Monday, July 31, 2017

Simplifying your life, from No Side Bar

Began by choosing less, small, and slow.

Simplifying life is a big change that comes through many small decisions. If you wonder how to choose less in small, everyday ways, here is a list of ideas:
  1. Clear the counter clutter. Clear the kitchen counters of all clutter every evening before bed. This simple ritual will flood your morning with a peaceful clarity for the day ahead.
  2. Choose the salad plate for meals. I started eating meals on a salad plate, rather than the dinner plate, because I recognized a scarcity mentality that feared I might not get enough. Choosing the smaller plate reminds me that there is still enough in smaller portions. I’m eating just enough and wasting less too!
  3. Stick to the grocery list, avoiding impulse treats.
  4. Be slow to speak.
  5. Switch to natural hygiene and cleaning products. Less chemicals = less harm to your body and to the environment. For example: I use coconut oil for make-up remover, body and face moisturizer, and cooking. Vinegar and baking soda are great cleaning agents, and can be used with essential oils and natural soaps like Dr. Bronner’s.
  6. Say no to one activity. Enjoy being not busy.
  7. Give in on a decision.
  8. Be unavailable for a day. Don’t respond to that text yet, it can wait.
  9. Donate one item of clothing.
  10. Waste less. Use your food scraps for a casserole or compost, skip the single-use plastic, recycle, repurpose, restore. Also, don’t buy what you aren’t willing to use completely.
  11. Share an entrée at a restaurant.
  12. Give more than you think you can. Selfless giving always is returned with enough.
  13. Fast from social media.
  14. Accessorize less.
  15. Forego processed foods. You’ve probably heard that processed foods are full of chemicals and additives known to be harmful for human consumption. Typically, they come packaged in single-use plastic. This one decision can make your life healthier while creating less waste.
  16. Fast from digital streaming.
  17. Worry less.
  18. Give up negative self talk. Spend less energy repeating the same self-negative scripts. Studies show positive self-talk is a powerful tool for stress management, physical health, and productivity. An interesting exercise I learned is to write down your daily negative thoughts as they come, the ones most common. Then underneath each, counter the thought with a positive truth. Then cross out the negative completely, until all you’re left with are positive, self-affirming truths.
  19. Make a shorter to-do list.
  20. Choose gratitude over a want. In the barrage of advertising triggering countless desires throughout the day, intentionally choose gratitude. Choose to see what you have as enough and the shiny sparkle of your want will fade in comparison.
  21. Take less than you need. Leave a little extra for someone else.
  22. Go without. Try not replacing something, go without and see what creative solutions appear.
  23. Criticize less.
  24. Save energy.
  25. Choose inconvenience. Slow down. Be inconvenienced and hand wash the dishes. Let the time be a white space for mindfulness and don’t be in such a hurry. Touch each dish (include that salad plate!), be thankful for the meals it served, for the community and conversation it witnessed.
Simple living is an art of the slow and small, intentional pursuit of less. And as for me and my family, we are banking on the daily decisions to do, have, eat, keep, and use less to reflect the more in every day.

When I began simplifying my life I didn’t do it to become a more grateful person. In fact, gratitude wasn’t on my radar. I felt grateful for the obvious things: my family, our home, my faith. But it definitely wasn’t something I pursued or thought it could change my life.

What would it be like to feel absolutely grateful for your life?
How would your life look through the lenses of gratitude?

The shortest path to simplicity is gratitude, friends. If you are ready to take on life through the filter of gratitude, here is a great place to start.

About the Author
Lisa Avellan writes at Simple & Soul, a blog to help you simplify life and discover your best self. She is a stay-at-home wife and mom of two in California. Check out her course Grateful: 7 Principles of Grounding Your Simple Life in Gratitude.

Sunday, July 30, 2017


The great poet and songwriter Leonard Cohen said it best: “There’s a crack in everything; that’s how the light gets in.”

Ernest Hemingway expressed a similar idea when he wrote that we are “strong at the broken places.” 

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Greener Pastures...

From the blog, The Art of Simple comes this quote:

I was in danger of missing my here and now life, letting the grass under my feet dry up and turn to dust, while I obsessively scanned the horizon for greener pastures....

Friday, July 28, 2017

Myths. A Tool for expressing the mystery of God

 " All that is not Eternal is eternally out of date".   C S Lewis
Lewis contends that the human imagination is able to devise myth because God has implanted within the human psyche a realization of His existence and involvement in creation. It was Lewis's love and respect of myth that actually triggered his belief in the incarnation, once he made this myth-Christian connection. Lewis writes:
To me, who first approached Christianity from a delighted interest in, and reverence for, the best pagan imagination, who loved Balder before Christ and Plato before St. Augustine, the anthropological argument against Christianity has never been formidable. On the contrary, I could not believe Christianity if I were forced to say that there were a thousand religions in the world of which 999 were pure nonsense in the thousandth (fortunately) true. My conversion, very largely, dependent on recognizing Christianity as the completion, the actualization, the entelechy, of something that had never been wholly absent from the mind of man. And I still think that the agnostic argument from similarities between Christianity and paganism works only if you know the answer. If you start by knowing on other grounds that Christianity is false, then the pagan stories may be another nail in its coffin: just as if you started by knowing that there were no such things as crocodiles then the various stories about dragons might help to confirm your disbelief. But if the truth or falsehood of Christianity is the very question you are discussing, and the argument from anthropology is surely a petitio.
Lewis argues along lines similar to the apostle Paul in Romans 1:19-20 that "For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse." Lewis concludes that in any given culture humanity creates myth that reveal something of the divine nature.
Both C S Lewis and Joseph Campbell understood myth as a social force that reinforces cultural values. But Lewis would not put long-term value on myth. As he said in The Four Loves, "All that is not eternal is eternally out of date." Because he was supernaturalist and believed the triune God would bring time and creation to a conclusion, that "When all things are subjected to him, then the Son himself will also be subjected to him who put all things in subjection under him, that God may be all in all," Lewis saw something greater than myth and realized that myth did not have eternal significance. Myth was not an end in itself; instead myth was a shadow, a reflection of something greater, and the purpose of myth was to prepare and point people to that something greater, the gospel of Jesus Christ. 

Monday, July 17, 2017

Your mind is the battleground....

“The way in which we choose to perceive and deal with stress is, after all, a tremendous market of biologic age. Studies show that those who embrace stress actually live 17 percent longer. In contrast, as measured by telomere length, it appears that people who don’t effectively manage high levels of stress age their bodies by nine to seventeen  years.” —Dr. Day
Shifting from feeling as though we are lacking and rather appreciating all that is going well is a simple way to shift your mind-set for the better. The American mind-set especially, but we are certainly not alone, tends to work more hours in order to earn more money to buy more or bigger things. But in so doing, we are ratcheting up our stress. As well, finding work you enjoy can reduce your stress level, and paradoxically, Dr. Day points out, enable you to be more productive as you are not depleting your energy but rather are enlivened by what you have the opportunity to do. Such an approach is helpful in both our professional and personal environments.
“At least 70 percent of all visits to the doctor are for stress-related ailments.”
from the blog, The Simply Luxurious Life

In the game of life, we all receive a unique set of unexpected limitations and variables in the field of play.  The question is: How will you respond to the hand you’ve been dealt?  You can either focus on the lack thereof or empower yourself to play the game sensibly and resourcefully, making the very best of every outcome as it arises, even when it’s heartbreaking and hard to accept.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, the mind is our biggest battleground.  It’s the place where the strongest conflict resides.  It’s where half of the things we thought were going to happen, never did happen.  It’s where our expectations always get the best of us.  It’s where we fall victim to our cravings to control the uncontrollable.  And if we allow these thoughts and cravings to dwell in our minds, they will succeed in robbing us of peace, joy, and ultimately our lives.  We will think ourselves into deep heartache and even depression.
Truthfully, there’s so much about life that we can’t control, it makes no sense to waste all our energy on these things and then blatantly neglect everything we CAN control.
from the blog, Marc and Angel

Thursday, July 13, 2017


“We have a knowledge of harmony, anchored deep within. It is this knowledge that enables us, at every instant, to apprehend quality in our lives and, on the rare occasions when everything is in perfect harmony, to appreciate it with the apposite intensity. And I am not referring to the sort of beauty that is the exclusive preserve of Art. Those who feel inspired, as I do, by the greatness of small things will pursue them to the very heart of the inessential where, cloaked in everyday attire, this greatness will emerge from within a certain ordering of ordinary things and from the certainty that all is as it should be, the conviction that it is fine this way.
” —Muriel Barbery 

Monday, July 10, 2017

Savoring Life to enhance positive emotions...

I am presently reading the book,  Hardwiring Happiness by Rick Hanson and enjoying it! So when I found a blog post about this book on the blog, The Simply Luxurious Life I wanted to share. Great book and great blog!

“Growing your inner strengths through taking in the good is like deepening the keel of a sailboat so that it’s less jostled by the worldly winds, it recovers more quickly from big storms, and you can now safely head out into deeper waters in pursuit of your dreams.” —Rick Hanson, author of Hardwiring Happiness

The founding premise of the book Hardwiring Happiness is change your brain, change your life for the better. Having discussed this fact before on the blog/podcast, it may not appear to be profound on the surface, but what always keeps me reading is how do we change our brain to change our lives for the better, how does it actually work neurologically?
And the how is exactly what made the most sense to me above any other book I have read upon reading Hardwiring Happiness.
Simply put, we need to deeply savor the good that occurs in our lives, the small as well as the overtly large and as we do, we begin to build new synapses into our brain, enabling it to expect the good rather than spontaneously always looking for the bad.
The skill that we all need to develop, practice multiple times a day and then use habitually is to take in the good. What is meant by this is a four step process which Hanson outlines in his book, but essentially it is to be present in your life, to be engaged, to be paying attention, and thus, to recognize, and then savor those moments, no matter how small or large, that are good.
“By taking just a few extra seconds to stay with a positive experience you’ll help turn a passing mental state into lasting neural structure . . . the practice brings you into the present moment and teaches you to have more control over your attention.”
Did you wake up and feel rested? Savor this moment for 10 more seconds and let it truly be absorbed by your mind. Did you receive a loving gesture from your partner? Slow down and savor it, engraining into your memory to be appreciated even after the moment has passed. Did you feel safe in your home last night? Tip your hat to the world you have created and take a deep breath to again welcome even more appreciation of the fact into your being.
An analogy (and he uses an abundance of them throughout the book which I found quite helpful) Hanson uses to describe the three step process of rewiring the brain is comparing it to making a fire: “Step 1 lights it, step 2 adds fuel to keep it going, and step 3 fills you with its warmth.” He also further explains that often step 2 & 3 overlap which makes sense because you can adding wood to the fire to keep it going as you are remaining warm.
To repeat the steps (notice the acronym – HEAL):
  1. Have a positive experience 
  2. Enrich the experience
  3. Absorb the experience
  4. (optional step) Link positive and negative material so that positive soothes and even replaces negative
All of this may sound overly simplified, but after reading and coming to understand how the brain works, how it creates paths of memory and why it has evolved the way it has, Dr. Hanson, who is a neuropsychologist, demonstrates that it is in the daily routines and the daily tracks we allow to run through our mind that create a happier, I like to use the word contented, way of living every single day not matter what is going on outside of us.
Why? Dr. Hanson dives deeply into this, but a basic synopsis is “In a positive circle, feeling better helps you act better, which helps the world treat you better, which helps you feel better.”
And on the flip-side, if we continue to let negative events run through our minds and become absorbed by them, we are making tracks in our mind, strengthening synapses that reinforce the need to be on the look out for negative and thus reactive rather than responsive which I detailed in episode #145 of the podcast.
In fact, Dr. Hanson points out due to our ancestral need for survival which actually impedes our way of life in the 21st century, our brain is designed in such a away that “negative stimuli are perceived more rapidly and easily than positive stimuli”. In other words, “the default setting of the brain is to overestimate threats and underestimate opportunities and underestimate resources both for coping with threats and for fulfilling opportunities”. Which is why, it requires a conscious effort to rewire the brain to be less fearful and more positive seeking, and if we do nothing, the above hereditary scenario will persist throughout the duration of our lives blocking us from attaining our full potential.
Knowledge of how the brain works is power. And upon reading the book, if further understanding of the most powerful tool in your body is of interest to you, you will appreciate this book and how he delivers the information.
Let’s talk about the “how” of savoring the good moments, both enriching them and absorbing them.
1. Slow down
In order to recognize when a good moment has occurred, we need to slow down. At that time, take 10 more seconds to just fully observe, imprint in your memory what is going well.
2. Become fully aware of what surrounds you
Being present in the now will help you to be fully aware of all that is going on, all that is going well and even if certain things are not, because you are fully aware, you can put it into perspective, bring forward the good and ratcheting down the not so good so that it doesn’t become more inflamed than it needs to be.
3. Strengthen emotional intelligence 
There are many components to being emotionally intelligent (I go in detail in episode #140), but the key component to rewiring your brain is to be able to identify your emotions and what you are feeling accurately. And then once you understand what you are feeling, if it is a positive feeling, you can grow the feeling into a mood – for example as Dr. Hanson points out, you can grow a feeling of gladness and gratitude into a mood of contentment. Conversely, if you recognize you are feeling sad about something, you can combat the feeling from developing into a mood of depression simply by recognizing what you are feeling, why you are feeling and combating it by shifting your mind and even your environment to a positive scenario so that your mind doesn’t become fixating on something that isn’t productive or helpful.
4. Instead of wanting, choose to like or appreciate the moment
Often we are fully aware that a moment or an experience is exponentially good and because we know it is good, we want more of it. But by wanting, as Hanson points out, we aren’t experiencing what is going on right now. We are removing ourselves from the situation and acting in such a way that reveals we unconsciously feel we lack something, thus the “want”. In fact, our “want” is killing any growth of more goodness.
Instead, be present, enjoy what is occurring, appreciate it for what it is without cajoling to trying to make more and relish what you have the opportunity to be amongst. As I have learned upon bringing more appreciative and secure people into my life, is that when such beautiful moments happen, I can take that moment with me in my memory so long as I savor the experience and allow my memory to absorb it fully and then replay it whenever I need to to brighten my future days. Again, more is not better, simply deepen what you are given by following the three step process: have a good experience, enrich it/savor it and absorb it/commit it to memory. 
5. Give yourself permission 
I recently was listening to Christopher Kimball’s Milk Street Radio podcast, and he was interviewing Nigella Lawson who stated on the topic of guilty pleasures, “Look, if you feel guilty about pleasure, you don’t deserve to have pleasure.” Back in 2013 I wrote a post about the difference between pleasure and joy, and while one is not bad and the other good, knowing where each is derived is important. However, with regards to rewiring the brain, anytime we observe and experience a pleasure, we can turn the pleasure into joy which is something entirely within our own control. For example, I pulled an excerpt from the post mentioned above. Here is a list of how to welcome more joy into your life, and upon doing so, you can make all of these moments opportunities to rewire your brain as you shift to a more contented way of living each and every day.
1. Look inward – become at peace with who you are, and celebrate your uniqueness.
2. Take time to meditate, pray and be still.
3. Allow external inspiration (art, nature, music, conversation) to stir your inner creativity, and act upon those moments of inspiration – create, dream and act according to what is provoked within you.
4. Figure out your purpose/passion and then go pursue it
5. Be thankful for what you already have, rather than what you lack
6. Give when you have the resources, time and energy to do so
7. Pursue avenues/dreams that are meaningful and align with your values
8. Plan activities that cultivate more moments of joy – simple meals, gatherings, events that you are curious about, etc.
The conclusion of Hardwiring Happiness that drove the point home for me of choosing to take on the task of changing the hardwiring my brain (because initially it will have to be an entirely conscious choice) was the realization that when we shift away from seeking more happiness and running or trying to avoid pain, we come to recognize that we have the ability to be content wherever we are at any given moment. We have that power. We do not have to chase it, we don’t have to run from what we perceive as bad moments. Because as we begin to live more consciously, as we begin to focus on the good, take it in fully and commit it to memory, we begin to build a life that snowballs in the best of ways. The cycle that was mentioned above strengthens and we attract people, moments and environments that are full of goodness to appreciate because we are someone who brings and cultivates moments of goodness in our lives and those around us.
“Taking in the good is not about chasing after pleasure or chasing away pain. It’s about bringing the chase to an end.”

Sunday, July 9, 2017

The Game of Life...from Marc and Angel Hack Life

In the game of life, we all receive a unique set of unexpected limitations and variables in the field of play. The question is: How will you respond to the hand you’ve been dealt?You can either focus on the lack thereof or empower yourself to play the game sensibly and resourcefully, making the very best of every outcome as it arises, even when it’s heartbreaking and hard to accept.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, the mind is our biggest battleground. It’s the place where the strongest conflict resides. It’s where half of the things we thought were going to happen, never did happen. It’s where our expectations always get the best of us. It’s where we fall victim to our cravings to control the uncontrollable. And if we allow these thoughts and cravings to dwell in our minds, they will succeed in robbing us of peace, joy, and ultimately our lives. We will think ourselves into deep heartache and even depression.

Truthfully, there’s so much about life that we can’t control, it makes no sense to waste all our energy on these things and then blatantly neglect everything we CAN control.

We can choose how we spend our time right now. We can choose gratitude and grace. We can choose whom we socialize with – whom we share this day of our lives with. We can choose to love and appreciate the people in our lives for exactly who they are. We can choose to love and appreciate ourselves too. We can choose how we’re going to respond to life’s surprises and disappointments when they arise, and whether we will see them as curses or opportunities for personal growth.

And, perhaps most importantly, we can choose to think better about our past and present circumstances, and let go of what we can’t control, so we can consciously make the best of the next chapter in our lives.

Friday, July 7, 2017

The Small, Still Voice....

When managing life takes over enjoying life, we have entered a danger zone. And silence provides rescue.

From Harvard Business Review: “Real sustained silence, the kind that facilitates clear and creative thinking, quiets inner chatter as well as outer.

This kind of silence is about resting the mental reflexes that habitually protect a reputation or promote a point of view. It’s about taking a temporary break from one of life’s most basic responsibilities: Having to think of what to say.”

Isn’t that exhausting?

In conversations with your people or during prayer with the Creator, sometimes we need to listen more than interject. Find a good listener and find someone who practices silence often.

“When we’re constantly fixated on the verbal agenda—what to say next, what to write next, what to tweet next—it’s tough to make room for truly different perspectives or radically new ideas. It’s hard to drop into deeper modes of listening and attention. And it’s in those deeper modes of attention that truly novel ideas are found.”

When was the last time you practiced listening?
From The Sabbath Society, Shelley Miller

Ten Good Quotes from Marc and Angel

1. Everything is created twice, first in the mind and then in reality. So pay close attention to the thoughts you choose. They have a way o...