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Recently I had a very tough decision to make and I really had to go deep with in myself to understand what would be best for me. It wasn’t easy and I really tried to hone in on what my gut or intuition was telling me. Oftentimes when faced with difficult decisions, I like to get the thoughts and perspectives of many people. But sometimes when I do that I get overwhelmed by the variety of responses I’m hearing, and I can’t get into the space to trust myself. There are so many pressures – societal, familial, friends, etc. that are put on us, that sometimes it’s hard to see that we have our own very individual path and that only we can truly know what’s right for us. I would ask people “just make the decision for me”. But of course they couldn’t do that. And yet, I was getting more and more stressed and couldn’t determine what my intuition was saying.

A friend of mine who is also an executive coach, encouraged me to just step into a place of peace and look at the decision as though nothing is permanent and no matter the choice I made good things would happen, and that I should try to do so calmly and in a very relaxed state. Somehow getting to that place of peace was only possible by removing some of the attachment to it and letting myself think that nothing is permanent. I believe that focus shifted something in my mind to allow space for what my intuition was revealing. I was feeling that one decision was the “right thing” to do versus the other that I wasn’t ready to give up, even though it may be a less conventional path.

Have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. – Steve Jobs

By getting to that free state, I was also able to see some other options for evaluating the two choices. For example, I was able to consider the two options as to which one or some variation might be available again in the future. Or which was most likely to enhance my life right now.

Ultimately I came to a decision. And now I feel free and peaceful and ready to accept new experiences as they come. But what I learned is that trusting intuition is very powerful and takes way more courage than going with the flow. I sometimes think of intuition as magical phenomenon – but I need to remember that it is formed out of past experiences and knowledge. With this experience, I built a level of confidence in myself that will hopefully come to light in the next decision I have to make, and the next, and the next… 🙂

Just Enough is More, the Power of Santosha

Just Enough is More, the Power of Santosha

As a child of modernism, the graphic designer Milton Glaser always heard people say “less is more”.  It frustrated him because one could look at a Persian rug, for example, and realize with all the patterns and colors that less certainly is not more – its beauty comes from complex intricacies in patterns and colors!  He proposed that what is more truthful to say is that “just enough is more”.  That to achieve perfection in a Persian rug or anything else, you have to recognize when to stop and rest on what you have.

Antoine de Saint Exupery said “you have achieved perfection, not when you have nothing more to add, but when you have nothing more to take away.”

That is really the same, isn’t it.  I have tried to follow this mantra in my own design career.  I often start with a minimal design and watch how with each iteration, more gets added. And I challenge each addition, as I believe there is a balance between the amount of information vs. the understanding derived from it.

By studying yoga, I have learned a little Sanskrit, the ancient Hindu language used to describe the poses or asanas and tenets of yoga.  I was focused on ananda (aka bliss) a few weeks ago and how it related to happiness.  But another Sanskrit word that has come to resonate with me is “Santosha”.  Simply put, Santosha means contentment.  And “contentment is variously described, but can be thought of as not requiring more than you have to achieve contentment. It may be seen as renunciation of the need to acquire, and thereby elimination of want as an obstacle.”  Hey, that’s what Milton and Antoine were saying!

Now let’s apply this to life!  If happiness is extended into ananda or bliss by pure rapture and joy, then Santosha or contentment is more sedate and less extreme but equally related.  It is saying that you are okay who you are right now.  And everything you have is enough right now.  We often get overwhelmed with all we have to do, with what we want to do, with where we might want to go, with who we want to see, etc.  And having goals and dreams is valuable to experiencing happiness, joy, and bliss.  But much energy can be consumed in the acquisition of those things.  And oftentimes we become attached to the outcomes too much and falter when we fail.

How can we can achieve a balance, then?  If we can learn to meditate on Santosha, then we will realize that we are enough, you are enough, it is enough, right here, right now.  We don’t need to be attached to outcomes of those goals and dreams.  We can appreciate the journey.  Everything that we’ve experienced got us to the now; and everything in the future will be what it will be.  We do our best and trust the rest to the universe.

And that reminds me of a story:

One day a fisherman was lying on a beautiful beach, with his fishing pole propped up in the sand and his solitary line cast out into the sparkling blue surf. He was enjoying the warmth of the afternoon sun and the prospect of catching a fish.
About that time, a businessman came walking down the beach trying to relieve some of the stress of his workday. He noticed the fisherman sitting on the beach and decided to find out why this fisherman was fishing instead of working harder to make a living for himself and his family. “You aren’t going to catch many fish that way,” said the businessman. “You should be working rather than lying on the beach!”
The fisherman looked up at the businessman, smiled and replied, “And what will my reward be?”
“Well, you can get bigger nets and catch more fish!” was the businessman’s answer.
“And then what will my reward be?” asked the fisherman, still smiling.
The businessman replied, “You will make money and you’ll be able to buy a boat, which will then result in larger catches of fish!”
“And then what will my reward be?” asked the fisherman again.
The businessman was beginning to get a little irritated with the fisherman’s questions. “You can buy a bigger boat, and hire some people to work for you!” he said.
“And then what will my reward be?” repeated the fisherman.
The businessman was getting angry. “Don’t you understand? You can build up a fleet of fishing boats, sail all over the world, and let all your employees catch fish for you!”
Once again the fisherman asked, “And then what will my reward be?”
The businessman was red with rage and shouted at the fisherman, “Don’t you understand that you can become so rich that you will never have to work for your living again! You can spend all the rest of your days sitting on this beach, looking at the sunset. You won’t have a care in the world!”
The fisherman, still smiling, looked up and said, “And what do you think I’m doing right now?”

Story: Heinrich Boll

The fisherman had just enough, not less or more.  Love that.  Happy Sunday, everyone! ♥

At The Beach Playlist

At The Beach Playlist

If you’re anything like me, you’re enjoying fun in the summertime!  And for me, music is a huge part of the fun.  I put together a playlist that I keep coming back to this summer when at the beach, whether it be in Ohio at a place like Lakeside Chautauqua on Lake Erie or an ocean beach in South Carolina or California.  No beachy playlist is complete with a little Jack Johnson to represent Hawaii and Colbie Caillat to represent California.  Throw in a little Ray LaMontagne and Joshua Radin, and we are dancing and kicking up sand or chilling in our beach chairs with a cool drink.  I hope you enjoy!


Follow Your Bliss

“When the moon hits your eye like a big pizza pie, that’s ananda“, sang Mary Pat Saturday morning at Namaste Yoga Studio.  “There is no need for music, we will make our own music in our minds.”, she said with a hearty laugh and proceeded to explain that “ananda” is akin to bliss and there are many forms it can take.

When I think of bliss I first think of happiness, but somehow the feeling of bliss goes beyond pure happiness.  For me it conjures thoughts of an enlightened state of happiness, peace, and joy.  That somehow when you achieve bliss, you’ve achieved everything.  You are complete.  You are whole.  Some say that bliss is a state of “extreme happiness”.  But I would prefer a less “extreme” adjective, perhaps bliss is more “supreme happiness” or, even better, “serene happiness”.

The quote I chose to feature for this post, “Follow your bliss…”, I have always thought was just about career or purpose in life.  But with that yoga class, I realize that it could be more than that.  Can I follow bliss in a yoga class and become more open?  Can I follow bliss by listening to music and feeling more emotions?  Can I follow bliss by traveling, seeing other cultures and in turn valuing all humankind more?  Absolutely!  It applies to everything we do.

“Respond to every call that excites your spirit.”  – Rumi

There is a yoga studio in Cleveland called “Inner Bliss” – how great is that!  This weekend they sponsored a wonderful event at the Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame called “Believe in CLE”.  It is essentially an outdoor yoga class and community gathering for hundreds of people and done so on a perfect summer night.  I wasn’t able to attend but I was truly there in spirit, and the sense of community I witnessed through their photos and social media posts connected me to the bliss they achieved that night.

I started this blog to explore my own joy of living (or “joie de vivre” as I love to hear and say in French) and those things that bring me to a state of happiness and bliss.  I know that what is joy to me may not be joy to others, but I believe it is possible for everyone to achieve.  I am so grateful for where I am and what I have that have allowed me to be open to these experiences.  I hope that you, too, will keep following your bliss and achieve a serene, pure, supreme, and complete happiness that is yours alone.


Happiness Quote

Many people search their whole lives for an answer to the question, “what is the meaning of life”? Others just live and act on it naturally. Seeking happiness is certainly a part of that quest. But happiness can be elusive, at times dodging us when we seek it most and at other times appearing randomly – when we see a robin outside our window singing about the first signs of spring. I have come to find that happiness is not about some permanent state of existence. I believe it is found in those moments that, when bound together, make up a life – when we see life through the eyes of a child, when we discover a new place in the world, when nature screams its beauty at us. Perhaps all of these experiences, together, equal happiness. And the more moments like this that we recognize and find, the happier we are.

“It isn’t what you have, or who you are, or where you are, or what you are doing that makes you happy or unhappy. It is what you think about.” – Dale Carnegie

Is happiness then a state of mind? There are people in seemingly similar circumstances who have completely different outlooks on life and perhaps dissimilar “happiness quotients”. Of course, we are all individuals and we can’t know the unique experiences and attitudes internalized over the years. But might it be possible to change our minds by seeking actions and experiences that bring us joy? And those who are happier, have just found more of those moments? As Thich Nhat Hanh says “Sometimes your joy is the source of your smile, but sometimes your smile can be the source of your joy.”

“Inspire Happiness” – Yogi Tea

Maybe happiness isn’t about ourselves at all – I’m convinced that the strongest moments of happiness come from inspiring happiness in others, and that may be the ultimate path to Aristotle’s meaning. Inspiring happiness can be as simple as a kind word – encouragement. Or how about helping someone with a task they can’t do themselves, nurturing someone when they are sick, offering an ear to listen, sending a beautiful bouquet of flowers, remembering their favorites, creating something they enjoy, etc.

When we seek these moments – through gratitude, by creating experiences, by inspiring happiness in others – we change. And through that change comes… happiness.