7 solutions for your new year’s resolutions

Sea of Cortez

2016 is a reality. Happy New Year!

For those of us who plan to stay in this world, it is a nice idea to have some new resolutions. You know some map for the road. Everything that helps us to be a better person is a great idea for a new year’s resolution.

I use some tricks to keep my self on track after the excitement is gone and the challenge arrives. I will call them principals and will share them under the magical number of seven, just to add some spice here.

Ok, here are my seven principals for self-motivation. I took them from other books, friends or simply, life experience.

  1. Realistic and measurable goals are easier to track. If I say I want to save 100 dollars, is something I can measure, it sounds simple and is not scary. Very different if I set the goal of saving. If I want to show love to my mom, I can break down the goal in counting how many times I am going to call with patience and care, go to a movie with her or bring her flowers. Did you go it? Not that life is only numbers, but having in the list something I can compare in December 2012 with what is me now will help. Ok, then take paper and pencil and put down your goals so clearly that a kindergartener can measure it.
  2. Changing others is not a goal. I hear very often in therapy people who want to change others because they are the problem. Well, the good news is that often they are not a problem. The bad news is that we are the ones who allow or not allow some behaviors toward us. If a goal is about a partner, a boss, or a cat, chances are you will face frustration and despair. I know, it is hard to think what we can need to relate different with others but is the best option, especially for a new year’s resolution.
  3. Baby and firm steps are the foundation of big accomplishments. Again, saving 100 dollars is a small goal, it seems possible and it is motivating. Saving 20,000 for a new car is also possible but harder to imagine. If you think that your 100 dollars represent now one of the tires of your new car, you will be motivated to save 300 more. Usually cars require 4 tires and a lot of things in between. Got it? Remember, self-discipline is shy, do not scare it with huge goals. Self-confidence, on the contrary grows up in the midst of little and evident successes.
  4. Public declaration is a commitment. By voicing your goals you are telling the universe: “ I am ready”. By sharing your goals with others you may inspire them to do their own. If they see that you are actually following thru, most likely they will get involved in your efforts. People love to help others who are working hard toward something wonderful.
  5. Have images to refresh your mind. I talked before about vision boards. Having a collage near my bed, help me to see them every morning and my brain has a clear map to follow. Any kind of image that helps you to see the outcome will be great.
  6. Self-compassion takes 5 seconds. If you broke your discipline, be kind and compassionate. Esther and Jerry Hicks would say, “be like a gps”. The voice in the gps is neutral. When you turn to the incorrect side, it says “recalculating route”, it never says, “your are stupid, now I need to think again”. Is it that clear? Love your self; shake your body ad start over. After all the year has 365 days. If you try this many times, you for sure will get to your goal.
  7. They must bring you joy. If your goal is a torture for your self, you better think if you really want it. We are made for wonderful things and learning how to enjoy the ride is as much important as arriving to our final destination. Besides, we are a more desirable company when we are willing to be happy.

I hope this is helpful. If you need any assistance, ask to those who already mastered whatever you want to accomplish. You may be surprised how many people love to share their experiences. Also, feel free to post here your goals or send an email. I will be glad to pray for you so may become a better person this 2016. It will be fun to see them again at the end of the year. Let’s the year begin that we are ready!

 

With love,

Carmen.

Comments here or at comment@morningswithcarmen.com

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The best moment to start living in the now is NOW!

at Stanford

Eckhart at Stanford

I attended yesterday a conversation with Eckhart Tolle, one of my favorite speakers for inspirational lectures. The Stanford Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education,  invited him, and James Doty graciously interviewed him. If you read the book the power of now, his talk is already familiar. Nevertheless, to me looks always like a fresh reminder to achieve happiness. According to Eckart the simplest way of achieve a state of inner peace is by living in the present moment. This is an old topic and so many people talked about it in one way or another. For instance, Fritz Perls, the famous psychologist of the 70’s said that worrying about the future would lead to all kind of anxiety disorders and constantly remembering the past would end up in a depression. He also warned us about the dangerous consequences of projecting into others what we were ignoring in ourselves. Goenka, the great Vipassana master, insists that taking the time every day to pay attention to your breathing and scanning your body back and forth would help you to achieve a meditative state. Teachers and lectures about living in the present are all over the place and have been there for centuries. But, what is in the way of achieving such a easy recommendation? Pain. In my experience, every time I get to concentrate on my own thoughts, sensations, and/or feelings, I experience pain and despair. My mind is irritated, and my thoughts get even wilder. If I am patient and I get to pass that discomfort, then my body protest and remains me about all kinds of aches and  physical symptoms. Then I conclude that living in the present moment is not fun! and go back to my normal activities. Well, what I learned from Eckart is the value in what he calls “mini-meditations”. Mini-meditations means doing every activity and experiencing every moment as a sacred one. One beautiful example he put yesterday was about walking up the stairs. Metaphorically and literally, if one wants to arrive to top, the best option is to do it one step at a time, and since we do it anyway, it is better to do it with intention and concentrate in the task. It is delightful to enjoy our feet touching the shoe, the impact of the movement and any other sensation. Mini-meditations is a wonderful way to spend our entire day. I love to walk, take a shower, eat, or drive in that state of mind. It gives me a beautiful sense of peace. I feel grateful at every moment. Somehow, when I am grateful I open myself to grace and magical synchronicities. I do my meditation practice, and I appreciate it’s benefits. However, the mini-meditations suggested by Eckart, help me to be more compassionate with myself and others. It helps me to be more human. Moreover, they help me to be a happy human. Thanks Eckhart Tolle!

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Concentrate on survival . . . college is just a dream

I recently attended to “El festival de los sueños”. This is an intimate annual festival is being held every summer in Greenfield, CA. The hosts are Mexican fieldworkers who are parents of first generation high school students who are working toward college education for their children. The purpose is to share our dreams for the incoming academic year. A public park and a three are the silent witnesses since 2009. My role there is to be the cheerleader for the parents and an adopted parent for the children. 22 families that I have known since 2007 compose the group and this time 5 of them came with their children (around 20 people). Anyhow, this year I was particularly excited about the festival since I just graduated from MS and got to introduce them my parents who flew to this country for the first time for my commencement ceremony. The whole party was to refresh the dream of college graduation that often seems so far for them. I knew they prepared special arrangements to celebrate my just earned degree and expected me to lecture their children on the importance of college education. But, not mater who does it, being lectured at a ten age is never fun.

Instead of talking I decided to make up a game of manifestation. With my cap and a borrowed gown, each one of them would come to the front to talk about their dream while they pose for the picture.  After some begging for some shy teenagers and a lot of excitement and cheers from the parents, we took pictures of each person who attended including parents, and grandparents. As we took the picture I announced the “just earned” dreamed title and people applauded to the recent graduate. It was not easy to persuade some of the serious students. The lack of enthusiasm was not because of fear of being silly or appear stupid but because of the shattered dream by everyday challenges.

Since I was the one dressing them, I got to hear many stories, most of them was about how college is definitively not an option when survival is a priority. For instance, a 17 year old who is a mother of a little baby said to me “I earn eight dlls per hour in the field and I need that money now for my baby, how I can think about finishing high school?”. Just two years ago she was a student leader and a sport player. Just looking at her eyes I could see her dreams and her reality as well as the strength she gain with her pregnancy. She is picking broccoli now for 12 hours a day and looks much older but happier than two years ago when she thought her world has ended. I also got a dad who divides his time between picking vegetables and staying at the hospital with her family. His daughter was diagnosed with a malign brain tumor last year. “I am an engineer in Mexico and one day I will go to college here but not this year” he told me. My guess is that he says that to himself every year for the past 17 years. A 18 year old boy who just graduated from high school but did not applied to college and probably will never do said sarcastically “all I will do is picking strawberries, what college is that?” He pretended he did not care and he laugh about it but he still came to play the game and posed for the picture like a serious man. We also have the 17 year old who is an athlete and got a partial scholarship to Fresno State University. He and his parents still need to come up with the rest of the money but I am positive he will do it. He has the spark and perseverance that is needed to pursue his dream. The entire group is very proud of him. 1 out 22 families who have a high school graduate this year will go to college! I know the numbers are not very encouraging but this did not stop them to celebrate the one who is going.

One by one, I listened all those stories, some other sadder than this ones. I kept smiling and being the cheerleader the entire time but I am telling you it was really hard at the moment. I am allowing my self to be in tears as I write this post. I saw so many dreams in those eyes and so little help from the universe. They are really navigating in turbulent waters when it comes to higher education. What is good about this project is that none of them are part of the gangs that are actually growing in Greenfield. This itself is a great triumph for these families.

I came back refreshed and ready for the PhD program. I know that may career would bring me into places where most of the population have achieved higher education but my heart is forever in Greenfield where college is just a dream because survival is a priority.

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Alternative medicine for soul crisis . . . and cold.

Recently I have been catching a cold three times a year. Since I am usually healthy, it is no easy for me to stop working and staying at home for long time. However, I realize that the stress of a graduate program is showing up in my body. Therefore, I am researching any healthy way to help myself.

Let me tell you that back in Mexico, a cold would be a chance to watch TV and receive visitors. Most visitors volunteer to make you laugh and to eat with you. The goal is to motivate the appetite of the pale and skinny person (weight does no t matter, if you are sick is because of lack of food, according to my father). Therefore, while struggling with headaches, fever, and running nose, I used to find myself in bed with tons of fresh juices, homemade food, and some of the eight cats that my sister has. Oh, the dog also will be there staring at me for long, long time, trying to figure out why I am not in the mood to play. Of course, there is no need for medicine other than hot tea. With this pampering approach, as you can guess, colds are never long enough.

Anyway, I am an American now and we, Americans deal differently with colds, (if this way can be called dealing with). People, like me, have “important” things to do. Despite the “important” things to do, you cannot be cruel to the point of inviting somebody to your home or go to work. A cold is not a thing to enjoy according to the American society. Time is money! Somebody would say. At the same time, you better stay away from everybody. Besides, we all have full agendas and a cold, like many other unimportant needs to be scheduled. &^%$*%%$%# grrrr!

I could not believe that I have all these symptoms on the first week of school. Well, my cold this time, said “Excuse me madam, cell workers on duty, so cancel everything and let us do our job”. Ok, I thought I could read or write since I am in bed. Nop, I cannot even move. I do not want water, tea, or even open my eyes. The headache is so intense. My Indian warn me: I DO NOT take medicine, unless I am dying. I find it disrespectful to my body. Ok, I know that but, this time meditation is not helping. Oh God! I cannot say I am miserable either because actually, I am quite happy with my life when cold is not here. Additionally, I am not falling to sleep despite how much I want to. &^%$*%%$%# grrrr!  Suddenly, I heard my inner voice:

-Go and paint!

-What?, I almost yell back to my self. -Paint? I cannot even seat.

-Yes, move and find the stuff to paint! If you ask your clients to paint for stress, why don’t you?

I moved out of bed and painted, well, I put some color on the paper at first slowly and using dark colors. After 30 minutes, I ended up having fun, tolerating more light colors not only in the paper but in the room. Soon I was hungry, thirsty and ready to read a little. Painting helped me to alleviate my cold symptoms and function around the house for today. Therefore, I agree that can be an alternative way to deal with cold.

Do you have any other alternative ways?

Please share here or at comment@morningswithcarmen.com

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Emotional survival kit for camping

Whether or not physical movement is a challenge for you, camping, especially with company, could be a great opportunity for emotional and spiritual growth. This experience helps you to stretch not only your muscles but also your soul. If you are ready to learn from yourself, here are some basic attitudes you may need for your next sleeping outdoor adventure.

Sense of humor: Living without a cozy bed, a toilet, hot shower, and your basic private space can be a nightmare if you usually have them. Laughter can be handy here. Be willing to enjoy the temporal lack of luxuries. Yes, you do not have a Starbucks near by or grandma to cook a soup for you. However, this does not mean that you can be grumpy and turn yourself into an undesirable company.

Tolerance: Allow yourself some neurotic behavior, you are human! Pick a small luxury you are not willing to give up and share that with your co-campers and listen theirs. The secret is that you forgive yourself and other people for being a little neurotic. For instance, in my last trip I wanted to take a shower at least once a day and my friend wanted to have everything super clean around food. We swam in a cold lake and I help her to super clean everything after we ate. We both were happy campers!

Curiosity: Explore, explore, explore! Unbelievably, but there is life in trees, animals, and rocks. You are their guest. They share some wisdom in their own language. It is important to listen what other people know about the place, but it is also important to be in silent and collect information yourself. Open your five or six senses. Listen the wind, enjoy the rain in your skin: be a curious child!

Openness: While it is important to plan with checklists and google maps, improvisation is a key attitude. Plans are merely suggestions when it comes to outdoors activities. Camping shakes our beloved fantasy of having the control. Be open to change route or the entire plan if necessary. Be open to other’s ideas as crazy as they may sound. Everything is permitted, as long as you feel safe and are protecting the environment. After all, you are at the mercy of the weather and the capricious mother earth. Isn’t it fascinating?

Creativity: Do the same things in very different forms. If you want to struggle less, accept the scarcity of the moment and be creative. As for entertainment; being bored is forbidden when drawing, singing, dancing, and journaling can be done with none or limited accessories.

Gratitude: Gratefulness enhances your spirit and makes you a better human being. Leave at home the preconceived ideas about what a lunch is or how a dinner table looks like. You may find yourself happily eating a cold soup or sun-heated oranges. Be grateful for the moon, the sun, the air, and even the lack of Internet or cell phone signal. Those great things make your camping trip an adventure. Don’t you think?

If you are not camping soon, do not worry; this emotional survival kit applies to everyday challenges. Until the next post . . . take care.

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Cheerleading myself

Dear Carmen:

I trust you. I trust that you will come with ideas and wonderful paragraphs. I know there will be hard times in the writing of your dissertation but, I also know you’ve accomplished so many things in the past including the thesis for the master. You keep saying that writing in English is not your thing, but I can see you improve everyday. I am very proud to see your posts and papers. I can see the fluidity that you have now in comparison with two years ago. I still remember when you used to panic for one page assignment and the challenge of putting one sentence together without the underline corrector of the word processor. I can laugh now, of how many times you fought with those awful green lines trying to guess what was the problem. One sentence could take you so long that at the end of the paragraph you ended up crying and questioning your intelligence.

I also remember the love and patience of many of your friends who were willing to sit and work with you despite their own stress.

I trust you will be fine in writing many pages now. Moreover, I trust your intuition to gather material, to organize it, and to be able to make it yours. I trust your playfulness and capacity to have fun with whatever comes. I love when you write with passion thinking that you will change the world, at least for the Mexicans in this country. I trust you will dance, sing, draw, and write posts during the process.

Ambitious, disciplined, courageous, and optimistic are the traits that brought you to Palo Alto and pushed you to have a PhD. Those same traits will get you all the way through until the graduation day.

Keep writing that I will be with you at every moment.

Love,

Your inner/magical Carmen.

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A thank you note to my colleagues.

Two days ago, I had a client for therapy. Therapy would be a normal thing to do in Mexico after 19 years of woking with people. But here, it was de first session I could gave after 5 years of living in this country. This is my first unpaid hour of the almost 4,000 that I have ahead before getting paid for it. It is amazing how the bussiness of psychology is controled and made for people not to get license before investing thousands of dollars. Anyway, this is another topic.

I was happy, excited, and grateful to have the opportunity of listening somebody. I am passionate about my career and I will choose it again and again. Yesterday, I was even more happy to sit with colleagues and exchange experiences. I loved the faces of those women, specially the new ones, some of them terrified to do therapy. That is right, therapy is a scary profession. The good thing is that requires heart and very good intentions. Therefore, a new therapist who pay attention and is willing to open the heart can be a better therapist than an old one who thinks he or she knows everything. The interesting part of my profession is that never ever a session is the same and I feel challenged at every moment, and I need as attentive now than years ago.

Doing therapy for me, could be similar to driving. You need to be attentive all the time, does not matter if you are a new driver or an old one. One single mistake can damage others or yourself. The most accidents I had ( in therapy) was when I thought I was right and powerful. The best this to do in both, driving and doing therapy, is to love and be compassionate toward our self and others. When driving, you cannot think who is more important or who has the better car. Traffic rules are not about that. During the session nobody is more  important or less, is only who is the one driving at that moment and how much this person cares of the passengers. If you love and care for your copilot, you will not admit for him or her to do something crazy in the middle of the highway. The same in therapy, if you love your client you will set boundaries and do so with firmness and determination but also with softness and good manners.

Anyway, I want to dedicate this post to all the new therapists in the world. Welcome to this profession and thank you for wanting to make a difference in other’s people lives.

May we all have opportunities to grow whether in the role of client of the one who is leads. Until the next post. . . drive safe even if you are not or will intent to be a therapist :-)

Carmen.

 

 

 

 

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Not inspired, just pretending. . .

Getting inspired (living in-spirit) or being visited by the Muses seems like an accidental or almost impossible feeling, especially when we need to work with deadlines. I rather believe in creative playful improvisation and persistent work. Practice, practice, and practice is the key and it usually works for me.

“To do art only when the high feeling of completion and connectedness in the moment of inspiration would be like making love only for the moment of orgasm” says Nachmanovitch in his book Free play. 

In all the creative writing books I’ve read for the past two years, the famous writers mention that very seldom a first draft is also the final one. Edit, edit, edit! They repeat like a mantra or manifesto. Editing and revisiting one’s work is the best strategy to create masterpieces, according to them. Maybe this is why I love to do blogging. Here I can share first drafts without fear of being inadequate. I must confess that is not always a good idea considering that will be in the virtual world in who knows what minds.

Anyway, tonight their mantra is not working either. I have dancing and slippery ideas in my head and a huge need for extended vacations. I even started wondering what I miss the most, if the visit from inspiration or the creative playful moments of orgasm. None of then seems to appear in my life lately leaving me with the only option of repetition, in writing for now J. “Fake it until you make it” is one wise sentence I learn from my informal English lessons. Ok. I will pretend I am a wonderful researcher and will come up with wonderful ideas for my dissertation topic. It will be good I know it. I’ll keep you posted.

Remember, when lack of inspiration is the problem, “fake it until you make it,” it works, don’t you think?

Comment at comment@morningswithcarmen.com or below this post.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Is happiness and freedom for everybody?

I am a free, a happy, and a privileged woman. I am grateful I have had the conditions in my life that allowed me to run away from violence, poverty, lack of education and suffering. I can tell you my life is perfect in comparison with many other women in the world. Ok. . . except for the student loan I am getting for the sake of a PhD :-).

My current situation is the product of a personal hard work, yes, but also the product of social conditions and people that were on my favor. Unfortunately, this is not the case for many other human beings, and somehow one part of my soul is still suffering with them.

I wish I could have the words and sense of humor to explain in a useful way what I see in my career as psychologist. I wish I could have the conditions to be more helpful to those people who suffer specially in Mexico, where violence is growing at giant steps without any hope in the near horizon.

Maybe for now, the best is to go back to dissertation work, hoping one day will help me to better express my indignation and frustration for the treatment given to Latino immigrants. I believe no men, women or children should be overpowered or diminished.

For now, I’ll leave you with my favorite author and activist , Isabel Allende, in her TED talk “Tales of passion” She will make you laugh and charmingly will make you reflect about women’s conditions. Enjoy it!

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The pleasure of free time

I am not posting that much lately, I know. It is because I am having great time in Mexico. I am sleeping, eating, and resting. I am having coffee and long conversations with friends. In my free time I also watch TV with my Mom or a lot of movies with my sister. I still have two more weeks to go of this sweet life. I guess I am enjoying it because I know I have another intense academic year in front of me. I know the fall will come and, in my desk will be more written sheets than leaves falling from the trees. For now, I just want just one more cup of tea or a piece of cake.

After 6 weeks I feel like my brain start to believe that it is ok not to produce papers, or to be concern about how many book and articles we need to read for the next day.

When I was younger, I always wanted to be rich to have this free time until I discover that, actually I can have it because I am not rich and I do not need to be worry about wall street moods.

Anyway, what I want to share with you now is that, it has been very healing to slow down. I hope this can be contagious and you get inspired to have some rest in whatever you do to stress yourself.

Resting is good for the good functioning of the brain and for the stress. It seems that it is a very simple fact but so easy to forget.

Hugs from Mexico!

PS: If you do not feel like resting and want some ideas of what to do, please start by commenting at comment@morningswithcarmen.com or below. They are always helpful so I know somebody actually reads this site.

I will read it when it is time for me to work :-)

 

Carmen.

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