Have you ever noticed that even though you may objectively “have it all”, there can still be an undercurrent of frustration or irritability that weaves its way into your day.
I see this in my own life, and see it in some of the lives around me. A certain restlessness that is masked by striving for more–Maybe a different car, or home, or in some cases, new people with whom to share our lives. Lately, I’ve been redecorating every room in our house–which is basically taking the form of rearranging and moving furniture from one room to the next. At times, the striving takes the form of constant and never-ending self-improvement: if only I was X pounds lighter, or if I really nailed dancer’s pose, or if I could meditate without my mind wandering, etc., then I’d really be happy.
I’m not talking about not going for what you want. Instead, I’m talking about the seductive distraction of striving that prevents us from fully and thoroughly relaxing into this moment. Even if we attain the (fill in the blank), we wind up exactly where we began. Cause, let’s face it. At some point, setting more goals for the bigger and better, the newer and brighter, well, it just doesn’t cut it.
So, how do we dismantle the escape hatch, and resolve the restlessness?
Maybe it has to do with recommitting to our current lives, resolving to be fully open and embrace the frizzy, messy, rough around the edges stuff. This is daunting, for sure, but perhaps it is where the real richness of our lives resides.
I once knew a man who immediately looked for all the Exit signs in any new building he entered. Back then, I laughed at this, thinking that that was pretty excessive. Yet, its curious to notice just how often in our daily lives we symbolically plan escape routes, looking for ways out. How different might things be if instead, we could figure out ways to swim more deeply in the waters of the ocean we’re already in, to really commit to this life? What we may really be after isn’t an escape route after all, but rather a way deeper into what we already have.
I’ve been having this conversation with myself and with some of you over the past few weeks–how to take the amazing feelings we get on vacation and bring them into our “regular” lives. You know, the calm, the freedom, the happiness, the peace of mind, the lower stress. Many of us go on vacation, have a great and even memorable time, but within a week or so, its as if we never went on vacation. We get sucked right back into the daily grind of schedules, busyness, car pools, and the “list”. Wouldn’t it be something if we could figure out a way to bring those feelings of relaxation and anticipation to our everyday lives?
Maybe its a pipe dream. But, instead of shrugging our shoulders, it might be worth figuring this one out. So, here’s one suggestion to expand those relaxed vaca feelings into the everyday: take your most insignificant daily reactions, that is, the most mundane aspects of your life, and begin there.
For example, waking up. When you wake up on a vacation, do you do it with a little more joyful anticipation, excitement, or enthusiasm? How might your typical day shift if you bring even some small percentage of this attitude into it? Anticipating simple things, like a good latte, a vibrant yoga practice, the way the autumn sun sparkles on the leaves. Maybe even a nod of gratitude for another day to begin again. A deeper breath in and a longer exhale out.
As we sit on the eve of a new September, and a new school year, we don’t have to tuck these vacation feelings away along with our beach towels. We can weave the threads of all that excitement and energy into our “real” lives: the feeling that “something” good is going to happen this day, savoring this moment, enjoying the people around us, the sense that no matter what happens, we’ll be okay. Sounds like vacation to me.
My hope is that by expanding our vacation feelings to our regular day, we can ignite an inner shift that releases stress and cultivates more relaxation and unapologetic joy smack-dab in the middle of the daily grind. I’m not saying to put another item on the to-do-list, but if you want a vacation from the ordinary, giving this a try doesn’t require a passport.
“If one man can cause so much pain, imagine how much love we can create together.”–Gannestad.
By now, we have all been inundated with images and stories about the shooter in Aurora, Colorado. The tragedy is beyond understanding, the “whys” will likely go on unanswered for a long time, the sadness and shock run deep.
In the middle of all this fear, how can we connect to a feeling of safety and love?
Is it just me, or have you noticed that fear zaps the oxygen right out of the breath of love?
We all want safety. And, I propose that the real safety we crave comes from taking daily action. Action, each and every day that is born from love and radiance, that is rock-solid centered in faith and open-heartedness. Terrorism (which this certainly qualifies as) feeds on fears and worries. By choosing to keep thoughts of gratitude, acceptance, compassion for ourselves, in the midst of this or any life challenge–we defeat the terrorist and dismantle his horror-machine.
So, when someone ignorantly bumps your elbow in line at Whole Foods, you have a choice. To stew and make a story about “the selfish entitled people”, or to let it go. A child or aging parent needs you (yet again), we can choose to feel resentful, or we can offer to do it from the core of our being (or wait until we are in a better space to act).
We have a choice in each moment– to reach for thoughts that enliven our spirit, or thoughts that hold us hostage and berate. And, if the drumbeat of your life is so loud you can barely hear yourself think, then find the places (internal or external) and people that give you peace and hope. And breathe.
So, what would happen if you sit in the middle of faith, even (or especially) as the wind rattles your windows. Our children, our loved ones, our community need us to do this. The time is now. The only viable way to preserve safety in our lives and to let go of the fear is to open our hearts to the love that is already present. Like Gannestad beckons, imagine how much love we can create together.
A few months ago, my 9-year old daughter received a fabulous pair of shoes. She hunted these shoes, longed for them, and generally stalked them. Moments after she opened the box, she slipped these pinkalicious sneaker shoes on her hungry feet, a extra spring in her already-bouncy step. “I love them!!” she cooed as she danced around the house in these fantastic, too-pricey, long-awaited shoes.
So, it was with some surprise when I didn’t see the shoes again for days. And then a week or so went by. And then another and another week. When I asked her about them, she replied “They’re great. I’m just saving them”.
Those of you with children (or those of you that once were children) know one fact about kids—they grow. And grow and grow. So, when the saved-shoes came out again a couple months later, they were tight. And that was just the beginning. Eventually too tight to wear, and a sad little pumpkin face with saved-brand-new-looking shoes that she didn’t get to enjoy because she protected them from getting dirty(listing on Craig’s later—no, just kidding :))
I can see myself in this save it attitude. As adults, we can save it for later or, cling a little too tightly, you know? I’m not talking about delayed-gratification, or even the push towards a goal—I’m talking about the getting exactly what you want, exactly when you want it, but instead of savoring it, we “save” it. Like when we save the good china for “special” occasions, rather than using it more frequently. Or perhaps more importantly, when we hold back on putting ourselves 100% into the conversation, or the moment, or the class, or the whatever, because we are “saving” our energy.
Wouldn’t it be something: if we could relax in the moment with the already-present joys, savoring the heck out of them, and trusting that the next moment will be just as amazing? Trusting that there really is true abundance and we will receive exactly what we need exactly when we need it… I certainly don’t have this one sewed up, but if you see me wearing all my favorite sunglasses at once—well, you’ll know just what I’m working on!
Who hasn’t heard, “Love your neighbor as you love yourself” ? But if we stopped and thought about it, how many of us really love ourselves well? Perhaps, the truly radical suggestion, the one that would actually pull us out of this struggle, is to love OURSELVES as we love our neighbors/ friends/ children/ partners/ teachers/pets.
Isn’t it easy for us to recognize a friend’s or a child’s strengths and goodness, but ignore and downplay our own? Often, we are willing to go the extra mile for everyone around us, including strangers. But, when it comes to giving generously to ourselves, we turn into stingy misers.
We don’t shower ourselves with affection or love or compassion. Turning a blind eye to our exhaustion, we push it into overdrive. We can often be found beating ourselves up in the name of “self-improvement”. We put ourselves down, we put ourselves last, we put ourselves on hold. I liken our mind to a tough neighborhood where we can get jumped at a moment’s notice.
I wonder what will it take to look in that mirror and instead of seeing what needs to be improved or corrected, we see the vibrant, magnificent being shining back at us? What is required for us to confidently, with no excuses, say “No, I can’t” when someone pulls at us again to do one more thing? And with a full and happy heart to say “Yes!” when we genuinely mean it.
I challenge you to get curious about loving yourself as you love other humans or animals. Developing a more loving and honest relationship with ourselves, one that actually gives us some breathing room to just be—well, I can tell you from personal experience—it’s not easy. But, what a beautiful way to go through life, to treat yourself like your own best friend. And it just might radiate out to others to help those around us love themselves more deeply.
Let me know how it goes, I’d love to hear!! Namaste.