Be Fully Present

We talk about doing the next right thing but we don’t talk about how that feels in our bodies. When I’m rushing I get this sense of urgency like time is spilling through my fingers like grains of sand at the beach. It feels as if the only thing I can do is fight to cling more tightly to the sand I’m holding. We all know that analogy, the tighter we clench our fists the faster the sand runs through our fingers. Whereas, if we relax our hands and allow them to remain open the sand settles. We may loose a few grains but we hold onto much more than if we closed our hands. It seems only fitting that to do our personal next right thing we need to stop gripping everything so tightly. 

Let things go and let other people help. Trust that your support network – friends, family, neighbors, or co-workers – will step in to provide the help you need. Focus on what you can do right now. What is one small thing you can do really well? As Abraham Martha Beck is credited with first saying, “How we do one thing is how we do everything.” Rather than pushing ourselves to do many things poorly, take a deep breath. What next task feels most important to you?

Don’t worry about everything else. Just be attentive to that one next task and trust yourself. Give that task your full attention. Being embodied in the moment and focused on only one thing allows us to give our full attention to the task. It allows us to deliver our best performance. No matter how small the task, doing it well breeds satisfaction. That feeling is all we need. Because the only moment that actually exists is the present moment. And the only task we can do really well is the one that we are doing presently. With that in mind, breathe, reflect, and choose. 

I wish you peace, serenity, and satisfaction in whatever comes next for you.

What We Resist Persists

Psychologist and researcher Carl Jung believed that what we resist persists – or in his exact words, “what you resist not only persists, but will grow in size.” When we resist a certain idea or situation it is because we are identifying too strongly with it. When we resist we give more attention to that concept. Our focus creates perceived power for whatever force or event we are experiencing. The reality is that we are only observers of this situation or event. To release ourselves from these feelings we need to realize that we do not have control, none of us does. And isn’t that infuriating?

The illusion of control infiltrates our daily lives. Because of our routines we experience alleged predictability. We presume because we always take this route or follow this pattern the results will be the same. Often we are able to seemingly predict the future simply because we are nestled into a comfortable routine. However, as any dramatic event can quickly show us, the way the day progresses is not promised. We can know the routine intimately and still be surprised when an accident on the highway makes us late or someone pivotal to our lives passes away unexpectedly leaving our entire reality upended. 

The goal is not only to embrace change but rather let go of the illusion of control. We do this by leaning into the resistance. Instead of fighting the situation we let go and let it happen. There is no need to resist because our moods, energy, future are not tied to the outcome.

For example, a boss is hired who is less skilled than you. This does not make you less qualified for your role, or theirs. It simply is. The illusion of power afforded to employers is not power over your reality or even your daily life. Just as your employer determines whether or not they will hire you. You determine if you will accept the role and under what conditions you are willing to work. The actions and activities of others are not a reflection on you or your work. You may choose to invest energy into fighting reality but you are only giving power to that perspective and not yourself.

In order to release yourself from the tension – that in the moment admittedly feels intense – you have to stop resisting the experience. Let go of the illusion of control. What we resist persists. When we resist we add scrutiny, attention, and energy to a situation and it becomes a problem. The key is to see what is rather than all of the meaning, interpretations, and value that you have imposed upon it. Release yourself from the resistance. Until you free yourself, the situation can only persist because it is consuming so much of your attention. Value is created by you and your attachment or disengagement with the experience. When you let go, you free yourself to focus on something else.

Following Your Yes

The way we run from joy in life you’d think we hated it. We are constantly convincing ourselves that in order for our experiences to be valid, important, or necessary we must also be miserable. It’s easy to start to think that because we can do hard things that it is necessary to ONLY do what is difficult or challenging. In actuality we need to be doing less of what causes anxiety, makes us uncomfortable, or feels like it is not meant for us. We need to follow our yes.

Following our bliss or following your yes is a simple practice of listening and paying attention to your inner voice. The voice that wants ice cream and not dinner. The voice that says let’s go swinging rather than let’s jump on one more webinar. Listening to the voice is not a rejection of mature adult life. It is rather an acceptance that you know what is best for you. You know what you need better than any agenda or app.

You know that you’ve been sitting too much today. Your body is longing to stretch and fly free on the swing. Or noticing that you haven’t eaten enough today or that you’re hungry for a treat and that’s ok. We learn early to reject our inner voices in order to attend school or listen to adults around us. What if instead of trusting that anyone else knows better what you need, you simply trusted that you’ve got this. And if you’re wrong, you’ll figure it out. 

Isn’t that such a simple and yet, revolutionary thought? You don’t have to do the difficult thing, you can do the fun thing. And chances are the fun thing is the right thing for you. We all know that there are days when bills need to be paid. Days when boring meetings must be attended but that is not every day and you know what else? That is not all day. If you know you have a lot of responsibilities or obligations coming up – take some time to treat yourself. Be kind to you and pick up ice cream or pop by a local cafe for a hot beverage. Do something small to bring yourself joy. Even if you’re sitting in a long meeting you can at least sip your drink and offer yourself a small pleasure while in the midst of an unpleasant situation. 

Take care of yourself and follow your yes, let me know where your inner voice guides you!

Treating Each Day Like a Vacation Day

Not every day can be vacation but I’ve noticed when I start the day with a relaxed mind-set – I’m happier. When a day is for work, the guiding principal seems to be, “utilize every moment for impactful activities and choices.” I enjoy the day a lot less. There is more joy in the day when we focus on meeting our own needs first.

When I begin the day focused on work I find myself rushing, begrudging the tasks that I complete. Stressing out because I can only complete so many unpleasant tasks in a day. Doing things simply for the result of getting them done I find myself begrudging every extra step. Since life is primarilymade up of a multitude of mundane moments this can get pretty overwhelming fast.

The day takes on a pleasant energy when I focus on what I like to do instead. On a “vacation day,” I am already only doing what I want. Doing what brings me joy. Some days it is simply letting myself read a book or popping out to a yoga class. It’s a small chocolate or another herbal tea. These are simple pleasures. Rather than making myself feel worse for choosing something I’d like to do I simply do it. I don’t rush myself, I don’t guilt myself and I refuse to pressure myself to do it quickly. Reading a few chapters of a good book is delightful. Allowing myself to rest before I burn out is impactful and powerful. Doing these activities puts me in a growth mindset rather than a stagnant one.

To be clear I am NOT doing these things in order to be more productive. But I do find it easier to complete unpleasant tasks when I am coming from a place of rest, comfort, ease and satisfaction. We feel good when our needs are being met. It is a pleasure to go through the day as if it were a vacation day. It gives a little breathing room and creates opportunities to treat ourselves well.

How to you organize your day? Do you force yourself to stay on task or do you allow your day to unfold more naturally?

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Holding Space

One of the lessons I am learning and re-learning is the imperative nature of self-care. Taking care of ourselves well is our first and primary responsibility. In an active life it is easy to loose track of doing the things that nurture and support ourselves. We fall behind with dental appointments, forget to reschedule a salon visit, and before we realize it we’re feeling stressed, overwhelmed, and tired by the prospect of tackling all of the responsibilities we have in our lives.

Today instead of writing out strategies to stay ahead or accomplish more – I am holding space for you. Instead of writing a blog for you to read I am giving you back the time you might have used to read this post. I compiled a list that is by no means all encompassing. It is simply a list of suggestions, ideas for self-care that you might not have considered or thought about recently. So, rather than reading something inspirational here – take the time that you typically invest in reading and give yourself the following gifts instead. Do one or maybe three if you’re feeling adventurous. Whatever you choose I hope it serves you, supports you, and makes you feel deeply cared for and appreciated.

  1. Take 5 deep breaths
  2. Call one person who always makes you laugh
  3. Pick up 3 things and put them away
  4. Floss
  5. Take a sip of water
  6. Do 5 circles with your head and then do them in the opposite direction
  7. Turn on your favorite song and have a dance party by yourself
  8. Close your eyes and count to 10
  9. Have a snack
  10. Set a timer and daydream for 5 minutes

These are small practices that serve you. I hope you and enjoy them and know they are here whenever you need a break!

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Perfect Day

Today I executed the exact perfect day – for me. I woke up early and wrote, ate a healthy breakfast and headed to a yoga class in town. After yoga I came home and painted, prepped dinner and called my dad as I pickled vegetables. I showered and ate lunch with my husband, headed to school for a performance, talked with my grandmother on the way. We picked up dessert at the bakery, delivering treats and the children home safely. I meditated and I am writing. 

Even with all those good things, the day still had it’s ups and downs. I felt rushed and eager to finish things. And may have ruined a painting because I did not have the patience to wait for the right color. I am not happy with the end result. But I didn’t want to wait. It felt like I had to finish something. Like each of those statements in my first paragraph had to be true. That compulsion to check all of the boxes and if I did not then I would not be doing my best to live my best day. It’s interesting how in attempting to have the, “Perfect Day,” I put unnecessary pressure on myself. How it could not just be a good day, it had to be, “perfect.” 

Rather than punishing myself for using the sticky paint instead of waiting for a fresh jar, I’m going to let it go and instead choose to notice the things I felt drawn to. Making meals from scratch, listening to 90’s country music in the kitchen, and catching up with family. Right now I’m listening to a really good book on tape – Heartburn by Nora Ephron. Meryl Streep is reading, and as always, a flawless performance. I felt drawn to exercise, create, and sit in the sun. And I did not like having to delay my painting to accommodate a lack of proper equipment. 

I noticed on the drive home from school that suddenly the trees in our neighborhood have leaves. Soon there will be sun and shade, color and vibrancy. And this day is not done. I just might sneak over to the pool for the first swim of summer. What a treat to enjoy unexpected fun and whimsy.

I don’t have to have the perfect day and I don’t have to follow the perfect schedule. A good life is made up of a variety of experiences and emotions. None of us are perfect and none of our days are perfect either. It’s just noticing the bright spots, the sunlight through the leaves and the goodness that surrounds and fills us. 

After noticing those things that brightened my day and made the time feel sweeter, I’m planning to incorporate more of them into my life. More 90’s country music, more homemade meals, more calling my family and connecting with the people I love most. Those are the things that fill me and fuel me, the things that make life sweeter. It’s a great day and it may not be perfect, but life doesn’t have to be perfect to be wonderful. I hope you take a moment today to think about what brings you joy and find a way to incorporate more of it into your daily life. M

Social Media Cleanse

The rain has stopped outside my window and it seems to have dripped green paint onto the weeping willow tree outside. There are suddenly millions of yellow green buds waiting to bloom. Being fully present to witness this moment feels like a gift and one that I have chosen for myself. I like to feel that I am choosing to do whatever activity I am engaged in, particularly social media. This week I wanted to share a little about a social media cleanse I tried. 

Level one is general media hygiene. Regularly clear your follows and determine what accounts are bringing joy and which accounts are simply bringing you down. Anything that leads you to feel inadequate by comparison has to go – we don’t need that negativity in our lives. I’ve written more on general media hygiene practices here.

Level two – back to the cleanse – because just organizing follows is not our only new practice. I’m talking about a full week of conscious and deliberate social media avoidance. The purpose of this exercise is to clear your head and make space for creative ideas to break through. It is an opportunity to reflect and recognize how much time there is in the day when we are not scrolling. 

I scheduled a week to be social media free because as an Artists Way exercise I have found it to be particularly powerful. Cameron calls her abstention a reading cleanse. No reading for pleasure or knowledge beyond what one must do for work or as necessity. That can be different things for different people. The overall purpose is to clear your head of everyone else’s stories so that you can really dig deep into your own creativity. It’s also a quick way to recognize how much time we fill by immersing ourselves in media.

I love the dopamine burst of reels on Instagram, or of finding something beautiful to pin on Pinterest. But when I am loosing too much time or feel like I can’t log off even when it is time to do so, that’s a good cue to spark a cleanse. This time my cleanse was not cold-turkey. I still watched the reels or notes that people sent. I simply logged on, replied to messages and got off. My logic here is that this an opportunity to connect with a real person. It is a moment of relationship building and that is more than simply watching what everyone else is up to and liking or posting a few emojis. 

When we aren’t scrolling or lost in the virtual world of our phones it’s amazing how much we can create. The space gives us room to do something new, unique, and fresh. We want to make space for our true and raw selves to grow and be nurtured. Much like the rain outside painting the weeping willow with spring greens, I want to have room and water to grow and blossom in spring time. We can’t do that if we are constantly being pruned by everyone else’s ideas, endeavors, and news. So even if your break is a day, an hour, or an evening, I hope you are able to create something that’s never been in the world before. I hope you’ll take the time to invest in yourself. 

Let me know how your social media cleanse goes and what new priorities you welcome! And just so you know all was not perfect over here! I was very much tempted to look at my phone more than I care to admit. Instead I cleaned the bathrooms, washed windows, wrote pages in my journal, painted, and spent quality time with my kiddos. Every second of it was worth it because I felt present, engaged, and more alive than I have in a while. I might just take this cleanse for another week’s run and see what happens! 

Release Responsibility + Control

Spring is in bloom here in Ohio and I am experiencing a creative reawakening. It is a conscious remembering that what we ask for the universe provides. We are showing up in new ways, refreshed and transformed. Making space for those activities that bring me joy and that inspire me. I am no longer available for those activities that drain my energy or leave me feeling unfulfilled. There is a natural resurgence of energy as if spring demands a release of responsibility and control.

To show up authentically we release all of those things we do not need. We are born naked, what can we take off? What do we no longer need to bear the burden of carrying? I have found in life that it is incredibly easy to take on things that are not my own. We collect obligations, tasks, work, and labor. I have held onto many things out of a false sense of responsibility. A desire to fix what is not mine to repair.

I once received a powerful bit of advice from a stranger in passing. She said, “Love is not meant to be held or given, it is meant to flow through us.” In this way all energy and emotion should pass through our lives. The goal is to be porous like sponges, able to absorb only that which is intended for us and release the rest. This allows everything not meant for us to pass quickly without lingering. Another way to think of this message, “those mountains you are carrying, you were only meant to climb.” 

Author Anne Lamott asks, “What is help if not the sunny side of control?” Releasing control is the greatest gift we can offer to ourselves and others. To release control we remember that our value is not tied to our productivity or performance. We all have intrinsic value. When we purge all of the things that are no longer ours we make space for the relationships, experiences, and gifts that we are intended to receive. We trust that that which is meant for us will come to us. We need not be responsible for more than our fair share of work or duty. Our value is not tied to our labor or our misplaced obligations to fix, repair, or care for others. 

We are here to create and give the best of ourselves to the world. As we create our own paths, let use put down the mountains we have carried. Let us climb them instead and leave all of the extra weight that rightfully belongs to other people for them to manage. This spring we are no longer bearing the burden of someone else’s mistakes or issues. Each of us is free to manifest our own destiny, no longer encumbered by the burden of false responsibility or control. We are free. 

Doesn’t the relief feel incredible? 

Boundaries Refresher

Boundaries are the ground rules we share with others in healthy and mutually respectful relationships. They are the limits we place around our time, our attention, and our energy. Our boundaries are not negotiable. Lately I’ve been feeling my boundaries are in need of a tune up. I can tell because I am feeling angry and pushed to firmly state or re-state my limits. Anger is a guide that shows us where we need boundaries.

I notice my boundaries can sometimes slip when I choose to ignore my own needs in order to please or gain approval from someone else. It’s what Brenee Brown calls, “Hustling for worthiness.” We ignore our own desires and instead focus on meeting someone else’s needs, hoping to attain validation from that other person or group. It never works. We are left in resentment and anger because we have given what we need most to someone else. We feel resentful of them – whether they knew we were making a sacrifice or not – and angry that we feel used. It is exhausting to live in anger and resentment. It is not a strategy for building healthy relationships.

Therefore not volunteering to contribute to my own destruction is a necessary boundary for me. It is one with myself but there are others too. Some boundaries include how much time I am willing to give to a phone call or conversation topic. How much attention I wish to pay to a certain discussion at a particular time. How far I’m willing to go to meet someone. These limits are what keep me grounded in joy. Giving only what I am willing to share, not giving away that which I need most is key.

In fact, to build healthy relationships is to respect the boundaries of others and have your boundaries respected in turn. It is the highest form of mutual respect and love I can imagine. The reciprocity, for me, is the most important piece. It is the dance of give and take that makes others feel valued and seen. It lets our partners know we respect their limits and are willing to meet them where they are comfortable. Boundaries give us all the space to be free and held. I read recently, “Home is not a place, it is a feeling.” And that struck me as a deep truth. When we come home to our friends, family, lovers, and children we are connecting and creating home. 

A major component to home is safety. We feel safest when we know that we are valued and respected. One of the ways we show others that we love them is by respecting their boundaries. And the way they show us that we are equally valued is by respecting ours. Never settle for less than equity. Never agree to a relationship where the terms of engagement require you to sacrifice your needs or wants for someone else’s. Arriving at a point in life where you can be kind to yourself first, take care of yourself first, is a moment to be celebrated. Because boundaries come from being attentive to our own needs. We have more on how to discover your own needs here.

Pay attention to what your anger is directing you to be attentive to – do you need to set or restate some boundaries? Do you need more space or less? What can you do to feel more at home and at ease in your relationships? What boundaries have you used to center and ground yourself and create a safe home in your relationships with others?

Take on Less to Take Care of Yourself

Sacrificing my peace to serve others is never a winning solution. I end up angry, frustrated, and burned out. I rush to complete tasks only to find even more tasks, emotional labor, and exhaustion. When I feel overwhelmed or as if I’m attempting to drink from a fire hose it often means I have taken on work that is not mine to do. I ignore my own needs to manage someone else’s wants. The key is the realization that to take care of myself often means I need to take on less.

When I am focused on things happening outside of my control it feels as if I am spent and there is nothing to show for it. I realize all too late that I can only do one thing at a time. And when I am chasing what everyone else wants I am not meeting my own needs. Therefore the only thing I can do is what is best and most important to me, not to everyone else. 

That means, eating a good healthy meal, taking time to meditate and rest. Exercising and using my body and getting outside. Taking breaks and not pushing myself to take on more and more. There is only now and there is only this. Reminding myself that I cannot be all things to all people helps. So does making a list. 

I list the things I’m worried about and then next to those items I list who is responsible for that item. It is incredibly freeing to see all of the things that I am allowing to create stress and worry in my life and then to see next to them the true owners of that task. What is most impressive is how many things belong to other people. Almost all of those worries seem to have rightful owners. I am only responsible for myself, my children, and my home. I don’t have to do anything else beyond that. 

This practice frees my mental space and my emotional labor so that I may focus on what is important in my life. Centering my life around me and my responsibilities quickly takes that sensation of being off-kilter away. It gives me firm footing and healthfully guides my energy and my choices. I can do one thing and I can focus on this place and its people. I don’t need to juggle the rest of the world’s problems, none of us do. We can all take on less to take care of ourselves. We deserve it.

How do you free yourself from that feeling of responsibility or oversight for others?

*If you’re looking for a more intense overhaul in your relationships and feel as if this one step is less than what you need, Co-Dependent No More by Melody Beatty is an excellent resource as you begin this journey.