“Run my dear, from anything, that may not strengthen your precious, budding wings” Hafez
“Stop acting so small. You are the Universe in ecstatic motion.” Rumi
Confession of a Theatre Geek:
I listen to Broadway soundtracks while cleaning my house. I blast them loud and proud, and Yep, I sing along, sometimes pausing in my scrubbing to act out certain parts. It’s who I am. It’s what I do.
My daughter, Em has known this about me her whole life, and for the most part is not too terribly embarrassed. As a matter of fact, she quite often sings along. The only difference is, she is actually good at it.
I have always believed that every person born into this world has a unique gift or talent, something they are the very best at, that they born to do. Our purpose in life is to discover what that is and to share it with the world. For some of us, myself included, it is a lifelong process. We dabble, and explore, trying this and that until we find something that rings our bell. For others, like my Em, they figure it out before they even know they have anything to figure out.
The year was 2000, a new century was upon us and without any of the Y2K drama we had been warned about. Em was 3 years old, sitting in the living room playing with her pretty ponies. I was in the kitchen, scrubbing something or other, belting along with the Phantom of the Opera, lost in the swells and passions of the music. It was coming to the end of the song, and I stopped singing because even in my wildest dreams there is NO WAY IN GOD’S GREEN EARTH that I would attempt to hit that last high note that Christine hits. You know the one I mean… where the Phantom is mesmerizing her to “sing my angel of music, SING FOR ME”. And, man does she sing!
(I googled it. The note is a high E natural. For anyone out there with any singing experience, you know this is a super high nearly Minnie Riperton high note.)
So picture it. I have stopped scrubbing and am standing listening. The highest of the high note is about to be sung. I wonder, fleetingly, if I should turn down the volume so that the wine glasses don’t shatter, when I hear this voice sing out, on perfect pitch just seconds before Sarah Brightman: a perfect high E natural.
I look around the corner, and there is Em, singing to her pretty ponies, effortlessly hitting that high frigging E. 3 years old and she nailed it.
So that is when I figured out that she has a Voice. She is 17 now and singing is her passion, her purpose and her gift to the world. She is still undecided about pursuing it as a career path, but there is no denying that her Voice is her Dharma. What is it like, I wonder, to find your passion that early in life? She seems pretty darn happy about it to me. Lucky kid.
Here is a sample of her song stylings now, featuring mismatched socks and impromptu sing-a-long by our dog, Jojo.
My own journey has not been as simple, or as clear cut. I have tried my hand at many creative pursuits over the years, from painting, to quilting, costuming to acting, and with each new venture I find a different part of myself. With each new discovery I am putting the pieces of me together. And now, as I write everyday, I lose myself in the creative process. This thing, this writing, is as close as I have come to my soul’s purpose here this time around. I believe I will see where this road leads. Isn’t it true that to become more like God, a person needs to create? For what is God but The Creator.
I am the open vessel through which my Divine Creation flows.
“You wander from room to room hunting for the diamond necklace that is already around your neck.” Rumi
My niece, Tree Bunny (not her real name. My brother is not a hippy) has recently begun the minimalist 21 day experiment. In the challenge a person packs up everything they own and sticks it in a room. Then items are removed from that room only as needed. Day one you may want to go get your toothbrush, and some clean underwear. Perhaps a dish, some cutlery and a pot the next morning when you want to have oatmeal for breakfast. And slowly you replace only the things you truly need and use into your daily life.
I have to admit that this paring life down to stark nothingness strangely appeals to me.
Tree Bunny is mostly through the challenge. She has exactly one plate, one bowl, one fork, spoon and knife, one mug, one week’s worth of clothes, 2 books (omg that gives me palpitations… 2 books??) and just a few incidental items, like toiletries and towels. Her groceries are purchased with absolutely no waste allowed. If she knows she will eat 2 bananas and 1 apple, that is what she buys. In her words, this experiment has blown her mind. It is “so surprisingly freeing and feels soooo good.” She has kept two pictures for her walls because she loves them and they are pretty, but basically “everything else had to go”. She can pack her entire life into one trunk and she is blissfully happy about that.
I would wager big bucks that this bunny was a monk in a past life. But I digress.
The important things in life aren’t things. I know this. I try to live this, engendering a more “need” than “want” mentality when I shop. Stuff can accumulate so easily. This fact was never more apparent than in early April when we moved from Kelowna to Cranbrook. My American Husband and I had made strides to simplify our lifestyle, or so we thought, but still we ended up with more boxes full of stuff than would fit in the biggest truck the moving company had to offer. Where did it all come from? Is that what happens when you leave two boxes alone in a dark room?
So I have decided to take a page from Tree Bunny’s book (one of the two she kept). I don’t necessarily feel the need to pare down so drastically, but pare down I must. No more “This might come back in style” or “What if we need it one day?” And really, will I fix that broken thing that has been collecting dust for 3 years? It’s time to get busy. It’s time to release everything that I no longer need. If I don’t use it, or love it, then I am getting rid of it.
Except my books. Naturally.
The more stuff we accumulate the greater our obligation to store it, house it, clean it, pay for it, and protect it. These things we desire become the pretty bars in the cage they create for us, shiny and gilded perhaps, but locking us in nonetheless. Every morning we wake up too early, rush out of our big house, careful to lock the door to keep all of our stuff safe, then head off in the car we are still making payments on to sit in an office doing a job (that let’s be honest, we probably dislike) so that we can make the money to pay for the car and the house and the stuff that sit empty all day.
What kind of madness have we created for ourselves?
When did the accumulation of things begin to outweigh the importance of free time, leisure, relaxation and family? Did the money we spent to impress the neighbours bring us the satisfaction we presumed it would? Of course the neighbours we are trying to impress are so busy trying to impress us they barely notice. In literature we call that “irony”.
Hand me the keys to this prison, I want out! I have closets to clean and boxes to empty. I have a whole wardrobe of outfits that hang there waiting patiently while day in and day out I wear about 10% of the clothes I own. I have boxes in my basement that have made it through three moves without ever being unpacked. Thank goodness the Matrix has a huge trunk space because things are about to get real.
And my battle cry?
If I don’t love it, or use it…. hasta la vista baby.
“Be a lamp, or a lifeboat, or a ladder. Help someone’s soul heal. Walk out of your house like a shepherd.” Rumi
My much older brother (we’ll call him Clooney) owns a cabin in Montana on Duck Lake where we all just spent the weekend. The quarters are large enough to comfortably hold the 8 family members and friends that had gathered, but small enough that there is little or no room for finding much alone time. Clooney, being the intelligent guy that he is, has devised a method to give fair warning to the unsuspecting that a storm may be brewing.
If a person wakes up in the morning feeling less than sociable and maybe just a little bit grumpy, there is a specially designated signal to warn others. It is a bright red coffee mug that can be seen from great distances and is meant to warn off unsuspecting cabin mates of a percolating foul mood. If somebody is sipping from the mug, it is advisable to give them a wide berth until they find their happy place.
Brilliant use of form and function, Clooney. Bravo.
Funny thing though, a person’s bad mood typically doesn’t need a red mug warning attached for others to recognize it. Have you ever noticed that one person in a bad mood can join an otherwise pleasant group and pretty soon almost everybody is feeling owly and cross? Maybe there is that one guy in the office who always has something to complain about. Or that friend who shows up at a party and pretty soon everyone has found a reason to make an early exit. You know who I am talking about… that Debbie Downer whose foul moods act as the anchor that pulls everyone under.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, we all know that person whose presence will almost always raise the moods and attitudes in whatever group they join. Could be a boring day at the office where everyone feels blah, then Susie Sunshine shows up and pretty soon everyone is energized, laughing, have a great time and wondering why they felt so down earlier. Wherever she goes, her happiness radiates and warms up whatever space she is in. We all love Susie and want her at every party we throw, because we know she will just make it better.
This phenomena has actually been put to scientific research and the findings are quite fascinating. In a study back in 2010 at Harvard University, Alison Hill and her team of researchers concluded that happiness and sadness are indeed contagious and tend to spread in a model very similar to that of infectious diseases. And it is much easier to spread the Sad germs than it is the Happy ones. In their study Hill and her team found that groups subjected to sadness were infected about 50% of the time, but those subjected to happiness were only infected 11% of the time. So in the grand scheme of things, Debbie Downer can take down Susie Sunshine almost any day of the week.
Somebody give Debbie the red mug. This chick needs a warning label.
Armed with this information I intend to make a concerted effort to spread sunshine wherever I go. Even on the days I would rather drink from the red mug, I will suck it up and produce a smile, a cheerful hello and keep my bad mood to myself. And by faking it until I make it, maybe I will infect myself with those jumpy little happy germs along the way.
As the Buddha said, “Happiness never decreases by being shared”. I say spread that shit around. Maybe we can start a whole Happiness Pandemic.
“Only from the heart can you touch the sky.” Rumi
“Either give me more wine, or leave me alone.” Rumi
Any of you who have been following along on my journey for the past few months have probably figured out that I like to set myself to tasks. I have found that if I don’t give myself tangible goals and set intentions to follow through, days and days will pass without any writing, creating or purposeful living. Yes, yes: I really AM the Queen of Procrastination. Look here I am with my crown:
And so I find myself with the task today to talk about Rumi’s quote, “Either give me more wine or leave me alone.” No really. It’s a Rumi quote. Imagine my surprise when I was collecting quotes to use during this month of Ruminations I have assigned to myself, and here was this awesome, fabulous, incongruous quote. It seemed so unspiritual in nature,(ironic, I know, because of the direct reference to a spirit) but when I contemplated the quote further, I wondered, could this hide a great life lesson?
On the surface the meaning seems fairly clear. Granted I have had moments like that in my life, wanting nothing but to be left alone to slosh around in my own self pity, ‘wining’ as it were. But upon further study I believe the true meaning behind these words goes much deeper. Perhaps what Rumi is really trying to say is “if you are here to add to my joy, then stay. If not… get outta my face.” He says it a bit more poetically.
My contemplation of joy, and how to bring more happiness to life has led me to write a LIST! I know. You are probably as excited as I am.
Living ‘happily ever after’ is not just for Disney Princesses anymore. With a few guidelines anyone can live a happier, more fulfilling and joyous life. Here are a few tips that have made all the difference in my life.
1. Choose your friends wisely. Friends are a great source of happiness. They can bring you comfort when you need it, a shoulder to cry on, someone to laugh with, or someone to build you up and make you believe in yourself and in your dreams. Good friends are priceless and irreplaceable. Keep them close to your heart. Cherish them and love them for they count among the greatest gifts your life has to offer.
Then there are those other ‘friends’. You know the ones I mean. These ‘friends’ are always sure to knock you down a few pegs, make you feel just a little bit foolish for dreaming too big, or say the things that should really be left unsaid. The ‘friends’ who gossip to you, and then gossip about you. The ‘friends’ who start sentences with things like “don’t take this the wrong way, but….” or “I hate to be a bitch, but….”. These people are not friends. They are frenemies. Recognize them quickly, send them love, but then send them. Away. Far, far away.
2. Choose to be happy. Sounds too simple, I know, but when you come right down to it, happiness really is a choice. Life is a constant series of changes, some good, some not so good, but always it is our reaction to events that cause us to experience happiness, or not. By making a conscious effort to see happiness as a choice when things are going well, it will be much easier to find a silver lining when those storm clouds roll in. Sure, you may not feel happiness when the rain is pouring down, but at least you won’t despair. Choosing to be happy most of the time helps to create a habit of happiness so that no matter what life throws your way, you will weather the storm.
3. Get moving. Walk, bike, swim, dance, jog, hop on a pogo stick, skip rope, whatever. Just get moving. It will fire up your endorphins and make the happy chemicals dance in your brain. And while you are at it, take those endorphins out into nature. Something about walking through the woods recharges and replenishes in such a way that it is nearly impossible to hold onto stress.
4. Dance with abandon. We all seem to worry so much about what others think of us it stands to reason that everybody else is so busy thinking the same things themselves that they don’t have the time to think anything about us. Free yourself from the perception that other people judge what you do, then crank the music and dance. Nobody is watching.
5. Help somebody. It is the best kind of high. Reaching out to somebody in need takes us out of ourselves and gives us a sense of empathy, compassion, and joy that makes feeling despondent nearly impossible. Lend a hand, and gain a heart.
6. Get busy. Create something. Put down the iDevice, shut off the Netflix and make something from nothing. Creating gets us closer to our true selves and brings our spirits alive. It doesn’t have to be fancy and you don’t have to share it with anyone. Fingerpaint, or decorate a cake, or plant an herb garden or make a rag rug… anything will do. Be inspired and follow that calling.
7. Stay young. Years may cause our bodies to age, but we can choose to keep our spirit young. In youth we see things with fresh eyes, we fall in love with life and all of its possibilities, we dream big and believe we can grow into it. By maintaining a youthful spirit we can sell our cleverness and look with awe at all of the wonders of the world.
8. Laugh (and cry) often. My American Husband is hilarious. He makes me laugh every single day and this, to me, is his finest quality and most attractive feature. Laughter really is the best medicine for whatever ails you. But did you know that crying is also very good for you? Feeling and expressing whatever emotions you have is the most authentic form of human existence. It’s only when we suppress our emotions that they bounce around inside and cause us to get sick. So watch a funny, or sad movie, find friends who share your sense of humor, and learn to laugh at life’s funny twists and turns. Don’t take life so seriously. Nobody makes it out alive anyways.
And so concludes my advice on living happily ever after. Taking a cue from my own list, I create for you, a poem:
My list is writ,
my song is sung,
my smile is lit,
my wine is brung.
Take that, Rumi.
“Set your life on fire. Seek those who fan your flames.” Rumi
May the passion of your dreams light your way.
May the fire of that passion burn the doubts that try to block you.
May your light shine so brightly that no shadow darkens your path.
May you be the light you seek.
May it find you.
You worry too much
You have seen your own strength
You have seen your own beauty
You have seen your golden wings
Of anything less why do you worry?
You are in truth
Of the soul
Of the soul
“Let yourself be drawn by the strange pull of that which you truly love.” Rumi
Don’t you just love all of the inspirational quotes about following your dreams? “The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams”. Preach it, Eleanor Roosevelt! Or what about our buddy Walt Disney: “If you can dream it, you can do it”. And since I have reached that 1/2 century marker, C.S. Lewis has become my new BFF with this one: “You are never too old to set a new goal or dream a new dream”. Makes me want to take up embroidery so that I can put that on a pillow.
I have found that the problem with growing older is that my freedom and capacity to dream seems to have diminished. When I was young I could look toward the future and know that anything was possible. Everything I wished for could actually come true. Life was expectant and exciting and I hadn’t learned to temper my dreams with logic or reality. What a wonderful, breathless time that was.
But life set in and before I knew it I was paying a mortgage, raising a child, building a career and taking care of everyone else. I made sure to cultivate my daughter’s dreams, signing her up for classes and driving her here and there, excited to see her so vividly open to her own beautiful future. I was busy, never having a moment to myself, but that really didn’t seem to matter.
And then one day somebody asked me a question. It was a simple question, but one I hadn’t thought about in a very long time. The question made me pause, and by pausing I finally understood how very out of touch with myself I had become. Why was it so hard to answer?
“What are my dreams?”
I honestly couldn’t answer. Dumbfounded and flummoxed I did what I always do in situations like this one. I googled. My searching brought me to a book by Dr. Wayne Dyer, called Inspiration, Your Ultimate Calling. I recognized his name from PBS specials my Dad liked to watch and decided to give it a try. I ran down to the local bookstore and picked it up. It was my first book by Dr. Wayne and I was captivated almost at once. My family and I were headed to St. George to visit my parents and I ended up reading the whole thing on the way there. Every word, every new chapter was another AHA! AHA! AHA!
Wayne’s words were like water to my thirsty soul: “There’s a voice in the universe calling each of us to remember our purpose; our reason for being here now, in this world of impermanence.” Yes, Wayne! Yes there is! ” The voice whispers, shouts, and sings to us that this experience of being in form, in space and time, knowing life and death, has meaning. The voice is that of inspiration, which is within each and every one of us.” YES! It IS within me!
I could have danced with joy had the airplane aisles been just a smidge wider.
This beautiful book began me on my journey to finding my inner bliss, my purpose and my calling. I began to really pay attention to what excited me. And once I finally figured out what my dreams were, I made efforts, even if they were just baby steps, in the direction of those dreams. Baby steps to personal fulfillment. Baby steps to divine enlightenment. Baby steps to Bliss.
In these subsequent years I have learned a few things about being a Dream Catcher. Perhaps a list is in order?
1. Dream big, then grow into it. There is no sense in attaching limitations to our dreams. Shoot for the stars and wait for the Universe to build you a rocket ship.
2. Be specific. Clarify what you want so that you can easily visualize it. Write it down and remind yourself as often as possible so that you stay focused on the Dream.
3. Ask for help. Call in your celestial team for a meeting and delegate the tasks to your angelic helpers and spirit guides. In other words, pray. .. whatever that means for you.
4. Believe. Trust that your Dreams will come true and they will. You become what you believe. Simple as that.
5. Let go. The hows and the whens will be sorted out by the Universe. Don’t try to micro-manage the celestial team, because that is just likely to slow things down or trip things up. They know what they are doing a whole lot better than you do.
6. Take a few steps. With every moment of every day take those baby steps as you are guided. The path will show itself and you will be guided in the perfect way and at the perfect time to your Dream destination.
Your life is yours to live. Dream big, and believe that those dreams will come true.