Steps 41-47 mindfullness update.  "When spiderwebs unite they can tie up a lion" Ethiopian Proverb

We have the above quote posted as our quote for the week at Saanich Neighbourhood Place, where I work.  I like the visual aspect that such fine threads, when put together, are strong enough to tame such a strong animal.

In context of mindfullness the quote similarly speaks to the fact that, oftentimes in the beginning of making changes, our efforts can seem pathetic and weak, but if we continue they strengthen and can become powerful.

This part of the journey is quite challenging for me.  I am a little grumpy and I do feel tired.  In fact when I opened my computer to post an update last night my eyes began to close so I opted out.  I am not sure if the challenge is that I am actually reducing calorie intake or if it is an internal psychological battle between habit and a new way of thinking.

I also haven't been to curves for the last two weeks and my body is hurting as a result of the lack of exercise.  That stops today!!

I hope your experience at this stage is less of a challenge than mine - and, whatever your experience, you will keep going.  It would be great to have some comments or feedback from readers about how things are going.

I will post again on Thursday.

Namas Day!

Step 41 -  Starting the day mindfully.  "You are today where your thoughts have brought you; you will be tomorrow where your thoughts take you." - James Allen

Beginning to eat mindfully has been a challenge.  No doubt that when I think about food, it makes me want to eat.  I am connected emotionally to food, and as I have written earlier that has not been very healthy for me. 

Whilst I also love to cook and have people for dinner and my dinners for my family are made with love, I can pop chunks of cheese into my mouth without even realizing it.  

Mindully eating - that is considering each and every meal or snack that I eat and being appreciative for the food and being mindful of the blessing, nutrition or potential harm the food could be to my body sounds intense when I write it but it isn't in practise.

My goals for the mindfullness exercise are: 

  • To shift off a few more pounds. 
  • To balance my eating throughout the day and not have late night adventures with cheese:-) 
  • To stay within my personal calorie intake goals and drink more water. 
  •  To be thankful for the food I am eating and be aware of foods that I shop for and what's in them. ( I do mostly only buy and cook from scratch but manufacturers do sneak bad things in even the most innocent looking snack.)
Successes -

Yesterday went really well, did not perseverate on food and ate healthily, balanced and thankfully - all wheat and gluten free.  Dropped one pound.

Challenges

Making pancakes for the girls, I snuck two after they had gone to vsiit with their Dad.  Grrrrrr. 

Namas Day







Step 40 - Eating Mindfully  "A Journey of a Thousand Miles must Begin with a Single Step." - Chinese Proverb

I don't know how many miles it would take to physically walk to Fiji  from where you are. However, if we were to leave our respective destinations and take that walk - no doubt with the help of boats, trains and planes -, we would have to make specific plans to arrive there.  Finances, housing and accommodation, pet care, all sorts of pratical things would go into making the journey happen and be successful.

The inner journey is not disimilar but perhaps, because it requires the discipline of a mindful presence, rather than attending to practicalities to stay on the path, it might feel a lot harder.

Yesterday, after reviewing my goals and adjusting them moderately to fit with changes that are actually happening (I am now wearing size ten trousers Yay!) I felt elated.  Today, by contrast, I feel less motivated.  Interested why, I pondered what was going on?  Yo yo moods, like yo yo diets are not helpful.  They create the opportunity to make poor choices and  slip into historical patterns we are trying to change.

I firstly recognized that I had not been getting enough sleep over the past few weeks and that having filled my former "resting" time with writing I am physically exhausted.  Also, because I have not been going to Curves I have less stamina.  Once I became mindful about the problem, I understood what I needed to do and that I needed to implement different choices around my new routine.

For the next few steps we are going to explore the practice of mindfullness in day to day living and decision making such as what we eat, spending money and say yes or no to professionally and socially.

Mindfullness does not belong to a particular religion or belief system.  I was raised in the Christian tradition and I feel comfortable with prayer and meditation.  If this is new for you, or you are concerned about including something that may feel religious and outside of your comfort zone,  consider mindfullness as developing confidence within yourself.  Regardless of faith or religion it is still, I believe, beneficial to meditate.

There are many books and CD's available - during my research I have found the information on the site http://www.urbandharma.org/udharma4/mpe.html really helpful.  I have pasted chapter one below step 40 by way of an introduction.

Steps 40 to 47(I will be blogging my mindfullness experience during the next seven days)

Choose seven things in your life that you would like to change - the way you think about them and or deal with them.  My list includes, handling money, diet, exercise, professional relationships, communication with people who "bug" me, housework, planet and natural resources.

Now choose one and write on a small card the action or thought that you would like to change.  Don't worry if this feels false.  Put the card in your bag or pocket - keep it on you for the day.  Each time the situation you have chosen comes up, take out the card and consider the action you would normally take and the action you have written down. Which will you do?  I am starting with food and diet.

Record, at the end of the day, whether you made changes and how that worked or didn't work for you.  Repeat this action for the next seven days with the same situation you chose.  Maintain a record. 

This will become the successes and challenges list for the next few steps.

Namas Day

An introduction to mindfullness meditation from http://www.urbandharma.org/udharma4/mpe.html

Chapter 1Meditation: Why Bother?

Meditation is not easy. It takes time and it takes energy. It also takes grit, determination and discipline. It requires a host of personal qualities which we normally regard as unpleasant and which we like to avoid whenever possible. We can sum it all up in the American word 'gumption'. Meditation takes 'gumption'. It is certainly a great deal easier just to kick back and watch television. So why bother? Why waste all that time and energy when you could be out enjoying yourself? Why bother? Simple. Because you are human. And just because of the simple fact that you are human, you find yourself heir to an inherent unsatisfactoriness in life which simply will not go away. You can suppress it from your awareness for a time. You can distract yourself for hours on end, but it always comes back--usually when you least expect it. All of a sudden, seemingly out of the blue, you sit up, take stock, and realize your actual situation in life.

There you are, and you suddenly realize that you are spending your whole life just barely getting by. You keep up a good front. You manage to make ends meed somehow and look OK from the outside. But those periods of desperation, those times when you feel everything caving in on you, you keep those to yourself. You are a mess. And you know it. But you hide it beautifully. Meanwhile, way down under all that you just know there has got be some other way to live, some better way to look at the world, some way to touch life more fully. You click into it by chance now and then. You get a good job. You fall in love. You win the game. and for a while, things are different. Life takes on a richness and clarity that makes all the bad times and humdrum fade away. The whole texture of your experience changes and you say to yourself, "OK, now I've made it; now I will be happy". But then that fades, too, like smoke in the wind. You are left with just a memory. That and a vague awareness that something is wrong.

But there is really another whole realm of depth and sensitivity available in life, somehow, you are just not seeing it. You wind up feeling cut off. You feel insulated from the sweetness of experience by some sort of sensory cotton. You are not really touching life. You are not making it again. And then even that vague awareness fades away, and you are back to the same old reality. The world looks like the usual foul place, which is boring at best. It is an emotional roller coaster, and you spend a lot of your time down at the bottom of the ramp, yearning for the heights.

So what is wrong with you? Are you a freak? No. You are just human. And you suffer from the same malady that infects every human being. It is a monster in side all of us, and it has many arms: Chronic tension, lack of genuine compassion for others, including the people closest to you, feelings being blocked up, and emotional deadness. Many, many arms. None of us is entirely free from it. We may deny it. We try to suppress it. We build a whole culture around hiding from it, pretending it is not there, and distracting ourselves from it with goals and projects and status. But it never goes away. It is a constant undercurrent in every thought and every perception; a little wordless voice at the back of the head saying, "Not good enough yet. Got to have more. Got to make it better. Got to be better." It is a monster, a monster that manifests everywhere in subtle forms.

Go to a party. Listen to the laughter, that brittle-tongued voice that says fun on the surface and fear underneath. Feel the tension, feel the pressure. Nobody really relaxes. They are faking it. Go to a ball game. Watch the fan in the stand. Watch the irrational fit of anger. Watch the uncontrolled frustration bubbling forth from people that masquerades under the guise of enthusiasm, or team spirit. Booing, cat-calls and unbridled egotism in the name of team loyalty. Drunkenness, fights in the stands. These are the people trying desperately to release tension from within. These are not people who are at peace with themselves. Watch the news on TV. Listen to the lyrics in popular songs. You find the same theme repeated over and over in variations. Jealousy, suffering, discontent and stress.

Life seems to be a perpetual struggle, some enormous effort against staggering odds. And what is our solution to all this dissatisfaction? We get stuck in the ' If only' syndrome. If only I had more money, then I would be happy. If only I can find somebody who really loves me, if only I can lose 20 pounds, if only I had a color TV, Jacuzzi, and curly hair, and on and on forever. So where does all this junk come from and more important, what can we do about it? It comes from the conditions of our own minds. It is deep, subtle and pervasive set of mental habits, a Gordian knot which we have built up bit by bit and we can unravel just the same way, one piece at a time. We can tune up our awareness, dredge up each separate piece and bring it out into the light. We can make the unconscious conscious, slowly, one piece at a time.

The essence of our experience is change. Change is incessant. Moment by moment life flows by and it is never the same. Perpetual alteration is the essence of the perceptual universe. A thought springs up in you head and half a second later, it is gone. In comes another one, and that is gone too. A sound strikes your ears and then silence. Open your eyes and the world pours in, blink and it is gone. People come into your life and they leave again. Friends go, relatives die. Your fortunes go up and they go down. Sometimes you win and just as often you lose. It is incessant: change, change, change. No two moments ever the same.

There is not a thing wrong with this. It is the nature of the universe. But human culture has taught u some odd responses to this endless flowing. We categorize experiences. We try to stick each perception, every mental change in this endless flow into one of three mental pigeon holes. It is good, or it is bad, or it is neutral. Then, according to which box we stick it in, we perceive with a set of fixed habitual mental responses. If a particular perception has been labeled 'good', then we try to freeze time right there. We grab onto that particular thought, we fondle it, we hold it, we try to keep it from escaping. When that does not work, we go all-out in an effort to repeat the experience which caused that thought. Let us call this mental habit 'grasping'.

Over on the other side of the mind lies the box labeled 'bad'. When we perceive something 'bad', we try to push it away. We try to deny it, reject it, get rid of it any way we can. We fight against our own experience. We run from pieces of ourselves. Let us call this mental habit 'rejecting'. Between these two reactions lies the neutral box. Here we place the experiences which are neither good nor bad. They are tepid, neutral, uninteresting and boring. We pack experience away in the neutral box so that we can ignore it and thus return jour attention to where the action is, namely our endless round of desire and aversion. This category of experience gets robbed of its fair share of our attention. Let us call this mental habit 'ignoring'. The direct result of all this lunacy is a perpetual treadmill race to nowhere, endlessly pounding after pleasure, endlessly fleeing from pain, endlessly ignoring 90 percent of our experience. Than wondering why life tastes so flat. In the final analysis, it's a system that does not work.

No matter how hard you pursue pleasure and success, there are times when you fail. No matter how fast you flee, there are times when pain catches up with you. And in between those times, life is so boring you could scream. Our minds are full of opinions and criticisms. We have built walls all around ourselves and we are trapped with the prison of our own lies and dislikes. We suffer.

Suffering is big word in Buddhist thought. It is a key term and it should be thoroughly understood. The Pali word is 'dukkha', and it does not just mean the agony of the body. It means the deep, subtle sense of unsatisfactoriness which is a part of every mental treadmill. The essence of life is suffering, said the Buddha. At first glance this seems exceedingly morbid and pessimistic. It even seems untrue. After all, there are plenty of times when we are happy. Aren't there? No, there are not. It just seems that way. Take any moment when you feel really fulfilled and examine it closely. Down under the joy, you will find that subtle, all-pervasive undercurrent of tension, that no matter how great the moment is, it is going to end. No matter how much you just gained, you are either going to lose some of it or spend the rest of your days guarding what you have got and scheming how to get more. And in the end, you are going to die. In the end, you lose everything. It is all transitory.

Sounds pretty bleak, doesn't it? Luckily it's not; not at all. It only sounds bleak when you view it from the level of ordinary mental perspective, the very level at which the treadmill mechanism operates. Down under that level lies another whole perspective, a completely different way to look at the universe. It is a level of functioning where the mind does not try to freeze time, where we do not grasp onto our experience as it flows by, where we do not try to block things out and ignore them. It is a level of experience beyond good and bad, beyond pleasure and pain. It is a lovely way to perceive the world, and it is a learnable skill. It is not easy, but is learnable.

Happiness and peace. Those are really the prime issues in human existence. That is what all of us are seeking. This often is a bit hard to see because we cover up those basic goals with layers of surface objectives. We want food, we want money, we want sex, possessions and respect. We even say to ourselves that the idea of 'happiness' is too abstract: "Look, I am practical. Just give me enough money and I will buy all the happiness I need". Unfortunately, this is an attitude that does not work. Examine each of these goals and you will find they are superficial. You want food. Why? Because I am hungry. So you are hungry, so what? Well if I eat, I won't be hungry and then I'll feel good. Ah ha! Feel good! Now there is a real item. What we really seek is not the surface goals. They are just means to an end. What we are really after is the feeling of relief that comes when the drive is satisfied. Relief, relaxation and an end to the tension. Peace, happiness, no more yearning.

So what is this happiness? For most of us, the perfect happiness would mean getting everything we wanted, being in control of everything, playing Caesar, making the whole world dance a jig according to our every whim. Once again, it does not work that way. Take a look at the people in history who have actually held this ultimate power. These were not happy people. Most assuredly they were not men at peace with themselves. Why? Because they were driven to control the world totally and absolutely and they could not. They wanted to control all men and there remained men who refused to be controlled. They could not control the stars. They still got sick. They still had to die.

You can't ever get everything you want. It is impossible. Luckily, there is another option. You can learn to control your mind, to step outside of this endless cycle of desire and aversion. You can learn to not want what you want, to recognize desires but not be controlled by them. This does not mean that you lie down on the road and invite everybody to walk all over you . It means that you continue to live a very normal-looking life, but live from a whole new viewpoint. You do the things that a person must do, but you are free from that obsessive, compulsive drivenness of your own desires. You want something, but you don't need to chase after it. You fear something, but you don't need to stand there quaking in your boots. This sort of mental culture is very difficult. It takes years. But trying to control everything is impossible, and the difficult is preferable to the impossible.

Wait a minute, though. Peace and happiness! Isn't that what civilization is all about? We build skyscrapers and freeways. We have paid vacations, TV sets. We provide free hospitals and sick leaves, Social Security and welfare benefits. All of that is aimed at providing some measure of peace and happiness. Yet the rate of mental illness climbs steadily, and the crime rates rise faster. The streets are crawling with delinquents and unstable individuals. Stick you arms outside the safety of your own door and somebody is very likely to steal your watch! Something is not working. A happy man does not feel driven to kill. We like to think that our society is exploiting every area of human knowledge in order to achieve peace and happiness.

We are just beginning to realize that we have overdeveloped the material aspect of existence at the expense of the deeper emotional and spiritual aspect, and we are paying the price for that error. It is one thing to talk about degeneration of moral and spiritual fiber in America today, and another thing to do something about it. The place to start is within ourselves. Look carefully inside, truly and objectively, and each of us will see moments when "I am the punk" and "I am the crazy". We will learn to see those moments, see them clearly, cleanly and without condemnation, and we will be on our way up and out of being so.

You can't make radical changes in the pattern of your life until you begin to see yourself exactly as you are now. As soon as you do that, changes flow naturally. You don't have to force or struggle or obey rules dictated to you by some authority. You just change. It is automatic. But arriving at the initial insight is quite a task. You've got to see who you are and how you are, without illusion, judgement or resistance of any kind. You've got to see your own place in society and your function as a social being. You've got to see your duties and obligations to your fellow human beings, and above all, your responsibility to yourself as an individual living with other individuals. And you've got to see all of that clearly and as a unit, a single gestalt of interrelationship. It sounds complex, but it often occurs in a single instant. Mental culture through meditation is without rival in helping you achieve this sort of understanding and serene happiness.

The Dhammapada is an ancient Buddhist text which anticipated Freud by thousands of years. It says: "What you are now is the result of what you were. What you will be tomorrow will be the result of what you are now. The consequences of an evil mind will follow you like the cart follows the ox that pulls it. The consequences of a purified mind will follow you like you own shadow. No one can do more for you than your own purified mind-- no parent, no relative, no friend, no one. A well-disciplined mind brings happiness".

Meditation is intended to purify the mind. It cleanses the thought process of what can be called psychic irritants, things like greed, hatred and jealousy, things that keep you snarled up in emotional bondage. It brings the mind to a state of tranquility and awareness, a state of concentration and insight.

In our society, we are great believers in education. We believe that knowledge makes a cultured person civilized. Civilization, however, polishes the person superficially. Subject our noble and sophisticated gentleman to stresses of war or economic collapse, and see what happens. It is one thing to obey the law because you know the penalties and fear the consequences. It is something else entirely to obey the law because you have cleansed yourself from the greed that would make you steal and the hatred that would make you kill. Throw a stone into a stream. The running water would smooth the surface, but the inner part remains unchanged. Take that same stone and place it in the intense fires of a forge, and the whole stone changes inside and outside. It all melts. Civilization changes man on the outside. Meditation softens him within, through and through.

Meditation is called the Great Teacher. It is the cleansing crucible fire that works slowly through understanding. The greater your understanding, the more flexible and tolerant you can be. The greater your understanding, the more compassionate you can be. You become like a perfect parent or an ideal teacher. You are ready to forgive and forget. You feel love towards others because you understand them. And you understand others because you have understood yourself. You have looked deeply inside and seen self illusion and your own human failings. You have seen your own humanity and learned to forgive and to love. When you have learned compassion for yourself, compassion for others is automatic. An accomplished meditator has achieved a profound understanding of life, and he inevitably relates to the world with a deep and uncritical love.

Meditation is a lot like cultivating a new land. To make a field out of a forest, fist you have to clear the trees and pull out the stumps. Then you till the soil and you fertilize it. Then you sow your seed and you harvest your crops. To cultivate your mind, first you have to clear out the various irritants that are in the way, pull them right out by the root so that they won't grow back. Then you fertilize. You pump energy and discipline in the mental soil. Then you sow the seed and you harvest your crops of faith, morality , mindfulness and wisdom.

Faith and morality, by the way, have a special meaning in this context. Buddhism does not advocate faith in the sense of believing something because it is written in a book or attributed to a prophet or taught to you by some authority figure. The meaning here is closer to confidence. It is knowing that something is true because you have seen it work, because you have observed that very thing within yourself. In the same way, morality is not a ritualistic obedience to some exterior, imposed code of behavior.

The purpose of meditation is personal transformation. The you that goes in one side of the meditation experience is not the same you that comes out the other side. It changes your character by a process of sensitization, by making you deeply aware of your own thoughts, word, and deeds. Your arrogance evaporated and your antagonism dries up. Your mind becomes still and calm. And your life smoothes out. Thus meditation properly performed prepares you to meet the ups and down of existence. It reduces your tension, your fear, and your worry. Restlessness recedes and passion moderates. Things begin to fall into place and your life becomes a glide instead of a struggle. All of this happens through understanding.

Meditation sharpens your concentration and your thinking power. Then, piece by piece, your own subconscious motives and mechanics become clear to you. Your intuition sharpens. The precision of your thought increases and gradually you come to a direct knowledge of things as they really are, without prejudice and without illusion. So is this reason enough to bother? Scarcely. These are just promises on paper. There is only one way you will ever know if meditation is worth the effort. Learn to do it right, and do it. See for yourself.




http://www.urbandharma.org/udharma4/mpe.html
Step 39 - A Tale of Two Writers....."Adversity is another way to measure the greatness of individuals. I never had a crisis that didn't make me stronger."   Lou Holtz

In 1996, when I first moved to Canada, I had plans - plans to spend my professional time working as an art therapist and writing.  I would be a stay at home mum and work my businesss and writing around the needs of my children.  Well, they say the best laid plans often go awry and mine certainly did.

However, looking back over the last twelve years, the above quote rings so true.  All that we have gone through and where we are now is as a result of what we have overcome.

Of course I have had many years to work at writing, it was my choice not to, although at the time I didn't see it that way.  In my twenties a good friend, who also wanted to be a writer and  is now very successful, worked really hard in his time off and wrote consistently. 

I, on the other hand talked a lot about wanting to "do" but spent very little actual time "doing" outside of  my work in production - where I did write lots. Unlike Anthony I did not apply the discipline to my outside time and set clear goals to bring my ideas to fruition.

Since I have been writing for pleasure on an almost daily basis from the beginning of the new year I have noticed two things;  Firstly that I am way less stressed about the day to day stuff overall and secondly that my happiness meter is definitely up on a more consistent basis.


I have given up income that was taking time away from my family and opportunities to be creative, in faith that the income will be replaced by my creative endeavours that I have committed time to. I have earned the grand total of just over $2.50 thus far but I'm proud of that and the encouragement and positive feedback I have received from others is worth it's weight in gold.

Step 39

If you are currently frustrated by not achieving a goal or a dream that you believed possible take a look at the reality of the goal or dream and consider what is holding you back.  Of course any goal has to be grounded in reality - it's no good saying you want to be a famous hockey player just because you're good at watching hockey.....:-)

Is visiting this blog regularly helping you?  Are you participating in the exercises?  Are you passively seeking change or are you embracing it?

Take a moment to reflect on your answers to the above and maybe write them down.  Where are you now and where do you hope to be 324 steps from now?   Re-visiting goals in the process of reaching them takes us closer to achieving what we set out to achieve. 

Sometimes the goals we start out with change due to circumstances, or because they were not realistic, or they were superficial and engaging in the journey takes us to a deeper more authentic place.

Successes today....

A wonderful day at work with mums group and later a tween and teen girls group
Making time to write
Walking half way to work
Organizing household things and creating a healthy supper despite the time crunch

Challenges....

All of the above!
Being tired and still facilitating groups


I have added a facebook like page - if you would like to "like" this blog or post a comment please click on facebook in the list of pages to the right of the blog.

Namas Day









Step 38 -   "Poetry is just the evidence of life. If your life is burning well, poetry is just the ash."   ~Leonard Cohen

Today I have been in a poetic mood.  Rhymnes and ditty's from my childhood have popped into my head at random and my colleagues were amused by my contagious chuckles. 

Coming home -it was one of the "long days" at work I was pretty tired and low energy.  After chatting with my daughters I was wondering whether I had the energy to write.  Suddenly I found myself writing a poem about cats - you can check it out on the hub page link - An Ode to Cats and Kate -if you want to.

At school, poetry was something I literally fell in love with but I quickly became disillusioned about being able to write it and gave up.  Now I know that the rhymnes and haikus I enjoy writing are not of literary genius but they give me pleasure and enjoyment.  And sometimes they give others pleasure too.

So many of us are good, not necessarily great, but get pleasure from so many different creative activities.  Photography, writing, drawing, card making etc. etc.  yet, we can also easily fill our lives with avoiding the very creative pursuits that would relieve stress and bring us happiness.

Creatively we do not have to be really great at something to  enjoy the process of doing it and for it to bring us happiness and a sense of freedom.  Recently I was discussing art and the process of painting with someone who was frustrated that, when he conceived of a picture it didn't turn out the way he wanted to, so he has stopped painting.  

I suggested that instead of figuring out what the picture should look like, forget the "should" and just paint, let it be a process.  Eventually maybe after a few different experiments the painting that is meant to become will become.  I have experienced that same situation so often with clients, with whom I work as an art therapist, so often the beauty that eventually emerges out of the chaotic beginnings is beyond words.

Writing is like that too.  Just because we can put words on paper the first words we put down may, and most likely will not be, the words that end up in the final poem, story, letter et al.  But if we don't write the first words, how will we know?

There is a popular saying that is available for walls, and on cards......."Dance as if no one were watching, sing as if no one were listening, and live every day as if it were your last"  Anon

Step 39

Reflect on the above saying and consider something - anything that you want to do/make or create - and give yourself permission to do it.  Forget all the should and can't and never messsages that hover around and begin.  Whatever turns out love it and keep doing it until it tells you, I am done.  Not punitively, but patiently and lovingly.  Be gentle with yourself.  Try not to criticize and remember,  a pearl is the scratchings of an oyster and when it began it was as if nothing at all.  Keep scratching!!!!!!

Successes...

Making it through the day and writing instead of turning on the TV
Wheat and gluten free all day, except for one tiny bite of a lemon square - I resisted the second bite:-)
Picking up groceries on the way home and not getting grumpy about lack of transport

Challenges...

No time for curves
Not taking enough time for personal care such as re-tinting my hair
Making time for a break at work

Namas Day


 








Step 37 -  Trying differently not harder.

"The greatest mistake you can make in life is to be continually fearing you will make one." - Elbert Hubbard

Discussing how to increase my income and raise enough money for our UK trip this summer my friend Darlene told me -"Do something that you do well."  It was such an eye opening thought and seems so obvious now that I am writing it here; yet, I couldn't see the big picture for myself.

Her thoughts and perspective helped me look at the situation differently and see some creative solutions.  Doing what I do well, not thinking how to do things I haven't a clue about, or an interest in doing.

So, today, venturing bravely into the world of doing and not thinking about doing, I launched my $10,000 challenge.  Knowing that I have a tendency to bite off more than I can chew I decided that I needed help making a decison about which idea, or combination of ideas, based on what I do well I should pursue.  If you'd like to vote for one go to http://lizam1.hubpages.com/hub/My-10-000-challenge  - all feedback is greatly appreciated. 

Do you have a problem, or are you facing a challenge that is keeping you stuck?  There is most likely a different way to look at the problem that will shift your energy.  Once that happens you will come up with a solution for doing it differently.  I don't mean to trivialize things by stating this - we all get stuck with some huge issues more than once in our life.  However, remaining stuck with, or in them, is a choice. 

Timing is everything and only you know whether you are ready to start the process of change.

If you don't have someone who comes to mind as someone you can discuss this with, I would be happy to help you brainstorm ideas if you want to.  Either post a comment or send an email to liza.miles1@gmail.com

Finding Fiji is growing internationally - there are now readers from UK, Russia, Brazil, Malaysia, Australia, Indonesia, Turkey and USA as well as Canada.  Welcome all and thanks for joining the journey to finding our inner happy place:-).

Step 37

Create a creative challenge for yourself.  If you are a writer, make up a dance, if you are a photographer create a haiku etc. etc.  If you have a mindset that tells you I am not creative try making a collage.  Do this in response to a challenge you have or something you regularly do that you would like to change.  See how this exercise makes you feel and what thoughts you have about the challenge or making changes.  Write them down and keep with your other writings and art pieces.

Successes....

one pound lighter despite the chocoholic sunday
eating very healthy wheat and gluten free food all day
learning how to be the site administrator for www.arccsociety.com
Walking half way to work instead of transferring buses

Challenges

loose ends and paperwork at work and at home
accepting help!

Namas Day



Step 36 - Wheat and Gluten Free Eating - The good stuff. 

"Food is an important part of a balanced diet."  Fran Lebowitz, Metropolitan Life.

This week I have been sent and come across some amazing gluten free recipes.  Given that we are all for the most part pressed for the time this recipe for one minute gluten free muffins is a dream:-)

I have to admit to being cynical - but I tried one earlier and it worked.  The writer doesn't allow me to post it here, hence the link.

http://pjdeneen.hubpages.com/hub/Low-Carb-Gluten-Free-One-Minute-Muffin-Recipes

I used almond flour, a banana that was ready for muffin making or the freezer and some strawberries.  Delicious!

My friend Venetia from the UK who runs anamazing cooking school called cookability also sent me some recipes for bread, pastry and crackers, which I have cut and pasted for you.  I haven't had a chance to make them yet but they are on the to do list for this week and I'll let you know how they turn out.  Coming from Venetia I know her recipes will be good .

Gluten Free Potato Shortcrust Pastry  

75g Rice Flour

50g Cornflour

½ teaspoon Salt

½ teaspoon Xanthum Gum

1 teaspoon Baking Powder

100g Margarine

200g well chilled cooked Mashed Potato

 Mix the rice flour, cornflour, salt, Xanthan Gum and Baking powder in a large bowl and mix thoroughly.

 Rub the margarine into the flour with your fingertips until it resembles breadcrumbs.

Add the mashed potato and mix until just combined.  Briefly work the dough , shape into a ball, wrap in clingfilm and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

 Remove the pastry  and knead  for approx. 2 minutes until smooth. Roll out on a floured surface and fill a flan case.

Gluten Free Yeast Bread



400g gluten free plain flour
1 tablespoon xanthum gum
1 sachet of fast acting yeast
1½ tablespoons sugar
1½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon lemon juice
60ml oil
350 ml warm water
1 egg
Extras to add, Herbs, seeds, chopped nuts, cooked chopped onion, sun dried tomatoes
Warm the bowl to your mixer. Place all the dry ingredients in the mixer bowl.
Then add the rest of the ingredients and using the paddle attachment mix the dough for 10 minutes.
Leave in a warm place to rise for 40 minutes. Transfer to a lined loaf tin and bake for 30-40 minutes in an oven 190°c.
Savory Grain-Free Crackers (18)
2 cups rice flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon minced roasted garlic, to taste
2 teaspoons dried Italian Herbs, to taste
Pinch or two of turmeric or paprika
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1 cup very finely grated Parmesan
2 tablespoons olive oil
6-8 tablespoons water, as needed
Preheat the oven to 180°C .
Combine the ingredients in a mixing bowl and stir until a moist, moderately sticky dough forms. Add more water if you need it.
Place the mound of dough on the parchment and flatten with the palm of your hand, press the dough out evenly and quite thin. If it cracks, simply press back together.
Bake in the center of a hot oven for 15 minutes or until the dough is set and golden.
Remove and cool on a wire rack. When the dough has cooled, cut the dough into pieces using a pizza cutter. Or break apart for random jagged pieces. One can cut the dough before cooking.

I have to confess to not resisting chocolate temptations today and now I have a headache - no I did not stop at one or two   Lovely.  A (sigh) well deserved consequence:-)
I hope you enjoy these recipes - even if you are not on  a wgf diet.

Successes...
Making jewellery this morning
Writing a Haiku
Housework and laundry and grocery shopping!
Challenges
Chocolate munchies
Thank you cards I made still not mailed from Christmas

Namas Day













Step 35 -  Taking Charge.    "You must take personal responsibility. You cannot change the circumstances, the seasons, or the wind, but you can change yourself" - Jim Rohn

I am so lucky to love what I do - the work is both rewarding and challenging.  Most of all I enjoy being part of a team of highly skilled and wonderful individuals. Each one has a unique strength.  Sometimes we each get "bugged" by something someone has done, that is different to how we would handle it. The motto connect and nurture is true for both the families we serve and how the team is treated by our ED and supervisor.

Yesterday along with my supervisor Patricia and Janet Christie of ARCC I co-facilitated a workshop for women - mothers - who are or who had struggled with addiction and mental illness.

We originally planned the workshop last fall and had set up a day of, what we thought were really good mini-workshops.  The vote was in - hardly anyone registered.  We changed the format to a day of community art and Lo we were full. 

The women, most of whom did not know each other, shared meaningful and moving insights about their life experiences with the rest of the group.  The participants and facilitators each created individual collages which will become one large collage to represent healthy mothers, healthy children and healthy communities. The art, creativity, facilitated conversation, trust and openness.

Since making a daily commitment myself to consciously include creativity in my day - writing this blog, creating an exercise, writing hub pages, creating jewellery and silk scarves for friends and to sell for Arcc (www.arccsociety.com), my happiness graph is definitely steadier and my moods more stable.  Of course, as with the other day, there are days where I am not "feeling it", but I am noticing a really strong connection with my family, that I am less distracted and more engaged with what I feel and think and am making healthier choices.

At IATE (http://www.artspsychotherapy.org/) where I trained as a therapist, the college insist on engagement with regular creative activity as a pre-requisite.  I don't think I truly understood the importance of this until after the first year of training.  However, when I look back at my life the happiest and most stable times for me have always been when creativity has been present and regularly engaged with. 

Step 35

Choosing your favourite creative medium - writing, painting, dance et al, create a "thank you" for the gift of imagination and creativity.  If you do not have something tangible such as a picture or piece of written work, try and photograph or film yourself in action as a record of this moment.

Successes

Spending most of today writing
Saying no to being tempted to spend $'s on entertainment this evening
Making new connections and networking with other writers

Challenges

Not going to curves this morning - no excuses!

Namas Day

PS  I have figured out the comment box (I hope) now anyone should be able to comment without signing in - please let me know if this works.  Thank you.






Step 34 - A World Full of Beautiful People.  "We sometimes encounter people, even perfect strangers, who begin to interest us at first sight, somehow, suddenly, all at once, before a word has been spoken."  Fydor Dostoevsky

Today was a perfect example of how connected we are.  A perfect stranger giving me directions who, I later discover, works for someone I know and respect.  

Since I have been taking the bus to and from work and walking more, I have also noticed how much more connected to our community I feel.  I notice my surroundings, people and the patterns of their lives as we coincide travelling to and from our destinations together.  Smiling, getting to chat, noticing the mother with the two young children who, every morning, looks exhausted; the mother who is playful and makes up rhymes with her son, the dad whose two boys always arrive at the bus stop at the last minute - the driver waiting for them.

For sure it is frustrating not having the convenience of a car and I have to plan a lot better but overall it's not such a big deal.  Not the way I thought it would be anyhow. Perhaps it's because when I was growing up we didn't have a car.

In my early twenties I lived in Los Angeles without driving and rode a bicycle to and from work each day.  I was a "curiosity" to my fellow workers in the advertising agency who, couldn't imagine not driving, but loved my English sit up and beg style bike complete with a basket for my purse.  I even turned heads on Rodeo Drive!

Anyhoo I am geting off topic.  After I posted yesterday, visiting the hub pages where I post other articles, I discovered an amazing hub by a fellow "hubber" who has given me permission to share her creative goal setting ideas with you.  I thought it fit really well with where we are at in our journey together. 

Another connection in a community - albeit online - enriching the community who are Finding their own Fiji.

Step 34

Go to this page http://alifeofdesign.hubpages.com/hub/Maintaining-momentum-Reaching-your-personal-goals-using-creative-ideas-that-help-keep-you-motivated and select one of the creative ideas she suggests.  Either create one of your own now or keep it for a later time in the journey, perhaps at a time when you are feeling less motivated than you are today.  If you like her ideas, and I'm pretty sure you will, write a comment and let her know.

Say thank you for the people or a person in your community who you admire.

Successes...

Talking to my daughter about "attitude" and remembering my parenting skills :-)
Getting organized for a workshop I am facilitating tomorrow
Staying connected with friends
Eating wheat and gluten free

Challenges...

No curves AGAIN!
Staying focused on what needs to get done versus things I would prefer to do


Namas Day










 

Step 33 -  Quote for the Day:  "This one step-choosing a goal and sticking to it - changes everything"   Scott Reed

Today, I feel a little off my game.  I am moving forward but my energy is zapped and I recognize that if I don't get on top of it, the achievements of the last couple of weeks have the potential to slip back to zero.  That's NOT going to happen - if only my left foot could reach my butt:-) 

I recognize that, in part, I am dealing with a lot of crisis at my work - homelessness, child apprehensions and families frustrated by a system that seems dead set against them getting the assistance they need to move upwards and onwards.  I also had a "stupid" and unnecessary conflict with a very unhelpful bank teller who insisted on quoting policy rather than empathy and finding a way to try and be helpful. 

Although I don't take on others problems I do get frustrated that social justice issues are not a priority and society seems happy to leave the invisible and visible problems to others to work out.  Last night I wrote some prose about how I was feeling - you can check it out at http://lizam1.hubpages.com/hub/In-a-Perfect-World.

Stress at work, at home and unexpected issues can take our eyes off our goals.  That's when we need to find an outlet, some way of processing the problem, or releasing the stress.  For me writing, painting or creating a collage can do that.  For the more sporty going for a run, yoga or working out at the gymn might work.  It is also important to review and re-state the goal(s) that has been set. 

When sticking at something feels like an uphill climb we need a coach, a cheerleader.  Talking to a friend or family member who agrees how difficult it is may be tempting but actually what we need at this point is someone who will be the left foot on the butt and kick start our lapse in motivation.  You know  - the coach we love to hate:-)

The other day we had a big bag of smarties that the girls were tucking into, I had to ask them to hide the bag.  The next night I knew I was in control of chocolate cravings and asked for a few of the smarties - they refused and I got quite grumpy. "All I want is 12"!  I am not going to tell you the outcome.......that's step 33.

Step 33

I hope you are not having a struggle or feeling less than motivated.  This is a good time to plan prevention.  Select someone you will call, pre-brief them if you like and let them know what you need from them when you call.  Tell them how they can help get you back on track.  Also, agree on a signal when you need them to stop and listen and to let them know you are back on track .  Agree on when they will check back with you to help the re-start process and what you will do to support yourself in between. 

I missed out the "back on track" signal when I requested the smarties be hidden - hence getting grumpy when I knew I was back in control - they had no way to know that.  Agreeing on signals is important.

If you are struggling try your hand at writing, painting or making a collage.  Do something physical.
Talk to someone and use the strategies above - let them know you need a kick start.

Successes...

Making time to take care of myself
Writing
Resisting the lovely box of chocolates I received yesterday
Eating wheat and gluten free

Challenges

Negative mind messages
Getting to curves for a workout
Balancing work/home/parenting/me time

Namas Day





Step 32 - Twas the night before Valentine....

Quote for the Day:  "The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched.  They must be felt with the heart."  Helen Keller

Whether you are newly in love, getting over heart break, a long term couple, or flying solo it's pretty hard to forget that tomorrow is St. Valentine.  Love is the one emotion that is capable of taking us to our highest level of happiness and plummeting us to our deepest sorrow. Over the years I have celebrated many different types of valentine days - from intimate dinners to girls only cocktails helping someone over a heartbreak.  Whilst St Valentine may really be about love between lovers, I am joining in the celebrations by baking a Valentine tea for my two girls, friends and our homestay student from Japan.  No surprise bouqets, no cards, just a lovely tea, made with love. 

Perhaps it's my age or the fact that I have been single for twelve years that I now really appreciate the quiet, stable certainty of the different loves in my life.  The love I feel for my two children, for friends, for the community and for my mum.  They each offer multidimensional experiences of love for which I'm truly thankful. 

I hope that tomorrow will be filled with joy for you but, if it's a challenge to cope with all the hearts flowers and pink constant reminders try and focus on something that does bring you joy - something current or a memory.  Focusing on what we wish we had will decrease the capacity of happiness and the effects can be long lasting.

Step 32

Write a thank you letter to yourself - a love letter.  Tell yourself about all the unique qualities you possess and say thank you for all the kind/ generous/ helpful/loving etc. etc. things you have done for others.  Take time to think about them - however small, even a smile on the bus to a stranger.  Put the letter in an envelope and ask a friend or work colleague to mail it to you in a week or two.  This may feel silly to do, but honestly it is a wonderful exercise and a lovely "surprise" when the letter arrives back to you in the mail.

Successes today

Making time to write
Juggling work, after school activities and grocery shopping without transporation
Eating wheat and gluten free

Challenges

Time for chores at home
Loose ends and admin stuff - least preferred tasks:-)


Namas Day








Sunday 12th February - Step 31.  Enough of the yoyo diets!

Quote for the Day: "Our greatest weakness lies in giving up.  The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time." Thomas A. Edison

I am celebrating success having lost a few more pounds.  If one of the goals for you on this journey is weight loss I have posted some more information on my hub page at:
http://lizam1.hubpages.com/hub/How-to-loose-20lbs-and-keep-it-off.  You will also find a delicious menu for a valentines day wheat and gluten free tea at http://lizam1.hubpages.com/hub/How-to-Create-and-Gluten-and-Wheat-Free-Valentine-Tea

Now that we are at day 31 the potential for giving up, if  we don't begin to see results, might start to become a nagging force.  Certainly this has been true for me in the past.  The important thing, as I have written in earlier posts, is not to give up if we fall down for a day or so.

Whether you are celebrating successes or struggling with challenge, because you are not experiencing change, being aware of the highs and lows of the journey helps us mark milestones.  I think thirty one days is a significant milestone.

I remember many years ago going to the Lake District with my then boyfriend.  We walked and walked and walked -taking in the breathtaking views and enjoying the sun.   Suddenly and quite dramatically the weather changed.  What started as a sunny warm spring day became cold and windy.  The clouds rolled in and it started to pour with rain.  I had a light daypack but no hat.  We lost our trail coming down a different unmarked path and I became disoriented.  I sat down and started talking gibberish about giving up.  Honestly we were hardly in the wilderness but my mind played tricks and I thought it was the end.  Fortunately my boyfriend had his wits about him, slapped my face and made me march fast. Eventually we arrived back at the hotel, sodden but with no harm done.  Good lesson take a hat and be equipped for sudden change! 

Exercise 31

Think about a real journey you have taken in the past.  Think about which piece of equipment or clothing that was essential, or you might have needed, to help you out of a difficult situation.  Find or draw or create an image of this and post it somewhere you can see it.  Use the visual to motivate you when the road ahead seems challenging, you feel like giving up or you have an ooops. 

There will always be rocks on any road ahead - the trick is to focus on where we are going and not on the rock, otherwise we risk falling right over it.

Namas Day






http://lizam1.hubpages.com/
February 11th - Step 30The Gift of Time. 

"Time is but the stream I go a-fishing in."  Henry David Thoreau

One of the goals I set myself at the beginning of this journey was to use my time differently.  In my mind I had "no time" to do the things that I claimed I wanted to do - such as writing each day, making things, painting.  Truth is, by changing how I think I have since discovered, I do have the time.

When the girls were little - time was very scarce, my energy due to illness and allergies was low and money was tight for going out. Thus,  I had created routines for entertaining myself and taking a break that I was still using, television being one of them.  That habit was driving me crazy.  I would sit in front of a program telling myself do something else and feel very cross and frustrated when I went up to bed having accomplished nothing but staring at the television.  There are some great shows - my preference are ones from the UK - and really I could  still be creative and have the shows on.  I just wasn't doing that and the conflict was inside me.  My mind was stuck - and time slipped away.

When I changed how I thought, commiting myself to a public online journey meant that writing daily became a priority.  Joining the hub community and writing articles also made writing a prioriy.  Setting up an online store within the arcc society website (almost ready to be launched at http://www.arccsociety.com/) prioritized creativity - making things to sell in the store along with the other artists.  Suddenly I had time - the day is still 24 hours, I am still a good mum and present for the girls when they need me, I still sleep for 7 to 8 of them, and I feel better by being productive and engaging in things which are important to me.

Step 30

Consider how you use time.  What is getting in the way of your creativity, doing things for pleasure, spending time on things and with people who are important to you, not based on duty?

Highlight one area where you notice you are spending a lot of time doing something you don't love and think about replacing it with something you do.

Perhaps there is a compromise or someone else can take on part of whatever it is that is taking you away from time spent on things that are important to you. For example:
  • if you are making dinner, make double and put one in the freezer, that means you have a pre-made dinner and won't have to cook. 
  • Get your children and family to take on some of the chores they can manage and accept they won't be done the way you would do them. 
  •  If TV is a habit for you, or there are programs you don't want to miss - find a craft that you can do while you watch such as knitting, beading, sewing - even baking if space allows for a kitchen TV and that's what you love. 

Hopefully you too will notice that you appear to have more time and feel happier by doing and including more things you love in your life.

Successes

Weight loss - not putting on any more pounds and maintaining what I have lost so far
Writing this blog.
Publishing ten different hubs published on line - visit http://lizam1.hubpages.com/
Making some fabulous beaded bracelets and earrings for the store
Saving cash for a car:-) very happy

Challenges

The daily "note to self" and not slipping back into old habits
Earning more income
Accepting some of the bad choices and decisions I have made in the past

Namas Day