Linda Carroll, a contributor to the fantastic healthy living site, mindbodygreen, wrote this inspirational article about the #1 best practice for turning your goals into a reality. Read on!
"Whether...to learn to dance by practicing dancing or to learn to live by practicing living, the principles are the same. In each, it is the performance of a dedicated precise set of acts...from which comes shape of achievement, a sense of one's being, a satisfaction of spirit...Practice means to perform, over and over again in the face of all obstacles, some act of vision, of faith, of desire. Practice is a means of inviting the perfection desired." —Martha Graham
The practice of spirituality
Creating a spiritual life is something like writing a story. Ultimately, it is a mystery—one that will not unfold unless you go into the workroom and make an effort, however banal and humdrum it feels. In other words, you have to practice.
All spiritual traditions show you ways to do this, like attending services and participating in religious rituals. Some practices involve consistently performing a physical exercise, such as yoga and tai chi. Many people find great spiritual value in walking regularly, especially while using breath-control techniques.
The practice of mindfulness
Mindfulness is another example. When we learn to witness ourselves, we stand outside our feelings and thoughts and observe instead of judging, analyzing, or denying them. This practice allows us to become less attached to our dramas, less victimized by our moods, and more aware of what is driving us.
The practice of love
A committed relationship is another form of practice. Many of us think of love as something that should be effortless and constant, not something that requires serious work. The inevitable struggles and disappointments of relationships can help partners develop acceptance, honesty, flexibility, empathy, patience, and self-awareness. To do so, though, we must move off the path to some sort of abstract happiness and get on the one headed toward awakening.
Ironically, when we relinquish the requirement that our partner be the source of our well-being, the relationship can become a wellspring of sustenance and nourishment.
Life as a practice
Some philosophies suggest that life itself, like relationships, is a practice. Ordinary challenges—growing a garden, raising children, or working a job—can be invitations to soul-work. Our daily lives offer us constant opportunities to increase compassion. Many religions have designated days of the week and times of the year for fasting, praying, and reading scriptures. Muslims bow in prayer five times a day. The Balinese Hindus offer baskets filled with flowers and rice to their deities thrice daily, and the Benedictine nuns sing Gregorian chants.
Establish a schedule for your own practice—it doesn't have to be perfect or make you happy—but make it good enough to get you to show up and stay grounded. Mysticism causes us to soar; an ongoing practice keeps us rooted to the earth.
Becoming spiritually literate is about paying attention to what is in front of your eyes at each moment. Thinking about what was, or what could be, diminishes what is happening right now. If we do not pay attention to now, we may never recognize our true prayer or song, the connection to the spark we seek. When we pay attention, we may be surprised.
When her sons were 4 and 7 years old, Lily went to a spiritual retreat and made a recommitment to meditation. When she returned home, she carefully set up an altar in the corner of her bedroom. She found a perfect candle and a meditation cushion with Sanskrit phrases on it. Then she announced to the boys that she would be spending 30 minutes each day in her room meditating, during which they needed to be very quiet.
The day she began her practice, they stood outside her room, compliant and quiet. After about 10 minutes she heard a quiet buzzing, which began to increase decibel by decibel. She tried to ignore the sound, meditating with her special mantra, but the noise grew louder. Soon she could hear the boys hitting one another, then crying and yelling. In exasperation she jumped up, opened the door, and screamed at them, "You two better stop it right now. I mean, stop it, damn it! I am working on my spiritual practice!"
Her sons' faces fell at the sight of their raging mother, and Lily was struck by the absurdity of this scene. Her spiritual practice was hurting all three of them. What her true practice should be, she realized, was to use every event in the day as an opportunity for kindness and patience to emerge. Nowhere was this practice more important than with her children.
Spiritual ideas can be exciting to learn and talk about; so can fitness and learning Spanish. Practice is the bridge that takes us from thinking to becoming.
Thanks, Ms. Carroll, for the inspiration!
Sure, you record your memories through pictures and Facebook posts when traveling abroad, but what happens when you get the urge to record your deeper thoughts and feelings meant only for your eyes? What happens when you get frustrated with something (or someone) and need a safe place to vent? Where do you put all your ticket stubs, brochures, or fresh-picked four-leaf clovers?
That's where a travel journal comes in.
One of my best friends gifted me with a beautiful lined journal before I left for a 4.5 month journey abroad , and soon it and I became inseparable. I always said that I could lose all my clothes and all my belongings, but if I lost my pictures or myjournal, I would be ruined. That journal became my place to write down the little things I didn't want to forget, record my feelings of my day-to-day life, and paste in memories I didn't want to end up losing. I filled two journals' worth of info and memories from my adventures, and now they're some of my most cherished possessions.
I highly recommend keeping a travel journal as a place to store your memories when you're abroad. Here are some tips that helped me create the best journal possible:
1.) Always write down people and place names.
When you're abroad, you'll meet some really cool people, and go to some really cool places. You don't want to forget that you shared a great Guinness with Mallory and Tom at Killpatty's Bar in Killarney, or that the tour boat you took out to the Aran Islands was called Andromeda and that your gap-toothed captain's name was Jim. You may not think you will, but trust me, you'll forget names. Having them written down will make you super appreciative later when you reread your entries.
2.) Write down everything you're feeling.
There were times that I wrote down basically the same thing day after day--and that's ok. Vent until the thing that's bothering you either fades away or you deal with it. Explore the emotions that continuously pop up so you can address them. Some days you'll be overjoyed and write sickeningly sappy entries, and other days you'll get annoyed at something that's happened, or will get homesick, and your entries will be more critical.
When you go back and look over your journal later, it will be good for you to see that your time abroad was a full life experience, not just an adventure to be viewed through rose-colored glasses.
3.) Use your journal for a catch-all for all your tickets, flyers, and brochures.
You'll definitely want to bring them home, and you don't want them to get lost (or worse, you throw them out because you don't want to deal with them). In between my writing entries, I pasted in the things that I wanted to keep. I tried to keep them in chronological order--and I'm glad I did. Now I can look over my pages of Italian train tickets and relive the journey I took in my head. I also made little notes on some of them, such as who I was with or what we were doing at the time.
4.) Write as often as possible, with as many details as possible.
While I didn't write every day, I wish I had. The days that I wrote entries back to back really painted a full picture of what my life was like during that time. Also, the entries where I wrote more details are the ones I enjoy the most. Putting down your feelings, along with descriptions of the people and places around you make for the best entries.
It may seem tedious to do this (and it is, sometimes). But you WON'T regret it when you get home and can really relive your adventure for years to come.
5.) Take your journal EVERYWHERE, and keep it close.
I protected mine like it was a MacBook and never let it out of my sight. I brought it to Florence, Venice, Rome, Cinque Terre, the Aran Islands, multiple farms, on boats, in planes, and through rain and wind and sunshine. Even on day trips, I took it with me. It's great to have in transit, because you will have A LOT of downtime when traveling. Having your journal with you in lines and on trains and buses will give you something to do. I did most of my writing this way.
There are probably countless more tips out there about how to create a cherish-able travel journal, but these are the things that worked for me. If you can think of anything to add, let me know! Your journal will become something that you'll prize for years to come.
The best advice I ever took was to follow my heart.
You've heard this so many times, by now it probably goes in one ear and out the other. But take a moment to really consider it:
FOLLOW YOUR HEART.
Act on your deepest desires, wishes, and goals. Our society spends so much time on the problems of the head (should I do this? how does it benefit me? I've got bills to pay, I don't have time, I'll do it someday), that we rarely listen to what our hearts are telling us. How would our worlds be different if we actually spent more time doing what we ACTUALLY wanted to do?
It's a folly to say that you don't have time. If you want something bad enough, you will MAKE the time. The universe has a funny way of letting us get what we want, as long as we really want it. It's also ridiculous how we put aside what we truly desire out of life in exchange for things we think we SHOULD want, or things that we HAVE to do. We only have this one life, people! Do you really want to spend it doing what you think is required?
For years, I'd dreamed of going to Ireland. I don't know exactly what it is about that country that originally spiked my interest--the green landscape, the culture, the magic that permeates through even the pictures, perhaps-- but I decided my junior year of high school that I would go there. Time flew by, as it often does when you are focusing on other things besides your dreams, and I realized that the thing holding me back was fear.
I made excuses every summer for not going to Ireland: 'There's no one to go with me, I have to work and save up, I'll go when I graduate.' When college graduation neared, and I realized that there was still no one to go with me, and I would NEVER think I had enough money, I knew I was either going to be a dreamer or a doer. I was sick of making excuses, sick of denying myself the one thing I'd wanted to do for years. I bit the bullet and bought a plane ticket to Ireland, set a week after graduation.
It changed my life.
Once you make the decision to act on your heart's desires, you become braver. More confident. More willing to rely on yourself. And, of course, you get to experience the things you'd previously only dreamed about. Going to Ireland challenged me in the best way possible. It also solidified some of my other goals.
Trust me when I say that going after what you want will benefit you in ways you can't even imagine.
It's time to pack away those excuses, face the fear that's holding you back, and take the first step towards your dreams. That's all it takes-- just one step. Mine was buying the plane ticket. Yours could be emailing that contact, posting an Etsy ad, or signing up for a certification class.
Whatever you do, just do it.
You won't regret it.
Life got you down? Struggling to meet your goals or expectations? In need of a little motivation? Here are 39 great quotes from Popsugar's Wellness page to help get you through.
There are only so many things you can learn in a month. But whether you learn brain surgery or how to tie a shoe is directly proportional to the effort that you put in. The month I spent in Ireland volunteering on an organic farm (WWOOFing, as it's so aptly called) taught me things I never imaged I'd ever actually know.
And understand this: Making a home for yourself and working in a foreign country gives you more than just tangible knowledge-- it also teaches (at the risk of sounding cheesy) your heart and soul.
The things I never expected to learn:
1.) That hazelnuts grow on hazel trees. (For being an honors student, that sure wasn't my most brilliant deduction.)
2.) That you can create exceptionally good tomato sauce just from boiling crushed-up fresh tomatoes and basil.
3.) That Ireland has more cows than sheep-- and they're all fantastically friendly.
4.) That you should NEVER pick off the tops of tomato plants. Unless you want stunted, pathetic-looking vegetables, this is not a good idea, people.
5.) A "workday" could be anywhere between two and twelve hours. Farmers put the W in WORK (and all the rest of the letters, too).
6.) You will make the best friends of your life, and you will do so within one minute of meeting them. Travelers bond faster than most, it's the nature of who we are.
7.) Never underestimate the power of those friendships, and how deep they can become. Shoutout to my WWOOFing buddies--you know you're loved!
8.) Late-night soccer games effectively relax you more than sleep at the end of a long day. Still don't know how this is possible, but it is.
9.) Sheep are crazy-strong and don't particularly take to being hugged.
10.) That one should never wear Wellies (rain boots, natch) to the Sunday market. Unless one wants to be stared at like a particularly freakish-looking alien, of course.
11.) That it is surprisingly easy to live without a microwave. Or a dishwasher. Or a clothes dryer. And life was much simpler and pleasant for it.
12.) That there are cats out there who actually let you pick them up and pet them somewhere other than their heads (not like my cat, who will put claw-marks on your arm faster than you can say, 'I didn't mean it!')
13.) That Irish cookies--called biscuits-- are THE best-tasting things you can imagine. Pair some with a cup of black tea and you've just created your own little heaven.
14.) That contrary to popular belief, four-leaf clovers are hard to come by in Ireland. Yeah, let that put a downer on your day.
15.) That making bread is an art form, one that I may never actually be good at. I should have made a photo book called "The Battle of the Bread" that showed example after example of my gloriously failed attempts at baking. Ah well, maybe next time.
This list doesn't even begin to touch on the things I learned, about myself or about farm living, but these are some highlights. To have your own metaphysical WWOOFing experience, go to wwoof.net. Find a country you'd love to see, join that country's WWOOFing page, and prepare yourself for the adventure of a lifetime!
Kayla Maneen recently got her BFA in Creative Writing and minored in adventure and fun. After graduation, she worked on an organic farm in Ireland and taught English in Italy, and learned all there is to know about chasing sheep and eating long, leisurely meals with family. She is adamant about teens living out their passions and reaching their highest potentials. Always follow that fire in your heart!