"Promise me you'll always remember: You're braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think." A.A. Milne

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Saying Goodbye and Honoring Lessons

Through a series of events, I have organized a group of women hikers. We meet and take on endurance hikes, 10-15 miles in length. The interest in the group rather surprised me but I am not sure why. I think it actually makes sense. Women crave a sisterhood, being part of a tribe. I think many of us long to come together and be our authentic self. It is easier to accomplish in nature. How you look or who you know or whatever superfluous and superficial characteristics tend to be stripped away around mile 6 if you brought them at all.

I love this group. I come back feeling more connected and refreshed. It brings me full circle. We don't hike in winter as ice is prevalent and dangerous. After a long hiatus, I was excited to for the first one of the season.

At first the weather looked perfect. The long term forecast was for sunny skies in the 60's but slowly temperatures and my spirits started dropping. In the end the forecast was in the 40's. People dropped out. Too Cold. This winter has been hard enough. I get it. I do. I had to go. I was the one who put it together but I wasn't very happy about it.

Then I realized the universe was presenting me with a beautiful opportunity. Just this past week, my daughter and I had been on a hike looking for signs of spring. We had found them. We saw the first two wild flowers of the season rising out of the stark beauty of the barren winterscape. But I had never really said good-bye to winter.

If you read this blog or know me, then you will know this particular winter has been, well pretty horrible for me. I fought hard with despair and depression. It came close to overwhelming me but I pulled through in the end. But looking back, I can see I learned some immensely valuable lessons. I learned how strong I was. I learned what friends I could truly depend on for comfort and much needed strength. I learned it was okay to throw up my hands, hunker down, and just hibernate for a bit releasing myself from expectations and self-imposed responsibilities.

We don't tend to learn the truly important lessons in easy, comfortable situations. Nope, we best learn in the fire. It is within the metaphorical crucible we are truly reborn. For whatever reason, we need hardship and strife to break through to the next level. Winter had been my frigid fire. I have grown exponentially in these months. I think I owed my honor, respect, and a heartfelt and thankful good-bye to this season of my life.

The hike was amazingly beautiful and lifted my spirits higher than I could have imagined.

There is life waiting to burst forth in each of these pictures. It is quiet and patient but it is there. I am thrilled I was granted the opportunity to say good bye and honor the hardships and lessons learned. It was  beautiful and magical way to round out the experience.

May harmony find you.

(PS My friend Laura took these amazing pictures. Thank you so much for giving me permission to use them.)

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Reflect and Refresh

Spring is almost here. I can feel it. My flowering Dogwood is beginning to bud. My surprise lilies are pushing up through the cold dirt and light layer of snow. For several days the skies have gleamed with true blue only found this time of year. It has been a hard, hard winter. My commitment to health and stability has been tried. I remained focused but it was difficult. The time to release all the tension is at hand. 

Lent is a traditionally a time for reflection and renewal. Growing up in a non-liturgical church, Lent was never something we focused on. The idea of of honoring the Lenten season is new to me but one I find myself embracing. This year I intend to take 40 days to refresh and renew my spirit and my mind. I think it will greatly benefit me after this particular winter. 

Meditation and yoga have not been practiced as diligently as I would have like. Our home was so chilly in the morning. My morning yoga sessions became miserable as cold muscles refused to warm or be supple. It was a fight I decided to forego as long as the frigid temperatures remained. 

This is my first commitment. To revisit these two practices. Both of them combined is where my true peace lies. They culminate in an equinimity that greatly enhances my patience, compassion, and ability to honor love and beauty in their many forms. I embrace them again as old friends welcomed home from a long and perilous journey. 

Peace in my mind also benefits from peace in my environment. With that in mind, I am embarking on the 40 Bags for 40 Days commitment. It is really easy, I get rid of one bag, box, or bin in my house each and every day. Truthfully, I don't know if we have 40 in this house but hey, that's a good thing. Spring cleaning will also be coupled with this process. I am not even planning it. I just know me. As junk leaves, I have an innate desire to clean. Bonus. 

I am also committed to being more intentional with my reading. In addition to the books I read for pure fun, I will reading books on mindfulness and simplicity. This actually coincides with a desire I have to implement a very slow, mindful pace for our family over the next spring and summer with a huge emphasis on nature, unstructured free play, and exploration for us all. 

Finally,  through journaling and meditation I would like to explore some deep seated irritants that are rising unexpectedly. These are deep within my psyche and are embedded below my general consciousness but it is time they are addressed. Time and time again I find anger even rage arise seemingly out of the blue. There are some things still chaining my soul and I want to deal with them so they no longer have control in my life. 

So that is it my friends. Really it is just commitment to be more mindful. I want to slow down and truly savor as my Red Bud tree explodes into color. I want to quietly watch my children make discoveries in nature. I want to really hear people and connect with them. I want to see their noble beauty first and foremost with a heart of compassion and love. I want to be the best and most authentic me I can be and live my life in harmony and joy. 

However you honor this season, I pray you find peace and light each and every day. 

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Year of Creativity

Each year of my life, at least recently, seems to have a theme to it. I don’t do this deliberately but it still happens. The past several years have been focused on becoming healthier be it physically, mentally, or spiritually. These years have led to some great things in my life. 

This year seems to be entirely focused on art and creation. Almost out of the blue I am creating piece after piece of visual art. I am experimenting in different paints and other color mediums, textures, layers, and loving mixed media on the whole. I am learning piano as if I am fire. I have some musical backgrounds but wow, I am just flying through the lesson. I am truly having the time of my life. It is so much fun. 

But it has been my most recent endeavor into creation that caused introspection on what is exactly going on with my life at this time. Writing has always been a natural outlet for me. I am a well spoken and articulate person but I have always felt more comfortable expressing myself through the written word. However, in the past several years I have not really been writing. Oh, I have the odd blog post and I journal on and off but I am talking about really delving deep into my craft. I mean the true exploration and playing with words, themes, and ideas. I have not been writing. Why? 

Well I think there are two main factors. First, the past decade of my life has been filled with what have been life altering changes. Even though they were baby steps at the time the result has been dramatic and amazing. A little over a ten years ago I left the one truly co-dependent relationship I have had. I not saying my other relationships were models of health, but this was bad. The fact I stayed in those confines rocked my foundations and filled me with self doubt. Those doubts had to be dealt with if I were ever to be healthy again. 

Very long story short, over these 10 years I have turned from an anxiety ridden, unpleasant (really could probably just use the word bitch here but hey, let’s be graceful) , and totally unhealthy person (I smoked like a fiend!) to a grounded, harmony filled person who deals with the challenges of life through meditation, yoga, and stronger focus on whole food nutrition and consistently practices an attitude of gratitude. I am not exaggerating when I say the change is night and day. 

The second major change in my life is I have embraced and even rejoice in the fact I am a introvert.  Actually, I am a really big introvert. For years I thought since I wasn’t shy and could handle groups and socializing just fine, I was an extravert. Since extravert is often the desired way of being in our society, I pushed myself to be just that. It drained me terribly and left me constantly emotional fragile and on edge. I am sure those misplaced attempts contributed to my simply lovely demeanor. 

I  think these two things drastically changed everything about my life. It definitely changed my vision of who I am and how I deal with life. It is the basis of my positive outlook on life. The upheaval, although ultimately wonderfully good, was huge and destabilizing. Yep, some chaos definitely ensued.

All of the above resulting in the need to really compost my experience. I love the idea of that. Experiences, thoughts, whatever lie fallow in your mind and unconscious being dealt with and worked over without you even consciously realizing it then one day BAM!! Explosion. 

That is where I am now. I am having this incredible almost volcanic overflow of creativity and ideas. The artist energy feel like it is just coming out of every pore until I quietly glow all the time. It is really an exciting time and I am just riding the wave to see where it takes me. Hey, after 10 year, this could be really good. 

May harmony find you my friends. 

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Making Meditation a Priority

There are a multitude of things I credit to my health and well being. I eat a largely whole food vegan diet. I get a lot of sleep. I workout regularly with good intensity. I am an avid yogi. I meditate...when I can.

You see, like many of you I have commitments and obligations competeing for my time. I will not say I am busy because I am not. I will not do busy. I will cut large swathes of things out of my life and my family's life if I reach the point of busy.  But there are things that take up my time. I keep them organized by priority. In my head there are many three most important things to do each day, three that would be beneficial to do, and maybe three thing it would be nice to do. This system works for me and keeps me from stress. But I think I need to switch out my something in that top category. It would be extremely beneficial in my life to put a priority on meditation.

I am realizing regular meditation makes a life changing difference in my life. With a regular meditation practice, I can handle just about anything. My peace and inner tranquility rises above almost any situation large or small and prevails. My life seems to almost naturally fall into harmony and equinimity when I meditate, daily.I am coming to understand using meditation as the ultimate tool allows me to truly delve into my being. Through mediation I discover what my passions really are and what truly is most important to me. When I mediate I achieve a clarity and resolution about my life that is almost magical in its intensity. It is truly a wonder.

Even though I don't watch much television and I avoid magazines, etc.,  I think there is still an unconscious and unfortunately almost unending stream of media and propaganda filtering into my brain each day. Millions of dollars are spent on ad campaigns that attempt to influence what is important to me, and everyone else, in my life. These campaigns seek to breed a dissatisfaction and discontent deep within our beings in order to sell us, well more crap we don't need. We are pushed to embrace rampant consumerism, the pursuit of materialism, and ultimately focus on an external locus of identity. None of it is real and none of it is really important. It is an attempt to scam us into believing a mass delusion and honestly, it is very, very successful.

An  established, long term meditation practice can help us cut through that delusion and begin to see the world as it truly is. Through the focus and training of our minds, we can discover what truly matters. Reality dawns around us in all of its breath-taking natural glory. Our eyes are opened and it is far more wonderful and beautiful than the delusion ever promised to be.

This is why I am changing around my priorities. This is why I am going to put meditation at the top of my list every single day. It won't be easy. Anything that truly matters rarely is easy. But it is doable and that is promise enough for me.

I want truth. I want beauty. I want to focus on what reality is and what matters. Ultimately I want release "I want" and simply dwell in the being.

May harmony find you my friends.

Monday, January 20, 2014

the Thief That is Worry

Yesterday was simply a lovely day. I spent time with my family, I painted, even cleaned up a little. It was not a big, exciting day but rather a quiet, lovely time filled with simple moments creating a memory of a beautiful day.

I love the path I am on with my life. Learning to control my emotions and letting go of the worry over things I have no control has freed me to see the stunning beauty in life. Since my mind is no longer continually focused on the uncertainties of tomorrow, I am free to delve into and savor the amazing beauty of the simple, quiet moments life has in abundance. These moments make them selves know to me as if they want me to notice and enjoy them.

When your mind continually races and frets, you miss so many important things. You may not see the delicate perfection of the first blooms of a Redbud tree. The enticing smell of wood smoke in your child's hair as you hold them close may elude you. You may not take the time to really experience the feeling of your child, full of trust and love for you, as they simply melt in your embrace. You may not realize that action conveys more feelings of warmth and happiness than mere words are able to describe. You may not catch the look in your lover's eye turning an everyday word or occurrence into a shared moment of internal laughter and intimacy. The moment the warmth of a new spring day invigorates your beloved, old arthritic dog to romp as if his world was new may be lost to you.

Worry and fretting has the power to take all of this from you. Let's have truth between us, ultimately it is these precious moments gifted to us that make our life truly worth living. Without them it is just a drone and hardship until we leave this life.

But you have the power to banish worry, mostly, from your mind. Armed with those small moments of beauty resonating deeply in your heart,you can no longer allow fretting and worry to have a hold in your mind. Each time it arises you can say, "Worry you are not welcome here today. I have done what I can to ensure the prosperity of my tomorrows and I will not think of it anymore." Then you turn your mind to what makes you happy, what brings a smile to your face, what brings peace into your heart. Each time worry threatens to upset your harmony, return to you list. Soon your natural inclination will be to see the abundance in your life rather than fear of what might happen.

I made this change started almost a decade ago. I promise you will not miss or mourn worry in your life. You will find joy and peace in the freedom banishing worry brings.

May harmony find you today my friends.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Creativity Explosion

That my friends is my very first mandala. I just love it. I am in the grip of a creativity explosion so this post may very well be disjointed but hey, the ride should be fun.

This picture was done on  December 31, 2013. Now I am not all about the New Year. We don't really do anything special. I don't do resolutions. It usually isn't a very big deal but this year has been special. I think it is more by chance than design I have experienced this huge life shift but whatever, I will happily go with it.

This past year I have really found my footing on my path.I have regained my brain after giving birth and dealing with a child sick for almost two years with reflux. (Seriously, you cannot function when you haven't slept more than 4 hours at a time in two YEARS!!). I have learned to let situations and people toxic to my family go without a lot of fretting. I say no to anything I deem detrimental to our harmony. I am now doing daily yoga, eating really well, getting plenty of exercise, and meditating more and more. Seriously folks, I am loving life. Yes, there are still difficulties and hardships. Yes, I still get sad, angry, and ever flirt with depression. But I have learned these things are transient and if I will just ride them out and choose joy wherever I can, they will soon pass away. On the flip side, I know wonderful and beautiful things will also pass way so take time to enjoy and cherish them.

I have also learned, I still have a big ego. I was really enjoying posting pics of my yoga "accomplishments". They were just so pretty and fabulous. Hello, see my big ego begging for approbation? Yep, so I am not really doing that anymore. Silly ego.

I am almost not raising my voice with my kids anymore. We practice gentle, nonviolent, non-shaming, parenting. But I was still finding myself losing my temper and yelling at my kids. Not cool. Um, how can I expect my children to learn self discipline and control themselves when I obviously couldn't??? So I started on a campaign to end it. I used a bracelet. That bracelet reminded me of my commitment to practice self discipline and self control. It has made me more mindful of my triggers. Surprise, surprise, often my triggers were stressers I had brought into the family by means of unrealistic expectations.

This January the 9th I will finish my first 108 Days of Mindfulness. It was amazing. I learned so much. I learned I don't like to mix me with alcohol. Even one drink makes me not mindful and I don't like that. Total personal choice but a choice I think may very well prevail in my life. This time has taught me to simplify even more. Streamline my life to really focus ONLY on those things which truly matter to me. Wow, so much I thought was important just doesn't matter at all to me. Learn something new all the time, huh?

This winter I have truly embraced my desire to be an introvert and hibernate. I still have moments of anxiety caused from SAD but overall it has been terrific. I have nothing scheduled, no work projects, home improvement, nothing but that which brings me joy until spring. I think my spring will explode with amazing projects imbued with refreshed and revitalized energy.

Okay, so all of this sort of brings me to right here, right now. I am having an artistic explosion. I am so interested in doing art, I am distracted in doing almost everything else. I am pretty sure this will settle down but for right now the kids are just doing art with me and my husband seems to be okay coming home to clouds of glitter and forgotten dinner.

You see, I have never "done" art before. How could I??? What if I wasn't instantly and applause worthy amazing at it???? What if it wasn't perfect?? Oh yes, this seems to be the place where my self doubts and self criticism tried to make their last stand. Well my friends, I am in the process of blowing them to smithereens. It is so absolutely mind-blowingly fantastically freeing and beautiful. I love it. I am starting a new art journal where anything goes. There is no right, no shoulds, just creation and it is so freaking amazing it makes my fingers and toes just tingle with the very thought of it.

So this year my sweet delightful friends, I shall do art and within that process I shall find even more of me.

May harmony (and creativity) find you.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Embracing Winter

I have never liked winter. Actually, I have actively despised it. It comes within a hairsbreadth of the H word for me. (That word is hate. A word I feel should never, ever be said lightly). My body aches and I have a problem staying warm. Throw in a delightful seasonal bout of SAD and wow, I just don't like it.

But lately, I have really been thinking about cycles. There are so many cycles affecting our lives, isn't there? Whether you are a man or a woman, I believe we have monthly cycles of high and low energy. The moon cycle affects the tides so I tend to believe it affects us as well. There is the cycle of life, the cycle of parenting, cycles cycles everywhere. There is a reason for these patterns. If we learn to key into them and adhere to them, we can find harmony. When we flow with them rather than resist them, we find peace.

So the cycle of seasons is a pretty dominant one. Now I adore the other three seasons. I really do. I can find beauty and reason in each of them. I joyfully celebrate their unique qualities. But oh, the cold, gray season of winter. What can it possibly be good for?????

Well, one thing it is good for is a very big lesson for me. Many years ago I stepped out of the rat race. I no longer glorify busy. Instead, I name it for the soul destroyer and precious time waster it is. I refuse to be yolked to it any longer. Even without busy, I am an active person. I am a doer. Yoga and meditation is slowly teaching me to be more of a be-er. It is hard for me but the rewards are great. I have come to the opinion winter may provide some of the biggest rewards of all.

Now this may be fully obvious to many of you but I was seriously astounded when I cobbled together the thoughts that perhaps, just perhaps, winter is a time to significantly slow down. Reverse those engines and reside in be-er mode for most of the time. What if winter is a time to rest??? fully rejuvenate??? dream new dreams taking this adventure of life down wild and wonderful paths???

Well, I think that is just what winter is and I am committing wholeheartedly. I have brought projects and new endeavors to a screeching halt. They are always such a fight to get done when my energy is low. Spring will come and if I am especially well rested, the will almost accomplish themselves. I am taking this time to curl up with a good book and my babies. We snuggle on the couch and laugh together. My daughter is such a deep thinker. These warm times wrapped up with a blanket is giving her the space to open her heart and talk to me about things so well thought and beautiful it takes my breath away.

I am doing maintenance to keep my seasonal depression away. Vitamin D supplements along with a daily vitamin helps. Rich, warming foods delight my senses and bring joy. I maintain a 3x a week workout schedule. I have no desire to increase or improve, just keep what I have.

I am still struggling with some aspects of winter but really, that is my ego, my desire to be in control. This time is teaching me to let go of even more control and submit to the whims of the seasonal cycle. It is a hard lesson for me but I think in the end it will prove to be one of the most wondrous.

Stay warm my friends