Here’s a stunning story of real freedom, peace, reinvention and divinity. Check it out knowing that it will both inspire and challenge you to ‘do what you want!’
Dive in and join me and SlowMo for lateral acceleration via personal delusion. It sounds like a near perfect fast track to JOY.
I had a mini break through last night while continuing to learn proper freestyle swimming. During my previous five attempts or so I found myself gasping for breath during each sideways inhale. Rationally I convinced myself I needed to fill up my lungs to their fullest capacity each time in order to complete three solid strokes before turning my head to the opposite direction and once again opening my mouth as wide as possible to gulp in a full breath of air. This was fraught on many levels. First, the wide panic of my open mouth often consumed not just new air but sea water as well. Also, the undercurrent of panic is never a good energy to have while trying to learn something new. And finally, the repetitive gasping for BIG breaths of air made the entire attempt quite exhausting and I couldn’t make it one full ocean pool length before needing to stop and properly capture my breath.
Last night was different. As I entered the pool I seemed to make it one full length with relative ease. Only after I reached the wall did I think about what I had done differently. Since my chest wasn’t heaving like a fish out of water, I could see that instead of gasping for the fullest breath possible down the lane, I had simply taken a breath after every 3rd stroke. There wasn’t anything remarkable about each breath, only that they delivered the right amount of oxygen to my lungs during each cycle.
Somehow, intuitively, I gave up the struggle and found ease in its place.
Perhaps when life feels hard . . . it shouldn’t be. Maybe we’re just pushing in the wrong direction or simply applying too much force. In yoga they teach the interplay and awareness between effort and grace. Last night I had a small glimpse of that and JOY definitely followed.
I’ve never been so bad across so many things at the same time. It all started with the best intention. I’m a self-proclaimed neophiliac and harbor a deep love for all things new. Not in the ‘gosh those new shoes are going to change my life’ sort of way, but more about embracing new experiences. These experiences tend to come along with some dimension of physical challenge. Perhaps my adoration of heroic Evel Kienvel in my childhood has never really subsided.
This drive to try new things has led me to attempt ocean kayaking, freestyle swimming, unicycling, and sailing all within the last 12 months. Its also resulted in endless unexpected mouthfuls of sea water, bruise inducing dismounts and scrapes, crashes into innocent bystanders, and a new appreciation for the speed of Sydney ferries and their right of way status.
I’m a big believer in sinking into a ‘beginner’s mind’. Especially as we get older and excel at both our career and hobbies. Perhaps unknowingly, we tend to seek out things that attract positive reinforcement from both others and ourselves. But the reverse is just as powerful. Knowing that you will fall over. Knowing that you can’t yet swim one full lap in the pool. Knowing that you still can’t remember how to fasten that knot correctly. And also, knowing that we can choose our perspective regarding these mini failures and even tinier steps forward.
Being an absolute beginner offers a certain amount of freedom and letting go of expectations. We have the chance to redefine our own personal meaning of success. Mine currently includes not crashing (as often) and being able to keep up with the very senior swimmers in the pool. It’s a true gift to recognize your own gumption and ability to continue to try, try and try again. And importantly, when we push ourselves outside of our comfort zone, we’re offered endless opportunities to laugh at ourselves!
Humility is a powerful teacher. If we can look at our miniature missteps with levity and kindness . . . well, the ego has no hope of victory. So what the heck, give something new a go. Don’t let fear of embarrassment stop you from finding a new source of JOY.
Its fair to say I’ve seldomly, if ever, been excited about rubbish bags. That’s all changed and it has nothing to do with durability or perfect fit. Instead, these little parcels of purpose have come loaded with an unexpected message of JOY. Waste is such a compelling topic. I believe our world in general has become more disposable. Our greed assumes that resources are limitless. We give things up, pass them by entirely, or convince ourselves that both things and people have expiry dates in our lives. How often do we disregard something that could be uplifting? If we look at something fresh can we find an unexpected layer of beauty? Let’s not waste these precious opportunities to increase our daily dose of JOY. Or at the very least . . . smile while taking out the rubbish!
There is a lovely practice I cultivate most days which quickly diffuses a brewing grey mood. Throughout the day there are both situations and people that can trigger a possible annoyance. These triggers can take many shapes and forms. A barista that muddles your order, someone jumping the cue in a long line, or even overhearing an angry customer giving the staff a serve of negative attitude. When I encounter these chapters its quite natural to get a bit miffed and perhaps even cast some form of quick judgement about their character or rudeness. Instead, I try to interrupt this auto pilot reaction and replace it with a silent wish of happiness pointed their way. I tend to use the phrase ‘May you be Happy’. I’ve made a bit of a game of this practice and frequently find myself seeing how quickly I can shift from a space of judgement into one of happiness.
The results are fantastic! Its a quick mood booster and it shifts any negative bits of energy that could linger around and start turning my own mood a bit sour.
During times of extreme triggers – moments of conflict with a colleague; a motorist cutting you off and causing a near collision; its quite challenging to remember to offer people a blessing of happiness. But these seem to be the times that it has the most calming effect. If we can quickly move through fear or feeling hurt, and offer someone a bit of peace and well being . . . well, it feels like that’s when JOY really starts to multiple and stress melts away.
And why not offer someone a slice of positivity when they are under duress? After all, we’re all striving for the same things I reckon – less stress and more JOY.
Give it a go. How many times can you catch your autopilot reaction and which situations are the easiest or hardest?
Over the past few months my various communities have been drifting away, leaving me feeling a bit like an untethers balloon. After calling Bondi home for more than a decade, the move over the bridge to Manly felt quite significant. In Manly I started feeling a lack of friends down the hall, on my doorstep and the familiarity of having the shopkeeper greet me enthusiastically as Winnie! (WI + MPLS). Not to mention the barista knowing my rather unusual coffee order and the early morning beach runners all offering friendly good mornings and quips about the ocean temps and blue bottles. On the work front I’ve been leaving my job so perhaps without conscious intention, I’ve been creating a bit of distance from my professional colleagues as well. And to add insult to injury – literally – I’ve acquired torn shoulder tendons so I haven’t been able to practice yoga properly for almost three months. My key communities were indeed missing in action and to be honest, I was throwing an ity bity pity party for myself in advance of my birthday. Instead of pondering on the distance between me and my amazing group of various friends and supporters, I thought of a way to draw them close. Inviting 50 or so folks from around the globe to participate, the Joy Jar began. Each person received an invitation to answer 3 questions and mail their answers back to me:
My Favorite Joy button is __________________________________
Joy multiples when ______________________________________
I spread Joy by ______________________________________
As the brightly colored strips found their way back me, the jar filled to overflowing with fantastic notions of levity and happiness. Throughout the year ahead, my intention is to draw out one slip each day, reflect on that unique aspect of Joy and then reveal the author on the back as someone to draw close for the next 24 hours. Disconnected from my favorite people? Wallowing in self-pity? Nope, the pull of JOY is simply too strong.