March 15th, 2013 / No Comments »
Reposted from the Resources for Happiness, Love, and Wisdom blog of Rick Hanson, Ph.D.
Feed the wolf of love.
I once heard a Native American teaching story in which an elder, a grandmother, was asked what she had done to become so happy, so wise, so loved and respected. She replied: “It’s because I know that there are two wolves in my heart, a wolf of love and a wolf of hate. And I know that everything depends on which one I feed each day.”
This story always gives me the shivers when I think of it. Who among us does not have both a wolf of love and a wolf of hate in their heart?
I know I do, including the wolf of hate, which shows up in small ways as well as large ones, such when I get judgmental, irritable, pushy, or argumentative. Even if it’s only inside my own mind – and sometimes it definitely leaks out.
We’ve got these two wolves because we evolved them, because both wolves were needed to keep our ancestors alive.
Until just 10,000 years ago, for millions of years primates, hominids, and early humans lived in hunter-gatherer groups that bred mainly within the band while competing intensely with other bands for scarce resources. Therefore, genes got passed on that promoted better cooperation inside a band and better aggression between bands. The wolf of love and the wolf of hate are stitched into human DNA.
Bands kept their distance from each other, and when they met, they often fought. For example, researchers have found that about 12-15% of hunter-gatherer men died in conflicts between bands – compared to “just” the 1% of men who died in the many bloody wars of the 20th century.
So it’s natural to fear the stranger – who, back in the Stone Age with no police around, was often a lethal threat. The related impulse to dehumanize and attack “them” also worked well (in terms of passing on genes) for millions of years.
Today, you can observe the wolf of hate all around us, in acts of thought, word, and deed. For example, as soon as we see others as “not my tribe,” whether it’s at home or work or on the evening news, the wolf of hate lifts its head and looks around for danger. And then if we feel at all threatened or mistreated or desperate, the wolf of hate jumps up and looks for someone to howl at or bite.
While the wolf of hate was vital back in the Serengeti, today it breeds alienation and anger, ulcers and heart disease, and conflicts with others at home and work.
And at a larger scale, with 7 billion people crowded together on this planet – when a flu mutation in Hong Kong can become a worldwide epidemic, when bank problems in Greece roil the global economy, when carbon emissions in one country heat up the whole world – when we fear or dehumanize or attack “them,” it usually comes back to harm “us.”
So what are we going to do?
We can’t kill the wolf of hate because hating the wolf of hate just feeds it. Instead, we need to control this wolf, and channel its fire into healthy forms of protection and assertiveness. And we need to stop feeding it with fear and anger.
Meanwhile, we need to feed the wolf of love. This will make us stronger inside, more patient, and less resentful, annoyed, or aggressive. We’ll stay out of needless conflicts, treat people better, and be less of a threat to others. Then we’ll also be in a stronger position to get treated better bythem.
There are lots of ways to feed the wolf of love.
We can feed it by taking in the good of everyday experiences of feeling seen, appreciated, cared about, even cherished and loved.
We can feed the wolf of love by practicing compassion for ourselves and others, and by letting these experiences of compassion sink into our heart.
We can feed the wolf of love by recognizing the good in other people – and then by taking in the experience of the goodness in others.
Similarly, we can feed the wolf of love by sensing the goodness inside our own heart, and by letting that sense of truly being a good person – not a perfect person, but a goodperson – also sink in.
Last, we can feed the wolf of love by seeing the good in the world, and the good in the future that we can make together – in the face of so many messages these days that are dark and despairing.
We feed the wolf of love, in other words, with heart and with hope. We feed this wolf by sustaining our sense of what’s good in other people, what’s good in ourselves, what’s already good in our world, and what could be even better in a world we can build together.
We need to stay strong to do this, to hold on to what we know to be true in spite of the brain’s tendency to focus on threats and losses, and in spite of the age-old manipulations of various groups that play on fear and anger – that feed the wolf of hate – to gain or hold onto wealth and power.
So let’s stay strong, and hold on to the good that exists all around us and inside us.
Let’s stay strong, and hold onto the good that can be, that we can nourish and build in this world.
Let’s stay strong, and hold onto each other.
Let’s stay strong enough to take in the good that feeds the wolf of love each day.
January 29th, 2013 / No Comments »
Terrific article from the New York Times challenging the notion that mental illness equals a terrible life. Rather, it focuses on the folks who can thrive despite mental health issues, even ones as serious as schizophrenia!
By ELYN R. SAKS Published: January 25, 2013
January 26th, 2013 / No Comments »
Reposted from Inc.com, Wed, Jan 23, 2013 4:08 PM EST. Post written by Geoffrey James | Inc
A recent Gallup poll, quoted in The Atlantic, found that “well-being rises with income at all levels of income, across countries.” In other words, as the article’s title states, the poll proves that “Yes, Money Does Buy Happiness.”
Except that it doesn’t prove that at all. What the study actually discovered was a “strong correlation” between each nation’s real GDP per capita and the sense of “well-being” among those nation’s citizens.
Correlation isn’t causation. The data could just as easily be interpreted the other way around: that happiness creates wealth. What’s most likely, though, is that happiness and wealth are part of a cycle, each one creating more of the other.
And that’s the reason for this post. Assuming you want to create both wealth and happiness for yourself and those around you, you have two approaches: wait until you’re wealthy to be happy, or become more happy now and thereby create more wealth.
I maintain that, in today’s economy, it’s easier to start with the happiness, because unlike wealth (which takes time to accumulate), you can increase the amount of happiness in your life within minutes, simply by taking more notice of things that make you happy.
With that in mind, here are ten things that can make you happy immediately, regardless of where you are in the cycle.
It’s easy to forget that the mere fact of conscious existence–that you are alive–is itself a miracle. As the old saying goes “every day above ground is a good day.”
Rather than thinking of illness as something bad that happens to you, start thinking of health as something good that’s happening to you.
There is nothing more conducive to long-term happiness than knowing that your actions are making the world a better place.
Almost everyone has friends, although it’s easy to lose track of them in the rush of events. Take a few minutes–today–to reconnect with some of them.
If you’ve got a good relationship with your family, rejoice! You’re experiencing one of the deepest sources of happiness on the planet.
Feeling secure that you can count on yourself to accomplish what you set out to accomplish creates a quiet but potent happiness.
Having the support of a wider group makes you more aware that you’re part of something greater than yourself.
Rather than focusing on what you don’t have or what’s out of reach, be thankful for the wonderful things already in your life.
It is impossible to laugh and be miserable at the same time. Regular doses of laughter are more than medicine… it’s the flavor of life.
Create these ten things in your life and I guarantee that you’ll either become more wealthy or, if not, you won’t really care anyway because you’ll already have what’s important.
December 24th, 2012 / No Comments »
Reposted from Zen Habits, Dec. 21, 2012. Post written by Leo Babauta.
In countless little ways each day, we blame other people for our frustrations.
They irritate us, don’t do things the right way, are incompetent, rude, inconsiderate, bad drivers, too slow, not tidy, boring, uncaring.
And yet, we will always be frustrated if we stick to this mindset.
We will always be angry, offended, hurt, disappointed. There will be no end to the offenses humanity can take against us, as long as we decide that everyone else is wrong, all the time.
They’re not the problem.
The other person is never the problem.
This is a lesson I learned from Charlotte Joko Beck in her book, Everyday Zen. The problem is our reaction. The external event (someone is rude to you) will always happen, every day, often multiple times a day. We cannot stop others from being rude — but we can change how we react.
If we can react in a calmer, more peaceful manner, we will be happier. We will then act in a more compassionate way, smile, and perhaps the other person will be transformed just a little bit by this act of compassion.
Here’s a short guide to reacting peacefully:
1. When you notice yourself getting offended, frustrated, angry, irritated, disappointed … pause. Take a breath.
Don’t act. Acting in anger is harmful.
2. Examine the idea you have about how they should act. You are holding onto this idea, and it is in conflict with reality. As long as you hold onto fantasies that aren’t in line with reality, you will be frustrated. Try changing all of reality to match your expectations — let me know when you finally succeed.
3. Toss your expectation into the ocean. Smile. Accept the person in front of you, and yourself, as a flawed human.
4. Act with compassion. When you stop blaming the person for not acting perfectly, you can then respond appropriately, and with compassion. Accepting reality doesn’t mean you don’t take action — it just means you let go of the frustration. Instead, you can act appropriately, and be more centered in your actions.
Question: What if people you rely on are careless or irresponsible? Aren’t they the problem, then? Yes, the other person is careless or irresponsible. And this is reality — it will always be this way. You can’t change that, and so the question is, how will you deal with it? You can rage and get mad at them, or you can let go of expectations, breathe, and act appropriately within this reality.
Toss your expectations into the ocean, smile, and act with compassion. The other person, rude bugger that he is, will never see it coming.