Thursday, August 13, 2015

Mostly On Meditation


there's something especially peaceful about taking the time
to brew yourself a cup of French pressed coffee
Today started out normally enough. We got up a little late, but threw ourselves into the groove of things just as quick as ever. Before long Chuck was kissing the kids and I goodbye and heading off to work. This is the part of the day that has been most daunting to me lately. The part where I'm left home all alone with 2 little kids. Some days go a lot better than others, and some days I can't help by ask "What have I gotten myself into?!" The past couple days have been those kind of days.

(I feel like you should know that just as I finished writing that last sentence, Junia woke up and started crying for me. So I went and calmed her down and got her back to sleep - thankfully!)

So, about a half hour ago I tidied up the house, put some water in the kettle to boil up, and sat down to write this blog post. Nearly every single day I think of something new to write here. I think of experiences I have and how they would make such interesting stories, or lessons, or just relate-able things to tell about. And just about every single day, I can't muster the time or energy to sit and actually get them out here. But today I told myself that that's what I wanted to do, so it became important to me to make sure it got done. Then Junia woke. And I thought all my plans were out the window. Again. And then, lo and behold, she fell back to sleep! And now here I am again. I feel like I'm floundering, because as usual, when I start to write I have no idea where to start or even exactly what I want to say. Soooo...as usual again, I'll just start writing and see what comes. Usually it ends up being okay.

my healing stones/crystals after charging under the sun 
I've been feeling really, really incredible for the past 2 weeks. The reasons for that are pretty awesome, in my opinion. Since about February, I've been learning about yoga, mindfulness, meditation, prayer/blessing beads, etc. Thankfully people have been coming into my life that have been really helpful in exploring these areas. One of those people is one of my acupuncturists, Scott. He talked to me a lot about meditation and the effects that it has on you. And since I tend to be a rather anxious person (another thing I've recently learned about myself) I decided that I really needed to commit to daily meditation. Now, I had tried this once before, and my goal was 3 minutes a day. I couldn't do it. I felt lost, silly, and all I could concentrate on was watching the clock. So I gave up after about 5 days. This time though, I really really wanted to make this work, especially because I had finally had the chance to talk to someone in person about it.

I remember telling Scott "I just feel like I could do it if I was able to actually watch someone do it first, that way I have something to go off of." And Scott said "What are you going to learn about watching someone sit here like this for 20 minutes?" as he closed his eyes and sat still for a minute. "I guess nothing." I replied. "Right," he said. "You aren't meditating because you don't really want it. You're looking for excuses not to."

That right there really got me. He was right. And I was procrastinating.

So I decided to quit wallowing and get moving. I also decided that I wanted to make a specific space to practice meditating everyday, so I became proactive with that and created one.

a glimpse into my meditation altar
I gathered up a yoga block to sit on, I found my incense holder and bought some new incense, I gathered candles, a lighter, some healing stones and crystals, a set of prayer flags, Scripture cards, my blessing beads, and a handful of other pretty and meaningful things. I set them all up very beautifully, in a way that brought (and brings!) me joy and peace, relaxation and comfort.

Once I took the time to create a space that I loved to be in, it was time to start meditating. I downloaded a really handy timer app on my phone, and I set it for 4 minutes and 15 seconds. The 15 seconds are to give me time to get in a comfortable position, grab my stones, and make sure I'm ready. And then the 4 minutes I spend meditating. Sometimes I have an active conversation with God. But most times recently I've been meditating on the Jesus prayer. For some reason that is what keeps me most focused and concentrated. I have no complaints. I enjoy this particular prayer very much, and since it works so well for me, I'm planning to keep using it as my go-to.

My problem with daily meditation was that I really thought I didn't know how to do it. And before that, I thought that meditation was bad. I thought it was opening up your mind to let demons come in and take over. (I was sooo misinformed!) Once I took the time to start learning about meditation and talking to people who actively meditate, I realized that I didn't know much at all about it. So my first step was to learn more. So I talked to more people. I followed people on Instagram. I read articles. I got books.

And once I felt like I understood things a little better, and once Scott gave me the honest low-down on why I wasn't meditating already, I decided to start.

And I've seen incredible results even after only a couple days. I began to control my emotions better. I was more present. I discovered that I was capable of walking away from a stressful situation without getting upset about it. I began responding to people with kindness instead of spur-of-the-moment cockiness. I learned that I'm able to stop myself from sinking into a bad attitude.

When I realized that these were HUGE changes happening in my life, my very own life! I became even more convinced that this daily meditation was something I needed to make space for everyday. As a wife and busy mom of two beautiful toddlers, taking time for myself is a challenge. And for everyone this will be different. What I've found works best for me right now is taking time to meditate right after my shower in the morning. Chuck is still home and watching the kids, and since it's only 4 minutes, it's not a huge time commitment. (I'm planning on adding to that time in 1 minute increments, by the way.) I sneak from the bathroom to the bedroom (so the kids don't hear me, lol!) and after I get dressed and get organized, I meditate. I have 4 quiet, blissful moments of meditation.

my favorite candle to light during meditation 
Now here's another thing, I know I'm not the only one who has noticed these fabulous changes in me. Chuck has too! And in the mornings, he's started telling me before my shower to make sure I get my meditation time in, that he's got the kids. The first time he told me that my heart about burst! I was so thankful that he saw that this time was becoming important to me, and that he wanted to help make sure I was able to squeeze it in. <3 I feel really lucky when he tells me that.

Chuck has even mentioned to me that he has noticed me trying really hard to respond the right way in certain situations. That meant the world to me. The fact that I'm not only enriching my own life, but the lives of my husband and children as well!! Why on earth wouldn't I meditate?!

Another thing I've been learning about lately are the many different types of prayer that there are. I had no idea! Chuck sent me these videos recently, and I really enjoyed them. They are all about listening prayer.

Part 1: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IXoe5uBwles
Part 2: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j5-9cFZfTHA
Part 3: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S5tzdrb0tug
Part 4: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9jkVs1siaMY 
Part 5: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4YYStRCEOEQ

The latest type of prayer I've been learning about is imaginative prayer. It's an incredibly beautiful way to pray that I'm excited to start practicing. I don't have a good article to link to on this topic, but I was reading about it in the Catholic prayer book that a friend let me borrow. Also, Greg Boyd has an amazing book that we are reading right now Seeing is Believing on this same topic.

my healing stones/crystals 
So, that's a little look into my super personal life right now. I didn't necessarily intend this post to be all about meditation and prayer, but here it is anyway! <3 Maybe it has encouraged you to start your own daily mediation practice, or maybe it's just made you ask more questions. Either way, it's a good place to be as long as you decide to do something about it (unlike me who just stood stuck for so long!)

Do you meditate? What is your story? I'd love to hear what types of things inspire you, what keeps you going, and any specifics that you're found helpful throughout your journey. Meditation, I'm learning, is such a beautiful personal thing that has the power to transform lives. It's really exciting and something I am especially thankful for right now.

How about different types of prayer? Have you ever considered that there are more ways than one to pray? I'd love to hear your thoughts!

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Why I'm Essentially Getting Off of Facebook

I love Facebook. I got my account about 3 1/2 years ago, and quickly became addicted. And I mean addicted in a very real sense. I obsess over things I read, I can't look away, I can't pay attention to conversations around me or even TO me, I can't interact with my kids very well, or focus on a simple task because I'm always wondering "What's going on with Facebook right now?" "What are my friends doing?" I also struggle really, really badly with living in the present moment. Facebook doesn't help push me toward my goal of being present, but instead, it pushes me further and further away from it. "Why can she decorate her house so nicely with brand new things?" "Why would they allow their kid to eat that?!" "I need to speak up because they might not know they are wearing their ring sling wrong." And it even dribbles down into my conversations with Chuck when he's finally home for the day. "Chuck, did you see what he posted in that group!? How could he think that's okay?" Or worse yet, I pay more attention to my phone than I do to Chuck. And for what? 

I haven't figured that out yet.

But what I have figured out is that Facebook isn't really the problem. I am. I have little no self control when it comes to spending time on Facebook. I can't control myself when it comes to replying to a commenter that is off his rocker. I can't stop myself from letting what goes on on Facebook rule my thoughts. I just can't do it. And it is so, so sad.

I am literally letting Facebook rule my life.

I've tried taking Facebook hiatuses, I've taken the app off my phone, I've made rules like "No Facebook after 4pm." I've even unfriended people who did not bring me joy in an attempt to make Facebook a more uplifting place for me. But unfortunately, none of those things worked for me. Not a single one.

So lately I've been thinking about what else I can do. The easiest solution would be to completely delete my account and not set a new one up. And that's a fair answer. And even though you can download your Facebook history (posts, pictures, etc.), it's not the same as having all those memories readily available. And the groups? I'm the admin of a few groups that are incredibly beneficial for me to be a part of. I can't just leave those, nor do I want to. And what about the informational groups that I use on a regular basis to glean info from? I don't want to give those up. In these ways, Facebook truly is a gift - it makes learning, getting opinions, and doing research very easy. I like that.

While all these thoughts are jumbling around in my brain, I realize that I know one thing for sure. And that's this: Lucky for me, I DO have control over Facebook and how I use it, even if I'm not able to control myself in the moment.

So at least there's that.

What I decided to do is to basically "unfriend" (how I hate that term) everyone on my list. Not because I hate them, not because I don't want to see their lives, but because...what is it adding to mine? I decided to stay in the groups that were important to me, keep my Facebook blog page, and I'm of course going to keep admining the groups that I admin.

There are a few main things I hope this achieves:

  • I'm hoping it will encourage me to spend way less time just browsing Facebook because there will be much, much less "interesting" stuff to see
  • I'm hoping it will force to me actually tend to friendships instead of just being Facebook friends
  • I'm hoping that it will, in essence, forbid me from entering into pointless debates or discussions since I won't be able to see anything to debate or discuss
  • I'm hoping that it will cause my desire for Facebook to dwindle which will then help me to focus more on the things that actually matter
  • I'm hoping that it will help me realize how much time I've been wasting, and that it will also help me discover new ways to use my time
There are lots of other reasons that stem from the things I said above, but those are just a few of the main ways I think this is going to help me out. 

Now, here's another thing. People's feelings get hurt if you unfriend them on Facebook. My feelings have been hurt by people doing that to me! That wasn't my intention at all, and I even made a public Facebook post stating why I'm suddenly not "friends" with anyone:

Hi everyone! I'm trying something new with social media, and am basically not going to "friend" people on Facebook anymore. I'm "un-friending" all my current friends in an attempt at doing a massive overhaul. Facebook somehow magically controls my life (okay, I let it - it's something I have the hardest time fighting!) But at the same time, I'm in a lot of groups that are important to me and have valuable information that I need access to. I also don't want to delete my account because I love the nostalgia of looking back at old pictures. SO! If you're on my wall wondering why we aren't "friends" anymore, this is why. BUT! If you want to be in contact with me, please please please message me! I love keeping up friendships, and I'll gladly give you my cell number so we can chat or text and of course, we can always message on Facebook.

In addition to that, I'm going to publicly link to this blog post so folks can get a better understanding of where I'm coming from. My intention is in no way to hurt feelings or get rid of people in my life. My very very main goal is super simple, and most kind and understanding people will get where I'm coming from. 

My goal in doing all of this is to simply improve my quality of life by using my time wisely and spending it in the present moment with people that I love, doing things that I love. I'm so over finding validation through Facebook and folks I hardly know. I'm tired of comparing myself to other moms and women. And while yeah, just getting rid of Facebook isn't going to make those issues magically disappear, it's sure going to help a heck of a lot. 

So here's me being accountable to you and explaining why I'm doing what I'm doing. I hope it makes sense, and who knows, maybe even makes you rethink the reasons that you're on Facebook. 

In order to win the battle, you've got to stop fighting. And I think I've been fighting for a bit too long to try to have my cake and eat it too. (Or in this case, have Facebook and live a satisfying life at the same time.)

So that is that! If you have tips for how to manage social media better, I'd really love to hear them. Leave your thoughts in the comments below! And until next time, peace in, peeps!