A resolution of love

New Year

New Year

The L in ‘LUCK” stands for love and the complexity of this emotion is never lost on me.  Loving someone else is a natural process yet the idea of loving self become complicated, conditional, and at times unfeasible.  I wonder why it seems so natural to experience love for others and so unnatural to experience love for our own self?

When our friends make mistakes, we can rationalize their behavior and even experience compassion for them even when their actions may have directly impacted us.  However, we are unable to find that compassion and understanding for ourselves quickly, if at all, sometimes.  We hold ourselves to standards that can be impossible.  We judge ourselves constantly and compare what we ‘should’ be versus accepting exactly what we are in this moment.

Have we ever examined a relationship in our lives and thought, “if only they were perfect, had no flaws, and made no mistakes…I could love them more?”  So why in the world do we hold ourselves to an unattainable and undesirable standard?  Not only are we able to accept flaws and imperfections in others, but we find value in them.  Those are the traits that endear us to them and make them unique and full of character. We find tolerance through our experience of love for them.

I wonder what amazing things would happen if today we all started only one resolution….to simply love and accept ourselves completely as we are?  This is not to suggest that we can’t explore ways to become more aware or gain more understanding and knowledge of ourselves and acknowledge opportunities for continued growth.  It’s simply an invitation to accept that who we are at this very moment is worthy of love and that we don’t have to wait until we are ‘better’ to fully engage in self-love.

I fully believe that loving our self leads to a better sense of well-being, happiness, and peace which transcends into more peace, love, and happiness around us.  My resolution for this year?  More love.  Absolutely.

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Presence for Presents

Pile of gorgeous gifts

Pile of gorgeous gifts (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I love the holidays.  I love anything that brings people together and nurtures connection with each other.  Unfortunately, a by-product of all this connection is the much dreaded gift exchanges and holiday purchases that sometimes overshadow the spirit of the season. This post is created in the spirit of including some presence in the presents of the season.  🙂

Here’s the deal.  The best presents for people are rarely advertised on the front of a store ad.  There are not “limited quantities” of an honest expression of love and gratitude.  Yes, you can put objects in a package and tie a pretty bow around them, but when you are truly celebrating another person it is less like a chore and more like an opportunity.  An opportunity to express yourself and the meaning of your relationship and an opportunity to engage in a delightful experience of kindness.

The catch is that it may take more than a few minutes of late night online shopping to find a true reflection of all these things.  This is where the idea of presence comes in.  I’m not suggesting you spend hours in meditation to figure out the perfect gift.  But maybe spend a few minutes figuring out what each person likes, what words represent their personality, what activities do they enjoy, or what dream have they ever expressed to you?  Sometimes if you can just write down the person’s name and jot down the first 6-10 descriptors that come to mind when you think of that person…it could be helpful in you figuring out something that would truly celebrate who they are.

Another exploration of your presence is to reflect on something that you really want to share with people this holiday season.  What has inspired you lately?  What has made your heart sing?  Is there a way to share that with the people in your life?

Consider this an invitation for all of us to include a sense of presence for the presents we all buy/make and distribute this year.  This comes naturally to some people and not so naturally for others.  If you are needing a little inspiration to get your creative ideas flowing consider these strategies to incorporate presence this season:

-Gift an experience instead of just a ‘thing’.  This could be in the form of movie passes, a coupon for a painting class or workshop, or tickets to a musical concert.  Depending on the experience, maybe you can even share the experience with them!

-Gift positivity.  Create affirmations for your friends.  There are a ton of sites that include affirmations for all sorts of categories ranging from love, friendships, workplace, and spirituality.

-Gift inspiration (in the form of famous quotes, calendars, or photography).  Take your own photo and frame it or type up your favorite quote on cardstock.

-Gift music.  Burn a CD with your favorite songs from this year or something they may not normally listen to.

-Gift gratitude.  Make a gratitude jar/container.  Label it and create a starter kit for them.  If you are feeling particularly grateful, include notes of gratitude from you to them and place them in the jar for them to read later.

-Gift silly.  Create coupons for ‘night off from cooking/cleaning the kitchen.’ or “all day pass to watch sports on tv without complaint.’

-Gift practical.  If you know someone writes a lot, gift them notebooks and pens.  If you know someone who drinks tea every day, pick up a variety pack of flavors for them.

-Gift connection.  If you are missing someone, gift them cards with envelopes and stamps so you can stay connected.

-Gift your gifts.  If you make the best oatmeal raisin cookies ever…gift them to people along with your secret recipe.  This works for any food item that is your claim to fame.  🙂  Include an uplifting movie and you have a family gift ready to share.

Whatever you do….make it fun.  Make it goofy.  Make it real.  And make it personal.  Those are the things that make it meaningful.  Not only do I believe that is the true spirit of the holidays, but I believe it is the core of our spirit each and every day.

Wishing you peace, love, and good health this holiday season.

 

Apples and Oranges

“Comparison is the thief of joy”—Theodore Roosevelt.

You know the saying “that’s like comparing apples to oranges”?  When I was younger, it would always baffle me because I couldn’t understand why you would need to compare such similar objects.  But as a culture, that’s what we like to do…compare identical things and circumstances and then participate in an exercise in identifying as many differences as you can.

The problem is that when we do this with ourselves and with people in our life, then we start attaching value or worth to those differences.  Suddenly the apple is better than the orange, or the orange is more vibrant than the apple.  We must determine the hierarchy of differences and assume the most valued object.

Brene’ Brown talks about this phenomenon in her book The Gifts of Imperfection.  She refers to this idea of robbing ourselves from joy the second we start comparing to another person’s circumstances.  We get so caught up in this idea of who has what and who did what that we minimize, and sometimes even negate value to everything we have ever known.

The skill is not about training your brain to stop comparing.  After all, some comparisons can be incredibly useful and lead to great insights.  The skill is increasing your awareness of how those comparison’s impact your overall sense of well-being.  Here are examples of defeating comparison statements:

  •  “I could do X if only I had Y like my friend so and so.”
  •  “Oh, I’m having a bad day, but it’s nothing like what you’re going through…..”
  • “Yes, I’ve lost 10 pounds, but I still need to lose 5 more.”
  • “If I was making that much money, life would be so much better.”
  • “Things are not going so well, but I know they can always be worse.”

In each of the examples the actual situation is discounted through the act of comparison.  It’s a vehicle to find ways to account for something that is lacking or a desire for change without accountability.  It’s also a method to devalue something painful or uncomfortable.  They allow a rationale to escape the full experience of whatever is happening at that moment.

If we begin increasing our awareness of how often we get lost in this act of comparison then eventually it will lead to us to recognizing that we are enough exactly as we are at this moment.  There is still room to improve upon something or create space for change, but first embrace acceptance for the being that you are in this very moment.

Hold this thought….”You have everything you need.”  This isn’t some profound discovery.  It has always been true. Sure, go ahead, argue the fact.  I invite you to reflect on the purpose of trying to disprove it first.  I expect some people would go to the nth degree of literal here and say, “Wait, you need food…you need water, shelter..and so on.”  I will save the trouble and whole heartedly agree, and I will gently follow-up with the statement that the spirit of this concept is not to cause some great controversy.  It is to invite you to think about the purpose of comparison.  Is it to motivate you to do something greater with your life?  It is to inspire you to be better?  Or is it simply to give a louder voice to an inner critic that is often questioning your own value?  Because if we start comparing ourselves and highlighting some differences that lend to an illusion of value and worth; we become separate from others.  And when we spend more of our life in a state of being separate…we spend more time feeling disconnected, lonely, and ultimately less valued.

Here is a practice in the spirit of unity and well-being:  the next time you hear or experience a remarkable accomplishment, stroke of luck, or encounter a challenge or barrier to something; instead of going to that place of comparison simply experience the feeling that arises and emotions that follow and detach from the impulse to immediately file that away as better/worse/luckier/scarier/or any other ‘er’ word for your own life.  When we can be completely present in our lives without needing a comparison for ourselves or another person, it becomes a true way of honoring each other and maintain a connection without the expense of someone’s worth, especially our own.

It’s not about agreeing that an apple and an orange are different or even how they are similar…it’s about appreciating the apple just as it is and the orange for everything it has to offer.  When we can appreciate things and ourselves exactly as we are, something beautiful happens…we begin to feel more connected to others and ultimately more loved and valued.

If you’re going through a tough time, experiencing grievances, or simply having a bad day, own it.  If you’re doing well and enjoying success, own that.  If someone else succeeds, enjoy their happiness with them.  If they fail, support them.   Be accountable for your own situation without having to add some sort of disclaimer as to how it could be better or it could be worse.  Realize that everyone is on their own journey with their own obstacles, worries, and triumphs.  We are human.  We are all beautiful and complex.  And most of all, we are perfectly imperfect.

What’s on your ‘to-do’ list today?

Here’s the deal, we have a ton of stuff that is expected of us each and every day.  Some times it comes from our own internal ‘to-do’ lists and often it’s a mixture of responsibilities that come from work, family, and this thing we call life.  As I was working through my own tedious tasks today I couldn’t help but notice that none of my important items had to do with me, my well-being, or pretty much anything that made me feel light inside.  So I paused for a minute, jotted down a few things that I could (and would) do before my head hit the pillow tonight.

I list 21 items below but the idea is not to do them ALL today or maybe even all this week, but it’s a great start.  I simply wanted to write them down so I could work through a little every day.  It’s not an exhaustive list and I encourage you to add or adapt your own actions, but hopefully it will give you a nudge (if you need it) of inspiration to pause and pay special attention to your best resource, YOU!

Pick 1 or 2 or however many you think you can realistically do today and feel free to repeat the same list for tomorrow.  I truly hope and believe that any one of these actions would improve your overall sense of well-being, feeling of peace, or even relief (even for a just a moment).  I do offer a bit of explanation with a few of the items, but mostly that is for comical benefit.  I tend to use humor as a primary coping mechanism (hence, all the smiley faces all the time)!

  1. Smile. 🙂  See…it’s already working!
  2. Forgive yourself for something (could be for getting frustrated easily or maybe it’s just easing up some of that negative talk within your own head…)
  3. Hug yourself (or someone else). If you need instructions on hugging yourself:  take your left arm and place it on your right shoulder.  Then take your right arm, place it on your left shoulder.  Now squeeze.  I know, sounds silly, but works every time!
  4. Trust yourself.  If this seems too daunting, then start by asking yourself what it means to ‘trust yourself’.
  5. Write out a gratitude note.
  6. Replace a complaint with a positive statement.  Note:  the more you practice this one, the more you notice those around you who could use the practice!
  7. Slow down (yes, this is vague…it is supposed to be as only you know what that means for yourself.  Take it as literal as you like 🙂
  8. Hold the door open for the person behind you or perform any other random act of kindness.
  9. Say good morning (to everyone)!
  10. Tell someone you love them (this could be yourself as well….if you choose self, I recommend saying it in front of a mirror.  It has more impact when you see yourself saying it).
  11. Choose to be happy today (the whole day).
  12. Sit quietly for 5 minutes.  No talking, just listening.  Can be done with eyes open or closed, your choice.
  13. Embrace change.  Again, figure out what that means for you to ’embrace change’.
  14. Let go of something that no longer serves you.
  15. State a dream of yours out loud (doesn’t matter if anyone else hears it).
  16. Write out a definition of ‘love’ without using a dictionary.  Describe what it feels like, looks like, and how you know it exists.
  17. Practice patience.
  18. Stretch your body (arms, legs, whatever makes sense for you).
  19. Listen to your body (instead of a clock) to tell you when you are hungry and tired.
  20. Take 5 deep breaths.
  21. Smile.  Listed twice because it’s just that awesome!

Will these things change your life?  Probably not.  Will they lighten your heart? I surely hope so.  Be intentional today and move yourself and your well-being to the number one item on any of your ‘to-do’ lists!