Adulting

1029151915a_HDRToday was a new day.  If you read yesterday’s blog you know that I had a temporary meltdown.  I think that’s par for the course, that everyone has days like that.  I was tired, hungry, and spent the day trying to look busy.  So the follow-up of a dead battery and a car that wouldn’t start pushed me over the edge.  I’m pretty sure everyone has days like this every once in a while.

Today was a much different kind of day and it’s the reason I can tell that all of the hard work I’ve been doing over the years is working.  Rewind back just 7 years and this type of incident might have set off days or weeks of feeling down.  For me that usually looks just fine, maybe slightly frazzled or a little tired at work.  I would hold it in and put on a happy face for my professional colleagues and then I would drive straight home to crash.  I would watch tv, read a book, or just sleep.  I would definitely eat like crap and isolate myself.

Today it’s a different story.  This morning I knew that I was going to wake up feeling junky.  That’s expected after a day like yesterday.  Especially since I replayed the incident over and over in my head over night instead of getting a good night’s rest.  But, I’ve been here before, and I know what to expect.  So this morning my alarm went off and I angrily jumped out of bed to silence it.  I got straight into the shower, then turned on all of the lights, turned on some music and made coffee.  I took the time to sit in my sunroom to meditate this morning.  I listened to the crickets chirp, the jets flying over head and the birds.  I took the time to center myself for the day.

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When I got to work I wrote down my Core Desired Feelings.  If you’ve never heard of Danielle Laporte and her Core Desired Feelings, you’re missing out.  The very, very basic of it is to identify not what you want to do, but how you want to feel.  I put “supported, connected, joy, freedom.”  I took the time to seek out friendly faces, to smile and chat for a moment.  And as the morning went on I started to feel very good.  This afternoon I texted my friend to go for a walk around the track.  We did 2 miles, talked, and then did some random plyometric moves and had a good laugh about it.

When I got home I decided to take this thing all the way, so I made dinner on an actual plate (courtesy of my in-laws) and set the table for myself.  I ate looking out the window at my front yard and listened to the crickets chirp again.

This wasn’t easy.  It took a lot of work to continue to take actions to make myself feel better and dig myself out of the hole.  But it was worth it.  Tomorrow I know I’m going to wake up in a better mood and hopefully I can enjoy my weekend instead of curling up in my jammies.

Now that I’ve adulted all day I’m going to search for last night’s Criminal Minds episode, and hit the sack early.

A Bonfire

Today, when I got home from work, I had the pleasure of using my favorite feature of my new home.  Today was a long day.  I work in the school system again, and while I love it, and the school I’m in is fantastic with warm, inviting teachers, great administration and kids with great attitudes, I always feel like I am judged for any free time I take.  Those who work in the school system know how valuable free time is.  With less and less money going to the education system these days, teachers are asked to step up more and more with their expectations during the day.  Right now most teachers and school staff I know rarely get a minute alone.  They are teaching the kids, at recess with the kids, at lunch with the kids, handing most of the kids off to their parents, but then staying late for activities.  After that they plan for the next day.  Even though my graduate schooling and my license qualify me for much more complicated activities, one of the best things I can do for a teacher is to be in the lunchroom when they need to use the restroom.  Because this is precious time that they have to negotiate for.  As part of my job I can’t be alone with the kids or be responsible, but I can help another teacher watch 40 kids.  And give a hard working teacher 5 minutes of respite from her class.

So when I have 10 or more minutes of time in between my groups and I have a chance to sit down at my desk, there is this pervasive feeling of guilt that seeps in.  I can’t help it.  I know that I have every right to sit down and take a break.  Every human has that right.  The fact that teachers don’t get it is appalling.  So I get swept up into the momentum of everybody doing something all the time.  Nonstop, all day long.

This came up for me today because I was sitting at my desk, eating my lunch, and doing my encounter forms on my phone.  So I wasn’t even actually taking a break, I was still working.  And someone came into the room and I heard myself telling her that I wasn’t sitting here texting, haha, I was actually doing work.  What the hell?  I don’t have to explain myself to her.  I don’t have to make excuses to put my feet up.  In fact, every fiber of my being believes that mindfulness and meditation are important.  I’ve been completely abandoning that at work.

So, today, when I got home from work I did not go inside and get on the computer and continue the go, go, go mindset from school.  Instead I did something that always brings me back to the present.  I lit a fire.  Lol.  My husband and I collect all of the cardboard boxes when we get something shipped from amazon and we pile up all of the magazines that arrive at our house.  Today I took a huge box full of papers to the firepit in the backyard of my house, piled on some sticks and branches that have fallen around the yard recently and lit a big bonfire.  I stood there and watched the flames. When it started to die down I got a stick and poked at the magazines that always have just a little more fight in them, opening up the pages to start new little fires.  I poked it and prodded it and threw on some leaves and altogether left the school day behind me.  And it felt really, really good.  The primal heat and edge of danger that a huge fire brings keeps your concentration on the present moment and is a meditation like no other.

I am making a commitment today to figuring out how to be an example for the kids and the staff.  I am not sure how, but I need to stand true to my values.  I don’t need to be a busy bee, bouncing from activity to activity making busy work so that I’m not sitting still.  I believe in stillness and I am going to somehow pass that along.  It’s going to be a challenge, but screw it, I’m done with pretending.  So tomorrow I’m going to sit at my desk and do absolutely nothing.  And see what happens.

A Great Sullivan Bonfire
A Great Sullivan Bonfire

 

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Mindfulness- Listening to Music

Read my post here on why mindfulness is easier than meditation for the ED.  Today, we are going to discuss one of the easiest mindfulness practices you can do.  I call it listening to music.  What is this, you say?  I already listen to music, therefore I do not need to read this blog post.  Well, slow down there, chappie.  There is a difference between playing music in the background while you work and mindfully listening to music.

  • First, find yourself some good music, preferably instrumental, but a song with lyrics is acceptable.  I will not tell you what music is good because it is different for each person.  I will remind you that you are attempting to calm down and slow down your mind.  For me, that is classical music, yoga music, or other slower instrumental music.  If Punk Rock music is what relaxes you, I won’t argue.
  • Next, find a comfortable seat where you can listen to the music selection you have picked.  For this activity you are not multi-tasking.  Put the dishes down, you can wash them later.  If you can’t pump up the volume in your apartment because of your complainy neighbors, put in your headphones, but don’t blast out your eardrums.
  • Set your timer for 10-20 minutes and press play.  This is where the fun begins.  Close your eyes.  Now listen, really listen to the music selection.  Can you pick out different instruments?  Follow one of them.  Listen to the different chords.  If there are lyrics you can pick out different words that you hear and contemplate.  What does the artist mean by that?  What does it mean to you?  What feelings does this track bring up?  Sometimes you can visualize the music and that is fine, too.
  • Every time your brain takes you off into a story about something other than this present piece of music.  Refocus.  I like to acknowledge that I have been thinking about something else.  I say to myself, “thank you” or “thinking” and go back to the music selection.  Until your timer goes off, this is all you do.  Listen to the music.  Catch yourself wandering and go back to the music.  Do your best not to get angry or frustrated that your mind wanders.  Advanced yogis will have thoughts come to mind that distract them, so give yourself a break.  Just practice.  Go back to the music.


What is your favorite piece of music to listen to?  Did you try this technique?  Share your experience below!

Mindfulness Series Intro

big_thumb_0cc27ed9977aabb1d43d016c46c6d2b8At times my mind is like a race car.  Speeding up, slowing down around the curves, changing gears, changing lanes (maybe it’s less like a race car and more like road rage).  It can be very useful when I’m having great ideas, but it can be hard to keep on track at times.  Some might call it ADHD, or hyperactivity, or inattention, or daydreaming.  I call it ED for easily distracted because it comes without the stigma of the term ADHD and reminds me of the other ED (erectile dysfunction) and clearly I have the mental maturity of a 10 year old boy.

I heard all the hooplah about meditation and it’s health benefits and I wanted some of that, however, to get my mind to slow down was not an easy task at first.  What many people experience the first time they sit to meditate is absolutely terrifying.  Mentally you imagine yourself sitting down to “clear your mind” in the lotus position and waking up in a state of zenlike calm.  What really happens is that you find a quiet place to sit, close your eyes and… whoa.  The thoughts.  The first time you experience what buddhists call a waterfall of thoughts can really throw you for a loop.  The average person has 35 to 50 thoughts per minute.  If you have never before taken the time to notice this, it can be overwhelming to experience it for the first time.

Meditation can be scary, and uncomfortable, and well, boring. Now, years down the road I am able to sit for a 20 minute meditation of just “following the breath” or basically clearing my mind.  Somebody in a meditation class I was taking the other day asked the teacher how much and how often we should be meditating daily.  Her answer was 20 to 60 minutes once or twice daily.  What!?!?  I love this stuff and I can just make 20 minutes.  The thought of a 60 minute meditation is overwhelming and mind-boggling.

And I’ve learned, if it scares me, there’s other people out there with the same experience.  I have learned that sometimes what works for me is not going to look like the meditation of a zen monk.  In fact, most of the time, you wouldn’t have a clue that I’m meditating.  Instead of sitting in silence clearing my mind, I use a practice called “mindfulness.”  Mindfulness, like meditation is great for slowing down your mind, but where meditation tends to suggest clearing your mind, mindfulness is a very focused attention.  You are intentionally filling your mind with something.  This is way easier for me than sitting quietly and I think if you give it a try, you will find that it is easier for you, too.

In this series I will offer several different mindfulness techniques that will help you clear your mind, help you reap the stress-relieving benefits of meditation, and won’t drive you insane.

 

  1. Listening to Music
  2. Eat a Raisin
  3. Guided Meditation- Coming Soon!
  4. The Marquee- Coming Soon!
  5. Chanting- Coming Soon!
  6. Mantras- Coming Soon!
  7. Walking- Coming Soon!
  8. The Haiku- Coming Soon!
  9. Coloring- Coming Soon!

 

 

Puppy Dog Brain- A Technique to Help You Get to Sleep

Have you ever noticed that as soon as you sit or lay down to relax, to take a nap, to go to sleep, or to meditate, that all of a sudden your brain comes up with a thousand things that you need to know about RIGHT NOW.  All of a sudden you need to evaluate that conversation that you had with your client play by play.  Or you need to review every ingredient that you plan on putting in your salad later.  Or you need to plan that document that you need to write tomorrow.

Ihelpwiththelaces.JPG.w300h225As soon as you try to relax and clear your mind, your brain has other plans.  How do you deal with this, other than to be annoyed and angry that you can’t fall asleep or relax?

Well, I like to think of my brain like an adorable puppy dog.  All day long it is busy with the work that I am doing.  It is occupied and therefore you don’t really notice it.  I imagine that it’s got an interesting toy, or maybe it’s found a wonderful patch of smelly grass to roll around in.  It is active and busy.

hqdefaultUnlike you, a puppy dog is not tired out by all of this activity.  You and your body are tired, but the puppy dog wants to continue to play.  (If you’ve ever owned a puppy dog, you will know this is true.  They are never tired.)  So when you put your head down to close your eyes and shut your brain down for a minute, it will oblige for a moment, but then, like an adorable puppy dog, it will find something interesting that you should see.  A dirty shoe, a sock, some underwear, a toilet paper roll, take away it’s usual activity and it will find anything and everything to bring you.  Every time you tell it to go away and drop that piece of trash it will come back with something new.  Oh, that work task you have due tomorrow isn’t interesting?  What about that argument you had with your mom 10 years ago?  That weird guy you saw on the corner the other day?  The table in your living room that is still a mess from Christmas?  Your stomach is bothering you?  Stephen Colbert is no longer your news source?  Or how about cookies?  Would you like to think about cookies?  Your puppy dog brain will go away for a moment and come back with some more interesting news.The reason I like to think of it as a puppy dog (you can picture it as a kitty or an adorable little child) is that it is much easier to forgive a puppy dog and move on.  If I blame my wandering thoughts on my stupid brain that won’t let me relax and is annoying me, I continue to fall deeper into a black hole of NOT-RELAXED.  If I think of it like an adorable puppy dog I can do something different.

Chocolate Labrador pup, Inca, in play-bow at Netherland-cross rabbit, PeterTo some of you this might seem a little strange, but it is totally effective, so even if you think I’m weird, if you find yourself not able to fall asleep some night, willing to try anything, give this a go.  Once I find myself falling into the black hole of anger, frustration and NOT-RELAXED, I think the words, “I am having trouble falling asleep (or meditating).” Slowly form the words in your brain and focus on them for a second.  Then, I picture this adorable puppy dog, often a chocolate lab in my mind, I picture it bounding over with another thought.  How cute!  You can’t be angry about that, he just wants to play!  So I mentally give it a pat on the head, say “Thank you” and focus on my breath.  I mentally say the words “Breathe in” and “Breathe out” as I breathe.  When another thought comes up (and it will) I pat the doggy on the head and thank him again.  Over and over until I am focused on this adorable puppy dog and my breathing instead of all that other crap.  The more time you spend creating a mental picture of this adorable puppy with his long floppy ears and long tongue and shiny fur, the less time you spend worrying about tomorrow.  Before you know it, it will be tomorrow morning.

What do you think?  Do you have a similar technique that you use?  What tricks do you have to help fall asleep at night?

 

6 Beginner’s Meditation Tips for ED (Easily Distracted) Folks

If you have ADHD, anxiety, depression or are just easily distracted, then you are familiar with having your thoughts run out of control.  The worries, the shame, the guilt, the fear, can make continuous loops in your mid.  Meditation is a fabulous way to give your mind a rest and to ease your worries for a bit.  With practice, you will find it easier and easier to relax into the zone.  But how are you supposed to meditate when your mind is moving a million miles a minute?

The answer is, it takes practice.  The first time it might not click.  Your mind is like a muscle and meditation is the exercise to strengthen it.  Just like your biceps, if you haven’t used them in a while, you’ll have to do some very simple, very light exercises to get started.  Once you’ve done a couple of sets of light reps a day, you’re ready to add more weight.  With meditation, start with what you are able to.  5 minutes, 10 minutes, 1 minute.  Whatever you are capable of.  Once you’ve practiced for a while, you can increase your time.

Here are 6 more tips for the beginning meditator to help you get started.

1. Sit in a chair with a back.  Googling the word meditation will bring you hundreds of images of yogis sitting criss-cross, in the lotus position, with straight back and hands resting on their legs.  Although this may be one of your goals long-term, if you are just starting out you will want to sit in a chair with a back.  Sitting criss-cross when you are still new gives you one more thing to worry about.  You will be distracted by your feet, legs, and posture.

2. Take the time to get comfortable before you start.  Wear comfortable clothing, unbutton tight pants, loosen your tie.  If your socks have a seam that touch your pinky toe take them off before you start.

3. Uncross everything.  It’s not something that you’ll notice right at first, but as your meditation goes on, your crossed arms, ankles or legs will begin to annoy you.

4. Hold something with a pleasant texture.  Mala beads, prayer beads, rosary beads, a smooth rock.  When your mind begins to wander off a physical object to rub or fiddle with can bring your mind back to the present.

5. Find relaxing music with no words.  There are countless stations on pandora, songza, or itunes podcasts that you can tune into.  The music will keep you from being distracted by talking or noises around you.

6. If you have an itch, itch it.  If you are uncomfortable, move.  There is no rule that says that you are not allowed to move your body when you meditate.  If your leg is falling asleep, stretch it out in front of you.  If a strand of hair has somehow crept into your eye, ear or nose, go ahead and remove it.  If you don’t, if you are anything like me, you will spend the rest of your meditation thinking about how annoying that itch is.  Fix the discomfort and go back to your meditation.

Join me on Tuesdays at Kailua Beach Park for some fun beginner’s meditation practice with friends!  We meet in the large field across the driveway from the kite surfing area of the beach.  Give a call if you can’t find us.  There is a suggested 10 dollar payment, but come whether you have it or not, no one is turned away.

Mary Preston, LMFT

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Do what you love for money.

valentine heart shape made by dollars isolatedThis evening I am running my very first Meditation for the Easily Distracted class.  This is super exciting for me, because like most of us, I have had always had this vision in my head that work has to somehow be work.  It has to be difficult and unpleasant and you have to be able to complain about Mondays and be excited about Hump Day and celebrate Aloha Fridays as a huge relief that you can escape work for 48 hours.  For the last couple of years I have been practicing what I preach, getting closer and closer to a job that I actually love.  And I’m close.  I love Life Coaching.  That, to me, is heaven.  Why then do I have a 40 hour a week side job working for the government?  It’s a counseling job, I love working with the children, I love working with the staff, and I enjoy the freedom of the job.  But I work for the man.  Truthfully, the only problem I have with this job at all is that they tell me when I’m supposed to be there and give me guidelines on what I am supposed to be doing.  Ew.  I don’t like people telling me what to do.

What does this have to do with my Meditation Course you might ask?  Well, I freaking love meditating and reading about meditation and mindfulness.  It’s something I love to do in my free time.  So the question is, why did it take so long for me to put a course together about something I love?  The answer, as it is to most questions about hesitation, is fear.

Ask yourself, how would you feel about getting paid to do something you love?  How would you feel about asking people to give you money to do or teach the thing you do for fun in your free time?  It feels weird, right?  There’s this thought that if this is something I am doing for fun, I should have to pay money for it.  And if someone wants to do it with me, that it should be free.  But why?  What if the thing you love is running?  And you know people who want to get into running shape.  What if you started a weekly gathering of people who run together that you are in charge of?  I can hear the thousands of protests that your brain is coming up with right now.  I’m not trained, I’m not a teacher, I only do it for fun.  This is just an example, but as a culture we have, for some reason, divided our lives into “work” and “fun.”  There are the horrible, nasty things we do for work and the freeing, lovely, energizing things we do for fun.

Ask yourself, what if you started to blur those lines?  What if you started to look for work that is fun?  What if you took a minute to dream about getting paid to do the thing you do in your free time?  Do you hike, do you garden, do you drink, do you create excel spreadsheets?  There is somebody else in this world that could use what you know.  In fact, there are people in this world who need you.

Today, take a few minutes to picture yourself doing the thing you look forward to doing when your job is done for the day.  The thing you daydream about during your breaks.  And then picture yourself doing that as a full-time job.  Your brain will protest.  For just today, ignore everything it says about it.  Today, it is okay to imagine that you could make a living lying on the beach in paradise reading steamy novels.

 

What comes up for you, what are the arguments that your brain makes when you think about getting paid to do what you love?  Share below!

 

Meditation Tools- Mala Beads

Mala Beads” is the term people use for a length of 18, 27, 54 or 108 strung beads, used to keep count when reciting, chanting, or mentally repeating a mantra. Traditionally, malas are made with 108 beads.

How to use Mala Beads

Mala beads are simple and easy to use. Before your meditation you decide on a mantra or chant to repeat. You can also make a decision just to take a deep breath for each bead. Get comfortable in your meditation pose with your fingers placed on the Guru bead (the larger bead at the center of the string). You start by chanting once and then gently moving on to the next bead. For every chant you move down one bead until you get all the way around. Once you reach the Guru bead, you may be done, or you may decide to continue on. If you decide to continue, do not skip past the Guru bead, instead, you turn the string around and return the way you came.

Why 108 beads?

Well, I have no simple answer.  I thought in the beginning that it allowed you some room for mistakes if you were doing 100 mantras.  That way, if you accidentally skipped a few beads, then 8 extra would make up for it.  Turns out there are tons of possible answers.  This page has a list of them, from there being 108 earthly desires in mortals, 108 human delusions, 108 lies that humans tell, to the explanation that the human soul or center goes through 108 stages on the journey.

What are they made from?

Mala Beads traditionally were made from Rudraksha beads, lotus seed beads, yak bone, Bodhi seeds, or wood. Healing malas are made from gemstones, which have different energies, properties, and colors. Many malas are made from black onyx, turquoise, rose quartz, or jade. I tend to look at Mala Beads as a tool. When choosing Mala Beads, you can go the traditional route, you could buy a string of beads based on what your goal of meditation is (healing or relaxation) or you could simply look around and choose something that speaks to you. I have personally used a Sandalwood Mala that appealed to me because of the fragrance of the wood and I currently use a Rudraksha mala that I love for it’s bumpy surface.

original

I have made Mala Beads from traditional materials, but I believe that they are a tool and should help you get centered, track your mantras and keep you focused on the present. So I have also used non-traditional beads to make a mala, including skull beads, crystals and zebra striped beads. I have found that that the whimsy of these malas make me smile and to not take life so seriously.

Do you use Mala Beads?  What are yours made from?  Do you chant, or repeat

mantras?  

Links:

Why 108?

Gemstones and their meanings

My handmade Skull Mala Beads– these are particularly amazing, and, what’s that? They’re for sale! Get ’em now, there’s only one in stock right now!

Some Tips To Help You Get Back To Sleep

Wonder Woman!!
Wonder Woman!!

It happened again last night.  I was sleeping, dreaming about our Superhero Workout.  I had these fantastic ideas about how I was going to build our superhero costumes.  I fell asleep and made a Wonder Woman Headband and woke up.  Then I fell asleep and made capes out of the fabric I already have.  Then I fell asleep again and made gloves out of socks that I would buy at Macy’s.  Then I fell asleep again and added to the gloves some underwear that I would buy at Macy’s and wear over my leggings so I would have a superman-ish costume.  And I’d buy t-shirts that match the underwear and it would make the costume even better.  And then I woke up.  And fell asleep again and made some more Wonder Woman Headbands and this time some arm cuffs that I would spray paint gold with the gold spraypaint that I just happen to own.  Every time I woke up I realized that it was still night time and I hadn’t actually made the costume.  I’d fall back asleep and in the dream I put my plan into action.  And then again.  And then again.  I kept waking up, and having the same dream over and over and over.  Although it wasn’t a nightmare, it didn’t feel good because I would wake up and realize that I hadn’t put the plan into action in real life.  So I’d fall back asleep and my brain would remind me that I had this great idea.

In Real Life

We’ve all had it happen.  We fall asleep at night only to have a dream about work or our personal life.  Something we were supposed to do that we didn’t, or something that we should do tomorrow.  An idea you have about how you could do something better.  Then we wake up only to fall asleep and have the same dream over and over again.  It seems so realistic, our brains on overdrive trying to do something important.  What to do in these situations?

You have a couple of solutions.

1. Label it-  The first thing I usually do is to wake myself up completely and identify the situation.  My brain is just trying to remind me that I have a great idea and I should remember it tomorrow.  So, I don’t say it out loud, because my husband might wonder about my sanity, but to myself I say something like, “This is a dream about how I can improve my counseling sessions.  I don’t want to forget to have the client fill out paperwork.” Then I close my eyes, take a few deep breaths and focus on the sounds that I can hear.  As I concentrate on the sounds I allow myself to fall back asleep.  Sometimes this is enough and the endless cycle of dreams will stop and I will sleep until the morning.  Sometimes however, this isn’t enough.

2. Complete the Dream and Move On- The next thing I will do if the above hasn’t worked is to intentionally go into the dream and follow it through to completion.  One of the problems with this work dream is that it never seems to end.  So, I’ll relax again, take a few deep breaths, listen to the sounds around me and start to drift back into the dream.  If you’ve never done this before, it’s worth practicing, it helps a lot when you have bad dreams.  When you are half-asleep, you go back to your last dream and think to yourself, how do you want this to end?  If it’s the work dream, you can simply follow through.  I give the paperwork to the client, the client fills it out, the session goes fabulously, the client is so happy with our session, they leave and I go celebrate.  To get yourself out of the old dream, you have to continue it until you move past it.  So for me to get out of this counseling session cycle, I have to move past the session to the next thing.  For me this could be a celebration at a restaurant or dinner at home with my husband.  The trick being to get your mind moved from the old cycling thought to something new.  Hopefully your brain will catch on and take it from there.  With a scary dream you take control and defeat whatever it is that is scaring you.  If your feet feel stuck like you are in molasses and you can’t run, you take charge of the dream and either make yourself run- or put yourself in a car or a boat.  Or turn around and face the scary thing and fight it and win.  And then continue the dream past the battle to something new.

3. Get out of bed- If the above options still haven’t worked, then my last option is to get out of bed and find something quiet to take my mind off of it.  Again, you want to put something more pleasant into mind, but you don’t want to wake up so much you can’t fall back asleep.  This means no computer or cellphone or any other technology.  They all give off a blue light that tells your brain it’s time to wake up.  Turn on a dim light and find yourself a book, a magazine, or a blank piece of paper and a pencil.  Find a story or some pictures that are interesting.  Or draw or write about something.  It could be about the dream or something else.  But get your thoughts unstuck by intentionally putting new ideas in there.  B

This usually works, but it wakes me up a bit, so if you fall asleep, that’s great, but if not I sometimes have to start a body relaxation meditation to relax.  I take a few deep breaths.  Listen to the sounds around me.  I start with my toes and relax them.  Then my feet, then my heels, then my ankles, my shins, my calves, my knees, etc.  All the way up to the crown of my head.  Usually I’ve drifted off by the time I get to my arms.

Hopefully this is helpful to you, it took me a long time to be able to get back to sleep, but unless I have had coffee past 7pm I can usually get myself back to sleep in this kind of situation.

Sleeping Like a Baby
Sleeping Like a Baby

 

Living a Happy Life- It’s not about luck.

As we come upon the end of the year and look forward to the next, the posts about how to improve your life are taking over social media.  And in response I’ve seen many posts about how annoying it is to have those posts pop up all over the place.  I enjoy reading both sides, the ones outlining activities and practices that lead to more positivity and those convinced that those people should just shut up.  What really entertains me is the comments at the end.  I am floored by the numbers of people who take the time to comment.  And it saddens me to see how many people are convinced that happiness and joy are out of reach.  I understand that these articles often come off with a Pollyanna vibe, like it’s supposed to be easy.  “10 Easy Steps to Joy!”  And if you are currently in a depressive state, reading the easy fixes like, “Smile more!” might make you want to punch someone.    The truth of the matter is that Joy and Happiness are not easy to come by. Not at first.  Especially when you’re out of practice.  The people writing these articles have usually taken years of practice to come by their current state of calm, peace or joy.  They didn’t just “smile more” for a day and then BAM, HAPPINESS!  It is not easy, and it doesn’t happen quickly.  But it CAN happen.  One of the first steps is to figure out if you even believe it’s possible, despite your present circumstances in life.  You can be in exactly the same circumstances that you are in now and have a more peaceful, calm, even joyful state of mind.  Another thing to realize, is that being happy or joyful despite your circumstances does not mean that now you become a passive floater in life.  The people writing these articles are not simply running down the shore of the beach in the sun all day.  That might be a part of their day and all the power to them!  They take the time to have fun.  But they are also feeding their families, paying their bills, writing blog posts, putting their effort into the projects that they care about.  They work hard.  They do not simply lie on the bed all day with a big grin on their faces.
I know, because I’m one of those people who tend to write and share those positive posts.  I love to talk to people about how to live a more joyful life.  But the truth is, I didn’t use to be this happy.  I used to be pretty miserable.  I went to my boring, stressful job, came home to my husband and dogs who I love very much, and made dinner and either worked out or worked on the computer and went to bed.  It wasn’t a bad life.  If you had asked me then, I probably would have said I was pretty happy.  I enjoyed a lot of the things I was doing.  I was being paid well enough to continue to live in Hawaii, which is a beautiful place to be.  My husband took wonderful care of me and dogs give unconditional love, the best kind.  And yet, looking back, knowing how happy I am now, I see that I was “pretty happy” but also “pretty miserable” in probably equal amounts.  Good memories and moments of sadness, boredom, discontent.  And that feeling that I couldn’t change it.
So I know.  I know what it’s like to think to yourself that you should be happy because you have a great husband, family, dogs and for $#@$ sake you live in Hawaii.  I know what it’s like to look at people with those beaming smiles and think they’re faking it.  Believing that that level of happiness doesn’t actually exist.  Believing that those people were trying to sell me something, their product, their website, something, and that when they were done convincing me how awesome it was, they were going to go home and collapse into an exhausted heap of human, spent after spending the day trying to keep up that level of deception.  I believed that it wasn’t possible.
Seeing a therapist in 2010 was a big change for me.  I stopped trying to do things by myself.  And in that small act of asking for help from someone else, I became a little braver.  I decided that I didn’t have much to lose by trying.  I decided to live an experimental life.  I decided to give it a shot and see if it was actually possible to enjoy the little things in life.  To see if, in fact, meditation works.  To test out whether or not those joy gurus were right.  I started to listen to “self-help” books and to experiment with prayer, yoga, meditation and mindfulness activities.  Even if I thought it was stupid at first.  In fact, when I started meditating, it was painful.  My mind raced, thinking of all of the more important activities I could be accomplishing, my legs hurt because I’m so inflexible, my back hurt because I don’t like to sit up straight and they tell you you should.  Sometimes I would fall asleep, other times I would peek open my eyes to see how much time left I had on the clock.  But I gave it a shot.  I made a commitment to a week of meditation in the morning.  And slowly, in little tiny moments, I began to feel that inner peace.  Those moments of just being and nothing else.  Where all the pain in my body and all the painful thoughts were briefly not important.  In the beginning it was so short, but once you’ve felt that, you become a bit of an addict.  You want more.  And then I finally believed that those joy gurus could be right.  That feeling does exist.
At the same time I was exploring books on the subject.  If a book didn’t interest me in the beginning, I stopped reading it.  I wasn’t there to waste my time.  Over time I found a few people whose words touched me and hit a nerve.  Not everything they said was like that, but every once in a while there would be a statement that just zinged me from my head to my toes and landed in my heart.  And I knew, just knew it to be truth.  I felt it.  It was not logic, it was knowing.  It was similar to that feeling of just “being” during meditation.

Because I took the time to experiment, I allowed myself to be open to the possibility.  And I discovered it could be true.  And it took a long time.  A 10 minute meditation in the morning is long for me.  I still peek at the clock sometimes.  But there are times when I start to meditate and I drop into this wonderful state of calm and peace.  And I’ve come to a point where I can find that state during times of stress and frustration.  In traffic, in long lines at the supermarket, while one of the toddlers I work with is purposefully taking as long as physically possible to put his dish into the dish tray after lunch.  In these moments I can drop down into that feeling of relaxation.  And here’s where I think we have led people astray.  Once I’ve reached that state, I don’t just smile and say, “Oh, it’s okay, do what you want” and pretend to smile blissfully.  I don’t let people walk over me just because I’m able to stay calm.  Being peaceful and calm is not the same as being a push-over.  In those moments, though, I can clear my mind and think of something to keep me busy.  Instead of fuming about how slow the lady in front of me is, while she counts out 85 dollars worth of pennies and drops a handful on the floor, I can take a second to drop in the calm.  Then I can look around and see if there is a different line, I can see if the person behind me is friendly and wants to share a smile about the situation, or look at the cover of the Enquirer which is always entertaining.  And instead of being furious about the pennies on the floor, I can smile at the woman with arthritis, assist her in picking up pennies, and wish her happiness in her life.  The truth is, either way, the woman is going to pay her money for her groceries.  I can fume, I can help her, I can find another line.  When you are paying your mortgage bill, you can do it with a smile or a grimace, both cost the same.  When the child takes forever, you can make a calm decision about how to react.  Do I shout at him to hurry up?  Do I take the plate from him and do it myself?  Do I let him continue on so that a more important lesson of self-sufficiency is learned?  Can I use a gentle, but firm tone to remind him that we have something to do so going fast is important? mIs it more important to be fast or for him to do it himself?  I can decide in a calm state of mind instead of reacting in anger.
So ask yourself a few questions.  Do you believe that happiness is possible?  Do you believe that being calm and peaceful would change you into a push over?  Do you think that once you accepted reality,  you would have no power to change it?  Leave your answers in the comments!
“Happiness is not circumstance.” Marianne Williamson says this on an episode of SuperSoul Sunday.  And I truly believe this to be true.