Meditation and Mantras
Om Anandham Namah:
My actions are blissfully free from attachment to outcome
I was listening to one of my meditations from the Chopra center today and the mantra and its meaning for this particular one was: Om Anandham Namah: My actions are blissfully free from attachment to outcome.
I know it's hard to believe that I could write more on Balance - but it's a topic that just won't leave me alone. On my last tribe call we talked about what balance means to us - and of course I mentioned that I've been trying to make a mental shift from the word balance to flow. In that post I said that I felt like if I had a good balance between being "On Fire" and "Peaceful" then things would flow. The same formula from a post 6 months earlier!
Passion + Peace = Flow
So clearly the ideas of balance, flow, peace, and passion frequently inhabit my mind.
But even with all this thought-fermentation, I still couldn't explain "Balance" means to me! (Maybe this has something to do with why I'm trying to avoid it!)
But I think I finally have it! (I know, I know, this is REALLY EXCITING! Don't worry, I won't keep you in suspense much longer.)
Balance is achieved when:
Energy output = Energy input
Whew! Did I just BLOW. YOUR. MIND? Or what?!
What this means to me is that I allow or put back into myself at least the same amount of energy as I put out into the world (my family, friends, home, community etc.) If we don't do this, our energy reserves get low and that is when we feel out of balance.
I love this way of looking at balance for a lot of reasons. Of course I love it because it's a formula, and if something can't be expressed in a mathematical formula or scientific theory, well, then what good is it at all?
Seriously though, I mostly like this because it is actually very general; it's sufficiently vague so that we can make it work for our own individual needs. Because the truth is we are all unique. Some of us need time alone every day and others of us die a little without having some major social interaction daily. Some kids need to be moving ALL. THE. TIME. and others ok with less activity.
I also really love this because you can choose to "zoom out" on your timeline with this idea. Yes there may be days or a stretch of days where you are putting out a lot of energy into the world, maybe even compromising on your own needs for a while. But you know that after this time you will have a period of calm and be able to replenish yourself. Or perhaps you even knew this busy time was coming up and made sure to take extra-special care of yourself before hand.
Anyways, I'm kind of in love with this idea.
I'll leave you with a story about the Dalai Lama that I love (and found here):
A friend who I met through HE recently told me a story about a question the
How wonderful is that? And it explains it so perfectly! If we are busy giving, doing, rushing, achieving, connecting and all the other things we do in our modern, busy lives, then we must put at least as much back into ourselves.
What do you think? Does this Balance Formula make sense to you? Does it help you feel better about taking care of yourself so that you have more to give too?
I've been reflecting on this year and what meant the most to me - what accomplishments, what new habits, what fun times and treasured memories. Here's what I came up with.
Meditation: I started the practice of meditating. Before this year I had never tried meditation. I participated in three free 21-day meditations from the Chopra Center and LOVED them. I'm working now to keep up the practice, if not daily then at least several times per week.
I also started using affirmations and mantras with deep breathing regularly.
Hypnobabies: I taught 5 series and 17 couples this year.
Writing: I took an e-course from Jess Morrow of Invincible Summer, started writing my book, had my blog's first Blogiversary and celebrated by giving away 6 books!
Cooking and Food
Mike bought me a Vitamix for my birthday - I love to make green smoothies several times per week now.
I made Winter squash soup a couple of times when my mom gave me squash from their garden.
Gerry and I mastered Zucchini bread, making it almost every week for the last few months.
I made avocado fudgsicles over the summer and they were pretty yummy!
Foods Already in the Repetoire but still steadies in the rotation:
I had so much fun going through pictures from this whole year and making a few collages. I stayed up way too late, but it was worth it!
Adventures near and far
Loads of family time - two trips to Florida (February-March and December), Ohio in April, two visits to NY (June and July-August), and Thanksgiving in Minneapolis, as well as family visits to our home.
First family beach vacation in the Outer Banks - and first time inviting friends to join us.
First Family Nascar Race!
Hosted 3 Parties - Memorial Day Weekend/Treasure Hunt, Marisol's 6th Birthday, and a Holiday/Halloween party (Well 4 parties if you count last year New Year's eve!)
Time with Friends
Finally... some favorites, just because I'm having fun!
Whew! What a year. I'm pretty sure I wouldn't change a little thing, even if I could. It was so much fun to look back and see all that we did. Even more important is what can't be seen in pictures - how much we all grew and changed, and how we overcame challenges.
I'm feeling more Clear, Confident and most importantly, Comfortable than I ever have before. I began 2012 with the word Embrace as my guidepost for the year. Looking back I can see now how I did just that. Now I'm ready to dive into 2013!
I began the week with a heavy weight sitting in my chest. Like a dense, flat stone wrapped in achy despair, I could physically feel Depression getting comfortable inside of me, making breathing difficult, much less any other activity. You know the feeling - when you have zero motivation or desire to DO anything, and the voice in your head (the critic, censor, gremlin - whatever you call it) gets louder and harsher every minute - especially because you didn't *do* anything all day (more accurately, you feel like you didn't do anything even if you did a lot). "You are a terrible mother", "Every choice you've ever made is questionable..." and let's not forget, "What's your problem - your life is amazing and you have nothing to complain about!" and on and on and on...
What triggered this emotional despair? Why did I have this unwelcome guest living inside of me?
The house felt small, confining... and very messy. Of course I had my period (again?? really? didn't I just have it last month?!) - so maybe it was hormones? My parents visited the prior week - a very, very fun day, but also too, too short - was it the normal sadness I almost always feel after seeing them? Of course the house was a disaster. The weather was cool and gray, so maybe it was a seasonal thing. Or was it the less than supportive exchange between me and my husband the other night? The sadness I felt soon amplified by my own thoughts, even after he apologized. And - did I mention my house was (I mean is! it's kind of it's normal state) a MESS?!
But I decided it mattered little why I was feeling this way. And being no stranger to the feeling, I took matters in to my own hands the best I could. Monday night I was slouched low on the couch surrounded by chaos, toys littering the floor, and no dinner to be found when Mike got home from work (this is often the case when he gets home, it was only my *internal* environment that had changed). I could not think of one thing that I wanted to do even though I knew there were plenty of things I "should" do. I looked up at him and said, "I'm going on a jog." He didn't argue, only asked, "Can we come too?" And so we all went on a family jog/bike ride, bike trailer and sneakers ready to go in a few minutes.
I don't know why I was so inspired (as exercise is still not even a weekly habit yet, much less a daily one), only that I was thinking of the runner's high I've gotten before and how amazing that feels. And I thought afterwards I will be motivated to do other things. And it was just as I expected! After that short jog and some fresh air I returned home re-energized and ready to tackle the dishes in the sink.
Depression wasn't quite ready to give up so quickly though, and Tuesday morning the dull, heavy ache returned, as did the dark thoughts of how my life could be better if only this or that were true. (Oh and did I mention that my dear son stayed up till after 1 am the "night" before?) Again that evening we laced up our sneakers and temporarily I shook the big "D" off my trail. That night I reflected on the last time he wasn't so easily shaken and stayed for several months. I remembered how I finally got him to take a long hike - it was a good conversation with my husband. I made a mental "note-to-self".
Wednesday, Thursday and Friday brought beautiful fall weather, time with good friends, and a new, inspiring book. I'm feeling like I may have evicted Depression from his comfortable bed in my chest so I distilled my experience from this week into a list: 10 Things to Do When Depression Tries to Settle in For a Stay:
Take Care of Your Basic Needs:
1) Move! Exercise is always important, but never so much as when you are feeling down. The natural feel-good hormones released and rush of adrenaline you get are enough to expel bad feelings for at least a little while. Lethargy is "no more", and you often have enough pep afterwards to tackle a few other things you didn't even want to look at before. And even if you don't want to do "other things" you can feel good, because, hey - you exercised!
2) Rest - This is really important if you haven't had enough sleep. Make time to rest. Of course this does NOT mean lie around on the couch watching soaps or in bed under the covers all day. It means if you are drained to take care of yourself and not run yourself further into the ground.
3) Eat well - take the time to prepare healthy foods for yourself even when you don't feel like it. The act of cooking alone helped make me feel more accomplished this week.
Beyond the Basics
4) Don't think - This is especially true if you are tired - and often sleep evades us when we are depressed. Tired thinking is NEVER helpful (and I NEVER use the word NEVER!) Our thoughts often become cyclical and more negative with time when we are down so we spiral farther and farther down into sadness. Best to just recognize we are tired, sad, or whatever else and that now is NOT THE TIME TO BE THINKING!
5) Breathe, Meditate and Mantras - this is especially helpful if you are having a difficult time with numbers 2 or 4. Deep breathing is very relaxing for our whole selves. Meditating is a powerful way to rest your mind, body, and spirit and get to a calmer, lighter place. Another way to evade those negative self-defeating thoughts is to have a few handy mantras to repeat with your inhale and exhale - "Breathe in Peace, Breathe out Love", "Rest my mind, calm my heart", and "Be here, Be now" are a few of my current favorites. And of course don't forget Affirmations! If you're having a hard time stopping the flow of thoughts at least you can redirect your mind with some kind, loving thoughts towards yourself.
6) Vent - Let those closest to you know how you are feeling. Get the feelings OUT of you. Of course you don't want to constantly be talking about your woes either, but it doesn't do you good to bottle them up. Find a couple (or in my case a few more than that!) of trusted loved ones who you know will listen and honor you.
7) Connect - similar to number 6 yet different. If you're a parent with young kids - plan a play date with friends that you all love and feel comfortable with. Call your mom or best friend. We are SOCIAL beings and being alone with dark thoughts and feelings only exacerbates loneliness. Of course when we are feeling depressed it is often the hardest time to reach out - and this is why it is imperative that we do.
8) Get out! Get outside or at least out of your house. If the weather is nice go for a walk. If you have kids get to the playground. Fresh air and a change in scene is so crucial to the health of our spirit.
9) Listen to music - For someone who was pretty heavily involved in music in the past I've really gotten away from it since having children. But this past year I've begun to have music be more a part of my daily life again and it is such a powerful mood-booster. I love me some Pandora!
10) Plan a party! I'm not kidding. Tuesday Marisol started planning a party, and all I could think was, "Really?! I do NOT want to plan a party right now." But by Wednesday I had embraced the idea and we are in full on preparations now. There is literally no time for me to wallow because I have to get ready! If not a party, plan something in the near future that you have to work on.
Usually when we are feeling sad, lonely, or depressed we don't "feel" like doing many or any of these things. Sometimes we just have to make ourselves pick one and just go for it. I know for me it made a huge difference to try all of these things this week.
What things do you do to turn things around when you are feeling blue?
I made this Venn Diagram a while ago to remind me of the ways I can take care of my body, mind, and spirit. Then this past weekend we were doing various things around the house and another analogy popped into my head.
I've been aware for some time now that I need to get back to exercising my body regularly. I've just not gotten into a regular habit since Marisol was born 6+ years ago. Luckily for me my lifestyle is such that I stay fairly active and I'm also continuously expanding my healthy diet options, so it's not that I'm in TERRIBLE shape exactly. It's just that I've not made it a priority and I'm really starting to crave that now.
So we were doing a couple of things upstairs where our bedrooms and one bathroom are and I thought (not for the first time!) how it was the most neglected level of our three-level home. I really don't want to describe to you the state of affairs upstairs, but let's just say it is far from clean or neat. Dusty, clothes often everywhere, Marisol's many babies piled here and there... and the bathroom! Let's just not go there. Yet the rooms are used every day for very important things - namely sleep, potty, and hygiene. So I thought, jeez, that's just like my poor, neglected body. My body is also used every day for very important things yet not getting the love it truly deserves!
Now the main living level of our home which includes the kitchen and attached craft area, dining area/computer desk, and living room - well, let's just say we "keep up". The kitchen of course needs to be relatively clean just to use it every day. This "mid-level" is comparable to how I keep up with my spirit. I mean it's pretty darn important to tend to your spirit regularly, right? I definitely have room for improvement both in the mid-level of my home and in tending to my spirit. Ironically, the biggest thing I do once a week on this floor of our house is make sure that there is a safe path for my students to walk to the stairs to the basement.
Ahh, the basement. This is my teaching space. Every week it gets cleaned up really well (by my standards anyway). The bathroom is the cleanest bathroom that I've ever personally taken care of. The toys must be put away and the rug vacuumed every week (especially for my students with cat allergies!) And this of course is analogous to my mind. I'm constantly feeding and exercising my mind - primarily with reading, but also with having conversations with friends and loved ones, and now I've added writing regularly to my mind's "workout". I've got this one COVERED! In fact, I'm realizing that I'm a little too good at exercising my mind and not so good at resting it which would be better for my spirit and body. I find this analogy ironic but appropriate because 1) the basement is the best taken care of space in our house (this doesn't seem normal) 2) my analogy is a little backwards with the bottom of the house being compared to my mind - which I think of as being housed in the attic of my body and 3) Teaching is a very "mind" centered activity - although it does serve my spirit as well.
There you have it - how I the levels of our home are similar to how I take care of my mind, body and spirit.
In the middle of my Venn Diagram I spelled out the word balance (it fits perfectly!) because I believe if I'm feeding my body, mind, and spirit I will find the best balance for myself. (I'm beginning to think that "Balance" is my word for this year, not "Embrace"... but oh well, they're both good!)
The "e" in the center symbolizes emotions to me. When we are balanced we will experience peace, happiness, joy, acceptance, love and many others. So I am more and more getting to a place where I realize I need to feed, use, and rest all parts of myself. The saying below is becoming a new mantra for me and is really helpful when I'm falling asleep, "Rest your mind... Calm your heart". Ahhh, it just feels peaceful and I can let go of all of the busy thoughts of the day.
How about you, is there are specific "part" of you that you particularly take good care of or neglect? What could you change to feel more balanced?
"peace" I whisper. Peace, I smile. I breathe PEACE in when I feel myself losing my balance.
I look around me. People hurting - parents, children, adults and teens - and I say a little more loudly, "Peace!"
Be kind to each other AND yourself.
Respect others AND yourself.
Love others AND yourself.
Forgive others AND yourself.
Know others AND yourself.
PEACE. I proclaim it loud.
If what you're doing or saying hurts someone else, if it creates separation between you, or if it causes you to harden your heart - then it's not the way.
Others don't want to hear it. And I'm confused. How is kindness controversial? Why is love radical? When did respect become something to be earned?
My own internal peace begins to falter. So I breathe. Breathe in peace... Breathe out love.
I remember my own ROAR.
We are all one... we all desire the same basic things, we are just on different paths.
Breathe in... Peace. The fierce, menacing ROAR of the "Peace Nazi" settles down to a gentle, content purr.
It is ok to disagree. It. Is. Ok.
I don't have to be right for everyone.
I am right for me.
And with that Peace, I can spread more to the world.
This post was inspired by the Wild Sister website and the September issue of the Wild Sister e-magazine. It was so worth the money - filled with amazing women, their inspiring messages, and how they are each changing the world for the better in their own way. Check it out!
So the synchronicity continues. Through a new friend on Facebook I was led to another awesome new blog. The first post I stumbled onto is here. It spoke to me deeply. This woman has a way with words and I felt like she was writing about me (I guess really great writers do that!) Also she used the word "synchronicities" in the second paragraph.
So I explored Jess Morrow's Invincible Summer some more and found this post that includes an awesome give-away. I just found this last night and the deadline is tomorrow. We are out of town - in Ohio to celebrate a cousin's graduation. But this idea grabbed me so here I am trying to fit in a blog-post on the road.
The give away is for a spot in her summer e-course and the instructions were to:
1. Rearrange something/create some space. (Think creatively: is this physical space or mental? Or something else?)
2. Try something new.
Since I stumbled onto this late and the week is almost up I had to take some creative license (isn't that something a writer would do??) with the directions and think about things that I have been doing recently. I can't help thinking that it was meant to be for me to find Jess's give away - I am so excited when I read her description of her e-course.
My new space is definitely this blog/website. This is very new for me - writing, writing consistently, and really, REALLY enjoying it. I actually have that urgent feeling that I have heard other writers talk about - like I *have to* write (or what? I guess my brain might explode!). It is evolving in ways that I could never have guessed when I began last fall. It is both a physical and a mental space. It began because I finally felt ready to share my voice, and as I have begun to share I am discovering more - about myself, and the world, and the world that we can create if we believe enough to follow through. I have a big dream of writing a book and it actually doesn't seem that far-fetched. Beyond that I am not sure. But I feel something tugging at me and Jess's direction would be an amazing place to begin answering my heart-tug.
Besides this blog I have been exploring a lot of new territory mentally and spiritually. I started meditating during Lent and it is now an almost-daily habit. I don't have words to describe how meditating is transforming my life - the way it is grounding me and helping me live out my ideals in my every day life - I hope that Jess can help me begin to tap into powerful, beautiful words that can describe this experience. And of course affirmations. Another very new practice for me that is proving to be life changing.
I am reading books (Louise Hay, Deepok Chopra) that are inspiring me to take my life to another level. I am comforted by their wisdom (Louise mentions both that people these days want things NOW, and that truly good things take time. She also didn't really know where she was "going" when she started out, but she trusted and kept taking steps - and now look at her!) and I'm inspired by their consistently positive attitudes.
I have also reached out to two authors and one has responded. She is willing to speak to me on the phone! I am looking forward to my first "interview" and writing it up later this Spring.
Jess's course appeals to me for many reasons. The first is finding my voice. I think that is a huge part of Why I'm writing here and I know I'm getting there, but I think I'll get there quicker with help. Also the Manifesto that I linked earlier speaks so much to my heart - saying what others may be afraid to (like here), dreaming big (like having Mayim Bialik write the forward to my book!), and just following my heart so I make sure to soak up all the beauty in this life meant for me.
I guess that covers it. I am creating space. I am doing new things. And I'm ready for the next new thing.
Insecurity and Inspiration
Sunday morning I felt anxious, nauseous and panicky, and I was having a hard time focusing on anything. One thing good about nervous energy is using it to do stuff - like dishes, laundry etc. But it isn't so great for being present OR joyful, as your mind races around in circles. I revisited my post from Friday and thought about my timing - I chose Good Friday and Easter weekend to reveal that I can't think of my children or myself as sinners anymore. Good Friday - the day Jesus died for our sins. Oh the irony. I really didn't plan it that way it all - it just happened. So I definitely felt more than a little bit hypocritical today as my kiddos looked for their Easter baskets and indulged in chocolate. I felt like I had jumped out of a plane. I thought that my parachute was in good working order, but today I was feeling the need for my backup. It is so easy to get paranoid after you lay your soul out for people to see. Especially when you get very little feedback. Our minds quickly jump to what we "know" others must be thinking about us. This is what I was doing.
So, what helped me re-center myself was a few things. First lying down with Gerry during his nap and putting a guided meditation on. That helped a lot, my mind relaxed and I woke up rested. Then the rest of the day I spent with my kids and husband, mostly outside. It was wonderful. And just like that I am back in a better space and all the things I was telling my panicked self this morning, I can see are true. (Namely, I can only be true to myself and control my actions/reactions. I cannot control how other people react, nor can I "know" what other people are thinking. As of yet I still don't have any supernatural ESP powers, or anything like that.)
So, I need to talk more about insecurity and inspiration. I'm going to level with you all. I think that this space will be more inspiring for me and readers if it is more interactive. Even though I have not been getting a lot of comments, I know there are people reading. No, once again I'm not psychic - Let me show you how I know:
Pretty cool, huh? I really like weebly! If you want to start a blog yourself, I think it's a pretty good way to go. Anyways, part of me wonders if my friends are just too nice to comment. They *may* be thinking, "Wow, Susan has *really* lost her marbles! But you know, she is nice and I don't want to hurt her feelings so I'll just read and not comment." Or maybe most of what I'm posting is just really not that interesting or thought provoking to people, in which case I don't blame you. If I'm not stirring anything in you I don't expect a comment. And part of me also wonders if I really am ready or want comments - I mean do I have tough enough skin? Ideally, even if you don't agree with me you could post a comment in a respectful manner and we could actually have some interesting (possibly inspiring!) dialog. I remember way back when I started my first blog my good friend Kimmy (are you reading right now??) told me that it was a faux pas for people to read and NOT comment. I now realize that really most people don't ever comment - I know that I read blogs way more than I comment.
Anyways, readers I know that you are out there! I would love to write more about what you are interested in and maybe get more interaction. But either way I'm still feeling good about writing. It's fun. I've been thinking about inspiration and how to keep it going lately. I've realized that inspiration and most things in life are just like exercising our bodies. We have to actively do things to keep inspiration flowing. Just like I can't expect to show up at a 10K race and run if I haven't been working out, I can't expect my creativity to just turn on if I haven't been using it. One practice that helps me is to read other inspiring, thought-provoking writers. I'm also finding a better balance in my life and tuning into things that I need to feel good. I have a new idea that there are 3 things right now that really feed me - writing, meditation, and exercise. I feel like if I can do at least 2 of these every day and regularly do all 3 I am taking care of myself mentally, physically, and spiritually. (I haven't really gotten on the exercise part yet, but I will get there, I know it!) It's quite amazing to me how since I've been writing and meditating how much more present I've been with my family and just so... happy. I don't feel like I'm constantly fighting what my needs are versus my kids' needs.
But every once in a while, I feel like - oh man, maybe I'm going to run out of things to write about. But usually when I feel like that it is because I'm needing something else - namely food or rest. Once things get back in balance, the ideas and inspiration flow again. So I think to keep inspiration flowing one needs to taking care of oneself, actively seek inspiration, and also take time away - to get out into the world and most importantly, be with the people who matter most to you.
It hasn't escaped my attention either that the most feedback I've gotten has been about pictures and periods (oh and being a feedback junkie, ha!) I do feel a bit like I'm getting lost in a lot of philosophical ramblings and that maybe it would be good to mix it up with some more actual experiences I've had. So far I've kind of been writing about whatever is on my mind at the time, because that is the easiest (especially when your baby doesn't go to sleep till midnight!) But I have quite a few ideas and even some posts started. Things that I definitely will touch on sometimes in the future: any and all things (attachment) parenting - from sleeping and breastfeeding, to food and poop (ah, who doesn't want to read about that!), natural birth, more on unschooling and what I see happening every day with my kids, what does "balance" mean to me, and how the heck did I get here...
So peeps, if you are curious about any of the above or anything else I have written about in the past, let me know and I will write about it sooner rather than later! (This is as close as I'm going to get to begging for comments... at least I know I'm in good company, I've read plenty of bloggers having similar sentiments!) Otherwise, I will just continue to obsess over my graph and write whatever fancies me at the moment. I hope you get your inspiration flow on this week! You deserve it ;-)
“The curious paradox is that when I accept myself just as I am,
Wife, mom, information and peace seeker.