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Posts Tagged ‘happiness’


San Francisco golden Gate view

Four years ago today, I came to San Francisco for a one-month sublet. Life had proven to be quite hard in Los Angeles, nothing was working out, and I was stagnating…badly. Knowing that I had to make some kind of change, I figured I’d give San Francisco a whirl and see what came…

Five days later, a job offer fell in my lap, out of the blue. The next thing I knew, I was packing up my LA apartment and driving a large U-haul, by myself, up the I-5 to San Francisco. As I made that journey, unsure of what was to come (other than an Operations Management position at a start-up), I could never in my wildest dreams have imagined what would be coming in my future.

Here I was at my second start-up: lots of long hours, nose to the grind, managing a team of people in San Francisco, and eventually overseeing an entire call center in Denver. I was busy, doing the job of two people, and I was on the go all the time. I got promoted in that position, and then shortly thereafter I was tasked with building out a brand new sales division, something I embraced and into which I threw myself headfirst.

But…only a few months later, much to my surprise, I was let go… for the first time in my life. And why you might ask? Because I was “unhappy,” or so that was the reason they gave me. I will never forget that cab ride home, sharing my confounded emotions with my friendly and empathetic Brazilian cab driver.

That day was the end of one chapter, and it was about to be the beginning of another.

Whatever shock and upset I felt, somewhere on a deeper level, I knew that this event was a gift…an opportunity.

And somehow, as if on autopilot, I began writing; something that cascaded seemingly accidentally out of a simple request to share my story of healing through yoga. That story opened a floodgate that I didn’t know existed within me, and in me was revealed a writer with whom I had never before been acquainted.

A serendipitous email invitation to a Hay House (my favorite publisher!) Writers’ Workshop led me to San Diego where I learned how to write a book proposal and build a platform, all the while following my deepest intuition. Before I knew it, I was blogging in English and Spanish, to tens of thousands of people around the world. And to my surprise, they seemed to be listening.

The next thing I knew I had a solid book proposal, the help of an agent, and I was pitching a book about the power of positive thinking to publishers all over the country. Me. The same girl who only months prior had been running a customer service call center in Denver. Me. The same girl who had built out a client service team at a start-up in Washington, DC. Me. The same girl that had planned international student tours in Boston. Me. The same girl who had dropped out of graduate school and hated writing papers all throughout school. I was writing a book! And I had a lot of support.

As I worked to grow my platform, I began blogging for a couple different lifestyle, wellness, and yoga blogs. My audience grew, as did my list of invaluable connections. And then came the initiation of the second book project: The Yoga Diaries. Oh yoga! I haven’t properly mentioned yoga. No story of my life in San Francisco is remotely complete without talking about my beloved practice of yoga.

Those of you who have followed my blog already know that yoga has and continues to change my life radically, ever guiding me into new and mind-blowing adventures and experiences. What started as a practice from a deep place of pain and sorrow in Los Angeles, carried me forth on my healing journey into San Francisco. And now free of a very stressful job, I had more time to devote to my yoga practice. I enrolled in a 7-month intensive yoga immersion, fully intending to take my practice and my understanding of yoga history, principles, and philosophy to an even deeper place.

Triangle

And deeper I went. Over that 7-month period, magic happened. There really are no words with which I can adequately do justice to how profoundly yoga has changed my life and my entire existence. But suffice it to say, through the consistent and dedicated practice, I tapped into a well of calm and peace so deep within me, a profound oasis of joy and bliss. I blasted my heart wide open and my spirit began to expand into the heavens.

I was able to take it all in: the beauty and joy that was around me every single day, the delightful moments that occurred at every turn once I opened my eyes and began seeing them, the love and human connection that was all around me, and within me. I was buzzing with delight and I was seeing the entire world, all of existence, through a completely different lens…a permanent and unshakeable lens.

The Yoga Diaries began to grow. I received more and more wonderfully inspiring stories of healing through yoga, from people of all walks of life, from all over the world. And in no time at all, I realized that I was on a mission, a personal quest to bring greater healing to the masses. I knew that yoga had transformed my own life in breathtaking ways, and from all of the wonderful friends that I was meeting in my yoga immersion, I could also see that yoga had transformed many of my friends in equally sweeping and speechless manners. I knew that yoga had the power to change the world and I knew I needed to spread that message.

Amazing souls began to cross my path, so many deeply spiritual beings, soul brothers and sisters in exploration on this seeking journey. We were all working to help others and change the world in different, yet complementary ways, and we came together to support each other in ways that still astonish and amaze me. One thing led to another and I was introduced to a best-selling yoga author, for whom I began working as a consultant. The connections grew, the Universal support continued to flow, the right person continued to show up at just the right moment.

And all of that culminated in me finishing my second book proposal, this time for The Yoga Diaries. And as if the Universe wanted to show me that it continued to support me, more and more magic began to unfold. I became friends with several published authors (including the best-selling one!), all of whom offered happily to refer me to agents and publishers. I began to simply follow the breadcrumbs and they led me from one door to the next. When one door would close, another window would open and there were more breadcrumbs to follow. And I knew to simply keep trusting…Until eventually my book proposal had personally arrived into the hands of a dozen acquisition editors, among them the head editor at my favorite publishing company; yes the aforementioned Hay House!

As I write this blog, on my lap sits another Hay House book that was personally sent to me by the acquisitions editor at Hay House. And as my bookmark, sits the hand-written note-card from this editor, a truly prized possession which will eventually go into a frame and onto the wall of proud and awe-inspiring moments of my life.

Once I walked through all of the open doors, and my book had safely arrived into all of these capable hands, I knew that my part was done. And from that point on, I released the project into the arms of the Universe and there it presently resides, cradled in the vast unknown.

And as to the outcome, I have let go of it. For I know that I have done all I could do. I know that I put my heart and soul into this project and I know that beyond any book, my main purpose was to spread the word about the healing power of yoga. Earlier this week, I published a truly inspiring story about a 68-year-old man who had overcome a stroke and is now healthy and thriving from his yoga practice. As a result, a 65-year-old stranger reached out to say he was inspired and wanted to begin a yoga practice. In that moment, I knew that it didn’t matter if the book ever got published. That 65-year-old man, and hundreds of others like him, was the outcome. That is my happy ending.

And so in recent weeks, as I’ve begun to move on from the book project, I’ve felt that the writing chapter is coming to a close, at least for the time being. And I’ve felt an internal shift and a readiness to get back to another career. And I can sense deep inside of me that just like the previous chapter that began with me losing my job, that the next new chapter is also about to begin, with the finishing of my book.

As I write this, I’m sitting on a plane flying home from Maine, where I just spent an all-day interview, for a job (here in San Francisco) that I would love to have. And I don’t know if that job will come through or not, but as I look down on the Earth from 30,000 feet, I know that I stand on the precipice of the next great chapter.

I fly home to San Francisco knowing that it truly is home. San Francisco has changed me in ways that were once unfathomable to me. I came to this magnificent city, a little bit lost and very damaged, and somewhat “by accident.” And as I fly back to the Bay, I know that I am whole. I am happy. I have a life and a community that I love, in a city where magic awaits around every turn. I am living more authentically and vibrantly than I have ever lived in my life. I have awakened within me a writer whose voice will never be extinguished, no matter where else my path takes me. And with that new voice and a clear mind, I stand ready, open, and excited for the next chapter…and with it, all of the wild and amazing adventures, and magic, that await.

DSCF2697

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Enjoying the sun

On the eve of my 38th birthday, I sit here in a cafe, wanting to sing out at the top of my lungs, bursting with passion and light. There are hardly words powerful enough to express how much I love my life, how much happiness I feel inside. On a daily basis, my spirit is overflowing with radiant joy and I am forever in search of the right words, words compelling and powerful enough to do it justice. And I realize this is a good challenge to have! But it wasn’t always this way. I fought a long, hard, soul-wrenching journey to arrive in this place.

As is so often the case on one’s birthday, I too find myself in deep reflection of my past journey: each choice made, every road taken, to get me to the place where I am today. When I was a teenager I said to my friends that when I was older I wanted to move around and live in different places. Somehow I knew I wasn’t meant to stay where I was. It seems I always had a wanderlust inside of me, and I could never have imagined what a self-fulfilling prophecy that statement would become. I first dipped my exploratory toes in the water by leaving my home town to move to the summer beach town of York Beach, Maine. This first spreading of my wings would allow me to take flight, and fly I did… straight across the ocean to spend a full year of living in Spain. After that year abroad, there was no going back. I knew it was only full steam ahead.

But the real meat of my journey began when I left college and stepped boldly into adulthood, venturing out on my own as an independent, self-sufficient, fearless adult. And that was the beginning of the journey to fulfilling my childhood prophecy.

I’ve been thinking about the scene in Eat, Pray, Love where Elizabeth Gilbert is contemplating the meaning of her own journey and what the city of Rome represents to her. This got me to thinking of each of the incredible, distinctive cities in which I have lived and worked as an adult, and what they represented to me. And I asked myself, “If I could find one word to define what each city meant to me, what would it be?” Somehow the answers came to me almost instantly.

The first city on my journey was Boston. And the word:

Foundation.

Paul Revere Boston

Photo by Flickr User NathanF.

In my senior year of college I was determined to end up anywhere but Boston, as I was already eager to soar to more distant shores. But it seemed that there in Boston I was meant to stay (at least for then), so that I could build the strong foundations under my feet. No matter where else I have lived, Boston is always the home in my heart, the place where I was able to develop into a strong adult, the place that forged the fire of my inner identity. Boston and her people would have a powerful influence over how I would see the world, over my political ideology, my values, and my manner of interacting in the world. This city, so real and down to earth, would encourage in me my open and direct, “tell it like it is” nature, my high energy and fast-paced, sarcastic wit… oh and of course a superior driving ability. 😉

During my six years in Boston, I had the fortune of experiencing what it truly means to be fulfilled by a career, and to love going to work every day. My work in international educational travel allowed students to open their eyes and see the world. This work took me overseas multiple times per year, using my Spanish, connecting with foreign souls, learning about the world…building the foundation of who I would become.

Boston would also teach me about the highest and lowest experiences of the heart, connecting me with my first true love, my first passionate soul connection, and in turn my first debilitating broken heart and my first sobering bout of depression. And though I could never have imagined it at the time, this was all part of building a solid foundation, it was laying the building blocks of a strong heart.

When my despair began to overshadow the beauty in my life, when I could no longer bear to look at sights of memories gone by, without being torn apart by the pain, that is when I knew it was time to move on. After six years of exploring her historic cobblestone streets, meandering past her gas lanterns, and taking in the salty sea air, it was my time to leave Boston.

My next destination was Washington, DC, a city to which, only a few years prior, I had stubbornly stated that I would never move. And yet here I was. And the word for DC:

Exploration.

After 911 decimated the student travel industry, I left behind the career I had loved and the only life I had known, to explore being a new version of myself. Passionate about foreign affairs and spurred on by the events taking place in the world, I enrolled in a Master’s of International Affairs program at George Washington University. I remember my first weeks in DC, being so excited to explore a new place. I ventured out around her quaint neighborhoods, admiring her majestic Ambassadorial residences, and charmed by her tree-lined streets, this time with colorful row-houses, a contrast to the dark brownstones of Boston. I was enchanted by her vibrant cherry blossoms, her colorful tulips and daffodils sprouting out from every corner. I was captivated by her diversity, her rich cultural and international identity; and by so many amazing and idealistic causes, initiatives, and events unfolding across the city. Engaged and mentally stimulated at every turn, I was exploring a completely different life than the one I had known in Boston.

DC cherry blossoms

It didn’t take long, however, for me to realize that my exploration into graduate school was not in fact the right path. Turned off by bureaucracy and red-tape, this fast-talking, fast-moving Bostonian needed something that was much more dynamic, much more fluid. After one semester, I decided to take a leave of absence to explore other options.

The sages say “Ask and you shall receive.” If I wanted fast-moving and dynamic, that was exactly what I would get when I suddenly found myself in my very first start-up role. Here in a city known for government and politics, I had found a tiny slice of the dot-com world. And the exploration continued. As I developed into my first ever management role, building out an entire department, team, and infrastructure from scratch, and working infinite hours to do so, at the same time there was a deep exploration of the heart taking place. I was involved (or perhaps “entangled” would be a better word) with my next love, a man who now lived 3,000 miles across the country, in Los Angeles; a man that had “accidentally” become my best friend, a man that could complete my sentences, a man that understood ever fiber of my being. But with this exploration came great challenge and confusion, for this man and I had several years between us, and we were in decidedly different phases of our lives, both ready for different things, and seemingly heading in different directions. And so all good things shall come to an end.

I loved my time living in Washington, DC, but from the moment I arrived, I somehow knew it was only temporary. There was a deep calling within me, an inner knowing that I must one day move to the west coast. When this man suddenly met another woman and chose her to walk beside, I knew that this period of exploration was over, and that instead it was time for decisive action. Around the same time, my start-up had gotten acquired, and I knew it was becoming time to move on from Washington, DC. After four years of walking past the White House and the great halls of Congress, biking the shores of the Potomac River, sitting next to the magnificent seat of Abraham Lincoln and looking out over the National Mall in deep contemplation, I knew it was time to leave the nation’s great capital. And it was the time to take the next step towards my destiny path of moving to the west coast.

It is safe to say that had it not been for this man, Los Angeles would never in a million years have been on my radar. In fact ask him at the time and he would have told you that I hated Los Angeles. And yet the next thing I knew I was loaded up in my 1997 Saturn, with a friend and my loyal feline companion, and I was going for broke. I knew I had to fight for love.

Photo by Flickr user victoriabernal.

Photo by Flickr user victoriabernal.

3,000 miles later I drove into the city of Los Angeles, the blazing sunset lighting up the palm trees and sparkling with possibility over the sea before me. And so began my new life on the west coast. And the word that would come to represent Los Angeles:

Awakening.

It was here in Los Angeles that the man for whom I had risked it all, rejected me and wrote me out of his story. He was moving on and in the blink of an eye, he was out of my life forever. Forget about him having been my best friend, forget about him having known my soul more deeply than any other being, forget about all of the sincere promises to be in my life forever. None of that seemed to matter. He disappeared into the night. And here begins the “dark night of the soul.” Having just given up a high-paying, stable job and great friends in DC, I now found myself jobless, friendless, and virtually alone in the City of Angels. Despite the name, I felt no angels by my side. I felt completely alone in a vast sea of emptiness, left with nothing but a gaping hole in my heart.

Looking back with hindsight, I can now see that what I’ve described above are the perfect conditions to launch one into a powerful spiritual awakening; when one hits the true rock bottom and when there is nowhere deeper to go, I believe that this is when we are perfectly prepared to crack wide open. And crack open I did.

There were angels in Los Angeles, and those angels guided me to yoga.

The practice of yoga would change my life forever and in ways of which I could never dare dream. The yoga created a profound energetic shift within me and magic began to stir. Psychic dreams began to occur, my empathic abilities became incredibly heightened. I could feel the Kundalini energy awakening within me. In one of my darkest moments, all of these swirling energies culminated for me in a powerful out of body experience. My spirit left my body and in an instant I was embraced in the warm light of the Divine. When I came back into my body, my life would never again be the same. I knew for certain the immortality of my own soul, I knew that I was part of a greater sea of energy, of a collective consciousness. And I  knew that I would never again be alone. “Awakening” truly is the only word that I have been able to identify that comes close to describing what I experienced.

After this experience, my connection with Los Angeles was never the same. I would hike regularly in the Hollywood Hills and each time I did, I would be overcome with emotion when I would reach the top and look down on the breathtaking, expansive city below. And I understood in an instant why the Spaniards had named it “The City of Angels.” They too must have felt what I felt. Love poured down from the heavens and into my soul. I now knew that there were angels all around me. I felt them. I sensed them. It is somewhat ironic given the negative stereotypes of Los Angeles, but to this day, Los Angeles remains the place on this Earth where I have felt the most spiritually connected.

As I continued down the yogic path, my life began to align in crazy and undeniable ways. My intuition and inner guidance grew stronger and stronger and signs appeared to me, left and right, guiding me along my path, showing me which way to go. And the signs were very clearly pointing in one direction, and one direction only: to San Francisco. And the word that has come to encapsulate San Francisco for me:

Expansion.

How do I even begin to describe the magic, the sheer expansion that has occurred in my life since moving to San Francisco? There is so much: So much beauty, so much Grace, so much of the right person showing up at the right time, so much of the perfect opportunity falling in my lap at exactly the moment that I needed it, so much unexplainable mystery and synchronicity that defies all reason and logic. And it happens on a regular basis.

I moved to San Francisco on the tails of another dot-com job, thus continuing on the career path previously started in Washington, DC. But it became quickly clear to me that this job was merely a catalyst to get me to San Francisco. The job that brought me here eventually let me go, releasing me into the perfect storm of freedom and opportunity, a culmination of all of my different life experiences coming together in a singular moment; a moment that I don’t even remember, the moment when I chose be a writer. Looking back, I truthfully have no recollection of this precise moment, of the how, the why, the when. It just happened. It was as if the Divine hand of Grace reached down and took me over and I was simply on auto-pilot.

San Francisco golden Gate view

From that moment on my life has expanded beyond my wildest dreams. I am blown away and humbled on a daily basis by the large audience that has gathered in support around me, from all around the world; people who are actually interested in hearing what I have to say: ME. This still astonishes me. My writing has been featured in various online publications; I appeared in my first print magazine, as Martha Stewart’s Blogger of the Month in her Whole Living Magazine (I still have to pinch myself over this one!), and I am honored for my next, upcoming appearance in Origin Magazine. I have been interviewed by the most wonderful people, truly beautiful souls who are aligning with their true paths. And I know, with such clarity, that I too have aligned with my true purpose: to help people to heal, by sharing my experiences of triumph over darkness, and by sharing stories of the healing power of yoga, as I do weekly in my blog, The Yoga Diaries™. I believe that yoga has the power to heal the world and I am on a personal mission to share that message.

As I marvel at the unbelievable blessings that occur in my life on a daily basis, I am overwhelmed with gratitude for these gifts. And through the ongoing expression and practice of gratitude, I see even more of it flow into my life. The beauty continues to compound upon itself. I have met the most incredible people on this journey: beautiful friends who walk beside me on this soul path; amazing connections around every corner, people who are living from the heart and following their passions to do good for the world. All of this has amazingly even led to me working with a best-selling author, who has become a good friend. And I continue to be blown away. I stand in awe, every single day, of the wonderful souls that surround me, that support me, and that help my spirit and my life to expand beyond all wonder.

I often have younger people express to me their confusion about their paths, struggling to make sense of where it’s all going. And I always assure them that one day they will reach a point where they will be able to look back and realize that all the dots connected. As I reflect on my own journey, I am once again able to see the same thing. Not only do the dots connect, but if we are open and paying attention to the signs around us, they do so in miraculous and mind-blowing ways.

I stand on the many hilltops of San Francisco, looking out at the spectacular beauty all around me, and all I see are limitless possibilities. And I feel my spirit expand towards the heavens.

Heart Wide Open Cropped

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As we begin a new year, I pause to reflect back on all that has come before: all of the trials and tribulations, the beautiful and painful moments, all of the invaluable lessons learned. And I realize how far I have come, how much every experience, every moment has contributed to a beautiful transformation that has made me the strong, vibrant, and happy woman that I am today. And I am grateful.

After living through the darkest years of my life, I came to fully understand the valuable piece of knowledge that through our thoughts and our feelings, we create much of our own reality. Armed with that knowledge, I made a conscious choice to turn my life around, and in turn throughout 2011 and 2012, I have experienced and LIVED the happiest, most joy-filled, abundant, expansive years of my life. Now that I have integrated very conscious practices into my everyday life, as a way of life, rather than something fleeting, I know that I hold the power to make 2013 and beyond equally as potent, magical, and blissful.

Here’s to a lifetime of continued abundance and happiness. ♥

Photo by Flickr user Chema Escarcega.

Photo by Flickr user Chema Escarcega.

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Photo by Flickr User KateWares.

Yesterday I was inspired to post the following expression of gratitude on my Facebook wall:

I am so grateful for my life: for every triumph,
for every crushing defeat, for every choice,
for every risk,
for every life-altering decision,
for every raw, devastating heartbreak,
for every betrayal, for every lesson learned.

I am grateful for every moment,
for each one has made me who I am today,
living this incredible life, so full of gratitude.

As we have just celebrated the Thanksgiving holiday here in the United States, we were all reminded to pause and give thanks for the blessings in our lives. But as someone who has come to understand, firsthand, the sheer power of gratitude, I have learned that the practice of gratitude is really meant to be a daily one, not one that we simply do just one day a year.

A few years back I found myself at the darkest depths of my soul, living through the most painful, most challenging years of my life. I was at rock bottom and I had become merely a shell of the vibrant person that I had once been. Through a stroke of Grace, a new friend stepped into my life and introduced me to the Law of Attraction, to the idea that our thoughts do have power and that with those thoughts we can attract both positive and negative into our lives; and that whether we realize it or not, we are doing so unconsciously, on a daily basis.

As the clouds above my head were growing ever darker and more ominous, I decided that I would try anything to turn my life around. So in order to shift my thoughts to the positive, I began a daily practice of gratitude. Every single day I would write down a list of all of the positive things that had happened in that day, and all of the things for which I was grateful, however small. It didn’t matter how miserable I felt or how little I wanted to drag myself out of bed, I forced myself to write the list.

Photo by Flickr user wocado.

I did this every day for months on end, and as I did so, I was shocked by what began to happen. Little by little,  unexpected, positive things would appear in my life: the right people would show up, happy synchronicities would occur out of the blue, and slowly but surely the circumstances in my life began to change. The negative began to be replaced by the positive until after a few years of continued gratitude practice (complemented by a consistent yoga practice), I found myself living the most fully and vibrantly that I had ever lived in my life. This is where I sit now. I have become whole, I have fully embodied my spirit, and my inner light glows more purely and brightly than ever. I largely credit this to the practice of gratitude.

Unfortunately, it is a sad reality of the human condition that all to often we find ourselves feeling like victims: we blame others for the pain and betrayals inflicted upon us, we feel sorry for ourselves for the bad things that have happened to us, we find ourselves asking, “Why me?!” We say to ourselves, “If only “X,Y or Z” would happen, I could finally be happy.”

The problem is that every time we embody one of those feelings, we are giving away our own power. When we hold someone or some force outside of ourselves responsible for our happiness, we are giving that force power over us and we are ignoring the reality that we have the power to co-create happiness in our lives. The power resides in our thoughts and our feelings.

Photo by Flickr User exper.

If we look back on our lives with anger, bitterness and regret, we are sending negative energy out into the Universe, and that is exactly what we will attract back: more negativity. And then we head into a downward spiral. So instead of begrudging our past, we must look back and embrace every aspect of our journey: the good, the bad, and the ugly. We must look for the lesson in every experience, and if we look really hard, we may even find a silver lining, something beautiful that came out of a dark experience.

We must embrace the light and the shadow sides of life. We must be thankful for our challenging and painful experiences, for teaching us invaluable lessons, for giving us strength, and for delivering us to new places where we were meant to travel. We must look back and delight in how the dots connected, realizing that so much of it was for a reason.

So, yes, when I look back at my own life, I am grateful for every triumph for giving me courage and showing me that of which I was capable.

I am grateful for every crushing defeat for giving me the motivation and the fire in my belly to get back into the ring and keep on fighting.

I am grateful for every choice, no matter where it led, for each choice has taught me that there are no mistakes, just detours; and that often those detours proved to be for a beautiful and important reason.

I am grateful for having the bravery to take risks, to walk boldly in the face of fear, and to forge my own path, regardless of society’s “rules.” It is these risks that have allowed my life to expand beyond all wonder.

I am grateful for every life-altering decision I have had the courage to make, for these decisions have afforded me rich, breathtaking, and priceless experiences, and have allowed beautiful souls, from all over the world, to cross my path.

I am grateful for every raw, devastating heartbreak: I am grateful for the first for revealing to me my profound capacity for love. I am grateful for the second for allowing me to feel true soul connection and subsequently for breaking me, because it was that experience that set me free for future love and growth. And I am most grateful to the third for showing me the highest vibration of light and love I have ever known, and for shattering that which was already broken… for it was this experience that led me into the powerful fires of transformation.

I am grateful for every betrayal, for each one made me a stronger, more resilient person, and allowed me to better understand my own values and inner truth.

Photo by Flickr user Manue@PrettyKiku.

And lastly, I am grateful for every lesson learned, no matter how excruciating, no matter how much the wind was knocked out of me, for each lesson has allowed my soul to evolve into the conscious and awakened being that I am today. I am grateful for every single moment, from the breathtaking, life-altering ones, to the seemingly unimportant ones, for I understand that every moment is a precious step along the soul’s journey.

For all that has come before, for all that is now, and for all that will come, however unknown, I am and will always be grateful.

 ♥

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We are so fortunate to live in a time of such amazing technological advances, a time when social media can connect us to our fellow brothers and sisters on the other side of the globe. For me personally, Facebook has largely been a gift. I have reconnected with old friends, I have discovered new ones, and I have uncovered priceless opportunities waiting around every turn…and all because we are connected.

But while Facebook has proven itself to offer many wonderful benefits, there are also of course some negative attributes. One is the “instant gratification” factor; the fact that we can vent, moan or complain about our woes in an instant, at just the touch of a button.

There are times when we all need to vent, and I’m sure we’ve all posted our fair share of complaints onto our status updates. (Believe me, for me it only takes encountering a bad driver!) But where this instant communication effect can be negative, and in fact harmful to ourselves, is when it is abused to the point where people are incessantly complaining about their lives, airing their dirty laundry, or dwelling on their woes, publicly. I have seen a sad number of people posting about how dreadful their lives are, about all of the bad things that they perceive to be happening to them, and blaming the world for their problems. I have seen so many people desperately seeking happiness outside of themselves, in external factors.

I’m sure you’ve all seen this and many of us have probably been guilty of it at one time of another: we post a scathing comment about the evil ex-boyfriend who broke our heart, we hold our boss accountable for making our lives miserable, we blame the betrayal of a friend for ruining our lives. You name it. If you’ve been on Facebook for any decent amount of time, I’m sure you’ve seen these kinds of comments and many, many more where those came from. And I’m sure you’ve also seen the comments where people post what they need to be happy: “If only the right guy would come along, I will then be truly happy,” “When I get my dream job, then my life will be perfect,” “If only I could have a baby, then I will feel fulfilled.”

Here’s the thing: All of those statements are tragically flawed. When we blame someone or something outside of ourselves for our problems, it is a mistake because we are giving someone else power over ourselves and we are refusing to take responsibility for our own lives and our own choices. And when we state that we need x, y or z in order to be happy, we are refusing to live in the present, we are refusing to look inside of ourselves and realize that true happiness resides only there, within us. Happiness will never come from outside of us.

I do not care if you find the dream job, if you make millions of dollars and if you find the dreamiest guy (or girl) that ever walked the Earth; if you are not truly happy within yourself, those external factors will never truly make you happy. And not only will they not bring you happiness, but until you do the necessary inner work within you, all that “appears” to be good in your life, will eventually itself disappear or fall into ruin.

Our internal state entirely affects our external state. If we are unhappy, afraid of being alone, terrified of life, riddled with guilt or hating ourselves on the inside, then our outside life is always going to reflect that. Always, without exception. You see, we attract back what we put out. And if we are unhappy on the inside, then we are putting out negative vibes on the outside, regardless of how much we might try to put on a happy face or a false front. We cannot trick the Universe.

If you yourself are in a negative place, and if you continue to blame the world for your problems, you will continue to attract more negativity into your life. And you will continue to be unhappy. And as long as you continue to desperately seek happiness in external factors, it will continue to elude you. This I state to you as Universal truth.

To change the world around us, we must first change the world within us. We must face our demons. We must resolve the unresolved pain, anger, and fear that dwell in the darkness deep inside of us. We must face loneliness. And not only must we face it, but we must walk through it, however painful, and truly conquer it. We must take responsibility for our own feelings, our own actions and especially our own mistakes. We must see where we went wrong, learn the valuable lesson from it, and make the necessary mid-course correction to ensure that we don’t repeat the same mistake, over and over. We must admit our flaws to ourselves, uncover what we need to work on in ourselves, and truly commit to working on it and improving ourselves as human beings.

And most importantly we must learn to change our thoughts. In the same way that our muscles have “muscle memory” and we can condition our physical bodies, we can do the same with our brains and our mental/emotional bodies. We all have periods in our lives where we feel unhappy or even dreadfully depressed and miserable. And during those times it can feel impossible to change anything. I have lived many of those moments. But the truth is that we hold 100% of the power within us to do just that.

When we can force ourselves to focus on the positive in our lives, to find one simple thing for which we are grateful in any given moment, we have the power to create powerful magnetic shifts in our lives. All it takes is one tiny positive thought, and as we can continue to make the effort to focus on such positive thoughts, it becomes easier and easier and they become more and more magnetic until suddenly we begin to see subtle and then eventually dramatic shifts in our lives.

So when you are scrolling through your Facebook status updates and you see a friend expressing negativity and blaming the world for their problems, make the choice to not enable them. Instead of encouraging them to further steep in their negativity and create a downward spiral,  instead take the time to remind them of what they have to be grateful for. Post something positive and encouraging. Challenge them to focus on the positive instead of dwelling on the negative.

And when you find yourself on the verge of posting a negative status update, pause for a moment and ask yourself the following: Are you about to blame the world or something outside of yourself for your problems? Are you about to vent negativity which really serves no positive purpose? If so, then use that opportunity to create an internal shift. In that moment think of something positive that happened to you that day: think of the dog wagging its tail, think of the smile of your child, think of the sweet taste of the chocolate that melted in your mouth. Think about something for which you are grateful, even if only one small thing. And instead of posting the negative comment, choose to post a positive one. And always remember that happiness is never outside of you, it is only within you. You hold the power in your hands.

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Our society largely teaches us that if we hope to find happiness, we must have a myriad of very specific things, among them: romantic love, marriage, children and a stable, high-paying career. I have none of these things, and yet I am living more fully than I have ever lived before. Only one month into 2012 and I can already see that my 37th year is gearing up to be the best of my life. And I am yet again reminded that if we are open, if we pay attention to the signs, if we listen to our instincts and trust, we can create and experience nothing short of magic in our lives.

One year ago today, shortly after being fired for the first time in my life, I reflected on the idea of the “life plan,” the idea that there are certain milestones towards which we are “supposed” to work and specific benchmarks by which we measure our success in achieving said milestones. And I am now able to see that it wasn’t until I rejected those measurements, and let go of any idea of the life I had planned, that I began to see the true magic unfold in my life. It was truly by surrendering that my life began to flow with the current.

Today I turn 37 years old and I stand in awe of the life that has manifested before me. It is not a life I ever could have dreamed of or imagined. It is, in fact, the farthest thing from any picture I ever could have painted for myself. Nor is it a life that any of my friends or family ever would have predicted for me. Yet I look back in wonder and amazement at the incredible journey, the unexpected twists and turns, the surprising detours and the life-altering and mind-blowing experiences that have delivered me to this very place in time and space.

Simultaneously, I am mesmerized by how much has happened, by how quickly the years have passed, a blip on the dashboard of universal time. And I find myself sounding like my father when I say, “I never thought I’d get to be {insert age}!” Just the other day I expressed this same thought to a friend of mine, who very wisely responded, “You’ve earned your 37 and you have to admit it is probably better then 17 or 27 for that matter.” As I pondered this, I couldn’t help but chuckle at the veritable accuracy and poignancy of that statement. I looked back on my life at those ages and this is what I realized: 17 was the year of my first broken heart; 27 was the year of my second broken heart…So what of 37?… 37 is the year of my LIBERATED HEART.

For much of the two decades between my tender 17-year old adolescent self and my now 37-year older and wiser self, I have been through the wringer of broken hearts, time and again left dripping helplessly into the floor. I have touched every range of emotion and their deep and often painful polar opposites. I have lived, breathed and tasted them. And I have drowned in them. I have looked for love and happiness in all of the wrong places, and I have fought tooth and nail for loves that left me broken and wrung out. And in the process I have seen the inner fibers of my heart carved out, leaving me with gaping holes of emptiness.

Whatever remnants of an intact heart were left after the first two broken hearts, were finally completely shattered by the third (and hopefully last!). But though I did not realize it at that time, it was that utter smashing of my heart that would actually be the key to cracking me wide open. I saw a beautiful quote the other day:

“The wound is the place where the Light enters you.”~ Rumi

The day that my heart was shattered into smithereens, was the day that my true healing could really begin. Since that time, I have dived more deeply into my soul than I ever dared dream possible. I have touched the source of the divine within me, the deep well of wisdom and knowing, and I have connected with the celestial forces all around me, above and beneath me. I have drunk, tasted and touched the pure light of love. I have found Bliss.

So yes, it is true: I have no romantic love. I have no marriage or children. And I don’t have a stable, high-paying career. But I lack nothing. I have found true happiness in myself, with myself and by myself.

On that note, age 36, I bid thee a loving farewell. You have been a true and trusted friend on the journey to the heart, you have been the gateway to my liberation. I will always look back on you with reverence as the year that changed everything and I will carry you with me as I walk forward into what I know will be one of the most powerful and transformational years of my life.

Hello age 37. I welcome you with open arms and a fully intact heart.

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Photo by Alejandra Mavroski

What does it truly mean to be alone, and to be happy? How many of us can truly say that we have perfected that art? So many people are constantly looking for fulfillment and happiness through external forces; whether it be trying to complete themselves with a love partner, or trying to validate themselves with a career. But we all know that true happiness comes only from within.

I have witnessed so many people in my life, go from relationship to relationship, always filling the void from the last, with the next, but never taking the time to stop and realize that they themselves are the only one who can truly fill that void; never allowing themselves the freedom and the opportunity to explore what true self-fulfillment and happiness really means. I remember telling this to an ex-boyfriend years ago. It was obvious to me that he was not happy with himself, with what he had accomplished in his own life, and he was instead trying to find that happiness with me. I knew that could never work. And I was right. You cannot depend on another person for your happiness.

I have been single for the larger part of my adult life and I have lived alone for the past 8 years. Although in many moments I have not been happy about this fact (believe me, I’ve been downright bitter at times!), and it was certainly not what I would have chosen for myself, I know that I have been fortunate to have this experience. Being on my own for so long has forced me, even if reluctantly and sometimes kicking and screaming, to learn to be happy with myself. For years I have not had someone to come home to, nobody to whisper sweet nothings to, nobody to have dinner with and tell about my day. I’ve had nobody to take vacations with, nobody to cry to or hold me when I’m sad or to take care of me when I am sick.

And believe me, for a long time this was agonizing and heartbreaking. But the silver lining is that I’ve had to learn to be that support for myself, to be my own best friend, to make myself laugh. And after many tearful, lonely nights I am happy to say that I have come out the other side and I have found happiness within myself. I now have moments where I’m completely alone and laughing out loud, and I have to smile to myself. I am at peace.

So many people are terrified of their own company. The thought of being at home, by themselves, with nobody to talk to, is debilitating for them. So they do everything possible to avoid just that; they create an overactive social life so that they are always with friends, or they become workaholics so they can drown themselves in their jobs, or sadly many even become alcoholics; but all with the same goal: to avoid the pain and darkness that they feel by being alone. Much of this is self-conscious, but sadly it is self-defeating. While one may feel comforted by the presence of other friends around them or sadly by alcohol, they are not dealing with the true loneliness within, and so that comfort will only be fleeting.

So if you find yourself alone and sad about it, it’s ok. Don’t be afraid of it, instead embrace it. Face the darkness that you feel when you are completely alone and be one with it. Walk right into it, fearlessly. For it is by being one with it, that you will eventually conquer it and start to see that you can fill your own heart with light.

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