Sometimes life feels like…

Sometimes life feels like an endless wave,

you hold your breath to go under only to be tossed up again,

and you laugh as the water splashes over your face.

Sometimes life feels like an impossible hustle, an unrealistic

juggle, a priority war between do’s and don’ts and wants and needs

and why’s and what if’s.

Sometimes the lines between wishes and goals and dreams blur

into a disorienting cloud that swallows you whole so you can’t breathe.

Excuses hang around your neck like jewelry—or nooses,

depending on your creativity.

The infamous “they” say better to die trying than to die wishing,

but dying isn’t even the point, is it?

The point is living.

Don’t Let Life Pass You By

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It’s easy to get lost in the folds of everyday. The countdown to the weekend seems to rule our lives. It’s a vicious cycle that blurs together days and weeks and months, until you forget how old you are on your birthday, and you no longer want to celebrate.

To-do lists are endless highways, as though life were a road trip, and you stay up all night just to get to where you want to be, and by day you’re too exhausted to enjoy the views. Attempts to workout or eat right or quit that habit or say the right words or commit to that perfect routine seem to follow you like a recurring daydream (or nightmare). Then you wake up one morning and realize six months have gone by (or worse — years), and you still haven’t taken the steps to accomplish all that your heart wants to do. Your passions are hanging on a hook behind your bedroom door. I’ll get to it tomorrow, you say as you make your usual exit, walk down the path of your usual routine. Because first things first: bills need to be paid, and your boss is expecting you to be somewhere on time — on their behalf.

And all the while your dog is getting older as he waits for you on the couch each day. You are getting older. The days continue to dissolve and you continue to put off calling up that friend or family member whom you haven’t seen in ages. You don’t remember what you did last weekend because every weekend looks the same, and it doesn’t matter anyway. You seem to be constantly saving for something and constantly broke. Not because you don’t have money, but because you’re worried that like time, you’ll never get back what you spend, so you tuck it away hoping something worthwhile will come along, something that will give you a good return on investment. And you’re constantly searching for that one thing that’s certain. Because better safe than sorry, right?

When I was about 6 or 7 years old, I remember having what was probably my very first moment of clarity. I was sitting at the dining room table eating alone, looking across the room to the wall that held a round-faced clock. I remember staring at the second hand, focusing every thread of my being on its incessant ticking, its endless quest to move forward, to keep going. And for some reason, I remember feeling an immense sadness at the sudden, stark awareness that seconds were falling away from me. Falling away as I sat there on that table with a spoon in my hand, into a place I could never visit. It was the first time I realized that time is irretrievable.

We all have things that we want to do and things that we must do — sometimes those things align, sometimes they conflict. But no matter where those things fit in your life, I’ve learned that it’s important to prioritize what makes your heart catch fire. To do what makes you feel alive. Too many of us walk around drugged by coffee and obligations — utterly subdued into mindless routines that undo the threads of the heart by night and numb the passions of the soul by day.

Until you wake up and your skin is stale, and the pages of the novel you’d never written are sitting on your bedside table, yellowed by years of neglect. And your boss doesn’t exist in your life anymore, and you don’t remember how old you are, and it doesn’t matter anyway. Suddenly your life’s priorities involve getting to the bathroom before you let yourself go, and making your doctor’s appointments on time (they’re very busy so it’s important to be on time) because those shiny-eyed doctors with their sympathetic nods hold the answers to elongating your life (at least that’s what your mind has you believe) — though you’re unsure what you would do with your time if you did live longer. Because by that point, your best years are gone anyway (at least that’s what your mind has you believe). And dreams are for sissies anyway. Dreams are for street musicians and artist hippies and young inventors and college students who think they can change the world. Who are you to dream? Who are you?

Your PASSION is your assignment in this world

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Courtesy of Moga

We live in such a money-hungry society where success equals money and money equals success. So blinded are we by this notion that we have accepted this as fact, and if not fact, then as unfortunate reality.

I understand that money is a necessary element in this worldly existence of ours. We need it to sustain many basic needs. There’s no denying that. Homes are costly. Food we can’t just reap from the earth ourselves (and nowadays we don’t even have a say in what foods are provided to us; one word: GMO). And education… don’t get me started on that price tag.

But regardless of all these necessary expenses and financial obligations, we cannot allow money to dictate our worth. We cannot allow money to dictate where we place value and how we spend the precious years of our lives. And it’s funny. Even the words worth and value seem to be synonymous with money. We’ve been programmed to think this way and we must transcend this mind-set!

We condemn leaders with dictatorship regimes, and yet here we are allowing ourselves to be ruled by a dictator called money. We spend years chasing money, setting our life’s priorities around what will bring us more money, trying to “stack our chips” to gain purchasing power. And for what? This is the ego’s chase. Not the soul’s. Not the heart’s.

Breaking Bad
Things didn’t end well for Walter White.

Money can travel through generations. It does open certain doors. It does act as a safety net. We do need to save for retirement. We do need to cover our health care costs. Life is expensive and money is important. I’m not saying that it’s not. But.

When money becomes all we see, all we live for, when we use money to measure our worth, our success, our happiness, when money trumps all in the realm of important things, therein lies the problem.

It’s a problem because we cannot use something as finite and tangible as money to measure the infinite and intangible aspects of our human experience.

I cannot use a ruler to measure how much I have grown as a person over the last seven years. To measure how much my dog loves me. I cannot use a scale to weigh my happiness. I cannot use Facebook to gauge how many people “like” me. And I cannot use money to determine whether or not I am a successful human being.

As with anything in life, we need to find balance. To recognize our true worth and value—the power of our souls, our passions, our callings, our gifts, our love, our JOY. We need to reflect on what is important to us and live our lives accordingly.

Each person places importance on different things in life. Maybe it is someone’s dream to become CEO of a company or President of a university. That’s okay. But we can’t allow money alone to influence the strings that pull at our hearts. I understand that sometimes sacrifices must be made, but let’s not forsake what our hearts beat for. No one’s dream is too large or too small or too silly. The yearning in your heart is there for a reason.

“Joy is not in things, it is in us.” Richard Wagner

I believe each of us possesses unique gifts and passions for a reason. We spend our lives trying to find “our place” in this world of chaos, in this world that imposes its rules and standards and definitions on us. But we can find our purpose not out there in the world that seeks to categorize us, but in here, in our hearts, in our passions. What we see out there is a mere reflection of what is stirring inside ourselves.

We shouldn’t sweep our passions to a corner—or worse—abandon them, for money. Life is far more precious than that! Money comes and goes but life is like running water, uncontainable. There is nothing worse than waking up one day and realizing that you’ve spent years upon years of the one life you were given, sitting behind a desk counting dollars and vacation hours. Only to retire and be replaced by the next person. Unless you are content with that lifestyle (some people are), don’t be afraid to pursue the life that your soul aches for.

“You can fail at what you don’t love. So you might as well take a chance at doing what you love.” Jim Carrey

I refuse to be a slave to money. Do I want more of it? Of course I do! I am a human being and as human beings we always want more of everything. But do I have all that I NEED? Yes. Will money fulfill my soul? No. Can I live a full life without being a millionaire? Yes.

Create your own definition of success. Do not compare yourself to others. Reflect on your personal values, on what is important to you, and allow your life to flourish from the place in your soul that speaks to you the loudest. Do not bind your spirit for the sake of money. Please don’t be a zombie. We need more passionate people in this world!

And to all the new graduates out there… don’t let the shiny object that is money trump the infinite glow of your soul. Listen to your heart’s calling and build your life’s work around your passion. Therein lies the map to your place in this world. Everything else will fall into place. Believe in your passion. That is your assignment in this world. What a waste it would be to let it go for something as replaceable as money.

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Light up this world with the fires of your passion.

This post was inspired by this comic strip.

the things that truly matter

Thirty years from now, it won’t matter what they thought of you. It won’t matter what things you owned and accumulated, what worries you kept in your pocket.

What will matter are the lessons you learned and how you lived those lessons through.

What will matter are the lives you strived to make better, whether four-legged or two.

What will matter are the relationships you nurtured, and the time you spent trying something new.

What will matter are the fears you conquered and the calling in your heart that you heeded, because that calling makes you you.

What will matter is the knowledge you sought and the wisdom you shared with those younger than you.

Every day, rise with grace, gratitude, and purpose, breathe…

and remember the things that truly matter.

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Deciphering Happiness

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I watched this documentary recently, simply titled: Happy. It’s a thought-provoking examination of life’s most valued human emotion, happiness, and really is a must-watch for everyone. It grapples with the questions: What makes humans happy? And how can we cultivate lasting happiness in our lives?

I learned there are two types of happiness: intrinsic and extrinsic.

Intrinsic happiness has to do with the fulfillment of your soul’s needs. Fulfillment through personal growth, living your passion, knowing your values and aligning your life’s work to them, forging and maintaining meaningful relationships, giving yourself to others (which goes back to the importance of community), nurturing self-esteem, health, and well-being.

Extrinsic happiness has to do with the fulfillment of your ego’s needs (what your mind tells you you want). Fulfillment through obtaining something external (mostly tangible desires): money, success, status, recognition, any kind of “object” that you perceive will make you happy if you could only have it.

Come to think of it, extrinsic happiness is what I realized I was referring to when I wrote “happiness is a unicorn”; it comes from gaining something that you feel was missing from your life—the type of happiness that shapes the attitude: I will be happy if or when I have this.

With extrinsic happiness, we are chasing something outside of ourselves instead of looking inwards. Hence the plight of the human: we always want what we don’t have. Because of this, extrinsic happiness is fleeting. It’s not something we can ever keep or hold.

“Man is a fool. When it’s hot he wants it cool. When it’s cool he wants it hot. Always wanting what is not.”

Intrinsic happiness, on the other hand, stems from the idea that we are the source of our own happiness (“i am the compass”), and that only we can be responsible for our own happiness. As I see it, extrinsic happiness satisfies the ego while intrinsic happiness satisfies the soul. Interestingly, they directly oppose one another, and therein lies the great paradox that we experience in our hearts.

Before watching Happy, I didn’t think real and lasting happiness could be achieved in life; it seemed to me that, like every other human emotion, happiness could never be constant. I believed that happiness was a temporary high, rendering us unable to find a permanent sense of fulfillment, so that we’re constantly on a search for our next dose, the next thing that will make us happy. Each of us carries a hole in our hearts that we try to fill in some way.

But now I see that I was only thinking about extrinsic happiness. Now I see there is a constant happiness that we can achieve in our lives—one that comes from centering ourselves, knowing and being true to ourselves, and giving ourselves to something bigger than our own personal desires and ambitions. Gratitude, appreciation, purpose, a sense of connection with yourself and others… all these things cultivate a steady flow of intrinsic happiness.

I don’t mean to say that personal ambition is wrong or bad. Only that we need to find a balance between fulfilling both mind and spirit. Happiness, as I understand it now, is not just a fleeting human emotion, it’s a state of being, an attitude, a way of life, a deliberate choice to focus on certain aspects of life over others.

The documentary Happy inspires a clairvoyant understanding of this emotion that we all crave and seek. We all want to be happy. We’re all trying to figure out how to be and stay happy. We all think we know what will make us happy. Many people believe the goal and purpose of life is to achieve happiness.

But I don’t believe happiness is a goal or a prize—I believe happiness is a by-product emotion that springs from the heart, that can be achieved and maintained through actions that are driven by the heart. We become what we do every day.

Do what makes you happy and you will be happy; no action or thought is too small to inspire a sense of happiness. Chase what makes you happy and you will forever be in a chase; everything eventually loses its novelty. So what are the things that your heart longs for? And what are the things that light up your heart from the inside out? True happiness is not something to covet, it is something to be.

Watch the documentary and let me know what you think! 🙂

happiness is a unicorn

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what i need is not on a map;
i am the compass.
i have struggled,
and because i have struggled,
i have lived and
i have overcome.
sometimes, only sometimes,
waking up
is the most difficult part of the day.
i don’t know where i’m going.
i’m making up my destiny
as i go along.
it’s better this way.
more scenic.
my brain is filled with contradictions.
my heart is a well of desire.
how will i change if i catch my dreams?
is it just the thrill of the chase?
i hear happiness is a unicorn.
when we arrive at our wants
she lingers,
but always eventually
she
flees the scene.

Celebrating small victories

sunflower_on_blue_sky_by_stock_by_kaiI’m hard on myself when it comes to my accomplishments. It’s good to have high expectations for yourself, but not to a degree that makes you dismiss your small victories. My friends and family tell me I never give myself enough credit for anything I do, and they’re right. In my mind, many things that I’ve achieved have simply been “not enough”… in comparison to the bigger picture of what I hope to accomplish.

I have a hard time celebrating my small victories because I am a person who always strives to keep her mind on the bigger picture—and usually that is a good thing. Keeping an eye on the bigger picture is calming to me, most of the time. The bigger picture offers perspective, reminds me that in the grander scheme of things, I will be okay. All will be okay. The bigger picture helps me align my priorities. It keeps me in check.

But I’m slowly realizing that my bigger picture is also casting a shadow on my small victories. The bigger picture can be overwhelming. Like the sun, it can sting you if you look at it for too long. It can make you lose sight of the smaller pieces that you’ve put together that ultimately… make up that bigger picture.

There are so many things I want to do—dreams I want to see to fruition. And in this context, the bigger picture of all that I hope to accomplish ends up paralyzing me instead of motivating me. It all becomes so overwhelming. There’s just too much to do!

So I retreat.

I camp outside my mountain of dreams because the mountain hovers too high. I can’t imagine where on earth I would begin my climb, or how I would even survive such a climb.

Well, needless to say, that approach has gotten me nowhere.

I woke up one day and realized that my small victories had gathered like dust in the corners of my room. And instead of using them as building blocks, instead of seeing them as reminders that I’m on the right track, that I’m doing something and there’s still more to do, I left them there to dry… to blur into the background of my life.

Celebrate your small victories! Make a big deal out of them. (Maybe not to the extent of throwing a party and inviting all your friends, but…) In your mind, they should always represent a check point on your road to your bigger picture, your vision of your success. Small victories are evidence of growth and progress. Evidence that you are an active member of life.

And realize that you should always have a vision of your success—there should always be something you’re chasing, something that will push you and inspire you to do better and be better. There’s no such thing as “arriving” at your success. People who “arrive” at their successes and decide to kick their feet up only get passed up by the rest of us who don’t stop moving forward. And I don’t mean to say that life is a race and that we should compare our successes to other people’s—no. What I mean is that once you lift from your mind this idea that success is a destination, you will be able to relax to a degree and appreciate your small victories.

And it’s not easy. We see our goals, our hopes, our dreams… we see them as shimmering palaces in the far distance, and we become weary wondering if we’ll ever find our way there. But life is not a prize to covet, it’s an experience, and so it is with success and accomplishment. Small victories, like memories we accumulate over the years, are a part of your bigger picture, a part of your experience, a part of your success, a part of your story. They are significant.

So celebrate your small victories; don’t just keep your eyes on the prize, on the big mountain of your dreams. Without your small victories, there would be no mountain… and your dreams would just be wishes in the wind.

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