I’m a reformed couch potato. The spirit is willing but my flesh is definitely weak! What do I mean by that? You see, as a kid, I thought PE was a waste of time. That exercise and sports were optional. I always felt like a klutz… I was one of those kids in PE that hoped the teacher didn’t see me. I was the kid no one picked to play Soak ‘em because I couldn’t catch or throw the ball worth a darn. I was the kid who was always picked last for teams.
I was just a clumsy, skinny kid and I came to find out later in life my muscles are tighter than average. I mean I cannot touch my toes – never could. The worst thing was that even the high school gymnastics teacher finally recognized my limitations – but only after I tried to vault the vaulting horse and my feet caught as I tried to tuck them under me and I landed smack dab on my face and crumbled up in a heap. Oh, the humiliation of it all!!
Needless to say, I hated gym class. I’d invent ways to get out of PE. Fake sickness. And as a result in later years I never did go to the local gym, too much like PE class in school.
As life went on, though, I came to realize how important exercise is to living, well, healthfully. I think I allowed myself to get overwhelmed with all the shoulds in my life. I should eat better. I should exercise more. I should get outside more. I should meditate more… and on and on. To me that means, make better choices for food, set up a simple doable exercise plan and hook my meditation practice to something I already do – make coffee.
So, I have done the first and third part: eating better and doing meditation while my morning coffee is brewing. But I still held back on exercise!!!
Fast forward to today. I know better. I am still not into sports but I KNOW how important it is to get daily exercise!! No gym for me – not my idea of fun. Exercising in public reminds me too much of PE class, I guess.
Also, I am a full-time in-home caregiver, meaning I am with someone for 6 to 10 hours a day.
So, how do I fit in 30 minutes of functional exercise? I figured this out: I decided to set up my phone to remind me to get up off the chair every hour during the day to do something for 2 to 5 minutes. I use SplenDO app and have it notify me to do something like:
So far, this has been the only way I can fit in about 30 minutes of a workout without interfering with my work schedule. I’ve done it for several weeks now and I am just excited to have finally found a way to fit in exercise that I like doing.
Is this perfect? Maybe not to the fitness coach or trainer. But it is perfect for me, at least starting out. Because ultimately, any exercise is better than no exercise. And my theory is that small chunks of exercise are doable for anyone. Even those stuck in an office. Every time you take a break to use the bathroom, take a few minutes to stretch, move, jog in place.
This question is a bit like something a high school guidance counselor or a life coach might ask. Where do you see yourself 5 years, 10 years, 30 years from now? I wish I’d listened to her all those years ago… Of course, it’s never too late to ask. Today I can decide what steps to take which will be part of the outcome a year, 5 years or 20+ years from now.
How do I determine what steps to take today? I have found thinking of something negative helps prompt me. For instance:
So, what am I doing – today – to exercise my body to keep from getting stiff and sore?
What am I doing today to support my future income?
Who do I call to get involved in distributing food? Is there a dance class in my area?
See? Just ask yourself what you don’t want, then reframe it as a something you can do to NOT end up that way.
How about you?
What would you say to your younger self if you could talk with him/her?
One of my favorite movies, Disney’s The Kid, with Bruce Willis and Spencer Breslin. Of course, the idea of being able to converse with yourself is sort of insane, This movie makes it almost believable!
Bruce Willis plays Russ Duritz, an image expert who helps people make modifications to their physical appearance as well as coaching them how to behave to get the best results in their field. He is quite successful helping others fix their lives but his bravado hides his own life failures. Early in the movie, Russ gets visited by a kid who turns out to be his younger self.
Anyway, when young and old Russ/Rusty get to know one another, at first elder version is annoyed with the younger version, even disgusted. As young Rusty (Spencer Breslin) shows up over and over again, Russ (Bruce Willis) begins to have “deja vu” moments that upset him. In time, he finds out what point in his life he stops remembering why he became hard and cynical. He guides his younger self through some trying times but in the end, he heals emotional pain and mental blocks by facing the pain.
My favorite scene is when older Russ is talking to a friendly newscaster, Deidre (Jean Smart). He is telling her he’s seeing his younger self and interacting with him she sort of smiles. When she tells him that his younger self was there to talk to/teach him, not the other way around, he falls silent with a dumbfounded look.
I love that. What could we learn from reliving a part of our childhood? What would you say to your younger self?
I for one, have learned to practice parenting myself, where in my mind, go back to younger versions of me and either comfort yourself or take the younger you on a walk to meet older, presumably more successful aspects of yourself. I love this. The best time for me to do this is when I travel back and visit 5-year-old Cheryl who had just been laughed at and humiliated by some bullies, and take her for a walk through my history, showing her all the times the older Cheryl had succeeded at one thing or other. Big things and small, like:
I could go on and while you might think those are big accomplishments, it meant a lot too that young Cheryl. She grew up that day.
Anytime, I feel worthless, I travel back and look at my history. I feel proud.
What would you say to your younger/older self?
Few books fill me the way The Untethered Soul has. Even fewer have I picked up a second and third time. It is my go-to book when someone asks me what is your favorite book? Or what book changed your life? The book is impacting to me that I have bought several print copies, one in hard back for taking notes and I have the audio book as well.
It's that good.
If you've read any of my other book reviews, you know I read books that teach about the inner journey. Books about "who am I?" I have come to realize that nearly every one of us asks that question sometimes more than once. Who you are is not "wife", "partner", "teacher", "student", fifty something years old...
From Singer I learned that who you are is the one who watches all those aspects of you. He is the first person to make that crystal clear to me. You know, when you're watching a TV show and part of you is saying, "isn't he handsome" and another part of you is wondering if the pizza guy is about to knock, while yet another voice comments that the dog must have left a pile behind the couch again"...
You know what I mean. You have those odd rambling conversations in your head all the time. Elsewhere I have learned about my different aspects. You know there's an aspect of you that wants pizza, yet another aspect says that is not on the diet and yet another aspect of you is nagging you to get exercise while yet another aspect is more interested in watching another binge of Grey's Anatomy! It used to bug the daylights out of me - all that noise, chatter. My mind was never quiet!!
But Singer helps you to know "Who am I?" in all that noise. What's more is that he teaches in the simplest terms how to stop the chatter - getting all those aspects of you to chill.
The whole book has an "aha" on nearly every page but the chapters that meant the most to me are further along. An example, Pain - The Price of Liberty. I understood for the first time that pain - both physical but more importantly, emotional, serve a very important purpose and spending my life trying to avoid it is like avoiding the sun while walking on a cloudless day. If we try to avoid pain we are not going to grow. If you are like me you WANT to grow. So, as crazy as it sounds, now I don't get shocked when "bad stuff" happens. I ask, what am I supposed to learn? How is this to make me whole as a person?
“I want to be fixed – NOW!”
Anyone else feel like that? Kinda like a whiny kid in the store, I get to stomping my feet (mentally). I want to remember it will take time to turn this ship around. I want to remember that it took time to become who I am and it will take time to change some bad habits and add new good ones. I want to be patient with me, right where I am.
I want to accept me now for who I am or I find I stay stuck, like a truck in a muddy rut. The only way to get out of that muddy rut is to stop and accept the situation. Then allow the mind to come up with a plan to get out of the rut.
Life is a process, a journey, taken one step at a time. I think I, we, have been tricked because of this instant gratification society into thinking we can get it all now. Well, maybe you can fulfill that craving for a frappe or a chicken burrito – now. But learning to meditate? Organizing my life? Changing the way I think about me? Those will take time. and practice.
A wise friend told me that when I say I want to be fixed indicates I think I am broken. That I don’t love me. Wow. I have been so busy loving everyone else for who they are, I forgot to love me for who I am.
So, I purpose to accept me right where I am today and take each new moment as it comes, consciously choosing the next steps. I purpose to love me right where I am and know that I am free to change. And breathe…just breathe.
(originally posted in a group I am part of)
When life got really hard and scary as a new wife and young mother, I wish someone had told me to “Do it afraid” sooner. No, let’s take that back even before that. I actually wish my mom or dad had not just told me that it’s okay to make mistakes way back when. That mistakes were not bad but that it’s good to make mistakes. That mistakes are just how we learn and grow. To show me, by their own lives, that adults are adults by making decisions, and being accountable for both the good and the not so good outcomes. If Mom and Dad did anything wrong, it was that they didn’t let me see them make mistakes and how they dealt with the fallout.
It’s not as though they didn’t support me in my growing years. I was an above average student but nothing that would put a spotlight on me. I was a Girl Scouts all the way through school and I got First Class badge at the end. I had guitar lessons. My grandmother, a professional concert pianist, tried to teach me piano. I took vocal lessons… Never stayed with anything long enough to get really good though. Maybe it was laziness? Maybe it was scary when I had to get in front of others? Not sure at this point.
I was afraid to make those mistakes because somehow I assumed I was the only person who was so naive. Why do we do that?? Why do we think everyone else is smarter or got things all figured out? I can totally relate to the character, Mia, in The Princess Diaries movie. I was good at being invisible.
I have no traumatic incidents that twisted me up one way or other. It’s just that somehow somewhere I got the idea that making mistakes was a “bad thing”.
Never did I get the feeling from anyone that making mistake is how we learn and grow. I still ask the question, what scared me so much that I decided to hide from the world way back on the brink of adulthood? But even so, whatever it was the scared me, I needed a PUSH to do it afraid!! Freakin’ do it!! Do it and cry and fall and try and get up and… just DO IT!
Now that I know better, I am “preaching it” to my own kids and anyone else who might benefit from my new found wisdom.
Do it till you ‘get it’. Do it when it seems others are laughing. I had to explore that question for myself. Over time, there were more and more answers that needed questioning; so-called pearls of wisdom that needed testing.
Do it afraid!
This is the beginning or introduction to the Question the Answers (QtA) journal. Hence the reference to the first book of the Bible, Genesis.
Question the Answers is an outflow of a major life change for me. It seems strange that a grown woman with nine children and three grandchildren, as of this date, would need to start over. But start over I did.
I was born at the end of the so-called baby boom to two college-educated parents. Dad put in a few years in the Navy Reserve then signed on to Boeing till he retired. Mom didn’t quite finish college when they married, deciding to stay home, build a nest and raise my brother and me. Once we were in our middle school years, she returned to college to finish her degree and she began to work at Boeing till she retired.
Growing up was relatively uneventful. But it was great! Dad made sure we went hiking and camping – he and Mom are great explorers to this day). Mom got me into Girl Scouts and was my leader for many years. She and I got along so well – we could talk about anything. We lived in comfortable homes which Dad worked hard to provide. I finished high school well and planned to finish college – because that is what was expected. Frankly, I didn’t want to go to college and dragged through 2 years taking this and that.
Meantime, in high school, I started to bump up against my expanding spirit (I didn’t know it at the time, though). I began to really wonder who I was and why I was here. In school, I was exposed to all sorts of worldviews. Also, I didn’t belong to any particular group which was very hard for me as a teen – a time when we are just setting out to discover life. I didn’t want to smoke so I could hang with them. I didn’t like sports or want to be on the pep squad. I wasn’t a brainiac. Though I was a Girl Scout, none of my troop members attended the same school.
I was a wallflower. A very uncomfortable wallflower. Since everything inside me was crying out to belong at school, I began to notice the nice kids, the churchgoers. Fast forward, I went to church with a friend and I instantly felt like I belonged. I joined and the course of my life forever changed.
For one thing, my chosen church was rather rigid. Only members could go to heaven. Looking back, I can’t believe I bought into that line. But in my zeal as a newly reborn Christian, I informed my parents that if they didn’t go to my church they’d be lost in hell for all eternity. Dad was never very vocal about his pain, but Mom – she was heartbroken! Literally. And so was I. You see, I admired my mother (still do). But she wasn’t there during those blossoming spiritual growing pains. Needless to say, our closeness was rudely interrupted by my bigoted beliefs. I chose what I thought was a protected, safe worldview and she was on the outside.
I was embarking on a long lonely journey. I had lost the only thing that made sense to me but Mom was very busy with her schooling and then work when I was needing those answers. Looking back I realize now that the spiritual journey is one you take alone – even as much as I wanted to take it with Mom.
QtA was born from the need to stop and assess the deep questions in life. I learned that it is important to ask yourself Why? How? Who?
For my part, I hated the idea of touching those chewy questions: Is there a God? I wouldn’t even question it. I thought, “Of course there is a God”. To think otherwise is inviting his wrath, were my thoughts not so long ago.
But one day it was as though God himself asked me to question the answers, the answers that I thought were set in stone. It was as though He wanted me to discover him without religion, without preaching, without some man and his opinions to hide behind. It was as though God said, “I am big enough and I love you enough for you to question whether I exist.” It occurred to me that God is bigger than all the religions and loving enough to let me find him on my own in my own way.
So I started asking the questions: Is there a God? If I believe so, why do I believe it? If not, who or what do I believe in? If there is a God then why would he create hell, or even heaven, for that matter?
Then there were other questions. If I hadn’t met my spouse, how would life be different? What if I had chosen to finish college rather than opting out, who or where would I be?
On entering adulthood, I was scared. I had already been laughed at, failed miserably at a menial job, disappointed my parents, said goodbye to too many friends.
I really just wanted to hide under a rock. I ended up finding my rock to hide under – a man who made me feel safe – and got married. 35 plus years later I am still married to that man but both of us have changed so much. So I asked myself if I would meet him today, would I marry him? That is a tough question. It made me look into what marriage is and what it is not – at least to my way of thinking. And that will be the subject or entry for another day…
So, I give you a self-discovery journal. One that I needed when I was transforming. I hope to ask a question on a daily basis or edit/update answers as I grow and learn. I hope you will find courage, inspiration and a bit of hope as you read through.
The Four Agreements by don Miguel Ruiz
This was one of the first books on spirituality I ever read. It was actually recommended to me by an entrepreneur who stated it was the book that spurred his own journey into true success in life. I have to admit I was a bit taken aback when I started to read it because it spoke of things I would have been suspicious of.
I was still a bit stuck in my old religious background but had enough curiosity to at least read the article in which he was featuring the book. The thing that “sold” me on reading the whole book was the summary of the four agreements. They sounded more like proverbs than affirmations, as well. Looking back I now understand why.
Here they are in their most basic form:
I was still coming out of my narrow religious life so many of the terms and explanations in the first chapters didn’t sit well. Spirits, smoke, hooks, stories… Still, something in its pages resonated with my core being – whatever that part of me that was still growing, seeking expansion. I just didn’t know it at the time.
Don Miguel Ruiz was a trained medical doctor, but not long into his profession, he had a life-changing accident. I remember reading his story and thinking, ‘Why is it that something “big or bad” happens and we “wake up”? Midlife crisis? Nervous breakdown? Near-death experience? Later I came to see this crisis or breakdown as a spiritual awakening. Another opportunity to find the vastness of our consciousness. I didn’t call it that then. I didn’t know what to call it. I just knew Ruiz’s narrative was worth listening to, even if it seemed off to my bigoted psyche. And even if I didn’t understand the first couple chapters, I definitely understood the chapters that explained the four agreements.
I think I had heard the explanation of “stories”, like videos, that replay in our heads. Stories from our childhood, school, parents, friends… all these stories make up our lives. These stories guide our lives and directly influence every choice we make. But it isn’t who we are. Who we are is the One who is watching all these stories – not having any particular attachment to any of them. Whether it’s something your husband says that ticks you off, why you get sick at your stomach when you see a snake, why you start crying when you see a sick child…
Everything you see, hear, smell, touch or taste has a story attached to it. A horn honking makes you jump and your heart starts to race because the last time you heard a horn honk you were involved in an accident.
The smell of smoke has you looking all around you for signs of fire.
You feel something slimy and you recoil thinking you touched something rotten like when you were cleaning up after a hurricane.
You smell a sweet spicy smell that reminds you of your grandmother and depending on how you felt about her, it was a good feeling or not so good.
Your partner tells you they want to talk to you about something.. you assume it’s not good. Because the last time someone said those words, it was an old boyfriend who broke it off with you.
Our lives are all about a collection of these stories. And depending on how much we pay attention to them, our lives can be miserable.
Ruiz then teaches you how to overcome those voices or stories which have hooked themselves into our psyche we tell by applying the simple advice of the four agreements:
What would this world be like if each one of us only spoke kindly and with integrity, saying only what we mean? Ruiz contends and this much even Jesus concurred, that the Word is creative or destructive. “In the beginning was the Word…and the Word was God.” John 1
How many times did you say something or someone said something to you that you knew instantly changed the course of your life for the worse. This particularly happens to children by other children or worse, their parents. Off-handed comments like you’re so stupid or you’re never going to look like your sister or some people are just born [you fill in the blank]. That person is forever hooked on that story unless they come across teachings like Ruiz to neutralize them.
If we only ever opened our mouth or thought thoughts that were in the direction of love and truth, there would be no dissension, jealousy, emotional pain.
This agreement was the one that resonated the loudest when I first read it. The idea that nothing others do is because of you was a foreign concept. Yet somehow my wiser Self knew it to be true. What others say and do is a projection of their reality, not mine. I mean they have had their own stories all their life and I just happened on them in that moment. That girl at work who exploded at you when you forgot the cookies for the meeting was reacting to her own issues/problems – not you. What you did might have triggered it but it wasn’t about you. The time your husband walked out after you ignored his requests to stop spending so much… it was about him.
If you really think about it, life has been happening for millions of years. It was happening before you came. It’s happening now and will continue to happen long after you are gone. To take life personally is rather arrogant if you think about it. Life just is. People just are reacting to life.
Rather than taking it personally, learn to just accept it.
I love the words, “Don’t judge me by the chapter of life you walked in on.”
This is a biggie, too. How would your life change if you didn’t assume anything? Didn’t assume your boyfriend was ignoring you when he was driving by in traffic. Didn’t assume you were being passed over at work because you were black or white, male or female, or some other subgroup. Don’t assume that because your husband is late getting home from work he is either dead or seeing someone else. How free your mind would be if you just let things be what they are – in this moment. Not what you think they are but just what they are.
This seems silly at first glance. Of course you want to do your best. But do you? I’m not talking perfectly. I am talking your best. Do you pick up your stray things off the floor or think, meh – I’ll get them later. Do you quit part way through a project when it gets hard? If you spill, do you clean up as soon as possible or wait till later. If you leave a dent in someone’s car, do you leave a note or hope no one was looking and leave?
Following is an excerpt in which my mom and I discuss one of my daughter’s personal struggles which are ALWAYS always based in a spiritual struggle. Mom (her grandmother) wants on some level to help her as do I and we are in so far as we can. The following is part of the discussion as to how much we should help and why we need to just let things unfold. Yes, I took out the names. … Read More …
My talks with Mom are very personal. Deep down soul searching, spill my guts labors of love. Sometimes I include her responses but more often I just put down my side of the convo.
Mom always listened. She always offered advice but always let me take my own direction. I see now how hard it is to love your child so much; to watch with great trepidation the direction she takes; to purposely look the other way to let them fall. But to be there when they need something. Kinda like God. And the story of the Prodigal. A good parent lets the son/daughter go but is there when the child needs them.
That’s my mom. She let me go. She didn’t cling. She didn’t invest herself in me, insisting I fulfill something for her. She wisely knew I had a journey to take.
I created a category – Talks with Mom – so I could record my ramblings with Mom. Each time I spill on the page, I learn something about me. Maybe you’ll see a common thread or find a bit you can identify with as well. If it helps you to read my ramblings, then I am blessed.