Category Archives: Lighten up

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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“Teach Me/I’m Not Enough”

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Our choices are speaking to us through how we feel.  I’m feeling that my choice of attending certain groups is not serving my best interest.  I’m feeling that if I have to listen to one more someone, or many someones, offering something to assist us I just might scream.  While the intention comes from a good place, I’m over it.  That’s just me.  But could it be you too?

It’s a balance worth creating; working on oneself and being joyful.

For example, I’ve noticed I’ve been sliding out of balance.  I’ve been frequenting women’s groups and networking events.  The upside is I’m meeting some very nice people.  The downside is I’m surrounded by women striving to be more and being spoken to by women wanting to teach us to be our best (better) selves.  More financially successful, more skilled, more better at something.  You may wonder if there’s a problem with that?  Well, frankly, yes!

Because I’m sitting smack dab in the middle of “I’m Not Enough” energy and I FEEL anything but empowered.  I FEEL yucky.  And, surprisingly my growth feels stunted not expansive.

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There are multitudes of women in these groups selling their gifts of skills and knowledge.    Could one of us possibly be their next client?  Could we be the one who is lacking in some skill they’re qualified to teach?

I dream of inciting anarchy by imploring my fellow attendees to bolt.   My plan is we sneak out before the dreaded 30-second elevator speeches start.  We meet at the nearest coffee or beer joint for a regular old-fashioned conversation where no one is giving their testimony or selling their wares.  While smiling, I gently smack my fellow anarchists upside the head and shout…

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  • Stop trying so hard!
  • You’re already perfect (in a very normally imperfect way) so relax
  • Ease up on working on yourself so much ok?
  • Have way more fun, be lightness and you’ll create your dreams
  • You don’t NEED to become more
  • Learn but only what you really feel drawn to and don’t be drawn to EVERYTHING!
  • For crying out loud, you have the answers, you just have to LOOK for them
  • You have to do your own (inner) work – there’s no shortcut!
  • But you can totally do “this”
  • Your teachers are only offering their suggestions and tools
  • Learn from them sure, but at some point, you’ll discover your own best tools to assist yourself.  I promise.

My attending these women’s groups is no accident.  I’m learning how strongly I feel about what I’m writing about in this post.

When given the opportunity, I stand up in front of people as I teach through talks, classes, and workshops.  And oh man do I teach you can do this yourself because that’s exactly what I’ve had to learn.  Because I’m a recovering learner junkie.

I had to learn how to grow in the most empowered and joyful way.  And I’m still learning this.  Instead of being in a structured women’s group, I get more out of going out for coffee with a couple of women.  And, that’s because we’re truly connecting in a genuine way and conversational way where we get to know each other and LEARN FROM EACH OTHER.  But that’s true for me.  You may have an entirely different experience.

All I’m saying is pay attention to how you FEEL when you’re attending these types of events or sitting with a friend or acquaintance.  It’s your feelings that are teaching what’s best for you.

I feel that the best thing we can all do for ourselves is allowing for more joy, more fun, more US in the best way possible.  Rather than focusing on what you’re not good at.  Choose what it is you want to learn and just work on that one thing.  Take a class, get a coach, or read a book.  But learn when to switch things up to bring more joy in by paying attention to how you FEEL.

You may want to improve in a certain skill, improve your relationships, feel better about yourself, deepen your experience with life, or discover meaningful work you’d like to be passionate about. HOWEVER, what will assist you the most, is keeping an eye on maintaining balance in your life and being joyful by doing those things that bring you light.

It’s hard to be light and joy when you’re sitting smack dab in the middle of “I’m not enough” or “I need to be more” energy.  Get out of it by going for a walk.  Doing your hobby.  Create joy and light to ensure a healthy balance to FEEL good.  Because when we’re in a lighter mindset we bring more opportunities, lessons, experiences, that contribute to our growth and happiness.

It’s impossible to feel light when we’re working so hard on ourselves.  Years ago when I was working on looking at some heavy issues from my past, it was a small percentage of inner work and a larger percentage of cultivating joy.

I made time for my inner work and the rest of the time was focused on learning how to be joyful.

Open to what’s best for you rather than what you think you need.  So if you can learn and be light and joy at the same time go for it!  Be aware of how you spend your time.

Be judicious about what energy you’re creating and how you feel as you sit in that energy.

Trusting And Learning What Our Feelings Are Showing Us

How many times do you feel your feelings, and wonder what those feelings are conveying to you?  Sometimes we tend to take our feelings for granted and go all auto-pilot about them.

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To experience a deeper connection with ourselves, it’s a good idea to pay attention to both our good, and not so good feelings.  Both types of feelings are teaching us about how we’re thinking, reacting, and processing our experiences, all the way to what we’re creating as a result.

When it isn’t obvious why we’re feeling badly, we might take a minute to be aware we might just find out why we’re feeling the way we do.  The other day I was at my computer for hours and I guess I wasn’t a happy camper. I kept thinking just a little more time and I’ll be done.  I was pushing through my icky feelings.  But at some point, I felt awful and asked myself why.  And I just knew it was time to walk away and do anything else but what I had been doing.  Anything to bring a little more joy in.

And how do we cultivate bringing higher feelings in?  Being aware of what brings us joy.  We all love vacations right?   But why do we feel so good on vacation?  When we know specifically what makes us feel good we can bring more of those simple things into every day.  I can’t afford to jump on a plane every week to vacation in order to feel amazing vacation feelings.   But I can think about what it is I loved about vacation experiences, and bring more of those nice feelings into my week.  It’s about adventure, enjoying great food, inspiring views, seeing new people in a different culture, and appreciating architecture.  If I dig deeper, I also realize I love learning and connecting with people.  There’s lots of laughter because I feel relaxed and carefree since it’s about having fun.  Some of what I feel is inspiration.  I’m inspired by the buildings, food, people, and art.

So on any given day, I can be sure I’m learning, doing something that relaxes me, taking time to experience art, connect with people at a class or some other new social event.  Maybe it’s just reading my favorite design magazine on a break from work or heading off to a museum.  Perhaps it’s driving into town for lunch or trying a new restaurant.  Could be I make time for a walk in the woods.  Duh right?  But putting myself first ahead of my to-do punch list took practice at first.

For example keeping up on social media often is un-fun to me.  For now anyways.  I know now what part of my work inspires me and I’m focusing more on that part, rather than the work tasks that constrict me.  Perhaps the tasks that I really don’t enjoy doing, I can do less of, or allow someone else to handle them.  If not, I can play music while I’m tackling them and take lots of breaks.

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We can begin to see how easy it is to create opportunities that foster higher emotions.  We can learn to feel better.  This is really helpful when we encounter the inevitable smaller cracks our sidewalk so to speak.

This is important to practice regarding the bigger picture as well.  There are a lot of confusing and troubling things going on in the world right now.  It’s good for us and it’s also good for our world if we’re all living in our higher emotions rather than our lower emotions.  Takes focus, practice, and it takes kicking the attraction to negativity to the curb.  How we feel is so important to what we’re creating in every moment, even the more seemingly insignificant moments of our day.

Being aware of our feelings in an ordinary day, with ordinary experiences, and consider making even tiny changes in our thoughts and actions, can lead to creating a better experience for ourselves (and our world).

 

 

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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When It’s Time To Stop Trying So Hard

If we want our relationships, our work, our art, our life experiences to feel good, we will need to learn to let go of trying to ‘do life right’ and instead learn how to have more fun in any and all ways possible.  More and more are pexels-photo-258330saying to me how are you doing this?  What is it that you’re doing to make this <good stuff> happen?  The truth is I’m enjoying myself in all parts of my life not just my “work” and that’s why and how it’s all coming together.

I see that people are pushing and pushing to be their best.  That often includes striving to be successful, however they perceive success.  In trying to stand out and be successful we actually mainstream ourselves by fitting in to doing best practice mode. 

I get it.  There has to be a balance in promoting ourselves.  I’ve taken on some “best practices” too and I’m trying to learn a couple of social media thing-a-ma-bobbers.  But more often than not, I’d rather noodle with art or enjoy the outdoors so my social media presence is meh.  For me, mastering all “the correct and proven steps”, sucks the joy right out of my life and then things get stuck.  So I keep my work related tasks simple and just. have. fun.

There are best practices for everything and I’ve heard more rules from people than I can shake a stick at.   There’s always someone to help us get caught up in doing it better, right, doing whatever it is more correctly, more successfully, more their way.

You want to know more of my best practices?  It’s going for a walk in the woods, painting, taking and editing my photos, writing, hanging out with my husband, sailing, watching a great movie, enjoying a fascinating book, creating a meal, listening to music.

My own personal experience has taught me, that everything, from any particular area of my spiritual growth, meaning my work, relationships, art, even simple everyday tasks and experiences, flourish and bloom as I release my need to force things into place.  And to instead just enjoy all aspects of my life.

This past week, I experienced myself starting to slouch into this is not enjoyable mode, and switched gears.  We went to our favorite lunch spot, ate outside, spoke with some locals, visited a couple of art galleries, took a photo to be framed, and enjoyed a farmer’s market.

Another happy result from joy is that it allows for our best ideas and creativity to blossom, and answers and solutions can show up to any challenges we’re experiencing.

Is your intuition is assisting you in learning to pay attention to how you feel in more and more moments and to strike a nice balance?  It doesn’t have to be OMG this is SO AMAAAAZINGGGG EXCITING kind of feeling because that’s impossible to maintain all the time, but sometimes it’s just a feeling of I’m in the zone, this feels nice.  And if something doesn’t feel right, to learn not to push through it and keep hammering away but instead to take a break and do something else.

If we want our relationships, our work, our art, our life experience to be even better than what we can imagine, we will need to learn to let go of other people’s ways, our quest for perfection, and instead just allow for the enjoyment of life in any and all ways possible.

Habits That Create The Best Possibilities (for me)

Here are some things I practice to be aware of.  We all have our own ways to be at our best and attract our best possibilities and these may or may not work for you.  It’s whatever supports you and empowers you.  For me, with so many experiences that I’m having just about every day now, it’s helpful to remember and practice whatever feels right at the time.  It’s pretty ordinary yet offering a beautiful shift in my day.

  • Practicing self-kindness by doing all the things I enjoy every day such as yoga and meditation, making time for exercise, and time for art.IMG_1843I’m not at my best when I let these things slide and, at this writing, some of these have been sliding off the scale. So off I go to walk on my favorite nature trail.
  • Watching my self-talk and turning it around when it goes south
  • Being my real-deal self.  You’re great too, but I don’t want to be you.
  • Remember that it’s nearly impossible to make a difference by playing it safe, or be a people pleaser.
  • Build a small community of support and let the unsupportive relationships fade
  • Allow others to assist me and remember to ask how I can assist them
  • Cultivate lightheartedness no matter what.  Lightheartedness brings opportunities.
  • Notice when I play smaller because of fear, insecurity, or some other lower emotion.  Remember it’s not the truth, and get back to being my magnificent self.
  • Gratefulness for pretty much everything
  • Being good with sometimes feeling uncomfortably stretched, and therefore vulnerable, and standing out for unusual ideas.  It’s a game…wonder what I’ll do today that will be a stretch for me?  But this is not to be confused with pushing ahead on something that’s not in my best interest.
  • Use my imagination and imagine me already doing that which I want to do and the opportunities show up to assist me.
  • Take a stand for the seemingly impossible possibilities
  • Create incremental changes and look back once in a while just to appreciate how far I’ve come
  • Enjoy a relationship with my awesomely mind-blowing amazing guidance that’s always there within me, always encouraging, supporting, assisting, loving me
  • Be both uncomfortably stretched and happy at the same time.  See those feelings that seem to be at odds, as success.