“Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in awhile, you could miss it.” Ferris Bueller
A year ago in January I attended a workshop in Maui on Divine Love. It was led by Dr. Wayne Dyer and turned out to be a life changer for me. I am not surprised that this happened, afterall a couple of my life changing moments happened as a direct result of this incredible man.
This time around it was a simple sentence that seemed to resonate in my whole body. A great big A-Ha moment that left me ruminating with it for quite some time, wondering how to begin to live it. The words were a paraphrase of a Herman Melville quote and are at the root of a lot of Dr. Dyer’s teachings, but for some reason these words more than any others did the trick for me. They were:
Beware the half lived life.
I am a linear thinker, for the most part. I love writing lists of things to do then checking them off. Sometimes I even add stuff to the list I’ve already done so that I can have the pleasure of checking them off as “done”. So I thought, what better way to begin to truly live intentionally than to write myself a list? So here goes. My 5 steps to the fully lived life.
1. Stop Numbing
There are certain activities in my day that put me into a zombie-like state. I stare transfixed, and yet completely disengaged. My eyes glaze over. My jaw hangs slack, mouth agape. I am in a coma of soothing non-being. For me this usually happens when I think I am just going to “quickly check Facebook”. I open the site and begin to scroll and when I finally look up again I see that hours and hours have passed and wow, is that drool on my chin? And what valuable life lessons, entertainment or worthy knowledge did I gain in all of that time? Usually nothing. Someone just ate spaghetti for lunch, and someone else has a great recipe for gluten free cardboard bites, and somebody else has a hella-cute grandbaby and that a friend of a friend went to Mexico for vacation. Also there is typically a dump truck load of inspirational memes, most of which are pure unadulterated crap. (I mean really people, if you are going to take the time to go to meme-generator and create some inspirational quote, against a dancing silhouette at sunset on the beach, please, please, please, I’m begging you, check your spelling. If I read one more “Lif begins at the end or your comfort zone” my head just very well may explode).
And so my decision to deactivate Facebook for the month of July seemed the best and most productive step in my journey toward engaging back into life. Some people numb themselves with alcohol, drugs, or binge watching tv series on Netflix. For me, Facebook was my drug of choice and so it is time to pull the plug… at least for July. I’m sure I’ll be fine. It’s been nearly 12 hours and I hardly miss it at all… Twitch. Twitch.
I live in one of the prettiest places on the planet. Surrounded by mountains, forests and glacier fed lakes, and with the most sunshine hours in all of British Columbia (so “they” say). Cranbrook is pretty close to being paradise, and yet I find that my senses have become dulled to it all. My monkey mind has me everywhere but here. I worry about what is coming, I rue what has been, I have fake conversations with people, coming up with all sorts of issues and problems and scenarios that only exist in the madness of my rampant thoughts.
Luckily, because I’ve read Deepak and Eckart I know about the present moment. The elusive NOW. I meditate twice a day, so I have times when I skirt around it pretty nicely and I’ve even had a few spectacular instances where I was really there, in the NOW. When it happened I immediately had the thought arise, “oh wow this is the NOW” and with that realization was of course thrust back into the world of thought.
So my plan to be more mindful brings me to write a sub-list (I get tingly just saying that). To be more mindful I will:
2a. Follow my breath. Whenever I think about mindfulness, just stop, drop, and follow my breath. Here is goes in. Annnnnnd, here it goes out. Ahhh.
2b. Pay attention. Practice using all of my senses to experience where I am and what is happening around me. See the way the light changes as it dapples through the leaves. Listen to the wind and the birds and the lawnmower down the block. Feel the air around my skin. What do my toes feel like, right now? Smell that perfect, summer mix of warm soil, flowers, sunscreen and cut grass. Taste the raspberry white tea. No I mean really taste it. Experience it all, with my senses and try very hard not to judge any of it. Just BE with it.
2c. Meditate. Duh.
2d. Let music take me away. For me a good, loud Billy Joel song, or maybe some old Joni Mitchell making ice cream castles in the air, or even Mozart in a pinch, will set my mind to rest and allow me to just feel. Loud music, played through real speakers is the only thing that works. Forget the tinny shit that comes from the laptop speakers. Just no.
Ahh you blessed sub-list. You complete me.
3. Live on Purpose
How easy it is to slip into the redundant, mediocrity of just moving mindlessly through the days and weeks. It is so easy to fall into the rut of daily living, and years can slip by while we check the tv schedule and plan how to spend time living vicariously through fake people. For this month of July, I intend to wake each morning and write a list (yay!) of my intentions for the day. For instance, number 1 on that list this morning was “I intend to set intentions.” Redundancy at its finest.
Setting intentions, for me is similar to goal-setting, but with a slight, very important difference. Setting a goal is like saying I want to arrive at this destination (the goal) and to get there I need to take this highway, turn left at this juncture and follow the road to the intersection of this and that, then arrive at said goal on this date at this time. Logical, linear, brain thinking action plans.
Setting an intention is figuring out where you want to go, imagining how that will feel, then really feeling it. But here comes the tricky part… that is when you hand it over to the great universal mind to figure out the hows and whens. You still jump into the car and you still head toward the destination, but you trust that the Divine has the wheel and will know the best shortcuts and routes to take to get there. It’s all about letting go of the outcome. Sounds easy in principal, but for one such as I, great lover of lists and plans, it is more challenging that you think.
Who me, control issues? What?
4. Follow Bliss
Have you ever watched a little kid when they are playing outside, all by themselves? They talk and laugh and have conversations with the invisible people who live in their imagination. They find bugs and make shadows and run just to feel their hair move in the wind. They watch clouds. They live life. I have watched my daughter in the throes of delicious that I describe. Heck I even remember way back to the olden days when I was like that, standing on an old stump, singing Black Velvet Band at the top of my lungs, imagining that I was on stage in front of thousands of adoring fans. Guileless.
Life happened and I find myself now trying to separate the “shoulds” from the “coulds”. What makes me happy? And why is that such a difficult question to answer?
In an attempt to regain my own sense of blissful wonder, I look back to the times in my life that I felt the happiest. And I turn to the theatre. I have recently volunteered to shadow Terry, a locally famous director of community theatre. I will run, fetch, sew, glue and do whatever needs doing, and I hope to learn all about the process of directing and producing plays. I remember, even back when I was performing, how cool it seemed to be the director. It is like creating a piece of art with the stage as the canvas and the talented willing people as the paint. How stupendously cool is that?
Also, writing. Time disappears when I write. Worlds are created, people live and die, and I am in control of it all. I laugh and I cry. I look frustration and apathy in the face and sometimes I win. And lots of times Facebook wins. (see number 1). Bye bye Facebook, you soul sucking monster. (oops did I say that out loud?)
And then there is the Book Club. Moving back to Cranbrook offered me lots of surprises, good and not so good, but the greatest so far has been my adoption into the Book Club. We had our meeting last night to talk about Goldfinch (great book, btw). We range in age from fabulous to extraordinary, five intelligent women who love to read, raise families, travel, cook, laugh and commiserate. Bliss achieved.
I have set only one rule for this step. It is simply this: If it feels good, do it.
To be thankful for what I have is the secret to my happy life. I figured this one out a few years ago after reading the Secret. I originally read the book because I heard it was a how-to guide on getting free stuff from the Universe. It was my first real introduction to the law of attraction and I went a little bit crazy with it. I manifested a new computer, car and house all within the course of a few months. But then I felt like something was missing in the process. I got all of these things that I was sure would fulfill me then found out that they didn’t fulfill me at all. It was disenchanting. I realized then that the important things in life aren’t things and that was the second best lesson I took away from that book.
The greatest lesson I learned from the Secret was about gratitude. I had put my heart and soul into the gratitude exercises. I would sit and appreciate the heck out of stuff until I would have tears of happiness streaming down my face. It was during one of these sessions that I understood (a-HA) that gratitude is its own reward. Being in a state of pure appreciation means that nothing is missing. And if nothing is missing, then I have everything and that is all anyone could ask for. Just everything.
I kept a gratitude journal for a long time. Every day I listed (don’t you just love lists??) five things that happened that day for which I was truly grateful. The process of journaling the things I appreciated instilled a mindset that I still have today. I look for things to be grateful for. It is a constant process of finding stuff to appreciate. If you haven’t tried this, I highly recommend it. I swear it will change your whole life.
So everyday is thanksgiving day, sans the turkey dinner. And today I am grateful for:
5a. Inspiration, that invisible muse
5b. Meditation and the elusive NOW
5c. Silky, glorious, abundant words
5d. Life in all of its messy glory
And now that my lists are written, I surrender the intention to the universe to guide me through this beautiful month of July, living on purpose, with intention and fully, completely engaged in my life.
Simply put, I intend to Live Life.