Pole Dancing For Fun And The Number 1 Secret of Lasting Happiness

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Lisa is a freelance writer, consultant and life coach. She has her BA in English and Creative Writing from Princeton and her MPA from Harvard. Lisa recently finished the first draft of her book manuscript, Burning Down the House. Her dream is to publish this first book and teach the world how to discover their hidden joy. Her post day is Tuesday.
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Pole Dancing For Fun And The Number 1 Secret of Lasting Happiness

My lithe instructor, dressed in hot pants and a black lace bra, cautioned us that this was “not a beginner move,” and that we should just give it our best.

The move we were learning in pole dancing class was called the “corkscrew,” since it involved curling yourself around the pole, knees bent, torso perpendicular to the pole and parallel to the floor, then spinning down the pole like a corkscrew.

Oh sure, no problem!

Since this was my first pole dancing class ever, I approached it with gusto and forgave myself when my “corkscrew” form was far more awkward than sexy or elegant.

She mentioned that it’s common to acquire bruises along the way, since you are often catapulting your body, legs or torso up into the air and onto the pole. Who knew that this dance form was so athletic!

Just Another Life Adventure…

Pole dancing had long been one of the items on my “bucket list.” As a former professional dancer who still dances for fun, I continue to study new forms of dance and to challenge myself. Over the years, I’ve taken tango, salsa, flamenco, belly dancing, ballet, South African boot dancing, hambo, hip hop and more.

The two most athletic dance styles I’ve tackled yet have to be aerial silk dancing, like the kind in the circus, and pole dancing. I signed up for pole dancing classes in Saratoga Springs, New York, recently, figuring it would be a great way to work out, learn something new, feel sexy, and of course check something off the bucket list.

For me, lifelong learning and new adventures are two of the things that contribute to my ongoing happiness. I love challenging myself, and I love trying something new.

Lasting Happiness

Last week was a very, very good week for me because I found many ways to engage in my passions, and had lots of new experiences. I spent time in Dallas, Texas, where I went out blues dancing on Tuesday night. Thursday night was pole dancing class, followed by a few hours of salsa dancing at a local Saratoga club.

I taught a class at a local college on recovering from trauma, since I have recovered from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) over the past several years, managing to create a happy and peaceful life for myself. I led life-coaching sesssions, and worked on my book. I spent time with dear friends. I enjoyed the warm but windy early autumn weather, and the changing leaves, trees bursting into red, orange and yellow flame all around me.

I’m so grateful for the mix of things I get to do, but of course am also clear that this is a lifestyle I have consciously cultivated and created. I try to live in a way that keeps me inspired, interested and engaged, and to continue to do the things that make me happy: teaching, writing, dancing, coaching, traveling.

Yet I’m convinced that the number one secret of my happiness isn’t what I do, or how I live, or even what I have accomplished over the years in terms of living my dreams.

The “Unhappy” Years

Truth be told, there were years of my life when I was out there accomplishing whatever it was I set out to do, as a born overachiever, but I was not particularly happy. I was a total overachieving student, excelling in everything, as a child and adolescent, and was born into a wonderful family with extraordinarily loving parents. Yet what I remember most about those years is being filled with self-doubt and anxiety, plagued by a vague but inescapable neurosis and undefined and constant self-loathing.

I went through some traumatic incidents in my early 20s that would continue to haunt me for years, and remained “happy on the surface,” achieving and smiling. Yet I was still filled with anxiety, sometimes with dread, and suffered panic attacks for years.

Six years ago, I finally decided that finding or cultivating inner peace was my number one goal, more important than any external achievements. I just couldn’t live the way I’d been living anymore, happy on the outside, and suffering on the inside.

I found spiritual teachers who taught me basic meditation techniques, breathing techniques, yoga, qigong and more to help me find some sense of inner stillness. I went away on silent retreats. I faced the world only after meditating in the mornings, and spent time regularly in downward-facing dog.

Life was changing, from the inside out. There were years when I may not have accomplished as much, externally, as I was used to achieving, yet the joy levels were constantly spiraling higher. I was learning to be happy, and learning to love my life.

The Power of Attitude

For me, meditation, aerobic exercise, weight training and dancing are practices and routines that continue to keep me feeling healthy, fit, happy, peaceful and inspired. These practices absolutely contribute to my happiness.

And, I regularly take action steps to achieve my current dreams of completing my first book, Burning Down the House, and building my life coaching business.

Yet I, like anyone, have moments where I sit and look at my life and focus on what I perceive to be missing, or what I don’t like. I have to say the moments when I sit and judge my life, or the people in my life, or think about how I think my life “should” be versus how it actually is, are not my happiest moments.

What I have learned over the years is that our happiness is not actually dependent upon what we have or don’t have. After all, “research shows that once our basic needs are met (e.g. food, shelter, safety) our degree of happiness is not dependent on money, status, or other stereotypical ideas on what makes people happy.”

In my life, I have definitely found satisfaction in doing things that bring me joy, and giving back, both of which make me feel like I am living with purpose and passion.

But I still fall into spells of unhappiness whenever I start to judge my life for what it is not, or focus on what’s lacking.

Living with Gratitude

If I had to identify one consistent characteristic of the people I know, including myself, who are genuinely happy people, I would say that it is living with gratitude.

Neale Donald Walsch discusses the power of gratitude in his book, “Happier Than God.” He writes,

Somebody once said that ‘Happiness is not getting what you want, it is wanting what you get. That ‘somebody’ was profoundly right.

“Gratitude,” he writes, “is the miracle cure for every moment of dis-ease. It is the fastest way to dissolve anxiety, to heal disappointment, to replace negativity with positivity. It is the shortest route from a dead-end back to The Path. It is the connecting energy to God.”

He adds, “When gratitude replaces judgment, peace spreads through your body, gentleness embraces your soul, wisdom fills your mind. Let gratitude replace judgment and your whole experience of life will take a turn for the better in five seconds.

“This is because attitude is everything… A negative attitude will send you down the road to unhappiness. There is no avoiding it. It will absolutely happen, and it doesn’t matter what the problem [is]. A positive attitude will put you back on The Path to inner peace and happiness.”

Be Thankful for What You Have!

This may seem deceptively simple, and I’m sure that everyone reading this could come up with some retort, some reason why you cannot be happy right now because of X, Y, Z problem in your life. However, the opposite is also true, since most of our readers are fortunate enough to have their basic needs met (food, shelter, security) and obviously have access to a computer or smartphone, in order to be reading this. I’d bet that everyone reading this can find something, or many things, to be grateful for in this moment.

Buy just be happyIf you look for reasons to be unhappy, you are bound to find them. As Robert Anthony wrote, “Most people would rather be certain they’re miserable, than risk being happy.”

Neale Donald Walsch challenges us to not only be happy for what we have, and what we perceive to be the blessings in our lives, but to also find gratitude for the challenges in our lives. Try this exercise, that he suggests:

The next time you are confronted with any undesired outcome, result or experience, just stop. Stop right in the middle of whatever’s going on. Just…


Close your eyes for the smallest moment and say inside your head, “Thank you, God.”

Take one good, deep breath and say it again.

“Thank you for this gift, and the treasure that it holds for me.”

Be assured that it does hold a treasure, even if you are not seeing it right now. Life will prove it to you, if you give it a chance.

I am so thankful this week of all of the experiences I’ve been able to savor, and even for my own limitations. I may not be a master pole dancer yet, for example, but luckily as a professional writer, consultant and life coach, I don’t have to do that for money. I can just continue to dance because I love it!

I am actually grateful for the bumps and bruises along the way in life, because they show that I am out there fully living. As long as I am lucky enough to walk this planet, I plan to practice gratitude for all I have, which means I plan to have a happy life.

Wishing you happiness, beginning in this very moment, starting with appreciating what you have! Celebrate your life this week!


  • Go try it, Heather! CA has tons of classes… I wanted to try it while living out there, and never got around to it, so I was *so* psyched when I discovered that someone was offering courses near where I live… It’s a dance form that can help us feel extra-sexy of course :) which is fun, connecting us to that “Inner Vixen” ;) but it is also a kick-a$$ workout! :) And takes some courage – those leaps around the pole and spins? Whoa! :)

    Trust me I have to remind myself to practice gratitude EVERY day. The more I stand in that space of loving what I have and where I am, the happier I am. :) So, it’s worth it…

    Sending you love! <3

  • Heather Montgomery, Product Launch Dreams

    Great post girl! Gratitude is a daily reminder for me. It’s far to easy to fall into the ‘why me’ junk that makes it easy to forget what we have around us everyday.

    Pole dancing is on my list too – great workout!

    – H

  • Kai

    I’ve always struggled with gratitude for some reason but acknowledge it’s power.
    I’m still trying to figure out why I fight expressing gratitude for what I have.
    But despite that, I embrace every time the Universe sends me another nudge to reconsider my feelings, like coming across this post. :)

    • Kai, you are not alone!!! I don’t think society in general teaches or encourages us to live with gratitude. So much of our “programming” from the media etc. is all about wanting more, doing more, having more – which can perpetuate this feeling in us of “never having enough.” Trust me I’ve had to really learn to PRACTICE gratitude over the years, and still remind myself just about daily to shift into gratitude when I am focusing on what is lacking.

      The truth is, I live a really abundant and wonderful life in so many ways, and OF COURSE there are some things that I wish I had that I don’t have, yet, but there is no end to human desire. We will always want something else! I just find that I live with so much more peace and joy when I’m able to drop back into gratitude. From this space, I can love my life, now, while still working on my goals for the future.

      I am so glad you found this post today and wish for you ever-growing happiness, love and peace. Thankful you found us, thankful for your comment, and that you are a part of our community!


  • @TC ~ as I said to Cath I have to remind myself of this often. We are so often encouraged by society and others to focus on what’s wrong, not to look for what’s right. Of course, there is nothing wrong with wanting to “improve the world” or our own lives, or with being solution-oriented. But it can tip us towards not appreciating what we *do* have and for most of us, when we are honest with ourselves, we realize that we really have *so* much already.

    I remind myself, day by day, to switch back to gratitude when I find myself in judgment. And it really has exponentially increased my happiness!

    Thanks for reading and sharing your thoughts – am grateful for that!


  • @Cath wow, what a beautiful story – your son truly is a miracle, what a gift in your life, and what a gift to HIM that he has a mom who loves him SO much!

    I have to remind myself of what is in this post, often, since it’s so easy to fall into judging ourselves or our lives or others for what we think is wrong or lacking. When the truth is our lives are *already* miraculous as they are… and therein lies contentment and happiness, when we can recognize and appreciate this (even as we keep working on our goals and dreams!).

    Love you! xoxo

  • TC

    Excellent post Lisa and I agree with Catherine, it’s a great reminder to focus on what is good in our lives instead of always worrying about what we think needs to be fixed.

  • Wonderful post Lisa and a great reminder to stop and appreciate what we have.

    I tried for 5 years to get pregnant until my doctor told me to take a vacation with my husband and discuss what our life could be like without children. I was fast approaching an age where it was going to be near-impossible for me to have a child.

    I cried and cried, but we did what she advised and went away for two weeks indulging in some of my favorite passions at that time: viewing amazing National Parks, white-water rafting and fishing. We agreed not to think about having children — just enjoy our time on vacation and have fun.

    We had a great time and 6 weeks later I found out i was pregnant with my son.

    Every day when I look at his sweet face I am reminded of what my ex-husband and I went through to bring him into this world and I silently thank the universe for sending me this gift. I could live without everything except for him.

    Thanks for the reminder.


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