The Beauty of Simplicity

After a conversation yesterday about the complexities of life and the beauty of simplicity, I thought today was a perfect day for checking this one off my list. I have a list of blog topics that come to mind at random times and when there are no “pressing” topics for the day, I work my way through the list. My list contains topics that I find myself facing on a daily basis – random challenges specific to my experience, or delights which come out of them.

The beauty of simplicity is something I have learned from several sources in my life. Having grown up in the country, my siblings and I learned to amuse ourselves with nature and our imaginations rather than being bombarded by technology. Since then, my experience with a brain injury provided setbacks which in turn allowed for the development of a unique perspective – literally “dialing it back” as I learned to walk and talk again at the age of 16, acquiring more subtle social skills into my 20’s. I have come to a new appreciation of the efforts made to do seemingly “simple” tasks in life – things we take for granted. These tasks are important but often unaccounted for in the average persons life: planning meals, buying groceries, prioritizing time for a shower, brushing teeth, adequate driving time and sleep.

One of the techniques we are taught in learning to deal with our challenges is improved self-awareness. As mentioned in previous blogs, a more thorough self-awareness amounts to more effective life choices. I likened my teachings in cognitive behavioural therapy to the guided enlightenment of the yoga practice. I had been instructed to participate in yoga as a part of my physiotherapy program, however I found there were many many more psychological benefits as well.

There was something that my yoga teacher would say that has always stuck with me. She would encourage us to “notice what you notice” as we moved from one pose to another. She was literally teaching us how to be aware without actually saying so. She facilitated the awareness experience in a way that made it automatic after a few classes. And soon I found myself “noticing what I noticed” about everything in life – the colours of the world around me, the sense of alertness after a restful sleep, the crisp feeling and fresh smell of the air on a cold winters day.

All of those experiences bring my awareness back to the beauty of simplicity in life – the warmth of a genuine smile, the awe of a child learning a new skill, the appreciation of the sound of silence. Despite all of the challenges and frustrations in my life, I have come to use my awareness practice – recognizing and acknowledging the beauty of simplicity – to bring balance to my life. The neat thing about it is that the awareness allows for a more positive outlook and attitude which helps to actually enjoy the happenings in the day rather than just going through the motions. This inner joy brings meaning to life which then spills out and effects the happiness of others, which in turn reflects back! I find myself in a better mood, surrounded by positive, empowering people, and even more enlightening experiences. Simply put, it’s beautiful.

…this is my life…

Motivation

Today is a great day for a short discussion on motivation: it’s rainy, my eyes are heavy from a couple late nights chatting with a friend, and my list of chores at home just keeps getting longer with every passing day. This is the perfect equation for staying in bed, going back to sleep, and avoiding the inevitable. Instead, however, I chose to focus on the positive energy from simply being alive. If I pay attention enough to my body, I can get a sense for what it needs. Yesterday I woke up at 8am and ended up going back to sleep for two more hours. This morning, despite a little waking grogginess, my brain is awake and alert. So I’ve chosen to focus that energy toward completing a handful of things. It feels good.

And now I allow myself a short break.

This is how my days go. I find I can focus for about an hour at a time before I need to take a break – So that’s what I do. I channel the energy and alertness and I focus on one task until it’s done. Slowly but surely I find myself working through my “to do” list and feeling a sense of accomplishment as I cross things off my mental checklist.

But what is it, you say, that drives me or motivates me to do these things? I guess you could say it’s the sense of accomplishment itself that motivates me. That and having a specific goal and time frame. Just like anything – whether it be weight-loss, cleaning the house, acquiring a new skill, or organizing ones’ finances – setting specific goals that are specific and measurable, realistic and attainable is key to seeing progress which then continues to motivate us toward further progress.

This week, for instance, I have planned to have company on Saturday evening. That means I have to have my list of chores complete in a certain number of days. Now, working around the other plans of the week is where breaking things down into smaller goals is helpful. Prioritizing these tasks and their importance is another extremely useful tool in the process. What is the most pressing task? First things first – take care of the necessary before the optional. In this way, you are almost forced to focus your energy on realistic and attainable tasks.

I don’t consciously analyze each of my choices in a day anymore. It just happens naturally that I break down my bigger goals (ie cleaning my house) into smaller more manageable tasks and then specifically plan them into my day. It is a little bit of extra work as planning and organizing itself takes energy. However, now as I go along I am consciously aware of my progress and specific accomplishments on a smaller scale which then further motivates me to work toward the larger goal. In the end it is all worth it.

And one of the most important things I do as a part of this process which helps fuel the motivation is I allow myself breaks or a change of tasks. I know my brain is more efficient in the first hour of focus. So by taking a short break after that first hour, I can assure that the next hour is just as effective. This way I never feel too tired which would impede my motivation. In other circumstances this may look like an extra rest say in the work-out schedule, or changing tasks at work to keep the brain fresh. For me this week it means waiting an extra day to get the dishes started. But I did get the kitty litter changed, myself fed and showered to start my day, AND I wrote a blog! I’m on a roll!! ūüôā

Knowing our own needs in any given situation is the best thing we can do to help ourselves. Know when you need a break and allow for it. Know when you need to sleep and when you can push through the grogginess. And stay positive. Surround yourself with positive people, positive energy (upbeat music, motivational messages), and fill your mind with positive thoughts (acknowledge your accomplishments along the way, no matter how small, and remind yourself how great the end success will feel).

When your motivation comes from inside yourself, you take responsibility for your own success. And that’s exciting! You have the power in your hands – don’t let anyone tell you differently.

…this is my life…

The 3 P’s from Pastor Mark

Another crazy week…busy, focused, intense, exhausting. My mentoring partner teased this week that I was letting my blog-writing slip – and she’s right! But sometimes it’s just the way life goes. Survival is more of a priority “in the moment” than explaining my method of survival to the world. Lol

Today’s sermon at Church of The Rock was about the three “p’s” of living a life of faith: see from God’s perspective, allow for the expression of God’s power and be confident of His purpose for your life. I truly believe in this combination. Seeing the bigger picture helps prevent us from taking things personally and gives us daily motivation knowing we’re working toward a greater good. Allowing for the possibilities, avoiding putting God in a box, gives us access to a much greater power than we could ever know on our own. And along with both the perspective and possibilities comes the understanding and appreciation that this journey is actually a part of a much bigger purpose.

I truly believe that it is because of these three things that I have experienced such success in my journey. Because of them (perspective, power, and purpose) I can wake up every day being grateful – grateful for the journey itself, the people who are a part of it (both good and bad), and the destination to which it will bring me.

Sunday Morning Inspiration

Today’s inspiration comes from a video that my aunt posted on my Facebook recently. ¬†As humans, we need reminders. ¬†No matter what age we are or stage of life we’re in, sometimes it’s just good to hear a positive message again. ¬†In the midst of an overwhelmingly emotional moment, or even in a moment void of all emotion, reminders such as this one can unleash a flood of encouragement, affirmation, and inspiration all at once – which is just what we needed (often without knowing it).

I have heard and read Rick Warren‘s messages before, and I’ve heard and read about Nick¬†Vujicic before. ¬†Yet hearing this message again today had a special impact on my soul. ¬†Having been through and currently facing a lifetime of personal struggle, this message is incredibly refreshing. ¬†Though I have been equipped with many helpful strategies, and encouraged by many wise and loving people in my life, some days amidst an overwhelmingly emotional moment or a moment of incredibly clear awareness of reality, messages of hope are all that’s left to cling to. ¬†It’s not enough to cultivate gratitude in this moment, it’s not enough to be more in touch with “the fact of the matter”; what we sometimes need as physical, emotional, intellectual, and SPIRITUAL beings, is the blessing of HOPE that this is not all there is for us in life.

As a follower of Christ, and a genuine believer in a triune God, I know that there are better things to come. ¬†I know that that knowing is what gives me my purpose. ¬†The concept of hope is something that is not common in today’s world. ¬†The promise of something better, a “happy ending”, and the answer to a world of questions…it’s found in a life lived for a purpose greater than oneself. ¬†The pain and limitations of society are no match for what can be accomplished through the power of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross.

I give God all the glory. ¬†It is because of Him that I have made it to this moment today. ¬†It is because of Him that I don’t just make it through each day, but love each moment. ¬†And it is because of Him that I can already be grateful for whatever happens to me tomorrow.

…this is my life…

Gratitude

Gratitude – it’s a game changer. It’s amazing to me how I can be having the most emotional and overwhelming week, yet still somehow gain the perspective to turn my attitude around and “about-face” to step toward a more positive direction.

Yesterday was another overwhelming day back at my old job. Having been away for a month and a half attempting a different job altogether, I am back filling a more comfortable and familiar position that I literally helped create. There have been a ton of changes in that short time, though, plus there are processes and details that have been complicated due to errors left un-corrected. But they are all things within my power to fix, they are all details I am more than capable to look after. And THAT, that makes me grateful.

I am overwhelmed with gratitude today – grateful to have a job I love, with amazing clients, working for someone who has vision and direction and is very approachable. I am grateful to feel empowered through this position, with a sense of “mastery” or being good at what I do, entrusted with responsibility. I am grateful today to wake up filled with gratitude.

So that is today’s topic: gratitude. Do you wake up grateful every day? Why or why not? If you don’t know, perhaps it is time you do some personal inventory and figure it out. Our thinking dictates our feelings and actions. You can literally re-create your life through the process of affecting your thoughts. So what are you waiting for?

The best thing you can do is start small. If you’re anything like me, it is way too easy to get overwhelmed by a current state of negative emotion. So start by noticing the little things. Deal with each moment as it comes. And once per day think of one thing you are grateful for.

Over the years I have lived through days after which I couldn’t think of ONE positive thing for which to be grateful. My brain was just so focussed on the negative that I couldn’t see past it. So on those days I stuck to recording a gratitude journal with just one detail per day for which I was grateful (and some days I wasn’t even grateful to be alive, so even that was a stretch). Eventually that grew to a simple list of 3 things, and then 5 because I couldn’t contain the list. I think you see where this is going.

Even further down the line, my gratitude practice has become so big that I have days where I am literally overwhelmed with this new positive emotion. I’m sure my friends and family shake their heads some days as I gush with words of thanks and appreciation. I’m not just posting Facebook updates, I’m writing entire blogs about it! And my gratitude practice is so “accessible” now that I can literally change my entire mindset mid-day or mid-task simply by making conscious choices to be grateful, noticing the small things. It’s pretty cool.

Of course it doesn’t mean I’m not ever frustrated or sad or angry with life or the people in it – you’ve heard some of my daily struggles! But why dwell on those things? With a grateful heart, I’m glad I don’t have to.

…this is my life…

Emotional Girl

Another country song that depicts my life…imagine! This is one my dad has so lovingly associated with my personality. And all we can do is smile…because it’s so true. ūüôā

As I alluded in one of my recent posts, one of my “blessings” in life has been my increasingly emotional nature and heightened sense of awareness or empathy. I have always been a sensitive person, but it seems that since my injury and over the years I have become even more so. This doesn’t just mean that I cry at the drop of a hat – which I DO, but that’s not all. It means I have a heightened appreciation for life, a deeper sense of gratitude, a more passionate sense of justice on behalf of others, and unfortunately a more defensive sense of responsibility for my own emotions.

I have learned to own my emotions, acknowledge their reality, but not give them the power to run my life. Of course, they motivate my actions quite often, but through some cognitive behavioural techniques I try hard to live beyond and despite them. And you can bet no one will dictate how I “should” feel in any given situation without my adamant response.

So today I am feeling particularly emotional. Why? Probably because of my monthly hormonal changes, because of stresses at work, and because my best friend’s mom just passed away. Crazy how all of these details collide to promote a seemingly unmanageable moment or series of them. So instead of letting the emotion immobilize me, I cry, I write, I pray…and I clean myself up, get some fresh air, drink a cool glass of water, and focus my energies on this present moment. Controlled breathing makes a world of difference in calming a rapidly beating heart, the tight anxious feeling in my chest, and the sore muscles in my neck.

I am preparing to take on my day, and this is the routine I face. Add to that the planning and preparation of my meals, what I will wear, and any errands on my way to work, and my mind is already tired before I even leave the house! But all that matters is this moment. I’m going to finish my second cup of coffee for the day and then I’ll deal with the next moment.

This is how an emotional and anxious person makes it through the day…all the while smiling to make sure the positive energy is the more prevalent influence. ūüôā

…this is my life…

Making the “Impossible” Possible

Between the anxiety, borderline depression, an overwhelming mental/emotional fatigue and a body that aches all over, sometimes the days get to be too much. Sleep is intermittent, lack of routine and energy makes proper eating and exercise non-existent, and the will to do anything but lay here is gone.

Tomorrow will be a better day. The beginning of a new week and a fresh start in my “old” job will be just what I need to “get back on the horse” so to speak. I am very much looking forward to the familiarity and consistency – they are just what I need to feel a sense of “mastery” or accomplishment again. And I have really missed all my clients and co-workers.

But today is still today. And I find myself somewhat “stuck” in a negative mindset. In these moments it sometimes feels “impossible” for me to get past this, to get started at my cleaning – which is so desperately needed – or to finish the laundry and get it all put away. I know I will feel better once it’s done, but here I sit.

Today’s sermon talked about making the “impossible” possible with God’s help. I am always encouraged and motivated by the words of scripture. They breathe life and love into my tired, discouraged body. Even as I write about it I am already feeling a bit better in that I’ve got the dishes started in the dishwasher and I’ve had something to eat. Next will be a nap to supply the energy for some bigger tasks of laundry and cleaning.

The sermon this morning described Peter stepping out of the boat in faith. He’s the only human to successfully walk on water (even if it was just a few steps). That’s inspiring! But Peter was stepping out IN FAITH…knowing that if he responded to God’s call then God would provide the circumstances needed to get Peter there.

So, in much the same way, I’m living “by faith” these days. God brought me out of a coma, healed my seizures, and strengthened my mind and body to the point that I can work full-time and socialize like any other person out there. At one point in my life, as I lay in a hospital bed, hooked up to a million machines for life support, today’s reality seemed “impossible”. So I know I can trust that God will provide whatever support I need for this seemingly “impossible” moment. I just need to take the next step in faith.

…this is my life…