Maybe it was the title of the book that caught my eye on that fateful day in the College Hill bookstore. Or maybe it was all that pent up teenage angst. The contradictory belief that I was The quiet and good girl. I was helpful and nice But a mental punching bag for bad boys And my big brother blaming My very existence for Ruining his life. I was an innocent But carried so much blame and shame. Too much for my 17-year old self to handle. That book opened a doorway And I felt the words jump off the page Viscerally into my ears, mind, and heart. And I could finally breathe. Uninhibited, unrestricted I was accustomed to hiding the cries And sharp sips of air from sobbing. I was trying to intuitively calm myself But not finding the support or space to calm down. I was made to feel weird and awkward For my self-soothing efforts. I felt at peace for the very first time. Comfortable with my steadiness of breath and mind. This was my very first time practicing meditation with just this book by Cheri Huber as my guide. Oh, how I craved that feeling. It was an incredible high, I was filled with love and acceptance of who I was on that very day. Looking back, the framework of a Mindful practice had come into focus. I was empowered, Elated that inner peace was truly possible. My meditation practice has evolved since then. I typically listen to guided meditations these days. I have new teachers that I follow: Sharon Salzberg, Hunter Clarke-Fields, Kris Carr to name a few. But it all started with that one book that has brought me to new heights. Clarity, insight, calm and peace are always within my grasp And I am forever grateful.
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.
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.
- Keep it simple. Don’t tackle more than three goals.
- Include buffer time. Set realistic deadlines so I don’t set myself up for failure.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!
- 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!
- 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.
- 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.
- Assess how are you feeling or what you are thinking about.
- How do you want to feel?
- 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-Fields‘ Mindful 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.