‘A smile is the beginning of peace.’ Mother Teresa

Are you feeling turbulent? Out of sorts. Not at ease.

We all go through those hours, days, weeks or even longer when we just feel like we can’t get it together. No matter how hard we try our tummies churn and our minds leap between self-doubt and disaster. For many years I’ve tried to fight against the inner turmoil. Tried my best to think my way out of the negative feelings which can grip me. But the struggle leaves me exhausted and often the thoughts which overrun me are still lurking.

So I’m trying a different approach. Accepting that my worries are a part of me. Instead of catastrophizing the big picture I’m trying –and please note I say trying!- to look at my intrusive thoughts with more impartiality. Acknowledge and accept they are there but not buy into the emotional responses which accompany them. Sometimes I can only manage this distraction for a minute or so but sometimes hours pass before they re-occur. The more time between the thought and my emotional reaction to it the better.

There are many wonderful resources to support us with retraining our thinking. And one thing I do now, when my mind runs away, is to try to breathe deeper and smile. Even though the smile may be awkward and forced it does promote a mind-body kinship which helps my thoughts feel more peaceful. What are some of the things which work for you?

The Dangers of Busy Work

“Procrastination is the thief of time.” Edward Youngtime

Procrastination is a sneaky thing and you can find yourself doing it without even realising. We all have things we are putting off and I’m giving myself a bit of a shake down because I know I’m procrastinating.

When I got my first teaching contract the class teacher I took over from told me the children had a busy book. I wasn’t sure what that was but on closer examination it was a book where children could work on tasks when other work was finished. After a few days I realised the busy book was a great distraction and that busy work was a great way to avoid harder more demanding activities. I think we are all a bit guilty of doing busy work which often mimics the things that need doing. We are doing something but if we’re honest it’s not always the stuff we should be.

So if like me you’re using busy work to delay a job, task or project it’s probably time to break down why.

Worried about outside influences and opinions. This is a very real reason for procrastinating. No matter how much intrinsic motivation we have most of us do care a bit about what others think. We may not want to offend, we may be worried about criticism, or we simply don’t want to put ourselves out there. Sometimes doing nothing is easier than facing the hard stuff. But in the long wrong are we only putting off the inevitable.

Not knowing where to start. You’re staring up at a mountain with no idea how to climb it. So you can either run back to the chalet or just begin. I’ve decided not to look at the top because that’s way too overwhelming but instead gaze a little bit higher than where I am standing. A different perspective does make things more achievable and I’m more inclined to try.

Not quite ready for the hard work. Doing something challenging is not easy and often the things we procrastinate about are difficult for us. They may be so close to our hearts we don’t want to try in case we fail. But if this is the case than the not doing can be even more soul-destroying as a bad outcome. If we don’t try we can be on the slippery slope to self-sabotaging and no one wants to go there.

By honestly breaking down the reasons why we are procrastinating we can address them. Busy work is more than happy to get in the way of tackling something important or necessary. But by starting on the things we’ve been putting out off we are beginning our escape from the avoidance trap. And it feels so much better…

Positive Reflection

untitled-design-2The end of the year is often a time for self-reflection.

We can all be super critical of ourselves and while analysis of what we didn’t do can move us forward it can also pull us down. So in pursuit of optimism and to see 2016 out with a bang instead of a fizzle, I’ve pulled together some ways to reflect on the year with a softer, kinder lens. Take a moment to reflect on what you did do, not what you didn’t…

  • I bet you loved unconditionally.
  • I bet you learned things you didn’t know last year.
  • I bet you have supported someone other than yourself.
  • I bet you maintained, rekindled or developed a friendship which brings you joy.
  • I bet you have got through a personal challenge.
  • I bet you indulged yourself and didn’t feel guilty about it.
  • I bet you accomplished different things than you intended. 
  • I bet you got knocked down but you got up.
  • I bet you had a really good laugh.
  • I bet you did many acts of random kindness.
  • I bet you were braver than you thought you could be.

Imagine reflecting on your year as a friend would and I bet you’ve done a pretty awesome job…

Power of Poetry

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The single clenched fist lifted and ready,

Or the open asking hand held out and waiting.

Choose:

For we meet by one or the other. 

By Carl Sandburg

I love this poem. In fact I love the collection it comes from; Staying Alive-real poems for unreal times. Sometimes when things are getting a bit too much it’s amazing how the words and wisdom of a distant other can strike a chord and encapsulate a situation when we can’t.

For me this poem is about communication. Are you approaching potential conflict defensively and ready to bite, or calmly, ready to resolve. It jumped out at me because it is exactly what I needed to think about today.

All too often we keep pushing through, doing it tough, and not actually stopping to reflect on the emotional flash-points in our day. This attitude certainly gets things done but the lack of vulnerability can leave us isolated and maybe a bit misunderstood? When I’m feeling like that my first response is usually to call a friend or relative, discuss or diffuse things by sharing with another. But recently I’ve been trying to be a bit more retrospective.

Reading and listening to a source outside your immediate circle can be very powerful. Poems aren’t for everyone but what about quotes, mantras, podcasts, books. All these things allow us to think about what we are dealing with without having to talk about it. We are giving ourselves a bit of take up time. Time to reflect before we respond or react.

And sometimes when we’re open to reconciling our world the right words seem to find us…

 

 

Are you paying attention? Trying to develop that mindfulness habit…

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Trying to start, let alone maintain, any new habit isn’t easy. Good habits are tough to develop and bad ones are even harder to break. So with that said I’ve recently begun a Mindfulness and Meditation course to quieten my mind and help me better manage my anxiety.

So what actually is mindfulness? Like many non-concrete things there are many definitions. And just like the practice you may stumble on the one which suits you best. According to Psychology Today, “Mindfulness is a state of active, open attention on the present. When you’re mindful, you observe your thoughts and feelings from a distance, without judging them good or bad. Instead of letting your life pass you by, mindfulness means living in the moment and awakening to experience.”

People who successfully practice mindfulness my have started with courses, developed it from another spiritual practice, read and watched clips about it. But however they came across it they maintain the habit. Daily commitment is important and that is a lot harder than I thought. It sounds ridiculous but it’s been tough to find even ten minutes a day to sit and be still. And it’s been even harder to ask to be left alone for that time. While mindfulness techniques can be applied all through the day the focused meditation seems best done at a regular time. I tried in the mornings but my head was too full of my to do list. I tried at night but just fell asleep! So I’ve settled on late afternoon and now I really look forward to shutting myself away, being silent or using a guided meditation. And I honestly feel so much better for it.

I have a beautiful little book which I keep by my bed. I was given it when I was lucky enough to hear the Dalai Lama speak. It’s rich in wisdom about life, happiness and the benefits of a mindful spiritual practice. “The greater the level of calmness of our mind, the greater our peace of mind, the greater our ability to enjoy a happy and joyful life.” The Dalai Lama’s words are something to aspire to and the beauty of the practice seems to be there is no external judgement. No one is involved but you. There is no right or wrong, now or never, in how you develop your own personal habit. Just the fact you begin to practice is a start.

I’ve attached a few links in case you fancy more information…

http://mindfulnessworksaustralia.com.au/     http://mindfulnesscentre.com/

Technology Time Out

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Last week there was a black out in the city where I live. Plunged into darkness as the lights went out across the whole state, families and individuals had to change plans. We had to come up with inventive ways to tackle the problems of no power and ways to entertain ourselves without technology.

Once the terror of having no internet had passed, the world didn’t stop and people didn’t sit round like pumpkins waiting to be picked, on the contrary we found other things to do. Over the next few days there were stories of how families had played games together, how neighbours had rallied around the one house with a gas cooker and shared meals, how people helped strangers and the needy. It did get me thinking about why it takes an event like a power outage to make us do what we really like to do anyway; family, community, sharing.

Perhaps it’s more a question of balance. Technology makes our life easier in so many ways. Once you’ve had access to it you realise know how hard it would be to be without it. I’d wrestle any pickpocket who tried to take my smart phone. But the trick is we can, and maybe we should, put technology aside a little more often. In the blackout a lot of people went back to small pleasures, reading a book by candlelight, playing an instrument, board games with children. The fix it folk rigged up ways to heat and light homes and a lot of people went to bed earlier.

The power came back on, modern life resumed, but it showed how resourceful we can be and the entertainment we can find when we go off the grid for a little while.

 

Trust Yourself

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You know recently I’ve been second guessing my decisions and worrying over choices I’ve made. From big things to small things that annoying voice of doubt is getting a bit too loud for my liking. And while the inner critic can keep you in check it is not the boss. We are capable people but every so often we lose our way and it is at this point we need to reaffirm trust in ourselves.

Sleep is nature’s restorer and if I’m honest I haven’t been getting enough. There is nothing more invigorating than waking from a good night’s rest. Your head is clearer, your body feels fresher, and if you’re a night-time worrier everything seems better in the daylight! Making a concerted effort to nurture ourselves through sleep is a practical way to empower and ease tension.

Sometimes we lose trust in ourselves because we take on too many other people’s opinions and desires. Their energy and voice can leave us struggling to find our own. So if this is the reason you’re floundering respect your own wants and needs. If choices and decisions are our own we are much more likely to believe in them.

Feeling out of sorts about choices we are making can come from being out of touch with our own core values. It is often this mismatch between the actions we take, which do not reflect who we are, that can leave us second guessing. If we are making choices that do not reflect what we believe or stand for it can leave us in a state of turmoil.

Or maybe our self-confidence has taken off for a while. Without self belief we are more prone to question and doubt and that leaves us unsettled. If your confidence has taken a bit of a hit recently and you have lost trust in your decision-making, regaining self-confidence can be a powerful remedy. As our belief in ourselves grows so does our capacity to trust the choices we make.

Go to bed earlier, be around people who validate who you are and what you stand for, and be firm with doubt.

“Trust your own instinct. Your mistakes might as well be your own, instead of someone else’s.” Billy Wilder.