Thursday, November 19, 2009

Spirituality & Death

Greetings Spirituality & Science readers - after watching the last of the autumn leaves lose their hold on the branches this week, I thought of death. Ah death, the topic that strikes fear into the hearts of many and is not your typical cocktail-party banter - but here's the thing - I think death is often misunderstood. If you've followed this blog, you understand the science of energy - and I'll do a comprehensive post on energy and the human body in the near future. Science shows us that energy can change form and shape but it doesn't cease to exist - and since humans are made of energy, consume energy in the form of calories, and expend energy - they doesn't stop existing either. Therefore, although the body degenerates over time, the energy within that person doesn't die. Religious people call this "the soul" but it doesn't really matter what you call it in my humble opinion.

There are many people out there that have had contact with energy from those that previously existed in a body. Some people call this energy "ghosts," but what they describe is simply a communication with an energy no longer connected to a physical body. I know many people that have seen and spoken to these entities - and no, I'm not talking about psychiatric patients that I've worked with in my practice - I'm talking about everyday people that have had some experience that lets them know there is a greater energy out there. I saw a good friend of mine recently who had a close family member die last month, and as close as they were, she feels that she's even closer to him now. She described how she feels his energy around her and that he's guiding her at times - obviously, this doesn't dull the pain of not being able to pick up the phone and call him or invite him over for Thanksgiving dinner - but she knows without a doubt that he's still there even if it's not in physical form and it brings her comfort.

Chances are good that if you haven't had such an experience yourself, you know someone that has but they just haven't told you about it. People tend to be uncomfortable talking about the subject or worry that they'll be perceived as kooky - not that I haven't heard some kooky people discuss the subject but it hasn't been the norm.

Personally, I don't see dead people - which probably wouldn't be as cool as it sounds, especially in the middle of the night - but I have had enough contact from family members and friends who are no longer in physical form to know they're not really gone. In fact, my watch stopped every year at the exact time of one family member's death - one time being only several weeks after getting a new battery. The repair shop couldn't get it to work again and I've since stopped wearing a watch. I have way more mind-blowing personal examples but I wouldn't want anyone thinking I've been ingesting strange drugs - seriously, ibuprofen is the hardest thing I take - but after I've told close friends about my experiences, they've told me equally mind-blowing stories of their own.

I grew up with the religious explanation of the concepts of souls becoming angels in heaven versus the wrath of eternal hell. This was never an idea that resonated with me in childhood - I thought playing a harp on a cloud sounded really boring - and while it would be easier to explain it that way to my children, I've answered questions from my 5-year-old in a way that better fits my beliefs. In that respect, angels are one type of energy form so my son thinks the whole energetic angel idea is pretty cool. This led to a whole conversation on Spirituality & Reincarnation but that's one I'll leave for another day - although it'll definitely be before Spirituality & 2012.

I'll leave you with this Hopi Funeral Prayer which is a reminder that the funeral is way more about the living than the presumed dead - trust me, they're doing just fine.

Hopi Indian Funeral Prayer

Do not stand at my grave and weep
I am not there. I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow.
I am the diamond glints on snow.
I am the sunlight on ripened grain.
I am the gentle autumn rain.
When you awaken in the morning's hush
I am the swift uplifting rush
Of quiet white doves in circled flight.
I am the soft stars that shine at night.
Do not stand at my grave and cry;
I am not there, I did not die.

Until next time...and if you're feeling brave, what experiences have you had that lead you to believe that life doesn't stop when the body does?

Monday, November 9, 2009

Spirituality & Mother Teresa

Hello Spirituality & Science readers - it's been awhile since I've been here as I've lately immersed myself in writing of a different sort, however just last week I was reminded of this beautiful poem and wanted to pass it along. Those of you who read the blog know that while I consider myself spiritual, I'm not religious in any shape or form. I believe you can substitute whatever your belief is for the term God in the poem (e.g. Buddha, source, universal energy, etc.)

I was speaking to one of my spiritual gurus last week - the wonderful Marnie Vincolisi-Leichtenberg - who reminded me that it's okay to shine even if it makes certain people around you uncomfortable as they may envy what you have. Then today I was waiting for a client and randomly pulled a business book that I'd never read off my colleague's shelf and opened to this poem - obviously not a typical business book - but the poem echoed perfectly what Marnie had shared with me several days earlier. The credit for this poem is given to Mother Teresa although it's based on an essay by Kent Keith.

To add yet more synchronicity to my Mother Teresa vibe this week, an artist friend of mine, Jia Apple, emailed me her latest beautiful creation. It's a portrait of Mother Teresa from her Larger than Life Series on women she respects - and is the picture at the top of the blog.

So while I usually include inspirational quotes here, I'm dedicating this whole post to the poem of a wonderfully spiritual human being.


People are often unreasonable, illogical, and self-centered;
Forgive them anyway.

If you are kind,
people may accuse you of selfish ulterior motives;
Be kind anyway.

If you are successful,
you will win some false friends and some true enemies;
Succeed anyway.

If you are honest and frank,
people may cheat you;
Be honest and frank anyway.

What you spend years building,
someone could destroy overnight.
Build anyway.

If you find serenity and happiness,
they may be jealous;
Be happy anyway.

The good you do today,
people will often forget tomorrow;
Do good anyway.

Give the world the best you have,
and it may never be enough;
Give the best you've got anyway.

You see, in the final analysis
it is between you and God;
it was never between you and them anyway.

Until next time...shine on! :)

Friday, August 21, 2009

Spirituality & My New Roof

How in the world does Spirituality have anything to do with your roof? Fair question, but bear with me, my lovely readers. For those of you who have followed this blog, you know I've been experimenting with using visualization and intention to manifest things - sometimes with amusing results like my post on our new windows. It's been so fun, I decided to try it for something more expensive. Something we wanted - okay, needed,- but didn't want to pay $16,000-$18,000 for - a new roof. We've lived in our house 4 years and had a roofer certify it for 5 years when we moved in - because I'm a math genius, I knew we had one year left before it would need to be replaced. It's one of those cedar shake (ie.wood) roofs that's the equivalent of having a tinderbox on top of one's house.

So I began visualizing the heck out of this roof and while I usually leave the "how's" to the universe, I did let the universe know I was open to the idea of hail - so long as it didn't also hit my car or any of my neighbors (I like my neighbors). I told my neighbor I was doing hail dances (mentally of course, because it's the kind of neighborhood where that sort of thing wouldn't go unnoticed) and she told me she'd do them too as she'd been coveting a new roof as well. I knew it was a long shot because we hadn't had hail in the last 4 years but figured maybe global warming would work in my favor. So what happened?

5 hailstorms later, yes, 5 within a 5-week period, I watched new roofs going up everywhere around me!

With all that encouragement, I decided it was time to call my insurance company. A very nice gentleman comes out and .... denies the claim. Seriously?!! I will admit that thoughts ran through my head like "Are you blind - parts of our roof are laying in our yard?!" but I refrained. Also, I'm altruistic by nature, but the roof I visualized so clearly was definitely MY roof, not someone else's. So we contacted our insurance company again and politely asked for a 2nd opinion - my mama always said you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar. I kept visualizing and later that week, we had our 6th hailstorm of the summer. The next day the second adjuster came who started out by telling me that he hoped I wasn't expecting a different response this time around. Something must have happened in the hour and a half that he was on my roof because...

END RESULT: I'm sitting here typing this, not even minding the racket going on overhead as a new roof is being installed. The insurance check more than covered a lifetime, 50-year, kick-a## roof - when you get to be my age, things like roofs truly are exciting! Plus, our insurance said when it's done, they will lower our homeowners insurance premiums for having a safer roof.

Now, you can say the whole thing was coincidence. You can attribute the flurry of hail in my neighborhood to global warming or El Nina or El Nino (I always get them confused). Many areas of my state have had abnormal amounts of hail this summer and clearly, weather is unpredictable.

All I know is my goal for the end of summer was a brand new roof, and I can finally stop doing hail dances. BTW - I talked to neighbors and not a single one had any damage to themselves or their cars. We do have a lot of happy people with new roofs though!

Challenge: Take 2-5 minutes a day and visualize what you want so clearly that you feel you already have it. When you feel you already have it, it means you do. It just hasn't shown up yet - but it will. Have you already done this? What have you manifested? Let us know. Until next time....:)

Monday, August 3, 2009

Spirituality & Creative Visualization

"Ordinary people believe only in the possible.
Extraordinary people visualize not what is possible or probable,
but rather what is impossible. And by visualizing the impossible,
they begin to see it as possible."

- Cherie Carter-Scott (author and motivational speaker)

Spirituality & Creative Visualization:

Welcome Spirituality & Science readers - this post will address the concept of creative visualization. As mentioned in a previous post on Spirituality and Conscious Manifestation (scroll to the last entry), a powerful way to manifest your desires is to use creative visualization. If you are creating a clear mental picture of the desired result whether it be something material (new windows, car, etc.) or something immaterial (relationship, health, job, etc.), then you are using the power of thought to bring about a positive change in your world. Athletes have long used this in sports, and often use visualization before a competition to enhance their performance. Tiger Woods has spoken of using intense visualization as part of his preparation for tournaments.

So where is the science in this?
One of my favorite speakers on visualization is Joe Dispenza, D.C., and his book explores this topic in depth: Evolve Your Brain: The Science of Changing Your Mind. He gives his own amazing account of using the process of visualization to recover from a horrific spinal injury (and refused an operation that was thought to be his only possibility of walking again). He also cites a 1992 study by the Journal of Neurophysiology in which subjects were put into one of three groups:

1) The 1st group of subjects were asked to do finger exercises (yes, finger exercises - it was 1992, long past the time when you could give electric shocks to other people in the name of science) where they had to contract and relax one finger on their left hand for 5 training sessions per week for 4 weeks.

2) Group 2 rehearsed the same exercises on the same time table, but only mentally. They did not physically move their fingers as the first group did.

3) This group got off easy. They didn't exercise their finger or their minds. This was the "control group." (Note: Any time you agree to participate in an experimental study, hope for the control group.)

And the results? Well, as expected, Group 1 (who actually did the finger exercises) exhibited 30% greater finger strength than those in the control group. What was surprising was that Group 2 (who only did the exercises "mentally"), still evidenced a significant 22% increase in muscle strength than the control group. So, while visualizing a 5 mile run might not burn off all the chocolate ding-dongs's you ate last night, you would at least burn more calories than doing nothing at all.

What it all means?

The basic gist is something I've stressed often in this blog. Your thoughts literally create your reality and have much more power than the majority of the population realizes. If you're not thrilled with how your life is going right now, in this moment, start with changing your thinking and the rest will follow.

Have any examples of your success with creative visualization? I'd love to hear about them to feel free to share. Until next time...

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Spirituality & the Science of Meditation

"Reading makes a full man,
meditation a profound man,
discourse a clear man."

- Benjamin Franklin

What is meditation and why do I need it?

Meditation is a practice wherein you train your brain to "let go." I think of it as yoga for the mind. It brings about a state of relaxation but also heightened awareness at the same time. Some people use it along with prayer, but meditation itself is not inherently religious and it has been incorporated into many spiritual beliefs. It dates back thousands of years and the earliest known record of it is in 5,000 year old Hindu scriptures.

So why do it? The benefits of meditation are numerous, but a few key ones include:
* relaxation
* stress reduction
* helps depression and anxiety
* enhanced learning ability

We've talked about the mind/body connection and the negative effects of excess cortisol on the body in prior posts, and one of the best benefits of meditation is stress reduction. When the body relaxes, the cortisol levels drop down and meditation has also been shown to increase "feel-good" neurotransmitters such as seratonin. In fact, many anti-depressants and anti-anxiety medications work by boosting the production of seratonin in the brain. Meditation is a natural anti-depressant - and that's something I doubt you'll ever see advertised on television because there's no real money to be made. Furthermore, when you are relaxed, you are better able to think and problem-solve. Think about a time when you've been extremely stressed over a work or personal issue - it's much harder to think rationally when overcome with anxiety about a problem. In fact, some of my best "a-ha" moments when I discover the answer to a question I've been pondering have occurred as I've been in bed on the verge of sleep.

Meditation and the Impact on Brain Waves

The human brain is comprised of billions of neurons - yes, billions - which create electrical activity in your brain that can be measured by an electroencephalogram (EEG). In studying EEG's of meditating brains, it has been shown that meditation increases activity in the left prefrontal cortex of the brain (the region associated with positive thoughts and happiness), and that meditation changes the pattern of brain waves. Think about this for a second in terms of the mind/body connection - your thoughts can change the way your brain works. I'll touch briefly on the types of brain waves we experience each day and discuss how meditation can impact them. Keep in mind that we rarely function solely in one of these states and usually have a combination of brain waves occurring throughout our day, with one type of brain wave being dominant at any one time. Brain waves are measured in pulses per second (Hertz scale) which will be noted below.

Beta : 13-40 Hz. This type of brain wave is when we are consciously alert and
active, so we would typically be in this state during the day (eg.
working, running errands, parenting.)Anytime you are worrying or angry,
you are also in this state.
Alpha: 8-13 Hz. This is when you are in a state of physical and mental relaxation
but are still quite aware of your surroundings. It is a great state for
mental clarity and meditation often produces these brain waves. When you
are daydreaming or using creative visualization, you are typically in this
Theta: 4-7Hz. This is usually a state of deep relaxation, such as in dream
sleeping or a deep meditative trance.
Delta: .1-4Hz. Deep, dreamless sleep.

What about Gamma Waves?

I've saved the best for last. Gamma brain waves are those that occur at 40Hz and higher. They are considered an extremely fast-moving and intense brain wave. Many times, they are grouped in with Beta waves and are not recognized as a separate category but I believe this is inaccurate. A well-documented study examined Tibetan monks using an EEG. The monks had been actively meditating for years and a control group was used of people that did not have meditation experience. The EEG readings showed that the meditating monks not only produced more gamma waves than the control group, but they produced more gamma waves than the control group when they were not even meditating. More impressive was the fact that these monks produced more powerful gamma waves than any previously recorded in a healthy person. You can read the Washington Post article about it here or read the actual scientific study here. Other reported "perks" of increased gamma wave activity are increased memory, quicker mental processing and enhanced learning ability. One product I recommend that produces meditation CD's designed to increase specific brain waves, including gamma waves, are the Brain Sync series. These were recommended to me by numerous people until I finally tried several. I wasn't hooked up to an EEG machine, so I can't tell you my specific brain waves but it was an incredible experience.

How Long Does It Take and How Do I Do It?
The great thing about meditation is that you can do it virtually anywhere and it doesn't take a lot of time. You can do it at your desk at work, at home, even while doing the dishes. 10-20 minutes a day is all you need to make a difference, and you don't even break a sweat while doing it. If you're taking the time to exercise your body, your mind deserves the same treatment. As an aside, several physical activities have been shown to create changes in mindfulness as well and include yoga, tai chi, and bagwa.

The how of it is pretty simple in theory and best of all, it's FREE. You can find many guided meditations online or in books, and you can experiment until you find something you're comfortable with. Guided meditations are a great place to start as they help you with the breathing, mind clearing, etc. until you feel you can do it on your own. Some good free meditations can be found here.

The hardest part for me when I started several years ago was the mind-clearing part. It was like the "don't look at the white elephant in the room" because as soon as I told myself not to think of anything, all kinds of random thoughts would show up. For me, the key was to allow the thoughts to enter but let them float away on their own without my trying to hold onto them - or analyze them. And let me tell you - it's pretty hard for a psychologist not to analyze something when it pops up - but it got easier over time. Also, try to create an environment conducive to meditating. I have a favorite CD and a favorite incense that enables me to slip very quickly into a meditative state. Find what works for you - and don't be afraid to play around with it and have fun. The goal is to feel good, so don't worry so much about whether you're "doing it right." If you feel good, you are.

What about you?
I'd love to hear people's experiences with meditation or any good links, meditations, etc. that people have found helpful. Until next time...

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Spirituality and Alternative Medicine

"I don't jog. If I die,

I want to be sick."

- Abe Lemons (former writer and head basketball coach of Oklahoma)

Welcome Spirituality & Science followers – we have a special guest with us today. Alison Dinn, L. Ac. is a Licensed Acupuncturist who specializes in Chinese medicine. She earned her undergraduate degree from the University of Pennsylvania and trained in a hospital in Cheng Du, China. Alison graciously agreed to answer some questions that I thought might be useful to those who are interested in alternative medicine. I use the term “alternative” to describe Chinese (or Eastern) medicine, as opposed to “traditional” or Western medicine practiced most commonly in the United States.

Interviewer (moi): Thank you so much for being here today. It seems like we are hearing more and more in the media about alternative (Eastern) medicine and I was wondering what you perceive the main differences to be between Western and Eastern medicine?

Alison Dinn: There are many differences but I believe there are 3 main ones.

1) This one I think is the most important: We view everybody as unique so there is no one treatment plan for one dis-ease that works for everyone – because everyone is different. 10 people may come in with the same complaint and after an evaluation; they may all require different herbs and varying acupuncture points.

2) Western medicine tends to treat symptoms of disease while Chinese medicine doesn’t believe there are diseases or illnesses per say; there are patterns going on in the body at all times so we are treating those underlying patterns. By the time symptoms show up physically, these patterns (or imbalances) have been going on for some time.

3) In Eastern medicine the physical body is viewed holistically or globally. It reminds me of the butterfly effect, “If a butterfly flaps its wings in Beijing in March, then by August, hurricane patterns in the Atlantic will be completely different.” We don’t divide the body into systems such as cardiovascular, respiratory, etc. as everything affects everything else.

I: Can you explain the concept of chi?

A.D.: Basically, the basis of all Chinese medicine is that every living thing is all a balance of yin – female and yang – male (pure energy). The word “chi” is a type of yang energy and is the life force that flows through all living things in the universe. There are numerous kinds of chi that flow through your body and everything else.

I: There appears to be more hype these days about the connection between mind and body. In your opinion, how does spirituality play a role in health/wellness?

A.D.: (laughs) You know, we were never even taught the mind/body connection because it was just assumed that there is no separation between the mind, body, and spirit. Acupuncture treats people on all 3 of these levels even though most people present for treatment due to issues on the physical level. Problems usually occur first on the spiritual or emotional (mind) level and then show up on the physical level; however, most people (in the U.S.) are more focused on physical issues. Interestingly, when I worked in China, I saw people heal from physical problems more quickly because they tend to get treatment sooner and more often. They also tend to be more focused on eating healthy and engaging in practices like Qi Gong and Tai Chi.

I: What types of methods do you commonly use in your practice? Why types of health issues do you see that respond especially well to alternative medicine?

A.D.: Acupuncture, reiki, and herbs. I usually use a combination of these. About 2/3 of Chinese medicine is treatment through herbs. I will use acupuncture to get the person in balance, and I think of herbs as a type of “daily” acupuncture t o keep people balanced. The needles used in acupuncture don’t do anything in and of themselves; they simply tell the body to regulate itself. The body is smarter than anything else and knows how to best treat itself. The needles are placed on points along meridians that follow the energy pathways in the body.

Common ailments that respond well to TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) are pain, digestive issues (IBS, etc.), women’s issues (fertility, gynecological, hormonal, etc.), and insomnia. There are some studies being conducted in Europe on acupuncture used for fertility problems, and they’ve had amazing results.

I: That brings up another question. If more research is supporting the use of “alternative” methods such as acupuncture, then are these treatments being covered more by managed care insurance providers?

A.D.: Yes! I have seen an increase in managed care companies that cover acupuncture now. Several of the top of my head are: BC/BS, Cigna, Kaiser, and Aetna.

I: What is something that people might be surprised to know about alternative medicine?

A.D.: Most people think of acupuncture as some “out there” treatment when in reality, it is more linear and rational than much of Western medicine. It is mapped out based on the evaluation in terms of definitive diagnosis, specific herbs, and acupuncture points. The evaluation involves the interview, visual examination, and “feeling” of the organs and pulse.

I: Does it work even if you don’t “believe” in it?

A.D.: Absolutely – some of the most miraculous healing I’ve seen has occurred in people who didn’t believe in it but came to treatment because “someone made them.” My own father is an example - he couldn’t believe that this was what I chose to study as he didn’t believe in any of it. He hadn’t been able to move his shoulder at all for 3 months, so I offered him a treatment. It’s been 5 years now and his shoulder has been fine ever since – he now believes.

I: Protecting confidentiality, can you give an example of a successful case treated with alternative medicine?

A.D.: I saw a young woman who had not had a period in 7 years. She had been given a Western medical diagnosis by a doctor, but had no resolution of her problem and she desperately wanted to become pregnant. She came to me hoping that I could regulate her period so that she could begin trying to get pregnant. I treated her for a few months, and she didn’t get her period – because she got pregnant! She had to tell her ob/gyn that the date of her last period was 7 years ago! She now has a second child - and regular periods.

I: Wow- that’s an amazing case. Is there anything else you want people to know about Eastern medicine?

A.D.: I want to make it clear that I am very pro-Western medicine. I just believe that it’s best to integrate the two. In China, 90% of internal medicine issues are treated with herbs rather than other medications. The doctors there are trained in both Western and Eastern medicine, so they know when to use herbs versus antibiotics, for example. I think that medications are necessary at times, and I wish that here (U.S.) we could work together to create a more cohesive health care model.

I: Thanks so much for sharing all your knowledge with us. I appreciate your taking time out of your day for this.

More information about Alison Dinn: for those in the Denver area interested in acupuncture, Ms. Dinn can be reached at 303.733.4500.

On a personal note, I can say that she is absolutely fabulous. She was my introduction into alternative medicine when a friend recommended her due to my chronic allergies, and is the reason I went on to become trained in Reiki and am now a Reiki Master. It is not an understatement to say that my life has completely changed since meeting her – for the better of course, or I wouldn’t have done this interview. :) Until next time…

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Spirituality & Money

“What we really want to do is what we are really meant to do.
When we do what we are meant to do, money comes to us,
doors open for us, we feel useful, and the work we do feels like play to us.”
- Julia Cameron (author and filmmaker)

How is money spiritual?

If you're asking that question, then chances are, you've had some ideas about money in your life that weren't benefiting you. I know I did. I grew up in a religious household where giving money to the church was considered very spiritual, but having lots of money was a different story. If I had nickel for every time I heard "Blessed are the poor" during my years of Catholic school, I would have graduated high school a millionaire! My parents spoke with disdain of others who had lots of money as if the act of being wealthy meant they were automatically corrupt. If you've heard the phrase "Money is the root of all evil," then you know what I'm talking about.

Money is money. At present, it is the accepted form of currency for obtaining goods and services you need or desire. Awhile back, it was chickens and goats, today it's money. Maybe back then it was said that chickens were the root of all evil but I doubt it. I think the key is keeping your life in line with your values, and I don't believe if you do this that abundance of money is any different than abundance of love or health (and you usually don't see people criticized for having too much health or love). For instance, if I value friends and family, then having money allows me to focus on these things even more (e.g. staying home with the kids, flying to visit relatives, take family vacations, etc.) Winning the lotto would not make me suddenly think, "You know, I've always wanted to try being a meth addict and now I can do that. Yeah!" If you are stable in your values, then money is another way to foster growth and yes, I absolutely believe this can be quite spiritual. A great book on this top is Money and the Law of Attraction by Esther and Jerry Hicks.

There is a quote that says, "Don't tell me what your priorities are. Show me where you spend your money and I'll tell you what they are." I love this because it's true. I looked at what I bought today - lunch for my kids and airline tickets to take my son to visit my family - and felt really good about the purchases (despite the cost of flying these days). Okay, I also bought a Peppermint Patty just for me, but the quote is still true, because I do value chocolate!

You Get More When You Give More
As most of you know who follow the blog, I'm a huge believer in the law of attraction, which basically means that the life you have around you now is your own creation and it is created by the power of your thoughts. If you don't like how your life looks, then change your thinking and this applies to money too. For instance, people who always complain about debt and focus on how many bills they have tend to always have a reason to complain. "The rich get richer" is this same principle in the opposite direction. In my coaching practice, I've heard, "Well, of course I could do [insert desired goal] if only I had the money." NO! This is negative thinking and pushes you even further from your goal. If you take steps toward whatever your desired goal is (and that goal is in line with your personal values), the money will come.

This power of intention - the intention to manifest money - is amplified when you give it away. You are telling the universe that you have plenty and know you will receive more - and the universe responds to you. If you let it flow out, it flows back in. Conversely, if you hold onto money so tightly out of fear that no more will come, the universe responds to that as well and it won't come. I have friends of various religious beliefs who give to their churches and other friends who give to different charitable organizations, so again, do what is in line with your own values. I'm not saying to give more than you can - such as not paying your rent or mortgage in order to make a donation, but most people can do a small amount. Or give something valuable that isn't monetary such as clothes, furniture, etc. Give your old baby items to a mother that is just starting out, give your old computer to a school that needs it, etc. Give your time - time is one of the most valuable things there is. Volunteer. Get creative with being generous.

When my husband and I first finished graduate school with several hundred thousand dollars in student loans between us, he would watch me write my little $15 and $20 checks to charities and say, "What are you doing? Do you know how much we owe?" I would always remind him that we had food on the table and clothes in our closet and therefore had plenty. The checks we write are bigger now, but the underlying values are exactly the same. As the CFO of the household, I still have times when I feel like things are tight. When my son ended up needing new glasses last week, my first thought was, "oh great, $300, just what we need right now." I immediately caught myself having a negative thought and got online right then and there to donate money to one of my favorite charities. I told the universe that I had plenty. I then visualized random checks coming in the mail (another one of my intention experiments mentioned in a prior post), and told my husband to watch for them. This was Thursday and we have gotten 3 checks in the mail in the last 5 days (2 of them were completely random and 1 was expected at some point but we weren't sure exactly when it would come). Not huge checks - but still, checks that more than covered the eyeglasses!

So, try this: Write down your top 3 values (health, spirituality, family, career, travel, learning, etc.) Is the life you are currently living in line with those values? If not, reassess. If so, good for you. Practice telling the universe how grateful you are for all the abundance you have (in all areas, not just money) and watch the universe respond by giving you more. Until next time...

Monday, May 25, 2009

Spirituality & Love

"Love is like quicksilver in the hand.
Leave the fingers open and it stays.
Clutch it, and it darts away."
-Dorothy Parker (writer)

Welcome to Spirituality & Science - today's post is about love. I know it's not even close to Valentine's Day but I was inspired by events from my Memorial Day weekend. I officiated my first wedding ceremony this weekend and it was very special for me because it was my baby sister's wedding (and by baby, I mean 30 years old so we won't go into how old that makes me!) She asked me to write and perform the ceremony, and here we were at this amazing house in Vail. After I spoke for a bit, my husband (a singer/songwriter) began singing a beautiful rendition of "Fly Me to the Moon" by Frank Sinatra, and I looked at my sister and her soon-to-be husband and saw them gazing at each other with tears in their eyes. It took me back in time 13 years to my own wedding day, with all the wonder and joy of embarking on a new life together. I hoped my sister would look back 13 years from now, still feeling awe at the beauty of a relationship that has grown and evolved in amazing ways.

Is there "one perfect person" out there for you?

I believe that too many people focus on finding a specific person rather than the goal of having a loving, healthy relationship. I've seen couples in couples counseling who talked about everything "wrong" with their partner, as well as single clients who were focused on meeting someone with specific characteristics (what they would look like, what job they would have, etc.) Relating back to previous posts on the law of attraction (The Secret) you attract what you think about. Therefore, if you are constantly thinking negative thoughts about what is wrong with a person or relationship, you only attract more of the same. This applies whether you stay in that specific relationship or not - I can't tell you how many people I worked with who left "negative relationships," only to land in another similar relationship.

So if you focus on what you would like your relationship to look like, you are giving the universe much more to work with on your behalf. For instance, if you visualize your perfect relationship, think about how you want to feel in that relationship (fulfilled, supported, happy, etc.) Imagine yourself feeling those things and let the universe sort out how you will get there. If you give multiple constraints on specifics like hair color, height, or income, you are only limiting the universe (and yourself) in finding an ideal partner. If you are already in a relationship, then by focusing on the strengths of that relationship, you will cause those aspects to grow as well. So while I don't believe there is "one perfect person" out there, I do believe you can attract a person to you who will fulfill your vision of an ideal relationship.

What if I have no idea what an ideal relationship is supposed to look like?
I have seen people that were in relationships involving domestic violence who did not even know what a "healthy" relationship looked like. Often times, they had parents who were dysfunctional (or at least more dysfunctional on the continuum of "normal.") In these cases, it was difficult to visualize something they had never witnessed and they would pick relationships based on what was familiar, rather than what was healthy. If this applies to you then here are a few suggestions:
1) If you know of any couples that do represent what you would like in a relationship, then spend more time with them. Be around that what you wish to have.
2) If you don't have any friends or family that have what you would consider to be a healthy relationship, then watch couples where ever you go. When you see something that makes you think, "I'd like that," write down what it is. Did they smile at each other? Hold hands? Call each other "honey?" Laugh? Anytime you see something positive, make a note of it until you have a list of things you know you want in your relationship.
Think about anything that makes you happy (puppies, sunny days, etc.) and focus on that feeling. Remember, your goal is to feel happy and then you attract more things to you that will cause feelings of happiness (relationships included).

You complete me...not!
I think that mainstream movies often paint unhealthy pictures of love. You are much better able to find love and a great relationship if you are first happy yourself. If you feel complete and content as an individual person, you are then able to give and receive love freely. This follows the "where ever you go, there you are" principle - happiness always comes first from within. If you are unhappy in general, it will be extremely difficult to find a "happy" relationship, and someone else cannot provide that joy for you. So examine your thoughts and find ways to make yourself happy before seeking out someone else.

In Summary
I've focused here on love with significant others, but this is but one form of love. There is love between friends, love among family members, love for one's pets, etc. but it all follows the same principle - the law of attraction. Think about someone you know with a great relationship and you will find that they also have these other forms of love in their life as well. Remember this if you remember nothing else about this post - whatever you focus on is what grows, so if you want love - focus on it! Until next time...

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Spirituality & Gratitude

"If you count all your assets,

you always show a profit."
- Robert Quillen (journalist)

Hello Spirituality and Science readers - I want to start this post with a question:

What are you thankful for right now? Right now - in this moment - it could be something as simple as your dog curled up next to you or the breeze coming through your bedroom window. Focus on something that you feel grateful for right this very second.

I was inspired to write about gratitude today after spending a gorgeous sunshine-filled afternoon in the park. It was a regular park and a regular day - certainly nothing out of the ordinary. Watching my kids laugh and play is something I do multiple times a week, but somehow when I watched them today, I was struck by how perfect it all was. I felt extremely grateful in that moment and thought about the power of gratitude. I think that often times it's easier to focus on what's wrong in your life than what's right...easier to focus on what you don't have than what you do have. But here's the thing - whatever you focus on (positive or negative) is what grows. So if you focus on what you don't have, you will always have plenty of what you don't have. If you focus on all that you do have, well, that grows as well.

Keeping a Gratitude Journal
Several years before she died, my mother-in-law gave me a gratitude journal as a gift. She knew I often suggested this sort of thing to my clients, but although I was a big believer in gratitude even then, I had never actually written it down. I thought I might as well try it and I wrote 5 things a day that I was thankful for - even when, especially when, I had one of those "is it even possible to have this many things go wrong?" kind of day. Somehow, the act of writing it down seemed to magnify the things I was thankful for - at the beginning, it was a struggle to come up with 5 things every day and pretty soon, I stopped trying to limit my list to only 5 things because I came up with so many. Focusing on the positive appeared to engender more positive events. I'm not saying I never have a bad day now, but they are very few and very far in between. Try it for yourself and see what happens. What are your 5 things for today?

Gratitude and the Power of Intention
Of course, this focus on positive thinking is related to the power of conscious intention discussed in the last few posts. The law of attraction states that you get what you think about, so gratitude is a powerful aid in creating more of what you want. Gratitude is one of my favorite sections of the book The Secret. Now this doesn't mean that you can't desire to have something that you don't currently have, but I believe that if you give thanks for what you do have, then what you don't have will likely show up faster in your life (and you'll be happier in the meantime). I'd love to hear any comments on how gratitude has impacted your life - which reminds me - I'm so grateful for all of you that have found this blog and find it helpful. You all inspire me - until next time...:)

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Spirituality and Conscious Manifestation

"Our minds become magnetized with the dominating thoughts
we hold in our minds and these magnets attract to us the forces,
the people, the circumstances of life which harmonize
with the nature of our dominating thoughts."
- Napoleon Hill (author)

Last week in Spirituality and Science, we continued the topic of the power of intention and discussed how it works whether or not we are consciously aware of it. This can result in both positive and negative manifestations depending on the thoughts we think. If you know someone that ALWAYS seems to have negative things happen to them (hint: they're the ones that listen to someone else's sad story and proudly say, "you think that's bad, wait 'til you hear this...") They are attracting those things to them just as someone who thinks positively tends to attract good things. The quote beginning this article says it all in a nutshell.

The Conscious Use of Intention
So what about when you really understand the concept of manifestation and how it works? Surely it must be even more powerful once you know to be aware of your thoughts at all times. As I mentioned in a comment to a blog follower last week, there is amazing research out there on the conscious use of intention. A wonderful book that explores some of this research is "The Intention Experiment" by Lynne McTaggart. It's a comprehensive look at how groups of people "intending" a specific outcome have achieved incredible results in things ranging from plant growth to distant healing. One study even resulted in a 22% decrease in crime in specific cities! Even a single person can have a huge impact on the world around them simply by focusing their thoughts.

My Personal Intention Experiment
I had been using the power of attraction since well before I understood what it was. People would "coincidentally" show up in my life at the right time - and I don't really believe in coincidences either but that's a whole post in itself. I attracted the life circumstances, health and family situations that I wanted - but still, once I really understood the mechanics behind the law of attraction, I wanted to test it out. I first did it a year ago with a specific car that I wanted and within a few months, I had that car (my process was mainly doing just a few minutes of intense visualization a day.) That was great but I decided I wanted to test it in a more controlled way. Now, as someone who had to create a rigorous, statistically sound scientific study for her Ph.D. dissertation, I can tell you that this was NOT that type of experiment. This was a personal experiment that I wanted to do to get my concrete "proof" that it worked because of my thoughts. For this purpose, I picked a material thing rather than something intangible (such as an event or life circumstance). This is what happened and...

Why it's not a good idea to get too specific in your intentions:
We needed new windows in our house - really needed them as in the old frames were rotting - so I asked my friend in the neighborhood who just got new windows how much they cost. She told me her windows cost $8000 dollars. So this is how I set up my experiment. I decided on a time frame (30 days) and exact amount of money ($8000 of course, since I didn't want to seem greedy). Before I began my experiment, I told 3 people my time frame and amount (one of which was my husband who was also looking forward to new windows). For 30 days, I set aside 5 minutes a day to visualize this $8000 and how great the new windows in the house would be. I didn't focus on how the money would come, because a) I had no idea and b) I figured the universe would be better able to come up with something than I would. My visualizing was intense - I imagined getting the check, the feel of the check in my hands, opening my new windows without them sticking to the frame, etc. I felt extremely confident for the first 3 weeks, knowing that I would soon have new windows.

Then, day 29 came and went without so much as an extra penny to my name. I started to think, hmmmm, maybe I didn't visualize enough or maybe the universe didn't like being given a time frame. My husband encouraged me not to give up.

Day 30: I go to the mailbox and there is an envelope from a distant relative on my husband's side of the family. I had met this relative once at a funeral over five years ago. Inside the envelope was a check for ....drum roll please... $8000 exactly (someone in his family had sold a farm and decided to distribute money among remaining relatives)! I could not have imagined that scenario in a hundred years so I'm glad I didn't try to figure out the "how" of it. My husband was shocked and amazed - and became a total believer. The other 2 people I told also began doing this and one of them just manifested their dream house. So why shouldn't you get as specific as I did in terms of time frame and amount of money?

This is why...
So, still excited by the check, I call the same window company my friend used and they come to the house to give me an estimate - an estimate way higher than my friend told me (in fact, over twice as much). My friend says to me, "Oh, well it was $8000 but we only got half the house done. We're doing the second floor next year." It also turned out that we had many more windows than she did which further increased the estimate. I found this all to be very comical. I had asked the universe for $8000 in 30 days, and I got exactly $8000, not in 12 or 22 days, but 30 exactly! If I had simply visualized the windows and not put a specific time frame or amount on it, it would have turned out differently. I think the key is to visualize the intended outcome. Leave out the "hows" and the "how longs" - the "how longs" is the hardest one for me as I'm impatient by nature but I'm working on it. I'm currently working on a professional goal but have left off the time frame this time - and yes, I've told the same 3 people my goal.

What to try this week?
Set aside 5 minutes a day where you simple close your eyes and visualize yourself already having what it is you desire (hint: decide beforehand what that thing is and stick to that thing for now). If you visualize multiple things on multiple days, the universe won't be sure what you really want. Then when you visualize that thing, focus on the feelings of happiness you have from having it (whether it be a great relationship, a rewarding job, a new car, etc.) If you don't feel unbelievably happy while doing this visualization and that you already feel you have that thing, then keep trying until you do. Most importantly, at the end of that 5 minutes, thank the universe for giving you your desire - gratitude is a powerful force. If you have a partner or friend you can share your goals with, then do it! It's fun to visualize or share your "progress" with someone supportive. If you want to share - you can also do that here and leave a comment. Until next time...

Sunday, May 3, 2009

More Thoughts on Intention

"Whether you think you can or you think you can't,

you're right."

-Henry Ford

There is so much that encompasses the power of intention, I felt another post was warranted. So this week's Spirituality & Science topic was inspired by a blog comment from last week. The young woman noted how she had kept a journal early in life, before having any understanding of the concept that your thoughts create the world around you. As an adult she looked back through her childhood journal and realized that the thoughts she wrote about as a child became her adult reality - sometimes in exact ways. This insightful blog post brings up an important point: you are using the power of intention every time you think, whether or not you are consciously aware of it. Every thought you have. Most people do not have conscious awareness of this process yet are still creating their world based on this principle.

Unconscious Use of Intention Versus Conscious Direction of Thought
On a personal level, I was using the power of intention well before I had read about it or understood what I was doing. I'll give an example of that in this post and then an example next week of consciously using it with an interesting result.

After my first child was born, I went back to working two jobs: a private practice in clinical psychology and a management position in a residential treatment facility (which was a demanding job where I was responsible for 23 high-risk adolescents and 14 staff). I soon realized I wanted more time with my son (soon as in the first week back), but had never seen a part-time job with benefits for a psychologist in my area. That very next weekend, there was an ad in the paper that was a half-time management job with benefits. Although there were other candidates with years more experience than me (one was my then supervisor), they felt I was the best fit and I got the job. That decreased my hours to about 30 a week combined with my private practice. I was much happier and things were going fine until...surprise!

When my daughter came along, I left on maternity leave for 3 months thinking I would go back to the same routine. However, something happened in those 3 months that I didn't expect. I had a newborn and an almost 3-year-old and was having the best time (aside from that whole sleep deprivation thing). My husband and I went over our finances but as he had also finished his Ph.D., our combined student loan payments were more than our mortgage and there was no way to pay everything on one salary. Now, I certainly had some thoughts that were phrased in a negative format - e.g. I don't want to go back to work, but most of my thoughts at that time were in line with what I did want (being home with the kids). Then one night on the last week of maternity leave, I remember laying there in bed mentally screaming at the universe that I wanted to be with my kids. As I'm not religious, I don't mean that it was a prayer or plea for someone to save me; it was a "shout- out" to the universe to help me have what I wanted. Before falling asleep, I had a very strange experience that I couldn't even begin to explain, but I suddenly knew for sure that I would get my wish and felt peaceful. Several years later, I firmly believe that the intensity of emotion I felt that night helped facilitate the response with more speed.

So, what happened?
The very next day, my husband came home from work and told me we needed to talk. I was instantly alarmed, because the last time he told me this, he had gotten a $120 speeding ticket on the way to work. He sat me down and told me not to be angry, but that several months back he had applied for a promotion at his work. He said he didn't tell me because he didn't want me to get my hopes up (or maybe his). Anyway, that afternoon they had contacted him and offered him the job. With the increase in pay, he said it was enough that I could be home with the kids. Sure, I could have wasted time being angry that he hadn't told me about applying for the job, but that's what it would have been - a waste of time. I was getting exactly what I had asked for 24 hours earlier! I gave leave at work, but decided to do four hours a week at my private practice to keep my foot in the door (and because it was something I loved to do).

And now?
Well, it's now 2 years later and I have an adorable, feisty 2-year-old daughter and a sweet, mellow 5-year-old boy who will start Kindergarten in the Fall. I can honestly say that being home with them has been the most amazing gift and the best years of my life. I still work 4-5 hours per week at my practice, and the rest of my time involves the park, playdates, and the zoo. I should mention here that I have friends who could afford to stay home but chose to stay working full-time, so everyone has different desires and dreams. But this was my dream and it came true - without my having any knowledge whatsoever about the power of thoughts. This was well before I read The Secret or The Power of Intention. It worked because I was thinking about what I wanted and what I wanted my life to look like. I express gratitude to the universe every single day for what I have (which is another post for another day).

Preview of coming attraction: Conscious Use of Intention
Next week I'll give several personal examples of using the power of thought after learning about it, with the results (one of which I found rather comical).

And you?
I'd love to hear your examples of how you have used the power of intention without consciously realizing you were doing so. It can either be material (house, job, car, etc.) or non-material (health problem resolved, finding the ideal relationship, etc.) In fact, you may not have realized your incredible power until just share your story. Until next time...

Monday, April 27, 2009

Thoughts and Intention

"Loving people live in a loving world.

Hostile people live in a hostile world.
Same world."
- Wayne Dyer

This spirituality and science topic will examine the concept of intention. The power of one's thoughts is examined in The Power of Intention by Wayne Dyer, as well as the The Secret by Rhonda Byrne. While I believe the movie version of The Secret focuses too heavily on material possessions, the book encompasses more non-material valuables such as health and relationships. Although this philosophy has gained popularity in recent years, it's not really a new concept that your thoughts can become things, as Wallace Wattles wrote The Science of Getting Rich in 1910.

What is intention?
An anticipated outcome that guides your planned actions. Basically, this means that if you intend a desired outcome, you are using intention. I think many times that we focus more on what we don't want rather than what we do want (e.g. I don't want debt, rather than, I want wealth.) And if an overdue mortgage payment is staring you in the face, well, it's really hard to not focus on that. However, I'm a huge believer in that whatever you focus on is what grows, so if you keep your focus on how many bills you have or how dysfunctional your relationships are, then that will continue growing. Try to spend part of everyday focusing on what you do want, and think positively about those things.

Time Frames or How Long Do I Have to Do This Before It Works?
The time/space continuum is not what we think it is, but that's a post for another day. Sure, you could say that you spent a good 15-minutes last night thinking super-positively that you wanted $5 million dollars to fall in your lap the next day. Then, when the next day goes by, you may be quite annoyed that you are still a cool 5 million short of your intention. What happened?

One of my favorite passages from the book The Secret asks you to take a good long look around you at your life. Go ahead and do it. Look at your job, your family, your house, your health, etc.
Your present life is merely a reflection of your past thoughts and beliefs. You have manifested your life based on what you think. If what you have around you is not what you want, start there. Change the way you think. No, it won't happen overnight and it might take some time, but I believe your life will always reflect the nature of your thoughts and you should see things around you getting better after awhile. Additionally, be sure to follow any actions you feel inspired to take as a result of these new thoughts.

How Do I Do It?
Start by deciding how you want your life to look and how you want to feel on a daily basis. Now, there are those that want to feel misery (although they would not likely be reading this blog), but most people want to feel happiness and joy. Spend just 5 minutes a day with your eyes closed, and imagine yourself feeling those feelings and seeing yourself living the life you want. It's more powerful if you can involve all the senses: notice the smells, sounds, etc. Soon, you'll find that you more easily catch yourself if you're having a negative thought and can turn it to a positive one.
One of my favorite ways to start my day and remind myself of the power of my thoughts, is to wake up and think about all the things I am grateful for. Starting each day on a positive note, (yes, even Mondays) helps keep me thinking positively throughout the day. I also found a wonderful website that sends me an email each morning, reminding me of just how wonderful we human beings are. It's Mike Dooley's Thoughts Become Things website at

If you only do one thing for the next few weeks, just spend a few minutes a day focusing on what you already have and are thankful for, and what you would like your life to be like and feel like. Until next time....

Sunday, April 12, 2009

The Science of Laughter

"Cheese...milk's leap toward immortality."
-Clifton Fadiman

Hello all - last week in Spirituality and Science, we looked more into the metaphysical topic of the mind/body connection. One of the ways listed in the post to help increase physical health through mental methods was through laughter. This week, we'll talk about how laughing actually causes a physical reaction that can improve your physical state.

If you recall the relation between chronic stress and a weakened immune system from the last post, you understand how the release of hormones in the body can affect you. How an emotional event (such as stress) can actually cause physical problems in the body over time. Luckily, the same is true for positive emotional states.

Think about the last time you really laughed. Really laughed until your stomach hurt afterward. You probably felt pretty good even after you stopped laughing. Why?

Just as anxiety releases stress hormones such as cortisol and epinephrine (adrenalin), laughter has been found to decrease these hormones. Even better, laughter actually releases brain chemicals or neurotransmitters called endorphins. Endorphins act upon the brain much the same way as opiates do. They cause a general feeling of well-being and act as natural pain-killers. I think of them as the body's own natural anti-depressant. Studies have also shown that while chronic stress can depress the body's immune system, laughter can increase a person's immune response. I saw a movie recently where a woman diagnosed with brain cancer decided to forgo conventional medical treatment (which I'm not condoning but it worked for her), and rented nothing but comedies for several months so that she could laugh all the time. Her cancer went into remission and at the time of filming the movie, it had not returned. It truly can have amazing effects on the body's ability to heal itself.

Guess how much it costs? Something this amazing is absolutely and completely free. You just need to set yourself up to laugh. Do you have any funny friends? If so, make a lunch date or invite them over for dinner. Do you have a favorite comedy sitcom or movie? Rent it, or better yet, buy it so that you can always have it on hand if you're feeling down. I have a movie that never fails to make me laugh at loud no matter how many times I watch it (I'd tell you the movie, but everyone has different tastes and mine is definitely on the goofy side). Also remember, it's when you least feel like laughing that it will probably do the most good. And if you can laugh at yourself, you're doing really well! So for this week, go find something that makes you chuckle. Discover what turns on your funny bone and feel that endorphin may just become a little healthier in the process!

Sunday, April 5, 2009

The Mind/Body Connection

"The physical world, including our bodies, is a response of the observer.
We create our bodies as we create the experience of our world."
- Deepak Chopra, M.D.

This Spirituality and Science post will continue the exploration of the mind/body connection that began with our Quantum Physics discussion last week.

So what exactly is the mind/body connection?
It simply means that our physical selves and mental/emotional selves are not independent of each other and impact each other in significant ways. An everyday example of this: stress or tension headaches.

Have you ever had a stressful day at work or home where everything seemed chaotic, or your co-workers and/or kids were driving you crazy, and you later came down with a throbbing headache. This is an example of a mental stressor causing an actual physical problem (unless your co-worker actually did strike you in the head, which is a whole different issue). A personal example that happened to me repeatedly while in college and graduate school was that I would pull several "all-nighters" during finals week each semester, and as soon as the last final was over, I would get sick...usually just a cold, but sick nonetheless. Why do these things happen?

When under stress, the body produces excess amounts of stress hormones, such as cortisol and epinephrine. The purpose of these hormones is to help you cope with a dangerous situation to help ensure your survival. So if a bear attacks you while hiking, your cortisol levels would understandably be quite high. The problem happens when you remain under chronic stress for a period of time.

The body isn't meant to sustain such high levels of stress hormones and eventually, your immune system will suffer. On a minor scale, a cold doesn't seem like the worst thing in the world but more and more research is supporting that many diseases are impacted by our stress level and emotional state of being, such as autoimmune disorders and yes, even cancer. The stresses involved in cancer may be physical stresses (such as carcinogens like cigarettes) but may also be non-physical or mental stressors. I can also tell you that out of the hundreds of clients I have seen in private practice, the ones who had significant depression and anxiety all had a host of physical problems as well. When their mental and emotional states stabilized, their physical symptoms also greatly improved. Whether one caused the other, or vice versa, was not so important to me as the clients understanding that they were deeply connected.

In his book, Quantum Healing, by Deepak Chopra, M.D. (my favorite book on the mind/body connection) he discusses a major study of 400 spontaneous remissions from cancer. The one thing that was found in common among all 400 patients was that every person had changed their attitude (becoming positive and hopeful even in the face of negative medical opinions) before the remission occured.

This can actually sound pretty scary at first and cause some defensiveness, like "You're saying I gave myself fibromyalgia?" but it's actually incredibly empowering. So many people with medical disorders feel a sense of helplessness and lack of control. They give most of their power away to the doctors treating them. There are amazing doctors and medical treatments out there, so I'm not saying to ignore conventional medicine, but I am asking you to also trust your own instincts. This applies to mental health disorders as well. I always made clear to the clients I treated that they were the experts about themselves, not me. I was just there to guide them. No one will ever know you better than you know yourself, no matter how many degrees they may have!

How can you make your attitude more positive and thus feel better physically?
1) Laughter is one great way. Find the friends, shows, and books that make you laugh and laugh every day!

2) Meditation is another way to get in touch with your inner self. Just breathe quietly and let go of stress for a few minutes a day. I know people who do it for several minutes a day at their desk and it makes a huge difference. Studies have shown that people who meditate are able to relax more quickly than most, and thus aren't producing as many stress hormones.

3) Focus on someone else. Volunteer to help someone less fortunate than you (there is always someone in worse shape than you are and sometimes it's helpful to realize this), find a cause you are passionate about and join a group that supports this, become a big brother/big sister, adopt a dog (studies have shown that petting animals lowers blood pressure and reduces stress!)

4) These are basics but all relate to lowering stress levels in the body: Get enough sleep, eat well, and exercise.

If you understand the magnificence of the human brain and can harness its energy, you will realize that the most powerful medicine in the universe is inside yourself. No pharmaceutical company can touch it.