Judge or Jury?

I think you CAN judge a book by it’s cover. Isn’t that the point of the cover? The declaration that you CAN’T judge a book by it’s cover has always been a confusing one for me. We all have a story to tell and our covers reveal to the world exactly what we want others to judge us by. The way we decorate, or not decorate, ourselves each morning as we leave the house and go out into the world speaks volumes about who we are and even where we are going.

When we cross the line from judge to judgement is where we fall into peril. Is it natural to form opinions and judgements about others within the committee that lives in your head? Whether your thoughts and opinions about others are positive or negative is your own business, but be warned: The way you perceive and judge others may have more to do with yourself. How often do we use that same judgement on ourselves? How fair and impartial are you on yourself compared to how you judge others?

I can be pretty hard on myself. Why can’t I step on the scale and simply record a number in my head without the inner monologue about baby weight and not enough “me” time to work on it? Why do I even need to step on the scale at all? No reason really, other than to set the tone of my day: winning or defeated? Depends on the number. But, in the end, that’s all in my head. THAT is self-judgement and it isn’t making me happy.

Letting yourself be prisoner to harsh self-judgement is like being trapped under something heavy. What is gained through constantly being your worst critic and how do we learn this behavior? More importantly, how do we un-learn it. I’m digging deep. Then I’m digging deeper. I want to finally break through to my inner self and reveal the root of all this guilt and negative self-judgement. Now that I’ve picked up the pace and started to muster the courage to go deep, it feels like I’ve gone from a walk to a run. I pay more attention to my initial reaction to a situation instead of dismiss it and move on. I’m becoming an observer of how hard I can be on myself, and others, and I don’t like it. If I had a friend that was as hard on me as I am on myself, I would be very hurt. I need to stop hurting myself and start showing myself a lot more love and patience. I have a choice to be my own best friend or my own worst enemy.

It’s a lot more complicated to judge from the inside, but it’s easy to find the good in people, and yourself, if you try. I do believe that karma is only a bitch if you are.

Letting It Go

When I get up in the morning I know certain things need to get done, but I just can’t seem to get into a routine. Everything eventually gets accomplished and my daughters and I seem to leave the house with clothes on our backs and food in our bellies. My day turns into a series of hurried moments followed by hushed lulls in the action. I see most of the moments of chaos coming, yet I can’t always find a way to stay calm in the middle of all of it. I know it’s times like these that deplete me, but I also know there are things that need to get done. Avoiding these happenings is not an option. Changing how I handle myself is the only way to go.

I started to realize how many times I am in this type of situation these days….

Could this be the key? Is this what needs adjusting to make me happier? It’s possible. Definitely worth some attention. I have to concentrate on being mindful during these moments of chaos and stress and learn how to get through them without losing my cool. I have to clear these hurdles with my patience intact. I admit it, I need to learn to let things go.

Let things go….words that make me cringe. Such an easy fix. But how?

I need to disengage, loosen up and unbind, but not surrender. I need to let things float past me without judgement and continue on my way. Relinquish control and accept things for what they are. All of this is completely against not only my good judgement most of the time, but also my personality. But the truth is that holding on to all of this minutia is not serving me well. It’s not making me happy. To move forward on this journey I have to be willing to make changes. Some that I have never considered before. So, in the spirit of taking a giant leap toward my happy place, I am pledging to let things go. I’m going to loosen my grip and go with the flow. I think just making the decision to do this will serve me well and be the wind at my back.

The Zen of Running

“I only run when chased”.  That used to be my response whenever the subject of running for sport ever came up in conversation.  I have always been secretly jealous of people that can tie up their gym shoes and run out their front door and enjoy it.  I’ve never enjoyed running.  I tried track in high school and quit immediately.  But my curiosity is peaked with so many people in my life lately talking about running and the happiness and sense of accomplishment it brings.  The hulabaloo over running a 5k or a marathon always peaks my interest as well.  It’s time for me to consider why I have always discounted running as a sport for someone else.

So I gave it a try.  I mapped out a 2 mile route in my car and decided to try it out.  At first there was a lot more walking than running and my times were far from impressive.  But, even after only a few runs and some seriously sore legs, I’m starting to understand what all the talk is about.  I’m happily surprised at how rewarding it feels to set a goal and run out my front door!

I’m starting to see all the benefits of running compared to some of the other types of exercise I’ve been doing.  I come home exhausted with a huge sense of accomplishment 20-30 minutes later instead of two hours later after a one hour class.  The roads are always open, and free, so no fitting in a class or driving anywhere and paying a fortune.  I just tie my shoes and go!  I can go in any direction, stop and start as I please and challenge myself any way I want.  There is no one out there looking at me or keeping track of what I can or cannot do.  It’s completely my own.  I benefit directly when I make the effort and I don’t benefit when I decide to slack.  No fake turning the resistance button on a spinning bike.

I have not started to focus on my breathing or form too much.  Right now I’m just working on not falling down.  I know that my body knows how to reward itself for this hard work, so now I am searching for the key to unlock the endorphins and let my brain chemistry work for me.  I’m hoping to go from running on empty to discovering the zen of running.

Be The Owl

I talk too much and I wear my heart on my sleeve.  A dangerous combination that leads to vulnerability.  If I can stop blabbering and be a little less transparent, I may be able to take another step toward happiness.

Native Americans believe that animals have unique meaning and power.  An animal guide, or spirit animal, can appear to you in a dream or in the physical world.  Whether or not you believe in the power or presence of animals as guides, they still have many important lessons to teach.  Native Americans used animal traits to teach their children lessons the way we use fairy tales and myths.  They used the world around them and what was available in their surroundings to impart knowledge and wisdom.  Every culture uses this practice in some way, but something about this Native American tradition speaks to me.  I’ve always had much respect for the simple, natural way they view the world with respect and awe.

Eleven years ago, I was in a bit of a low valley of my life and during a trip to Arizona to visit friends and regroup I stepped outside to enjoy the warm night air.  As I sat and let my mind wander in search of answers, I looked up and saw an owl.  We stared at each other for a long time.  In that time, my mind was quiet for what felt like the first time.  You never know where comfort and peace will come from, but being able to recognize those moments and draw from them is important.  Enlightening moments will not always show themselves as obvious as an owl looking down on you in the midst of a troubled time, so I need to learn to pay more attention even during the chaos in which I exist at times.

Since that night in Arizona, I believe that the owl had something to teach me.  Whether I was meant to have that chance encounter or I read too much into it, I drew knowledge and wisdom from that moment:  I need to be more like that owl.  I need to quiet my mouth to quiet my mind.  I need to learn to take in more and disclose less.

The truth is, that moment happened over a decade ago and I have still not been able to translate that insight into my life.  I’ve often gone back to that night in my mind, but haven’t known how to apply it.  As part of my happy promise, I pledge to unearth the premise that being more owl-like will lead to more happiness.

Tea Bag Wisdom

A woman is like a tea bag.  You never know how strong it is until it’s in hot water.  – Eleanor Roosevelt

Your work is to discover your world and then with all your heart give yourself to it. – The Buddha

The quieter you become the more you are able to hear. – Lao Tzu

My afternoon cup of tea has become the small bit of ME time that I can carve into just about everyday.  I’ve jazzed it up a bit by trying some new teas and even letting myself add a cookie.  It’s important to bring a snack on a long journey.  Heating the water, grabbing my favorite mug, picking a tea…all menial tasks that prepare me to have a few minutes to sit, sip and take it easy.  I find that while being mindful, I can find pleasure in all of those small steps.  Being in the moment and not letting my thoughts wander to past mistakes or future stressors is like a gift I can give myself in the midst of a busy day.  When I stop and feel grateful for the time I am taking for myself I feel like I have made a small step in the right direction.

Most of the teas I have discovered include a bit of zen wisdom to enjoy while I am idle.  The words on each tag can influence the thoughts I have during my down time.  Some seem cynical or sarcastic, but some actually read like an impressive Facebook status and spark my interest.  However you get your Zen inspiration, add a bit of mindfulness to create an opportunity to honor yourself and soak in the positivity.  If I take time off from my day and let all the negative thoughts seep in I would be wasting my time.  No sense in heating up water just to stew in my own negative thoughts.  No stew for you!  You’d just be getting yourself in hot water.

This is my mind space and that is your mind space.  The thoughts I hold in my head are my responsibility and the only one they hurt, or benefit, is myself.  The only person who can control, and clear, my mind space is myself.

I worry a lot and it doesn’t serve me well.  My worries are my training wheels and I’ve never been able to take them off.  Our problems and stressors make up who we are as much as our individual quirks and unique pasts.  Why do we cling to our problems and let them create who we are?  Is pain a crutch too easy to lean on that we can’t even consider letting go out of fear we will not be able to stand without them?  If I stop worrying about something will that alone make it happen?  Why is it so hard to let go and just be happy in the moment?

I’m ready to let it go.  I’m ready to be happy.  I want to take off my training wheels and I’m finally open to learning how to do it.  The first step was learning to calm and clear my mind.  Any time a negative thought, or any thought that I don’t want, sneaks into my head, I now mentally bat it to the side like I’ve reached the end of a line on an old typewriter.  Ding!  I let it go.  I visualize that thought flying out of my head and enjoy the peace that replaces it.  This works well in a quiet room by myself or in a state similar to meditation, but the next step is being able to put this into play during the chaos that makes up my daily life.  Although I haven’t quite mastered that part of it, I’m better off for having put this practice into play.  I’m able to enjoy a quiet mind more often and THAT is a win.

So once you leave the calm and serenity of your own physical space, the trick is to covet and protect your mind space in the same way.  Something I can take with me that has a lot of power over my thoughts is music.   Certain songs have the power to immediately change my thoughts.  Sometimes I know exactly which song I need to hear and other times I surf my favorite radio stations, but either way music has the power to clear and change my mind space.  Another thing that can propel me out of a moment quickly is a certain smell.  I’ve started to learn more about Aromatherapy lately.  I know now that it goes beyond that chance fleeting whiff of a cologne that reminds you of your high school boyfriend and being whisked away in your mind to those feelings
of teenage puppy love.  Different smells elicit different memories and feelings.  Some smells can actually have a strong effect on how we feel by tapping into the part of the brain responsible for regulating feelings, emotions, memory, learning, and physical drives.  The result can be sedating, relaxing, stimulating, or euphoric in effect.  A great place to learn more about Aromatherapy is Karma Healing Solutions.

I want to let go of my worries and start to move easier down this path toward being happy.  “If you let go a little, you will have a little peace. If you let go a lot, you will have a lot of peace.”  Ajahn Chah


I’m a Gypsy

I am not a creature of habit.  Instead of a daily routine, I’d say I follow more of an outline.  I seem to approach exercise the same way.  I like to jump from activity to activity with the goal of burning some calories and easing some stress.  During my very scarce free time these days, I can be found ice skating, hiking, doing yoga, kickboxing or riding my bike aimlessly around my neighborhood.  So, as much as I’d like to have more “yoga” moments in my life, I also need some time to rock it out and sweat my day away. This week I decided to try doing it on a spinning bike.  I went to a class last night after dragging myself away from my family all nestled in my house and getting ready for bed leaving daddy to enjoy the bedtime routine.  As much as I love bedtime with my kids, Momma needs a night off once in a while if I’m gonna find this mythical happy place.

When I walked into the spinning class, the lights were bright and people seemed pretty relaxed doing their pre-class preparations.  As people wiped down their bikes and found a home for their water bottles and towels, I found my own bike and started to spin my wheels.  Out of nowhere, the teacher roared in like a bullet from a gun, turned the lights way down, the music way up and the room exploded with energy!  We all spun our butts off in the dark keeping form and wiping our brows for the entire hour until the mood came to a screeching halt and the hour was over.  It’s almost disturbing how quickly those kinds of situations start and stop so unnaturally fast.  All the riders scattered quickly, like gypsies, when the class was over, all seeming to have no problem punching their off buttons.  I reached my goal of burning those calories, but was left feeling almost lonely walking back to my car.  It was such an intense experience.  My ears were still ringing when I got home, like I’d been to a concert.  It took me a while to come down from that.  I may not get to my happy place riding a stationary bike.  I think tomorrow I’ll go back to yoga.

I’m not sure I can make a habit out of that spinning class, that just wouldn’t be me.

Yoga is life

If only I could approach my life the way I approach a yoga class, maybe that would make me happy….

I approach my yoga classes with strong intention: To take a full hour to quiet my mind and strengthen my body and soul.  I walk in, turn off my phone and step onto the mat knowing I will focus only on my own well being for the duration of the class.  I always leave a class feeling refreshed and calm which is the state I wish I could enjoy more often than I do these days.  Much like life in general, I have a deep respect for yoga even though I am still a beginning student even after over a decade of attending classes.  Even though I have a strong desire to dive deeper and study the roots of yoga, I seem to stay at the surface of the practice and enjoy the shallow benefits that I can feel within a one hour class.

I love the idea of a group of people gathering with positive intentions in a peaceful way to achieve wellness.  I like the idea of yoga for the same reasons I like the idea of observing the Sabbath.  When you remove the religion and culture from both, the basic goal of each are pure in nature and focus on gathering with like minded people to pay resect to yourself and those around you.  Both practices can be easily translated to our current life situation and both allow practitioners to slow down, unplug and get back to basics.  All of this is what I need more of in my life, but the challenge is being able to contain the feeling I have during a yoga class and translate it to my life in general.

I can fall pretty deep into my mind during a class, and I’m always trying to be mindful of what my body is telling me.  Also much like life, the minute I take my attention off of myself and try to catch a glimpse of what others are accomplishing I loose my balance and then my focus…or is it the other way around?  Learning to keep my focus and keep my intentions clear and pure will serve me well in my yoga practice and in turn in my life in general.  So, having yoga in my life may get me closer to living a more yoga life.

A Relaxed Mind

It turns out that drinking tea called “Relaxed Mind” does not alone a relaxed mind make.  So, it’s gonna take more than a cup of tea to achieve this goal.  My mind races most of the time.  It’s hard to relax your body when you can’t relax your mind, so in the midst of being mindful I realized the volume of thoughts racing around in every moment.  I needed to slow this down to start the process of getting happy.  So, I needed to find something that could relax my mind and peak my interest.  I needed a healthy, positive distraction that could help me relax and get happy.  Focusing on spirituality seemed to fit the bill.

I’ve always been interested in focusing more on my spirituality, so when I began thinking about relaxing my mind and calming my thoughts a few things came to mind:  yoga, meditation, dream interpretation and Reiki.  Since dreaming was the easiest and most familiar, I started there.  After a few visits with my holistic life coach, I began to understand the importance of writing down and evaluating my dreams.  It’s amazing how much insight to yourself is contained in your own dreams.  Having a wise, insightful guide delve into those dreams and what they mean can shine a light on some of the things that are so easy to look past in your own mind.  I think it’s normal to push past the tough thoughts and try to make the dreams fit what you want them to mean, but revealing them to another person and letting them interpret and decipher the symbols and intricacies of your dreams can be liberating.  Even after sharing only a few dreams, I was able to start taking a new look at how I was feeling.  This path felt right.  I wanted to keep going.  It was already starting to make me feel….happy!

My success with dream interpretation led to learning a new tool…guided visualization and meditation. I quickly realized that in order to meditate I needed to really commit to having a more relaxed mind and that is a whole other cup of tea.

On Being Mindful

Before I can start making changes, it’s important to start evaluating the things that need changing.  Intentional mindfulness is an acute awareness of how you feel and react in each moment, the goal being to begin practicing this without judgement on yourself.  Being aware of every thought, feeling and intention can be hard to take, but it allows me the ability to start taking inventory of the things holding me back and standing in the way of my happiness.  This level of reflection seemed difficult, and throw in a dose of reality and it can be beyond challenging.  I’m in the midst of raising 2 toddlers and find myself focused far more on their needs than on my own.  Being able to stop and focus on myself seemed selfish and irresponsible at first.  Anytime I tried to take any kind of moment for myself, even taking a bath, I had overwhelming feelings of guilt that I was wasting the time I was supposed to be spending on my daughters.  But, as I move through my days now with the intention of being mindful, I realize that I can benefit from some time to myself to recharge and collect myself.  I now recognize that it is important to identify the things that fill me up and the things that deplete me so that I can move closer to my goal.  So, I am now an intentionally mindful person moving through my days with the goal of learning how to become a happier person.  Just making the decision to learn more about myself has helped me to move towards learning to “let things go” in an effort to actually figure out how to achieve a more relaxed mind in the midst of any chaos.  So, I’m starting to take a long, hard look and hoping to benefit just from being open to it.

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