Revitalizing the Triad of Sorrow

Pain throws your heart to the ground

Love turns the whole thing around

No, it won’t all go the way it should

But I know the heart of life is good

– The Heart of Life, John Mayer

melancholy man sunset

They say bad things tend to happen in threes. As ominous as that may sound, I’ve experienced these superstitious threesomes on more than a few occasions. But, I wonder, do bad things really happen three in a row, or do we get caught up in negative thought patterns and seek out more bad after the first one appears? What if we changed that?

What if we simply let ourselves focus on one sad occurrence and show it proper respect on it’s own? What if we could be open to feeling our feelings and discover what purpose that feeling is meant to serve us? I believe the energy that you put out there attracts more of the same back to you. So instead of saying, “When it rains, it pours”, actively and mindfully notice the “rain” and dance in it. Endure the experience with the strength and fortitude that is your birth right. Before you say “I can’t…” maybe try a new way. Before you blame a self instigated negative pattern on an emotion, pause to question how that is serving you and remember that “the heart of life is good”.

Our human experience allows us to feel and revel in so many different emotions that we often miss the opportunity to actually be aware and sensitive to those perceptions. So many missed opportunities to feel our feelings without judgement (good, bad or otherwise) because we are too caught up in forcing culturally learned thought and behavior patterns attached to those emotions. Why do we not question some of these norms that spin us off into a negative divergence? These are the opportunities for small changes that can have major impact on your overall wellbeing. Gather your strength and create more positivity.

So, for my dear friends who have been hurt and saddened by the heartbreak of my recent triad of sorrow, I wrap my loving arms around you and hope you can find peace. I will see them each as a separate loss, feel a bit somber, reflect on my relationship with you, and wish there was more that I could do knowing full well you all have to deal with your own grief in your own way. I’m here with an open heart and two willing ears should you need to vent, cry or just chat with a friend.   

Instead of just accepting every melancholy cultural expectation attached to loss, I challenge you to get in touch with your own human emotions and sort through them in your own way and in your own time. Allow yourself to feel, don’t think, just feel. These experiences do not define the person you are, they are a part of the story that you create for yourself everyday.

“Someone I loved once gave me a box of darkness. It took me years to understand that this, too, was a gift.” -Mary Oliver

gratitude to StefaninLA from morguefile.com for the beautiful yet somber photo above that fits so well with my message today. Namaste.

My Self-Love Top 10

votewithmyfeet

As the Dalai Lama said, “Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible.” I believe he was not just talking about being kind to others, I believe he was talking about being kind to yourself. Kindness has been very much on my mind lately and I’m trying to live what I’m learning and practice what I’m preaching. I’m trying.

Lately life has been a strategic game of priorities vs. enjoyment. I’m trying to get all the important stuff done while still including some fun for myself, not always an easy task. Truth be told, none of this is possible if the self that you use to perform all of these life tasks is not functioning at optimal levels. We need to keep self-kindness at the forefront in order to accomplish anything else. So, for that reason, consider the things that you do to take care of yourself. I try very hard to not allow the self-care items on my daily to-do list be the things that get ignored when time is running short. Always make time for yourself. Always.

So what do you do to show yourself love? Here are some simple things that I do to show kindness to myself that make a big impact on my ability to feel at peace. Because when I feel angry, sad or disappointed, I’m not as likely to show myself any kindness. It’s an ongoing circle and balancing act of kindness, responsibility and effort.

Here are the top 10 things that I try and do for myself everyday…

1. I drink water. I try to drink as much water as I can everyday. The days that I don’t make it a priority, my body feels different and I always regret it.

2. I breathe. I never hesitate to take a moment and just breathe for a bit. I stop what I’m doing, fill my lungs with air and let it out slowly. Breathe. 

3. I play. Whether it’s with my dog, my kids or just being silly with a friend, I always feel better when I let loose and just play for a while.

4. I say no. I don’t let guilt get in the way of allowing myself to say no if I feel like it. I don’t always have to have a good reason, I just have to give myself permission to not do everything.

5. I unplug. I like to put my phone on silent and turn it over so I’m not tempted to check it. Unplugging leads to being present, and being present leads to enjoying the moment.

6. I sleep. 7-8 hours. Every night. Period.

7. I say thank you. When someone does something nice for me, whether it’s big or small, I make sure and say thank you. I make sure and show that I am grateful.

8. I speak my truth. I’m not one to mince words, I tell it like it is. Speaking my truth makes me feel good.

9. I eat mindfully. I pay attention to when and what I’m eating and I make a major effort to be as healthy as possible. It often takes a bit of extra effort, and sometimes self-control, but in the end it’s worth it to pay attention to what I put in my body.

10. I vote with my feet. When I am present it means I want to be there and it shows people that I care enough to make an effort. I show up. Excuses are easy, but when I know it really matters, I make an effort to be there.

What’s on your list? Have you done any of them today? There is still time, but now is the best time. Now.

gratitude to 5demayo for the perfect photo from morguefile.com to show how lucky we are to be able to vote with our feet

Discovering my Om

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Meditation has been a vibrating part of my journey and has shown itself in many forms.  Whether it falls to the background and lays silent or resonates loudly, I constantly feel the presence of Om and all I have learned about it’s value which reflects no beginning or end and embraces all things.  The quest for a quiet mind and a mindful existence can be elusive at times and a calm partner in others.

Many have mentioned to me that they struggle with the idea of meditation and the thought of sitting still in silence for long periods of time.  This is when I refer them to the Zen Proverb “You should sit in meditation for twenty minutes every day, unless you’re too busy.  Then you should sit for an hour.”  It’s about shifting your mindset from being busy to having priorities.  There is always a choice.

When I began meditating, I was told to imagine a white room and as thoughts came into my head acknowledge them as if they entered through one door and then escort them out another door on the opposite side of the room.  In the beginning, I remember thinking:

“I am sitting here all alone in this imagined room with all of these thoughts!”

As I sat in meditation that became:

“I am here in this room with my thoughts.”

As I sat more and more often that evolved to:

“I am here in this room” 

and then:

“I am here”

Eventually, I was able to get to:

“I am”

and now I feel like I am approaching

“Om”.

Tonight I attended a Gong Meditation Bath with Gong Spirit along side some of my close friends.  It was nice to sit in silent awe of these ancient therapeutic sounds with every frequency tapping into different parts of my meditation.  I sank deep, and I appreciated the time.  I feel a major difference when I sit in silence and when I meditate with sound.  The gong is a stress reliever and a mood enhancer.  My body had a natural calming response from the first sound.  Time had no meaning, there was no time and plenty of time.  The sound of the gong is at once a driving force and a calming lull.  A gamut of emotions are experienced, confusion comes into focus.

All too often we jump to a conclusion or make a snap decision or judgement.  The next time you have the opportunity to make a move in the game of life, try meditation.  Your final result may be a more relaxed response to your true self.  For this lesson from the gong I am grateful.

photo taken on a meditation walk in Sarasota, Florida

My Version of Eat, Pray, Love

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With a mindful attempt at focusing on my heart-mind connection, I set off on my own version of Eat, Pray, Love except mine was more Spa, Solace, Family.  Along the way, I got a chance to settle into a few versions of myself that I normally don’t get to enjoy.  At home, “me time” normally lasts a few hours at most and is spent in the aisles of the grocery store or meeting a friend for coffee.  The luxury of unwinding and relaxing into myself was a welcomed gift.  I was hoping to mindfully direct attention toward some of my less attended to “parts” that had been neglected for far too long.  I needed to find balance, I needed to find harmony.  I was lacking the sense of wholeness that yields happiness and like the tin man waiting impatiently rusting in the field, my parts needed to be oiled.  During three recent and varied journeys, I was able to enjoy and reflect on how variation and taking a break can help you reflect and achieve balance.

My first journey took me to Mii Amo Spa in Sedona, Arizona where I was able to enjoy a bit of pampering and spiritual growth along side two wonderful girlfriends and a few other amazing ladies we met along the way.  It was an inspirational few days spent among the red rocks enjoying hiking, massages, chakra balancing, meditation, and even a bath of milk and honey.  I had time to do some beneficial spiritual reflection and left feeling light and energized, ready to get back to my life with a sense of desire to apply what I had discovered to my daily life.  Interesting that some time away from my life brought me a keener sense of reality.

The next leg of my journey took me out of the red rocks and into Phoenix where I dropped off my traveling companions and checked myself into a beautiful hotel in Scottsdale to spend some time alone.  I got to catch up with a few close friends, but this time was about going inside and staying within myself for a change.  I didn’t know how much I had needed this time alone until I took it and the balance it gave me was both welcomed and surprising.  Sometimes it’s not clear where the balance will come from or where the pieces will fit until you gently let them fall at you and find their place.  Letting go and following the flow has it’s own quiet calm, like watching water rise and fill crevices and trusting and knowing that it knows just where to go.

A week later I was off on yet another vacation to relax as a family and let my daughters spend some quality time with their grandparents in Florida.  A different type of trip completely where I was reminded that having us all together is what life is all about.  Family is love and love is family.

From these three experiences, I felt balance.  I see the need for all of these kinds of escapes to recharge and gain momentum in different ways.  Finding this kind of balance has been a missing part of my self-care, and I plan to explore more ways to get out of my comfort zone and take a little more time for myself.  I’ve been shown that a bit of true “me time” is good for my balanced soul.  There is a fine line between self-care and being selfish and the debate continues over where that line exists.  The truth is that it looks different for everyone and getting to know yourself and your needs make that line clear as day.  It’s possible to find solace and pockets of time to recharge and reflect reasonably within your own life, but getting out of your life and having new experiences always presents the opportunity for added perspective.  And, though the true definition of balance may literally mean ‘even distribution’, sometimes just a bit of divergence can lead to a major shift and provide the balance you need.

photo taken at Mii Amo Spa in Sedona, Arizona

It’s Not Easy Being Zen

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Finding and keeping your balance means existing with a connection between your heart and your mind.  When what you desire and what you consciously believe are in harmony, you have peace.  Balance is a fickle, tricky ongoing orchestra of moving parts and effort.  Having balance leads to being happy.  Happiness is having a sense of wholeness, that all your parts have enough attention and love.  Like mothering multiple children, all of your many parts need attention and kindness in different ways.  Each part needs and deserves your undivided, mindful attention and energy to attend to it’s needs of the moment.  But in this busy life, it’s hard to find the time to focus on ourselves let alone separate that time out into finding time to attend to each part of ourselves.  So, balance often remains elusive, but with some reflection you can achieve congruence in heart and mind.

The more you have piled on your shoulders, the harder it is to achieve balance.  Whether weighed down by obligation or caught up in unfounded theories behind why life has handed you certain challenges, a good way to regain balance is to begin by figuratively and literally putting it all down to consider what you need.  Imagine an overly cluttered room.  In your mind, remove every bit of furniture, artwork, clutter, anything in that room to get down to a bare space where you can begin again.  Mindfully refurnish that room with only the things that you need and desire.  How did that room feel before?  How does it feel now?  Which room would you rather live in?

Finding balance may be easiest when you don’t try so hard.  I struggled and stretched inside my box and felt trapped and limited, but when I unplugged and left it all behind for a while I took some meaningful steps farther down my path.  A few recent getaways did the trick.  I took some “me time”.  Now that I’m back from my version of Eat, Pray, Love (blog post coming soon) I feel recharged and ready to step back into my daily routine with renewed vigor and enthusiasm.  Everyone needs a break from their worries and in coming back to life with a clear head we are better able to find our balance.

After taking some time to separate out and care for my parts that needed attention I feel better.  When I let go and let life flow I realize how much unfounded theory I attach to many of my thoughts.  When I unplugged from my routine, my mind was more willing to loosen it’s grasp on those stressful patterns and simply see and accept things for what they truly are.  Instead of living with disharmony, I am able to feel the ease and lightness of a bit more peace.

I put a lot of effort into moving through life more effortlessly…. I see the irony now.  I need to loosen my grip even on that.  Feeling more peace is so much different than searching for it.  There is a significant shift from swimming vigorously upstream to letting yourself float quietly downstream.  The universe still embodies the same flow whether I fight against it or not.

photo above is of my new friend Ken, the frog of karma and zen

Falling In Love With Yourself

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Life comes without guarantees, except that smiling will brighten your face, laughter will enhance your eyes, and falling in love will change your life – Melissa Gaug

Think about the times in your life during which you’ve made significant change. One that stands out for me, and probably many others, is falling in love. When you fall in love you make numerous changes in all parts of your life that will directly effect your immediate world, and even the world of your loved ones and closest friends. When you find “the one” it changes how you live, and sometimes where you live. You begin a process of negotiating so many big and little changes that your life becomes no longer recognizable and you are happy to see this change happening because you are in love. You do all of this in an effort to create a life filled with wonderful hopes and dreams, whatever that looks like for you. You build and you plan and it takes shape one step at a time.  Love gives you energy.  Love sustains you when you would otherwise feel low.  Love can bring you motivation when you may otherwise feel blocked.  Love can be magic, and love can change your life.

So, now, as you look at your life, fall in love……..with yourself. Be open to making those changes, both big and small for the love of yourself in an effort to make yourself happy and sustain your own wellness and motivation.  Get reacquainted with all of the things about yourself that make you feel proud, the details you enjoy sharing when they happen to come up in casual conversation.  Reignite an old passion or hobby that had been pushed to the back of the closet, or enjoy an activity that had been placed on hold for a while.  Make an effort for yourself and be mindful of the happiness it brings to you.  Do what you need to do, change whatever you need to change in an effort to bring more wellness into your life. Do it for yourself and those closest to you will feel those changes just as if you have come upon a milestone such as a new love, a wedding or a birth. Celebrate yourself and others will celebrate you!

I feel a shift happening.  Although happiness in itself is a noble goal to aim for, I believe the time has come to go beyond happiness and set our sights on bigger things.  I want to feel happy, but more than that, I have learned that I want to feel peace, and love.  There is a calm contentment in achieving a feeling of hushed zen.  A serene harmony with no hurried rush has become more attractive than a happiness high as I move along this journey.  I want to love this life, and when you fall in love with yourself, you fall in love with life!

As I get to know myself, and as I fall deeper in love with myself, my most treasured part of this journey has been the ability to enjoy times of peace when I can sit back and enjoy my new world I have built for myself as if I am spending a day at the beach enjoying the waves and sand of the ocean.  I’ve taken the time to get to know what I need, I’ve accepted who I am, what I want and I am happy with who I am becoming.  I have been able to fall in love with myself.  I respect my decisions and I enjoy the people with whom I choose to spend my time.  I see myself from the inside and also do my best to see myself from an outsider’s perspective to make sure who I am presenting to the world matches up with who I want my daughters to see moving around in the world.  I am mindful, I try to be kind, and I care how my behavior affects others.  These are the qualities that I hope for in others, so these are the attributes that I hold myself accountable for in order to continue this love affair that am enjoying so much.

I’ve made changes and I’ve made them for love……the love of my family, and the love of myself.

thanks to Desiree Beauchemin for being a lovely photo subject

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.

myhappypromise

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