Sunday, March 29, 2009

Being Light-Hearted

“Seven days without laughter makes one weak.” – Mort Walker

Life is funny. Or at least it can be. I think it’s a matter of perspective. In the past I used to have the mind-set, “life is a tragedy” as opposed to a comedy. Guess which experience is more fun?

Yesterday I went to Dolores Park with some friends of mine. We spent a while looking for a good spot – somewhere with partial sun, on a flat-ish part of the hill, a good view of San Francisco, not too crowded – and we found it. I spread my Neat Sheet on the ground, kicked off my shoes, and laid down. I inhaled deeply and noticed a smell. A poop smell. My friends and I attributed it to being downwind from the dog-playing area and didn’t think too much of it. But the smell didn’t go away. We tried to ignore it, talked about moving somewhere else, but stayed where we were. Finally my friend Kyle shifted positions and we noticed a brown spot leaking through the Neat Sheet.

“Is that? Is that dog poop??” I asked.

We lifted up the blanket and sure enough there was a nice, um, spread of feces. Even now I’m laughing about it.

While some people might shake their heads and say, “That’s horrible! How gross!” I instead laugh about it. Neat Sheets can be washed. We still had a good time. No one was harmed in the process (although Kyle joked about being permanently scarred).

I’m not sure if I’m illustrating my point or not but I guess I wanted to say everything is a matter of perspective. Instead of getting upset about a little dog doo I’m laughing about it. Instead of crying, lamenting the situation, or saying, “woe is me,” I choose to laugh. And not just about dog poop but about other things too. I’m choosing to laugh about situations that used to distress me. I’m laughing at God and God’s plan for me. I’m laughing about the craziness of my life and the situations I find myself in. I’m laughing at me. I think God is a big prankster, I mean, how could God not be when you really think about it??

I guess I just want to say my life is more enjoyable, more fun when I’m light-hearted. When I laugh instead of cry. When I find the humor in my situation as opposed to the gravity. When I can say, “God, you’re so funny! You’re such a jokester for putting me in a situation like this!”

And I have that wish for others.

I dream of a world where people experience joy as much as they possibly can. Where they shake off their doldrums and instead dance in the divine rhythm. Where people laugh more instead of cry. Where we all find the humor in our lives. I dream of a world where we know the value of laughter, and not just in a stand-up-comic sense, but laughter when it comes to getting on the wrong bus or sitting in dog poop. Laughter at (most) life situations that could be interpreted with solemnity. I dream of a world where we’re light-hearted and carefree. Where we savor each and every moment of our lives because we experience pure unadulterated joy most of the time.

Another world is not only possible, it’s probable.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Being Present Revisited

I know I’ve written about this before but I’m human so sometimes it takes me a while to learn my lessons. Some may even say it’s a lifelong process. . .

Anyway, this year I made the New Year’s Resolution to be more present and stay in the moment. I feel like the Universe is conspiring to grant that wish.

About a month ago a bunch of my coworkers were laid off, meaning their work was turned over to me. My first response was, “Ack! There is so much to do! How am I going to finish all of this?!?” And then I started “future-tripping” or dwelling on what’s coming next, future conversations, events, etc. But my creator knows what I need and want before I know I need or want it, so all these situations are coming up to force me to stay present.

I guess I wanted to express why I like staying in the moment, why I think being present is a great practice. For me, when I stay present I feel serene and calm. I feel at peace and like I don’t have to worry about anything because I’m taking care of what’s in front of me as opposed to what’s ahead of me. I mean, I’m not sitting on my tush twirling my hair all day, I am working, I am taking steps to accomplish what’s before me but instead of freaking out about it I’m adopting the mindset of, “I’ll finish what I finish. And if I can’t meet all my deadlines, well, I can’t, and the world won’t stop spinning.” I say that and I feel so much ease. I feel the anxious knot in my stomach unclench.

Beyond easing anxiety, when I’m present I feel myself steeped in divinity. It seems easier to believe all that surrounds me is God. Right now the smell of Chinese food is wafting through my window while my curtain flutters in the breeze. Instead of wrinkling my nose or decrying the audacity of the smell to enter my abode, I can enjoy it. I can say hmmmmmm, smell’s like God. Hmmm, look at all the beauty before me. Hmmmm, look at what God has created. I can enjoy it.

When I spiral out into the future it never ends. There’s always something next, there’s a constant queue of, “This is due tomorrow and I need to contact her and her and then that’s due on Monday and oh yeah I have to do laundry and go grocery shopping and then I need to mail that package and write that check and. . .” it just doesn’t stop. When I future-trip I don’t enjoy anything! I miss out on my life and what’s happening. I can’t relax or feel easy or at peace. Who wants to live in that state? Certainly not me.

And because I believe in providing solutions, I’ll share what works for me. Besides really noticing my senses (what am I smelling? What am I touching? What does it feel like?), dancing brings me to the present because it’s just me and the music. I’m swaying my body in time with the melody and for those three minutes that’s all there is.

What also works for me is gratitude. Feeling grateful for what I do have instead of lamenting what I don’t brings me to the here and now. Breathing deeply also helps. (Isn’t that the cure for everything??) Imagery also takes me there. Imagining myself clenching dandelion seeds and then opening my fist to allow them to be carried away in the wind lets me surrender and stay in the moment. Lastly, affirmations have been working for me. Saying, “I live in the moment and take things as they come one day at a time,” or “I surrender to my higher power and let go of my desire to control.” For me future-tripping and control go hand in hand.

I dream of a world where we all stay present. Where we enjoy what’s before us and stop worrying about what comes next. I dream of a world where we feel anchored to the Earth and recognize the divinity in everyone and everything. Where we love our surroundings, live in our surroundings and stay in our surroundings. Where we notice what we’re seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, touching. Where we live in our bodies instead of our heads. Where we feel joy and peace and ease and serenity. Where we live life to the fullest and savor each mouth-watering drop.

Mostly I dream of a world where we smile at one another, where we spread love like handfuls of birdseed. Where every person feels safe and content and whole. Where each person sees challenges and obstacles before them and deciphers the message God is sending. Where living in the moment means not over-thinking things. Where we do and say and express and feel freely. I want to live in a world where worries float by like white puffy clouds in the sky. Where I stay present because this moment is all I have.

Another world is not only possible, it’s probable.

Thursday, March 12, 2009


There is a concept in yoga that I have struggled with for years. Santosa, or contentment, simultaneously makes perfect sense and yet completely baffles me at the same time.

On the one hand contentment seems completely called for. To me it translates into not being greedy, to feeling satisfied with the amount of money, power, and esteem we have in life. It makes sense because resources are limited. The opposite of contentment brings to mind Ebenezer Scrooge, from Dickens’ novel “A Christmas Carol.” The fellow who acquired more and more wealth and essentially sat on it while those around him suffered in poverty. Clearly greed is a bad thing. One only has to look at how the desire to acquire more leads to misery for yourself and for others (ahem Bernie Madoff. May you see the error of your ways and may others learn to forgive you).

At the same time, contentment in the broader sense, such as being satisfied with what’s before you, being satisfied with your lot in life, completely confounds me. I just don’t get it. I obviously beat the drum for change repeatedly. So where does contentment fit into that? How do I reconcile contentment with my constant impulse/desire to improve not only myself but the world around me? How can I feel content with homelessness and yet at the same time work to eradicate it?

I think maybe it has something to do with knowing our limits, knowing how much we, on an individual basis, can accomplish. Yes, I can give the homeless man on the corner a granola bar and no, I am not in a position to build him a house. And while I constantly want to do more, give more, be more, contentment lies in recognizing I can only do so much. Me, in this body, in the position I am currently in, at this moment, can do no more than smile at the homeless man and offer him food.

(As a group however, it’s a different story. United as one is a different matter, which I’ve already written about.)

I think the other piece to contentment is living in the moment and feeling satisfied with the present. This is the hardest part for me. Truly. When I stay present and in the moment I love it, but it’s not my natural inclination. Rather my thoughts are something like this:

“Ugh. Why is it so hot outside? Why can’t it be cooler? This weather is horrible. I wish it was spring. I can’t believe I have to wait so long for spring to come again.”

I find it hard to enjoy what is, to not future trip, and I often wish things were different than they are. I guess I’m saying I think contentment lies in reveling in what is. Enjoying the moment, enjoying the heat, enjoying waiting for the bus, enjoying the situation you are currently in because you’re in it and it’s your life and it’s all you have. Sooo much of my mental energy gets expended on thinking about the future. Worrying, lamenting rather than enjoying what’s before me.

I’ve gotten much better since moving to California, (when you don’t know where you’re living two weeks in advance you learn to live in the moment) but it’s a daily process.

So I don’t know, I guess I reconcile santosa and service just by letting them coexist. Just by trying to feel content and grateful for what I have, content with what I, as an individual can do, and also working to change things little by little.

I dream of a world where everyone feels content and grateful for their lives. Where we work to improve ourselves and the lives of those around us but in a balanced way. I dream of a world where gratitude reigns and where we all truly live our lives because we stick with the moment. Because we savor what is before us. Because we are truly present. I dream of a world where everyone everywhere feels content, feels satisfied, feels joy. I dream of a world where daily we work to fulfill our mission on this Earth and also feel satisfied with what we’ve accomplished. Where we love what we’ve done thus far and also love what we will do in the future. I dream of a world where everyone everywhere wakes up feeling lovely because, oh right, this is life I’m experiencing and life is grand.

Another world is not only possible, it's probable.

Sunday, March 1, 2009


For the past few weeks especially I’ve been going through some serious mental anguish. The reason for my strife is I’ve been at war with myself. I’ve been divided between my head and my heart. My mind and my intuition have been at odds and in that state I experience the worst kind of hell.

Instead of going internally for answers I’ve been seeking outside help. “What do you think I should do? What do you think I should do? And you?” I’ve been asking friends and family for advice, caught up in this manic state of hopping from one person to another. And that? That does me no good.

The reason I’ve refused to look internally for answers, to talk to my intuition, is I’ve been afraid of what it would say. When I want something so badly I’m scared of hearing it won’t come to fruition. But I’ve found it’s still better to listen even when I don’t want to because otherwise life becomes unbearable.

I bring this up because it’s scary to listen to your intuition when it flies in the face of logic. It’s scary to go against the grain, especially when every person in your life opposes your decision. I think it’s important to distinguish here between whim and intuition. I get a passing fancy every now and again to jump on a plane and fly to New Zealand. That my friends is escapism, not intuition. However, if every cell of my body screamed for me to go to New Zealand, if it was couched in more than just ego-centered desire, it’s intuition.

I want to follow my intuition every step of the way. I want to feel steadfast even when I’m alone in my decision. I love my friends and family but how can they know what’s best for me? We barely know what’s best for ourselves. I want to stop getting distracted by the colorful pinwheel folds of my mind and instead focus on the gold-colored fastener in the middle where my intuition resides. I want to go deeply within and align my desires to my intuition. I wish to be me and know me and stay true to my core. I wish to be with my core always. I want to listen to my intuition always even when I’m scared of the answer. I wish to follow it because I know life is better when I do so.

I envision a world where we go internally for answers. A world where we listen to ourselves and our inner divinity. A world where we know ourselves and trust ourselves above all others. Where we do not become clouded by doubts and logic but rather move ahead at full steam because we want what’s in our best interest. I dream of a world where we know our core and listen to our core. Where we do not get distracted by what others say to us and instead do the “illogical” things anyway if that is where we’re being guided. I envision a world where we know true happiness and true peace because we follow our instincts.

Another world is not only possible, it’s probable.