Practice Accepting What We’re Given

“The reward for practicing accepting what we’re given is we become intimate with everything that’s not us. We become intimate with the nature of life.  And it’s the rhythm between our own nature and the nature of life that allows us to find the thread we are — the thread we are in the unseeable connections that hold everything together.” – Mark Nepo

I love the concept of finding the “thread we are” in nature.  Sometimes I find it hard to get out of my head, especially when I am trying to make a decision or solve a problem. It seems counterintuitive to simply let go and accept where I am in the moment, not to mention incredibly difficult given my obsessive compulsive personality.

The other day I decided to take a walk and as I strolled along, I realized I was stuck in my head, oblivious to nature around me.  I remembered what Mark Nepo said in his Book of Awakening about dealing with difficult thoughts and emotions by finding something in nature that most represents how you are feeling.  I started looking for things during my walk, and slowly I was able to stop the obsessive thinking.

I would recommend giving this approach a try, and remember to go easy on yourself if you have trouble letting go of your thoughts — they are part of nature too.

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A Life Lesson for All Ages

Yesterday I struggled to see the good in my day. Everything was harder than normal, and I was feeling just plain gross and out of sorts. I was frustrated with my job and annoyed that I am not an expert at it yet. I missed my old job, but at the same time cursed it. I wanted to throw my uncooperative laptop out the window, and on the way to my doctor’s appointment I missed my exit. I was disappointed to find I hadn’t lost a pound despite eating a healthy diet and was reminded by the well-meaning doctor that my age was a contributing factor.

On the way home the contents of my purse spilled all over the floor of my car, and I was honked at several times for my distracted driving. I felt needy,  weepy, and isolated from my friends, whom I  haven’t gotten to see as much lately. I almost canceled a dinner because I didn’t think I was invited, but traffic was so bad I went any way. I’m glad I did, even though it felt a little awkward.

When a bad day is happening, I don’t always realize the reasons why I’m feeling out of sorts until it has passed. Today I am fairly certain most of it had to do with being tired and not knowing when to slow down and take it easy. Today I’m finding it a little easier to lighten up about things, probably because I’m not trying so hard.

Over the weekend I read a book to my grand-daughter called My No, No, No Day by Rebecca Patterson. After I finished reading, she looked up at me innocently and said, “Why was she having a bad day Mimi?”

My daughter, who was folding clothes on the bed was quick to remind the sleepy toddler of the bad day she’d had recently, after she missed her nap and threw several temper tantrums. What better way to let a small child know that bad days happen to everyone than by telling her a story.

Thank goodness there are books like this one and the popular kid’s book, Alexander and The Terrible, Horrible, No Good Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst, that provide valuable lessons to children about life’s ups and downs, and thank goodness for the reminder to me as well.

What is Success and Where do I Find it?

I haven’t posted in a long time and I am not sure why. I could say I have been busy, but it is more than that. Busy is such a meaningless word. I have been filling up the hours in my days no more or less than usual.  I’ve been scurrying a long from activity to activity, while intentionally avoiding my blog.  The truth is,  sometimes it seems weird to share so openly about my life, and it makes me uncomfortable.   And yet when I don’t, it feels like there is something missing.  Maybe it is because my only true passion is writing, and blogging will probably be as close as I ever get to being a writer, even if it is for my own enjoyment.  It felt good to take a break, and now I am happy to be back.  Maybe writing again will help me deal with my latest identity crisis, as it seems to have done in the past.

Over all it has been a pretty good year, at least from the outside looking it.  I finally finished graduate school and started a new job.  I am in a loving relationship, and I just came back from a wonderful vacation.  Yet I have been feeling  an increasing malaise recently, and I am trying to come to terms with the reasons why.

The biggest reason I’m struggling is probably internal in nature, and revolves around the question of what defines success. I thought I knew what success meant to me, and now I am not so sure. I moved on from my old job this winter for several reasons, burn-out, frustrations about hitting a ceiling, and wanting a change after 20 years.  As a feminist, I believe that I ought to strive to achieve to my fullest potential and I’ve pushed myself accordingly.

Now I am learning that success doesn’t always equate with job title or salary.  Success is about being true to oneself and liking what one does. Neither of which I am experiencing right now. My new job doesn’t seem to fit my personality, despite my being good at it, and it is causing me a great deal of angst. I know I should give it time, but that’s hard to do when I dread going to work each day.  I miss what I did before, and wish I could have found a way to make it work and have some growth without throwing the baby out with the bath water, as they say. Sitting at a desk now looking at spreadsheets all day and going to meeting after meeting is wearing on me. I thought it was the angst of transitioning but it hasn’t gotten any better so I am starting to wonder.

Now I am holding my hands up to the sky, as if there are answers waiting to be captured as they fly towards me in a gust of wind.

I am going to give it some time to figure out what I want.  In the meantime, I will make sure to fill my days with the things I enjoy, like writing this blog.  I will take it one day at a time and try to remember the hardest lesson of all…

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I’ll keep you “posted” on how it is going.

Feeling Brilliant

Funny-Yoga-CatsToday I made a small change that made a big difference in my day. I went to a yoga session during my lunch hour.

I have known for quite some time now that there was a small fitness center one floor above our offices. Indeed, my co-workers and I have been known to complain about the noise coming from above, sometimes sounding like a set of weights are going to drop right onto our heads, or like the person on the treadmill may have exceeded the speed limit.

A while back our people finally complained to their people and were told there was nothing that could be done about it. There was simply nowhere else in the building for them to go. All was not lost though, and instead they offered to give us a discounted membership. That was quite some time ago, and it has taken me this long to take them up on this nearly free offer.

I mean come on now, it is just one floor above me!  I can go up there for a half hour during lunch time, get a little work-out to de-stress, and still be able to grab a bite to eat at my desk. This will come in really handy on the days that I have classes and can’t make it out for a run or a swim before or after work.  I have also vowed to pack my lunch, thereby making up for the cost of the fitness center in just one week each month.

I felt so peaceful after my yoga class. I didn’t even need to drink more caffeine to get through the afternoon. Suddenly I feel brilliant.

The moral of this story is that sometimes the answer to your question might come in the form of a slight pounding over your head, begging for your attention.

View from Skywalk Window

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I’m still playing with yesterday’s assignment. The fun part of participating in the photo101 class is that it makes ordinary experiences more interesting. One could even say it helps me to be more mindful of my surroundings. I also look forward to seeing everyone else’s interpretations each day.

I stopped and took these pictures on the sky walk on the way into work this morning. I have had so much fun experimenting with various shots. Following the assignments and looking through a photographer’s eyes makes me aware of all the small, intricate details that are there for the noticing in any given moment.

I think this process would be helpful for anyone who is working on their emotional, spiritual, and mental well-being.

 

Practice self-compassion this holiday season

“Self-compassion is approaching ourselves, our inner experience with spaciousness, with the quality of allowing which has a quality of gentleness. Instead of our usual tendency to want to get over something, to fix it, to make it go away, the path of compassion is totally different. Compassion allows.”  – Robert Gonzales
 

Notice what you are reacting to

500px-Sad_LookNext time you are having a strong reaction to a person or situation, chances are you may also be reacting to something from the past.  Oftentimes, if you take a moment to think about the feelings you are having, you will notice that they take you back to an earlier time in your life when someone or something made you feel that way.  In fact, you may have been replaying a scenario over and over again with different characters and settings, searching for resolution.  Next time you are feeling hurt, rejected, or treated unfairly, try to recall the first time you felt that way.   If you can’t think of anything right away, then let the thought go, with an open mind to allowing it to come to your consciousness when the time is right and you are more relaxed.

If you are having trouble with the concept, I recommend reading Love is Letting Go of Fear. The author, Gerald Jampolsky, does an excellent job of illustrating it in easy-to-read  terminology.

For now, all you need to do is raise your awareness and be open to the idea that things are not always as they seem on the surface.  This awareness will take practice.  Once you have developed an awareness of these moments, then you will be able to examine your feelings on a deeper level.  Approach this exercise with a loving attitude, remembering that you are doing the best you can, and so is everyone else you know.

 

 

Contemplating New Beginnings

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Today is the first day of spring – a great time to contemplate one of the most cliché phrases used to describe this time of year and other monumental life events.

“New Beginnings” can seem like such a shallow phrase and its full meaning cannot be grasped until we have experienced it on numerous occasions, both happy and sad.  Often it is used when we believe someone needs to get over something and move on.

Yet I still take comfort in knowing that there is a new truth in each passing moment.  There is peace in releasing the fear that keeps us from seeking the truth in every situation we encounter. I have wasted a lot of time and energy hiding from the truth, afraid that I would not be able to bear its consequences.  Ultimately I have no choice but to accept what is.

strengthI have been told that I am a very strong person and I believe it is true, even though sometimes I feel very weak.  Perhaps I am strong because of all of the losses I have experienced in my life.  Perhaps it is because I was blessed with the gene for resilience.  Whatever the case, I take solace in new beginnings and the opportunity to allow truth to triumph over my fears.

9 Reasons to Let Go of Perfectionism

NYT2009012015594807C1) The only thing that is perfect is what is happening in this moment because it is indisputable.  Applying perfectionist standards to our past experiences is another way to fruitlessly torture ourselves, yet many of us do this on a regular basis.  Thinking we can change anything that has already happened is like thinking we can go back in time and stop the meteor that landed in Arizona from crashing into the desert, leaving behind its wondrous crater.  Lamenting about how things should have been is a waste of time.  The better use of our energy is to utilize the knowledge gained from our experiences to grow and direct our next steps, appreciating the imprint our past experiences have left on our environment and our souls.  one world 2)The type of perfection we are seeking doesn’t exist.  Each individual has his or her own idea of what constitutes perfection.  The word “perfect” is overused and often serves as an excuse to pursue one’s own ideas about what is right while disregarding everyone else’s perspectives.  This is illustrated in the number of religions in the world and the vast array of beliefs that are associated with those religions.  It is also illustrated in the many heinous crimes that have been committed under the guise of seeking perfection for religious and political causes.

3)We are not wired to be perfect.  Even those individuals who have achieved great things by society’s standards have many characteristics that would be considered imperfect by those same standards.  Our so-called negative traits do not diminish our contributions to society.  Einstein contributed much to our understanding of the universe, yet he experienced the same conflicts in his interpersonal relationships as the rest of us.  Mother Theresa demonstrated the ultimate philanthropical spirit of love in God’s name, yet the writings she left behind showed that she had many doubts about the goodness of mankind and the existence of God.  It can take a lifetime of learning to recognize the importance of making mistakes.  What really counts is not allowing our shortcomings to stand in the way of leading a fulfilling life.

4)Perfectionists are no fun.  Some people try hard to conceal their true selves, relying on their outside accomplishments to define themselves.  Their self-worth is derived mainly by their appearances and status.  All of us do this to a certain extent, but it can be taken to extremes.  There is nothing wrong with working hard to bring beauty into the world.   It is when we place more value on our achievements and status than on our fellow human beings that our relationships begin to suffer.   Consider how much delight it gave everyone when the beautiful actress, Jennifer Lawrence, tripped at the Oscars.  It makes us all feel a little better when people are willing to expose their flaws as well.  Let’s embrace our imperfections and have some fun!

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5)Perfectionism is a cage that limits our possibilities.  When we rigidly limit ourselves to a particular outcome, we are not open to the possibility that perhaps something even better exists.  This type of perfectionism can blind us to the opportunities that are in front of us right now.   Maintaining flexibility in our expectations will lead to greater satisfaction than creating standards that are impossible to achieve. 

6) The pursuit of perfection can be a clever disguise for the pursuit of superiority.  It isn’t our fault that we were made to compete with each other in order to survive.  This biologically innate nature drives us to want to be better than those around us.  This desire is rooted in the basic concept of “survival of the fittest” and is necessary to stay alive.  But we do have a choice about how to utilize that drive for the sake of humanity and not just ourselves.  Allowing ourselves to be vulnerable at times can lead to a feeling of connection with those around us.

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7)The pursuit of perfection is an obstacle to our peace of mind.  The perfection we are seeking distracts us from being able to embrace reality.  It is often easier to focus on something we believe will bring us happiness than to appreciate the random, exciting nature of the world in which we live.  If our fundamental underlying belief is that we need to be in control of all situations (and clearly we are not), than we will make ourselves miserable trying to achieve our misguided idea of perfection.  

8)The pursuit of perfection can cause us to make more mistakes.  Studies have shown  that musicians who are perfectionists are more likely to make mistakes than their counterparts who are able to let go of their expectations and relax.  Anyone who has ever been terrified to speak in public, perform on stage, or participate in a big competition understands all too well the fear of not living up to other people’s expectations.  The realization that we don’t have to do things perfectly can be such a freeing experience. 

9)There is a difference between striving to do well and striving for perfection.  Striving to do well is rooted in love, while striving for perfection is rooted in the ego.  If you have ever watched Julia Child preparing one of her famous recipes, you will know what I am talking about.  She loved cooking and did not let it phase her when she made mistakes on air.  There are many reality shows about cooking now, like Hell’s Kitchen, that teach us more about the heartache of not living up to someone’s standards of perfection than about the joys of cooking.  This all or nothing approach is a reflection of a culture that has adopted a perfectionists’ mentality, but that doesn’t mean we have to buy into it.  

Resist the urge to be perfect and start living your life with passion.

Swimming through the Pain

There are times in most people’s lives when they may experience emotional pain.  This may occur in response to changes that are out of one’s control, a loss, extreme prolonged stress, or any number of life events.    It isn’t always easy to figure out how to move forward when faced with such extreme emotions.  Often it becomes difficult to make even the simplest decisions in the midst of this kind of inner turmoil, resulting in the tendency to push through the pain regardless of the impact it may have on one’s health or well-being.  

Our society seems to expect us to be “on” at all times, and slowing down to regroup is seen as a weakness.   We feed into magical thinking, believing that good things come to us when we are “good”, and that somehow we must deserve it when bad things happens.  The truth is, the life cycle includes moments of pain as well as moments of joy.  When we experience physical pain, like a sprained ankle or a back injury, it is easy to slow down and allow the body to heal.  The body let’s us know when we are pushing beyond our means in order to heal appropriately.  It isn’t as easy to recognize this process when we are experiencing an emotional crisis. 

When my daughter was a collegiate swimmer, she was often told to swim through the pain, regardless of how she was feeling.  Ignoring the pain over a long period of time led to both physical and emotional ailments that have taken awhile to heal.   It isn’t easy to loosen our grip on activities in which we have heavily invested our time and energy.  When we push beyond our means, our bodies and minds will let us know, becoming louder until we can no longer ignore it.  That is sometimes the only way we finally get the message to take care of ourselves.   This is a phenomena that is impacting many overextended workers around the country, as they face the pressures of juggling more work during the economic downturn.   

It can be scary to let go of the things that may be taking a toll on our health but have become so familiar we don’t know any other way of living.   The only way to know for sure is to loosen one’s grip enough to explore another path that may ultimately be better.  Looking back on my life, I can see that the times I was able to step back and heal were the times that I experienced the most growth and ultimately came out of it stronger and healthier.