Saturday, January 30, 2010

Living a Mindful Life Lesson 6: Winning Isn't It

I guess here is a good place to announce that I didn't win the Valentine's Day card contest. I was a bit disappointed because I thought my designs were really cute and perfect for kids to color. Thing is, the judges simply have different taste than I do.
When I was young, one thing my father always said to me when faced with a challenge: "The only sure fire way to fail, is to not do it." In living a mindful life, I have to "go for" things that are important to me for whatever reason. The contest idea sparked interest and propelled me forward creatively. I drew: something I haven't done in a really long time. I learn a new design program: something I found exhilarating . I tried. I lost. But not really.
I gained some lost confidence in my talent. I acquired some hard earned knowledge of Corel Draw. And I tried, so I didn't fail.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Living a Mindful Life Lesson 5: Peanut Butter Addiction Revisited

We all have our addictions. Perhaps it is reality TV or trash mags. Maybe it’s chewing gum, food, 5 o’clock cocktail or even sucking on cherry flavored lozenges. ONE of my addictions, fortunately and unfortunately, is peanut butter. When asked: “If you needed to gain 10 lbs. and could only eat one food what would it be?” Peanut Butter. I love it on hot toast, all melty, with raisins on top. On saltines (with raisins on top), on apples, bananas, and, especially a spoonful encrusted with dark chocolate chips. But the absolute premiere what to ingest PB is as is scooped up high on a spoon. I even have claim on the first scoop out of a fresh jar (I call a “freshie”) because it is the softest, creamiest spoonful in the jar. I’m proving Pavolv’s theory as I type. Excuse me as I wipe the drool off my chin. So, if I don’t “watch it” I can find myself mindlessly shoveling PB like a farmer on manure.

Lately, I have been trying to really enjoy my PB experiences. Taking only a bit and savoring every cellular molecule. I find that I am eating less of it and that I am more satisfied with my feast than every before. Take a look at your addictions. Is there a way you can mindfully enjoy them so you have them more under your control and are more satisfied? Perhaps you pick one show to watch or one mag to read. Maybe you only have your cocktail on the weekend or chew gum or suck lollipops after a meal. Whatever it is, reel it in a bit and mindfully enjoy each moment of it.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Living a Mindful Life Lesson 4: Windowpane Gratitude

Being grateful for the people and blessings around you helps create a mindful sense of being. Sometimes it is hard to be thankful, especially if you are in the midst of trauma, drama or living in the future.
Yesterday I was drying my hair. Every time I dry the right side, I'm looking out our single window in our rather small bathroom. The view is a beautiful snapshot of our back yard. I especially enjoy it in the summer when all the plants are in their glory. Now it is winter and yesterday there was condensation on the window. I reached over with my free hand and drew a symbol for six things I was grateful for at that moment: one in each of the bottom panes. Some were really meaningful--those are the easy ones. But a couple were part of the mundane, little things that get overlooked when I am wanting more. Then I smiled.
Naming your gratuities gives them weight and power. You don't have to write them down or draw them out on frosted glass. You can simply name them in your head. Maybe when you brush your teeth (be grateful you live in the Age of Fluoride) or when you a driving (hey, cars don't poop like horses did), think of a gratitude at every stop light. Whenever it is, find a routine for being grateful on a daily basis.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Living a Mindful Life Lesson 3: Rudolph Finds a New Nose

One consideration of living a mindful life in to be in tune with what makes you feel good about yourself and your world around you. Sometimes you have to try something new to achieve a bit of joy. When I turned thirty, I thought I would never get another breakout again. I was an adult after all. Clear skin has always been a goal of mine. I never go a day without washing and moisturising my face. Well now I am forty, yes, forty, and I still get those darned pimples. The ones I hate the most are the ones that are big, red, and painful and nothing comes out of them. At least you get some satisfaction out of the other ones when you squeeze! I got one of these Big Reds on my nose the other day (OK, you can stop with the Rudolph jokes). I remembered reading an article in one of those fashion magazines about using Preparation H (yes, honey, hemorrhoid cream) on red pimples to take out the swelling and the redness. I was desperate, so I got some and tried it. It smelled weird and was greasy so I put it on at night and then the next morning it was down quite a bit. I wasn't going anywhere that day, so I greased up again and by the time I picked up my kids, it was down far enough that I could actually cover it up with concealer. Ahhh, even the illusion of clear skin makes me feel better. Find out what your body, heart, soul needs. Maybe it is a hot chocolate chip cookie. Or sitting in the sun (use sunscreen). Try juicing or yoga or a new kind of food. Whatever it is, just take a chance--in a mindful way, of course.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Living a Mindful Life Lesson 2: Ask and Ye May Recieve

Living mindfully means asking for what you need or want...fully knowing that the answer may be no or not now but it may actually be yes. In the past, I've been too nervous to ask. I didn't want to bother people or seem like I'm needy. But today, I decided to go for it.
I love Lands' End clothing and footwear for my children. They are durable and they sometimes have really great sales. Today I was looking for rain boots for my daughter. Her feet are growing so fast, it has been difficult to keep her in shoes. Right now, only her snow boots fit her best, which is OK since we live in the Northwest. I also needed to get some dress clothes for my son. He is in the 5th grade this year and we are fast approaching the time in his school when he is required to wear a coat and tie to several events. He current dress blazer is two sizes too small. I wanted to check out what LL Bean had next and saw that they had free shipping for orders over $75. But I really liked the selection at my beloved Lands' End better. Any way, I racked up quite an order and the shipping was nearly another $20.
I took one of my yoga breaths and contacted a customer service representative. I told her what LL Bean was offering and asked if she could offer me free shipping. Lo and behold, they had a promotion code for me for free shipping (not advertised on the website at all)!
Lesson for me today: it really doesn't hurt to ask.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Living a Mindful Life Lesson 1: Just Beathe

No, I didn't make a New Year's Resolution...don't believe in them. I had an epiphany last year and decided to try living in a constant ebb and flow of a mindful life. I tend to live in the future Land of What Ifs and I struggle by the minute to live in the moment. One great way for me to do this is to do yoga. Now, when do yoga and I to be super mindful of not making grocery lists in my head. I really try to focus in on my breath (which is what you are supposed to do, I know) and focus in on what my body needs at that moment. I have two great studios I go to in Rhode Island: Raffa Yoga: (my favorite teacher is Pam) and Lotus Fire Yoga: (Joanie is my instructor of choice). If you can't make it to a full class or can't afford the $15 a pop, another great way to have a practice is on line at This is a free service and I have done some great classes. Just set up your computer and your mat & you are really for that first downward dog of the day. So, I use my yoga breath when things get a bit frenzied. Closing my eyes and breathing slowly and thoughtfully not only reduces my stress but also brings me back to what is really important at that moment. So today, when you feel scattered, simply close your eyes and breath.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

The Thin Line Between Reason & Excuse

I hear them all day long from my children: excuses. From the proverbial "I forgot" to the mundane "just 'cause." The trashcans remain at the bottom of the driveway; the homework is unfinished; their stinky bodies continue to stink because they still haven't taken a shower. But sometimes, upon taking a breath and really thinking about it, I realize that their explanations aren't simple excuses but, in fact, logical reasons for their behavior or the lack there of. In looking at the various situations, I've come up with my own criteria for discerning what is an actual excuse and what is a valid reason.

An excuse is defined by a plea offered in order to get out of trouble. In my experience, many times an excuse is simply a flat out lie. Sometimes it isn't a lie but more of a very watered down reason--one that with a bit of effort wouldn't even be necessary to conjure up. You not only see this in childhood, but it is rampant in the adult world. Daily people vacillate between being upfront and honest with their actions and scrambling this way and that to cover their asses. A report is late on the bosses desk. The employee blames his secretary or the copier when in reality she simply didn't start the project in a timely manner. A college student asks for an extension on his term paper because he's been working nights to pay the rent. While it is true that he is working nights, his day time is full of opportunities for study. In stead he plays video games or chats with his long distance girl friend on the computer; he may even have some beers with his friends. Hell, it's 5 o'clock somewhere. I used to have a boyfriend who had ADHD. He was always late. He always lost his keys. (I know that technically you are not supposed to use the word "always" but in this case, it is the only appropriate word.) Now, this man always used his ADHD as an excuse: "You know me, I've got ADD!" In some cases I would err on the cause for reason, but in his case, it is basically an excuse for not being responsible for his condition: he didn't wear a watch, he didn't carry a planner or PDA, he didn't write things down so he could remember and he didn't hang his keys on the key hook when he entered the house. In excuses, the weak reason given might not necessarily be the "cause" of the action. But a reason is a pretty strong excuse!
Reasons differ from excuses as they are the actual cause for an action or event. "Cause" is the operative word, here. My son is snappy with me almost every day after school. After a few days of just disciplining him to no end, he finally gave me the reason for his grouchy mood: "I"m hungry." Of course! I get grouchy, too, when I don't eat---that whole low blood sugar thing. My new puppy randomly poops in the house. It's not her fault, if I claimed that, it would be a pretty weak excuse. She is only answering nature's call. In fact, the reason she does it is because I am not paying close enough attention to her. My sister-in-law's family doesn't come to our house. From an outside observer, one might think the excuse is that they don't like coming over, but the real reason is that my nephew has asthma and is allergic to cats--we have two very fluffy cats. The way I see it, the best "reason" for an action is usually a basic human need or emotion. I read a book once about why children misbehave. The main premise is that children always do the best they can with what they've got. They aren't born to be bad. No, humans are born wanting to do good, feel good and be good. This rings true for not just children but also for adults of all ages. We all want to be happy and do the right thing, but sometimes we have good reasons why we can't or bad excuses why we don't.

So the next time you are faced with what you think is an "excuse," take a moment to ascertain if there could be a good reason hidden in there. Perhaps a friend says or does something that upsets you? Before this time he has been a great friend but you've noticed that he has been on edge lately. Instead of fighting with him and holding a grudge, even maybe ruining the friendship, ask him how he is. Truly reach out to him with unconditional caring and compassion. You may find out that his finances are stretched or that a loved one passed away. At that moment, instead of piling more doom and gloom on his otherwise weakened spirit., you are given a gift of an opportunity to strengthen your friendship by helping support your friend and aiding in the healing process.