From Type A to Type Ahh

Be the Change You Wish to See in the World – Ghandi


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Rising Above

helping the sickConfession time.  I could never be Mother Theresa.  The fact is I am not very good with illness and I spend an irrational amount of time and energy making and following through on healthy habits.  Here comes the irony part, every single member of my family has died from or currently faces debilitating illnesses.  Now my best friend is facing a battle with cancer.  Though I have been working hard to be non-judgmental, easier with my friend.  Not as easy with my family.   It is hard to spend so much of your time immersed in the ramifications of a lifetime of bad decisions and not sometimes feel a little bitter and angry.

People often remark when I pack my healthy vegetarian, usually Vegan lunch everyday, forgo dessert at work celebrations, get out of bed every morning at 4 AM to run, cook dinner at home most nights, and regularly include chiropractic and gym visits into my life; “I could never do that.”  I would be giving up so much.”  I try to explain with all honesty nothing tastes as good as being healthy.  I will never look back and think I wish I had watched more TV, and wasted less time exercising or meditating.  In fact over the last 2 years the biggest difference in how I react to my family and what feels like unwelcome obligations brought on by someone else’s irresponsible choices  has been to prioritize my own health both physical mental.  My mother in particular has had a different life philosophy.  She has always subscribed to the idea that to truly help someone you have to give all of yourself, until it hurts, literally.  For a time I also tried that.  What I found was bitterness and resentment, exhaustion and poor health.

I wanted to serve with a happy heart.  I wanted to be as judgment free as I could be, given the circumstances  I know this may sound cliché and like “Sure, Right.  Maybe you can do that, but I live in the real world.”  I get it.  I was there.  In the nearly two years I have been adapting my lifestyle, I have found that well I have to draw from for service is far deeper when I take care of myself first.  If I continue to keep the commitments of mental and physical health I made to myself, I am a better caretaker.  They are not life altering. I want to eat healthy so I have that food on hand with me.  I want to run so I get up at 4 AM so I have time just for me when everyone who might need me is fast asleep.  As soon as I finish my run I meditate.  Most nights as I lay in bed, where I would previously silently stew in bitterness, judgment and resentment about why I am stuck doing all of this.  I now meditate.  I sleep better.  These simple promises and gifts I give myself make all the difference in how I approach caregiving.  It also frees up a lot of the chaos and anxiety in my life, so I have room to embrace the unexpected.  It is not a perfect system.  I certainly wish health on my friends and family.  Finding this gap for myself fills my well so I can give to others.


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Oh Yeah…That’s Progress

A_road_at_Hietaniemi_cemetery

I can often become obsessed with outcomes.  That is part of who I am, and also a trait of most perfectionists, even recovering ones.  How is this working? Have I arrived yet? Did I finish? Is this correct?  All of these thoughts can and have dominated my life for a long time.  The weirdest thing happened recently.  I realized that for the most part they don’t anymore.  Even weirder for a results oriented perfectionist, I also realized I was not consciously trying to get rid of them.  I was not really even focused on them.  Instead I was focused on adopting some positive actions.  The journey I started over a year and a half ago.

All of sudden this week I noticed that some things had actually shifted as a result of the actions I had tried to adopt.  It feels a little like compound interest of the soul.  All of these little investments and changes actually led to some real change.  I have been working on being more mindful and present and being kinder.  I had to spend a lot of time reminding myself stay present.  Or realizing three hours later that I am not even sure what I did for the last three hours; I was that much on autopilot.  Also because my nature is defensive sarcastic, I had to really consciously work to be kind.  Reminding myself be nice, be compassionate, listen.  Last week I was in several conversations, even difficult ones, and I noticed that instead of saying “be kind”, I was actually being kind.  I found myself fully engaged in moments with friends, family, my husband, and my cats.  Also I could notice when I wasn’t.

I am not sure when all of this started coming together.  Probably not a great tribute to mindfulness.   I am clueless as to when the whole thing started coming more naturally and bringing more awareness about when I am not achieving these goals.  I do think certain soul investments have been most valuable to me.

  1. Meditation everyday.  I don’t know when the promise to do it just once a day for  2 minutes  became twice a day and able to sit for 30 minutes or more.  I know the results have been revolutionary for this hyper-active, performance driven workaholic.
  2. Gratitude practice.  The sharing three things we are grateful for practice my husband I adopted before dinner is now a highlight of my day.  Not just because it makes me focus on something positive but I am learning more about what my husband finds joy in.  Also this lens, without even knowing it now changes many things in life for me.  I can view them and say “wow I am really lucky.”
  3. My Buddhist Communication Course and Insight timer Courses.  Having daily lessons and activities as well as tools to achieve better communication and deeper meditation have really helped me with clarity, honesty, and empathy.
  4. Volunteering.  This has really brought a lot of value to my life and helped me align my values and step out of myself.
  5. Going back to vegetarianism. It has helped my health I feel better than I have in years. Also it was true to my soul and values.  I believe all animals are sentient beings and eating them is just not consistent with that belief.

It was not a lightning bolt and I did not do all of these things at once.  I added them gradually as I was ready.  All of it has begun to add up. I feel, calmer, kinder, more aligned, less reactive, and more focused. Turns out incremental progress is okay after all.