Focus on Your Pleasure Points… 3 Steps to Maintaining Good Mood Momentum

sunset-circle-topI love my mornings – they’re peaceful and sacred to me. That is, until the dual leaf blowers start. As I’m pouring my first cup of coffee, on cue the maintenance crew of a nearby grocery store fires up not one but two blowers that are so loud they could be in my living room. This aggressive noise is one of my pain points (especially in summer when there were about two leaves but they kept at it for the requisite 15 minutes).

When I worked for an interior designer I noticed that much of her job was to remove minor but daily irritations. She’d replaced banging trash cans and toe-stubbing ledges and viola… a happier homeowner.

It’s not so easy though when a pain point is coming from a source you have no control over. A car alarm during your precious meditation time or a co-worker who stops by to chat when you’re in a state of creative flow – certainly your familiar with these sharp pokes.

Annoying? Yes. But they also can take you from feeling light and cheery straight into a dark scowl, or worse, the dreaded downward spiral.

Those leaf blowers are SO loud! They’re really annoying me. My peaceful morning is now shattered. I woke up in a great mood and now I’m cranky and it’s only 7:45 am. I should be better at maintaining my cool. No, it’s not my fault. It’s their stupid fault. They’re ruining this neighborhood. I should move. Oh yeah, I can’t afford to move right now. I’m a loser for not being further along and able to afford a lovely home where I have more control over my environment. I’m stuck. This sucks.

 

Wave goodbye to the sunny mood momentum. And with it, there goes your intuitive guidance and sense of flow.

So what can you do instead?

After a number of irritable mornings, I tried a new response. Between sips of warm coffee and bites of sweet fruit, I opened my notebook and wrote pages about all of the pleasurable stuff in my life. Immersed in my own thoughts as they tumbled onto the page, the annoying noise seemed to disappear. I didn’t even notice when they turned off.

And that’s the key. Create a bevy of pleasure point go-to’s and grab onto one immediately when a pain point arises. Sensory experiences are a great way to counteract your irritation and replace it with what you truly deserve – peace and joy.

A car alarm flairs up during your meditation? Light some lavender incense and do a couple yoga poses till it passes. As your over-chatty co-worker appears, click into your collection of cute kitty photos or serene landscape shots and glance at them frequently as they prattle on.

These small moves can prevent the downward slide that can wreck your whole day. You might not be able to eradicate the pain point, but when you focus on your pleasure instead you keep control over your experience of it.

Here’s the 3-step way to stay in control of your good mood momentum:

1. Know your pleasure points. Make a list of easy to reach feel-good experiences. Think about what feels good to look at, listen to, taste, touch, wear and do. Gather supplies and be prepared.

2. Know your pain points. When you’re aware of what pushes your buttons you can have a conscious response instead of succumbing to a sneak attack.

3. Be ready to shift gears as soon as a pain point surfaces. Choose how to react and remember how good your pleasure points feel.

The biggest payoff may be this: What you focus on expands. The more attention you give to your pleasure points, the more satisfied and in control of life you’ll feel.

My pleasure point list is long and highly satisfying. Good thing now that it’s autumn… Bring on those falling leaves.

sunset-circle-bottom

Embracing Earthy Energy

Iris budI opened the front door this morning and the sweet, warm smell of freshly mown grass rolled into the house. I peered out over the exploding fuchsia Rhododendron blooms and saw the first irises unfolding their silky layers and splaying into fragile plumes. Bird songs filled the air, like a soundtrack for the cinematic colors and lush textures of spring.Iris4

When the Sun in in Taurus, we’re more in tune with our physical bodies and the pleasure we derive from our sensory experiences. We gravitate toward what nourishes us, both physically and on a soul level. Just-picked strawberries and tender asparagus (or maybe for you it’s bar-b-que’d ribs on the grill) soothe our souls. After the wrapped-up winter, our skin welcomes a brush of soft air and it’s mild enough to linger with another under the stars.

Iris3aIt’s the perfect season to ask: What moves your soul? Maybe it’s cooking an al fresco dinner for friends or going to see live music at your favorite local spot. Indulge. Let yourself feel it, hear it and taste it. Relish. Let the physical world nurture your deepest and most authentic you. Luxuriate. irisPleasure leads to well-being. And well-being is the sister of intuition – you’ll get in tune with the signs and symbols that grace your life and show you the easier, more natural way.

So go ahead and linger in the morning bakery, sip the cold glass of chardonnay in the garden while admiring your irises and give someone you love a back rub. It’s all sweet music to your soul.Iris w&p

The Pink Moment

For many years now I’ve had reverence for “the magic hour” – that brief time before sunset when the light becomes golden or amber or pink. It’s the photographer’s sweet spot, providing a boost of glowing color and shadowy definition to natural scenes. A friend once said it makes us look like “Italian goddesses,” and sometimes when it bathes my surroundings I feel like I’ve been transported into a Maxfield Parrish painting.

My latest collage – “How Do You Spot a Blessing?” – was inspired by how this magical time seems to calm me down and make my soul smile. So, I was thrilled to read the paragraph below in a Conde Nast Traveler article on Ojai, California (the state is a slight obsession of mine):

…Ojai has been a cherished place for any number of California cultures over the years: the Chumash Indians who first settled the valley; citrus and avocado ranchers; theosophists; Krishnamurti; and Hollywood stars, who’ve long owned discreet retreats here… All of them are drawn at least in part by the town’s famous “pink moment,” a fleeting period before sunset when the jagged Topa Topa Mountains that frame the northern edge of this fertile valley take on a dusky-rose hue: It’s an enchanting time that draws the eyes up and clears the mind.

It’s an enchanting time that draws the eyes up and clears the mind…

Sunday evening I was sitting on a bench overlooking the Delaware River sharing a tall Negro Modelo (leftover from our byob Peruvian lunch) with a good friend. We were deep into a meaningful conversation when puffy pink clouds started to float over the mountain across the river. A few of the trees were just starting to exhibit the golden leaves of fall, and the pink light made them glow a vibrant orange amidst their green neighbors. The puffs turned to streaks and soon the sky, the river and my friend and I were all bathed in lavender light. I stopped him mid-sentence and told him about the pink moment. We were silent for a bit, looking up and appreciating the beauty. Soon everything greyed out into dusk and we finished the warming beer. Our conversation continued, but we both came back to it with a slightly heightened sense of awe about the beauty and magic that appears, and disappears, with each day.

Blessing blended small
“How Do You Spot a Blessing” is a digital collage I made from photos I took in New Orleans, LA; Rhinebeck & Woodstock, NY; and my own backyard (the pink sky and dark trees). May it bring you some clarity. And, remember to look up.

Love Note #1

It’s easy to love what we perceive as our own good qualities – bakes killer brownies for friends, loves unconditionally, always helps a seemingly lost pooch, lends an ear when needed. But what about our faults, are they lovable too?

gorgeous chaos

It’s no secret that self-love is the key to feeling peace in your soul. Just try it. Look in the mirror and say, “I love you,” to yourself. It may feel uncomfortable at first, but it gets easier the more you do it. Wink at yourself, flirt a little. Let it feel fun, pure and warm.

Some days doing this exercise is harder than others. You made a bad decision. Your words hurt someone you care about. What the hell is your life about anyway and why haven’t you figured it out by now? In these moments where fear and doubt have gripped you, are you still lovable? Do you still deserve your own love?

These are precisely the times when it’s imperative to love yourself. Berating yourself and withdrawing your compassion toward yourself will create a downward spiral into desperation and confusion. More bad decisions will be made. Guilt heaped on. Flame doused.

Love your mistakes as much as your triumphs because the goof-ups help you to grow. They point directly to where your attention needs to be – not as a reprimand, but as a guiding light. Love the part of you that doesn’t know how to do it better yet, because that part of you needs it the most. Like fertilizer on a droopy plant.

Then take it one step farther and love your pain. Love the hardships and the whole mess of life. Not because you want them to continue, but because you want them to transform. Love nurtures positive change. Acceptance yields a sense of compassion. When we feel safe to admit our mistakes or look honestly at what isn’t working, we can begin to see through a lens of love toward a better way.

Love is a balm and love is a catalyst. Love all of yourself – dark, light, happy, sad – and feel yourself bloom.

bleeding hearts

Soul Liberation: The Trail Not Taken

Sometimes we feel like we’re at a crossroads.

AT sign in HF
We check in with our head and our heart.

We quiet our mind and try to hear the small, still voice that guides us in a way our brain may not understand.

Often that yields an elegant and true feeling answer.

But sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes we need to detach from the either/or, the this/that, the right/wrong.

Maybe there is no wrong.

Maybe we should be looking for a third option.

frozen canal in HFA new avenue.

One that may appear treacherous at first glance. Impassible. Risky.

But gorgeous in its simplicity. Easy on the soul.

It’s foreign and familiar at the same time.

It’s a leap. But if you land with grace, it might turn into a smooth skate.

Or there might be an opening.

ducks in canal in HF close

To meet new friends. To find a new community.

Feel warmth amidst the crunchy ice.

To bathe in a small pool that promises nourishment and freedom.

To feel home again, in harmony with ourselves.

Embrace the Mystery

In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks. – John Muir

The Ramble 1

 

 

 

“[The Ramble was intended to be an] intricate disposition of lights
and shadows [to] create a degree of obscurity not absolutely impenetrable, but sufficient to affect the imagination with a sense of mystery.”
– Frederick Law Olmstead, co-designer of New York’s Central Park

 

 

 

 

The earth has music for those who listen. – George Santayana

The Ramble 2

There’s nowhere you can be that isn’t where you’re meant to be.
– John Lennon

Are you ready to receive the messages whispering from the
beauty that’s around you?
Are you listening to the music of your life?
Be where you are: receive, listen, embrace the mystery.

The Re-Set Button: A Trip to CA

People say that what we are seeking is a meaning of life. I don’t think this is what we’re really seeking. I think what we’re seeking is an experience of being alive. – Joseph Campbell

California, 2010

California, 2010

Many times over the summer I had to remind myself that becoming enlightened isn’t about living a perfect life, one that looks shiny and perky from the outside. Rather, it’s about staying centered and peaceful in my soul while rinsing out the endless cat food cans, unloading the dishwasher and going back to the market because I forgot to get the trash bags.

These are my Ant duties, and I fulfill them, sometimes with such focused energy that crossing things off my to-do list is disturbingly satisfying. I believe that if I get it all done, then… well, it’s never all done, is it? I will admit it, my priorities are like vegetable soup right now. Pureed even.

Where is my Butterfly with her free-floating imagination and sense of curiosity? She visits now and then but has been sadly elusive for a couple of months now. In defense of the Ant, however, the seemingly trivial duties have served to build my anthill, my foundation. The one that my Butterfly will use as a launch pad and a resting spot. A beautiful one that will inspire her and provide the security she needs to explore new meadows, new worlds.

That’s been my lesson this summer: I need security in order to have real freedom. (As opposed to my former belief: I need freedom in order to create security – didn’t work out so well.)

California, 2010

California, 2010

The Ant has been successful. I’ve laid the cornerstone and paved
the driveway. The windows sparkle, attracting sunbeams and love-lights into my life and my heart.

But now, I need to push the Re-Set Button in preparation for the Butterfly’s return. I need some awe. Vast swathes of nature, intimate moments with whispering winds. California, here I come.

With the past, I have nothing to do, nor with the future. I live now.
Ralph Waldo Emerson

California, 2010

California, 2010

Kairos: will you drive through it?

opening in sky 3

Kairos: an ancient Greek word meaning the right or opportune moment. A moment of indeterminate time when something special happens. A passing instant when an opening appears which must be driven through with force if success is to be achieved. (paraphrased from Wikipedia)

sky 3

Kairos: A time when the conditions are right for the accomplishment of a crucial action; the opportune and decisive moment (Merriam-Webster Dictionary)

opening in sky

Kairos: Will you recognize it? And if you do, will you drive through it?

What nourishes your soul?

All weekend I felt emotionally rung out and vaguely sad. On the way home from doing errands, I decided I needed to stop in my tracks and figure out what would nurture and nourish me. I turned the car around and drove along rambling country roads dotted with Pennsylvania farmhouses toward my favorite farm stand. Well, it’s more than a stand – it’s a full-on produce/garden/homemade goodies menagerie of healthy pleasures. Starving, I picked up an asparagus & raisin cakey-loaf (made that morning); also, I chose one outstanding coral peony (picked that morning), and I hand-selected, spear by purple-y spear, a bunch of fresh asparagus (harvested that morning).zucchini

As I drove away, eating the small, sweet bread as my lunch, I came upon a $5-for-a-bouquet honor system stand in front of one of the picturesque farmhouses. I stuffed a bill in the metal box and selected the bunch with the bursting apricot iris, several tight peony buds and some other magenta and violet beauties. My weekend went from hole-in-soul to satiated soul.

What soothes and nourishes your soul? How do you turn your world from mundane to blooming?

094For me, it’s beauty – I’m inspired and enriched by wandering through a garden, reading a gorgeous magazine, making a simple and delicious meal (such as a mound of fresh asparagus topped with feta cheese and two fried eggs – it was heavenly) or driving through the idyllic countryside. Through beauty I find my center, my soul-peace – and it’s from that deep and sacred place that I go out in the world to love, create and celebrate.

In bed that evening, I read an article by Ronda Rice Carman (author of Designers at Home) in the May issue of House Beautiful.  In it she wrote:

“I have long wondered what inspires one person to elevate the mundane tasks of daily living and another to despise the regular routines of life. In an age of increasing mass production and a recurring sea of sameness, I hold in high regard those who ponder the idiosyncrasies of living life in a unique, meaningful and deliberate manner.”

How do you live life in a unique, meaningful and deliberate manner?