Do you trust your experiences?

Summer is often filled with travel or at least some extra reading time. I’ve been doing a ton of reading, mostly nonfiction, back and forth between a dozen titles on my kindle.  It’s been so fun! I’ll have reviews for you toward the end of the summer, but this one I MUST tell you guys about now, just in case you find some time to read and need a good recommendation.  I had a tough time selecting which quotations to include because there were so many profound ones.  :)

Phenomenal: A Hesitant Adventurer’s Search for Wonder in the Natural World by Leigh Ann Henion

Motherhood affects everything, but does it have to change everything about who I am and what I choose to pursue?” A fundamentally drained new mother undertakes several journeys of natural phenomena around the globe in at attempt toward emotional healing.  As she rekindles her sense of awe, she shares reflections on parenting, following your passions, and living fully.  In between time at home, she travels to Mexico to observe the tiny spot where Monarch butterflies migrate; Puerto Rico to experience the bioluminescent waters; to Catatumba, Venezuela to see the abundant lightning, to Hawaii and their volcanos, to Sweden and the beautiful northern lights, to Africa to experience the Great Migration, and to Australia, where she sees a total solar eclipse.

“A sense of wonder is, I think, what Einstein meant by a cosmic religious feeling.  And that is really what I’m seeking on this journey. It’s an admission of human frailty and the perfect magnificence of earth, the universe, time, in a way that removes the masks of humankind’s many religions to reveal their connectivity, the fact that we are—in the end—one.”

Modern science/culture dismisses events if they can’t be rationally explained.  Sometimes, though, the mystery can’t be physically explained.  The word phenomenal actually means direct observation, and it’s the essence of the philosophical discipline of phenomenology, the study of consciousness from the first-person field of view.

“’To form a culture like ours, a culture predicated on the avoidance of disarray,’ psychologist Kirk Schneider reasons, ‘we need to cultivate intricate defenses against mystery, and to acquire sophisticated strategies that enable us to skirt the complexities of being. Hence, much of our speech is geared not to acknowledge our humility before life, but our control, coordination, and management.’”

“’Man feels himself isolated in the cosmos, because he is no longer involved in nature and has lost his emotional unconscious identity with natural phenomena,’ Jung noted. Rationalism, he believed, has left us with a diminished capacity to respond to the numinous, or spiritual, symbols and ideas all around us. ‘Most of our difficulties come from losing contact with our instincts, the age-old forgotten wisdom stored up in us.’ He called this the 400,000-year-old that lives in all of us.”

Sure, we can’t all afford the expense of the time to leave our lives and travel the world. But we can all relate to what Henion says about having experiences like this:

“To trust the senses—the mortal body—is to risk sounding crazy, especially, it seems, if you’re a woman. She’s seeing things. She’s hearing things. She’s so sensitive. Read: She’s irrational. And this I have internalized. Who am I to trust my body, my senses, my instincts? Who am I to know how to raise my child without consulting parenting books and up-to-date rearing studies? Who am I to try to find God outside of an institutionally approved, fully vetted doctrine? Who am I to think I can pursue impractical dreams? Who am I to be taken seriously? Who am I to think I’m capable or worthy? Who am I to . . . Who am I? The very language we use to talk about our most intimate desires makes it seem as if we’ve been having a collective identity crisis. We want to believe in ourselves. We want to have faith in ourselves. It’s as if we’ve begun—in a networked world that connects us to each other in ideas but not in body, in a culture that pushes individualism yet shames us out of navel gazing—to question our very existence.

Experiencing these natural marvels through Henion’s eyes was fascinating to me.  She glimpses an underlying universal wholeness many times and describes it eloquently.  If you’re into nature and the wonder it inspires, you will LOVE this book!

Posted in Books, Mindfulness, Quotations | Tagged , , , , | 3 Comments

Going from type-A to, um, type-A 1/2?

Afraid of the lightLots of activity this past month!! We have transitioned into summer, spending time at the pool and camp and lots of fun art projects, movies, etc.  My daughter and I are making friendship bracelets for each other.  I’m surprised that she’s gotten to the friendship bracelet-making age already!

You are one finalThere’s something developing within and I don’t even know if it’s something I can describe, but I’ll try.  It began with a feeling or intuition that we are all connected, meaning there is no separation between one person and another.  Probably this grew out of my study of Mussar, my increased faith, and my idealistic tendencies.  I started a bit of a reading binge… I can’t get enough information on consciousness, mysticism, spirituality, and the intersection (or impasse really) between materialist science and the spiritual world. As the neurophysiologist Sir John Eccles wrote, “we have to recognize that we are spiritual beings with souls existing in a spiritual world as well as material beings with bodies and brains existing in a material world.”

So that reading has led me to pay much more attention to my emotions, my dreams, and to pause more often to check in with myself, something I really don’t do much.  Full steam ahead, I usually say.  Type A for sure.

A conversation changed what I think of as my direction.  Maybe I will share more later, but I’ll just say that I’m not going to bow to fear any longer.  By that, I mean fear of success just as much, if not more, than fear of failure.  Just because something hasn’t been done before doesn’t mean it isn’t meant to unfold, right? I want to combine all the inspiration I’m absorbing into mixed-media art.

Time to fly full sizeSo yes, I’m back in full swing ART mode! Perhaps you’ve noticed that I haven’t been creating much art lately.  It’s been about 10 months actually.  And that has bothered me and affected me more than I realized.  I feel pulled toward it more than ever and I have pages of ideas jotted down in a notebook.  I’ve been having a blast and it’s only been a few days so far.  The one above is my first canvas I’ve completed.

PermissionA major gift in all of this is that the inspiration only comes when I’m not in the driver’s seat.  I have to make an effort to sit still, to read or reflect or write or let art unfold.  It’s hard to sit still but I’m doing ok so far.  Taking other things off my plate has helped a great deal, the biggest of which was my own expectations of myself.

One thing I will do is take the month of July and part of August away from blogging, just as I’ve done in past years.  I may pop in every once in a while to say hello.  I plan to try to take myself off the rigid habit of scheduling every single task, and blogging takes up a lot of that.   Though I would say it’s my favorite of all the things I do, I still think a break is a good thing.

Many of you have decided to take social media breaks, something I admire.  I probably won’t do that.  In fact, I’ve gone the opposite direction and gotten on Periscope (the latest social media tool) and back on Instagram.  I found two classes through these: one is Kelly Rae Roberts’ mixed media class (which I kept saying I wasn’t going to take!) and the other is a 10-day photography course with Henry Lohmeyer called “wide open: photography and vulnerability” and it begins July 6.  “Each photo that I take is about what I’m processing, what I’m feeling, what I’m being. If you can concede to this notion and completely believe that each photo you take is about your own personal journey, what’s in you, then anything you see becomes a photo worth taking, a feeling worth expressing.” I’m looking forward to learning from Henry.

I’m reorganizing all my craft space.  There may be another tour coming soon.  Maybe I’ll do a Periscope video?

craft shelves

What are you up to? Enjoy your summer!

Posted in Creativity, E-courses, Mindfulness, Mussar, Photography, Spirituality | Tagged , , | 20 Comments

Life in the fast lane – change is possible

I have really enjoyed our conversation this month about various themes in Bridget Schulte’s book Overwhelmed: How to Work, Love, and Play When No One Has the Time.  I know many of you will enjoy this book for the personal stories she shares and the examples of companies (and other countries) that have changed things for the better.  For me, the best aspect of this book is the realization that we are not stuck.  Perhaps our society or culture is fast-paced, but we have the ability to shape our personal experience.

In the introduction to the series, you kindly listened to me ramble on about my social “overwhelm” while I was traveling in Europe.  And your excitement for the series made me even more excited!

The next post, which was about work/life balance, or lack thereof, was our most controversial.  Even though our work ethic encourages 24/7 connectivity, we can make our schedule a little more sane.  Much of the discussion here was about how having children complicates the issue.  It all boils down to choices, right? I’ve been looking at my own actions to make sure they reflect my values.

Heart leaf

In the post about relationship equity and balancing our roles, you taught me that fairness is a matter of perception. Communication is by far the most important aspect of a household relationship.  I remembered that one part of the book says that it isn’t enough for each half of a couple to plan to give 50% and expect it to add up to everything being taken care of.  Rather, each should plan on giving 100%.  It’s not important who does what.  Working as a team to be successful (however you define that) is what matters.

Play is the highest form of researchIn the most recent post, women don’t play, I learned that so many of you already do incorporate play into your day in some pretty original ways.  It’s definitely a balance when there’s so much to be done around the house! Still, the luckiest of us consider our work to be play.

I’m definitely guilty of saying I’m overwhelmed sometimes.  And I agree with Schulte that it’s a self-imposed emotion based on stress, fear, and idealism.  We need to consciously shift our perspective.  Let’s try to give our brains a rest, try something new, count our blessings, banish busyness, and live an authentic life.

“Doing good work, having quality time for family and meaningful relationships, and the space to refresh the soul is about having a good life… It’s about so much more than getting the hang of the latest time management system.  It’s about equity.  It’s about quality of life. It’s about state of mind.  It’s about human rights.”   ~ Bridget Schulte

Thank you for following along and participating! Let me know if you’d like to see more of these book discussions here.  Have a wonderful week, friends! Be well.

Posted in Books, Home, Mindfulness, Motherhood | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

An empath seeks equanimity

heart tree“Your spiritual practice will give you many gifts, but don’t expect it to relieve you of your human nature.” So writes Alan Morinis in Everyday Holiness: The Jewish Spiritual Path of Mussar.  In my Mussar learning, I’m now studying “Equanimity,” seeking “an inner balance that coexists with a world and an experience that accepts turbulence and even turmoil, because that’s just the way life is.” Aka, rise above the good and the bad.

In the Jewish view, the goal of spiritual life is not to reach an enlightened state in which all the questions and conundrums of life are finally solved, but rather to become much more skilled at the processes of living and to cultivate peace of mind.  The Mussar teachers want us to be a calm soul, much like a surfer riding the waves on an even inner keel, regardless of what is happening within and around him.  We should be balanced, at peace within, no matter what external whirlwinds we find ourselves in.  You acknowledge the ups and downs, but you are calm and aware.

Good.  OK.  I get that and will strive for that.  But I really think some people will have a much more difficult time with this than others might.  I came across this list of empath traits, “22 Signs You Are A Highly Sensitive Person,” on live bold & bloom and want to share it with you because I know many of you share these qualities.

I usually know that I’m on a good path when I find synchronicities and coincidences.  This article happens to mention Dr. Judith Orloff.  I’m currently reading one of her books right now! I’d never even heard of her until Liv Lane mentioned her in one of her newsletters.  This list of HSP traits aren’t anything new, but they came up at a time when I’m focusing on Equanimity, which seems to be very tricky when you’re so sensitive to other people’s moods.  The book I just finished is Second Sight: An Intuitive Psychiatrist Tells Her Extraordinary Story and Shows You How to Tap Your Own Inner Wisdom.  However, it just so happens that she’s also written Emotional Freedom: Liberate Yourself from Negative Emotions and Transform Your Life.  The book description actually mentions being calm while surrounded with chaotic situations.  So yes, I’ll be reading that for sure.

Are you highly creative? Close to animals? Especially vulnerable to sounds? Can you walk into a room and feel the energy right away? Do you avoid crowded places? Require a certain amount of alone time? Are you very sensitive to caffeine/alcohol?

Are you overwhelmed by negativity? Can’t stand the news? I know some people who can have emotional, screaming arguments and then just forget about it and go out to dinner.  I don’t understand how!

It’s going to be a real challenge for me to cultivate an inner calm and awareness given these traits.  I’m particularly vulnerable here.  If you have any suggestions, I’m all ears!

Maybe I will envision a bubble around me during times of stress.  Maybe these are tests to help me develop stronger boundaries? How do we balance these disturbing external stimuli with an internal calm?

In this same chapter, Morinis writes that “there is a way of perceiving that includes a kind of shimmering meta-reality that isn’t an aspect of any single thing in sight but encompasses all of it. I can shift into and out of that level of perception.”  I’ve got to learn more about that!

Morinis writes about being a witness to your thoughts and emotions, separating yourself from them.  That reminds me of what Michael Singer advises in The Untethered Soul: The Journey Beyond Yourself, one of my favorite books ever.  (OMG did you know he just released a NEW one??? The Surrender Experiment: My Journey into Life’s Perfection
is sitting right here waiting for me to open it. Eeek!!) Anyway, Morinis describes “an intangible and luminous presence that radiates into all.   It is the job of the witness to keep an eye out for that light. When you realize that, and assign this task to your inner witness, and strengthen this practice, then over time the witness will make you more aware of the radiance that is a constant in the ever-shifting contexts in which you live.”

It’s the way of Mussar to practice.  Practice, practice, practice until something becomes a way of life.  I’ve got a lot of work to do!  I’m much better at it now that I’m a parent, but I still have a ways to go.

Tell me how you cope with external chaos and remain calm.

Posted in Mindfulness, Mussar, Spirituality | Tagged , , , , , | 26 Comments

Life in the fast lane: women don’t play

Play is the highest form of research

“I don’t think it is too much to say that play can save your life.  It certainly has salvaged mine.  Life without play is a grinding, mechanical existence organized around doing the things necessary for survival.  Play is the stick that stirs the drink.  It is the basis of all art, games, books, sports, movies, fashion, fun, and wonder — in short, the basis of what we think of as civilization.”  ~ Dr. Stuart Brown, founder, National Institute for Play

We’re continuing our discussion of Bridget Schulte’s book, Overwhelmed: Work, Love, and Play When No One Has the Time. Catch up on the first 3 posts in this series here.  I’ve enjoyed reading your insightful comments! One final summary post coming next week to wrap it all up.

Every time I spend time doing anything fun (creative projects, spending time with a girlfriend, roller skating),  I say some version of “why don’t I do this more?” 

“Research is finding that play is what enables humans to create, improvise, imagine, innovate, learn, solve problems, be smart, open, curious, resilient, and happy.” 

That must be the idea behind those cool Google offices.

I don’t know how you feel, but I usually feel that I have to justify play.

When I am creating art or involved in anything creative, I feel like a better version of myself.  I feel happily contemplative, in the flow, and peaceful.  Why should I have to defend that, even to myself???

“Different activities feel different to different people at different times in their lives.  A  carefree day at the beach with friends in your twenties can feel a whole lot different from a day with two toddlers prone to sunburn, who can’t swim, need naps….  Just as the overwhelm is the result of unpredictability and a lack of control, true leisure, researchers say, is the result of feeling both a measure of control over the experience and also choice, free from obligation.

“Leisure time for women, studies have shown, often just means more work.  Women are typically the ones who plan, organize, pack, execute, delegate, and clean up after outings, holidays, vacations, and family events.  And in addition to being physically taxing, leisure for women can be mentally and emotionally draining… because women tend to feel responsible for making sure everyone else is enjoying the leisure activity and so are constantly taking the emotional temperatures of all involved.  That strong, self-sacrificing “ethic of care”… is also the reason women tend to have the ongoing tape loop of tasks yet to get done, responsibilities, and worries that play in the head like an annoying and hard-to-shake jingle, which contaminates the experience of any kind of time.”

I agree.  Find me a (straight) guy who does these things and I’ll get in line to marry him.  

Before reading this book, I didn’t realize how crucial play is to our actual survival and human evolution.  Neuroscience is showing how play “builds complex, skilled, responsive, socially adept, and flexible brains.” When we don’t make it a priority, there are “huge consequences, emotionally spiritually, and physically.” 

I’d guess that for most women juggling career and family, it’s difficult to set aside time specifically to play.  But what if we simply shift our way of thinking? Add a sense of playfulness to your day.  Turn on some music while you get dressed.  Choose to sit by the window.  Imagine you have a magic wand to make something unpleasant disappear.  

So let’s give ourselves permission to daydream for 5 minutes, to tell or write stories, explore new experiences, or doing anything just for the fun of it.

The to-dos of life will never end.  But we will.  So we must decide what is most important and make time for it.  Start with what’s most important and schedule it in.  If a million things are coming at us at once, it can be hard to know what to do first.  If we remember our priorities, it will be easier to  let some unimportant items slide.  I should sort the mail later and play with my daughter now.  I should talk with people I care about on the phone and shop later.  There are always going to be compromises… 

One person says that rather than seek perfect balance, it’s better to ask herself if she’s trying her best, doing things for the right reasons, making people feel loved?

Here are some suggestions from Schulte:

  • Remind yourself that play is useful and that all humans need it.
  • Give yourself permission.
  • Be curious.  Find time to wonder.
  • Before a vacation or any unstructured time, PLAN how you want the time to feel. Put it on your calendar to make sure it happens.
  • Light a candle.
  • Be silent a little.
  • Try something new.
  • Spend time with friends.
  • Find a role model or mentor.
  • Write down your ideas and inspirations.
  • Listen to positive encouragement.
  • Get out of your head and into your body.
  • Cultivate a growth mindset.
  • Believe in yourself.

For me, play is more of a mindset, a way to carry out my day.  When I’m in a playful frame of mind, I seek out other people, I smile more, and there’s a lift in my step.  I do everything I need to do, but it’s infused with a completely different feel.

Those times tend to be in the first two weeks of my cycle, when I’m most alert and energetic.  However, it’s helpful that I keep more subtle ideas in mind for the rest of the month, like allowing quiet time for reflection or giving myself permission to take a nap.   We don’t have to be peppy all the time, right?

Canvas in progressMy art time is all play.  It’s when I turn off my mind and let my senses and intuition call the shots.  I let my heart guide me and I always get lost in the flow.

What do you think about the importance of play? What do you like to do?

Posted in Books, Creativity | Tagged , , , | 14 Comments

You are brave, strong, and smart!

Coloring inspirationI’m having a great time coloring with my Pitt pens and this book: Creative Coloring Inspirations: Art Activity Pages to Relax and Enjoy!  It’s something that leads to an inner calm… I highly recommend it! Even just doodling for a few minutes mindlessly can slow your heart rate and bring feelings of peace.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...
Posted in Creativity | Tagged , , | 2 Comments