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What Makes You Happy? January 8, 2012

Posted by Ann Bertorelli in Self-Development, spirituality.
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manoloblahnikswanemblished  Happiness—sometimes an illusive state, sometimes just present. I’ve been doing some thinking about joy and happiness. In fact I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about joy and the lack of it.

What’s the difference between joy and happiness?

Happiness and joy are often synonymous  but there’s a distinction—at least for me. My definition of happiness is a general state of being that has us predisposed to be positive, hopeful and seeing possibilities for ourselves and those we care about. Joy, on the other hand, is that juicy rush we get when we are connected to something bigger than ourselves. Like I am happy that I finally know how to dance the tango (well, sort of) and I feel an amazing joy in connecting with a partner as we do the tango together.

That said, I’m not too het up about figuring out the distinction between the two. I just know that I really want happiness and joy in my life.

What do you do if you can’t find it?

So what are you to do if it just seems to be missing for you? Good question. Wish I had THE ANSWER but alas I’m sometimes awash in the world of blah or worry or teeth-grinding.  But since I don’t like being cranky and unhappy I search for ways to alleviate the condition.

This past week I was having a conversation with some of my wonderful women friends. One of them posed the question: What makes you happy? We all  took turns giving our answers to the question.

My own answers were:

    • getting to spend time with my three grandchildren
    • dancing the tango in impossibly high heels
    • making a new quilt
    • writing in my study (which I am doing right now)
    • having a spa day
    • taking a road trip with my boyfriend 

We spent about half an hour in this conversation and by the end of it we were all mellow and grinning from ear-to-ear. Happy for no reason except that we had just spent time thinking about things that make us happy. And most of those things were not high-ticket items like trips to the Aegean or a new pair of Manolo Blahniks (though I wouldn’t say no to a pair if someone wanted to give them to me).

It is possible to get happy by focusing on that which makes us happy

So what I learned is that it’s possible to get happy by focusing on that which makes us happy and leaving behind (if only for a short time) that which annoys, saddens, angers or weighs us down. Imagine that. One can get happier by thinking about what makes her happy.

Happiness is an inside job

A Course in Miracles makes a point about this. And I am paraphrasing here. It says that if the source of your happiness is dependent on something outside of yourself like a new pair of shoes, whether you get asked out on a date, or if you look good in your new jeans, that happiness is transitory and will leave you. True happiness comes from within yourself, from that which feeds your soul or makes you feel like your best self.

Make a list…

What makes you happy? Why not engage in that conversation with a friend or write it down in a journal or on a chalkboard (started to say blackboard but I don’t think they exist anymore) or on the back of your hand? The point is to think about the good stuff as much or more as you think about the annoying stuff.

I don’t know..what d’ya think?

–Amara

There’s a Reason For That September 25, 2011

Posted by Ann Bertorelli in My Life as I See It, Self-Development, spirituality.
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photo by Larry Thomas

Me looking relaxed and peaceful...

 

First of all, thanks to those of you who have emailed to see if I’m still alive and healthy. I am –just had a touch of the writer’s block this summer but I’ve decided to steam through it. Enough is too much!

A visit to Louisville

I arrived in Louisville KY yesterday to visit my  ‘boyfriend’ (somehow boyfriend strikes me as a weird term after the age of 35—how about inamorato?) for a week. I was supposed to have arrived on Friday afternoon ,rather than Saturday afternoon, so I was about 24 hours late. There was a whole lotta rain going on in Philly where I flew from and also in Louisville where I was going. And for some strange reason, USAir simply cancelled the flight, with the next opportunity to fly out being Saturday morning at 6:30 am—way too early for any creature to have to get up considering that one has to be at least an hour early for a flight these days—an hour and a half to be safe. So I got to stay in an airport hotel and get up at 3:45 (I shudder to recall it) in order to catch the hotel shuttle to the airport.

And the story has a little more to it than that. When the shuttle driver came to pick me up so I could check into the hotel, he inadvertently locked his keys in the van. Picture the van idling in pouring -down rain, my bags on the ground next to the van, and other people waiting two stops down for the shuttle to pick them up. The driver used his ingenuity and before too long (about 15 minutes) we were on the road. The folks two stops down were unhappy—could not figure out why it should take so long at terminal B/C to pick up one person. I smiled enigmatically and kept my mouth shut and so did the driver.

And there’s more…

There are two more points to complete the saga, the first being that when the new flight was ready to take off for Charlotte (I’d had a non-stop originally), engines revving, crew in place, the pilot clicked on to tell us that the Charlotte airport had just been closed to incoming traffic because of fog–Holy Chicago! We finally took off a half hour later and I arrived safely in L-ville. The next little inconvenience happened when Larry’s car suddenly quit in the middle of a parking lot and refused to start up again. He thinks it’s the fuel pump.

So it’s been an interesting couple of days. And through it all I have totally shocked myself at how much equanimity I have been able to maintain. I’ve been smiling mildly at each new occurrence. And that’s about the extent of my reaction. If I wasn’t inside my own head I’d have probably thought I’d had a frontal lobotomy.

Practicing surrender

But no, this is me practicing surrender. I’ve just decided that it’s too painful to get all worked up about things I can’t change. I know there’s a lot to be said  for venting and blowing off steam but that takes a lot of energy. I’ve been busy this last month and I want to conserve my energy.

I do believe that everything happens for a reason and so I spent some time trying to figure out who or what was blocking my graceful and easy entrance into Louisville. I got nowhere with that. So I’ve come to a conclusion about trying to figure out the purpose for everything that happens in life.

Asking why

Yes, I believe we are in ‘Earth School’ to learn life lessons that help us to grow spiritually and emotionally. And yes, I think it’s important to examine our lives to determine what we learn through our experiences. But sometimes you can just make yourself crazy with that. “Why did this happen?”, “Did I attract this disaster into my life?” “What lesson should I learn?”  All good questions but there comes a time to just give it a rest. Yep, there is a reason,a lesson in most things, I guess. But what if it just happened because God burped, or the Universe felt like playing a prank, or for no good reason at all? Perhaps I just need to leave it alone and insights will come in a week, a month, or a year.

Give it a rest

So I’ve come to the conclusion that there are times to just take a rest from  the self-imposed rigors of living your life. Do what you can do, with the tools you’ve got at hand and then just surrender…

Works for me….

—Amara

Signal Your Intention January 23, 2011

Posted by Ann Bertorelli in A Spiritual View, Personal Observations, Self-Development, spirituality.
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This week as I was out driving around town in my car I found myself cursing. (Hard to believe, I know) The reason? I kept getting behind or in front of drivers who intended to turn but chose not to activate their car’s turn signals. Grrrr…Finally after the third or fourth time I yelled, “Signal your intention!” (I might have added a little something at the end of the demand but I can’t remember what it was.)

As I said that out loud it got me to thinking about what an interesting thought that is. Hmmmm. Signal your intention. Since I am and have been very taken with the idea of setting intentions I got to thinking about how that might translate to living intentionally.

Why signal your intention?

How might a person signal her (or his) intentions? And why might a person do that? And what good would it do to signal one’s intentions?

What’s that mean?

Well, to signal your intention could mean to act as though it’s a done deal. Just assume that your intentions will become real. Here’s an example from my life. Yesterday was cart the grandchildren and daughter-in-law around day. In the morning I took my grandson to a birthday party at the Skateaway. The parking lot was totally packed as well as icy and treacherous to walk on. Last night at 7:00 it was time to take my granddaughter to the same location for another birthday party. Yeah, really. As I was driving to the Skateaway I started thinking about how bad it could be to walk from the very back of the parking lot into the rink. How nice, I thought, to have a space right near the front door. So that’s what I put out there—a parking space right near the door.

As we continued on our way, I found myself worrying about how cold it would be and how hard it would be to get into the rink. As soon as I caught myself doing that, I corrected my thinking. It was going to be easy to get in because we’d be right by the front door. I consider that ‘signaling my intention.’ Cool, I have a new term to use now. And before you have to ask—yep we did get a space right next to the front door. 

Ask and it is given.

So signaling your intentions is like telling the universe that ‘it is done.’ If you’ve read any law of attraction stuff  you’ll remember that you ask and then wait until it comes. And it if doesn’t come it could be because you are getting in the way by worrying it to death. There is a wonderful book on the law of attraction called Ask and It is Given by Esther and Jerry Hicks. And when I went to search for that link I also learned that ‘”ask and it is given” is a quote from the Bible: Matthew 7:7—to be exact. Well, that clinches it. Signal your intention….

–Amara

Signs March 7, 2010

Posted by Ann Bertorelli in Angel Writings, Self-Development, spirituality.
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I’m a big believer in magic…you know, the things that happen in life that can’t necessarily be explained away in a logical way. Things that make you say hmmmm…It’s great to be organized and planned and to check things off of your to-do list. We need that kind of stuff to assure ourselves that our lives have meaning because we’re getting things done. (read a touch of irony there) But what really lights me up is when the seemingly inexplicable things happen.

Signs fall into my magic category. No, not stop signs or McDonald’s signs or signs of global warming. I’m talking about normal run of the mill things that somehow put themselves into my path just to give me a little hug (or a not-so-tiny kick in the butt) from the universe that lets me know that I’m not hanging out on my own.

I”ll give you a few examples. In my lexicon of symbols (and coming from the interpretation of Doreen Virtue) the number 44 or 444 and so on is the angel number. It means that angels are giving you a big broad wink or answering your question or offering you comfort—depending on what you need at the time. One of my roles in life is Angel Therapy Practitioner ® certified by the well known expert in that field, Doreen Virtue. So as you might imagine I travel with a band of angels.

And everywhere I go I run into the number 44. This morning after spending the day yesterday doing angel readings for people, I woke up at 4:44. Yesterday on my way to do the readings, I was taking a route that I travel at least 4 or 5 times a month if not more and have done so for many years. I happened to look to my right at a traffic light and noticed a street sign that said “144 Lehigh Street.” Things that make you say hmmm..From this I interpreted that as I did the readings I would be guided to do good work in service of others.

I could go on about the number 44 but you get the drift. And now you’re going to start seeing that number everywhere too.

The shamans believe that animals appear to us to give us messages and teach us how to better our lives. The classic book on the subject of what messages animals symbolize is Animal-Speak by Ted Andrews.Yesterday as I was on my way to the reading place (it was an eventful ten-minute drive),I saw not one but two dead skunks. Now there’s a sign. I know that part of the symbology of the skunk is that it fears no animal. (wonder why) When I got home I looked up the entry in Animal-Speak and found that the message that skunk gives is

Now is the time to assert your boundaries. Others may be taking advantage. Demand respect and move forward at your speed.

Well, the boundary things seems like good advice. Not good to let boundaries get fuzzy when you are dipping around in other people’s energy fields. Got it.

I could go on but I’m sure your getting the drift. For me (and for you if you want to play) day- to-day life is not just the routines of getting my chores done or finishing a day at work. It’s the wonder of waiting for the magical things that show themselves often enough to keep my interest. It’s the signs that tell me that I’m being guided or perhaps that I am veering off the right path.

Why don’t you try it? If you’re in question about a decision—ask for a sign. And then don’t forget to watch for it. If you miss it, ask again. When you see a sign, it’s fun and inspiring and very, very comforting.

–Amara

The Love of Kirtan–2 September 7, 2009

Posted by Ann Bertorelli in spirituality, Uncategorized.
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Today is the last day of Omega’s Ecstatic Chant weekend.

http://www.eomega.org/ I have extended my stay for an extra day in order to bask in the bliss a little longer. I am always amazed at the effect kirtan has on those who participate in it. Here at Omega you can indulge or even over-indulge in kirtan with complete abandon. There’s no one in the audience who sits back and judges you for being ecstatic.

There is a select group of kirtan singers who are popular in the West. These performers are talented musicians who clearly have a passion for what they do.Most have studied in India and use Indian names instead of their Western names.

Perhaps the best known of the American kirtan singers is Krishna Das. KD is to kirtan as Michael Jackson was to pop music. (www.krishnadas.com) A big difference, however, is that KD and his band simply show up and sing. Yes, they are well-known and admired, even idolized, by kirtan lovers. But they don’t walk around with an entourage large enough to populate an army platoon. In fact, as I sit here in the Omega Cafe, KD is at the next table having a quiet conversation with one of his band members. No hysteria, no autograph-signing. However, Krishna Das is responsible for putting kirtan on the map in our country—and for keeping it there.

Also, here is Jai Uttal. Jai is a very talented musician and a great kirtan singer who’s been leading kirtans all over the world for over thirty years. He writes many of the melodies which accompany the ancient words of the chants. He also teaches workshops on kirtan. www.jaiuttal.com

Other favorites are Deva Premel and Miten, Shymdas, Wah, Donna DeLory .Two new artists whom I discovered in the last three days are Vishal Vaid, and David Newman.

I could go on on and but this is a blog post, after all. And besides, the next session of chant is starting. As I heard someone say yesterday, “Ecstasy is hard work.” But someone’s got to do it and it might as well be me. 😉 —-Amara

About doing your best…whatever that is March 29, 2009

Posted by Ann Bertorelli in Personal Observations, spirituality, Uncategorized.
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I was in midtown Manhattan for a meeting last week. It was a cold and rainy day. And since I was an hour early for my meeting, I decided to spend the hour working and drinking a cup of coffee. It was crowded in the Starbucks as is usually the case in midtown. I walked up to the counter and ordered a tall (translate to “small”) decaf coffee. The barista greeted me in a friendly way and quickly got my coffee, asking me if  I needed room for cream. After the transaction was completed, she made eye contact and in a very sincere way, wished me a pleasant day. Sounds pretty unremarkable right? Well, yes and no. 

It got me thinking about doing one’s best no matter what the situation. New York City is not especially known for its friendliness, right? For me that’s an inaccurate assessment. I have always experienced New Yorkers as being helpful and friendly. Of course, that may be as much about me as it is about them. I expect them to be friendly and they are. But back to the friendly barista. She must serve hundreds of people a day. And yet, she had the desire to do her job well and make the interaction between us as successful as it could be. And I left feeling good about it and her.

So what are the implications of doing your best no matter what situation you find yourself in? I think that we are hardwired as human beings to be at our happiest when we are performing to the best of our ability. Yes, I know that you can probably point to many people you know who seem perfectly content with just doing enough to get by, thank you very much. And I offer that in order to do that they have to go through a whole lot of rationalizations about why they are doing what they are doing. They have to make up a story ahead of time to offer when they are criticized,directly or indirectly, for not performing well. And they have to stifle the little niggling voice in their heads that says, “You’re not doing your best.”

That’s a lot of work—mightn’t it be easier just to perform well at the start?

Jeff is a young man with Down’s Syndrome who works at my local grocery story. He will never be a rocket scientist or a college professor. But he is a genius in his own world. He is invariably cheerful and helpful. And he packs a mean grocery bag with everything in the best possible place–never a broken egg or a crushed loaf of bread on his watch. Whatever Jeff does, he does to the very best of his ability.

When you get right down to it, our life is about making a difference in the world—no matter what the size. Whether you are Barack Obama, Meryl Streep, the barista at Starbucks or the young man at the grocery store, there’s a little thrill than comes when you know that you have made a positive difference in the world.

The next time you want to be lazy, cranky, rebellious or to let things slide, think about your effect on your world. And if you still want to do it that way– go for it. And if you want to have that secret satisfaction in your heart from doing your best—then go for that instead. That’s the cool thing about life—you get to decide.

                    —Amara

 

 

Is the world falling apart? March 6, 2009

Posted by Ann Bertorelli in Personal Observations, spirituality.
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These are interesting times, are they not? I can honestly say that I don’t remember a time during my life that people have been so afraid about the future. And the more buzz there is, the worse it gets. You read a headline on the Internet or in the newspaper and you are immediately in the throes of paralyzing fear.

Others before us have been in the same or perhaps worse situation that we now find ourselves in. My dad was born in 1910 and lived through the Great Depression, though to hear him tell it it was not so ‘great.’ Most commentators today are reluctant to actually name the ‘D’ word but it has been creeping into our consciousness as each month of bad economic news continues.

So how do we cope with this depressing barrage of news, day after day? I believe that it is a combination of mind game and inspired action.

First of all the mind game part–

90% of the information we’ve been mucking around with is what I call an assessment. Now assessments are fine and they can be useful. But assessments are not TRUE, boys and girls. They are opinions, sometimes formed from facts and sometimes formed from other assessments/opinions. These assessments can change on a dime. For example, if on Monday there were two economic indicators that were favorable, the assessments about the severity of the downturn would be different than they were on Friday afternoon. Assessments are fickle. And since they can change rapidly, why not form assessments of your own that will serve you better?

Here are some examples:

Spoiler: The following examples have a spiritual context so if you can’t go there you may as well stop reading here.

This is a terrible thing that is happening to our country now. This should never happen.”

How do you react when you feel that you are in the middle of something “terrible?”

If you are anything like me you get indignant, angry, fearful or resentful. How would your life be if you could believe something different about our current economic times?

Try this:

Our country is going through some necessary changes. Things had gotten out of balance and in order for things to come back into line, it’s necessary that we realign our systems. Once we’ve gone through these changes we will be better for it. If we had continued with our current path, things would have fallen like a house of cards. The economic conditions are also serving as a lightning rod for environmental concerns. They are forcing us to take a hard look at the way we’ve been behaving in all areas of concern. The Earth could not have withstood the damage that was happening year after year. In fact, we are already seeing the results of that abuse in global warming which is influencing climate change. This contraction will force different behaviors that, left to our own devices, we would not implement. It is the universe’s way of getting us back in balance.

Another non-productive assessment:

I may lose my job. My retirement is so low that I’ll never be able to stop working. I’m going to be out on the street.”

Try this:

I may lose my job or have to work longer than I had anticipated. Or neither of these things may happen. I think I’ll get myself in the best possible financial position I can; I will cut my debt as much as I can. And I will also expect that I will be taken care of. I will be in conscious gratitude for all the good things I have in my life right now. I will live in the moment rather than ‘awfulizing’ about a future that may not materialize. And furthermore, I will spend time each day focusing on how I want things to be for me rather than holding the negative images of disaster. I will not engage in long and tedious conversations with those who want to awfulize; I will keep myself balanced even if the world around me seems crazy.

Even during the Depression of the 30’s there were people who thrived, who had money, who lived well. Can’t I be one of those people who thrives even in challenging times? (Read up on Law of Attraction)

Another one:

“The sky is falling; the sky is falling.”

Try this:

Am I okay right now? It’s my negative thoughts that make me not OK. If I can stay in the present rather than regretting the past or worrying about the future, I going to be alright.

Now on to inspired action. It’s very important to work with the assessments that our busy little mind springs on us. However, it’s also important to take action. If we sit in our meditation rooms and pray but do nothing else, things probably won’t go the way we’d like. We are here in “Earth School” to learn how to live in this cumbersome physical world. If we had wanted all love and light and unaltered peace we’d have stayed in the spirit realm and not elected to come to this physical world. We knew that we were in for some challenges, we knew exactly what they were before we signed up for this life, and we came fully equipped for the challenge.

So how does one take inspired action? Well, it requires an attentiveness to that inner voice that we all carry around inside us. You know the one–it’s really tuned to our higher consciousness and the times that we have listened to it we have been grateful for what followed. And the times we have ignored it, we’ve kicked ourselves.

This looks like following impulses about things like whom to talk to, what class to take, what books to read, what news to listen to, or not.

Here’s an example that worked wonderfully well in my life (this is one of many, by the way.) I was having a problem with my right knee. I had injured it dancing and it was putting a major crimp in my activities. I went to my doctor who sent me to a sports medicine specialist. One MRI later he started discussing knee surgery with me. I don’t know about you but I will do a whole lot to avoid having surgery. I was pretty sure that there was a better alternative to surgery.

One day not long after my meeting with the doctor, I was walking around the lighting department at Home Depot when I overheard a conversation between two people I could not even see. One person was extolling the values of acupuncture for healing the pain in his knees. Bam! I knew it was the universe speaking and I listened. I promptly found a good acupuncturist who assured me that he had had great results with knee problems. And he was right. In a month’s time I was back to my regular activities—no surgery.

The universe (or God, or your guardian angel, or our higher consciousness) speaks to us in a variety of ways. Some people have reported repeatedly hearing a certain song on the radio which suggested something valuable to them. Others pick up a magazine that has just the piece of information they need. The point is to tune in. Get out of your fog and really be in the present moment. It’s now, right now that inspired action is communicated and takes place.

The message is simple. You have a finite number of days remaining in this life. How do you want to spend those days? In fear, dread, and anxiety? Or in enjoyment of what life has to offer, be it big or small? As for me, I know that I want to be happy and I intend to do what it takes to stay there as often as I can. I hope you’ll choose the same.

—Amara