The Saturday Share post is back! This week I want to recommend a blog called The Secret Blind. It is all about love, perception, disabilities, fresh insights, different ways of seeing the world, and a lovely guide dog named Munch (pictured below).
The writing is poignant and authentic, and it asks important questions. I truly enjoy reading it and I am delighted to share it with you if you have not yet discovered it.
This Wednesday as I travel home from LHT to MSP, I want to share an idea for a way to think when times get tough or you face difficulties. Of course, whenever I write about these themes, they are reminders for when my future self encounters a problem as well.
One thing I have observed in life and I recently remembered during my travels is that most mistakes are “recoverable”. One must remain flexible in many circumstances when conditions are beyond our control. International travel requires a certain level of planning and preparation, especially to do it safely and without too many hassles.
But hassles, delays, and bumps along the way are to be expected. This is really what life is too, traveling along our paths, hoping and planning for the best. But it is these bumps, these unexpected curves and bends in our paths, the tight spaces and the cramped tube rides that are reality. By avoiding these things, we avoid the fullness of life. By embracing reality, both the joys of amazing vistas and the bumps along the path, we are better served. We get less upset when things do not always work perfectly.
Humans are equipped with the ability to adapt to circumstances, to solve problems and figure out solutions. This is the key to our resilience. We do this automatically, and often choose similar solutions to “old” problems. Every now and then we may try something new, and get a new result. Some routines we develop over time (like meditation, reflection, journaling, etc) may help us learn lessons more easily or more mindfully.
By thinking through a path we took at one point, and questioning how we might do it differently now, or maybe acknowledging an important lesson learned, we can make peace with that choice. Of course, I realize this is a very deliberate practice, to make peace with our decisions rather than beat ourselves up over a mistake. But there is no point in regret.
Every move forward (or back, truly) in our lives teaches us something. Sometimes we learn we do not want to repeat that move. Other times we meet a new person who becomes a friend. Or we find out someone we thought was our friend really did not share our values. This is all good information. We learn along the way.
It is important to remember our resilience. Sometimes we get caught in feeling sorry for ourselves about an event, or a bad experience. It is okay to experience whatever emotion comes up, maybe even write about it or talk with a friend if needed. But then we can move on, knowing that our resilient spirit will keep moving us forward, no matter the circumstances.
While I am traveling, I am reflecting on wellness practices that I use during my trips (anything lasting longer than about 3 days). In situations where you will be navigating time changes, or spending time on trains, where there is some schedule uncertainty, it may be wise to pack some snacks.
I am not opposed to some “trip fasting” when you don’t get to eat a meal at the usual time. We all carry more than adequate stores of fat on our bodies (at least most of the Western World) that we can survive many days (indeed weeks) without food.
However, given the uncertainty of meals and the fact that many train stations and cafes are stocked with carbs and sugar or foods likely fried in trans fats, I like to have healthy alternatives stashed in my backpack. I like mixed nuts because they pack a lot of nutritional value in a fairly small space. I am not a perfect minimalist when it comes to travel, but they take very little space. A small handful of nuts can go a long way when you’ve missed lunch and are on a delayed train. My hubby notices that I can get a little “hangry” when it has been 5+ hours since I’ve had a good meal.
This is less urgent in recent years since I’ve typically fasted overnight for 12-14 hours, and one day a week I fast for 16-18 hours by skipping breakfast on Saturdays when I attend morning yoga. My body has become sufficiently “keto adapted” that I do not typically have any problems with low blood sugar. However, it is the mental game sometimes, not the physical one, that can get us into trouble.
When traveling, your mind can be taxed to capacity, particularly if you are unfamiliar with an area. You have been calculating currency conversions in your head. Your train is late, so you missed the connection. Your wi-fi isn’t working on the train and you are running out of clean laundry.
Any of these circumstances are fairly benign. But added up, they can make you feel fatigued and cranky. So you do not need to add to the problem by yelling at your spouse or allowing your tension to boil over. Even if I never access my snacks on a typical travel day, just knowing they are there helps me avoid “famine brain,” which can stress me out unnecessarily.
Sometimes hunger is true and physical. It is best to wait for this physical signal in order to eat, if we do not want to add extra weight. Sometimes our hunger is actually more of a emotional issue. We may hunger for rest, or connection with our partners. Eating is the solution in these cases. However, for me, my primitive brain seems to do better when it does not have to work overtime to solve any scarcities.
Do you pack food for travel? What are your favorite trip snacks?
On Sunday night, after I had walked my dear husband for over 20,000 steps according to the counters on our phones, I took him out for a nice dinner. I had the intention of walking the 90 minute coastal path from Cremyll to Cawsand, but we got lost once, adding steps. Since the path was winding, I believe it was a bit longer than advertised, and took us closer to 2.5 hours.
We headed down to the Barbican with our tired legs after a rest at our AirBnB, finding a steakhouse on the far side of the Marina (even more walking). No matter, once we were there we were treated to a feast.
The meal was delicious, but even more so, the service was excellent. Our waitress (Elizabeth) took such good care of us for the evening, and she kept calling us “my lovelies” when asking if there was anything we needed. I told my husband how much that tickled me – I enjoyed being called “my lovely.”
Just before bringing our dessert she asked us where we were from, admitting that she could not quite place our accents. We sheepishly confessed were were from Minnesota in the U.S., after saying we sometimes like others to think we are Canadian (you know the ugly American phenomenon?).
She asked if we were celebrating anything, and we mentioned our 1-year anniversary coming up, along with my husband’s 50th birthday next month. Those are the main reasons for our epic trip, of course. It’s not like we do this every year…though if I can find a way – I will return!
So for the final dessert she brought out beautiful dishes – one with “Happy Birthday” written in chocolate sauce and one with “Happy Anniversary” written on it. It was so very kind and thoughtful of her to find out why we were there and to take the special effort to make us feel so welcome. But we dearly appreciated it, and I am sure it will be one of the more memorable evenings of the trip.
It reminded me that when someone takes the time to make you feel welcome and appreciated, I respond in kind. I realize that this was her job, but she went several steps further than needed. Sometimes it may be an extra smile you give to someone, or a thoughtful and kind deed. But no gesture, in my view, is ever wasted.
Does it make your heart happy to delight others? In what way can you delight someone you love today?
It is time for Saturday Share and this time, I want to share an author and a mini book review. Geneen Roth may be familiar to some of you who have worked through food issues. I was *wowed* by her book, Women Food and God: an Unexpected Path to Almost Anything. It is about the beliefs about yourself and how your relationship with food is a microcosm of your beliefs. Do you believe you will always have enough? Do you deserve kindness, forgiveness, and tenderness? Is food a stand-in for your need for love or affection?
About a year ago I ordered her audio book Lost and Found: Unexpected Revelations about Food and Money. In it she describes losing all her money in the Madoff investment scandal. She writes that food is microcosm for our beliefs, and how we approach money is also a microcosm of our beliefs.
It is an excellent book if you have ever wanted to think deeply about your relationship with money, and examine your beliefs and how they were developed. I have listened to the audio many times and done some work on this issue in coaching.
Many of us formed our attitudes about food and money when we were young. While it is not universally true, we often adopt food attitudes and behaviors from our mothers and money attitudes and behaviors from our fathers.
I am going into a period of transition, drawing down my savings while I move from a generously paid corporate job to freelance consulting. Now is a good time to get more conscious about money, and my beliefs and actions around it.
In general, I have an attitude of abundance, but I realize this can also make me a little careless with money. One of my beliefs is “there’s more where that came from…” so I do not tend to worry about it. I realize this reflects an enormous amount of privilege. With a good education and skill set, I can find work *somewhere* doing something.
Knowing where my money is going came up during a 3-week class with Women Venture on getting started with small business. Tracking my daily expenses felt impossible chore to me, but other women in the class (especially the Moms) had all kinds of strategies for tracking and budgeting.
So I am curious about your experiences, readers. What are your attitudes about money? Do you have systems that work well for you to track your expenses? Any advice on living with the ups and downs of freelance income?
Happy Wednesday! It is time to focus on wellness and I shall return to a topic near and dear to my heart – sleep!
I started listening to a course recently on Insight Timer by Jennifer Piercy called “Your Guide to Deeper Sleep.” I really like how she describes sleep as a “cooling” of the inflammation in our body and brain. Getting good sleep is fundamental to healing and vitality in our lives. More research is being published all the time showing lack of sleep is connected to conditions such as diabetes.
I have struggled with insomnia in the past periodically. I am getting better in that regard but every now and then, typically in response to stress, I do struggle to get my zz’s. When that happens I know I need to cut back on my caffeine and/or cut back on my media consumption, which tends to churn the brain. I also find that I need to avoid any “weighty” topics of discussion just before bed.
Sleep amounts can vary naturally based on the season, and we typically expect to get slightly less during months where we have more sunlight. I have embraced the idea of early sleep on winter nights, snuggling with a book before bedtime and making sure my devices are powered down at least an hour before lights out. I actually have an alarm that goes off before bedtime to remind me to wind down, in case I am too absorbed in an activity to realize it is time.
Yoga nidra is a practice I have recently discovered which can help me drop off into deeper sleep. I have used some guided meditations in order to let go of tension in the body and allow for mindful relaxation.
On the days after I sleep a nice, juicy 8-9 hours I notice that I have more consistent energy all day. I make decisions faster and with less agonizing. It also has an added benefit of allowing for greater weight loss as it reduces cortisol levels int he body. Who knew you could rest more AND take off extra weight?!?
The most important factor in getting restful sleep seems to be a good wind-down routine at night. Ariana Huffington explains her book The Sleep Revolution that she has a ritual of taking a bath or shower, escorting her devices outside the bedroom, and perhaps using lavender to create an atmosphere of relaxation.
Jennifer Piercy challenges the notion that when we nap, we compromise the quality of our sleep at night. Sleep has been domesticated in the service of “industrial life” and policed with an alarm clock (summary of quote). Dr. Sarah Mednick’s book Take a Nap! Change Your Life helps us understand that our state of being overtired can make us to wired to fall asleep effectively. So napping can be almost a “dress rehearsal” for sleep.
So, if you have the flexibility in your schedule to take a rest in the afternoon, consider a nap rather than fighting your post-lunch sleepiness. This multi-phasic sleep is actually quite natural, so embrace your body’s call to rest when you feel tired, especially between 1-3 p.m, when it could be especially nourishing.
When we treat sleep as a treasured event rather than a drag, we are more likely to enjoy the process and settle in a little deeper. We dream more when we sleep deeply, as it happens, and that can be an adventure as well.
What are your favorite sleep rituals? Do you make sure to get adequate rest every night? How often do you nap?
Today I want to focus on a practice that has been immensely helpful to me, especially in the midst of the chaos that surrounds us these days.
This is the process of centering in my body, feeling my whole self grounded on the earth physically. I experience this practice of centering through yoga and meditation. I start by closing my eyes and focusing for a minute or two on the breath. I just observe and notice the breath for a bit, the length of the inhales and exhales. I begin to feel it as it travels into the abdomen and chest and as it flows out of the nostrils.
My mind calms down a bit, and then I focus on my feet to begin. I notice what my feet are connected to: the floor, my legs, possibly clothing or a blanket. I move up to the calves, noticing everything they are in contact with, and then move up to the knees, thighs.
I notice the torso, the center of the body, work my way through my chest, down each of my arms, my hands. I move upward through the shoulders and neck and finally through the center of the head, the space behind the eyes and the crown of the head.
The process can take as little as 6-7 minutes, or I can prolong it a bit and focus for longer in each area. While sitting in yin yoga I am able to do this while in a long hold for a pose, noticing some slight discomfort if there is some fascia that is tight. I am able to “zoom in” on a sensation and then possibly “zoom out” to the whole body. I might do this zoom in and zoom out a couple of times during a hold.
All the while I take note of what is happening in my mind. It’s not as though the mind stays quiet during this process. People sometimes think meditation is about clearing the mind. Really it can be about noticing what is going on there. Thoughts arise, and with them, feelings vibrate through the body. There is no shame or judgment toward these thoughts, just a mild curiosity.
By repeatedly coming back to the body, feeling where we are, centering our awareness on what is within, we gain stability and wisdom. It can be a miraculous sort of discovery, this centering practice. I find that, now that I have practiced in silence and stillness, I can also find my center when the environment is a bit more chaotic.
I have learned to find my center in airports, during stressful meetings, and in conversations when I notice that I am holding my breath rather than breathing fully. I bring my awareness into my center and might notice I am holding tightness in my shoulders or in my gut. I breathe more deeply a couple of times, and try to relax those tight areas, becoming conscious of what thoughts are running through my head.
By centering my body, I access wisdom that typically used to be “walled off” from my mind. I bring my heart in line with my brain, and with my gut. I access intuitive abilities that once were more elusive to me. I make decisions from a place of greater ease. I know to ask certain questions in conversations.
People sometimes look at me with surprise, wondering how I have “guessed” their intentions, even though they may be different from the words they use. Truly it feels like a super-power, when used with love and compassion. When I stay aligned with my center, everything flows better. I am able to pay close attention to what my body needs, and adjust accordingly.
While I am no expert, I encourage you to try this out, whether through a guided meditation on Insight Timer, or in a hatha or yin yoga class. If you have experience with this, I would love to hear more about it as well.