It’s wonderful if others believe in you, but it’s only necessary that you believe in yourself.
There is only one YOU, be the U in Unique- the most successful people in the world got that way by being completely themselves…think about it 😉
It’s wonderful if others believe in you, but it’s only necessary that you believe in yourself.
There is only one YOU, be the U in Unique- the most successful people in the world got that way by being completely themselves…think about it 😉
As I drove home, through a quaint older neighborhood with fully mature trees hovering their branches overhead, the fallen leaves all seemed to scurry across the road in front of me. They were jumping, skipping, and a few even doing a little flip of excitement now and then. Some left, some right, some straight ahead, but mostly in a big group all appearing to be heading the same general direction. It looked like the front of an elementary school at the end of a long day when all the children come running out of the building, yelling with enthusiasm just because they can. It made me smile, and it made me think…
Just days earlier I had expressed my sadness about seeing all the beautiful leaves beginning to fall from the same trees. But what if those leaves have been waiting for this moment since spring? Maybe they’ve been blowing in the wind restricted by the trees hold on them. Are they now free? Free to run on the ground, to play with the leaves from the trees across the street, to explore the neighborhood they have been staring at from above all summer? I don’t know, but how fun to watch them play and imagine their joy, as if they knew something I didn’t.
All these years I’ve assumed that it was sad when it was their time to fall and “die”. I’d never even entertained this other perspective. I wonder why? Was it just what I had been told? I grew up somehow just ‘knowing’ that it was sad when things died; but these leaves didn’t look the least bit sad. They looked as if they were just beginning a new chapter of their lives; it was just going to take on a different form. This wasn’t an “ending” as I had perceived it, this was a new beginning. It wasn’t death after all, it was just change.
I will never look at leaves in a tree or on the ground the same way again. Whether they are just budding, bright green, turning colors, about to be set free or nourishing the earth, I’ll be reminded, this is the cycle of life and each moment is meant to be enjoyed for what it is, not what we think it should be, or what someone told us it was.
Maybe all of life is merely what we perceive it to be at any given moment along the journey… which would imply that, if we are not happy about a situation, we can at least try to look at it from a different perspective. Isn’t it at least worth a try? What if it’s just your beliefs or thoughts about the situation vs. the situation itself?
“When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change” –unknown
Enjoy the beautiful leaves!
Mindfulness seems to be somewhat of a Buzz Word lately, even in circles it’s rarely been mentioned in before. Why is this? Is it because of “the grass is always greener…” phenomena? Have we, as a society, gotten so far away from being mindful that it has become the coveted “thing we don’t have”? I don’t know, but I think there’s a connection. I think “things” have gotten so fast, even somewhat automatic, that taking a moment to be mindful of our life feels like coming up for a breath of air after swimming across the entire length of the pool under water. No one will deny that huge sense of accomplishment when you finally make it across the whole pool without surfacing; but how good does that breathe of air feel the moment you finish? That’s what mindfulness feels like to me, filling your life with more of those quality “moments”.
Mindfulness is practiced by many different people in many different ways and for just as many reasons, very much like meditation. Some people confuse mindfulness with meditation, and although they are often combined in mindfulness meditation (ex. being mindful of your breath while meditating), mindfulness is merely one of many types of meditation. Generally speaking, the goal of meditation is to reach a heightened level of overall consciousness as a human being, whereas mindfulness is about living in the now; being aware of what is happening as it is happening without judgment, without even necessarily thinking about it, just experiencing it as it actually is. In short, the goal of mindfulness is to focus on being in the present, one moment at a time. Both are great practices alone and/or together. Knowing what you want to achieve and finding the method that works for you is what’s important. Personally, I have a daily practice of mindfulness, and I try to incorporate mediation into my life as often as I can. So, even though I don’t always make time for meditation, I’m always working on mindfulness.
Lately, I’ve been asked “Why do people practice mindfulness” and “What’s so great about it”? I imagine answers vary greatly depending on who you ask. For me, having a mindfulness practice helps me stay grounded in my most authentic self, thereby helping me to get the most out of my life (becoming my Best Self to live my Best Life). By regularly touching base with what is real and how I feel about it, as opposed to what I think about it (or even what others think about it), I become more consciously aware of what is truly important to me, what matters to me; as opposed to allowing myself to get too caught up in or carried away with the everyday fast paced auto pilot of social comparisons and competitions; all of the external “shoulds”, which is so easy to do. This may sound strange but, by purposefully staying in touch my core values, I end up taking a more active role in living my life intentionally (instead of waking up and realizing that years have passed and wondering where the time has gone).
Some still wonder why that’s important to me. After having a mindfulness practice for a while, I have definitely noticed that I am far more grounded, stable and comfortable in my beliefs surrounding who I really am (my most authentic/best self), who I want to be (the role I want to have in my life story), and how I want to live and/or show up so that I feel good when I go to bed each night. I believe this is because now, as a result of this practice, when I am faced with certain situations, I am better able to instinctively stop for a second…and consciously choose how to respond; versus before I would have merely reacted and, much of the time, fought with myself later about that reaction; How could I have said or done such a stupid thing, what was I thinking, etc.… thereby continuing to waste more of my life feeling badly about myself and, thus, creating a negative chain reaction; setting a mood/tone for whatever came next based on something that was already done. Now, because I work on making a habit out of stopping (if only for a split second) and getting in touch with what actually is, as opposed to my thoughts around it (i.e. how it should/shouldn’t be or even how others might perceive it), I am more aware of the difference between consciously choosing a response that is true to me versus reacting from a place of fear, anger, excitement, etc.… a place triggered by my thoughts and/or emotions about the situation instead of the actual situation. The more subtle, yet constantly increasing, benefit I feel is an overall sense of more depth in more moments of my life; I actually notice more incredible things than I use to on an ordinary day. I have become increasingly aware of how amazing our universe is and it helps fill me with a sense of gratitude even when I may be having a bad day. In the long run, the ability to appreciate the richness of these moments more fully, adds up to more days, weeks, months, etc. and eventually more of my life.
Ultimately, by making a practice of mindfulness I am basically just training my brain to periodically stop and be more aware of things that are happening, as they are happening, and process them without judgement or even too much thought. Very much the same way I have trained my brain to drive a large suburban down crowded streets and end up at Target without much recollection of how I got there; it’s all about creating a habit through repetition, and it’s amazing how quickly your brain can adapt. Your brain is an incredible piece of a physiological miracle. When I’m driving to Target, for example, I am generally not triggered by emotions or thoughts about the trip, so my mind is free to wander. It wanders over to thoughts about the past, the future, songs on the radio…and before I know it, I’m parking the car. Now, because of my practice, when I, and/or my body, am triggered by emotions or thoughts, I am better able to notice the sensation of my mind running away (or sometimes just spinning) and stop it. Sort of like training a loyal pet who, because of past experiences, trusts you unconditionally so that when you ask it not to run off, it instinctively listens. Eventually, some pets will actually wait and look to you for a command before even considering running off; you have earned that trust. In much the same way, mindfulness has allowed me to become better at controlling my thoughts as opposed to allowing my thoughts to be in control of me.
As far as what my mindfulness practice is, I try to be mindful most of the time; whether I’m doing menial tasks around the house or having serious conversations with loved ones. I make an effort to stay mindful when I’m with my kids and even when I’m at the gym. However, almost every day I make a point to consciously dedicate some time to my practice, much the same way I dedicate time to the other muscles in my body that I want to maintain or strengthen. To do this, I generally walk outside, in nature, with my dog. I watch the trees, sometimes a butterfly or a bird, or just my dog as he appreciates everything around him, with no obvious thoughts or judgments about anything beyond the moment. I do, and have done, many other types of mindfulness meditations and practices, but as for a consistent practice, which I feel is the most important ingredient for success at anything, for me, it’s always involved walking, nature, and the conscious decision to release all thoughts and judgments about whatever is happening from my mind and just be aware of WHAT IS. I notice thoughts and judgments when they occur (because they definitely still occur) I just don’t give them any time or attention. I notice it’s happening and I practice moving on, letting them go by like a cloud in the sky and I refocus on what is happening around me.
Do you have a mindfulness practice? What is it? Don’t have one yet? What will it be? You can google “mindfulness” and get more ideas and/or possibilities than you have time to try; check it out and see if any of them speak to you. What have you got to lose?
The way I look at it is this: The human body is between 50 and 75% water, with the average human body consisting of around 55%. That is at least half of our body weight! Knowing that, try to imagine yourself as a large container of water. When that container is calm, the surface area of the water is like a mirror, accurately reflecting all of its surroundings. However, if you rattle that container, throw a pebble into it, etc.… the water begins to ripple and the reflection of its surroundings becomes distorted. I think of having a mindfulness practice as a tool to help “keep my waters calm” so that when “life happens”, I can process a clear reflection of what is actually happening and choose how to respond. As opposed to reacting to a distorted perception of that reality.
Have fun finding a practice that works best for you, no matter what it ends up being. Maybe you’ll come up with something brand new and unique to you. Maybe you’ll have a few different practices for various times/situations and/or circumstances in your life. There are no rules, the important thing is that it works for you and that you do it, that’s really all that matters!
Be an active participant in your life, one moment at a time. You won’t be sorry!
I believe that our destiny is to be our best selves. To realize our innate strengths, gifts, passions and values and then use them to make a difference in the world, to help out or contribute in some way, big or small. I believe that our destiny is in us when we are born and that free will helps determine how the journey will go. One mistake so many of us make is to turn that free will over to others, often those with the best of intentions, but they can only make the best decisions for their selves, not yours. Many times, when we dutifully follow the “shoulds” of others, despite the feelings in our gut, or voice in our head, telling us otherwise, we live with the loss later, often in the form of regret and resentment.
For some reason we repeatedly listen to other people’s inner voices yet we tend to silence or discredit our own. Why would someone else’s inner voice know more about what’s right for you than your own? Who else has lived your entire life, experienced everything you have experienced and perceived it the very same way? Who else has heard all of your thoughts? Who else do you know that has always, and will always, be with you every night when you go to sleep and every morning when you wake up, for your entire life? And yet, that is who’s voice we tend to ignore or discredit. Why? There is no good reason, I think it’s just habit. Habits are comfortable, after all, we are neurologically wired for survival and our brains know “doing ‘this” has kept me alive this long so….continuing to do it is safe”, and safe is comfortable (but there is no growth in the comfort zone…)
When we were younger we needed to rely on the voices of others for survival. Somewhere along the way this was no longer necessary yet it’s what we’ve been conditioned to do. I’m not suggesting that seeking and/or receiving guidance is in any way shape or form bad, I’m a huge fan of learning from others experiences. I just believe that, once you’ve gathered whatever information you think you need, your own inner voice should be the ultimate decision maker for what’s right for you. Use the voices of others as guidance, not orders.
We spend years learning, or being conditioned in some way, to listen to others; our parents, teachers, mentors, authority figures, bosses etc… When are we taught how to be in touch with, listen to, or even hear, our own “voice”? Why does that concept even sound strange? Is it the idea that we need to be told or taught to hear our own inner voice? But we are told/taught to listen to others….
It seems logical to treat a 2 year old differently from a 12 or 42 year old. They are in different stages of life and, therefore, should live by different standards. So why, when it’s us, do we allow ourselves to be ruled by our same old standards? Why do we continue to listen to the “rules” that were put into our heads when we were children? We aren’t 12 anymore yet so many of us still do things because “that’s the way I was taught”, or brought up. Did you ever stop to think about how old you were when you learned a particular rule or standard that you have continued to live by? Is it possible it was applicable to your life then but really isn’t any more? Do you continue because you believe it’s right for you, or is it just a habit?
If it’s habit, is it a good one? Is it still beneficial or even applicable to the new realities of your life? If not, than how do you break it? For me, the first step was stopping long enough to question my thoughts and my actions; to just become aware of the fact that they really don’t make sense for me any more. Once I started doing that, the rest just sort of happened, and continues to happen… What about you? What “shoulds” do you still follow for no other reason than because you always have? Do they still work for you? Did they ever? Why do you continue? If you could do something different, what would you do? What’s stopping you? Who’s “job” is it to make up the rules for you these days? Who lives with the consequences? If you could rewrite the rules for your life today, knowing all that you know about your current self, what would they be? Think about that, that’s your first step…enjoy the journey, after all…it’s YOUR LIFE, what is YOUR inner voice telling you?
p.s. If you’ve decided to stick with the “status quo” for whatever reason(s), before throwing in the towel completely, ask yourself: “How will I feel 5 years from now if I don’t make any changes today?” What are you putting off or not doing? Imagine your dream life two years from now? Are you on your way there? If not, what’s one thing you can do to get closer? Maybe it’s just making a plan? Remember…small steps forward vs. big steps nowhere wins every time.
When did we become so consumed with doing so much, with being “productive”? What does it mean? What are we “producing” or accomplishing? If we realize it’s noon and we’ve made the beds, emptied and filled the dishwasher, washed-dried-folded and put away the laundry, and maybe even made a trip to the grocery store, have we been more productive than if we spent the morning having coffee and conversation with a friend? Or simply sleeping in and recovering from a wonderful night out? Is it more productive to complete a project at work than to take the day off, take your child out of school and spend the day at the zoo? I used to think so… but I don’t any more. I used to think that I couldn’t, or shouldn’t, “waste” my time doing “frivolous” things when there were “things to get done”. Then one day, after my mom passed away, I wished I hadn’t been so “busy” doing all the things that constantly require redoing, and had just dropped everything more often to just be with and talk to her. The fact is, all of those things would have waited for me, and even if the house was a little messier or my work load a little larger, it really wouldn’t have taken much more time to complete, and it would have no impact on my life in just a few days. I wish I had just let all the things that, in hindsight, really don’t matter, sit there, while I spent time with my mom. Instead, I let my mom sit there while I “took care of things”.
LESS time with things, MORE time connecting.
Sometimes I think being “productive” is just another, more acceptable, way of pushing aside our real feelings about our lives. As long as we keep our mind and bodies preoccupied, much the way some do with drugs or alcohol, we don’t feel (or at least can more easily ignore) that annoying gut wrenching sensation that we somehow wish things were a little different. But as long as we’re “productive” we have a great excuse why we just didn’t have the time to do anything about it…right? So how much of the stuff that you are so busy doing really matters to you? How much of it will matter five years from now? How long have you been wishing things were just a little different? How were you thinking those wishes were going to come true?
Think LESS, Feel MORE
Recently, I have decided to try to be a little less productive with the things that don’t get me any closer to my dreams/goals, or have no significant meaning to me, until I have done at least one thing, regardless of how small, that matters to me (which can simply mean… it makes me happy). Just something to remind me to appreciate the fact that I’m alive. Sometimes it’s taking the dog for a walk, spending five minutes looking at horses, exercise, or another attempt at a yoga pose. Other times it means writing, reading a book, volunteering, being a mom/wife/friend/sibling/daughter… or taking a course in something that interests me. Honestly, most of the time I still feel that “guilty, listing all the things I “should” be doing, who I am going to disappoint”, feeling inside when I first set out to do these things, the difference is, now… I do them anyway (most of the time). I remind myself how I will feel after and that, 90% of the time, I will still get all of those other things done too. Maybe I’ll have to get up a little earlier, stay up a little later, work harder or faster, but they’ll get done, and I’ll feel so much better that I spent part of my day actually living my life. The five minutes I spend doing something that adds value to my life has such a significantly greater impact on me, and ultimately those around me, than some of the entire days I spend being “productive” with things that just don’t matter. The point is, all those “productive” things will still be there when you finally get to them, but time…appreciating being alive, once it passes, is gone forever.
LESS stuff, MORE value.
Some people say that, because of their jobs or responsibilities, they “can’t”. Is that really true? If your life depended on it, would you be able to find the time? Well guess what…it does! Every day is another day of your life that you won’t get back, there are no redo’s in your current set of circumstances. If your work doesn’t provide you with a sense of purpose or fulfillment, than what are you doing to provide yourself with that? I totally understand that some people are lucky enough to have a job they love, it’s a passion vs. “work”; my mom was that way in her career. Others have jobs that provide them the means to pursue their passion.
But what if you don’t put yourself in either of those categories? What if you just get up and go through the motions each and every day on auto pilot? What is one small thing you can do to change that? Is it a special cup of coffee? A snuggle with your child? What are you waiting for? What are the excuses you’re telling yourself as to why you can’t? Are they really true? Or is it a case of “if I can’t do it BIG or PERFECT I might as well not do it at all”?
LESS perfect ideas, MORE real action.
How much time do you spend surfing social media? What if you told yourself that you were going to spend half of that time every day for a week doing one small thing that really mattered to you or just made you feel good? Just to see how it feels? What not try? Do you remember what those things are?
Don’t wait until you reach your goal; to lose 5 lbs., get in shape, have X dollars in the bank, get that promotion, etc.… Are any of those things really what you’re striving for? Or is it how you imagine you will feel when you have them? If it’s the latter, the secret is, you can choose to feel that way now! It’s true, you can start feeling and living that way now while continuing to work towards your goals. For many of us, as soon as we reach our goal we find a new one anyway, so why wait to feel great and love your life? What’s the point? How much longer are you willing to put your life and your happiness (and those around you) on hold? The world needs you NOW, today, goals will always be there; they may be your destination but what about the journey? That journey is your life, and you get to, no…actually…you have to, CHOOSE how you feel as you live it.
Wait LESS, Appreciate the current moment MORE.
If you disagree, I’m willing to bet that you have felt that way for a while, long enough for that way of thinking to have become a habit. There are numerous studies out there that prove that habits can be changed. “Old habits die hard”, but just because something isn’t easy doesn’t mean it isn’t possible or worthwhile. Some of the most rewarding things in life are the most challenging to achieve. What could be more rewarding than living a life you love, a life that matters to you? What could be worth more?
LESS “productive”, MORE true to your heart.
Try to imagine yourself in the future… all of these days that you are letting slip by, or just “getting through”, being “productive”… that’s your life, this is not a dress rehearsal, you can’t get that time back. What do you really want to have accomplished 3, 5 or 10 years from now? How do you want to feel along the way? Make a list of all the things you do on a daily basis, and then ask yourself if any of them are getting you at least a little closer to your dreams (saving money doesn’t count). Do they make you appreciate being alive? If not, how are those dreams or that happiness going to happen? What are you waiting for? You just have to start, don’t strive for perfect, just take the first step. One small imperfect step forward will get you so much further than 10 big perfectly planned steps never taken. If you take one small action each day, 5 minutes or 5 hours, I promise you will be getting closer to your dreams, and LIVING your life at the same time. 🙂
DO less, BE more!
Why do we waste any one stage of our life wishing, hoping, or trying, to make it like another; each stage has its time and its purpose, but we only get one shot. Live for the moment, enjoy the things that are only available, possible or even acceptable, in that moment…and then move on. Get everything you can out of the stage that you are in, it will only help you in the next, but you have to be in the moment you are in if you don’t want to miss it. Before you know it, those moments were your life. Remember, it’s not about how much time you lived; it’s about how much you lived during your time.
Recently I sat through an assembly in my son’s middle school where we were given a folder full of papers with names and descriptions of, not only classes students could take in High School, but suggested clusters of classes for various career paths. The catch was…you pretty much needed to have it all figured out by Tuesday. Suddenly I felt a wave of anxiety wash over me. I automatically started looking through the papers and wondering; what should he take? What if he takes this and then decides he should have taken that? Can he take them all just in case? Etc… Just then I turned around to look at my son, sitting several rows behind me with his buddies, and I noticed that they weren’t even listening. My first reaction was to be annoyed, but almost simultaneously, I had to laugh. He was just acting his age, living in the moment with his friends, not stressed out about what he was going to be when he grew up, but simply trying to get a little balled up piece of paper into another boys sweatshirt hood a few rows ahead.
Instantaneously I felt concerned by the assembly. How is this helping our society? Why are we encouraging children to focus so narrowly on their future instead of what might benefit them right now? I mean….I get it, it’s the “way things are” and I commend our school for preparing our children for that harsh reality, but could there be another way? Who is benefiting from the current “way things are”? Do kids seem happier? Are addiction rates or drug abuse down? How about school shootings or the suicide rates of college/university students or young adults? Do the “way things are” seem to be working very well to you?
Sitting there, I felt like I was witnessing an example of the out of control social pressures on our kids that have now become “normal”. We are picking a “career path” in 8th grade… If in 11th grade a child realizes he made the wrong choice, or changes his mind about what he wants to be when he grows up, does he risk making his transcripts look bad and take the opportunity to try something new? Does he value the learning he received, even if it was simply discovering what he didn’t want to do, and start in a new direction? Does he push those feelings away and march forward to achieve the goal he set simply because he has already come this far? In 11th grade is anyone encouraging him to think about how much happier he’ll be in 5, 10 or even 15 years by changing course now? To think about what his gut is telling him? Or is he being informed about how much better completing the courses will look on his resume etc.…? What if he has been doing well in these classes? Who will advise him that it’s ok not to continue even though he’s good at it? Will human nature deter him from wanting to “throw away or waste” all the time and energy he has spent getting to this point?
What does it mean to “waste time” anyway? Especially time that has already past. If it’s already past, and you gained something from it, is it possible for it become “wasted” at some point in the future, or is that just a matter of perspective? And if its perspective, can’t we change it? I think so. To me, when we stop listening to our own inner voice and let ourselves be controlled by the voices of “others”, that’s wasting time; that time is your life.
What if life is just a bunch of experiences and all we are supposed to get is what we learn from each one of them? (Versus a big job or paycheck etc.…) What if we looked at each moment as precious in itself and merely tried to get the most out of it rather than just using it as a stepping stone to a “better” future moment (which may never come).
As I sat in the assembly, I couldn’t help but wonder, when did we become more concerned with teaching our kids what to think then how to think? When did it all change? No wonder kids seem so stressed out today; not only do they have to deal with the out of control peer competition on social media, but they also have to compete for their position in life as an adult as well. When are they supposed to just be that awkward, in between, not a child or an adult, hormones taking over my body, teenagers? I can’t imagine feeling all that pressure and not yet having enough life experience to have the tools to deal with it. I have to admit, I suddenly couldn’t even hear the speakers, all I could imagine was a huge factory; with our unique, individual, creative children on a conveyer belt going in one side, full of life and laughter, and coming out the other side as robots. There were are few different makes and models, but basically just little adult robots with all the childhood sucked out of them, never to be seen again. An entire stage of life…gone. It was heart wrenching.
When we got home I asked my son what he thought about the assembly. He told me that he “wanted to take cooking and art”. When I asked him why, he said that he loves to cook and he loves to eat, so it seemed “awesome to be able to do both during the school day”. Regarding art, he said he’s always loved art but has noticed that if he doesn’t take it in school, he just doesn’t do it anymore. He said he really likes learning new drawing techniques and drawing is something he has always loved. WOW, proud mom moment! My son wants to make sure that he continues to do and enjoy something that has made him happy for as long as he can remember…talk about “out of the mouths of babes”. Ok, so he definitely didn’t listen to the assembly, and he may not be able to complete the engineering or business track with these electives, but he will be reinforcing a habit of “making the time to do what makes you happy”. I believe a happy, self-confident individual is at least as capable of accomplishing whatever they set their minds to as someone who is just really good at following a curriculum. Besides, isn’t the whole point of “achieving our dreams” to be happy? What good is a great job and a large bank account if you’re miserable? If you don’t learn how to be happy NOW, in THIS moment or stage of your life, how can you expect to be happy later? Will you even remember what it feels like?
I’m not suggesting that I have all (or any) of the answers, but, I do know that my child will only be as young as he is now. There will come a time when he has no choice but to act like an adult, and it will no longer be appropriate for him to act like a teenager, so why not let him be one now? A toddler can poop his pants and its ok, by letting them, eventually they learn not to so that when they are in school they use the bathroom. When we are in elementary school we might throw sand at other kids. This is normal, but we quickly learn that we don’t like it when they throw it back, so we learn not to do it before reaching the upper grades when that behavior is no longer acceptable. As teenagers we may stay up too late and not be able to fully function in school the next day. This is typical and usually we just get a few extra hours sleep when we get home, but we have learned the consequences of our actions first hand so that, a few years later, we are less likely to repeat our mistakes when our jobs are on the line, and so on…
When did we stop appreciating the stage we are in and become “OK” with letting it pass us by while we work towards a “better” one? Why do some of us wait until we’re old to want to be young and others spend so much of our youth trying to be grown up? I’m sure it varies but, I feel as though we first step onto that treadmill somewhere in the mid to later years of elementary school; wishing to be just a little “older”, more “grown up” and given more independence. I’ve noticed that somewhere around 50 many people start to step off that treadmill and realize where they are, wonder how they got there (and sometimes why). The more I spend time with older people, 75 plus, I hear mixed reviews: some wish to be young again, to be physically able to enjoy the simple things in life like running, playing and rolling down a grassy hill. Others, unfortunately, have told me how grateful they are to have been young when they were because they couldn’t imagine living with the pressures of being young today. That always saddens me, probably because I have young children. But then I think, maybe, just maybe, the pendulum has swung so far in this direction of fast times, that it will soon start to head back the other way.
Maybe there is a whole generation of us that have spent some of the last 30 or so years with blinders on; striving for certain goals, filled with determination and absolute disregard for alternate possibilities. Now, having achieved our goals, we realize they don’t make us happy. Some of us may have recognized that we were heading down the wrong path along the way, but we kept going because other people told us we should, it was relatively easy, or maybe because we’d already invested so much time/money that we couldn’t imagine “throwing it all away”. Somehow we convinced ourselves that it’s better to waste our future time than to waste the time already spent, but does that make any sense? That time is gone…, the only time we have is now and our future. Do we have to be anything “less than happy” in our future because of our past? Maybe we can use that past, not for what we “accomplished”, but for what we learned from the experiences (thereby making all that time invaluable). Perhaps we can help teach the next generation the importance of living in the moment you are in, listening to and trusting your heart, and living your life. Can we lead by example?
“Society” is just a bunch of people; WE are those people. If things in society are not working, it’s up to us to fix them, one person at a time. A lot has changed over the last 30 years with the advancements in technology etc. The speed at which we do everything has increased dramatically; it’s normal to expect some growing pains, but now it’s time to adjust. One thing that has not changed is the amount of time we have at each stage in our life. My mom always told me that every season has a reason, and I believe that’s true for each “season” of our lives. Each has its own unique set of possibilities for a reason and no one is more/less essential than another. What can you do now that you weren’t able to do in a previous “season” of your life? What have the seasons past left you with to help you grow? This is your moment to make the most of NOW, and share what you know with those younger than you. You are “society”, so if you agree that some changes are needed, it’s up to you to start today! “Be the change you want to see“. No pressure 😉
p.s. You’ve probably heard the saying, “If I only knew then what I know now.” How do you respond to that? What would you have done differently? Why? What do you wish you knew? This is your moment to pass that on to the next generation, to make the difference you wish someone had made for you. Perhaps that is the reason you had to learn the “hard way”, to be the one who makes that difference for someone else. Someone has to start the change…why not you?
What do the holidays mean to you? When you think about past holidays, which ones do you have the warmest memories of? What do you remember most about them? How do you feel when you reminisce? Do you remember what you ate? How clean or messy the house you were in was? Whether or not all of the dishes matched or if the table cloth fit perfectly? Or do you remember the people you were with, the stories that were shared and how you didn’t want the day to end? This holiday season, try not to let too much time slip away worrying about the superficial things that really don’t matter, that no one remembers, and focus on the memories you are making. Who are you trying to make everything perfect for anyway? Is it really for your guests? Or could it be for yourself?
Recently I realized that, even though I truly believed I was going out of my way to make everything “perfect” for others, it was really for others’ approval of me. In reality, I was just adding to the “we are here to impress each other” tone of the holiday and, in doing so, taking away from the true spirit of our time together, not to mention making it much less enjoyable for myself (and possibly everyone else: most people actually appreciate REAL so much more than PERFECT, don’t you?). It occurred to me that the people in my home for the holidays came to spend time with me, not to watch me clean and serve them. In fact, they would prefer the gift of my presence over a beautifully served dessert. When you are with friends and loved ones for the holiday, are you really there for the food and/or aesthetics of the place? Or do you go to spend quality time with the people? Personally, if it were simply the food and ambiance, I’d find a restaurant on a random day.
Last year I made a conscious decision, and continuously reminded myself throughout the day, that Thanksgiving was going to be about the family enjoying each other’s company and eating too much food. I was going to enjoy the things that mattered and not “stress” about the things that didn’t. Our dishes didn’t necessarily all match, my kids were in between snow pants and long underwear most of the day, the house was…very lived in, and there was an abundance of happy noise. Each time I began to feel stress attempting to sneak into my body (out of sheer habit) I would stop and ask myself; what am I stressed about? Does it really matter? Will anyone besides me even notice and, if they do, will they love me less, or will they maybe just feel better about themselves? And if that’s the case, isn’t that ok? Is there anything I have to do right now that is more important than being with my loved ones? Do I have to do it now or can it wait until later? What will I gain? What will I miss out on? I would ask myself; what do I want my friends and family to remember about this holiday? And then I would recall Maya Angelou’s famous quote:
“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
As the holidays are approaching, my kids have already told me that they hope this Thanksgiving is just like last year. I asked them what they remembered most about it; their responses ranged from “it was just so fun”,“it was relaxing”, to “I liked that I didn’t have to smell good”. And even though none of them could remember what we ate, they remember it was perfect! (Almost our entire meal was premade and reheated in crock pots…believe me, their memories of the food was tainted by the fullness of their hearts that day).
How do you want people to feel this holiday season? How can you help make that happen? What memories do you want to make?
If you burn the turkey, is it really a disaster? It could be, but does it have to be? It really has nothing to do with the turkey and everything to do with how you choose to respond to the circumstances. If you can laugh at it, others will feel comfortable to laugh with you (not at you). Think about a time when you were with a group of loved ones and you were all laughing about the same thing; you just smiled thinking about it didn’t you? That’s one of those “gifts that keep on giving”, and you can give it simply by being YOU (as opposed to what you think the perfect version of you should be). Remember what’s important to you, especially now, when we seem to be bombarded with so much hate, violence and negativity from all around the world. What can you do to begin a change in your home? Start today, start with love and I guarantee you will have no regrets. Wishing you all heart filled memories this holiday and always.
Have you ever said to yourself or felt, I just need a “me”? A duplicate of yourself to be your teammate in life? To help you through each day? To talk to, to give you advice or support? When was the last time you stopped and realized that you have a “me”? It’s you.
How much time and energy have you spent today trying to figure out how to make others’ lives better? How much time and energy have you spent doing that for yourself? Who does it for you these days? How do you feel about them putting you before themselves? Do you enjoy giving? Who do you allow to give to you? What do you do on a regular basis to take care of the only “me” you have?
I believe we were each entrusted with one person to take care of first and foremost, and yet we continuously disregard that person to take care of others; why don’t we feel justified in putting that person, “me”, first? I’m talking about feeling good about your own self-worth, feeling that who you are and how you spend your time contributes in a meaningful way for you as an individual and your community, i.e. family, friends, town, etc…
If you had another “me”, how would you treat that person? How would you require others in your life to treat that person? Do you do that for yourself? If not, why? If you step outside yourself, don’t you think you deserve it? How are you telling others it’s ok to treat that person? Where do you put “me” on your list of priorities? Who is the one person in this world you literally couldn’t live without?
Maybe we simply do what we do out of habit. If we started putting ourselves first, not in a selfish or egotistical way, but the way we would a child, friend or loved one; if we made putting ourselves first a new habit, what sort of impact would we, our best selves, be capable of having on the world?
If individuals made striving to become their best self as natural as putting others needs before their own, what would that be like? If we could all be true to ourselves out loud, how would things be different? How can we teach our children to listen to their guts, be true to themselves, follow their passions, and always take care of themselves first…if we don’t show them how? Children watch what we do far more carefully than they listen to what we say.
I think that, over the years, society has made us feel badly about taking care of ourselves first. But who/what is “society”? Isn’t that just us? So if we created these negative connotations, can’t we change them? Instead of teaching people to wait for others to take care of them, why not teach them to take care of themselves? If each person were given one person to be responsible for, to take care of first and foremost…that could work! Imagine how we can change the world one person at a time… I truly believe, baby steps forward will always get you farther than big steps nowhere. After all, if you don’t start where you are (as opposed to where you think you “should be”) and take a step that you can achieve (instead of the one you think you “ought to” be able to take), how far will you get?
Do something for yourself today to begin or continue a habit of appreciating yourself the way you deserve to be appreciated. Try starting with the simple act of looking in the mirror, past all of the external features you may typically find fault with, now look into your eyes, deep inside, until you catch a glimpse of that unconditional friend staring back at you. That’s her, your best friend. Tell her how much you love and appreciate: how she has always been there with and for you, regardless of how badly you may have treated her; how she has never judged you, although you may have judged her; how she has always loved you no matter how much you said you hated her. She is your #1 fan and she is only here for you. Tell her you love her, thank her and let her know that from today on, she will be your priority. If that seems silly or hard to do, maybe just ask yourself why. Would it be difficult to say any of those things to a child? Friend? Loved one?
A good friend once told me this story: I have a pitcher of lemonade and I want to fill everyone’s glass. I want to be able to provide all who are thirsty with a drink. It gives me great pleasure to do this for others. However, sometimes I realize that my pitcher is empty, and then I can’t fill anyone’s glass. It makes me mad, sad and sometimes even resentful, when I can’t continue to serve. But, I have come to learn, I have to stop and take the time I need to fill my own pitcher if I want to be able to pour another glass for anyone else. So now I make it a regular habit to periodically stop to refill my pitcher, sometimes even before it is completely empty. The funny thing is, people wait patiently for my return; they have learned that when I first return after stopping to refill, the lemonade is even colder and fresher!
Most people have heard the phrase, “Life is all about the journey”, at least once in their lives, but what does it mean? Does it mean that the journey is more important than the destination? Or is it your journey that somehow defines how you feel when you reach your destination? If you’re happy with your current destination yet not feeling fulfilled, is it possible it has nothing to do with where you are and everything to do with how you got there? Could you be in the right spot with the wrong feelings?
I think so…. I believe that feeling a lack of gratification in your current life can have little to do with the situation/destination itself. I think it is highly possible that your current set of circumstances is what you want and you may feel unfulfilled because of something you missed on your way there.
Do we mourn passed over or missed possibilities/opportunities as much as we celebrate achievements?
I think so… I think that we regret the things we didn’t try, do or say, much more and for much longer than the things we undertake, regardless of the outcome, i.e. success or failure.
For example, I imagine that very few mountain climbers would have the same satisfaction when reaching the top if they were dropped off by a helicopter. It’s the climb, each and every grueling and glorious step and misstep they take getting there, that they appreciate when they reach the peak. I would guess that shortly after those who were dropped off got a chance to enjoy the view, they would begin to regret missing out on the climb and the adventures along the way. I think they would continue wishing they had at least tried to climb long after the climbers had finished celebrating and moved on to conquer a new mountain. I would even bet that, in time-if not right away, the climbers who only made it half way would have a greater sense of fulfillment than those who took the helicopter ride and left filled with empty “what if’s?”.
If two marathon runners were in the same event, but one of them accepted a motorcycle ride for the middle 15 miles, what are the chances that they will feel the same as they cross the finish line, or even the years after? It’s not the destination, it’s how you get there. A true sense of fulfillment comes from the accomplishment of getting somewhere, knowing you are capable of achieving something, being intimately aware of what that means, and living through the lessons along the way. It has much less to do with simply being at a particular place or having certain titles/roles or things.
I think many of us end up skipping or racing past certain struggles/lessons on our journeys in order to reach a new destination more quickly, or simply to stop the pain or discomfort of a current one. We sometimes want to keep moving “ahead”, rushing past any “yucky” or boring times, when maybe that’s exactly where we need to be. Getting through, as opposed to past, those times is where I believe we develop the skills, strength and insight that we eventually need to be best prepared for what the future has in store for us, and to be able to fully appreciate and receive fulfillment from our next goal or destination.
So, what if you have already raced ahead to achieve your “goals”, feel relatively certain that your current circumstances are what you want, but still feel unfulfilled? Is it realistic to “redo the journey” and yet keep your current situation? Probably not, but…as long as we are alive, we’re still on our journey and, I believe, all of the lessons that we may have missed along the way will be presented to us again. The question then is, will you be ready or willing to recognize and accept them when they do?
I have learned that we can go back and gain awareness of lessons we may have missed without having to relive the stories. This helps us recognize them when they show up again. For example, if you were to take time to think back on your life and ask yourself; Where did I opt for the helicopter route? What was my motivation? What was I avoiding? How did that work out? When did I choose the climb? How did that feel? Was there an alternate perspective I could have moved forward with? Etc… Many times just asking yourself these sorts of questions will trigger many others. It’s the answers that come from within that can restore you and help you begin to live a more fulfilling life today while preparing you for tomorrow.
We can’t change the past, only our thoughts about it and what we get from them. So think about your journey so far, look for the lessons, find some positive that came out of each one, and then think about the ones you may have avoided and what you got out of that. What doors opened when others closed? How can you apply those lessons and/or that awareness to your life today? Perhaps just noticing the steps on your way to your goal, instead of rushing to the end, would be a great start.
At the end of the day, I don’t believe our current situation is necessarily right or wrong regardless of how we got there; the top of the mountain is still the top of the mountain and the finish line is still the finish line, but…what about how we feel while we’re there? You’re still on your journey with nothing stopping you from finding out. You don’t have to go backwards and climb any past mountains, or rerun any missed marathons. There are an abundance of mountains and marathons awaiting as you move forward in life, and you can start right where you are with your new awareness and ability to appreciate each individual step.
P.S. Why does modern society continue to spend so much time and energy making things faster and easier? Has it made people happier? Do people seem more fulfilled today than before all of these “advancements”? It seems as though we, as a generation, are in danger of missing the journey. Personally, I’d rather be happy struggling half way up a mountain than comfortably miserable at the top, but maybe that’s just me, what do you think?
Drown out the noise so you can hear what’s real….
Have you ever heard anyone say…”the noise was so loud I couldn’t hear myself think”…? Maybe that’s not always a bad thing…
Have you ever been driving somewhere and a song comes on the radio and, for whatever reason, you turn it up…then you turn it up some more, suddenly you have the volume so loud that you can feel every beat… Maybe you really like the song, maybe you like what/who it makes you think of, or maybe you just needed to drown out the noise…
The noise I’m talking about is the chatter in your head, the self-talk. Good, bad or otherwise, sometimes you just need it to stop. I’ve tried meditation, as many forms as I could find; sitting, laying down, silent, quiet music of some sort, walking, exercise, etc. and I still try to do some sort almost every day. However, it was not until recently that I realized why I get so much “something” out of being alone in my car, a small isolated space, and turning the radio up as loud as I can handle. Don’t get me wrong, I also love to do this with my kids or certain friends, but I noticed that when I’m all alone, it can be different. As I was blaring my music today, suddenly it all made sense.
When the radio is that loud it actually drowns out all the “noise” in my head, it all fades to a low indecipherable mumble in the background. I could no longer focus on my “To Do List”, the morning argument with the kids, the past, the future, all the “could have, would have and should haves” that take up space in my head. Suddenly I realized I was no longer thinking at all and I became fully aware of how I was feeling at that particular moment. All that I could “hear” was what was in my heart, and it was louder and clearer than ever. Wow! What an awareness. When my ears and head were flooded with music, my heart was free to soar above it all. The more I embraced this the more I was able to almost harness the real power within me; I felt clarity in what I was feeling, as opposed to the jumbled emotions of my thoughts.
I continue to try to practice various forms of meditation because I believe in the importance and benefits of mindfulness. But what is mindfulness really? A dictionary will tell you that it is a mental state achieved by focusing your awareness on the present moment while acknowledging and accepting your feelings, thoughts and bodily sensations without focusing on them. As I understand it, it is most simply being aware of “Now”. When I’m driving with the music so loud that I can’t think, I am definitely living in the moment. Strong feelings flood my entire body and I am in total appreciation of the awareness, so much so that when a song ends and I’m not a big fan of the next, I eagerly search for another so that the feeling continues. Ultimately, when I do have to turn the radio down, the thoughts come right back like sand in a hole without missing a beat. But I still feel better, sometimes even energized, and I do believe there is a positive lingering effect on my day.
For that moment, it’s as if time stops, but it doesn’t, it is actually such precious time that some of us don’t think about again that day, instead we go back to focusing on our to do lists, etc…
Now I have a greater understanding of why people who meditate say they are almost addicted to it. For any of you who have not found the right fit in meditation practices, I recommend giving this a try. Chances are, many of you do it already…next time, when the volume is maxed out and you can no longer hear the noise in your head, listen to what your heart is telling you. Namaste
What are some unique or different mindfulness and/or meditation practices you have found?
Disclaimer: Sometimes I’m so caught up in the moment that I end up at Target…regardless of where I was heading…but I always enjoy the drive 😉