Archive for the ‘mindful’ Category

Habits

July 29, 2017

Smiling woman snapping cigarette in half

Last week I was talking about organizing time or rather organizing what you do to make the best use of your time. I told you that your habits and routines can help or hinder you in this regard. Today I’m talking about habits.

Do you have habits? What are they? I have a habit of waking up early in the morning. I love this. There’s a hush outside. Usually the air is still. It’s so early the birds aren’t even up yet. I love to sit outside with my cup of tea and listen. Slowly, the birds start talking to each other, then the squirrels start scurrying around and the day dawns. This is one of my habits. I definitely don’t want to change it.  

My habit of getting up early and quietly contemplating the day ahead allows me to start my day stress free. I am relaxed and ready to put my energy into the day ahead. I love this habit.

I did have a terrible habit.

I used to smoke cigarettes. Back when I was very young and thought it was cool to smoke. This habit caught on with me and I smoked a lot, particularly when I was playing bridge. We (the four of us) would light our cigarettes, put them in the ashtray and let the smoke billow around us as we studied  our cards. I smoked for about 3 years. Then, I got sick with pneumonia. The doctor told me not to smoke. Truthfully, I didn’t want to. I was having a hard enough time just breathing. I never picked that habit back up. I think it was easy for me to break or change that habit because of the circumstances.

What if I want to change a habit now? Perhaps I should ask, what if I want to replace an old habit with a new one?

Some habits are like a warm, comfy, soft sweater. They are easy. We know what they feel like. We don’t even need to think about them – they just sort of happen; like the early morning habit I described above.

Other habits are more like a scratchy sweater. You wear it because it’s handy but it bothers you. You take it off only to put it back on because you don’t have a replacement sweater handy.

When you want to change a habit it is easier to have an idea of the habit you want to create – your replacement habit.

For instance, let’s say you’re in the habit of having a cookie after dinner. You don’t really think about it, you just grab a cookie and snack away. You’ve decided you’d like to eat more fruit. You want to replace the habit of eating a cookie with eating some grapes. Remind yourself by putting a post-it note on the cookie jar. It might say: Eat Grapes! Have snack size bunches of grapes in an easy to grab spot.

After a while you won’t need the reminder post-it. It does take time and mindful practice to create a new habit. It also takes great will-power. If you have a reason for changing your habit, remind yourself in visible notes of that reason. Maybe you want to eat healthier or loose a pound or two.  Maybe you want to have a little ‘me time’ in the early morning. Some time to yourself before engaging with the rest of your family and your list of to-dos.

My habit in the evening used to be that I would work on my needlepoint while watching (really listening) to television. I got out of that habit but it’s something I want to start again. I have a beautiful canvas, that will become a pillow, that’s about half-way finished. I really want to finish it, and I can if I would just get it out and stitch away for an hour or so in the evening. To remind myself I have a post-it on the tv remote that simply says: Stitch!

Is there a habit that you want to create or renew? Write me back and let me know!

 

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The Rhythm of Life

May 21, 2017

 

Some of you may already know that I love Ballroom dancing. It is a passion of mine and a hobby that I practice between 8 and 10 hours a week. I have a professional partner. He and I participate in Ballroom  Dance Competitions several times a year. My partner tells me to listen to the music and to help him match the pace of our movement to the rhythm of the music. Some music is fast, some slow, some moderately paced.

102, Julio Aguirre_M2016_30322

I was thinking about this the other day as I was getting ready to write this blog.

 

Have you ever noticed that at times the rhythm of our lives can be slow, almost annoyingly slow, and at other times the pace is so fast you can’t believe it – maybe even have a hard time keeping up?

This happened to me over the past two, or is it three, weeks.

It all started the 24th of April. Two friends of mine and I went to hear Elizabeth Gilbert speak. I am a long time Elizabeth Gilbert fan and was thrilled she was coming to Atlanta. The three of us met at my house – early because we didn’t want to get stuck in traffic and because it was free seating at the church. We wanted to be up as close to the front as we could get. Good thing we left early! Traffic was predicted to be bad so we used wayz which directed us around the stuck traffic and got to the church in plenty of time. Even so, there was a line out the door of the church.

We waited in line and at the appointed time were allowed into the church. We got our seats near enough to the front so I was able to get this great picture!

Elizabeth Gilbert

 I have a lot to say about Elizabeth’s presentation and will say more in another blog. This blog is about the rhythm of life. One huge nugget I took home with me was about connecting with people you meet casually. I try not to use the ‘hey, how are you’ phrase as I pass people. My usual greeting is a smile accompanied by ‘hello’. Elizabeth told us a story about a phrase she used while on her most recent book tour. She asked people she met ‘What are you most excited about in your life right now?’ and started conversations based on the person’s response.

 

A few days after this lecture. I went to the NAPO2017 conference in Pittsburgh. I decided before I left Atlanta that I would do something similar and ask the people I met at conference ‘what is one thing you learned from the lecture you just attended?’ This question started all sorts of  wonderful conversations.

Going back to the rhythm of life…

The NAPO2017 conference ended on a Saturday afternoon. I was home by the evening. My dogs were thrilled to have me home. They were not so thrilled to see that my suitcase did not get put away.

Thursday I went to New York City for a long weekend filled with sightseeing. I grew up in the city and had seen some of these places before but it was fun to go with someone who had not. We went to the Top of the Rock at Rockefeller City, to the 911 Memorial Museum, on a boat to see the Statue of Liberty, we walked from the boat all the way through Manhattan to the Empire State Building and even took a pedicab. On Sunday, we met my brother and his wife for brunch. Following brunch, we went to see Beautiful (a Broadway show about Carole King). From there we went to the airport and back to Atlanta.

Top of the Rock

 

It was an action packed few days. My dogs were once again delighted to have me home and even happier to see the suitcase put away.

I’m staying put for a while and am looking forward to taking time to think about the things I learned at the NAPO2017 conference and at Elizabeth Gilbert’s lecture.

I’m so happy to have done the things I did over the past few weeks. The rhythm was fast. I moved from activity to activity and was fully engaged – mindfully present. I want to take time now to reflect on the things I learned and put some of them into practice in my organizing business.

Does this ever happen to you? Do you have times when it feels like you’re moving from one thing to the next without having time to reflect or pause? How do you deal with it?  Do you just roll with it or does it upset your balance?

I admit I really like the change of pace. I get bored when the pace remains the same for too long. Just as I really like the way the rhythm of the music dictates which dance we do I love having some days which are action packed and others that are less full. 

It would be boring if the music at a dance competition was always the same. We’d be doing the same dance over and over. Part of the beauty of dancing is the variety of the dances.

Part of the beauty of life is the variety of activities we can do. Yes, it’s great to have routines to return to but it’s also wonderful to have other things to engage our interest.

How about you? Do you like a change in the rhythm of your life from time to time?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Free To Be …

July 6, 2016

In light of recent Independence Day celebrations I just wanted to take this opportunity to let you know how thankful I am to be a citizen of the United States of America.

Yes, I was born here. However; I am very aware of the freedoms that we have as I spent a number of years living overseas in Asia. We are able to travel freely across the continental United States and to Alaska and Hawaii. We can speak our minds and not be worried we might be overheard, misunderstood, and taken off to jail or worse. We can practice our own religions or not – it’s our choice. We can change religions or not. We are free to do as we choose – as long as we are not disrupting the peace or breaking any stated law. We are very lucky.

I do not take these freedoms for granted and am very thankful and appreciative of all those men and women who choose to serve in our armed forces to insure that we in the United States continue to enjoy these freedoms.

I choose to celebrate these freedoms by mindfully acknowledging that if I am awarded these freedoms by living here in the United States of America then all those living here with me are also awarded the same freedoms.

I believe that by acknowledging and celebrating the differences between us, learning about the ways in which we are the same and the ways in which we differ, brings a wealth to each one of us. We can learn about other customs, other ways of dress, different religions, other foods and let our lives be enriched through these discoveries.

These are the things that make our country great. Letting each of us be free to be who we are not forcing anyone of us to follow a certain path just because that’s the way it is – without the freedom to choose.

I am a Christian, a mother to two children, a certified professional organizer, a certified professional organizer in chronic disorganization, an author, a speaker, a gardener, a ballroom dancer, an animal lover, a nature lover, a baker and more. These are some of the things that define me. Things I love about me.

Who are you free to be? IMG_0754

Celebrate!

December 16, 2014

I know it’s the holiday season and parties are being planned and happening. How much fun! I believe (I know you’ve heard this before) that everyday can be a celebration.

There’s a young man who works at my local grocery store. When someone says “Hello, How are you?” to him he always replies “I woke up today. It is a good day.” I love this attitude.

Celebrate everyday. We tend to celebrate our large successes but what about the everyday small steps that we take toward completion of that large project? Get in the habit of celebrating those, too.

Celebrate when you do something that’s been hard for you to do a little more easily. For instance, if it’s hard for you to donate clothes that are too small, that you’re hoping to get back into, but in reality you probably won’t want them – even if they do fit you again and you successfully put together a donation bag of these clothes, CELEBRATE!

Celebrate when you get to an appointment on time or a little bit early – particularly if managing your time is a struggle for you.

I think you get the idea. Celebrate life as you’re living it. Of course, we want to get together and celebrate holidays. That’s extra special. Think about celebrating as you go along. I think it will make you pay closer attention to the things you actually accomplish in a day instead of the things you haven’t done.

Live Now

December 19, 2012

I was at my local grocery store earlier today. Grocery shopping was just one of the many errands I had to do today. I took some time last night to organize my grocery list. I went through the recipes of the special dishes my family has requested for Christmas Dinner. I wanted to include some of the non-perishable ingredients on my grocery list. This will save me a little time next week and I’ll be able to do a little pre-cooking! I love my neighborhood grocery store. I know many of the people who work there. They are always friendly and helpful! One of these helpful people came to help me unload my grocery cart. As is our custom, we had a little conversation. She said, ‘It looks like you’re getting ready for Christmas’. I replied, ‘Yes, I am. Are you ready or getting ready?’ She looked at me sadly and said ‘No, I’m not. I miss my family. It’s just not the same without my family. So, I’m feeling a little lonely and sad. It’s hard for me to get in the Christmas spirit.’  I told her that I was sorry she felt that way. Many of my family members are far from me so I can truly empathize with my grocery store friend. In fact, one of my sons will not be coming home for Christmas. I’ll be seeing him for New Year’s, that’s some consolation, but I will miss him on Christmas Day.

Many people, particularly at this time of year feel a little sad or lonely – missing family members and perhaps shared family traditions. I don’t have a remedy or solution but I do have a couple of strategies.

One strategy is not unique. It’s a mindset. I try to live in the present, to enjoy and remember what has come before but to really live in the now. There was a time when I was almost exclusively focusing on the future and living in the past. I can recall saying to myself something like: I love the way we used to be able to sit outside, I can’t wait until we move from this apartment and I can sit outside with my coffee again. I would say this alot when we lived in a small apartment in Hong Kong. Looking back I really liked our apartment. The photographs I have of it are lovely. I know now that I didn’t truly appreciate it at the time because I was not living in the present.

My other strategy is to be a volunteer. When you are volunteering on a project, helping other people, you can not help but be happier. First of all, you meet other interesting people – always a benefit, and you work to make something better. Sometimes the work is hard but then when you’ve accomplished a pre-set goal or task you can go home and be proud of your work. You’ll sleep well from the physical effort and knowing you’ve helped in some way. That’s a good, rewarding and happy feeling.

So, if you’re feeling a little blue try doing a some volunteer work this will help you to focus on someone or something other than yourself. Remember to live in the present and appreciate all that you have – no matter what that is. After all, we no longer have the past and the future is yet to come. So, live now.

Small Steps Forward!

August 14, 2012

Are you in the process of learning a new skill? I’m always learning new things. New ways to approach an organizing task, new methods of teaching how to set priorities, new theories on productivity and time management – to name a few. Recently I decided to learn a brand new skill. Well, it’s really not completely new to me. All my life (ever since I can remember) I have loved to dance! I studied ballet and modern dance through my college years and took the pre-requisite ballroom dance lessons as a teenager. Dancing has always been part of how I define myself. About 6 months ago or so I decided to study ballroom dancing with the goal to enter competitions. Learning ballroom dancing is a real challenge for me. Just when I think I have the steps mastered my instructor(and partner) lets me know that if I tweak the series of steps by turning my shoulders slightly it will be that much better. Yes, it’s a little frustrating but at the same time it is challenging and rewarding. I am learning so much more than just how to move my feet. I’m learning how to occupy space and to create beautiful visual lines. I’m also exercising more than just my body.  I’m working my brain as I memorize the steps and patterns for the different dances. Even though I have been studying ballroom dancing for about 6 months now, and I know I have learned lots of steps, I still have many more things to learn to become the kind of dancer I would like to be.

I stay focused in this endeavor by understanding that I am learning. I do make progress. Practicing my dance steps at home while I’m folding laundry or cooking dinner or walking the dog brings me a little closer to mastering whichever step I am working on. I celebrate the small victories. I love it when my dance instructor tells me that series of steps ‘look good!’

Are you learning something new? If you are, practice patience with yourself. Learning a new skill requires time, effort and diligent hard work. You can not expect to be proficient in a day, week or even a month.  Maybe opening the mail everyday and dealing with it is a new skill for you? Mindful practicing  will bring you closer to mastering whatever you are attempting to learn. Developing a new skill is hard work – believe me when I say I know! All your hard work pays off in the end when you accomplish that which you set out to do. Celebrate every small step forward, I do!