Learning to Fly

AttitudeCourageCreativityHappinessLife

I used to think that I could fly. I also slept on the top level of a bunk bed, which–as you can no doubt imagine–was a risky and high-stakes combination. Fortunately, I emerged from this period of my life largely unscathed. In fact, I found that the best time to fly was when I was asleep and could soar anywhere I wanted in my dreams.

I was thinking today that perhaps, though I know that I am unlikely to successfully take to the skies without the assistance of an airplane, hot air balloon, or related contraption, I still yearn to fly. Wouldn’t it be amazing, I find myself musing, to swoop high and low alongside the eagles? To hover quietly beside the hardworking hummingbird, admiring the flowers? To skim over the surface of the ocean and dive in and out of waves, only to return–salty, refreshed, laughing–to the air, out of reach of the tossing water? read more

Thank You

AttitudeCourageHappinessLife

I have been feeling a bit negative recently. So. This post is a little gratitude power-up refuel session based on the knowledge that turning my attention to those people and things for which I am grateful helps me to shift my attention in a more positive direction. So here goes:

Thank you for supportive friends and family members who remind me of the beauty in the world.

Thank you for mentors and counselors along the way.

Thank you for all of the dogs in Alamo Square Park who remind me that running can be fun. read more

Narnia and NaNoWriMo

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I went to a NaNoWriMo catch-up session yesterday here in San Francisco. For those of you who are not familiar, NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month, which takes place annually in November. Participants take on the challenge of writing 50,000 words in 30 days. I have taken on this challenge.

Following this NaNoWriMo catch-up session, I am back on track to finish by November 30th, (I had gotten a little behind in the preceding days). I’m glad that I’m caught up; but I’m even more glad that I went to a group writing session. It was so much more fun than writing 3,000 words by myself. We wrote for 1.5 hour-long segments and took breaks in between to chat and talk about writing. It was great! read more

My Brain is Plastic

AnxietyCourageFearHappinessLife

In general, I think of myself as a pretty confident person. But every once and a while, anxiety strikes and I freeze up. It usually happens when I’m trying to do something that I consider very important, and when I am trying to do it well. And the anxiety makes it so that I am either paralyzed or I flub up on whatever it is that I am trying to accomplish. So basically, anxiety is a real drag.

I recently had a realization, however. It sprang in part from having watched Shawn Achor’s TED talk on positive psychology, and also from a conversation I had with a friend about the neuroplasticity of the human brain. Neuroplasticity refers to the fact that our brains are constantly changing throughout our lives due to factors in our environment, and (most importantly for my purposes) due to our choices and actions. The way we choose to act, and the way we choose to react, to our circumstances affects the synaptic connections in our brain. In other words, we are capable of contributing to major rewiring of our very own brains. And that, my friends, is nothing short of revolutionary. read more

Today is a New Day

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Today is a new day. That may seem a trite or obvious statement, but I don’t view it that way. I view it as nothing short of revolutionary. I view it as one of the more empowering statements on the planet. Yesterday happened. And it may have sucked. But today is a new day. Let’s start fresh, wipe the slate clean, and begin again.

Last night, after a discouraging day, I had a discouraging thought, and I sank into a discouraging mood. “I know what tomorrow will be like,” I thought glumly as I got ready for bed. “It will be just like today.” read more

Fear Less, Love More

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Someone wise told me recently: “You are either moving toward fear; or you are moving toward love.”

I like this. And what’s more, I can tell the difference. I can feel it in my body, right in the pit of my stomach. When I am moving toward fear, when I am letting fear be my primary motivation, I feel: tense; stressed; and paralyzed. I feel, in short, absolutely awful.

When I am moving toward love, on the other hand, I feel an expansive sense of hope, I feel open and curious, and I feel supported by the world. It seems that everything goes my way, even when it doesn’t go the way I expect. read more

Going with the Flow

HappinessLifeUncategorized

I am often afraid to let myself be happy, because I think that I will simply stop being a productive member of society and I will lounge around eating peeled grapes and sipping piña coladas. This is actually very unlikely, given my temperament. I LOVE to work, when I can get out of my own way and stop stressing and worrying. Which brings me to my next point, which has to do with the concept of “ecstasy.”

The word “ecstasy” comes from the Greek ekstasis, which means to stand outside of. To me, the etymology of “ecstasy” is telling, because it emphasizes the fact that ecstatic states take us out of ourselves. Another way to interpret this is that we can jumpstart the process of becoming happier by standing outside of ourselves, by getting out of our own way. This resonates with my own experience, in that I find I am happiest when I am immersed in an activity that takes me away from everyday consciousness, when I give myself permission to pursue a beloved task wholeheartedly and with complete focus. This state is what renowned researcher Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi calls flow. (You can watch his TED talk on “flow” here.) read more

Letting Go

HappinessLifeUncategorized

I know I’ve mentioned her before, but Danielle LaPorte is one of my favorite contemporary  thinkers and innovators, and I want to share with you her most recent “Burning Question” which is this:

What would you be more of if you let go of the past?

And what a question it is. So much of what I do today is in reference to, or in apology for, or in reaction to, what happened to me yesterday. Or the day before. Or five years ago. And it just doesn’t make sense. Now, don’t get me wrong: healing makes sense. Acknowledging and addressing the past in a proactive way makes sense. But mulling, ruminating and blaming doesn’t make sense. In fact, it just gets in the way of living this moment authentically and fully. read more

Further Thoughts on Happiness

HappinessMay 2012

Today, I woke up feeling happy. It was one of those rare mornings when I leapt out of bed when my alarm went off, eager to start the day. I took the bus to the co-working space where I’ve been writing, and the bus was so packed that I was squeezed up to the very front, facing the front windshield. Instead of feeling grouchy about being stuffed into an overfull bus, I found myself enjoying the view of the city down Market Street: the whole of downtown San Francisco was spread out before me, with the ivory-white splotch of the Ferry Building marking the terminus of Market Street far off in the distance. I stood at the front of the bus, gripping the yellow handrail as though it were the helm of a great ship with its bow cutting through stiff ocean waves. I even thought of the famous scene in Titanic, where Jack and Rose stand at the helm of the ship and pretend to fly, (although I certainly hope that the bus avoided any and all icebergs en route to the Caltrain Station.) read more

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Happiness

HappinessMay 2012

I have heard that, in order to be truly happy, one must live in the moment. But what does it mean to live in the moment? I hear that phrase everywhere, it seems. Zen masters say it. Friends and family say it. (Even sentimental fleas say it?)

Here’s the thing: I get it. I mean, intellectually, I understand that life is short and that all we have is a fleeting string of moments that pass us by, all in a flash. But what do I do with that knowledge? Most of my attempts have involved focusing on whatever is happening at that particular moment with laser-like attention until I start to feel sort of dizzy. Frankly, I have not found nirvana in this way. I have not managed to find the key to happiness, mine or anyone else’s. Nor have I really managed to do anything beyond giving myself a mild headache. read more

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