A few days ago I wrote this Facebook status update: “It was a rich weekend in my Consciousness, Health & Healing program. One of the things I took away from the experience was this: Don’t wait until you are faced with a life-threatening illness to live the life you want! Carve out the time and space in your life to do what you love. Live the life you want to live NOW!”
The post received over forty likes and several comments, two of which stopped me in my tracks and made me think. The first was from Theresa, who lives in Missouri. “What if you don’t have money?” she asked, and then added, “That’s needed for life.”
I felt a pang of guilt. I’d never been poor. My mom, a single mother for a while, made huge sacrifices for us kids. I remember a brief period when she’d skip dinner because there wasn’t enough food, though she lied and said she wasn’t hungry. But those days were short-lived. Mom had a college education, teaching credentials, and a fierce will to succeed. I wasn’t sure how to handle Theresa’s comment. My first thought was to delete it. But that was coming from a cowardly place. I knew I needed to respond. I wanted to say something. I sat in silence for a while and considered what I might offer.
“Reach for your inner treasures,” I wrote, “which shimmer and shine more than those beautiful polished stones on your FB cover photo! Riches such as love, compassion, and forgiveness cost nothing and greatly enhance the quality of our lives.”
I felt good about what I’d written, which I hoped would be helpful.
But then, on the heels of that action, I received a similar comment from Veronica. The gist of what she said was that without money, living your dreams is impossible. Again, I considered deleting the comment, but I couldn’t. She deserved an answer.
Here’s what I wrote: “I’m not saying it’s easy, and I’ve never lived in poverty, but I know people who have, and I know it’s possible to rise above your circumstances and this can be done without money. Do you have a library nearby? You could borrow books about personal growth and happiness. I know quite a few rich people who aren’t happy, so money in and of itself, though it’s nice to have, isn’t what makes people happy. Love makes people happy. Compassion makes people happy. So does forgiveness. And laughter. Sunsets make people happy. Walks around the block, hugging someone you love, playing with a child or pet—these things don’t cost money. Serving others makes people happy. There are riches all around us that we sometimes fail to see. When you open yourself to them, your world grows and becomes happier. When you look for happiness and see it in the small things in your life, you experience happiness. If you think happiness is impossible because you’re broke, you will be right. Your thoughts are powerful. Doesn’t it make more sense to imagine a happy life, to reach for it, to see how that might be possible even without money, than to argue for your limitations? If you cling to the idea of your “brokeness” [a term she used to describe her life] as a reason why you can’t be happy, you will win that argument every time. But I believe you can be, do, and have more! God bless you!”
After writing that, I thought about celebrity rags-to-riches stories, how women like Oprah Winfrey, J.K. Rowling, Demi Moore, Maya Angelou, and countless others transcended impoverished lives. I also thought about how sensitive I am to my environment, how much beauty means to me, and how much harder my life would be living in poverty. Still, I know that steeped within our challenging circumstances are opportunities. I’m not saying it’s easy—I’m saying that no matter what your material circumstances are, look for the possibilities, stretch beyond your comfort zone, pay attention to your thoughts, and don’t put your energy into ideas that keep you down. When you embrace the notion that you have more potential than you think, and you’re open to receiving great things from the Universe, miracles happen!
Have you ever put a writing project on the back burner thinking it needed time to simmer, and then forgotten all about it? If so, you know that days pass. Then weeks. Maybe even months, or years. Your project has migrated from close to your heart to a cold, deserted island.
At first you have no idea where it is. You miss it. You start looking for it. You think you see it: a speck across a body of water, barely visible. You pine for it as you peer longingly across the water, and wonder how you’ll ever reach your beloved but distant project. It’s too far away to swim to and you don’t have a boat. Your writing project feels impossible. You believe there’s no way you’ll ever get to it.
Here’s the good news: You don’t have to go to your project; your project will come to you. Call it back. Gently. Lovingly. Call it with care and compassion. Tell it you are ready. Say, “I love you and I trust you. I’m ready to listen to what you have to say.”
Sounds a little like a relationship, right? Well, it is. Every writer has a relationship with her work. As is the case with most relationships, the more you listen and love, the more open you are, the less you judge and condemn, the healthier and happier the relationship. And, of course, the more you give, the more you receive.
Your project will return if and when it feels welcome. Your readiness is all it requires. The way you get “ready” is by creating space for your writing, in your heart and mind, but also in your weekly schedule. Put dates on your calendar. It doesn’t take a lot of time to write. Figure out what works best for you. Can you write for fifteen minutes twice a week? You’d be surprised what you can get written in half an hour. The important thing is to say yes—and to honor that yes. Your yes is a vow, a sacred contract and must be treated as such. Writing requires a long-term commitment. This may be difficult for some, but those who have made this commitment understand that the rewards are great.
Maybe you need a change in perspective. Perhaps you need to hold your desire to write close to your heart, keep whispering, “yes” into its ear, and embrace your writing practice with both arms. Maybe you need to hold on tight, or perhaps you need to surrender, let go, and melt into its strong arms. Maybe you need to post signs near your computer that say things like, “permission granted”; “You can do it”; or “Give me everything you’ve got!” Maybe you need to tap into your inner reservoirs of wisdom and love.
Recently, in yoga class, my teacher read us this quote by Indian spiritual teacher Nisargadatta Maharaj: “Wisdom is knowing I am nothing; love is knowing I am everything, and between the two, my life [and writing!] flows.” As people, and as writers, we move between nothing and everything, between wisdom and folly, between love and fear. This is our art and our practice. Don’t judge where you are on the continuum; just keep showing up!
It may feel like your project is stranded on a deserted island, but that doesn’t make it true. Feelings come from thoughts. Thoughts are neutral and have no power—unless they are backed by beliefs. Challenge and, if necessary, change your beliefs. Ask for help if you need it, then watch your life and your writing practice change right along with your beliefs! Try it. Keep the faith. Call back, embrace, and complete your writing project!