Holding Space: The Art of Being Present with Others 

Holding Space: The Art of Being Present with Others 

By Adam Brady

Holding space is a conscious act of being present, open, allowing, and protective of what another needs in each moment. The term has been growing in popularity among caregivers, healers, yogis, and spiritual seekers. It’s a broadly used phrase to define the act of “being there” for another. The effects of this practice, however, go much deeper than simply offering support. 

Consider the individual words for a moment. To hold means to embrace or encircle someone or something in your grasp. Physically, this might take the form of a hug or the cradling of a hand in yours. But you can also embrace someone non-physically with your intention, attention, and energy. Space refers to the immediate environment you are sharing with another. This, too, may be the physical space of a room, but more frequently refers to the mental and emotional environment you are in with others. Put together, these words embody the principle of surrounding the environment with your awareness (https://chopra.com/articles/the-three-qualities- of-awareness) in a way that provides comfort and compassion for all. 

Dee:

I’ve been practicing being mindful, attentive and respectful to all that enters “Dee’s bubble” for awhile now.  I pray on my way to market every Sunday to sell my art, to be present, in the moment, for prosperity.  Prosperity, no longer means financial, as the rewards I’ve been given for making eye-contact, lending an ear, and offering a hug to those that enter my bubble have taught me more about human beings and compassion than money could ever buy.  The bonds I have made have lifted me to a whole new level of living and mind-set.  That we are all on this planet together, for each other, hopeful, optimistic, loving, and together we can ripple our message across the planet.

Holding space involves several specific qualities of consciously relating to others, the sum of which are greater than the individual parts. Let’s explore these attributes and see how they can deepen your ability to hold space for others. 

Safety 

A key component to holding space is the quality of safety. For others to be open, genuine, and oftentimes vulnerable (https://chopra.com/articles/5-ways-to-feel-less-vulnerable), they must feel secure and have a sense of trust. People won’t let down their defenses until they know it is safe to do so. 

Dee:

The first thing I thought of when reading this was about my physical safety.  Being born and raised in California in an area where crime was rampant caused me to be aware of my safety and surroundings at all times.  It has taken time for me to let my guard down now living on the Big Island of Hawai’i (I shall never be stupid enough to entirely be blind to my safety altogether) and feeling safe and protected.  I have found that when someone offers a helping hand there is no ulterior motive.  The Hawai’ian way of living with aloha has been so beneficial and healing for me.

Being an active member of Alcoholics Anonymous has helped me to let the guard of my feelings and actions down, to trust others with me and my bubble, to people who honor each other’s anonymity and trust that other’s will do the same for them.  With that trust we can become rigorously honest about ourselves and our lives.  We can close the door on the past, learning and growing from our experiences, moving forward to a hopeful, optimistic and free future.

Like a medieval cathedral nestled within the city’s fortress walls, you need to create an environment in which all who enter feel protected from harm. This safety implies an unspoken “sheepdog” mentality that serves as a guardian and authentically maintains confidentiality, transparency, and impeccability in all you say and do. 

Dee:

I’ve learned to live my life with the principles of Hawai’i and AA.  This new outlook on life and others has invited beautiful and meaningful relationships and experiences into “my bubble”.

Suspended Self-Importance 

A vitally important aspect of holding space is the understanding that it’s not about you. When you hold space you must make the conscious decision to leave your ego (https://chopra.com/articles/is-the-ego-your-friend-or- foe) at the door. Holding space is about serving others and your personal concerns or needs are not part of the process. Suspending your sense of self-importance can be challenging and should be considered a prerequisite for the practice. If you aren’t able to put your ego in the back for a time, you’ll be ill-suited to be present for the needs of others. Holding space requires radical humility and the willingness to be a temporary caretaker of the feelings and concerns of another. 

Dee:

Ok, getting out of self took me a long time to grasp and will always be a work in progress; I shall always be a work in progress.

Finding I could not go a day without drinking brought me to the rooms of AA.  Getting a sponsor and working the Twelve Step of Alcoholics Anonymous has totally changed me.  I found that I lived fear-based my entire life before recovery; I feared what you thought of me.  I put your needs before my own, and not in a good or healthy way.  In a way that told me I wasn’t worthy, I wasn’t good enough, I didn’t love myself nor feel comfortable in my own skin.  Yikes!  I was so into my selfish self, again, not in a good or healthy way.  I was sick.  My thinking was sick.

Working through the Steps has afforded me the ability to love myself for who and what I am and know that all is perfect at this very moment…especially me!  I can be present for those who haven’t received that gift…yet…and be there with every fiber of my being to help them on their journey of self-love and self-worth.  It no longer is about me, but I reap the benefits!

Attention 

One of the most precious gifts you can give another is the gift of your full and complete attention. However, listening attentively without the need to respond, interrupt, or comment is a skill that takes considerable practice to master. Even with the best of intentions, your ego may sneak back in; it looks for opportunities to subtly make things about you instead of the other. 

Dee:

I love the saying, “Excuse me.  Did I interrupt the middle of your sentence with the beginning of my sentence?” when someone abruptly butts in.  I diligently practice not doing this.  My head might start to spin out of control with thoughts and ideas I want to add to the conversation, but…”Hey, Dee, you’re not in the moment, you’re not being respectful nor mindful to the person in front of you.  Knock it off and get back right-sized”.

When holding space you must work diligently to maintain eye contact, be free of distractions, be fully attentive, and cultivate an openness or “space consciousness” in which there is no “me,” but rather the ever-present witness of the sounding board of consciousness. 

To this end, make the commitment to cultivate what British author Stuart Wilde called silent power by resisting the urge to speak unless you are asked to. This, coupled with your full awareness, can be a profoundly powerful experience for those in your presence. Your attention, focused and all-inclusive of whatever is happening in the moment, opens the door for others to see the reflection of their own soul in you—the Self talking to itself. 

Dee:

Learning to be rigorously honest in AA has been very freeing for me.  When I practice honesty I no longer have to waste my energy or data space in my brain remembering what I might have said or done in the past.  It frees me up for living positively.  However, when someone asks for my opinion and I get that gut feeling that my answer might hurt or not be what they are expecting to hear, I allow them the choice of whether they really want to hear my “rigorously honest” opinion or not.  They usually do.

Practice Acceptance 

Holding space is all about allowing—allowing this person or group to feel what they feel. Allowing them to say what they need to say. Allowing yourself to be whatever they need you to be right now. Holding space, therefore, isn’t about controlling anything. Your role is that of a guardian of the space. Like two cupped hands filled with water, you are there to hold the other with your awareness. In doing so, you must allow that experience to take whatever shape it will.

Accept this moment as it is. Accept others as they are, without any desire to change them, or wanting them to be something different. This, too, can be a challenge since you are conditioned to immediately try to change things you think should be different. But, in holding space, practicing acceptance gives others a priceless gift—the freedom to be just as they are. 

Dee:

If there were a magic pill to “fix” me when I was active in my disease of alcoholism, I wouldn’t be in the “happy, joyous, and free” place that I am now.  I realized that there are no coincidences.  People, places and things have come into my life just as they were supposed to, and that includes decades of drinking and drugging.  I had to trudge my own road to happy destiny, to experience my own journey, and I allow and embrace that is what other’s are doing in their lives.  I don’t even attempt to fix; that would not serve them nor help them to become who they were intended to be.

Nonjudgement 

Holding space is an impartial process. You’re not there to pass judgement or to evaluate another. When you judge another’s experience you create additional mental static that will only get in the way and obscure the truth. In the moment when you’re holding another’s fears, suffering (https://chopra.com/articles/a-modern-take-on- the-roots-of-suffering), or grief, your opinions are irrelevant. 

Unless you’ve been through what they’re going through, you’ll never truly understand their feelings. Being there is enough. Good and bad are merely a matter of perspective and in this moment, your perspective isn’t the one that’s important. 

Dee:

But I really do try to put myself in the other person’s shoes.  I will never know everything that person has experienced and those experiences have made the person who they are at that moment.  Accept and be present.

No one is better than me, nor worse than me, and vice versa.  We are all equal no matter our history, where we live, our gender, our education, on and on…  We are human beings sharing this planet, meant to do so in harmony.  Let’s just try to do that lovingly, compassionately, the best that we can in the moment…and let it ripple across the planet.

Compassion 

Although you nonjudgmentally practice acceptance with your full attention, that doesn’t mean you wouldn’t prefer things to be better. Compassion (https://chopra.com/articles/4-steps-to-finding-peace-through- compassion) is an essential quality for the practice of holding space. To embrace another in acceptance is an act of compassion in and of itself. In your openness to the pain of others you are essentially saying, “How can I help you? I don’t want you to hurt. What can I do to help support your highest good?” Even if not spoken aloud, these intentions to relieve the suffering of others are the essence of compassion. 

In many cases, simply being a loving presence can bring about a deep sense of relief that eases the pain of another. The world can use more compassion, so the practice of holding space provides an opportunity to continually build this vitally important skill. 

Witnessing 

Witnessing allows you to play a special part while holding space—that of the observer. Like in quantum physics, the observer is what triggers the collapse of the wave of potential into a particle, the non-local into the localized phenomenon. But this doesn’t involve any action on the observer’s part. In holding space you’re just there as the witness, almost like a fly on the wall. Naturally, you can participate if requested to do so, but essentially your role is that of the watcher. 

It is said that when Gautama (the future Buddha) was on the verge of enlightenment, he was tempted by the forces of darkness and their king, the demon Mara. With his entire demon army descending upon them, Mara demands the Gautama produce a witness to his awakening. Gautama simply touches the earth with his fingers and says, “The earth itself is my witness.” With this gesture, Mara and his arm vanish, and Gautama becomes the Buddha or Awakened One. Like the earth the Buddha touches, you are the witnesses to those who you hold space for. 

Through the practice of holding space, you serve as a container for which the healing and transformation can take place. It’s a powerful gift of presence that you can give to others through the quality of your attention. 

Dee:

…and this gift of presence will be returned to you tenfold!

With much aloha, Dee Harris

For those interested in Art with a Message of Being Mindful and In the Moment, please visit my website at www.DeesignsByHarris.com.  Mahalo and have an awesome day!

About the Author 

Adam Brady, Vedic Educator 

Yoga teacher, author, and martial artist Adam Brady has been associated with the Chopra Center for nearly 20 years. He is a certified Vedic Educator trained in Primordial Sound Meditation (/articles/what-is-primoridal- sound-meditation), Seven Spiritual Laws of Yoga (/teach/seven-spiritual-laws-yoga-teacher-training target=), and Perfect Health: Ayurvedic Lifestyle (/teach/perfect-health-certification-program), and regularly teaches in the Orlando, Florida, area. Over the last several years, Adam has worked to introduce corporate mind-body wellness programs into the workplace within a large… Read more (/bios/adam-brady)                                                 

from The Chopra Center

Advertisements

HOPE: THE MAGIC INGREDIENT YOU NEED IN LIFE

Hope: The Magic Ingredient You Need in Life

By Melissa Eisler

In a world full of fear, stress, and sadness, it can become second-nature to develop a negative worldview. There seems to be more pain than you can heal, more dissent than you can mediate, and more uncertainty than you can make sense of. In times like these, what options are there to comfort yourself and bring forth positivity?

The difference between those who let their circumstances bring them down and those who choose to embrace the goodness of life and find that comfort lies with the important element ofhope.

Hope is a powerful antidote to feelings of despair and desolation. A life marked by hope is a life marked by optimism, regardless of where you find yourself It doesn’t mean that you are always happy or that you can’t feel emotions like hurt, sadness, or anger, but it does mean that your view of your circumstances – and those of the world around you – goes beyond what is actually happening.

When you hold onto hope, you begin to understand that you are part of a greater narrative that includes both global and personal experiences of joy and suffering. Simply put, hope brings perspective. It can sustain you during the hard times and bring even more fulfillment to the good times.

While hope acts as the perpetual light in the midst of darkness, it’s not easily cultivated in the dark. Develop your hope muscles while times are good so that you can better tap into it when life takes a turn for the worse. Here are four ways to cultivate hope.

Seek Inspiration

Hope requires a dependence on something greater than yourself. Where it’s honoring a Higher Power or recognizing that the Universe has pieces at play that are beyond your control, hope is built on the understanding that you and your circumstances are not the epicenter of what

makes the world move. Tapping into that understanding helps you gain perspective and allows you to not depend simply on your feeling about a particular situation.

Dee:

Before getting clean and sober I had no Higher Power…I had no hope. I was spiraling fast into the depths of hell. But having no religion in my background I had no clue about Heaven and Hell, God, Devil, any of that. But from my experiences growing up I felt that drugs and alcohol were what the Devil was all about.

By the grace of a Power Greater than Myself I miraculously found myself in a treatment program. There I learned that I could have a Higher Power of my own understanding. So I made one up. It was full of good…kindness, love, warmth, forgiveness, happiness…and everything that gave me hope. Over the years my Higher Power has developed and strengthened and has guided me to strengthen as well.

Today I turn my will and my life over to my Higher Power. I let it do the driving and teach me what I need to learn as I ride along in the passenger seat. I turn my control over to this entity and find my life is so much easier, lighter and rewarding that I could have ever imagined possible!

Use times of prayer and meditation to reflect on the good in the world, starting with what you are thankful for in your immediate surroundings (including opportunities you’ve had and loved ones who surround you). Then, reflect on your broader community. Instead of harping on the negative things happening in life, see how people are caring for each other and improving the lives of those around them. See the world how it could be and recognize that your sense of being is found beyond the temporal world. Get inspired by all the good there is in the world – because it is always there, it is sometimes just buried under the muck.

Dee:

I strive to keep negativity out of my life and look at the glass half full. Even in the darkest, most hideous events, I can find a pinhole of positivity. These events seem to bring people and communities together, to love and show compassion, to be of service and just “there” for one another. Most of us human beings are full of goodness; we just don’t sell news.

Surround Yourself with Positivity

Oftentimes, the who and what you surround yourself with dictates whether or not you have a positive or negative worldview. There is power in surrounding yourself with positive people, environments, and experiences that bring you joy and encourage you to become the person you want to be. This doesn’t have to mean that your life has to be all rainbows and butterflies, but it does mean that you should put some effort into surrounding yourself with elements that create a positive life.

Dee:

Today my life is full of like-minded people in recovery. We have all come from depths of hell in our own ways to find the light and hope in a life without substance abuse. We are all so grateful

and humble for this new life and our purpose is to share our experience, strength and hope with all who are struggling.

Not all of us in recovery are happy, joyous and free. Some are still pretty negative and on their pity-pots. When they choose to remain there for this part of their journey I must distance myself so not to jeopardize my own sobriety, serenity and chi. But not without first stressing that I am here for them when they are ready to turn it over to a Power Greater Than Themselves.

This also means purposefully distancing yourself from negativity. Creating boundaries to protect yourself from negativity can be challenging. It might mean limiting time with a life-long friend or family member who is always complaining, turning off the somber news reports you’ve become addicted to, or switching joys to avoid a toxic workplace. While it can be difficult to make these types of life changes, saying no to negativity and yes to your well-being can create a life that will sustain you through good times and bad. By leading a positive life, you are honoring your own needs.

Dee:

I oftentimes get to spend weeks at a time with family members who ruffle my feathers. Sometimes I can walk into a room and cut the tension with a knife. I try to be mindful and in the moment, grateful for this time together. I try to make it count. But it takes energy that I feel I should not have to expend to make “quality” time with loved ones.

Turning that time into a positive helps tremendously. Remembering all the positive things that they have done for me humbles me. Tuning in to “I have no control over people, places and things” and “They are on their own journeys” reminds me that everything is perfect in this moment. I call my sponsor. I go to a meeting.

Get Involved in Your Community

One of the most effective ways to get out of your own cycle of self-reliance and tap into hope is to serve others. Your community has local organizations that need volunteers to help pack lunch bags for the homeless or build houses for families in need. You can use your professional skills to create a marketing campaign for a hospice care organization or raise funds for a cancer research center.

When you get involved in what’s happening in your community, you are exposed to different people with different views. You get a front row seat as a witness to people taking care of one another. It can restore your faith in the goodness of people and help you realize that everyone has issues they are facing; it’s not just you. While you may not be able to completely change someone’s circumstances, you can help bring joy and perspective to their situation. This helps to create a more holistic view of your own life, seeing that there is good amidst the bad.

Dee:

Because I am a recovering alcoholic most of my community involvement revolves around Alcoholics Anonymous. I learned early on that service is critical. Suiting up and showing up for a meeting is service. There I can give back what was so freely given me when I needed it most…experience, strength and hope. That is my way of saying “Thank you for this awesome

life”. I also get great joy from speaking at DUI Classes once or twice a month. If my message can give one person a glimmer of hope, then my purpose was served.

Celebrate

The truth is, there is always something you can celebrate in your life. Celebrations are usually reserved for big milestones – birthdays, anniversaries, job promotions, and births – but you also have the opportunity to celebrate the little things. Take your spouse out for a casual dinner as a “job well done” for cleaning the house. Treat your kid to an ice cream cone for presenting her class project.

And the most fun celebrations don’t even have to revolve around an accomplishment. Declare next Tuesday your favorite day of that week and buy lunch for your co-workers, drive outside the city to star-gaze with a loved one just because you want to, and wear your fanciest clothes to dinner tonight just because you’re worthy of something special.

By creating a rhythm and mood of celebration, you can train your mind and heart to recognize the good in your life. This hope can sustain you through the thin and thick of life. Regardless of what you’re facing, what you see on the news, or how dire your circumstances may seem, hope can help you look at your life and say, “I’m glad to be alive.”

Dee:

Just remember to stay in the moment and know that everything is perfect at this very moment… especially YOU! You are not in control and there is a Higher Power that has your back…to guide you, protect you, teach you, love you. That Higher Power is your hope!

Aloha, Dee Harris

For those of you interested in positive and hopeful Art with a Message, please visit my website at http://www.DeesignsByHarris.com. Enjoy! Mahalo and have a hopeful day!

About the Author

Melissa Eisler
Certified Yoga and Meditation Instructor and Writer

Melissa is the Senior Content Strategist at the Chopra Center. Also a yoga instructor, she is passionate about motivating people to live a healthy, balanced, and purposeful life. Melissa is the author of The Type A’s Guide to Mindfulness: Meditation for Busy Minds and Busy People (http://amzn.to/1J1dYvz), a practical guide for new meditators in the modern world, and the creator of mindfulminutes.com (http://mindfulminutes.com/), a personal blog about mindfulness and life balance in the digital age. Melissa teaches Vinyasa classes at her favorite studio in San Diego, meditation and yoga to kids and families in the oncology ward…(Read more (/bios/melissa-eisler).

Taken from The Chopra Center

How to Be Mindful Without Meditation 

How to Be Mindful Without Meditation 

By Sara Schairer

Do you ever find yourself avoiding your meditation cushion? Whether subconsciously or on purpose, you’re not making the time to sit.  Or have you tried meditating, and you’ve decided it’s not for you?

Luckily, meditation and mindfulness are not one in the same. You don’t have to meditate in order to be mindful. Mindfulness is a nonjudgmental awareness of thoughts, sensations, surroundings, and emotions, and meditation is one tool for developing mindfulness but isn’t the only tool.

When you are consciously bringing your wandering mind back to the present moment, you are cultivating mindfulness. You can do that in everyday life by tuning into your surroundings.

Dee:

I often remind myself that all I have is this very perfect moment, right here, right now, in front of my nose.  I’ve got to notice it, savor it, cherish it.  It will never come again as life changes constantly and I am always in transition.

When I allow myself to get in the moment, I am truly present, truly grateful.  There are no thoughts or regrets of the past.  There are no worries or anxieties of the future.  Just now.  Feeling the breeze.  Hearing the birds.  There are no coincidences of everything happening within and around me at this very moment.

Experiment with using your senses to notice these new things as you move throughout your day, and see what happens.

1. Notice Your Bed

When you first wake up, notice the feeling of your sheets against your skin and your mattress and pillow supporting you. Feel the air against your face, and notice the air temperature.

2. Take a Mindful Sip 

Stop for a moment to savor your morning beverage of choice. Smell and examine your coffee or tea before taking a slow sip. Close your eyes and wholly feel and taste the liquid on your tongue before swallowing.

3. Savor Your Shower 

Have you ever truly paid attention in the shower? What does the water feel like as it hits your skin? Notice the soap as it lathers, and tune into the feeling of the soap on your skin. Mindfully massage your scalp as you shampoo your hair.

4. Cherish Your Family Members 

If you have children or a partner at home, can you notice something new about their morning routines? With nonjudgmental curiosity, observe their moods, energy levels, morning greetings, and favorite breakfast items. What can you notice that you’ve never seen them do before?

5. Consciously Commute 

If you drive to work, try tuning into the feel of your steering wheel in your hands, and notice the air conditioning or heat against your skin. If you’re on a train, subway, or bus, first pat yourself on the back for taking mass transportation. Then tune into the feel of your seat, and take in your surroundings by noticing who is with you and what you can see and hear.

6. Look Up 

Pause to take in the sky above you. Are there clouds? What do they look like? Do you see any birds or trees? Can you see something in the sky that you’ve never seen before?

7. Truly See Your Colleagues

Is there something new you can notice about your coworkers? Perhaps the person next to you listens to classical music or has photographs of her family on his or her desk. Maybe your boss has a skip in his or her step today.

8. Slowly Munch on Lunch 

Before digging into your lunch, take a moment to examine it. What colors and textures do you see? What does it smell like? Take a small bite and allow your mouth to take it all in by noticing what the food feels like. Is it crunchy or soft? What tastes do you observe? Does the flavor change as you swallow? Try to take several slow and mindful bites. If your mind wanders, try to bring it back to the process of eating.

9. Take a Hike 

Stretch your legs in the afternoon with a walk around the block, and allow your senses to engage with your environment. Can you see something that you’ve never seen before, whether it’s on the ground, on the side of a building, or high in the sky? What do you hear? Tune into each step and notice what your legs do and how they feel with each step. Also notice your feet and the important job they have.

10. Scan Your Body 

Take a moment to close your eyes and tune into your body. Start at your toes and move up, observing each body part until you reach the top of your head. Be curious about what you find, noticing any tension, lightness, heat, pain, or other sensations. Notice if the mind wanders and creates stories about those feelings. If so, see if you can bring the mind back to the sensations without judging them.

Dee:

I use this method of scanning my body when I feel tense, when I allow myself to be riddled with tension.  I begin with totally tensing up my entire body.  And then I relax.  Starting at my toes, concentrating on them, feeling them, I release any tension.  I work my way up to my body this way.  Every part of my body up to my head, fully concentrating on each body part and releasing all tension.

I trip on what each cell in my body is doing without my awareness.  It’s magical how each cell has a purpose without my control or intentions.  They just happily go through the day doing their business, keeping my body as strong and healthy as they can.  When I have an injury or sickness they gear up the army and concentrate on the body part that is no longer strong or healthy.  They know what to do.  I can’t tell them what to do.  They fix me.  I’m better.

My brain, my heart, lungs, every organ in my body do their own thing as well.  My thoughts seldom go to what they are up to.  They know what to do.  They do it without my awareness or permission.  Again, their purpose is to keep me as strong and healthy as they can.

My eyes blink, I cough, I have an itch, my hair grows.  Again, without my control or awareness.  Our bodies are so amazing!

11. Notice Your Social Media Use 

Do you have a habit of checking Facebook or Instagram without even knowing it? Start tuning into those habits and see if you can be more intentional with your time. Once again, don’t judge yourself for the time you spend on social media, simply observe it.

12. Appreciate the Sunset 

Step outside to take in the unique colors of the sunset, and try to notice something you’ve never spotted before. Is there a cloud shape that reminds you of something or someone? What colors do you see? How does the air temperature change once the sun dips below the horizon?

13. Glimpse at the Moon and Stars 

The night sky offers up a feast for your eyes. When is the last time you truly looked at the stars and moon? Take the time to examine what’s beyond the atmosphere and allow yourself to feel awe if it arises.

14. Listen to the Sound of Silence 

As you make your final moves toward bedtime, stop, close your eyes, and listen. What do you hear, and what don’t you hear? Can you notice the sounds or silence with curiosity, allowing your ears to hear the texture of each sound?

Practicing mindfulness throughout your everyday life can help train the mind to focus on the present, with or without cushion. Observe what happens when you make noticing a priority.

Dee:

Last year as I was sitting on the beautifully manicured lawn of the Queen’s Hospital in Honolulu, mindfulness and living in the moment became a priority for me.  My husband was having heart surgery and I was waiting to hear from the doctor how the operation went.  

I remember my head bouncing from thought to thought.  It was a long month being away from home with just the clothes on our backs when we were Medivac’d immediately from the Big Island to Queen’s following a heart consultation.  I’m a busy person.  I NEED to keep busy to keep out of my thoughts and to keep sane.  I found a lauhala tree on the grounds, pulled and prepped leaves (lau) and started weaving bracelet after bracelet.  The island, the aina (land) and mana (spirit) provided me sanity and serenity.  Again, no coincidences.

But as my husband lie on the operating table and knowing that the end of his life could be near, my thoughts bombarded me with fear.  I started thinking about how I might be flying home alone.  I thought about calling my sons to help me clear out Dad’s belongings.  I thought about living in a home and having a life that would be so empty and void without my soulmate.

And then the mindfulness kicked in.  “Shit, Dee!  He’s not dead yet.  Get up to the waiting room and be there when he comes to.  Everything happens for a reason.  You’ll be okay and never alone.  If God has a purpose for Graeme greater than what he can do on this planet, be accepting and joyful for that.”  I made my way up to the waiting room.  And today…we live happily ever after.

One more thing.  I am an alcoholic in recovery.  During my quiet times on the Queen’s lawns I would sometimes think about how a drink would take the edge off.  Thank goodness I’ve stuck closely to AA and the fellowship which reminds me that it’s the first drink that will kill me.  I’ll be off and running.  I’ll be sneaking drinks and hiding booze.  I’ll have to cover up the smells of alcohol on my breath.  AND I WON’T BE FULLY PRESENT FOR MY HUSBAND who needs me NOW!  I don’t drink.  I get humble.  I get grateful.  I use the toolbox for living that Alcoholics Anonymous has given me.  I weave more bracelets.

With warmest aloha, Dee Harris

For those interested in Art with a Message of Hope and Inspiration, Recovery and Being in the Moment, please visit my website at www.DeesignsByHarris.com.  Mahalo and have an awesome day!

Learn the keys to conscious living from the comfort of your own home with our Primordial Sound Meditation Online Course, led by Deepak Chopra. Learn More. (https://www.chopra.com/online-courses/primordial- sound-meditation/on-demand)

About the Author

Sara Schairer

Sara Schairer is the founder and executive director of COMPASSION IT (http://compassionit.com/), a start-up nonprofit organization and global social movement whose mission is to inspire daily compassionate actions and attitudes. She created the one-of-a-kind reversible COMPASSION IT wristband (http://compassionit.com/wristbands/) prompting compassionate actions on six continents, 48 countries, and all 50 states. Wristband sales fund compassion education programs for youth, teens, and adults. As a public speaker, Sara encourages her audiences to “compassion it” in their daily lives. A Stanford-certified instructor of Compassion Cultivation… Read more (/bios/sara-schairer)

From The Chopra Center

Smiling Is Powerful Medicine: Research on How Smiling Can  Improve Your Health, and Relationships 

Smiling Is Powerful Medicine: Research on How Smiling Can  Improve Your Health, and Relationships 

By Karson McGinley

No matter where you find yourself on this planet or what language you speak, you’ll know a smile when you see one. While cross-cultural studies reveal slightly different meanings ascribed to smiling, they appear throughout the lifespan of all human (and some non-human) beings. Scientists have identified three different kinds of authentic smiles as well as identified the traits of a fake one.

What can all the research on smiling do for you? More than you might think. Psychological researchers have found many benefits to the act of smiling that include improved relationships, improved mental health, and even increased lifespan! Keep reading to learn more about some recent findings on smiling than can take your life from good to great with a simple curve of the mouth.

Dee:

I have always valued my smile.  I have been blessed with a “good” smile, but I haven’t been blessed with strong bones that hold my teeth in my mouth that make a “good” smile.  The photo above is a mosaic frame I gave to my prosthodontist of with a photo of us.  This wonderful man helped me get my smile back when my teeth and implants were falling out of my mouth, due to deteriorating bone.

Smiling Is Good for Your Health 

You likely tend to think of a smile as a result of positive emotions or stimuli, but it turns out that your smile can actually affect your stress levels and productivity, too. When scientists asked participants to engage in a challenging task, they found that the smiling folk had lower stress levels and heart rates than the non-smiling group. Some people were asked to hold chopsticks horizontally in their mouths to simulate the shape of a smile, and even those people saw the positive effects of the smile on their faces.

Dee:

I’ve heard that looking in a mirror and smiling while talking on the phone (especially at work) can make a world of difference on how that conversation plays out.  If you smile during that conversation I bet the end results will turn out greatly more positive than if you frowned or had no smile.  I bet your stress level and productivity will be more healthy by your smile, as well!

Smiling also releases endorphins, which improves your mood, helps you to relax, and lowers your blood pressure. And because smiling is contagious, the benefits of your smile extend beyond your own body to the people you engage with.

Smiling May Help You Live Longer 

So if smiling can contribute to less overall stress, and lower stress levels prolong lifespan, then smiling prolongs lifespan, right? Right! A compelling study at Wayne State University studied photos to classify the smiles of 230 baseball players. They found that the players with partial smiles lived on average two years longer than players who didn’t smile at all; those who had the biggest smiles lived roughly seven years longer than then non-smiling ones.

While it might be frightening to think about your school-age yearbook photos having any indication of the span of your life, it may be time to turn that frown upside down to make up for lost time.

Dee:

My granny lived just shy of her hundredth birthday.  She was always smiling.  I never heard her say anything negative or anything bad about anyone or anything.  Her mindset led her to a long and happy life.

I try to live my life like that today, being optimistic and hopeful, joyful and content.  Even though life throws curveballs at us each and everyday, can we not take the time to remember just three things for which we are grateful?  Can we not know that at this very moment everything is perfect and just as it is meant to be?  What are we going to do with this moment?  Be at peace or shit on it?  I choose to be at peace.

Smiling Improves Your Relationships 

Looking for a date or a mate? People find you more attractive (and thinner) when you smile. Studies show that different areas of the brain light up when looking at pictures of people who are smiling versus not smiling. People who are smiling to any degree are generally labeled more attractive (and women are considered more trustworthy than those with neutral expressions. The next time you are in a social situation and want someone to talk to you try smiling and see what happens.

Dee:

I remember an old beau telling me how much more beautiful I am when I smile.  Agreed.  When looking at photos of myself without my smile, “Yuck!”  Scary!”  “Ugly!”

As I practice daily smiling and centering on a life deserving of smiling, staying in humility and gratitude, my photos sure are more pleasing.

Smiling Improves Effectiveness in the Workplace 

The benefits of smiling extend beyond interpersonal relationships to the work environment. Smiling at your coworkers creates moments of connection that lead to greater productivity and teamwork. People in the service industry prove to have a more positive effect on customers when they smile. And people in leadership positions tend to favor their employees who smile more regularly. However, be careful, as some studies have shown that smiling too much can prevent you from being hired, as it can make your potential employer find you to be less serious or competent. One article suggests that smiling only at the beginning and end of an interview is enough to show that you are friendly, but not so friendly that you would be taken advantage of or manipulated.

Dee:

I remember my boss and customers always ribbing me for smiling all the time.  I would just reply, “Sure beats the alternative”.  Why not smile?  All we have is this moment in front of our noses and it’s good, yeah?  It brings me into gratitude.  I sure like living realizing my glass is half-full, and not half-empty.

Smiling Improves Your Mood 

Yes, you smile when you’re in a good mood, but smiling can also put you in a good mood. When participants were injected with botulinum toxin (a neuromuscular blocker) that would paralyze the frowning muscles in their faces, their moods improved and their depressive symptoms decreased. This finding suggests that the facial expressions involved in a true smile are part of a feedback loop that affects your emotions. People who frown during unpleasant procedures report more pain than those who make neutral or relaxed faces, inferring that the feedback loop works both ways.

Dee:

I’m being reminded of the countless hours I’ve spent in the dentist chair.  Not always pleasant.  But when I remember to breathe, that everything is perfect at this moment, that the end result is worth this discomfort, I can release my tension back into the clouds.  It does not serve me.  Being stress free and in the moment helps tremendously to get back into gratitude and serenity.

Also, I try not to expend what little energy I have on thoughts and feelings that do not serve my well-being.  I spent so many wasted hours on researching why I had bone-loss.  I could have been using that energy for something more positive.  I did, however, later find out by my periodontist the simple reason for bone-loss in my mouth while the rest of my bones were strong and healthy.  None of that research nor delving into my past of “could have’s, would have’s, should have’s” made any difference of where I am now.  I shall expend my energy in a positive direction moving forward, not backward.

What Constitutes a Real Smile? 

The botulinum toxin studies also point to the importance of the eyes and forehead when smiling authentically.

The Duchenne (or genuine) smile involves not just the muscles around the mouth, but also the ones that cause the cheeks to raise and the eyes to crescent. People who smile just with their mouths (think of the “say cheese” smile when taking a photo) don’t experience the same rewards as those who are smiling with their entire face; they do experience some of the benefits, just to a lesser degree.

People who tend more easily toward Duchenne smiles self-report better life satisfaction and marriages, however, so it may be worth learning how to smile with more of your face in the long run.

Dee:

Just be who you are…perfect at this very moment.  It will show up in your smile if you are comfortable in your own skin and love yourself.  And you should feel good about yourself.  You’re doing and being the best you can…right now.  You have gifts that no one else on this planet has.  Cherish them.  Share them.  Not only will your self-love and self-worth show up in your smile, it will emanate from every fiber of your being, felt by everyone around you, and the trickle-down effect is magical! 

Practice Makes Perfect 

Practice makes perfect—especially for men. Researcher Marianne LaFrance says that women smile more than men (mostly because they’re better at social intelligence and judging what is going on with other people). But far and away, children win the smiling contest. One article reports that children smile, on average, 400 times a day, whereas the happiest adults only smile 40-50 times a day.

If that doesn’t give you a kick in the pants, consider it this way: speaker and entrepreneur Ron Gutman says in his popular Ted Talk on the hidden power of smiling, that smiling is like a superpower. But unlike the power to fly or to become invisible, this one can be learned, practiced diligently, and improved upon.

So watch a funny movie, play more with your kids, and practice calling to mind someone who really lights you up when you’re posing for a picture. The smile on your face could literally make you happier, healthier, more effective, more attractive, and live a longer life. Doesn’t the thought of that make you smile?

Dee:

Just like any- and everything in our lives that we want to change, practice makes perfect.  The seed has been planted.  It’s up to us how badly we want to change.  See the glass half-full and not half-empty, living a positive and optimistic life, living in peace and contentment; they all come from baby steps.  Keep at it.  You will get results beyond your wildest dreams!

With warmest aloha,

Dee Harris

For those interested in Art with a Message of Hope and Optimism, please visit my website at www.DeesignsByHarris.com.  Mahalo and have a great day!

*Editor’s Note: The information in this article is intended for your educational use only; does not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Chopra Center’s Mind-Body Medical Group; and is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health providers with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition and before undertaking any diet, supplement, fitness, or other health program.

About the Author 

Karson McGinley, Yoga Teacher, Life Coach, and Joy Seeker

Karson McGinley is the founder of Happy-U ( H olistic A pproach to P ositive P sychology & Y oga) and the co- owner (along with her husband) of Happy-U Namasté Yoga Center (http://happyunamaste.com/) in San Diego, CA. A teacher for over a decade, Karson works to bridge the gap between the ancient wisdom of yoga and the modern science of happiness through her yoga classes, workshops, and Happy-U’s Teacher Training program. Karson’s classes are inspired by what goes on in the modern day life of a joy-seeker, using the power of music, laughter, and storytelling to take her students on a journey within.

From The Chopra Center

I AM NOT WHAT HAPPENED TO ME. I AM WHAT I CHOOSE TO BECOME.

“I am not what happened to me.  I am what I choose to become.”

 – Carl Jung

No one’s life follows a linear path.  No one’s life is devoid of mistakes, pain, and regret.  No one lives a perfect life.  No one is immune to some kind of struggle.  Everyone has something to work through.

So today, start where you are – not where you wish you were, but where you are.  I used to spend so much time beating myself up for choices I’d made.  Living in either the past or the future keeps me up in my head, out of reality, robbing me of the present.

So today, I choose to live in the present.  My intention is to authentically be myself as I am today.  I try to stay conscious of not judging myself and others.  All that time and energy I spent in the past and future I can now spend on my family, my friends, my purpose, and my mission – in other words, my actual life.

This day offers each of us a chance to be the person we want to be.

From I’ve Been Thinking…Reflections, Prayers, and Meditations for a Meaningful Life by Maria Shriver

Dee:

Life is a journey, not a destination.  Right?  When I reflect on my 62 years on this planet I’ve had so many journeys, experiences, interactions.  I now know that each and every one of them was for a reason, were perfect at that very time in my life.  I am who I am today because of those chapters in my life.

It wasn’t until I was in my 40’s that everything changed…for the best.  Before then I was an active alcoholic.  I had no religion nor spirituality in my life.  I lived from my head and not from my heart.  I had no purpose and felt like a waste of space on the planet.

When I found that I could not go a day without drinking I talked to my dad in heaven and asked if he would help me.  My dad died of alcoholism.  We were not close.  I was afraid of him as a child.  But he helped me.  Soon thereafter I was in a 28-day treatment facility for alcoholism.  I was taught about the disease of alcoholism and Alcoholics Anonymous.

Those 28-days changed my life…for the best.  I realized that no matter how much I thought, how much of my will I put into not drinking, it wasn’t going to happen.  I was allowed to make up a god of my own understanding and turn my will and my life over to it.  I was taught to live from my heart and not my head.  And I found that I was not alone.  There was a fellowship of like-minded people, like me, working to live a better and sober life.

I no longer look in the mirror and hate myself.  I have learned to love myself and be comfortable in my own skin.  Working the 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous has shown me that alcohol was just a symptom of my disease.  I learned what makes Dee tick and how to shed the defects that didn’t serve me.  I have been given a toolbox for living.  I learned to trust myself and others by being rigorously honest.  I learned to ask for help and to be there for those in need.

Turning my life over to a Higher Power has been such a gift.  Today I have a purpose of sharing my experience, strength and hope with whomever enters my bubble with whatever issues that ail them.  I can be mindful and respectful and make eye contact and listen.  I can show compassion and give comfort.  

Today I can live in the moment without regrets of the past nor fear of the future.  The present is all I have and all I have to do is be the best I can be.  Not perfect.  Just the best I can be.  I don’t have to impress you.  I can be me.  I love being me.  I love allowing my god to be in control and know that I am protected and guided through this journey called life.  Yes, all along there was a purpose for me that I would have never realized had I not been an alcoholic.  A grateful one at that.

Please love yourself for who you are.  Don’t compare yourself and your life with those around you or those in the limelight.  Love yourself and your unique gifts that none of us has.  YOU have them!  Share them.  Use them to make this world a better place and to give hope and optimism to those who enter your bubble.  You’re perfect just the way you are…right here…right now! and know that everything happens for a reason.

Aloha, Dee Harris

For those interested in Art with a Message of Hope and Optimism, please visit my website at www.DeesignsByHarris.com.  Mahalo and have a great day!

REVEAL YOUR PURPOSE AND TAKE INSPIRED ACTION

Reveal Your Purpose and Take Inspired Action 

By LouiseLaffey(/bios/louise-laffey)

If you were adventurous of spirit and chose to embark on the feel-your-feelings experiment (https://chopra.com/articles/how-to-trust-your-flow-and-own-your-power), you’ll know that putting down those old familiar mental identities of thinker and doer is not for the faint-hearted.

It takes courage and conviction to live a different way of life to those around you, but once you’ve been bitten by the “being-ness” bug there’s no turning back! You’ve tasted the joy and freedom that comes from living in clear flow and you’ve rediscovered the power that can turn dirt into gold.

Let the Universe Show You the Way

Even if you think you haven’t taken the full plunge into being-ness, rest assured you’ve already tasted a little bit of the magic that comes from feeling your feelings and allowing the Universe (https://chopra.com/articles/how- to-recognize-signs-from-the-universe) to openly show you how things really work. You know you live in a vibrational Universe. You’ve had plenty of synchronous signs dropped in your lap to make you sit up and pay attention to the fact that you are not the one actually running the show (although a part of you still thinks that you are).

Dee:

What a total life changer…not only being able to go a day without drinking but turning my will and my life over to a Power Greater Than Myself, that I got to make up!  A new and weird thing to learn was living through my heart and not my head.  Totally against how I lived my whole life up to that point.  I was intelligent.  A thinker.  Anything I put my mind to I could get.  So why could I not go a day without drinking?

Allowing my Higher Power to do the driving and me to kick back in the passenger seat enjoying the ride, the lessons, the interactions, my life, was so foreign.  But once I tried it and found that obligations were being met, my life became more interesting and exciting.  I wake up now wondering what the day holds, excited to learn from experiences both “good” and “bad”. 

The good news is you’re at a point in your awakening where you understand you have the power to create. Now you want to know how to use that power with greater effect.

Unearthing Your Purpose

You want to use your power for good—for a purpose (https://chopra.com/articles/discover-and-fulfill-your- lifes-purpose) bigger than yourself. Usually it’s to help someone or something you feel passionate about. You want to leave a positive, meaningful impact on the world. The only problem is that you don’t always know exactly what that purpose looks like or how you’re going to make that purpose happen from where you are now. Even if you do have some sense of clarity, your purpose doesn’t always unfold as fast as you want, when you want, and most of all, how you want.

It can lead to a terrible sense of frustration. You can drive yourself crazy trying to work out what you are supposed to do with your life. The problem may be that you are making the same mistake by going into your head to try to solve your questions. Stop thinking! Go inward and start feeling your answers.

Dee:

I got sober awhile ago, but did not stay sober.  As a newcomer I did everything suggested in AA.  I felt I floated on that pink cloud for many years.  But as we get sober one day at a time, we also get “unsober” one day at a time as well.  My life was good…until I stopped attending meetings, staying connected to the fellowship, giving back what was so freely given me when I needed it most…and I forgot what it was like to be a newcomer.  Slowly I got back into my head and stopped living from my heart.

Shift Your Focus Inside

When you shift your focus inside, the lights suddenly turn green. You begin to ask yourself questions with a fresh sense of openness and freedom, curious to feel and hear the answers to come. Instead of bouncing straight into your thoughts (https://chopra.com/articles/noticing-when-your-thoughts-argue-reality), take a few moments to sit quietly with your feelings and wait with the nothingness. And then, there it is, your next clear step. The perfect instruction to move you forward with ease and grace: inspired action. No confusion. No fuss. Perfect timing.

Dee:

Having slipped after over 13 years of sobriety I was scared shitless that I wouldn’t make it back into AA, the fellowship, and sobriety.  The only requirement for AA is the desire to stop drinking and I didn’t have it.  I checked myself into an outpatient program having spent 28 days in a treatment program my first time around.  Being an alcoholic was confirmed to me with that first shot of tequila offered me, even when I said, “No.  I don’t drink.”  It yelled at me to drink it and I had no defense, no insurance for which I pay premiums by going to meetings and reaching out to those in need.  I told myself I was fine but I needed the fellowship to call me on my bullshit.

After going to daily meetings for weeks” and confessing “I drank last night”, I finally surrendered and accepted I had to do what was uncomfortable to me.  Making calls to four women each night to say, “Hi, I’m Dee and I am not in the sunlight of the spirit”, seemed ridiculous.  But it worked.  Something worked.  I stopped drinking and once again I can live from my heart, not my head, and float on that pink cloud once again.

Act on Inspired Action

You will recognize an inspired action when it arrives; it compels you to move. You can’t see it coming before it lands but when it does, there’s no mistaking it. It will come to you complete, with the energy of Truth you’ll find hard to ignore. And while your mind will try to tell you otherwise, it’s much wiser than thought. An inspired action is always simple, clear, and precise. It may turn up as a feeling that it’s the time to go, the place to be, the person to meet, or the thing to see.

Whatever its sign, it will always leave you with a smile as it magically shows how this piece of the puzzle fits perfectly into the moment that’s about to unfold.

Dee:

When I’m waiting for answers to come to dilemmas that perfectly arise in my life to teach me something, to help me grow and be a better person, I put that dilemma in my God Box, quiet my mind and know I will get good orderly direction when I’m ready.  When the student is ready, the master appears.  How do I know?  I’ve experienced it, many times, to my wonderment and gratitude.

Be Your True Self

The more you practice navigating your life through feeling your feelings, the more you realize a big part of your purpose is learning how to follow inspired actions. As your willingness to trust the process grows, so will your confidence and success.

Every inspired action will bring you a stronger, clearer sense of your best direction and a new sense of wonder, as opportunity after amazing opportunity opens up with effortless flow. And with it, the awareness of a physical sensation within, the feeling of a vibrant, river-like momentum noticeably moving through you. Step by step, the Universe will teach you how to use your power with purpose for your highest good—how to live in your true flow by being more of your true Self.

Dee:

When I left rehab in 1998 my counselor told me it was a waste for me to go back to being a grocery checker.  Resentment!  I was a good checker.  It was a good job.  But now that I’ve left that job to pursue my love of art, I’m finding I am creating art with a message of hope, of recovery, of unity.  I am also finding that when I sell either online or at a market the connections I make with other like-minded people is amazing.  It’s a win-win.  They get to bring home my art that inspires and offers optimism and I get to pay my bills and grow to be a better person.

Let Go of Fear

When you consciously choose to trust your inner wisdom to guide your steps, you realize universal energy is always showing you the path of least resistance, the most efficient way for you to use your energy so you can fulfill your purpose. If you can loosen the mental grips, the misinterpretations you have imposed upon your feelings by simply observing them in the moment, you begin to let go of your fear, the “into-fear-ence” (a term coined by author Michael Brown in The Presence Process) that has been blocking your natural flow. You can open your hands to receive the moments of magic that are waiting for you. The more you can allow yourself to open up with childlike curiosity to what is being given to you in each and every moment, the more you will discover how to surf the waves of your emotions with a new sense of awe.

Dee:

Today I strive to live in the moment.  I no longer have regrets of the past nor worry of the future.  I know that everything is perfect at this very moment and there is a plan and purpose given me from my Higher Power.  And that plan is to share my experience, strength and hope with others whether alcoholics, drug addicts, those suffering from mental problems, abuse, or life itself.  That’s what “I get to do” each and everyday with excitement and anticipation!

Every day you are offered thousands of opportunities to notice this one moment, the perfect moment to connect you back into your feelings. You have the opportunity to go back into your Self and embrace the energy of love that can propel you to heights only your soul can imagine.

All it takes is a willingness of heart to trust in your flow and try your experiment. Only you can ask the questions that will light up your life, and only you can feel the answers that will fill up your heart. Keep feeling, seeking, exploring, receiving, and most of all, believing.

Gain clarity on why your life is the way it is, what’s holding you back, what you really want, and how to get it at our Chopra Women’s Retreat. Learn More. (https://chopra.com/live-events/womens-retreat/).

Dee:

Getting sober doesn’t happen overnight.  I did not become an alcoholic overnight.  I had to shed a lifetime of defects (thanks to the 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous!).  Through experimental “fake it ’til you make it’s”, trial and error, hope and optimism, I finally get to love myself for who I am, with my alcoholic thinking and behavior.  I have a tool box to help me get back on track.  I have a fellowship that calls me on my bullshit.  Life is so much easier and way more meaningful and rewarding.

Aloha and mahalo for taking the time to read my blog.  For those interested in my Art with a Message of Hope and Recovery, please visit my website at www.DeesignsByHarris.com.  With warmest aloha, Dee Harris.

About the Author, Louise Laffey (/bios/louise-laffey) Guest Speaker 

Once a young lawyer and an intuitive spiritual seeker, Louise Laffey, struggled to reconcile what she viewed as two separate lives. As a lawyer she enjoyed many of trappings of the modern world, but always felt like she was compromising herself and her values to meet someone else’s agenda. She escaped to South America, where she embarked on the spiritual journey that led her to create the process of fully aligning prosperity with her purpose. For the past nine years, Louise has travelled the world, teaching more than 50,000 people from over 20 countries to identify and clear the unconscious blocks standing in the way of their prosperity, freeing them to consciously create more wealth and abundance in… Read more (/bios/louise-laffey)                                                                                                                         From The Chopra Center

10 Ways to Align with Your Purpose or Dharma

10 Ways to Align with Your Purpose or Dharma

By Nicolette Stinson

What would happen if you stopped trying to “find your purpose” and instead started vulnerably showing up as you are, ready to be of service?

The spiritual Law of Dharma states that for every special talent, the world has a unique need that can only be filled by the expression of that talent. You can make the fullest use of the Law of Dharma by committing to serve others through your unique creative expression, in whatever form that takes.

Dee:

Before getting sober I had no purpose. I oftentimes “thought” that I was a waste of space on the planet. Of course, drinking every day, having to drink every day, and living in that negative so-called life, didn’t help me get more positive nor purposeful.

 

Once you get out of your head and stop pondering what you are meant to do with your life and instead take action to serve others in any way you can, you begin to align with purpose. What gets in the way of most people taking action in this way is the courage to go for what they truly want, take chances, and be fully seen.

Dee:

I know, I feel, today that finding my purpose was no coincidence. I really believe

that everything happens for a reason and that at any given moment everything is perfect. Of course, I didn’t see nor feel that in my disease of alcoholism. I didn’t realize that that was my necessary journey to bring me to where I am today. Purposeful. To share my experience, strength and hope with that one person who needs a glimmer of hope at this moment.

Aligning with your purpose in life requires visibility and vulnerability. It requires pouring your heart into something that means the world to you with detachment and expressing yourself without expectation of outcome.

Dee:

I am so passionate about my sobriety, my recovery, my journey. Today I live, breathe, and bleed this gift and sharing it with you. My life, my relationships, my work, my everything comes from my sobriety.

I would not be so passionate about it if it weren’t good. But it’s awesome! To have a sense of purpose, gratitude and humility was so unfamiliar to me before getting sober. Today I have choices. I have a choice to not drink or drug which I truly did not have before surrendering and asking for help. But unless I give it away…this sobriety, these choices, this hope and compassion…I cannot keep it. I must give away what was so freely given me when I needed it most in order to keep it. I don’t want to let this go.

Aligning with my purpose of sharing my journey…my experience, strength and hope…did not come easy. It did require visibility and vulnerability. I was most uncomfortable sharing my rigorous honesty on social media. But in order to keep this gift I had to crawl out of my comfort zone and be ready for bigger and better gifts. I listened to my heart, quieted the fear in my head, and just did it.

But I did it in a roundabout kind of way. Having just taken an early retirement from the grocery business to go full-throttle as an artist, it was suggested I use social media to promote my business. Not knowing at the time intending to

promote my art I was really promoting recovery. That was my life. My everything. I continue promoting that message today. The art and business comes later.

Researcher Brene Brown, in her research on vulnerability, found that letting yourself be seen as well as loving and serving without expectation is key to living life with a deep sense of worthiness or purpose.

Dee:

When I first got sober back in 1998 I had such guilt, remorse and shame. I was so blessed to get sober in a treatment facility that taught me about the disease of alcoholism. I did not choose to be an alcoholic any more than I chose to be a female or of Chinese descent. I was born this way and had to not only accept these facts, but embrace them and love them which eventually led me to being able to accept, embrace and love my disease…and myself.

I was introduced to Alcoholics Anonymous (for which I am NOT a representative nor spokesperson, but a true believer!) which gave me a toolbox for living. I learned about me, Dee, and what makes me tick. I got to choose a Power Greater Than Myself over to whom I could turn my will and my life. I got to stop living from my head and enjoy and be comfortable living from my heart. Things started to look positive, hopeful, to make sense. The puzzle pieces really started to fit together.

I began to realize the fellowship in AA loved and served me without expectation which only strengthened my purpose and gave me confidence. I also realized that I was not unique, nor alone on this journey. What a comfort and a weight lifted from my shoulders! Today I can serve without expectation. No expectations, no disappointments.

If your purpose ultimately blossoms through your willingness to show up, be seen, and be of service, then perhaps the important question is not “How do I find my purpose?”, but is instead, “How can I authentically show up in service for those who need me most today?”

Dee:

The first half of my first 13-1/2 years of sobriety I suited up, showed up, and did everything AA suggested I do to have a better life and stay sober. But, one day at a time, I found myself in complacency and busy-ness enjoying the gifts of

sobriety. I stopped giving away what was so freely given me when I needed it most. I stopped connecting with newcomers and forgot my journey. I drank.

But even though I spewed out the words, “No, thank you, I haven’t had a drink in 13-1/2 years”, I drank that shot of tequila that yelled at me and that was left for me in case I changed my mind. I was weak, complacent, selfish. My insurance policy had lapsed by ceasing going to meetings and sharing my recovery. My Higher Power has such a sense of humor…and such a plan for me. With that first shot came an immediate urge for more…along with the guilt, shame, hiding, lying, and all the negativity that comes with being active in any disease.

I want to spend my energy in positive ways today, not searching for the next high, then hiding it. It’s way too exhausting for me living that way. Today, once again in recovery, one day at a time, I am happy, joyous and free! and careful to stick close to the fellowship of AA.

Below are 10 ways you can discover your own answers to that important question and align yourself with your purpose or dharma:

1. Be Yourself

Here is the chance to use that timeless advice from your mother, “Just be yourself, honey, and everyone will love you.” The more authentically YOU that you are, the better chance you have of connecting with the people who need you most. Plus, it’s so much easier than trying to be someone you aren’t. Don’t put on an act or try to be someone else, be yourself and share where you are NOW in your journey with others.

Dee:

Wow! This says it all! Before getting sober I was so fear-based. All of me was about winning your approval as I had no self-confidence nor self-worth. I sacrificed everything to look good for you on the outside until I had nothing left to give.

AA’s Twelve Steps have changed my life. It just happened to work out this way on my journey through life. By working the 4th, 5th and 6th Steps I could finally understand why I was the way I was. So freeing it’s magical!

Today I can love myself for who I am with all my flaws and imperfections. I no longer worry about whether or not you will like me. If you don’t, you don’t. I don’t take it personally. You and the rest of the world are on your own journeys. I

just have to take care of me and answer to that Power Greater Than Myself. If We are on good terms, if I’m doing and being the best I can, then We’re good.

If I stay in the moment, in the present, in the space in front of my nose, then I shall give you my full attention, respect and compassion that you deserve. You were also not put in “my bubble” at random; there are no coincidences. And sharing myself with you in a rigorously honest way might just give you that glimmer of hope you didn’t have before we met. I can go to sleep thankful.

BUT…there are those other kind of people out in the world who don’t live in the sunlight of the spirit. Their words and actions can hurt. But only if we let them and have not yet reached that place of self-worth and self-love. Again, everyone is on their own journeys, some not so pretty, some brought up in negativity and hatred. You know, we ALL have our “diseases”. Just offer compassion and respect.

2. Be Consistent

You will create an impact with your efforts to live inside your purpose when you keep showing up even when it feels like you aren’t creating any real results. When you keep putting yourself out there in the same consistent way every day eventually you will hit a tipping point and your efforts will bear fruit. Be consistent in not only how often you put yourself out there, but also in the way you show up. People trust and respond to consistent efforts.

Dee:

For me that means I have to walk my talk. I can write these blogs and pitch sermons until I’m blue in the face, buy my actions speak louder than words! I wouldn’t be fooling anyone but myself. My head would start running the show again. I would distance myself from my Higher Power. Gratitude and humility would disappear.

I’m not going there. Not today anyway. From past experiences, at least with alcohol addiction, not walking my talk wasn’t so apparent while my head told me everything was peachy until I picked up that shot of tequila. Then I realized that was my head, and my disease, talking, telling me everything was just fine. Cunning. Baffling. Powerful.

 

3. Be Bold

Stay in action and don’t be afraid to say what you think and what is really happening with you behind the scenes. Authenticity and vulnerability are bold, and they will help you align with your true purpose.

Dee:

There’s that Rigorous Honesty I’ve learned about in AA. If I lay the cards out on the table for you at the onset, I don’t have to spend energy later wondering what I said or how I behaved later. I’ve lived through many a black-out and never want to go there again.

I trust my gut to pick up on your vibe whether or not you are receptive to my journey. My gut has never lied to me and no one has ever walked away disgruntled or in disbelief. I have only received hugs and words of kindness for sharing my true self and my life with you.

4. Be Helpful

Show up with value and solutions. People will notice you and respect you if you help them solve a legitimate problem they are facing or fulfill a desire they have. Being genuinely helpful will help to attract people and opportunities into your life. Give to others without expectation of anything in return.

Dee:

This is like being an AA sponsor. Being in the moment. Attentive. Respectful. Listening. Anonymous! Noticing tone and body language. Making sure they truly want my rigorous honesty (which sometimes is not what they want to hear) and knowing what comes from me is only my opinion or suggestion. And being thankful to the recipient for trusting me and allowing me to share my experience, strength and hope. Keeps me humble. Keeps me grateful. Keeps me sober.

5. Be Choosy

Don’t dilute your energies. Being specific with the way you want to serve will help you align with your purpose. You won’t find fulfillment in trying to be everything to everyone. Determine what specific kind of effect you want to have in your service to others. Choosing your “signature” style doesn’t limit who and when you serve, it simply focuses your energy to the impact you want to create.

 

Dee:

2017 has been year of growing my art business. 2016 was a year of growing my recovery service. 2018 will be a year of happy mediums. All I know is that no matter which direction my Higher Power drives me in the new year, I shall enjoy the ride and continue the excitement of learning, growing, and sharing. My gut (no pun intended) is also pulling me in the direction of more Dee time (nature, quiet time, meditation, exercise, and FUN)!

6. Be Friendly

Being kind and showing up as a friendly face will do wonders for you in aligning with your purpose and make you happier while you do it! Spread joy always.

Dee:

Being friendly for me means I’ve got to stay in the moment…grateful and humble. I remember being a grocery checker with customers always saying, “Why are you so happy?” I would reply, “Sure beats the alternative.” And that is how I try to live my life. In the positive. My head, but especially today my heart, can turn any negative into a positive. Any glass half empty to half full. Such an awesome way to live!

Also when a grocery checker my boss would ask if I wanted to go into management. Although I tactfully didn’t say this, “Hell, no, I’m happy. Why would I want to be like you?”, I would reply, “Thank you for asking, but ‘No”, I’m happy right where I am.”

Although I don’t feel I have a mean bone in my body, I can so easily think nasty thoughts and have fun with them. However, I do remember when making amends to my kids they told me how mean I was when I was drinking. Today, one day at a time, I choose to not become that person. Today I am truly happy, joyous and free!

7. Be Imaginative

Try new things, let your mind and imagination wander. If you are feeling burnt out or like you have plateaued, try to implement something new that you never even thought about doing. Adding creativity and variety to your life will allow you to open up to new possibilities and opportunities that may bring you into deeper alignment with your purpose.

 

Dee:

I have such the imagination, and a sick one at that. I love horror flicks. I love living in a make-believe world. I’m kinda Disney. I don’t wanna grow up…I’m a Toys’R’Us kid. And that is me. And I thrive on being me, in my honesty.

I wake up each morning excited to take on the day. The day in which my Higher Power drives me around in our pink convertible Cadillac and I go along for the ride learning and experiencing what I need to experience, growing to the next level, and then sharing that. It’s like a magic carpet ride!

8. Be Vulnerable

Be willing to be imperfect. The only way to move forward is to take action and get feedback. Sometimes this requires you to be vulnerable and jump before you are totally “ready.” As mentioned in the introduction, being willing to be vulnerable dramatically increases your alignment with purpose.

Dee:

Back in the day I was afraid to get negative feedback or make an ass of myself, because I had no self-worth. Today I’m okay with that. I learn from every experience. I get better with every experience. I grow with every experience. I am not perfection; I am progress. And I love the journey I’m on being a human being with a positive outlook. One day at a time I leave my comfort zone. Tiny baby steps. If I don’t like it, I go back. Learning. Growing.

9. Be Savvy

Stay on top of the trends that are happening in the world. Keep yourself educated and find new and creative ways to serve others and the planet. Life as you know it is currently changing at a faster pace than ever before, so being savvy and resourceful will allow you to be of service in a way that is innovative and transformational and aligns with the collective purpose of the planet.

Dee:

I’m a news junkie. I told you I had a sick imagination, but I have a sick sense of humor as well. Although the news is fully inundated with negative shit, I realize that that is what sells news. I know that there are those out in the real world who live and feel like me. We’re good people. And from our actions we start that ripple effect of positivity and hope, love and kindness. Tiny baby steps.

 

10. Be a Star

Don’t be afraid to claim your gifts, get out there, work, and create meaningful relationships. Let your light shine and be a light for others!

Dee:

I am not asking for kudos, money, notoriety, none of that. I write because it makes me feel good. I go to meetings because it makes me feel good. If somethings is ailing me, I put it in the God Box, write or share it in one way or another, and take the power out of it. Sharing my experience, strength and hope is my way of giving thanks for this awesome life with which I’ve been blessed. If I don’t give it away, I cannot keep it!

When I was leaving the treatment center for alcoholism I remember (and copping a resentment as well) my counselor saying to me going back to real life as a mom, a wife, and a grocery checker, that what I was doing was such a waste. I was proud of what I was doing and I did it well What did she mean? Today I understand my purpose, coming only from this journey of mine through life. The pieces of the puzzle are all starting to come together, to make sense. Dang exciting!

Wishing you all a “glass half full” New Year! With warmest aloha, Dee Harris

For those interested in checking out my Art with a Message of Inspiration (the reason I started this blog three years ago), please visit my website at http://www.DeesignsByHarris.com. Mahalo and enjoy!

Get the resources you need to gain a clear sense of direction and purpose in your life with The Chopra Center’s Discover Your Purpose Toolkit, which includes a free e-book, worksheet, 1:1 discovery session, and guided meditation. Get your free toolkit now.

About the Author

Nicolette Stinson

Certified Coach, Yoga Instructor and Perfect Health Instructor

Nicolette is an online personal brand strategist for coaches and wellness professionals. She is also a Certified Coach, Chopra Center Perfect Health Instructor, and Yoga Teacher as well as an avid student of mindfulness, creativity, personal development, and spirituality. Visit http://www.nicolettestinson.com to learn more.

From The Chopra Center.