Hi, friends. p.s. bonjour has been traveling and busy with life! I’ve missed you. Today I’m trying to get back in the swing of things and knew I had/have a lot to do but also like Monday morning yoga class. I was debating on whether or not to attend when a friend of mine texted and said “let’s go!”. Everything else can wait. Me and my health need to take first priority. And I was so glad I went (as I always am). The message was to Live Large.
When I worked for KeyBank, they had a tagline for a marketing campaign that centered around the work they do in the area where they are based and their relationship with their customers and beneficiaries, called “community is Key” for KeyBank. But I always thought that tagline should really apply to all of us and mean “community (or connection, oneness) is key (or integral, important) to us developing as humans”. I know, deep, right? 🙂 Never was that more real to me than this past week when I performed with the Cleveland Orchestra and Chorus in Miami for their spring residency program.
Pondering gratitude today and how the events of this past weekend produced so much of it. I am so grateful for all the people that came out to support the grand opening event at Moonstruck CLE and my part in the adventure. I was genuinely thrilled to have that experience and felt waves of gratitude rippling through my whole being as I watched people interact with one another, sang carols, and witnessed Elisa’s happiness unfold as well. I couldn’t help but think about the effect gratitude has on one’s happiness. The experience is akin to relief – a sense of calm, peace, and harmony sets in – could this be santosha? 🙂 I think so. When the stars align and the universe gives you what you need, gratitude can be and has to be the only response.
It is not joy that makes us GRATEFUL – it is gratitude that makes us JOYFUL.
It wasn’t just the opening of the store that reminded me to be grateful. On Sunday, I sang with my fellow choristers and the Cleveland Orchestra at a benefit concert we do every year. The day is long and can be quite tiring, but listening and participating in the music created a response in me that led to tears multiple times, and some asked if everything was okay. I couldn’t respond as I didn’t actually know why I was having such a response. And then I put my finger on it. My mother and my mother-in-law are currently both battling cancer and my father-in-law passed away last year related to cancer. Even if you’re not with them every day, you feel and participate in their struggle and experience your own range of emotions that arise – anger, fear, sadness, helplessness, all mixed with hope and joy. But my tears Sunday were not from those feelings, but they were from the fact that – even in the midst of all of those struggles – there are so many other things in life for which one can be GRATEFUL…
For the constant and supreme power of music – to bring awareness to self, to distract from self, to create joy, to calm, to motivate, to thrill, to heal…
For friends and family – to laugh with, to love, to lean on, to connect with, to relish each one’s uniqueness…
And mostly for life…even though it is short in the universe’s timeline, may we cherish our part in it and always treat it with grace and gratefulness.
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… 🙂
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?”
The fisherman had just enough, not less or more. Love that. Happy Sunday, everyone! ♥