Presence and Peace

Mindfulness and the Modern Woman


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This is a guest post written by Emma Haylett.

During my time as an undergraduate, I remember staring at the early morning yoga-doers as I burned time on my elliptical. I knew that my body didn’t bend this way or that, and as I yearned for the clock to tick faster, faster, until my workout was done, I thought I’d never be brave enough to try yoga.

And I wasn’t, for a long time. I should pause to note that I am not a coward—in my life, I’ve watched my father struggle with (and overcome) a meth addiction, I’ve learned to manage life with two alcoholic parents and I am the older sibling of two sisters who gave birth in their teens. I’ve been a kind of parent, a 40-hour-workweek, full-time-first generation college student, and a writer. These, I think, are brave things.

But yoga—well, it was another thing entirely. When I finally decided to give it a go, it was because I knew that I was lacking something in my life. While I’d worked to overcome many obstacles, or so I thought, I’d neglected to develop and maintain a sense of self. I’m not an addict, but I come from a family of them. My mind and body were functional and (mostly) healthy. My spirit was not.

I’ve never been a particularly religious person, so I found little solace in church or youth groups. I don’t exactly pray and I’m not particularly interested in religion, except as a course of study. So, in graduate school, I found myself neglecting my spirit, and deeply depressed because of it.

As a student, I got a free subscription to Amazon Prime, which offered a lot of instant videos. In my studio apartment, I did some basic yoga. I found myself struggling because it lacked any sense of community and left me sweaty and sore in my home. Was I performing the moves correctly? The absence of another person (or even a person-sized mirror) made it impossible to tell.

So, I wandered into a class called “Yum Yum Stretch.” I was a little hesitant. My yoga pants were too tight. My shirt was too loose. My toenails were unpainted. But I found a group of woman and men who were extremely varied—in age, body type, and flexibility. I sighed in relief. We stretched.

What I loved about Yum Yum Stretch was the soothing voice of the instructor, the guided stretches, and the snacks afterword. Maybe it isn’t even yoga, exactly—but the opportunity to join a like-minded group of individuals devoting time to themselves in such a tangible way was exhilarating. We stretched and strengthened our bodies, and (at least for me) our minds. Our mindfulness.

For me, yoga provided a way to deal with my anxiety, depression, and feelings about the behaviors present in my family, perhaps lying dormant in me. For me, this sort of “treatment” is more about prevention of addiction than the treatment for addiction—insurance, you could call it. For others, it is just another piece in the puzzle of addiction treatment.

Running, Pilates, hard-core yoga aren’t for everyone—they certainly aren’t for me. But they represent a dedication that is both selfish and selfless that has nothing to do with any substances, except maybe adrenaline.

Emma Haylett grew up in a state with no sports teams so she picked her own. This is and isn’t a metaphor. Now, she helps treat addicts and families of addicts with non 12 step rehab programs as a graduate student and Certified Prevention Specialist Intern. You can reach her on Google+.

Photo courtesy of kakisky.

Feeling Like a Bratty Two-Year-Old? Take a Nap!


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“I don’t want to take a nap!” I said, hands on hips and stomping my two-year-old foot.

Oh wait, I’m no longer two; I’m 52–and apparently still throwing temper tantrums.  I just don’t stomp my foot quite as hard because it invariably hurts my back.

I was work-weary and project-stressed and I had far too much to do when it was suggested last weekend that I take a nap.

But I did it anyway.

What if I miss something?

As a child, my parents used to tease me that I didn’t want to go to sleep because I was afraid I’d miss something.  I think that is still the case.  Something could happen, something important, that might need my attention while I’m frittering away my time in, heaven forbid, napping.

Somewhere along the line I believe I turned my perceived negativity around napping into a self judgment.  For me, taking a nap tarnishes my work ethic; it causes me to think I’m sloughing off on my work.

I have noticed that as I get busier in my self-employed world, I’m having trouble putting down the pen and shutting off the electronics because “I don’t want to miss anything.”

My God, it’s a wonder I ever sleep with that mindset.  Once again, I’ve managed to make everything about me!  Please tell me I’m not the only one!

Practicing good self-care

Sometimes, after several nights in a row with very little sleep, as I’m stumbling and mumbling in a zombie-like state, I catch myself going round in circles.

When that happened recently, I thought, okay, FINE, I’ll take a nap.

Then it hit me–and I really felt this truth–I have to find a way to release myself from my own pressure cooker.

So I took a nap. Tucked under my blanket, I took a few deep, long breaths and tried to exhale the built-up steam of my projects.  Then I fell asleep, mercifully.

Nearly two hours later, I woke feeling refreshed, more open (when I’m super-tired I tend to draw into myself) and lighter.  I could definitely feel a weight change in my sternum.

Looking back on that feeling–both pre-nap and after–I have a couple of thoughts.  First, ingrained characteristics of my childhood tend to bubble and splash to the surface when I’m stressed and exhausted.

The second thought is I can take care of both my childlike responses and my adult needs by making a decision to take a break.  It doesn’t matter how I get away so much as just doing it–and doing it mindfully.

Maybe it’s a nap; maybe it’s a walk; maybe it’s a guided meditation.  But regular breaks are invaluable.  Let’s make a pact:  I will if you will!

Here’s the bigger picture issue to address:  While it’s true that both the two-year-old me and the 52-year-old me is afraid of missing something, what might I miss if I don’t give in?

Photo courtesy of idahoeditor

Tim McGraw’s Live Like You Were Dying


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“Someday I hope you get the chance to live like you were dying.” ~ Tim McGraw in Live Like You Were Dying

I love most music genres and like a lot of people, appreciate music in different ways depending on my emotions or my mood.

The sweetest music to me, though, is the song that no matter how many hundreds of times I’ve heard it, causes me to stop whatever I’m doing, turn it up and feel emotions coursing through me.

Goose bumps and choked tears

My Top 10 list of tunes contains songs like Whitney Houston’s I Will Always Love You and Mercy Me’s I Can Only Imagine.  Each causes my breath to hitch and my eyes to leak a bit.

There’s one song, though, that always makes time slow down as each word of the lyrics resonates through inevitable thoughts about the passage of time.

I thought of this song–Tim McGraw’s Live Like You Were Dying–a couple of days ago when I read on Facebook about a high school friend who attended a co-worker’s retirement party one day and the colleague dropped dead the next day.  My heart went out to Michael and I wrote this to him:  “We go from feeling invincible as teenagers to knowing that as middle-agers, each day is precious and rare.”

The words from Live Like You Were Dying pelted me again today as it played on the radio while I drove home from the grocery store.  The story, of course, is of a man talking about his experience of being in his early 40s and receiving, presumably, grim X-ray results.  He tells his adult son that he spent days trying to absorb the news, talking about his options, and “talking about sweet time.”

Man, what’d you do?

His son asked the most incredible question.  He said, Man, what did you do when you got the news?

The response is a composite of some of the most beautiful words I’ve ever read:

“I went sky diving, I went rocky mountain climbing,
“I went two point seven seconds on a bull named Fu Man Chu.
“And I loved deeper and I spoke sweeter,
“And I gave forgiveness I’d been denying.”
An’ he said: “Some day, I hope you get the chance,
“To live like you were dyin’.”

Tim’s song is written in memory of his dad, Major League Baseball relief pitcher Tug McGraw who died in 2004 after battling brain tumors for nearly 20 years.

I believe McGraw’s point–and the point of the song–is Why wait?  While I’m not looking to climb on a bull, especially one named Fu Man Chu, there are many, many things that I intend to do before I leave this earth.  Some–like strolling on a black sandy beach or watch an eagle as it’s flying–may have to wait but there are others I can do today, without a moment’s hesitation.

I can love deeper, speak sweeter and give forgiveness I haven’t wanted to give.  I can slow down, fill my lungs with air and breathe into all that is good about these precious moments in time.  Then I can thank God for one more glorious breath.

This post is dedicated to my friend Michael Barnes, to our former classmate Erik Zobrist (both HUGE baseball fans!) who died earlier this year, and to all of us who’ve known both the gut-wrenching loss of someone dear and the exquisite exhilaration of living like we’re dying. 

If you’d like to see the entire video, including the famous winning picture of Tug as a Philadelphia Philly, click Live Like You Were Dying.

Photo courtesy of orchid

 

Weekend Wisdom: Turn Around!


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I continue to feel grateful each time the slightest shift in attitude occurs in my life, each time I turn back from misdirection.

On a recent weekend day, I rolled out of bed with an overall sour, grumpy attitude.  Not sure why, although I vaguely recall waking with bizarre dreams about my parents.

Thanks be to God, and a little effort on my part, the mood didn’t hang around long.

Saturday morning self talk

Rather than infect my house with my pissiness, I decided to head to Lowe’s for retail therapy.  I know, what you’re thinking.  The hardware store?

Here’s the thing.  As a responsible self-employed person, my shopping thrills have shifted from Macy’s and Coldwater Creek to Bed Bath and Beyond and Lowe’s.  When I’m feeling wild and crazy, I’ll hit Barnes and Noble.

Anyway, the point is that as I pushed my buggy up and down the aisles at Lowe’s, filling it with air conditioner filters and fluorescent light bulbs, I was talking myself down from a dangerous ledge of seething anger.

I was stewing in a cauldron of unkind thoughts and as I walked, I carried on a conversation in my head that went something like this:

“You do know that the only person you’re hurting is you, right?”

“Yeah, well, screw that!” (My devil side is so mature.)

“Seriously, do you really want to do that to yourself?  Do you really want to ruin what could be a beautiful Saturday?”

Devil-me had no reply, but as I put the folding hand saw in the buggy (prophetic, don’t you think?), I realized I was finished with the anger.  Just like that, it was gone.

Sunday morning self-care

At church, the very next morning, I heard about the power behind I AM statements.  I have to tell you that the timing was kind of fishy, like God called our minister and ratted me out.

Rev. Rob spoke about how whenever we say things like, “I AM so angry!” that anger goes out of its way to find us.  Same thing with, “I AM dumb” or “I AM fat.”  The law of attraction insists that ignorance and Hershey candy bars seek you out when you say those things.

If on the other hand, I say, (since I was the one Rob was speaking to), “I am breathing into this anger because I trust it will pass.”  Or maybe I say, “Yep, I’m willing to acknowledge feeling angry because it won’t last forever.”

Those two statements are so much more affirming and a whole lot less damning.  What I like is that neither ignores the feeling; in fact, I get to embrace it without clutching it to my chest and squeezing the life out of it.

In a pretty quick turnaround, I watched–with a growing aptitude for detachment–as the whole idea of “what you think about you bring about.”

I have to admit that it feels pretty good to know that I no longer have to spin out, crash and burn because of my feelings.  They’re not facts.  In the whole messy scheme of things, they’re merely a blip on the radar of an otherwise bee-utiful existence.

Photo courtesy of wallyir

Are You Living in Integrity?


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I would venture to say that most people don’t give a second thought–or even a first thought–to the answer to the question posed in the title of this post:  Are you living in integrity?

To be fair, some of those folks don’t think much about whether they live a life of integrity because they do the right thing all the time.  Period.

My friend Charles is like that.  He was raised in horrific circumstances–unfathomable childhood violence–then entered a career meant for justice but riddled with the opposite.

Charles endured bigotry, hatred and indifference.  Yet, he is one of the most principled men I know.

Inventory your integrity

There are other folks, and I include myself in this category, who have struggled with applying integrity in their lives.  I’m not implying that you deliberately do false or rotten things, but you may be the kind of person who occasionally asks yourself, “Jeez, did I do the right thing?”

Don’t feel badly; part of what’s cool about life is that we can periodically take stock of the assets and liabilities that make up our days.  Most of us in active recovery from addictions find the practice beneficial to feeling peace and serenity.

For my “normal” friends, I’ll spare you the whole 12-step, rigorous honesty process (although we jokingly say everyone could benefit from an inventory).  Instead, I found a few quotes about integrity to offer as food for thought.

My long-time readers might recall a stretch of time when I posted five quotes on Mondays to percolate through your work week.  I hope you enjoy these morsels of wisdom in that same vein.

Please post in the comments section any other quotes or ideas that frame your life of integrity.  Have a terrific week, my friends!

Integrity thoughts to live by

Six essential qualities that are the key to success: Sincerity, personal integrity, humility, courtesy, wisdom, charity.

— William Menninger

Living with integrity means: Not settling for less than what you know you deserve in your relationships. Asking for what you want and need from others. Speaking your truth, even though it might create conflict or tension. Behaving in ways that are in harmony with your personal values. Making choices based on what you believe, and not what others believe.

— Barbara De Angelis

Be daring, be different, be impractical, be anything that will assert integrity of purpose and imaginative vision against the play-it-safers, the creatures of the commonplace, the slaves of the ordinary.

— Sir Cecil Beaton

But my idea of success is different today. For me, the most important thing in your life is to live your life with integrity and not to give into peer pressure, to try to be something that you’re not. To live your life as an honest and compassionate person. To contribute in some way.

— Ellen DeGeneres

Have the courage to say no. Have the courage to face the truth. Do the right thing because it is right. These are the magic keys to living your life with integrity.

— W. Clement Stone

Photo courtesy of joelcomm.com