“I don't believe people are looking for the meaning of life as much as they are looking for the experience of being alive.” ~ Joseph Campbell

It was the 9th time that I had shuffled into the healing circle. I'd come to "heal" the horrible anxiety that I'd been experiencing – although "experiencing" sounds like what you'd do while watching water ballet and this was no water ballet.

My husband had lost his job and couldn't find another one. We had two children to feed and clothe (and to try and be "semi-normal" around.) We'd had everything but now, our house was in foreclosure, our credit cards had been maxed out and shut off, our retirement spent, unemployment had run out and we had no real solution on the horizon. My life had been turned upside down.

The anxiety was the worst at night. It would literally wake me out of a deep sleep and the thoughts of worry and fear would suddenly flash over me, catching me unaware…like for a time my body and soul would forget and be at peace and then suddenly, as I stirred awake, the room would begin to spin and the reality of my situation would jump out at me from behind a door and say, "Gotcha!"

I was a bit late for the healing circle and sort of rushed in and tried not to make a big deal of my entrance. I looked over the group, all regulars, except for one. She was a heavy woman with non-descript features and mousy brown hair. She was the kind I'd walk right by and not think anything of, especially then. I was so wrapped up in my own thing that I didn't really have time for anyone else's.

I plopped down next to her and she held out her soft hand and looked at me with a huge smile and said, "I'm Rachel. I'm so happy to be here."

The ceremony began. After several moments of blessings and explanation, our leader opened up the circle for sharing.

Rachel went first. She'd almost given up, she said. A year or so ago, she'd lost the will to live. It had leaked out of her, slowly, over time. There wasn't a single event; it was the monotony of nothing to care about, no meaning, no hope of change. She was lethargically trying to figure out a quick and non-dramatic exit, but she didn't have the strength to actually go through with it.

Story of her life, she said, not enough fire to do much of anything. She'd resigned herself to a life of victimhood; small, slow, infinite suffering punctuated here and there with work she didn't particularly care for and her best friends; a bowl of potato chips and a TV guide.

Then something crazy happened…She got a terrible case of vertigo. She'd get up and fall down. She'd try to eat and would vomit. She'd go to drive and end up in a ditch. She couldn't work, couldn't watch TV, couldn't even live the very small life she'd been living. Everything that she knew fell apart. How could things get any worse?

So she started to go to doctors and no one could help her. She saw specialists and was poked and prodded and x-rayed and MRI'd. "It's nothing," they'd all said. "It's in your mind." She found acupuncturists and chiropractors and shamanic healers…and before she knew it, she was actually fighting to keep the little life she lived. Her desire to live was flipping around in her head and propelling her, with great purpose, forward.

"It was God," she said, "or the Universe or whatever you want to call it. All along, it was there. God brought me the slow simmering pain of feeling like a nothing. And when that didn't motivate me, he dumped this crazy ailment on me. To make me fight, to make me feel what it feels like to be truly alive. To make me see how precious it all actually is…every little moment of it."

I choked back my own tears as I listened to her. How many nights had I wished for numbness? How many times had I had it out with God for the wealth of feeling that I had felt had been dumped on me? How many times had I just prayed for a blackout in my brain, a total shut down in my nervous system? In my agony, I would have given anything for a boring existence with a job I didn't like and a TV guide for a friend.

But I had been missing the point.

"I was dead inside and the vertigo, the literal turning upside down of my world, made me fight to live and that fight made me feel so alive. And in that aliveness, I grew to know myself. Yes it was awful, but it was way better than plan A. And now, I realize that anything is possible for me, ANYTHING."

They say everything happens for a reason. Sitting there next to Rachel I could see my situation in a whole new light. My "circumstance" was actually my opportunity to grow and become reengaged with life…a better life. It was my chance to become the someone I'd always wanted to be.

My life had the potential to be completely transformed by this pain. Instead of wallowing in it, I should be relishing the energy it was creating in my life…energy that could be harnessed and used to propel my family and I forward.

I wasn't where she was…I wasn't out of the woods yet, but I knew, in that moment, that I would be, that it would all be OK and that I would be able to look back on all of it and not only would it make sense, but I would be grateful for it. I could see how this intense "alive-ness" was what I needed to not only survive but to move on to bigger and better.

Rachel was beautiful as she described her life now. Her eyes danced as she spoke of the simple things that gave her great pleasure; a cup of tea, the way the sunlight streamed through her curtains in the morning, a simple wave from a neighbor, a drive to the grocery store, the pleasure of good health. She glowed as she described the sound rain on her roof. Every moment became a moment to experience being alive.

I suddenly realized that I too had a growing list of small but wonder-full things; a warm bed, a roof over my head, money to buy food, gas in my car, the kindness of dear friends, loving hugs from my husband and children.

"From now on," she said, "I'll never be a victim, I'll be a fighter, a survivor." Her drastic change in perspective blew the door off any concept of victimhood. If you are grateful for your circumstance, no matter what they are, you cannot, ever, be a victim again.

With that same gratitude planted firmly in my heart…my mind brimmed with creative ideas, like…how could I make my own money? How could I take this situation and create a future out of it…a future that I owned? A future that otherwise would not have existed without this "tragedy." I can I turn this situation into an expression of life?

Equipped with my new found strength and courage, my new ideas of the importance of gratitude and love for the littlest of kindnesses I took a huge, brave step forward and co-founded my own company, intent on sharing the lessons I'd learned in my process.

I saw Rachel last weekend and told her how much her story had changed my life. She looked lovely, she'd lost over 40 pounds. I asked her if she still had the vertigo and she said, "Sometimes…when life's is just going along, it will show up. But in a really weird way, when it does, I say a little thank you prayer for it…it reminds me that I am alive."

by Elisa Van Arnam

Huna and Seasons

by Guest Author on November 17, 2012 · 1 comment

I was working with a couple who had split up amicably, and I asked the woman what are some of the positive things from this relationship you would like to keep for the future?

She told me that she valued the communication, the openness and fun she had had with her partner. Those became the "seed" she planted, and when she got into the next relationship they became her focal point, her focus.

Like the fruit of a tree that falls to the ground and dies, the ending of a relationship holds the seeds for future relationships. But we must consciously ask: What have I learned? What do I want to let go of? What do I want to keep?

I teach Huna, the ancient Hawaiian understanding of energy, healing and life, from my experience and lineage. Fall is a good time to take stock of our lives according to the law of cycles and rhythms that is part of Huna and other indigenous teachings.

Our world, our entire experience of our reality, occurs as a flow of energy like the alternating current that powers our electric appliances. For instance, business people know they must spend money to make money, and learn how to monitor the flow of energy (money) returning through their investments.

Our consciousness moves in natural cycles too – every 90 minutes or so we go into a light altered state where our brainwave pattern changes and we enter a more relaxed frame of mind. Do you ever have daydreams or need to walk outside and take a quick break? That is an example.

It is no secret that cycles and rhythms in the natural world, such as lunar phases and seasons, influence our lives. Every medical doctor I have talked to and worked with who has ever had experience in emergency care will say without a doubt there are more accidents and more crazy experiences on a full moon – even though there is no scientific explanation for it. That's where the word lunatic comes from. Early psychology recognized that on a full moon, crazy people got crazier for some reason.

The ancient Hawaiians understood through Huna that there are three basic energies experienced in all cycles and rhythms: birth, growth and completion or death. The cycle of fall now upon us is when the earth is transforming to a time of completing the change that began in spring.

I have had people ask me, since there are four seasons, why are there only three energies? While spring and winter are the beginning and end of the seasonal cycle, both summer and fall are part of the period of where growth moves to completion. Summer represents the peak of that change or transformation. Fall is when the seasonal curve moves toward completion.

In the fall we can begin to shed or release any of those things that we no longer need as we bring the year to an end. It is also a time when we can prepare for winter and store up the seeds of what we want to experience in the coming spring.

My stepfather lives at a very high altitude in the Sierra mountain range in California. This is a time of year when he begins to prepare for the winter. He makes sure he has wood chopped and stored, that his house has been weatherproofed and the roof is ready for the buildup of snow and ice. He checks the road to his house to make sure it can handle heavy snows and rains.

Likewise, we can look at fall as a time to spiritually prepare for both winter and spring by asking ourselves three questions:

  • What have I learned from what I have put into creation and experienced?
  • What do I want to change, transform or bring completion in the winter?
  • What aspect do I want to keep for the coming spring?

Every time I hold a training, I always take time near the end to and ask myself, what did I learn from this cycle? What aspects do I want to let go of? What parts do I want to keep for my next training?

This fall, ask yourself: What have I learned about myself? About my life? About society or our economic system? What do I want to let go of? What do I want to preserve? Make those things you want to preserve your focus in winter to prepare for spring.

My grandfather always said life is about learning. Good and bad, happy and sad, there is something to be learned. Fall is a time to reflect on what we have learned, what we want to release and what we will nurture in the coming year.

About the Author: Matthew B. James, MA, Ph.D., is President of The Empowerment Partnership, where he serves as a master trainer of Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP), a practical behavioral technology for helping people achieve their desired results in life. Dr. Matt has also immersed himself in Huna, the ancient practices of the Hawaiian islands of forgiveness and meditation for mental health and well-being, and he carries on the lineage of one of the last practicing kahuna. In his new book, Find Your Purpose, Master Your Path, Dr. Matt melds the ancient wisdom of Huna with modern psychology to assist us in leading conscious, purpose-driven lives. Dr. James contributes regularly to The Huffington Post and Psychology Today blogs. For more information and details on the NLP Practitioner Certification training now being offered for $97, visit www.NLP.com.


Dear friend,

Do you ever suffer from that dreaded emotion of feeling alive? Are you always complaining about that spring in your step, the annoying perception of joy in your heart, or the gnawing sense that you've found your purpose in life?

If you ask me, no one should have to live that way, and it's my mission in life to prevent these sorts of unfortunate conditions. Naturally, there are a host of things that will try and trip you up. Without even realizing it, you can find yourself feeling alive at no fault of your own. Here is a list — by no means is it exhaustive — of certain things you'll want to steer clear of: smiling babies, as well as all puppies, bunnies and kittens, circuses, water parks, dolphin shows and magic shows, oversized stuffed animals, silly string, bean bag chairs, helium-filled balloons, and of course, Pop Rocks.

Besides all that, here some very effective techniques for turning your situation around:

1) Spend as much time as possible looking at screens. Smartphone screens, computer screens, television screens. The higher number of screen time you can manage is in direct proportion to your lack of aliveness, so as usual, more is better. Also, try replacing face-to-face relationships and interactions with those that exist solely online as much as possible. Remember, leave the real living to the people participating on reality TV shows.

2) On the other hand, when it comes to nature, less is definitely more. Do not frequent parks, mountains, beaches, or wooded areas of any kind. Hiking, biking, climbing, fishing, skiing, swimming…these activities are strictly off-limits. Instead, spend time at more fruitful locales, such as the mall, airport security lines, or the DMV.

3) You should make it a priority to have a job that sucks the living soul right out of you. Specifically, the kind you dread going to and has you longing for the weekend as soon as you arrive. If you already have one, by all means, keep it, especially if it pays the bills. If it pays VERY well, you already find yourself in an ideal position. Refrain from the foolishness of following your "passion." You've got plenty of time for things like that so don't waste too much time thinking about it now.

4) Commit to as many things as you can, and for your kids as well. A good rule of thumb is to pick activities that you'd only do out of guilt, obligation, or as some misguided attempt to make your kids more appealing to institutes of higher learning. If you have blank spots on your calendar, you're doing it wrong.

5) Laughter is, of course, a killer. Addictive and insidious, it's a common culprit for creating feelings of "aliveness." Believe me, I have spared no effort in trying to wipe out this abominable nuisance. In fact, I've made great strides in all levels of government, and many professions as well. (Most of which I'm sure you'd be able to name.) And yet it persists. Resist its spell.

6) Anytime you slip into the habit of wondering if there's something more out there for you — and don't worry, it happens to the best of us — calmly remind yourself that this is as good as it gets. Trust me, it is.

7) My final tip is so good, it should be on a bumper sticker: dream small. Although I don't condemn dreaming, if you must, please, keep it "realistic."

Feeling less alive is not easy, but millions of people are accomplishing it every day. Follow my words of wisdom, friend, and so can you.



by Jason Kotecki

Do you ever wish you could access a natural state of vitality any time you want? What if there was process to do just that, and it only involved 4 simple practices? Would you want to know more? Me, too!

That's why I was delighted to be asked to review Code to Joy: The Four-Step Solution to Unlocking Your Natural State of Happiness by Drs. George Pratt and Peter Lambrou.

Psychologists Pratt and Lambrou open their book with a great story of a young truth-seeker who visited a wise monk and asked if the old man would tell him the path to peace and perfect joy.

The monk invited him in to have a cup of tea. As they sat the young man began telling about his studies, his many years questing for knowledge and all of his travels. As the young man talked the old man just nodded and smiled.

After a while the monk brought out a teapot and two cups. He began pouring the tea into the seeker's cup and continued pouring, pouring, and pouring.

Finally the young man realized the tea was spilling all over the table and onto the floor. He leaped to his feet and cried out, "Old man, are you nuts?! My cup is already full – it won't take any more!"

Without uttering a word the old man had pointed out that his visitor was already so full of his own ideas and thoughts it would have been pointless to tell him anything new about life.

Pratt and Lambrou contend this is exactly why our efforts to fill ourselves with positive new beliefs and good habits, or to resolve to change old patterns of thought and behavior are so often frustrating: there is no room for the new beliefs until we empty out the old ones.

This was a huge aha for me in understanding why popular approaches, such as affirmations, are so rarely effective in and of themselves. They need to be paired with approaches that address the deep-seated beliefs that can undermine the new practices.

Pratt and Lambrou talk a lot about the subconscious vs. the conscious, and they reminded me of the best metaphor I've heard for the relationship between those two parts of our mind: The subconscious mind is like an elephant and the conscious mind is like a human riding on that elephant. Which do you think is more powerful?

And so we must connect deeply with the subconscious in order to create change that will lead to authentic and lasting happiness.

The authors of Code to Joy offer a variety of exercises for cleaning out the old thoughts and focusing on our desired state of mind. In setting up these exercises, they've drawn from meditation, cognitive behavioral therapy and Meridian Taping (EFT or Tapping for short) — practices you've heard me wax enthusiastically about many times before!

One exercise I absolutely love and am incorporating into my daily routine is the Pledge of Acceptance.

What is the Pledge? First you find an affirmation that resonates for you (what they call your Personal Code to Joy), like "I deeply and completely accept myself. I am worthy of MASSIVE success." (That's mine.)

Then place your right hand over your heart, as if you were saying the Pledge of Allegiance. There is a nerve bundle located here, lying just beneath your fingertips. If you press or rub the spot, it will feel a little tender.

They call this the repattering spot: rubbing this spot triggers a neurolymphatic response that functions something like a major acupoint (where energy tends to get blocked).

Don't worry if you're not sure whether you've located the exact right spot. Firm pressure in this general area above your heart will activate the nerve bundle and produce the desired effect.

Rub this repatterning spot in a clockwise motion with the flats of your fingertips of your right hand.

As you rub the area, repeat your personal code to joy, either aloud or silently to yourself, five times.

Rubbing the nerve bundle opens a gateway to the biofield, allowing your statement to enter you and sink in on a far deeper level than the affirmation alone.

It is a deeply soothing and grounding process.

I really would encourage you to read the book. But if you take away nothing else, I recommend you incorporate the following practice into your daily routine:

The Daily Refresher

  • Two minutes of Crosshand Breathing . (In a seated position, cross your left ankle over your right. Place your left hand across your chest, so that the fingers rest over the right side of your collarbone. Then cross your right hand over your left, so that the fingers of your right hand rest over the left side of your collarbone. Breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth. As you breathe in, let your tongue touch the roof of your mouth, just behind your front teeth. As you breathe out again, let your tongue rest behind your lower front teeth.)
  • Pledge of Acceptance with the Personal Code to Joy statement (see above), aloud or silent (five times).
  • One minute of Anchor Hold (simply place one hand on your forehead, as if you were feeling for a fever, and the other hand in the opposite position, cupping the back of your head) while visualizing positive outcomes to circumstances that are currently challenging you.

For the next thirty days, do this three times a day: for example, first thing in the morning, at noon, and last thing at night.

So here's the major takeaway from Code to Joy: We are hardwired to connect to bliss, but negative thoughts and beliefs can derail our happiness. To be happy and successful you need to work on the conscious and subconscious realms of your psyche.

When you do this you will literally change your biochemistry, change your biofield, change your moods and thoughts and beliefs, and create authentic happiness and true success.

Do you plan to read the book or incorporate some of the practices I outlined in this article into your daily life? And what are you already doing that helps you feel fully alive?

by Stacey Curnow

Choosing The Right Credit Card

by Lance Ekum

Credit cards, if used responsibly, can be a great way to leverage the use of your money.  Over the last couple of years, I have been aggressively looking for opportunities to do just that.  NOTE:  Your credit is one of your most important assets.  If you currently have a high level of credit card debt, […]

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Feeling Is Being Alive

by Jen Slayden

Halloween day I set out for an early morning jog, opening up my creative brain to sit and write this article about FEELING ALIVE. I realized after about five miles of pounding the pavement that it would be impossible to write about anything other than what has been on everybody’s mind: the devastating Hurricane Sandy […]

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Be You…Be Remarkable!

by Lance Ekum

photo credit: Vanessa Pike-Russell “I will not die an unlived life. I will not live in fear of falling or catching fire. I choose to inhabit my days, to allow my living to open me, to make me less afraid, more accessible, to loosen my heart until it becomes a wing, a torch, a promise. […]

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