““In the ultimate surrender, you give up all needs. For the first time, you will be able to say, ‘I am enough.’” ~ Deepak Chopra, Reinventing the Body, Resurrecting the Soul
At the start of every New Year, I’m excited about setting new intentions or giving new life to old ones, looking forward to fully living a passionate life in the year stretching out in front of me. Picking this date on the calendar is more than tradition. It’s one that’s infused with an exciting energy of global fresh starts, the entire world seeming to be in celebration as we embark on a new path. However, any day of the year and wherever we are along our own path is actually the perfectly powerful place for a quantum leap toward living our most passionate life.
Whenever we take this first step, in our enthusiasm to take quantum leaps forward, we often experience an inner pressure to see the results manifesting quickly in our outer lives, expecting to hit milestones immediately upon embarking on our new path. What we often hit, instead, is a wall of resistance. Perhaps, we have some fear of change, causing us to put our foot on the brake. Mix that with the pressure we put on ourselves to see quick results. Add a pinch of life continuing to do what it does while we’re making other plans, pulling us into a different direction from the path we desire. And the result is a recipe for ending up feeling defeated and waving the white flag, so to speak.
My good intention when I wrote my last blog of 2018, Tip #1 to Living the Passionate Life in 2019, was that Tip #2 would follow right behind within a week, and then onto #3 the next week, and so on. In fact, I intended to hit the ground running right at the start of 2019 and to immediately see results. But, as you might notice from the date of this blog, my jumpstart was stalled.
I’m not one to give in to defeat and, so, I pushed harder and harder to break though the wall that was blocking my path. And the harder I pushed, the stronger the wall became. As I pushed and pushed against a seemingly immovable wall during the colder weather and shorter winter days, my body and mind longed for my warm bed and soothing sleep, the cold rain hitting my windows lulling me to far away dreams. This particular winter was especially difficult with the darkening and increasingly more divisive political climate. My compassion for those suffering unnecessarily because of it and my feelings of helplessness to contribute to their relief consumed me and took away my last bit of energy, causing me to just give up for awhile with the blanket pulled over my head.
After two weeks of time off from work that was meant to work on my writing and creating, but were instead spent alternating between fighting with a wall of my own manifestation and crawling into bed, I could see my creative ideas floating away from my clouded brain and my mood was spiraling downward. I sat on my meditation pillow one day, trying to center myself, and found myself crying tears of frustration. “Why is this so hard?” I asked myself. “How did I turn passionate living into painful work?” I have found, when feeling unmoored from my center, writing down my thoughts and feelings in a free-flow fashion has served as a way of anchoring me, helping me to detox from the negative energy and giving me the opportunity to step back and powerfully observe my own thoughts with the objectivity of greater distance. In doing so, I can then discover those places where my thinking was faulty. On this one day, I began writing as if my higher self had taken control of my hand, moving the pen on the paper. “Ego creates self-doubt and a feeling that I need to prove myself,” I wrote. “But to whom? To Ego — and to those who might state out loud what Ego has been whispering all along from within. Then, I remember that, after this one goal is achieved, Ego will pat me on the back, wait just a moment, and then ask for more. I got so caught up in feeding this ungrateful and insatiable Force within that I forgot that I’m already living The Passionate Life, with all of its ups and downs, ebb and flow, that are, after all, necessary parts of the journey.” I stared at the paper. It was as if a light bulb had just turned on and I could see more clearly. I noticed that I was breathing more freely, the weight of my own arbitrary demands having been removed from my shoulders. I hadn’t actually noticed that I wasn’t breathing before.
Waving that white flag of surrender is not necessarily a sign of defeat. The Webster’s Dictionary definition of surrender is to cease to resist. In Buddhism, surrender is often referred to as radical acceptance. This is fully and completely accepting what is without trying to resist it, acknowledging that the punishing demands that we’ve placed on ourselves are just that, our own doing. Paradoxically, through this practice of complete acceptance without resistance, we can make the most lasting transformations within ourselves and in our world. In fact, when we cease to resist, we become fully present in the here and now, seeing the reality that we are already enough. We are aware of the natural and necessary ebb and flow of life, seeing the ebb as a time for intentions to gestate, letting ourselves rest and renew. With this radical acceptance, the illusion of a wall begins to crumble and dissolve, showing us that it was just a manufactured fantasy. This surrender then allows our creativity, vitality, and joy to begin to flow freely, once again, when the time is right. It affords us a clearer perspective about what we do and do not have the power to change and gives us the patience and wherewithal to be the change, rather than spinning our wheels and wasting our energy in ways that cause more frustration.
One reality for this moment in time that best serves us to surrender to is that winter is a natural time for ebb. Going inward and resting are what our body and mind often long for this time of year and are a necessary part creativity. Creativity is actually liberated when we accept the natural cycle, rather than berating ourselves for not sticking to the schedule we had imagined. We often fear that such ebb is a sign of getting off track. But, keeping our focus on our North Star, our dream, our passion, and seeing this time for what it is, a time for resting, and resetting, can keep us from derailing.
The winter is fickle here in Texas. On some days, it truly feels wintery, while on others, even the trees are confused by the unseasonal warmth, budding in mid-January, only to have their buds frozen and hitting a restart in a couple of months. However, even on warm days, the darkness, nevertheless, comes early and my body knows that it’s time to slow down. At times, I miss the cold northeast winters of my childhood that gave me the permission to curl up at home, take naps, read, and let the seeds of my dreams gestate, so that they can sprout with the warming of the temperature and the new green appearing on the trees.
Having adjusted my arbitrary deadlines and knowing that I can change my deadlines any time I desire, because, after all, I’m the one who has set them, I’m more consistently connecting to my creativity again. Once again, I remember that I’m already living The Passionate Life, with its ups and downs, ebb and flow. Keeping that in mind, going back to basics, taking time for self care, all help us to stay on the path of living the passionate life, even when we hit the slower, rougher, or, even darker, parts of the journey.
Here are some of the ways that I’ve been surrendering into living the passionate life in 2019:
1. Meditate. I’ve been meditating for at least ten minutes every day, sometimes longer, if I have the time. I had been promising myself to do this for quite some time, but, more often than not, I found myself getting too caught up in the tasks of the day and forgetting to take time to breathe. Following through on this promise, I realize, is a powerful way to show up for myself. “Meditation” can look like any of a number of forms, such as mindfulness meditation, chanting a mantra, imagery, or the loving kindness meditation, for example. (Read more about metta — or loving kindness — meditation in my blog, Compassion and Living a Passionate Life: An Essential Element of Passion is COMpassion.) I usually start off with a mantra that helps to focus my mind. A particular mantra, a prayer from any faith, or just a chosen word can be used for this meditation. Then, I focus on my breath for a few minutes. After that, I imagine, seeing and feeling in my mind’s eye, what I want to create, my passionate dreams, as if I have already manifested them. This is extremely powerful in many ways, including serving as an inspiring, energizing, reminder of why I want to follow this path. And I end with a metta meditation, sending loving kindness to myself, to my friends and family, and to people I don’t know around the world. The fourth and final step in the loving kindness is sending loving kindness to those people for whom thinking about causes us the most distress. This can be quite a challenge, but when we’re able to do this, it can bring about the most inner peace. Remember, meditation of any kind, including metta meditation, is a “practice” and there will be some days when we don’t feel any more relaxed by the time we get up off our cushion (or wherever we choose to meditate). That’s part of the process. Just keep showing up because doing so is showing up for your self. (For more about various types of meditation and some tips, check out Chapter 12 of The Passionate Life, Finding Our Way to Happiness With Meditation.)
2. Eat well. Often, hitting a “wall” of any kind goes hand in hand with eating more sugar and processed foods, as well as drinking more alcohol. This creates a loop of lethargy. We may eat more sugary foods to try to give ourselves a boost, we may eat more processed foods because the combination of sugar, salt, and fat is the most addictive and is like taking a drug to make us feel better, and we might drink to try to “relax.” There are obvious problems with giving in to these temptations, such as increased feelings of self-loathing for having sabotaged our health goals. But, these behaviors also have very real direct affects on our energy, vitality, health, sharpness of thought, and creativity. (See my Huffington Post blog, Food for the Soul, for more about the direct effects of food on mood.)
3. Get enough sleep. During this time of year, we actually need more sleep than the rest of the year. The decreased sunlight is an energy-zapper and having extra sleep can help us to have more energy during our waking hours. Given that most of us tend to be sleep-deprived much of the year to begin with, this one is especially challenging. Here are some tips for increasing more restful sleep, check out Chapters 27, Getting Your ZZZZs, and 28, The Quality and Quantity of Our Sleep, of The Passionate Life.)
4. Get moving. When we move our body, which is what it naturally craves, we increase our energy, our health, our brain power, our creativity, and our joyfulness. If you live in a cold environment, you may not feel like going outside to exercise, but you can certainly take a yoga class, sign up for some dance classes, establish a yoga home practice, or join a gym. This will have a powerful impact on getting our enthusiasm for our dreams flowing again.
5. Practice gratitude. One of the fastest ways of getting out of a funk and to be re-inspired is to focus on what we already have in our lives, what we have already created, and the fact that we already have and are enough. This increases our joy. Moving toward a dream from a feeling of joy, rather than a feeling of desperation, leads, not only to, a much better chance of manifesting our dreams, but of enjoying the journey — which is the most basic element of living a passionate life. (Check out, Having an Attitude of Gratitude: What are You Thankful For?)
6. Practice generosity and kindness. I can’t say enough about the immense benefits of practicing generosity and kindness without expectation for increasing our positive state of mind, as well as physical health! For example, just this simple practice helps to dissolve our feelings of helplessness regarding what’s happening in the world. It shows us that we can bethe change. To find out all of the many benefits for mind and body, check out my blog, The Benefits of Kindness and Generosity: Creating More Meaning in Your Life Through Giving Without Expectation.
7. Detox from negative thinking. Winter is a great time to detox from false beliefs that no longer serve us and stand in our way from moving forward. Negative self-talk is one of the most detrimental and self-sabotaging behaviors that can trip us up along our path. Writing down our thoughts can help us to take a more objective look at the ways we get in our own way. (And take a look at my blog, Taming the Inner Troll, for some more tips to overcome this obstacle.)
8. Take one step, no matter how small, to follow your dreams, even if you don’t feel like it. Write one paragraph of the book you’re going to write this year. Don’t worry about making it perfect. It’s much easier to edit later once you have the ideas on paper (or on your computer). Make one phone call, or send one e-mail, to someone who might be an ally in your path to achieving your dreams. Do one piece of research about moving forward toward your dream. Take out your paints and paintbrush and make one stroke of color on the canvas. These are just some ideas. Taking one step toward your dream is the key in overcoming inertia.
9. Schedule one day in the week and, at least one hour each day, to spend time just having fun that unrelated to whatever your dream might be. For example, watch funny movies, socialize with positive friends, read a book just for the enjoyment of it, go for a hike in nature, go for a drive, or a museum. Taking a guilt-free planned day, as well as a daily hour off, has the paradoxical effect of increasing your enthusiasm and creativity when you come back to focusing on your dreams.
Now that I’m back in the flow, you’ll see more tips from me for living the passionate life in the New Year, beginning next week…or maybe the week after…or whenever….
In Peace & Joy,
Check out Dr. Mara’s internationally best-selling book, The Passionate Life: Creating Vitality & Joy at Any Age!
Living the Passionate Life- Online Course will be launching mid-April 2019!