From Type A to Type Ahh

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


1 Comment

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.


1 Comment

Change

change

I have been working on changes, that is kind of what this blog is all about.   I have recently been focused on a specific change, a big change at work.  It has also interestingly intersected with all the internal work I have been doing.  I guess all that stuff about the universe and presenting opportunities when you are ready may be a real thing after all.

I am currently a water resource manager.  I have been working in this space since 2004 and the exact job I have right now since 2009.  Because of it and some great mentors and some very fortuitous opportunities, I have gotten to do a lot and make a big impact, on the regional, state, and national level.  I have gotten to travel and keynote professional conferences and I have gotten to make a big impact on the environment and preserving water resources.  Truth be told, a couple of things have been nagging at me lately.  One I don’t find that much challenge in the work anymore.  I still find value, but I no longer have many of those new learning opportunities. I have shifted to a mentoring phase, which I also enjoy.

The other change is that as I get quiet and clear through my attempts at minimalism, meditation, and growth; I am realizing that my priorities have shifted a little.  I have gotten to do so much and I am grateful.  I am looking to make a little more impact locally, as in my own utility.  Also I no longer really enjoy the travel.  I want to work and come home to my husband and cats.  I want time to cook, meditate, read, and help my mother.  Where has all of this led?  As fate would have it about 6 weeks ago our Customer Service Manager just up and walked out. He had been struggling and he just could not take it anymore.  Our leadership immediately came to me to see if I was interested.  It would be a big change, but I have been the interim Manager 3 times between other managers.  Every time my bosses asked won’t you apply?  Each time I said no.  This time I really felt different.  I had always looked at the position that is full of managerial, policy, and relational challenges as both too daunting and too limiting.  After working on the things I have been working on about myself I feel more ready for this challenge. I have decided to apply for the job.  It is not a guarantee for me.

I feel ready if the opportunity arises.  I have also noticed how things line up to support you.  I have been taking some courses on Insight Timer and I am currently taking one by David Gandelman on Letting Go.  Leaving my current position and clinging to that has been one of the obstacles I had to overcome.  As I needed some support, here came this class, by one of my favorite teachers.  I have also been taking the How to Communicate like a Buddhist Class through Daily OM and this is also enhancing a skill set I will need.  It will be a time of transition, but I feel excited about the possibility of being on the learning side again.  Are you considering any changes?


Leave a comment

Education for a Better You

Education Policy Outlook small

Why is it is so easy and almost universally celebrated when someone seeks traditional education to improve in a skill or subject area needed to advance to a career goal, but almost shameful to say you are seeking education to be a better, more centered person?  I have been pursuing some education through non-traditional channels, not to be better at my job but better at life. I want to be kinder, more calmer, speak with more integrity and compassion.  I mentioned before that I use the Insight Timer Meditation App and I love it.  In one of the recent updates they added 10 day meditation classes through the app. They are only $4.99 and they are short and subject focused.  I completed one with Kate James and found it very helpful. I will undoubtedly do that again.  I also recently embarked on an eight week course “How to Communicate like a Buddhist” through Daily OM.   This course was only $25.00 and I am finding it very interesting.

Now that I have been working on being more aware and present and functioning less on autopilot, I am also more aware of how I act and feel in certain situations.  What I noticed is that I never hesitated to tell anyone I was in school pursuing my Grad certification in Environmental Management, but I was intimidated and hesitant to tell, even my husband, that I was taking these courses.  It made me wonder what the difference is.  I am not sure I really understand but I have thought that maybe, at least to me, this appears selfish.  Working on yourself would not really result in any kind of advancement or next step in the traditional sense.  I have come to believe that this kind of investment in being a better and more conscious person has a benefit to the people in my life.

It also may be that I live in the south, widely considered a Christian conservative community and coming out to say I am a Buddhist in pursuit of higher learning about the practice would be judged.  I never really thought I  was the kind of person who cared about that, but I now realize I am.  That has been the focus of this week’s course lesson.  I am understanding how I talk to myself.  In an effort to speak with more integrity something came up at a meeting and I said to a table full of people I can’t do that because I am a pacifist, vegetarian, Buddhist.  You know what?  No one said anything and since it was the truth I did not really care what they thought about it.  I hoped they would see I am the same person, just maybe a better version.  if they don’t I guess I can live with that too.


Leave a comment

Separation of Work and Home

 

bilder-slide-show-1-bild-3

My husband is now off for the summer, one of the perks of being a teacher.   Over the summer he has to read a book about choosing one word to be his guiding principle over the next school year.  It is familiar to me since this has been my approach the last two years.  Choosing one thing and focusing on it and seeing what happens.  The first year my one thing was meditation.  Quite simply just do it, imperfectly, but consistently.  Sit everyday, even if just for a minute or two.  As discussed previously this has had so many reverberations in my life.

That small focus helped me clear clutter physical, mental, and emotional.  It helped me be clearer about my purpose and led me to renewing my commitments to volunteering and vegetarianism.  It helped me try to learn to say no.

This year my word has been presence and it has been more of a struggle than I thought it would be. I do believe I am making progress though it is painfully slow.  It is also revealing some things about myself that I am not thrilled with, but I am trying to accept.  I wonder how many of us really like control and really like feeling that your worth is a little tied up in your status and in being the “go to” person.  That was not a terribly attractive realization for me.  Also simultaneously I noticed that does not make me happy.

In an effort to be more present and battle my arch nemesis, the cellphone, I started doing something to help me separate work and home.  A friend and I were talking and she mentioned a mentor she had that told her something she did to be able to effectively separate from work, and to set a reasonable expectation for those she worked with.  At the end of her day she put her out of office response on her phone and email  It was simple.  It was clear.  I decided I would try that.  I wanted it to be kind of end of day ritual for me as well as providing those trying to reach me with the necessary info they needed.  The message is not long.  It has had an instant impact.  The message is simply says, “I am gone for the day I will return day at 7AM.”  All it does is set a reasonable expectation.  I have left work and all work behind until I return.  I do sometimes find myself checking email.  I also find I am doing this less because I have set the expectation. It is sort of an actual physical act of disconnecting from work.  In our always on society I think this can be very powerful.  I anticipate as I continue this habit I will check my phone less and less once I am home.  This will give me more time to be fully here with my husband, kitties, family, and friends.

 

 

 


Leave a comment

Change is Hard and Slow

peaceful-person

I wish I could say this was me everyday.  The reality is as I pursue this journey to a more genuine, calm, and centered version of myself it seems I take one step forward and one step back.  Like my experiment with my phone in January, which was a miserable failure.  I should be stronger than that.  I was recently listening to a podcast where they were talking about cell phones and addiction.  I could relate to some of it, but not all of it.   In small ways that made me a little more conscious about how I use my phone.  So I adjusted my more ambitious goals and I am just trying to ask myself a few questions before I pick it up.  This helps bring me more fully present.  What am I checking? Am I just bored? What do I physically feel if I just leave it?  Then I have been regularly plugging it in to charge  when I am home.  Now if I want to check it I have to walk into another room and pick up the phone.  That has a way of making you feel ridiculous.  I realized real change comes from all of these very small decisions that we consistently make and then build on, sometimes without noticing.  It also helped I was listening to the Minimalist podcast and they were talking about how if you look around and see everyone on their devices also notice that none of them seem happy.  I have been doing that, and they are right.

Meditation has been the anchor for me to making many of the small decisions and changes in my life.  I feel like it has made me more aware of what I really want.  When you get quiet, turns out you can listen alot better.  I will say for now, most of my improvement with meditation has been geared toward me.  I am definitely calmer and less reactive.  I am definitely quieter and actually much more content.  Where I still struggle is being fully present in my life especially with other people.  I have every intention of doing that and I find I fall into old habits and I will be in a conversation and suddenly I have drifted off.  I also really want to be more compassionate.  I have been working on it.  It is easier with people close to me.  I still struggle with judgement and sarcasm, which have been a part of my life for so long.  They are such a comfort zone for me.  I am trying to leave conversations that turn negative or gossipy.  Right now rising above often looks like taking off, but again baby steps.

There are other things that I have been working on that are going really well.  I would say health which is super important to me.  After 7 months as a vegetarian, I really feel like this is the right and easy choice for me.  I feel healthier and more aligned with my values of animal welfare and environmental protection.  Also as part of my work wellness rewards program I was able to get a Nutribullet Pro for free and now everyday I have one meal that is just juiced fruit, veggies and nuts or seeds and it has been great.  We rejoined a gym and I have committed to a minimum of 2 day a week strength training with the ideal of 3 days.  I can really tell a difference and it helps my running.  I am also very consistent about sleep, which has never really been a problem for me.  There are other things I could talk about but this is long enough.  I will deal with other stuff in another post.  If you are working toward a better version of you it may seem like you are not making progress.  It is a slow incremental process and I am sure you are further along than you think.

 


4 Comments

Mindful Cat Care: Kali’s Storyline

IMG_5317

This will be a different post and a little longer.  Most of this blog focuses on my current pursuit of a more meaningful and mindful life but more than 20 years ago I met the cat  that made me a more mindful pet owner and was my first foray into mindfulness, but I did not know it then.

Kali came to us as so many cats did back then, an owner brought her in to euthanize her at the vet I worked with at the time. They said she peed on the floor and they had hit her over and over and she stilled peed.  She was almost 3 at the time and absolutely terrified.  I said, “will you agree to turn her over to me instead of euthanasia?”  I received the usual response, “what do I care.”  I took Kali home and she proceeded to hide in the back of the closet for nearly three weeks.  We had her urine checked for a medical issue.  None was found.  After a few months at our house Kali never had an accident.  I came home and found Kali laying on the floor.  She was lethargic, barely responsive, the veins in her neck, visible through her fur, were black.  I rushed her to the clinic.

I knew when I heard the vet say, those can’t be her kidneys they are smaller than raisins that Kali’s life was hanging in the balance.  That proved true.  The vet came in explained Kali must have been born with congenital kidney failure.  Her numbers were higher than they had ever seen.  They advised I say good-bye and end her suffering.  I asked for a few minutes with Kali, a cat I had only known a few months, but felt a connection to instantly.  I sat quietly with Kali.  She was one of those cats who change your life.   She was a very clear communicator.  I sat with her and asked her if she was ready to go.  I asked her if she even wanted to try.  In that quiet I got a very clear answer.  “I want to live.  I looked in her eyes and promised right then.  “Okay.  I will try, if you will try.”  My vets stabilized Kali.  It took a week in hospital, two weeks at home on IV fluid diaeresis and two trips to the ER.  After a month Kali’s numbers were down to what would be considered within the range of CRF, Chronic Renal Failure.  IMG_5318

Here is where our real journey began.  My vet said they were surprised we got her values down, and I should enjoy her, but at most we would have 6 months.  I could tell Kali did not agree.  I was so tuned into her and I felt like she and I worked together.  I started researching and one of the things I researched and joined was the Holisticat CRF internet group.  There I learned about nutrition and the companion role of traditional medicine and holistic medicine.  I got Kali to Susan Wynn, DVM and we worked on nutrition and supplementation.  Nutrition is Kali’s lasting legacy in my feline household.  I learned about how cats digestive tract is designed for meat.  I learned about the pet food industry and what is in most pet food.  Working with Dr. Wynn we created a homemade diet.  Since we had 7 cats at the time all of our cats transitioned to this diet.

At first we started with a cooked diet and after they were weaned off of kibble we transitioned to raw.  For a long time we fed whole ground chicken with a few supplements and some rotating vegetables.  This is what we fed Kali for her whole life and the other cats for about 10 years.  Kali thrived on this diet and the Chinese herbs she was prescribed.  She went for regular bloodwork and blossomed into the funny mischievous calico she was always meant to be.  Kali did not leave us after 6 months.  She never had to go back on IV fluid therapy.IMG_5316

As I mentioned Kali was the clearest feline communicator I have ever known.  When Kali was 8, nearly 9, I noticed she was slowing down.  I again talked to Kali and this time I got a different feeling.  I made a different promise.  “No more this time.  When you are ready let me know, and I will let you go.”  About a month after that my husband and I woke up on a Saturday.  Kali was sitting on the dresser and my husband and I turned to each other at the same time tears in our eyes and said “Kali is ready.”  We spent that weekend letting Kali do everything she loved.  We put up the Christmas tree, event though it was July, because she loved laying under the lights.  We let her lick down an ice pop because she loved that and we helped her go out to the cat enclosure to enjoy the sun.  On Monday I held Kali and I hope I was a clear communicator when I told her how much I loved her and how much I learned from her.

Why tell Kali’s story?  So many people have asked me about why I feed what I feed?  Kali taught me that my cats’ health is my responsibility.  What I learned through research and then what I experienced in my own cats changed the way I viewed cat nutrition.  Yes we lost Kali at 8 but those other cats I told you about lived into their 20s and late teens.  Mo is the last of those 7 cats.  He has been raised on raw. He is now 18.  More than how long they live is how amazing their coats are, how much energy and vitality they have while they are with us.

It is work and I am not perfect.  About 10 years ago.  Work was crazy and I had left the animal field.  I thought now there are so many organic and grain-free foods.  Surely I can feed that.  So I did.  I mean these cats were on premium all natural, grain-free kibble.  All but Mo.  He never ate anything except homemade food and he refused to recognize anything else as food so I continued to cook for him, a smaller undertaking than cooking for 6.  The others became quickly addicted to kibble and the cats that joined us and were on kibble did not understand homemade food.  After about 5 years I had 6 obese cats, lazy,with no energy, greasy coats, bad teeth.

Again a funny demanding cat would lead me back.  My little Georgia was diagnosed with Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy.  She was only 5.

IMG_1040

“Really, after all that, Kibble?”

I had to prioritize and my cat’s health is my priority.  Fast forward 5 years I have 5 cats: 3 are 10, 1 is 9 and Mo is 18.  If you walked in my house you would never guess it is full of senior cats.  They now eat three small meals a day.  Georgia’s HCM is controlled on a 1/4th of what would be considered a normal dose and there is little to no real evidence of heart disease anymore.  She goes every 6 months for a check up.  Pablo, who topped the scales at 21 ponds is down to 16 pounds and my cats continue to be the picture of health.  I don’t know what pet food manufacturer will watch everything my cats eat and adjust their diet weekly based on preference and reaction.  Right now we have a diet that is partially lightly cooked and raw and we use a complete supplement Wysong Taste of the Wild.  We no longer feed bone.  It was too much for our cats and research has changed.   In closing I will give you the diet that works for me. Also some encouragement.  I have over the years gotten a lot of push back from vets.  Fortunately, my vet now supports me in my decision.  She readily admits she wishes she had received more independent research and education on nutrition in vet school.  She says she can’t argue with the health of my cats and my commitment to research.

My cats Diet prepared weekly for 5 cats

6 lbs boneless skinless chick thighs – lightly cooked

2 Turkey thighs with skin- lightly cooked

1/2 pound chick organ meat (Hearts, kidneys, liver, etc.) – Raw

1 package chicken breast strips – raw

Wysong Taste of the Wild added per instructions for weight

Two Gerber Pumpkin Baby Foods

24-36 oz. of water

The chicken and organ meat is ground with a Maverick meat grinder.  Everything is mixed together.  Packaged per day and frozen.

Yes it takes work and time.  I think of all the time I have freed up not running them back and forth to the vet and chasing them to medicate them.  Also there is nothing like sitting with your little carnivores listening to them eat a species appropriate diet and knowing their bodies don’t have to eliminate all the junk in  traditional cat food.  Also I can still clearly hear Kali.  Telling me she came to us for a reason.  All the cats we have had, with her and since her, have one tough, plucky, funny, loud calico to thank.  To this day I miss Kali, but her legacy lives on my cats clear eyes and healthy lives.  IMG_5319


1 Comment

Checking in and Getting Back on Track

busy

So I have not written in a while.  In part because I have not had time. By that I mean I have been prioritizing other things and not doing a great job of prioritizing what really matters.  You may know the feeling.  I hate that feeling of busyness without real direction or results.  I think I can easily find myself lost in that when I fail to live in the present moment.

Yes, I am still meditating every day.  In those moments I feel fully present.  The last couple of weeks maintaining that feeling outside of meditation has been a challenge.  I am not sure why.  I do know I have been feeling a little burnt out and when that happens I usually fall back on the drug of busyness to drown out that feeling.  I know I should be asking myself why I feel burnt out.  Part of me is scared to ask that.  What if I get an answer?  If I get one it may be hard or difficult to do something to fix it.

I don’t know if this ever happens to you?  It is sometimes easier to standstill in a painful position than to make an uncomfortable journey to a place where you will be more at peace and happier.  I don’t mean to make it sound like I am not doing anything about it or I am just going to stand by until passes.  It is taking more effort to move forward.

Enough whining.  What am I actually doing?  Of course I still have meditation.  It is really an anchor for me as I move forward.  I have also been refocusing on gratitude.  Even taking more time to really reflect on my day while I prepare dinner so when hubby and I share our gratitude for the day they are real and not just the same old same old.  I am trying to revive my just say no project.  Probably one of the hardest things for me.  That is a post all in itself.  I am getting back to the gym in addition to my regular running.  I had gotten lazy about reading and found myself watching more TV; and sitting around.  That is about making a better choice, which is hard if you feel burnt out.  Will power and discipline are the first to go.  I have ramped up volunteering.  I know that seems counterintuitive to the whole busyness thing, but I think connecting to purpose and giving back helps to take us out of our self-absorbed focus.

What do I need to do?  I need to listen more and talk less.  What is that whole 2 ears one mouth thing, right?  I need to be less defensive and reactive when I feel threatened.  I need to disconnect from my phone more.  I embarrassed to say this remains my biggest challenge! Ugh.  I need to try to stay in the present moment and silence my internal planner.  I wish all of that was easier.  But I keep going.  Hope things are going well for you!