A Valentine’s Day reminder for all my loving friends.

Today is Valentines Day and for many, this day comes loaded with heavy baggage. Not only for couples who have to find a way to prove to their lovers that they care by spending lots of money on things they don’t really need. (like balloons, jewelry and, candy)

But it is also heavy for all the beautiful souls that are not in a relationship at this time. Maybe you’re going through a breakup, maybe you’re unhappy in your current relationship, maybe you have yet to find the right soulmate for you. Valentine’s Day doesn’t care, it shows up whether you like it or not.

Whatever your current situation, I want to remind you that Valentine’s Day is nothing more than a commercial holiday. It is a day retailers go on a mission to convince men to spend their hard earned money on stuff and to train women to accept nothing less than a grandiose monetary display of affection.

I’m writing to remind you that love is so much more than that. Love cannot be bought on a shelf of a store; it cannot be ordered on Amazon nor can it be charged to a credit card.

Love my friends, is so much more.

Love is showing kindness. Love is being patient with someone who’s struggling to figure themselves out. Love is helping a soul in need without any expectation for reciprocation. Love is taking good care of ourselves. Love is respecting other viewpoints even if they differ from our own. Love is that comfortable silent moment. Love is a hug that warms your heart and makes you smile. Love is when someone makes you laugh when you’re feeling down. Love is accepting and embracing others exactly as they are, flaws and all.

So, if you are single, do not allow retailers make you feel lonely or incomplete. If you are in a relationship, talk to your partner, tell them you don’t need all this V-Day fluff. If you are hurting, show love to someone you know. Giving love is one of the best ways to heal a broken heart.

While Valentine’s Day may take over your TV, infect your computer screen and overpopulate your inbox today, remember my friend, love is not only found in romance. Love is all around us, patiently waiting for us to open the door and let it in.

Sending you love, peace, and good vibrations. (not just because its Valentines Day, but always)

~Alyana

Where do you stand on Tom Brady’s kiss?

The latest Tom Brady controversy got me thinking about the power of social media. It is fascinating how something sweet and innocent can easily get misconstrued and distorted by the masses; how easily people get stirred up and outraged by simple actions of others; how quickly they are to jump in to judge, comment and criticize when the spotlight is not on them.

If you haven’t heard Tom Brady’s latest drama, here is a quick background. Tom Brady recently starred in a new documentary called Tom vs. Time, which shows his life on and off the field. In one of the episodes, his 10-year-old boy leans in to kiss his father (click below link to see the video). This kiss became the talk of the town, some of which was positive, some, unfortunately, not so much.

https://youtu.be/EP_2NXe0_1g

I was surprised to see how many people were outraged by this display of affection. Some are calling it creepy, others are saying it is outright disturbing. Some even said that this controversy has the US divided in either supporting or bashing parental affection.

When I heard the buzz I had to see it for myself. What I saw in that video was a loving connection between a father and son. I saw a warm relationship where there is love, security, and trust.

I don’t usually get involved or even comment on ridiculous controversies of this type. This one, however, hit home for me. I couldn’t ignore the absurdity of this topic. I couldn’t stand by and not support a father whose reputation was dragged through the mud because he decided to share this private moment with his son.

I had to speak up because it’s not funny to discredit a loving dad for having a good relationship with his kid. It’s not fair to call a sweet parent-child interaction an act of disgrace. It’s not right to tarnish his integrity and reputation because people don’t understand how close and affectionate a family can be.

I support Tom because I too am a parent who unconditionally loves her child. I want to show the “other” half of the US that there are many loving families out there that see this for what it is, a kind display of love and unity. I want to show the world that there are so many of us who kiss our children because we are and will forever be deeply connected. I say this without the slightest hesitation because I am sure many parents would agree, that our children will always be our babies in our eyes and we understand how innocent and pure a parent’s kiss truly is.

So in honor of love and family unity, I proudly share my kissy photos with my son and I don’t care what anyone has to say about it!

tom brady kiss, tombradykiss, kissyourkids, love, kisses, lovepaperpen

If you are a proud parent with a strong bond with your child, I ask you to do the same and post it on a social medium of your choice with a hashtag #tombradykiss and #kissyourkids

tom brady kiss, tombradykiss, kissyourkids, love, kisses, lovepaperpen

To all the wonderful parents out there who love and respect their children, I thank you for raising emotionally healthy and loving beings, the world needs them.

tom brady kiss, tombradykiss, kissyourkids, love, kisses, lovepaperpen

With love and kisses, Alyana

Self-Love is a skill. Here’s a tip on how to sharpen it.

What do you see when you look in the mirror? What comes to mind when you self-reflect? Can you think of a few things you love about yourself? Self-perception is a very tricky thing. Here is my latest run-in with self-perception.

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I love all things that motivate, ignite and inspire. I love having deep and meaningful discussions that stimulate and energize our minds. I do my best to be optimistic and make a conscious effort to focus on the good.

With such a strong emphasis on positivity in my life, I was surprised by what I recently discovered about myself. I realized that despite all the love I focus on, I am still much too tough and unkind to myself. This made me wonder how many of you my friends do the same? How many of you work your butts off to please others, to make sure you get this and that checked off your to-do list? How many of you give yourself a hard time because you didn’t accomplish enough, didn’t try harder, didn’t make it as far as you’d hoped? I bet I’m not alone.

This thought laid its heavy head on me during a recent yoga practice. The instructor gave us a focus exercise, she said: “think of one thing you love about yourself.” I was surprised at just how long I pondered on this. It took me much too long to find something I could say I truly loved about me. Criticism, doubt and, cynicism jumped up at the opportunity to stomp on my self-love.

So I ask you my friends, can you think of one thing you love about yourself? Can you be that honest and real with yourself? Without anyone listening, without anyone judging your words can you find one thing you admire about you?

If you, like I, struggled with this, don’t worry, you are not alone. Here is what helped me.

Realizing that I had an issue with this exercise was the first step. Just like any addiction, we need to understand that the problem exists before we start to address it.

Next, I began to seek solutions. One way I was able to change the narrative in my mind was to hear a voice of a loved one. I imagined all the good things they would say about me, to me. I thought hard about what words they would use to inspire, uplift and motivate me. I concentrated on this so deeply that after closing my eyes I was able to see their face, their mouth, their warm and comforting smile. Then I paid attention to what sticks. Which of their statements can I agree with? What do they see in me that I so easily neglect?

This exercise helped me realize that I have some inner work to do. It reminded me that I am a loving and caring person that deserves my own kindness and respect. And last but not least, it reminded me how fortunate I am to have people in my life that uplift, support, and encourage me. I am grateful to have someone to remind me that I am love; that I am light and that I am enough exactly the way I am.

In case you forgot dear one, let me be the voice that reminds you that you are beautiful, you are kind, you are loved and you owe yourself some honest and comforting self-love!

P.S. Shout out to my Yoga instructor for allowing me to go deeper not just with my stretching but for helping me stretch those tightly wound up muscles in my mind.

 

Sending you love, peace and, good vibrations. Today and always.

With love, Alyana

The Gift of Adversity

By Marcus Aurelius Anderson

“Out of suffering have emerged the strongest souls.”
-Khalil Gibran

Life is a collection of moments, and you never know which moment will change your life forever. We all have priorities, as our lives change, so do our priorities. The things that were important to us as a child grow and evolve as we age. Along the way to adulthood, these priorities often become skewed. We begin to erroneously believe that material possessions and the opinions of others are more important than they should be. Logically, we know this should not be the case, yet we are compelled and motivated by these ultimately superficial things.

When in this headspace, it often takes a radical shift in perspective to bring us back to what’s genuinely important in life. This message from the Universe must be obvious and undeniable.
My radical shift happened while I was in the military.

While preparing to deploy, I suffered a severe spinal injury that left me paralyzed from the neck down. In a heartbeat, I went from preparing for war on the battlefield to a war within my own body and mind. During the subsequent surgery, I died on the operating table, twice. While the doctors saved my life, I was told that I’d never walk or use my hands again.
My life went sideways. I was in a complete state of shock. I simply could not wrap my mind around the notion that I would be like this for the rest of my life. I was beside myself. I couldn’t use a cell phone or get on the internet, all I could do was lie in a bed and think about my life.

The things that I kept thinking about weren’t my accomplishments. What kept coming to mind were the regrets of things I hadn’t achieved. I realize that we will all have regrets in life to some extent. We are often under the romantic notion that we will live a perfectly healthy life to be 100 years old until we are lying on our deathbed, surrounded by family and close friends.  But I wasn’t on my deathbed. I was an otherwise healthy person who probably had another 40+ years to live in my current physical state, plenty of time to let my regret slowly eat away at me from the inside. Up to that point, I thought that I’d lived my life on my own terms and had some grand adventures. But in hindsight, I regretted not going after all the things I’d kept putting off “until tomorrow.”

Lying in that bed, I had no idea what I was going to do next. My entire life had revolved around my primary objective of deploying in the military. That goal had evaporated, and now I was left without purpose or the use of my physical body.
Without purpose, we look for distraction to keep us mentally, emotionally and physically occupied. The only distraction that I had at my disposal was anger. The madder I became, the more it welled up inside me like a venomous volcano. This inwardly directed anger is the very definition of depression. I started thinking of ways of taking my own life, but I couldn’t even accomplish that in my current physical state.

The things that I once thought were important became a distant memory. The education I had, the house I lived in, and car I drove mattered not. My bank account was simply a number on a screen or slip of paper that could not change my condition. Take a moment and ask yourself one question:

What would you do if you found yourself in my circumstance, what regret(s) would you harbor?

Read that statement again.

The things that are coming to mind right now, these are the things that you legitimately value. These are your Priorities, and these are the things you should start acting on this very moment.

In my paralyzed state, I quickly realized that my family was a priority to me. The strong relationships I had with longtime friends was another.But there was another priority that I realized I’d overlooked. That priority was gratitude.
I realized I wasn’t grateful for my health or physical abilities. I’d mistakenly taken these things for granted.
In hindsight, I saw that I’d taken the time I’d been given for granted as well. Up until the time of my injury, I always assumed that I’d have “tomorrow” when I could be potentially inhaling my last breath at any moment.
I tried desperately to find something, anything, to be grateful for in my paralyzed condition. I knew I should be grateful to be alive, but I felt like I wasn’t really living. It felt like I was simply existing.

Finally, after 3 agonizing months, I had an epiphany.

I realized that I was focusing only on myself, on my situation. I wasn’t thinking about others. Once I started looking outside of me, at the positive things that my injury prevented, my mindset changed. For example, if I’d suffered this injury while I was deployed, I could have potentially put others lives in danger. It takes many people to drag an injured man out of danger to a helicopter and fly him to safety. This means that everyone from my team to the helicopter crew and pilot of the Chinook would have been put in harm’s way to save my life.

That fact became the cornerstone of gratitude upon which I could build. I began to construct appreciation of more things on this foundation. Slowly but surely, I began to be grateful for other things I’d taken for granted. Eventually, I was even grateful for the bed I was confined to and the room that I may never be able to leave. After 3 months, I was able to see my injury as a blessing. Once I started seeing my Adversity as a gift instead of a curse, something miraculous began to happen.

A week after I shifted my mindset into this state of unconditional gratitude, the fingers on my left hand began to move ever so slightly. It wasn’t much, but it was a foundation; my foundation for recovery.

After another 9 months of physical therapy and more months of occupational therapy, I was finally able to walk and function close to normal. To this day I still have permanent nerve damage in my hands and feet. And for that, I am grateful.
This impairment serves as a daily reminder of how far I have come compared to when my entire body was in the same numb condition.

While distractions are infinite, the time and ability you possess is limited. Use both of these precious commodities to the best of your ability while you are still able. Take the time to realize what is truly important in your life and act on them…now.

Learn to be grateful for everything in your life, both the good and the bad. The bad times will teach you that the good times in life are like a fine wine, and should be savored and appreciated as such.

Your life can change in a moment as mine did, and there is precious little time to waste. Life is a collection of moments, and you never know which moment will change your life forever.

 

love paper pen, submit your story, inspiration, motivationMarcus Aurelius Anderson is an author, TEDx speaker, professional keynote speaker and mindset coach.

To learn more about Marcus visit his website:
http://www.marcusaureliusanderson.com/

His book “The Gift of Adversity: Overcoming Paralysis and Pain to Find Purpose” is now available on Amazon and Kindle:
https://www.amazon.com/Gift-Adversity-Overcoming-Paralysis-Purpose-ebook/dp/B076P481QN/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1512258951&sr=8-1&keywords=the+gift+of+adversity

His TEDx Talk “The Gift of Adversity”:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iXicUawrH6o&t=9s

Why are we scared of change?

You know you’ll be better off. You know you’ll love it once it happens. There’s only one problem… You have to actually do it. Whether it’s a toxic relationship, unrewarding job or bad neighborhood, the pain felt every day seems tolerable compared to the potential pain of change. At least it’s familiar.

Every day, we reinforce patterns. Patterns of movement. Patterns of thought. Patterns of emotions. Just like the momentum of a speeding truck, the more time we spend in our patterns, the more challenging it is to change course. We fear losing control. This control allows us to feel comfortable. To be clear, comfort is different than safety. It is possible to be uncomfortable and still safe. Just imagine a hike in the cold rain. No risk of death, just wet socks.

Not being the sharpest tack in the box, I have always had a tendency to run towards discomfort. This has consistently confused my friends and family. Over the years, what could be interpreted as blind stupidity has been rebranded to courage. Still not sure I understand the difference, but the lesson is the same. The result has been a life that others describe as ‘fearless’.

Now let’s see if we can unpack the reasons why people struggle with change.

Stuff

Material possessions can bring joy. However, the majority of the material items in a person’s life cause more suffering than joy. Every additional item that you own requires care. If it is something of value to someone else, it needs to be protected from theft. If it is fragile, it needs protection from physical contact. Anyone who has ever moved as an adult understands how overwhelming it can be to get all of these things from one place to another.

While it would be extremist to expect modern adults to become minimalists and live out of a small red bag like the Dalai Lama, there are things to be done. Let’s consider the success of Kondo’s decluttering lessons. At the core of these teaching, we are encouraged to consider how much joy we receive from a given item. This item could be a shirt, a bowling ball or a knife. This joy can come from frequent use, aesthetic enjoyment or memories associated with that item.

Some stuff management systems have a goal of minimizing to a certain number of items. For most, this is a bit extreme. Starting with a donation run to the local thrift store can work. Consider getting rid of anything that has not been touched for the past year. Or create your own time frame you feel comfortable with.

Less things allow for more free thought and the ability to keep momentum down by keeping the weight down. Remember that a truck loaded with bricks will be harder to steer than a truck filled with feathers. Lighten up. Create empty space in your life.

Optional Responsibilities

Puppies are so cute! Then they grow up. And they eat, drink, poop and pee. All pets require attention. The attention could be worth it if the pet provides great joy to the owner. More often than not, pets become more a burden for us instead of a source of joy. Every additional living thing that depends on you for life maintenance adds weight to your life.

Before getting that hamster, consider the reality of the hamster. Consider whether you and/or your family have the bandwidth to give that hamster the best possible life. Do you have time to play with the hamster and keep its cage in top shape? Make custom hamster capes? Play fiddle to the hamster in the morning? Think about the life this hamster will have in your house.

Remember that we are referring to change here. If your goal is to homestead, then a menagerie of animals is perfect. Get the ducks and goats. Collect eggs. That’s the journey. It’s a settling into the ground, not a moving over the ground.

Fear

This is a big one. Most people are ruled by fear. The largest source of fear is the unknown. Most of the physical world is unknown to us. Our own deeper emotions are mostly unknown to us.

Bravery is not the absence of fear. It is acknowledging the presence of fear and advancing anyway. Be scared. It’s normal. But the thing that you can control is what to do with that fear.

Fear can keep someone in a toxic relationship for too long. Fear of being alone. Fear of never finding someone else who will love you as much as this abusive individual who loves you. Even though abuse if present, it’s less scary than the fear of the unknown.

More than half of the over 100 million working Americans are disengaged at their jobs. This means they will put in the bare minimum of work. They don’t love what they do. But having a job is better than not having a job, right?! Not really. Considering the longer time horizon of life, people rarely lay on their deathbed wishing they worked more. Work feels less like work when you love what you do.

In order to make the leap to a profession of passion, it requires leaping. Leaping is scary. Will I get the job I want? Will I make enough money? Will it be what I think it will be? Trusting in the future is the only way to get past these doubts. Go through the worst case scenario. Will you need to cut back on going out to eat? Would you need to move in with your parents? With your children? Coming to terms with these worst-case scenarios can help to leap. If you can handle the worst case, anything better than that will be a pleasant surprise.

Planning

This can be considered intention. Intention always precedes actualization. Imagine that you are going on a road trip. It will take many days to get to your desired destination. You know where you are going, though. Even when you are driving at night, you know where you will end up. It’s only necessary to see the road as far as the headlights go. In many ways, that’s how life is. We don’t always know the details of the events that will transpire between our departure and arrival.

If we do not know where we want to end up, we will wander around. In the wandering, we will encounter interesting opportunities and experiences. While this does not necessarily result in an unpleasant life, you are not likely to arrive at a place you never tried to get to in the first place.

For me, the planning came in the form of a vision board. It was an evening’s craft project at the age of 30 that guided the next decade of my life. The final result of the process is less important than the practice of determining the desired outcome. Here’s how simple it was:

vision board

Ok, so not all of the things on this vision board came true. Most of them did, though.

Large plans require time. Small plans are fast. Because people are generally impatient, we have a tendency to create and execute a series of small plans. Each small plan completed gives us a sense of accomplishment. That little dose of dopamine is what we need to keep happy. Delayed gratification is one of the most challenging things for us humans. We don’t care if that banana will taste better tomorrow. We are hungry right now!

Have patience. The big stuff takes time. I try to break up life in decade chunks. They have a theme with some milestones. The longtime frame removes pressure for instant completion while giving direction to life’s wanderings.

Conclusion

Change is hard. We create ruts from our patterns in life. We acquire things and responsibilities that anchor us to our current state. If we start by creating and maintaining a nimble life, change is easier. Knowing where you want to end up ensures that the change is worth it.

About Shaun Oshman

love paper pen submissions storyCultivator. Educator. Learner.


Shaun has spent his career cultivating teams to do amazing things. He cultivated a team at YMCA Camp Ockanickon to develop and deliver the highest quality experiential education programs. While in NZ, he inspired the most fantastic group of 8-year-olds to exceed their own expectations in the classroom. Today, he leads the team at iSupportU to provide the highest quality IT support and consulting.

Through all of these endeavors, learning has been a common theme. In order to truly know ‘how to learn’, he finished a Masters in Education to prepare him to teach. A thirst for understanding brought him to the field of technology. It was clear that the tool of tech can act as a powerful catalyst to learning and growth for people of all ages.

While teaching in NZ, one of the most rewarding experiences was seeing how empowered the teachers had become when they learned to harness the power of technology in their teaching. This experience was the inspiration behind starting iSupportU as a company. Shaun wanted to see that same empowerment in individuals and businesses. Technology should make life better and bring people together. That is the core goal of iSupportU.

The company has grown by an average of 200% per year since opening. This has resulted in being a top five fastest growing company in Boulder and Broomfield Counties in 2013, 2014 and 2015. In 2014, iSupportU sold off its web department to another firm, purchased a commercial building and discontinued doing repair work for residential customers. The business was sold to a new owner in 2017.

Shaun is currently enjoying a mid-life sabbatical aboard his sailboat, Breeze. Play is key.