Tag Archives: family

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. Next week: Realities of the Past.

 

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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!

Soul Family

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soul family

 

Where do you find your strength? What moves you forward, upward, onward, possibly inward despite what’s occurring on the day-to-day life path? Who or what inspires you?

At any point over the last several years. I might have given up, stopped working completely, crawled into a hole, thrown in the towel on every day life, surrendering to the debilitating physical illnesses that insidiously sideswiped me, throwing me off my comfortable life-path. I crashed, but didn’t burn. I refused to lay there and got right back on life’s roads… repeatedly. Wouldn’t have any of it. No. Wouldn’t given in, wouldn’t give up. But I wasn’t alone, my “soul family” walked beside me.

Reflecting on what occurred over the last several years, the people I came into contact with, those family and friends that continue to be present… all has been instrumental and necessary. Looking at it all from a different, big picture perspective has provided insight. The insights as a result of my experiences were waiting in the wings whispering for attention. Some so in my face and obvious, I missed them completely! Other lessons quietly moved me from one step to the next and the next and the next, where then… a destination magically appeared, perhaps not what I expected or what I might have chosen, but a destination nonetheless. Then. When I’d land, and think o.k. I’m all right for now, surprise! A vortex of chaotic activity appeared again swirling into yet another series of events.

I learned patience and true self-care. As a result of dietary and nutritional changes, my overall health improved. I learned how important it is to get the sleep my body requires (not what I thought I could get by on). Much of my life I’ve acted as if I were Wonder Woman, able to face and overcome any obstacle at any time, doing whatever it took. Now I understand this is an unreasonable demand on the mind, body and soul. Wonder Woman behavior can cause what I call “body crash” and “soul disconnect,” something I’ve experienced first hand and continue resolving today. I now realize and accept healthy limitation. Each day I am better and better in every way. Progress has been a little slower than I’d prefer, even so it has appeared and I’m a grateful.

Soul family members walked this path with me, sharing in the experiences… my adult children, siblings, friends, work colleagues doctors and other medical professionals, throughout the toughest times, they held me in positive thought and supported me with encouraging words and actions (for which I am ever grateful). We’ve talked and shared what it means to truly practice care for the mind, body, and soul. The health challenges I’ve faced have brought about large life change, change I know I would not otherwise have made. The challenges have been the impetus for action, new ways of doing, thinking, behaving, and believing… All of which unfolded working hand-in-hand with others. We all played a part in the unfolding of increased wellness… without them, without my soul family, I would not be where I am today.  You know who you are, Thank You!

 

 

 

 

We Are Heroes… Magnificent and Courageous

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We are heroes, strong and courageous. Warriors of the day and sometimes the night. Life events unfold, some so good, others just tragic, through youth, young adulthood to adult, to middle age, and elder years. Good childhoods, not-so-good childhoods, wonderful home life, so-so home life, broken homes, great parents or broken parents. We get married, maybe stay that way or later divorced, sometimes face the challenges of being with a partner who has addictions, or maybe we deal with that challenge ourselves. Sometimes we stay single, or sometimes we lose our partner well before their time and we are alone. Children come along, or sometimes they don’t… but if they do, along with them is another set of life events that intersect with our own. We choose careers we love… or hate, sometimes just in-between. Our health is good, or not so good, or maybe absolutely horrible, but we move on moment-to-moment, day-to-day, year-to-year, fighting the good fight… being a hero.  We are heroes… life-path warriors.

This is how I’ve chosen to see living. As a person of courage. How else can such human life tragedy or joy, despair or all-good be fittingly described? In seeing myself as a strong, heroic, capable being, I am better able to face any particular moment as it unfolds. I am a hero.

While driving to and from the office, just me and my thoughts, I’ve reinforced this glorious hero perspective by listening to inspiring, epic music. Some composed by Audiomachine, their songs Blood and Stone, Hope and Glory, Solstice Sun, Army of Kings,  Existence: Beyond the Clouds and Rebirth are my favorites. Violinist Lindsey Stirling also has some amazing send-shivers-through-your-body compositions such as Transcendence, Elements, Song of the Caged Bird and Assassin’s Creed Theme. I get in 60 minutes every day of “I can conquer the world” hero-rousing tunes. Some bring memories of getting through a particular life event that left me broken way back when, bringing on tears but also feelings of gratitude for having bravely survived what occurred. Grateful for the courage that has kept me going.

We are amazing creatures. Perfect beings in our imperfections. You are courageous. You are magnificently brave. Choose to recognize the hero that you are. And so it goes, and so it is, and so it shall be. All said. We carry on. Peace dear reader, and much love to you for the journey.

 

Practice Appreciation

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Little-things-Happiness-Quote

Earlier this week a colleague stopped in my office, coat on and keys in hand she said, “I’m heading out to run errands and thought I’d pick up your favorite Starbucks coffee. Would you write it down for me, cause’ I’ll never remember it.”  Surprised, I asked what the occasion was. “Nothing really, just a little something I know I can do that will brighten your day. It’s my way of showing I appreciate all you do.” Wow. How cool is that? Of course I’m like, no, no you don’t have to, really it’s ok. In the end I just gave her my decaf-tall-one-and-a-half pump soy mocha order, a big hug and decided to just accept and experience the warm fuzzies.

My colleagues actions and a story I’d recently read by Rev. Dr. Noel Frederick McInnis inspired me to write this post. Dr. McInnis shares:

“Because appreciation of others’ services is a value that so many persons fail to honor fully, a professor ended his midterm exam with the question, ‘What is the first name of the woman who cleans our classroom?’ When asked how this question was pertinent, he replied, ‘During your life you will meet many persons whose value deserves your caring attention, even if all you do is smile and say hello.'”

We are individual representations of Spirit made manifest on the Earth. Here we are provided the opportunity to be grateful for all that is presented before us each new day, the challenges, learning lessons, abundance, diverse personalities and most of all the opportunity to show appreciation for these diverse experiences and people walking along with us on our life paths. Reverend McInnis continues with:

“As any real estate agent or property assessor will tell you, the word appreciation means ‘increase of value.’ Thus when one receives another’s appreciation, one’s sense of self-evaluation is increased. And given life’s mirroring of our thoughts, our own sense of self-valuation also is correspondingly increased as we extend our appreciation others.” Feb. SOM p. 42

A daily practice modeled by my mother, I make the effort to recognize each person I may come in contact with over the course of a day, just stopping for a moment or two to inquire after a family member or activity I know they might participate in, sometimes to thank them for help they provided earlier in the week or that day. This practice doesn’t take all that long and connects us as Spirit one to another. Throughout the years my mother faithfully wrote in my birthday or Christmas cards, “To my joy and comfort, love you, Mom.” She was showing her appreciation.

Honestly, I didn’t get it. Where had I provided joy and comfort? I never asked and she never said. Only recently did I finally understand. After school every day I’d walk in and ask, “How was your day?” This was something I had learned from her. She often asked us kids about our days events, a neighbor about her children or inquired about a work colleague’s parent. She went out of her way to connect with others. Something special I remember growing up…at night before going to bed, she and I would sit and read together at the kitchen table over a cup of tea, sometimes taking time between chapters to share things on our mind. We were connected, appreciative of both each other and these quiet moments together. It brought both of us joy and comfort. Now I get it.

Who do you walk alongside with each day that you can offer joy and comfort with words of appreciation or recognition? How can you incorporate this as a mindful practice into day-to-day living? We are more than this…

“There is no such thing as a simple act of compassion or an inconsequential act of service. Everything we do for another person has infinite consequences.”   ~ Caroline Myss

“What’s Not Wrong?”

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peace-filled

Today between tasks I stood for a moment looking out the window wishing, longing for peace and quiet. But the family needs me. The younger, the older and the in-betweeners. They still need me. I work to keep us housed, fed and educated. No one tells us when we’re young what it will take to raise a family and even if they had, really would we have listened? We meet, fall in love, dream big and dive full force into it all, nothing can stop us when we’re dreaming!

I wouldn’t change what life’s path has brought me. Except, I think I might have saved more so that when I reached 50 I might have had enough money to say, “I’m done working, I’m going to contemplate the nature of the universe.” I didn’t. So now I long for a day of solitude here and there without work or children. The free time I have is gobbled up with my job, school activities, homework, resume work for the older creatures and listening ears for all whenever there’s a need.

As I scan these words, I see opportunity. In the early 90’s I read Thich Nhat Hanh’s book “Peace Is Every Step,” an excellent book about living mindfully in everyday life during everyday activities. Knowing I need continue my role as both parent and breadwinner I resurrected some of my favorites of the very applicable daily practices in his book. Through the month of December, I’ll share a daily mindfulness activity with you. Maybe by New Year’s Day we’ll all have a little more peace in our steps and lives.

My all time favorite practice from the book is “What’s Not Wrong,” which I share a portion of below:

“We often ask, ‘What’s wrong?’ Doing so, we invite painful seeds of sorrow to come up and manifest. We feel suffering, anger and depression and produce more such seeds. We would be much happier if we tried to stay in touch with the healthy, joyful seeds inside of us and around us. We should learn to ask, ‘What’s not wrong?’ and be in touch with that. There are so many elements in the world and within our bodies, feelings, perceptions, and consciousness that are wholesome, refreshing, and healing. If we block ourselves, if we stay in the prison of our sorrow, we will not be in touch with these healing elements…Life is filled with many wonders, like the blue sky, the sunshine, the eyes of a baby…Awareness of the precious elements of happiness is itself the practice of right mindfulness. Elements like these are within us and all around us. In each second of our lives we can enjoy them.”  pp.77-78

So ask yourself, “What’s not wrong?” Appreciate the flocks of birds gathering to fly off for the winter, the laughter of your colleagues over lunch, sunshine on your face, being able to move from one breath to the next without effort. Start your practice today, include it every time you see something wonderful and ask the question again, “What’s not wrong?” I look forward to hearing from you. We are more than this…

An Everpresent Gift

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St. Francis

Every morning I wake before the alarm goes off. I have a chime alarm, so it’s a gentle awakening. If I don’t turn it off it chimes at five minutes, four minutes, three, two, one, then repeatedly. Having this system gives me time to reflect on dreams I may have had, or time to meditate. It starts the morning off right, gently and contemplatively. Once the house is moving I need that quiet energy experienced just an hour earlier to keep me centered, not rushing or trying to cram even more into an already bustling environment.

There are many days I’d like to put the busy schedule aside to sit quietly in meditation for an hour or more but the thought of getting up at 4:00 a.m. holds no interest for me. Ugh. Truth be told, I am not a morning person at all. I’m a mid-day person. I can crank out more work between the hours of 10 and 4 than any other part of the day. It’s my rock and roll time.

Recently I’ve added fifteen minutes of outdoor practice during mid-afternoon. I walk the prairie and woods or sit on the bench near the St. Francis statue surrounded by the sounds of wind in the trees, tall grasses and lots of bird song.  Absolute heaven. I return to the office refreshed and ready to complete the work day.

Once home from the office, I start to slow the pace, run any errands, make dinner, do the dishes, fit in some readings and then it’s meditation time again. That’s where I put my hour, right before heading for the pillows. I intend to move it at some point. The ability to meditate then examine images, messages or events that may have occurred is very appealing. Currently I have this ability only on Saturday and Sunday’s and just like anyone else I have laundry, grocery shopping, cleaning and playing mom’s taxi on the two-day agenda. It takes planning on my part to have meditation as a priority and the time to reflect.

Being still, making a daily practice to be silent is a gift to self. It brings an increased awareness and sensitivity to the beauty surrounding us in relationships, the comfort of our homes and in nature’s canvases. Meditation provides opportunity to step away from the outside noise and allow answers to unfold from the Wisdom self. Over time there grows a deep inner peace with self and the world that gets carried throughout the day. How can you resist opening this ever-present gift? A gift that provides you connection to peace-filled moments in both physical and spiritual realms.

Practice. Make it a habit. Start with a few minutes a day and grow it just like you would the gardens in your life. It is a benefit to mind, body and spirit. Connect, be at peace. We are more than this…

“Above all, be at ease, be as natural and spacious as possible. Slip quietly out of the noose of your habitual anxious self, release all grasping, and relax into your true nature. Think of your ordinary emotional, thought-ridden self as a block of ice or a slab of butter left out in the sun. If you are feeling hard and cold, let this aggression melt away in the sunlight of your meditation. Let peace work on you and enable you to gather your scattered mind into the mindfulness of Calm Abiding, and awaken in you the awareness and insight of Clear Seeing. And you will find all your negativity disarmed, your aggression dissolved, and your confusion evaporating slowly like mist into the vast and stainless sky of your absolute nature.”  ~ Sogyal Rinpoche, The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying