Category Archives: joy

Christmas Cards in October?

Christmas Cards in October?

Yes, I’m one of those people. I start working on Christmas cards in October. Typically, I’m ordering something around now, though there have been times in the past when I would have already received my order and begun hand-addressing the envelopes. (My list is about 125 people so it takes some time.)

This year, though, I am not sure what I’m doing. Yesterday I browsed through some online card templates; and today, while at Costco, I saw some very pretty boxed card sets. But somehow, it all fell a bit flat.

It’s entirely possible that the dullness is the result of this lull I’m experiencing. A lot of things are falling flat lately, so it’s not just the cards. But the cards truly gave me pause, because it is one of my favorite things about the holidays: giving and receiving cards. It’s a symbolic gesture that says: I’m thinking of you. I love it.

I think that’s why it feels flat. Nothing I’ve seen has sparked that moment of “I’m thinking of you” within me. It actually feels more like an obligation than a joy. And that’s exactly what gave me pause.

When something that has previously carried the spark of creativity, love, and imagination loses its sparkle, it becomes obligation or duty… and there’s no joy in that.

I know that there are times in our lives when both obligation and duty are required, but they truly are limited to the smallest minority – like, maybe 5% or less. The rest of the time, most of our daily lives are ruled by either routine or joy, with routine often in a significant majority. It’s the joy component that most interests me.

How do we make joy out of routine? How do we protect our joy in light of the requirements of routine? Is it truly all about attitude? Choice? Perspective?

You’re probably expecting an answer here – but the truth is: I don’t know. I watch people all around me, every day, going through the motions of life, their heads buried in their phones or computers, or projects, barely looking up to recognize what’s going on around them. It saddens me. I’ve been party to it – still am, sometimes – so I know it’s a difficult pattern to break, especially when we don’t have a motivation to do so. There’s no reward, it seems, to breaking the habit of daily living.

I think that’s the biggest issue facing our society today: this idea of an immediate tangible reward. We’ve gotten to where we can’t tolerate failure, so instead we accept habitual mediocrity. It’s not just coloring within the lines, but allowing someone else to choose all the colors and their placement for us. It’s life without risk… and also without reward.

Which means it’s also a loss of joy. Pure true unabated joy.

When was the last time you laughed so hard your abs hurt? 
Or your heart filled with pure unconditional love and gratitude? 
Or you smiled so deeply that you began to cry? 

These are all expressions of joy. Pure joy.

For me, I will probably send out Christmas cards this year, though I am giving myself wiggle room and might send New Year’s cards instead. Because, if I don’t feel joy in creating and addressing them, I don’t want to send out a message of “obligation” instead of a message of “thinking of you.” As we know, everything carries energy. Even our correspondence. I’d rather wait or skip a year, instead of sending out something just to have done it.

And I think that’s a healthy question we can ask of most everything in our daily lives, don’t you?

xoxo,
Martina

A Return to Authentic Joy

Over the last few weeks I’ve been focusing heavily on the roles Hope and Fear play in our lives on a daily basis. In light of world events, it seemed to be a topic I needed to address. It’s not enough, however, to talk about Hope. Though it’s important, it’s equally as important to discuss Joy. And frankly, we all could use a bit more joy these days, don’t you think? But how do we find our joy? What does that even look like?

One of the primary issues my clients come to me with is a feeling that they’ve lost their way. They wake up one morning, usually later in life, and say, “How did I get here?” or “What’s this all for?”

It’s a bit like an existential crisis – though over the years I’ve narrowed it down to more of a lack of authentic joy. As a result, one of the early questions I ask clients who are expressing this need is:

“When you were five years old, what brought you joy? What made you belly laugh?”

This question not only serves to create a language and discussion around joy, but it reminds them that they know what joy feels like, and that they once experienced it effortlessly.

In a recent example, I had a client whose answer was simply: “My dog,” which, in a panic, she immediately followed with: “But I don’t want to have a dog right now!”

I reassured her, “Don’t worry – you won’t have to go get a dog to rekindle your authentic joy.”

After talking through her experience of having a dog at 5 years of age, and why it was the first thing she thought of when asked about joy, we uncovered what the dog represented for her, which turned out to be:

  • play
  • unconditional love
  • companionship

This client was single, had great friendships and relationships with others, but felt she was missing the elements that she thought would allow her to play, feel free to be herself, and share that joy with someone else.

Once we identified this as the path back to adding more joy into her life, we could then work out how, when, and why these things were important – as well as how she could incorporate these various aspects in her life.

As children, we laugh freely, love openly, and live joyously. Our lives are mostly well-cared for by someone else, which allows us to be ourselves more completely. As adults, the reverse is true. Not only do we feel that we often need to “be” something other than what we are, we also spend a lot of time managing things for others. As a result, we can feel disconnected from ourselves, and from authentic joy.

In my experience, the path back to authentic joy involves these steps:

  1. Remembering what brings us true unabated joy,
  2. Understanding what it represents,
  3. Seeking it in a new way, and
  4. Adding it back into our lives.

This is the recipe I have developed for returning to a more joyful state of being. For me personally, it looks like having music playing throughout my day (I like to sing), making time to reconnect with friends near and far, and prioritizing time in nature. What does it look like for you? :)

My Story of Grace

I am so excited to share this news with you. 365 Moments of Grace is out TODAY and I’m a Contributing Author! In its pages, I have shared my personal story of Grace – how I found it, what it means to me, and how it’s ever-present in my life…even when I forget. Like last week.

I took last week off from writing a blog, because I was overwhelemed by the recent tragedies in our world. My system simply needed a little R&R to reboot. While I was resting, I started writing about what I was experiencing, thinking, and feeling. As I wrote, I was reminded of the importance of grace in our lives, especially when everything seems to be unraveling. So, the timing of this book couldn’t be more perfectly aligned. (I’ll be sharing what I wrote in an upcoming blog, too.)

As such, I’m so happy to share this book with you! As a contributing author, you’ll see that this is a collaborative work, and I think it’s ingenious.

365 Moments of Grace is a daily devotional created around a central idea (grace) with over 250 authors sharing their stories and wisdom. Most devotionals have a theme and a single voice, which sometimes can feel repetitive. In our book, each voice is unique, which gives a much broader perspective to the topic. Awesome!

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I hope you find this book to be a wonderful source of calm and grace in your year ahead. And frankly, I hope you consider purchasing it today – because we would love to be ranked as a “bestseller” on our launch day, a title that can be shared among all the contributing authors. (Until I reach that status on my own – which I know is just around the corner – it would be lovely to reach it as part of a collaborative soulful effort.) 

If you’d like to support us in reaching our “bestselling” status, and more importantly, to add a wonderful inspirational book to your bookshelf, please buy your copy today, by using this link. This link is personal to me, and will actually support me as one of the authors (albeit a teeny-tiny percentage), which would be additionally awesome, and greatly appreciated. Feel free to share it with your friends and family too. Of course, you can purchase the book at any time, and an e-book should be coming out in a couple of months, too.

As always, I appreciate your support, thoughtfulness, and encouragement on this journey of mine, as I keep writing and helping others through theirs.

xoxo,
Martina

P.S. There are over 100 (!) Bonus Gifts available from various authors when you purchase the book, including my very own hand-drawn mandala on Grace. Check them out, here.

I’m Just Me.

Last week I wrote a poem, but hadn’t decided when/where or if I would share it. I showed it to a friend and she said, “Oh my gosh I love it!!! It has a bit of a Dr. Seuss feel to it which I love. I can see this accompanied by some great illustrations Way to go!!! xox”

Then I woke up to this news: It’s Dr. Seuss’ birthday today! He would have been 112. So, in light of that synchronicity… I give you

“I’m just me.”
——————
I’m just me and that’s all I can be.
You’re just you and that’s all you can do too.
And it’s more than okay
for us to be that way,
Because we don’t need to be other stuff to make us enough.

We don’t need the praises, the things, and the approval.
In fact, too much of that stuff is cause for our removal
From who we are inside, what we know to be true,
Like when you look at me, or I look at you.

When we look in the mirror, too often we stare with fury.
We don’t see the love, the joy, and the beauty.
We stress over what we are not, or wished that we were,
Like him, or them, or anybody… especially her!

We notice the hurt, the pain, and the flaws.
We only see blemishes, while craving applause.
We want what we think will bring peace to our hearts.
We search for the answers in everything that keeps us apart.

Apart from ourselves, apart from each other,
Forever in competition, one always better than another.
There is no judgment, no comparison to be made,
Because we are all perfect – inside and out – in our own ways.

So, you just do you, and I’ll just do me,
And together we’ll make this world
A happier place to be.

©2016 Martina E. Faulkner

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How Non-Attachment Enhanced My Birthday

Last week was my birthday, and it was one of the best I’ve celebrated in a long time for many reasons, but especially this:

I practiced non-attachment.

Everything throughout the day was a gift. The text from an old friend? A gift. The call from across the pond? A gift. Three small celebrations with family and friends? All gifts.

Absolutely everything in my day was filled with joy, because I wasn’t attached to any of it. I was in a space of non-attachment, and non-attachment allows you to move through life with more grace and ease than practically anything else. 

So what is non-attachment?

To begin with, let’s identify what it’s not. It’s not detachment. Detachment still requires there to be something else to detach from. Non-attachment has no such requirement. Detachment is a response to something, non-attachment just is.

Non-attachment isn’t the same as not caring, however. Non-attachment is about not having an investment in the outcome. It’s a process of divestment, in which the object is not just no longer a focus to be for or against, but there is no object. Non-attachment is about transcending expectations to arrive at a place with no suffering, because there’s nothing to react to or push against or for.

Everything just is. 

If I had not been practicing non-attachment, like in years past, I would have wondered where certain texts, calls, or cards were and why I had or had not received them by now. I would have been mired in the story my brain made up about the situation, rather than simply not creating a situation to begin with. In making up stories about why, I would have been stuck in a cycle of expectation and suffering.

Instead of creating stories and situations, I chose not to invest my time or energy into these questions or anything related. I went through my day and saw every incoming birthday wish as a bonus. There was nothing to push against, there was only the open arms of receptivity to what is. And as a result, I had one of the best birthdays I’ve had in a while, filled with love and celebration.

I’m not saying non-attachment is easy (there were one or two “why haven’t I heard from x yet?” thoughts that popped up). But I am saying that a practice of non-attachment makes life easier. It also opens us up to greater possibility for joy, creativity, and innovation, because we have freed up significant mental and emotional real estate in our minds and in our time… and those are probably the best gifts of all.

7 Lessons for Living (or what I learned on my book tour)

I just finished my last public event of Book Tour 2015 on Sunday night. We had a wonderful evening, with really thoughtful questions from attendees and a courageous volunteer. It was a great experience, and I’m now going to take some time off until the end of the year so I can rest, restore, and write. (Don’t worry, I’ve pre-loaded my blogs, so that you don’t miss a week of inspiration.) :)

Over the past seven weeks, I have learned a lot about marketing, events, and engagement. I actually think these lessons apply to life in general, not just book tours and public speaking, so I thought I’d share some of what I learned along the way.

1. Follow Your Heart. It sounds so cliché, but it’s true. This is a simple piece of advice that I have heard over and over again that seems to be difficult to employ. Here’s what happened when I did: I found peace. Peace, for me, is comprised of calm, joy, and confidence. Following my heart meant that I wasn’t attached to specific outcomes, and I was allowing myself to be guided by what I knew to be true in my heart, rather than what I was told to expect or desire. It’s a way of moving through life more intentionally, letting go of the “shoulda-coulda-woulda” dialogue that keeps us stuck.

2. Live Deliberately, not by Default. This was not something “new” that I learned on tour, but was reinforced for me repeatedly. It is something I have learned, practice, and teach my clients. Living deliberately requires strength and vulnerability. It’s the difference between choosing to show up or just being somewhere. It would be easy to dismiss it as an attitude, but it’s more than that, it’s an action. It’s active choice. During my tour, when I chose to deliberately show up as all of who I am, from my heart, everything seemed to work and flow better. When I chose to simply be responsive to life around me I felt stifled, which created opportunities for the Doubt-Monkeys to come frolic in my mind.

3. Doubt-Monkeys are My Friends. This was new for me, and may seem counter-intuitive, but it’s true. Doubt is a natural component of being human, especially when you’re choosing to be more visible. Interestingly, I have learned that doubt can be a great motivator to go deeper. I used to feel despair when the Doubt-Monkeys showed up, as if I would never get to a place of zero-doubt, which would be an indicator of authentic alignment. It’s simply not the case. I’ve come to learn that when the Doubt-Monkeys come knocking, they’re actually bringing a hand-delivered invitation to stand taller and recommit to my purpose. The Doubt-Monkeys will only run rampant, if I see them as uninvited guests. When I look for the messages they’re offering (which show up as triggers), I am able to embrace their arrival and learn something I needed, which often leads to their swift departure.

4. Investigate All Assumptions. We all know the pithy phrase, right? To “assume” makes an “ass” of “u” and “me.” Well, it works both ways when you assume. Assumptions need to be verified. Whether or not I assume anything, positive or negative, it needs to be checked out. If I assumed someone was doing something for me, I ran the risk of being let down. Conversely, if I assume that nothing is being done then I am taking on too much (by believing “I have to do it all”), and subsequently overwhelming my system. The bottom line here is: ask. I know we sometimes fear asking questions, but it costs nothing to ask, and there is so much to be gained.

5. Expectations Create Obstacles. This is, again, something I think we all know, but don’t necessarily have at the forefront in practice. It goes along with assumptions. Expectations create assumptions, and thereby create obstacles. Expectations need to be vetted. They need to be explored, understood and then communicated. If not, they can become giant hurdles in your path that either make you overextend yourself or actually have to turn around and repeat your steps in a different way. U-turns and obstacles are the result of unexpressed expectations, both of which can lead to compromised health, time, or purpose.

6. Make Room for Your Favorite Things. Since I was traveling for an extended period, I chose to pack some items that would aid me in my down time. That means I had a mini coloring book and markers, my favorite teas, my greens drink powder, a couple books, and my favorite music. These are the items that I reach for when I need to decompress, restore, and reconnect to myself. They fuel my body, spirit, and mind and have become trusted tools in my toolbox, so I made room for them in my luggage and my days. Making room is about honoring your Self and choosing to be a priority in your own life.

7. Joy Is Important. This was perhaps the most important reminder along the way. It’s important to have fun, to instill your practice with joy. Whether you are a teacher, a lawyer, or a janitor, no matter what you do for a living, it’s important to infuse it with some joy. It will go a long way to creating a healthier environment in which to spend your 8-10 hours/day, and it will help those around you do the same. Even if you have a serious job, such as being a trauma surgeon or EMT, it’s important to layer elements into your life and work that make your heart smile. Joy is important.

Of course, there’s always more to be learned and remembered, and this was certainly not the entire list from my tour, but I like the number 7. It feels good, balanced. Even if you choose to focus on only one of the items on the list, your life will change for the better. In fact, that’s often what I recommend: choose one thing, focus on it and allow yourself to witness the changes it creates. Then, once it feels good, choose another.

That might be lesson #8, though I think it’s the basis of all lessons, really: Choice. Choice is possibly the most powerful tool in your toolbox. It empowers and emboldens us to live more fully, with more meaning and more joy… and what can be better than that?

What Are You Doing With Your Life? (Or How I Reconnected to My Verve.)

When people are doing what they’re meant to be doing, it’s evident. They have a certain glow about them. A radiance. They’re aligned with the infinite power of the Universe and it simply can’t help but pour out through every inch of them.

It’s in how they walk and how they talk – how they’re most human – that they express this pathway to the Divine.

Jen Pastiloff is doing what she is meant to be doing.

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Post-workshop glow.

She’s one such example that I had the good fortune to spend three hours with this past weekend at her ‘Manifest-Station: On Being Human’ workshop at Moksha Yoga in Chicago.

It was one of the best workshops I’ve ever been to. Hands down.

How do you define what Jen does? How do you explain what she accomplishes in the time span of 3 hours, or about the length of your typical NFL football game? She herself has asked this question. In many ways her workshop defies explanation, though there are many adjectives to describe it: amazing, miraculous, transformative, beautiful, stunning, to name a few. It’s easy to gush about it, but hard to actually explain how it all happens.

And yet, it is also quite simple:

Jen reconnects you with your humanity.

In fun, engaging, provocative, and thoughtful ways, Jen combines music, movement, and moments to open you up to that which you are and that which you’ve been hiding.

Through a series of writing prompts Jen invites you to explore obstacles, beliefs, patterns, and love. Through basic yoga movements, Jen gets your body (and soul) up and engaged in the process. She has developed a workshop that takes you on a journey of the heart through the doorway of the body, using the physical senses of touch and sound.

As a person who has done a lot of work on herself (a LOT!), I admit to being somewhat skeptical (but hopeful) as I walked through the door. I wasn’t quite sure of what to expect, emotionally or physically. Physically, because I have a less-than-awesome foot right now and haven’t really done any yoga in about 8-10 years, I was more than a little scared about what lay in front of me. The good news is: you really don’t have to “do” yoga to do the workshop – which was exactly what I needed! Jen has said it repeatedly, but I was unsure if it was really true. (It is!)

But what about the emotional?

It was nothing that I expected, and everything I needed. Between the yoga poses we wrote, explored, and shared. Between writing we moved, laughed, and sang. We even had a hug fest and a dance party! We held each other up as we sat alongside one another, connecting at the most human of levels. It truly is a workshop that opens you up to see, feel, and understand yourself in new ways.

I have followed Jen on social media for about a year, perhaps less, maybe more. Even though I had heard about the workshops and read the glowing reviews, I still thought: “what could I possibly do that I haven’t already done?” (aka: all my aforementioned “work.”)

In my life, I have walked through my long tunnel filled with obstacles, suffering, and fear. I have turned over every stone and pebble along the way and fought hard to reclaim my life, create my life, and live my life; and I have come out the other side of that dark musty tube with a full and ever-expanding toolbox. So, I honestly didn’t expect too much. And yet…

And yet, it wasn’t necessarily something “new” that I learned, but rather a new way to look at that same thing, and thereby explore it differently. This led to understanding it differently and ultimately, embodying it differently. Embodying my truth differently, with more presence, joy, and VERVE. (Yes, I said verve. When was the last time you heard that word? Lol)

And that’s what Jen does: she reconnects you to your verve, your humanity, to humanity, in general. She creates a space in which it’s not only safe to be human, but celebrated. It’s a gift. Jen is a gift. She is walking her path with grace, love, and joy. And the joy is contagious!

When I find something that I feel is extraordinary, I have to share it. Jen is extraordinary, her workshop is extraordinary, and the fellow attendees are extraordinary, no doubt because of who Jen attracts and supports by simply showing up in life.

To Jen, my immense thanks and deep gratitude for showing up, walking your path, and sharing that presence with those around you. You are the real deal. It was a gift and a pleasure to share that space and time with you. I look forward to our paths crossing again.

To learn more about Jen, please visit her website at jenniferpastiloff.com and check her out on social media, where she posts regularly.

FINAL NOTE: This is important. Jen is expanding her workshop to reach the younger generation of girls. Can you imagine how different your life would have been as an adult if someone had taught you as a teenager to know you are enough, just as you are? Jen is doing that. You can tell it’s her passion. So, if you have or know any girls ages 13+ near Princeton, NJ and 16+ in NYC who could use this experience and learn at a young age that they are enough, check out Jen’s upcoming workshops in September, titled ‘Girl Power: You Are Enough.’

Speaking to Joy

Recently, I was speaking with a client that is venturing into the online dating world, and this came out of my mouth:

Find someone who speaks to your joy, not your fears.

So often in life we look for a mate who meets certain criteria, because it’s what we think we want or are told we want. We look for things like: successful, attractive, sense of humor, tall, etc. All of these things are great and not necessarily fear-based. But if we scratch beneath the surface just a little bit, they actually are. Here’s why:

All of these criteria are externalized to your joy. Therefore, the criteria themselves are based on some internal fear that you are experiencing for which you want someone else to fill the void. Another way to say that is:

When a desire is based in the energy of lack, rather than joy, we are setting ourselves up for future disappointment.

It’s an idea worth exploring, because nobody (nobody) can fill an internal void. What a partner CAN do, however, is help to expand your existing joy to where you end up filling the void yourself.

That’s what I mean by finding someone who speaks to your joy. Now, what does that look like?

If you think about people (friends, family, etc.) who already exist in your life and make your heart smile when you’re around them… that speaks to your joy. It’s not about external attributes. It’s about recognizing how someone makes you feel.

Therefore, the question isn’t:

  • Who are they?
  • What do they do? or
  • How do they look?

The question should always be:

How do I feel when I’m with them?

If you can answer that with a smile, you’re more than halfway there. :)

Three Stages of Love

In my experience, there are three basic stages of Love. And they usually occur in this order:

love agaveBe loving. Simply stated: Love others and love yourself, through your words, thoughts, and actions.

Be lovable. This is not about being cute; it’s about being receptive to love from someone else. Surprisingly, this can be a real challenge for many, but I’m here to say you are 100% WORTHY of love, exaclty as you are.

Be Love. Do 1 and 2.

Ok, so #3 is one of those “wisdom statements” I referred to in an earlier post. It’s simple and true…and somewhat airy. Here’s how to make it accessible:

Let your actions, decisions, words and thoughts come from the space of love inside you. If you embody 1 and 2, you will “Be Love.” In other words, allow the idea of Love as an energy, a thought, a feeling, to guide you in your day. Use it as a barometer against which you measure your decisions. If, for example, something is out of alignment with Love (like gossip, for instance), you have a choice. You can always choose something new, something different. Always.

Some practical questions you can ask yourself as you choose to Be Love:

  • Is this thought coming from a loving space?
    (If not, where is it coming from? Fear? Anger? Hurt? – How can you change it?)
  • Does this action/decision support my intention of being loving and lovable?
    To myself? To others? (<– see what I did there? Put yourself first.)
  • What is the loving thing to do in this situation?

Life can be hard. Life can be a struggle. This is not about being perfect. If, for example, you “mess up” and say something out of fear or hurt (or exhaustion), love yourself back into alignment by apologizing, or making a different choice the next time, or whatever you think would be a more loving response than what you did. (I speak from experience here.)

This is all about engaging in the process and allowing yourself to make different choices, being more open to a life filled with Love, both giving and receiving it. Because Love is the essence behind everything you are, and everything you desire (not to mention: creativity, prosperity, and joy!).

To live life as a dog.

For dogs there is no yesterday and there is no tomorrow.
There is only now, and there is only love.

Evening watch
Love of food.
Love of sleep.
Love of play.
Love of walks.
Love of their owner.

 

And seemingly, all of these things bring joy. Yes, I think dogs “worry” when they sense their owner is sick or anxious. Yes, they sense fear… but they don’t seem to carry it forward. What happened yesterday isn’t true for today, and won’t be true for tomorrow. “This morning” doesn’t necessarily exist when it’s dinnertime.

So, how can we live life more like a dog? Well, I think the greatest gifts the dog can teach us are these: joy, loyalty and rest – all of which are unrestrained. Unconditional.

When you watch a dog at play – it seems joyful. They’re not concerned about whether their stomach is sucked in, or their tail is long enough or what breed they are. There is a ball and there is someone throwing it for them. Joy.

Watching a service dog stand by its owner in the midst of complete chaos, and only have eyes for its owner’s needs, is the purest example of loyalty I’ve ever seen. It transcends the animal nature that lies within and demonstrates a capacity of service and loyalty beyond measure.

And rest. Dogs know how to rest. They know how to seek their own space in the middle of a family event when they are tired. No apologies, no guilt, simply rest. Their bodies need it, so they do it.

Of course, all these things are encompassed in an animal that knows how to give and receive unconditional love. They don’t keep a running tally in their mind of when you last gave them a treat and whether or not you deserve a lick or two. They simply love, without strings and without expectations.

So, although our colloquial language isn’t there yet, I think it would be quite an honor to be referred to as a “dog.” Instead of being derogatory, I’d allow it to mean I had achieved some measure of peace and greatness, that I was a good friend and companion. And above all, that I knew how to live and love with a joyful heart, unconditionally. Woof!