10 Ways to Stop Being ‘Insanely Busy’

Today’s episode is all about taking a break from the grind, whether that’s a much needed lunch break of the 10-month sabbatical my guest managed to take. Rest has been proven again and again to increase our well-being dramatically … and yet, we don’t do it.
Here’s a reprint of my post popular article on this subject. I’m running it while I’m on a vacation in France getting my own rest. I hope you find it valuable!

If you’re like many of us, you work 50-60 hours in an office. Or you take work home, work on weekends — and try to juggle the rest of life as well. It gets overwhelming, doesn’t it?
That plus the ever present demands of children, ageing parents, and community sends us over the edge. No wonder we get mired in self-talk about the impossibility of work-life balance. But here’s the thing …
 Would you unplug if you could?

Often we get lulled into thinking we have no choice. We believe we have to overwork in order to succeed, in order to be viable. We believe we have to suffer to be whole.
For one week why not try some of these unplugging ideas as an experiment in self-care? You’ll find out exactly how willing you are to stop being so busy. And you may just find your way back to greater peace.
1. Begin to breathe. Take five minutes at the start of each day – before you even reach for your phone. Sit up, get comfortable, and simply breathe with your eyes closed. Follow your breath in and out. Just observe it. Let your mind go crazy but keep coming back to your breath. Do this every day for one week, and then notice. Are you starting to feel calmer?

2. Forgive those who anger you. Easier said than done, perhaps. Take at least thirty minutes of quiet time on a lunch hour to write out all of your resentments towards a particular person. Write it all down. Eventually, you will get to the end. And there you will naturally find forgiveness – which feels so much better. (If you think you don’t have 30 minutes, what can you change so you actually do that have that time? Reminder: We all deserve an hour off at lunch.)

3. Acknowledge yourself. When is the last time you tuned into your inner conversation about yourself? It’s there – trust me. Consider adding some kind words or a little pep talk each day when you’re taking a shower or brushing your teeth. Picking a regular time seems to help.

4. Take back lunch. If you work through lunch, stop immediately. You need this break. Really! Allow yourself to shut your door and relax. Bring your lunch to work and find something fun to do with this precious hour. Read a juicy novel. Knit. Take a walk. Bring an instrument and consider starting an office jam session. (I once witnessed this in an award winning Swedish ad agency!) This step, alone, could start a small revolution … and such truly alternative ‘brain breaks’ have been proven to increase overall effectiveness in work.

5. Turn off the ringer and all notifications on your phone. Let your phone fade into the background. Check it sporadically … you can do it! You’ll find you become more present, more relaxed. And far more inspired. If your boss demands you keep it on, simply smile and keep setting that firm, polite boundary. This is restorative time that allows you to work more efficiently in the afternoon.

6. Turn off your phone at lunch. Just try this for one week, even if it feels incredibly uncomfortable. You will find that what once seemed incredibly important isn’t so crucial now. And so balance returns.

7. Start to walk places – or ride a bike. This is a good one if you can’t make time to exercise. If your daily commute is filled with traffic, get around it hopping on a bike. If that’s not practical, outfit your bike with a basket or panniers and do your errands this way. Or carry a small backpack and walk. The natural endorphins you’ll experience may make this irresistible.

8. Take a nap. Insane right? Au contraire. According to The National Sleep Foundation, a 20-30 minute nap will leave you far more alert and better able to perform, without grogginess. Try to find a place at work to curl up – read a great book called Take a Nap; Change Your Life  for inspiration.

9. Find a buddy. Making changes in old habits and mindsets requires support. Find at least one good pal you can call as you travel new roads. Check in each day by phone or email on how this slowing, calming process is working for you.

10. Ask yourself what you need … then provide it. So often we put ourselves last in the rush to please others and get ahead. But our needs never stop. Get in the habit of asking yourself several times per day what you need. Take the first answer you get, even if you don’t like it. It’s okay … you really can trust yourself to know the truth.

Remember, you were designed to be whole and complete — without overwork or stress of any kind. And you can get back to that sweet place by simply allowing yourself to unfold a little.

Please feel free to listen to my podcast, Before the Afterlife, where I interviewed Linda Claire Puig about How to Go On a Magical Sabbatical, See the World and Change Your Life.

Also, please share with me your own ideas about how you avoid being ‘insanely busy’.

I’d love to hear from you,

 

 

 

 

 

How I Gave Up My Home and Found Freedom

NOTE: This essay was first published just after I moved in with the woman who is now my wife. I wrote it in May, 2015, and I think it’s a perfect reflection on what my life was like then … still, quiet, and waiting to begin again.

I just moved again. Only this time … I’ve finally come home.

Since my daughter died and my one-time life fell apart in 2012, my undulating path has led me ever forward.

Again and again I’ve been called to up-level who I am, what I do … and even where I live. Challenges have abounded. Wild waters have had to be crossed. Yet I have persisted. And now, finally, I am thriving.

Oddly, I followed the path that Teal, herself, followed just before her death. Here’s how it went.

A few months prior to Teal’s death I gave up my apartment in San Francisco and moved in with a lover. The relationship ended shortly after I arrived … and so I found myself without a home. A nester by nature, I always held having no home as certain death. This was literally my worst fear as a small child.

Yet somehow, this time I rose above it and did something radical.

I dumped my stuff in storage, packed a few lean bags and went off to find myself.

“Nice,” said Teal approvingly. She, herself, had just landed in an apartment after six months of couch surfing with friends, preceded by six months of backpacking around the world. “I don’t really need a home,” she explained lightly.

At the time I didn’t get it, but now I do. Completely.

Home is our tether to who we are – which for me was a rigid identity, forged in the crucible of a dysfunctional childhood. But now I was being called to let go and head for the unknown.

In fact, in my homeless state, I was searching for the supreme ideal that formed every moment of Teal’s life: freedom.

So it was that I wandered here and there.

I spent a memorable month sleeping under the stars at a hot springs filled with gentle, naked Californians. Then I travelled, visiting friends and traveled here and there around the US and Canada. I was subletting a home in a small women’s commune in the wine country when Teal died.

With her death came a new level of surrender. Having a real home now suddenly seemed out of the question. I wanted nothing more than to drift.

I found my way to a small, safe cocoon – a sunny bedroom in Petaluma, a sweet little town north of San Francisco. My housemates were funny, interesting, and forgiving of my frequent need to disappear and cry.

My identity continued to disintegrate.

It began to dawn on me that I was no longer capable of doing the business coaching that had sustained me for the last decade. Really all I could do at this point was drink tea and write, with a long-haired cat tucked by my side. Then my aging, infirm mother died and so I received a modest inheritance.

This time I packed up and moved to Paris for two months. Here I could let go of the last vestiges of the compressed, anxious high achiever I’d become. A room for a mere 20 euros a night landed in my lap. So I walked through Paris every day for hours. I made friends, bought groceries among the Parisians and practiced my French with everyone who would let me. I pretended for a while that Paris was my home.

When I finally came home, I was relaxed, centered, newly grounded. Just as Teal was when she returned from her own wandering travels in Europe and Asia.

At this point, it was sixteen months after Teal’s death. I was ready to emerge … somewhat. But only in the safest and tenderest of ways.

It was at this moment that a kind, loving old friend invited me to live with her. Now I found myself in yet another new town – Sebastopol, known for its hippie bus mindset and chill vibe. Here I found my yogi, a kind and guided soul who introduced me to another of Teal’s loves: goddess spirituality.

Every time I went to Kashi’s studio and practiced the gentle, healing yoga she taught, I felt another part of my heart open and let go. It was here that I became fully, completely surrendered on the path.

In Sebastopol, I set up the tiniest of roots. I rented a small office and created an altar, which I lit with electric candles and strewed with rose petals. Regularly, Teal and the goddesses would drop in and advise me.

For another sixteen months I dissolved back to a new layer of calm, and simple Me-ness. I gave up trying to make money and within a few months a paying gig writing novels came my way. Everything I needed simply kept showing up, again and again.

During this time I stopped striving and as I did, the best thing of all happened: I fell in love.

Now I live with my love, and slowly the foundation of our new life is being built. My storage unit is getting emptier and emptier as I let go of no-longer-needed pieces of my past. And each day we knit ourselves together on the soul path we agreed to an eternity ago.

In my new life, I am finally free. My self-imposed prison is gone. The need to suffer has lifted. The relentless perfectionist has been silenced, and the little girl who lives inside of me has been liberated.

I find myself now with a new and gleaming path ahead, not to mention a home. Every inch of it is informed by my three years of wandering and living like Teal did …

In wonder, grace and curiosity, simply waiting to see what would happen next.

If you want to learn more stories about letting go, you might love my latest podcast, A Master Conversation About Letting Go with Timber Hawkeye. 

 

 

Are You a Wounded Decision Maker?

Throughout most of my life, I made decisions based on one thing: how I felt in the moment.

Turned out to be a bad idea.

Back in my early twenties, when I was starting out as an advertising copywriter, I chose to work for an abusive jerk in one of the most notorious hack agencies in New York. It was the place that invented that American icon, Madge the Manicurist. And working there was hell.

At the same time, I ignored an invitation to interview with Ed McCabe, the grand circus master of creative boutique agencies. He was the guy every young writer wanted to work for. He was fun, engaging and swept every awards show. But I blew off his entreaty.

Why?
Because I had no idea what I was doing. Blithely, I assumed I should just go on instincts, so I made a very bad choice.

The bottom line was that I didn’t know how to ask for help. Nor did I even know I needed help.

At age 20, I thought I knew all the answers. “All ad agencies are alike,” I told myself, which couldn’t have been further from the truth. So I chose rashly, with no preparation.

Thirty-two years later, I discovered I was still making the same mistake. Fresh out of a 25-year marriage and newly out as a lesbian, I was in no mood for circumspection.  I dove headfirst into a love affair with an unstable person.

A month later I came to my senses and walked away – only to return to her a month later on an impulse. A friend at the time advised me against it.

“You’re scaring me,” he said. But I ignored him.

After all, I always knew the correct answer … right?

Wrong.

Only in the last several years have I learned to make decisions slowly and with a great deal of thought. The bigger the decision, the more thought goes into it. It feels like an act of Grace.

Conscious decision-making has taught me that I am not alone. That it’s best to get feedback from trusted friends. So I’ve come to think of these wonderful advisers as my personal ‘board of directors.’

Friends talked me off the cliff of compulsive overwork when it was time grieve my daughter’s death. Others advised me to walk away from a potential abusive relationship, and run towards the woman I was really suited to.

Still others kept me from snuffing out my pain with an impulse to buy a painting I couldn’t afford.

In the end, each choice I’ve made has always been mine. But I’ve learned to make them with eyes open and all the options on the table.

In this way, conscious decision-making has saved my bacon many times in recent years.

Here’s the part I really love: this Zen-like approach to decision making is fun. The pressure is off!

Especially when I regard each decision as an experiment – one that may work beautifully, or, instead, become a ‘learning experience.’

No longer must I be the swashbuckling hero of the moment, swooping in to make a big decision with no forethought or research. No longer must I save the day the way I used to as a child in an alcoholic family.

Instead, now I can take my own sweet time. I can decide when I’m damn good and ready, and not a moment sooner.

Not surprisingly, the woman I am now married to is a beautiful decision maker. She vets every choice thoroughly, turning it over from all angles. She’s not interested in seizing every opportunity, but instead, in exploring the potential downsides as well.

She takes her time, and she is teaching me to do so, too’.

At times, it’s still uncomfortable to peel myself away from a rash decision. The old buzz of pheromones and the thrill of the adrenal rush sometimes beckon.

But I stop to reflect before I choose. Because I know that on the other side is excellent self care, which is far more sustainable than the sugar rush of a fast choice.

Do I still honor my instincts? Absolutely. It’s just that now I know how to sit with them.

The world will not end tomorrow if we don’t act today. We can act in good time, slowly and consciously, and so enjoy the warm glow of satisfaction from a decision well made.

May you choose well and slowly.

If you like this conversation about how to avoid making knee-jerk reactions, you might love my latest podcast with Chel Hamilton. She has a lot to say about overcoming ‘knee-jerkery’.

How to Stop Trying to Get Meditation ‘Right͛’ … and Just Relax

I used to be a really busy meditator. You know the type.

I could barely sit still because I was so busy feeling my divine energy consume my body, moving me this way and that. Or I was constantly opening my eyes, focusing on this timer or that crystal to keep my meditation ‘on track’ and perfect. Or maybe I was working on memorizing some really long, complicated mantra while I meditated.

Who had time to just become empty and still?

I didn’t. I was too busy getting my meditation ‘right’ to actually relax.

But that was before I discovered the true, messy imperfection of meditation. In its simplest state meditation isn’t anything in particular, other than stilling the mind. And that’s hard to do … hence the plethora of meditation tools, apps, props, supports, recordings, mantras, breathing practices and experts. All of which want us to get meditation ‘right’.

But what if there was no right way to meditate?

Only now, nearly 35 years after I began meditating, do I appreciate the value of letting my mind roam as it must. When I notice it, I gently steering it back towards nothingness. That’s all I need to do, it turns out. Just kindly return myself back towards nothing again … and again … and again … and again …

When I do this, and my timer rings at the end of fifteen minutes, I find myself calmer than I was before. I’m refreshed. Ready to move into my day. That’s what meditation does for me, and its benefits are subtle and deep.

I notice, for instance, that I’ve lost my old love for drama. Over time, meditation makes the mind lose its tolerance for chaos and chaotic people. Likewise, you lose your interest in that which grates. Instead, you become remarkably kind to yourself.
Now, when I make a mistake, I find I no longer chide myself. Instead, I remind myself that life is just this really big experiment. If I get it wrong, that’s okay. Maybe I’ll get it right next time … or maybe I won’t.

Bottom line: it doesn’t matter.

Really.

That’s the big thing I’ve gotten from meditation. As the hours slip by, day by day, and your tolerance for pure nothingness increases, you can’t help but embrace the now. For that’s really all we have, isn’t it?

Right here, right now, in all of its unvarnished glory.

Mind you, I’m anything but perfect on this count. I find myself planning and strategizing as if I could personally plot out every twist and turn in my future. But I can’t. Wordlessly, meditation reminds me of this truth again and again, without even trying.

But then, sometimes, things happen. Unbidden, sudden insights can drop in when you’re meditating, yet you can’t go looking for them.

Instead, your only job is to relax … and empty your mind … and let go.

In 2010, Teal wrote in her journal about her own meditation practice, and I think this passage sums up this phenomenon nicely. She wrote it while she was backpacking her way through the world, one day at a time. On this particular afternoon, she happened to be in Italy.

On my way back I saw this cemetery … It was white marble and really amazing … overlooking the sea, cliffs, mountains, and towns. So I chose to sit down there and meditate and I got: ‘Go to Thailand, open your heart, open your soul and be.’

“The whole ‘be’ thing really made an impact on me. I realized in life I am never really there. I tend to be thinking about the future or past or something someone said instead of being in the moment, and taking it in for all its beauty. 

After this meditation, I knew I had been transformed because I looked out over the ocean and mountain scene in front of me and I started to cry. I was really able to take it all in and I finally realized how blessed I am to be here, and how many beautiful things there are here.”

When you can finally let go and embrace nothingness, it seems the entire world opens up to you. It’s ironic, isn’t it? Because the finding of serenity, of peace, of true freedom, comes not from getting or seizing anything.

True peace is found only by letting go.

If you’re interested in learning more about meditation, you might enjoy this week’s podcast with hypnotist Chel Hamilton as she talks about teaching meditation and what it does for the brain. It’s like ‘mind floss’ she says, and I agree. 

You can find the recording here

The Value of a ‘Why Not’ List 

One of the big illusions about life is that somewhere out there … it’s better. Someone other than me is working harder, delighting more readers, and generally looking a lot hotter.

And so, presumably, they are on track to be the so-called winner. Maybe they even get to take home a big stuffed bear.

A part of our brain often gets fixated on how our lives should be … as opposed to how perfectly satisfying and wonderful they are right here and right now.

My friend Jon calls this sad habit ‘shoulding on yourself’.

As in ‘I should be working 50 hours weeks building my empire,’ or  ‘I should have a massive list by now’. And let’s not forget that perennial favorite, ‘I should be ten pounds thinner.’

If you’re like me, you slip into shoulding without even thinking about it. I notice I get particularly should-y when thinking about my work, no matter how much I’ve accomplished. And no matter what’s going on in my life.

I’m thinking about my wedding six months ago. These were the days of wine and roses! Yet my mind was squarely parked on how much work I could cram in before the guests start arriving … purely out of should-i-ness.

But was I actually getting it done? Not really. I was too distracted! I wanted to take a champagne bath, and try on my wedding ring fifteen more times. I want to call all the family and friends who were showing up for the big day.

I wanted to hold my love and look dreamily in her eyes.

Which I would have done … except for that taskmaster, Should, in my head. Silently, she tapped her stick against her hand.

Here’s the supreme irony of it all. We don’t actually get that much done when we are being all ‘shouldy’. We’re much more likely to really rock the results when we let go completely and honor what’s happening here and now.

Jon, who is a very wise soul, reminds me that even a state of inertia can be God’s will for us.

Think about that … even a state of inertia can be God’s will for us.

Wow.

After all, God’s not standing around, tapping a foot and impatiently waiting for results, right? We’re the ones who do that.

Instead, God, or the Universe, or Spirit (or whomever you recognize that great guiding Force to be), invites us all to let go and slide into the great slipstream of love. Here we flow from one task to the next, effortlessly.

Here we let go and surrender and find our way to whatever would feel right next.

So instead of a ‘To Do’ list, may I humbly suggest a ‘Why Not?’ list.
Why not take a walk and watch the clouds for as long as you want? For if you do, some inspiration will surely descend.

Why not call someone you love and tell them so. Then your heart will expand just a little more greatly.

Or why not take a chance and submit a story to that hot media outlet you’ve been craving because suddenly … it feels right?

That’s flow, baby. I highly recommend inviting it into your life.

When we get ball-and-chained to our To Do lists, there is no room for us to breathe. So we forget the very core of our aliveness. This is how we get so very, very tired. We can’t keep up, and the strategies we’ve invested our time, our money, and our belief in begin to crumble.

This is when the ‘shoulds’ begin in earnest. And rightly so because (gasp!) … we rall behind. And we know in our hearts we will never catch up.

This is how we wind up soundly parked in self-doubt.
Which is exactly where I was when I spoke to my friend Jon. I needed to hear him say that that there is no ‘there’ there. There really is nothing to push towards.
There is only the here and now, one beautiful day at a time.

May you join me in embracing what is, for all of its warts, bumps and obvious gaps. They, too, are God’s will … just as you are.

You have been given a sacred job of simply being, my friend. So the question remains: is that good enough for you?

Me? I say yes!

 

 

P.S.

Do you want to learn more about walking away from the to-do list? Listen to the latest episode of Before the Afterlife, How to Walk Away from the To-Do List – with Jen Riday

 

How to Know When Angels Are Around You

 

Did you know we all have signs when angels are present?

I know, I know … I didn’t believe in angels either. They always seemed obscure and just a little too otherworldly … At least until my daughter Teal died. Crazy thing is that for nearly the last five years since her death, Teal speaks to me all the time in a way that can only be called angelic.

Teal literally tingles through me. Or she laughs – a sweet, high silvery laughter that seems to come from somewhere outside my body as it bubbles through me.

All I know is that I’m not laughing on my own accord. I feel like a radio turned to the Angel Channel.

How do I know this is angelic Teal? Well, I don’t for a fact. But what I do know is pure Joy, basically. And that is very much who she was.

But back to tracking those angels.  First of all, I suspect they don’t always have long gowns, flowing blond locks or big white wings. George Bailey’s guardian angel was a fusty old character named Clarence who wore 18th century long johns.

If anything, angels are embodiments of light.

The one ‘sighting’ I had of Teal in her angelic form was a waking vision in which she was pure white light emanating from my closed bathroom door. When I asked why she wouldn’t let me see her, she replied, “I don’t want you to get distracted.”

Good point. Angels in the flesh are probably mind-blowers.

I also suspect that angels come surfing in to help us via our own quirky preferences. I love to listen to music while I drive, preferably up,  fun, funk or R&B or even old disco that’s plenty cranked up. It just makes me feel good.

No surprise then that this ‘high vibe’ experience is where I most often encounter my angelic support team. The minute the right music comes on, in comes my angel, rippling through me with laughter.

Sometimes I get a visual in my mind’s eye of a pack of cartoon ghosts all doing the Electric Slide. They seem to love disco.

So yeah, there is a visual sometimes, too. It occurs in that small animal part of the brain where one sees things beyond the realm of logic. For me, the key has been allowing it, not judging it, and just accepting that there are things out there I just can’t ever understand.

Finally, it appears that angels love a sweet surprise, a good joke, and most of all, a critical save. Indeed, this is often their purpose. The stories abound. A friend tells how she feel asleep at the wheel only to be woken up as her car gently drifted down the exit ramp – a turn she does not remember making.

The Internet shares stories of those who have been saved by angels as they were about to drown or be raped at knifepoint. Others tell stories of guiding voices whispering in their ear, or of ‘knowing’ to do something improbable just in the nick of time. The solution is assured when an angel shows up.

I have often seen signs – multiple rainbows, for instance – as confirmation that something important is transpiring. Others report glowing balls, or orbs that pop up in photographs. Still others report a certain smell, a breeze, or a freshness in the air.

Is this truly evidence that an angel is nigh? I couldn’t say. What I do know is that from all reports the afterlife is a place of inestimable joy. And when my own personal angel arrives I have a complete and total joy transfusion.

In those moments I can love and embrace life in all of its messiness, and that – to me – is an angel’s ultimate purpose. (Think back to good old George in ‘It’s a Wonderful Life.’)
Have you ever experienced angels? I would love to hear your story – please share below.

If you’d like to find out more about Healing with Angels and All Kinds of ‘High Vibe’ Energy, listen to our new podcast with angel expert, Sandra Rea. 

 

 

 

 

 

The Thirty-Minute Exercise That Helped Me Forgive and Forget

There are people in this life who make me weary.

You know who I mean — the lover who discarded me; the boss who denigrated me. Even the kids who relentlessly bullied me in grade school. For many years, there was an entire cast of characters in my psyche I thought I was done with.

Except that I wasn’t.

They still chimed in from time to time, simply as disembodied voices in my head. And why? Because again and again, I invited them in.

The truth is I longed to let them go. Fie on those bully kids and that impossible-to-please boss. And what about the toxic lover? I longed to get rid of her, too!

How I craved some much-needed space in my head. Once I had it, then all kinds of kind, lovely, nourishing things could grow in my mind instead.

So I decided to set these angry rants free.

A book I was reading at the time suggested it would be as simple as writing a letter to each person I was still resentful with. I would never send the letter, of course, but instead simply write it. And that alone would free up space in my heart.

Okay. Fair enough. At this point, it was three years after the toxic relationship, 31 years after the obnoxious boss, and 46 years after the bully kids … so why not let it all go? I’d had those negative voices in my head far too long already.

I sat down to write each person a letter and a very surprising thing happened. I began with my former lover, a person I felt had done me wrong in many ways. I really let it all hang out as I wrote.

Spiritual bypass was not allowed — I scrawled every last one of my petty, crude, pissy thoughts. I gnashed my teeth on paper. I told her exactly what I thought of her … and then half way down the page, the tone suddenly shifted.

All of the sudden a small awareness of my role in the relationship became clearer. I found myself writing, “Of course, I invited you into this dynamic by being a vacant, pliable victim … so we acted out our little drama just like actors in a play.”

Whoa. Really?

Yes, really. The fact was I was being so nakedly honest gave me no recourse but to be honest about my own responsibility, too. Did she mistreat me? Did she use me? Did she manipulate and control me?

Absolutely! And did I manipulate her right back?

I certainly did.

Every time I was silent and let my former lover abuse or control me, I fed our off-kilter dynamic. Every choice I made that didn’t serve me merely cemented the unhappy lockstep we both found ourselves stuck in.

As I continued to write my letter to her, I discovered what a great thing our break up was. It was actually a great relief when she dumped me. Now I could actually see how critical this relationship was to my personal growth.

As a direct result of that break-up, I found my way into work that helped me become humble again. I learned to live in a far healthier way and found a new, far deeper connection to God.

Out of this work, I also found the truly happy, deeply loving marriage I am now in.

Our greatest teachers often show up as irritants in the path – the rock around which we must flow. The bully kids taught me to protect my most sensitive self, and let her only be seen in ways that are safe and whole.

The obnoxious boss taught me how low my standards were, and how to aim higher with the next job I got – and then the next, and the next after that.

Again and again, life conspires to bring the very best teachers our way, whether we like them or not. I say our souls demand it – for how else can we really grow?

By finally telling the truth, I owned the entire picture of what had happened. Here was my safe forum to truly express myself, and so discover the lessons buried behind the grief. Now I found I truly was ready to let go of the hurt, the pain and the anger.  

At the end of the letter, I was filled with compassion, empathy and even gratitude for this remarkable woman I had once loved. I knew that part of me would even love her for years to come, whether or not we ever spoke again.  

I had been reborn — simply because of one small, thirty-minute exercise.

If you are carrying resentment towards anyone in your life or your past, why not lay your burden down? All that you will lose is the artificial crutch of your resentment.

There is an innate joy that awaits all of us. It lives on the other side of humility, honesty and willingness.

I invite you to write a letter of your own – a letter you never send. For, if nothing else, it will be a supreme act of self care.  
As it turns out, all this letting go of resentments is part of becoming truly happy. If you’d like to find your own innate happiness, listen to our new podcast with happiness expert Andrew Matthews.

 

 

 

 

The Secret to Relaxing About Life

There is a strange paradox about life. Seldom is the one we are living the life we think we should be living. 

Somehow we can never get quite enough money, or power or titles or sex or adventures or love or anything to truly feel we’ve got our share. Like hungry birds in their nests, our beaks are always open, demanding yet another worm. There is always some better position, some higher level of responsibility, some more exalted realm we think should be ours.

At least, this much has been true for me … until recently.

Not only have I consistently believed throughout my life that I didn’t have ‘enough’, I believed that I wasn’t enough either. I honestly thought that if I got that million dollar book deal/perfect body/perfect … whatever … then I’d finally be whole and complete.

Then I could relax! Then I could be happy! I could stop pushing so hard and endlessly striving. Then, in the eyes of the Universe, Mom, and everyone else I would finally be enough. Or so I thought.

It was only recently, at the ripe old age of 58, that I finally decided to let go of this toxic illusion. This, right here and right now, is the life I’ve been given. And this, right here and right now, is as good as it gets.

What happened was that I was standing in our church singing in one of our annual concert, singing my heart out with my fellow choir singers. There was nothing slick or high visibility about the event. The audience was peppered with families and dotted with unruly kids and crying babies. Heck, we barely had microphones.

And there was nothing slick about my life. My work continues along on a humble path. There is no massive book deal, no high visibility position, none of the things that I’d always imagined would make me happy.

But in that moment as I looked out over the crowd and sang, delivering my gift for that particular moment, I felt intensely bonded to each person sitting there. I could feel the love rising in the room, and the slightly sweaty, restless-child imperfection of all of it at the same time.

It was spectacularly beautiful.

These were my people, I thought to myself, and I am in exactly the right place doing the right thing at the right time. On the other side of the choir, my new wife Rachel was singing in the tenor section. We were experiencing the uplift of the music together, as our choir director beamed his approval.

Simply put, we were one with the audience, with each other and all the good and caring musicians around us.

That’s when I understood, unequivocally, this is as good as it gets.

And that’s when I saw a grand illusion that my long held dream has been. As long as I quantify my life by many book deals, or income hikes, or vacations, or … whatever … I receive, there will probably never be “enough.” Not in this congested, tired little mind.

Furthermore, I will miss the deep and beautiful treasure of the life that’s happening here and now.

I realize now that it’s okay to have dreams and goals as long as they are accompanied by an intense sense of gratitude for what is present now. As long as I don’t reject the reality of the present moment for some cherished illusion in my mind – because that illusion has no substance.

Down here, in the thick of life, only one thing counts and that is tapping into the love that is here and now, in this present moment. And then being grateful as we gaze ahead, ready to be surprised by life.

Wherever you are and may you know that, today, right here and right now, you are enough.

 

 

 

P.S.

On my Before the Afterlife podcastTony talks about maintaining a zestful life, and what his ‘magic bullet’ is for Emergency Zest as needed… check it out here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You can find this episode below, or subscribe with any podcast player.

Here are the links to iTunes and Google Play!

 

 

The Healing Power of a Good Long Walk

It’s not about the dog.

Really.

I walk because my body tells me it’s time to move … and because I have a thousand things to think through. So I let the dog take me for a walk.

Walking is this wonderful movement that requires almost no thought, no particular skill, and really nothing more than a little time and some comfortable shoes. The very reliability of it makes it soothing.

Walking was an essential piece of my self-care when I was recovering from the loss of my daughter. In those raw days of grief, just the simple act of putting one foot in front of another saved me in some basic way. The promise of a walk got me up and out. So I emerged, blinking, into the sunlight.

At that point, even twenty minutes was a triumph.

But as my grief healed, I began to relax into this walking thing more and more. I found the feeling of the breeze on my face, and the dirty under my feet was consoling. There was something simple and real about it.

Unlike my forays to the gym, I didn’t have to look good. In fact, I cried a lot as I walked the trails at a local park, and no one seemed to mind a bit.

That’s when I discovered I needed to walk, even in the rain. And that’s when I discovered walking in the mud.

Now, walking in the mud is a particular pleasure all its own. You put on some big rubber boots and you just have at it. And if the mud is thick and gooey, or full of mud puddles, you can splash. You can slop. You make a great, big glorious mess, and it’s actually a lot of fun.

Then when you get back home, you leave your boots outside the front door, and you look down at your mud-spattered jeans, and you think, ‘I’ve done something today.’ Your heart beats with a little more vigor, your soul feels refreshed, and you enjoy the glow of accomplishment.


This is why I walk, in the rain and in the sun. The very reliability of the Earth to welcome me, comfort me, and provide a little interesting scenery as I go puts me back together.

Nothing is expected of me as I walk, and so I get ideas and find sudden inspirations. It’s like shaking hands with life again, every time.

And yes, the dog doesn’t mind one damn bit.

Want to know how your brain actually ‘cleans house’ when you take a walk or do any kind of exercise? There’s real science to this. I found out when I interviewed personal trainer Will Belew on my Before the Afterlife podcast … check it out here.

You can find this episode below, or subscribe with any podcast player.

Here are the links to iTunes and Google Play!

 

 

 

What If You Can’t Hear Your Heart’s Desire?

It is said that the greatest guide to living a prosperous, happy life of love is to listen to your heart.

Just follow its guidance and you’ll be all set. At least that is the conventional wisdom that drives us to eschew the ordinary life and set off on the road less traveled.

And yet … there seems to be a design flaw.

I don’t know about you, but I have one hell of a time hearing my heart. I know its wisdom is back there somewhere. But it’s lodged behind the ranting of my incessant, worried mind, a million to-do’s, and a cacophony of mid-life emotions.

It’s also buried behind the subtle over-layer of apps, texts, emails, phone calls, appointments, traffic jams, calories, doctor appointments, instant messages, chats, whether to eat chocolate or not, and the frenetic microcosm of social media.

Bottom line: I can’t frigging hear my heart!

And yet … I know if I just stop and listen, like really stop and listen, I can hear it.

The fact is I don’t want to listen.

My heart will tell me that my constant ‘doing’ must end. That I must be willing to let go and hang out with the mystery of life for a while.

If I really want to feel my feelings, I must stop being so busy-busy-busy.

My heart will say that far more urgent than anything on my ‘must do’ list is my own – our own – continued healing.

Many of us are all in a state of subtle emergency most of the time. But we proceed as if this is the human condition. And yet … it’s not.

Underneath all the furor of modern life, we are calmly rational. Furthermore, we know exactly what to do at any given moment. In fact, our nervous system is always ready to chime in with its intuitive hit to set us straight. But really … we just can’t bear to hear it.

Then change might be required. Change for which we feel ill prepared. Change that might lead us to failure.

At least that’s what the ego thinks in its protective, if misguided way.

So we hang out in vagueness … longing for something … but unable to say exactly what.

 I have been quietly learning that I have no choice. If I want to be happy, I have to follow the directions of my heart whether I like it or not. Really, my heart’s the only sane driver on board.

Because when I slow down long enough to listen, life calms down. Then my faith returns and I remember I’m not alone. Instantly, I feel stronger, wiser. And somehow, I know what to do.

Bear in mind this: your heart will not ever try to set you off course. Nor will your heart ever try to hurt another. Instead, it only wants to lovingly steer you onward to become your best, every day.

That’s all that happens when you make enough time, and create enough peace, to finally listen.

What is your heart trying to tell you today that you may be avoiding?

You can find this episode below, or subscribe with any podcast player.

Here are the links to iTunes and Google Play!

 

 

An Unexpected Road Back to Happiness

I’d like to offer a radical opinion. What if the most direct route back to happiness is through crisis, chaos and loss?
I know, I know … this is not a popular opinion. But this is what I learned after I lost my daughter Teal in 2012. Before her death, I was possibly the unhappiest I had ever been … at least since my tortured twenties.

By that point, my children were pretty much grown, and my marriage had ended. I’d moved across the country to a city I couldn’t quite relax in … And I’d found my way into a toxic relationship that I felt completely trapped in.

I worked constantly in order not to feel my pain. My work as an internet marketing coach was successful and even a little glamorous – so it looked like I was having lots of fun. But I wasn’t. This wasn’t my true calling and I knew it.

Really, in my heart, I was a writer. That’s how I started out in my twenties. But now, nearly twenty years later, I had no idea how to get back there. I’d chosen this path simply because I knew it would be financially successful. But instead of being able to leave it, I felt bound to it by ball and chain.

But by the time my daughter died, my lousy relationship was over, my business ended due to simple burnout, and I had no place to live. The Universe had conspired to ‘do for me that which I could not do for myself,’ and taken the whole damn mess away.

What followed was two years of grief and rest, during which I had to learn how to become very quiet, and let go of all the props that had been holding me up. This was followed by two more years of slow, gradual rebuilding.

Today, more than four and half years later, I really am the happiest I have ever been. My income became stable again when, out of the blue, I was hired to write a series of novels for an investor. I’d published a novel many years earlier, and now as I sat down to write again, I found … miraculously … I had become a much better writer.

Two novels, Transformed: San Francisco and Transformed: Paris, have been published and a third one, Transformed: Las Vegas, is on the way. Recently I also married the love of my life.

What all of this abundance is teaching me is that when you stop, relax, and ‘just be’ … the Universe starts to deliver up exactly what you want. It’s a great discipline to do nothing, ironically. In this age of pushing and striving, we are ever more fearful of having space, peace and quiet.

But may I recommend at least the occasional dip into these waters.
You may, indeed, be surprised what will come your way.
Don’t just do something … stand there.

You can find this episode below, or subscribe with any podcast player.

Here are the links to iTunes and Google Play!

 

 

 

How Living on Nothing Can Be More Than Enough

One night recently I found a program on Netflix called The Kindness Diaries. In it, a curious British philosopher travels the world on a cute yellow motorbike, asking for nothing but handouts. His goal is to prove that people are, essentially, kind. And occasionally, when warranted, he gives back generously.

It’s a great idea, if a slightly flawed premise, because coming along for the ride is his three-person camera and sound crew. So who wouldn’t want to ‘help out’ if it means you get to be on international TV?

Still the idea stayed with me. I kept thinking, ‘Wow, it would be cool to interview that guy on my podcast.’

Spirit, evidently, was listening. Because my guest for this week’s episode is NOT the Kindness Diaries guy, but someone even better.

Maria Terese is a spiritual intuitive who has also traveled the world on a donation basis. But unlike the Kindness Diaries guy, for her this means giving away her spiritual guidance on a strictly donation basis.

This means you can book a session with her and pay her whatever you want – even if it’s nothing at all.

I love this idea because of its spiritual purity. Maria Terese has no desire to get rich from her work, or be seen by millions. Instead, this simple soul just wants to help people, one person at a time, and she wants to make it possible for as many people as she can.

There is something pure and cleansing about living with little or nothing. I know this because after my daughter’s death, I lived on remarkably little for almost two years. I couldn’t work. I didn’t have disability insurance. And so … I was delivered.

That’s how I think of it. Because really, it was a sublimely simple life. I stayed with friends. I walked in parks. I swam in a public pool. I didn’t buy much of anything. And I practised something Teal herself revered highly: just being.

In time, money and opportunity returned. But I will never forget the incredible privilege it was to live on very little for a while. I had my needs met abundantly. Again and again, people showed up with support when I needed it. The entire experience taught me it was safe to relax, stop worrying and just receive.

I did, indeed, have enough. In fact, I had more than enough.

Furthermore, whenever I bucked this trend, I was soundly castigated. Twice I tried to restart my former business and twice it crashed and burned. It was no longer in alignment with who I was becoming … and so I was rebuked.

In the end, ‘just being’ turned out to be an excellent plan.

My guest on this week’s podcast is an expert at just this kind of letting go – and so it has led her to deeper and deeper levels of real transcendence. She believes this is how she can help more and more people … a worthy goal.

Listen to my interview with a woman who calls herself ‘a divine vessel of light and love’, Marie Terese.

 

 

 

You can find this episode below, or subscribe with any podcast player.

Here are the links to iTunes and Google Play!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Seven Simple Ideas for a Happier Life

7simpleideasI woke up this morning with the most beautiful insight. I realized I genuinely love people. Like … everyone. It wasn’t always thus.

This sense has been a lifetime in coming. Mainly because I spent a lot of my life mad at people. And who can blame me? I was Susie Codependent – forever controlling, cajoling, managing, and manipulating. I thought it was my job to force reality every step of the way … just to be on the safe side.

So when life didn’t give me what I wanted, I was mad. That’s what happens when we suffer childhood traumas. (These can be anything from severe bullying to having an addict parent to the illness or death in the family.) We build ourselves tough little cages of steel to live in … and so we suffer.

Mind you, a lot of us were exceptional children. We were the kids who were wise beyond our years, who knew how to cope with any disaster. We were the responsible ones who stayed late helping the teacher after school – usually to avoid the chaos at home. And we were often the tender kids who couldn’t play sports but wrote awesome poems.

This is the gift of severe loss. We have heightened sensitivity, and an overdeveloped sense of responsibility. We have anger – yet we have empathy as well. We feel the pulse of life a little more deeply.

So in adulthood, our work is to take down this jerry-rigged defense system we’ve build around us. And sometimes it takes a real disaster to make that happen.

Losing my daughter and letting go of my former life did the trick for me. Immediately my perspective shifted. I relaxed and have turned the spotlight back on me.

Now these have become my guiding principles. They’re simple, they cost nothing, and they don’t require any ‘doing’. (No, you don’t have to meditate, though that’s always a help.)

  1. I don’t need to make anyone happy but myself. It’s actually my more important responsibility.
  2. I really can – and do – say ‘No’ whenever I need to now. The sky doesn’t fall. It’s great!
  3. No one has to march to my tune but me. Everyone else has a right to live their life EXACTLY the way they want. As do I. If that means we need to go separate ways, so be it. It’s just part of God’s plan.
  4. Things usually work out just fine. Once you’ve been thru the worst thing that can happen and you emerge better for it … you learn to go with what comes. Really, truly. Things do work out.
  5. Stop worrying. Turns out worrying doesn’t actually help – and it just produces a lot of agita. So I try not to spend time there anymore.
  6. We can’t force reality. What a shocker! So thought I could. Kind of hilarious when you think about it.
  7. In the end, all we’ve got is love. Turns out accumulating stuff is highly overrated and somewhat lonely. But love really does heal all wounds.

Healing Grief With a Memorial on Wheels

IMG_0359In the last four years, I have learned a lot about how to process grief.

You know grief.

It’s that terrible, black sadness after loss that consumes us when we let it. It’s also the reason so many of us drink, shop, drug, and chew ourselves into oblivion.

We think we can’t handle our grief – so we do anything to avoid it.

I say we can handle our grief; that we’re biologically wired to process it. My proof is that unprocessed grief sticks around. Our grief is always back there, simmering in the background, until the fateful day we finally take it on and deal with it.

There are things we can do. Studies indicate creating an altar, memorial or shrine is one of the best ways – even for a loss that happened years earlier.

I know I’ve found this a tremendous comfort since Teal’s death. In her memory, I turned my Teal-colored car into a moving altar.

Tealster plateI bought the car six months before my daughter died. The first time I drove her around in it, I proposed we call it ‘The Tealster’ – her nickname from childhood, long since outgrown. “Great idea!” she said with a laugh. “Then you won’t call me that anymore.”

My Teal Memorial on Wheels just naturally happened after her death. The first thing I did was put a sticker on the back window; it’s of the Hindu goddess White Tara, who symbolizes sensitivity . Teal was tremendously sensitive and a lover of all things relating to Goddesses, so it seemed a good fit.

Then I had a license plate made that said ‘TEALSTR’.

People often think it means ‘Teal Star’ – and I don’t disagree when they ask about it. I simply tell them about Teal and what an angelic, thoughtful, compassionate presence she was.

Worded on the license plate holder was a phrase she received in meditation one day: ‘Give Fearlessly and You Shall Never Want.’

A tiny tray of origami stars in varying shades of teal fills part of the console. And on the dashboard is my ‘Goddess of the Month’ – currently Lakshmi, goddess of prosperity and abundance. Though the Hindu goddesses were new to me when she died, I have studied them extensively since her death. It’s a way to stay connected to all things Teal.dashboard Lakshmi

Not surprisingly, I often feel her around me when I drive. So much so that driving has become a critical part of my healing.

For the first two years after her death, I always had a box of tissues in the front seat, and I cried freely as I drove. As I felt Teal’s energy swirling all around me, I allowed myself to surrender to life as it is, in spite of the pain.

And so I learned that grief is not to be feared, but is simply the way back to a whole and healthy life.

Lately, I’ve been thinking I will buy a new car – not immediately, but pretty soon. I take this as a sign that my heart has healed a great deal. For sure, my life is the happiest it has ever been, even after the worst loss imaginable.

Perhaps this is why. For by allowing myself to have this little sanctuary on wheels – one I was sure to visit at least once every day – I allowed myself to literally sit with my daughter’s memory for many, many hours. So I could embrace my grief and cry for all I was worth (and yes, I pulled over a lot when crying on the road.)

If you’re struggling with someone or something you have lost, I recommend creating a mobile altar on wheels that allows you to get the peace, and privacy, you may need to really let go. Drive to the beach, a park or a favorite place, and bring your memories along for the ride. If you need to pull over to cry in peace, do it.

Give yourself all the time in the world to  enter that most sacred of spaces – your emotions. In letting go you will embrace what is, and so find your way back to peace.

Namaste.

PS. Want to talk to me live about altars, grieving and such? I’ll be on Facebook Live, Tuesday, March 22 at 10AM PT/1PM ET. You can find me on my profile page — A recording will also be posted on my fan page. See ya there!

The Truth About Christmas

My holiday gift to you … a little bit of Christmas spirit

Christmas Rockefeller Center
I wrote this short story in 2001, when my kids were 7 and 11 and they were growing up in New York City. Walking around that city, I was always struck by what an interconnected, massive hive of strangers it was … and still is. Especially at the holidays.

Wherever you are this season, may your heart be merry and bright.

Suzanne

 

Download The Truth About Christmas Here