2018 (or Today): New Dawn, New Day

Use every day & every second to begin the life you want. You don’t have to wait until New Year’s.

New Life

I’m not one for resolutions, but I do believe in new beginnings. 2018 is just around the corner. It’s an opportunity for all of us to start a new year with a new attitude and new goals.

I suggest not thinking of January 1 as the day you start a resolution for the year but rather a new beginning of a new life. And if things go right, well maybe we’ll have a better year and a better world to show for it.

In fact, you’ve heard it before, every day is a new day. We don’t have to wait until Monday to start fresh. We can start today. This minute. This very second. Where do you want to go? What do you want to see happen?

Write it down. Start moving toward it at this very moment.

Lesson 1: Don’t wait until New Year’s. Move toward a new life every minute of every day.

Not to sound too sappy, but let’s face it, we’re all sappy sometimes. Let’s make 2018 the year we begin to love ourselves and spread that love to everyone we meet. This past year had its ups and downs. But, for me at least, I feel like I’ve made progress on myself. Yoga, meditation, journaling, eating right, exercising regularly.

Putting effort toward myself, as I mentioned a few posts back, has set me on a new path. It made me realize that I want to give back to the world more in some way. I still don’t know exactly what I’m doing. It doesn’t matter. Who really does in the long run?

Now, I look to take my journey out into the world. Involve others. Find ways to give back. Love back. Make the world beautiful and caring again. Connect to nature. Connect to others. Connect to the universe.

Lesson 2: Taking care of yourself connects you to your purpose and to others. Make the most of it.

I will share the thing that I think has had the most impact on me this year. Hopefully it will help you move toward a new, freer and happier future. Adding just 20 minutes of yoga to my morning routine has made a huge difference in my life.

If you’re like me and you’re not very flexible and you hadn’t done yoga in a while, it can be a challenge. You may not be so sure about going to a class. I wasn’t. So, I started at home. I joined Gaia. I did the basic plan to get me started. It’s cheaper than a single yoga class, and I got more routines that I can complete — and for all levels. It gets you started in yoga at your own pace in your own home, so you don’t mind looking like a fool when you tip over.

But if you don’t want to spend money, look on YouTube. There’s all kind of free content out there. Find an instructor you like and follow them.

Why yoga? I’m not sure I can even answer that question. For me, it just had a huge impact. I feel more connected to my body. I focus more on what I want in life and what I want to let go. Perhaps it’s because many of the practices start off with that question — what do you want to bring into your life and what do you want to let go?

You don’t have to ask yourself the question. Someone else does it for you.

Lesson 3: Yoga connects you to yourself and your goals. If you can, add it to your self-care toolkit.

Plus, as an added benefit, it has sculpted my body more than any resistance training or cardio that I do. I didn’t think it was possible, but it is.

I hope to expand my yoga routine. Become more flexible. Stronger. More open. And I want to use that strength and power to create a new life for myself. And a better world for all of us.

Let’s make 2018 a year to remember. Hell, let’s make today a day to remember.

Happy New Year, everyone. Happy day, as well. Peace, ya’ll.

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Tuning In for Peace of Mind

Using music mindfully to improve your mental well-being

Meditation-6_2823572k

Occasionally on here I may do a book review if I come across something that I think may benefit readers of this blog. I recently read a book that may do just that. I received Tune In: Use Music Intentionally to Curb Stress, Boost Morale, and Restore Health. A Music Therapy Approach to Life in exchange for an honest review.

This book reminded me just how much music means to me and how I’ve used it to cope throughout life. This book is a guide to help you be more mindful of your music consumption and to begin to listen with intention.

From the time I finished reading the first “true story” in the book, I thought about how I wanted to review it. This book touched me so — ever step of the way — that I wanted to do it justice.

Like the author, I grew up a latch-key kid, and there were things about my family life that we’ll just say were less than perfect. Music, though, was the one healer. The one connector. The everything that was good. One of the few things my family could agree on was listening to music in some form or fashion.

Music has always been a significant part of my life, especially when I was home alone as a kid and teenager. Music was my friend, my confidant, my counselor. I know how music impacts me, and I have seen how it touches other.

And music affects the brain in very positive ways. John Hopkins Medicine said that “music can reduce anxiety, blood pressure, and pain as well as improve sleep quality, mood, mental alertness, and memory.” They’re not alone in their thinking. If you Google it, you’ll see article after article that supports this idea.

Think of going to a concert. Doesn’t matter the genre of music, there’s always a moment when the whole place joins together to sing a song. I don’t know about you, but I get goosebumps every time that happens. Music connects people like nothing else. It heals them. It makes the world a better place. I wholeheartedly believe that.

So I highly recommend this book if you are a music lover and want to use music as part of your self-care regimen. It offers checklists to help you incorporate music into your life with intention and purpose. The stories show real-life examples of how music can reconnect you to people from which you have drifted away. It helps you develop listening lists to cope with different feelings — sadness, anxiety, etc.

In addition to the step-by-step guide for using music as a self-care tool, the real-life stories are extremely uplifting. The stories show how music can help connect families, help rehabilitate, and perhaps the most heart-wrenching, help to say goodbye to loved ones. This book celebrates music as life and as a way to connect us and help us in times of stress.

I would especially recommend this for anyone dealing with aging or dying family members or family with diseases that affect mental abilities. The book highlights the positive impact that music can have on the ill and dying. But more importantly, it shows you how music can re-connect to that person and celebrate their life through the music that made them who they are.

If you love music, trust me, I’m not doing this book justice. Read it. You’ll know what I mean. The stories and the impact of music on these people are amazing. It’s a non-fiction, how-to book with some great real life stories to support the recommendations. So if you’re looking for a great escape, this may not be it. If you want to improve your mood and mental health through music, then this is a good place to start.

The Importance of Authenticity — The Cornerstone of Everything

Caring for yourself means staying true to yourself

True self image

Authenticity has been on my mind and what it means to self-care and loving yourself. There is no greater self love than being true to yourself. It’s difficult sometimes in this world of uber personalities and striving for a million viewers. But it is very necessary. Perhaps, if the world is to be a better place, more necessary than ever.

I came across this little article on Inc. regarding authenticity. It’s simply a list of quotes about being authentic, but they are meaningful. Powerful.

Authenticity has been part of my struggle with writing this blog. To be honest, I have felt a little like a sham. I feel like I’m writing as if I know more than my readers. The truth is that I don’t. I tried to portray that a bit in my post “No one knows anything about anything.”

I don’t feel that I quite made the point I was trying to make. But now I am. With this blog, I am going to take the role of humble teacher. I am humble because I am learning with you. We’re on the same journey together. I am open to others’ ideas and opinions. I plan to share some things that I enjoy and work for me, but I encourage you to comment and do the same. We will learn from one another.

Not saying this — that I’m not the highest authority of self-care — has been holding me back from posting. I wasn’t being authentic with myself. Sure, I realize that I may never get a huge book deal or be a successful blogger for owning up to this, but being authentic is more important to me.

I want to make being authentic more important to you, as well. It is critical to loving yourself and caring for yourself. It’s the cornerstone of everything.

Lesson 1: Authenticity is the cornerstone to self-care and loving yourself.

When we aren’t authentic, we lose ourselves. We become a shell of who we really are or a ghost of our true selves. There but not truly there. That’s not good for anyone.

So how do you become more authentic? Well, there are many ways. Each centers primarily on knowing yourself, asking yourself questions and acknowledging when you don’t live up to your true self.

Writing this blog, for example. I sat down recently and I asked myself a few questions. Why was I struggling with generating more content? Is it out of alignment with my core values or is something else holding me back?

I went through a litany of questions. I journaled because I journal about everything. I pondered this question during meditation.

Through questioning myself and identifying exactly how this blog is aligned with my true self, I realized that I am on the path I want to be on. So, then, what was holding me back?

I asked myself more questions. Read back through some posts. Finally, I realized the issue came in my presentation, not in the content or the message. The presentation felt as if I am an authority. I’m not an authority. I don’t pretend to be.

Lesson 2: Question yourself when you struggle with anything. Any struggle will likely lie in a misalignment with your true self.

I have a goal of improving the world one person at a time by helping them practice self-care and mindfulness. Am I the be all and end all of self-care, self-love, mindfulness knowledge? Absolutely not. I’m learning with you. And I simply needed to state that. Not stating it made me feel inauthentic. I was me, but not me.

I won’t go over this in each post moving forward. But it was important for me to state it. To be truthful with you, my reader. Otherwise, I felt inauthentic. And being inauthentic is a roadblock for me. And in reality, it should be for all of us.

It doesn’t have to be some grand gesture, however. Sometimes getting back in line with your authentic self means acknowledging a small aspect — that little pebble in your shoe — and removing it. Sometimes, it’s as simple as making a statement.

So I have made my peace. I removed the pebble from my shoe. I can walk forward with greater ease now. I probably will add a statement to my About page. That way I will feel that I have put it out there for everyone to see without having to dig through the site to find this one post.

Lesson 3: Sometimes authenticity simply requires you to state your peace before moving forward. Don’t over-complicate it if it’s not necessary.

If you are looking for more authenticity in your life, here are a few ways I question myself to better align with my true self.

  • Meditate. Meditation is more than quietening your mind. Sometimes it is focusing your mind or diving deeper into the mind. At least once a week, while you meditate, get in touch with your values and beliefs. Consider how you have lived up to these values (or not) over the past several days. What is required to readjust?
  • Journal. Journaling is one of the easiest ways to get answers — at least for me it is. You can ask the same questions as the meditation above. What are your values? Do you live these values each day? If not, how can you incorporate these values more fully into your day-to-day activities?
  • Post your core values. Keep your core values close by and on hand. Post them somewhere that you can see them on a regular basis. Whether you print them out and put them in your cubicle, put a note on your phone, make it a screensaver on your computer. It will serve as a reminder when you least expect it or you can use it to focus yourself when you are struggling with something in your life. Look at it and ask yourself how the situation is not aligning with your core values.
  • Forget perfection. None of us are perfect. We never will be, no matter how hard we try. And some of us try very, very hard. Humans aren’t perfect. To be authentic, remember this. Remind yourself of it when you’re trying to do something perfectly or beating yourself up because you didn’t.
  • Be honest. It seems like a no brainer, but sometimes we forget this simple step. Of course, we’re all going to tell a white lie here and there to spare someone’s feelings or to ease ourselves out of a difficult situation. That doesn’t mean we can’t be honest most of the time, especially if not being honest starts to cause you anxiety. Breath, take a moment, and think of a diplomatic way of saying what bothers you without being offensive. There is usually always a way to do it.
  • Be yourself. Sometimes we just need to be reminded that there is no better way to connect with people and find peace than simply being comfortable with who you are and let that shine. Don’t feel the need to soften your post or make your life look perfect on Facebook or Instagram. If you feel uncomfortable being honest on public forums, don’t share on public forums. It’s not a requirement although sometimes it feels like it is.
  • Don’t worry about what others think. I struggle with this one a bit, although I hate to admit that to myself. I sometimes feel that I’m letting others down if I am my true self — by saying no or disagreeing with them on key issues. Not my close friends, but acquaintances. I care too much sometimes what others think of me, especially those I don’t know very well. But worrying about others’ opinions is one of the quickest ways to lose authenticity. Don’t let it happen.

These are just a few tactics that I use. There are others. I would love to hear how you stay true to yourself. What advice do you have on being authentic?

 

 

Black Hole of Self Discovery

night swimming

So my journey is taking another turn. Not a whiplash-inducing turn, but a turn nonetheless. As you’ve probably noticed, I’ve taken a leave of absence from this blog for a little while. See, I went into this black hole of self-discovery. I wasn’t sucked into it. No, I jumped headlong into the abyss.

I’ve been trying to find myself for years. I’ve struggled with my purpose, where my career should go – those kind of things. I have dipped my toes or waded into my waist just to turn around when I couldn’t find answers.

This time, I’m not giving up. This time, I dove into the darkness and, I have to say, I’ve been lost there for a few months now. Searching, floating, but still lost. I’m starting to the see the light. I’m starting to come out the other end of the wormhole. Finding my way to the surface.  The yoga and meditation that I started at the beginning of this year, this journey, helped significantly.

It’s been painful. I’m not going to lie. I’ve had to come to some realizations about myself that quite honestly I wasn’t happy about in the beginning.

See, I decided to see a therapist since I’ve struggled so much with this over the years. Beat myself up because I couldn’t figure it out. Part of that process was taking personality tests. I’ve taken them before many times. I got similar responses. I’m creative. I’m an artistic type. A good writer.

So, that’s how I’ve seen myself over the years. This creative type in a non-creative job. Or semi-creative job, but not the job I wanted. I’ve started writing a million books. I’ve started several screenplays. I’ve written bad poetry. Songs. Taken music lessons. Considered taking dance lessons. Bought paints and charcoals and pastels. Watercolor paper and sketchpads. Year after year. Looking for something that I felt passionate about. Something that stuck with me. Something I felt like I had to do … if I could just find it.

Then came my therapist’s question, “Do you try to be unique and cut options off?” No, of course I don’t do that. How do I present myself as unique? I’m a communications professional. Manager level, not even an executive. I get up and go to the same job like everyone else. I wear clothes from discount stores. I don’t try to be an artist. I don’t try to be special and unique.

Then today it hit me. Today I broke through. Today I cried like a baby. See, in my head, I did see myself as unique. In my head, I was an artist or a writer or a poet. But I’m not. That’s why those things didn’t stick for me. That’s why I started so many things but never finished them. They weren’t my calling.

In my head I thought I had this gift somewhere in me waiting to come out. I just couldn’t find it. And maybe that’s what was meant by a struggling artist. But no. I’m not an artist. Or a poet. Or musician.

I’m just me. I’m average. And when I realized that I cried. A deep, heavy cry. I have put pressure on myself to be this thing. To be some version of creative and it’s not me.

What I am is a doer. I move. I like physical activity. That’s why yoga has been so beneficial for me. Art is doing. Writing is doing. Poetry is doing. But it’s not what I do. It’s not my coping mechanism. That’s what I’ve learned. My way of expressing or getting the angst out of my system isn’t producing art, or writing or poeting … shouldn’t poet be verb? I feel that it should be a verb.

I realized today that I inherited my father’s innate sense of restlessness. I kept talking about feeling trapped to my therapist. To my friends. All my life. Trapped. I felt trapped in jobs. I felt trapped in hobbies. I felt trapped by home ownership. By responsibility. Trapped. Caged. Burdened and restricted.

Why? Because I’m restless. I need to do. I need move. I need to go places. I need to take action. At least some of the time.

So this journey is changing a bit. I’m still focused on getting in touch with oneself and taking care of yourself, but I’m focusing more on yoga and meditation specifically. These things not only get you in touch with your body, push it to do things, make you aware of your body, but they prepare me, at least, for the other “doing” that I must do in life.

I think at the beginning of this blog I mentioned having another blog. A blog about politics. I’m cause oriented. That I’ve always known. I tried to work that aspect into my creative endeavors unsuccessfully. That’s how I struggled. I tried to write with this subtext of politics. I tried to change the world through a poem. And that is all entirely possible. It is. Just not for me.

Writing is the same as talking for me. I’m not much of a talker. I like results. I like to see things happen. I’ve been a writer all my life and that’s why I feel like I haven’t accomplished anything. Because it’s not action. Not my action.

Yes, I think I just said it. I’m a woman of action.

So I’m seeing a new life for myself right now. A new direction. Something that ties my need to voice an opinion and protect things I care about to my restlessness. I don’t know where it’s heading to be honest. I’m seeing travel opportunities that incorporate yoga and mindfulness with conservation efforts. Retreats where groups can go and wake each morning to do yoga and meditate, to connect to themselves and then connect to the world around them. Planting trees, taking care of animals, protecting habitats. And it’s part of a vacation. Vacations with meaning. Evenings my include enjoying local cuisines or local arts. Because all of these things are important. I need to feel them. Be a part of them. Experience them. I need to do.

I worked for a nonprofit once. I truly cared about the cause. But I sat in an office and did communications all day. I was still unsatisfied. Because I was still trapped. I wasn’t moving and doing and achieving.

So look for this blog to change a bit. Look for more focus on yoga and meditation. Look for discussion on how getting in touch with ourselves can help bring more meaningful change to our world. Look for discussion on conservation and activism because right now those are the things that I’m focused on. Look for thoughts or opportunities on combining these things. I still want to make the world a better place. I still think we do that one person at a time and it does start from within.

Peace ya’ll.