October 24, 2012
Do you ever wake up in the middle of the night, fretting that you cannot sleep? Does it distress you beyond belief that you are awake when it seems that the rest of the Earth is not? Have you ever considered what an opportunity it is to be aware in that moment of wakefulness? That it is a gift to be alive?
A friend once told me that before electricity, people would sleep at odd hours, wake up whenever they did and used their time to make love, think or even talk to one another? The clock did not dictate their days.
In our modern age of productivity, we are forced into a rhythm that our bodies often reject. If you “suffer” from insomnia, I ask you to consider the power of the night.
Nighttime has a special quality of solitude and introspection that we don’t often get during the day. No phones are ringing, no demands are tugging at you, no secretaries telling you to sign this paper or that. All you have is the sound of your own heartbeat, pumping in your chest as sure as night follows day. In those quiet times of wakefulness, you have received a gift that we often deem a curse. It is time for you to simply be.
Nighttime offers you the moon, bright and shiny, smiling down at you to remind you that the sun is shining somewhere on the planet where you might not be. It gives you the stars and the brilliance of the planets that encircle themselves with the force of an ever-expanding Universe.
The night offers you the sound of the trees and the last falling leaves before they make their final descent, saying farewell to the time they have spent with you.
It gives you the hoot of an owl, resting placidly on a branch to let you know you are not alone. You are never alone.
The night encompasses you in its dark cloak, hugging you with a power far greater than you can imagine.
It gives you a chance to listen to your breath and the sound of children laughing in their sleep.
When sleep alludes you, remember that the rhythm that keeps you awake has a story to tell.
That story is your life. Your time.
That story, my dear one, is you.
September 23, 2012
Do you know the feeling when you believe in something so strongly, even though there is no supporting evidence, that you cannot help but know it is true in your heart of hearts? Do you know the sense you get when something isn’t right, based only on your belief or inner knowing, without having specific data to back up your claim?
Belief is a powerful resource. It is what keeps us strong in times of uncertainty. It is what kept Nelson Mandela from going stir crazy in prison for decades. It is what propelled Gandhi forward. Belief is what Martin Luther King’s dreams were made of.
In our hyper-fast world, we have lost the thread to that belief – in ourselves, our world, our communities. We have been led to believe we have a need for speed. Only doing more in less time is valuable. Everything else is a waste of time. That is so not true.
Driving on the backroads, instead of the autobahn, for instance, can restore our sense of peace, connection and belonging. Taking the scenic route in life, whether literally or figuratively, has value in and of itself.
When my son was really young, he struggled with self-confidence. I taught him an exercise that we still do to this day whenever he falls back into self-doubt. He thrusts his fists to the sky and announces: “I believe in myself!” We try different voices to see which one sounds the most convincing, then we choose to believe that one the most.
Believe in yourself and all that you have to offer. There is no one quite like you. The world needs you. Just as you are.
August 21, 2012
You know when you feel like you are on the verge of something really amazing? You can feel it with every fiber of your being. You know it is there, sliding just beneath the surface of your awareness, skittering to the edges of your peripheral vision. You may have no specific reason for feeling this way, but you know in your soul that something incredible is about to happen.
I call it being in touch with your inner core. The amazing thing I am referring to doesn’t occur on the outside. It happens within. It could be that your circumstances change as a result of this awareness, but what changes first is you.
I have not always been in touch with that side of myself. When I was a kid, I used to feel as if I was being pulled into a different world. Then I grew up, became practical, started a family and completely buried that part of myself. Only now do I know it was my soul speaking. Once I started listening, my whole world started to change. For the better.
It’s neat to listen to what the soul says. It doesn’t speak words, but another kind of language altogether. It is an intuitive knowingness like a gentle guide that sees you through the darkness.
If you are feeling distracted or distressed, close your eyes and listen to your body. What is it telling you? Where does it hurt? Where does you feel good? This simple exercise puts your awareness back in real time and helps you center yourself so that you can actual listen to that still small voice within. How often do we ignore what our bodies are telling us? The body adapts to whatever you expose it to. If you stress out your body, it will respond. If you love it, it will respond too.
By listening to your body, you can access the soul that the body houses.
And that’s when the real fun begins.
August 19, 2012
Last year was the year of leisure travel. We visited the United States twice. A little over the top maybe, but we wanted to visit relatives and take a family vacation too. Living biculturally as we do, we often feel obliged to spend the majority of our vacation time visiting our US family, which is nice. But it also takes a lot of time, planning and preparation.
This year we declared the year of flow, which meant not meticulously planning every moment of leisure we had at our disposal.
And it has worked out beautifully.
We made room for life’s simple pleasures. An overnight jaunt here (me without the family ~ imagine!), a day trip there, a concert or two, a walk through the English Garden with friends and intra-European fun without jetlag, passport control or super-strict-dead-eyed-US-aiport-security-personnel whose killer glance could slay you eternally if you let it.
In other words, we allowed awareness to take over: the pleasure of awaking to a bird’s song; the beauty of observing the hops fields grow pregnant with their plump buds; a carefree trip to the public pool simply because it’s hot and we have the time.
A four-day trip to Paris with Daughter may sound extravagent by any measure, yet I am certain her greatest memory will not be the sights we saw, but the taste of that first chocolate crêpe at the base of the Eiffel Tower. She talked about it the whole time. Who needs Versailles when you can have Nutella wrapped in a warm pancake?
What juicy pleasures can you bring to your own life? Celebrate their simplicity. They are the fabric of your existence. And the best ones really are free, especially when you experience them with the people you love.
Take some time for the little miracles that await you today. They are there, ready for the taking if you have the eyes to see them and the heart to embrace them with all your might.
August 11, 2012
Pictures, pictures, look at all the pretty pictures! We have so many of them swirling around in our heads that they wouldn’t fit in even the largest museum.
Murals of how our relationships should be; canvases splattered with paint, depicting our perfect job, children, life. In our minds we create so many images of how we think life should be.
Then life happens.
The source of our greatest unhappiness stems from the clash of our pretty pictures with what we see before us. Our brains try desperately to converge the two, but to no avail. The result is confusion at best. Or maybe denial. Or in some cases, depression.
So what can we do?
Start with the gallery in your mind. Change out the pictures to reflect a new reality. Look at the outside from a different height and in a different light.
In other words, get real.
You’ve got an image in your mind that isn’t coinciding with the one on the outside. It simply isn’t jiving with what you thought should be.
In that case, you have some choices. By changing what you project from the inside out (from a new set of pictures of your own creation), the outside automatically changes. But it all stems from the inside, your ultimate source of light.
In his sixty-fifth book, Spiritual Solutions, Deepak Chopra speaks of three levels of awareness.
- Contracted awareness (the state of unhappiness, fear, anxiety). At this level you experience all problems, obstacles and struggles. You feel conflict and no way out. If you stay at this level, you become exhausted. And who wants that? Pas moi! So let’s move on.
- Expanded awareness (where solutions reside). Obstacles are easier to surmount; struggle dissolves. Your vision moves beyond conflict to what is possible.
- Pure awareness (bliss). Problems don’t exist on this level. Challenges are viewed as creative opportunities. You are in complete alignment with your highest purpose, with nature, with All That Is. You recognize your true self.
I have caught a glimpse of level three on numerous occasions in my life, but the truth is we move up and down this scale as we slide back into fear, remorse and sadness, then bounce up again to a renewed understanding of what happened and why. Deepak claims level three is our natural state, the state of pure consciousness. It is Enlightenment.
I’d like to get there, turning those pretty pictures into a warm mass of loveliness. Want to join me?
And if you haven’t had enough of Deepak and his wisdom, you can view him on Oprah’s Life Class taped from Radio City Musichall in New York City is just one more reason to view this video. The pulse of NYC vibrates through the screen.
July 2, 2012
“It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.” ~Aristotle
A few weeks ago I read a book by Google’s self-proclaimed Jolly Good Fellow, Chade-Meng Tan, aptly entitled Search Inside Yourself: The Unexpected Path to Achieving Success, Happiness (and World Peace).
Before you groan, “Not another self-help book whose content I’ll forget the minute I click off here…” hear me out. This book is based on an actual mindfulness training course given internally at Google. That the author has a quirky sense of humor makes it all the more enjoyable to read his work. Plus it has lots of pictures that made me laugh.
But on to mindfulness! Do you want to feel a natural high? Then read on.
The most memorable exercise for me was the Just Like Me/Loving Kindness Exercise adapted from Buddhist meditation practice. The objective is to increase your compassion and kindness, which thereby raises your own happiness level and, most likely, that of others too. It goes something like this:
Get into a comfortable position (I found sitting cross-legged to work well because lying down inevitably put me to sleep). Take two minutes to breathe deeply and quiet your mind.
Now visualize someone in your life. Say to yourself: “This person has a body just like me. This person has a mind just like me. This person has feelings, emotions and thoughts, just like me. This person has felt disappointment, fear, hurt, pain and confusion, just like me.” You could go on for some time, saying various things you know you share with this person. Then you end it with “This person wishes to be happy, just like me.”
The Loving Kindness part of the meditation involves wishing the person well. For instance, “I wish this person to be free from pain, to experience joy, to be extremely happy. Because this person is a human being, just like me.”
End the session by resting your mind for one minute.
I have only done this exercise once, but I was ready to hug the world after I did it. The book is filled with powerful exercises like this one. And it does require that you search inside yourself for your own golden nugget. You know, that lovely jewel resting deep within that wants to shine.
My jewel is blue. What color is yours?