Mindful Monday: Gearing up for Reverb 10

Last December, I participated in Gwen Bell’s Best 09 blog challenge. It was a great way to get some creative ideas following and reflect on the year gone by. This year she’s done it again, along with two other amazing women — and I plan to participate again. I will be reflecting on the year 2010 and manifesting what’s next for 2011 via her Reverb 10 project. The year 2010 has brought me some very interesting life changes, and I’m looking towards 2011 for something fresh and new. June 11th, 2011 will mark the 10th anniversary of my high school graduation. Whether or not I’m able to attend the reunion remains to be seen, but the occasion will still be momentous in my life. Has it really been that long already? And yet, it also seems like decade ago in that regard. Life has changed so very, very much since high school. I’m looking towards 2011 for the formal beginning of my career as an entrepreneur, a freelancer, an independent contractor, a free agent. I’m looking towards 2011 to be my escape from the rat race, being someone’s assistant, having someone to tell me when, where, and how to work. It would seem all signs are pointing to the perfect opportunity to do so.

As the Thanksgiving holiday fast approaches, I will be counting my blessings in life. Sure, things aren’t exactly perfect and shiny at the moment, but life could be so much worse. For example, did you know that most people settle for a partner they’re not entirely in love with just avoid being alone? Yet here I am, nearly 10 years involved with my soul mate, feeling blessed to have him enriching my life on a daily basis. As I’ve told my wise friend who drives one of the buses we take regularly, I really do scratch my head about that one everyday. I might not have all the greatest things, but I’ve got something that even the wealthiest never find. See? Always something to be thankful for in life.


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.


Thankful Thursday: Mindfulness and Mental Clarity

I found myself flopped over on the futon, wallowing and pitying myself earlier this evening. We had finished eating dinner, and there wasn’t really anything urgent needing to be accomplished. So, I just sort of stayed there, not really wanting to do much of anything — at the same time realizing there’s so much that could and should be done. After a few minutes, I consciously paused, told myself I had until the next commercial break to wallow, and then made the conscious decision that it was okay to feel depressed for a few moments. Even during my moment of despair, I still managed to maintain a sense of mindfulness, paying attention to my emotions and reactions to different stressors and stimuli. I reminded myself of all the uplifting content Brenda Della Casa shares on a regular basis, which includes the permission to feel bad for a bit but the reminder that feeling sorry for yourself isn’t going to fix your problems.

When the commercial break came on the TV, I got up, grabbed my water, and took a drink. And then? I went about my business. When life seems to be spiraling out of control, it’s okay to feel sorry for yourself, to feel miserable and worried. To feel is human. However, there comes a point when feeling like a victim becomes more defeating than the actual circumstances that causes the feelings of defeat in the first place. Today, I’m thankful for the ability to distinguish when it’s okay to stop and feel and when it’s time to stop feeling sorry for myself and make things happen.


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.


[The Mindfulist] July 7th

As we go through our daily activities, we frequently get lost in thoughts of past and future, not staying grounded in the awareness of our bodies.Joseph Goldstein

This statement resonates within me. Recently I’ve been trapped in that state of past and future thoughtfulness. My mind will often drift back to that unpleasant moment nearly a week ago, or it will spin scenarios that could happen should a piece not be placed properly or in time. In fact, my mind has worked this way for much of my life — dwelling on the past, dreaming of or fearing the future. It’s a habit of sorts, and I believe we should treat it as such. I would go so far as to say it can be a dangerous habit because we can miss some very important experiences and ques in the here and now if we are lost in the past or future. Our society is caught up in the concept of time travel, too — we talk about going back in time to change some event or going into the future to see how things turn out. But what about enjoying the present? Remember the saying that states today is a gift? We most assuredly should cherish the present because we will only get one shot at it. Once it’s gone, it’s gone for good. Once the experiences have been lived, the course of our future will be altered. Instead of worrying about it, it’s likely better to act and react in the present in the best ways possible if we’d like to ensure good memories and a good future. Sure, we can’t escape bad memories or completely prevent unforeseen or uncontrollable events, but we can certainly strive to enjoy each minute we have.