Smile, You Are Beautiful

I have numerous exercise DVDs, and on one of them, the yoga instructor talks about the connection between actions and feelings, and he says “You get to act how you want to feel.” In other words, you can act your way out of unhappy or destructive feelings, simply by behaving as if you feel in a more positive way. A smile, for instance, triggers something in the brain that instantly improves mood and so even if you have to fake it, that smile works to transform you in a positive way, which can have wonderful repercussions on your day.

I was reminded yesterday that the same is true of appearance. When you feel beautiful, you are, regardless of what you are wearing, whether or not your hair is done, or makeup applied. And one of the most beautiful, and beautifying, things that you can do is smile.

“Because of your smile, you make life more beautiful,” says Zen master and Vietnamese monk Thich Nhat Hanh. I think with a smile, you also make yourself more beautiful.

Too many of us, weighed down with worry and responsibility, wonder why we look so tired and old. We look in the mirror each morning and catalog all the ways in which we have aged and deteriorated overnight. Focusing on the negative, we fail to truly see ourselves at all.

Yesterday my daughter reminded me how she actively and consciously tries to be nice to herself. It sounded a little strange at first, but what she says and does makes sense. For one thing, she looks at herself with appreciation, like she would a friend. The more time I spend with her, the more I see in myself the tendency to do just the opposite. One way I plan to grow this year is to appreciate myself more for who I am now. If I can learn to see myself as beautiful, I become more beautiful, inside and out.

Yoko Ono once said, “Smile in the mirror. Do that every morning and you’ll start to see a big difference in your life.” That is a simple enough practice that I plan to try this year.

Tiny Steps toward Your Best New Year

“And now we welcome the new year.  Full of things that have never been.” –Rainer Maria Rilke

I love the thought of a new year, especially on December 31st, when I think of all I will accomplish now that the calendar page has turned.  Like many perfectionists (read borderline OCDs), however, if I don’t have a clean start on January 1st, I’d might as well forget it, or wait for another “clean start” at the six month point on June 1st, or even the following year.  But at this point of my life, I realize that I don’t have full years or even six month increments to waste waiting for a “clean start” that is nothing more than another unrealistic expectation keeping me from growing and changing in the ways I want to grow and change.

So yes, though I love the thought of a new year, I usually think in terms of a deficiency, another year gone and look at what I haven’t done. But today I am thinking of all the ways my life has changed  over the past twelve months. Think of it. How have you changed in thoughts, attitudes, an actions in the last year?  Hopefully the start of 2018 finds you in a place of positive change and of growth, but if not, no pressure.  Accepting where you are at the start could be the first gift you give yourself this year, and the first step toward a better year ahead.

And what of resolutions? One of my plans was to start publishing something, anything, every Monday morning.  Coincidentally, January 1st was a Monday… talk about a “clean start”!  What could be more perfect?

Notice what day it is?  Today is Friday, January 5th, and there’s no poetry or symmetry in that!  But one of my resolutions is to just work hard toward my goals each day.  I may have a lot of time or a little, but something is always better than nothing.

So with a year ahead “full of things that have never been,” I am going with the mantra of “something is better than nothing.”  By taking the tiniest of steps over the last year, I have found myself in a strong and truly happy place.  Where will more intentional, though possibly just as tiny, steps take me this year?  Where will they take you?

 

Five Lessons Learned in the Garden

Last year I moved into a new home.  As part of making it my own, I had several new flowerbeds dug, and this spring has been the time to fill them… a job I recently finished.  While I spent a lot of time and money on my garden this spring, it has all been worth it.  I love taking care of the plants, keeping the beds neat and weed-free, and trying to orchestrate the effects of which plants bloom when and where.  In turn, I am rewarded with a beautiful palette of colorful blooms (I hope) from spring into fall, and with the numerous lessons gardening teaches each every day.  Here are five I will take with me this growing season:

  • “To plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow.”  –Audrey Hepburn     So often we don’t readily see or recognize the fruits of our efforts.  Gardening teaches us to be patient, to wait for the signs of new growth as plants take root and begin to thrive.  We learn that in time, our patience and care will pay off bountifully.
  • “The grass is greenest where you water it.” — Neil Barringham     Pay attention to your garden and care for it regularly, and it will grow lush and beautiful… as will your relationships and every area of your life.  It is as simple and as difficult as that.
  • “If you don’t like the way things are, change it!  You are not a tree.”   –Jim Rohn  One thing I’ve learned from gardening is that nothing is permanent.  Plants, like people  can be moved to a place that’s best for them and where they will thrive.  A garden is a great place to experiment and take risks, and so is life.
  • “Weeds are flowers, too, once you get to know them.”  –A.A. Milne    I tend to yank out plants I don’t recognize, but every so often I am surprised by something that I think is a weed, but is kind of pretty in a way, and I let it go, only to find out later that it is a flower I just didn’t know.  The problems we have often seem like weeds because we don’t recognize them as valuable, and we want to get rid of them as quickly as possible.  It is only later later that we realize just what they’ve contributed to our lives.
  • “Bloom where you are planted.”  — St. Francis de Sales   I am always amazed at how tenacious some plants are, defying all odds and growing from a crack in the sidewalk, under the shade of huge tree, or in the rockiest soil.  What an example for us… to take what we have been given and grow with it!