Saturday, 30 November 2013

Week 48 Update: Doing Less Can Be More.

I set out to do less this week; to cut my 'to do list' short; to put some tasks on the 'nah, not right now pile'. I did a pretty good job! Each day I made a conscious decision to choose not to do something that 'needed' doing. Often it was something like mopping or vacuuming - things that do need to be done at some point but have little urgency.

The biggest thing I noticed? That by giving myself permission to do less, I felt far less pressure to do and achieve. I chose where to put my energy more carefully and this meant that I didn't feel completely run off my feet every day.

The downside? Sometimes it's really hard to do less - I mean, dirty floors and bathrooms do their best to command your attention. And, let's face it, these things do need to be done at some point ... I've never seen such chores spontaneously complete themselves. For those working in a professional environment, deadlines don't tend to lend themselves to 'less'. And parents certainly can't choose not to do vital child-rearing tasks.

Still, I think there's always a bit of 'to do list fat' that can be trimmed, even if only temporarily. Plus, we can ask for help. In any case, doing less gave me more - more time, more space, more clarity and more choice. Less definitely felt like more this week. And more mindful.

Sunday, 24 November 2013

Week 48: Just Do ... Less.

How many things do you have on your to-do list for the day? What if you took that list and just made it shorter? How would that impact your day?

This afternoon, my husband took a photo of me ... having a little rest on top of the pile of clean washing I was 'meant' to be folding. The photo is a telling one. Simply - I'm tired! I'm currently 21 weeks pregnant with my second child and it's certainly taking it out of me. I have days when I'm full of energy and days when I need someone to prop up my eyelids. Normal - absolutely.

I'm just like everyone else - I wake up in the morning very conscious of all the things I have to do. The list always seems long - mothering, housework,  yoga 'work', writing, socialising, sorting, organising, preparing, cooking ... And despite the fact that I'm far from a clean-freak or a perfectionist, there is NO shortage of things to do.

But how important are all of those things, really? What if I just decided to do less?

Hmm ... less? We're a society that focuses on more ... less is a vaguely foreign concept, isn't it? Less ... I like the way it sounds.

This week I'm going to do less. That to do list is going to be shortened every day. Maybe one non-vital task comes off the list, maybe 10. The important thing is the lack of push and pressure, the focus instead on creating more ease by doing less.

If I do less, will those things I do do be done more mindfully? At a guess - yes.

Week 47 Update: Pour, Stir, Mix, Bake.

A week of mindful cooking. Focusing not on the end result of the cooking process but on the process itself.

Now, I love to cook. But sometimes, it's all too much - another day, another bunch of meals and snacks to cook/prepare. Really? Can't we just have pizza?

This week's challenge gave me a chance to step back from the meal/snack/drink and instead be present with the measuring, chopping, pouring, mixing, stirring, baking ... If I'm honest (which I am), I didn't always remember the challenge I'd set for myself and so I often found myself distracted while I prepared our meals. But on those occasions when I did remember, what a difference it made. It never ceases to amaze me how the way we think about what we're doing impacts on our expereince of the the situation so much. If I'm focused on how annoying it is to have to be in the kitchen again then I feel frustrated, tense, overwhelmed. If, instead, I focus on the process, forgetting for a while what comes next, then it's just the moment - no result.

I had a couple of baking fails this week - something no self-confessed baking lover enjoys. I was pleasantly surprised to find myself reasonably unaffected by these less-than-perfect outcomes. Perhaps my mindful approach in the kitchen offered me a new perspective on perceived failure ... Yes, in fact, I'm sure it did.

Sunday, 17 November 2013

Week 47: The Mindful Cook

You know those days when it seems like such a chore to put a meal on the table? Those evenings when you sit and think "I could just as easily eat toast tonight ... or pizza". It can get tiring feeding yourself, not to mention your family. I mean three meals a day - plus snacks?! That's asking for a bit, isn't it?

I love to cook and bake - probably because I also love to eat. Yet, as I walk into the kitchen for the umpteenth time I often think "Again?!" When you feel like this, cooking can become something to simply get through. There's little pleasure in it - it just needs to be done so the food can be consumed. Not very rewarding, really ... especially since that food will be gobbled up (or thrown on the floor) far too quickly.

What about mindful cooking? Cooking for the sake of cooking? That doesn't mean taking on more cooking to do it mindfully - but simply using those inevitable opportunities to do it in a way that values the process, not just the outcome.

I hope that by being more mindful with my cooking this week, I'll find myself shifting my focus from what will end up on the table at the end (and how quickly it will disappear), to the process itself. Because there's lots of joy to be found in cooking (and baking!). And if there's bowl licking involved, well, that's a bonus! Might be a cook week to bake a chocolate cake ;)

Week 46 Update: Where are You Values?

A search last week for my values ... taking the chance to question not only what they are but how they translate into the way I live my life - the things I do and say, how I react and behave. I thought working out my values would be easy enough, but, like all of the challenges I've faced over the past 46 weeks, it came with its hurdles.

At one point during the week I Googled 'list of values' and perused a few of the results. As I scanned these lists, a few values jumped out at me: Compassion, Love, Mindfulness, Integrity, Unity. These seem as though they 'fit' and are an excellent guide to how I want to live (though maybe they don't always mirror how I actually live).

One of my main concerns heading into last week's challenge was my ongoing struggle with social media and how to control what can at times seem like an addiction. This week I realised that addiction or otherwise, this social media habit of mine serves a very valuable purpose. As a mum at home with my son, I actually need that outlet to connect with people, ideas and the like. What I can also do, though, is ask myself a simple question when the urge to 'check in' strikes: 'would looking at Facebook/Email right now interfere with my ability to act with compassion, love, mindfulness, integrity and unity?' If the answer is yes, hopefully I put the phone down. If the answer is no - well, check in I will!

Let's be honest - one week of this is just skimming the surface. But I like where it's headed ...

Sunday, 10 November 2013

Week 46: Values and the Search for Answers.

As I venture into week 46 of my 52 week mindfulness challenge, I find myself questioning a few things. A conversation with a beautiful friend last night got me to thinking about how my values impact what I do, how I react, what I prioritise and how I see my own thoughts and actions.

I'm trying to think of a good way to describe what I'm thinking, but struggling. Maybe an example will help!

Over the year, one of the things I've been trying (and struggling) to get a handle on is my apparent addiction to social media. I check into Facebook and emails a lot. Partly because I like to connect with my friends, partly because I like to find new recipes and ideas, and partly because I just feel like I have to (very good sign of an addiction there).

I know this habit of mine is worse since becoming a mum, but I don't know if this behaviour is being used to fill the relative void of adult interaction in my life (hard to believe when I actually have a lot of contact with adults every day!), to distract me from whatever fears I have of not being a good enough mum, or something else entirely.

And I don't think the checking, reading and interacting is a bad thing. Not at all. I think it's good for me ... at least if I use it wisely. The thing that still bothers me is the frequency of my checking, the apparently uncontrollable urge that this takes, and the fact that my son already (at 19 months old) knows that mummy's phone is always nearby. I don't want him to grow up thinking that checking into social media umpteen times a day is normal (even if it is!). I want to foster mindfulness in him as he learns and grows, so maybe I could be setting a better example.

This is where the values stuff comes in. I'm starting to feel as though my behaviour simply doesn't match my values, which is maybe why I feel so uncomfortable about the whole thing (and why I struggle to find the right words to describe it).

Where am I going with all this? Well, this week I want to spend some time thinking, contemplating, assessing. I want to consider what my values are and how they translate to my actions and reactions. I want to see if I can find a way to align them better, to feel as though I'm living in a way that feels like a good fit. I have no intention of signing off of social media as a result - absolutely not. But maybe I'll find myself choosing my times more wisely.

I want to be perfectly clear here that I'm not making a judgement call about when anyone else uses their phone or checks in with social media around their children. I'm the last person to suggest I know what's right/best/good/bad. I just know how I feel about my own life and this is where I'm at right now!

So I'll be off contemplating this week ... digging to work out what my values are and how they can lead me to a more mindful life.

Week 45 Update: Passion, Inspiration, Perspiration.

Last week I set out to follow my passion for writing by doing it every day. Every single day, whether it was fun and inspired or not. Outside of my 52 Weeks of Now challenge, I signed up for NaNoWriMo which basically has me set up to write 50,000 words of a novel in the month of November. No small feat - one I didn't think I had the time or inspiration for, and one I am determined to see through.

The thing I discovered this weeks is this: Following your passion isn't always easy. It isn't constantly fuelled by passionate inspiration, it doesn't necessarily come with a warm and fuzzy hug of encouragement ... But, it is totally worth it. Despite the fact that it's been hard, following my passion has given me a new appreciation of what I'm capable of, what I can achieve when I am determined.

It's terribly easy for me to say "I'll never be a real writer" or that "I don't have time to write as much as I'd like" or "I'm just not good enough". It's harder to hear those things in my head and then say "stuff it" and push through the fear and frustration anyway. I've actually had more energy, more drive, more motivation for everything - not just writing - this past week than I have in a long time. Maybe this is because when I write I tend to be mindful - absorbed in the words springing from my fingertips, delicately weaving other lives and worlds on the page. Or maybe it's because I feel more fulfilled. Or perhaps it's  because I'm following my calling. In the end, it doesn't matter. Following your passion is worth it. Full stop. Nothing more to say.

Sunday, 3 November 2013

Week 45: Passion. Ignite It, Follow It.

I did something a little crazy on the weekend. I signed up for NaNoWriMo: National Novel Writing Month. During the month of November, thousands of writers from around the world knuckle down to write a 50,000 word novel. Yep, 50,000.

I've wanted to participate in NaNoWriMo for a while now, but it never seemed like the right time. I mean, who has time to write a novel in a month? Then, on Saturday, I decided on a whim to give it a go. What was I thinking? I don't think it was. I didn't even have a clear idea about what I'd write. Still, when I commit to something I don't like to give up too easily, so I'm giving it a crack.

Why? Because I love to write. Because it's a passion and one worth following. Because when I write I feel alive (and also sometimes immensely frustrated, stupid, inadequate...). I've always wanted to make writing a bigger part of my life, to somehow build it into a career. So, what better way to ignite and fuel my passion than by aiming to write over 1,600 words a day?!

I wrote a couple of weeks ago, in my Arty Farty challenge, about the idea of flow. When I write, sometimes, I get the incredible blessing of being in flow. I am in my story, in my words. I am in the moment.

This week's challenge, then: to follow my passion for writing. To commit myself to writing every darn day, even when it's hard. Because by following my passion, I'm being mindful, present and kind to myself.

Saturday, 2 November 2013

Week 44 Update: Pen to Paper, Truth Be Told.

A week of journal keeping, a week of being confronted by the utter 'bareness' of this process. I know the diary is for my eyes only, but still, it seems so revealing to commit my thoughts and feelings to paper. I mean, what if I reveal to myself that I'm actually different to what I thought? Or I come up with an idea that I have no choice but to follow? Or if I open a can of worms that threatens to wind itself into a great big worm ball?

Ok, so that opening paragraph is dramatic, and perhaps belies what actually fell between the pages of my journal this week. It wasn't anything earth shattering, as this entry attests to:

Friday 1 November 2013
Golly gee wizz that came up fast.
So, so tired tonight, I don't think I can stay to write. Bed is calling.

Hardly anything, right? Right. (And yes, I really did use the words Golly, Gee and Wizz. I am that daggy). Still, the process of journaling and what it represents feels to me earth shattering. All those thoughts that clog up my mind have an opportunity to be immortalised on the page, to find their truth in ink. It's commitment of a sort and commitment is scary.

The entry I've shared above was my shortest throughout the week, and the least revealing. I did write about other stuff, including pondering 'where to' after my '52 Weeks of Now' journey comes to a close. I also admitted to myself that I regularly try to keep too many balls up in the air; wrote about my love of yoga teaching; and, wrote about the fun my son and I got up to during the week.

What this challenge pushed me to do was consider the jumble of thoughts in my mind and lay them out. Not all of them and not always in a way that gave me answers, but in a way that allowed me to become aware of them - not ignore them or push them away. It was an excellent practice of mindfulness, even if it was confronting.

I don't know if I'll keep the practice up. Probably not every day. I hesitate to suggest I 'should' do anything (I don't like that word at all), but I do think this would be 'good' for me. Maybe a weekly journal is the way to go. Something that gives me an outlet. A sorting process of sorts. Yes, I could do with that.