Read an Excerpt
The Goddess of Happiness
A Down-to-Earth Guide for Heavenly Balance and Bliss
By Debbie Gisonni
New World LibraryCopyright © 2005 Debbie Gisonni
All rights reserved.
Be the Goddess You Are
Do you sometimes feel as if the true woman you are is locked up in a closet collecting dust along with those low-cut jeans you'll never have the courage to wear? Do you hide parts of yourself in order to please someone else? If the package you present to the world is a neatly wrapped, square blue box when you're really a yellow-and-purple drawstring velvet bag with fringe on the bottom, you are living a lie. Covering up essential parts of yourself (and I don't mean a sarong over a bathing suit) will eventually block out your true essence — the goddess within you.
When we think of modern-day goddesses, our attention naturally goes toward top female celebrities such as Madonna or Cher — beautiful, talented, successful, and sassy. Women who can push the emotional buttons of society with the way they dress or act. Women who are not afraid to speak their mind, even if others don't agree. Women who can run a business empire and also be a star, a mother, and a lover at the same time. But what about the rest of us — the everyday women living everyday lives?
There are everyday women — you know who they are — who light up a room whenever they enter. People naturally gravitate to them, like mosquitoes circling a patio lamp. These women are usually not the prettiest or the smartest or the thinnest, but there's something about them that shines. You can't quite pinpoint what it is, but you know you want some of it. Well, guess what? You can't have it because what they have is unique to them. All they've done is be the goddess they really are inside. You can't be that goddess, but you can be your own goddess. You are the only person in charge of your own inner light. It's your choice to turn it on or off.
I know that at first you might not consider yourself a goddess, but what if I told you that you are. Anytime I meet someone new, I start to see her as a goddess. I notice how her facial features, which might have seemed ordinary at first, fit her persona like a snug glove. Her other attributes — such as the way she moves her body, the sound of her voice, and the texture of her hair — all paint a unique picture that is a reflection of her spirit inside. As I spend more time with her, observing and appreciating her qualities, I can't imagine her wanting to be anything other than what she is — a loving, giving, perfect creature — a goddess.
Rediscover yourself — your true self. Maybe you'll awaken your fiery side, like the Hawaiian volcano goddess Pele, or your mothering instincts, like the ancient Greek goddess Demeter. Whatever you find, dust it off and shine it up. Bring forth the true light within you, which no one can ever duplicate or take away. Dare to be who you really are and dare to experience life in full color!
Five Ways to Be the Goddess You Are:
* Make a collage of all the things that represent who you are — keep it handy for reference.
* Say what you mean and mean what you say.
* Create your own look (hair, face, clothes) that is pleasing to you.
* Always act with integrity, in every situation and with every person.
* Accentuate your unique personality or physical traits.CHAPTER 2
Have you ever watched what dogs do most of the day? Basically, they lie around doing nothing. I'm always curious to know what they're thinking about, or if they're thinking at all. Judging by my dogs, I'm sure their thoughts have something to do with their next meal, massage, or walk. We humans tend to spend a lot of time thinking, particularly women who are masters at multitasking. How many uniquely different things can you be thinking of at one time? What to make for dinner, your child's parent-teacher conference, the dog's vet appointment, a deadline at work, the paint colors for the new bathroom? Scary, huh? We think about what has already happened or what we assume might happen much more so than what is happening right now. All this time spent in the past and future leaves little or no time for the present, which is the only time that matters.
It seems that something always has to go wrong in order to force us to stop and be present. For example, when you have to drive your car through a heavy snowstorm, you can't help but pay attention to every bump and slide. Normally, though, you're driving in autopilot while your mind is working overtime: "How late will this traffic make me? I need to pick up Emily from her soccer game. What am I making for dinner tonight?"
I have a beautiful, kind, loving, and generous friend who seems to spend her whole life racing. In the twenty years since I've known her, she's always running late from one appointment to the next, talking a mile a minute and putting out some sort of emotional fire at the same time. Sometimes when I'm with her, I feel as if I'm in one of those zany dreams where you keep jumping from one unrelated scene to another, with no beginning and no end — just continuous but different streams of consciousness. Meanwhile, I'm gripping the bottom of my seat with sweat-drenched hands and wondering if she's going to step on the brake before crashing into the car stopped in front of us. It's not that I think she's a bad driver. In fact, she's never had any accidents with me in the car (I can't speak for anyone else). It's just that I know she's not present. I'm sure her inner goddess is constantly crying out, "Stop, look, and listen now," and while she might have heard this amid the clutter of her mind, she's already deleted that scene and moved on to a few others.
There will be times in your life where you rush to get to the next thing — your job, your appointments, your partner, your house — without any consideration or participation in the current thing, whatever that might be. When you look back, life all becomes one big blur of images, like sticking your head out the window of a speeding car. You're unable to clearly see anything, whether it's right next to you, in front, or behind.
Life is in its most perfect state when you are present in every moment. Living in the past or future, as we often do, only serves to drain your spirit. You can't change what has happened, nor can you worry about what hasn't happened yet. So instead of living in the land of "I could've, should've, would've" or "what if," try living in the land of "I am," because now is the only moment a goddess can affect and enjoy.
As poet Elizabeth Barrett Browning said, "Light tomorrow with today!"
Five Ways to Be Present:
* Stop and notice every detail in the backdrop of your daily life — the colors, smells, and people.
* Savor each moment in life. Like snowflakes, no two are the same.
* Good or bad, keep the past in the past and live in the "now."
* Stop worrying about what you can't change or don't know.
* Concentrate on one thing — whatever you're doing or saying at this very moment.CHAPTER 3
What is joy to you? It can certainly take many forms. For one woman, it may be the sound of children laughing or the smell of puppy breath. For another, it's dancing in the moonlight or eating ice cream. For yet another, it could be a soothing massage or pedicure.
We often associate joy with the things and events in our lives that produce the warmest and fuzziest feelings of pleasure, but true joy requires no external stimuli. It's a state of mind that exists regardless of what's happening around you. Children can easily find laughter and joy in just being. I once read that children laugh hundreds of times a day. Goldie Hawn, who seems to have a perpetual giggling child inside of her, once said in an interview that all she ever wanted to be when she grew up was happy — just like she was as a kid. As an adult, she makes a conscious effort to pursue inner happiness through quiet meditation. Her inside joy is reflected in her outside life and work, including a documentary she developed called In Search of Joy and an organization she founded, the Bright Light Foundation, to help young people live more positive and fulfilling lives.
Bringing joy to others feeds our own happiness. If you grew up around my family, you'd know that food always brought us much joy — preparing it, serving it, eating it, or just talking about it. I remember a story my father used to tell me about a time when he was away from home in the Marines. One day, a package arrived from his mother containing a homemade blueberry pie. He was so excited that he and his comrades skipped the utensils, broke through the flaky crust with their hands, and shoveled the gooey mixture into their watering mouths. There was a look of sheer joy in my father's eyes each time he told that story. Later in his life, when he was dying of bone cancer, I personally carried a homemade blueberry pie on a plane from California to New York, just to see his face light up one last time. Even when people are dying, you can bring a little joy into their lives ... and yours.
Joy can be accessed during both the happiest and most difficult times in your life, because it is present in your heart at all times. You have a place for it inside of you (which can be found) and a memory of it (which can be reproduced). Reaching into your store of joy is like going to the automatic teller machine and making a withdrawal of happiness. But unlike your bank account, there's an unlimited supply of joy to receive and share!
Abraham Lincoln said, "Most people are about as happy as they choose to be." As a goddess, it's your choice to use your joy, and your privilege to share it.
Five Ways to Choose Joy:
* Recall a happy memory and focus on it long enough to bring back the feeling.
* Laugh, smile, and joke whenever and wherever you can.
* Call or see an upbeat girlfriend.
* Take a break from TV news and violent shows and watch a romantic comedy.
* Avoid negative or angry people.CHAPTER 4
Give Up Control
I've hated surprise parties ever since my mother threw me one for my sixteenth birthday — an age when the last thing you want to do is party with your mother and her friends. I never encourage visitors to drop by my house without calling first. And I would never allow the success of a dinner party I'm giving to be contingent upon what guests bring ... or don't. Call me a control freak (I prefer to use the term "Type A personality"), but I like things to run smoothly and as planned. I can't help it. I was born Type A, all the way — driven to succeed, no matter what the challenge. Organized, productive, and reliable. Always in control. For that, I received much praise and acceptance from my family, friends, teachers, and business colleagues. All of this adoration, of course, only encouraged me to become even more efficient. How great to be in complete control of my own destiny! Whether it was the next job I wanted or my next day's outfit, I planned and executed each with the same intensity and drive. Like a hungry cheetah chasing a gazelle, there was nothing stopping me in my run from point A to point B.
Then life threw me a couple of unexpected curves, all outside of my control. That sense of security and control I had built my life upon was instantly proven nonexistent — a mirage between my mind and reality. It took awhile for me to figure out that there are scenes on this grand stage of life that are impromptu and uncontrollable. During those times, the only healthy thing to do is to give up control, and surrender.
My friend Lisa worked long hours as a software programmer. When her employer downsized the workforce, her workload increased to compensate for the people who were let go. She began having chronic pain in her neck and arms but continued to work at a frenzied pace for another year until numbness prevented her from doing her job. Reluctantly, she left her job on disability. After reevaluating her career and her life, she decided to go back to school for a different degree and start a new career.
Surrendering does not mean giving up your power. It's more about asking the universe to come to your aid and trusting that it will. Yemaya is the ancient African goddess of surrender, also known as the goddess of the ocean. Legend says she effortlessly gave birth to fourteen spirits in the water by surrendering to divine will and thus allowing what was to happen to happen naturally. (Spirits must obviously come out of the womb easier than babies!)
If you're like me, maybe you need to hit a brick wall (or two) before you finally surrender that gripping hold you have on every outcome in your life. When my will is bruised and battered, I naturally loosen up the reigns of control, mainly because I have no energy left to fight. If you're set on a particular goal and can only see one path to get there, you're cheating yourself of happiness that can come in unexpected ways. You become a six-foot, five-inch brawny bouncer blocking the front door of a nightclub called "Unlimited Possibilities." You always have the option to move away from the door and see what comes in and out. If you choose not to exercise that option, you may end up getting trampled in the battle between your will and your life.
It is only when you surrender control of your life and of the lives of others that you truly become an empowered goddess. That's when you can believe in miracles, and dreams that come true with just a wish, not a plan.
Five Ways to Give Up Control:
* Consider unexpected change to be an opportunity to learn and a gift to grow.
* Be open to multiple ways of reaching a goal, even those you haven't thought of yet.
* Believe that everything happens for a reason, even if you don't know why — just let it be.
* Take a day off from lists and plans and see what happens; go with the flow.
* Give up controlling the way other people live their lives, even if you think they should do it differently.CHAPTER 5
Stop the Noise
Do you remember those vacation mornings when you were a kid? I used to stay in bed after waking up and just stare at the ceiling, listening to nothing. As the rising sun splashed on my bedroom walls, I felt so peaceful and happy lying in bed, soaking up the silence. It was the only time during the day when my mind wasn't cluttered with the noises of the external world.
For most women, those quiet summer mornings have been long forgotten and replaced with the never-ending morning noise of phones ringing, kids screaming, dogs barking, and TV blasting. Being still, even for a moment, seems totally unnecessary and, even more so, detrimental to the constantly moving treadmill of life we run upon as if we'll lose our place in life if we stop. In our technologically advanced culture, filled with stimuli to keep us going twenty-four hours a day, there is no encouragement for silence or reflection — unless you're a three-year-old child in time-out! Most of us shun silence, opting instead to spend whatever time we have alone drowning in the constant din of the TV.
While I was in between careers, I spent a lot of time doing nothing, which led to an interest in meditating — in essence, the same thing as doing nothing. Yes, me ... the person who used to wake up in the middle of the night to add to my "to do" list for the next day. Once I started meditating, however, I found I wasn't as anxious at night and was able to rekindle the feelings from those peaceful quiet childhood summer mornings at any time. And, in the silence of meditation, I hear the most profound things.
But don't take my word for it. Technology (it does good things, too) can now prove the actual benefits of meditation. Advanced brain-scan imaging has shown that meditation can rewire the neurons in the brain, with numerous life-improving benefits — it can help boost the immune system, reduce stress, extend life, slow disease, manage pain, and alleviate depression ... to name a few.
You can find silence anywhere — in a raging crowd or a quiet forest. It's not about what's going on outside of you — it's what you create inside. In as little as ten minutes you can become the calm in the center of a hurricane that's whirling around you. Start with a few deep goddess breaths. The Buddhist spiritual leader Thich Nhat Hanh suggests a breathing technique to help quiet your mind. While taking a breath in, say to yourself, "Breathing in, I am aware of breathing in." As you release the breath, say, "Breathing out, I am aware of breathing out." All you need is a little practice and commitment, and you'll be well on your way to having a more peaceful goddess existence.
Five Ways to Stop the Noise:
* Join a weekly meditation group, or start one on your own.
* Create a ten-minute daily ritual (upon waking or before sleep) for prayer, meditation, or silence.
* Turn on the TV only to watch something you really want to see — not for background noise while you're busy doing other things.
* Take a walk in nature.
* Practice doing absolutely nothing.
Excerpted from The Goddess of Happiness by Debbie Gisonni. Copyright © 2005 Debbie Gisonni. Excerpted by permission of New World Library.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.