The Wonderful Things

A few weeks ago, I posted a follow up piece to ‘The Wonderful Things’ titled ‘The Single Most Important Thing I Do For My Kids Each Day’ (you can read it here.) This post is the original, which some of my readers have requested I re-post. This post was actually written a couple of years ago, but it is still something we do in my home every night. My kids are almost teenagers now, and they love it just as much.

I have recently started a new addition to our bedtime ritual. As I tuck each of my boys in at night, I share something wonderful that I had observed about them during the day. My boys call it ‘The Wonderful Things’. It has quickly become a much anticipated part of bedtime, and it is regularly talked about during the day as they wonder what behaviors will make it into the prestigious category of ‘The Wonderful Things’. I started it as a way for me to let them know that I appreciate their efforts. I believe that growing up is hard work and that the daily rituals that have become habitual and natural to me as an adult are still being learned and practiced at their stage in life.

What I did not expect is the enormous shift in their behavior. The moment they knew that I was paying attention, they started to pay attention. I started receiving more random hugs and offers to help. There is less resistance toward picking up dishes, brushing teeth, cleaning rooms, etc. I find it interesting to observe how the simple act of conscious awareness helps us to make the choices that reflect how we want to carry ourselves in the world.

I must admit, this new ritual takes real effort in observation, and as I am learning to be more aware of their behavior, I’m beginning to become more aware of mine. I quickly realized that I never take time to look at ‘The Wonderful Things’ about me. I’m very quick to notice the things that I do that are not wonderful, and in fact, those ‘not wonderful things’ stick with me for a very long time and shape the way I view myself.

My practice of observing the beauty and grace in my children has now evolved into seeing the beauty and grace in my husband, family, friends, nature, music, and even myself. And just like the shift that is happening in my children, I’m feeling a shift, too. The more aware I am of my own wonderful things, the more I want to express it. One of my favorite quotes is by Genpo Roshi, which states, “God, Goddess, Koan, mantra, anger, fear, hope, faith…I become that on which I’m concentrating.” I’m beginning to see how much truth there is in that quote.

I challenge my readers to take a day or a week, or a lifetime to shift your awareness. Make an effort to see only the wonderful things about yourself, your family, your friends, your children and your life. I promise you that what you will find is a different world entirely.

MM2

Do What You Love and the World Will Love You Back

A few years ago, my husband and I joined some friends for a ski weekend at a resort nestled in a small community. At the end of the day, we gathered in the lodge for good food, good beer and live music. The mood was mellow as we enjoyed the satisfying fatigue that comes after a full day of skiing. The band consisted of a few local folks who likely traded their time playing music for dinner and a beer. It was an eclectic group of middle-aged men dressed in flannel shirts and work boots, and one unassuming woman. (Unfortunately, I don’t remember the name…) As they took their place in the corner of the room, guests continued to talk among themselves.

As the band began to play, the energy of the room shifted. The tiny clusters of conversation that scattered around the room all stopped to listen. As the members synced up with one another, their energy enveloped the entire room and we couldn’t help but be drawn in.

And then this incredible, powerful, woman stepped up to the mic. This woman, who moments before could have disappeared into the shadows, stood with so much presence that even the pause of silence before she cleared her voice demanded full attention.

She began to sing.

Raw. Radiant. Robust.

I was hooked.

The energy of this woman and this band continued to light up the room, and every person was dancing, moving, grooving, and enjoying the power that comes from a group of people who share what they love to do with others.

And that is the key. They were in love with what they were doing. In love with the music. In love with the performance. In love with each other and each of us. That kind of passion and joy is what draws people in. As an audience, we couldn’t help but be in love with them, too. It doesn’t matter if you’re sharing your gifts with 3 people or 30,000 people…It’s about going all in with whatever lights you up, and not being afraid to show your enthusiasm for it.

Whatever you ache for, excites you, brings you pleasure, lights you up, and opens your heart is your thing. That’s your gift; it’s the thing that you are here to express and share with the rest of us. It doesn’t matter if it makes sense or fits in with the norms of society. If you love it, that’s the only sign you need.

And what if you’ve never discovered passion like that?

Keep searching, because it’s there.

Sometimes we deny ourselves pleasure for so long that it begins to atrophy, and we’re not even sure what we want or enjoy anymore. If that’s the case, you’ve just got to start working out those pleasure centers of your body—just like building a muscle, you can build up your relationship to pleasure. Start by indulging in the little things that bring you joy. What would you like to do now? Do whatever small thing is possible at the moment. Maybe you want to eat ice cream for breakfast, or go for a drive just because it feels good to get away. Maybe you want to watch a cheesy movie, or doodle on a scratch pad. Whatever it is; do it like it’s the most important thing in the world—because when you meet it in the moment—it is.

Place pleasure at the center of your day. It doesn’t mean you have to skip out on all of your obligations, just shift your perspective to recognize that your joy and pleasure is critical. It is what leads you to the gifts you have to bring to the world.

And once you’ve found something you love; go all in.

Step through all the fear, all the doubt, all the insecurity and excuses and reasons why it doesn’t make any sense…and share it with the world, because that is when you draw people in and give them the gift of you.

Step into what you love.

Share what you love.

Be what you love.

And the world will love you back.

mandala2This beautiful Sun Lotus Mandala is a wood carving created by my talented friend, Mike Langenheim. Check out more of his work at www.michaellangenheim.com