After eight weeks of in and out travel (and pretty much living out of a suitcase), I'm home and getting back into a routine that honors my contemplative nature and needs. And though I have plenty to catch up on, including caring for our house, my body, and my work life, this segment I wrote for Living Gently with Myself is the focus of my efforts as I "regroup." I hope you enjoy and find it helpful ... wherever you are.
When I wrote my first book Coming Home to Ourselves, I was living a completely unbalanced life, which I set out to correct. I created a system whereby I would spend an allotted amount of time each day on each part of my personal triad: body, mind, and spirit. I theorized that by doing so I would get my life back in balance. Much to my surprise, my theory, put into practice, worked. One year after I implemented it, I felt great and my health returned. My life did feel more balanced.
Yet, walking the beach one year later, realized I was not completely at ease within myself. I felt unsettled much of the time and was not sure why. That afternoon, as I lay on the beach, relaxing, soaking up some sun while my children were occupied elsewhere, I found myself drawn to read a new book I’d picked up featuring the poetry of the 12thcentury Persian poet, Rumi. Rumi was madly in love with God.
As I read, listening to the waves lap upon the shore, I felt internal waves of peace and love wash through me, carrying me into what I can only call a unitive experience, a genuine feeling of oneness. Of belonging. Of deep connection to the God of my understanding, which, ironically, was very limited at the time.
In that moment, an awareness whooshed in (dare I call it grace?) that I was still living “upside down.” I was working too hard at getting my life just right by focusing on balance; trying to do all the right things for myself—body, mind and spirit. I experienced a new knowing that life, ultimately, was not about balance at all, but about harmony.
Balance, by its very nature, is impossible. Nothing is ever in perfect balance. I often assure myself of this by visualizing a teeter totter. The plank on which we sit is never completely parallel to the ground, it’s always tipped a bit, one way or the other; more up than down, more down than up.
The words of Rumi I read were not about balance and getting our lives just right, but about spiritual living, heeding the voice of the soul. When we can listen in thus way, he said, the soul points us toward the One. We are divine creatures in human form and we are most happy when we are living in harmony with the Creator, the Beloved, as Rumi called it. I knew in my bones that what he said was true, because in that moment, lying in the sun on a hot August day, I came to realize I was supremely happy feeling connected to Source.
From that day forward, I shifted my daily focus to take care of my spiritual life first, and then my body-mind second. The “balancing act” approach to life suddenly felt like striving and was deeply unsatisfying. I experienced a shift when I addressed my spiritual connection first. Everything in life seemed to fall into place as a result of this. Prioritizing my relationship with the Sacred through various spiritual practices enabled me to feel harmonious within myself, and at ease with all aspects of my life. The same can be true for any of us.
Putting your spiritual life first is a game changer. In fact, when you do, you will realize there is no “game” at all, just a beautiful Flow and you are part of That.
Is your inner life a priority or does it play second fiddle to attending to all of the responsibilities of your daily life?
© 2018, Janice L. Lundy
Excerpted from Living Gently with Myself: A 30-Day Guidebook.
Heart to Heart Press
“When you wish upon a star …” Do you remember these lovely lyrics, sung by the character Jiminy Cricket in the Disney film “Pinocchio”? They assure us that if our “heart is in a dream, no request is too extreme,” all of our dreams will come true.
When we were children, it seemed like anything was possible. Wishes could be granted with the wave of a wand or a sprinkle of fairy dust. As adults, we may hold a more mature, realistic view, understanding (from life experience) that wishing does not always make it so.
And, yet, there is something to be said about intentions, wishes of sorts, and holding a clear vision for one’s life. The ability to intend in this way—with passion and purpose—may lead us to the place where dreams are born, Jiminy Cricket style. The alternative—feeling hopeless or embittered—leads us nowhere.
This holiday season, as you find yourself making choices about gift giving, consider what gifts you might like to intend and consciously create for yourself this year. What treasures of the Spirit would you like to bring to life? Here are three of mine. I invite you to pull up a chair, pour a cup of tea, and write down three of your own. Wishing may not make it so, but wholehearted intention will.
One of the very best gifts I can give myself is to be fully aware of my thoughts and feelings. When I am awake and alert, I can choose how to respond to what is happening around me with grace—instead of reacting to others with sloppy words, impatience, or temper. React or respond, this is the key to inner freedom. We do have the power to choose our words and actions. This is an incredibly powerful gift! If we intend to stop, look, and listen before we do anything, it ensures peace of mind and harmonious relations with others—two more shining stars of the season!
Health and Longevity
I want to be healthy and strong. I’d like to live for a very long time. I love this life! It is a precious thing to be born a human being. But wishing for my body to be healthy is not good enough. Each year many of us intend to eat healthier, organic, and lower on the food chain. We intend to get more exercise to build muscle and stamina. And simply thinking about this by sitting on the couch eating fast food we purchased at a drive-through restaurant does not support that intention. Choice by choice, we give our body a healthful gift or a booby prize. We must make choices every single day to give it what it needs to be strong, fight off disease, and maintain energy.
Did I save the best wish for last? Perhaps. The older I get the more I realize that not much in life matters if I don’t have love. Love of my partner, of family and friends. Love of work and creative expression. Love of the Earth and her bounty. Love of growth and the opportunity to be all that I can be. But in order to receive this love, I must have an open heart. I must be able to fully give love, too. So my third and final wish would be for me to live with a wide-open heart as best I can; to not shut down or close off to others; to not judge or discriminate or neglect. I wish to be kind; to extend myself to others as best I can; to live with unconditional friendliness toward all beings—both animal and human. This is a life worth living, one rooted in love.
“Fate is kind,” sang Jiminy, “She brings to those who love the sweet fulfillment of their secret longing.” These are my secret longings this holiday season— inner freedom, health, and love—and because I do love, I hope they will be granted.
What are yours? Perhaps we can meet under the tree and share our gifts. What bounty we would have!
(Originally published in Women's LifeStyle, Dec. 2010)
A few years ago, when I was serving as a magazine editor and feature writer, I had the privilege of interviewing Clarissa Pinkola Estes, PhD. I'd admired her work for years.
At the time we were talking about her new venture, The Dangerous Old Woman, and the conversation often returned to the subject of wisdom.
I finally asked her, "How do you define wisdom?"
Her answer, "Wisdom is what works."
I've thought long and hard about her answer and, truthfully, have pretty much taken the definition on as my own.
I used to think of wisdom as something lofty. Something only a gift few people had. Or something to be acquired as you aged and had clocked plenty of life experience.
Abiding by this definition, I believe that each of one of has a deep reservoir of wisdom. It may not feel like it on most days, but it's there. Sometimes the difficulty of daily life keeps us distanced from it, frantically paddling in a swirling pool of yuck and muck where we lack the mental clarity and emotional strength to climb onto steadier ground.
Wisdom is what helps us stand tall—calm, clear, confident. Cognizant that we have what it takes to roll with the ups and downs of life. To love rather than hate. To heal rather than hurt. To grow rather than hide. As Dr. CPE reminds us, yes, wisdom is what works.
A few years ago I was guided to engage a morning process of accessing my own inner wisdom. I wanted to remember what worked in terms of living a wholehearted life. I'd light a candle, set the intention to tap into my own good stuff (and that which the Divine revealed to me), then write it down. Those jottings became the "Beads of Wisdom" I sent out to my e-mail list beginning in 2012.
Today, I launched a new version of these Beads. I call them "Beads of Wisdom 3.0" because they're new and different, because I'm new and different.
Passionate about growth, I vow to always be faithful to what is unfolding within me and to where it's taking me. I'm always happy to share what I'm discovering along the way.
So with great pleasure I invite you to join me for a new and deeper understanding of wisdom and receive a daily dose of mindfulness, lovingkindness, and compassion. A dollop of what works for any of us to live in the highest way possible—calm, clear and wise, no matter what.
You can read more about Beads of Wisdom 3.0 here and read some samples too.
They're free, from my heart to yours. Enjoy!
When I lost my health due to stress and overwhelm in 1994 (or was it 1993, I don't remember, truthfully, life was a blur at the time), I didn't know where to turn for a solution. All I knew was that I was deeply, deeply, tired and just plain worn out.
Somehow, I knew to listen to that tired self who encouraged me to bend down even lower, put my inner ear next to my body, and pay attention to what it said it needed to be well. Organic healing from the inside out.
I paid attention to what I thought and felt through writing (journaling helped). I rested—a lot! I walked the beach for hours and simply listened to the waves lapping upon the shore, seagulls dipping and soaring overhead. Actually, I didn't do much of anything at all but to BE ... and I looked and listened deeply to what was going on around me.
I immersed myself in the present and allowed that "method" to begin to heal what ailed me.
I somehow knew that savoring was part of a healing process. (I'd been moving too fast to savor much of anything up until then.) Savoring is the act of allowing yourself to be absorbed into and to fully enjoy—to appreciate— your current experience, whether it's looking at a brilliant sunset or sipping a cup of flavorful tea.
Webster's describes it this way—perfectly. "She wanted to savor every moment: relish, enjoy (to the full), appreciate, delight in, revel in, luxuriate in, bask in."
(That was me then. It's still me today.)
Savoring saved me. Savoring brought me back to the simple blessings of a slower-paced, more intentionally lived life.
Walking was and is one of the avenues I use to savor. Thich Nhat Hanh style, when I walk, I walk. I try not to think too much; just take in my present experience. Doing so allows me to log in what I see as a pleasant experience—especially natural beauty.
This week I'm reading Hardwiring Happiness by Rick Hanson. He affirms what I've learned organically about the healing power of savoring with some of neuroscience's newest findings. Dr. Hanson calls savoring "taking in the good." He writes, "When you take in the good, stay in the present, enjoying what is flowing through your awareness without trying to grab it as it goes by, opening to it so that it sinks into you."
It's the sinking in part that neuroscience speaks to. When we take in the good, "feel good" hormones take over, cortisol is minimized, and beneficial neural connections are made. He recommends staying with your experience for at least 10 seconds to let the process kick in. The more we do this, the more our brain changes, the more new neural pathways are created; pathways that can bypass old ineffectual ones that are conditioned to send us messages of stress and anxiety (and so much more).
In time, we'll feel inner struggle dissipate. Peace comes. Happiness arises and decides to set up housekeeping if we stay attuned to the good, the right, the true—that which nourishes body, mind, heart and spirit. We are, literally, retraining our brain to "see" the good and, as a result, we reap the benefits of body/mind ease, open-heartedness, and "at-one-ment" with life as it is.
For me, savoring—this taking in of the good—is one of the most self-compassionate things I can do for myself. That any of us can and should do for ourselves if health and healing is our heart's desire.
(That's a "good should," by the way. ;-)
May you savor something today and feel the body/mind benefits of supremely en-JOYing yourself wherever you are.
p.s. The lilacs pictured above are from my latest walk. They were the most fragrant lilacs I've ever smelled ... in my entire life ... no kidding.
Sometimes we don’t need to pursue happiness.
Lately, I'm living by this quote.
When you think about it, there really is no point in seeking happiness. If you go looking for it, it's possible you won't find it. Besides, so often when we do set our sights on something, we're disappointed once we get there!
That's why I'm practicing (and the key word here is "practice") what Rabbi Sacks advises. It's so much wiser to pause and let happiness find us. And it's a lot less driven ... Ah, relief!
So how do you do this anyway, let happiness catch up with you?
This was one of my primary intentions in taking my own "Year for Me." I wanted to be more conscious of how fast I was moving through my days. I hoped to get more in tune with my natural rhythm and align my daily activities with that. My deepest desire was to get in touch with my soul's urgings.
To do this we have to pause. Often. Lots of pausing is required ...
... And stopping, breathing, noticing, naming, feeling it all too.
And we are not a people who pause well, are we?
If we stop to look at something, people gawk and say, "What is up with her?"
But pause and linger is what we must do if we are to allow happiness to find us.
We DO have to walk more slowly and let the power walkers pass us on the sidewalk.
We DO have to look up at the sky or down at the ground to catch the intricacies and marvelousness of nature while others stare, wondering what the heck we're doing.
We DO have to sit on a bench and people watch so we can get in touch with our shared humanity—how unique we are yet how much the same—even if others question our motives.
This type of pause is vital to our well-being. It is a Sacred Pause. It is a pause that not only refreshes but plugs us back into what is most important in life.
Simple pleasures. People. Beauty. Our true selves. The Divine.
It is a pause like this which allows happiness to sneak up behind us, tap us on the shoulder, and say, "Here I am. Remember me?"
Join me for 30 days of happiness-boosting skills with my new online program, "Learn How to Be Happy" at DailyOm.com.
This post is Part II of an offering on Happiness. What is it, really? How do we "achieve" it? Is it even something to be achieved?
I maintain that happiness is a habit, and one that we cultivate from the inside out. The more we practice this habit, the happier we are—in a long-lasting way. The problem is knowing how, which I address in m
If you missed Part I of this conversation, you can find it here.
Your Most Predominant Mind Pattern
Each of us has very specific ways in which our mind works. We have deeply embedded patterns, story lines, likely sourced in childhood events, that have become habituated ways of thinking—and they tend to run us. And they cause undue stress. AND they keep us from experiencing happiness!
For example, many women have “worry mind.” We incessantly mull over what might happen in the future to ourselves, or to our loved ones. Another pattern is “busy mind.” With the frenetic pace of our lives, this is not surprising. The faster we go, the busier our minds get. “Busy mind” can cause anxiety levels to escalate. Both of these mind patterns can be extremely debilitating, causing severe stress, culminating in poor health.
One of my predominant mind patterns is “planning mind.” Being a teacher by training and calling, I often find myself lost in thought, creating lesson plans for an online class I teach, blog posts, or simply planning out my life months ahead of time. I seem to think that allowing my mind to behave in this way will bring peace of mind. In reality, it often creates feelings of anxiousness or overwhelm.
What would be one of yours?
No matter which one you have you can work with it successfully. And please know this: there is no shame in having a particular “kind” of mind. It is simply a result of being human!
Use the “Stop, Look, Listen, and Feel” process with your predominant mind pattern too. Simply notice it, name it, and with the assistance of some deep breaths—let it go. Turn your attention to something else. In time, you can “rewire” your thinking to be less rigid, more flexible, workable.
Choice by choice, we can shift how we respond to our minds. We do not have to be run ragged by pesky thoughts or mind patterns. Infuse yourself with passion to be happier and you can. Take good care of your mind and I’m confident you’ll feel happier in no time—from the inside out!
Join me at DailyOm.com for my new 30-day program, "Learn How to Be Happy."
One happiness-inducing practice each day for one month will build your happiness muscles!
Learn more. Includes a live Forum, by the way, so we can connect—up close and personal!
Have you checked your happiness quotient lately? How happy are you—really?
I've been thinking about happiness a lot lately, mostly because I just launched a new course about it at DailyOm.com.
We struggled with the title to make it appealing to people. We came up with all kinds of new-fangled ways to talk about happiness that would catch someone's eye, but, in the end, we landed on something so simple:
"Learn How to Be Happy" ...
which smartly says, Yes, we really do learn how to be happy.
Or maybe, more accurately, we learn how to create sensations and experiences of happiness — rather than others bound up in sadness or despair or anger. In time, when we do this long enough, we end up with a "Happiness Habit."
Here's a little crash course in happiness. Part 1 is today. Part 2 is in a few days. Consider this.
(And after you do, please go here and check out the course/material because it's really good stuff that works! Blatant self-promotion here.)
As you know, I am BIG on practices. "Practices" should have been my middle name: Jan "Practices" Lundy.
My life revolves around daily practices for calm, clarity, love and HAPPINESS.
I know for a fact that if I don't point myself toward happiness, I WILL end up somewhere else. My mind is as spastic and elastic as the next person.
So, do me a favor, and point yourself in the direction of happiness today as best you can. It feels a lot better than the alternative.
And if you need some help, go here.
is a touchpoint. a resting place, a "remembering" of who we really are and how we can best live—kindly and compassionately with ourselves and others.
Janice Lynne Lundy, DMin
is an educator, interspiritual director/guide and retreat leader who has been pointing people back toward the Sacred for more than twenty years. She is the author of several spiritual growth books, including Your Truest Self, My Deepest Me and Portable Peace., and is the co-founder and co-director of the Spiritual Guidance Training Institute.