11 November 2011

Become Your Best Self

(A Month of Sunday Walks, by Leanne Shapton, former Art Director of the NY Times.)

I believe EACH & EVERY ONE of you has the potential to become more spiritual / conscious / full of light, on any level you desire. 

As promised...

Here are a few things I recommend to get you started on that path, though there are SOOO many other things, too...many of which I have yet to learn.  These are just some things I did & I found it all to be life changing.  See if something here resonates with you.  Even if some of this seems foreign to you, I recommend giving one or all of them a try to see for yourself if it makes you feel more centered & happy.  I hope you'll join me on this journey.  It truly is empowering...
  •  HAVE A DESIRE TO CHANGE.  This is first & foremost.  And oh so powerful.  Once that desire is there, I really do believe that you'll find opportunities to learn more.  Your life will begin to align with whatever it is you would like to achieve.  Hitting rock bottom really gets you going & makes you desperate, but I think you can make changes & improvements throughout your life, no matter where you start from.
  • DON'T WAIT ANYMORE FOR CHANGES TO FALL IN YOUR LAP.  YOU really do have to choose to go for it.  No one else can do this for you.  Remember how I waited 30 years for truth to come to ME?  NO WONDER nothing happened.  We have to do the work & really start applying stuff to our lives before any good will come of it.  But it's worth it!!
  • BE READY TO DO SOMETHING HARD.  Like...probably the HARDEST things you'll ever do.  Think of your worst problems.  i.e. forgiving an ex-spouse, deciding that you will find peace as a single woman, finding joy & meaning in your life even if struggle to get pregnant, removing fear from your heart as your kids grow up & start to make their own decisions,  deciding that breast cancer won't ruin your spirit,  facing a financially hard time with courage & grace,  having strength as a new mother.  Rising above this stuff is NOT EASY.  BUT, figuring out what you are made of will be the most rewarding thing you'll ever achieve.  I promise.  It's what legacies are made of.
 ("The Jump" 1937)

  • *BELIEVE* IN YOURSELF.  I think too often, people don't believe in themselves enough to think they can change anything.  They just feel like victims or feel dominated by their circumstances.  "So & so makes me angry."  "My parents never believed in me so of course I have no confidence."  "If my husband treated me better, maybe I could be happier."  "I have screwed up so many times already, I guess I don't deserve to be happy in a relationship." "Only creeps are attracted to me, what is wrong with me?"  There are a million reasons to not believe in yourself.  But for what it's worth, no matter who you are, I believe in you!  I know you can do this!  I feel this way because I believe that we ALL have something powerful inside us.  And no matter how weak we are or how many mistakes we've made or no matter what we've had to face in our lives, we have the opportunity to improve over & over & over - as many times as needed.  It's really beautiful & empowering that God offers us that.  So no more thinking that you can't make changes because of this or that.  You CAN.  Keep at it.

  •  EXERCISE "FAITH".  Faith is believing in something.  It's powerful.  And our lives will automatically start to align according to what we believe.   BUT.....sometimes we don't realize that it works both ways!  We can believe in things that are GOOD &  POSITIVE.  Or we can believe in things that are DESTRUCTIVE.  i.e. We can believe that.......We don't have any abilities.  We are worthless.  We aren't loved & never will be.  We are failures.  We aren't good enough, pretty enough, skinny enough, creative enough, funny enough, rich enough.  Life sucks.  God is cruel for putting us through this.  Life is not fair.  God has abandoned me, I don't see any evidence of his presence, etc.  OR.... We can believe in things that are empowering & uplifting.....i.e.  We are lovable.  We are smart/kind/beautiful/happy!  We are capable of changing & improving.  Forgiving is worth it.  We are full of light.  We have worth as a person, no matter what mistakes we've made.  We have so much to offer the world.  We can rise above what we've been handed.  God is full of goodness & love.  God can be seen in everything we experience - the beauty of the earth, a little child, in the hope & love that we feel even in hard times.  Basically, your faith is a self-fulfilling prophecy!!!  No matter what you believe, your life will align in that direction (up or down) and that will determine your experience & the very outcome of your entire life!!  So pay VERY close attention to the script running in your head.....are you exercising faith in yourself, your abilities & the goodness of God?  Or are you exercising faith in your worthlessness & the unfairness of life? 

  • GET HEALTHY PHYSICALLY.  If your body is not nourished, if you are filling your body with junk each day, if you are not taking care of this body that you have & moving each day, you can be sure that you likely will not feel as spiritual as you could otherwise.  I believe a healthy body frees yourself to have available energy, which leads to the ability to be more in touch with your spiritual self.  Angela would always say that you need healthy soil in order for things to take root.  Guys, I know this firsthand.  When I started on this road....I was living a crazy life working long New York hours at a hedge fund.  This involved not nourishing myself enough, not exercising, not getting enough sleep.  When I made changes to improve my physical health (eating healthy whole foods, exercising, working less), it's like my body said, "OK, I am no longer in survival mode.  You are now free to focus on more important things."  That's when things started improving...including the way I could handle my life & my trials & my challenging situations at home.  Turkey Trot anyone?

  •  LISTEN TO INSPIRING MUSIC.  Certain kinds of music can just touch your soul.  It's different for everybody.  After my first husband left, I listened to choir music in the months that followed (as in, non-stop.)  I had never really listened to it much before - just on Sundays here and there.  But during that heartbreaking time, I clung to it.  I played it day and night.  Haha.   This song rocks my world like none other (and so do the hair dos!!  haha :).  I listened to it 10,000 times on my ipod during my divorce.  I think I blew some eardrums listening to this song, which means all commuters on the F train got a good dose of it, too.  But that beautiful song & lyrics gave me all the peace I needed to stay strong.  And it inspired me again and again and AGAIN to hand my heart over.  Cause you have to do that about a hundred times a day when a spouse leaves you  and you have to work on divorce docs & pack his stuff.
(print by Rachel Castle)

  • MAN'S SEARCH FOR MEANING. Man's Search for Meaning was written by a survivor of a concentration camp and it's one of our favorite books.  It's truly a book full of so much truth.   It started us down the path of understanding the power of choice and agency, and the fact that there CAN be meaning in all things, including suffering...but it is up to us to choose to find meaning.  No matter what life throws our way, we always have the ability to choose how we react.  

  •  ECKART TOLLE.  He is Oprah's spiritual guru, and thank goodness she has shared his teachings with so many people.  I read "The Power of Now" and "A New Earth" early on when I started making changes.  There is so much truth in these books.  I highly recommend them.  He talks about spiritual awakenings and transformation of consciousness.  He says to transform, it's necessary to transcend our ego-based state of consciousness (I know this as "overcoming the natural man").  Angela would say, "If you can do what he talks about, you can do anything."

  • MEDITATE/PRAY.  This is hugely powerful.  I started doing this more when I was trying deliberately to become more centered and well.  My acupuncturist recommended this fertility meditation which I actually really, really loved.  The first time I listened to it (meditation #2 is my favorite), I was laying on the table with needles in me and just wept.  I bought a copy for myself because it uplifted me so much....and many friends since have borrowed my copy and enjoyed it.  I'd say it's good for anyone wanting to feel peaceful while trying to get pregnant.  And PRAYER!...It's the most beautiful way to have a moment each day that is focused and centered and full of love, hope & gratitude...it just helps to align your life with God & all good things!!   Talk about a good way to exercise the "good" kind of faith.  It's such a wonderful ritual that I do not want to miss.   
  • READ ABOUT RELIGION. I never thought I was religious at all, but once I started applying the simple & beautiful truths I speak about here, I have received no greater happiness in my life, and I've come to realize the principles are taught in just about every great faith tradition I discover.  Of course there are many, many truths found in many religions!  If you are associated with a religion that suits you, I recommend getting involved...it's just hugely motivating to associate with others who are on a similar path as you.  And even if religion isn't your thing, I hope you won't shy away from learning some of the great truths their traditions describe, the love they aim for, the grace they offer, and the personal transformation they inspire.  All of us should be willing to find truth, and adopt it for ourselves, wherever it comes from.
 (Photo by Vivian Maier)
  •  LOUISE L. HAY.  Louise Hay was one of the mainstream pioneers that started teaching that if you change your thoughts, you can change your life.  She is one of those women that I may have thought was too "new agey".   But now I know she teaches some very powerful things.  She has many, many books and a DVD called "You Can Heal Your Life" which really got me thinking.  I am sure you might want to pick and choose from this what resonates with you, but overall the info presented can be really life changing if you apply it.   I saw this DVD early on when I started making some positive changes (it was recommended by Angela) and it was a great place to start.... I highly recommend it.

  • GET INSPIRED BY OPRAH.  That woman!  She as done so much good for this world.  I highly recommend watching her Finale Show, where she gives credit to God for all that she has done.  It is so moving.  (Note: the finale is divided into 4 parts...each one should start automatically after the other.  Part 4 is my favorite.) She has done everything she can to share a message of hope with the world.  Danny actually saw it first and said... you HAVE to watch this! And, I am just so impressed with what she is doing now, Oprah's Life Class...if I had more time (& a live T.V.) I'd be watching more of her stuff.  
  •  SERVE OTHERS.  When our ex-spouses left us, Danny and I both immediately turned the bulk of our new found "free-time" into service towards others.  I was serving peers and mentoring young women in my neighborhood, Danny was visiting families, mentoring missionaries, and teaching Sunday school.  We spent a lot of time in those potentially lonely moments "losing ourselves" in the service of others.  This was one of the GREATEST sources of happiness, peace, and joy in those days (and it still is).  I think for both of us, this was when we began to realize that we had a lot to offer others as we were learning how to handle our trials in a better way.  When you serve others, you'll find that your problems either go away or at least come into a healthier focus and perspective. 
  •  FIND A MENTOR.  Take a good inventory of people that have influenced or continue to influence your life for the better.  I hope all of us know people who exude love, kindness, compassion, peace, and joy.  These kinds of people tend to make us happy just by being around them.  Start paying extra attention to how they interact with others, and begin trying to do as they do.  Don't worry if the process of change is slow, just keep it up.  Pay attention to how they speak, listen, express confidence, exude patience...and then one little attribute at a time, incorporate it into your life.  All of the best traits in life are LEARNED...quit thinking they are just innate in some and not in you.  Develop those things you most admire in others, even if it takes a lifetime.  One of Danny's mentors is Clayton Christensen (read his amazing Harvard commencement address here).  Danny had the privilege of working with him regularly on some church efforts in Boston.  This is when Danny realized how life changing a good mentor could be.

  •  DEDICATE A DAY TO FOCUS ON SPIRITUAL THINGS.  Life can just be a wash real quick if we don't take a moment to focus on progression & becoming more happy & at peace.  I already dedicated a whole post to this.  But I can't recommend enough to choose one day of the week to do whatever it is that you feel will benefit your life the most. 

  • FORGIVE OTHERS.  I can hardly think of any other thing we can do to feel peace and wholeness and freedom in our lives.  Think of your worst offenders whether they be parents, ex-spouses, current spouses, children, friends, relatives, bosses, coworkers, schoolmates, anyone who has harmed you.  Forgive them, and you will be free.  I think forgiveness is ESSENTIAL to moving forward.  It will liberate you more than you could ever imagine...and it will allow you to more fully progress as a person.  Danny & I would not have connected as we did, probably wouldn't have married, and wouldn't be as happy as we are now if we had not forgiven our former spouses.
  • A LIGHT IN THE WILDERNESS.  (A book by M. Catherine Thomas).  This is our favorite book of all time from a Mormon perspective!  I'm serious.  We love every single word of this & basically have the whole thing underlined.  We found this after our divorces and she literally wrote every word (& more) that we had been feeling during that time!  She is a Mormon, but she uses truths from all over the world and in many religions.  It's one of the most enlightening books we've ever, ever read.  I can't get enough of this book and want to read it over and over and over for the rest of my life.   If I could send a copy to each and every one of you, I really would. 

  • THE FIFTH WAY.  (A book by David Brisbin.)  If you'd rather read spiritual principles from a non-denominational author, we highly recommend this book, which was definitely one of Danny's favorite reads this year (he reads a lot).  It is full of unique insights on the message of Christ and his Way, and describes a very practical and personal spirituality that focuses on the idea that "the kingdom of God is WITHIN you". 
  •   READ ANCIENT SCRIPTURE.  Now, I get it.  It's old stuff.  BUT, if you have a hard time viewing it as divinely inspired & preserved, at least view it like poetry, full of a lot of beautiful symbolism.  The people that dedicated their lives to writing this stuff down were just trying to get the best message they knew through to anyone who reads it.  The universal truths are there and written so simply.  Yes, there is the Bible, which is chock full of beautiful & inspiring truths.  The faith tradition I grew up with has a soft spot for the Book of Mormon.  To be honest, I hated reading scripture most of my life.  And then when I realized all this good stuff I had been learning was in these books I thought were so archaic, I was like.... what???  SERIOUSLY??  THAT is in there, too??  I really couldn't believe it.  Though, it doesn't hurt when Danny, who LOVES studying and teaching this stuff, is the Sunday School teacher each week and frames the scriptures using the same principles we talk about on the blog.

OK, I am impressed if you've gotten this far in this very full post.  Whew!

Now, what I would absolutely LOVE to hear from you is......


No matter what religion you are, I would be SO interested.  I feel there is so much we can all learn from each other.  And I know that there is much, much more I have to learn.  




  1. Here is a comment from RIK. (I had to repost the original post...too many blogger spacing issues!):

    I commented a couple weeks ago, but I just wanted to say hello again. Your blog is so inspiring for me! I read it every morning and am already noticing a change in my thinking, in my actions, and in my spirituality. What's nice is that I have the reminder. I try to incorporate these principles in my life already, but the reminder every morning is just the extra push I need. Thank you!

    p.s. I LOVE the emails between you and Danny. :) It's like reading the perfect fairy tale! I have some similar emails between me and my now-husband, and they are HILARIOUS to read!

  2. Thank you for sharing these resources.

  3. 3rd time trying to post- hope 3 comments from me don't show up all of a sudden.


    I just love this blog- we need more hope in the world and this space is just overflowing with it!

    Forgiveness and moving out of victim mode were two huge steps for me towards happiness. After reading Happiness is a Choice and To Love is to be Happy With I finally was able to forgive. It had seemed like a huge, hard task but once I decided it was something I really wanted to do, (a gift to myself and the world), it was easy! It's amazing how empowering it is to realize that we don't have to live as victims and that those who "hurt" us in the past were doing the best they could based on the beliefs they had.

    I've read several of your book recs- can't wait to check out more!

    Thanks again for taking the time to publish this blog- it tops the list of one of my favorite ways to start each day!

  4. Oh Mara! I just loved this post. All of these thoughts speak to my heart and my desire to have a more fulfilling life despite whatever trial I/we am/are enduring. So good!

    My little bit to add- and it may seem a little silly- is to have a hobbie! For me, it is cooking. Turning the music on, getting the kids involved (or not, sometimes!), and creating something that I will share with my family/neighbors/friends/myself! It's a moment to feed my soul and body.

    It's good to have a hobbie, to take time to care for yourself and do something you love- whatever that is!

  5. I have been posting a copy of your lists on my fridge and this have been a great way to get my husband and I to talk about your ideas while we do our kitchen chores. Thank you for all your thoughtful recommendations. Please keep it up.

  6. Hi Mara! Can you tell us what "This Song" is. I don't want to create an account on sound cloud and it won't tell me unless I do!

    I love reading here each day! It is so uplifting.


    1. Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing (Sorry it took so long to reply!)

  7. What a great post! What is the song you mentioned? I couldn't get the link to work. Thanks!

  8. This is a great post, and I totally agree with you about a lot of the things you've mentioned. Many of these things have helped me understand parts of my religion that I had always wondered about at different points of my life.

    I love the MoTab version of I'm Trying to be Like Jesus. There is something so nice about listening to these (typically) older and experienced choir members sing such a simple child's song. And The Healing Power of Forgiveness provided for me one of my dearest spiritual experiences ever. I can't listen to that talk and not cry!

    One thing I wanted to mention that has helped me is reading about neuroscience. Shh, just listen. I have a brother-in-law who is studying neuropsychology at BYU and he always has books to give me about it. I went through a really difficult time psychologically when I was first married and I credit my ability to overcome that time and those thoughts to those books. My favorite is The User's Guide to the Brain. I know it doesn't sound very spiritual to read about neuroscience, and it's not for everyone but.. it's delicate work to find the right information that will pull the necessary chords in my mind and heart, the ones that will send the epiphinal reverberation I need. I've since been able to find synchronicity between what I've learned about neuroscience and what I've been taught in church my whole life. That's what I love about my religious experience as a Mormon. Although I'm just realizing it, I've always been given that space and opportunity for the gospel to settle into my mind when it needed too. It's a great thing, and I feel lucky to be a part of it :)

    Thanks for this post! It's just what I needed, though I didn't realize it at first :)

  9. DEAR READERS: Sorry that the soundcloud link for my favorite song didn't work! I have replaced the link with a youtube link. The song is "Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing" by the BYU Choir. Thanks, Girlsmama & Allison for letting me know the link didn't work.

  10. Lizzi - I absolutely love the idea of studying neuropsychology with spirituality in mind. Love it! And thx for the book recommendation.

  11. Mara,
    Not to sound corny, but I kind of believe that Divine intervention brought me to your blog. I'm going through an extremely difficult time right now (like, THE hardest trial in my life, utter despair), and you have given me so much to think about.

    Just this morning, I was thinking that I wanted to write to you to ask you about your path to inner happiness (as in, happiness independent of other people), and what things you did to get to that place in your life. And I come here this morning, and BOOM, here's this blog entry. Thank you so much. You give me hope that someday I will be happy again.

    Wishing all the love and happiness in the universe to you and Danny, from someone you don't even know :)

  12. Karen, I couldn't be happier that somehow my blog is helping you. Seriously, it makes me smile from ear to ear. Thanks for your very kind note. It just made my day, if not year. Thank you so, so much. And may I send to you some very heartfelt wishes as you face your trials. In a way, this can be a huge opportunity for you to become something more than you are. Embrace it. You can do it, even if it's little by little. Hopefully future posts will continue to be helpful. Sending you much love, Mara

  13. Ok, so I just found your blog (somebody posted a link to your why you would have children post) and am devouring your whole blog! Fantastic!

    This post REALLY spoke to me (they all are) as I'm in the process of trying to deepen my faith and understanding of faith/ religion/ spirituality. So thank you!

    Btw, have you ever read "A course in miracles"?

  14. I am a giant fan of a few books, each of them changed me in some way by bringing me closer to Jesus and to my true self.
    1. The Peacegiver; James L. Ferrell
    2. The Holy Secret; James L. Ferrell
    3. Remembering Wholeness; Carol Tittle
    4. Healing The Wounded Soul; Jack R. Christensen (audio Cd)

  15. Your blog is very inspiring. Thankyou for being a person of love and understanding, it's always so great to know that there are people out there trying to make a difference. It's truly touching, so thankyou and keep on doing what you are doing!

  16. Hi,
    Can you tell me what the first favorite conference talk you posted a link to is? The link doesn't seem to be working.
    Love this inspiring blog!

    1. It looks like it was a link to a video of the talk "Forget Me Not" by Dieter F. Uchtdorf. Mara, correct me if I'm wrong! You can find the transcript here: http://www.lds.org/broadcasts/article/general-relief-society-meeting/2011/09/forget-me-not?lang=eng

  17. Very inspiring! Comes at time when I needed it. Thank you so much xox

  18. I have followed your blog nearly from the beginning and had tucked away this gem of a post in my memory. At present I'm in need of some reinventing of self and I recalled some ideas you shared here. It took me twenty minutes to find it again, but thanks for sharing these ideas. I can't believe it's been three years...


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