Happiness Before You

Some days I will search and search for “misplaced” sunglasses or keys or some such only to find the item right before my very eyes. I call the phenomenon “displacia”, an affliction caused by a crowded mind.

The search for happiness is similar. We think it isn’t “here” so we search and search for it elsewhere only to find (if we’re lucky) that happiness has been right before us all along. In fact, happiness cannot be pursued (although the Founding Fathers in the United States would have us believe it is our right to pursue it). It can only be discovered from within.

Perhaps it is the privilege of getting older, but I find sustained happiness to be easier now that I have found the secret to it. It has nothing to do with material gain or wealth or external adoration. It has everything to do with cherishing our innate joy with which each of us was born.

We receive the ticket to happiness the moment we arrive in this world. For some the road is long, the journey agonizing, the destination just ever so slightly out of reach. For others, who may experience similar things, the road is bumpy, yet instructive, the journey is challenging, but manageable, the destination irrelevant.

Resilience is essential to maintain that joyful equilibrium in the face of anything. Self-care ensures we remain centered in a state of abundance regardless of the circumstances. A sense of curiosity about the world provides a richness that no bank account can fulfill.

Happiness lies before you. Or better said: within you. There is no need to chase after that which you can create in the workshop of the heart.

Declutter the mind and happiness will follow.

Limitlessness, Joy and the Pursuit of Happiness

“Thoughts,” my friend said, “are just thoughts. Our innate state is joy.”

According to my wise friend, we don’t return to that state of joy – we always have it. Only sometimes we forget because all those thoughts fill the space between us and that state of bliss from whence we come.

I like it. It contradicts the US Constitution, which guarantees our right to the pursuit of happiness. If we already have joy within us, why would we look elsewhere to find it?

When the world seems to be crashing upon our heads, it is sort of hard to remember these things. But it is those very hurdles that keep us alert to all that we have. Gratitude and sadness cannot occupy the same room. But joy and gratitude can.

Another friend recently told me he welcomes challenges because they help him remain mindful of what is truly important in life. If we were never challenged, we would grow soft, perhaps even arrogant and certainly unsympathetic to those who suffer around us. Without some measure of discomfort, we would become distant from the rest of the world, living in an Ivory Tower without a grasp on the deeper realities before us.

Empathy comes from our own experience with suffering. We would not know how another feels if we had never had those very feelings ourselves. Each of us handles pain differently. Some have a low threshold of tolerance; others have an enormous capacity to manage it. But as my sister recently said to me, it is not what happens in life that matters. It is how you deal with it.

Our limits are of our own making. We are truly limitless creatures with a mind that bridles us. Thoughts can keep us back from our truest nature. Or they can bring us back to where we are meant to be.

Our most authentic state of being is joy. Remembering that will ensure we see what we have sought all along.


Vulnerability is not for the fragile

Teetering on a tightrope, trying not to look down, arms dancing from side to side in spread-eagle fashion. Toes sweating. Heart racing. Mind frozen in concentration. Being vulnerable is not for the fair-hearted.

Somewhere in my history, I thought showing any sign of weakness was somehow wrong. Being vulnerable was high on my list of not-to-do’s. Instead, I proudly belonged to the stiff upper lip crowd, smiling through simply everything. The message I received at a very early age was that being cute somehow meant I’d be lovable. In the black-and-white shadows of a child’s mind, that also meant not being cute meant not being loved.

And everyone wants love, yes?

We piece together a belief system as we grow, drawing conclusions and meanings from experience. And we live as if those carefully constructed guidelines are true.

And while our personalized rules and regulations may have served us well for a very long time, they become outdated at some point because life is an ever flowing river in which you never step twice.

If I have learned anything in the last two years since I moved to my beloved Freiburg, it is that breaking yourself wide open is the most courageous thing you can do. And courage takes strength, not weakness. Vulnerability does not leave us cowering in the corner in fear. Right before we walk on that stage of authenticity, we may be afraid, but the moment we move forward into the lights, something starts to shift. We release something within ourselves, like a dark secret that has weighed us down. And suddenly, the pressure that vacuum-packed secret created dissolves in thin air. When we step into that tender space within ourselves, we are drawing on the implicit well of goodness with which we were born. We reveal the very essence of who we are. And that is simply irresistible.

Vulnerability is contagious. When you rest in the vastness of your utmost truth, others start to settle into theirs. Have you ever noticed how you suddenly attract very different people when you are being real versus being fake? We start to break a long-held pattern of “keeping it altogether” to falling slightly apart. And in that brokenness, we create a new space for people to join us in our uphill battles and sorrow. We are not left behind. Quite the contrary! In embracing our own humanity, we invite others to do the same.

That is when the beauty of life — in all its richness — unfolds. Being vulnerable is key to living the life you are meant to live.

Take that leap of faith. This is your life. Who else but you can live it?

The Joy Choice

No matter what is swirling about you and the squeeze you feel from it- train strikes, illness, pending surgeries or demanding clients — there is always room for joy.

In fact, I have found when I make the conscious choice for joy over suffering that everything works out. Miracle or Universal law? I’d say it’s the latter.

Want to know a secret? Things always work out just as they should, whether we are fretting about them or not. But as life unfolds, we can decide how we are going to feel about it. The joy choice requires a certain level of mental discipline. When standing at the precipice between upset and acceptance, we can ask ourselves: “How do I want to feel about this?” Sometimes I actively choose to feel bad about it. I wrangle. I wrestle. I rant. I rave. And after I have exhausted all my emotional options of negativity, I standing panting in the middle of the room. The only thing that has changed is my brain chemistry. And I’m pretty darn tired from the rage of it all.

Other times  I actively choose joy. I take each moment and drink the nectar of beauty. When negative thoughts come into my mind, I ask them where their invitation to my party is. They blink. They stutter. They turn on their heels and leave.

It is marvelous to have that level of control over your own experience.

Another thing that helps is looking at what is going right in the face of what I perceive to be going wrong. That’s when my focus shifts and that which I think is wrong actually turns out to be a lovely piece of the entire picture.

As my friend Simone likes to say, life is always right. So why do we spend so much time fighting against it?

Opting for joy has been the best decision of my life. And you, my dear friends, are invited to my joy party any time you like. Won’t you join me?

The Universal Law of Abundance

Never underestimate the power of your mind. What you think truly is so.

When we entertain a lack mentality, such as a lack of time, money or other resources, we literally create an energetic wall around ourselves that keeps those very things from entering our lives.

When we move through the world with a mentality of abundance, we get a tsunami wave of every intention fulfilled, every desire met, every need completed.

I saw the Unviersal Law of Abundance in action just yesterday.

My friend has been selling his wares across open air markets for over two decades. But over the last few years his motivation has slowed. He is ready to move on in his life, tackle new challenges and make room for projects that excite him.

So he decided to do something radical. For the first time ever he slashed all his prices in half. Sitting on a mountain of inventory, he knew the only thing standing between him and his dream was the stuff sitting on that table.

Within several hours he had sold more product and made more money than ever before on opening day.

He had finally risked letting go of the notion of price points and sales and bottom lines. He had opened a door that let abundance rush in.

I love it when that happens. Because it does. Every time.

When we accept that we have more than enough time to fulfill our ultimate purpose, we live in a time abundant state. We let go of our pre-conceived idea of how things should be. Things are just as they are. We get to decide how we’re going to interact with the state we find ourselves in.

Would you rather have the feeling that things are never enough or turn everything around and trust that Universal power that is just itching to give you strength, love and immeasurable joy?

If there is one thing I have learned in this life, it is that attitude is everything. It doesn’t matter whether you drive a Mercedes or a Mazda, eat caviar or catfish. What goes on inside has a lot to do with what happens on the outside.

Give it a try. Release. Then see what happens next. I bet you anything you’ll be pleasantly surprised at the result of your courage to finally let abundance rain in.

Little Simplicities

The simple life means something different to everyone. For some it means living in small, minimalistic spaces. For others it means removing barriers that stand in their way. For others still it refers to their pace of life ~ sleepy, super Slow and silent.

For everyone it means living with less complication.

In our 24/7 world, that is indeed a worthy, yet perhaps lofty, goal.

We build our lives around dreams whose fulfillment we think will make us happy. Oftentimes we realize those dreams don’t actually yield the level of joy we desire.

Two very good girlfriends of mine admitted to me yesterday that their lives haven’t turned out the way they thought.

“Thank goodness!” I said. Imagine if we got everything we thought we wanted. I’d be a former prima ballerina with broken knees, married to a guy who’s now a plumber.

Life is actually simple that way. It unfolds on its course. We can influence certain things about as much as we can influence how our children will turn out. You can add a lot of sweetness to the pot, but in the end we never really know whether it will taste good or not until the very end.

Keeping things simple isn’t as easy as it sounds. Our egos chime in loudly when they feel knocked down, like a toddler throwing a tantrum when it doesn’t immediately get what it wants.

Simplicity can be threatening to the ego because it is programmed to strive for certain things ~ acknowledgement, attention, adoration. But when you opt for a simpler life, you often leave those accolades behind you for a truer path to your own happiness.

It is extremely centering to strip away the noise to get to the essence of things.

I know a marvelous woman in her mid-fifties who doesn’t have a driver’s license, never has owned a computer and thinks that smartphones are, well, dumb. And she’s happy. And well-adjusted. And well-integrated in life. Her own simple life. I admire her greatly for that.

Can there be happiness beyond our hyper-connected world? She certainly is proof that there can be.

Embrace a little simplicity today and see where it takes you.

My guess is it will lead you back to your glorious, beautiful self.

A Place of Comfort for Us All

Self-soothing is a skill we teach babies to help them fall asleep at night. It is an important thing to learn because, whether that stressed out new parent knows it or not, self-soothing is an essential, lifelong process.

Creating an inner sanctum is life-sustaining. Without a safe place to land within ourselves, we would be carried like flotsam down the river of life. We would constantly be in reaction to everything around us without the wherewithall to withstand those stressors.

Many people look outside themselves for that elusive happiness they just know is “out there”. They feverishly pursue fleeting moments of joy, only to be left empty once again.

But happiness resides within. And the only one who can fill you up is you. No amount of alcohol, nicotine or sex can do it for you.

Although we may know this to be true, we still often look to others to fill the void within ourselves. And we do need each other. As social animals, humans thrive when interconnected. Even loners need a hug every once in a while.

But if we are never able to soothe ourselves in moments of despair, we will be forever doomed to unhappiness. We have a lot more control than we realize when it comes to how we choose to live our lives. And how we choose to react to the things that happen in it.

Sometimes I am awash with remarkable waves of joy for the mere sake of being alive. It usually happens when I’m in the forest (a part of me believes I am a descendent of Snow White), but it always happens when I am alone. It is my internal altar saying hello.

Carve out time in your day to feel that True Space inside. Even five minutes of connecting with yourself can put you on the happy track. Honor your resting place where your spirit can soar and be soothed at the same time.

It is possible. It really is.



The Shattering Power of Gratitude

Gratitude can rock your world. It’s the cousin of joy. No, on second thought, it’s the Siamese twin. You simply can’t have one without the other.

Yesterday a sales lady caught me cradling some high-end shampoo as I walked to the checkout counter. I was celebrating having landed another, albeit short-term, client by purchasing some sparkle in a bottle. It’s not the kind I use every day. It’s expensive, smells good, and gives me an inner shine.

“What reverence!” she exclaimed as she watched me carefully place the bottle on the counter.

If she only knew.

I wasn’t always this grateful about things. In fact, I took a lot of things for granted ~ big house, nice cashflow, effortless opportunities to travel whenever I needed to scratch my travel itch.

Things have changed now. Effortlessness now comes in the form of my own gratefulness for the things I still have. And although my material world has shrunk, my spiritual one has expanded immeasurably.

Everything else was merely a trapping of an empty, less than ideal existence. Doing what you want doesn’t always give you what you want. Oftentimes that kind of freedom sends you on a downward spiral into misery.

Money can’t buy you happiness. In fact, happiness is not for sale. Unlike the shampoo, an expression of my joy for having acquired another client, happiness is a state of mind.

As I left the store with my new purchase (and I swear I think the sales lady was glowing, too), I reflected on the shattering power of gratitude. It can break down walls of resistence within ourselves. It can carefully craft a whole new way of being in the world. When we look at what we have versus what we do not, our entire perspective changes.

I know people who drive fancy cars and live in palatial homes, but their happiness level isn’t any higher. They seek satisfaction only to watch it crumble after a few moments of fun. When we are accustomed to so much, it is hard to see it all. It grows into a blur and an unsettling feeling of dis-ease enters our bones.

Yes, gratitude can indeed rock your world. It has certainly rocked mine. Foundation and all.




Going into the Full Release

Letting go is one of the hardest things for us to do, especially if we are highly attached to the way we think things should be.

Whether we like it or not, we have expectations about things. You might argue that you do not, but my guess is you do expect a certain kind of treatment at a restaurant or other public space. You may say you expect nothing of anyone, but I bet you expect something from yourself.

To be human is to expect. There’s a reason why we use the term ‘expecting’ when a woman is pregnant.

We expect a lot.

And that leads me to the reason why letting go is so incredibly hard. We are hard-wired to expect things. To shift our thinking from what we want to what we have isn’t always easy.

Perhaps you expect your child to attend an Ivy League college and then are disappointed when his path takes a different turn.

Perhaps you expect your spouse to treat you like a God, then are shocked when he or she doesn’t come close to seeing you that way.

Maybe you expect to be paid what you are worth, but cry every time you bring your measly paycheck home.

Going into the full release can help allay those feelings of disappointment.

Whenever I feel expectations creep up the back of my spine and into my skull, I thank them for their time, then breathe them away. I recognize they are there for a reason ~ to foster hope, to shape my reality, to give me a sense of joy. But it is a false joy because oftentimes expectations cannot be met. That’s when the searing pain of disappointment settles into our bones, turning joy into sorrow.

Joy, for the mere sake of it, is more sustainable. Releasing those great expectations, counting our blessings and steeping ourselves in gratitude for What Is and What Shall Be are the cornerstones of immeasurable delight.

Breathe with me now. Thank those expectations, then send them on their way while you go yours.

Going into the full release is a guaranteed path to your personal liberation. Forever.



Make Room for Surprises

Joy is always an option.

Yet how many of us pursue happiness as if it were a place on Earth? It isn’t. Happiness is a state of mind.

Have you ever heard the phrase “Bloom where you are planted”? For the longest time, that was my life motto. But sometimes where you are planted is not where you are meant to live at all. That makes happiness harder to maintain because your state of mind tells you something is awry.

Like your positive state of mind, a seed can’t germinate if it doesn’t have room to grow. You can plant seeds, but without the right conditions, they won’t budge, bloom or blossom into what they are meant to be.

You need the right fertile ground.

If you are anything like me, you may have spent a good deal of time planting seeds in fallow ground and wondering why the shoots wouldn’t follow. You carefully watered those seeds, remained patient in the sun and the rain, and yet nothing happened.

Until one day you realized you needed to move to greener pastures, higher ground, greater heights to place your seeds elsewhere. And when you arrived in your new space, your seeds effortlessly burst out into the most beautiful flowers.

You had finally made room for surprises.

If your life isn’t luscious, examine the soil beneath you. It is in the nature of things that we thrive. If we aren’t doing so, we may need to fertilize our space with something new.

You can’t force a seed to do what you want if you don’t give it what it needs. Things will only grow in your life if you give them room to breathe.

Let the winds of heaven dance between you and everything else. If you do, you will witness great miracles.

I promise you that.