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The A to Z Guide to a Rich Life

The A to Z Guide to a Rich Life

A is for Adventure, and B is for Bravery. But a rich life is mostly brought to you by the letter C, for the Choice is yours to make it happen.

This A to Z guide is a slippery slide down the letters of the alphabet. It is not a ride for the faint-hearted or for the superficial money-hungry beasts who preach gobbledygook. Instead, it’s for people who want to make a difference with their lives. If that describes you, then you’re in the right place.

So, buckle up and jump in. We’ve got a long way to go.

A is for Adventure

Life is an adventure. Or to be more precise: your adventure.

But where will I go? I hear you ask. What you’re really asking for is a map. Unfortunately, there is no one-size-fits-all. Each one of us carries our own map of where we want to go and what we want to do. You need to look within yourself and ask:

  • Where do I want to go? 
  • Why do I want to go there?
  • What is it about this mission that makes me feel excited and alive?

If you’re getting butterflies, then go. If not, explore more options.

It doesn’t matter if you travel alone or with someone else as long as you move forward on your quest. New adventures lead to more experiences. There is no such thing as a bad adventure. Remember, the adventure begins when you leave the village.

If you’re stuck, don’t despair. Remember this dialogue from Alice in Wonderland:

“Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?”
“That depends a good deal on where you want to get to.”
“I don’t much care where –”
“Then it doesn’t matter which way you go.”
― Lewis Carrol, Alice in Wonderland

What stops you from embarking on your adventure? Maybe letter B will be of some help.

B is for Bravery

Here’s a promise: you’ll face obstacles, challenges and people who will try to bring you down. Be ready for this. They don’t want you to live your adventure because they’re not happy with theirs.

You can safely ignore these people. Learn to stand up for yourself and your mission without a moment’s hesitation. This is your adventure, remember? Don’t let anyone take that away from you.

Have the courage to live a life that’s true to yourself.  Dare to be brave: you have nothing to fear. If you’re looking for inspiration, find comfort in these words:

“Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.” ― Oscar Wilde

C is for Choice

Yes, this is the most important letter of the alphabet. It decides whether you’re going to live a fun and meaningful life or a boring and mediocre one.

It boils down to choice. For every living moment, you have a choice about how you will respond. No one expresses the value of choice better than writer and Holocaust survivor Viktor E Frankl:

“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”

Yes, you always have a choice. If you can’t change a situation, you can always change yourself. I told you it wasn’t easy, but it can still be done with some help from letter D.

D is for Discipline

It can be difficult to follow through on some of your decisions. Procrastination and self-doubt too easily distract you from your path. But that’s why you need discipline.

No, I don’t mean military discipline. That’s too violent and scary for me. I’m talking about the kind of self-discipline that artists, athletes and scientists use to practice their craft and to stay committed to the task at hand. It’s willpower. It’s grit. It’s the discipline to make and keep a promise to yourself.

Indeed, discipline is hard because you’re competing against yourself. You are your own worst enemy. Don’t let this internal struggle bog you down. With a bit of discipline, you can pave the way for your adventure. It’s not sexy, but it works. Think of it this way:

“Discipline is the bridge between goals and accomplishment.” ― Jim Rohn

Of course, sometimes there’s a gap between what you know and what you need to know. That’s when letter E comes to the rescue.

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E is for Education

A rich life is shaped by education. When you stop learning, you cease to truly live.

There’s always more to learn about the world and the people and animals that live in it. If you feel ambitious, there’s always the universe to keep you busy. But let’s not go there today. It makes my head spin.

By all means, read more books, listen to more songs, and watch more movies. Talk to people and learn from them. Keep exploring.

“Education is not just preparation for life, but part of life itself – a continuous art.” ― Henry Ford

If your experience of education is anything like mine, it has involved several moments of fear and self-doubt, which brings us to the dreaded letter F.

F is for Fear

Fear of failure. Fear of success. Fear of looking dumb. You can’t escape your fears, but at least you’re not alone in having them.

So, what to do? Try to befriend your fear. Invite him over for dinner, share a glass of wine, but skip the small talk (your guest is very good at that). Instead do the unexpected and act in spite of your fear. See how quickly he leaves the room!

“Fears are educated into us, and can, if we wish, be educated out.” ― Karl Augustus Menninger

Remember: when you face your fear, you change your path. And when you change your path, you change yourself.

G is for Generosity

Do you want to know the secret to a rich life? Lean in; I need to whisper this: Generosity. I know it sounds counterintuitive at first, but consider this saying:

“There was a man, they called him mad; the more he gave, the more he had.”
― John Bunyan

Allow that to sink in for a moment. Then answer this question: do you fear giving away too much? 

Many people do. They live their life according to a scarcity model: the belief that there isn’t enough resources for everyone. They fear sharing (not to mention giving!) because that means there will be less over for them. In short, they have a fixed mindset. They think: If I win, you lose. In his book Enchantment, Guy Kawasaki calls these people eaters. They do whatever they can to finish the pie first.

The fixed mindset is heavy, frustrating, and annoying to carry around. It makes you anxious and grumpy. Keep it at your own cost.

Luckily, there is an alternative. Kawasaki calls these people bakers. They want to make a bigger pie. This growth mindset drastically changes their approach to life. They operate from an abundance model–in other words, the belief that there is enough for everyone to get by.

What stops you from adopting a growth mindset?  

Tip: Read Mindset by Standford psychologist Carol S Dweck for a more extensive explanation on the differences between a growth and a fixed mindset. You won’t be disappointed.

Bottom line: Choose your mindset carefully or it will affect your health.

H is for Health

Your body is your holy temple, and you’ll want to treat it with respect.

Prevention is the best medicine. So, eat well. Sleep tight. Exercise often. Meet more friends. There’s no excuse to ignore your health.

“To keep the body in good health is a duty… Otherwise we shall not be able to keep our mind strong and clear.” ― Buddha

Remember: your health is the biggest sign of your wealth. It grants you another day, another chance. The rest you can leave to the imagination.

I is for Imagination

Your imagination helps you plan and see your life in vivid detail. If I didn’t know better, I’d almost call it magic. Use your imagination to reach your goals more effectively. Remember to engage all your senses in this important enterprise.

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There’s only one downside to your imagination–without your actual input, it becomes worthless. So, act on your imagination; play with it, have fun with it, and get ready to be surprised. But don’t take my word for it. Here’s what the genius himself, Albert Einstein, has to say about the subject:

“Imagination is more important than knowledge.” ― Albert Einstein

Well, who am I to disagree with a genius? Open up to your imagination and let it bring you joy.

J is for Joy

Don’t take yourself too seriously. What makes you laugh and smile? Do more of that.

Joy lasts longer if you let it seep into the depths of your being. Let it fill you up. Be grateful about the simple joys in life.

“Find joy in everything you choose to do. Every job, relationship, home… it’s your responsibility to love it, or change it.” ― Chuck Palahniuk

K is for Kindness

A rich life starts with cultivating a sense of kindness and friendship towards yourself and others. Remember to be brave: extend kindness to strangers, enemies, and people you find difficult. It makes a big difference.

Everyone makes mistakes, but it’s part of the journey. Save yourself the grief. Learn to forgive rather than to condemn. When you’re struggling, remember this quote:

“To err is human; to forgive, divine.” ― Alexander Pope

L is for Love

Love is the social glue that binds us all together. To a well-trained eye, love pops up in the most unlikely places. You just need to know where to look.

Everyone deserves love. The opposite of love is not hatred. The opposite of love is indifference. Love means that you care. When you stop loving, you stop caring. Your senses become numb and violence and injustice can take over. Now we can’t have that.

The more you love, the richer you become. It really is that simple.

“Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage.” ― Lao Tzu

M is for Mindfulness

It’s difficult to spend time with your thoughts, worries and feelings. Either you escape them or you get lost inside of them.

Mindfulness invites you to tune into your mind. This is a difficult but rewarding practice because it teaches you the art of listening to yourself. So, please take your time. Hurry slowly.

Sit down. Close your eyes. Breathe.

“The most fundamental aggression to ourselves, the most fundamental harm we can do to ourselves, is to remain ignorant by not having the courage and the respect to look at ourselves honestly and gently.”
― Pema Chödrön, When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times

Remember: Listen more to yourself. After all, you have two ears and one mouth.

N is for Narrative

Everyone loves a good story. What we often forget is that we tell stories all the time: about who we are, what we do, and who we want to be.

You can’t always change what happens to you, but you can always change the story you tell yourself. In short, own the story line and tell a better story.

Ask yourself: Can I tell myself a different story? Then remember this quote from Stephen R Covey:

“The way you see the problem is the problem.” ― Stephen R. Covey

Change the story line and you change the way you see the problem. And that’s how you turn a problem into an opportunity.

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O is for Opportunity

Knock, knock.

Who’s there?

Opportunity!

Don’t be silly–opportunity doesn’t knock twice!

Do you make the most of the opportunities that come your way? 

P is for Principles

A rich life is guided by principles. Think of them as your internal compass. When you feel lost and astray, they’ll be there to pick you up.

Proactivity, honesty, integrity–these principles stand the test of time because they work. They also allow you to enjoy your success and not to feel guilty for cheating your way to the top.

“Failure comes only when we forget our ideals and objectives and principles.” ― Jawaharlal Nehru

Q is for Questioning

Feed your curiosity and never stop asking questions. One of Rudyard Kipling’s famous poems demonstrates this quality well:

I keep six honest serving-men
(They taught me all I knew)

Their names are What and Why and When
And How and Where and Who

Questions often lead to more questions, which lead to some useful answers. So, start questioning.

R is for Relationships

Relationships enrich every tenet of our lives. Family, friends and partners support and unite us in our daily struggles. They make life more fun, meaningful and worthwhile.

New relationships mean new responsibilities. Do you remember the first time when you became a parent, a grandparent, an aunt or an uncle? These roles gave your life a new meaning, a sense of purpose that wasn’t there before.

Without relationships, life becomes futile. Create lasting relationships with others. It’s the most important investment you can make.

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” ― Maya Angelou

S is for Spirit

Spirit has many different meanings. The word itself derives from the Latin word spiritus and means “breath”. It suggests that there is a part of us that outlives our death.

Whether you’re religious or not, people leave a legacy after they’re gone. We remember them through their actions, words and deeds. A part of them stays with us. What is important is the legacy they leave behind.

What legacy do you want to leave behind?

“Every man casts a shadow; not his body only, but his imperfectly mingled spirit. This is his grief. Let him turn which way he will, it falls opposite to the sun; short at noon, long at eve. Did you never see it?”  ― Henry David Thoreau

Letter T helps you build the lasting legacy that you deserve.

T is for Teaching

Teaching enriches both your life and your student’s. When you share your knowledge and experiences, you pass on a part of yourself and you allow that knowledge to spread. Others can share your story and learn from it.

Teaching helps others avoid costly, dumb and painful mistakes. It’s your duty to pay it forward. As Oscar Wilde points out:

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“I always pass on good advice. It is the only thing to do with it. It is never of any use to oneself.”

U is for Uncertainty

Your adventure is always going to be uncertain. That’s OK because uncertainty is part of the deal. Embrace it. Never let the fear of the unknown scare you into a corner.

You fear uncertainty because you believe you don’t have what it takes to recover from it. Imagine your worst case scenario in vivid detail. What’s the worst possible thing that can happen to you? But don’t just stop there. Now write an equally clear plan on how you’re going to recover from it. Once you do, you’ll realize that you can recover from just about anything.

“Waves are inspiring not because they rise and fall. But because each time they fall… They never fail to rise again.”

V is for Values

What do you stand for? What do you find unacceptable? Speak up for your values. Let them walk by your side and guide you to do the right thing.

“Your beliefs become your thoughts,
Your thoughts become your words,
Your words become your actions,
Your actions become your habits,
Your habits become your values,
Your values become your destiny.”

― Mahatma Gandhi

W is for Win-Win

It’s clear that a rich life does not come from a win-lose mindset. Always think about what others can gain from your actions. This is what Stephen R. Covey aptly calls creating “win-win” situations. No one is a loser. There are only winners.

How does that change your outlook on life? And more important, how does it change your actions?

“The Law of Win/Win says, ”Let’s not do it your way or my way; let’s do it the best way.” ― Greg Anderson

X is for Xylatomy

Say what? Well, you try to find a good word that starts with X. There aren’t that many out there. So, why did I choose this particular word?

Because it’s fun to say and I want to reward you for your efforts! You’ve come this far down the alphabet with me, the least I can do is to teach you a new word. Xylatomy can be defined as:

“Preparation of sections of wood for microscopic study.”

Bet you didn’t know that one! So, what does xylatomy got to do with a rich life? Well, I believe it teaches us to find the joy in the small things. What’s your interpretation?

Y is for Yes

Yes is my favorite word. It says: “Let’s do this!” and it also requires you to take responsibility for your actions.

A word of caution though: don’t say yes to everything. Believe me, I’ve been there. Only say yes if the answer is: “I cannot not do it“. Don’t be afraid to say no to the rest.

“Learn to say ‘no’ to the good so you can say ‘yes’ to the best.”  ― John C. Maxwell

Z is for Zest

Have a zest for life! Stop talking, start doing. Go out there and make the most of it! Don’t be discouraged by the ups and downs. This is part of the journey itself, and there’s nothing you can do about it but to choose your response.

“True happiness comes from the joy of deeds well done, the zest of creating things new.” ― Antoine de Saint-Exupery

Start your adventure today

Wow, that was quite the ride! What a mouthful of inspiration and advice you’ve taken in! I hope you didn’t get motion sick.

It’s time to unbuckle your seatbelt, jump out the car, and get started on your new adventure. But relax. Remember the wisdom of letter C: Choice. Choose to act on one of these letters and you’re well on your way to a richer life.

What does a rich life look like to you? What words have I missed that’s on your list? Please share your words and ideas to a rich life in the comments!

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Last Updated on August 20, 2019

How to Control Your Thoughts and Be the Master of Your Mind

How to Control Your Thoughts and Be the Master of Your Mind

Your mind is the most powerful tool you have for the creation of good in your life, but if not used correctly, can also be the most destructive force in your life.

Your mind, more specifically, your thoughts, affect your perception and therefore, your interpretation of reality. (And here’s Why Your Perception Is Your Reality.)

I have heard that the average person thinks around 70,000 thoughts a day. That’s a lot, especially if they are unproductive, self-abusive and just a general waste of energy.

You can let your thoughts run amok, but why would you? It is your mind, your thoughts; isn’t it time to take your power back? Isn’t it time to take control?

Choose to be the person who is actively, consciously thinking your thoughts. Become the master of your mind.

When you change your thoughts, you will change your feelings as well, and you will also eliminate the triggers that set off those feelings. Both of these outcomes provide you with a greater level of peace in your mind.

I currently have few thoughts that are not of my own choosing or a response from my reprogramming. I am the master of my mind, so now my mind is quite peaceful. Yours can be too!

Who Is Thinking My Thoughts?

Before you can become the master of your mind, you must recognize that you are currently at the mercy of several unwanted “squatters” living in your mind, and they are in charge of your thoughts. If you want to be the boss of them, you must know who they are and what their motivation is, and then you can take charge and evict them.

Here are four of the “squatters” in your head that create the most unhealthy and unproductive thoughts:

1. The Inner Critic

This is your constant abuser who is often a conglomeration of:

  • Other people’s words; many times your parents.
  • Thoughts you have created based on your own or other peoples expectations.
  • Comparing yourself to other people, including those in the media.
  • The things you told yourself as a result of painful experiences such as betrayal and rejection. Your interpretation creates your self-doubt and self-blame, which are most likely undeserved in cases of rejection and betrayal.

The Inner Critic is motivated by pain, low self-esteem, lack of self-acceptance and lack of self-love.

Why else would this person abuse you? And since this person is actually you– why else would you abuse yourself? Why would you let anyone treat you this badly?

2. The Worrier

This person lives in the future; in the world of “what ifs.”

The Worrier is motivated by fear which is often irrational and with no basis for it. Occasionally, this person is motivated by fear that what happened in the past will happen again.

3. The Reactor or Trouble-Maker

This is the one that triggers anger, frustration and pain. These triggers stem from unhealed wounds of the past. Any experience that is even closely related to a past wound will set him off.

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This person can be set off by words or feelings, and can even be set off by sounds and smells.

The Reactor has no real motivation and has poor impulse control and is run by past programming that no longer serves you, if it ever did.

4. The Sleep Depriver

This can be a combination of any number of different squatters including the inner planner, the rehasher, and the ruminator, along with the inner critic and the worrier.

The Sleep Depriver’s motivation can be:

  • As a reaction to silence, which he fights against
  • Taking care of the business you neglected during the day
  • Self-doubt, low self-esteem, insecurity and generalized anxiety
  • As listed above for the inner critic and worrier

How can you control these squatters?

How to Master Your Mind

You are the thinker and the observer of your thoughts. You must pay attention to your thoughts so you can identify “who” is running the show; this will determine which technique you will want to use.

Begin each day with the intention of paying attention to your thoughts and catching yourself when you are thinking undesirable thoughts.

There are two ways to control your thoughts:

  • Technique A – Interrupt and replace them
  • Technique B – Eliminate them altogether

This second option is what is known as peace of mind!

The technique of interrupting and replacing is a means of reprogramming your subconscious mind. Eventually, the replacement thoughts will become the “go to” thoughts in the applicable situations.

Use Technique A with the Inner Critic and Worrier; and Technique B with the Reactor and Sleep Depriver.

For the Inner Critic

When you catch yourself thinking something negative about yourself (calling yourself names, disrespecting yourself, or berating yourself), interrupt it.

You can yell (in your mind), “Stop! No!” or, “Enough! I’m in control now.” Then, whatever your negative thought was about yourself, replace it with an opposite or counter thought or an affirmation that begins with “I am.”

For example, if your thought is, “I’m such a loser,” you can replace it with, “I am a Divine Creation of the Universal Spirit. I am a perfect spiritual being learning to master the human experience. I am a being of energy, light, and matter. I am magnificent, brilliant, and beautiful. I love and approve of myself just as I am.”

You can also have a dialogue with yourself with the intention of discrediting the ‘voice’ that created the thought, if you know whose voice it is:

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“Just because so-and-so said I was a loser doesn’t make it true. It was his or her opinion, not a statement of fact. Or maybe they were joking and I took it seriously because I’m insecure.”

If you recognize that you have recurring self-critical thoughts, you can write out or pre-plan your counter thoughts or affirmation so you can be ready. This is the first squatter you should evict, forcefully, if necessary:

  • They rile up the Worrier.
  • The names you call yourself become triggers when called those names by others, so he also maintains the presence of the Reactor.
  • They are often present when you try to fall asleep so he perpetuates the Sleep Depriver.
  • They are a bully and is verbally and emotionally abusive.
  • They are the destroyer of self-esteem. They convince you that you’re not worthy. They’re a liar! In the interest of your self-worth, get them out!

Eliminate your worst critic and you will also diminish the presence of the other three squatters.

Replace them with your new best friends who support, encourage, and enhance your life. This is a presence you want in your mind.

For the Worrier

Prolonged anxiety is mentally, emotionally and physically unhealthy. It can have long-term health implications.

Fear initiates the fight or flight response, creates worry in the mind and creates anxiety in the body.

You should be able to recognize a “worry thought” immediately by how you feel. The physiological signs that the fight or flight response of fear has kicked in are:

  • Increased heart rate, blood pressure, or surge of adrenaline
  • Shallow breathing or breathlessness
  • Muscles tense

Use the above stated method to interrupt any thought of worry and then replace it. But this time you will replace your thoughts of worry with thoughts of gratitude for the outcome you wish for.

If you believe in a higher power, this is the time to engage with it. Here is an example:

Instead of worrying about my loved ones traveling in bad weather, I say the following (I call it a prayer):

“Thank you great spirit for watching over _______. Thank you for watching over his/her car and keeping it safe, road-worthy, and free of maintenance issues without warning. Thank you for surrounding him/her with only safe, conscientious, and alert drivers. And thank you for keeping him/her safe, conscientious, and alert.”

Smile when you think about it or say it aloud, and phrase it in the present tense; both of these will help you feel it and possibly even start to believe it.

If you can visualize what you are praying for, the visualization will enhance the feeling so you will increase the impact in your vibrational field.

Now take a calming breath, slowly in through your nose, and slowly out through the mouth. Take as many as you like!

Replacing fearful thoughts with gratitude will decrease reactionary behavior, taking the steam out of the Reactor.

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For example:

If your child gets lost in the mall, the typical parental reaction that follows the fearful thoughts when finding them is to yell at them.

“I told you never to leave my sight.” This reaction just adds to the child’s fear level from being lost in the first place. Plus, it also teaches them that mom and/or dad will get mad when he or she makes a mistake, which may make them lie to you or not tell you things in the future.

Change those fearful thoughts when they happen:

“Thank You (your choice of Higher Power) for watching over my child and keeping him safe. Thank you for helping me find him soon.”

Then, when you see your child after this thought process, your only reaction will be gratitude, and that seems like a better alternative for all people involved.

For the Trouble-Maker, Reactor or Over-Reactor

Permanently eliminating this squatter will take a bit more attention and reflection after the fact to identify and heal the causes of the triggers; but until then, you can prevent the Reactor from getting out of control by initiating conscious breathing as soon as you recognize his presence.

The Reactor’s thoughts or feelings activate the fight or flight response just like with the Worrier. The physiological signs of his presence will be the same. With a little attention, you should be able to tell the difference between anxiety, anger, frustration, or pain:

  • Increased heart rate and blood pressure; surge of adrenaline
  • Shallow breathing or breathlessness
  • Muscles tension

I’m sure you’ve heard the suggestion to count to ten when you get angry—well, you can make those ten seconds much more productive if you are breathing consciously during that time.

Conscious breathing is as simple as it sounds; just be conscious of your breathing. Pay attention to the air going in and coming out.

Breathe in through your nose:

  • Feel the air entering your nostrils.
  • Feel your lungs filling and expanding.
  • Focus on your belly rising.

Breathe out through your nose:

  • Feel your lungs emptying.
  • Focus on your belly falling.
  • Feel the air exiting your nostrils.

Do this for as long as you like. Leave the situation if you want. This gives the adrenaline time to normalize.

Now you can address the situation with a calmer, more rational perspective and avoid damaging behavior.

One of the troubles this squatter causes is that it adds to the sleep depriver’s issues. By evicting, or at least controlling the Reactor, you will decrease reactionary behavior, which will decrease the need for the rehashing and ruminating that may keep you from falling asleep.

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Master your mind and stop the Reactor from bringing stress to you and your relationships!

For the Sleep Depriver

(They’re made up of the Inner Planner, the Rehasher and the Ruminator, along with the Inner Critic and the Worrier.)

I was plagued with a very common problem: not being able to turn off my mind at bedtime. This inability prevented me from falling asleep and thus, getting a restful and restorative night’s sleep.

Here’s how I mastered my mind and evicted the Sleep Depriver and all his cronies.

  1. I started by focusing on my breathing—paying attention to the rise and fall of my belly—but that didn’t keep the thoughts out for long. (Actually, I now start with checking my at-rest mouth position to keep me from clenching.)
  2. Then I came up with replacement strategy that eliminated uncontrolled thinking—imagining the word in while breathing in and thinking the word out when breathing out. I would (and do) elongate the word to match the length of my breath.

When I catch myself thinking, I shift back to in, out. With this technique, I am still thinking, sort of, but the wheels are no longer spinning out of control. I am in control of my mind and I choose quiet.

From the first time I tried this method I started to yawn after only a few cycles and am usually asleep within ten minutes.

For really difficult nights, I add an increase of attention by holding my eyes in a looking-up position (Closed, of course!). Sometimes I try to look toward my third eye but that really hurts my eyes.

If you have trouble falling asleep because you can’t shut off your mind, I strongly recommend you try this technique. I still use it every night. You can start sleeping better tonight!

You can also use this technique any time you want to:

  • Fall back to sleep if you wake up too soon.
  • Shut down your thinking.
  • Calm your feelings.
  • Simply focus on the present moment. 

The Bottom Line

Your mind is a tool, and like any other tool, it can be used for constructive purposes or for destructive purposes.

You can allow your mind to be occupied by unwanted, undesirable and destructive tenants, or you can choose desirable tenants like peace, gratitude, compassion, love, and joy.

Your mind can become your best friend, your biggest supporter, and someone you can count on to be there and encourage you. The choice is yours!

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Featured photo credit: Priscilla Du Preez via unsplash.com

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