Thursday, December 11, 2014

11 Story Fall: A Collection of Short Stories

Introducing "11 Story Fall: A Collection of Short Stories," a new book available for free today and tomorrow on Amazon. Written by Aarti Patel and Jason Petersen. Please check it out here, and any reviews are appreciated!

"There's no easy way to put the human dilemma. We strive for perfection, and we also want to live our lives. But really, the two are mutually exclusive. All around us we see ideals erected on pedestals, while we stand below and look up reverently at them. Who raises those unblemished falsities of life up there? We do—not nature—and it drives us nuts.

Each of these eleven short stories explores this theme. The lead characters are struggling not with trying to find themselves, but rather with facing a society hell bent on stripping them of who they already are. This conflict is especially real in the modern world. These eleven stories are a present day nose dive off those pedestals."

Monday, November 17, 2014

Enjoy Not Knowing

When the end of the year rolls around, our minds may hover around the fact that we don't know exactly what we'll be up to this time next year. Uh oh, that feeling creeps in of not knowing everything! The ability to plan for what comes next can only take us so far in life, and the uncertainty of the future can make us feel hesitant to initiate new changes. Some of those are needed changes!

The truth is, you've never known it all. Your decisions haven't all been based on planning each event in advance. There is a natural flow to life that offers us challenges that we can handle at each point in life. Staying open to uncertainty--of not knowing--can actually be rewarding and doesn't have to feel dreadful. Just remember that planning, and anticipating, and trying to know, and writing on a calendar, and trying to predict can't and doesn't always apply when the moment arrives. Each moment is unique, and like wild horses these moments can't be tamed so easily.

So enjoy what you don't know! You're not the only one who doesn't know, everyone experiences this feeling at different times in life. Give yourself a break and let yourself off the hook when your mind starts to demand, "But I have to know now!" Tell yourself, no---life is richer than having to know everything all the time.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Start It and Finish It

Have you ever started something and lost momentum toward finishing it about halfway through?

In today's world, it can be easy to get the ball rolling on a project or activity, only to fizzle out in excitement after a few weeks or months. Our attention is constantly pulled this way, and pushed that way. With the growth of social media and reliance on internet, distractions can make it challenging to stick with it. Though we're in the moment when starting an activity, this moment may pass by too quickly and seem irrelevant after a while. What's the trade-off in not following through with what you start?

"Following through" is an expression that comes up in sports a lot. Whether you're swinging at a baseball, tennis ball, or golf ball, unless you follow through with your motion and put your whole body and focus into what you're doing, the end result risks being a letdown. When you commit to your action and follow through completely, you've tried your best and may be surprised at just how much momentum and strength you can put behind your swing. The same goes for those things we wish to pursue in any area of life. Starting it, sticking with it, and finishing (or following through on) it can feel very rewarding and healthy. Not doing so can leave a unsatisfying dot, dot, dot at the end of what we do.

Beware of all the clutter that may come your way that tells you it's not worth finishing what you start. No matter how big the world feels in its apparent connectedness, you still have the space around you in your own life in which to do what you want. No matter how much the information on a screen proclaims its importance, you probably have things you've started in your own life that could feel even more substantial and satisfying if pursued further.

Are there areas of your life where you'd like to follow through more? Put that extra umph behind your swing and go for it!

Monday, May 12, 2014

Avoid the Militant Mindset

What's more enjoyable:  doing something because you want to do it, or doing something because you're forced into it?

For many of us, it's more satisfying to do things when we feel like doing them. Yet, in life and in health it's easy to develop a militant mindset in which we become overly strict and focused on rules that we impose on ourselves. Not only does a militant frame of mind make us overly critical of ourselves and our lifestyle, it also takes us farther away from what we truly want. A lot of times, this mindset can block you from asking yourself what you want altogether.

Being healthy in life doesn't have to involve pain and suffering. The image comes to mind of clocking five days a week at the gym, drinking green-colored smoothies every morning, tolerating handfuls of supplements, keeping up with fear-based research on what food is healthy versus not, and nervously eying the weight scale. Is this a picture of health in your mind, and is this how you want to live?

Ask yourself where in your life you're excessively militant toward yourself. We can all benefit by easing back from rigid and forceful approaches in life. Let yourself have some leeway throughout your days, and see what you can learn about yourself and your health in the process. You may find that the militant approach is stemming from your fears rather than your true inclinations. This mindset often gives us the false impression that we're in control of everything when we're actually nervous about uncertainties in life. Fears and worries still bubble underneath the militant mindset, no matter how much we're convinced we're doing everything "right."

It's easy to spring to the "have to's" and "musts" first thing in the morning. Try a different approach once in a while so you can practice avoiding the militant mindset. Ask yourself what you want to do for a change. Doing things when you feel like doing them, whenever possible, sparks real energy behind your actions and puts a natural spring in your step. This practice also helps you to be less critical and judgmental toward yourself, as well as less punishing about "not doing the right thing." Consider that if you're doing what you want, then it is the right thing and perhaps the best thing for your health. 

This week, challenge yourself to step away from the militant mindset, and see how much more you can enjoy yourself and health in the process.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Take Charge of Your Fears

We all have "those moments" come up. The moments that seem to paralyze our bodies and minds, shake up all notions of who we are, and to suggest that we don't have what it takes. FEAR. Whatever form it takes and however daunting it appears, fear actually isn't a bad four-letter word. When fear comes up in life, it presents a unique opportunity for us to learn and to grow. We all have fears, and whether they stop us in our tracks or propel us forward toward what we want---depends on what we do with them.

There is a tendency to want to ignore fears, fix them, and hope they'll go away on their own without the attention they're asking for. We can start to believe that the messages the fears seem to be sending us are true, and we seek to avoid them even further. On top of that, there are often internally- and externally-sparked messages that if we feel fear, that we're weak and lacking in courage.

The truth is, there can be no courage in life without fear. There also can't be real excitement, determination, enjoyment, and pride. Squashing out the natural emotion of fear in life tends to squash out life in general and limits how we express ourselves as unique individuals. When fear is knocking loudly on the door, it's asking us to open up to something new in life, and it's often something that we're ready to handle at that point. If we ignore the fear, it keeps knocking anyway while waiting to be noticed. Eventually, we can start to feel scared of even being afraid and this suppression takes up much of our time and energy.

There is no solution to fear, and there doesn't need to be. Fear is a natural and potentially energizing part of life, and its source in the body is closely tied to the same place excitement comes from too. Both the feelings of fear and excitement release similar hormones and neurotransmitters in the body. Instead of letting fears take us over and rule how we live, we can learn to take more charge of them. Acknowledging fears as part of reality allows us to take pressure off of ourselves and the need to be perfect. Instead, we can learn our way through the scary experiences. If we let ourselves face fears and process them, we can use the energy that is contained within them to live life how we want.

Luckily, there's no magic trick to facing fears. They're actually right in front of our faces and waiting to be noticed, if we allow space in our lives for them. Start by opening the door that fear is knocking on and saying, "I feel scared of _____________."

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Bringing Your Energy to It

Daily responsibilities and obligations can gradually take a toll on energy flow, making it feel at times like there's no room to use your energy in the way you want to. This experience can be hard to go through, and the physical effects that often result such as fatigue and sleep issues can make things feel worse.

Even though chronic fatigue is commonly thought of as a cluster of physical symptoms, much of fatigue starts out on a mental-emotional level and then spreads to the whole body. Energy may actually be available in the body, but it can be difficult to use when it's been blocked from coming out. Energy can then become stagnant or stuck from lack of use. It's there, but it can feel very out of reach.

In today's busy busy world, this is a common challenge. We may have certain uncontrollable factors that define how and where we use most of our energy. Still, it's important to remember that being able to bring your energy to something you care about helps keep energy flowing in the body and through daily life. Wherever you can create a pocket for yourself, bring your energy to it.

If you enjoy playing music when you're done with the day's work, bring your energy to the notes. If you have ideas on a different type of work you'd like to do in the future, bring your energy to those ideas. If you're a writer, blogger, or talker, bring your energy to the words you use. Enjoy exercise and sports? Bring energy to your movements. If you're in very busy and demanding period of life, however, do what you can and when there's more time to rest you'll have more opportunities.

Your energy matters. Find ways to keep it burning for yourself.

When Can You Be Proud of Yourself?

It's not easy to be proud of yourself. That's not because you haven't done or are aren't doing things that you're proud of---it's actually the opposite.

We live in a world where enough is never enough and this mindset is contagious on an individual level as well. Often, we don't let ourselves feel like anything's good enough. We commonly overlook what we're proud of in favor of holding a magnifying glass to our perceived faults, shortcomings, mistakes, and unreached ideals. Is this fair?

Denying ourselves pride for who we are and what we do can become a vicious cycle. Instead of facing a challenge, job, project, or other task with a sense of satisfaction, we can become addicted to criticizing ourselves for what we're doing wrong. We may actually invent or search for things that we're doing "wrong" in order to perpetuate this cycle.

Being proud of what you do can even bring up feelings of guilt or fear. It's okay for someone else to be proud of you, or for you to be proud of someone else. What's wrong, then, with feeling proud of yourself?

The truth is, there's nothing wrong with it and you deserve it. You can bring the satisfaction to your own life that comes from enjoying who you are and what you do. You don't have to wait for that feeling to come from the outside first in the form of praise, recognition, or a promotion.

You can breathe even more life into what you do by acknowledging what you've already done. The credit you give to yourself is not false or illegal, even though it can feel that way sometimes. It's natural to feel proud of yourself because you have real and first-hand experience of knowing yourself and your work.

There will never be a perfect point in time when it's finally okay for you to be proud of yourself. You can do it anytime you want to. Next time you do something you're excited about and then start to feel that queasy "No--I didn't do it right" feeling: Stop. Ask yourself honestly whether you're really doing everything wrong. Could it be that you're proud of yourself and withholding that feeling?

Monday, March 3, 2014

Is Happiness Your Truth?

In today's world, happiness has moved beyond an emotion and is almost more like a discipline. There is now peer pressure to be happy all the time and this message gets reaffirmed by commercials we see and songs we hear on the radio. A recent song on the radio repeats words such as "Clap along if you feel like happiness is the truth" for four minutes straight. The question is:  what's the crime in experiencing other emotions too during life? It's worth it to explore whether happiness is your ultimate truth or whether going through life honestly through a spectrum of different emotions feels more truthful.

It's a lot of pressure to feel happy all the time. When there are moments in life that don't feel so happy, you have to act counter to your true feelings in order to enforce happiness. Ultimately, the high that comes from uninterrupted happiness can lead to crashes of mood afterward. Extremes can form between alternating feelings of happiness and those of depression. These extreme and unnatural fluctuations in emotion can also disrupt the balance in other areas of health, both physical and mental-emotional.

More than a crystallized ideal to strive for, happiness is a natural part of life that comes alongside other diverse experiences and emotions. We don't need to force it in order to experience it, and forcing it actually works against being able to feel it naturally. Next time you feel like you should be happy, ask yourself whether it's a natural urge to feel this way or whether there's an external expectation for you to be happy. When there's a natural spark to happy moments, you'll know it.

There's nothing wrong with happiness, but it doesn't have to become a rule that overrides everything else in life. Life is more flavorful when you can go through the good times and the bad times, and not always with an unconditional smile pasted on. Is happiness your ultimate truth, or is there more to it than that?

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Worth Your Time

What is worth your time?

There is so much out there in the world today, and there isn't enough time to do or see it all. Supporting health involves picking and choosing which pursuits are worth spending your time on. It might seem urgent to attend to everything all at once, and it's also a subliminal message of the fast-paced world we live in. Being stretched in many different directions has its limits, however, and can ultimately lead to more stress than you need. It can also hamper enjoyment in what you ultimately spend your time doing.

Being busy is okay, but it's helpful to prioritize what's worth busying yourself over. Are there certain areas of life where you've been craving more action, versus other areas where you'd like to feel more calm and less stress? No need to whip out a big To-Do list to prioritize what you want:  it's helpful to feel it first. Relax and try to picture what types of pursuits you'd like to bring more of your energy to. Leave the doubts and worries out of it for now. Let it be a simple exercise that helps you consider the possibilities of how to spend more of your time, your way.

Time may feel like it's against us sometimes, but often it's asking us to make choices regarding what matters to each of us the most. Time is more than just a number. So, what's worth your time?

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Patience Can Help

What is patience?

Patience is valuable in many aspects of life, including health, and it can take practice. Even though it involves waiting, it isn't passive. Even though it can take take time, and often more time than trying to force an outcome to happen, it's not made up of empty time. Patience involves the ability to accept that while not everything is within your control, there are things within reach that you can do to help you get what you want.

Impatience can often set in from the fear that things won't work out, and that if you hurry things up or control situations you can increase the chances. It can be challenging to relax the feeling that everything has to be under control at all times. Fears may arise that it will all fall apart and head in a direction you don't want. Outside of control, life is happening and there's a natural flow to it. That natural flow is more accessible when you invite patience to take part in what's important to you. Will you always know the outcome? No, but the outcome may turn out to be more your style than if you'd decided beforehand how things should turn out.

Patience isn't always the most comfortable feeling in the moment, but in the long run it can help set a healthy pace and rhythm to life and opportunities. It can also give you a chance to clearly picture what you want in life. What areas of life have you felt rushed or impatient about, and how can you breathe more patience into them?

Sunday, January 19, 2014

The Feeling: "I don't care..."

Ever had a feeling pop up that sounds and feels like "I don't care"? These moments can feel disconcerting when they do come up, but they're also a part of life and can be valuable to go through. The thought "I don't care" may not be saying you don't care at all, but more so that you're sick of caring about expectations and pressures that don't suit who you are as a person.

Sometimes we can get wrapped up in caring about things that aren't really important to us. Expectations that we place on ourselves can tell us that we should care about A, B, or C. Where did A, B, and C come from? Wherever they came from, if they don't mean something real to your life they can make you feel like you don't care. It's probably because you really don't care about those expectations.

Expectations and requirements that we impose on our lives can also eclipse things that we actually do care about. A, B, and C can send messages that the things we do care about are meaningless in the face of what should be. When "I don't care" comes up, the true wants are bubbling up under the surface waiting to be noticed again. "I don't care" can mean "I do care". . . about parts of life that are being neglected or dismissed in the face of artificially imposed values. It can also be scary to care about real things, because we feel like it will hurt less in case they don't work out.

Next time you have a feeling of "I don't care," try and think of whether you're paying attention to things you don't care about over those things that you naturally do value.