Life after vacation

I had the best vacation ever. Three weeks of traveling through Massachusetts, Maine, and Nova Scotia with a great guy + seeing beautiful scenery + staying in interesting places + meeting interesting people = heaven on earth!

I kept thinking I would blog about it like I did earlier in the year, but since we were on the road alot, and out of the country, internet was sometimes iffy so I just wrote longhand in my journal and took a lot of pictures. If you want to see them, here is a link to the google album.

Robert bought me a book at the airport on the way home. I wasn’t sure I would like it, but turns out it is really speaking to me. The book is Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert. I read more than half on the trip home. Mostly what I am taking away from it is that if a person decides to pursue a life of creativity, there will always be uncertainty. And that if I pursue perfectionism, I will never be happy. Just write, or paint, or knit, or… whatever you feel like doing. And don’t fret about the outcome. Do it if you love it, and if you don’t love it, don’t do it.

I think that’s great advice. I have written quite a bit just for myself since I came home. I put paint to canvas – actually I want to try to paint some version of the beauty that I saw on my trip. I painted over a painting that I had done in one of those paint with wine classes.  So far, this is what I have: wpid-wp-1446310034715.jpeg

This is what I’d like to paint:
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I imagine I’ll end up with some sort of abstract, which is what I’m usually most happy with. The great thing about paint is that you can paint over it!

The other thing I’m taking from the book is that you are never too old to learn something new. The author shared a story about a 90 year old woman she’d met who has spent the last 10 years learning about ancient Mesopotamia and is now considered an expert! Very encouraging for me as I continue to pursue my study of ayurveda. I was doing quite a bit of moaning about it, but no more! I am a youngster compared to her!

The first few days back at work I felt very zen. My mind was clear and full of memories of beauty, like the above picture from Maine. It’s been two weeks now, and the last few days were so busy that I lost some of that. But I am working on practicing mindfulness, which is really just being aware of what I am doing when I am doing it. I have found inspiration in this area through the writings of Thich Nhat Hanh.

While we were traveling, we ate, drank, and were merry, so when we got home we decided to get back in shape with the Hot Belly Diet. I had felt rather sluggish but within a few days regained my usual vigor. I am also walking more and am using a couple of those 30 day app challenges – one for the arms and the other for the butt! The ones I chose are by Teer, and are very doable. I tried  a different one but it had jumping jacks and side planks so I quickly deleted it. Gotta be realistic.

So life goes on, with its joys and sorrows. Today it is raining, tomorrow the sun will come out. I work to feed the body and create to feed the soul.

What will the next adventure be?  I’m already speculating.

Uninspired

I’ve felt uninspired lately.

I haven’t even been journaling as much. I sit to write and it sounds like the same stuff over and over. Additionally, I haven’t been making much time to read other blogs, even though there are several writers I really enjoy. On top of that, I haven’t painted or taken many pictures lately. Everything just seems sorta blah.

Every so often I’ll get on wordpress, read a few posts, and wonder how people write so much, some every day. I periodically wonder why I started a blog in the first place. Oh yeah! I thought I had something to say that was inspiring. Then I got all into Blogging 101 and Photography 101 and following other blogs and hoping people would follow mine. Now I look at the list of blogs I follow and I don’t have time to read all that.  I’m not getting new followers lately — but hey! I haven’t been writing much. Would just like the stats to say woohoo! you’ve reached xxxx followers.

Sigh. That’s bullshit. That’s no reason to write, or paint, or any other pursuit.  If, in the course of writing, I put something out there and someone truly finds inspiration, great. If not, I’ve expressed myself. This is what all the great writers and painters say- do it for yourself first. So if I don’t have anything for awhile, that’s ok. I’ll read and study and travel, and be curious about everything.

So. New resolution. Stop being so concerned about putting up a blog post for the sake of putting up a blog post.  And when in the course of  the journey of life inspiration comes, go for it, in whatever form it takes.

Three ways to deal with stress

Do you have stress in your day?

Most of us do. The question is, how do we deal with it?

Some signs of stress can be low energy, difficulty sleeping, frequent colds and infections, indigestion, constipation,diarrhea, or nausea, headaches or ringing in the ears, mystery aches and pains, nervousness or shaking, and at its worse, shortness of breath and chest pain.

The most common response to these symptoms is to think that there is something physically wrong. ( And there could be.) But if you get checked out by your doctor, they can’t find an underlying cause, then it could be related to stress.

Sometimes we don’t take the time to digest our experiences. If we go from one activity to another, or have a lot of responsibility, or have personal relational or financial difficulties, and don’t take time for ourselves, then we aren’t fully digesting what is happening within, which can lead to some of the above symptoms. It’s rather like not chewing food well.

The first way that I have found helpful in handling stress is to only do one thing at a time. At work this is a huge challenge, as I have a lot of demands placed on me at any given time. Even though at times I slip and catch myself trying to multitask, I actually get more done with less stress and less error when I focus on only one thing at a time.

The second way is to sit with yourself. Meditation is the best way to do this, but before I started meditating, there were other things I tried that were helpful, and I still do some of them now. When I was in a bad relationship, I learned, through the help of some great people in Al-Anon, to give myself 15 minutes to have a good cry, which releases a lot of stress, then wash my face or take a bath or shower. (Or cry in the bath or shower!) If you cry more longer than that, things can just get worse.

Third, look at your eating and sleeping habits. Are you eating nourishing food on a regular basis? Try to eat 3 meals a day with the midday meal being the largest, and don’t eat after about 7 pm. Are you staying up late watching a marathon of your favorite show? Not the greatest thing for getting  a good night’s sleep!

Other ideas are to take a walk in nature, connect with animals, or sit by a body of water. I have found that just listening to the sound of birds calling or saying hello to a dog brings me a sense of inner peace. Take a gentle yoga class. Do something creative. Get away from social media or electronics for a bit. Read a good book, or engage in laughter through a funny movie, socializing with good people, or engaging in a pillow fight. It is best to try “old-fashioned” ideas – non electronic!

Take care of yourself, and remember to breathe!

“Every grain of experience is food for the greedy growing soul of the artist.”                       – Anthony Burgess

 

April Already

She refused to be bored chiefly because she wasn’t boring.                                           – Zelda Fitzgerald

I certainly can’t say my life is boring. There is always something going on, something new to learn, to experience, to try. “I’m bored” was not allowed by my mother – she would find me something to do!

March was full of experiences! The biggest surprise, even to myself, was that I enrolled as a student with New World Ayurveda. I’m 3 weeks in, and loving it! As a result of that, I dropped out of Photography 101 and haven’t been here at WordPress as much.

 

Doily!
Doily!

I spent  a couple of days connecting with nature at the Attwater Prairie Chicken NationalWildlife refuge. Apparently the prairie chickens are extremely difficult to find, but it was great getting up before dawn and seeing the stars and the sunrise, and just connecting with Nature. There were dewy spider webs everywhere, and at first glance it looked like my grandmother’s doilies had been scattered over the landscape! I saw a coyote, a jack rabbit, and various small birds, but none of them wanted to pose for a picture.

 

 

I finished another great book: Wild: from lost to found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed. Yes, the book that the recent movie was based on. What an amazing story! I became emotionally invested as I read the book, and when I was finished, had a good cry. I highly recommend this read, made me want to trudge 1000 miles through the wilderness! I’ll see the movie, but the book is always better!

Here’s my latest painting:

Desert Sunrise
Desert Sunrise

Plans and goals for April: Keep learning. More yoga. Spend time in nature. Don’t get overwhelmed, rather, stay centered. Take time out to digest my experiences, and only do one thing at a time!

 

Sitting with myself (3 ways meditation impacts my life)

In my last post I mentioned that I meditate on a regular basis.

A fellow blogger asked me what impact this has on my daily life. This is a question many people have, I think. Meditation has become mainstream. “Everyone’s doing it.” But what is IT, exactly? And how, aside from all the scientific evidence that it is good for me, does it make my day to day life better?

Meditation is often used as a synonym for  contemplation, musing, consideration, reflection, deliberation, rumination, reverie, concentration, but this isn’t true meditation. A definition I like is “a state of thoughtless awareness. The mind becomes calm and silent, yet remains alert. Eventually, one gains higher levels of awareness.” Key word here is eventually.

Why did I want to learn to meditate? I used to have anxiety every day, and it manifested itself in that I was very controlling. I had become very aware of this, and my motivation for wanting to learn to meditate was that I wanted to know how to calm my mind. All the years I was a churchgoer praying and reading my Bible diligently had not brought the peace I so desperately sought.

And now?

1. I am calmer, over all. The anxieties and irritations that used to upset my days are now just a little blip in it, gone quickly when they start to rise up. I do still have “hormonal” moments. I get upset about stuff.  People annoy me at times. I get emotional and cry. But when I cry, the tears are cleansing rather than draining. And after almost a year, I am beginning to notice a difference in myself, a difference that others have commented on for months.

2. When upsetting events occur, as they will, I am more able to bring myself back to my center, to the present moment, to my breath, or whatever I need to do to look at what is really happening, what is really important.

3. The biggest change I have noticed in myself is that I have become much less judgmental.

wpid-20150204_185943.jpgI am less judgmental of myself as well as of others. In meditation, it is important to learn not to judge the experience. If I am judging, then what is the point, really? There is no such thing as a “good” or “bad” meditation experience. It is what it is.  Sometimes I have loads of thoughts, spinning around and around. Pema Chodron says in her book of daily readings, Comfortable with Uncertainty (p17), that “our practice is to watch our thoughts arise, label them thinking, and return to the breath…Each situation, eath thought, each word, each feeling, is just a passing memory.” In other words, we will have thoughts during meditation, and it’s ok.

As a result, I have taken this practice to the ordinary situations of life. Instead of looking down on others because their choices and behaviors don’t match my particular standards, I remember that everyone is doing the best they can at the level of awareness that they have at the moment, including me.

If you are a meditator, how has it helped you? What do you see as the greatest benefit to your life?  Here is a great infographic on the benefits of meditation. I encourage you to explore this, and begin taking a few minutes every day to just sit with yourself.

Namaste. The divine light in me bows to the divine light in you. Have a beautiful day.

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