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Honest Holidays

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Nothing is working like I thought it would.

It seems I created wonderful, meaningful ideas for my kids to do just as they have found a million more fun things to do somewhere that is mostly not here. (See virtual advent on Instagram.)

Our tiny house is feeling TINY. We are very close to our stuff out weighing the places we have to put it. Counters, tables, floors are full of things we must need but, seriously, do we really?

Our tree is only half decorated and we never got around to putting up the Dicken’s Village (expect for five little villagers and the sign which makes our super cool record player look like a three year old decorated it).

What I should have put in the advent calendar is empty the dishwasher, put your headphones somewhere you can find them, move the clothes from the washer to the dryer. And then, I should have said we are not giving you any money or driving you anywhere until that one thing gets done today.

My inner grinch is emerging once again.

We are in the space between having children and not having children. We have teenagers and none of us knows how this works. They miss being kids, we miss them being kids and at the same time, there is all this new fun stuff about having grown-up kids.

The problem is we are still holding on to what we used to love even though so much of it has outlived its magic. We still want to pretend but pretending isn’t our thing anymore.

All this time, I have wanted my kids to experince ways they could give, share, participate in their world and they are actually doing that now. It doesn’t look like I thought it would, so it’s easy to miss.

They are not finding the supreme satisfaction of identifying a bird but they are really excited about our friends coming over this weekend.

They aren’t so excited about their big Santa surprise, but they are thrilled to find a way to help in Alleppo. (http://thecompassioncollective.org/)

My kids have become people that I get to do life with instead of people I am entertaining.

I would like to say I’ve learned some things from this year, like what I will and will not bother doing next Christmas. But the truth is, the only thing I have really learned is that I can’t figure this out. I can only show up, give what I have and let it be what it will be…or not.

There is a lot that I love about our life and I am thankful for this space and time but I also feel the need to make known that small+simple does not equal easy. Everything doesn’t have it’s place and everyone doesn’t always have what they need.

Life is messy. Our house is messy. The holidays are hectic. I am counting down the days until they are over.

Wait…I just realized what I’ve learned from this year. The one thing that will never have a place in our house is perfection.

And that is what makes this a home a place we can all enjoy this holiday.

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30 Days of Rest: Day 22

IMG_0258.PNGI have about five minutes to write you today, so I will not be as thoughtful this as I wish I could. Today is my birthday and my precious family has spent every waking moment making me feel special. I MUST get back to enjoying what they have planned for me.

One of my friends asked me this morning what I am most looking forward to this year. I told her that I woke up thinking how very lucky I am to be alive. As each year passes, I know someone else that did not get to live to be the age that I am.

This winter I went to a dance class where the instructor asked us to dedicate our dance to someone. I danced for someone who was in the hospital, someone who would not ever dance again, who would not see her 41st birthday.

Today you are alive.

You are here.

It might be a terrible day.

It might be the best day ever.

But you are here.

I’m really glad you are.

Thank you for letting me share all of this with you. It really means the world to me.

❤️❤️❤️

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30 Days of Rest: Day 21

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My little neighbor was trying to save up some money for a new toy. She didn’t have much to work with but when you are five years old you don’t need much. She put a sign on her front porch that said, “Rest Stand: Open.” Anyone was welcome (for a small fee) to come sit on her porch and rest. We had so much fun taking turns on the porch swing, talking and laughing that we forgot to pay her and she forgot we were supposed to.

In The Crossroads of Should and Must, Ella Luna writes, “Will choosing MUST make me rich? Yes. The wealthiest people I know have days and nights filled with life’s most priceless items: watching the sunrise, smelling rain, kissing, having belly laughs with a friend, taking a pointless bike ride, walking the long way home.”

Before I started this journey, I would attempt to capture these priceless moments with my phone and post them to catalog them for myself and share those moments with my loved ones. When I made the choice to prioritize rest, realized the extent of my exhaustion and started to see what we really needed each day, social media didn’t make the cut.

And my life became my life again. It was that big of a deal.

Again, I wish I had a professional to quote about this, but in my experience-taking the picture, writing something about it, and sharing it had become second nature, I think I forgot to receive it first. It would look wonderful but it wasn’t really wonderful for me. What I know now is that that whole process took me out of the moment I was in and my moments became something to show someone else.

One of the distinguishing features of a Montessori teacher is that when a child comes to show the teacher his or her accomplishment, instead of saying, “Good job!” or “I am so proud of you!” The teacher asks them if they are proud of themselves or if they had fun or learned something new while they were doing the work. The purpose of this method is to help the child find satisfaction and reward in the work itself instead of the teacher’s response to their work.

Of course, it is natural and beneficial to praise a child, but the Montessori method is highlighting that once a child becomes attached to a teacher’s response they leave the deep process of learning and mastering the lessons for the quick fix of the teacher’s approval.

That is me and social media. It is embarrassingly easy for me to leave the deep, priceless work of my own life and get caught up in checking who said what about things that have nothing to do with me.

It was a thoughtful choice to re-engage in social for these 30 Days of Rest. It has been fun. But I have also been distracted, pre-occupied, and connected elsewhere which is reminiscent of my old life. It’s not a good long term plan for me.

Consider re-evaluating your own use of technology. So many tools and resources that absolutely bring good things to our life also take good things away, or more accurately, taking us away from good things. Pay attention to the trade offs you are making and ask yourself if it is worth the cost.

In the meantime, spend a few minutes or a few hours at your nearest Rest Stand and enjoy what it feels like to be one of the wealthiest people in the world.

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30 Days of Rest: Day 17

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If you are still reading, you have made it to the beginning of Stage 3 of 30 Days of Rest. Following the rhythm of the stages of sleep, we are just now entering deep rest.

In taking cues from our sleep cycle, this stage of rest is when it looks and feels like NOTHING is happening. We are totally unaware and we are not yet dreaming.

Can you feel this moment when you are falling asleep? It is a surrender to the unknown. It is the sleep you can’t fall into when you have a baby or when you are expecting a phone call. You can take little cat naps and catch some stage 1 and 2 sleep, but Stage 3 you have to surrender to.

You have to let go of being available.

You have to let go of being in control.

How amazing that this is the phase when all of your energy is pouring itself inward, to your heart, your immune system, even your intuition.

Personally, this was a scary phase for me. It really did feel like nothing was happening, that I would never do or be anything because I made this grand choice to prioritize rest. I had already let go of one rope thinking that another one would be right there to grab onto and it was not.

I love that this phase is deep sleep but not dreaming. This is the time before the dreams come and that is okay, because our heart and our body need attention if we are to have what we need in order pursue and sustain those dreams when they do reveal themselves to us.

Give yourself permission to let go of what things look like and surrender to the process of regulating, healing and growth that are happening right below the surface.

What happens in Stage 3 of our sleep cycle?

In stage 3, extremely slow brain waves called delta waves begin to appear, interspersed with smaller, faster waves. There is no eye movement or muscle activity. People awakened during deep sleep do not adjust immediately and often feel groggy and disoriented for several minutes after they wake up. This is the beginning of deep sleep.

https://www.sleepassociation.org/sleep/stages-of-sleep/

What are Delta Waves?

Delta waves are typically generated in the right hemisphere of the brain and are linked to our subconscious and unconscious. While you are in a delta state of functioning, you have no conscious awareness.

They are typically produced during the deep stages of sleep and are involved in regulating unconscious bodily processes such as heart beat regulation, kidney functioning, and digestive functioning.

Delta waves are thought to help the body with healing and is thought to release various hormones. The benefits of these regulated waves include: getting a better night’s sleep, boosted immune system functioning, as well as increased empathy.

http://mentalhealthdaily.com/2014/04/14/delta-brain-waves-0-hz-to-4-hz/

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30 Days of Rest: Day 16

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One of my earliest Sabbath practices was to attempt to be with my family for one day a week instead of influence/change/teach/fix them. This was my way of trying to honor the spirit of some of the strange laws regarding the sabbath. From my perspective, one purpose of the sabbath was to set aside time to experience my place in creation instead of impacting it.

When my children were younger, it was completely unnatural to not lecture them or think about what we needed to do differently every minute of every day. Now that they are teenagers, I am much more comfortable with not knowing or being able to do anything to “fix it.”

As a parent, a therapist and a human, I want to say, do, think, and be whatever I can to help lessen the suffering and pain in our big and small world and to make this planet more beautiful. Sometimes in my effort, I forget that my influence is quite limited. I become frustrated and overwhelmed with all that is wrong in our world.

In Sabbath: Restoring the Sacred Rhythm of Rest, Muller says that when people share their suffering with him, “My work is to be good company, to allow them to lean for awhile on my unshakable belief in their inner fire. Even on the good days I cannot do more than this. Then, slowly, in their own time, their bodies open, they begin to feel and taste the possibilities of wholeness for themselves. This fundamental goodness always waits for us to discover it, if we will only gather together patiently, and listen.”

Muller’s work is a good reminder of how we can be with others and how we can be with ourselves. When we rest long enough to see the beauty that already exists without our efforts, sometimes even in spite of our efforts, we invite more beauty to reveal itself.

Gather together patiently and listen for the inner fire, the true and pure and beautiful that is already everything it is supposed to be.

You are doing beautiful and amazing things with your life.

You try so hard.

You are generous and kind and you are enough, just as you are.

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30 Days of Rest: Day 15

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This is one of those days that when it appears, you are so thankful you are well-rested.

Today is full of everything that is wonderful about this phase of life, which also means we need all hands on deck. It is a busy, drive around town, be in two places at once kind of day.

It is my nature to get preoccupied with what is not perfect in “the good times” and not realize that what is good in my life is just passing through. It might not even be here tomorrow. What brings our life texture five years from now will be so very different from what we are managing today.

Every season of our life is packed full of things that will only be here for a time. Some seasons in life seem to have an unusual amount of sorrow, some seasons in life seem like they have so much good it is hard to absorb.

There will always be something annoying, something painful, some loss and there will always be something good, sweet and exquisite happening as long as we are alive.
We cannot avoid true suffering, but we can (way too easily) overlook the joy.

We rest to be awake, alert and aware to enjoy everything about the one life that belongs to us.

May you be awake for the moments that matter to you today.

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30 Days of Rest: Day 13

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We are all functioning with different limitations, different resources, and different demands and rest is going to look and feel differently for each of us. It is my hope that these “interviews” will expand your view of rest until it gets big enough to find you wherever you are today.

⭐️Special thanks to my friend, Kelly, for giving me permission to share her thoughts with you. Here are her honest answers on finding rest in her reality:

How do you define rest?

Rest is bringing your whole self to life, to God, to relationships – to practically do this, we have to say no to a lot of things that we want to say yes to.

Do you believe you need more rest in your life?

YES! I’m addicted to busyness, getting by, always moving and a bit allergic to sitting still.

How often do you set aside time for rest?

I usually do it when I’m forced to (when I’m at my end). I want to practice resting as a proactive measure, not reactive.

If you do practice rest, how did you come to prioritize that?

It looks different to me than it used to. With three young children, a home life and a private practice – I can’t always rest in the ways I used to rest (get a pedicure, girls’ night, trip with my husband, nap, etc). Now, rest means taking 10 minutes to sit with God instead of scrolling on my phone. It means taking a shower the night before so that I’m not a crazy person the next day when we’re getting out the door. Rest means packing lunches the night before so I’m not barking at my kids in the morning because I’m stressed out. Rest means going to bed early. Rest is not always fun, but in the long run – I’m better for it. I’m less tired, and there’s more of me to give. In a lot of ways, rest means being an adult.

If you do not rest, what are the obstacles for you?

I have to let go of things in order to have a life of rest. A huge obstacle for me is my phone – it’s like a portal to another realm. In my phone lives my private practice, my friends, my extended family, after school activities, my kids school stuff. It all lives in my phone. If it’s near me – I’m in that world, not the precious world in front of me. I have recently been putting my phone in my mud room with the volume on high. I try to think of entering into another portal when I go to check it – and if I do, do I have the space to do that? If not, it can wait. Once I enter into that portal, it’s hard for me to get back to my present reality. My mind is thinking about the next thing on my to do list and then when my kids interrupt my thoughts, I can’t hold it all inside and so I snap. For me, rest is realizing my limitations.

As you anticipate your day of rest, what are you most looking forward to?

What it feels like the next day. That’s usually when I know I practiced rest well.

What do you hope to experience on your day of rest?

I get these rushes of gratitude when I’m living in rest. I watch my kids play or listen to them talk or laugh with them and I’m overwhelmed with how lucky I am.
⭐️To learn more about Kelly, visit redheadtherapist.com.

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30 Days of Rest: Day 12

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Rest is about taking a second to be right where you are.

What keeps us from being where we are?

Two common bandits of “presence of mind” are depression and anxiety. You might find these simplistic, but accurate, descriptions helpful*:

Depression: focusing our attention to what we failed to do.
Anxiety: focusing our attention on what we fear we will not be able to do.

Take a moment today to check in with your reality:

Where are you right now?

Where is your mind?

Where are your thoughts?

Are you inside of your body right now?

Can you see what you are seeing?

Can you feel what you are feeling?

Can you taste what you are tasting?

Are you holding what is your’s to hold?

There is so much wonderful in this book, Toxic Success by Paul Pearsall, that I wish I could read the whole thing out loud to you. It has been a challenge for me to decide which quotes to include in these posts because every page is so GOOD. Toxic Success is a great resource full of gentle words and helpful explanations about stress, attention and true success.

Since I can’t actually read it to you, would you be so kind to do me a favor and read it out loud to yourself? Sometimes our brain needs to hear it’s own voice.

Today, we will read from the bottom of page 99.

“If you are looking for the happiness and contentment of sweet success, stop and look around you right now. There is a vast potpourri of sweet experience just waiting to be attended to, if you are willing to be in attendance and attentionally present to enjoy it.

Like the starts hidden by the brightness of the day, the cosmic joys that can soothe our local pain are always there. You will not find contentment in days already lived or yet to be lived…

We have to pay attention to the less demanding aspects of life and, like the teacher alert to the quietest and shyest student in the crowded classroom, we have to be sensitive enough not to allow the clatter of our modern culture to drown out the whispers of a more restful, joyful, contented way of living.”

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30 Days of Rest: Day 11

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Many of us are not able to rest because we have overcommitted ourselves. What I have learned from oberserving our reality is that most of the time we don’t know what we have committed to until we are too far in.

Complicating our lives is ridiculously easy, simplifying our lives is some of the hardest work we will ever do.

5 of my reflections on thoughtful planning:

This week IS next week: If I am too busy/too tired/too surprised by the unexpected this week to commit to this thing, I will be too busy/too tired/too surprised by the unexpected next week. Most of us live in a fantasy that next week will be different. As in, “I will be perfectly organized next week, no one will be sick next week, I will finally be finished with this project…so sure! I can do that next week.” The best predictor of future behavior is past behavior. Unless we are being intentional about making space for our next commitment, next week will be end up feeling exactly like this one.
How do I want to be when I do this thing? My goal in being well-rested is to bring my whole self wherever I am. This means being thoughtful in preparation, being present with who I am with or in what I am learning. It means not being late or anxious because I am stuck in traffic. I don’t want to feel angry, resentful, or guilty because I have overcommitted myself.
Just because I want to, doesn’t mean I can: In the past, I pretended that I had time and space for anything that was important to me. I thought with enough determination and grit, I could get it done. The problem is many things are very important to me and just because they are important doesn’t me I am capable of doing them. I am delighted to enter this year being intentional about these commitments instead of adding more.
Owning my choices: The idea of capturing my commitments is empowering because I am connecting my reality to my ideals and taking responsibility for what I have and what I will commit to as opposed to feeling victimized by the next request or opportunity. It is also a HUGE reality check. This is my life, it’s time to own it, and accept it.
A 50% Margin: In reviewing the past five years of our lives, my husband and I finally acknowledged that we have a high level of unknowns in our life. Every month of the past five years had an unexpected expense of $500-$2,000. We kept thinking next month would be different….for five years. The same is true of our time. Every week MANY THINGS comes up that we could not have anticipated, planned or prepared for. Now, we anticipate the unknown. We know at least 50% of our time is committed to that which we do not know. It is like a time and energy fund that is just waiting for us to spend it. While it will always be annoying when our dog throws up just as we are walking out the door, it is not the thing that tips me over into crazy town. When the coat is left at school, when the computer is not working, when that text breaks someone’s heart, when someone has a fever, when the engine light comes on…It’s all our life, not an interruption to our life.

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Here are some ideas for you to explore if you are interested in doing some thoughtful planning of your own:

Get out some sticky notes and in your bold writing put ONE commitment on each sticky note and find a place you can stick them so that you get a compete picture of what and where you have committed to at this time in your life.

Depending on your current circumstances, you can get a snap shot of your commitments for this week, this month or this year.

What are your guiding principles?

How did you decide you were going to commit to what you have already committed to?

What commitments are you ready to let go of?

What can you un-commit to today?

What things do you want to finish out this cycle, but not re-commit to next month/year?

Which of your commitments brings you the most energy, excitement, growth and contribution?

Which of your commitments drain you?

Which of your commitments is a challenging part of a bigger commitment?

Where can you create margin in your schedule?

Which of your commitments would you like to be more committed to?

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30 Days of Rest: Day 10

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And it is Monday, once again.

As we enter the second week of these 30 Days of Rest, we will examine what our body does during Stage 2 of our sleep cycle.

What happens in Stage 2?

“When we enter stage 2 sleep, our eye movements stop and our brain waves become slower, with occasional bursts of rapid waves called sleep spindles. We spend almost 50 percent of our total sleep time in stage 2 sleep” (www.sleepassociation.org).

What are sleep spindles?

“Sleep spindles are associated with refreshment of our ability to learn. This research showed that the greater the number of sleep spindles produced by napping participants, the more they were refreshed to perform on a learning task. Further, the brain areas most involved were the hippocampus and the prefrontal cortex. These are areas that are critical for learning.The implications of this research are significant. For example, getting too little sleep and cutting off a portion of spindle activity may result in decreased ability to learn” (www.psychologytoday.com).

Ahh…refreshment of our ability to learn. Yes, another treasure brought to you by rest.

One of the challenges I want to throw out to you this week is to dig a little deeper into your own definition of work and to learn (from a refreshed place:) how your work meets the needs of your reality.

What is your work?

Last week, I introduced the simple definition of work as what you need to do to live. This could be exchanging your time for money and your money for food, shelter, haircuts, medicine, vehicles, etc. This could be using your time to wash your clothes, clean the kitchen, cook dinner, run errands, and take care of the physical and emotional needs of people in your care. It is the work that must be done on a basic level, our primary work of meeting our essential needs and the needs of those who cannot meet their own.

Essentials are highly neglected in our culture, that is why I am hanging out here another week. Our passion projects and the difference we want to make in our world are important. But, first things first. You know, the whole secure your own mask idea? Check in with your basic needs, your intimate relationships. Are the people in your home, including you, getting what they need?

Some Basics:

Food
Clothes
Medical attention
Emotional connection
Sleep
Downtime
Physical activity
Repairing what you already own
Maintaining what you already own

When we have our needs met at a basic level, we are able to learn and we are able to contribute. We don’t even have to try.

This might be a good time to talk about stress vs. hard work. We often confuse stress and work. Let’s untangle these two ideas.

Stress comes from trying to work when we don’t understand the expectations or we don’t have access to the resources we need to accomplish the work. Stress is trying to work when we don’t have our essentials. Stress uses us up physically and emotionally, but it doesn’t move our work forward. It might look like we are working, it might even feel like we are working, but this is the kind of work that doesn’t work.

Hard work is actually hard work. The difference is, when we are working hard we are not bouncing around expending energy unproductively. We engage hard work with clarity and focus. Hard work is knowing what we have to do and having the capacity to do it because we have (or know how to get) the resources we need. Hard work pays off. We are able to care for ourselves and others as a result of it.

Doing the work of getting your basic needs met (which is work in itself) sets up the foundation for us to be capable of hard work and to share the fruit of that hard work with others.

When is the last time you felt stress?

What resources would have helped transform your stress into productive work?

What essentials do you need to tend to today?