Category Archives: Mindfulness

Learning to Speak

skates on ice

I find words to be clunky and imprecise. To communicate in words we first have to define a feeling then match it to a label that may or may not adequately express that feeling. Then we have to string those words together into some sort of cohesive and articulate sentence. It’s grueling.

Dance/figure skating bypasses all of that; you can take a feeling and go straight to expressing it through movement. For me, it feels much more sincere and authentic.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve listened to music and choreographed movement in my head. That’s how I feel the music and it’s how I express the words that my mouth struggles to form.

Watching figure skating on TV when I was younger, I was mesmerized. It was like flipping through channels in a foreign language and finally finding one that I could understand – I longed to find the courage to learn to speak it.

I took a few lessons as a kid but lacked the tenacity to stick with it and decided instead to stay with dance classes where I could trust my feet to stay, at least pretty much, where I put them.

Still, figure skating has always stirred my soul and I’ve loved to watch others soar on the ice with a fearlessness that I never quite mastered.

Over the spring, in honor of new beginnings, I decided to go back to the ice and as an adult, waaay past my prime, finally learn to ice skate.

And it has been everything. In so many ways learning to skate has been a metaphor for all of the things that I’ve been working to improve in my life.

Taking risks, letting go. Falling down & getting back up, again and again. Balance and centering.

Watch a professional figure skater on the ice and they look like they are flying, as if gravity isn’t even a factor. But, it’s exceptionally important to be in touch with the feel of your weight on the blades and the feeling of your blades on the ice. It turns out that you have to be well grounded in order to be able to fly.

Edge work, getting past the fear of going too fast, mindfulness & focusing on the moment. All of these things are integral to learning to skate and just as integral to my learning how to live my life in the way that I want to live it.

I can’t say yet that I’m fluent in this language that I’ve yearned for so long to speak but I’ve picked up some key words and phrases and intend to stick with it until I can recite an elegant sonnet.

And in the process I might just find the voice to sing the song written in my soul.


Hanging on a moment of truth

cliff

Turning 39 today feels a little bit like standing on the edge of a cliff, toes curled over the edge, looking down at the waters below and not quite knowing what mysteries lie beneath the surface but knowing that you’re going to make that leap…just not quite yet.

I don’t mean to parallel the upcoming transition to 40 with a jump toward death. No, it’s not foreboding. It’s thrilling!! I find that I’m rather looking forward to it so that I might cross that threshold and enter the next phase of my life.

Lately I feel very much like I’m on the edge of something magnificent but that I’m not there yet. Much of my life at the moment is feeling like preparation, like steps toward a goal. I need to stay the course, continue onward and upwards but I find that much of the time I’m not exactly certain of my destination. Each step becomes clear as I take it but the path ahead is unknown. Each small step forward is taken with a certain amount of faith that I’m headed in the right direction. And there is an anxious anticipation that up around the bend is a clearing where I’ll be able to see all around me and wisely choose which way I want to go from there.

Today I need to remember not to get too caught up in contemplating the destination but to stay present in each moment and revel in the ground that is still beneath my feet and marvel at the little details that uncurl and unravel along the way.

I am completely in love with this journey and full of gratitude for everything that is my life!

 


Raising my words

I recently wrote about my journey to embrace anger and let it go. Inspired by the Twenty Five Days of Kindness blog about Kind Words, I’ve decided to do a 25-day (or there-abouts) No Yelling challenge.  That doesn’t mean 25 days of not getting angry but 25 days of not acting out on my anger by yelling at my kids.

I’ve been trying ease back on the yelling for the last few years with struggling success.

I started out with the very broad goal of “I want to stop yelling at my kids” but it was too big. It’s quite honestly been one failed attempt after the other.

But it’s not very realistic is it? Just “poof” I’m not going to yell anymore. And then the guilt of not being able to pull it off just adds fuel to the fire.

I realized that I needed to define the brush strokes. Baby-steps.

So step one was to start delving into the bigger picture with the question of “why do I yell at my kids?” which has been an interesting spiral-y adventure.

I decided that to find the answer I needed to start with being more mindful about it. Yes, my first goal to stop yelling was to yell more mindfully! To notice, “Hey l totally lost my shit just now, what happened?”

Turns out for me it’s almost always a matter of one of two things; feeling ignored or disrespected or feeling embarrassed in front of someone who I feel is judging me.

So my next step was to try to discern what it was about feeling ignored or disrespected or feeling embarrassed or judged that that gets my hackles up.

I know enough about psychology to understand that many of the “bad” things that surface for us as parents are often rooted in our own childhoods. It only took a quick glance back into my own to realize that I spent a great deal of time feeling responsible for someone else’s anger. I came to believe that I wasn’t good enough. And that root feeling is typically the source for my current temper tantrums.

My fear of not being good enough triggers feelings of my kids not being good enough which triggers my anger because me not being good enough resulted in someone else’s anger when I was a kid. Spiral-y.

From there I needed to do a little exercise in forgiveness and understanding. It was an “a-ha” moment for me when I realized that when I yell at my kids it doesn’t really have anything to do with them. It has to do with me. And that likewise when I was a kid this other person’s anger probably had much less to do with me than it did with them.

I needed to explain to my childhood self that it was never about her. The yelling and the anger and the judgment, it belonged to someone else, not me. It was directed at me and I thought it was mine, so I took it. But it never needed to be my burden to bear and ensuring that I don’t pass it along to my children begins with me being able to put it back.

Now that I’m aware of these things I think that I’m ready to hold myself accountable for the letting go part.

I decided several days ago to see if I could get through the rest of the month of December without yelling, which sounds like a much more feasible goal than the “poof I’m not going to yell anymore ever at all” one.

I am going to try to recognize when I raise my voice that I’m holding onto someone else’s fear and that it doesn’t need to be mine and I don’t need to pass it on to my kids.

We’ll see how I do.

click image to go to 25daysofkindness.com

click image to go to 25daysofkindness.com


Embracing anger

“Cooling the Flame II” by Kimby Faires

In my last post I mentioned that we have a tendency to fear “negative” emotions.

I had a bit of a personal revelation around this very thing not long ago. I had always judged anger to be bad, both in myself and in others. I was comfortable with sadness but not with anger.

Anger to me was always scary. I was scared of it in others because I didn’t understand that it had nothing to do with me.

Someone else’s anger may’ve been directed at me, but it wasn’t my fault that they were angry. Not to say that I didn’t do something to make that person mad, I’m sure that I did. But I didn’t understand that I wasn’t responsible for their anger. I was responsible for whatever mistake I made that made them mad but not for their anger. And I didn’t understand that their anger wasn’t really at me. Anger is less of an emotion than it is a reaction; it’s the result of fear. It’s a defense mechanism. It’s internal. It really has very little to do with the other person.

I was also scared of anger in myself because I was afraid that it owned me, that it meant that I wasn’t in control.

I didn’t understand where all of that anger was coming from or how to manage it. I didn’t understand that it was the result of my own fear. My anger is often my fear of failure, my fear of not being heard, of being inconsequential, of being judged by others, and of not being good enough.

I’ve come to realize that it’s not about not being angry, it’s about not being afraid.

As I’ve come to understand all this better, anger no longer scares me. I know now that anger is just an emotion. A reaction. Part of being human. It doesn’t mean that I am bad or that anyone else is bad.

It’s okay to get angry sometimes, but there are certainly less than ideal ways to express ones anger and that’s the hard part. It’s not the emotion itself that causes problems as much as the negative things that are done in the expression of anger. But the more we suppress it the more it builds up and the harder it becomes to control. For me, anger management isn’t about not getting angry. It’s about not acting on my anger.

“That’s my secret Captain, I’m always angry”

I learned that the power is not in the emotion itself but in how we react to it. That’s where we have a choice. This is where I’m still doing a lot of work.

I’m prone to angry outbursts but I am working really hard to not take my anger out on those around me. My process is acknowledging the anger, allowing myself to feel it, understanding what it is and where it’s coming from – that takes the power away from it giving me an opportunity to take a deep breath and then not unleash it on others. It’s definitely still a work in progress.

I’m not perfect, and I’m not trying to be – but I am trying to be better. Not better than anyone else, just better than I was yesterday. Being better no longer means trying to never get mad.  It means looking my anger in the face, embracing it and letting it go.


Hiraeth

Hiraeth. It’s a Welsh word meaning; to the best of our ability to define it, a longing for home…there is not an exact English translation for it.

I’ve felt it stirring in me for the better part of a decade. There is something restless, a calling that beckons me. Yet, it’s allusive – something that I have only glimpsed in it’s passing. I feel as though I am in a state of wakening. My head is full of fog, heavy like sleep, and there is something that I’m supposed to do, something important…but I can’t quite remember what it is. So I hit snooze and return to my slumber.

I’ve been doing this rise and fall of consciousness for years. Once again, I’m trying to wake up and stay awake but I can sense an undertow trying to pull me back down, it’s made up of distractions. The TV, my computer, the never ending pile of laundry. It’s the next diaper change, the next meal, the next bath and the next middle of the night feeding. It’s the stress of keeping up with my daily life, an anxiety that courses through my blood. When I pause long enough to sense the yearning, I know that it’s in the rustling of the trees and in the crashing of the waves. It’s what motivates me to pack up the kids and retreat outdoors, to escape the buzz of electricity and the enclosing walls.

There is something ancient that is calling to me. It speaks of simpler times, of Gaelic song and ways long forgotten. I seek to answer it…