Archive for May, 2010

Welcome to The Skillful Living Room blog!

It is my pleasure to welcome you to The Skillful Living Room blog.  This space has been created to help YOU live life more skillfully. 

 

But what exactly does this mean?

 

Consider this – How long does it take a professional basketball player to cultivate his three-pointer? How much trial-and-error does it take for a chef to whip up the perfect soufflé or an elaborate five-course meal?

 

These skills and many others require practice, dedication, intention, and attention. And so does the skill of living. The concept of “Skillful Living” advises individuals to approach life – health, wellness and overall happiness – as a skill that needs to be developed.

 

Skillful Living is to commit intention and purpose to being and living well. I encourage my patients to examine their lives as a whole and to meet each obstacle as an opportunity for introspection, personal growth and improvement, emphasizing the significance of taking control of their own life. Results are proportional to the work and mindfulness dedicated to each individual’s efforts.

 

By carefully and closely looking at all of the elements in your life and approaching them with serious purpose and dedication, your health, relationships, career, and entire life can be lived skillfully and can lead to improved overall well-being.

 

Everything in our lives is related, from the food we eat to the relationships and careers we choose, and true healing and balance comes from addressing everything holistically, as a integrated unit. This is Skillful Living.

 

The Skillful Living Room blog will be an interactive home for information on how to live life more skillfully. Please use the Q & A section to ask your own questions. I will select one question to answer each week, and even if it is not yours, I hope you will find it interesting and useful. So please check back. Also, please check out the Skillful Thoughts page – this is where I will share information and ideas as they come, providing you with additional insights needed to begin and continue on your own path to Skillful Living.

 

It is my sincerest hope that this blog helps you live more skillfully!

 

Please do tune in to my nationally broadcast weekly radio show, The Skillful Living Room, and visit my healthy living center, SunRaven, if you are in or around the New York City-metro area.

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Finding a Spiritual Community

Question: I realize it’s important for me to have a spiritual practice, but I do not feel comfortable going to any of the local religious institutions in my community. What can I do?

Answer: For those who participate in organized religion, community is a central part of their practice. However, many people are turned off by what is available to them in this regard for one reason or another.  Maybe they have moral objections to the religion of their childhood or feel rejected by a particular church.  As a result, they shun the idea of a spiritual community and may even give up on the attempt to find one.

However, it is also important to realize that a spiritual community does not have to have any affiliation with organized religion. As such, spending time in a supportive environment, sharing a sacred space and connecting to our individual spirit – perhaps, if necessary, unbridled by the trappings of religious institutions–are the ingredients for achieving much of the benefits that you seek.  

In all likelihood there are many people who live near you and share the same feelings. As a first step, start talking to people who you feel might be open to these ideas, and as soon as you can gather two or three people, you’ve got yourself a community.

Whether you gather in nature or in a home, I recommend meeting in a quiet location once a week or even once a month. Spend 30 minutes discussing life’s joys, challenges and meaning.  Then spend another half hour in quiet contemplation.  Close with a statement of gratitude and a commitment to return next time.

I will be discussing this subject of the importance of spiritual communities with Michael Rosenbaum on the June 5th episode of The Skillful Living Room show. To listen live when it airs at 12 noon EDT on that day, click HERE.  After it will remain in the archives of the Business Talk Radio Network.

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Keeping a Day of Rest

It is ok to have a full plate, to some extent, as long as you regularly provide yourself with the opportunity for restoration.  The question then becomes: what is required to do this effectively?

To begin, it is important to realize that very few people can achieve this quality of restoration without periodically disconnecting from technology and material life and intentionally reconnecting with family, friends, community and spirit.  Some people actually have a daily practice of reflection, contemplation or meditation to do this. However, many others, perhaps most of us, do not adhere to a schedule of regular relief and only once or twice a year actually give themselves this opportunity–clearly, not often enough.  The important thing is it has to be regular and reasonably frequent. Indeed, I believe our calendar actually guides us to this practice, yet few of us in our frenetic world actually manage to take advantage of it. I recommend that at a weekly ritual of restoration is what you need to regain and maintain balance.

Putting religious explanations aside, I believe the true wisdom of the Sabbath is that it is a time when regular activity ceases and you depart from the busi-ness of the rest of the week. Could a day to reconnect with family, friends, nature or the divine be enough to recharge your batteries? Historically, there is something profoundly important about honoring the periodicity that coincides precisely with the seven-day/quarter phases of the moon and probably suggests a more ancient appreciation of the seventh day. As we know, the moon has a substantial impact on the rhythms of life on earth-a fact that was well understood by ancient humans. Our modern language further reflects this in the words “menstruation” and “menses,” which come from the Latin mensis (month). Mensis relates to the Greek word mene (moon) and to the roots of the English words month and moon. Even more than the sun, the moon regulates the rhythms on earth.

The Sabbath day is an opportunity to renew and reconstitute, which helps prepare for the coming week’s challenges. Without even adding a religious overtone, this is a classic “day of rest,” which marks the culmination of the weekly cycle, in every sense of the word.

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Consider This…Skillful Reflection

Honoring Nature’s Cycles

While we are thinking about the moon cycles, what are some other cycles that we should honor? Night and Day, Weeks and Months, Seasons and Years….. Indeed, cycles exist everywhere in nature, but our society has gradually drifted from a way of living that is supported by its rhythms. We eat when should be digesting; we are awake when we should be sleeping; we speed up when should be slowing down; and we spend when should be saving. We crave and cultivate wealth, power and privilege, which creates a cycle of working to make more money to buy more material things that we hope will make us happy, but rarely ever really do.

These vicious, manmade “cycles” are at odds with natural rhythms both in our world and within ourselves. For in the process of doing all of this we strip the earth of its resources and we pollute our air and water; and as we fall out of balance with nature’s cycles ourselves, we are led to poor health and dis-ease.  Those who feel or are disconnected from the vital source of nature as well as family and community may find themselves overindulging in some manner to fill the void that these rich connections would otherwise bring. Whether it is with food, drugs, sex or material extravagance, overindulging inevitably leads to a never-ending cycle of fear and emptiness.

Here are some tips on paying attention to nature’s rhythms so that you can live a more balanced, skillful life:

  • Honor your own Sabbath: Adopt a “Sabbath” ritual, e.g. a day once every seven that includes the elements of: activity in nature, family and community, a special meal and rest. During the day, or at least a good portion of it, it would be wisest to disconnect from the tyranny of technology and the responsibilities of “work” that rule us during the other six days. This does not need to be a “religious observance,” however, one must appreciate that this interval of the seven day cycle that is the backbone of these traditions is as brilliant as it is essential. Our body, mind and spirit will benefit immensely and thrive if we give ourselves one day every seven to slow down, restoring and refortifying our connections to the earth, each other and spirit.
  • Switch up (Rebalance) your meals: Consume more at the onset of a meal, e.g. of a nutritious appetizer of fresh and seasonal vegetables, then see if you can slow down a little to better digest and absorb your food. Actually this may help you eat less overall; many times speed simply overrides our capacities to sense fullness. Most importantly, be careful with what you allow to enter your mind when you eat—perhaps recite a private prayer to give thanks as a routine. Finally, try to eat more during the day and less in the evening or at night.
  • Let Go of the guilt: In order to keep your metabolism (e.g. your bio-rhythm) stable, make it a rule not to guilt your friends and family, and ask them to do the same!  Emotional or physical stress induces a hormone releases which have significant effects on how our bodies function.
  • Enjoy: Don’t fear the sun!: While it is true that we can easily overdue sun exposure, our body cannot produce Vitamin D without adequate intensity and quantity of sunlight. In plain fact, the sun is the source of all “life” as we know it and most people feel better when it shines. Use your common sense and enjoy.

How do you honor cycles in your life?

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Advice from the Skillful Doctor

Question: I’m having so much trouble losing weight. I’ve tried every diet under the sun and while I can lose weight initially, I feel deprived and unhappy during the process and the weight comes right back. I’m so frustrated. Now, even the word diet makes me quiver.

Answer: You are not alone. Most people I see have at one time or another been on “a diet”. Very few are successful long term, in many ways, much like you have described. What I want you to appreciate is that there are three kinds of hunger: physical, emotional and spiritual. If you think about your “needs” that way, it will open your eyes to a new perspective. Next, you must also realize that the three types of hunger often get confused in our minds and, rather than understanding the distinction between each of them, we just feel hungry. Thus, if you are emotionally or spiritually wanting and cannot “feed” yourself effectively in those areas respectively, your only source of fulfillment for the sensation of hunger will be from the food you consume. Indeed, overeating is often a response to unfulfilled emotional or spiritual hunger. Instead, imagine if you could address your emotional and spiritual hunger in a more skillful manner. This is the basis for a new approach to weight loss. Working this way, there would be no reason for a diet at all, you will simply not need to eat so much and what you will desire will be more in line with what is really best for you as well. 

I discuss this subject of “The Three Types of Hunger” with Alfonso de Rose on the May 8th episode of The Skillfull Living Room show. To listen, click HERE. 

Please leave a comment to share your thoughts or submit your own question.

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