What lights you up?
Ever watch a little kid who is so wrapped up in something he/she is enjoying so much, you can see his/her face glow with joy? If you’re a parent, you’ve probably seen this in your offspring. Do you remember feeling this way when you were a kid? Seriously, take a minute to remember…(have you taken a minute?) What memory pops up for you? Let’s take this one step further – what lights you up now? What gives you that same feeling? This may not be as easy to answer, and may even take practice. I know it did for me.
Recently, I noticed my adventure partner, Ken, lit up when we had the opportunity to go sailing on a friend’s big sailboat from NYC to Martha’s Vineyard. The trip would take a few days, in the middle of the week, and it was not a round-trip sail. Ken grew up sailing. We’ve gone sailing together before. But there was something about this adventure that appealed to the kid in Ken. The mature part of him knew work came first. When his work schedule shifted, and those days opened up, I knew it was the “right” thing for him to follow his joy. When I asked him if he noticed how this opportunity lit him up, he responded he hadn’t.
My Heart Desires
His response is not uncommon – it takes practice to pay attention to what our heart wants. What kind of playing our “inner child” wants to get wrapped up in with joy. One practice I was taught to help me discover what my heart wants is to simply ask. The teachers often were in a meditative state of mind. Basically, relax. Like you do just before bed. Then, put your hand on your heart. As your hand is moving, ask “my heart desires…” and listen for what pops in your head. It’s that first response that is the true answer, so try not to judge it. To be honest, my brain often got in the way of my hearing the answer. I’d force it. If it doesn’t work for you, know that it’s okay. There are other ways too.
Find your flow
I was speaking with my yoga instructors, asking them what lights their fires, what do they do that makes them feel in “flow.” Carl, ever so wise, said it isn’t just one thing. He feels joy when he’s with his daughter. He enjoys music – as a musician he says he enjoys creating it the most. Not the business side of being a musician, where it becomes “work.” But that moment, like when he was first learning to play as a preteen, when he can “get lost” in the music. He also finds he’s in a flow state when he’s writing, which he has been doing daily for several years. Or (since he is a yogi),
that zen moment when you are fully present with what you’re creating for just you.
The other yoga instructor, Joanna, says she feels joy with her kids playing. I had assumed that as an artist and art teacher, she’d feel in flow most when she’s creating art. I was surprised when she said that currently she most enjoys teaching yoga classes. This ease of doing what feels good, turns the rest of her chaotic life into happy-mess.
Indulge your inner child – Play!
Summer is a great time to let loose and play like a kid. Or play like a kid with grown up perks.
- Fireworks. I remember as a kid being scared by the loud bang. Now I make a game while watching them. As the firework streams up in the air, let out a big “OOOOOOH”. As it explodes into patterns, cheer on with a big “AAAAAHHH” (Or reverse it, whatever makes you laugh). If you’re in a crowd, you’ll find it catches on and everyone starts to chant with you.
- Blow bubbles. While I have childhood memories of a simple bottle and a little, tiny hoop to blow through – these days there are fancy toys to generate tons of bubbles. Everyone enjoys them, especially on hot days.
- Play with your food. If you want to get messy, go ahead! Why not? (Especially since you know you are capable of cleaning it up).
- Recently I came across a “strawberry margarita” which (when I looked it up) is more like a “strawberry, mint, and tequila smash”. I’m not a bartender, so I don’t know how to professionally “muddle” strawberries and mint. But the sound of it makes my “inner little girl” giggle, so I will be trying it. As a grown-up, I get the benefit of adding liquor to this adventure. (Though, I suppose, it could taste just as fun with tonic water.)
- When I brought cut watermelon with some mint added to a party, the host was so excited! His face lit up, as he had never had this combination before. I’ve heard he has now made it several times, and takes such joy in sharing it. Want to try your own combinations? Look up “cooling foods” for summer inspirations.
- When I was a kid, the only way I liked eating watermelon slices was when I could join in a spitting seed contest. I haven’t had much watermelon since…except when I’ve found the opportunity to be child-like and spit the seeds!
- Ride a roller coaster. Amusement parks are an easy way to let loose. Watch the movie “Big” with Tom Hanks, and see the differences between youthful thinking and grown-up ways of squishing that original thinking. I’m still scared by roller coasters, but I’ve found a fun way to deal with that. On the ride UP the big hills…that’s when I let go and scream. It’s such a great release!
- Play “Oldies” and dance. My mom said as a kid I would often be found playing her old records and dancing around by myself. She said that phrase “dance like no one is watching” would come to mind. Find music that makes your feet itch to move, and go dance, whether people are watching or not. What matters most is if you are enjoying it!
- And whatever else… there are so many ways to play that help you let go of stress, reconnect with your sense of fun and remind you to go after your passions.
First, notice how you feel
For me, finding ‘adventure’ as my path to finding my flow, or what I find fun, has answered the questions of what my heart desires. I’ve (re)learned to play. I’ve learned that I love learning. And I’ve learned I love guiding others to find their path to a life filled with adventure. When I’m doing that, people notice how my energy makes me glow. I notice that I can do hours of “work” and not notice the time pass. That, to me, is what brings me joy, what lights me up What lights you up?