This past Monday night, I was graciously asked to speak at the Real Life Book Club meeting hosted by Susannah Campora. Her group of dynamic Denver women are currently reading Brené Brown’s The Gifts of Imperfection, and Susannah felt my work was very much akin to Brené’s and, therefore, it would be great to connect with the group.
I wanna be Brené Brown when I grow up, so to say that I was thrilled to hear 1. I in any way, shape, or form reminded Susannah of Brené Brown or her work and 2. That I was invited into the fold of such a great group, would be an understatement.
To open up with the vulnerability that Brené Brown emphasizes as so important, I shared a little about my story – to include the variety of obstacles and challenges I’ve faced, as well as a bit about how I’ve overcome them and what I’m doing now – but the follow up questions were some of the most thought-provoking I’ve been asked in such a setting. I did my best to answer mindfully and with the intent to be helpful. Different grounding exercises, breath work, mantras, and insights were shared. When I got home, though, my mind and heart were still racing. The Q&A had just scratched the surface, and there was more I wanted to both share with these women and hear from them. Although we dug deep in a short amount of time, alas, this blog post must suffice as further explanation for now 🙂
I shared that meditation has been a critical component of continued health for me, and that yoga and faith saved my life on my second deployment and continue to do so to this day. In a nutshell (forgive me, I’m paraphrasing), though, they wanted to know “Ok, but what do you do when your to-do list is longer than you have hours in the day to complete it? How do you stay calm in the middle of chaos?”
Basically, how else do I find stillness (besides yoga and meditation at set times of the day) when I am in the midst of proverbial shit storm? (More on proverbial shit storms and how to handle them can be found here.) How do you find stillness when your parents are coming, you need to clean the house, the kids need to be picked up, you need to work out, you still haven’t meditated today, and your to-do list gets longer the more you look at it?
I’ll tell you what I do: a thousand little things, different things, each and every day, to create stillness, calmness, clarity, and focus as part of my life instead of as another “to-do.” This is not a complete list, but here you go:
- Mindful eating – ie: not looking at my phone, watching TV, or driving while eating. Breathe between bites.
- Reducing clutter – ie: I like to maintain keepsakes. Getting rid of what I don’t really need, but that which I’m still clinging to, is immensely liberating, though. Keep a basically tidy living space. Donate things you don’t use anymore. Reduce impulse buying.
- NOT multi tasking – ie: More focus – less multitasking – so that I cultivate calmness in little ways all throughout the day instead of feeling like I’m always doing 7 things at once. Put my phone away when I drive, write when I write (instead of simultaneously checking email), walk my dog at the park without having my phone on me, read without music or TV on, etc
- Finding stillness in little moments like deep breathing at a stoplight (instead of checking my phone), mindful eating (mentioned above), having quiet time in the car (and not always having the radio on), and giving myself grace when I make mistakes.
- Breathe – no seriously, breathe. Mindfully. Like, pay attention to how I’m breathing! “Every breath comes from a state of grace.” Ie: I catch myself holding my breath when I send emails, and when I do, in that moment I pause and take a couple deep breaths.
- Give gratitude (especially in the tough moments) – GET SPECIFIC. Not just “I’m grateful for my husband,” but “I’m grateful that my husband makes coffee every morning, snuggles my dog as much as I do, and makes fabulous dinners full of love and nourishment.” Keep a journal and jot three specific things down first thing in the morning and last thing at night.
- SIMPLE self care – ie: I use a tongue scraper every night after I brush my teeth, put some lavender on my pillow before bedtime, or drink a big glass of water first thing in the morning. Some days, my tongue scraper is the only good thing I do for myself and I feel pretty good about it! ;-p
- Do mini brain trainings – ie: practice alternate nostril breathing, brush my teeth with my nondominant hand, or cross my arms and legs when I meditate.
- Honor better boundaries – ie: Charge my phone in the other room so I’m not tempted to answer it after 9pm. Don’t answer every email immediately. Don’t offer to sub every available yoga class that I can. When possible, set work hours that allow me to spend time with friends and family (quite challenging as an entrepreneur but soooo important!) instead of working all day every day.
- Take more breaks. Ie: Mid-afternoon walks, mid-week snowboard trips, eating lunch outside whenever possible, or one minute meditation breaks during the work day.
- Dumping bullshit claims like, “But I’m a perfectionist.” Really? Get over yourself, Sarah. Who are you to think you can do or make anything “perfect?” Seriously.
- Humility without harshness – lovingly remain open to knowing I will never know it all. This is akin the lie of perfectionism – “I can’t do x until it’s perfect.” That’s like saying, “I can’t teach x, or share about x, until I know everything about x.” I’ll never know everything about x. Strive for excellence; release the lie of perfect. Be open to learning more from a place of curiosity and joy.
- Realize that everything is not so-oooooo important. It just isn’t. I pause and consider what would really happen if I didn’t get it all done. Metaphorically, don’t be the parent that freaks out about everything and have a kid that never takes you seriously; then when a real emergency happens, the kid doesn’t respond because he’s tuned you out after all your freak outs. There’s no prioritization or scale in place in order to process what’s happening. When we are constantly in panic/stress/get-everything-done-or-else-I-am-lesser-of-a-human-being mode, we disable our appropriate response systems.
- CHOICE – We have more choice than we give ourselves credit for. Ie: Do I need to put all this on my plate? Sometimes, I do really need to; certainly, there are some tasks that are non-negotiable. (Don’t leave your kids at school!) And other times (most times) I don’t “need” to put it all on there. Ie: I’m on a break. I want to get my next book done. Do I really NEED to do that? What would happen if I didn’t? Would I actually get “more “ out of life by giving myself more time to play right now?
- Prioritize – Allowing myself to feel “reward” for the small things and breaking more and more free from “I must do it ALL all today.”
- Be willing to ask myself hard questions – ie: what do I hook to? What am I attached to? What am I dependent on?…and what can I let go of?
- Stop apologizing so much – Ie: either stop doing things that require you to apologize, or say something more appropriate like “pardon me” when you bump into someone at the store on accident. No need to preface everything we say with an “I’m sorry, but…” Say what you mean, and mean what you say. Treat others as you would like to be treated.
- The less I judge others, the less I feel judged …and the less judgmental I feel and act, the less stressed I feel and act. – i.e.: I might take a yoga class from someone who doesn’t “rock my world.” Oh well. I choose to believe that that was the class I was supposed to have, that day, that moment, that way. I don’t internally criticize and berate said teacher for not being “awesome.” I choose to be thankful that I got what I needed. And as I practice being more graceful in my opinions of others, I worry less about being judged and have a much lower sense of anxiety about all things potentially performance-related like speaking, teaching, and writing. I fret less before, during, and after because as I am kinder to others, I am kinder to myself, and vice versa. Kind of a chicken or the egg type situation. 😉
- I try to remember and live out the principle that a life well-lived is life well-integrated. i.e.: As I align my thoughts and actions with my core character traits and beliefs, my life becomes more easeful. The specifics of my tasks may change day to day, but the core mission that drives me, remains the same. I don’t see “working out” as a separate task to be checked off my list; I see “movement” and “fresh air” as critical to my well-being, efficiency of thought, and breadth of creativity and compassion. The more in synch my life is, the less have to “work” to get things done.
This is not yet another list, of which if you do not do all 19 things on it, you are to feel like less of a human being for it. PICK THREE. Heck, PICK ONE and start there! When that works for you, and becomes something second nature, pick another.
Basically, I cultivate calm wherever I can, so that when things get crazy, I have a foundation from which to operate with some semblance of ease and clarity. The second E in SEMPER stands for always being ENGAGED. I do my best to cultivate engaged presence in each moment that I can.
Let love, let go.
Let go, let God.
Align and shine.
And just roll with it! 🙂
- If you’d like to work with me one-on-one, please peruse my coaching page, or scope out my next kick-ass retreat in Costa Rica, June 20-26, 2015.
* Unfortunately, due to repeatedly poor service from my web server (not my designer or developer) Invortex LLC, the original posting of this blog has been lost along with all shares, likes, and comments. Many thanks to those of you who already took the time to post comments and share with friends and family. Thank you, Sarah 3 January 2014