WEEK 23: Think Positive, Act Positive, Be Positive

“If you realized how powerful your thoughts are, you would never think a negative thought.” ~ Peace Pilgrim

I really didn’t expect that I would have much trouble with this week’s topic because ever since my first health scare a few years ago, I have been a true believer in the power of positive thinking. Since it had worked pretty well for me during those difficult times, it seemed that it wouldn’t be too hard keeping my thoughts positive when things were actually going relatively smoothly.

As it turned out, the week for this ‘assignment’ was the same week that I was going to be down in Florida with my mom and sisters, celebrating my mom’s 84th birthday. I had been the one to organize all of the logistics for the trip – choosing the hotel, renting the car, and coordinating our flights so that we would all get there about the same time. The thing is, as those who know me will attest, I can be a bit of a worrier, especially when I’m the one in charge of something.

So to think, act and be positive this particular week was actually going to be a little more challenging than I thought.

I remembered a trick I’d been taught back when I was sick, which was to imagine a stop sign in my mind every time I caught myself thinking negatively about my situation. Somehow the image of the stop sign really helped to remind me to switch the direction of my thoughts before I ended up at the worst-case scenario.

So I decided my ‘assignment’ for the week would be to look for the stop sign whenever I started to worry that the hotel wouldn’t be nice enough, or someone’s flight would be delayed, or the weather would be bad. And, hopefully, when I saw it, I would remember to switch the direction of my thoughts before my worrying became a reality.

Happily, the trip started out incredibly smoothly. Our flights all got in on time – in fact, some were even early. And although it was pretty cloudy, the sun peaked out just as I was landing, which I took to be a really good sign. The drive to the hotel was very easy.

But when we pulled into the hotel driveway and it started to rain, it was as though every single negative thought I had kept at bay the past few days had materialized right in front of me. Everywhere I looked I noticed something wrong. The hotel was old…and small. The parking was impossible. The pool was tiny. By the time we got up to our suite I was a wreck…and even though my mom and sisters were nice about it, I felt terrible.

And what’s even worse is that I never once saw a stop sign. As soon as we drove in the driveway, the negative thoughts started piling up so fast that I don’t think I would have noticed one even if I had crashed into it.  Really, I’m not exaggerating…just ask my mom and sisters!

It wasn’t until we were having dinner a little later that I even remembered it was ‘Think Positive, Act Positive, Be Positive’ week, and I honestly started to laugh out loud. How in the world had I let myself get so caught up in what was wrong that I missed everything that was right?

Because, actually, a lot of things were right. For one thing, our suite had gorgeous ocean views from every window. It was really spacious. It was clean. There was a beautiful print that reminded me of my grandparents’ house. And most important of all, I was sitting around a table with my mom and sisters, which just doesn’t happen that often.

So why couldn’t I have seen all those positive things sooner? Why was it so much easier to let myself get sucked into such a negative vortex?

Well, as it turns out, there actually is a reason. Scientists call it a ‘negativity bias’ which, according to Wikipedia, is a ‘psychological phenomenon by which human beings pay more attention to the negative things in their life than the positive’. Studies have proven that the brain actually shows more neural activity when it is reacting to negative input than positive!

Dr. Rick Hanson, a neuropsychologist, explains that ‘the mind is like Velcro for the negative, and Teflon for the positive.’ For instance, if someone were to give me ten compliments and one criticism for a job that I did, it would be the criticism that would stick with me, not the compliments. It seems our ancestors, in order to survive, had to be much more aware of the things that could go wrong, than the things that could go right.

I had no idea! No wonder I have to work so hard to stay positive!

But what I think I have to try to remember, and this is definitely easier said than done, is that even though I might have this ‘negativity bias’, I also have within me the incredible power to choose the way I think about something. So when I find myself spiraling out of control in a negative ‘this is the worst hotel ever’ vortex, I can reverse that spiral anytime I want. And whether it’s by putting up an imaginary stop sign, or making a shift in the way I’m looking at something, what’s important is my conscious awareness that a change is necessary.

I recently watched a video called ‘Celebrate What’s Right With The World’ about a National Geographic photographer, Dewitt Jones, who uses the lens of his camera to show how the seemingly ordinary subjects he’s had to photograph can be transformed into things of beauty simply by asking himself, “What’s right here?” Sometimes the answer doesn’t come immediately, so he has to be patient. And sometimes he might even have to shift the angle of his lens in order to see it. But his incredible photographs are definite proof that there is always something ‘right’ to be found…it’s just a matter of choosing to see it.

So from now on I am going to choose to look for what’s right in the world, too. Because, as Dr. Wayne Dyer has always said:

“When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at will change.”

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WEEK 22: Speak Compassionately

“In separateness lies the world’s great misery, in compassion lies the world’s true strength.” ~ Buddha

I wasn’t at all worried about this week’s topic to ‘Speak Compassionately’. I was actually so unworried that I didn’t even think I needed to come up with an ‘assignment’ to do. I guess because I’ve always thought of myself as a pretty compassionate person, I just assumed speaking compassionately for a week would not be too much of a problem.

Well, as it turned out, it was a little harder than I expected! In fact, and this is pretty embarrassing to admit, I totally flunked the first night of ‘Speak Compassionately’ week! I’m not kidding…within about 15 minutes of sitting down to watch the news, I found myself saying some pretty uncompassionate things about how a couple of the reporters looked. I didn’t like one of their outfits. And another’s teeth looked a little funny to me. I couldn’t believe I was being so mean!

I guess I had somehow forgotten the old adage that ‘if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all’. And even though it wasn’t like I was saying these things about people I knew, or actually hurting anyone’s feelings, the fact that I felt compelled to make such comments at all was pretty troublesome to me.

So I decided that this would be the perfect week to put those wise old words into practice. I would watch what came out of my mouth very closely, and if I caught myself about to say something mean or unkind, I would either not say anything, or try to find something nice to say instead.

Fortunately, I realized pretty quickly that I don’t really say unkind things very often, at least about anyone other than television news people! I have no idea why I am so critical of them…maybe I’m just trying to be funny, or somehow make conversation. But I did find, the next time I was watching the news, that by holding my tongue whenever I felt the urge to say something mean, I felt much better. Almost lighter. It was as though the whole energy in the room shifted because I decided to keep those negative words to myself.

And as it turns out, words really do have the power to change the energy in a room, or in anything for that matter.

In the 1990’s, Dr. Masuru Emoto performed a series of experiments observing the physical effect of words on the crystalline structure of water. He hired photographers to take pictures of water after being exposed to different types of words, and then froze them so that they would form crystalline structures.

Amazingly, when exposed to prayer, or positive words like ‘love’ and ‘appreciation’, the crystals formed beautiful patterns that were pure in color, and in perfect symmetry. On the other hand, when exposed to negative words like ‘anger’ and ‘hate’, the crystals were rough, dull, and in a state of disarray.

Dr. Emoto explains:

“Think of it in terms of vibration. It’s easy to understand that language — the spoken word — has a vibration. Well, written words also have a vibration. Anything in existence has a vibration. If I were to draw a circle, the vibration of a circle would be created. Drawing a cross would create the vibration of a cross. So if I write the letters L O V E, then these letters put out the vibration of love. Water can be imprinted with these vibrations. Beautiful words have beautiful, clear vibrations. But negative words put out ugly, incoherent vibrations which do not form clusters.”

And because humans are made up of almost 60% water, it just goes to reason that the words we use to communicate with each other could have as big an impact on the people we’re talking to (not to mention ourselves!), as they did on the water in Dr. Emoto’s experiment.

So whether I’m talking to myself or someone else, it seems to me that it’s really important that I try to pay attention to the words I’m choosing to use. Because when I’m more conscious of what I’m saying, the greater chance I’ll have of choosing words that are positive, rather than negative. And that can only be good, for me and anyone else I’m talking to, or about. Even television news reporters.

I came upon this acronym on Facebook the other day, and I think it’s going to be the perfect way to remind myself to ‘Speak Compassionately’ from here on in:

T.H.I.N.K. before you speak! Is what you are about to say True, Helpful, Inspiring, Necessary, and above all, Kind?”

Because if there’s one thing we could all use a little more of in this world, it’s kindness.

WEEK 20: Avoid Physical Fighting and Abuse

“You can’t shake hands with a clenched fist.” ~ Indira Gandhi

Well, life has definitely thrown me a couple of loops these last few weeks, so getting this post written has not been the easiest thing to do. Although, to be totally honest, I think it was going to be hard anyway because physical fighting and abuse are, luckily for me, just not a part of my every day life. And it’s kind of hard to find a way to avoid something that isn’t there to begin with, even in the name of raising consciousness.

So I am going to let myself off the hook again, and rather than rack my brain for something I can do to ‘Avoid Physical Fighting and Abuse’, I am going to share Martin Luther King and Mahatma Gandhi’s ‘Joint Principles of Non-Violence‘, which I came across the other day as I searched the internet for some inspiration. I can’t think of any better way to raise my consciousness this week than to reflect on these principles, and try to incorporate them into my own life:

JOINT (GANDHI-KING) PRINCIPLES OF NON-VIOLENCE

1. Non-violence means to honor the inherent worth of every human being. In non-violence we naturally seek to understand each other, build friendship and community.

2. Non-violence means believing that our lives are linked together, that what we do impacts the lives of everyone we encounter. That we are responsible to and for one another. That we can trust one another and work toward the common good.

3. Non-violence means dedicating ourselves to the fundamental rights of every human being (Justice, Equity, Equality)

4. Non-violence is courageously choosing to practice compassion with our adversaries. We oppose injustice, not people.

5. Non-violence means recognizing love as the power of the human spirit to triumph over injustice, inequity, suffering; a true hero’s journey of personal-social change.

It is my fervent hope that in the new year before us, these principles find their way into everyone’s heart (especially those who are in power!). I totally believe that we are at a tipping point right now, and with some courage, and a little shift in the right direction, we will find ourselves in the world that Gandhi and Dr. King envisioned.

I heard this song by Tracy Chapman the other day, called New Beginning, and the words offered me hope that a more peaceful world really is possible:

“We can break the cycle – We can break the chain.

We can start all over – In the new beginning

 We can learn, we can teach.

We can share the myths, the dream, the prayer.

 The notion that we can do better.

Change our lives and paths.

Create a new world.”

So in this season of hope and peace, I am going to make an early new year’s resolution that in 2012 I will be brave, and help make the shift to a better world happen.




WEEK 19: Choose Empowering Beliefs

“Man is made by his belief. As he believes, so he is.” ~ Bhagavad Gita

For some reason this week’s topic to ‘Choose Empowering Beliefs’ has really thrown me for a loop. I just haven’t been able to figure out what direction to take, and so every time I sit down to write, I find myself going around in circles.

I can’t really put my finger on what is making this one so difficult either. Maybe it’s because I didn’t really like my ‘assignment’ that much. Or it could be that I’ve read so many different things about beliefs that it’s hard to pick one area to focus on.

But whatever it is, the time has come to stop fretting about it and just get started. Hopefully, I’ll figure out the best direction to take as I go along.

Anyway, a couple of years ago I saw this YouTube video of a little girl standing on her bathroom sink, loudly affirming how much she loves everything in her life:

And when I was thinking about how to ‘Choose Empowering Beliefs’ this week, I thought it might be fun to try something similar by giving myself a little pep talk every morning. Simple enough, I thought, and a good reminder about all the things I have to be grateful for.

So I found a list of empowering beliefs on the internet, and picked one that I thought would help me start my day off in the most positive way:

“Anyone can do anything and anything can happen.”

Well, I was a little surprised, at first, to discover that talking to myself in the mirror is not as easy as it looks! When I stood staring at my reflection on the first morning, I was actually a little embarrassed to say anything at all, let alone with the enthusiastic abandon of the little girl in the video. And even though it got somewhat easier as the week went along, I have to admit that I was never really very comfortable.

Which started me wondering whether I was uncomfortable because I was talking to myself in a mirror, or because I just didn’t really believe, deep down inside, that what I was saying was true. Which kind of confused me, because I had pretty much thought that I already believed it! I mean, I love hearing stories about someone who’s done the seemingly impossible…the underdog who’s succeeded against all odds. I’ve probably watched the movie ‘Rudy’ a hundred times and have absolutely never gotten tired of it!

But no matter how loudly or often I would say this affirmation, I couldn’t ignore the little voice in the back of my mind telling me it just wasn’t true. That people do have limits, and so it’s not really possible that anyone can do anything.

What I couldn’t figure out, though, was where this belief had come from. I really have no honest recollection of anyone ever telling me such a thing, so I guess that somewhere along the line I must have done something, or witnessed something, that made me believe it was true. And the fact that I didn’t even know it was there is a little bit worrisome…I wonder if there are other limiting beliefs lurking in my subconscious?

In any case, I started thinking that maybe this is true for a lot of us – that because we don’t always consciously choose some of the beliefs we have, we’re not even really aware that we have them! We grow up with parents who have certain beliefs they pass along to us, which have been passed along to them, and even though we might question them as we get older, it’s probably pretty hard to get rid of them altogether.

And the same way this can happen with families, it can probably happen just as easily with our different cultures and religions. I imagine generations have come and gone with no one ever really questioning the beliefs that have been passed along, because it’s just the way it’s always been.

And, according to Neale Donald Walsch in his book, The New Revelations – A Conversation With God, this is exactly why our world is in such trouble today. Because many of us are really reluctant, whether consciously or unconsciously, to challenge some of those beliefs that have been passed down through the generations. And so we keep making the same mistakes, because we’re unwilling, or maybe just scared, to question the wisdom of our ancestors:

“Your world is facing enormous problems right now, and you must solve the problems at the level of belief. You cannot solve the problems at the level of behavior. Seek to change beliefs, not behaviors…You can take whatever action you want to take to alter someone else’s behavior or to stop it, but unless you alter the beliefs that produced such behavior, you will alter nothing and stop nothing.”

Unfortunately, it seems that we humans have a pretty hard time when it comes to altering our beliefs, even when there’s solid evidence that those beliefs are completely false. For instance, Walsch reminds us, we used to believe that the earth was the center of the universe. When Copernicus, and then Galileo, both offered proof that this assertion was false, they were called blasphemers and heretics. No one believed them. It wasn’t until 300 years later that Galileo was finally pardoned by the Catholic Church and the world accepted this new belief.

It’s amazing how stubborn and fearful we can be when we’re faced with a new way of thinking.

Take what’s going on today with the Occupy Movement. The protestors are being criticized for not having a cohesive message, but I think the message is actually crystal clear. Something is wrong. The world is just not in a good place right now. And whether you’re in the 1% or the 99%, there is just no getting around the fact that our system isn’t working.

And maybe it’s not working because some of our most basic beliefs have become outdated. Economic and political policies that may have worked at one point in history may just not work today. Not necessarily because they’re  wrong, but because the world is changing. And people are changing. And the climate is changing. Everything is changing.

It just makes sense, then, that some of our beliefs about how the world works may have to change too, so that we can adapt to what’s happening and be able to move forward.

Albert Einstein put it this way:

“No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it.”

Maybe if all of us, both individually and collectively, would consciously choose to consider some newer, more empowering beliefs, we’ll be able to see which of our old beliefs may be holding us back. And perhaps then, with that newfound awareness, we’ll find ourselves at a new level of consciousness where we can start solving some of our problems.

I don’t know about anyone else, but I definitely think it’s worth a try.

So I’m going to start by choosing a slightly different empowering belief to say to myself in the mirror every morning:

“Anyone can do anything, if they truly believe that they can.”

I think even the little voice in the back of my mind can believe that.

WEEK 18: Take Control of Your Lifestyle

“It’s not what we do once in a while that shapes our lives, but what we do consistently.” ~ Anthony Robbins

Is time speeding up, or is it just me? In the last few months it just seems as though I’m not getting the things done during the day that I want to. I get so distracted…even when I make a list to keep myself on track, I still find that I’m having trouble fitting everything in.

Maybe I feel this way because I have my project filling up a lot of the spare time that I used to have. Or maybe it’s my age, so instead of the years flying past now it’s whole days. Or maybe, in some crazy scientific way, time actually is speeding up! Whatever it is, though, I’d really like to get a handle on it, because being this unorganized goes completely against my Capricorn nature.

So as I was pondering the best way for me to ‘take control of my lifestyle’ this week, I remembered something I had read a couple of years ago in Benjamin Franklin’s autobiography. I guess it made a big impression on me because I was going through a bit of a lifestyle overhaul myself, at the time, and his idea seemed so, well, smart.

It was called a “Plan For Attaining Moral Perfection” and in it he listed 13 ‘virtues’ that he believed would set him on the path to success if he was able to incorporate them all into his daily life. They included: Temperance, Silence, Order, Resolution, Frugality, Industry, Sincerity, Justice, Moderation, Cleanliness, Tranquility, Chastity, and Humility. It was his hope that if he could adhere to these virtues every day (and he kept track in a little book he carried with him), then he would ultimately lead a very successful, not to mention morally sound, life. And, given what we know about Benjamin Franklin today, I guess it worked pretty well!

Anyway, my favorite part of his ‘Plan’ was the daily schedule he made for himself to help him keep ‘Order’ to his days:

Doesn’t it just make life seem so doable?  And such a perfect way to ‘take control of your lifestyle’? I decided to give it a try myself.

So I divided my days into 6 parts, just like above, and challenged myself to stick with it for the week. And I have to say, I think it really worked! I found that just by adding a little structure, if only in my mind, to how I thought my day should go, I was able to keep myself from drifting off track a lot more easily.

For instance, and this is a little embarrassing to admit, sometimes I can get so caught up on the computer in the mornings that I am still in my pajamas at 10:00am. And then I have to scramble to get myself dressed and the house in order, which somehow sets the tone for the whole rest of the dayBut, happily, what I found this week was that because I had allotted 7-9am as my ‘morning’ time, I was much more disciplined about being dressed and ready for the day by 9:00. And what a huge difference that made in how much I got done in the next time slot, and the next.

I also think it was really helpful to go over the day before it actually started…or as Franklin put it; “Contrive the days business”. I found that by spending a few moments in the morning picturing in my head how I wanted the day to go, I actually had more success in getting the things done that I’d hoped to.

I guess that, really, the main thing I realized this week is that it’s a lot easier to be in control of my lifestyle when I am consciously aware of what I’m doing, when I’m doing it. I think the problem I was having stemmed from the fact that I tend to switch into auto-pilot mode more often than maybe I should, and so when I  drift a bit off track during the day, I don’t really notice. And then I’m surprised, not to mention frustrated, when I don’t end up where I thought I was headed.

Of course, the trick now will be trying to stick with this new daily schedule, because otherwise I’m going to end up right back where I started…wondering where in the world the time is going. But I think it’s a lifestyle change that I won’t have too much trouble with because, really, it’s just a matter of paying a little more attention to what I’m doing during the day. Switching from chardonnay to pinot noir was way harder!

And if I do still find that I’m drifting off track every now and then, I will take comfort in the fact that even Benjamin Franklin had some trouble with this particular virtue. He admits in his autobiography:

“In truth, I found myself incorrigible with respect to Order; and now I am grown old, and my memory bad, I feel very sensibly the want of it. But, on the whole, tho’ I never arrived at the perfection I had been so ambitious of obtaining, but fell far short of it, yet I was, by endeavor, a better and happier man than I otherwise should have been if I had not attempted it.”

The key, I think, to taking control of my lifestyle is, ironically, knowing when I don’t have control. Because it’s in that awareness, in that conscious realization that I’ve drifted off track, that I can try to make the right adjustments to get me back on course.

I just have to notice.

WEEK 17: Make Yourself Happy

“Happiness depends upon ourselves.” ~ Aristotle

When I started to think about the kinds of things I would do during “Make Yourself Happy” week, I couldn’t wait for it to get here. I mean, how often in life do you get an opportunity to spend a whole week just doing things you love to do…and not even have to feel guilty about it?

But as the week got closer, I realized that a lot of the things that I was thinking I might do to ‘make myself happy’, I pretty much already do…albeit a bit guiltily at times. So when I received an email from my new ‘like-minded friend’ (Week 15) about a workshop called ‘Inner Space’ that was being held at a nearby Feng Shui Center, I impulsively signed up. I’d been learning a little bit about feng shui and thought that really diving into it at a weekend workshop would definitely make me happy.

Or, on the other hand, maybe not.

Sadly, the whole weekend was a pretty big disappointment. Instead of making me happy, I was actually fairly unhappy from the minute I walked through the door. First of all, and this is totally my fault for not reading the whole email my friend sent, the workshop had nothing to do with feng shui, even though it was at a Feng Shui Center. It turned out to be about finding the ‘inner space’ in yourself, not in your home, which is all well and good, and probably something worth learning about, but it wasn’t what I was expecting at all.

Secondly, I didn’t really care for the teacher. She seemed ok at first, but as the weekend went along she started to show some alarming passive-aggressive tendencies by picking on a poor woman who’d been a few minutes late to the class. Not exactly inspiring.

So ok, live and learn. I guess it’s a good idea to do a little homework before signing up for a weekend workshop!

But I will say that the experience got me thinking that perhaps ‘making myself happy’ is less about doing and more about being. That maybe what’s important is finding a way to be happy even when the circumstances surrounding me are not so great.

So instead of grumbling about how the workshop wasn’t what I had expected, and the teacher was a bit psycho, maybe I should have tried to focus more on what was good about it. Because, actually, there were a few things that weren’t so terrible. For instance, I learned that pine trees have psychic energy. That’s kind of cool. And I met a couple of nice people I wouldn’t have otherwise met. Plus, I did something I had never done before by signing up to go on my own.

There were actually quite a few things that could have made me happy while I was there…I just chose not to see them.

The thing is that it’s sometimes really hard to make yourself happy when you’re in an unhappy place. A couple of weeks ago, for example, I was worried about a zillion things, and no matter how hard I tried to talk myself out of the negative zone I was in, my mind just kept circling and circling from one bad thought to the next. I couldn’t find my way out.

I’d read somewhere that sometimes it can help to write all your worries down when they start piling up. That somehow putting them down on paper can get them out of your head…kind of releasing them to the universe, I guess.

So I tried it. I sat down before I went to bed and wrote down every single thing that was troubling me. And a few things that I didn’t even know were troubling me! Then I tore the piece of paper into tiny little pieces and threw them away.

Did it work? Well, I think so. I was able to fall asleep at least. I can’t say that I was happier – that would have been a pretty big leap – but I definitely felt better. And I think that it was by taking that action, by asserting a little bit of control over the negative vortex I was swirling around in, that helped make the difference.

According to Gretchen Rubin, author of The Happiness Project:

“The feeling of control is an essential element of happiness…a better predictor of happiness than, say, income. Having a feeling of autonomy, of being able to choose what happens in your life or how you spend your time, is crucial.”

The problem, though, at least for me, is that it’s hard to always have control over what happens in my life, so I need to try to remember that I do have control over how I feel about what’s going on. Maybe I couldn’t control the fact that the workshop I went to wasn’t what I expected, or that the teacher was a passive-aggressive nutcase, but I certainly could have shifted my focus from the bad to the not-so-bad while I was there, and not ruined the whole weekend for myself.

And so I’m realizing that it’s never going to be the weekend workshop I sign up for, or the cute new sweater I buy (believe me, I’ve tried that!), or the better job, nicer car, bigger house, etc. etc. that will ‘make’ me happy. None of those outside things can bring me happiness if I haven’t found it on the inside first.

Helen Keller, one of the most inspiring people I can think of, put it this way:

Your success and happiness lies in you. Resolve to keep happy, and your joy and you shall form an invincible host against difficulties.”

I guess, in the end, if I’m looking to ‘make myself happy’, I just have to remember where to look.

WEEK 15: Befriend Like-Minded Individuals

“Friendship is born at the moment when one person says to another, ‘What! You too? I thought I was the only one!” ~ C.S. Lewis

Well, I guess when I started my project back in March I should have given a little more thought to how I would keep up with it during the summer, since I am away (and unplugged) for a lot of it. So rather than spend my vacation fretting about how far behind I was getting, I decided to simply add another guideline to my list:

Number 11: Don’t take myself too seriously – it’s just a blog!

So, in the spirit of that guideline, I enjoyed a very relaxing summer, and now I’m ready to pick up where I left off back in July…Week 15: Befriend Like-Minded Individuals.

I’m pretty sure that if I had actually given any thought beforehand to how I was going to go about finding a ‘like-minded individual’ to befriend, I might have panicked a little bit. I mean, it’s not like meeting new friends is the easiest thing to do, like-minded or not. Luckily, though, I didn’t have to think about it. It was almost as though someone led me on a treasure hunt, and the prize at the end was the perfect ‘like-minded individual’!

What’s amazing though, especially in hindsight, is how easily I could have not met this person, because a lot of the decisions I made along the way were pretty out of character for me. I’m not sure if it was fate, or the universe, or just dumb luck that led me down the right path, but I am incredibly grateful that something kept pointing me in the right direction. Otherwise, I might still be out there looking for a like-minded person, and be even further behind than I already am!

So here’s what happened:

A friend read my blog on Facebook and thought I might be interested in going to hear Gabrielle Bernstein, a young spiritual author, speak at a local playhouse. Now, I don’t usually like to go out during the week if I can help it, so it would have been much more like me not to make the effort. But for some reason I went. That was Not-Like-Me-At-All Decision #1

When we got to the event, some vendors were set up in the lobby, and there was a long line in front of one of them. When I found out that everyone was waiting for a free ‘angel reading’ I was pretty intrigued, so I got in line. That was Not-Like-Me-At-All Decision #2, because I really hate standing in long lines.

The reading itself was brief, but amazingly accurate given the circumstances, and so I took one of her cards, thinking an ‘Angel Reader’ might come in handy when I got to #70 on my Official List: Connect with Your Spirit Guides. So a couple of days later I checked out her website, and ended up sending her an email to get a few more details about what she did. At the last-minute, I decided to include a little bit about my project, and added the link to my blog. Now, I have to tell you, I have never shared my blog with anyone I haven’t met before, so this was definitely Not-Like-Me-At-All Decision #3.

We started a little email exchange and she suggested that maybe we could meet for coffee sometime and talk more about my project. I was so excited…someone I didn’t even know actually liked my blog! So I sent her a quick reply saying that I was getting ready to leave on vacation, but I would love to have coffee as soon as I got back. I had no sooner pushed the send button, though, than I turned the page on my calendar and saw that my next week’s ‘assignment’ was to ‘Befriend Like-Minded Individuals’! It seemed too good to be true!

So, at the risk of her thinking I was completely nuts, I quickly sent another email asking if she would possibly help me out by being my like-minded friend for a week, and she agreed to get together before I left. Now, for some people, meeting with a complete stranger may be no big deal, but for me it is just not something I do every day. In fact, I’m pretty sure I’d never done anything like it before…so Not-Like-Me-At-All Decision #4!

We met a couple of days later, and luckily, despite my worry that it might be totally awkward, it was just really, really fun. Talking to someone who is on the same path is so energizing – especially when that someone is a little further along that path. I felt like I’d known her forever! And believe it or not, even though she and I had never really met, I actually knew her husband. In fact, I was going to be seeing him later that morning! It really can be a crazy, small world, can’t it?

Of course, I’m sure there are people out there who might read this and say that it was all just coincidence, and that I am making way too much out of what happened. But the week after all of this took place, I randomly picked up a book called The Celestine Prophesy, by James Redfield, and to my utter amazement the whole first chapter was about experiences such as mine. According to Redfield:

“…these coincidences are happening more and more frequently and, when they do, they strike us as beyond what would be expected by pure chance. They feel destined, as though our lives had been guided by some unexplained force. The experience induces a feeling of mystery and excitement and, as a result, we feel more alive.”

Redfield refers to such experiences as ‘meaningful coincidences’ that lead one in a particular direction, and he believes they happen a lot more often than we realize. We just miss recognizing them because we are moving so fast through our lives. Perhaps if we could slow down and take ourselves off autopilot once in a while, we would notice more often when we actually have a choice to make that could point us in the right direction.

Looking back on all of the ‘coincidences’ that led me to my new like-minded friend last week, I have to say that the experience left me with an incredible sense of possibility. That if I would just step out of my comfort zone a little more often, and perhaps try some new ways of thinking (and doing), it would be much more possible for me to experience the limitless opportunities (and friends!) that are out there, waiting for me to find them.

I just need to slow down so I’ll notice the clues.