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

Sunday, October 28, 2012

5 For 15 For November

I am on an infinite journey to improve myself and my life. I truly enjoy making changes that make me a stronger, centered, and happier person. I will be honest, it isn't easy and often it means I have to look some rather nasty demons in the face. It is hard but it is the only way to deal with them and then banish them with my life.

I have been attempting to do this for decades. I failed so much more often than I succeeded mainly because I was a perfectionist and tended to go insane and try to change every single facet of my life....right now. You can probably guess what a resounding success that was....not. Finally 8 years ago I committed to the long haul. I decided to firmly put myself on this path and trudge along slow and steady. Because you see, slow and steady truly does win the race.

In the beginning, I had an unyielding vision of what my life should be. This is what good health would look like. This is what would ultimately make me happy. This is exactly how I would be a perfect parent. Oops, did you see that word? Yep, perfect. Perfect, in many instances, should be classified as a yucky word. The pursuit of perfection and rigid demand of perfectionism we drape across our shoulders like a lead cape is the culprit responsible for a great deal of pain and misery.

Even with these unrealistic expectations, I took the first step and stopped drinking soda. Just a little thing but it was the quiet herald of my new life. Over the following months, I made baby steps such as eating 3  servings of veggies a day, exercising 3  days a week, going to bed at an earlier time, etc. Approximately every 6-8 weeks it was time to assess my life and implement a new change.

The strangest thing happened as I focused on one thing at a time. (Imagine that, keeping my mind present and living intentional made a huge difference.) That burden of perfectionism I insisted on lugging around lightened. That voice berating me for every failure, real or imagined, lay dormant more often. The experience of making these changes had began to teach me grace, self love, and a fluidity of goals and aspirations. I laughed easier, rested well, and true joy and gratitude started pouring into my life.

I am a vastly different person today. My priorities are radically different. My journey is ongoing but instead of being focused on a definite end goal, I am loving the experience of the organic whole. The journey really is the point, I guess.

But with that in mind, I have new focuses for November. I have already started them because I was ready and excited. These changes are a joy for the most part rather than a fearful undertaking so I normally jump into the next challenge. I love the idea of focusing on a few things but in small bites. So I came up with the idea of working on 5 things with a 15 minutes a day commitment. Here they are:

1. 15 minutes of yoga- a sustained yoga practice is a true boon in my life. My kids aren't always cooperative with the hour practice but 15 minutes is workable.

2. 15 minutes of meditation- Meditation has been transformative in my life. I am really a novice at this practice. You really need at least 20 minutes to calm your mind and then everything after is the sweet spot. But see above about those littles. You do what you can.

3. 15 minutes of quality reading- I love to read but since my head was flooded pregnancy hormones I have a hard time focusing on much more than fluff. But I believe this problem is now more a matter of habit. So I will be reading classics, nonfiction, etc. I have a new interest in astronomy. That will be great reading.

4. 15 minutes of reading to the kids- I am sure I don't need to tell you how important it is to read to your children. We do read but lately it has been sporadic. I want consistency in this area.

5.  15 minutes of purging and decluttering- Living a more minimalist lifestyle will greatly benefit the flow, stress level, and quality of life in our home. It will be my version of minimalism but to accomplish this, I must purge and declutter. If it is not beautiful to one of us or useful, it is out of here.

Understand 15 minutes are the least amounts. If the kids and I are reading for over an hour, great. When I have the opportunity to fit in a 90 minute yoga session, you know I will. But these small bites make the habits  more easily fit into my life. That is the key, get them in there and they will flourish either in the natural order of things or in later focuses.

So this is how I do it. I have completely overhauled my life and have come to really love the process. I hope you find a journey filled with joy as well.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Blink....and Then It Is Gone

For the first time in over 3 years my children have been letting me sleep until the late, late hour of 6:30 am. On some fabulous mornings, it is been 7 am. Yes, I know I am easily pleased. Only a parent with a poor sleeping child can understand my joy and elation.

One morning, very recently, the was a decision made behind my back to revisit the excitement and joy of the 5 am wake up call for momma. I am sure you understand how just delighted I was. I staggered down the stairs in a desperate search for coffee trying to remind myself that these little creatures were not purposely trying to torture me. I admit, I was a hard sell. After walking into a few walls, one of which I am positive I apologized to, I blundered out the door to let dogs out.

And there I found such startling beauty. The predawn sky was a rich black satin filled with an amazingly bright multitude of stars. I could identify the summer triangle and Orion's belt without even trying. The stillness of the morning enveloped me as I stood mesmerized by the pure loveliness of the night sky.

I shook myself and called to my eternal star gazer, my fairy princess, my moon child who often calls to me in the evening to share the beauty of the sky. I called her out into a quiet, still world of wonder. I held her in my arms, her sleepy head resting against my shoulder. In reverent whispers we shared our joy, our amazement of the scene unfurled before us.

What an incredible gift the sky was to me. The fact I was able to share it with my daughter, beyond abundance.

Later in the week, my puckish little boy was tired and starting feel unwell. My jokester was not only not funny, he was not amused. He was cranky and irritable and every thing I did was unpleasing. I was trying to make the beds and he launched himself into another meltdown. Thankfully, I switched my head from chores to seeing what my love needed. That doesn't always happen I am sad to say. I pulled the sheets back down and climbed into bed asking him to snuggle with me. With a tearful, "NO!", he climbed into bed.

There I laid, cradling my youngest, my tired baby in my arms. His sobs turned to snuffles which soon quietly eased away. As I stroked his hair he said, "Momma, I no feel good." I know my baby boy, I know. We stayed there for such a long time, curled in each others arms. My little one quieted down and was able to rest for a time.

There is a lesson in both of these stories for me. Slow down. Don't get so caught up in life you forget to live the moments. It is within the moments the true beauty of life happens. Stop trying to cross off your to do list and start living out your just being.

Because I know this my friends, you just blink... and these precious moments are gone.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

How Do You Live Your Life?

In my meditation class we were discussing Right Livelihood. I have to be honest, I thought I was going to get a freebie on this one. I thought this was all about how do you earn your money and is it ethical. Well, I was in the clear, I don’t work outside the home and my husband is one of the most ethical people I have ever met. Cool! Of course not only was that not the case, it is probably one of the more important subjects for me and where I have a lot of work to do.

It really comes down to how do you live your life. How is your time spent? Where is your mind when you are doing….well, anything? Are you using things as an escape to get away from your life? How are you using the very limited precious moments of life each one of us has? Le sigh, lots of work have I.

I think those answers will be different for everyone  I think the distractions and hindrances will be different. It all depends on your motivation.  There is not a hard fast list of rules for anyone and everyone to follow. You know it won’t be that easy.

I have spent a great deal of time really thinking about this subject. What is going on with me and my life? Am I wasting my time? How can I do better?

I know first and foremost the internet, especially Facebook, is a mind -numbing time suck for me. Surprised? No, I am not either. However, I really don’t want to leave either. As far as the computer, it would be very hard to do without it.  Our home school groups, banking, bills, weather, heck since we only do Netflix even our TV needs the computer. Truthfully, I don’t want to leave Facebook. I may be deluding myself but Facebook has given me the means to encourage and connect with some amazing people. These people simply would not be available without it. I honestly believe I have the self discipline to conquer this problem.

There are other distractions for me. Re-reading fluffy books, puttering and doing not much of anything, some mindless tv watching. Let me be clear, I do not think anyone of these things are bad or objectionable in or of themselves, not at all. But if I am using them to escape life, different than relaxing, then they are a problem.

These things may not seem to be a big deal but to me they are. If they lure me away from living a mindful, loving, intentional life then they are a hindrance. My goal is to strive to reach a very high bar I have set for myself. Will I ever reach perfectly? No, but that is okay. It is the effort and journey that matter. They are the true gain.

Ultimately, I am looking to live a life of peace, true kindness, and focus. Now I am aware of the obstacles I can look at the positive things I can do to achieve this life. Meditation and a daily yoga practice are strong factors in this equation. In a very short time, it has become clear my life is far more balanced and I have a greater beginning peace each day with these practices present. They are very important to me.

Nature is also a huge factor for me. The children and I have been hiking a lot. At least once a week and some weeks even more. The moment I step out onto a trail peace and tranquility surround me just as much as the woods. I find my focus clearing and sharpening almost immediately. The transformation is so quick and so strong it almost takes my breath away.

My environment is very important to me. My true nature is empathic. I feel the emotions present around me deeply and fully. Yes, I can raise defenses and keep out those emotions but that effort takes a great deal of energy. I find it so draining. Therefore I have decided for now to avoid situations and conversations filled with anger, unkindness, complaining, and divisive energy. You do not need to tell me how ironic my timing is and how alone I may be considering the hotly contested Presidential election looming! But so be it.

There are so many people I truly love and care for but I just don’t have the energy for their anger and pain right now. I think that is okay. I really do. Perhaps one day I can be help to them but I know I won’t be helpful at all if I don’t get my own house together proverbial speaking. Draining myself completely would just serve to cheat my immediate family and myself of my love, care, and energy. That is not an acceptable sacrifice at this time.

So here I am pondering how do I live my life. I truly want to live each moment as fully and intentionally as possible. Since perfection isn't going to happen, then I would like to live as many moments as I can in a mindfully loving manner. I realize this is my story, my legacy I am creating here. This is the life my children and perhaps others will someday look back on as an example. What kind of example, well that is up to me.

Monday, October 1, 2012

False Humility: Be Gone!!

False humility and self deprecating behavior has been on my mind lately. I am really taken aback at all the women I find who practice these behaviors on a daily basis. I have no idea why running yourself down and not owning up to the hard work you have done is somehow equated with “lady-like” behavior. It absolutely boggles my mind and deeply saddens me. I have heard beautiful, educated, amazing women run themselves down better than a steam roller could have. If I didn't know them better and only relied on what they said about themselves I would think they were stupid, lazy, incompetent, not very bright, oh and of course, fat. This seriously just breaks my heart.

Okay, okay now I think a lot of this might come from the fear, yes the fear, of appearing prideful or arrogant. Did you catch that? Appearing. Not really being but appearing. I have a wonderful fix for that. Let people know the real, wonderful you and then they will know you are not a prideful jerk. Live your life openly, honestly, and with true authenticity, and there won’t be a question. Oh yes, and above all else, Please stop caring what everybody else thinks!! It really doesn't matter at all in the grand scheme of things. Live a life of integrity and exhibit true love, grace, and compassion and let the rest fall where it may.

I wonder, however, if it isn’t from a deeper place for many women. I wonder if there isn't a different fear. A fear of rejection, a fear of ridicule, a fear that someone else is going to say something nasty about us or to us so let’s just say something nasty about ourselves first. Not the best logic, perhaps, but I think this is a highly probable explanation. I think there is a multitude of women who really think they are worthless, deep down inside.

I promise you my sweet, beautiful friend, you are not worthless. You are priceless. You are more amazing than you give yourself credit. You do not need to run yourself down and if anyone runs you down, kick their critical butts to the curb..

There is another factor. If we claim we have done the work or we are ready, then oh my goodness what if we fail?? What will be say?? (Hint, stop caring!!) Okay, so I am training for a marathon. I am putting in my runs and doing all the work I am supposed to do.  I spend many hours running like a bored little gerbil on a dreadmill and many more hours running the same 5 mile loop. I lift. I work out my core. I eat right. In short (I know, too late!) I am doing everything I can do to prep for this marathon. So when the time comes and someone asks me if I am ready, I am going to say yes I am. Because I will be. I did the work.

Uh oh, but what if I fail???? What if I don’t finish or get hurt or implode in a cloud of sparkles??? Again, who cares??? It doesn't matter. I did the work. I was ready but there is still an element of chaos within those parameters. And if someone wants to run me down and talk about me because I didn't finish what I tried to do. then I have to be honest, that person is pretty much the last person that would matter to me. Seriously, that would earn you a trip right outside the circle of people who I care to listen to today or ever. Buh-bye.

I think it is beyond important that we mirror a true assessment of ourselves, both our strengths and weaknesses. I think this is true, this is honest. To be blunt, anything else is actually a lie. It is important not only for ourselves but for our children. Our children think we are the most amazing things in the world. When they are young, we are their world. If they hear us constantly talking about ourselves like we are worthless refuse, then how do you think they are going to feel about themselves?

In the end, it all comes down to fear. Well I say face your fear and find your courage and be the amazing person you truly are.

Oh, and I WILL be ready for the marathon but if I implode in a cloud of sparkles, it would be pretty darn cool.