Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Where'd My Life Go?!

Ok, I'll make this brief.  I'd like to tell you why I didn't write a column last month.

Have you ever had a period in your life where nearly every single aspect of life as you knew it changed, quite suddenly?

The reason I didn't write a column last month is that I have returned to being a recreation therapist for an adult daycare center.  Yes -- it's true.  I have gone from being a reflexologist and meditation facilitator to being something like a cruise director/standup comedian for eight hours a day.  Yikes.

I used to joke that it was 'my job to be relaxed'.  And it was true!

Now, it's 'my job' to be energetic, uplifting, spontaneous, and creative.  All day.  Whether I feel like it or not.  The question that I have to ask myself at the end of every day is "did I have fun today?"  Because if I didn't have fun, I can guarantee that the 30+ elderly people I spent the day with didn't have fun either!

The really odd thing about all this is that I now could easily be on the other side of the Meditation Fence -- saying "Look, I just don't HAVE TIME TO MEDITATE!"  And I really don't have much time.  Plus, I'm living in the land of High Energy, all day long -- not so easy to come down from.

Still, an interesting thing has happened:  I've realized that I simply don't have time to get too far out of whack, or it will show up at work immediately, like an avalanche.  So, yeah, maybe my Happy Dance has been cut back to 5 minutes -- but I always do it.  And I take those 3 minutes at lunch to put my legs up on the couch and chant.  Or I go in my office and take five deep breaths and clap my hands.  I've found a hundred new ways to 'push my reset button', almost instantly -- and yes, some of them involve chocolate.  I also find that I'm using my time super efficiently -- because I don't have time not to.  My huge intention to live a joyful, centered, intentional life seems to have carried through into this Giant Change, and is leaking out all over everything -- even though outwardly, it would seem that my life is now the antithesis of what it was two months ago.  Pretty interesting.  

So, I'll say it again, with even more conviction -- don't tell me that you don't have time to meditate!!!  In truth, you don't have time not to.  Yeah, well -- let's see what I'm saying in another three months, ok?

Love, MJ

Sunday, June 9, 2013

The Best Job Ever

Adam's tiny traveling house
On the heels of Mother's Day, and with Father's Day just ahead, it seems a good time to reflect on parenting. 

A few days ago, my only child (who is not a child at all) drove down the road pulling the awesome trailer pictured here, heading to Oregon with his fiancee -- and I feel certain of only one thing:  being a mother is the best and most important job I've ever done or ever will do, and everything else is just frosting.

Mothering is probably the only area of my life  that I've always had complete confidence in; don't mess with my kid, I will eat you alive, I am a lioness!  I would stand in front of a train for my son, without a thought!  I have made a number of dramatic decisions and changes in my past life, which were all run through the filter of parenting.  It was always clear to me what was best for us -- what was not acceptable -- what needed to be done -- what needed to change.  I've done some really brave things that I would never have had the nerve to do if it was 'just me'.  I never wanted to look back and regret that I wasn't there for Adam, or that I'd exposed him knowingly to something that might hurt him in some way.

And looking back, I have no regrets at all.  Now it seems to be the time for me to turn that mother lioness eye on myself -- and wonder why I'd ever consider allowing anything in my own life that I would never have allowed for my son, for a minute.  I also now have the unknown territory of making decisions that are truly just for me -- and I'd thought I was already doing that!  So, I'll just keep practicing, and calling up that mother-lioness-feeling of what is best for me -- and I invite you to do the same!  Meanwhile, I'll be planning my first trip to Oregon ... 

Love from the hammock,

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

I love how it feels when ...

So, let's talk about affirmations! (affirmation: a present tense, positive, personal statement that is repeated frequently to oneself)  Even if you've never purposely used an affirmation, you can well imagine how ridiculous and fraudulent you might feel if you were saying to yourself "I am thin, I am healthy, I am prosperous, I am successful at xyz, I am relaxed and peaceful, I am super-fantabulous" -- especially if you were feeling about a hundred miles away from any of that stuff being the truth!!  

Here's an easy way to bring yourself much closer to actually feeling that all that positive stuff could possibly be true for you -- simply add the words "I love how it feels when ..."!  

Feel the difference between these two thoughts:

I am healthy and eating mindfully.  (Yeah, right!  Self-worth plummets as you reach for a Twinkie.)

I love how it feels when I am healthy and eating mindfully.  (Yeah, I really do!  And I've felt that way before!  Grabbing an apple as you head out the door to walk the dog.)

Cool, eh?  Adding "I love how it feels when ..." allows for the fact that you may not feel that way at the moment, but also acknowledges that at some point you have felt that way.  Now, if you know me at all, you know that I like to cover as many bases as possible with my meditations and mindfulness habits, so I have of course turned this into a fabulous phrase that takes care of absolutely everything:

I love how it feels when all aspects of my life reflect who I really am.  Yeah, baby!  The great thing about that phrase is that it comes into my head when something really good happens -- and when things don't seem to be going so well.  Bases covered, yippee!

And why do we even want to bother with all this stuff?  Because we get what we expect.  So, I'm keeping a darned close eye on what I'm expecting.  I'm fond of saying that "I'm in a highly anticipatory state, despite the lack of physical evidence for it".  Hee hee.  

Happy Spring!  Redwing blackbirds -- forsythia -- skunk cabbage -- ah, yes!  
Love from the hammock --

Monday, April 1, 2013

Chocolate Kiss Mindfulness

Mmmmm.  Sounds good, eh?  We did this little exercise in my meditation group last month, and it was, not surprisingly, yummy.  It takes about two minutes.

First, you'll need a chocolate kiss, or small piece of chocolate, or anything sweet that will melt in your mouth.  Just one.

Now, look it over admiringly and inhale the fragrance.

Place it purposefully in your mouth.  Close your eyes and let your lovely morsel roll around on your tongue.  NO BITING!  Let it melt, taking as long as you can to enjoy and savor the fabulousness of it.

Take a deep breath.  Maybe add a smile.

Mmmmm.  That's it!  If you have sworn off of sugar, you can try grapes or small pieces of fruit (just make sure you chew slowly and mindfully!!) -- anything delectable will do.

A very good example of how "a little goes a long way", hmmm?  Yikes, I hate to admit how often I find myself jamming food mindlessly into my mouth!!  Ah yes, opportunities for mindfulness abound!  And it's a darned good excuse to eat some chocolate, too.  Being in the present moment is somehow a little easier with something sweet.  

Don't forget, you are all most welcome to attend my next Adventures in Meditation group, Thursday, April 11th, 7:15 pm at the Shoreline Center.  It's free!

Happy Spring!  Yippee!  The hammock is coming back out next weekend, yeah!
Love, MJ

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

The Mona-Lisa-Smile-Instant-Mood-Changer

Here is the simplest little mood shifter you'll ever come across:

Please take a good look at the Mona Lisa's smile.  Got it?  Now, all you have to do is allow a tiny half-smile to spread across your lips -- not much more than a smirk -- and then, shift your eyes slightly to the left (that's the most important part).  Hold that for a few seconds, and maybe take a few deep, slow breaths.

Did you feel that?!  Kind of like having a really great secret and being in love with the whole world, just for a minute?  

I find it almost absurd that this can make me feel so great, almost instantly.  And so odd that looking straight ahead and smiling does not produce the same feeling at all!  Perhaps there is some grand scientific explanation for this ... but meanwhile, it is my simple gift to you.  And you can take it with you everywhere, and do it anytime you like -- how great is that?  

Maybe Mona Lisa really does know something we don't -- but we can practice it!  Life is often soooo much simpler than we make it, don't you think?

Love & (nearly) Springtime Hugs,

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Happy Dance

Hi ho, winter warriors!  I'd like to share a little bit about my Happy Dance -- my own particular morning meditation, which involves listening to certain uplifting songs and dancing and flailing my arms about wildly, until I'm in a rather ecstatic state of what I like to refer to as 'spiritual hysteria'.  I do this for about twenty minutes every morning, NO MATTER WHAT.

Basically, what I'm doing is practicing where I'd like to be, and how I'd like to feel, more of the time.  My musical lineup has changed a lot over the last 14 years -- when I first started doing this (rather accidentally), I listened to the same song every day for 10 years, no kidding!!  Now, I'm more likely to tire of a song after a few months -- and I just keep my ears open for the next wildly uplifting song, because I know that a new one will be on the way!  

It's almost like a form of hypnotherapy -- I find a song that I LOVE, and that I can't wait to listen and dance to, and then by listening to it repeatedly, I essentially train myself to go straight to a blissful joy place without even trying.  And it works, no matter what is going on in my life.  Not necessarily a conventional form of meditation, but woo hoo, does it work for me!

Thanks to my new Australian friend, Joseph Green, for bringing my latest Happy Dance song to my attention -- take two minutes to listen to Peponi by the Piano Guys and Alex Boye by  clicking here -- and feel free to jump up and wave those arms wildly, of course!  And remember, a happy dance for you is a happy dance for everybody.  Or something like that.

Love & Giant Hugs,

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

On Vulnerability

Vulnerable:  susceptible to emotional injury; open to censure or criticism.  My new 'V' word of the moment.

On Dec. 12th, someone smashed the window of my car and took my reflexology bag, along with my iPod dock.  On Dec. 14th, the shootings in Newtown happened.  On Dec. 19th, a very nice man named Val crashed his truck into my car, while he was being waved across two lanes of traffic (the insurance agent referred to it as 'the wave of death').  

What do these events have in common?  They all brought a feeling of extreme vulnerability up front and center in me.  Suddenly, I was walking around feeling like an eggshell; like anything could just happen to me at any moment, whether I wanted it to or not.  I hadn't felt like that since I lost my house in a tornado.  I knew that this feeling would pass -- because it's always true that anything can happen in any moment, but we really can't walk around thinking this constantly or we'd be paralyzed with fear all the time!  Still, I didn't want the feeling to 'just pass' -- I wanted to somehow let these things be meaningful in my life, and not just be 'bad events'.  

The point became not WHAT HAPPENED, but -- what am I going to DO with what happened?  We define events as 'bad' simply because something happened that we did NOT want to happen -- yet we still have a choice about how we handle it all.

The car stuff was easy.  Everything was covered by insurance.  I realized that I really didn't like my iPod dock all that much, and would be happy to have a reason to pick out a new one.  Val, the man who crashed into me, was incredibly nice, assumed total liability, and all I had to do was drop off my car at the auto body shop and pick up the rental car.  I called him and thanked him for being so gracious about it, and told him that it was 'almost nice to meet him'. I had as much fun as I could with the police, insurance agents, and car repair people.  It was almost an enjoyable experience.

As for the shooting of little children and adults in Newtown -- what can we all do with that?  Obviously, it's something that no one would ever, ever wish for.  No one would ever say, "yes, it's okay that that happened".  Still, we have a choice.  How will we let it change us?  How will we let it affect our thoughts, words and actions?  Since we can't undo it -- how will we let it be meaningful in our lives?  How will we let it make us better people?

Making ourselves vulnerable -- to hurt, to failure, to rejection, to injury -- also means being our most authentic selves.  Our most imperfect, genuine, delicate, courageous, wonderful selves.  This is one of the reasons that the events in Newtown stir us so deeply -- children are the most vulnerable of us -- and also, by far, the most authentically themselves.  

Please ask yourself now -- what risks have you not taken because you were afraid of failure, of rejection, of being vulnerable?  And if you took those risks -- how might others be affected?  How might the world be a better place?  How might your vulnerability and courage enrich the lives of others in ways that you can't even imagine?  Let's take this opportunity, this gift, into our hearts, let ourselves be more vulnerable, more authentic -- and not be left wondering what life might have been like if we'd only had the courage to show up and let ourselves be seen.

Happy, happy, happy New Year.  It's going to be AMAZING.