On Mindfulness, Gratitude and Not Strangling Life

I have been so wrapped up in the negative day to days that sometimes I think I’m forgetting to live.  They say that the inability to be present is one of the biggest ailments we face in modern society.  We are overrun with commitments, with stress, with technology.  We literally miss our lives.  I think I would argue that you can get even more stuck in this mindset when you are in a negative space.  And while I am doing everything possible to get myself physically out of this space…in the interim I have to find a way to deal with it and live in it.  To find the positive things and keep those in the focus.

Believe me, this is easier said than done when things are happening everyday, every couple hours, that make you want to punch someone, scream.  But I am realizing that I can either fall captured to the negativity and stress OR I can make the choice to do something to make it better.

I’m reading a book called “Mindfulness: An eight-week plan for finding peace in a frantic world” and I am just getting to the part where it lays out the plans for each week of meditation and mindfulness and I am making a conscious promise to myself and to you out there in blogging world that I am going to follow this plan.

I am also going to promise myself to start writing down daily gratitudes again.  Because when you are thankful, it’s hard to focus on the negatives. A good attitude attracts good things.

Between being mindful and being thankful, I hope that the next few months not only bring some change, but some joy in the process of getting there.

Here are 5 things I’m thankful for today:

1)   Music.  Tonight I had a few glasses of wine, put on headphones, rocked out to this, this and this.  Because sometimes that is the best medicine.

2)   Friends in Unlikely Places. I have made friends this last 6 months in so many unlikely ways.  Through school interviews…through other friends…and I have found people that I never would’ve thought were those who I’d always know I’d be able to vent to.  Don’t take people like those in your life for granted.

3)   Reading.  I already finished one book.  Dark Places was…well dark.  But very good.  And I’m a 1/3 through the mindfulness book.  I’d forgotten how much I loved reading.

4)   Good Coffee. Some people are about good wine, which sure – I am too, or about cigars or whatever. But for me a good cup of coffee is one of the ‘little things’ that somehow always manages to lift my spirits.

5)   My husband.  Who puts up with…but more to the point understands and still loves me when I am being emotional, irrational or feeling awful about things.  I got so lucky to find that person so young.  And I don’t ever want to take that for granted.

This is a new blog I’ve been reading, and I LOVE  this from their 10 choices you will regret in 10 years:

Trying to micromanage every little thing. – Life should be touched, not strangled.    Sometimes you’ve got to relax and let life happen without incessant worry and micromanagement.  Learn to let go a little before you squeeze too tight.  Take a deep breath.  When the dust settles and you can once again see the forest for the trees, take the next step forward.  You don’t have to know exactly where you’re going to be headed somewhere great.  Everything in life is in perfect order whether you understand it yet or not.  It just takes some time to connect all the dots.

 

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Change.

Change is in the air.  Good change.  Big change.  Some of it – not quite sure how it’ll all work out – change.

But I feel like I’m getting to the point where a lot of the big things are going to finally fall into place.  It’s going to be hard. Like seriously hard.  They don’t tell you that even the good change – the really, really good change is freaking hard.

As I’ve mentioned several times before…2012 was rough.  Especially the end of it.  I and mentally and physically put myself in places and situations that crushed my spirit.  My usual positivity was replaced with “hanging in there” and “things will be better if/when/insert excuse here.”

I finally got the wake up call I needed that if I didn’t make some change, I was going to be swallowed.  There are still a lot of times that I feel this same sea of overwhelm, threatening to drown me, my health and my happiness.  The cloud that won’t go away.  Even when I try to wrench it off.

But for now, tonight, I feel clarity in the possibility of making it better.  Peace in the changes I’ve made, am working towards and continue to make everyday.  Going to the chiropractor, going to acupuncture, remembering how much I love the peace of yoga and the frantic release of zumba.  That sometimes you just have to ‘stomp out’ – quite literally – a bad day at the gym.  That I’m surrounding myself with some pretty amazing friends and people and letting the not amazing ones fade into the background.  To not wasting my time on people and pettiness that doesn’t matter.   To the husband who somehow deals with all of this and me and loves me despite the bad days. To realizing unhappiness and making the changes to fix it.

Maybe it’s the Mindfulness book I’ve started reading….but despite the fact that I know I’ll wake up to another surge of frustration tomorrow, I feel happy in the knowledge that I am trying.  I’m conscious and I’m making every attempt to make it better. To create the better space.

And that’s really all I can do.

I love this:

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One Week Sans Sugar and Almost No Technology Sabbatical Sundays

No sugar AND no Facebook?  Sounds like Crazy talk.  Crazy, but necessary.

I was talking with some girlfriends the other night again about how much of a time waster Facebook (and social media in general) can be.  Various women had taken breaks from Facebook, myself included.  “I was off for nine months,” I chimed in. “It makes it sound like it’s a drug! Like oh – I’ve been clean 9 months,” someone else said.   It’s true.  We are so tied to our electronics, to social media, email, search, web shopping, etc., it can’t be good for our health.  It really isn’t.  We spend so much time on these devices, and less and less time with each other.  Less time reading, thinking, meditating, getting outside, and just being present with who we’re with – the list is endless.

And believe me, this doesn’t mean I am anti-social media or the internet, I think that they can do great things, and accomplish a lot (likely if you are reading this you came here from some form of social media) but I think that there is a moderation of it that is healthy for the mind and the soul.

Chris laughed when I said I was going to do no technology on Sundays.  He reminded me that I’d really have to qualify that statement and specify which technology I meant.  And after thinking about it, and giving it a go yesterday, I think I’ve pinned down what I mean by it.  I mean:  no social  media, no email, no online shopping, no blogs.  Mainly no mindless time-wasting spent on the computer.   For the most part I mean no TV.  But there are a few shows that we watch on Sundays that I’m okay with making an exception.  And I guess that’s because that’s not mindless. It’s specific and it’s also spending time together. I’m not including Pandora or online recipes (because I did a lot of cooking yesterday!)   And sure, I’ll answer the phone, but I’d mainly like to avoid text.  Part of this is ideal on the weekends Chris is home too, so that we can actually spend quality time together, not device/internet/mindless TV ridden time, but real actual time.

I’d like to eventually extend this “unplugging” further than just one day, and even have periods of it throughout the week.  Because I can feel even after one day the benefits.  And perhaps they are even more profound for me because of my already anxious personality.

What do you do sans technology?  I cleaned, I went shopping, I read and wrote, and I cooked a lot.  Check out recipes here, here, here and here.

Sugar is a similar demon to mindless technology.  And over the holidays it’s always so easy to fall prey to it – everywhere.  To eat it when you normally wouldn’t and to overeat it.  And boy did I.   While I haven’t read “I Quit Sugar” yet…I am looking forward to it…but I also don’t plan to be as hardcore as her.  I.E. I will still drink milk, and eat ketchup, probably honey and definitely will still eat fruit. For me, it’s more about the mindless snacking on sweets. Candy, cookies, refined sugar, sometimes soda. It really got bad in December. I wasn’t saving them for special occasions. I was eating them ALL. THE. TIME.  Even the sneaky supposed healthy items with way too much extra sugar added were getting to me. (see: sugary yogurt, granola bars, etc.) I have no doubt that the extra stress and hard times this last fall only contributed to it.

Anyway, I’m going to start off with a week.  And I’m also planning to use tea as my go to when I want a sweet.  It helps that we happen to have 52 different kinds of tea in the house.  Yes, I have a problem.

Mindless Sweets and Mindless Technology…the more I write, the more I feel like I should add “Mindfulness” to “Do” and “Presence” as my words for the year.

Do you take breaks to unplug?  Do you ever want to take a break from your out of control sweet tooth?  You can.  I can.

It’s all a choice.

A Better Me in 2013

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While overall 2012 was a pretty darn good year, the fall and the last few months certainly threw a lot of curve balls.  So I’ve been thinking a lot recently about some changes big and small that I want to make in the upcoming year.

New Years Resolutions are often cliché, un-obtainable and un-realistic.  And I love Leo Baubata ideas at Zen Habits on not setting goals. But the perpetual OCD list maker in me is still encouraging me to make one, with some over all ideas, some tangible goals, and general ideas. But it also allows some leeway for these to become ideals and for it to be okay if they don’t all happen or don’t quite look the way I hoped they would at the end of 2013.  Plans and To Do lists are great, if used in moderation and with leeway for change and adjustments as the situation sees fit.

The Words

If I had to choose two words that I’d like to guide my 2013 year, I’d say that they would be Do and Presence and pretty much everything below falls into one of these two categories.  One of my biggest obstacles in life is my sometimes crippling anxiety and worry particularly about the future and what ifs, and occasionally about the past.  I miss parts of my life that I want to love because the anxiety will literally shut my body down in more ways than you could imagine.  I’ve had probably every stress related disease that there is, except maybe an ulcer. (Knock on wood) If you are reading this saying ‘No – really? Kellie?’ then yes, I’m also pretty excellent at hiding it from most people. I’ve spent the better part of 2012 trying to get a handle on it and make necessary proactive precautions to keep it in check.  And sometimes all the measures don’t work.  And it sucks. But that’s okay.  It’s me and all I can do is work with what I’ve got. What’s not okay is my feeding the anxiety by never being present in the moment.  It’s not okay to be so overrun with distraction feeding my anxiety that I can’t just Do. Anything.  So 2013 is going to be about making myself be present – see meditation, less technology, more yoga, more music, etc.   And about doing.  Not saying or hoping or planning or somedays.  I was reminded too many times this year how short life is and how there’s no better time than now to form habits, to stick with them and to do the things. To do them because we want to.  To do them to be happy.

 

The Tangibles

These are the easy and specific ones. The ones that can easily be accomplished with a lil time and money.

–       Read 15 books…up a little bit from last year’s goal of 12…but doable. See an upcoming post about which books are already on my list.

–       Take an Art Class…I recently heard about this Happy Hour Paints thing that Sac does and it seems like a great basic painting class.  Excited to get there.

–       Take a Cooking Class…learning exchange, whole foods, co-op I’m looking at you.

–       Learn the Guitar…thanks to my friend Natalie, this one is already on the calendar.  4 week session through the Learning Exchange!

–       Get Zumbatomic Licensed…I may never find a place to teach it, but I want to be licensed to teach Zumba to kids.

–       Go to a Pro Football and Baseball Game…we may have to save a bit for Football next fall, but at least an A’s game should be doable.

The Mores

–       More Yoga… I am still working off some groupons at the moment…and I’d really like to integrate it at a larger level into my life.  The benefits are unparalleled.

–       More Running…I think I could really learn to love running if I stuck with the habit. Plus it couldn’t hurt my zumba/softball stamina. 😉

–       More Blogging, Journaling and Writing…this tends to show up as a resolution every year.  I have no excuse for not doing it.  I am my own worst enemy when it comes to finding time.  That has to end.

–       More Reading…I was SO excited when I got my 5 new books in the mail yesterday and I still have more on the way.  I couldn’t even decide where to start with them.  I love reading so very much and I’m not sure why I let other things get in the way of that sometimes. (Social Media, TV, etc.) This year needs to put the kybosh on that.

The Less

–       Less Technology…This is a big one.  I am hoping to take a technology sabbatical every Sunday starting in January.  Unplugging is something that my already overworked “Monkey Mind” so desperately craves and it’s something that I very rarely give it.  I am guilty of the 17 open internet tabs, the constant checking of email, work email, social media, blogs, and everything else in between.  I know that it is at least contributing to, if not causing a great deal of my stress and health issues.  The good thing about this resolution is that it also helps other resolutions! Win win.  Less technology = more reading, meditation, cooking, writing and exercise.

–       Less Mindless TV…I’m already pretty decent at this one, but I really want to make a conscious effort to not turn on the TV unless it’s to watch a specific show. I love my weekly TV shows, but there is no reason for me to turn it on just for the sake of watching something.

–       Less Sweets….Yeah this is definitely a problem.  I’ve been conditioned…we all have really…to crave sweets.  And it’s even more unhelpful when they are available everywhere. My current office is full of them, and I have become worse and worse over this last year about just eating them for the sake of eating them.  Not moderating or saving them for special occasions.  There has got to be some moderation in 2013. Reading “I Quit Sugar” is on my list of books, and even though I would probably not lose it completely, the concept of much, much less is appealing.

The New Habits

–       Write Everyday…Creatively…Always a habit I’ve tried to start, and usually one that didn’t last very long.  Probably because I usually set too large a goal.  If I can start out with just 5 or 10 minutes a day, I think I can build on it.

–       Practice Meditation/Breathing Everyday….even if it’s just for 5 minutes.  I had a mediation/yoga teacher tell me the other day that if you just took 5 minutes in the morning and in the evening to breathe deeply, it could change your life.  Sitting still and mediation are terribly uncomfortable to me because of said Monkey Mind…but I know they can also be terribly beneficial to me if I just stick to it.

–       Putting more music back in my life…I haven’t played my Saxophone in more than 2 and half years and I barely touch the piano since I stopped teaching last Christmas. Starting the guitar is a start, and I hope to play the piano more and perhaps pick up some reeds and try the sax again.

–       Cooking Healthy Meals…Ask my dear husband…I can be a terrible cook at times, burning even the simplest mac ‘n’ cheese.  I have my select few dishes, mainly appetizers, that I’m good at making but that’s about it.  This year I really want to find new healthy meals and take the time to plan for and make them and enjoy them, and eat out less.

The Big Stuff

These don’t need as much explanation as they likely have to do with a lot of the above.  But these support it all.

–       Work through anxiety and stress by creating space for myself

–       Declutter and simplify our house and lives – The Joy of Less is on my book list.

–       Be mindful on focusing on the now, not the past or the future

–       Be Happy and make the changes in life that allow for this

–       Research and try and dream and discover what works for me. My passions.  The creation of what a happy future looks like for me and our family.

And finally:

Spend more time with the people who matter.  Cherish and support the meaningful relationships in my life and quit worrying about the peripherals.  Because you are only as strong as these relationships.  I am lucky to have a supportive and amazing husband and friends and family who love me.  Sometimes I take this for granted and forget who these special people are.  But when they show themselves in the darkest of times, it makes them all the greater. Thank you, friends. So much.

And if you made it to the end of this post, thank you too! I know it was long, but it was a path I needed laid out for myself.  I hope to be able to stay accountable for all of it via this blog, and the wonderful people in my life.

What are your resolutions? Care to join me in any?