Archive for January, 2012

“Anything you do requires energy.” So begins the webpage by Dragos Roua dedicated to teaching people how to “pay themselves first.” Payment, however, has less to do with monetary compensation, and more to do with spiritual energy. This concept mingles closely with the yogic idea of Asteya, or “nonstealing.” Asteya “calls us to live with integrity and reciprocity,” Deborah Adele writes in her book The Yamas and Niyamas. Both concepts, of differing origins, speak one truth: give so that you may receive.

Roua asks readers to start paying attention “to all the energy we’re receiving.” We must be fully aware of the energy given back in order to appreciate it and use it. Energy comes to us in many ways, but often are not aware of it. Our colleagues who interact with us, strangers we pass and smile at us, a short chat with the woman behind the counter at lunch. This is all energy; be open to receiving it.

Stealing from others impedes reception of energy. Adele writes that “[w]hen we compare ourselves to others, we either find ourselves lacking, which makes us feel cheated, or we find ourselves superior, which leaves us feeling arrogant.” Instead of expending energy in comparisons, we can instead just be and lift others up in a positive light. Compliment a stranger. Help a struggling friend. Be the positive light you want in your own life.

This said, we must be cautious not to give energy away, to allow it to leak and not refill. Losing too much energy comes when we put others before ourselves, which sounds altruistic, but ignoring personal needs undermines the ability to serve others. Therefore, the theme of this blog: pay yourself first.

If you don’t help or support yourself before others, there will be no energy for others. As Roua says, “[i]f you’re giving away all your energy, you’ll end up weak, vulnerable and defeated.” We must not steal from ourselves, as Asteya dictates. Adele continues this definition by saying “[w]e need to take time to rest and to reflect and to contemplate.” Never stopping, never pausing to breathe will leave us powerless and vulnerable.

It is our responsibility to “pay ourselves first.” In order to find the energy and purpose to salvage our earth, community, friends and family, we must first care for and love ourselves.



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Negative Nelly, Debbie Downer, Billy Blamer. We know them, and we name them, but what if we ARE them? It’s easier to designate nomenclature than to find fault in ourselves, or, worse yet, reasons to agree with those who challenge our status quo.¬† It is the common lot of modern man to disagree with the world around him in an attempt to prove himself as an independent and uncontrolled being.

Yet that which is most resisted is growth. When one consistently resists (change, advice, even gut feelings), he does not learn the lesson and instead is fated to follow the same destructive path. This can be seen vividly in presidential–and other political–campaigns. Not only the stoic beliefs of far right and far left politicians, but in the extremist ideals held by the common man. To disagree, to resist can create negative energies and opinions toward opposing forces, thus creating friction and unnecessary anger.

In most cases, this opposition to advice and change is reflective of one of the most base emotions: fear. We fear that we were wrong, unnecessary, that our view of the world is being challenged, that we must step outside the comfort zones we create for ourselves. These comfort zones are what define us, and to challenge that is to admit we do not know everything about ourselves.

The transverse, which is just as destructive, is to “agree” or listen without truly understanding. Not wanting to “rock the boat” or cause dissention, some choose a path of least resistance, a path that does not include argument or challenge, but also does not include growth.

So, why learn to agree with others? To disagree uses a great deal of energy, more energy¬† than calm contemplation could ever draw. It can end friendships and close doors to new opportunities and new ways of thinking. It keeps a person on edge, always waiting for the other to make a mistake and gloatingly point it out without remorse. This isn’t about forcing another to change his mind or for you to give up your position; sometimes its enough to use the old adage of “agreeing to disagree.”

I see this in my classroom regularly. Students, and sometimes their parents, are resistant to unique ways of thinking. When asked to peer inside themselves in journal entries, they balk at the task, demanding that the class instead watch a movie. What that translates to is that to find a new perception of themselves is terrifying, but latent or passive education in the form of movies or lecture is more appealing. They can remain in their “safe zones” and passively resist change. To agree with me that their education is important is terrifying, and therefore they spend more of their energy arguing for “easier” assignments than if they had merely done the original assignment.

But, sadly, this is also true of myself. I don’t agree with my own decisions! I resist outside advice! Often, I am the most avid enemy of my life-choices. The hardest lesson I have come across is believing in myself and not putting myself down, but accepting me as I am. Refraining from resistance, from anger is a new lesson and mindset for me. But I would rather take the challenge and the experience of listening, understanding, and agreeing than constantly spending energy that I lose, never to regain said energy through powerful connections to others, and to myself.


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The New Year is approaching rapidly, and with it we return to work to either love or hate our workspace. Having a healthy, positive, and comfortable workspace is key to helping work not feel like, well, work. Having an organized desk and colorful walls are an easy step to make, but why not take a more studied approach? Feng shui, a complicated and almost scientific study, began most likely about 4000 BC. Buildings in China from this time period on were aligned to earthly rotations and astrological formations, and in later times this alignment made its way indoors and into physical study as well. In the art of Kung Fu, for example, part of the practice incorporates the idea of bagua, the eight trigrams. In essence, the study can be broken down into the idea that all things impact other things, that interconnectedness reveals power…or weakness.

Though some call it hocus pocus, still many more study feng shui in not only modern China, but in contemporary Western cultures as well. At care2.com, the greenliving segment offers suggestions for “do’s and don’t’s” of office feng shui. First, where you sit is supremely important. Having your chair directly across from the door weakens your position, while the corner farthest from the opening will give a “command” position. For me, my desk is built into my wall connected to the door (so not directly across) but I do have a rocking chair and the ability to reposition myself in this area when teaching. Perhaps I will bring a stool and utilize its mobility for this command seating.

In this same vein of thought, one’s back should rest against the corner of the room, NEVER turning one’s back toward the door. This is to turn your back on business, which comes through your open door. For obvious reasons, then, one should also never “look straight out into a corridor or see the stairs, storage rooms, closets, elevators, escalators, or toilets” while seated at your desk. My desk, for example, faces an open window the looks toward a snowy mountain. Very inspiring!

While setting up one’s desk, one should place his or her computer in the north or west area if creativity is needed. However, to generate income, the computer should be placed in the southeast. A benefit of laptops is the maneuverability of work locale. A tabletop fountain in the East provides a calming and relaxed atmosphere. Feng shui dictates that this will activate business and career success, which no one can have too much of.

On to colors. Balancing yin and yang is important and can be done by balancing heavy and light, harsh and soft surfaces, textures, and furnitures. Even the most skeptical person can agree that variation provides uniqueness and keeps the mind active and interested. Blue might be the ideal color for my classroom, for example, because it is thought to “increase productivity and work efficiency” as per inventcreativity.com. At the same site, green calms the mind while the color yellow on a notepad can increase memory, but as a wall color, will increase tensions and fighting.

My weakest area is one of the last quick lessons from this website. Treating your files (whether paper or electronic) with respect and care is important as they represent business from the past, present, and future as well. Last is clutter, notably that of office equipment cords which can cause injury, but lest ye forget the obvious–knick nacks and stacks of unnecessary extras kept around to “use someday”. Someday will not come. If it isn’t vital to particular programs or outcomes, or if it hasn’t been used in a month, toss it, donate it, sell it, but by all accounts, don’t keep it. Let’s see if I can follow my own advice!
One should feel passionate about their work, or at the least not be filled with disdain while driving to the office. Though we do not necessarily have the ability to change those we work with or the line of work we are in, we can at least change our workspace.

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