Savor the scent

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Smells can shortcut the synapses and connections in our brain or body and take us straight back to the past. A certain perfume, the ground wet after a gentle rain, cherry tobacco in a pipe, a campfire in the woods, whatever it may be, and our mind flashes to a different time we smelled that smell. Sometimes it takes us right to a time when someone we lost was still with us. Sometimes the smell can calm us or give us courage. Sometimes that smell takes us to a place where we can remember something or someone we once loved. When this happens, we can pause and be grateful for that person or thing. If the smell takes us back to an unpleasant memory, we can pause and be grateful that we survived that particular obstacle and moved on, and we can celebrate our strength.

For a lovely instance of a mother’s smell calming a crying baby, take a look at this video:

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Pleasantries.

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Are pleasantries a thing of the past? Asking after someone’s health and family? Really listening to their answer? Showing concern? Waiting your turn to talk? Making sure your words don’t wound?

For most of us, we can identify moments in our past where we were lifted up or shoved down, and often both of those extremes were a result of someone’s words. What we say has power, and we would do well to wield that power wisely.

 

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So much depends on perspective. When we are mired in a difficult circumstance, it would be helpful to just lift up and fly above it and get a new perspective. Yet we are often trapped in the fetters of our own subjectivity, unable to realize that our current troubles are temporary, and we remain stuck in the problem and blind to any bigger picture.

Corrie Ten Boom was a Dutch watchmaker who, along with her family, sheltered Jews during the Holocaust. Her actions were fraught with danger but compelled by moral certitude. In prayer, her soul took flight and lifted her out of the horror of the day into the beauty of a larger truth.

We, too, can turn to the comfort of a larger power, tap into the stillness behind the chaos, and take comfort that we do not need to have all the answers. We can let our souls take flight.

Stay curious.

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Curiosity is a powerful motivator. It keeps us searching, questioning, wondering, hoping. It keeps us engaged in life. Think of all the things you have left to learn, the places yet to see, the surprises yet to unfold. Sometimes our best days and moments follow our absolute worst.  There is always something next.

Are you a people pleaser?

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No matter what you do, there will be someone who disagrees with the way you do it. Consider this fable:

The Man, the Boy, and the Donkey

Aesop

A man and his son were once going with their donkey to market. As they were walking along by his side a countryman passed them and said, “You fools, what is a donkey for but to ride upon?” So the man put the boy on the donkey, and they went on their way.

But soon they passed a group of men, one of whom said, “See that lazy youngster, he lets his father walk while he rides.”

So the man ordered his boy to get off, and got on himself. But they hadn’t gone far when they passed two women, one of whom said to the other, “Shame on that lazy lout to let his poor little son trudge along.”

Well, the man didn’t know what to do, but at last he took his boy up before him on the donkey. By this time they had come to the town, and the passersby began to jeer and point at them. The man stopped and asked what they were scoffing at.

The men said, “Aren’t you ashamed of yourself for overloading that poor donkey of yours — you and your hulking son?”

The man and boy got off and tried to think what to do. They thought and they thought, until at last they cut down a pole, tied the donkey’s feet to it, and raised the pole and the donkey to their shoulders. They went along amid the laughter of all who met them until they came to a bridge, when the donkey, getting one of his feet loose, kicked out and caused the boy to drop his end of the pole. In the struggle the donkey fell over the bridge, and his forefeet being tied together, he was drowned.

Try to please everyone, and you will please no one.

Poor donkey.

Are you a people pleaser? Do you ever try to please so many people, you wonder if you are pleasing any or if you have lost yourself in the mix? Sometimes people pleasing can live to inauthentic lives spent looking out from behind a mask. Instead, consider this article and these tips for how to honor your authentic self while still acting appropriately in the situation:

  • Ask yourself what you are feeling. Are you afraid of what someone else is thinking of you? Are you avoiding an inconvenient truth or difficult emotion?

  • Allow yourself to feel whatever it is that you are feeling. All emotions are okay; they are a key part of our intelligence and the human experience.

  • Assess the situation. Can you safely share your feelings with others? Would it make you feel better to do so? If yes, go ahead and share. This might feel risky, but authenticity and vulnerability usually create intimacy and connection—two keys to happiness.

  • Decide on an appropriate behavior based on how you’d like to feel. If you are afraid, for example, you might want to choose a behavior to calm your fear, like taking deep breaths. If you are feeling low-energy, you might want to do a few jumping jacks to get your blood circulating.

  • Finally, check back in with yourself to see how you are feeling. Allow whatever comes up for you. You may now be feeling both a sense of calm (from taking a bunch of deep breaths) and a little frightened. It is entirely possible to experience more than one emotion at a time. Or, your blahs might have vanished now that you’ve taken a little walk outside.

 

We are emotional beings, and that’s ok. It is only when we are honest with our emotions that we can honor our inner selves.

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Make time for a beauty intrusion.

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Have you ever been stopped in your tracks by a beautiful intrusion? A melting crayon sunset, the waft of jasmine, a baby’s laughter? These moments infuse the day with depth and magic when we pause to soak them in. And then, to think that these little beautiful miracles are always unfolding around you as you go through the day, but often you just don’t notice–amazing! What a remarkable place we have here.

To experience a bit of awe and magic today, take a look at this gardening swan. Delightful!

Be on the lookout for a beautiful intrusion today.

Spotlight on Home

homeswithinSomething there is in each of us that yearns for home.  Sometimes we confuse that yearning with a physical place. We travel back to that place and wonder why it feels different. What has changed? Why doesn’t it still feel like home? Sometimes we confuse that yearning with a particular time, a past perhaps that wasn’t complicated with today’s troubles, and lose ourselves in nostalgia. Sometimes we confuse that yearning with a particular person and, if we lose that person, wonder if we will ever feel at home again.

But what if home is not a particular place in time but a feeling we can take steps to cultivate? Here are some suggestions that might bring that feeling of home into your life:

Embrace the Now

Think about those times when you felt a deep sense of belonging and contentedness. Chances are, it was when you were lost in some sort of activity, maybe with people you love, and you lost all sense of time. No checklists, no to-dos, no schedule. Just falling into the moment and letting it lift you out of the day into something bigger.

Welcome Others

Remember that old TV show, Cheers, when everyone shouted “Norm” when he came in? A place where “everyone knows your name?” That sense of welcome is something we can offer others. Greeting them, smiling, welcoming them into the conversation or community. That is a profound thing we can do, and that sense of home that we give to them will undoubtedly rebound to us and make that place in time feel more homey for everybody.

Lay Down Your Weapons

It is hard to enjoy someone else’s company when you’re disagreeing with them. Sure, some conflict is necessary and even healthy to life together, but set aside time to come together in harmony with people. Search for the common elements you agree on. Abandon the judgment and criticism. Enjoy a game or activity that deemphasizes competition. Savor the time together.

Use Your Own Definitions

It’s easy in a social media culture to look at other people’s homey pictures and events and think you need to duplicate those exact things if you want to feel the sense of home they’re experiencing. In fact, that’s one of the strategies behind advertising: “Look at these happy people. Don’t you want to be just like them? If you buy our product, you will be!’ But that comparative decision-making is a set up for disappointment. Instead, look at your people and experiences and find ways to enjoy them that are uniquely your own. And then maybe consider holding those moments a bit sacred, away from the instinct to share. Savoring your home life beats bragging about it every day.

Realize Life is Difficult

For many people, that feeling of home doesn’t include suffering or loss or heartbreak, but is this the way it should be? Isn’t that comforting of each other through the ups and downs of life exactly what home should feel like? We don’t need to run from the hardships in life, we just need to be there with each other through them. Everyone’s life has bumps and bruises. We are all vulnerable.  Pretending we aren’t and that we have the perfect home life is just a set-up for disappointment. For those of us who have weathered storms, having a friend or family member down in the trenches with us has made all the difference and made even the horrible experience feel like home.

Make Time for Your People

Who are the people you love and make you feel at home? Are you finding time to spend with them? Sometimes, even when we love people and hold them close to our hearts, we need to schedule time to spend together. It’s a fast-paced world, finding an opportunity to slow it down to spend time with your loved ones is important, even if you have to pencil it in on your schedule.

Your Roots are Global

The connections between you and anyone else in this world exist, no matter how far removed. For an eye-opening experiment into just this theory exactly, take a look at this DNA experiment.  That knowledge of connection to others, even those seemingly nothing like you or even those you hate, can ground you to see others as yourself, to greet others, to befriend others, to join into a global community where you can feel at home wherever you go.

Today, come home.

Happiness around the world.

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Don’t worry. Be happy. There is so much good still left in the world to be grateful for. For a delightful around-the-world look at the secrets to what makes people happy, check out this wonderful compilation put together by Hometogo.com.

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From listening to birds sing in the morning to a shared meal and conversation with friends, these secrets to happiness are shared the world over.

What makes you happy?

Pause.

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The world these days moves at a breakneck speed. Twitter and social media speed it up even further.

We are tempted to respond to everything and everyone immediately with whatever thought first passes through our minds. But is that always our best thought? Once said, can it be retrieved?

Often, it is far better to pause, to breathe, to contemplate before deciding whether what we have to say can meaningfully add to the conversation or will just contribute to the din.