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The 5 P's for Finding Joy in Work and Life

The 5 P's for Finding Joy in Work and Life

Recently, a client challenged me with the question, “Is it really possible to live in joy – at least most of the time?” He happened to ask me this on the same day I was teaching about the balance between working and playing for the international health and wellness coaching certification course that I’m a trainer for, so this topic was fresh in my mind.


After reflecting on the conversations we had in class, along with what I’ve seen clients struggle with and what I’ve struggled with in my own life, I believe the answer to that question is a resounding YES! Not only is living in joy doable, but I believe it’s what we are meant to do. I am certain that when we prioritize joy (which, to me, is equatable with love), not only are we happier, but a ripple of positivity is extended to the world around us.


Prioritizing joy might feel a bit odd, even counter-cultural, because it is not something we are trained to do. For many of us, the message to “work hard” was so strong in our upbringing,  that work has become the measure of our worth. To help you shift towards bringing more joy into your work and life, I’ve come up with these 5 P’s for finding joy.


·      Presence – Savor the micro-moments! I can’t say enough about cultivating the habit of present-moment awareness. Too often, we let our minds pull us into ruminations of past events or worry about future ones. With our minds chattering about what’s next on the to-do list, we miss the taste of the food we eat, the sounds of the birds just outside the car window, or the twinkle in the eye of the barista serving our coffee. Savoring brings us into what’s right in front of us, and typically there’s so much more than we first notice. 


·      People – As human beings, we are hard wired to connect with others. In the last decade, there have been major breakthroughs in the scientific knowledge about the brain, mind, and relationships. Daniel Siegel, PhD, says that the little part of our brain called the insula helps us perceive emotional states in other people and create resonance with them. He calls this “mindsight” and describes it as the joining of minds, or mutuality, that helps people feel “felt.” This connection happens when we pause briefly enough to prioritize the people we’re with. Recognizing our shared humanness, accepting and connecting with others helps everyone feel better.


·      Purpose – Ancient yoga philosophy teaches that each of us has a unique purpose in life – an idea that’s consistent with all spiritual teachings I’ve encountered. This purpose is something that we’re meant to do, in a way that no one else can. And when we don’t align our lives with whatever that is for us, we suffer. We’re meant to be happy, and to feel good about what we’re bringing into the world. If you’re not clear on what that is for you, getting clear on your values is a great place to start.


·      Passion – Bringing your full self into whatever you’re doing makes it more fun. It doesn’t matter if it’s a chore or an activity you don’t like very much. Doing anything with resistance is like dragging around a ball and chain and drains your energy. Choose what you commit to mindfully. Ask yourself: “Does this bring me joy?” or “Can I bring joy into this?” Minimize your involvement in things where you can’t find a way to bring joy.


·      PLAY!!! – This is a fundamental experience for health that’s often overlooked by “responsible adults.” We see the value of play in helping kids learn, create, explore, and express themselves. But somewhere along the way, we adults traded in play for work and tamped down our yearning for playful experiences. Play frees up our creativity, enhances our ability to live in flow, and naturally brings us joy. Finding small ways to bring a sense of playfulness into work and home life helps sustain us until we get time for play breaks. Scheduling play breaks on a regular basis is key to staying connected to joy in your life.

5 Qualities of Your True Nature

“  May we live like the lotus, at home in the muddy waters”

May we live like the lotus, at home in the muddy waters”

I’ve just finished teaching my class series, which centered on the first facet of the eight-faceted yoga path, the Yamas. The Yamas are reflections of our true nature as humans. Knowing that these ancient teachings are as relevant in my class today as they were when first taught 5,000 years ago emphasizes this practice’s inherent wisdom and power.


The Yamas show us that the essence of our humanity binds us together, inextricably. All of us. All 7 billion of us. The Yamas sum up the truths of who we are with five qualities:

यम Ahimsa – compassion and reverence for all

यम Asteya –  generosity

यम Satya – truth and integrity

यम Brahmacharya – the desire to live in balance

यम Aparigraha –  acknowledgement of abundance


In her book The Secret Power of Yoga, Nischala Joy Devi wrote,

When we revere all as ourselves through ahimsa,

the other four qualities … are naturally present.


Remembering this message – that in our truest form we’re all the same and share these qualities – leaves me filled with peace and hope. When other messages impinge, I know I’m simply identifying with mind muck…mine or someone else’s, which are neither the real me nor the real them. When we see the ‘shadow’ side of humanity, it’s evident that we’re out of alignment with our true nature. This gives me hope, because recognizing it means I have a choice to align with the truth: our essence, our common humanity.


If we all extend toward and look for compassion, pause long enough to listen to our truth, generously give someone (and ourselves) the benefit of the doubt when they, or we, are mired in mind muck that sometimes trips us up, step back when we need to rest, and express gratitude for all the blessings in our lives, we’ll align and be elevated by this truth.


This seems simple: focus on our truest essence and common qualities as humans, and life will flow effortlessly. I suspect that the ancient yogis knew that what appears simple, isn’t; that forgetfulness is also embedded into our humanness. Hence, the value of continued practice of yoga, the choice to remember.

Simple Steps to Self Care

Simple Steps to Self Care

Self-Care how-tos for busy people

The more faithfully you listen to the voice within you, the better you will hear what is sounding outside. 
— Dag Hammarsjköld

What comes to mind when you think of self-care?  Perhaps a mental list of ‘shoulds’ that you’ve picked up along the way but haven’t gotten around to doing.  The problem with should statements is that they typically start from a source outside of ourselves, or are framed in a way that we aren’t buying.  When we think about self-care from the place of compassion and empathy, not only for our own sake, but for the ripple effect of caring that it has on all we encounter, then it becomes something that we long for.  When we pay attention to it, notice how we feel and how it affects our ability to show up in the world, we’re more inclined to use practices that support ourselves than to turn away from them.

Practicing self-care is a way of acknowledging personal responsibility for your own wellbeing.  Sometimes, the belief that we don’t have time to care for ourselves, or that prioritizing self-care is selfish, gets in the way of our doing it.  A simple shift in perspective might help you adopt a more compassionate view.  Instead of thinking of self-care as selfish, try considering it as a self-full practice.  When we feel balanced, energetic and grounded in love, we are much more likely to live wholeheartedly and contribute to the world fully and creatively.

The key steps to begin the practice of self-care are awareness, intention and action.  It’s helpful to think of these as a continual feedback loop. First, awareness is raised, then we set an intention to address it, then we act on one thing.  Once we’ve successfully integrated that action into our lives, we notice other things calling our attention and repeat the steps.  The practice of self-care is a continual process on the journey to flourishing and thriving.

Key Steps to Self-Care:


 If you keep yourself in ‘go mode’ all the time, you might not be aware of how hard you’re pushing yourself.  If coffee and sugar are required to get you through the day, if you feel like you’re constantly rushing, or if you feel disconnected or exhausted by the end of the day, you’ll likely benefit from a self-care practice.  A great place to start noticing what you need is by focusing on your breath.  Begin by simply stopping and noticing your breath.  Feel breath enter your body, feel your body fill with breath.  Next, imagine breath flowing in and out of your heart. Imagine light entering the body through the heart as you inhale, and filling your whole body as you exhale.  Spend just two minutes with heart focused breathing in this way, then ask yourself: “What area is most calling my attention right now?” or “How can I better care for myself right now?” 

Listen and let your heart, your inner knowing, guide you to one area calling your attention right now. Trust what you hear. It might be a call for more sleep, more connection, creative time, movement, healthier food, time spent journaling, meditation or solo time, feeding your senses with time in nature, a relaxing bath or music.  Try to accept the answer without judging it.  Once you’re clear on the answer, get curious with it and consider what life would be like if you allowed yourself this practice.   Consider the impact that self-care will have on all aspects of your wellbeing – your energy level, your emotional stability, your mental clarity, your physical body, and your connection to others and/or something greater than yourself.


To ensure that your new awareness about self-care isn’t a fleeting idea, write down your intention to practice self-care in this area.  You might find it helpful to expand the writing to include why caring for yourself in this way is important to you.  You might also find it helpful to share your intention with someone who supports you. Articulating intentions is a way of holding ourselves accountable to our deepest needs.  Without articulating, whether in writing or verbally, we give ourselves an out – a way of making excuses that seem rationale at the time we make them to not doing the practice.  Caring for ourselves intentionally is a practice of both compassion and empathy. Compassion is necessary to acknowledge that even small changes aren’t easy and there may even be some benefit from doing things the ‘old way’.  Maybe your ego is fed by knowing that you outwork everyone else, even though you’re depleting yourself to do so.  Acknowledging this is okay and being gentle as you come to new understanding is a key practice of self-care.  Empathy, for yourself, but also for anyone else you know who faces similar challenges is also an important part of the practice of self-care. You might find having an attitude that these practices are for all beings with similar struggles is a motivator for keeping you on the path. Knowing that others in your life will benefit from your self-care practice is also fuel for inspiration. 


The final step towards realizing self-care is action.  Chances are, if self-care practice is new to you, that you’ll be more inclined to start with a giant leap than a baby step.  Instead, consider a Kaizen step, a step on the path to continual improvement. Taking a simple small step instead of a giant leap increases the likelihood that we’ll be successful.  Once we’ve achieved success with one step, we complete the cycle of awareness-intention-action, and make it more likely that we’ll continue on the path of self-care and high level wellbeing.

Examples of Kaizen Self-Care Steps

Sleep – instead of “I am going to get more sleep,” if your sleep schedule is erratic, a Kaizen step of: “I will set my alarm clock for the same time every morning for the next two weeks.”  Once one step is accomplished, you can set steps related to quantity and quality of sleep.

Eating – instead of “I’m going to eat healthy,” a Kaizen step of: “I will eat one more serving of fruits/veg per day than I currently am” (if the ‘what’ of eating is an issue for you),

OR if you’re an on-the-go eater and the ‘how’ of eating is an issue for you, a Kaizen step of: “I will eat one meal a day without any distractions and allow myself the time to taste, feel, and accept the nourishing energy from my food.”

The possibilities of Kaizen steps on the path to self-love and self-care are endless. The important part is to simply start.  One step at a time, bit by bit, embracing the practice of caring for yourself with love, compassion and empathy will surely lead to a higher level of wellbeing for you.  As your awareness continues to expand, you’ll likely start to notice the ripple effect of your practice on those around you.  Once there, you won’t be inclined to forgo self-care practices and will see them in a new light that sustains your commitment to it.