Cognitive neuroscience: (Part 1) Awareness is everything

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Being the change you wish to see in the world.

This is the beginning of a series of articles designed to be read quickly during your busy day with at least one practical tip for you to try. I always remind my clients that there is no one way to do anything. You might find that this article series sparks off some ideas of your own to be more aware of how you are focusing your thoughts, emotions and energy. If you would like to share them with others, please do in the comment section below this article.

Awareness of our thoughts is at least 95% of making a change in what and where we are focusing our energy. Functioning in “automatic pilot” is one of the largest obstacles in the way of creating positive experiences like success, fulfillment and balance on a daily basis. It’s easy to lose passion for something that has become a rut because we are no longer bringing our awareness and, therefore, creativity to it. In each moment is the opportunity to make it magnificent.

Slowing down just enough to listen to that still, small voice within will help connect with the inner compass of one’s unique talents and values (instead of taking them for granted). Brilliance, happiness and balance can follow when making aware choices in the moment of what thoughts we choose to entertain and navigate us through life.

Tip#1: Instead of starting the day with the news or getting online, try planning first thing into your morning 20 to 30 minutes of time to get your day focused in a positive frame of mind.  I found that getting up 30 minutes earlier was what I needed to have that quiet time to meditate, write down gratitudes and review my “to do” list, prioritizing items for work, home/family, and service in the world (volunteer work for my favorite non-profit or in the community, for example). Doing this first–even before exercising and breakfast really gets the day off to a positive, clear, energetic start. I feel ready and prepared for my day.

© Copyright 2016, Mary Claire O’Neal

Mary Claire O’Neal is a certified coach, communication/leadership consultant, Heartmath® Certified Trainer and Coach and is the author of the award-winning book, Becoming What You Want to See in the World.

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Overcoming Over-thinking

Have you ever thought about something TOO much?166262764_8

Have you ever not been able to sleep because thoughts keep running through your head?

While thinking through things is really helpful and important (some people could even do more of that!), sometimes we can detour our lives and get off track by thinking or analyzing too much. This over-thinking can turn into a negative direction and create a state of doubt, stress, anxiety or worry (or even cognitively convince oneself of a hypothetical situation that doesn’t even exist).  Have you ever encountered a difficulty with someone, thinking that their intent was negative and found out later that you were very wrong about that?  You discovered later that they did not have a negative intention at all?

From the perspective of Quantum Physics, simply put, thoughts are things. Thoughts have an effect on us, the world, and matter. When we allow ourselves to go down a path of negatively over-thinking something, we are having more of an effect, many times, than we realize.

Our minds work through association (association with past experiences) or perceptual connections, so given free rein, the mind can divert us from being in the moment with what is really needed. We are so much more than our thoughts. We are deeper than thought. We all have a core of strength, wisdom, joy, and, yes, love that is much truer than thought. And ideally, thought can be influenced by and arise out of that inner core of what we really are.

In many traditions throughout the ages, the area of the heart is associated with this part of us that is more than our minds, more than thought, even more than matter (or the physical aspects of life).  For thousands of years, it has been associated with the seat of the soul, with universal love, with wisdom.

Here is an activity to try:89796678_8

  • Sit quietly and focus on your breath (just pay attention to breathing in and exhaling).
  • Quiet yourself and focus on the area of your heart.
  • Visualize a beautiful white light with sparkles of gold in that area.
  • Allow the light to expand into your whole body (including your head), filling your cells with that light, like a honeycomb lighting up.
  • Let yourself feel the love coming from your heart or soul, that inner core of wisdom.
  • Send this light of love from your heart to bathe the difficulty or person with that light. Send positive thoughts for that situation or person.

You may find that this easy and simple activity not only helps bring you back to a more balanced place, it also helps with your perspective in a situation.  You might even find that things improve and the truer aspects “come to light.”  This is also a good activity (in addition to other obvious ways) when observing a situation or area of the world that needs help—pouring into that country or situation the love from your heart.

When you see yourself in a place of over-thinking, it helps to bring yourself back to the heart, to infuse the problem with love.  To some people using the word “love” sounds fluffy, and to that I say that love is a powerful force in this world–more powerful than fear, hate, and separation.  It is what we truly are. It is the hope for the world. What would this world look like if more and more people brought themselves to a place of love instead of fear?

Mary Claire O’Neal is a communication consultant, coach and author of the award-winning book, Becoming What You Want to See in the World .

© Copyright 2013, Mary Claire O’Neal

Photos: Getty Images

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Saying “Yes” into Overwhelm

Balance Series, Part 190336474_8

Every day offers new opportunities for activity, along with the challenges of keeping on track with priorities. Accomplishing things step-by-step is helpful in bringing ourselves back into a state of balance.

Have you ever said “yes” too many times and gotten yourself into a place of overwhelm? I have. I realized what was behind the “yes” was my desire to serve and to help (which is a good thing), but sometimes ego can be in there, too.

Has anyone ever said to you something like, “We’re looking for someone with your gifts and talents,” or “We need someone who has your insight to guide this.”  Saying “yes” to something and knowing that it will be of service to others is a very good thing.  Saying “yes” to something, knowing that you are already over-committed, but it will give you the opportunity to shine, is another. There’s nothing wrong with “shining” in the world. It can be a good thing. But it can be a part of the motivation in making choices that will send you into overwhelm or cause other priorities or commitments to be compromised, derailing your purpose in life and creating difficulty–not 83598834_8only for yourself but others. Also, when in overwhelm there is usually not time for the things that can help you stay balanced and healthy (like exercise, sufficient rest, and social and creative time). You cannot give the energy needed for things if you get seriously depleted or become ill.

I don’t write about anything that I haven’t experienced myself, and I can tell you, the overwhelm from saying “yes” too much kept me in a place of chaos for several months. It had nothing to do with the people or the organizations I said “yes” to. They would have kindly understood if I had said “no.” It had to do with me and my choices.

Lesson learned.

So, if you have a patterned tendency to “yes” yourself into overwhelm, here are a few things that can help:

1. Stay in the moment with life choices, using discernment before giving an answer. In other words, don’t fall back on a past pattern of taking things on or automatically saying, “yes.” The answer probably doesn’t have to be given right away.

2. Ask yourself, “Is this going to prevent me from honoring other commitments?”

3. Ask, “Will I still be able to take care of myself (health and happiness), if I do this?

4. Ask, “Is being considered indispensable or wanting to shine one of the main reasons for saying “yes?”

5. Take a break. If conflicted or in doubt, take some quiet time to just ask for guidance. Deeper or higher levels of ourselves probably already know the answer.

6. Talk to significant others or those in our lives the decision will impact.

After having honestly considered all these things, and you think that saying”yes” is still the best choice, you’ll have entered into the decision and commitment consciously.  Then there is more room to truly and happily give of yourself and serve.

Mary Claire O’Neal is the author of the award-winning book, Becoming What You Want to See in the World, and is a communication consultant, coach and speaker.

© Copyright, Mary Claire O’Neal

Photo credit: Getty Images

A Gift Gandhi’s Life Brought to Millions

ENA30004456Friday, Oct. 2, 2009 was the 140th birth anniversary of a very powerful role model in my life and the lives of many others, Mohandas K. Gandhi. He showed the world that one man can live with such impeccability and integrity that he could lead and become a peaceful force that would empower a whole nation. The way he lived his life became a true model in our world for living with integrity and love in intent, thought, word and deed.

There is a well-known story of a woman asking Gandhi one day to counsel her son to stop eating sugar because it was unhealthy for him. She lamented that her son would not listen to her. She explained to Gandhi that the boy would most certainly listen to him. Gandhi was silent for a moment and asked the mother to bring him back in a month, which she did. When the woman brought her son back, Gandhi said, “Son, you must stop eating sugar. It is not healthy for you.” The boy stopped eating sugar.  When the woman asked Gandhi why he didn’t advise her son on their first meeting, Gandhi replied, “Dear Madam, I cannot counsel someone in doing something I cannot avoid, so I had to work on my habit first.”

So many times  in our world, there are voices that say, “Do as I say, not as I do.” Gandhi knew that the only true and genuine teaching and change comes from those who live it. He had too much integrity to allow himself to request something of someone if he did not do it himself.

People pay attention to our actions and our choices much more than the words we speak. We can all “be the change” we want to see in the world if we live that change.  If we see a lack of understanding, peace and unity in our world, the way to bring change is to live the love, peace and unity in our own lives, in our own thoughts. This is the hope for our world. This is a powerful gift that Gandhi’s life brought to millions.

What an amazing life. What an amazing teacher.

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For pictures of celebrations on this anniversary:   http://snipurl.com/sbj7g

The Speed of Life

This article by Mary Claire O’Neal was chosen as one of the Intent.com articles of the week, 8/7/09.

M. K. Gandhi said, “There is more to life than increasing its speed.” One of the things Gandhi may be referring to is slowing down enough to listen.  Really listen.  “Slow down to listen to what?” you may ask. My answer would be many voices and yet one voice: That still, small voice within, or the same situation that presents itself over and over, or doors opening or closing, or what a child is saying with his behavior.

Slowing down to the speed of life can mean slowing down enough to pull myself out of autopilot—out of a routine, out of behaviors and ways of thinking that no longer work for me, out of reactions that can create separation instead of unity.

Slowing down to the speed of life can mean waking up, being fully alive right now, knowing that in every moment resides that choice to be awake.  I have found that what I need to know is within me and also spoken through life all around me, if I’m paying attention. Life is filled with miracles and magic, but unless I am listening and watching, even the miracles will be missed.

Something I’ve found refreshing is to just sit quietly for a few minutes, away from the seduction of technology (stripped of my computer or phone) and listen to the silence or just to my heart beating. Contemplative walks can be a wonderful time for me to get creative ideas. Being out in nature is a way that many people find the silence and peace to listen.

Slowing down can also mean waking up to the wonder of life again. Listening to my heart when it says, “Take a break, play, be silly!”  But it’s so easy to say, “ I don’t have the time.” And it’s so easy to see another day fly by without that joy. Having stuff coming at us all the time is a common way not to listen. Daily routines can become ruts that can distract us from the promptings of our hearts or the still, small voice within.

When slowing down, one can more clearly see things that need attention in life.  It might be that a relationship or friendship needs some quality time. What might need attention is the physical part of me—needing more exercise or healthy eating.  I might be reminded of a letter or phone call that’s been put off for later or a creative project that needs my attention.

When people have regrets at the end of their lives, it’s usually not that they would have liked to have worked one more day (even if their work was a joy for them). It’s usually, “I wish I had said, ‘I love you’ more” or  “I wish I had been kinder, more compassionate.” When one really listens, promptings can become fulfilling action instead of regrets.

© Mary Claire O’Neal

Mary Claire O’Neal has been a nationally known communication consultant for over 15 years, speaker, certified coach and author of the award-winning book, Becoming What You Want to See in the World. For more information: www.maryclaireoneal.com

True mastery

“The human race is challenged more than ever before to demonstrate our mastery – not over nature – but of ourselves.” –Rachel Carson, environmentalist

What is mastery over ourselves? What could that look like?

Ultimately our intent, thoughts, words, actions and responses are the only things that we can control and master. These all involve choice and our own freewill.  It’s the awareness that every moment involves a choice—whether it be on the automatic, unconscious level or with awareness and mastery.

The awareness of those choices in the moments that make up our lives involves a discipline of mind.  Sound like a lot of work?  It is—at first. But that discipline of mind becomes easier and easier, and it is SO worth it!

How is it worth it?  A simple example is when I make a conscious choice to change a thought or a behavior. Maybe it’s a thought that really doesn’t serve any purpose other than making me feel down or defeated. By changing that one thought that has been floating around in my mind all day to one that is more uplifting, I can change the course of my day.

We can also change the world around us by changing that one thought.

Have you ever been around someone who is being critical or negative about almost everything?  It has an effect on those who have contact with them.  The same is true for those who are hopeful, empowered and are taking action that is consistent with hope and empowerment. They draw people to them in a good way like a magnet.

Another example of that mastery is when we look at and consider the effects a choice we make will have on others before it is made. Does insisting that it be our way make us blind to the needs of others?  How many times in the past several years have we seen on a national and global scale the effects of choices that were made (that first started with an individual making a choice or an individual pushing that agenda) that do damage to others?

Masters are everywhere, in all walks of life.  A master can be the person who sees her/his life as a service.  I see mastery in a janitor I know who always has a cheerful greeting and is truly joyful in doing what some people would consider a menial task. Mastery is in the person in the parking garage booth, who recently when I asked “how are you?”  answered with, “I’m blessed!  I have a job where all day long I can greet people and wish them a good evening. What could be better than that?”

I’m humbled by that kind of self mastery.

Mastery is not perfection. Masters make mistakes, and they do encounter difficulties.  Mastery can be working in a process of knowing there’s always more to know. Mastery can be about getting back up again after a fall or mistake, claiming it, apologizing for it (if it affected others), learning from it, dusting oneself off, and moving forward again.

© Mary Claire O’Neal

Mary Claire O’Neal is a communication consultant, speaker, coach and author of the award-winning book, Becoming What You Want to See in the World. For more information:  www.maryclaireoneal.com