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For a mom who never really stayed home during the day (I worked full time corporate then ran our family retail business), my ME time went away almost entirely when my first child was born, and disappeared completely when the other two came about. There simply wasn’t any! Every minute was filled with caring, working, producing, assisting, and with great pleasure. I knew that was what I chose and that was my life now. I did not know that one day I would miss ME and no longer recognize ME inside this stressed, busy, not present, aging woman that I have become. And that finding ME again would be an option once I recognized that ME was gone, or hiding for that matter. To discover ME again, I started a morning routine. I know, I know, you already don’t get enough rest, you are not a morning person, you have too much to do in the morning, you need to give that time to your kids, you significant other, your pets, your hair, your job, the gym…but really, do this for you. I started getting up one hour earlier than usual. Make it 5:30, sometimes 6 AM. My daughter needs to be up between 6:30-7AM for middle school so I based my time off her schedule. Was it hard? Yes, it was, especially in the winter when I started this, and the darkness outside made it seem like I was getting up in the middle of the night. But I did it and I am so, so grateful for that choice. The very first part of my routine is Meditation. After listening to many different choices available, I have settled on one that Maria Popova recommended in one of her interviews, Tara Brach, a wonderful soothing spiritual teacher, who provides mutliple wonderful guided meditations on her website http://www.tarabrach.com/audioarchives-guided-meditations.html. She always invites you to smile from the inside of your mouth and to continue your silence with a smile, which feels really amazing and fills your entire being with light and joy. I have to admit sometimes I feel sleepy and sort of doze off during this, but forcing myself to sit upright and straighten my spine usually helps matters. Tara Brach has meditations from 10 to over 40 minutes so you can pick whatever your heart desires. Of course, there are many other great guided programs available on youtube. After meditation, I most often do my affirmations. These are very personal of course, but for me they have to do with self-esteem, independence, writing, and fearlessness. I believe your affirmations can be chosen based on your goals and also where you feel your weaknesses are in achieving them. I loved Lawrence Block’s book on writing, which was actually a writer’s seminar made into a book, and he has many wonderful affirmations that will suit anyone, not just writers or aspiring authors. Such as, “I am perfect the way I am right here, right now”, or “I now receive full assistance and cooperation from all forces and persons necessary for my success”. After affirmations, I do some sort of exercise, like a 10 min pilates video or a pop sugar fitness workout, or I just do some squats, leg lifts and arms raises with free weights. After that, I sit down and do my writing. It is usually either a blog post, an extra paragraph or two added to the novel I am working on, or perhaps a few pages of my upcoming non-fiction book. This is the time to do what you love, and if writing isn’t your thing, perhaps you can read or just keep a journal where you can set your goals for the day or the week. Then I go and make our morning coffee and let the day begin. I find that my days are now much smoother, I accomplish more, I worry less, and I feel more fulfilled and joyful as an individual. When I miss my morning routine for a day or two, I can clearly tell the difference and it isn’t a positive one.
What is perfection? We seek it as something unattainable, yet it is achieved simply in observing this moment. Perfection is not a state of being at the top of all creation and possibilities, but a condition which accepts things as they are.
Perfect is the whole moment of rising with the birds and seeing the moon, still there full and fiery, and feeling the body’s aches, and smiling at spring’s colors. Perfect is the whole moment of sadness and tears when our lover is gone and the place feels enormous and empty and so does the heart. And the droopy eyes of the grey wood on the walls of your dwelling watch sadly as you collapse on the floor trembling with pain.
Each instant is perfect because it is human nature, ebb and flow, ups and downs, all ever changing and impermanent, therefore not striving to achieve unattainable but simply happening, again and then again, putting together a movie we call life. Taking in whole breaths and observing the perfection of the moment is the teaching, simple when things are good, challenging when we suffer.
Look inside to see that suffering is perfection as much as other states of mind, Love yourself in every state that arises.
Random acts of kindness are a beautiful thing. They get shared widely and we rejoice in power of humanity.
Random however implies seldom, accidental, non-intentional, irregular, infrequent. It also implies certain egolessness as there is no expectation of any return. Though when I repeatedly added coins to someone’s expiring meter this past weekend, that happened to be right next to ours, I did hope deep down that I would get caught in the act and showered with gratitude. Not that I would ever reveal that…in public. Human.
Unrandom kindness, kindness that is constant and unassuming, that flows naturally and starts with a smile, a friendliness within, to our own thoughts, actions, bodies, inefficiencies, and expands out to others with soft eye contact, a smile to a stranger in traffic, sometimes silence when unkind words are dying to come out or unkind self critical thoughts flood the gates of our minds. Outcomes of kindness are more kindness and gratitude, because kindness is contagious. “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle”, Ian Maclaren
There is a bird throwing her body into our window repeatedly this spring, evidently she thinks her reflection is another bird and she attacks her in an effort to protect her territory. She is strong and tenacious, we worry she might hurt herself as she comes back to bang against our window day in and day out. Silly bird, we think, how can she not realize that it is her own mirror image that she is fighting against, how can she perform this violent act again and again at a risk of causing serious damage to her own body? And we, the great and the powerful humans, we think ourselves smart and intelligent, yet we throw ourselves mercilessly into the whirlwind of suffering, chasing the impossible reflections of what we think we ought to be. Just like this cardinal, we repeat the deed over and over, hurting ourselves in the process, demanding more of ourselves, not accepting things as they are, yearning for recognition, glory, fame, success, because we think it is the right thing to do. And nobody stops us to tell us to look deeply into that reflection, to recognize that it is your own self that you’re fighting against, to re-discover the self love that is buried behind all the ambition. I am grateful for this lesson.
When studying many buddhist texts, I tried thinking of self as river, as water, gracefully flowing through life, gentle and non-forceful, yet powerful in breaking down boundaries and obstacles; the river that accepts things as they are and just continues on flowing and moving. Water is soft but how persistent, with time dissolving the strongest of elements.
In my morning meditation today I listened to Tara Brach, who suggests thinking of life flowing through you, while you stay there and observe. So the self is not a river, but life is a river. It flows through the self, it is connected with the self, and it passes through the self. Perhaps I can think of self as a twig floating in the river and going with the flow of it.
Somehow being a river is more in line with what my ego wants. I am more in control, I am in charge, I flow through things and direct my flow and conquer. Having life be a river that flows though me leaves me groundless and out of control, just being there and accepting and coming to peace with the energy that presents itself. I love these morning revelations and I am wide open to receive more.
This is the path all too familiar to most of us: I have been eating badly, not exercising, now it is time to detox and lose weight. Usually this happens when the New Year is approaching, or your birthday, or you simply have had enough and are ready to change. Life is cyclical and we go through stages of feeling great, taking care of our bodies from inside and out, and then falling off the wagon and bingeing, not exercising, and consuming all things poisonous from medications to fast food to alcohol and tobacco. Our mental health is usually in tune with our physical health, so when we are on the unhealthful path, we do not feel well in our heads, do not feel confident and excited about life, our self-esteem is low, our self-criticism is high, our self-love is not evident, we can be depressed, not interested in the joys of life, unable to see the positive aspects, which oftentimes leads to addiction of all sorts, illegal or prescription drugs, alcohol, and unhealthy relationships.
An astonishing statistic from “Daring Greatly” by Brene Brown, according to CDC, states that for the first time in history, auto accidents are now the second leading cause of accidental death in the US, with the first being drug overdoses. “More people die from prescription drug overdoses than from heroin, cocaine, and methamphetamine drug use combined.” We are a nation of drug users, and we use the drugs as means to numb the pain of our reality, of feeling bad and unhappy.
And of course, when we hit the high notes in the opposite direction, exercising, consuming foods that are clean and nutritious, our feelings of self-worth and self-esteem spike up and the joy for life and ability to excel at everything we do is once again at its full potential. If we intentionally create space for positive practice in our lives, which follows with feeling wonderful and being able to see joy in little things, having healthy and productive relationships with others, surrounding oneself with non-judgmental people, and succeeding in all of life’s endeavors. And even if success is not apparent, when you feel good about yourself inside and not attach your whole self to your projects, any so-called “failure” cannot bring you down significantly, but serves as a lesson from which you “get up and try again”!
So, detoxifying one’s body and one’s mind go hand in hand together. There are many supplements on the natural foods market for detoxing or cleansing. Here are some of the ingredients to look for. Your detox kit should contain some sort of laxative and digestive “Sweep”with herbal ingredients like Senna, Cascara Sagrada, and the likes, as well as fibers like Psyllium husks/powders, Flax or Oats to help rid of toxins residing in your digestive system. Though Senna is too heavy duty for everyday use, it will stimulate colon detox when used for a short period of time and only once in a while. In my book, quality detox systems must also contain purifying supplements for liver, skin, blood, and kidneys, like Dandelion root, Burdock, Milk Thistle, Red Clover, and ayruvedic herbs such as Gymnema and Triphala. Your detox kit should have some immune boosters, such as Echinacea, Golden Root, Reishi mushroom, Astragalus and the likes. I also recommend some time proven adaptogenic herbs which help balance out the hormones and control the stress levels – ashwaganda, rhodiola, and holy basil are all helpful in balancing cortisol levels under stress.
Though detox systems are a great way to jump start that positive upswing and to feel regeneration from inside and out, they should be combined with cleansing daily practice of mindfulness meditation and some form of exercise, whatever works for you, and followed by consistently loving your body and feeding it with nutritious, healthy, clean foods in moderate portions.
Blessings to you and your family ~hfsg