First, how are you coming along with your journey to living a wholehearted life? Do you find it difficult adapting Brown’s theories and guidance into everyday life? I must admit, for myself, it’s difficult to completely change your way of thinking, but I do find myself asking more questions about the decisions I am making. For instance, there have been several instances when things didn’t go according to plan. I became visibly frustrated and resentful. For example, my landlord, bless him, is a bit disorganized and aloof. For the past six months, not one of my rent checks were deposited. I was a little speculative in the beginning as to why, but I realized, after piecing some clues together, that he had just forgotten about us altogether. The biggest clue was his lack of presence, but despite running a relatively medium-sized real estate business, he still manages to forget to deposit checks- for six months. In the back of my mind, I knew they were going to be deposited at some point, but there was a tiny shred of hope that he just threw them away without realizing. Of course that wasn’t the case. One day out of the blue, he calls me. That was the first I had heard from him since the day the window to my back door was accidentally shattered by the lawn-care folks, which I had to call him about and which still isn’t fixed. Hence, the lack of presence. So he leaves a message because I don’t like to answer from numbers I’m unfamiliar with, but I listened to the voicemail. He called to inform me that he has forgotten and lost track of time and realized he had six months worth of rent checks not yet deposited and that he was physically on his way to the bank to deposit them. You can imagine the frustration, as I was hastily fumbling around in an attempt transfer the amount into my checking account. I called him back and stayed as calm as humanly possible, despite the anxiety, anger, mix of emotions running through me. After I hung up, I couldn’t control my emotions any longer. Then thoughts from the book came rushing back to me. You know what? It’s okay to be emotional. It’s worse bottling up these emotions. I need to let this out. But, why am I so angry? He’s such a terrible landlord! But I knew he would deposit it them at some point. It was inevitable, really. What’s being upset going to accomplish? Nothing. Am I really angry at him or am I upset because things didn’t go according to my plan? I realize, at that moment, that I was practicing self-compassion. I could be as angry as I wanted, but I knowingly chose to not feel that way. I felt compassionate towards my landlord and towards myself. I knew that he was doing the best he could, and sure he forgot, but regardless that money was owed to him anyway. There was no reason to be upset. I just needed to step back and be mindful of all the circumstances involved. I had no idea how much this book had already affected how differently I would respond to situations. Before, I would’ve been upset, but I would continue to brood and be resentful. Instead, I actively chose to let go of those negative emotions, and I am all the more happy for having done so. Don’t get me wrong, there are instances when little reminders of what I’ve read pops in my head at just the right moment, and then there are other times when I wish I had reacted differently. Like you, I am still learning. Like you, I am still finding my balance. And like you, I am not perfect.
Tell me about an instance in which you were practicing wholehearted living. How did you feel about it afterwards?
Cultivating Gratitude and Joy
Brene explains that one must practice gratitude on a consistent basis in order for an attitude of gratitude to translate into a behavior of gratitude. Brene emphasizes that a thought of gratitude is not the same as, aloud, stating with what you are grateful. So I urge you everyday, not just during November as I have seen so many of my ‘friends’ on social media proclaim, to state things you are grateful for, but the key is doing it aloud. No one necessarily has to hear you, but when we take a moment out of our day to remind ourselves why we are grateful, it produces joy. So, right now and aloud, state the things for which you are grateful. It seems that gratitude without practice may be like faith without works- it’s not alive.
Happiness is tied to circumstance and joyfulness is tied to spirit and gratitude. What are your thoughts on that sentence? According to Brene’s studies, people attribute happiness to chance and luck, but joyfulness is the effect of the decisions we, as individuals, make and we are responsible for the joy we let into our lives. Neither happiness nor joy is constant; no one feels happiness or joyful all the time. Happiness is attached to external situations; joy seems to be constantly tethered to our hearts by spirit and gratitude. It’s highly important to put ourselves in situations that make us joyful. What are some things that make you happy? Adversely, what are some things that make you joyful? What is getting in your way to achieving both happiness and joy? Lastly, it is worth being a part of your life if it prevents you from happiness and joy?
One of the biggest points I related to in this guidepost was the idea of scarcity and fear. Brene states that there are moments as a mother when she realizes that everything she’s ever wanted was present in her life: her children, her husband, her career. But there’s a constant fear that, at any moment, these things could be stripped from her, as if life is just too good to be true. Do you suffer from moments like these? I do. I honestly thought I was the only one who felt this way, and to read Brene’s comments on fear truly struck me. There are moments in the day when I think about my life- the boyfriend I adore, the family I love, the career I’m passionate about- and think it’s too good to be true. I’m scared of these things being taken away from me. Something crazy will happen, and I will be left with nothing and no one. Being alone is one of the biggest fears of mine. I would never openly say this, but I feel since we are being honest with one another, I can state my true feelings. Marianne Williams states that, “joy is what happens to us when we allow ourselves to recognize how good things really are.” It’s difficult for me to understand this, but the more I think about it, the more it makes sense. We, as humans, will always fear of having nothing, and sometimes that leads to us not being grateful for all the things we have. We need to begin to let go of that fear and appreciate all the things that make us joyful.
Cultivating Intuition and Trusting Faith
Intuition is a rapid-fire unconscious associating process. What silences our intuitive voice is our need for certainty. Faith is a place of mystery, where we find courage to believe in what we cannot see and the strength to let go of our fear of uncertainty. How many times have you asked a friend if an outfit looks good on you even though you already formulated an opinion for yourself? That is the easiest reference I can make, because despite the fact that I love fashion and follow it more than I should, I always finding myself needing a second opinion when it comes to what I wear. Unfortunately, my boyfriend ends up dealing with the task of saying “yes” or “no.” Let me tell you, he does not enjoy it whatsoever. It’s the idea that we always need confirmation. We never want to be too different, set ourselves so far off the beaten path that wandering eyes begin turning in our direction. Sure, we always want to feel different, but only different enough where we can still be accepted. Does that make sense to anyone, or am I speaking for myself here? I know I always feel that way. It is our innate desire to want to feel accepted, despite our yearning to be unique. Faith is essential when we decide to live and love with our whole hearts in a world where most of us want assurances before we risk being vulnerable and getting hurt. To say, “I’m going to engage whole-heartedly in my life” requires believing without seeing. Part of living the wholehearted life means understanding that intuition and faith come before acceptance. Trust what you know. It’s okay to believe in yourself and believe that you know what’s best for you.
Creativity, which is the expression of our originality, helps us say mindful that what we bring to the world is completely original and cannot be compared. When you are practicing creativity, you are connecting with the seemingly unconnected. Oftentimes, creativity is at a constant battle with comparison. We constantly compare our lives to those around us- Do our neighbors drive better cars? Are their lawns cleaner? Is my child learning as fast as the kids in her classes? Are my clothes better than my friend’s? We lose our chance to be creative when comparison takes over our heart. What are you passionate about? What really makes feel connected to the world? It doesn’t necessarily have to be a form of art. There is not a list of things that you must participate in order to be creative. Creativity comes in all forms- writing, dressing, painting, photography, mothering, teaching, speaking. There is no one formula, so to say, “I’m not the creative type,” is ludicrous. We are practicing creativity when we set aside all the ways we feel we should behave, dress, etc. and begin cultivating meaning in our lives. How are you creative?
Cultivating Play and Rest
A critically important component of wholehearted living is play! In today’s culture- where our self-worth is tied to our net worth, and we base our worthiness on our level of productivity- spending time doing purposeless activities is rare. When was the last time you played? The last time you goofed around for the sake of it? The last time you let go of all the things you had do and just lived in the moment? We must respect our biological need for play, because the things we learn as children are ingrained in us forever, and one of those things is the concept of play. So, even if you have to pencil it in, schedule yourself some time to play. Go the park. Have a picnic. Dance in front of the television. Whatever play means to you, do it. Your life and joy are dependent on it. As much as we need play in our life, we need rest just as much. Somehow many of us still believe that exhaustion is a status symbol of hard work and that sleep is a luxury. We are a nation of exhausted and overstressed adults raising overscheduled children. I loved when Brene talks about the ingredients of a joy-filled life. She made two lists: one where her family listed what their lives looked like when things were going really well and the other list was a dream list of the things they wanted. She realized that the dream list only included acquisitions and accomplishments, things that directly got in the way with her family’s joy. She could achieve the salary she wanted (dream list) at the cost of spending more time with her family (the joy list). The things we were working toward in terms of making our life fuller. Sit down and take a moment with your family to write out these two lists. Are you already living the life you wanted without realizing it? It’s easy to forget how wonderful our lives are when we are constantly feeling things are never enough, and honestly- that is the biggest obstacle to our own happiness. What does happiness and joy look like for your family? What is your dream list? Do they counter one another? What changes are you willing to make in order to prioritize your happiness and joy?
Cultivating Calm and Stillness
Calm is creating perspective and mindfulness while managing emotional reactivity. People who can bring perspective to complicated situations and feel their feelings without reacting to heightened emotions like fear and anger are examples of calm people. I love that Brene says it’s okay to take a moment to yourself to think. We don’t always have to have the answer right away, and it’s okay to ask for a bit of time to think over our emotions and how to react. Calm is contagious, especially around children. They experience calmness when the adults around them are practicing calm behaviors. I think children have a keen sense of how others feel, especially in anxious situations. The best example I can offer of this is how Britney acts around her children, especially Lynlee. I have never seen a more patient and calm adult. Lynlee is quite the feisty little girl, and Britney’s calm spirit is the perfect remedy for her little girl’s easily-excitable behavior. Britney is teaching Lynlee the ways of calmness, and it mirrors in her actions. Calm parents teach calm children. When was the last time something bothered you? How fast were you to react to that situation? Did you stay calm or did you make your sentiments known right away? Of all the guideposts, I think practicing calmness may be one of the difficult for people. All the proof I need has been posted all over social media these past few weeks. When it comes to politics, people tend to overreact very quickly. Everyone thinks his opinion is the right opinion. How oxymoronic is that? The concept of an opinion means there is not a right or wrong one, yet so many people feel the need to bombard their thoughts on you regardless. In the same token, as opinionated as people seem to be these days, they are just as close-minded. It’s interesting and underwhelming to read the relentless number of posts that, in its essence, says, “I’m right. You’re wrong. Oh, you want to tell me why you think I’m wrong? I’m not listening. I’m right no matter what. You’re stupid.” Have you seen this happen? It can’t possibly just be me. It’s okay to be passionate about something and to feel with every fiber in your being. It’s also okay to stay calm when someone disagrees with you. The world is full of people who will disagree with you. It’s your choice how you react to them.
Cultivating Meaningful Work
We all have gifts and talents. When we cultivate those gifts and share them with the world, we create a sense of meaning and purpose in our lives. What are your gifts and talents? Is what you’re doing reflective of these gifts and talents? I think the difficult concept to understand here is that our gifts and talents don’t have to be so epic that it is world-changing. Our gifts can be as simple as cooking, alphabetizing, talking to people, writing, dissecting, managing, speaking a foreign language, telling great stories, etc. So again, what are your gifts and talents? When we don’t use our talents to cultivate meaningful work, we struggle. We feel disconnected and weighed down by feelings of emptiness, frustration, resentment, shame, disappointment, fear, and even grief. That doesn’t mean quit your day job because you feel meaningless doing it. Don’t think about why it’s frustrating you. Instead, think about what you can to add more meaning to it. We are in control of our lives, which means we are in control of our joy and happiness. If you continue to look at your job as mundane and meaningless, chances are- it will stay that way. However, you also have to choice to recognize your gifts and talents and determine how those things can help make for a more meaningful work life. What changes can be made to your everyday life that would help you cultivate meaningful work? Are you ready to make those changes?
Cultivating Laughter, Song, and Dance
Laughter, song, and dance are so woven into the fabric of our everyday life that we can forget how much we value the people who can make us laugh, the songs that inspire us to roll down the car window and sing at the top of our lungs, and the total freedom we feel when we “dance like no one is watching.” Laughter, song, and dance create emotional and spiritual connection they remind us of the one thing that truly matters when we are searching for comfort, celebration, inspiration, or healing: we are not alone. It’s funny to me that this is a guidepost, because it almost seems like second nature. Everyone wants to experience this kind of joy- the joy we feel when something makes us chuckle; the joy we feel when our favorite song is blaring on the radio; the joy we feel when we’re moving along to the beat of a song unknowingly. However, in a society when so much is dependent on being accepted and staying within the parameters of normalcy, we often forget these life pleasures. When was the last time you partook in any of these things? Did it seem natural to want to laugh, sing, and dance? How many people were in the room? I will be the first person to admit that I love all of those things and in no particular order, but I only feel the most comfortable expressing that kind of vulnerability around my closest friends. Laughing, not so much. Singing and dancing: most definitely. I cannot sing to save my life, and I won’t pretend like I can. I am comfortable enough with my lack of abilities to admit that, but it takes a courageous person to begin dancing in an empty room around mostly strangers. I am not that courageous, and I think it’s okay to feel that way. You don’t always have to put yourself out there, but at some point, you want to let go of your insecurities and let loose and experience the joy that comes from laughing, singing, and dancing.
After reading through everything, how do you feel about really beginning your journey of wholehearted living? What are some key points you’ve learned? What disagreements do you have, if any? Do you feel enough? Do you feel worthy of love? Do you feel alive? How so?
Remember: “Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”