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Posts Tagged ‘presence’

Calm Satisfaction

cimg16411Perhaps I misnamed my blog. Or maybe it’s just that my definition of flow is different than I first thought. Or just maybe – I’ve come to a milestone in the journey. During those much-needed days of rest over the long holiday weekend, it finally occurred to me that what I am yearning for right now is contentment. Can a malcontent ever find flow in life? And how did I get here? Why must I always be looking for something different, something to improve about myself or my surroundings? Can it be that discontent drives me to growth that would never occur otherwise? Or is it just perfectionism in disguise? I spent three days with people who not only love me, but like me too. Three glorious days with no pressure to meet anyone’s unrealistic expectations – especially my own. A close encounter with an epiphany showed me that nearly all of the stress and pressure I’ve been feeling is self-inflicted. This is a scary revelation. Now I have to own it.

And so my journey to flow makes a side trip to finding contentment. I like the definition of contentment: a feeling of calm satisfaction. Key word here is calm. And calm goes back to being present. All roads lead to presence. Once there, everything is possible. So how to get there? Let’s start with gratitude. Like everything else in life, when I want to get better at something, I have to practice. When life gets hectic and stressful, it’s too easy for me to focus on the problems and begin to lose sight of everything that is good and lovely in my life. And so the easy step is to acknowledge all of those things and reflect on the blessings already abundant in my life. The challenge then, is finding gratitude with those things that cause me discontent.

I am thankful for my job. Really, I am. It pays the bills and I get to keep my treasured grown-up toy. I can even keep up with the college bills for three daughters. Trouble is, the job has sucked the life straight out of me and my wounded soul cries out for substance. How I would love to embrace mediocrity so that the impossibility of doing my best work was not so draining. Is that my sharp intellect and sparkling creativity fading off into oblivion? I’m scared. Afraid that it is gone forever – that the brain cells are damaged and not just atrophied. I’m exhausted by the daily battle of dealing with stubborn dogma and gargantuan egos. How do I find gratitude in this? Authentic gratitude that resides in the soul and gives birth to contentment? The only way to dig out of this black hole is one small acknowledgment at a time. Here goes:

I am truly grateful for the industrious and competent people on my staff.

I am truly grateful for the one person who keeps their promises.

I am truly grateful for the three team members who take personal responsibility to deliver their parts of the project we work on together.

I am truly grateful for the smile that bubbles up when a colleague answers “marvelous” to the question of how he’s doing.

I am truly grateful for the challenges that make me grow beyond my comfort zone.

I am truly grateful for realizing that most of the stress I feel at work is self-inflicted. I can change that.

I am truly grateful for the endless supply of decaf coffee and tea.

I am truly grateful that I have a place to go outside for lunch and soak up some sunshine.

I am truly grateful for the itty bit of work flexibility I have.

I am truly grateful that I don’t worry about losing my job.

There. I feel more content already.

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The smell of fresh coffee beans in the grinder. A hint of sunshine above the treetops. My favorite chair and a quiet house. Weekend mornings are reserved for nurturing my creative soul. Meditation gives way to reading and writing. Sometimes, I relax in my chair and just be. Cozy in my favorite pajamas; a steaming cup of coffee under my nose, and life is as it is meant to be – perfect.

Outside my window, birds are twittering, butterflies enjoy the breakfast bar at bright red flowers, and the cat chatters at the lizards who scurry along the window screen; her hunting instincts longing to capture the prize. I’m just happy there is a window between them or I would be getting lizard lip kisses from her later.

While early mornings on weekdays begin at 5 or 5:30 am, early on the weekend is usually just before sunrise rather than a specific time. If left to it’s natural rhythms, the body knows the brink of sunrise. Weekdays I need an artificial sunrise; on weekends, the body rules.

The benefits of early rising abound – here are my gold stars:

  • Going to bed earlier – your body needs sleep and the only way to be an early riser is to be an early go to sleeper. Most of us really and truly need 7 to 8 hours of sleep each night. I know, this is nearly impossible for most of us. Sleep research shows that the body uses the hours before midnight for healing and repair. I’ve found, though, that this one change to go to bed between 9:00 and 10:00 has had a measurable positive effect on my overall health and well-being.
  • Alone time – even the most gregarious person needs time alone. Meditate, de-stress, reflect, create – each of us needs time for personal growth and creative pursuits. When my daughters were small, early morning was my only option. At this stage in my life, I have more options for alone time, but still prefer early morning.
  • Time for breakfast – no one argues the benefit of a healthy breakfast. I used to eat grab and go breakfast at my desk. Breakfast was usually interrupted by the first crisis of the day – not great for enjoyment nor digestion. Now I enjoy a healthy breakfast at home as part of my weekday morning routine and start my workday physically and mentally ready for whatever the crisis du jour may be.
  • Punctuality – even just an extra five minutes in the morning can make the difference between running late and getting to where you need to be on time. Have you ever noticed that when you’re running late every traffic light turns red just as you get there or you end up behind the school bus that makes ten stops? When you leave just a few minutes early, that little time cushion changes your entire mind-set. Instead of stressed and hurried vibrations, you tune into calm confidence that you will get there on time – and you usually do.
  • A walk at sunrise or any other form of exercise outdoors. Some mornings are just spectacular. Besides contributing to my body’s health, this practice adds to my mental, emotional, and creative well-being. Whether a bright full moon illuminates transition of midnight blue sky into fringes of daylight, or rays of sunshine pierce clouds in shades of coral, pink, and orange; every morning is unique. The trick is to remain present – allow the thoughts and constant dialogue in your head to keep moving right out on out. Tune in to your heart and emotions to feel and experience the flow of being and belonging to the world. Let nature remind you of the sacredness of life.

I’m sure there are many other benefits from early rising – these are some that bring me to flow and give me a better chance at a glorious day. Now if I could just find some secrets to flow at work…

How about you? What are the gold stars of early rising for you?

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This is Olivia. She looks like an ordinary cat. And yet…

She is a great teacher. Perhaps even another Yoda.

As I was contemplating what to write, I kept shooing Olivia away – I was busy after all. She would have none of that, thank you very much. When I finally listened to her, this was her message.

  1. Now; this moment,  is all we really ever have. How will you choose to spend it?
  2. When someone offers you unconditional love… accept and cherish it.
  3. Cuddling with a loved one is infinitely better than working – or watching TV – or just about anything else that we think we need to do.
  4. Expressing your love for someone else makes you feel purry inside.
  5. The only way to experience flow is to be fully present.

It’s so easy to get caught up in the daily drama of life and let our minds go spinning out of control with our endless to-do lists. There is just so much to get done! And yet, if we take just a few minutes to slow down and allow ourselves to truly savor the present moment, we can find that contentment and pleasure that is flow.

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