From Type A to Type Ahh

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


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The Vacation Paradox

 

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Sunset over the Jekyll Island Salt Marsh

Sorry I have been MIA for a few weeks.  I was out of town all last week and playing catch up this week.  Last week we started the week in Savannah, where I had a conference.  On Wednesday we headed to my favorite place in Georgia, Jekyll Island. The Island is owned by the state and preserved as a state park so development is limited and natural beauty abounds.  We also stayed at the Jekyll Island Club Hotel, which was built in the 1800’s as the millionaire’s club and became the first location of the Federal Reserve.  Staying there is kind of bucket list experience.  We got a deal and as someone who is focusing more on experiences than material things; we decided to go for it.  We were not disappointed.

I was puzzled by something and mentioned it to my husband when we got home and felt every bit of “vacation fun” in our run and energy level.  Why is it so hard to “fit in” or rather “stick with” the healthy habits that seem to be so effortless at home where we also have all the stress and pressure of jobs, family obligations, house obligations, etc.  In theory vacation is full of time.  Shouldn’t that mean I can meditate longer, exercise, more, seek out the best and healthiest food options?

Well I can clearly answer this for me with a resounding, maybe.  What I mean is yes the time is there, but the motivation that seems to come so naturally at home in my “real” life is lacking in my vacation self.  We ate poorly.  I had not been drinking alcohol except very infrequently but I definitely enjoyed some wine and craft beer, in moderation.  I am proud to say I did meditate everyday, but if I am being perfectly honest  I would say, meditation light.  I did shorter sessions and I often was not as fully there as I would like to be.  As for exercise, this one hubby and I usually get right.  This time a busy conference at the start ate up my time and a hubby’s foot injury at Jekyll put an end to long runs along the beach and bike rides.  Oh, and in an effort to cut meditation time down even my daily yoga practice bit the dust.

So, what did all of this tell me?  A few things actually.  First thing, habits and routine are clearly an important part of my healthy lifestyle.  It is okay to fall off the wagon as long as you don’t lose sight of it completely.  Beware, catching it again after a lazy week of poor habits is going to hurt.  Meditation and the practice of being present and letting go did let me move past the things we hoped to do that became impossible when hubby got injured and appreciate where we were and the opportunity to be lazy together.  In the past I would have focused on the lost plans and failed to appreciate and honor the present with gratitude and an open heart.

 


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Observations from the Last Two Weeks

 

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Dung in the Rose Garden at Balboa Park

 

I have not written in a little while because we have had a lot going on, most recently a 4 day trip to San Diego to visit my husband’s mom and brother.  We rarely get to see just them.  Usually when we go to California we try to see as much of the whole family as possible and that is well over 45 people all together.  Quiet moments with Dung’s mom are few and far between when we have everyone together.  It was lovely a low key visit.  We spent a little time sightseeing on our own and most of our time just hanging out with his mom, meeting her friends, and eating more food than I typically consume in a month.  For his family “eat” roughly translated means “I love you.”  So we ate.  I am not going to recap everything from the last 2 weeks but now that I am more mindful I did notice a few things I thought I would mention.

  1. I was able to meditate and do my daily Vinyasa Flow even on vacation.  I meditated shorter but still found time.  In fact, it is now just what I do so it was not even really about finding time.
  2. I was more relaxed and peaceful while we were in California than I have been in the past.  I credit meditation and my attempts to stay present and in the moment.
  3. I had a cool moment with a friend and colleague this week.  She wanted to meet for lunch and talk about life, her career, etc.  She said “I don’t know I just wanted to sit down with you because you are one of the few people I know who just seems genuinely happy.”  In that moment I realized I am genuinely grateful, peaceful and content and I guess in short that is happiness.  It certainly took long enough to realize it.
  4. We cut the cable chord.  We decided we wanted to watch less TV and that we just could not justify throwing away the money anymore.  We have a longer term goal, our retirements and move to the pacific northwest.  We have an antennae for local TV and we stream Netflix, Amazon and Sling.  Saving over $100.00 a month.
  5. I have gotten to volunteer more with the Good Mews Cat Shelter and that should make me stressed and feel like I have less time but I actually feel more satisfied and calm.
  6. I was listening to that same friend mentioned above and she said, “I am never off of work.  Even on vacation I am just not at the office, but I am still at work.  I can never be off.”  Wow, that was another full circle moment.  Just ask my husband, a few years ago that was me.  I would have thought “of course not.  It’s work.”  This time I had a physically different reaction I felt sad and a little sick.  I explained to her she would burn out and she had to carve out things that mattered to her and devote time to them.  It was like an out-of-body experience, because a few years ago someone was telling me that.
  7. Lastly, I had a weird moment at work.  I am responsible for keeping our rate information at my job.  I was out last week on vacation and my supervisor redid a chart I have been maintaining for years.  She sent it to me and I said “Thanks I will update my spreadsheet.”  She came to my office and said don’t just use mine from now on I like it better.  Immediately without thinking I started defending my old spreadsheet.  I was going on about it and I suddenly heard myself and just stopped.  All day it was kind of in the back of my mind.  This time I kept asking myself, “why does this matter to me so much?”  I am not sure I answered that question.  Instead I just accepted that it does, but it should not and I let it go.  You know what?  We still have the info we need.

I hope you have been having a good two weeks and your summer is off to a successful beginning.


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Single Tasking is Possible

laserApparently what people say about focusing on one task is correct, if all anecdotal evidence is to be believed.  I have been working on cutting my addiction to multi-tasking.  I believe I waxed poetic about my love of it in a previous post.  Let me tell you it is easier to write that than to actually do it.  There is something very appealing about multi-tasking, at least for me.  Since I am often confessing terribly embarrassing things about myself in this blog, why stop now!  The truth is multi-tasking always made me feel really important.  I am not sure to who or why I cared.  The one thing I am sure of is, I did care.  Truth be told as I have started to limit that more I feel a little pang of guilt or regret.  Now people are thinking she used to do so much and be running around like a crazy person.  Now her desk is spotless every night and I see her walking all relaxed down to the copier, what a loser.  Mind you that entire conversation happens in my head.

How do I persevere despite all my internal instincts.  First I found out I was busy all the time, feeling stressed, and turns out I was mostly busy generating my own chaos.  When I stopped that and actually started to focus in, turns out I got actual things done. I had time to plan other things and side benefit, no longer feel like I might be on my way to my first heart attack (over emphasis for effect, but you get me.)  Turns out when I look all placid on the surface completing task after task that I am actually all placid on the inside.  That did not just happen. Don’t let my newly Zen attitude fool you; I was full on results driven, neurotic, self-judging, perfectionist.  I had to put some real work into setting up for success.  Mind you success for me does not mean I never slip into Super Multi-Tasker mode but it is culled way back.

What did I do:

  1. Cleared the clutter in my office.  I mean a brutal, no piece of paper could hide, merciless, gutting.  If I am being honest it was so amazing afterwards I just sat in the peace and I may have cried.
  2. Heresy be damned, I shut off my email except for a couple of times a day.  Turns out real life is not an episode of 24. No one’s life hangs in the balance if they don’t know I am available for a meeting the moment they ask.
  3. I put my podcasts on low.  This helps me tune out the office but I don’t get too distracted.
  4. Extended my clear office into a maintenance phase.  I deal with my mail right away.  I assess every professional magazine I get.  If there are one or two articles I want to read I cut them out scan them and put them in a computer file labeled articles of interest. Recycle the magazine. Bonus I now actually have down time during the week to read some of them.  Also easier to forward to colleagues.
  5. Don’t have my phone out at the office.  I check periodically because I take care of my mom.

These were not big lifestyle changes.  They made a huge difference.  I have to say before I started meditating and being more mindful there is no way that me could have done any of them!


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Sometimes Life helps you Prioritize

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Mo 17 and still going

I have not had a chance to write recently, and this guy is the reason.  Mo became very sick last Sunday and after trying supportive care at home and watching him decline we decided to take him to our vet on Wednesday and wanted to know if she thought it was time for us to say our good-byes.  So that you keep on reading, I will let you know we might have come to terms with the possibility of letting him go, but Mo had not. He has rebounded and is doing really well right now.  Things like last week, really brought our priorities into focus.  For hubby and me our cats are our family.  They are our little four footed children.  Mo’s illness and the reminder of his advancing age cast a pall over the whole week.

We love our cats.  I mean we are those kind of cat people.  The kind that when we moved the movers said, “you have more furniture for the cats than for you.”  To which hubby responded, “there are more of them.”  Seems obvious, right?  Our cats bring so much more joy than anything else in our lives.  Often the best part of our day is coming home to read or relax and pet the cats or watch them be their quirky selves.  Those non-cat people think cats don’t bond and don’t have unique personalities, but they are so wrong.  All this week my husband said “the only time Mo perks up is when you come home.”  Mo is a little bit of a Momma’s boy but that is just part of his charm.

I should do a post about pets and minimalism, but I look at it like this.  Minimalism or simplifying  our life just makes room for what is truly important.  For us, as if we needed a reminder, it is those furry family members. They also have a way of reminding me to be present in the moment and not too far in the future.  Mo is certainly focused on enjoying the here and now and as long as he is here I am committed to not missing him before he is gone.

On a side note if you, like us, really love your pets and are worried about making sure you can always provide the best care, something we get a lot of value out of is pet insurance.  It is so worthwhile.  I always say it lets us choose the A option for our cats.  Also having five cats it gives us peace of mind if more than one was facing a medical crisis at the same time.  Enjoy your caturday.  I certainly am.


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Sometimes it is a Struggle

So I am really working on myself and for the most part I would say it is going pretty well.  I have definitely made some positive changes and reaped some surprising rewards as discussed in my previous post.  With progress and mindfulness comes the recognition of how far we still have to go and how we are always a work in progress.  I guess we should be happy to still be employed in this work, the alternative is not great.

So what am I struggling with right now?  Gossip.  It is like the national past time of my office and even when I set my intention to be compassionate and act out of kindness and gratitude I still find that I can spiral into this easily.

Thank-God-for-all-the-gossip There is some good news.  I do find that I am far more aware that I am participating in gossip than before, where it was sort  of an unconscious act.  It may be a few minutes into the session but I find I will become hyper aware that I am participating in something that brings no value and might be damaging to someone else.  I do try a few things, I am not just going along aimlessly.  If I hear friends I am visiting with descend into gossip, I try to excuse myself.  If it is starting up outside my office I will close my door like I am about to take a conference call.  For the most part the challenging times are when the gossip is about someone I am personally struggling with myself.  That does not make me proud; I think it makes me human.

So I am interested in what you struggle to improve.  If like me it is gossip, are you doing something I am not?  Do you have any tips?  Once I am done with session and I am back in my office and the contact high you get from gossiping with your friends is gone it leaves me feeling empty and a little ashamed.


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Half Way to My Goal Checking In

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This year instead of lofty or repetitive goals for the New Year I had one simple goal.  Meditate everyday for one straight year.  I started in November for very practical reasons.  In November I had an injured foot and needed to take weeks, which led to months off of running.  I picked up meditation as a way to stay married and employed.  I downloaded the Insight Timer and I have to say, after day 183 that is by far my favorite app on my phone.   Surprisingly it is also the only one changing my actual life.  Nope, not Facebook.

So this post is not to pat myself on the back but rather to reflect on a very surprising result of this experiment.  I only focused on one thing, meditate everyday.  In the weirdest set of cosmic karma I got improvement in so many areas of my life.  These are just a few things I have noticed since adding daily meditation.

  1. I have an inner calm instead of an inner critic.
  2. I have self-control!  Turns out I don’t have to say exactly what is on my mind at every moment and the world still ambles along just fine.
  3. I have time for everything that is truly important to me.
  4. I am comfortable with silence and find I crave it more.
  5. I can, for periods of time get control of my thoughts by focusing on my breath in the moment. I thought those things were wilder than a mustang!
  6. I don’t drink anymore.  I used to unwind with a glass a wine.  Now most days I am not wound so no need to unwind, and when I am wound sitting is far more helpful.
  7. I have more clarity about what is important and it helped me clear physical and mental clutter.
  8. Cut way back on TV because I want to be present with my loved ones, experiencing, growing and learning, not zoned out.
  9. Our finances were never out of control, at least not since we both got grown up jobs in fulfilling fields, but now I am more conscious of what we spend money on.  I set up an additional retirement investment account to work toward our long-term goal of retirement in 8 years and a move to the western part of the country.
  10. I am more grateful and hubby and I have instituted the three things we are grateful for exercise before dinner.
  11. I was always a doer and could get things done but there was a certain panic and inner turmoil and dialog behind it.  Now I can handle a single task complete it and move on.  I am more focused but it is a peaceful focus. Surprisingly, I get more done with less inner chaos.
  12. I am a better listener, but still have to work on that.
  13. I got back to writing and that is a creative pursuit I let drop because I thought I had no time.
  14. I increased my volunteering adding a no-kill cat shelter to coaching a run club at hubby’s school and volunteering in professional water organizations
  15. I have even said “no” and guess what?  The world did not actually spin-off its axis.

I don’t know how meditation led to all of this.  I only know that the thing I consciously decided to change was to meditate and on that road the rest of this fell into place.  Who knew all I needed to do all these years was shut up and sit down.  Well some people probably knew.


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Family and Feeding Your Soul

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I wish I had this quote yesterday.  So yesterday was Mother’s Day, and I don’t know about all of you but one of the most challenging forks in my road to being a better, more peaceful, calmer, and more compassionate person drives right through my family.  It is a bumpy and unpaved road.  Yesterday was yet another day to prove the rule.

I won’t go into all of it.  Suffice to say my mother, who I love very much, is addicted to a certain kind of chaos and martyrdom.  She says yes to the wants of everyone and the care of every person, except herself.  My sister, who has battled depression and eating disorders, throughout her life continues down the same path she has always travelled.  When that path is on a downward trajectory her greatest pleasure is piling as many folks into the car as possible on the way down.  Sounds like fun?  Would you like to join us for a Fourth of July Barbecue?

Normally, I would have suffered through dinner, drank more than enough wine and actually, if I am being honest, have helped raise the discord because I have been unable to not take the bait I have been conditioned to take.  This time was different.  Their moods and idiosyncracies  became their own.  I no longer needed to respond.  Instead I focused on Mom’s big heart and how tough she is. I was able to fully celebrate all of who she is as a woman without the judgement.  For my sister I found a new profound, compassion.  I can’t imagine being that unhappy having that much pain.  Stripping the joy from even the things you love.  She was remarking how her dogs, her passion, are nothing but a burden now.  I had a flash of my cats and how they, along with so many things, feed my soul.

Today I was off of work, because I have to work through Saturday and instead of just saying “sure I will do that.”  I found a day in my calendar with nothing scheduled and told my boss I was switching days off.  No long explanation.  I don’t have to work an extra day.  That has always been a choice.  There will be times when I feel I have to, but today was not that day.  I found my sister on my mind as I got up this morning.  I saw my husband off.  I went to my mediation space did a little yoga and sat.  After that I had a healthy breakfast and went for a run and a bike ride.  While on the trail looking at people and nature, listening to birds and feeling my strong healthy body, I felt my soul recharge.  I felt that compassion for my sister and my mother.  I have not always been as diligent about these issues of self care in the past, but I have also never been like my mom and sister.

Today as I fill my soul and get ready for the week, I hope that my family can strip away the pain and find the purpose and the joy in even the difficult or mundane things.  Tomorrow I head off, for purpose driven work I enjoy.  I have a new softer place of compassion for my family.  The freedom of realizing their choices don’t have to be mine so I don’t have to be judge and jury.