Tag Archives: live your purpose

Following Bliss: An Intent Interview with Modern Mystic Alanna Kaivalya

FollowingBliss_HerosJourney_COVER_500pxAre you following your bliss? Do you even know where to start? Our newest course in the Intent Shop, “Following Bliss: A Modern Mystic’s Guide to the Hero’s Journey,” written by Alanna Kaivalya, gives you the playbook you need to find your own happiness and unlock your inner potential. Intent sat down with Alanna to ask her how the inspiration for the course came about and how she thinks it can truly help you discover your own inner hero.

INTENT: For those in the Intent community that aren’t familiar with your work, what is your background and how did you get into your field?

ALANNA: In my college years, I took a course on South Asian religions and was at once captivated by the stories within those traditions. These were myths I had never been exposed to, and the rich characters and antics immediately awakened something within me. It was right at that time that I began to teach yoga, and incorporate the stories into my classes. People loved them, and eventually I ended up writing a book on the mythology behind yoga poses called Myths of the Asanas (Mandala, 2010). During the time I was writing this book, I stumbled upon the extraordinary work of Joseph Campbell and was inspired beyond my wildest dreams by this man whose work paved the way for people to think outside the box and explore the common thread within all mythologies. I decided to embark on a program that would take me through Joseph Campbell’s own course of study so I could broaden my understanding of myth to include myths of the contemporary west. With the pursuit of my PhD while continuing to teach mythology across the country as well as the completion of my second book (Sacred Sound: Discovering the Myth and Meaning of Mantra and Kirtan, New World Library, 2014), I find myself now fully immersed in Joseph Campbell’s teaching with the unique lens of having brought it to the public in a way that allows them to unlock their own personal mythology and find the core connection to the self-empowering force of myth.

INTENT: What lead you to designing this course?

ALANNA: Joseph Campbell wrote his seminal work in 1949, The Hero With a Thousand Faces, where he looks at the common structure of the journey of the hero throughout various myths and legends around the world. Understanding how this common thread affects us now, in a time where our myths are constantly being questioned, helps us to reunite what has been broken and lost. Finding a way to track and discover our own heroic journey is a way to revivify our aliveness and take back the precious moments of our lives. Joseph Campbell asked people to “follow their bliss.” I’m showing you how.

INTENT: What does being a “modern” mystic mean to you?

ALANNA: It means taking the tools and structures that we have in this life, in this time, at this moment that are relevant and alive for us and using them to discover something more about ourselves. The time has come for us to recreate living mythologies that speak to our current modern psyche and enliven us. What is great, is that each of us already has some kind of personal belief system–figuring out exactly what that is, and what it is aligned with–is how we answer the question Carl Jung asked himself, which is “What myth do we live by?” When we know what myth we live by, what kind of hero we are, then we understand how to navigate all of life’s trials, tribulations and challenges in order to reveal something more powerful within ourselves.

INTENT: In the course you build a lot off of Joseph Campbell’s archetype for a hero – how did you find his work and what drew you to Campbell?

ALANNA: Joseph Campbell is the man behind our modern understanding of myth! You can’t go very far into an inquiry about myth without bumping into his work. He popularized the study of myth and brought to the fore the idea that there is a common theme within all mythic structures, building off of Carl Jung’s ideas of the collective unconscious and universal archetypes. Joseph Campbell, it turns out, had some pretty serious answers to my biggest questions and so I’ve come to be an admirer of his body of work and have been very interested in doing what I can to not only bring his work even further into the public eye, but also to show people the power and potential that his work can have in their own life, on a personal level.

INTENT: You say in the course that you want to take off where Campbell left off in mythology – where do you want to go with it now?

ALANNA: When Campbell died in 1987, he was on to something… that technology and the modern age would continue to accelerate and it would fundamentally change how we interact with one another and how we understand ourselves. This is true, and as a modern comparative mythologist, I’m looking at how to use our experiences of the world today to make our myths start working for us again. Basically, a living mythology activates human potential, and the human psyche has a primary need for myth in order to understand the unexplainable. There is a lot we still can’t explain–even with our technology and science–but as we learn and are able to explain more and more about our universe and condition, our mythology must be malleable enough to evolve and continue to speak to our human potential. This kind of rapid growth and learning can be embodied through our own personal mythology–what each person carries inside of them. Because each of us is now developing our own unique experience of the world, outside of the old, simpler way of living where the world experience was pretty well defined and confined to a much smaller group. On a global scale with wider, varying interests, what we believe needs to satisfy the core structure of each of us as individuals while still uniting us to the larger group.

INTENT: We are currently being bombarded with super-heroes in pop-culture, especially with the success of franchise films like Iron Man and the Avengers. What do you think makes hero stories so appealing to people? Why are they necessary for a fulfilling life?

ALANNA: Everyone needs a hero. Everyone needs someone who can show them the possibility and potential of their own human life. Knowing that someone has gone before you, enlightens you to the possibility that it maybe you can do it, too. This gives us two necessary qualities: Hope and connection. Without hope and connection, we live, in the words of T.S. Eliot, “amongst a heap of broken images.” I believe that the beauty of the Avenger’s series is that it is alive and responsive to the current times and culture. Each of the characters has a modern day twist on the hero: Iron Man is a billionaire genius, The Hulk is a super-smart scientist, Captain America is the ultimate soldier. These are characters that are alive and well in our culture, and with The Avengers, they get just a little boost that makes them superhuman. This is what is active and alive in our cultural unconscious and is speaking to the problems of our society including poverty, modern warfare, the development of the digital age and the collapse of large social structures. We have to have hope and inspiration in regards to the problems we face now. I believe that The Avengers are doing a stellar job of giving us a template for this hope and inspiration.

INTENT: Did you learn or realize anything new about your own definition of hero while designing this course?

ALANNA: Actually, it was the other way around. It was my own discovery of the importance of the journey of the hero and personal mythology that made me want to write a course to show people how to find this for themselves. In my more than decade plus years of taking people through the mythology in the context of eastern spirituality and yoga, I was seeing for myself how important it was for people to discover and understand that the hero they were hearing stories about did not exist outside of themselves. The hero’s path, ultimately, is an internal path and we use the stories of our heroes as templates to discover our own internal journey. This is how we find hope, inspiration and connection when it otherwise becomes unavailable in our relationships, careers, health… you name it. Give people the tools and techniques to reignite their own internal power, to rediscover their own internal hero, and they can make it through any challenge. They become heroes themselves. I have seen this time and time again not only in my work with thousands of students, but within myself. How could I not share these powerful insights with others? This is why I wrote the eCourse for Intent, and why I’m leading this as a live workshop at Esalen in January of 2014. Because, it’s a simple process, and once you know how to find your heroic journey, you can do it time and time again, no matter what struggle you face.

INTENT: What should our followers and those who purchase the course expect to gain from taking it? What should be their goal before starting the course?

ALANNA: This work is designed to give you the tools to face your greatest challenges and overcome your greatest fears in order to live the life you imagined. It’s not small stuff. I encourage those who purchase the course to think big and see where their journey takes them.

***

Overcome your own deepest fears and emerge as the hero of our own story. Joseph Campbell asked people to “follow their bliss.” I’m showing you how. Join Alanna at the gorgeous Esalen retreat center on the Coast of California with breath taking hot tubs, locally grown food and Kaivalya Method Yoga.

Click here to purchase your own “Following Bliss: A Modern Mystic’s Guide to the Hero’s Journey” course. 

Why Your Voice Matters and How to it Get Heard

girlOver the course of my life I have been given certain “gifts” that have forced me to step into the arena of life. I’m a firm believer in the idea that everything happens for a reason, and if we don’t step up and use our experiences as catapults for change and growth then we’re throwing away opportunities to touch and heal other people with similar challenges.

Over the past year I made a conscious choice to step out and speak my truth around my battle with Cancer and the loss of my marriage. My sole intention has been to be honest and authentic about my struggles and imperfections with the hope that my story will inspire and heal the many people who suffer silently.

For most of my life I have stayed silent to avoid feeling wounded, but now my voice has become my medicine, and a necessary part of my survival.

Last week I took a risk with a blog I posted online. It was a very vulnerable and heartfelt blog that I was really excited to share because I truly felt it would resonate with so many people struggling with similar feelings.

While I have posted plenty of vulnerable blogs in the past, this particular post left me feeling like I had stepped up onto a podium completely naked. The minute I hit submit, I wanted to take it down.

While I’m well aware and prepared to encounter naysayers and haters that post provocative comments, somehow the few attacks that immediately showed up below the post rattled me. After the first comment my instinct was to contact the website to ask if they could take the post offline. I felt completely powerless, and like I was standing in front of a firing squad waiting for the next bullet to be fired. I panicked, tried to defend myself, and then had an incredible feeling of wanting to run away to another country.

I was completely enveloped in shame.

I know from working on myself and learning about vulnerability from my mentor Brene Brown that I put myself at risk for shame when I share my imperfections with the world. It’s a conscious choice (and risk) I want to take. I just never thought it could feel so awful.

The hardest blow came from a comment that held the implication that as a therapist I should have “known better”, and that I shouldn’t be dealing with this kind of “problem” in the first place. Apparently there are people out there who think that being a therapist and being human are mutually exclusive. The truth is that it would be impossible to do the work I do without acknowledging my faults and mistakes.

I’ve learned more from my own life than I could ever learn in school.

I share this story with you because I want you to know that we need your voice. It’s lonely out here in the arena of life, and while I know it’s terrifying to show up in this way, we need more people to stand tall in the face of imperfection and vulnerability.

This is particularly true when it comes to the stigmatized and shame ridden experience of divorce and disease.

I realize that when people aren’t ready to play in the game of life, they sit on the sidelines yelling at the players without really knowing what it’s like to be out there. When it comes to my I own life, I would rather be in the game and get injured, than to never know what it’s like to play.

Here are 3 easy ways to make a difference with your voice:

  1. Comment on posts that impact you. Whether it’s negative or positive, your opinion and voice matter and will invoke change. How many times have you thought about something you read, but didn’t respond to it? Keeping your thoughts and ideas to yourself is like holding onto a life preserver while watching someone drown.
  2. Override the discomfort of being seen with being heard. Many of us don’t want to draw attention to ourselves so we stay in the shadows hoping not to get noticed. Remember that it’s not about you; it’s about your message. Your words are more powerful than you could ever be, so don’t let your personal insecurities get in the way of what you have to say.
  3. Share a quote or words from another source when you don’t trust your own voice. It’s less risky to speak through someone else’s voice, so vicariously sharing in this way is awesome as long as it truly represents your point. Use a quote or affirmation to express yourself. Think of it as a form of ventriloquism.

Grow Beyond Your Self-Imposed Limitations and Thrive!

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By Jay Forte

Walking through the neighborhood the other day, a dog came running off the front porch and ran right to the edge of the property. He stopped obviously aware of some special force field that marked his perimeter. I could see the sign for the invisible fence – that signal that is sent out to help dogs know their boundaries.

This got me thinking. We each have an “invisible fence” – we call it our limits. We know when we get close to the limits because something emotional, painful, fearful or otherwise intense and emotional surfaces. We then treat that feeling as a limit – a place we stay away from. But little do we know that if we push past that spot, we would see that it creates an entirely new area for us to be part of – larger, grander and greater than we ever knew existed because we have been limited by our invisible fence.

So what creates our fences? It is our life experiences – the events, conversations, school, traditions and beliefs that have created who we are at this exact moment. But none of these have to be true – they are just what we think are true. Like the dog with the collar that is afraid of the potential for shock, we stay away from things that we think, based on our assumptions, interpretations or limiting beliefs, will hurt or scare us.

What if instead we saw our world without fences – invisible or otherwise? What if we were to start to see that we have unlimited potential instead of being limited?

I truly believe we have the ability to be extraordinary in some things in life – things that we have previously told ourselves we shouldn’t even try, shouldn’t expect, or won’t succeed at. We are each gifted with unique talents, strengths and passions that allow us to be amazing at some things. To discover our areas of greatness, we must walk to our “fences” to see that there is no charge, no hurt – just some fear; in most cases we simply had a story about how it would be.

I was told how anxiety-provoking public speaking is. In fact, the story we tell ourselves is that we fear speaking in front of others more than death. So we perpetuate the “fence” – speaking is frightening. I truly felt that through all my years in school until I had to speak to my class. I loved it. It was easy for me. I understand that for some people it may be difficult but how do we know if we are afraid to approach our fences – our limits – and see whether they are true or imagined? Most of our fences we can move past – we just need to muster the courage to try.

A full and great life is about moving past our fences – our self-imposed limits. We start life with few if any fears; we then learn them as we move though life. Instead of trying things and pushing our limits, we learn to clearly define our limits, and once established, not challenge them. It may show as being raised in one particular faith and being afraid to quest for greater wisdom by investigating others. Or, that we are told that our tradition is to celebrate a holiday in a particular way, and we continue it year after year without ever trying something new. Or, we work in jobs that we don’t really like but are afraid to try our own business or work in roles that we are passionate about. We build fences to protect ourselves from the unknown. And the result is they limit how great our lives can be.

What a joy it is to run free in life – to be able to go in all directions – to try things out, examine life, and see what amplifies our spirits. Thirty-five percent of Americans openly admit that they never live their potential; they have built the fences that keep their lives small. They don’t run free. They worry. They fear. They think that coloring in the lines and living within the fences is the way to do life. That is actually more of a formula to miss out on life.

Just for today, challenge your fences. Most of them are imaginary. And instead of seeing fear, see your life without fences – without limitations – living your potential – changing your world. Then, with courage, inspire others to move past their fences.

Live Life Like It Matters

To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you. ~Lewis B. SmedesBy Jay Forte

At the grocery store yesterday, while buying some great ingredients for a dinner with friends, I watched a dad walk down one of the food aisles with his daughter and son (probably about 7 and 9 years old). They picked up box after box and can after can and read the nutritional ingredients together. I overheard him say, “You have to know what you are eating and only eat the great things – this will help you be strong to live life like it matters.” Wonderful lesson for his kids. Wonderful lesson for me. Live life like it matters.

Most days we get out of bed unaware of the gift of getting out of bed and having access to an entirely new day. We have a blank day just waiting for us to fill it in with the things that matter to us – our families, our work, our hobbies, our passions, our beliefs. We can choose what goes in the day. We can make the moments of our days matter.

Many of us, however, take life for granted – that it will always be. That one day is like any other – nothing special. But talk to those whose lives are affected by loss, illness, age and fear and we quickly see how fragile, important, fleeting and precious life is.

Jon Kabat-Zinn, author many great books on mindfulness and consciousness, talks about being present to our lives. When we take the time to be present to and in our lives, we start to really connect with all that life is (and can be). But we don’t get this awareness if we don’t pay attention – if we don’t actually show up to the moments of our lives. These moments have everything for us; they have excitement, adventure, passion and opportunities to help us celebrate. They have pain, struggle, challenge and loss to help us learn. Both come to those who connect with life – paying attention and living life like it matters.

I routinely coach retiring Baby Boomers – people born between 1946 and 1964. More than 12,500 boomers are turning 50 every day; that’s about one every 7 seconds. By 2030, the 65-and-over population will be around 71.5 million; by 2050 that same group will grow to 86.7 million. Retirees are being confronted with relearning how to make life matter after so many years of work and routine; they are finding it is not easy, without some help, to reinvent ways to feel relevant, vibrant and valuable in retirement. Living life like it matters is about purpose – about having something important to do, contribute and be part of at every age.

We all go through this. As we move from high school to college to employee to married to parent to grandparent to retiree, we are the same people; we have the same talents and passions. What changes, however, is our world and our place in that world. At each stage in life we have to relearn how to show up to our lives and make them valuable and important. That is just how it works. But with the commitment to wake up each day focused on making life matter, we have the ability to find our way each day to be happy, engaged and living our potential.

I just did the calculation – I have been on the planet 20,333 days (almost 56 years). Have I lived each day like it mattered? Not at all. There were many days that I just took for granted – that when this one finished, many more will follow – uninterrupted. I had no respect or regard for the preciousness of each day. But seeing the number 20,333, I now see that life is finite and that the more successful way to live is to choose how to show up to each moment in life. I have a choice in how I value and spend my days. I have a choice to align what I do best to meaningful places in my world to feel connected to life. Writer and theologian Frederick Buechner, says it best, “Our vocation in life is where our greatest joy meets our world’s greatest need.” Connect what gives us the greatest joy to things in our world that need what we do best. This is how to live life like it matters.

Discover what living life like it matters means for you, then promise yourself as you put your feet on the floor each morning, that today will count. Today will be amazing. Today will matter.

How to Find Balance by Losing It

Minimum DayThere’s this beautiful moment that happens a few weeks into dating someone new when, after countless sleepless nights either staying up with them or staying up thinking about them, you’re still able to maintain a thread of maturity that nudges you to get back to a normal sleep schedule. With somewhat divine timing, both people usually have this realization right around the same time, and then there’s that adorable little conversation you have where you establish you’re on the same page about being “in like” with each other but that neither of you can bear another day in the office sustained by two hours of sleep and four cups of coffee.

I write like I’ve had this kind of conversation about 11 times in my life, but that’s not true at all. It’s only happened in a rare few instances, but one of them was last night, hence my return to writing to you from my couch at an ungodly hour of the morning (yes, I think 7:45 AM is ungodly: I am no Thich Nhat Hanh.) All giddiness aside, I’d be lying if I told you I wasn’t terrified when I looked at my blog this morning and noticed I hadn’t really written anything since September 2nd.

The two week gap between this post and my last written post perpetuated a familiar terror that I might be at the risk of “losing myself” – an affliction we’re all taught or compelled to be guarded against. My concern as I gazed at the dates with no blog entries associated with them reminded me of Liz Gilbert’s sentiments at the end of her famous novel, Eat, Pray, Love when Liz, having spent four months soul-searching and meditating regularly in India, carries her new routine into Bali as a grounding source of her finally-found self. It’s in Bali that she meets her now-husband and subsequently has a total freak out when she realizes she’s stopped meditating for two weeks in favor of…well…activities far more fun than meditating. Her extreme panic at the idea that she might be losing herself again is one I’m very well acquainted with, so I try to remember what her now-famed spiritual teacher Ketut tells her when she arrives distraught after her two-week beginning of a love affair:

“Sometimes to lose balance for love is part of living a balanced life.”

Balance is an interesting thing, really. It’s important to have it but it’s just as important to lose it, too … or so I am told. We must be human beings first, or else what would we as writers have to write about, anyway? If we’re not to get lost, how are we ever to explain the process of being found with any real authenticity?

In the process of seeking a balanced life, I think it’s important that we make room to actually live it. It’s the life that bears the stories, the stories that bear the writing. We’ll always come back to our proverbial pen and paper, or whatever routines that make us feel like ourselves. This time though, we’ll come back to them with a more open heart … and a heart that has more stories to tell anyway.

 

For more, check out my website, The Light Files, and follow me on Facebook or Twitter.

Change is Good, and It Happens Faster Than We Think

ChangeIt was in late 2003 that I developed a monster-sized crush on a boy named Tim. (His name has been changed to preserve anonymity; however, if “Tim” doesn’t figure out he’s “Tim” by the end of this blog post, I’m not a very good writer.) I was 14 and a freshman in high school, and Tim was a sophomore and one year older. He wasn’t your classic high school heartthrob, he wasn’t a football player, nor did he have the best grades, but Tim was an actor. He was a very, very good actor.

I’d been eye-ing Tim for a few days before we ended up sitting next to each other at the annual fall recital for my high school’s dance department (I went to a performing arts high school, hence the absence of football playing men and prominence of drama – both real-life and acted.) I spotted him in the auditorium just before the show was about to start and found myself seated next to him as the curtains began to open. If I’d had any doubts that Tim was the “one” I would pick to be object of my undying affection, it was what happened next that sealed the deal. As I looked beside me at Tim, he looked down at his program and saw that one of his favorite songs, “Crazy on You” by Heart, was the soundtrack to the first performance:

“Ah, this song has the best guitar intro,” he whispered as he tilted his head backward and took in each strum. I watched him as he inhaled this song I hadn’t heard before and found myself wanting to know every song he’d ever heard. He was like no one I’d ever met, and I was somewhere between wanting to be with him and wanting to be just like him. I knew he was in awe of the music, but I was convinced he was the real rock star. I didn’t know who Heart was, but I knew mine was in some serious trouble.

I raced home that night and downloaded the song before my mom even had time to tell me she needed the computer first. I listened to the guitar intro over and over, thinking about Tim and how perfect he was, wanting know more about his favorite kinds of music. For months after that I would chat with Tim over AOL Instant Messenger, pretending to know all of his favorite bands and posting lyrics to his favorite songs in my away messages. I would go back and forth every other week (sometimes every other day) between being “in love” with Tim and viscerally hating him.

Tim led me on to the point of no return, but had a girlfriend all the while. I hadn’t seen enough episodes of Sex and the City yet to understand what a dead end street this actually was, so instead, I was starring in the Taylor Swift music video “You Belong With Me” and dreaming of the day Tim would come to his senses, turn around and ask me to be his girlfriend instead. Genius plan, I know, but I was merely taking the advice of all the pop queens before me.

In my moments of “visceral hatred” toward Tim, I would passionately take a stand and delete my entire iTunes library as most of the songs in it were his influence. I got rid of all the songs I never would have known about if it hadn’t been for Tim, but I never deleted my favorite: “Crazy on You.”

Of course, Tim and I did not end up together. Around the end of my freshman year, he finally broke up with the girl he’d been seeing and was “ready” to date yours truly, but I decided to move on the moment I found out he was available. He’s actually married now, and I’ve lived about 259 lives since my freshman year of high school, but “Crazy on You” has still managed to hold it’s place in my iTunes library. Tonight, it came on shuffle and took me my surprise – just like that, I was 14 again.

I couldn’t believe that moment was 10 years ago, but at the same time, I couldn’t believe it was only ten years ago. How was I only 14 ten years ago??? I was (am) at a loss for words.

At the risk of sounding a bit too much like Carrie Bradshaw, I got to thinking. I got to thinking about how fast growth happens but how slow it can feel when it’s actually happening. Perhaps for all the times I’ve feared I wasn’t striding forward at a quick enough pace, I was moving forward much more quickly than I realized. Perhaps in my moments of discontentment with where I am today and why I’m not somewhere further down the road, I can remember it was just a mere ten years ago that I was Googling Led Zeppelin lyrics and using them in my AOL away message to impress a boy (I mean, we didn’t even have Facebook back then – that’s saying something.)

I’ve come a long way since 2003, and I’ve actually come a long way since yesterday, too. When it comes to taking account of where I am, the most valuable tool at my disposal might just be taking account of where I’ve been. In any given moment, I’m sitting somewhere far down the tracks from where I was sitting before.

And if I’m really looking to know what’s ahead, it’s actually the looking back that shows me how very much I have to look forward to. I mean, if we were all using AOL but ten years ago, I imagine there must be infinite possibilities awaiting us all in the next ten.

For more, check out my website, The Light Files, and follow me on Facebook or Twitter.

 

More by Laura Max Nelson:

Why I Choose the Solo Life, For Now

Romantic Failure Doesn’t Make You Any Less Perfect

How to Deal When You’re Outside of Your Comfort Zone

Now. Here. This. – How to Stay Present to Your Purpose

be present.By Jay Forte

How present are we?

Most of us move through life entirely unaware – we move from thing to thing with little intention and focus. At the end of the day we fall into bed, barely remembering what happened during the day.

What if, instead, we truly showed up to each moment? Now. Here. This. (Right) now. (Right) here. This (exact moment).

See, each moment has the two things we need most:

  1. Our actual life.

  2. Information.

By being present and conscious in each moment, we fully connect with our lives. We experience what life shares with us – we are really part of life. After all, what other purpose do we have in life other to be present and experience it? Letting it pass by without really noticing seems a terrible waste of something so amazing.

The other important thing that happens in each moment is we gather information. As we show up present to each moment of our lives, we learn about life, ourselves and how we fit. The more information we have, the better our choices and the more amazing our lives.

I regularly say in my workshops that we were not born with an owner’s manual; at birth we don’t know what we are good at, passionate about and what matters to us. For this information, we need to intentionally show up to each day of our lives because we gather this information as we live. We learn what we rock at and stink at. We learn what moves us and bores us. We can see places of interest and adventure and places that we want to stay away from. All of this is in front of us in every moment. But we have to be present in order to see it, be part of it and learn from it. Now, here, this has all the information that we need to know how to be able to choose wisely in all aspects of work and life.

When we don’t take the time to discover what we are good at, are passionate about and what matters to us, we are unclear of what makes us unique and different. Without this information, our lives start to look like others’ lives instead of our own.

When we don’t know what our voice says (because we haven’t tuned in to now, here, this), then we take others’ voices on as ours. This will always lead us to others’ roads in life. As I tell my three daughters, if you see footprints on your road in life, you are likely on someone else’s road. Reconnect to now, here, this and get back on your road.

Life constantly presents each of us with everything we need; we just don’t seem to see what it offers. Most of the time it is because we are rushing and don’t make time for information and experiences that are right in front of us. Slow it down and all of a sudden life opens up. Slow it down to see what is right in front of us.

My father used to say that life is not a superhighway – it is a meandering path. Though the shortest distance may be between two points, life is not about getting someplace quickly; it is about the quality of the experiences while on the road. The meandering path gives different views at each turn; every event is larger, more interesting and has more to see and learn. But to enjoy the view you have to tune in – you have to make the time to be present, aware and conscious. You have to be in the now, the here and the this.

Showing up present not only is how we experience life, but it is also how we gather information to improve how we experience life. We have everything we need – it is always in front of us. We just need to train ourselves to slow things down to be part of it. So what’s the rush if all we do is get faster to someplace in work or life that doesn’t fit us?

Now. Here. This. Pay attention to right now. Be right here. Watch this. These are the steps to both learn about and experience a great and terrific life.

Is happiness a myth?

experience-happiness

 It began with an exchange I had this morning. There was a question, I gave an answer. “Well, that’s a claim. Can you back it up in any way?” I heard in response.

“No” I said. “No I can’t and no, I don’t want to.”

I thought about this later. I thought about whether I was being obtuse, or maybe only uninterested in further discussion, but the more I thought the more I stood by my answer. No, I do not want to back it up in any way. Because I don’t need to. Because the claim is mine, the belief is mine, the truth is mine. I do not need anyone else to believe it, I do not wish to convert, I do not wish to convince. Therefore no, I do not wish to back it up in any way.

Why do I bother answering at all then? Ah, and here is the key of the matter: I answer to share a perspective. I answer to offer a possibility. I answer to present a truth. Not THE truth, not ONE truth, not the ONLY truth — but my truth. I speak my truth, and I wish to hear the truths of others in response. Not to adapt them and follow them, to exchange my truth for theirs, but to learn, to grow. To see reality in a way others see and I don’t, to gain a perspective others have and I lack. So that I can open. So that I can expand. So that I can develop my truths, round them up, add dimensions and facets until they shine like jewels.

So that my truths can grow as I grow, as my life grows, as my world grows.

This is happiness, I thought. This is happiness, right here, owning my truth. Every truth, each and one of them. This is happiness when I am myself and every truth is an expression of what I am. When life is an expression of what I am. Then there is nothing but joy and bliss in the world.

This is happiness: owning my truth.

That is my truth.

See more here.

5 Ways to Transform Regret into Healing

Love Shines Through The Darkness free creative commonsRegret is like clutter. It can mess up your mind with tiny cumulative details creating cobwebs in the brain which darken your thoughts. Similar to managing physical clutter, periodically you take inventory of regrets to let go of what weighs you down, obscures your space and makes you feel stuck. Moreover, as soon as you throw out the first element of clutter, you feel better. This immediate gratification spurs you to continue.

However, don’t regret that you feel regret. Your regrets serve a vital purpose: They bear witness to your personal evolution, how you have grown from your past mistakes. You are now a better person with more experience to overcome and succeed. Note that every stressor which you conquer makes you stronger. The goal is to go stronger, longer.

5 typical patterns of regret which can power up your personality:

1. You regret breaking up or losing touch with a previous love because of bad timing or an error in judgment. The good thing about love – whether lost or won – is that you can always hold it in your heart. And your heart is big enough to love many people, expanding your spirit with their best attributes. You are sure to encounter another love with whom you will inevitably connect. Your regret will make you ready!

2. You regret not telling a loved one who has passed away how much you loved him or her. You feel guilty not having done enough for this person, particularly a parent. Challenge these irrational thoughts. Your regret is actually grief. No one teaches people how to lose, only to amass and possess. Consequently, loss is hard. Give yourself permission to grieve without a time limit. When I feel regret about my parents’ death, I dedicate a good thought, recall a funny conversation or anecdote from my parents to recall their memory in a positive frame.

3. You regret a career road not taken. Perhaps, you did not pursue a higher education, or make a bold career change. Most people put too much emphasis on being extraordinary and often have unreasonable expectations about success. If it is feasible to pursue a passion or longing, do so now. My friend Delia left a career in computer science and took out student loans to become an ER physician. If you cannot take a new career path at this point in time, reinvent and revitalize your job to see it in a larger context. For example, my friend Antonio loves his job as a postal clerk because he gets to greet and say something nice to the people tired of waiting on line. He feels like a spiritual transformer.

4. You regret not having your say. You feel that you should have said “___.” Most likely you were trying to please others. What a relief to remove your mask, and speak your natural truth! Unleash your natural energy to get back in balance between doing for others and yourself.

5. You regret cheating someone. Often people who cheat, lie, or fool someone feel happy that they got away with it. However, when your cheating causes hurt, then you will most likely feel regret. Confessing and making amends are the ultimate spiritual cleanse. The next best thing is learning from your mistake and changing for the better.  Undoubtedly, you will be vigilant about acting with integrity and will find a way to give back to your community.

The Best and Worst Advice I Ever Got in College About Work

.Labor Day Weekend in Boston means two things. Most working people with the day off flee, emptying the streets, taking to the highways, and soaking up the long weekend somewhere outside city environs, preferably with ocean or mountains and without discarded couches littering the sidewalks.

Meanwhile, most students from the city’s many universities (and recent grads from schools everywhere) are moving in, bloating the streets with their moving trucks and subjecting their dads to too many flights of stairs. (A retroactive and eternal thank you to my own father who did this countless times, including when he hoisted a table through a window to fit into a tiny Cambridge apartment, after cutting my box spring in half so that we could maneuver it up the stairway and reassemble it once in my new room. One could say I learned a thing or two about patience and problem-solving from that guy).

This year, I fell into neither category. I’m a long way from college, and I just moved this winter and don’t plan to do it again anytime soon. I no longer subject Dad to being Macgyver on moving days; I spring for movers. I also labored on Labor Day, teaching yoga to a packed house of enthusiastic, sweaty, come-and-get-me-September yogis at Inner Strength Studio. I planned for a video shoot with Runner’s World magazine this weekend. I did a little writing.

Yet, the momentum around me got me thinking about labor and the best and worse advice I got about work while in college. Two key moments come to mind, both of which occurred while I was choosing my major. English.

And I’d choose the same way if I were to do it all over again. Despite getting advice like the following, from the father of a young girl I tutored regularly as a side job. I remember the scene in their impressive Virginia home well. The older son was on the verge of an exciting milestone: his bar mitzvah, and the living room in which I helped his younger sister with reading and writing was overrun by elaborate party favors. I wouldn’t see this many gift bags again until my time as a marketing executive at Boston magazine, while planning massive events like its annual Best of Boston party.

“You have to think about the things you want to have and figure out the job you can do to get those things.”

At this, he motioned around the beautiful home at the things his work had materialized. I didn’t argue. He made a valid point. It was a beautiful home, and they were a lovely family. They seemed happy. If you want a nice home, you have to work to get it. This much I knew, and it’s in my DNA to work hard anyway. But I disagreed with other aspects of his statement. The pursuit of things wasn’t going to inspire me to study subjects about which I didn’t care or in which I didn’t excel. And who’s to say that once I got these things, I’d be happy?

Thank you, sir. Have a wonderful time at the bar mitvah. Little Sally, nail that spelling test, girlfriend.   

Needless to say, this was the worst advice I ever got.

The best came from my friend, Doc, one year behind me in school but infinitely wiser in many ways. He became a bit of an urban legend in the English department at the University of Richmond. First, he was male, and they were hard to come by in our course of study. Second, his memory borders on photographic. For the first few weeks of September during the fall that we met, I thought he was a total slacker. He never took notes, while I busily detailed everything our professor said. He seemed a little aloof, sitting back in his chair and occasionally glancing out the window at the blossoming trees outside. Why was he even in this class, I thought, my body pitched forward so that I wouldn’t miss anything. Craning myself closer to the Shakespeare lecture would obviously implant the information into my brain more effectively.

When we ended up in a study group together, the other girls and I expressed skepticism before his arrival… until he showed up and schooled the sh** out of us by remembering pretty much every lecture, quotation, theme, historical context, cross-reference, and footnote we’d covered that semester. Thus, Doc became my new best friend—and the source of the best work advice I ever got in college.

“College is not job training. When you get a job, they’ll train you. College is for studying what you love, enjoy, and want to think critically about. It’s about learning and learning how to learn—so that you can learn to be an expert at what you choose to do.”

I’m paraphrasing of course. I don’t have Doc’s memory.

So, I chose English. I minored in Women’s Studies. I was a class shy of an Economics minor, and if there’d been a major in Eastern Philosophy and Religion at the time, I’d probably have that too. I loved these courses, and they led me to work in industries I enjoyed, including education, marketing, media, and, yes, yoga, until merging what I enjoyed most and was best at into my work today.

The way my brain functions is no doubt influenced by how it learned to organize and convey information learned in college. However, the world changes drastically over a lifetime, and the best career investment one can make is the desire to work hard and tirelessly on a chosen path. The quickest way to burn out and become miserable is to work at something you don’t like for things that can’t make you happy.

I don’t have a lot of things, but I have all the things I need, which means that in a weird way both pieces of advice worked for me. Or, better yet, I worked for them.

What do you think? What’s the best or worst career advice you’ve ever gotten? What did you study in college, and how has it moved you through life?  

Originally published on my website, Om Gal.
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