Decide to Be Certain

No one can predict the tomorrow of a human being. We move from abject poverty to opulent wealth on a spin of the heels, from apathy to spiritual heights through a sudden flash of inspiration. We are creatures who know no bounds, with limitless power to be whatever we want. We get stuck—but not from […]

Extreme Joy! Or How I Know I’m Back!

“Joy is what happens to us when we allow ourselves to recognize how good things really are.” –Marianne Williamson

Since I started writing regularly, most of my blog posts have skewed toward a pensive, reflective, often sad bent. The posts have been cathartic to write and have typically received great feedback from you. Like I wrote two weeks ago in Pivotal Moments, I’ve been undergoing many changes since moving. If you recall, I mentioned that people often don’t know they’re undergoing a pivotal moment until getting some distance and taking a little bit of time away to marinate. In the last three+ weeks, I’ve said yes more frequently and have made the decision to make more magic in my daily experiences.

A couple of months ago, I participated in an online project to recognize all of the gifts that come my way. This program, “The Receiving Project”, reminded me of so many blessings I experience on a daily basis, from working with amazing clients to being offered special opportunities. It is fitting to attribute some of my recent positivity to this project and also remind myself that I used to wake up happy 9 out of 10 days. In the last year, I did not wake up happy most days, and instead, I woke up with anxiety, sadness, or anger.  I missed my old self.

  I feel a physiological, mental, emotional, and even a spiritual shift knocking on my door. I’m welcoming her with a gracious hug and a big smile. Recently, I’ve had so much fun: I’ve gone to a Dodgers game, spent time in Laguna Beach, watched Independence Day fireworks from an amazing, secret beach, cooked and baked new dishes, gardened with my favorite chef, laughed with my nearest and dearest, exercised, and most excitingly, I took a wonderful adventure to San Diego for a burlesque show and met some amazing new friends.

  My life used to be joyous and nearly care-free, and then I took a nosedive to hell. I’ve treaded water and felt stuck for a very long period of time because of energy vampires and very difficult situations. I felt small, voiceless, concerned, and generally, untrusting. Something shifted and now I feel like I’m back! I see my eyes brighter in the mirror, I’m also able to reflect your joy. I feel myself smiling and laughing many times throughout the day and feel like I’m returning to the strong, capable, independent woman I always used to be. Sometimes I even want to shout and squeal that my life is back!

It would be false to advertise that in my brief encounter with my old (happier) self, I’ve only felt joy. No, I’ve felt a wide spectrum of emotions. Somehow, I know better how to handle the challenges quickly and more efficiently. This has helped me immensely, along with the insight of one of my teachers I met about a decade ago.  His name is Michael and he lives in Israel. He discusses feelings of personal slavery and new-found freedom, as if trudging through a desert after being imprisoned for many years. “We began to form our communal consciousness in that physical and existential ‘lack’. We learned to appreciate the ability to trust the unknown and unpredictable, to love the temporary, to experience the ‘here and now.’ All of this experience had one main purpose – to teach us to let go of the illusion of control.” He suggests that the times we are walking consistently through the smoldering desert with seemingly no end in sight, questioning and banging our heads for the best answers, represent the self-searching that people are encouraged to experience. This is crucial so we can “learn to listen to the soft and powerful tune of our souls. Yes, it does help to put all those daily distractions aside. It may involve a certain level of detachment from the physical and the convenient.”

So how does this relate to my extreme joy? Michael, like the Tom Petty song at the top of the blog called “Something Good Coming” suggests that in order to feel the delight and joy, we have to experience the pain and suffering. This extreme yin-yang of life is natural, though extremely frustrating when not going the “right” way.

And I’m in for the long run,
Wherever it goes.
Ridin’ the river,
Wherever it goes.

And I know that look that’s on your face,
There’s something lucky about this place.
There’s something good coming,
For you and me.
Something good coming,
There has to be.

–Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, “Something Good Coming”

I feel a sense of peace and faith that things are coming down the pike favorably, in the way that I’ve set myself up for success with seeds having been planted a very long time ago. I think joy and laughter stem from feeling relaxed and relinquishing a false sense of control. Instead, joy is felt momentarily by truly recognizing “how good things really are” like Marianne Williams says.  joy pink

I’d like to add one more thought before finishing, which I’ll likely write more about in future blogs: For me, the joy I’ve been experiencing is a result of deciding to make it so. Before doing some of the marvelous adventures recently, I’ve told myself a little mantra. I’ve set the intention to make the experience magical and fun and to allow myself to really feel the happiness that’s happening. To end on a short, sweet, high note, I want to acknowledge that I’m back! Not only is something good coming, it’s here! I’m experiencing extreme joy and I feel great! What a lovely feeling this is, and I’m delighted to share it with you!

To work with me, please visit Coaching By Nina Rubin.

Attitude of gratitude 

“To educate yourself for the feeling of gratitude means to take nothing for granted, but to always seek out and value the kindness that will stand behind the action. Nothing that is done for you is a matter of course. Everything originates in a will for the good, which is directed at you. Train yourself never to put off the word or action for the expression of gratitude.” — Albert Schweitzer

I’ve recently become hyper awareScreen Shot 2015-04-27 at 1.45.51 PMof the word ‘thank you’ and how infrequently it’s said. It seems to me that we have so much to be thankful for, from receiving compliments and gifts to having someone go above and beyond with favors and thoughtful gestures.

I think gratitude is as much an action and verbal acknowledgment as it is an attitude, or aura of being. I was raised to say thank you and to write thank you notes for everything. My family didn’t take for granted generous and small gestures, and my brother and I were reminded to thank everyone for everything. Back then, it felt somewhat annoying, but now I so appreciate that my parents and grandparents celebrated gratitude.

For me, when I say thank you, I automatically feel closer to the kindness of the giver. And I want the giver to know how appreciative I am.

Saying thank you is an excellent reminder of sincerity. I recently did a favor for a friend and drove her to a doctor’s appointment. She generously gave me a book to thank me for my offer. It meant so much that she considered my efforts. For me, the best thank you is one that comes from the heart and is said with full eye contact. When I receive a thank you that feels forced or even obligatory, it leaves me feeling empty.

Big surprise, kindness and gratitude go hand in hand. UMass Dartmouth reports that

  • People who keep gratitude journals on a weekly basis have been found to exercise more regularly, have fewer physical symptoms, feel better about their lives as a whole, and feel more optimistic about their upcoming week as compared to those who keep journals recording the stressors or neutral events of their lives. 
  • Daily discussion of gratitude results in higher reported levels of alertness, enthusiasm, determination, attentiveness, energy, and sleep duration and quality. Grateful people also report lower levels of depression and stress, although they do not deny or ignore the negative aspects of life. 
  • People who think about, talk about, or write about gratitude daily are more likely to report having helped someone with a personal problem or offered emotional support to another person. 
  • Those with a disposition towards gratitude are found to place less importance on material goods, are less likely to judge their own or others success in terms of possessions accumulated, are less envious of wealthy people, and are more likely to share their possessions with others.

These are some very simple ways to increase your experience and expression of gratitude. As Albert Schweitzer notes in his above quotation about gratitude, increasing our conscious awareness of gratitude may require that we train ourselves to think differently. This can be done by incorporating some simple exercises into our lives.

Graciousness is such an attractive quality in people. I’m always drawn to people who are humble and appreciative, rather than those who have a sense of entitlement or an attitude of expectation. Gratitude and thankfulness go so far in my book.

Yesterday a client and I took a walk during our session. He was amazed to notice how his sadness and overall blue attitude changed by expressing gratitude for the natural beauty of the neighborhood. He wrote an email to me after session commenting that simply walking with his eyes looking at the horizon made him see the world differently than when he walks with his eyes cast down.  He expressed thanks to me for reminding him that this small shift could change his day.  I felt touched to receive this message, and even happier that this suggestion had such an impact on his day.  

To you, I offer my thanks and a sincere appreciation for reading this today.

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The Short and Long Game of Happiness and Meaning

I recently heard one of my favorite authors speak:  Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis is a modern miracle, a gem, a woman who is wise and sensitive, offers timeless wisdom, shows respect and compassion to people, and offers just the right amount of comfort to grieving people and those suffering.  Among the topics in her wonderful talk in San Diego, one of the most important features I took away was that all people are looking for happiness.  But happiness, plain, simple happiness, is not enough.  It’s crucial to live a meaningful life.  Viktor Frankl wrote about this in Man’s Search For Meaning and Rebbetzin Jungreis sees meaning (or goodness) as a major factor to a healthy, purposeful life.

Just leading a happy life is associated with being a ‘taker’ while leading a meaningful life corresponds with being a ‘giver’. “Happiness without meaning characterizes a relatively shallow, self-absorbed or even selfish life, in which things go well, needs and desire are easily satisfied, and difficult or taxing entanglements are avoided,” according to authors in The Journal of Positive Psychology. Researchers say that happiness is about drive reduction. If you have a need or a desire — like hunger — you satisfy it, and that makes you happy. People become happy, in other words, when they get what they want. To me, this is also known as instant gratification. What sets human beings apart from animals is not the pursuit of happiness, which occurs all across the natural world, but the pursuit of meaning, which is unique to humans, according to Roy Baumeister. Martin Seligman, the Positive Psychology guru, says “you use your highest strengths and talents to belong to and serve something you believe is larger than the self.”

I’ve encountered the question of happiness and meaning time and again.  Recently, I’ve been faced with the issue of personal suffering and sadness, and how that relates to both meaning and happiness.  Do I have to go through deep pain and sadness in order to appreciate happier times?  Can meaning and happiness coexist, or are they mutually exclusive?  Is there a shortcut or work-around? So far, this is what I know:

I know that I love laughing, joking, and being playful! These are fleeting moments that make me feel happy.  I love feeling deeply connected in a respectful and considerate way.  I love sharing my life with my best friends and falling in love. This is ultimate happiness!  These experiences give my life deeper meaning.  But, they’re not enough.  These are the short game.  To me, the short game is seeing only the immediate, small picture.  It does not account for the betterment of myself or my loved ones.

My long game is having these experiences in tandem with working for the greater good of my clients, my family, my friends, and my partner.  In my long game, I can see the forest through the trees.  The meaning of my life stems from reflective experiences when I think and feel, when I have choices, when I make decisions that are carefully considered. Conversely, when I make rash choices and don’t think about my actions because I’m caught up in temptation or my short game, I’m not living my most meaningful life.  It can be tough for me to navigate. Lately the short game has felt awful for me.  It hasn’t been fun or happy.  Yuck.  The short game has made me feel defeated.

Purpose/meaning is such an anvil. It can be unwieldy and heavy, and sometimes casts a dark shadow on the immediate relief/happiness I want for myself. For a short spell, I made long lists of my life’s purpose and what makes me happy.  These lists got me nowhere fast.  I was ruminating in my head and trying to get “there.”  Then, I realized that there is no “there.”  As I constantly relearn, there’s only here.  These lists take me out of the present and put me in my head (a place that already gets enough visitors).  When I remember to actually breathe and live, I experience joy, anger, sadness, confusion, loneliness, boredom — these are fleeting emotions that come in, I talk through them with my trusted circle, and then they leave.  I’m much more present this way, and this feels meaningful. When I avoid and deny my truth, it brings me neither happiness nor meaning. I live with the consequences of lost love and missed opportunities as much as I live with the excitement of learning strategy for a new board game and cooking BBQ.  My life is one of meaning as much as it is generally happy.  I have some serious (fun!?) goals ahead that are the long game.  In the short game, I’m trying to smile and laugh while accepting what really is, and that mine is a is a meaningful life with an eye on the long game.

*Special thanks to EB for talking this out with me.  Would love your comments.
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To learn more about working with me, please visit Coaching by Nina Rubin