June 10, 2019

Imagine Living a Life you actually Like.


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Well, of course, you can’t.

Yet, I did and many people have—through one simple and powerful action: leaving the country.

Expats may “escape,” consciously or unwittingly, from their day-to-day geography; however, life is life and there is no actual escape.

Nevertheless, escaping geographically is amazing. It has been for me, anyway, for going on 10 years. Compared to myself 10 years ago, at age 29, living in Austin, Texas, driving a car around, going to gigantic stores, and being a stressed-out elementary school teacher five days a week, these days I am so much happier. Of course, I still get stressed out, just a lot less often.

I have simplified my lifestyle: living abroad, in Latin America, where the whole culture’s pace is slow compared to our North American hustle. I live in a small cabin in the woods, off-the-grid, with no car, no insurance, and no credit cards. I’m enjoying a flourishing freelance writing and consulting career, and teaching yoga overlooking the lake and volcanoes a few mornings a week. Instead of just me and my dog, my family now includes me, my daughter, husband, three cats, and a different dog.

So, you can escape geographically but patterns, issues, and problems will follow you unless you escape mentally, i.e. change your mind.

Changing our minds leads to changing our words, actions, behaviors, habits, and patterns. It actually all starts with changing the heart.

Our hearts are amazing organs. The heart center is the center of our being, the middle energy point, the connection of east, south, west, and north; fire, water, earth, and wind. Grandfather sky, grandmother earth. Father sun, mother moon. The four directions, above and below, all culminate at the heart.

Ways to work with the heart energy include: writing, journaling, poetry, nature, pranayama/yogic breathing techniques, connecting with air/oxygen, green color therapy, chanting the long “A” and “yam,” metta/lovingkindness meditation, listening to calming instrumental music, and floral essential oils including lavender, rose, and ylang-ylang.

By opening our hearts, we learn to let our emotions flow rather than denying, avoiding, or repressing them. By opening our minds, we learn to do this with the thoughts passing through the mind, allowing them to come and go naturally without getting involved in any particular train of thought.

Here’s a simple mindfulness visualization technique from Jeffrey Davis:

Regard the mind like an aquarium in which all kinds of fish float by. Then imagine you have an inner amused observer, an awareness that can watch all of those fish—the stray thoughts, sensations, feelings, worries, regrets—float by without getting attached to any of them. 

Heed the goldfish. Every once in a while an insight goldfish might float by. Note it.

That’s it. Watch your inner aquarium for five minutes. No big deal.

Meditation and mindfulness practice are excellent ways to hone the mind—they help to develop concentration, awareness, and attention. Visualization, too. It’s not a new age or law of attraction thing so much as a natural method of the human brain to imagine.

Imagine what you want. Imagine your needs being met. Imagine how you can serve and benefit others. Use your mental power to inspire your action in the world, your ways, big and small, of being more present, grateful, compassionate, kind, and beneficial.

Could it really be that simple?

Change your heart, change your mind, change your actions, change your life.

Life is flowing all the time; we can choose to float on the river or fight to swim upstream.

Life is the intersection of mind, body, heart, and spirit with no boundaries.

Life is work, play, and everything else.

Enough with the compartmentalizing. There is no “real life” versus “vacation.” It’s all our real life. Every day, we live in the real world, not a reality show.


Image: Michelle Fajkus

Image: Elle Valentine/Flickr

Image: @Elephant.Academy

Editor: Catherine Monkman

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Kerrie Cummins Jun 19, 2019 12:40am

At 64 and having been a nurse for 47 years, I am lucky to be able to say that my job fulfills me. Rare is the day, or night that I can truly say that I don’t want to go to work. Well, truth be told , I don’t love nights. My family of adult children, although worrisome at times, are not clingy; they are not dismissive; we do not need to live in each other’s pockets, like some that I know. But we can be there for each other at the drop of a hat if there is trouble or need. Am I just lucky? I don’t know. I’m not too introspective, I just get on with life. Sometimes I think people expect life and people to be kind to them. I don’t have this expectation. I think we need to work towards our own happiness or contentment with whatever life throws at us. Accept what is offered, change what you can, but just get on with it.

Jeffrey Radcliff Jun 18, 2019 11:48pm

Wonderful insights!

Kim Fields Jun 18, 2019 11:43am

I LOVE this article!

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Michelle Margaret Fajkus

Michelle Margaret is a heart-centered writer, teacher and creator of Yoga Freedom.

She has been a columnist on Elephant Journal since 2010 and has self-published inspiring books. She incorporates dharma, hatha, yin, mindfulness, chakras, chanting and pranayama into her teachings and practice. A former advertising copywriter and elementary school teacher, she is now a freelance writer and translator. Michelle learned yoga from a book at age 12 and started teaching at 22. She met the Buddha in California at 23 and has been a student of the dharma ever since. Michelle is now approaching her forties with grace and gratitude.

Join Michelle for a writing and yoga retreat this summer at magical Lake Atitlan in the western highlands of Guatemala!