9 life lessons from kimmy schmidt

Ten-Seconds

 

When I find a new TV show I like, I get really into it. My latest obsession? Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, which I've been binge watching on Netflix. I'm a big fan of the whole fish-out-of-water concept (hence my obsession with the film Elf), and I'm (not surprisingly) obsessed with uber-positive characters like Buddy the Elf, Chris from Parks & Recreation, and my latest favorite: Kimmy. 

If you haven't seen the show, the premise is this: Kimmy (Ellie Kemper, in real live) was trapped with three other women in a bunker for 15 years and has just emerged into the modern world of NYC, where she's discovering the modern world, making new friends, and struggling with romance. It sounds like a silly premise, but it's such an uplifting and funny show that I can overlook some of the nonsense that comes along with it. 

The best thing about the show is Kimmy's positive attitude. Even when she was trapped in the bunker, led to believe the world had ended by a creepy reverend (played by the hilarious John Hamm), she maintained an optimistic outlook and tried to keep her fellow captives' spirits uplifted. And when she got out of the bunker and found the world much changed in the 15 years she'd missed, she doesn't mope around, thinking about how helpless she is. She takes her life into her own hands, using her determination and optimism to move to NYC, find a job and place to live, and make new friends. 

Whether or not you've seen the show, here are some excellent life lessons (and great Kimmy quotes!) you can take away from Kimmy and her adventures: 

  

TAKE IT 10 SECONDS AT TIME.
"A person can stand just about anything for ten seconds." 

I've always been a fan of taking things one day at a time. Sometimes the whole oh-my-god-this-is-going-to-last-forever mindset can really take its toll, and focusing on a smaller block of time can make whatever you're going through more manageable. However, I'd never thought about taking things in a tiny ten-second time block. It makes a lot of sense though, particularly if you're going through something really tough (like Kimmy was when she was forced to turn the "mystery crank" in the dark, dank bunker). Taking something ten seconds at a time is also a great way to stay in the moment. 

 

BELIEVE IN YOUR WORTH.
"We're not garbage! We're human beings!" 

Even though for years Kimmy and her fellow captives had been told that they were dumb, that they were garbage, Kimmy doesn't allow the negativity to get to her. Despite all of the harsh words she endured for a decade and a half, she comes out of the bunker believing that she has worth. Kimmy focuses on the skills she does have instead of dwelling on all she doesn't know about the world. When trying to win over a future employer, she says, "I'm a hard worker, I'm proficient in WordPerfect and Mavis Beacon Teaches Typing, and I can hold my breath for a real long time." Even though she has a lot to learn, she focuses on her strengths and celebrates her worth. 

 

EMBRACE KIMMYING.
"Smile until you feel better. I call it Kimmying." 

While I don't advise pretending things are fine when they're not (negative emotions always resurface somehow so it's better to deal with them and move forward rather than avoid them), I do think there's something to be said for Kimmying, aka putting a smile on your face even when you don't necessarily feel like smiling. It's even been proven scientifically that the act of smiling might actually make you feel happier. It seems to work for Kimmy — she consistently makes an effort to put a smile on her face and on the faces of others, even when things aren't going well — so it's worth giving it a try the next time you're not feeling so great.  

 

SEE THE GOOD IN THE BAD.
"A female dog? The thing that makes puppies? Nice compliment!"

Kimmy has to deal with quite a few haters in her new post-bunker life. But does she let them take her down and make her feel bad about herself? Nope! Every time someone insults her, she finds a way to put a positive spin on the putdown. Like when her boss's stepdaughter calls her a bitch and she responds with, "A female dog? The thing that makes puppies? Nice compliment!" It's a small example, but it represents pretty well how Kimmy takes whatever situation she finds herself in and tries to turn it into a positive. She has to go through some pretty tough stuff, but finding the good helps her overcome every challenge she faces. 

 

REMEMBER LIFE IS SHORT.
“Age doesn’t matter. You can die at any time.”

While this Kimmy quote might sound a little dark (and it is), it's also a pretty wise reminder that life is short and the end is often unknown. It's easy for Kimmy, who has been trapped underground for years, to seize the day and strive to make the most of life after missing out on so much, but how often do we really stop and think about how short and unpredictable life is? Whether you're old or young, you only have a short time on this Earth and, like Kimmy, you should make the most of it by appreciating the fact that every day you're alive is a gift. It might sound a bit grim, but it's a useful reminder for making the most of every moment. 

 

BE YOUR (WEIRD) SELF.
"I was trying to have fun and then I made everything weird 'cause I'm weird."

After being trapped underground with access to only four other people for years and years, it's no surprise that Kimmy emerges a little bit... odd. In some ways, she's stuck in the past, as her fifteen-year-old self, and she's very unfamiliar with current technology and trends. This makes her a little weird in the eyes of the other characters, but Kimmy embraces her weirdness. She admits that she doesn't know a lot about the modern world ("Hashbrown, no filter."), but she strives to learn and doesn't hesitate to ask questions. But while she's learning about the world, she's also unafraid to be herself. She wears what she wants, says what she wants, and befriends who she wants. And because she's so confident in who she is (weird as that might be at times), others are drawn to her. 

 

USE THE KNOWLEDGE YOU'VE GOT.
"Everything you've said about your boyfriend is straight out of Baby-Sitter's Club Mystery #12." 

This quote might not make too much sense without the plot context, but (spoiler alert!) here's what happens: Kimmy uncovers a lie her boss's stepdaughter has been telling by recognizing that the stepdaughter's story is the word-for-word plot of Baby-Sitter's Club Mystery #12, one of the two books she had with her in the bunker. Kimmy has a lot to learn about the world (don't we all!), but she uses what little knowledge she has to discover truths and make the most of whatever situations she finds herself in. Sometimes it's tempting to think you don't know enough about a situation or topic, but if you dig deep, you might find that you know a lot more than you thought.  

 

CHANGE IS AN INSIDE JOB.
"Changing your outside isn't going to fix what's wrong on the inside."

In one episode, Kimmy and her boss begin to believe they can fix their problems by changing their appearance. But when Kimmy goes under anesthesia to have a face transplant (ridiculous, I know), she realizes you can't fix the inside by fixing the outside. A lot of us probably struggle with this — thinking if we were prettier/thinner, had a different job, had a romantic relationship, etc. that things would be better. But change comes from the inside. No matter what we do on the outside, if we don't work to change what's going on inside, we'll never create real change. (I actually write about this exact thing in the Introduction of my book The Positively Present Guide to Life, where I talk about how the concept of Positively Present came to be.)

 

HELP YOUR FRIENDS WHEN YOU CAN.
"Let me take care of the rent for a little while!" 

One of Kimmy's most admirable traits is her ability a great friend. She doesn't have a lot in the way of money, power, or possessions, but what she does have, she's happy to give to others. Not only does she offer to take care of the rent for her new friend, Titus, but she offers emotional support for all of her friends, listening to their troubles and offering to help in whatever way she can. Sometimes she might go a little out of her way helping people, but it's really inspiring how she puts the needs of others before her own. She's the kind of person that anyone would love to have as a friend, a true inspiration for creating strong, lasting relationships with others. 

 

BONUS!
FEMALES ARE STRONG AS HELL.

The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt theme song is one of the catchiest tunes I've ever heard (I find myself singing it all the time!) and one of the best parts of the show, in my opinion. The song features a snippet from an interview of someone who'd observed Kimmy and her bunk-mates coming out of the bunker after 15 years. In the interview, the witness says, "... but females are strong as hell." It's one of the best lines from the show and pretty much the show's catchphrase. It's such a great reminder that, even when they struggle and face unimaginable challenges, women are incredibly strong and resourceful and can make the best of even the worst situations. So, in case you didn't already know, here's one of the most important life lessons from Kimmy: females are strong as hell! 

 

Finding-Self-Cover

Want to find out all of the ways you're as awesome and unique as Kimmy Schmidt? Get to know yourself better, and discover more about what you value, and uncover what you want most by downloading a copy of the e-book Finding Yourself: A Soul-Searching Workbook for Surprising Self Discovery. Filled with inspiration, questions, and activities to get you thinking about what it means to be you, Finding Yourself is a must for learning more about who you are and about what matters most to you. Learn more about the workbook here and purchase your very own soul-searching copy here.


the positively present guide to life!

Book Published
 

Tomorrow is a very exciting day for me. It's the official debut of The Positively Present Guide to Life, a book I've been hard at work on for over two years!

Back in 2012, I left my full-time job in Marketing to pursue writing and blogging. Since then I've self-published a book, Stay Positive: Daily Reminders from Positively Present, as well as written a variety of e-books, but this in my first in-the-bookstore, traditionally published book and I couldn't be more excited about its launch! 

If you're already as excited as I am about it and want to order your copy ASAP, you can grab a copy on Amazon or check in with your local bookseller to see if it'll be in stock tomorrow. If you're not sure if this is the book for you, here's what you need to know about the book... (and scroll down to the bottom of the post to check out the bonus freebie!)

 

ABOUT THE BOOK 

Ok, so, there are tons of self-help books on the market, but this one is different. First and foremost, it blends serious content with inspiring illustrations, something you don't see too often in the self-help space. And, more importantly, it's not a book about achieving happiness (though happiness is a lovely by-product of living a positively present life) and it's not about perfecting your life. Instead, it's about learning to live positively in present — no matter what the present moment holds. This is the book you need to face whatever challenges you currently have in your life, to create the relationships you want to have, and to learn how to make the most of every moment. 

Featuring five inspiring and insightful chapters on home, work, love, relationships, and change, the book provides practical advice for creating a nurturing home, building a fulfilling career, developing great relationships, appreciating true love, and embracing change. It also includes 30 easy-to-do exercises to inspire action, create transformation, encourage positivity, embrace the moment, and achieve fulfillment. And it has additional features such as inspiring illustrations and access to additional online content like free worksheets to use in conjunction with the book (see here).

This book is a must-read for anyone who wants to stay present, live positively, and make the most of every moment.   

PPGTL-Sample

 

AWESOME FEATURES

Obviously, as the author and illustrator of the book, I think the book's awesome, but you'll have to be the judge of that yourself. Here are some exciting things to know about the book. These are the things that really make it unique and inspiring, and I hope these features will help you feel motivated to live a more positive, more present life. 

  • FREE WORKSHEETS: If you visit DaniDiPirro.com/Books/Guide, you can download free PDFs of worksheets that accompany the content in the book. The worksheets aren't necessary, but they are a great bonus if you're the type of person who likes to have everything organized (and color-coordinated with the book) and wants to really engage in the activities from the book. 

  • INSPIRING ILLUSTRATIONS: This is one of my absolute favorite parts of the book, and I think it's one of the things that makes it so unique. To accompany the content, I created illustrations throughout the book to offer additional inspiration and motivation. These illustrations, paired with quotes, have been created to keep you inspired as you read. 

  • EASY-TO-DO EXERCISES: One of the most important things to me when I created this book was to make it a practical guide for living positively in the present. For that reason, each section of the book has a practical activity that will urge you to apply the topic in your real life. As I wrote about recently, self-awareness isn't enough. Action is where real change happens. 

  • POSITIVITY REMINDERS: In the book, you'll learn about the six essential Positively Present Principles. These are the vital foundation for living a positive, present life. To help you keep these in mind, I've featured reminders throughout the book that highlight how a particular principle is relevant to that particular topic. 

  • STEP-BY-STEP ADVICE: Of course, the most important thing about the book is the content. In each of the five sections, you'll find six chapters with insights, inspiration, and step-by-step advice for tackling life's many challenges. The advice I offer comes from my own personal experience. It's worked for me — and I know it'll benefit you too!

 

I've worked so hard on this book and I really think you'll love it! Tomorrow (March 10, 2015)  the book will be available in select bookstores. You can purchase a copy online at AmazonBarnes & NobleAmazon UK, or IndieBound. If you purchase the book and would like to leave a review on Amazon or GoodReads, I would be forever thankful! And if you'd like to help spread the word about the book via social media or to friends and family, that would be ah-maz-ing. 

 

BONUS FREEBIE!

Want a PERSONALIZED, SIGNED bookplate (aka, pretty sticker signed by me to put in your book)? Email me (dani [at] positivelypresent.com) with the name you'd like on the bookplate (yours or a friend's) along with your mailing address and I'll send signed bookplate your way! Bookplates are perfect for gift-giving (and they also make the copy you get for yourself feel like an extra special gift!). Note: There are limited quantities available so be sure to send your request soon! 


self-awareness isn't change (+ a book giveaway!)

Self Awareness

 

[Hey there! Want to win a personalized, signed, advanced copy of my book The Positively Present Guide to Life? Scroll to the end of this post to enter to win!]

 

While scrolling BuzzFeed the other day, I came across this article: The Self-Awareness at This Year's Oscars Is Not a Substitute for Change. The author, Alison Willmore, made some great points about the Oscars, and she also got me thinking about self-awareness in general. In particular, she got me thinking about how self-awareness, useful as it is, isn't enough. For self-awareness to become self-improvement, it must be paired with change.

If you're reading this site, you probably have some level of self-awareness, an understanding of your character, feelings, strengths and weaknesses. This awareness is awesome; being aware of yourself can provide you with a greater understanding of how you interact with the world and with others, which is an essential first step to improving the self.

However, many of us (including me!) achieve self-awareness in some aspects of our lives and think that is enough. Self-awareness can be a difficult process so it sometimes seems as if the work is done once we identify aspects of ourselves. But awareness shouldn't always be the end goal. While there are are many aspects of ourselves that we can simply be aware of, there are also many aspects of ourselves that need to take that awareness to the next level and prompt change. In those situations, awareness shouldn't be the final achievement, but should instead be one step on the road to change. 

 

A SELF-AWARENESS STORY

This all sounds a bit abstract so let me use a personal example. I consider myself an introvert who would like to be more social. Most of the activities I love doing (reading, writing, drawing) are solitary, but I realize that, much as I claim to be antisocial, I actually receive a lot of positive benefits from interacting with others. Over the years, I've come to really identify with the notion of being an introvert who should probably socialize more. At one point, I was proud of myself for coming to the realization that I should push myself to be more social. The "I should be more social" mantra became part of my identity and I embraced it. I would make self-aware jokes about spending more time with dogs than people; I'd laugh about how I should get out more while resigning myself to the fact that I would probably end up staying in.

I was aware — and accepting — of the fact that I was an introvert-who-should-get-out-more. This acceptance felt like a badge of honor. I was recognizing that I needed to change! I was aware of my socializing preferences but was willing to concede that I should push myself out of my comfort zone! I was proud of my ability to be so self-aware, to accept myself for what I was. This acceptance was all well and good — aside from the fact that I identified with it so much that I backed myself into a solitary (and sometimes lonely) corner. I was so pleased with the fact that I was aware (and accepting) of my I-should-get-out-more mentality that I never stopped to ponder whether or not I should actually do something with this knowledge of myself.  

Being aware of some aspect of ourselves is important, but taking action (and making a change if necessary) is much more important. Awareness is a great first step, but action is where it's at. In my case, I believed awareness of my antisocial tendencies was such a breakthrough in my thinking that I allowed myself to just accept that notion of who I was without taking action. But more recently I discovered that being aware of something that needs changing isn't enough; that awareness needs to spark action. 

 

EMBRACING THE IDEA OF CHANGE

Changing is rarely easy, but it's essential for self-improvement. For example, I'll probably always lean towards introversion (and I'm okay with that), but simply laughing this off and identifying myself as an introvert who should probably get out more isn't self-improvement. I often joke about how I'm introverted and like to stay at home, knowing full well that this isn't 100% true. Yes, I do enjoy my alone time, but I don't always want to be alone. Being able to joke about it means I'm aware of it, but it's not changing the fact that I want to be more social.

Instead of questioning the statement I made frequently — "I should get out more" — I accepted it as part of myself and, as a result, it became part of who I was, a running joke with friends that I'd be unlikely to attend an event because I liked being at home, an absence of invites because everyone who knows me well knows I won't [drive that far/go out in the snow/leave my dog for long periods of time].  

My self-awareness allowed me to accept the notion that I wanted to be more social, but instead of doing anything about it, I just laughed it off, choosing to stay in over accepting invitations to get out, identifying with the notion of introvert-with-extrovert-dreams. I thought that if I was laughing about it — if I was aware enough about this aspect of myself to make fun of it — I was in some way enlightened. But that kind of enlightenment will never lead to self-improvement. 

If I wanted to be truly self-aware, I'd have to recognize that my desired level of social interaction doesn't fit in one of two boxes (introvert vs. extrovert). I'd have to come to accept that, while I might enjoy alone time a bit more than others do, I'm not content with being alone all of the time. And, most importantly, I'd have to use this deeper awareness to initiate change, to push myself out of my comfort zone and actually get out more, instead of simply saying I should. 

And so I did. I reached out to more people and initiated social activities. I accepted more invitations (even when it was cold and I would have much rather have snuggled down in my apartment with my dog). I pushed myself to drive farther, stay out later, say yes more often. I took my self-awareness and I used it to initiate change. I embraced change (albeit in small bits), and I turned my awareness into action. 

 

STEPPING PAST SELF-AWARENESS 

Choosing to step past awareness and take action wasn't a simple feat for me. It meant removing the labels I've placed on myself. It meant putting myself in situations that made me a little bit uncomfortable, but that pushed me to actually have a better understanding of myself. Making changes isn't easy, but the longer we talk about them without taking action, the more difficult the change will be.

We all have aspects of ourselves we'd like to change. Some of them we're very aware of and others we've yet to identify. The trouble is, sometimes we are so aware of — and identify so closely with — some aspect of ourselves (for better or worse!) that we don't actually think to make a change. Sometimes it's because we don't think of change as an option; sometimes it's because we keep putting it off (as I did — thinking I'd somehow magically be more social one day without trying); and sometimes it's because, deep down, we don't want to change because we're afraid of who we might be without that aspect of ourselves. 

It's important to step past self-awareness and into a place of change. Of course, some aspects of the self won't need to be changed, but for those that aren't quite right (you'll know them by the fact that they don't feel authentically, truly you), acknowledging them isn't enough. If you want to create a positive, present environment for yourself, you have to take what you know about who you are and make changes where necessary. You have to take your self-awareness and use it as a stepping stone for self-improvement. Changing the way you think about yourself is important, but changing the way you act is essential. 

A great way to be proactive about your self-awareness is to feel inspired and motivated to take action. In my new book (out next week!!!!), I share insights and inspiration for creating a positive, present life. Want a copy? See below for details on the book and how to enter to win!  

 

 

WIN A PERSONALIZED, SIGNED, ADVANCED COPY
OF THE POSITIVELY PRESENT GUIDE TO LIFE
!


I'm offering one lucky guy or gal a chance to win an advanced signed copy of my book (available for pre-order now and in stores and online March 10!), The Positively Present Guide to Life. The book is an inspirational, two-color hardcover beauty, filled with specific, action-oriented advice for embracing positive thinking in everyday life to: create a nurturing home, build a fulfilling career, develop great relationships, appreciate true love, and embrace change. To enter to win a personalized, signed copy of the book, see below! 

 

PPGTL-Sample


 

HOW TO ENTER

1. Enter by doing one (or all!) of the following. Each counts as an entry.

  • On Twitter, tweet: Enter the @positivepresent giveaway to win a free copy of The Positively Present Guide to Life http://bit.ly/1FEbJXR
  • On Facebook, share: Enter the Positively Present giveaway to win a free copy of The Positively Present Guide to Life http://bit.ly/1FEbJXR 
  • On Instagram / Pinterest, share a photo from this post, with this info: Enter the Positively Present giveaway to win a free copy of The Positively Present Guide to Life http://bit.ly/1FEbJXR 
  • Follow PositivePresent on Twitter, PositivelyPresent on Instagram, PositivelyPresent on Pinterest, or friend Dani on Facebook
  • Tell a friend or loved one about the book (honor system here!)

 

2. Leave a comment below, including:

  • Where / how you entered (every follow / like / tweet / mention / etc. counts as an entry!)
  • Your email address (in the email box, not the comment box)

 

IMPORTANT DETAILS

* Every follow / share / tweet / like, etc. counts as one entry
* Enter as many times as you'd like to increase your chances! 
* Winner will be chosen and notified via email on 3/8/15


how to create happy moments + a giveaway

Create-Happy-Moments

 

I believe there's a big difference between being positive and being happy. To me, positivity is a mindset you can have it all times — regardless of the situation — while happiness is something you experience for a set (usually brief) period of time. Happiness in the general sense is what many people strive for, but what they should be striving for instead is to cultivate a positive mindset that will lead to more happy moments. Creating a positive mindset involves a lifestyle change and a complete shift in how you see the world (something I hope I'm encouraging with each Positively Present blog post!). Happy moments, on the other hand, can be created with small acts. 

Each and every day we have the opportunity to create little bits of happiness for ourselves and for others. We might not feel happy for long periods of time (like those days when everything just seems to be going wrong), but that doesn't mean we can't have happy moments. Sometimes we don't feel we deserve happy moments and sometimes we don't feel as if we can have them (like when we're really upset or angry), but no matter how you're feeling in a general sense (positive, negative, angry, sad, joyful, excited, nervous, etc.), you can create little moments in a day when you feel a burst of happiness. 

The trick to having these moments is to be open to the possibility of having them. No matter what your mindset of the day, if you're open to a little bit of happiness, you can create it or find it. I'm not going to say this won't take some effort on your bad days — it's going to be tough — but if you're at least open to the possibility of a little bit of happiness, you'll give yourself a chance to experience it.  

You might be wondering what these little moments of happiness consist of. In my mind, they're those fleeting moments when, no matter what's going on in your life, you feel a bit of joy inside, even if it's only for a moment. This might be because of someone else's act or something you've done for yourself, but whatever the reason, you feel like smiling. Obviously we can't control when others do things that give us these little happy moments, but we can do things to create happy moments for ourselves. Here are some ideas for creating happy moments (even if you're not having a happy day!): 

 

HAPPY MOMENTS YOU CAN CREATE TODAY

  • Give a nice tip to someone serving you
  • Smile at a coworker you don't know well
  • Eat something with sprinkles on it
  • Draw a caricature of yourself or a friend
  • Watch a funny video on YouTube (like this)
  • Do an unexpected favor for a friend
  • Make a list of things you're grateful for
  • Strike up a conversation with a stranger
  • Call up a friend for a quick chat
  • Pay for someone behind you in line
  • Explore archives on a favorite site
  • Give someone an unexpected hug or kiss
  • List what you've accomplished today
  • Make shadow puppets in the dark
  • Send a handwritten letter to a friend
  • Research places you'd like to visit
  • Sign up for an online learning experience
  • Go for a short walk around the block
  • Offer to pick up the lunch/dinner tab
  • Compliment a complete stranger
  • Bake something delicious just for you
  • Lend someone your favorite book
  • Send a surprise pizza to a friend
  • Let someone in your lane while driving
  • Tell a friend why you love him/her
  • Order flowers for someone (or yourself!)
  • Donate used clothing to charity
  • Write a check to your favorite charity
  • Send a just-because thank you note
  • Tell a silly joke to a friend
  • Take a colleague out to lunch
  • Bring your boss/coworker/friend coffee
  • Post something uplifting on Facebook

 

As you can see, there are tons of little ways to bring happiness into your day (many of which, you might have noticed, involve bringing happiness to others). I'm hoping to bring a little happy moment to you today by offering you a chance to win a subscription to one of my favorite magazines, Live Happy! See below for details on how to enter.  

 

WIN A SUBSCRIPTION TO LIVE HAPPY MAGAZINE!

Live-Happy 

I'm offering one lucky guy or gal a chance to win something that definitely brings me some happy moments: a one-year subscription (six issues) to Live Happy Magazine! This magazine weaves the science of positive psychology through inspiring features, relatable stories, and sage advice to help people discover their personal journey of happiness in life, at work, and at home. Every time I read it, I feel more inspired and uplifted and I'm sure you will too! See below for details on how to enter this giveaway! 
 

HOW TO ENTER

1. Enter by doing one (or all!) of the following. Each counts as an entry.   

    * Friend PositivelyPresent on Facebook
    * Follow PositivePresent on Twitter
    * Follow PositivelyPresent on Instagram
    * Follow PositivelyPresent on Pinterest
    * Link to this post on any social media outlet

2. Leave a comment below, including:

    * Where / how you entered (every follow / like / tweet / etc. counts!)
    * Your email address (in the email box, not the comment box)

IMPORTANT DETAILS

* Every follow / share / tweet / like, etc. counts as one entry
* Enter as many times as you'd like to increase your chances! 
* Winner will be chosen and notified via email on 2/16/15


you are free: 4 lessons from meditating on forgiveness

Forgive

 

A little over a week ago, I attended an all-day meditation retreat led by Tara Brach. I'd signed up it months ago and it seemed like a fun idea, a great way to really see how mindful I could be, but as the day grew near, I started to worry. Would I be able to sit still all day? Would I be able to survive without looking at my phone? Would I be able to handle my own thoughts for hours and hours at a time? Though I strive to be positive and present in my daily life, meditation is an entirely different level of presence — and one I wasn't entirely sure I was ready to tackle for an entire day. 

I was uneasy about the experience (as I often am when I try new things), but I tried to go into it with an open heart and mind. And I'm glad I did. The day-long experience ended up being wonderful for me. It was a challenge, for sure, but one that left me feeling inspired and introspective. I took countless pages of notes, sat still for long periods at a time (something I really couldn't have imagined doing before the retreat), and looked at my phone very little. The meditation leader, Tara, touched on so many thought-provoking topics that I knew I'd have a hard time writing this post. It was such an enlightening experience that I want to share every little bit of it.

Since this probably won't be the last post I write about the experience (and it probably won't be the last time I attend a session hosted by Tara), I've decided to focus on one of the topics that resonated with me the most: forgiveness. This particular meditation session focused on emotional healing so it's no suprise that this topic came up. It's a concept I'm obviously familiar with (who isn't?), but I learned some very important lessons about forgiveness while listening to Tara speak, including...

 

FORGIVING IS UNNATURAL. 

When Tara spoke of forgiveness, she reminded us that it's not necessarily a natural thing. To paraphrase what she said, "In some way, we all feel separate from other people. We've all be hurt; we've all been wronged. In an effort to protect ourselves from pain, we put down those who have hurt us. It is a survival instinct. It's natural to want not to forgive, to aim to protect ourselves, but blaming others causes us pain and holds us back from love." It's natural to avoid things that have caused us pain, which makes it feel unnatural to forgive. But when we forgive (even if we don't forget), we open up space in our hearts and minds for love. This might sound cheesy, but it's the truth. The more you forgive, the more you love. And the more you love, the more you create a more positive, present life for yourself. To forgive you might have to resist the human instinct for protection. I like to think of it like this: when you forgive, you're choosing connection over protection. The more you can connect with others (even those who have wronged you), the more you can create a more peaceful and loving environment for yourself. (Keep in mind that the connection has to be healthy for you. If forgiving will bring you pain or put you in unhealthy situations, take a look at the next point.)

 

FORGIVING IS NOT ALWAYS POSSIBLE. 

Tara said something along the lines of: "You can't will forgiveness, but you can be willing. The intention to forgive can open your heart. When you forgive, you are free." Forgiveness doesn't always come easily. Some things feel as if they are unforgivable. A great many of those things feel unforgivable because we don't even open ourselves up to the possibility of forgiving. We shut it down quickly, making it not even an option. If we at least try to be open to the notion of forgiving someone who has wronged us, we might find that forgiveness is, in fact possible. However, Tara raised a great point when she mentioned that sometimes we aren't ready for forgiveness. Sometimes, particularly in highly traumatic situations, we're not in a place where forgiveness in a healthy option for us. I like to think that, even in the most traumatic situations, forgiveness will come in time because true forgiveness is the best path to freedom from pain. However, I think it's important to be okay with not being ready for forgiveness, to know that forgiveness isn't always possible in the present moment. 

 

FORGIVING IS OPENING UP TO FEELING.

One of my favorite things that Tara said while talking about forgiveness was this: "What would you have to feel if you let go of the idea that the other person is wrong?" She asked the audience to shout out answers to this question and some of them were: powerlessness, anxiety, blame, loneliness, guilt, regret. As I sat in my chair listening to these answers, I could really relate to them. But then I also started to realize how negative these were. Yes, the idea of removing blame and then having to experience these emotions is incredibly difficult to imagine, but what about some of the more positive emotions that we might have to feel, like love and empathy? Wouldn't those be particularly difficult to feel toward someone we'd been unable to forgive? As I thought about it, I realized that, as difficult as it would be to experience these emotions, both the good and the bad, it's perhaps even more difficult to avoid experiencing them. Forgiveness is about feeling, which is maybe why it's so hard to do sometimes. But the more we feel (negative and positive), the more we learn about others and about ourselves and with that knowledge we can do so much. 

 

FORGIVING DOES NOT MEAN CONDONING. 

Toward the end of her talk on forgiveness, Tara said (to paraphrase): "We often feel as though, if we let go of blame, something bad will happen. Forgiveness is not about condoning bad behavior. Forgiveness frees your heart, but it doesn't mean you can't still protect yourself. When you forgive, you become bigger than the victimization." One of the things, I think, that holds us back from forgiving others is believing that if we forgive them, we are admitting that what they have done to us is okay. But that's not what forgiveness is. Forgiveness is to stop feeling hurt about something that was done to you. It doesn't mean that what was done was right. It doesn't mean that you will ever have the same relationship you had. Forgiveness is much more about changing how you feel inside you than it is about changing what's happening outside with others. As Tara put it, "When you forgive, you are free." Forgiveness is often mistaken for something that sets someone else free, but it's actually about setting yourself free, which is one of the most positive things you can do for yourself when you've been hurt.  

 

Forgiveness can be a complex topic because the acts and people you might need to forgive can vary so widely. However, the underlying notion of freeing yourself through forgiveness — no matter how you've been wronged — is the same. As I sat meditating on forgiveness after Tara's talk, thinking about those I wanted to forgive and those I wanted to forgive me, I reached a deep and clear understanding about how important forgiving others is and how truly amazing it feels to simply forgive. It is a release unlike anything, filled only with the possibility for love and peace. 

Tara encouraged us to imagining forgiving those who have hurt us and asking for forgiveness from those we'd hurt. It was quite therapeutic to do this, to simply think the words "I forgive you," even if I knew I would never say them aloud. Give it a try if you can. Think of those you need to forgive (perhaps even yourself) and say to yourself: "I forgive you, __________ for  __________." It's a simple sentence but it can bring you a sense of peace and understanding that you might not have experienced before. This isn't to say that forgiveness will remove all pain, but I personally found attempting it to be incredibly freeing, lifting just a little bit of weight from the heaviness of the human heart. 

 

PPG-Preorder

 
Less than a month until my new book, The Positively Present Guide to Life, debuts and I'm SO excited! The book is all about how to stay positive and present in various areas of life including: at home, at work, in love, in relationships, and during change. I've turned back to it often this year as I've gone through major changes and it's been tremendously helpful. The book is filled with inspiring images that make it even easier to stay positive and present. You can learn more about the book and find out where to buy a copy here. (You can also get a sneak peek at the book, access a free download, and watch the book trailer!)