Saturday, August 30, 2014

Clearing Space

I read once upon a time that Katherine Hepburn had only black, grey, tan and navy slacks and turtlenecks in those same colors.  She said she didn't believe that spending time trying to decide what to wear was a good use of her precious time on the earth.  I was very struck by this since clothing myself seemed so mysterious to me and I felt like such a failure at it.  I thought maybe if I simplified the whole thing, I could set the torture aside.  Over time I've simplified dressing myself a lot and discovered that a certain amount of time thinking about what to wear is actually fun and creative, so I haven't gone all the way to just neutrals.

The concept of simplifying everything and/or making it creative and fun has turned out to be a life principle for me.  Having a lot less "stuff" in general is actually a lovely way of living.  It amazes me how much space clutter takes up in my mind as well as my environment.  I'm a long way from achieving a complete lack of unnecessary stuff, but I am growing in that area all the time.

The same concepts apply to how I spend my time.  Eliminating unnecessary stuff keeps me from using precious energy on things that actually don't matter.  Clearing out activity that has no actual benefit except to follow social convention is a huge step forward. 

Extra space in my mind, in my environment, and in time makes room for creation, peace and love.  I highly recommend it as a way to empower ourselves.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Re-Educating My Thinking Patterns

So much of creating the life of my dreams has been mental.  Of course, I always thought that the way to live life was to have self-discipline and work toward goals. That way of living has it's place.  However, many of us have turned self-discipline into self attack which never advances us toward our goals.

One of the most valuable skills I've learned has to do with monitoring my thoughts.  The first thing I learned was that I was not my thoughts.  Separating myself so that I could observe my thinking was a challenge at first.  I was very much identified with my thoughts. 

The next thing I had to learn was to question my thoughts.  I had somehow come to believe that everything I thought was right.  Actually, my thoughts - and I think this is true for pretty much everyone - are generated separately from my decision-making process.  I wasn't choosing what I thought about.  Thoughts were just arising from somewhere. Just because they were generated by my brain didn't mean they were correct.

The third thing I learned that although I wasn't choosing my thoughts, I could actually change them.  I could say to myself, "Wait.  That's not true." or "Wait.  That doesn't sound right.  I'm going to check out the truth of that."

And finally I learned that my thoughts had repetitive patterns that had been running through my mind over and over and over for years and years and years.  Thoughts like, "I'm going to mess this up."  "Boy, I really messed that up."  "I'm not a good person at all.  I need to try harder."

Those repetitive thoughts of self-criticism and judgment were causing me to give up before I even started.

Then there were the worry thoughts, "It's going to be hard."  "What if he is mad at me?"  "What if the boss is going to fire me?"  Those repetitive thoughts of predicting a terrible future were keeping me on edge during the day and sleepless at night.

Since I had learned that my thoughts were not me and that they might not be true at all, I decided to examine them.  I ultimately decided that since those thoughts weren't doing me any good and were keeping me from moving forward, I would change them.  I decided to think encouraging thoughts.  I decided to think optimistic thoughts.

What a change that made in my life!

Monday, January 6, 2014

Should I Write about this or Keep it to Myself?

The question of whether to write about something or not comes up pretty much every day.  When the question pops into my head, it's because I'm pretty sure there would be huge amounts of disagreement with my observations and maybe even outright outrage.  So I'm usually pretty chicken to do the writing. 

Lately, however, I've been hosting a book study on one of Brene`Brown's books on "shame" (which almost nobody wants to admit they actually have).  She has done a lot of research on shame (which I define as the fear of being judged) and what she calls whole-heartedness (which I just define as being willing to let other people have their opinions of me without allowing their judgments to run my life.) 

No one who knows me would believe it, but a huge amount of my observations just stay inside my head because of my fear of judgment.  I talk a lot and I talk a lot about my observations, so I'm sure it must seem to others that I air my thoughts 100%.  If it wasn't for that damn book, I could have just kept on believing I had very little fear of judgment.  But I'm realizing that I'm a big chicken when it comes to sharing many things I believe and live by.

After giving this some considerable prayerful thought, I've decided to put some of my ideas in print.  Good grief, it's not as if my blogs have thousands of readers - or even tens!  So the number of people I can piss off is really limited.  I thought about starting another blog and keeping it private.  That seemed immensely cowardly and stupid.  If I'm going to put thoughts and ideas in print that could be controversial, what's the point if no one can read them?

I believe and I've been told by others that the responsibility of us "elderly" folks is to share what we've concluded from the experiences of our lives.  If everything dies with us, our knowledge and understanding of life can't be put to use by anyone else.  Since I've been a writer all my life, it seems pretty clear that not using that skill to share the ideas that might cause other people to judge me, is pretty wimpy and sad.  

So, no more censorship for me.  Let the chips fall where they may... 

Wednesday, December 25, 2013


I love the word, "preferences."  I have learned that letting that word guide me has improved my quality of life to an almost unbelievable degree. 

I used to think that there was a right way and a wrong way to do everything.  I wasn't alone in this belief.  I noticed that a large part of what people said to each other was pointing out that somebody was doing something "wrong."  I certainly include myself in that. 

After I began to become informed about some things that I had never known before, I realized that most of what I thought about "right" was merely a matter of personal preference.  I had confused my preferences with "right."

I had been going through life noticing all the things other people were doing "wrong."  It was my main thought process.  Sometimes I pointed it out to them. 

I began to notice when I was putting other people "under surveillance" I was one very unhappy person.  It made me feel kind of righteous (which counteracted my internal criticism), but I mostly just felt grumpy.  And one thing was definitely and for sure - other people really began to avoid me.  Why would they not?  I don't like hanging out with critics - why would they?

Here are some examples -
  • I noticed that I didn't like how some people dressed.  I thought they were doing it "wrong."  Then I realized I just had preferences about clothing and that applying those to myself made me happy.  Then it become very easy to ignore other people's preferences about clothes.

  • I also discovered that I didn't like some kinds of cars, furniture, hair-dos, foods and on and on.  Somehow I had decided that my "preferences" were the "right" ones and declared everyone else wrong.  Oops!  I did it again!  The same solution applied - enjoy my own preferences and respect other people's preferences.

  • When other people were not doing things "perfectly" (according to my definition of perfection), it annoyed me.  For example, when my husband drove a different speed than I thought he should, I pointed it out.  All my "back seat driving" habits did not improve our relationship. 

  • I learned that everyone has his or her own definition of perfection and that doing things my own way and shutting up when in the presence of someone doing something differently than I did, would improve my quality of life.  For example, I stopped putting dishes away in the places I thought they should go when helping in someone's kitchen, and started asking where they kept them instead.
My focus on my own preferences and enjoying them certainly improves my quality of life.  But being mentally peaceful instead of being on the alert for wrong-doing improves my quality of life even more.  Most of all, my relationships with other people have improved and that's the best.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Action vs. Reaction

Somehow I came to believe that my life was mostly about just reacting to what came my way.  I had vague notions of what I thought my life should be about, but a great deal of the time, I was reacting - reacting to what was going on around me, other people, and to my emotions.

The death of Nelson Mandela this past week, called to mind the opposite of reacting to life.  He chose a life purpose - freedom for his people - and carried it into prison with him.  He certainly had plenty he could have reacted to, but  instead he chose to act in a strategic way - beginning with insisting that the prison guards call him Mr. Mandela or he refused to respond to them. 

Of course, I'm not Nelson Mandela and I don't have a big life purpose that affects the world like he did.  However, like every person, I have an opportunity to choose a life purpose and create the life I want.  Most of the obstacles I will come in contact with are within me rather than outside myself.  In order not to sleepwalk through life, just reacting to what's around me, I must take the time to consult my higher self and my higher power for direction.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Why and How I Cured my Sleep Deprivation

"You can sleep when you're dead." 
"Sleep deprivation is a spiritual practice." 
"Important people don't sleep very much." 
"Lazy people sleep too much." 
"If you sleep as much as you want to, you're sleeping
 too much."

For a lot of my adult life I believed that sleep deprivation was my badge of honor.  I thought it communicated to others that I was so busy with important things that I didn't have time for mortal stuff like sleeping.  Lack of sleep also made me feel like I was a little bit saintly.

Unfortunately, lack of sleep also made me feel cranky, frantic and unfocused.  I used to fall asleep pretty much every time I sat down.  Going to movies was a waste of time because I fell asleep within the first few minutes.  I fell asleep at work after lunch. (I had to hide in the women's restroom.)

By the time I was in my 40s, I had so much sleep debt that it took me years to catch up when I finally made a commitment to sleep as much as I needed to. 

I might never have given in if it hadn't been for a terrible wreck I had several years ago.  I was pretty badly injured.  As soon as I thought I could, I went back to work and kept my usual too-little sleep schedule.

Fairly soon I began to experience simply being unable to get out of bed in the morning.  I used all the will power I could muster and I still couldn't get out of bed. 

I missed a lot of important functions, and people were mad at me.  I just had to deal with it - I really couldn't get out of bed.  Finally I gave in and quit working.

I went to bed when I felt sleepy and got up when I was finished sleeping.  For several years I slept a minimum of 12 hours a night and sometimes as much as 16 hours. It was frustrating.

But as soon as I started trying to exercise self-discipline by going to bed later and getting up earlier, I went right back to not being able to get up in the morning.  So I would surrender again.

Finally I arrived at the point I am now - I go to bed around 9:00 p.m. and get up about 7:00 a.m.  That's about 10 hours of sleep.  It varies a little from day to day, but that's what I usually need to function.

If I'm more physically active than usual, I will usually sleep longer the next day.  That's necessary for my well-being. 

As far as I know, there is absolutely no virtue whatsoever in sleep deprivation - not for physical health, emotional and mental health, nor for spiritual growth.  I'm against it.

So, besides going to bed when I was tired and getting up when I woke up, I also used sleep hygiene, relaxation exercises, guided meditation, and melatonin to regulate my sleep patterns.

Sometimes I wonder whether the world might not be a better place if everyone was getting enough sleep.  Less crankiness, fewer wrecks, more productivity at work, fewer divorces (maybe more sex because people might actually have the energy), less child abuse, less conflict in general.  Wow! 

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Who am I really?

In order for me to have any idea what I really wanted for my life, I had to have at least an idea of who I really was.  For a good part of my adult life I've been confused about the answer to that but didn't even know I was confused.

I had accepted what other people told me I was beginning with my parents, then my friends, then my spouse, then my children.  It wasn't until much later that I realized that who I thought I was was an amalgam of other people's perceptions.  Then I started reading books and taking personality tests. 

Everything I learned was helpful.  My favorite personality tests are Enneagram and the Myers-Briggs.  I highly recommend taking them.  They're fairly easily accessible on line.  The part that interested me the most was that when I took them more than once, separated by a considerable period of time, they came out quite differently.

Personality tests made me think about how I really behaved, how I made choices, how I changed from one kind of situation to another.  That was very helpful because I could also identify which situations were the most enjoyable and which were the least enjoyable.

Of course, personality tests were far from the only options for learning about myself.  Some of the books I read suggested looking at magazines in order to identify what types of outdoor scenes stuck out to me and what type of interiors caught my attention.  What seemed odd to me at the time, but doesn't any more, was that whether indoors or outdoors, I was strongly drawn to scenes that looked peaceful to me.

My attraction to peacefulness began to show up in my clothing choices - calm colors, clothes with no patterns.  Little by little I began to change my surroundings in small ways to reflect my attraction to peacefulness.

After awhile I realized that peacefulness was what I wanted at the center of my life and for the foundation for my life.  Then I had a real goal.  Something that lifted my heart and gave me direction.  The more I worked toward peacefulness as a goal, the more I loved my life.