5 Things You Don’t Want But Need

Wahiawa Botanical Garden

We spend a lot of time (too much of it actually) focusing on all the things we want.

We want a new car,

a house,

a 4-person family,

a new job,

a spa day,

a luxurious trip…

Over the holidays, it’s even easier to fantasize about all the things we could have. Some of us have dreams as BIG as Oprah’s Favorite Things List.

What we rarely spend time dreaming about, however, are the things we really need. This post is dedicated to that.

During this holiday season, I hope you’ll savor a few moments, drinking in the nectar of these:

1) L o V e:

Love comes not from material things. You can’t get it from your wallet or download it like an app. It takes a good deal of time and work. But it’s as necessary as the air you breathe.

2)  Silence:

Everywhere we go there’s noise. When we’re in the city, there’s traffic. When we go out of the city, there’s white noise from our smartphones, TVs and computers. Go out a little further away and sit in silence. It will feel unnerving, even painfully quiet at first. But then your ears will rest in the place where you and your soul can finally meet. Then you will hear the trees. Then you will know the answers you have been waiting for.

3) K~i~n~d~n~e~s~s:

We’re too busy to be kind. We’re too important, too fancy, too smart…There’s not enough time to be kind, courteous, or civil. You have a list of wants to run after. But you do disservice to the world and yourself when you choose to be short instead of kind. Kindness begets more kindness. Change yourself. Change the world.

4) W*o*n*d*e*r

A little wonder can change your life. You don’t think you need it, but over time a lack of wonder will age you. It will grow cracks in your heart. It will cover your eyes. It will make you see life as mundane, as routine, as required, expected. You take life for granted. You start to miss out on the magic. Breed wonder. Kill routine.

5) Vulnerability:

The dreaded V-word. We spend a lifetime running away from it to avoid disappointment, hurt, pain. But in escaping we also flee from love, excitement and the sweetness of connection. It takes a courageous heart to venture into the world of vulnerability. But once we open to it, our lives open up as well.

What will you be dreaming about in 2014?

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Using Art to Move Your Life

{Not all sharing is a good thing. An alley wall full of chewed up gum.}

I’m currently taking Brene Brown’s The Gift of Imperfection Life Class. That along with twice a day walks, listening to Oprah and Deepak Chopra’s free Destiny meditation and cutting out refined and processed carbs has completely changed me inside and out. It’s slowly lessening the gap between who I am on the inside and the me I show the world.

One of the things that has specifically shifted is my intention of being authentic, expressing my true self and using artistic expression and creativity to push me forward. That sometimes means dragging a paintbrush across a canvas, decorating a room, or writing down a poem. Sometimes I share it here. Other times I hide it away in a book.

When do you share and when do you keep things to yourself?

In Brown’s class, she discusses what it means to be vulnerable. Sharing what we feel is vulnerable is one way we release shame. {Kind of like this poem I wrote here.} The difference with sharing too much and sharing enough depends on your ability to be okay regardless of the feedback.

The same thing may happen if you’re deciding whether to share something deeply personal with the world. Maybe it’s a dream, a secret, a trauma, an amazing accomplishment, a fear…Whatever it is feels terrifying to share. But secrets can eat you up from the inside. The only way to freedom is through reaching out. The key is to be very discriminative about who you choose to share what to.

I’ve made this mistake too many times in entrusting my precious thoughts, feelings and dreams to people who couldn’t hear it so they a) criticized it b) tore it apart c) told others about it. In the end, expressing my dreams felt dangerous and left me feeling wounded. What I learned in the process it that if I could use art and creativity to work my way through what felt hard and personally dealt with it, then I had the inner strength to share the work with those I loved, trusted and felt safe around. And that in return, felt wonderfully healing.

These days, social media makes sharing all too easy. When we’re pissed at a friend, a relative or a boss, it’s so easy to vent but so hard to take back what’s been sent.

Here’s my suggestion.

The next time you’re going through a rough situation. Put a pause on blogging, updating and tweeting to the world. Instead open up a journal, write down your thoughts or take a pen, crayons, pencils, paint and draw it in on a canvas. Then when you’re ready and not depending on what others have to say about it, share it with those who are near and dear to your heart.

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Loving What You Got

{flickr photo by QuinnDombrowski}

{flickr photo by QuinnDombrowski}

It’s not always easy to look down at your cracked shoes, your too light wallet, your larger-than-life thighs and say to yourself, “Gee, I love my life!”

But I’m going to tell you why it’s hard not to.

Even though you could list hundreds of things you don’t like about yourself, your situation, your life, there is within every single person so many GOOD reasons to legitimately say, “Thank you!” And it’s all the things you think you hate about your life that actually make it so.

It’s me when I’m being too vocal, expressing my distaste for a certain food or dislike for a restaurant. In afterthought, I cringe wishing that I could have swallowed my voice instead of spoke up. It makes me feel too diva-ish, too brash, too much. But it’s also the thing I love most about myself if only I allowed myself to embrace it.

You might find that same conflict within yourself. The thing you criticize about someone else-they’re too judgmental, complain-y, immature, etc.-are the very shadows that you try to hide within yourself. There’s a fear that if you were to let that aspects of your self out, you would be teased or worse hated. In Care of the Soul (a book that found me in Glen Ellen, California, in a “keep-a-book, give-a-book library”), Thomas Moore says:

“It appears to me that as we open ourselves to see what our soul is made of and who we really are, we always find some material that is a profound challenge.”

And oftentimes what makes us feel ugly and weird are actually just reasons for celebration. Why? It provides evidence of our uniqueness, our individuality, what makes us different. And sometimes that can be the answers to our life purpose.

Maybe I’m not supposed to stay small and quiet, but to be bold and expressive. And letting that side out is the only way I can release my fears and express my soul’s purpose.

That isn’t to say every bad habit or behavior is justified. But it’s also not about repressing or hating them either. In silencing our inner complainer, for example, we may be neglecting ourselves. Moore says the way toward healing is through love. And that means loving even the so-called hard parts and then listening to why they are there.

Holocaust survivor, Nobel Laureate, and writer Elie Wiesel said on Oprah’s Super Soul Sunday:

“Whatever you do in life remember, think higher and feel deeper.”

I believe it’s only in completely surrendering to who we are in this moment that we can completely live and love our life. If we do anything less than that, we will miss our calling. We miss our purpose for being here. We become disconnected from our truth because we’re too wrapped up into what we don’t have, what we never got, and why so-and-so is so much better than us.

Thinking higher means we grasp onto an elevated way of thinking of our lives and our self. Feeling deeper means that we don’t hold back. We feel the highest of highs and lowest of lows and know that if we stay true to who we are, we will always land on our feet.

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How Much of an Impact Do You Really Have in the World?

Your True Purpose

There will come a time when you doubt your influence and significance in life. Maybe in your twenties you thought you were invincible and believed that you had the power to change the world.

In your thirties, your dreams began to shift a bit. You scaled them down as other things and people took priority.

Somewhere along the way you began to lose sight of your dreams. You now worry that you may never fulfill your purpose. And that regardless of any fame or recognition you’ve gotten over the life of your career, the most important thing is having a sense of purpose and meaning. But you’re not even sure you managed to do that.

Here’s what I think. I think you deserve a pass. Just for today, consider the impact you have by just being here.

Don’t believe me?

Ask your kids, your friends, your partner, what you do for them that makes them happy and what they love most about you. It won’t be your job promotion, your book hitting the best seller list or anything else you think you need to have in order to have a meaningful life.

My grandfather, for example, had one of the biggest influence on my life. Not because he worked three jobs on the plantation to support his family. In fact, on paper he didn’t do anything grand or momentous except for the fact that he loved his family and he loved me. He had a very simple, ordinary life.

Sometimes we get too hard on ourselves for not “making it in life.” We’re not all meant to be millionaires, best-selling authors, and spiritual gurus. What we are meant to do is to truly be who we are.

Just by the act of being authentic we free ourselves and others to be the loving, influential beings we are all meant to be.

For today, try learning to wear a garment of gratitude instead of hard cold armor. Try it and in doing so, watch as the meaning, and influence you’ve always wanted doesn’t just flow into your life effortlessly.

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When Everything Stops

When I first started blogging, I had an unlimited source of energy and enthusiasm. I flocked to people who took BIG risks in their lives, overcame seemingly impossible obstacles and became successful because of it. My excitement over finding them was much greater than my fear of contacting them. And so I did.

That’s how I was able to eventually get interviews with authors, Olympians and bloggers I admired from afar. I never in a million years thought that they’d take the time to answer my questions to be on this little blog.

But I have to say that in the few years that I’ve been blogging, the passion has waned a bit. I am still drawn to inspiring people and feel a surge of adrenaline when I read or watching something that inspires me. But I would be lying if I didn’t say I’ve lost that loving feeling.

With my daily blog over at Beliefnet Health and my online column for The Writer magazine, I sometimes feel like a dried out sponge.

So I’m turning to you…

I know a lot of you who read this blog (and I’m so grateful for you that do) are also bloggers yourself. How do you keep the loving feeling going? What do you do to help juggle blogging and/or job, and your life? Do you have any blogs that you read that help lift you up? 

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Watch Out for Those Dream Killers!

{flickr photo Andrew Magill}

I had a disturbing dream the other night. A loud, abrasive woman (who resembled me on PMS) said, “You need to watch out and guard your inspiration and your passion!” or something to that effect.

That poor, harried lady who scared the hell out of me was trying her hardest to warn me of what scares me the most-dream killers. While they exist everywhere, they are particularly rampant and concentrated in certain areas (especially if you grew up with them).

In fact, I have grown up with a lot of them. And because of it, I’ve attracted and invited a few into my life. While it’s never pleasant to hear how I “haven’t really made it yet” or why any writing job I get will never be as grand as my third uncle from a second marriage’s impressive career, I do have to say this:

If life was a school, they’d be my biggest teachers.

How to Outsmart Smarty Pants People

The only way to negate negative people is to:

  1. Minimize your time with them. {I talk a little more about that and about the people you should avoid if you’re in a particularly bad mood on my Beliefnet blog here.}
  2. Pretend you’ve got headphones on and you can’t read lips.
  3. Suck it all in, run far away from them and then scream, exercise and vent in journal or to a supportive friend.
  4. Smile and say, “Thanks for sharing” and try not to do it with sarcasm.

The one thing you should NOT do is to reply with anger, in the heat of the moment and say things you’ll regret.

The thing about us creative types is that we’re extra sensitive people. And the funny thing about that is we often grow up in communities and families that are less than sensitive to our feelings.

—>If I’ve learned anything it’s that the worst thing you can do is attack someone who you feel is attacking you. It might feel tempting to point out your friend’s hypocritical criticism especially when he/she has yet to take a risk and follow their own dreams. Or to laugh at a relative who makes a nasty comment about your creative endeavors when they haven’t done anything creative or risky themselves. But that’s the point.

When it comes down to it:

The best thing you can do is to put on an invisible shield and let those words bounce right off of you. Realize that no matter how much it stings, most of what they say has nothing to do with you.<—

Remember you don’t have anything to prove to anyone.  You are on your own path and they are on theirs. Remember that as long as you’re continuing to follow your dreams, you are not the loser, coward, failure they say you are. In fact, you are a survivor, someone who simply deserves everything you ever wanted in life because you are here and made it this far.

*I took a much needed Creative Friday break. The last one really wore me out, which you can read about here and here. I hope to be back to my regular schedule next week. Have you been busy crafting while I’ve been away on vacation? Tell me please! I need the motivation.

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Perfection & Productivity Can Kill You

Big IslandThe Lure of Being Productive

This weekend I was highly productive. I wrote three queries, worked on two essays, did a painting and caught up on my reading. I also spent time with friends, went to a museum, a farmer’s market and a coffee shop.

In the midst of all my doing, however, I started to wonder if I was veering way too far off course. In the process of all that doing, was I neglecting just being?

There were a few bread crumbs that led me to question my latest endeavors. There was this post by writer hero and friend Jordan Rosenfeld who I once interviewed here.

And then there was this passage from Gregg Levoy’s Callings: Finding and Following an Authentic Life: “The beating heart of self-esteem is the feeling that we’re acceptable as we are, without having to earn it.”

And the feeling of dread as I put down my paintbrush when I saw that the painting before me was not the beauty of perfection I had hoped.

In Mark Nepo’s Book of Awakening he says,”What we need is always harshly and beautifully right before us, disguised in the wrapping of our nearest urgency. We just refuse to accept this, because it feels so difficult to face.”

The True Purpose of Life

All experiences reminded me that perfection, production, completion are not the goals of this life. That one does not need to perform perfection in order to earn love and self-worth. I was reminded that although we creatives often need validation, we should not be seeking it through our work.

The process, however, imperfect and painful is part of the journey.

Learning to hold ourselves in that process is the key to truly living a meaningful, purposeful life.

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