the real role of happiness in your life (& and the quickest way to get yours)

I was talking to a friend a few months back, and she was telling me all about her struggle to find happiness, and how, despite everything she’d been doing of late, it was still eluding her. It was a topic we were both extremely familiar with because we’d been having this conversation, in a variety of forms, for about five years.

We’d both moved and started new careers more than once over the course of that time, and had fallen in and out of love with our lives. Again and again.

Both of us were feeling a little exhausted by the game, and more than a little bewildered.

We both had great apartments. My friend was working in a job she’d designed herself, socializing and dating a lot. She had a dog. She’d read all the self-help books. She had vision boards going all over the place. She meditated.

So, why the failure re. happiness?

It suddenly hit me.

“I don’t think you’re supposed to be happy if you’re not doing what you’re meant to be doing,” I said.

“Oh, my God,” she replied.

The next thing you know, she’s writing a brand new solo show and is all excited about life.  

And is feeling happy.

What just happened?

Well, we’re given messages from the great beyond which are meant to keep us on point in our soul mission. We feel “off” when we veer off the path.

For my friend, no amount of doing things that are supposed happiness-generators, like getting  a massage, going out to dinner, watching Netflix, or tending to her spiritual life, were doing a thing for her happiness level — because she was missing the main point, which was, it turns out,  that she was supposed to be performing as her lunatic self on stage.

Her gifts include being a spiritual jokester who uses her own mishaps and foibles to let her audience know they are not alone in the vagaries of the human experience.

When she’s not doing something along these lines, as cool as her life might look from the outside, it misses the mark according to her inner barometer for success.

So getting back in the game with her soul mission and her innate gifts (of lunacy, humor, insightfulness on the experience of being human and showmanship) created the happiness she’d been seeking.

I’ve seen this with myself. I’ll find myself focusing on getting just the right amount of sleep, timing all my supplements, taking baths and long walks, and being gluten-free.

And I’ll feel meh. Whatever. What’s the point? Nothing’s fun.

Then you get me to Mexico. Where I’m sharing space with countless strangers, I haven’t had an uninterrupted night’s sleep in three weeks, and who knows what I’m eating. I’m driven half nuts by countless things, and daily life has never felt more inconvenient.

(To get the full picture, briefly consider barking chihuahuas all night long, no running water first thing in the morning, and alternating tropical sweaty heat + mosquitoes with bone-chilling torrential rain when you’re biking home at dusk. Oh, and none of which you’re ever prepared for.)

But I feel freaking amazing. Happy.

How can that be? It doesn’t make sense.

But check me out! I’m writing like crazy, my new blog is up, I’m all over social media, and I’ve started countless articles for several online magazines. I love the weather, in all its random extremes. I got the call to come to Mexico and I answered it, I didn’t bury it away in a pile of all the unlived dreams we each tend to carry around.

So, am I happy? I don’t even have time to think about how good I feel, I feel so good!

Right now I don’t have to “do” a damn thing to be happy.

Because I’m on point. With my soul mission. I know I’m meant to be writing. I mean, it took me years to get there, to realize it.

But I’ve always been a writer.

When I was twelve I went to a bilingual French-English camp in Montreal, where they had woods and horses and all kinds of activities.

I sat at a picnic table with my notebook.

“She’s a writer!” this one boy would start yelling, gesturing to me, as he stood on the picnic table.

I loathed the very idea. It struck me as socially unacceptable and unglamorous.

Today, however, I have accepted my destiny. Writing is one of my soul gifts. I have to do it in order to feel happy.

I find it healing to get my experiences and impressions down. I find the experience of engaging with other people through my writing hugely gratifying.

Now when I tune into my inner being, I’m greeted by a lightness of spirit and a humming in my heart of this gleeful newborn joy. Not the heaviness of being stuck and unexpressed. Not the jumpiness of self-doubt or the sinking feeling of life passing me by.

So, how happy are you?

Are you as happy as you can be?

What’s your happiness barometer telling you?

Are you on point?

Do you know what your soul mission is?

What your glorious gifts are??

If not, get on it. There’s nothing like it.


why you can trust your desires to lead you to your best life

I can’t say exactly why I felt called to travel to Mexico. Perhaps Bali or Thailand or Hawaii would have been a good idea, too. I love the tropics, an outdoor-oriented life feels like just the right thing for me.

But I kept feeling the pull toward Mexico, and I feel good being here, even though I haven’t had any wildly distinguishable signs telling me, Yes, this is it! You got it right!

Which is always what I want to hear.

But screw getting a sign. I feel good here, that’s a great sign.

So, yeah, I got a Soul Desire. I followed it. I feel good here, things I’ve been wanting to shift for a long time are beginning to shift. But with no drama, no word from God, no manna falling from the sky. No discernable plot line whatsoever.

We’re so hung up on what we’re going to be getting from following our Desires. Aren’t we?

I hear women saying things all the time like, “I feel called to switch jobs, and I’m feeling sure the new job is where I’m going to meet my future husband!” (Why are we women so hung up on meeting our future husband??)

A few years ago, when I left New York City and moved to upstate New York, it was a huge case of me trusting my desires to lead me to my best life.

And to me that best life looked like marriage to the man I loved (my husband!), babies, and a house in the country (which I had practically already decorated on a vision board).

Guess what? I lived upstate for a few years, got a lot out of it, got broken up with, and got the soul call to move to Mexico. wtf? What about my plan???

Ah, well.

As I’ve said before, when we set an intention, and we’re on the soul path (which means we’re doing what life is asking of us, and going where our soul leads us, as crazy as it looks & as scary as it feels & as little public support as we may get), havoc gets wreaked before our intention gets answered.

And often our intention is answered in the mysterious language of the soul, that is to say, it doesn’t look remotely like our fantasies.

But the more surrendered I become to following what feels like the next right thing, and then the next right thing after that, often without any sense of the big picture we’re all so fond of, the more profoundly I understand that we can absolutely trust our desires to lead us to our best life.

And by best life, I do not mean that fantasy version you have going in your head. That may come! I am not killing off the dream! But the road may be long, it may be full of shocks and unexpected surprises, it may happen in a completely different way (or maybe not!) than you had planned.

By best life, I mean the one that leads you to full-blown self-expression. To a clearer vision of who you truly are. To an unerring ability to hear your soul’s voice, and the absolute conviction and confidence that you have permission to go with the messages you are receiving.

Your best life is the one that leads you to a far deeper fulfillment, on a cellular level, than you could have conceived of before. It’s the life that your soul wants you to live.

And the way to get there (and by “there” I don’t mean there, as in a place, I mean, in the groove of trusting your desires and having the guts to go for the glory), is to tune into your Desire.

I have this absolute conviction, based on life experience, mine and many other people’s, that God (Life, the Universe, your Higher Self) speaks to us through our Desires.

Soul Desires are how we are communicated with from behind the veil. It’s how we’re told which way to go.

Now our canny little human minds love to make up stories about why we’re being told to go in a certain direction or go out with a certain person (my future husband!!!), but usually those stories have nothing to do with why we’re being sent down a path.

When I first got to Mexico, I started hanging out at this one cafe, with a beautiful courtyard full of couches and plants, vegetarian food, awesome vibes, terrific music played at just the right volume, and a great sense of community. The first day I sat here I felt a new level of healing taking place.

I started coming back almost every day. I would occasionally chat with someone, but more often would simply write and people watch.

That’s how this one certain man caught my eye.

Oh, and did he ever catch my eye.

I’ve been single for a few years now and made this commitment to myself to only date someone (or only have a fling with someone, that’s allowed, too!) when there was serious Love or Lust. I’m cool with either, but Capital L’s are the only way I’m gonna go for it!

This one had Lust (with an unexpected hue of communion that I hadn’t felt before and which was oh, so enticing) written all over it.

In other words I got hit full blast by Desire.

So there I am, hanging out in this foreign cafe, not knowing anyone, and eyeing this gorgeous, off-beat, playful, friendly guy. He always says hi, he’s clearly up for a conversation with anyone, and I am dying to talk to him.

I’m extremely nervous though, too, and am acting all aloof and cool, so that whenever I have the chance of catching his eye, I avert my gaze.

My own behavior is driving me crazy.

On the one hand, Desire.

On the other hand, fear of rejection and looking foolish.

Then it turns out he’s leaving town in a few days.

My options now seem whittled down to completely forgetting the Desire that’s been calling my name all week — or jumping his bones.

Let me tell you that I rarely feel this pull toward a man. In the three and half years since my last breakup, I have only felt this way but once or twice. So this was coming across as a very loud urging from my soul. It didn’t make any sense (he was a stranger and about to leave town, for crying out loud!), but I’ve trained myself to listen.

I tried to shake it off. I tried to ignore it. To talk myself out of it.

But when I listened to that Desire, I was told in no uncertain terms that I would have to talk to him. And that I would likely have to start the conversation. OMFG. Start a conversation?!?

He got there first, thank God, because I was about as stuck and unable to make a move as you can be and still be breathing.

But then nothing came of it, because I retreated to my little shell of aloofness afterwards (do you have a way of being you retreat to? where it feels all cozy and safe and very, very familiar, but you can’t make a damn new thing happen from there??).

It was the final day. He was leaving, this would be it. I tried to drown my Desire, to cut its throat and bleed it out.

It was having none of it. I couldn’t write. I could only watch him wander around and socialize with everyone else and witness myself choking off all potential for contact.

At this point there was virtually no chance of even a fling, because we were down to the wire, time-wise, but the part of me that wanted this connection was relentless. Relentless, I tell you! She was making demands of me that I had zero capability to meet.

Talk to him! Look at him for longer than a moment! Smile at him, for God’s sake, woman!

But I felt helpless in the face of my soul requests. I can’t! It’s too effing scary! I’ve never done anything remotely like this. What if I look ridiculous???

I took a moment alone in the bathroom, to clear my thoughts (God help me, I cannot believe I am sharing this). But, yes, I took a moment in the energetic quiet of the WC to go inside my mind and think it out.

Ok, so I have this insane Desire to connect. I also have a bottomless fear of making any move to do it. What’s the smallest move I could make? I could smile at him. Could I? Yes, I could. It would be really, really scary and I can’t imagine pulling it off, but I am willing to try. Ok, then.

I go back to my table. He’s lounging on a couch across the courtyard. I’m sneaking peeks at his relaxed, disheveled, nomadic self.

He gets up and wanders into the shop area. When he comes out, I glance up. We make eye contact. I smile. I actually effing smile.

I cannot believe it! I did it!

I’ve already looked away and back at my computer and I am flying high and could not care less if I ever speak to him again. Because that huge boulder that was standing in my path? That paralyzed inability to move forward on this Desire? The overwhelming fear? Gone.

All that is left is this enormous sense of victory. I’m standing on the other side of myself now. I’m in a whole new world. From just one little smile, a whole breakthrough.

Who cares if he talks to me, I’m in a whole new world over here! I am free!!!

It takes him approximately thirty seconds to reach my side and start talking.

                                         *                      *                     *

So what did I get from this experience?

A new husband? Nope. I didn’t even get a new Facebook friend.

But a whole new way of being was unleashed inside of me. I will never be the same.

And that’s how our Soul Desires work.

They know more than we do. They open up new pathways to personal liberation, self-expression, to feeling alive.

It’s not about what you “get” in the material world. It’s about who you become inside yourself. That’s what being on a journey of self-actualization is all about. As opposed to building a life where all the material pieces are in place.

It’s a whole different game.

That’s why I follow the call when it comes. No, I don’t understand why I’m in Mexico. But I’m happy here and I’m writing more than ever. That’s good enough for me.

And you likely won’t know why you’re called in one direction. And that’s ok. You don’t need to know. You only need to answer the call.

when setting a beautiful intention wreaks havoc

I set a very beautiful intention for this month in Mexico.

And I had this fantasy vision of arriving here and simply having the sun burnish me with its strength, burning out of me the old remnants of hurt and smallness and scared-ness that feel lodged on a cellular level, and to which I always return.

(Perhaps you have an emotional landing pad to which you return, and to which you’re tired of returning?)

That was my glorious intention — to heal that old place and launch myself irrevocably onto a higher energetic plane.

And of course what wound up happening was that instead of that sun glory healing, I got sick.

I had to lie in bed and rest and not go to the beach.

I couldn’t think straight. I didn’t want to move, or stretch my limbs, or do anything more than the basics to carry myself through the day.

It didn’t feel that different from life at home, except I was in a dorm in a hostel, the shower water pooled around my feet due to a clogged drain, causing me to think bacterial thoughts, there was a chihuahua barking on and off all night long in the yard, and I had a really bad cold.

So much for glorious intentions.

Or so I thought.

What was really happening was that the desire I had for my inner landscape to shift was so strong that things got really, really stirred up.

And I wasn’t the only one this was happening to.

I met fellow traveller in her late thirties who was practically crippled by her fear.

This trip was symbolic to her. It was meant as a gesture to herself of proof that she is capable.

She was tired of feeling tethered to her family’s small, fear-based way of living. She was tired of feeling like the baby of the family, someone who couldn’t take care of herself, whose mother was still asking her to check in and say she was alright.

She’d booked this trip a few months back and then cancelled it.

Then she finally made it here, and all her old family gunk came swimming to the surface in full-force.

Now she was practically paralyzed with fear. Anxiety. Self-doubt. Wanting to hide. Feeling fragile.

She was tormented by thoughts of, What restaurants were safe to eat at? Would she be taken advantage of? Would something terrible happen to her?

She was stepping outside the bounds of what had previously been allowed by her family culture, and every step of the way she was met by a brazen wall of fear that said, in no uncertain terms, Turn around and go back. Do not pass this line!

She carried on anyway, but she told me she wasn’t exactly having fun.

Oh, she was doing all the cool things and feeling some pride in it.

But how was she going to answer to her co-workers when she got back to work and they asked her if she’d had amazing fun in Mexico, and the truth was really that, Yes, she’d swum with tortoises, but she’d felt like she was dying of anxiety and self-doubt the entire time? Didn’t that cancel out her success?

But here’s the thing. She was asking the wrong questions.

Because what she was actually dealing with in this struggle were not what appeared to be very real risks, like getting hurt or robbed or not having fun on her vacation. Those concerns are great cover stories.

And they’re the reasons most people will give for not going for it, whether with travel or love or entrepreneurship or any other risky venture.

But underneath those surface fears, she was actually confronting questions along the lines of, Was there something Wrong with her that she felt this way? Maybe she really was completely inadequate that she couldn’t pull off a simple trip of a few days. Was she?

And these kinds of questions are what are at the back of all those terrible feelings that come up when we try something new.

That’s why we don’t want to dive off the cliff. Because then we walk ourselves right up to the place where those deep and dark questions come to haunt us.

And secretly we’re afraid that those questions are there because they’re true.

So we would never consider asking them.

Then we go and set an intention and things completely fall apart. And we’re confronted with those big questions. And we feel like we’re failing.

But things falling apart is a key part of getting the true results you’re after when you set an intention.

In fact, there is no better way to see the invisible beliefs that are running your life from behind the scenes, than to set a glamorous intention and watch it wreak havoc on your well-being and in your life.

Doing this shows you where you’re still kind of a mess. Where you believe bad things about yourself. Where you don’t trust life to give you the good stuff. 

That’s what you come up against when you set an intention and you’re not consciously ready to ask those scary questions yet.

All this is exactly what came up for me when I planned to give up my apartment and move out into the world. First stop, Mexico

First stop, Panic!

Travel (both inner and outer) possesses the unerring capability

of bringing you straight to your edge. 

It annoyed me that I felt the way I did when I got here. I had planned for it to look so good, to feel so good. I wanted  joy. I wanted it to be easy. I didn’t want to confront demons.

I didn’t want to have to face that my life was heading in a completely different direction than the places I’d been attempting to steer it (unsuccessfully, I might add), for over two decades.

But my life has a direction of its own that it wants to take me in. And if I’m going to follow the call of my soul, I’m going to step outside the bounds of what’s comfortable in my family history, in the entire history of women in the entire world.

Holy oh my God. That’s freaks me out. No wonder I was sick and in bed from the moment I arrived here!

I took good care of myself in the midst of it. I was aware that I wished things were different. I was aware of that part of me that was panicking and questioning and very, very convinced I would be better off sitting in my cozy apartment in upstate New York.

But I didn’t believe myself when I found myself thinking all those small-minded, fear-based thoughts. I chose not to believe those feelings, strong at they were.

And this, my friends, is how we cancel our indoctrinations. This is how we break free from old family patterns and social stories about what’s allowed and what isn’t. About what’s acceptable and what isn’t. About what’s safe and what isn’t.

It’s how we forge our way into new freedoms. It’s how we garner the courage to look our lives straight in the eye and see what we want to get rid of, what we want to keep, what we want to create.

We step boldly out — not randomly, but in accordance with our true soul desires and in concert with our authentic selves — and we do it whether we feel nervous and shaky or not. And we do not, we simply do not, cling to the beliefs that we are Wrong, that we are incapable, that we are going to get in trouble.

When your family story, or social rule, or random feeling of something being very scary, tells you what you desire is a bad idea, but you feel drawn to it, listen to your draw.

And then be prepared for that old story to rear up and threaten you.

Be prepared to slay your dragons.

Yes, you’re going to have to (get to!) wrestle demons. Don’t worry, you’ll win.

What’s It All For?

In my early twenties I was a nanny for a three year old boy in New York City and he and his gallery owner parents came upstate to visit our family house for a few days. I woke up to my little charge, in his firetruck pajamas, with palms upturned in that childish gesture of question, standing next to my bed, where he was gazing raptly out the window at the wide expanse of fields and hills and trees.

“Maia, what’s all this country for?” he asked me.

What I said in response seemed to satisfy (“It’s so all the birds and the animals and the trees and streams have a place to live.”).

But that question has rattled around in my own mind for years, as I’ve applied it to endless other themes, and often come up empty of answers.

As a slow-brewing discomfort began slipping back into my life a year or so ago – after I’d done much to shake up my life, to move, to go into business for myself, to reclaim my financial intelligence, to heal a broken heart – I first tried to get around it by ignoring it.

But the burn kept spreading, an insidious but subtle poison of wakefulness at 4am, restlessness in my daily routine, procrastination with my writing, and a general malaise that kept me from hiking or even going out for coffee.

“I’m in hermit mode,” I told countless people, an untold numbers of times. And that felt right and true and good – I was busy writing new copy for my upcoming coaching re-brand, and taking heavy doses of vitamins to restart my compromised adrenals.

But I was also feeling bored. And that, my friends, is a no-no. There is flat-out absolutely no excuse on God’s green earth to ever feel bored. But I was. It sucked. I sucked. I hated it.

What’s it all for?? I kept asking myself, in those dark nights, unable to get comfortable in bed, awash in wordless fear and upset. The fuck if I know! was the usual reply.

Or the question would swim, unbidden, into my thoughts in the form with which I’m most familiar: What’s the point, anyway?

That question has arisen inside me for all of my adult life, and the voice I hear it in varies. Sometimes it’s my voice, or my father’s or my Czech grandmother’s. The feeling that accompanies it is that sinking feeling of despair (perhaps you know your own version of it?).

The answer, in that dark place, to that heavy question, is a terrible one. (It’s not the true one! It’s the bad, wrong one, the one made up of your worst fears and deepest longings.)

It’s that there is no point. That no matter what you do, life will come up and kick you down.

That you are trapped.

Nowadays I recognize my ancestral wounds in both the question and that particular answer.

The Eastern European side of my family who sacrificed everything, again and again, and forced themselves to live with vast compromise, throat-deep in unlived dreams.

The aunt who wanted to be a singer but was put into the sewing business, and got pregnant, then married by nineteen. The philandering grandfather who spent all the family money carousing. The hard-working grandmother who lost her true love to the Nazis.

I have their stories running in my blood. Their questions, and hard-won, despairing answers knocking about my brain.

And I’ve come to see that I am the latest vessel for all that – not as a pack mule carrier. But (and the choice is mine, as it is yours, in your own family lineage) rather as the distiller of a bright new spirit. Someone who takes the traumas, the losses, the heart-ache, the sinking feeling of it all, and transmutes it into a new frequency.

Not easy. Fraught. Oft-times stuck.

But moving, shifting, changing – forward and up.

I took a road trip to the mid-West, for a friend’s wedding in Minnesota this past fall, after months of creeping malaise. The moment I was in my car, driving west, a lightness invaded. Ten days later, turning around to come back east, a heaviness descended, from within, that near-paralyzed me in the middle of Pennsylvania, so that I had to stop the car at a rest stop for the night. It was the only thing that soothed me.

Then, home again, falling face-first back into the boredom, the struggle. Until it suddenly, with much support on a coaching retreat a few weeks ago, occurred to me that if I did what I wanted – that is, take to the road – I might not be able to answer the hugeness of that question, What is it all for? in its permanent, universal entirety.

But that I might be able to answer it for myself.

I decided to go back to the drawing board – to the place I made the choice to leave New York City and move to the Hudson Valley from. The place I chose my college from. Where I’ve chosen my friends, gone back to school, started love affairs and left them from.

What do I most desire?

Not what do I, this small, sniveling, needy human thing want, in order to fill a gaping internal hole and to look good and fabulous out in the popularity game of life.

And not just what appears possible, to the naked eye, from the meagre offerings laid out before me.

But what do I, this Soul person truly Desire, in order to uncover true inner fulfillment, Maia-style (insert your name here)?

Of all the possible offerings available to a human being on planet earth.

Just asking that question shifts my bloodlines, I can feel it (try it for yourself, ask an utterly out-of-bounds-for-your-family kind of question, and see what response you get).

It’s terrifying and thrilling.

And all mine.

I become a spiritual warrior, breaking through into a new way of living life, one that far exceeds what has been deemed possible by all the generations preceding me. And isn’t that what each new generation is for?

This is our work. And if we avoid it, the call becomes fiercer, the night sweats more relentless, the boredom crueler. The sickness invades our bones and becomes lethal. Until we listen.

I can’t see far, the vision keeps getting gifted to me in tiny increments, which horrifies my ego, who wants it all settled and planned. (But, oh, no, mine is the soul of adventure! Mine is the call to live a liberated life!)

And so. I’m packing up my things, giving my landlord notice, and hitting the road.

First stop? Mexico.

I’m going to be blogging about the experience. Writing is one of my passions, a gift, it is, even. I feel terrible when I don’t do it. So, instead of keeping it from myself, I’m going for it. And the writing isn’t going to be a simple travel log.

It’s going to be more a discover-yourself-wherever-you-are kind of a thing.

I’m dedicating it to all my fellow Soul Travellers (you know who you are), those human beings who are willing to follow the call down unknown paths – both inner and outer – on the quest for personal liberation.

I’m excited to have you here! Welcome to Soul Traveller.