Living on The Brightest Side

Love yourself enough brightest side

I’ve been feeling a bit sick from the vertigo of transition. The forked snake tongue on the road ahead feels daunting as the deep dark forest just after dusk. The feelings of obligation overwhelm my waking hours and the guilt that I feel pushes down on my shoulders and keeps my pace like a snail.

OR

Change and transition is when the real magic of life happens. The varied opportunities that lie ahead excite me to my soul bone and I’m throwing myself down the path and feeling open to wherever it may lead. The solace I have gifted myself has made my own authentic voice more confident to speak up and be heard. I am grateful and hopeful for what is to come.

It’s all about how you look at it. Attitude is everything.

After a lifetime of negativity and toxic truths, I decided to take a leap of faith and start living on The Brightest Side. It took strength, confidence and self-love to let go of the personal dogma engrained so deep in my habitually chaotic brain. So, I sat with the questions instead of demanding the answers. I focused on solutions instead of problems. I reevaluated all the varied doctrine I had held tight for so long. The process of trying to empty myself of programmed mental and emotional responses and open up to new, authentic thought came from a place of pure self love. Pure self love comes from a realization that you really want to be happy and tend mindfully to yourself. The key to my happiness has been consistently letting go of expectations and outcomes and letting it all unravel one glorious moment at a time.

Letting things be what they are and not what I am expecting or hoping for has been a labor of love and worth every effort.

So, after 4+ years of writing this blog I am transitioning my effort and energy to living permanently on The Brightest Side where I will continue to write about my journey, but also write about how others can make their own promise to live life with positivity and kindness both to themselves and others.

I hope you will join me and together we can enjoy being at peace with our lives paths. 

Sending love to my dear Desiree who took the above photo of me during a weekend on the beach

Join The Mindful Revolution

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First we saw a rise in society’s belief in physical fitness and we are now seeing a rise in the attention paid to our emotional and spiritual wellbeing. Just as you began to see variation in attendees of exercise classes and gyms, now you see a complete mixed bag of people who attend yoga and meditation classes.  Even science is standing behind the benefits of mindfulness and meditation.  Just as people are encouraged to exercise, the trend is moving also toward people incorporating mindfulness and meditation practice into their daily life for the benefit of their overall wellbeing.  You can spend hours, days, and years exercising to attain the body you want, but in 30 minutes of meditation you can be leaps and bounds closer to a calm, peaceful mind.

We live in an age of RIGHT NOW and sometimes change takes time, so I’m not surprised to hear frustration from people wanting to see changes from their effort right away.  But, like a beautiful garden, these things take time.  Plant the seeds, nurture them and be patient for what is to come, it will be worth it.  Consider being open to what is available and abundant around you instead of fighting against your circumstance and constantly looking for what you WANT.  Many of us already have what we need, but we have to learn to need it.  Feel gratitude for what you have, the lessons you’ve learned and for what is to come that is still unknown.  The power to manifest the things that you desire is true.  It all begins with exercising your ability to calm your mind and listen to your truth.

One way to begin your path to emotional and spiritual wellbeing is to start practicing mindfulness.  The goal of being mindful is to be present without judgement.

Challenge: Pick an activity that you do regularly and make a commitment to perform it mindfully.  That means make an intention to be present in the activity and only focus on the actual act of performing that task.  If thoughts begin coming in, gently acknowledge them and then swiftly escort them out.  Some possible activities are showering, doing the dishes, taking a walk, riding a horse, driving a well traveled route, putting on your makeup, shaving.  Breathe, connect with the present moment and keep that moment real and free of external static.  This can be considered a first step toward a meditation practice.  Meditation would be doing this same mindful act without the activity.  So, begin with practicing mindfulness during an activity and move forward from there.

“Mindfulness is like that—it is the miracle which can call back in a flash our dispersed mind and restore it to wholeness so that we can live each minute of life.” ― Thích Nhất Hạnh

photo courtesy of jade from morguefile.com

Advice From A Tree

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The deep rooted symbolism of a tree is hard to deny, and over the last year of my life in particular, the strong, massive presence of trees and what they stand for has been an undeniable presence in my life and down my life’s path.  I would like to recognize their importance in my life and take notice of what lessons they have to impart.

A forest full of trees is as beautiful as it is dangerous which makes the allure even more great.  The lessons that I have learned while walking through this particular stretch of forest have been as daunting as a dark forest in the dead of night and as inspiring as a lush, green path at the break of new day.  I’m taking it all in.  I’m learning and growing slowly, like a tree.

A flower may grow to it’s full beauty in one season, quick and noticeable, but that’s not what I’m after.  A tree grows long and true. A tree stands firm and strong for years to come.  A flower may attract more attention in the short term, but the tree stands it’s ground and lays roots as far and wide spread underground as it does above ground.  You may not realize as you stand next to a tree just how much is underneath the surface.

Wood is solid, wood is long lasting, but at the same time with a spark can be burned to the ground.  Even the strongest of oak trees has a weakness.  But the symbolism of a large, abounding tree is unmistakeable.  There is much to be learned from our forest friends and I am in constant awe of their lessons and beauty.

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On Being Content

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A funny thing happened on the way to being happy. I learned that being happy is an embellished state of being and not a completely sustainable state. It’s like adding bling to being content, or at least that’s how it feels sometimes. But, there is a way to raise your content state if it’s been set down too low and needs a bit of raising. I have found that the more ‘happy habits’ I incorporate into my days, the happier I find my sustainable happy state to be.

Some of my happy habits include:

1. Have conversations with my happy friends and try very hard to avoid communication with the people in my life that tend to be more negative.

2. When people ask me to do them a favor I always do everything I can to say yes.

3. Purge some of the everyday stressors…I changed careers and am now A Nutritional Cleanse Coach and help people get healthy and flush their body and life of toxins and negativity!

4. I mind my own business. I am working on being mindful about not making other people’s drama and emergencies my own unless completely necessary.

5. The complaint department is closed. It’s a lot more fun to share good news than complain about what is not exactly perfect. Life is pretty good, after all.

Instead of riding the highs and lows so frequently, I am finding it much more enjoyable to find the middle ground and coast; like going for a boat ride on a clear day when the water is like glass and the bumps seem even and soothing. I’m not going to miss riding the boat during the 6 foot waves when it feels like a storm is coming and the end is near; the days when you need to know exactly where your life vest is at all times because you never know when you’ll have to reach for it.

Finding my best self has meant finding that nice, comfortable middle ground. Life is full of storms, I don’t need to create my own on perfectly clear days, which is exactly what I was doing before I made my happy promise. Maybe I should have called it My Content Promise, but that just didn’t have the same ring.

Above photo courtesy of my relaxed and floating friend Shannon. Even her pretty toes look content.

My Giving Tree

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Family traditions have to start somewhere and my family is just getting started.  So, I’m planting some good, solid roots that can grow into long established traditions in years to come.  A dream of mine is to someday own a lake house where my family can gather and spend lazy days and nights gathered around delicious meals and campfires.  As of now I don’t have that lake house of my dreams, so for now, I’m planting the seeds of summer time vacations spent together at a place that is very close to my heart, Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin.

As a little girl, for 5 summers I took the ride up to Elkhart Lake to spend my summer at Harand Theater Camp…..a fairy tale memory of childhood dreams of endless days and nights, bonfires and beach games, swimming and roller skating and all that magically happened in between.  When thoughts of summer camp roll around in my head, I remember friends as they were in camp t-shirts eating ice cream cones and opening care packages, sitting on bunk beds and passing pitchers of bug juice down long tables of laughing campers excited to embark on the night’s next activity.

In the heart of camp sat the main building (which was appropriately called Wonderful Town) that over the years has served different purposes to different owners which I learned as I walked down the halls of the now beautiful, family-friendly resort that sits on what used to be Harand Camp.  Old photographs of generations from even before Camp Harand was in existence tell the stories of what had come before.  I imagined what those people would have thought had they visited our camp years after the land had changed from the way they had known it.  Nostalgia abounding, my mind was spinning with curiosity about the people that have wandered those grounds over the years.

It’s still hard for me to stretch my mind enough to remember where the cabins sat, where the lush green pastures lay and how that piece of land could have possibly been the same place that pops up in my dreams so regularly.  But somehow, in my dreams, the lawn is untouched and every inch is as it was decades ago.  But as I walk the property with my daughters telling them stories of why there are concrete handprints from friends I knew back then that I am still happy to call my friends today, I try my best to realize exactly what has replaced those treasured buildings from my childhood.

As I enjoyed a peaceful massage at what is now a beautiful spa, in my mind I could hear the sounds of the screen door slamming and friends laughing and running around on the porch of Wonderful Town.  When I left the spa, my mind projected campers running to Sam’s Place (our dining hall) and as I turned to walk back to my room, I heard echoes of campers singing “No Man Is An Island” in Gaffin Theater as if Uncle Byron himself were on stage leading the group.  I began to think….even if camp was still standing as it were when I was a little girl, I would still never be able to go back to those memories the way they live in my head.  I keep those in my mind and just being there helps me to remember.

The corner of the world where Camp Harand stood for all those years has been my Giving Tree throughout my life.  As bittersweet as it has always been since the minute I heard that camp Harand as I knew it was coming to an end, during this trip to Elkhart Lake I came to peace with that end as if finding a resolution to a long time quarrel.  I discovered a beautiful PEARL that has been resting there, waiting for me to find it.  What was once a childhood fantasy has now become a family wonderland.  This place has changed through the years almost identically to fit my needs and for that I have found a way to be grateful.

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Finding Zen In Organization

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The act of organizing seems so un-zen, but a completely organized, clutter-free abode is so completely zen that I’m feeling myself being pulled in that direction.  I’m so acutely aware of my surroundings lately that it’s like I’m seeing my clutter with new eyes.  It’s as if I’m a new visitor judging another’s piles of stuff and feeling the need to weed through the chaos.

I enjoy the feeling of a comfortable, lived-in home.  I want you to come in and feel like you can relax, sit wherever you want, and let your kids run around and touch stuff.  Kick off your shoes, grab a drink and plop down on the couch for a nice chat.  I grew up in a house that felt that way and I aim to make my house as welcoming and cozy as my parent’s home.  Between my husband, myself and two toddlers we have a lot of stuff.  The problem is keeping it all in check.  I don’t want my guests to come in and see piles of papers, toys and laundry and have to take flying leaps over shoes, backpacks and dolls.  This family needs to find a way to get organized, and as the Mom, I’m in charge of “Project Organize This House!”  As of right now, it feels like my ducks are pretty far from being all in a row.

I can’t organize an entire house at once, I have to organize one room at a time.  So, the first thing I need to do is make a list of rooms in order of their priority.  Which room overhauls will make the biggest difference for my family?  Which changes will make our lives flow easier?  In which rooms can I uncover the most happiness for my family?

Here is my plan of attack:

1. Family Room

2. Girl’s Rooms and Bathroom

3. Master Bedroom and Bathroom

4. Laundry Room/Storage Room

5. Linen Closet

6. Coat Closet

7. Playroom

8. Kitchen

9. Office

10. Garage

I’m allowing myself 8 weeks to complete this task and granting myself a reward if I am able to complete the entire task on time.  I believe a day at the spa will be in order, that seems pretty zen to me….om.

On Being Right and Wrong

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It’s hard to admit when you’re wrong.  It’s humbling and uncomfortable to eat crow.  People avoid it at all cost even to the point of driving a dead end point to it’s nonsensical conclusion to avoid being wrong at times.  Wouldn’t it feel better to just give yourself license to be wrong sometimes?  It takes true character to admit defeat, even if only in silence, and create a moment to learn and grow.  It takes confidence and wisdom to concede being right and give way to being kind.  There is more happiness to be found even in the most basic, daily interactions.  I’d like to see what happens when I surrender being right and try listening more openly to what others have to say without feeling the compulsion to counterpoint.  Sometimes the Devil doesn’t need an advocate.

It’s staggering how much your thoughts show up on your face.  (I’m sometimes bothered by how my thoughts translate and can be felt by those around me even if that is not my intention.  I clearly need to work on my poker face)  What is lost in being tenacious about debating your stance?  What is gained in letting it go and allowing yourself to relinquish control?  Which leads to more happiness?  Even the look on your face will change along with your thoughts, but no one controls those thoughts but you.  “You haven’t lost your smile at all, it’s right under your nose. You just forgot it was there” – Unknown

Change the way you process and respond, and the people around you will respond back in a new way.  It’s easier to go with the flow and be open to other’s point of view when you feel engaged and supported by those around you instead of feeling strife and turbulence.  When you change yourself, you change the world around you.

“Be kind to unkind people. They need it the most.” ― Ashleigh Brilliant

Gratitude

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Thank you.  Thank you for reading my blog and making me feel like I have something important to say.  Thank you for letting me express myself in this way that I feel comfortable.  I feel grateful for being able to write this blog.  I feel grateful for the dexterity to move my fingers, to own a computer, and most of all to live in a peaceful place that allows me the time and quiet to share these thoughts.  I’m grateful to have family, friends, and colleagues all around me who inspire me everyday in so many different ways.

When you make an effort to live a life of gratitude, there is little time or space for negativity and judgement.  When you give up complaining and criticism you start to smile on the unbecoming.  Acknowledge that life is not perfect and you can learn from the ebb and flow of life and even begin to see unending possibilities for growth and change.

This past weekend I attended a conference for work to earn CEUs and learn about the new developments in my field.  It’s an exciting time to be an American Sign Language Interpreter as our profession has changed more in the last few years than the last few decades.  But, with change comes growing pains and unfortunately this particular conference had a very negative overtone and left many of the attendees frustrated.  I left feeling like there may not be much future for me in this field even though it has been the only career I have known.  I worked hard to become certified and licensed over the last 16 years and it seems a shame to throw in the towel.  But, it’s so easy to consider walking away when you feel such despondency.

So, as we drove 4 hours back home after leaving early, my traveling companion and I had plenty of time to process what we had just experienced.  Lucky for me, my friend is also on a journey of her own to find more happiness in her life similar to the way I have pledged my happy promise.  So, we talked and talked about how to turn this antagonistic groupthink into a learning opportunity.  We talked and talked as friends do, and in the end the farther away we drove, the easier it became to let it go.  I rolled it around in my mind long after I dropped her off and my overwhelming feeling was one of gratitude.  I’m thankful for having an opportunity to see my colleagues whom I don’t get to see very often, and I’m grateful to have had an opportunity to exercise my new awareness that I have worked hard to procure.  I spent the weekend being mindful of what I was experiencing and was able to practice conducting myself with gratitude.  A situation that would have once drained my spirit now allowed me to gain and thrive just because of a change in perception.

The details of the conference will fade in time, but what I will remember is the way this gathering made me feel.  I am grateful for the lesson and I am grateful for the unforeseen chance to stretch my newly evolved spirit.  I’m grateful to feel…..happy.

Tending To My Garden

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Happiness is not a far off goal.  It is not a place over the rainbow that we will never quite reach.  Happiness is all around us, like a garden waiting to be tended right under our feet.  You won’t see it until you look for it, but the moment you rub your eyes and take a closer look, you’ll see the beautiful, fertile dirt surrounds you just waiting for you to get your hands dirty.  The more work you do for your garden, the more beauty you will reap.  Some will stand in awe of your garden and want to enjoy it with you.  Some will stand beyond it and criticize your dirty hands. Either way, this is your garden and together with the magic that mother earth provides us, you have conjured up perfection.  That perfection should be consumed and enjoyed….that perfection should make you happy.

Your body is like a garden.  When you plant a seed, or make a small change, you can’t expect to reap the benefits until you have also cared for and tended to your garden.  Your garden will not rest for toxic excuses made in an effort to procrastinate pruning.  Your garden will not produce life without careful, constant love and attention.  Your body is worth that same constant, careful love and attention.  Why do we only see the world around us and so often look past our own needs and well being?  Take a moment and look down at the gift you have been given to move you through this life.  Have you done all you can to be gentle and loving to your gift?

Are YOU ready to begin?

Be The Owl

I talk too much and I wear my heart on my sleeve.  A dangerous combination that leads to vulnerability.  If I can stop blabbering and be a little less transparent, I may be able to take another step toward happiness.

Native Americans believe that animals have unique meaning and power.  An animal guide, or spirit animal, can appear to you in a dream or in the physical world.  Whether or not you believe in the power or presence of animals as guides, they still have many important lessons to teach.  Native Americans used animal traits to teach their children lessons the way we use fairy tales and myths.  They used the world around them and what was available in their surroundings to impart knowledge and wisdom.  Every culture uses this practice in some way, but something about this Native American tradition speaks to me.  I’ve always had much respect for the simple, natural way they view the world with respect and awe.

Eleven years ago, I was in a bit of a low valley of my life and during a trip to Arizona to visit friends and regroup I stepped outside to enjoy the warm night air.  As I sat and let my mind wander in search of answers, I looked up and saw an owl.  We stared at each other for a long time.  In that time, my mind was quiet for what felt like the first time.  You never know where comfort and peace will come from, but being able to recognize those moments and draw from them is important.  Enlightening moments will not always show themselves as obvious as an owl looking down on you in the midst of a troubled time, so I need to learn to pay more attention even during the chaos in which I exist at times.

Since that night in Arizona, I believe that the owl had something to teach me.  Whether I was meant to have that chance encounter or I read too much into it, I drew knowledge and wisdom from that moment:  I need to be more like that owl.  I need to quiet my mouth to quiet my mind.  I need to learn to take in more and disclose less.

The truth is, that moment happened over a decade ago and I have still not been able to translate that insight into my life.  I’ve often gone back to that night in my mind, but haven’t known how to apply it.  As part of my happy promise, I pledge to unearth the premise that being more owl-like will lead to more happiness.

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