And Now for the Rest of the Story

Am I the only one who misses Paul Harvey? I bet not.

I digress. Sorry about the missing Thursday post! Life has been busy…isn’t it always? I volunteer a lot of my time at my local Police Department, and we had our giant yearly fundraiser on May 10, followed immediately by National Police Week activities. Thursday, I was wrapping muffins and preparing for the annual Police Banquet!

I offer this not as an excuse, but as a beginning. I am blessed to have so many things that I am passionate about in my life. Many people have problems finding one passion, much less several! These things bring purpose and fulfillment to my life, at least right now. It wasn’t always this way, however, and probably won’t be this way forever. The one thing we can always count on to stay the same is change!

I think back to when my daughter was born back in 1999. Like many of you, I had an unrealistic view of what motherhood would be and was thinking about finding a way to be a stay-at-home mom. It sounded ideal to me! I could raise my child my way, save on daycare and not have to work, at least outside of the home (we all know that SAHMs are some of the hardest working ladies out there!). I was assigning raising my daughter to be my purpose in life.

Many mothers, grandmothers, dads and other caregivers have found fulfillment in this for thousands of years – I figured that I could, too. But I was wrong. And because I was restless, depressed and felt purposeless, I didn’t enjoy my time with my baby girl. Instead of looking at changing my situation, I blamed my discontent on myself as some sort of character flaw. I thought that ALL mothers naturally felt such joy with their babies and something was wrong with me because I didn’t. Those thoughts snowballed into a severe, suicidal depression with a nice, juicy side of panic.

I can look back now and understand that there wasn’t anything inherently wrong with me…I was just trying to make myself fit into a box that was a different shape than I needed. Over time and with therapy and medication, I got to that understanding, went back to work and felt much better. And, of course, as the years passed and my daughter got older, my preferences and passions have changed into something I never really expected. That’s the awesomeness of life at work – if we stop trying to force ourselves into boxes and instead just roll with things, doors will open that we have never even considered!

I knew that y’all would be cool with me being late with this post because we’re all Living Self-Care here! Now, my challenge to you is to sit with yourself and try to identify your life passions and purposes. Are you living them? Do you even know what they are? If not, use mindfulness to observe when you are truly content and in the flow…where time passes without notice. Those are the things that you LOVE to do and are PASSIONATE about. Life is too short not to have passion in your life. Whether it’s a hobby, a part-time job or a full-time career, fulfilling your true purpose is essential to basic good health, well-being and Self-Care!

 Namaste

Being in the NOW

By Diane Sanford, PhD

I loved Stacey’s post from last Thursday about how her hand surgery helped her bring her attention back to the present. It’s so astonishing when that happens although our thoughts quickly drift back to what’s ahead or behind us. Two weeks ago I was deep in worry about what was ahead of me-a combined graduation party for my two daughters and Mother’s Day celebration which my family hosted yesterday.

Instead, the weekend was relaxing and fun. There was still time to get my walking in, sit on my porch and enjoy all the greenery blooming around me, spend time with my daughters before and after, and get everything done. My older daughter who was planning to get in just before the party started, discovered on Thursday that a graduation event she thought was happening Saturday night was Friday so she came home early. An unexpected pleasure.Then one of my best friends stopped by to drop off some potato salad for the celebration. Because I didn’t have a “million things to do” like I’d thought two weeks prior, I had time to visit with her. Very pleasant indeed. Next, my sister who thought she’d have to work, called and said she had the day off and could join us, and then another friend who I thought was going out of town, called to say she could also make it by.

So, here’s the lesson. We really don’t know how any experience will be until we experience it. Instead of suffering from our fears of the future or regrets from the past, greet life as it’s occurring. Truly, it’s the only choice we have and as this weekend taught me once again, often much more delightful than what we’ve imagined. Namaste 

Mindfulness Marathon: Let’s Get This Party Started

By Diane Sanford, PhD

Stacey and I have decided as part of Maternal Mental Health Month to sponsor a “Mindfulness Marathon,” so here’s an exercise to get you started. If you’re new to mindfulness, it’s defined as “paying attention to the present moment on purpose without judgement.” Now, if this sounds like something more to put on to your to-do list, it’s not. One benefit of mindfulness is that you can practice it while you go through your day without adding anything. All you have to do is to pay attention to what you’re already doing.

We call this “informal” practice. For example, when you’re showering, direct your attention to the sensory experience of taking a shower-sounds, touch/feeling, smells, sights and taste (well, maybe not taste although when shampoo gets in my mouth…). If thoughts occur, note them by saying “Thinking-Planning-Overthinking, etc,” and then re-direct your attention back to the sensory experience of the shower. At first, you may spend most of going from thought to sensation, thought to sensation and back again. Don’t worry, that’s completely normal. The idea is to let whatever happens happen without judgement or self-criticism.

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This week your assignment (should you choose to accept it), is to pick one activity you do on a daily or regular basis, like showering, doing the dishes, driving to work, and focus on your sensory experience of the activity rather than the thoughts or “tickertape” running through your head. Do this without judgement, understanding that your mind is likely to drift from thought to sensation and sensation to thought frequently. Remember, mindfulness is realizing your mind has wandered, so when this occurs, stop, take a breath, and re-direct your attention to the moment you’re in. That’s it!

Namaste

May Mindfulness Marathon Starts Thursday

By Diane Sanford, PhD

Stacey and I like having monthly themes now and again, so we’re inviting you to join our May Mindfulness Marathon. We’ll be posting about our experiences with mindfulness, and would welcome your submissions for posts too. If you have any mindfulness resources you’d like to recommend-websites, YouTube videos, books, inspiring quotes and such, please pass them along as well. To help you get a mindful mindset going, here’s a poem from Hafiz from “The Subject Tonight Is Love” collection.

At This Party

I don’t want to be the only one here

Telling all the secrets-

Filling up all the bowls at this party,

Taking all the laughs.

I would like you

To start putting things on the table

That can also feed the soul

The way I do

That way

We can invite

A hell of a lot more

Friends.

Join our May Mindfulness Marathon and make time each day to stop, take a breath, and reconnect with the present moment. When you’re stopped at a stoplight, getting into bed at night, putting your make-up on in the morning, or anything you do daily, pause and reflect on the moment you’re in. Savor the sweetness of where you are not where you’re going. Feed you soul, and let’s have one hell of a party!

Namaste

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.

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!

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

10 Things a Pregnant Woman Deserves

I stumbled across this article from The Huffington Post and was thrilled to see a husband writing about how to support his wife during her pregnancy! I hope you enjoy this, too.

My wife, Mel, is seven months pregnant with our third child. We’ve been married for almost ten years. Her last two pregnancies were eye-opening for me. Being pregnant is hard on a woman both physically and mentally. It’s something I can’t experience. I can only observe. As a husband, I often feel helpless. Like I’m just some cheerleader on the sidelines, hoping everything turns out OK. I often wish there were some way I could help her more than I do. Some way I can be more supportive. I mean, I can’t carry the baby for her, but there are things I can do to make her experience a little easier.

Below is a list of a few things that I have been doing — or plan to start doing — to help Mel’s pregnancy go easier. However, I’d love to see ideas from readers on how husbands have made pregnancy easier for their wives.

1. Tell her she’s beautiful.
While pregnant, Mel often describes herself as: Fat, bloated, and spotted (near the end of her pregnancy she always develops little red splotches on her face and neck). Obviously she doesn’t feel beautiful while pregnant, even though I still think that she is. She needs constant reassurance. So when she is pregnant, I often make it a point to tell her how beautiful she is (in person and text message).

2. Excitement.
I know that some men, myself included, see a pregnant woman like a ticking time bomb. I mean, I’m excited to have a baby, but the first year of a child’s life can be hell, with all the sleepless nights, spit-up and dirty diapers. This is not to mention the cost of a new baby. But at the same time, it’s very exciting for a woman, and being negative can really depress your wife. I think it’s important to share in that excitement. I am good and bad at this one. I often exhale, loudly, when talking about things we need to buy for the baby. But I also crouch down, talk to the baby, and then kiss Mel’s tummy. I also enjoy feeling the baby kick. I think this really helps her realize that I am excited too.

3. Judgment (lack thereof).
Let’s face it, women act differently while pregnant. Sometimes I joke that the woman I married is not the woman who has been pregnant with my children. The woman I married would never eat an entire loaf of French bread. She also wouldn’t wear bright red compression tights that make her look like Doctor Eggman from Sonic the Hedgehog. Although we joke around, being pregnant has made Mel do and wear some strange things. It’s best just to let it happen without comment or judgment.

4. Flowers.
Mel loves flowers. They seem to make everything better (I don’t understand it, but I know it’s true). Last week I bought Mel some flowers. The cashier was a woman in her mid 30′s. She asked me what the occasion was. I said, “She’s pregnant. I just thought she could use them.” The casher smiled and agreed. If I could afford it, I’d buy Mel flowers every day that she’s pregnant.

5. Naps.
This is one that I’m not very good at. Being pregnant is exhausting. I can see it in Mel’s eyes. She also tells me about it, too. I often suggest that Mel take a nap, but with the craziness of having two small children, me working two jobs, and Mel in school, it’s difficult to get her to sit down. I think she feels selfish when taking a nap. And honestly, my knee-jerk reaction is to get a little jealous when she gets to take a nap. But I really need to think about the fact that she is growing another person and she needs her rest. I need to be more assertive about picking up her slack so she can feel comfortable dozing for an hour or two during the day.

6. Tell her to sit down.
Standing all day while having a baby wiggling around inside your body, throwing off your equilibrium, must be really difficult. I often see her rubbing her lower back, or her upper legs. I tell Mel to sit down, but just like with naps, I think she feels selfish sitting when there are things to be done. She holds a real sense of duty, which I love about her, but at the same time she needs a rest now and again.

7. A restful night.
Getting a good night’s rest can really change Mel’s disposition. We have a 4-year-old and a 6-year-old. Both are OK sleepers. But they still tend to get up in the night now and again. I will admit that I sometimes sleep through their cries, but for the most part I make it a point to get up in the night so Mel can sleep.

8. Time alone.
This is another one I need to work on. Being pregnant is emotionally draining. There is no doubt about it. The first time Mel was pregnant, she started crying because I asked her to water the Christmas tree. Sometimes I think she just needs a moment or two to simply be alone. I’ve been trying to make it a point to take both our kids out of the house for one reason or another so she can have some time to herself.

9. Company at the OB-GYN.
Often, Mel meets with her doctor while I am at work. We live in a small Oregon town, which means Mel has to drive almost an hour to meet with the doctor. Long story short, I have not been able to accompany Mel to the doctor as much as I’d like. But when I do go, I can tell she enjoys it. I think it makes her feel less alone in all this. Like I am really there to support her.

10. Ask about her needs.
I like to think that I know what’s best for my wife, but that really is a ridiculous assumption. I need to ask her this simple question more: What do you need right now?

Clint Edwards is the author of No Idea What I’m Doing: A Daddy Blog. He lives in Oregon. Follow him on Facebook.

Getting to the Heart of This Matter

Please excuse my tardiness! I usually like to have a post ready to go first thing Thursday mornings, but I knew that I would have an interesting day.

Being actively involved with my local police department, law enforcement and prison issues are of interest to me. So when my neighbor invited me to go hear Ryan Ferguson speak at a nearby college, I was enthusiastic.

I was not disappointed by Ryan’s calmness, maturity and reluctance to say anything nasty about those who took away 10 years of his life. When asked how he handled any feelings of hatred he said, “Hate and anger are natural emotions to feel in situations like this. It’s how you express these feelings that really matters. I took this enormous energy and channeled into bettering myself and advocating for those who can’t do so for themselves.”

Wow. This, from a guy who was arrested at the age of 20 for something that he did not do and because of unethical prosecutors, witnesses and law enforcement personnel, spent the next 8 years in prison. There was NO physical evidence at all linking him to the crime; in fact, this evidence should have immediately exonerated him.

After hearing from his mom, dad and girlfriend, it became evident that this young man had an amazing support system. He had already accomplished many things in his life before he was arrested, including achieving the rank of Eagle Scout. He never wavered during his 9-hour interrogation, which included lies, threats and yelling from the officers and detectives. He never got in one altercation during his time in county jail and prison, despite lengthy stretches of 23-hour lockdown and no outdoor privileges. He never acted out or lost his temper, even after the judge put a $20 million bond on him, basically forcing him to stay in jail even though he was still, “innocent until proven guilty.” If this young man hated anyone, it was never evident today or in any of the numerous videos presented of his interrogation, trials and sentencing.

And in spite of his amazing journey, Ferguson told the audience to please remember one thing: that a man had died and no justice was done. He wanted us to think of Kent Heitholt. All I could think of was compassion, but maybe that was his real point.