Category Archives: Surviving Everyday life

Bring it on!

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It’s been a minute since I’ve written.  Life has been incredibly chaotic, for a while now.  Maybe longer than awhile, maybe for years.  Yes.  Definitely for years.  And when I reflect on the chaos, the constant challenges with my house, my job, my adult children, my health, and, and, and, I realize… Hey, wait a second.  This is life. For whatever reason, I have had the privilege of being presented with a new challenge fairly regularly for a lifetime, and ya know what?  I’m meeting those challenges.  So, should I be taunting the Universe with a Bring It On?  Hmmm, maybe, maybe not.

My youngest son and I went out for breakfast this morning.  He’s a senior web developer for a company that works with musicians, and in his spare time, an avid gamer.  I’m a techie in my own right, working freelance as a content writer, college student coach, and sometime virtual assistant.  So the two of us often talk tech and games, new software and gadgets.  This morning we were gabbing about a recent purchase I made, an amplified TV antenna.  The previous one was worn and broken.  I use it to catch local stations rather than paying for cable.  And if there’s something not on mainstream TV that I want to see, I’ll catch it on Hulu or Netflix, or some other reasonably priced service instead of paying crazy money for a bundle of stations I’ll never use.

Well, the new antenna arrived… ordered from Walmart.  (I rarely buy from them, but found it online, with decent reviews a”nd thought why not?)  The product box, neatly packaged with padding inside a larger box, was misshapen, had obviously been beat up, stomped on and reassembled (the box, not the product), and did not have the original instruction pamphlet.  The product itself, amazingly, was in good condition… but didn’t work.  So.  Even though it’s been an incredibly busy morning, I am just ticked off enough to get in the car and drive out to the local Walmart store.  About halfway there, I thought, “Geez, I feel like I’m sleep-driving (kinda like sleep-walking),” but I persevered.  I can do this!

At the store, of course there is a long line in the customer service area.  Swaying a little while I’m standing, wondering if anyone can notice, I consider turning around and going home, but again, I persevere.  I can do this! “I definitely need coffee!”  Finally, it’s my turn.  I bring the product, nicely taped, with the receipt to the counter.  The customer service representative searches online with my customer number, and after some time has passed says, “Oh, this is a Marketplace purchase, I cannot take this back without the box it came in.”

“You’re holding it,” I say.

“No ma’am, the original box.  The box it was packed and shipped to you in,” she replies.  Seriously.  You’ve got to be kidding.  For real?  I thanked her and walked away, too tired and feeling somewhat defeated.  I knew I didn’t have the energy to argue or ask for a supervisor, to make a scene, or to hold up the ever-growing line behind me.

I got in the car, drove home, printed a return label from their website and drove it over to the shipping store on the corner by my house.  They didn’t ship FedEx.  Really?  I must have had a “look” on my face.  He directed me to the one down the street a few miles, “Not too far,” he said sympathetically. I really must have had that look.  Back in the car, I headed to the FedEx store.  Success!  The young gentlemen behind the counter looked at the package, scanned the label, and asked, “Contents?”

“A TV antenna,” I replied.

“They still make those?” He grinned.

“Yes. They’ve become popular for those of us who don’t want to pay for local stations.” I reply, feeling just a little bit ancient.  But what do I care?  Works for me.

Back to the discussion with my youngest son.  We often discuss how life is just waiting to pounce, could be good, could be sucky, or could be indifferent, but it’s going to pounce all the same.  Today, while describing the events… I said, “It’s just like the old SIMS games you kids played years ago.  Somebody chose this scenario for me and the drop-down box included, “Customer service rep refuses to accept return.  Must have original shipping box. (bwahahahaha)”  SIMS is a life simulation video game.

I remember one time years ago, the oldest boys were playing the game and had built this gorgeous house, complete with big screen TV’s, stereo’s, a pool, all the conveniences.  Unexpectedly, because that’s how life works even with SIMS, a fire started in the kitchen.  They had spent all their “money” on the best conveniences, and didn’t have a fire extinguisher.  So the house burned down.

There are no “fires” in my life today.  Today’s a better day.  It’s a sleepy one around here, albeit a little weird in the weather department because they’ve predicted 3 to 8 inches of snow.  (Another drop-down menu choice?)  No one is sick, there are no family emergencies, my freelance work is done for the week, and I can nap while the crazy enormous snow flakes fall to the ground.  The Universe has been kind.  And with reflection on yesterday’s series of events, the conversation with my son today, and the quietness of right now, in the moment, I think, “What’s next Universe?  Bring it on!  But, one request, can you reprogram those drop-down choices to something really, really good?  Like fun, happy, YEAH, good?”

Thanks.  Yours sincerely,

ME

We are more than this…

 

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Step into compassion, step into the face of witness

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There’s an angel hovering in my window. Ok, maybe it’s just the sun’s reflection, but maybe it’s reflecting the aura of what I wouldn’t normally see. I was in the moment. And Spirit knew I needed this on the life path right now. A reminder, the assurance that I’m not walking alone.

My intuition, dreaming, and lucid meditation experiences have proven that we are more than this. We are just the tip of incredibly intricate beings, experiencing life stories together. Choosing each moment how we’ll perceive what’s happening at any given time and realizing we walk together, and not alone makes life easier. If you’re on autopilot, well, you’ll miss the opportunity to make that choice, or see the hidden treasure of witnessing manifested living Spirit.

Ya, life is incredibly difficult sometimes. Hmm… maybe more than sometimes, maybe all the time on some days. Still even in the painful, or exhausting, or oh-my-God why is this happening days… if I just stop. Stop completely. Breathe in, breathe out, become a Witness, observe what’s happening, and look at the different perspectives, weigh options, think about next steps… and then choose a way to see, to act, to realize there are resources in centering, in sitting into quiet observation, to feel the presences of Spirit, it’s easier. Life hasn’t changed. The experiences are still there, but it’s easier because I’ve stopped for a moment to be a witness to the experience, to have compassion for myself and others, to wait quietly with respect, to listen to the treasured whispers of Spirit’s knowledge.

Occasionally, I will just react. No thought given to anything happening. Just give in to the emotion, racing thought, the why-why-why me attitude. Spirit guided sculptures and paintings scattered throughout the house are good reminders to remember that we are more than this. Spirit inspiration in form, like the sculpture I bought some years ago created by the artist dreama j kattenbraker, “Witness”

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“Step into compassion, step into the face of witness…” She is a hollow vessel collecting knowledge through life experiences, outwardly reflecting memories across her worn and weathered body. Eden’s snake of knowledge is around her neck, and the key to her heart still hanging as she’d left it when she opened the door to physical being. Arms extended, Witness welcomes all life, all creatures, all spirit manifested, gazing upward knowing she does not exist alone. Her wings imprinted with words of wisdom…

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“When I become the witness to another soul, I move out of judgement into a place of compassion I am given the senses to taste touch, smell and hear – to collect knowledge. Knowledge demands me to actively care for those I know. Knowledge teaches me to actively love. Please grant me the grace to use knowledge with care and compassion.

Why was knowledge warned against in Eden’s garden? Once I learn someone’s story, burdens, vulnerability, fears, talents – I cannot be ambivalent anymore. I carry this knowledge in my sack. It is both a burden and a paradox. Knowledge demands right action. When I pretend not to know the weight bears down on me like a mountain, a glacier. Thus the warning, “Don’t taste this fruit from the tree of knowledge.” ~ Dreama

“Once I learn someone’s story…” even my own, I can’t be ambivalent anymore. The door to knowing is open and now right action is the only way. “Choose,” life says. The autopilot is off, I’m in the moment, clearly observing.
Becoming aware is a way of life that can’t be undone once you know, once you’re a witness to the unfolding of your life, as well as others. You might slip once in a while, but it’s always there, the knowledge that we are more than these experiences. It makes living so much more interesting.
But answer me this… If you’re not your experiences… Who are you?

Trust Without Borders

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Wow what a ride!  This life journey sure is a blast.  Took a minute for me to get to this place of acceptance and yep, discovery.  It’s a whole new world for me (I sound like Jasmine from Disney’s Aladdin… wait let me get my flying carpet out).  

Didn’t think I had it in me to make such major life changes, especially being 63 and all.  But who says we can’t do, learn, become more than this in the senior years of our lives? (and what’s considered senior nowadays?)  No one.  It’s our own perspective and the limits we set on ourselves.  

Health challenges pushed me out of the comfort zone into the unknown.  Oh no!  Let me just say, this Pollyanna chicklet was freaking out.  (and maybe sometimes I still do a little, for a few seconds when I wake up in the middle of the night and think what the he**)! 

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When I relax into the web of knowing, into trust of Spirit and All That Is, I do OK.  So far, every need has been met.  Every.  Single.  Thing.  The right doctors, the right tests, a work-from-home job I can do in my p.j.’s.  And not just any job, it’s a job that not only uses my writing and blogging skills, but allows me creative freedom (this is very cool).  I work in the sunny south windows with my trusty sidekick Francis aka “Frankie” the long-haired chihuahua, sipping hot chocolate from Penzy’s (the best) and snacking on tasty Envy apple slices.  Oh yah. 

Let it Be (John Lennon), Be Here Now (Ram Dass), Que Sera Sera (Doris Day) and of course my favorite We Are More Than This…  Trust without borders. 

Crosses

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Months and years of family and health challenges left me exhausted with more questions than answers. What the heck Universe, what’s the story? “What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger!”  Hmm… does it, because I was pretty darn wiped out and not feeling strong in any way.  Good thing I have an awesome sense of humor and strong belief that we are more than this…  While gabbing with a friend on FaceTime, the collection of  crosses on my wall showed up behind me on the screen. She noticed the crosses. “They’re pretty aren’t they?  Each one unique and different.”  I said.  She asked if I had named them,  (in other words, the physical “crosses” I bear).  Interesting perspective, a perspective I had not considered and made me laugh.

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For me, crosses represent the intersection of Spirit with matter in order to experience physical life as human.  However, I sure appreciated my friend’s fresh perspective.  The challenges presented over the many years and months could very well be named as my “crosses.” They are the intersection of Spirit experiencing life in all of its Fullness.  Living experience.  Energy of the Collective Whole, Spirit, God in all of Its glory, living out unique, creative, beautiful experiences.  Some tough and challenging, others easy and fun, still others wild, out-of-control crazy!  So hold on tight! We are witnesses and companions to the unfolding and manifesting Spirit.  There will be good times and not-so-good times on this journey. All part of our experience as more than physical, as more than this…

“Life will break you. Nobody can protect you from that, and living alone won’t either, for solitude will also break you with its yearning. You have to love. You have to feel. It is the reason you are here on earth. You are here to risk your heart. You are here to be swallowed up. And when it happens that you are broken, or betrayed, or left, or hurt, or death brushes near, let yourself sit by an apple tree and listen to the apples falling all around you in heaps, wasting their sweetness. Tell yourself you tasted as many as you could.”  ~ Louise Erdrich, The Painted Drum

You are the Hub of the Wheel

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hub of the wheel

Imagine yourself as the hub of this wheel that daily life revolves around, make the spokes of the wheel as connections to those you care for most. The wheel’s activities, its responsibilities surround you, spinning and spinning through each day, week, and year. You are central, the key to keeping it all balanced. Recognizing this, it’s important you care enough about yourself in order to preserve your mental, physical, and emotional health. And consider this… when you’re out of sorts, the wheel’s balance is too. If you haven’t taken the time to give yourself the nurturing you require, the wheel can lose balance and begin to wobble!

Some years ago while on vacation, I recognized my own wheel-wobble. I wondered why I couldn’t put more oomph into just having fun with my family. Doing my job, both jobs, 1) taking care of my family and 2) working a full-time job, took every ounce of energy I had. I had nothing left to give. Fun, what was that? Playing cards or a board game, going to the museums, taking walks, watching movies just didn’t seem as needed as keeping the house clean, doing the laundry, running the errands, getting my youngsters where they needed to go, you name it, I was doing it. The “work” side of the wheel was heavier than the fun side, and I was wobblin’ big time!

Who suffers when we don’t care for ourselves? Right us, and not just us, but everyone we come into contact with. We are home base for our family, the safety net everyone falls into. It’s important for us to be rested, happy, healthy and nurtured. Use the lists you created from the last blog, “Me Time,” to help you do this next exercise.

ACTIVITY: HUB OF THE WHEEL:

  1. Draw a circle or other shape in the center of a blank sheet of paper and write your name in the center.
  2. Choose another color to draw spokes outward. Label each spoke a responsibility or commitment you have to someone, i.e. husband, wife, significant other, children, pets, church, school committees, civic organizations, fun activities with friends, etc… Anyone or anything you have day-to-day or week to week contact with should be included. Whatever takes time in your life, write it in.
  3. Using another color, draw branches off of each spoke. These will represent duties and responsibilities you perform regularly for that individual, pet, or organization.
  4. Finally, choosing one last colored marker or pencil, encircle your responsibilities connect them one to the next, surrounding the spokes like a tire revolving and spinning on the hub.

Now take the time to look over your wheel and reflect. Who do you spend the most time with? Who or what is an energy drainer? Who or what do you wish you might spend more time with? What do you want to change? Use this visual tool to evaluate your life activities. Do it every week if necessary to get a visual for where your time goes. Turn the autopilot off and make the conscious decision to LOOK at what you do. We will use information from this exercise in later modules to help change your focus to areas you have passion for, or goals you wish to take steps toward.

JOURNAL ACTIVITY:

  1. Who or what do you spend the most time with?
  2. Who or what do you wish to spend more time with?
  3. What do you want to change?

Kudos for this activity:  A workshop participant emailed me several weeks after doing this particular exercise to tell me that he had taped the wheel to the refrigerator for the entire family to see. He wrote, “The kids were amazed at how much I do on a day-to-day basis, other than going to work. After studying my “wheel,” they decided to pitch in to help where they could. Thank you for bringing the awareness of how much I do not just to me, but to my family as well.”

Give it a try. Post your “Wheel” and see what reaction you get from family members, friends or colleagues.

 

Primary Caretaker – Me time

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Me time

Art from lineleoff.com

 

Over a 25 year period, I’ve had the opportunity to facilitate self-awareness workshops. What I found is that there are countless numbers of us, both women and men, who have taken on the role of primary caretaker and as a result have put aside our own self-nurturing and self-care. This is one of the most important things we can do for ourselves to develop a life lived with joy.

In some of these workshops, taking care of oneself seemed an almost alien concept to some. “What do you mean by self-nurturing?” They would ask. We raise our children while maintaining a healthy environment for them. We promote education, gently guiding family members in particular directions when a talent is recognized. We are there to “lift up” our spouses, significant others, friends and colleagues when they’re blue. We rise in the morning thinking of others. We go through each day, each hour, sometimes each moment planning how we will care for our family members, friends, or coworkers. We are the nurturers of the world!

I am mother to five children (now ages twenty-one through thirty-eight). When they were younger, I remember getting up in the morning before anyone else was awake heading for the shower already thinking of the dentist appointments, what to cook later for dinner and when? How would I get my then sixteen year old to a German club meeting and still get to the event I had volunteered for? Mind moving on and on, all of these thoughts occurring within a moment or two’s time… once resolved, I moved on to the other challenges I’d face that day.

Back then, time for my own interests was difficult to find. Whether to begin doctorate work became an anxiety ridden decision. Who would help with evening homework if I wasn’t home? Would my sixteen year old bring a troop of friends over while I was out? How would I prepare any kind of meal before I left for the evening? And finally, was the coursework something I even wanted to do? Or was I feeling pressured by my peers and employer? Talk about stress. One simple decision became a masterpiece of confusion and anxiety.

Does this sound familiar to you? Knowing how to care for ourselves, how to journey through each day being gentle on ourselves, being just as considerate of our “self” as we would be toward a family member, friend, or coworker… this is what we need to work toward and maintain. From a young age many of us were taught to be caretakers, we were conditioned to believe that it was our responsibility to care for others while our own needs were put aside. Today, many of us are caring for children or young adults, while very possibly caring for aging parents at the same time.

When you have a few minutes, try the following activity. What are some of the things that you do for others on a daily basis?

DO: List what you do for other people on a daily basis, right down to the smallest detail. 

Here’s an example of what a typical day looked like for me while raising my children and working a full time:

  • Cooked breakfast before school and work
  • Cleaned up the dishes and started the dishwasher
  • Made school lunches and my lunch for work
  • Threw in a load of laundry in both the dryer and the washer
  • Made beds
  • Worked all day at the office
  • Fed the birds
  • Paid Bills
  • “Helped” the kids do their chores
  • Took recycling out to the garage
  • Did the banking
  • Helped my oldest write his resume
  • Called a friend in need
  • Stopped at the store to pick up household goods
  • Worked on insurance benefits

My list was for a full day and I’ve most likely forgotten several things since that time. When you listed your day, you probably found your own list growing longer and longer with responsibilities that you typically do on “autopilot” and promptly forget. What I ask you to do next is more of a challenge. How much of your day is spent doing something for yourself, something rejuvenating or stress relieving? Something educational or a hobby you enjoy?

DO: List your own self-nurturing activities now.

I know you listed fewer activities. And you’re not alone! The majority of the people that have attended my workshops have had shorter lists as well. If you aren’t nurturing yourself, if you’re operating on overload… Not caring for you can lead to stress-filled days, resentment toward others, and finally burnout. What I’m suggesting is that you take the time to attend to your own well-being, just as you do for so many others.

Are you over-doing? It’s time to take steps toward self-nurturing. You are worthy of the same care you provide to others. You are just as important… just as special. Incorporate a reality check into each morning of your day. Evaluate what you want to happen in the day and how you’ll put some “me” time into your schedule. Set that time aside and stick to it as much as possible. Check it off at the end of each day. It doesn’t have to be some long impossible list. Here’s an example of my activities list. I would choose one or two from the list to incorporate into the day:

  • Work out
  • Spend time walking in nature
  • Sit at the local bookstore and sip tea
  • Read for 30 minutes after dinner
  • Write uninterrupted for one hour
  • Answer friends e-mail
  • Lunch with a friend at work
  • Sketch in my journal
  • Read and post affirmations
  • Attend a cooking class
  • Join a book discussion club
  • Have friends over once a week to just sit and gab
  • Refurbish a piece of furniture
  • Garden
  • Listen to music
  • Meditate

What did you put on your list? Choose one activity close to your heart and begin incorporating it into your day or week. Make it formal by putting it on your calendar or daily schedule. Block the time out for you! I’d love to hear some of the activities you’ve incorporated into the day or week just for yourself.

Next week: “You are the Hub of the Wheel,” an activity that helps create a visual snapshot of your life activities and responsibilities. Have a fabulous week!

Conscious Decision Making

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Life By Design nl

 

In February 2013, I had a lucid dream experience where I was consciously creating in the fabric of space and time. I was present before the canvas of matter creating images with thoughts and gestures. Since 2013, there have been many mornings when I’ve actually awakened with my arms and hands up in the air gesturing as if I am still creating from the “other” side of the fabric, spirit body on that side, physical body on this side. I know that with regular practice through meditation, lucid dreaming and conscious awareness, I can change day-to-day physical reality creating a more desirable, joy-filled life-path. As a mystic, I know that we are, we live, simultaneously as both source-self (spiritual being) and the physical manifested self, experiencing life. One might look at the physical self as an avatar of sorts, a vehicle that allows us to experience living out all sorts of adventures through a physical body! In short, we live between two worlds.

Naturally and unconsciously through choice, we have created daily experiences using thought and action. However, many of us are thinking, acting, and creating experiences running on “autopilot,” allowing life to occur, to just happen… and as a result, often left wondering why things aren’t quite the way we’d prefer. How do we create change?

The simple answer is to turn off the autopilot. To be mindful of thoughts and consequent actions. To take responsibility for, and examine the choices made… and then choose differently where possible. We can create a new reality, with conscious mindful thought, conscious mindful decisions, conscious mindful planning, and conscious mindful action.

Will daily life then be picture perfect? I can say from experience that it will not because some of the choices made up until now have resulted in the experiences each of us are currently living through. However, I can say it will be better and that circumstances can be changed. Life is better because you will have become fully engaged. Daily life events are no longer just happening to you because you will have become a conscious, mindful, active, participant in its creation.

How to start? Over the next couple of months, each week I will introduce a set of self-exploration exercises to assist in becoming mindful of current life situations, where your focus has been, where it’s at today, how to make time for self-nurturing, and how to manage time and plan mindfully. These simple no-nonsense self-discovery activities are meant to be used over and over as you cycle through decisions, discover new facets of self, choose goals and take steps toward change. These activities have been used in workshops for over twenty years, basic, tried and true.  They are focused, personal, and will nudge you toward self-nurturing, as well as personal and spiritual growth. Next week: Module One – “Primary Caretakers.”