“Maybe starting a happiness jar is not such a bad idea” I thought.
Happiness is an inside job. We are responsible for our feelings, we are responsible for the way we interpret the events in our environment, how we choose to see ourselves, how we turn the perceived reality into a story in our minds.
Every time I have added space into my life, every time I have dared to let go, great things have followed. Amazing things, in fact. When I have let go of the crippling feeling of trying to fill any hole within me left by the past, I have stepped into a space of freedom and creativity. But the creativity and freedom never came easy. It was always a struggle to let go, to allow there to be emptiness and space around me, and trusting that life would indeed carry me further.
We went to see the movie Finding Dory yesterday, and I adore this little fish who does not make plans and just keeps swimming. And as a diver it’s fantastic to see the underwater life made into a cartoon, but that’s not the main point. The main point for me is Dory and she did not disappoint me this time either.
It has been 2.5 years since I left Europe and started my island life in the Philippines. It has been 1.5 years since we last set foot in Europe. When we first left, it was paradise that we were heading towards. The white beaches, coconuts, azure sea and abundance of time and nature.
Lately I have been thinking a lot about helping others, and what really constitutes as help.
In her lovely book Big Magic, Elizabeth Gilbert states that the primary reason for anybody to write/create anything should not be ‘helping others.’ But it often seeps in, doesn’t it. We are bombarded with all kinds of blogging schools and Pinterest courses to get our message out there, to teach others, to be the source of knowledge, the expert others look up to, to find our niche, to drill down on the unique selling point and then gain followers.
Dude, I just wanna write.
And when I write, I just want to express myself, to allow what is in me to surface and who ever wants to see it, fine. If someone gets something out of it, great, but that will never be the point. So how can I figure out a niche for my writing, it is what it is…
Well, I adore Elizabeth Gilbert for many reasons, one of them is the legendary book Eat Pray Love (no, not the movie, I fell a sleep), which sometimes gets bad rep especially in Bali, but say what you want, it helped me a lot during my pre-divorce fog. And recently Big Magic gave me another reason to adore her. She freed me from thinking that I should HELP someone with my writing. In the funny interview on Marie Forleo (another woman I adore), Elizabeth mentions how you know the people who are trying to help you by the confused look on the faces of those being helped (*chuckle*). When she was writing Eat Pray Love, the last thing she thought about was helping people with it. As she says, she was “a hot mess” herself just trying to find grace and make sense of the world.
When I listen to Adele I get it. She is not trying to help anyone with her art, she is just purely and simply singing about her own heartbreak. Coincidentally that raw honesty speaks to millions of people, and she has gained a steady following. All what is needed is raw honesty to our own craft.
So there goes that. I don’t have to help anyone with writing, I just have to write! How liberating, how honest, and how messed up that I ever thought otherwise!
Followers and an audience
Then there is the business side of things, which mixes into everything and anything, and the ever-growing and confusing world of social media. I have worked a lot with yoga teachers, and there seems to be a trend ongoing with hiring them, which is determined by how many people are following them. Do we all need followers in our lives, and what does that really even mean? What it comes down to is that if I don’t have followers, I don’t exist. But what if I don’t want to have followers, what if I don’t want to lead a tribe, I don’t want to be the expert in some field or the thought leader of my industry.
Dude, I just want to write.
Of course life as a creative person is easier when you have an audience and your work is actually received by someone out there, but should it be the main point, or the starting point? I don’t want to first look at the world and based on a gap in the market try to fill it with my creations. Dr. Wayne Dyer talks about it a lot as well, how we should just examine what lights us up and follow that. Letting go of the end result and just serving the world with your passion and your talent. Never mind if someone read it or pays for it. Create what comes, follow the river and most likely when done with this energy, everything else will fall into place perfectly.
Help yourself first. Light yourself up first. Get inspired first, and the rest will come.
It surprises me time and time again how much our own thoughts are actually limiting us. I know this, I know how our thoughts are creating the reality we live in, and yet I make up weird stories about myself all the time.
For most of my life I have felt mildly misfitting. As if I was not truly fitting where I was, I felt I was different without knowing exactly how. Round pig in a square hole, and it took me a long time to figure out why. Only until I realized that I was a Introverted, Highly Sensitive Person (HSP) and a Sensation Seeker (HSS), that things started to make sense to me.
Once you cross, you can stop running. Right? I mean, that’s it and we’re done! Dream – CHECK and life can settle into happily ever after between you and your dream. The longer you have been running, the more you are expecting this happy ending to swoop you off your tired feet. Finally – you can stop running now.
The victory lap
Depending on the size of your dream you do the happy dance and run the victory lap for a while. Then as your pulse settles, you gather yourself, and inevitably find yourself in a moment of and-now-what?! This can come as quite a shocker, especially if you have been plotting your dream for some time. Because dreams should make you happy, and they do, but we tend to forget that it’s not the end station. As long as we are alive, we keep evolving and changing.
I seem to fall for it every time. Thinking that if I just achieve my wild, crazy dreams, I’m set for life. As if I would magically stop growing, developing and learning more, as if I would magically want to stop dreaming.
And while reaching my crazy dreams surely makes me happy, don’t get me wrong, I tend to forget the impermanence of things. After my latest major life-overhaul I thought blissfully that I was finally on track, life was going to be smooth sailing and all I needed to do was to drink mango shakes and stare at the ocean.
So when new dreams started to surface after some years, I grew anxious. Why was I dreaming again? Why did I feel the need to move on, I had already FOUND my dream, I had already changed everything around for this new life I was enjoying. Was I even allowed to dream anymore, and how many major life changes and over-hauls was one person allowed to do in life?
String your beads and be happy
I forgot the simple and delicious fact that life is a not a static race to the goal, simply because there is no goal. Life is like those colorful Mala beads, where the string travels in the middle and the 108 beads are woven into it like the dreams and events of life. One bead starts, and one bead ends.
I forgot that life is movement and growth, a cycle that never stops.
I forgot that I am allowed to continue dreaming, continue chasing and running. That my heart will form new desires from the basis of my continuously improving base-line.
I forgot that dreams are delicious, and we should never stop acquiring more of them.
I forgot that just because my beads may seem random, with their different colors and shapes, they are all connected by the same thread. And at the end of days they will form a beautiful, unique jewelry that I get to call my life.
Some accompanying thoughts from the Universe
“Coincidentally”, I found the following passage in the book I’m reading, Conversations with God Vol.3 by Neale Donald Walsch (or as I like to think of it – Conversations with the Universe).
Stick to your beliefs, if that serves you. Hold tight. Do not waiver. For your ideas about “right and wrong” are your definitions of Who You Are. Yet do not require that others define themselves according to your terms. And do not stay so stuck in your present beliefs and customs that you halt the process of evolution itself.
Actually, you could not do that if you wanted to, for life goes on, with you or without you. Nothing stays the same, nor can anything remain unchanged. To be unchanged is to not move. And to not move is to die.
All of life is motion. Even rocks are filled with motion. Everything moves. Everything. There is nothing that is not in motion. Therefore, by the very fact of motion, nothing is the same from one moment to the next. Nothing.
Remaining the same, or seeking to, moves against the laws of life. This is foolish, because in this struggle, life will always win.
So change! Yes, change! Change your ideas of “right” and “wrong.” Change your notions of this and that. Change your structures, your constructions, your models, your theories.
Allow your deepest truths to be altered. Alter them yourself, for goodness’ sake! Because your new idea of Who You Are is where the growth is. Your new idea of What Is So is where evolution accelerates. Your new idea of the Who, What, Where, When, How and Why of it is where the mystery gets solved, the plot unravels, the story ends. Then you can begin a new story, and a grander one.
No matter how “good” you think things have been, they can be better. No matter how wonderful your theologies, your ideologies, your cosmologies, they can be full of even more wonder. For there are “more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”
Be open, therefore. Be OPEN. Don’t close off the possibility of new truth because you have been comfortable with an old one. Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.
***This article first appeared on Reconnect Inspire***
When changing the course of our lives, what is the appropriate tempo? When do we consider ourselves successful, and when is it considered a failure if we return to do the same things we did before? Is a few months considered a failure, is two years safe from self ridicule when turning around and coming back?
When are we successful with change?
I had an interesting conversation with a fellow life-changer, someone who left her corporate job to do something different, only to realize that maybe some changes in life need a bit more time. We often see others making decisions about their lives, making changes that seem sudden and rash even, making big changes with very little preparation time.
What we tend to forget is that often every single change in life takes time. It takes YEARS.
Take my divorce for an example.
From the time I started having first doubts, until I moved out the first time, one and a half years went by. Almost two years of processing the information, challenging the emotions and feelings, trying to do something different, going to therapy, until the time came that I moved out. Only to move back in after 4 months.
Did that stop my process? Not really. Was that a failure on my part? I don’t think so.
When I finally left 1.5 years after my first try, it was final. I was ready for the next phase of my life. This change took five years, not to mention the time of healing afterwards. Was it fast or slow? For me it does not really matter. It was my process, and it slowly got me to the place where I needed to be. To the outsiders my change might have seem rapid, because they only witnessed the last months, the execution. To some wanting to do the same step, five years may seem like an epic journey not even worthy of starting. But once on the other side, time no longer matters.
Two step, one step, tango!
With big changes, it’s hard to know our limits. It’s hard to predict what will actually make us happy, what will scare us, where are our limits are and what actually matters. Often the need for a big change will come from a place of suffering of some sort. You are in a bad place with your work, with your relationship, with your life, and you just want OUT. We may behave irrational, we may want drastic change just to feel the change. When you are in a bad job, infinite freedom may sound like the perfect answer. But it may not be what you really need, at least, not all at once.
Going after your dreams can also happen too fast. You make drastic changes because there is a need to move forward, a need to get out. You make a leap, your nose is pressed against the outer edges of your comfort zone, and you push forward. Some of us find this exhilarating, some of us cannot keep pushing for long without going crazy. And it’s OK. Life cannot be all about pushing and breaking boundaries.
Is it then so bad to take a step back, re-trace your steps to the last point when you felt comfortable, and regroup? Take a breath, assess the situation again, and explore what you have learned about yourself during those moments of expansion. Because something truly unique and valuable happened to you! Then from there, when the panic and irrational fear of all things new subside, something will grow again.
The process does not end, the changes and effort made is not done in vain. It was not a mistake just because you have to take a breath in between.
We don’t have to continuously press our nose against the outer edges of our comfort zone, making it bigger and bigger every day. This is not sustainable living. The beauty is, that our comfort zone will get bigger when we stretch it, and it will stay there even though we take a step back. Leaving even just a little bit space between you and the outer edge helps.
The first time will often be terrifying with any big change. Try it out, explore, and then take a step back. Repeat and repeat until safety gets a new meaning. This is how children lean to explore – little by little, always running back to the safety of the mother in between.
They are not failing, they are exploring. They are discovering the world outside, and the world within. It’s a beautiful dance of life that never ends.