Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Heart Stuff

I came across a wonderful article this afternoon.  The title of the article was “When life gets Weird, Seek the Heart Stuff, written by Sara Crolick. See Link below: Life is weird and whilst in the middle of it we may not be able to make sense of what is happening around us, we still need to find our center.   Sara asks us to find our “Heartstuff” to find our center.  Some may call it breathing, some may call it exercising, some may call it meditation, some may call it mindfulness.  Whatever you may call it, what stayed with me is “heartstuff.” What makes our hearts “STIR” when all this weirdness is happening around us.  How important is it for our heart to continue to stir so that we can be reminded of certain essential truths – 1. We are exactly where we need to be right now.  2.  We need to maintain some sanity in this world of insanity. 3.  We need to continue to feel alive no matter what comes to the surface to us in life.  4. This is just a gentle reminder that the weirdness is our teacher and once we learn from it we can move on.   So while all this weirdness is happening, finding our HeartStuff as Sara says is very important.

This is where journaling and writing helps get the heartstuff out so that we can begin to find out what makes us tick, what makes us alive, what keeps us going.   To quote the article “Your heart will whisper, thank you and you’ll smile.”  Think of moments you have had when you feel that – that’s what really matters at the end of the day doesn’t it.  


So how does that apply to my day to day life.  Currently I work in an environment that can drive you to insanity if you allow it to.  I’ve mentioned this before in my prior entries – that working in a crisis environment and working in an environment that is often changing policy based on economic and political climate can be quite nerve wrecking.  That is my weird stuff.  But I remind myself daily – this too shall pass, and there is a reason for my existence.  And then life throws me an article like the one that I just mentioned –and it says “Find your heartstuff.”   That to me is inspiration.  That is my heart talking to me.   I need to find what gets my heart moving so I cannot be stuck in the insanity of politics.   I need to feel my heart breathe so that I don’t feel suffocated by individuals who are driven by power and politics.   And what is my heartstuff – my family.  The look in my son’s eyes when I get home from work and him wanting to share with me all these things he has learned in school.  The look on my son’s face when he wakes up from his sleep and he looks like he just woke up with a mohawk on his head.   As much as I hate the cold, the fresh air against my face for that split second and the first walk on fresh snow just admiring nature’s beauty.   Taking the time to listen to some old indian music that just makes me feel so fuzzy inside.   Eating bread.  Oh boy how I love bread in all its form.   Feeling my body stretch itself out doing yogic postures.   Reading some wonderful writing.   Making a friend smile.   Feeling grateful for having my sidekick prepare breakfast for my son while I get ready to go to work.  Feeling even more grateful for no traffic on the road.   A nice good conversation.   Some good writing time.  A phone call from someone who missed you and on many deeper levels asking me “Where have you been?”   These are my heart stuff.  


When I find it and I turn to it, it gets me out of my slump and gets me moving.   I have a smile on my face.  I feel a strum in my heart.   But most of all I am grateful beyond words.    The insanity around will go on, but I will keep smiling.  If I don’t I will fail myself, and I cannot – my heart won’t let me.   So for those of you out there that need to find your heart stuff – do it.   Because on days like these when you want to scream, you need it.  Keep your journal, keep your laptop, keep a scrap piece of paper next to you and figure it out.   It will save your day.  It did for me. 



Wednesday, January 8, 2014

The demons in our head....

Competition is something that is instilled in us from a very young age
in this society.  The need to win, to do better, to outdo yourself is
something that is continually reinforced over and over again in
different segments of society.  It manifests itself on the playground,
it manifests itself in sports, in our social circle, in school, and
eventually it integrates itself in different aspects of our lives.

Competition is not necessarily a negative notion.  It has positives to
the extent that it pushes us to do better and never settle for less.
That drive is needed and if used positively can help us accomplish
goals.  However, the moment we begin to feel that sense of
incompleteness within ourselves when we are not “DOING SOMETHING” that
automatically gives us a pat on our back, then that’s when we know, it
has been taken to the extreme.  There is a need to compete with
ourselves because on some level nothing is ever good enough unless we
reach those heights of perfectionism.  And then we question – where
does it begin? Of course we know it stems from somewhere – our child

hood experiences of course and some of them stick with us for life.
So at what point does the competition stops?  For some, it never does
because it is a matter of survival.  For others, when they see it
being replayed in their children and they know they have to stop it to
discontinue the cycle.  And then yet, for others it is because they
are tired of having to live up to an expected or certain ideal and
want to learn to be just love themselves for who they are and just as
they are.

Think of the term “good job”.  I believe that it is something we use
too often and very loosely – especially with children these days.
Yes, it is important to nurture them and give them encouragement, but
there is a fine line when we begin to tell them good job for
everything they do.   It makes sense if you are teaching children
milestones tasks and want to discourage them from giving up at such an
early age.  However, if we keep giving them a “pat on the back” for
activities of daily living, or things that are supposed to be part of
one’s human values, it loses its meaning.   At a certain point when
does it become something that they own and they know it is part of
them rather than something that needs to be rewarded.  Eventually, the
“good job” becomes a conditioned action on the part of the child –that
unless they don’t hear the word “good job” they won’t “do.”
And that continues to go into adulthood – we want to hear the praises,
the accolades the pats on the backs because it gives us a sense of
accomplishment, because it makes us feel better about ourselves,
because it shows to the world that we are doing something – but at
what point have we gone too far and at what point does it become a
situation that we are depleted from the inside and are craving that
attention.  It is something we need to do an internal check-in with
ourselves if we begin to feel that way.

When I began to see certain patterns play out in my son, and I had to
stop myself and say – “I don’t want him to grow up competing with
himself.”  I want him to be able to grow up in a society and let him
be “him.” I want him to love life and live it, not drive himself to
perfectionism and always want to have more, be more, etc.   Once, he
said to me, “Mommy, I’m me and you are you – we are different, we are
not the same.”  Profound words from such a young boy, but that stays
with me every time I feel the need to push him to excel – I have to
consciously check myself to determine if the need is coming from
somewhere else – it may not necessarily be about him, it could be
about me – and so learning to be mindful about my words, my thoughts
and my actions with him.   And while I do that, my son is watching and
I hope eventually he begins to become more mindful as he ventures into
society and the pressures of childhood.  I use motherhood as an
example, however look at various aspects of your lives and see how
this manifests.

Being mindful of just being in the moment, being aware of our
emotions, verbalizing our feelings rather than acting out our feelings
– all this is part of mindfulness.  By simply being aware, we are able
to begin conquering these demons in our head through the art of
practice.  As they say, practice makes perfect –but in this instance
we are not looking for perfection but just for the need to be okay
with “who we are.”

A Journal when practicing mindfulness is extremely helpful in doing an
internal checklist.   Something as simple as active listening when you
know that your mind tends to wander or you may not be paying attention
when someone is talking is an exercise in mindfulness.   Here are some
-    Keep a small notebook with you at all times.  You never know when
you are going to need it.
-    Make a list of your triggers when you begin to feel that sense of
“emptiness.”  Is it when you are not getting enough attention, is it
that you are feeling restless, is it that you are anxious about
something.  It is important to write down your triggers.
-    Next list your behaviors when you are triggered – do you over
compensate, do you beat yourself up, do you push yourself to
exhaustion, are you silent, are you yelling, are you over indulging
yourself in food, drinks, sex? Or do you start a new project because
you need some more excitement.  Notice your breathing during these
times too – is it rapid or is it too shallow?
-    When you write it down –you are consciously making yourself aware of
a situation.  Being aware about it –regardless of how uneasy it makes
you feel – is extremely important, because you have recognized it.
Once you recognize it, sit with the feeling, don’t push it away, allow
yourself to feel what you are feeling and remember to breathe. When
you do that, it gives you permission to accept yourself “good or bad”.
-    Sometimes words don’t come out so I always encourage you to
doodle/draw/ what you are feeling.  It can do wonders for that moment.
-    Make a habit of writing feelings words for that day – you can make a
habit of keeping a daily log and make a point to list 3 feelings words
during 3 parts of the day – Morning, Mid –Day and Evening before going
to bed.   If you want to expand on writing about those feelings, do so
but this is for someone who is on the go and time is of the essence.
-    Be patient with yourself.
-    Think of ways that you can fill your emptiness – and this time it
doesn’t have to be by doing something –it is more for you.

And in the end when we begin to become kinder to ourselves through
this process with non-judgment, we extend our kindness outward to
others and it spreads.  What a wonderful feeling that is when it does

Happy Journaling!