Blameless Responsibility

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I am continuously amazed by the mind’s craftiness and ability to create such convincing theatrics and stories. What’s more interesting is how easy it is to get swept into these stories and undoubtedly believe them to be true. Admittedly, it’s easier to be consumed by the mind’s stories because we can justify our reactive behaviors (attacks, gossiping, and judgments), relinquish our responsibility for our own inner peace, and remain the victim. Blaming others is instantly gratifying because we are allowed to cling to our comfort zones and fully convince ourselves that we were wronged.

On the other hand, taking a closer look at the mind’s stories requires taking responsibility and letting go of our justifications and excuses for reactive behaviors. It also requires questioning some of the things we have believed most of our lives, which can be frightening. In a sense, being responsible also means being vulnerable, which is a skill most of us have long forgotten how to do and yet both skills are the very things that set us free. We are bound to the vicious cycle of reactivity as long as we allow false stories to dictate our lives. The good news is that at any point, we can assume responsibility and reclaim our freedom.

Just Let Go

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“Learn to let go without struggle, simply let go, to be just as you are – no holding on, no attachment, free.” -Ajahn Chah

The past few weeks, more often than not, I have felt uneasy. Whenever I am reminded of love, calmness washes over me, but even those moments have been quite fleeting and have had a temporary effect. Last Wednesday, I went to an active insight meditation group and participated in something called Latihan. During the Latihan, we are instructed to freely express whatever arises, whether it be verbal sensations or other movements. Much to my surprise, almost immediately upon doing the Latihan, I received an internal message that said “LET GO!” It continued, “it is not about YOU” and lastly “surrender NOW.” The information was so clear that I had no further questions.  Suddenly, an incredible bliss took over my body and I was smiling from ear to ear. Gradually, sadness appeared, because I knew what it all meant. I had to fully let go of everything: The story of Candace, Candace’s achievements, Candace this, Candace that, needing to be in control, etc. The over-attachment and over-identification to “Candace” (also known as “me”) had to end. I knew in that moment that until I fully let go, I would continue to experience dis-ease.

While I have studied and read many essays about surrendering (my favorite is Bob O’Hearn’s essay), I realized in that moment that I had never actually surrendered, completely, there were always remnants of over-identification lingering (Knowledge means little if we are not applying it fully and consistently). This time, it was clear that not only did I need to completely surrender, but also surrendering is a continuous process that I must do moment-to-moment. Surrendering (at least in my experience) is not a one -time event, it’s something that has to be done repeatedly and consistently. Even after having such a profound experience during Latihan, the very next day, I slipped right back into my habits of feeling like I needed to have control. It wasn’t until I went to the beach (photo aboved) that I received another message similar to the first “SURRENDER!” that I let go again.

I’m reminded of a childhood moment where I was swinging upside down on the monkey bars after school and was ready to get off of them but was utterly terrified to let go. My father kept saying “just let go, Dace, just let go!” I held onto the monkey bars for dear life and suddenly “plop!” I fell to the ground. I hadn’t let go, my legs got tired and threw me from the bars. When I landed, I was shocked that my legs got so tired so quickly but more importantly because all the pain that I anticipated would come from landing wasn’t present at all. Just let go! 🙂

Mahalo for reading! May you experience infinite peace and blessings!

Just Rice

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Today for lunch I asked my significant other if he would be willing to make me a bowl of rice. His response was “Sure, but just rice?” In that moment, I was flooded with gratitude for the fact that I even had access to a bowl of rice, the human faculties to eat it independently, and the presence of a loving man who eagerly makes lunch for me. While I ate my lunch, I savored the grains of rice, appreciating the texture, the natural sweetness, and its pleasant aroma. I ate as though I had never had rice before and to my surprise, it was, the very best bowl of rice I have ever had. I replied to him “Thank you so much for making just rice for lunch.”

Mahalo for reading. May you all experience infinite peace and blessings!

With love & appreciation,

Candace

3 Ways to Be Mindful, Now

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Mindfulness is a powerful tool to help us live peacefully and experience the joy of living in the present moment. Some of my favorite exercises that help us consciously bring ourselves back to the present moment are listed below.

1. Mindful Breathing: This is one of my favorite things to do. Whenever I realize that I am caught in my thoughts of the past or of the future, it is helpful to use my breath as an anchor to shift my focus back to what is happening now. Our breath is our connection to life in the present. To breathe mindfully, simply shift your attention to your breath. Notice the depth of your breath and its intensity. Continue to simply observe your breath and its patterns.

2. Mindful Eating: A lot of over-eating occurs because we are simply not paying attention during our meals. Mindful eating is an excellent way to bring yourself into the present moment and to be more conscious of how much you’re eating. During your next meal, allow yourself to fully experience the range of sensations that occur when you’re eating. What does the food taste like, what is its texture, what sensations are arising as you eat? Are you chewing on one side of your mouth or relying on certain areas?

3. Mindful Driving: Have you ever driven somewhere and realized that once you ended up at your location that you don’t even remember the drive at all? This experience is very common! During your next drive, be mindful of the way it feels to hold the steering wheel, notice how you hold it, how the seat feels against your back, the music you’re listening to, the cars in front of you, and the scenery around you. You may notice things that you have never noticed before when you begin to drive mindfully.

Have fun with these exercises! I invite you to share your experiences with these exercises.

Mahalo for reading! May you experience infinite peace and blessings!

With deep love & appreciation,

Candace

P.S. If you liked this post, you may like a similar post titled “Acknowledge, Thank, Release.” Also, I hope you can join me and the founder of Happy Black Woman, Rosetta Thurman, for our FREE empowerment call tomorrow titled Radical Self-Love: 5 Ways to Honor Your Greatness! To register: http://happyblackwoman.com/radicalselflove

Be Like a Child

“There’s no one better at being present than a child.” -Leo Baubata

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I saw the above video this morning of a little girl’s first time seeing rain and it literally brought me to tears. To have a child-like wonder about life is freedom. Children are the masters of mindfulness. Let us learn from them the way to be at peace with life and appreciate its miracles that are all around us. Let us look again at life without a colored lens from the past, finding new things for which we can be grateful.

When you take off the lens from the past, what is something amazing that you see? Also, be sure to click the picture to watch the video, it is guaranteed to brighten your day!

Mahalo for reading! May you experience infinite peace and blessings!

With deep love & appreciation,

Candace

Let’s Connect:

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Acknowledge, Thank, Release

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Mindfulness is a process that helps us become more consciously aware of ourselves and our present moment experiences. Mindfulness is solely about awareness and not at all about analysis or even finding peace. There is no goal except to simply be aware.

Divine Inspiration planted a technique on my heart that simplifies mindfulness for me. I call it the ATR© technique. ATR© stands for Acknowledge, Thank, Release. Before starting this brief exercise, take a deep breath to ground yourself. You can repeat the exercise as many times as you’d like.

1. Acknowledge the emotion/thought that has entered your awareness. Acknowledgment is a simple, “Hello anxiety, I see you have come to visit me.” Notice where in your body anxiety has come to visit. Is it in your stomach, your hands, your legs? Acknowledge and notice. Remember that this is not about analyzing why the emotion/thought is present or even how it got there, just a simple acknowledgment.

2. Thank the emotion/thought for coming to visit you. “Anxiety, thank you for coming to visit me in this moment” or “Anxiety, I am grateful for your visit.” Expressing gratitude unblocks resistant energy and allows energy to flow freely again. When we fight an emotion/thought “I’m going to fight this anxiety” we are prolonging its stay. On the other hand, when we thank an emotion/thought for coming to visit us, we are creating a space for it to flow away peacefully without resistance.

3. Release the emotion/thought. You may find that after you thank the emotion/thought it will go away on its own but it may not and that’s okay too. Remember there is no goal in mindfulness except to be aware. Release the emotion/thought by saying “Thank you for visiting me anxiety, I am letting go of you now.”

This exercise only takes a second and can be done anywhere! When you try it out, you are invited to share your experiences.

Mahalo for reading! May you experience infinite peace and blessings!

With deep love and appreciation,

Candace

*If you liked this post, you may like a similar post titled “Waking Up.”

Let’s Connect:

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Loosening Our Grip on Our Plans

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We can setup the most amazing goals and create the most efficient and beautifully outlined plans but at some point we have to acknowledge that life does not work this way. The reality is that our beautiful plans can be blown up at anytime by an unexpected event. We simply do not know the future, nor can we plan for it with certainty. Many of us are scared to death of not having control of the future but when we look closely we see that even planning cannot provide true security. The only security is in this moment which (if you are reading this post right now) is providing us with everything we need right now. Peace and serenity are uncovered when we relinquish our anxieties about the future and live in the here and now. When we are fully aligned with the present moment and open to life, Divine inspiration comes flowing in effortlessly, providing us with astonishingly creative ideas and outcomes, often more miraculous than we could have ever created ourselves.

Let us loosen our grip to our plans and flow like the waterfall above. Adaptability and fluidity are the way of nature. Let us be flexible and adaptable when our plans do not work out in the way we thought was best. Take a moment to fully trust Life (I also use the word Creator/God/Cosmos here but recognize that my beliefs may not be shared). Breathe and allow inspiration to flow through you in the present moment. As you continue to allow inspiration to flow uninterrupted by your plans, you might forget that you ever used to rigidly attach to your plans at all (smile).

With deep appreciation and love,

Candace

*If you liked this post, you may like a similar post titled “Flow.”

Let’s Connect:

 
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Waking Up

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When we experience increased awareness, we can make conscious actions as opposed to habitual reactions. Here are five tips on how to increase your awareness.

1. Breathe, consciously. Start paying attention to your breath regularly, you may find that you hold your breath quite often! By following our breath, we ground ourselves in the present moment.

2. Observe your emotions. Usually, we are not aware of our emotions until they are intense. Do an emotional check-in regularly. Notice which emotions linger and which ones are more transient. Attend to when certain emotions arise.

3. Take note of your triggers. Identify the people and or situations that trigger an emotional reaction in you. By identifying your triggers, you experience increased understanding and create the capacity to have more control over your actions. Emotional responses are not problematic in and of themselves, instead they become problematic when we unconsciously allow them to influence our behaviors. Knowing what triggers you allows you to say “oh, I’m being triggered, let me breathe and ground myself.” By saying this, you create the space to make an informed response as opposed to a habitual reaction.

4. Listen to your body. Our bodies, minds, and spirits are all interconnected. By being mindful of our bodies, we become more in tune with our minds and souls. Our bodies harbor most of our stress. Explore your entire body and the sensations that arise. Notice where you hold anger or sadness. Where in your body do you hold resentment? Where is joy?

5. Lastly, sit with urges and slight discomfort and allow them to guide you. This one sounds the most uncomfortable but it will likely be the most helpful. All emotions, thoughts, and urges are temporary. They will leave naturally if we allow them to. It is our resistance to the experience of them that makes them linger. The next time you get an urge to slip into a habitual behavior, watch the urge.

Notice the thoughts that the urge produces. Note when the urge arises, the intensity, and where it is manifesting in your body. Attend to the nature of the urge. Does the urge stay intense for a while or does it fluctuate in intensity? Treat the urge as a temporary visitor in your home. Thank the urge for coming to visit you, it is teaching you about yourself. You may find this to be quite challenging but if you stick with it, you will begin to see the temporary nature of urges. You will also learn so much about yourself, ultimately allowing you more ability to act consciously.

Mahalo for reading! May you experience infinite peace & blessings!

*This is a photo of a sunset on Oahu, taken 10/2013

Releasing Distractions

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Life is full of many wonderful opportunities and possibilities but it is also full of distractions. Distractions are defined here as anything that diverts your attention from your awareness and/or your overall goals (of course with your allowance). Although distractions are apart of life, the way we cope with them makes a difference in our quality of life. Our ability to cope with distractions is reduced when we are stressed or unbalanced. When we are in harmony, distractions are apart of the dance and we can navigate them effortlessly.

Personally, I have found that the most effective way for me to cope with distractions is to improve my meditation/mindfulness practice and to detox. During a detox, I limit the amount of external distractions I allow into my experience. Additionally, I make efforts to increase the amount of silence in my daily routine. After a detox, I feel more balanced as well as an increased ability to see distractions for what they are, more effectively limiting their influence over my thoughts and actions.

Starting tomorrow through next week, I will be going on a detox from social networking and blogging. I will also be reducing the amount of time I am on the internet and phone. My intention with this detox is to focus on my awareness and my goals. I’m curious to know you all’s experience with detoxing so please feel free to share. In the meantime, I’ll see you all in a week!

Happy Holidays! Mahalo for reading! May we all experience infinite peace & blessings!

*Photo taken by Candace Thoth of a beautiful sun-kissed sky in Waikiki