Archive | February, 2013

Purging!

24 Feb
Image

Image from inhonorofdesign.com

No, not that kind of purging (the barfy kind).  I hit a limit and I am DONE with the clutter and the extra stuff.  Thinking a lot this month about the MIND, it dawned on me that there are constant distractions of some sort.  For example, I put things off and continually think about what I forgot to do so my mind stays cluttered and distracted.  There there is the physical clutter as I must wade through a certain about of physical items to find what is actually wanted/needed such as finding the sweater I want to wear on the floor of the closet because it got pushed off its hanger by the hardly worn clothes.   Then there’s the art supplies, the many books, Rock Band (oh so sad, but we don’t use it anymore), old dishes, appliances not used, so many sets of old sheets used for painting drop cloths, and on and on and on.  Just writing about it is overwhelming.

Strangely, I find myself fighting off impulses to buy new things even though there is so much around that is not used at all.  So I’m not going to Target or giving in to temptations to simplify by having more.  That is just plain silly.

So it is time to purge and clear it out, just have room for the things that are beautiful and/ or useful.  We’re starting with the office/ art room.  Why hold on to all of this stuff?  I really can’t see any reason.  So, bye bye stuff!  Oh yeah and get ready for us, Goodwill!

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Inspiration

23 Feb

JKZI’ve been working.  There’s been some procrastination.  I’ve been hanging with dogs.  I’ve been walking.  I’ve been drinking lots and lots of tea.

What else?  Sleeping.  Reading.  Talking.  Enjoying visits from dear family members.  Doing weekly acupuncture.  Drinking weird herbs twice a day.  I bought a new chair for my office, which some of my clients call my “throne” (I love that, it makes me laugh).  I’m working on a new business website, which is surprisingly time consuming and thankfully I’m being helped by folks much better at such things than I! I’m still trying to stay off facebook, but sometimes I habitually just log in to it.  I quickly realize I’m not missing much.

I’ve been thinking a lot about life in its present form, as well as things that have happened in my past.  It feels like peeling away the layers, which is good although it is sometimes painful to face the truth that I miss some people and probably always will.

I’m trying to stay inspired, informed, and excited.  Sometimes I become very thrilled or extremely nervous when thinking about what I want to DO and ACCOMPLISH and how things will BE in the future.  When that wears me out I try to remember to just be in the present.  Just do one thing at a time.  Just take it step by step. Just breathe!  All that good stuff.

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Today

14 Feb

A song:

To make a mountain of your life
Is just a choice
But I never learned enough
To listen to the voice that told me
Always love hate will get you every time
Always love don’t wait ’til the finish line 

-From the song ‘Always Love’ by Nada Surf.

This is not my favorite holiday, oh no. As a teen and young adult, I was often single and grumpy about this day.  And the times I wasn’t?  I honestly don’t remember what I did.  Instead, what stands out to me is how my friend Staci and I always celebrated this day in college, making presents for each other and calling it ‘Stupid Day’.  I also remember my dad giving my chocolate in the morning before school, all throughout my childhood and asking me to be his Valentine.  Of course, an age came upon me and that turned into “I’m a loser!  My dad has to give me presents today!”, but now that my brain is fully developed, I’m grateful for those gestures and can admit that it meant a lot even at the time.

It is a silly holiday, in my opinion.  I see the men walking around like robots buying flowers and chocolate, just because they are supposed to.  I like to think we show our love and affection regularly.  I also like to think that there are many kinds of valuable love in our lives, besides just romantic love.  So today?  I work until late and my husband has his martial arts class tonight.  So it’s like any other night, which means we’ll eat some good food, talk about things and play with the dogs in our cozy home.  And I’ll definitely eat some chocolate.

Oh yeah and this:

adopt

What are you doing to celebrate love, not just today but every day? 

Keep going….

13 Feb

“Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm.” -Winston Churchill.

 

Don’t pull me off of the monkey bars

11 Feb
Stairs

I took this picture during a ceremony in Bali- flower petals on the stairs.

As part of my project, I’m working on a regular meditation and mindfulness practice.  Some mornings I sit in silence and look out the window.  Other mornings I practice a more formal meditation.  It is very peaceful.  The dogs and the cat sit with me and it is very quiet and still.  It is the only time I ever really open the blinds in the bedroom to see the trees in the side yard and it feels like a treat.  This morning I chose a meditation off of yogaglo, a website to which I subscribe that offers various yoga and meditation classes.  It has a great variety of classes and is sometimes the best I can do when I can’t make it to a regular yoga class; between walking dogs, running my business, and trying to spend time with my family, regular yoga class hasn’t happened in a while.  I especially enjoy Harshada Wagener’s meditations on the site.  He has a very warm and practical approach.

Today I did a short meditation about Transition.  I have done this one before, months ago when I was preparing to leave my full time agency job, where I worked as a child & family therapist.  It was hard- I was saying goodbye to clients, co-workers and also a regular, structured life that offered a predictable schedule and paycheck.  I decided to do the meditation again today simply because I’ve been thinking about the challenges we often encounter in the face of change.  I’m not going through any huge changes lately but part of my job as a therapist is to help people deal with change.  And I am trying to implement changes into my life, which is also very hard!

Sometimes we are forced to change due to circumstances and changes around us.  Other times, we may attempt to initiate changes ourselves because we recognize behavioral patterns that are not serving us well.  While it may be relevant to note when we have control over changes or not, these things really don’t seem extremely different.  The changes are still challenging and we will encounter resistance but our future (and present) well being will surely benefit from our resilience in facing, understanding and yes, maintaining such changes.  So this could be about moving to a new town, the end of a relationship, quitting smoking, implementing a regular exercise program.

Bowie

Ch…ch…ch…changes!

It is no secret that change is hard.  However, it is also inevitable.  Whether we like it or not- things change.  And sometimes we may benefit from change.  There are many theories about change.  Spiritual traditions bring forward examples and rituals to assist during changes.  Praying, meditating, reflecting on the big picture, seeking out community- these things all are meant to offer solace and understanding during challenging times of chaos and transition.  When it comes to trying to change our behaviors, neuroscience shows us that change is extremely difficult because our brain functioning can become quite out of balance when we take part on addictive behaviors.  It also shows us that we can very effectively encourage needed changes by understanding how our minds work!

Today’s meditation spoke of the resistance we have to change.  We cling to how things currently are.  The teacher said we do this like a child holding on to the monkey bars while their parents tries to pull them off.  I love that visual as it seems to capture this concept perfectly.

So what can we do to take care of ourselves during times of transition?  And how can we allow ourselves to flow with the change rather than resist?

  • Don’t get caught up.  Recognize that we will act like the kid on the monkey bars at times.  You will cling to the old ways and that is natural, but that isn’t necessarily going to help you.  When you notice that you’re resisting the change and trying to talk yourself into going back to old behaviors, point it out to yourself.  For example “I’m wanting to eat sweets right now because I am so used to eating sweets at night.”  Or “Wow, I’m telling myself about 100 reasons to not exercise right now.”  Recognize that this is NORMAL and that you don’t have to continue to hold on to those monkey bars!  
  • Ask yourself why.  When in a transition or when trying to change things, we often are able to list about 100 reasons why we shouldn’t do something or should do something else.  But ask yourself- why did that behavior exist in the first place? What purpose was is serving?  Be curious about your motivations and the meanings.
  • Write things down.  Get out of your head a little bit, where unhelpful thoughts can sometimes spin out of control.  Write things down to get it out of your head and onto the paper.  Done over time, this can also help reveal thinking patterns.  It is also helpful for insomnia.
  • Set realistic goals.  Are you embarking on too many changes at once?  Are your goals way too lofty?  Talk to others about what you’re doing and get some perspective.  Maybe you have high hopes, but try to let your changes start small and build off of that.  This is certainly one I’ve been realizing with my project!
  • Find some meaning.  Maybe you don’t want to change but something is going on and you have to or need to.  Find some meaning to all of this.  This may be really hard sometimes, but having a bigger picture view is very beneficial.  If something is hard, and then it seems pointless, then why will you keep trying?  If it is hard to do this, consider talking to a friend or a counselor.  Read some books.  Meditate.  Get curious.  Reach out.  Even the most difficult things have meaning.  It doesn’t mean it is fair, just or reasonable.  But we know that life isn’t either- it is mysterious and oftentimes confusing.  It can be the most painful struggles that really help shape who we are as people.
  • Reward yourself.  Treat yourself when you have small successes.  This will reinforce your hard work!  It also gives you a reason to keep trying.
  • Don’t give up.  I would be remiss to not mention the stages of change, often referred to in the mental health field and depicted not as a linear line but as a spiral.  It shows us that with change, these are setbacks, relapses and it is not only a forward moving process.  One of my all time favorite sayings is from Krisna Das, who said (my paraphrase from 10+ years ago) “every time you come back to yoga, you come back stronger”.  So we learn from each relapse and each set back and we can reground and recenter more and more each time.

Stages-of-Change

Are you trying to make a change or going through a transition?  What are you doing to move forward?  

The present moment

9 Feb

The present moment

It’s all in the mind

4 Feb

“To enjoy good health, to bring true happiness to one’s family, to bring peace to all, one must first discipline and control one’s own mind. If a man can control his mind he can find the way to Enlightenment, and all wisdom and virtue will naturally come to him.” -Buddha

I have a cold right now so my mind is a bit fuzzy.  Still, February is the month to focus on the Mind.  Some of the goals include:  to be more focused, to spend my time doing things I love, to learn more, to rest my mind when needed, to take in the benefits of a regular meditation practice.  I have been a bit baffled as to where to begin.  So I’ve decided to do something really concrete that I KNOW is going to only benefit my mind: I am taking a much needed Facebook break.

412-facebook-cartoon

Cartoon by Cathy Thorne.

Cutting out Facebook is definitely taking something AWAY rather than adding something to life, the preferred approach that, for me, is more likely to result in lasting change.  But sometimes this type of drastic measure is needed.  Using Facebook doesn’t really add anything helpful to my life, other than being able to send messages with some friends or keeping up with my book club.  I waste time on it, I often feel bad about myself when looking at it, and I get annoyed with all of the political posts.  I don’t see a reason to be on there very often, and yet I am on there every. single. day.

There is always something happening on Facebook.  People posting pictures of their recent tropical vacation, George Takei’s latest meme, comments on photos, and so on.  If you don’t check in regularly, it creates this feeling of missing out on something important.  Logging in and seeing notifications and messages can be very exciting.  If you are like me, Facebook is extremely compelling.  I have a very visual mind and while I enjoy seeing the pictures and updates, it also has a powerful, almost hypnotic effect on me.  I have had vivid dreams about people I’m “friends” with on Facebook, people I haven’t seen or really even thought about for years.  I can waste amazing amounts of time just shuffling through things and looking at basically nothing.  Then there are the darker results.  I compare myself to others.  I judge others.  I get grumpy.  My specific triggers?  I hate seeing pictures of tropical vacations (jealous), pregnancy posts (jealous), and posts about football (stupid).  Don’t even get me started on the political posts (shutup!).  The non-comformist in me kind of hates the trite way Facebook promotes traditions such as posting about what you are thankful for on Thanksgiving.  But I still look at the photos, I still comment about what I’m thankful for and I still get grumpy and judgy.  To be clear, I don’t wanna feel, think, or act in this way.  Nor do I want to waste a lot of time.  But still I go to Facebook and waste time, feel awful and know that I’ll keep on doing it.  Ugh.  Besides, I am also so freaked out about the ever changing privacy settings that I rarely even post anything of substance on Facebook, instead just writing about my dogs and sometimes about food.

Recent research shows some disturbing things about the use of Facebook:

  • A research study demonstrates activity on social media can give us a quick hit of dopamine, a neurotransmitter responsible for reward-based learning.  Dopamine transmission occurs with drug use, sex, and other addictive types of activities.  It is both funny  and disturbing to recognize that there are real, physiological results of someone “liking” your photo on Facebook, writing on your wall, or sending a message.  It feels good and can therefore become quite compelling, if not addictive.
  • A study  by Stanford’s Alex Jordan finds that Facebook users consistently over-estimate the fun their friends are having and underestimate their negative or unhappy experiences. Jordan concluded that Facebook could be exacerbating the tendency to assume that everyone else is happier and enjoying themselves more than you are.  Jordan comments that the research participants “were convinced that everyone else was leading a perfect life”.   Information on this research study can be found from this article and also this one.
  • There’s also a study about the use of Facebook by those with narcissistic tendencies.  People displaying narcissistic tendencies tend to have more friends on Facebook, they tag themselves on more things, and regularly update their newsfeed as well as their profile picture.  Additionally, they tend to respond aggressively to comments made about them.  I begin to wonder about what comes first- the narcissistic tendencies or the overuse of social media, especially for younger folks.

So there’s lots of great reasons to cut down on Facebook time.  Here’s how I’m going to do this:

  • I am going to keep my account open, but will only login two times a week to check on updates from my Book Club or anything else.  I will only be on for 10 minutes during those two logins.  
  • I will keep this up through the end of the month and then reassess.
  • During all of that time I would normally be on Facebook, I will free up much needed space in my head.  I can instead read, go on a walk, write on my blog, talk to people in real life, etc.

Lastly, check out this very awesome video if you haven’t before.