Sunday, August 10, 2014


Distractions, distractions, they're not constructive actions
Some can be fun, like opposite attractions,
but most are a waste like TV and addictions,
leading us to a world of living major fictions.

The distractions of life in the 21st Century are endless…We are ALL attention deficit !! Having a phone/computer in our pocket 24/7 doesn't help, and add to this the fact that many of these "phones" can receive and deliver mail, play movies and video games, send us the news updates to the second, etc., etc. it's amazing that we do anything but stare at our "smart" phone all day.

They ARE an amazing tool. But only a tool and should be thought of as helpful and enjoyable but not ESSENTIAL  to life. There is a point where they detract from life.  As the Buddhists say about life in general, our "attachment" is the problem. When we can take it or leave it, we can be in the present moment and have freedom. If we are strongly attached to it, we are being controlled by something other than ourselves. Add to this the general distractions of life: commuting, working, children, ACTUAL phone calls, emails, etc., it is overwhelming and it is making many of us ill. My previous articles mention ideas for slowing down and paying more attention to the IMPORTANT stuff. It isn't easy to do, but it will be rewarding.

As our world speeds up and (believe me) more distractions are added, we need to prepare ourselves. After we DO sort through to the important stuff, we need to keep it in the forefront of our lives so the distractions just pass us by like fog in the night. We need distraction safeguards. I believe that one core safeguard is having a deep understanding of what things in life are most important to us; add the most quality. Take the time to dig deep and find these gems and hold them close. They are the treasures that make life worth living and the MUST shine through the distractions!

5 suggestions to keep distractions to a minimum (no electronic devices allowed):

1. Learn to be still. Take 15 minutes to sit in a park or in nature somewhere and just focus on your breathing. If real nature is unavailable, keep a photo or painting of a nature spot that is special to you and focus on that. You will return to your "busy" tasks refreshed.

2. Take a walk or do some stretching and work on positive thoughts if thoughts come up. Breath in deeply on a positive thought and blow out deeply all stress, tension and negativity you were holding onto. 15 to 30 minutes per day decreases your stress and will add to your longevity --- at work and long term.

3. Use the Pomodoro Method. The Pomodoro Method basically requires you work in sessions and then rest. Choose one task you really need to get done, like making a set of reports. Set a timer for 25 minutes and completely immerse yourself in the task. Once it dings take a short break and grab some coffee(or do one of the above).

Why it works?
The reason this technique works is because working hard eventually leads to massive burnout. What the technique does is allow you to stay productive without losing too much energy. You may discover that some activities require more 25 minute sessions than others and have a simple visual display of the work involved in a project. It also forces you to cut down on interruptions and be more firm about ignoring distractions. Most importantly it helps us better project outcomes and project timelines off the top of our head as opposed to poor estimates.

4. Family time: Have a rule of no electronics and no responding to rings, bells or buzzes (SO Pavlovian!) during dinner time. This includes having the TV off. It appears that a majority of American households have the Boob Tube on during dinner. Let's turn this trend around! And dinner time should be a minimum of 30 minutes. No rushing through meals. Have a nightly topic of conversation picked out so family members are prepared to converse.

5. Have a solid foundation. Understand what is Quality of Life bedrock for you. Then learn to say NO to all that doesn't support this. My workbook is a great start to define this. There is no substitute for knowing yourself and being true to yourself!

Thursday, July 31, 2014



Duane Elgin is a hero of mine. He is a pioneer of the Simplicity Movement which encourages the people of the more developed world to seek more depth in their lives and remove more of the distractions and the clutter. He is featured in this video which is well worth watching for a good overview. (Also see my launch day post of 9/6/13 for additional comments on slowing down).

From the arrival of the first Europeans, America has attracted people looking for a better life. Many of them felt that the way to achieve this goal was through a simple and spiritual way of living.

From the Puritans of Massachusetts and the Quakers in Pennsylvania in the 1600's, to the rural based Republicanism of Thomas Jefferson's followers in the 1700's, to the nature respecting Transcendentalists of the 1800's, each century has had a social movement that sought better living through simplicity.

The 20th and 21st century movements have been under way since the 1960's and were refined in the 1990's and into the new millennium, so we have some amazing guides and examples to go by to make OUR lives more manageable. Across the nation, groups of concerned citizens are gathering together to learn from and with each other about alternatives to destructive busy lifestyles.

As one of the early teachers of the movement, Cecile Andrews puts it:

"The concept of Simplicity is not, as some might think, a life of "self deprivation." It is a turning away from activities that have failed to deliver satisfaction— activities such as shopping and scrambling up the career ladder — in order to embrace activities that bring true joy and meaning — creativity, community, and the celebration of daily life.
Simplicity is "the examined life" in which we explore not only what creates fulfillment in our personal lives, but we ask which public policies create societies of justice and environmental well-being. Simplicity touches all aspects of our lives, including the issues of time, work, vocation, community, spending, consuming, health, social justice, and spirituality."

I couldn't have said it better myself! Simplifying is a wholistic idea which should pervade our lives and give us more joy and meaning. It's what Americans are saying they are yearning for but somehow lack the focus or will to move towards. Please check out the resources below this article,  FOCUS, AND SIMPLIFY. It could save the rest of your life!


An excellent article on the power of Simplicity Circles:

"Circle of Simplicity - Return To The Good Life", by Cecile Andrews. A manual to creating your own study circles and examining issues over a 10 week course outlined by the master.

"The Simple Living Guide", by Janet Luhrs. Janet is the founder and editor of the Simple Living Journal which bills itself as "a sourcebook for less stressful, more joyful living" and lives up to it's billing! Chock full of great ideas and advice.

"Simplify Your Life - 100 Ways to Slow Down and Enjoy the Things That Really Matter", Elaine St. James. Some real life examples of how one couple have made the move to a life that is "outwardly simple and inwardly rich." Lots of good ideas here!

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Center for a New American Dream


Center for a New American Dream

Once a month I will feature another amazing group that is making a real difference in the quality of life of people around the world. The Center for a New American Dream (CNAD) is a group of brilliant people in Maryland that formed in 1997. CNAD's founding belief is that trying to live out the "American Dream" as it is defined in the media today is killing us! We work more, enjoy it less and have less time for many of the important things in life: friends, family, community and some leisure time to enjoy ourselves and our loved ones.

CNAD wants to cultivate a NEW American dream, one that emphasizes community, ecological sustainability, and a celebration of non-material values, while upholding the spirit of the traditional American dream of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

From biographical videos of actual people who are making the change in their lives, to reporting on "collaborative communities" and how to raise children in a consumer culture, CNAD is helping people look to a kinder, gentler "America the Possible".

Below is an important video which details the high cost of striving to have more consumer goods when then don't really bring us long term happiness:

Check out this wonderful groups website and join in the crucial change process!

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Is Happiness Overrated?

Is Happiness Overrated?  What The Heck Is It?

Is happiness a part of your quality of life?  It isn't for everyone. Some would be fine with feeling safe and secure with meals on the table. Security is certainly a part of happiness, but it's just the beginning. We need to build on this like using a foundation of a home. To me, staying at that level would seem more like satisfaction or comfort rather than full blown happiness. Many are "happy" with being satisfied. I don't believe that this is an inspired life --- no Daring Adventure! There is richness to be found beyond just obtaining the basics of living.

The concept of "happiness" is a fairly new idea. Until the 19th Century most people lived a hard, uncertain and difficult life. It wasn't until some societies achieved a decent level of affluence that people beyond the upper classes had enough leisure to think about what made them happy.

Happiness is an elusive concept. Like beauty, happiness is in the eye of the beholder….there are a lot of different ideas about what makes it up. To enhance our quality of life we need to have focus and clarity
on what gives us happiness and keeps it in the forefront of our day to day awareness. Simplicity is best.

Americans have so many distractions from what is important that it's sometimes difficult to sort through to the gems of what makes us truly happy. A few thoughts from the wise through history:

  • "We tend to forget that happiness doesn't come as a result of getting something we don't have, but rather of recognizing and appreciating what we do have."   ---Frederick Koenig
  •  "Happiness is when what you think, what you say and what you do are in harmony"  ---Gandhi
  •  "Plenty of people miss their share of happiness, not because they never found it, but because they didn't stop to enjoy it."  ---William Feather
  • "That man is richest whose pleasures are cheapest."  ---Thoreau
  • "Learn to let go. That is the key to happiness."  --- Buddha

Being happy DOES have a lot to do with being present and having time to appreciate the positives of our lives ---- and letting go of the negative. And even letting go of the positives when it's time.

There's been lots of research on what makes people happy so I'll include a few of the recommendations from the findings:
  1. Keep active. Studies show immediate and long term benefits from just walking 10-15 minutes a day. There are more rewards for doing more. There's also a mental lift to regular activity. Exercise decreases stress and depression. 
  2. Develop positive, optimistic thinking! Fake it until you make it….Smile even when you aren't feeling particularly happy.  It's been shown to work…..Look at something that makes you laugh first thing in the morning and keep it going!
  3. Socialize. Get around some people who make you feel good, or who are doing something that you like. Close relationships are the #1 source of happiness.
  4. Be yourself. It takes a lot of work to worry about what people think about you. Look for friends who are accepting and are less judgmental. 
  5. Have some fun! Get into some enjoyable activity at least weekly. Check out a comedy on TV or at the movies, play cards with friends, get to the beach or the park. Schedule it in! A fun night or a date night, etc.

A couple of nice references:

"How To Be Happy, Dammit - A Cynics Guide to Spiritual Happiness," by Karen Salmansohn.
This is a clever, well designed book, which is funny and wise. Highly recommended!

"The Discovery of Happiness," edited by Stuart McCready. Contains sone history, some advice, and another beautifully designed book.

My reference guide and workbook which can be purchased from the link below.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Affluenza Alert!!

After watching some of the craziness around Black Friday and shopping last month, I wanted to put out a warning that this type of feeding frenzy isn't always so obviously doing harm to ourselves and others.

Some statistics you may or may not know:

1. The average American has 5 credit cards! (If they all have a $2000 limit, that's an easy $10,000 debt just in credit cards).

2. 41% of Americans have less than $500 in savings! And 2/3 of us say we're living paycheck to paycheck. (donkey

3. Anxiety, depression and high blood pressure are all at all time highs. As a health professional this is the scariest statistic. It seems our health is suffering greatly because of willingness/need to go into debt. Much of the debt is for things we don't really NEED.

PBS put out a semi-humorous video on this topic several years ago. Here's a clip:

For some help with the disease, here are some recommendations:

Try these handy tips for beating Affluenza!

1. Before you buy, ask yourself:

  • Do I need it? 
  • Do I want to dust (dry-clean or otherwise maintain) it?
  • Could I borrow it from a friend, neighbor or family member?
  • Is there anything I already own that I could substitute for it?
  • Are the resources that went into it renewable, or non-renewable? 
  • How many hours will I have to work to pay for it? 

(Note: Before you do this, you may find it useful to figure your real hourly wage. Take your annual net income and subtract your work-related costs like clothing, transportation, child care, parking and lunches out.

2. Avoid the mall. Go hiking or play ball with the kids instead.

3. Figure out what public transportation can save you (time, money for gas and parking, peace of mind).

4. Become an advertising critic. Don't be sucked in by efforts to make you feel inadequate so you'll buy more stuff you don't need.

5. Volunteer for a school or community group.

6. Splurge consciously. A few luxuries can be delightful, and they don't have to be expensive.

7. Stay in -- have a potluck, play a game, bake bread, write a letter, cuddle a loved one.

8. Make a budget -- know how much you are earning and spending. Each dollar represents precious time in your life that you worked. Are you spending money in ways that fulfill you?

9. Pretend the Joneses are the thriftiest, least wasteful people on the block. Then try to keep up with them.

10. For even more ideas, watch Affluenza.