Monthly Archives: July 2015

Weekly Musings

A summary of the week’s highs, lows, and in betweens…

Mantras I spoke this week:

  • May I set up the conditions that will help me be successful in my intentions.
  • May I remember all the good things people have given me in my life (smiles that brightened my day, anecdotes that made me laugh, words that encouraged me, money that helped when I really needed it) and Pay It Forward.
  • May I do the work I need to do in order to live an intentional and purposeful life, rooted in my deepest values.
  • May I continue to awaken myself.

This week was a lot of reminders to bring forth my best self, who is always present but needs some prodding on (most) occasions to be manifested.

 

Best podcasts I listened to this week:

  • On Being interview with Mirabai Bush. I listened to this episode after I posted Road Tripping Through Life, but it’s kinda the same thing. Living a contemplative life – there are many different paths. There isn’t just one way to do it and to awaken your truest, best self. Find your path.
  • Good Life Project interview with Kara Yar Khan. This is a great interview to inspire you to be grateful for all the wondrous miracles of your life. It’s not just about having the fanciest car or the cutest shoes. It’s about being happy with what you have, loving your life, and living to the fullest.

 

My Wrist of Intentions:

These bracelets are my daily notes to self. I bought the Love bracelet a while back and made the other two this week. These bracelets don’t come off (okay, they can, but I haven’t taken them off). They run with me, shower with me, sleep with me, do everything with me. And every time I look at my wrist, I’m reminded of some very important truths/life lessons.

My Wrist of Intentions

 

Gratitude this week:

  • Deepak/Oprah 21-Day Meditation Experience. The current meditation series is Manifesting Grace Through Gratitude. Love.
  • Relationship Harmony. My husband and I are working on our relationship dynamics (which were in a state of total suckiness) and I’m amazed how little effort it has taken on both our parts to be more loving, kind, and compassionate with each other.
  • Pay It Forward project. Over the past year, I sent gifts to 6 women friends/acquaintances of mine. Some big, some small, all were thought out and sent with love. What a phenomenal experience for me.
  • Running on Wood Mulch. I went for a run today and city workers had laid down wood mulch in part of the Englischer Garten. I have never run on mulch before, but it was so soft and springy. And it smelled so earthy. It was in a part of the park right by the surfers, with a green canopy of tree coverage. I seriously had a “Wow, happiness!” moment.
  • Girlfriend Love. I get to see several of my closest friends in August. One is coming to visit in 10 days. And then a few days after she and her family leave, I’ll fly to the States for a month (thank you, sweet baby Jesus!). I won’t go to Texas but to my mom’s other home in North Carolina, where a couple of my friends are flying from Texas to see me. It will be like grown up girl camp for a week, and I can’t wait!

 

That’s what I’m musing about this week. What about you?

  • What did you tell yourself this week to inspire you, motivate you, or help you on your path?
  • What words of wisdom has someone else (through reading, a podcast, a talk) shared with you?
  • What are you grateful for in your life?

 

 

Road Tripping Through Life

Several years ago, my husband and I drove from Austin, Texas, to Healdsburg, California. We were meeting my extended family for a vacation in Sonoma and decided a road trip would be a great way to start and end the vacation. Also, because my husband was training for the Pike’s Peak Marathon later that summer, anywhere we could stop and do a trail run or run up and down a mountainside, we did just that. The trip (out and back) took us to Tucson, Flagstaff, the Grand Canyon, Las Vegas, Death Valley, Yosemite, San Francisco, Bakersfield, Zion National Park, and Amarillo.

It wasn’t a perfect trip. There were some not fun moments. Like, before we even got out of Texas, my husband insisted on playing an entire Pink Floyd CD. When we drove through Death Valley, our brand new car overheated and we turned off the engine and coasted for a while, trying to quickly cool down the car. After a hard run in Yosemite, we checked into our hotel to learn that there was a power outage in the city, which was also experiencing an atypical heat wave. It was pitch black at 8pm and hotter than hell. We took cold showers in the dark went to sleep with wet washcloths on our bodies to try to stay cool.

But, despite all that stuff I didn’t like, I also have really wonderful memories of the trip. The trail runs in the national parks with breathtaking beauty all around us. Driving down the highway with nothing but wide, open spaces surrounding us. The hours in the car with my husband – we had infinite time to talk and to be quiet. Discovering Flagstaff. Finding a vegan winery. Staying up late with my family talking and laughing. Visiting the Northern California home where I was born. Driving back into Texas with a rainstorm to greet us.

Road trip

Image courtesy of andi (morguefile.com)

For me, life is like that road trip. Or, rather, I have discovered that I am road tripping through life.

I have a destination I’m working toward, but it’s taking some work to get there. The reading, writing, and meditating I do, these are the routes I have chosen. They aren’t the only routes, and another person might choose differently, but this is the path that’s working for me, that’s getting me closer to where I want to be. Of course, there have been a lot of detours on this journey, both planned and unplanned. I’ve taken many (many!) wrong paths, some I’ve truly regretted. At times, I wasn’t sure how or if I would ever get where I wanted to go. But, then I’d come across the metaphorical scenic overlook on the highway of life, the beauty and wonder of living, and I’d keep going. I keep going, moving forward in the direction of my dreams.

I am road tripping through life. Destination chosen. Map in hand. Anticipating delays but open to all the incredible experiences that are part of this journey.

Karma is Only a Bitch If You Are

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Lately, I’ve been thinking about how I spend my emotional energy. When I’m walking down the street and a person bumps into me and doesn’t apologize (which is a daily occurrence here). Or I’m parking my daughter’s bike and someone yells at me because of the way I parked the bike (sigh, true story). Or when I’m wearing my Birkenstocks and it starts pouring rain and my shoes are ruined (this has happened to two pairs of Birks since I’ve lived here).

At times like these, I want to say, “What the fuck?” or “How dare you?” Those are my automatic thoughts, and they are indicative of the kind of behavior that usually follows. Yep, I can be a real bitch. And, it’s precisely at times like this that I need to be cognizant of my emotional energy and how I’m spending it.

I know that I’m not the worst person out there. Not by far. I’m rarely angry or cynical, and I’m not a diva, expecting people to cater to me. Still, I have my moments. Who doesn’t?

When I start to feel shame or anger or pride or condemnation, unconditioned responses kick in. I start thinking, “I screwed up” (shame) or “You screwed up” (anger) or “I’m better than you” (pride) or “You’re worse than me” (condemnation). I generate this negative energy and then I put it out there in the world.

This is the energy I’m growing. This is how I am choosing to spend my energy. Whoa. Wait. Stop and let me get off this crazy train right now!

I want to start spending my emotional energy wisely and mindfully. I want to do this, because one of my values/goals is to develop resilience so that I won’t get emotionally upended by external events, going hot and cold depending on what’s happening in my world.

Life is unpredictable, and there’s nothing wrong with wanting to stay safe and for things to be okay, but the reality is that we have no guarantees. Illness, death, accidents, rude behavior – this stuff happens all the time. Shit happens. The boat gets rocked. On a daily if not hourly basis.

So when life throws me something unexpected (and possibly unwanted), I am working on taking a moment to recognize my automatic thoughts – @#$&! – and trying to change them to something less selfish and more compassionate – just keep smiling and let it go.

I also want to be aware of what kind of energy I’m expending. I want to feed and grow positive, not negative, energy. I believe in karma, that our actions have real effects, right now.

We don’t exist in a vacuum. We exist in relationship to ourselves, to others, to the world. So when we do something, it has an impact on someone or something else. This is why being aware of your thoughts and actions is so important.

Karma is a bitch, but only if you are. So put out the energy, the attitude and actions, that you want to get back.

Peace, y’all!

 

Being Grateful and Happy

So the last few posts have been downers, right? Lonely old me with no friends where I live. Poor old me with the sucky dad who screwed up my head.

Obviously, these are just snippets of what’s going on in my world. In the larger picture, if you’ve been following the blog or chatting with me in real life, is that I’m doing phenomenally better in terms of my mental health and outlook. [So much so that my doctor and I have even talked about my getting off my meds (that is for another post because it is a whole lotta stuff to deal with).] So it’s time to infuse this blog with some positivity. It’s time for a post about being grateful and happy.

happy-flowers

Happy face rainbow flowers – Image courtesy of Prawny (morguefile.com)

Remember my post about choosing your attitude?  It takes some work, but last year I participated in 2 groups that helped. I started 2 practices in those groups that I continue to use to help my outlook. I name the things that make me happy, and I name the things for which I am grateful.

I joined this Facebook group called 100 Days of Happiness, in which every day for 100 days you post a picture of something that made you happy that day. This is a public group, and several of us have continued beyond the 100 Days. See, here I posted that picture of my bike on Day 118 of 100 Happy Days. I put that fake flower on my bike and when I see it, it makes me smile. That’s a little thing, but so important.

This is from the 100 Days of Happiness FB page.

This is from the 100 Days of Happiness FB page.

I also joined a private Facebook page my sweet sister set up for me called 100 Days of Gratitude, in which every day for 100 days my friends and I would post something we were grateful for that day. On Day 79, I posted about a boring old, Friday morning. Nothing earth shattering. I was in bed, reading a book. But, man, I am so grateful for mornings like that.

This is from the 100 Days of Gratitude FB page.

This is from the 100 Days of Gratitude FB page.

Of course, not every day is sunshine and roses and little babies smiling at you. Some days, many days, are hard and cut into you and make you want to cry or scream or hit someone or develop a drug habit. You have a fight with your spouse. Your child screams that she hates you. You screw up a project at work. You burn dinner. It’s those days when you may have to work to find something to be happy about or grateful for, but it’s still totally possible. Yep, it’s possible amidst all the crap to find some teeny tiny sliver that is good. And that’s what we have to do. That’s what I have to do.

The gifts we choose to witness to help us in being grateful and happy don’t have to be lottery winning moments. For example, once I was taking a shower and I thought, ‘Wow, I’m so lucky, so grateful, that I can turn on this tap and clean water comes out. And I can make that water warmer or colder to suit me, and I can stay in here for 30 minutes if I want to, and the water won’t run out.’ You know what? That is a luxurious gift. Many people in the world don’t have that convenience, but it’s something that I take for granted 99.99% of the time. Last week I showered 2 or 3 times a day because it was so hot. I didn’t give it a second thought that I might have to go to sleep with dried sweat on my body or with dirt encrusted feet from playing in the sand at the park with Emmy. Whenever I want, I can get in my shower, cool off, and get clean. Thank you, clean, running water. You make my life so much better.

(See how easy that was?)

This practice of being grateful and happy isn’t just easy, it’s empowering. Like a lot of practices I’ve written about (meditation, expressive writing,  relationships, forgiveness, mantras), being grateful and happy is linked to increased health and emotional resilience – improved quality of life. In other words, it’s free therapy, people. Use it and make your life better. That’s what I’m trying to do.

Here are my happiness/gratitude lists for today.

I am happy

  • To have my husband back after a 3 day business trip.
  • To have the morning to myself while my husband takes our daughter to dance class.
  • To write a blog post. Writing makes me happy.
  • In 5 weeks I’ll go back to the States for a 4-week visit. Yahoo!!
  • The weather is gorgeous today.

I am grateful

  • I get some alone time with my husband this afternoon while our daughter is at a birthday party.
  • For endless cups of coffee.
  • That I work freelance and have a ridiculously flexible schedule.
  • For my mommy. She is the best.
  • For my friends. They are my rock.

 

Need More Inspiration for Being Grateful and Happy?

http://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/four_great_gratitude_strategies

http://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/happiness_greatest_hits

 

thank-you-text

and have a happy day!

Feeling (Dis)Connected

Core Value #2 – Community

I’m revisiting my core values. I wrote about mindful awareness a few weeks ago, and now I’m checking in with my value of community and social connection.

I thrive on relationships. My closest relationships nourish me, replenish me, and keep me sustained. I am happiest when I’m with others – my extended family at the holidays, my girlfriends for a good meal, my students when I was a teacher. I am a people person, and I need to be connected to others in order to be happy.

But I’m not alone in this need. Every one of us needs social interaction. According to scientist Julianne Holt-Lunstad, who authored a meta-analysis on social relationships and mortality risk, “ People who are both objectively isolated and subjectively lonely may be at the greatest risk of death.” Being lonely is as bad for your health as smoking or being obese. For someone who has almost no friends in the entire country she lives in, this is frightening. And depressing. And overwhelming.

The_Scream

The Scream by Edvard Munch (courtesy of https://commons.wikimedia.org)

Furthermore, this research specifies that it’s not just the quality of the social relationships that matter but the quantity of them.

Social isolation hurts. Literally. UCLA researcher Matthew Lieberman has found that social connection is so important that “when we are rejected or experience other social ‘pain,’ our brains ‘hurt’ in the same way they do when we feel physical pain.” This pain is evident in MRI scans. Being lonely really hurts, just like having a broken leg does.

I have felt isolated and lonely for most of the time I’ve lived in Europe but even more so in the last year. Despite all my efforts – I’ve joined organizations, taken classes, tried to instigate social gatherings – I have almost no friends. As a result, I’ve mostly givien up trying. And now that I work from home, my daily social interactions have dwindled to an even smaller number. I could go the whole day only speaking to my 7-year old child. And as much as I love her, her level of discourse is not exactly stimulating.

On Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, feeling like you belong is one level above safety and basic human survival requirements. But I’d say that if lacking them can kill you, then social relationships are a survival requirement, along with food and water. Social relationships aren’t a luxury; they are a necessity. And just like with Harlow showed with his famous (bless their little hearts) monkeys, lacking real social interaction will result in failure to thrive and wreak havoc on the organism. We need attachment, physical contact, and human connection to survive.

Maslow's_Hierarchy_of_Needs

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs (courtesy of https://commons.wikimedia.org)

I know this is to be true, because this move to Europe has resulted in the sacrifice of my own well being and happiness and, therefore, those of my husband and daughter. I am surviving here, but I am not thriving. Quite the opposite. With each day that passes, I feel like I lose a little bit more of myself. My happiness (try as I might and believe me, I am trying to be happy), my self esteem, my sense of self – it feels like they’re slipping away, because I’m lonely, because most of my close relationships are with people on another continent, separated by geography and time.

I value human connection, and I need it. To be happy and healthy I need community. I need it desperately.

 

Sources for more reading on the topic:

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4410382/

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2910600/

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3510434/

http://www.takingcharge.csh.umn.edu/enhance-your-wellbeing/relationships/why-personal-relationships-are-important