Most Mondays I wake up raring to go. Some days I hit the ground running, but other days, the sheer number of things I want (and tell myself I “have” to do) paralyzes me. My best defense is to dump everything that’s swirling around inside my head onto the page. This morning my to-do list looked like this:
Meditation and prayers
Write in journal
Write blog post
Re-read last section of memoir
Unpack from trip
Respond to emails
Write birthday thank you notes
Talk to Helen (my daughter)
Consult web designer
I don’t know if I’ll get everything on this list done today. Probably not. It helps to remind myself that it doesn’t matter if it takes me two or three days to complete these items. What does matter is that everything on my list I’m doing for love.
Dr. H. Ronald Hulnick, author, teacher, and world-renowned pioneer in the field of Spiritual Psychology, once told my class at The University of Santa Monica: “The only reason to do anything is for love.” That statement gave me pause. Really? I thought. Part of me wanted to disprove it. I wanted to say that was a luxury few people could enjoy. Would this be true for disadvantaged people? And on and on. But then I stopped myself, and asked, What if this is true? What might my life look like if love motivated my actions? What if I replaced fear with love? Unfortunately, as is the case for many of us, fear motivates a lot of my behavior. I began to wonder how life might be if instead of feeling pressured to do things out of obligation, insecurity, doubt, and fear, I flipped the paradigm on its head and chose to do things out of love.
So I experimented. The result was joy. It’s been interesting to realize that the specifics of what I did every day remained pretty much the same, but how I did things changed. When I realized I was doing what I was doing because of love, life felt lighter. For example, instead of complaining about cleaning my house, I focused on how much I loved my family and my home, and how great it was that I was able to clean my home. It also occurred to me that I was lucky to have a home. Instead of bitching and moaning about how much work it is to be an author, I reminded myself that this work is part of why I’m here. I love it, and I get to share it. How cool is that!
I am sometimes invited to do things I don’t want to do. When this happens, I ask myself, “Where’s the love here?” Maybe it’s connected to a person. Or perhaps it has something to do with the love I feel for a college, institution, or cause. I root around and sniff out the love. If I don’t catch its scent, I say no and move on.
I’m not absolutely positive that Dr. Hulnick’s statement is a maxim, but it’s been a sweet guide in my life and it’s helped me recalibrate everything I do so that I’m looking at my actions through the lens of love.
Recently, Robin Finn, a friend and former student of mine, published her first novel, Restless in L.A. Robin told me months ago, when she signed with her publisher, that her intention was to enjoy bringing her book into the world. And though there have been bumps in the road, which is always the case, she has not strayed from her intention to enjoy the ride. Here’s a great example of a teacher learning from her student, because as I gear up to bring my own memoir into the world next May (2018), I’m going to follow in her footsteps and hold the intention to enjoy the journey—potholes and all! And I’m going to remind myself that I’m publishing my memoir for love. Love for myself and love for others. Publishing is an act of generosity of spirit. It takes courage. The root of the word courage is heart. Anything coming from the heart resides in the neighborhood of love. And when you live there, life is good.
What do you do for love? Please share your thoughts. Hearing from others, making meaningful connections, is one of the things I enjoy most about blogging!
One of my life intentions is to relish the joy of self-expression. But lately I’ve been reluctant to say what I think, especially on social media and in my blog posts. This is partly because posting anything other than politics these days has felt trivial, and political conversations can easily erupt into flames. Putting out wildfires makes me anxious, and I don’t want to live in hatred and fear. I know from experience that crashes are inevitable when anger and fear take over the steering wheel of my life. Another reason I haven’t been relishing the joy of self-expression lately is that when the shit hits the fan, like it has these past few weeks in our country, I tend to think that the problems of the world are so much bigger than I am that nothing I have to say could possibly matter. Of course this isn’t true. It’s a lie fear tells me. I know there’s plenty all of us can do. Especially writers.
And yet, we each have to navigate our own path. We must decide for ourselves what types of advocacy are best suited to our temperaments, personalities, and resources. I’ve been asking myself, How can I serve? How can I do something positive? How can I love myself and others—especially people with whom I disagree? This last question is the hardest. I won’t pretend I have it answered. I just keep asking the question. Every day. And sometimes I’m surprised by what happens.
A few days before my daughter returned to college after winter break, we went to a wholesale florist and bought four dozen white roses. At home, I wrapped each one individually in cellophane and ribbon while my daughter attached handwritten notes that said, “Wishing you a wonderful day. Spread the love.” We handed the roses out to people on the street. Some folks were reluctant to receive; they couldn’t believe the roses were free. “Why are you doing this?” they asked. “We just want to spread some love,” we said, “and bring a little beauty into your life.” Giving really is receiving. We went home with empty buckets and full hearts because of connections and conversations we’d forged with strangers.
Another thing I’ve been practicing a lot lately is my light meditation. I sit for my regular mediation, but position myself in front of a window blindfolded. After twenty minutes, I remove the blindfold and keep my eyes closed. The darkness on the insides of my eyelids is replaced by golden light. I imagine this light inside me; that it’s the real me. In other words, I identify not with my pain, but with this light. I then try to “locate” my elusive spirit. I sit and listen, poised to receive guidance. I bask in the light until I feel that I am this light, which exists in every person on the planet, not just the people I like or agree with, but everyone. I envision the light radiating from every living thing, consider how we are connected, and I pray for us all.
To some this might seem like a waste of time. But for me it’s an essential practice. While anger and fear have their place, they can also be knee-jerk reactions. They are like smog in Southern California in that it’s everywhere. You’re so surrounded by it that often you don’t even notice it anymore. In our culture love is the radical choice, and during these crazy times, I intend to remain sane. The best way I know how to do this is to up my self-care practices: to back away from the ledge when I become dizzy and feel like I’m about to careen into a pit; to turn inward; to appreciate the larger picture of our humanity; to notice the blessings and light; to connect with my heart; to reach out to friends; and to have faith that things unfold the way they do for a reason.
How are you and your writing faring during these turbulent times? I’d love to hear how you’re coping, as well as ideas for random acts of kindness. How do you spread love?
A few months ago, soon after I’d finished writing my memoir, Raw: A Midlife Quest for Health & Happiness, I had the opportunity to share five minutes of my work at a reading. While combing through my manuscript for excerpts, I found myself thinking, Hmm, maybe this writing isn’t as strong as I thought. The writing felt flabby and slow. I found myself tinkering with passages so they’d read better in a shorter timeframe, and wondered if that was okay. In past readings, I’ve mostly read my poems, complete works, each one featuring a beginning, middle, and end.
But my memoir is different. It took time to develop stories in that longer format—time I wouldn’t have in a five-minute reading. I wanted to give my audience the best bang for their buck, to make my reading worth their while. I wanted them with me from the first word to the last. I have been to too many readings where restless audience members pick cuticles, scrimmage inside purses, check iPhones, or stare out windows, all overt cues that they’re desperate for the reader to just finish already. This sucks for writers, but it also means it’s our responsibility to ensure that doesn’t happen.
Every time you stand up and read your work, you’re pitching it. If you don’t grab your audience, and keep them with you, they will not buy your book. I’ve given several readings from my memoir since that first one and here’s what I’ve learned: presenting an edited excerpt of your novel or memoir is a gift for your audience as well as your book! In order to most effectively share part of a long-form story in a short-form (time) venue, you will need to compress, collapse, or cut. You may also need to compose transitions, connections, or endings to create a satisfying, standalone experience.
The key is to view a time “constraint” as a container. Make it work for you in the same way specific poetry forms, such as the villanelle, shape a poem. If you honor the requirements of your reading venue and deliver a complete experience, if you craft your work with a particular reading in mind, you have a much better shot of connecting with and entertaining your audience. If you leave them laughing, crying, or nodding their head, they are with you.
I have a three-ring binder with ten edited excerpts from my memoir, along with a list of others I want to develop. At the top of each page I’ve jotted down how long the excerpt takes to read. Please note: read slower than you think you should. Take your time. Plant your feet on the floor. Let your voice rise from your belly.
Edited excerpts will serve you well even if you’re giving a featured reading and have thirty or forty minutes. Remember to consider your audience when choosing passages. Your excerpt filled with sex and “colorful” language, however well edited, might not go over so well at a conservative ladies’ luncheon. This may sound obvious, but I’ve seen authors fall into this trap. You may want to share several edited excerpts that feature different flavors of your story, rather than one or two longer selections. Sadly, attention spans are shorter than they’ve ever been, and while a passage might be perfectly paced in your book, it might not hold a listener’s attention. Consider crafting ten or twenty excerpts of different lengths before it’s time to promote your book. You will be surprised what you can do with five minutes, or less. Being ready to go with as many great, edited clips as possible will make the reading part of your job successful and fun!
I’d love to hear your thoughts about this. Have you grappled with the problem of reading a passage intended to unfold more slowly in your novel or memoir? Were you resistant, as I was in the beginning, to edit your excerpts? Did you do it anyway? If so, what was the result?
For the past seven years, I’ve been teaching private writing classes. Teaching is a great joy and pleasure for me—and as creative an act as writing is. I love meeting people wherever they happen to be with their writing (and their life) and helping them move forward. While I sometimes say and do routine things while traversing this path, teaching is a journey that feels very much alive and present-moment oriented. Like my writing, I carry with me into teaching the full scope and range of my life experiences. I never know what ideas will present themselves as I listen to my students, and I am often surprised and delighted.
I’ve just begun teaching my fall classes. I love new beginnings. On the first afternoon or evening of a new session, I ask my students these questions: What do you hope to get out of this class? Why are you taking the class? What are your writing intentions? If this class were successful beyond your wildest dreams, what would that look like? I encourage them to envision and express this scenario in as much detail as possible. I want my students to reach far and wide so they’ll have a vision to stretch into. But at the same time, I try to keep them grounded in what matters most: the work, and our relationship to it, to others, and to ourselves.
I encourage my students to explore their vision and intentions. Vision and intentions are like maps—if you have an idea of the destination you’d like to visit you’re more likely to arrive there. But it’s bigger and more important than that because having a clear vision and intentions is a way to make an explicit request of the Universe. Sometimes we receive things we don’t ask for, but our chances of getting what we want improve considerably once we know what we want.
Most writing students want a safe and supportive environment that offers both structure and freedom. They want to connect deeply with themselves, with source energy, with their inspiration. They want to publish and grow their platforms while writing authentic, well-crafted chapters, blog posts, essays, and more. Other students may be writing primarily as a vehicle for personal transformation and growth. Some are answering the call to write for the first time. Others are accomplished screenwriters, technical writers, artists, and dreamers wanting to fly in another direction.
Last week as my students shared their visions and intentions, I suggested they solidify and celebrate their intentions by performing a symbolic ritual. This ritual was passed on to me by Emmanuel Faccio, M.D., a medical doctor and modern-day Shaman committed to helping people understand how the mind, body, and spirit work together to effect total health and well-being. I met him while vacationing last summer in Montauk, New York. He suggested I perform a ritual as an act of healing, which didn’t have to do with my writing, per se, but certainly applies. As I listened to my students speak, I realized how relevant and helpful this ritual would be for their writing.
Here’s how it works: Write your intention and vision down on a piece of parchment paper (symbolic of ancient contracts). Say whatever feels important. Be creative. Try adding a few “I am” statements, such as:
I’d love to hear from other writing teachers inspired to share unorthodox or surprising teaching moments, or lessons they’ve learned through teaching. Please share your stories! I’d also like to hear from anyone for whom this ritual resonates!
“Life begins at the end of your comfort zone,” says author Neal Donald Walsch in Conversations with God, Book 3. Easy to say. Hard to do—especially when fear kicks in, which it does as you near the edges of your comfort zone. Writers are particularly susceptible. What happens when the thought of speaking in front of an audience fills you with dread? Or what if you’re afraid to fly and you need to travel for a book tour? Or what if your own writing is taking you down some dark alley and you’re sure you’re going to get mugged—or worse?
Last year, while struggling with anxiety, I learned a lot about fear. I learned that fear cannot be trusted. If it doesn’t outright lie, fear distorts the truth. Fear prevents us from being who we are meant to be. It’s a toddler throwing a temper tantrum. A bully. And yet, fear is also an excellent teacher—if you’re willing to learn its lessons.
The first thing fear taught me was acceptance. It taught me the importance of letting myself feel what I feel, even if it’s uncomfortable, especially then. “You’re not here to be comfortable,” my therapist told me. “You’re here to live your life. Move forward. Do what you want and need to do. Comfort is not the goal. Living is.” And for writers, I’d add, comfort is not the goal, getting your book written and into the world is.
Acceptance also means not resisting, fighting, or obsessing about things over which you have no control. I recently saw a cartoon titled “Suffering,” which consisted of a leaf gently falling from a tree. A dialog bubble, expressing the leaf’s sentiments, said, “Why is this happening?”
We don’t suffer because we experience challenges, or have to do things we don’t want to do. We don’t suffer because we are ill or in pain or uncomfortable. We suffer because of the stories we tell ourselves about our circumstances or situation. We suffer when our minds become like a dog with a bone, refusing to let go of limiting, fearful thoughts or ideas. Obsessive thinking, resisting, fighting, and trying to figure everything out is less effective than going with the flow and riding a wave, especially when dealing with things over which we have no control.
Writers have vivid imaginations. The stories we make up reflect our fear and our love of drama. When our work isn’t accepted into a journal, when our books don’t sell, when agents don’t return our calls, when two people show up to a reading, when we have a crappy writing day, or don’t write at all, we may ask, Why am I wasting my time? Or berate ourselves with negative self-talk, like, I have nothing original to say, or, My writing sucks. If you hear messages like this in your head, beware! This is not the real you talking; this is the voice of fear. Tell it, “Thanks for sharing,” ignore its false message, and keep moving forward.
Another thing I’ve learned from fear is that if you embrace it, if you give it some love, it disappears. Years ago I dreamed a snake was coming at me from a crack in my living room wall. At first I was horrified. But then I realized I was dreaming, and as soon as that awareness kicked in, I thought, Oh, it’s a snake. I’m afraid of snakes. Let me try to love this object of my fear. I stared into the snake’s eyes, and repeated the words, “I love you,” feeling warmth in my heart. Within seconds the snake transformed into a radiant, smiling queen who handed me her scepter.
Authors often complain about the many hats they’re expected to wear in today’s publishing climate. If I could just be by myself and do what I love—write—I’d be happy, some think. Many dread, and even resent, the hours waiting to hear back from agents and publishers. Many complain that social media sucks their precious time. Some writers would rather do just about anything else than promote themselves, and their work. But what if all these things are great opportunities to grow as a person, as well as an author? What if all our snakes are longing to be turned into queens? What if we are the sovereign rulers of our work and of our lives? Why not tell ourselves this story? It’s not enough to tell a story or have a thought. What matters is what we believe. Why not believe positive, liberating thoughts such as this one?
In the video, The Energetics of Healing: A Visual Guide to Your Body’s Energy Anatomy, Caroline Myss relates positive and negative thinking to financial investing, urging people to “invest” in positive thoughts, likening the negative ones fear conjures to junk bonds. “What thoughts are you going to invest [believe] in?” she asks, “Are you going to finance that idea?”
Lately, when I remember to do so, I’ve been checking in with my thoughts and beliefs, and trying to consciously choose love over fear. Love is like the water Dorothy throws on the Wicked Witch of the West; fear simply cannot survive when drenched with love.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on fear. What has it taught you? How have you overcome it? What do you know in your heart to be true about fear?
Have you gotten up on the “wrong” side of the bed lately? If so, you know that howyou wake up in the morning can set the tone for your entire day. Do you awaken to an alarm clock, jump out of bed, and feel rushed all day long? Do you feel like the day’s to-do list will take a week to complete? Does your life feel like a succession of endless striving and doing? If so, slowing down your morning wake-up process can make a difference in your day. Waking up slowly and deliberately—bringing awareness to this time of day—can help you maintain your equilibrium, which will make you calmer, and also more productive. Here are a few suggestions for bringing awareness into your mornings and starting your day with consciousness attention, clarity, and joy:
Stay still: When you first become aware that you’re awake, don’t move your body. If you’ve opened your eyes, close them.
Dreams: See if you can recall your dreams. Maybe all you’ve got is a lingering sequence, phrase, or feeling. Write it down. Keep a pad and pen or a dream journal near your bed. Even one word or image can ignite and inspire wisdom and creativity in your day’s writing.
Tension scan: Even though you’ve just awakened, you may still be holding tension in your body. Scan it for any gripping, clenching, or tightness. Release it. Wait a few seconds and see if the tension creeps back in. You might notice tension in your hip, shoulder, jaw, or hand. Let it go. Several times, if necessary.
Give thanks: Count your blessings. Give thanks for your life, your writing, your friends and family, and all your other blessings. Gratitude is a balm. And the more you focus on what you’ve got and love, the more it grows. Gratitude adds altitude to your attitude.
Intention: Set an intention for the day. If you’re struggling with a difficult writing project, state what you’d like to receive that day in terms of information and inspiration. Be definite with the infinite. Specificity is an effective tool in creating positive life outcomes, as well as writing strong poetry or prose.
Ask for Assistance: What do you need? Where are you struggling? Who can be of service to you? Ask fellow writers for assistance. Maybe you’re stuck in the middle of your project and wondering if you’ll ever finish. Maybe you’re two weeks from your publication date and are feeling weak in the knees. Or sick to your stomach. Maybe you’re about to begin a new project. Whatever your situation, there are other writers who have been there and done that. You might actually be doing somebody a favor. Being of service to a fellow writer feels good. Most people like to help where and if they can.
Trust Yourself: Don’t be afraid to reach inside as well as out. Everything you need to resolve your stress exists within you. But you must be quiet and listen. You must slow down. Sometimes it’s easier to go outside yourself, to consult others, than to listen to your own wisdom. But your own wisdom is your Holy Grail. Seek counsel. Put together a dynamic team. Consult experts. But don’t forget your most precious resource is you!
Taking the time to start your day with calm, centered awareness is like calibrating a delicate instrument. The instrument will not perform accurately if it’s not properly calibrated. Give yourself this same care and respect and the quality of your days will blossom. Spaciousness will creep into your life and shine all over your pages! Happy writing. Happy awakening! May your mornings inspire bright and beautiful days!
Holidays can be great, but they can also be challenging. Each person in every family has his or her own energy, plus the collective energy of the family itself. This is true for both nuclear families as well as extended families.
It’s easy to get drawn into old or stagnant family energies and stories that may not serve or uplift you. These stories may, in fact, create inner disturbances you can’t quite pinpoint. As a result, you might find yourself anticipating stress at holiday gatherings, if not dreading them altogether. This might be because old, negative, and unconscious patterns are playing out on the stage of your life, even though these patterns are not in alignment with your current values, intentions, or goals.
Here’s an exercise for not getting sucked into powerful, negative family dynamics. This is helpful to do any time of year and with any person who’s taking up too much space in you head, but it can be especially helpful during the holiday season.
Fill in the blank below with the name of a family member of your choosing, and recite or write the words that follow:
“_______, I respectfully return to you any and all energies of yours that I’ve been carrying. I accept and love you as you are. And I accept and love myself as I am. I honor you and I honor myself. I release you, bless you, and set you free. In so doing, I liberate myself and give thanks for my many blessings.”
If you’re feeling less than joyous at the prospect of seeing your family during the holidays, try to identify any judgments you may have placed against yourself or others and forgive yourself for them.
Here are a few examples of things you might be holding onto but needing to release:
Both of these exercises can help you maintain your equilibrium before, during, or after feasting with your family!
And let’s not lose sight of what the holidays are about: gratitude, connection, and generosity of spirit. Celebrate in whatever ways make sense. Don’t go on autopilot and engage in rituals that aren’t meaningful for you. Create your own meaning. Write your own stories. If you’re not happy during the holidays, ask why not. Write the part of you that’s unhappy a letter. Let it respond. Give your unhappiness a voice. Ask what it wants. Be generous and compassionate with yourself. Create a holiday season that is uniquely yours. Look for the blessings. They are right in front of you. Slow down. Savor love. Celebrate your gifts. You do not have to shop for the perfect gift. You are the perfect gift. Be the perfect gift you are!
A couple weeks ago, using the voice memo function on my iPhone, I recorded pages of affirmations I’ve written over several years. I ended up with an hour and twenty minutes of recorded affirmations. I’ve been listening to them through headphones while falling asleep at night, and again early in the morning, during receptive theta brain wave states.
A few days into this practice, I dreamed I was trying to have a conversation with myself, but my Self wasn’t listening; instead it was spewing affirmations at me! I awakened wondering if my new practice was smart or stupid. Was I drowning out essential thoughts or ignoring some vital aspect of my Self? Was I interfering with deep nocturnal conversations? I kept these questions in mind while continuing to experiment.
I found myself looking forward to my bedtime ritual, plugging my phone into its charger and earpods, carefully arranging wires over my shoulder, to keep them out of the way, setting my phone on my night table, lying on my back, placing one hand on my heart and the other on my belly, letting go, listening and surrendering to the sound of my own voice.
I was surprised how gentle and soothing it was. I’d recorded the affirmations after meditating, so my voice was calm and steady. I spoke slowly and clearly, and I repeated each affirmation twice. That way I could hear the present affirmation, silently focus on it, and then repeat it. I was surprised, too, by the authoritative quality my voice carried—not in a bossy way, but in a deep-knowing way, as if my voice were saying to me, “Listen up. I know what I’m talking about. Trust me.”
Most nights the affirmations seemed to be speaking the truth, but one night, after I’d had a rough day, during which insecurities had been triggered, they seemed sprinkled with lies, and I wondered if I was selling myself a bill of goods. “Yeah, right,” a venomous voice hissed in response to the affirmation that said and then repeated, “I have all the time and money I need.”
This showed me I needed a recalibration; unbeknownst to me, my inner Gremlins had surfaced and taken over. I acknowledged and released my Gremlins, and then leaned into the “potential” truth those statements held by asking myself, “How might this be true in my life? In what way(s) can I stretch into this statement or make it true for me?”
The best affirmations are those that feel at least 50% believable. You make positive “I am” statements in the present tense about what you’d like to invite into your life. By stretching into these thoughts, you begin to attract and create what you are affirming. I’ve worked with affirmations for years. One of my favorite practices has been to recite them while holding a hand mirror, looking into my own eyes, where my bullshit detector is fully present and activated. If something doesn’t ring true, I feel it—and that tells me where I need to focus healing energy and attention.
But there’s something about the sound of my own voice at night that is deeply satisfying in a whole new way. It’s as if I’m my own mother telling myself a happy and hopeful bedtime story. I am simultaneously mother and child, providing and receiving comfort. And it’s effortless. I collapse into bed and lie there. There’s nothing for me to do but listen to the wise, loving, encouraging voice telling me a brand-new story.
Another plus about my practice is that my mind, which can only focus well on one thing at a time, cannot wander or stew over problems while I listen. This cuts down on worry time. I’m not thinking about things that, in the past, may have kept me up at night; I’m thinking about all the positive things I’m calling forth into my life!
And positive things are showing up! I’m resonating deeply with my affirmations and experiencing positive outer changes, which are reflecting the inner ones. My writing feels effortless, I’ve got more people contacting me for coaching than I can take on, my relationships feel more loving, and I’m feeling more grounded and peaceful. Overall, since beginning this practice two weeks ago, I am experiencing flow in every area of my life!
I’d love to hear about your experiences with affirmations. Especially if you try recording them and listening to them as you fall asleep. For me, this has been a very powerful, supportive, and healing process! Try it and let me know what you think!
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!
What’s the first thing you do when you get a headache? Or a stomachache? Or a kink in your neck? Do you head for the medicine cabinet? Pain remedies offer relief, but they don’t heal. Chronic conditions, as well as other health challenges, are your body’s way of trying to get your attention. A creative, holistic healing strategy is to give your pain, condition, or dis-ease a voice.
Retreat to a quiet place where you will not be disturbed. Make yourself comfortable. Close your eyes. You may want to use an eyeshade and earplugs to help you turn your attention inward. Take a few slow, deep breaths. Place your hands on the part of your body that hurts. Send your breath into that area and ask the following questions:
What are you trying to tell me?
What do you need from me right now?
What can I do for you today?
Sit quietly and listen. You might want to keep a pad and pen close by and jot down ideas that pop into your head. Before you finish, ask, Is there anything else you’d like me to know? Write down anything that comes forward. Give thanks and lovingly commit to following through on whatever surfaced.
You may also want to have a conversation with your pain or physical discomfort in a journal or notebook. To give you an idea of what this might look like, here’s a conversation I had recently with my clenched solar plexus:
Me: What are you trying to say to me?
Clenched Solar Plexus (CSP): It’s not what you’re doing, but how you do it that needs tweaking. Replace hectic energy with calm.
CSP: Believe in yourself, know that you are enough, and stop racing around. You have plenty of time.
Me: But there’s so much I want to do. How will I get everything done?
CSP: By taking more time for yourself, which will center, ground, and relax you.
Me: Yeah, I need to relax. I worry too much. How can I quit doing that?
CSP: Exercise; stay in the moment (beware: this is easier said than done—it takes vigilance, commitment, and lots of practice!); continue to cultivate a conscious relationship with your breath; and most of all, have faith!
Me: Why is faith most important?
CSP: Your worries come from your mind and thoughts, which you can control. The mind is like a computer. It gets programmed and can be reprogrammed. It’s an excellent tool, but your mind cannot grasp the spiritual truth that you are safe. Your soul knows this. Your soul is eternal. Your soul is pure love. When you live from your soul, worry is not part of the equation.
Me: So I should live from my soul?
Me: How do I do that?
CSP: You start by placing your faith in your soul, by committing to a soulful way of life. Then you show up, listen, and do what the voice inside tells you to do—as long as what it says doesn’t hurt anybody. Acting on your soul’s suggestions takes courage. Drop down into your heart, connect, and respond from there. Then all you do is repeat the cycle: Believe. Commit. Show up. Listen. Trust your inner voice.
Me: You make it sound so simple.
CSP: It is. But first you must believe!
What is your pain telling you today? I’d love to hear from the wisdom of your body!