Saturday, September 28, 2013

Reclaiming Joy, Part 2


Letting Go of What Doesn’t Serve Me:

Recently I read a story about a nun who had prayed every day for 30 years for God to take away a lifelong problem she’d had. Finally, one morning as she was praying once again, she heard a gentle voice in her head- I can’t take it unless you give it up.

Give It Up:
I can’t get rid of any problem that I’m not willing to release. Most of us hold tight to our grudges, our worries, our problems, our conflicts. On some level, we are addicted to them. I used to have a strange subconscious (deeply subconscious) belief that worrying about my kids would keep them safe, like some kind of bass-akwards prayer. But now I know that worry is like praying for something I don’t want. Unless we are in this moment hanging from a cliff by our fingernails, our problems aren’t really problems anyway. Most of our “problems” are created in our mind, where we are fixated on something in the past, or worried about something that might possibly (but probably not) happen in the future. How do worry and negativity serve my life? How does anger, judgment or resentment make any situation better? Those emotions are like uninvited guests who live rent-free in my head.

In order to reclaim joy, I have to create space for it – I have to kick those Randy Quaid-like uninvited guests to the curb.

It’s Science:
Science has proven that nature abhors a vacuum, and that everything in the Universe is made of energy, including you and I. So when I release negative energy from my life, there is a vacuum that pulls something new and positive in.

Time and again I have seen proof that this works, and yet it’s so easy to slip back into old habits. So once again I’ve made a conscious choice to release negativity, worry, fear, insecurity and feelings of worthlessness. Already I’ve felt the immediate benefits of being more centered and calm. But life will always throw a few challenges. For instance, yesterday my phone line went out and my computer broke down. I had to cancel a conference call and lost a whole day of work.  It took 3 and 1/2 hours at the Mac store to get my computer fixed. Needless to say this was not the day I had planned. Usually, I would be really upset, but what purpose would that serve? I decided to release being upset and be at peace with the situation I was given. When I released the negative emotion, some wonderful blessings flowed in to fill that space. Instead of working, I was able to go hiking in the beautiful mountains, spend time with friends and have some really inspiring and uplifting conversations. It turned out to be a great day.

Letting Go:
This is my favorite one-minute meditation. I close my eyes and slow my breathing, listening to the rhythm of my breath, accepting all the background noises as part of my natural surroundings. Then, I let go of all my problems for one second. In that one instantaneous moment, I feel a shift. This is the most transformative one-minute meditation, and anyone can do it. I did it this morning and feel like I just had a mini-vacation. 

Go on, try it. Let your worries go for one second.  Just one second. See if your mind allows you to do it. (Don’t worry, they’ll still be there after the second has passed.)

If you are resistant to trying this one-second experiment, ask yourself why? Are you hesitant to let go of your problems and let joy occupy that space?

If you tried it, please comment below and let me know how it felt. I'd love to hear!

*For more on this, read my blog: What I'm Giving Up

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Reclaiming Joy, Part One


"We can not solve our problems with the same level of thinking that created them"
-Albert Einstein

For months now, I have been in a funk. And then I got sick of it. This is how it started.

All year I had been looking forward to summer. I was going to be teaching workshops in Costa Rica (at a five-star resort in the rainforest), Woodstock and Berkley, and my husband and I had been gifted a free trip to Jamaica for our anniversary in August. I was giddy with anticipation.

And then every one of those events cancelled…boom boom boom. And on top of the profound disappointment, I was scrambling to replace the work and income I’d lost. I sent out resumes all summer and didn’t get a single reply. Instead of teaching and lounging in hot tubs in exotic places, my summer days were spent mediating fights between my 3 and 7 year old, scouring the want ads unsuccessfully for writing gigs, playing “bill-roulette” and feeling completely defeated. And then I got a string of rejection letters on my new book. And my dishwasher broke and I didn’t have the money to fix it, so I was up to my elbows every day washing dishes by hand. And the worst of it, people I loved were fighting cancer and I was helpless to stop it. All of this in 105 degree weather.

It turned out to be a crummy summer and I was miserable. But I know that happiness is a choice. I had to stop focusing on all that had gone wrong and change the way I was thinking.

The first thing I had to do was to unplug from all negativity. On top of the frustration and helplessness I was already feeling, I sure didn’t need bad news pounded into my head.

I unplugged from the internet except to check in once a day- I did not read the facebook newsfeed or look at pictures of abused dogs in shelters or read about toddlers accidentally being shot with their fathers’ guns.

I turned off NPR (the hardest thing to do) because sometimes you just have to take a break from hearing about body counts and wars all over the world.

I didn’t allow anyone else’s negativity come into to my sacred space.

I played music all day, every day.

I read uplifting books that made me feel anything was possible.

I prayed for my loved ones, meditated and practiced yoga.

I got outside in nature every day, even if for a short time. 

It didn't cost me a dime to walk by the bay, but it was more valuable than therapy.

And for the first time in months, I FELT GREAT. I was happy and energized again. I was more patient with the kids. More patient with myself. More confident that somehow everything would be okay.

Once I was back in this positive space, things started to flow again. I got offered four gigs, plus a copywriting job. I was able to heal a friendship that had been fractured for five years. Two agents asked for my manuscript. My loved ones were managing and maybe even healing cancer.

I am now thinking more clearly, feeling hopeful. Everything once again feels possible.

So I have decided to continue with this. For the next couple weeks, I am going to write about the steps I’m taking to reclaim joy. I hope you’ll join me on this journey.