How to Find Pleasure in the Ordinary

How to Find Pleasure in the Ordinary

This time is calling for us to look deeper and find a sense of joy and meaning in the simplest things.

AscentXmedia/ Getty Images

One of my favorite movies of all time — and definitely my favorite quote from a movie — is from Chariots of Fire. The protagonist, Eric Liddell, is a religious missionary who is training to run in the Olympics, while also preparing to go to China to do missionary work. His sister, who is joining him in the missionary work, admonishes him and says, “You have to throw away this silly running thing and do this really important work, God’s work.” She essentially reprimands him for not following God’s will. He just looks at her and he says, “But when I run, I feel his pleasure.”

The other day I was listening to a wonderful podcast by Tim Ferriss, who was interviewing Hugh Jackman and asked him when he first knew that he was meant for the stage. And Jackman answered by repeating that same quote from Chariots of Fire. He said it was his favorite line because it describes how he feels when he is performing, which is essentially the feeling of serving something larger than himself when he is on stage. I was so elated to be reminded of this phrase on feeling God’s pleasure, which, to me, is where the human part in us meets the indescribable spirit in us and we can experience a moment of conversion.

I think we’ve all felt it in some way or another. It could be dancing, singing, writing, or cooking, walking up a mountain, or walking on the beach watching a beautiful sunset, playing a sport, or even gardening. My mother would experience it on the beach, feeding the seagulls. They would all come flooding into her presence while she fed them breadcrumbs. We are all striving to feel this spirit-filled connection, where we go beyond our mind and sense of time, and we feel our thoughts stop, and we get filled with such an incredible sense of going beyond the physical self into a state of transcendence. As I was reconnecting with that wonderful line during the podcast, I realized how much I had missed that feeling during this COVID period, missing so many things about my life. I’ve had to fight very hard not to cave in and keep myself lifted. Even in the midst of writing this new book on the power of prayer, and during guided meditations, webinars, and Zoom calls teaching so many people about the awareness I have learned over the years, I myself have had to deal with the unhappiness of my human part missing my connection with people, which is when I feel “his pleasure.”

I, too, thrive in performing, and although I moved from acting into speaking and writing, I would experience this tremendous fulfillment as I went around the country speaking, inspiring, sharing the message of the open heart and the joy that’s innate in all of us; and it never failed that I would experience the magic of our oneness every time I spoke. In every event I did, strangers and I would bond, heart to heart, and reignite the spirit that lives in us. Every time I stood up to speak in front of people, there was no separation between me and them. I poured my heart out. I went beyond the script into the experience of being in the moment, speaking spontaneously from my heart and wisdom into the hearts and wisdom of others. So often at the end of events people would come up to me and say, “What you said was meant for me. I felt my heart burst open. I really let go of something.” I always felt the magical conversion of my human self and the larger spirit in me. I always left every event feeling fulfilled and blissful, in awe at the expansion of the human heart. It was beyond anything I could even describe. When I spoke, I felt his pleasure!

Cut to today, the quarantine, where there are no more events but endless Zoom calls, no human interaction but those through the internet. For some people it may work perfectly, and I’m happy for them; but for me, it felt like I had been moved out of my paradise, contracted and deprived of the very things I loved the most. I meditated, I prayed, and I tried to find ways to recreate some of the feelings that I’ve had when I’m speaking and connecting in real life. I knew my work was cut out for me. I now had to recreate that feeling knowing that it’s in me. It never leaves me, and I know I just need to find ways to keep igniting that conversion. I often think of the thousands and thousands of actors, dancers, musicians, and singers who feel that aliveness when they perform, and I am filled with such compassion and heartache when I think of what they are doing, day by day, to create that feeling of aliveness. For me, the answer is to try to find it every day through dancing, moving, loving, listening to music, walking on the beach, connecting with my friends, engaging in my work, and most of all through the gift of expanding in gratitude and reverence for the miracle of my life despite our circumstances.

There is the calling to go deeper, the calling to have even deeper self-compassion to embrace the human part that is hurting and feels bereft — without judging it or making it seem wrong, but in the most loving and tender way saying to myself, “I understand. I hear you. I’m here for you” — and find the conversion in the stillness, in the gaze that glimpses into the soul of who I am and who others are. Maybe now I can find his pleasure in the deep quiet beyond my restless, impatient mind that asks, “When will this end?”. Maybe now I can find his pleasure in the simplest most ordinary things — feeling the breeze, watching the roses, cooking a meal, feeling the sun, hearing the voices of my family in the other room — and magnify the gratitude of every moment with the spirit that lives inside me, and inside all of us, regardless of the conditions. It takes more stillness to hear the subtle whisper of the voice of the spirit that says, “I am still here. I never left, I’m never going anywhere. And you can feel me and find me as you stop looking back to what was, and instead open up your heart to experience what is now.”

Suddenly everything settles and the waves meet the shore. Whether it’s a cloudy, sunny, rainy, or windy day, the waves will always meet the shore because that is the extraordinary, miraculous nature of all things. The only response, when we open our eyes and see who we truly are, is simply awe. When we are in awe, then we feel his pleasure with every breath and in every moment as we bear witness to our aliveness that connects us to all life everywhere.

For more from Agapi, please follow her on Instagram.

Agapi StassinopolousHow to Find Pleasure in the Ordinary
read more

How to Love Yourself Through It All

How to Love Yourself Through It All

When we take a moment to disconnect from the world outside and look inward, our inner compass will guide us in the right direction.
Baona/ Getty Images

I was recently doing a webinar for some wonderful educators, and I started by asking them to share with me in the chat if they had allowed themselves to cry during this pandemic. Over half of the group said that they had been crying at different times during the quarantine. Some people were crying in the shower, going to sleep, at the dinner table, with a friend over FaceTime, after a Zoom call with their students because they missed the kids and were concerned about what will happen in the fall, etc. I personally have found myself bursting into tears during my walks, while meditating, going to sleep, and speaking to my closest friends. I get hit with waves of missing my life the way it was; and although I am surrounded by love, blessings, and sunshine, the emotional rollercoaster is affecting me.

I am writing a book on the power of prayer, and when I would talk with one of my best friends she would say to me, “Why don’t you just pray,” and I would say, “I’m crying at the same time as I’m praying” (it’s allowed). Please by no means think that crying is a weakness. Our hearts feel the contraction of the conditions we are living under, and it can be very emotionally draining. Crying releases pent up emotions, and if you put words to your crying, it can carry you like a river into a new place, seeing with new eyes as you feel renewed.

It’s easy for those of us who are emotional beings to acutely feel the losses in our lives, and it’s important not to do a spiritual bypass. I know there are many people out there who are using this time to be extremely creative and productive, and might be writing their next new novel or their next symphony. But there are also those who feel extremely victorious just getting to the end of the day without completely losing it — at home with the kids or their partners, or over endless Zoom calls. Many have this feeling of “Groundhog Day,” waking up thinking “Oh my gosh here’s another day,” challenged by the monotony of the uncertainty, even if they are healthy and still have their jobs.

“The Lexicon for a Pandemic” by Jay Martel in The New Yorker puts a humorous spin on it all. He wrote, “COVID-30: Formerly COVID-15; the amount of weight gained by an average adult during quarantine,” and “Body Zoom-morphia: Finding your own image on a group video call so unappealing that you are unable to focus on anything else.” Another article I loved is “How Things Work in a Pandemic” by Kathryn Kvas and Mia Mercado. They wrote, “Breakfast, lunch, and dinner are no longer the designated meals of the day. Now there is ‘eating,’ ‘not eating,’ and ‘thinking about what to eat next.’ Sometimes ‘eating’ takes place from dawn until dusk. Other times, you will just go back and forth between ‘eating’ and ‘thinking about what to eat next’ until you pass out.” Sometimes it feels like you’re putting the key in the ignition but the car won’t start so you have to get out and push it to get it going and hop in once it starts rolling. If we were to take an M.R.I. of our nervous system and brain, we would probably find that every particle of us is at a state of alert and stuck in fight or flight.

But I do believe that with all that, if we take a moment to disconnect from the world outside and from the overwhelm inside, and connect to a place within us that is steady and peaceful, our inner compass will guide us in a clear direction where we can feel present and grateful for our lives. But we must be willing to take a moment to make the shift and go there. When we ask and pray to the higher self, we can shift into our enthusiasm, our joy, and our creativity; and in the midst of contraction we can absolutely move into a more expanded state of being. Everything in our physical world right now is pushing us to contract, and the fear of the unknown can overtake us. Then we cannot feel the expansion that is available to us in our own heart and spirit. And, of course, the judgments we impose on ourselves that we should be doing better, and the judgments we have on the circumstances around us. add more inner pressure. Be smart with yourself and tap into the inner mastery that is available to you. Take mental dominion over your thoughts and release yourself from the inner bondage of your fears.

The only way to do this is by evoking tremendous self-compassion. Amplify the whisper of your spirit saying to you, “I love you no matter what,” and take that gift into your very cells and see how much more grace is extended to your day. I have written a prayer that I encourage you to speak out loud, because our voice carries healing power. Add your own words to it so you can empower yourself to renew your enthusiasm.

Dear Beloved,

Today is not just another day that piles on from yesterday’s.

Today is a brand new day because I am breathing, I am alive, and I can tap into endless possibilities. And how grand is that!

Just like the weather is never the same, just like in nature things are always changing, and just like in the whole universe everything is moving, today I welcome this brand new day, and I ask that I may look at this day with brand new eyes, not assuming it will be like yesterday.

Rekindle my enthusiasm and let that spill over to everything I do, without taking for granted the little miracles of life or forgetting to be grateful for every little thing.

Help me make this day a brand new day so no matter the circumstances of my life, let me find the newness in myself and break down the walls that I have built between me, my heart, and others.

Let me drop any judgements about how I think my life should be and move into acceptance embracing everything that is, and, from that place, make new choices to bring the spirit of more kindness, more tenderness, more loving, and more laughter so that the spirit that makes all things move can also move in me right now and make this moment and the next one (and the next and the next) a brand new moment.

I turn my gaze inside to the lighter parts of me so that I can see how I might have forgotten and been blinded, so that I may reveal what lies before me.

Help me trust that I am one breath away from knowing that the conditions of my life can be transformed with more grace, more ease, more loving, and yes, more joy.

I dare to let my heart soften renew myself in your embrace.

Allow me to see the truth of who I am and not the habit of who I have become; a glimpse of the bigger scheme of all there is!!

For more from Agapi, please follow her on Instagram.

Agapi StassinopolousHow to Love Yourself Through It All
read more

How to Win the Discouragement Battle

How to Win the Discouragement Battle

In the midst of everything going on, we need to allow our hearts to stay open, forgiving, and loving.Evgeny Atamanenko/ Shutterstock
Evgeny Atamanenko/ Shutterstock

If you have been feeling a sense of discouragement, desperation or hopelessness; if you feel like you’ve hit a wall inside and out and think you can’t go on another day, and yet you do, but still there’s something pulling you way down into the abyss; I just wanted to let you know that you are definitely not alone! The waves of loss and grief — especially with all the deeper awakening and reckoning around the social injustice in our country — are hitting home in a big way, and it’s very easy to feel the weight of it all.

I was on a Zoom call with a group of friends the other day and many were sharing that they were going through a lot, experiencing overwhelm and lack of emotional control. However, one of my friends said, “I actually feel very calm, content, and trusting, and I just keep going on,” and another friend replied, “What are you made of, steel?”. He was taken aback and felt judged for expressing that he was doing OK, and he said, “Let me explain. I have found a deep place of acceptance in me with what’s been going on. It keeps me going in helping others in the ways that I can, and it gives me a sense of optimism that things won’t always be this way. There will be a dawn to a new day and a brighter tomorrow.” My other friend asked, “How do I know that?” To which he answered, “Humanity has always gone through horrific things and has come out the other side. That doesn’t mean I don’t have compassion for the people who are struggling so much, I just don’t want to feel that I have to apologize for feeling OK.” So if you are feeling OK, strong, optimistic, resilient, and are even able to keep your joy alive at this time, please don’t feel guilty about that, because we could use more people who are centered, strong, and solid in themselves. But for anyone who is feeling the wave of the downward spiral, I wanted to share a few tips on how to come out of it.

I personally see this challenging time of the coronavirus, the lockdown, uncertainty, and insecurity in our country, the racism and hatred, as an incredible battle for the human spirit. Anyone who’s withstood huge challenges, against-ness, injustice, and loss of everything can become a role model for the resilience of the human spirit. So ask yourself, what can you do to bring peace to yourself at this time? How can you exercise your wisdom? How can you bring forward your perspective on these unprecedented times? How can you listen to the wise voice in you that guides you to do the little things every day that can bring you into balance?

One of the biggest keys I use to shift is prayer — prayer from the part that feels loneliness, turmoil, and wants to give up and cave in, to calling forward the God part of me that stands tall, that is strong and fearless and can rise beyond the circumstances. One of my favorite sayings is, “God is not a being, but a state of being,” and at each moment of our lives and with each breath we have a choice to attune ourselves to that higher state of being which is available to us at any point. So I see prayer as a lifeline and a bridge between the part that feels discouraged, overwhelmed, hopeless, etc. to the higher part that is expanded and at peace right now. Through prayer, I start to feel embraced by it, and it becomes this bridge between the human part and the God part.

The emperor of Rome, Marcus Aurelius, withstood the plague for 14 years and, in his book Meditations, he shares the wisdom of his journey and talks about examining everything you encounter in your life and using it for your growth and advantage. He writes, “If you are troubled by external circumstances, it is not the circumstances that trouble you, but your own perception of them and they are in your power to change at any time.” So whenever you are feeling the downward spiral, consider this: that the negative voice in you is whispering toxic messages, saying, “There’s no meaning to this. You should give up. You can’t handle this. This is too much, it’s overwhelming. I’ll never come out of this. I’m all alone. I feel hopeless. I don’t know how to manage my life. I can’t take another day of this; etc., etc.” Take charge of that voice and choose messages and qualities that can empower, nurture, steady and ground you — qualities like courage, self-reliance, humor, generosity, compassion, reverence, humility, gratitude, and loving — and as Marcus Aurelius tells us, “This too comes from God and no matter what, I will treat everything remembering that it has no power to weaken me, to pay me harm unless I let it.” So give meaning to this time and find your purpose, and it will be easier to cross over to the other side.

But if you’re judging yourself, pressuring yourself to feel differently, and pushing against how the world is unfolding, those judgments are bound to lock you into the state of feeling like a victim. I believe that those who will rise in this battle of the human spirit are definitely the people who are not going to feel victimized by what’s happening, but are going to see this as a golden opportunity to use everything — their conditions and their inner emotional upheavals — as grist for the mill, and will hear the calling of their spirit that needs no compromise or defense, but is as flexible as the wind, light as a feather, and mighty and grounded as the strongest mountain.

What contributes to this state of mind and where we will win the battle is when we allow our hearts, in the midst of everything, to stay open, soft and tender, forgiving and loving. In choosing that over and over and over again, you can experience the power of the unbound heart and the sweetness of life in the midst of the crisis. Don’t let anyone rob you of your smile, your sweetness, and the twinkle of your eye; these will become your weapons against the harshness, the judgments, the despair and the discouragement that creep in and can run you over before you know it. Don’t let it happen. Don’t let the darkness in you win. Outsmart it with the power of your presence that lies in your peace, and trust that you don’t walk alone in this, but with the mighty force of the spirit that gives life to all things.

For more from Agapi, please follow her on Instagram.

Agapi StassinopolousHow to Win the Discouragement Battle
read more

How to Talk and Listen to All Parts of You

Asking yourself these questions each day can help you tune in.

It’s so important to keep the channels of our communication with ourselves open, always, but especially in this time of challenging life changes that we are all going through, it’s imperative that we do so.

Let me explain what I mean by that.

We often operate on one modality from the moment we wake up to the moment we go to sleep. We function on our familiar patterns, going automatically from one thing to the next, interacting, getting things done, engaging and trying to complete the things that our daily lives involve. But many feelings surface during the day, especially in these times. We may feel overwhelmed, upset, disconnected, worried, fearful, out of control. And addressing these parts of ourselves that feel all of these things, and finding ways to give them a voice, is so important if we want to experience our calm.

A friend of mine said to me the other day, “When I meditate, I experience a place of calm and centeredness, but as soon as I start to function in my life my calm slowly starts to disappear. I start to feel anxious and off balance.” This is a friend who’s been meditating for a while, and yet emotions can be very strong and unpredictable. But often because of our daily responsibilities we simply don’t make the time to address these feelings. As adults, we have learned to censor ourselves when we feel upset, disturbed, or hurt. On the other hand, some of us might vent it all out and project it onto other people, which is another way we can feel out of control. Basically, we can walk around getting many things done yet feeling disconnected from ourselves.

So what are we to do? Opening the conversation with these parts of ourselves, and not censoring them, is the best way to bring ourselves into balance. I keep a journal by my bedside, and at night I ask myself these questions:

What worked today? And I let myself write down the things that worked for me in the day. Sometimes they are very simple things; sometimes they are more specific. For example, the other day, when I asked myself, the answer was, “I liked that I worked out on my bike today with my favorite music and I sweated.” Feel free to add as many things as you wish to express, and get to know all the things that you would like more of. That starts to put everything that’s working in a positive light, creating a vortex of what we want more.

Then I ask myself, what would you like more of tomorrow? For me the answer to that question was, “I would like more of that.” The answers come very swiftly. Sometimes, a part of me wants things I cannot give myself at this time. If I say to myself I want to go to the movies with friends, I cannot do that, but I can listen to that part of me about what I need, and what the feeling is behind that — fun, enjoyment, entertainment — and see if there’s something else that I can provide. Very much like a loving mother to a child, you don’t say to the child, “Shut up, we don’t have time for that,” but if you lovingly listen to that part of yourself and give that voice an expression, a safe place, that part can start to feel like the pressure cooker is off. It can tell us how it feels and fully express its needs and wants; and although we might not be able to provide exactly what it wants, we can guide that part towards the wisdom of patience and grace, and see that there is grace to be found in the midst of not being able to give ourselves what we really want. How so? Because that’s where the greatest conversation can take place with the spirit that is always available to comfort us and guide us.

And this is the third question I ask myself, what does spirit have to say to me about this? And I ask a specific question. That’s when I stop, listen and I become very, very quiet, and the answer comes, not from my head, but from the deeper part of me — my wise voice — that gives me the guidance of the particular issue happening for me at this time in my life.

These are the three questions that I find bring me into awareness of what’s working and not working. It’s very simple and doable, and as wonderful as it is to have a therapist, coach, counselor, or loving friend, sometimes the most loving voice is available to us from within ourselves, if we are simply willing to open the door and ask. Build this practice daily of conversing with yourself. There is a vulnerability that can happen during that time. There is a feeling of being unveiled, where your guard falls down and you get into that deeper part of you, and sometimes we may resist that because the ego likes to have its position — even if it’s negative, our ego thrives in its position, pretending it knows everything. Well that’s too bad, because all our egos are now being uprooted and shaken. There is one thing we’re all now forced to do because of our current circumstances, and that is to give up our sense of how important we are. We are all being humbled. Whatever we thought was the way to do things, we no longer have a choice but to cooperate with the nonsensical things that are going on. We are finding new ways to cooperate with one another, asking for help, giving more of ourselves and more of what we have, opening up our hearts to deeper love and compassion, and experiencing neutrality.

I’m sure a lot of us are puzzled with what’s really going on and are pondering how this all even happened, but regardless, we are here now and we need to work with it, not against us, but for us. We need to switch the mindset from being against what’s happening to a deeper acceptance of it all. Allowing our wiser self to awaken, shining its light on our lives, giving us solutions, motivations, and new ways to function and create from that place we never knew before.

So let’s open the new door to our higher wisdom that we’ve been praying for, suspending all judgments and learning how to walk in our wholeness and fullness.

Agapi StassinopolousHow to Talk and Listen to All Parts of You
read more

How to Rekindle Our Enthusiasm for a Brand New Day

Here’s a short prayer that will help you let go of something that you don’t need to carry with you.

As we are all in the quarantining phase of this coronavirus epidemic, it’s very easy to feel like “Groundhog Day,” one day piling up to the next one, and often we can wake up and feel a sense of “Oh my god, another day” that adds onto another day in quarantine. I wrote this poem to share with all of us so that each day, we can rekindle our enthusiasm and start fresh, because it is a brand new day and we cannot take it for granted. The possibilities of every day are vast, and we have the ability to create the most magical, connected, and loving day  for ourselves and for all of us. Maybe today is the day that we can let go of something we don’t need to carry, or the day that we will have a new revelation and awakening about life; so make today a brand new day. Here is a prayer to rekindle our enthusiasm for a new day:

The Prayer:

Today is not just another day that piles on from yesterday’s.

Today is a brand new day because I am breathing, I am alive, and I can tap into the endless possibilities, and how grand is that!

Just like the weather is never the same, just like in nature things are daily changing, and just like in the whole universe everything moves and changes, today I welcome this brand new day and I ask that I may look at this day with brand new eyes, not predicting it based on yesterday.

Rekindle my enthusiasm and let that spill over to everything I do, without taking for granted the little miracles of life or forgetting to be grateful for every little thing.

Help me make this day a brand new day so I can evoke the spirit of my life and feel my wondrous aliveness. No matter the conditions and circumstances, let me find the newness in myself and crumble the walls that I have built between me, my heart, and others.

Let me drop any judgements about how I think my life should be and move into the field of acceptance embracing everything that is, and, from that place, make new choices to bring the spirit of more kindness, more tenderness, more loving, more laughter, and more insightfulness so that the spirit that makes all things move can also move in me right now and make this moment (and the next and the next) a brand new moment.

I turn my gaze inside to the lighter parts of me, and change my uninspired heart and mind with the new ways of seeing what I might have forgotten and been blinded to, so that I may reveal what lies before me.

Help me trust that I am one breath away from knowing that the conditions of my life can be transformed with more grace, more ease, more loving, more receptivity, and yes, please, more joy.

I dare to let my heart soften and take You in. Renew me in your embrace.

Allow the deeper gratitude of knowing there is another day, and how grand is that, that I can choose to make it the most important day!

Allow me to see the truth of who I am and not the habit of who I have become; a glimpse of the bigger scheme of all that is!

Agapi StassinopolousHow to Rekindle Our Enthusiasm for a Brand New Day
read more

Right Now, We’re All Asked to Go Deeper

Gregory Berg/ Enso Photography

Looking inward during this time can completely shift our perspective.

As we are all navigating this extraordinary challenge at this time, one thing is clear to me: that we are all asked to go deeper, and that each one of us has to define what deeper is for ourselves. We are all asked to move to a greater willingness to let go of how we’ve been living our lives up until now, to let go of the old ways, and to create and discover a new design for our daily lives. None of us are exempt. We’ve been given no manual. How do we not cave in? How do we find motivation and inspiration? How do we build a new track so we can feel some kind of groundedness and sanity in our days? For me, it comes down to one fundamental thing, which is to find a place of absolute acceptance and loving for myself, for others, for the circumstances, for the conditions, and to find my patience.

When will this end? How will this end? Are we ever going to feel safe again? We only have one choice, which is to be present in this moment and allow something larger in ourselves to move in us and through us. Although it’s not an invasion by a foreign country, it still feels like an invasion by the enemy.

My parents fought in the Second World War. When the Nazis came to Greece, my father was captured and taken to the concentration camps for a year and a half. My mother fought with the resistance through the Red Cross, caring for patients and hiding Jewish people in cabins in the mountains. At one point she came face to face with the Nazis who marched into the cabin she was occupying, and as they started to shoot she said to them in perfect German, “Put down the guns, you have no right to shoot, we are with the Red Cross.” She saw three machine guns go down, and also had the audacity to tell one of the Nazis when he picked up her comb, “Can I have my comb back because I need it more than you!” She often told me and my sister through all the challenges she faced in her life, “I have faced fear dead on and I overcame it, so nothing will scare me anymore in my life;” and if anything, she paved the path to fearlessness for me and my sister and so many others who had been in her presence.

And though she passed away many years ago, we all feel her palpable presence all the time. So when I ask her what would you do at a time like this, this is what she says to me: “Don’t be consumed by the news, put your full attention in anything you do, eat slowly, live fully every moment, and darling, don’t give into fear, you’re bigger than that.” And if she were here, she would bring her life force of love and joy and cooking in making this moment as sacred as possible, always affirming that life is sacred.

So dare to step into what we call the unknown, and realize that in this present moment the unknown can become known in an instant, and that it is not our enemy and can be an opportunity to serve our own awakening. This is what I think we are all called for right now — to remember the reverence, the sacredness of life that was hijacked by our doings and goings, our drive to accomplish, and our hectic lives that consumed all of us going from one thing to the next to the next, and disconnected us from our hearts, our caring, and the better angels of our nature. We have put our essential self on hold, thinking that one day, maybe, we’ll get to it. Even with all the meditations and the yoga and the self-help books, we might have forgotten our humility, our tenderness, and our unbearable vulnerability against unknown forces. With all that we have mastered, setting sail to ship, none of us expected to find such stormy winds and turbulent waters. So we all have to adjust the sails, hold onto each other, and assume our inner mastery.

But there is one thing that I feel is completely intact in each one of us, and that is the priceless being that lives in each soul on Planet Earth, the immensity of the human heart and the immensity of the human spirit that is, in fact, in all of us. And to me, the call of this time is that — no matter where, no matter with whom, no matter your circumstances — nature, God, the Universe is pleading with us, “please go deeper and find you, find that resourceful and connected part, and that is the gift to you, to your life and to your fellow human beings.” And unabashed and unadorned, gaze through the eyes of the one inside of us that knows love, compassion, and peace beyond understanding, and let our trust, our wisdom, and our unwavering steadiness lead us forward into the dawn of a new era.

Sharing with you a poem I wrote about loving all parts of ourselves:

Loving All Parts of You

Love that part of you that feels disturbed and out of balance

Love that part that feels so fearful

Love that part that feels out of control

Love that part that is upset and insecure with the unknown

Love that part that worries

Love that part that’s trying to do its best and feels it’s never good enough

Love that part the needs the love

Love that part that feels so lonely

Love that part that feels untethered

Love that part that feels so uninspired and lacking motivation

Love that part that feels it should be doing more to help the others that feel the same

Love that part that needs a break

Love that part that wants to play, and sing, and dance, and feel the joy

Love that part that wants things to work out in a much better way

Love that part when others don’t love you in the way you think they should

Love that part that is so human

And let that love reach out to your belly and reach out to your feet

And fill you to capacity so you will feel you’re walking on solid ground

Not because things have changed, but because you have changed the conditions of your life into LOVE.

Agapi StassinopolousRight Now, We’re All Asked to Go Deeper
read more

The Difference Between Self-Acceptance and Self-Confidence

I was having lunch with a friend of mine the other day. She was sharing with me how she feels very confident in certain areas in her life, but in other areas, in more personal aspects of her life — relationships for example — she feels less confident, and more vulnerable and insecure. We started a wonderful conversation about self-confidence versus self-acceptance. I so identify with it because there are areas in my life where I feel extremely confident and secure, and there are other parts of myself that still feel marginalized and excluded. It takes a lot of courage to address and face all aspects of ourselves.

Parts of us grow up and master careers and professional lives, and we become accomplished, but how do we deal with the parts of us that are uncertain? For example, sometimes there are certain things you want in your life, but you can’t seem to move forward — whether in relationships, finances, career, weight loss — and you feel stuck in one place. Instead of trying to look confident, like you imagine everyone else is, own the fact that in this part of your life, you feel insecure, vulnerable, and uncertain. If you allow that feeling to be OK, and not judge it, and if you accept it and embrace it, you might find that you relax into it. And you’ll find that you can actually experience yourself beyond those feelings, as a result of you not denying them.

The paradox is that you can feel confident in the unknown — in the imperfections of your life. We wait for everything to be perfect before we feel confident. We need more than a confidence boost; we need a self-acceptance boost! Don’t be deceived by appearances. Beneath the surface of others’ confidence, they might be hiding insecurities that they don’t want anybody to see. That creates a discrepancy. If you make the leap to accepting all parts of yourself — accepting, embracing, and not judging them — you might be surprised how much courage you’ll finally have to say what you want to say, voice your feelings, ask for support, have a sense of humor about your inadequacies, and tell yourself, “Relax. I am a masterpiece and a work in progress at the same time — and God isn’t finished with me yet.”

What we call our insecurities and the places where we’re lacking are the very things that can be endearing about us. Think of a child growing up, and how many things they have yet to learn — and yet you would never judge them as lacking in anything. You just nurture them to learn new skills and shower them with acceptance of who they are, and encourage them along the way. Why are we any different toward ourselves? When did we give up our tender, nurturing voice to ourselves, and instead became a task master? Look at the areas of your life where you are rejecting yourself, because you’re not living up to your level of confidence. It’s time to give yourself a break from the self-imposed ideas about how you should be that are keeping you stuck, and open up the field of self-acceptance.

Here’s my guided meditation to help you move to the zone of self-acceptance. Please enjoy it and relish in the joy of self-acceptance.

Follow us here and subscribe here for all the latest news on how you can keep Thriving.

Stay up to date or catch-up on all our podcasts with Arianna Huffington here.

Agapi StassinopolousThe Difference Between Self-Acceptance and Self-Confidence
read more

How These 2 Simple Words Can Help You Get Rid of Negative Patterns

One of my favorite videos ever is Bob Newhart’s psychotherapy session, called “Stop It.” In the clip, a woman comes to see a new therapist, and when talking about her problems, is met with the same blunt response each time. “Stop it,” the therapist tells her. Each time, she is stumped — unable to take in such a simple solution. She had expected to discuss at length the variables that have gone into each of her troubles, and yet, the therapist stops her with the same two words each time: “Stop it.”

It’s genius. I have to admit that I have tried this technique in my own life when I’ve experienced my own negative patterns that undermine my joy and well-being. These patterns span from falling into a comparison trap, feeling separate, getting overwhelmed, and overall negative paradigms. When I have looked in the mirror and told myself to simply “stop it” (with great intention and authority!) I’ve been amazed to see how that part of myself starts to weaken. Just like the patient in the video, the negative voice asked, “What do you mean, stop it?” — to which I repeated: “I mean, stop it.” Believe it or not, you can scare the pattern away with those two simple words, provided your intention is behind it.

Remember, we’re not talking about diagnosed mental illness — we’re talking about those everyday thoughts that nag at us and keep us from being our best selves. These thoughts and patterns suck out the air within us. They take over our minds and our emotions, and make us believe they are real. We have to take control, and kick them out of the window. If a child loses his or her temper, you don’t give in. You have none of it. So why not do the same with your wicked little parts with their broomsticks?

It’s extraordinary to think about how many of us get caught in these patterns, and we feed them by judging ourselves, ruminating over them, sharing them with our friends, and living as if they were true. You and I know that so many of our patterns are not true — so we have to use our force and power to inform them that we are the master. So I highly recommend you watch the video, identify a pattern within yourself that is causing you misery, fear, and worry — and do nothing else other than looking in the mirror and with all your force, raise your voice to say, “Stop it.” Say it over again until the voice subsides and can’t latch on any longer.

We have authority over our patterns. Use those two simple words to get you out of them — and anything that’s causing you unhappiness.

Please share with me a pattern that you’re facing, and how you’re using your authority to put a stop to it. Let’s support each other to realize how much more simple it is to move past our addictive negative patterns, and claim more of our freedom.

— Published on October 25, 2019

Agapi StassinopolousHow These 2 Simple Words Can Help You Get Rid of Negative Patterns
read more

You’re Not Alone

So much of our overwhelm, our anxieties, our worries, and our unhappiness is birthed by the fact that we think we have to figure it out all alone. A lot of people feel that they’re left in the ocean on a raft and have to figure out how to get back to shore. It’s part of the incredible stress we face, which leads to worrying, suffering from not being able to sleep or ever relax, and a general feeling of being off-balance, as if you’re walking on a wobbly floor and you don’t know when the floor will collapse. Fundamentally, we don’t really trust ourselves, or in a higher power that has a plan — to have our back. Part of the reason we don’t trust it is because we’ve never really cultivated it. If you’re on a raft in the ocean and you’ve never learned how to swim, it makes sense that you’d be scared. In the same way, if you think back to your childhood, you may have been raised and educated to feel that it was you against your teachers, the rules — the world. Therefore, we have developed layers of protection around ourselves.

At some point in my life, in my early 20s, I became very aware of God’s presence in my life. And let me clarify what I mean by God: As my mother used to say, “Know yourself, and know something larger than yourself.” I became aware that there is a larger presence — a spirit, a soul, a divine intelligence, a cosmic energy. Call it what you want, but do call it, and give it a name that works for you.

I realize now that this “presence” and I have always been connected. In my books, Wake Up to the Joy of You and Unbinding the Heart, I wrote explicitly and candidly about this experience, and my journey since then. Ever since my path has become very much about letting go of the judgments, the limiting beliefs, and whatever hindered me from fully knowing and trusting that presence. Instead of identifying with my personality, thoughts, emotions, and what I call my general “Agapi-ness” — my wordly self had to be integrated into that higher knowing, and I had to practice it and live it everyday. That presence can guide me every step of the way. Like the rest of us, I’m still in the process, of course, but I feel that I’ve found my bungee cord to my source that carries me through life.

Recently, I was going through a pattern that was pulling my energy down. I could feel it pulling me under, and I was having a hard time getting myself out of it. So I treated myself to my favorite “safe carbs” — three rice cakes with butter! It’s amazing how our favorite comfort foods make us feel better. Out of the blue, Siri asked me, “What can I help you with? Go ahead, I’m listening.” I immediately chuckled. There it was again — a little sign from the universe that I could ask for help.

So how do we seek help? For starters, we have to get very quiet so we can access a deeper place of our consciousness that we are always connected to. One suggestion is to take your hands and place them on your heart and your belly, and start to pay attention to your breath. Instead of rushing to the carbs, or the judgments, or the fear and emotional intensity that come with the pattern you are experiencing, you can call your attention to that deeper place.

It’s amazing how simply stopping for a moment and trusting that you can ask for help can make a difference. It’s like you’re offering a prayer at that moment. People typically associate prayer with religion, but it’s really an internal request for help, and a moment of gratitude. It is the golden bridge between us, our worldly human self, and the wise, loving intelligence in us. This golden bridge is available to us 24-7. By acknowledging that you are alive and breathing, and coming into the appreciation of the most simple things, you open up the space to receive the guidance. However, the ego will fight us. The ego thinks it’s KING and it thinks it knows best, but we must tame it and help it relinquish control, trusting that if we work together, we will be lifted. In that day, one more time I awakened to the fact that I was not alone.

As a result of my asking for help, a friend was visiting from Los Angeles the next morning, and we had planned to have breakfast. There in my apartment we sat and talked, and I confessed to him the pattern I was going through. I cried and opened up, and he had wise words for me. I let him in, and I was lifted. When we ask and trust that we are not alone, help comes in the most extraordinary, unexpected ways, but we must first let love in. No matter the questioning, hardships, rejections, or insecurities — we are never alone. We are all deeply rooted in the consciousness of a higher intelligence that created our 37 trillion cells that allow us to breathe. It is beyond anything we have control over. We are never alone — and if you make that your living mantra right now, your life will be transformed to the bounty that is yours to have and experience.

Follow us here and subscribe here for all the latest news on how you can keep Thriving.

Stay up to date or catch-up on all our podcasts with Arianna Huffington here.

Agapi StassinopolousYou’re Not Alone
read more

How to Upgrade Your Life Today

I was facilitating a Thrive seminar a few days ago. One of the things we always address at these seminars is “negative beliefs” — how they hold us back and undermine our thriving, productive, creative, and happy selves. Participants never fail to share beliefs such as “I’m not good enough,” “No matter how hard I work, I can do better,” “I don’t deserve success,” “I can’t be happy unless other people around me are happy,” or “I need others’ approval to speak my truth,” etc. When we ask them to think about when those beliefs first sunk in, the answer always comes back to limiting decisions they made about themselves in the earlier stages of their lives.

These beliefs spread like mold under the foundation of your home. You can’t see it until you start to feel sick. You feel depleted and off, like something is wrong, but you keep going and driving forward from one thing to the next. You can’t stop — you’re operating on survival. So you simply don’t have the time or space to dig underneath. And then one day, you decide to call an expert, and they tell you that your home is filled with mold, and it’s affecting your health and your life.

Just as this mold impacts our day-to-day actions and all our relationships, so do our beliefs — so it’s very important to take an inventory, to have the courage to look at each one and ask the fundamental questions: When did it start? Is it true? Can I let go of it? And can I upgrade myself to today?

It’s like we have a first-class ticket, but we’re still traveling coach — and some of us are even choosing to sit in the middle seat! I promise you, if you look in your pocket, you’ll find a first-class ticket, good for life. So it’s time to upgrade your life. Here’s how to get started.

1. Identify the source of the negative belief that’s limiting you.

You may have built a belief that is holding you back from who you can be. Once you identify it, bring it to the forefront, review it, and feel the feeling of contraction it had created in your self-expression. Then you have to see the judgments you made about yourself, others, and the situation, and start to forgive it, them, and yourself. You may even want to write it down and burn it.

2. Now let it go, and tell yourself: “That was then, and this is now.”

It’s important to remind yourself that this belief is no longer accurate. You can literally see a clean slate in front of you: i.e. Agapi’s life: Scene 1, Take 1. You no longer have to run your life based on this old belief. You’d bought into it some time ago, but it simply does not apply today. You are free to be and own who you’ve now become. Sure, we’re all still a work in progress — and we’ll always be expanding and growing and letting go — but when we let go of our fundamental limiting beliefs that have been running our lives, we then can put ourselves on the right track and remove our self-imposed roadblocks. It will become easier over time, and with meditation, to see the destination more clearly and enjoy the scenery along the way.

In my own life I’ve worked with the belief “I’m not safe,” which was rooted in my early years around my father, who was a concentration camp survivor and had a very erratic temper. I would often witness his explosive reactions to his employees, my mother, and in general the people around him. They could flare up at any time, out of the blue. That was a difficult thing to witness as a little girl, so I became on guard and began adjusting myself in the hope that I would help him stay calm. To this day, I always have to remind myself that that was then, and this is now. I’ve come a long way, and I know how to take care of myself and keep myself safe.

I deeply encourage you today to find one of your key limiting beliefs (there may be more than one) and replace it with a positive one, i.e. “Even if other people around me are unhappy, I have a right to my own happiness,” “I deserve and enjoy my success,” “I now give myself permission to express my truth and my feelings,” etc. Remove the mold from your foundation, lay in new floors, repaint the walls, and you can even redecorate.

Please share with me the one thing you’ll do today to move forward to your first-class seat. It’s a much better ride, and you deserve it.

Agapi StassinopolousHow to Upgrade Your Life Today
read more