Travel and Happiness

Travel can be so beautiful. It expands our horizons. It gives us new ideas about what life can be, especially when we go to a place rated by the Reader’s Digest, Thrive and Oprah as among the happiest places on Earth. I am here at The Peach Tree Inn in San Luis Obispo. It is my favorite hotel in my favorite location outside of the Loire Valley in France. It is beautiful.

As I look out my windows at the view, I am surrounded by high green hills. I am filled with gratitude for being alive. It is peaceful here. I can see birds flying high in an impossibly blue sky above old Eucalyptus trees. I see green everywhere. I see homes built on grass-covered hills and green mountains in the distance.

I can feel history.  I can fee what this town must have been like 100 years ago. Today it is still a beautiful, small town community where people love where they live, where they  are still able to enjoy life.

San Luis Obispo is a college town. It has great food. It has art. It has college sports teams. It has Arabian horses. It has a feeling of growth and new learning for students in a peaceful and quiet community. There is always something new to do. People have an average commute time of 10 minutes. Everybody walks or rides their bike or drives their cars on wide open, uncongested streets.

What a joy it is for me to get away and remember how different life can be, while I remember my own values at this stage of life.  This calm, peaceful life, art-filled life makes me happy. It is a bit like Thorton Wilder’s Our Town. It creates happy memories.

Is there a place that you love? It might be time to go there, just because it makes you happy.

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Happiness is a Daily Choice

Today I am happy and free. Nothing in this world can trouble me. —Ernestine Shepard – 78, World’s Oldest Female Bodybuilder

One decision can change your whole life. The decision to be happy no matter what may be one of the most important decisions of your lifetime. Life is unpredictable, filled with ups and downs, glorious highs, big surprises, and often bitter disappointments. The outside world is tough to control.

You might be innocently driving down the road with your best friend when a car plows into you, tossing you into the oncoming lanes. Your partner might suddenly become seriously ill. You might lose your livelihood in a corporate cutback.  But there is always hope and worrying about what might happen to you in the future is a big waste of time.

Many people are battered around by external circumstances, allowing their well-being to ride on events that can’t be controlled even by the best of us. Though you many not be able to control life’s hurdles, you can take control of your mind and your heart. You can decide to be happy, no matter what is happening around you.

Waking up with  Joy

  1. Focus your thoughts on joy.
  2. Imagine someone or something that you love.
  3. Let it feel your heart.
  4. Create a new habit by waking up with that loving feeling.
  5. Thank God for this new day.
  6. Who can I serve today? What can I learn today? How can I grow today?
  7. Make sure you get and give enough love today.

Remember, happiness is a daily choice.

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The Emotional Power of Music

Today I had the greatest pleasure because I was thinking about my favorite songs all day long. It all started when a friend of mine, Rhoda, asked me what is your all-time, favorite song?

At the time, I was going to a birthday lunch with another friend and I was in a hurry. I responded without thinking by saying the first favorite song that came to mind, Carl Anderson’s On a Ferris Wheel.  I thought of my favorite songs all during lunch–James Brown’s duet with Pavorrati It is a Man’s World, Rick James and Teena Marie’s Fire and Desire. I asked my friend what songs moved her, comforted her, and made her happy.

That single question put both of us in the mood to remember what we were doing and how we were feeling while recalling our favorite songs. We connected like we hadn’t in years. I wondered, “How do songs have so much emotional power?”  What was it about that song that I was so attracted to? Despite my own growth in years and in musical tastes, why I am still so attracted to it?

Was is it the high notes? Was it the melody?  Was it the artist?  Was it the venue where I first saw the artist? All day long, I was trying to feel my emotions while replaying songs in my mind. Finally, I decided it was the raw emotional impact in music that made me feel so much.

The next time I am greeted with some not-so-good news, I am going to remember that I can control my thought patterns with just by remembering my favorite music and the emotion the music brings. If we ever need an instant uplift that will last for hours, just remember to think about your favorite song.

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Humor and Healing

I woke up this morning thinking about humor. Even the thought of waking up and starting my day with something funny makes me smile. When I wake up thinking about something funny I always feel lighter.  I realized that I don’t think about enough funny things in my ordinary day.

Research shows that the average little kid laughs 150 times to 200 times a day. Contrast that with the average adult who laughs much less than a kid because they take life too seriously, they worry about too many things. I am looking to return to that joyful, laughing kid inside. I am starting my day with humor more often.

I remember a Sean Morey skit on the Tonight Show in the ’80s. The skit was called “Growing up in Reverse.”  The comic said that he wanted to start life out by retiring as a baby and then he would begin his career at 40, but first he would receive a gold watch. And after that he wanted to live out his wild teenage years and when he hit mid-life and be as flexible as a baby in old age.

I remember laughing at all the old physical comedians like Lucy and Carol Burnett. When I think of those shows, the memories still make me laugh. And when I think of the healing humor in movies like Patch Adams, that Doctor helped heal his patients through humor. Humor is good for our souls and it helps heal.

We can help heal almost anything through humor. Norman Cousins has proven that in his well-known book, Anatomy of an Illness as Perceived by the Patient: Reflections on Healing. Whenever we find ourselves taking life too seriously, consider stepping away from our overly serious thoughts and thinking instead about something or someone that has made you laugh, even if it is only ourselves.

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I am a Work in Progress

I was here, I lived, I loved, I was here
I did, I’ve done, everything that I wanted
And it was more than I thought it would be
I will leave my mark, soul, everyone will know, I was here — Beyonce

A friend sent me this beautiful Beyonce song this morning. It is so uplifting. Beyonce clearly knows who she was meant to be and she lives it out so confidently. What causes one person to express herself so boldly and pursue her legacy in public?

It is her beauty? Her sense of style? Her passion for singing? I believe that Beyonce made the decision to be an inspirational force in everything that she does. That if each one of us were aware of the power of our own thoughts, we could create an unimaginable impact on the world, an unbelievable future.

What stops us from knowing? The belief that we are not good enough. “If only, I looked better, was younger, didn’t waste so much time…” we say to ourselves and the list of reasons for staying the same goes on and on.  The untrained mind gets caught up in negative thinking about what is wrong with me. But the positive mind thinks about what is right. That is the way successful people train their mind to think of possibility and ultimately of legacy.

I used to give my college students a paper. It simply asked them to write, “I am…” followed by a list of blank spaces. A blank canvas, upon which they were to create a list of who they believed they were at this moment in time. Then they were invited to read it aloud. It always told a lot about their confidence level and their attitude about themselves. I told them that they could change their minds at any time. And one little change could work wonders in their lives.

If we were to ask ourselves the “I am” question, I wonder what would we say? We might truthfully say, “I am a work in progress.”


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A New Attitude

I’m feeling good from my hat to my shoe
Know where I am going and I know what to do
I’ve tidied up my point of view
I’ve got a new attitude.  Patti Labelle

I adore that song by Patti LaBelle. I love Lady Gaga too. She is the ultimate re-inventor of self-identity. I believe that anyone can reinvent themselves and grow into anything they want to become. It seems to there is a deeply spiritual principle that people who are larger than life, like Oprah, Bette Midler, and the people we admire so much have tapped into.

Look around. We are always growing and the people we admire as artists are always growing in public. Lady Gaga is just so visible in her growth. She is not ashamed or embarrassed at what she was before, so there’s no holding onto the past.  So lighter than air, she continues to grow and to soar.

Many people imagine that these famous women are the only ones, that somehow God has favored them because they are so talented. But we all have the ability to become more visible and to grow and to soar. Lady Gaga just does it publicly and in mega-growth spurts. When we hang onto the past it prevents us from looking ahead at the future, at what we are trying to become. Sometimes hanging onto the past weighs us down so much that we can never fly.

If we do not want to be weighed down anymore, perhaps is time to cut the tether from the past, the way it used to be. When we finally do, it frees us. We will begin to soar, lighter than air. And there will be help from On High. I guarantee it.

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Starting Over

What have I got to lose, if I start back at Square One? My image as a leader and spiritual teacher. No one was beating down my doors anyway. I have always identified as a lifelong learner. So what if don’t remember my spiritual principles and how they apply to me. I’m stuck between the old me who knew too much and the new me who is dimly aware that life could be much better and doesn’t know quite what to do first.

I feel as if I’m caught between two worlds, the healthy, well me and the person who needs to relearn everything I know. But I have hope. It is a new day. I believe that I can be made new again.  The morning sunlight is shining on my keyboard as I write. The Beatles are singing And I Love Her on my Internet college radio station from UC Santa Cruz.  This morning I have returned to a state of innocence in music, in hope, and in gratitude for life.

Last night I did my first exercise in Louise Hay’s book You Can Heal Your Life. I pretended that I was teaching and learning it. There is something strange about a brain injury. I often feel like I am split in two between the innocence of childhood and the viewpoint of a wise elder. The child in me wants to be free and somehow knows that it’s still not yet safe.

The older person feels like I could know everything if only I was thinking more clearly. I want to be happy. I want to grow up safe and free. I want to be a leader again. I want to be a spiritual teacher again and help people who are struck like the unhealed child in me.

Do you ever feel caught between worlds? So hopeful like a child and a teacher who teaches too fast? If so why not integrate the two. Be gentle with the child in you and tell the teacher to be patient and let you learn at your own pace and in your own time.

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