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http://www.cozi.com/live-simply/10-small-changes-healthier-life.

Get inspired by this guest post from Leah Segedie, a mentor to moms who are trying to live a healthier life and Shape Magazine’s “Mom of the Year.” Here she offers 10 small steps toward a healthier life:

A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. –Confucius.

Have you ever sat and thought–I can’t lose weight or get fit or change my life because it’s too hard or takes too much time? We’ve all had those thoughts, but did you know, by making small changes a little at a time, you CAN do anything you want. It’s funny how those small changes slowly add up to big changes over time.

Here’s a list of some small changes you can implement in your life that will make a huge impact on your journey to a healthier life:

1. Cut out sodas. Even diet drinks can make your body latch on to excess weight. Even cutting back can make a huge impact. One can of soda has 140 calories in it. If you only cut out one soda a day, that could equal almost 15 lbs lost in a year. Substitute carbonated water with orange slices for a flavored, bubbly treat or better yet, drink more water. Your body needs it to survive

2. Avoid fast food whenever possible. You can rely on healthier options like Subway when you are on the go and in need of a quick meal. Not only are most fast food meals chock full of fat and excess calories, there is very little substance so in a short amount of time you are hungry and eating again. Eating real food takes longer for your body to digest so you are getting the nutrients you need to fuel your body, and you feel satisfied longer.

3. Order salad dressing on the side and dip your fork in for flavor in each bite. How many times have you said to yourself, “but I’m eating salads and not losing weight!” Chances are you are drowning your healthy salad in unhealthy dressing. By dipping your fork in the dressing before each bite, you get the flavor and taste without the added fat and calories.

4. Time your Internet use. For every 30 minutes you spend online, do 5-10 minutes of exercise. This goes back to the idea that we make time for what is important. If you have time to sit for 30 minutes and play angry birds or surf the net, you have time to do some quick exercises. I used to say that I didn’t have the energy to exercise, but once you start, you’ll find that you don’t have any energy when you DON’T exercise so get your body moving.

5. Instead of sitting and watching TV for family time, go on a walk or play a game of catch in the yard. Getting your family active not only helps prevent childhood obesity, but it will create lasting family memories of fun and adventure. My kids don’t remember what movies we watch together but they can tell you all about going on a hike or heading out for a day of walking at the zoo. Make it fun and everyone will be happier and that makes it easier to stick with it.

6. Switch out your butter and vegetable oil for water, olive oil or coconut oil while sautéing. You absolutely can sauté using only water, but if you must use oil, switch it for a healthier option. Your body does need some fat to fuel itself but you want to make sure you are choosing healthy fats whenever possible.

7. Find the parking spot that is the furthest away from the entrance when grocery shopping or at the mall and walk. Have you ever seen people circle the parking lot for the closest space to the door? It’s especially funny when you see it at the gym or health club. Getting in extra movement is key to any journey to better health. You can fit in hundreds, if not more, extra steps each day simply by parking further away from your destination and walking a little bit more each day.

8. Do squats while cooking dinner. Or leg lifts, or bicep curls. Don’t waste the time you are standing around stirring or watching your dinner cook, you can do many exercises while cooking dinner, talking on the phone, or even when doing housework. The best part is, you kids will probably mimic your exercises and then you’ve created a fun fitness routine for the whole family.

9. Make a workout appointment. Like you would a doctor or dentist appointment, and keep it. You wouldn’t decide that you were too tired to go to the dentist, but yet this is the excuse we use all the time for not getting in fitness. Make an appointment for yourself and keep it. Why notput it on the calendar now!

10. Start small. Don’t take on too many changes at once, but add another step when you feel comfortable. We often start the race at a sprint and then burn out quickly. Take on one new challenge at a time and before you know it, you’ll be amazed at how far you’ve come!

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Prepare your kids for college by passing on these essential life lessons
By Melissa Gaskill Posted June 30, 2010 from Woman’s Day August 1 2010

 

Before I left for college, my father summoned me to the front yard and had me change a tire. He wanted to make sure I at least knew that much about cars.

For Andrea Ellinor of Tulsa, Oklahoma, the need-to-know topic was laundry. “I’d never washed my own clothes,” she says. So once she was settled into her dorm room freshman year, her mom marched her down to the dorm’s basement for a crash course in using the washer and dryer. “That semester, I made a lot of phone calls home with laundry questions,” she says with a laugh.

Our parents had the right idea, if not the best timing. “When kids enter high school, it’s time to decide what responsibilities we want them handling by graduation,” says Carl Pickhardt, PhD, author of Stop the Screaming: How to Turn Angry Conflict with Your Child into Positive Communication. You have four years to help your teens learn to take care of themselves, so come up with a list of life skills you want to pass on, suggests Dr. Pickhardt.

If you’re worried that they’ll never get the hang of one skill, let alone all of them, try not to sweat it. If they mess up a time or two (or three) along the way, consider it a good thing. “Learning to handle minor failures creates a resilient kid,” says Michael Bradley, EdD, author of When Things Get CRAZY with Your Teen: The Why, the How, and What to Do NOW. And research shows that a resilient child is ultimately a successful one. “You can’t prepare your teens for all the challenges out there,” Dr. Bradley says. “But you can give them the ability to think their way through them.” It all starts with the basics, like these six essential skills.

Cleaning

If your teens are like mine, they think kitchens and bathrooms magically clean themselves. Before you foist this delusional thinking on future roommates (and eventual spouses!), introduce your teens to the broom, dustpan, mop and toilet bowl brush. Their weekly chores should involve each one. Reveal the wonders of weekly trash pickup too by making it their job to take out the garbage.

Just remember that knowing a skill and using it in their own domain are two different things. While every kid should have chores, don’t spend the high school years waging war over your teen’s messy room. Better to close your eyes to a little chaos in there (as long as she’s pulling her weight with her other chores around the house) and keep the lines of communication open for more important issues, says Dr. Bradley.

Car Maintenance

Boys today are more likely to spend time texting friends or hanging out on Facebook than hunched over a car engine. But teens (girls included) need to know the basics of caring for their ride: how to check the oil and tire pressure, and follow a basic maintenance schedule. Melissa Mieras of San Antonio says her husband, Tom, taught their three sons by doing those things— and explaining it all as he went along—with the boys around.

So, with your teen in tow, head to your garage and pop the hood. First, pull out the dipstick, then demonstrate how to wipe it off, replace it, pull it out again and read the oil level. Locate the reservoir for wiper fluid and where to check other engine fluids. Whip out the manual and have your teen look up the recommended oil change intervals and which type of oil to use. Point out the sticker with recommended tire pressure, usually on the driver’s door frame, and show her how to use a tire gauge (make sure one stays in the glove box). And the next time you stop at a gas station, show her how to add air to the tires.

If all of this is Greek to you, get help from a car-smart relative or trusted mechanic. If you take your car to the shop, have your teen tag along. Then, when it’s her car that needs work, let her do the talking.

Laundry

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Washing clothes hardly qualifies as rocket science, but as Andrea knows all too well, it doesn’t come naturally, either. Find a way to get your teens and their dirty clothes into the laundry room (if you have to bribe them with a movie, so be it). Now go over the basics: how to read labels to see what can be washed and what should be drycleaned, how to sort clothes by color and temperature, which detergent to use and how much, how to make sense of washer and dryer settings (be sure to explain that these aren’t the same on all machines).

Of course, the best way for teens to acquire this, or any skill, for that matter, is practice. After all, discolored clothes will drive home the importance of proper sorting better than any lecture from Mom. So after your tutorial, have your teens start doing their own laundry.

Be available to answer questions, but resist the urge to step in. Handling this kind of responsibility gives teens a greater sense of competency, and that’s the real goal, says Dr. Pickhardt. “Each skill they acquire helps them say, I can do it myself.” For that, a few ruined items of clothing seems a small price to pay.

Making Appointments

Austin, Texas, parents MaryPat and Mike Baringer insisted that their three now-grown children make their own appointments for haircuts, dental checkups and doctor visits, beginning in high school. Do the same with your teen. Give him a simple appointment calendar with the names and numbers of doctors, dentists and other important providers recorded in the address book section (or posted on a bulletin board). Be sure to remind him that he can’t be in two places at once, and to allow time for travel to and from appointments. Suggest he check cancellation policies as well.

The Baringer kids also made their own travel arrangements for college visits. This helped them learn good communication skills, and gave them experience in managing minor difficulties such as long layovers and missed connections. “Kids learn more when things don’t go smoothly,” says MaryPat.

Bingo, says Dr. Bradley. A bad decision your teen makes for himself is ultimately worth more than a good decision you make for him, he says.

Cooking

Along with a few basics—perhaps roasting a chicken, scrambling eggs and making pasta—teach your teen to prepare a few of his favorite meals. Have him decide on a menu and make a list of needed ingredients, then take him shopping the first time. (The next time you can be the consultant.)

When you’re back at home, be there to coach him through the actual preparation from start to finish. Don’t forget to include cleanup and safe storage of leftovers. From then on, have him help you fix dinner more regularly. Remind him that, besides knowing how to feed himself well, cooking is a great way to impress a potential date. That should get his attention.

Managing Money

Thanks to the recession, knowing how to stretch a buck is more important than ever—a lesson Colorado Springs mom Nancy Erickson continues to drive home with her college-age children. “Kids need to learn to budget and avoid debt at all costs, especially in our current economic climate,” says the mom of three, who definitely practices what she preaches. Starting in high school, Nancy and her husband established clear boundaries with their kids about which expenses they as parents would cover and which ones the kids had to pay themselves—and they put it in writing!

Take a cue from the Ericksons. If your teens don’t have a bank account, make sure they open one. That way, they’ll have a safe, interest-bearing place to keep their allowance, birthday and holiday money, and earnings from a parttime job. Then help your teens add up their expenses—from the slice of pizza they grab after school to movies on the weekend to prom fees—and determine a monthly budget they can stick with.

What if they come up short? Resist the urge to bail them out. “Budgeting requires being able to delay gratification and think ahead, which are critical life skills,” says Dr. Pickhardt. Just keep reminding yourself that it’s a learning opportunity.

All photos by Shutterstock

source: www.womensday.com

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You’ve got a killer resume and aced the interview, but according to a new survey, your future boss is judging you on your Google search results, too. Here’s how to make sure that what’s on the Web won’t come back to bite you in the butt.

By Mina Azodi

 

Early this summer, Katie Couric delivered the commencement address at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio. Her advice to graduates? “Clean up your Facebook page.” Okay, so those words aren’t exactly change-your-life inspiring, but she makes a (very) important point. According to a recent survey of HR professionals, 79 percent of employers review online information about job applicants—and 70 percent say they’ve rejected a candidate based on stuff they’ve found. Yikes. And get this: Only 7 percent of job seekers thought their online rep affected their job search. We asked a top career expert for tips on how you can take control of your online info, so you can get the job you deserve.

 

Go Private
You already know you should de-tag any unflattering pics of you on Facebook—that means any that show you drinking excessively, dancing on top of bars…pretty much any photo you wouldn’t print out and show to your boss in real life. But you also need to make sure you’ve set your profile privacy settings to “Friends Only” (the other options are “Friends of Friends,” “Friends and Networks,” and “Everyone”). This minimizes the chances that a potential employer (or your current boss) can take a peek at your profile. The same applies to Twitter—make those tweets for your followers’ eyes only by going to “Settings” and clicking on “Protect my updates.”

Still, you’re not totally in the clear. A Facebook status update or photo upload still can pop up on an employer’s news feed, if they’re friends with someone in your network who comments on your post. And with Twitter, any of your followers can retweet what you say, broadcasting it to a whole new network of people you have no control over. That’s why it’s smart to never post anything you wouldn’t be totally comfortable with a higher-up seeing…because there’s always a chance that they will.

 

Know What’s Being Said About You
It’s pretty much a given that a potential employer may Google you, so it’s crucial that you search for your own name to see what they’re judging. Before you do, be sure to log out of your gmail account if you have one (on the Google homepage, click “sign out” on the top right hand corner). Since Google keeps track of what you click, your results will be different than what an employer sees. By signing out, your results will appear as they would to a stranger who searches your name. Next, you’ll want to create a Google alert for your name to keep tabs via e-mail on any new results that may pop up. You can do this by signing back in and clicking “Settings” in the upper right hand corner of the Google homepage, and then selecting “Google Account Settings.” Next, click on “Alerts” under “My Products” to create one for you. Just type in your name with quotation marks, select how often you want to receive the notifications, and you’re done.

 

Bury the Bad Stuff…
Okay, so when you Googled yourself, you probably saw a link or two that you weren’t exactly thrilled about. And unfortunately, it can be difficult to get them removed. (You have to ask the Webmaster of the specific site, not Google, to delete the info—and since the site likely owns the content, they get the final say. That said, it’s always worth a shot!) For an even more proactive approach, you can hide those search results by creating new stuff that shows up first in a search. The easiest way to do that is to register for your own Website, like http://www.janedoe.com, or sign up for a blog on WordPress or LiveJournal that has your name in the URL. Almost always your site will show up first in a search, pushing anything negative down the list. You can also take advantage of social networking sites like LinkedIn, Flickr, and Vimeo, since their pages rank high in Google and will be at the top of search results of your name. Simply open an account, input the bare minimum amount of info, and set it so that it can be publicly searched—you don’t have to actively use the site.

 

…And Pump Up the Good.
When employers search for your name, they’re not just playing online cops—they also want to see evidence that you’re the kind of employee that would be the right fit for their company. So while you don’t have to actively use the personal webpage or LinkedIn profile you created to bury content, those sites are an awesome opportunity to show off what you’ve got. Fill in your LinkedIn profile with details from your resume, publish photos of your hiking trip to Flickr, or post videos from a recent 5K you ran to Vimeo—all of these things let an employer see you as the well-rounded, impressive job candidate they can’t pass up.

Source: Alexandra Levit, career expert and author of New Job, New You and MillennialTweet

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source: www.cosmopolitan.com

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How to balance work, play, and rest.

By Erika Rasmusson Janes

1. FORCE YOUR BRAIN TO DRAW A LINE BETWEEN WORK AND HOME.
"Your ability to do a good job at work depends on whether you have a personal life that refreshes and restores you," says social psychologist Jane Adams. If you can’t stop thinking about work after you leave the office, create a mental filing cabinet. "Sit down in a quiet place, open it, and deal with your work worries. Then, mentally close the cabinet and do something else," she suggests. Try this on Fridays before leaving the office for the weekend — or each night. Mentally lock the cabinet, if necessary.
2. LEAVE MULTITASKING AT THE OFFICE.
You may subconsciously take your office habits — especially multitasking — home with you. You might find yourself washing dishes while phoning your mom, or checking your BlackBerry while in a movie. "We’ve become so used to living in overdrive that we take it as normal, but our bodies don’t," says stress expert Kathleen Hall. To balance work, play, and rest, write down five ways work blends into your playtime. Then, choose one to focus on. If you obsessively check your BlackBerry during your time off, cut back — first by half, then more until you get it down to once a night. By transforming mindless habits into conscious choices, you’ll limit your body’s stress and gain control of your day — and night.
3. MAKE FRIENDS WITH PEOPLE OUTSIDE OF YOUR PROFESSION.
To lead a more fulfilling personal life, expand your exposure to people you don’t work with, says Douglas Rushkoff, author of Get Back in the Box: Innovation from the Inside Out. Otherwise, you’ll constantly be pushed into the role you play at the office. Sign up for an art class, or at yoga, introduce yourself to the woman who’s downward-dogging next to you. Can’t tear yourself away from your desk? Try an Internet-based service like meetup.com that allows people with similar interests to meet and interact online.
4. PUT A TIME LIMIT ON YOUR TALK ABOUT WORK.
If all of your friends work in your industry, set rules when you socialize. Agree to vent, gossip, or strategize for a specific amount of time — say, 10 minutes — and appoint a timekeeper. When the allotted number of minutes is up, deliberately switch the topic — to anything from politics to Paris Hilton.
5. MAKE HOME YOUR SANCTUARY.
To prevent work from invading your home, create a personal project — it will help you recharge and relax but still feel active. Buy canvases and paint, make CDs for friends, or begin a home-improvement project, says Christine Hassler, a life coach for 20-something women. Another tip: Consider cooking. Eating meals in your own kitchen makes your home feel less like a hotel.

source: www.marieclaire.com

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Seek balance and happiness each day this year as you set your sights on yoga’s four aims of life.

By Hillari Dowdle

The new year is the traditional time to stop and ask yourself an important question: Am I leading a well-balanced life? It’s easy to get bogged down in the details, in setting goals that relate to how you think you want to look, or act, or be in this world. But consider bypassing all the particulars—the numbers on the scale, the bank account balance, the starting or stopping of habits—in favor of a deeper approach that can reshape your whole life in a positive way.

The yoga tradition offers a paradigm for such deep self-examination: the purusharthas,, or four aims of life. They are dharma (duty, ethics), artha (prosperity, wealth), kama (pleasure, sensual gratification), and moksha (the pursuit of liberation). The purusharthas are the blueprint for human fulfillment, signposts that point us to a successful, satisfying, balanced existence in the world. Working with them can help you create a satisfyingly balanced life at the deepest and most holistic level.

"We all have a desire for a meaningful life. The purusharthas are the means that can help us achieve it," says ParaYoga founder Rod Stryker, who is working on a book about the purusharthas that’s called The Four Desires. "They are, in a larger sense, what practice is really all about," he says, adding that the purusharthas offer a yogic perspective on how to engage skillfully in the world.

Cosmic Clues

The purusharthas are elaborated upon extensively in the Mahabharata, the epic Indian poem that contains The Bhagavad Gita, and are interwoven with yogic philosophy at the deepest levels. But they have their roots in the Rig Veda, the most ancient and revered of Hindu scriptures. "What the Rig Veda suggests is that the purusharthas are the inherent values of the universe," explains Douglas Brooks, a Tantric scholar and professor of religious studies at the University of Rochester. "The cosmos is considered a living being, and the issues of law, prosperity, desire, and freedom belong to it. These are not just human concerns or psychological concepts. When we engage them as human beings, we are aligning the microcosm with the macrocosm. The cosmos is all laid out for you; your job is to get with the program."

To fully grasp the purusharthas, Stryker says, it pays to parse the meaning of the word itself. Purusha means, roughly, "soul"—the essential Self that is unchanging, that isn’t born and doesn’t die, but belongs to the universe. Artha means "the ability" or "for the purpose of." Taken together, Stryker explains, purushartha means "for the purpose of the soul," and the very concept asks that you take the broadest view of your life. Are you managing the day-to-day in such a way as to support your inner work?

Each one of the purusharthas has many scriptures dedicated to it (the Kama Sutra, the Dharma Shastras, and the Artha Shastras, among others). To truly understand all four would require a lifetime of study. Still, learning the fundamentals is useful, especially to the contemporary practitioner who’s simply looking to find more joy and meaning in life.

Here, we provide a guide for working with the four aimsdharma, artha, kama, and moksha. Once you have an understanding of the individual components of each of the purusharthas, you can assess the role they play in your life by contemplating the questions related to each one. You can then begin to analyze how well balanced they are in your life.

"The purusharthas are a sophisticated way of living in balance," says spiritual teacher and Yoga Journal columnist Sally Kempton. "But they demand reflection. You have to constantly ask yourself, Which of these areas am I emphasizing too much? Am I having a good time but not being as ethical as I could be? Am I a great yogi but haven’t yet figured out how to make a living? Am I incredibly ethical but still at the mercy of every passing feeling or thought? Am I so rigid in my practice that if I can’t do 90 minutes, my day is ruined? Anything you don’t deal with will come back to bite you later."

Put simply, the purusharthas can offer a way for evaluating your life, making good decisions, and contemplating pragmatic dilemmas—like whether to spend time with your young child, or go back to work to save for her college education—in a way that honors the highest ideals of life. "At the end of your life, you will ask yourself, ‘Did I live this life well?’" Kempton suggests. "And in my view, you will feel good about it to the degree that you balanced the purusharthas."

Dharma: duty

Let’s just say it up front: dharma is a big word. It’s translated to mean "duty," "ethics," "righteousness," "work," "law," "truth," "responsibility," and even the spiritual teachings related to all the above (as in the Buddha dharma or the Hindu dharma). The meaning of the word is synonymous with your very purpose in life—with having the strength to get up each day and do what needs to be done.

"The easiest way to define dharma is to look at the verbal root, which really means ‘to make firm,’ ‘to establish,’ or ‘to create structure,’" Brooks explains. "It’s about that which gives life order—about stepping up to your own responsibilities, about working within the structure to serve yourself and society." There is a universal dharma, known as sanatana dharma, which is thought to underlie the very structure of existence. It is the source of the fundamental ideas of right and wrong that are deeply embedded in human consciousness. But along with that universal order, we each have our own unique, individual dharma, or svadharma, the result of our birth circumstances, karma, and talents, and the choices we make in life as it unfolds for us.

"Dharma [refers to] the actions that you are engaged in, in this life, and there are many different levels," says Gary Kraftsow, Viniyoga founder and the author of the book Yoga for Transformation. "As a father, my dharma is to raise up my son. As a yoga teacher, my dharma is to show up to class, to give interviews, and to transmit these teachings. As an American, part of my dharma is to pay my taxes. Whatever you are doing, your dharma is to do it well, to serve yourself and serve life in the present moment, to keep moving forward toward a sense of personal fulfillment."

For some, our dharmas reflect a clear calling: farmer, teacher, activist, parent, poet, president. For others, not so much. But you don’t need to have a calling to have dharma, Kraftsow says. Dharma means sustaining your life, meeting your family obligations, participating in society—and sometimes even a low-level McJob can enable you to do all that. "If you hate your job so much that it’s sucking the life out of you, it may not be dharmic for you," he says. "But realizing your dharma sometimes means accepting where you are."

Still, dharma can be a moving target, especially here in the West, where—in our ideal world, at least7mdash;we’re not bound by caste, family, gender, or racial roles (those, too, are forms of dharma). "Dharma is a relative concept," says Anusara Yoga founder John Friend. "It’s tricky—ask a Tantric philosopher whether a specific action is dharmic, and the answer is always ‘Well, it depends.’ I like to think of it this way: Given all of the variables, what is it that best serves both you and the greater good? Dharma is ultimately about enhancing life."

And it generally involves honoring your ethics—doing right by yourself, your family, your community, the world. "For Westerners, dharma is the ethical basis on which you live your life," Kempton says. "It’s your bottom line. I like to translate it as ‘the path of the good.’" Your dharma should govern your every action and decision in life, Kempton says. To understand your own dharma, and to measure how well you’re living up to your ideal, she suggests that you ask yourself a few key questions: What is my role in the world? What are my obligations? Which ones feel right? When I am serving the highest good, what am I doing? Am I on a path for the good? How can I best serve the world around me? What would Martin Luther King do? (This is Kempton’s personal favorite—though you could substitute your grandmother, Gandhi, Mother Teresa, or anyone else you consider a paragon of dharmic living.)

Artha: prosperity

For the purposes of this article, it makes sense to define the word dharma first—in some ways, all of the other purusharthas should be viewed through the lens of dharma. Certainly, this is true of artha, which is defined as "material prosperity," "wealth," "abundance," and "success." Artha is the material comfort you need to live in the world with ease. Moreover, artha is the stuff—the capital, the computer, the business suit—you need to get your dharma done. Artha is, simply put, that which supports your life’s mission.

Many philosophers would put artha first on their list of purusharthas, for a simple reason: "If you don’t have enough food to eat, you don’t have a place to eat, or you don’t feel safe, forget the other three," Friend says. "Artha sets a basic level of material comfort and resources so that you can facilitate all of your intentions in life." Artha refers to things—your apartment, your car, your pots and pans. For a writer, the essential artha is pen and paper; for a yoga practitioner, artha is time and space for uninterrupted practice. It can also mean the knowledge, understanding, or education you need to get along in the world—something you certainly need to pursue the dharma of a doctor, for instance. It also means good health. And, of course, it means money.

Like dharma, artha can be a moving target—especially here in the West, where lifestyles vary from ascetic to excessive. "When I used to teach the purusharthas, artha meant food, clothing, and shelter," Kraftsow says. "Now it means food, clothing, shelter, a cell phone, and Internet access." That’s a little joke, of course, but it also points to a fundamental truth: What you need depends on who you are. "What artha means for a beggar is the begging bowl; what it means for a business executive in Los Angeles is driving a Lexus," Kraftsow explains. "If you’re doing a business deal, it means looking the part—you might need a nice suit or a good watch to look professional. The yoga community shouldn’t get the message that you can’t have a nice car or a watch. You might need those things to play your role." Just don’t get carried away by the notion that artha is everything, or that more is always better—easy traps to fall into in a culture like ours, which tends to measure success in terms of material gain only. Brooks says that a perceptual shift may be needed to deal skillfully with artha. "Wealth is not a bad thing7mdash;and there is no zero-sum game," he says. "What artha asks us to do is learn to live skillfully in a world of material objects that exist for our benefit. It’s not about rejecting the world, but about figuring out how to be content with the things you own, borrow, or steward. And it requires that you ask yourself: What do I see as truly valuable?"

Brooks asserts that we are not human without artha; Kempton agrees. "Artha is the skills we develop to live a successful worldly life," she says. "I’ve found that if human beings don’t get artha together in one way or another, they feel bad about themselves. Artha is one of the basic human dignities—to have enough money to live on, to care for your family." To learn to work skillfully with artha in your own life, try asking yourself the following questions: Knowing my dharma, what do I need to play my role in the world? Where do I place value? Do I have enough? Are my things making me happy, or are they stealing my joy? Am I afraid of having more? Am I afraid of not having more? What does wealth mean to me besides money?

Kama: pleasure

According to Rod Stryker, kama, or the desire for pleasure, is what makes the world go ’round. "Desire for pleasure is what drives all human behavior," he says. "Kama relates to pleasure, and that can be sensuality," he says. "But it’s also art, beauty, intimacy, fellowship, and kindness—it’s what brings a sense of delight to our lives. And there can be pleasure even in sacrifice." Kama gets some bad press, Stryker notes, possibly because it’s the purushartha most likely to run amok. Excessive kama can lead to overindulgence, addiction, sloth, greed, and a whole host of other "deadly sins." But it is good, and indeed necessary, when it exists to support dharma. "If we set kama in the context of dharma, we understand it to be a part of the richness of life," Stryker says. "Every accomplishment has been sought for the pleasure that it provides. We live in service to a higher purpose, but along that path there is the pleasure we take from family and friends, art, love, and harmony in the world around us." Brooks agrees, saying that, whether we deal with it skillfully or not, there is no life without kama.

Shining the light of awareness on your desires can help you focus on the ones that honor the true essence of life. "The conscious pursuit of kama is a profound yogic practice," Kempton says. "To practice kama yogically means to practice being fully present with whatever you’re experiencing. There are many levels of pleasure, from eating a pizza to finding a meditation practice that allows your heart to expand. As a yogi, you learn to distinguish. You know which pleasures are saturated with god consciousness and are drenched in the ecstasies of the soul, and which ones leave you depleted or lying to yourself about what is really going on." Brooks notes that focusing on the right kinds of pleasure can lead you toward your dharma—and help you fulfill it with passion. "Passion is never the problem," he says. "Passion is the solution." Find your own solution by inquiring deeply about your own pursuit of pleasure. Ask yourself these key questions: What am I passionate about? What brings me pleasure? Am I enjoying my life? Am I happy? What do I care about? What do I most desire? Am I hooked on anything? Are my pleasures leading me toward or away from my life’s purpose?

Moksha: freedom

Moksha, or liberation, is widely considered to be the pinnacle of the purusharthas. "The whole game is that you want to be free," explains John Friend. "You want ‘freedom from’ and’freedom to.’ Freedom from suffering and from that which is blocking you from realizing your own power and connection to life. And you want freedom to express your own creativity as fully as possible, freedom to live fully and be happy." In its broadest, biggest, and most grand and elevated sense, moksha means achieving nirvana, or the complete liberation from the cycle of incarnation. "Moksha is about getting off the wheel of samsara [the cycle of suffering caused by birth, death, and rebirth]," Kempton explains. "You can be a good person who is living a dharmic life, taking care of yourself and your family, enjoying your family life and your career, but all of that will be ultimately unsatisfying unless you are also doing the practices that can lead to moksha."

But moksha doesn’t have to be some other place and time or some exalted state to be reached, irrevocably, only once and to the exclusion of the human experience. "The question with moksha is whether it is a goal, or whether it is your nature," Brooks says. "In other words, do you become free, or are you born free? One view is that moksha is a kind of otherworld-liness&msdash;that it’s the opposite of dharma. The other argument is that freedom is your nature, that it’s here and now. Every time you look into your baby’s eyes, you get a hit of moksha. You don’t feel confined by that responsibility of being a parent; you feel that it offers you the deepest sense of your own freedom and choice." Simply taking time to remember your own inherent freedom, in other words, gives meaning to your dharma—and everything you do in life. Practicing yoga, in a very real sense, is practicing moksha. "You are as free as you experience yourself to be," Brooks notes. "Consider the idea that it is because you are so free that you have to bind yourself. What do you choose to commit to?" And that is a question of dharma.

Here are some questions to ask yourself when assessing the role moksha is playing in your life: What am I doing to free myself from activities and perceptions that make me unhappy? How can I not get caught in my emotions? What do I choose to bind myself to? Do I feel trapped? Can I be free from blaming myself and others? How can I make my mind free?

Balancing Act

The key to working with the purusharthas paradigm is to constantly examine not only the essential concepts and their role in your life, but also how well balanced they are. Are you working so hard to put your kids through school that your life feels like an endless grind? (That’s too much dharma, not enough kama.) Are you so trapped in pleasure that you’re neglecting your duty to your friends and family? (Too much kama, not enough dharma.) Have you become so focused on making money that you have no time to meditate? (Too much artha, not enough moksha.) Are you spending so much time getting blissed out at the yoga studio that you can’t swing this month’s rent? (Too much moksha, not enough artha.) The balance between them will constantly shift—by stage of life, by month, by week, even by the minute. A young mother, for instance, will naturally emphasize the dharma of raising her children, and her artha will be about providing for it. An elderly man facing the end of life will turn toward moksha, ready to leave artha and dharma behind. A business executive entering contract negotiations will focus on artha and dharma; a college student on summer break will indulge in more kama. All that is as it should be. The work of balance isn’t literal—it’s an effort to face the world with all of your pieces intact, to live in a conscious way that leaves no part of your Self behind.

That work, of course, starts on the yoga mat. "Yoga is virtuosity in being human," Brooks concludes. "The purusharthas tell us that we must meditate on our roles in the world, our values, relationships, and passions. These are not concerns to cure, extinguish, or transcend. They are simply part of being human, and embracing them is loving life."

Fine-tune your life

The four aims are the pillars of a fulfilling life. In the following self-inquiry practice by Sally Kempton, you’ll consider where your current priorities lie and how you need to shift them to create a deeply satisfying life. Don’t worry about getting your whole life in order at once—do the exercise each week, and you’ll become more in tune with yourself, more present with the world around you.Here’s how: Find 30 minutes in which you can be alone and undisturbed. Create a cozy space, and settle into it with a journal, a pen, a candle, and a comfortable seat (a meditation cushion or a chair).

Light the candle to signify that you are in a sacred space. "A candle symbolizes the flame of the inner witness," Kempton says. Breathe deeply, close your eyes, and relax for a few minutes.

Begin to think back over your activities of the preceding week. Consider all of the things you did related to your dharma. How did you serve your family, your community, and yourself? What were your obligations? Did you meet them with ease? What ethical tests did you face, and how did you deal with them? Record the answers in your journal.

When you’ve exhausted your thoughts about dharma, consider artha. What did you do this week for the sake of your livelihood? What did you do to maintain your health? What did you need to support yourself? Did you get it? Write the answers in your journal; note your concerns and anxieties.

Next, think deeply about kama. What actions did you take solely for the purpose of creating more joy in your life and in the world? What were your greatest pleasures? What were your strongest desires? Were you able to realize them? Write down your thoughts.

Then, record the activities you engaged in for the sake of moksha. These might include yoga, meditation, prayer, chanting, spiritual reading, or self-inquiry. Did you find a feeling of freedom? Which areas of your life feel constricted or burdened? What do you need to do to liberate yourself? Write down the answers.

When you’ve gone through each purushartha individually, analyze the balance between them. Looking at what you’ve written, see where your emphasis was in the past week. Which parts of your life were unattended to? Are you working too hard in one area? Not hard enough? What are the consequences of your priorities? Formulate a simple statement about the way the purusharthas manifested themselves in your life, something like, "This week, I worked hard to meet my obligations, but I felt burdened. I took the most pleasure from my friendships. I didn’t find time to work toward liberation."

Finally, formulate an intention for the coming week. You might set an intention related to each of the purusharthas, or you could focus on one or two that need more of your attention. Record the intention in your journal. Then say it to yourself—first out loud, then inwardly. Close your journal, blow out the candle, and ease back into your day with a new understanding of your soul’s priorities.

Taking time each week to think about the purusharthas will enable you to see how your life’s priorities are constantly shifting and let you do some troubleshooting whenever unease and unhappiness arise. "Yoga is one of the great tools humans have for recognizing meaning, and the purusharthas let you see whether you are living a good life," Kempton says. "If you are not finding joy in your practice, there is something wrong with your practice. If you aren’t able to operate ethically, you’ll know that changes are needed."

Hillari Dowdle, a former Yoga Journal editor, lives and writes in Knoxville, Tennessee.

source: www.yogajournal.com

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Posted by: YourTango.com Filed in: relationships
4:50PM, Friday June 11th 2010

As I get older and my life becomes more complicated, I’ve noticed that my desire to spend time with certain friends has waned. Not that I don’t love and care for them, but for various reasons, these friendships have become too complicated or too negative to warrant the effort that it takes to keep them going. How sad. Yet I have to wonder, is this simply something that happens with age and increased stress? Or is it more?

When I look back, the power of hindsight offers a few clues that these friendships were ending regardless of what was going on in my life. I don’t imagine that there was much that I could have done to save them because each one had some of the eroding elements listed below. If you’re thinking about shifts in your friendships and wondering if one has become toxic, I offer you these signs that it’s time to let the relationship go.

1. It’s one-sided. All relationships have a natural ebb and flow to them when it comes to giving and receiving love. This giving comes in the form of listening, making the effort to get together, spending resources on the friendship, you get the idea. Most harmonious relationships work toward a balance; we want to give AND receive. The sign that a friendship is becoming toxic and out of balance is when this give and take becomes overly one-sided. Examples of this include when you’re always the one to make the calls, text, say hello on Facebook/email, ask for the girls-night, do the driving, pay the tab etc.

For relationships to thrive, the balance sheet has to have some overall equality to it. Stressful times aside, we need to feel that if we took score, that somehow we’d come up even.

2. It’s dishonest. Honesty and genuineness are critical elements necessary to keep friendships alive. When one or both people begin making excuses, trimming stories to leave out details or outright lying there is something seriously wrong. When you consider how busy our lives are, the friendships we have need to be ones where we can be our true selves without feeling that we need to be protective or hide the truth. A major benefit of friendship is the gift of feeling loved and respected for who we are. When that is missing, it’s a major sign that it’s time to think about the relationship and if it’s worth the effort.

3. It’s overly critical. Friends are supposed to support us, if not, why have them? If we look for it, we can easily find people to tell us all the things we could do better. But is it really wise to have those critical souls in our daily lives? The truth is that people who consistently criticize us hurt our self-esteem. Furthermore, this kind of behavior hits at two things which are seemingly more problematic: jealousy and cruelty. If someone is constantly pointing out the things we’re doing wrong and makes no time to acknowledge the things we’re doing right, they may serve us better if we speak with from time-to-time but certainly not everyday.

4. You genuinely don’t like each other anymore. The truth is that people change. Life events, stress, age and time all have an impact on how we see the world and how we choose to behave. Sometimes our values diverge and we lose our connection. When that happens, it’s important to consider if we’re staying with the friendship out of choice or obligation. If you can honestly say that you no longer care for your friend anymore, it’s okay to be honest about that change and make choices that reflect this new perspective. Chances are that if you feel this way that your friend has a sense that something is amiss also. There’s no requirement that you have a "big talk," sometimes simply backing away is enough. But, if you feel the need to have the talk, try to remember points two and three above and be honest yet kind.

5. Your life feels calmer, happier and more alive without them. When two people struggle to understand where their friendship is headed, often there are periods of time when they don’t communicate as much. During these breaks, ask yourself if you’re happier or less stressed without your friend? Sometimes the answer is a resounding "yes" and in those cases, the writing is on the wall. But what about situations where your friend has fallen into a self-destructive pattern that you hope will change? Sometimes relief comes when you simply accept that it’s not your responsibility to fix your friend, and that until they decide to take action all you can do it wait and pray. Perhaps in this case what you really need is a break and not a breakup.

Toxic friendships can truly be harmful to everyone involved. As you consider this list, if the friendship that you have in mind comes up as a net negative, then it’s clear what you need to do. All that’s left is to decide how you want to back away and if a conversation is necessary.

Remember that each ending makes room for a new beginning. Fear of walking away from a toxic friendship only keeps you both stuck and stunts your growth. On the other hand, finding the courage to explore difficult questions ultimately raises the bar and redefines the kind of friendships that are worth your time, energy and love.

Originally published on The Huffington Post.

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Posted by: Lauren Gold Filed in: relationships
11:00AM, Friday June 11th 2010

We love our friends. Why? Maybe because they love us back no matter what stupid things we say or do. In turn, we love them for their quirks, mistakes, and funny personalities, too. Often, friends fall into categories. Your group might not exactly fit like the foursome in “Sex and the City” or the famous “Golden Girls,” but there are striking, and often hilarious, differences in every crew. After the jump, check out some characteristics of the friends you probably already have. Do your friends fit the bill? Which friend are you?

  1. The Responsible One: Enter the friend who is always the voice of reason. She’s put-together and logical. She’s kind of like the good angel on your shoulder, who says, “That’s not very practical.” She might not be your first pick for a concert or a night on the town, but she’s the first one you call when you need to make the bigger decisions in life. When it comes to relationships, jobs and the things that really matter, there’s no one who gives better advice than she does.
  2. The (Not So) Secret Seductress: You have to love this one. Cute and friendly by day but seductress by night, this friend gets most (or maybe all) of the action in your group of friends. She owns her sexuality and has dated, slept with, or fooled around with almost everyone you know. Admire her sexual adventures from afar, but beware: No one is off-limits to this friend, including your latest crush. Spare yourself the strife and keep your personal life out of this friendship.
  3. The Sketchball: This is a true blue friend, but after the clock strikes 12, she is nowhere to be found. Call her, text her, or send out a search party … all attempts are futile. Always start your night out with this fun, spontaneous buddy, but don’t go out with her alone or you will end the evening getting a cab home by yourself.
  4. Little Miss Opinion: This friend always has something to say. Headstrong and full of ideas, she likes to run her mouth about how, if it were her, she would never do that. She can be slightly judgmental, but you love her for standing up for what she believes in. You might not agree with her political views, but one thing is certain: this friend will be fiercely loyal to you no matter what.
  5. The Comedian: When you’re feeling pessimistic and need to distract yourself from a long day at work or personal problem, this is your go-to gal. She has the positive attitude and sense of humor that we all wish we had a little more of—she doesn’t take anything too seriously. When you need belly-aching laughter and don’t feel like hashing out your emotions, hang out with this lady.
  6. The Boyfriender: Don’t we all wish we could be like this friend sometimes? She almost always has a boyfriend, and on the off chance that she’s in between relationships, she attracts guys faster than you can even tie your shoelaces. Aside from her relationship status, one thing is for sure: this friend knows the right way to be treated and never settles for anything less than she deserves. Go to her for the best empowerment pep talks and follow her example. Confidence is key!
  7. The Party Girl: When everyone else says no, this friend says yes. She’s always down for an impromptu road trip or party, pleasant to be around, and has the most active social life. She knows everyone and is willing to help you network or make a new friend. She doesn’t always know her limits, though, so know when it’s time for you to slow down on the partying scene.
  8. The Debbie Downer: It’s hard to see the bright side sometimes, but this friend doesn’t even know that there is a bright side. She whines, complains, and never has anything positive to add to the conversation. However, her redeeming quality is that she will always listen to you when you need to vent. Spending time with the Debbie Downer or Negative Nancy with an occasional lunch date or random phone call is best—no one wants to be brought down on a daily basis.
  9. The Shopaholic: This friend sets the trends before they’re even on the runways. She’s got style, an artistic flair, and the best taste in birthday presents. If you didn’t have an all-access pass to her closet, you would be twitching with envy. You never go on a date without her approval of your outfit first, and the two of you have a regular date called the Bloomingdale’s Semi-Annual Sale.
  10. The Geeky One: She might not be as wild and crazy as the Party Girl, but she’s a great sidekick. The geeky one will never leave you at an awkward social gathering. She tweets, she blogs, and she knows all the best websites to go to for online shopping. You forward your funny emails to her, and she sends you the interesting and thought-provoking articles from today’s New York Times. You can share all of your secrets, fetishes, and weird habits with her, because chances are, she’s weirder.

 

source:http://www.thefrisky.com/

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