self-care

This is where Doubt lives

Doubt is where the real inner work resides.  We can take a breather, examine what’s worked, what lies underneath the surface, and uncover old fears and wounds.  This is where Doubt lives.  It makes us feel small and inconsequential.  It belittles our triumphs as not a big deal or just a coincidence, chance or dumb luck.  Not true.

What do we do when Doubt creeps in?  Do we run and hide and choose  not face what’s blocking our path?

Playing safe = playing small.

It’s our duty to share our gifts with the world:  Our talents, our skillset, our voice, our words, our stories are desperately needed.

How can we overcome Doubt?

We can journal the uncomfortable feelings.  Process our thoughts into words on the page.  Or stop and simply get outside and take a walk in nature or do some other movement.

How do we get still and ready to confront Doubt?

My favorite is to sit still and do a visualization with Doubt.  Ask Doubt what is she trying to protect us from?  Imagine Doubt is an unexpected guest that needs tending and attention.  Make a cup of tea.  Help Doubt take off her wet raincoat and dry by the fire.  Hand Doubt the warm mug.  Start gently, where you are.  Try not to get caught up in a shouting and pushing match.  Accept Doubt.  Listen calmly and openly to all the concerns and potential threats.  See them as outside yourself.  They are not your truth or your story or what will happen.  There are no guarantees.

Assure Doubt that you are okay.  You are strong.  You are capable.  You are ready to take the next bold step.  That with uncertainty can come greatness, joy, and a life beyond imagination.  Sit in silence together, sipping the warm tea that never seems to cool until the last drop is gone.  Thank Doubt for her words and say goodbye.

What’s the payoff for playing small?  It provides a safety net in a world that seems wrought with violence and fear.  Doubt is natural and almost like reflexive, protective posturing.  However, please remember that your dream, your talents, skills, story, words, and energy are not threatening.

When I sit with Doubt I uncover some more:  FEAR.  Fear of being vulnerable, being open to criticism or possible judgment.  Or possibly overcoming Doubt will spark a movement, create momentum for inner growth and shared experience, and provide an accepting environment and community where we can all thrive and not only merely survive.

 

Connection · parenting · self-care · shared stories · working mom · writing

Labyrinth Walk

We start out as children and young adults learning and following the footsteps of those that came before us.  They made it possible for us to exist!  Now it’s my turn to create my own imprint and footprints for the next generation to follow; to trust my inner wisdom; to acknowledge with gratitude all the facets of life.  When I’m unsure or the path seems misguided and leading me off course, if I get still enough, the path gets illuminated before me and I can be the guidepost for those that will follow in my footsteps.

I spent the weekend on a mindfulness for mothers retreat at Copper Beech Institute in West Hartford, CT.  I had so many amazing insights and breakthroughs, which can only happen when we slow down and retreat.  I wrote a lot in my journal.  I took full advantage of all the yoga and meditation workshops.  I kept my iPhone in the drawer in my private room and I went within.  The group was led by Hunter Clarke-Fields, the mindful mama mentor.  You can listen to her podcast and take advantage of her free resources at:  https://www.mindfulmamamentor.com/

We were a small group of nine mamas.  I learned new tools and tips for my mindfulness journey.  Mindfulness and meditation are not an attempt to strive, self-improve, or add to my day as another to-do.  In this retreat I was reminded about my why.  Why do I meditate and do yoga most days?  It gives me freedom and a sense of relief, as simple and profound as that.

As the retreat was coming to a close, I still hadn’t visited the labyrinth.  So it was my own personal closing ceremony to integrate the group sharing and insights.  I was alone.  It had snowed the day before and I had to follow the footprints that led to the labyrinth.  The path in the labyrinth was gravel and not shoveled.  I saw footprints in all directions within it.  I was able to find the path and stay the course.  At one point because of the snow, I was unsure how to get to the center.  When I got still, I saw that no one had gone right and when I did, I was back on the path.  My gatha or mantra came to me in the center of the labyrinth:  “Peace with this, Peace within me.”  I am ready to be the guidepost for those that will follow my footsteps.

 

self-care

Is it just me?

Who knows?  We put so much energy and attention focused on the future:  planning, striving, endless to-do’s and tasks that we lose the entire weekend.  My word this year is “Linger.”  And even I need a reminder.  I get future-tripped up in the anticipation of an upcoming retreat, a potential job opportunity, or perfecting my dream vision that my energy gets sapped from the here and now.  How can I linger over this cup of coffee when I’m all prepared for an event that might not happen at all?

There is no refund or credit on that time and energy spent and now it all comes down to the wire.  Will I get it or not?  And how can I prevent my energy from being wasted again in the future?  Do I need a grounding mantra that will gently nudge myself before I get full-on lost in thought, planning, fuming, etc. on whatever it is?

And this happens when I get stuck on past events too.  I replay and rehash them.  I imagine scenarios with a different outcome and my correct and witty response.  I make excuses to myself to relieve the miserableness, horror or embarrassment of it all.

Is it just me?

self-care

Dreaming a New Dream

It came to me this morning, like all juicy, divine ideas do.  I was reading Spirituality & Health’s Retreat Guide and thinking about a recent conversation I had with my husband.  It’s a huge, new dream.  I’m afraid to share it publicly as if the energy of the possibility will somehow shrink if it gets whispered aloud.  I just want to revel in the glow of the dream like a seed about to burst into growth.

I don’t want to get bogged down on the how-to, when, where’s yet.  I want to just enjoy how I will feel when this dream becomes a reality.

My ultimate dream is to run, participate, be involved, have ownership of a retreat center that is accessible to everyone.  I imagine going to work everyday in a beautiful space, surrounded by peace and calm.  Everyone is in a safe space where we are all accepted.  We are not afraid to explore and try something new.  We are all open to learn in this shared space with a shared vision and create community.  This is my dream and I can see myself there!!

I know wellness.  I live and breathe self-care.  I feel a sense of mastery that I no longer need to look outside myself for guidance or advice on anything related to self-help.

I made self-care a priority in 2018 and my word for the year was “Nourish.”  Today I have a full bona fide at-home daily yoga practice.  I meditate almost daily.  In 2018, I completed 5-day, 10-day, 21-day smoothie challenges, a 21-day meditation for weight loss challenge, a 40-day kriya global sadhana with Spirit Voyage.  I loved it so much that I did it for 55 days. All this from the comfort of my home, as a full-time employee and mother of two small children.

I’ve gone to retreats before and I always was looking for something I could bring home and incorporate into my daily life once the magic of the retreat setting set into reality.  Last night during my Nia class, I imagined myself far away at a retreat.  I imagined it was somewhere tropical like Jamaica.  It felt like an escape, a refuge away from my busy life and I was able to drop right into my body, breath and move to the music in a safe space and revel in a full embodiment of experience.

Together in this space, my dream, we can all be surrounded by beauty, joy, evolving to be in awe of our own strength and capacity to learn, and to share that shift together in community.  If I can find that sense of retreat at a Nia class and in my own home, that sense of aliveness internally, imagine the possibilities to be able to share and radiate that same sense outward in a community.  I have listened to my heart’s calling.  And I am on my way.

self-care

Uninhabitable for human life

I almost lost it all. One moment of self-doubt could have turned to tragedy.  It couldn’t really be carbon monoxide.  It must be faulty batteries, not a faulty furnace.

How I doubted myself.  How it could have ended everything for me, for my life, for my neighbors in the building.

What I could have lost and missed out on:  motherhood, adventure, marriage.

All lost in a moment if I didn’t move.  If I didn’t follow through.  If I didn’t make a phone call.  All could have ended.

The earth gone black.  Death by choking.  Death in my sleep.  Death all alone.  Death all heartbroken.  Leaving everyone I knew’s heart in pieces too.

Luckily, that’s not where my story ended.  It was a rebirth.  A renewal.  A tangible bona fide appreciation of life.

How fragile it can be.  How temporary it is.  That every day is a gift.

My neighbors survived.  My life was given new meaning.  I am forever grateful for the lessons and cherish each day.

That basement apartment off of Gano Street?  The final verdict:  uninhabitable for human life.  I called it home for a short three months.  And it could have cost me my life!

My first time on my own.  Living the dream of being an independent woman.

And I was afraid.  I was lonely and heartbroken.  Alone for the very first time.  Unsure of what to do.  Doubting my choices to leave, layering on guilt and remorse.

It could have all ended.  But thank the stars it didn’t.  My life is amazing these 14 years later.  The beauty and gift of this one remarkable life.

self-care

Listening

I paused before eating the donut. I took a breath and realized that I have a green smoothie in the fridge.  Maybe I’ll enjoy the donut tomorrow.  It’s rainy.  It’s cold and I’m eating cold food.  I was fighting off a virus on Easter and my appetite is still not back to normal.  I’m grazing and not consuming my usual portion size.  Today I drank my first small cup of half-calf coffee.  I still want to limit my intake.  I’m so tired of the energy crashes.  Maybe without caffeine, I’ll have steady, normal energy again.  Wouldn’t that be blissful?  Like when I was a child again.

Lately I’ve been suffering tennis elbow. I decided that I’m going to be as hands-free as possible with my belongings.  Constantly having my hands full can become a way of life:  Carrying our burdens all the time.  Carrying our obligations and “the weight of the world.”  That it’s our burden alone to carry.

Well, I’m not down with that anymore.  This momma is getting a cross-over purse.  She’s going to limit what she carries:

I will only hold one beverage at a time or I’ll find a suitable place to carry it for me.  The old me normally held a glass water bottle, had a coffee travel mug tucked in the crook of my arm with the weight of my purse handle pressing into my inner elbow.  All the weight was on my right side leaving my left hand free to open the door or to navigate.  My husband has called me a “bag lady” on more than one occasion.  I brushed it off as an annoying comment.  I didn’t realize how ridiculous I looked until I caught a glimpse of myself.  It reflected how much I always seem to carry:  work bags, tote bags, a child, grocery bags, laundry, food, etc.

This bout with tennis elbow has been painful. But as the astute learner, I’m listening to its message.  “You do enough.  You don’t have to pile anything else onto your plate.  It is safe to let it go for now.”

And pausing is the best first response. That microsecond gives me a moment to reflect, to think, to not go off on to autopilot and reach for the donut.

Even though it’s a cold, gray day, I feel energized.  Maybe it’s because I kicked this cold to the curb and I’m feeling like my old self again.  Perhaps a lighter version of myself and I’m seeing with renewed eyes.

self-care

So simple and grounding

I’ve been reading “Eat With Intention” by Cassandra Bodzak.  I was feeling inspired one morning at breakfast.  And I created this mindful eating mantra:

May I be nourished

May I be happy

May I be healthy

May I feel satisfied

May I feel energized

May I feel complete

So simple. It grounded me to look at my oatmeal, to pause and take a few breaths, and not just devour the food but to savor a few moments.

And that’s all we really have right now:  Just a few moments. To be here in the moment. To observe, pause, and try not to change it. To avoid the urge to pick up my iPhone.  It’s so easy to distract myself.

If only we could savor those moments.  Life is brief.  I know my kids will be grown and out of the house in a blink of an eye.  The baby/infant days are now toddler moments.  And nursings have been replaced with morning cuddles.  How I savor them.  I try not to rush to the next thing to get ready for school and work.  And at the end of the day, while my toddler reads her books, I enjoy playful imaginations with Legos, My Little Ponies, and the like with my 6 year old.  I am grateful that she still wants to play with me.

I suppose my mantra for mindful eating can be transformed to all the moments:

May I be present

May I be loving

May I share joy

May I feel gratitude

May I feel loved

May I feel joy

I’m going to use this mantra of loving kindness this weekend. They always seem to fly by so quickly.

May we all savor the moments.

 

self-care

Our wild and unruly thoughts are not the whole story

We are all hurting. If there’s one thing we share in common, it’s that we all experience pain and/or suffering.

Our thoughts can hold us hostage and sabotage our present moment. For example, when I got my new job, my husband suggested, “Let’s spend some time celebrating!”  In an instant my mind shifted into forward thinking.  There’s childcare needs, a new wardrobe to purchase, and a general fear of the unknown.  That moment to celebrate was ever so brief.  Sweet but not fully experienced, not completely felt.  In hindsight, perhaps I should have taken a moment to savor the excitement and opportunity and let a feeling of gratitude set in.

It’s over too quickly and we can’t get it back. I had a similar experience when my 19-year old cat Max died.  My mom and I never followed through on our plan to memorialize him.  We were in a state of grief and I had to take care of my toddler.  We didn’t get the chance to properly mourn him.  As a result we suffered on our own and grieved alone.  Instead of holding each other, we kept it inside.  A few years have passed since then.  And I don’t know if we will ever be in that space again.

Our thoughts can run wild if we let them. They can rob us from the rich and healing experience of being fully present:  to how we are feeling or what is happening in this moment.  Now I try to pause when I notice my mind going rampant or rehashing the same story over and over.  I take a deep breath and think, “I’ve already spent enough time, space and energy on this.”  I soften and I take a moment to notice my surroundings.  “How is this story, forward or past thinking distracting me from the NOW?  Is it causing me undo stress?”  Of course, it is.

Then I ask the question, “How do I want to feel instead?”  Usually I want to feel relaxed, present and connected to my family.

And the final question, “What can I do to make that feeling a reality?”  Usually it’s taking a few box breaths or utilizing one of my self-care tools.  I’m a work in progress.  There are days when I forget my tools and I get lost in thought and distraction.  I lose my grounding and connection to myself and the present moment.  I’ve accepted the fact that I’m continuing to learn and re-learn what works for me, and I will always continue to do so.

Now it’s your turn. How do your thoughts affect you?  Are they distracting you from what’s going on right now?  Are they causing you undo stress?  If so, how do you want to feel instead?  And what can you do to make that feeling come true?

I send you peace.

 

 

self-care

A less frazzled commute

How can I have a more relaxed morning? I feel it is a frame of mind.  I can choose to say, “I’m late!” and all the angst that follows.  Or I can just say, “I’m doing the best I can.  I got this!”  And I usually then feel less hurried.

My morning commutes used to be highly stressful. Then I realized the main source of my stress occurred when I was traveling in the high-speed lane.  As soon as I got over to the travel lane, I relaxed my grip on the steering wheel.  My shoulders relaxed a bit.  I took a few deep breaths.  Now I hardly use the high-speed lane when I’m driving to work.  I only will on the rare occasion when I have to pass another car.  And guess what?  I get to work on time!

I always seem to get there on time.

I don’t obsessively check the clock in my car during my commute. It doesn’t matter what it says.  I’ll get there when I get there.  And thank the stars I always do.

There’s a lot of road rage: angry, stressed, frazzled energy that crosses my path.  I could choose to feel the tension boiling beneath the surface where you don’t want to be the recipient on the tail end when I lash out.  I could charge full speed ahead in line with that energy or brazenly be “Me first!” with the tailgating and high emotions that follows.

Or I can choose to stay on my path: Just traveling.  Passing through.

We all have the same want: to get to our destination safely.  No one wants to get hurt.

How I react sets me up for good or bad. Is it worth saving a few more seconds?

The hardest part for me is being a passenger and relinquishing my need to be in control. I notice that at times I press my foot down on an imaginary brake when I think my husband is driving too close to a car in front of us.  Over the years, my husband and I tend to only have arguments when we’re on the road.  I judge his speed and length between cars.  I am unable to relax and be present.  All we want is to have a good conversation while we travel.

I can choose what to focus on. I can choose connection or outside factors beyond my control.  I want to let go of my need to be in the driver’s seat.  I want to make peace with the fact that I can’t control what other people on the road doing at that moment.  Only I can decide how I want to interpret my thoughts and feel my emotions.

What would you choose?

self-care

What does self-care mean to me?

It’s 19 days into 2018.  And I’ve been inspired by three lovely ladies to start the New Year by putting self-care front-and-center.

January began with Kris Carr‘s 3 Simple Habits to support all your goals.  It really set the foundation for prioritizing my self-care.

  1.  Keep it simple.  Don’t tackle more than three goals.
  2.  Include buffer time.  Set realistic deadlines so I don’t set myself up for failure.
  3. Add more, subtract less.  Instead of cutting out that evening chocolate or snack,  I grab an apple before I reach for that treat.

Last week I participated in Susan Hyatt‘s miracle week setting yourself up for a fantastic New Year.  It was five-days long.  Each day had an uplifting video which included a 12 minute health/body challenge.  My daily self-care soared.

  1. Create a hygge corner.  It’s a cozy nest to unwind and de-stress.  I live in a small house with small children, so my couch became my hygge.  I neatly folded a blanket and had a fluffy pillow that was just mine.  Then I filled my tote bag with a journal, three inspiring books, two uplifting card decks, and a mindful coloring book with pencils.
  2. Mindful mealtime.  At home we usually eat with the TV on or at work I tend to scroll through Facebook during my lunch.  It was a challenge at first to put the technology away.  Now I’ve enjoyed Facebook-free lunchtimes for over a week!
  3. Declutter your wardrobe and find three amazing outfits.  We used Mari Kondo’s  philosophical question, Does this item spark joy?  That pink frumpy sweater and the itchy “work” sweater that I bought at Saver’s thrift store many years ago finally got tossed!
  4. Media detox.  This next tool has been a life changer.  Unroll.me brought my email inbox management to the next level.  I used to check my email and spend so much time deleting emails rather than reading them.  Now I’ve added those unwanted time-sucker emails to unroll.me.  They all get rolled into one email a day.  So the emails that I want to receive appear without any added distraction.
  5. Tiny goals and building consistency.  Small, attainable goals have the momentum to create lasting change. With the idea that tiny goals rock, Susan suggests that we choose one fun and tiny health goal that can be realistically and enthusiastically committed to.  My goal is to sit in my hygge corner for 12 minutes a day.  And if the couch is being used, I can just grab my tote and go to another room and unwind.

Susan Hyatt also hosted a motivation hour webinar.  The biggest take-away I got was Dial It Up and it only takes two minutes.  She suggests doing it while you brush your teeth in the morning.

  1. Assess how are you feeling or what you are thinking about.
  2. How do you want to feel?
  3. What can you think or do to get that feeling?

Here is an example.  Before I get out of bed in the morning, I tune in to my thoughts.  Am I beginning to plan all the little things I have to do to get me and the kids ready for school?  What will traffic on my commute be like today?  Are my to-do’s already forming?

How do I want to feel instead?  I want to feel a sense of completeness since it’s the end of the work week.  And I want to cultivate presence so I can savor the moment with joy.

What do I have to think or do to get that?  I can prioritize my self-care.  I can delegate the small things so that my plate is a little less full.

I’ve been practicing Dial It Up for three mornings in a row and I have enjoyed mornings without feeling rushed or overwhelmed.

And heartfelt gratitude to Hunter Clarke-FieldsMindful Mama Immersion.  Five days of podcasts with experts and advice from mindful mamas who share their struggles and stories.  I might do a future blog on the takeaways from that experience.  Hunter’s wisdom and guidance came at the right time while I was forming my New Year goals.  She reminded me that meditation and mindful movement grounds me.  And I can choose to become aware of my thoughts.

For example, when we are sitting at the table as a family, I can notice my thoughts.  Sometimes I feel rushed and on a time-line.  But my thoughts are not all urgent.  I don’t have to share every single one (negative thought, fear, etc.) that pops into my head.  I can let it muster for a breath and the thought usually precipitates.  Then I’m able to enjoy myself, the meal I’m eating, and the moment.  And everyone around me is happier too.

When I feel aligned and mindfully present, I can truly listen to my child or my husband.  We all want to be validated and heard.  I know that’s one of my triggers.  I just want to be acknowledged and appreciated.  And if it doesn’t happen as expected, I can feel resentful, hurt, or frustrated.  When we’re lost in thought, we can lose those moments of connection.

So what does self-care mean to me?  It’s ever evolving.  I finally realize that how I start my day sets me up for how I want to feel for the entire day.  I begin with Dial It Up.  Then I do a few gentle yoga poses to feel grounded instead of hitting the ground running.  In the morning I choose to journal before I check my email.  At work I take a break and meditate for five or ten minutes.  After lunch, I take a walk in nature when possible, weather permitting this time of year.  I enjoy my green smoothie and a piece of fruit as a snack.  I spend the last few moments of the workday to reflect on the day, plan for tomorrow so I can set myself up for success.  And at night after the kids go to sleep, I devote at least 12 minutes to sit in my hygge corner.

What does self-care mean to you?  I’d love to hear your comments.

Here is Hunter Clarke-Fields free 3-5 minute guided meditations for you to enjoy.