How to Start Conversations with Strangers

Connecting with StrangersHow do you enter conversations with people you don’t know?

I grew up with gregarious parents and have enthusiastically emulated them. Although my mother referred to herself as shy, I never observed her that way. She seemed to be able to engage with people in various scenarios. My father was raised in South Philly (home of the iconic pugilist character Rocky) where talking to people on the stoop or street corner was commonplace. He learned how to communicate with those from all walks of life from his own blue collar, working class sensibilities. No matter where our family went, it seems my father always knew someone, and it took forever to say goodbye as we attempted to take our leave. I would also marvel as he would strike up conversations with people he had never met. 

As a therapist, I work with clients who, in some cases, experience social anxiety, which is defined by the Social Anxiety Institute as “the fear of interaction with other people that brings on self-consciousness, feelings of being negatively judged and evaluated, and, as a result, leads to avoidance,” and don’t have the comfort level that would allow them to do that. The jury is still out about whether it is nature or nurture.

What some tell me is that they don’t know how to initiate or join in. I think of it like jump rope and knowing when and how to jump in without tripping over the rope held on either end as it spins over your head and on to the ground.

Call out your inner nerd

I have also used a tool with my teen clients who often walk down the hallways at school, head down, as they avoid eye contact, wishing themselves invisible. I ask them to imagine cartoon character-like thought bubbles above the heads of their classmates as they make their own way to classes. In each one is a self- deprecating message, like “OMG, I can’t believe I’m such a dork.” “How could I have blown that test?” “She’s never going to go out with me, since she’s out of my league.” “Why did I wear this dress today? I look so fat.” By the time we get through this exercise, they are usually laughing as they realize that everyone harbors an inner nerd who thinks others are way cooler than they are.

I add to it that when I was their age (more than four decades ago), I never felt like one of the cool kids. It wasn’t until I attended my 35th high school reunion that some of those I looked up to and wanted to be like, informed me that they thought I was one of the cool kids and wanted to be like me, including one who said he had a crush on me. I asked, “Couldn’t you have told me that back then? It would have prevented a lot of adolescent angst.”

What keeps people from throwing caution to the wind and jumping in?

  • Fear of not having anything meaningful to say.
  • Stumbling over their words or stuttering. I tell my clients the story of actor James Earl Jones whose stuttering was almost debilitating until a teacher helped him to recover by having him read poetry aloud. Jones was featured on the website for The Stuttering Foundation.
  • Fear of forgetting what they want to communicate.
  • Poor self-image and a belief that they are not worthy of another’s time or attention.
  • Reinforcement by caregivers and other adults of their worst perception of themselves.
  • Not wanting to be rude by joining a conversation without invitation.
  • Feeling under-educated about current events.
  • Somatic symptoms such as dry mouth, heart palpitations, perspiration, facial flushing, and dizziness.

Recently, when I walked into a local gathering place to hear a friend perform, I asked to sit at the end of a table where a few others had already made themselves comfortable, beverages in front of them. A woman smiled and motioned me to be there. I enjoyed the music and then overheard part of their conversation about having been married by a monk in Thailand and (with only a slight hesitation), I invited myself in and inquired about the experience. As an interfaith minister, I am fascinated about how couples meet as well as their unique wedding ceremonies. They welcomed me in and a conversation ensued about the state of the world, relationships, The Dalai Lama — who I interviewed in 2008 — spirituality, life in our town, and serendipity/synchronicity. None of that would have happened, had I not been willing to ask to sit with them or initiate conversation. I am also an adept listener who is truly interested in hearing other people’s stories.

I had inquired of others on social media: “What allows you to converse with strangers?”

“I am good at interviewing people, so I like to ask them questions but not private stuff. Many people like to talk about themselves and like knowing someone is interested. I am not good at walking up to people and introducing myself. I do like to listen though.”

“I am very good at walking up to people and introducing myself, but insecurities immediately set in — about people being silently turned off by what I’m saying, about talking too long, about dragging out unwelcome topics — which sends me into a communication death spiral of anxiety & self-consciousness.”

“I can go into a ladies’ room and come out with three new friends.”

“I’ll talk to anyone. My husband says he’s learning to do the same thing. It can be the weather, kids, or anything. Went to the post office for my house and a woman came in. We ended up taking about kids, grandkids, her thyroid issues, my thyroid issues, her recent bone scan.”

When I moved from CT to PA, I knew almost no one and had no ready-made social circle. I am naturally introverted and have some social anxiety, so I would bring yarn with me most places. I crochet and often people would stop to talk to me, comment on what I am making, and then sometimes start a longer conversation. I still bring yarn with me a lot of the time. Most of what I make are gifts for people, usually new babies. If no one talks to me, I am still enjoying something I love and making something beautiful for someone.”

Remember that everyone you now know, and love was once a stranger and your relationship with began with a conversation.

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What Annoys Us About Others Can Teach Us About Ourselves

“Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves.” ~Carl Jung

When my wife and I had children, little did we know that we’d be creating little bundles of nerves. Between my wife’s depression and my own anxiety, we created two anxiety-ridden, depressed balls of mess, and then some.

Don’t get me wrong, we love our two girls to death, and we are very proud of them. They are both very strong and beautiful young ladies. Occasionally we like hanging out with them too.

While the two girls have similar interests, their personalities couldn’t be more different. They both exhibit anxiety and depression, yet they show it in different ways. The oldest has panic attacks and hyperventilates, unable to stop herself from crying and heaving. The youngest just curls up in a ball and is unable to move or do anything.

We find it interesting that the qualities we love, and those we dislike, about both girls stem from both of us. It is as if though the Universe took the best and the worst from both of us and amplified it in our children.

All That Talent Gone to Waste

My oldest daughter is naturally talented in many areas. She’s strong and athletic, she’s naturally artistic, she’s smart, and she also has a talent for music. She has a beautiful voice, and picked up playing classical guitar in almost no time.

What drives my wife crazy is that my daughter doesn’t realize how talented and gifted she is.

What drives me crazy is that she doesn’t develop that talent, and do something with it. She has so much potential.

As parents, it is easy for us to look at our children and wail and moan about their perceived shortcomings, their lost potential, and so forth. We know what they are going through, because we have both been there. We both struggle with anxiety, so we know what it looks like and how it affects our children.

In general, isn’t it easier to see the shortcomings that we perceive in other people, than our own?

Little Mirrors

What I’ve realized, however, is that our children mirror our own behaviors and attitudes as parents. What annoy us about our children’s personalities are often quirks we ourselves have.

This principle actually applies to all our relationships, not just with those of us with children. We should stop and ask ourselves, “Am I setting that example? Am I acting the same way?” Often, we don’t realize that what annoys us about someone else is actually an issue we ourselves have.

For instance, in extreme cases, children who exhibit violent behaviors often come from violent households. They are mirroring the behavior they have been exposed to at home.

In my wife’s case, it drives her crazy that my oldest daughter doesn’t realize how talented and gifted she is, even though my wife clearly sees it. Yet, when I look at my wife, I see the same thing in her! It is indeed ironic.

My wife doesn’t think she’s very talented or gifted, and wonders what people see in her. Obviously I saw something in her, because I married her! So the very issue that irritates my wife about my daughter is the very issue that she herself unconsciously struggles with.

So Much Potential…

What drives me nuts about my oldest daughter? It frustrates me that I see so much potential in her, and yet I don’t see her developing it. She has so much natural talent, she could be a leader. Her peers look up to her and admire her, and she doesn’t even realize it.

What does this say about me? Am I the same way?

Looking at myself through the same lenses, I am forced to laugh, because I do see the same thing! Like my daughter, I probably have many talents I don’t even realize I have. Looking at myself from the outside, I think I have the potential to be a leader as well, but I choose not to. I had so much potential…

Learning About Ourselves

From this perspective, I can’t really blame my daughter. I have social anxiety and don’t want to deal with people, and I know she does too. Often times I’ll go out of my way to avoid people. What I perceive as my daughter not developing her talents is more than likely her not wanting to be the center of attention. I can relate to that—I don’t like being the center of attention either.

I never thought I would be learning about myself from my own children. Sure, I figured they’d know more about new technologies than me, for example. When I have a question about how to do something on my iPhone, for instance, I go to them, and they can show me right away.

Yet, what my children are teaching me are what issues I need to deal with in myself. Perhaps I, too, have many skills and undeveloped potential, if only I could learn to manage my social anxiety. We often want our children to be different from us, to have different experiences. We don’t want them to go through the same things we struggled with, yet as much as we try or want to, we can’t change who they are.

We can, however, change ourselves. There is value in stopping to reflect on what frustrates you about your children, your family, or your friends. What behaviors irritate you? What do you think they could be doing better?

Then stop and look at yourself. Are you exhibiting the same behaviors? What could you be doing better? Are you making the changes in yourself that you’d like to see in your relationships?

Practice the Golden Rule

Of course as parents, we want to support our children and provide them everything they need to be happy, healthy, and successful. What parent doesn’t? It may frustrate us that they are not living up to their potential, as we see it—but the apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree. Are they mirroring our own behavior?

As parents, we show our children love and patience, but our expectations of them should follow the mirroring principle, or the golden rule—would we want to be held to the same standards? My daughter could be captain of the soccer team, but would I want to be one, if I was in her position? Probably not.

We could make our kids practice the piano for an hour every day, and do their homework for three hours after school. Would we want to do that? Probably not.

The mirroring principle with our children, family, and friends, then, goes both ways. What can we learn about ourselves from our relationships? Conversely, what should we expect from our family and friends, that we ourselves would be willing to do?

About José de le Torre

Known as the Be at Peace Coach, José de la Torre takes a holistic approach in helping clients overcome challenges, and helps them find peace, balance, health and wellness in their lives. Keep an eye out for his book, Spiritual Living for Busy People, coming out January 30, 2018 on Amazon.com. Find out more at jose-delatorre.com, or connect on Facebook.

Get in the conversation! Click here to leave a comment on the site.

The post What Annoys Us About Others Can Teach Us About Ourselves appeared first on Tiny Buddha.

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How I Went From Insomniac to the Best Sleep of My Life

You’re reading How I Went From Insomniac to the Best Sleep of My Life, originally posted on Pick the Brain | Motivation and Self Improvement. If you’re enjoying this, please visit our site for more inspirational articles.

Sleep. Some of us can’t get enough of it, while others are in a love-hate relationship.
For many years after becoming an entrepreneur, I was the latter. Like every human, my mind and body needed sleep to function. The problem was, I had trouble actually falling asleep in the first place.
Now, I will say that there are variances of how one would define an insomniac. I wasn’t suffering from chronic insomnia that could do serious damage to my well-being. However, there were many periods when I would only get two to three hours of sleep during the week.
If mild and periodic insomnia is something you face, or even chronic insomnia, read on. As my work, relationships, and overall energy began to decline further, I took serious action to research and ‘self-experiment’ on fixing my insomnia for good.
I won’t bore you with the full journey, but rather give you the top 5 actionable tips that had the most impact in my sleep quality. Hope it brings you value.

1. Choose your ideal sleep cycle

I had no idea that there were different sleep cycles you could experiment with. My entire life, I just assumed that people sleep 7-8 hours then remained awake for the rest of the day.
I found that there are four main sleep cycles that are well-known:

  • Monophasic Cycle
    • Amount of sleep: 7-9 hours (one sleep cycle)
    • Best suited for: 9-to-5 workers
  • Biphasic Cycle
    • Amount of sleep: 5-6 hours within the day
    • Best suited for: Workers that can leave work early or work at home
  • Everyman Cycle
    • Amount of sleep: One 3.5 hours of deep sleepwithin the day; Three 20 minute naps during the day
    • Best suited for: Those who want to explore polyphasic without going extreme
  • Uberman Cycle
    • Amount of sleep: six to eight naps (20 minute each)
    • Best suited for: Those who want the most out of their day without being tired

In the end, I decided to remain in the monophasic sleep cycle, but I often experiment with biphasic cycle to see how I feel. You should see for yourself what’s right for you.

2. Invest in the right tools

Just like finding the right tools in your work can make you significantly effective, finding the right sleep tools help you sleep better, faster.
a. Bluelight blocking glasses
Usage: During the day

Research show that we spend over 10 hours per day staring into our screens. Likely more if you’re in tech. Studies state that blue light exposure can negatively impact different parts of our brain and body. They include digital eye strain, headaches, and of course disruption of our sleep cycle.
As an entrepreneur I spend late nights staring at my lap top screen. When I tried to sleep, my mind was still stimulated overflowing with thoughts and energy that made it impossible for me to sleep.
I started wearing iGOTHAM’s blue light blocking glasses and have noticed reduction in my eye strain. I normally wear these when I’m working, and make sure to put them on at night before I sleep (since I can’t stay away from my laptop at night!). Some harmful effects of bluelight can be found here.
 
b. Blackout curtains
Usage: For the bedroom

Even a sliver of light that enters into our bedroom can impact one’s sleep. While I can sleep through some light coming into my room, there are other nights where I absolutely need total darkness.
Using blackout curtains is the simplest solution, and installing it is pretty simple.
c. Bonus: Hot shower
Need I say more? All in all, taking a hot shower helps me relax when I’m stressed or stimulated before sleeping.

3. Leave any electronics out of the bedroom

A tip that has surprisingly been effective for me is: keeping all personal electronics outside of the bedroom.
I know… it’s devastating. But I encourage you to try it for just one day. 
Here’s what you do:

  • Just before you go to bed: Take your phone, computer, smart watches (and chargers) outside your room
    *If you don’t have any other space, then place it on the opposite end of where you sleep
  • Put all of your devices on silent mode (or turn if off completely)
  • Don’t check it until the next morning

Let me know how this goes!

4. The 90 minute rule

“You need 8 hours of sleep per day.”
It’s one of the most common (and generalized) advice you get about sleep. Speak to professional sleep researchers and most of them will tell you that is baloney. Instead, the use the ’90 minute rule.’ This is based on the knowledge that our sleep cycle contains five distinct phases, divided into four stages of non-REM (rapid eye movement) sleep, followed by a stage of REM sleep (in which we dream).
Each of these cycles takes roughly 90 minutes, followed by a brief interlude when we are relatively wakeful, before a new cycle starts again. This means that you will feel most refreshed when you awake at the end of a 90-minute sleep cycle because you will be closest to your normal waking state. 
To maximize the chances of this happening, work out when you want to wake up, then count back in  90-minute blocks to find a time near to when you want to go to sleep. You can also use this sleep cycle calculator to make it easy for yourself.
Let’s imagine that you want to wake at 8am and wish to go to sleep around midnight.
Counting back in 90-minute segments from 8am would look like this:
8am > 6:30am > 5am > 3:30am > 2am > 12:30am > 11pm
In this example, you should aim to fall asleep around either 11pm or 12.30am in order to feel especially refreshed in the morning.
So next time someone tells you that you must get 8 hours of sleep, tell them about the 90 minute rule!

5. Change how you think about the bedroom

I used to work from my bedroom, and looking back. It was a mistake. Now, I only do two things in the bedroom: sleep and sex. That’s it.
More importantly, there’s a few actionable things you can do today to transform your bedroom into the ultimate sleep cave.
a. Go DARK
And I mean DARK.
Any sort of light that is seeping through can potentially disrupt our sleep cycles. That could mean

  • Shutting your curtains completely (or buying a better one that completely fills up your windows)
  • Pointing any electronics or alarm clock away from you
  • Turning off all warm lights

Then, when it’s morning time, you can start the day with bright lights and your body will be able to know that it’s morning time.
b. Replace white light with warm light before bed 
This option is great for preparing your body to calm down before bed time. Most of the bright LED lights trigger alertness when it’s turned on, and that’s the opposite effect we want before bed.
You can find warm, orange light in just about any pharmacy store in your local neighbourhood.
c. Light up a candle
Similar to option 2, but the candle combines the warm lighting with a soothing scent.
I recommend checking out the following aromas:

  • Lavender
  • Chamomille
  • Vanilla

d. Adjust your room temperature
Sleep experts have shown that room temperature between 60 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit is ideal for the best sleep. A room with extreme temperatures leads to more frequent awakenings and lighter sleep.
I hope this was useful for those of you that struggle with getting quality sleep in your life. As a fellow entrepreneur burning the midnight oil, sleeping better has been a game changer in my personal life and business. If these tips overwhelmed you in anyway, I recommend just starting with one of them. Once you notice the positive effects in your sleep, you can try another, and so forth. Best of luck and leave a comment below to share how it went!

You’ve read How I Went From Insomniac to the Best Sleep of My Life, originally posted on Pick the Brain | Motivation and Self Improvement. If you’ve enjoyed this, please visit our site for more inspirational articles.

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How Pets Can Teach Children about Life, Love and Loss

Why kids and pets are the perfect pairing.

As parents, we try to protect our children from life’s pain, so we tend to keep them in an illusion — a rosy bubble — as if life is a one-sided experience. At least, I do, while knowing full well that life is both pain and joy, highs and lows, light and darkness. But recently I had to reconsider my parenting approach, as the time had come for me to outgrow it and step out of my own bubble of fear.

“Mommy, Mommy!” my five-year-old son, Samuel, emits a squeal of excitement. “Can we get a puppy, too?”

We’re at the park, on a playground facing a fenced area for dogs, where dozens of pets are running free, chasing after Frisbees and balls thrown by their human mommies and daddies. A heavy bomb drops straight from my mind into my heart:

Three years ago, we lost Max, our family dog, to an illness.

It was difficult beyond words. Some say that people grieve more deeply over losing a pet than a family member. Perhaps. So how can I put myself and my son through this excruciating experience again? Because at some point, inevitably, it will come.

What Parents Can Tell Kids to Help Them Be Healthy, Happy & Confident

Later, at home, burrowing into the couch and cradling a cup of warm chamomile tea while scrolling through the TV channels, I recall all the happy moments I had with Max. From the first day I brought him home from the rescue event at our local Petco — a small ball of fur with enormous black eyes, deep and expressive — he spontaneously claimed my heart and my pillow.

But then my mind wanders off to some abstract, melancholy thoughts about life and stumbles upon the pre-ordained fact that, sooner or later, we will all lose someone dear, and it will shatter our hearts into thousands of pieces.

So what are we supposed to do? Stay close-hearted and disconnected from the vast variety of life’s experiences out of fear of getting hurt? Definitely, it’s the safer way, but is that really living? After all, we cannot hide from life’s pain.

And even if we try to crawl into some dark hole and become invisible to avoid bad things happening to us, that’s simply existing and not fully living. Right?

I do believe that a variety of experiences make our lives richer and more exciting and fulfilling. So the solution is not to control life’s contrast, but to learn how to develop coping skills to withstand its storms.

If only we could trust our ability to manage life’s pain, then regain our emotional balance and the faith to keep on going, joyfully! And that’s the key because it’s not what happens to us that causes us pain, but our prolonged emotional response — usually the belief that “something went wrong,” when in fact, it didn’t! Life just happened.

Where we get into trouble is when we deny ourselves the right to feel negative emotions.

What we resist persists, and in time grows even stronger. But once we realize that life is inherently both joy and happiness, sadness and grief, and that all emotions are normal, healthy states in our human experience, we can make pain our friend, shaking its clammy hand — and we immediately feel better, because acceptance brings peace. It’s just how the psychology works, the “law of dominant effect.”

What happens in a dark room when you turn on the light? The darkness dissipates, and the same thing happens to our pain when we surrender to it.

My eyes fall on my son, playing on his iPod next to me, and I smile. I love him so much! He is my fifth child, and by now I know a little about the parenting journey, and how each bump on the road is a great opportunity to demonstrate to our children how we handle a breakdown. Our kids, by default, are observing the way we handle life, absorbing all our fears and insecurities, internalizing them and gradually even becoming them.

This understanding always gives me chills. So perhaps getting a puppy and letting her (it must be a girl!) fill our hearts with happiness and joy, and enjoying her delicious presence for as long as it’s meant to be is the right thing to do.

And then, when the sad day comes, we’ll cry together, grieve together, and cherish the memories in our hearts forever. It’s an experience we wouldn’t trade for anything — even for avoiding the inevitable pain of parting.

Besides, it’s good for kids to own a pet.

It teaches them responsibility and opens their hearts to compassion, plus they develop a sense of selfless contribution and respect for another living creature.

And most important, my kids will develop coping skills: learning to deal with upsets early on; understanding that emotional pain is a normal aspect of human experience; and finding healthy ways to soothe their discomfort.

How to Build Self-Esteem in Children (Without Making Them Feel Entitled)

Kids learn these from us, their less-than-perfect parents trying to do their best, who (like me) may listen to soft, meditative music, take a lavender-scented bubble bath, call a positive, reassuring friend, or sip warm milk or herbal tea with honey. Or binge-watch Harry Potter movies, if all else fails. And in time, as the cloud of sadness begins to lift, the light of excitement will emerge, guiding us forward toward brand new experiences.

And so, the invisible bubble of protection around my son bursts open, our eyes connect and I wink at him, responding to his happy smile. After all, he’s not a fragile, helpless kid, but a confident, independent little person. I get excited for our new adventure together, as if already tasting her sweet kisses on my lips and her puppy breath on my cheek.

Already, I am feeling her presence serving its purpose — to teach me how to love purely and unconditionally, the way she does, leaving a permanent paw print of love on my heart. After all, pets are angels sent by God to diffuse our human nastiness. So how can I deprive my son of experiencing that?

This guest article originally appeared on YourTango.com: What Having A Pet Can Teach Your Kid About Life, Love, And Yes, Even Loss.

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Reclaiming member John Slade seeks party nomination to run for state office

St. PAUL, Minn. — A Pagan with the Upper Mississippi Reclaiming group, John Slade, is running for the Minnesota House. He works as a community organizer and grant writer. Slade is seeking the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party (DFLP) nomination to represent the east side of St. Paul, Minnesota. In that state, the progressive Farmer-Labor Party merged with the more centrist Democratic Party in 1944 to form the DFLP. The DFLP is affiliated with the national Democratic Party. Slade describes himself as a strong supporter of Bernie Sanders.

John Slade (courtesy)

Slade works as an open Pagan in a multi-faith housing initiative. He described his experience in the following way: “I’m not in the ‘broom’ closet, but I’m not proselytizing. I have not found any negative reaction.”

Slade has found that having common secular goals allows people of different faiths to work together. Seeking converts threatens that functional unity.

For Slade, secular political work and spiritual practice have intermingled. He describes Athena as “a protector of democracy and democratic systems.” In his daily sitting meditation, Slade casts a circle in his mind and invokes The Mysterious Ones. In the Reclaiming tradition that term refers to deities, spirit guides, ancestors of blood, and ancestors of spirit.

Slade considers the former Minnesota Governor, Floyd Olson, to be one of his ancestors of spirit. Olson, in his opinion, personifies the progressive and political traditions of that state. Slade not only encounters Olson in his meditations, but he also leaves offerings of flowers at Olson’s statue in St. Paul.

The Buddhist activist, Joanna Macy, has also influenced Slade’s spiritual and political work. Macy has described the multiple, interlocking current crises as an opportunity for a Great Turning of the Wheel.

Using Macy’s work, members of the Reclaiming tradition and others developed the Pentacle of the Great Turning. People can work with this Pentacle as a meditative tool, similar to the Iron or Pearl Pentacles. This pentacle facilitates turning the Wheel in a healing direction. Slade himself works with this pentacle.

Slade also shared that his adopted son is one-quarter Mexican. This has changed Slade’s observance of the celebration of Dia de Muertos (Day of the Dead). He has ceased to be an outsider from another tradition, and has become the guardian and nurturer of a minor’s cultural heritage. He is now off to the side gaining an entirely new perspective.

Statue of Former MN Governor Floyd Olson (Credit: John Slade)

Slade does not expect his spiritual practice to be an issue in the upcoming election. Instead, he feels it may have certain advantages. Minneapolis-St. Paul is often referred to as “Paganistan” due to its large Pagan population.

He also said, “Being a little bit off to the side, I might be able to see some things more clearly.” Lacking a known and knowable revealed Truth, Paganism accepts multiple truths, he explained. Having multiple perspectives can help to avoid a belief in only one capital “T” truth, and this, he believes, could make building coalitions and consensus easier.

Unlike other states, Minnesota has a mixed caucus and primary system rather than a primary only system. On February 6, 2018, precincts will hold caucuses. These caucuses will select representatives to then go an endorse one particular candidates March 10.

Someone has to win at least 60 percent of the vote to receive the Democratic Party/DFLP endorsement. If no one receives 60 percent or more of the vote on that day, a primary will occur in August to select a candidate.

In his district, only the Democratic/DFLP nomination matters. Slade said, “This district has not elected a Republican in over 30 years. It went from white working class union folks to black and brown working class folks.”

Slade provided the following estimate of the racial breakdown of this district. About 40 percent of people in this district identified as White, 25 percent as Asian, 18 percent as Black, and 15 percent Latino. About 2 percent identified as multi-racial, Native American, or some other racial or ethnic group.

He also noted that the Hmong, a Laotian refugee group, has formed in St. Paul and is the city’s largest Asian group. In the US, only Fresno, California has such a large Hmong population. And according to Slade, about 70 percent of the Hmong have a traditional animistic and shamanistic religion.

Slade described himself as a regular reader of the Wild Hunt. He said, “If anybody is in Minneapolis-St. Paul area, they should feel free to contact me through my website.”

People wanting more information, or to support Slade’s campaign, should visit his website, SladeFortheEastSide.com.

 

Source: http://wildhunt.org

Winter Got You Down? Move Around!

When you’re faced with short days and chilly temperatures, you may find the couch calling out to you ever more loudly. Research indicates, though, that hibernating during winter isn’t such a good idea. According to the Mayo Clinic, diminished sunlight can cause levels of serotonin (the feel-good hormone) to drop, exacerbating our low motivation as we feel more tired and hungry. Being sedentary during winter may also trigger those prone to depression and seasonal affective disorder (SAD). The good news? A Harvard Medical School study suggests that exercise boosts both mood and health, especially during the colder, darker days of winter.

If you tend to head for your jammies, not your running shoes, try shifting your attitude. Like a coach, positive attitudes can give you the “go get ’em” encouragement to stay in the game. Here are a few tactics to help keep you—and your attitude—light and bright this winter.

Start Small and Build

Exercising consistently can be challenging.

If you’re ready to take on an active lifestyle, remember that you don’t need to run a marathon tomorrow. You don’t even need to run. Start with a daily walk. Be steady. It’s better to do something active every day—even if it is just a little bit—than nothing at all. Consistent exercise builds momentum, and that builds on itself. At some point, your workout will become a habit and you won’t have to think about it as much. Over time, with commitment and consistency, you’ll increase your laps in the pool, the speed of your walk, and the weight you use for squats. You keep building from wherever you are.

Set an Intention

As you start, take a moment to set a clear intention, which can be like a compass: It directs your mind, keeping you motivated and focused. Strong intentions will bring about strong results. Here are a few examples of powerful intentions:

I am going for a run to clear my head.

During this yoga class I will be kind to myself.

On my walk, I’ll let these prickly thoughts fly.

I’m going swimming to increase my strength.

I won’t judge myself during this weight training class.

Listen to Your Body

Your body speaks to you in the language of sensation. The problem is that we’re often stuck in our heads and don’t hear when our body asks us to change what we’re doing. Start paying attention to the coolness, heat, tingling, or throbbing you feel when you exercise. Doing so will help you tune in to when you need to modify, hold steady, or pick up the intensity.

During your next vigorous workout, notice the sensations: your muscles burning toward the end of your walk or run, the sense of expansion during a deep yoga pose, or the fire in your legs during those last few squats. Your body is getting stronger. There’s also the sensation that is not so sweet: It can be a sharp pain or, conversely, numbness. These are signals that you’re overtaxing your body and need to back off or modify what you are doing. To know the difference, you’ll need to pay attention. While it can be empowering to push past our limitations, it’s equally important to be mindful of them.

illustration of legs

Be Kind, Light, and Non-Judgy

Nike has been telling us for a few decades to “Just Do It.” We could add, “But be nice about it.” You don’t have to beat yourself up to get moving every day. Try talking to yourself as a supportive soccer coach would talk to a first-grader. Maintain a cheerful “You’ve got this” attitude, and give yourself a pat on the back when your workout is over.

Being too serious about exercising takes the joy out of movement.

Being too serious about exercising takes the joy out of movement. If you can keep your sense of humor about the whole thing, you may find yourself going longer and harder. Laugh at your mistakes. Pause to take in the view. Cheer yourself on: “I think I can, I think I can.” Be flexible with your schedule. While exercising daily sounds good, schedules can change on a dime. The last thing you need is to get stressed about exercising. The goal is to be consistent, not a slave to your workout schedule.

Your body feels different from day to day. Some days you may rock and roll, other days you may only crawl. Acknowledge your highs and lows. If you can, commit to moving a little bit. This is how you build consistency and momentum. Negative self-talk will just drain your energy. Start where you are. Let go of what you can’t do. Embrace what you can.

Nike has been telling us for a few decades to “Just Do It.” We could add, “But be nice about it.” You don’t have to beat yourself up to get moving.

Savor the Post-Exercise Glow

Remember how amazing you felt the last time you hit the gym or took a hike in the woods? How clear and calm you felt after your last yoga class? Exercise can settle your mind. It can make you feel refreshed from head to toe. It helps to dissolve tension in places you may not have realized were tense. You want to remember this feeling. The next time you exercise, pause for a few minutes afterward. Sit down or lie down to fully savor the post-exercise glow. It may be all you need to get yourself on the track tomorrow.

Welcome Stress

Your body gets used to moving at a certain level. After a few months of consistently walking three miles, it takes less energy and effort. But you won’t get stronger if you keep walking the same distance at the same speed. This is where stress comes in: It’s not only good but essential for getting fit and healthy. We build strength, endurance, and agility by incrementally adding resistance, repetition, or duration. Muscles grow stronger when they’re repeatedly challenged at their maximum capacity, causing the thin strands of muscle fiber to tear. In the day or two following this stress, the muscle fibers repair themselves by binding back together in a way that enables them to handle a heavier load. We grow stronger by stressing a system and letting it adapt to be able to handle a higher capacity.

Calm the Body, Calm the Mind

Have you ever noticed that when your body feels tired, it’s hard to focus? When your body feels tense, there’s a good chance your mind feels tense, too. The state of your body reflects the state of your mind. A good walk clears away the mental cobwebs. A well-paced run can settle an agitated mood. Flying down a wide-open stretch of road on a bicycle can lift a heavy heart. Moving your body stirs stuff up and shakes things out in a way that nothing else can. Energize your body, and you’ll energize your mind. Calm your body, and you’ll calm your mind.


Cross Training 101: Four Ways to Mix Up Your Movement

The best way to keep your exercise routine fresh is to avoid getting stuck in a rut of doing the same workout every time. The American College of Sports Medicine recommends healthy adults include a variety of exercises including weight lifting, stretching and balance exercises, and movement to increase your heart rate.

Cross-training is key. Variety in workouts makes moving fun and is essential to building stronger muscles. While you may be tempted to simply do your favorite exercise seven days a week, opening your mind to new workout styles will do more to improve your health and fitness in 2018. Experiment with a few types of cross-training activities until you find what works best for you.

With some ideas to get you started, here are the main categories of exercise:

  1. Cardio Activities: These include brisk walking, running, biking, swimming, rowing, dancing, and any other exercises that get your heart pumping. All of these are great ways to boost metabolism, build endurance, and settle your body and mind after a busy day.
  2. Holistic Training: Commonly called mind–body exercises, these include hatha yoga, qigong, tai chi, Pilates, and other alignment-based practices like Feldenkrais Method and Alexander Technique. These holistic disciplines focus on balancing physical and mental energy and healing physical imbalances.
  3. Strength Training: Adding resistance or weight to any type of exercise increases anaerobic endurance (shorter, high-intensity exercises that don’t require oxygen to generate force), while strengthening your muscles and bones. Try using free weights or machines at the gym, buy a resistance band to use at home, or hit the floor for push-ups and sit-ups.
  4. Lifestyle Activities: Have you considered gardening, climbing the stairs, playing with your dog, child-care, and even cleaning as exercise? Well, they are! Enjoy movement through these moderately intensive activities, and you’ll find yourself exercising all day.

We can stave off the winter blahs by not only staying active, but also mixing up our routines and having more fun as we exercise. Try spicing up your exercise routine with cross-training. It’s easy: Plan out your week of exercise with your go-to workouts. Then round out your plan with 2–3 new ways to move every week. Here’s to new opportunities to stay fit in 2018.

This article appeared in the February 2018 issue of Mindful magazine.

Mindful Movement to Nourish Your Spine

Winter Blues

The post Winter Got You Down? Move Around! appeared first on Mindful.

Source: https://www.mindful.org

4 Ways to Prevent Being Tempted to Cheat

When you get married or start a relationship the idea of staying faithful seems like an easy one for most. But time and circumstances can take their toll and create changes in a relationship. Even if your relationship is solid, temptation can appear when you least expect it and have an effect that takes even you by surprise.

There is no question that infidelity is severely and, at times, irreparably damaging to your relationship. Between the hurt, broken trust and human collateral (kids, family, friends), cheating is always a bad choice. So, what can you do to — as much as possible — “affair proof” your relationship? Check out the tips below for important ways to keep your vows and promises strong.

  • Say I love you often — and mean it. The words “I love you” are powerful and should be taken seriously. Make a point to not only remind your partner that you love them, but to remind yourself why. Finding reasons to value and appreciate your partner is crucial to maintaining your connection and therefore overcoming temptation. Feeling your sincerity will help your partner avoid temptation as well. Take a moment a few times a month (more if you can) to think about the reasons you love your partner. Tell them what they are and let them know how much they mean to you.
  • Spend time together. Seems simple, but we all know with work, kids and life in general that people can fall into that ships-passing-in-the-night routine. Proximity is important when creating desire and connection. Too much time spent with others and not balanced with needed time together can create disconnection and allow temptation to strengthen.
  • Steer clear of bad influences. When friends are behaving badly it can start to open the door, even just psychologically, for it to be okay for you to do the same. If you have a friend who is cheating, distance yourself. If you feel the need to counsel them on making better choices then do so, but beware of their justifications and influence on you. People look for excuses that make their bad decisions seem okay and some people can be very persuasive. They may even draw you in with comparisons between your life and theirs. Steer clear. Remember that even people you respect and love can make poor and damaging choices.
  • Have sex — with your partner. Sex isn’t the only way or reason people cheat, but it is one of the most common. Relationships can fall into a rut and there are a number of reasons your sex life may suffer, but a healthy sex life is as important of a component in a healthy relationship as anything else. So make an effort to keep the passion alive. If your partner isn’t interested find out why. Maybe there is something you need to address within your relationship or something going on with them they need to talk about.

Cheating can be a relationship killer. An affair makes staying in a marriage or relationship very difficult. At best it takes years to overcome and some of the damage can never be undone. If you find yourself thinking about straying, consider changing your surroundings. You can’t always control your internal reaction to others, but you can control your outward behavior and your exposure to temptation. If you can’t seem to get past the urges to cheat you should consider speaking with a professional counselor. There may be issues that you need assistance to work through. Also, learning strategies to stay faithful can be invaluable.

Source: http://ift.tt/2jgn2Ba

4 Ways to Prevent Being Tempted to Cheat

When you get married or start a relationship the idea of staying faithful seems like an easy one for most. But time and circumstances can take their toll and create changes in a relationship. Even if your relationship is solid, temptation can appear when you least expect it and have an effect that takes even you by surprise.

There is no question that infidelity is severely and, at times, irreparably damaging to your relationship. Between the hurt, broken trust and human collateral (kids, family, friends), cheating is always a bad choice. So, what can you do to — as much as possible — “affair proof” your relationship? Check out the tips below for important ways to keep your vows and promises strong.

  • Say I love you often — and mean it. The words “I love you” are powerful and should be taken seriously. Make a point to not only remind your partner that you love them, but to remind yourself why. Finding reasons to value and appreciate your partner is crucial to maintaining your connection and therefore overcoming temptation. Feeling your sincerity will help your partner avoid temptation as well. Take a moment a few times a month (more if you can) to think about the reasons you love your partner. Tell them what they are and let them know how much they mean to you.
  • Spend time together. Seems simple, but we all know with work, kids and life in general that people can fall into that ships-passing-in-the-night routine. Proximity is important when creating desire and connection. Too much time spent with others and not balanced with needed time together can create disconnection and allow temptation to strengthen.
  • Steer clear of bad influences. When friends are behaving badly it can start to open the door, even just psychologically, for it to be okay for you to do the same. If you have a friend who is cheating, distance yourself. If you feel the need to counsel them on making better choices then do so, but beware of their justifications and influence on you. People look for excuses that make their bad decisions seem okay and some people can be very persuasive. They may even draw you in with comparisons between your life and theirs. Steer clear. Remember that even people you respect and love can make poor and damaging choices.
  • Have sex — with your partner. Sex isn’t the only way or reason people cheat, but it is one of the most common. Relationships can fall into a rut and there are a number of reasons your sex life may suffer, but a healthy sex life is as important of a component in a healthy relationship as anything else. So make an effort to keep the passion alive. If your partner isn’t interested find out why. Maybe there is something you need to address within your relationship or something going on with them they need to talk about.

Cheating can be a relationship killer. An affair makes staying in a marriage or relationship very difficult. At best it takes years to overcome and some of the damage can never be undone. If you find yourself thinking about straying, consider changing your surroundings. You can’t always control your internal reaction to others, but you can control your outward behavior and your exposure to temptation. If you can’t seem to get past the urges to cheat you should consider speaking with a professional counselor. There may be issues that you need assistance to work through. Also, learning strategies to stay faithful can be invaluable.

Source: http://ift.tt/2jgn2Ba

Best of Our Blogs: January 16, 2018

Many of you may not know this, but I live in Hawaii. Most days are the same when you live on an island. We don’t get seasons here, and for much of the year news is rather light.

This is why when I received a text from my dad and our emergency alert system that a missile was on its way and it was not a drill, it was pretty terrifying.

Fortunately, I missed most of the drama since by the time I woke up, everyone discovered it was indeed a mistake.

Yet, it’s been a few days now. Every once in awhile while it was quiet, I’d feel a surge of fear. What if it was real?

As I write this it’s Martin Luther King Day. Reading through all of his quotes are like strings of hope, a soothing balm to heal the soul. This one in particular has helped me: “We must build dikes of courage to hold back the flood of fear.”

I decided that courage and love are far more powerful than fear. As you attack your own personal struggles, I hope his words, which you can also read more about here, light your way.

7 Signs You May Be Counter-Dependent
(Childhood Emotional Neglect) – You have a general feeling of emptiness and unhappiness. If you struggle with asking others for help, you’re probably suffering from counter-dependence.

Good Fathers Forced into So-Called Abandonment
(Full Heart, Empty Arms) – This shocking post shows what can happen to children abused and tormented for loving an alienated parent.

When Depression Lies to You, Remind Yourself of the Truth
(From the Desk to the Couch) – Eating carbs, staying home and being irritable aren’t normally signs associated with depression. But according to this, it could be evidence that it’s returning.

Rejecting the Helpful Narcissist (Who Always Knows Best)
(Narcissism Meets Normalcy) – How can being helpful signal narcissism? Read this to see why the narcissist in your life will help you with everything even when you don’t want them to.

Describing A Narcissistic Parent’s Abuse
(Therapy Soup) – If you were raised by a narcissistic parent, you were robbed of your own feelings. Here are the other things that were taken from you.

Source: http://ift.tt/2jgn2Ba

How to Be Whole on Your Own and How This Strengthens Your Relationships

“Only through our connectedness to others can we really know and enhance the self. And only through working on the self can we begin to enhance our connectedness to others.” ~Harriet Lerner

Three decades ago, I married the man with whom I knew I would spend the rest of my life. We each had a rough childhood and had learned a lot about surviving, defending, and protecting ourselves. However, we did not know much about how to maintain a successful relationship.

We took numerous classes on communication, learned to fight fair, and filled our goodwill bank accounts with lots of positive actions. However, despite our best efforts, something was still missing.

There were times that the relationship felt smothering, and new types of problems kept arising. I got sick of saying “we” all of the time instead of “I.” Once when I was sick and slept in a different room, I was equally fascinated and worried by how much I enjoyed being by myself.

Yes, we had learned to reconnect, to repair our troubles, and to deepen our intimacy. However, we had not yet figured out the crucial step necessary for keeping your relationship healthy.

When it comes to love, we have two essential tasks. One, as most of us know, is to learn the skills and practices that allow relationships to thrive. The other lesson is less familiar to most people, but it is even more important. We must also learn how to love ourselves.

By self-love, I do not refer to the type of vanity that is fed by money, power, influence, a gym-toned body, and the admiration of others. What I mean is the kind of love that leads to self-care, not only of our physical health but also of our minds and hearts.

It’s the kind of love that creates for ourselves the time and space to develop and to use our talents. It’s the kind of love that frees us to discover and to foster our true purpose in life.

To become truly wholehearted in our loving, we have to look at when we have acted in a “half-hearted” manner and when have we been “closed-hearted.” Also, we have to examine when it is that we have responded in a “hard-hearted” way.

Our biggest challenge is to achieve the “whole” in wholehearted. In order to love anyone in a wholehearted way, we need to make ourselves whole first. We must integrate the two forces—the “me” and the “we.”

Let me be clear about the three things that are not wholeness:

  • A constant state of happiness
  • An ongoing state of acceptance, love, and balance
  • A perpetual feeling of well-being

Wholeness truly means accepting “the whole enchilada.” The hard, the sad, the mad, the scared, and the glad are all parts of you. The gratitude and the resentment together make you whole.

Your acceptance of all the pieces of yourself makes you whole. Here are five practices that can each help us find our wholeness.

1. Spend quality time with yourself.

I once heard someone say that spending time with yourself is the greatest practice you can do, and I didn’t understand at the time what the speaker meant.

While alone, I always felt like I was “by myself.” I mistook being alone for loneliness. It took me years to discover the pleasure of walking in nature, exploring an art museum, or hanging out at a farmer’s market loving my own company as much as with another person.

2. Each day, check to make sure your self-esteem is balanced by your self-criticism.

People sometimes mistake self-love for self-indulgence. Challenging myself when I am not living up to my own standards is important, but it must be done with compassion. Learning to love yourself despite your imperfections allows you to accept other people’s imperfections.

3. Find a practice that centers you.

Sitting in a lotus position and concentrating on breathing allows some people to find focus; there are also other practices like Zen meditation, walking meditation, Vipanassa meditation, and many more.

In addition, there are methods of centering that are just as powerful for self-reflection; dance, art, writing, and prayer are just a few examples. What they all have in common is that we can use them to check in.

4. Take an inventory of where you are right now. Explore it in your mind.

Body: Am I satisfied with the ways I nourish my body? How can I make even better choices? Examine your nutrition, exercise for strength, flexibility, endurance, and cardiac wellness as well as all of the other kinds of self-care you can practice.

Mind: Am I feeling fed, challenged, expanded, and interested? Am I growing?

Spirit: Am I satisfied with the definition I have for spirit? How can I get more in touch my spirit? Is there a place within me where I can find peacefulness, wisdom, and guidance?

Emotional: How am I coping with my current challenges? Is there a flow of different feelings, or do I find myself stuck on one emotion? Do I feel balanced?

Social: How am I connected with the people in my life (family, friends, partner, coworkers)? What’s working, and where do I want to make changes?

5. Develop a daily gratitude practice and begin by showing yourself appreciation.

Ask yourself about the victories you have had during the week. Acknowledge when you did something that was brave. Thank yourself for taking the time to feel gratitude.

As you explore these five techniques, you might discover others. You will find you already have wholeness inside; you just have to find the keys to open the door.

When we feel good about ourselves, we’re more likely to feel generous toward others; it’s a symbiotic relationship. We feel grounded and centered enough to take risks and to reach out to others. We feel safe by acknowledging our shortcomings and forgiving ourselves, so we are able to open up to our partners wholeheartedly.

About Linda Carroll

Linda Carroll—MS, is a writer, psychotherapist and a love/life coach specializing in relationship issues of all kinds for both singles and couples, assisting people in their life transitions. Sign up for a free 15 minute coaching session or her free newsletter at http://ift.tt/2bAT0cv.You can order her book Love Cycles; The Five Essential Stages of Wholehearted Love on amazon.

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The post How to Be Whole on Your Own and How This Strengthens Your Relationships appeared first on Tiny Buddha.

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