"There is no way to happiness, happiness is the way." ~ Thich Nhat Hanh
All too often, we take for granted the little things in life when in truth, it's the little things that bring lasting joy. We typically fill our days and don't stop to consider the most important details of our lives – what fuels our spirit and fills our heart – and invite that into the only moment life is happening, which is in this present moment.
Our lives can become so full that we barely finish one thing and are onto the next. How many times have you completed a task you've been focused on finishing for some time, only to finish and move on immediately to the next thing?
Instead, consider pausing long enough to acknowledge the energy and the wherewithal that went into making that particular thing happen. It didn't happen by itself. You made it happen first in thought and then by taking action. There are so many ways to find happiness at this moment, yet we are ready to move ahead so quickly that we don't allow ourselves to stay in the joy of the present moment.
I remember being raised with the idea of "the pursuit of happiness." This isn't a negative pursuit. However, it does imply that happiness is somewhere 'out there.'
The pursuit of happiness keeps us striving for more and looking for it outside of ourselves. We choose our goals and what we think will make us the happiest. We tend to achieve it and then pick another goal because that wasn't quite it, which can become a vicious cycle.
I feel it's important to acknowledge when we might be operating from a limiting or scarcity mindset where we notice the things we do not have and keep us wanting more. It could be more travel, another degree or certification, more free time, clothing, jewelry, art or vehicles.
The limiting mindset is a way of thinking that keeps us from fully living in the present moment and enjoying the blessings already bestowed upon us. When in actuality, the ability to draw happiness from the little things in life comes from a full heart and a sense of gratitude for what we have, where we've been, and where we are at.
The real gift of gratitude is that the more grateful you are, the more present you become, and it is only in the present moment that life is happening and you are truly living!
So, I hope you will take this moment and hold to your heart what matters most to you. Give yourself the gift of appreciation for who you are, where you've been and how far you've come. You are more than enough. Your enough is what changes the world!
"The only real journey is the one within." ~ Rainer Maria Wilke
The long days of summer are here, and I am relishing the slow pace and simple schedule with the intention of softening into quiet mornings, afternoons in the garden, gentle beach strolls and musical evenings.
This summer, I am committed to enjoying the journey rather than the destination. To not be so focused on what I am planning to do or making happen, whether it be changes to my home or in my life.
Summer reminds us that we have plenty of time if only we allow for it. I hope you will make time for the things you love and that matter most.
When we are often so focused on the next thing, we lose connection to the beauty of the everyday. There is joy to be found in the little moments when we intend to stay present in the now and not get too caught up on the outcome or how we think it should look and instead welcome what shows up. When we are present to the moment, our needs become clearer, and we are able to listen and respond.
Possibly there’s one specific area in your life where you’ve been working really hard to evolve and grow, whether that’s a project, a relationship, an idea that you’re realizing or something that you’re working on for yourself. Or maybe you want less stress, less worrying about the future and feeling less anxiety about the past.
Perhaps this is the reminder you need to really slow down and let go of a little bit of control and not focus so much on the end goal and what that has to look like so you can actually enjoy it because the process really is about living living your life.
Of course, the journey isn’t always smooth. It is often bumpy, with plenty of ups and downs. We all have challenging times and easeful times filled with grace. That is the human experience. If we don’t learn how to really arrive in the present moment and truly enjoy the process in all the ways we are growing, then we’re going to be missing out on a lot of life.
To do that, we must incorporate enough moments and practices into our daily lives that bring us a sense of the here and now, that take us out of the thinking, judgmental mind and into the body that takes us straight back home and into the heart.
What are a few of the practices you can invite more of into your life? Are there some things that bring you peace, ease and joy?
It could be spending time with a good book, by yourself or with a trusted friend, swinging in a hammock, journaling, writing, tending to your garden or moving or relaxing your body.
In the quiet moments, we connect to ourselves and are open to all that life has to offer us right here and now.
As a teacher and lifelong student of yoga, we call it the practice because that is what it is. It is not a specific outcome we are reaching to obtain. It is quite honestly the practice of showing up and being present with what is.
The practice is about living – Living your life.
"And at the end of the day, there is nothing but the journey. Because destination is pure illusion." ~ Rich Roll
Enjoy where this summer might take you, and may this letter be a reminder to enjoy the journey and let go of the destination.
"We are all of us stars, and we deserve to twinkle." ~ Marilyn Monroe
I am writing you this letter from Hollywood, where I am spending the summer solstice. It is a pure pleasure that I am here to embrace the teachings of yoga from a few of my most favorite, highly esteemed teachers. I adore these women for their big hearts, trusted wisdom and the energy to share it while they hold space for personal growth, transformation, deep reflection and the courage to stretch and reach beyond what we think is possible.
The studio is situated in the quaint village of Larchmont, several miles from here, so I will ride the metro daily to and from classes. My days begin with a luscious view of the Hollywood hills and the sprawling city stretched out beneath it. Dressed in my soft, light yoga gear and running shoes, I am greeted by the doorman. He wishes me well and then points me in what I hope is the right direction.
I am headed to the Hollywood Walk of Fame to catch my bus, which, as I learned over the course of several days, does not run on a set schedule. In reality, I don't have a clue as to what time I will actually arrive at the studio. So, each morning, my stroll is deliberate and brisk, although I'm careful not to miss a single moment of who it is I am passing by.
I receive 'good morning' greetings from a kind young homeless man, a boy delivering freshly cut flowers to the corner market and an elderly woman bent over her cane waiting for the light to change. Although I don't know a single soul, there is a sense of belonging that no one deserves to be here more than anyone else. Everyone I pass is doing their best on every corner of every street.
Of all the things that make up an ordinary day, travel offers the ultimate opportunity to open us up to what each new moment has to offer, to try something new and ultimately to look at life through new eyes.
As I move closer to the Walk of Fame, the stars begin to shimmer in the morning light. My gaze drifts through the golden tapestry of stars etched with each actor's name, and I begin to wonder what it must've felt like for them. Stars you and I began watching on the big screen from a very young age – the glamour and the glory only to last a short while.
Then, like a vision, a little elderly lady appears gracefully supported by her walker, her feet shuffling slowly over the sea of stars, her chin is up and she walks with purpose. I could not help but feel a sense of wonderment towards her. She must be 90. She's lived to see and feel everything imaginable, and she must have stories to tell! And I think to myself, now that is a star!
It got me thinking about what a star represents. As it turns out, 'You are a star' originated in Ireland and is an all-around compliment that means you're a great person, you've risen to the occasion and been generally wonderful! It existed long before the whole movie star thing and came from the symbolism of a bright shining star.
In ancient times, the stars were the only navigation system used by explorers to map their routes and reach their destinations. Stars represent a guiding light, a direction and finding one's way.
A star's pure light is often associated with spirituality and the divine and represents wonder, mystery, beauty and the connection between us and the universe.
Stars represent faith, illumination, enlightenment and knowledge.
They can also be a symbol of hope as it is directly associated with light and the wonder you feel when gazing up into the infinite night sky.
May the light of summer shine ever so brightly upon you, and always remember you are being guided by the light above and the spark within.
You, my dear, are a star!
I had been dreaming of the warm lucid turquoise waters off the coast of Bimini in the Bahamas for some time and what it would feel like to swim with wild dolphins. My group chartered a dive boat committed to researching everything about dolphins. To the captain, co-captain, and dive master, this is not just a hobby but their life's work and passion.
It was a daily discovery of how dolphins communicate, breathe, eat, play and survive in the wild – an experience I will always treasure. The sheer bliss these creatures emit is beyond words. Sharing space with the dolphins in the ocean's depth felt transformative – almost like floating in a dream you didn't want to awaken from!
Then came the excursion I wanted to run from – not swim towards. A shallow sandy swimming lagoon laden with stingrays. Not just a few stingrays. There were more than I could even count!
We were in their playground. They swam so close to each other that it felt like we were sucked into their web. All I could think of was their poisonous tails with sharp barbs on the end and the fact that they belonged to the shark family. And if I were stung, it would be excruciatingly painful, most likely bloody, and potentially deadly.
As their slimy skin grazed my trembling shins, I began to shake, yet around me, all I could see were my dive mates' happy, smiling faces. (I think they'd done this before.)
How long would I have to endure this? How long could I endure this? Why was I the only one not enjoying this experience?
The voice in my head kept repeating, "I'm terrified of being stung, and worse, it could be deadly."
After what felt like a movie in slow motion, our team leader took one look at my face and offered to swim me back to the boat. Did I tough it out? Nope! I politely reached for her arm, and we swam the distance to the dive boat together, where I finally felt safe.
As I made my way up the ladder and onto our boat, I felt a sense of energy and aliveness. I could no longer see my dive mates. They remained with the stingrays in utter fascination and joy. Then I realized there really was nothing to fear except fear itself.
I clung to my preconceived notions of stingrays, which changed my entire experience. I held onto the dark notions rather than open myself to a new and wild experience. I have since learned ray stings are rare and that they reserve their sting for other large predators like sharks. They are, in fact, very friendly, sweet, gentle giants if only I had looked at them in that way.
Fear is a natural response to danger, whether imagined or real. When we allow our imagination to get the best of us, there is little hope for a positive outcome. You've often heard, "Feel the fear and do it anyway."
So, why is fear good for you?
Because it takes you out of your comfort zone, opens you to new experiences, and makes you come alive! Had I not ventured off the boat that afternoon, I wouldn't have had the magnificent experience of being with wildlife so closely and experiencing my vulnerability. In truth, the stingrays were friendly towards us and trusted us not to harm them. We were, after all, in their territory.
As Ralph Waldo Emerson so aptly says, "Do the thing, and you shall have the power." In other words, when you decide to do something that scares you, you've already generated the energy you need to achieve it.
Fear acts as an immune booster. Adrenaline creates a response in the body similar to exercise, building energy and releasing natural endorphins, helping your brain work more efficiently.
Our brains crave challenges. They want to be activated. You feel empowered whenever you come through a challenge and accomplish your goals. This natural high lasts longer than when you were scared, which is why you feel so good afterward (and explains why I felt energized when I reached the boat and could think more clearly).
Fear keeps you in the present moment – the only moment that matters.
Being fully aware of fear allows you to live life to the fullest. When you fear something, you have a choice – to stay on the boat alone or welcome a rare experience you will never forget.
The bottom line is life is meant to be lived. Fear makes you realize that now is the only time you have.
It is said, "Where fear meets courage is the sweet spot in which mountains get scaled, and rivers are run." But most of all, fear can be the birthplace of change, creativity and innovation.
"You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face... You must do the thing you think you cannot do." ~ Eleanor Roosevelt
As I recall the gifts of summertime, I was reminded of a fitting quote by Sarah Dessen where she reminds us to remember when the summer days "were long, stretching into each other...out of school, everything was on pause and yet happening at the same time, this collection of weeks when anything was possible."
So with summer in mind, let's take a journey where we turn up the volume and imagine sinking our feet into the warm white sand and feeling the sunshine all around us!
Together, let's take a journey while we sink our feet into the warm white sand, turn up the volume and feel the sunshine all around us.
For full effect, please watch Michael Franti & Spearhead's video "The Sound of Sunshine" and stay to the end because it's guaranteed to bring you those awesome summer vibes!
Remember when we waited all year long for summer? As youngsters, it was as if we could make each day stretch into more time to dream, play, explore, discover and be lazy without regret.
I know that I could hardly wait for afternoons running to the Wham-O Slip N' Slide on the cool grass, the musical ice cream truck, the warmth of the sand between my toes, saltwater on my tender pink skin, sleepovers, camping trips and daily dives in our freshwater pool.
Remember when you didn't want to fall asleep each night for fear you might miss something? When every day of summer was to be savored and not forgotten. As youngsters, we innately knew the benefits of play, relaxation, curiosity, joy and presence.
Now, my friends, we no longer have to wait for summer. It rushes ever so swiftly to us, inviting us to reawaken the child within through the gifts of presence, play and relaxation.
Let this summer invite you to savor some slowness, make space for idle time and more of the things that bring you joy. Allow yourself to follow your curiosity and the endless possibilities for creativity!
All too often, we let the daily distractions of life interfere and, in doing so, give up what it is we need the most – the time to reclaim our inner peace and well-being and to define outer expectations and responsibilities in the world on the one hand and balance our internal needs for space and personal expression on the other.
I invite you to take a moment and lift your spirit to "The Sound of Sunshine" and to savor your favorite summer memories. Recall as far back in the past as you like and review what you were doing, who you were with and what brought you the most joy.
Then I encourage you to remind your current self that anything is possible in this collection of weeks if only you are fully present for it.
Thank you for the reminder Sarah Dessen!