Family That Lost All to Fire Reminds Me That Life is What You Make It

Life…you just never know what’s going to happen. I suppose that makes it exciting at times and stressful at others. I was just reading my last post. At that time, I had no idea how that seemingly innocuous thunderstorm would change my life.

Not too long after I finished writing, I heard fire engine sirens – a LOT of them. Not wanting to get in the way of emergency personnel, I called our local Sheriff’s Office to find out what was going on (yes, I’m nosey but I am also our Neighborhood Watch Chair, so it’s sort of my job to be). They confirmed a house fire, but couldn’t give me specifics. As my research went on, I finally found out that a home in my neighborhood had been struck by lightning.

The next morning, I went to the home to see if I could establish contact with the family, get details and perhaps begin a relief effort. I approached a man who was working in the garage, apparently sorting the salvageable from the unsalvageable. “Are you the homeowner?” I asked. “It depends who’s asking,” the man replied. I told him who I was and he seemed relieved. He told me that remodeling companies and legal firm reps had been stopping by to sell him services…less than 24 hours after his home had burned. I was incredulous for a few seconds, but then reality hit. Those people have to make a living too.

The homeowner explained that the lightning had struck the natural gas line (metal pipe) that led to the stove inside. This lit the gas and it basically exploded into his kitchen. I took a quick look inside and burst into tears. The kitchen was gone. The large television in the living room had melted. The water in their fish tank had boiled. The man said something soothing to me when he saw how upset I was and then reminded me that, “This is just stuff. The real valuables were not hurt (referring to his family).”

Indeed, his mother-in-law and youngest daughter had left the home to go to Mothers Day Out about 2 or 3 minutes before the explosion. His wife and older daughter were already at work and school, respectively. He heard about the fire from his next door neighbor, whose home security alarm was triggered by the excessive smoke coming from next door. “We are so blessed and will still have a happy Easter,” he assured me.

I left feeling a little dazed and in awe of this man’s attitude. I started sending out information to the community for relief, and generous folks from all over the area responded with clothing, toiletries, school supplies and gift cards. It was truly overwhelming. I spent much of Easter Sunday just resting and reflecting on what had happened. Perspective and attitude really does determine if one’s life is good or not!

It’s been a week since the fire, and the family’s needs have been met completely by their church, the insurance company and area residents. They will be in an apartment soon and can expect to have their home rebuilt in 6 – 8 months. Because of their faith, attitude of gratitude and perspective, this was just a bump in the wonderful road that is life.

Appreciate what you have. Don’t compare. It can change in an instant.

Namaste.

Join Oprah and Deepak Chopra’s Meditation Challenge

By Diane Sanford, PhD

Last week, I started the newest Oprah/Chopra meditation challenge with some of my Mindful Mom students and counseling clients. I like this one very much although one of my friends who’s new to meditation, couldn’t quite figure out what to do. So, I suggested she listen to my YouTube video on 5-minute breathing first and then go back to the challenge. If you’re new to meditation, you may find this helpful as well.

Click here for 5-minute breathing: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xWmHn_YMsp8

If you choose to participate in the challenge (and we hope you will), here are a few other reminders. First, meditation is about having a simple experience. It’s not about reaching nirvana or feeling “relaxed” 100% of the time. It’s learning to direct your attention so that you can create opportunities to let go of stress and step out of the thought stream. Whether it lasts a few seconds, moments or more, committing the time to taking a breath (or two) and being still is health enhancing. It also counts as self-care. Bonus!

Equally important, do not judge how well (or poorly) you’re doing. As with mindfulness, approach this meditation experience with self-compassion. Remind yourself that these practices do not come naturally to those of us in the western world, and that your participation is enough. This is not a test. Whatever happens, you are still wonderful and deserving of lovingkindness. Remember this, always.

Stacey and I will be participating too so if you have any questions or comments while the challenge is in progress, let us know. Please, click on this link to get started: https://chopracentermeditation.com.

Namaste

 

Just Let Me BE

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As I write, it is thundering, lightning and raining heavily outside my window. Days like this make me want to curl up in bed and just BE. Unfortunately, I have not taken much time lately to do that.

I was chatting with Diane on the phone yesterday and we were laughing at how we “Self-Care Gurus” need to practice what we preach! It seems as if she and I are usually on the same “wavelength” and can totally relate to the other. So when I described my dilemma of loving my work vs. Self-Care, she understood.

I realized that I am very blessed to love what I do; however, if I keep up at the pace I am currently running, I WILL burn out, no matter how much I enjoy what I am doing. The thought of NOT loving my work is unacceptable. Even though it takes a lot of discipline, I am getting better at setting alarms to remind me to take breaks, eat and take time to just BE.

In fact, I may take some time to do just that after this post. When is the last time that you just WERE? No technology or other distractions, no other people, no activities…just you and the present moment? Spend some time with yourself and your breath, mantra or thoughts and note the differences in your mind and body when you’re done. It IS like a little vacation!

Your Most Vital Commitment

logo_dailyomToday’s post comes from one of my favorite daily inspirational sites – DailyOMMadisyn Taylor is an exquisite writer who really gets to the heart of the matter. She’s recently published a collection of her inspirational posts! Make sure to check it out! Namaste – Stacey

Finding Time for You

Within each of there is a well of energy that must be regularly replenished. When we act as if this well is bottomless, scheduling a long list of activities that fit like puzzle pieces into every minute of every day, it becomes depleted and we feel exhausted, disconnected, and weak. Refilling this well is a matter of finding time to focus on, nurture, and care for ourselves, or “you time.” Most of us are, at different times throughout the day, a spouse, a friend, a relative, an employee, a parent, or a volunteer, which means that down time, however relaxing in nature, is not necessarily “you time.” Though some people will inevitably look upon “you time” as being selfish, it is actually the polar opposite of selfishness. We can only excel where our outer world affairs are concerned when our own spiritual, physical, and intellectual needs are fulfilled.

Recognizing the importance of “you time” is far easier than finding a place for it in an active, multifaceted lifestyle, however. Even if you find a spot for it in your agenda, you may be dismayed to discover that your thoughts continuously stray into worldly territory. To make the most of “you time,” give yourself enough time on either side of the block of time you plan to spend on yourself to ensure that you do not feel rushed. Consider how you would like to pass the time, forgetting for the moment your obligations and embracing the notion of renewal. You may discover that you are energized by creative pursuits, guided meditation, relaxing activities during which your mind can wander, or modes of expression such as writing.

Even if you have achieved a functioning work-life balance, you may still be neglecting the most important part of that equation: you. “You time” prepares you for the next round of daily life, whether you are poised to immerse yourself in a professional project or chores around the home. It also affords you a unique opportunity to learn about yourself, your needs, and your tolerances in a concrete way. As unimportant as “you time” can sometimes seem, it truly is crucial to your well-being because it ensures that you are never left without the energy to give of yourself.

madisyn-press2-200Best-selling author Madisyn Taylor is the co-founder and editor-in-chief of the popular inspirational website DailyOM, and she is responsible for all its content. A recognized leader in self-help and New Thought spirituality, she has more than 15 years experience in personal development and alternative-healing methodologies. When not working, Madisyn can be found meditating in her garden and communing with nature.

Persephone’s Journey: How Everything We Touch Changes

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With the arrival of spring, I am always reminded of Persephone’s story and the lessons to be learned from the daughter of Demeter, mother earth, and her journey.

I was introduced to Persephone’s story a few years ago at a women’s retreat.  In Roman mythology, Persephone is the daughter of Demeter, Mother Earth, who leaves “the world above” to become Queen of the Underworld. Although some versions say she was abducted by Hades and taken against her will, I prefer to believe that she left because she had outgrown living as a child in her mother’s garden and wanted to fulfill her unique destiny.

While she is still in the Underworld, she brings healing and hope to the spirits of the dead. Wherever she walks, “a line of bright daffodils sprout in her wake. By her simple presence and passing, she brings color and life” to the darkness below. However, she might not have noticed these changes at all if Hades had not asked her to turn her head and notice the changes she’s brought to a path that for her was “already in the past.”

So, here are some questions for you to consider this week. “What flowers, what color, what brightness have you left in your wake? Often without noticing it? Can you take a moment to turn, to notice? Can you take in the power, and responsibility, of this reality-that you too change everything you touch?

When you look over your shoulder, what do you see? And how does that feel? What might this noticing change?”

Enjoy your week. Namaste.

Note: Quotes are taken from 2010 Mystery School Workbook, Diana’s Grove

Start Loving Yourself By Not Judging Yourself

Jack Kornfield, psychologist and founder of Spirit Rock Meditation Center, tells a story about a group of western meditation teachers who went to visit the Dali Lama. During a discussion about self-compassion, the teachers related how critical and self-rejecting they felt. In fact, several actually used the word self-hatred which the Dali Lama had never heard. After he finally understood what they meant, he replied ” But, no. This is wrong. The way to relate to oneself is with self-compassion and love.” As Buddha said, “You as much as anyone else in the universe are deserving of your love.”

At livingselfcare, this is one of the practices Stacey and I mention often because many of us relate to ourselves with judgement, self-criticism and even self-loathing. A few weeks ago, I was teaching an intro to mindfulness when a new student commented about how during our breath awareness exercise, she kept judging herself and focusing on how she was messing up. Another student, who’s been practicing mindfulness for a while, spoke up and said, “I used to do that all the time when I started. Lately though, it’s gotten better and I can quiet those thoughts more. I try to be kind and patient towards myself like I am with my children and friends. It’s still an effort but that’s okay.”

This week, each time you look in a mirror smile, and remind yourself how precious you are. Remember, each of you is a unique expression of the universe and that’s something special!

Namaste

Self-Care: Make It #1 on Your “To Do” List

Do you treat your body as if it is sacred? Do you have a regular exercise and fitness regimen? Are you eating healthy meals? When is the last time you went to a spa to pamper yourself?

Your body is your temple. Think about it. It is the only place ‘your self’ has to live in. Life’s responsibilities are countless for many of us. And in trying to juggle those responsibilities we neglect to take care of ourselves–our temple. We might think about our physical health but that is often where it begins and ends.

Most of my adult life has been weighted with high stress careers, once in the military, and now in corporate America. I rise before the aurora and retire long after sunset. Over the past few months my stress levels have been escalating, my body was feeling energy-drained, my skin was breaking out and my mental acuity was becoming dull. So I thought, “I can combat these negative forces and make improvements in my overall health if I just make taking care of myself number one on my ‘To Do’ list.” So I have taken steps to do precisely that and have seen steady progress. You, too, can make marked improvements in your health and fortify your body–your temple.

Make Self-Care #1

Self-care is an integral part of stress management. Our bodies are conditioned to respond negatively to unhealthy forces bombarding it. Granted, it tries to warn us, but often we do not listen. Bottom line is you can dial-it-back and condition yourself to focus on a healthy diet, exercise and relaxation. Increasing your relaxation response can prevent chronic stress from having a negative effect on your body and overall health.

Get started with these five basic tips:

  1. Make exercise a morning priority before your day gets started.
  2. Drink plenty of water (it flushes impurities from the body).
  3. Get a massage (it is known to promote relaxation and well-being).
  4. Go cold turkey on doing things that don’t fuel you.
  5. Take a break from your agent of stress (go on vacation).

Don’t wait for the body to warn you. Start today and put self-care higher on your own ‘To Do’ list.

SavionToday’s guest blogger is Dr. Sydney Savion. Dr. Savion is an applied behavioral scientist, member of the American Psychological Association and scholar-practitioner in the field of life transition for more than a decade. She views life transition as a gradual psychological progression of questioning self, others, the situation, seeking a new direction, and a quest to start to anew. It is a natural part of living that is triggered by an event that has a momentous impact upon and changes a person‘s life ecosystem in a manner that demands a person to cope and adjust. For example, this event could be a loss of a loved one, a marriage, your mental health, or even livelihood. She is the author of the Living a Blissful Life blog on HealthyPlace.com.

 

Maintaining Personal Power in Helpless Situations

power-of-attorney-480x450Personal power: it’s something we take for granted. We make our own decisions every day, from what to have for breakfast to where to live. But what if you found yourself in a position in which your personal power has been taken away? For example, a medical emergency could land you in the hospital. In this scenario, it’s very important to maintain the position of “calling the shots.” However, if you’re unable to for any reason, you must have an advocate who will.

We don’t usually sit and think about possibilities like this unless we’re dealing with a disease or long-term illness. It may be unpleasant to ponder, but drawing up a Medical Power of Attorney and a Living Will is just important as paying your car, health and life insurance every month. It’s also a very basic part of self-care, just like visiting a doctor once a year for a check-up.

Planning for the unexpected will not only make sure you are taken care of, but will take the confusion out of these situations for your loved ones. I have heard countless stories of someone falling ill suddenly or having something go wrong with a routine procedure. Without a Medical Power of Attorney, your healthcare decisions may be left in the hands of doctors who do not know you, as opposed to someone who knows you well and will make the decisions that are best for you and in line with your wishes.

These documents are readily available on the Internet and from area hospitals in most states and can be notarized and filed with the person you have chosen, as well as with your lawyer. In fact, you can have your Medical Power of Attorney put on file with any hospital that you wish! It’s a simple process, but may end up taking the complexity out of a sudden and dire situation.

Self Care: How Not To Do It

jennifer_mcc_portraitToday’s Self-Care Month Guest Blogger is Jennifer McCullough. She is a 20-year PR and Marketing professional turned stay-at-home mom slash blogging fanatic. You can learn more about her and read her crazy mom antics at http://www.mommyhooddom.com. Please stop by and say hello. She’d love to meet you!

After my son was born in the fall of 2011, with the exception of two trips to the pediatrician’s office, I didn’t leave my house for a month. I mostly just cried all day and ate Peanut M&Ms. The idea of self-care, or taking even a minute for myself, was nowhere on my radar.

At the same time I was getting my sea-legs as a mom, I was mourning the loss of my mother, who had died a month before my son was born. In the course of a year, I moved to a new city far away from friends and family, had a baby and lost my mom – that’s a pretty good recipe for emotional upheaval!

One of the main reasons I didn’t go out more right after my son was born was because I wasn’t comfortable breastfeeding in public. My breasts were humongous and hard to conceal. Pumping hurt, so I didn’t like to do that either.

I didn’t much like breastfeeding in those early days, but my son LOVED it. It seems like he wanted to nurse every 20 minutes, around the clock. I found out what real sleep deprivation is like. It’s not the kind you experience when you’re having fun in college. It’s the kind that goes on for weeks on end and that is actual torture.

During that first month, I didn’t talk to many people. I rarely showered. I guess maybe that’s why they didn’t talk to me. I don’t know.

To say I neglected my needs for basic things like sleep, nutritious food, exercise, shampoo and emotional support would be the understatement of the century.  I was a case study in self-care:  how not to do it. Those first 30 days were tough to say the least, but things slowly got better.

I will never forget the first trip I made to the grocery store, which was also my first time out of the house alone, about a month after my son was born.

I guess my brain had forgotten how to process so much sensory stimulation because I remember being overwhelmed with all the colors and shapes lining the shelves! I couldn’t focus on any one thing. The barely audible overhead music combined with the sounds of shopping carts and occasional chatter from the other shoppers bombarded me like a Mardi Gras parade.  I realized I needed to get out more often or else risk becoming someone who could not go out – at all. And that thought frightened me – a lot.

I wish I could say I started going out all the time after that grocery shopping experience, but I really didn’t. Living in a new place where I didn’t know anyone made it tough. The weekly trips to the grocery store and the occasional weekend trip to the mall were big adventures. Mostly, we stayed at home, my infant son and me, while my husband was at work. The long winter days melted together.

The next spring, my son and I did start having a few play dates here and there. It was great to connect with other moms. My son loved the social time with other little ones. We worked our way up to visiting the library.

When it warmed up, we walked around our neighborhood. I remember being so happy just to get fresh air. It was such a small thing, but after being inside for months on end, fresh air felt like such a luxury!

Eventually, I started getting my hair done again. For the longest time after my son was born, I either cut it myself or went to one of those drive-thru hair cutters for the easiest, most low-maintenance style possible. It’s called a pixie and it takes forever to grow out!

My son turned two-years-old a few months ago and to celebrate, I went out with one of my girlfriends and got a manicure and a pedicure. It was awesome! It was only the second manicure I’ve ever had in my life and it was my very first pedicure! I thought surely they’d give me a discount! They didn’t, but that’s ok. I’m still going to go back.

I still breastfeed my son several times a night and before his nap, and whenever he gets an “ouchy.” But, I do sleep a little more these days. I’m still looking forward to getting a good 8 hours of uninterrupted slumber. I know it will come, eventually.

I joined a health club last week. Crazy, I know! I haven’t actually worked out yet, but I don’t want to do too much too fast. They say you should start slow. I figure I’ll get ON the treadmill around the first of March.

I started a blog called Mommyhooddom. Writing is great self-care therapy for me. I like to write sad stories about missing my mom and funny stories about being a mom. Connecting with other parents online is a huge blessing! They make me feel human on the days I feel like a wind-up mom.Mommyhooddom_logo150

I have a long, long, long way to go before I can say I’m good at taking care of myself. But, I have high hopes that by the time my son starts pre-school in the fall, I’ll be well on my way to remembering what it was like to have both of my legs shaved at the same time.  One can dream, even while awake at night!

©2014 Jennifer McCullough

Confessions of A Recovering Mind-less Eater: The Benefits of Mindful Eating

By Diane Sanford

I wanted to follow up on our guest blogger’s Kathleen’s post from Saturday about Mindful Eating and encourage you to read her post (below) if you haven’t already. I have experienced issues with food since my mid-teens. By my mid-twenties while in graduate school, I weighed 40+ pounds more than my ideal body weight. I had gained and lost weight multiple times by then but couldn’t keep it off. Now, few people believe me when I tell them this but it’s true.

To keep the weight off, I had to come to terms with my relationship with food. In turning my attention to my eating, I discovered I was using it to cope with my emotional life and relationships with men. I would eat if I was happy, sad, bored, and mostly stressed. It was my family’s way of dealing with our emotional life. I also ate because every time I became slimmer, more men would be interested in me and I didn’t have the self-esteem then to deal with them assertively.  Although the reasons are slightly different for each of us, they are present. Two wonderful books for exploring this are: Why Weight by Geneen Roth and Fat is A Feminist Issue by Susie Orbach.

As I became aware of what was behind my mind-less eating, I began cultivating a more mindful relationship with food. I learned to distinguish physical hunger from emotional hunger and eat to physically nourish my body. I would eat slowly and intentionally without the distraction of TV, or reading or answering the phone. Just sit there and eat. We didn’t have cell phones or tablets or electronic devices to distract us then but I would include those now.

I learned to chew my food, one bite at a time, and pay attention to the texture and taste. While I’ve always LOVED food, it was much tastier and more satisfying to eat this way. By the end of a meal, I felt physically full not thinking about what I was going to eat next. We didn’t call it mindful eating then but looking back, that’s what I was learning to do.  I found it extremely worthwhile and I know each of you will too whatever your size and weight.

Please read Kathleen’s post just below this one and try the “chocolate kiss” exercise. Let us know how it goes. Remember, we’re in this together. Have a good week. Namaste.