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40 Lessons I've Learned at 40: Nuggets of life, love and spiritual wisdom

At the time that I’m writing this, it’s the eve of my 40th birthday and I’m comfortably installed on the colourfully embroidered couch at the La Tica Lodge in Costa Rica - Rum Poppe in one hand, computer on my lap. In this peaceful moment, I can look back on my life so far with a sense of wonder at the medley of strife, triumphs, grief, joy, traumas and blessings that have led me here.

I am eternally indebted to my teachers and mentors, in particular Lisa Lajoie and Nicholas Hoare, both of whom have believed in me since the day we met and have taught me some of my life's biggest lessons.

Out of my endless curiosity for what makes a fulfilling life and my desire to spread the words of wisdom passed down to me, here are forty nuggets of life, love and spiritual wisdom which I hope will resonate with you. Some are clichés, others are common sense reminders and all of them have served me well at some point in my life.

Many of these lessons I’m still learning and integrating. Living well is both available in every moment and it is the journey of a lifetime!

1. Happiness is the default.

Yogis and Buddhists have it figured out - happiness is not something we can pursue because it is already who we are.

Yoga is the uniting of consciousness in the heart. United in the heart, consciousness is steadied, then we abide in our true nature - joy.

2. Gratitude is the antidote to stress

It’s impossible to be grateful and miserable at the same time.

3. I am responsible for my own happiness.

As I get older and know myself better, I have found some of the things that help me connect to joy: Yoga, meditation, exercise, spiritual and personal connection. Creative projects! I’m introverted, so I also need plenty of rest and alone time. These things don’t make me happy but they do bring me closer to my true nature.

4. No one and no thing can make me miserable.

We’re never reacting to the people and things outside of us - we’re reacting to the pleasant or unpleasant sensations they trigger in our body. Through mindfulness we can choose how we want to react to those sensations and this alone can change our entire world from the inside out.

5. It’s not your story that matters - it’s how you tell it.

We all have narratives - stories we tell ourselves and others about our life - and because we are human, suffering plays a part in all of them. The way we frame our suffering is what determines whether the role we play in our own story is that of the victim or the hero.

Heroes face trials with courage, rise from failure and learn from mistakes. They take responsibility for their actions, are resilient in the face of adversity, stay true to themselves and the bigger picture of their mission. They also don’t blame their parents for everything. Tell your story from the perspective of the hero that you are.

“It’s not the life that matters, it’s the courage you bring to it.”

- Yogi Bhajan

6. Self care is not selfish

When I feel good, I’m more generous and patient; I give without feeling drained or resentful. I have the power to influence my environment in a harmonious and positive way for the benefit of myself and others.

7. You’re allowed to have needs and desires.

Explore your soul’s deep yearnings; they aren’t there for nothing. Make yourself important enough in your own life that you will to feed your soul and give yourself what you truly need to be fulfilled.

8. You can’t have Yang without Yin

Rest and stillness are not optional. If we don’t choose to respect our need for balance, life will force it on us through illness, injury, anxiety, depression or burnout. We all go through periods of growth after which we require time for repair.

9. Trust your intuition

I’ve only ever regretted not following my intuition. Thank you, my faithful inner-compass.

10. Tell the truth.

Telling the truth to yourself and others can be excruciating but it’s worth it.

“When you tell the truth, your story changes. When your story changes, your life is transformed.”

- Mark Matousek

11. Don’t rush in.

So many times, I've rushed into relationships and love without really getting to know the person first. What I learned is that I was falling for a fantasy made up in my head. By the same token, be wary of anyone who falls too quickly for you. Though love at first sight is a firmly ingrained romantic notion, it takes time to get to know someone and lasting love is built on trust and vulnerability, not a Cinderella story.

12. Choose someone kind.

When choosing a partner, how they treat you is way more important than how impressive their dating profile is.

13. You attract what you think you deserve.

14. Trust needs to be earned

By definition, not just anyone can earn a place in your inner-circle of trust. Protect your heart, your dreams and your inner-most desires by sharing only with those people who are really there for you, care about your best interests and will support and encourage you through thick and thin.

15. Always do your best, understanding that your best is always changing.

Our best changes depending on the day, the time we have, our state of health, our state of mind, competing priorities and the list goes on. Sometimes good enough really is good enough.

16. Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional.

Some pain in life is inevitable, such as loss, illness and death. The degree to which we suffer depends on how much we resist what is happening or crave a different outcome than what is. Meet your pain with love and empathy; it’s a soothing balm for the soul.

17. Don’t wait until you’re ready.

Say yes to new opportunities that excite you, even if they simultaneously scare the crap out of you. You can only learn to swim by being in the water!

18. Deal with your past

I got as far as I could in life trying to figure things out on my own but by my mid-thirties, I hit a wall. Old, self-sabotaging patterns were rearing their ugly heads and wreaking havoc in my life. So, I swallowed my pride, put my big girl pants on and asked for help. Seeking therapy was the best thing I could have done. Now, I have a small, trusted tribe of wise counsel that compassionately holds me accountable for continuing to grow.

19. You’re not alone

Whatever you’re going through, you don’t have to go through it by yourself. Shame grows in the dark and the more we talk openly, the less isolated we feel in our struggles. Chances are someone has had a similar experience to what you’re going through and can point to the light at the end of the tunnel.

20. It will get better

It really will.

21. Avoiding problems makes them worse.

We can hope, wish and pray for difficult situations to resolve themselves all on their own but most of the time they get worse the longer we ignore them.

22. Everything changes

“This too shall pass.”

- Sufi saying

Rather than being depressing, knowing that everything changes can deepen our presence and gratitude in the good times and give us patience and perspective when moving through challenging times.

23. It’s never too late to change

The only time in which we can affect our future is now. This is very empowering because no matter your current state, you can always take a step now toward a different outcome.

24. Stop beating yourself up.

When we continually berate ourselves for our mistakes, we stay stuck in the past and it chips away at our self-esteem. We need to forgive ourselves, learn and move on.

25. Stop looking over your shoulder.

Once you’ve made a big decision, go for it full throttle. The single biggest determining factor of whether or not a choice will have a successful outcome is how devoted we are to making it work.

26. Failure is a part of success, not separate from it.

I first heard the term “failuretunity” from my spiritual mentor, Lisa Lajoie. She teaches that failure is a contrast - it’s part of the manifestation process.

27. Sometimes courage is knowing when to quit.

The job you’re not well suited for, the mediocre relationship, the friendships that leave you drained. Life is too short. Trust that by quitting, you’re making space in your life for better things to come.

Thanks for this one, dad.

28. Don’t feel pressure to give an answer right away.

If your knee-jerk reaction is to always say "yes" (people pleasing) or always say "no" (based on fear) instead say, “Let me think about it”. Only give your answer after you’ve had some quiet time to reflect on what it is you really want to do and what you can actually commit to.

29. Your breath doesn’t lie.

When making difficult decisions, sit in meditation and imagine one outcome versus the other. Whichever outcome gives you the greatest feeling of inner-peace and in which the breath is most calm, go for that one because whatever backlash you get, you’ll know it was the right choice fo you.

30. When inspiration strikes, take the first action right away.

31. Treat everyone with kindness, especially yourself.

Compassion and kindness are extremely powerful. I really do believe that Love has the ability to heal. When you're kind with yourself and others, the benefits ripple out endlessly.

32. Being kind is not the same thing as being nice.

Being kind is not the same as being a doormat or a people pleaser. You can kindly say no. you can kindly set boundaries. You can even kindly but firmly fire someone.

33. Show up.

For yourself, for your people, for the planet and for your purpose - your Dharma. Show up to the miracle that is your life!

34. Never stop learning.

Travel, read, take courses, ask questions and pick up new hobbies. Having a curious and open mind is the richness of life and a key to longevity.

35. It takes the time that it takes.

The pressure of self-imposed deadlines can be soul-crushing when life has other plans. If you don’t get what you want in the expected timeline, trust that it’s because life is on your side, preparing you to receive exactly what you need at the perfect time in the perfect way. While we're busy obsessing about how we think our life should be, we're missing out on our actual life.

"It takes time to build a corporate work of art. It takes time to build a life. And it takes time to develop and grow. So give yourself, your enterprise, and your family the time they deserve and the time they require.” - Jim Rohn

36. True confidence doesn’t boast.

The greatest Masters I have ever met are steadfastly true to themselves while being totally genuine and humble. They don’t put themselves above or below anyone. They understand that we are all one.

37. Nobody’s life is perfect.

Keep this in the back of your mind as you scroll through Facebook and Instagram.

38. Life is a practice

As a wise friend once said to me, “If we were meant to figure it all out right away, we wouldn’t live so long.” I believe we are on earth to learn specific lessons, beautifully orchestrated by life in order for us to heal and rise higher.

39. Ask yourself what you want your legacy to be.

How do you want to be remembered? When in doubt: Love.

40. Surrender

Surrender the need to control every little thing. Surrender doubt, fear and insecurity to a higher power and ask for guidance. Maybe God has bigger plans for you.

"You can only connect the dots backwards."

- Steve Jobs

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