Breathless

Have you ever finished a book and it left you a little breathless and dizzy, with its story and insights revealed? And then you know you will read it again, because there were passages that moved you so deeply, but you had to keep reading to get to the end, because it was so compelling?

That is what Tara Westover’s book Educated did for me. It is a powerful memoir about leaving home and what happens when we leave behind the strange beliefs our families may have tried to instill in us.

Though my own life story is very different from Tara’s, the idea of leaving behind a patriarchal family structure is probably familiar to a lot of women of my generation. I am grateful I had no brothers, and endured no significant violence that I remember. But the denial and rage and depression that occurs when you realize you have been “gas-lighted” by half your family is palpable.

Educated photo of book cover

It was a little like when I first read Martha Beck’s memoir Leaving the Saints, another powerful story. When we are little children and we are in the care of our parents, we must believe in them. It is our first act of faith, in a way. Babies and children are vulnerable and dependent. To reject our families means likely death. If they reject us, possibly it may take decades (and probably a lot of therapy) to recover our sense of worthiness.

As we become adults, and learn to think for ourselves, we can sometimes reconcile the pain and mental illness they may have lived through. As we begin to take on a new perspective on the world, and perhaps have different opportunities available (especially as women in comparison to our mothers), we realize their views do not have to be our views.

In 1974, the year I was born, the equal credit opportunity act was passed. Before that a woman could not necessarily open a credit card or bank account on her own. Now I would scoff if someone asked me my husband’s income to apply for my own account.

Educated… yes. More of us are educated. I am grateful for the privilege of being born at a time and in a place where this is an option. And I am so very grateful that Tara had the courage to share her story. It reminds me a bit of the Mark Nepo poem (Breaking Surface) I posted last April.

I am still a bit breathless at the beautiful rendering of her story. What books have left you breathless lately?

cristy@meximinnesotana.com

Be present and joyful – thanks to a dear friend

A dear friend passed away this week at age 52. Some friends who knew him gathered on Thursday night over dinner to remember the impact he had on our lives. We told stories and laughed about things he had said and the “larger than life” presence he inhabited. I know he would appreciate us coming together, especially because he seemed to create community wherever he went. He was a giving, loving and kind person. He was known to make a ruckus for a cause, and he didn’t shy away from sharing his opinion on politics.

He leaves behind three children in their 20’s and my heart aches for them right now. It also makes me realize I need to be present with my own family, and not to take for granted the time I have with them.

Randy, thanks for teaching us the value of being present and sharing joy with those around us. Your presence and spirit will stay strong among us and we are grateful for the way you walked (and ran) through our lives.

Peace and love,

cristy@meximinnesotana.com

TBT – Do you have a few minutes?

***This edited blog was originally posted in February 2018***

When we get to February I always feel a surge of optimism. Spring is not so far away now, and those of us who get a little “cabin fever” this time of the year start noticing more light in the evenings.

In February of 2017 I started a habit of daily meditation. I had meditated before that occasionally. But last year, I committed to a minimum of 5 minutes per day. It was a do-able goal, and I count my yoga sessions as part of my practice, so with 3 classes a week, that made the goal easier as well. In February of 2019 I will celebrate 2 years of daily meditation.

It has changed my life, particularly since I have struggled with a.d.d. in the past. Meditation has helped me calm my mind and become less reactive to the “bouncing” thoughts. I can observe them and not follow them. I notice when I am caught in a story that I am spinning, and start to question whether that is even true. I hold less judgment about my mind, and more curiosity.

To those who have been thinking about starting a practice, I encourage you to start small. Literally commit to only 2 minutes the first time, focus on your breathing. It may not be easy at first! Add a minute a day, and see how this changes the quality of your days overall. It may take a few weeks before you really start to notice benefits, so give it at least 30 days.

zen flower
Photo credit link

People used to tell me I needed to have at least 15 minutes. That was a barrier. I could not imagine how I would fit that in every day. Now I average a lot more than that. It is not always easy, and sometimes I feel “too restless” to want to do it. But those are the times I am most likely to benefit, I now realize.

Last fall I read Altered Traits: Science Reveals How Meditation Changes Your Mind, Brain and Body (Goleman and Davidson). For a clinical researcher, I loved learning about experiments, past and present to demonstrate the value of meditation. The authors actually critique some of their early studies, the bias and the lack of proper controls. They review the field and conclude that, even with some flawed studies in the beginning, reliable science is beginning to emerge on the benefits of meditation.

If silent meditation is not your cup of tea, there are many guided meditations available at the Insight Timer app that I use. Jon Kabat Zinn has a book called Mindfulness for Beginners with some guided meditations that I really like also. Another resource that was great for me about 2 years ago when I first wanted to commit to practice was Mindfulness: An Eight-Week Plan for Finding Peace in a Frantic World.

For those of you who have a regular practice, I would love to hear how you got started. As I like to say about sleep, doing more of it is like a super-power! If only I had known when I was younger. I know now. So I will continue to encourage people to try it, and see what works for them.

cristy@meximinnesotana.com

 

 

 

Dangerously cold

I spent Tuesday at home, with various activities canceled around the area due to the windchill (-24F/-43F windchill, -31C/-41C at the moment). On Wednesday many activities will be canceled as well.

My hubby had to work another 12 hour day, while I got to stay home, warm and secure with the kitties. I felt a mixture of sadness for him, but also tremendous gratitude for my cozy, warm home and the hot tea the accompanied me during my day.

dangerous cold
Photo credit link

I am using my time productively at home, tidying and getting some writing and work projects done. Grateful for the forecast that let us know this was coming, so we could prepare in the best way we could (i.e. groceries and necessities).

Sometimes this slowdown in activity can make us more mindful of what we have, of the grace of our situation, a little extra time to contemplate life. I just lost a dear friend to cancer, only in his early 50’s. And everything became a little more precious and more present in that moment.

I called my Mom to connect with her and empathize with the even colder conditions in northern MN. We hunker down, cats on laps. We breathe in, we breathe out. Thursday is supposed to ease up. But for now, those of us warm at home are grateful for shelter and heat.

cristy@meximinnesotana.com

Breathing out

I spent a lovely afternoon with 14 women who joined us for the workshop “Embody the Leader Within You.” Despite the below-zero temperatures, and a chilly meeting room, this really warmed my heart. The discussions were robust and engaged, and everyone participated actively, which is exactly what I’d hoped.

There was such positive energy in the room, and I believe some fruitful connections were made. I got good feedback after the session, even though 90 minutes can go so fast it is hard to cover everything. We were able to hit the high points. One student who talked with me afterward said we offer a 3-session series on the topic… indeed!

It was so great to know that the topic resonated for this group. I am grateful for how it proceeded, and the opportunity to meet women with such different experiences, to  explore how to empower ourselves and other women further. I shall let this experience “sit” with me for a couple of days to consider the feedback and how it will inform my upcoming 4-week course offering.

For now, I feel really happy with the effort and the participation. I am on the right track  and with practice, I shall iterate and improve what I offer each time. I am breathing out a big sigh of relief and gratitude for a successful first “pilot” of this type of workshop. Onward!

cristy@meximinnesotana.com