Thursday, September 26, 2013

Writing on the Wall

There have been messages all around me lately – literal writing on the wall. Most positive, some playful, all reminding me that the possibility of whatever it is that seems to be alluding me (happiness, contentment, serenity) is there, I just have to open my heart to receive it. 

It started with seeing this message all over the neighborhood I live in: 

And then I started noticing messages all around me. 

What messages have you been receiving lately? How do you open up to receive? 

Friday, September 20, 2013

Feeding the Wolf

I love the story of feeding the wolf, but what made it real for me what this little tidbit of information (articulated well here): 

In Jill Bolte Taylor's book 'My Stroke of Insight,' she points to scientific evidence showing that the life span of any particular emotion is only one and a half minutes. After that we have to revive the emotions and get it going again. 
Our usual process is that we automatically do revive it by feeding it with an internal conversation about how another person is the source of our discomfort. Maybe we strike out at them or at someone else--all because we don't want to go near the unpleasantness of what we're feeling.

In other words, that internal marching band of self-pity when we're passed over for a promotion; that white-hot rage at an ill-timed comment from a partner that you know stems from years of them actually hating you rather than having your back; that steady rap of guilt from not performing perfectly at school; those emotions typically last 90 seconds until you give them a story.

And we get to choose the story.

That self pity you feel? Maybe choose to see that everything happens for a reason. That anger? Cultivate some compassion. That guilt? Let go of perfection in favor of progress.

Cue the response: "Easier said than done."

It's true. But think again about the wolves – which one do you want to feed? Imbibing in the negative emotions will give strength to the evil wolf. The good wolf will eventually have no room to exist at all. The practice of feeding the good wolf will make it easier over time, and your default will be choosing to see the positive.

The next time a turbulent emotion strikes, try pausing. Live in it for 90 seconds, acknowledge its reality, and then choose which story you give it.

And let me know how it goes, I'm still working on it.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Mind Full or Mindful? – Exercises in Staying Present

"Mindfulness" has been a buzzword for me lately. I've been adventuring a lot, and there's an urge to capture every moment on my camera phone, immediately scroll through and delete the unworthy photos, filter the chosen ones with soft focus and blue tones, share with the world on various platforms to show them what a great time I'm having, and then check my phone every 10 minutes to see how many "likes" or "hearts" or "favorites" I got. 

It's exhausting. 

I've shared the validation trap I often fall into, this song and dance doesn't help me stay present in the slightest. 

On many of the adventures Joe and I took this summer, we tried to be deliberate in not pulling out our phones and snapping photos (it helped that we were often in areas without service). Instead, we sat in the valley of the Gifford-Pinchot, drinking in morning fog and watching as first rays pierced through. We scrambled down fallen logs to find a clear lagoon at the base of a massive waterfall and listened to constant crash. When we visited Milla, we stargazed at the big, bright Milky Way (the brightest I had ever seen it); combed beaches and found seaglass and agate; danced to local country and bluegrass music. We often left our phones in the car – their only use were as watches, and we were on our time, so it didn't matter. 

On one of our hikes on the island, a group of ladies asked us to take their photo at one of the vistas. I peered through the viewfinder and snapped several options (landscape, portrait, golden section, etc.), and none seemed to capture what I was seeing right in front of me – the iridescent bay, the faint outline of Mount Rainier, the vultures circling in the distance. They left the vista after reviewing my photos, and my companions and I stared out over the view in silence. When I was certain the ladies were out of ear shot, I said, "There's no way you could capture this on camera." 

These exercises in staying in the present proved to be fruitful. I can more easily recall those moments in my mind – what the air tasted like, how my bare feet felt on the ground, how the waves grew bigger in the ferry wake and how their force began to scare me – because I was there. Really and truly there. 

So what would happen if, on your next adventure, you resisted the urge to capture every moment for your social media profile? Would you enjoy it any less? Would you be able to share your experience with others without using photos or video? Would your companions be curious or follow suit (or volunteer to take photos, like Milla did for Joe and I)? 

Lastly, a video to illustrate my point.