Tuesday, June 26, 2012

The Transformation Before Flight

I recently learned something completely fascinating about caterpillars' metamorphoses into butterflies. Did you know that their whole chubby little multi-legged physical makeup rearranges itself into a sort of magical goop and then puts itself back together in the form of a beautiful winged insect?

The site How Stuff Works explains it like this:
"Think of it as recycling—if you drop a plastic bottle off in the recycling bin, it can be melted down into an entirely different shape. This is what happens inside the chrysalis. Much of the body breaks itself down into imaginal cells, which are undifferentiated—like stem cells, they can become any type of cell. The imaginal cells put themselves back together into a new shape."

I wish I had known this before every break up. Before I got laid off from my first job. Before I moved somewhere new. 

Knowing that, even though my very DNA felt inside-out and upside-down, I was going to emerge a fully intact new and more capable being would have been immensely comforting.

I have quite a few friends who are in transitional cocoons right now. I'm sure they are feeling like the lives they knew have liquified. I'm sure it's hard to figure out what to do with the unfamiliar sludge they've been left with.

But the butterfly may offer an explanation for them. 

Even though it may feel like they're stuck in a shell or slowly melting, I would bet that their "imaginal cells" are just in the process of reconfiguring. And eventually everything will come back together as it should—in a new and breathtaking way. In a way that will let them fly like they never have before.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Happiness: A Follow-Up to Last Night's Post

One of my favorite blogger friends brought up a valid point on last night's post, so I wanted to go back and expand a bit more on the thinking here.

Writing in a gratitude journal won't magically erase big unhappiness. It won't reform a cheating husband,  repair childhood trauma, bring back a lost loved one, or make a terrible boss suddenly supportive and fun to be around. It's true that some spouts of unhappiness will keep gushing full force until time heals them, or you make a big change to your situation—or yourself.

But I truly believe that when we're awash in those larger points of unhappiness, it becomes even more important to focus on little joys. Otherwise, we are all misery all the time. And that is no way to live.

A gratitude journal can help you identify the little joys—and taking those one step further can help you cultivate bright spots of happiness in your life.

For example, I love and am eternally grateful for cheese. Knowing this, I also know that if I eat cheese (and bruschetta) for dinner on nights I'm feeling low, it usually helps me perk up—even if just for an hour or so. Maybe you love your dog, so dedicating twenty minutes a day to playing ball with her could help you elevate your mood. Or maybe you feel grateful for your health, so taking a hike once a week would help you feel happy and fortunate. Or maybe giving a manicure to those fingers that work themselves to the bone will give you a little boost.

Whatever your mini joys are, identifying and acting on them is a gift you can give yourself whenever you need it most. 

[CAVEAT: As with most things, there's a line that should be observed when indulging in joy. I love wine and chocolate—they both bring me joy—but if I were to consume massive amounts of them daily, I could quickly fall over the edge of happiness into an overeating or binge drinking situation. Everything in moderation, right?]

I think the other thing about cultivating happy moments each day is that sometimes in those moments, you can have big breakthroughs that will influence the things making you unhappy.

When I was in my twenties and in a challenging, slowly souring relationship, I spent one day at the beach with friends before a U2 concert and had the time of my life. At the end of the evening, I found myself thinking, "I want to feel like THIS every day!"

It was the push I needed to end my unhappy love affair.

While I wholly understand that we all go through periods where it's hard to see any shred of happiness in our lives, I think those are the times when it's most important to hunker down and look for them.

Like I said in last night's post, every day counts.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Happiness: Get There Today

For most of my life, I thought I would find happiness when I found love. I thought when I got married to the right man, everything would fall into place and all would be well in the world.

But after I returned from my honeymoon last year, I discovered that settling into happiness in one area of your life often just opens you up to another spot in need of tending. With the excitement of the wedding over, and no more trips abroad to look forward to, I found myself feeling restless, wanting to change up my career in some way.

It was almost like I had checked one thing off my to-do list and was just moving on to the next.

Happiness should never be a to-do list. 

I read an article in O Magazine recently wherein Deepak Chopra shared this story:

"As a doctor, I used to ask my patients, 'Why do you want to get well?' They'd say they wanted to be rid of illness. 'Why do you want to be rid of the illness?' Oh so I can go back to work. 'Why do you want to go to work?' So I can pay my bills. 'Why do you want to do that?' Then finally they'd say 'Shut up—all I want to do is be happy!' I say why not start with happiness? Why go about it in such a circuitous way?" - Deepak Chopra, 6/2012

We're always looking for that next thing that will lead us to happiness, aren't we? 

Instead of finding happiness in the current moment, we think, "Oh I'll feel good when X happens." Or, "I'll be able to enjoy life when I cross Y off my list."

Life is too short, my friends. Some of us will run out of time before we make it to that next item on our to-do lists.

As many of my favorite spiritual thought leaders have suggested, one of the simplest ways to focus on happiness is to look at your life with gratitude. Identify the things that deserve thanks. And a great way to shine the light on these things is to start a gratitude journal. Every day, you'll be reminded of happy moments, memories and feelings. The reasons you are blessed. The reasons you are fortunate during your time on this earth.

I started keeping a journal again—it's not the first time I've had one—in those weeks after my honeymoon. And it certainly helped.

After awhile, the identification of good things becomes second nature. The happiness comes without trying.

And that in itself is a source of great joy.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Try, Try Again

I read an article sometime last year about how bestselling author of The Help, Kathryn Stockett, got turned down 60 times before having her book picked up by a publisher. In the article, she reflects on what would have happened if she had given up after 15 submissions or 40 or 50.

She didn't give up because she knew she had something fantastic to offer.

She believed.

I can't help but think of dating or job searching or a number of other noble endeavors when I consider Stockett's story.

If we give up on ourselves, how will we ever know how far we can go? 

I have friends who settled down because they found men who were "good enough" and they were tired of being unmarried. Sadly, several of them have parted ways with their spouses. And I have to wonder if they had kept searching just a little longer for that right fit, if maybe their Mr. Wonderfuls would have been the next guys in line for them. If they had held out and held onto the faith that they had fantastic things to offer, maybe their stories would have turned out a bit more like Kathryn Stockett's.

Belief is the starting point for making dreams reality. 

Beginning with a belief that you deserve something and then acting as though you know you're going to get it—or better yet that you ALREADY have it—whether it be a man or a job title or an apartment—that is the mindset that manifests desires. 

I know we all get tired. Dating is exhausting. Job- and house-hunting can for sure take a toll on you. But why not just try one more time. Or two or three. And see what happens.

The teeniest bit of passion—the eensiest amount of hope—could blossom into a reward more wonderful than you ever dreamed.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Harnessing the Power of the Five-Minute Brainstorm

I can distinctly remember lying under the stars as a teenager, wondering how I was ever going to break out of my small town bubble to travel the world and have adventures. Sigh...the hopelessness. Then there was that time in the autumn of 2004 when I lay on my couch feeling like I would never get out of the job I didn't love and into one I did. And the countless times I sprawled on my back, staring at the ceiling of my apartment, trying to regain the hope that I would ever fall in love.

There's something about hopelessness that just makes you need to lie down, isn't there? 

Feeling like you're stuck and you can't alter your circumstances is emotionally exhausting. But I've learned that if you pull yourself up off the couch or the floor, grab paper and a pen, and set the kitchen timer to five minutes, you can usually come up with a heaping list of ways that you could change your course and potentially open yourself wide up to new possibilities, new opportunities, new reasons to be hopeful.

Don't believe me? Try it.

When I was single and frustrated and feeling like I wasn't meeting any guys even close to what I thought would be my Mr. Wonderful, I sat down and brainstormed a list of things I could do to put myself out there.

It's sort of like answering the question, "If I REALLY wanted to go all out and open myself up to all possibilities, what would I do?" 

At the time, I think my list included things like "go to the coffee shop before work," "take trips to the museums around LA," "sign up for an outdoors class of some sort at REI," and the scariest one of all, "join an online dating site."

When I did the same exercise for changing my job situation, my brainstorm list included, "spend 15 minutes each day checking job boards," "send out 3 resumes a weeks," "reach out to contacts from past jobs," and "quit my job and try to freelance."

Both of those particular lists contained about 20 additional steps I could take to unstick myself. And the funny thing was that I ended up jumping to the scariest item on each list and it led me to the biggest and most positive changes.

But perhaps the more important thing each five-minute brainstorm did was restore my hope.

Knowing that you haven't exhausted all your options—that you have an arsenal of catalysts that could propel you toward the man or job or travel adventure of your dreams—can be amazingly hope-inducing. 

And hope breeds positivity. And positivity is the foundation of manifesting your desires.

Ready to set your alarm to a five-minute countdown?