This week I’m exploring the topic of creating a life you love. Many guests when they visit the retreat comment that I’m living a dream life. I enjoy year round Spanish sun, get to teach yoga to interesting and varied guests from all over the world and get to eat delicious plant-based food cooked by talented women chefs. That much is true. However, it is not the full story. The coronavirus pandemic has challenged us in so many different ways this year and, in recent weeks, has given me time to pause and reflect.
So, what is living a life you love? To me, this means that you can wake up, more often than not, ready to greet the day with a smile. Rather than feeling like the whole day is filled with packed with endless things on a giant to-do list, instead the day contains more and more pockets of fulfilling things. This doesn’t mean that every day is perfect (there is no such thing, even though I would like there to be!) or that one will never experience upsets, challenges, frustration or sadness ever again (these are all parts of being human). However, on the overall balance of things, my ideal life is to feel like I have contributed something to the world, left it a little bit better than when I woke up.
Top ten tips to live a life you love
Below I share ten tips that help me to live a life I love. Some days I forget them completely and other days I encompass them entirely – most days it’s somewhere in the middle! Life is a journey (see point 10!).
1. Be present
No matter what you are doing, be present.
Worry and anxiety tend to increase when we focus on the future, on what might (or might not happen). Feelings of upset (anger, sadness, shame etc) tend to occur when we re-live the past, focusing on what we have done or not done. By becoming present you can experience the now. You are more likely to enjoy what you are doing, or make sure you do something that you know you enjoy when you are present.
Being present is like pressing a reset button.
2. Fill your time with things that matter – things that you enjoy
It is said that nature abhors a vacuum, so if there is space or time in your day, you might find that it gets filled with things that other people want you to do or things that you feel obliged to do.
Start to explore the things that you love doing or experiencing. There’s no need to think about what comes after that, for now just explore. For me personally, I love all topics relating to health and have done since a geography lesson about global health when I was 13 years of age. No matter what is going on at the retreat, I will always find time to do some research for an article I’m writing or explore a question about health that has been intriguing me (one question I’m currently exploring is: what is pain?). I also love spending time in the garden, and one of the benefits of travel restrictions right now is that I have plenty of time for that activity!
Whilst you are being present (tip 1), you can start to become more aware of when you are doing things that deplete your energy, that you feel resentful towards. This is how you notice that fills your time for other people´s agenda, or obligations.
Once you know what you love doing or that it’s an action needed for your direction (read tip 3), prioritise it. Fit everything else in around it.
3. Set a direction
For me, living a life you love is not about creating massive goals, but having a general direction to head towards. I personally find massive goals overwhelming, whereas John can feel inspired by them. I also feel restricted by goals.
However, setting a direction in which to travel is much easier for me. For example, when John and I started La Crisalida Retreats, I knew I wanted to create a health and wellbeing centre that offered healthy food, meditation, yoga, walks and a place of relaxation, for likeminded people to have the time to find that inner connection and to heal. If I had set the goal to reach 10,000 people it would have overwhelmed me. However, we set the direction and started taking small steps. The first was to decide on the country and the area. Then the centre. And so on. Seven years later and we are close to that number of people.
Whilst this tip might seem to contradict my tip 1 “to stay present” I do think you can do both. I would set aside some time to focus on my direction, where I would like to head. Then let that go, to practice being present each day and in each task or action. Periodically I review and take stock, to check in – am I heading in the right direction for me? Sometimes, external (and internal) events might lead to a change in direction (or focus) and that’s okay. When we are driving a car, we often have press the breaks to stop or the accelerator to speed up, and to turn the wheel to go around an obstacle or set a new route.
4. Be the authentic you
Being the authentic you is one of the core messages from La Crisalida Retreats. Many of us can feel pulled in different directions by the expectations or needs of people around us and the wider society. This can lead to feelings of resentment building (and sometimes exploding!). Find out who you are, and remain true to yourself as much as you can.
Understand what interests you (and what does not). Recognise that we might have an outer shell around us, to protect us. The more we realise what makes us uniquely us and embrace that, the more our own light can shine which in turn allows others to do the same.
5. It starts in your own mind
Whether you live a life you love or don’t, it starts in your mind. Mind chatter is a term we use, which refers to the voice you can often hear in your head, sometimes judging us, sometimes encouraging. Often these are things that we have picked up and adopted over the years from parents, teachers, society or influential others. They become “rules” that we live by, unconsciously or consciously, which can cause internal conflict.
If we listen, there is another voice, our internal voice from the authentic self, which can help us to find our direction, to get clear on the things we love. Differentiating between the two can take some practice, but it is possible. Once you start to pay attention to the inner voice, rather than the mind chatter, it becomes easier to create the life you love.
So, next time you notice your mind chatter, become aware of it. When you say “I must do”, “I ought to do” or “I should do” take a moment to pause and reflect. What does your inner voice say?
6. Listen to your language
I don’t know about you, but cleaning the house is not one of my favourite “jobs” to do. However, I love it when my home is clean and tidy. I feel lighter and can relax more easily. So, when I start to notice my mind chatter and a negative charge about doing something, I make some changes to my language. For example, “cleaning the house” is quite impersonal and feels heavy to me (filled with obligations to some external authority). Compare this to “my home is clean and tidy”. I feel much more inclined towards the second sentence than the first, and much more likely to clean!
Picking up on some of the earlier tips, I might start to recognise that whilst cleaning is a necessary job, perhaps someone else enjoys more than me, so I employ someone to do that and instead I do an activity that I enjoy.
7. Remove the fantasy and nightmare
Following on from point 5, to live a life you love, it is helpful to increase your awareness of when you are living in a fantasy (and/or nightmare). For example, I have a busy life and have a high focus on my business – it takes up quite a lot of my time and energy. However, I know I have a fantasy about living in the “perfect” home. In my fantasy, my perfect home should be modern, warm, well decorated and maintained, clean, welcoming, tidy with everything working perfectly, ALL the time. This actually creates a nightmare for me, as some days it really is the complete opposite – something breaks, the dogs moult and I just want to sit down, relax and ignore the mess. Having the fantasy of that “perfect” home is what causes the discomfort, the guilt of relaxing rather than tidying.
We can do this in all areas of our life. What areas of your life do you have a fantasy? Or nightmare?
8. Practice forgiveness
Staying angry doesn’t help you create a life you love. Whilst anger can motivate in the short term, it is not sustainable. Practicing forgiveness can be freeing. This includes forgiving yourself.
9. “Find your joy”
I love the part in the movie “The Bucket List” where Morgan Freeman asks Jack Nicholson to “find your joy”. My take on this is: find the thing(s) that make you happy, that warm your heart, find your passion(s), then include (some of) them in your day. If they are not there now, then start to add these things in. They can be big or small, simply make sure each day contains more and more of these elements.
One of my simply joys is to watch Toby, my Chocolate Labrador, running into the sea after a ball, even at 13 years of age he becomes like a puppy again. Yet this activity is often relegated to the bottom of my list, deemed as “not important”. I love marvelling at the stars in the night sky, reading a good book, teaching a yoga class and sharing an experience with someone. All of these elements coming together create a life I love.
10. Enjoy the journey
Your dream might be to be a doctor, create and run a million Pound / Euro / Dollar business, find the cure for cancer, have a family, live by the sea, live in a camper van to travel the world. Having these dreams are great, but they can take time to “achieve”. Remember, there is a journey to get to the destination. Enjoy the journey.
La Crisalida health and wellbeing retreats
I hope that these tips help you to create a life you love. Here at the retreat we offer a number of life makeover workshops that help our guests to explore similar topics, to find and be their authentic self. Read more about our retreats here.
About the author
- Lisa is one of the founders of La Crisalida Retreats. She is an Epidemiologist, therapeutic hatha and yin yoga teacher and also teaches mindfulness meditation. Lisa has studied NLP and hypnosis, as well as nutrition (she designs the menus).