Posted on June 13, 2011 - Filed Under Uncategorized
Tomorrow is my baby’s first birthday party. I was getting a bit wrapped up in who’s coming, what to do, decorations, etc. I am not Martha Stewart, so I tend to feel a bit insecure with these things.
It is clear when something really bothers me, it is something I need to work on or learn about myself. I realized the party is not about who’s there or impressing anyone with my crepe paper decorations. It is only about Isabella. It is a celebration of her, and of us, surviving and loving the first year of her precious life.
It is about her getting crazy on some cake and exploring the balloons. It is about having a few friends over to celebrate her. It is my mission tomorrow to stay fully engaged in the present during the party so that I can thoroughly enjoy it.
Celebrations should not be stressful events. It seems like our culture has moved to one of impressing others, and the point of the party can be lost in all the pomp. Parties are meant for delighting in the event, not following some kind of rules.
Rituals and celebrations are important for allowing us to pass through transitions and honor them completely. They have an impact on our soul. This is what is critical in these gatherings. These events are some of the few memories that last through life. It is so important to relax and enjoy them mindfully. Suck it all up.
Posted on August 2, 2009 - Filed Under The Good Life
Do you ever feel your work life balance is off? The key to living well is finding this balance. You may find one part of your life is going great, but another area is awful. You may even feel like you have it all, but feel confused by the fact you still do not feel happy.
You may feel like the balls are all up in the air, between your spouse, kids, job, health, etc. If you are not careful, some balls are going to drop. Our society focuses heavily on success in some areas, while neglecting the importance of others. It is common for your career to become your identity. Regardless of how financially successful this culture is, it doesn’t seem to be a very happy one in general. It is commonplace to see people turning to medication, therapy, and even rehabs to deal with life.
Work life balance tends to be the most obvious area in need of improvement. The work you do requires a huge chunk of your time and energy. It can feel like it really takes over your whole life. You cannot allow it to keep you from attending to other critical areas of your life. Work really only provides two things:
–Money to fund the life you really want (live well, be with your family, vacation, etc.),
–You may get a sense of purpose from your work, particularly if it is a passion for you.
It is important to keep your work life in its place. Your work is not really your life…unless you’re a nun. Many people fall into the trap of working hard and putting off living the good life until they have achieved enough or acquired enough money. The trap is: there is never enough.
You have to start living immediately, as you read this. You will need a great deal of self awareness in order to fully live in the present. This is not easy in our society. You will find yourself eating, drinking, shopping, and working to keep yourself distracted from what is going on inside of you. It can be scary to even think of taking a look in there.
But being aware of your inner needs is critical to developing life balance. You must begin to use your internal compass to tell you when to play barbies with your child, take a nap, or pay attention to your spouse. It is easy for you to stay disconnected–isolation and independence are pillars of our society. Connecting requires a certain amount of vulnerability and openness. But bonding with others is a fundamental key to happiness.
You must also get connected with yourself. Regardless of how much time you spend alone, you probably find yourself totally cut off from your inner world. Your brain will usually override your inner compass with a whole host of things you ’should’ be doing. Even if you do something else, the guilt you feel keeps you from really enjoying it.
You won’t realize how trustworthy your internal director is unless you are able to let go of your ’shoulds’. Until you stop ’shoulding’ all over yourself, you will find yourself out of work life balance.
Posted on July 28, 2009 - Filed Under Living Fully, The Meaning of Life
The search for the meaning of life is a quest we are all on, whether we know it or not. You wake up one day, in a sweaty panic, and breathlessly ask yourself, “What is this all for?” Thank goodness you asked, or else you would find yourself at the end of your life having squandered your time here on earth.
It can be pretty overwhelming to explore this question, so let’s break it down a bit.
Step 1: Dealing with your past
It can be very difficult to find true peace in life if you don’t do a bit of excavating. I know it is not fun, but it certainly has its rewards. It can bring you a level of peace an awareness you’ve never experienced in your life thus far. This can be done on your own with books and journaling, but you may find the process is quicker with professional help. Do not be discouraged if you have to shop around a bit for the right ‘fit’ in a therapist — you may get no results with one, and amazing results with another.
Step 2: Figuring out who you are
I’m giggling a bit at the steps because obviously each one could be a book, but in this post I can only offer a paragraph. The task of figuring out who you are under all of the crap that has been layered upon you can be a tall order. You are going to have to pay close attention. Take note of things you like and don’t like, and figure out why. If something really pisses you off, figure out why that is such a trigger for you. Remember who you were before you ‘grew up’. Try to recall what you previously liked to do before you had responsibilities. You may have bought into the notion that you have to lose yourself to live in this world, but I would argue the opposite is true.
Step 3: Take stock
Now that you have been formally introduced to yourself (”It’s nice to meet you, I’ve heard so many great things…”), you need to determine what to cut from your life and what to add. This can be brutal. You have probably been doing many things you just don’t want to do (saying ‘yes’ to too much, a job you hate, exercise you dread). You want to align what you are doing with what you want to be doing. And having. And being. Look for these inconsistencies and begin to make changes. Don’t wait for some better time or opportunity, as it may never come.
Step 4: Discovering your passion or purpose
This is a critical step if you want to get to the end of your life and find you did, in fact, really live. Without something to stir your soul, you are dead already. People think this has to be about helping people, etc., but it doesn’t. Theoretically, you owe nothing to anyone (well, you should probably look after your kids, but they benefit from you finding your passion, too). In reality, things you think won’t be helpful to people usually are in some way, if that makes you feel better.
Step 5: Have fun and play often
This is the step where children are the most helpful. Children are, in fact, highly evolved in ways adults are not (or became unevolved). They are very present in every moment. They can find ways to play constantly. Children do not take things too seriously. Kids see the fun life has to offer, and they take full advantage of it.
Step 6: Be aware of the present moment
We have a tendency to live in our heads. You think about the bills that need to be sent out, or getting aunt Harriet a birthday gift, etc. All of this plays out in your head while your children are splashing around in the pool right next to you. You go on vacation and think about how much work you will have to do when you return. There are reasons our egos keep us out of the present moment (again, worthy of a book). If you do not figure out how to be aware of what you are doing moment to moment, your life will pass you by. Have you ever looked at pictures of vacations or weddings, etc., and thought how great it was. Then, can you also feel that feeling that you didn’t realize how great it was when you were actually there? Be here now.
Step 7: Love all over the place
Love your spouse, love your kids, love the crotchety old man at the grocery store. Love the way the rain falls and the sun beams fall through the clouds. Love every moment of life as if you were just told you have 6 weeks to live. Explore every aspect of your existence as if you were a newborn, experiencing it all for the first time. The most important thing you can do is love yourself. If you cringe at that notion, go back to step 1. If you don’t figure out how to really love yourself, you cannot love others and you cannot truly experience the love from others.
The meaning of life is a personal mission. Many would say it is a lifelong discovery. If you do not begin figuring it out now, though, you will be wasting precious time. If you are not living fully in this moment, you are already dead. The meaning of life is quite simply to live. Not simply exist, but really engage in life.
Posted on July 21, 2009 - Filed Under The Good Life
You hear the phrase ‘ Living the Good Life ‘, but what does this mean? It is interesting that as a culture we look to others to define something we can only define ourselves. Society will tell you the rules for a good life. Here are some of the usual suspects:
- Get good grades
- Go to college / get a degree
- Get a good job
- Get married
- Have children
- Go on family vacations once a year
- Save for retirement
- Eat ‘right’
- Definitely do not smoke, drink, or indulge in any way
Many people do all of these things (or as many as humanly possible), only to find themselves feeling lost. Days all seem to look the same. You come home from your ‘good’ job (that you hate), hang out with your spouse (who is or is not talking to you today) and kids (who disagree with everything you say), and watch some crap on tv while eating some crap on your plate until you fade into your evening coma.
The details may be slightly different for you, but you get the idea. You’ve been following the rules since you were old enough to know them, and yet your life feels less than fantastic. Maybe you need some new rules. Guess who gets to decide what they are? You! You are the boss of you…congratulations.
What would be your ideal day?
Here are some ideas to get you going:
- sleep late
- play with the kids
- do work that has purpose and meaning
- bonding with your spouse
What things do you love to do?
- play golf
- go horseback riding
- ride go carts
- get a massage
What are your favorite foods?
- little debbie swiss cake rolls (mine!)
- chocolate molten cake
- celery (just checking to see if you’re paying attention)
Where do you want to go?
- the movies
- the ballet
- the superbowl
What purpose do you want your life to have?
- help people
- cure cancer
- save the environment
- become enlightened
- go to ‘heaven’
- suck the marrow out of life
- be creative
- make people smile
It is hard to have the life you really want if you have no idea what it is you want. You need a compass, but it has to be your compass. You may object that you have kids and a spouse and cannot just do whatever you want. Believe me, if you figure out how to be happier, your kids and spouse will be happier too. There is no better example for your family than your actions–which lessons do you want them to learn? Would you rather your kids simply exist, or would you like them to really live?
From your list, begin figuring out ways to inject some of your favorite things, places, food and activities into your daily life. Start now! Whatever you are waiting on to have happen before you can start living the good life (lotto, retirement, a raise, etc.) pretend it has already happened or that it never will. You cannot wait or you will die without ever having lived.
Posted on July 17, 2009 - Filed Under Living Fully
It is important to always live like you were dying. Because you know what? You are.
I was looking at photos and reading about Carolyn Bessette Kennedy and JFK Jr. tonight. Some of the images were just months before their tragic deaths. It is eery to think when the pictures were taken they had no idea their lives would soon be over. I say this not to be morbid, but rather to emphasize the need to live every day as though it could be your last.
I once read about a culture who thinks about death everyday. Again, this for them is an effort to live their lives more fully. Contemplating death should not be so much about fear as it should be a reminder to us. We do not have all the time in the world to do what we want. The time is now.
I am guilty of putting off life. I think “when this happens, then I will feel free to do what I really want” — this results in a constant stream of new things I end up waiting to have happen. I am consciously working on being fully present now, even as I aspire to achieve new things and reach new goals. Wishing time away (can’t wait until I finish college, the baby’s out of diapers, I retire, etc.) is a very dangerous habit.
When you live like you were dying, it creates a sense of urgency to do what you really want. Suddenly all of the ’shoulds’ drop away. You don’t care about that stuff anymore. You figure out really quick what is important in life.
You don’t want to look back and wish you had been more present. You do not want to have regrets about having been distracted from your real life. Play with your kids now. Kiss your spouse now. Smell the flowers NOW.
One day there will be a picture of you a few months before you are gone. Chances are you will have no idea the end is near. Do not allow this notion to make you want to hunker down and wait for fate to take its course. Use it to light a fire under you. Does it really matter if you get to watch your recorded episode of CSI? Isn’t there anything else that might really excite you?
You need to be able to lie in bed at night and think, “Today was really good. My life is good. If I die tomorrow, I will feel as though I have really lived.” Make a list of things to do before you die, and get started doing those things. Think of some things you enjoy so much, you would like to do them everyday. Start incorporating these things into your daily routine.
Time is of the essence here. Wake up from your trance of existing and start to live like you were dying.
Carpe Diem. Carpe la Joie de Vivre.
Posted on June 30, 2009 - Filed Under Getting What You Want, Living Fully
My husband just returned from a trip to Brazil. He is from Brazil, and this is only his second time home since he was 18 years old. We have often talked about moving there as soon as possible. It is beautiful, we like the culture of enjoying life, and he could be near his family. We really idolized it, to a point of reaching a level of dissatisfaction with our current circumstances.
He said this trip really taught him a lot about what is important in life. He said he realized it doesn’t matter where he lives. As cliche as it sounds, he found out that our family is what makes him ‘home’.
This was really important to me because it freed me to live in the present. It took away the striving for the next thing. Brazil will make me happy — that is when I will start living. Just have to get by until then. This is not a fun way to live.
Unfortunately, this is how I have been living my whole life. I will be happy when I graduate college, I will be happy when I get a new job, find a spouse, have a baby–sound familiar?
It is fine and important to have goals and dreams. Just be very careful not to get so caught up in the lure of them that you stop paying attention to the joy that is all around you. Don’t focus so long and hard at the future that you end up with no present.
I don’t want to be waiting to live until I die. When I found myself thinking about retirement with yearning, that is when I realized the very real possibility of this. Our culture has sucked out the soul of the moment by selling us the hope of future happiness.
Guess what? If happiness is in the future, it never comes. We are in the now — all we have is a series of seconds. Your life is happening now, and now, and now. And there it goes. Don’t wait–get out there and suck the marrow out of life.
Posted on June 30, 2009 - Filed Under Getting What You Want
A little girl once asked me to write my name on a raffle ticket. Later I asked her if I won–she said yes. I asked her what I won. She replied, “Whatever you want”.
I thought at the time this was the best raffle ever. It made me think about what I would wish for if I could have whatever I want. This is terribly perplexing, actually. You think it would be easy.
I’ve had this issue before when I was reading Jack Canfield’s The Aladin Factor. In it, he asks you to write down 100 things you would like to have or do in your life. He does warn that it is not that easy to come up with 100. I only got to 66.
The point of the book is that writing things down is very powerful. You can put the list in a drawer and never look at it again. If you find the list in a few years, you will find that magically many of the things have happened. I made my list about 2 years ago, and already 70% of the items have come to fruition. I have not yet won a Noble Peace prize, but I’m not dead yet.
My point is that it is often hard to figure out what you really want in life. It seems like when we were kids, we could always think of what we want. Maybe some of that knowledge has gone away with the decrease in imagination. Maybe we’ve subconsciously accepted we won’t get what we want, so there is no reason to know what it would be.
I think it is both good and bad. Bad because you can feel a little lost if you don’t have some thing out there that you could get to make you happy. But good because it sort of makes you realize you don’t really need something out there to make you happy.
What would I wish for, really? More of the same (if I’m being honest with myself). I want more time with my children and more time with my husband. I want more money only so I have the freedom to be with my family all the time.
So the key thing here is that I already have what I want most in life. If I keep waiting to spend time with my family because I am trying to aquire enough money to spend time with them, they will be gone. If I wait for something more before I say my life is how I want it–I will never accept that it is how I want it. What if getting what you want in life isn’t about aquiring more, but realizing you already have it?
Posted on June 26, 2009 - Filed Under Uncategorized
Ever notice how a vacation can be so hectic that you return home and need a vacation? The packing, the traveling, the planning and organizing–when do we start the relaxing? Do you look forward to the enjoyment of the vacation or just gear yourself up for all you need to do to prepare?
In the past I really struggled with feeling overwhelmed before and during trips. I did not feel engaged in the pleasure of the moment because my mind was constantly going. There just seemed to be a great deal of planning and organizing involved in pulling off a ‘good’ vacation.
I used to worry about what to pack (as I notoriously arrive and am irked I didn’t pack something obvious). I would stress about what time to be to the airport, as if the end of the world would occur if we missed our plane. I used to mull over the itinerary during the trip or worry about spending. I didn’t enjoy traveling with me.
Eckart Tolle (along with yoga and meditation and therapy) has been a huge help in my state of mind. I now see that I am perfectly fine just as I am in any situation. I am fine if I miss a plane. I am fine if I forgot to pack underwear. I can handle anything that happens in my day or on my trip. What I cannot handle is basically missing the trip due to excessive and pointless worry. And all worry is pointless.
So now I look forward to vacations (while continuing to be fully engaged in the present). While on vacation, I work to stay present–enjoying every crash of the wave or giggle of a child. I cannot get those moments back if I am distracted from them. I cannot allow feeling overwhelmed or having worrisome thoughts steal my joy.
I challenge you to really be present in your next vacation. Try to savor every moment. Imagine you were describing it to someone–the sights, smells, tastes, feelings, sounds. Really be mindful of your surroundings. If you can master the art of being in the now during vacation, you may be able to translate some of this full engagement to your daily life. Being in the now is not just for vacations–it is best when used every moment of every day.
Posted on June 25, 2009 - Filed Under Living Fully
One of the ways to suck the marrow out of life is to find your flow. This is the phenomenon when you are so engaged in what you are doing that you lose track of time. This is the being present in its truest sense.
People tend to find flow when they are doing something creative. When you are passionate about something, it seems to require no effort at all. You look forward to doing it and when you do it, you don’t want it to end.
Make a list of at least 10 things you really enjoy doing. Here is an example of a list:
- making music
You should attempt to incorporate something that brings a sense of flow into every single day. You don’t have to give it a lot of time, though you may find yourself doing so without realizing it. This will make you feel connected to life. It will give your brain a break from the constant barrage of thought.
Once you are good at finding flow in activities you really enjoy, you may find this carries over to other things you do in your day. Being in flow really just means being very present. This is an excellent skill to develop in all areas. So much of the day you spend doing one thing with your body and doing something else with your mind. There is a buddhist principle that says, “When you walk, just walk.” Whatever you are doing, be fully tuned into it.
Posted on May 28, 2009 - Filed Under Living Fully
“I went to the woods because I wanted to live deliberately, I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, To put to rout all that was not life and not when I had come to die Discover that I had not lived.” –Thoreau
I find that most people are living in a trance. They are simply existing, merely getting by until quitting time or the weekend or retirement. People are putting off living. When do you take the plastic off the couch? When do you use the fine china? When do you get to finally exhale and start living?
Believe me, many people will be dying before they realize they haven’t lived. We are fed a lie, all our lives, about what life is about. We are taught to be afraid, to conform. We take our Prozac and eat ourselves into oblivion so that we can tolerate waking up again to a new, mundane day.
It seems like some people are waking up, though. This site is about waking up. This site is about pulling the curtain back and seeing the wizard. You won’t live in fear of what might happen. Whatever happens, you certainly can handle it. Chances are, if you take some chances, amazing things will begin to happen.
You don’t have to be the singing, dancing crap of the earth any longer (thanks Fight Club). Put down your Potterybarn catalogue. I don’t care how cute the stuff in there is. You don’t need it to be happy. You don’t need it to live fully. You don’t need to acquire anything else to live the most extrordinary life possible. You have all that you need, but a shift must be made.
The time is now. If you wait, you will never start. There is never a perfect time to radically shift your thinking. The fact that you are here now, reading this site, means it is time. You are ready. Every moment you continue in the life you have been living is a moment wasted. I am not saying that anything external has to change – that is the opposite of what I am saying. You are the change.
Life is meant to be a roller coaster – and you are meant to be in the first seat, arms waving in the air. It is dancing, not sitting this one out. It is getting in the game, not sitting on the sidelines. Drop your inner dialogue that tells you it can’t be done. Laugh at the voice that tells you to play it safe. You get one shot at this life. You are the writer, director and the actor in your play. You are writing your autobiography as we speak – it better be good enough for you to want to read it.