By: Deborah Byrd
In 2012, the vernal or spring equinox comes on March 20 at 5:14 Universal Time (12:14 a.m. Central Daylight Time). Here’s all your need to know.
The March equinox signals the beginning of spring in the Northern Hemisphere and autumn in the Southern Hemisphere. It marks that special moment when the sun crosses the celestial equator going from south to north. In 2012, this equinox comes early. It’ll be on March 20 at 5:14 UTC, or 12:14 a.m. Central Daylight Time for us in the central U.S.
Why is the equinox early in 2012? The reason is, in part, because 2012 is a leap year. If this year weren’t a leap year, this equinox would come on March 21 – not March 20 – at 5:14 Universal Time. The equinoxes for the coming three years – 2013, 2014, 2015 – will all fall on March 20 as well. But – with each passing year – each equinox will come nearly 6 hours later by the clock. In the year 2016, the equinox would fall on March 21 – if 2016 weren’t a leap year.
A Chinese perspective on the spring equinox
Equinox 2012 comes on March 19 for U.S. West and eastern Pacific
2012 equinox: Sun rises due east and sets due west
If you’re curious (or confused) about the early date of this equinox, you’re not alone. Study the data at this link at the U.S. Naval Observatory website. It might help out visually with the explanation.
Here’s what we all know about this equinox. In the Northern Hemisphere, the sun is rising earlier now, and nightfall comes later. Plants are sprouting. Winds are softening. For us in the Northern Hemisphere, people are enjoying the warmer days of spring. South of the equator, autumn begins.
What is an equinox?
The equinox is an event that happens in Earth’s orbit around the sun. Simultaneously, it happens on the imaginary dome of our sky. The imaginary celestial equator is a great circle dividing the sky into northern and southern hemispheres. The celestial equator wraps the sky directly above Earth’s equator. At the equinox, the sun crosses the celestial equator, to enter the sky’s northern hemisphere.
Our ancestors didn’t understand the equinoxes and solstices as events that occur in the course of Earth’s yearly orbit around the sun. But they surely marked today as being midway between the sun’s lowest path across the sky in winter and highest path across the sky in summer.
Today, we know each equinox and solstice is an astronomical event, caused by Earth’s tilt on its axis and ceaseless motion in orbit.
Because Earth doesn’t orbit upright, but is instead tilted on its axis by 23-and-a-half degrees, Earth’s northern and southern hemispheres trade places in receiving the sun’s light and warmth most directly. We have an equinox twice a year – spring and fall – when the tilt of the Earth’s axis and Earth’s orbit around the sun combine in such a way that the axis is inclined neither away from nor toward the sun.
At the equinox, Earth’s two hemispheres are receiving the sun’s rays equally. Night and day are approximately equal in length. The word equinox comes from the Latin aequus (equal) and nox (night).
But, since Earth never stops moving around the sun, these days of equal sunlight and night will change quickly.
Where should I look to see signs of the equinox in nature?
The knowledge that spring is here – and summer is coming – is everywhere now, on the northern half of Earth’s globe.
If you live in Earth’s Northern Hemisphere, you’ve likely been noticing the earlier dawns and later sunsets for some weeks now.
Also notice the arc of the sun across the sky each day. You’ll find it’s shifting toward the north. Birds and butterflies are migrating back northward, too, along with the path of the sun.
The longer days bring with them warmer weather. People are leaving their winter coats at home. Trees are budding, and plants are beginning a new cycle of growth. In many places, spring flowers are beginning to bloom.
Does the sun rise due east and set due west at the equinox?
Yes, it does. And that’s true no matter where you live on Earth, because we all see the same sky.
No matter where you are on Earth, you have a due east and due west point on your horizon. That point marks the intersection of your horizon with the celestial equator – the imaginary line above the true equator of the Earth.
At the equinoxes, the sun appears overhead at noon as seen from Earth’s equator, as the illustration at right shows. This illustration (which is by Tau’olunga) shows the sun’s location on the celestial equator, every hour, on the day of the equinox.
That’s why the sun rises due east and sets due west for all of us. The sun is on the celestial equator, and the celestial equator intersects all of our horizons at points due east and due west.
This fact makes the day of an equinox a good day for finding due east and due west from your yard or other favorite site for watching the sky. Just go outside around sunset or sunrise and notice the location of the sun on the horizon with respect to familiar landmarks.
If you do this, you’ll be able to use those landmarks to find those cardinal directions in the weeks and months ahead, long after Earth has moved on in its orbit around the sun, carrying the sunrise and sunset points northward.
So enjoy the 2012 spring equinox on March 20 – an event that happens on our sky’s dome – and a seasonal marker in Earth’s orbit around the sun!
Bottom line: In 2012, the vernal equinox comes on March 20 at 5:14 UTC, or 12:14 a.m. Central Daylight Time for us in the central U.S. This post explains why the equinox comes early in 2012.
Have a Blessed Week
Love & Light
The Spirit Way
Written by Diggy
At some point in the various journeys we embark on in our lives, we get to a part where we feel like giving up. Sometimes we give up before we even start and other times we give up just before we are about to make that huge break-through that we have been putting so much effort in to achieve.
I have created this list of 22 reasons why you should never give up and I hope that you will find it before you give up, so that I can inspire you to keep going!
1-As Long As You Are Alive Anything Is Possible
The only valid excuse you have to give up is if you are dead. As long as you are alive (and healthy and free) you have the choice to keep trying until you finally succeed.
The chance of mastering something the first time you do it is almost non-existent. Everything takes time to learn and you will make mistakes. Learn from them.
Arguably the best basketball player of all time. He attributes his success to all his failures. He just never gave up even when he knew he had missed over 300 shots and had missed the winning shot of the game many times. Every time he got knocked down he got back up again.
Lance was diagnosed with serious cancer that had spread throughout his entire body. He had cancer cells the size of golf balls in his lungs. Despite all odds he overcame the cancer and set out to win the Tour de France 6 Consecutive years in a row.
“Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee”. Muhammad Ali is one of the best boxers the world has ever known. He suffered only 5 losses while having 56 wins and was the first boxer to win the lineal heavyweight championship three times. This is a guy who literally knows how to get knocked down and get back up.
6-The Man Who Created The Marathon
Very long ago an Athenian herald was sent to Sparta to get help when the Persians landed in Greece. It was said that he ran 240km in 2 days and after that he ran 40km to announce the victory of the Greeks only to collapse and die on the spot from exhaustion. If you ever feel like things are difficult, imagine what it would be like to run 240km in 2 days. (Don’t try that because you might die from it, but use it as an inspiration).
7-Chris Gardner – The Pursuit of Happiness
Have you seen the movie “The Pursuit of Happiness”? It is based on the life story of Chris Gardener, a man who went for the lowest of the lows in an environment where most people would give up (no money, no job) to the highest of the highs (A millionaire with his own investment firm). If you ever think about giving up, watch this movie!
I’m pretty sure you have heard of the rapper Kanye West. Read his story. He is a big inspiration for me and proves that you can go from having very little to being among the most famous and respected people in the world.
Campaigned for justice and freedom in his South Africa. Spent 20 years in jail for his opposition to apartheid. On release he healed the wounds of apartheid by his magnanimous attitude toward his former political enemies.
10- You Are Strong
You are stronger than you think. One little setback is not enough to stop you from achieving your goals. Neither are 10 or 100 or 1000 setbacks.
You don’t want to be known as someone that is weak and gives up. Go out there and prove yourself to the world and to yourself. You CAN and WILL achieve what you set out to do. The only time you fail is when you give up.
12-Has It Been Done Before?
If someone else can do it then so can you. Even if it is only one other person in the world that has achieved what you have set out to achieve, that should be reason enough for you to never give up.
13-Believe In Your Dreams
Don’t sell yourself short. In life there are going to be many people who will try to bring you down and tell you what you want to achieve is not possible. Don’t let anyone destroy your dreams.
14-Your Family and Friends.
Let the people you love and who mean the world to you be your inspiration to persist and persevere. Maybe you need to try a different angle, study more or practice more but don’t give up!
15-Because I Tell You To.
Not that I am any sort of guru or Godly figure, but if you want to give up then don’t. Just because I’m telling you not to.
16-There Are People Worse-Off
Right now there are many people who are in a worse situation and environment than you are right now. Are you thinking about giving up running 5 miles a week? Think about the people who are unable to even walk and how much they would give to be able to run 5 miles every day.
17-Improve Our World
When you achieve whatever you set out to achieve you can use your success to make a difference to the world or other peoples lives.
18-Get Rich or Die Trying
Like Fiddy (50 cent) says, “Get rich or die trying”. 50 Cent is rich, he made it (although he did get shot 9 times). Face your fears and don’t take the easy way out by giving up.
19-Let The Haters Hate
There will always be haters. There will always be plenty of naysayers and people who try to tear you down. Don’t pay attention to them and don’t take what they say to heart. Let the haters hate and you keep believing in yourself.
20-You Deserve To Be Happy
Don’t ever let anybody tell you otherwise. You deserve to be happy and you deserve to have success. Keep that mindset and never give up until you reach your destination!
Be an inspiration to others by refusing to give up. Who knows what someone else can achieve because you never gave up and in turn inspired them not to give up.
22- You Are So Close
Often when you feel like you want to give up and you are about to give up you are so close to making a huge break-thru. Seth Godin has written an awesome book about this called “The Dip” – a riveting read that teaches that at any given time you are always just a heartbeat away from success.
P.S. NEVER GIVE UP!
Have a Blessed Weekend
Love & Light
The Spirit Way
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By: Anna Conlan
We are all blessed with spirit guides who surround us and support us. We usually have between four and seven guides in our inner circle. Our primary spirit guide is with us from birth. The rest of the guides tend to join our spirit guide team throughout childhood, teenage years and early twenties. Their assistance can be practical or spiritual in nature.
Here are some tips for getting to know your guides and working with them:
Know What Spirit Guides Can Help You With
We all go through the veil of amnesia when we incarnate. Most of us forget who we are as souls, where we’ve come from and what the heck we’re doing here. Spirit guides know that it is challenging to be incarnated here at Earth school AND keep a connection to your higher self and your soul’s purpose.
The role of your guides is to gently but consistently guide you via intuitive nudges to stay on track with your soul’s purpose. In addition, if something is in your purpose to accomplish, you will find support from your spirit guides in that endeavour. They will hook you up with resources, people, money, books to help you reach your goals. They can offer insight and comfort when you feel lost.
But there is one important condition to the help they can give us and this condition serves us:
Your spirit guides will only help you to accomplish and achieve things that honour the purpose that YOU set for yourself before you incarnated.
I personally know it is not in my soul’s purpose to win a million pounds on the lottery. I don’t have a project to accomplish at this time in my life that requires that kind of money. Instead, I know I would benefit from the growth I would experience in utilizing my talents to tap into abundance. So if I asked my spirit guides to help me win the lottery, I’m pretty certain they wouldn’t oblige.
I also have a friend who wanted his guides to help him win betting on racing dogs! The guides really weren’t interested in helping him, for the same reason mine wouldn’t help me win on the lottery.
How to Begin Enlisting the Help of Your Guides
Contrary to what you’d think, you don’t need to have really well developed psychic abilities to begin working with your spirit guides. You may not be able to perceive them at all times but your guides can certainly perceive you. You only need to set an intention and they will pick up on it. Address them out loud and they will hear you.
One way of setting your guides to work is to request their help with specific goals.
I have got into the habit of doing this automatically by writing down my goals for the coming week and month and I ask my guides for help in achieving each of my goals.
So here’s an example list of goals:
I would like X amount of money to decorate my new home
I would like to work with X number of clients next month
I’d like to spend X more hours per week of quality time with my partner
I’d like to be a more tolerant mother to my children and remain calm when they are acting out
I’d like more fun and laughter in my life
Read this aloud:
“My spirit guides, my spirit guides, my spirit guides, I request your assistance in achieving the following goals, provided these goals are aligned with my highest path and purpose and in the highest good of all. Please impulse me so that I can recognize assistance and opportunities when they manifest. Thank you, thank you, thank you.”
Why do you have to do this? Surely guides should already know where and when they could provide assistance? In fact, your guides will not intervene until you ask them to because to do so would violate your free will. This is why consciously enlisting their help is powerful. It effectively transfers some of your vital life force to them that they can use on your behalf in the spiritual. And of course everything manifests from the spiritual (or energetic) plane into the physical, not the other way round.
Your spirit guides work to help you manifest your desires into the physical, often in ingenious ways! I recently realized that I have a particular guide who hooks me up with the clients who could benefit from a session with me. Clients often report being prompted to get a reading with me in their dreams.
It’s not usually a good idea to ask for assistance to come to you in a very specific format. The wrong way to do it would be to say ‘please send more overtime work my way so that I can pay off my mortgage’.
‘I would like to pay off X% of my mortgage by the end of the year, please hook me up with the resources and opportunities to make this happen’.
Be open-ended and the Universe will send you the resources you need in ingenious and creative ways. If you are attached to receiving help through a particular channel, you may miss or discard the help that shows up in other ways.
According to the above list, you could be gifted with some money to decorate your home or be offered second-hand items for your new home. You might get invited to a party or meet a new friend who is fun and makes you laugh. You may come across a book about conscious parenting to help you with raising your children. There are so many possibilities! Be open to them all by seeing the opportunity in every experience that comes your way.
Instruct your Guides, Do Not Pray to Them or Supplicate.
Many of us with a religious background have been taught that to invoke the spiritual means to pray, to ask very politely, or even to beg, stating one’s unworthiness. You do not have to do this with your spirit guides. They may be at a vantage point where they can see the bigger picture but they are no better or worse than you. See them as your helpers in spirit, rather than your superiors.
There really is no need to beg or to ask repeatedly. Begging or repeated requests may amuse the guides but it won’t set them to work faster!
Get to Know your Guides
Do you know what you guides’ names are? What they look like? What they do on your team? It’s important to know a bit about your guides before you can begin developing a close relationship with them. You wouldn’t begin a relationship with a real person without knowing their name and what their role is! Make the first move in your relationship with your guides. If you’re stuck with that first step of finding out that information, find someone who can tell you so that you can begin to get to know them.
My relationship with my guides began when I had a reading with psychic medium Erin Pavlina, who told me about my primary guide, who calls herself The Raven. Once Erin told me how this guide was helping me in my life, I saw how she had been helping me all along. And I began to take my spirit guides seriously.
Know How Your Spirit Guides Impulse You
To communicate with you, your spirit guides often choose the intuitive vehicle(s) that you’re most adept at using.
There are many intuitive gifts, but the basic four – clairvoyance, clairaudience, clairsentience and claircognizance cover most possibilities.
If you’re more visual, your spirit guide may pop into your mind’s eye with a message or an image that means something to you. If you’re clairaudient, you may become aware of an inner voice speaking to you or a lines from songs which appear in your head. Those who are claircognizant can have their guides ‘downloading’ information to them in the form of thought. I have very developed clairsentience and my guides impulse me with a funny tingling sensation on the side of my head. Once this happens, I know to listen carefully because a message usually comes through to me. They also impulse me with a cold, prickling sensation on my right thigh and the back of my calf. It makes me shiver and the hairs on that part of my leg stand on end!
Learn How to Distinguish Between Input from Guides and Input from Other Places
Guides have our best interests at heart. Their behaviour is very different from how a negative entity would behave or how your ego would talk to you. Here are some key differences between how a negative entity or your ego would treat you and how a spirit guide would treat you:
Guidance from guides will always be uplifting and will raise your consciousness. It will honour the truth that you are the conscious creator of your life. It will hold you responsible for your life. By contrast, entities who align with negativity may have you believe that you need to do, have or be something in order to get to be the conscious creator of your life. They may encourage you to abdicate responsibility.
Guides will not tell you what to do. They may recommend a course of action that aligns with your path, but they will ultimately leave it up to you.
Guides obviously never get angry with you, or threaten. Guides do not deride or berate you. They are ever-patient and loving. Your guides may think you’re great but they won’t flatter your ego or encourage you to place yourself above others. The guides understand that none of these serve their agenda or yours.
Spirit Guides have faith in your ability to get through issues and negative circumstances. They will be there for you and show great compassion for you, but they won’t ever throw you a pity party.
Understand the Guides’ Agenda and their Background
Spirit Guides are not that different from us. Obviously they’re not in a body but most of them have experienced a physical incarnation so they know what it’s like. Many of them have evolved beyond the point where they need to incarnate here and instead they are pursuing the next stage of their soul’s journey in the capacity of spirit guide. Assisting you serves them on their path of evolution, so they aren’t really doing you a favour as such. It’s a win-win situation for everyone involved. They do however love receiving gratitude for their work, so be sure to thank them.
Have a Blessed Day
Love & Light
The Spirit Way
By: Christin S
Why place such importance on the words you use?
Words are extremely important yet many of us are not truly conscious of the words we use when conveying thoughts to ourselves or via our own inner dialog.
Words are what form your thoughts – and thoughts are what drive your feelings. If what you think and/or feel is negative, chances are very likely the words you are choosing are negative as well. Choosing your words and changing your dialog are absolutely key to working with the universal law of attraction (and others) to manifest what you desire.
This is a good place to remember the important lesson of focusing on what you do want. A great way to do this is to be mindful of your inner dialog. When you catch yourself thinking something negative for example – “I don’t want to get sick” (it is cold/flu season after all 😉 ) Instead of thinking about what you don’t want – focus on what you do and what is. “I’m so happy and grateful that I’m feel well today” or “I want to stay healthy” These are both positive alternatives and have higher vibrations than the original thought – “I don’t want to get sick”.
There is only room for positive or negative in your focus at any one time – both cannot exist in harmony. That doesn’t mean negative thoughts don’t have usefulness – in my last post I discussed on why you should focus (briefly) on what you don’t want. That is of course, to fully understand what you do!
Try this Exercise:
Today be mindful of your thoughts and when you pick up on negative key words in your thoughts like “don’t” “can’t” “shouldn’t” etc. stop briefly and reshape your thought to come from a positive perspective and refocus on what you DO indeed want to experience.
Words are very powerful – in fact one of my original projects that I started over 10 years ago was a project called “Daily Power Words” and in these exercises, positive goals and ideas were centered around a one word Mantra of sorts. This practice each day allowed me to grow in ways I couldn’t imagine at the time and it was a great catalyst on my path. I share many of these exercises for free at my Daily Power Words website. I am also linking to a video below that features one of these so you can get an idea how they work and exactly how motivating and powerful something as seemingly simple as words can be.
Have a Blessed Day
Love & Light
The Spirit Way
Written by: Sen – CalmDownMind.com
Every moment you have a choice – to be at peace or to be in resistance. When you are at peace you attract positive energy and when you resist you create negative vibes that reflect back on your being. It’s a simple choice and yet most people unconsciously choose to live in negativity.
It’s not your boss, colleagues, parents, ex or the traffic, but your own perception that creates stress and negative energy. Circumstances are neutral. You will generate positive vibes when your inner state is one of alignment and congruence, instead of being resistive.
Here are a few tips to attract positive energy by staying in touch with your inner peace and stillness.
Start Your Day With Meditation
Any form of meditation is helpful but it’s best to keep it simple. Just practice the meditation of becoming aware of your presence. You don’t have to sit in any strident posture, just relax and feel your consciousness or presence in the midst of the thoughts and emotions. This is a very powerful practice that creates a positive vibe throughout the body.
Treat Everyone the Way You Want to be Treated
A day is easily ruined when you start holding resentment against someone. Know that everything is oneness and though we appear as different forms, everything is the manifestation of the one true essence. When you see others as yourself you will not harbor negative feelings and in turn your attitude will attract positive energy from the people around you.
Let Go of Your Need to Control
Life is a flux and its nature is change. The more you resist the more you will suffer. Whenever you try to control a life situation, you will feel stressed out and this will generate a lot of negative energy. Just imagine life to be a raging river, does it serve any purpose to struggle? Wouldn’t it be much more relaxing and peaceful if you just let go and allow yourself to float with the flow? People who stay surrendered and relaxed generate a lot of positive energy and attract the grace of life.
See the Positive in Every Situation
Know that good and bad are just perceptions created in the conditioned mind. In reality every life situation is pure grace and is the manifestation of the one truth – call it god or spirit or energy. When you see every situation with this innocence, it will reveal its grace to you.
Visualize a Peaceful Life
Your mind might be addicted to negative thinking, most minds are. You will have to consciously break out of this addiction if you want to attract positive energy within you. Stay conscious and see your mind churning out fearful images. Stop thinking these thoughts and focus your attention on visualizing a peaceful flow of life. You will be amazed at the positive vibes you feel in your body.
Stop Worrying About the Future
Worry has not served any purpose to this date for anyone. Whatever has to happen will happen, there is nothing you will achieve by worrying about it. In fact what you worry about will not even happen most of the times. So why waste energy dwelling on worries? You are unconsciously creating a lot of negative energy inside you which is harmful to your whole being. Just plan practically and leave the rest to life.
Drop the Resentment Within
The past is past, it has no reality than as a memory trace. Can you live in such simplicity? After all if you don’t continuously think up a bad memory you will not feel any resentment within. So just learn to forgive and move on. There is a lot positive energy in the simple act of forgiveness.
Stay as the Presence Instead of the Ego
While interacting with people try to stay as the conscious presence instead of dwelling in your mind. Be the unconditioned presence, allowing people to talk or interact with you without taking offence or protecting opinions. People will get attracted to your calm nature as it radiates a lot of positive energy.
Look at the Nature
If you want to attract positive energy just look at the nature for a while. A tree or a flower, it just rests in stillness and moves with the wind. There is a peace that radiates from their being. This peace will ignite your own inner true nature of stillness.
Feel the Spaciousness in Your Body
Just close your eyes and try to feel your body from within. You will be surprised at the spaciousness of your body. It feels like a lot of empty space with a few sensations here and there. This inner body realization will free up any stored negative energy. After a few moments of inner body realization you will feel light and at ease.
These are some simple techniques to attract positive energy into your being. Remember that staying conscious and dwelling in presence is your true nature, and it’s always peaceful and radiant of positive energy.
Have a Blessed Week
Love & Light
The Spirit Way
Why am I here? This is probably one of the most commonly asked questions in the world … it seems like such a simple question and yet we all know there are many layers to it. If you listen closely, you know intuitively there is an answer; the difficult part is trusting in this answer. Trust takes time and confidence to cultivate…we are always second guessing and double checking to make sure that what we feel and think is aligned with where we want to go, so that we can take the next step that is right for us. We all want to know what the next step is.
So what is your path, your life’s calling? In India, they refer to this as dharma. Each person has a dharma, and that is his or her obligation and responsibility for this particular life. It IS the reason we are here. It is the deep motivating movement that comes up frequently, the private one we listen to at night with our eyes closed but which we aren’t always quite brave enough to purse. This is your life’s work – an incredibly spiritual calling, no matter what that work is.
Your life path and purpose are also connected to your karma, which are past experiences and where you have gone up until this point. This karma seems to carve out a particular path for us to follow … the path of least resistance. If we can actually follow this path, then we can achieve a level of understanding where we can look back and say “ah, this all makes sense.” Drawing this perception into present life experience, you see that each decision leads us into the next. At the same time, these decisions almost feel predetermined, like we are just playing a role in a larger theatrical play. Potentially then, everything happens for a reason and as it is happening it is our practice to be present and take note.
Sadhana, your particular practice, is the means by which you can connect to your path. Commitment to a practice shows you the way to your dharma by gradually peeling back the layers of intention you communicate to yourself – through your actions, your words, your thoughts, and the general way you exist inside yourself and in the world around you. Within this community of yoga, we do physical postures, breathing and meditation as our practice. Each one of these techniques takes you deeper into the connection of why you are here which propels your forward into your life’s work.
So why yoga as your practice and not something else? It is important to ask the question why. To answer, you must look to what you feel as your intention. Generally in the context of yoga, there is a practice for impermanent gains for physical body or for a relationship. Then there is a form of practice that is for a more spiritual gain and focused upon yourself, so that the work you do is for you, for your own spiritual realization. And within this spiritual motive there arises a practice that is for the sake of others. You get on your mat or sit in meditation for the personal growth of others. One usually comes before the next; generally we must become selfish before we become selfless. This is a natural progression. The practice that you do, whatever it is, is what helps you to weed out and let go of that which is unethical or ego driven. When the distraction of the ego weakens we begin to see clearly the true reason we are here. It is a continuous cycle of letting go and realigning with our purpose, over and over again. The practice enhances and develops that which is grounded into the whole reason why you are here. In this sense, it doesn’t really matter so much why you are doing your practice – there is no right or wrong. But it is important to identify what the reason is, as this provides the fuel for your practice so that you can move forward on your path of realization and understanding.
Have a Blessed Weekend
Love & Light
The Spirit Way
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Have a Blessed Day
Love & Light
By: Lori Deschene
“Being happy doesn’t mean that everything is perfect. It means you’ve decided to look beyond the imperfections.” -Unknown
Even though I couldn’t possibly care less about oil-based raincoats, I listened to him talk for about 15 minutes one rainy morning last week.
This little guy, with his colorful button-down shirt and funny-looking hat makes my day most mornings. He works at the 7-11 where I get my coffee. And he always seems happy.
At first I thought he was just putting on a good face, making the best of a tough situation. After all, he couldn’t possibly enjoy working at a convenience store, right? Then I realized I was missing the biggest part of his appeal: he does enjoy his job, and that’s why he seems so happy—because he is.Man that’s awesome. I aim to be like him.
My life doesn’t always look exactly like I want it to. I spend many days writing alone in my living room, when I’d rather work from a beachside office space I share with friends. I drive a beat-up old Toyota, when I’d far prefer something that doesn’t have roll-up windows or a cassette player.
But the world doesn’t change all that much if I have more money, a different space, a better job, or a nicer car. The wrapping paper is different, but the gift inside stays the same.
The way I feel about myself; how much I open myself to new people and experiences; how often I choose to smile simply because it feels good. None of these things depend on my life situation. Colorful shirt guy knows that. I suspect he knows these things, too:
1. Enjoying the present moment is a habit that takes practice. If you always look toward tomorrow for happiness, odds are you will do the same when you attain what you’ve been dreaming of. As strange it sounds, the ability to appreciate what’s in front of you has nothing to do with what you actually have. It’s more about how you measure the good things in your life at any given time.
Practice wanting what you have and it will feel even sweeter when you eventually have what you want. Look around—what’s in front of you that can enjoy?
2. Finding reasons to be happy now can benefit your future. Dr. Dacher Keltner of the University of California claims she can predict a person’s future by judging the strength of their smile. Researchers examined yearbook photos of 111 female students taken between 1958 and 1960. Subsequent tests revealed that the women who expressed more positive emotion in those photos became more mentally focused, had more successful marriages, and enjoyed a greater sense of well-being.
From the article:
“While positive emotion tends to broaden thought, negative emotion tends to narrow it and hold back development….The findings of Dr Keltner and his colleagues, published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, are among the first to show that differences in the extent to which people express emotion may be stable throughout their lives and dictate personal and social success.”
3. Tuning into joy can improve your health, something that affords you many possibilities in life. Something that most people take for granted until it’s compromised.
Christopher Peterson, Ph.D of the University of Michigan—who has studied optimism’s link to health for over 20 years—shows optimistic people have a stronger immune system than their negative counterparts. This may be due to their tendency to take better care of themselves. Choose to be happy now and you’ll have more days of good health to enjoy.
4. Consistent, long-term happiness depends on your ability to notice and appreciate the details; you can hone that skill right now. Once you get everything you want, you will still be subject to life’s highs and lows. If you haven’t learned to enjoy the little things, your well-being will parallel your life’s circumstances. Every time something goes wrong, you’ll feel deeply unhappy (as opposed to disappointed but determined to make the best of things).
Think about the things that fill you with the most joy—spending time with your pets, listening to the rain, and running on the beach, for example. Focus on those things right now, and let them brighten your day. That way, no matter what changes, you’ll have a variety of simple pleasures to help you through.
5. Every day is a new opportunity to be better than yesterday; that pursuit can increase your self esteem and, accordingly, your happiness. I used to be obsessed with being perfect. If I wasn’t the best at something, I couldn’t sleep at night. Becoming great never felt as good as I imagined it would because there was always room to be better. I was constantly dissatisfied and disappointed in myself.
I now look at the things I do as opportunities to get better from one day to the next. It’s more satisfying to set and meet an attainable goal, like focusing better and writing an extra article tomorrow, than it is to obsess about perfection, stressing because I’m not a world-famous author.
By focusing on small improvements and mini-goals, you’ll naturally move yourself toward your larger dreams. And you’ll respect the way you’re doing things.
6. You can be who you want to be right now, no matter what your situation looks like. You may think life needs to change dramatically for you to be the person you want to be. That you can’t be giving unless you make more money. Or you can’t be adventurous until you sell your house. The truth is you can be those things at any point in time.
So you don’t have money to share. Be generous with your compassion, and listen when your friends have problems. So your house hasn’t sold, pinning you in one place. Create adventure in your day by trying new things and introducing yourself to new people.
You never know when your nows will run out—so ask yourself, “How can I be that person I want to be in this moment?”
7. Finding joy in the present moment—no matter how inadequate it may seem—makes a difference in other people’s lives. Though we all have different lists of dreams and goals, for most of us this is at the forefront : the possibility of living a meaningful life that affects other people for the better.
Happiness is a moment-to-moment choice, one that many have a hard time making. Other people will notice if you make that choice. And you will motivate them to do the same. As the research above indicates, this motivation has a substantial impact on their health and future happiness.
I know this isn’t your usual reasons-to-be-happy post. It didn’t start or end with “count your blessings” and I didn’t delve into your relationships or good fortune. There’s a very good reason for that.
I don’t think happiness is so much about what you have. What you have changes; your “blessings” evolve. Happiness is about how you interpret what’s in front of you. How proud you are of the way you live your life. How willing you are to enjoy simple pleasures, even if things aren’t perfect.
Though I have’t always done this well, today I choose to focus on the good—both in the world and myself—to feel happy right now. How will you tune into happiness today?
Have a Blessed Day
Love & Light
The Spirit Way
Many people will say it is morally acceptable to pull a switch that diverts a train, killing just one person instead of the five on the other track. But if asked to save the same five lives by throwing a person in the train’s path, people will say the action is wrong. This may be evidence for an ancient subconscious morality that deters causing direct physical harm to someone else. An equally strong moral sanction has not yet evolved for harming someone indirectly.
By: NICHOLAS WADE
Where do moral rules come from? From reason, some philosophers say. From God, say believers. Seldom considered is a source now being advocated by some biologists, that of evolution.
At first glance, natural selection and the survival of the fittest may seem to reward only the most selfish values. But for animals that live in groups, selfishness must be strictly curbed or there will be no advantage to social living. Could the behaviors evolved by social animals to make societies work be the foundation from which human morality evolved?
In a series of recent articles and a book, “The Happiness Hypothesis,” Jonathan Haidt, a moral psychologist at the University of Virginia, has been constructing a broad evolutionary view of morality that traces its connections both to religion and to politics.
Dr. Haidt (pronounced height) began his research career by probing the emotion of disgust. Testing people’s reactions to situations like that of a hungry family that cooked and ate its pet dog after it had become roadkill, he explored the phenomenon of moral dumbfounding — when people feel strongly that something is wrong but cannot explain why.
Dumbfounding led him to view morality as driven by two separate mental systems, one ancient and one modern, though the mind is scarcely aware of the difference. The ancient system, which he calls moral intuition, is based on the emotion-laden moral behaviors that evolved before the development of language. The modern system — he calls it moral judgment — came after language, when people became able to articulate why something was right or wrong.
The emotional responses of moral intuition occur instantaneously — they are primitive gut reactions that evolved to generate split-second decisions and enhance survival in a dangerous world. Moral judgment, on the other hand, comes later, as the conscious mind develops a plausible rationalization for the decision already arrived at through moral intuition.
Moral dumbfounding, in Dr. Haidt’s view, occurs when moral judgment fails to come up with a convincing explanation for what moral intuition has decided.
So why has evolution equipped the brain with two moral systems when just one might seem plenty?
“We have a complex animal mind that only recently evolved language and language-based reasoning,” Dr. Haidt said. “No way was control of the organism going to be handed over to this novel faculty.”
He likens the mind’s subterranean moral machinery to an elephant, and conscious moral reasoning to a small rider on the elephant’s back. Psychologists and philosophers have long taken a far too narrow view of morality, he believes, because they have focused on the rider and largely ignored the elephant.
Dr. Haidt developed a better sense of the elephant after visiting India at the suggestion of an anthropologist, Richard Shweder. In Bhubaneswar, in the Indian state of Orissa, Dr. Haidt saw that people recognized a much wider moral domain than the issues of harm and justice that are central to Western morality. Indians were concerned with integrating the community through rituals and committed to concepts of religious purity as a way to restrain behavior.
On his return from India, Dr. Haidt combed the literature of anthropology and psychology for ideas about morality throughout the world. He identified five components of morality that were common to most cultures. Some concerned the protection of individuals, others the ties that bind a group together.
Of the moral systems that protect individuals, one is concerned with preventing harm to the person and the other with reciprocity and fairness. Less familiar are the three systems that promote behaviors developed for strengthening the group. These are loyalty to the in-group, respect for authority and hierarchy, and a sense of purity or sanctity.
The five moral systems, in Dr. Haidt’s view, are innate psychological mechanisms that predispose children to absorb certain virtues. Because these virtues are learned, morality may vary widely from culture to culture, while maintaining its central role of restraining selfishness. In Western societies, the focus is on protecting individuals by insisting that everyone be treated fairly. Creativity is high, but society is less orderly. In many other societies, selfishness is suppressed “through practices, rituals and stories that help a person play a cooperative role in a larger social entity,” Dr. Haidt said.
He is aware that many people — including “the politically homogeneous discipline of psychology” — equate morality with justice, rights and the welfare of the individual, and dismiss everything else as mere social convention. But many societies around the world do in fact behave as if loyalty, respect for authority and sanctity are moral concepts, Dr. Haidt notes, and this justifies taking a wider view of the moral domain.
The idea that morality and sacredness are intertwined, he said, may now be out of fashion but has a venerable pedigree, tracing back to Emile Durkheim, a founder of sociology.
Dr. Haidt believes that religion has played an important role in human evolution by strengthening and extending the cohesion provided by the moral systems. “If we didn’t have religious minds we would not have stepped through the transition to groupishness,” he said. “We’d still be just small bands roving around.”
Religious behavior may be the result of natural selection, in his view, shaped at a time when early human groups were competing with one another. “Those who found ways to bind themselves together were more successful,” he said.
Dr. Haidt came to recognize the importance of religion by a roundabout route. “I first found divinity in disgust,” he writes in his book “The Happiness Hypothesis.”
The emotion of disgust probably evolved when people became meat eaters and had to learn which foods might be contaminated with bacteria, a problem not presented by plant foods. Disgust was then extended to many other categories, he argues, to people who were unclean, to unacceptable sexual practices and to a wide class of bodily functions and behaviors that were seen as separating humans from animals.
“Imagine visiting a town,” Dr. Haidt writes, “where people wear no clothes, never bathe, have sex ‘doggie style’ in public, and eat raw meat by biting off pieces directly from the carcass.”
He sees the disgust evoked by such a scene as allied to notions of physical and religious purity. Purity is, in his view, a moral system that promotes the goals of controlling selfish desires and acting in a religiously approved way.
Notions of disgust and purity are widespread outside Western cultures. “Educated liberals are the only group to say, ‘I find that disgusting but that doesn’t make it wrong,’ ” Dr. Haidt said.
Working with a graduate student, Jesse Graham, Dr. Haidt has detected a striking political dimension to morality. He and Mr. Graham asked people to identify their position on a liberal-conservative spectrum and then complete a questionnaire that assessed the importance attached to each of the five moral systems. (The test, called the moral foundations questionnaire, can be taken online, at http://www.YourMorals.org.)
They found that people who identified themselves as liberals attached great weight to the two moral systems protective of individuals — those of not harming others and of doing as you would be done by. But liberals assigned much less importance to the three moral systems that protect the group, those of loyalty, respect for authority and purity.
Conservatives placed value on all five moral systems but they assigned less weight than liberals to the moralities protective of individuals.
Dr. Haidt believes that many political disagreements between liberals and conservatives may reflect the different emphasis each places on the five moral categories.
Take attitudes to contemporary art and music. Conservatives fear that subversive art will undermine authority, violate the in-group’s traditions and offend canons of purity and sanctity. Liberals, on the other hand, see contemporary art as protecting equality by assailing the establishment, especially if the art is by oppressed groups.
Extreme liberals, Dr. Haidt argues, attach almost no importance to the moral systems that protect the group. Because conservatives do give some weight to individual protections, they often have a better understanding of liberal views than liberals do of conservative attitudes, in his view.
Dr. Haidt, who describes himself as a moderate liberal, says that societies need people with both types of personality. “A liberal morality will encourage much greater creativity but will weaken social structure and deplete social capital,” he said. “I am really glad we have New York and San Francisco — most of our creativity comes out of cities like these. But a nation that was just New York and San Francisco could not survive very long. Conservatives give more to charity and tend to be more supportive of essential institutions like the military and law enforcement.”
Other psychologists have mixed views about Dr. Haidt’s ideas.
Steven Pinker, a cognitive scientist at Harvard, said, “I’m a big fan of Haidt’s work.” He added that the idea of including purity in the moral domain could make psychological sense even if purity had no place in moral reasoning.
But Frans B. M. de Waal, a primatologist at Emory University, said he disagreed with Dr. Haidt’s view that the task of morality is to suppress selfishness. Many animals show empathy and altruistic tendencies but do not have moral systems.
“For me, the moral system is one that resolves the tension between individual and group interests in a way that seems best for the most members of the group, hence promotes a give and take,” Dr. de Waal said.
He said that he also disagreed with Dr. Haidt’s alignment of liberals with individual rights and conservatives with social cohesiveness.
“It is obvious that liberals emphasize the common good — safety laws for coal mines, health care for all, support for the poor — that are not nearly as well recognized by conservatives,” Dr. de Waal said.
That alignment also bothers John T. Jost, a political psychologist at New York University. Dr. Jost said he admired Dr. Haidt as a “very interesting and creative social psychologist” and found his work useful in drawing attention to the strong moral element in political beliefs.
But the fact that liberals and conservatives agree on the first two of Dr. Haidt’s principles — do no harm and do unto others as you would have them do unto you — means that those are good candidates to be moral virtues. The fact that liberals and conservatives disagree on the other three principles “suggests to me that they are not general moral virtues but specific ideological commitments or values,” Dr. Jost said.
In defense of his views, Dr. Haidt said that moral claims could be valid even if not universally acknowledged.
“It is at least possible,” he said, “that conservatives and traditional societies have some moral or sociological insights that secular liberals do not understand.”
Have a Blessed Week
Love & Light
The Spirit Way
We all have one of those days from time to time. But what do we mean when we say that? Typically one or more bad things happen that put you in an unhappy mood. Maybe you feel everybody is on your back or your computer is constantly breaking down when you need to finish a report. Perhaps all your current work isn’t satisfactory, the deadline is getting closer and you just can’t seem to get focused. Without really thinking about it we put it all down to fate or being unlucky and then we typically end up feeling sorry for ourselves. That can then spiral and affect the rest of our day. However, it need not be this way. Here is a handy guide to getting your day back on track.
Take a breather
Get away from it all. Disconnect the phone, turn off the computer. Heck, lock yourself in a cupboard if you can’t get away from work. Give yourself a chance to clear your head and gain some perspective. You can’t get hold of your day if you don’t give yourself a chance to regain control. One or two unfortunate events will effect your mood which can ultimately cause things to spiral if you don’t take a step back
Work out what the problem is
What makes you think you are having one of those days? Was it the moody customer who shouted at you? Have you been inundated with work because two of your staff are off sick? Having one of those days will put you in a bad mood. It’s important to know exactly what the cause is so you can do something about it.
There is a logical, rational reason for everything. You might not directly cause it but it’s there all the same. If a customer gives you a hard time because another department didn’t do its job properly, that’s unfortunate. But these things do happen. If you’re dwelling on it while hiding in the cupboard, tell yourself you were just in the wrong place at the wrong time.
…but could I have done something about it?
Things happen that ruin our day which are out of our control, but there also things that, in hindsight, we could have influenced or can yet gain some control over. Could you perhaps have dealt with the rude customer a little better? Can you defer or delegate the workload till the absent staff return? Take the lessons from the experience now so it doesn’t mess up another day in the future.
Treat yourself and move on
Rationalizing and being proactive will help you to smooth out the whole unpleasantness but if it fixed your entire day you wouldn’t be having one of those days in the first place. Take lessons from the experience and try and get through the rest of the day. Treat yourself by going for retail therapy, having a nice meal or watching a film, if it helps. Then get to sleep. You will almost certainly feel much better the next day.
Don’t live in a bubble
A boxer will never be successful if he just runs around the ring avoiding his opponent’s blows. Likewise you will never get anywhere if you are not willing to take the knocks and blows that life will all to readily dish out. You may feel like hiding in your shell when the day turns against you, but resist that urge, it’s not an habit you want to slip into. Shake it off and get back in the fight.
Have a Blessed Weekend
Love & Light
The Spirit Way