About what matters

Writing about what really matters

Month: January, 2014

The sweet spot

Joy

Happiness, not in another place, but this place … not for another hour, but this hour … –Walt Whitman

When I thought at the beginning of this month about my wishes and intentions for this new year, I realized that they really all boiled down to joy. This is the SoulCollage card I made to anchor that intention.

I believe that joy isn’t really in what happens to me, in what I have, or in what I do, but rather in my approach to life just as it is.

Joyful, meaningful, and memorable encounters–whether with people, animals, nature, architecture, or what have you–seem to happen almost unpredictably and in the most random places. I think they’re waiting for me everywhere like hidden Easter eggs, if only I’m willing to open my eyes and see them.

This card represents my willingness to be pleased by life. To toss out my label maker with its steady stream of ‘good’ and ‘bad,’ instead simply looking for the joy in whatever my circumstances may be.

I know from experience that wonderful things can happen everywhere–at the gas station. At the grocery store. While retrieving my mail. The possibilities are limitless because love is everywhere, and there is nowhere love is not.

If I’m open to the possibilities, joy will come running. That is my intention for this year.

The heart space meditation

Endurance

As I was looking through an older magazine tonight as part of my ongoing clutter-clearing effort, I came across this meditation. I immediately tried it and loved it and really did feel rested after a short time. I think you’ll love it too. This is Loch Kelly’s meditation, mentioned in Sara Reistad-Long’s “Rest Cures” in the January 2008 issue of O Magazine. Enjoy.

Kelly suggests deciding ahead of time how long you can allow yourself to rest [I set a timer when I meditate]–people usually do it from one to 20 minutes, but you may want to go longer. To prepare, take a big inhalation, filling your stomach from the bottom to the top like a water pitcher. Exhale as you normally would. Next, look up and allow your peripheral vision to expand, a gesture intended to keep you engaged with your surroundings. Smile to tell yourself that you’re doing something you enjoy.

On the left side of your chest is your heart. Imagine, on the right side, an open space–your heart space. Gently close your eyes, and as you do, bring your awareness in from outside, feeling it centered around your eyes or forehead [I used my third-eye chakra] and allowing it to drift down like a feather, through your jaw, through your throat, down the right side of your chest to the area where your heart isn’t–a soft, embracing, velvet space. Let the awareness of your whole being enter the heart space and remain there as if returning home after a long journey. Rest in this safe, velvet peace, and visualize your body’s cells drinking in the calm, enjoying the deep silence for as long as you need. When you’re ready, slowly open your eyes as though you’re waking from a wonderfully restorative sleep.

Illustrating this post is a SoulCollage card I made last year, Endurance + Staying on the path.

Be of good courage

Courage

This week, I am called upon to stand up for myself at work, as well as for a number of people who work with me. This is a fight I didn’t choose, but it is one I am now engaged in–that I know for sure.

Today I made this SoulCollage card to represent myself and my attitude as I do what needs to be done this week. As I selected images for the card, my usual totem animals just didn’t seem right. A fiercer animal, the tiger, is the right totem for the situation I find myself in now.

I wasn’t sure at first what the card was going to mean, and then it came to me–Courage.

Below is my reading of the card. Please note that I am taking the tiger’s words metaphorically, not literally–and so should you!

Whatever your week may hold–be of good courage. If you need him, call the tiger to your side.

The tiger says:

I am one who is strong and fearless. I am one who walks beside you, giving you strength and courage.

I am one who stalks my prey, circling, moving in for the kill. I am with you because this is necessary. Be of good courage. I have done this before. You have all that you need.

The woman with the fiery eye says:

I am your anger. It will serve you well–a fire burning within, well under control. You are right to be angry–you’ve been treated unjustly–very. You are well strong enough to do this.

The tiger speaks again:

I wait for the moment–and then I strike. It is time to strike. I am powerful–hear me roar. I can tear my prey limb from limb. It is natural. It is my way. It is what I was put here to do.

I too am threatened. We will both live to fight another day.

The jewel says:

I am your guiding light, with you always, sustaining you.

You are fierce, you can do it.

Passion is my name

The Lover

This is a SoulCollage card I made last year, The Lover. I haven’t seen too many cards with this theme. I’m not sure if that’s because people are making the cards and not sharing them, or if they’re just not making them! This is my shout-out to the lover in all of us. If you SoulCollage, I hope you’ll make a card for the lover in you.

From a new reading of the card …

I am one who is beautiful … I am one who loves flowers, who is a flower. This is my eternal flame, lit from within. Passion–passion is my name, my essence.

How to go to sleep

sweet dreams

Every baby is born knowing how to go to sleep, and they do so effortlessly, whenever they want to (emphasis on whenever they want to).

And then … then it can get more complicated.

This week, for me, sleeping was complicated. I was eventually successful at getting my sleep back on track, and I thought I’d write about what I did, since I imagine that at any given time, there must be thousands if not millions of people having exactly the same problem.

First I’ve noted the things I do to sleep well on a regular basis, and then the additional measures I took when my sleeping pattern started to go off the rails. (Where I’ve written about a topic before, such as how to meditate, I’ve linked to it.)

Here’s what I do on a regular basis …

  1. I keep my life pretty unplugged–no TV or smartphone, but I do have a laptop. I’ve read recommendations to avoid screen usage starting two hours before bedtime, and so I try to avoid going online as bedtime approaches. This way, not only do I not encounter the artificial light that’s known to interfere with sleep, but also all the mental clutter I could encounter by reading my e-mail, a news site, a combative forum, etc. If you do go online as bedtime approaches, I recommend keeping it positive. If you have anyone in your life who’s apt to drop bombshells via e-mail, maybe it’s best not to go there.
  2. I’ve always been a light sleeper, but (spoiler alert!) as I’ve gotten older, hormonal changes associated with perimenopause appeared to significantly accentuate this tendency. As a result, I take two things at bedtime. One, a low-dose progesterone replacement, and two, a tryptophan supplement. On a normal night I take just one of the three tryptophan caplets, and I get a noticeable benefit. If I know I’m wired or if I’m falling asleep slowly, I’ll take another.
  3. As I mentioned, I do have a bedtime–you’re never too old for bedtime! It has some flexibility to it, but I know about what time I need to get the household ready for bed, and I know there will be negative consequences for me in terms of sleep debt if I don’t track to it.
  4. If you have a job that exercises only your brain, as I do, getting some physical exercise is a great idea. Being tired in all senses helps me be ready to sleep. I love to take walks by a nearby river, and I’m equipped to do so in various types of weather. Gardening and dancing are great exercise too. I like exercise to be pleasant and fun. I’m sure there are people who love the gym … sadly I’m not one of them.
  5. I limit caffeine to 1-3 cups of green tea a day, and usually a max of one coffee drink (such as a Starbucks tall, which for anyone lucky enough to be outside Starbucks’ orbit, is their little way of saying small). If I’m tired and really need to crank it out, once in a blue moon I’ll have two cups of coffee. I enjoy it, and typically have it in the morning on a workday. I’ll usually have decaffeinated coffee with dessert at a restaurant–for some reason, I feel that dessert calls for coffee. I try never to have caffeine after 6 pm, and often avoid coffee on the weekends. I stopped drinking soft drinks a few years ago after eliminating my beloved Dr Pepper during a 21-day cleanse. After 21 days without it, it no longer tasted the same and it became clear I could live without it, so I have.
  6. My bedroom is my bedroom–not a gym or an office. I don’t own any exercise equipment, and have my office in a separate room. If you’re short on real estate, I’d recommend compromising your dining room or living room rather than your bedroom. Far better to have the Nordic Track next to the sofa, and sleep like a baby. My bedroom is the preserve of peaceful, pleasant, low-tech activities.
  7. I have no clock in my bedroom. I do need an alarm; my clock is a battery-operated Zen alarm, and I keep it in the hallway outside the bedroom. Typically one of my dogs gets up and alerts me even before I can hear it myself (she’s responding to the sound it makes before it starts to chime).
  8. I have no phone in my bedroom. Not only do I not want it ringing in my ear and waking me unpleasantly, but I’ve learned when my phone line has been dead how much more peaceful I feel without a live phone line right next to me.
  9. Every night, typically right before bed, I meditate for at least 15-20 minutes. This usually helps me wind down and puts me in the proper frame of mind for sleep. It’s also a good idea to set the intention at this time that your own energy be optimized for sleep.
  10. It’s a great idea to keep the bedroom clean. I’m not talking about a sterile environment perfect for watchmaking, but getting the dust bunnies out from under the bed on a regular basis can only help create a fresher environment that’s more conducive to sleep. If your bedroom’s gotten a bit dusty while you were busy doing other things (and whose hasn’t), there’s no better use of your time than to take a few minutes to get it in better shape. I promise you’ll be delighted with the fresh energy you create.
  11. I prefer to garden outside, but I do keep a few houseplants in my bedroom to help purify the air. I originally put them there on the recommendation of a feng shui consultant. I think she had a specific reason for wanting me to have them there that year, but they remain and still serve a useful purpose.
  12. I make sure the dogs go outside immediately before bedtime. A couple of them (I have three) aren’t so fond of the backyard late at night, and no doubt they have their reasons. If they’re reluctant to go out, I take them in the front yard instead.
  13. At bedtime, I spray the linens with diluted French lavender essential oil. I use Aveda Pure-fume Spirit Spray, which I have custom made this way at any of their stores. I get one free on my birthday, and so can you. I’ve noticed that the lavender aromatherapy makes a real qualitative difference in the depth of my sleep.
  14. My front porch light shines through some of my bedroom windows, so I turn it off before bed. I keep the back porch light on, a night light (with an LED bulb) in the kitchen only, and keep a lamp with a dimmer switch in my office on very low (this allows me to see the keypad for the security system). Otherwise, the house is dark.
  15. Good pillows are worth whatever you pay for them. I’m allergic to feathers, so I’m partial to a not-too-thick, medium-firm pillow with an organic cotton or wool filling. Good sheets are worthwhile, too. I like linen, or in the winter, cozy organic cotton jersey.
  16. I lower the thermostat a degree or two at bedtime for optimal comfort. When the weather’s perfect, perhaps a little cooler outside than inside, I open a bedroom window for a few hours before bedtime in order to get the freshest possible air. (If you have the thermostat set at a temperature that’s non-optimal for your sleep because you or someone in your household likes to save a buck … if you’re in no danger of having your utilities disconnected, I believe there are better ways to squeeze a dime.)

This week, I took the following extra measures:

  1. It’s a great idea to be aware of your city’s quiet hours, and make sure others are following them when you need to be sleeping. You shouldn’t have to listen to nail guns at 6 am, or a dog barking all night long. Sometimes not everyone is aware of the law, so I like to let people (neighbors, contractors, etc.) know about the law and ask for their cooperation before I ask for it to be enforced. Very often, that’s all that’s needed. In my case, I made calls and sent e-mails about 24/7 construction noise. Technically I learned that round-the-clock construction is allowed at a distance of more than 300 feet, but I was able to achieve a considerable reduction in noise.
  2. I bought malleable silicone earplugs. They don’t block all sound, but they do block a lot of unpleasant noise. I was concerned about getting earplugs that block everything since hearing does provide important safety cues, allows my dogs to communicate with me, allows me to hear my alarm, etc. All that is good.
  3. I changed the sheets. Nothing says “Let’s go to sleep” like freshly unfurled sheets and pillowcases from the linen press. If you anticipate any challenge in going to sleep, making your bed completely fresh is incredibly inviting.
  4. I’m encouraging my dogs to be more considerate. No barking in the middle of the night when they go outside, and they get one chance to decide to join the party–no serial trips outside.
  5. Taking a lovely hot bath with Epsom salts is extremely helpful, especially if the cause of your insomnia is a magnesium deficiency.
  6. The first four nights this week that I had difficulty sleeping, I wasn’t able to go back to sleep after getting up to let the dogs out. The fifth night, I never went to sleep at all. At 2 am, I got up to meditate (again). I knew exactly what was bothering me, and also that it was my “resistance to what is” that was keeping me awake. I decided it had to stop. I got out my journal, and wrote down everything I want in this (work-related) situation, none of which I’m getting. I then wrote down that I know I’m not going to get what I want from the other person involved, either now or later–and I accept that. I’m not changing what I want, need, and expect, but I am changing my resistance to the reality of what I’m getting. I’m also putting my intention out there for a match between what I want, need, and expect and what I get in the future. With that, I suddenly became very sleepy, and was able to go back to bed and sleep peacefully the rest of the night. So, while completely acknowledging how difficult this step can be, I recommend releasing your resistance to what’s bugging you. Like resentment, resistance only harms you. Jesus said, “… Resist not evil” (Matthew 5:39). He didn’t mean, of course, that evil is all right, simply that resistance is not an effective strategy.
  7. If your sleep is off track, don’t be afraid to do whatever it takes to fix the problem. Your sleep directly, and by that I mean directly, facilitates your sanity–which is more than just a nice-to-have. You ignore sleep deprivation at your peril. This week I took a day off work to ensure I got myself back on track–and that my sleep deprivation had no unintended consequences. Some years ago I had a crisis during which I was sleeping two hours every other night. That, my friends, is not enough. I got myself to a doctor, got a prescription, and took it. (Actually, on reflection, I told my sister what I needed and she made the appointment and drove me to it. Driving when seriously sleep deprived: Seriously not a good idea. I still owe her for her help at that time. Which brings up another point: Don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it.) Some months later, I began weaning myself off it, cutting the pills into the smallest pieces I could without their turning to dust. I believe it was just about a year later when I was completely off it. I’ve had people who weren’t sleeping tell me they don’t want to be dependent on a sleep aid, and that is very admirable. I would love to see more of that attitude, in general. But dependence on a legal prescription is far from the worst possible thing that could happen as a result of sleep deprivation, and it need not be permanent. In my experience, I’m able to take prescription medication one night to sleep, when I need it, and I may be able to sleep well without it the next. So it’s important to realize that a sleep aid can be used occasionally. However, if you’ve tried everything else and decide you need a prescription, please be sure to research any prescribed drug you plan to take carefully. Some sleeping pills are known to have serious side effects.

On a lighter note, illustrating this post is the SoulCollage card I made today, Sweet Dreams. My sincere wish for you is sweet dreams and sound sleep–tonight and every night!

My personal totem pole

totem pole

As promised, here’s the SoulCollage card I made to represent my personal totem pole. Last spring, as part of a SoulCollage workshop, I listened to a guided meditation to identify companion animals for each of my chakras. I’ve made individual cards for a couple of these animals so far–the owl and the leopard. (I plan to make cards for all of them, but haven’t found all the images I need yet.) I wanted to see how the different animals fit together and perhaps support each other–and after all, the whole idea was originally inspired by the totem pole.

The animals are collaged on the card in chakra order.

My first chakra companion is the elephant, the largest mammal on land. The elephant is grounded, harmless, and moves slowly and deliberately–as should I. The elephant flicks away annoyances with its tail. The elephant offers the wisdom of many years, and has legendarily thick skin. (I’m not there yet on the tough hide.)

My second chakra companion is the leopard. Powerful, strong, and sinuous, a force to be reckoned with. Wild and sensual. Can a leopard change its spots?

My third chakra companion is the monkey. Powerful, effective, confident, certain, fights when necessary … and with its tail, always has another way to balance.

My fourth chakra companion is a joyful bird. Come fly with me!

My fifth chakra companion is a fawn. Sweet, gentle, innocent, harmless, loving. The fawn is frisky and playful.

My sixth chakra companion is an owl with a white face, like a British barn owl or a snow owl, an owl whose face features its eyes and not much else. The owl is wise and knowing, and sees clearly in darkness. The owl soars and sees everything.

My seventh chakra companion is a toad. This is the crown chakra, and there are many images of frogs wearing crowns! The toad lives in a dark, cave-like space, very yin, and we also usually turn inward to connect with our spirituality. I read that “the appearance of a Toad heralds a successful time of drawing upon and using our inner resources. People with a Toad totem can see things and people more clearly.”

I’ve found identifying totem animals to be a fun and useful process. I hope you’ll try it too!

Reflections on a wild week

rollercoaster

This past Sunday as I made breakfast, I observed myself muttering about my situation at work, and noted that it would be one of my tasks for the day to get myself centered in preparation for the week ahead.

As I mentioned in my last post, when I wondered what I could or should do to create change, my inner guidance was, “Wait and see.” I accepted this guidance, and decided to anchor it by making a SoulCollage card to represent the concept. I spent meditative, creative time doing so that afternoon. When I finished the card, I felt satisfied … I think the card is one of my most artistic, and it’s also been one of the most immediately helpful. I felt completed grounded in and committed to waiting and seeing what would happen next, and really felt at peace with this approach. A 180 since breakfast.

On Monday morning, the wild ride began almost immediately, as meetings were called to discuss changes in executive management. Later in the day, I couldn’t help but hear a loud altercation taking place behind a closed door. Despite all the drama, I felt calm all day.

I didn’t learn about everything that had happened until Tuesday, but what happened that day as it affects me directly is that, in two separate actions, the two people who’ve done the most to make my work life “challenging” (euphemism alert) over the past several years are no longer with the company. Someone passed me a note on a company-logoed Post-it that summed it all up rather well–“Justice … finally!”

Wow. I guess that counts as a twist and a turn. Not to mention a surprise.

As my life now includes one less narcissist, I may be in a bit of danger of losing my expert status on that topic. I can totally live with that.

My sense is that the changes and surprises aren’t finished yet … that there’s more to come. I’m buckled up for the wild ride. I’m completely on board with this wait and see approach.

Wait and see

Wait and see final

“Wait and see” is the tune playing on my inner guidance channel today. Once again, it seems, difficult as it may be to imagine, my interference is not needed! What I need to do is sit back and wait while events play out. Act two is in progress; my time to act is not yet. Yield to overcome.

Today I made this SoulCollage card to represent this guidance, Wait and see. Sometimes less is more. This, it appears, is one of those times.

My path in the new year

path

I’ve been thinking, as no doubt we all have, about what I want in the new year. I’ve read that this New Year’s Eve was unusually auspicious for making resolutions as it coincided with the dark of the moon, and this New Year is unusually auspicious for keeping them, as it coincides with the new moon as it does only once every 19 years.

I made this SoulCollage card on New Year’s Eve to represent my faith that whatever lies ahead in the new year–and right now it seems even more mysterious than usual–it will ultimately work out for my highest good and bring the fulfillment of my dreams and intentions for the future. As Louise Hay says:

Whenever there is a problem … repeat over and over: All is well. Everything is working out for my highest good. Out of this situation only good will come. I am safe!

“You are safe … you are so safe” is just what I kept telling Gracie (who dislikes fireworks every bit as much as she dislikes thunder) last night as my, shall we say, non-risk-averse neighbors set off a great many illegal fireworks to welcome the new year. I was nearly as unnerved as she was by a couple of rockets that whizzed by, apparently extremely close to our windows and roof. However, all is well and we were indeed safe.

Here’s what my new card for 2014 had to say when I read it …

You are guided on your path. You have nothing to fear.

I am the one who will be your guide through all the twists and turns. All will be well. The surprises that are hidden are good ones.

I am the one who is a beacon of hope, guiding you through the darkness and around blind corners. I am the light in the dark places. I am the one who loves you and wants only the best for you–who demands it. I am the one who protects you from sharp edges. You are loved. Release your worries and burdens–you have nothing to fear.

The path forward may wind, but it is safe. You are loved–truly.

Happy 2014! I wish you a blessed and safe New Year!

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