Wednesday, July 10, 2013

40 Days of Joy Journey

The past month has been a pretty rough month for me.  From my Dad's trip to the emergency room (thank Gd he's recovered well), to the tragic death of a neighbor, and don't even get me started on the news from around the world.  I've felt like I've been spinning through a vacuum of bad news and tragedy.  Out of the emotional roller coaster, I believe, can only come goodness and blessings.  To that merit I've been looking for a new focus.  Something uplifting and meaningful.  Recently, I found an article on Huffington Post online about joy and happiness practice.  It's a 40 day challenge of Joy.  40 different ways to try to add more joy and happiness to your life.  So, for me, living on the edge of war and peace... in the midst of tragedy and triumph... I'm looking to take life by the reigns and add more joy into my daily life.  I hope that this 40 day challenge will help me on my path to maintaining the joy that I search for in my life.

* UPDATE: I'm so glad that I decided to try this 40 day challenge.  As I'm now on my 26th day I can truly say that having a daily focus and making the choice to be happy is very powerful.  I have recently learned (in my Laughter Yoga course) that the idea behind "fake it til you make it" is very simple... By simply saying "I'm happy", laughing, smiling, being silly, etc you are over riding the logic of your brain and stimulating feelings of joy within yourself.  Thus you are actually making a conscious effort to change your mood, attitude, and state of being.  Depression, stress, and anxiety some of the most common and under treated illnesses today.  By choosing to turn that frown upside down and even force a smile if you have to... you will eventually "fake it til you make it."  You will be come a happier person.

So here's the list and I invite you all to also join in the joy.


Day 1: July 10 - Play with kids.
Today at work I played with my preschoolers.  How can I not find joy when I see these little beautiful faces and smiles every day?

Day 2: July 11 - Laugh and smile no matter how you're feeling.  
Although this is an old picture, it still represents the essence of the day's challenge.  
Today I woke up with a stiff lower back and pain shooting down my legs, but I decided to go ahead and keep laughing and smiling.  I took it easy after work by doing some slow stretches and sending out a few emails to friends.  My phone and facebook lit up with love this afternoon.  I stretched out on the floor on my yoga mat and I found myself smiling and laughing and joking as I received calls and messages from friends filled with joy and laughter.  It was truly an inspirational way to lessen the physical pain radiating through me.  

Day 3: July 12 - Play like a kid.
Again, thankfully I work with kids.  This is my "legendary" fight with Yoav as Peter Pan vs. myself as Captain Hook.  Play fighting is always fun for both kids and adults of all ages.

Day 4: July 13 - Connect authentically with friends and family, sharing your vulnerabilities.
Thank goodness for Shabbat.  I was able to speak to family and friends on a real and complete level without the distractions of technology.  No phones, no tv, no computers... just real connections with real people.  Thank Gd for Shabbat!!

Day 5: July 14 - Exercise.
Well it's summertime in the middle east, so what better way to cool off and to exercise at the same time than to swim?!  It was a beautiful, therapeutic, and quiet morning at the pool today as swam laps.  I finished off my pool time by reading a book and eating grapes under a nearby tree.  Bliss.

Day 6: July 15 - Prepare and slowly eat a healthy meal.
Today to prepare for the fast of Tisha B'Av I decided to make myself a really healthy meal.  The wraps are made of rice papers and are stuffed with kale, lettuce, cucumbers, carrots, and red peppers.  The dipping sauce is a combination of peanut butter, natural local honey, and glutton free soy sauce.  To top off the meal I made organic brown rice and seasoned it with garlic and zatar spices.  For dessert I had grapes and dried pineapple.  YUM!  To all of those that will also be fasting, I hope that you have an easy and meaningful fast!

Day 7: July 16 - Get rid of stuff.
It's an amazing feeling to clean out the closet and donate all the stuff that I truly don't wear to a second hand store.  

Day 8: July 17 - Count your blessings.  (Literally make a list)
What better place to do so but the Kotel?  As I stood and prayed at the holiest place on Earth I realized just how truly blessed I am.  I live in Israel with a roof over my head, clothes on my back, shoes on my feet, and food in my refrigerator.  I have a job, running waters and electricity.  I have loving family and wonderful friends.  I have great books to read, a computer that allows me to write and blog.  I have a cellphone that keeps me connected to my loved ones all over the world.  I have a spiritual connection with the Creator of Heaven and Earth.  I couldn't ask for more.

Day 9: July 18 - Offer to teach someone a new skill.
With my little sister's recent arrival to Israel I was able to offer to teach her to make challah and do hafrash challah before Shabbat this week.  Her challah was big hit during dinner Friday night!

Day 10: July 19 - Help someone in a small way.
As I was walking home from the pool on Friday afternoon I saw a cellphone go flying out of a truck as it went around a round-about.  Thankfully it wasn't damaged, but I called the 'last dialed' number and spoke to the phone owners wife.  She thanked me and arranged to have her husband come and pick up the phone from me. 

Day 11: July 20 - Lose yourself in a great book.
I love Dan Brown books.  I've read them all, including his new book Inferno.  This Shabbat I decided to start rereading my favorite, Angels and Demons.  I love getting lost in a Robert Langdon adventure.  

Day 12: July 21 - Serve others. Volunteer.
Although I've typically been working for this amazing family, tonight I decided to volunteer some time to help put the kids to bed, fold laundry, and be a hair model for Hodayah.  What started as learning to french braid quickly turned into a session of "how crazy can we make Sarah's hair look."
Ps.  Follow her Imma's incredible journey on her blog at: Triplet Journey

Day 13: July 22 - Discover a new smell or food.
Raw fish.  I'm a very picky fish eater and so I rarely eat sushi (usually opting for something with veggies), but today I tried raw salmon (safe to start with).  It was good, but I still prefer my veggies.

Day 14: July 23 - Pay a compliment to a stranger.
While riding the bus in Jerusalem today I complimented a woman who sat across from me.  She had the most beautiful sun umbrella.  It looked like it was from India with lots of colors, fabrics, beading, and tiny mirrors.

Day 15: July 24 - Listen to uplifting music.
Thanks to Mordechai Yitzhar and the release of his new disc I was (and still have been) listening to this non-stop!  

Day 16: July 25 - Sing out loud.

"Here's a little song I wrote.  You might want to sing it note for note... Don't worry.  Be Happy."  I love singing this Bob Marley version of Bobby McFarren's song to my gan kiddos. I'll teach them English through music!!

Day 17: July 26 - Ask for help and say thank you.
After an exhausting week I had no more energy to cook for Shabbat.  Thankfully my sister, Debra, took the reigns and made a yummy quinoa salad.  Thank you Debra!!

 Day 18: July 27 - Watch a favorite old movie.
Well I haven't watched this movie in ages.  So after Shabbat my sister and I sat down and watched an old favorite together.

Day 19: July 28 - Get out in nature.
I just love the Mediterranean Sea.  The blues and greens give me peace.  I could look at that water forever.  (I should truly be a professional beach bum.)  My favorite thing to do in a place of serenity is strike a pose and breathe deeply.   

Day 20: July 29 - Walk in the rain.
This one was hard for me.  It's summertime in the middle east and so there is NO rain.  Therefore when I was at the park earlier today with my gan kiddos and the sprinklers came on, I took it as the next best thing... and played in the water.

Day 21: July 30 - Snuggle.

Hugs and snuggles after nap time are the best.  This particular kiddo really knows how to give the best hugs and snuggles.  With the gan year ending I just know that I'll miss seeing him and snuggling him everyday.  

Day 22: July 31 - Eat a cupcake with no hands.
My brother made me promise to do this one with him.  So since he had a few days out of the army I said, "Yallah let's go eat cupcakes!"  This one was incredibly fun, and especially so since I was able to do it with my brother, David.  Thanks Doivid!!

Day 23: August 1 -  Spend time with your pet.  (If you don't have one, use a friend's pet!)
My cousins' awesome dog, Bamba, followed me home from the macullit this afternoon and then hung out with me in my apartment for a few hours.  Have I mentioned that Bamba is awesome?  Well, she is.  By far, she is one of the coolest and smartest dogs I know.

Day 24: August 2 - Write a thank you note to someone for no reason but to say I appreciate you. 
This long overdue thank you note and teapot was given by me today to my amazing friend (and boss), Netta.  I appreciate her and her family so much.  I truly enjoy having their light, joy, and love in my life.  Shabbat Shalom!
The note reads: 
Dear Netta, I love and appreciate you so much!  You, Mordechai, Nevua, Malachi, and TalOr are bright lights of love and joy in my life.  You are an incredible mom, ganenet, and I'm honored to call you my friend, mentor, and boss.  Thank you for everything, Sarah
לנטע היקרה, אני מאוד מעריכה אותך וכל כך אוהבת אותך! אותך ואת מודכי, נבואה, מלאכי, וטלאור אתם נורות של אהבה ושמחה בחיים שלי. נטע, את אמא יוצת מן הכלל, גננת ואני מרגישה כל כך הרבה כבוד לקרוא לך חברה. את דוגמא אישית, חברה ו’בוסית’!! תודה רבה על הכול, באהבה, שרה. 

Day 25: August 3 - Take a nap.
So this isn't where I was this Shabbat, but when I napped in the afternoon this is where I was dreaming I was!! Shavua Tov.

Day 26: August 4 - Learn something new.
I've been super excited about the idea of learning to be a Laughter Yoga instructor for a while now, and today I started my training!!  I drove way up north to Zichron Yaakov to attend the first of a 4 part private series taught by Alex Sternick.  I'm learning the psychology of happiness, health benefits, diaphragmatic breathing, the art of nonsense and gibberish, how to "fake it til you make it", and much much more.  I'm really looking forward to starting laughter clubs in my area, volunteering, and in general teaching this practice.  We should all be more joyous, happy, and silly, oh and speak nonsense too!!  

Day 27:  August 5 - Memorize a poem.
The Road Not Taken by Robert Frost
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I couldn't travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And look down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way.
I doubted if I should ever come back,
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I -
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference

Day 28: August 6 - Meditate and enjoy the silence.
This is both a daily struggle and practice for me.  I consistently am working on silencing my mind and opening my heart and soul.

Day 29: August 7 - Dance or skip.
An impromptu laughter yoga session broke into dance at my friend's house tonight.  It's so fun to dance even without any music!

Day 30:  August 8 - Turn errands into an adventure.
Any day of errands that ends with an evening of great music, is one accomplished.

Day 31: August 9 - Get messy.
What can I say... I love to walk around barefoot.

Day 32:  August 10 - Set a goal, then reach it.
I'm "in process" of achieving my goal, but I am stretching more often and doing more yoga.  It definitely helps on my quest for better back health, strength, flexibility, and balance.

Day 33:  August 11 -  Travel.
Sibling road trip!  This week I persuaded my sister Debra and brother David into coming along with me on a sibling travel day!  Destination: Northern Israel and specifically Zichron Yaakov and Kyriat Atta.

Day 34:  August 12 -  Watch a sunrise or sunset.
This beautiful sunset in northern Israel is just one of the many I get to see (I watch the sunset almost every day.)  B"H.  Soooo beautiful.

Day 35: August 13 - Create something.
My first attempt at making jewelry with guitar strings and hand made beads (by my friend, Debi).  I am happily accepting any and all broken or replaced instrument strings.  Save your strings and give them to me.  I'll make something!

Day 36: August 14 - Spend an evening by candle light.
I loved doing this one.  I set up little tea light candles all around my living room, played the guitar and enjoyed the serenity that the atmosphere created for me.

Day 37: August 15 - I didn't do anything off the list today.
I had a rough day, and you know what... that's ok too.  I wasn't able to check anything off my list, but I did "repeat" from a prior day: I asked for help and said thank you.  I somehow threw out my back and my wonderful friend and neighbor helped me with usage of a cool back machine and a great oil to help the pain, and even pasta for dinner.

Day 38: August 16 - Dress up in costume for no reason.
Really any chance to wear my blue wig is a good one.

Day 39: August 17 - Change a bad habit.
It's time I stop procrastinating (I'm an expert at waiting til the last moment with stuff like this), get my act together, and start planning for the new school year (which starts next week).  Lesson plans need writing and a classroom need setting up.  I guess summer vacay is just about over.

Day 40: August 18 - Nurture romance.
Chick flick movie night with 'When Harry met Sally'.

Day 41: August 19 - Surrender.  Give it up to Gd.
 Emunah.  It's really all about having faith, trust, and letting go.  There is a power that is bigger and greater than we are, and if we truly surrender ourselves and have emunah we can reduce our worries, problems, and anxieties exponentially.  Gam ze la tova.  This is also for the good.