The Search For A Perfect Life

The Search For A Perfect Life

Of the many things that cause us pain, our expectation that life should be perfect, is one of the primary causes. The idea that there exists a perfect Shangri-La somewhere that we can somehow locate, is a form of magical thinking that sets us up for false expectations and disappointment..

It creates dissatisfaction with the life we have and pulls us out of the present moment into an unending search for perfection out there somewhere. It also leads to frustration when our efforts fail to create the perfect outcomes we think we need, deserve or desire.

If we truly desire inner peace, we need to trade this magical thinking for a more accurate version of truth.  Zen teaches that to find peace of mind, we need to “think of life as a series of imperfect facts.”

I have used this helpful reminder in countless ways in my personal practice.

This phrase reminds us that our reactions and outrage often stem from an unconscious belief that life should be perfect – or that our individual lives and outcomes ought to be perfect for us to have peace.

Because this limiting belief operates beneath the surface, we may be unaware of it. If I were to ask  you, “Do you expect your life to be perfect?” you would almost certainly say no.

And yet, we get upset when our lives do not match our idealized dreams! This process is known as cognitive dissonance – the conflict between what we want and what actually shows up.

It is worth checking how often you become angry or frustrated when something relatively minor goes wrong, or when events don’t turn out the way you wanted.  You may even feel outraged when life refuses to follow your commands!

With some mindfulness, we can turn such moments into Zen moments: we can think of life as a series of imperfect facts. And know, too, that sometimes those apparent imperfections are really blessings in disguise.

In the same way that we can become outraged when life “goes wrong,” we can sometimes react very harshly when people let us down, or when our expectations are shattered by some very human behavior.

Our relationships do best when we can accept that people sometimes will behave badly, inconsistently or thoughtlessly. Sometimes they will let us down.

As long as this doesn’t happen all the time and does not put us in danger, it is healthier for everyone when we can see these behaviors as part of the big picture and get over the smaller disappointments.

When we focus on let-downs and disappointments, our relationships weaken and may even disintegrate. By choosing instead to see others as flawed as we are, yet generally doing their best, our relationships with all of life become easier, more relaxed and far more rewarding.

Mother Teresa reminded us of that when she said:
 “People are often unreasonable and self-centered. Forgive them anyway.
If you are kind, people may accuse you of ulterior motives. Be kind anyway.
If you are honest, people may cheat you. Be honest anyway.
If you find happiness, people may be jealous. Be happy anyway.
The good you do today may be forgotten tomorrow. Do good anyway.
Give the world the best you have and it may never be enough. Give your best anyway.
For you see, in the end, it is between you and God. It was never between you and them anyway.”

When we can see the perfect unfolding of life as a series of imperfect facts, our acceptance of what is, brings freedom and joy.

About the author:
©Copyright Ada Porat. For more information, visit This article may be freely distributed in whole or in part, provided there is no charge for it and this notice is attached.

How to Stay Strong When Things Go Wrong

How to Stay Strong When Things Go Wrong

Do you wish you could stay strong when setbacks hit and things go wrong? If so, you’re not alone! Setbacks and disappointments are a part of life, but learning how to effectively deal with them, can help to strengthen us from within.

When faced with setbacks, disappointments and stagnation, the first thing to do is not to fight back harder, but to step back and regain perspective before proceeding. This may feel counterproductive at first, but it is vitally important.

When we get so focused that we see things as black and white, good or bad, we can get boxed into rigidity. Truth is, life consist of an entire spectrum of possibilities, rather than just two choices. Stepping back and refocusing opens our minds to more ways of seeing and acting in life.

It does not always require a major shift; even a small tweak can make a difference. Just step back and shift your perspective enough to include one more way of looking at that situation. Is it really true that you are the only actor responsible for creating a desired outcome? It may be more accurate to say you represent one of many conditions that need to come together for something to unfold.

Even when we put our best into something, the outcome might not be what we expected. There may be very strong messages from inside and around us telling us that the outcome is the most important thing, yet that is a limited perspective. The outcome is less important than cultivating our capacity to be with whatever is, even when it is not at all what we have wished for.

This means learning to be okay with not knowing, with not being able to control the outcome. We continue to practice and train our ability to at peace within, and we don’t take the outcome personally.

This is at the heart of authentic spiritual work: it includes both being and doing; awareness as well as the discipline of application. What keeps us pliable in this often challenging process, is the attitude of gratitude.

Gratitude is not dependent on external circumstances. We don’t feel gratitude just because everything is going great, although that’s important to acknowledge. We especially need to practice gratitude when things are not going the way we want them to. It’s when things go wrong, that we are faced with deeper attachments and desires that often masquerade as needs.

To stay flexible, we need to practice gratitude anyhow; similar to the concept of “hallelujah anyhow” that is often heard in black churches; giving thanks and finding gratitude not because of our circumstances, but despite them.

The challenge is to stay in a receptive, open place, not fighting against what’s happening, but digging deeper within to live from our core values, to be the difference we wish to see in the world, and to lead by example in making a difference despite the setbacks we may face. It requires us to dig deep and keep showing up, doing our best with the resources and gifts that we ourselves have been given to make this world a better place.

And when our best is not sufficient to change things around yet, we entrust the outcomes to a Higher hand and we stay the course with compassion for ourselves and others. Once conditions are appropriate, the outcomes will be sure. In the meantime, the work remains because living from our true core and purpose is the only meaningful way to live. Even when conditions are not yet appropriate for optimal outcomes to show up, we can say “hallelujah” anyhow, and stay the course.

Setbacks and delays are part of life’s reality, and they are fully workable. Our practice is to not pull away from the dissonance, not to withdraw from what we are faced with; and in that place where commitment and discipline meet the obstacles, our souls learn resilience and strength.

This is true especially when you feel outnumbered and alone. Don’t get locked into the duality of blame and shame! You cannot be successful by feeding what you are fighting, so when you reach this point, step back and regroup!

Do something good instead. Recognize that we need the shadow to show us the light, and navigate by forgiving the limitations of the shadow and finding a way to shine the light.

One of the biggest pitfalls in our society is the way in which personal preferences are mislabeled as needs. People often attempt to manipulate others by presenting their emotional preferences as needs, and then demanding these “needs” be met. Listen to individuals for a day and you’ll notice how often this is used to manipulate: “I need you to be quiet now,” “I need you to listen to me,” “I need you to do this right now,” and the list goes on.

In reality, these statements confuse emotional preferences with needs. They are indicative of misappropriate use of the limbic brain, where needs and preferences are often confused in early childhood. Adults who get stuck in this dysfunctional behavior, create a lot of chaos for themselves and others.

An emotional “need” is not the same as the biological need for oxygen, food and shelter; it is simply a preference. In fact, psychologist Steven Stosny identifies only one valid emotional need for adults, and that is to act consistently on deeper values.

When we consistently act from our deeper values, all the emotional preferences that parade as important needs, will either be satisfied as a byproduct of meaningful living, or they will drop away as unimportant in the bigger lens of living a purposeful life.

The best way to attain the life you want to have, is to approach it from the perspective of living it in alignment with your deeper values and meaning, not from emotional preferences masquerading as “needs.”

When you do that, you will find your roots digging deeper so you can stay strong when things go wrong.

About The Author:

©Copyright Ada Porat. For more information, visit This article may be freely distributed in whole or in part, provided there is no charge for it and this notice is attached.

Cultivating Peace Within

Cultivating Peace Within

Some people possess a very special gift: they embody the presence of peace within. When we have a chance to sit close to someone like that, we also feel calm. They radiate inner peace in a way that deeply touches us. The presence of their inner peace stills our wandering thoughts and calms our anxieties.

Whenever we have a chance to be with a soul who lives in the eternal Now, we can feel this subtle source of peace and joy. Through their presence, we’re able to connect to that source as well. Their inner tranquility calms the turbulence in the world around them, and they teach us by example how to find peace within.

You too can learn to live this way. Living from a place of inner peace is not reserved for gurus and spiritual masters only. It is a learned behavior, just as constant worry is learned.

You can shed your learned ways of hurry and move through life as if there is no need to be somewhere else in this moment. You can move through life as if you already are exactly where you need to be — as if you are arriving with every step. Every moment of your waking consciousness can bring you closer to that perennial peace within —embodied in the presence of Now.

When you choose to move through life this way, you dissolve your sense of isolation in the world. You start remembering that you’re not a separate individual rushing about to avoid bad and reach for good. Instead, you start feeling again your connection to the whole, like droplets remembering they belong to the ocean. The drop of water does not need to do anything – it simply feels the embrace of the ocean and lets itself be carried along by the current in each present moment.

That inner current of peace is your spiritual core; the inner voice that whispers to you whenever you tune out the brassy loudness of the material world. To truly feel alive and at peace, it is essential to learn how to tune in to the presence of one’s spiritual core in each moment, and to live from that inner presence instead of reacting to the outer chaos.

When we forget this, we act in ways that cause pain or separation between ourselves and others. We become reactive; we may misunderstand others and lash out in fear or anger. And afterwards, we beat ourselves up with guilt, shame and regret.

You cannot change the past, but you can release its hold over you. The power of healing the past lies in this present moment. From this place of mindfulness, you can choose forgiveness and reconciliation to clear away misunderstandings, anger and grief from the past. It is exactly in this moment, Now, that the work of healing must be done to set you free.

No matter how difficult the challenges of the past were, they are over. You are here Now, reading these words. You are alive Now! Treasure the fact that you are alive in this moment and embrace the opportunity for healing it offers. Sit down quietly and go within: meditate to look deep and sweep away the woundedness, prejudice and mistakes of the past. Accept the opportunity offered by the presence of Now, so you can be free.

This present moment offers a gift. It allows you to forgive, to heal and return to peace within, which is your natural state.

Life is present in this moment, waiting for you to choose what to do with it, and your choices determine the quality of your peace within.

About the author

©Copyright Ada Porat. For more information, visit This article may be freely distributed in whole or in part, provided there is no charge for it and this notice is attached.

Life Lessons My Garden Has Taught Me

A garden delights every sense – the whirring of hummingbirds among the lavender plants, the feel of rich, soft dirt between our fingers, bright colors of ripening fruit in the orchard, the taste of a freshly picked tomato. And yet, true garden lovers know that the benefits of gardening aren’t just physical. From season to season, gardens teach valuable life lessons that help us grow as individuals.

  1. Learning to adapt can save you a lot of heartache

Author and avid gardener H. Fred Dale famously said that his green thumb came only as a result of the mistakes he made while learning to see things from the plant’s point of view. There are gardeners who battle against the elements, fighting to put a specific plant in a specific place, only to find that the same pests return year after year to destroy their best-laid plans. Why won’t it grow?

Sometimes the answer may be in refraining from imposing one’s will on nature and instead learning where the plant does want to be and what growing conditions it thrives in. When we align with nature as with life, we tend to generate optimal outcomes with less struggle and much more satisfaction.

  1. Optimism is important

Gardening is a matter of your enthusiasm holding you up until your back gets used to it. Seed catalogs arrive when snow is still on the ground in most places, and garden planning is really just a vision in the gardener’s mind. Time is a great healer that lets us remember the good while forgetting the pain. During winter, last year’s failures and the hard knots in my lower back fade away just long enough to dream of an even better garden this year. It lets me forget about the annoying javelinas who trampled my flower beds and the sneaky raccoons who dug up my bulbs.

Believing that the future holds the possibility of better things, new growth, and abundant rain is the first step to making good things happen.

  1. Pruning is a reality of life

Author James Clear said that ideas are like rose bushes: they need to be consistently pruned and trimmed down. One of my most challenging gardening projects involves the necessary discipline of pruning: cutting back fruit trees and shrubs to remove dead branches and shape their growth. It’s like giving tough love to the garden even when I know that pruning is essential for plant health. The tree that strains to bear all the fruit on its limbs to ripeness, will bear smaller fruit and risk breaking limbs. Pruning and thinning out excess fruit allows for larger, better yields. And the shrub that has been pruned, will come back bushier and more vital next season. Ah, a tough but necessary life lesson here!

In life as in gardening, tasks and responsibilities have a way of proliferating until they smother the essential things of our lives. Optimal growth and living requires pruning. By shedding non-essential demands and energy drains, we can more effectively focus on the truly important issues that will let us thrive.

  1. It’s okay to be alone

There are people who revel in being alone, yet most individuals abhor being alone in quiet spaces, accompanied only by thoughts. In the magical environment of my garden, it always feels okay to be out amidst the plants, sweating and tending each plant, feeling the satisfaction and pride of a well-tended garden while being absolutely alone. Research studies have proven beyond doubt that the simple act of gardening alleviates depression. If you must choose between meditation in a quiet room and meditating through gardening, you’ll find it far easier to empty your mind in the physical exertion of a garden by sitting in silence.

In the garden surrounded by breezes, bees, birds and crawly things, being alone only means there is not another human near; it does not mean you are lonely or isolated. Since trading frenetic city life for the simplicity of country living, I find myself renewed by my garden daily. The bounty of nature is perfect company!

  1. Every good thing requires hard work

First-time gardeners are often surprised by the time it takes to create a bountiful garden. Tending a garden is a worthy way to help nurture and heal our world, but it takes effort: real effort that may lead to plenty of sweat and aching limbs. The reward more than compensates us for the effort: bite into a fresh red tomato and you’ll understand. Or notice your health improving as you eat more fresh organic veggies that you have lovingly cultivated and you will forget the effort it took.

It is similar to the process of raising children, growing a business, or developing a meaningful relationship. Building something worthwhile takes commitment, diligence and lots of effort! Hard work is the secret ingredient for every good thing that we develop over time.

  1. Failure is a necessary stepping stone to success

As in life, a garden is always a series of losses along with a few triumphs that we can learn from. Every year in the garden is a story of both failure and success. Which type of lettuce will do better in the heat? Why did I have so many Japanese beetles? Why didn’t the carrots sprout? It’s an experiment that takes place season after season, and there is no perfect formula that will protect against the ever-changing variables. What worked one year might not work the next because gardening happens in harmony with the dynamics of nature, not in lockstep with a static calendar or formula.

Nature is forever evolving, and there are no guarantees or bulletproof formulas. For every change that ensures success, there will be changes that bring failure. The solution does not lie in hanging up my gardening gloves, but in continuing to observe, learn the life lesson it offers and grow. Every failure shows me what not to do, and opens up possibilities for adaptation… and that flexibility leads to success in gardening just as it does in life.

  1. The unexpected can often be beautiful and magnificent

Just like seasons in the garden, life is short, fraught with the unexpected, filled with adversity, and never seems to go as we planned. It’s also magnificent in its beauty as we experience love and laughter, adventures and small joys that fill us with sublime happiness.

The happiest moments in life are seldom planned – instead, it’s their spontaneity that fill us with delight. Making plans are good but when we hit the dirt, it is invaluable to keep an open mind to all life has to offer. The surprising twists and turns of life offer great gifts, provided we stay open to the unexpected.

About the author

©Copyright Ada Porat. For more information, visit This article may be freely distributed in whole or in part, provided there is no charge for it and this notice is attached.

Six Steps To Tame Your Inner Critic

We all have one – that inner critic that spews forth endless criticism, judgment or disapproval about our efforts. It might lead with critical questions like “what were you thinking?” or self-blame like “what’s wrong with you?” or “you’re such a loser!” And since our thoughts hugely influence how we feel and behave, the inner critic’s negative self-talk can become downright destructive.

This critical inner voice was formed out of painful early life experiences where we saw or experienced hurtful attitudes toward us or others close to us. Over time, we unconsciously adopted and internalized this pattern of destructive self-criticism, allowing it to continue the internal monologue even when there is no need for it.

When we fail to separate from the inner critic, it can run rampant in our lives, creating conflict and sabotaging our success.

Buddhist teacher Pema Chodron has said, “If we want to make peace with ourselves and with the world at large, we have to look closely at the source of all of our wars.”

Both war and peace start within us. If we want peace in our lives and in the world, we need to learn how to stop this internal violence and abuse. We must learn how to proactively address our negative thoughts and develop a more productive dialog within.

Here are six steps to tame the inner critic:

  1. Develop awareness of your thoughts. Awareness precedes change, and taming the inner critic is no exception. Become aware of the voice of your inner critic; recognize that it is merely an aspect of your psyche and not all that you are. We get so used to hearing our own narrations we can become oblivious as to their source. Pay attention to your inner narrative; recognize that just because the inner critic says something, doesn’t mean it’s true.
  2. Allow yourself to observe the inner critic. Become aware of when your inner critic shows up, and what its negative messages are. Notice how its messages are often exaggerated, biased, and disproportionate. Its power to control you lies in its ability to operate unchallenged. Typically, the inner critic’s judgments and accusations may not be fully truth-based. Allow yourself to see this inner bully for what it is, so you can take appropriate action.
  3. Examine the evidence. If you are thinking in terms of absolutes (“You’re never going to make it” or “nobody loves you”) ask yourself if that statement is true. Looking at evidence on both sides of the argument can help you look at the situation more rationally and less emotionally. The evidence of insight empowers, while the condemnation of the inner critic always tries to diminish.
  4. Identify the truth. Ask yourself what advice you’d give to a friend struggling with self-criticism, failure or doubt. Now, give that same advice to yourself with kindness. If you’ve made a mistake, having a decent regret and resolving to learn from it, is usually enough – you don’t need to condemn yourself for life.
  5. Replace overly critical thoughts with more accurate statements. When you find yourself thinking, “I never do anything right,” replace it with a balanced statement like, “Sometimes I do things really well and sometimes I don’t.” You are allowed to make mistakes! Each time you find yourself thinking an exaggerated negative thought, respond with a more accurate statement and move on; don’t ruminate on your mistakes.
  6. Balance acceptance with self-improvement. There’s a difference between always telling yourself that you’re not good enough and reminding yourself that you can work at improving. When we resist our flaws, they persist. Instead, accept your flaws for what they are today, and commit to work on improving in these areas. Acknowledging your weaknesses for what they are today doesn’t mean you are doomed to stay that way. It simply reflects your baseline today, and you can use that information to strive toward becoming better. That way, you use the input from your inner critic to motivate you instead of to bully you.

Your inner dialogue with yourself is a critical part of your psyche. It will either fuel your success or prevent you from reaching your full potential. Taming your inner critic and silencing the excess negativity will empower you to live more effectively and to develop your full potential.

About the author

©Copyright Ada Porat. For more information, visit This article may be freely distributed in whole or in part, provided there is no charge for it and this notice is attached.

Seven Lies We Tell Ourselves

The power of our minds can be harnessed to empower us. It can also sabotage our best intentions. Here are seven lies we commonly tell ourselves to indulge or to hide the truth from ourselves. To live our best lives, it is essential to recognize these self-sabotage patterns and evict them to make more empowering choices.

I wish I could do _______, but I can’t.
‘I can’t’ almost always means ‘I don’t want to.’ We hide behind ‘I can’t’ to pretend the choice isn’t really ours. In the short run, it may feel beneficial because we can avoid owning our preferences and pretend that we have no choice in the matter. But it comes at a significant cost!  By habitually hiding behind ‘I can’t’ we disempower ourselves across all areas of our lives. What we really need to say is ‘I don’t want to’ instead of ‘I can’t.’ It is more honest and restores our sense of personal power and choice.

I deserve this dessert….
Or this dress… or this outcome… or… whatever. This is one I hear often!  Lying to ourselves by pretending that we deserve what we lust for, lets us indulge in momentary comforts. The problem is, once the momentary gratification wears off, we’re back to facing the original, unpleasant feelings. I have seen people overeat by saying they deserve to indulge after a long day at a job they hate or working with people they loathe. They use food as a reward even though it wrecks their health; and this is the epitome of self-sabotage cloaked in righteous garb. Nobody deserves to wake up feeling awful about their choices. By addressing core issues, every person has the power to restore a sense of well-being to life.

Another related, insidious phrase that people use is ‘I need,’ as in, ‘I need that new dress’ or ‘I need you to listen to me.’ If you’re alive and surviving without it right now, then you clearly don’t need it.  This habit may sound insignificant, but it is dishonest. Changing ‘I need’ to ‘I want’ is incredibly freeing. Whereas ‘I need’ sets you up to believe you’ll be hurt if you don’t get something, ‘I want’ gives you freedom.”

I’m definitely right.
This is one of the most damaging lies we can tell ourselves, according to social psychologist Carol Tavris, Ph.D., coauthor of Mistakes Were Made (But Not by Me): Why We Justify Foolish Beliefs, Bad Decisions, and Hurtful Acts. It’s called the basic bias—the idea that everyone else is biased, but we’re not. The belief that you know best and that you’ve got all the facts prevents you from even listening to evidence that you’re wrong—that your memory may be wrong, your perception inaccurate or your explanation faulty. It’s inherently self-damaging because it keeps you stuck in the limitations of what you think you know. It also makes you a miserable person to be with, so watch for this lie!

I have no willpower.
You do have some willpower. We all do, even though laboratory tests have shown that willpower is finite – after people used self-control for some tasks, they had less of it for subsequent tasks (that’s why it’s not a good idea to quit smoking, start a stressful job, and go on a diet on the same day!) Researchers have found that willpower, like a muscle, can be built up over time through regular training. Moreover, it has spillover benefits: If you decided to straighten your posture every time you thought about it for two weeks, you will not only improve your posture, but you’ll also experience all-around improvement in self-empowerment in completely unrelated areas!

I’ll never get over it.
In The Emotional Life Of Your Brain, author and neuroscientist Richard J. Davidson states that we’re not necessarily conscious of just how rapidly we recover from adversity. You’ve probably heard of psychologist Dan Gilbert’s research showing how people who’ve been paralyzed are about as happy a year after the accident as they were before; likewise, lottery winners were found to be no happier a year after their big win.

By allowing yourself to simply feel the negative emotions of major setbacks and trusting nature’s ability to heal, you’ll discover that negative emotions actually have a finite lifespan and tend to abate over time. While there is substantial variability in how long each person may need to grieve their losses, it is a good rule of thumb to start looking for some sense of forward motion after about six months. If not, you may benefit from professional help.

Researchers have found that people who are slower to recover from stressful events in fact have brains that are wired differently. Fortunately, we can change our brains activity patterns with mindfulness meditation, which boosts activity in the pre-frontal cortex. Studies have shown how this practice over time weakens the negative chain of associations that keep us obsessing about setbacks.

I don’t judge others.
Sure, you do! Research into how humans categorize and perceive others, shows that we all make spontaneous trait inferences about others within less than a second after meeting them! These findings are remarkably consistent across the globe, as people instantly judge each other on two main qualities: warmth and competence. People who are judged as competent but cold (such as a wealthy tycoon) elicit envy or hostility. People who are perceived as warm but incompetent (such as elderly people) bring out feelings of pity. Here’s the kicker: all judgment is ultimately self-judgment. When we size people up, we’re judging them with our conscious mind – and we are ultimately judging ourselves because we’re trying to figure out how we fit in.

If only I had a million dollars, I’d fulfill my dream of _____.
This little self-deluding bomb? It’s disproved every time we see an attorney who aspires to own a restaurant and goes to cooking school at night, or a mom who build an Etsy business while her kids take their afternoon nap. Somehow, we are so certain — so absolutely certain — that we can’t take the leap without a certain financial guarantee or windfall. We totally delude and block ourselves with this lie! Instead, why not take a step closer to your dreams from where you are at right now, and make the commitment to gradually transition to what you really want to do with the rest of your life. It is only too late if you don’t start now!

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