New Resolution: Let Go. No, Seriously, Let Go.

Here is my next resolution:

Let go.

Sounds easy, doesn't it? But for me it's enormously difficult. I might have a little bit of a control issue. I know, though, that trying to control everything just makes me miserable.

Because the truth is, we're never in control. If I can let go of  expectations, my need for things to go a certain way, and anything that bothers or worries me but that I can't change, it will free up a ton of energy and make me a whole lot happier.

This is something I've been contemplating for a while; below is a post I wrote about it back in August of 2017!

***

"The Power of Letting Go"

Recently in my yin yoga class, my teacher read the poem below to us. I felt that instant electric surge of recognition. The entire poem rings so true for me; see what you think:

“She Let Go”

She let go.

She let go. Without a thought or a word, she let go.

She let go of the fear.

She let go of the judgments.

She let go of the confluence of opinions swarming around her head.

She let go of the committee of indecision within her.

She let go of all the ‘right’ reasons.

Wholly and completely, without hesitation or worry, she just let go.

She didn’t ask anyone for advice.

She didn’t read a book on how to let go.

She didn’t search the scriptures.

She just let go.

She let go of all of the memories that held her back.

She let go of all of the anxiety that kept her from moving forward.

She let go of the planning and all of the calculations about how to do it just right.

She didn’t promise to let go.

She didn’t journal about it.

She didn’t write the projected date in her Day-Timer.

She made no public announcement and put no ad in the paper.

She didn’t check the weather report or read her daily horoscope.

She just let go.

She didn’t analyze whether she should let go.

She didn’t call her friends to discuss the matter.

She didn’t do a five-step Spiritual Mind Treatment.

She didn’t call the prayer line.

She didn’t utter one word.

She just let go.

No one was around when it happened.

There was no applause or congratulations.

No one thanked her or praised her.

No one noticed a thing.

Like a leaf falling from a tree, she just let go.

There was no effort.

There was no struggle.

It wasn’t good and it wasn’t bad.

It was what it was, and it is just that.

In the space of letting go, she let it all be.

A small smile came over her face.

A light breeze blew through her. And the sun and the moon shone forevermore…

by Rev. Safire Rose (as posted on Elephant Journal)

I get goosebumps every time I read it. Every line is what blogger Keri Wilt of FHB&Me calls a “head bob moment”—yep, that’s me! “The committee of indecision”—oh yeah, I’ve got them! “She didn’t read a book on how to let go”—ha! I can’t tell you how many books I’ve read on pretty much that subject. What, I can just do it without someone telling me how? What a radical, extraordinary concept! And oh, the planning … and the talking about it, and the analysis of pros and cons … that is me all over.

Every time I read those last few lines, I can glimpse the peace that’s available to us if we can actually let go of everything that doesn’t serve us. I can imagine that light, joy-full feeling of truly letting go, and I want it!

I find that I am holding on to quite a few things that are blocking my path to joy. Here are some I could let go of that would really lighten my load:

·         Needing to be perfect/not letting myself make mistakes

·         Needing to always be in control

·         Needing the house to be perfectly neat all the time

·         Needing to be right in arguments—there’s that saying, would you rather be right or happy? Must. Remember. That.

·         Agonizing about mistakes I made and embarrassing moments from my past

·         Worrying about any future event that may or may not happen

·         Worrying about anything that is out of my control

·         Self-consciousness and caring about others’ opinions of me

·         Wondering why I seem to be the only person in the house who can change the toilet paper roll or put clean dishes up. Just kidding---sort of! But there is truth at the heart of this: I can let go of the irritation I feel about these issues, and other ones that are really not worth getting upset over. So much energy wasted on the small stuff!

Is there something—or are there many somethings—that you could let go of? You can always grab them again if it turns out you need them! But perhaps you could experiment with letting go of one need or expectation or fear, and see what happens. I will be doing my very best to let go just like “she” did, and I hope you are able to do the same!

159.JPG

Counting My Blessings

It is not joy that makes us grateful; it is gratitude that makes us joyful.
— David Steindl-Rast

In my last post, I talked about the idea of creating resolutions in honor of my birthday, to “keep me on the path of increased growth and happiness; guidelines to give me more direction as I go about my daily life.” I’ve come up with the first one:

Be grateful.

So simple, yet something I have trouble remembering to do. I really want to focus on it, though, as it’s a direct route to happiness. Multiple scientific studies back this up. According to an article in Psychology Today, gratitude

·         Opens the door to more relationships

·         Improves physical health

·         Improves psychological health

·         Enhances empathy

·         Helps you sleep better

·          Improves self-esteem

  •           Increases mental strength

Yes, please!

An article on happierhuman.com that references the results of 40 studies on gratitude says, “A five-minute a day gratitude journal can increase your long-term well-being by more than 10 percent. That’s the same impact as doubling your income! … According to gratitude researcher Robert Emmons, gratitude is just happiness that we recognize after-the-fact to have been caused by the kindness of others.  Gratitude doesn’t just make us happier, it is happiness in and of itself!”

When I’m counting my blessings, I feel so much better about everything. I’m more satisfied with my life, less critical and judgmental, and more relaxed. Plus, as I said in a previous post, Zoom in on the Good, when I consciously seek things to appreciate I seem to encounter them more and more.

I enjoy paying attention to stuff I often take for granted. For example, every time I go with one of my parents to a doctor’s appointment or surgery, I’m reminded what a blessing good health is. I’m also constantly grateful for my son and husband.

But it’s easy to be grateful for the wonderful parts of your life. What’s difficult is to find silver linings in the tough times. I think, though, that that sort of “attitude of gratitude” might be the most powerful. If we can find some tiny thing to be grateful for in the midst of difficulty, it can spur optimism and hope, and make the tough time more bearable.

I’ve been reading Gabrielle Bernstein’s book May Cause Miracles: A 40-Day Guidebook of Subtle Shifts for Radical Change and Unlimited Happiness. In it, she talks a lot about the power of gratitude. The affirmation for Day 11 is “I am grateful for this moment.” She recommends you repeat it to yourself throughout the day, and I’ve continued to use it. Not only does it help me appreciate ordinary pleasant moments that I might have missed, it also helps me reframe challenging moments. I try to see how I could be grateful for that moment. What could it teach me?

Or, failing that, I use the old “at least I’m not…” trick. No matter what’s happening, it could always be worse, so voila: instant gratitude. Plus, when I think to myself, “Could be worse…” I remember a scene from one of my favorite movies, “Young Frankenstein,” when Igor says, “Could be worse; could be raining” and it immediately begins to pour. Makes me laugh every time, and that always helps.

I’m also trying a written gratitude practice. In my evening journal, instead of recounting everything that happened (which seemed to result in complaining more often than not) I now focus on the positive. Ending the day by giving thanks feels a lot better than rehashing what went wrong.

Painter and creativity coach Tracy Verdugo does her gratitude practice in the morning. When I interviewed her for my book on morning rituals, she said, “I used to wake up and think about work right away, which was stressful. Now I’ve created this habit of being thankful first thing instead, and it’s a much better way to start my day.”

Do you have a gratitude practice? I’d love to hear about it!

768.JPG

The Joy of Novelty

I watched “Breakfast at Tiffany's” again recently. (I love that movie!) This time, I was struck by the part when Paul sells his story and Holly says, “We should celebrate! I think there's a bottle of champagne in the icebox; you open it and I'll get dressed.” He says (while opening the bottle) that he's never had champagne before breakfast before, and she says they should spend the day taking turns doing things they've never done. She takes him to Tiffany's; he takes her to the public library; she takes him shoplifting! I thought, what a wonderful idea! Not the shoplifting—but to spend an entire day doing new things. Doesn’t it sound invigorating and adventurous?

Of course in New York City it would be easy to fill the day with new activities, but in a smaller town, is it more difficult? You might have to try a little harder, but I think it’s possible. There are plenty of places here that I've never been. I bet we all have those spots we drive by and think, "one day I'm going to check that out,” but we’re always too busy, and then we forget.

Now, an entire day might be asking a little much in my current world—and probably in yours too—but we could certainly take an occasional morning or afternoon to have one or two new experiences. Hmmm … I just tried to make a list and I could only come up with three things. Wow, I am definitely stuck in my old habits! There are probably dozens of activities I haven't tried and places I haven’t visited around here, yet I can only think of three.

When you're in a rut, it's hard to turn the wheel and get out. That's why I love traveling--new places force us to do things differently and expose us to fresh experiences, which inspire growth and novel ideas. Keri Wilt, author of the beautiful blog FHB&Me, just wrote a post about that very thing. She related how her young son would make huge leaps in development whenever they would take a trip. She says, "Despite all of my encouraging and nurturing at home, it was only when he left our home base, that he grew and changed by leaps and bounds. Now, I am not discounting what he learned at home, but I made a mental note at the time about the power that new people, views, and experiences can do for a developing mind. And guess what? It's true for my developing mind too! Yes, my 43 year old mind is still changing and learning and growing. And just like my son, when I confine myself to living the same days over and over again: wake up, breakfast, work, lunch, home, tv, dinner, bed...I get stuck and my growth slows to a crawl."

Yes! She hits the nail on the head. Novelty is good for us. It wakes us up, stretches our mind, gives us a different vantage point from which to examine our lives. It opens us to new possibilities. Research shows that learning new things keeps our brain changing and growing as we age, and can help prevent cognitive decline. So not only is it fun, it's beneficial to our health.

My husband and I try to have a date night every week. We’re in a rut on this too, usually heading to our favorite bar for cocktails and then to dinner. Recently, we shook it up a little by trying a new restaurant. It was amazing—incredible ambience, excellent service, to-die-for food. We felt like we were in a different city altogether. It was so much more memorable and fun than going to the same old place.

Last year I read the book “The 52 Weeks: Two Women and Their Quest to Get Unstuck, with Stories and Ideas to Jumpstart Your Year of Discovery” by Karen Amster-Young and Pam Godwin. It was a fascinating read. These two 40-something friends felt like they had lost momentum in their lives. They were griping to each other over drinks, and came up with a plan to “face our fears, rediscover our interests, try new things, and renew our relationships” by doing something different each week for a year. They started a blog to chronicle their year and ended up publishing the book—how’s that for shaking up your life? After I read it, I was quite inspired. But the thought of trying to do something EVERY WEEK was a bit overwhelming, I admit. So I adjusted that to every month—which still felt a little intimidating, but much more manageable—and decided I would start in January of this year.

So far, here’s what I’ve done:

·         January: took piano lessons for the first time

·         February: made marbled paper on my own and taught a friend how to do it at our first “art party”

·         March: performed a song on piano, in a band, at a showcase—in front of actual people! (Eeeek! I was terrified but I did it!)

·         April: started writing my first book

·         May: launched this blog!

Each of these took me out of my comfort zone, and everything except the art in February scared me silly! But I find that I’m now feeling more excited, engaged, and energized than I have in years.

For June, I’m REALLY stretching my boundaries. I’ve got a surfing lesson scheduled this afternoon! I have never tried to surf and am not particularly athletic; luckily, the waves here are not that big. Surfing is something I’ve wanted to do for a very long time, but I’ve always been too afraid of looking like a fool. I got tired of moving the Post-it note that said “book surfing lesson” from calendar to calendar year after year, so when I decided devote 2017 to new activities, I knew surfing would be one of them. I am both excited and anxious; I will let you know how it goes!

What have you always wanted to try? Which interesting spot in your hometown is crying to be checked out? I hope you get to have an adventure of your own soon, and that it brings you joy!