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celebrate@exultroad.com

Exult Road is here to uplift and celebrate life, and you. 

Publishing, Writing, Consulting

Child outretched arms blue sky BY Todd Field.jpg

Jill L. Cooper

Jill L. Cooper is a poet and writer. Her writing has appeared in print literary journals, The Raven ChroniclesThe Floating Bridge ReviewShark Reef Literary Magazine, as well as online magazines, Rewire MeThe Rebelle Society, HIV Here & Now, and others. Cooper’s poetry has been anthologized in Silent Applause of Butterflies (Columbia Center for the Arts, 2014), Pontoon (Floating Bridge, 2015), Delirious—A Tribute to Prince (Night Ballet Press, 2016), and in I Only Wanted to See You Laughing (Yellow Chair Review, 2016), and others. She was the creator and editor of The Yes Book (Exult Road, 2014). Cooper has served as the Executive Director of a Buddhist publishing house, and as a consultant to publishers, and as an author coach. She is currently working on a book-length collection of prose poetry, and on a collection of lyrical essays. Cooper lives in the beautiful Palouse region of Washington state. In all her work, she intends to affirm and celebrate existence. To contact her, write to jillcooper11 at gmail dot com. 

Heaven Is Now.

Jill Cooper

Freedom, by Jill Cooper, Exult Road

Freedom, by Jill Cooper, Exult Road

Often hidden in the "problem" rests the key to freedom. Peel off the bitter rind of what seems like an "issue" and relish what you have been given, what you have created, what you feel—bittersweet as it may be. 

 

Not as a "lesson" or an "obstacle to overcome," but expect that joy can surprise you even amidst a knot of frustration. 

 

Slow down and feel everything.

 

The fruit of joy can so often appear where you least expected it! Let every so-called problem have a chance to present its gifts to you.

 

Heaven is always now. 

 

 Jill Cooper

Exult Road

Yes Is an Invitation.

Jill Cooper

Flower Art and Photo by Verity Arndt

Flower Art and Photo by Verity Arndt

Yes is not always adventurous. Yes is not always reaching for more. Yes is not always stereotypically positive.

Yes is the ultimate allowing.

From your yes place—free of resistance—the aperture of time and space opens up; so much is possible. Invisible gifts become suddenly visible. The resulting practical transformations usually make life easier, richer, clearer.

Expand into Yes. Feel into the stretch if the newness is uncomfortable, or into the sweet relaxation of accepting all as it is, with observation and love.

Say yes with your heart, with your mind, and with your life, and invite a world of grace and good, like a morning sunrise, into your spacious heart.

Jill Cooper 

Exult Road

 

Flower Art and photo by Verity Arndt

Strange Feather

Jill Cooper

This morning, my husband came inside from feeding the chickens and said, "Close your eyes. I have a gift for you." And then, "Okay, open them," and when I did he was holding the tiny feather in this picture in the palm of his hand.

The heart that embellishes the small white angelic feather is not drawn on with a Sharpie pen! It is the natural marking on a real feather from the breast of a Northwest Flicker—a perfect heart.

heart feather on red background.jpg
Strange Feather


All
the craziness,
All the empty plots,
All the ghosts and fears,


All the grudges and sorrows have
Now
Passed.

I must have inhaled
A strange
Feather

That finally

Fell

Out.
— Hafiz

And it was the perfect day for celebrating with a gift from the universe as delightful as a be-hearted feather, because this past week my dream and project of the last year, "The Yes Book" is in its last rounds of editing; and a poignant, beautiful,  cover concept emerges. 

It's so close to fruition. I remember how the idea for The Yes Book did not even come as a "plan," but more of a clearly guided impulse to move forward on the spark of a question: What if we invited writers to share their stories and poems about Yes?

Momentum gained energy as the positive responses to the project poured in. Moving forward one baby step at a time, I recount now how many angels and helpers came forward to offer collaboration, ideas, support, celebrations, and assistance every single time I needed it.

I am so grateful today.

Also, something I didn't quite expect is that even as I was clearly encouraging saying Yes more often because I witnessed how powerfully the concept operated in my own life, I still didn't even know the half of it yet!

I lived the past year steeped in Yes and —though I had a tiny glimmer of expectation that it would be good— it has been better than my wildest dreams! Yes is glory-making stuff, I tell you. It's acceptance, relief, embracing, appreciating, and creating in one little word, in one little gesture, a nod, a step, a prostration to all that is good, a sigh of relief, or joy.

Now, I start each day with Thank you, and Yes. And Divinely Good things come as a result.

In the course of "My Year of Yes" so many great things have happened I have filled journal after journal writing page after page of appreciations about Yes, and about changes in my life resulting from my focused attention to it - from earthy celebrations and easily manifested house remodel projects to being asked to do poetry readings and watching those around me light up with love; from launching a publishing company and building many new skills, to experiencing more peace and bounty in every area of my life; from witnessing the opening of a Divine creative geyser I always knew was there but struggled to find the spigot, to falling ever more deeply in love with all life. I think this can be true for anyone if it can happen for me. 

I belong to a forum where users can post daily appreciations they call “raves.” Members post their celebrations about everything from running water and health to food and wealth. All Yeses! I am thankful to these ravers for the constellation of daily raves that boost and cultivate success, love, and an abiding sense of peace.

I read the post most every day during My Year of Yes. I liked all of them and tended to flood the writers with blessings from my heart. Each rave of appreciation, for me, was like watching a new star being born, a new world in each celebration vibrating out into the universe.

I want to invite you to celebrate your own Yes too! Start your own appreciation groups! Try a Year of Yes. Say Yes and find reasons to praise and life will say Yes to you and multiply your reasons to praise. You may too, precious beings, feel as if a strange feather "finally fell out."

We at Exult are accepting more writing submissions about Yes for the ExultRoad.com website weekly "Featured Artist" pages. So, please send your 500 or fewer word “raves,” stories, or poems about yes along with a 50 word author bio to publisher [at] exultroad [dot] com. We’ll respond in a few weeks if your writing is selected.

 

With so much love,

 

Jill

Butterflies.

Jill Cooper

Butterflies

By Jill Cooper, inspired by the wind at Mosier Tunnels

 

 

Butterflies gather together along river edges to sun their wings and lick the salty rocks.

                                                                                                ~ Todd Murray, entomologist

 

 

I have never strapped myself to cords and cables and neon kites.

I have never leaned my neoprene-wrapped body

backward on a board, tilting, swaying against the pressure,

bringing resistance into wind to loft into sky

 

like a boosting bird, like a curling wisp of smoke.

But I have dug my toes into hot sand and inhaled the evening air.

And I have observed the summer river - dancing with its hundreds

of kiters - a silent, distant applause of butterflies.

 

I have etched out stories with symbols onto paper.

I have played with the resistance and elements

and swells of language. And I have shown up for dawn patrol,

with quiet words, to unzip impermanence and try

to make her fly.

 

I have been there to catch the sky cracking open its translucency

onto yesterday’s hot memories. I have handle-passed

a honey gold sun, an apricot sun, even a fried egg sun

onto the flickering light of the screen.

 

No I have never surfed on water, but I have schlogged

through a paragraph luff, wondering, What am I doing here? 

 

But I licked the salty rock, and I came back again the next day,

for those moments when I am riveted downwind, with a whitecap phrase -

a butterfly in the power-zone, a moment, a blue eternity,

an ephemera, worth all the words.

 

Yes I have dug my toes into the hot sand and inhaled the sweet night air.

But most of all, I have found that back on shore, like the butterflies,

all I need depends on no more than a deep breath, and another sunrise.  

One Rave of Appreciation.

Jill Cooper

I have only one deep appreciation (a rave) lately, and most often it is wordless, but today, after a connection with one of the loves of my life I want to share it!: The Divine is in everything. My "normal" reality is what I used to call "magic." There is no doubt, no cynicism, and no problems to solve at all. There are no more unwanted stories, but for a few seconds, dropped wholly, and so no unwelcome feelings. There is nothing to be worried about. Even a headache brings either instruction or a motherlode of treasure when unresisted. The unrest of anyone I love is trusted, now, to the Divine.

As time goes by, proof is provided daily about what works and what doesn't. There is Divine everywhere and I see it in the pink-gold dhalias, the sun, the milky way, swirling through my girl's recent wedding, surrounding me dancing with my daughters and son and husband and friends and even x-husband's family, and my mom and (fully recovered from cancer) dad! Yes! And the divine is pouring out all over everything, through everything, through the hours, over the grass, from the walls, the most beautiful flood, I let it in. I drown in it and yet I breathe easy! It is rolling through my prostrated body, working body, sleeping body, playing body - less resisted every day, moment by moment.

The Divine is in the mail that comes to my house, even in the junk mail that turns into a folded basket for fresh eggs gathered on the way back to the house. I eat with the Divine! Enjoying the heart of a summer watermelon with a tiny sprinkle of salt jewels. The Divine lives there in my reflection and love for the wrinkled brow of a tired and troubled friend on her own creative journey; it is in the cluck of my hens, it is in the empty cup of tea, and it is rich - the wealth of the universe. It is pumping through the pages of my journals.

I feel the Divine blinking in the empty feeling that comes when I am before the blank page, beginning to write. It is rich and vital and flowing through the quiet between words. It is beyond words, yet in them. It is in the nectar of a love-letter from a friend, in my skin, and in the play and illusion of time. In a spoonful of honey, and in my sleeping, and in stretching, in yearning and in accepting, in all flowers and sky, in all allowing and even in my resisting. It is in all moments when I forget and in the delight when I remember again who I really am. It is in the pages of my "Positive Aspects Journal" that fill up swiftly and easily day after day, boosting love. It is in poetry and rewards.

The great Divine is in knowing that enlightenment is not saintliness! The Divine is in the awareness that I can riff across options, attitudes, and ideas from the critical and sharp, to the soft and sublimely attuned! They are all okay. They are all welcome. It is all Divine. There is nowhere The Divine is not.

I am always safe, and always free. I am always doing and going where the Divine is. I am free of hooking my happiness on any conditions. Yet, I am noticing all the conditions that contribute to my happiness anyway multiplying in direct proportion to my cultivated focus on what IS working. (Wow.) I love the emptiness. The great vast emptiness that (I used to think was scary and sad) is the void from which all creation is born, and peace and connection to everything and everyone. It is where loneliness vanishes. It is where ideas drop seed. I love how my reception of wanted ideas, events, relationships and situations are growing in relationship to my experience of joy-for-no-reason. I cultivate that joy through appreciation and focus. And that is my 10%, the rest is flowing in easily.

People who love me, who are attuned, come closer. All unkindness, and barbed words softly vanish from my sphere. The Divine is glittering all through my wise son's kind, winged words of encouragement and adventure. There is nothing I need that does not arrive, right on time. There is nothing I feel that I don't want to feel. And even when the feeling is pain, I see that it is a signpost to where treasure is hidden. I no longer analyze the reasons, I no longer remember ever feeling abused or jilted or worried. My head and heart and body cells feel transformed and then lifted again. I love. If I cry, I cry. If I laugh, I laugh.

There is a deep, deep wordless feeling of love, serenity, and creativity. I am in love with it all, but also keenly aware of this life as being one blip on a massive scale of being-through-eternity. I feel in flight through it, buoyant and calm. As I near completing one project, I see others lofting up as pure potential. I give one subject after another to The Divine. And I feel like a young child with new favorite playmates as I meet more and more people who understand the powerful, impactful, creative tool of cultivating deep appreciation. Where raves are creating more good as they are typed and read and spiral out into the universe growing what they planted, and expanding through each others' hearts.

With all my love,

 

Jill

Today You Reflect and Feel.

Jill Cooper

Today, you keep silence in word, and in action. Today, you understand the clean rapture of pure being. Today, the cat is stretched out in the sun on your lap, the mountain fits in the palm of your hand, and you do not forgive, because in the silence you find the power of knowing there is nothing to forgive, because there was nothing to judge.  

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Increasing the Capacity for Beauty.

Jill Cooper

Beauty, the world seemed to say. And as if to prove it (scientifically) wherever he looked at the houses, at the railings, at the antelopes stretching over the palings, beauty sprang instantly. To watch a leaf quivering in the rush of air was an exquisite joy. Up in the sky swallows swooping, swerving, flinging themselves in and out, round and round, yet always with perfect control as if elastics held them; and the flies rising and falling; and the sun spotting now this leaf, now that, in mockery, dazzling it with soft gold in pure good temper; and now again some chime (it might be a motor horn) tinkling divinely on the grass stalks—all of this, calm and reasonable as it was, made out of ordinary things as it was, was the truth now; beauty, that was the truth now. Beauty was everywhere.
— Virginia Wolfe

If you read this blog, you know that I practice daily gratitude, and dedicate my life to appreciation. I rave about what's wonderful in life, what's to love. I do this because it feels so good, because the world has enough complaints, because it brings more of what I appreciate into my life, and ripples out around me. 

I recommend it to anyone. For me, the power of appreciation is so eye-opening and transformative that it's changed from a morning ritual, to a lifestyle. Try it? Give yourself a half an hour to just do nothing but appreciate. Get revved up. It can be for anything - running water, the thousands of people involved in stocking your refrigerator, the sky, our rolling, wonderful earth, your breath, love, the possibility for change. Anything. It's hard not to feel good when filled with appreciation, and feeling good begets more feeling good.

Writer Esther Hicks calls it a "rampage of appreciation." Teacher and author Lola Jones calls it "raving." I call it relishing. 

I  am relishing about beauty today! When I first moved from glorious Seattle to the stunning natural beauty of the river gorge in the mountains where I live, I noticed that my capacity for so much natural beauty was limited. I could only "stand" so much looking at the noble mountains and luscious green forests before I stopped being able to even see it. 

Beauty was overwhelming then. I half-jokingly asked a very effective question, "How will I increase my capacity for all this beauty?" The universe heard. From that day on, beauty in all forms floods my life, and softly carves out my capacity to receive, see, accept, create, and revel with more and more beauty. 

Now, I can drink in the mountain air and natural beauty around me easily. And, now I seem to be a magnet for beauty: beautiful souls, beautiful animals, beautiful relationships, beautiful emotions, beautiful food, beautiful health, beautiful (sometimes non-habitual) movements, a beautiful home, beautiful thoughts, beautiful writing projects, beautiful open doors, beautiful truth, and daily more and more beautiful, wanted feelings. This is expansion of consciousness, I realized

I expanded my capacity for Beauty, with the lightest intent, and like a vacuum, the new and expanding space fills quickly and overflows with lots of evidence, endless proof of the glory of Beauty. Not just aesthetic or physical beauty, but all beauty. Beauty brings surprises with it. For me, it's brought peace. Love is beautiful. Simple and profound, beauty is a strong horse pulling a mighty cart of goodness and truth. Invited, beauty comes, she stays, and she brings friends. 

You might imagine, the meaning of the word has become rich and subtle to me, opening my eyes to the beauty in details everywhere, from an orange rind in the sun on the counter, to fog, to the scent of soil, to my own softness and strength, to understanding choice, to the extraordinary beauty of guided action - knowing when to do what and how, free of worry - and trusting daily the perfect beautiful sublime choice to flow with everything as it is flowing into place always!

The Divine is beautiful. 

With my love, 


Jill

Follow Your Bliss and Don't Be Afraid.

Jill Cooper

Follow your bliss.
If you do follow your bliss,
you put yourself on a kind of track
that has been there all the while waiting for you,
and the life you ought to be living
is the one you are living.
When you can see that,
you begin to meet people
who are in the field of your bliss,
and they open the doors to you.
I say, follow your bliss and don’t be afraid,
and doors will open
where you didn’t know they were going to be.
If you follow your bliss,
doors will open for you that wouldn’t have opened for anyone else.
— Joseph Campbell

Doors opening to green field.jpg

Some days are made for lying in the grass, for tea and sun, for lolling around the garden, admiring things, eating strawberries. Some days are for paying attention, for noticing the water run down your spine in the shower, for slowing time. 

Some days are made for eating scrabbled eggs for dinner, for finishing a novel, for wandering in the hills, or for basking. Some days are perfect for watching clouds, telling jokes, feeling feelings, and dreaming. Some days are right for doing absolutely nothing, but being.

I love those stretchy, loungey, peaceful, dreamy days. But oh do I love days like today too. Days that gallop. Days so fast I feel like a mere witness to plans unleashed. Fire-cracker days. Hot-potato days. Days when emails fling out to space and back, when agreements happen, when help is given and received easily, when communications are not only kind but fruitful.

I love these accomplishing days too - days that race out the gate. Even the clouds are flying by fast; even the wind chime is banging fast, a rhythm gongs "Let's go, Let's go!" Creating, powerful, productive days.

Today, I witnessed the sun rise and set. In-between those moments was a delightful flourish of inspired activity, connections with dear people, welcome surprises, rich writing time. Doors flung open with good news at the threshold. 

How I appreciate days like today. Days that tip-toe up to the golden sky in the early morning silence, and then burst out the gates in a cleansing torrent of useful activity. I love to appreciate how taking guided action brings the world to my doorstep, connecting me with good and gracious beings. I value how following my bliss opens me up to pure positive and authentic relationships with creative cohorts. 

I'm with Joseph Campbell on this…follow your bliss. Put yourself "on a kind of track." Then relax, and hold on for the ride of your life. 

 

With love,

Jill

Your Joy is Your Sorrow Unmasked.

Jill Cooper

Your joy is your sorrow unmasked.

And the selfsame well from which your laughter rises was oftentimes filled with your tears.

And how else can it be?

The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain.

Is not the cup that holds your wine the very cup that was burned in the potter’s oven?
— Kahlil Gibran, Of Joy and Sorrow

exultroad.potter

My heart is filled with love for all of who suffer.

 

I was taught to “accept” grief and all its "stages."

 

Acceptance for the cause of grief from the mind is not always possible, or even desired.

 

Acceptance for the feelings generated by the cause, however is not only possible, it's essential. Suffering is rejected sorrow. Suffering is pain, resisted. Realizing this is the unmasking of sorrow.

 

The experience of sadness itself is not what creates the capacity for joy. It is the heart-acceptance of all feelings that works like the potter’s hands, molding and smoothing the capacity for joy.

 

When sorrow is experienced as sensation in the body, calmly, in the silent spaces between thoughts: the edifice of suffering crumbles. The mold of habit melts away. 

 

When you attend to all feelings like a gentle parent would her child, soothing, you begin to feel a lightness of being - maybe barely perceptible at first - but there it is, sweet relief in the moment. 

 

Many years ago, I made a grief box. In it I placed objects that symbolized my sorrow of that time- for losses, the planet, others, everything.  Each day, I would set aside the gift of twenty undisturbed minutes to open the box and feel the wave of sadness. Diving into the sensations, I felt them, finally. I didn't drown.

 

Soon I realized that feelings, if felt, don't hurt. It's the idea behind, and the resistance to them that cause suffering. There was nothing to process. There was nothing to figure out. There was no self-improvement needed. There were feelings to feel. There was a choice of what to dwell on in my thoughts. I was my own salvation.

 

I just had to be present with those feelings, and when I did, with love, they transformed into hope, then joy, then eventually, bliss.

 

But bliss is unsustainable every moment though. You would explode from ecstasy if it were. So, joy feelings need to be felt fully too! Joy rises and moves through the body also, when felt.

 

Emptied of the weight of unfelt feelings, both sorrow and joys, is the sweet fruit of equanimity. Sweetness and peace can crack out of their shell and sprout from the lightest of intention.

 

Your joy is your sorrow unmasked. 

 

It is rosy glow of the ancient consciousness, silenced. It is a clear sky on a new day.  

 

It is a thousand birds swirling together on a wind. Born from the experience of real contrast, joy is the eye of compassion, the breath of relief, and the voice you can always trust.

 

With Love,

 

Jill

Suit Up.

Jill Cooper

Jon Cooper, San Clemente 1993, Photo: Jill Cooper

Jon Cooper, San Clemente 1993, Photo: Jill Cooper

In this one you are sitting in a tweed jacket, with your broad back to the camera. Did we plan it that way? Or was it one of the candids? Your head is turned to the left, almost, but not quite looking back over your shoulder. It is your profile. At 20, I think, my little brother, my baby brother, has become so handsome.

 

I notice through the lens on my square format camera, you look like Matt Damon. I know everyone says that, but I see it now. You are turning one side of your face away from the lens. You hide a pocket of pimples on one of your lower cheeks. These portraits are to be for your girlfriend so you are careful. You are saving your usual joking for later.

 

As your sister, I have never noticed your features in just this way before - through the lens, even though you were the first portrait I ever took when I was eleven and you were seven. I remember you were digging in the side yard with a small travel shovel, wearing a red bandana, dusty, around your neck.

But I have not ever attended to the spirit in your brown, brown eyes as I do today, as your photographer. They are deep tunnels into your expression, caves under a strong shelf of earnest forehead. 

Behind you now are the gnarls of roots from the base of an ivy-encased tree-trunk. They will work perfectly in the image, I think, with the tweed, with the shape of your nose, and the lines in your thick brown hair, where the gel has been combed through, and dried.

 

Later, I will spend hours in the dark room, with this image especially, bathing the photo paper in attention, light, chemicals, and time. There are other pictures we make that day on the cliffs of San Clemente. The sky is a big laughing blue mouth, above the heart of an abandoned mission, whose white stucco is succumbing to the knots of bougainvillea, palm, and wild lemon trees.

 

There are those other images we make too. I am using a tripod, to still the camera, to catch your movement, as you leap up into the open window with its wide ledge, for another cool shot. A modern boy, okay, a “man” you remind me, in these beautiful ruins. You smile, and we talk about riding bicycles, about my daughter's dentist appointment, and about the passing of time. 

 

Jon Cooper, 1993, photo: Jill Cooper

Jon Cooper, 1993, photo: Jill Cooper

I reload more black and white film while you tell me how you will have a picnic, and surprise her with your framed image. I listen. We scan the mission and landscape for more settings. Everywhere is perfect. And your crisp white shirt, rare tie, and wingtips make you look vintage from behind the lens. As if you are not of this time.

 

Now we wander to the dark shaded place by this old tree. And you rest on something broken on the ground. Maybe, it’s part of an old stone bench used by some contemplative monk. And it’s in this moment -the one that you turn your head to the left - that I think how dear you are to me. I think how lucky I am to have this kind brother who looks a little like Matt Damon, who so often makes me laugh, but who is this day as somber and adult as the old tree.

 

I take the shot, and it’s the last on the roll. We are out of film, so this is the last image I will make of you today, of your back and profile turning away.  As if you are going away somewhere. A good ending to the series, I think. You give me one of those young man hugs with one arm and say thank you. 

Later this evening, you will call and say, "I know I haven’t told you this in a very long time, but I want you to know, I love you." 

 

And I am happily pain-free at this moment.  I pack my camera bag and plan to head to the dark room – still free of knowing that this is also the last image I will ever make of you again. It’s the last time I will ever see you in this short life of yours.

 

Now, decades later, I see you everywhere, in the hills and tiny flowers. In the trees and bright sun. I love our conversations. I hear you breathing in clouds, laughing with the night crickets.

 

Fold the words that describe your sadness into an origami of the heart. Fold your story of grief inside you, knead it deep into your love, where the alchemy of complete and divine wholeness rises in the presence of that dark silence.

 

Every day is precious, you advise. Every day, care. Fall in love with life more and more. Let your lungs be like giant flowers inhaling, free. Take life by her delicate hand and run along the shore. Every day, suit up!

 

Year after year I hear you and I sense there is no end. There is not a beginning. There is just now, forever. There is no loss, there is no gain. There just is, you say, chewing on a long piece of bright green grass you twirl in your white teeth. 

 

Jon - God's gracious gift

Leonard - Brave, strong as a lion

Cooper - August 25, 1971 - May 2, 1993

 

 

By Jill Cooper

© 2014 

Version originally published by Rebelle Society

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stories Rule.

Jill Cooper

Horror stories. Love stories. True Crime. Fairy Tale. Myth. Parable. The evening news. Stories help us form our beliefs and values. They shape our fears and dreams. Stories create the scenes of culture and politics. They help us decide how we want to fall in love, what we think is fair, and how to negotiate the world. Drama molds consensus reality out of the stuff of mere sensations and experiences. Our personal stories can often rule us.

 Master storytellers and their words arouse emotions and teach sacred lessons. Jesus told some pretty memorable yarns to make his points. Famous for his storytelling knack, the Buddha also taught through parable.

From sex to skulls, the inestimable influence of Shakespearean drama resounds in our attitudes about anything and everything. Philosophers wield parables to make sense of chaos. Poets from Homer to the Beatniks reach fever pitch warning, playing, explaining, instructing. And the talent for influential whimsy and plot thrives in the parent storyteller comforting loose-tooth fears with the promise of specialized fairies who purchase children’s teeth in the night. 

  

We Are Wired for Story

We are thirsty for drama. We are essentially story-making, story-devouring creatures, and we mine these dramas for information on how we might best succeed in our own worlds. In her book Wired for Story, TV producer Lisa Cron writes: “Stories are about how we, rather than the world around us, change.” And evolution has dictated that we pay close attention to our stories, for survival's sake. Renowned cognitive scientist and Harvard professor Steven Pinker explains: “The cliché that life imitates art is true because the function of some kinds of art is for life to imitate it.” 

Stories have shaped the lives of listeners and readers through the ages, and we are hardwired for them to have that effect. 

 

The Story-Emotion Circuit

You might notice that, just like stories you read or watch on the news, the stories you tell yourself and others about your life influence your emotions. The more often you repeat your story, the more powerful the impact it has on the way you feel. Tell a story that makes you feel bad and, lo and behold, you feel bad. Tell a version that is encouraging, and you are filled with hopeful sensations. 

 It appears we don't have a choice in the circuitry we are born with, but we certainly have a choice in how we use the equipment. We have powerful sway over our own attitudes, though we don’t always know we do. Excepting immediate physical pain, everything we experience emotionally comes to us by way of a story we interpret. 

Science writer Jeff Wise observes that “While many of us would like to believe that we live in ‘the real world,’ a world of concrete and stone and wood and metal, that’s only true in the strictly physical sense. Psychologically, we live in a different world, one that’s created for us inside our head, a world that’s infused with meaning at every level.”

It’s no wonder that without conscious intervention, we can get caught up in the web of our own spinning. “The story holds you in the drama, and it doesn’t resolve,” writes author Lola Jones in her book Things Are Going Great in My Absence. She adds, “You forget that you are the author of the story. The story is a trap you created.”

 

How Our Brains “Listen” to Our Stories

Different parts of our brain get pretty fired up depending on what a story is about. “When we are being told a story, things change dramatically,” notes Leo Wildrich in an article on lifehacker [http://bit.ly/19eZqX7]. “Not only are the language processing parts in our brain activated, but any other area in our brain that we would use when experiencing the events of the story are too.”

Did someone mention food? The sensory cortex lights up. Is a character running? The motor cortex is alerted. And the plot thickens; the brains of both teller and listener sync up, the same areas getting activated.  As Uri Hasson, Ph.D., a psychology professor at Princeton University, notes: telling a story can “plant ideas, thoughts, and emotions into the listener’s brain.”

 

Create a Positive Feeling Feedback Loop

French writer Marcel Proust wrote that, “The only real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes.”

 It can be a fascinating perspective to pretend you are an alien who landed in your current body, era, and environment. You might not like everything you find, but you’ll see it from a fresh view, free of the old associations, maybe excited to be here.

 Look for the good in every landscape. This doesn't mean denying what’s unpleasant, but rather suggests that we train the mind to provide more good feeling.

 The default mind likes gossip because it feeds the big blue story monster. Num num num. Me want stories. Negative gossip offers a temporary fix, but not joy.

We can devote most of our self-conscious thoughts to awareness and observation, but if you need a boost, take the lead. Turn the mind to stories of gratitude and appreciation. This is one of the best ways to boost bliss using the human built-in Story-Emotion Circuit. 

In the stories that play out on the physical plane, time is always on our side. If we are “behind” or “late” or “too busy,” this is just a story. We are not responsible for generating more hours than occur in the day. We are not responsible for doing more than can be done in our little spotlight in this time-space continuum on earth.

 

The Whole Story

Feelings are created by stories according to how we interpret those stories. Dumping the entire story and moving awareness to feelings instead is a powerful shortcut to liberation from the grip of unconstructive tales. Maybe your boss is unreasonable, and your child’s teacher doesn't see that your child is just being a child. You might fail, you might not get the girl, you might not lose the weight. Stories. Emotion-generating stories.

How beautiful it is to know that at any moment, we can pick among the stories we tell ourselves and ask, “Does this even matter?” or “Is this even real at this moment? Does it really count?” Often the answers are no, and we can turn toward our wiser self for new thoughts and better stories.

Recently a friend of mine overheard someone gossiping about her health in terms of some scary future limitations it might bring. Angered at first, my friend switched gears to feeling mode, felt through the pain of what she overheard, and then listened as her wiser self soothed her with a more affirming story about her own health and the possibilities for recovery. She reported feeling more liberated from that experience of dropping the story, falling into her feelings, and then creating a more fruitful story than she had ever felt before.

Once we learn how to change the plots in our mind from default storyteller mode to the regal calm of no stories, a great sense of oneness with the changing, electrical, elemental, sacred joy of life is ours to experience. 

 

Your Life Story Starring You

Sometimes, for better or worse, our habitual stories distract us from remembering our connection to the majesty of life, the oneness of all. And that's part of the fun of being a human on this planet, feeling separate, creating challenges to overcome, traipsing through the strange and beautiful landscapes, and eventually seeing through new eyes.

 

Since we live in a land of stories of our own creation, we have the option to invent a new kind of story. We can generate mindful, compassionate, insightful stories that fill us with support, confidence, and peace. We can start celebrating, seeing, and inventing the stories that will bring us joy in each moment.

Let’s create the dramas we want and make stories as wonderful as the world is full of wonder. 

 

With Love, 

Jill

 

A version of "Stories Rule" was originally published on RewireMe.com as "Retelling the Stories of Our Lives." 

To Find What is Divine in Everything.

Jill Cooper

exult.road.divinity
My dear, when anything touches or enters your body
Never say it is not God, for He and I are
Just trying to get close to you.

God and I are rushing
From every corner of existence, needing to say,
’We are yours.’
— Hafiz, tr. by Daniel Ladinsky

The Divine is in everything. My "normal" reality is what I used to call "magic." Free of real doubt, free of cynicism, no problems to solve at all. There are no more unwanted stories, but for a few seconds, dropped wholly, and so no unwelcome feelings. There is nothing to be worried about. Even a headache brings either instruction or a motherlode of treasure when unresisted. The unrest of anyone I love is trusted, now, to this Divine.

As time goes by, proof is provided daily. There is Divine everywhere and I see it in the pink-gold dhalias, the sun, the milky way, swirling through my daughter's recent wedding, surrounding me dancing with my daughters and son and husband and friends and even x-husband's family, and my mom and (fully recovered from cancer) dad! Yes!

The Divine is pouring out all over everything, through everything, through the hours, over the grass, from the walls, the most beautiful flood, I let it in. I drown in it and yet I breathe easy! It is rolling through my prostrated body, working body, sleeping body, playing body - less resisted every day, moment by moment.

The Divine is in the mail that comes to my house, even in the junk mail that turns into a folded basket for fresh eggs gathered on the way back to the house. I eat with the Divine! Enjoying the heart of a summer watermelon with a tiny sprinkle of salt jewels. The Divine lives there in my reflection and love for the wrinkled brow of a tired and troubled friend on her creative journey; it is in the cluck of my hens; it is in the empty cup of tea; and it is rich - the wealth of the universe. It is pumping through the pages of my journals.

I feel the Divine blinking in the empty feeling that comes when I am before the blank page, beginning to write. It is rich and vital and flowing through the quiet between words. It is beyond words, yet in them. It is in the nectar of a love-letter from a friend, in my skin, and in the play and illusion of time. In a spoonful of honey, and in my sleeping, and in stretching, in yearning and in accepting. It is in all flowers and sky, in all allowing and even in my resisting. It is in all moments when I forget and in the delight when I remember again who I really am. It is in the pages of my "Positive Aspects Journal" that fill up swiftly and easily day after day, boosting love. It is in poetry and music.

The great Divine is in knowing that enlightenment is not saintliness! The Divine is in the awareness that I can riff across options, attitudes, and ideas from the critical and sharp, to the soft and sublimely attuned! They are all okay. They are all welcome. It is all Divine. There is nowhere The Divine is not.

I am always safe, and always free. I am always doing and going where the Divine is. I am free of hooking my happiness on any conditions. Yet, I am noticing all the conditions that contribute to my happiness multiplying in proportion to my cultivated focus on what I appreciate, to what works, to what I value.

I love the emptiness. The great vast emptiness that (I used to think was scary and sad) is the void from which all creation is born, and peace and connection to everything and everyone blossoms. It is where loneliness vanishes. It is where ideas drop seed. I love how my reception of wanted ideas, events, relationships and situations is growing in relationship to my experience of joy-for-no-reason. I cultivate that joy through appreciation and focus. 

People who love me, who are attuned, come closer. All unkindness, and barbed words softly vanish from my sphere. The Divine is glittering all through my wise son's kind, winged words of encouragement and adventure. There is no one I need who does not arrive, right on time. There is nothing I feel that I don't want to feel. And even when the feeling is pain, I see that it is a signpost to where treasure is hidden. I no longer analyze the reasons, I no longer remember ever feeling abused, jilted, or worried. My head and heart and body cells feel transformed and then lifted again. I love. If I cry, I cry. If I laugh, I laugh.

There is a deep, deep wordless feeling of love, serenity, and creativity. I am in love with it all, but also keenly aware of this life as being one blip on a massive scale of being-through-eternity. I feel in flight through it, buoyant and calm. As I near completing one project, I see others lofting up as pure potential. I give one subject after another to The Divine. And I feel like a young child with favorite playmates when among those who genuinely celebrate and welcome bliss; where appreciation is understood as the powerful, impactful, creative and playful tool it is; where raving with joy is recognized to create more good as the words and energy spiral out into the universe growing and expanding through the heart of the world.

May you all experience and celebrate your bliss,

Jill

Increasing the Capacity for Beauty.

Jill Cooper

I am appreciating beauty today! When I first moved to stunning natural beauty of the river gorge in the mountains where I live, I noticed that my capacity for so much beauty was limited. I could only "stand" so much looking at the noble mountains and luscious green forests before I stopped being able to really even see it. It was overwhelming then. I half-jokingly asked a useful question, "How will I increase my capacity for all this beauty?" The universe heard. From that day on, beauty in all forms floods my life, and softly carves out my capacity to receive, see, accept, and to revel with it.

Now, I can drink in the mountain air and natural beauty around me easily. And, now I am a divine magnet for beauty: beautiful souls, beautiful animals, beautiful relationships, beautiful emotions, beautiful food, beautiful health, a beautiful home, beautiful thoughts, beautiful projects, and daily more and more beautiful  feelings. This is expansion, I realized!

I expanded my capacity for Beauty, with the lightest intent, and like a vacuum, the new and expanding space fills quickly and overflows with lots of evidence, endless proof of the glory of Beauty. Not just aesthetic or physical beauty, but all kinds of beauty. The meaning of the word has become rich and subtle to me, opening my eyes to the straw strewn across the floor of the chicken coop, to the fog, to the scent of soil, to my own softness and strength, to understanding the beauty and power of choosing my thoughts, to the extraordinary beauty of guided action - knowing when to do what when, free of worry - and trusting daily the perfect beautiful sublime choice to flow with everything as it is flowing into its beautiful place always!

I'm appreciating opening to Divine beauty, and to the surprise of learning more about expansion in such a good way - through beauty.

With love, 

Jill

Joy Given Returns.

Jill Cooper

My heart is overflowing today. I am thankful that my true self knows every moment -and will never forget - about the preciousness and enough-ness of simply being alive to love, and to play this adventurous creative game together with other divine characters.

Meditating in the morning, I give over my Joy to the Divine (just the same as I give over my pains, to-do list, memories, and all my concerns!) Everything is released. I lay it all down.

Breathing, I exhale into the fresh new moment, empty and sweet. The joy rises, and I fold it all back inside again, into the silence. In this way, I get out of the way a little tiny bit more.

I stretch my body to physically make room for the pipes expanding and I can feel it!

And that gift of joy given, returns, a hundredfold, every time. I am appreciating the indescribable.

Love, 
Jill

Welcome to Exult Road - Statement about Being Rewired.

Jill Cooper

Recently, Rewire Me, an online magazine asked their contributors to write a 150 word statement about how they were "rewired." Mine is a bit longer than 150 words, but it is a statement that forms the basis for Exult Road, for my belief that suffering is optional, and for the intent to create and share as much joy as possible while in this precious physical existence:

 

I was free the moment I said “Yes” to all of life - to the messy, imperfect, charmed, beautiful wealth of experience life delivers. The moment I began to inhale “Yes,” and to exhale “Thank you,” whole worlds opened up for me. After years of reading, of contemplating the meaning of wisdom, of meditation, and of studying most major philosophical traditions, it clicked. I finally experienced a liberation born from complete acceptance and love of exactly where I was in every moment, a mental focus on the beauty of those moments, and a wholehearted "yes" to all feelings that arose - which, when fully felt - moved on. I welcomed all emotions. I noticed that emotions when felt as sensations in the body dissolve and move, often quickly. I observed abject grief transform into emptiness and then joy. I witnessed the interplay between my beliefs and attitudes, my thoughts and feelings. I focused on thoughts that resulted in better and better feelings, beyond what I knew was possible as a human. I ceased to identify with any belief system, dropped off conditioning and stories about my life and let the inner guidance system I'd come to know direct. In this way, I expanded my physical and emotional capacity for bliss. I dove deeper and found the nourishing emptiness of a void so huge, and safe, beyond bliss, where all creativity sprouts. Soon, every detail of my life lit up externally to reflect the changes I'd experienced internally. I felt wholly new. I was rewired. 

 

With Love, 

Jill Cooper

Exult Road