Facebook pixel code:

The secret to being a better person and improving your relationships

I’m going to let you in on a secret for how to be a better person. It’s easy, fast and has been scientifically proven to improve your relationship with yourself and others.

It’s called Mettā meditation.

I first came across Mettā, or Loving Kindness, meditation years ago when I was first studying Buddhist meditation. The first time I practiced it, I was blown away by the effect it had on me. My whole physiology changed. It’s a simple meditation where you send heart energy outwards, but sometimes the simplest things are the best. It has greatly changed how I view myself, my friends and family ones, and even strangers. Simply put, it has made me a happier, better person.

Mettā meditation is a simple, guided meditation that has profound effects when done on a regular basis. According to an ancient Buddhist texts, the Pali Canon, if you do Mettā meditation regularly, it has some pretty awesome side effects:

One sleeps easily, wakes easily, dreams no evil dreams. One is dear to human beings, dear to non-human beings. The devas protect one. Neither fire, poison, nor weapons can touch one. One’s mind gains concentration quickly. One’s complexion is bright. One dies unconfused and – if penetrating no higher – is headed for the Brahma worlds.

Now, I can’t really attest to the fact that “neither fire, poison, or weapons” can touch me after practicing this type of meditation, but I can tell you that my capacity for being open hearted and loving with myself and others has increased more than I could have imagined.

It’s really not hard to do. Here are instructions for a simple Mettā meditation practice. (I’ve recorded a more in depth version of this meditation that you can access for free ***here***, if you’d prefer to listen along as I guide you.)

  • Sit or lie down somewhere where you wont be disturbed for about 15 minutes.
  • Close your eyes and feel your heart filling with love and compassion.
  • Imagine this love and compassion as a light building in your heart. Give the light a color.
  • Imagine someone you love dearly standing in front of you. Send them the light from your heart while you send them the prayer:

May you find happiness and the causes of happiness

May you be free from suffering and the causes of suffering

  • Now imagine someone who is an acquaintance. You know there name and a little bit about them, but you don’t know much about the details of their life. Imagine them standing in front of you and send them the prayer:

May you find happiness and the causes of happiness

May you be free from suffering and the causes of suffering

  • Next, imagine a stranger. It could be someone in your town or halfway around the world. Bring a detailed image of them to your mind and say:

May you find happiness and the causes of happiness

May you be free from suffering and the causes of suffering

  • Finally, imagine someone who has hurt you or wronged you. That person also has had good days and bad, experienced love and loss, just like you. See if you can open your heart and tell them:

May you find happiness and the causes of happiness

May you be free from suffering and the causes of suffering

  • Now see your heart fill to capacity and beyond with love and the wish for all beings to be happy. Send this love from your heart to the world, see all the people on this planet striving to find happiness and avoid suffering. Send them your love.
  • Slowly open your eyes and notice how your heart is still filled with love and compassion.

This is a great meditation to do in the morning as it starts you out with such a good vibe for the day. There’s nothing better than going through your day shining your light on everyone you encounter and giving them the gift of love and compassion.

Xoxo

Megan

3 Steps to Fail Successfully

I hate that sinking feeling in my stomach when I realize I’ve messed up. Or when I put something out there in the world and all I get in response is crickets.

Feelings of doubt and worthlessness creep in. “Uh oh”, I think, “That’s not good.”

I failed. I tried, put in my best effort (or maybe not even my best, maybe I even half-assed it) and it flopped. I’ve let myself down, I’ve let others down.

This isn’t a good feeling.

So, how do you get past that? How do you learn to fail and not let it get you down?

1. Acknowledge that it was your best effort.

“I did then what I knew how to do. Now that I know better, I do better.”  Maya Angelou

Many people miss he first part of this quote, I’ve seen it online as “When you know better, you do better” many times, but that’s actually missing the point. “I did then what I knew how to do…” That’s really saying that given the circumstances, your knowledge, your emotional state, your options at the time, you made the BEST effort you could given all of those contingencies. Notice that I didn’t say your best effort. Given the perfect circumstances, a lifetime of wisdom, and a feeling of complete calm and confidence, you could have undoubtedly rocked it. But this is real life. Perfection is an idea, not a reality and you are living in reality. So, don’t just look at the failure, look at what you were dealing with when you put in that effort and give yourself some slack. You were doing the best that you could do then. Now that you know better, you’ll do better.

2. Salvage the good parts and learn the lessons

A failure can make you feel like crap for a while, but you know there are some nuggets in there that worked and some that you can improve next time. Once you can forgive yourself and process your emotions around the failure, it’s time to take it apart and try to see which parts actually were successful (I promise that there are a least a few parts that were good!) and which parts need to be reworked. Forgive yourself AGAIN for doing the best you could in that moment. It’s okay that there were parts that worked and parts that didn’t. That’s how we learn, you try several times, keep what’s working, and revise the parts that didn’t work as well.

3. Be resilient

Lastly, and most importantly, try again. Studies have shown that the most consistent indicator of success is resilience, knowing how to try again after you made a mistake. Doing anything (especially something new) is a process, a learning experience. You’ll be less likely to make mistakes after many attempts, but that first few tries can be brutal. None of those people you’re comparing yourself to started out doing things as well as they do now. None. Of. Them. Most likely, you just aren’t aware of their first (and most likely crappy) attempts because of exactly that! They were crappy and unsuccessful. But I guarantee you that that’s where they started, just like you. So, yes! You are just like your mentors and biz crushes, because you start out doing now what you know how to do, and when you know better, you’ll do better.

What toxic varnish remover taught me about goal setting

I’m sprucing up my home office and bought an old wood side table off Letgo. It’s an ugly piece now, it’s got super shiny varnish over a terrible color wood stain but I see it’s potential. Hello, little new table friend, you are going to be stripped of your atrocious stain and painted a nice robin’s egg blue!

I am full of inspiration and creative juice as I pick up the paint, varnish remover, etc at Home Depot. I’m a genius! It’s going to be amazing! I’m going to create a shabby chic masterpiece!

I get home and suddenly the excitement is gone. The inspiration is faltering now that I actually have to do the WORK. But I gather my grit, get some gloves and an old towel, and take the table and varnish remover outside and start to work.

About 10 seconds in, I realize this is going sideways really fast. The varnish remover is eating through my cheap-ass latex gloves. And it’s burning my skin! (My precious! It burns us!) I rush into the house, wash my hands, and find some actual work gloves.

Take two.

I finally finish stripping the varnish. It’s not fun. It smells like a chemical emporium, my arms are sore from all that rubbing, and even with my best effort I can only get off about 80% of the varnish.

I decide that’s it for today. I’ll deal with the painting tomorrow.

I’m much less excited about the painting after having to cope with the varnish remover. Why isn’t this as easy and painless as it was in my mind when I first started looking at used tables for sale? At that point, it was going to be a home improvement adventure! Each step would be easy and the results would be better than I could have ever imagined, right?

But, I started this project and I’m going to finish it, goddamit.

I gather the paint and the brush and I get to work. Hey, wait a minute. The painting part is actually kind of fun. This isn’t nearly as bad as removing the varnish and I’m actually feeling creative again. I’m creating something new! This feels super satisfying!

The next day I go out to see how it dried. I can see how there are some parts where it needs a second coat, mostly because I didn’t remove the varnish completely. I berate myself ever so slightly for not spending more time on that step and therefore saving myself time here, but then I remember how much that step sucked and I decide to be kind to myself for doing the best I could in that moment. It’s not a big deal to go over the whole thing again with another coat.

Guess what? It didn’t even need a whole new coat. Just some touch-ups here and there which were super easy and somehow even more fun than the first coat. It’s like perfecting something that I did a pretty damn good job of the first time around. I’m so excited that I even painted a little green vine with leaves around the top edge of the table.

The initial excitement I felt is back. Look, I made something! And it’s cute! And I’m proud of it!

Why am I telling you about my (let’s face it) silly home improvement project? Because it made me realize something about any change we make in our lives. First, we get the idea and it sounds awesome. We see the outcome in our minds and it seems wonderful. We think, “this is going to be great!” and we start planning and visualizing. Planning and visualizing are fun! Buying the goodies to make it happen is fun! Bringing them home and looking at them is fun!

But starting the actual work? Uh… suddenly not so fun.

Making a change, be it a home improvement project or self-improvement project is hard work. The hardest part is undoing what we have in place and making room for the new, better thing. The hardest part is getting started and removing the varnish. It’s always more work than we thought, sometimes it eats through our metaphorical gloves and burns us in a way we didn’t expect (but I took precautions! I put on gloves! Why aren’t the gloves protecting me?) and we always need to go back and revise some of what we did in order to keep moving forward. Starting a new project is hard and it takes grit to keep going once we realize that this isn’t going to be as easy IRL as it was in our mind when we first got the idea.

The idea is still strong though. Life will be better if I can get through this and move toward that goal.

And it does get easier. The first few steps are always the hardest. Once I got that varnish off and committed to the project, I gained momentum. And then at a certain point, it became fun. Isn’t that always the way with life, too? Once I start to see how this is all coming together, that the work I did at the beginning is actually leading me toward the goal I have in mind, that’s when the fun starts and I can get in that flow zone.

The finished product? Eh, it looks okay. I’m not gonna be selling my refinished tables on Etsy anytime soon, let’s just say that. But, I’m proud of myself. I got through the initial disillusionment that this was going to take some hard work, I even got through the initial steps where you get burned and have to deal with some toxic stuff, and I finished it.

So, remember as you make your grand plans to improve your life and yourself, it will take work. It will not be as easy as you imagined. Things will go sideways and you’ll have to change course a bit. But as you go along, it will get easier. At a certain point, it will even get fun! And in the end, you’ll have a cute table, or whatever your thing is that you worked on. You will feel pride and love and happiness toward yourself. And isn’t that a fine, rare bird?

Zen and the Art of Gridlocked Traffic

I’m driving and I see people flipping out around me all the time. Knuckles white, yelling at someone who can’t hear them, and banging on the wheel. I don’t get it. There’s nothing we can do, and this is beyond our control.

Yes, this traffic sucks. Yes, I’ve been going less than 10 miles per hour for over 10 miles. Yes, I’m going to be late. But somehow, it doesn’t bother me. I turn up my audiobook and delight that I have some extra time to listen to it today.

There are other times when I’m flipping out over something that’s beyond my control. Long lines at the market, for example, make me do a weird conga checkout dance from line to line, searching for the one with the fewest people, while I inwardly curse whomever scheduled so few checkers for this time of day.

The difference is that I learned to drive in LA where gridlocked traffic is as plentiful as sunshine. Miles of barely moving traffic were a daily occurrence, and I’d never known any other way.

When I got my first car at 16, it meant freedom. I could go anywhere, with anyone, anytime. I could get myself to and from school, the mall, and my boyfriend’s house. One of my favorite things to do was get in my car alone, put KROQ on the radio, and drive for hours up the winding, coastal Southern California highway. It cleared my mind, gave me perspective on whatever was whirling in my life, and allowed me to be free from all responsibilities. My time in the car was exactly that, my time. I could listen to whatever I wanted, go wherever I wanted, and I was free.

With this attitude, any time in my car felt like a break from life. Even when I was stuck in traffic, I had the freedom of heading in the direction that I wanted to go, listening to my music, and being free from all the drama waiting for me back home.

I could be present.

Looking back now, this was one of the first consistent mindfulness practices I had. Of course, at the time, I didn’t know what mindfulness was, but on some level I knew that I needed it. So, I found a space to be mindful. And that space just happened to be on the freeways of LA, in mind-boggling gridlocked traffic.

Fortunately, I’ve been able to translate the Zen of Gridlock into other areas of my life. When I find myself in a similar situation, in the checkout line at the market, for example, I remind myself that this is just like LA traffic. It doesn’t matter which lane I’m in, I can’t make this go faster. So, here I am. I give up the idea that I can control this or do anything to make it go faster. Instead, I watch the mother and her son, playing peek-a-boo in the cart ahead of me. Or I watch the elderly couple, holding each other up for support, as they place their groceries on the conveyer belt. Sometimes, I plug in my headphones and listen to music, or grab a magazine and read an article. If it’s a good article and I haven’t finished by the time I get to the front of the line, I find myself wishing the line had been longer. Then I laugh at myself because 10 minutes earlier that long line had been the last thing I’d wanted to see.

 

Why do your friends secretly like it when you get sick?

Your friends probably enjoy it when you get sick. No, not because they have a secret streak of schadenfreude. They don’t want too see you feel badly, but they do want to help.

Studies show that helping others has a direct link to our own happiness. 

Whether it’s bringing soup to a sick friend, helping an elderly person carry their groceries, or volunteering with the homeless, helping others can have amazing effects on our happiness. Mark Snyder, a psychologist at the University of Minnesota states that, “People who volunteer tend to have higher self-esteem, psychological well-being, and happiness.”

So, let’s get out there and make some soup!

You’ll not only be helping someone who needs you, but you’ll be helping yourself, too. How’s that for a win-win?

If you have a friend that has been feeling a bit sad lately, share this post with them and then make a date to do some volunteering! I guarantee it will lift their spirits.

How do you like to give back or volunteer? I’m always looking for new ways to volunteer or help out, so please leave a comment with your favorite way to help others. I’d love to try it out!