Friday, April 24, 2015


“If all you did was just look around for things to appreciate, you would live a joyous, spectacular life” Abraham Hicks
I have written about gratitude before, and it only makes sense to write about joy, too, since they go hand in hand. When we think about all the things we are grateful for in our lives, the end result is often a feeling of joy. When we are joyful, expressing gratitude becomes easy and effortless. The two create a reinforcing cycle of positivity, when you experience one the other often follows. Learning to cultivate both will allow you to create a “joyous, spectacular life.”
First, what is joy? It is defined as “an intense and especially ecstatic or exultant happiness, or an instance of such a feeling.” Joy does not necessarily need to be felt with such a force. It can be more of a slow, simmering feeling that builds up and gathers strength as it goes. It can also be maintained for a long period of time-a lifetime even, rather than cycles of becoming  bright and hot too fast and burning out. One way to maintain joy is to identify sources of joy in your life.
What brings you joy? As I suggested with cultivating gratitude, create a “joy list” as a way to actively cultivate joy. This can be anything that lifts you up or makes you smile (a recommended starting point is at least five). If you can, try to make them “big picture” items (as opposed to “I’m really thirsty and a glass of water would bring me joy at this moment). In spite of hardships in my life, there are still plenty of things to be joyful of. My family and my faith, for starters: “You have filled my heart with greater joy” (Psalm 4:7). Recognizing what expands upon our joy and writing it down allows us to have a physical reminder to revisit. In less joyful times, this list can be a way to help maintain joy, in spite of what is happening around us.   
What many of us don’t realize- or take the ‘long way’ in discovering- is that joy is an entirely internal state, independent of external circumstances. Whether you get a lottery ticket or a parking ticket does not need to dictate your joy level (or lack thereof). Joy may not come easily at first, in fact, for many people it doesn’t. Like anything in life, it is a practice that requires some work. Many of us get stuck in a routine, a search for constant improvement, and we become wired to constantly get better, reach the next level, never settle. There’s always something more for us to do, be, or have, just beyond our reach. Part of joy is learning to be content with where we are now, otherwise we’ll push it aside, saying “I can be joyful when I reach this next point in my life. That’s when it will be ok.”
Joy can be as easy or as difficult as we make it. If you find yourself putting your pursuit of a joyful life aside for other items on your “to-do” list, consider this proverb: “The body heals with play, the mind heals with laughter and the spirit heals with joy.” Maybe, with a little joy, you can reach goals you’d never believed attainable.


    Thursday, April 16, 2015


    Throughout history, we’ve heard incredible stories of people who have received divine messages from a being beyond themselves, giving them the courage and direction to perform a great feat. There’s Moses and the burning bush, Joan of Arc, and English artist William Blake, to name a few. In fact, the idea of divine inspiration still fascinates us today, as it has a place in our pop culture with movies like Angels in the Outfield. These people are all different nationalities, ages, gender, and yet they have something in common: they were open to receiving a divine message. They may have initially had fear and resisted action at first, but there was a greater force inside of them that granted them the ability to hear. Here is an even greater secret: we all have that ability.
    Here’s an analogy using modern technology. We are all like phones, capable of sending and receiving calls. However, some of us may have voicemails that are more full than others. These past messages may be old ideas, insecurities or beliefs that are taking up space. What happens when you don’t clean out the old messages in your voicemail? It fills up, and you can’t receive any new messages. Until you clear out whatever is spiritually blocking you, you won’t be able to receive any new messages. Do your best to clear out those old messages, and if something or someone is keeping you tied up on the other line, you may need to hang up. As author Paulo Coelho says, “If you’re brave enough to say goodbye, life will reward you with a new hello.”
    I’d also like to express the importance of opening yourself to receiving messages without constantly expecting one. There is a balance between keeping your ears, heart and mind open to receive without looking for meaning in everything. If you try to make everything you see into some sort of sign, you become distracted and ultimately block yourself from receiving new messages. The messages you look for do not work like a magic 8 ball that you can ask whether or not you should buy a certain pair of shoes or what you should eat for lunch.
    You may encounter something difficult or find yourself at a crossroads, with no idea which path to choose. These are the moments when we are most likely to crave some sort of sign or message- and become impatient when it does not arrive on our time. I am definitely guilty of this impatience. But, doesn’t it defeat the purpose to have these signs available to us at the snap of our fingers? To be able to just say “Okay, Universe, I need you to tell me which way to go now” and get a clear, instant answer. Signs are much more powerful when our own influence is absent from them.
    The bottom line: keep your “lines open,” be it through prayer, meditation, or whatever works best for you, and don’t force it.  Be open to receiving and “Believe with all your heart that you will do what you were made to do”( Orson Swett Marden), and more will be revealed.


    Friday, April 10, 2015


    Life is a series of peaks and valleys, ups and downs, good days and bad. One day, it may seem as if you’re on top of the world, only to feel knocked down the very next day. Life is a balancing act, and we have to take the good with the bad. But I’m talking about the severe valleys- the ones that go so deep, you lose reception for hope. Let me first say, you will make it out of the valley, because that is how life moves. In the meantime, though, let’s discuss the nature of sorrow and it’s purpose in our lives.
    It’s hard to imagine a grander plan in the midst of pain and suffering. Why do terrible, horrific things happen in our world? Why do things like sadness, despair, and heartbreak exist? These questions are powerful, and can shake the foundations of even the most spiritually sound people. Sorrow is perhaps one of the most devastating emotions (rage being the most misunderstood, and joyful the most sought-after).
    In the thick of the storm, I recommend trying to find refuge in the belief that “This too shall pass,” far away though it may seem. Nothing is ever put in our paths that we are not capable of getting through, no matter how hopeless it may initially seem. The difficulties you are facing today are the valleys you must climb through, perhaps crawling at times, to get to the top of your next mountain. You may not notice the progress you’re making at first, but the point is to keep moving forward.  As Roman poet Ovid suggested, “Bear and endure: this sorrow will one day prove to be for your good.” A helpful exercise is recalling a past difficulty that you experienced. Despite the pain you felt at the time, you made it through and became a stronger person.   
    Yet, in spite of this knowledge that brighter days are ahead of us, perhaps we have languished a bit too long in the gray, rainy days and have strained our eyes from searching for a break in the clouds. This is a good time to remind ourselves that life is a balancing act: “We enjoy warmth because we have been cold. We appreciate light because we have been in darkness. By the same token, we can experience joy because we have known sadness” (David Weatherford). We are not allowed the benefit (or curse) of experiencing only one side of the coin- that is not the way our world was designed. Sorrow is only a small part of the larger spectrum of emotion that we are capable of feeling. When you’re feeling low, remember that it’s all part of the process, and it will pass.
    Even Carl Jung said “The word ‘happiness’ would lose it’s meaning if it were not balanced by sadness.” Because we have sorrows, we are better able to accept happiness and truly understand what it means when we feel it. Sorrow is just as beautiful as happiness, and just as important


    Wednesday, April 1, 2015


    Happy April! This time of year is associated with beginning, rebirth, awakening, and growth. (Is it any coincidence Easter is this weekend?) It is a time for coming alive and appreciating the beauty that surrounds us. It’s a time of year that brings a breath of fresh air to our lives. Think of the ritual of spring cleaning: we clean our homes, ridding closets of old clothing, neglected crevices and crannies of dust, fix leaky faucets, and begin planning gardens. It’s a time of year that inspires a fresh start. But, as anyone may ask before beginning a behemoth task like spring cleaning, “Where do I begin?”
    Are there some areas of your life that you are dissatisfied with? This is the perfect time to make positive changes! By embracing the notion of rebirth, you can begin again. It may be a new diet, commitment to a health change, career related goals- whatever has been occupying space in the back of your mind, there’s no time like the present to get started! “You can’t change your life until your mind changes” rings true for many. Your thoughts carry a great amount of weight and have the power to shape your reality. Constantly thinking “I can’t” or “I’m not ready” only solidifies that core belief in your life, and the truth is, you will never be ready until you decide to be ready. Once you decide “Yes, I can and I will,” the rest of your life will catch up!
    Part of the “self” spring cleaning process is identifying the problem areas- the places that have mentally gathered some dust for you. Perhaps it’s a matter of confronting your doubts and/or insecurities. It may involve breaking the habit of hitting snooze 3 times before finally getting out of bed, or going to the bakery after work. Maybe it’s carving more time for yourself out of a schedule bursting with commitments. You probably already have an idea which areas of your life have been neglected, and in spite of external factors, you can turn any ship around. All it takes is a bit of willingness: “You are a mirror reflecting a noble face. The universe is not outside of you. Look inside yourself; Everything that you want, you are already that”- Rumi.
    Let’s go back to the spring cleaning analogy. Pretend that whatever is holding you back (the snooze button, a busy schedule, a series of doubts, fear, etc) is a bunch of grime covering the windows of your home. It’s time for spring cleaning, so you roll up your sleeves, grab soap, water, windex (or any other tools you would like to implement), and apply some elbow grease. Bit by bit, you see some progress. Once you’re finished, your windows are sparkling, and look at all the light that’s now shining in your home! You may even wonder how you lived before, with all the grime casting darkness over your life.
    No matter what challenges life has presented you with recently, there’s no better time than spring to shed that former skin, whether it be blemished by insecurity, doubt, fear, and so on- and let the authentic you breath the fresh, spring air!