Renowned astrologer, Danielle Beinstein, sits down with Cara Thomas to bring you an adventurous new take on astrology. Check out what October holds, as well as the three flips they've hand picked to make this month magical.
Viewing entries tagged
I have an unpopular opinion: I hate brunch. I always end up hangry from having to wait too long. The restaurants are usually too crowded and rushed, making it hard for me to properly catch up with people. And, let’s be honest, I want way more champagne in my mimosa than I ever get. But I get the appeal. It’s nice to have a relaxing way to spend a weekend morning, an excuse to spend time a little more luxuriously with people you love. I just think there has to be a better way to do it than over a $20 plate of dry eggs.
Here are a few activities you might try swapping out brunch with to shake up your weekend mornings (er, afternoons).
1. Go on a Mystery Day Trip. Unlike going to happy hour, when you meet your friends for brunch you have a whole day ahead of you. So, instead of getting toasted, why not get out of town? Try swapping off which of your friends chooses the place and plans the trip so it’s not too much of a burden for anyone (and a bit of a fun surprise for the rest of you). Bring some breakfast sandwiches or granola bars for the car, and get your normal gabbing done while playing tunes on the ride. If you don’t have a car, have your friends pool their normal brunch budget to rent one for the day.
Then, spend the rest of your day exploring. Nearby hikes, quirky small towns; there are likely plenty of cool places within an hour or two of where you live that you haven’t experienced yet. Don’t be afraid to get sidetracked on the way and enjoy the journey, and get excited to come back with more memories than just what was on the menu.
2. Start a Spiritual Get Together. You don’t have to be a churchgoer to benefit from having a regular spiritual community. If you haven’t found a formal congregation that fits your needs, why not create your own group of spiritual misfits who are trying to figure it out together? What this looks like will really depend on the interests of your group, but it’s a great place to try out practices of different religions or new ways of opening your mind and seeing what sticks. Maybe one week it’s a group sound meditation and the next you’re having a solstice celebration, or every month you read a book by a different spiritual leader and discuss.
Gather some friends regularly with the intention of exploring the spiritual world and see what sort of growth and conversation it leads to.
3. Have a Learning Party. I bet you have loads of badass friends who know how to do cool things that you could only dream of doing, so why not use a chunk of weekend hours to teach each other some new tricks? This can be super low-key—you don’t need to create lesson plans or anything—and definitely doesn’t have to feel like you’re going to school on a Saturday. You should think of fun skills that everyone’s jazzed to learn!
Your artsy friend can teach everyone a bit of hand lettering and then you can sit around writing Insta-worthy inspirational quotes. The audiophile in the group can teach about podcasting by making a fun podcast of all your normal brunch chatter. Your international playgirl friend can share her tips for traveling on the cheap, and you can all sit around musing about your next trip and booking flights together. You’ll get closer to your friends by learning more about what they love and pick up some great new skills for yourself.
4. Do Brunch, but DIY Style. Okay, maybe this is cheating, but I think cooking together is such a powerful way to spend time with people that it deserves to be said. Just because I avoid going out to brunch, doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate mealtime with people I love. I’d just prefer to do it at home where I can make my mimosas as strong as I like.
So try out moving your weekly brunch into your home, and see how you can make it a little playful and fun! You could pick a theme every week—from childhood throwback to international flair—and have people bring something to contribute. You could go explore a farmers market and scrounge together a picnic brunch. You can do brunch 'Chopt-style' and have everyone bring what’s left in their fridge from the week to whip up something inventive together. By doing this, you get to make the meal an adventure in and of itself.
About the Author
Erin Greenawald is a freelance writer, editor, and content maker who is passionate about elevating the standard of writing on the web and helping people share their message with the world. Erin never says no to tea and a croissant with a friend—old or new!—and she loves any flip that encourages her to find some serenity in the crazy world around her.
Feeling "over it" at work? Regardless of the reason you took your job, it’s super normal that the initial shine wears off over time. For many of us, work can start to feel like a relationship once the “honeymoon” period is over and you get to know the real characteristics of what you’ve aligned yourself with!
Thankfully, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. True honesty and genuine trust can come to light once you’re in deeper, helping you re-kindle the love you have for your company, role or work. Not sure how to draw out the good stuff when you're feeling frustrated or uninspired? Here are three key things you can think about to get started.
What has your company done (or not done) in the last year?
Is it mostly positive?
It’s natural to turn inward when you think about professional happiness, but before you start thinking about your own performance, consider what your company has accomplished in the time you’ve been there. Reflect on some of the moments when the organization has really shined, as well as those when it struggled. Has your company done something in the last six months that helped it stand out as a leader? Has the organization taken a brave stance that aligns with your values? By taking stock of the situation, you might be able to more clearly see what you have to be proud about.
On the other hand, think about whether your company has disappointed you in certain areas over the last year. These might be things like providing an environment with psychological safety, mentorship opportunities, or camaraderie that leaves you feeling excited about how you're contributing to the cause or mission each day. If you find that the negatives outweigh positives, you’ll know you have good reason to consider a new job, approach or company.
Can you flip your perspective?
Try helping someone who's new and still sees the magic.
Yes, hiring and supervising interns or new employees can take up your time and feel like a major energy drain—but these new people also have an interesting perspective: they’re still in the honeymoon phase with your organization, and are learning its culture. Instead of feeling frustrated, offer to help someone learn the ropes. This might be as simple as taking them to lunch, or even offering to give them a short primer before an important meeting you’re leading.
Not only will the person you’re helping appreciate the kindness you’re extending, but by helping someone, you may actually begin to create the culture you noticed when you first started.
What have you accomplished?
Why does it matter?
No matter how awesome the mission, humans get stuck in the drudgery of daily work. To hone in on what sets you apart, make a master list of your accomplishments. You’ll see just how prolific you’ve been during your time at work! If you’ve been at it for months or years, you might even be surprised to see just how much good work you’ve created during that time.
This exercise is a good way to remind yourself that you’ve made great progress, and it can inspire you to keep going — even if things seem like they don’t matter or feel too tough along the way.
Remember this: Though you might never get all the back to feeling you had when you first fell in love with your work, you can achieve a more mature and wise type of love—one that has a deeper understanding of what it means to persevere, and to expand your skillset while delivering value each and every day.
About the Author
Katie Crank is an attorney, social worker, and writer. She helps communities address decarceration, trauma, and the paths that lead women to justice system involvement. Katie also writes on the topics of health, productivity, and dog foster & adoption.
Happy Flashback Friday! We're going back to the original travel stories and experiences that led to the creation of Serenflipity.
Below is the story of a serendipitous celebrity encounter with Steven Tyler — what could have been a simple sighting turned into a moment filled with life changing advice.
Happy Flashback Friday! We're going back to the original travel stories and experiences that led to the creation of Serenflipity.
Below is the story of the first flip she received from friend, Eric Gertler. He encouraged her to write to the ambassador of every country she visited — surprisingly, almost every office responded, and she ended up at the US Embassy in Bangkok, chatting with the Counselor of Economic Affairs, and gleaning some great advice in the process.
Where are you traveling next, and to whom could you write?
Happy Flashback Friday! We're going back to the original travel stories and experiences that led to the creation of Serenflipity.
Serenflipity started as Cara's personal project to get unstuck, back in 2013. She convinced 90 people to write 90 adventures for her to complete as she traveled solo through India and Southeast Asia; a friend wrote them into cards, and she flipped a card each day and wrote a blog. Friends and strangers started following along, and one challenged her to turn the project into a product.
Today, we're diving into what happens when you follow give away what you love... and how to spark cycles of generosity and connection.
Ikat & Non-Attachment
Originally published on April 2, 2013
Today, I gave away what were supposed to become my new favorite pair of pants. Last week, we’d traveled through Kochi, home of fantastic fabrics and speedy tailors. I spied a gorgeous pink ikat print and rushed to bring the fabric and a pant model for the tailor to replicate. A few hours later, I picked up an ill fitting pair of pants. The next day, I returned to get them fitted more narrowly through the leg. I came back to find them fitted much too narrowly through the leg. We added buttons. We tried a different fabric. I looked like Aladdin meets Chicos. These custom-made pants were becoming quite the energy-zapper and were definitely not a positive indicator for a future career in fashion design.
After stitching, sewing, recutting and redirecting, I gave up and figured that maybe after carrying them for a few weeks, they’d magically morph into the pants of my dreams, and I’d be taking many a tourist photo in my chic new Indian custom-made pants (if only the pants or my body would change!)
Yesterday, on the way to the beach, I struck up a conversation on textiles, jewelry and design with Malwina, a chic Polish yogi who’s a costume and fashion designer. If these pants were to ever be wearable, she would definitely be the one to give them the sleek boho-chic life they deserved. My intention was sealed after this morning’s yoga session on non-attachment: I knew it was time to become non-attached to this pair of pants that, as much as I loved the idea of, weren’t working for me… And were adding weight to my backpack.
I figured that giving away my pink pants to her would result in that old-pat-on-the-back feeling and I’d walk away knowing that these pants I’d labored over would potentially have a good home. After the pant exchange and more conversation on fabrics, she invited me to join her at a local scarf-seller’s home where she was going to look at hand-made fabrics. I never say no to a local adventure, so off we went to Camille’s home to peruse her wares, which are intricately beaded, mirrored and stitched fabrics, resulting in incredible skirts and tops. Apparently, these are wedding dresses, and the one that she’s wearing (below) was made by her sisters and aunts for her own wedding years ago. Her husband has since passed away, so she wears it in his memory, and continues to design new dresses during the monsoon season as homage.
It’s amazing how much I got back from giving something away. In return for gifting that pair of pants, I made an awesome new friend, got to experience a talented local woman’s craft and spend time in her home, and even got a little ankle bracelet as a thank you. “You get back what you give out,” Malwina, looking super chic in her pink ikat pants, told me as she tied on my new ankle bracelet.
So I’m attempting to move into non-attachment mode. Maybe it’s the detox, the local wares that I don’t have room for, or living on confined means. My backpack is becoming a bit like a life metaphor: by lugging around items that I don’t need, but am attached to for one reason or another, I block myself from acquiring new things and experiences. I don’t have capacity for anything new or different. I’m stuffed (literally) with my old ways. But for every thing I let go (physically, mentally, emotionally), I open up space for something new to fill that void… And today I’m reminded that it always comes back in great, unexpected ways.
Thanks to my mom for the great challenge to buy something and give it to someone else!
I worked eight jobs in the first ten years of my career. I was caught in an endless cycle, always searching for a job that excited and challenged me more than my current one. I didn’t want to miss an opportunity to seek improvement for myself, and so I found myself always seeking something better and more fulfilling.
On paper, some of the positions I held seemed like dream jobs for me. Music is a huge part of my life, and my first internship was at a record label. I’ve loved beauty products for my whole life, so working in the beauty industry seemed like it was a dream come true. Working great jobs at coveted places made me feel like I should be happy, especially since I was good at what I did. The same went for my jobs producing nonprofit events and handling marketing for health and wellness brands; I excelled in these capacities, and each time, everyone assumed that I’d finally found the perfect job for me.
In the back of my mind, I always knew I wanted to be an entrepreneur—but I wasn’t sure what my business would look like or where I would fit in. That all changed when I found a career coach. As we worked together, I thought to myself, “How can I do her job?” Being a connector, supporter, and cheerleader for all my friends (and their friends!) felt like a part of my DNA. I couldn’t turn this part of myself off. It made perfect sense to make coaching my business.
By that point in my journey, finding the courage to make a career switch was the easiest part. I felt energized and thrilled by the thought of a career that was fulfilling and rewarding. If you’re feeling like I was feeling, here are a few of the realizations I had that helped push me to make a big career switch:
1. I like doing things my own way. Becoming an entrepreneur meant that I could leave my traditional roles behind and decide how I wanted to structure my business, what kinds of clients I wanted to take on, and how I wanted to design my lifestyle. None of these things were possible in my previous jobs. I experienced a big health scare in 2012, which resulted in me having surgery to remove a quarter of my right lung. After the surgery, I knew that my health and well-being needed to be a priority in my life. As an entrepreneur, I’m able to carve out time for self-care, which helps me to be more productive when I’m working. Changing careers made a new lifestyle possible.
2. I wanted to do work that mattered to me. I had quickly realized that a dream job doesn’t always equate to fulfilling work. I had always thought that working at a beauty company would be perfect for me, but I ended up hating the industry. Not only did not I not find the work rewarding, I didn’t identify with the values of the workplace. As I moved into working with nonprofits, I felt more connected to the missions of the organizations, but I still wasn’t happy with the overall role I was playing. Now, with my clients, I work with them to find jobs and careers that will light them up, and make them excited to go to work every day. That’s the feeling I was seeking when I made the switch to entrepreneurship, and it’s incredibly rewarding to me to help others navigate through their own career transitions.
3. I could work less but earn more. A 9-to-5 job can quickly take over your life. Sometimes, 9 to 5 is a low estimate of the time really needed to accomplish the job’s responsibilities. I realized that I could actually make more money working independently, and I would also be able to work smarter. I wouldn’t always have to work long days, and when I did, I would be doing so for the benefit of my own business. For me, it was a smart financial move to start working independently, even though it was scary at first. And it was a smart move for my happiness, too. Being able to choose the clients and projects I take on is one of the best parts of my job, and I’ve been lucky to work with people who are really excited to do the work that comes with coaching. Like I was, they’re ready for a change.
4. I realized that listening to myself was most important. It was freeing to realize that I didn’t need to choose a career based on what other people thought. Yes, I had strengths in the areas of marketing, event production and social media, but I had other strengths too. Once I started listening to myself, I realized that being a coach was what I wanted to do more than anything else. As it turned out, once I launched my business, friends and family then told me what a perfect fit it was for me. But if I hadn’t listened to myself, I would never have found the opportunity to find the career that I truly love.
About the Author
Harper Spero is a New York City-based business and career transition coach who has found a way to successfully integrate passion with purpose. Harper specializes in helping aspiring and current entrepreneurs break free from toxic environments, create tactical plans for growth, and navigate their careers to bring balance, fulfillment and structure to their lives. Using a mix of customized tools and hands-on techniques in her one-on-one coaching programs, Harper coaches clients to get out of their comfort zones and to do the things that light them up, creating freedom, flexibility and joy.
Tonight, SERENFLIPITY got me out of a ticket.
I was driving home from a long session shooting videos, and may have crossed over a divider a few seconds too late. Before I knew it, blaring lights and sirens were following me, shouting to get off at the next exit.
Crap. My first moving violation. Ever.
I pulled over, shaking and a bit nervous. Was I to play the tearful and helpless girl? Pretend I didn’t know what happened? I’m not a fan of using my femininity to get out of situations, so I decided to just be straight-forward and apologize.
I rolled down the window, and two cops towered over me, demanding the usual protocol that I’ve seen in movies.
“What do you do?” the cop asked me, as he looked at my license.
“I’m an entrepreneur,” I responded, figuring that was pretty safe.
“What do you create? Is it secret?” the other cop asked snidely.
“Well, I created these adventure cards that help you have more fun and serendipity in your life.” I responded, a little wary of how that would go over with two serious cops about to smack a fine on me. After all, fun and adventure aren’t the things you want to bring up with a cop who’s just pulled you over…
“No way…” the first cop lit up, as he responded. “Like what kind of adventures?”
“Here, I’ll show you… You guys can even pick a card to do.” I held out the deck to the two towering gentleman standing over me on a random exit in downtown LA.
They leafed through and started smiling.
“You better get on Shark Tank with this!” the first officer exclaimed. “Look, I have to find the oldest person I can and do something nice for them. It won’t be hard to find old guys back at the office!”
“Yeah, I wish people were nicer and did nice things for us. We’re not bad people,” the second officer joked as he flipped his card. “Hey — I have to buy the person behind me in line a coffee…”
“Well, you better stand behind him when you go get coffee,” I suggested to the first officer, and we all laughed.
“Listen,” the first cop got serious again. “You get yourself on TV with these cards and we’ll call this a warning. But I better see you on Shark Tank – deal? I’m gonna hold onto this card!”
Deal. Thank you, LAPD for the vote of confidence in my start up, and reminding me that simple acts of human connection and kindness can make even the most annoying situations into something serendipitous and positive. And for giving me a whole new edition to build: SERENFLIPITY for the glove compartment!
Serendipity is an under-rated thing. It gets a bad rap as haphazard luck or a happy coincidence. A pleasant surprise that uplifts us from our usual routine. A random encounter where the stars aligned. A fleeting moment that comes out of the blue, only to disappear.
But serendipity is not a “thing.” Or an “accident.” Or a “random encounter.” Or just a cute John Cusack movie. It’s actually a skillset – and it’s something that can make us smarter, happier and more connected.
When it comes to serendipity, there’s a whole new field of interdisciplinary research emerging, and studies segment people into “non-encounterers”, “occasional encounterers” who stumble upon serendipity now and then, and “super encounterers” who constantly see happy surprises in even the most mundane of situations.
I’ve become what researchers would call a “super-encounterer”, not because I’m lucky, but because I’ve built my serendipity superpowers over the years. These are definitely not skills I studied in any classroom, but rather gleaned through experience, many of which involve solo travel and times of personal growth. Both of these types of experiences forced me to let go of behaviors and beliefs that blocked me from letting in new things.
But you don’t have to travel far and wide or go on a soul-search to discovery your serendipity superpowers. It’s often as simple as changing what you see, where you go and how you show up.
Here are my top five tips for turning yourself into a serendipity superstar:
1. Believe you are surrounded by serendipity – and expect it every day. One of the first steps to attracting more serendipity is to actually believe that you are surrounded by it. Consider it selective attention – like when you’re pregnant, you start to see baby bumps everywhere. Or when you’re stressed out, you start to see more annoyances and blocks everywhere.
What we see is what we get – and if we choose to focus on a recent serendipitous moment, and look to see at least one of those moments each day, we start to attract more serendipity, and will find it popping up all the time.
One of my favorite ways to build this skill is to keep a journal of “random” things that happen each day – mine include everything from running into someone, to little phrases or sayings that pop out (a recent favorite was when I was having a "founder's moment" and got cut off by a giant truck with “THE PROFIT IS COMING” written on the side), to texts of the “woah, I was just thinking about you!” ilk. The dots connect over time, and I am always amazed when I look back.
Bottom line – believe you’re surrounded by it. Look for it. Write it down. Get more of it.
2. Celebrate the unknown, the incorrect and the idiotic. Many of the greatest discoveries come from accidents and failures. It’s easy to write off something that didn’t work, blame someone, and move quickly onto the next – but the biggest “aha’s” come from diving into the failures and actually having fun with them, instead of trying to find the next success right away.
Being in a state of “I don’t know” is one of the most powerful places we can be. I once worked for a guy who would respond to my pressing questions with a thoughtful, “yeah, I don’t know.” I was shocked – I figured someone with a higher authority was paid to “know”, but he taught me the importance of “not knowing.” Of collecting information, asking a ton of questions, exploring all the angles and then coming to a decision.
Not knowing can be incredibly uncomfortable, especially to this A-type New Yorker. But actually enjoying the state of “not knowing” is where serendipity finds me. Some of the best ideas I’ve built with clients have come out of jokes, and even going so far as to exploring the absolute “worst” idea we could ever have. We fell about laughing, one upping each other with horrifying add-ons – until someone had a spark and found a nugget of inspiration that led us into the creation of an award winning product. Some of the greatest personal experiences have come from literally not knowing what country I was going to next, and leaving my plans open to the travel gods. In fact, it started a decision making pattern, where I decided to not know, and to do the first thing that was mentioned 3 times by 3 different people. I was never led astray, but rather into incredible encounters and the exact situation I needed to grow.
3. Do the uncomfortable. It’s easy to turn down an invitation in favor of staying home to watch Netflix on the couch with takeout – but magic doesn’t happen when we’re cracked out on Narcos and Lo Mein. (Well sometimes it does, and I guess that’s what Tinder is for, but that’s another article…)
Say yes to what’s in front of you, especially that uncomfortable invitation. It’s there for a reason. The less you want to go, the more magic is bound to happen. And seriously, if you want to get a super dose of serendipity, go alone. That’s right – go to a party alone. Without a wingman. And if you don’t have an invitation to turn down, take yourself out to dinner (and don’t stare at your phone the whole time.)
Every time I’ve forced myself out of my comfort zone, I’ve had to surrender to what’s in front of me, and I’ve had to get curious. It means making conversation with strangers instead of standing by the cheese plate rehashing my day with a friend. It means staying five minutes longer than I want to, and sometimes hiding out in the bathroom for a few minutes when it feels like too much – and then falling into conversation with a handsome stranger. It means getting lost in a foreign country and stumbling across a beautiful village and into a heartfelt conversation.
Or it simply means opening myself up and into the positive potential of a new experience – instead of closing myself into what I already know. A few years ago, I felt creatively stuck and decided to spend 90 days traveling solo through India and Southeast Asia, following adventures my friends wrote for me instead of a guidebook. I was terrified. But the more I got into the habit of saying “yes” to the adventure in front of me, I started to open up in a new way and incredible things started to happen. (Fast forward to two years later, it’s become the foundation of my business, a product designed to foster adventure and serendipity every day… who would have known?)
Learning to trust, and being willing to be vulnerable is scary, but it’s also where we get out of ourselves and into the magic.
4. Say “thank you.” There are tons of studies and life-hacks around the life-changing effects of gratitude, and for good reason. Shanti-shanti as it may sound, it shifts our outlook and our energy, and attracts more positive things to come our way.
Saying thank you (whether to “the universe,” God, the person sitting next to you, or to the highway as you drive to work) for the little nods and coincidences is just as important as saying “thank you” for the promotion or the clean bill of health. It’s easy to get into the mentality of “well, he was perfect, except for…” or “the job seems great, but…” – simply acknowledge that something serendipitous just came your way and take it as a sign that more good things are on the way. “Thank you” is essentially a prayer that says, “that was awesome, I really dug it, and please bring me more.”
I’ve built this skill by writing a gratitude list each morning, and even putting little reminders in my phone to take 30 seconds and think of 3 things I’m grateful for. The real game changer has come in the past month in finding things I’m grateful for in really annoying situations.
Take a recent travel plan: my flight was 6 hours delayed on New Years Eve and then I couldn’t find the place I was staying once I arrived. To offset the irritation, I practiced finding a few “thank yous”, which included being able to go to my favorite yoga class that morning (instead of sitting in the airport), having an interesting conversation with an Uber driver who introduced me to a videographer, making time for a conversation with a friend in the airport, arriving in town just in time for dinner (and getting picked up straight from the airport as a result), being with friends who put me up for the night when I was lost, etc. Really cool connections and opportunities have been happening as a result.
The “thank yous” seem to build resilience to get out of a negative mindset, which only clouds me in my worries and prevents me from seeing the bigger picture – or what great things are in front of me. Taking a minute to find a moment of gratitude shifts me back into being in the unknown – which is where there’s space for serendipity to come in.
5. Share it to grow it. Serendipity isn’t a “thing” or even an “action” – it’s a flow that we get into. And it does take work – sometimes it’s as simple as leaving the house with a good attitude and talking to someone, or picking up the phone and listening (and really listening, not Facebooking and listening), in order to dive into what can seem like a consistent stream of unbelievable encounters.
Note that many of these experiences are encounters – which means that they involve other people. We multiply our magic by sharing it with others – whether it’s saying what we’re looking for, or helping others fulfill what they’re looking for. And sometimes serendipity comes from something as simple as a status update and discovering that you’re in the same country as an old friend. A big part of Serenflipity is asking people to share those serendipitous experiences on social media for just that reason – to foster more connections, to share cool experiences that uplift others (and potentially bring serendipity to them), and to encourage an environment of experimentation. Because we all need a little push to peel away from our habits.
So, it’s that time of the year where we might be faltering on our New Year's Resolutions and about to dive back into old habits. Instead, I invite you to dive into bringing more serendipity into your life.
All you have to do is decide to see yourself as a serendipity super-magnet, have fun not knowing the answer, go to parties alone, say thank you, and share it with others. No calorie counting or guilt-tripping necessary!
I’d love to hear your tips and tricks for bringing more serendipity into your life – please share below!
It’s hard not to wear a blissed out grin all around Ubud. Of all of the places I’ve been, it’s the one where I feel the most connected and cocooned, yet inspired and introverted. It’s a town that stretches those who want to be stretched, ahead into the possibilities of new ways of living and back toward the depths of buried circumstances one may care to keep dusty. In the ark of my 24 hours (thank you, Kate Plumb!), I learned that a day of smiling takes a lot more than simply grinning at everything from rice paddies to happy babies.
It starts with those gaping grins, which are simply a vehicle to connect. Smiling has been a super-tool in my trusty solo-traveler tool belt, as it’s led me to new encounters and new people. However, it’s hard to stay on the surface of such a smile forever — the “how are you”s and “where are you from”s get weary after a while. My morning started with light smiles and instant depth (this is Ubud…) with three lovely ex-pat ladies, whom I would later meet for the afternoon. Gaping grins continued to dot my day, ever the energy booster during a dull moment, but a smile that I’ve often taken for granted slowly began to take its place.
It started in the home of a Mayan Astrologer, who began our session with dancer-like gestures to paint new dimensions of time, and an immediate break for a quick downward dog fix to soothe her back. My old snap smile, the one with the quickened pace and raised eyebrow, popped in as I sat nervously in half lotus anticipating the next few hours. As we talked about hidden talents, personal challenges and cycles of my life, my snap smile softened, but not into that familiar gaping grin. It moved lower and deeper, as I shared hopes and fears that melted into her predictions. She nodded with her hands over her heart, draping them out, over and around the air and sighed. With a deep, knowing smile.
My face softened and slowed (a relief to my sore, over-used cheeks), and I realized that I was smiling without moving a muscle. Just falling into the slowness and lightness I felt swirling through me. Our conversations moved deeper, to a point of that gripping softness that often precedes a tear. But it wasn’t a tear of extremes, like sadness or joy, just simple presence and purpose that settled into a wordless, toothless upturn.
Through my many temple visits, I’ve seen a lot of Buddhas and have wondered more than a few times why there aren’t more grinning, giggling statues for a teacher so happy and enlightened. But from settling into the deeper, more balanced, less ecstatic smile, I stumbled upon that smile that’s authentic connection. I felt that deep smile when I hugged a fifteen year old who shared with me what she was going through with her friends and family, and when I fell into deep relaxation during yoga nidra (also known as yogic napping… or my new favorite type of yoga!). I felt it as my unexpected companions and I giggled over a smorgasbord of raw desserts and social media mental-health pacts. (I have promised to only “like” ugly pictures if I Instagram before meditation.) I felt it as the brightness of a rising full moon drew me to the window in the middle of the night.
A day full of smiling doesn’t mean constant euphoria. It can be a happy, giggly high. A way to get out of yourself and into a conversation. Armor in an uncomfortable situation. Genuine compassion and care. Inner knowledge and understanding. Softness so guttural that it cracks perception and expectation.
In all these roles, it’s an alchemist. Resentment breaks into a glint of gratitude. Skepticism melts into a modicum of compassion. Fear sprouts into the seeds of new friendships. So smile at your smiles… See what happens and what you discover from smiling for the entire day. Either way, it’s good for the soul and sagging jowls!
Originally published on yestoexcess.com