am writing

follow your heart

When I was a child I knew without knowing how I wanted to live life. I knew that I wanted to feel the freedom of my own heart. That I wanted to explore and write and draw and color. And for a long time as a child I was able to do those things. It was a benefit of being the youngest child of a large family; in hiding amongst the masses, I could go undetected. But at some point, I am not sure how or when, it all happened so slowly, so subtly, I was domesticated out of my true purpose, (as most of us are), and was told in order to be loved I had to conform. In order to be loved, I had to live how society wanted me to live - demanded how I live. And for a long time I lived that way.

In my youth, I rebelled against these new rules for living and loving as much as I could. I slept a lot as I didn't see the point of getting out of bed if I couldn't live a life of my choosing. I smoked, I drank, I did drugs, I defiled my body. So, yeah, I was pretty miserable. But so was everyone around me so I didn't think much about it. It was "normal". But then in my early twenties I landed a job that helped change that. And for a while I was able to balance the demands of the world with the demands of my heart. And during that period I think I was happy if not totally fulfilled.

Then, once again, for the "sake of love", I abandoned my heart for the whims of society. And for many years I traveled back and forth between listening to the gentle whispers of my heart and hearing the loud clanging of the world. Until one day I could no longer hear my heart. And when that happened I experienced such tremendous feelings of loss. My heart literally broke. I was filled with grief and longing and my health began to decline. During this time, I foolishly thought that the grief, the pain, was caused by something outside of myself. That what I was feeling was related exclusively to the loss of relationships and job stress. But I realize now, I felt that way because I had stopped listening to the beat of my own heart.

It has taken time, 5 months of conscious sobriety, hundreds of hours of quiet meditation, and dozens of hikes to craggy, mountain peaks for me to be able to once again hear the near silent longings of my heart. And along the way, crossing valleys and forging rivers, one of the most salient lessons I have learned is true love will never ask me to betray my heart. And when society says, "no one will love you if you act like that", I now know that statement for the lie that it is. Because when I follow my heart, only true love flows to me. And when I listen to and then follow the promptings of my heart I always feel loved.

So, that's what I finally did. I took a gamble on my heart. I left my well paying but abusive job in retail (where it's all about the money, money, money...) without a real plan, without much of safety net, for the sole (soul) purpose of writing a book and reacquainting myself with my heart. And while somedays I feel a pinch of anxiety, most days I feel free and filled with gratitude. I finished writing the book! I have my health back! I have authentic and loving relationships. I wake up each morning early because I have a sense of purpose. I am in the flow. All because I decided to listen fully to my heart. And it's the best decision to date that I have made.

photo: moi 

photo: moi 

words to live by

Yesterday a dear friend of mine invited me to attend an event at her kids grade school (K-5). It was short and sweet; an open house for all the important adults in these children's lives. I was honored to have been invited. It's a good feeling to know that I'm making a positive difference in someone's life.

As part of the program for the day the students were invited to share excerpts from their individual biographies projects that they had been working on throughout the year. There was an impressive amount of information about each student that was being shared in the most creative ways: from self drawn maps of their neighborhoods, to timelines. There were self portraits and handprinted family portraits alongside collages of their favorite things. The item that drew my attention and inspired me the most was a Top 10 wisdom for life list that they had  titled, "Rules to Live By". I was intrigued and fascinated with the things these 11 year olds came up with and thought to myself, "Who is this wise at 11?! I certainly never was!" And then when I was asked to contribute to the list, it took me a moment. I have "rules" I live by (I prefer to call them words of wisdom), but in that moment I realized I had never really consciously strung them together in my head or my heart. So after being caught off guard and responding with an off the cuff "Do unto others", (which by the way is still very relevant!) I thought long and hard about what my words of wisdom list would contain and why. While what follows is certainly not a complete list, it is definitely populated with my most frequently go to aphorisms.

  • Trust the Process - I learned this during my first 10 day Vipassana retreat. It rang through me so loud and clear, I immediately recognized it as truth. We don't always know the how or the details of the how, and often we don't know the why either. But if we want to enjoy life, we need to trust the process.
  • Follow Your Heart and Let Nature Take Care of the Rest - This is similar to the adage, "To Thine Own Self Be True". Which is also a good one. They both speak to taking care of yourself first because only then will you have love and energy enough to give to others. Your heart knows what your purpose is and it will never lead you astray. And really, if you do follow your heart and don't allow yourself to get caught up in the constricts of society, nature really will take care of the rest. But you have to trust the process.
  • In order to follow your heart you must first Know Your Heart. Plato taught that knowing thyself was the most important education a person could undertake. For it is through knowing thyself that one gains the knowledge to help humanity. So spend as much time as you can getting to know yourself, accepting yourself, and loving yourself. Then you may go out into the world loving others, confident of your purpose.
  • Trust Yourself - This comes from knowing your heart. When you know your heart you become incapable of living without integrity. Your heart would never allow it. So, follow your heart and trust the process.
  • In the BIG PICTURE you can't make a mistake. So, GO FOR IT! Audentis Fortuna Iuevat.
  • Be Kind - Always. You never know what is happening in someone else's world. Besides, kindness feels better in the body than judgement so in being kind to others you are also being kind to yourself. And being kind to yourself automatically helps you to be kind to others. See how that works?
  • Be Grateful - Gratitude goes a long way to healing a heart and a soul. Gratitude can overcome even the most negative thoughts and experiences. So find something, anything, maybe even everything, to be grateful for each day.
  • Be Generous - If only for the reason that generosity feels better in the body than hoarding! Be selfish with your generosity. That means, do it because it feels good. :)
  • Hold Yourself Accountable for your own thoughts, emotions, and actions and don't own the reactions of others, It's none of your business.
  • Control Your Controlables - See above! You really can only control yourself; your emotions, your thoughts, your actions and reactions. You can't control the market, your neighbor's dog, the lady in line in front of you nor her crying baby. So take care of you and trust the process. Everything else will work itself out.
  • Get Outside and commune with nature. If only to calm your nerves. The fresh air will do you some good.
  • Love and Life are More Important Than Money - Remember this and you'll always have enough.
  • You Always Have a Choice - Really. You do.
  • Your Dreams Matter - Water them. Love them. Spend time cultivating them. Allow them room to grow.
  • Spend Time Every Day in Silence - Even if it's only 5 minutes. For your dreams to blossom you need to be able to hear your heart. And your heart often speaks in whispers.
  • Appreciate Your Body - Without it you wouldn't be here. You wouldn't have the ability to appreciate the awesome adventure that is Life.
  • Take Inspired Action - If your actions aren't inspired, it's just labor. And laboring for labor's sake is no fun at all! (unless you're a masochist, which I am not) If you must labor for labor's sake, do yourself a favor and find the gratitude that may be hidden like a pearl in the action.
  • Like a snowstorm, thunderstorm, windstorm, any storm - This Too Shall Pass. The Buddhists refer to it as anicha. Knowing this too shall pass will help you stay calm in any situation. Knowing this too shall pass will help you stay present for the joyful and peaceful moments of life. For just like storms, they also pass.
  • And really -Trust the Process and Enjoy the Journey!

If you are just getting started with knowing your heart and this all seems a little overwhelming I recommend reading The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz. It's a well written practical guide to help you on your path to finding your own words to live by.

Namaste

image credit:  studio glow

image credit: studio glow