How do you get to the place of “I love my life” when you don’t? How do you get there when you feel like your life has taken a wrong turn?
I teach free yoga for kids with special needs. I started this after my nephew was diagnosed with Prader Willi Syndrome, and it cracks me right in half with happiness. One day a few months ago I asked a question that I start every kids class with: "What do you love about your life?"
Now, when I pose this question to a room of perfectly healthy adults, I hear crickets and tumbleweeds roll across the mats. But these amazing kids can’t answer fast enough.
“I love my life!” Jeanie, a blind ten year old who has Autism, yelled out before I had even finished the question.
It took me a minute to compose myself; to process the profundity of this little girl—who cannot see a thing, who needs two adults with her at all times—telling me that she loves her life.
What are we missing here, folks? I seriously wanted to take Jeanie out for a hot chocolate and grilled cheese sandwich and ask her what her secret was.
That brings me to the next question I ask them:
What are you thankful for right now?
The kids’ answers range from “my parents,” “my Legos,” “music,” “my dog,” “my yoga teacher” (yay!), “my legs,” “the school bus,” and “ice cream,” to “God” and “roller coasters.”
They don’t have to think about it. They have their list ready at all times, both what they love about themselves and what they are grateful for.
So how do you get to the point where you truly love your life?
Here are some ideas that have helped me and my students:
1. Make a Joy List. I do this in many of my yoga classes and ask my students to post it somewhere where they can see it. Look at that joy list as often as you can and try to get into the feelings of the things you wrote on it. For example, a Sunday cuddle, a warm fire and a book you can't put down, a kiss, a nice glass of red, a child's pose. Whatever it is, see if you can connect to that 'feel good feeling'. Pretty soon you will notice you don't need the list as much because it will be tattoed on your heart so at a momet's notice you can reach in and borrow some joy or give some away.
2. Create mantras for yourself. We do this in my yoga class, as well. Create a phrase or a word and repeat it as often as needed to replace another mantra that no longer serves you, such as “My life sucks” “I am fat” “I am broke,” etc. Here are some examples of mantras I use: I am love, I am on purpose, I am healthy, I am a best selling author.
3. Laugh when you fall. It is my rule in my class, but start to apply it to real life as often as you can. Develop a sense of humor. Especially about yourself.
4. Be kind. It feels good to be kind. It's like a nice glass of cabernet for the soul. Be kind, no matter what. I love what Wayne Dyer says often: When you have the choice to be right or be kind, always be kind.
5. Be grateful for what you have right now AND for what is on it’s way. Say “thank you” in advance. My mantra of "I am a best selling author" is what is on its way rather than what is here right now and I am extremely grateful for it. I am also grateful for every single thing in my life, even things perceived as "crappy luck" such as my hearing loss. There is a gift in all of it. When I connect to the gifts I feel grateful rather than "Why, me?" When you are grateful you cannot say "Why me?" Go ahead, try it.
6. Find things to be in awe of. Answer these questions thoughtfully: What humbles you, bringing you to your knees? What do stand gaping, open-mouthed and in awe of? Which words crack your heart open? Which silences?What makes you get very quiet and listen as if your life depended on it?
7. Do things that make you feel good. It seems like a no brainer but I catch myself doing things that do not make me feel good. Here are some examples: gossiping, not getting enough sleep, saying yes when I wanted to say no, drinking too much, being unorganized. There is more but I will save it for the memoir. When I stay with doing things that make me feel good I stay connected to who I really am. If you forget the things that make you feel good refer to step 1: The Joy List.
So there you have it, just a few simple ideas, so that you can really own saying “I love my life!”
If these ideas don’t work, come with me next time I teach my kids and ask them—they seem to have it figured out.