Posts Tagged ‘woo-woo’

Birthday Letters: 36 Things I Learned Last Year

Tomorrow is my birthday, which I feel so many things about. Happy, because I like celebrations and commemorations. And excited, because my birthday means cake and ice cream, and fireworks are coming soon! But also introspective, because I’m older and supposedly wiser, but sometimes I wonder exactly how. And maybe even a little weighed down upon, because, you know: the march of time and the press of mortality. The endgame approaches.

I like the idea of years building upon each other, like pieces of puzzles revealing just a bit more of a bigger picture — and at the end you see what a beautiful portrait you’ve lived with your time on earth. I like themes, lessons, the sense that I’m progressing. Maybe these are illusions wrought by the ability of human beings to occupy different existential time zones at once: to be in the past, present and future, often in the same moment. If these are illusions, then I appreciate how beautiful and comforting they are.

Here I am in another year: sitting on a cloudy day at my favorite coffeeshop, typing away on the small, tiny netbook I favor now over my more robust laptop. I am drinking an iced chai as usual, and I’m feeling hungry, craving fresh fruit and cheese. The coffeeshop, the beverage, the writing and thinking and even the hunger: I do this a lot, and I anticipate I’ll be doing this more in the future, which makes the moment seem not so special.

But there’s the way the light streams through the window, the magic hour making everything seem enchanted, even a weird symphonic version of “Scarsborough Fair” on the stereo. The conversations surrounding me: what books people are reading, a Tarot card consultation, a Bible study group, a family planning a wedding. There’s the smell of orange blossom white tea floating in their air and the sound of quiet love songs played on harps in my ears. There’s something lovely in every moment, and today I like to pretend they are all gifts for me.

These are the things I’ve learned in the past year. One for each year I was. I did a teeny version of this last year; this year felt like such a huge growing and learning and loving kind of year, I felt the urge to get epic.


On luck, and how to make it

Once upon a time, I didn’t believe in luck.

To be more precise: I believed in luck — I just felt other people were lucky. Me? All the great blessings in my life — whether in love, work, endeavor or just all things beautiful and free — came from my own ability to work hard, to scrap, to bob and weave like a prizefighter against what life threw at me.

Part of this was some kind of weird internalized Yankee pride in having a solid work ethic, blah blah blah. I can make my own world! I am my own master! Destiny is mine! Life was an alchemy and I can will forth what I want from the ether! It’s so mega-American, too, kind of like Emerson’s credo of self-reliance, but on steroids.

But another, more shadowy aspect of this belief was: nothing blessed would be easy for me. Why? Maybe I didn’t trust it when it was that easy. Maybe I felt it would slip away, as quickly as it came. Maybe I didn’t think I was worthy. Maybe I had also internalized weird fucked-up ideas of karma from all those years of being a little Buddhist, and hearing about how everything in your life was in it as a result of something from your past lives. I don’t know.

The point is, I had this idea that nothing comes easy, that some people are just luckier than others. Some people just have beautiful things fall into their laps and lives like snow on a lovely winter’s mornings. The rest of us have to work really hard for it. I was part of “the rest of us.”

Then, in the middle of a period in my life when I was looking at deep-seated beliefs I held — ones so rooted in there that I didn’t even realize they were beliefs, if you know what I mean — I realized how crazy-making this paradigm of luck, good fortune and life-loveliness was. At the core of this belief is that some people are worthier of things than others, and I am not one of them. That all good things in life are hard to obtain. Did I really live in a world like this? Do I really want to?

I mean, what if I was a goddess and general Bestower of Blessings and was like, “OK, only you and you and you get limitless wonderfulness, but YOU on the other hand — you have to EARN THEM.” I mean, that goddess would be a mega-bitch, right? Who wants to live in a world governed by a harridan like that? Who wants to have that as a core unconscious yet powerful operating belief?

So, I decided to challenge my own belief and evict my stingy inner meanie of the universe. What would it be like to “be lucky”? What does luck really look like? Could I be wrong about myself, and actually be a constant harvester of awesomeness?

I began this “rethinking” project a year ago, although that makes it sound a lot more systematic than it really was. (These kind of things never are for me; they’re sort of thought-shadows that don’t take cogent form but drift along, like a fog or mist, changing the temperature and quality of life imperceptibly.) It was really just a constant sense of questioning, of self-inquiry. I mean, HOW DO YOU DEPROGRAM YOURSELF OF A SHADOWY YET INSIDIOUS BELIEF? It’s a bit like cult de-programming, only on yourself! Only in this case, the cult wasn’t a bunch of weirdos running around in purple tracksuits and black Nikes, but an invisible one of fake stinginess that only existed in my imagination.

I didn’t really have an organized way to go about it, but I knew it had to change inside of me. I’m still in the middle of transforming it, but these are my thoughts on the process so far on changing your perspective from that of a mean Ebeneezer Scrooge of a universe to one that’s on your side and giving you a power-up wherever you go.

Define luck

As it turns out, luck isn’t just a Lotto ticket or winning at the slot machines. (Although, interestingly enough, I have won small sums at Lotto, and my sister did win a few beautiful thousand at a slot machine in Arizona, so I know it is possible.) Luck is a bit like a superpower — you need or want something, you articulate that desire, and lo and behold, the cosmic diner that is the universe dishes it out for you in some form or another. I had to be clear on what luck and good fortune and prosperity looked and felt like before I could begin to be alive to it and cultivate it.

But don’t get attached

Most people, I realized, are really unaware of the blessings in their life because they have an attachment to what something looks like or how it is supposed to happen in life. It’s really that phenomenon of how you think the person of your dreams is tall, thinks a certain way, dresses a certain way and what not — and then you meet someone amazing and he’s not any of these things, but he’s wonderful and good to you and you’re insanely attracted to him. This is why I always like being clear on what things are supposed to feel like, and then get clear on the people and situations in life that create that feeling. Because you never know, and the universe is often a lot smarter than you and will deliver its beauty to you in unexpected ways.

It has to be a true soul desire

You can’t be big-upping your ego; you can’t want something to get even with your ex, or your parents, or to prove to the world how gorgeous you are. It has to be for the care and feeding of the most beautiful part of your soul. Strangely enough, most people don’t know what this is inside of themselves, but once you know — and take actions to keep it precious and thriving — good things build up and tend to happen.

Know the definition of “auspicious”

I LOVE the word “auspicious.” You hear this word a lot in Asian cultures. It basically means: there is a time and a place for everything — when will, conditions and everything else just align, and bowling a cosmic strike is just full of ease and grace. In order for luckiness and good fortune to be your modus operandi, it’s partly your job to be what I call a “conditions whisperer.” Sometimes for overly willful creatures like myself, you have to look at what’s really happening in your life deep down in your heart and realize, You know, my ego wants me to do this now, but my heart really lies here. Or, I’ve got these things lining up in my life — maybe it’s time I pull the trigger on this particular project. Everything has a season. Of course, you can do what you want whenever you like, but sometimes certain things are just easier than others.

You have to meet the universe halfway

Good stuff doesn’t just happen to people sitting around and expecting stuff to happen. You have be get off your duff and lay the groundwork. If you want to meet the sweetheart of your dreams, you have be out in the world, being a sweetheart to other people, projects and endeavors. You need to open the door and clear the path and feather the nest and what not.

Synchronicity is real

I can’t explain it. But you have to keep your eyes open for signs that it’s all aligning, because that’s how you know it’s working.

How to keep your eyes and ears and heart open?

This is super woo-woo, but you have to count your blessings, whether it’s a gratitude list or telling people how much you love them, and why. It’s important to count a lot, and count right: not just the trappings of your beautiful life, like, wow, I live in a beautiful place and wear great clothes and have great opportunities — but the real foundations of grace that make it possible: the fact you have a mother and father in your life, you live in a Western country and enjoy relative prosperity, your laptop freaking works, you have access to clean water, you have a stellar education. It’s all connected. Take nothing for granted, because you never know where the next stream of good fortune will come through.

Be lucky for someone else

This is really just a way of saying good things happen when you do good stuff for other people. I find this to be really true!

It’s actually not luck

Of course, this is really less about “luck” and more about what is commonly called abundance or prosperity, I guess. But I like “luck,” because who doesn’t want to hit the jackpot in all ways big and small? However, thinking you are unlucky — or that other people are lucky — is essentially taking the passive role in creating good things in your life. That is the pits. Pretty much the biggest lesson I learned as an adult is to take 100% responsibility for your life, and believing in “luck” deprives you of that.

So, deep down, I don’t actually believe in “luck.” I believe in beauty and blessings, in the glitter of good fortune. I believe that these can come to you with a modicum of grace and ease. Even when certifiably annoying or genuinely sad stuff is happening, I still think there’s a current of goodness that can run alongside it; you’ll still feel the ickiness, but it doesn’t linger as long or leave you reeling. This is super-woo, but being more alive to the beauty and goodness in life just makes more of it flow. That is the big lesson of my last year, and I am glad to see the fruits of it starting to emerge now.