Names: Mara & Danny Kofoed
Hometown: Brooklyn, New York
Occupation: Founders of A Blog About Love
Passion: Helping others to live a full, happy, and peaceful life
Lunch: Song, Park Slope, Brooklyn
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What an amazing experience it was to get off the subway in Brooklyn and be greeted by a couple of happy, good-looking folks: Mara and Danny Kofoed. We are so glad to know them. We’re sure you will feel the same way after you read this special 2-part series about our interview with them!
So tell me where the Blog About Love started. Who’s idea was this, and how did it get going?
Mara: “I would talk to Danny about our life’s experiences and say, “We need to write this down! Should we write a book or something?” And he would just smile. We started by sharing the parts of our journey that made a difference to us with friends and family. Then friends of friends would get in touch with us and ask us for advice. So we would send letters to these people – oftentimes people we didn’t know – just sharing with them everything we could to help them through all kinds of things. We started seeing people having really amazing experiences. They were changing their lives. It was just incredible to see it unfold.”
Danny: “We loved doing that, but it took a lot of effort, because with each person and each question, we had to recreate every time. I may have wanted to copy and paste parts of other letters and emails, but none of it was written for mass consumption. It was written for one individual person.”
Mara: “At the time, I had been working at a hedge fund in the city. I had been worked in the industry for about ten years or so, and it was great in a lot of ways. It was just amazing, and there was a lot of good with it. But for some reason I started to see the end of my life. We’re in our 30′s and we don’t have children, but most all my friends have 2, 3 or 4 children. They are just dedicating their lives – literally every moment of their day – to being a good influence on someone or something. Danny and I certainly were dedicated to that as well, but we had this abundance of it for each other. It seemed selfish to have this abundance and happiness just in our living room. For a while I felt this craving to do something more. I felt so strongly that I wanted to dedicate my life to a higher purpose.”
Danny: “When Mara and I started dating, part of getting to know each other was finding out, “What motivates you? What drives you? What do you want to do?” I certainly had my vision of what I wanted to do, if everything was ideal, and part of mine was teaching. I’ve always loved to teach. I was an accounting TA in college and I loved that almost as much as I love teaching about what we talk about on the blog, because teaching is fun. Helping people turn on a light is fun. Helping people to understand something is really exciting for me. From the very beginning, Mara was always talking about the woman who helped her changed her life, saying “I want to do that, but I don’t know how to do that.”
Mara: “She really was a spiritual healer. I had been seeing her in my first marriage, going to her for infertility. She works specifically with women who are trying to get pregnant. She wants to change the world, and she feels she can do that by working with women who are in often the worst place of their entire life – completely in despair – because they can’t get pregnant. She tries to teach women to surrender, be at peace, and learn to truly be happy and to overcome. The idea is, if you don’t know about true happiness, how can you teach your own kids to be happy? It’s not about being happy when I get married, have a baby, get a job, or buy the house. That’s chasing. That’s not happiness, and never will be. But living in the moment and being grateful for your life and the lessons it’s teaching you just resonated so much with me. I could really see how it could apply to my life, and the deepest moments of despair in my life. I started changing the way I lived, and I became a different woman. I have been on that journey ever since and it’s been the most extraordinary thing I’ve ever done.”
Danny: “Mara was always saying ‘I want to do this but I don’t know how.’ You know, help women, help people -
Mara: “- because I had seen how life changing it had been and how powerful it was for me in every way imaginable. It affected everything I did, my job, my work, my family, my interactions, my dating life. I had put this into practice before the divorce, during the divorce and dating.”
Danny: “So, the blog was surprising. We thought, “Oh – this is the way we could do it!” Once it became clear, Mara jumped right on it, and she started working on blog posts. She had over 100 – maybe 200 ideas long before starting the blog. Eventually she said, “Yep. I’m going to do this. This could launch.”
Was this something you started as an outlet, or were you actively marketing it to try to touch as many people as you could?
Mara: “I definitely had in mind that I wanted to reach as many people as possible. I halted other career pursuits. I gave up income and started working from home, and dedicated my entire life to do it. It was a big sacrifice. I just was very blessed to be able to do that. It was so wonderful to have a supportive husband, but it is certainly a sacrifice to do what we’re doing it. But it’s worth it to try to make a positive mark on the world.”
Have you always had the desire to give back?
Mara: “Oh no. Not at this level. I didn’t feel I had that to offer. I had been giving the energy of my life to worldly pursuits – owning a business, earning money, having a career. A lifetime goal of mine was to become self-reliant. But nothing ever compared to the achievement of having happiness, fulfillment and self-worth in life, despite any circumstances I could be in. It was the greatest breakthrough of my life. It was pretty remarkable to learn some of these things and to see what a difference it made in my life. One of the most immediate results of that was the desire to teach, because I wished someone had told me all of this earlier.”
It seems like you had been able to achieve two different kinds of success. One is more physical – the house, the job the money – and one is maybe more of a spiritual nature. With both of these perspectives in mind, do you feel you have, indeed, been successful?
Mara: “What we have realized is our greatest level of success has come from pursuing virtue. It sounds so simple.”
Danny: “And it also might sound really self-righteous, too, if you don’t understand what we mean when we say it. But “pursuing virtue” is our way of describing a whole bunch of other things. The truth is, sometimes it takes reaching a point where you realize what you thought was success isn’t success. You have to go through stuff and figure things out on your own. I think in Mara’s case – she was working for really wealthy individuals with unbelievable amounts of monetary success, but some of the people she saw were still lacking personal wellness. And I’ve seen people in humble circumstances where “success” would be the very definition of their lives. So what aspect of success is universal to all people, that can be applied in any sense and can be enjoyed by anybody and everybody? That is the pursuit of virtue. ‘Virtues’ meaning all the good things you ever learn about – love, patience, kindness, consideration, forgiveness, faith, hope. If you actively embody any one of those things, you’ll be prone to success no matter what your external circumstances are.”
Mara: “Many people say success is achieving happiness. We agree – but how do you become happy when life is full of trials or horrible circumstances that come and go? How do you maintain the happiness and success through job loss, infertility, divorce, or loss of a family member? We have found that if you pursue these virtues through good and bad circumstances, you will be full with a sense of fulfillment, achievement, and reward. And the cool thing is, you can choose that. No matter what circumstances comes your way, you have the ability to choose that path. That’s why we think you can choose happiness, and the path that will bring peace and joy, even through the worst circumstances of your life. Both Danny and I have chosen to feel peace and happiness through very challenging circumstances. When we have tried to pursue these virtues, we have been filled with a feeling of success and joy and happiness.”
Danny: “Here’s a quote from the Dalai Lama: “We have the source of contentment and happiness within ourselves, and it is related to nurturing our inner values.” In this case, we think values is a substitute word for “virtues.” We think they’re one in the same. Aristotle said, “Happiness is an activity of the soul in accordance with virtue.” That has been my experience. There is no question that external circumstances influence how I feel. If something bad happens, I’m going to feel a certain sense of pain and suffering. But then what I do next is where everything else comes together. So if you lose a job, but you lose it with grace and class, and you’re not angry at the world or with other people, chances are losing a job isn’t going to be as damaging to you. And good things can happen to you, but if you do anything but embody virtue, it won’t help you feel successful. So, ultimately success to us means choosing virtue – pursuing virtue – no matter what happens. Try to align yourself to higher sentiments and success will follow. That may not come in physically tangible results, but internally you will feel successful.”
Aren’t they wonderfully wise? I felt so inspired after this lunch. Keep your eyes open for when we publish ”A Blog About Love: Mara & Danny Kofoed: Part II” where we explore how Mara and Danny have tried to incorporate their philosophies into their own lives, and their feelings about how successful they feel they have been.
What are your thoughts about virtue? What sort of experiences have you had in your life where keeping your attitude in check has helped you feel positive feelings instead of negative? We can’t wait to hear from you!