lessons on kindness

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I’m always looking to people to learn about myself and the way I want to show up in this world. I constantly question “is who I am being in this moment reflective of the greatest person that lies inside?”  A lot of times I’m off base and some shifts in attitude or perception are called for; and sometimes I’m spot on and am respond with so much loving kindness that I can’t help but feel internal love radiating inside.

Lately, I’ve been trying to allow the hurtful and challenging people I encounter to teach me about kindness, to show me what it means it means to be compassionate, and to notice all the ways in which I begin to contract and feel when I experience difficult interactions. I look to strangers as models of gentleness, steadiness, and strength.  I look to friends and acquaintances to teach me about bravery and the willingness to take risks.  I look to ordinary people to teach me about success and making decisions based on purpose, rather than fear.

My greatest teacher most recently has been the barista at my favorite local coffee shop.  After a particularly defeating day last week, I drove tiredly and with a sense of frustration to meet my husband to do more work.  When it was my turn next in line, the barista, in a typical customer service fashion, asked me how my day was. “Rough,” I said. And because we are conditioned by so many of these interactions, I wasn’t expecting anything more than a simple, fairly generic response.  I was taken aback when the barista stopped what he was doing, looked me in the eyes, and offered the most sincere sense of compassion.  He asked me about my day and listened with attentiveness; he not only made it a point to personally deliver my meal and make an extra beautiful design from the froth of my coffee, but checked in with me later that night before he left his shift.  The gestures were simple, but intentionally kind.  What I know for sure is that the sincerity of his actions changed the outcome of my day.  The barista’s presence and willingness to port forth extra effort gently switched my perspective; his actions a reminder that the way we show up in our lives matters to the people we encounter.  He reminded me how much I value support, community, and gentle compassion and so I was able to move through the rest of the day more softly, more full.

 

I’m still thinking about his kindness and all of the things he didn’t have to do but chose to anyways.  Here’s what I know:

  • You have the power to change someone’s behaviors, feelings, and day, simply by the way you show up.  We can move through our days in automated ways- prioritizing our needs and wants over those we are surrounded by- or we can choose to be present in the experiences and potential suffering that other people encounter and make an offering of our hearts.

 

  • We can notice but it’s most powerful to act.  We are in an age of sharing posts, images, and well wishes on social media versus taking intentional action to contribute to the alleviation of a problem.  While education and acknowledgement of and about local, national, and international issues are crucial, we must be intentional about being the drivers of change.

 

  • There are so many possible beautiful interactions that could take place in this world.  The person standing in front of you could turn out to be one of your greatest friends or deepest supporters-  if only we would pause and allow ourselves the opportunity to connect to one another’s hearts.

 

  • Paying attention to the way people are feeling around you can make all the difference.  And if their cup is empty, perhaps offer some of your love to fill it up.

 

  • Be kind.  Talk to someone you don’t know.  Offer love.
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fear based living

journaling You might already know that when I was little, I used to write list after list in my journals; I would identify places I hoped to travel  (Africa, India, and Paris always made the top three) and about who I aspired to be. I wrote down traits that I wanted to work on and characteristics I was proud of.  I made lists of books to read, people I admired, and goals for the year.

 I can remember envisioning larger than life successes and thoughts about all of the possibilities that could exist within a single lifetime.  There were so many opportunities and paths to take, and I knew early on that I wanted to make a contribution to this world.   I have had this belief within me from as long as I can remember that I am here to do amazing things.  And I don’t mean that in a grandiose or egotistical sort of way; in my heart of hearts, I really believe that we are all here to do amazing things. We each have something inside of us that only we can offer, that only we can create, and that only we can see.  And sometimes we forget about that little magic spark that exists within us all.

 

As I’ve gotten older, I can more clearly see that life often gets in the way of where we thought we were going.  We get trapped into comfort zones through security, stability, and even false senses of security.  We get accustomed to our routines and the exchange of money for our time.  We start making decisions based on our fears rather than through the depths of our souls.  The reality of finances, obligations, debt, children, and unanticipated expenses start acting as road blocks and detours to our paths, and justifiably so.  We all make decisions and sacrifices based on our current situation and we are all always just trying to do the best that we can.  To be clear, there is nothing wrong with comfort, stability, or routine, it can in fact be everything we have wished for.  I’ve just been reflecting on how these perceived comforts convince me to play small.  I’m noticing the way in which fear of failure, risk, making mistakes, and the unknown keeps me in my routine, even when I feel called to take leaps and carve out new paths.  I’m noticing all of the choices I’ve been making based on fear.

 

 

Somewhere along the way, I stopped making the lists.  I started writing about challenges, relationships, and my thoughts and feelings.  It wasn’t that the dreams stopped existing, it was that other things began to take my focus– life started to happen. But over the last year, I’ve also started to truly recognize that we only grow older and time slips away, and pretty soon we have journals filled with frustrations and wonderings, and lists of unlived dreams.

 

What I’m opening up to is re-writing my vision on notebook paper, on exploring all of the possibilities, of not limiting myself based on an attachment to a plan.  I’m working on giving myself permission to change my mind, to be a beginner, and to challenge my comfort zones so that I can continue to evolve and grow.

And because I am a planner and an over-thinker, I’m slowly inching my way back to the confidence in taking risks.  What’s important in my heart today is the knowing that when I can step away from the worry, fear, and unease, I can recognize that the unknown, the risks, and the possibilities are a beautiful place to be.

 

 

 

on staying

movingIf you know me at all, you know how much I love Oklahoma.  So I was just as surprised as anybody when we packed our life collections into boxes and moved to Utah.  Although I’ve lived in five different states and enjoy the adventure of exploring new places, I had a really difficult transition this past year.  The thing about moving to a new city where you hardly know anyone is that you get to spend time getting to know yourself and expanding your limits. There has been a lot of journaling, a few tears, and months of interoception, or looking within.

Sometimes leaving means saying goodbye to all of the things that are good in exchange for situations that are hard.  And sometimes leaving means letting go of your anchors in exchange for the sea.  Perhaps it’s the staying in a place you’ve outgrown that’s hardest, or maybe for you, the difficulty lies in letting go of your comfort and routine.  At different times and in different places, moving has meant has all of these things to me.  And this time, arriving here has been a new lesson in navigating discomfort, of staying even when things get hard, and re-learning that situations are as beautiful as you make them out to be.

What I know about staying- whether that be in a location, relationship, job, or even belief- is that we can find our comfort here.   That if we are lucky, we have strong support systems and beautiful relationships that bring us fulfillment and keep us tied to where we are.  Staying might mean working at a place that fuels your creativity, engaging in activities that fill your life’s purpose, or in developing a routine that is nourishing to your soul.  Staying can be as equally beautiful and transformative as we make moving on to be.  And in all the ways that staying can be wondrous, remaining in places, situations, and relationships that are no longer meant for you can also be difficult, limiting, and contracting.  Sometimes staying is a choice we make not because it’s best for us, but because we doubt our abilities to adapt to what might come next.

And when it comes to leaving, what i know is that change can be overwhelming.  All of a sudden, our fears begin to sneak in and make us question whether or not we’ve made the right choice.  Moving, letting go, or changing your direction often creates uncertainty about our ability to belong, to navigate our way, and to redirect our path.   I think we leave places with the expectation to grow, change, evolve, and accomplish great things, and maybe we go to new places and do just that.  But you might also crumble, fail, or change your mind.  You might find  the very thing you were running from is waiting for you at your next stop.

I don’t necessarily think either option- staying, leaving, letting go, remaining, – is better than the other. There’s not one option that is right and another that is wrong; there are only life experiences that show us more about ourselves, teach us lessons, and land upon our plate of experiences in ways only meant for us.  I’ve learned that we can only learn from what we are willing to open to- and that might mean in your hometown or across the country in a place foreign to you.

For me, moving here was a lesson in being my own friend which meant learning about my limiting beliefs and habitual thought patterning.  In the same way you get to know a friend, I started looking within my own heart; I hadn’t done that in a while.  I spent some time touring my internal landscape and uncovered thoughts patterns that based my worth on a sense of accomplishment and level of confidence on external approval.  Spending more time alone helped me to get clear about the types of relationships I would like to have supporting me, as well as the ones that tend to drain my energy and make me feel inadequate.

In moving, I found that I had a lot more time to fill up and so I reconnected to the things I am passionate about and wanted to improve upon.  I attended yoga workshops alone and invited strangers out to coffee.  I looked people in the face and smiled, I started conversations. I created a sense of community by doing the things that made me feel most alive and said yes to opportunities that were outside of my comfort zone. And in the midst of trying to build relationships with others, I also dove into the uncertainty of being alone and dedicated days to spending time with myself.  I shifted my perspective a lot and spent reframing difficult situations as opportunities and lessons.

If you find yourself in a situation with each option contrasting itself against the other, I hope you know that regardless of where you go, you’ll take yourself with you. That if you can find comfort in who you are, wherever you go will be beautiful. And that if you can be accepting of all of yourself, you’ll be able to be gentle when you stumble and forgiving when you fall.  You’ll be able to reach out to meet new people even if you are unsure.  And whether you stay or go, you’ll be okay.

You’ll land exactly where you need to.

And then you’ll fly.

p.s.  If you are interested in following my thoughts, movements, wanderings, and daily inspiration, you can find me on instagram! @todaywasmeaningfulblog

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p.p.s.s.  thanks for being here, it means a lot to me.

like someone you love.

Processed with VSCO with f2 preset I’ve been doing this thing lately where I ask “how can I best take care of myself in this moment?” and then I pause long enough to hear the answer. The thing about our hearts, is that they know. This year I’ve placed a high priority on taking care of myself and am constantly reorganizing my commitments and schedule to find balance.  It’s not a fixed point you know, taking care of yourself and juggling all of the commitments that life requires of us.  My philosophy about self-care and self-love is that you can’t show up fully to the present moment and to the people that you love when you don’t feel whole.

On the surface, self-care can include practices like receiving adequate sleep, spending time in nature, practicing yoga, getting a massage, taking a long bath, or engaging in supportive eating habits.  These kinds of activities nourish ourselves and help to restore our hearts and minds; they take care of our most basic needs.  And we can practice all of these things and still find ourselves feeling internally restless, uneasy, uninspired, harsh, inadequate, anxious, sad, or unkind.  Beyond all of the self-care rituals we can tend to is perhaps a greater, more gentle, and necessary way of being with ourselves.

This year, I started with the practices. I went to yoga almost every day and spent a lot of time outside with my feet in a stream.  I collected rocks, slept under the stars, and journaled regularly.  I said ‘no’ to things when I was tired and gave myself plenty of permission to rest. But the real work and internal shifts came by getting to know myself deeply enough to identify underlying core beliefs about my worth and how achievements and accomplishments fueled the reaching for feelings of ‘enough.’  The self-love came when I allowed myself to be imperfect after making a mistake, or when I showered myself in kindness after making the wrong choice.  The deep self-love came when I interrupted a habitual thought patterning of shame and negative self-talk and stopped myself from continually replaying out situations in my mind, of living in the past.

Our society talks a lot about self-love and self-care, especially these days.  But there are still so many people feeling lonely, disappointed, and not okay.  I think it’s partly because we have mixed up the intention of doing self-care practices with the intention of being someone who cares about themself. Self-love and self-care are not about excusing your behaviors or giving yourself permission to over-indulge or over-consume, they are about moments when you choose to hold space for the human being that you are.  Self-love is about becoming familiar with the thoughts that pass through our minds everyday and learning that we are not our thoughts and we are not our feelings.    The practice is in acknowledging the way you are unfolding and blooming to the present moment, no matter how messy or scary that might be. Its requires active and continual effort to honor your existence, tune in, listen, and then make a choice based on what it is you need.

 

I invite you to begin treating yourself the same way you would treat someone you dearly love.  It can get messy because it might ask us to uncover some truths about our self-worth, feelings of value, and ability to set boundaries with time, people, and our resources.  It might stir up feelings of regret, anger, shame, or dissatisfaction.  And all of that is okay; we can allow ourselves to feel the way we feel without having to act or changing anything.  That is self-love.

 

 

I offer you ultimate permission to unequivocally be yourself.  To feel bad and still be okay, to be imperfect and still enough.  To be a work in progress and still a brilliant masterpiece.  I encourage you to take as much time as you need, to move slowly,  and to work on only one thing at a time.  I invite you to learn about where you hurt and why, and to set an intention to send the love there.  Connect to what inspires you and chase those little sparks of magic.  Be gentle with your current self, the person you once were, and the person that you are becoming.

 

 

 

 

 

 

be brave enough to love yourself more than you think you deserve.

and then a little more.

on vulnerability.

everything is full.

I’ve sat in a lot of circles this year; hands at my heart, eyes gently closed, feet pressing upon a hardwood floor. We always start off as strangers who come together in vulnerability, and end up as friends.

Last weekend I recognized that somewhere along the way, we’ve learned that it’s dangerous to be vulnerable, that we shouldn’t risk being seen.  Our voices have been quieted in many ways throughout our lives, and somewhere, we’ve learned to keep our pains silent and to suffer quietly in the secrecy of our hearts.  We’ve internalized messages that we are supposed to show up as nicely wrapped packages, organized, happy, and unflawed. We believe we’re supposed to experience life so effortlessly that we feel discouraged when things get hard.

We might have lived lifetimes of saying we are fine when actually, we feel lonely.  When we are actually scared, deeply unhappy, tired, anxious, or hurt.  We mask ourselves in busy-ness, numbing, perfectionism, over/under-eating, alcohol, and drugs.  And we wear cloaks of perfection or indifference to replace our deep rooted fears of being negatively judged, falling short, or feeling inadequate. We harm ourselves through the voice of our inner critic or avoid trying because of the risk of failure. We might resist vulnerability out of fear of what would happen if we opened up.

And while vulnerability can mean many things for different people, for me, it is about uncertainty, risk, and exposing the truest parts of ourselves.  Vulnerability is about our ability to sit with discomfort, name it, and grow in it. It’s about being seen for who we are, especially when it’s hard and when we feel like we are crumbling; especially when it feels like no one could understand.  And I believe this matters because when we close ourselves off to this emotional risk, we start to feel alone.  We feel like something is wrong with us; we feel inadequate, broken, disconnected, and not enough.

 

 

 

 

I think that if you sit on the floor with someone and listen as they talk about what they most fear, how badly it hurt to lose someone they loved, and how difficult it can be to live in their body and mind; we would begin to realize we are all the same.  We hurt in the same ways and seek the same sense of connection, approval, and belonging from others; the similarities in our hearts are greater than the differences that divide us.  And the more people I sit with, the more I realize that the cracks in our hearts are the areas in which we can allow more love in.

This is your gentle reminder that we don’t have to do any of this alone; that we all have a need to feel connected to and nurtured by others.  And what I know is that our relationships and connections to one another help us to stay anchored to the shore when the waves are raging inside and trying to tear us away.  I invite you to give yourself permission to be messy, to be a work of art, to change your mind, and to speak your heart.  I encourage you to make mistakes and learn from them.  To rest when things get hard.  And please know that you can speak your truth and still be scared.  You can feel alone and not know what to do with it; you can be sad and tired, and still okay.  You can be not okay while still holding on.  I invite you to open up to how you feel and honor who you are; mistakes, unknowns, insecurities and all.

 

 

 

 

 

and if there is no one in your circle yet, I would be happy to sit there with you.

we can start off as strangers and end up as friends.