What Wildfires Can Teach Us About Life

 

There is a huge amount of destruction going on in the world right now. Between earthquakes, hurricanes, and floods, we thought we’d seen the worst of it. Then California started burning up. 

In the last week, the biggest wildfires in California history burned out of control 30 miles to the north, consuming forest, homes, roads, wineries, and pretty much everything in their path. They are now mostly contained and may even be out by tomorrow, though a new destructive wildfire has just started to the south. At least 40 people have died so far in these fires and more than 100,000 people have been displaced.

A lovely round barn I had always admired, built in 1899, was destroyed in Santa Rosa, as were two communities that surrounded it on either side of the highway. The image of it burning haunts me.  

I discovered the round barn when I began picking up my mail on the other side of the highway in 2012. I was freshly grieving my daughter’s death then, and trying to put my life back together in some way, shape or form. The barn reminded me of the life I’d left behind in New England, a place where there was another round barn I knew and loved – a place where I’d been happy. 

 The round barn reminded me of home. 

The barn was the last surviving structure of what was one a Utopian community at the end of the nineteenth century. Its buildings were constructed to ‘ascend into the celestial sphere’ once the millennium passed. But they never did.  

Unless … well … that’s what’s happening now. Perhaps all of these structures and homes and lives that got lost were built or born only to eventually die.  

This is the part we forget in our zeal to get out there, grab life by the gonads and build our empires. All of it – even the most beloved old barn – will sooner or later be turned to dust.  As will we. This is the path of life. 

Life always leads to death, for how can it not? 

But consider this. What if that was the point? What if the fate of this old barn, and the 3500 other structures and countless lives that have been lost so far in these fires, went down in the blaze for some larger reason? Some reason that has to do with developing gratitude, with finding the lessons learned?  

What if these losses led to greater kindness, compassion, love and humility and discovering the true meaning of life? 

Could it be that the destruction of these wildfires was just life’s not so gentle way of correcting us? Of putting us on course to embrace our true values? 

That’s what’s possible when we experience extreme loss. Once we’ve fully and courageously embraced and processed our grief, then we can then travel to the other side of that loss and begin again. 

Then we can remember all the round barns we lost, and pay tribute to them in some meaningful way that also gives back to everyone else. Our history is powerful – and when we really examine it, we are reminded how temporary life is. 

One winery owner whose property was heavily damaged was able to save a letter written by his great-great grandfather who’d built the place. In the letter, he recounted the earthquake and subsequent fire that destroyed the winery back in 1906.  

100 years later, that memento is especially significant.  

In my own life, there isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t think of my daughter Teal. Sometimes it’s in sadness, and I just wish I could hear her voice or feel her hug again. But most of the time, it’s a smile at a great moment we shared, or it’s the thrill of telling the story of the donation of her organs to a listening audience.  

After the loss, life does and will move on again. That much we know. For now, though, there is the hard work of grieving to do.  

I pray for the best for all concerned. And may you find your own treasures in the rubble of destruction, wherever it falls in your life. 

 

 

Before the Afterlife Podcast

“Pain is really the portal to purpose,” Uma Girish says in this wonderful interview. I recommend you listen to this when you have a moment. Despite – or perhaps because – of the topic, this is an amazingly uplifting conversation. Enjoy! 

Are you a listener of Suzanne Falter’s Before the Afterlife Podcast?

We welcome you into the Before the Afterlife Facebook  Group! This is a place where you can discuss your thoughts and feelings after listening each new episode or really at any time you feel so inclined! We want to make this a relaxed hangout and a safe space where you can share your hopes and fears, lessons and questions, cravings and frustrations. Join here.

Her Daughter Got My Daughter’s Heart — a Tale of Two Mothers

Amera two weeks after her transplant.

This week I did a podcast episode that is particularly personal  for me. In it, I have the privilege of interviewing the mother of Amera, the young woman who received my daughter Teal’s heart and kidney after her death.

As one mother to another, Debi and I certainly connect out of simple empathy for the path of motherhood. And we are both happen to be people who love to laugh, and enjoy a good chat. In fact, we genuinely like each other!

But we are also people who started out as total strangers, only to become inextricably linked on August 24, 2012. On that fateful day, Amera, Debi’s daughter, received Teal’s heart and kidney after 20 hours of surgery. Debi’s description of how beautiful Amera looked after the first phase of surgery, when she received her new heart, is breathtaking. For all around Amera, there was a shimmering, sparkling glow.

I say it’s the same glow I’d felt only a week earlier as I connected with Teal’s sparkling, shimmery essence in the afterlife for the first time. It was as effervescent and light as a cloud of champagne bubbles. And yes, just as Debi describes in the podcast, it was, indeed, glowing.

So we have become connected through destiny, karma, or whatever you wish to call it.

We are mothers who know what it’s like to sit by the side of your daughter’s bed, fearing her imminent death. And we are mothers who learned such decisions are not up to us, and so we both had to learn when to fight … and when to surrender.

Today, we are mothers whose DNA is shared in the body of one extraordinary young woman. And we are definitely better for this shared connection, as we both watch Amera thrive in the Cardiac Sonography program she is taking at … yes … the very same college Teal was about to start when she collapsed.

My path with Debi has been a really interesting one, because we didn’t even know each other until about three months ago. It was not until five years after Teal’s death that we all finally felt like we could meet. So we met at Ocean Beach, the very place where we scattered Teal’s ashes – which was Amera’s idea.

That night was an experience I’ll never forget. Of course, there were tears. But there was also a recognition of something so much bigger at work here. Especially when I played a video for them of Teal singing ‘A Change is Gonna Come’. “I feel like I know her,” Amera said simply after she watched the video. There was a basic, beyond-logic recognition for all of us of the God-sent nature of our connection.

Perhaps this is just a very vivid illustration of the connection we all share — the oneness we know about and yet, somehow, seldom glimpsed.

Amara is a thoughtful and highly sensitive young woman with an amazing life ahead of her.  That much I’m sure of. And as for me and Debi … well, we’ve both been through the ringer, but we agree that we have emerged better for it. Our experiences have been remarkably similar, as this episode will tell you if you choose to listen.

If you do, you’ll hear how Amera made her way with congestive heart failure for more than seven years, until it got to the point where she had to wear a wearable defibrillator vest — to shock her back to life in case she suddenly collapsed.

You’ll also hear what it was like for Debi knowing her daughter’s death was always in the shadows … until her life was finally saved because of my own daughter’s death.

It’s a conversation filled with hardship, hope, light and a lot of love.

I recommend you listen to this when you have a moment, and really get into the idea that we are all truly interconnected. Every last one of us. Even those of us who do not know each other at all. It’s a pretty wild concept when you think about it, and organ donation makes that truth extraordinarily clear.

Enjoy. Listen to the podcast here.

Are you a listener of Suzanne Falter’s Before the Afterlife Podcast?

We welcome you into the Before the Afterlife Facebook  Group! This is a place where you can discuss your thoughts and feelings after listening each new episode or really at any time you feel so inclined! We want to make this a relaxed hangout and a safe space where you can share your hopes and fears, lessons and questions, cravings and frustrations. Join here.

My New Satirical Novel is Out … WHAT?

Okay, admit it. You are used to thinking of me as a warm, vulnerable, touchy-feely sort of blogger who shares her deepest stuff. Right? And yet …

I’m also a novelist who writes quirky, funny, page-turning spy thrillers

Along with my collaborator, Jack Harvey, we created a series called Transformed. In it we like to highlight unusual characters in uncommon situations with intricate plots. Like this – – the third in our series.

Transformed: POTUS is a funny satire the takes on the US presidency. In it the first post-Trump president is a sex addict to likes to spend his time off not in Camp David, but in Vegas.

Problems ensue when it becomes clear that our president can’t seem to hang onto the nuclear biscuit with the gold codes on it. He just keeps losing the damn thing.

The action centers on Charley, the spy who’s assigned to keep bad actors out of the President’s midst — and who seriously has his hands full.

Want to read a free tidbit? Click here! And you can check out the full book here.

Viva … Las Vegas?

Yeah baby!

How I Tamed My Wild, Creative, Distractible Brain (without Drugs) and Began Getting More Done

I don’t know about you, but I have had a very big case of wandering brain. So much so, that it kept me from developing into my full potential in much of my adult life.

Some might call this a case of ADD, but I never thought of it that way. I always felt it was part the celestial seasoning that peppers my brain. It’s just the way I am. Which is not to say I couldn’t use a little help.

The great news is that over the last few years I’ve learned to rein in this wild, rambling brain of mine. I attribute a lot of this to meditation, the soothing balm that helps all of us slow down, calm down, and chill out.

Once I began a regular meditation practice of only 15 minutes every day, I felt more grounded and relaxed in my body most of the time. I also discovered I could be much more present for other people. Even better, I found myself forgiving myself for little things that once caused me great stress and annoyance.

Once meditation was solidly on board, the path got even more interesting. I discovered my wandering brain could be reined in by using binaural beats in my headphones while I worked. If you’re not equated with binaural beats, they are a very cool wave technology that activates both hemispheres of the brain to work in sync more effectively.

This can be extremely helpful for insomnia, relaxation, and focusing. The beats sound like a rhythmic, slightly dramatic sort of drumming … yet they are subtle enough to hide behind a gentle rainfall, or soothing music. They are weirdly addictive once you get used to them.

A friend turned me onto a website called brain.FM that has really been revolutionary for me. (Brain.fm includes several different kinds of binaural beats that you can sign up for on an annual subscription. A pretty good coupon is available here.)

The first time I used binaural beats, I remember I was sitting in a café in Oakland. Suddenly, the world around me dimmed out. Gone were the chatting twenty-somethings, the driving café music, the endless stream of gluten free treats going by. Instead … it was just me and my work.

I dug in. Then I looked up an hour later. I had just completed something I’d been avoiding for days, and I sat there in amazement, looking over my work. Damned if it didn’t work!

Using binaural beats has been great fun for me as I now work every day with greater focus and ease. It’s just … easy! Even the hard stuff.

So I was delighted to find out that Eben Alexander, an author I highly respect, has used binaural beats to crank out his own stockpile of books. Turns out he and his collaborator, Karen Newell, have also been using and developing binaural beats in their teachings for others as well.

Notably, they use the beats for an interesting sort of everyday transcendence, claiming it helps them travel to the other side, and connect more deeply with their spiritual guidance. I love that! After all, who doesn’t want to travel to the other side on a regular basis? I sure do.

(If you want to catch last week’s podcast interview with Eben Alexander, click hereKaren Newell  is our guest on Before the Afterlife this week.) 

If you consider yourself a ‘brain adventurer’ – or even a procrastinator — why not get yourself a pair of good headphones, and start to dig into the vast and incredible world of binaural beats to sooth and work with the brain. You’ll accomplish more, feel more relaxed, and who knows where you’re going to travel?

If you have your own fun experiences or resources for binaural beats to share, please leave a comment below. I look forward to hearing what you think!

 

 

 

Are you a listener of Suzanne Falter’s Before the Afterlife Podcast?

We welcome you into the Before the Afterlife Facebook  Group! This is a place where you can discuss your thoughts and feelings after listening each new episode or really at any time you feel so inclined! We want to make this a relaxed hangout and a safe space where you can share your hopes and fears, lessons and questions, cravings and frustrations. Join here.

Do You Know Your Place in the World? (And Why It Matters)   

Do you know where you stand among the seven billion people who live on this planet?  

It’s an interesting question, especially for us overfed Westerners. For me, it’s been a long, slow journey to understand that there actually are other people in the world.  

It’s like this great old New Yorker cover, painted by Saul Steinberg. 

To the average myopic New Yorker, the world beyond the Hudson River is a narrow stretch of corn belt followed by a shred of California, the Pacific, then far, far away … the rest of the world.  

In the busy swirl of our lives, can we seriously take the time to wonder about, say, the million-plus migrants trying desperately to save their own lives? Or the hundreds of girls and women Boko Haram abducted who are being forced to become suicide bombers?  

How about the homeless and destitute right here in our own home towns? Or the millions of young black men trapped in the school to prison pipeline? Can we really ‘get’ what they are going through? 

Do we even really care? 

Our crafty minds kick in: why should we care? That’s happening somewhere else, maybe a million miles away.  

It’s really not our concern, we tell ourselves. 

Truthfully, it’s not time or even distraction that’s the issue here. We remain myopic to the dilemmas of the rest of the world because in the Western world, we live in a highly privileged society. Our needs are met. We have abundant food, homes, water. We have shopping malls, air conditioning, fast food and catering apps. We have time to listen to the news, fret about politics or global warming, and attend protests. 

Not surprisingly, millions of people would love to be in our shoes.  

It is painful to acknowledge this, because to do so brings up stuff: a sense of privilege, and the shadowy feeling that it is not earned. Then there’s entitlement and guilt.  

We’d have to acknowledge all the suffering in the world, which is vast.  

And we are small. 

How can we possibly hold all this pain? A feeling of complete and utter hopelessness washes over us when we consider it … So we pull out our phones to see who called, or texted, or emailed, or pinged us on social media. We consider a quick game of Words With Friends. 

We avoid the singular awareness that we are part of a vast sea of humanity – one that shares common problems across the globe, as well as the local ones. 

That awareness, once truly seized, invites a sense of responsibility. Once we are touched by truly understanding another person’s plight, our hearts open up. We can’t help it — it’s simply what we do. 

Here’s what is truly interesting: it turns out we are all suffering 

That’s what being a human is really all about.  

While we may not be suffering on the scale of a displaced migrant who’s lost everything and has been living in a refugee camp for the last year, we may be living in an empty marriage. Or our children won’t speak to us. Or we’re sick, or our parents are sick … or our …  

You get the point.  

Within that chrysalis of suffering, we are all being re-formed. Like precious metal we are being melted down, and so can once again live, free from our prior restraints. This is what suffering actually does for us. 

For me, I emerged from my own period of huge loss with my senses on high alert. Now I’m still basically raw, even though it’s been more than five years since my daughter’s death. So … yeah. Now I do feel my place in the world, and all the responsibility that comes with it. I’m hoping I always will. 

It’s like being an overly peeled onion. So I feel far, far more connected to the rest of my fellow denizens of this planet.  

At the same time, I’m no longer caught in my own little survival scenario. The bottom already dropped out once, so now there’s room to stop, breathe and look around. This is the true privilege of crisis. 

When you realize this, your own story becomes a bore. Meanwhile, the rest of the world matters far more than you could have expected. For me, I’ve become aware of something far bigger than just me — the fantastic web of humanity that surrounds us all.  

It’s true. We are all connected: You, me and the guy who just gave us the finger on the highway. Likewise for our IRS auditor, our kid’s homeroom teacher, and an incarcerated person on the other side of the city you will probably never know.  

They matter just like we matter. How do I know this?  

Sometimes, just occasionally, I read the paper and I cry. That’s really all I have to go on. 

Today, just for a moment, try to imagine that you are far more powerful than you realize. That your big, beating heart really can help save the world, in some small, considered way. And that you are intrinsically connected to every other person under the sun. 

All you have to know is where you stand in this great cosmic web of life. It is, indeed, a place of power. 

 

 

 

Are you a listener of Suzanne Falter’s Before the Afterlife Podcast?

We welcome you into the Before the Afterlife Facebook  Group! This is a place where you can discuss your thoughts and feelings after listening each new episode or really at any time you feel so inclined! We want to make this a relaxed hangout and a safe space where you can share your hopes and fears, lessons and questions, cravings and frustrations. Join here.

Five Years After My Meltdown; What Mid Life Crisis Teaches Us

As many of you know, I have been on a guided path as direct as a speeding bullet for the last five years since the death of my daughter, Teal. And I’m happy to report there has been much progress.

For much of that time this ‘speeding bullet’ meandered here and there. Most of the time I had no idea where it was leading me; I just knew that it was.

Turns out this meandering path is entirely about spiritual growth. You see it again and again in stories big and small. Most of the world’s great spiritual leaders passed through such a time of testing. Jesus, for one, wandered in the
Judean desert for forty days and night, said a big fat no to temptation, and came back more surrendered than ever to his path.

My own father, John Falter, an artist known for his many Saturday Evening Post covers, crashed and burned in his early fifties after magazines began to use photography.

During those confusing years, I can remember the stress in his face as he attempted to get work to feed our family. He tried everything – chalk talks in the manner of Mark Twain.

Humorous engraved prints which he had printed by the thousands. Even an animated dog food commercial. None of which came to anything.

Eventually, after five lost, wandering years, my father was reborn as a successful painter of American history. That became his path, his contribution, his legacy — and one of his greatest passions.

The final phase of his career fell into perfect alignment with who he was, at his core. And, I say, helped him to complete his purpose in this lifetime.

This midlife crisis path always appears to be about life change, but really it’s about faith. Can we surrender to the idea that we need to change, and that this is all for something bigger? Can we accept we are being changed in a
way that can only be beneficial … even if it hurts a hell of a lot on the way?

Doubt abounds. Can we make it? Will we implode, never to be heard from again? How will we keep body and soul together?

We have only one job at such times. Stay true to ourselves, no matter what. Woe to those who do not listen! The older we are, the more treacherous it is to stray from this uncertain path.

In my own crash and burn period I tried twice to resurrect my old business, even though it no longer reflected my values, and even though I knew it was a mistake. It was something – anything — I could chase after in the face of
uncertainty. Yet, when I did those launches, the result was clear. My site

Yet, when I did those launches, the result was clear. My site was hacked into five times in two weeks. All the purchasers refunded. My work was dead in the water. Yet again … I surrendered.

My daughter Teal’s death and all the other losses I experienced during this time showed me that it’s the unknowability of the path that makes it both hard and healing.

By not knowing, for instance, how I would make money, I had to trust. I trusted that my instinct to stop my business coaching was right, and that this would lead, eventually, to the right thing. First, I needed to shift back to a place of greater alignment, before the better work could arrive.

Ultimately, that trust has been rewarded. When I was ready – at the two year point, and not a moment sooner — writing jobs dropped in my lap out of nowhere. They provided fun work and a steady income, and a way to ease back into working.

Then I began to get hired – again out of nowhere – to speak to national audiences about self-care and my experiences as a Donor Mom. Now I’ve begun to distill these learnings into a memoir, corporate workshops, and an upcoming online learning program.

Yet, even better, I’ve had the opportunity to detach from all my pre-conceived ideas of ‘success’, fame and fortune. Instead, I have simply focused on what’s happening here and now. So I discovered the incredible release of old
internal pressures to overwork and ‘push through’.

Over the last five years, I learned to live simply, spend my money consciously, and cut out all the old excesses. My desire for that nightly glass of Chardonnay disappeared right along with the need to throw money at high-end consultants who will ‘save me’.

Turns out the answers are all right here, as they have always been. A beautiful walk in the hills of Oakland as the sun is setting is just a rewarding as a pricey concert ticket or a fancy dinner out.

On this path, I don’t have to be anyone other than me. I don’t have to sway millions to buy my info products. I don’t have to even become a household name. Instead, I simply have to stay true to what feels right, and keep looking for ways to serve.

Ironically, for the first time in my life, I now understand true ‘enoughness’. I am enough, I have enough, and I do enough. And that is simply bliss.

Our spiritual paths in moments of crisis are all about being willing to not know, and show up in full willingness anyway. This act of surrender allows the Universe to meet you full on, wrap its arms around you and carry you through.

And so you discover that you are not alone, and that every midlife meltdown does indeed have a much bigger purpose in your life. If any of this sounds familiar, or you’re facing a crisis of your own, I urge you to trust it.

Your meltdown will lead you exactly where you need to go.

 

 

 

P.S.

And why do I focus on life lessons? Because, hey, that’s what it’s all about … right? Hence my invitation for the following guest, Deepak Romala. Listen to our conversation here…

Will I Be a Sorceress or a Priestess?

I put the deck of Goddess Guidance cards in front of me, shuffled them, and drew three cards – one for the past, one for the present, and one for the future. Since Teal’s death in 2012, I sometimes pulled these cards from her deck just as she once did.

I like to imagine Teal’s energy is still in these cards, subtly aligning with the goddesses whose names are written on each one. After she died, I found a worn spiral notebook in which she’d carefully transcribed the guidance she received from her own readings in the last few years of her life.

While I really didn’t understand this whole ‘goddess business’ while Teal was alive, now I paid rapt attention. As it turns out, the goddesses always seem to have an eye out for me, as well.

Over the last five years, the readings had been soothing, helpful, and surprisingly accurate. Now as I laid out the cards, I prayed about the unfolding work I have been given.

What was on my mind, specifically, was how to remain true to my cause.

The fact was that five years ago at the peak of my success I was lost. I was delivering good enough work as a ‘spiritual marketing’ coach, but my feet weren’t on the ground. I was too sucked into a system that was all about pushing, striving, and selling through whatever means necessary. This was training I’d paid tens of thousands of dollars to receive.

At the time, I’d conveniently forgotten about my values. Instead, I turned over my personal responsibility to a whole lot of magical thinking. After all, this was ‘spiritual’ marketing … right? So as long as it ‘felt guided’, anything seemed fair game – even wildly overcharging people.

It was amazing what passed for ‘guided’ in my psyche back then.

Now I’ve uncovered the magic of simply being real, honest and allowing the Universe to meet me however it does. Here, it seems, lies the true spiritual work. Gone is my ambition, my striving, my overwork. My greed.

Instead, I am gently shown the way, day after day, by simply surrendering to what is.

Now I value kindness, compassion and generosity. Instead of manipulating people into buying high priced programs, it feels much better to give freely and to honor each person I meet. As it turns out living simply isn’t so bad.

Just enough really is enough.

This is why I haven’t launched a program or attempted to sell my work, beyond my books, for the last four years. I’ve been getting grounded in these new values, and letting them take root and blossom in my life.

Holding such tender space is the gift of Teal’s death. Yet, at the same time, I know the time has arrived for me to step up and actively lead groups of people again. Hence the question I put to the goddesses.

How can I show up and lead fueled by purpose and service instead of ego and grasping?

The answer was swift. And, as usual, goddesses did not disappoint. In the position of the past was Rhiannon, the ‘Sorceress’, and she was upside down. “You are a magical person who can manifest your clear intention into reality,” read the card.

Yup. I was pretty magical then, and not in a good way. I manifested all sorts of crazy s**t including six figure weekend sales events and the massive tax issues that came with them.

Interestingly, the card was upside down, indicating something was off or there was a big lesson to learn.
In the Present position was Dana, High Priestess, and she, too, was upside down. “You have Divine knowledge that can help others through your spiritual teaching.”

Ah. Okay – yes, it feels like there is more teaching for me to do. And the card is upside down because I’m still holding back, afraid that once more I will fall into the trap of ego and overreach. Can I remain humble and still stand in front of the room?

In the future position was Aphrodite, the Inner Goddess. “Awaken the goddess within you though dance, self-care, and appreciating your divinity.” Happily, this time the card was right side up.

And what am I to teach people? Healing work that begins with self-care.

Clearly, the goddesses are telling me trust the path. It’s all there, and I have nothing to fear. I’ve learned the key lessons, and my awareness is great. Not only that, I have Teal standing by in the ethers, guiding me as I go.
Can I teach again? Can I share my work once more, and this time keep my feet on the ground and my heart open to the world?

Yes, yes. A thousand times yes! I know I can. For with each person we heal, Teal and I live our life purposes just a little more completely.

This is what feels right and true.

And so it must be.

 

 

 

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!