Archive for the ‘practices’ Category
This quote attributed to Rollo May crossed my desk:
Human freedom involves our capacity to pause, to choose the one response toward which we wish to throw our weight.
Sometimes, life’s pauses are thrust upon us, like illness, surgery or major change. Always, life’s unexpected requirements to “stop” require a conscious and creative attitude in order to make good use of the time. Always, the deeper challenge is to make time to pause in the moment, when we need to recalibrate, to rethink, to rechoose, without the demand of an unexpected external event.
Today is my day to take lots of deep breath pauses. I need to breathe in some joy.
How about you?
Today, I gave $1. A small amount. Yet, it was rare for me to do this. He was a nicely dressed 30-ish man standing outside a large chain store, with a locked box, hoping for a contribution to his cause. I hadn’t intended to participate. And I kept moving.
When he saw I was having trouble mobility-wise upon entering the store, he went inside and brought out a cart for me. He also seemed to understand that I was in no mood for a sales pitch. ”Nice man,” I thought, and kept moving to accomplish my goal of returning and replacing one item.
Exiting the store, I found myself wanting to give him at least a token of my appreciation, both for getting me the cart, and not bugging me about his cause. But not before I got a little better acquainted. ”Why are you standing here?” I asked (in retrospect pretty bluntly.) The sign on the box mentioned a Christian organization in Connecticut. He explained that the organization helps people who are down on their luck, in part by introducing them to Jesus.
I asked again, “Are you in the program?” ”Yes. It is a year program. It has really helped me get back on track and I’ve been a client for 9 months. God has turned my life around.” He had messed up his life with alcohol and drugs, and I sensed that somehow or other he had truly found both a solution and his salvation. He was grateful for the program, and was choosing to both support and publicly witness for the help that had been provided him. I put $1 into his locked box.
As I reflected afterwards, I realized that it was he who had freely given first…to me, by just being the genuine and thoughtful man he seemed to be. By seeing my need and getting me a cart. Which made me really want to give to him. This very pleasant interaction made me also think of all the other people in my life who give to me in small ways that really make a big difference. And most likely, they’re not even aware of their giving.
I also thought about the ways that some of the most important gifts we have to give, like listening and appreciating, or getting a cart when one is needed, or even offering a $1 and a smile, are those that may seem “inconsequential” in the scheme of things.
Our interaction was short and lifted my spirits.
Two souls giving freely.
One precious moment to treasure.
My errands done, I was heading back home on a Friday afternoon. Rte 9, the road connecting to super highway 91 was really backed up. So I thought, I don’t want to sit in this traffic, what’s another way? A detour! On an unpaved road through the farm fields in my Pioneer Valley of Western Massachusetts. I hadn’t traveled this route for several years and was delighted to discover that the large fields beneath the mountain still showed no indication of being a developer’s dream, and may actually have been purchased and saved in perpetuity by forward thinking conservationists.
I love open space and fields, and am still feeling the loss of the 10 acre meadow behind my former home. To put it daintily, the process of normal aging encouraged me to pass that beautiful property on to new owners last year in 2012, while I still could manage the downsizing/relocating phenomenon.
Although the detour of the day was not forced upon me, it was clearly a suggestion-to-self that I decided to take. I’m glad I did. I’d much rather be writing about taking time for this bit of pleasurable meandering, than taking time to figure out how to get through or even “enjoy” my time in a traffic jam.
How often do you suggest for yourself a detour in your day when it ‘s not necessarily forced on you? What kinds of detours can you imagine for yourself?
Message to Self: Do this more often!
I’ve been feeling sad and somewhat reluctantly giving myself time to cry. I realize that’s been a mistake. Although taking time to “think” through a difficult problem may seem like the more usual and prudent approach in handling one’s affairs , I want to at least put another idea on the table.
Sometimes the wisdom and clarity we seek reside under the blockage of unexpressed, denied, fear, sadness or despair. So, crying real tears, particularly if they are just under the surface, may be a good first step. As well as uncensored moaning of real moans, beating a pillow, screaming real anger (in a private place, or outside under a tress). Allowing yourself to “express” raw emotion, which may initially make no sense, can relieve a significant blockage, and the thinking that comes forward may be quite illuminating.
Recently I did allow myself to cry deeply. This “dumping of raw emotion” allowed me to write my way through to some new clarity. This after a month of held back tears which I couldn’t find a rational explanation to give myself, nor give myself permission to feel it through. Crying when you feel like crying is terrific (as long as you have a place to do so, and even more important a friends who allows it).
Check out today’s musing as I write my way through an issue that was nagging to be felt.
There’s a Nor’easter upon us in New England. While many have very good reasons to dread this onslaught, and fear the potential danger and damage, for me it happens to be an unplanned, unanticipated, gift of time…to do not much. And that’s something I continue to struggle to allow myself. I started musing about “welcoming NEMO” and the blessing that accompanies it. For me it brings a gift of time for myself that I hadn’t planned for. And now i’ll notice what I do with it.
Hopefully this storm will bring a serendipitous blessing to you as well. Perhaps this post will encourage you to seek it in the storm event or whatever next unplanned event, from whatever source, happens to demolish your intended schedule in the future.
Appreciation of self and of others is life affirming. It’s a focus on what’s good. And focusing on what’s good generates positive energy that heals. I participated in giving the gift of appreciation yesterday and the memory of the impact on me and on my companion haven’t left me. When I think about what a small thing it was and how much it meant to both parties, I find I’m still savoring it enough to want to share.
Carolyn Myss offers: “There is no such thing as a simple act of compassion or a seemingly inconsequential act of service.”
I would add that the simple acts of a) expressing one’s own joy in life, and b) appreciating the expression of that joy in another, fall into that category of consequential. The ripples into the world are inevitable. Here’s my vignette:
Serendipity struck today. While, for me, the last day of each year often presents itself as a time for reflection, today I was faced with three experiences which prompted me to think about where I was in my life, where I am and where I will be. I was invited by the events of the day to ponder the past, the present, and the future I want to create. No creatures stirring in my house, it was easy to accept that invitation. Here are the prompts I chose to give attention to as they occurred on this last day of the year… December 31,2012.
Entering the YMCA for my regular swim exercise, I encountered some motivational quotes on the announcement board.
- Don’t look back! That’s not the direction you are heading.
- Will what you are doing today help you become the person you want to be tomorrow?
My former goal setting and goal getting self-improvement persona got right into those. The residue of gung-ho-ness in this former business woman surfaced with a long list of things I wanted to be, do and have. It even offered the ever familiar critique that I wasn’t moving fast enough. All right, all ready.
Secondly, I noticed another quote:
3. Start where you are; use what you have; do the best you can.
My heart softened, I remembered that I am about to be 73, have an as yet unresolved bone-on-bone situation in my left knee, a scoliosis that keeps me bent, and an MS condition that I believe has run its course and is not progressing any further. While none of that prevents me from having goals, the current me is quite a bit wiser and quite a bit gentler on herself about the selection of those goals. The current me is quite happy about the downward modulation from do, do, do, to be. The current me is quite content with the gentle wisdom of the final quote. I’m doing the best I can and enjoying the journey.
Thirdly, I arrived home for the unexpected pleasure of sharing lunch with a neighbor 17 years older than I. Now 90, she’s mentally sharp, and contemplating when, and how, to say “enough is enough”. And if, she will have the courage to say it when her quality of life and reasons for living have both diminished beyond what she is willing to accept. I am not too young to understand her question and her thoughtful ponderings about that question. More than once I have picked myself up, from this or that loss or decline, to recalibrate what makes me happy, what I will do, and how I will be. I am sure I will have many more opportunities to address the normal decline of aging, and to creatively keep it free of distress.
Today, I am reminded that I am all three of those people. I can never erase the gung ho goal getter person of the past. And I don’t want to. I’m hopeful the current 73-year old me can continue to modulate to the energy and circumstances that I face both today and into the tomorrow of 2013. And, I am also the person wanting to befriend the death that is coming and allow this awareness of my own mortality to enrich my final journey.
Some readers may consider this a bit of a “heavy” reflecting on my part. Let me offer you this: On a given day, many sights, sounds, people, ideas, cross your path. At any moment, any incident, any person, or any thought can prompt a perspective-producing reflection. I believe that noticing, paying attention to what strikes you, is really the act of taking the time to listen to your own best wisdom, your own best guidance, and your own best perspectives .
So, be a bit greedy! Take this time with yourself and for yourself. What’s crossing your path these days? And what strikes you about it? Before the new year consumes you with it’s self imposed resolutions and other demands, take time to entertain whatever arises as the reflection opportunity of the day. Be well!
HAPPY NEW YEAR!
Today I’m pausing. I’m stopping. I’m taking a breath-literally. I’m not doing anything. Well, that’s not exactly true. This evening I did take time to for pure enjoyment… a classic movie I had never seen… Breakfast at Tiffany’s. And I’ll admit, the 90 minutes felt satisfying enough to qualify for a legitimate “pause.”
These end of year times before the beginning of the next year times always have special meaning for me. They contain the true pregnant pauses in my life. Full of somethings that I cannot name. Full of awareness that many things are ending. Full of knowing that something new is about to appear. Full of the complete confidence that I can easily relax and wait for whatever it is, and not have to do anything about it.
This particular end of year 2012 coincides with the completion of a 9-month moving process, the ending of a 70 year Johnson era in the town of South Hadley, the ending of homeownership, the release of lots of “stuff” I don’t need and won’t use. It coincides also with the sense of having finally come home to what feels like home, one that I have carefully and lovingly created for the first time in my life. Most important, this end of year seems to also be coinciding with the very special and unanticipated new feeling–of finally coming home to myself.
Now “at home,” in this new, comfortable, easy, place which is mine, I’m much freer to pause—really pause. And welcome this moment and the next.
Competing obligations, needs, requests from others abound during the holiday season.
I offer you the reminder that taking time to pause is one of those very special gifts you can always choose to give yourself…and those around you.
Enjoy the beauty of the season. Take time to pause. Happy Holydays!
This week I graduated! And what was more important than the ending of the very simple program in which I participated, was the unexpected celebration which followed. The memory is still with me, causing me to ponder a life in which serendipitous celebrations of small events were not a big part…and the possibility that I can change my ways.
And so I honor all those coordinators who decided to celebrate our accomplishment and who made this particular, unannounced, celebration special. Obviously, it meant enough to me to want to include it in the list of the things we all might consider taking time to do.
Visit the post as I continue to “muse along the way” about the celebration, about life, and what’s important.
Twice a week my physical therapist isolates and manipulates my tibialis anterior to help me with my MS foot drop and my right trapezius for my trying-to-be- straight back. He assigns exercises.Repetition and good form are essential. As each gets stronger, I get straighter and walk better.
Dean Dwyer, a paleo diet promoter, suggests there’s another muscle that needs to be attended to. “Willpower.” When we are trying to change our behavior in any way, whether exercise, diet, or doing more of what we love, the stronger this willpower muscle is, the better chance we have of actually doing what we need to do to achieve our life goals.
Frankly, I never liked thinking about or talking about “willpower”. Given that I consider myself a knowledgable professional in the area of helping people make life changes, I have come to prefer working through the concepts of “clarity,” “intention,” and “alignment” as drivers of change. So I was a little skeptical. “Willpower” and the automatic negatives that accrue when we conclude that we don’t have enough of it, were notions I wanted to stay far away from.
But this Dwyer guy was positing that willpower is a “muscle” we need to cultivate. And he offered a clear process and rationale for exercising it. I watched his short, simple, video, see below.
Well, I got hooked. I decided to try the 4-step system for exercising that muscle. I’ll tell you how it worked after I make this short BTW detour into the personal context for that choice.
At 72, I’m currently living with a chronic mobility challenge, and just relocated from my home to a senior living apartment. After some months of routine-destroying tasks, what is now appearing on my radar is the desire to reclaim my health and wellness habits–mostly diet. Good habits that were manageable in my own home and kitchen fell by the wayside as I transitioned from my sugar free kitchen, through the chaotic takeout days, to sit down dinners in the new place, with delicious meals, rolls and desserts. I was not eating well, nor feeling well, and I was frustrated. So I was ready to let my curiosity, my appreciation of Dwyer’s general spin on living, and, to be perfectly honest, my eagerness to affirm my own approach as “more worthy,” conspire to introduce me to another point of view.
Here’s the report of my trial run.
Step 1 is about deciding in advance: Today, I want to eat a healthy diet of fruit, vegetables and meat, without sugar and without grains.
Step 2 is about making a plan: Review the day in advance and anticipate the problems. Yes, I know I have a busy day. So what will I do instead of my recently acquired pattern of stopping at Dunkin Donuts for a drive-through lunch? Yes, I know they will serve chocolate cake for dessert tonight, as it appears on the daily posted menu. So what will I do instead?
Step 3 is about acting with commitment and keeping to the plan. Having made the choices in advance, at noon I enjoyed eating some fruit I had brought with me. In the evening, without feeling deprived, I watched my table mate eat his cake while I enjoyed my sugar free strawberry mousse.
Step 4 is to audit results. I noticed that anticipating accurately and choosing in advance worked. I had successfully put arms and legs to my intention. Exercise Workout #1 felt good.
Bottom line: Dean Dwyer offered me a different spin on this willpower thing. Advance planning is key.
I must admit that Exercise Workout #2 on the following morning was a different matter. My plan did not account for the fact that there would be a left over strawberry pie sitting in the breakfast nook. I surrendered to temptation. I giggled rather than blaming myself or giving up on the plan. I pondered the possibility of planning a strategy for when the next “surprise” occurs. Continuing with this system, I’m noticing that I only get in trouble when my plan is challenged by something I don’t expect.
Yes, I do have plenty of will power muscle as does everyone else. It simply warrants exercise with repetitions and good form, just like the assigned practice I get from the physical therapist. So while I work out a better plan for “surprises,” I’m still exercising this new muscle, most of the time successfully. Soon it will be just as strong as my trapezius and my tibialis anterior.
Watch Dwyer’s short, 5 minute, video below and then face this question for yourself: For what new habits in your life do you want to strengthen your willpower muscle? How about trying an experiment and seeing what happens!
For a longer video on the process, go to www.mtakeshifthappen.org/blog.