Smile More

Smile Photo

“Sometimes your joy is the source of your smile, but sometimes your smile can be the source of your joy.”

Thích Nhất Hạnh

Did you know most people you meet sum you up in three seconds? Three seconds for a first impression! That’s all it takes. Maybe less.

So what can you do in three seconds to help people see you as the limitless, Divine soul you really are?

You can smile.

Power of a Smile

When we first moved to the Tiny Island (see my About page) I realized the true power of a smile. Zooming around in our golf cart, we always made a point to smile and wave at everyone we passed. It was easy. During those first few weeks we were so besotted with our new island home that our faces were fixed in euphoric perma-smiles.

But even when our initial bliss faded a little, we still made an effort to smile and wave at everyone, even if they didn’t return the gesture – especially if they didn’t return the gesture. I told myself that even if someone scowled back at me, perhaps I helped him or her to smile on the inside.

All that smiling paid off. Within days, we earned the label “friendly”. The locals spread the word, and before we knew it, people would smile at us as we approached, even if they hadn’t met us yet. They went out of their way to help us. Life seemed to be on our side.

The same principle applies in the Outside World. Sometimes you may never see the person you smile at again. But that’s OK. You’ve sent a ripple of joy out into the world. And just like the ripple in a pond, it will grow exponentially.

If smiling doesn’t come easy for you, if you’re shy and find it difficult to smile at a stranger, you are not alone.

Here are some Tips to Help you Smile:

  • Be grateful: In every moment focus on something you can be grateful for. It might be as simple as the fragrance of jasmine on a warm spring day, a butterfly floating by, or a warm coat on a winter’s day. Gratitude makes you smile.
  • Think happy thoughts: It’s impossible not to smile when you’re thinking about something happy like a child’s giggle, a friend’s joke, or your favorite food.
  • Look for the light in everyone: Everyone has a light flickering deep within, waiting to burn brighter. Make it a challenge to ignite it. Sometimes a smile is all it takes to tweak the energy exchange between two people.
  • Quit judging others: You don’t know what the person you just met is going through in their lives. People choose their own path of learning, and the most powerful and liberating thing you can do is respect that path. Always give others the benefit of the doubt.

A smile says, “I come in peace and love.” You may smile at someone and forget, but that simple smile could make someone’s day. It could even save a life.

Smiling is contagious. Not only does it make the recipients happy, and all the people they smile at happy, it also makes you happy.

Smiling is good for your health. It lowers your heart rate and boosts your immune system. It breaks the ice of stress.

Smile and watch the world yield to you. Light up a stranger’s face.

Ignite joy.

Karen

Forgive and Be Free

DSC_2231

As I walked out the door toward the gate that would lead to my freedom, I knew if I didn’t leave my bitterness and hatred behind, I’d still be in prison.

Nelson Mandela

We’ve all been hurt by someone. At some point in our lives someone has betrayed us, brutalized us, banged us up, brought us to our knees. You know who they are. You hate being around them. You can’t bear to think about them, because the painful memories ooze to the surface like pus in a wound. I call them the Hurters.

The Hurters can make us curl up in a ball, scared to face the world. Terrified to trust.

But what if Hurters can be Helpers?

When I hit rock bottom, the Hurters were there. These were the people who shunned me, slammed me, stabbed me in the back. They were the final straw, the last kick in the gut. And then I knew I had to change.

It was time to live the life I craved, to sell up and strip down, to live my dream of a simple life on a beautiful sun-soaked island.

It wasn’t the Hurters that forced this change. But they gave me the final push. Without them, I might still have been stumbling through my stupor, fantasizing of escape.

And when I arrived on that island of my dreams, I stood with my feet planted deep in the soft, powder sand, gazing out at a mirror sea, and I thanked the Hurters. For every door they slammed shut, every snub, every smirk, and every barb – all of it – brought me here, to this bliss.

The Hurters were Helpers.

Every person we meet is in our lives for a reason. And the people who hurt you the most, the people who bring you to your knees, tears raining, pain pressing, suffocating, choking, driving you to the brink; these people, these Hurters can be your finest teachers.

But only if you let them.

Perhaps they teach you tolerance. Perhaps they ignite an inferno of purpose and resolve. Perhaps, like a foil, they shine on your soul.

Smile and thank them. For they helped make you strong and send you on your way.

Life is a delicious drama. Look back and you will see how every character plays their role like a virtuoso. Kicking you at a critical moment. Nudging you to where you’re meant to be. Right here. Right now.

Love and gratitude are much lighter than a grudge.

Forgive and be free.

Karen

For more on seeing light in the dark, see Sink or Swim.

Sink or Swim

IMGP2537

“It is by going down into the abyss that we recover the treasures of life. Where you stumble, there lies your treasure.”

Joseph Campbell

Welcome to my first post.

If you’ve read my “About” page, you’ll know my main mission for this blog. It’s all about helping people. Lately I’ve learned many lessons in my life, lessons I wish I’d learned a long time ago. Now I want to help you by sharing these experiences.

In this post I want to talk about transforming what we might judge as a negative life event into a positive force for change.  Instead of sinking into the depths of panic and fear, we can swim to the light.

Let’s begin with an idea:

Bad luck can sometimes be good luck in disguise. We just don’t know it until we look back.

Think about it.

How many times has a life event devastated you, yet later, with new perspective, you feel intense gratitude for that same experience?

Perhaps something good came out of it. Perhaps you learned something about yourself or it nudged you in a different direction. Like the time you didn’t score your “dream” job, but later found a more rewarding career on an unplanned path. Or the time you stressed yourself out because something made you late for an important event, only to discover you dodged a fatal crash on the freeway.

What if every time something “bad” happens we take a different approach? Instead of reacting with fear and fretting about things that are out of our control, we could ask ourselves what we can learn from the event. It can also help to tell ourselves that things happen for a reason. We might not know the reason right now. But one day we may understand and be grateful for the changes.

Like everyone, I’ve had some “bad luck” in my life. It was a time of loss, a time of fear. A time when life stripped away everything I thought was secure.

When the Great Recession struck, all the material things I thought were safe collapsed around me, one by one. Every time we lost something, I clung in fear to what we had left.

When sales sank at our business, I told myself, At least we still have a beautiful home. Soon we had to sell that beautiful home in a fire sale.

But I didn’t give up. When it looked as though we might lose everything, I told myself, At least we’re all healthy. The next day my husband, Brian, was diagnosed with a melanoma.

That’s when I fell to my knees.I didn’t know what to think anymore. I didn’t know what to believe.

Perhaps you have been at this stage in your life too. Perhaps the same questions were running through your mind:

Why is this happening? Why now? Why me? 

Looking back, I think I know why this happened, and I am filled with gratitude. But at the time, I was overcome with panic and fear. It wasn’t until I took a deep breath, and looked at my life in a different way, that I saw light in the darkness.

After months of fear-induced nausea, I made a choice to stop acting like a victim. Instead I vowed to use those “negative” events to make a positive change. It was a simple change but it had a powerful impact. And I quickly learned I could apply it to every facet of my life.

This small change led to big things. It helped me simplify my life and live my dream of moving to a beautiful, tropical island with my family.

Stay tuned and I’ll share it with you in my next post.

Karen