5 Ways Music Affects Our Joy

I was recently giving a self-love starter assignment for an upcoming class. The person co-teaching the class with me interjected and gave a recommendation of some music that might be helpful to the students to reach the level of emotional clarity I was requesting. That made me think, “Wow. I use music everyday in my personal life to cause changes to my mood, improve my level of focus, and to work out my empathic muscles. Why have I never used it in the classes or workshops I teach?” I will be remedying that oversight immediately!

Music is the purest form of magic I have ever encountered. I do not say that lightly. It truly is magical in every sense of the word. Music is a universal language that resonates in the soul. Music can be broken down into mathematical equations and can even be produced by artificial intelligence, but these two forms have thus far come up short of causing the same results as music made by humans for one simple reason. The music made by humans for humans is an exposition of one soul poured out to be experienced by another soul.

Seems a little too deep, huh? I can just hear you now, reading along and shaking your head; thinking “WAP is a conversation between to souls? Come on!” And that brings to light another mystery of music – taste. What type of music we gravitate toward is directly dependent on what our goal is in listening. Not “genre”, type. Most of us enjoy a range of genres, but the important part is the type of emotional response the songs cause, not the label placed on them.

For instance, I have always been a die hard metal fan. I enjoy the fast pace, the aggressive lyrics, the deep and hard hitting bass. I enjoy the adrenaline that courses through my blood when the distorted guitar wails out. However, I also have a 1970s-1990s country playlist on my phone for when I am feeling disconnected from my roots. My parents were a country-only duo and I often heard, “What is that crap you are listening to?” growing up. I also have a huge blues playlist for when I just want to slow the world down around me. Hell, I even went through a stage 20 years ago where I was listening to Gregorian Chants! Sorry folks, not a big rap or pop fan. I taught myself to play a guitar as a teenager and I need that sound in every song.

That is the music which speaks to my soul. That is the type of music I feel. You may be the same way, you may be completely opposite, or you may be a mixture. And the great thing about music is that, there is no wrong answer. It is completely individual to you and your soul. So, explore different types of music and pay attention to the effects it causes within you and causes to your emotional state.

Music can affect us in spiritual ways, psychological ways, and physiological ways. Here are my top 5:

  • Mood Alteration
  • Increases Self-Awareness
  • Reduces Stress
  • Provides Spiritual Connection
  • Boosts Empathy

1. Music Can Alter Your Mood

We have already touched on this one a bit. But music has the ability to deepen or completely change your mood. Whether you are feeling happy, sad, frustrated, thankful, etc, music offers us the opportunity to either sink further into our emotion or to switch it up, just based on your personal emotional response to certain types of music or even specific songs! How many of us (and this may date both of us), have been driving alone just enjoying our day and listening to the radio when “Danger Zone” by Kenny Loggins comes on? I don’t know about you, but I immediately become a fighter pilot and that song has honestly been responsible for the only two speeding tickets I have ever received. But it always makes me smile, no matter what kind of crappy day I may have had or what is weighing on my mind. What type of music can pull you out of the doldrums everytime? If you aren’t sure, it is time to hit shuffle on that playlist and figure it out. Having a go-to will change your life.


2. Music Increases Self-Awareness

We have come, once again, to my favorite step along the path to inner-peace… INTROSPECTION! We all need to know ourselves, truly know ourselves, before we will know self-acceptance and self-love. So introspection is vital. And music can be an easily accessible way to put ourselves in the right mindset for introspection.

Find a few moments of quiet time. Slip in your earbuds. Put on your favorite artist or music type and follow your mind wherever it goes. You may very well be surprised what you soul points out to you in these moments. I suggest keeping a journal of the emotions, thoughts and realizations that spring out of these quick sessions. You may need to reference them later to figure out what you were told.

In my experience, I have had my biggest spiritual and emotional breakthroughs within moments of just leisurely listening to music. It is also why I only ever write with music on in the background. Music opens me. It invites my soul to speak without the distraction of my brain filtering the message for political correctness; or being afraid to speak truth out of fear of reprisal. Being a metal-loving, motorcycle-riding, anti-organized religion minister can be an odd and confusing existence to grasp. But music is what keeps me emotionally clear.


3. Music Reduces Stress

With everything going on in the world today, and everything going on inside of each of us, any way of reducing stress should be as welcome as an oasis in the desert. Music is that free-flowing, crystal clear water that we all need.

Through your introspection, identify a type of music or specific songs which have a positive effect on you (the music that you can not help but smile and sing along to). These are your mood lifters and stress reducers. When you are feeling overwhelmed by the inevitable crush of stressors in modern society, fire up your playlist and take some deep breaths. Let the music calm your soul. My playlist is labeled “Feel Good Songs”. Find your personal feel-good songs and let them wash over you.


4. Music Provides Spiritual Connection

I spent two years as a worship leader in a Christian church. The “worship leader” is kind of like being the band leader for a church. Many modern Christian churches use full live bands, light shows and even fog machines to create an energized and immersive experience to get the congregation in a worshipful state of mind at the beginning of services. It was my job to find or write biblically-based Christian music to elicit a worshipful and emotional response from the congregation; teach it to the team members; and perform it at the services held that week. Someday perhaps I will post about some of the emotional highs and lows of that experience, but for now…

Music has, in my opinion, an unparalleled ability to cut through the mundane and snap our souls to spiritual attention. Songs that I find spiritually significant may not even be “religious” in nature. They are songs that make my soul respond in a spiritual way. One strange example is the 1990 song “Something To Believe In” by the hair band Poison. Definitely NOT a “religious” song. But it elicits a spiritual response from me every single time. My heart breaks for the man the song portrays; a disillusioned man floating completely alone through life with absolutely nothing concrete to believe in – including himself. I cry for that man everytime I hear the song because he exists in the form of so many people today.

Find those songs that speak to your soul. They can quite literally come out of the blue, so just keep your ears and mind open. You never know when you will stumble on a song that leaves you in awe of the majestic and amazing Universe we are a part of; or will make you cry for the lack of love others feel for themselves; or brings your journey into focus for you.


5. Music Boosts Empathy

Being empathetic is a vital skill in connecting with others in a deep, meaningful, and powerful way. It is the ability to see life from someone else’s point of view; to put yourself in their shoes to understand their thoughts, feelings and needs. Music can enhance your ability to empathize with your fellow humans, or in my opinion it can even teach you how to empathize with others.

When you are immersed in a song, you can feel the emotion the writer and/or the musicians are attempting to portray. You are literally empathizing with these total strangers and riding along on the wave their song causes. It can help you to hone your empathetic skills; to sharpen your blade of empathy without running the risk of hurting a friend or loved one who needs you to understand them in the moment. It is basically practice so you can be ready at game time!

Individuals who exhibit a severe lack of empathy are referred to as “narcissists”. A person with high narcissistic tendencies are unable to experience the emotions of others and, as such, lack compassion for others. Narcissists are becoming more and more prevalent in our society, are highly functional, and are often times very successful. It is likely that we all know at least one narcissist, even if we are unaware of it. One method of reducing narcissistic tendencies and teaching empathy may be through music therapy. In this type of therapy, a heart-felt musical selection is played for the individual and then the writer of the piece speaks with the individual explaining the motivations and emotions behind the music. The therapy is still very much in the early testing stages and so no data yet exists as to its effectiveness, however I personally believe there is a huge amount of promise in this therapy. Imagine a world where everyone is able to show compassion for their fellow human!


So as we have seen, music is not just some kind of auditory distraction. Music has real world implications and effects on its listeners. It can alter our mood; increase our self-awareness; reduce our stress levels; provide spiritual connection; and boost empathy. Music is the language of our soul and of our Universe. The Universe is all around us and the Universe is in us. Be open to it speaking to you through rhythm, timber, pitch, and lyric.

Oh, and rock on!

My Thoughts And Prayers…


Stand-up comedian Anthony Jeselnik has said, “My thoughts and prayers. I am so tired of hearing ‘My thoughts and prayers.’ My thoughts and prayers are with the people of Aurora today. You know how much that is worth. Fucking nothing. Less than nothing. It’s just a way of saying, ‘Don’t forget about me!'” And if you you treat social media like MANY people, I actually agree. I have seen comment threads of “My thoughts and prayers” which include people who I am very well aware have forgotten about the post as soon as they hit the Send button. Many times, I have been WITH the commenter at the time and can be sure they were not following through with action. But, hey, does it really matter? I mean, it is just to show support for someone else, right? Its not like our thoughts and prayers actually have any kind of effect outside of our own minds, right? Wrong! The concept is called “manifestation”. And it can be an amazingly powerful tool in our lives.


Where Is Bill Nye When You Need Him!

Let’s start with gaining an understanding of what thoughts and prayers are, scientifically speaking. Thoughts are electrical impulses created by neurons in the brain. These neurons fire in sequence across multiple regions of the brain to create everything that occurs in our internal world. That little voice you hear in your head is created by the firing of neurons. The picture you create in your mind of your dream home is created by the firing of neurons. The chemical and electrical process of “firing” the neurons cause a small, but detectable energy output. Our brains actually produce electricity when we think, about enough to power a light bulb. This field is constantly present, and constantly fluctuating as long as we are alive. Awake or asleep are two states which alter the field, but it is constantly present.

Prayers, which are intensely directed thoughts often verbalized into the universe, would logically not differ greatly from our everyday thoughts. They produce the same electrical field. However, the fluctuations in the electrical field are much more pronounced! Meaning that prayer does produce more energy than regular, undirected thought. How much more power depends on the individual’s ability to focus on the singular directed thought. Following me? So…Yes, the “harder” you pray and the more accustomed you are to meditating, the more electrical power is produced by your brain when you pray!!! How amazing is that?

I know what you are thinking. “So? Worst Ted Talk ever!” Well, there is just a little bit more scientific foundation to lay before the payoff, but hang with me.

What makes this electrical field, this power grid emanating from our the 3 pounds of gray matter matter our ears? Electricity is produced by the friction between positive and negative ions. The friction caused by being too close together or being forced to touch cause the ions to vibrate. Hence, the term “good vibrations” used for positive thoughts. Who knew The Beach Boys were so scientifically accurate! But, seriously, vibrations are the key. Vibrations have causation. That is, vibrations make things happen. Vibrations, in the form of waves, allow us to sense the world by hearing it and seeing it. But vibrations can do more than that! Vibrational frequency is also what separates dimensions from each other. Dimensions in that sentence could be read as “parallel universes”.


Vibrational Frequency

Now, I am not writing an article for Scientific American here, so I will relax on the yawn factor of the science for now (but I bet a deep dive into beta waves, the effects of vibrational frequency on the states of matter, and the use of vibration in astral projection show up in a future post).


Metaphysically, Thoughts Are Awesome!

Manifesting our wishes and desires is another way of saying “bringing our hopes and dreams into reality”. Sounds good right? Well, it is completely possible. And “good vibes” will get us there.

When we are in a mindful state, let’s say in a deep meditation focused on what we are hoping to see manifested in our lives, we are tuning the vibrations emanating from within us toward that goal. A thought occurs in the conscious mind, like “I wish my friend knew I loved her in this painful time”. You are visualizing that thought in your mind, whatever it may look like to you. That wish is then filtered through your past experiences; your memories; and your beliefs in your subconscious where it becomes an emotion. That emotionally charged wish, combined with and strengthened by the power field surrounding you, is then transferred into the universe as love directed toward your friend. We pour love for our friend out into the ether; into the universe as a whole. The beauty and the magical part is that the universe seems to be able to deliver your manifested love directly to your friend’s subconscious. I say “magical” because we simply don’t understand how it works yet. So, just as the sun was once thought to be swallowed by a “magical” snake at the end of each day, we may someday figure out the process through technology. Your thought has manifested and you have comforted your friend regardless of physical distance. You have THOUGHT with intention and that thought has caused a change in the physical vibrational frequency of your friend. How beautiful and powerful is that ability!

Pyramid of Manifestation

See. Easy right? Ugh. If only it was. The truth is that if humans were able to manifest their desires all willy-nilly, the world would be a damn mess! There would be an endless parade of lottery winners every week, the most ruthless and strongest mind would own everything, and Megan Fox would have about a million very disappointed husbands. It takes dedication, practice and patience to manifest thoughts and dreams into reality. We need to be mindful of each moment, in balance with our inner self and the universe. Basically, we need to be our best selves. But what better goal could there be than the ability to manifest love, joy, peace and happiness in the physical world?

You will notice that I didn’t suggest we dwell on the poor friend’s suffering. We need to be experiencing the thought…the emotion…that we want to manifest. So, not the sadness we may feel for our friend’s pain, but the love and comfort which we want for them. There are crystals which can help you to focus your energy and intention, some that even serve to amplify your energy and intentions! Just as quartz crystals have been used for nearly one hundred years to transmit and receive radio signals wirelessly across vast distances, crystals have very unique properties and internal structures which allow for untold numbers of uses in technological AND metaphysical applications.

Like everything in the spiritual and metaphysical realms, manifestation is a process. Do not be discouraged. Sending out good vibes into the universe can never be a bad thing! Just keep trying, praying, focusing and transmitting. And, perhaps, the next time you are worried about that family member’s upcoming surgery, instead of just seeking “Thoughts and Prayers” from Facebook friends, you can meditate and make the comfort and safety you desire for them!

Macho And Mindful

So many men today are in the camp of “I don’t need that touchy-feely stuff. I have real things to get done” when it comes to meditation, mindfulness and their emotional health. I get it. I spent more than 30 years bunking in that same camp! But, guys, I need to talk to you. We have been led down the wrong path in this case. Self-care, introspection and learning to live in the moment are gifts that men have been turning down for far too long.

ABC News correspondent Dan Harris is the author of a book called 10% Happier. In the book, he discusses having a total lockup style panic attack live on the air. It is on YouTube here. If you have ever had a panic attack/anxiety attack, you know how he feels in that moment. But since then, Harris has embraced the benefits of meditation and mindfulness. He explains that guys have three reasons that they do not dive into the lifestyle. “The first is that guys think it’s bullshit – that you have to wear your wife’s yoga pants or chant. The second is that people assume it’s impossible: ‘My mind is too busy.'” Lastly, Harris says that men feel that it is all about being mellow and are afraid that it will rob them of their edge. These three reasons, gentlemen, are horse shit.

Let’s get real for a minute. It isn’t easy being a man today; it can be downright damn confusing. We are expected to be so many things wrapped up into one meat suit. We need to be strong physically and emotionally on cue, we need to be squishy and empathetic on cue, we need to be a good provider, and we need to be a constant presence in the lives of our loved ones. And most of the time, we are expected to switch between these diametrically opposed roles with only super-top secret facial or body language cues to go by! But what if, instead of spending all of our time stressed out trying to figure out what society or your partner wants you to do or say, the role changes just happened naturally? What if we were only thinking about the moment we were in; we were not only hearing the world around us, but were truly listening to the world and processing it? How much easier would that make every day! That is what we are going to talk about here.

Learning to practice introspection and meditation isn’t religion and it isn’t magic. I equate it to my brain going to the gym. It is damn hard work! And if it doesn’t feel like work, you are cheating! Meditation is training your brain instead of your biceps. It is really difficult and painful at first, but it does get easier as the gains get larger.


People are under the impression that to meditate they need to “clear their mind”, to shut down their brain. No. That is not the way to go about it at all. The point is to change what you are focusing on. It is to train your mind to focus on only one thing. Which works great for me because I can only focus on one thing at a time anyway, the rest of my thoughts are just weird random tangents that fly through to distract me! What, am I alone on that? Didn’t think so.

When we are meditating, the sole focus should be our breathing. All we are paying attention to and focused on is the physical sensation of our breath. Slowly, deep breaths in and even slower breath out. When your mind starts to wonder, and it will, to the beat to that song you can’t remember the name of, or the shape of the woman you held the door open for earlier today (we both know it was just so you could check the caboose), reign it back in. Intentionally bring your focus back to your breathing. And when you break off into another tangent, do it again…and again…and again. That is what meditating is. It is a repeated process of acknowledging when your focus is being shifted by your thoughts and gaining the ability to bring your focus back. It is training your mind to focus on the current moment, the right now. And focusing on the present moment is the meaning of “mindfulness”.

Have you ever been out fishing alone when the sun just starts to slip down; the breeze is warm; the water is calm and still in front of you? That feeling of total relaxation and happiness; when your soul feels as calm as the water? You aren’t even thinking. You are simply enjoying the fact that you exist and are here at this particular moment.. That is what it means to be “mindful”. So truthfully, you probably have already experienced it, you just didn’t realize you could train your brain to hold that feeling and focus.

There are a lot of us men of a certain age…ahem…who grew up being told that emotions make you weak and we should just “man up”. So we developed ways to deal with our stress, anxiety and depression like suppressing it until it blows up and explodes from us as uncontrolled rage; or dulling them with drugs or alcohol; or burying ourselves in our job until who we are and what we do for a living become the same thing; or buying a bunch of expensive man toys that go crazy fast. This is the crap that ends up screwing us guys. We need to stop and realize that, sure, there are times when putting our heads down and powering through a barrier is the way to go; but there are also instances when we could use a whole lot more finesse and actually avoid the barrier all together.

Recognizing the appropriate response, being able to focus and not panic, and knowing yourself well enough to use your strengths and weaknesses to your advantage are the keys. Those are lessons we can train into our brain through introspection and meditation. The United States Marine Corps, pretty much the biggest badasses on earth, have begun to include mindfulness methodology into their training to increase their focus, relieve anxiety, and assist with quick decision making. Yeah. If the Marines are training to do it, is it just for sissies or snowflakes? Hell no.


So, if I do this, my life is just suddenly full of unicorns and rainbows; bad luck picks somebody else; and I never get mad again? Remember, this is not magic. Of course there are going to be days when the universe as a whole just seems to want to kick you square in the cajones. The difference will be seen not in the amount of crap that lands on you, but how you react to it. Your external world isn’t going to change immediately, but how you handle the daily grind your decisions will be improved. Hence the quote above from Jon Kabat-Zinn, “You can’t stop the waves, but you can learn to surf.” It is all about rising up and rising above. The waves which would have crashed and ground us to pulp on the rocks do not have to be seen as just the way it is. We can rise up and use those same waves as opportunities. To put it a bit less eloquently, there are times when our circumstances are going to suck. Embrace the suck.


AT THE END OF THE DAY

We don’t have to give away our balls to care about carrying a sense of happiness and peace with us through our day. We do not need to listen to Gregorian Chants or John Tesh (and in the name of all that is holy DON’T) or walk around barefoot so we can “become one with mother earth”. But we deserve joy in our limited moments on this plain of existence. Mindfulness and meditation have been proven to lower blood pressure; improve focus; improve quality of sleep; increase activity and gray-matter density in the learning and memory center of our brain (the hippocampus); and decrease activity in the fear and anxiety center of our brain (the amygdala). Just like everything that is worthwhile, it doesn’t just get handed to you. There is no pill. You have to do the work. So, guys, let’s roll up our sleeves; devote 10 minutes per day; and start a routine that will have effects in our lives and in how we view ourselves. Let’s take action!

5 Steps To Fulfillment At Work

During this time of Covid-19, there are more people out of work than at anytime since the 1930s. And those who have been able to remain working are experiencing an enhanced percentage of burnout. These facts lead to one obvious conclusion: a large number of Americans are searching for new jobs and new careers. Many men and women are scrambling to find employment simply to survive and maintain what they have. However, there is also a large number of individuals who are taking the opportunity to explore new and different career paths; seeking balance and fulfillment in their professional lives.

But how should a person considering a new career path go about ensuring that they choose a fulfilling yet financially responsible professional direction? Here are 5 tips to an exciting and satsfying new work life. Lets list them and then we will break them down.

  1. Do not fear the unknown;
  2. The answer is already inside of you;
  3. Get educated;
  4. Walk the tightrope;
  5. Stick to your guns

1. Do Not Fear The Unknown

The most crippling and self-limiting emotion is fear. We have all experienced it at some point, but the key is learning to control our fear and not allowing it to rule our decision making. Perhaps you have been in the same field for many years and now it is time for a change. You have a choice. You can either wring your hands and allow your fear to control you, or you can seize control of your fear and view the situation as an opportunity. You have the chance to do not just what you must for income, but to do what you want for income.

Do not be afraid to follow your dream. Of all of the finite resources that affect our daily lives, the most important, and yet most overlooked, is the time we have on this plain of existence. Every one of us has an invisible clock over our heads counting down to the time when we will shuffle off our mortal coil and none of us know how many more hours we have been given. Fear of the unknown should not be given a single moment.

All of the positive things in our lives begins with a step out into the unknown. It begins as a new adventure. That willingness and drive to explore what the universe has to offer us each day is an important factor in determining whether an individual has a grip on their fear. And whether they have been introspective enough to truly understand their desires and abilities.


2. The Answer Is Already Inside You

Our ability to lie to ourselves seems unending. We often rationalize and convince ourselves that where we are in life is not within our control; that we have no choice but to continue replaying each day the same. Responsibilities, life circumstances and expectations all play a role in how we make a living. However, now that we must step into a new career, how can we be sure we are not playing Don Quixote out chasing windmills?

Introspection is defined as “A reflective looking inward: An examination of one’s own thoughts and feelings” (Merriam-Webster.com). But past the definition, introspection is the secret to unlocking our joy, happiness and inner-peace. The more devoted a person becomes to truly knowing themselves, the easier it becomes to be certain that their decisions are in line with their inner wants and needs. The answers we seek are often found not by Google or by speaking with friends and family, but by looking inside ourselves.

We are, by our nature, very perceptive creatures. We do not, however, always keep those perceptions in our conscious mind. In order to access our hopes and desires, while filtering them through our abilities and experience, we need to spend some time quietly looking within ourselves. When we come to a realization, a decision, that is backed by our inner-selves, we tend to know it immediately. We can feel the weight of doubt lifted from our shoulders. It feels right and causes a rush of nervous excitement. That is what we are looking for, that sense that things are falling into place and we are excited to take the next steps.


3. Get Educated

Now that you have decided what you want to do, the next step is figuring out how to do it. Do you need any specialized training, a specific college degree, a technical certificate, or just some good old fashioned research to be successful in your newly chosen career? If so, how can you achieve the requirements?

Simply put, do it! Get the training or degree. Nearly all colleges and universities are offering online courses for degrees and certifications. If you do not need specialized training, all the better. Then it is up to you to do your research and be as prepared as possible for your career move, have an appropriate and updated resume, learn the jargon used by insiders in the profession and get yourself seen as a viable option.


4. Walk The Tightrope

Striking a comfortable and sustainable balance between our professional and personal lives is one of the more difficult tasks to do in modern society. Both sides of the coin seem to demand more of our time than we are able to give. But it is possible to find a balance point that is right for us. And it all comes back to…you guessed it, introspection and communication. How important to us is our new career path and how important to us is our personal or family life? Will we be happier putting our nose to the grindstone and seeking success quickly, or is it more important to us to make the required amount income while spending more time with family and friends?

It is not a “one size fits all” solution. The balance point between our professional and personal lives is as individual as our fingerprints. Take the time to be introspective on what really makes you happy, what brings the most joy to your life. Decide how mmuch time can you reasonably devote to that undertaking and build from there. Have a passion for classic car restoration and resale, but also have small children at home? Would you rather be a big-time player in the classic car market within the next couple of years, or would you rather be able to watch every soccer game your children play and be there for Student of the Week lunches, while understanding that you may need to wait a few extra years to really show your best possible work?

That balance is key to a healthy mental attitude as well as harmony in your relationships and within yourself. Too much social time can lead to poor work performance or a poor reputation in your industry, while all work and no play makes for a very unhappy home life. Be honest with yourself and do the introspective work. Also, don’t forget to communicate your thoughts and feelings on the matter with those around you. Many of us married men know the phrase, “Happy wife, happy life”. That is not always the case, but talking through your time management plan with your spouse or friends is always a good idea.


5. Stick To Your Guns

From acquaintances to family members to that little voice of doubt in your head, it seems as though there is never a lack of discouragement when stepping out of one’s comfort zone into a new career to seek fulfillment. Keep one thing clear in your mind…this is right for you. If you have done the introspection and you are happy with your choice, then others will need to jump on your bandwagon or get left in your dust. A joyful, fulfilled you is going to be better in your personal life and more productive at work. Do not let anyone dissuade you from your dreams and goals. Do not waffle. Your decisions may not be how others would have done it, but you need to be responsible for your own self-care. Part of caring about and respecting yourself is knowing what you want and telling the universe that it IS what you want and what you need; and telling people who are negative influences that you do not currently need their input. You are not forcing anyone else to live your life, you are making decisions based on your thoughts, feelings and emotions. If you have been true to yourself, your confidence will shine through.

Self-confidence can come in two flavors: self-aware and self-aggrandizing. Self-awareness found through introspection and personal responsibility is a magnetic quality. You will attract positive people and events to yourself. Self-aggrandizing and inflating your own ego regardless of the facts has never led to happiness or sucess. You may think you are pulling the wool over people’s eyes, but a scam artist is always revealed in the end.


The Wrap Up

In conclusion, these 5 simple tips will lead you down a path to finding personal fulfillment in your job or career. Do not be ruled by fear; look inward for answers; get educated; balance your professional and personal life; and never waiver in your commitment.

So remember to take the time to do the introspective work early and often. It will ensure you are on the correct path for you and it will keep you from straying. Introspection is the train track while everyone else is looping around in a bumper car. Be willing to set yourself up for success. You deserve to be successful; you deserve to be happy; you deserve to be joyful; and you deserve inner-peace.

Anger and Inner-Peace

Blow your top. Flip your lid. Lose it. See red. Go ballistic. You are angry. But why? And what can you do about it in a healthy way?

Why Do I Get So Angry?

First of all, it is very important to realize that anger is a completely natural emotion, and at times it can be a necessary response! Anger can be justified. It can even save your life. However, the problem comes when you are not able to control your anger. But why do we get angry in the first place? Well, that is a loaded question.

Anger can be caused by a wide array of situations. Here is just a snapshot of some of the common causes of anger:

  • Problems caused by a specific person. The closer the relationship, the greater the anger response.
  • Frustration
  • Extreme worry or rumination about the future
  • Memories of frustrating or maddening events
  • Physical or psychological pain
  • Extremely unpleasant environmental conditions
  • Feelings of powerlessness or impending failure
  • Personal offense due to perceived unfair treatment, insults, rejection or criticism
  • Grief over the loss of someone. The closer the relationship, the greater the anger response.

Anger plays an integral role in our “fight, flight or freeze” response to danger or threat of harm, along with fear. Your body, or more truthfully your mind, may have only nanoseconds to decide the appropriate course of action in a dangerous situation. There is a flood of adrenaline released into the bloodstream, your heart rate increases and your pupils even dilate. Your perceptions and senses become enhanced and information is funneled quickly into the pre-frontal cortex of the brain for analysis. Do you fight? Do you flee? Or do you freeze? This all happens in a fraction of a second and mostly without conscious thought. It is a bit like your body inputs all the data into your subconscious, your subconscious decides the best course of action given the circumstances and your capabilities, and spits out an order to your conscious mind. The entire process is often triggered by a mixture of anger and fear. If appropriately controlled and funneled, anger can be an indispensable emotion and motivator.

So How Is Anger A Problem?

Anger becomes a problem in the way we control it, or harness it. Quite frankly, some people have an easier time with controlling their anger than others. However, even the most seemingly under-control individual can have a slip in their ability to harness anger.

Research from 2015 suggests that the overall lifetime prevalence of intense, inappropriate, or poorly controlled anger in the general population in the United States is 7.8%. Anger seems to affect more men than women, and it also seems more prevalent among younger adults.

Medical News Today, August 2019

In the 1970s, psychologist Paul Eckman identified 6 “base” emotions which he suggested were universally experienced in all human cultures. They were happiness; sadness; disgust; fear; surprise; and anger. Think of these base emotions as the colors in our emotional rainbow, with all the other emotions being combinations of them in varying amounts. Given the deeply embedded nature of anger in our psyche, it is not terribly surprising that we all struggle with controlling our anger from time to time.

The sudden outburst of anger is the issue. When we “lose it”, it can have wide-ranging repercussions. From hurting the feelings of a friend or loved one, to physically assaulting someone, to causing ourselves to suffer a heart attack or stroke, none of the effects are positive. This is why we ascribe a negative connotation to anger in modern society. But in reality it is the loss of control, the outburst, which we should frown upon and not the emotion as a whole.

The Escalation Of Anger.
Break the cycle!

Managing Our Anger Response

The first step in managing and controlling our anger response is to recognize when you are starting to get angry. The earlier you recognize a possible outburst event, the more likely you will be to successfully control it. Early signs are:

  • Feeling suddenly anxious and/or nervous
  • Feelings of sadness, resentfulness, or humiliation
  • Tension in the jaw or grinding teeth
  • Pacing, inability to stay still
  • Loss of sense of humor
  • Increased use of sarcasm
  • Shouting, screaming or crying
  • Increased aggression

Get to know your personal warning signs. Through…….introspection. I know. My loyal readers probably guessed that one. Introspection seems to be a part of the answer to every issue I discuss. That is because it IS! Introspection, looking inside and evaluating one’s own feelings and emotions through a filter of no BS, is the first step in becoming mentally and spiritually healthy. You have to truly know yourself before you can accept yourself.


So now you have determined that an angry outburst is coming. Next, pause! Take a moment to breath before you react. Walk away from the situation and just breath. I have seen advice to “count to 10”. Fine with me, although I would rather be focused on the breathing. It allows me to calm the rush of adrenaline faster than counting. I have even seen people who hum to gain control. Whatever works for you is cool. The important part is to step away and give yourself a moment to regain control.


Next, you need to release the tension in your body. The adrenaline will have caused your jaw to tense up and/or your muscles to tense in preparation to either fight or run. Focus and release the built up tension. I tend to feel it in my arms and hands, so I shake them out, and roll my shoulders back. Release and relax.


Then comes the hard part. Listen. If you are in a heated discussion, take the time to listen (not just hear) the other person before replying. Yes I get it. That is a tough one. A yelling match in a bar or an argument with your spouse can be highly charged situations and the last thing you want to do is appear weak. But, as you will see, you are being the strong one. It is much more difficult to control anger than to give into it. You do not need to agree. You do not need to concede. But a controlled, measured response will have a significantly larger impact on the discussion, and your overall wellbeing, than just blowing your top. Be the voice of reason.


Finally, de-escalate yourself and the situation. Now that you have yourself under control, start to bring the anger level back down. If it is another person you are angry with, also try to bring THEIR anger level down. Get yourself out of the environment causing the problem, if possible. It is much easier to calm down when you change your surroundings. So…walk away. Focus on calming down. Focus on your breathing, deep slow breaths. You will regain your peace and the feelings of anger and any other negativity will ease. Do NOT allow yourself to bathe in negativity once you are alone. That means, no getting in your vehicle and yelling and hitting the steering wheel! No running off to the bathroom and spending 30 minutes muttering how you were right under your breath! Stay focused and in control. You do not need another adrenaline dump. Just relax.


Conclusion

In conclusion, feeling anger is natural and even important in certain situations. Your inner-peace is not dependent on suppressing anger. It is dependent on controlling your anger. Take your time and do the introspective work ahead of time. Gain distance and breathe. Release your tension by relaxing your jaw and muscles. Listen before responding. And finally, begin to de-escalate yourself and the situation.

You are in control of yourself. It is you and only you who is responsible for your reactions. We may all feel the burn, but whether we let it boil over and take our inner-peace and joy is OUR decision.

5 Steps To A Less Stressful Life

There are few conditions that we as modern humans are guaranteed to share. Unfortunately, one of those conditions is stress. Stress can take many forms and be caused by a single worry or a piling on of multiple worries. But no matter the cause or causes, stress is a load we carry only because we do not know it is possible to put it down! When you lay down at night, does your mind race with everything you did that day and everything you need to do tomorrow? That is stress talking. Do you feel as though every day is the same routine of wake up, go to work, go home, go to bed? Lather, rinse, repeat. That is stress talking. Do you feel like there is just no way out of the pit you have dug for yourself? That is stress talking. Do you feel that tightness in your chest when you picture tomorrow, or the next day, or the next day? That is stress talking.

I am here to tell you, life doesn’t need to be like that. There is such joy and peace to be found inside of you and in the world around you. And it is there FOR YOU! There is more to this life than suppressing yourself and focusing on your responsibilities. There is joy. There is happiness. There is beauty. There is hope.

Peace and joy does not mean perfection. The drive for perfection is actually just another cause of stress. Peace begins when you accept your strengths and your weaknesses. Peace is harmony. Peace is calm. Peace is the ability to control your fear and not let the small speed bumps of life become mountains. Peace is all about priorities. Once you begin your journey toward personal joy and happiness, peace is a natural side effect.

5 Steps Toward Reducing Stress

1. Let Go: We cannot expect to be at peace with ourselves or the world around us while we try to control everything. We must come to terms with the fact that there are things that we can control in our world, and there are things that we cannot! Do you try to think through every possible permutation of a problem so that you can have a solution ready? How much energy and time do you devote to worrying about that upcoming business deal? It can be a difficult task, especially for Type A personalities, but we must teach ourselves to calm down and focus on the moment we are in. The future will happen regardless of how much worry and mental energy we pour into it. So, prepare and move on.

My personal stress in this category has always been the weather. I was born and lived in a home only 8 feet from a large creek until I was 38 years old. The creek would flood at least twice per year for that entire time. The floods led to many terrifying memories throughout the years and did claim lives. When I became a husband and father, it became my responsibility to keep me and my family safe. I was constantly stressing about weather conditions. Heavy rains or a deep snow pack and warm temperatures would send my mind into overdrive. I knew that I couldn’t control the weather. Mother Nature was going to do what Mother Nature was going to do whether I stressed about it or not. I needed to learn to cope with the conditions in my world that I could not change. When I made the decision to stop letting my fear control me, my path became clear. I bought a home in the area where me and my family would not be affected by the natural flood patterns. And that was it. Now I can enjoy the sound of rain on the roof without feeling a knot in my stomach. I controlled what I could control and let go of the stress created by something outside of my control.

“God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”

The Serenity Prayer – Reinhold Niebuhr

What is it that is a cause of stress in your life that you actually cannot control? Why carry that stress with you if you have no way of effecting the outcome? Pull an Elsa and just LET IT GO!

2. Be True To You: I once heard that if we all had to be what we wanted to be when we were 6 years old, the world would be full of princesses and firemen. Silly, but at the same time, kind of euphoric. When we were 6 years old and wanted to be those things, we had passion for them. We could actually picture ourselves doing that job. Oh, and by the way, don’t feel bad. I never realized the bmx racing stardom I was sure awaited me either! But let me ask you this, did any of us dream of becoming an insurance salesman? Was it your passion to go into risk analysis? Did you set up a stand in your yard or on your stoop offering paper towel customer service conversations for $0.50? No, of course not. As we grow up and add responsibilities to our load, we adjust our dreams and goals. That is just part of becoming an adult. But some of us surrender our dreams and goals. That is not necessary and will not lead to a life of fulfillment and joy. Do not give up on your hopes and dreams. Do not let the “world” steal your spark. Change the narrative and be truly happy with yourself no matter what stage of adulthood you are in.

Much of our lives is set out before us before we actually realize that it is a cookie cutter plan that may not fit our style. Go to school; get a job; start a family; strive for greatness until your exhausted meat suit finally gives out. If that is the life path that makes you happy, great! But if that is just what you have learned you are “supposed” to do, stop right now! Never let decisions on the ideal made by past generations affect how you live and how you find your happiness. Only you can create your best life, but there is no shortage of situations that can steal it.

So perhaps look into taking up painting like you always dreamed of; or enroll in college and get the degree you always wanted; dance on the hood of Whitesnake’s car with “Here I Go Again” blasting in the background! Well…maybe not that last one. But still, if you are on a path laid out by someone else, take the next exit. Begin to love your life on your terms. In my religious world view, you only get one ride on this giant, spinning rock hurdling through space and time. Make the most of it.

3. No More Grudges: If we are going to live in joy and peace, we need to learn to forgive. Period. There is just no way around it. Sure, sometimes people suck. Us humans do terrible, awful things to each other physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually. And that includes the things we do to ourselves! But we will never truly be at peace if we are hiding from or suppressing feelings of anger or guilt. We need to address the past, forgive the situation, see that it is part of what makes you who you are today, and then be done with it. We cannot move on to a position of mindfulness and focusing on today, this moment, while there is still lingering rage toward other individuals in our past or guilt for decisions we made. It may be very difficult, but forgiveness will lead you to peace.

4. Organize and Prioritize: This is a big key to lowering your stress and finding peace that is often overlooked. Have you ever been so busy that small tasks just sort of pile up around you until eventually they fall in on you? It happens to us all at one time or another. I picture it like a snow plow. A snow plow goes down the road and the driver is focused on removing the snow from the roadway. The plow pushes the snow over to the berm of the road. Over the course of a winter, that snow plow may need to do the same thing to that stretch of road 30 or 40 times. The snow begins to build up on the berm of the road and actually creates a hazard as it slides back down onto the highway. That is what we can do sometimes with our lives. We focus so hard on our goal that we do not account for the hazards we are building up beside us. Until, eventually, they bury us.

There is an old saying in the business world: “Cluttered desk, cluttered mind”. Organized surroundings can be surprisingly soothing to the walking, talking balls of stress which many of us are. That is why organization can help lead to peace. Take the time to organize, clean and de-clutter your environment. If you need to spend 50 hours per week at work, keep your desk immaculate. If you are able to be home more than away, clean house. Get rid of things you do not use, find a space for the things you do, and keep everything neat and tidy. Oftentimes the environment we create around us is a reflection of the environment we have created within us. And vice versa. So to help your mind not hold onto stress and find peace, create relaxation and peace around you. Give yourself every chance to find and achieve your best life.

If we are focused on our career and that is the most important thing in our lives, we may not notice the emotional effect our choices and behaviors are having on our spouse and/or children. They want your time and attention. And that is why we need to prioritize. We have only a set number of hours in which to live our life. Here is a morbid little tidbit: The moment we are born, our death countdown starts running. Perhaps if we could see that clock counting down, we would be more apt to live every moment to its fullest, but I digress.

How do you want to have spent your time on this plane? Would you rather be wrapped up in your work and have no time for, or interest in, personal growth OR would you rather search for balance between making the living you require for your responsibilities and experiencing life in all its wonderful quirkiness? Do you want to spend more time giving PowerPoint presentations or playing catch with your children? Setting priorities in your life and sticking with them will help to give your life clarity. Decisions will be easier because you already know what you want to do. And easy decisions do not incur stress. It doesn’t even need to be a question of work versus family. Hell, I have seen individuals volunteer themselves into unhappiness! I have seen hobbies overtake lives! It is all a matter of finding the proper balance for YOUR life. Each answer may be different, but the question remains the same. If you are unhappy and stressed out, what have you been making your priority?

5. It Is Called Inner Peace For a Reason: What if I told you that you could read every word from every religious text and sit and speak with the Dalai Lama and the Pope for as long as your heart desired, and spend your time building schools for one-legged blind children in the Congo, and still not achieve inner peace? Do you know why? It is because inner peace cannot be achieved by doing any act or deed in the world. It can only be achieved by doing what must be done inside of you; inside your mental and emotional self; in your soul.

“Your vision will become clear only when you look into your heart. Who looks outside, dreams. Who looks inside, awakens.”

-Carl Jung

It is very similar to one of the core differences between Judaism and Christianity. Within the Jewish faith, it is believed that people must perform certain acts or deeds in order to gain entry into heaven after their death. Christianity is based on the belief that no act or deed is necessary, only the belief that Jesus Christ is the Messiah and the acceptance of Him as your Lord and Savior. And remember, they share half of the Bible in common!

Our inner peace on this plane is not something that can be taught, or purchased, or bestowed upon us, or even earned. It is a result of our inner work. It is a result of our willingness to be introspective and honest with ourselves; to feel emotions; to root out negativity; to forgive and to live our lives immersed in each moment. Like everything that is worth a damn, it takes work to achieve being stress-free. But unlike most things the outside world has to offer, it is worth the struggle. Connecting with yourself; accepting yourself for who you are; and learning to love yourself will deliver a lifetime full of joy and happiness. Your inner peace is yours for the taking. It is up to you whether or not you will allow the fear of your inner monsters rob you of the opportunity to achieve it.

So That Is It?: Are you thinking to yourself, “So if I do these 5 things, I will have no more stress and I will live a life of pure Nirvana with no stress or fears?” Well, no. This isn’t a cure for stress. It is more of a treatment. It will give you the most opportunity live a life of reduced stress and peace. Do people still cut me off in traffic? Yes. Am I still prone to throwing up my “driving finger” to relay my displeasure at their decision making skills? Yep. Sorry. But I am also quick to forgive them and my over-reaction and move on. Life will deliver stress. It is a guarantee. Jobs get unexpectedly lost; unplanned pregnancies happen; cars break down; flights get missed; Legos get stepped on. It happens. But through introspection and a focused, concerted effort to put these steps into practice, we can all move closer toward the inner peace we desire. It is our reaction to stress, not the lack of stress, that defines our inner peace.

How To Defeat Addiction With Introspection

Our brains are addiction magnets. It is the brain that harbors our thoughts and our emotions. When those thoughts and emotions are negative, we seek ways to quiet them; to remain calm; to cope with daily life and the internal struggles. We can become addicted to anything that triggers a sense of pleasure in our brain; drugs, alcohol, video games, pornography, sex, food, etc. For the purposes of this article, I will be referring only to addictions of drug and alcohol abuse.

Drugs and alcohol are a quick and readily available way to shut out those negative thoughts and emotions, at least in the short term. However, behind the scenes, these chemicals are actually building additional negative thoughts and emotions. As your body becomes more tolerant of these chemicals, it requires more of the drug to reach the desired numbing effect. So you use more of the drug. Eventually, you realize that the drug is not producing the numbing effect you desire, but your mind and body have become dependent on the presence of the chemical and the actual action of using the chemical. The negative thoughts and emotions that the use of the drug was producing the entire time become evident, but the messages you are receiving from your body tell you that you need that chemical. You are addicted. And you are far from alone.

According to the website of American Addiction Centers, 23.5 million Americans were addicted to either drugs or alcohol in 2019. The statistics for 2020 will, undoubtedly, far surpass that number due to the increased stress of the pandemic. And the New York Times reports a frightening 71,999 drug overdose deaths in the United States in 2019. That number is expected to nearly double in 2020.

New York Times

Causes of Addiction

The formation of an addiction follows a common path regardless of the substance or the addict.

  • A negative event creates a painful memory.
  • The individual attempts to avoid feeling the pain of the event or memory by using a substance.
  • A neural pathway is created linking the use of the substance with relief from the pain of the event or memory.
  • The pathway gains strength through continued use.
  • The brain begins to expect and depend on the substance.
  • Use fulfills the dependence of the brain creating the addiction.
Infographic courtesy of The Freedom Center

I am not a drug and alcohol counselor, nor am I a psychologist. It is not my job to blow smoke or to make up excuses for the behavior of individuals. I am, however, a former opiate addict and former alcoholic. I have done extensive research and spoken to a large number of experts in the field. In my opinion, the cause(s) of addiction can be all boiled down to one reason: a lack of hope.

Hope is defined as:

To desire with expectation of obtainment or fulfillment.

Merriam-Webster.com

“…with expectation of obtainment or fulfillment.” Hope is not a blind wish. Hope is expecting fulfillment. That is what seems to be the common missing thread with addicts. Through one large, or more commonly a series of small, negative events in their lives, they no longer expect fulfillment. No matter what they do, they are going to screw it up and fail in some way. This terribly negative basis runs through them and affects every decision they make and every interaction they have. Perhaps a parent consistently belittled them and convinced them, consciously or subconsciously, that they were not good enough and would never succeed. Conversely, perhaps a parent consistently praised everything they ever did and gave them the impression that love was based on perfection – an unachievable and unsustainable goal. I use the example of a child’s mindset only because 90% of adults with substance addictions first used drugs or alcohol before the age of 18. So, whether we want to admit it or not, the role of the family unit on a developing mind cannot be overstated. The eventual addict has been taught that there is no hope for them. They are taught not to expect fulfillment. So it becomes somewhat of a self-fulfilling prophecy in their lives to fail; to suffer; to be in pain. The loss of hope leads to a life of substance abuse and addiction.

The Regaining of Hope

So is it possible to regain a sense of hope? Is it possible to implant that expectation of obtainment and fulfillment in your life? The good news is that YES you can! The bad news is that it is hard work and will most likely be mentally and physically painful. But it is also worth every moment of the struggle. Within the struggle is where we find the inner strength and perseverance that we may not have even known we possessed. It is inside of you. You DO have the strength to overcome your addiction. You DO have more to offer yourself and the world. You ARE worth more than you thought you were. Within the struggle, we find hope.

In my personal experience, I did not go to a recovery center. I did not attend a 12-step program. I realized that if I did not immediately stop using prescription opiates, I was going to die. The pills themselves and the emotional turmoil within me would take my life. My rock bottom was a, thankfully, failed suicide attempt. I went to sleep fully expecting not to ever wake up again. But when I did wake up, I vowed to myself that I would never again allow drugs or my unstable mental faculties to drag me back down to that level. I made a decision for myself and my family. And set my mind that there was no going back. I spent over a week detoxing in bed. I have never before or since been in so much physical pain. Every square inch of my body hurt constantly. My joints ached. My skin felt like it was on fire. My heart pounded like I was running a marathon at full speed. I begged, pleaded and prayed for relief from the pain. The human body and the mind can handle a surprising amount of physical pain without breaking. It was here that I found hope. I knew in my soul that I would overcome. I knew that I was not actually dying, even though it often felt as if I were. The pain was temporary and I could wait it out. The emotional anguish was far worse. All of the feelings that I had hidden or numbed throughout my life exploded at once.

I had kept my negative emotions and thoughts in check for most of my life by suppressing them and pretending they didn’t exist. I would literally picture in my mind a wooden door over a well where I would lock away the negativity. It was toward the end of withdrawal that the lock broke and all of my darkest monsters came out to be dealt with. It took nearly a full month of being lost in my own head to come out the other side. But through all of it, the hope remained. I expected that I would prevail and not be crushed under the weight of my own feelings and thoughts. I expected to come out the other side as a stronger and well rounded individual. I depended on my hope.

The Hard Work is After Withdrawal

It takes an immense amount of introspection to defeat our own demons. We must be willing to meet each and every one of them, accept them as existing and let them go. It sounds so simple when it is written down as three steps. But it is anything but easy. We have negative thoughts which are tied to negative emotions which are, in turn, tied to unhappy memories. The process of engaging the thought, feeling the emotion, following it to the associated memories, reliving those moments, accepting them and letting them go is a remarkable endeavor. However, it can be done. It must be done. It is the path to true acceptance of yourself and the first step in your journey toward joy and happiness, free of drugs and alcohol.

The physical pain of withdrawal is intense. However, once you have survived the physical, the real work begins. Introspection is a term that I use frequently to describe the process of digging to the root of your negative behavior and killing it from where it grew. The mental aspect of addiction is far more insidious and confusing than the physical. That is why addicts develop a ritual around their drug of choice. The preparation and the action of using the drug is just as important as the physical effect of the drug itself. The heroin addict begins to feel better once they start melting down their drug; the alcoholic feels better with the bottle in their hand; the opiate addict feels better as soon as the pill touches their tongue. It is a mental game and we are always on the losing end.

We must allow ourselves to feel the negative emotions and relive those negative memories. We must be willing to hurt. The drug of choice will kill you, but it is the emotions we fear. How crazy is that? When we run from our past, when we run from ourselves, when we run from our emotions – we are running straight toward our destruction.

How Do I Start?

Get into a quiet space. Close your eyes. You will not need to “search” for the emotions. They will feel overwhelming at first. Just pick one at a time and sit with it. Feel it. Follow it through all of the memories it is linked with, reliving each one with your new-found shield of hope, until you come to the earliest. That is the base of the emotion. Relive that moment, see it for what it truly was, duck down behind that shield of hope and let the memory spew all the fire it wants. You are safe and protected. When the memory is exhausted, let it go. That memory and the hellish emotions it spawned in you no longer have any control. You are in control of you. You have hope for the future and the confidence in yourself to see it come to fruition.

Now rest and get ready to fight just like that until you slay the last demon.

All Alone?

I realize it seems like a daunting task. And, in truth, it is. It will be easier with a support system. If you have family members or friends that you trust (and, importantly, do not have addiction issues themselves), then lean on them for support while you go through this process. Also, I absolutely suggest that you, as I did, seek out a therapist to help you. He/she can be an invaluable tool in providing support and helping to guide you to the roots of those negative emotions.

Be ready for some big emotions. You have been numbing every sensation and emotion, both positive and negative, for the entire duration of your addiction. When they come back following your withdrawal, they feel huge and stronger than you remember! You WILL cry. And that is absolutely normal. I was once told, “Tears are the sweat of the soul”. If you aren’t crying, you aren’t trying.

Also, please be aware that the physical effects of alcohol withdrawal are extremely serious. Depending on the duration of your addiction and the condition of your body, it can even be deadly. I suggest consulting with your doctor so they can monitor your health.

Above all, have faith in yourself. Never back down from your conviction to get through and defeat the addiction. If you fall, you did not fail. As long as you are alive, you did not fail. Just get back up and start again. You are in control. You are stronger than you think. Fight for your future. Hope will protect you. Failure is not an option! Make the decision and start living in hope right now.

Dealing with anxiety and depression during the age of Covid-19

Covid-19 related anxiety is a threat to our inner-peace

These are undoubtedly difficult times for us all. It has been a year since most Americans became aware of the Covid-19 pandemic and it seems as though the stresses and anxieties which fill our lives have steadily increased since that time. Health concerns, social distancing, financial stress, uncertainty about the future, conjecture replaced by misinformation replaced by best guess replaced by…The short truth is that many of us are struggling mentally and emotionally with anxiety and depression on many different levels. So how can we maintain a healthy soul and mind in this climate of fear and uncertainty? This will, hopefully, be the largest test of the mindful resolve of this generation. And it can be successfully navigated!


Key stressors? Everything!

At most times in modern history you would be ushered into a calm, richly appointed office by a smiling therapist; you would have a seat on a leather couch; the therapist would sit across from you and start trying to identify the sources of your anxiety/depression. Well, what do you do when your key stressors are EVERYTHING going on in the world? That is going to be quite a long session! But for many Americans, the stresses and anxieties being felt these days due to the Covid-19 pandemic are constant and debilitating. Usually this blog aims at the more ethereal definitions of “joy”, “happiness” and “inner-peace”. However with so many suffering the effects of major life anxiety and depression, it is time to scale back and focus on the daily, real world need for a healthy mindfulness routine.


Who is being most greatly effected by Covid-19 related anxiety and depression? Studies have shown that young women in the lower income bracket who have been financially affected are the most psychologically effected.


A focus on mindfulness.

Mindfulness is defined as:

“A mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations, used as a therapeutic technique.”

Oxford Dictionary

Simply put, mindfulness is living in the moment, while being aware of your anxiety or depression. The key is to be aware of your feelings of anxiety or depression, but not allow these negative emotions to rule your consciousness. Instead, you keep your mind trained on the present moment.

“If you are depressed, you are living in the past. If you are anxious, you are living in the future. The present moment is the key to the cure of all mental evils.”

-Junia Bretas

Great! But how?

It is important to remember to make mindfulness a mental health routine, not just a band-aid. The more you practice the techniques, the more natural they will feel and the more effective they will become. There are many suggestions out there for mindfulness. Some make sense, some sound like craziness. I have even seen a suggestion to practice mindful handwashing. Umm. Riiiiight. No relaxation shaming here. Find what works best for you. I am going to give you MY opinions and suggestions, but feel free to make them work for you!

My morning anti-anxiety routine looks like this. I call it “Wake and Wait”. As soon as I wake up, I lay still and get control of my mind. I take stock of my thoughts and emotions. How do I feel mentally, emotionally? Anxious? Depressed? Defeated? Strong? I acknowledge my emotions and then consciously make the decision to not allow these feelings to control me today. I focus on the sensation of my breathing. For at least a minute, my mind is at rest and my only focus is the sensation of my slow, deep breathing. In. Out. In. Out. Nothing else exists. Nothing else matters. The world will wait. Then I get up and start my day, trying to keep myself in that general headspace. Just this 1 or 2 minutes at the start of your day can allow you to stay more centered and in touch with the current moment.

What about the surprise anxiety sneak attack during the day or night?

If you have ever experienced an anxiety attack, you will agree that it is the most frightening and confusing mental rollercoaster possible. You can quite literally feel like you are dying; like a fish out of water choking on air; like you are staring into a great abyss from which there is no escape. They are sudden and they are devastating. When I feel the onset of an anxiety attack, I make myself S.T.O.P.

  • S – Stop what you are doing and take a moment to be still.
  • T – Take a few slow, deep breaths and focus only on that sensation.
  • O – Observe any thoughts and emotions you are feeling. Acknowledge them but give them no control.
  • P – Pause and re-focus on your breathing. When ready, proceed with your day in a calmer state.

Also, do not be afraid to use a life line and Phone-A-Friend! Or FaceTime a friend or Zoom a friend. Texting is a great tool when you want to convey a quick message to someone. But it lacks a very important human need – sensory input. In times of stress, whether it be anxiety or depression, we need to see a comforting face or hear a familiar voice to receive the full benefit. Humans are social creatures by nature. We crave and function on live interactions with other humans, be they family, friends or strangers. However, when we are put under stress, we tend to withdraw into ourselves – the exact opposite action than we need! Force yourself to relearn what your mind and soul need; not what you feel like doing, but what you need to be doing. This same concept causes us problems in the current masked-up world. Meeting in person, at least in public, is currently not something that will help! Covering a large portion of your face with a mask negates your needs being met. Your brain does not take in the familiar and comforting face visually, and the mask alters the voice enough that your brain does not get the familiar auditory input it requires either. The need to be masked, and in fact the stress of the Covid-19 pandemic as a whole, also affects a specific group of individuals in potentially emotionally destabilizing ways. School-aged children.

“School-aged” children specifically refers to children ranging from age 6-12. These are the years during which, according to psychologists, humans form the majority of their social skills, as well as their future coping mechanisms. Children are not just small version of adults. We are not born with the ability to “handle” adversity. We are, however, born with dopamine receptors that function to soothe and calm us in times of stress. Dopamine is the body’s natural happy chemical. When our needs are met, our brain triggers a release of dopamine and so we feel better. Children’s dopamine receptors work in the exact same way. The stress of school is normally lessened by the visual and auditory familiarity of friends and teachers. However, Covid-19 has thrown a giant monkey wrench into those gears. Everyone is now covered with a mask, including the child, and so the once familiar now looks and sounds different. Add in the need for many children to instantly adapt to virtual or blended learning models, as well as increased stress levels of the adults in their lives, and the mix can be devastating. Due to the novel circumstances (no pun intended), psychologists are at odds with just what the long-term effects will be in today’s children. There is, however, no disagreement that these children are showing more signs of anxiety and depression disorders than at anytime since the Great Depression. Please understand, this is in no way an anti-masking argument! We are all doing what we need to do based on our values system. That does not mean, however, that the development of children at key stages will just wait or just occur normally regardless of their surroundings. My suggestion is this: IT IS NEVER TOO EARLY TO INSTITUTE A ROUTINE OF MINDFULNESS. It is never too early to teach our children appropriate coping mechanisms and ways to keep themselves mentally and emotionally healthy. They need the support, the care and the reassurance. Don’t we all? Get them practicing a mindfulness routine and get them meditating.


Slow, deep breaths. Calm the mind and the body will follow.

Wrap it up already!

A mindfulness routine and the ability to breathe through sudden attacks WILL help throughout this pandemic and beyond, especially when combined with a regular routine of meditation. A soul living in the mindful moments of life with the bravery to explore all that makes him/her special is truly a gift to the universe.

Nothing has the right to steal a single second of your joy, your happiness or your peace. Nothing. And certainly not a virus. Covid-19 will eventually be nothing more than a chapter in a history textbook. Life will go on. Humanity has endured far worse. Tomorrow the sun will rise and you will wake up. From there, it is up to you. Make each moment count.

The Akashic Record

On a list of huge topics to cover in one blog post, how about an entirely separate plain of existence! Lets cover some basics. I urge you to come at this topic with an open, inquisitive mind.

What is the Akashic Record? The Akashic Record is a plain of existence consisting of all thoughts, feelings, intent, etc. of every creature who ever lived in this or any other parallel universe (past, present and future). Time exists on this alternate plain as more of a flat disk than a line and so there is no discernable difference between past, present or future events. Easy to wrap your mind around? It sure isn’t simple for me! We can think of the Akashic Record as the biggest example of cloud storage possible, linked with the strongest supercomputer ever. It is like a database of everything that has ever been thought, felt, or happened; is being thought, felt or happening; or will be thought, felt, or happen by every single living thing in this universe…plus every other universe. Each creature would have its own infinite number of Akashic Records, given that String Theory and quantum mechanics tells us that there are an infinite number of parallel universes. Now then, some people believe that we can “tap into” the Akashic Record in search of answers. Whew! Talk about a huge download!


Who has access to the Akashic Record?There are faiths and spiritual movements who believe the Akashic Record can be accessed and even filtered for specific information, like a searchable database, by anyone who is able to place their mind on the astral plain. The most famous of the individuals who claimed this ability was Edgar Cayce (1877-1945). Edgar Cayce, an American clairvoyant known as The Sleeping Prophet, is the most documented psychic of the 20th century. Cayce would enter a trance state of deep meditation and access both the subconscious mind of the individual he was reading and that person’s Akashic Record. When not performing a specific individual’s reading, Cayce would access the Akashic Record with only a question or topic as his guide. Throughout his life, Cayce predicted the discovery of the Bimini Road and Atlantis; the deaths of Franklin D. Roosevelt and John F. Kennedy; the collapse of the Soviet Union; the 1929 stock market crash and the Great Depression which followed; the rise and fall of Adolph Hitler; a shift in the earth’s magnetic poles in 1998 which would lead to climate change; as well as his own death date from a stroke.

Even Cayce, however, conceded that the future was not written in stone. Choices made by individuals through free will could and did change the path our universe was taking. One seemingly insignificant choice made today could effect the chain of events leading up to and culminating in some world-altering event 300 years from now. Although it was not a term in the time of Cayce, think butterfly effect.

I do not mean to imply that Edgar Cayce’s predictions were always correct. Much like Nostradamus, many of Cayce’s predictions never came to be. But…perhaps that is explainable. Time to have some fun with conjecture and some metaphysics!


Science has rather recently given us a new term in the field of quantum physics: the observer effect. The observer effect means that the mere act of observing will influence the phenomenon being observed. Put simply, by looking at a particle, you change some characteristics of that particle and/or where it would be at a given moment in time. As an example, for scientists to “see” (meaning record the position of) an electron, the electron must interact with a photon (a light particle). However, when an electron interacts with a photon, the interaction changes the direction of travel of the electron. So, by simply observing an electron (hitting it with a photon), scientists are changing the path of that electron, ostensibly altering the future of the electron and eliminating any chance of discovering the past of the electron. Could the observer effect be to blame for some of the inaccuracies in Cayce’s predictions gained through accessing the Akashic Record? Could the act of reading the book and writing a report actually change the outcome of the story?

Further, within the multiverse theory, every decision made by a being through free will causes a split into another universe…another time-line. This is why there are an infinite number of parallel universes existing within each other. As such, could Cayce have been observing the events of an alternate universe when making the predictions which did not come to pass? Or perhaps, the decision to access the Akashic Record with the intent of observing a given situation WAS itself the catalyst for the split into an alternate time-line and thus prevented that prediction from occurring.

Could the Akashic Record explain the phenomenon of “simultaneous invention”? Simultaneous invention is a phenomenon which occurs when two or more individuals discover or invent something new at the same time without knowledge of each other’s work. It happens far too much to be considered simple coincidence. In 1958, Jack Kilby and Robert Noyce both invented to microchip within 6 months of each other; in 1902 Leon Teisserence de Bort of France and Richard Assmann of Germany both discovered the stratosphere 3 days apart using completely different scientific methods; in 1953 the strong plastic material Polycarbonate was discovered 10 days apart by Daniel Fox and Hermann Schnell; and in 1895, the film projector was invented by both the Skladanowsky brothers in Germany and Woodville Latham of the United States. These are but a handful of the occurrences of simultaneous invention. Is it possible that for some reason, these individuals received the same information from the Akashic Record at the same time? Was the timing of the inventions or discoveries important enough to the universe to assure multiple people were working on it at the same time? Were these discoveries or inventions inevitable because the universe deemed them “due”?


When it comes down to it, the topic of the Akashic Record tends to raise more questions than it answers. And perhaps that is exactly as it should be. Are we as a species prepared for the ability to tap into all of the knowledge in the universe? I mean, I know that I can become overwhelmed just trying to figure out how to set the clock on my car radio! But the power, the ability, to know anything and everything is transcendent; god-like. What would you do with that power? What would you want to know? And, as importantly, what would you not want to know?

What IS inner peace?

The quick definition of inner peace is: Becoming a devout Buddhist; being completely passive, timid and reserved no matter the circumstances; quitting using Western medicine in favor of crystal-based healing practices; learning to surf and/or fly. Umm. No it is not. Come on, I joke because I care.

With all due respect to both Point Break  and Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon inner peace has absolutely nothing to do with that stuff. But what DOES inner peace look like in our modern, fast paced world? That is what we are going to explore in this post.

Inner peace is not an externally recognizable state. Someone simply looking at you or observing your actions will not have any solid proof of your personal inner peace. Inner peace is an internal state of spiritual and mental balance. In a world of constant tumult, the state of inner peace allows calm. In a world of constant noise, the state of inner peace allows quiet. In a world of constant distraction, inner peace allows concentration.

Have you ever been faced with cleaning up a room or an area that seems completely out of control; where the task of organization seems nearly insurmountable? Well that room is our messy modern minds. Inner peace gives us the ability to understand why we threw stress and anxiety all over the floor of our mind and lets us clean it up. With so many dealing with mental health issues, drowning in work, moving away from traditional religion and spirituality, inner peace gives us the chance to take a step back and calm down for a moment.

True inner peace is achieving happiness through the reconnection with yourself. It is becoming a fuller version of yourself by rediscovering all you have to offer. It is the ability to shed the superficial pains and worries that weigh down your mind. It is accepting yourself for who you are, where you have been and where you are now so you have the ability to truly change for the better.

“But I still get angry!” I have heard this a thousand times as people explain their frustrations at reaching for inner peace. And my answer is always the same: “Good! That means you are still alive!” Listen, peace is not defined by a lack of anger. Anger is a perfectly reasonable, healthy emotion. Just like love or compassion. So why do we feel the need to suppress our anger? Society has taught us to look on the bright side, push our anger down and lock it away. But the truth is that, in order to fully embrace all that makes us unique, we need to meet, recognize and deal with ALL of our emotions; the positive and the negative. Anger can be righteous. Anger can be petulant. But either way, we feel it. So the only thing it cannot be is ignored. Instead, use it. Turn anger into motivation. Turn anger into energy to fuel yourself and your transformation. Take charge of your anger and make it a productive force in your life instead of suppressing it and allowing it to destroy you from the inside.

Self improvement and betterment is a lifelong process. There is no “finish line” where you becoming some glowing, shining example of cosmic oneness beyond reproach. We are all just trying our best to swim against the tide of social guilt and depravity. The key is to never give up. The big secret is to just keep trying. The journey towards inner peace is much like a game of Chutes & Ladders. You may rise, you may fall, but the game is not over as long as you keep playing.

Inner peace is not instant pudding, it is cook and serve. Many people think of inner peace as a radio frequency they can tune into and right the wave. But it is much more of a methodical process. It takes time. It takes a degree of patience. It takes a desire to be better to and for yourself and those around you. Introspection, the core of inner peace, can be difficult, even unpleasant. You are facing not only the good and bad within yourself, but also the reasons those parts exist. That means reviewing, re-examining and re-living the most tragic and/or painful moments of your life. The heavy stuff. The skeletons in our closet. But it is worth it. Those are the moments that make us who we are. They need addressed. So throw open that closet door, let the bones fall where they may and start dealing with them. Inner peace and self-acceptance are inexorably linked. You can never experience true happiness until you stop blaming yourself for your past and treating yourself as the victim. We need to meet our past, examine it, accept our role and the circumstances, and move on.

Finally, we MUST stop chasing perfection. Perfectionists train their mind that anything less than perfect is failure. As such, they tend to only pursue tasks where perfection is either assured or at least confidently attainable. It becomes an excuse for not trying things that they fear or do not understand at the outset. We are humans. Homo screwupicus. Relax. It is normal to not be perfect. At some point, we will all fall short of our own perfect expectations. Inner peace comes not from eliminating our weaknesses, but from learning and accepting both our strengths AND our weaknesses. That is how we grow.

Hopefully this helps to explain what inner peace looks like in our modern world. Remember, the most important word in “inner peace” is “inner”! You are doing this for you. It is your inner world. It all comes down to you.