Cold. Damp. Rainy.
At the end of the week, I am tired. Motivation for yoga, writing, and preparing for my talk has left me.
Off to yoga, I trudge, in-spite of my mood and moodiness.
The class is small, only three people. The instructor teaches a style that is not my favorite. The other two people chat loudly prior to class, while I want to warm up my body, mind, and spirit in silence.
Yesterday, the sun was out. I cleaned the house, feeling strong, centered, and confident. Today, a new day, my internal compass is off. Is my angst stemming from my schedule or the weather? This weekend brings a night out, a volleyball tournament, and my re-scheduled talk, with a yoga class or two added in, hopefully. Self-care is needed, perhaps even extreme self-care.
Relying on meditation, spiritual reading, healthy foods, yoga, and writing for self-care. Today self-care is my life. Why not? Why shouldn’t our life be about extreme self-care? Why in this world, is it a badge of honor if we work to extremes or sacrifice for others, until we have nothing to give? I have done this. It doesn’t work. This is a false reality. You can never give enough. You can never work enough. It never ends.
Authentically owning my life, I am done working and giving to extremes. By giving to myself, I have something to give others. By working for myself, I have something to offer those in return.
To give and to work are important and necessary aspects of our well being.
Giving and working until nothing is left, does not validate us or our existence. Existing in balance, with a healthy dose of self-care, when and where needed, brings more peace, joy, and love to the world that so needs it.
Susan J. McFarland
When I was working in Corporate America, there wasn't anytime for silence, space, or a pause. Waking up at 6AM every morning, I rushed to prepare myself and my family, for the day ahead. I continued to hurry throughout the day, often not stopping for a break or lunch. I would work until reaching the daycare time limit, when I would rush to pick up my baby girl. Exhausted, my evening would be one of feeding, cleaning, and preparing for the next day; no time for bonding, self-care, or self-reflection.
Thankfully, those days have past! Life with active teens is not dull, but I now manage to make time for connection to self, family, and friends. My mindset and priorities have shifted. Gratefully, I am in a place where I can listen to the calling of my inner self and honor the need to slow down.
The world today does not value “slowing down”. It is viewed as laziness. Priding myself on tasks completed, I believed this story. Checking off my physical or mental “to do” list gave me a burst of adrenaline. It felt good, but like a drug, the more I did, the more I wanted to do. This is the curse of the ego, a never ending game that cannot be fulfilled or satisfied.
My drug is “doing," others use exercise, shopping, eating, texting, video game playing, or actual drugs and alcohol. By themselves, all of these activities can be beneficial. We need to exercise for our health. Shopping for food is required for eating. Texting brings communication and connection to family and friends. Video game playing is entertaining and helps develop coordination and problem-solving skills. Alcohol in moderation has been shown to have heart benefits. Drugs, like marijuana and medication can assist in healing. None of these are inherently “good” or “bad”. It is only our perception and attachment to them, that dictates our understanding, just like slowing down.
My mornings start now, albeit, after school drop-off, with short readings, meditation, and tea, then writing. On yoga days, writing and tea follow in line, after returning home. My perspective has changed on what matters to me. Moderation and balance in everything we do, leads to a fulfilling life.
Susan J. McFarland
Stirring hot cocoa for my daughter on a cold winter school day, I stop and think, what a precious moment this is. In a few years, my teenager will no longer want me to make her cocoa to start her day. I relish this task, smelling the sweet chocolate and the aroma of warm milk.
This week we are going to see a Harry Potter movie with the local orchestra accompanying. Celebrating my birthday, the family will enjoy dinner together and a night out. This is a special occasion. Throughout the year we travel on vacation or celebrate a milestone. I certainly enjoy these times as they mark the “big” moments of life.
More subtle and routine, are the seemingly “small” moments. These can feel dull and meaningless, until they are gone. My mom is in her eighties. We have traveled the world together, from Thailand to Spain, from Michigan to Mexico. Nowadays, our trips are shorter, traveling to places closer to home or to simply the grocery store. Weekly, during my daughter’s practice, Mom and I make our way to the shop. Remembering too, that these days are numbered, I make an effort to be in the moment, even during this ordinary and necessary task.
How often do we mindlessly pass by these moments, these precious moments? My children are no longer babies, toddlers, or elementary students. Gone are the days when they needed me for their basic care. Was I present? Did I pay attention? Am I focused now? What am I missing today, that I will certainly miss tomorrow? It is good to have special moments, to break up the monotony of daily life. It is even better to be present in your daily life, so you don’t miss out on the precious moments right in front of you.
Susan J. McFarland
The title is simple, the mindset is not. In the age of increased communications and unlimited access to material goods, maintaining a simple status can be challenging. In order to discuss simplifying, we need to define the opposite. Words that come to mind are difficult, challenging, and complicated. Simplify can mean easy, pure, and manageable. Yet, in today’s culture, we are taught to value excess, whether it be material goods, busyness, or overthinking. To simplify one’s life means placing value and validation on the internal aspects of self, over outside appearances. This is a bold move, and in reality, takes greater strength by going against cultural expectations.
Beginning with possessions, perhaps one of the best reflections of the inner struggle, we see a direct link for the desire to improve our status. While physical items promise to bring us wealth, power, and beauty often dichotomy is the truth. The irony is that these attributes are held within. This is a secret that a market economy doesn't want acknowledged. Simplifying your possessions starts with reviewing them. In the book, “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing," the author, Marie Kondo, inspires the reader to touch every item owned and see if it “sparks joy". If it does not, then release it.
If this is a daunting task, (as it is for me), start with one room, one drawer, or one shelf. See how it feels to actually hold the item. Does it engage a reaction? Decide if it needs to be discarded. The process will begin the simplifying journey. Freedom will ensue both in your home and in your life, making way for a clearer schedule.
Schedules have their own life-force. “Empty time needs to be filled”, so is the current thought process. We have electronic calendars to remind us of our daily commitments. Hourly we set up alerts to keep us on task. Gone are the days of youth where we played joyfully outside unaware of time. As a mother of teenagers, it saddens me to see how difficult they find filling space in their schedule, so controlled by school requirements or extra activities. Any moment they have, they look to their electronic devices for the latest game or a message from a friend, never experiencing a free thought. My concern is problem-solving and critical thinking are gone, as the answer is only a Google question away. Never venturing inward, they rely on outside information and agendas to dictate their lives. Freedom is a faraway concept that they never really grasp. The power is still available, if we become conscious of our calendar. Learning to say “no” to events that don’t excite us or only saying “yes” to the ones that do, leads to a life of awareness and joy. Find space in your schedule and relish the sovereignty that is within.
Once the home and timeline are reduced, the mind will naturally follow. Fewer moments spent organizing, cleaning, and clearing your home and future plans allows for new opportunities of creative expression and spiritual growth. Spending moments in meditation, yoga, or walking in nature brings about a mind, body, spirit connection. Participating in art, music, or writing stimulates the brain’s neural processing and increases focus. Mindfulness, being aware and attentive to the present moment, whether through breath, movement, or listening can aid in simplifying overcomplicating thoughts. A reduction in mental clamor can help relieve stress and anxiety, allowing your inner beauty to shine.
Whether starting with clearing the clutter in your home, managing your schedule, or increasing your focus through creative expression and mindful actions, a simply life can be yours. It does take work. It does require attention and action. Once completed, consistent monitoring is required until it becomes habit, then simplicity arises. It is a new year and a time to begin finding joy in your life through honoring that which you love and disposing of unnecessary items, diversions, or thought patterns.
Wishing you a simply life that brings you simple pleasure.
Susan J. McFarland