Minimalism

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The minimalist life is our new way of being. We moved from a 4 bedroom home to a 2 bedroom apartment almost two years ago, with the plan to live in the apartment for a year while we looked for a small garden home or condo. Then the pandemic happened and Rob and I have co-existed in our small little apartment since. One would think that might be a recipe for disaster. But it has actually been surprisingly easy. We have all of the creature comforts one needs in a home and nothing we don’t. After 30 years of home ownership, it feels like freedom. We have friends worried about their yards, their roofs, their home maintenance and we realize how easy we have it. The time we used to spend on home maintenance is now spent on other interests. And those interests are healthy, for the most part. Being outside, finding new recipes to try and exercise are things we have more time for now. There is no longer that feeling of needing to be doing something else. By de-cluttering our lives, we have brought ease to our minds.

I write about this because many of us do a Spring cleaning this time of year. Maybe you aren’t going as extreme as we have, but it’s possible to lighten your load in other ways.

Here are some minimalist ideas:

  • Check out your local library. When I see a book I’d like to read, I add to my request list. I have enough books on my list that I almost always have something new to read. It’s a great way to resist buying and it is very eco-friendly.
  • When you bring something new into your space, see if there is something that you can donate from your space.
  • Now that the worst days of the pandemic are behind us, is it really necessary to stockpile?
  • Shop resale stores.
  • Spend less time looking at ads, whether on tv, online or magazines. Seeing bright shiny things makes you want to buy bright shiny things.
  • Rather than gifting someone a material item, consider giving them a fun experience instead.
In the end, only three things matter:
How much you loved,
how gently you lived,
and how gracefully you let go of things not meant for you. 

Jack Kornfield

Coming Back

How does the country opening back up feel to you? For me, it feels like this adorable chipmunk whose image we captured on a bike ride the other day. As a collective, we are all emerging from our nests to see what it’s like out there now. How is your world different? Has the pandemic changed your approach to life, work, or how you manage relationships? It’s my hope that there has been a shift in our priorities. That we have learned that it’s ok to not be so busy in ways that aren’t fulfilling. And just maybe we have learned to be more compassionate towards our fellow man.

Happy Earth Day

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Summer Morning by Mary Oliver

Heart,
I implore you,
its time to come back
from the dark,

it's morning,
the hills are pink
and the roses
whatever they felt

in the valley of night
are opening now
their soft dresses,
their leaves

are shining.
Why are you laggard?
Sure you have seen this 
a thousand times,

which isn't half enough.
Let the world
have its way with you,
luminous as it is

with mystery
and pain~
graced as it is
with the ordinary.

Forgiveness

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“It’s not an easy journey, to get to a place where you forgive people. But it is such a powerful place, because it frees you.” Tyler Perry

Do you carry anger, resentment or hard feelings towards another? How does that really feel in you heart? Does the person you have these feelings toward even know how you are feeling? For me, all of this feels dark and heavy. It is not a feeling that is fun to carry around day-to-day.

To forgive is to have the chance to rewrite your own story. Do you really want the actions of others to define who you are? Of course the actions of others affect our lives. But do those people deserve to have a starring role in your own story? Forgiveness is not for the other person, it’s for you.

In my own life, I have had to do some major forgiving. It’s been one of the hardest things I’ve had to do. It’s much easier to linger in that angry, blaming place. That is the place where that person still resides in part of your psyche. Now, if it is a family member or a current friend, their presence in your life continues but that doesn’t mean their actions have stay in the forefront of your thoughts.

To keep the relationship, it means having to dive deep into other qualities about them that you love and embrace, all the while doing active forgiveness of the action that caused you pain. For me, it’s meant creating a mantra.

First, picture the person you are forgiving in your mind.

Then select a mantra…for example:

  • I love you and I forgive you
  • “Person’s name” I don’t like your actions yet I forgive you
  • I am freeing my heart of (this person’s)actions

In the times in my life when I have needed to forgive, I have chanted these mantras to myself when out for walks, or when I used to jog. People would wonder why I didn’t use headphones and listen to music while working out. Little did they know the work that was taking place as I exercised.

Active forgiveness can also be done during meditation, while you are driving, before you get out of bed in the morning or before you fall asleep at night. There is no timeline for active forgiveness. It could take a week, a month or even a year. The point is to take the time needed to take back ownership of your story, your life and your heart. You are worth the work of forgiveness. It is also important to take an inventory of your own actions. Have you done things that have created pain in other people’s hearts? It might be time to check in and see how your actions have resonated with those you love. We are all a work in progress and forgiveness is part of it.

“True forgiveness is when you can say ‘Thank you for that experience.”‘ Oprah Winfrey

Spring Haiku

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Feel Earth come alive
Spring is awakening now
Light blooms in the heart

Bees, bugs, baby goats
Nature is on full display
Soul finds its nourished

Flowers cover Earth
Sun begins to warm the skin
Life is roaring back

Luck

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For each petal on the shamrock.
This brings a wish your way
Good health, good luck, and happiness
For today and every day.
 
~Irish Blessing

What is Luck? We all have people in our lives that we consider lucky. What is it about them that gives off that aura? Many people believe that luck is when opportunity meets preparation, while others believe luck is more of a random occurrence. I think it is a little of both, plus how you view yourself and your life.

I watched a YouTube talk recently by Mel Robbins about positive affirmations and visualization. In this talk ,she refers to the recituclar activating system in our brains. It is a filter system that is programmed by you and the people who have had an impact on you. This filter can choose to embrace positive or negative beliefs. To improve this system, it is important to visualize what your life looks like when your self worth is improved. Then consciously think of what you will feel like in your daily life with this new vision. Will you be more likely to raise your hand in class? Will you be more likely to say yes to a new challenge? Will you feel lighter in your heart?

By changing the filter in your brain, also known as self-talk, you change the way you view yourself and your life. The brain doesn’t know the difference between what is real and imaginary. The more you visualize things in a positive way, the more confident you will feel. By visualizing positive outcomes your brain becomes reprogrammed. The science of luck says that lucky people make their luck by thinking optimistically.

Here are some ideas for cultivating more luck in your life from this Irish goat:

  • Each night before you fall asleep think of something good that happened that day. No matter how small it is, find something positive to reflect on.
  • Cultivate an attitude of gratitude throughout your day.
  • Believe that something amazing could happen at any moment.
  • Celebrate the success of others.

“When Irish Eyes Are Smiling, sure ’tis like a morn in spring. In the lilt of Irish laughter, you can hear the angels sing. When Irish hearts are happy, all the world seems bright and gay, And When Irish Eyes Are Smiling, sure, they steal your heart away.”

Lyric from “When Irish Eyes are Smiling” by Chauncey Olcott and Geo. Graff Jr.

Facets of Love

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It’s the season of love. It has me reflecting on my marriage and the brand new marriage of our daughter and son- in- law. The wedding was an exciting, heart warming, and at times a stressful event given the circumstances of the last year. That sounds a lot like a marriage. It makes me think of all the different kinds of love that are required in a marriage.

the love of compassion
the love of forgiveness
the love of support
the of desire
the love of steadfastness
the love of patience

Each of these kinds of love is like the facet of a diamond that might be required to shine more brightly at different times than another.

I have known each of these facets in my own marriage. I thought I loved my husband the day I married him. Now I know that I was embarking on a journey with a man that would stretch and pull and grow our hearts in so many ways, that now his heart feels a part of my heart. I could not know that day in June 1986 that I could love with such depth. He is my helpmate, my partner, my cheerleader, my soft place…and I believe I am those things for him. Life has given and continues to give us challenges, and we are fortunate to have taken these on together as a united force. Over time, we have relied on each of these facets of love to be what brings us together.

It is a joy to watch the newlyweds in their new married life. It has reminded me what it felt like to be newly married. It gives my heart hope. I wish them a life free of conflict and challenges, of course. But even more importantly, I wish them a lifetime of coming together when the chips are down. Of finding the right facet of love when life calls for it.

Happy Valentine’s Day to you. I hope your heart is full in this season of love.

Be Your Own Valentine

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It’s the season of love. Whether you are in a relationship or not, it’s important to be your own valentine. And this idea does not need to be limited to February. We are only able to love others in a healthy way when we nurture a loving relationship with ourselves.

Here are some self-care ideas that are free or don’t cost a lot of money:

  • Say “I love you” to yourself in the mirror three times with feeling ( I know, its weird at first but gets easier with repetition)
  • Drink more water
  • Buy yourself a bouquet
  • Light a candle or two or three
  • Get a mani/pedi
  • Spend time journaling
  • Be in nature
  • Take a bath
  • Meditate
  • Do restorative yoga
  • Make a favorite meal or even better make a nutritious spa meal
  • Spend time reading a book
  • Give yourself a facial
  • Take a nap
  • Call a friend
  • Make herbal tea in your favorite mug
  • Take a technology break for an hour, an afternoon, or the whole day
"You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection."  Buddha

The word “Hate”

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To hate is to have no love in your heart.

When our kids started to talk, we realized how repellant it was to us when words like ugly, stupid, dumb and hate came out of their little mouths. I am sure they can both remember us saying, “We don’t say those words, please choose a better word.”

These days we hear the word “hate” often. We live in very polarized times, and we are encouraged to hate those who are not like us, think differently from us, and make different choices than we would make. We are also quick to respond to anything that goes wrong with hatred toward the person responsible. Someone cuts off us off in traffic, they become a villain. Our order isn’t quite right and we spew awful words at the waiter. It’s as if our filter for our actions has a hole in it. Social media is certainly a driver of this trend. Unfortunately people can say whatever they want to someone online and not have the emotional consequence of seeing the hurt it causes that person.

What if, as a daily practice, we censored ourselves from even saying the word “hate” and erased it from our vocabulary? Then in turn encouraged others to do the same. What if it became a four-letter word for our kids? I know this sounds almost utopian, but it’s my belief that small changes can steamroll into bigger changes. Its like a pebble thrown into water, the small splash it makes widens into bigger and bigger rings unit it becomes a wave arriving at the shore.

Eleanor Roosevelt said, “If human beings can be trained for cruelty and greed and a belief in power which comes through hate and fear and force, certainly we can train equally well for greatness and mercy and the power of love which comes because of the strength of the good qualities to be found in the soul of every human being.”

I say we follow Eleanor’s lead.