Saturday, September 30, 2006

“Step Away from the Panic Button: Conquering Fear” by Tenzin

“All of us are born with a set of instinctive fears- of falling, of the dark, of lobsters, of falling on lobsters in the dark or speaking before the Rotary Club, and of the words “Some Assembly Required.”
- Dave Barry

Where all else fails to stop us from achieving what we want from life, fear steps in. We experience fear on both conscious and unconscious levels, and it is one of the most limiting emotions we possess. In some cases fear is justified, and even healthy.

For example, a person contemplating crossing a busy street will harbor a healthy fear of being struck by two tons of rapidly moving steel commonly known as a motor vehicle (at least, if he or she is a reasonably sane person who understands the basic laws of physics: moving car + walking person = splat).

This fear breeds caution, which causes the person to look both ways for oncoming traffic and wait for an appropriate time to venture across the road.
However, unjustified fear- which can be just as crippling and realistic as justified fear- is more often the case when fear is a factor. Not many people risk their lives on a regular basis. Humiliation, rejection, and failure top the list* of limiting fears that can be overcome with practice and determination.

Actually, spiders top the list of fears for most people. Arachnophobia- fear of spiders- is the most common type of fear in the world. However, fear of spiders is completely justifiable, as spiders are creepy eight-legged insects with fangs, alien eyes, and a tendency to drop on you out of nowhere.

One of the easiest and most successful methods of dealing with fear is exposure therapy, which is actually facing your fears one small step at a time.

If you don’t feel you can handle exposure therapy alone, enlist a friend to participate- especially if you can find a friend who doesn’t fear the same things you do.

With exposure therapy, the objective is to experience fear to a small degree several times, so that each time it becomes easier to conquer. (Please note that exposure therapy does not apply to every situation. For example, if you are afraid of flying, it is not recommended that you leap from successively higher perches and attempt to become airborne.)
The next time, I’m going to reveal to you some of the ways you can implement exposure therapy for the Big Three fears!
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Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Getting Back on the Horse by Tenzin

“If you have made mistakes, even serious ones, there is always another chance for you. What we call failure is not the falling down, but the staying down.”
- Mary Pickford

Beyond childhood, you may have experienced setbacks or letdowns for which you clearly recall the reasoning.

Often we are so opposed to change that the slightest sign a new way of doing things isn’t working out becomes the signal to stop trying. We are creatures of habit, and breaking the mold we’ve created for ourselves is a challenge few feel they have the time or the energy to face.

Fortunately, we can chip away at that mold until the cracks become wide enough to break free.

According to most psychologists, it takes 21 days to break a habit. The actions and reactions you develop in response to letdowns are nothing more than habits that you can rid yourself of with practice.

Your own thinking may be “fencing you in”!

Ready for another exercise?

Make a list of all the things you’ve tried and stopped doing before completing (remember, you haven’t failed at them- you have simply made a temporary pit stop on the path to success).

This list might include diets, resolutions, exercise habits, quitting smoking, or even self-help programs like this one. Leave yourself some space after each item.

When you get to the end of the list, go back and fill in those habits you have developed as a consequence of waiting to follow through. For example, if you listed “The Atkins Diet,” your habit might be “overindulging on pasta because I didn’t eat any for six months.”

Some of your habits may be simple to change; others may require deviation from your intended course. In the pasta example, you might realize you can still eat pasta, just not as often as you have been while making up for the loss.

Come up with an alternative for each habit that you can live with, so you don’t short yourself before you get started. You might decide to have pasta twice a week instead of every other night.

Now that you have a guide, you can start implementing successful changes one step at a time.

Choose one or two habits you’d like to change, and be sure to implement the changes daily for 21 days in a row. It’s helpful to keep a journal or a chart to remind yourself what you’re working on and why.

You can also treat yourself to a reward after the successful completion of each habit-breaking cycle. How about a nice, big plate of spaghetti? Go ahead; you’ve earned it!
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Exercise: Connect-the-influences by Tenzin

1. Starting with your parents, list the names of every person you can recall that you associated with during childhood in a single column down the left-hand side of a sheet of paper. If you don’t know the name of a person, use a brief description such as “the lady at the end of the street with the loud little dog.” Include family, friends, teachers, caregivers, neighbors, and anyone else you remember. If you run out of room, tape another piece of paper to the bottom of the first one and keep going down the left-hand side.

2. On the right-hand side of the paper, list all the habits and traits you possess, both good and bad. If you’re feeling brave, ask a friend to help you come up with some of the traits you possess that you might not be aware of. You don’t even have to show anyone your list; you can call them up and tell them you’re getting a head start on your New Year’s resolutions.

3. Now comes the fun part. Try to match each habit or trait with one of the people from the left-hand column, and draw a line to connect them. You may find that some people have several connecting lines, while others have none. Pay close attention to the people who seem to have appeared on your list for no particular reason. If you remember them clearly, they probably influenced your life in some small way.

This exercise is not meant to lay blame on the people in your past for ruining your life.

Rather, it is to illustrate that many of your flaws and negative qualities are a result of things you learned as an impressionable child, and therefore can be let go of without guilt.

Children see things through a different lens than adults do, and what we learn at an early age can often end up coloring everything we do as grownups. Fortunately, we can learn to let go of those negative tendencies once we view them with the wisdom and rationality we have developed along the way.

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Saturday, September 23, 2006

The Dark Ages: Childhood Programming and Past Letdowns By Tenzin

“Upon our children, how they are taught, rests the fate- or fortune- of tomorrow’s world.”
- B. C. Forbes

The things we learn in childhood aren’t easy to forget- mostly because we don’t actively remember them. It is far harder to dislodge subconscious thought. When we are unaware not only of why we embrace or avoid certain things, but also unaware of the fact that we are embracing or avoiding them, pinpointing the roots of our actions is a difficult process.

Childhood lessons don’t always come from our parents, and often not even the messages we received from them were intentionally placed there.

For example, if you parents raised you to be helpful, courteous, polite, and giving, you may have learned those lessons so well that the very idea of doing something for yourself makes you cringe- and you may not know why.

On the other hand, if your parents gave you everything you wanted without you ever asking for it or lifting a finger, you may project those same expectations on everyone around you- again, with no idea why you’re doing it, or even that you are doing it at all.

Many times, outwardly selfish people are shocked to discover that others perceive them as selfish. They may even believe themselves the kindest, most benevolent people they know.

Another factor you may not consider when trying to access your childhood programming is the outside influences that affected your formation.

Teachers, daycare workers or babysitters, school friends, even random adults in the grocery store may have had an impact on your behaviors and beliefs, whether consciously or unconsciously.

Though it may be impossible to determine all of your childhood influences, you can give yourself a general idea of past events and personalities that shaped your current beliefs and take steps to change them.

I’ll provide you with a brief exercise to help you get started thinking about your triggers and habits.

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Me-ology: The Self-Esteem Dipstick By Tenzin

To rate your self-esteem, choose the answer that most closely reflects your likely reaction to the following situations:

1. You know you’re good at creating databases. Your boss asks you and several co-workers for a volunteer to organize a new client information database, and another volunteer to write a company newsletter- which you have no idea how to do. You:

A. Volunteer for both, because you’re so brilliant you’ll be able to figure it out - even at the expense of embarrassing the company the first few times you write a terrible newsletter.
B. Volunteer for the database- and when Fred Jones also volunteers, gently point out that you’ve had more experience, but would be happy to teach him what you know as you go along.
C. Remain silent. Someone else is surely better at it than you, and the boss would never pick you anyway.

2. You’re out with friends and you’ve just passed gas noisily in the middle of a restaurant, so you:

A. Immediately blame a passing waiter or someone else at your table. You are completely serious in your accusations, and there’s no way anyone will be able to pin it on you. If they even think about it, you’ll let them have it.
B. Crack a joke about that four-bean salad you had for lunch.
C. Attempt to crawl under the table, then excuse yourself and head to the bathroom. You can’t face any of them for the rest of the night, and you consider paying the entire check right now and leaving before they notice you’re gone- if they notice you’re gone.

3. When you watch Jeopardy or play Trivial Pursuit, you:

A. Laugh at the other players when they get the answers wrong. You know them all, and if you ever went on Jeopardy you’d clean them out.
B. Have a blast. You know some of the answers and try to guess at the rest. You love to learn new things.
C. Don’t watch Jeopardy or play Trivial Pursuit. You’re not smart enough for stuff like that.

4. You’ve decided to go after that promotion at work. You:

A. Make a bunch of other people look bad so there’s no way you’ll be passed up.
B. Let your boss know you’re interested in the promotion, and then put in some extra effort to prove you’re good for the position.
C. Decide on the drive to work that you’re not going to go for it after all. You won’t get it no matter what you do, so there’s no point in trying.

5. When making a tough decision, you:

A. Choose the option that sounds best for you at the moment, and then stick to your decision no matter what, even if it turns out to be the wrong one.
B. Weigh your options and think about the advantages and disadvantages of each one before deciding on your final choice, but remain open to change if it turns out there is a better way.
C. Decisions? You can’t make decisions. You always pick the wrong thing and wind up making everyone miserable. You’ll get someone else to decide.

6. You’re faced with an entire evening alone. You:

A. Gloat, because you don’t have to spend time in the company of those miserable cretins who think they’re your friends, but can’t hold a candle to your brilliant and sparkling personality. You know they’re all sitting around wishing they could hang with you, anyway.
B. Take the time to do something you enjoy, like take a long bath, read a good book, or fix yourself your favorite dinner. It’s nice to relax once in a while and be alone with your thoughts.
C. Resign yourself to being miserable all night. You might as well go to bed early and hope someone’s around tomorrow.

7. When performing a task that requires your full concentration, you:

A. Don’t. Whatever it is you’re doing, you could do it in your sleep. You don’t have to bother concentrating on things.
B. Are able to tune out most distractions and complete the task to the best of your ability. You are determined to put your best foot forward.
C. Can’t. You’re too nervous about screwing things up to concentrate, so you tend to work on projects in short bursts and often end up finishing things late because you’re so distracted.

8. A friend introduces you to someone new. You:

A. Prove that you’re a better person by saying something witty or clever that lets them know your friend is paying attention to you right now, not them. If the new person is worth knowing, they’ll make the effort to get to know you.
B. Greet him or her warmly, introduce yourself and ask an open-ended question such as “What do you do for a living?” or “Where do you live?” You’re prepared to actually listen to the answer and will reserve judgment until you get to know the person better.
C. Mumble “hello,” and then slink off in search of a friend who’s not talking to someone you don’t know. Whoever the new person is, they wouldn’t want to get to know you anyway.

9. You walk in to your house and you’re greeted by an awful stench: the refrigerator is unplugged, and everything in it is spoiled. You:

A. Immediately assume someone was screwing around with it and launch an investigation to find the culprit.
B. First plug it back in to find out if it still works, and then try to figure out what happened. If someone else was responsible for unplugging it, they can help you clean it out. In any case, you’ll do what’s necessary to correct the problem.
C. Decide you must have done something wrong, and now it’s coming back to haunt you. You grumble under your breath as you clean out the refrigerator and wonder why things like this always have to happen to you.

10. Your supervisor calls you into the office to compliment you on the tremendous job you’re doing on your new project. You:

A. Thank him outwardly, all the while thinking it’s about time he noticed how great you are. Maybe now you’ll get the respect you deserve.
B. Are sincerely flattered, and tell him so. You also ask if there is anything you could be doing better.
C. Insist that you’re not really doing all that well, and try to hurry him along so you can escape. You don’t deserve praise.

11. You have to talk to your boss about a recent event that is affecting the way you and your co-workers perform your job. You:

A. Act as though you and your boss are best buddies, and demand that she do something to fix the problem. After all, you could be running the show just as easily as her, and you’d probably do a better job.
B. Approach the matter professionally and with confidence that a solution can be found. You offer any suggestions you might have to correct the problem, and ask if she has any ideas about what should be done.
C. Would never presume to talk to your boss. There’s a reason she is the boss and you’re not. You might send her an anonymous e-mail or ask one of your co-workers to talk to her.

12. This weekend you have a hundred little projects at home that have to be tackled, and you’re feeling a bit overwhelmed. You:

A. Attack several things at once, starting with the easiest ones. You might not manage to finish any of them, but you can always insist that someone else pitch in, because you have more important things to do.
B. Decide which projects need to be completed first and take them on one at a time. By taking things step by step, you will finish what needs to be done. If anyone else is available at home, you’ll ask them to help out.
C. Bemoan the unfortunate twist of fate that ruined your weekend. There’s no way you’ll ever be able to finish everything. You don’t ask anyone else for help because they have better things to do than perform favors for you, and you wouldn’t want to be a bother.

13. The opportunity arises for you to pursue your dream job, but it would mean leaving your current, stable position right away. You:

A. Drop everything and go for it. Who needs a safety net?
B. Weigh your options, and plan out what you’ll do if the new opportunity falls through. If you have a spouse, you discuss the decision with them and create a backup plan. If it’s possible, you’ll find a way to make it work.
C. Stay right where you are. Why risk disappointment? You just know it won’t work out.

14. You have five minutes to get to an appointment, and you’re stuck in a seemingly endless traffic jam at a dead stop. You:

A. Curse, fume, and honk your horn repeatedly. Don’t these people realize you’re in a hurry?
B. Are frustrated, but you know there isn’t much you can do change the situation. If you have a cell phone, you call to let them know you’re going to be a little late. You use the unexpected time to relax and listen to your favorite radio station, or just to think.
C. Want to die. Things like this always seem to happen to you. It just isn’t fair. You’re so worried about being late you’re feeling sick, and there’s no way you’ll be able to relax until you’re out of this mess.

15. A co-worker reviews one of your projects and tells you a few things that aren’t pleasant, but they are valid points. You:

A. Thank him through clenched teeth, but insist that you know what you’re doing. He has a lot of nerve criticizing your work, and his opinions don’t really matter anyway.
B. Are grateful for the opportunity to improve your work. You thank him for his insight and go back over the project with his suggestions in mind before turning it in.
C. Give up. You can’t do anything right. Maybe your co-worker should have been in charge of this project instead of you. You’ll just turn it in and hope you don’t get fired for incompetence.

Gloomy Gus?

Results: Tally up all your A, B, and C answers to find out where you rate on the self-esteem dipstick:
Mostly A:

Put Down That Mirror, Narcissus. Your tank overfloweth. You may not be aware of it, but you have far more confidence than you need. While confidence is a good trait to possess, too much of it can make you appear arrogant, rude or unapproachable. Try to take more notice of others’ feelings, and you’ll get much further.

Or tenacious flower?

Mostly B:

Join the Circus, You Have Perfect Balance. You have a healthy level of self-esteem tempered with empathy and concern for others. You’re probably the life of the party or the person everyone comes to for help, and you’re glad to give it when you can- but you know when you need time for yourself.

Mostly C:

If You Dig Any Deeper You’ll End Up in China. You’re a few quarts low, and you could use a self-esteem top-off. You may think you can’t do anything right, but with a little confidence and some positive thinking, you’ll find you are worth far more than you believe. If you answered C to everything, it’s time for a complete system flush and refill.
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Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Self-Esteem: Catching the I-Love-Me Disease By Tenzin

For most of human existence, self-esteem was an unheard-of notion akin to the theories of those heretics who believed the world was round. The term “self-esteem” - defined by Webster’s Dictionary as “pride in oneself; self-respect” - made its way into the common public awareness during the ‘60s and ‘70s as a catch-all term to describe the essence of parenting problems.

The “old ways” of parenting were pronounced barbaric and damaging to the budding self-esteem of our youth, and many parents fearful of raising unhappy, ill-adjusted children took advice that led to a generation of children with high high it eclipsed personal responsibility and created a “me-first” mentality.

On the other hand, most of us are taught that thinking highly of ourselves is a vain, selfish and undesirable trait. Advice telling us to feel better about ourselves and occasionally put us first seems counterintuitive at best.

After all, isn’t self-love the first step on the road to Ego Central? Many people want to feel good about themselves, but guilt too often rears its ugly head and stops healthy self-esteem from developing.

Because of these conflicting viewpoints, self-esteem is a tricky little emotion to manipulate. It’s important to strike a balance between modesty and greed. It takes practice to convince yourself that you are a worthwhile and deserving person, while at the same time keeping in mind that you’re not the center of the universe.

Though it may sound impossible, it’s actually simple to accomplish.

Where do you rate on the self-esteem-o-meter? The following quiz will help you gauge your feelings and identify areas that need improvement.

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Planting your seed: Whether you think you can or whether you think you can’t, you are right! By Tenzin

“In every phenomenon the beginning remains always the most notable moment.”
- Thomas Carlyle

To tune in to the power of positive thinking, you should probably start small- particularly if you don’t believe it will work. It’s one thing to tell yourself,

“Tomorrow, when I wake up in the morning I won’t hit snooze a dozen times and feel drowsy for the rest of the day,” and quite another to tell yourself,

“Tomorrow, when I wake up in the morning I’ll be living independently wealthy and living in a mansion.” (Unless, of course, you are in fact independently wealthy and living in a mansion at the moment; in which case you might try to think your way into ownership of a small country.)

The process of making positive thinking work for you begins with destruction, or at least a mild shift in your thought structure. In order to make room for new methods and ideas, you must first tear out all the old negativity patterns you’ve been building throughout your life.

For some, this can be a gradual process: as you witness positive thinking work for you, one small step at a time, you will slowly clear out those good-things-only-happen-to-other-people thoughts, and be able to cultivate the seeds of change.

Roots: What’s In Your Garden Now?

“The greatest revolution of our generation is the discovery that human beings, by changing the inner attitudes of their minds, can change the outer aspects of their lives.”
- William James

What’s holding you back?

Even those who fully embrace the theory of positive thinking may feel some qualms over entrusting their lives to mere thought.

There are many possibilities that could be producing weeds in your mental garden, and the best way to get rid of a weed is to yank it out, roots and all.

We’ll discuss some of the most common stumbling blocks people encounter on the road to positive thinking, as well as how to overcome them and lay the foundation for a healthy life outlook.

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Saturday, September 16, 2006

Positive Thinking is a Bunch of Crap – and Crap Makes Great Fertilizer by Tenzin

In the following weeks to come, I will be sharing with you on some of my materials which I’ve written into a book. It’s quite thick; but I’ll share with you every articles and tips within this little gem with you anyway!

The posts and letter from now onwards is going to run in continuity, so be sure to check back often for the newest updates, tips and discussion!

At some point in your life, you’ve probably heard about the power of positive thinking.

Basically, this is a theory that contends if you believe good things will happen to you, there will be some sort of cataclysmic shift in the energies surrounding you which will actually cause good things to happen to you.

For as many people who believe in the power of positive thinking, there are many more who believe it’s all a bunch of New Age pop psychology drivel or sugar-coated Peter Pan platitudes.

Here’s the kicker: they’re all right.

You see, positive thinking is a system of beliefs. So if you believe it doesn’t work- then, of course, it won’t work. And if you believe it does work...well, you get the idea.

For non-believers, using positive thinking is like trying to get a job after high school. You need experience to get a job, but you need a job to get the experience. It can be difficult to know where you’re supposed to start. But just like any other process, the key to making positive thinking work for you is to start small.

Plant seeds, if you will, and then learn how to tend and cultivate those seeds until you have a mental garden that bears a phenomenal crop, year after year. Anything is possible with positive thinking...even if you do believe it’s all a bunch of crap.

Norman Vincent Peale, the father of positive thinking, once said: “If you have zest and enthusiasm you attract zest and enthusiasm. Life does give back in kind.” This is the essence of positive thinking. It’s not so much a theory as it is a contagious disease.

Just as anger and negativity spread quickly from person to person, so do humor and happiness- only good feelings spread far faster. Think about it: have you ever noticed that the quickest way to ease a tense situation is to make a joke? The instant someone laughs or smiles, a sense of relief spreads through everyone in the vicinity.

Even if the angered parties don’t feel better, they are at least able to discuss the problem in a detached and objective way, and get on with their lives instead of dwelling on negativity. For that same reason, solo drivers who get cut off in traffic tend to remain angry for at least the rest of the drive- because there is no one else near them to send out good vibrations and break the tension. Makes sense, doesn’t it?

If you’ve picked up this material and read this far, the seeds of belief are already there. Your next step is to clear your mind’s garden of doubt and get ready to plant. You’ll learn how to take all that negativity and mulch it down into fertilizer that will let your possibilities grow.

A positive attitude may not solve all your problems, but it will annoy enough people to make it worth the effort.”
Herm Albright

Now grab your shovel, and let’s head in to the garden.

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Thursday, September 14, 2006

To Go or Not to Go Herbal, that is the Question…

Many people nowadays are turning to “organics” and “naturals” otherwise known as herbals. The rising popularity of herbal supplements has created a new fad if not a new health lifestyle. But before you join the bandwagon, here are some things you need to know about this mean, “green” dietary supplementing machine.

What is the difference between a drug and a dietary supplement?

According to the definition set by food and drug administrations in different countries, drugs are chemicals that can prevent, prolong the life, treat other effects of a health condition, improve the quality of life, and/or cure ailments and diseases, or alter the function of any part or chemicals inside the body. These drugs have approved therapeutic claims. For example, paracetamol is a drug given to bring down the body temperature in fever. Ascorbic acid is indicated for the treatment of scurvy. Iron supplements are given to treat mild cases of anemia.

Herbal supplements are not classified as drugs but as dietary supplements. The main difference is that they do not have approved therapeutic claims unlike in the case of drugs. Moreover, dietary supplements could either contain vitamins, minerals, herbals, or amino acids, all aimed to add to or supplement the diet of an individual. They are not intended to be taken alone as a substitute to any food or medicine.

Most of the manufactured medicines we now have once came from animals and plants. Through the years, chemists isolated the life-saving or life-curing components and separated them from the harmful ones. This lead to the further drug research and drug development that lead to the production of a different variety of drugs for many ailments and conditions from synthetic sources. But still we have semi-synthetic drugs, as well as drug that more or less approximate more natural composition. Since herbal supplements are made from a mixture of crude herbs reduced into powder or gel form, and later on packaged as tablets and capsules, there is a possibility that life-threatening or at least body chemistry-altering components are still present, thus the expression of concern from the medical community.

Is there a growing concern with the use of herbal supplements?

Yes. With the rising popularity of using and consuming anything herbal or organic is the proliferation of fake herbal supplements that threaten to endanger lives. If that’s the case, then why are herbal supplements given drug administration approvals? One way of ensuring the safety of the people is to have all candidate drugs, food, drinks, and dietary supplements registered with the proper authority. Otherwise, they would pose more risk with these things being sold in the black market for a hefty sum. We could ensure the quality and safety of herbal supplements if they get proper classification with the food and drug administration. Moreover, people may be able to file the proper complaints in the event a worsening of health condition is proven to be linked to the use of a particular herbal supplement.

Is using herbal supplements worth the risk?

Yes. It cannot be discounted that many who have tried herbal supplements experienced an improvement in their health—whether this is due to the herbals themselves or due to a placebo effect, as long as they do not worsen the condition of an individual, then using them is worth the risk. But of course, certain things must be considered before taking those herbal supplements:

Your doctor knows best.

First of all, clear your condition with your doctor. Ask him/her if taking a particular herbal supplement is safe given your health condition. People with heart, liver, or kidney trouble or malfunction, are usually not advised to take these, or at the minimum is to take these herbals in minimum amounts. All substances pass through the liver and kidney to be processed and filtered respectively. Kava, which is used to relieve people from stress, has been pulled out from the Canadian, Singaporean, and German markets because it contains substances that cause liver damage. Certain herbals such as Ephedra used for losing weight, contains chemicals with heart-inducing effects that can increase heart rate, which in turn can exhaust the heart and cause heart attacks in several documented cases by the American Medical Association.

Follow the directions for use.

Never take more herbal supplements than what is directed by the doctor or as instructed on the bottle. Each individual reacts differently to the components of herbal supplements. While it is perfectly safe for one individual to take in a supplement of primrose oil capsules, another person may be allergic to it. So, do not even think about downing one bottle of

It has no approved curative effect.

No matter how the product pamphlet or the label of the bottle sounds about how it has been found to be helpful in certain health conditions, these herbal supplements are not therapeutic. So do not substitute these for the medications prescribed by your doctor for the treatment of certain diseases, or for the maintenance of blood pressure, lowering of blood sugar and cholesterol, and fight off infections.

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Does a Law on Human Attraction Exist?

“Opposites attract” is a law of attraction, at least where electromagnetism is concerned. But are there laws about attraction between two people? “In a world that is full of strangers” as a line in a famous song of the 1980’s goes, is there a clear set of rules that allows two people to fall for each other?

Is attraction a matter of chemistry?

Maybe. According to scientists, the attraction between animals of the opposite sex is all about chemicals called pheromones. The effect of pheromones in behavior of insects is the most studied to date. It has been observed, at least in some experiments, that pheromones are responsible for communication among same species and colony of ants. The horrible odor released by skunks to ward off enemies is said to be a kind of pheromone. Some species of apes rub pheromone-containing urine on the feet of potential mates to attract them. Some scientists believe that animals (usually the females) such as insects and mammals send out these chemical signals to tell the male of their species that their genes are different from theirs. This gene diversity is important in producing offspring with better chances of survival. The perfume industry has capitalized on pheromones as a means to increase one’s sexual attractiveness to the opposite sex. Animals such as the whale and the musk deer were hunted down for these chemicals.

Lately, scientists are looking into the existence of human pheromones and its role in mate selection. There are many conflicting views in the realm of biology, chemistry, genetics, and psychology. Most scientists would assert that these do not exist, or if they do, do not play a role in sexual attraction between a man and a woman. But new researches such as that conducted by Swiss researchers from the University of Bern led by Klaus Wedekind are slowly making these scientists rethink their stand. Their experiment involved women sniffing the cotton shirts of different men during their ovulation period. It was found out that women prefer the smell of men’s shirts that were genetically different, but also shared similarities with the women’s genes. This, like in the case of insects and other mammals, was to ensure better and healthier characteristics for their future children. But researchers also cautioned that preference for a male odor is affected by the women’s ovulation period, the food that men eat, perfumes and other scented body products, and the use of contraceptive pills.

Does personality figure in sexual attraction?

Yes, but so does your perception of a potential mate’s personality. According to a research conducted by Klohnen, E.C., & S. Luo in 2003 on interpersonal attraction and personality, a person’s sense of self-security and at least the person’s perception of his/her partner were found to be strong determinants of attraction in hypothetical situations. What does this tell us? We prefer a certain personality type, which attracts you to a person. But aside from the actual personality of the person, which can only be verified through close interaction through time, it is your perception of your potential partner that attracts you to him/her, whether the person of your affection truly has that kind of personality or not. This could probably account for a statement commonly heard from men and women on their failed relationships: “I thought he/she was this kind of person.”

So how does attraction figure in relationships?

You have probably heard that attraction is a prelude, or a factor towards a relationship. Most probably, at least in the beginning; but attraction alone cannot make a relationship work. It is that attraction that makes you notice a person from the opposite sex, but once you get to know the person more, attraction is just one consideration. Shared values, dreams, and passions become more significant in long-term relationships.

So should I stop trying to become attractive?

More than trying to become physically attractive, work on all aspects of your health: physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual. Physical attraction is still a precursor. Remember, biology predisposes us to choose the partner with the healthiest genes. Where your emotions are concerned, just ask this to yourself: would you want to spend time with a person who feels insecure about him/herself? Probably not! There is wisdom in knowing yourself: who you are, your beliefs, values, and dreams. And do not pretend to be someone you are not. Fooling another person by making him/her think that you share the same values and beliefs is only going to cause you both disappointments. When you are healthy in all aspects, attractiveness becomes a consequence and not an end. As mentioned in the Klohnen and Luo’s research, a person’s sense of self-security matters, perhaps even beyond attraction. But remember: do these things for yourself and not for other people. Only then can you truly harness your attractiveness as a person.

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Monday, September 11, 2006

Spiritual Growth: the Spiritual Challenge of Modern Times

To grow spiritually in a world defined by power, money, and influence is a Herculean task. Modern conveniences such as electronic equipments, gadgets, and tools as well as entertainment through television, magazines, and the web have predisposed us to confine our attention mostly to physical needs and wants. As a result, our concepts of self-worth and self-meaning are muddled. How can we strike a balance between the material and spiritual aspects of our lives?

To grow spiritually is to look inward.

Introspection goes beyond recalling the things that happened in a day, week, or month. You need to look closely and reflect on your thoughts, feelings, beliefs, and motivations. Periodically examining your experiences, the decisions you make, the relationships you have, and the things you engage in provide useful insights on your life goals, on the good traits you must sustain and the bad traits you have to discard. Moreover, it gives you clues on how to act, react, and conduct yourself in the midst of any situation. Like any skill, introspection can be learned; all it takes is the courage and willingness to seek the truths that lie within you. Here are some pointers when you introspect: be objective, be forgiving of yourself, and focus on your areas for improvement.

To grow spiritually is to develop your potentials.

Religion and science have differing views on matters of the human spirit. Religion views people as spiritual beings temporarily living on Earth, while science views the spirit as just one dimension of an individual. Mastery of the self is a recurring theme in both Christian (Western) and Islamic (Eastern) teachings. The needs of the body are recognized but placed under the needs of the spirit. Beliefs, values, morality, rules, experiences, and good works provide the blueprint to ensure the growth of the spiritual being. In Psychology, realizing one’s full potential is to self-actualize. Maslow identified several human needs: physiological, security, belongingness, esteem, cognitive, aesthetic, self-actualization, and self-transcendence. James earlier categorized these needs into three: material, emotional, and spiritual. When you have satisfied the basic physiological and emotional needs, spiritual or existential needs come next. Achieving each need leads to the total development of the individual. Perhaps the difference between these two religions and psychology is the end of self-development: Christianity and Islam see that self-development is a means toward serving God, while psychology view that self-development is an end by itself.

To grow spiritually is to search for meaning.

Religions that believe in the existence of God such as Christianism, Judaism, and Islam suppose that the purpose of the human life is to serve the Creator of all things. Several theories in psychology propose that we ultimately give meaning to our lives. Whether we believe that life’s meaning is pre-determined or self-directed, to grow in spirit is to realize that we do not merely exist. We do not know the meaning of our lives at birth; but we gain knowledge and wisdom from our interactions with people and from our actions and reactions to the situations we are in. As we discover this meaning, there are certain beliefs and values that we reject and affirm. Our lives have purpose. This purpose puts all our physical, emotional, and intellectual potentials into use; sustains us during trying times; and gives us something to look forward to---a goal to achieve, a destination to reach. A person without purpose or meaning is like a drifting ship at sea.

To grow spiritually is to recognize interconnections.

Religions stress the concept of our relatedness to all creation, live and inanimate. Thus we call other people “brothers and sisters” even if there are no direct blood relations. Moreover, deity-centered religions such as Christianity and Islam speak of the relationship between humans and a higher being. On the other hand, science expounds on our link to other living things through the evolution theory. This relatedness is clearly seen in the concept of ecology, the interaction between living and non-living things. In psychology, connectedness is a characteristic of self-transcendence, the highest human need according to Maslow. Recognizing your connection to all things makes you more humble and respectful of people, animals, plants, and things in nature. It makes you appreciate everything around you. It moves you to go beyond your comfort zone and reach out to other people, and become stewards of all other things around you.

Growth is a process thus to grow in spirit is a day-to-day encounter. We win some, we lose some, but the important thing is that we learn, and from this knowledge, further spiritual growth is made possible.

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Explore Your Memories – Learn From the Past

The person you are today, your morals and your self-concept, depends on the events you have experienced. It is not difficult to find links between a past happening and a present thought or feeling, no matter how distant it might feel. The source of present feelings can be discovered by returning to certain memories, and this practice will show you how. You will be able to reinterpret yourself by learning to accept and understand you actions instead of judging them.

Find a comfortable position in a chair. Have something to write on and a pen ready beside you. Relax your self and breathe slowly through your nose. When you have entered a state of higher self-awareness, return in time and remember an unpleasant memory that has marked your whole life. It doesn’t have to be dramatic – in childhood, for example, even an insignificant item may have a significant impact on your personality. Perhaps, as a child, you broke a valuable vase that your mother loved. She may have told you, “You can’t do anything right!” Of course, her reaction was simply anger-based and likely disappeared shortly, but you, as a child, may have been deeply affected by it.

When you have selected a memory, briefly write it down and conclude with a phrase that summarizes it (e.g. “You can’t do anything right!”). Be sure that your breathing remains rhythmical and relaxed, and then think about at least three things that you can learn from that experience. Do not get stuck on the final phrase, but try to see your action objectively. The goal is to identify the things that you could have improved. Don’t rashly dismiss your experience by saying “it was a child’s mistake.” The key is to discover how a mistake can teach you to improve, instead of decreasing your self-esteem.

When you come up with positive remarks about the experience, write them down. Don’t force yourself to come up with the ideas. Instead, let it all flow naturally. When you’re done writing, read the statements a few times and memorize their essence. Put the paper aside and focus on your breathing. Take couple of minutes to focus only on breathing, and then remember the positive ideas you wrote on the paper. For example, in the case of the broken vase, you might write: “I must concentrate more on my actions.” Repeat that thought to your self, and make sure it fully represents you. Do the same with the other positive ideas you had. Believing them and repeating their essence lets you assimilate them into yourself.

This exercise is especially useful if you know that you may be about to have an experience similar to the one you remembered. You might not be about to break another vase, but you might be in a situation where something a friend loves will be your responsibility. If you feel anxious about that situation, make sure you remember the positive parts of your exercise. Repeat them to yourself before the event, and your self-confidence will get a well-deserved boost, letting you do your job free of any negative connotations.

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Thursday, September 07, 2006

More than One Way to Skin a Cat: Adventures in Creative Thinking

How many times have you caught yourself saying that there could be no other solution to a problem – and that that problem leads to a dead end? How many times have you felt stumped knowing that the problem laying before you is one you cannot solve. No leads. No options. No solutions.

Did it feel like you had exhausted all possible options and yet are still before the mountain – large, unconquerable, and impregnable? When encountering such enormous problems, you may feel like you're hammering against a steel mountain. The pressure of having to solve such a problem may be overwhelming.

But rejoice! There might be some hope yet!

With some creative problem-solving techniques you may be able to look at your problem in a different light. And that light might just be the end of the tunnel that leads to possible solutions.

First of all, in the light of creative problem-solving, you must be open-minded to the fact that there may be more than just one solution to the problem. And, you must be open to the fact that there may be solutions to problems you thought were unsolvable.

Now, with this optimistic mindset, we can try to be a little bit more creative in solving our problems.

Number one; maybe the reason we cannot solve our problems is that we have not really taken a hard look at what the problem is. Here, trying to understanding the problem and having a concrete understanding of its workings is integral solving the problem. If you know how it works, what the problem is, then you have a better foundation towards solving the problem.

Not trying to make the simple statement of what problem is. Try to identify the participating entities and what their relationships with one another are. Take note of the things you stand to gain any stand to lose from the current problem. Now you have a simple statement of what the problem is.

Number two; try to take note of all of the constraints and assumptions you have the words of problem. Sometimes it is these assumptions that obstruct our view of possible solutions. You have to identify which assumptions are valid, in which assumptions need to be addressed.

Number three; try to solve the problem by parts. Solve it going from general view towards the more detailed parts of the problem. This is called the top-down approach. Write down the question, and then come up with a one-sentence solution to that from them. The solution should be a general statement of what will solve the problem. From here you can develop the solution further, and increase its complexity little by little.

Number four; although it helps to have critical thinking aboard as you solve a problem, you must also keep a creative, analytical voice at the back of your head. When someone comes up with a prospective solution, tried to think how you could make that solution work. Try to be creative. At the same time, look for chinks in the armor of that solution.

Number five; it pays to remember that there may be more than just one solution being developed at one time. Try to keep track of all the solutions and their developments. Remember, there may be more than just one solution to the problem.

Number six; remember that old adage," two heads are better than one." That one is truer than it sounds. Always be open to new ideas. You can only benefit from listening to all the ideas each person has. This is especially true when the person you're talking to has had experience solving problems similar to yours.

You don't have to be a gung-ho, solo hero to solve the problem. If you can organize collective thought on the subject, it would be much better.

Number seven; be patient. As long as you persevere, there is always a chance that a solution will present itself. Remember that no one was able to create an invention the first time around.

Creative thinking exercises can also help you in your quest be a more creative problems solver.

Here is one example.

Take a piece of paper and write any word that comes to mind at the center. Now look at that word then write the first two words that come to your mind. This can go on until you can build a tree of related words. This helps you build analogical skills, and fortify your creative processes.

So, next time you see a problem you think you can not solve, think again. The solution might just be staring you right in the face. All it takes is just a little creative thinking, some planning, and a whole lot of work.

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Even Shy People Can Dare

If you are reading this article, you are probably a person who blushes easily, loses his or her breath, remains speechless and has trembling knees in certain instances? You might think it is one of the worst situations a person can be in. But specialists say you’re wrong.

Shy people are those who go to the grocery store and are reluctant to talk with the cashier. They blush before saying anything. When they speak they never talk loud enough, so they must say it again. And it seems to get worse every time. The more they try not to blush, the redder they become.

What about work? Shy people must work as well. But shy people don’t get bored, because they are always trying to watch others and better themselves. It is widely accepted that timid people know things about human character, but they normally don’t dare to get to know many people. Despite the fact that when they were teenagers these people usually had no social life, many of them became great human resources managers or psychologists precisely because, being outside the group, they learned to analyze others. They also tend to take careers that require a lot of PR work, because they want to prove that they can do it.

Another great thing about introverted people is that they are curious and, because they often have nobody to ask, they read books or do research on the Internet. How many good-looking, successful and extroverted people do you think still read? As a result, shy people have many opportunities to get good jobs in almost any field. They work hard, they stay quiet and they are loyal.

Furthermore, shy people have begun to enjoy such fame lately that the daring should learn from them. Did you know that shy people have more contact with the public than the rest of us? That happens because they instill serenity in others. They don’t usually talk over another person’s private issues.

They say very high hills were designed for shy women. They need to prove themselves at absolutely everything. These people are fighters, so if you are shy, don’t be ashamed! People like you are motivated because you have a purpose you want to achieve. For everyone else, I would say there’s nothing wrong with being shy from time to time.

The key word to success is dare. The rest of it will arrive after that.
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Monday, September 04, 2006

Enjoy Your Life: Change Your Point of View

"Two men look out through the same bars: One sees the mud, and one sees the stars."- Frederick Langbridge, A Cluster of Quiet Thoughts

If you’ve placed second in a writing contest, will you jump for joy and push for better results the next time or will you be discouraged and find an excuse not to join again?

In life, you are always filled with choices. You may opt to have a pessimist’s view and live a self-defeated life or you may decide to take the optimist’s route and take a challenging and fulfilling life.

So why nurture an optimist’s point of view? And why now?

Well, optimism has been linked to positive mood and good morale; to academic, athletic, military, occupational and political success; to popularity; to good health and even to long life and freedom from trauma.

On the other hand, the rates of depression and pessimism have never been higher. It affects middle-aged adults the same way it hits younger people. The mean age of onset has gone from 30 to 15. It is no longer a middle-aged housewife’s disorder but also a teen-ager’s disorder’ as well.

Here’s how optimists are in action and researches that back up why it really pays to be an optimist:

Optimists expect the best

The defining characteristic of pessimists is that they tend to believe bad events, which will last a long time and undermine everything they do, are their own fault.

The truth is optimists are confronted with the same hard knocks of this world. What differs is the way they explain their misfortune---it’s the opposite way. They tend to believe defeat is just a temporary setback, that its causes are confined to this one case.

Optimists tend to focus on and plan for the 'problem' at hand. They use 'positive reinterpretation.' In other words, they most likely reinterpret a negative experience in a way that helps them learn and grow. Such people are unfazed by bad situation, they perceive it is a challenge and try harder.

They won’t say “things will never get better,” “If I failed once, it will happen again” and “If I experience misfortune in one part of my life, then it will happen in my whole life.”

Positive expectancies of optimists also predict better reactions during transitions to new environments, sudden tragedies and unlikely turn of events. If they fall, they will stand up. They see opportunities instead of obstacles.

People respond positively to optimists

Optimists are proactive and less dependent on others for their happiness. They find no need to control or manipulate people. They usually draw people towards them. Their optimistic view of the world can be contagious and influence those they are with.

Optimism seems a socially desirable trait in all communities. Those who share optimism are generally accepted while those who spread gloom, panic and hysteria are treated unfavorably.

In life, these people often win elections; get voted most congenial and sought for advice.

When the going gets tough, optimists get tougher

Optimists typically maintain higher levels of subjective well-being during times of stress than do people who are less optimistic. In contrast, pessimists are likely to react to stressful events by denying that they exist or by avoiding dealing with problems. Pessimists are more likely to quit trying when difficulties arise.

They persevere. They just don’t give up easily, they are also known for their patience. Inching their way a step closer to that goal or elusive dream.

Optimists are healthier and live longer

Medical research has justified that simple pleasures and a positive outlook can cause a measurable increase in the body's ability to fight disease.

Optimists’ health is unusually good. They age well, much freer than most people from the usual physical ills of middle age. And they get to outlive those prone to negative thoughts.

So why not be an optimist today? And think positively towards a more fulfilled life.

Why not look forward to success in all your endeavors? Why not be resilient? Like everybody else you are bound to hit lows sometimes but don’t just stay there. Carry yourself out of the mud and improve your chances of getting back on the right track. And why not inspire others to remove their dark-colored glasses and see life in the bright side?

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Energy Healing 101: Pranic, Tantric, and Reiki

You have probably come across exotic-sounding terms such as “chakra”, “prana”, “aura”, and “tantra” in your course of reading books on spirituality, sex, and healing in the New Age literature section of the bookstore. But what’s the real scoop behind these exotic vocabularies?

Are All Energy Healings the Same?

Chakra or energy center is a term used in Pranic healing, an ancient Hindu system of energy healing. “Prana” means life energy. “Aura” is another terminology traced to Pranic healing. Aura is a non-physical body that consists of energy, which exists along with our physical body. The aura that covers our body is said to have seven layers pertaining to the physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual aspects of an individual as manifested by energy. Studying the color and thickness of auras give ideas on the state of health of individuals. Six colors are associated with aura and interpreted into six personalities. These colors are all present in an individual but one or two are more pronounced.
Green – ambitious achiever
Blue – spiritual peacemaker
White – unconventional chameleon
Red – activist
Orange – creative communicator
Violet - psychic

Although Tantra is popularly associated with the peculiar practice of sex and spirituality, it is another method of energy healing. It comes from the word “tan” which means to spread or expand. The concept of connectedness is a recurring theme in Tantric writings on sex and spirituality. As a method of healing, spirituality and sex figure prominently. It is presupposed that the union of man and woman can reach spiritual levels during orgasm, which removes the body and mind off collected impurities. These impurities being negative energies can in turn manifest as physical illnesses.

Unlike Pranic and Tantric healings, which have Hindu origins, Reiki originated from Japan. It is relatively younger than Pranic and Tantric healings having been rediscovered in the early 1900’s. Reiki stands for universal energy, an energy brought forth by higher intelligence. Students of Reiki are taught how to tap this energy to heal physical, emotional, and mental illnesses.

Although Pranic, Tantra, and Reiki are all systems of energy healing, they differ in the type of energy tapped for healing: life energy, sexual energy, and universal energy respectively.

The concepts of the connectedness of mind, body, and spirit; the connection of individuals to all living and nonliving things around them and to the universe; and how energy impacts physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being are some of the salient similarities of these three healing methods.

Why Do People Turn to Energy Healing?

Pranic, Tantric, and Reiki are considered alternative methods of healing. In spite of the availability and relative accessibility of modern medicine, how come more and more people are being drawned to them? Here are some possible reasons:

· Energy healing worked where modern medicine failed.

For several reasons both explainable and unexplainable, modern medical treatment failed to heal ailments and conditions in several if not many persons. Research or data may not be able to support this statement. But for the families of the dying as well as for the dying patient, they would take the risk of using alternative methods ranging from herbals and organics, faith healers, witch doctors, and New Age healing techniques just to be get well.

· People perceive modern medicine to be isolating.

Medical treatments are oftentimes focused on the disease and its causative agent, which can make a patient feel isolated and treated like a mere host of the disease. Although recent developments in hospital practice are gradually promoting the holistic treatment of a patient, the perception still persists. Unlike in energy healing, since energy and spirituality are intimately linked, the patient feels that all aspects of his health are being attended to.

· Energy healing is non-obtrusive and natural thus it is safer.

Repeated surgical procedures are physically and emotionally traumatic for most patients. It is but a logical and attractive option to both patient and families to look for less stressful health interventions. Moreover, with the rising popularity of New Age religions, going natural is the way to go.

· Energy healing is a good way of relieving stress.

Meditation is part and parcel of energy healing methods and this is an added come-on for highly stressed people. Moreover, sophisticated equipment is not required thus it becomes all the more convenient for students and future students of energy healing.

The battle between alternative healing and mainstream medicine continues as both present the benefits of their approach. But in the final analysis, what matters is the restoration of good health.

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