The Cosmic Machine

Integrating positive influences to make the world a better place

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Influences are funny. You know immediately when something has an impact on you, but you forget about it over time. You forget about the impact and maybe even forget about the thing that had the impact.

Yesterday I heard the song Imagine by John Lennon. I don’t remember the first time I heard the song. I don’t recall how old I was or where I heard it. All I know is that when I hear it, I still tear up. That song touches something so central to my being I am overwhelmed by it.

The simplicity of it is beautiful. The message, of course, is beautiful. I don’t really believe in perfection, but that song is pretty damn close if you ask me.

That song and The Lorax by Dr. Seuss pretty much sum up everything I am or everything I try to be. They are what this blog is all about when I get down to it.

If you read that book, listen to that song and maybe throw in the Golden Rule, you have my philosophy on life. My outlook on the world and how we should be. Maybe a Bob Marley quote or two could be added into the mix.

Yoga and meditation have recently come into my philosophy, and now Pilates as well. It’s really more just a mind, body, spirit connection. Physical well-being leads to mental well-being and eventually spiritual well-being. For me, I add on one more layer. The energy within us affects the energy around us.

OK, for my complete philosophy I have to include Einstein’s theory that energy can’t be created or destroyed, it simply changes form. Everything, in my opinion, is made of energy. That mind/body/spirit connection influences our energy. The world around us, the planet we live on, is also made of energy and connected to everything. Our energy influences the planet and vice versa.

So, in my mind, a pop song, a children’s book, and a scientific theory walk into a bar and a new world order is born. I think I’ve said this on here before I’m good at seeing the big picture. True or not, I think I am and that’s really all that matters, right?

Seeing the big picture means seeing all the moving parts and how they connect. To fix a problem in the big picture, you have to find where in the machinery the gear is stuck. Sure we have large-scale problems in this world, but don’t they all start from the individual mind? How the mind perceives something? How it reacts to it? That’s the stuck gear in the cosmic machine.

When that tiny, single gear is stuck way down in the machine it seizes up the rest of the operation. Perhaps it’s not completely stuck. Perhaps it just has buildup and turns slowly. Or it’s rusty and needs some lubrication. Still, it affects how the rest of the machine operates.

I’m just trying to get the gears at the beginning of the process to work properly and then we can start to fix the other things. Or maybe they will fix themselves.

We start by getting ourselves in proper working order. I’m not saying we have to perfect human specimens and we can never fuck up. If you don’t fuck up, you don’t learn, so being human is part of the process. Once you start understanding yourself and how you think and react, though, you can make changes that improve your well-being and eventually those around you.

You’re still going to fuck up. I mean, let’s be serious for a minute. That’s OK. It’s the effort that matters really.

People think you have to move mountains to make the world a better place. That is not my intention at all with this blog. I don’t move mountains. I write a blog. In the grand scheme of things, that’s pretty insignificant, considering there are hundreds of millions of blogs in the world and tens of millions of posts made every day.

I’m just a single plankton in the sea. In the end, though, it is the small things that matter. Giant, bold moves matter, of course, but how often do those happen? How many of us would feel comfortable doing that? Not many.

That’s OK. It doesn’t mean we can’t play a part. Helping someone move a piece of equipment in the gym when they’re struggling to move it helps. Saying thank you and hello to a cashier helps. Telling someone you appreciate them or they look nice today helps.

It may not seem like much. It may not seem like enough, but it is. If each of us did one truly kind thing, without expectations, each day or made one small positive change, that’s billions of good vibes out in the world within the same 24-hour period. How good would that feel? Pretty fucking good, I think.

I’m shy, though. Terribly shy. I always have been and have had to overcome it to function in this world. Lately, because of the type of work I do, I’ve fallen back into my shell.

I’m focusing on yoga, pilates and that sort of thing to feel more confident in myself. So I can be in a group of people and not wish I could disappear. I love people, but I’m shy as hell. The mind/body/spirit connection helps me with that.

One, it helps me make a bold, strong statement if I need to — one that may change things for the better. But, really, it also helps me be friendlier, especially to strangers. To bring me out a little more. I had learned to come out of my shell for work years ago, but I don’t really have to do that anymore. I can be a quiet little mouse, and I have been.

What I’ve noticed is that I shy away from more now than I used to. I refrain from saying hello or smiling at strangers. There was a point in my life when I didn’t shy away. I smiled and said hello to everyone. Not a boisterous hello or anything like that, but a smile and whisper. I spoke to everyone.

Just speaking to someone can have an impact. Those little things make a difference. At least I believe they do. Even when someone looks at me sideways for speaking to them, I don’t want care. That’s the way I used to be. I felt better for being friendlier and hopefully, somewhere deep down, it made them feel better, too.

I want to get back into that habit again. The world responds differently when you do. It may be a small difference, but if you pay attention, you’ll notice it.

This blog even is a bit of me working on being out there more. Trying to have a small impact somewhere, somehow. I’m not a great writer. It doesn’t matter. My ability to write is not the point of this blog. The point is trying to make a difference. To influence change if I can.

I heard that song and I remembered the influence it had on me in my youth. It still has an impact on me. I read The Lorax sometime last year, I recall, and I cried like a baby. A grown woman crying at a children’s book. Eh, I’m a sensitive type.

But that’s where I’m trying to go with all of this. Improving ourselves so we can make just a small change in our day, in someone else’s day. Get back in touch with those influences that make us realize our connection to one another. To what’s important in the world.

I’m trying to build that world John Lennon imagined. That place where the Truffula trees still live. Where the cosmic machine is operating at full capacity. I think it all starts from within. That we can make a difference one person at a time. It’s as simple and as beautiful as Lennon’s lyrics. Maybe I’m crazy or maybe Lennon was right. Maybe he’s not the only dreamer after all.

Peace, y’all.

Habit Ain’t a Dirty Word

Forming habits to give yourself more freedom and happiness

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Habit. Is that a dirty word to anyone else? I always associated two things with the word habit: doing something bad and lack of freedom. I saw nothing positive in habits.

That’s the former me, though. I like habits now, but the idea of habits (good or bad) sounded terrible until this past year. Words even associated with habit felt icky: practice, routine. Bleh, boring, right? I guess that’s the way you look at them until you see the benefit of them.

The funny thing is that the good ones are easier to form than breaking the bad ones. At least that’s the case for me. I’m thinking about habits because I’m considering trying the break the big one.

I bite my nails. I have bitten my nails my entire life. It’s a bad habit. A disgusting one, too, but there have been few times in my life that I haven’t bitten them. I’m not sure that I’m there yet, to be honest. But I’m considering trying to break it.

When I thought about my nail-biting habit and wanting to stop it, I started thinking about habits in general. My nail biting has always been a bad habit. I have always struggled to stop that. I think because it’s how my brain deals with anxiety and stress. Lord knows there is a lot of anxiety and stress in this world.

What other bad habits do I have? Social media. Which is funny. Before 2016, I didn’t have that habit. Five years ago, I refused to look at my phone on the weekends or at night. Gradually that faded. Starting around 2016, it became a habit. Maybe even an addiction. I’m trying to break that habit a little more too.

I don’t want to be fully disconnected but I don’t have to be that connected. I thought I was going to miss out on the news. Turns out somehow you pick that up by osmosis almost. There is so much information floating around, I don’t have to seek it out it. It finds me and sinks into my brain regardless. It’s weird. I’ve noticed that since I started weaning myself off of social media.

I’m still on there. I still look. But, at least for now, I don’t do it for the first hour of my day. That’s something. We gotta start somewhere.

Breaking bad ones is a hard job for me. It’s easier, I find, when we replace them with something good. But for many years — most of my life actually — I had no good ones. None. I’d try to eat healthy from time to time, but I wasn’t consistent. I’d try to do something creative or just something new, but I wasn’t consistent. So, it’s no surprise, most of those things didn’t stick.

Like I said, I always looked at habit, even the good ones, in a negative light. To me, a good habit — exercising, eating right, general self-care things — was too restrictive. It took time away from other things. It limited my freedom. I wanted to live instead of working out.

Lately, though, I’ve asked myself what are you doing with that freedom? Am I traveling more? Am I happier because of it? Am I enjoying things that I love?

No, I just had more time to sit on my ass. And that’s what I did. Sat on my ass. Plus, I felt worse about myself because I wasn’t eating right and I gained weight.

I started some time back incorporating yoga and exercise into my life daily. I also planned out my meals more and chose healthier foods to eat. I worked at these things until they became second nature. I don’t even really think about them … unless I’m creating a schedule. When I do that, those are the first things that I slot into the day. Those things must happen now. Trust me, that was never the case before.

I was recently thinking about the “best time of my life.” The time I was happiest and felt the best about myself. It was in my late 20s. Not because I was in my 20s, but how I lived my life. It was second nature to me then to have habits. To schedule. To plan things out.

I hate the idea of planning. It destroys all spontaneity. That’s the way I’ve always viewed it — even in my 20s. What I have gradually been learning though is that habits and planning help me. I’m happier. More productive. And believe it or not, freer and more focused on the things I love.

During my happiest days, I was a magazine writer/editor. Constant deadlines, how could that possibly be good? Those deadlines focused my efforts. I also felt like I was overall working for myself. Other than the pay, benefits and a little direction here and there, I was working for myself. I was assigned stories at the beginning of an issue and then I was let loose to get the work done. I had to be disciplined.

I didn’t think it was disciplined then. I was just doing my job the only way I knew how. I remember to this day. I would have four weeks. Each day was planned out. The first week was for interviews and research. I booked the interviews conducted interviews, did online research, and so on. The second week was transcribing tapes and beginning the stories. The third week was finishing up the stories (a draft anyway) and doing any follow up research I needed to do. I finished the stories and sent them to be reviewed. Made the last edits and sent them to design. Then it was production week. I had one or two down days during production week, but I often was getting started on the next issue.

But I had habits in place. A plan. A schedule. A pattern. A routine. All of those dirty words. I was happy. Not only was I happy, but during that time I would spend my lunch breaks writing a novel. A novel I never finished, but I worked on something that meant something to me. And I was able to go home and enjoy my evenings without any stress or worry.

My happiest time was my most habitual time. I just didn’t realize it was habits that caused the happiness. I’m starting to realize that again.

I’m doing more in the first three hours of my day — all for myself, too — than I have been doing in entire weeks in previous years. I’m trying to get in the habit of writing every day. Thus this blog. I’m exercising, eating right, meditating. I’m learning piano and reading every day. I’m looking for jobs every day. I’m studying to get my pilates certificate (or starting that process anyway). And I still have most of my evenings free.

I had to change my mind about habits. They don’t take away your freedom, they actually help you focus on it. That’s why successful writers have a schedule every day. That’s why they live the life we all want … or some of us anyway.

We have to stop looking at habits as a dirty word. I’m the worst at it, so I get it. But habits, planning, scheduling help you make time for what matters most to you. More importantly, it puts the focus back on you and how you spend your time.

Now, you may ask, how does this help make the world a better place? That is the purpose of this blog. Well, if you think about it, everything can be a habit. Just like everything is a choice. We choose to be happy or not. We choose to change or not. We choose to get pissed off while driving in traffic, or we don’t.

Once we choose, though, then habit is what sets it in stone. Without habit, it’s another item on the checklist. Habit makes it a life choice, not a to-do item. And that slight change in perspective can change everything.

We don’t add getting up and going to work to our daily checklist. We just do it. So why not make the things we need or want — like exercise, or eating right, or learning piano — a habit, too.

If we make it a habit to focus on ourselves. To take care of ourselves and be the best person that we can be. It’s less of a struggle. It becomes second nature. You don’t even think about it anymore. It’s just there. It’s like breathing.

If we all develop the habit of being good to ourselves, then we start to look outside ourselves and focus on spreading that love to others. That becomes a habit. A habit of bringing joy to the world. If the whole world then starts to develop the same habits, well, there you go. You just made the world a better place simply by forming good habits for yourself. Ponder on that for a little while.

Peace, y’all.

A New Life & A New World

Support the cause of building a better world one person at a time

Today, I made a decision to change my life. This blog. The yoga and meditation I have been doing. Everything over the past year is leading me in a new direction. I’ve been saying this for a while. Today, I’m pulling the trigger.

This week I decided to add pilates to my self-care regimen. In fact, I have signed up for teacher certification, which I will begin next week and work on through November. After that, I will likely seek yoga certification as well. At a later time, I plan to expand on this. Perhaps offering meetup classes or travel retreats.

In the meantime, however, mama needs to pay the bills. I will begin offering advice through life coaching, health coaching or any other personal coaching that you may need. You can visit my Donate page to learn more. Or, if you would simply like to donate to the cause of creating a better world one person at a time, donations are welcomed and greatly appreciated.

Also, in case you are not aware, I am a marketing and communications professional. Instead of throwing away my entire career, I have decided to offer freelance marketing and communications services and consultations. I am particularly interested in working with the arts (music/musicians/bands, visual artists, dancers, writers, etc.), but I am open to working with all walks of life. If you know anyone needing marketing or communication services, please direct them to my alter ego page.

Here’s to a new life and a new world. Peace, y’all.

She-serpent Rising

Using Kundalini Yoga to remove obstacles and build confidence

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She-serpent rising … sounds like a Doors song, right? That’s not my imagination, is it? I’m keeping it as the headline for that reason.

Now, what am I talking about when I say she-serpent rising? I’m referencing Kundalini which, in the yoga world, means a spiritual energy located at the base of the spine, represented by a coiled serpent.

Why am I referencing it? Because it’s friggin’ awesome, that’s why. The first couple of times I tried it, I thought, “This ain’t yoga.” It’s not calming, per se. It’s not quiet and relaxed all the time. Not chill like most yoga is chill. Frogs will make your legs burn. Check ’em out.

It definitely has its purpose, though. I mentioned a few posts back that I was laid off from my job. I was cool with it the first few weeks, but now I’m in unemployment for a month and it’s kind of sucking. I hate interviewing. Hate it.

I know, look at it as an opportunity to grow. I do. Growth isn’t always fun, though.

Anyway, I digress. Kundalini yoga. It’s good stuff. Here’s a good little article to help explain it in proper terms.

“The purpose of Kundalini Yoga is to provide a modality by which people can achieve their maximum creative potential, free themselves from Karma (the lasting effects of past actions) and realize their life purpose.”

This stuff works. I mean, all yoga works. It does. It just works. If you get in the habit of doing it every day, you’ll see. These past few weeks, though, when I do Kundalini Yoga, it has helped in multiple ways.

This is when I first noticed the impact. I’ve been doing yoga every morning for a while. I wanted to try something new, so I found a Kundalini class to try it. It wore my butt out.

Here’s the difference, though. I had an interview that day. In-person, real-deal kind of interview. Normally, I fret a little over those … especially now with unemployment and all. I had been on a few interviews, and nothing was panning out. I felt a little depleted, you might say.

I did a Kundalini class and noticed the difference immediately upon the class ending. I felt calm but energized and confident. Something about the breathing and moving and sometimes chanting just pulled it all together for me. It focused me in a different way than yoga normally focuses me.

I read somewhere that Yoga Bhojan, the person who introduced Kundalini Yoga to the U.S., said this type of yoga helps people deal with the everyday — work and stuff we don’t always enjoy. It’s considered a practical form of yoga, by some. It blends physical activity, breathing, mantras and meditation into one big, wonderful practice.

It made me feel superhuman in some ways. OK, that may be a bit of an exaggeration, but not entirely. I’m a fairly laid back, quiet kind of person. Something about that practice fired something up in me.

Now every time I do a Kundalini practice, I feel a little stronger. A little braver. A little better about myself.

Lesson 1: If you’re feeling down or depleted, try Kundalini Yoga to build fire and confidence.

There’s something else I have noticed, too. Kundalini is said to clear blockages in your chakras — if you’re into that sort of thing and don’t just do yoga for stress relief and strengthening. I’m totally into that kind of stuff.

Prior to being laid off, I had been moving toward changing my life. I started ironing out steps to get where I wanted to be. A few weeks of constant interviews and rejection, my dreams took a back seat. You know when dreams take a back seat, the mood sinks a bit.

So, for several days, I focused on Kundalini practices. I did one recently that was spectacular. It was called Manifestations: Kundalini Chakra Series with Gloria Latham. I’m told I can share this link with as many people as I want, so I’ll share it here.

This was the most active routine I’ve done to date. There are some that you do seated almost the entire time, but the kriyas — I don’t know how to explain it. The rapid breathing, pumping your stomach in and out just works. Plus, I noticed my skin looked pretty awesome after oxygenating myself like that.

Sometimes you twist back and forth really fast. You may get a little dizzy — I do anyway. When you stop, though, you really feel a difference.

Back to my point, Kundalini helps remove obstacles or blockages in your chakras. You may not believe in that sort of thing, but I think if you give this a try, you may start. I’m sure there is some scientific what-not that explains it all, but I don’t really care about that. What I care about is how it made me feel, and I want others to feel that same way.

After this practice, in particular, but doing other Kundalini practices over the past couple of weeks, my dreams are coming back to me. I’m opening myself up to other possibilities career-wise that may give me more opportunity to pursue what I want to pursue.

I’ve started teaching myself piano. I just happen to buy a piano before losing my job, along with a brand new car — thus my worries about being a month into unemployment. Real piano lessons will commence once I have income again.

Still, this practice is helping with all of that — the uncertainty, the confidence, everything. It’s giving me the will and the strength to consider other roles that I wouldn’t have necessarily considered if I was employed and occasionally looking for a job.

Lesson 2: Kundalini Yoga does what it says it will do. It can help remove blocks in your energy and re-focus your drive to “create your reality.”

It’s changing my entire perspective. It really is. I’m not just feeding you a line of bs. Even writing this blog, I feel more empowered just talking about it. It’s kind of weird — I’ll just say it, but it’s true.

Try the Manifestations practice I shared earlier. See how you feel afterward. I’m interested to hear what you think. Give it a go, and drop me a note in the comments. Tell me if you feel the she-serpent rising. I hope you do.

Peace, y’all.

When the Hot Mess of Life Trips You Up

Using self-care, mindfulness and yoga to stay on track with your goals

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Whether it’s a resolution or you’re just getting back into your routine after a bit of break, we all have that moment that throws us off track. It usually happens early on, too. You get stuck in a traffic jam on your way to an important meeting. Or that guy who you were certain liked you and flirted with you just posted a picture of himself with a pretty girl on Facebook.

Yeah, you know how life goes. Some stupid something throws your whole day off. Then your whole routine. Before you know it, you’re eating Ben & Jerry’s and watching reruns of Friends for three days straight.

I would like to say that being mindful, doing yoga, and taking care of yourself eliminates those bad moments in your life. That you’ll never have detractors from the goodness of self love. But, I hate to break it to you, shiz still happens no matter how much you love yourself.

It’s the way of the universe, I’m afraid to say. Checks and balances — that’s what it’s all about.

But, we don’t have to let those things screw us over. Of course, I can say the positive thing here, “Use it as motivation.” Let’s be honest, though, when you see the photo of the guy you liked with another girl, motivation and happiness kind of go down the drain.

Let me say, it’s perfectly OK to feel that way. In fact, you should feel that way … or at least you should feel something. Don’t push your emotions down. Don’t ignore them. Feel them. Experience them. Breath through them and then let them go.

Otherwise, they’re just going to eat at you. Then you’re going to wake up at 3 a.m. sad or angry and wonder why you’re not sleeping. It ain’t caffeine, my friend. It’s unresolved emotions. That will throw you off track more than anything.

Lesson 1: Believe it or not, when bad things happen, acknowledge them. Feel them. Experience them. It helps more than it hurts.

Breathing through the emotions is sometimes easier said that done. I know that to be true myself. Letting things roll off my back isn’t exactly my strong suit. I’m working on it, though.

In fact, if you have trouble with that initial knee-jerk reaction, I highly recommend checking out Pema Chodron’s Udemy course, Sounds True’s Freedom to Choose Something Different.

She’s funny. She’s down to earth. She’s struggles with the same things we all do. I thoroughly enjoyed this course. The last section with one of her students wasn’t as great. If you don’t care about the certificate, you could skip that part. I wanted the certificate, so I listened.

In this series, she talks about shenpa, a Tibetan term. For anyone who has taken an Emotional Intelligence course, shenpa is your trigger. Or for anyone who hasn’t taken one of those courses, shenpa is that moment or that thing that sets you off and you lose your cool. Or at least you start down the path of being bitter and angry for few hours.

Really it’s all about acknowledging these triggers when they happen and choosing to not go down that same path you always go down. It’s hard as hell not to go down that path, though. I’m not gonna lie. But Pema says the same thing, so I’m in good company.

The course can help you recognize it, though. Makes you more conscious of it, and helps you “breath through it,” rather than breathing fire.

Of course, you can also meditate when someone or something triggers you. If you can’t do it in that moment, then do it before you go to bed. Just like a marriage, if you shouldn’t go to bed angry at a spouse, you probably shouldn’t go to bed angry at someone else or upset that you let some tiny insignificance throw you off your game.

Meditate. Or journal about it. Or both. Think about why it made you angry. Why it made you sad. Why you wanted to smack that smarmy smile off his face. Get in touch with the reasons the trigger upset you and then ask yourself if it is really worth being that upset. Is it worth not taking care of yourself?

It usually isn’t. And if it’s not, why lose a good night’s sleep over something that doesn’t really matter in the long run? Or stop exercising or eating right? If you can let it go before going to bed, I will guarantee that you’ll wake up more motivated to renew your efforts the next day.

Lesson 2: Don’t go to bed angry at your spouse, partner or anyone else, including yourself. Resolving something and getting a good night’s sleep helps motivate you.

For me, the thing that really works to get me back on track is yoga. I do the other stuff, too. It’s all good. It takes a whole caboose of self-care tricks to keep this train wreck on the rails.

Specifically, though, the warrior poses. I love those poses. They’re pretty basic. Simple. But I feel like I can kick some butt when I do those. If you stand low enough and strong enough, you’re going to feel them.

And boy do you feel grounded and strong. And suddenly, you realize that thing that upset you has got nothing on you. You can take anything. You’re a friggin’ warrior.

I recently read an article from The Path Magazine that explains the story behind the three warrior poses. It’s a little violent — revenge and all that juicy stuff. Then it comes around to something that fits exactly what I’m talking about here. The poses and the story, (which you can read in full detail here) signify “our posture as fallible souls who all engender completely natural human responses to emotions. We all make mistakes. Sometimes, life gets confusing. There is often an innate urge to overlook natural human emotions like anger, jealousy, and bitterness in spiritual pursuits like yoga. At times, we think that in the interest of becoming a true yogi, we must be devoid of all negativity. But, we’re all human. Things happen. Eliminating all hardship from our lives just isn’t feasible.”

Amen to that. That’s exactly why these poses work for me. Yes, I let stupid things upset me. Yes, I let them mess up my day and tweak my peace of mind. I may even forget about my self-care routine for a moment.

Knowing this story makes these poses even more powerful for me. But even before I read this, there is just something about these poses that connects me to something greater. Something within me and within the universe. It makes me feel stronger, bolder, quieter. And when I feel that way, that stupid stuff rolls right off my back.

Lesson 3: We’re all human and we all get upset. Strike a pose — a warrior pose — to help you cope, refocus and strengthen your resolve.

Some days the world is a hot mess. Or maybe we’re the hot mess. But if we take a few simple steps to acknowledge what’s bothering us. Understand it. Face it. Then we can find our way back to our path of consciousness, mindfulness and self-love.

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.

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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, y’all.

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 y’all.

A Pretty Good Start

Using self-care to help you find your purpose in life

yoga at home

Do you struggle with finding your purpose or is that just me? I know I’m not the only one, but I don’t know how many struggle with it and for how long. I have always struggled with it. I’m one of those people who try so hard to figure it out that it depresses me. That’s why self-care, for me at least, may be the best thing I could do for myself in terms of finding my purpose.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m still looking for my purpose. I have looked for it my entire life. I grew up feeling like I was meant to be doing something … I just haven’t quite figured out what it is.

Still, self-care is helping me. I haven’t given up this time around as I’ve done in the past. I take breaks, like I have the last few weeks from this blog, but I’m getting back into the swing of things. But the breaks are part of my self care — allowing myself some room to breath for a little while. It’s important to do that if you need it.

You see, my workout instructors (all of them — I take several different classes) keep telling me I’m intense when I exercise. I suppose I’m the same way with finding my purpose. When I look back, in reality, I’m that way about most things once I set my mind to it.

When I don’t see the level of progress I want in the time frame I want, I kick up the effort a bit. And I keep ratcheting it up until eventually I snap. Or more accurately, crash. That’s when the depression sets in.

Intensity. It has good points. It’s great for research. It’s great for focus. It’s not so great with nebulous things that may take some time to work out. Honestly, finding your purpose may, in all reality, be a lifelong process. I keep telling myself that to re-frame my thinking. It may always be evolving. I think perhaps it is — at least to some degree.

Needless to say, the last few weeks I have really struggled. Work has been difficult. My job was “restructured,” meaning I have a different job now than I did three weeks ago. It’s more stressful. Job security is not great. The company is going through many, many changes. I could go on.

As a result, I’ve been extremely focused on finding my purpose. You know how it is. Things get rough at work, suddenly your purpose is the most important thing in your life. That’s where I am.

I don’t want to keep hopping from one job to another, which has been the case in my recent past. I’ve decided to hold on for a while and hope I can at the very least figure out the next step in reaching my purpose.

I want to change my life. I want to have meaning. I’m sure there are others out there who feel the same way. I’ve come to realize it’s time to do something else. It’s figuring out the something else that’s the struggle.

The last few years, when I get to this point, I have changed jobs. Then I settle into the new job honeymoon for a few months. Followed by the, “Well, I need to stay here for a little while” phase. Then I start the whole process over again. And I never truly focus on my purpose — not the way I should.

Self care has helped me put a stop to this vicious cycle. Exercising every day helps me set aside any issues at work. I workout on my lunch break, so it’s a good way to break up my day and give me a good push to make it through the rest of the day.

I meditate in the mornings and sometimes in the evenings. I’ve added in yoga a few times a week. All of this helps me focus on what’s important (my purpose) and not on my daily challenges.

I journal, which helps in two ways. One, I try to do some gratitude journaling to help me hone in on the good things in my life. I forget those very quickly when I’m stressed about work. Making this a daily practice (or near daily — I’m not perfect) really helps re-set your frame of mind about things.

In fact, my most recent gratitude entry was about being thankful for my ability to change. Thank God for that, right? I wrote about fear of change being the root of many ills of the world right now. That same fear can wreak havoc in your personal life too. So I am extremely grateful I can change.

So keeping a gratitude journal is helpful. If you want tips on gratitude journaling, here’s a good article from Greater Good Magazine.

The second way journaling helps me in this process is by allowing me to really dig down and discover some things about myself. This helps in both trying to find my purpose and in just understanding myself and some of the things that trigger me or give me a sense of purpose.

I don’t actually write about my day-to-day activities. I really try to figure something out about myself. I try to take a real objective look at myself and my ways of thinking. Eh, intense self care … it’s what I do. But it works for me.

Journaling has also led me to try several new things in my life because I repeatedly expressed an interest in it. Or I rediscover some old things I enjoyed and want to try again. Some of those may become part of my overall purpose and some may not, but it keeps me on my toes and my life more active. That’s always a good thing.

But finding yourself and finding your purpose can take a toll on you. Some people are lucky. Some know what they are supposed to do from the time they come out of the womb or close to it. I’m not one of those people, unfortunately. And if you’re not either, then I highly recommend incorporating some self care techniques into your life. It keeps you on the right path toward discovery, and it reminds you to take a break when you need it.

By taking breaks and trying new things — even if they don’t seem to lead anywhere — help you stay more fluid. You don’t get as bogged down.

Remember my lesson from the very beginning of this blog? My first post was about going with the flow. I’ve forgotten do that myself … as I often do. Try to remember to let things happen, be in the present moment. Whatever road you’re on appeared for a reason.

I went from starting one kind of blog to another and then starting a novel in the process. As you change and you change paths toward your purpose, you realize you couldn’t have gotten to point b without starting from point a. Or, you may realize that all the points along the way will add up to a very unique purpose specific to you.

For me, what I’m discovering is that helping others learn self care is part of my purpose. I’ve started down the road of becoming certified in some fitness programs and looking at certifications in other areas.

Plus, I hope by sharing some of my own experiences in this blog, you can relate to my struggles — which are very real and, I believe, very common. Hopefully, you will also see how self care can help you deal with similar problems in your own life.

Still, my ultimate goal is to make the world a better place, but if we’re all living a purposeful life and loving ourselves, then that’s a pretty good start.