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Maria Gonzalez Blog
Mindful Leadership

Here’s an Effective Way to Create Inner Peace & Happiness

Have you ever wondered what it takes to feel true inner peace and happiness?  I am referring to the kind of peace and happiness that arises independent of conditions.  What this means is that you have these positive feelings without having won the lottery, without having received a promotion, or without having obtained any material thing.  All day long, you just feel good for no reason.

If this seems illusive, it doesn’t have to be.   One of the most effective ways to create this state of being, is to live life in an altruistic way.  Altruism is merely the desire for other people to be happy.  And when you focus on expressing this kindness to others, incredible things happen.  Suddenly, out of nowhere, you gain a sense of peace and happiness.  It just naturally wells up inside.

You may wish to try an experiment.  See what it would be like to experience “altruism” for 24 hours.  And, you might be amazed.

If this speaks to you, for the next 24 hours, create an intention that you would like to positively impact the lives of everyone you encounter.  And then set out to do it.  When you are driving, let someone who wishes to enter your lane, go ahead of you.  Open the door for someone.  Buy a cup of coffee for the person behind you in line.  Buy a homeless person a cup of soup.  Hold the elevator door open.  When someone comes to speak with you, just listen.  Don’t rush them or try to “fix” anything, just listen.

The key in all of this is that you are to expect nothing in return, not even a thank you.

And then periodically throughout the day, notice how you feel.  You may even wish to try it for more than a day.  Creating a habit of altruism is life transforming.  The reality is that even though you are not intending to benefit, you can’t help but benefit.  That’s just the way it works.

Matthieu Ricard spoke beautifully about this in a recent Ted Talk.

http://www.ted.com/talks/matthieu_ricard_how_to_let_altruism_be_your_guide?language=en

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You’re Successful, but Are You Happy?

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I hear from so many people that they are undoubtedly successful by all external measures, but, they are not happy.  This appears to be, unfortunately, the malaise of our times.  These are unprecedented times of material abundance and inner poverty.  The response of many people to this unhappiness or unease is to accumulate more, to work even harder on exterior success.  It is as if focusing on the exterior (more toys, a bigger job, another home, etc.) will somehow compensate for the unhappiness, or emptiness they feel.

To experience true and sustainable happiness one needs to work on inner refinement.  True and lasting happiness exists only within.  In fact, true happiness is independent of conditions.  To say that one is happy, no matter what is going on, or what the circumstances might be, is true richness.  That is real success.  And this only comes from being at peace with oneself, being able to look in the mirror and like what you see.  There is a real inner beauty and peace that comes from having purified one’s habitual patterns, that get in the way of happiness.

And, most interesting of all, is that external success and inner happiness are not in conflict.  One can have both.  The key, however, is that external success can not come at the expense of inner happiness.  If the balance is tipped and external measures take over one’s priorities, happiness or inner well being, will soon wane and eventually disappear.

The sustainable strategy is to ensure that there is daily attention paid to inner refinement, in the midst of your work and life’s activities.  This could be formal mind training where you sit in stillness, or walking in nature, or spending time being present with music, etc.  It takes daily cultivation to be most effective.  And in so doing, you also become more effective in everything else you do.  You will find inspiration will arise naturally, and solutions to problems will spontaneously become evident.

Matthieu Ricard did a wonderful TED Talk on Happiness.  He is a French cellular geneticist turned Buddhist monk, who is also the Dalai Lama’s French translator.  He has been coined as the “happiest person in the world”, according to neuroscientists who have studied his brain.  Having spent over 120 hours in MRIs, his brain has been studied more than that of any other being.  He contends that happiness is a habit that can be cultivated and comes from doing significant inner work.

http://www.ted.com/talks/matthieu_ricard_on_the_habits_of_happiness?language=en

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Learn to Skilfully Listen to Your Heart

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One of the greatest desires I hear from people is the desire to discover their purpose in life.  The previous Blog discussed creating a vision for one’s life, and from this place, to live life “on purpose”.

But, how can you be certain that it is “your purpose”?  The answer is simpler than you might think.  To be certain that you are living “your purpose”, and not a purpose that someone else has defined for you, you must learn to skilfully listen to your heart.  This may or may not be a concept with which you are comfortable or familiar.  It takes practice and a willingness to open yourself to possibilities you may have previously dismissed.

Your heart will speak to you if you listen and if you ask.  The answers come in two ways.  One is through a feeling of happiness.  The other is through the experience of passion or great enthusiasm.  It’s that simple.  Any time that you think of or contemplate a certain direction in your life, notice if it makes you happy and / or if you are passionate about it.  If the answer is yes, then that may be your purpose for this time and place.  If on the other hand you feel dragged down by a particular direction, then it is likely not your purpose.

If you are not excited about a particular job, career direction, relationship, etc., but you continue to pursue it, ask yourself,  ”whose purpose you are living”?  Are your decisions being formed by others around you, family, competitors, friends, society?  By choosing what others consider important, you will not live your purpose.  You will be living someone else’s life.  And this will cause happiness and fulfillment to be illusive.

The way to start developing the skill of listening to your heart is to practice with small decisions.  The next time you need to make a choice, listen to your heart.  Notice what it is saying.  In time you will likely feel an actual sensation in the centre of the chest.  This sensation will carry with it an emotional flavour, one that is pleasant or unpleasant.  Learn to listen.  In skilfully listening to your heart, you are accessing your own inner wisdom.

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Resolving to Live Life on Purpose in 2015

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Now that a New Year has begun there is an opportunity to start afresh, and it all starts in the mind.  A New Year is like turning the page on the old and creating new possibilities for the present.  In so doing you have the opportunity to discover and live your life purpose.  But what does it take to transform that resolve into reality?

The first thing to recognize is that everything starts and ends with your intentions.  If your intentions are clear you have a greater likelihood of achieving what you wish to achieve.  If your intentions are not clear, the outcomes will be haphazard and you may focus your attention on those things that are ultimately unimportant but appear to demand attention.  In Mindful Leadership I devote Chapter 5 to this very topic.

Discovering your life purpose enables you to live Life on Purpose and it entails the following:

  • It starts with creating a Vision for your life.  The way you do this is to envision coming to the end of a very happy and successful personal and professional life and describing to yourself what this would look like.
  • It also includes assessing the year that has just passed and identifying what made you truly happy and fulfilled.
  • Then also looking at what drained your energy and made you unhappy.
  • The idea is to build into your life those things that make you happy and reduce or eliminate what makes you unhappy.
  • It then also involves identifying in various aspects of your life what you wish to accomplish over the next 3-5 years (very broadly) and then identifying what you wish to achieve / accomplish in the next 12 months, very specifically.
  • It also includes a mechanism for assessing and reassessing along the way so that you can alter course as new developments / opportunities arise.

The objective is to live a life that is fulfilling and aligned with a Vision you have created for yourself.  It is a very empowering process.  It enables you to craft a life that has meaning for you, rather than be buffeted by what life brings.  It comes down to living your life “on purpose”.  The Vision then becomes the “litmus” test for selecting new jobs, new projects, new relationships, or assessing what you presently have / do and to which you devote time, energy, money, etc.

Today’s intention becomes tomorrow’s reality.  By resolving to live Life on Purpose in 2015, you will see a whole world of possibilities you may have never imagined.

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The Inspiration that Is Jean Béliveau

As I listen to the tributes given to Jean Béliveau what is striking are the words used to describe him.  Without exception, people comment above all on his presence, his humility, his kindness, his gentleness.  They comment on how he made everyone around him great; how he was a genuinely nice man, who was always present in every interaction.

As I reflect on this great human being, what I see is a Mindful leader.  He exhibits all of the 9 ways of being a Mindful leader.  And that is what is truly remarkable.  When we witness 4 or 5 of the 9 ways at one time, we know we are witnessing something special.  But, to witness all the 9 qualities is to be in the presence of someone remarkable, a true inspiration.

What is also remarkable is that this man won 10 Stanley Cups as a player and was one of the greatest hockey players of all time.  But, what people especially remember is that he was a great human being that inspired many, and made a difference in countless lives.  In fact, his outstanding professional accomplishments are almost overshadowed by his refined consciousness.  And it is this that inspires us.  In admiring him, it instills hope in humanity and in ourselves, that perhaps we too, can be greater than we thought possible, and thereby make a difference in the lives we touch.

 

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How to Handle Stress in the Present Moment

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Recently, I was interviewed by the Harvard Business Review for an article entitled How to Handle Stress in the Present Moment, written by Rebecca Knight.  I thought you might enjoy the article, as it has some very practical Mindfulness strategies to be practiced in the moment.

Click on image to read article

Click on image to read article

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You Can Plan But You Can’t Control

I watched a great interview last night with Peter Mansbridge of the CBC and John Cleese.   Cleese said a joke that caused me to laugh out load for quite a while.  The joke was very simple.  He said, “how do you make God laugh”?  And the answer was, “by telling Him your plans”!

I think this strikes one as funny because we all know it to be true.  But, somehow we don’t believe it.  We think we can plan and that as a result, what we plan will actually materialize with a certain predictability.  The reality is that we can plan all we like (and it is certainly necessary to plan in many instances).  But, having done our best, we then need to be prepared to “let go”.  What this means is that we need to recognize that we do not and can not control outcomes.  The only thing we can control is our effort and our behaviour.  But apart from that, “control” is an illusion most of us carry for far too long.

And this illusion causes us great disappointment and stress.  Our effort to control everything, so that things turn out “our way” is closely linked to our attachment to outcomes.  And it is this attachment that causes great suffering.

So, next time you have planned and desperately want things to be a certain way, stop to see the humour and the futility in such an attachment.  See the illusion for what it is.  In so doing, you will experience great freedom.

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Harvard Business Review Article: Your Car Commute Is a Chance to Practice Mindfulness

I recently wrote an article for the Harvard Business Review entitled: Your Car Commute Is a Chance to Practice Mindfulness.

One of the concerns people at times express is that they have insufficient time to practice Mindfulness on a regular basis.  My intention in writing this article was to illustrate clearly, that the opportunity to practice is available to us every day.  Whether we are commuting to work by car or driving to run errands there is a wonderful opportunity to apply a technique, that in essence can become our formal practice for the day.

Below is the link: 

I hope you enjoy the article

Click on image to read article

Click on image to read article

 

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What Does it Mean to “Abide in a State of Gratitude”?

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“I abide in a state of Gratitude” are Stings’s last words on his DVD, Sting the Last Ship.  This was a benefit concert at The Public Theatre in New York City.  ”The Last Ship” features Sting joined by 14 musicians performing original songs from his critically-acclaimed album and Broadway musical of the same name.

The statement is profound.  He is referring to his childhood in a small north England town whose main business was a shipyard.  It was difficult and dangerous work.  It was the main place of employment for the men in the area.  A place where few left and did anything different.  And for Sting, it shaped his deep desire to do something different, his music and his life.  And he considers himself “grateful” because he is fiercely proud of the strength and grit it took to live that life and what it gave him.

But to say that one “abides in Gratitude” goes far beyond being grateful.  It implies being grateful, no matter what the circumstances.  It means that when life presents difficulties, one can still live or abide in that state of Gratitude, for what one has.  It is very much akin to a state of “happiness without condition” or a state of equanimity.

And how does one experience this kind of gratitude?  This kind of gratitude can be cultivated, and in so doing it can transform your life.  If this speaks to you, try it for a week or so.  Take moments throughout the day to acknowledge that for which you are grateful.  Some days it will be big things and other days only small things.  And, yet, other days that are really difficult you will need to dig deeper, and perhaps merely be grateful for being alive or being able to breathe, or having food to eat and a roof over your head.

It means not taking anything for granted.  And why is this important or even meaningful?  Because everything we have moment by moment is a gift, a blessing and it can be taken away without notice.  That is the law of impermanence, what is here now may not be here in the next breath.  And absolutely nothing other than our Divinity is our birthright.  And our Divinity is merely our life force, the magic spark within us all.  More on this some other time…

So, take a moment now and just notice what is around you.  What are you grateful for right now?  And now abide in that Gratitude and let it inspire you for the rest of the day.

 

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If You Want to Be Heard, Speak with Compassion

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Tone plays a huge role in the ability of others to “hear” our message.  When we speak in a harsh or disinterested tone our message is not “heard”.  In fact, under those circumstances, people tend to experience “feel” which means that they start to focus on the chatter in their heads, rather than listening to what is being said.

On the other hand, when we speak with compassion, others are more likely to be drawn into what we are attempting to convey, and our message is more likely to be heard, as it is intended.

When we speak with compassion, the message we are conveying is that “the other person matters”, and that alone, consciously or otherwise, endears us to the other person.  Now, it goes without saying that our compassion needs to be authentic.  Compassion assumes a real interest in the other person.  We care what they think and how they feel.  We are there to be of service with every interaction.  That is implicit in every effective form of communication.

So if you want your message “heard”, make sure you deeply care for the person with whom you are speaking, no matter who they are.

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