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.
Been MIA the past couple of weeks mainly because I just wasn’t up to writing. Was having doubts about whether it was worth continuing the blog. Was having doubts if I cared enough to continue. But today I decided I’ll keep going, for me. And also because I hope to inspire at least one person to start journaling each day so they can focus on what they have to be grateful for in his/her life.
I am grateful to be working from home today. I think if I was allowed another day or two I would remain with this job for the next year. Please guide me.
I am grateful to be able to knock out all the housecleaning today! I do believe this Tuesday schedule is going to work perfectly.
I am grateful for my new Vans – I love them!
I am grateful for the sound of rain and the birds singing. The rain is nourishing the soil and will make for easy planting of my flowers and vegetable plants.
I am grateful for my perfect health. I am always healthy. My hip is healed and I am moving forward.
I am truly happy and excited about getting the cleaning done today – absolutely perfect! I know, totally corny, but it’s the little things. I am also feeling good about dropping the incessant need to be doing something “more”. It’s a huge sense of relief. I am currently successful. I do have everything I need to live a great life. When I think of those going without, it makes me embrace my wonderful life even more. I have the love of a good man; I have a job that pays exceptionally well for little output, and I have a great boss to boot (and great benefits); I have a roof over my head; and I have an abundance of good food to eat. I can afford whatever I want whenever I want it. Hubby and I can travel anywhere we want whenever we want. My life is perfect right now. I know the universe has been trying to point this out to me for years, so I thank the universe for putting up with my resistance for so long. I’m grateful the universe is always presenting me with what I need at the exact time I need it.
Hubby and I are looking forward to our upcoming trips: Cozumel and later this summer, Colorado. Already looking into the hot springs I want to visit in Colorado. We need the break.
Today is a great day. I am happy. I am relaxed. I am at peace with myself. I am enough. I am capable of doing whatever I want, and I am grateful for this ability. I am grateful for the love and guidance of the universe. Life is what I make of it. I control who I allow in. I chose my emotions. I choose happiness above all else.
One thing is certain about myself – I get bored easily. Going to change the format of these posts a little bit by eliminating the gratitude portion and include more insights and thoughts about art and creativity. Yesterday I spent about six hours doing art – a first for me. Normally I’m only able to steal an hour or two at any given time. Then I read a line from some essay/blog post (honestly can’t remember) that said (paraphrasing) that to do the things we really want to do we need not FIND the time, but MAKE the time to do them. This is an important concept to grasp: finding the time means everything else in your life is taking precedence over the thing you want most. Whereas with making the time, you are carving out specific time to do thing you love/want most, while everything else follows behind. Honestly, this isn’t a new concept for me – I’ve always known this. But old habits die hard – it was always easier to place art (or writing, or whatever) last on my to-do list because it seemed like a luxury. But there will always be something that needs attention around the house, regardless of how caught up I feel with the to-do list. So yesterday I put everything aside and just did art. And it was nice. I admit at times I found myself getting impatient (as I do) over minor issues while painting (the color wasn’t flowing right, the paint was lifting because I didn’t allow enough time for it to dry between layers). And when I caught myself getting tense, I literally stopped, took a deep breath, and refocused. So what if the paint wasn’t flowing right? After it dries, you can just paint over it. And what’s the rush? Just start another painting while you wait for this one to dry. So simple, yet I allow myself to succumb to the pressures from my ego to always be perfect, who then pushes, “While you’re at it, hurry the hell up!”
Once I realigned, getting into the creative flow was immensely relaxing. It’s amazing how time flies when I’m in the flow – the six hours flew by, and I enjoyed every minute. The second image below is one of the new paintings I’m working on. I love painting island landscapes and sea life – it brings me to absolute serenity.
People ask if I can paint things other than tropical scenery. While I can certainly try, frankly, I have no interest in doing so. Does this reduce my ability to make money or garner a larger fan base? Possibly. Do I care? Nope. In my year of authenticity, I must always remain true to myself and do only what resonates with me. And in doing so, I will attract those who feel the same and appreciate the work I do and enjoy the fact I specialize my art. Makes us both happy! So each Monday I have off (which is every other Monday) will now be dedicated solely to art. I will also make time for it during the weekends as well, if even only for an hour. Hubby always steals away time for himself by playing guitar, video games, or playing softball and baseball, so why aren’t I doing the same for me and my art? Slow progression is better than no progression at all.
I am grateful we are able to book our summer vacation today.
I am grateful I feel so good today.
I am grateful to be at home with hubby and Kiara.
I am grateful for my job and my great boss. I am blessed because I know many are not so fortunate.
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.
I am grateful to be watching birds feed outside my window right now. So peaceful to observe.
I am grateful to have made more progress on setting up my studio space in the living room.
I am grateful for making baguettes for the first time yesterday. What a long process! (More on this below.)
I am grateful I had a peaceful weekend.
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.
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.
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.