Jun 04

Richard Carlson’s “Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff”

For about two years in the late 1990’s prolific author Richard Carlson‘s (1961-2006) Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff…and It’s All Small Stuff–Simple Ways to Keep the Little Things from Taking Over Your Life was at the top of the bestsellers list.

Some of the best quotes from Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff:

There are two rules for living in harmony. #1) Don’t sweat the small stuff and #2) It’s all small.

True happiness comes not when we get rid of all of our problems, but when we change our relationship to them, when we see our problems as a potential source of awakening, opportunities to practice, and to learn.

Being heard and understood is “one of the greatest desires of the human heart.”

Effective listening is more than simply avoiding the bad habit of interrupting others while they are speaking or finishing their sentences. It’s being content to listen to the entire thought of someone rather than waiting impatiently for your chance to respond.

To a large degree, the measure of our peace of mind is determined by how much we are able to live in the present moment. Irrespective of what happened yesterday or last year, and what may or may not happen tomorrow, the present moment is where you are—always!

Something wonderful begins to happen with the simple realization that life, like an automobile, is driven from the inside out, not the other way around. As you focus more on becoming more peaceful with where you are, rather than focusing on where you would rather be, you begin to find peace right now, in the present.

A low mood is not the time to analyze your life. To do so is emotional suicide. If you have a legitimate problem, it will still be there when your state of mind improves. The trick is to be grateful for our good moods and graceful in our low moods—not taking them too seriously. The next time you feel low, for whatever reason, remind yourself, “This too shall pass.” It will.

Even though we often mess up, most of us are doing the best that we know how with the circumstances that surround us.

The need for perfection and the desire for inner tranquility conflict with each other.

I guess it´s safe to say that practice makes perfect. It makes sense, then, to be careful what you practice.

Imagining yourself at your own funeral allows you to look back at your life while you still have the chance to make some important changes.

Jan 29

Eckhart Tolle: “The Power of Now” Quotes

Realize deeply that the present moment is all you have. Eckhart Tolle

The research behind Marianne Power‘s new book Help Me! One Woman’s Quest to Find Out if Self-Help Really Can Change Your Life involved applying 12 different self-help books to her own life over the course of a year. Reportedly, her favorite of the bunch was The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle.

From Power’s NPR interview:

…Tolle says that when we see people walking down the street talking to themselves, we think they’re a bit mad, but actually we’re all doing that to ourselves all the time, we all have this voice in our head that’s narrating what’s happening, and it’s quite often very critical, it’s beating yourself up for something you’ve done in the past, or it’s worrying about what’s going to happen in the future, and as a result, you miss the only thing that is ever real, according to Eckhart Tolle, and that’s now. Right now, this second. And in the book, he asks, in any given moment, to ask yourself, ‘do I have a problem, right now, right here?’ And the answer is almost always no. So I found that book very helpful.

The following are other quotables I’ve selected from The Power of Now:

All negativity is caused by an accumulation of psychological time and denial of the present. Unease, anxiety, tension, stress, worry – all forms of fear – are caused by too much future, and not enough presence. Guilt, regret, resentment, grievances, sadness, bitterness, and all forms of nonforgiveness are caused by too much past, and not enough presence.

What a caterpillar calls the end of the world we call a butterfly.

Once you have identified with some form of negativity, you do not want to let it go, and on a deeply unconscious level, you do not want positive change. It would threaten your identity as a depressed, angry or hard-done by person. You will then ignore, deny or sabotage the positive in your life. This is a common phenomenon. 
It is also insane.

The light is too painful for someone who wants to remain in darkness.

Any action is often better than no action, especially if you have been stuck in an unhappy situation for a long time. If it is a mistake, at least you learn something, in which case it’s no longer a mistake. If you remain stuck, you learn nothing.

I have lived with several Zen masters — all of them cats.

To complain is always nonacceptance of what is. It invariably carries an unconscious negative charge. When you complain, you make yourself into a victim. When you speak out, you are in your power. So change the situation by taking action or by speaking out if necessary or possible; leave the situation or accept it. All else is madness.

Where there is anger there is always pain underneath.

Accept — then act. Whatever the present moment contains, accept it as if you had chosen it. Always work with it, not against it. Make it your friend and ally, not your enemy. This will miraculously transform your whole life.

Jan 15

Stoicism: Two Authors Who Tout This As Psychological Remedy

If you’ve ever suffered from anxiety, or even depression, you might find some relief in the ancient philosophy of Stoicism. Wait: It’s probably not what you think, if you think of stoics as people who hide their emotions. Susan K. Perry, PhD, Psychology Today

Stoicism, understood properly, is a cure for a disease. The disease in question is the anxiety, grief, fear, and various other negative emotions that plague humans and prevent them from experiencing a joyful existence. William B. Irvine, A Guide to the Good Life

Two modern thinkers who advocate elements of Stoicism as a way of achieving better living are William B. Irvine, author of A Guide to the Good Life: The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy (2008), and Jules Evans, author of Philosophy for Life and Other Dangerous Situations: Ancient Philosophy for Modern Problems (2013).

According to Irvine, for the Stoics Step #1 relates to tranquility, “a psychological state marked by the absence of negative emotions, such as grief, anger, and anxiety, and the presence of positive emotions, such as joy.”

Not so unusual. But Step #2, how to achieve it, is what may differ from other philosophies. The Stoics’ recommendations include the use of “negative visualization: we should allow ourselves to have flickering thoughts about how our life could be worse.” Such a practice, in fact, eventually leads to optimism, says Irvine. “After expressing his appreciation that his glass is half full rather than being completely empty, he will go on to express his delight in even having a glass: It could, after all, have been broken or stolen.”

More useful ideas about Stoicism from Irvine’s book:

“By contemplating the impermanence of everything in the world, we are forced to recognize that every time we do something could be the last time we do it, and this recognition can invest the things we do with a significance and intensity that would otherwise be absent.”

“Around the world and throughout the millennia, those who have thought carefully about the workings of desire have recognized this—that the easiest way for us to gain happiness is to learn how to want the things we already have.”

Susan K. Perry, PhD (Psychology Today), quotes Jules Evans regarding ways Stoicism can improve our lives. Some of his thoughts:

“The Stoics thought we could transform emotions by understanding how they’re connected to our beliefs and attitudes. Often what causes us suffering is not a particular adverse event, but our opinion about it.”

“One of the exercises the Stoics practiced was called the View From Above: If you’re feeling stressed by some niggling annoyances, project your imagination into space and imagine the vastness of the universe. From that cosmic perspective, the annoyance doesn’t seem that important anymore—you’ve made a molehill out of a mountain.”

“Another technique the Stoics used (along with Buddhists and Epicureans) was bringing their attention back to the present moment if they felt they were worrying too much about the future or ruminating over the past.”

“It might be useful to talk about the Stoic technique of the maxim, how they’d encapsulate their ideas into brief memorizable phrases or proverbs—’Everything in moderation’ or ‘The best revenge is not to be like that’—which they would repeat to themselves when needed. Stoics also carried around little handbooks with some of their favorite maxims.”

“Seneca said: ‘The Stoic sees all adversity as training.'”

Jan 09

One Step at a Time Toward Your Future: Live in the Present

In addition to focusing on what you do want versus what you don’t when planning to make changes, living in the present and taking one step at a time are also principles compatible with success.

We all get the planning part of the equation. The other two notions can be more difficult to grasp and/or do, however.

LIVING IN THE PRESENT

Many people, you may have noticed, tout the benefits of living in the now. This is largely because projecting your feelings into the past or future often contributes to such uncomfortable states as anxiety and depression.

Actually, states Jennice Vilhauer, PhD, in Psychology Today (“How to Be Present and Still Create Your Future”):

The reality is we can only experience thoughts and emotions in the present moment; it is the only place we exist. [emphasis mine] However, in the present you can, with conscious awareness, think about any time frame, past, present, or future. If your goal is to lead a fulfilling life, then how you allocate your thoughts in these time frames matters. The past is gone. We can never bring it back, except by bringing our attention to it. The present, no matter how awful or sweet it may be, is constantly leaving. It is what just passed. Holding on to it is impossible. The future, however, is constantly arriving. The arrival of the future and the now we live in are one and the same.

By the way, Vilhauer is the author of a new book, Think Forward to Thrive: How to Use the Mind’s Power of Anticipation to Transcend Your Past and Transform Your Life (Future Directed Therapy).

ONE STEP AT A TIME

If you have a plan of action, what you’re living/doing right now is what’s going into making it work out—one rewarding step at a time. Once you take that first step, in other words, the positive effects of taking that step help move you toward the next one. As Pam, a character in my screenplay Minding Therapy, remarks: “Move your feet today; tomorrow your feet will move you.”

Some other quotes:

John Pierpont Morgan: “The first step towards getting somewhere is to decide that you are not going to stay where you are.”

A.J. Darkholme: “Anything you dream [can] be yours simply because you’ve focused on the steps you could take instead of the distance to get there.”

R. J. Gonzales: “One must simply take the days of their lives as they happen. If you spend time worrying over what is to come, which may or may not happen, then you will only be wasting precious days you will wish in the future you could have cherished a bit longer.”

John Wanamaker: “One may walk over the highest mountain one step at a time.”

Lao Tzu: “The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.”

Martin Luther King, Jr.: “You don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step.”

Nov 10

“Waking Up” by Sam Harris: Spiritual Atheist, Meditation Advocate

It is always now. This might sound trite, but it is the truth. It’s not quite true as a matter of neurology, because our minds are built upon layers of inputs whose timing we know must be different. But it is true as a matter of conscious experience. The reality of your life is always now. And to realize this, we will see, is liberating. In fact, I think there is nothing more important to understand if you want to be happy in this world. Sam Harris, Waking Up

Philosopher and neuroscientist Sam Harris is not religious—and he’s actually well known for that. But just because he’s an atheist doesn’t mean he’s not interested in spirituality—so interested in fact that he’s now written Waking Up: A Guide to Spirituality Without Religion.

Why write this book? From Chapter One:

Twenty percent of Americans describe themselves as ‘spiritual but not religious.’ Although the claim seems to annoy believers and atheists equally, separating spirituality from religion is a perfectly reasonable thing to do. It is to assert two important truths simultaneously: Our world is dangerously riven by religious doctrines that all educated people should condemn, and yet there is more to understanding the human condition than science and secular culture generally admit. One purpose of this book is to give both these convictions intellectual and empirical support.

How does Harris view spirituality? Kirkus Reviews: “The author recognizes that the term “spirituality” comes with loaded meanings, but here he uses it to refer to the transcendence of self. Early on, Harris describes his book as “a seeker’s memoir, an introduction to the brain, a manual of contemplative instruction, and a philosophical unraveling of what most people consider to be the center of their inner lives: the sense of self we call ‘I’…my goal is to pluck the diamond from the dunghill of esoteric religion.”

His emphasis? Buddhist-based mindfulness meditation. Publishers Weekly:

Expanding upon concepts posited in The End of Faith and Free Will, neuroscientist Harris draws from personal contemplative practice and a growing body of scientific research to argue that the self, the feeling that there is an ‘I’ residing in one’s head, is both an illusion and the primary cause of human suffering. Through meditation, this illusion can be extinguished, resulting in a deep sense of personal well-being regardless of circumstances, and also in compassionate and ethical behaviors toward others.

What kinds of things might interfere with mindfulness meditation? Harris: “The principal enemy of mindfulness [is our] habit of being distracted by thoughts. The problem is not thoughts themselves but the state of thinking without knowing that we are thinking…[T]he difference between ordinary experience and…‘mindfulness’ is not very clear, and it takes some training to distinguish between being lost in thought and seeing thoughts for what they are.”

SELECTED BOOK REVIEWS

A.J. Jacobs, author of The Year of Living Biblically: “I recommend this book regardless of your belief system. As befits a book called Waking Up, it’s an eye opener.”

Kirkus Reviews: “Since the author is primarily a philosopher and a scientist, not a lifestyle counselor, readers expecting a user-friendly how-to manual on becoming more spiritual will no doubt be perplexed and disappointed, but they will come away having been warned about unethical gurus and bad drugs.”

Daniel Goleman, author Emotional Intelligence and Focus: “Sam Harris ranks as my favorite skeptic, bar none. In Waking Up he gives us a clear-headed, no-holds-barred look at the spiritual supermarket, calling out what amounts to junk food and showing us where real nutrition can be found.”