Dreaming of a Blessed New Year

The Christmas Story is filled with angels, dreams and interpretations. That phenomenon was not just for long-ago and is still prevalent for us today.

Our awake mind takes in information and responds. Sleep allows the brain to rearranges recent memories, a process that can lead to insight and new knowledge. Researchers believe that sleep is not only good for our physical health but also for our mental well-being.

Each night we go through stages of sleep. In the process of falling asleep breathing and pulse slows and muscles relax. The brain waves are regular and the body can be easily awakened. In deep sleep the brain waves slow down with occasional spikes depending on surrounding noise or interference. In the deepest sleep, known as REM or rapid-eye-movement, the brain stem releases chemicals and fires electrical signals. The muscles are so relaxed the body is virtually paralyzed.

During REM is when dreams occur. Scientific research reveals that everyone dreams every night, whether remembered or not. During REM sleep chemicals go to all parts of the brain gathering a mix of visual images and emotional feelings and coalescing them into a dream that has elements of both the real and the bizarre.

You can train yourself to remember and benefit from your dreams but it may take time. Start by deliberately putting you to bed. Quiet your breathing and deliberately turn off your mind’s rehearsal of the day’s events or tomorrow’s worries. Tell yourself that you will remember your dream upon awakening. Learn to wake naturally, without an alarm.

Write it down. Up on awakening, continue to lie still and concentrate on remembering your dream. Keep a pad and pencil by your bedside and immediately jot down the dream exactly as you remember it. Do not embellish and do not edit.

At off moments during the day, reflect on your dream for insights. Was it meaningful or simply entertainment? Embrace success and look forward to more.

An example. I had a recurring dream of various meetings and demands made on me. Mixed up with all this was a nagging that I had lost a library book and a huge fine was awaiting. Upon awaking I was puzzled. The thing that stood out the most was the library book. It made no sense since I prefer to own the books I read.

My interpretation. I began to reflect upon the last time I had visited a library. Then I remembered having called several bookstores and the library trying to find a certain book for a client. The library had it and put it aside, in my name, to be picked up. I gave the information to my client. He never went. Consciously I dismissed it. Unconsciously my name was on the line. Once the problem came to light a solution was formulated.

Science gives validity to Mom’s advice to “sleep on it”. The function of the unconscious mind is to protect you. When you have a decision to make or a problem to solve, your mind works over-time - day and night - to honor you. Sleep allows the brain to rearranges recent memories, a process that can lead to insight and new knowledge.


Holiday Priorities and Organization

Sunrise. Sunset. Life is a continuous, on-going process. Planting, weeding, harvesting and canning. As much as we accomplish, there is always more to do. As much as we know, there is always more to learn. Here are a few thoughts on prioritizing and organizing.

Identify the most important. Write down all the needs for the day, arrange in order of priority and tackle number one. Stay with number one until completed. Continually assess, “What am I doing now?” Weigh the current activity against what you have identified as the most important.

Make it a part of your routine. Remember the hare and the turtle? It is better to consistently devote one-hour a day to planning and implementation than hours of stressful catch-up. Habits form character and determine destiny.

Practice the One to Four Ratios. Time management experts say that for every one of planning reduces execution by four to ten times. One hour of advance preparation can take up to ten hours off the finished project. One day of concentrated planning can reduce the job by four to ten days. One week of deliberate groundwork can knock off ten weeks from the completed task.

Preto’s 80/20 Law of Predictable Imbalance. This principle ascertains that 20% effort produces 80% results. Using this predictable imbalance, 20% of your outfits are worn 80% of the time, leaving 80% of the items in your closet as clutter. Busy-ness does not mean business. In a given workday, 20% of your activities produce 80% results, leaving 80% as non-productive bustle. Twenty-percent of your social interaction will produce 80% of your leads. By eliminating 10% public commitments, you will gain time to develop better customer service.

Simplify through elimination. Be realistic about what you can do, what you cannot do and what you do not intend to do. Rather than delaying and denying, let yourself know your conclusion. Schedule in and pursue the can do’s and will do’s. Obtain help where needed and discard the rest.

Be an investigative reporter. Budget your time by asking pertinent questions, such as who? what? when? where? and how? Who needs to be involved in this task? Who will benefit from my completing this chore? What resources are needed for efficiency? What results are anticipated? What benchmarks point to accomplishment? When will supplies be available? Where do we eliminate fluff? How does this element compliment that component? Keep these qualifiers and quantifiers in sight to help you stay on track.

Find balance.
Live one day-at-a-time while planning for the future. Plan around your entire life; being diligent to include family.

Much of the business of life is repeated over and over. Michael Gerber states that the “solution is in the system.” Developing a smooth running system reduces frustration, increases productivity and is easily taught to new workers.


Home for the Holidays

The holidays are filled with family, friends, laughter, parties, decorating, shopping, cooking --- and stress. How do you take pleasure in celebrating without stressing? Allow the following thoughts to put you more at ease and increase your enjoyment.

Focus on the real issue. Holidays are about remembering a meaningful event – the founding of a free nation, the virgin birth of Christ, the miracle oil that burned eight days, celebrating family, customs and culture. Do not allow the focus to be packed calendars to prove your status in the community, or elaborate decorations to showcase your talents, or lavish spending as a display of your generosity (and pending debt).

Surrender to family time and just enjoy being together. Sure, Uncle Joe might be a bore and your in-laws a little overbearing, but they are family. Approach the visits with the right attitude and a forgiving spirit. Let your guard down and do not be so sensitive or too critical. Allow the mistakes of yesterday to pass with yesterday and enjoy the holidays without incident. Your mate was by choice, the rest are by chance, so breath deeply, laugh spontaneously and embrace the loving energy that family brings. Live one day at a time, and appreciate that one day for what it is and for who you are.

Keep it simple sweetie. A gourmet sandwich with a relaxed host is more enjoyable than a seven-course meal with an uptight party-giver. Stay within your budget when gift giving and par down the list of recipients. I suggest that buying less and paying cash for holiday expenses upfront will help you get back the true spirit of the season. After the holidays, buying less and paying cash for the needs of life will help get back the true meaning of living.

Be creative. In decorating, greenery, ribbons and lights are quite elegant. Make a centerpiece of a beautiful bowl filled with pinecones and springs of holly gathered from the woods. Add ribbons to cookie cutters and hang on the tree. Replace wire ornament hangers with sparkly ribbon. For a festive look, intertwine garland of gold or silver around pictures or non-holiday nick-knacks. Find excitement in seeing how you can take existing items and give new life with small changes. Use the Sunday comics as wrapping paper.

Attach new meaning. Change your mindset toward the things you have. When our daughter was young I wanted to buy new exciting tree decorations and discard the old. It was not in our budget. Instead of seeing it as the same old stuff, I began to look at it as tradition. We used these traditional ornaments for the next twenty-five years and they grew more special each season. They have been gently retired to the attic.

If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter. The invitations were sent before the monsoon rains came and disabled our rural septic system. What to do? Without mention of the problem we welcomed our guests and continued the festivities as planned. When a guest had to go to the bathroom, he was greeted by a decorated port-a-potty and a smiley-faced sign: “Please do not flush the commode. If you prefer, Wal-Mart is five miles down the road.” The party was enhanced as others shared humorous stories of similar predicaments.

Memorize and live the Prayer of Serenity. Most people know the first four lines of Reinhold Niebuhr’s Prayer of Serenity, as they are used in all the twelve-step recovery programs. I encourage you to meditate upon the entire poem. (see below)

DON’T COPE, OVERCOME: Holiday is the shortened form of the term holy day. Holidays are times of renewal. Allow your creativity to be rekindled, spirit to be renewed, relationships to be rebuilt and the holidays will indeed by happy.


God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
the courage to change the things I can,
and the wisdom to know the difference.
Living one day at a time,
enjoying one moment at a time;
accepting hardship as a pathway to peace;
taking as Jesus did, this sinful world as it is, not as I would have it.
Trusting that You will make all things right if I surrender to your will;
so that I may be reasonably happy in this life
and supremely happy with You forever in the next.
Reinhold Niebuhr


Improved Relationships

May these Improved Relationship suggestions add to the holiness of the Holiday Season.

“But I’m doing the best I can.” Even though tempted to use that excuse, my self-awareness, social understanding and spiritual consciousness prods me until I get honest in defining my part of the problem and seeking effective solutions. Though we may think we are doing the best we can in the moment,on honest reflection we can see improvements for the next time.

Look at your own history. Do you have a string of rocky/broken relationships, unsatisfactory jobs, contention with authority, stressful living and overall lack of happiness and success? Do not joust at windmills trying to fix everyone else. Look at the common denominator – you.

As the TV commercial suggests, pointing out a problem is not enough. Look for your underlying motive through reflection and find solutions through trial and error. The path includes honest thought, sincere planning, decision making, willingness to sacrifice and unassuming action.

Questioning your hidden agenda is a good place to start. There is faith in honest doubt. Will you meet your belonging need by following the crowd or be true to your authentic self by heeding your the still small voice? And you must become quiet to hear it.

Conscious is an inward knowing of right from wrong with a compulsion to do what is right. One’s life purpose includes doing what is best for you and, by default, it is also best for others. We are all connected and our lives enter-twine.

Be responsible for your thoughts and your actions. Placing blame somewhere else puts the situation outside yourself and causes one to think the fix is up to him/her. When we identify our part of the problem and take responsibility for our thoughts, our attitude and our actions, then we have something we can work with.

That is not to say that we work independently. I/we messed this us. I/we are each responsible to some degree. I/we need course correction. The thing is, the only one over whom we have control is the “I” portion, not the “we” factor(s). To take personal responsibility results in empowerment. You have found the one and only locus of control.

life is about need verses need. Once you make the decision to quit blaming and to take responsibility for your part, the atmosphere mysteriously softens and the seeming opponent is placed in a more comfortable position to follow your lead.

The greatest threat to taking back your own life is comparing yourself with others and deeming self as having fallen short. This leads to following the crowd and participating in group think. It becomes a self-depreciating way that leads to stagnation and conflict (with you more than them).

Understand the necessity of self-imposed limits. I define responsibility as “having ability to determine how to respond”. It is through discipline that we move from dissatisfaction to hopeful. Placing limits leads to fulfillment.

Don’t Cope, Overcome: Flourish and overcome by really doing the best you can. Think it through, make a choice, act upon your decision and relish the feel good results. Your life is a gift worth receiving (or taking back).