Mindfulness 101

Mindfulness 101

Mindfulness is a hot topic these days, but it is nothing new. Mindfulness plays a large role in Buddhism (around 5th century BCE), but today, hectic schedules, long work weeks, crammed social calendars, and a strong addiction to technology has many craving simplicity. Is this you? Do you wish you could, just for a moment, stop and catch your breath? Well, you can. It’s easy, and you can do it anywhere at any time. Proper breathing is the essential first step in gaining control of your attention, to slow you down enough to be mindful of the present moment. There are many different techniques available, but the following is what I do and swear by its effectiveness:

1. Inhale through your nose for a count of six (ideally your stomach should expand as you inhale). Think to yourself, “In” as you breathe in.
2. Exhale though your mouth for a count of six. Think to yourself, “Out” as you exhale.

Repeat three times.

All that exists in that moment is your breath.

Your heart rate should slow down and you will feel more relaxed. Do this deep breathing as often as necessary throughout the day, whether you’re stuck in traffic, feeling overwhelmed at work, or when facing a difficult situation. During the workweek I have Outlook reminders set for the top of each hour as a reminder to breathe and refocus for the coming hour. Do whatever it takes to remind yourself to come back to the present moment and relax.

Breathe… You’ve got this.

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Much needed inspiration

Much needed inspiration

Feeling a bit overwhelmed today. It’s the same feeling that always stops by: the one that tells me the life I’m trying to lead isn’t the life intended for me. It’s the same feeling telling me I am capable of so much more. It’s the feeling that keeps me restless. It’s the feeling that tells me it’s time to move on.  It’s the feeling that keeps poking me, wondering why I’m not doing something about all of this. It’s the feeling that’s not going anywhere, that will remain as the tightness in my chest, the tears that fall.

I’m in the mood for inspiring words. These are some of my favorite quotes – I hope others find them as uplifting as I do.

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“Remember how far you’ve come, not just how far you have to go.  You are not where you want to be, but neither are you where you used to be.” ~ Unknown (although I believe it’s a Buddhist quote)

“It is never too late to be what you might have been.” ~ George Eliot

“If it scares you, it might be a good thing to try.” ~ Seth Godin

“Never allow waiting to become a habit. Live your dreams and take risks. Life is happening now.” ~ Paulo Coelho (THIS!!!! I just keep waiting because of others. I keep pushing desires and dreams aside because of this. I keep denying myself because of this.)

“Never give up, for that is just the place and time that the tide will turn.” ~ Harriet Beecher Stowe

“Work hard in silence, let your success be your noise.” ~ Frank Ocean

“Trust your soul.” ~ Unkown

“I’m restless. Things are calling me away. My hair is being pulled by the stars again.” ~ Anais Nin

And finally:

“Why can’t I try on different lives like dresses, to see which one fits best?” ~ Sylvia Path (LOVE this one.)

Fear & Anxiety in an Uncertain World

Fear & Anxiety in an Uncertain World

I am grateful for the life I have – every moment of it. I am grateful to have a sound mind, one that is filled with love, peace, and harmony. I am grateful to see the good through the bad, the beautiful through the ugly, the right over the wrong. I am grateful to be able to not succumb to the fear, anger, rage that is consuming so many here in this country, in this world.

I decided yesterday to unplug from Twitter for awhile because it’s become a cesspool of fear, anxiety, and an abundance of negativity. Granted, I can control what I look at and have done a pretty good job of cleaning up who I follow, but the ugliness still seems to trickle in regardless. I am not denying what is happening in this country, but putting focus on so much negativity sends my stress levels through the roof. My anxiety puts me on edge and my depression demons attempt to storm back – and I refuse to let this happen. I think what gets me distressed more than those blindly following a fascist are those who have given up hope on progress and good overcoming evil. The ones crying, “The end is near!” and “All hope is lost!” I simply cannot be around this. I cannot tolerate this. Don’t just sit around telling everyone how fucked we are – do something about it. But ultimately, I need to care for my well-being above all else.

I’m usually not this “ranty”, but it’s been eating at me this past week. There is no progress if you live in fear. There is no progress if you hold no hope. My hope is that anyone reading this will kick fear to the curb and embrace positive progress for themselves and for all.

Peace, love, happiness and harmony always.

See the Light
See the light – let it guide the way.

I am Enough

I am Enough
  1. I am grateful we are able to book our summer vacation today.
  2. I am grateful I feel so good today.
  3. I am grateful to be at home with hubby and Kiara.
  4. I am grateful for my job and my great boss. I am blessed because I know many are not so fortunate.
  5. I am grateful we are one day closer to spring!

I decided to put more effort into a bigger garden this year. I ordered seeds online and they came in yesterday, so this weekend I will be getting them going. Tomatoes, cucumbers, kale, spinach, three bell peppers (yellow, orange, red), and carrots. Also going to plant lettuce and herbs, but not sure if they’ll be in containers or out there with everything else. It feels wonderful knowing I will be free to spend more time on this. In the past I was always consumed with whatever side gig I was trying to do, so gardening was seen as more of an annoyance. I will enjoy the process of tending to the garden – such a meditative process really.

Since letting go of the need to actively pursue a full-time art career I feel so much lighter. I feel calm. I am genuinely thrilled at the thought of just taking an afternoon to read. I am delighted to be able to draw and paint without the pressure of having to get it right, or to hurry up and produce as much as possible. I am genuinely happy. Letting go has opened my eyes to the world around me instead of the narrow focus of me and only me and whatever “dream” I was chasing. I place dream in quotations because with each endeavor I have undertaken (the writing, the t-shirt business, the need to pursue a full-time art career) I labeled it “my dream” when in reality none of these were what I was after at all. What I really wanted was financial freedom, along with be able to do work I found intellectually stimulating. I thought by working for myself both of these desires would be met. I thought by forcing them they would come true. Not so – at all. Being an entrepreneur may bring financial freedom at some point, but there is a whole helluva lot of work to get there. And the work really never ends. The truth is my current job already does provide me financial freedom. I do very well for myself already and I’d be a fool not to be grateful for it. And for the intellectually stimulating work, while my current job may not always provide this, I am now free to engage in all kinds of learning. I LOVE learning! There are SO many things I want to do in my life, so much I’ve put off in pursuit of someone else’s dream, that learning all things that interest me will provide all the brain food I could ever want.

But the biggest lesson learned since letting go of my dying “dreams” is that I am enough. I am enough as I am right now. I don’t need to prove anything to anyone. I don’t need a thousand likes on social media to tell me I’m good enough. I don’t need the approval of strangers to tell me I’m talented, or that I have a great life. I know these things already. I am enough – the greatest lesson I’ve ever learned.

Peace, love, happiness, and harmony always.

Practicing Patience

Practicing Patience
  1. I am grateful to be watching birds feed outside my window right now. So peaceful to observe.
  2. I am grateful to have made more progress on setting up my studio space in the living room.
  3. I am grateful for making baguettes for the first time yesterday. What a long process! (More on this below.)
  4. I am grateful I had a peaceful weekend.
  5. I am grateful to be back into practicing mindfulness.

One of of the things on my “must-do”list is learning to make perfect baguettes. One of my absolute favorite pleasures in this life is a fresh-baked French baguette. Crispy on the outside but delicately soft and chewy on the inside. Some of the best I’ve had were while vacationing in St. Maarten (second to those in Paris many years ago). I found this recipe while browsing through Pinterest and decided a slow Sunday morning was the prime time to give it a go. What unfolded was a true test of patience and an unplanned lesson in mindfulness.

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Getting all the ingredients ready.

It’s a called a “Four-Hour Baguette” and it took every bit of four hours from start to finish. I tip my hat to all the hard-working bakers who start their day in the wee hours of each morning to prepare and bake all those delectable sweets and breads we love so much. It’s a lot of hard work! Combine the water and yeast – then wait. Mix the flour and yeast water – and wait. Knead the dough for at least ten minutes, then place in a covered bowl, then place in a cold oven – then wait. And so it went. I found myself at times being tempted to swear off ever making the recipe again because it was taking too long. Then I asked myself, “Why?” Simple enough question, but for someone who makes it a habit to rush through nearly every single thing (who grows impatient at the slightest delay), it was a question forcing me to be truthful with myself. What was the rush? The truth was there was no rush. There was nothing else that HAD to be done. There was nothing more pressing hanging over my head. The only thing on the agenda for the morning was baking baguettes. For years I’ve held goal after goal, one grand expectation after another, over my head. I worked a full time job and had to complete my college degree in record time (while maintaining a high GPA). I graduated and then HAD to learn the publishing industry and write the perfect first novel. After that, I HAD to come up with an exciting and profitable business idea that would make me financially independent. But no one was forcing any of this – it was me against myself. I was my own worse enemy. True, I learned a lot during those years. One of the greatest lessons: if you keep pushing yourself nonstop with over-the-top expectations, you will suffer. Your health will suffer first. Then your closest relationships. Your happiness will be non-existent. I am way overdue to live according to my own natural rhythm.

My natural rhythm is this: slow and steady. A frenetic pace stresses me out. And believe me, all those years of essentially working two full-time jobs was frenetic and stressed me out: tightness in my chest; constant shallow breathing; constant stomach upset with additional GI issues; headaches; and moodiness (just ask my hubby about this one). I was, no doubt, slowly killing myself. I started practicing mindfulness within the past year, but found it taking a backseat to the demons rattling my mind (or what I sometimes refer to as my monkey brain). Fear and doubt are slick little bastards – it only takes a sliver of opportunity for them to set up shop in my head. But here on this Sunday morning, having to commit four hours to making bread, was what I needed to practice mindfulness once again. And it is a practice. It doesn’t come overnight – it’s a constant effort to practice in order to eventually become a master (same applies to meditation). So when it was time to knead the dough, I narrowed my thoughts to my hands working through the dough. The only thing that existed at that moment was my breath, my hands, and the dough taking shape within my hands. For ten minutes these were the only things that existed in my world.

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Making progress (both with the bread and myself).

Afterwards, I felt calm. It was an extraordinary practice in patience. This is how life is meant to be lived – one single moment at a time. Not rushing from one place to another, or from one goal to the next. Learning patience, mastering mindfulness is my destination. Nothing else. It will help me be a better artist, a better wife, a better friend. It will help me stay healthy. It will lead me to great places that rushing would have never taken me. I am grateful for the continuing lesson. I am ready to just be. All that is good and abundant in this life will comes to me with ease. I am at peace with myself – I am enough. And for this particular lesson I am forever grateful.

Today is a great day.

My True Self

My True Self
  1. I am grateful for my overall great health. Despite this hip issue and my arthritis, I have it pretty good compared to others.
  2. I am grateful for discovering new artists – they light my way.
  3. I am grateful for my perseverance. I may get down still from time to time, but I am able to keep moving forward. I refuse to let depression shackle me.
  4. I am grateful for all the wonderful people I have met online – I have met my best friends this way. Sometimes the internet is a great place.
  5. I am grateful it’s Friday! I know, this one is kind of lame, but so true. May I get to a place soon where days of the week are totally irrelevant.

    This morning was a struggle to come in here to share my daily post. I am an introvert through and through, so I have struggled in the past (and now) with continually putting myself out “there”. This is why I loathe the idea of hustling, of the idea of having a blog and constantly updating social media in order to gain a following. It’s not that I don’t want to connect with like-minded people – I totally do – but I love my private world. I prefer to reflect internally rather than externally. To publicize my feelings and thoughts is a pretty big hurdle. But, I will at least make an effort. I need to make the conscious effort to rein in my brain to keep it from running away with me (“Check your stats! Is anybody reading? More! More! More!”).

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    For real. (credit to Copyblogger for this image)

    And this act alone is exhausting. For real. However, I am, without a doubt, WAY happier these days and a truly optimistic and positive person, but I’m also over denying the existence of my true self. My true self IS a quiet woman. My true self IS a thinker, a learner, someone who will think through her thoughts before speaking. My true self DOES get exhausted constantly being around others. My true self relishes silence over noise. I love my true self, even when others don’t understand (usually the extroverts – which includes the hubby). My true self cares deeply for the causes she believes in. My true self is seeking absolute fulfillment in life, which includes the career. I dismiss the notion that this isn’t possible. It is. And I am going to make it happen.

    Today is a really good day. I will focus on being relaxed, on being the true me. It’s the only reality I will embrace.

    Peace, love, happiness and harmony always.