Your Inner Peace Path: Essential Practices for a Calmer Mind

inner peace

inner peace

Inner peace, a state of serenity and calm, can be achieved through practices such as mindfulness meditation and loving-kindness meditation, which focus the mind on the present and foster feelings of love and kindness towards oneself and others. Regular physical activity, including yoga or tai chi, not only enhances mood but also contributes significantly to this tranquil state by reducing stress and increasing self-awareness.

On the journey towards achieving inner peace, one must also consider the importance of a regular sleep schedule, the nurturing of strong social connections, and the practice of gratitude, all of which play a crucial role in cultivating happiness and a sense of calm. Engaging in activities that bring joy, alongside effective time management and seeking professional help when necessary, are essential steps in navigating the path to inner peace.

Understanding Inner Peace

The Nature and Importance of Inner Peace

Inner peace is fundamentally a state where emotional and mental serenity prevails, free from disturbing thoughts, allowing individuals to control their moods and reactions effectively. It transcends mere passivity or indifference; it is an active state of profound presence and engagement with life’s challenges. This state is not exclusive to those dedicated to spiritual or religious practices; it is accessible to anyone, regardless of their lifestyle or occupation.

Misconceptions and Realities

There is a common misconception that inner peace involves disengagement from the world and ignoring personal or external issues. Contrarily, true inner peace involves a deep engagement with the world, maintaining a balance that fosters internal harmony and stability. It is about embracing life’s experiences, acknowledging and addressing suffering, not through indifference but through a mindful and balanced approach.

Inner Peace as a Tool for Life

Achieving inner peace allows individuals to cope with any event or situation, aiding in managing anxieties and fears healthily. It enhances focus, patience, tolerance, and the quality of sleep, and it significantly improves relationships and overall happiness. Techniques such as Transcendental Meditation, mindfulness, and other forms of mental and physical training like yoga and tai chi have been shown to foster this peace.

Benefits Beyond Calm

The pursuit of inner peace offers extensive benefits; it improves physical and mental health, increases emotional intelligence, and enhances one’s ability to enjoy life and maintain energy. It equips individuals with the tools to handle stress healthily and appreciate the present moment, fostering a sense of contentment and well-being that transcends ordinary happiness and situational joys.

Strategies for Achieving Inner Peace

Daily Practices for Cultivating Inner Peace

Mindfulness and Meditation Techniques

  1. Begin with a daily meditation routine, setting aside 10-20 minutes to focus on your breath or a specific mantra.
  2. Incorporate mindfulness throughout your day by engaging in activities like mindful eating, walking, or journaling to enhance present-moment awareness.
  3. Explore various forms of meditation such as guided, mantra, or loving-kindness to find what best suits your needs.
  4. Practice body scan meditation to release tension and notice bodily sensations from head to toe.

Physical and Mental Health

  1. Engage in at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity most days, choosing enjoyable activities like yoga or cycling.
  2. Ensure a healthy diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins while limiting processed foods and sugar.
  3. Aim for 7-9 hours of sleep per night and try to maintain a consistent sleep schedule.
  4. Regular practice of the 4-7-8 breathing technique can help manage stress and induce relaxation.

Social and Emotional Well-being

  1. Spend quality time with friends and family or connect with community groups that share your interests.
  2. Practice gratitude daily by reflecting on what you are thankful for or maintaining a gratitude journal.
  3. Engage in self-compassion by treating yourself with kindness and understanding, especially during challenging times.
  4. Commit to regular self-reflection to gain deeper insights into your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors.

Environmental and Lifestyle Adjustments

  1. Reduce exposure to stressors by setting boundaries with stressful relationships and limiting social media use.
  2. Surround yourself with nature and elements like plants and water sounds to create a calming environment.
  3. Participate in creative activities to keep your mind engaged and express your artistic side.
  4. Practice random acts of kindness to cultivate happiness and a deeper sense of community.

These strategies, when consistently applied, can help individuals navigate their journey towards inner peace, enhancing overall well-being and happiness.

Overcoming Obstacles to Inner Peace

Internal Challenges

1. Emotional and Mental Barriers

Unresolved inner emotions such as anger, jealousy, and high self-created pressure can significantly obstruct the path to inner peace. These emotions often stem from past experiences or unrealistic expectations we set for ourselves and others. Addressing these feelings through professional help or mindfulness practices can lead to better emotional management and inner calm.

2. Psychological Factors

The need for others’ approval, fears about the future, and perfectionist tendencies are common internal factors that disrupt inner peace. These issues can lead to a constant state of dissatisfaction and anxiety, making it difficult to achieve a serene mindset.

External Challenges

1. Societal Pressures

External factors such as a fixed mindset or rigid opinions can also pose significant barriers to achieving inner peace. These often manifest as a resistance to new ideas or an inability to adapt to change, which can create internal conflict and stress.

2. Overcoming Mindfulness Challenges

To effectively overcome challenges related to mindfulness, it is crucial to start with shorter meditation sessions and gradually increase their duration. Patience, practice, and adapting techniques to fit personal needs help in building a sustainable practice. Gently redirecting attention during meditation and exploring any resistance to mindfulness can also enhance the practice.

Strategies to Overcome Obstacles

1. Non-Attachment and Reduction of Over-Caring

Practicing non-attachment and reducing the intensity of care can help manage over-caring, which is often linked to anxiety and anger management issues. By focusing less on controlling every outcome, individuals can experience a significant reduction in stress and an increase in peace.

2. Addressing Fear and Global Concerns

Fears related to global issues like nuclear war or ethical concerns such as harming living beings need to be acknowledged but also put into perspective. Focusing on actionable steps at an individual level can reduce feelings of helplessness and promote a more peaceful state of mind.

By understanding and addressing these internal and external factors, individuals can make significant strides towards achieving and maintaining inner peace, enhancing their overall well-being and happiness.

Conclusion

Embarking on the journey towards inner peace involves embracing practices like mindfulness meditation, loving-kindness meditation, and incorporating physical activity into daily routines. These strategies not only fortify mental and emotional well-being but also enhance one’s ability to navigate life’s challenges with grace and resilience. The transformative power of these practices lies in their ability to foster profound presence, increase self-awareness, and cultivate a state of serenity that strengthens one’s resolve against external pressures and internal turmoil. By consistently applying these methods, individuals genuinely embark on a path that leads to increased contentment, better relationships, and an overall sense of happiness in life.

The pursuit of inner peace is a dynamic journey that benefits immensely from guidance and support. As individuals navigate the complexities of achieving this tranquil state, it becomes essential to recognize when to seek professional assistance.

To further this endeavor, reaching out for expert advice can significantly enhance one’s journey. Call our office ‪(240-587-7854‬) so we can help guide you along your path of inner peace. By embracing the techniques outlined and considering the implications of inner peace on physical and mental health, individuals can unlock a profound sense of well-being that permeates every aspect of life, thus actualizing their highest potential for peace and happiness.

How To Find Hope In Life

find hope

How to find hope in life is not always an easy task. Yet, a life without a sense of hope can be dark, depressed, anxious, and lacking in motivation. In this article, I write about ways of finding hope in life, and so finding happiness and inner peace. 

To find hope and to keep hope are essential to living a happy and peaceful life. Yet most of us know what it’s like to live a life devoid of hope. A life where nothing seems to be going our way, and no one seems to understand. The encouraging “you’ll snap out of it,” or “sleep it off,” or, my favorite, “just get over it,” is not at all helpful. If only it were that easy to overcome the feeling of hopelessness. 

Hope is a mechanism developed by the human brain to cope with contexts and situations unfavorable to survival. Without a sense of hope in the future, or hope in one’s ability, where would we find our motivation, our drive, to move forward? In the worst of times, it’s hoping that drives me forward. That “knowledge” telling me there is something better in the future if only I get there. Hope compels me to find the impossible as possible because I believed it to be possible and so acted as if the possible were already the reality. 

Bonus: Download Chris Shea’s booklet on Life Coaching & is it for me? Click here to get it

The author and evangelist Hal Lindsey says it so well: “Man can live about forty days without food, about three days without water, about eight minutes without air…but only for one second without hope.” Here are some of my suggestions to find hope in life:

  1. Do what you know you can do. Take steps forward by accomplishing the tasks you know you can achieve. Maybe you can make the bed, or actually get out of the bed, celebrate the little wins as eventually, these wins will become the lessons needed to find hope. 
  2. Perform an act of kindness. Helping someone else not only shows them there are good people in the world but gives you a sense of accomplishment and outward pride in supporting a fellow human. This sense of pride, felt healthily, will lead to a feeling of hope, knowing that if you can help someone else, you can help yourself, too.
  3. Surround yourself with optimism. The attitudes of people around us influence our mood. If you surround yourself with positive and hopeful people, you, too, will become positive and optimistic. Learn who the positive people are in your life and follow them.
  4. Allow for inspiration. Read inspirational books or quotes, strengthen your faith, return to your place of worship, whatever it takes to believe and feel the presence of a being more significant than yourself. Knowing that a prayer community is willing to help you, and the belief that something out there is higher than you, gives us hope in that we aren’t alone. 
  5. Spend time in nature. Feeling, seeing, sensing the depth of the beauty of nature is awe-inspiring. Notice the small insects and bugs, reflecting on how they, given their size and lack of intelligence, somehow survive and even thrive in their environment. If the insect can do it, you can do it!

How to find hope in life is necessary for us to move forward in life, to find the motivation to grow and mature into the best person you can be. Don’t let yourself lose hope. Hold on tightly, and try to enjoy the ride.

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How To Find Peace In The Holiday Stress

holiday stress

The time of the year between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day is filled with high expectation leading us into holiday stress. The expectation for perfection is great, causing us stress and a lack of peace when we desire this to be a time of joy with the celebration of family traditions. Here are my 4 tips to find peace in the holiday stress.

This time of the year is when I reflect upon my own childhood memories; memories filled with awe and wonder as the world seemed to be magical. Unfortunately, this time of the year is also one of increased holiday stress due to all the activities we feel we need to do. Our wish to make this time of the year “perfect” increases our expectations, many of them unreasonable, causing us to overwork in our planning efforts.

As a child, I fondly recall watching the animated Christmas specials and reading all the Christmas books I could find. Those stories not only have positive endings, but most of them also depict perfection. In these stories families gather and get along with each other, the house is majestically decorated, the dining room table set to rival the fanciest restaurant. My favorite American painter, Norman Rockwell, painted scenes of American life; some showing pain and suffering, others idyllic life scenes. Rockwell’s holiday paintings are among my favorite as they depict a world I wish existed, although knowing that a perfect world doesn’t exist.

This longing of mine, like the desire and longing of many other people, is part of the cause of our holiday stress during this season. We tend to focus our attention on the memories of the past, coupled with fictional idealisms of the holiday, producing a desire to re-create what never was, nor most likely ever will be. The holidays, as we perceived them in childhood, cannot now be reproduced through our adult perceptions, nor can we expect to create an experience depicted in the controlled environments of scripts, actors, and a stage.

The issue that I encounter this time of the year is one of unrealistic expectations which create the holiday stress that takes away our peace. Trying to re-create a “perfection” which actually never existed means that we will fall short in our attempts. Not achieving my expectations could be interpreted as a failure.

Bonus: Download Chris Shea’s booklet on Life Coaching & is it for me? Click here to get it

We have control over our feelings in the current moment. Let’s not lose the experience of what is happening by living in either the past or the future. Experience the present moment for what it is. As I recall my childhood memories of the holidays, I try to keep them focused on the experience of the moment. Don’t let an expectation of perfection cloud the beauty and the feeling of the memory. Enjoy the memory without trying to do anything with or to it. Live the moment without expectation and you will find that the holiday stress of perfection will fade.

During this holiday season, here are the steps I am working on to keep myself as stress-free as possible:

  1. Refocus expectations: Take time to reflect on your expectations, considering what is realistic and what is not realistic. For example, we may want a house decorated as we’ve seen in advertisements, but, no matter how hard we try it never looks as it does in the pictures. If you reframe your expectation and perception, you would recognize that you haven’t failed, actually, you created something unique, something that reflects you, not an ad.
  2. Change your perception: Changing the way we perceive ourselves will change our perception of our world. Therefore, changing our view of this time of the year will change our expectations and so reduce our stress. For example, if you are hosting family, and the reality is that your uncle always makes a fool of himself at these family gatherings, keep your perspective focused on reality. Plan for what you can in expectation of your uncle’s shenanigans, for when your uncle acts as he always acts, don’t let it stress you; he is only doing as you expected him to do (and you previously planned for it). At least he’s consistent.
  3. Learn from your past: It’s important to spend time reflecting on our past, honoring the memories for what they are, and sharing them with current family and friends. Our past has shaped who we are today. Use the lessons of the past to create a present moment of peace. The purpose of the past is not to be recreated in the present, but to be incorporated with the present. Take what was positive for you in the past and use it in the present. What wasn’t positive for you in the past, modify now in the present to be positive. Our past was not perfect; don’t expect the present or the future to be perfect either.
  4. Simplify your life: Easier said than done, I know. But if you think about it, our material goods, although useful, can be a source of our stress when our focus emphasizes “things”. Living simply means keeping a proper focus, or perspective, on what is truly important in life. Keep your expectations and perceptions rooted on who you are, not on who you think you should be.

During this holiday season, take the time to enjoy the wonders, joy, and magic of the season. Keep your perspective and expectations reasonable to reduce your holiday stress. Most importantly, focus on what is truly important to you!

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An Expert Life Coach Shares Successful Ways to Change Perspective

change perspective

Many of us are negatively bothered by the small annoyances in life. Expert life coach Chris Shea shares his successful way to change perspective and live happier.

It’s usually not the big things that affect us as much as the accumulation of these daily small annoyances. We find ourselves lashing out in anger or snapping at others for what they may feel is a small matter, but you are really lashing out not over that issue specifically, rather you are reacting to an accumulation of small issues.

When my clients complain about issues in their life, regardless of my opinion, I try to refrain from labeling it “the small stuff”. If something is bothering someone I don’t want to say “small stuff” as that negates what they’re feeling. Although, I hope to get them to a point when someday in the future they can recognize the current issue was something small and can be now laughed at.

To get to that point of laughing at ourselves over the small stuff one of the questions that I’ll ask my clients is, “in the scope of everything going on in your life and in the world right now, where does this fit?” The question is an attempt to change perspective and put into focus that which is truly important in life.

When we get mentally stuck focused on what is truly a small matter, we need to divert our attention to refocus on something else. Eventually, you’ll forget what you were previously focused on. This helps to reframe our perspective. It’s like a laser pen for cats, keeping their attention focused on a point, not on anything else. We, as humans, act and react the same way a cat does with the laser pointer.

I’ve spent over 20 years working with people suffering from addictions to later work on their recovery while learning how to cope with cravings for their drug of choice. One of the complaints I frequently hear from my former clients is about their sponsor/mentor in guiding them through a craving. They complain to me that when they would be having a craving they would call their sponsor and say “I’m having a craving” and the sponsor would reply “hey did you watch the game last night?”

Bonus: Download Chris Shea’s booklet on Life Coaching & is it for me? Click here to get it

The former client would be dismayed that their sponsor only wanted to talk about the game instead of the craving. They would wonder what’s wrong with their sponsor that they wouldn’t talk about the craving? They’ll suggest to me that they need a new sponsor who cares for them and not some game.

My question to this person in recovery, after listening to their story, is always “well did you use last night?” “No”, they would reply. To which I state “isn’t that the goal you were going for, not using?”

If I have a headache and I focus on my headache then my headache gets worse. If I do what I need to do to take care of that headache and then do something else, my headache seems to get better or even goes away. Changing our focus or perspective takes us away from unhealthy thoughts toward either healthy or neutral thoughts. I call it the shiny object effect. If your cat or dog (or even young child) is fixated on something you don’t want them to be fixated on, simply flash a shiny object and their fixation changes to the new object. You can do this literally or figuratively with yourself and other humans.

Changing perspective helps us understand that some of life’s issues are small and not worth our time, energy, or negativity. Distracting myself from the small issue is but one aspect of coping with the small stuff; understanding and coping with the idea that it’s a small issue is vital.

Prioritizing life’s issues allows us to choose what we will and will not give time or energy to. If the issue, in the scope of what’s happening in the world, won’t make a difference, then let it go. If the issue rises to the level of needing to be addressed, then do so in a healthy, conscious, and productive manner.

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The Uplifting Story Of How I Found Inner Peace

a life of purpose

In this article, I share with you an interview by Jan Bowen who speaks with me about my life’s journey and how I came to be the person I am today. I share about my childhood influences, the curves my life has taken over the decades, and the influences which have shaped me to be who I am today.

You’ll learn that many of the topics which I write about have their origins in my life’s experiences. I don’t write from theory, I write from my own struggles and self-learning.

Finding inner peace is possible because I have found my inner peace. Read along and you’ll understand the evolution of my thought and insights. You too can find your inner peace, and I feel honored guiding you to that peace.

Jan Bowen: Well, as you may or may not know, on this show I talk about how people found their purpose, and how they live the life that they do. With you, it’s so intriguing to me because the name of your website is exactly what I want to talk about. The website that Chris has is lifesjourneyblog.com. Chris, what was your life journey to the point that you are now in your career? What brought you here?

Chris Shea: That’s a long, winding journey. In hindsight, all good. But the somewhat short of it, I spent most of my career up in the Baltimore area, and I was involved in doing counseling work plus administration work. I was honored to run in-patient medical treatment facilities. We specialized in drug and alcohol treatment, but we were in-patient medical. I really enjoyed being an administrator because the way I looked at that is I was able to help a lot of people. Even though I didn’t always have a caseload, it was still very rewarding for me. These were always nonprofits, so that was something that was important to me, giving back to the community. But, I’m a type “A” person. I love to always be busy. I’m still very busy. But back then, the busyness began to take over my life. In the busyness, everything else seemed to go off to the wayside.

Chris Shea: Work and career, titles, prestige, all of that became more important. As my career took off, I got into speaking at national conferences and started writing and getting published in journals, and I found myself pretty high up in my field as far as being known in what I was doing. As rewarding as that is, it brings a lot of stress and anxiety if you’re not keeping up a balanced life and taking care of yourself, neither of which I was doing. For me, the big change came when I started to realize I needed to slow things up a bit. An opportunity came here down in Leonardtown (where Chris currently lives), and I thought, “Maybe this is a good time in my life to start different, to get away from the city, get away from all that and just do something totally different.” That’s when I picked up the campus ministry job, which was awesome, and I loved every minute of that.

Chris Shea: The issue for me came in when the academic year ended, and I now have three months off. For me, the thought of that was, “Hey, this is awesome. I got three months paid vacation basically. Way to go.” I’ve never had three months off before, except for the times that I was laid off. Then I was off, but that was different. After getting close to about week two of being off, that’s when it hit me, and things started going downhill for me at that point because the type “A” in me, the person who has been going from corporate world and all the stressors that had, and all the pressures that were on me … that was gone. There was nothing. I kinda hit that brick wall of this nothingness, of what do I do? I kind of was almost in a depression type stage. It wasn’t fun. I needed something to do. I spent a good number of weeks through this struggle in eventually finding mindfulness and finding meditation again, and beginning to consciously slow myself into looking more at who I am.

Chris Shea: As I did that, I decided to do some journaling. But instead of doing journaling in some diary or folder, I decided to do a blog. Why not? I’m on a computer all the time. That’s really where Lifesjourney came about, was a blog more so as a public diary, more as a journal. Really, it was just for me to have some outlet. And from there, that was probably what, six-ish or so years ago? From there, we now have what I’m doing. Now it’s a private practice, I’ve authored some books, doing speakings, I now have a podcast. It’s grown into what it is today, and it keeps me extremely busy. But the difference is, I’m busy intentionally. What I mean by that is, I’m only doing what it is that I feel I’m able to do, and I’m trying to do it in a way that’s still healthy for me. I’m still trying to practice those daily routines of the meditation and taking care of self, and looking at self. Very different than what I was doing before. Long and short of it, here I am.

Jan Bowen: Thank you very much for sharing all of that. There are lots of pieces in there I’d love to explore a little more. One, I think it’s really important that people hear that the path isn’t always smooth, it’s not straight, and it does have pitfalls.

Chris Shea: Yes, it does. Yeah, definitely if somebody thinks that, “I can go from point A to point B in a straight line,” you are gonna end up with having stress and anxiety when you find out that that straight line is gonna become very curved. But that’s okay. In hindsight, those curves are really what got me to here. Had this been more of a straight line for me, we probably wouldn’t be talking, I probably wouldn’t be in this town. I’m glad for the curves.

Jan Bowen: Yeah, and from your perspective as both someone who experienced it and as a professional, as a therapist, you have both sides of it, so you really speak from a powerful position which I think has tremendous impact and value in sharing as well. There’s so many things I’m now trying to remember. From the outside, as you were talking, I was thinking, “To some people, it might not look that different. You were speaking before, you were at the top of your career before when you were in Baltimore.” So if somebody missed all those middle years and saw you online, and saw you had maybe a different name to a website instead of working for a firm, or “Oh, Chris started a podcast,” they might think nothing was really different, you’ve just grown.

Jan Bowen: All those middle pieces are really instructional, yeah. It’s interesting that so much happens from within.

Chris Shea: Exactly. Yeah, form the exterior, if I listed what my day is like, it’s going to seem to somebody, “Well you’re overwhelming yourself and isn’t that what you were doing?” But yet, it is what works on the inside. It is that intentionality, and to me, the part of that mindfulness. Before, it was just do, do, do, regardless of what the impact is for me. Now it’s, “Yes, I’m gonna be doing a lot, but I’m still trying to be aware of what is the impact to me and family when I’m doing all of this.” It’s not the haphazard, “Let me just do everything.” I would say right now in this field, I’m just one of the fish. I’m not a topnotch person in the field. There are bigger names you would think of if you think mindfulness than my name, so that keeps me humble.

Jan Bowen: Did moving from a city like Baltimore to a small town affect your lifestyle and your path at all?

Chris Shea: It helped to slow me down. The pace is very different. The pace is much calmer. I think overall that helped in that, but it wasn’t a huge shift. Most of my college life was living in rural towns, so it wasn’t a complete unknown for me. But yes, I think overall it did have a part to play in where I am now.

Jan Bowen: The rituals, I’m not sure if you’ve called them rituals, but the routines that you follow of mindfulness and meditation and such are also what you talk about on your podcast, “On Finding Peace”. Was that the intention behind the podcast?

Chris Shea: Yes. The podcast has morphed over time as well. Originally, the podcast was to broaden the audience, my reach. What I was doing in the early days of the podcast, which still exists if people listen to them, they really consisted of taking my blog posts and putting them to audio, is really the simplest way to put it. I figured this way if you don’t have to read it, well maybe you have time to listen to it. But as I thought about it, to me I thought what would be more important, because it was important to my life story, what have other people done in their lives that we can learn from?

Chris Shea: What I focused the podcast mostly on is interviewing people who have found ways of either getting toward peace or obtaining peace, and I ask them to share with us what are some very practical ways that we can do that. It’s not a theoretical type podcast, but very practically, you went from this to this, so if I’m listening to a podcast, what can I do to go from that to that? I figure that’s how I learned, maybe others can learn as well.

Jan Bowen: I’m curious what you were like as a little boy.

Chris Shea: Oh, wonderful days that they were. I think I’m at that age now where I can look back and say, “Those were the simpler times.” But actually, it probably would be quite surprising because growing up, I was the shy kid. I was the one who stayed in the corner. I had a small group of friends, a tight group of friends, but small. Really when it comes to being outgoing, when it comes to doing a lot after school or things like that, that wasn’t me. I would go home, do my homework, grab some of my friends, and off we would go. But I was extremely shy. If you were to tell my younger self that one day you’re going to be speaking on national stages and doing podcasts and things like this, yeah that would’ve been foreign to me. That would’ve been, “There is no way that’s gonna happen, I’m not speaking in front of people.” Yes, younger me was very different from me.

Jan Bowen: What was the changing point, the turning point?

Chris Shea: Self-confidence, that was the change for me. The shyness had a lot to do with self-esteem. As I aged through my 20s and started actually being in a career, then a lot of that changed and I slowly … and I emphasize slowly … began to have more of self-confidence not only in me as a person but the self-confidence in me as a professional. When that shifted, I became more outgoing. This was probably always in me, I just wasn’t aware it was in me.

Jan Bowen: Yeah. It’s interesting, from what you’re saying, I’m observing the external, the job in your 20s was bringing out the internal. As you were describing your coming to peacefulness in later life, you once again went internally to find that peace. It juxtaposed, but nonetheless, I find the contrast interesting between the exterior and the interior. Yeah.

Chris Shea: I appreciate that reflection. I hadn’t really looked at it in those terms before, but yeah it really makes a lot of sense as I move into another phase in my life, age wise. It’s very interesting. Appreciate that.

Jan Bowen: How do you define mindfulness? I’m going into these specific questions, but let’s back up a minute. How do you define it?

Chris Shea: There are a lot of definitions out there. Really for me, mindfulness is living in the present moment, non judgmentally. Jon Kabat-Zinn, he emphasizes the non judgmentally. That’s where I’m pulling that piece from. But it is all about living in the moment. What I mean with the non judgmentally is just to accept what your reality is. Now, that doesn’t mean I can’t work on changing my reality if that’s something that I feel is necessary. But before I can look at a possible change in my reality, I just need to come to terms with and accept what that reality is. Instead of trying to lie to ourselves, trick ourselves, fool ourselves as to what we would like our reality to be and then live accordingly, that’s gonna bring on a lot of stress and anxiety.

Chris Shea: If we can sit back and just accept where we are, the good, the bad and the otherwise, then look at, “What do I need to do differently to improve my life.” We need to start on that basis of reality. Let’s just start with reality, even if you don’t like that reality or like to admit that reality. No, it is what it is, accept it, now what?

Jan Bowen: Thank you for the definition. That’s really helpful and important. The curved parts of your path, you mentioned one was not going through with the priesthood. Do you feel like all the curves contributed in some way and informed where you are now?

Chris Shea: When I look in hindsight, I wouldn’t be who I am today without those experiences. For me, it’s very important, and I try to help my clients with this as well, but very important to understand that we are who we are because of our past. Again, good, bad or otherwise. You could talk about a very bad childhood, or a bad past or whatever. Again, that’s the acceptance piece. That is what it is, but that’s also what has made you. If at this point in your life, you have a great deal of resilience … then yes I feel sympathy for you that you had to go through what you did, but you have built a resilience which is wonderful to have at this point. Particularly my time in the seminary really gave me a lot of the tools to be able to be where I am today. I think minus that, I probably wouldn’t have found the mindfulness piece. I wouldn’t have found that spiritual peace. I think I would’ve been strictly academic psychology with it, versus what I see as more human if that kinda makes sense.

Jan Bowen: I understand what you’re saying in that sense. Something is occurring to me. It’s not an exact analogy, but I can’t help but put these two thoughts together. The writer and thinker, Jack Kornfield, who writes a lot on Buddhism, I heard him speak once about some concept in Buddhism, and he was saying, “People always expect me to be really calm, and really laid back and really peaceful.” He said, “If you didn’t know who I was and you saw me on the street, you would think I was the most hyper guy. I’m a really high energy person.” I really enjoyed that because what I observe in general about some of these concepts like mindfulness, and meditation and such is I believe there is a bias in terms of the vision, that they’re all peaceful and calm. And yet to me, there’s a joy and there’s a lightness to them. There’s an energy around them, a silliness at times even.

Chris Shea: I completely agree because as I mentioned earlier, I’m all about trying to stay within reality, and I don’t care how much you’re going to practice Buddhism, Zen, any type of Christian meditations, I don’t care what it is that you do. Unless you have removed yourself and have become a monk, other than that, you’re living in this world, and this world is not going to stop because you are meditating or because you know some of these concepts. If you try to be in this world but live like that monk, people are gonna look at you as crazy, and you’re probably not gonna get anybody. Most of us recognize a monk, but not a monk in society. All that needs to be tempered with, be real and be true to who you are. All of these principles, whether it’s eastern or western, it makes no difference, they’re leading us down a path of finding peace. But as far as I define that peacefulness, we can be feeling many different emotions while still having that in our peace.

Chris Shea: Yes, I can act silly at times, and I can show my happiness and all of that with this sense of an inner peace, yet at the same time, I can go through periods of mild depressions, of stress, of anger. But that doesn’t take away an inner peace. That just means I’m human, and I’m reacting and responding to what’s going on in my life. I think the difference is how you do that. Am I intentionally responding? Am I aware of my response? Do I need to make changes? I think that peacefulness is that peace that allows me to reflect on what I’m feeling. I’m not just going off in anger, or off in depressions. I can consciously go into those feelings, act that way, and then begin to say to myself, “Is this healthy right now? Is this appropriate right now?” And then make changes if necessary. There is that intentionality, I think. Yes, I love that approach. I just think we need to be real. People will respond when they see you’re real.

Chris Shea: ‘Cause, if you go up on stage or go on a podcast like this, and you talk about these high ideals or seem to be having those high ideals, many people are gonna say, “I can’t do that.”

Chris Shea: But when they see that you’re real, I don’t think that takes away your ability to say, “Hey, I’m an expert in this,” or “I’ve got information to share.” I think actually people can come to you because, “Wait a minute, you’re real. You talked about all this, but I heard you get a little stressed over there,” or “Wasn’t that comment a little off in what you talk about?” And then you can say, “Well yeah, I’m human. Yeah. It is.”

Jan Bowen: Yeah.

Chris Shea: “But now, here’s what I’m gonna do about it.”

Jan Bowen: What do you do for fun?

Chris Shea: I love being out in the water, love being out in nature, love to read. Meteorology is a hobby of mine.

Chris Shea: Yeah, so there are outlets, and I encourage people to have outlets. But yeah for me, those are the things I’ve picked up over time, and that’s how I get out and have fun. There are some days or some evenings that I’ll say, “You know what? Forget the computer, forget my business stuff. I’m taking a hike, I’m going out on the water, I’m gonna read a nonsense book,” whatever it is. But I think that’s important to have those outlets so that there’s some diversity in your life, and you can relax.

Jan Bowen: In your words, what would you name as your top three values?

Chris Shea: The top three right off the top of my head would look at as being the most important would be honesty, and trust, and family. Those are all up there. Maybe not in that order, but those are the top three. But also looking at that, I would say … I don’t know if it’s necessarily a value, but it’s, “Can you be true to self?” And whatever that means for self. Again, you may not like who you are, or maybe you aren’t the best person at the moment, but can you at least be true to who you are, and be able to go from there? That’s something that I would value in another person, really respect in another person.

Jan Bowen: That’s wonderful. Is there anything that you’d like to say that I haven’t asked you?

Chris Shea: Know that it really is possible to find inner peace. Whether you believe that or not, it is possible. I’ve seen that in a lot of people, but I’ve seen it in myself, so I’m speaking from the experience. This isn’t just, “Hey, the theory says …” But no, I did it. People can do it. Just go with it, begin to believe in it, and yes, it’s possible.

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How To Live An Awesome Stress And Anxiety Free Life Without Worry

stress and anxiety

Stress and anxiety are felt by us all. We can live a stress-free life and this article explains how.

“I am capable of thinking … yet I am not my thoughts; I am the thinker of my thoughts; therefore I can change what I feel and still be me”. -Terence Gorski

Each of us are responsible for our thoughts. Just as we create our thoughts, so also do we create our emotions and behaviors. Stress and anxiety are effected by our thoughts and behaviors. Our everyday stress can be eliminated once we believe that we can control our thoughts, therefore controlling our stress response.

When asking the question, “Who am I?”, we discover that a part of the answer lies within our thoughts, emotions, and actions. I often write and speak on this topic since the cause of anxiety and stress originates within ourselves, namely, within our thoughts.

Bonus: Chris Shea is offering this free GIFT explaining how you can improve your life with life coaching!  Click here to get it

​We tend to feel stress and anxiety over situations in which we believe we possess a lack of control. The opposite being true; if I believe that I have control over a situation my stress and anxiety will be lessened. In my work experience I have witnessed clients remain in an unhealthy situation, even when there are healthy alternatives, because their fear of the unknown stops them from making a change. The unknown can be a source of fear for in the unknown we have no control. A lack of control leads to increased anxiety, therefore, someone may remain in an unhealthy situation since they at least “know” that situation and so assume they have control over it.

We need to keep our thoughts focused on the present moment, for it is only in the present that we have the control to make changes. Focusing our thoughts on the past may cause anxiety and a stress response as we can’t control or change our past; we can only learn lessons from our past. Focusing our thoughts on the future may cause stress and anxiety as we can’t control what has not as yet happened. To maintain a stress free life we need to keep our thoughts focused on the present moment.

This is one of the reasons an examination of our thoughts, and the importance in believing that I have control over my thoughts, is vital to healthy living in a stress-free and lowered anxiety state.  

​As I see it, there is a difference between stress and anxiety. Stress can be eliminated from our life, while anxiety, to varying degrees, will always be with us. I teach that stress, being subjective to the perception of a person, is a person’s emotional (and at times physical) response to life situations. Hans Selye, a scientist, in 1936​ defined stress as “the non-specific response of the body to any demand for change”. Notice the word “change” in the definition. Change, an unknown factor and therefore something out of my control, causes a stress response. ​Stress, as I see it, is our subjective response to a perceived lack of control. Since it is our response, and we are in control of our responses (behaviors and actions), we can eliminate our stress by changing our response (belief and action) to the situation.

Anxiety, on the other hand, is a pervasive sense of worry or unease, typically about the future. Whereas stress is our response to current situations in life, anxiety is an unease within ourselves regarding future events and outcomes. Stress tends to come and go given our situations at the moment; anxiety persists, to varying degrees, within us. Since anxiety is a response to unknown future events, anxiety (assuming one is not diagnosed with a severe anxiety disorder) leads us to take action. This action, in the form of preparing for the future, empowers us to tackle the unknown by taking control of things we actually have control over.

Anxiety is a component of our survival mechanism known as “fight or flight”. Anxiety is therefore a response in ourselves activated to help us survive by taking action! We will either physically or emotionally flee from, or stay to fight, whatever we perceive as a threat to our survival. This differs from stress which is our subjective response to a situation. Granted, mild stress may cause us to take action, but stress, as an emotion, is fickle as it comes and goes. Anxiety, mild most of the time, stays with us, vigilant in its mission of keeping us safe.

​This is why, when I teach my clients about stress and anxiety, I teach them how to rid themselves of their stress, while reducing their anxiety. The goal for inner peace is not to eliminate our anxiety, the goal is in the actions we take to cope with our anxiety and everyday stress.

As I mentioned earlier, we can eliminate our stress by changing our response (belief and action) to the situation. How do we change our response? By changing our perception. The way we view the world is our perception, and our perception becomes our reality. This quote is quite powerful in its ability to succinctly explain the whole of what I’m trying to explain:

“We do not see the world as it is; we see the world as we are.” -Talmud  

In other words, my perception of the world is directly related to my perception of self. Therefore, if I change my thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, as well as my view of myself, I will change how I see the world! This is why it’s important to reflect on our thoughts, believe that we can control those thoughts, and focus on eliminating stress.

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How To Be Caring With People Not Feeling The Holiday Joy

How To Be Caring With People Not Feeling The Holiday Joy

I don’t think there is any other time of the year which evokes such strong emotions as does this time of the year. For some of us we are excited, joyous, filled with wonder and anticipation! We visit family and friends, host parties and gatherings, spreading joy everywhere we go! But yet there are some of us who feel quite the opposite this time of the year. I think of those who recently lost a loved one, suffering from physical or mental health issues, separated from loved ones, and even estranged from family. There are those who past experience of the holidays wasn’t pleasant, and those who feel trapped in life situations.

“It’s the most wonderful time of the year!” While these song lyrics may be true for some, they’re not necessarily true for everyone. I’m not writing this to bring down the mood, for what I am saying is that we need to be mindful of people around us who may be suffering while we celebrate. Not all of my past holidays have been joyous, and I’m sure neither have yours. Some of my current clients are dreading these next few weeks, while other clients are looking forward to a new beginning!

Regardless of how we may feel about the holidays themselves, this time of the year finds many of us feeling the burden for perfection. As joyous as we may be, the expectations for a “Rockwell Christmas” haunt the best of us. While we still have our day-to-day tasks to complete we must also decorate, buy gifts, and attend social functions. These expectations, especially if we feel obligated, can cause stress and anxiety even in those who enjoy this time of the year. Now imagine the stress and anxiety felt by those who are simply trying to cope with life let alone the added expectation of the season.

This time of the year we tend to focus more of our attention on helping others and on giving back. Therefore, what can we do to either help or give to someone who is suffering during this holiday season?

  1. Create an awareness within yourself and your children that not everyone feels joyous this time of the year. This awareness is not meant to place a burden on us, but as a recognition for the reality of others.
  2. Create an environment where all people feel open to honestly share their feelings. While attending or planning parties and gatherings don’t simply encourage everyone to participate, be respectful of those who are having a difficult time participating. Try to plan activities which would allow for a person to participate to the degree in which they feel comfortable.
  3. Be mindful that your expectations of what makes up a holiday celebration may not be the expectations of others. Allow yourself the flexibility to be open to the traditions of others as well as to how others may be feeling. For example, if you are organising the family dinner, take into account any family members who have had a difficult year. Allow them the space or the time to speak, or not speak, if they wish. Be aware that their showing up may have been a difficult task in and of itself.
  4. If you know someone struggling to cope with a mental illness, or emotionally struggling, be a supportive friend. Allow time in your holiday schedule to be present to them even if words aren’t spoken. Never underestimate the positive effect and healing quality of presence. If possible and appropriate, encourage them to join you at small gatherings and surround them with people who have their best interest at heart. Isolation, especially during the holidays, is not healthy.
  5. Encourage them to do activities focused on taking care of themselves and their emotional health, regardless of the expectations placed upon them by self or others. Help them to understand that It doesn’t make you a selfish person when you prioritize yourself, it is actually essential toward your well-being.
  6. Take time from the busyness of this season to be an effective listener to those who wish to share their feelings. Encouraging and allowing others to share how they feel may be the most helpful thing you can do for them. Silence, especially for someone who is suffering emotionally, is not healthy this time of the year. If they are reluctant to share, lovingly encourage them by letting them know that you will listen without judgement regardless of what they wish to talk about and share.

During this holiday season, as many of us join together with our families and friends, let’s be grateful and joyous in our traditions and fellowship. But let’s not forget those who are emotionally suffering at this time of the year. Being respectful, understanding, and lovingly present is the best holiday gift a person can receive.

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Have A Positive Life Through Mindful Imagination

Have A Positive Life Through Mindful Imagination

As I’ve grown older I realize that I’m not as creative as I was as a child. Whether that’s actually true or just my perception, it’s my current reality. Children have a sense of wonder about them, partly because many of their life experiences are new to them. I watch the reaction on the face of my granddaughter, not yet a year old, and I see the wonder and amazement as she experiences the word around her for the first time. I don’t remember ever being that age, but I do remember that as a child my imagination and creativity were awesome!

As children, we imagine ourselves as being any occupation, and even some made up super human people saving the world. Our desire to experience the world in all its fullness, and add to it, seem to wane in many of us as we age. I think the education system is partly to blame, but, realistically, I blame the economy. Why? Most of us need to find employment to survive, and many of the jobs are routine and mundane. Rare are those who gain employment wherein imagination is necessary. The rest of us simply live out our lives, as happy and content as possible. Yet lacking in imagination.

Imagination guides us toward our hopes, keeping us enthused and passionate about life. Imagination leads to discovery and understanding. Imagination, when grounded in reality and sprinkled with an appropriate amount of dreams, guides us along the path of possibilities. Imagination is what separates us as humans from the rest of the animal world. We have the ability to think and feel beyond and outside of our reality. We have formed societies on the imagination of national borders, religions, and money; none of which exist but for our imagination. We place importance and value on gold rocks and shiny gems, but the reality is that their value only lies in our imagination. How is this any different from a child placing value on a random object?

Bonus: Chris Shea is offering this free GIFT explaining how you can improve your life with life coaching!  Click here to get it

Mindfulness, focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations, enables us to be rooted in the present moment. Children live in the present moment, focused on what they now feel and in what they are now doing. In a positive way, we can learn from the example of the child who is so focused on the present that they notice the wonders of the world which pass us by in our hurried lives. What child doesn’t stop to watch the ant or to play with the spider, all the while the adult is yelling at them for taking too long to get something done.

In that moment when the child is watching the bug they are also imagining what that bug’s life is like. Where does it live, does it have a family, is it playing or working? The child uses their imagination to learn more deeply about the world around them. Do we?

Understanding and believing that my current reality does not always need to be my reality, imagination blossoms into hope. Mindfulness allows us the understanding that we can’t change our past, but we can learn from the past to help us prepare for the future. Our current reality, our current situation in life, does not need to be our reality in the future. The only way that I’m going to see a different future is to imagine a different reality. My imagination is capable of becoming my reality.

Who I am has a lot to do with my imagination. Ask yourself these questions:

  1. As a child, how did I imagine myself and my world?
  2. As an adult, how have those images and dreams changed?
  3. What are the common themes?
  4. What, practically, can I do to make my dreams a reality?

Don’t let adulthood stop you from imagining, dreaming, or having a sense of wonder! Experience your reality in all of it’s wonderment, and imagine a future of hope, possibilities, and peace! Children do.

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Finding True Gratitude Through Mindfulness And Action

Finding True Gratitude Through Mindfulness And Action

For as long as I can remember, November is a special month for me. Why? Well, autumn is in full swing and the holiday season is just around the corner! November is also a special month for me since it’s a time which inspires gratitude. During this month many of us take time from our busy lives to reflect on what, and whom, we are grateful.

The dictionary defines gratitude as “the quality of being thankful”. We recognize that in our lives there are things for which we are grateful, regardless of our life’s’ circumstance. If we look hard enough, we will find something, at least that’s what I’ve been told. A platitude to be sure, although in this platitude we find wisdom. Namely, if my perspective and goal is to find something for which to be thankful, I will find it. The opposite is true; the more I focus my perspective on the negatives in life the greater the belief that my life is completely negative.

Simply being thankful, or grateful, for the sake of being grateful, is not always altruistic. Can our sense of gratitude also be self-serving? Might it be a mask for our own narcissistic consumerism? Think of what you are grateful for, noting how many items are materialistic goods versus people or talents. A review of social media postings on gratitude overemphasize goods, money, prestige, etc. Isn’t it possible that our gratitude could reinforce our desire for what we think brings happiness? Have you noticed the irony, that the very next day (or even that same evening) after we celebrate being thankful, we celebrate shopping, materialism, greed, and rudeness! Gratitude alone, as the end goal, leads to self-centeredness.

Am I saying we shouldn’t be grateful? Not at all! Gratitude, when mixed with mindfulness and a healthy intention, leads us to a sense of inner peace. If my intention is to be grateful because it looks good, is what everyone else is doing on social media, it will show people all that I have, etc, then I become self-centered. Yet, if my intention is to be grateful for the sake of being thankful with a readiness to show appreciation, then I will find my inner peace and happiness. Why? Because being grateful is not the end goal, rather, gratitude is the beginning of the process of giving back.

The dictionary further defines gratitude as a “readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness”. The key of this definition is the phrase “…and to return kindness”. The intention and end goal is no longer self, but the action of giving back to others that which we have received. As we think of others and their needs our gratitude shifts from what we have to what we can give to others.

Mindfulness is commonly defined as “a means of paying attention in a particular way; on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally.” The practice of mindfulness coupled with an attitude of gratitude focus us on the present with an appreciation for what we have now, rather than wanting more and more. Maintaining a focus on an appreciation in the present moment protects us from the evils of greed which will turn us away from our inner peace. Gratitude for what we have at this moment, mixed with a desire to return kindness to others, is a healthy sense of gratitude creating in us a deeper sense of self and peace.

True gratitude practiced mindfully reveals a connectedness. Being thankful connects us to those who have given us the reason to be thankful while at the same time inspiring us to be gift-givers. In this sense our well-being and the well-being of others are connected. We begin to understand more fully how social connections impact us. Spreading gratitude to others creates gratitude in the other. The cycle is repeated when that person in turn spreads their newfound gratitude on to others. Gratitude, as with hate, spreads rapidly throughout societies. If we examine that first Thanksgiving in colonial America we discover that the gratitude and thankfulness celebrated was not in the food shared, but in the connectedness of the people present.

Therefore, our challenge is to mindfully reflect on what it is that makes us grateful. In so doing let us not fail to recognize the people outside of ourselves. Acknowledging gratitude for our material goods and the gifts that we have is not sufficient. We need to also acknowledge gratitude for the people whom we know, and those unknown to us, who enable us to have and to be who we are at this the present moment.

During this holiday season, as you gather with family and friends, acknowledge, in gratitude, those family members who have made it possible for you to be the person you are. For better or for worse we are the products of our history embedded within a society and a family who have made possible our lifestyle. By reflecting in this way we remain outside of ourselves while embracing our connectedness. When our thankfulness becomes compassion and compassion leads to action, then true gratitude is realized.

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How To Find Your Inner Peace

Mindfulness find your inner peace

As a counselor and a life coach, it is unfortunate that I wasn’t provided any formal education to prepare me to use mindfulness. But, after becoming personally aware of mindfulness and how it led me to find my inner peace, I made it my mission to teach people how to find your inner peace.

Historically, the arrival of mindfulness to the US is attributed to Jon Kabat-Zinn. Kabat-Zinn is Professor of Medicine Emeritus and creator of the Stress Reduction Clinic and the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care, and Society at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. Kabat-Zinn was first introduced to the philosophy of Buddhism while he was a student at MIT. Later, in 1979, he founded the Stress Reduction Clinic at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, where he adapted Buddhist teachings on mindfulness and developed the Stress Reduction and Relaxation Program. He later renamed the program “Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction” (MBSR), removing the Buddhist framework and eventually downplayed any connection between mindfulness and Buddhism, instead putting MBSR in a scientific context. To this day Kabat-Zinn downplays the connection of mindfulness to Buddhism, yet I feel his downplaying of Buddhism is a means of bringing mindfulness into the mainstream; which is occurring.

In 2013 Kabat-Zinn describes mindfulness as “a means of paying attention in a particular way; on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally.”

How does the study of mindfulness translate into a daily practice to find your inner peace? A bit over 5 years ago I made a significant job change which “forced” me, as a type A person, to slow down. At the time I wasn’t yet consciously aware that I was beginning to live mindfully. As I slowed myself internally and externally, I focused my thoughts and attention to the present moment. No longer was I dwelling on my past nor anxious about my future. This was quite the change for me as I used to be the king of anxiety and worry!

It was during this time I’m my life when I discovered Jon Kabat-Zinn’s definition of mindfulness I mentioned above: “a means of paying attention in a particular way; on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally.” Personally, the two key phrases in this definition are important to me are “on purpose” and “nonjudgmentally”. To find your inner-peace we need to consciously make the choice to spend time every day focusing our attention on what is happening around and within us. Our focus is not meant to judge what is happening, just to notice it, to experience it.  As we become aware of our surroundings and inner self, we become aware of life’s joys, sorrows, difficulties, potential, and hope. In this state of focused awareness we are enabled to discover solutions.

The goal of mindfulness is for us to slow down enough to fully experience life. Mindfulness is not a means to avoid negative aspects of life, but to fully live those experiences so as to learn how to cope with them in a healthy way. Many of us try to avoid negativity at all costs, only to discover that we may be successful at avoidance for a time, but eventually we are hit once again with that which we were trying to avoid. Mindfulness asks us to be aware of all of our emotions, to feel everything, even the negativity. In so doing, we end up coping with all that life gives us, the positives and the negatives. Realizing that we can cope with life, without needing to avoid life, teaches us necessary skills for dealing with future events we will encounter.

Living mindfully is a daily practice of noticing the little things. For example, one eats mindfully by doing so intentionally, savoring each bite rather than rushing through a meal without truly tasting or appreciating the event. During your commute, or rushing from one task to another, we can mindfully (intentionally) notice the details of the flora, buildings, people, cracks in the sidewalk, etc. instead of missing those aspects of our lives.

How can mindfulness lead you to finding your inner peace? The short answer: mindfulness guides us to live in the moment, for it is only in the moment where we have “control” in our lives. By control, I mean our ability to change our thoughts and perceptions. If I allow my thoughts to remain in either the past or the future, I suffer from stress and anxiety since I have no control over those time periods. All that I can do with the past is learn it’s lessons; in the future, all I can do is prepare, yet, in the present moment I am capable of making changes to my thoughts and feelings as I feel them. Therefore, keeping my thoughts focused on the present moment allows me to feel and experience life to its fullest, while choosing the thoughts I wish to think.

Mindfulness has not only been effective for centuries, it is now proven through scientific research as a means of guiding us to finding your inner peace. I’m not just a counselor teaching mindfulness; I’m also a practitioner of mindfulness who, in the moment, has found my inner peace.

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