
  • The key reason we choose to wallow in the negative and how to prevent it. 
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Mark Nepo's Weekly Reflection: The Quarter Turn

I suddenly knew I was looking at it from the wrong angle and I gave the cloth in my hand a quarter turn. Immediately I saw a beautiful and coherent golden pattern... In wonder, the pattern had emerged, to be seen in all its beauty by those who could learn to make the quarter turn.

Helen Luke

The above quote is from Helen’s inner autobiography, Such Stuff as Dreams Are Made On. She begins the book with a dream in which one of her oldest friends, now gone, is asked on the other side to weave a tapestry that tells the story of her life. But as Helen looks at the cloth, it makes no sense—until she gives the cloth a quarter turn and the pattern of her friend’s life emerges plainly.

Helen then offers the quarter turn as a synonym for a paradigm shift, as a way to understand those unexpected shifts of perception that return us to the hidden wholeness, the spot of grace, the Oneness that exists beneath all subjects and conclusions. And like the fine-adjustment knob on a telescope or microscope that brings what you’re looking at into focus, the quarter turn is the skill of perception by which you can bring into focus the instrument that is you.

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The Gift of Caring

“It is not how much you do, but how much love you put in the doing.” — Mother Teresa


I've Been Thinking...

November kicks off National Alzheimer's Disease Awareness and National Family Caregivers Month. For us here at The Sunday Paper, it's an opportunity to focus on the huge issue of caregiving (in all its forms), as well as on the value and importance of care. 

My mission is to find a cure for Alzheimer’s disease, and I’m relentless in my pursuit of it. That's why you often see curated news from the Women's Alzheimer's Movement (WAM) featured in this newsletter. My father passed away from the disease in 2011, so I know first-hand what a toll it can take on families. That's why I'm determined to do everything I can to stop it from happening to others.

Yesterday, WAM held its big annual event Move for Minds, which works to educate and empower you with the information you need to care for your brain health and prevent or delay Alzheimer’s. It’s also a chance to raise funds for much needed women-based research, and to honor the work of those caregiving for someone with this mind-blowing disease.

Caring for another human being is God's work, and how one cares for another person tells you a lot about them. It tells you whether or not they value the concept of care. 

Care can be exhibited in so many ways, but what I know to be true is this: when a person feels cared for, the world suddenly feels a little less scary and a lot more OK. When you feel cared for, you feel soothed. You feel secure. You feel safe. And trust me, feeling safe is huge.

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Let Go of Anxiety and Regain Your Freedom

When life falls apart, or threatens to come unglued, it seems almost natural to carry around some desperate, stressed, or depressed emotional state. But why cling to something that makes us ache? The answer is surprising, but evident, once we’re aware of what’s actually taking place within us.

Negative states tell us that we must feel as we do.

In some strange and unseen way, the weight of a dark worry serves as proof that we have “no option” other than to buckle beneath it . . . to fall down, feel betrayed, or prepare for a fight.

Real life can no more act to pull us down than the rising sun can burden the spring flowers that wait to bathe in its nourishing light.

No event, in itself, is the cause of the fear we feel in the moment of its appearance. William Shakespeare, whose insights into the workings of the human mind still remain treasures in spite of passing time, validates this important finding: “There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.”

The same wisdom holds true when it comes to the moments that make up our lives: we meet in events nothing more or less than the wealth of possibilities they present before us.

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The Future of Personal and Planetary Well Being : An invitation to Sages and Scientists Symposium, Crystal Bridges Museum, Bentonville Arkansas

Despite a steady increase in life expectancy, medical science is facing diminishing returns. It has been estimated that every increase in lifespan since 1990 has resulted in only ten months of increased healthy life; the rest is only prolonged suffering and the decline of aging. Globally more people now die of so-called “lifestyle diseases” than from infectious diseases. Doctors cannot make choices about lifestyle; only the patient can. Finally, half of all heart attacks before old age occur in people who live a good lifestyle, managing their weight, eating right, and exercising regularly.

What lies beyond lifestyle? That’s a matter of much speculation. Will human existence be improved in the future through technology, genetic manipulation, nano-robots in the bloodstream serving as cancer hunters? Or will it take a new philosophical conception, one that entices people away from a life of speed, constant activity, and stress?

By all odds it will take both, because innovations in technology can’t succeed if we continue to define well-being in old, outworn ways. Consider the following statements, which almost everyone, including doctors, take as fact:

  • The body is a machine, and like all machines it breaks down.
  • Aging is a pre-determined process, probably controlled by our genes.
  • The body is a mindless lump of matter except for the brain, which has evolved to produce mind or consciousness.]
  • The causes of most diseases are now known. What remains is to find effective drugs to target each malady.
  • You are healthy until something goes wrong, which is signaled by the appearance of symptoms.

In reality none of these statements is correct. The body isn’t a machine; machines cannot heal themselves. The body isn’t mindless; every cell is imbued with vast knowledge that far surpasses anything found in medical textbooks. The brain doesn’t produce the mind; that’s merely an assumption that has never been proved.

The most urgent need facing each of us is how to envision our bodies without the burden of outworn assumptions, which is why, starting in two weeks, an annual symposium known as Sages & Scientists Symposium will bring together the best thinkers with views both humanistic and scientific. This year’s theme is “The Future of Well-Being,” and the public is invited to attend. There is nothing on the planet as open to the free exchange of ideas, from every kind of thinker and researcher, all aiming to find a way forward into a viable future.

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Don’t Be Intimidated

What makes you feel threatened?

The Practice:
Don’t be intimidated.

Why?

Humans evolved to be fearful, since anxiety helped keep our ancestors alive. Consequently, we are vulnerable to being alarmed, manipulated, and even intimidated by threats, both real ones and “paper tigers.”

This vulnerability to feeling threatened has effects at many levels, ranging from individuals, couples, and families to schoolyards, organizations, and nations. Whether it’s an individual who worries about the consequences of speaking up at work or in a close relationship, a family cowed by a scary parent, a business fixated on threats instead of opportunities, or a country told it’s under assault by “them” – the same human brain reacts in each one of these cases.

Therefore, understanding how your brain became so vigilant and wary, and so easily hijacked by alarm, is the first step toward gaining more control over that ancient circuitry. Then, by bringing mindful awareness to how your brain reacts to feeling threatened, you can stimulate and therefore build up the neural substrates of a mind that has more calm, wisdom, and sense of inner strength – a mind that sees real threats more clearly, acts more effectively in dealing with them, and is less rattled or distracted by exaggerated, manageable, or false alarms.

How?

The nervous system has been evolving for 600 million years, from ancient jellyfish to modern humans. Our ancestors had to make a critical decision many times a day: approach a reward or avoid a hazard – pursue a carrot or duck a stick.

Both are important. Imagine being a hominid in Africa a million years ago, living in a small band. To pass on your genes, you’ve got to find food, have sex, and cooperate with others to help the band’s children (particularly yours) to have children of their own: these are big carrots in the Serengeti. Additionally, you’ve got to hide from predators, steer clear of aggression inside your band, and not let other hunter-gatherer bands hurt you: these are significant sticks.

But here’s the key difference between carrots and sticks. If you miss out on a carrot today, you’ll probably have a chance at more carrots tomorrow. But if you fail to avoid a stick today – WHAP! – no more carrots forever. Compared to carrots, sticks usually have more urgency and impact.

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Smackdown

Sometimes you’re the windshield;
sometimes you’re the bug….
Sometimes you’re the Louisville slugger;
sometimes you’re the ball.”
—Mary Chapin Carpenter

Life has a way of smacking us down, hard, sometimes repeatedly, when we least expect it. Things can be going along smoothly, and then out of the blue: wham! You are knocked off your feet by a sudden turn of events or twist of fate. It can be a minor passing upset or a major trauma. Life doesn’t tell you ahead of time what’s coming up around the next corner. Each day can be really wonder-full or really challenging. This is how I would describe my life over the past year.

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Joy on hold: Are you afraid to be happy?

“He who laughs the loudest, cries the hardest.” Someone said this in high school during lunch as we watched a girl laughing so boisterously that everyone in the cafeteria turned to look. “She’s so going to cry tomorrow,” she declared matter-of-factly. How would she know? I thought to myself. She was only 15, after all, just like me. And yet, somehow, what she said haunted me in the many years to come.

After that, whenever I had extreme moments of happiness, it would be followed by tears of sadness. So, I learned to hold back. I didn’t want to be too happy because the higher the high, the harder the fall. Each time I allowed myself to feel happiness full on, I braced for impact. I expected to be slammed back down to the ground. But does happiness really lead to sorrow or misery? Is it really happiness that is to blame?

Of course, it wasn’t! The B.S. that was put in my head by a random character in high school took hold of me. I gave it life. It became a self-fulfilling prophecy. It’s the energy of manifestation in action—if you believe in something strongly enough, it becomes real.

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Mark Nepo's Weekly Reflection: Becoming a Poet

I started writing in high school after my first love dumped me. I was devastated. Though I wasn’t a loner, I didn’t yet have any close friends. So, I started talking to myself as a way to heal. Once on the mend, I realized I wasn’t just talking to myself. I had begun a conversation with the Universe.

In college, I wasn’t allowed to write creatively in the English department. This was before the burgeoning of creative writing programs. But a kind theater professor, Doc Palmer, took me under his wing, and told me that if I became a theatre major, he would take care of me. So I begin by writing plays, that was part of our deal. I’d sign up for his courses, though he’d give me different assignments. Instead of a paper on Oedipus or Hedda Gabbler, he’d invite me to write specific scenes modeled after the great playwrights. I also had to partake in every aspect of theater from set design to acting. This unexpected apprenticeship has stayed with me.

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Who’s Ready to Work Hard and Play Hard?

Did you raise your hand and scream, “I AM!

If you’re like most of us, before you can have fun and shake your sillies out, you probably feel like you need to squeeze in a few more minutes of work before you play. With your computer screen, phablet, tablet, or smartphone always on and filled with things to do, it’s hard to unplug and break away.

And of course, if you do get away from your job responsibilities, you may still need to pick up the kids, help with homework, cook dinner, wash clothes, check the mail and pay some bills. Phew!

If that describes you, then you, my friend, have joined the American cult of “Work Yourself Ragged.” The problem is, being exhausted and not taking time to refresh diminishes your creativity, and cuts into your productivity. And that can cost you money.

I know, because once upon a time I was more raggedy than Ann and Andy put together! (You know, the dolls? Okay, that’s a bad joke, but they are cultural icons and me and my sister had one of each when we were kids. Anyway . . .)

When I started my business, my type A personality was more like AAA+++. I was fully plugged into my belief that I had to constantly drive HARD to get ahead in this all go, no stop world.

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You are a Diamond. Own Your Personal Growth.

When I first began this journey of transformation that began 33 years ago and brought me here, I came to it with a lot of ideas of being victimized by life, of the unfairness of the stories perpetuated in my family by real tragedies, and by my own experience. Why would I believe in a better life? I will be honest, I didn’t trust that it was really possible for me. The issues that dogged us convinced me that life was hard, and it would be hard and when it didn’t work out the way I hoped, it was proof that I had done something wrong, and that fate would continue to prove that I was a mistake. 

Everything changed when I got sober and began following a specific spiritual program. I began to see the world as alive. I see the world today as ensouled—everything animated with life and Spirit. I don’t see myself as a victim ever. What changed? 

Well, it was a number of things I began to do differently—one was attending meditation classes at a Tibetan temple in Toronto frequented by others in recovery who were seeking new ways of living. There was one evening, now indelibly etched in my memory—one of those definitive moments, a turning point in my life when I sat with our teacher after class sharing a moment of hopelessness (which I had less and less but that night I was in some drama about my then-boyfriend.) He turned to me after quietly listening with great patience and said, “You see the hurt, but I see your life is like a diamond, a path of time and great pressure. When you can see the gifts in this, the great value, see what you’re becoming then you will be free.” 

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We All Have Super Powers

I've Been Thinking...

The other night, I had dinner with a new friend. We talked for hours about life, relationships, our missions, and our goals. Then, this friend said something that I had never heard before. It was a phrase that took me aback. “All of us have a superpower,” she declared. “It’s kind of like your cape.”

 

I had never thought of myself as having a superpower, but as I walked home that evening, the description made me smile. I went into the makeup room at TODAY the next morning and asked Edna and Gina (two talented women whom I work with) if they felt that they had a superpower. Like me, neither had ever thought of themselves in that way. Still, they were both able to easily answer the question.

“Being all in with everyone I know,” one of them said. “Forgiveness,” said the other.

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3 Keys to Activating The Flow of Money and Abundance in Your Life

“Abundance starts with remembering who you are. When you remember who you are, you start tapping into that inexhaustible stream of energy that is life. At that level, there is no scarcity.”

Abundance is not about what you have but about your attitude and feelings towards what you have. Abundance is not really about money because real abundance is a state of being. Listen to this insightful episode to learn how to shift your vibration in a way that attracts more abundance in all aspects of your life and the key practice to get out of scarcity.


Some Questions I Ask:

  • What do your relationships and life reflect about yourself?
  • What is your relationship with abundance?
  • How do you feel about yourself ?
  • Can you celebrate everything that you are and are not?
  • How often do you thank your body?
  • What pain, problems or challenges can you solve for humanity?
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To truly make a difference, you don't need to make a splash: A single drop is enough to cause ripples

“I’m sorry, but I can’t help you. Your book is great. In fact, I love it. Your writing style is really good. But you don’t have social media following or a substantial email list.” This is what a publisher told an acquaintance of mine when she pitched her book. Another acquaintance was turned down to be an affiliate marketer by an online course provider because they required at least 250,000 followers and a website with “very good” traffic for her to qualify.

These are just a couple of examples of how social media has shifted the way we’re seen and treated these days. In both cases, they were explicitly saying, “Without the numbers, you are worthless to us.” Through the social media lens, our worth is only as much as the number of followers we have or the size of our email list; the number of pageviews, impressions and clicks; and all the other vanity metrics that people seem to care a great deal about nowadays. So, if you’re not an influencer, forget about it.

In the meantime, while many people strive to be the next Justin Bieber, Kim Kardashian or PewDiePie, those who truly want to make a difference in the world get caught up in the crossfire and are measured by the same vanity-metrics yardstick. Those numbers translate to money, after all.

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What Happens to Your Brain When You Complain

Do you need to stop complaining?

It’s well understood that complaining never accomplishes anything positive, but did you know that complaining can have some very real, negative effects on your brain as well?

Complaining can actually rewire your brain over time and set you up for failure, time and time again, without you even knowing it.Research has shown that, on average, people complain about once a minute during a typical conversation.

As with any task that we instruct our minds to repeat over and over again, it doesn’t take long for your brain to pick up on the pattern and develop neural pathways specifically dedicated to complaining.

Just like a musician will develop neural pathways dedicated to the specific movements and thoughts associated with playing their instrument, people who frequently complain will do the same for the act of complaining.

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Shed the Old and Embrace the New.

The way energy works, opens your eyes to a whole new world of possibilities, which we are never really quite aware of. This is a very liberating thought, as it keeps you at the helm of affairs, by giving you control of your own destiny.

EMPOWERING
Since energy understood at a conscious level, allows you to determine, the direction of your destiny, you can allow yourself to be totally convinced of your own power.  We need to understand that energy can be moved, and this is only possible through change, which is only possible through changing our thought process. This also goes to tell us that our stress levels are completely under our control and need to be dealt with accordingly.

CREATING A DESTINY
This statement in itself, shows us the way. In order to create a new life, a new destiny, we need to make a concious change within our own selves.

Shed the old and embrace the new.
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Are You Ready To Own Your Inner Superhero?

Halloween is almost here. Many of us have spent days planning and putting together the perfect costume. I am always fascinated to see the trends in Halloween costumes since I view them as a commentary on what is relevant in today's society. This year, there is no question we will see all sorts of references to what’s making headline news as well as fake news. There will be groups of people representing everything from the IT movie clowns to Disney Princesses to the cast of Suicide Squad. And even though we will have the classic stand-bys like the naughty nurse, Rocky Balboa, or the Addams Family, there is no question that year after year, the most popular Halloween costumes are superheroes. From DC to Marvel Comics to the Avengers, the number and wide array of superheroes that are out protecting, patrolling and partying in the streets are always ever-present on Halloween night!

So, what is it about superheroes that make them so popular? Their superpowers, of course...And the desire we all have to possess them, even if it only is for one night! 

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Mark Nepo's Weekly Reflection: Bearing Witness

Bearing witness is one of the primary ways that human beings hold each other up and help each other grow. Bearing witness is also one of the primary functions of art. No matter what we long for in our imagination, we are just as obliged to affirm the truth of how we mistreat each other and how we lift each other up.

Social media is becoming a modern form of bearing witness that is adding to our communal sense of art. In 2010, it was the viral use of Facebook that helped ignite the Arab Spring, a revolutionary wave of democratic demonstrations and protests leading to civil wars in oppressive societies in North Africa and the Middle East. The ability of citizens to film events in real time has led to an irrefutable bearing witness of excessive force by police throughout America.

This all speaks to the timeless power of naming things for what they are in the open. In 1981, the luminous poet Czeslaw Milosz was invited to give a series of talks at Harvard as part of the ongoing Charles Eliot Norton Lectures. The talks were published a few years later as his remarkable book, The Witness of Poetry. In these deep and sweeping talks, Milosz articulates his belief that poetry should be “a passionate pursuit of the real.” He challenges us to reclaim the power of art to mirror both the failings and blessings of the world. He offers that art, in particular poetry, is our enduring crucible in which to face the moral challenges of our time.

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30 Simple Ways to Create Balance and Connection

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