(If you wish this piece were shorter, skip down to the section: Scooch Even One Centimeter toward Feeling Good.)
As a matter of course in my work, I listen to people tell me about how unhappy they are. I hear about how much they hate their job, or how pinched off and dried up they feel in their relationship, or what an impossible financial corner life has backed them into, or how dreadful it feels to be in their body, or what a thankless, joyless, frustrating task it is to parent their particular child or children, or how they'd love to create the life they want, of course they would, if only they knew what they really wanted or had any clue how to get that information. ... There's hope.
Navigate by What Feels Good
No matter how harsh the story or how hard the row before them to hoe, I hold a firm conviction that they, you, anyone can be happy (or happier still). You can move from the life you have now into a life that's most fulfilling to you and offers your highest service to others, because all of life wants to support you in this. We're supposed to feel good and — it's really quite miraculous — life guides us by what feels good.
There's not that much mystery in it: if in doubt or baffled by choices, go for what brings you joy. If you don't see much choice anywhere, find where you have any choice at all and love it. You could do this if you were in prison, and you probably aren't. Choose to stay alive for the experiment of it and love the fact that you keep showing up, even if you can't (yet) actively love your life. What about that shade of blue in the sky, or that mix of grays and mauves with that tinge of cornflower blue? Find what you love, and love it. Find the joy, even if it's the thin margin set against a long narrative of woes. Focus on what brings you joy.
Quit Poring Over the Negative Details
If you go over all the compelling, grisly details of what's wrong, you'll have a very hard time getting to what's right. It may in fact become quite true that you cain't get there from here.
They're really good aren't they, all those marvelous details about the thing that broke the camel's back and the proof you'll never get out of here alive and the truth-is-stranger-than-fiction did-that-really-happen(?!) moment when, of all things, just when you thought it couldn't get any worse. … The price of going over these details again and again, repeating them to friends and to yourself and to anyone who'll listen and to yourself, is that you get stuck in them. In simple pop-psych-talk (nothing new-agey about it), you keep reinforcing that reality. You keep believing that's what's true, that's all there is, that's all that's possible. The details reviewed become the stakes you pound down, deeper and deeper, that ensure you won't budge from where you are.
Fish or Cut Bait
Okay, we can all see your point about the perils of getting another degree. Quit swirling around the same eddy that reiterates them. Sign up and invest if it makes your heart sing to get that Master's. Decide not to if it's just not right at this point in your life, but don't review it, regret it, and tell the story of what you don't get. Whatever that choice represented that you long for and wish to create, the Universe is more than capable of bringing you to in a form that actually fits with your current life. Let go of what you're not choosing.
Notice What's under the Tip of the Iceberg
In reviewing and believing the details of why you're stuck, you believe (and also reinforce) all the underlying thoughts that support those details you choose to tell. I mean the ones you're not even (or mostly not) aware of, which, if you listed them, would go something like this:
(A practical aside: It really helps to use Byron Katie's trick of simply getting out a pad of paper when you're distressed about your life and write down everything you're believing. Just give yourself a super-simple prompt, like “I hate living in this house and that means that ...” and make a list in short, simple sentences, one thought per line, that gets on paper what's swarming around in your consciousness. All of the resulting thoughts can be questioned.)
Scooch Even One Centimeter toward Feeling Good
If you feel bad, just find what might make you feel better. Whatever you feel bad about, find how to feel good about it. PLEASE KEEP READING. I'm not talking about that old tired put-on-fake-cheerfulness-positive-thinking thang. (I'm with you. I hate it too.)
Sometimes people tell me that they try to tell themselves all kinds of good things, but … Stop right there. There's no trying about it. Wherever you move again toward misery in what you're focusing on and repeating to yourself, right there, that's the place to move back toward joy. Just a little bit — whatever you can muster. If a cup of tea is all you can think of to make it all feel better, there it is. Celebrate even a centimeter in the right direction.
Get Out of All-or-Nothing
Don't try to turn the whole thing around. Don't fix your finances, just notice you actually have all you need to survive—and then some. Don't fix your relationship, or your single status, but tell yourself (without the words at least in it) whatever you see that's good about your partner or about being single. Don't get a whole exercise regime in place, just get to the pool this morning because you honestly love a good swim and the smell of chlorine. Just right here, right now, point yourself in the direction of what feels good. Life will get you to a better place if you let it. That is, if you keep stringing together one now after another in which you scooch a bit closer to joy.
If your maddening teenager is doing and saying any number of crazy, infuriating things, it's hopeless between you if that's what you keep reviewing and talking about, to yourself, to your teen, to your confidantes, to anyone. You'll go nuts if you make it your mission to get them ship-shape academicallysociallyfinanciallyhealthfully. Can you find what you love about this person? Right now, in the midst of messes and dysfunction and procrastination, can you find one thing you love and admire and hold up a mirror to your teen reflecting that? (This may be the very thing that gets them through, or that rises to the surface and most informs their life when they're out of this insane passage.) Can you speak what you admire about them? Can you laugh with them about any topic? Can you find one song they listen to that you actually like? Can you listen carefully when they're willing to talk to you about anything, grateful for the opportunity even if you don't get to be wise or appreciated or as carefully listened to back? All of this requires letting go of controlling, letting go of the future, letting go of thinking you're the one responsible for whether it all turns out okay. It requires letting go of all-or-nothing and finding just one little something to feel good about right now.
Again (can't say this enough), don't try to correct the whole picture when it looks like everything's wrong. Don't project a future where it stays wrong. Don't set up a time line that declares it'll take a very long time to set things right. None of these things is your business. Your business is simple: How can I make myself feel better about this right now? How can I move just a bit closer to joy?
A Success Story
I have a client who stopped going over all the details of what's wrong with her husband and why he's such a disappointment. Life conspired with her by shifting her focus onto some other things in another realm of life that she was excited to learn about and create. She started living in more joy because she was doing what she really cared about. She no longer needed to obsess about what he didn't provide because she was providing her own joy. (Personal responsibility! Victim no more! Gotta love it!) She recently sat across from me with this amazed expression on her beautiful face as she told me the stunning news that it turns out he's the perfect partner for her, and listed all the inarguable, specific evidence for why this is true. We weren't meeting to talk about that. I hadn't asked her to turn her thoughts around. She simply offered all that was being revealed to her now that she'd stopped reviewing the old story of his failings then started looking for joy — ways she was already happy with him. What's funny and fascinating is that the amazing details of why he's perfect are no less vivid, compelling, or convincing than the old details of the utter mismatch.
Fool for Joy?
This is why it's funny to me when people worry about fooling themselves with positivity. Good Lord, you do it with negativity all the time, where's the problem? If fooling yourself is all you're doing (and I seriously doubt that), then at least fool yourself in a direction that feels good. Just move toward feeling good. Move toward joy. Not toward fixing your life, not toward making it all better, not toward being sure you're doing the right thing or being a good person. Just move toward joy however you see to do that, right here, right now.
You'll move. Guaranteed. You may even stumble, drop, or flow right into the life of your dreams.
Love and blessings, Jaya
P.S. Look right to see a program I'm offering called “Joy NOW” — a weekend retreat for women in upstate New York on May 9 – 11.
Harness Your Power of Interpretation
Crossings Healing Center, Silver Spring, Maryland
Saturday, April 19, 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
This is a workshop for women allowing ample practice in noticing and reframing our interpretations in order to enhance well-being, connection, and personal power. We'll use inquiry, storytelling and improvisation, and guided meditation. Click on event title above for details and registration information.
Light on the Hill, Van Etten, New York
This is a weekend retreat for women, May 9 - 11, in the most beautiful retreat center in upstate New York on Joy, and Now, and cultivating joy right now--which we'll do all weekend in a conscious, respectful, and sometimes irreverent community. Practice shifting your feelings states and working with your thoughts to move continually toward joy. Early-bird registration through March 31. Click on event title above for details and registration information.
Curious about coaching?
I offer a free 30-minute exploration session by phone or Skype or in person (in Ithaca, NY). To get the free session, just fill out the contact form on my website.
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My aim in these daily posts is to support your growth and healing, inspire you, remind you of what you already know, keep you in touch with the magic, propose that you think big, and cast my vote for you to keep being ever kinder to yourself. Below are three samples from January.
An inspiring story
I'm always watching for the ways the Universe sends people to hold up mirrors for us. A friend recently told me about a little girl who walked up to her and, gazing into her face, pretty much demanded, "Aren't I beautiful?" The woman had a strong emotional reaction--tears came up. She said, "Well, yes, you are." It sure wasn't hard to see the girl's beauty. The girl kept looking at her, with an expectant sort of "Well??" quality. The woman came to and said back, "Aren't I beautiful?" The girl said, "Yes, you are" and walked away.
Walk around aware of your inherent worth. You are worthy just because you're here, just because you are. Hold the consciousness of your worthiness. Then you'll notice when you're feeling unworthy and it'll feel OFF. You'll be bothered by the discord between what you know to be true and what you're believing in the moment. I don't let myself carry around any tinge of I did something wrong, Something's wrong with me, That was awkward, What if they don't like me? Pause with such things and address them, forgive yourself, welcome yourself to the human race, and move along knowing you are worthy.
All of one piece
All the pieces of your life are meant to fit together. When they don't, what are you forcing? What could you let go? What could you open to that you haven't admitted? Someone recently said to me, "Damned if you do, damned if you don't." Ay! A great philosophy to banish from mind and language! If that seems true, or if you're stuck between a rock and a hard place (another one to mark for deletion), there's an invitation for allowing, letting go, relaxing the mind and the grip on something somewhere. Find where all of life wants to support you in having all the pieces fall into place.
I just remembered it's February, the month of romantic love. How, oh how, could that have slipped away from my keen awareness? I'll be doing some posts on that coupling thing, looked at from various angles, including loving it, hating it, regretting it, longing for it, not noticing you've got it, loving being without it, and more. ...