Force: Better By Monday

“I bow my head to the heaven within heaven.
Hairline rays illuminating the universe.
The eight winds cannot move me.
Sitting still upon the purple, golden lotus.”
-Su Dongpo, The Song Dynasty poet.

The eight winds Su Dongpo references in his poem about serenity are praise, ridicule, honor, disgrace, gain, loss, pleasure, and misery (Derek Lin,2007).  These are the influences which force us out of our state of inner peace or off balance within yourself.

The winds which seem positive such as honor, gain, pleasure and praise can inflate our ego and cause us to believe we are above others. This state of superiority is then desired and becomes a position to defend.  A person who gets elevated by the four positive winds may always try to stay above everyone and therefore be detached from the love he needs.

The four winds which seem negative are ridicule, disgrace, loss, and misery. Although most people will not seek for any of these to blow into life – they gust their way to us. The moment we are met with a negative wind which knocks us down it becomes our choice to succumb to that moment and stay down. This way we can never be knocked over again.

The other decision is to learn from the personalized impact of the wind. This learning includes which one of the four winds was able to knock us down. It also includes understanding what caused us to be more vulnerable to that particular negativity.

We cannot eliminate the eight winds from our lives. We can pay attention to how we let them affect our balance. Do we seek the winds which elevate us above others or do we allow the force of some winds to push us below others?

One Thing to Do: Let go of the need to prove anything to others. You can hold onto your values and live from them without needing someone else to honor them. And you can hold beliefs you love without letting differences become proof of disrespect.

Dawna Daigneault, Eds, LPC

Dawna Daigneault, Eds, LPC

Dawna Daigneault, Ed.S., LPC.

Zest of Life, LLC. Professional Counseling.



Stress Less: Better By Monday

a-stress-balance-mandala“These light and dark halves, Jung thought, revealed not only conscious and subconscious forces – and most usefully to leaders-our positive and negative evaluations of them, forces that, like the deities of the ancients, govern our lives.”  – John O’Neil

Our stress often comes from a negative evaluation of an event more than from the event itself.  Albert Ellis taught that our irrational belief about something causes more stress than the event we attribute that stress too.  We all have things which stress us out – so why don’t we write those things down to better understand them?

In John O’Neil’s book, Leadership Aikido, he encourages balance (chapter four) through the art of creating a Mandala. This is not like the art found in Adult Coloring Books where you simply fill in empty spaces with color preferences. The Mandala in O’Neil’s book is made of opposites-opposing forces which work against each other, in a personal way, within an individual.

He suggests that you identify pairs of opposing forces in your life such as the example of pairs provided below.

Control versus Trust

Diversity versus Unity

Family Needs versus Career Needs

Preference for Thinking versus Preference for Action

Clear Communication versus Creative Ambiguity

If these pairs are related to what stresses you out, include them in your Mandala, or make up your unique pairs of opposing forces. A few other opposite ideas which most of us encounter are Love/Hate, Peace/Chaos, Security/Fear, Mastery/Incompetence, New/Old, and Kind/Mean.

Once you have a list, begin to arrange them in a large, drawn circle across from each other, the level of creativity is up to you. A slightly irregular, hand-drawn circle, will work well enough for this exercise.

The items on the Mandala can be connected through a series of lines drawn from one to the other, across the circle. Additional connections can be made between adjacent words to involve two pairs of opposites into a shared connection.

Looking at the words can create a new perspective about which ideas (values, forces) can influence how you look at the division between the original pair of opposite forces.  For example, if Love versus Hate is adjacent to Peace versus Chaos on your Mandala – how do the items in the second pair influence the ideas in the first pair. This can be done with any two pairs of opposing ideas.

O’Neal said, “Only you are the final judge,” of which forces influence, soften, and change the way you feel.

One Thing To Do: Make a Mandala which identifies your stressors and their opposites. Then explore your drawing by discovering the positive or negative impact some ideas can have on others.  

Dawna Daigneault, Eds, LPC

Dawna Daigneault, Eds, LPC

Dawna Daigneault, Ed.S., LPC.

Zest of Life, LLC. Professional Counseling.




Soften: Better By Monday

“We already possess these, but they can be ripened: precision, gentleness, and the ability to let go.”   – Pema Chodron

It may not be that we are bad people because there is something bad inside of us. We aren’t always good. Therefore, we aren’t always bad either. It may be that we are human beings having experiences that we don’t always know what to do with, what the Buddha referred to as – a kind of innocent misunderstanding that we as humans share which makes us seem foolish, ignorant, and wrong (sometimes).

Pema Chodron promises us in her book, The Wisdom of No Escape, that we have a way to see how we limit ourselves and make corrections. That understanding comes through “clarity, precision, gentleness, goodheartedness, and kindness.”

The wholeness we seek is found in being more open to ourselves “less shut off and shut down” and able to look at who we are with truth and trust. Truth means telling yourself what is real for you and then trust that you can handle what you hear yourself say. To seek solutions for why you do something “bad” is only knowing part of yourself. Pema suggested, “Our neurosis and our wisdom are made out of the same material. If you throw out your neurosis, you throw out your wisdom.”

Take a look at any recent choice you have made and examine it from more than one angle. If you don’t know why you did or said something (good or bad) – assess what purpose you may have had or what purpose it may have served.

There is an old technique using a four-sided pillow, an Objectivity Pillow. The first side is labeled me, one turn to the right and label that side other(s), another turn to the right and label that side community, then on the last side write world.

When you want to process through any confusion, get the pillow and start with the “Me” side. Then ask this question, How does this affect me? Once you write down or think about the answer, move the pillow to the right one turn to see the word “Other” and ask, How has this affected the other person(s)?  Keep doing this with each side.

Get to know yourself better by thinking through why you act the way you do in one particular incident. It may be a reoccurring problem with family, friends or a partner. Use softness as you think through what your motivation for your behavior is. What does the action get you? How does the new awareness help you love yourself more?

One Thing To Do: Make an Objectivity Pillow and take a question through all four sides. Then repeat the process with any other questions you want to process.

Dawna Daigneault, Eds, LPC

Dawna Daigneault, Eds, LPC

Dawna Daigneault, ED.S, LPC.

Zest of Life, LLC. Professional Counseling.

Mental Energy Can Be Better by Monday

“We’re drowning in information and starving for knowledge.” -Rutherford D. Rogers

Taking a break from technology can be a good experience but when you dive back into the technological sea of information you may feel like you’re drowning on the first day you return.

The amount of information you are being flooded with may seem normal but it may also be too much to deal with on a daily basis. You will feel flooded by extraneous data. Then when something really personal and important goes wrong you may have no energy left to deal with it. The information overload  makes your brain ache – you feel like shutting down. You may have to miss work – not because you have a virus but because you are overworking your own mental and emotional circuitry leaving no room to solve real problems.

We are drinking from a technology fire hose all day long. Even if you are not chewing and swallowing every bite being fed to you – you are still having to make decisions about what you taste. If someone followed you around throughout the day saying, “Taste this, now taste this, now this…” You would feel overwhelmed and frustrated that someone was pushing you to try things and use your limited thinking energy to make hundreds of small decisions about tasting things that have little value to you at the time they are presented.

One Thing To Do this Weekend: Erase 5 things from your phone or computer that pester you with a constant stream of less than important information.

Dawna Daigneault

Dawna Daigneault, Eds, LPC

Dawna Daigneault, Ed.S., LPC.

Zest of Life, LLC. Professional Counseling.

Smile Better By Monday

It’s emotionally delicious to feel the warm sun brush your skin as you take a few steps out into the Spring warmth, knowing that more light, heat and color are coming to stay. Did you know there are 219 parks operated and maintained by Kansas City Parks and Recreation? They also boast 47 fountains, 27 lakes, 38 miles of trails and bikeways and 132 miles of boulevards and parkways. That’s a lot of free “fresh air” therapy.

This weekend people will be taking advantage of the improved temperature to open up to the outdoors again. Smiling about the good weather signals your brain to fill back up with positive brain chemistry. Get outside and you will see some of the many faces around you wearing grins again. It is a phenomenon of nature, seasonal change, but also of human nature to experience change/loss during the some seasons and a sense of gain in others.

Seasonal Affective Disorder sufferers finally get a break from the discouraging grays of winter. If there were an acronym for spring maybe it can be: Season of Noticeable Gain (S.O.N.G.). Maybe one of my cheesier acronyms but I am writing what I see in people.

Joining organized activities or getting into the warm-up season in your own way can benefit your body and mind. The price of Spring enjoyment varies from free to expensive but the pay-off you will get in mood enhancement is worth it.
One Thing To Do: Step outside and feel the sunshine make you smile.

Dawna Daigneault

Dawna Daigneault, Eds, LPC

Dawna Daigneault, Ed.S., LPC.

Zest of Life, LLC. Professional Counseling.

Your Power Can Be Better By Monday

Knowing what you need to re-balance your personal power in your current relationship can be difficult. It may seem that your only options include unpleasant behaviors such as; being more aggressive, raising your defenses or even finding a different partner.

If your partner is not abusive and you feel safe in your relationship but seem to always defer to his/her suggestions – then becoming more secure in your own worth will help you show your needs and preferences more often.

You may be able to create more relationship closeness when you and your partner respect the need for both partners to have a balance of power within the relational system. The two of you are co-creating that system with every overt decision and covert withholding you each make. Mutual respect is the key to making both partners more equally present.

The ability to balance an external system (relationship) may be easier when you balance your internal system of self-worth. Do you know how to show respect to your partner and not lose respect for yourself? Can you show up for your own best interest when a disagreement threatens your self-esteem?

Showing respect for yourself, your needs, ideas and voice will help your partner see you and know you better. Mind reading isn’t a magical power your partner obtains as soon as you enter the picture. You can make yourself known by showing up more fully in conversations, decision making, and during down time. Respect your need to be known first – then let your partner learn what you know about yourself.

One Thing to Do: Talk yourself through the last important conversation you had with your partner and write down how often you showed respect and how often you felt respected. This is mapping a pattern you engaged in – which you may repeat.

Dawna Daigneault, Eds, LPC

Dawna Daigneault, Eds, LPC

Dawna Daigneault, Ed.S., LPC.

Zest of Life, LLC. Professional Counseling.

Your boundaries can be better by Monday

Better By MondayDo you patrol your fences or wear your armor?
Personal boundaries are often invisible but protect our emotional and spiritual space like a sturdy fence around a yard. Some boundaries can create needed distance, like a fence, but a different kind is more like a suit of armor, worn tightly to protect our greatest vulnerabilities. The personal boundary of the armor variety has to be stronger to allow us to get close to others, but the very strength of it can sometimes shield us from others as well as protect us from them. Safety can come at a cost when it comes to interpersonal relationships.
Which type of boundary is better? The fence boundary is great for meeting new people in a new place. Random social interactions or being on a team at work are situations where good fences make for positive and productive relationships. The distance these provide can make learning and observing easier while letting people choose how and when to show up to others. You may prefer a wide plot of land between you and a stranger while at a party but with a clear and reliable fence up you can choose to open the gate to someone who shares some of your interests. (And they can do the same for you, assuming they too have a reliable fence of their own.) You also control who stays outside the gate and why.
Generally, this fence is built with a combination of queues you offer (or withhold from) others. How readily you join in a conversation, smiles or affirming and animated gestures when someone else is talking, requests for more information can all be signals you send or receive that create a sense of space that is preferred and maintained – a safe space. However, this type of boundary can be exhausting to patrol – especially if the fence covers a wide diameter around your personal space, with lots of conditions and unending requirements. In this case, for example, a person goes to a party and sits alone, not wanting ANY engagement from or with others.  This fence is so wide and distant no one can get in.
The positive thing about armor is that it is worn close and can let others have more access to you, get closer, but while you are still protected and feeling safe and secure. You may not be ready for complete transparency but you can reveal and receive more when you have your in-close boundary on, your armor, and this can help you remain engaged with the world, not fenced in by it. Personal boundary of the armor variety also gives you a sense of safety when trust hasn’t been established between you and someone new. It also is made of words, gestures, and actions…all of which protect you from sharing more of your story with someone before you feel secure. And it helps them to learn about and know you at your pace, not theirs, respectfully but firmly.
One Thing To Do: Make a short list of words (phrases) that can create your version of a healthy boundary for you and that would be helpful for others as well:
 “I’m not sure I feel like talking about that right now.”
“Thanks for the interest but maybe some other time.”
“No thanks – not right now.”
“I’d love to talk about that but not really right now.”
“That would be good to discuss but when I feel abler to, later on perhaps.”
Dawna Daigneault, Eds, LPC

Dawna Daigneault, Eds, LPC

Dawna Daigneault, Ed.S., LPC.

Better By Monday: Man of Steel

Better By Monday“Faster than a speeding bullet. More powerful than a locomotive. Able to leap tall buildings in a single bound … It’s Superman!

The Man of Steel has been able to do super human activities and save people from danger but if he isn’t flying around in your part of the world you may be out of luck. He can bust through a wall but he is not a stress buster. The number one modern day crisis has become stress and we could really use his help before it becomes a major tragedy.

The superhero has been a no-show in the fight against stress but he may be helpful in a roundabout way. Let’s give him credit for the name of this solution because I like to call it, The Man of Still.

Cultivating stillness through meditation, yoga, reading, breathing or art is becoming a popular anti-stress practice. Many people are turning to stillness (something we already have inside) to reduce mental, emotional and physical illness.

A simple way to become the next Man (or Woman) of Still:
To Do: Let your thoughts happen without changing your emotion.
a. When you think – don’t sink (this is having purpose).
b. When you think – blink away the difficult (this is honesty).
c. When you think – wink at the funny or odd (this is humor).

Become slower than a snail in a traffic jam. More purposeful than a lioness on the prowl. Able to lean into your thinking without your emotion bounding in too…. It’s super (healing). Being still will help you heal a broken heart, a fragile mind and physical pain may retreat.

Dawna Daigneault, Eds, LPC

Dawna Daigneault, Eds, LPC

Dawna J. Daigneault, Ed.S., LPC.

Zest of Life, LLC. Professional Counseling

Better By Monday is a blog about one thing you can do, over the weekend, to feel a little better by Monday.

Better By Monday: Do you Lift or Lean?

Better By MondayMonday isn’t always given the respect it deserves. Disagreeable mumbling by more than one not-ready-for-work sleeper is heard. The sunlight sneaking between the blinds into the bedroom window doesn’t bring the delight of a new day it brings the burden of another day to endure.

The sun doesn’t seem to warm the morning air with hope but lights it up with anticipatory anxiety. Problems are waiting for us. Stress of different shapes and sizes line the halls of the schools our children attend, the streets we drive down, the rows of offices in our buildings and we don’t have solutions.

Even if old problems are left in the past, new problems seem to always be just ahead. We don’t always benefit from thinking about getting ahead because sometimes we can only get through. A sea of daily stress with endless days of rowing can feel unrewarding and unmanageable. But are all the moments in a day made up of problems, pain, stress and frustration?

What if we could give each other a moment away from feeling our problems? I know you’ve heard of Random Acts of Kindness (which work well) but have you considered making those into small acts of compassion/ kindness you can do throughout the day? By looking for the opportunity to show compassion in small ways during the day you give yourself a break from feeling your own stress and co-create a stress relieving moment with others.

SACK someone’s stress by showing grace, interest, empathy and/or patience in a moment of need and you get a day filled with more meaningful moments. Look for the moments where you can show a little compassion. Monday through Friday will feel lighter because you are lifting instead of leaning away.

Dawna Daigneault, Eds, LPC

Dawna Daigneault, Eds, LPC

Dawna Daigneault Ed.S., LPC.

Better By Monday is a blog about one thing you can do, over the weekend, to feel a little better by Monday.

Zest of Life, LLC. Professional Counseling.

Better By Monday: Write Out Your Worst

Better By MondayYes, write a list of your worries and/or fears down on a piece of paper and look at them. Keep the list focused on your biggies, probably not one, but not more than ten. Once you’ve done this put them away in a container or box.

Many religious, spiritual, and secular traditions around the world use worry mandalas, images, icons and figurines to allow people to mentally deposit their worries and fears and then move on with their day and their life. It’s a way of acknowledging their existence, treating them with the respect they deserve (meaning, they are of real concern to you) but also allowing you to LEAVE them be, for a time, and free yourself to get on with regular living.

For you it might be as simple as a daily or weekly list, folded and stored in an old shoe box or plastic container. You can replace the old one each time by throwing it away and depositing the new list. However, you may want to date them and keep them all. Any practice that works for you is what will work!

Try it! Just doing this simple activity can actually help you do better work, and enjoy relationships more because as you no longer carry the fears inside you the odds of them leaking (or screaming) out at random times is lowered. Leaking your fears onto others can inflict pain or confusion on those you love.

This isn’t denial. You are accounting for all of them by placing them on a list in a container – you are also creating a situation where they don’t upstage what you need to do (perform your best) for the present moment. You are taking back control of your choices and thoughts and giving space for the thinking you need most in the moments of your life you really want them to be pure and undiluted.

This is a practice, maybe too simplistic for some, to regain personal peace. But the very essence of freeing yourself from excessive fears and worries is an act of courage over something most within your control – your thoughts, how you animate them (with fears, emotion, wisdom, anger, etc. etc. etc.) and your choices around how to respond to, manage or simply influence them to regain a moment of peace.

Dawna Daigneault, Eds, LPC

Dawna Daigneault, Eds, LPC

Dawna Daigneault, Ed.S., L.P.C.

Better By Monday is a blog about one thing you can try, over the weekend, to feel a little bit better by Monday.

Zest of Life, LLC.