Genuine Moments

Tonight, to commemorate the end of a very long week, I carved out some time, took a book with me and drove down to our health club where I slipped into the hot tub for a nice long soak. There was an older couple sitting across from me and a middle aged couple down from them, each of them talking amongst themselves, enjoying their relaxation together. I was perfectly content to find my corner spot, settle in near two jets and bury my nose into a good read.

I tend to pay little attention to the world around me when I am by myself and off duty, especially when I am absorbed in a book. This is one of the reasons why I love solo time, as it juxtaposes the way I spend the bulk of my week; engaging with people, listening empathically, making eye contact, sharing intimate moments around life’s joys and sorrows.  I am privileged to work with individuals, couples, and families and to unpack relationship concerns and our inherent need for interpersonal connections, and the consequences of isolation. I love what I do. Truly.

I also wholeheartedly love being alone. I find rest when I’m alone. I find solace. It is where I recharge and where I allow myself to check out. Sometimes I think quietly. Sometimes I write. Sometimes I run. Sometimes I read. I have come to know that this time is not merely a luxury of self-indulgence, but rather a necessary reprieve to provide balance to the otherwise very extroverted mode of being. I am at heart an introvert. Being alone is where I regroup and find the grounding to send me back out into the world of people.

On this particular night, I wrapped up my soak time just as the pool time hours ended. I gathered my belongings and started to walk out. As I was about to exit the pool area the woman who had been in the hot tub across from me with her husband, was walking out and we both exchanged smiles and musings along the lines of “have a good evening”. Then as I was half way through the door she turned back to me again and said “By the way, it was so fun to see you reading your book and at one point quietly slide into laughter. What a fun moment to witness.” I smiled and mentioned something along the lines of it being a hilarious book and worth the read. She seemed uninterested in the book, the title or more information of its nature. She just repeated “it was a fun moment to witness.”

As I walked toward my car I kept repeating back what she had said and found myself smiling at her observation of me. I couldn’t help but share the exchange with a girlfriend, commenting that I was taken back by her genuine reaction to seeing me quietly laugh. I don’t know this woman, nor do I know what made her catch that moment in such a way that made her share it with me, but I couldn’t help but feel some small sense of connection with this perfect stranger. Our exchange reminded me that we need more of these moments of authenticity. We need shared moments of meaningful interaction with perfect strangers, that leave us feeling connected. I was reminded of a fact that I often find myself preaching to my clients; that we need others.

So tonight, I wanted to capture that moment and share this moment with all of you. Perhaps we are in need of a reminder that there is connection in small moments, albeit fleeting and seemingly small or insignificant, shared moments that leads to a smile and a genuine sense of human connection.

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Swimming at night

Two weeks ago I was in a car accident. An accident that I was at fault for. It took me a few days before I was able to talk about it. I have learned that I do not deal with failure well. This to me was failure. Though I made it many years into my life before an accident, causing one felt unforgivable in the moment. I wanted to rewind and undo what had been done by my absence of presence in the moment. I wanted to be able to share a story where I “almost ran into someone” when I wasn’t paying attention. Not that I did check out for a brief moment only to be jolted back into reality as I smacked into another vehicle.

I was ashamed. I spiraled a little for a day or two. Asking questions like “what kind of person runs into another person?” “What if I had hurt someone?” “What if my daughter had been in the car?” “Do I have to admit to others that I was taking such a license worthy task and treating it cavalierly by barely paying attention?” “Why on earth was I so absent minded and distracted, how embarrassing?!” The questions went on and on. Sleep was lost. Headaches ensued. Back spasms and sciatic nerve pain crept in and threatened my comfortable and quiet life.

Life kept going. Despite my emotional and physical setbacks, life resumed immediately. There were clients to see, errands to run, a toddler to nurture and life to engage. However I felt stunted. Blocked. Jilted. Damaged.

I needed a moment to collect myself. A few moments perhaps. I needed to own my mistake. I needed to own my absent mindedness and I needed to reflect on what needed to change. Because something needed to change.

For starters, the phone needed to move to airplane mode and be relegated to the glove box where it belongs. I need to be where I am, paying attention, eyes fixed, not checking a map, listening for reminders or answering calls. Multitasking at stop signs and lights or traffic jams needs to no longer be an option. How stupid to ever think any of these items were acceptable while controlling the wheel of a 1 ton steel vehicle capable of murder.

Secondly. I need more sleep. I max out my days. I qualify all of my hours. I quantify its meaning and purpose and I push on the gas. Breaks are more for crisis. Not slowing for necessary cautions and road blocks. I heed little to warning signs. I have things to do and little time or attention for long pause or reprieve. Perhaps some realities smack hard and leave bruises in order to get their message across…

Thirdly, I need solo time. Time by myself. To think. To be creative. To write. To breathe. Alone. A rare luxury with a 3yo and a thriving private practice. I needed a reminder that this is not a luxury for me, but an ingredient to a stable and grounded life. Without it I become flighty, distracted, irritable and stupid.

Fourthly, holistic health. By this I do not simply mean exercise and less sugar or caffeine. I mean whole body wellness. I have been a runner since I was 12. A yogi since I was 23 and an all around cardio junkie since at least 16. I love exercise. I need exercise. But I also need wellness. Presence of mind, relaxation, mental clarity. These requires rest and restoration. Meaning to restore. Time set aside to restore health. A chance for muscles to actual stop contracting in some form or another, and for anxiety and cortisol to stop dripping like a life line into my veins.

Lastly but nothing of lesser value than the others, I need my soul to feel nourished and fed. To take time to find inspiration, to dig into the recesses for purpose and meaning, to reach out and reach up for strength and stamina and a renewed sense of why I do it all… As a mom, as a business owner, as a wife, as a daughter, as a sister, as a friend…. What keeps me going, giving, believing, receiving… To connect with this resource, to be still and know, to find focus and purpose I must prioritize my time.

This past week I took a few days off. I put on the brakes. I quieted the cell phone, turned off the tv, put away my laptop and made no plans. I went to bed earlier, I got up earlier, I picked up a book or two, I opened my journal, I paused… And believe it or not I found the greatest gift, and it just so happened to be swimming at night. I am not a swimmer, i’ve never been good at it, but i’ve always wanted to be. Between back spams and nerve pain and ongoing headaches, I found my way to the hot tub multiple nights in a row and while I was there I found myself slowly doing laps in the gently heated pool next to it.

One night, on my back, most of my body and head under water, slowly crawling through the water with a backstroke, i looked up at the sky and locked gaze with the clouds and single star amidst and for a brief moment I totally lost all space and time and I believe i found what it means to be restored. Perhaps it won’t surprise anyone who knows me, that i found my rest and restoration while in motion… but i was awestruck and filled with gratitude. Who would have known that swimming at night, under the stars and clouds could provide such a deep sense of reprieve, of purpose, of poise, perhaps of grace.

I have found my way to the pool again multiple times this week, renewing my commitment to intentionally pausing, to slowing down, to making time for stillness and quiet and less commotion. No doubt I do not always find just what i’m hoping for, but I do find a renewed belief in myself to begin again, to start fresh and to be intentional about how I spend my moments, the precious and the many…

Be Patient while you Relax

A dear friend of mine shared this thought with me earlier this week “Be patient with yourself while you relax.” It was almost as though my left-brain did not know what to do with such an instruction. It took some deliberate pausing on my part, to let it sink in. I felt that this recommendation was challenging on multiple fronts. The first being the concept of patience in general, as it would appear to be a long lost skill within our culture at large. The second being the concept of patience with one’s self. Perhaps there are many of you far more developed than I, however in my honest disclosure, patience with myself is a not a strong suit. Lastly, the concept of relaxing is one which awakens my curiosity while simultaneously invoking shock and awe.

I do not relax easily nor do I relax often. Let alone have the ability to be patient with myself while I relax. The concept feels all together foreign that one could be patient while simultaneously experiencing relaxation.

Relaxing is one of those luxuries that I have not been able to afford, or so I have believed for the majority of my life. I am a goal oriented, focus driven, and type A woman. These are some of my greatest strengths and coinciding weakest points of character.

I love to read. I wish that I had more time to read and I guilt myself often. I judge for my lack of discipline in many areas of my life, noting how much time I waste on the internet, browsing articles, facebook, pinterest, craiglist, TED talks, NPR updates and the weather. The irony is that I am always reading something, start a new book multiple times a month and attend professional seminars and lectures and go after certifications quarterly. I am voracious in my search for knowledge. Some have even said that I do not have an off button.

I am a multi-tasker at heart. On a day off I often listen to a podcast while doing the dishes. I start a load of laundry, vacuum my floors, then write a paragraph for a blog post or email, then change the sheets on my daughters bed, then close the windows to avoid afternoon heat. Sometimes I step outside to water a couple plants only to return inside and transfer a load of laundry and start another, then mop my floors and eventually sit down to read half a chapter in a book I’m really interested in. It is very natural for me to be in motion.

If you could watch a video of my buzzing around my house like a bee pollinating all the plants in a yard, you would think “wow, she’s so busy,” and indeed I am. I get a lot done and I am continuously striving for something. Professionally and personally I know how to apply my foot to the gas. The problem is that I struggle with utilizing my brake. It appears that I easily get into my routine and start moving and the momentum carries itself and I simply don’t stop until I collapse at the end of the day, too exhausted to do even one more item on the to do list. Then wake to do it all over again the next day.

“Be patient with yourself while you relax.” It echoes through my mind, it resonates in my soul. What could the practice of patience give me? How could a daily dose of acceptance and practicing patience change my way of living? If I were to make the conscious choice to pause, to insert moments of stillness into my days, into my weeks, into my months, how would it change me? Could I become someone who was patient? Could I become someone content with what is, and what is not? Could I become a softer, more relaxed me, and still maintain the courage and drive and endurance I want? These questions, these ponderings, are what fill my quietest moments.

My moments of quiet are few and far between. I have a 2.3 year old daughter. I am told that she is “busy.” She just started Montessori school this past week and already I am hearing comments of “she’s so well adapted, talkative, engaging and such a busy little girl.” I smile at them. She is my daughter. They may not know me, But I know enough to know that she comes by these traits pretty honestly. Those who know her better and feel comfortable sharing will say “she is very strong willed” or “wow, she has a lot of personality” and “that girl is a force to be reckoned with.” Again, I smile. I nod in agreement. This girl has been blessed and cursed with a passion for living life to its fullest, never missing a beat and going about it with a strong sense of self. I have already begun to prepare myself for pre-teens. Visions of lengthy and emotion filled conversations dance in my head… “a force to be reckoned with…” A beautiful, unique, intelligent, vivacious, full of life vessel, just waiting for guidance and acceptance as she grows.

Words cannot adequately express how imperative it is to me that I discover a way to be patient with myself while I relax. In the rare moments where I am able to be still and sink into my own skin, my own thoughts, and feel a sense of peace about it all, I am awe struck and immediately begin to craft in my mind how to create more of this in my life. This is a gift that I will seek to not only exemplify for my daughter, but also seek to instill as a need and ultimately a survival skill, not a frivolous luxury.

I will seek peace. I will seek stillness. I will create space for relaxing. I will practice patience. I will cultivate this life giving, life sustaining practice. It will be my lifeline. And I will be patient with myself in this process.

Duck Crossing

duck crossing road sign yellow warning reflection balance poise psychology

I have mentioned it before, but we have a duck pond near our home that we walk by each day on our walk. We often pause to watch the ducks swimming or waddling down the path. The street that runs past the park is a 35 mile an hour speed zone, not uncommon for a residential setting. Within the past year a new health club has gone up across from the duck pond and park, and with it has brought a fair amount of additional traffic flow down our little two lane road. We have signs posted on either side of the road indicating duck crossing in this area, alerting people to the potential flow of small bird families going from one side to the other.

We have lived here a few years now and drive this road multiple times a day, but this week as I went for a run with my daughter and we paused just down from the pond, to see approximately 8 cars lined up on one side of the road and about 4 or 5 on the other, just patiently waiting for this little family of ducks to make their way to the other side of the road safely. Mama duck was leading, 5 little ducklings followed and Daddy duck was bringing up the rear a couple feet behind. And here on our busied street, with people coming and going from their homes to work, and to the gym to workout etc… everyone had come to a stop and patiently waited, for what seemed to be actual minutes as those ducks meandered slowly across the road, not a care or worry about them.

In all honesty it brought back a little ray of hope for us as a culture as I witnessed the care that was being taken to provide a safe passage way for these little ducks that decided they wanted to cross the road, during one of the busiest times of the day. People were likely not expecting a delay and for the most part I’m sure were hoping that the ducks could speed up a little, as I did hear a horn or two honk in high hopes, but to their dismay, the ducks carried on at their own pace until they reached the other side and then traffic flow was able to resume.  But the simple fact that people cared enough to slow and even stop, to be aware enough of their surroundings that they saw the ducks crossing the road, to be mindful enough to alter their course, even for a few short moments… It made me realize that there is still some value left in our community, and that there is enough compassion that we care about a little duck family.

So much of the time we are so busied and worried and flitting about that we don’t even make eye contact with our own fellow human beings, let alone acknowledge a small animal on the road.

In my larger quest for balance and ongoing challenge to be more mindful of the world around me, I appreciated this very candid moment to remind myself that it is possible, even in today’s culture and with all our to do’s and business, to stop for a duck crossing.

Holistic Wellness

I have been thinking a lot about optimal health and holistic wellness, both of which seem to have become popular buzz phrases as of late. Unfortunately, though we hear these phrases often, and even talk about them, we often fail to strive to become them.

In looking at popular definitions of wellness we see the following:

  • well.ness (wel’nes) Optimal physical and mental health.
  • well·ness noun \ˈwel-nəs\ : the quality or state of being in good health especially as an actively sought goal <lifestyles that promote wellness>
  • Wellness is considered to be an active process of becoming aware of and learning to make choices (healthy choices) that lead toward a longer and more successful existence.    
  • well·ness [wel-nis] noun the quality or state of being healthy in body and mind, especially as the result of deliberate effort.
  • well·ness [wel-nis] n.The condition of good physical and mental health, especially when maintained by proper diet, exercise, and habits.
There is a predominant theme that stands out in each of these definitions, which is that “wellness” is not simply attained, but rather sought after and then maintained through ongoing effort… We do not stumble upon wellness, nor are we simply gifted with wellness, but rather we strive for and actively participate in creating wellness.
So what is Holistic about wellness?
To understand holistic, we must define the word holism. To be whole we must acknowledge the parts. The system as a whole determines in an important way how the parts behave. Aristotle best summarizes this as “The whole is more than the sum of its parts”.
Holistic Health is the balance between all aspects of life – social, physical, spiritual and emotional. It impacts on how we manage our surroundings and make choices in our lives – clearly it is an integral part of our overall health. (as described by the american psychological association)
If holistic wellness involves intentional action to be obtained, and the goal is to seek overall balance; both in physical, emotional, social, spiritual, intellectual, and environmental, then i will propose that we are to be actively and very presently pursuing integrated and collateral balance. Where does one begin this journey? Perhaps that is unique to each of us as individuals.
Look at those six areas of holistic health; physical  emotional, social, spiritual, intellectual and environmental. What area needs the most attention in your life? What area feels the strongest and can therefore inform the other areas how to become stronger? Do you put a lot into physical health, exercising and being mindful nutritionally, yet create very little time or space for your emotional well-being? Or are you a very social individual with lots of close connections in your community, while neglecting the importance of your spiritual growth/development? We all have our strengths and we all have our weaknesses.
This week, what would it look like to identify a strength to build even further upon, and name a weakness to begin strengthening from the ground up? Could this be the first step toward holistic health?
We are whole beings, with many intricate parts, and when we neglect even one part of who we are, the whole being becomes off balance. Honor your whole self today, in your own unique way as you begin to seek Holistic Health.