Thursday, March 31, 2011

Finding Our Inspiration

When you're desperate, things are difficult. You don't know what to do. You struggle. You're afraid.

When you're inspired, things are easy. Life flows. You may not even know why you're doing something, but it comes with a sense of purpose and with almost no effort. Task seem to perform themselves and you just go for the ride.

Of course, most of our lives fall somewhere between desperation and inspiration. Most of the time we do things because we think we should. Because something is on our list or someone else's. Because our left brain tells us to. But we all know that's not a recipe for happiness.

The key question is how do we spend more time in a state of inspiration, where we're creating what we want to for the sheer joy it brings?

Here's a few things that I've found can be helpful:

1. Be present. You don't have to join an ashram. But you should spend a little bit of time activating the right hemisphere of the brain (the part of you that's already happy), and there are lots of good ways to do that, including meditation, yoga, martial arts, aerobic exercise (even walking), art, music, time in nature, or time with animals or children. Regular time here helps to destress and add some space to your life.

2. Cut caffeine and sugar. Caffeine triggers our adrenaline and cortisol, which means artificially induced fear and stress.  Sugar does the same thing, though to a lesser extent. It's difficult to feel inspired when we're stressed out.

3. Notice when you're afraid. When we're afraid, it generally means our amygdala has kicked in. We go on autopilot, and we try to escape or protect ourselves. Our view of the world gets much narrower, basically coming down to that which is threatening us and that which we see as the quickest escape route. Again, not very inspiring. Just taking one or two breaths, and focusing on the sensations of our bodies (rather than the panicked messages our brains are sending us) can make a huge difference.

4. Covet the quiet. We all have that still small voice. Give it as many opportunities to talk to you as possible.

Most of us spend way to much time running around trying to get all the things done that others have told us will make us happy. We rarely pay attention to the things that we want to do, and when we do, sometimes they only make us more afraid. Starting to engage in these practices won't change your world overnight. But over time, you'll find that you're more in touch with what inspires you, that it will spontaneously begin to emerge from you. You'll find more ways, and more time, to share your inspiration with the world. And that, I believe, is what we're here to do.


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