Many Doors, One Sanctuary: 10 Doors to Active Wellbeing: Doorway # 2

When my kids were quite young (6 and 2) their father and I decided to take them for a short camping trip.  We choose a campground that was on the outskirts of Moncton, NB, involving only a couple of hours of traveling – not too far away for this first expedition.  We bought a tent, gathered our camping gear, packed the two of them, toys and car seats and blankets and food all, into our red Bronco II and headed for the campground.

Our afternoon was full of fun and games.  The children enjoyed the playground and splashed in the pool.  Supper went well, everyone was hungry and everything, even canned Irish Stew, tasted better outdoors.

When it was time for bed we took the children into the tent, wrapped them in their special blankies, and began our evening sleepytime ritual.  Our plan was to get the kids to sleep and sit around the fire for a couple of hours.

That is when my son announced, Okay, let’s go home now.

No, Mike, we are going to sleep here.  But where’s my bed?  

You have your blankets and your pillow, try to go to sleep.  But I need my night light.

Okay, let’s read a story (I get out the flashlight to read the book).  But Mommy, I can’t go to sleep here.

Nobody slept that night.  We were waiting – tent, and camping gear and kids and toys and car seats and blankets and food all, in our red Bronco II, in the parking lot of MacDonalds as the morning staff arrived to open the doors for breakfast at 6am.

Creating Sanctuary…

What is my point?  Well, by now, I think our patience with physical distancing is wearing thin.  Having time off work is old news.  Watching tv and surfing the net is getting boring.  We are well-rested and (at least for some of us) our house is cleaner than it has ever been.  Pets are so well attended to that even they are wondering when we are going to leave.

As this crisis creeps closer to home, we are beginning to become restless.  We need to get outside but are afraid of what waits for us there.  We must get groceries.  Some of us must have medications.  Kids are beginning to whine and fight for recreation.

Even those of us who identify as introverts are becoming a tad bug-eyed…

We want to go back to the way things used to be.

Here is how I see the difference:

It is different when we choose to stay inside.  It is different when we consider our home a retreat from the world, not a fortress against the world.

We feel like we are a boat without a rudder, floating along on an unknown sea, and we are reaching the point where the growing wave in front of the bow begins to break.

When will I be able to go back to work?  How will I pay my bills if this goes on much longer?  Holy crap, what if my company goes under?  Or my investments go down the toilet?  Should I take the kids outside to play?  My mom is in a nursing home alone.  This virus has no cure…

When the going gets tough, the tough get going…

This pandemic is a serious threat.  If we don’t practice physical distancing and adhere to the protocols as outlined by the Center for Disease Control and the World Health Organization, more will die.  This is not a possibility, it is a probability.  It is wise to be deeply concerned and to act like we are contagious and don’t want to spread this virus to anyone else.

Creating a home Sanctuary means providing an oasis of wellbeing for us and our families.  This is a dedicated practice for a peaceful warrior.  We become relentless in our pursuit of peace.  We practice with the 5P’s in mind:  Fearless faith, focus, and fortitude.

It involves active engagement, nurturing the body, mind, spirit.  It involves opening doorway #2 that leads to enhancing our immune systems and mitigating stress through conscious, healthy consumption.  Open the door and discover the good things of life.

I invite you to consider these suggestions as you endeavor to fill your mind and spirit and body with good things:

2. Active Consumption

Media:  Perhaps it is time to limit our consumption of the news?  Remember the saying, If it bleeds, it leads…applies to media.  To back away from social media?  To stop reading about and joining in the discomfort of others?  To stop sharing complaints?  To actively use the wonders of our online connections to others to share what you know will give them a boost?  

Food:  Be strategic.  Shop for groceries once per week to lessen your chances of spreading this contagion.  Make a comprehensive list.  Pick foods that are high in nutrition and give you value for your money.

This is the perfect time to stretch your groceries out by eating less.  Practice the Japanese way of eating called Hara Hachi Bu.  This means eating until you are no longer hungry, not eating until you are full.  There is a world of difference.  In North America, we have been conditioned to eat until we can no longer eat another bite and believe this is beneficial.  All of the longest-lived societies in the world practice some form of calorie restriction.  This is part of the eating practices in what has been described as the SAD diet (Standard American Diet), which applies to all of North America.

Conversation:  This is the perfect time to Facetime with friends.  To meet on Zoom or Skype.  To share your support and encouragement with someone who is sheltering at home alone.  We need each other more than ever.  It always feels good to realize you are needed and you are loved.  This is the perfect time to give to others what you would love to have for yourself.

Reading:  Ebooks are a superb way to enlighten your mind and pass the time in an active, constructive manner.  Check out Audible.  Check out Youtube – many books and magazines are available for free online.

Next post will include thoughts on #3 Active Thought!  🙂

Stay well and keep spreadin’ the love, my friends!

 

Many Doors, One Sanctuary: 10 Doors to Active Wellbeing: Doorway # 1

A few years ago, I had a dream that I was standing in a hallway.  To the left and to the right there were a number of doors, and at the end of the hallway, one single door.

As I began to walk down the hall, I tried each door.  Some seemed to be locked.  Some weren’t locked but the knob didn’t seem to work.  And some, the most confusing ones of all…would open a crack but when I pushed on the door…the door pushed back.

That was the way with each one of the doors…except for the one at the end of the hall.  It opened easily.

As I stepped over the threshold, I found myself on a windswept beach.  It was night, but I could see the dark surf and hear the waves as they kissed the sand.

I began to walk down the beach and as I did, a man approached me and he said, “What are you doing?”

I stopped. “I was in there and tried all the doors,” I told him.  “They wouldn’t open, so I came out here.”

He shook his head.  “Go back inside and open those doors.”

“Okay,” I said, and as I turned to go back, the dream ended.

I have thought a lot about that dream – its possible meaning, and the ramifications for my life if I had stayed on that beach.  I could have played it safe and walked along beside the surf…perhaps never knowing lay beyond any of those closed doors.

What is behind Door #1, or #2, or #3, as Monty Hall would say on the game show Let’s Make a Deal.

Behind one door was a brand new car!; behind the others, goats..like nanny or billy goat.

But what happens when Monty Hall isn’t there and you have too many doors to choose from?  Which door do you choose first?

Living in the gap…

Between stimulus and response, there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom. – Viktor E. Frankl

It takes a fraction of a second for the information we receive through our senses to reach our brain.  We form our reaction with what seems to be the speed of light.  It is so fast that we may not detect it, but this space, or gap, is there.  It is the space of the observer.  It allows us time to consider our reaction and decide if it is worthy of sharing.  It is in the gap that we transform reaction into response.

This gap is accessible to all.

In order to access this space of thoughtful choice, of clear-eyed executive decision, we simply have to take the time.  To sit with our reaction for a few seconds longer than usual…to realize that it is there.  This breaks the cascade…the chain reaction that keeps us chained to fear-based habits and responses.   This is how we create an elegant inner Sanctuary.

In this space, we are invited to examine our thoughts and consider, as Buddhist teacher Tara Brach says, that our thoughts are just thoughts.  We don’t have to believe them.  There is a profound freedom in the understanding that we don’t have to believe our thoughts.

Thoughts are real but they aren’t true. – Tara Brach

We realize freedom through gentle, tender, consistent practice.  Repetitive gently flowing movement not only soothes the body, but it also soothes the mind.

The Way of a Peaceful Warrior…

As a peaceful warrior, I take a stand.  I will not be daunted by circumstances.  In the face of adversity, I survive.  In the aftermath of adversity, I thrive.

Our world has been catapulted into a new frontier, it seems.  During these tumultuous times, when everything is changing, our active engagement is needed more than ever.

What can we do when we are stuck inside, face to face with our fears and foes?  A peaceful warrior turns and faces their foe.  The hero of their own life, when everyone is running away from their discomfort, the peaceful warrior runs toward it.

When the going gets tough, the tough get going…

Active engagement is the solution to passive acquiescence.  We are giving in instead of giving up.  We are giving ourselves the qualities and companionship we need in order to weather this crisis…to not only survive but to thrive in spite of it.

The following 10 doorways offer us keys to activating our inner warrior.  In this new frontier, flexibility and adaptation are vital traveling companions.

Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way. – Viktor E. Frankl

Frankl’s brilliant observation was borne from extreme adversity.  It is wise to give it our attention.

We have a choice.  We can cultivate our personal resilience in the times when we can do nothing else.  Interestingly, we can realize the power of the human spirit best through adversity.

When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves. – Viktor E. Frankl

Active engagement.  What does it mean to you?  When circumstances require our active agreement regarding physical distancing and staying home as much as possible, to acknowledge the very real threat to our lives and the lives of those we care about…what can we do?

We can step through doors that open us up to a new frontier.  We can act in a manner that defines us as elegant beings.

  1. Active Relaxation

Active relaxation is truly wonderful!  It includes practices such as Qigong and Yoga.  These can be practiced in your living room, bedroom or anywhere that you have a few feet of space.  There are superb videos available for FREE on Youtube.  Here are two to get you started.  I love these videos and am so grateful for the skill of the instructors and the internet for making them available:

Qigong:

 

 

Yoga – I love Adriene!

Awaken the Artist Within

These are a perfect place to begin!  There are 9 more steps to living in the gap in this manner.  Over the next days, I will share more information and insight into each one.

2. Active Consumption

3. Active Thought

4. Activity!

5. Active Rest

6. Active Mothering

7. Active Fathering

8. Active Creativity

9. Active Connection

10. Active Community

Take care, friends, and stay healthy!

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Walk This Way?

Practice gratitude to feel gratitude. There is no other way.

You cannot give it service with your lips and expect to feel it in your heart.

Let’s ask a few interesting What if questions:

What if what you are talking about is what the Universe is giving you in return? Empty words devoid of feeling?

It is easy to read the wisdom books and memorize the correct terms. I have learned from experience that it is much easier to talk the talk than it is to walk the walk. Many times, when we say we know something it means that we understand it intellectually, but knowing something intellectually and actually living that way are two different things.

What if you substituted the word know as in I know what gratitude is, with the word live as in I live that way in everyday life…would the statement still be true for you?

This is what I mean – most people say they know what gratitude is, but do they really?

Intellectually I may know that gratitude means living with a grateful heart, but do I live my life with a grateful heart?

What if I am I pretending to be something I’m not?

People who live with a heart filled with gratitude practice gratitude every day, in every way they can. They know its true value.

They practice it so they can feel it. They share it so they can continue feeling it.

What if, in the words of Aerosmith, we were to Walk this way?

It’s A Beautiful Day

You are here now.

Enjoy what you have. Prepare for the future.  How often have we heard someone say that? Sometimes this seems like it can’t be done, right?

Or we worry that it can’t be done right. It’s all so damn confusing.

The interesting thing about the future is that it is formed from today. I have found that playing with this idea has given me insight.

When this picture was taken I was sitting on a rock looking out at this magnificent view. I had just hiked for 1.5 hrs to get here.

At this point, my destination wasn’t even in view. Baxter Peak was somewhere up there to the right. For the moment it was blocked by a stand of trees.

The trek had just begun. I still had hours of climbing ahead of me.

I had done my homework. My hiking boots sat on the ground beside me as I cooled my feet. I could feel the sweat on my back…I was warmed up and ready for the next leg of the hike. This path was almost straight up, climbing over the huge boulders that comprise the Cathedral trail on Mt. Katahdin, the northernmost mountain on the Appalachian Trail in Maine, USA.

I knew the path – I had climbed the Cathedral before. I had trained for this.

I had a map. My way was clear. The mountain beckoned!

I found myself feeling very grateful for the man sitting beside me. My husband, Mark. Without him, I would not be here. He is my rock on this climb.

Mark is my adventure buddy, my hiking, cycling, kayaking, and resistance training partner, and my 2nd husband.

Before we met in 2005, I did most of my adventuring alone. On that particular today, I once again choose him and he chooses me.

I am pleased because it is always today. It is my choice to have Mark in my life for every today.

I remember this moment this picture captures very well – the way the wind whispered through the trees…the fresh evergreen air…the exceptional brilliant blue-green of Chimney Pond…the small chipmunk that sat on a rock behind me begging for peanuts…and the camaraderie of the other hikers who were about to take this epic journey along with Mark and I.

These people would be in my life for a short time, not a long time. I may not remember each of their faces and I did not catch many of their names, but I value every step with every one of them.

People come into your life for a season and a reason. The season may be long or it may be short. Some seasons must end sooner than later and you must move on.

The reason may be clear or it may be obscure. Either way, you must search your heart and decide what reason you give it.

Whether it is a reason to travel with the one who chooses to be with you today for as long as feels natural to you both or to use your discomfort as an excuse to prolong or pre-empt the experience…this is your choice, as well.

You are wise to be considering your choices before acting.

If someone is truly holding you back…if they are discouraging you from living your best life…it may be time to move on.  I never would have found Mark, my adventure buddy on the road of life if I had chosen to remain stuck in my discomfort, resigned to adventuring alone.

However, keep in mind that the present is where you get to enjoy today. Consider the gift these people may be giving you by inviting you to enjoy not just the destination, but the journey as well.

Your mountain awaits…and today is a beautiful day.

Who’s Driving The Bus?

To be or not to be?   Why do we spend so much time searching for the reason for our existence?

We ask and the ego answers.

I consider the ego as psychologist Carl Jung described it – a mask, or persona, that we present to society. Things can get confusing when we take this persona too seriously.  We need our ego to negotiate the world, but things get tricky when we give it too much power.

The ego is always searching for a reason to exist. It needs constant confirmation that it is the most important part of a human being. If we accepted that we are living our ultimate purpose now – that we have come to life simply to live it and that life takes on the meaning we give it – we wouldn’t need our ego nearly as much.

Our fragile ego, defined and defended by our wounds and confusion, needs drama in order to survive. It is in our mask’s best interest to scream and defend itself.

This Art of War has been perfected by humans from the time that time began. Everyone we know has been trained in its tactics and strategies. Our lineage has taught us well.

Like with any other part of our human selves, offer your ego compassion. What a horrible way to live…always filled with dread, in the most basic, reptilian way. Your contempt makes it fight harder.

You see, it is perpetually terrified of one thing…its death. Keeping us freaked out about protecting it – for any reason other than the simple one – keeps us in fear mode – the only home the ego knows. It lives in fear.

I consider my identity in an artistic manner…it is mold-able and fluid, like clay. I invented myself, so I can reinvent myself. If I allow my mask to solidify that is when things get tricky. The key is to remain open and accepting of change, to go with the flow, and not take things too seriously.

Accepting that the ego is part of us, a poor driver that we allow to sit at the back of the bus, puts an end to war. It positions us above the battleground where we can understand the actual function of this part of us and not give it any more importance than is absolutely necessary.

Keep in mind that we have the choice of who drives the bus.

Plan Now to Optimize 100!

What is there to look forward to as one ages?  I have a plan. It even has a name – Optimize 100!

Femme Fierce!

I believe that keeping as fit as possible and maintaining optimum body weight at any age will pay dividends as one begins to wind down. Our ability to remain fit and active will be prolonged due to good management. This also means choosing sports and activities that minimize the chances of injury.

Regardless of how hard we train, there will be a point where we cannot hike as fast, or cycle as fast, or kayak or run or play badminton as well as we used to. Why not plan to work as hard as is necessary to maintain muscle mass and vitality for as long as possible?

Folks, let’s sit down…and lay down…when we have no other option!

If I am blessed to wake up on my 100th birthday relatively mobile and remembering who I am, I will consider it a plan well executed!

I will be 60 this July and still enjoy a high degree of agility and athleticism. I achieved a Black Belt in Taekwondo at age 42 and still enjoy active sports. We have just taken up squash. What a fast-paced, interesting game!  I am not very good at the moment…but that will change!

My husband is my training buddy.  This helps a lot.  If you don’t have a life partner who feels the same way you do about exercise, you can always find a training buddy at an athletic group.  I suggest joining a gym, or a hiking, cycling, or running group, etc. and get to know folks.

We resistance train regularly. We are avid hikers and regularly hike in the White Mountains in New Hampshire, and the Green Mountains in Vermont, USA. We have hiked Mt. Washington and many other mountains along the northern end of the Appalachian Trail, including Mt. Katahdin in Maine. This past October we hiked the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu in Peru. Our tour guide dubbed us The Speedy Llamas for a reason! We are enthusiastic cyclists (regular 50–60k rides).  We have taken cycling holidays that require a challenging level of fitness and have scheduled a cycling adventure in Tuscany in Oct 2020.

We also eat to optimize longevity. For more information on this subject, I suggest checking out The Blue Zones information.  This stuff is GOLD:

https://www.bluezones.com/

The Blue Zones Kitchen: 100 Recipes to Live to 100

Every day I wake up on this side of the grass is a beautiful day…

Looking forward to aging is a matter of mindset and preparation.

I live by what I call the 5′P’s – proper planning prevents poor performance.  Preparing for a long, active life means laying the groundwork now. There is no other time!

From my perspective, this means exercising my brain through continuous learning and creative endeavors. My second book, An Elegant Mind’s Handbook is scheduled to be published by DeVorss & Company in 2020.

Gnothi Seauton

It also means challenging the thoughts that threaten to sabotage my joie de vivre. I am very careful in what I declare that I am, but I am happy to say that I am a Contrarian. I question everything, most especially the source of my questions.

I mean, I was wrong once before….

It also means enjoying the moment and having fun! I am glad to act my age!  I plan on enjoying myself every day ‘til the end of my days. I am looking forward to the ride.

There is a woman who I believe to not only be an example of extreme resilience in extreme circumstances but, at age 91, Dr. Edith Eger is also one of the most brilliant examples of healthy aging I have ever found. She is and will continue to be, a shining star for me.

Home – Dr. Edith Eger

Forget The Good And Remember The Bad?

Human beings have a tendency to recognize and remember the threatening things in life because back in the day it could have been life-threatening.

The ancient part of our brain still gets triggered easily. If you consider criticism as being like the situation where Grog from the other tribe of cavemen began talking trash and was threatening to club your lights out…for real

Criticism = Grog’s club

You’d better remember Grog.

And failure as being like you zigging instead of zagging while being chased by a saber-toothed tiger and by your failure to outrun him (like those gazelles on nature shows) and you became his lunch…for real…you can see how this evolved.

Failure = You becoming lunch

You’d better remember that tiger.

We call it negativity bias.

The modern-day threat may not be to your life…it may not even be real in any way…but consider your body as being neutral. It responds to (and stores) the thoughts you give it.

Many of us live in a never-ending loop of threat assessment and fight or flight response. It takes on a life of its own by stealing ours.

This reaction is always a reaction to memories. Memories are recollections of past events…always.

Good thing we are no longer cavemen. We now know about negativity bias, and can act otherwise.

With other-wisdom.

Is the glass half empty?
Or is the glass half full?
But it’s a glass…isn’t a glass refillable?

And more important than any of these

keep in mind that there is more than one damn glass…

Check out this exceptional talk by social psychologist Alison Ledgerwood for further insight: