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

Making a Happy Promise

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It was four years ago today that I decided to make positive change in my life in an effort to become the best version of myself. I’m grateful for my journey and I’m hopeful for what is to come. If the time has come for you to start your own journey, it may be comforting to have a roadmap to follow. I have created a 3 step outline of how my own journey has unfolded and I hope these steps will help you begin to define and discover how to navigate your own journey. I only claim to be an expert on myself, and I encourage you to become an expert on yourself. My hope is that what has worked for me will inspire you to design a roadmap that reflects your own journey.

1. The Awakening

The realization happens that change is necessary. You may or may not experience the beginning of a breakthrough. The signs showing up around you can be anywhere from violent to subtle. You make a decision to make change. The decision can just be to get started. The focus on exactly what needs attention possibly comes clear, but may unfold in time. The most important thing to do in this stage is be open to whatever comes next. You may feel a surge of energy and a strong desire to explore and learn, or you may just begin to feel calm and open. Be mindful and accepting of your feelings.

2. The Discovery

You begin to pinpoint the areas of your life that need changing. You begin to develop a stronger focus on how to approach them. You begin to explore and learn which vehicle(s) will suit your needs: mindfulness, yoga, piano, music, hiking, art, kindness…. as you begin adjusting to change. Your senses begin to take in and process information in a new way. Colors are bolder, music is sweeter, smells spark vivid memories, you may feel hyper sensitive in every way. Now is a good time to begin to be even more mindful of your thoughts and feelings in an effort to discover how to make positive change. Stay open to change and unattached to outcomes. The less expectations you place on yourself and your experiences, the easier this process will flow, and although it may not be easy, it will be worth it.

3. Finding Your Calm

It is now time to adopt a new normal, incorporate new habits, and accept imperfection. It’s time to live life happier and keep awakening and rediscovering in each moment. The more kindness and love you show yourself, the more love and kindness you will be able to show your loved ones. There is no finish line, so don’t search for it, but instead enjoy the feeling of a new beginning.

Every journey is unique.

Appreciate your own, distinct patchwork life.

Find your peace.

Enjoy your calm.

Radical Empathy

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What if we all practiced radical empathy? What if we could understand and share the feelings of another on an organic, fundamental level and we allowed ourselves to show profound appreciation, compassion and kindness in every way possible? What if we could take that extreme level of compassion and apply it to our lives? Three ways of manifesting and expressing this kindness would be toward yourself, kindness to others and kindness to the earth. How closely could you align to this idea? Keep in mind that part of this process would be showing kindness to yourself, so there is no need to be perfect. “Everything in moderation, including moderation” – Oscar Wilde

With a deep acceptance of the state of the world in general and the ability to have sage perspective of concepts like ego, we can achieve kindness to the self. On so many levels, kindness expressed to yourself can liberate feelings of anxiety, guilt or obligation and beyond. Enjoying self empathy is so much more than taking a break, a vacation or even getting a massage. At so many points we get in our own way of feeling calm and enjoying a feeling of peace. We convince ourselves that we are not strong enough or capable enough and opportunities to be happy or enjoy life simply slip by. Being kind to yourself includes accepting things the way they are and letting go of the outcome. The tighter we cling to controlling an outcome, the further away it seems to slip. If we can learn to truly let go, we can show ourselves the most organic, radical kindness. At the same time, inserting the radical part of this equation means understanding how to create a foundation of love for yourself and getting primal about satisfying your needs and desires. When you marry these ideas, you can reach a deep level of self-care.

Kindness is the act of showing the love you feel. Showing kindness to others becomes easier when you lay a strong foundation of self love. When you genuinely feel good and can let go of the guilt often attached to enjoying a calm state, you can begin to show kindness more easily to the people around you. Showing kindness is elemental really. We are how we treat each other. “Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible.” – Dalai Lama

Are you always as kind as possible? If you express kindness in even the most basic everyday interactions, it not only feels better and helps you enjoy a flow state of calm, but it gets passed forward to those on the other end of your gentle kindness. But, I don’t practice kindness so it will come back to me, I enjoy the gentle look on people’s faces when they receive it. Seeing people happy and relaxed makes me happy and gives me hope. Try making your everyday acts a bit more kind and see how it effects you maybe even more than others.

It’s amazing how many times during each day we have the opportunity to be kind to the earth. So many of the choices we make throughout the day a chance to express your values. From the products you put on your body to what you chose to put on your plate three times each day, we have so many chances to show our morality. We have so much power over our actions which is ever present in the compassionate activism related to our food, our practices, and our world. “The garden suggests there might be a place where we can meet nature halfway.” – Michael Pollen  The choices we make demonstrate how we exist within our environment. Imagine what else is possible with kindness. 

Practice kindness, make mindful choices, own your journey. What if radical empathy was the new black? 

children know radical empathy, thank you Tori for showing me what it looks like in the photo above

The Kindest Kind of Kindness

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When did liking yourself become a rebellious act? When did taking care of yourself become something to feel guilty about? How can we possibly take care of others if we don’t take care of ourselves? How can we ever be a proper role model if we don’t model how important it is to value yourself?

We all play our own unique role in this grand village raising our kids. We all teach them different ways to live and the many different paths to follow. But, for me, of all the lessons I am capable of teaching, how to love yourself and stand strong and brave are the lessons that my heart and soul are best suited to teach. I want to teach my children to be kind by showing them how I am kind. I want them to internalize the importance of being nice to yourself just as they are learning to be kind to others so it becomes something they value throughout their lifetime.

So why do some people find it so hard to show kindness to themselves? Those who know and understand their needs and can swiftly and adeptly cater to them should be revered! What a wonderful trait it is to know yourself well and understand what makes you happy. How beautiful a mind that can take it all in and sift through to make their own distinctions and then respond accordingly. “It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.” – Aristolte I find that those who can take it all in, know what they need and then act on it are the happier people I know and I believe that is because they understand the importance of self-kindness. Whether it be an evening walk in the crisp fall air, a massage or not accepting a thought that gives you pause, knowing what your body and soul need to feel calm and at peace has become a rare, hidden talent in today’s world. Being kind to yourself is the kindest kind of kindness and we need to become experts at it as well as make time and space for it.

Just as the meaning of life has always been vague, the definition of happiness is purposefully left cloudy so each person can reimagine it for themselves. For me, kindness is a major component of happiness. I enjoy being kind to others and living as a kind citizen of the world. This means being mindful of myself and my environmental footprint as well as trying to satisfy my needs while reaching toward my dreams. That’s a tall order and somedays happiness seems like a lot of work. But, just as with everything, a bit of forethought, planning and creativity seems to be worth it when you get to enjoy the spoils of your efforts.

“Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible.” -Dalai Lama

Gratitude to hotblack on morguefile.com for the beautiful photo above

Being Present

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Being present means living in the moment. Being present means enjoying right now instead of replaying past events or role playing possible future scenarios. There is a time for each of these to take place, but when it’s time to be present, it’s good to be able to relax into the moment at hand. It’s a skill worth mastering.

Our ability to be present depends a lot on having good boundaries. Your boundaries should be intentional and unapologetic. Keeping good control and understanding of what you want and need helps you to stay “in the moment” and enjoy more. Having weak or undefined boundaries makes you more likely to be passive or let others define them for you. Taking responsibility for yourself avoids the opportunity for others to take control of us. At the same time, respecting other’s boundaries will demonstrate how you want to be treated.  This means often letting go of our attachment to outcomes and need to control each result. Inner peace comes from letting the outcomes naturally play out in each moment without judgement or attachment. Being present means paying attention to yourself and whether you are trying to alter the moment and outcome instead of just observing and accepting it.

When you add judgment, comparison, or competition to the present moment, you are no longer being present. If you can let go of what you think “should” be happening or what “might have been” then you can more easily let go and enjoy being present. There will be enough time to lick your past wounds later. Trust that you can handle this moment, you deserve to enjoy what’s happening now and you will be capable of juggling whatever is thrown your way next. “Attitude is the difference between an ordeal and an adventure” -author unknown 

Do you have a mind that constantly races in every direction? One way to bring yourself into the present is to learn how to quiet your mind and focus on what matters right now. Taking yourself out of the moment and becoming an observer when you begin to feel anxious or fearful may help you to gain insight into whether or not this moment really requires that response. Fully experience this moment until it’s time to move on to the next. Being an observer of yourself may help you learn more about what triggers those moments of fear and anxiety. Knowledge is power. Observe and breathe…

The moments are going to keep happening. Fighting against the moment does not make it go slower. Each moment comes when it is supposed to come. Take a big, deep breath in. Now let it out slowly. You either took the time and felt present enough to enjoy that breath, or you rushed through it to see what was next. Each breath happens, quick or slow is an illusion and a judgement that you put on those moments. Time never speeds up, time never slows down. Even if you fight against the present moment it will still happen and still move at the same speed. Change will happen, change keeps coming. No matter how hard you try, you can only breath in OR out… never both at the same time. Each breath comes when it is time. 

Staying present means realizing that you can only do one thing at a time. Whether it be work, pleasure, obligation or otherwise, multi-tasking with either your body or mind is just not possible. Being able to do several things in quick succession with great ease should not be confused with multi-tasking. Complete one thing, then move on to the next.

Let time move and change and flow while just being within the movement of each moment. The less expectation of the next moment, the more you can fully enjoy the present. Reflection has it’s time and the process of learning involves thinking beyond the moment at hand and there will be time for all that too. But, when you can live and breathe in the now….. just be.

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Taming The Beast

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The moment I asked to receive gentler messages is the moment the nightmares stopped. I sat up in bed one night a few years ago after another horrible scene passed through my head and demanded that there must be a more gentle way for my subconscious to relay these messages to me as I sleep. The nightmares lived in my head for years, scary images and intimidating possibilities ran wild while I slept. I was sick and tired of feeling overtaken by these cloudy ideas that would linger in my consciousness. I became angry. There was no other choice, I needed the nightmares to stop. Whether it was my inner being that took serious notice and finally internalized that message or a universal energy or entity that heard my plea is not important. I had enough of that feeling of terror and sadness in the middle of the night and I needed it to stop.

And it did. I haven’t had a nightmare since that night.   

That was when I realized how much power I had over my body and mind. That was when I knew I could make significant change all on my own. When you play the victim you attract attackers, but when you stand up straight and strong, aware and capable, the attackers move along to find a more willing victim. I chose to stand strong. As I tell my children now when they are afraid, “any monster that would come into this house should be far more afraid of me than I would ever be of it”. And I don’t just say it, I believe it wholeheartedly.

It only takes a person to recognize their own power to be able to achieve this kind of shift, this kind of life changing revelation. It’s something that you may have to reiterate to your heart and soul each day like a mantra, but the power and ability is within you to not only ask for kinder, gentler messages but also to receive them. You create the framework within your head, no one else can control what happens in that space. You are responsible for every thought, excuse, missed opportunity or achievement because it was born inside your own mind. Taking the reigns and learning to tame the animal within you is one of life’s major struggles. When you recognize that the animal inside CAN be tamed, the journey becomes more about what you put out into the world and less about all of the things holding you down and keeping you from moving forward. When you recognize the power of the body and mind you have been given and use those powers wisely, you discover that you are, in fact, a superhero.   

After Max visited the land of the Wild Things and deconstructed the myth of monsters and reframed how we live inside our own rooms, fears and families, we see that everyone has hopes and fears and everyone has the beast within who tries to control how we frame our surroundings and our lives. But, when you open your eyes to the possibility that we have complete control over how we manage those beasts and how we teach our children to manage their own beasts, we see that the monsters are within us to make us stronger, more human and more fierce than we ever thought possible. Once you figure out the science behind harnessing strength, change happens. 

So “let the wild rumpus start” (Maurice Sendak) and begin to tame and understand your beast within. Let the power of monsters give you strength to fight for a wonderful life, not keep you in chains from the beauty and peace that you deserve.

If you want the nightmares to stop, just ask. 

gratitude and photo credit to http://wallpoper.com/ for the above photo from the movie Where The Wild Things Are based on the amazing and empowering children’s book written by Maurice Sendak

The Human Animal

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We are animals, but we are also human. This divergence in our collective identity is something I think about often.  “Man is the only animal for whom his own existence is a problem which he has to solve.” – Erich Fromm

We seem to be disengaging as a whole from our essential connection with nature even though we come from nature and it is all around us. Humans have drawn some sort of line between themselves and their roots. Our children are spending less time in nature and more time where they can plug in. This disconnection with our natural ties concerns me. Within the world of psychology exists an entire field of study called Ecopsychology which explores the synergistic relationship between how we as humans relate to nature and how that relationship, or our lack of meaningful emotional ties to nature, has a direct effect on how we exist on our planet. There is scientific evidence proving that your level of happiness can be directly affected by the level of your nature relatedness.

When you reconnect and establish a meaningful bond with what you are meant to feel connected to, it may feel as fluid and undeniable as a key in the right lock. Realizing that your body, mind and spirit are all connected to nature could potentially catapult you toward a more calm, peaceful existence. Nurturing that connection can lead to more happiness. So what are we gaining from this disconnect and how can we work toward getting back to basics? There is so much to gain by getting back in touch with nature.

Since the beginning, people have used figures of nature to teach lessons and explain our surroundings. Humans apply unnecessary characteristics to natural things to help us explain the unfamiliar and assimilate our developed distortion. Within these myths and legends, a fox is sly and an owl is wise even though those creatures are unaffected and uninterested in the process and reasons behind the anthropomorphism. An owl is not interested in being the most wise of it’s parliament. We put upon that owl the trait of being enlightened. Instead of just admiring an owl for the beautiful creature that it is, we have to assign meaning to it and figure out it’s usefulness. Relax, it’s just an owl and owls are beautiful, that’s enough. Now more than ever I feel a need to release all this chatter and superfluous meaning and just find my own connection with nature and remember how simple it all really can be.

There is so much wisdom in nature and all too often we either ignore it because we are desensitized to our surroundings, too caught up in the insignificant details of an over stretched life or just disconnected to what we have a natural affinity to admire. “This we can all bear witness to, living as we do plagued by unremitting anxiety, it becomes more and more imperative that the life of the spirit be avowed as the only firm basis upon which to establish happiness and peace.” -Dalai Lama

We need to get back to nature. We need to remind ourselves of what is right outside our  front, back and side doors. Our access to more peace and nature is so close that I feel sad when people fail to acknowledge it. My favorite type of window is an open one.

A ‘breath of fresh air’, ‘stopping to smell the roses’, and ‘taking the path less traveled’ are right beside us yet we seem to find endless excuses to build a literal and figurative wall between ourselves and these marvelous gifts. Why do we do that? Why is it not a priority as important as drinking water to get out and connect with nature? What human ‘parts’ of us force us to disconnect? Brick walls such as fear, self-doubt, and anxiety keep us from experiencing this life the way it is meant to be enjoyed… with unbridled, all-consuming passion and emotion, but also with simplicity, ease and a sense of natural instinct.

A bird sitting on a tree is not afraid of the branch breaking, it instinctively knows that if that branch happens to break it has wings, yet the bird doesn’t ruminate over this fear as it sits. It is able to just be. Lucky bird.

Life Should Be Wonderful

Believe Rock

Life should be wonderful. That’s what I want to say.

Because people have such an amazing capacity for happiness and because it feels so much better in my body than pain, I believe we are meant to experience and dwell in happiness. Happiness feels better than sadness. Happiness is healthier than sadness.

We come in and go out of this world alone, but in between…. In between we get to make choices and design a life. Some get it right on the first try and others have to shape and mold and learn and grow to build a life that they can love.

This is your universe. It created you, now you create it. You are not a visitor here, you are from this earth… body, mind and spirit. If you work with it, and within it’s laws, you can manifest the life and the feelings that you crave. Visualize your universe shifting and molding into what you want.

Manifestation is a strong and capable beast. If you are living a life that doesn’t suit you, the first thing you need to change is your mind. Release the details of how that change will become your new reality and just believe in your real, genuine heart that you can change your situation. Your mind takes the first steps and your body follows. Throw yourself down a path toward happiness, your feet will catch up.

Energy goes where the attention flows.

You can’t change the world, but you can find joy and be at peace with the world you have created for yourself. If you don’t feel at peace in the place you’ve created then it’s your soul’s obligation to visualize and bring in the change needed to become at peace with your life’s path. It’s that simple. Start seeing the happiness that you want as your quest.

“Whether you think you can or you can’t, either way you are right” -Henry Ford

Feel in your body where you experience stress, pain and sadness. Now clear that slate and recognize where you feel joy, hope and love. Note your results and move forward toward the one that makes you feel more empowered and happy. Feel your body, relax your mind and guide your thoughts toward the things that make you smile. Doing that will change your life for the better, so keep doing it.

I could say that I have a dream to be happy, because I do, but more than that I have a plan.

Here’s my plan:

  1. Keep remembering that life is wonderful and I deserve to be happy.
  2. Visualize a blissful situation where I am happy that I would like to manifest.
  3. Do those again. And again. And again.

And in between I will keep living, keep loving and keep finding ways to bring in more happiness, because life should be wonderful.

photo above courtesy of Scarletina on morgue file.com

The Unlearning

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Life often feels like a series of repeating patterns that move us along on a conveyor belt. We keep duplicating these echoes until the act is so familiar that it becomes mindless. Our days may feel as though they are made up of a series of many menial, mindless, apathetic actions. The repetition is not the cause for my concern, it’s the mindlessness that worries me. We are proficient learners of things that we believe serve us, and we create intentional roadblocks in front of the things we fear. We settle into habit and become the hamster on the wheel either oblivious of the stagnation or frozen in fear of the unknown.  What if the unknown is better? What if the unknown is amazing…

Is this cycle of repetition ok with you? Are you doing what you love? Are you loving what you do? This includes the way you begin and end your day, the way you interact with people, and even the basic structure of your life. Have you taken a step back from this routine to consider whether it’s learned, reproduced behavior being repeated out of ingrained habit, or is it how you truly want to move through your day?  Could you unlearn this structure and pattern to create more happiness and peace?

Even more important is the perspective you hold on these repetitive actions.  Attitude can turn resentment into gratitude. Point of view can change your perception. Unlearning an automatic response can open possibilities of finding joy in something that has felt like a long time chore.

When I made my happy promise, I began to see the small stuff as integral instead of menial, mindless tasks. When I went from feeling heavy obligation to finding bits of joy throughout my day, I found far more than a happy thought, I found more peaceful moments. I began the process of my unlearning.

There are still plenty of ways that I contribute to my own struggle, my hope is to begin shining a light on those blocks I have put up for myself and begin to unlearn my methods that are not serving me. When I come up against something that causes me frustration or pain, it serves me better to stop and consider the real reason behind that root feeling. If I can extract that cause I may be able to examine, process and unlearn the behavior. I can learn to reprogram.

Unlearning is not just about reconsidering and changing, it’s about completely abandoning a behavior. I need to stop planning what I want to learn and leave space to just be open to what comes my way.  I have to be willing to be empty in order to fill myself up with goodness. I realize now that ‘letting go’ is not enough, I have to completely unlearn what I know. I often focus on my ability to let go and get to a calm place, but finding happiness is about releasing the instigating act before it takes hold of me. I want to be able to unclench before a thought or feeling infiltrates my peaceful space. Mindfully examining what part of me responds negatively helps me detach from those feelings.  I believe unlearning is the true method that leads to a peaceful mind.

A peaceful mind creates a peaceful world to live in.

We are all born with the capacity to feel love, happiness and peace and the ability to learn and change. Our natural skill to learn comes from the same place within ourselves where we pull the unlearning. Unlearn what no longer serves you and be open to what could possibly fill the wonderfully empty space.

above photo from MichelleBulgaria on morgue file.com

Live Simply, Think Gently

horse woman TheresaOtero

“Life is simple, but we insist on making it complicated.” – Wisdom of Confucius

I like to be barefoot, I like to take it slow.  I enjoy riding a bike, and I enjoy being near the water.  I like finding beauty in my life where I hadn’t noticed it before.  I like to have time to think before I speak and I like to feel connected to the ones I love.  I like to spend time with horses and I like to walk my dog.  I like to live simply.

I’m moving more toward a simpler life as I continue on this journey.  I have been moved to clean out my entire house this summer and shed myself of anything that has no purpose or meaning.  I’ve shed the clutter in my house as I’ve tried to clear out the negative thoughts that clutter my head.  With less “stuff” to worry about, I find it easier to live mindfully in the moment and create space to really connect with my friends and family.

I want to feel light, I want to feel fresh.  I want to hear wind chimes and birds singing when I step outside into the cool morning air.  I want to feel unencumbered by technology and start my day with my own thoughts.  I like the smell of hot coffee and the feel of warm morning sun as I start my day.  I want to live simply, but I also want to think gently.

This pull toward a simpler existence has spun my mind in directions it’s not used to.  With a life cluttered with tasks and too much “stuff”, I found my mind was constantly on high volume and there were several thoughts competing for my attention at once.  Living simply is not just about my surroundings and my belongings, it’s about living with more ease on the inside as well.  Being kind and gentle with myself involves an effort in my body, mind and spirit.  Quieting the alarms that have been pre-set for ages has not been easy.  Slowing down and trying to think one thought at a time has been a way to start.  Deep breath, look at the sky, close your eyes.  Exhale.  Move on.

I do love the hardly bearable feeling of craving something that I want so badly that I can barely stand still, but I enjoy the calming, soothing feeling of swinging on a hammock in the afternoon more.  I appreciate the feeling of yugen which is to awaken an array of inner thoughts through mere suggestion.  It is an intense, breathless feeling of inspiration and beauty.  But, a feeling such as yugen is meant to be enjoyed in small doses.  You can’t live in a state that takes your breath away, but you can revel in it for a moment, appreciate it, and find joy.  Thinking gently is about finding a state of mind that you can enjoy and still be a productive, functioning member of your life.

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Find balance, seek peace, crave joy.

When you learn to think gently, the volume is lowered and the level of intensity becomes manageable.  If you are kind to yourself and treat yourself the way you would treat someone you love, you may begin to notice more calm feelings and find more space for relaxing in your life.  Gone are the days of feeling guilty for taking a moment to myself.  I’ve reached the age of permission and I’ve earned my right to feel happy just by being born.

We deserve to be happy.  So I’m choosing to live simply and think gently.

 

photos from morguefile.com

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