Always Well Within

Calm Your Mind, Ease Your Heart, Embrace Your Inner Wisdom

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September 2011 Review: Change

Autumn leaves symbol of change

Tammy Strobel and Gwen Bell have inspired me to try out a monthly review.

It might help me keep my feet on the ground!   And I hope it will help and inspire you in some way too.

Sudden Change

Like a sudden, dramatic fall storm, change seems to be popping out of nowhere and everywhere.  Is change touching or disrupting your life too?

Listening to one of the interviews in the Earth Changes series at Evolving Beings gave me a new perspective on change.  Apparently, there are many powerful planetary and astrological shifts in play at this time – like the Comet Elenin and the Uranas – Pluto Square (2011 – 2016).  These forces are shaking things up quite a bit for individuals and society.  Witness the Wall Street protests as one example.

It seems like a really good time to learn to dance with change, don’t you think?  We’re in this together so let’s support one another.

Trust, receptivity, living consciously, being responsible for your actions, coming from the heart, and realizing a sense of connectedness with all others will help you navigate these stormy seas.  Change itself is not good or bad.  It just is.  We can decide to flow with it or resist.  My initial temptation is to resist, but my aspiration and intention is to flow.

Flowing with Change

On a personal level, change threw me for a loop in September.  Believe me, anything you think will never change can and may indeed change.  It can happen in a flash.  What seemed familiar can instantly seem oddly unfamiliar and even foreign.

I felt the rug pulled out from under me, but it woke me right up to the truth of impermanence.   How could I have forgotten?  Holding on to a cozy, happily ever-after scenario will never work.  Everything changes at one point or another.

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Has Blogging Murdered Eloquence & Elegance?

Have you compromised your writing style to be a better or more popular blogger?

It’s true, blogging is a different medium.  It requires a somewhat different touch.

But how far do you go?

This question has been stirring in my heart and mind for quite some time now.

A fitting topic, so it seems, on the occasion of receiving the Stylish Blogger Award from the wonderful happiness enthusiast Galen Pearl.  Thank you, Galen!  I’ll pass the honor along at the end of this post.

In the meantime, only the bold and the brave should proceed!  You will indeed encounter humungous words, an abundance of funny symbols, and several of my pet peeves.

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One Powerful Word 2011, Yours & Mine

The idea of choosing One Powerful Word as your guidepost for the new year seems to have a highly positive magnetic charge.  There’s so much excitement and enthusiasm for this simple alternative to New Year’s Resolutions.

If you haven’t chosen your word yet, that’s OK.   There’s no rush.  Let it germinate and blossom in its own time.  You’ll find inspiration and simple tips for choosing and working with your perfect word in my original blog post – One Powerful Word:  A Simple Approach to New Year’s Resolutions – and in this article too.

By the way, we cheat!  One word, two, or three – it’s all good.  It’s all OK.

Your Powerful Words

It was a supreme pleasure to hear your enthusiasm and read your chosen words in your comments.  Here are the words that you have either embraced or been seriously tempted by:

  • Balancing Serenity and Full Throttle Ahead
  • Bold
  • Compassion
  • Continuous and Never Ending Improvement (CANI)
  • Courage
  • Creativity – Express and Embrace
  • Decide
  • Fearless
  • Flow
  • Growth
  • Healing
  • Just Breathe!
  • Gentle
  • Kindness and Positivity
  • Love
  • Mindfulness
  • Minimalist
  • Nying je – the Supreme Emotion
  • Omipotent
  • Peace
  • Peace and Abundance
  • Present
  • Reconciliation
  • Rise and Shine, Sunshine
  • Simplify and Grow
  • Success
  • Team-Time
  • Trailblaze
  • Passion
  • Void
  • Yield

You will find more inspiration for finding and working with your special word in these insightful blog posts.

  • Lance at The Jungle of Life chose shine.
  • Galen at 10 Steps to Finding Your Happy Place chose yield.
  • Tess at The Bold Life chose love.

Or if you need more words, try these simple approaches:

If you’ve written a blog post on your One Powerful Word 2011 please leave the link in the comments.

My One Powerful Word 2011:  Healing

Almost all of us need healing in one way or another, don’t we?

It might be a small hurt from sharp words, a funny kink in an important relationship, a deep childhood wound, a severe trauma, or sudden serious illness that’s caused us to lose our ground.

But sometimes healing isn’t easy to come by.

Then the planets shift.  A karma completes.  Grace penetrates.  The time is suddenly and gorgeously ripe for healing.

I didn’t choose healing.  Healing chose me.

It all began gradually last summer, a month or two before my birthday.  In astrology, this is the time of the solar return when themes and issues in your life naturally shift.  It’s not the exact time of your birth time. It may be the day before or the day after and it changes each year.  As astrologer Mary Fortier Shea explains.

“A solar return chart is a chart erected for the time that the transiting Sun returns to the position of the natal Sun.”

“The significance of the solar return runs birthday to birthday, with a three month overlap at the beginning and end of each year.  The symbolism of the new solar return can be felt as much as three months before the birthday by very intuitive people.  Usually, at this time, one becomes aware of new directions, opportunities, and problems.  …On the other hand, the significance of the old solar return may not feel passé until three months after your birthday.”

This may be one reason that many people aren’t successful with New Year’s Resolutions.  It’s not a natural time to make changes for everyone.

Since my own birthday in September, I’ve noticed an increase in spontaneous occurrences related to healing.  For example, I happened upon a medical intuitive who graciously tuned in and told me the name of a specific remedy I need.  I didn’t know this person and didn’t ask for a reading.  It was a brief, chance encounter.  I may never see her again.

So HEALING is my One Powerful Word 2011

Profound healing.  Deep healing. Joyful healing.  Playful healing.

Healing encompasses faith, contentment, comfort and ease – the other contenders for my 2011 extraordinary word.  A single word doesn’t have to be limiting.  Like a jewel with many facets it can and most likely will  reflect different aspects of your transformative process.

What am I healing?

  • A frazzled nervous system
  • An overactive immune system
  • The remnants of trauma

My Healing Tool Kit

Here’s my healing toolkit:

  • meditation and mindfulness
  • loving kindness
  • faith and trust
  • breathing exercises
  • relaxation
  • rest
  • playfulness
  • visualization
  • nature
  • the elements
  • gardening
  • chi gong
  • expressive writing – blogging and journaling
  • eco-friendly conscious living
  • drumming
  • intuition and receptivity
  • NAET and other unconventional approaches to healing
  • acupuncture
  • meaningful relationships

Meditation itself is profoundly healing.  It’s the core of my approach to wellness and a primary focus in my life.

“The secret of health for both mind and body is not to mourn for the past, not to worry about the future, or not to anticipate troubles, but to live in the present moment wisely and earnestly.” – Buddha

What does healing mean to me?  This definition captures the essence of healing:

“Healing means to ‘to make whole.’  It, in fact derives from the same root as ‘health’ and ‘whole.’

from The Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Sourcebook – A Guide to Healing, Recovery, and Growth by Glen R. Shiraldi

Recovery means returning to your former state of health.  That may not always be possible.

But healing – feeling whole again – always is. Here’s a toast to feeling whole again.  For me and for you!

Have you chosen One Powerful Word for 2011?  Please tell us in the comments and let us know how the process has been for you.

If you liked this article, please share the link with others.  Thanks so much!  Sandra

Expert advice on writing faster blog posts

I know I am a good writer. Now, I aspire to be a faster writer!  Is that possible?

There are plenty of bloggers who claim they can write 20-minute blog posts.  Are they delirious?

While following 30 Days of Getting Results the Agile Way, a free online course offered by Microsoft manager J. D. Meier, 20-minute blog posts were offered as an example of setting boundaries.  I respect J. D. and know he’s not delirious so I asked him, “Is it really possible to write 20-minute blog posts?”

Lessons from J. D. Meier on writing faster blog posts

J. D. says you can write an excellent blog post in 20 minutes.  This is his advice in a nutshell with my added commentary.

1.  The key is to get clarity on one specific problem you want to solve. J. D. focuses each post on sharing one useful nugget that solves a problem, answers a question, makes you feel, or makes you laugh.

Having expert knowledge at your fingertips clearly makes it possible to write more quickly.  Without expertise, posts will take longer.  Therefore, it makes sense to focus on topics you have already mastered, at least part of the time.  Take a minute to review your previous posts to see if they have one focus or whether they meander.  If you are a wanderer, try practicing one focus per blog article.

2. Write with might. The faster you go, the more you will flow, unleash, and surprise yourself.

This is excellent advice for improving both speed and quality of writing.  Write for 20 minutes straight without stopping to review, edit, or make corrections.  If you find writing for a full 20 minutes too challenging, start by experimenting with 5-minute free flow sessions. Use this approach for every draft and see if you can pick up speed over time.

3. Use a plain text editor.

J. D. has taught many people on his team  to write quickly and not let tools or their inner-critic get in the way.  His team members have been surprised by how much faster they write in a plain text editor.

4. Another approach is to aim for 20-minute blog posts progressively by shaving off 10 minutes each time you write a post.

If the idea of a 20-minute blog post is too intimidating, a gradual approach like this might be an effective alternative for you.

5. Each post is an opportunity to practice.

Speed increases with practice.  Professional bloggers often advise writing 1,000 words or more each and every day as a means to improving both speed and quality.  It takes practice to perfect any skill.  This doesn’t mean publishing every word that you write, but practicing daily to get better.

6. Capture your main ideas when they flow, scribble them quickly into a plain text editor or a notebook if you are on the go, and then let them percolate.  Go back to an idea when you are in the “zone” and flesh it out.

Speed and quality will always be best when you are in the “zone.”  Do you know your optimal times for writing?  Do you have methods for getting into the “zone”?  Do you write when you are inspired or do you push yourself to soldier on?

7. Finish with a quick pass. When you are done writing your draft in a plain text editor, paste it into your favorite editor or your blog editor, and then make a quick pass to sweep your writing, add links, and tune it up.

Simply being aware of efficiency can help you to find shortcuts for all the steps involved in fine-tuning your first draft as well.

The caveat

Almost everyone agrees that it’s realistic to aim for a 20-30 minute first draft.  Those who have perfected the prowess like Jim Estil are able to write 400-500 word blog posts in 20 minutes.  J. D. outshines them all with his capacity to write even longer posts in 20 minutes.

Here’s the caveat: most bloggers find that it’s the additional proofreading, editing, creating links, finding an image, and initial research that take up an extra meaty chunk of time.  However, by following and practicing J. D.’s tips, you will be able to reduce the amount of time it takes to write a good first draft.  Chances are, you will also find the process more enjoyable.

Reality check with Jon Morrow and James Chartrand

Remember, we are all different. Don’t be disheartened if it takes you longer to write a blog post.

In an article on getting more blog traffic by writing less, Jon Morrow from Copyblogger says,

“Some writers are faster than others, but in general, if you’re spending less than two hours on most of your posts, you’re probably going too fast. Cut back the quantity, and focus on quality.”  The 1200-word article that contains this quote, took Jon four hours to write and he said “…that’s pretty fast for me.”

In a comment on Jon Morrow’s article, James Chartrand from Men With Pens says,

“I can write about 500 words in 15 minutes, and it can be good enough to go without an edit.  That said, good enough is relevant to where it’s being posted and for what reason. “How to make peanut butter” $5 content mills? You betcha. A leading blog with 100k readers? Truly great blog posts take me a minimum of 2 hours and often around 4, when all the editing, reading aloud, double-checking and extra stuff is factored in.”

Not all of us will win the Olympic medal for the fastest blog post, but we can all improve.  Here’s my strategy.

My strategy for writing faster blog posts

My question to J. D. arose from his advice on “Sloughing Off” from 30 Days of Getting Results the Agile Way. He says, “letting things slough off simply means either letting things go from your plate either by design or as a natural process of focusing on higher priorities.” He goes on to explain that this involves creating boundaries and then letting go. Boundaries can be determined by quantity or time.

To achieve my goal of writing faster, I decided to use J. D.’s advice on setting boundaries in addition to practicing his writing tips.  I am limiting the total amount of time I spend on blogging each weekday and also keeping an eye on word count.  Limiting word count is a great way to reign in a tendency to be wordy or complicated – and your posts will automatically take less time.

J. D.’s tips are helping me to write more efficiently and more effectively.  This is freeing up time for other high priority activities—blog related and otherwise—without sacrificing quality.  It’s also a great way to avoid writing fatigue and instead keep the joy flowing.  Many thanks to J. D. Meier.

I’m curious: How long does it take for you to write a first draft?  A complete a post?  I would love to hear your advice on writing faster, please share.

If you liked this article, please share the link.  Thanks so much!  Sandra

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101 rays of gratitude

The decision to practice joy, positivity, and gratitude is by far one of the greatest decisions you can make in your lifetime.

I understand if positivity doesn’t come easily for you because it doesn’t come naturally to my inborn Virgo character.  There’s a tendency to be critical of self and others.  To see the glass as half empty instead of half full. To strive for perfection and thus notice errors—even the tiny ones.  There’s the urge to correct everything and everyone in sight.

Fortunately, we are not bound by our astrology or anything else for that matter. In my own life, I’ve found that it simply comes down to making a decision, once and for all and in every moment, to choose joy, happiness, and positivity.  Happiness doesn’t depend upon external circumstances.  It depends on how you choose to perceive whatever arises in your day-to-day life. Life is not always rosy, but whatever happens, you can strive to always be well within.

Practicing joy and gratitude

Such an attitude shift is not necessarily a cakewalk.  It requires practice, patience, and repetition.  Some people are born warm, fuzzy, and bright.  The rest of us have to make a determined effort to get there, but the rewards are great and the path can be one of joyful diligence rather than struggle. Just like darkness cannot exist where there is light, when you think positively, negativity automatically dissolves.  Thus, by practicing positivity habitually, joy will spontaneously grow your life.

Gratitude is one aspect of positivity that can be practiced any time, any place.  To make it a habit, just spend 5 minutes each morning or evening reflecting upon and appreciating all the gifts in your life.  Deeply feel a sense of gratitude, let it permeate your being and shine out.  Then whenever a negative thought arises during the day replace it with a ray of gratitude.  Make a commitment to practice this daily for a month and you will be well on your way to mastering this self-transforming art.

Remember, it’s a ‘practice,’ which means none of us are perfect quite yet.  Give yourself space for joy and gratitude to slowly buildup and negativity to gradually decline.  Negativity will indeed pop up from time to time.  When it does, just gently move your mind to gratitude without indulging in self-recrimination.  If this crusty Virgo can find more joy in life, there’s no question that you can too!

My 100 rays of gratitude

Making a list of gratitudes—as many as you can think of—is a wonderful way to jump start the process of establishing this new habit.  Take some time and have fun creating your own list.   I spent a few weeks gradually accumulating my list, which meant my mind was gravitating back to gratitude often during each day.

Here are my 100 rays of gratitude.

I’m deeply grateful for:

1. this precious lifetime.
2. my extraordinary spiritual teachers—their kindness, compassion, wisdom, tireless activity, and supreme vision.
3. receiving an abundance of authentic spiritual teachings.
4. my parents.  It is only due to their kindness that I have the opportunity of this precious lifetime.
5. my amazing husband, who continues to shine and grow by leaps and bounds.  He is a tremendous inspiration to me and a fabulous partner.
6. my siblings for all their loving care, kindness, and support.
7. all my friends from childhood until now.
8. free access to information via books, libraries, the internet, and other mediums.  Not everyone has free access to information!
9. being television free for four years+.
10. friendly neighbors.
11. the chance to own my home for the first time in my life, a rare privilege indeed.
12. living in a non-toxic home.
13. being able to eat.  So many are subject to famine, poverty, or illness, unable to nourish themselves adequately.
14. being able to use my hands.
15. clean water, the essence of life.
16. having found my true vocation as a writer.
17. learning to love and accept myself.
18. letting go of fear.
19. letting go of anger.
20. blogging friends.
21. being able to help and touch others through my blog.
22. the readers of my blog, thoughtful commentors, and those who share links to my articles via their social networks.
23. people who are dedicated to creating a better world like Beth Terry, Raam Dev, and Wandering Gaia.
24. the internet – creating a closer-knit global community and opportunities for transforming this world.
25. the natural beauty and aloha spirit of Hawai’i.
26. the ocean, the mountains, the sky.

27. alternative medicine—Naturopathy, Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine, Ayurveda, Tibetan Medicine, Integrative Medicine, Chiropractic, Homeopathy and others.
28. the full spectrum of colors.
29. natural healing—massage, all forms of bodywork, Qigong, Yoga, and countless others.
30. owning a computer.
31. all those who produce green options to plastic, petroleum, and other toxic products.
32. all those who have helped me on my path of healing.
33. all those who have been a thorn in my side, teaching me the most valuable of lessons.
34. the dynamic forces of nature: the elements of wind, fire, earth, water, and metal (or space).
35. the world of the senses—sights, sounds, sensations, smells, tastes.
36. the great writers, dreamers, activists, thinkers, spiritual leaders, and peacemakers of our time who inspire, challenge, and urge us to live meaningfully.
37. indoor plumbing
38. having a washing machine and the ability to wash my clothes in non-toxic laundry detergent without fabric softeners and bleach.
39. bathtubs.
40. epsom salts baths.
41. the healing pond.
42. our deck.
43. lava rock.
44. medicinal plants.
45. our garden and greenhouse.
46. www.treehugger (dot) com
47. our galaxy, the planets and the stars.
48. astrology.
49. the playfulness of whales and dolphins.
50. miracles – they happen all the time.
51. positive people.
52. this ever so patient body, incredibly strong and resilient, the vehicle for this lifetime of discovery.
53. homeopathic medicine.
54. environmental awareness, growing exponentially.
55. living in a warm climate.
56. all the health bloggers who share their stories and information far ahead of the constraints of Western medicine.
57. organic seeds.
58. rainbows.

59. mindfulness meditation for chronic pain.
60. Amygdala Retraining.
61. Dynamic Neural Retraining.
62. the sounds of nature.
63. health food stores.
64. farmers’ markets.
65. the U. S. Postal Service.
66. being highly sensitive for all that it’s taught me.
67. people who do not wear perfume, fragrance, and essential oils and those who do not use fragranced laundry products due to the health dangers of fragrance.
68. sunlight
69. healthy, happy kittens, my favorite personal development coaches.
70. stress reduction strategies.
71. recycling centers.
72. online meditation courses.
73. time for personal retreat.
74. polar bears and sea turtles.
75. the seasons.
76. the Environmental Working Group.
77. everyone who is taking personal responsibility and reducing their oil use.
78. the low-oxalate diet.
79. organic farmers.
80. baking soda, the ultimate non-toxic all-around helper.
81. public libraries.
82. Emergency Medical Technicians.
83. recycling centers.
84. volunteers.
85. nightlights.
86. flashlights.
87. composting.
88. the beauty and symbolism of lotus flowers.

89. quiet and solitude.
90. the feminist movement.
91. bamboo and other sustainable resources.
92.WordPress.com
93. pioneers, innovators, researchers who have the courage of their convictions in the face of resistance.
94. synchronicity.
95. the forest.
96. the Buddha and his teachings.
97. Tibet.
98. the Dalai Lama.
99. the practices for cultivating love, joy, compassion, and equanimity.
100. meditation and teachings on the nature of mind.
101. knowing it all to be like a dream.

“Always recognize the dreamlike qualities of life and reduce attachment and aversion.  Practice good-heartedness toward all beings.  Be loving and compassionate, no matter what others do to you.  What they will do will not matter so much when you see it as a dream.  The trick is to have positive intention during the dream.  This is the essential point.  This is true spirituality.” – Chagdud Tulku Rinpoche in the book Life in Relation to Death

Please share your tips for practicing joy and gratitude.

Thank you for reading and sharing!  If you enjoyed this article please subscribe for free updates by email.  With love, Sandra

Tumultuous emotions

It’s been a tumultuous period, this past week, due to chemical exposures and food trials.  There is pain and discomfort.  Gnarly emotions trying to get my goat and succeeding from time-to-time.

Yesterday, I briefly sat at the ocean watching the waves.  This is what came to my mind.

Just like the ocean, one moment mind is stormy and the next it is calm.  True happiness and peace comes from recognizing the transitory nature of all that appears in the mind.  Don’t seek for happiness or shrink from displeasure.  Just let be with whatever comes your way.  It will dissolve naturally on its own.

This is not my original thinking.  It’s the heart of all the spiritual teachings I’ve been fortunate to receive over the years.

Sometimes we mistake spirituality for a “feel good” approach. Life will not always be a bowl of cherries.  There’s no usefulness in indulging the negative thoughts that arise at difficult times, but it’s also not beneficial to suppress them or pretend they don’t exist.  When we practice seeing their transitory nature, they vanish on their own.

True wisdom is so far beyond clinging to happiness.  It is the ultimate path of letting go.

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