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Posts Tagged ‘listening to others’

Valentine’s Day is all about love and hearts. Reflecting on Zelda Fitzgerald’s quote, if there is no way to measure how much a heart can hold, do you really think you’re as happy as you can be and that life just couldn’t possibly get any better? With no degree in psychology or certificate in counseling, I offer you ways to open your heart, so it can receive more.

1. Love Yourself
If you don’t love yourself, how can you fully love others? I’m referring to love, not in a narcissistic way, but in a respecting, accepting, and valuing way. Buddha once wrote, “You can search throughout the entire universe for someone who is more deserving of your love and affection than you are yourself, and that person is not to be found anywhere. You, yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe deserve your love and affection.” Think about it, if you don’t love yourself, are you capable of loving or valuing someone else?

2. Share Your Dreams
When you share your dreams with others, you open up a conversation about the “whats” and “whys” in your life. After sharing, your dreams may have an increased clarity and focus. Think of this sharing as a brainstorming session. The universe is listening and the “hows” of your life will surely fall in place. Plant your garden of dreams, tend to it carefully with the help of others and watch how it grows.

3. Love and Forgiveness
When you forgive someone, you open your heart. It’s often easier to lock up your heart and throw away the key when it is injured. Julia Redstone’s essay on Forgiveness sheds light on learning how to forgive. Here is an excerpt from her essay:

At the root of the difficulty in learning to forgive someone is mistaking the action of a person for their being, and not seeing that the two are separate.

Actions that people take are often wrong, misguided, or harmful to others, and these must be opposed or limited to the extent that is needed to protect the welfare and well-being of others.

But souls are composed of much more than their current actions, whether good or bad, even if these actions have gone on for a long time, and even if they are very severe.

Souls need to be judged on different grounds altogether. In order to judge a soul we must know that soul – something that in the most basic sense is not in the human province to do. We must be able to see the causes and reasons – the formative influences that permit a soul to carry out actions that are wrong. . . .

To stand in judgment of others, whether these others be individuals, groups, nations, or the world, implies a willingness to stand in the present while asking the past to justify itself. To forgive others, on the other hand, implies a willingness to stand in the future in viewing the past, while asking what possible future could redeem the past, changing its present course and bringing it more into alignment with what is right and good.

This is the place on which love stands, for love has hope for all possible futures for individual persons and for the world as a whole. Love does not rely on the present context of viewing mistakes, no matter what these mistakes are. It says: How can I bring the beloved one into a deeper knowing of the light that lies within them so that past darkness can be no more?

4. Help Others
There is probably no better way to open your heart than by helping others. When you help others, you help yourself. Studies have shown that those who help others are happier and less depressed than those who don’t. Stephen Post, PhD and co-author of the book, Why Good Things Happen to Good People wrote, “When you’re experiencing compassion, benevolence, and kindness, they push aside the negative emotions. One of the best ways to overcome stress is to do something to help someone else.” So when you’re feeling down and out, volunteer at a senior center, give money to a homeless person, adopt a pet from a shelter, etc. You’ll not only feel better, you’ll test just how much your heart can hold and perhaps, start in motion, a chain of opened hearts.

5. Just Listen
Open your heart to the words of others. People talk to you all day long and you probably selectively choose who and what you want to listen to. Listening is a skill and to be a good listener you’ve got to go beyond the words being spoken. Put yourself in the speaker’s shoes and try not to judge what is being said. Don’t formulate a response in your head and don’t agree or disagree. Merely give the person the gift of your undivided attention and the validation he needs.

6. The Freedom to Be Yourself
Allow yourself the freedom to be yourself or be true to yourself. How can you possess an open heart, if you are not living an authentic life? If you feel the need to continually censor what you do or say, you are either not comfortable with who you are or who you are with. To speak your truth should not be confused with permission to be disrespectful or rude to others, but it is to live a life free of any disguises or acts.

7. Live with Joy
Live your life with joy. Go outdoors and soak in the large and small wonders of nature. Use all of your senses – see, touch, taste, smell, and hear the world around you. Listen to music. Play a musical instrument. Sing. Dance. Run. Create something, anything. Laugh out loud. Smile from ear to ear. Feel deeply. Share. Open your heart. Love.

Note: Inspirational photo made using one of my photos and iPiccy.

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Spread joy. It doesn’t take much, really it doesn’t. There are no guidelines, no right or wrong ways to do it, no right time . . . . Occasionally, a little bit of planning is involved, but mostly it’s spontaneous. Do it and let your actions be joyfully contagious!

There is not a finite number of ways to spread joy, but here are a few suggestions:

Be Kind
When you perform acts of kindness, random or specific, you not only do something good for others, but you make yourself feel good, too! Whether your acts are acknowledged or not, you have the satisfaction of knowing that you sent positive energy out into the universe and that you may have made a difference in people’s lives. And if you are ever lucky enough to be on the receiving end of someone’s kindness, pay it forward. Don’t let the positive energy die – keep it going!

Listen
In our increasingly busy lives, we often don’t have the time or take the time to really listen to what those around us are saying. With a million distractions at our disposal, do we listen carefully enough to read between the lines or to catch innuendos? By listening to others intently, we are conveying to them that they are important to us and that what they have to say matters. Do not try to multitask, solve problems, interrupt, or even converse – just listen.

Encourage
I always say that words have power. In high school, a P.E. teacher gave me the grade of  “C” after performing the Cha-Cha in the ballroom dancing section of our P.E. curriculum. When I asked her about the grade, she said, “You have no rhythm.” For decades I shied away from dancing because I assumed I had no rhythm. Now, because I’m old and I don’t care what others think, I dance. In a world of “what ifs” I muse about the difference it might have made if the teacher had only tried to encourage me by saying, “Not too bad! With a little bit more practice, you could be good!” A word of encouragement here and there can create foundations of joy.

Share
Spread joy by sharing yourself with others. Share your time, your energy, your smile, your talents, your heart, your possessions, your money . . . . You are a multifaceted person, so there is much to share!

Reach Out
Reach out to a friend or relative that you haven’t seen in a while or with whom you’ve lost contact. Call, write, email, text – do whatever it takes to let them know you are thinking of them. Far too many excuses and assumptions prevent us from reaching out to others, but all it takes is a simple “Hello” or “I haven’t seen you in ages, but was thinking about you . . .” to reconnect.

Help Others
Helping others in any way, shape, or form is a guaranteed way of spreading joy. Yesterday in a grocery store, a disabled man in a wheelchair dropped his shopping basket and was unable to retrieve it. Those nearest to him ignored him. I went over and offered my help. The smile I received in return warmed my heart. Helping in large scale ways, such as donating and volunteering, are admirable, but the everyday small ways of helping others mean just as much.

Show Gratitude
Keeping a gratitude journal is a nice habit, but don’t keep all those good thoughts to yourself. Being grateful and showing gratitude are two different things. It doesn’t take much – a simple thank you, a little note, a small reminder to a loved one, a touch on the arm, doing something special – there are so many ways to show gratitude.

Compliment
A sincere compliment goes a long way to spread joy. Compliment someone in their workplace for good service received. Pay a compliment if you notice something different about someone. Leave positive comments for bloggers, newspaper and magazine columnists or any one else whose work you’ve appreciated. Thank your doctor for doing his best to provide you with good care. Why is it so much easier to criticize than compliment?

Celebrate
Celebrate life’s gifts everyday. Celebrate nature – spreading joy is not restricted to mankind. I receive much joy from feeding birds in my backyard. Watching them feed and bathe and listening to their songs always brings me back to the present and to a point of appreciation and celebration of life. Celebrate every occasion possible! Especially celebrate special occasions – don’t let them go by unnoticed. Don’t assume that others know you are thinking about them on their birthdays, graduations, weddings, anniversaries, etc. How can they know you are thinking of them, if you never tell them?  Don’t wait to celebrate!

After reading this post, I hope you feel inspired to go out and SPREAD SOME JOY!

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