Expanding the Spiral

Going within to grow without

spiral

That circular path. I keep coming ‘round to some of the same thought patterns. Expanding outward on the spiritual journey. Going within to grow without.

Why did I start this blog? To make the world a better place. I believe the only way to do that is by each individual making the choice to participate in that effort. That each of us, one by one, must make the choice to improve ourselves and the world around us.

Yoga and meditation, other forms of self-care, the deep ones, that’s how we get there. We try to be the best person we can be. These things help us go within. Work on ourselves. Be better people. From there, we become more loving, compassionate, empathetic. We see ourselves in others. We see the beauty in the world. And create more beauty in the world.

I believe we have an opportunity to expand upon what has been built and create a better world for ourselves. Expand upon religion as we know it. Reconnect with nature. Live more harmoniously.

This is how we will move forward as a species, as a planet. Expanding our perspective on the faiths of the world. Moving away from the divisions and finding greater love and peace within the commonalities. Seeing a connection between everything.

Today’s religions began during a different time in a much different world. They were developed as a way to civilize society. To provide guidance for living in and around other human beings as we moved away from nomadic lives to centralized living. They gave us something to aspire to … or to avoid (i.e, heaven and hell).

But we live in a much different world today. There aren’t a few large cities scattered across one or two continents. There are billions of people on this planet now. Living together. Connected to one another — whether they like it or not.

As our world changes, so must our means of living together harmoniously. I’m not saying demolish religion, necessarily. Expand upon it. Perhaps consider a universal religion. One based on the individual growth and responsibility. One based on finding compassion for others. Based on commonalities, not differences.

The Golden Rule. I wrote about it recently in a previous post. Most major religions have a similar take on the Golden Rule somewhere within their texts. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

It’s so simple. Could a solution to many of today’s woes be that simple? Yes, I believe it can.

You may be wondering if I believe in a higher being. Yes, I do. I choose to believe that, but yes, I absolutely believe in a higher being.

However, I believe we are already part of that higher being. It is part of us. Each of us. We live and breath it every day. It connects all of us. It is not something we must die to rejoin. It is here and now. It is everything we know and see.

Unfortunately, the religions of the world now are serving to divide us. The religions have not evolved with the times. We are growing more and more divided because of the differences between this religion and that one.

Can you imagine for a moment if we changed perspectives? If we looked at the commonalities between religions? They all strive to get to a higher place. They all strive to become better people. Create a better world. Caring for one another. Treating one another as we want to be treated.

If we lived that every day, what would our lives be like? Wouldn’t that be more pleasant than the world as it is now? Wouldn’t we be more united than divided?

Is it so difficult to find the commonalities? To see one another as humans trying to aspire to be better humans? It’s not difficult at all.

We can reach a higher level than we have ever reached on earth before. We can live in greater harmony. Love one another more. Save the planet that supports us.

Heaven on earth? Utopia? Perhaps. More peaceful and loving? Absolutely.

But it all begins with me and you. Each individual making a choice to focus on the good parts of today’s religions. Focus on those things we all search for. And forget about the differences.

It requires us to be compassionate and empathetic. It requires us to be our best so that we contribute the best to everything around us. Then, let it spread like wildfire.

Of course there are other reasons behind the world’s problems. Fear. Greed. To name a couple. All of these things, these human frailties, can be improved through self-improvement. By going within. By choosing to be the best version of ourselves that we can be.

I have always compared our existence with Einstein’s theory: “Energy cannot be created or destroyed, it can only be changed from one form to another.”

If you have studied biology or geography, astronomy, physics. Everything in this world is constantly changing. People, trees, the air we breathe, the water we drink — everything is a chemical reaction or physical reaction that requires and generates energy. That energy creates changes or the energy itself changes. Our bodies grow, trees grow, things die, decay and regenerate from seed. It’s all energy. And that energy all interacts and reacts with the other energy around it.

That energy. That energy is the higher being. That energy that connects everything. That is God. Spirit. The Universe. Whatever you want to call it. It is us. It is every cell. Every subatomic particle. It is every human made up of those cells. Every community. Every country. Every planet. The stars. The moon. The galaxy and beyond.

Einstein saw it, I believe. The universe. Infinity. We cannot fully understand anything in this world because the world and everything in it are always changing. We can go so far but without stopping it, we cannot fully understand it. It is one step ahead of us. It always will be.

The mystery. He spoke of mystery. Things unsolved. He either saw it or chose to believe that there is something beyond that connects us all and that we will not understand it all. Of course, that is only my opinion.

Science and religion are connected for me. They are the yin and yang of our existence. Fact and faith. Science looks within ourselves, our cells, our galaxy, our earth to find the facts. We look within to find the faith, the mystery. Somewhere those two things cross paths. Where exactly, I do not know. But energy is the center of it.

We are made of energy. Energy creates us, and changes form when we die. And if we are all energy and we have the power to change the energy we send out through mindfulness and awareness, then we have the ability to change our world. To create the world we want.

Think about the energy you put out in the world. When you walk in a room and you’re gloomy or angry, it affects those around you. It’s a bad vibe. Bad energy. You can feel it. I can feel it. It changes the room. It changes the people.

That energy that connects us is the reason why we feel it. If we were totally separate, your mood would have no impact on my mood. My bad behavior would have no impact on you or the environment around me. But we all know that it does.

Happiness spreads from one person to another. Laughter spreads. Your spirit improves when you do something you enjoy. Those around you feel it.

Everything is connected. The spiral expands.

Step back and look at a bigger perspective. If there is an entire country of people arguing amongst themselves. Focusing on their differences rather than their commonalities. How does that impact that country? How does that impact countries around it?

When one human being looks at another human being and hates him or her for the color of their skin. Or for the fact that they are one gender or another. That they prefer to have sex with one gender or another. They believe in one God or another. How does that hate impact that other person? How does the other person’s reaction impact those around them and their family? The community that supports them?

Cancer works the same way. Bad cells multiply and spread. Affecting nearby cells and organs around them. It spreads. It devours.

Now flip the switch. What happens when you connect with others, show compassion? You change. Those who receive your compassion show gratitude. You smile. They smile. You are united in a common good. The world seems a little better. That’s because it is.

Everything is connected. The spiral expands.

Each human is like a cell in the greater being we call Earth. Earth is a cell in our galaxy. Our galaxy impacts a greater universe. That’s my philosophy.

Our connection with the planet, with nature, works the same way. If we mistreat it, it withers and dies. Or it fights back with storms and drought. Without nature, we don’t exist. We don’t breath. We don’t eat. We don’t have water. Mistreating the planet is mistreating ourselves.

By taking care of the planet, we take care of ourselves. Our air is cleaner. Our lungs are cleaner. Are food is healthier. We are healthier.

Everything is connected. The spiral expands.

Our journey, whether we want to believe it or not, is circling around. We are finding old patterns, old obstacles, old ways of thinking coming back up over and over again. We are stumbling. We are stopping. We are not expanding. It’s becoming a challenge that we are not overcoming. And the energy of the planet is changing.

We have the opportunity to grow. To be bigger. Grander. Happier. More peaceful. More harmonious. Beyond anything we have yet experienced.

But our ways of aspiring to greatness must evolve. Religions must expand. Our way of thinking and viewing each other and the world around us must focus on our connections now. There are too many of us. We live too close together. We are too connected to be disconnected.

Focus on the commonalities. We all want happiness. A comfortable peaceful home in a comfortable peaceful neighborhood. We want to enjoy food. Have good times. Have clean air to breathe. Food to eat. Water to drink. We want kindness and joy. Compassion when it is needed. Support. And most of all love.

We must connect to ourselves. Then connect to those around us. Connect to the world around us.

I’m not saying we won’t be human. We won’t stumble. We won’t suffer the human condition. Of course, we will. That is part of the experience. But isn’t part of the experience also to grow? To learn? To aspire to better the world and the lives of those around us?

It’s a simple solution. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Do yoga. Meditate. Go within. Find that peace for yourself. Find the love for yourself. Let it spread beyond. Connect to those around you. Find the commonalities. Find the connection. Spread good energy. Bring good vibes. Let the spiral expand.

Peace, ya’ll.

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Let’s Crack This Thing Open

Learning to shift perspectives (a daily writing prompt)

egg shell

Broken. It has such a negative connotation, doesn’t it? To be broken. Shattered to the core. A dried up brain rattling around in the dustbowl of your head. It doesn’t function anymore.

We’ve all been there at some point, haven’t we? If you haven’t, well, sweetie, it’s coming. It happens to all us at some time. But being broken isn’t a bad thing, per se. Or at least, I don’t think so.

Let’s think about it for a minute. How did you get there? How did you become broken? You only break when you give your all to something. Your everything. You put every ounce of you into whatever it is, and it didn’t work out.

Then crack. Broken. Lying on the floor in a million little pieces. Sobbing like a baby.

Yeah, there are lots of ways to give your all. To get to that point where you don’t exist except for the shards of you strewn about after the explosion. On the light side, you gave your heart, body, and soul to some person who didn’t love you. You put your life into this amazing career just to get booted at the top of your game.

Then there’s the dark side. Maybe you were hellbent on destruction. Popping pills, shooting up, snorting your life up your nose. Still, you were giving it your all. You weren’t giving up on your goal … even if you realized your goal wasn’t really what you wanted.

Broken doesn’t happen without effort. It doesn’t happen in a vacuum. If you are putting your all into something, it is your will. It is your passion.

In the end, it was a lesson you needed to learn. We all got ‘em. We’re all here to learn something. To share something. Somewhere in the midst of your brokenness is the answer to all of those questions — your purpose, your lessons, your life, and goals and why the hell am I doing this to myself?

One thing that I know, if you are broken, then you are still here. You didn’t give up. You didn’t fade away. There’s still a little light shining through those cracks. Thank you, Mr. Cohen.

When you’re all the way down, face planted on the carpet … well, as the saying goes, there’s nowhere to go but up. You can’t get any lower.

Broken exists for a reason. It’s a catalyst to change our lives. To make a choice.

Choice. I keep coming back to that word over and over again, don’t I? Everything is a choice. Being broken, in part, is a choice. We allow it to happen. Once we’re there, we either wallow in it or get out of it.

But more than anything, being broken is an opportunity. Every choice is an opportunity. A new direction. A new perspective. A new purpose.

Yesterday, for me, that moment I had with God was an opportunity. I can make a choice to stay where I am. To be confused and lost. Angry. Or I can make some decisions. Change my life. Move forward.

That’s why I recommend yoga and meditation so much. Stuff like that happens. Big philosophical stuff. Sometimes you break.

Tap, tap. Do you hear that? I’m cracking this shell open. I’m leaving this broken house behind.

Peace, ya’ll.

A Bagful of Diamonds

Opening your heart as a form of self-care

love

Love. In the grand scheme of things that’s what this blog is all about. If you love yourself, you’ll love your neighbor and they’ll love another neighbor until the world is one big lovefest. To me, love is everything. But I’m kind of sappy that way.

It’s funny when you think about love, though. Saying I love you is a big deal. You open your heart and soul to someone when you say those words. You become utterly vulnerable — no matter the context.

So we hold onto it. Keep it for those who mean the most to us or the ones who earn it. It’s a coveted phrase. It should be coveted. It’s precious and perfect — just like a diamond.

But does a diamond become less valuable or less beautiful if it’s dropped into a bagful of other diamonds? I don’t think so.

Pour the bagful of diamonds onto a table and you see a sparkling mass of beautiful. Radiant and glorious. Could society be that sparkling mass? What if we told each other on a regular basis that we loved one another? It could be a beautiful thing.

Lesson 1: The phrase “I love you” doesn’t lose value if you say it more often to more people.

Say a friend or a coworker helps you with a project. Of course, you’re grateful and thankful and hopefully we all express that. But somewhere deep down is there a part of you, the grateful, thankful part of you, that loves that person for being who they are? For helping? For being a kind human being? I think if we took a moment to think about it, be mindful of the interaction, we would find that we love them.

So what if we told people we love them a little more often than we do? We should.

How nice does it feel to be told I love you? No matter the context — friends, partners, family, people you haven’t spoken to in 20 years? It doesn’t matter who says it, hearing those words changes everything. It changes your constitution. It breaks down any barriers, melts any frozen spots in your heart. Nothing feels like hearing those words.

What if we told a stranger on the street that we loved them? Yeah, they would look at us weird. It’s not the norm or expected. But in my head, I think it would be nice. I haven’t put it into practice yet, but I can dream.

Is it possible to love someone you don’t know? Absolutely. We’ve all seen someone at some point in our life and our heart ached for them. Be it the homeless. The bed ridden. The addict. The stripper or prostitute. We have all done that at least once. I refuse to believe otherwise.

That, in my opinion, is a form of love. That ache in your heart. The urge to reach out to them, help them — that’s love. That is the greatest human emotion there is. Pure and simple. It’s selfless. It’s beautiful. It’s the essence of being human.

Lesson 2: Yes, you can love a stranger.

But if we remove our brains a bit, we could move beyond having that urge for only the needy. We could have that urge toward everyone we meet. Imagine what your life would be like if you were filled with love all the time.

What if the whole world felt that way at one time? You kind of get that feeling in a stadium full of people singing along to their favorite band. It’s magical. I love it.

I’m realistic, though. Practical. I don’t always embrace that aspect of myself, but it’s there. Still, I know we don’t all feel love all the time toward every single person. I get it.

But we could try to feel that way a little more often. Say it a little more often. It would be a step in a better direction, don’t you think? Appreciate someone for just being a human being.

I’ll be honest. I am one who covets the phrase I love you. I say those words to very few people. I hold onto it for dear life.

Something happened to me recently. An epiphany I was unaware of, I believe. I said those words to someone unexpectedly. I meant it wholeheartedly. And this was in that romantic love kind of way. I said it with no expectations. None whatsoever.

This person has motivated me. Helped me. Encouraged me. So I said it. I meant it. And it felt good.

The reaction, I won’t go into. The reaction, you see, doesn’t matter. Well, of course, it matters a little, but the point is that I had struggled with the feelings because I didn’t know what the reaction would be. That struggle caused turmoil in myself. I became frustrated, angry at times. Sad and depressed other times.

Then I said it, “I love you,” and every other feeling that had built up around it disappeared. All I felt was the love I had wanted to express but was afraid to.

So, I should say that I’ve been learning about detachment, non-attachment. Whatever you want to call it. There’s an interesting little podcast on this topic on the Secular Buddha. The host mentions Thich Nhat Hanh’s quote, “You must love in such a way that the person you love feels free.”

But if you are the one who is loving, that emotion, love, can also become an attachment. You covet it. You hold onto it and don’t let it out for fear of not hearing back what you want to hear.

In that sense, that emotion then owns you because you start building up things around it to protect yourself, to force the situation, or whatever. That emotion owns you. Sometimes you have to free yourself in love, as well.

Yes, I always skew these philosophies a little. Put them in my own personal context. That’s how I think. But my feelings for the person was owning me. Letting that love out, freeing it, without expectation from the other person, I opened myself up. I felt better because of it.

Lesson 3: Becoming “non-attached” to your emotions frees you and opens your heart.

It may sound odd, but by letting go of all the BS that surrounds romantic love, and just saying we love someone when we love them regardless of their reaction, we honor ourselves. We honor our emotions. We honor our hearts. We also honor the other person because we don’t put them through all of that angst that we tend to build up around it.

My philosophy is that we know pretty early on if we love someone in a romantic way. Maybe not consciously but subconsciously. If we are in touch with ourselves, our feelings and our thoughts, we’ll recognize this earlier too. Pull it up to the conscious level. It saves a lot of frustration to be conscious of it.

If we can learn to express those feelings without expectations (or at least regardless of expectations), we can save ourselves a lot of suffering. A lot of suffering.

We’re not robots. Humans have expectations. I have a lot of expectations. When you’re born with an irrepressible, unbreakable hope in your heart — and trust me, I have tried to break it — you are also cursed (or blessed) with expectations. So, for me, non-attachment means that I may have expectations but I am learning that I’m not going to die if my expectations aren’t met. I’ll pick myself up and go on as I always do.

Lesson 4: Don’t let expectations keep you from honoring your emotions and yourself.

Most of the time that is easy for me — doing something and coping with the results (good or bad) afterwards. Love is a little trickier for me, the romantic kind. So that’s why I covet it and covet the phrase.

But I’m learning to release it. Not let it own me any more. And it feels amazing, including this specific incident — even before I knew the results. I felt relieved and happy.

And, by the way, saying those words feels as good as hearing them. Now that I’m learning to detach from that emotion a bit so that it doesn’t own me, I hope that I say it more often — whether it’s romantic or not. I want to honor myself and my feelings more. I recommend giving it a try.

And maybe one day we will be one big hippie commune. That’s kind of a secondary goal.

Peace, ya’ll, and I love you!

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.

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.

Forget Expectations

Letting go of expectations is the only way to be the best version of yourself.

girljournalingoutdoors

You know what one of the hardest parts about self care is? It’s actually focusing on yourself. Just focusing on you for the sake of helping you. Some many other things come into play in life that somehow even when you’re focusing on you it’s not exactly about you.

Let’s think about exercising and getting in shape for a moment. You decide you want to get in shape. You join the gym, you work out every day. How many times, though, do you think, “If I get in shape, maybe I’ll catch the hot guy’s attention?” Or you want the people at your class reunion to compliment you on how great you look.

And there is absolutely nothing wrong with those things. When someone is sincere and says nice things about you, it feels nice. We all seek that from time to time, but self-care should be more than that. Focusing solely on you, however, is kind of difficult. Or at least for me it is. Maybe others don’t have this problem.

The tricky part is letting go of expectations. Letting go of that feeling of “If I do this, then that will happen.” You’re still taking care of yourself, but your intention is somewhere else. That’s not cool in the long run. What if that thing never happens? Will you keep taking care of yourself? What happens if that expectation isn’t met?

Letting go is hard. Focusing on you for the sake of you is also hard. Once you learn how to do it, though, it is so worth it. I still struggle with it myself. I’m just telling the truth here. But that is now part of my self-care routine — making sure I let go of those expectations and focus on doing it for me.

I wish I could say I have discovered some great pathway to focusing on yourself. Loving yourself enough to take care of you just for you and your happiness. I haven’t. You just have to keep working on it, and it gets easier.

The only trick I can give you is that you have to be conscious of it. Be aware of what you do and why you do it. When you start to think about losing weight for the hot guy, notice that you’re thinking it and then try to refocus your thinking toward you.

It sounds simple in some ways, but it’s more difficult than it appears. Consciousness helps. Meditation helps you be more conscious. Journaling helps to be more conscious. Yoga helps to be more conscious.

The more conscious you become the more you learn to focus on you – or at least become aware of those expectations and then refocus. So meditation, journaling, yoga, they have benefits on their own, but the more you add to your self-care arsenal the better you become at caring for and loving yourself. Because every little thing you do adds up to being more conscious about you.

I once hated to exercise. Hated it with a white hot passion. For most of my life, I didn’t really have to exercise to stay at a relatively healthy weight. I’ve had a couple of times where I gained weight and began to exercise to lose it.

Some of that was rightly focused on wanting to be healthier, but a lot of it was wanting men to find me attractive, wanting to fit into society’s idea of a good weight, and all the other insignificant reasons. It was focused on reasons outside of me rather than on me.

I didn’t stick with it, either, I might add. Once I lost the weight, I lost the exercise as well. Because the intention wasn’t directed at me.

Now, however, I truly enjoy exercising. I like seeing how hard I can push myself — some days it is much more than others but still I enjoy the challenge. I like seeing how I can change my body by trying new classes or workouts. I enjoy doing it for me and making my body stronger. I enjoy being able to pick up a niece or a friend’s child and they feel like a feather rather than fearing I’ll pull a muscle in my back.

I have become one of those people who feel guilty when they don’t exercise. And trust me, I never thought I would be one of those people. When I’m in a spin class, I don’t compete with the person next to me. In fact, I don’t even look at the others in the class most of the time. I compete with myself.

But it’s not about perfection. Never let it be about perfection. That’s one of those expectations that messes up so many people — even if your intention is in the right place, perfection simply doesn’t exist.

If there is a yin and yang, a positive and negative to everything, then perfectionism is the dark side of self-care. Or it can be. Don’t let it. This goes for any self-care activity — it’s such a slippery slope.

Whether it’s exercise or skin care or even meditation, sometimes we put unrealistic expectations on ourselves. My body should be perfect. Or I want my skin to be flawless.

Simply be conscious of these thoughts and redirect them. Say that your body is as strong or stronger than it was yesterday. Or that you’re simply maintaining your health. Even if it’s, “I wasn’t that focused during meditation today, but that’s OK. I still put the time and effort into caring for myself.” Don’t strive for perfection and don’t beat yourself up for not being perfect.

Self-care is all about being the best version of you. Not the perfect version of anything. And the best version of you is only how you define it.

So always remember, forget expectations. Your well-being is about you and nothing else. If you get compliments or even the hot guy, well that’s just icing on the cake.