Smitten With Mindfulness

Smitten with Presence

Have you ever noticed the tiny droplets of water on the needles of a tree after a rainfall?

Until recently, I hadn’t! This got me thinking and asking myself, “What’s different?”

One of the changes that I’ve made in the past year is to be more present. I try not to dwell on the past or stress about the future.

I’m a pretty deep thinker, so this has been challenging. My husband will usually let me know when my expression does not match what’s going on around us and is able to snap me out of my head and back into the present moment. I know that my facial expression can be off-putting to some since it’s usually somewhat, well, serious. My husband tells me that my “in deep thought” expression can be interpreted as a  disapproving look and that those around us might think it’s aimed at them. It’s not.

As a teenager I was told to, “smile” a lot by guys that didn’t find me very approachable. My sarcastic, don’t-take-no-shit younger self would typically respond in one of two ways: I would either emphatically display my middle finger or, after being told to “smile,” I would say, “I am.” If my expression didn’t scare them away, my response sure did!

As an adult, I am more concerned with how others interpret my facial expressions and I don’t want to scare anyone away. I’ve gotten feedback from people that have taken the time to get to know me who have told me that they were surprised to learn that I was warm and funny when they originally thought, upon first impressions, that I was stern and unapproachable.

One of the ways that I think I can look more approachable is if I AM more approachable. If I’m deep in thought and preoccupied, I’m sure I can’t look very inviting, but if I’m present and open to any given moment, people will be more comfortable when they interact with me.

Meditation has helped me to be more mindful, to get out of my head and into the present moment. Other things that have helped me are getting out in nature, yoga and minimalism. If you want to read more about how I incorporate these and other things in my life in order to be more present, you can read about them in previous posts.

I have found that, not only can people see US differently, but I think being more present can shift how we see and experience what’s around us.

Since the rain falls on the same trees in my yard each year, it must be me that’s changed.

I’ve noticed that I’m more able to fully experience people, places and things and for that I’m totally smitten with mindfulness!

 

 

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Realty Check

realty check

Today was the first day of a week long break from work. Ahhh, finally some much-needed time off! Except I felt more like a snake in a can than someone about to have a relaxing, rejuvenating week. I’ve always done better with structure, so I can’t say that I was surprised.

I started to think of everything I wanted to accomplish, both short term and long range. I wanted to continue exercising and meditating, get some more minimizing done, get together with friends and family, catch up on work, my e-course and my writing, schedule the medical visits I’ve been putting off and plan for my next move and my next career!

I didn’t know where to begin and instead withdrew with one of my common default behaviors: I went back to bed. I was exhausted and overwhelmed. Sleeping had always been one of my coping mechanisms and I usually felt better after a nap. But, even after pulling my flannel sheets over my head to block out the daylight, I couldn’t fall asleep.

So I grabbed my phone and started scanning various social media sites to take my mind off things. I knew this wouldn’t bring me any closer to managing my “to do” list, but at least it would give me a break from this “free fall” feeling.

I know social media is a big time waster for me and I was feeling pretty crappy when I saw a picture of a distant friend’s smiling face. I had heard she was struggling with an illness, which was evidenced by her covered head.

Tears came to my eyes and my pity party abruptly ended as I instantly realized how utterly ridiculous I was being. What would she think of how I was squandering my time?

Instead of continuing to reach out to old habits like sleep or a technology binge to withdraw from life, I decided to lean into what I was feeling and draw on some new things I’ve learned.

I did some yoga, meditated, ate a healthy lunch and made a list of everything that I wanted to accomplish this week and what I wanted to include in my daily routine, like something active. I felt much more focused, grounded and alive!

I’m grateful for this realty check while deeply saddened that others have to endure such pain and suffering. I will honor them by emulating their strength and courage as best I can, and by leaning into life.

 

 

 

A New Year’s Pause

Happy New Year

Sometimes things aren’t as clear as we’d like them to be. They aren’t always neatly defined and life can be downright confusing. Rather than reacting to the discomfort of the unknown by making New Year’s Resolutions to try to change things, maybe we should just hit the pause button.

Maybe we’re right where we need to be.

The weather has been unseasonably and gloriously mild and I recently noticed that the bright green summer grass was poking through an early dusting of snow. I even saw remnants of autumn as a few leaves blew around.

Yet I don’t think the deer that ran through this area was confused or uncomfortable at all. She was right where she needed to be as she made her way through to her favorite apples on the ground in my yard.

Sometimes we find ourselves in a place that may seem confusing, or we may feel like we’re not moving forward fast enough on our journey of self growth. Perhaps we’ve worked really hard and just need to catch our breath. Or maybe we’re unsure of our next move. We may even know what our next move needs to be but we’re trying to conjure up the courage or put together the means to move forward.

I’ve often found that it’s in this space that some of my best self-work happens, for it’s in the pause that I’m able to hear and really listen to the quiet revelations that may have otherwise been lost in all the doing.

So as uncomfortable as we might be with not knowing our next move, I think this space is an important part of our journey. Just like the deer making her way through some confusing weather to get to her favorite apples, I think we need to find meaning and comfort in the uncomfortable parts of our journey, since it’s in this space and beyond that we may find the tastiest fruits of our labor.

“Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.”
-Neale Donald Walsch

Rather than the typical New Year’s Resolutions this year,  we might just need A New Year’s Pause. Let’s start a new tradition!

Happy New Year!  Wishing you Peace, Love, Presence and Pause in 2016!

 

 

 

 

1984

A few days ago my husband and I watched our wedding video that he transferred onto a DVD. Two things came to mind almost immediately.

First, I can’t believe we actually paid someone for it; the quality and editing were horrible! Actually, I think the quality and editing were good and that my standards for movie viewing have changed substantially in 30 years!

The other thing I became aware of the moment we started watching our wedding DVD was the huge rush of emotions that it triggered. It was instantaneous. I saw myself in a wedding gown at my parents’ house, with my parents, my sisters and my friends (and my two Aunts who had come to see me in my dress), and I immediately felt sadness, grief, longing, regret, loss, loneliness, and sentimentality.

As I continued watching, I also felt love, contentment, security and happiness as we exchanged our vows, and then joy, freedom and pride while seeing our families and our friends dance, party and toast us at the reception (also, shock, at how many people were smoking cigarettes). We had a great time!

As the DVD ended and I was left with this surge of emotions, I was lured by an old “friend” to crawl into a hole of despair where I could dwell on feeling depressed about the past and anxious about the future. I’ve been there before and, actually, the familiarity of it was quite tempting.

After acknowledging my feelings and accepting them (yup, there they are and this is me!), I made a decision NOT to dwell in them, not to go down that all too familiar path of depression and anxiety, BUT to use what I had been practicing for months:

Presence

What a game changer! I’ve been practicing yoga, meditating and journaling now for several months. I find that writing down what I’m grateful for each day and setting an intention for the day sets a positive, purposeful vibe for my day. My new habits paid off and my old defaults of depression and anxiety have been reset to mindfulness in the present moment, which creates peace!

Part of my journey in the last few months has been self-love and what a gift I’ve given myself!

I’ve gotten to this point with just a few simple things added to my day that don’t cost a thing and take very little time. They make me feel more centered, but honestly I didn’t think they could possibly have such a huge impact on regulating some of my deeply rooted emotions.

To read more about adding these things to your day read my previous post https://intomyfifties.wordpress.com/2015/03/15/my-cup-of-tea/. In addition to these habits, I think my diet impacts how I feel. I mainly eat a plant-based diet and limit my carb and sugar intake. I am nowhere close to eating a perfect diet (I love my coffee), but I’ve found that this way of eating helps me sustain my energy throughout the day. I feel more balanced. Finally, I have a lot of support from a few people in my life who I know genuinely care about me and accept me unconditionally. For them, I am truly grateful!

Thanks for reading! If you enjoyed this post, please subscribe to Into My Fifties, comment (I’d love to hear from you) & share.

Peace and Love,

Jeanne

Feeling Gray

Feeling Gray

I’m not looking for sympathy or advice here, I just want to put my feelings into words and this format seems to help me. Of course, I would welcome any comments. When I express my emotions in writing they don’t seem so overwhelming and I can start to move through them.

I tend to hold in my feelings and even dwell on them, rather than share them as they come up. I’m always concerned about how other people will receive what I have to say and if my sharing will be off putting to them. I’ve written about being sensitive before and I’m well aware that I have a “unique” way of interpreting interpersonal relationships. There are times when my feelings consume me and I just have to share. Unfortunately, the “getting it out” takes precedence over my tact and I can say things, well, rather bluntly.

My focus lately has been on sharing more of who I am, being more authentic, and having the self confidence to express myself and my needs,  IN A NON CONFRONTATIONAL WAY.

Let’s just say, I need some more practice in the finesse department. I shared something recently and really hurt someone’s feelings that I care a lot about. I had been holding it in for a while and it came out all wrong. I apologized, but I can’t take back the confusion and hurt I caused, and I know I was extremely off putting (exactly what I’ve tried to avoid my entire life).

I’m feeling pretty embarrassed, misunderstood,  and very, very sad. This makes me want to abandon the whole idea of authenticity and go back to being slightly detached so I can keep my emotions to myself. This way I can never hurt anyone’s feelings and know I won’t be judged for sharing mine.

But this morning I read “The Story of the Hummingbird,” as told by celebrated Kenyan environmental activist, women’s rights advocate, and 2004 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Professor Wangari Maathai.
http://thekidshouldseethis.com/post/wangari-maathai-i-will-be-a-hummingbird
“We are constantly being bombarded by problems that we face and sometimes we can get completely overwhelmed. So it (the hummingbird) flies to the nearest stream and takes a drop of water. It puts it on the fire, and goes up and down, up and down, up and down, as fast as it can.”

Rather than get discouraged, I will take a lesson from the hummingbird, who tries to put out a fire with droplets of water from its tiny beak. I will continue to do the best that I can in moving towards my personal goals even when they seem daunting.