Category Archives: gratefulness

Practicing Mindfulness on Vacation

I’m writing this post while on vacation up at our family cabin.  A little place and beautiful spot that’s been in our family for over 60 years.  My husband and I share ownership with my sister and brother-in-law.  Our parents had it built in the 1950s and we’ve spent entire summers here as kids, and had our summer jobs near to here.  It was a place I learned to love nature, water, boating, trees, reading and developed a love for solitude.

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At some point, our parents age and health circumstances would no longer allow them to spend their summers here.  Fortunately our spouses love it here, as do my sister’s children and their children, so it continues to be used and loved by the family.

There are many fun memories of our parents packing a lunch and taking us on day long boat trips through the U.S. and Canadian islands.  We’d take in the continual view of rocky islands with pine trees and beautiful river cottages and boathouses.  Dad would get his charts out and take us out in his cherry and mahogany 1928 Hutchinson boat named “Poisson”.  We all mispronounced it “Poizzon” and it wasn’t until high school french class that I realized I was mispronouncing it.  I chose to continue to mispronounce it because it added to the fun experience of that boat.

When I moved to New York City to begin working I would still come up here for three day weekends.  NYC was hot and stinky in the summer and the water surrounding Manhattan offered a view of buildings.  Not my thing.  I tried a half share at a beach in New Jersey but it couldn’t compare to “The River”.  To get back up here I’d take a taxi to Port Authority.  Bus to the Newark New Jersey airport.  Plane to Syracuse.  Then a car rental for another hour and a half drive.  I did this every other weekend for years.  Even when I moved to Northern Virginia I’d either fly or drive up every other weekend.

But everything changes.  My sister and brother-in-law sold the Hutchinson.  A few years later I sold our other family boat.  I had decided to make more of a life for myself in the summer nearer to where I lived.  The 1000 Islands are a long way away, plus sharing with my sibling and her husband and back then I struggled with speaking up for myself.

I decided it would be easier, more affordable, and more practical if I would learn to sail on the Chesapeake Bay which was only an hour away rather than the 7 hours to our cabin in NY state.   And that’s when I met my husband, while sailing.  When we were dating I brought him up here and now he too loves the 1000 Islands and our 60+ year old place which is now slightly (ok very) crooked, with somewhat unsafe decks and ramps.

Our old place needs a lot of work and we’re all wondering how we can make it spiffy again.  Restoring it to it’s original splendor is a desire we all have.  My husband and brother-in-law are more than handy but they’re supposed to be relaxing up here not doing back-breaking construction projects.  Maybe a miracle will happen and it will all work out.

In the meantime, when I take the rickety crooked ramp up to our room in the little tree house cabin I repeat “I am safe, protected, and secure” over and over again until I’m safely off the ramp onto our deck and into our room.

The mindfulness part?  About 15 years ago or so real estate lot next to us was sold and two families built their homes away from home including a boathouse and one U-shaped dock on steroids, plus another dock.  There went the pristine cove, shoreline, and privacy.

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Everything is just a little too close to the little shoal we named Happiness Island.  I know I don’t own the water, the cove, or our special little shoal.  I also know I’m really fortunate to have this place so I shouldn’t be complaining that we have neighbors and such nice ones at that.  Sure Happiness Island is special to us with tons of memories.  We’d swim to it and our golden retriever would swim out to stand on it and look down at the water, and paw it as he watched the perch swim around.  The only thing you’d see all around was trees and shoreline.  Because Happiness Island and our cove is now full of structures, to me the private and special vibe of the tiny cove is forever changed.  Well short of winning the big lottery, buying everyone out and removing cabins, boathouse, and docks.

But I don’t have to let the vibe change.  I have a choice.  I feel grateful for our place, appreciate what it offers even with the additional people, loss of privacy, and noise.  I still feel uplifted and connected to the outdoors and nature that I so love.

I know it’s impossible to feel joy and gratefulness while feeling resentment.  It’s impossible to enjoy my time up here when I’m irked.  It’s impossible to have a beautiful moment continue when in the very next moment I’m feeling annoyed.

Today I’m practicing.  This is the moment I’m choosing to let something go that which I have no control over and only mars my experience IF I LET IT.  I know I can’t be joyful and ticked off at the same time.  I practice reminding myself how fortunate we all are to be in this beautiful setting.  I’m sure our neighbors feel the same way and have their own special feelings, more recent memories, and reasons for why they love it here.

Are you ever challenged to let something go?  Even when you know there’s nothing you can do about it and that it’s in your best interest and perhaps someone else’s best interest for you to just . let . it . go.

Today when I look at all the stuff in the cove and feel irked I choose to breathe and remember how fortunate I am until I’m no longer irked.  And I’ll keep practicing this.  I instead focus on the breeze, the sound of the bird calls, watching the pine trees move with the wind, gaze at the occasional ship going by.  If I see one of our neighbors I will choose to wave and then park myself and just take in the beauty and feel grateful because I’m really fortunate.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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“There Must Be More To You…”

The following paragraph is from one of my favorite books.

“…spiritual growth is learning to make your life work in every area, from your relationships to your career, as you put your spiritual light into everything you do, bring awareness and love to all your activities, and turn every experience into an opportunity for growth, you are being your higher self.” 

Years ago I hadn’t learned how much action, the steps, that growth takes.  I didn’t know that it takes work, awareness, looking at me and my patterns, habits, and experiences.  Instead, when I initially started opening to new ideas I was mostly just a sponge, watching others, and studying to be more like them.

I thought I only had to soak up information from reading, attending classes/workshops, and listening to spiritual leaders and then I’d have awesome mystical experiences that would knock my socks off, and result in a deeper experience of life and myself.

But no.  That’s not how it works.

And yet I persisted in looking anywhere but at myself.  I watched the “spiritual” people who not so much walk but seemed to float into rooms.  You know the ones that speak as if they’re right out of a Kripalu course catalog?   My focus was on them not me.  I assumed these beautiful ethereal individuals must have deeply meaningful lives and feelings of well-being and I wanted that because, back then, I so didn’t have that.

 

As I watched these seemingly awesome people I wondered, what was in their drinking water?  Where did they learn to speak the flowery way they did?  Their yoga poses were perfection, and their outward appearances exuded the epitome of calm, peace, and hipness.  Frankly, they annoyed the s_ _t out of me.

At some point, I tired of it all. The yoga studios and their spiritual growth workshops, the best selling books, the advice and philosophy from various leaders throughout the world. It was all well-intended but no longer attractive to me.

It was time to grow from my own experiences.  As a trusted individual pointed out to me, “…the big learning you came here for”.

 

Photo by SerrNovik/iStock / Getty Images

Sometimes I still need reminders to stand in my own power.  Just last year I had an awkward meeting that served as a friendly reminder to stop comparing!  It involved a new acquaintance who thought we’d have a lot to talk about.

How was it that after that meeting, I went home to have lunch with my husband and started to cry into my salad?  My confused husband gently asking how can you meet someone for an hour and come home crying?   That made me laugh and now I was laughing+crying+eating.

What had bugged me about that encounter was the more she shared her amazing man-person-legs-grassdramatic mystical experiences, the more I started to feel un-terrific, uninteresting, un-special, and fell right back into comparison mode.

I realized that after she shared all her numerous incredibly incredible fantastic mystical experiences, she had shared details about her life.  And I got it.  Her actual everyday life didn’t match her amazing stories at all.

She would have benefited more from compassion rather than envy.  I would have benefited from seeing the connection more clearly rather than making it about who I thought I wasn’t.

Do you ever bring yourself or anyone else up short, based on a lot of nothing?  Perhaps it’s about the size of one’s office, or the title they have, or recognition they’ve received, or vacation they’re taking.  Comparing ourselves to others, it’s not great right?  All day long we have opportunities to compare but those are the same opportunities to see non-comparatively and stay in our own power.

Cool stories or not, what matters the most to me is how I experience my life, and how good it feels.  That’s the “more” to my story because that’s what’s more important to me.

Three Bears Experience in Finding Support

Are you someone who has made big changes in your life?  Perhaps you’re opening to consider a bigger picture and there’s not a lot of people you can talk to about your experiences?  It’s natural to want to be around others who are also in a good space.  Or perhaps you’re struggling and could really use some support right about now.

It’s clear to me who the friends, acquaintances, and others are that I want to share all, or only certain parts of me with.  So it’s very important that I make time to meet with genuinely supportive people where I can bring all of me.

Connecting with someone can make our day, whether it’s on social media, or at one of those old school networking events, or meeting someone for a deeper conversation over coffee or lunch.  However, for me social media is not my first choice to connect with someone because typing into a little box to abbreviate myself is right up there with the all to common time-weary 30-second elevator talk.

That’s why a simple casual in-person meeting the other day meant so much to me.

All I did was get together with a couple of women for conversation and it was just what I needed.

In little more than one hour we shared what we’re experiencing and traded information and ideas.  We talked about how our work is going, what we’ve been learning, where our challenges are, and how we’re figuring things out as we go.  It was fun to honestly share that I truly have no idea what I’m doing and totally figuring it out as I go and yet that seems to be working really well for me.

Finding support is a little like the Three Bears story.  As I’m out and about connecting with others, some connections are just not quite right, or too much/too little, or oh hell nopexels-photo-207891

Sometimes the best connections can come from the least likely situations.

I imagine the Universe rubbing it’s hands together knowing that I’ll be learning a lot about myself and others as I put myself out in the world more.

It worked out that I decided to meet with those two women because our connection was just right.  Maybe it worked for me because I’m learning to listen with an open mind, realize that our experiences don’t have to be similar, I no longer water myself down because it’s not really an issue if someone doesn’t “get” me or visa versa.

And I trust that the right people will show up at the right time, especially as we let go of our less supportive relationships.  We all have some of those right?   Are you letting go of the limiting relationships in your life to make room for more fun and supportive connections?

 

 

5 Things I’m Doing For Myself

1- Use only the most helpful and positive technology.  Last month I downloaded the Insight Timer, an app for meditation.  It’s become very important to me that I do some group meditations now and again.  Through the Insight Timer app, I joined a Global Meditation Group that periodically meditates for planetary peace and well-being.  Plus I’ve created a few meditation presets with and without background sound, with varying time limits.  And, I’m connecting with people all over the world.  Technology is here and I’m good with technology if we can use it to support ourselves.  https://insighttimer.com/

2-Join groups for support.  There are a few meditation groups in my area and I’ve been sitting in on their group meditations, in-person (not virtually, as with the app I just mentioned).  I found all of these meditation groups on Meetup.  And all are based on mindfulness meditation practices.  Most of these groups have someone who leads the meditation, offers a message that we can then offer our response to.  We share how we feel and, from listening, we can become more clear.  Plus, I just like the connection I feel from a group meditation.  https://www.meetup.com/

3-Play.  I just finished an art class in pastels, a new medium for me to learn.  Every time I play with art I have to learn that it’s not about striving for more talent in an effort to become an accomplished artist, but more to let go, have fun and play.  This is a good way to feel about art because it takes me away from comparisons, from negative self-talk and instead, I learn to see something beautiful in what I create.  Self-deprecation is not a friend.  Humility is an admirable characteristic, but only to a point.  I’m all in favor of looking at our art, our music, whatever our passion is, and to recognize the awesomeness of what we’re creating, regardless of how it compares to others.

Speaking of creating…

4-From dawdling to prioritizing.  When I doubt myself, get scared, I can procrastinate which way the hair blows down the back of a gnat’s ass.  However, what I really want is to continue taking steps to create my dreams and ideas.  I have a habit of first cleaning the house, then cooking, maybe paying bills, running errands, and then, if there’s time, working on my ideas.  Rather, on a good day, when I prioritize first what my passion is, I’m sending a message to both the universe and to myself that my dream is important.  The more I prioritize my dreams, the more I open to the next steps to act on my ideas.  I begin to receive assistance in all kinds of ways.  And, I’ve asked for assistance when stuck in procrastination mode.  Even as I’m dawdling, I’ll ask for assistance for moving forward, and an opportunity will show up gently encouraging me forward.

5-Practice awareness.  Becoming aware of how assistance is coming through for me.  Becoming aware of my self-talk and thoughts.  Especially becoming aware of my heart as I meditate, as I meet with someone, even as I’m out doing something as mundane as grocery shopping.  Ok, I’m human so I’m not aware all the time, but I am more and more, and it’s making a positive difference in my life from the way I hold myself to the connection I feel.  This past week, I was at a holiday party for a wonderful non-profit, and as their volunteers were being recognized, I stood there watching and thinking “May everyone feel peace, love, support, and a sense of cooperation, and collaboration”.   To me, they’ve been creating exactly that, peace, love, support, cooperation, and collaboration.  It was kind of a metta (loving kindness) meditation while standing in a room full of people.  And then a funny thing happened, my raffle ticket won the big raffle prize and I was shaken out of my reverie big time.  In the next moment I was thanking people, shaking hands, and having my photo taken and walked away with a high-end sailing jacket.  For a long minute (maybe two hours or so), I felt guilty for winning that jacket because I only volunteered one to three times for that organization.  My husband had to talk me off the ledge by reminding me it was a raffle ticket that anyone was able to win, any active volunteer like himself, or a non-volunteer, anyone who attended the party.  I kicked my guilt to the curb, allowed myself to be thankful for winning the lovely gift, shut-up, and enjoyed the moment.

One more thing, and this brings it to six, not five, but who’s counting?

6-Watch less TV!  My husband and I have really gotten into a rut of watching TV.  Granted, they’re not violent shows, but there’s usually something upsetting happening at some point.  night-television-tv-theme-machinesHere’s the deal.  My brain or body doesn’t know the difference between real life and the make-believe lives on TV.  So when I watch a TV show and get attached to the characters and the story lines, it’s like it’s really happening.  The emotions I feel, the tension in my body, are a result of watching the show.  What’s worse, later on I may still think about it as I fall asleep, or when I wake up.  That’s why I watch the news almost not at all.  It stays with me and revisits me, visually and emotionally, until I feel dis-empowered, depressed, and hopeless and then I’m no good to anyone.  It’s important to remember that everything has an energy,  and what we take into our bodies affects us visually, emotionally, and physically.  In our world, when my husband and I watch TV, one of us isn’t playing guitar, the other isn’t painting, we’re not sitting in front of the fire listening to music, or talking to each other.  TV is a time suck and we have too many interests for time sucks.  It rarely adds to my life, and it’s addictive.  pexels-photo-688019So, in an effort to get back to a good balance, we just finished eating our chili in front of the fire, and I’m now writing this post in front of the fire.  The TV is in the other room, and it’s off.

 

Our moods have a lot to do with how we are being and what we’re creating.  Can you think about how you’re supporting yourself (or not) by your patterns and habits?  It’s so worth a look.  Little steps can make a huge difference in our lives.  It’s fun to learn how we can create big change in our lives, from taking small positive steps.

 

 

I recently met Joy

Do you ever feel that you’re all in your head, thinking about this or that?  Oh, I sure do.  I wonder about and consider things so much, that I tend to go seriously serious.  Granted, while a lot of what I’m considering is fascinating and worthy of much consideration, it’s not my intention, but my “thinkiness” holds me back and dampens my mood.  It’s impossible for me to be both analytical and joyful at the same time.  Knowing this, I head off to my favorite local hiking trail to enjoy myself.  IMG_9188 copy

Still pondering universal naval fluff, I focused on my breathing and on navigating my way around the newer trails.  On my return route I saw a man and his puppy heading my way.  The minute I saw the puppy I felt my heart jump.  He was happy to see me too.  He jumped up licking my hand, did a couple of pirouettes, jumped up and licked my hand again.  It was a love fest.  I chatted for a couple of minutes with his person while I petted this adorable puppy.  It was time to continue in our opposite directions.  After a couple of steps, I looked back and saw the puppy had stopped and was looking at me.  He seemed to be wondering “you’re not coming with us”?  I said goodbye and turned back to my walk.  I never asked his person what the puppy’s name was, but I would have named him Joy.  Imagine people asking what’s your dog’s name and answering “this is Joy”!   Joy showed up at just the right time, excitedly encouraging me to get out of my head and to choose lightheartedness.

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WP Photo Challenge – Temporary

This was the first time my husband and I carved a pumpkin together.  Of course, we named him Jack.  We created him by searching for ideas on Pinterest.  My only criteria as we searched, was that our pumpkin have a happy face.

Gee wiz I’ve grown accustomed to him sitting next to our front door.   I know that Jack is only temporary.   But it won’t be easy to let him go.  We didn’t carve last year’s pumpkin, and we kept that one until the life oozed out of it.  But we won’t let that happen to Jack.  He’ll go with dignity and return next October to smile once again.

Even more temporary than Jack, is the pretty fall foliage.  I wanted to run over to the golf course near a walking trail I use, because the prettiest most vividly reddish trees are there.  Unfortunately, my silly daily errand list delayed my visit by too many days. Yesterday I could see that most of the leaves had fallen off.  Here’s a photo of this year’s (now vowing to get there earlier next year), as well as last year’s, (when I vowed to get there earlier this year).

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2017

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2016

How a Horoscope Cheered Me Up

I’ve often thought that family and one very good friend believe that I became a better version of myself when I met a nice guy.  Granted, this nice guy, now my husband, is an incredibly loving and kind person.  He’s funny, creative, smart, clever, and I love him so much.  But my life did not just snap into a beautiful place when he showed up.

My suspicion was realized when a family member commented, “And then you met Dave” in the context of once I met my husband my life was all unicorns and rainbows.  Um, no.  No one can make us happy, give us peace, or a sense of purpose.  I had to change the way I thought of myself and look at where all those limiting thoughts started from.  The member of my family annoyed me (this is an understatement) because it showed he didn’t know me at all.  To think he thought it was all about finding a nice man was doubly annoying.  Wow.  But the poor guy was only going on an assumption because he didn’t know any better.  He didn’t know because the timing of me beginning to uncover my spirituality was not long after I met my husband.  And, I didn’t tell anyone about what I was doing around how I was learning to look at where my limiting beliefs started, how I was learning to look at myself and how I put myself out in the world.  This is not the kind of work everyone wants to hear about, regardless of the positive outcome.

Years ago, what I was opening to was private and also unusual so I assumed people would laugh at me or make fun of me in disbelief.  I was just beginning to nurture a small seedling of my spirituality and I didn’t want anyone stomping on it.  So I kept my experiences to myself.  I didn’t share it with even my oldest friend because we always appear to be on the opposite ends of the spectrum regarding introspection.  Instead I concentrated on my new habits, new ideas and perspectives that would change my life and I pulled back from anyone who tends towards being sarcastic, dismissive or negative about life.  It even took me a while to share some of it with the very man who is credited with changing my life.  Of course he touches my life in many beautiful ways, he’s just not responsible for me working my bum off to release my limiting beliefs and opening to something more beautiful.

So after the comment from “harmless family person”, about a week later, I’m reading the local entertainment paper and see the horoscopes.  I rarely look at horoscopes but decide to read my husband’s for fun.  We laugh because it’s so not him.

Then I start to read mine out loud and bammo it’s just how I feel!  Very specific.  As I kept reading we both laughed at how surprisingly on target it was.  I giggled so much that tears were streaming down my face.  Thank you Universe, it’s just what I needed.

The world will never fully know or appreciate the nature of your heroic journey.  Even the people who love you the most will only ever understand a portion of your epic quest to become your best self.  That’s why it’s important for you to be generous in giving yourself credit for all you have accomplished up until now and will accomplish in the future.  Take time to marvel at the majesty and miracle of the life you have created for yourself.  Celebrate the struggles you’ve weathered and the liberations you’ve initiated…