From Type A to Type Ahh

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


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Origins

new-beginningsI was listening to a podcast this week about origin stories.  I thought about how much had changed in my life over the last 20 months.  It is a lot.  Since I am nearly 50, I was trying to think what made me want to change some things about my life.  From appearances I would have seemed pretty successful and to have everything under control.  I was respected in my career, had a good marriage, home, fiends, etc.  I think most of the time I was on autopilot and in those moments I wasn’t, I was usually pretty reactive and frankly pretty raw.  I had a lot of the things we think about as being ideal.  The reality was I was often restless, snarky, judgmental, angry, and mean.  What I lacked was what I really wanted, more peace.  I wanted to feel internally what it looked like I had externally to most people.

Why all of a sudden?  Then listening to this podcast I thought what was my origin story? At first I thought,  nothing. Then my mind drifted back to 2013-15.  That was not a super time for me.  What is that saying, if everything can go wrong it will go wrong.  My husband and I were robbed twice the first time was a shock and then the second time about 3 months later.  After they had watched the house and made sure we replaced everything.  We were renting and our landlord decided the house was safe enough he was not going to make any changes. So we broke our lease, with his consent, and had to find a new place to live rapidly.  The situation was not ideal. It was our most stressful move.  The house we moved into needed work none of it was done.  I had to keep leaving work to get things finished.  I had a brand new boss. Also our previous landlord, the one who did nothing to prevent the repeated break-ins, decided he would not refund our deposit since we left after being robbed twice in 3-months.

I was taking care of my mother who was having eye surgery at the time.  Then in the spring I got a phone call.  We were not celebrating Easter. My brother was in the hospital.  By that evening we were all in the hospital when his surgeon told us they removed his colon but the cancer was everywhere and he very little time left.  He was gone in less than 2 weeks.  We had not been close, but he did live with my mother and handle some day to day duties, so now I needed to find someway to take care of her.  In the meantime my aunt fell and went in to rehab.  My sister ended up with some severe chronic health problems.

I was stressed, tired, overwhelmed, everyone was looking to me and I was trying to keep it together.  My husband was there every step of the way but I am afraid I took out most of my frustration on him.  I had running as an outlet and it helped.  I needed something else.  The what else was not immediately obvious. In fact I tried several things.  Then at the end of 2016 I injured my foot and they said no running.  I am not going to lie.  I was hanging on by a thread.  That is when I decided to try one thing.  Meditate everyday even if just for a minute.  If you read this blog you will know that it has helped me in so many ways to become a better, truer version of myself. By doing that I have been able to give more openly to those I care about and causes I value.  What kicked you into change?


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Oh Yeah…That’s Progress

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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.


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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.


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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.

 


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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!


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The Good-Bye I Never Saw Coming

Perfection and I have been besties since as far back as I can remember.  I always had a strong inclination toward being perfect.  I wanted to be the perfect daughter, the perfect student, the perfect employee, the perfect wife.  Truth be told I only saw value in myself if everyone else thought I was perfect.  For a long time I thought that was what drove me to succeed.  I thought I am successful in my life, career, and marriage because I don’t settle for less.  Also I wasn’t happy, not really happy.  I mean that kind of peaceful contentment and acceptance.  Not a manic annoying bouncing off the ceiling happy!   That is crazy town.  I was willing to give up being happy, comfortable with who I am in pursuit of perfection.  Which if I am being honest, I never achieved, even when all outside signals may have indicated otherwise to people.

Over a year ago I started to meditate and do this blog.  I started to really let myself get uncomfortable, by questioning where I was and what I always believed.  I don’t really know why.  I can’t tell you this was the particular moment I decided to meditate and look at my life.  I guess like so many other things, I was just ready then.  I don’t think the me of even 2 years ago was ready.  When I started to meditate, I could really hear myself for the first time in the  silence. I could hear what I say to myself.  Learning to take a breath in the heat of conflict I learned to hear what I said to others. Truth was, I was not perfect.  I was not open to criticism, because it is hard to be criticized and perfect at the same time.  You should try it.  I could be so judgmental and sometimes mean.  I still struggle with the impulse to defend myself, to interrupt out of my discomfort.  It is an ongoing and imperfect struggle.  Out of which I might become a slightly better version of myself. perfectionquote

Perfection kept me from a lot of things.  It is hard to be vulnerable and fully present when part of your mind is always questioning if that is the perfect answer, or did I ask the perfect question?   What are those things any way?  Is what I declare to be perfect or what someone else points out as my “perfection” actually perfect or just someone’s iteration of perfection?  This has been a difficult realization and even more difficult letting go of it.  Frankly, without perfection I felt unsteady and unmoored for a while.

What happened in the uncertainty and fear was finding a more true version of me.  I am impatient, sometimes, unfriendly, distracted, judgmental, self-involved, loyal, passionate, hard-working, compassionate, generous, and imperfect.  I am now a little kinder, a little more forgiving, starting with myself.  Once you realize you are not perfect it becomes easier to accept the imperfection in others.  We all have things that influence who we are and what we think.  I am definitely not the arbiter of what is right and perfect.  I am just another imperfect person trying to be a little more me and live a little more in tune with what I believe and value, regardless of whether or not that appears perfect.


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Merry Christmas

 

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Hubby and I last week at the Jeff Galloway Half

It is Christmas today and I hope everyone is enjoying time and making memories with their families.  This has been a pretty successful slow Christmas for me.  I thought I would take a moment to wish you all a happy holiday and record, mostly for me what made this holiday successful.

  1. Hubby and I don’t do gifts.  What we do instead is both take off the end of the year for his school break.  We spend time together and are able to slow down and fully appreciate all that we have, especially each other.
  2. Even though I was fortunate enough to be invited to a couple of parties, some I even intended to go to, I ended up saying no to all of them.  A snow storm pushed back the minimal Christmas activities I had to accomplish and I did not want to experience that harried Christmas rush.
  3. We don’t really do gifts for anyone, instead we donate to charities that mean something to them.
  4. Christmas is for children, and it is certainly the most fun to shop for kids.  Since hubby and I do not have kids we adopt a kid for Christmas from the local Boys and Girls Club.  It is fun to see if we can fulfill their Christmas list within the program’s budget cap.
  5. Listening to Christmas Music, taking  walk through the lights in your neighborhood costs zero dollars but provides the warm holiday glow.
  6. Spoil our cats.  This is where we fall down on the minimalism train. Our cats are spoiled, super spoiled.  They have floor to ceiling posts in almost every room, beds and toys.  I guess at its heart minimalism clears the way for what is important.  To hubby and I, that is our cats.  Also though they have a lot now, all 5 are rescues who were thrown away like trash, by someone else.
  7. Kept up my healthy habits.  You don’t have to spend money to enjoy the holidays but being healthy really helps.  I always found time to run and meditate.  Returning to a vegetarian diet really helped keep holiday over-indulgence to a minimum.  Left some room and calories for the occasional glass of wine too.

I hope you and yours are happy and healthy this Christmas and ready to start 2018.  Merry Christmas.