There are not many things more relaxing to me than sitting near the ocean. It’s as if my soul re-calibrates and finds its natural rhythm. Tropical breezes and gorgeous flowers. Slower pace. Yes…this is the life of someone who has found gratitude and grace.
We all have within us a point of peace that when reached everything within our bodies finds balance and renewed well-being. It is where our emotional and physical systems find their set-point and function optimally and where everything seems to sigh in relief. My spot just happens to be the ocean. Something within the push and pull of the sea reconnects me to the heartbeat of the Mother. Relaxation and anticipation combine to make this experience one of preparation for rebirth and like any good vacation, we come back renewed. Getting out of our routine and finding a slower pace, fresh air and sunshine is a wonderful recipe for well-being.
But a vacation is only as good as the attitude and point of view I take with me. This vacation was different. Often in preparing for a trip away from home in the past, anxiety plagued me for the 2 days before and for 2-3 days into the trip. Everything had to be perfect because these types of opportunities didn’t not often present themselves. Planning, preparing and leaving things done at home took away a lot of the pleasure for me. My girls just wanted to be kids, go exploring, have fun and eat good food. I was wrapped up in the orchestration of everything around us lest something go awry and ruin it for the entire family. I was accused of being too fearful and watchful. It caused anxiety for everyone and they were grown and gone before I figured it out. For the last few years I longed for their presence as I had new experiences. It would have given me an opportunity to show them I had it in me. Though they are grown, I know I am forging a path for them even if they are not around when explore this awesome life.
I finally feel free to be me, to lighten up, be present and enjoy the journey.
A trusted friend and spiritual advisor shared with me once that he got hung up on “judging past experiences with current information”. I believe that is where most of us leave our spirit…in the past. We go back and revisit those things that didn’t turn out like we think they should have, with the idea that if we figure it out now it will somehow make it better. We beat ourselves up for not knowing what we didn’t know. And because we keep living in the past, we miss the experience of the moment. Those unhealed emotional wounds that I carried into every moment shut off my ability to be present for myself – much less anyone else. I have spent many years doing the things I felt would help me connect with my own spirit. Twelve step programs, therapy, yoga, meditation, writing, and just plain having the courage to live this life I have been given. I saw evidence of my healing at every turn.
That I know is what was different about this vacation – I was healed. I didn’t long for anything different. I spent myself on the experience of the moment, loving the man that I was with, and feeling the feelings that were present for me – now. No wounds were opened, no feelings hurt, and though I hope my girls have experiences like this one day, I didn’t long to have them there so I could have fun. I showed up full out, gave nature, my body, my husband and everyone I came in contact with, my full attention. I delighted in everything I could take in – every texture, smell, taste, smile, and feeling. My mind was quiet, my body nourished by the excellent food, the sun, the clean air and the love of my wonderful partner. I didn’t do much of anything else…that was all I seemed to need.
I am almost 59 years old and I finally know what it is like to be fully present. I just didn’t figure it out until I got back. I pray that each of my clients and those whose lives I have the honor of touching, find this freedom as well. I know that my life is devoted to giving this back to others…it is what sustains me.
What “present” will you give yourself today?
I don’t have a clue what to write about. I feel dense and awkward and totally disengaged from this writing thing today. I made a promise to myself that I would write a blog every week – it was my first attempt at honoring my dedication to integrity as a business owner and coach. But as with most humans, some days I just can’t get motivated. I need inspiration and focus and sitting still in one spot is only easy for me if I am thoroughly engaged in something.
The reason I write is to share the things that have broken me, inspired me, and healed me the most. I am of an age where there is a lot to look back on, but a desire to move forward more courageously and thoughtfully. My children are grown, I have a great relationship, a comfortable home, and the means to care for myself in any way that my needs call for. I have more than many, not as much as some, and just enough to make me joyously content. My past is fodder for many subjects and my current understanding of what I have overcome delightful. It makes for a giddy gratitude that fuels me to try and help others in any way I can. When your cup is overflowing it has to go somewhere.
Writing is a self-help tool that anyone who can hold a pen can make use of. It is a way to dump the garbage your brain has been composting and stirring up so that you can sleep clear-headed. Writing will reveal the lies you tell yourself and also your deepest fears. Putting pen to paper can assist you in unleashing a landslide of anger without alienating another human. It is a tangible way of doing SOMETHING about any challenge you might be faced with. Nothing is more engaging than discovering some truth on the page that you had not even formed a thought about. And that’s the point. When you write you access the secret log book to your soul.
One of the tools I use with my clients is what in sales they used to call the “Ben Franklin Close”. Pros and cons, advantages and disadvantages – it is a wonderful tool for getting at the truth, the solution, or helping you make decisions and see the value in choice. Simply draw a vertical line down a sheet of paper. Use it for whatever you are dealing with. My favorite is “Don’t Want” vs. “Want Instead”. This works for all kinds of situations. Out there dating? Looking for a new job? Mad at yourself and looking for solutions? Need new ideas for a project? The simple act of writing something out with the intention of looking for a solution puts you on the path to many open doors. It accesses a part of the brain you sometimes can’t get to by mere pondering or worrying about a situation.
Writing is also a great tool for experiencing our feelings, developing gratitude, and for exploring what hides in the recesses of our mind unless we explore with a pen. A great spiritual exercise I learned to use when I was in the depths of despair over a breakup was the “I love this because_______” writing exercise. Training myself to look for the good in every situation (no matter how devastating) took courage and the willingness to want to feel differently. Amazingly, I began to gain perspective on the red flags I missed, the things I gave up to keep him around, and a whole lot of clarity and truth. It was what helped me give up the grieving and get on with my life.
Anais Nin stated “We write to taste life twice”. It helps me to see things from the perspective of new understanding, a night’s sleep, or just the willingness to own up to my own part in an event. I can own my feelings, express my hopes or fears, and close the cover of my journal and never look at it again. I can create new ideas, bring old ones to the light of new experiences, and convey the things that I hope will inspire others to action that will nourish their souls. Whatever the reason, you can sit back and know that in front of you is evidence that you accomplished something that was productive – regardless of the goal.
By just sitting down at my keyboard and speaking my truth, something was created on the page. Unless someone comments or some conversation is started, I will never know whether it mattered to anyone but me. But because I wanted to produce something, once I started the things that my soul had to say engaged me in the task. I was inspired to continue and curious to see what would evolve. And maybe, just maybe…someone else will be inspired to try writing as well.
What would keep you from trying out a bit of writing today?
Something profound happened to me years ago and I haven’t had the need to forgive since that event.
I am struggling with something deep inside of me that I am trying to express, identify, birth into reality. Muffled voices in my head, not yet clear, keep holding me back from something I know I was born to accomplish. They are the voices of reason, doubt, fear and disbelief that challenge the reality that someone like me can be accomplished, successful, respected and believed. The woman raised by alcoholic parents – neglected due to a disease that challenged even the truth of my own existence. I imagine my mother carrying her surprise burden at 17, dazed and confused at the turn of events that were catapulting her life into dangerous territory. Marrying quickly to assure propriety occurred to help mitigate a drunken mistake. Two drunk teens starting a chain reaction that in 7 years became a houseful of 5 children. So many times I heard them both talk about what could have been…but never saw anything change for the good. No one is to blame. It was just something that happened. Yet the hole that opens up inside of me is always about nurturing.
I am torn between the need for a loving mentor and the fear that no one will measure up. It keeps me living contemplatively and looking for ways to feed that need for approval. On occasion I reach out and open up to the intimacy of letting someone else see me, but I either reject the ones who can out of fear, or find little to enjoy in the company of other beings. I want to be lifted up, not judged. Encouraged to fly, not have my feet held to the floor because of someone else’s lack of vision. Most of all, I want someone who intuitively knows me or at least is skilled in helping me know myself. Risking exposure and being vulnerable are my greatest fears.
If we are to forgive then we ego-driven humans seem to have to decide where to place blame so that our forgiveness has meaning. When I am honest and in fit spiritual condition, I see how ludicrous that can be. If I am blaming others then I become a puzzle made from incompatible pieces whose finished product will never be coherent. Blaming others for my feelings and actions is the default reaction for those who are afraid to be themselves.
My general disposition is one of joy…rarely do I feel anything less than contentment. Early on in my recovery, a loving mentor suggested that my constant smile made others disbelieve me. A doctor suggested that my constant laughter was often a sign of some hidden mental anguish. I even had a female employer tell me I should stop smiling so much because in my later years I would be sorry when I saw the wrinkles it would cause. I thank those people because they made me look within at the cause of my feelings. Whether I was genuinely happy then could be called into question in the light of my abuse of alcohol and some of the poor decisions I made regarding relationships. I want to believe that I knew all along that if I could find a way to get to happiness, it would come to stay. Every behavior, whether it can be perceived as good or bad, healthy or unhealthy, was my way of seeking that which I was born to experience – joy. I sought it in approval of teachers, the touch of a man, the flavor of a favorite food, the excitement of a new outfit, the abandon of a night on the dance floor, the euphoria of a mind altering experience or substance. Everything I do…everything…is about finding and embracing a better feeling.
As I have watched these words evolve on the page I realize that the fears that keep me stuck have nothing to do with who I am right now. When I stop and write down everything I have accomplished in the past year I am amazed. That critical gremlin of self-doubt only pops up when I am isolating from the rest of the world and relying on my own mind to pull me through. I could view it as a mistake, but the beauty of it all is that I learn something new every time. My desire to bring others the joy I have found in living is my life work because it is the life I am experiencing.
The person I need to forgive today is myself. For being afraid to be human, and afraid to be spiritual. For doubting myself, based on false and imaginary thoughts. For forgetting and refusing the things that make me feel good being me. For forgetting that serving others and extending the love, recovery, and beautiful truths I have learned is what keeps me happy.
Looking at what I have done right, what I have accomplished, and looking for someone I can help is my assurance that regardless of what I am faced with, I can choose happiness and let go of the need for forgiveness.
Be who you want to be today and look forward to what that will bring you.
It is your choice.
What kind of energy are you leaving with your words and your actions today…and how do you know?
For years, I have been studying the effects of mindfulness and how important “living in the moment” is to the quality of my life. As a person in recovery it was vital for me to become proficient at this. My life truly depends on this skill. Being able to pause and pay attention to where my feet are planted, in other words - to live for the moment, is essential to my emotional growth and well-being. When I get complacent in this practice, my state of mind reverses to old ideas and habits and that is dangerous for an alcoholic.
When we do the same things over and over again, we begin to sleepwalk through our daily lives. Brushing our teeth, riding the train to work, feeding the dog…who needs to be mindful when performing these activities? But what about a bus driver who has the responsibility for his human cargo? Or the surgeon with someone’s life in his or her hands? These types of activities take laser-like focus because many things are at stake, so they must be mindful of what they do. Ask anyone sharing the road with a texting driver how important focus and attention are. There are lots of people in graveyards who forgot how important being mindful is when behind the wheel.
Mindfulness is an act of taking responsibility for how your presence effects and is effected by the world.
So how do you start? There are lots of books written about mindfulness and many of them I have found helpful focus on creativity as a way to enjoy and identify the feelings that come from being mindful. Julie Cameron’s “The Artist’s Way” was introduced to me years ago by a therapist whose life touched mine in amazing ways. Through the lessons contained in the book I began to sort through which voices in my head belonged to others, and began to find my on “voice” and focus on what I wanted. Showing up on the page of my journal every morning (due to the suggested morning pages) enabled me to get in touch with how I was showing up in my world. Writing down behaviors, thoughts and feelings gave me a doorway into mindfulness and made paying attention to the present moment a rich and rewarding experience. Being creative is not just about art or music, but an exercise in being mindful of how you react internally to every activity. It is an exercise in who and what you are meant to be and your signature on the substance of your life.
Mindfulness and meditation are similar in that they require one to slow down and focus. Learning to sit still or focusing on only one thing was always a challenge for me, but constantly working on meditation has been key for my living in the present moment. When I first got sober, sitting still kicked the “fight or flight” tendency into overdrive because my whole life had been about running and fighting. Somehow I knew that if I stopped at all…everything would catch up with me and I was done for. Mindfulness connects me to my feelings about a thing, ideas, or something physical. It is a way for me to expand my world by paying attention to the nuances of existence. Meditation on the other hand is about sitting quietly and allowing the thoughts about anything to settle so that my mind and body begin to relax. Both connect me to something much bigger than the everyday and reward me with a deep feeling of gratitude for my existence and my place in the world.
So here is an exercise for you to try mindfulness:
Wherever you are right now stop and take a breath.
Gratitude that comes from mindfulness is born in the calmness of paying attention to what is already there. Whether you decide to accept it or not is the energy signature you leave behind.
What would you gain today by slowly incorporating mindfulness into your life journey?
Every blog I share comes from the heart and has a challenge or a question within it to help others explore new ways of thinking. I hope that as you read the blogs you would consider starting conversation by commenting. We can learn so much together!