Part 1 of 4
In 1988 Bobby McFerrin demanded that we ‘don’t worry; be happy’. This famous, award-winning song sounded great but left me wondering how do I stop worrying and be happy. I admit that, for me, worry was a factor but more significant were depression and constant pain; I was a long way from happy and I had no idea how to change direction. I often say it is a blessing that I hit rock bottom – it gave me a solid foundation from which to climb which is exactly what I did. That said, I encourage you to start the journey to happy before you hit the pit of despair; it is simple with the following three steps. (Coming next time!)
Before I get into the how, let me explain the what. Of course happy means different things to different people; my happy cannot compare to your happy. Some would consider a hot meal or a bed the epitome of happiness while others might look for loving relationships or meaningful work. One thing we all share is that we each exist in four realms – physical, mental, emotional and spiritual and in order to achieve true happiness we must find joy and peace in each realm. Without physical health it is very difficult to find peace in other areas of our lives; when I take the time to improve my physical health, I reap untold benefits in all areas of my life. Finally, we are each responsible for our own wellbeing and if being happy is important to me, I must take action to get there.
See Part 2 next time…
When I started writing today’s blog I had a different topic and then came the news of Nelson Mandela’s death. I am not sure I can add to the many tributes already circulating; he was, and will always remain, one of the great human beings. I focus on abundance - what does that have to do with Mandela?
One of my definitions of abundance is “to be fully alive ‘til you’re fully dead”. To put it another way – “When I stand before God at the end of my life, I would hope that I would not have a single bit of talent left, and could say, ‘I used everything you gave me’”. (Erma Bombeck)
Mandela took the responsibility of being alive very seriously, he understood the role he had chosen and he never backed down. He certainly used up all he had been given for his journey. If that isn’t abundance, I’m not sure what is.
If we each gave quarter the effort of this inspiring man, hell only give 10%, the world would be a better place; the
term “Human Rights” would be unnecessary, love would be the measure of success and abundance would indeed be manifest.
Some days are harder than others to appreciate the abundance in my life and today is one of those days. I can look in many directions and see an overflow of blessings but like a hound on the scent of a rabbit, today I can only see one thing.
I thought I had my seizures under control with medication which is a big step in the right direction. The damage caused may never be repaired but no more seizures means no further damage. Unfortunately, the last few days have brought with them several episodes and I feel sad, and angry, and scared.
- Sad – I have 4 (+2) kids and I want to remember all the wonderful moments I have with them.
- Angry – what the fuck did I do to deserve this shit?
- Scared – every seizure damages my brain a little more and I have little enough memory as it is
Please don’t misunderstand why I am sharing this; I do not seek pity. I share because each one of us has burdens to bear and most of the time we do a really good job of navigating our way through the challenges to find the abundance. But the reality is, that sometimes life sucks and perhaps there is nothing wrong with admitting the sadness, the anger, the fear.
I am grateful I have found a supportive and kind neurology medical team (after 20 years of looking); I am grateful that most days my life is not too severely compromised by my epilepsy; I am grateful that I have enough space in my life to nurture my body.
And for today, I am grateful to be able to cry and feel sorry for myself because I know tomorrow will be another day.
In order to live in abundance, it is necessary to leave yourself space to just be. You will finish your work in less time, with reduced stress and greater results, relationships will strengthen and grow, happiness will flow through you and from you. To enjoy life, it is essential to maintain (or create) balance. I guarantee the following steps will add balance to your life, reduce stress and bring a strong sense of calm to all that you do.
Step 1: BREATHE
Something we do every minute of every day can actually change our lives. Most of us pay little or no attention to the breath and yet just 5 minutes a day is enough to notice a difference. Here is a simple technique to improve your health, ease your mind and bring balance into your life.
- Sit in a firm chair, feet on the floor, lengthen your spine to become tall; shoulders move back and the head lifts out of the neck. Close your eyes and notice your breath.
- When you are ready, allow the belly to gently fill as you inhale, as you exhale relax the body and feel the breath travel through the torso. At the end of the exhale, gently squeeze the lower belly to the spine. Practice this belly-breathing for 3-5 minutes.
- When finished, allow the breath to come back to its own rhythm and notice how it feels, and slowly open your eyes.
Step 2: YOGA
Yoga works! Not the poses that remind you of pretzels, rather the poses that allow you to heal your body in a gentle, non-aggressive way. Yoga is for men and women of all ages, all sizes and all backgrounds. With all poses, maintain long, slow, deep breathing.
- Low back release: Sit in a firm chair, feet on the floor, inhale and lengthen your spine so you become tall, with your chest and belly button reaching forward. As you exhale, round through the back, drawing the navel to the spine. Repeat for 1 minute or longer.
- Hip opener: Keep the right foot flat on the floor; place the left ankle bone on the right thigh. Grow tall through the spine and gently lean forward. The left hand (or elbow) can rest gently on the left knee. Do NOT round the back or push on the upper knee. Hold for 1 minute or longer. Repeat on other side.
- Gentle twist: Sit in a firm chair, feet on the floor, inhale and lengthen the spine to become tall, exhale and twist the torso to the left. If you like, hook your left arm over the back of the chair. Hold for 1 minute or longer. Repeat on other side.
Step 3: MEDITATION
Meditation comes in many shapes and sizes and is a wonderful way to tame the “monkey mind”. It is most effective to learn meditation with a particular point of focus. In my experience, it is best to choose one method and stick with it for a while. Commit 10 minutes to your meditation daily; you are likely to notice subtle changes in the first week.
- One of the most common forms of meditation involves using a mantra (a repetitive phrase) to focus the mind. It is best to choose a mantra that resonates with you, reflecting your life’s purpose or your spiritual practice. Choose a 3-5 syllable phrase or two the same length. Some examples: “God lives in me”; “God is peace”; “I live in abundance”; “Maranatha”; “Om Namah Shivaya”.
- Sit in a firm chair, feet on the floor, lengthen your spine to become tall; shoulders move back and the head lifts out of the neck. With the inhale breathe in your mantra, on the exhale remain silent.
- The mantra is your point of focus; it works as a leash for the monkey mind. Your mind (thoughts) will wander; when you notice, gently come back to the mantra.
These three simple practices will change your life; discovering the white space will allow you to move gracefully towards your abundant life. Commit to one or all of the above practices for 14 days and observe the changes; you will not only survive, you will thrive!
“Die to having anything be different in this moment; in your mind and in your heart, give yourself permission to allow this moment to be exactly as it is, and allow yourself to be exactly as you are” – Kabat-Zinn
On our recent trip to Mexico, we stayed in a place where our room had a terrace and we had an unobstructed view of the ocean 100 feet from the terrace. It was beautiful, serene and we took full advantage of it, sitting out every morning to enjoy a cup of tea and coffee and conversation. Throughout the day, I brought my book or computer outside to read and write, we ate at the table, and listened to the waves and we were content. It was not a small gift; it transformed the last week of our trip.
Until neighbors moved in next door and one gentleman decided our terrace was his path to the pool just around the corner. Tom had just left and I was rattled and annoyed by someone coming and going, coming and going, coming and going. (I swear he walked through my breakfast 4 or 5 times) I tried harrumphing each time to let him know how inappropriate his actions were, I tried giving him the “eye” to announce my displeasure and he remained oblivious, completely relaxed and enjoying his vacation.
On my last morning, I woke up looking forward to my last breakfast on the terrace and then I remembered my neighbor and had a sinking feeling. And then I breathed a loving blast of awareness – Seriously??? This is what you are going to spend your energy on today? Seriously??? There is nothing more important for you to get your knickers in a knot about? Seriously, Miss Yogi, use that breath of yours and try to live in each moment!
And I found myself, tea in hand, toast on plate, watching the early risers splashing in the water, the fishing boats in the hazy distance and peace in my heart. This moment is no small gift; indeed it is the only moment and therefore the best.
My purpose in life and this blog is to inspire others to live abundantly; whatever that looks like for your life. This short film is such a wonderful example of 6 women living full out, leaving it all on the table, living abundantly.
Check out “Fabulous Fashionistas”
Sometimes we forget to take pleasure in the small joys – a cup of perfectly made tea, the view you see every day but no longer notice, the feeling of your hands right after you wash them. It’s so much easier to remember the big joy moments – a wedding, a great vacation, the birth of a child. If we wait for the big joy moments we miss out on thousands of small joys and “we need to wake up to our moments. Otherwise, whole days, even a whole life, could slip past unnoticed”. (Jon Kabat-Zinn)
There may be days that drag and experiences we wish we could rush past but few people have had enough living when the time comes to die. If living in the small moments allows us to suck the marrow from our lives, then we should do it more. I have an expression that serves as a reminder on days when I find it hard to embrace the small joys:
I want to be fully alive ‘til I am fully dead
If I’m very lucky I may have another 60 or 70 great years left (scientists reckon the human body can live to 120-150) and at 47 that does not sound long enough; I have places to go, people to meet (my grandkids and great-grandkids for a start), things to do. And while much of what I want are big joys, I know that my life will only be complete if filled with small joys. Today, I want to live in the cool breeze, the smell of burnt toast and the feel of my shoe rubbing against my foot. I want to live in the smallest moment for that is where I will access divine abundance.
I would love to hear about your small joy moments.