Finding Peace in a Hectic Life

 

Just as at the eye of the hurricane there is stillness, so in the midst of confusion or distress there is an inner place of stillness, the secret place of the Most High.

– Martha Smock

tropical-cyclone-catarina-1167137_1280

The last year of my life was very hectic.  I went from being unemployed to serving as an AmeriCorps VISTA Volunteer, more than hour-long drive away from home. Most of the time, I wasn’t mindful.  I spent months walking around tense and uncomfortable. Stressed-out and irritable had become my default way of existing.

We all know people who live this way. And I certainly don’t think I need to lecture you on the fact that many illnesses are preventable because they are stress related.

What I am going to say, though, is that I started this blog so I could exist in this world without succumbing to its torments. Over the last year (or two) I wasn’t blogging and I wasn’t doing anything about my stress levels.

My solution to stress has always been to immediately abandon the operation: My health came first and either I would let go of the goal entirely, or find another way to reach my goal.  Sometimes, this isn’t always feasible. I couldn’t didn’t want to quit my job.

My actual job wasn’t all that stressful, and it was a joy to be around the people I worked with. My commute, however, seemingly sucked all my energy and free time from me. Life started to feel like a never ending wash, rinse and repeat cycle.

I’d squeeze in grocery shopping, cooking, laundry and whatever other chores that were obligatory for me to continue existing as a human and working at my job.

But the problem with wanting a slow-paced life, and having a fast-paced job is that these two life choices are at odds with one another. So how could I find the time and space to just relax, when there seemingly wasn’t any?

queueWell, I’d seen articles that say the average American (with a 78.9 year average life span), spends 6 months to 2 years of their lifetime waiting. (I apologize for the vague statistics, I really couldn’t find any hard data or studies on this and I didn’t want to just make up stuff like other people on the internet.) But Timex did do a survey a number of years ago to determine how much time people spend on a daily basis doing various activities, including waiting.  We wait in line, in traffic, on-hold, for public transit, and for a significant other to get ready. We spend so much time waiting for the “real action.”

While waiting, I always felt impatient, stressed out, frustrated, and in a hurry to get on with my day. I felt my time was too valuable to just be standing around doing nothing while I have to wait to get one menial task completed. Especially when this waiting time, I thought, could be better served, well, not waiting, of course.

But the mindfulness I learned by practicing yoga made me realize that I was missing an opportunity.

bench-in-woods

Photo by FIPverksted at Morguefile.com

I was missing an opportunity to take some deep breaths.

I was missing an opportunity to clear my head.

I was missing an opportunity to center myself.

I was missing an opportunity to calm down, find peace and relax.

I lamented the fact that I had no time to relax, but I ignored all the time I did have to relax.

Those little quiet moments I had between the crazy, busy ones, were moments I decided to reclaim for myself. Every moment that I was “waiting” was a moment to find peace.

Now, I try take those little moments to come back to myself: relax the tension in my neck and shoulders, quiet my mind, and release any lingering worries or thoughts. Maybe even say a prayer.

You may not have long spans of time where you can just relax, but I bet you have plenty little moments in-between the busy ones where you can re-center myself.

New Beginnings: How to follow through on resolutions 12 days into the New Year

take nothing leave nothingIt’s been a long time since I’ve written. I experienced a number of extremely difficult challenges in the early to mid-part of last year. And while none of those challenges actually precluded me from writing, by way of time consumption, I didn’t write here. I didn’t focus on creating the deliberate slow-paced, self-designed lifestyle that I wanted for myself. And I’ve fallen into some consumerist and stressful habits.

Yet with the soul searching, and reading, and studying, and praying, I have been put in a situation that allows me to start building something for myself and my new husband. This past October, my then-fiance was awarded a graduate assistantship which gave us housing at virtually no cost. So at the start of this year, we downsized from a two bedroom/two bathroom apartment to a 400 square foot studio (more thoughts on this next time).

I have the opportunity, time and space now to get my career together, without the pressure of a huge onslaught of bills. I do have some serious financial obligations, but nothing is so pressing that I’ll lose any sleep. Anyway, with all of this available time, and unlimited potential before me, I see how I could easily become a freeloading slacker. Being slow-paced isn’t necessarily being lazy. It’s just living a productive, meaningful life, without the chains of societal expectations holding you back.

So last year, while struggling through the consequences a job termination, totaled car (no injuries), and death in the family, (all of which occurred within a calendar week) I filled my mind with positive and productive ideas to keep me moving. At times, my state of physical and emotional burnout overtook me. And then there was the craziness of planning our November wedding in an extraordinary short period of time.  Outside of those moments, I was flying high off of everything that I was reading and a few ideas stuck with me. I wanted to share those ideas that I came across/figured out for living a meaningful, deliberate and productive life:

  1. Talking about an action depletes the energy needed for that action.  This basically means if you need/want to do something, don’t say you have to do it. Just do it.  Don’t share your excitement of this great idea you have, because if you do, you won’t have the energy to do it. For me, this is a big one: I’m all talk and no action sometimes.  I’ve probably heard this statement a thousand times from my husband, but it wasn’t until I read it in The Four Spiritual Laws of Prosperity by Edwene Gaines that the idea actually stick with me.
  2. Find a way to keep yourself accountable. This seems to contradict number uno, but this just means have a system in place to make sure you’re doing what you’ve set out to do. I don’t mean telling other people your goals and having them check up on you. Keeping myself accountable to other people, ie telling them “I’m going to work out 5 days a week,” doesn’t work for me. Either they annoy the heck out of me or make me feel guilty for not reaching my goals. What I’m talking about could be as simple as putting quarters in a swear jar or marking off items on a check-list.  For me, writing this blog reminds me to stay focused on the life I want to live. It is a way to chronicle my journey.  I think detailing your day in a journal, after you complete whatever it was you set out to do, is very effective and is a positive way to track your progress.
  3. Lower your standards, especially if there is something you are just getting started with. This is one I keep seeing from different bloggers, the first was Kazumoto from AJAAT (click the links in his article, they’re good further reading on the subject.) If you say, “I’m going to write a thousand words on my novel today,” and you haven’t written anything in a month or two, chances are it’s not going to happen. But if your goal is to just write something in your novel today, you’ll reach your goal if you write five words, fifty, or five thousand. (I’m totally, obviously not talking about myself, here). Now I don’t mean to produce poor quality on purpose.  I just mean, just do something, or do more than nothing. Let me tell you something: it is easy as heck to just do a little better than nothing, and as many of the others have said, you may find you do a quite a bit more than nothing (no pressure though).
  4. Be mindful of the process, and don’t fixate on the end goal. I seriously want write a whole post on this, but in brief, the idea is to immerse yourself in the task at hand. Don’t do something just to have it finished. If you focus on the process, before you know it, you’ll actually finish instead of lamenting how much time it is going to take.  So many of the things we love can be tedious. We plateau, get stuck, have to back-up and redo. A task you thought you liked might become tedious if you’re having trouble.  I am very much guilty of fixating on the end goal. But I noticed when I focus on the process of the task I’m completing, I enjoy myself more, and the task actually gets completed. Less stress in the end.

That’s all I have for you today. I hope these four thoughts can help you stay motivated with your New Year’s resolutions, life goals, or whatever ticks your clock. I’m signing off for the night.

Thanks for reading.

Peace and Blessings.

How Do I Get A Positive Attitude?

I recently took a staycation-vacation up in Hollywood Beach, Florida with my aunt.  During my vacation, I had an epiphany. I am so negative.  I never really thought I was.  I thought my outlook was pessimistic, but nothing to get up in arms about.

hollywood beach view from window

Yet, here I was, in Hollywood, Florida, staring out the window overlooking the ocean, and in my head, I was complaining about something.  I have this beautiful view, and all I could think about is what is wrong with the world/my life/people/etc.

People have called me negative before, but I never really saw it that way. I considered myself a realist. You know, if my professor typically rejects my first ideas in my paper, why would he just accept this one particular idea on this one particular day.  I always prayed for the best, but expected the worst.  It lessens the blow when a disappointing outcome does occur.

Still, when I consider my little amazing-view-but-bad-attitude scenario, I wonder, what’s up with that? I mean, maybe that’s what people mean when they say I’m negative.  That I’m so consumed with these other thoughts that I cant enjoy the moment.  Sometimes,  I do enjoy the moment, but it just hasn’t been happening on the trip.

hollywood beach

Don’t get my wrong, I am thankful for this trip, and I needed it badly.  But it took a while for me to relax into it.  Maybe it’s because I carry too much of the past around with me.  I drag my outside life with me to a place where I’m supposed to relax and enjoy life.

hollywood beach trees

I decided that I’m going to start meditating. Maybe more yoga too, but mostly meditating. That way I can deliberately focus on being in the moment and clearing my mind of any negative thoughts that float around.