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Putting My Oxygen Mask on First – Morning Pages

I have been “journaling” consistently for over a month – and I LOVE IT. I’ve always been VERY RESISTANT to journaling. One reason I’ve been consistent is probably because it is never referred to as journaling. I’ve been doing an exercise from The Artist’s Way called Morning Pages. (Does the Bill Cosby Picture Pages song pop into anyone else’s head when you hear Morning Pages?)

Julia Cameron defines morning pages exercise in The Artist’s Way as “The morning pages are three pages of longhand writing, strictly stream-of-consciousness…Pages are meant to be , simply, the act of moving the hand across the page and writing down whatever comes to mind. Nothing is too petty, too silly, too stupid or too weird to be included. Nobody is allowed to read your morning pages except you. And you shouldn’t even read them yourself for the first eight weeks.”

 

What do I love about them?

  1. Declutter my brain. It feels like my brain is cluttered with all of these thoughts and feelings and past experiences, and getting them on paper helps clear them out. After I’ve written morning pages, it is easier for me to get other things done. I can write these blogs significantly faster. From a Chinese medicine standpoint, it feels like it is resolving qi stagnation in the brain. =)
  2. Tap into my intuition. Sometimes I can tap into my gut instinct about a situation or question by posing it on paper and then seeing what flows. Warning – don’t expect this to always work. As my therapist Lara Veon reminded me, the timing has to be right. Sometimes you are not ready for the answer yet.
  3. Gratitude and affirmation practice. I use this as part of my gratitude and affirmation practice, instead of having separate practices…it’s easier to do everything all at once.
  4. Upping my meditation game. In meditation, I often find myself resisting my thoughts. Morning pages are teaching me how to acknowledge them without getting caught up in them.
  5. Uncovering the real me. Morning pages are a great way to explore what I get excited about, question my beliefs and views about the way things are and the way I am, and notice what is draining my energy.
  6. No expectations. There is no pressure or expectation about what I write…it’s whatever comes to my head. I’ve even let myself stop mid-sentence and start writing the next thing that came to mind, when my hand can’t keep up with my brain. There is no pressure to write something profound or respond to someone else’s journal prompts. It is all about whatever is going on with me in that moment.

Try it for a week. You’ll be hooked.

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Putting My Oxygen Mask on First – Enjoy Life Daily

I’ve been spending at least 10 minutes a day doing something that makes my heart sing. For a while, I got caught up in the responsibilities of being a entrepreneur of a newer business and mom of two kids and an active community member…and I wasn’t spending any time at all having fun by myself. While I really enjoy my work, kids and community, I still need to time to replenish myself and just have fun on my own.

I used to love playing in the woods or by streams as a kid. So I started to go for walks more frequently. At first, I just walked in the woods, maybe noticing an interesting shaped tree or a loud animal or bird…but I hadn’t found the freedom and joy I had as a child. But I kept walking…and the occasional warmer day would inspire me to splash through the water or run along the path or pick up interesting objects, but I still was just “walking in the woods” on most days vs immersing myself in the woods. It’s taken me months to reconnect with the magic. Don’t get discouraged if it takes you a while to reconnect with your inner child – stick with it!

If you are really disconnected from your inner child, you may want to try the Imaginary Lives exercise from The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. If you had five other lives to lead, what would you do in each of them? Whatever occurs to you, jot it down. Do not overthink.  The point of these lives is to have fun. I wrote down park ranger in Muir Woods, spoken word poet, travel photographer, storyteller, and drummer. Once you have your list, choose one of them and pick an activity to add a little bit of that “life” into your week. I’ve done that through my walks and attending a drum circle. I plan on attending one of the Moth Story SLAMs at Space, I already have tickets for Kodo‘s performance in Chicago and the Louder Than a Bomb poetry festival, and maybe taking a photography class. I also can work through my online Stage Might training with Sekou Andrews.

Let me know what you would be doing in your other five lives and what you add into your current life to gain some of those experiences now.

 

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Putting My Oxygen Mask on First – Showing Up

“Commitment means staying loyal to what you said you were going to do long after the mood you said it in has left you.” Anonymous

I’ve recently been reminded a lesson that I’ve already learned from doing CrossFit for years – the value of showing up consistently – including the days when you don’t even feel like getting out of bed or know you won’t hit any PRs. It is the consistency and discipline of a regular practice that helps make the gains – not just those PR setting work outs.

That lesson also applies to meditation – and sitting in meditation even on days when I feel agitated and like “I have ants in my pants” or struggle focusing on my breath because I’m so stuffed up that I can barely take in a  breath or the days that my mind is constantly chasing after thoughts and is doggedly attached to them.. And it applies to my daily “morning pages” or journaling, and staying and writing even if I am just writing “I don’t know what to write.” over and over. It applies to going for a walk in the woods even when I don’t feel like going out in the cold – (except during the polar vortex – I did NOT have warm enough winter wear to make that safe.) And it applies to my Putting My Oxygen Mask on First – and showing up even if I don’t feel like I have a message to share.

By regularly showing up for the things that are important to me regardless of how I feel, I am demonstrating my commitment to my values and making progress….even if it is slight progress…it is still forward movement. And most importantly I am showing my commitment to myself.

 

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Putting My Oxygen Mask on First – Trajectory of Health (Healthy Eating)

I recently made changes in my diet to improve my overall health. I questioned whether I should make such significant changes – I know the value of starting with one small change for overall lasting improvement. My weight tends to vary fairly significantly. I’ve struggled with being mindful and present while eating. I tend to eat my emotions to avoid experiencing them.

I also am concerned about the health impacts of “yo yo” dieting. But when I look at my weight journey, I realize that I shouldn’t be focusing on the peaks and valleys. My weight journey as any journey in life, isn’t a straight line….I’m human. And life isn’t that simple. However, the overall trajectory is heading in the right direction.

The bigger struggle with my weight started during fertility treatments. I had always been a runner, and wasn’t able to run for two weeks of the month as my ovaries were the size of grapefruit. I was also experiencing depression…and eating to fill the sadness. I’ve hit “peaks” of wellness with Weight Watchers, Whole30, Whole Life Challenge, and Intermittent Fasting. And I’ve had “valleys” in between where I consumed more processed food and sugar than veggies.

With each attempt to clean up my diet, I have grown. I have learned more about my motivations, my body and my triggers. Each time, I discover new healthy foods that I love – brussel sprouts, beets, kale, green drinks, Kombucha, kimchi…and new recipes to add in our rotation. I’ve also learned new skills each time – like focusing on “choosing to eat healthy food that nourishes and supports my body” versus focusing on what I can’t eat, taking a second to pause, breathe and check in on my emotional state and how my body feels before and after eating, brushing my teeth or having some doTERRA Slim & Sassy instead of indulging in cravings, meditating/going for a walk/taking a bath with essential oils to pamper myself instead of eating some chocolate, or waiting out hunger pangs knowing they are cycle and actually will go away even if you don’t eat.

And this week, I received evidence that my overall trajectory is on point, when I learned my lipid panels and AIC look better than when I was in college.

Will I hit more valleys or plateaus in the future? Very likely..but with compassionate awareness, I will spend less time in the valleys and plateaus and use my previous experience and learnings to continue my journey and keep the overall trajectory on point.

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Putting My Oxygen Mask on First – “KonMari”ing my Life

 

This week I did an experiment applying the KonMari method to my life – not just possessions. Focusing on what food, activities, and people spark joy in my life. If you are living under a rock, and haven’t heard of the KonMari method, it is a tidying and organizing method developed by Marie Kondo, the author of “The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up”and star of the Netflix show “Tidying Up with Marie Kondo”. Her method helps you develop a sense for what items spark joy in your life.

I had two main insights from my week.

 

  1. Choosing what sparks joy doesn’t lead to a hedonistic life. I can trust myself to want to do things that are in my best interest over the long term. I had this idea that I needed to “parent” myself…so that I’d eat healthy foods, keep things clean and organized, and spend time on work. I thought if I followed what “sparked joy”, I’d spend my days binging Netflix, buying new shoes or gorging myself with decadent food and margaritas. But the reality was that when I really tuned into my body what my body and spirit want…I found it’s lots of fresh fruits and veggies, cups of tea, walks in the woods, and meditation. They also like to clean my office and home because they are grateful to have such beautiful serene spaces, and enjoy taking action to maintain that. Will they want the occasional piece of cake made from scratch, glass of wine  or episode of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel? Of course!! And I will enjoy those fully.
  2. I spend a lot of time “numbing” myself doing activities that don’t spark joy for me (or don’t spark joy in that minute because this isn’t the activity I’m meant to do at that time)…and they’re not always “bad” habits. I will read a book, play Words with Friends, or catch up with someone I haven’t talked to in a long time to avoid sitting with my emotions. I wasn’t aware I had so many numbing mechanisms beyond having a glass of prosecco, eating sweets and scrolling through social media. This new awareness has allowed me to make different choices at times.

Overall, my experiment left me feeling JOY and lightness. There is a freedom in knowing that I can trust myself and my desires, and that I’m meant to fill my days with sparks of joy.  Now, excuse me as I head out for another adventure in the woods.

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