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The Dream Catcher is a place where your dreams can find a voice. It’s a reservoir of wisdom brimming with practical advice, strategies and tools to ensure your success. It also provides guidance on how to become a better person, respect other cultures and do your part in making the world a better place.
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Blog Added: April 01, 2017 06:57:17 AM
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How to Stay Informed Without Being Overwhelmed by Negative Media

“It is imperative that you learn to ignore or redirect all information and interruptions that are irrelevant, unimportant, or unactionable. Most are all three.” – Tim Ferriss The year was 2016. Election fever was in the air. I was glued to my TV and smartphone, devouring every sound byte and feature story that covered the...  Read More » The post How to Stay Informed Without Being Overwhelmed by Negative Media appeared first on The Dream...

“It is imperative that you learn to ignore or redirect all information and interruptions that are irrelevant, unimportant, or unactionable. Most are all three.” – Tim Ferriss

The year was 2016. Election fever was in the air.

I was glued to my TV and smartphone, devouring every sound byte and feature story that covered the US presidential elections. I split my time between listening to fierce debates between political pundits, and late night TV comedy shows where the hosts took jabs at the candidates

Like everyone else in the world, I was at the edge my seat, waiting to see who would be the next leader of the free world. Watching the coverage of the two candidates battle it out like ruthless gladiators in a grand arena was exciting, but I could sense a gradual onset of fatigue developing from the media hyperbole. Getting hooked on headlines wasn’t my modus operandi!

In the middle of this maelstrom, I had the good fortune of attending a live seminar of Nick Vujicic, a motivational speaker born with a rare disorder characterized by the absence of arms and legs. I asked him for his thoughts on how one can stay sane in the current climate. He recommended going on a media detox by withdrawing from the news, or curbing my consumption of it.

I took his advice and pulled back. Instead of being deeply invested in the news I skimmed it every alternate day. I was instantly relieved, and I could feel balance being restored in my life.

It seems that I wasn’t the only one adversely affected by the 2016 US elections. The American Psychological Association found that more than half of U.S. adults faced election-related anxiety, and struggled with post-election stress disorder no matter what their party affiliation was.

This harrowing experience sparked my interest in learning more about the repercussions of our unconscious consumption of news.  It constantly bombards us at lightning speed on the TV, radio, newspapers, and even social media. Just like me, many people believe that staying informed is a vital part to their daily routine, but they fail to realize the negative emotional and physiological toll it can have on them if they aren’t discerning about what they’re taking in.

According to a Harvard Business Review study, when people watch just three minutes of negative news in the morning, there is a 27% likelihood of calling their day unhappy 6-8 hours later. In another study done by NPR, and Harvard School of Public Health in 2014, 40% of respondents in a survey they conducted reported feeling stressed and anxious in the past month, citing the frequent consumption of news as a major contributing factor.

Experts say that the only way to protect our mental health when faced with the constant onslaught of 24 hours news, and never-ending social media feeds, is by becoming media literate. It’s important to understand that our news ecosystem has shifted dramatically over the last few decades. In the past, information was relayed in digestible bits that people could easily consume. Power came from having access to as much information as possible. But, today it comes from knowing what news to listen to, and which to avoid in the crowded media space. Our minds are simply not built to process all the information accelerating towards us.

We have to understand that news coverage, in general, is heavily skewed to highlight the negative, generally focusing on discouraging stories such as natural disasters, celebrity gossip, crime reports and job losses. All broadcasters know that bad news sells. Guided by the selfish motive of profit, media outlets try to sensationalize news that plays on our fears. If we aren’t objective enough to evaluate the news, we’ll develop a biased perspective of a depressing and hopeless world that leaves us feeling despondent.

Even though media burnout and anxiety is a legitimate concern, totally unplugging yourself and pretending that we’re living in a paradise is not the solution. As a responsible member of the human race, we need to be strong enough to face the reality of what’s happening in the world so that we can actively find ways to contribute towards finding solutions.

Here are some ideas on how you can engage and consume news healthily without having to sacrifice your peace of mind and inner balance:

1. Only listen to media sources that you trust: Be selective about the media sources that you pay attention to. Now that there’s freedom of press, and almost everyone has the freedom to express their opinions, we need to be discerning about whom we choose to listen to. Quality is more important than quantity. Aim for news outlets that try to be as factual, and objective, as possible in order to receive a balanced view, as opposed to the sensationalized new stories that you find in tabloids. Respectable news is one that is solution-focused, and that creates positive vibes.

2. Decide what type of information you’re interested in, and how you consume news: There’s always a lot going on. You can’t possibly absorb all the headlines from every corner of the globe. Trying to do so will short-circuit your brain. If you suspect that you have an unhealthy media habit, it would be helpful to identify the cause and change your media habits. The initial step is to ask yourself what kind of information you really want to know about, what would inspire you, and what would make you feel good about the world. Based on your response, you can tailor your social media feed, tune into relevant TV and radio stations, and read relevant blogs. In other words, you can customize a media diet that suits your palate – more specifically your interests, personality and your lifestyle patterns. For example, I find graphic and violent images to be distressing, so I prefer to hear my news from the radio and online because it’s in-line with my sensitivity to gruesome imagery.

3. Take it in measured doses: Because news sources are ubiquitous nowadays, it’s essential that we set limits on when and how much we need to satiate our curiosity, and make time for it only when we’re open to it, and free from distraction. For example, if you have a tough time falling asleep because you can’t get the news that you just watched off your mind, consider setting a news curfew where you avoid consuming news after 6pm. You can also shut off alerts, and read the news only at specific times during your day. Turn off the radio during your morning commute. Instead of listening to an angry radio talk show host, or a barrage of commercials trying to convince you to buy their stuff, listen to mood enhancing music.

4. Keep things in perspective: As you evaluate the news, it’s imperative to always keep things in perspective. While the media will always be inclined to highlight the tragedies and problems in the world, it’s up to us to balance it out with good news, and to make a conscious effort to acknowledge all the wonderful things that are out there. Avoid developing a distorted picture of the world where everything seems dismal. What helps me stay grounded in my views is reading about historical events and biographies of influential figures such as Mandela, Lincoln and Churchill, who were able to stay resilient during oppressive times and come out triumphant. Reading real-life stories gives you a birds-eye view on historical trends which can be applied to modern times. These heroes didn’t know if things were going to turn out okay, but in the end, they did.

5.Think about what you can do to change things: Watching distressing news can lead to a psychological phenomena known as compassion fatigue. When you see people suffering it’s only human to feel the urge to reach out and help them, but if you lack a platform and the resources to do so, you can feel frustrated and helpless. That’s why a better way to stay informed is choosing niche news outlets that provide in-depth coverage of the issues that spark a strong emotional reaction in you, about things that you to which you can actually contribute in the real world. You can use your skills, experience, and ingenuity to come up with viable solutions that you can use in your advocacy. In this way, staying plugged in will become an empowering ritual that shapes you into an active, responsible, and caring global citizen.

The next time that you feel disillusioned after reading a headline, pick yourself up by remembering all the beauty and wonder in the world. Let it inspire you to do whatever you can to preserve it, and instigate progress. Knowledge is power, but when you accumulate the right kind of knowledge and put it to good use, it becomes turbocharged!

All my best on your journey,


Question: Have you ever been overwhelmed by negative media? If yes, what effect has it had on your life and sense of wellbeing?

The post How to Stay Informed Without Being Overwhelmed by Negative Media appeared first on The Dream Catcher.

6 Simple Ways to Boost Your Imagination

“Imagination will often carry us to worlds that never were, but without it we go nowhere.” – Carl Sagan When you look up at a starry, night sky, what do you see? Do you see distant stars twinkling in a dark abyss connected by intricate constellations? Or do you see a colossal array of Gods,...  Read More » The post 6 Simple Ways to Boost Your Imagination appeared first on The Dream...

“Imagination will often carry us to worlds that never were, but without it we go nowhere.” – Carl Sagan

When you look up at a starry, night sky, what do you see?

Do you see distant stars twinkling in a dark abyss connected by intricate constellations? Or do you see a colossal array of Gods, warriors and mythical creatures floating majestically in a vast cosmic ocean?

For centuries humans have wondered what could be taking place in the mysterious skies that lie above them. As a species we are instinctively drawn to the heavens when searching for meaning and the purpose of our existence.

Not only did ancient people use the stars to plan the planting and harvesting of their crops, but they also used it as a stage for their mythology and heroes. According to them, the Universe was alive, intelligent and revered as a wise seer that provided guidance on how to preserve order, instill moral values and even predict the future. Centuries later, when science took precedence, it gave us a sense of the unfathomably large scale of the Universe and our humble place in it.

Whenever we’ve had to decipher the unknown, the incomprehensible and the mysterious, we humans have turned to our imaginations. Within our minds lies a magical realm where anything is possible. This limitless place is a fertile ground where we can unapologetically play, dream and dare to be. Our imagination is a sacred portal through which streams of consciousness flow from the divine ethers of creation, and instantly transforms our world from black and white to Technicolor.

Imagination, from a mundane perspective, is a byproduct of the biological synthesis of billions of neural synapses in our brains that rapidly make connections between various thoughts and memories stored in our subconscious. This mechanism blends ideas in a way that enables us see things not as they are, but as they could be. Aristotle described the imagination as a faculty that produces, stores and recalls the images we use in a variety of mental activities. Immanuel Kant saw the imagination as a synthesizer of senses and understanding.

Imagination is not only intrinsic to our nature, but it’s an indispensable asset when it comes to promoting progress. The greatest innovators had to dig deep into the creative domain when trying to overcome the challenges and limitations of reality. They solved problems by tapping into their imagination to come up with solutions that hadn’t yet been conceived of. Great ideas such as the light bulb created by Thomas Edison or the recognition of evolutionary patterns in biological species by Charles Darwin was stirred by imaginative impulses. Albert Einstein once said, “Imagination is everything. It is the preview for life’s coming attractions.”

We are all naturally gifted with a buoyant imagination. It functioned in its full glory when we were children. We could turn the most simple setting into a magical experience. A cardboard cereal box could be turned into a spaceship, a swimming pool could be seen as the vast blue ocean, actions figures could be used to choreograph epic battles and a simple eye patch and wooden stick could instantly transport us to the Black Pearl to assist Captain Jack Sparrow. As a kid, I thrived on entering the fantasy worlds of video games and Disney movies where I could go on adventures to strange lands. From a young age I knew the importance of having access to an alternative universe that I could retreat to whenever I want to escape reality.

Unfortunately, as most people grow up, they become increasingly disconnected from their imagination, because today’s schooling system and professional career roles encourage us to develop and rely on the logical and rational. Technology has also watered down our urge to dream and engage in original thinking, and the rapid pace of modern day life doesn’t give us the time and space to explore the immense and untapped potential that lies within us. Imaginative breakthroughs have become as fleeting and rare as a shooting star.

Yet, there is still hope. In her groundbreaking book on creative living, Big Magic, Elizabeth Gilbert emphatically reminds us that we all have extraordinary treasures hidden within us. She says, “Bringing forth those treasures takes work and faith and focus and courage and hours of devotion. We simply do not have time anymore to think so small. It’s your birthright as a human being, so do it with a cheerful heart. Let inspiration lead you wherever it wants to lead you. Your very body and your very being are perfectly designed to live in collaboration with inspiration, and inspiration is still trying to find you—the same way it hunted down your ancestors.”

Once we’re able to acknowledge these treasures that are hidden within us, all we need to do is nurture our abilities to weave out new webs of new possibilities. We must first look at the source of our perceptions, and that is our knowledge. Our information diet is directly connected to everything that we already know.

When we develop new understanding of the world, we can build a bridge between what we know and what’s possible. Imagination is like a muscle that we flex every time we enhance our knowledge, and we use it to bypass the boundaries of our existing thought patterns. Here are six ways we can make it happen:

1. Make time for reflection: Accessing our imagination requires us to steep ourselves in different forms of consciousness. We can access higher levels of consciousness by incorporating various contemplative practices into our lives such as meditation, journaling, yoga, visualization, prayer, nature walks and quiet seclusion. We need to eliminate passive activities such as watching TV, and shut out forms of external stimulation and impulses. Turn off the noise, sit for a while, and see what comes to mind. A calm and balanced mind that has strong present moment awareness of thoughts, feelings, body sensation and the environment has a higher chance of learning new things and coming up with creative ideas.

2. Storytelling: Humans have always had a natural penchant for storytelling. We love to recognize patterns and connect the dots of our lives in a way that makes sense to us. You can jump-start your imagination by using creative thinking to fabricate interesting narratives that you can share with others. Visualizing and writing about these narratives in a journal will enable you to construct a coherent storyline with all the objects and people that you’d like to include. Strive to create powerful stories that highlight the positive aspects of your experiences, as well as the lessons that you’ve learned so that you can inspire others.

3. Engage in physical activities: The mind-body connection behooves us to prioritize the care of our bodies. Physical activity pumps up the oxygen levels in your body and increases the blood flow to your mind. So, whenever you feel stuck or you’re facing a dry spell in your creativity, wrap up and get moving. Whether you choose to run, lift weights, play sports or do Pilates to get into motion, it should leave you feel energized and stronger. Before you know it, your creative flow will be unblocked and you’ll have the clarity to see problems differently. Physical stimulation will essentially jumpstart your creative juices and generate new ideas.

4. Expose yourself to art: We’re all drawn to certain forms of art such as movies, theatre, music, paintings, sculptures or dancing. Exposing yourself to the creative works of others is not only enjoyable, but you’ll get a different perspective. Art is nothing but a representation of another person’s unique form of expression. If you come across an art form that particularly moves you, I suggest that you grab your journal and make notes about your experience and document your feelings.

5. Travel: Our imagination can stagnate if we’re stuck in the same boring environment. In those situations, we need to get out and change our surroundings. You don’t necessarily have to get on a plane to do this. You can hop in your car and drive to a nearby city or neighborhood to see and witness new things, and meet new people. Go to a scenic spot, sit on a bench and observe the people who pass by. Instead of working from home, you can try changing your venue and work in a coffee shop. According to research, coffee shops have the perfect decibel for brainstorming and creative thinking. If you have the time and finances, visit countries where you can immerse yourself in a new culture and can learn about different ways of living. By exposing yourself to new worlds, you’ll be able to break out of the norm and think in unconventional ways.

6. Socialize with different kinds of people: Develop connections with a variety of people with whom you can synergize your energies. Get out of your comfort zone and attend events where you’ll have the opportunity to network with people who can stimulate your thinking and broaden your horizons. The simple act of brainstorming, planning and even talking with people who are on the same wavelength can inject inspiration, and open your mind to new understandings. In his book, A Curious Mind, Oscar-winning producer, Brian Grazer, writes about a personal discipline that he’s had since his early days in Hollywood called “Curiosity Conversations” where he schedules meetings with some of the most famous influencers like Muhammad Ali, Jeff Bezos, Ronald Reagan, Wolfgang Puck, Gloria Allred, 50 Cent and countless others. He says, “It’s totally refreshing to be reminded, over and over, how different the world looks to other people.” By learning from diverse people, he was able to imagine and produce incredible stories such as a A Beautiful Mind and Splash.   

Don’t be afraid to step into the alternative realm of your imagination. Do your best to nourish it with high quality experiences. The whole Universe lies within you and you have easy access to it if you get onboard the spaceship of your creative thoughts. As you voyage into the orbit of your imagination, you’ll discover exciting worlds just waiting to be explored by you.  

All my best on your journey,

Question: What are your favorite techniques and tools to boost your imagination?

The post 6 Simple Ways to Boost Your Imagination appeared first on The Dream Catcher.

Why Passion and Commitment are Essential to Success

“There is a difference between interest and commitment. When you’re interested in doing something, you do it only when it’s convenient. When you’re committed to something, you accept no excuses, only results.” – Kenneth Blanchard I remember it like it was yesterday. Stepping into the massive Schaumburg Convention Center Hall in Chicago that was chilled...  Read More » The post Why Passion and Commitment are Essential to Success appeared first on The Dream...

“There is a difference between interest and commitment. When you’re interested in doing something, you do it only when it’s convenient. When you’re committed to something, you accept no excuses, only results.” – Kenneth Blanchard

I remember it like it was yesterday. Stepping into the massive Schaumburg Convention Center Hall in Chicago that was chilled to arctic temperatures. To spite the chill, I layered up for what would allegedly be four “life-transforming” days in my life. After an hour of watching over six thousand attendees scamper around the hall trying to find their seats, Tony Robbins jumps onto the stage, full of bravado, ready to take on the role of a messiah for the crowds standing before him.

Like an aerobic instructor from the 80’s, he prompted us to jump, clap and sing along to his signature song Life by Haddaway until it crescendoed with Tony screaming “Say yes!” As a self-professed HSP, I was overwhelmed by the stimulation. I was expecting a fairly tranquil seminar filled with discussions and lots of note taking – not a rock concert!

It wasn’t long before Tony and his assistants managed to overcome the inhibitions that I, or my fellow mild-mannered attendees felt. I began enjoying the process of letting go because it allowed the uninhibited and authentic part of me to come out. It made me wonder how much more enriching my life experiences could be if I could do this everyday, let go of my self-imposed limitations and live with unbridled passion.

One of the key takeaways that I got from my experience at the Unleash the Power Within event is that passion and commitment are two major cornerstones of leading a successful life. According to Tony, we need to be in what he refers to as a “peak state” which is both physiological and mental, where everything within us is galvanized to attain excellence in every area of our life such as career, relationships, health and spirituality.

To illustrate what being passionate and committed really feels like, I want you to think of one accomplishment that you are proud of. On a scale of one to ten, how committed and excited were you? Were the efforts that you put into achieving it something you did at your own convenience, or was it something that you felt resolute about and nothing could stand in your way? Chances are that you had a fire in your belly that made you put in whatever work and time was needed. Now, contrast this feeling with an ordinary, boring task. You were probably prone to procrastinating, finding excuses to avoid doing it.

Based on your personal history, you’ll see that it’s an uphill battle to commit to anything or anyone if your heart’s not in it. You can sign fancy contracts and make verbal promises but if you don’t feel genuinely devoted to whatever it is you’re signing up for, you’re setting yourself up for failure. The temptation to give up will inevitably arise when the going gets tough.

A commitment to excellence can be traced in the careers of anyone who is a master of their craft, whether they’re a performer, IT genius, athlete or scientist. The late Steve Jobs, ex-CEO of Apple, said, “people with passion can change the world for the better”. He claimed that it was his passion for his work that led him to innovative tech breakthroughs that changed the world.

A desire and capacity to go above and beyond mediocrity is often what separates average performers and amateurs from extraordinary performers. Cal Newport, author of So Good They Can’t Ignore You, states, “It is a lifetime accumulation of deliberate practice that again and again ends up explaining excellence.” Ancient philosophy also backs this up. Aristotle said, “we are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.”

However, we face a new challenge in the modern age. People are finding it increasingly tough to stay committed because of all the distractions, noise and options that are available to us. It’s only through self-reflection and really understanding what makes us who we are that we can find out what empassions us.

Look for an emotional charge that compels you to dedicate yourself to something that gives you purpose and meaning. To confirm if you are genuinely prepared to make a commitment, Rosabeth Moss Kanter of the Harvard Business School crafted these questions to ask yourself:

Do you feel strongly about the importance of your goal — why it’s necessary to achieve? Does your idea match your values and beliefs? Is this something you’ve dreamed about for a long time? Is your goal vital to the future of people you care about? Does your goal get you excited when you think about it and share it with others? Is it realistic? Are you sincerely convinced that your goal can be achieved? Are you willing to put your credibility on the line for it? Can you make your goal the primary focus of your activities? Are you willing to devote your personal time — evenings, weekends, vacations — to bringing your goal to reality? Will you be able to reject criticism and negativity? Are you committed to the long term as you work toward your goal?

If most of your responses are “yes”, you are more likely to succeed in your endeavor.

Here are five signposts that indicate whether or not you are passionate and committed enough to stick with something you’ve set your mind on:

  1. You’ll make time for it in your schedule no matter what: When you’re dedicated and committed to something, you’ll make time for it no matter how busy you are. If you dream about becoming a pro tennis player, you’ll unfailingly attend tennis practice every single day no matter how tired you get from school or work. If you love your dog, you’ll always feed him on time and take him out for evening walks and schedule enough playtime to make him feel nurtured.
  1. You are uncompromising and relentless in your pursuit: A passionate person who has set their mind on achieving their goals is definitely a force to be reckoned with. No matter what obstacles they face, the idea of giving up never crosses their mind. Unlike someone who is half-hearted in their efforts, they will try harder and tirelessly look for solutions, because quitting isn’t an option for them. They’re determined to stick with their course till the very end because they believe with every fiber of their being that they’ll see things through. When you’re internally driven, no one can convince you to deviate from the path that you have chosen to pursue.
  1. You don’t mind the inconveniences and challenges it brings: Any pursuit that is worth its salt will bring its own share of inconveniences and challenges that’ll test your commitment. It’s during those times that you’ll realize just how important your dream is to you. When your actions are imbued with purpose and you’re passionate about what you’re doing, you will find the challenges you encounter to be invigorating. For example, if you’re at a job that you don’t like, you’ll find annoyances like bothersome co-workers or a noisy office to be draining. But if you enjoy your job and find it interesting, you’re more willing to overlook these potential irritants because you’re grateful for the opportunity you’ve been given to do what you love for a living.
  1. You’re willing to make sacrifices and compromises if needed: A committed person is willing to tolerate short-term pain for long-term gain. They don’t mind giving up instant gratification and making the sacrifices needed to realize their goals. Passion is what will push a runner across the finish line when they’re exhausted. It’s what makes an artist paint and chisel till the early morning hours. It makes a writer willing enough to shut themselves off from the world to finish their novel within their deadline. It’s only passion that will inspire you to maintain a steady discipline and accept the opportunity costs of all the efforts and time you’re expending.
  1. You’re committed to growth, learning and improvement: Whether you want to find and create an ideal relationship, build a successful business or master a new skill, you’ll need to be open to learning and expanding your knowledge to further your progress. For example, a person who’s passionate about art and who feels committed to becoming an expert in their field will spend almost every single dollar and minute of their day to immerse themselves in learning about all aspects of art – the history, techniques, styles and genres, visiting exhibitions and galleries and networking with other patrons and artists. In the process, art becomes as natural as the blood that flows through their veins and becomes an integral part of their being.

Passion generates the enthusiasm that’s needed to climb the roughest mountain terrains. Commitment engenders the stamina and psychological prowess to withstand harsh conditions. When combined, both qualities will jet us right to the peak of the mountain – a place frequented by only those who aspire for greatness and a life of service.

All my best on your journey,


Question: Do you believe that passion and commitment are essential to success? How have you seen this play out in our own life?

The post Why Passion and Commitment are Essential to Success appeared first on The Dream Catcher.

5 Valuable Lessons We Can Learn From Pain

“Wisdom is nothing more than healed pain.” – Robert Gary Lee “Ouch! That hurt.” We’ve all uttered those words in our lives. Maybe you said it right after a fall, feeling the pinch of an injection, or if someone said something hurtful. Whatever the cause of your pain, it produced discomfort , and you wanted...  Read More » The post 5 Valuable Lessons We Can Learn From Pain appeared first on The Dream...

“Wisdom is nothing more than healed pain.” – Robert Gary Lee

“Ouch! That hurt.”

We’ve all uttered those words in our lives. Maybe you said it right after a fall, feeling the pinch of an injection, or if someone said something hurtful. Whatever the cause of your pain, it produced discomfort , and you wanted it to stop.

Pain is a universal experience. No creature on the planet is exempt from feeling it. It’s a biological mechanism that maintains balance in our system, and like an indicator on a dashboard of a car, it lets us know when something isn’t right.

However, many of us don’t see pain this way. Instead, we see it as an inconvenience.. In the past, when religion and superstition reigned supreme, pain was seen as a punishment, meted out by the Gods in response to immoral behavior. Today we see it as some kind of defect that needs to be fixed or cured.

We’re naturally drawn to seek pleasure and avoid pain. It’s encoded in our DNA and our reptilian brain. We can all agree that touching a hot stove or brushing against a sharp object is going to hurt however, there are some forms of pain that are subjective.  Pain can be interpreted differently on an individual level both due to different pain thresholds, and what we personally consider to be pleasure or pain.

The majority of us have a low tolerance for pain, and the forces of capitalism offer us solutions. Our culture of “painkillers” offers a plethora of choices to numb our pain such as antidepressants, alcohol, recreational drugs, sugar and social media. We douse our systems with these instruments of pleasure to escape reality.

In her book, When Things Fall Apart, Buddhist monk Pema Chödrön says, “Most of us do not take these situations as teachings. We automatically hate them. We run like crazy. We use all kinds of ways to escape — all addictions stem from this moment when we meet our edge and we just can’t stand it. We feel we have to soften it, pad it with something, and we become addicted to whatever it is that seems to ease the pain.”

While this may work on a temporary basis, it is detrimental to our transition into conscious and evolved beings. When we avoid pain, we are missing the deeper and enriching experience that on offer. The more we resist and push away pain, the more that we are inviting it to stay. Like a persistent cosmic postman, it won’t go away until we understand the root cause. Just as light cannot exist without the dark, the human experience is not complete without moments of sadness. In fact, I think that life would be rather drab and predictable if we constantly lived in a utopia, never encountering bends on our path.

The first noble truth of Buddhism is that ,even though pain is an inevitable part of human existence, suffering is optional. The suffering can be minimized if we develop perspective and focus on the lessons instead of the hurt. When adversity befalls us we should try highlighting the positive aspects instead of playing the victim and looking for a cause or culprit.

Pain is our body’s way of telling us that we’re out of sync. When you’re sick with a cold or injured, you pay a visit to the doctor to get a diagnosis and receive the appropriate medication. We need to take the same approach when we experience emotional pain. Ignoring our pain will cause it to snowball.

It isn’t easy to come to terms with our wounds. I have needed a lot of courage and direction to come out of some acutely painful times in my life. What helped me was reading seminal stories of resilience and courage, such as those of Nelson Mandela or Viktor Frankl who used their pain as an opportunity for inner excavation and personal inquisition.  Pain pushed them to view life with an entirely different outlook and adopt an attitude of humility. They took a step back to look at the bigger picture and figure out what’s really important. They weren’t afraid to ask tough questions: “Why is this hurting me?”, “How is this causing me to lose power?”, “What is this trying to teach me about myself and my approach towards life?”.

Even though pain is unavoidable it can be a great teacher.  It can be the impetus for our evolution into conscious individuals. All we need to do is to transform our relationship with pain and keep our minds and hearts open to reap the wisdom from every painful experience that we endure.

Here are five valuable lessons that I’ve been able to learn from pain that have helped me see it in a more positive light:

  1. We understand ourselves better: Pain has the power to break us open and expose the vulnerable parts of ourselves thereby giving us opportunity to get intimate with them. Pain will test your character and make it necessary to tap into your strengths. It will expose your weaknesses, allowing you to improve. Each test is like a rung on a ladder that we can climb to higher elevations of consciousness. Self-knowledge, coupled with a growing belief in our ability to survive, promotes self-esteem and personal growth.
  1. We realize our strengths and resilience: All unpleasant experiences throw us out of our comfort zone and urge us to stretch into unknown territory. This is a good thing because we tend to underestimate ourselves and our capacity to withstand the storms in our life. If we’re open to the learning, tough incidents will make us tougher and leave us feeling braver and stronger. Like a warrior who’s been through battle, you can charge ahead knowing that you are strong and you have what it takes to overcome any obstacle. As the saying goes, “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”.
  1. Pain pushes us to grow and love ourselves: Pain compels us to get unstuck and move towards a more meaningful and purposeful existence. It reminds us to be sensitive to our needs so that we can recover from the hurt and feel better. We need to love ourselves through the pain and do whatever it takes to heal and get back on our feet. Whether that means taking a warm bath, speaking to someone you trust, going on a short vacation or journaling. Pain reminds us of the importance of self-care and compassion.
  1. The pain helps us experience a deeper sense of connection: Every time we experience pain we become aware that it’s something we all share. We can draw wisdom and understanding from our trials and tribulations, which, in turn, can help others who are dealing with similar issues. You cannot fully understand the suffering of others until you have gone through what they’ve experienced. For example, if you’ve never been through a breakup you won’t be able to empathize with your friend who is going through one. Pain connects you to your being. The visceral sensations of pain activate a primal part of you that reveals your humanity.
  1. We realize who and what really matters: Anyone who’s been through intense periods of despair will remember how it recalibrated their life path and triggered a shift in their identity and their worldview. All the superficialities and materially-driven desires fall by the wayside as you realize that money, fame and other symbols of wealth are ineffective when it comes to fulfilling the desires of your heart and soul. Your ego and pride are obliterated and are replaced by a sense of reverence, gratitude and appreciation for the gift of life. You realize who you can really count on because it’s during your times of strife that you’ll come to know who will be there to offer you their unconditional support.

Just as we can’t have the rainbow without the rain, we can’t capture the complete beauty of our life’s journey without dealing with painful events along the way. We need to embrace the entire spectrum of emotions to appreciate the variegated shades of the human experience and to celebrate the wonderful and messy affair that is life!

All my best on your journey,


Question: What lessons have you learned from the pain you’ve experience in life? How did it change you?

The post 5 Valuable Lessons We Can Learn From Pain appeared first on The Dream Catcher.

How You Can Make a Meaningful Impact on the World

“Success isn’t about how much money you make; it’s about the difference you make in people’s lives.” – Michelle Obama The lights dimmed as a group of children were ushered onto the stage. An audience of approximately 31 million tuned in from around the world to bid farewell to arguably one of the greatest, and...  Read More » The post How You Can Make a Meaningful Impact on the World appeared first on The Dream...

“Success isn’t about how much money you make; it’s about the difference you make in people’s lives.” – Michelle Obama

The lights dimmed as a group of children were ushered onto the stage. An audience of approximately 31 million tuned in from around the world to bid farewell to arguably one of the greatest, and possibly the most controversial, musical artist of all time. They waited in anticipation.

The golden casket glistened under the spotlight, reminding us of Michael Jackson’s status as entertainment Royalty. Singer Judith Hill glanced at the casket with a look of reverence as the first chords of Heal the World began playing. Her grip on the microphone tightened as she prepared to enchant the world with her emotional tribute to the musical legend.

“Heal the world. Make it a better place. For you and for me and the entire human race. There are people dying, if you care enough for the living. Make it a better place. For you and for me”

Those words reverberated from the Staples Center Arena in L.A., straight into the hearts of the viewers. Michael’s family and friends, joined hands with each other as they sang along. The somber and melancholy sentiments instantly shifted to one of celebration and unity. Even though Michael was gone, his message of peace, love, and generosity is still alive and will continue to influence many more generations to come.

I was deeply moved by the event. It was the catalyst for me to seriously question my contribution to the world. Like many others, I was caught up in my own worries, and my attempts to stay afloat in the emotional whirlpool I was drowning in. I didn’t have time to think about changing the world because I was busy dealing with my own “stuff”.

I know many people who are in the same situation. Just surviving and earning their paycheck. It can be overwhelming to reflect on the problems of the world when there are so many demands and responsibilities in your life already. Even though most people have good intentions, they simply aren’t motivated enough to pursue altruism.

Deep down, all of us want to feel like we’ve made a difference; that we somehow mattered in the grand scheme of things. We want to give our lives meaning and purpose by leaving the world a better place. Yet we feel inhibited. We fear that we don’t have what it takes to make positive change.

When people think of creating an impact, they tend to associate it with large-scale contributions made by the likes of Nelson Mandela, Gandhi and Mother Teresa who all left an indelible mark on humanity. But the truth is that you don’t need to spend all of your time being a Good Samaritan to make an impact. You can do it in small and simple ways.

If each of us commit to small gestures of kindness, the collective efforts of seven billion people on the planet would be astronomical. In fact, people in lower income groups make up most of the charitable donations in the United States. But, your contribution does not have to monetary. You can also provide time and resources.

Instead of using your finances to measure the value of your contribution, try considering two other major factors:

First; consider the depth of impact that you had on someone else’s life. It doesn’t matter if it’s one life, or a million, the bottom line is that by giving of yourself, you were able to improve the life of someone else for the better.

Second; measure the impact of your actions by how it made you feel. Did it leave you feeling a sense of satisfaction? Did it help you get in touch with your humanity and feel compassion? Did you experience elevation in your consciousness?

It doesn’t take a neuroscientist to know that being generous with others makes us happier. New research by sociologists Christian Smith and Hilary Davidson outlined in their book The Paradox of Generosity proves that making contributions (both money and time) will make you happier in the long run. Americans who volunteer an average of 5.8 hours per month describe themselves as “very happy” and those who describe themselves as “unhappy” volunteer for only 0.6 hours.

You don’t need a platform like celebrities or politicians have. As an active global citizen who wants to see considerable shifts in the world, it’s important to keep in mind that your power lies in your actions, and that most significant changes occur at a grassroots level. You can start with the issues that are evident in your own backyard – in your own home and community. You don’t need a fancy title or boatloads of cash to get things rolling. All you need is the intention and willingness to take action fueled by a passion for your cause.

Remember, everything that you do matters. A shift in your thinking and behavior can have a ripple effect and shift the global consciousness. The term used to describe the positive effects of internal practices such as meditation and prayer on our environment is known as the Maharishi Effect. Studies have proven that there’s a direct correlation between meditation, a tool used to bring peace within an individual, and societal harmony. It’s been documented that there’s a reduction in crime rates where at least one percent of the population meditates.

So, if you’re convinced and ready to roll up your sleeves to make a meaningful impact on the world, here are five steps to help you get started:

1. List causes that are most important to you: The most effective way to get involved and stay committed to a cause is by finding the ones that tug at your heart. Another approach is to be honest with yourself about the social  and global issues that disturb you the most. Is it world hunger? Women’s rights? Education? Racial or gender inequality? Care for senior citizens? Animal activism? Preservation of the environment? The list of causes that you come up will reflect the things that you’ll be driven to advocate.

2. Stay informed: As a global citizen it’s important to be aware of what’s happening in the world, especially when it comes to the matters that are important to you. We shouldn’t bury our heads in the sand. If you feel strongly about a particular issue, educating yourself is an essential step. Once you’re aware of what’s happening, you can highlight the issue, become a spokesperson for change, and bring more attention to it, staring with your, friends, family and community. You can pass on that knowledge on virtual platforms such as social media or write about it in magazines and newspapers. Ultimately, knowledge is power – the more you accumulate, the more informed and influential you’ll be.

3. Using your strengths: You don’t need to change who you are to have a positive influence. You already have what it takes. Tap into your natural strengths, talents and experiences and devise a way to channel them towards your chosen cause. Are you a good writer, speaker or networker? Use your gift of communication to campaign for the matters that are important to you. Are you an architect or an engineer? Use your skills to help build homes in war torn countries or those that were affected by natural disasters. A counselor or a consultant? Use your gifts to advise or mentor kids who need direction and guidance in their life. With some creative and outside-the-box thinking, you’ll find that there are endless ways that you can use your gifts to create an impact in the world!  

4. Make it fit it into your life: It’s easy to envision the many ways that you can offer yourself in service, but it won’t amount to anything if you don’t know how to ground it in reality. You need to fit these activities into your current lifestyle and make it work within the realm of your personal and professional circumstances. Another important factor to consider is how much of your time, money and energy you are willing to dedicate. Chances are you may not be able to do it all, so I recommend creating a ‘wish list,’ listing all that contributions that you would like to actively support when your circumstances have changed. Contributions can also be done on an adhoc basis, like donating old clothes, food and other items to charity. As a business owner you can sponsor an event that brings awareness to an issue. You can help out a single mother by volunteering to babysit her kids while she is away at work. Organizations are grateful for donations of any size, so you can arrange to have you account debited every month or so towards the charities you support. Whatever you choose to support, make sure that it enriches you and doesn’t leave you feeling drained and resentful.

5. Seek a supportive community: Generosity and the spirit of giving is contagious. For this reason, placing yourself in an environment where people who share your passion surround you is conducive to furthering change. Together, you’ll have the strength, focus and creativity to mobilize resources and get official bodies to take you seriously. As a united group of campaigners your strength lies in numbers and you can draw from a pool of experience, connections and skills to support your cause. As you work together, you’ll expand like ripples in a lake to inspire others and instigate change on a wide scale. Anthropologist, Margaret Mead, summarized this phenomenon when she said, “Never doubt that a small, committed group of citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

As human beings, we’re all part of a global ecosystem. It’s our responsibility to do our part in preserving it and maintaining harmony. The world doesn’t revolve around us – once we accept this truth, we’ll have the clarity to see that there’s a big world out there that’s brimming with opportunities for us to be of service. Get out of the limitations of your ego and allow your heart to lead you towards making your spiritual contribution.

All my best on your journey,


Question: How would you like to create a meaningful impact in the world? What are the first steps that you need to take?

The post How You Can Make a Meaningful Impact on the World appeared first on The Dream Catcher.

5 Things You Should be Doing to Get the Most Out of Your Days

“Time is non-refundable. Use it with intention.” Do you remember the White Rabbit from Alice in Wonderland who Alice follows down the rabbit hole? That cute, bespectacled little guy wearing a waistcoat, who mutters “Oh dear! Oh dear! I shall be too late!” That was me not too long ago – restless, exacting and acutely...  Read More » The post 5 Things You Should be Doing to Get the Most Out of Your Days appeared first on The Dream...

“Time is non-refundable. Use it with intention.”

Do you remember the White Rabbit from Alice in Wonderland who Alice follows down the rabbit hole? That cute, bespectacled little guy wearing a waistcoat, who mutters “Oh dear! Oh dear! I shall be too late!”

That was me not too long ago – restless, exacting and acutely time-conscious. Always on the run and juggling multiple projects., I felt like I was constantly short on time.

While a lovable furry rodent like the White Rabbit is endearing to watch on screen, I can assure you that if you were in his shoes you would be heading toward a burnout. Before you know it time will have flown, and you’ll wonder where all the years have gone.

I was getting a lot done during the twenty four-hours allotted to me. I was productive and efficient and, on the surface, I looked like I had it all together. But on the inside, I felt hollow and unfulfilled because I yearned for more meaning.

The only times I would slow down and smell the roses, so to speak, were during my vacations. Like so many people, I was able to release all my worries only once I got off the treadmill of my daily routines and submerged myself in new experiences, new faces and new places.

Recently I returned from a three-week vacation where I engaged in soul-enhancing activities that gave me precious memories that I could coast on for years to come. I relive those moments by looking at the pictures that I took during the trip. One night, while sipping tea and looking through my album I had a breakthrough about time and how we experience it..I realized that, although time is a limited resource, all of us have the capacity to enhance it based on our attitudes and the experiences that we choose to engage in. Time, is a universal phenomenon,  but it’s also a psychological construct that we can alter.

You’ve seen this play out in your life multiple times. When you’re out with friends, watching a great movie, absorbed in an interesting novel or spending a romantic evening with a lover, time seems to speed up. On the flip side, if you’re stuck in a boring job waiting for the day to end, or waiting for a bus in the cold, the clock becomes sloth-like. The time period may be the same but your experience of it was different in each case.

Wouldn’t it be great if we could be in ‘vacation mode’ during our daily routines? Is it possible to capitalize on every moment so that it adds to the adventure that is life? Isn’t the fact that we’re living here in this mind-boggling universe enough reason for us to make the most of our days on Earth? Absolutely! But for that to happen, it’s going to take some work.

First, we need to understand the difference between the objective and subjective nature of time. From an objective point of view, time is a limited resource. As Thomas Edison once said, “time is really the only capital that a human being has, and the only thing he can’t afford to lose.” We’re all given 24 hours in a day and 365 days in a year. The average human lifespan today is about eighty years, which gives us a total of 29,200 days to live, if all goes well.

Being aware of our mortality doesn’t have to be depressing. Many terminally ill patients become exceptionally judicious when it comes to planning for the remaining days of their lives. Some of the healthier ones actively check off items on their bucket list, while others prefer to rest, reflect and spend time with their loved ones. This shows that even though we don’t have a say on how many years we have, we do have absolute control on how we choose to spend them. Like money, you could choose to use your time on enrichment, or squander it.

Time is a subjective tool that can be shared, saved, shaped and divided once we know how to use it.. We can slow time by no longer measuring our lives by the clock, and realizing that time is a state of awareness that should be psychologically measured by how it feels.

The optimum way to manage time is to make every moment count; by being deeply rooted in self-awareness. The more you immerse yourself in emotionally-rewarding activities, the more meaningful and rewarding your life will be. Being engaged in the present moment and nullifying thoughts about the past or the future will increase you creativity and receptiveness towards life.

Understandably, this can be hard to achieve, especially when we’re caught up in our daily routines, trying to keep up with our responsibilities like paying bills and maintaining relationships. We have to take real-world practicalities into consideration.

The majority of us need to find a balance between what needs to be done and what we would like to do, which is something that is unique to all of us. That’s where self-knowledge and having a sense of what’s important to you is essential. Setting your intention, knowing what you’re going to do with your time, and having the right structures and plans in place to execute it is all you need.

Here are some ideas on how you can help you get the most out of your days:

1. Let your inspirations (and not the clock) run your life: There is evidence of “time sickness” everywhere in our society. People are constantly battling with the clock as they struggle to beat it. They rush to make meetings and gym classes on time, stress over long-winded morning commutes, feel agitated while waiting in long lines and find hardly any time for relationships, relaxation and fun-filled activities.

You can take back control of time and overcome this cycle by spending more time on the things that actually matter to you and minimizing time spent on the things that don’t. Once you reclaim your priorities and are guided by what inspires you, you beat the clock.

Set an intention for yourself each morning about what you would like to achieve and feel during the day. You can even close your eyes and visualize how you would like your day to move forward. Prior to making decisions about a course of action, begin with an end goal in mind. The purpose of your life is to appreciate all that it has to offer and experience it fully in all its ambiguity and complexity.

2. Live with a sense of curiosity, openness and wonder: If we’re able to slow down, take our eyes off the clock and look at what’s around us, we’ll see that there’s a cornucopia of beauty to indulge in. While walking down a street on the way to work, bask in the glory of the morning light, watch kids scamper as they get ready to board school buses, behold the gorgeous blooms in the gardens – let it all remind you of the gift of being alive.

Always be on the quest for learning opportunities wherever you are. Don’t be afraid to ask questions to get insights into new subjects or hear the personal story of a stranger. Let go of expectations, rigid personal rules and stay open to everything that crosses your path.

3. Maintain inner harmony and balance: You can be the most efficient planner and complete all the essential tasks, but if it leaves you feeling exhausted, unbalanced and drained, then it’s all for nothing. It’s not possible to enjoy all that life has to offer if your internal world is in disarray.

You can avoid wearing yourself out by prioritizing your health so your inner domain – mind, body and soul – remains in a steady state of harmony and alignment. Free your mind from unhealthy thoughts, nourish your body with healthy food, exercise,  and live a lifestyle that honors your heart and soul.

4. Arrange a schedule that gets you excited: I’ve always been a big fan of planning, but what I’ve grown to appreciate over the years is having plans that get me excited. You want to be able to look over your calendar and feel a sense of positive anticipation.

Creating a schedule that’s personalized to meet your needs and wants needs a certain level of self-awareness and internal excavation. Start by looking at the big picture and asking yourself: What is the vision for my life? What are my short-term and long-term goals? What is it that brings me happiness and inspires me creatively? Based on your responses, create a strategy with flexible timelines and tangible steps that you can gradually take on and realize over time. Pepper your schedule with these activities alongside your responsibilities.

5. Soak in every moment by being present: Many people seem to forget that the present moment is all we have. All the living that occurs can only happen in the now. Yet so many of us are tempted to get stuck on the past or fantasize about the future.

In his book, The Power of Now, Eckhart Tolle says, “the only thing that is ultimately real about your journey is the step that you are taking at this moment. That’s all there ever is.” We can practice present-moment awareness by being conscious of our thoughts and interjecting whenever we sense that they are drifting. During our days, we can stay fully present by engaging all our senses so we can fully embody whatever we encounter.

No matter how mundane or boring the task is, you can always put an interesting spin on it. For example, when you’re eating a piece of cake smell it, take it in visually, taste it, feel its texture and hear yourself chew every bite. In this way you make it a sensory treat as you delight in its decadence.

Meditation is also a powerful tool to calm down a restless mind. It’s the closest anyone can come to experiencing timelessness and accessing a region of the mind where silence is the foundation.

I’m glad to say that after all these years, I’ve finally learned to slow down and I’ve shifted my relationship with time for the better. I now view each and every day as an important gift and embrace the potential that each one holds. Some of us will get more days to live than others, but it doesn’t change the fact that each one of us has been given today. We can squeeze all the goodness out of it, if we choose it.

All my best on your journey,


Question for you: What are some of the things that you do to get the most out of your days? Are you satisfied with how you spend your time?

The post 5 Things You Should be Doing to Get the Most Out of Your Days appeared first on The Dream Catcher.

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