Tag Archives: Freedom

Sunday haiku – 2 verses for Buenos Aires

Oh, Buenos Aires.

At last I return again.

To receive your gifts.

***

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Dog playing in Plaza Libertad, Buenos Aires, Argentina.  © mexi-minnesotana March 24, 2018. Copy with attribution to the author.

Dog splashing in pond.

Sun embracing us all now.

Blessings flow our way.

 

 

 

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“I Choose To” vs “I Have To”

Almost everything you do in a typical day is optional. Except breathing, that one is required. Even eating is optional. Humans have survived during millennia in periods when they have not had enough to eat, and had to spend multiple days (sometimes weeks, months) fasting. Not that I am advocating this, but if you wanted to skip a meal now and then, you could choose to do so without dire consequences, unless you have a medical condition.

Going to work is not optional, you might be saying right now. You “have to” pay your bills and you “have to” earn money to buy food, gas and all the associated necessities that allow us to live our lives. You probably have people depending on you, and this can add to the feeling of “I must” go to work.

There is a subtle change in energy when we realize that we choose to go to work every day, because there are consequences if we do not, versus “having” to go to work, as though we are slaves. We choose work and earn income because it gives us choices in our lives, and allows us to do things we want to do. True, maybe we do not all do work that feeds our souls, and we may deal with some annoyances or people that drain us.

When you accept that there are not really many things you HAVE TO do, you may realize that much of your internal dialogue is actually a lie. This dialogue with yourself causes anxiety, and it does not serve you. It was kind of eye-opening when I realized this for myself. I realized I was whining and complaining about my job and feeling sorry for myself about it.

It was probably while reading a book called The Four-Day Win by Martha Beck  about identifying thoughts that we have (or had) before we find ourselves eating too much or eating food that is unhealthy. When we get really mindful about those impulses we may find ourselves trying to avoid thoughts that are painful, like “I have to go to this event” or “I don’t want to make this phone call.”

Those of us who have struggled with emotional overeating in the past have used food to distract ourselves from some emotion or procrastinate some thing we do not really want to face. We live out of integrity with ourselves because we have a mental dialogue that is a lie (“I have to” rather than “I choose to”) and we find it difficult to face reality and our own emotions.

Sometimes we feel lonely or disconnected, and it is harder for us to admit this and reach out to a friend for companionship than it is to eat a cookie and milk. Perhaps that was the pattern we learned as children when we felt sad, or what our parents might have done to cheer us up. As a temporary measure, maybe the ice cream made you “feel better” – the hit of dopamine and sugar in the brain certainly had an immediate effect. The longer-term impact of the insulin released in the body did not give us healthy results, however.

We may not have learned to process our feelings completely, if we were consoled or soothed with food rather than taught that are feelings are valid, and it is okay to feel them instead of eating them. We may not have understood that our thoughts influence our feelings, and so by exploring what thoughts led to those emotions, we could question those thoughts to see if they are really true.

Do I really “have to” go to that family event? Or do I choose to go to the event because I love these people and want to show my support for them? Do I “have to” write all those holiday cards to a huge list of people? Or do I choose to write some holiday cards because I would like to stay in touch with loved ones?

Though it is a subtle change in language, changing these internal messages to ourselves helps free us from a victim mentality. It empowers us to realize that we have the ability to choose. Sure, maybe some people will not like it if we skip an event. But we are not responsible for others’ feelings, only our own.

My favorite meditation mantra which helps me live in my integrity while avoiding the lie that “I have to much to do” (which is one of my ego’s favorites) is:

“I have time for everything I need to do today.” 

It is true. All I must do today is breathe. Everything else is optional, and a choice I make. Realizing this truth sets me free in so many ways. I hope it does for you too.

 

 

 

 

Sweeping mental clutter

I am amazed sometimes when I go quiet and meditate at the thoughts and mental chatter that run through my head. It reminds me that while I aim to clear physical clutter in my life to help me with less external distractions, the mental clutter is also worth sweeping out.

We all have thoughts and beliefs that run though our minds like old tapes, playing the stories we learned over time. They are a product of what we learned as young people, explicitly or implicitly by what we observed around us. Many of us do not question these thoughts and beliefs. They become part of us, and influence how we live our lives.

But I have been questioning my thoughts and beliefs much more regularly these days. Why is it we believe “there is never enough time” to do the things we love to do? Is that really true? What if that is a convenient excuse for not taking the risks in our lives that would allow us to live more fully in our joy?

What if we turned those thoughts around or tried on different thoughts than the worn-out ideas that make us feel tired and defeated? One of the amazing things about meditation practice is to realize that we have much more choice over our thoughts than I had realized was possible.

Our thoughts drive our feelings, and our feelings influence our actions and therefore determine our results. When we realize we are not our thoughts, but can decide consciously whether to think certain thoughts, we take back control of our lives. We realize our circumstances do not determine our reality. It is our thoughts about those circumstances that have substantially more power.

Human beings are wired for story, as Brene Brown tells us. We strive to make sense of the world so our minds develop stories to explain and interpret circumstances. We all do this, and it is an adaptive phenomenon for human evolution. But sometimes these stories do not give us a complete picture, and need revision. The challenge is that we have told ourselves these stories for so long, they seem like truth.

It is worthwhile to examine personal narratives and long-held beliefs that no longer serve us. I write a daily journal in which I often do a “thought download” when I feel agitated about something, since I realize that is usually an indicator that I am “spinning” thoughts that do not serve me. That is often enough for me to become conscious of some thought causing pain and to question that thought.

Byron Katie teaches a practice of inquiry, in which you question a thought or belief and ask yourself 4 questions:

Is it true? 

Can I absolutely know that it is true? 

How do I react, what happens, when I believe this thought?

Who would I be without the thought? 

Then she encourages one to try some “turnarounds” of the thought if we realize we cannot absolutely know that thought it true, or we realize it causes us suffering. This is worth practicing if you suspect some of your thoughts may need sweeping out or cleaning up.

What is beautiful about this practice and these realizations is that we begin to understand that changing our thoughts is easier than changing our circumstances. We do not have to find happiness and contentment “out there” somewhere. It is within our grasp, and can be realized inside of ourselves.

Also, when we change our thoughts, and therefore our feelings, we act and behave differently. We act with more love and generosity, and we begin to attract these qualities around us as well. We begin to see that grasping onto things makes us close down, while opening and sharing allow us to tap a well of resilience within us.

As you consider sweeping out the clutter of your physical life, take some time also to sweep the clutter that may be residing in your mind. See how much benefit this can have in your relationships and in living a more joyful life. I know you will not be disappointed.

 

 

Motorcycle, open road and 2 fresh-air junkies

This Tuesday as my hubby and I escaped weather that was -20F (windchill factor -30F), I had an impulse to revisit a favorite trip of ours from almost 5.5 months ago, when the weather was quite different. Photos are either from his phone or mine, and/or grabbed from the web with attribution where not original.

This past July my husband (then fiance) and I took a trip around Lake Superior, starting on the Minnesota side from the Twin Cities and running clockwise. It was a wonderful journey, made precious by the fact that we had never made that trip before, and the fact that my husband had taken care of 95% of the planning beforehand.

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Camping trailer, VTX, and our bear canister.

He even re-furbished a motorcycle camping trailer that we were able to use for 6 out of the 10 nights we were away from home. It would have been 8 nights but we opted to upgrade to a hotel on two of the nights when the campgrounds seemed to soggy for us as 40-somethings who enjoy comfortable beds. With hubby doing 100% of the driving, it was important for him to get adequate rest. See how good I am at justifying my desire for comfort? 😉

We wanted to explore one of the wonderful treasures of our Midwest home: Lake Superior. We love Canada and have traveled many times to Thunder Bay and that area. The first time we traveled there was just after we had gotten engaged, and we stayed in the McVicar Manor B&B. I am sad to see when I look online that this may have closed. I know Dorothy and Tom, the owners at the time, were planning to retire.

Perhaps it is a seasonal closing, as I know they do spend some months of the year traveling.

In any case, hubby found many great camp sites where we could stay all around the lake, as well as a B&B in Sault Ste Marie and some other hotels where we spontaneously stayed when we encountered rain a couple of days in July.

At the start we arrived in Canada during their national holiday, just before the U.S. Independence Day holiday. It was Canada Day, eh! And we found an abundance of people camping, with Canadian flags on display at campsites. The provincial park system in Canada is amazing, and has generally more secluded sites than the typical American camp groud.

My favorites were Sleeping Giant Park and Lake Superior Provincial Park. Hubby took this wonderful photo from Agawa Bay in Superior Park, where we camped right along the shoreline. It was gorgeous, and quite warm that evening. But we started a camp fire anyway, because it is our tradition.

Agawa Bay - Superior

Original photo taken by husband of mexi-minnesotana. Use with attribution only.

The views from the Canada side were rather spectacular and hubby has hours of unedited video from his Go-Pro which attached like an antenna to his helmet. I kept teasing him about looking like a Martian with that darn thing stuck to the helmet.

Awww, but this is why I keep reading that spending money on experiences rather than things proves to be the most satisfying. There is the excitement and anticipation of the event, then the event itself and then recalling fond memories of the event.

As we cope with the dark months of winter, and I recover from the last dregs of this winter/holiday cold, these thoughts of an enjoyable vacation in the summer of 2017 warm my heart. Where are you planning your next vacation? 

O Canada

O Canada! Another view from a similar vantage point, taken by mexi-minnesotana.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The damn ORDER button

Does anyone else have a little trouble resisting the ease and comfort of internet shopping? I can use my phone, browse my wishlist or do a quick search and place an order from the comfort of my bed. Bang, done!

Amazon shopping cart

You’ll see my shopping cart is currently empty. But it would only be a matter of a few clicks to get the latest book I heard about on a favorite podcast. Or to order the planner that someone recommended to me. Darn you, Amazon!

I say this all while being extremely grateful that online shopping exists, of course. I hate store shopping. I was really excited when I read Sonia Sotomayor’s autobiography and realized she (like me) has no sense of fashion either. The act of shopping for clothes in particular sets me on edge. But shopping in stores generally is something I do not enjoy.

The fabulous array of things I can acquire simply at the click of a button is a smorgasbord of temptation. No trip to the store, no need to interact with anyone, no pushy salespeople to hover over me and try to tell me about their sales and specials.

The problem is that when it comes to something like books, I have very low resistance to clicking the order button. It is something I am working on. I tell myself I should go to the library and check out books instead. I love libraries. But it’s so much more WORK to have to go and search for the books I want!

Amazon prime

They say time is money, but actually time is a lot more precious to me than money, because time is a finite resource. Money is something I can get if I work a little more, or save a little better. So when I calculate the cost of spending $10-15 at the click of a button and have Amazon deliver me in just a couple of days the book I want? Well, let’s just say my hourly rate for my day job means the low cost of online ordering is just too tempting sometimes.

This gets to something I will work on in the new year, with my husband because he has similar online shopping behavior. BUDGETING. Yes, it is an odious task, but we need to do it. Making a plan ahead of time, and then sticking to that plan is a much better way to live your life than looking back at the credit card statements and thinking: Hmm, so THAT’s where my money went last month.

The fact that we are double income no kids people and do not own a house means that we live a pretty carefree existence financially. Not that it was easy to get here, by any means. I’ve worked my tail off to pay off past debts, and get the kind of job where I am putting away a fairly large chunk into retirement each year.

townhome

I have bought and sold two homes, one which made quite a tidy sum and one which barely broke even right before the real estate bubble burst. Since 2007 I have been a renter, and I do not mind that. Hubby really wants a workshop though and a bigger garage than our 1-car “tuck under townhome” space (pictured here).

At some point, I would like a yard again. I do not particularly like living under a homeowner’s association regime about specific rules regarding paint colors and not leaving the Christmas lights up beyond January 5th. The neighborhood is lovely, but we will be ready for our own place in 1-2 years, perhaps.

Anyway, I have been thinking and reflecting upon the year (as one does this month) and anticipating what I may want to change in 2018. I have never been one to make resolutions for January 1st – the date seems too arbitrary to me. I typically like to start new things in the fall, because it is the start of a “school year” and I have always loved school.

This year though, I am getting my head around possibly leaving my job for a new one, and/or starting a side hustle and planning to buy a house again someday.  It is different, now that I am married rather than just living with my honey. We had (and still have) our own bank accounts, along with a joint account.

We need to plan some goals together, and that involves being really honest about where we spend our money now, and being willing to figure out what kind of plan works for us. I will have to figure out how to quash the impulse to click the DAMN ORDER BUTTON when that impulse arises, rather than just nickle and diming myself with low-cost “book treats.”

We will need to work together as a team to figure these things out. Money has always been a difficult issue for me in past relationships. I am fiercely independent and have been the main breadwinner in my long-term relationships. I tend to be generous, and others have taken advantage of that before. But I want to be brave, and face up to my money issues, and have conversations about what we want for the future.

In general, I have a believe in abundance, and I value people over things. I believe I will always have enough. So it’s not about the things I have. Life is about the good people in my life, and living in a way that expresses my values.

In that spirit, and in understanding the way I spend my time and my money, I have a resolution for next year: to become more mindful of how I spend my money, and to work as a team with my husband to make more of those money decisions together.

If my wise readers have any advice for me on this topic, please share! In the meantime, I am going to try to meditate for at least 5 minutes before hitting the damn “order” or “buy” button and see how it goes.

Break the internet

Break the internet: a campaign for net neutrality.

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Hello fellow internet-users,

Today’s post is a public service announcement for this issue. I read my daily post from Seth Godin and decided to join the cause.

As a blogger myself, I appreciate the freedom to be able to post whatever I want on my platform and to read what others want to share as well. It truly is a democratizing force, and has changed the way we communicate and engage politically.

I watched a short video to understand more about net neutrality and the potential costs of losing it. If you have not seen it, click here. It is less than 3 minutes. Well worth it.

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Service providers should not be able to dictate which sites or items we are able to see, and internet users may not even be able to imagine this now.

Part of the problem is that service providers could “package” websites and be able to sell you what they recommend, rather than what you choose to see. I doubt this could actually succeed, given what I know about the contrariness of myself and other internet users. However, this video explains what a world WITHOUT net neutrality might look like.

Today I am at home recovering from appendectomy surgery. So I am kinda free and just sitting here in my p.j.’s. I am counting myself lucky in a way, since I have a little extra time today to campaign for this cause. I hope you can take a few minutes, maybe on a break or a lunch hour to do the same. It’s for all of us, peeps.

If you see other videos or links of interest you want to share in the comments below, please feel free.