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“With integrity, you have nothing to fear, since you have nothing to hide. With integrity, you will do the right thing, so you will have no guilt.” ~~ Zig Ziglar

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(Photo courtesy of Huffington Post)

Let me begin this post with the acknowledgement that I did not post anything during the month of June. Some of you who have followed me for some time know that I am pretty regular, and it is unlike me to go this long without something to say.

Believe me, I tried. Every time I thought about what I wanted to post for June, I came up blank. I had nothing. I was totally and utterly devoid of anything meaningful to say. And so…I decided to take some time off. It was desperately needed, and this post will explain what’s been going on with me. Get ready, because this one might get a bit deep, but my heart is telling me it’s important to share this. So here goes.

For years now, I’ve been moving up the ladder in the world of Healthcare IT. I began as a programmer, moved into being a Systems/Business Analyst, then into my current role of Technical Product Manager. And on the side, I have been teaching yoga and indoor cycling classes, which you all know how much I love. Being in the IT industry is what enables me to pay the bills and help support my family. Being on the Healthcare side of IT is a super bonus, because healthcare is so much a part of my life. Between my illness, illness with family members, and embracing alternative healthcare to achieve overall wellness, I want to do my part to make everything a little bit better for people out there whose health is suffering in any way. What I do in my full-time job is helping to improve the lives of patients. What I do on the side helps prevent people from BECOMING patients. This means I should be happy and fulfilled, right?

I didn’t realize it, but for over two years now, I’ve been on a downward spiral. I was going through the motions, getting through the day, convincing myself everything was perfectly fine. During this time, I’ve gotten sick quite a bit, and have had several spans of times where my Lyme symptoms have flared back up. I’ve had to call in sick more than I ever have before. I chalked it up to the nature of this chronic illness because…well…I am chronically ill, after all!

Then, on May 11th, it happened. I was at work and by mid-morning, I was NOT feeling well. I had some pain on the left side of my chest, and my left arm was kind of tingly. Then I started to feel really dizzy, so I called my husband and told him that once the dizziness passed, I was going to leave and head over to Urgent Care. On my way to Urgent Care, the dizziness returned. While waiting at a stop light, in the rush hour traffic, all of a sudden I felt like I was passing out. I couldn’t catch my breath, I broke out in a sweat, my fingers went completely numb. I thought, “Oh my God! I am having a heart attack!” But I couldn’t get my fingers to dial 911. So I got out of the car and knocked on the window of the car in front of me, and the driver was an angel from above…she called 911 for me, and she sat with me and held my hand until the ambulance came, and she didn’t leave me until she felt like I was in good hands.

So what happened? Long story short…I had suffered a massive panic attack. And I have been suffering from them most every single day since then, up until about 8 days ago.

They’ve been debilitating, as they always happened in my car, any time my car stopped moving. My doctor talked with me at length about this, and she pointed out that though I have some great tools available that help control stress and anxiety (i.e., yoga, meditation), I was not using those tools. Teaching isn’t the same as doing, after all, is it? She stressed to me that if I didn’t get this under control, then I probably WOULD end up having a heart attack at some point. Hearing her say that so bluntly definitely got my attention.

I said to myself, “So now what?” Well, I relented to doing two things I didn’t think I would do:

  1. I started seeing a professional who specializes in panic and anxiety
  2. I agreed that, at least for now, taking a prescription to manage these attacks was necessary

At first, I felt like the most complete and utter failure, because I thought doing these two things meant that I was a fraud. I mean, I help other people manage their stress and anxiety as a yoga teacher and a wellness coach. If I am having to get help from someone and take prescription meds, then I must be a fraud, right? Wrong!

During this time, I have learned that it’s ok to ask for help. I’ve rediscovered my meditation practice, and have FINALLY pared back on anything non-essential so that I can focus on ME. It hasn’t been easy, as I’ve given up teaching any regular classes. I am strictly subbing or offering special classes as I feel up to it. It’s been hard, because…well, it’s hard giving up something you enjoy. But it was necessary…I can see that now.

The help I’ve received during this time has allowed me to dig in to what was truly causing all this stress for me. Which brings me back to how I started this post.

This time of reflection helped me to realize that the role I’ve been in for the past two years (at two separate companies) was simply not the right role for me. The main responsibilities of my role don’t jive with my innate personality. I can DO the job, sure…but it caused me stress because it just wasn’t who I am. When I really thought about it, I realized that I missed being a business analyst, and an opportunity came my way shortly after that.

Pursuing this role caused a whole new slew of emotions. It is a pretty significant pay cut from where I’m at now, and it’s a “step down” in terms of the career ladder. Does this make me a failure?

My husband and I talked at length…would we be OK with me making so much less money? Would I be considered “less than” because I couldn’t hack it in my current role? My husband told me, “Mel, don’t worry about the money. Is this what you enjoy doing?” I told him, “Yes…I love helping customers solve their problems and then working with a team to make it happen.” And he said, “Then you should go for it. Who cares what anyone else thinks? If it makes you happy, then you probably won’t be sick as much.”

My husband’s a pretty smart guy, and having his support gave me the courage to go for it.

As I was preparing to turn in my resignation at my current job, I was initially scared. I’ve enjoyed working there, and I especially have loved working with my boss. She has taught me SO much, and I also love what this company does for the world of healthcare. More than anything, I didn’t want to seem like a quitter, or come across as a failure.

Integrity is defined as “the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles; moral uprightness.” I decided in the end that no matter what, I was going to be honest about my reasons for leaving. And I felt at peace with it as soon as I decided that. I wouldn’t feel right if I gave a reason that was a lie.

When we talked, I simply told her what was in my heart. That I appreciated the opportunity to have been here, but that the role just wasn’t the right fit for me. Every word I said was completely and 100% honest. And you know what? She totally understood and wished me well.

You see, I approached the situation with integrity. First, with myself…I got really honest with myself about what was making me unhappy and causing me stress to the point where I started having debilitating anxiety/panic attacks. Once I did, an opportunity came my way…an opportunity I think is a true blessing for a variety of reasons. Finally, I resigned from my current job with integrity…this is a company I do truly believe in, but the role I was in simply wasn’t my calling. And that’s OK. There is no guilt that I feel, because I followed my heart and spoke my truth.

Friends, I know many of you struggle with something. Don’t ignore it like I did for so long. Sit with it for a bit. It may be uncomfortable at first, but I promise you…if you meditate on it and really dig in to WHY whatever it is bothers you so much, then you will find the answer. And once you understand what you’re meant to do, go for it and don’t look back! Embrace it, and watch the blessings pour in!

Namaste,

Melanie

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First of all, I must apologize for the lateness in this post. But as you continue reading, I think you’ll get an idea of why it’s taken me so long to get this together.

Since my last post, so much has happened for me…especially internally! Probably the biggest thing that happened is that I finally, after 5 YEARS, completed the curriculum for my 500-hour yoga certification (RYT-500). I’m the type of person who doesn’t believe in slamming in training after training without taking the time to process it and figure out what it means to me, and how I will use it for myself and my students. Or at least, that’s how I approach the things that really matter to me…and yoga is such a huge part of my life! So I took my time and I don’t regret it for a minute.

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(Here I am in front of the Asheville Yoga Center after receiving my certificate…I thought standing in front of this quote was PERFECT!)

Throughout this program, I figured out pretty quickly that I had a passion for working with people in a therapeutic capacity. In my life, there are so many I know who have issues with anxiety, depression, stress, chronic illness, injury…so many people suffering who feel hopeless. And guess what? I’ve dealt with each and every one of these things myself, and yoga has been a huge part in helping me manage these things since 1999. So while I may not be an expert in every area, I truly do feel I know quite a lot, and I feel I can use what I have learned to help others live a more productive and healthy life.

So, I’m done with this wonderful program and I’m thinking, “What now? What do I do with all this in a way that is authentic to who I am?” Several have told me over the past few years that I’d be a really good life/health coach, as I have learned SO much not just about yoga, but about the four pillars of health (Sleep, Movement, Nutrition, Stress Management). I’ve done SO much research over the years, and have found so many useful resources that help me manage my chronic illness…because when I slack in one of the four areas, my symptoms flare and I am MISERABLE!

But ME? A health coach? How would that work, if I am still a work in progress? I mean, don’t I have to be perfect in every way if I’m to coach others to find their healthiest and happiest selves? Am I healthy enough to be a health coach?

After meditating on this for WEEKS (well, if I am being totally honest, I’ve been meditating on this for months), and after doing quite a bit of research and having some heart-to-heart conversations with trusted friends and family, I decided something. When I really thought about it, even though I’m not perfect and am still actively working towards finding my sweet spot, I am doing my best to eat real food, exercise, and surround myself with positivity. And from what I gather, that makes me already WAY ahead of the curve, and that makes me more than qualified to help others.

Ever since I came to this realization, things have been falling in my lap that basically let me know it’s time to stop thinking about it and take action. So much so that this week, I did the SECOND biggest thing to happen to me since my last post…I took a big leap and enrolled in an Integrative Wellness & Life Coach Certification program with Integrative Wellness Academy. I really like their program curriculum, and the best part about it is that I have to go through the whole process myself, which will allow me to really understand what I’ll be putting my future clients through. I’ve already started, and am loving the content. And I’ll be honest…completing the Client Intake Form (which is the first thing a client of mine would need to do) was SO hard! It made me really take a long, hard look at ALL areas of my life and analyze where things are good and where things are in need of some revamping. There were some questions that I wanted to answer in a way that made me look better, but in the end, I decided to be totally and brutally honest. Which was HARD! But also freeing. It felt great to let go of some stuff I’ve been holding on to, and I can’t wait to see how MY coach will help me along the way.

I’m so excited! Excited to learn something new. Excited to know that I’ll have even more tools to help others. Excited to figure out how I will merge what I’ll learn in this life coach program with yoga, so that I can offer something unique while being authentic to who I am.

Part of me is scared to be sharing this, because what if I fail? But then I thought about how many signs have been given to me by God, telling me this is the right thing to do. Because believe me…God knows how stubborn I am, so he knows he needs to bombard me before I’ll actually notice and listen!

However, I know I’ve already helped many  people over the years, because they’ve told me so. This is just one more way for to me to formalize it a bit more, and gain more confidence in my abilities and knowledge.

Also, by putting this out there in BlogLand, I am hoping my readers will hold me accountable. Maybe some of you might even be interested in working with me, allowing me to get some practice and some honest feedback. If this is something you’re interested in, please e-mail me at scyogagirl@gmail.com and let’s try and work out a plan.

Now, does this mean I’m going to quit my corporate job? Not at all. I enjoy my job, and I am making a difference there, so I have no plans to leave that. But this coaching/yoga thing is something I feel drawn to, and I definitely feel it’s part of my future, so I need to see this through and figure out how to work it in to my life. I love the quote above by Martin Buber, as it really sums up how I feel right now…my journey is definitely proving to me that there are destinations meant for me that I am not even aware of yet. And I sure plan on enjoying the journey and learning every step of the way.

Namaste,

Melanie

“A wild elephant has many wild habits. It runs away when humans approach. It attacks when frightened. Our mind is similar. When it senses danger, it runs away from the present.” — Jan Chozen Bays, MD in How to Train a Wild Elephant

Elephant attack (Photo courtesy of www.indiawilds.com)

Over the past several years, I’ve been drawn to elephants. I had no idea why, but I found myself gravitating to pictures of elephants, shirts with elephants on them, elephant figurines…you name it, and I wanted to touch it or have it if it had an elephant on it.

I definitely wondered why I had such a fascination with this animal all of a sudden, and I guess I sort of chalked it up to Ganesha. Ganesha permeates the yoga world…you can’t go anywhere these days without hearing Ganesha in a song, in a mantra, as a figurine on the mantel in a yoga studio, on a variety of yoga clothing…you get the idea. It makes sense. After all, Ganesha is the Hindu Lord of Good Fortune, the Lord of Beginnings and the Remover of Obstacles (both material and spiritual). And let’s face it. Many of us westerners come to yoga because we want to be better human beings, right? If we can remove the obstacles from our lives, we can have new beginnings and good fortune will come our way. Who doesn’t want that?

For me, yoga began as a physical practice. I just wanted some relief from the pain in my body, and some relaxation. Over the years, I’ve definitely evolved into a much more spiritual practice, as you know if you’ve been reading my blog.

Last month, I attended a training towards my RYT-500 certification, and it revolved all around the chakras and consciousness. It got very scientific, which I loved, because I learned SO much about how the brain and the mind work. (For those of you who don’t know what the chakras are, there are a variety of definitions…I refer to them as the 7 main centers of spiritual energy in the body).

In this training, we were referred to the book, “How to Train a Wild Elephant & Other Adventures in Mindfulness”, by Jan Chozen Bays, MD. We didn’t get into the book too much, but as soon as I heard it contained mindfulness exercises, I had to buy a copy for myself. Mindfulness is something I struggle with constantly, so any help I can get to improve this area of my life is most welcome. And I love homework!

Let me just say…I. LOVE. THIS. BOOK! In just reading her introduction, I finally understood my fascination with elephants after all these years. You see, mindfulness is deliberately paying attention  — full attention — to what’s going on around you and within you, right here, right now. It is being aware of these things without criticism or judgment.

Training your mind in the art of mindfulness takes a lot of work for some people. Me, for sure! In the book, the author equates training the mind to be more mindful to training a wild elephant. For example, until the elephant is tamed, it has to be tethered to a stake, have all distractions removed, and have certain tasks repeated over and over again until the elephant learns them. Similarly, to train our minds to be more mindful, we need to practice certain behaviors over and over again until we achieve the calm mind and can incorporate these behaviors without even thinking about them. And when we are more mindful, we can more easily get rid of the things in our lives that make us unhappy.

Doing this is SO hard for me! When I’m at work, I’m on it…I can focus like nobody’s business. But focusing on the things that will help me lead a happier life is such a challenge! I don’t know why, but it is SO hard to practice mindfulness. It literally makes my brain hurt.

Even with a pretty regular meditation practice, I still have trouble staying in the present moment. I constantly zone out, fret about the past, worry about the future. Please tell me I’m not the only one who does this!

If you’re looking to get better at the art of mindfulness, I highly encourage you to peruse a copy of this book. There are a variety of mindfulness exercises for you to practice, all in attempt to help you get better at being mindful. Each exercise has a description of the task and some ideas about how to remind yourself to do it when you need to, a description of other people’s discoveries with the task (their observations and insights), and then the deeper lessons you can learn from practicing the exercise.

For example, the one I am working on this week is “Leave no trace”, where I am to practice using one room in my house where I leave no trace that I’ve ever used it. The kitchen is the room I am choosing to focus on, as I tend to make all kinds of messes in there! The deeper lesson to this exercise is to put a spotlight on the tendency to be lazy. When I’m lazy, it tends to mean that I make more work for others, as they have to come clean up the mess I’ve left behind. That’s not cool!

How am I doing on this one? Well, let’s just say, I might need to spend an extra week on it! But I noticed that I am now starting to realize when I am leaving something in a way other than how I found it. Before, I don’t think I ever paid attention. So…progress is happening, albeit slowly.

There are SO many ways we can practice being mindful. If you are practicing this on your own, I’d love to hear what you do. Reply with a comment and share your tips on tricks on being more mindful. If you don’t have any, no worries! Maybe that’s your sign that now is the time to start a mindfulness practice. I’m here if you’d like my help in keeping you accountable.

Namaste and have a sparkling day!

Melanie

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(Photo courtesy of Top 25 Happiness Quotes)

It’s been about a month since I last posted. Which means it’s been just over a month since I last taught a yoga class. If I’m to be honest, then I have to admit those first two weeks were TOUGH.

Knowing that I was going to go through a period of potential depression over giving up something that’s been such a defining part of who I am for the last 13 years, I took steps to mitigate. (For those of you who know me, you know that my full-time job requires me to do a lot of “project management” sorts of things, so me preparing for disaster ahead of time is just another part of who I am.)

About 2 or 3 weeks before my “retirement” from teaching, I joined a challenge I came across called 100 Happy Days. It intrigued me…all you have to do is post on some sort of social media one thing each day that made you happy…preferably a picture, but that wasn’t mandatory. You just add the hashtag #100HappyDays and voila! And it’s completely free. I noticed when reading about it that most people (over 70%, I believe) don’t complete the challenge.

Well, I love challenges and I’m not a quitter, so I signed up and chose Facebook as my social media outlet. I decided I will NOT be one of those who fall into that 70% category.

At the time of writing this post, I am on day 51. Over halfway through and still going strong. It’s actually become quite vital for me, because not only is it helping ME be happier, but it seems to be affecting others in more ways than I could have dreamed. What started off as being something I felt I needed to do for myself is encouraging others to do the same. It’s so humbling! So many people have told me that they look forward to my posts each day, that I’ve prompted them to look for things in their own lives that make them happy, that I am inspiring them to be happier. Me…INSPIRING others…wow!

As I look back over the past 51 days of my #100HappyDays Facebook posts, I picked up on something. There’s a definite pattern in the things that make me happy. It’s kind of cool to see that pattern because it lets me know there are definite REGULAR things in my life that make me happy. That tells me that I need to make sure I am doing those things as much as I possibly can. The things that I’m talking about are:

  • My daughters. I don’t get nearly as much time with them as I’d like, as they are busy with their social lives and all that jazz. Especially my oldest, since she’s off at college. But any time I got to spend with them, it seems like it made it to one of my happiness posts. Here they are on the day we moved my oldest into her college apartment…this was day #10.

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  • My dogs. They always seem to lift me up when I’m feeling down, they love me unconditionally, and they are the best napping buddies. Here we are together on day #5.

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  • My husband. Many of my posts revolve around the alone time we get to spend with each other, and it seems like we are getting a little more of that kind of time together lately. Whether it be working out together, hanging out and chillaxin’, or hiking at the Riverwalk or lake. Here we are on day #17, enjoying a pre-season Panthers game.

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  • The water. I couldn’t believe, as I looked through my posts, how many of them revolved around my time at the Riverwalk or the lake. Water just seems to calm me down and bring me such happiness. Every time I’m around it, I notice the animals, the waves, the rocks, the trees. I love ocean time as well, but haven’t had a chance to get there during this challenge yet…but water is water, and I’ll take it! Here is a great shot of me and my hubby at Lake Lanier in Georgia on day #31.

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  • My family. I have had an opportunity over these past 51 days to spend some quality time with my parents, my in-laws, my brother-in-law and niece, and one of my cousins. Each time, it’s made it as my happiness post for whatever day it happened to be on. My family is my rock, and they support me in everything that I do. How could I be anything BUT happy, right? Here I am with my parents and my cousin, along with my hubby and daughters, on day #4.

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Now don’t get me wrong. There have been many days during this journey so far where I’ve gotten almost to the end of the day and wondered what in the world I was going to post for the day that made me happy. In other words, I’ve had some bad days. We all do. We can’t have utopia 24/7, now can we? But each time I had one of those days, I was able to scan through my day and find at least one thing. Sometimes it was something small, like on day #7, where all I could think to post about was that the weather was good on that day.

But you know what? Making myself find that ONE thing made such a difference in my attitude. Every. Single. Time.

So I am looking forward to seeing what else I learn as I complete the last half of this journey. What new things will pop up that bring me happiness that I was not expecting? Will I be able to find more ways to include all the things above into my life more frequently, so that I am happier more often? Can I learn to find that one small thing more easily on the days when it seems like everything is hopeless?

Are you brave enough to do your own #100HappyDays challenge? If so, go to their site and sign up! I’d love to know if you decide to join in, so let me know which social media outlet you choose, so I can check in with you. I love seeing what others are posting, as it gives me all kinds of ideas for myself. And if you don’t already, follow me on Facebook so you can join me on my journey to happiness.

Namaste,

Melanie

Yesterday, I gave my 6th Toastmasters speech. This one was to satisfy the requirements for Speech #5 in the Competent Communicator’s manual (I gave speech #8 already, so that’s why this one was my 6th speech). The purpose of this 5-7 minute speech was to work on the skill “How your body speaks”, which means making sure that you use your body in ways that come across naturally, using appropriate gestures and facial expressions, making appropriate use of the space you’re giving your speech in, and making appropriate and adequate eye contact. I do these kinds of things all the time in the yoga classes I teach, but doing them in a more “professional” setting was a little scary to me, I must admit.

I decided to tackle the topic of prayer for this speech. Why? I am not sure, to be honest. Talking about praying in a setting like the one I was planning on can be considered tricky and taboo.

But, just as it happened when I was preparing for my last speech, a song popped into my head that I could not seem to get rid of. There must be something about songs from the early 1990s that resonate with me, because I kept hearing “Pray”, by MC Hammer, over and over in my head. In the chorus of that song, he says, “We got to pray just to make it today.” When he says those words, he’s talking about how we’ve got to include prayer in our lives if we’re going to make it in this tough world we live in.

So, I took it as a sign that I needed to tackle this one. I wrote my first draft and ran it by my mom, my most trusted advisor when it comes to writing…plus, she’s pretty damn knowledgeable about this topic, so I wanted her to help me ensure that I didn’t offend anyone.

The end result? It went better than I hoped, so I was ecstatic! I was able to creatively use my body language to talk about the topic of prayer, and was able to inject a bit of humor into it, which is kind of my signature in my speeches. My evaluator said I inspired her to start praying regularly…that’s exactly what I needed to hear! Some of you mentioned you wanted to be at the speech but couldn’t, so here’s the gist of what I did and said.

I started off by asking everyone to fold their hands in front of them, close their eyes, take a deep breath and relax their bodies. Then I told them to think about something they need in order to be happy.

If it’s something you already have, then think about how grateful you are for that thing. If you don’t already have it, then ask for it. Take in another deep breath, and as you let it out, seal in these words you just spoke to yourself. Now, open your eyes.

Madame Toastmaster, fellow Toastmasters and most awesome guests,

Believe it or not, you just said a prayer. How did it feel? Comfortable? Weird? Scary? Prayer doesn’t come easy to all of us, and it may be because we don’t truly understand what it is.

Today, we will cover what prayer is, different ways a person can pray, and how you can use prayer to help you live a happy life.

What is prayer, exactly?

A prayer is a solemn request for help, or an expression of thanks, addressed to a higher power. In other words, it’s a communication process. It may seem a little weird to think of it that way, since you’re not physically seeing or hearing anyone when you pray.

Many people think prayer is complicated, but I assure you it is not. It is simply an expression of faith that comes from the heart.  When I pray, I like to think of it as my “direct line to the Divine”.

Think of praying like having a conversation with your best friend. Your best friend loves you unconditionally, right? Well, so does the Divine! When you can talk to the Divine like you would your best friend, you’re better able to talk about your needs and what you are thankful for with joy, with confidence and with conviction. These are things that will help your life be a better one.

Time for a pop quiz. Following are three examples of what people might consider to be prayer. One is NOT an authentic prayer. Can you guess which one it is?

  1. “Today, I am thankful for the gift of wonderful friends and family.”
  2. “I just had some medical tests and I’m scared. Please help me get through this, no matter what the results are.”
  3. “PLEASE, let that shirt I saw last week be on sale when I get to the store!”

Got it figured out yet? If you answered #3, you get the gold star! While choice #3 is a request for something, it’s not something that will truly make your life better.

Ways to Pray

Now that you understand what prayer is, you may wonder how to do it. As I mentioned above, prayer is an expression of faith, which makes it universal and part of every religion. Different religions may approach prayer in different ways, but they all have the same purpose when it comes to praying: bringing you closer to the Divine.

Take a look at these images:

PrayingCollage

These are just a few of the many examples I came across when I was searching for images of people from different religions praying. These images show Christians, Buddhists, Jews, Muslims and Hindus all praying. Notice the variety of postures being used. But also notice the similarities…folded hands, bowed heads and closed eyes seem to be commonplace, wouldn’t you agree?

Personally, I pray in different ways, depending on the occasion. Sometimes, I simply sit cross-legged with my eyes closed and my head bowed, and I run through a list of things silently that I need to pray about. Sometimes, I sing my prayers…certain songs just seem to strike a chord with me sometimes, if the lyrics are about something I am feeling the need to pray about. And sometimes, I pray on a verse or quote that speaks to me.

As you can probably tell, I don’t believe there is a “right” way to pray. As long as it is done earnestly and from the heart, I think it counts!

Conclusion: How to Find Happiness with Prayer

I encourage you to find a form of prayer that resonates with you and incorporate it into your life on a regular basis. It doesn’t have to be every day, but try to establish a regular cadence. When you do this, you may notice you are happier. Why is that?

For one thing, remember that you’re communicating one-on-one with the Divine…how can doing that regularly not be wonderful?

Secondly, as you pray more regularly, your prayers will come more and more from the heart, giving them a whole new level of meaning. You find more and more things in your life to be grateful for, you start praying for your true needs (rather than that shirt you really want to buy), and you may also find you start praying fervently for those you love and care for, which gives your prayers a more selfless quality. More meaningful prayers provide you with a sense of security.

Finally, having a heartfelt conversation with the Divine helps you realize you are not alone. Modern life is stressful, after all, and we will have hard times during our lives. But knowing that we don’t have to go through those hard times on our own gives us the courage to be strong and to say “No” to the behaviors that may bring us down.

Remember this guy?

MCHammer

This guy, MC Hammer, had a popular song in 1990 called “Pray”. Listen to the lyrics if you don’t know the song…they really do a great job at expressing why it’s important to pray, in my opinion. In the chorus, he says, “we got to pray just to make it today.” Even 25 years later, these words still hold true.

Find a way to make prayer a part of your regular life, and discover the inner peace and joy that come with it. Then…you’ll find your happiness.

Thank you for listening and have a sparkling day!

Melanie

Yesterday, I gave my 5th Toastmasters speech. This one was to satisfy the requirements for Speech #4 in the Competent Communicator’s manual (I gave speech #8 already, so that’s why this one was my 5th speech). The purpose of the speech was to work on the skill “How you say it”, and I already knew I wanted to talk about the topic of stress. I struggled for awhile, trying to figure out how I could be creative with this one to satisfy the requirements of the project, and I had only 5-7 minutes for the speech. While preparing, I kept getting that song from Salt N’ Pepa stuck in my head…you know the one from 1991, called “Let’s Talk About Sex”? Well, I kept singing it in my head while thinking about this speech, but kept replacing the word “sex” with the word “stress”. Then it hit me…rewrite the chorus to be about stress and start off my speech with it.

I spoke with my Toastmasters mentor to see what she thought, and she loved it. But she also gave me the wonderful idea to have a few other Toastmasters join in with me on the singing. So I hit up three of my fellow Toastmasters that I felt would be game for something like this, and they willingly agreed to help a sista out!

The end result? I think it went really well, and I accomplished my purpose. I was able to creatively talk about the topic of stress, and was able to inject a bit of humor into it, which is kind of my signature in my speeches. Ultimately, I want people to walk away from my speeches happier and motivated to do something to make their lives better. Some of you mentioned you wanted to be at the speech but couldn’t, so here’s the gist of what I said. I wish I would have recorded it, but I completely forgot…maybe I will just have to give it again someday!

I started off by asking everyone to clap along with me, and once everyone got going on that, I launched into singing the first line of my rewritten chorus…the three people I had doing this with me then each sang a line, and I wrapped up by singing the last two lines. Here’s the rewritten chorus:

Let’s talk about stress baby,
Let’s talk about you and me,
Let’s talk about all the good kinds and the bad kinds,
there may be,
Let’s talk about stress,
Let’s talk about stress,

Madame Toastmaster, fellow Toastmasters and guests,

Let’s talk about stress!

We’ve all heard of stress. Throughout childhood and adulthood, the word stress is thrown around quite a lot. You may have said or heard such phrases as:

“My job causes me so much stress!”

“Studying for exams is so stressful!”

Or, if you’re where I was just a few years ago:

“O.M.G.!!! My daughter just got her learner’s permit, and just thinking about her driving STRESSES ME OUT!”

Sound familiar? Merriam-Webster defines stress as a state of mental tension and worry caused by problems in your life, work, etc., OR something that causes strong feelings of worry or anxiety. When you’re under stress of any kind, you undergo a multitude of physical and emotional symptoms that, if left unchecked, can be detrimental to your health. So what do you do?

Let’s talk about…the types of stress. There are two types of stress a person can experience: acute stress and chronic stress.

Acute stress, also known as the “fight or flight response”, is the most common form of stress. It is your body’s immediate reaction to a perceived threat, scare or challenge. Acute stress can be quite thrilling and exciting in small doses, but too much is exhausting. Because it is short term, it doesn’t do extensive damage, and is highly manageable.

A single episode generally doesn’t cause problems for healthy people. However, severe acute stress can cause mental health problems, such as post-traumatic stress disorder, and even physical difficulties such as a heart attack.

Some examples of acute stress would be getting a promotion, getting a speeding ticket…or giving a Toastmasters speech!

AcuteStress

Chronic stress is the grinding stress that wears away at you day after day, year after year. Chronic stress comes when a person never sees a way out of a miserable situation. Some examples of stressors that could cause chronic stress for a person are an unhappy marriage, traumatic experiences, unwanted career or job, poverty, chronic illnesses, relationship conflicts, and dysfunctional families.

chronicstress

Sometimes, it’s difficult to know when you’re experiencing stress. So what are the signs?

Let’s talk about…the symptoms of stress. According to Web MD, common symptoms of stress include:

  • A fast heartbeat.
  • A headache.
  • A stiff neck and/or tight shoulders.
  • Back pain.
  • Fast breathing.
  • Sweating, and sweaty palms.
  • An upset stomach, nausea, or diarrhea.

These symptoms can occur whether the stress you’re experiencing is good or bad, and there are a myriad of other symptoms that can crop up as well.

Take a look at the following clip from Kindergarten Cop, which shows Arnold Schwarzenegger’s character experiencing acute stress:

Recognize any of the symptoms we just covered?

Let symptoms like this go on for too long, and it can cause permanent damage to your entire body. So how do you deal with stress and its effects?

Let’s talk about…how to manage stress. Stress is a part of life that can’t be eliminated. Even the positive changes in our lives, like buying a new house or getting that job promotion, can cause all the unpleasant symptoms we just covered. Therefore, it’s in our best interest to learn how to manage stress in our lives before it gets out of control. There are many things a person can do to manage stress, so it’s important to find what works best for you. The American Psychological Association provides the following tips to help ease stress in your life, which I’ll be giving you more info about after the presentation (here’s the link to the handout I had for everyone):

  1. Take a break from the stressor
  2. Exercise
  3. Smile and laugh
  4. Get social support
  5. Meditate

Personally, I’ve used all five of these tips for myself when experiencing stress, in various combinations, depending on what the stressor is. So now what?

Let’s talk about…next steps. Now that we’ve discussed what stress is, what the symptoms are and how to manage it, you need to do a little homework. First of all, if you suffer from any of the symptoms we covered and suspect they may be due to the effects of stress, then you need to determine exactly what the stressors in your life are. Remember, even “good” stress can wreak havoc on your health, so you really need to figure this one out.

Once you’ve identified the stressors in your life, you’ll need to come up with an action plan for how to manage them. Remember, you have to implement things that resonate with YOU, so don’t sign up for a Zumba class if dancing in front of large groups would cause you MORE stress.

Finally, remember that stress will always be part of your life. But if you can learn to identify when you’re experiencing it and find the techniques that work to help you manage it, you should notice your health doesn’t suffer. And you’ll need to revisit things from time to time, as our stressors won’t always be the same, and the management techniques that work today may not be effective tomorrow. Eventually, Arnold figured out how to deal with his stressors (the kids he was teaching)…take a look at how things changed for him once he did:

See, with a little dedication, stress can most definitely be managed and controlled so that you can lead your happiest life possible.

Thank you for listening and have a sparkling day!

Melanie

Minions_FriendsQuote
(Photo courtesy of QuotesNHumor.com)

Have you ever stopped to consider how important it is to have friends? Or how much of an influence friends have in who you are and how happy you are? I think many of us take friends for granted and probably don’t think too much about what life would be like if we were suddenly friendless.

For the past 6 weeks or so, that’s exactly what my life has been like. Friendless. I didn’t realize it, of course. I talked in my last post about how busy I’ve been. So busy that I’d been neglecting the things I need to do for myself, so I re-committed to getting back on track with working on my happiness. And since my last post, I have definitely gotten better about doing the things I said I was going to. But guess what? I was doing them BY MYSELF.

To be fair, I wasn’t LITERALLY by myself. At golf lessons, I had my teacher there with me. At work, I had co-workers there. At home, my husband and I were able to spend more time together, and we had some family come visit us for the July 4th holiday. And don’t get me wrong…I enjoyed spending time with ALL of these people. But they weren’t my “friends”, if you know what I mean (sorry if you fit into one of these categories, but hang with me here…I promise I am not trying to hurt anyone’s feelings).

My friends…my TRUE friends…are the ones I can unabashedly be myself around. You may think I should be able to be that way around my family and my husband, right? Well, not really…not for me, anyway. Sometimes I have to keep my thoughts and feelings to myself to avoid hurting them or making them worry about me. Sometimes I feel like if I tell them exactly what I am thinking and feeling, they’ll think I’ve lost my ever-loving mind! Please tell me some of you know what I’m talking about on this one!

William Shakespeare said, “A friend is one that knows you as you are, understands where you have been, accepts what you have become, and still, gently allows you to grow.” If you ask some people who know me, they’d say I have a lot of friends. But I don’t. Not really. I can count on one hand (OK, maybe 1.5 hands) the number of people who meet this definition of friend. People I can truly let down my guard with. People I can admit my deepest thoughts and secrets to. People who will tell me the God’s honest truth, no matter what I may WANT to hear.

The past two weeks, I noticed I was really “off”. I was sullen, didn’t want to do anything, had no energy…basically, I was miserable. I first attributed it to the long hours I’d been spending with my full-time job, including a couple of business trips. But last week, I had a normal work week, and some down time, but was still miserable. And I had re-committed to the things I talked about in my last blog, so I was frustrated with why I was not happy.

My gut told me to reach out to my friends. Those people I consider to meet Shakespeare’s definition. Two of them were available to get together with me this weekend…one yesterday and one today. Wow! All I can say is W.O.W.!

Until I got together with the two of them, I didn’t realize how much I’d been starving for some good ol’ quality time with a FRIEND.

When my one friend saw me yesterday, the very first thing she said to me was, “What’s up? Something’s not right with you…what’s going on?” Throughout the course of our conversation, we came to realize that what was wrong with me was that I’d relegated myself to being friendless for at least the past 6 weeks. I was so busy with work and family obligations that I let my friendships fall by the wayside. I realized something was off, and I thought it was with my slacking on the meditation and the other things I mentioned in my last post, so I’d put forth the effort into those things. But I let go of my friends in the process.

I guess I subconsciously realized it, because like I said, I reached out this past week to my friends. During the time with my friend yesterday, she exclaimed at one point that she could already see a difference in my whole demeanor. That I looked so much happier. All from just some good, quality conversation with someone I truly love having as part of my life. Someone who I can be myself around and not feel like I am “less than” when I admit to not being perfect.

This morning, I connected with another friend. One that I haven’t seen in person in quite some time. Yeah, we’ve connected through e-mails and social media, but let’s face it, social media just isn’t the same. Nothing takes the place of that live, in-person time with a true friend. The cool thing was that even though I hadn’t seen her in person in a couple of YEARS (yes, you read that correctly…YEARS), we picked up as if we hadn’t missed a beat. And that’s another sign of a true friend. No blame going on, no guilt trip…just genuine delight in spending some quality time with each other after so much time apart.

I gotta say, I feel so refreshed right now. And I realize, now more than ever, that having friends is part of finding your happiness. So I promised my friend yesterday that I wouldn’t let myself get into this situation ever again. No matter what, no matter how busy I may be, I will make more time for my friends. This past 6 weeks of being friendless has been so incredibly lonely. At least I had my family around, and I know that helped to a degree…I can’t even imagine how strong that feeling of loneliness would have been if I had NO ONE. No one should ever have NO ONE to confide in and talk to.

Ever since yesterday, I’ve had “You’ve Got a Friend”, by James Taylor, in my head. I love this verse:

“If the sky above you should turn dark and full of clouds
and that old north wind should begin to blow,
keep your head together and call my name out loud.
Soon I will be knocking upon your door.
You just call out my name, and you know where ever I am
I’ll come running to see you again.
Winter, spring, summer, or fall, all you have to do is call and I’ll be there.”

That’s how it is with a true friend. When you need them, they are there for you. No matter what. All you have to do is ask them to be there for you. I love that I have a few people in my life that I can count in that category.

If you’re having trouble making time for your friends, take a look at what you’ve got going on and figure out where you can fit them in. Don’t feel like you’ve got to go through everything alone. Don’t assume you’re friends are too busy for you. If you haven’t heard from them in awhile, then YOU be the one to reach out…don’t wait for them to come to you, as that may very well be what THEY are doing…waiting for YOU. Sometimes we think we’re bothering people, when in reality, they are craving time with us just as much as we are craving it with them.

So put yourself out there. A true friend will answer the call.

Namaste,

Melanie

It’s not who you are that holds you back, it’s who you think you’re not. ~~ Attributed to Hanoch McCarty

Several posts ago, I wrote about how I’ve dubbed myself the Happiness Advocate. I truly feel it’s my mission to help everyone, including myself, find happiness. We all deserve happiness, in my opinion. It’s our God-given right. He didn’t create us in His image with the intention for us to be miserable all the time, after all.

In my last post, I admitted I’ve been struggling with my own journey. I’ve gotten a lot better when I do the mirror exercise, though, and I am finding it easier not to pick myself apart in terms of what I see from a physical aspect.

But there is another area in my life where the struggle is worse than it’s been in a LONG time…my insecurity with being “good enough” in the things I do. Constantly feeling like I’m “less than” everyone else and feeling like I don’t measure up. I don’t think I’m the only one who struggles with this…am I?

NotGoodEnough
(My daughter, Morgan, graciously helping me out for this post)

Being noticed for what we do or make is something we all crave. It helps us feel affirmed, to know that we are of value and that we are significant. It’s not wrong to want this, but it can certainly make us feel very vulnerable at times…sometimes to the point of detriment. When we aren’t noticed, then sometimes we resort to comparing ourselves to others.

It’s not uncommon to compare ourselves to others…this is also part of human nature. The unhealthy part about it is when we start to talk ourselves into the notion that the people we are comparing ourselves to are better than us.

    She’s beautiful.
    He’s so amazing with calculations.
    She has a successful career.
    She’s a kick-ass yoga instructor.
    They have more money.
    She gets to stay at home with her kids.
Her house is so pristine…it’s like a museum!

If you’ve been following me for a bit, you know that low self-esteem is something I struggle with, and I thought I’d been very diligent as of late to address it in order to find my happiness. So why has the past month been so hard for me in this area? I seem to constantly be comparing myself to everyone around me, and I come away most of the time feeling like I am just not good enough at the things I do.

Last week, I really started to get frustrated with myself for doing this. I wondered, “WHY? Why have I been beating myself up these past few weeks? Why do I feel “less than” in every aspect of my life…as a professional, as a yoga teacher, as a wife, as a mother, and as a friend? WHY?”

So I took a self-imposed time out and meditated on it a bit. It didn’t take long for me to figure out the source of the problem.

I’ve been so busy lately that I haven’t done the things I need to do for myself. When I get super busy, I tend to just PUSH PUSH PUSH, like a well-oiled machine, focusing on the task at hand until it’s done. I’m such a perfectionist that I can’t stop comparing myself to how others are doing “it” better than I am, so then I get paranoid and start over, trying to be better than before. I drive myself crazy when I do this, but this is how I roll, apparently.

When I get this way, I forget to stop and take some “me” time. As I thought about it, I realized I didn’t remember the last time I’d meditated. And that I’d been very sporadic with my exercise habits. I’d been missing more yoga sessions than I cared to admit. No WONDER I’d been such a wreck and was acting really horrible to myself…again!

During my “time out”, I came to realize two things:

  1. I create these comparisons to others all by myself. No one told me I needed to be better at anything…I did that to myself. It’s ME who subscribes to the “he/she is better than me” mindset.
  2. I have the power to do something about it. It is MY reaction, MY brain…which means I control how I react.

As I meditated some more on it, I knew that I needed to get better at changing my thought patterns and habits. It’s not an overnight change, though. It takes a lot of hard work and practice, and self-forgiveness, to teach yourself to realize how awesome you truly are. So here’s how I plan to tackle this and get my life to a point where I can be happy with exactly who I am, and be comfortable that I am exactly who God intended me to be:

  1. Try new things. A change in routine can be a great way to give yourself a boost. For me, I decided to take golf lessons. My husband found me a nice set of used clubs for a great deal, and then I saw a Groupon ad for lessons at a good deal, so I figured this was a sign from above. I’ve had two lessons now, and I am really loving it. By no means am I the female version of Tiger Woods, but I am loving the way the club feels when it makes contact with the ball and goes (generally) in the direction I want it to. I love the way it feels to be outside on the green, soaking up the sun and feeling the nice breeze. And I like my teacher. He is kind and patient, and he tells me stories that make me laugh when he sees me getting frustrated…when I start laughing, he says, “Now that you’re loosened up from all the stress, try hitting the ball again…Even Tiger doesn’t hit a good shot every time.” And I usually find that I do much better once I let go of having to be perfect and just have fun with it.
  2. Take care of yourself. This means, for me, making sure I exercise regularly, meditate, get enough sleep and eat right. I’ve been doing really well lately with eating the right things and not letting my cravings win. I’ve also recently gotten back into my strength training…I’d forgotten how good it makes me feel to lift heavy things! And I have also picked back up with my yoga practice, as I had let my busy schedule get in the way too many times to count. Now I need to get dialed back in to my meditation practice and getting my sleep back on track. Baby steps and patience will get me there. I deserve to give myself the gift of health.
  3. Be honest. Know your triggers so that you can be aware. When they hit, you’ll be better able to figure out how to take yourself out of the situation before it becomes a problem. Be open with others and tell them how you feel…it’s so therapeutic to share with others. If you keep everything to yourself, it’ll eventually drive you mad. Many times, when you share your feelings with others, you find they totally get it…most of the time, people tell me, “OMG! I feel the same way sometimes! I am glad I’m not alone!” That makes me feel better instantly…to know I’m not all by myself when the poop hits the fan.
  4. Know your strengths. We all have them. Every. Single. One of us. For example, I have a good sense of humor and love making people laugh, and I also love to build people up. I also have a knack for making up silly lyrics to the tune of popular songs, which always makes my older daughter cringe a bit in embarrassment (tee hee hee)! When you can recognize your strengths — and embrace them and be proud of them — you’re less likely to pick yourself apart.
  5. Practice, practice, practice! Life happens and things won’t always be sunshine and roses, so don’t be so hard on yourself when you slip now and then. Practice not criticizing yourself at every opportunity by taking a deep breath and taking a moment to reflect before beating yourself up. Remind yourself of your strengths, that you are loved, that you are beautiful, there is no one else like you, and that you deserve happiness. The more you practice, the more you will be able to resist the urge to compare yourself to others.

At the end of the day, we need to remember that we are all different and we are all beautiful. I need to remember this and believe it for myself. I’ve got my work cut out for me, but I know I can do it. Another strength of mine just so happens to be that I am stubborn! And right now, that is a very good thing!

Namaste,

Melanie

“Mirror, mirror on the wall…who is the fairest of them all?” ~~ Snow White’s evil stepmother

queen(Photo courtesy of Doug Craig)

If you’ve ever read Snow White or seen one of the big screen adaptations, you probably recognize the quote above. Snow White’s evil stepmother utters this quote over and over to her magic mirror throughout her time as queen, and it always told her that SHE was the fairest of them all…until Snow White came along. And then all of a sudden, the queen went to great lengths to destroy Snow White, so that she could once again be the most beautiful in all the land.

Now I know this is just a fairy tale, but think about something for a minute. The queen was just trying to get a little boost to her ego. She had no self-esteem and no self-love, so she was dependent on this mirror to tell her how beautiful and wonderful she was. The thing is, she never believed it herself, and her soul was dark because of it. Snow White, on the other hand, was not only beautiful, but she had a heart and soul that was pure love. Snow White believed she was the best she could be and she was happy with who she was, no matter what her circumstances were.

Sound familiar? I know many people with the “wicked queen complex”, as I like to call it. People who are constantly looking for recognition and praise from others. People who never seem to be happy because they’re always looking for the next round of praise. When I look at these people, I notice they surround themselves with people who tell them what they want to hear, who feed their ego. But when I look at them, I also notice that no matter how much they are told how wonderful they are, they still don’t seem to be happy.

Truth be told, I used to be one of those kinds of people. Heck, I still am a lot of the time. I am working on it, but it is HARD for me. So hard!

For many months now, I’ve been working on improving my health and wellness. I’ve incorporated meditation, I’ve pared back on my commitments, and I am spending more time with my family and friends.

About two months ago, I started working with a friend of mine who is an amazing energy healer. I was having a lot of pain in my legs and in my back and shoulders, and she offered to see if she could help. When she started working on my back and shoulders, she immediately noted that this pain was due to something emotional rather than physical. As she continued to work on me, she said I needed to work on loving myself and trusting myself, and on speaking my truth.

I was floored, because when I thought about it, I realized she was right. I am great at building others up, but I am always beating MYSELF up, always thinking I could be doing something better, always apologizing for everything.

She gave me some mantras and meditations to do, and I eagerly started working on them. I am a very task-driven, Type A personality, so I love it when I get “assignments”. I also ordered an amazing workbook by Louse Hay, “Love Yourself, Heal Your Life”. This book was recommended as a great one to help with developing self-love, and the thought of having a multitude of “assignments” to do sounded like just what I needed.

LouiseHayBookCover

When the workbook arrived in the mail, I was SO excited! I started reading it right away. In it, the author says that you should do each exercise until you’ve got it down and feel like you’ve truly accomplished it before moving on to the next one. OK. Easy enough.

Or so I thought. The first exercise I did is the Mirror Exercise. What you’re supposed to do is stop and look at yourself in a mirror as often as you can, and every time you do, you’re supposed to say something nice to yourself. That didn’t sound so bad.

The first time I tried it, though, was so UNCOMFORTABLE! I looked at myself and immediately wanted to pick apart what I saw.

  •  “My face looks fat.”
  • “My skin looks blotchy.”
  • “Look at those wrinkles on my forehead and around my eyes.”
  • “Is that a double-chin?”

You get the idea. So I closed my eyes, opened them, and tried again. This time, I really looked and STRUGGLED to find something nice to say. So I said something cheesy like, “You have pretty hair” and then walked away, emotionally exhausted from the attempt.

Wow! This was going to be harder than I thought. But I don’t back away from a challenge, so I vowed to keep at it. I thought I was making some progress until I went to my chiropractor this week. He looked at me after the adjustment and said, “You really need to start believing in yourself. You don’t trust yourself at all. You need to trust that you’re worth standing up for.”

Hmm…OK.

Then today, I saw my friend who’s been working with me. I told her I was experiencing some pain again in my back and right shoulder, and she went back to what she told me the first time I worked with her. I told her I’d been working on it but that it was not going so well. She gave me some more mantras, ones I can use with my mirror exercise, so that maybe it will be less difficult for me.

When I got home, I took this pic of myself:

Melanie_05172015

After I took it, I started analyzing it. I started to do what I usually do, which is to pick myself apart. But then I said, “No! Enough! I am worthy. I honor myself and I respect myself too much to continue to treat myself this way.” Then I looked again…not at my blotchy, post-yoga skin, but in my eyes. To me, my eyes look like they truly believe I am worthy, don’t you think? I think my head knows, but it’s my heart I need to work on. I need to believe it to my very core.

Yoga has been wonderful to me throughout the years in helping me believe in myself, but somehow, I’ve lost my way a bit. I think I’ve spent so much time working on my students that I forgot about ME. I definitely have not been very good at practicing what I preach.

Well, that’s going to change. I want to be happy from the inside out. I am willing to do the hard work, even if it means dealing with uncomfortable feelings as they rise to the top. I am worth it. I know that now.

If you’ve never done the mirror exercise, I encourage you to try it. It might be uncomfortable. VERY uncomfortable. And it might feel silly or awkward. But that just means you need to do it all the more. I never realized how hard it can be to say something nice to yourself. But if you can’t love yourself and say kind things to yourself, you can’t expect others to love you and be kind to you. You’ll never be happy…truly happy…until you can look yourself in the eyes and say, “I love you.”

I want to be Snow White, not the evil queen. How about you?

Namaste,

Melanie

For the month of January, I’ve been working with my yoga classes on the concept of sankalpa. This translates to intention, resolve, determination. Many people confuse this with setting resolutions (as in New Year’s resolutions). However, sankalpa is much more than the typical superficial resolutions most people set. When you create a true sankalpa, it is much deeper. Here’s how I’ve been explaining it to my classes:

A typical New Year’s resolution might be something like, “I will lose 10 lbs.”, or “I will pay off my debt.” Heck, we may even get a lil’ deeper than that and say something like, “I will change my career to be something more meaningful.” Sound familiar?

I’ve set resolutions like this myself almost every single year. Do I ever achieve any of them? Sometimes. But I notice that when I do, I never really feel the sense of accomplishment I hoped I would. Do you ever feel like that when you reach some goal you’ve set for yourself? I mean, it’s great to lose some weight or pay off debt, but it’s all about ME when I set these sorts of resolutions or goals.

When you set a sankalpa, it’s meant to be something that not only affects YOU, but also those around you. At least that’s how I like to look at it. Let me “break it down like a fraction” as my husband likes to say, and give you my personal example.

If you’ve been reading my blog for any length of time, you’ve probably noticed that my posts have become more philosophical, especially over the last year. For quite some time now, I’ve been trying to figure out my purpose in life, as I really wasn’t feeling like I was fully doing what I was meant to be doing. As I was working on my first Toastmaster’s speech in November, it all came together and hit me like a ton of bricks. All the soul-searching I’d been doing finally opened my eyes and helped me discover what I truly feel is my purpose in life…to be a Happiness Advocate, as I like to affectionately refer to myself now. I performed the speech in early December and posted it here on this site, as I felt it was relevant to the material on this blog.

Well, between then and now, it feels like my life is on warp speed…in a great way! So many opportunities are coming my way and I wondered, “Why? Why am I so lucky all of a sudden? What did I do to deserve this?”

I’ll tell you what I think happened. As I wrote that speech – as I figured out my life’s purpose during that process – I also set my sankalpa, my intention. Without even realizing it. My intention is to find happiness and infect everyone around me with it.

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(See? Even my Raspberry Leaf Yogi Tea fortune agrees with me.)

First I had to start with myself, because I can’t expect to make anyone else happy if I’m not happy with my own life. And Gosh Darnit, I’ve been working at this for a REALLY long time and I finally AM happy. I know what makes me tick and what brings me joy. I learned that to truly be happy, I have to find the good in EVERY situation I am faced with. Every situation, no matter how bad it may seem, is presented to us for a reason. There is always a lesson to learn, and it’s from those lessons that we grow into the people we are meant to be. Most importantly, I learned that be happy, I need to love myself…and I do…I definitely, FINALLY, love myself. Now that I look at life through that lens, how can I NOT be happy?

Now I’m not saying that I am always rosy and cheery and all that. We all have bad days, after all. Days when I think, “Why isn’t this happening FAST enough?”, “Why can’t I do THIS yet?” But I quickly change my thought process to, “What is the positive in this? What can I learn from this?” When I do that, I find that smile and that sense of peace.

Magically, it seems like people are starting to notice.

  1. My yoga classes are getting bigger and my students are TRULY leaving with smiles on their faces. Is it because I’m this uber-amazing yoga teacher who has the most awesome sequences EVER? No…if you have been to one of my classes, my sequences are nothing crazy or special. Is it because I’m so graceful on my mat when I teach? HECK NO! Again, if you’ve been to my classes, you know that I rarely do the poses with you, and when I do, it is obvious just how UNgraceful I am in most every pose I do. I think people are coming back because they can see I’m happy. Authentically happy. I wear my heart on my sleeve (or tank, if it’s warm in the room), and I think people appreciate that I am real. Real clumsy, real nerdy, real goofy…real HUMAN.
  2. I’ve been given some new yoga opportunities, most notably, helping to lead a retreat in Aruba in November 2015. Click here for more info on that…I’d love for you to join me if you can!
  3. I’ve already talked in past posts about my full-time job and all the cool things that have been happening on that front.
  4. I’ve been nominated for something at work that is wellness related, and it’s all around this journey I’ve been on. I don’t know if I’ll win, but just being nominated is…well, WOW!
  5. I’ve been asked to share my story at a gathering coming up for people who suffer from chronic illness, to show that you CAN come out on the other side. I was told I was asked because I have a “happy energy”. I’ll take that!

Here’s perhaps the coolest thing of all…at least to me. This past weekend, I went to an energy session with a couple other ladies at this really beautiful space in Monroe, NC called The Inn and Rosehill. It was a gift from my parents for Christmas and my birthday. It was five glorious hours of dabbling in Reiki, numerology, and intuitive healing. WELL…during the numerology session, it came out that my soul’s urge is to…WAIT FOR IT… Make. People. HAPPY! Seriously, I can’t make this stuff up. See the pic for yourself. Can you say V-A-L-I-D-A-T-I-O-N?

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(Here’s the write-up from the Numerology results…cool, huh? In the middle box, zoom in and you’ll see it says “Joy Soul’s Urge”.)

Seriously, all this hard work I’ve been doing the past couple of years, trying to make sense of so many things thrown at me…it’s paying off. And something tells me more is to come. I’m only just beginning, I can feel it!

Yoga has been crucial in all of this. It allowed me to cultivate patience when I struggled to understand something that was happening to me. It allowed me to appreciate my breath and how healing it can be. It allowed me to develop my meditation practice. It allowed me to realize that I am beautiful, no matter how clumsily I move or how much my body changes due to medications. It allowed me to figure out what my sankalpa is…not just for 2015 but for the rest of my life. Most importantly, it allowed me to find happiness. Won’t you join me and let it help you find YOURS?

Namaste,

Melanie

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