Slow down your pace

Slow and steadyIn the weekly Mindfulness for Moms class I’m enjoying, we practiced a walking meditation.  To do this, you walk as deliberately as you can, noticing every sensation in your body.  The weight being transferred from the heel of your foot to the ball of your foot.  Your balance.  The forward motion.  The way your hips sway.  Each step brings forth more sensation and you notice something new.

We did that very slowly, but I have noticed that even in my morning exercise walk I enjoy the repetitive pace and the feelings in my legs as I am moving.  I often don’t want to listen to music because I prefer tuning in to these sensations.

Fast forward to last night, when my sweet girl and I were talking about the need our bodies have for slowing down sometimes.  She pointed out that I walk quickly all the time, even just to the door to check the mailbox.  I realized she is right.

“Our children can lead us into authenticity because they instinctively know how to BE. They intuitively know how to live within their body and respond to their spirit.  They are fully aware of the need to meet reality as it presents itself and are able to respond in a manner that we adults often aren’t.  This is why it’s from our children that we can learn how to really LIVE.”  ~ Dr. Shefali Tsabary, PhD, The Conscious Parent: Transforming Ourselves, Empowering Our Children

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Reveling in autumn

Acorns on sidewalk w quote

For a few days this month, we welcomed cooler weather and enjoyed being outside.  My sweet girl and I went for walks, took photos of the sky, and began collecting acorns.  The promise of this lovely weather returning soon makes me excited for more of nature’s glory.acorns_blog

What’s happening where you live?

“I’m so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers.”
― L.M. Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables

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Trust Your Vibes: surround yourself with positive energy

Part 3: Good Vibrations

Watch your words: This is about practicing loving communication, making every word as loving as possible…  Remember that you’re intimately connected to everyone else in the world, so when you attack another person, you attack yourself.

I’ve heard Oprah say that each person should be responsible for the energy they bring into a room.  Everything you dwell on adds to humanity’s collective telepathic pool—while you may not be responsible for all the contamination out there, you are responsible for the pollution you personally add.

Recognize the correlation between what you broadcast and what comes back to you… The greatest difference you can make in terms of healing the world is to telepathically send thoughts of healing and light as you simultaneously reject messages of darkness and despair. When you follow your heart, you become a beacon of light to others by broadcasting love and inspiration. And the more you convey light vibrations, the more they’ll amplify, multiply, and return to you.

Spiritual law says that you receive what you give times ten, so choose to put out a bright, loving energy to the world—in spite of appearances to the contrary, it will return. The more openhearted you are, the quicker the telepathic reception will be. 

How refreshing this idea is to me! By being who and what we already are, we are healing the world and it is enough.  Me sitting at home and contentedly reading a book is sending positive vibes out to the world.

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Less is more

Trees_edited-1As a follow-up to last week’s Lighten Up post about decluttering, I want to report that I’ve already had some major successes.  First of all, thank you all for your comments.  Many of us are on the same path, which is nice.

I’m in the middle of two awesome books about this that have really got me thinking.  One, Clutterfree with Kids: Change your thinking. Discover new habits. Free your home by Joshua Becker is full of helpful suggestions and resources.  The other, Minimalist Parenting: Enjoy Modern Family Life More by Doing Less by Christine Koh and Asha Dornfest, is about simplifying other areas of our life in addition to our possessions – also a huge help.

Both of these books ask us to change our way of thinking.  By identifying our main values, we can prioritize those and let the rest (possessions we do not need, activities we don’t like, paperwork that isn’t relevant) fall away.  Look at your living room bookshelves.  Would someone be able to identify your main values if they came in and browsed around? Or is it a little bit of everything? By eliminating most of the “other,” you leave visible only what’s most important to you.  You “spotlight” your treasures and values.  This idea has hugely impacted how I see our space.  What we lay eyes on every day should be our most important things.  I will be bringing things of significant sentimental value out of their closets and into the forefront so we can truly appreciate them.

Also, I love the idea that POSSESSIONS = TIME SPENT.  The more stuff you own, the more time you spend putting those things away, cleaning them, organizing them, etc.  For sure this goes for toys, but that’s not where I started.  I got rid of a lot of objects that we simply don’t need or particularly even like.  Candlesticks, picture frames, tablecloths, random coffee table books collecting dust.

So…

I took Becker’s advice and plucked through my closet, donating a lot of clothes I haven’t worn in a few years.  That means I finally tried on all those work suits and gave most of them away.  No real use for them and pretty sure I will not be fitting back into that size this decade.  I still had a full closet, so I went through it again.  I asked myself, “If I were in a store right now, would I buy this?” Now there is space.

Things sitting around really bother me, and since I’m the one in the family who is home most of the time, I decided to give myself the gift of freedom from this.  We instituted a nightly “clean sweep” before my daughter’s bedtime, where each object not in its place is returned to where it belongs.  Dishes in the sink, toys on the shelves, clothes in the hamper, etc.  I can’t tell you how lovely it is to walk around the house and not be visually bogged down with these things.

Another great idea: own ONE of something.  Why do we have 4 sheet sets for our bed when I usually wash and put back on the same one every time (mainly because I am terrible at folding fitted sheets)? Some things we may need more than one of, but I love the idea of just one that we take really good care of.  This concept gives me loads to do going forward.

Becker says more is not necessarily better, even though most of us live in a culture that encourages consumerism and comparing UP.  He says, “Don’t just declutter; de-own.”

“The simple act of organizing our things into boxes, plastic bins, or extra closets does not turn back our desire to purchase more things… On the other hand, intentionally removing possessions from our home forces questions of passion, values, and what’s most important to us.” 

Living this way values relationships, experiences, and intentionality.  It slows down life and asks us to consider what is most important to us and what values we want to teach our children.

“Love, friendship, hope, integrity, trust, compassion. These are the things that bring substance, fulfillment, and lasting joy to our lives. And these are the attributes that bring lasting security to our children’s lives.”

I like to tackle it all at once, but another book I came across says it’s a process and it takes time.  The book is How to Declutter Your Home for Simple Living – Decluttering Tips and Closet Organization Ideas for Creating Your Own Personal Oasis by Judith Turnbridge.  ($.99 on Kindle or Free on Kindle Unlimited)

“Many experts liken the decluttering process to going on a diet. The logic being that the home will be losing its clutter as opposed to weight, but the important thing to recognize is that the process will take time and cannot be sorted out overnight. Like dieting, the decluttering process involves making a plan and identifying and resolving bad habits, but also acknowledges that a little bit of clutter can be accepted.”  

Even if you were to magically lose your excess weight overnight, this analogy points out that it’s an ongoing process of managing what you allow in and what stays out for good.

Becker again… “The true value of boundaries reaches far beyond our closets. It begins to spill into how we decorate our homes, the toys we buy for our children, the amount of clutter in our kitchens, and how we choose to spend our time, money, and energy.”

Sky space copyI want to spend time playing games together, volunteering in our community, seeing friends, doing artwork, reading books, talking with my daughter and husband, enjoying meals and other experiences together…not on straightening up toys and household clutter. Not running around doing errands.  Not going from ballet to gymnastics to swimming.

“Living clutterfree is not just the removal of unnecessary physical possessions. It is also the intentional promotion of the things we value most. It is about deciding what is most important in your life and removing the things that distract you from it.”

I already feel much more content, and I’ve only just begun.  I don’t feel the need to compare our home to other people’s.  I feel grateful for what we have and more generous toward those who aren’t blessed with as much.  I am protective of my new-found breathing room and cautious about what I allow into this space.  I know this appreciation will carry over to my daughter and influence her values too.  She has already seen that the time usually spent cleaning up can be spent in better ways.

How about you? Does your environment reflect YOUR most important values?

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September reading report

Sept books

My favorite post from September, and the one with the most comments, is How to be a slacker: a guide for perfectionists and overachievers.  As I mention, I have really been trying to be conscious of how I spend my energy and time.  I am nowhere near where I want to be, but at least I realize how and mostly why I overdo it!

I began the Miracle Marathon and have raised $322 for Texas Children’s Hospital and logged 23 miles thus far.  If you’d like to contribute, it’s not too late! 3 more days.

I’ve also been reviewing Sonia Cochette’s wonderful book, Trust Your Vibes.  More to come.

Here’s what I read and enjoyed in September:

The Amazing Power of Deliberate Intent: Living the Art of Allowing by Esther and Jerry Hicks (The Teachings of Abraham)

This book is about having a deliberate intent for whatever you want in life, while at the same time balancing your energy along the way.  Abraham encourages us to tell ourselves positive thoughts about a situation as a way to grow toward what we want.  For example, rather than focus on being overweight (a negative vibration), I can think about how I’ve been successful at losing weight in the past, that I feel in control of what I eat every day, and that I feel comfortable in my body (all positive vibrations).  These thoughts are far more likely to carry me toward success than my usual negative self-talk.

The contrast in which you are focused provides a wonderful basis for the launching of your unique desires, for whenever you are experiencing something that you do not want, you always understand more clearly what it is that you do want.  This seems to me to be where we are on a global level right now… being shown examples of how much we need to change.

Our true self is joyous and positive.  Anything else shows how out of alignment we are with how we should be.  The second half of the book is all examples of real-life situations.

Sleepless in America: Is Your Child Misbehaving…or Missing Sleep? by Mary Sheedy Kurcinka

Having really benefited from Kurcinka’s book on raising spirited children, I wanted to read this one because my own spirited child does not fall asleep alone or easily, nor stay in her bed all night.  This is a fantastic book about the connection between lack of sleep and misbehavior.  I learned that a positive sleep environment begins in the morning.  I am now better able to keep my daughter in the “green zone” and make our lives much more peaceful.  I agree with other reviewers that this book is a godsend.

The Baker’s Daughter: A Novel by Sarah McCoy

This book is the stories of two women, separated by 60+ years, but living similar stories and choices.  Once I got going with the story about a family in Nazi Germany and their lives in current times, I could not put this book down and I read it in one afternoon/night.  The parallel story was also really good.  I loved the characters and the strong story lines.  It’s a book of hopefulness and inspiration.

Setting Limits in the Classroom, 3rd Edition: A Complete Guide to Effective Classroom Management with a School-wide Discipline Plan by Robert J. Mackenzie, Lisa Stanzione

My fifth grade religious school classroom is rather chaotic, leaving lots of disruptions and little time for teaching or learning.  I turned to this book because I need a structure for teaching effective discipline.  The authors state that an effective classroom is like a table supported by four important legs: effective structure, positive relationships, engaging instruction, and effective limit-setting practices.  They guide the reader through classroom structure, effective engagement strategies, and how to recognize your unconscious mistakes.  Then they state examples of clear messages about rules and instructive consequences that avoid power struggles.

Visible City by Tova Mirvis

This novel, told mostly from one woman’s point of view, is about three couples whose paths intersect in their New York City neighborhood.  The main character looks from her window into the window of another apartment and imagines what their life must be like.  She eventually establishes relationships with each of them, forcing them all to weigh the comfort of stability against the costs of change.  I enjoyed reading about each character’s relationships with others and how perception is so different from reality.

This Is the Story of a Happy Marriage by Ann Patchett

I just love Ann Patchett.  Two favorite passages:

There were things I learned about writing while working as a waitress that I hadn’t come to during my student years, and the first was my own level of commitment. As the months went by, I knew that I wrote because it was my joy, and if I kept on being a waitress forever, writing would still be my joy. But that didn’t mean I didn’t have plans to use writing as a means of escape. I had been unwaveringly loyal to my talent, and now that the chips were down I expected it to be loyal to me. With so much time for thinking and so little time for writing, I learned how to work in my head. Between pilfering croutons off salad plates and microwaving fudge sauce for the sundaes, I decided I was going to make up a novel, and that the novel was going to get me out of the restaurant. The novel was going to be my getaway car.

For the first time in my life, I was going to have money (paid out over three years in four installments), and the only thing I could think of to spend it on was having the air conditioner in my car fixed. It had been out for two years. Now that I had a book contract and an advance on the way, I went to a mechanic. He said the air conditioner was low on coolant, a problem that was resolved for fifteen bucks. Somehow, that’s the detail of selling my first book I always remember.

Falling into Place: An Intimate Geography of Home by Catherine Reid

These beautiful essays about our sense of home and safety are so lyrical and elegant.  Reid paints a beautiful picture of nature and how we are losing some of our most precious natural places and poetic experiences.  My favorite piece was the one she wrote about her marriage when the State of Massachusetts made gay marriage legal.

Reluctant Disciplinarian: Advice on Classroom Management from a Softy Who Became (Eventually) a Successful Teacher by Gary Rubinstein

The good news is that you need to follow the rules only long enough to win students’ respect. Once they are convinced you are a real teacher, you can slowly morph into the kind of teacher you’ve always envisioned yourself to be.

So it seems the problem is that I jumped ahead slightly and assumed they already knew how to act in school! I am taking their advice and ignoring the beginning and going forward with assumptive speech and firm limits/consequences.

Always speak as though you expect students to do what you ask, and allow them room to do it.

When a day like this occurs, you have only two options when you greet the class the following day. One is the “What happened yesterday is not acceptable” speech. This, I believe, can only worsen things. It indicates that the teacher is in panic mode over something that the kids most likely have already forgotten. The other option is to ignore it. Yes, as much as a whole day can be ignored when there is no better option.

Recognize what you get out of teaching. This was very impactful for me.  Rather than ruminate over how miserable I am, I am choosing to remember why I’m doing it.  I want to meet people in the community and impact these children in a positive way so that they care about their Jewish education and the future of the Jewish people.  (Nothing too grandiose, right?)

The Rosie Project: A Novel by Graeme Simsion

I don’t remember why I requested this one from the library.  It’s unusual that I’d read chick lit.  I listened to this in my car on CD and found myself looking for a reason to drive places so I could continue it.

I’m pretty sure people with Asperger’s Syndrome are capable of emotion and recognizing them too.  Besides the extreme disconnect the main character, Don, a professor of genetics who’s decided it’s time he found a wife, feels from his own emotions, this book is highly hilarious and enjoyable. Don designs the Wife Project to find his perfect partner: a sixteen-page, scientifically valid survey to filter out the drinkers, the smokers, the late arrivers. Of course it never works that way…

Does the Soul Survive?: A Jewish Journey to Belief in Afterlife, Past Lives & Living with Purpose by Rabbi Elie Kaplan Spitz

I found it fascinating to learn what Judaism teaches about the soul.  It turns out that it’s only very recently that we have shied away from discussing it.  It’s not woo woo at all! It’s very much a part of our tradition, liturgy, and literature.

“The concept of another plane of reality, a standard belief in most traditional religions and cultures, has only in the last 100 years been rejected by the collective wisdom of Western culture.  In the past century, a time of dramatic leaps in scientific knowledge, there developed a profound distrust of that which could not be materially identified.  Ironically, we who live in an age of skepticism are most aware that there is more to reality than what we see.”

“Each of our faculties — the physical, the emotional, the intellectual, and the intuitive — derives from the source of creation and is nestled one in the other as a chain of soul.”   

“My mother’s life and death prompted me to affirm the value of a Jewish life, a life that embraces Jewish ritual, values, and thought.  The soul can’t be seen, but it is not an abstraction.  How we live determines the impact we make on loved ones and the elevation of our own soul.  The quality of how we live is a product in part of whether we see ourselves, as my mother did, as passing visitors in this world.”

“What I gain from the study of Jewish sources on survival of the soul is an affirmation of my growing faith in another realm of reality.  In the study of Jewish text, I join a centuries-old conversation on the meaning of life and lear that, among the most sensitive and mystically oriented of my ancestors, many saw this world as only a passageway to another world.  Reincarnation in the Jewish mystical literature was consistently viewed as real and as another opportunity to develop our souls.  The Jewish tradition affirms that we have spirit guides, or visiting souls, that come to aid us on our spiritual path.

“Judaism teaches that our inner life is composed of different dimensions, and on the highest level our souls are an extension of the Divine… I remain humbled to know that survival of the soul and reincarnation are largely a matter of mystery.”

What have you been reading lately? And are you on Goodreads? I’d love to connect there.

Everything I’ve Ever Read (I think)

Currently Reading

More monthly book reports

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Trust Your Vibes: Lighten up

Zulily boxI seem to have a tiny problem.  As much as I want to embrace a clutter-free life, I keep buying more stuff.  I get into a phase where I am looking through the house for things to donate or to give away.  I purge freely, happy to have the space and empty drawers.  But I’m also piling up craft supplies and unread books and new clothes.  Sigh.  I don’t know if you’ve heard of Zulily, but I am addicted to their bargains.  Our mailman probably hates me.  I’ve decided to forgive myself in advance for this because… well, who really cares?

What are our real treasures in life? People for sure.  Perhaps experiences with those people.  Certainly we each have a few items that are special to us.

Six years ago, when we were packing important items to take with us before a hurricane arrived, we crammed both of our cars with things.  Of course we took tax returns, the cats with all their food/litter/crates, and photos, as well as water, toilet paper, canned food, sleeping bags.  But when I looked around the house, I was afraid of losing any of it.  I started stacking the pictures on our walls into my trunk.  I wanted to take candlesticks and special cards I’d received and even certain books.  I also had what I call a “Holocaust mentality,” wanting to take anything valuable just in case we never returned.  The hindrance then was fear.

GiveawaysNow I would do it very differently.  The three of us and our immediate needs are important.  Everything else is replaceable.  Tax returns and paperwork and most photos are digital.  I think one car would cover it.  We are the treasures.

Another part of Trust Your Vibes that spoke to me: Lighten up.  If you want to live a six-sensory life, you must clear away everything that prevents you from tuning in to higher vibrations—that is, everything that takes up space or energy but doesn’t contribute to your life. This includes unnecessary and unwanted possessions, unfinished business, too many commitments, negative thinking, judgments, mental projections, resentments from the past, and negative associations in the present.  If you pay attention to how things feel and what purpose they serve, you can get rid of anything that doesn’t feel good or serve you.

ScheduleIt’s like she knows about my aversion to clutter and my tendency to over-schedule myself! Sigh.  It also seems irresponsible to be the kind of wasteful consumer that fills our homes with things we don’t love or need.  Granted, with kids it’s a constant battle.  At least for us it is.  Our daughter’s projects and games are all over the place.

Trusting your vibes means not only insisting on a clear space, but also keeping your environment as simple as possible so that energy isn’t blocked or stuck in the past. Don’t hold on to things for sentimental reasons or because “you might need it one day.” This will just bog you down and cause you to miss the higher, lighter energies of spirit. Ruthlessly go through your stuff and get rid of everything that doesn’t feel positive. And remember that as long as we hold on to things, they hold on to us.

I think the key word here is “ruthlessly.” This reminds me that I wanted to toss all my old journals and a ton of kitchen stuff, like these corn holders.  Yet another reason I dislike Texas… it’s stereotypes.

Cowboy boot corn holders

I have a small category of items that I am either holding on to “just in case” we need it, like strange-sized kitchen bowls and serving platters.  Then there are the things other people made with their own hands, like a basket my mom made or a needlepoint my grandpa made that even has a personal note on the back.  I don’t necessarily need or want these items, but I also don’t want anyone to take them from me, so it doesn’t harm me to keep them in a closet somewhere.  I realize there are other emotions at work in the decision.  Some of these items I’m just not ready to make a decision about and that’s ok too.

When you let go of your past, your present truth emerges. It takes a lot of energy to carry your history with you all the time, and it clouds your connection to the Divine.  So choose to become extremely curious about your new story, in what God has in mind for you now and for tomorrow. Then decide not to let your past define you anymore.

I care less about our stuff.  I am not attached to our bedspread or our picture frames or our lamps.  Sure, I’ve created a nest that is personal to us, but the things themselves carry no sentiment.  I feel free.  I could give away 90% of our possessions and be completely fine.  This knowledge reassures me that I am content (and that it’s ok to buy one more dress).

How about you?

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