As we usher in a new decade, I cannot think of a more perfect mantra to define this era than “simplify.”  Start this New Year by removing all physical, emotional, and mental clutter that is robbing you of your joy!  Below are some tips to get your started!  The first article is about finding your inner tiger and letting her roar.  I also had the privilege to speak with feng shui expert, Tess Whitehurst, who recently appeared on Bravo’s hit TV show Flipping Out.  Read on!

Simply yours,


Find Your Inner Tiger

For the holidays, I was in the mountains.  My fiancé loves to snowboard and this is an annual trip.  In the past, I relegated myself to the flat land activities – cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, sipping hot chocolate by the fire.  I was courageous in these pursuits – sometimes drinking four hot chocolates a day!  I always made an excuse for avoiding the mountains – gravity was not my friend.  My balance was perilous on flat land, much less a mountain.

According to the Chinese Zodiac, the Year of 2010 is the Year of the Tiger, a sign of courage.  As Mark Twain so aptly put, courage is not the absence of fear. It is acting in spite of it.  This year I have resolved to be courageous.  What better way to test my resolve to face fears with courage than strap on a pair of skis, head to the top of a mountain, and plummet down its slopes (I can actually think of many other ways to test my courage but apparently all those peppermint schnapps hot chocolates had gotten to my head!).  

As my skis perched perilously on the edge of the steep mountaintop, the phrase “don’t make a mountain out of a molehill” kept running through my head.  But this really was a mountain!!  What if I crashed into a tree?  What if I ran over a small child?  What if I broke both my legs?  What if… and then I was racing down the mountain.  My fear was still present but I was doing it! No, not gracefully, but I was skiing.  And guess what – I made it to the bottom with both legs intact and no small children in tears.  

I hope you too adopt this trait – whether it’s facing your fear of heights or tackling that clutter that stresses you out every time you look at it.  Here’s my list of three ways to embrace courage:

1. Define your fears.  Awareness is always the first step.  For me, when I defined my fears in writing I realized that my fears were actually most of my parents’ fears.  That moment of realization has allowed me to distance myself from the fears, to know that osmosis of fears is simply something I will not allow. 

2. Call in reinforcements!  Sometimes our own reflection of who we are is so warped, like the mirror in a fun house, that to get an accurate reflection of ourselves we need to go to those closest to us.  Call on friends and family to show you that picture of yourself that everyone else sees – the brave, successful, beautiful person you are! 

3. Just do it!  Embrace the Nike philosophy.  Stop thinking so much and start acting.  I am fond of the funeral exercise.  I imagine myself looking down on my own funeral.  Looking back on my life, would I have faced life with less fear?  The answer every time is a resounding yes!


Interview with Tess Whitehurst, Feng Shui Expert

What a joy to speak with Tess Whitehurst of Feng Shui Mama!  Before I launch into her fabulous tips, I want to clear up the Western connotation that feng shui is this completely esoteric concept.  It’s not!  It’s really very simple, feng shui is:  “the arrangement of your environment to positively affect the quality of your life.”  And be honest, who of you out there doesn’t want to live in a space that gives you peace, joy, and is a true reflection of what you love?! 

As Tess states, feng shui draws upon the wisdom that your inner and outer realities are inextricably linked.  As a graduate of the Western School of Feng Shui and a lifelong student of the metaphysical arts, Tess practices a compassionate, intuitive, intention-based form of feng shui that brings beauty, balance, peace, and harmony to both internal and external environments.  She regularly teaches classes and workshops throughout Southern California. She appeared on TV as the feng shui consultant on Bravo’s reality show, “Flipping Out,” and her first book, Magical Housekeeping:  Simple Charms and Practical Tips for Creating a Harmonious Home, will be released by Llewellyn Worldwide in June of 2010. 

To start off the New Year, she shares her tips to bring good plain joy into your life (and isn’t that what we’re all trying to do!).

Good Plain Joy by Tess Whitehurst

As a feng shui consultant and inspirational writer and speaker, I talk a lot about getting into a positive state of mind so that we can manifest the desires of our hearts.  But what about getting into a positive state of mind so we can be in a positive state of mind?  Not just accepting what is, but adoring it!  Not just being in the moment, but being in the joy of the moment. 

In the midst of so much fear and seeming insecurity in the world, why don't we try creating some good plain joy for it’s own sake?  After all, what else is there, really?  Isn't that why we wanted the job, or the date, or the raise in the first place, so we could spend our precious time on earth experiencing that most beautiful of emotions:  joy?  Of course it is!  And while working toward our goals and desires can be a joyful pastime, the only time that we have to truly experience joy is, of course, the only time there is:  NOW.

Joy Activator #1:  Clear Your Clutter

Do you remember how in the movie My Big Fat Greek Wedding the dad swore that Windex was the master cure and solution for all illnesses and problems?  I am like that about clutter clearing.  Only clutter clearing really is the master cure and solution for all problems.  And besides, it's coming up on springtime!  So, get out the compostable trash bags and get clearing.  Remember, your external environment mirrors your internal environment and vice versa.  And so, to create that feeling of lightness and flow that so characterizes joy, you must let go of the old!  No more outfits or pictures that bring you down.  No more piles of junk mail or reminders of old failed relationships.  Get them out of the house now and create the space for joy!  Invest time and energy in this project.  Believe me when I say that it will pay very large and joyful dividends.

Joy Activator #2:  Speak Kindly to Yourself

For many years I taught dance and gymnastics to young children.  I learned very quickly that the only way to help children learn was to praise them profusely.  Telling them what they were doing wrong was the quickest way to lose their interest and set them up for failure.  We are the same way.  Of course we will make mistakes!  And of course we will be called upon to work through old issues and challenges, sometimes again and again.  But it is only when we to speak kindly to ourselves that we make real progress.  Not only that, but we will no longer live in fear of our inner critics, and this will free us up to experience the wild joy that kids feel in dance class when they know that they are a success the minute they step up and try!  Notice the words you use when you look in the mirror, or the words you use when you coach yourself through a challenging situation, and begin to shift them into positive, loving, and supportive words.

Joy Activator #3:  Have Fun

My boyfriend Ted and I love to go camping.  Just one night next to the campfire and under the stars immediately reconnects us with our inspiration and our joy.  On my own, I love to wander the Huntington Gardens for a few hours, to bliss out on the flowers and fountains and treat my imagination to all those old Shakespeare and Whitman manuscripts.  Fun is like sunlight, you can survive without it, but you can't thrive.  Inject fun wherever possible.  Paint your nails an unexpected color, bake cookies, take a bath, plant a pot full of tulips, watch a funny movie, dance in your underwear, play a game, or call an old friend just to chat.  With the busy schedules that are so popular these days, it might be necessary to actually schedule your fun, like you schedule exercise and work activities.  But for joy's sake, it must be done! 


For Further Reading:

The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle

Clear Your Clutter with Feng Shui by Karen Kingston

You Can Heal Your Life by Louise Hay

Living Juicy by Sark