Monday, December 20, 2010

Today I'm Gonna Try and Change the World - Johnny Reid

Wow - a most wonderfully uplifting song by this Scottish born Canadian singer:

Written by Johnny Reid and Brent Maher, available on the "A Place Called Love" CD, released in 2010.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Christmas Food Court Flash Mob - a wonderful surprise for unsuspecting shoppers

I must admit here that I absolutely love Christmas and this time of year, and here's one of the reasons why:

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Which method or technique is best for personal growth?

I've consciously dedicated the past eight years of my life to personal growth (personal development, spiritual growth, spiritual path -- whatever you want to call it...) and lots of people have been asking me which methods or techniques I have found to be the best. There is no easy answer to this question because everyone has to find what works best for them. (Believe me, there is tremendous value in the active search itself...). So instead, I'd like to highlight two characteristics that I believe such a method or technique should have:

A: it should increase the client's self-knowledge or self-awareness (Socrates: Know thyself...) with information that the client can use to take constructive action to improve whatever it is he/she wants to improve (happiness, health, flexibility...). The reason for this is simple: as soon as I know why something is happening to me, I can do something about it (conversely, I cannot do anything about something I do not know about...).

B: it should strengthen the individual's ability and willingness to make active choices about his/her behavior (one of the main reasons I like holotropic breathwork is because it does exactly this -- if I want to go deeper in the state of altered consciousness, I make the choice to breathe more intensively, and if it's too much for me at the moment, I slow down. Conversely, I am not a big fan of anything like hypnosis or past-lives therapies because they offer no such choice. Another example is the difference between PBSP vs. Family Constellations: PBSP is completely client-driven, whereas family constellations depend a lot on the input of other people that are present)

As I have written before, the best method or technique I found for my personal development is a combination of holotropic breathwork and PBSP (I've written about both of these in previous posts). I also threw in a little Rolfing for the physical body and over the course of about 3-5 years this personal growth cocktail has improved my life immensely. What are or will be the ingredients of your personal growth mix?

Thursday, November 18, 2010

The best is yet to come

I definitely count myself among the optimists as far as the future of our planet and of the human race is concerned, so I really enjoyed the article called "The best is yet to come" by Jurriann Kamp, which was recently published in the Intelligent Optimist Newsletter.

Here is the start of the article - if you would like to read more, just click on the article title above...

Humankind continuously exceeds its own expectations when it comes to the development of new technology. However, we are really bad at one thing—predicting that development. And that’s a problem that leads to a lot of unnecessary pessimism. For example, in almost all future scenarios of climate change, clean and renewable energy advances little by little. As a result, the earth keeps getting warmer and warmer. But these kinds of scenarios are always based on known facts. Yet, as history shows, it is the unknown that revolutionizes the world again and again.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Some interesting thoughts about our perception


> . . . Something To Think About . . .
> In Washington , DC , at a Metro Station, on a cold January morning in 2007, a man with a violin played six Bach pieces for about 45 minutes. During that time, approximately 2,000 people went through the station, most of them on their way to work. After about 3 minutes, a middle-aged man noticed that there was a musician playing. He slowed his pace and stopped for a few seconds, and then he hurried on to meet his schedule.
> About 4 minutes later:
> The violinist received his first dollar. A woman threw money in the hat and, without stopping, continued to walk.
> At 6 minutes:
> A young man leaned against the wall to listen to him, then looked at his watch and started to walk again.
> At 10 minutes:
> A 3-year old boy stopped, but his mother tugged him along hurriedly. The kid stopped to look at the violinist again, but the mother pushed hard and the child continued to walk, turning his head the whole time. This action was repeated by several other children, but every parent - without exception - forced their children to move on quickly.
> At 45 minutes:
> The musician played continuously. Only 6 people stopped and listened for a short while. About 20 gave money but continued to walk at their normal pace. The man collected a total of $32.

> After 1 hour:
> He finished playing and silence took over. No one noticed and no one applauded. There was no recognition at all.
> No one knew this, but the violinist was Joshua Bell, one of the greatest musicians in the world. He played one of the most intricate pieces ever written, with a violin worth $3.5 million dollars. Two days before, Joshua Bell sold-out a theater in Boston where the seats averaged $100 each to sit and listen to him play the same music.
> This is a true story. Joshua Bell, playing incognito in the D.C. Metro Station, was organized by the Washington Post as part of a social experiment about perception, taste and people's priorities.

> This experiment raised several questions:
> *In a common-place environment, at an inappropriate hour, do we perceive beauty?
> *If so, do we stop to appreciate it?
> *Do we recognize talent in an unexpected context?
> One possible conclusion reached from this experiment could be this:
> If we do not have a moment to stop and listen to one of the best musicians in the world, playing some of the finest music ever written, with one of the most beautiful instruments ever made . . .
> How many other things are we missing as we rush through life?
(if anyone knows who wrote this, please let me know, I'd love to give the credit where the credit is due)

Thursday, September 16, 2010

The 4 rules of Reiki for a happy life

A couple of weeks ago I was watching a television program about healers and the various techniques they use, and the moderator asked a Reiki master the following question: "What if I came to you and said that I have no health problems, but I am not happy - what would you tell me?" The Reiki master smiled, said that it's a difficult question and told him that there are four rules for happiness. And he added that the best part is that one doesn't have to live by these rules at any time in the future, or even tomorrow, today is enough :-)
So here they are:
  • On this day, live without anger.
  • On this day, live without rushing.
  • On this day, honestly perform you work.
  • On this day, delight in God's creations, in your own life.
Oh, and the Reiki master added one more thing - the rules are simple, but oh so complicated :-)

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Nimm dir Zeit (Take the time...) - some wisdom from the mountains

This past weekend my girlfriend and I explored the beautiful nature of the Austrian Alps, specifically the lovely town of Wagrain. One of the days we stopped for lunch at a mountain top restaurant, and on the cover of this restaurant's menu was a lovely poem called Nimm dir Zeit (Take the time), which I want to share here in my rudimentary German to English translation. I hope you like it as much as we did (and if anyone knows the author, please let me know!!):

     Take the time

     Take the time to work, it is the price of success.
     Take the time to think, it is the source of strength.
     Take the time to play, it is the secret of youth.
     Take the time to read, it is the foundation of wisdom.
     Take the time to be friendly, it is the door to happiness.
     Take the time to dream, it is the way to the stars.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

The 10/10/80 rule of happiness

One of the biggest mistakes, I think, that "happiness searchers" make is that we think we should be happy 100% of the time. Not only is this an unattainable goal, but being happy 100% of the time would probably be unhealthy as well. (I am also reminded of a statement I quoted a few months ago on this blog, which went something like this: "If you were happy 100% of the time, how would you actually know you're happy?")

Over the weekend, while reading the Czech popular magazine called Reflex, I ran across a quote by a noted psychotherapist, who said that a psychologically healthy person should be sad 10% of waking hours, upset 10% of waking hours, and happy and satisfied 80% of waking hours. I am not sure to what extent this is supported by research, or how other psychologists would react to this, but I think the idea that we should actually be sad or upset twenty percent of the time is a pretty good one.

Of course, this split should be taken more metaphorically, rather than aiming to actually have 10/10/80 every day. But I really do find it to be a good guideline, one that can help us be more fully human, which, at the end of the day,  is where the search for happiness should take us.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Everything's amazing & Nobody's happy

I love this video of Louis C.K. on the Conan O'Brien show. Somewhat reminds me of my "It's amazing what all works in our society" post a couple of months ago...

Saturday, June 26, 2010

The importance of boredom in our lives, OR, "Why I returned my iPad" - by Peter Bregman

For several weeks now, I've been meaning to write a post here about the important role that boredom plays in our lives, but couldn't find the right way to express the ideas I wanted to say. Then yesterday a friend of mine posted a blog post from the Harvard Business Review on Facebook, and voila, everything was expressed absolutely perfectly right in the article called "Why I returned my iPad". Here's a little snippet:

Being bored is a precious thing, a state of mind we should pursue. Once boredom sets in, our minds begin to wander, looking for something exciting, something interesting to land on. And that's where creativity arises.

My best ideas come to me when I am unproductive. When I am running but not listening to my iPod. When I am sitting, doing nothing, waiting for someone. When I am lying in bed as my mind wanders before falling to sleep. These "wasted" moments, moments not filled with anything in particular, are vital.

They are the moments in which we, often unconsciously, organize our minds, make sense of our lives, and connect the dots. They're the moments in which we talk to ourselves. And listen.

To lose those moments, to replace them with tasks and efficiency, is a mistake. What's worse is that we don't just lose them. We actively throw them away

To read the full article by Peter Bregman, click here.

And in the meantime I wish everyone a little bit of boredom in their lives too!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

The Secret Powers of Time - a very interesting 10 minute presentation

I thoroughly enjoyed this video presentation by Professor Philip Zombardo on how different perspectives of time influence our work, health and well-being. And I would add happiness as well. Enjoy:

Monday, May 17, 2010

It's amazing what all works in our society

Every day we are bombarded by the media with bad news, but have you ever stopped to think about everything that's working as it should, at least most of the time?

If it's cold outside, we can turn on the heat in our home or car just at the touch of a button. When we need water, we just turn a tap and it's there -- we can even choose if we prefer hot, warm or cold. Electricity to power all of our appliances comes to our homes, as do signals carrying telephone and/or Internet services. We can even access those almost anywhere we want. I am not even mentioning television or radio broadcasting signals - well, actually I am :-)

When we need to get from A to B, we can take a bicycle, car or public transportation. If we need to cross the ocean, we can take an airplane or a ship. When our car starts running out of gas, we drive to the nearest refuelling station and we fill up. If the gas station runs out of gas, a big truck comes and delivers more gas. If there is a problem with our car, we go to the nearest service and they can usually fix the problem pretty quickly.

When we get hungry, we can go to the store -- which is usually pretty well stocked -- and buy whatever we crave and cook ourselves a delicious meal. Or we can go to a restaurant and let ourselves be served. If we don't feel well, we can go to a doctor. If we have any kind of problem, odds are pretty good that there is someone specializing in that particular problem who can help us. If...

I could go on and on, but I think you get my point - sometimes it's very useful to stop and think about everything that is working well around us. Because most of the time most of the things are working so well that we don't even notice them. And noticing them can go a long way towards increasing joy and happiness in our lives...

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Let's learn from the things we do well!

Most of us have heard that we need to learn from our mistakes. Which is of course true, although one could debate what a mistake really is (I've heard there are some aboriginal tribes that don't have a word for "mistake" and the closest word they have means something like "opportunity" - I like that line of thinking!)

But what I wanted to write about today is that we should also make the conscious effort to learn from the things we do well, from our successes! Because our minds are so conditioned toward negative thinking (which is simply because hundreds of thousands of years ago negative thinking equalled survival - it was better to see that roaring bear as something negative and run away rather than try to look for the positives in it - a general mind set that is still predominant today, even though it's no longer so necessary), we need to make the conscious effort to really notice the things we do well (even small things) and learn from them.

So the next time you do something well, take the time to reflect on it, pat yourself on the back, and make a list of some of the lessons you learned. Not only will you get to know yourself better (think Aristotle and "know thyself"), but you'll also start conditioning your mind to focus less on the negative and more on the positive - a very useful strategy on the path to putting more joy and happiness into your life!

Friday, April 16, 2010

Average Time Spent Being Happy Drops To 13 Seconds Per Day

Interesting article on The Onion today:

April 16, 2010 | ISSUE 46•15

BERKELEY, CA—A study published in the latest issue of the Journal Of Social Sciences revealed that the amount of time spent being happy has dropped to an all-time low of 13 nonconsecutive seconds per day. "According to our data, the average American experiences a 0.8-second window of happiness upon awakening, before remembering that they're conscious beings in a relentlessly bleak and numbing world," said Dr. Derek Moore, lead author of the paper. "Other periods of happiness include 1.9 seconds after a good meal; 0.6 seconds upon receiving a paycheck; 1.1 seconds following completion of a scientific study; and the 2.5 seconds approaching orgasm, just before the guilt sets in." Researchers also recorded the smallest period of contentment yet, a 3.7-millisecond interval preceding the realization that one was experiencing happiness and that it could not possibly last.

Btw, just in case you don't know, The Onion is an online "newspaper" specializing in satire. But I find that there is a little bit of truth in every bit of humour...

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The Lost Generation

Many of you have probably seen this video, but I just saw it today for the first time after receiving the link in a newsletter from Dan Millman. I've got not much else to say other than enjoy the video if you haven't seen yet (and if by any chance you're not familiar with Dan Millman, one of my favourite books of all time is The Way of the Peacefull Warrior -- Google Dan and/or the book if you're not familiar with him or haven't read the book :-)

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Lessons from the Continuum Concept - Lesson 1

In an earlier post I mentioned that I really enjoyed reading a couple of interviews with Jean Liedloff, author of the Continuum Concept. Well I finally read this 1975 classic and it has skyrocketed right into the top three on my "happiness literature" chart. The book has provided me with so much insight and inspiration that I have decided to do a small series on some of the lessons from this book. So without further ado, here we go with lesson #1:

The time we spend en route to a destination is equally valuable to the time we spend at the destination after we have arrived

Jean has a great story in the book about how she was helping the Yequana indians carry some of their load back to their village and how she felt that she was slowing them down. But suddenly she realized the indians didn't feel at all that she was slowing them down because they consider the time en route equally valuable to the time at the destination. Jean then makes the point of how much tension she felt released when she realized this.

When you think about it, this is brilliant. For some reason we in western society treat the time en route to somewhere as "inferior time". But that's nonsense, that's just our ego getting in the way, along with all the "we have to be productive" thinking we've picked up in our lives. I've tried incorporating this thinking into my life during the past few weeks and it does makes an incredible difference in living an even happier, more relaxed life. How about experimenting with this for a couple of weeks as well to see what it does to your life?

Friday, January 29, 2010

Happiness from the perspective of Evolutionary Psychology

Just came across an interesting paper in the Journal of Happiness Studies, called Happiness from the perspective of Evolutionary Psychology. The author is Bjorne Grinde and you can download the paper here. Here are some of the points it makes that I found interesting:
  • The human capacity for positive and negative feelings is shaped by the forces of evolution
  • Happiness, in the present meaning, appears to be not so much a feature shaped explicitly by the evolutionary process, but rather an indirect consequence of human nature (For the record, I disagree with this, as I believe happiness is built into us by evolution as one of the mechanisms for ensuring survival of our species and life in general on our planet)
  • The brain is designed to induce us to take some chances, otherwise we would never have laid down a large prey or ventured into uncharted land; but it is also designed to stop us from causing harm to ourselves, that is, to avoid hazards. (Reminds me of the car analogy of human beings -- we have both a gas pedal as well as a brake pedal)
  • Engaging the mind and body in tasks for which they are designed is expected to promote happiness by instigating positive feelings (for example that's why we feel good when we move, which is why regular exercise is such a good idea :-)
  • There are, for example, data indicating that humans thrive better, and improve in cognitive tasks, in the presence of plants (I can personally confirm this one! :-)
The paper also touches on an aspect that I have already discussed a little bit in the post on the Continuum Concept as well as PBSP -- when babies are born, they have innate expectations regarding needs that they need to have met. And when these needs are not met, problems arise later in adulthood, such as various neuroses, negative tendencies, pessimism, etc. According to the paper, possible examples of such needs include the amount of skin to skin contact, the large number of strangers we interact with, restrictions on play behaviour (particularly on ‘rough-and-tumble’ play), and sleep patterns associated with shift work.

Well, this was just a very brief overwiew of a most interesting paper. For those interested in reading more about happiness from the point of view of evolution, I highly recommend downloading it (it's free!) and giving it a thorough read.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010


Just came across a funny "client - psychiatrist" skit that definitely has a great deal of truth to it.

So is there anything in your life that if you stopped doing it you would be a lot happier?

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Are you happy?

Sometimes things can be really simple. I don't think much needs to be added to this:

PS: If anyone knows who should get credit for this picture, please let me know...

Friday, January 15, 2010

Why I am against "goal setting"; and my personal "general direction" statement

One of the recommendations that keeps appearing in success, happiness, motivation... self-help liturature is to set goals. Well I have to say that after seven years of studying happiness I have come to the conclusion that goal setting is counter-productive to living a life with more happiness and joy. Does nature set goals? I make this point about nature because

In all the studies of happiness, the planet’s happiest people always turn out to be the people living in the way closest to that of wild ancestral humans - modern day hunter-gatherers, living contented lives on islands, fishing and lounging about. The most miserable people on Earth appear to be the Japanese, and it is surely no coincidence that their way of life is the furthest removed from nature.

I paradoxically took this quote from an essay called "Why we can't find lasting happiness", which you can read here. (And yes, even though it is a very interesting essay, I do disagree with its main claims :-)

But returning to why I am against goal-setting. In my opinion goal-setting leads to too much focus on the goals themselves, judging success based on whether the goal is attained or not, and missing other opportunities that arise -- but we don't see -- while we're pursuing the set goals. In short, goal-setting takes us away from "flowing along with the natural tides of life, actively adapting where necessary or creating where we want to...", which I find to be the best way to live (if we make the conscious decision to live a happier life with more joy...).

Instead of goals, I prefer having a "general direction" or "general directions" in life. For example, one of my general directions is to "inspire people in western civilization to do less and enjoy more", or, to borrow from Jon Kabat Zinn, "inspire people to actually be more like human 'beings', instead of human 'doings'". I will write more about this at some point in 2010...

Friday, January 8, 2010

It's Friday, so it's time for a... Positive Pause

I came across this site about ten years ago and I still occassionaly go there if I need to take a five minute relaxation break:


Monday, January 4, 2010

Allowing human nature to work successfully - Jean Liedloff and The Continuum Concept

During the holidays I finally had a chance to slowly read two articles about Jean Liedloff and her Continuum Concept that I had been meaning to read for a  long time. For those that do not know her work, Jean spent a lot of time with indigenous people in South America and based on her observations developed fascinating theories about human nature and raising of children, which she summarized in her book "the Continuum Concept".

After reading both of the articles about five times, I have to say that I have rarely come across words with which I have agreed so completely. It's like she's explaining things about happiness that I have intuited for a long time, yet couldn't express. So I highly, highly recommend everybody to read the articles, which are available here and here. But for those that would like a little sneak peak before heading over to the Continuum Concept website, here are a few highlights:
  • We use the word normal as though it were a synonym for natural, which it is not.
  • We act as though human nature were something to be afraid of, to constrain, modify or fight...
  • We mistrust human nature itself
  • Learning occurs naturally, but teaching isn't natural at all.
  • And much, much more fascinating stuff
In addition to the "my gosh, she's hitting the nail right on the head" feeling I had as I was reading the articles, I also noticed an amazing consistency of what she was saying with Albert Pesso's and Diane Boyden's PBSP theory and method (about which I have written here a couple of times already). Two of the most striking similarities, IMHO, are these:
  • a root cause of unhappiness (and other problems) is frequently "positive experiences that we expected as small children but did not get" (these can include touches, looks, reactions, words, and many others). PBSP works with the concept of five needs (place, nurture, support, protection, limits) that each baby expects it will have met.
  • another root cause of unhappiness is that sometimes children grow up subconsciously believing that their role is to provide their parents with emotional support (yet no matter how hard they try to fulfill their parent's needs, they always fail). PBSP calls this "holes in roles".
I firmly believef that anyone interested in living a happier and more satisfying life would benefit tremendously from doing some work on these two issues. And perhaps reading the two articles linked above would be a good start.

I wish everyone a most natural 2010!