“To stay with a broken heart, with a rumbling stomach, with the feeling of hopelessness and wanting to get revenge—that is the path of true awakening.”
~ Pema Chodron
There are some mornings when you wake up and you’re not really sure how you feel yet—the sky isn’t quite dark, but it’s also not yet light.
You’re awake and ready to move and make coffee, but you’re not close to alert or mentally crystal clear.
You had a mixture of strange dreams, compiled of family members’ faces you miss and subconscious hopes you didn’t even know were there until they so unexpectedly popped up into your night.
You’re excited about your afternoon plans and saying good morning to your daughter, but you can’t fully explain why you still feel a little mopey and kind of…heart-achy.
And what do you do? When you feel that your day and your mindset could potentially go in several directions? You do this:
1. You get out of bed—after lying there for a moment.
You let your possibly raw, tender or unexpressed feelings settle into your tissues and your conscious mind so that you’re able to be fully present in your life—able to deal with whatever comes up because you’re not hiding from yourself or your life—and then you get the f*ck up. You roll to your side, swing your legs over your bed and you. get. up.
2. You practice yoga.
Ideally, this is a real, physical yoga practice that involves breathing and moving through sun salutes and postures that are designed to release the aforementioned experiences from your tissues, so that you don’t carry around yesterday’s tensions and burdens. Yet here’s the secret: you can practice yoga in many different ways.
Just to name a few: ride a bike, walk on a scenic local trail, chew and taste every bite of your breakfast. Breathe. Inhale. Exhale. Repeat.
3. You don’t let go.
You eventually do—maybe—but you remember for dear life—and you accept that.
I cannot help that I have a memory that hangs onto exact words from a conversation from years ago or the knowledge of exactly the way I felt in a situation, but let me tell you that pretending you don’t remember does no good. This is called denial.
Instead, be open to the reality that who you are might not be who you “want” to be. Jealousy, hurt, fear—these are all emotions that are extremely uncomfortable—but it’s much worse to pretend that they don’t exist.
Learn to acknowledge, accept and name what’s going on inside of yourself and your life, even if it’s not ideal or welcome.
4. Hug and kiss.
Hug your children. Kiss your husband good-bye before work. Hug your mother. Kiss your friend on her cheek. Cuddle your dog.
In short, never forget to live the true human experience of touch—we crave it because we need it.
5. Throw away your bucket list.
Oh, bucket lists, I really don’t like these. Why? Because you should already be living every single stinkin’ day like it’s your last. Will that mean climbing Mount Everest today? Hmmm, probably not since you have a nine o’clock meeting. On the other hand, does this concept shape your every interaction?
Will you kiss your husband good-bye after he irritated you because you never know what the day will bring? Not to be negative, but it’s true. This is the real world.
Will you take a chance and ask for that raise you know that you deserve (the proper way, of course) because you’ve decided to live your life to its fullest every day, and not just on your birthday and Christmas?
Live. Every. Damn. Day. Like. It’s. Your. Last. (And throw away your bucket list, please.)
6. Open your heart.
Okay, I don’t want to get all syrupy new-agey on you, but this is true: life hurts. It stings in fact. However, if you close and harden and become crotchety and bitter as you age, then you attract these type of people and experiences right back into your life. Open up your heart, even and especially when it hurts.
You got burned in love? Try again. You got fired from your job? Apply for a better one.
The world needs more people who aren’t afraid of pain and who know that they are resilient enough to survive, thrive and move on.
Be a phoenix not a lemming.
7. You are not too old or too young.
Ageism—another one of my arch nemeses. You are not too young to have your own thoughts and ideas and you are not too old to learn new things, to change or to simply love living. If people around you are telling you otherwise, find empathy for their obviously limited view of their own capabilities and shrug off their words—and then proceed to do whatever the hell you want.
8. Eat mindfully.
Eating disorders go in many directions. If you are ignoring your body’s hunger cues and eating foods that generally make your body feel bad, you are not doing yourself a service as far as pursuing your best day.
So yesterday was a day filled with poor choices? (Or maybe your life up to now has been?) So what. I can tell you from personal experience that our bodies are more regenerative than we often think and that effective change happens when you take baby steps, not running leaps. (You know, the old tortoise and the hare story.)
I look out the window and notice that the sky is definitely a brighter shade of grey. The looming, unforecasted rain casts a heaviness that I feel in my bones. (Literally, even my once-broken bones feel this weight.) I decide to let the mysterious melancholy that I feel wash over me and through me, rather than turning away from it.
I get up to make my coffee and I look forward to feeling its smooth, velvety texture roll over my tongue.
I breathe and feel my chest expand with air.
I dreamt in black and white last night—I always do. I dream in shades of grey.
This makes me aware that life is a spectrum and not two distinct colors. I want to see each shade for what they are, because that’s living my life—that’s being authentic and this truth and clarity make each day my best.
I sit with my loneliness and my own inner shades of grey because I know that living from this place allows me to move towards the end of the spectrum that I choose.
I believe that life is a choice.
We can’t always choose our circumstances and we might learn to shape and transform our feelings and thoughts through effort, but we still have to own up to our almost primal and instinctual reactions.
So you want to live your best day? Then be you. Feel you. Live every day right where you are.
“To truly laugh, you must be able to take your pain, and play with it!” ~ Charlie Chaplin
This article was first published by elephant journal.