Find and Live Your Kefi

Kefi

“We must be willing to let go of the life we have planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us.” –E.M. Forster

Kefi is a Greek word that can be described as a feeling of pure exhilaration where you have bliss, excitement, and euphoria. During moments of Kefi your entire being experiences a rush that you want to share with others. You smile, laugh, dance, or sing. You do whatever it takes to release this joy. Hard to translate since words cannot completely explain the feeling when one does experience it. While Greek dancing at the full moon party in Folegandros’ port, I had it, and this is when my friend explained the word to me. It was beautiful. My journey is about finding Kefi and I know that all of us can find it if we just let it in.

My life prior to May was not about living Kefi.  It was about achieving, climbing corporate ladders, making more money, getting more degrees, working long hours, thriving on stress, buying homes, saving for retirement, etc.  You get the picture.  I was doing everything right; the way society accepts and defines ‘how to live a successful life’.  I am very gracious for the abundance that 18 years of working brought me and the experience gained while working in top consulting firms, travelling the world, and engaging with some of the world’s largest corporations.  To some, this might sound like living the American Dream.  For me, it became a living nightmare as I dragged myself out of bed each morning to go into the office and sit in my dark cubicle.

I was not living my life; I was only existing in this life.  Actually, looking back, I really did not know how to live life, how to do nothing, how to have hobbies. I buried myself in work to avoid figuring out what made me happy.  I buried myself in work to avoid the reality that my marriage was not what I wanted.   After moving on from the marriage and when I finished my MBA, I sat in my backyard and realized I had no idea what I liked to do and what made me happy.  To avoid this dreadful feeling, I started to run again and searched for projects overseas. I was on my way to Afghanistan. The universe intervened.   Since I kept repeating the same things over and over, the lessons got harder and harder.   I was forced to sit alone with myself and begin the journey to transform my life and to create the life I wanted to live.  It was painful, but looking back, I would not change any of my life experiences.  They all weave together to create the amazing life that I am living.

I started to experience and feel ‘deep down’ truly blissful moments while away from work and on vacation.  I started to travel alone to remote places, met wonderful people along the way, sat in the park with Ingrid, did a lot of yoga, learned tango, opened up to the flow of life.  Time and time again, I experienced that when one slows down then situations are presented and we have what we need if we just listen and see the signs.   I went to Bali in October 2012 and that trip was the turning point.  The whispers inside my head to live the life I want became louder and louder.

While living and feeling Kefi everyday in Bali, I made a commitment to myself to only live a life of joy and to only accept into my life people and situations that appreciate me.  Sure, there are bad days and good days and I welcome all, but we are here to experience more joy than pain.  We can, as long as we let it in and remove from our lives negativity that is blocking us from living the life we want.

In Bali, I said, I will not be at my employer one year from now.   I felt strong and courageous and had a power in my soul like never before.  I resigned in my heart.  This led to events where I left my corporate life on May 1, 2013.  The day I walked out the door was Kefi for me.  I smiled and danced on the corner of 42nd Street and Madison Ave and welcomed my new life.

Dear life….where are you taking me next?  I am on a journey.  Destination unknown and I don’t need to know.  As long as I am on the path that feels right then my journey will be more worthwhile than the destination.  I know it will not always be easy, but I am prepared to welcome the experiences – good and bad.  My life is now about letting go of the control, letting go of the plan and just being open to people, places, and events.  I want to see what happens when I let go of the control.  I lived a structured life, used my logical left brain, did everything by the books and now I am free to do the exact opposite.  That is what I am doing now.

I am allowing myself to not plan and to travel to places where I have never been and to have an open mind.  I don’t make decisions as fast as I used to, I use my intuition to decide where to go next, book plans a few days before and try to do what feels right.  TRY…since I cannot rewire myself in a few months.  My logic kicks in all the time, I lose living in the present moment, I bring in past stories, I worry about what I will do when I get back to NYC, I worry I am spending too much money, I don’t always follow my heart and intuition and I end up back to square one- stressed, frantically running around.  I pull myself out of that frenzy and am back again on track.

“When the bird and the book disagree, always believe the bird.”   The bird is my heart and the book my logic.  Know your mind. Know your heart.  Know your courage.  My purpose now is to learn to always follow my heart.  If one lives with an open heart and follows it, then one can never go wrong. Following my heart fills me with joy and by doing things each day that make me laugh and bring joy, only then can I give that joy back to others.

The more we live our Kefi the more Kefi we attract into our lives.  My life is uncertain now, but I embrace the unknown and trust that if I create and live the life I want then all will be well.  I have no fear.  Since I left ‘corporate america’ and started my journey, I have felt so free.  I am free as a bird and I am able to see a happiness that I never really knew.   It is my Kefi.

What is your Kefi?

Photo by Graham

Kefi

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37 thoughts on “Find and Live Your Kefi”

  1. I guess I’m at a crossroad right now. I started what I call my ‘say yes’ journey where I simply say yes to new opportunities, things that bring me life, to things that scare me, to God’s plan, to new experiences, to love vulnerably, to being spontaneous and to myself. IT’S BEEN GREAT! so I completely understand.

    I’m learning new things about myself and becoming more appreciative of life everyday. However in my journey I have also learned to have peace in moments where my Kefi seems rather dim. For example undergrad studies, it stresses me out, I’m not euphoric about final papers. haha. I’m not excited about waking up for an 8am class. I’m not exhilarated about communication issues in my family. However I realise that while my Kefi seems lost in those moments, I have peace and life is good. So I’m trying to learn the balance of life, it seems.

    1. Hi Neisha. Thanks for sharing. What you learned about having peace in moments where Kefi seems dim; this is the key to happiness. It was easy for me to have Kefi while on a greek island, but the reality is that I do not live there and I do need to work and live the ‘real’ life. Family issues also are hard for me. While I am closer to living a life true to me, I agree that having peace in good times and bad times is the key to a happy life. You seem to be doing a great job.

    1. Thank you Caroline. I am glad it made you smile. Days when I am down, I just decide to smile and it is amazing how things turn around. And it really is great to follow your heart. It has been wonderful for me and one can never go wrong. At times the logic kicks in, but in the end if I get back to what my heart wants, I am always in a better place.

  2. Great post Pam, it takes me back many years to Corfu where I first learned of Kefi…. and I believe you’re bang on with the decision to “let go” to access the flow of Kefi. One of the biggest turning points for me was learning to let go of judgement; the labeling of experiences as good, bad, right, wrong etc. The more I’m able to let go and be okay with the way things are, the more things are okay for me and the more I’m able to experience flow, or Kefi. And what a great relief it is to not have to try and control people, places and things! So glad you found your wings!

    1. Thank you Lorna. I am happy that you brought up your turning point…it is a great reminder now that I am back in NYC. I found myself labeling the experience and comparing Manhattan island to the Greek island, impossible. We have to always believe that we are where we need to be, so just be. I am happier living my life this way. Sure, I do go back to the old way of thinking at times, but I am aware of it right away and the time spent there is much less.

  3. Thanks so much for sharing your journey. I’ve never heard of Kefi before – what a beautiful concept! I also discovered my real joy while traveling, and hope to make a similar break from the corporate world. It’s so fantastic to find others on similar journeys.

    I found Kefi in Kilkenny, Ireland, where so much is within walking distance, there are people out on the streets, and there are pubs playing live traditional music on the weekend. I love so much of both Scotland and Ireland but it peaked for me in Kilkenny and I will always remember that visit.

    1. Thanks Christen for sharing your comment. There are so many of us on the same journey. When I left, a lot of people opened up to me. They thought they were the only one feeling this way about working a job that was not fulfilling and just going through the motions. It feels good to know that a lot of people are in the same boat. Your visit to Kilkenny and those feelings, we have to always remember these things. I believe that when we truly desire something then we have to see it and also feel it inside. I want to live more with that feeling of Kefi inside so when I do experience it, I remember it.

  4. These are all great stories on thechange, but so many of them involve people unhappy that seem to find happiness by quitting everything and traveliing all over the world in aimless pursuit of nothing. And then a career of writing about it. Very few people can just stop life, travel and live their “Kefi”. I suppose most people probably don’t even want to. Happiness is a life well lived of balance, which often includes a career. Personally I would tire of living by myself out of a suitcase :).

    1. I agree with you. Living out of a suitcase was tiring and there were times while I was traveling that I did not have Kefi and was sometimes very sad. Life is up and down wherever we are. I realize I was very lucky to have this opportunity to leave a job and have some time to think and recharge. Not a lot of people can do this for many reasons. You said it, the key to happiness is a balanced life and the big part of that is a career. For me, that career has to be something meaningful and this is why I removed myself from 18 years as a management consultant. There was no balance, there was only work. Only by stepping away for some months was I able to see what will be next. I am happy for you that you see what happiness is. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  5. It is truly wonderful to hear that you’ve found your kefi. I too have recently found mine. Mine was right in front of me the entire time as I spent more time ignoring what it really was for me. Mine is artwork. I am most at peace when I am drawing and viewing other works of others. I once had my kefi but when I decided that I needed to conform to the ways of the average that was when I went down my slope of life without realization. I ended up stopping what I loved the most in this world for a whole 10 years straight. Just the last two years I decided that I wasn’t going to be sad anymore but I found myself stuck at numbness due to my ability to stubbornly stick to what I say no matter what. This in fact was me fighting the depression that once weighed me down but still I felt nothing. Nothing positive or negative. It took me another year to conclude that maybe I should go “back to the drawing board” as they say and for me that is going back to a point in time where I was happy and felt fulfilled. Accomplished even. I am now doing what I love again and also going back to school to pursue architecture which is based on design and estimation skills. Two of my strong points. I suggest to those who are stuck at some point to maybe consider a point where things were different even if you have to look back as far as when you were a child. That’s what I did and so far it is working. Sometimes all it takes is going “back to the drawing board” or in other words back to your “point A” in life. I’m sure there are some answers there if you look in hopes of finding them. In my case, I was determined to find a feeling of meaning in my life that would not involve with reverting back to that very dark point of my life. It also helps in more than one way for me with my practices of using art as a therapy because there are studies that show that one’s creative thought process is inspired by simply drawing even the simplest of patterns. Another tip would be to do whatever effort you pursue with a mind frame of this will benefit me versus this isn’t something I’ve done before or this is will be a hard. See the positive note that your efforts are help and not empty gestures of hope.. Every single effort counts. Experience is gain and once you’ve found your kefi you will be able to look back and appreciate the experience of persistence that you’ve accomplished.

    1. Vernon, you are absolutely right! Often the answers are right in front of us. I heard someone say the other day that if something comes easy to us then there is a reason. It can be it is a calling. My experiences have helped me to realize those times of peace and no longer will I ignore what is in front of me. The numbness you mentioned, I know that feeling as well. It takes digging and trying, but I believe that with ‘patient persistence’, we don’t have to be numb anymore. Thank you so much for your advice.

  6. Kefi – great word and one I will incorporate into my vocabulary – Find your Kefi! I can totally relate to the travel part – I have moved 19 times in 3 years and I found my Kefi right here at the beach and coast of North Carolina – for now that is. For our Kefi evolves and changes as we grow and become!

    Thank you for sharing this inspirational post on moving on and finding your bliss!

    Infinite love and gratitude,
    Nancy

    1. Wow, Nancy. You have moved a lot in the past years and I am happy you found your spot…for now. That is something I have also come to terms with. Some people stay in the same town their whole life. Others, like you and me, we move around. As you said, when we grow and evolve, we change. It is ok to then want new experiences. I had to also recognize this is just who I am. I will always make changes. When people ask me how long I plan to stay, I always answer, when I don’t like it anymore then I will move on. Enjoy the beach! I am jealous.

  7. Great story and happy you found what you were looking for, or especially that you found something you were not even thinking of! Make use of this and enjoy life as there’s more than work and financial wealth but wealth in you head and that is something one cannot buy but way more important!

    1. Thanks Carsten. I am also happy for you that you found your path. We both were in the same professional world and now we know that true happiness comes from within and not from promotions or more money. Most of the time, things we don’t even think of, are the things that surprise us the most. It is a wonderful life.

  8. Hi Pam

    Great concept, congratulations on achieving this huge life change.

    You allude to your early working years as high achieving – I just wondered if you truly managed to secure the necessary funds to live your life on the ‘Kefi’ basis?

    Whilst I do not subscribe to the it and dried theory that money buys happiness, it does give one options, not least of those having the choice to eat regularly.

    If not for this monetary obstacle I don’t doubt many others would simply walk away from many of societies expectations and trappings but it is simply not an option for most …..

    1. Thank you Barry. I was fortunate to work hard and save money. It has enabled me to take this time off and gave me the courage to know that I will be OK. I had to make decisions to live life differently and to lower my expenses. I don’t shop like I used to and material things don’t make me happy. While in Greece, I stayed in a place that was 25 bucks a night. Basic. I do need to work and the point of walking away and taking time off was to recharge and to see things in another way. I will continue to travel when I can and pursue a career in coaching. I know that life cannot be Kefi everyday, but I want to at least have more of it while working. I agree with you, most cannot just walk away. I am gracious that I was able to do this.

    1. Congratulations Lisa. When we make that commitment to leave a job or a situation that is not satisfying or serving our true self then it is amazing how other options open up. I no longer have that high paying job, but I have gained so much more.

  9. Wonderful addition to my vocabulary. Kefi moments come sporadically. Pam has shown the way to have more of such moments by following your heart. While it may not be possible or desirable for every one to leave the job and go around living a nomadic life, but surely one can set aside time and money for chasing one’s dreams. Nothing gives me better kefi moments than sitting beside the river Ganges in Rishikesh, India. The eternal flow of the river with ringing of bells in the back ground of temples with a glorious view of the setting sun is enchanting moments for me. Of course, every one will find such kefi moments in different pursuits or even in doing nothing but living in one’s company.

    1. Thank you Mahavir. Great point. Kefi moments do come from time to time. Not everyday can be Kefi. I think the most important lesson to learn is to find joy in all things. The way you described the river Ganges…I can see it and hear it. When we have moments like this, we need to always remember them and forever feel it.

  10. It is interesting to see how some of the people wrote in to say that not everyone can travel or up and quit their jobs….in my thought, everyone can do SOMEthing to find their kefi. I have been working toward living my dream with the last year tremendously hard, working two jobs. Just two days ago, I told my boss at my cubicle job that I had to either quit or go part time. It was a leap of faith BC I knew if they let me quit things would be very tight financially for a while–but I was willing to live through that in order to meet up with my dream of being a full time trainer and yoga teacher. They agreed to let me go part time and so now after all this time I am one great step closer to my dream. I could not have been in this place if I didn’t keep believing its possible, if I didn’t keep paying off my debt to make it possible, if I didn’t go through the schooling to make it possible and if I didn’t sacrifice my time by working my dream job on the side. I would not have done any of that if I had just thought that “we all can’t just do XXX”. I believe we all can! We have to believe it first and then take the small steps in the beginning to get it started and the difficult steps all throughout to keep it going until we end up where we want to be–with our kefi!! Pam–you are right on and this was a lovely post.

    1. Thank you so much Bethany. You are an inspiration to others as well. I would also love to do yoga teacher training. Living our dreams is not easy and you have showed that it is possible; step by step. Sure, along the way there is pain and uncomfortable things to deal with. But, when we put our mind and heart to it, then we can do it. Power of will. It takes sacrifices, as you described. I keep on going as well. Now, I am back in NYC and the journey continues. I will be moving from my very nice apartment to something cheaper, smaller, or maybe outside NYC. I knew this was coming as I no longer have a corporate paycheck. For me it is more important to live a life with more Kefi and to pursue my dreams than to have a job that was not fulfilling and paying for a nice apartment. Good luck and keep on going…onward and upward.

  11. Wow Pam. What an inspiring and beautifully written post. Thank you. It’s great that there’s a word for it – Kefi. I’ll remember that word for a long time to come.

    I have been through a very similar transition myself in the recent past. I chose to move away from the corporate world a few years after completing my MBA. There was too much of a gap between my changing values (through spiritual quests) and the increasingly unscrupulous goings on that I witnessed in the corporate world.

    Eventually I had to ‘pick a side’ and I chose writing for a living rather than finance and strategy.

    It’s tough not to earn a lot of money. It’s tough to bootstrap and wonder where the next dollar is going to come from. But taking the ‘life is a mystery to be lived and not a problem to be solved’ approach helps a lot.

    I agree the journey is more important than the destination. I find using mindfulness helps a lot. Have you used mindfulness practice. It’s a great way to stay in the moment. Here’s how Djokovic used it at Wimbledon : bit.ly/11pv4gj

    1. Wow, Ash, great point. I never realized it that way with the gap. It was the same for me, since I started on the spiritual path. Our values change and one day we both woke up and saw that the corporate world did not fit in. I will use your advice on taking life as a mystery. Have you read the poem by Cavafy called Ithaca? There is also a version where Sean Connery reads it and I copied it below (makes me cry for some reason). Wonderful reminder about the journey. I do meditation now and then and am aware of mindfulness. I will look more into this. Calm mind, calm everything else :)

      http://livingkefi.com/2013/09/30/september-30-2013-ithaca/

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1n3n2Ox4Yfk

  12. Great article Pam…you’ve taken a leaf from Elizabeth Gilbert and run with it! Wonderful…my life journey is taking me on a new path soon. Daunting and exhilirating but never dull. The more we open up to opportunity the more opportunity opens doors for us…Good luck with the next episode in your journey….

    1. Thank you Sharon. I wish you luck as well. I am not afraid. This feels right and when we make that commitment to ourselves and the universe or whatever you believe in, then we cannot go wrong. Being open is the key, even when I am down, I still try to smile and be open to life and its flow. You said it, the same things that are exhilarating can also be terrifying. But, we can handle it :)

  13. Pam, your story is another confirmation that am not crazy! Thank you for sharing. :-)

    A few months ago I made some decisions to find and live my Kefi (nice word :-) and believe me I was a bit scared.

    And that involved starting to pursue my passion of helping people embrace change, letting go of societal conditioning and a plan to quit my corporate job in June 2014.

    That’s what my life is about these days and I have found so much inspiration and quiet pleasure in this decisions.

    As I journey to the full realization of what lies ahead, I am implementing the simple yet so powerful secrets of happiness that I have known for a while but was simply scared of pursuing because I didn’t want to let go of what I perceived as safe living.

    Actually, as I write this am seated next to the window of my hotel room. I just watched the sun rise two hours ago. Very magnificent it was!

    All I can say is that we can all find and live our Kefi if only we give ourselves the “permission” and make the plans to make that sustainable. For my case, sustainability is tied to organizing my finances so I can have the freedom to follow my passion. That’s why I did not quit my job immediately.

    To make the changes you need, over prepare and then go with the flow. :-)

    – Jazilah

    1. Hi Jazilah…you are not crazy. We are all just trying to find what works for us. I agree with you. For so long, most of us have been conditioned to just accept life as is. Like you said, safe living. We have to cut the ropes and sail from the harbor if we will even begin to find the life we are meant to live. The beauty in a sunrise and sunset. These are also moments of Kefi for me. Look, we can have it just by looking out the window…not all the time for me in NYC :) Good luck as you make your changes. I also had planned this exit for a few years. I knew it was coming.

  14. Wow, Pam, this is exactly what I needed to read today :) What a wonderful post, thank you so much :D
    Well, I kind of took my first step out of the “hamster’s wheel of life ” when I left my “safe” job in February 2013 and started teaching again. Funnily enough, I’m not an English native speaker, yet I teach English in…England! I love teaching, teaching makes me feel alive, but I’ve found myself at the cross roads again. I realised I need a break from the life I have here! So I have come to rather bold decision of renting my place out and going into the big wide world without an actual plan, just want to see what happens! Despite not having “the right passport” (every time I found an interesting job abroad I came across “native speakers only” !), I think I’m gonna take the plunge and see what great things I’ll discover about myself. I think I’m a good teacher, but I also realised I can do other things in life that help me on my path. Teaching doesn’t always mean being stuck in a classroom ;) I’ve got this feeling I’m gonna be ok. Just need to start believing in myself and own skills perhaps a bit more…Travelling is,for me, about self-discovery, expanding own horizons, learning from others. It’s like a never ending university course- just much better than that and often with better views from the window ;)
    Fingers crossed I won’t let fear take over and settle again!

    1. Hi Karina. I happy that my story was what you needed. You are doing so many of the things I did and it will be OK. You said it- you have a feeling that you will be OK. When we have that feeling, it means something. When I left my job, I knew it was going to be OK and I never questioned my choice. I let go of the control and life is working out really well. Before I left, I also found a sublet person to pay my expensive NYC rent. It worked out. Now I am back and making next plans for a career in coaching. You are right, traveling brings new ideas and a new level of confidence. Believe that you can do it and you will. By you making these steps, great things will happen and always trust your intuition. It is never wrong. I enjoyed reading your comment..it is giving me more courage to keep on going. Good Luck.

  15. Hi Pam, that’s really a beautiful and very inspiring story – thanks a lot for sharing. I agree, following our heart can be a scary thing to do, but if we want to experience true happiness and fulfillment, it’s the only way. We all need to learn to make our heart the master and our head (the logical, realistic… left brain) the servant.

    1. Hi Robert,

      Thank you for reading my blog and sharing your thoughts. The logic always kicks in, but I think now that I have been trying more to follow my heart, I can at least name the logic when I see it. We have to start somewhere :)

      Pam

  16. Thank you, Pam, for sharing your story! I am indeed in search of my kefi and it seems as if it’s the mission of the universe that I find it. I stepped out in courage this time last year only to retreat in fear. Now I’m being nudged to get back out there. However my ego wants to maintain control and I’m at war on the inside. So many worries, so many fears… I want freedom. Your story has given me an inner boost! I’m ready to open my arms to my kefi even though I don’t know where to begin. My life depends on it.

    Kelli

  17. Absolutely amazing expression Pam. Something I needed to read as I embark on a new journey in my life. Thank you.

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