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10 Things to Remember When You Feel Alone

“You cannot be lonely if you like the person you’re alone with.“ – Wayne Dyer

On this planet of more than 7 billion people, many of us still feel so alone from time to time. As paradoxical as that seems, most everyone can relate to these feelings and experiences them at some point in their lives. Are these feelings unnecessary? Not always; every emotion we feel can unearth a hidden lesson and deeper meaning that we might have missed by not paying attention to our feelings.

However, next time you feel a wave of loneliness overcome you, try to remember the following advice to help you sift through those emotions.

10 Things to Remember When Feeling Alone

1. Feeling lonely reflects your relationship with yourself.

How many times have you gone out with new friends, or even old friends, wondering why you feel so alone in a group of people? It happens to the best of us. But, if you dig into those feelings a little deeper, you might find that you actually feel disconnected from yourself, and therefore have trouble relating to others. Spend time nourishing your relationship with yourself, and give yourself the attention you deserve. Many people look for any sort of distraction to avoid themselves, whether it be people, alcohol, drugs, food, or shopping. Learn to enjoy your own company, and you will slowly start to improve your connection to yourself and the world around you.

2. There are always friends or groups with common interests out there.

Connecting with like-minded people can quickly dissolve any feelings of isolation, so consider joining local groups to make new connections. Do you like hiking? Cooking? Painting? Running? Well, in most big cities, and even smaller ones, you can find tons of organizations that have weekly or monthly meetups for a wide variety of interests. Maybe you just need to make some new friends that you have more in common with, so don’t be afraid to put yourself out there and introduce yourself to new experiences.

3. Most people have been in your shoes at some point.

Almost everyone on this planet experiences loneliness; we all are just trying to figure things out together, so you’re not alone in feeling alone. This life is just an experiment, and no one has all the answers. To reassure yourself, you could even ask someone at the bus stop or at work if they ever feel alone. Most likely, they will answer “yes,” and you might even make a new friend in the process. Don’t mask your feelings; just embrace them and don’t ever doubt that someone out there can relate to how you feel.

4. By allowing yourself to get lost, you will find yourself.

We all have grown up in a molded society that tells us who to be, what to buy, and what to believe. However, when you detach yourself from all the noise and expectations, and create your own path, you get to redefine yourself. Or, invent yourself if you never had the chance to. Don’t fear the unknown; just take a couple steps into new territory and let your curiosity replace any apprehension you may feel.


5. You originate from the same unseen force as everything else.

Every life form on Earth comes from the same place you did, which connects us all automatically. Our separateness is just an illusion, but a very powerful one at that. Next time you feel isolated, go outside into nature and look at the flowers blooming, the birds chasing each other playfully through the forest, or even just the clouds in the sky. Become still within yourself, and you will soon remember that you are an intrinsic part of everything that surrounds you.

6. Learn to go with the flow in life.

Whatever happens, just accept it and keep on walking your path. Everything you encounter, whether good or bad, will guide you on your journey back home and teach you valuable lessons. Oftentimes, we insulate ourselves from life out of fear, or because we have the same old memories playing on a loop in our minds. Don’t let the past dictate your present; just let the universe carry you along effortlessly, and allow your actions to proceed your thoughts. The best things happen when we don’t over think, and just live.

7. Helping others helps us, too.

If you long for attention and understanding, chances are that someone else craves these things too. Take your mind off your own needs for a while, and offer your words or hands to someone else. This will help change your perspective, and remind you of all your blessings that others may not even have. Plus, it will help you form a bond with a stranger, and give you a sense of satisfaction knowing you made someone else’s life a little bit better.

8. All is always well.

Sometimes, we all just need to reassure ourselves and be our own rock when we feel depressed. Feeling human emotions should never be a cause for anger or embarrassment; just give into your feelings, and cry or get angry if you need to. Pick yourself back up, and tell yourself that you will always be there for you. You can’t be lonely if you love your own company, and part of that means consoling yourself on bad days. It’s okay to be human.

9. This is an opportunity to evaluate what you can change.

What makes you feel stuck and isolated about your current situation? Can you change it? If so, come up with some solutions instead of dwelling on the problems. If you don’t get enough human interaction on a day-to-day basis, consider doing something small, like going to your local coffee shop a few times a week. You can meet amazing people in any given place or time; you just have to put yourself in situations that allow connections to happen.

10. You can always love yourself.

Don’t wait until you feel bouncing-off-the-walls happy to love yourself. Don’t wait until you have lost thirty pounds, earned more money, gotten a new job, moved to a new place, made friends, or gone on a date to love yourself. Love starts and ends with you, so start loving yourself today. Love the pain and joy you experience, and remember to love your loneliness, too.


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Hold the Sugar, US Nutrition Panel Recommends

by Rachael Rettner, Senior Writer         February 19, 2015

Americans should limit the amount of added sugar they consume to no more than 10 percent of their daily calories, or about 200 calories a day for most people, say new recommendations from a government-appointed panel of nutrition experts.

If upcoming federal diet guidelines adopt this recommendation, it would be the first time those guidelines set a strict limit on the amount of added sugar that Americans are advised to consume.

U.S. dietary guidelines are revised every five years, and the latest revisions are due out later this year. Previous versions of the guidelines have advised Americans to cut down on added sugar, but have not set a specific limit.

Consuming too much added sugar has been linked with negative health outcomes, such as obesity and death from heart disease. The recommended limit of 10 percent of daily calories from added sugars is equivalent to about 12 teaspoons of sugar, or about 55 grams, the amount in one 16-ounce bottle of a sugary beverage.

The panel also said that added sugars should not be replaced with low-calorie sweeteners, but instead, with healthy options, such as water.

In addition, the panel said that it had examined evidence on the safety of the sugar substitute aspartame. The group concluded that “at the level that the U.S. population consumes aspartame, it appears to be safe,” but there is a need for more research on the effect that aspartame may have on the risk of blood cancer in men.

Overall, the panel recommended that “the U.S. population should be encouraged and guided to consume dietary patterns that are rich in vegetables, fruit, whole grains, seafood, legumes and nuts; moderate in low- and non-fat dairy products and alcohol (among adults); lower in red and processed meat; and low in sugar-sweetened foods and beverages and refined grains.”

Specifically, the panel said that people in the general population should consume less than 2,300 mg of sodium per day, and less than 10 percent of their total daily calories should be from saturated fat.

Although moderate alcohol consumption can be a part of a healthy diet, the panel clarified that people should not start drinking, or drink more often “on the basis of potential health benefits, because moderate alcohol intake also is associated with increased risk of violence, drowning, and injuries from falls and motor vehicle crashes.”

The panel also backed away from previous recommendations to limit cholesterol intake, because studies have found that dietary cholesterol does not considerably affect the amount of cholesterol in the blood. “Cholesterol is not a nutrient of concern for overconsumption,” the panel said.

The panel’s recommendations are now available online for public comment. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services will consider the report, along with other input, as it develops the 2015 dietary guidelines, which will be released later this year, the agency said.


Obesity Team Suggests Taxing Junk Foods More Than Healthy Eats

CBC News    Feb 18, 2015

Mandatory nutrition standards for foods sold in schools could be one approach to tackle obesity.

Lancet study says voluntary measures for food industry called ineffective

The global obesity epidemic needs to be reconsidered in terms of regulatory controls to make it easier for people to choose healthier foods, according to a new medical journal series.

In Wednesday’s issue of The Lancet, researchers note that no country out of 187 has reversed its obesity epidemic, but child obesity rates have started to level off in some cities and countries with “patchy progress.”

For children, the focus needs to shift to prevention given the enormous threat, said one of the lead authors, Christina Roberto of the nutrition department at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in Boston.

“There are a number of factors that work against us when we try to avoid unhealthy food,” Roberto said.

“We are really programmed to like high fat, high sugar, high salt foods and there are plenty of them available. We have psychological vulnerabilities. The way foods are marketed, the portion sizes we’re given, being inundated with food messages all the time, that makes us want to overeat.”

Convenience foods also tend to be less healthy, while healthier options can cost more, Roberto said.

Countries around the world have successfully tested ideas such as:

  • Quebec’s ban on commercial advertising directed at children under the age of 13, which the Supreme Court of Canada upheld because of the vulnerability of children.
  • Mandatory nutrition standards for foods sold in schools.
  • Overhaul food labels to make them easier to understand.
  • Government planning to encourage nutritious purchases from farmers markets, facilitate physical activity through bike lanes and green spaces and speed limits along school routes.
  • Brazil’s program that favours fresh, local, non-processed foods for children to eat in school meals.
  • Michelle Obama’s efforts to engage the food industry to improve nutritional quality of school menu items.

Other examples of policy solutions included:

  • Tax “health-related” foods less than junk foods.
  • Limit price promotions at point of sale, such as candy displays at the checkout.
  • Give nutrition education such as cooking classes in school.

There’s no shortage of ideas, but governments need the courage to implement them, Roberto said.

In countries such as India and Mexico, children’s heights are consistently below the World Health Organization’s reference values. “Tackling of overweight and underheight simultaneously will need a coherent nutrition policy to promote children’s health and prevent poor nutrition in all of its forms,” Tim Lobstein of the World Obesity Federation and his team said in another research paper.

Lobstein is also concerned with how highly processed foods and sweetened beverages contain ingredients to condition the taste buds of children to a lifetime of energy-rich, nutrient-poor foods.

Internationally, there are now more industry-led pledges on food advertising to children than government regulations, but the scope needs to be broader, with more nutritious criteria and better enforcement, the researchers said.

Voluntary measures ‘ineffective’ 

In Canada, Bill Jeffrey, national co-ordinator for the Centre for Science in the Public Interest, said the federal government or other provinces could expand Quebec’s advertising ban or change how higher taxes are applied to fresh fruit salad compared with sugar-loaded cereals.

“There’s a large appetite for doing voluntary measures with the food industry which demonstrably are ineffective,” Jeffrey said, commenting on the findings.

“The food industry is a formidable force in Canada. When you try to apply regulatory controls to them, they fight back. I think that’s a big part of the problem. People are not fully aware of the extent to which large companies really do try to resist good public health policy.”

At a grocery store in Toronto, Yasmine Halfnight said she’d welcome more regulations and education. Her daughter Grace is not yet two and already has food preferences based on appearance.

“She’ll see something with a Sesame Street character and she wants that,” Halfnight said.

Opposite ideas, such as individual responsibility versus environmental factors often shape the debate and stall progress, Roberto said, but increased efforts could make serious strides toward halting the obesity epidemic.

source: www.cbc.ca

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Mindfulness Meditation May Help Older People Sleep

BY KATHRYN DOYLE      Wed Feb 18, 2015

Reuters – Engaging in mindfulness awareness practices may be more helpful for older people who have trouble sleeping than just learning about how to make their bedrooms more conducive to sleep, according to a small new study.

“These simple yet challenging meditation practices provide the opportunity for people to expand their nonjudgmental awareness of sensory experiences arising in each moment,” said David Black, the study’s lead author from the University of Southern California, Los Angeles.

“Our findings arise from a structured mindfulness course with a skilled mindfulness instructor,” he said. “As compared to attempting mindfulness practice for the first time on your own, you are likely to gain the most benefit from a standardized course with an experience teacher.”

Previous studies found sleep benefits from movement-based meditation programs, such as tai chi, but none have looked at the possible benefits of non-movement meditation, the researchers write in JAMA Internal Medicine February 16.

A recent meta-analysis found that only mindfulness meditation, compared to other types of meditation, provided consistent benefits for stress-related conditions, Black told Reuters Health by email.

For the study, researchers included 49 people who were at least 55 years old with at least moderately disturbed sleep. After a phone interview and an in-person visit, they were randomly divided into two groups.

One group visited the study center for six weekly two-hour sessions of a course in Mindfulness Awareness Practices for daily living. Those included meditation, eating, walking, movement and friendly or loving-kindness practices.

A certified teacher, who led the exercises, handed out other resources. The teacher also told participants to meditate for five minutes daily, gradually increasing to 20 minutes daily.

The other group attended six weeks of a sleep hygiene and education course, where they learned about sleep problems, stress biology and stress reduction, self-monitoring of sleep behavior, relaxation methods for improving sleep, and weekly behavioral sleep hygiene strategies.


When the researchers measured sleep quality before the six-week programs, the average sleep quality questionnaire score was 10. A score of five or more indicates moderately disturbed sleep.

When the 49 participants completed the questionnaires again after the study, those in the meditation group had improved by an average of 2.8 points, compared to 1.1 points in the sleep hygiene group.

Daytime impairments, including symptoms of insomnia, fatigue and depression, improved more for people in the meditation group than those in the sleep hygiene group, too. Anxiety symptoms improved equally in both groups.

This study is commendable because sleep disturbances are very common among older adults, according to Adam Spira of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore.

“It turns out that some of the most widely used treatments are actually potentially harmful,” said Spira, who wrote an editorial accompanying the study.

Psychoactive sedative medications like benzodiazepine have been linked to poor health outcomes for older people, including cognitive decline, falls and general “fogginess,” he said.

“There’s a whole branch of effective interventions, cognitive behavioral interventions, that are very effective across age groups at treating insomnia,” but many physicians are not aware of providers in their area who may administer these services, Spira said.

Mindfulness meditation is not the same as cognitive behavioral therapy, but based on this study it does seem to improve sleep, he said, adding that it’s not clear how the method works.

Relaxing and decreasing physiological arousal may make it easier to fall asleep, or improving mood and reducing fatigue may help, enabling more exercise during the day which has been shown to improve sleep, he said.

Mindfulness meditation is particularly promising because it could be disseminated widely through the community, and would even be available to people with physical impairments for whom movement-based practices may not be an option, he said.

“This is definitely something worth investigating further,” Spira said. “I’m a little bit reluctant to make recommendations at this point, but if people have an interest in mindfulness meditation it’s probably fine to try.”

SOURCE: Ruters     bit.ly/1CEAjoQ and bit.ly/1EkJsp0      JAMA Intern Med 2015.


10 Foods That Promote Brain Health

by Brandi, selected from Diets in Review

Who doesn’t want to become smarter? Who wants to look better or feel healthier? Many recent studies have shown how certain nutrients can positively affect the brain, specifically in areas of the brain related to cognitive processing or feelings and emotions. Generally speaking, you want to follow a healthy diet for your brain that will lead to strong blood flow, maintenance of mental sharpness and reduce the risk of heart disease and neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and dementia.

We know that foods play a great role in our brain, as concluded in several studies led by a phenomenal neuroscientist at UCLA, Gomez Pinilla.

According to one study, the super fats your brain needs most are omega-3 fatty acids. Your brain converts them into DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) which enhances neuronal communication and promotes neuronal growth.

Food and nutrients represent fuel to our bodies the same way that when we use our car we need to fill the gas tank. Unfortunately, we generally take better care of our cars than our bodies. Why is that? We are hearing frequently that consuming the right nutrients can help our health, aging process, and more efficient brain-body functioning.

With that said, I want to share with you ten foods you must keep in your diet to maintain brain health:

1. Apples: Eating an apple a day protects the brain from oxidative damage that causes neurodegenerative diseases such Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. This magical nutrient that acts as protection is quercetin, which is a phytonutrient.

2. Asparagus: Asparagus is rich in folic acid, which is essential for the metabolism of the long chain fatty acids in your brain.

3. Lean Beef: Lean beef is rich in vitamin B12, iron and zinc. These vitamins and minerals have been shown to maintain a healthy neural tissue.


4. Blueberries and strawberries: Studies show that people who eat berries improve their memory and their motor skills. In addition, their antioxidant properties can protect your brain from the oxidative process.

5. Dark chocolate: Dark chocolate offers incredible concentration powers. It is a very powerful antioxidant containing natural stimulants that increase the production of feel-good endorphins. Trick: you need to find dark chocolate with less than 10 grams of sugar per serving for optimal benefits.

6. Salmon: Salmon contains omega-3 fatty acids, which studies have shown to be essential for brain function.

7. Dried oregano: Certain spices have powerful antioxidant properties. In several studies, this powerful spice has shown to have 40 times more antioxidant properties than apples, 30 times more than potatoes, 12 times more than oranges, and 4 times more than that of blueberries or strawberries.

8. Walnuts: Walnuts are rich in protein and contain omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins E and B6 which all promote healthy neural tissue.

9. Whole grains: Whole grains deliver fiber and vitamin E that help promote cardiovascular health, which helps improve the circulation to the brain.

10. Yogurt: Yogurt and other dairy foods are filled with protein and vitamin B that are essential to improve the communication between nerve cells.

Make sure that from now on you select and plan a great menu that include these brain foods. Life is about choices and selecting the right nutrients can play a key role in your health.

Written by Michael Gonzalez-Wallace, who is the author of Super Body, Super Brain.
You can read more from him at http://www.superbodysuperbrain.com or pick up his book Super Body, Super Brain.

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Should You Double Your Protein Intake?

February 16, 2015     By Alex Orlov, Life by DailyBurn

Think only twenty-something bodybuilders need to worry about their protein intake? Think again. A small study published this month in the American Journal of Physiology: Endocrinology and Metabolism reveals that you might want to double the recommended daily amount of protein you’re eating as you age.

Protein is essential for building and maintaining muscle. But as you get older, you’ll naturally start to lose some of your muscle mass and strength due to a combination of factors—less physical activity, diet, and changing growth hormones. This can affect your balance and gait, leading to a greater risk of fall and fractures. Yet, scientists are beginning to discover that this type of physical decline in old age may not be as inevitable as we once thought. And one secret weapon to longevity and strength could be the amount of protein you’re eating.

Previous guidelines established by The Institute of Medicine recommend that adults consume .8g/kg of protein per day. This means a 140-pound person would require 50 grams of protein, roughly the equivalent of a whole chicken breast.

“The RDA [recommended daily amount] represents the lowest amount of protein that can be eaten to avoid symptoms of deficiency in most normal individuals,” says study author Il-Young Kim, PhD, research instructor in the Department of Geriatrics at the University of Arkansas. Hitting those levels is clutch because protein can curb your appetite and prevent weight gain, while also keeping your bones, skin and blood in tip-top shape. But it turns out we may have been underestimating how much protein seniors really need.

Photo: Getty Images

How much is enough?

For their study, researchers analyzed a group of 20 men and women, ages 52 to 71, over the course of four days. Each individual was randomly assigned to one of four test groups and given prepared meals for the duration of the study.

Ten individuals ate 0.8g/kg of protein a day, the current recommended daily amount. Half of those participants ate an uneven distribution of protein throughout the day (15% at breakfast, 20% at lunch and 65% at dinner). The other half spaced out their consumption evenly throughout the day (one-third at breakfast, lunch and dinner).

In another group, 10 individuals ate 1.5g/kg (0.7 g/lb) of protein a day—or twice as much as the current recommended daily levels for that age group. To help them hit this higher level of protein intake, researchers supplemented participants’ diets with milk protein concentrate. Half of these participants also consumed protein at uneven levels throughout the day, while the other half divided their protein consumption equally between meals.

Powered by protein

At the end of the study, the participants who ate twice the recommended daily level of protein experienced significantly greater levels of muscle protein synthesis and net protein balance, two important factors in muscle mass. Protein synthesis reflects the rate of production of new muscle protein, says Dr. Kim.

Surprisingly, the percentage of protein intake per meal did not have a significant effect on protein synthesis, though previous studies have shown that an even distribution of protein across meals was more beneficial.

While there’s no simple answer to why muscle mass decreases as someone ages, this study adds to a body of research investigating ways to boost longevity and strength in older adults. And one thing is clear: “Our results are consistent with a large and growing literature that the optimal level of protein intake is greater than the RDA for all adults,” says Dr. Kim.

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Patience, The Art of Intelligent Waiting

Sara, from Institute of HeartMath   February 15, 2015

“Adopt the pace of nature: Her secret is patience.” —Ralph Waldo Emerson

Life unfolds in spite of our impatience. The misfortune of it is that because of our impatience we don’t fully appreciate the joy and beauty of watching it unfold. And then there’s all the stress and discontentment along the way.

Especially today, with the rapid pace of modern life, lowering the level of impatience could help reduce a lot of the world’s stress. It is fortunate then that many of life’s experiences teach us that patience is possible. The impatience of youth, for instance, at last becomes patient because adulthood finally arrives. The impatience of the artist becomes patient because art is created. Driving in traffic becomes patient because the destination is finally reached.

Impatience, however, can have great costs. How much has impatience in people’s lives led to things that could have been but never were: a true friend lost because five minutes of conversation could not be spared; poor marks in school because of a lack of attention to instructors and instructions; immeasurable and uncountable opportunities gone by the wayside because judgment, anger and anxiety among other byproducts of impatience prevented people from ever knowing they existed.

In contrast, how much is there in our lives that our patience has benefited us? Our true loves, cherished friends, close confidantes and other rewarding relationships nurtured through mutual listening, empathy and unconditional acceptance; a finished project at work whose success is owed to perseverance and attention to detail; a major breakthrough with a withdrawn child because of unwavering parental love, understanding and patience.

‘The Art of Intelligent Waiting’

Impatience, it is clear, is not an emotion that befalls only an unfortunate few. It may be true that there is a lot of impatience in some people, but there is a little impatience in all people.

Institute of HeartMath Founder Doc Childre characterizes patience as “the art of intelligent waiting” – waiting with purpose, positive intention and a sincere belief that waiting is an important element in the unfolding of all things.

“Patience is the practice of maintaining a state of inner ease and resilience when you are tempted to be impatient,” Doc says, “especially when the mind wants to force results, rather than remain in flow.
“Impatience is an invitation to frustration, shallow discernment, and faulty choices. With a little heart-focused intention and practice, we can effect a makeover by replacing impatience with patience – the secret sauce in the recipe for flow. When our hearts truly commit to becoming patient, then our minds will cooperate, surrender their resistance and take purposeful steps to manifest it.”


Although we may not always consciously acknowledge when we have slipped into impatience, this emotion certainly is not an involuntary one. There is no Man Waiting in Trafficreason we cannot opt to be patient in myriad situations throughout our busy days. Here are some common examples:

  • Encountering a neighbor, colleague or other acquaintance while on our way to the office, store, a meeting or other place.
  • Driving in stop-and-go traffic.
  • Waiting on that seemingly endless spinning wheel on the computer screen.
  • Listening to someone tell a long story about something that happened to him or her.
  • Fidgeting or clock-watching near the end of the work or school day.

Think of a time when you grew impatient in any of the situations above. Did you tell yourself, “I don’t want to be here,” or “I don’t have time for this.” How much effort would it have taken if you had gone to your heart instead and told yourself, “I have a choice. I don’t have to be impatient. I can make peace with this situation.”

“The greatest ideas in history often came to light in sudden bursts of inspiration. Then patience prepared them for the world.”

Patience through Inner Ease

Man MeditatingEven individuals who meditate and use heart tools still may experience some impatience, but these are practices that can diminish our impatience to a mild or hardly perceptible feeling that we can simply acknowledge and let go.

A primary goal of such practices should be to access your personal space of inner ease, where choosing not to be impatient comes more naturally and quickly.

“The state of ease is a refuge,” HeartMath’s Doc Childre writes in his booklet, The State of Ease, “a refuge for action in our hearts and minds. In ease, instead of reacting in the same old ways to the stresses and challenges of our harried world, we can take a little time to connect with the qualities of our hearts – love, care and compassion – and our hearts’ wisdom.” (Go to The State of Ease to download a free copy of the e-booklet.)

The state of ease can be achieved within minutes with HeartMath’s Inner-Ease® Technique any time you feel at risk or are in the grip of impatience. When you practice Inner-Ease on a regular basis, you can add more flow to your life and greatly reduce episodes of impatience.

Developing Patience (Adapted from the Inner-Ease Technique.)

  • If you are feeling impatient, acknowledge your feelings as soon as you sense that you are out of sync – experiencing feelings such as impatience, frustration, anxiety, being judgmental or mental gridlock.
  • Take a short time-out to do heart-focused breathing: breathe a little slower than usual, and imagine you are breathing through your heart or chest area.People In Line
  • As you do heart-focused breathing, imagine with each breath that you are drawing in feelings of patience and inner ease.
    • Anchor these feelings of patience and inner peace in your heart. Do this throughout your daily tasks, interactions and challenges.6006

Remember, the presence of sincere patience means the absence of so many byproducts of impatience: negative emotions like anger, disappointment, frustration and blame among others. Rather than draining yourself and creating negative energy, you can increase your energy and resilience. Sincere patience means approaching situations with a positive attitude, care, understanding and genuine allowance.

The long lines at the store, traffic jams and slow computers won’t instantly disappear as you practice Inner Ease. However, the state of inner ease helps us attune our mental and emotional nature to the most reasonable and effective way for responding to each situation that life brings us.