Tuesday, July 26, 2011


Do you like taking quizzes and assessments? I do. I love knowing more about myself and finding new ways to look at my inner workings.

If you want to know whether you're authentically happy or not, what your biggest character strengths are, whether you have enough grit to make things happen, or how you're doing in terms of how much time you currently spend feeling happy, then visit www.authentichappiness.org and take an assessment or two.

Not only will you find out more about yourself, you'll be helping the positive psychologists at the University of Pennsylvania find out more about the human race.

And it beats a night of watching mindless television!

Sunday, July 24, 2011

A sense of flow

I'm halfway through the 14 Months of Yes and am finding that there are really two types of months to be had in this experiment -- cerebral ones and practical ones. The cerebral ones are easier to dive deeply into, since I have to think about the quality, unravel it, and really roll around in it before I can apply it to my life. Wisdom, Passion, Grace, and Surrender were incredibly think-y months for me, and it was easy to get wrapped up in them.

The practical months, however, are where I get to just go out and DO more of something than I normally get to do. Risk and Generosity were practical months, and this month, Sensuality, is about aliveness and the five senses and living-in-the-moment-ness. I am working to smell and taste and hear things more than I normally do. Taking time to re-connect with nature and the connections around me so that I can really feel alive.

I'm discovering, though, that when I'm most in the present moment, most in a sense of flow, I barely notice my five senses at all. For example, I was teaching all last week at our company's distribution center in New Jersey, and, as you may recall, it's been a hot week. When I was in front of the room, though, I had almost no concept of temperature. I was so focused on communicating the message to the learners in the room that I almost didn't feel my body at all. And at the end of the day? I was totally exhausted. (And it was 80 degrees in the room -- something my learners definitely noticed!)

Also, the hotel in which we were working (and I was staying) smelled awful. I mean, it smelled like someone barfed in the lobby and then tried to cover up the smell by spilling a bottle of cough syrup on the stain. And while I was teaching? Didn't notice it. As soon as I was done? Brutal.

In my philosophy class we talked about how important it is to focus your energy on the surface of whatever work you're doing, as a way to settle your mind and bring your attention to the present moment. So if you're typing, think about where you fingers hit the keys. If you're reading, stay aware of the page in front of you. If you're doing the dishes, focus on the dishes. And if you're teaching, focus on the space between you and the students. It's another way to sharpen your attention and keep your mind on the work that needs to be done. It also makes it easier to slip into that present moment.

I tried it with running the other day and it works wonders there, too. Focusing on how and where my feet hit the sidewalk took my mind off of all the other blah-blah-blah that was happening in my head. It made running more immediate (and, what's more important more tolerable). I'm doing it now as I type. I did it last night, as I flirted at a bar. It's a conscious effort to acknowledge that space and stay in the moment. I highly recommend it!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

the difference a year can make

Fifty one weeks ago, I went to Midsummer Night's Swing at Lincoln Center on a date. I had always wanted to go, and that night they were teaching the hustle, which (as far as I could tell) seemed fairly harmless. It was a second or third date, so I knew the guy a little, but not terribly well, and I was a little concerned about looking like an idiot.

I'm not a great dancer. I'm very white, and I think I might lack a joint or two. But I love to move. Aerobics? Yes, please. Running? Sure, why not. Kickboxing? You bet! So dancing is something I've wanted to do ever since I moved to the city, and (can you believe it?) I've never really been.

So my date (who, I discovered later, LOVED to dance, and probably would have hustled the hell out of the night) wandered around the periphery of the dance floor with me, and we never bought tickets. We mildly shook our booties and kindasorta hustled, but there was really no dancing to speak of.

Had he gone there without me (which, for the record, he wouldn't have), I feel confident that he would have bought a ticket and danced. And I envied him that.

Fast forward 51 weeks. It's Midsummer Night's Swing again, only this time that date is no longer in the picture. I've invited a number of friends to join me for the evening, but none are available. So I go again, this time all by myself. Because I want to be the kind of person who, when she finds herself faced with something she has always wanted to do, doesn't require an escort.

And that same embarrassment, that same reluctance to get up there and move my body crept back in. The gremlin inside kept saying awful things like, "Don't go out there; everyone will know you're alone. They'll wonder why you have no friends. They'll pity you. It's safer to stay off the dance floor. Save your $20. Just go home. You came to the event. That counts. Now just leave."

For easily 15 minutes, I wandered around Damrosch Park, watching the guy give a dance lesson, watching everyone have fun trying to do 80's hip-hop moves (which most of them really couldn't) and envying them. Why couldn't I just get in there and do it, too?

Finally, after WAY more agony than was required, I bought my ticket, checked my bag, and got on the dance floor.

I want to say it felt triumphant, but really, it didn't.

I'm glad I got over my anxiety, I'm glad I put the notch in my belt, and I'm glad that I showed myself that I can do things alone. But I'm also willing to recognize that there are some things that are just more fun when done with people you know or care about. And I think dancing to 80's covers while avoiding the flailing limbs of people even whiter than you might just be one of those things.