Mindful Monday: Goals vs. Resolutions

Clearly, goals made in conjunction with New Year’s Day really do have that curse around them, don’t they? Nicki’s post today gave me that last little push to review my goals for 2010, knowing full well I haven’t made much progress. I’m mindfully taking stock of each day that passes by without too much regard to my personal goals. Rather than parade back out my less than likely to be met goals, I’m going to assure you that I’ve not made too terribly much progress on anything — none. In fact, the second half of the year has been filled with brand new challenges that present themselves as more urgent and important than everything else. Granted, my goals are all Quadrant 2 — which is the best Quadrant to be in — yet I find myself in Quadrant 1 on a regular basis. We’ll save the cynicism for my private journaling.

So in lieu of a December 31st deadline, I have extended my goals until next December 31st. The year 2010 came packed with challenges, and I think I deserve to cut myself some slack. After all, negative self-talk further pushes one down the spiral of despair, and that is not the purpose of being mindful. And while I’m pointing out the unmet goals, I do have to commend myself for staying mostly mindful of my thoughts, actions, and words. I’ve slipped up here and there, but overall I’ve done a great job keeping my mind in the present.


Life Changes

All things considered, I’ve finally realized my lack of writing can be forgiven. After all, there’s only so much time between the baby’s climbing escapades. There’s only so much time when all three kids are either napping or spending quiet time in their rooms. There’s only so much time left after I’ve devoted most of it to a seemingly fruitless job hunt. And on that subject, what does a woman have to do to get a job these days? Apparently it’s not as simple as it used to be — but of course, the job market is over-saturated with many of my other unemployed brethren. We’re all flailing about, hoping potential employers will see us for the shining stars that we are and choose one of us. Where there are jobs, there are also more qualified candidates. Where there are service jobs, there are high schoolers and college students ready and willing to work. Living in a college town, I find that job hunting needs to be timed just right, or else you’re out of luck for several months before the next round of hiring begins.

Lately the potential for a change of scenery has weighed heavily upon my mind. Each passing day brings more debt and less hope for salvation. Each day I realize more so that I may very well have to accept a serious change in living arrangements and lifestyle. We wouldn’t become homeless, no. However, we would be leaving the state. I realize in the past I have complained that I’m tired of living here, but I really wanted to leave Florida on my own terms. This is a little less on my terms. On the other hand, this could very well still be the opportunity I need in order to make the leap from someone’s employee to my own boss. I could potentially spin this into my chance to write for a living. I could put forth energy into my own business exploits because rent and utilities wouldn’t exactly be the issue they’ve been. Sure, I don’t intend to be a freeloader, but I don’t see any reason why I’d need to continue spending the same amount on my living expenses as I do now.

Time is running short, and the probability of an interstate move seems much higher these days. My writings may be spent more in private paper and pen format, rather than a public weblog format, but know I don’t mean to ignore my public writings. In fact, I’d love to devote more time to it, and I just might get that chance at the start of 2011. My goals for 2010 might be a wash, but that doesn’t mean a shiny new beginning couldn’t mean a chance for achieving goals and living dreams.


Mindful Monday: Unplanned Hiatus

I’ve become highly aware of my complacency to just let a week or two go by without a post, and I notice the increasing guilt I’ve felt as a result. I also realize I made many big goals for myself at the start of the year, only to realize they’ll suffer that stereotypical fate of most goals set around the onset of a new year. I found myself wondering how I could call myself a writer if I didn’t actually practice the craft — it’s not like I’m merely putting my efforts into another outlet, after all. Still, I’ve also been told that writing just to put something there isn’t always a good idea. I tend to write from the heart when I blog, honestly, so that would really make sense in that respect. It’s not methodical here. There are no outlines, no drafts, no drawn-0ut revisions. Instead, an idea hits me, my brain begins to process thoughts and words, and somehow I churn out between 200 and 800 words after any given post.

So the other day I read Gwen Bell’s post after a bit of her own hiatus, and I realized that perhaps the guilt is unfounded. Perhaps I’m merely treating this thing — this possibility to monetize my words and never have to leave my house to pay my bills — improperly. Perhaps I should be writing to write, to share the joys within my heart. To share the ideas I have. To simply share. Sure, a little money here and there would be nice, but at what cost? I already know there are those out there who frown upon some of the mediums I’ve been using as mediums that abuse the very writers whose words have so much more value than the mere pittances awarded to them. And why should it even be about that insufferable Google PageRank? It’s not about the quantity of visitors, really — it’s the quality. I’d like to say the quality of my visitors is quite nice at the moment.

Maybe I’ve been approaching my writing the wrong way for the past few months. Maybe it’s time to let go of the guilt, embrace the moments of creation, and go forward without looking back at past “failures.”


Mindful Monday: Stretch Before Bed

On Thursday night I began a rather impromptu experiment of a sorts. Before lying down to go to sleep, I sat on the floor and stretched. I stretched, I practiced deep breathing, and I pushed thoughts out of my mind as they would come. I straightened out my posture, I paid attention to my breathing patterns and muscles, and I was just with myself. Normally, I just quickly pray before tossing and turning, awaiting sleep while myriad thoughts cross my mind. Adding in this quiet relaxation technique, just being with myself for a few moments before bed, actually resulted in a fairly quick journey into slumber. I woke up feeling a little better than usual — I won’t lie and say it was the best sleep ever, but it was better than it’s been in quite some time. For three nights in a row, I practiced this relaxation technique, and each night resulted in a shorter period of time before falling asleep.

Then last night I got distracted by too many other things — watching a show with my husband among them — and didn’t really feel like taking the time to go through the process of stretching, breathing, and mindfully clearing my mind. It took forever to fall asleep, just like always, and I tossed and turned throughout the night. Now aside from my anecdotal evidence, I know there are plenty of sources the cite the health benefits of stretching before bed. Clearly, they’re right. So tonight I’ll be sipping my lukewarm chamomile, stretching, breathing, meditating, and praying before I call it a night. Life is rough when you’ve got three young kids full of bundled up energy, and it is so worth it to take the extra time to help recharge. After all, tomorrow it all starts again, and it’s better to feel in top form than to feel sluggish.


Mindful Monday: Super Late

I’m well aware of the fact that I missed my Foodie Friday post, even though I had essentially come up with a couple of ideas to use for that post on Wednesday. No, I wasn’t going to regale you with a recipe and oodles of pictures. Actually I had planned on discussing season six of the Next Food Network Star (because DirecTV would/ will be slapping me with hefty penalties if I cancel any time in the near future, so it’s best to think of this as a short-term unemployment). I was going to toss in a picture or two of the extra special buns I made for dinner — I added a pinch of garlic, some sesame seeds, and some poppy seeds to the dough. (I had the seeds on hand from better times.) But some times even thinking ahead doesn’t always result in meeting goals, especially when a severe sleep deficit takes over as baby teeth make their seemingly excruciating exit from the gum line. Especially when life’s circumstances overwhelm the mind and soul and shove you into a rut. Especially when sometimes the only free moments entail grabbing a cup of water, hitting the bathroom, and maybe compulsively checking email for any signs of a “bite.” I’m pretty sure the last straw for me has been the lack of response from my one “sure fire fall back.” It’s rather disheartening to say the least, and downright soul crushing to say the most. I have no hard feelings against them, though, it’s just changes plans a bit.

I’m well aware of the fact that it looks like I’m prattling on with excuses for not meeting my schedule guidelines. To be honest? The schedule, while the days seem fine, doesn’t seem to hold up in terms of the time of day I post. The number of twitter users who find their way to my blog generally stays at zero regardless of what time I schedule my posts. The time is irrelevant to when facebook picks up my feed — the regulars will go through their feed and click the link regardless of what time my post actually hit their feed. So while another blog claimed 10am to 2pm was “prime time” for posting, I don’t necessarily think that matters. For my own terms, as long as I get that post out before midnight, it’s on time. I know my regulars are going to find their way here every time I post no matter what.

I’ve recently become more mindful of a marked change in my perspective on things in life. I realized that some sudden, unexpected events in life have given my incite into how my perspective changed over time, how I had become hardened to a lot of things, and how I had seemingly lost that spark I once had several years back. In the past couple of weeks, I’ve come to realize that there were various factors contributing to that hardened mindset. While I can’t say that I’ve completely done a 180, I’d say having the epiphany was a big step in the right direction. Even my husband has made the observation that I’m recovering that more optimistic than not outlook I once had. That sense of hope and determination I once had. And while I doubt the shine has fully returned, I think he’d tell me I never lost that in the first place — but he’s a biased party whose opinion is painted by love.

For some people, it’s all about keeping your eyes on the prize, but I have to say I’ve learned that it’s not the necessarily the best way of living life. At the start of this year, I might have thought so, but not after realizing that keeping your eyes on the prize means you’re not stopping to look at the scenery along your path. You do need to think more about the journey and less about the destination at times. Really, I’ve found that planning too far in advance can result in disappointment — sometimes serious disappointment. It’s all well and good to have some guidelines, but you’ve got to be a little more flexible to go with the flow. Yes, planning is wonderful, but contingency planning is even better. Taking the time to become a better person to better handle whatever obstacles land in your path is prudent. It’s not about getting past obstacles, it’s about how you handle them. The way we handle different circumstances speaks leaps and bounds about our character. I for one never want to be that person blaming the waitress for the cook’s mistake or worse, my bad day. I don’t want to be that person who people perceive as an arrogant, condescending cad. In the same regard, I don’t want to be viewed as the doormat — I had enough of that in middle and high school.

I can’t say I’m changing, but I can say that I’m listening. I’m paying attention. I’m determining what move to make next, what changes to implement. I looking at the big picture, I’m absorbing my surroundings and the lessons, and hopefully I can learn to relinquish some desire for control and relax a little bit more. After all, in this moment life isn’t as bad as it might seem.


Mindful Monday: Where Does Time Go?

As you’ll recall, last week I embarked on a journey to determine where all my time is going. Using the spreadsheet linked by TheMindfulist.com, I logged how each half hour block of time was spent during the week. The results — while predictable based on what I already knew — were a very clear indication that I’m not using my time to the best of my abilities. In fact, I’m currently not utilizing my time as best as I could. Here’s just a short list of the things I took note of during the week:

  • I don’t get enough sleep. While this can be directly contributed to the fact that my nine-month-old is teething, I’m still not making the most of the baby’s down time by catching some down time myself.
  • I’m spending too much time on the couch with my laptop in the hopes that a great new job will surface, a response will come through my inbox, or that I’ll get something productive done. The results have been the same each day — prospects are slim, and I end up needing to refluff the couch cushions daily.
  • I’m not spending enough time taking care of myself — diet, exercise, quiet time, outside time. Of course, the outside time has been minimized due to the severe heat wave that we have been experiencing. If the weather forecast says to avoid prolonged exposure, you can bet I’m not going to subject myself or my family to 10+ UV radiation, 95+ degree heat, and 100+ degree heat indexes.

Today I will be setting aside some time to create a plan for the week. I’m not going to miss an opportunity if I take a break from the internet job search for one day — it will be there when I come back. It’s not going to get filled in the 24 hours that I’m oblivious to its existence. I need to sleep, I need to move around, I need to sit quietly without an electronic item in my lap, and I need to get down on the floor and play.


Mindful Monday (August 2nd)

As I was showering this evening, I lost the time between squeezing the shampoo into the palm of my hand and exfoliating my skin. Did I wash my hair? I thought to myself. I couldn’t remember the process of lathering my hair, massaging the shampoo into my scalp to clean away any impurities. I couldn’t remember rinsing the shampoo down the drain — I couldn’t. What had I been doing as I was washing my hair? I was realizing that it’s been an entire month since this impromptu vacation began. I was recalling the emotions, recalling how I felt the moment I was given the bad news. As I was grabbing my facial scrub, I shook myself out of that and reminded myself to just let it go. It’s over, it’s done with, there’s no point to giving that moment in my life further attention. And somehow, that crept back into my mind and stole a few moments from me yet again. It’s amazing how one’s habits are so deeply ingrained. It’s been about seven months since I began my quest to become more mindful, and — while I could do better in regards to being present in the moment — I’ve made serious strides to stay mindful and truly appreciate every moment.

That being said, I intend to begin tracking my time during the upcoming week. Really, where is it all going? Some days, I feel that I am squandering my talents and could be doing more to make this upheaval work in my favor. Other days, I feel I’m giving it my all and doing my absolute best. I guess it just depends on how the day goes. So this week I’ll be tracking everything I do for every hour. Check back next Monday to see how I did.


Mindful Monday: Pay Attention with Respect and Interest

Over at The Mindfulist they asked a very valid question: what does it mean to pay attention with respect? First let me ask you some valid questions. How often do you find yourself in a conversation with a person, watching the person nod, rolling out “uh-huh,” “yeah,” and other such fillers? How do you feel when you can identify that a person is essentially not really listening to what you’re saying? Does it make you feel disrespected, boring, and possibly annoying? Now, how many times have you been guilty of the same? You’re rushed — you have a project due, you’re late for an appointment, something — and you’d prefer the interruption to be a short as possible. Of course, this can be very detrimental in both the short and long term in many regards. Perhaps you’re ignoring or being ignored by a spouse. Perhaps you and a co-worker need to work closely on a project. In so many cases, a failure to communicate properly can destroy relationships of all kinds.

So what does it mean to pay attention with respect and interest? Simple — when you’re having a conversation with someone, actually take the time to listen thoughtfully. Actually listen to the words, the vocal inflection, the facial expressions, and the gestures. When prompted to respond, respond thoughtfully. Don’t just nod, utter “uh-huh,” or say “yeah.” Actually take the time to thoughtfully respond with respect. Show interest in the person and the conversation. Think of that person who always listens and always knows the right things to say, and then learn from that person. Taking the time to listen and pay attention can make all the difference with regards to communication. And when something’s wrong? Never hesitate to ask the people in question to clarify a situation — nothing is quite as bad as allowing a miscommunication to destroy relationships and lives, no matter how trivial the damage may seem.


Mindful Monday (July 19th)

Sitting here quietly listening to the piano solo net radio station while lying on the futon underneath the spinning ceiling fan, I realize I have a moment of peace. It may be a short moment of tranquility, but it is a lovely moment indeed. The breeze from the fan brushes against my face, blowing my bangs across my forehead. If I close my eyes, I can imagine the breeze is that of the ocean, calming my soul with its salty scent. I pause between key strokes to soak in the peaceful atmosphere that has settled into my living room. I hesitate to imprint these calm thoughts onto the permanence that is the Internet — nothing goes away on the Internet, I’m told. The warm mug of chamomile is now a fixture of the past, its soothing flavor still lingering on my tongue. The hour is late, the children are sleeping soundly, and thoughts of bedtime began to take center stage in my mind. At the moment, my mind is flittering among many heavy, serious thoughts. But for just this moment, life is peaceful.