Discipline

Discipline is a concept that has been popping up for me over and over.  And it is something I have been resisting over and over again.  Yesterday during my book group someone mentioned discipline and for the first time I began to open up to the idea.

I’ve been viewing discipline as some sort of controlling force.  I should be able to just follow my heart, go where the wind blows me right?  I don’t need to be disciplined….do I?

What has occurred to me in the last couple of days is that maybe the wind is blowing me down the path of discipline and that perhaps it is the key to finding true peace and happiness.  Over the past few years the times I have felt the most success is when I have maintained a regular practice in the areas of my life that are important.  I feel a great level of connectedness and inner peace when I make time for daily meditation.  For over two years, I did this every day, twice a day, no matter what.  Over the past months I have let this practice slide and sometimes go days without meditating.  Needless to say the peace and connectedness is not so consistent anymore.  I used to wake every morning and write in my journal.  I have a years worth of notebooks filled with my thoughts.  When Bella started Kindergarten, I stopped making the time to journal.  Now the thoughts fly through my head all day long and rarely end up on the page.  In 2007, I wrote a 100,000 word novel in less than three months.  I made a decision to write three pages a day and I stuck with it.  I wrote no matter where I was, or what was going on.  I had never felt such a sense of accomplishment as I did at the end of each writing session and especially when the book was complete.

I’ve let myself believe that discipline is a bad word.  My ego has fooled me into thinking that I don’t need it, that I can continue to do nothing and yet still accomplish something.  What?  That doesn’t make any sense.  Luckily, I am aware enough to read the signs.  Yesterday I walked into my friend’s bathroom.  I have been in this room many times, seeing as I always arrive at her house with a full bladder from too much coffee.  For the first time, I noticed a sign hanging in that room that said “Determination.”  Determination and discipline go hand in hand.  Discipline is simply about making a choice that gets you where you are determined to go.

Life is filled with hills and valleys.  What matters is the decisions we make from day to day and moment to moment.  If we want to be healthy we can choose to eat right and exercise.  If we want to be happy we can choose to look for the good all around us.  If we want to be successful we can choose to take the baby steps that get us closer to our career goals.  If we want to live a spiritual life we can choose to do those things that connect us to God or spirit.  Discipline is about figuring out what choices help us to become who we want to be and then making those choices over and over again.

The Witness Challenge

I’m rereading the Michael Singer book The Untethered Soul.  In it, Singer talks about the idea of witnessing our thoughts.  Our monkey minds like to take us on all sorts of adventures and unfortunately they are not always good.  The smallest thing can happen and our thoughts will start racing creating a disaster.  I still remember something that happened years ago when we lived in Columbus, Ohio that is a perfect example of this.  I was driving home from a party that was on a side of town I was unfamiliar with.  I was on the interstate and very confused.  At the last second I realized I was about to miss my exit but luckily someone let me over.  In my frazzled state I didn’t lift my hand in a gesture of thanks to the driver behind me.  I’m pretty sure that’s what set him off because when I looked in my rearview mirror I could see that he was yelling, shaking his head, and making hand gestures.  It should have ended as he sped passed me on the highway, but it didn’t.  I carried that event with me all day long.  The inner dialogue lasted hours.  How could I have made him so mad?  Why did I forget to thank him?  What could I have done differently?I don’t do this as much as I used to but I have been known to doubt and question myself when a blogger doesn’t publish my comment or I don’t get a response to an email.

Our thoughts can really run away with us.  One night, when I was staying at Kristin’s, I was overcome by a bad feeling at bedtime. I really started to worry that something was wrong with Mark or the girls.  I sensed the feeling was right and my mind started imagining all the possibilities.  Within minutes I was ready to call the airline and book an emergency flight home.  Then I stopped and reminded myself it would be OK.  I didn’t let the thoughts snowball anymore I just watched them and released them.  I was able to fall asleep.  When I woke up the next morning, Mark called to tell me Bella had a fever that had started the night before around the time I was lying in bed worried.  The feeling I had was right but all those thoughts my monkey mind had assigned to it were wrong.

In his book, Singer suggest that you learn to sit in the witness seat of your consciousness.  If you can do this you will experience more peace in your life because you become aware of the emotional turmoil your mind creates.  If you are witnessing and observing your thoughts you are not being pulled along for the ride.  I will continue to challenge myself to witness my thoughts.  If I notice myself reacting and letting dramatic thoughts carry me off, I will put on the brakes and take a seat in the box….

Attitude Adjustment

I’m in the middle of reading a book called “Living with Joy” by Sanaya Roman.  Like so many of the books I read, a touch point in it is the power of our thoughts.  Today in church we sang the song “Our Thoughts are Prayers.”  We are all spiritual beings in physical bodies.  The thoughts that flow through our minds have energy attached to them.  The more emotion we feel along with our thoughts, the more power they have.  The combination of our thoughts and emotions work together to create our life experience.

I am currently in need of an attitude adjustment.  There are certain areas that I’ve been halting my own progress by holding onto negative thoughts.  I signed up with my sweet and inspiring friend @meganmonique to join her on a journey to health.  I’ve written two posts about my struggle with weight and now I seem to be back in the boat of trying to lose again.  I never made it to my ideal weight and then during the holidays I added a few more pounds to the scales.  I’ve been making wiser food choices and working out for over a month now.  I’ve lost three pounds.  I expected to lose that much the first week.  This time around I’ve chosen to be quite hard on myself.  I tend to beat myself up when I eat a little too much or skip a workout.  I overlook the beautiful aspects of myself and focus on the flaws.  I tell myself it’s just not working this time.  I think constantly about how slowly these changes are happening and how it seems I am taking one step forward and two steps back weekly.  If my thoughts are prayers than I can tell you I am getting EXACTLY what I’m praying for.

The other change of attitude I need is in the area of my creative writing.  I’ve been talking about that novel idea I have since I started this blog.  I even started posting the “click stories” in order to give myself more time to write fiction.  The pessimist in me tells me often that I don’t have enough time or resources to work on that novel.  The research seems like a daunting task, one that I don’t feel capable of taking on.  My hope is that it would be the first novel in a series, but how do I pull together the overarching plots and themes and still come up with an exciting subplot and storyline for this first book as well as the other three I’d like to follow it.  I say the time isn’t right just yet, but am so lovingly reminded by a friend that I could just be procrastinating.  So again, I send all of these negative thoughts out into the Universe and what returns to me is a form of writer’s block.

My goal for this week is to turn my negative thoughts into positive ones.  I completely understand the value of focusing on the good.  I have watched relationships turn around.  I’ve accomplished things I never in my wildest dreams would have guessed I could.  I’ve been able to feel peace in moments that would have devastated me years ago.  I do, in fact, have the time, creativity, intellect, and ability required to write those novels.  I’ve done it before, so why in the world would I create a self-fulfilling prophesy that says otherwise?  My highest intention is to be mindful and appreciative.  There is so much good in my life, yet I am often too busy to stop and say thank you, thank you, thank you.  The more that I recognize the good and  embrace that there is an endless supply of it just waiting for me to dream it into reality, the more joy and peace I will experience in life!!

Drama

I’ve come to realize over the years that I am a drama junkie.  I actually think most of us are.  Good drama, bad drama, sad drama, glad drama…it doesn’t matter, it feeds a hunger in me that I want to overcome.

I realize this now because things are very peaceful in my life.  My little family here in Florida is happy and healthy.  Friends call and they ask what’s new?  I answer that everything is exactly as it has been for at least 6 weeks, nothing is new.  I feel a little uneasy at my answer.  Something in me wants to say “OH MY GOSH! You will not believe what happened!”

I don’t think I’m alone in this attitude.  What I am trying to figure out is why we (or I) do it.

At times I think it’s avoidance.  Instead of setting intentions and working towards goals, I let myself get distracted.  I let things I read or hear get under my skin.  I over-analyze other peoples’ behavior and the ways in which it affects me.

At other times it’s attention.  When I wrote my first novel I was the most obnoxious person to be around.  “Hey, I’m writing a novel.”  “Look, over here, me, me, me…I’m writing a novel.”  “Did I happen to mention that I’m writing a novel.”  I was so excited I couldn’t shut up about it.  It was so dramatic…like pigs flying and hell freezing over.  I could not stop myself.  Time of course allows you perspective and I would like to sincerely apologize to everyone who had to listen to me talk incessantly about that damn novel.  And I’d also like to thank those who listened patiently and those who dared to read the thing.

The last reason I can think of right now for the need for drama would be fear.  I think there must be within us all a fear of not being enough.  We want to be interesting and we want people to desire our company.  Without the lights, sound, and set design how will anyone find us?  I can think of several relationships in my life that revolved solely around gossip.  If there was not something to say (mostly negative) about someone else the relationship was dull and lifeless.  I found myself getting caught up in conversations I wish I’d never been a part of for the purpose of connecting and being a part of the group.  If I admitted how wrong it was to say the things I was saying and to listen (mouth closed) to unloving remarks, I would be admitting that in that moment I was an outsider.

I’d say right now in my journey I am walking through a pasture filled with daisies.  It’s quiet, peaceful, and lovely…yet I’m getting restless.  I’m picking up speed, pulling out the binoculars looking for the mountain.  There happens to be no drama in my life…but I must admit I’ve looked at others to find some.  Yesterday I was letting myself steam a little about something someone else is doing.  It isn’t about me, but I’m sure trying to make it be.  I talked to my friend Ray about it and he smiled, shook his head, and said “It’s not your stuff.”

He’s right, it’s not my stuff.  I’m tired of creating drama.  I want to take advantage of this peace and quiet in my life, to go inward and grow spiritually.

Take it away Mary….

Clearing

We have these huge Oak trees in our front yard and they have thousands of leaves.  During Autumn and Winter the leaves fall and blanket our yard.  Mark hates to let the leaves sit, but cleaning them up is an enormous job.  Every year we find a different way to approach it.  The first year in the house, we bought a couple of rakes and did it the old fashion way.  The year after that we bought a leave blower that converted to a leaf vacuum and filled the bags that way for a couple of years.  Last year the blower broke and so we hired someone else to do the job.  This year we purchased a new lawn mower with a bag and gathered the leaves that way.  It is always Mark’s idea to take on this job with my help.  He insists that if it is not done the grass beneath the blanket will die and our yard will be ruined.  I am always the whiney one…”awww, do we have to do it?”

As we mowed and bagged yesterday evening I thought of the job and what it represents in my life, especially at this time of year.  It’s been an emotional year for me and a bit hectic.  I’ll admit that I’ve been somewhat scattered, with my thoughts in several  different directions at times.  There is a lot I think of doing but find excuses not to.  I give myself jobs to accomplish and then put them off “Let me just do this one quick thing first.”  The one quick thing ends up taking an hour and the job I’d intended to do gets put off or done half-ass.

So just like with the leaves, it’s time for me to do some clearing in my life.  I’m preparing for the new year, hoping that it will be a new start (we all say this at this time of year though).  I need to release the bad habits which for me is mostly just one…being online way too much without doing anything productive.   I need to pull my thoughts back to the present.  Every time I find myself focused and truly surrendered to the moment something good happens.  Whether it’s an exciting email or a great idea, I tend to get caught up in it and find myself planning the future and wondering where it will lead.  Once I’m out of the present and back in the future, everything slows down or halts.  I also want to let go of some emotional baggage.  I seem to be taking my pent up feelings and projecting them.  The uncertainty I sense about some situations and relationships causes me to over analyze what is going smoothly and seek glitches that aren’t even there.  Finally, my house does not reflect who I want to be.  I don’t have a lot of stuff, I’m probably the opposite of a hoarder (or almost), but when the clutter gathers I feel cluttered too.  And I haven’t been so motivated to stay on top of it.

Like I said yesterday, things are getting easier and more peaceful for me.  I think that’s why I can write this.  I can own up to what’s been wrong and declare that I want to change it.  Just like the leaves that damage the grass in my front yard, the bad habits, scattered thoughts, pent up emotions, and clutter weigh on my spirit.  What about you?  Is your life too hectic for your spirit to soar?

Numb

I don’t know if I’m really numb or have just been “shocked and saddened” so much lately that there is no shock or sadness left to feel, but tonight I got the news of another death.  For any new readers that may not know, one of my best friends, Amy, passed away on October 25th just two days after giving birth to twins and on December 11th one of my Twitter friends, Traci, passed away unexpectedly.  This evening I listened to a message on my answering machine from my mother.  I could tell by the tone that someone had died.  I couldn’t reach my mom but got a hold of my sister who informed me that the man that I worked for in college for over 4 years had passed away.  He was more than my boss at the Hallmark store, he was a family friend (who hired me b/c of that connection) and later became a personal friend.  He helped in the planning of my wedding and was one of my honored guests.  Kent and my job at the Hallmark shop was probably the most stable thing in my life during college.  For 5 years, he was a lot like the big brother I never had.  I can’t even remember the last time I saw Kent.  It may have been my wedding.  After I moved away we sent one another Christmas cards for a few years, but ultimately lost touch.  Our mothers have been friends for decades, so I always kept up with him through her.  He was only in his early 40s and his death has preceded both of his parents.

There are just no words to express what I feel for these families as we are only 4 days away from Christmas.  The fog of grief (at the loss of Amy) is slowly starting to lift for me.  I haven’t made it to acceptance yet.  I think of her everyday and have at least one cry or almost cry.  I think of the babies and imagine her taking care of them and suddenly remember she isn’t (at least not on this plane).  I have dreams about her and wake up wishing I could tell her about them.  But I am feeling peace about my life.  I have stopped imagining the worst-case scenarios and feeling panicked.  I am getting back to my spiritual practices and listening to my intuition.  I wish there was a way to absorb some of  the pain of others.  The pain of losing a child or a partner is something I cannot fathom.

This year I have been reminded how fragile life is.  Everything can change in a blink.  I am holding these families in my heart this week and sending them love.

I don’t know that this song fits this post necessarily…but it’s so moving.  Also, it’s sung by the incredibly talented, Jeff Buckley, who also died too young and unexpectedly…

Kim’s Click

The following “Click” is from Kim Wencl.  I connected with Kim through the Owning Pink Posse.  I was immediately drawn to her and her story.  She sent me a copy of the book it is published in and I read it and wept (you will understand more when you read below).  Weeks went by and I didn’t cross paths with Kim online, then on the day that Amy died I clicked on Owning Pink and there was a post written by Kim about dealing with the loss of a loved one.  The next day I checked my blog and Kim had left a comment for me.  I believe that the timing of this was meant to be.  Every time I think of Kim I am reminded of our connection to loved ones that have transitioned and it is no coincidence that she was back in my awareness in the days following my best friend’s death.  Thank you Kim for sharing your story and for what you represent to me!  It is obvious you came into my life for a reason…

WAITING FOR THE CLICK

When thinking about what events in my life “clicked” thus changing my life forever, I found I could narrow them down to two.

The first was September 12, 1983 – the day Elizabeth Jean came into my life. This day was also the most physically painful time of my life.  After an excruciating labor and finally a c-section, my girl was born, and when I learned what love was really all about.  Elizabeth was the most beautiful baby I had ever seen.  She had a massive head of wild black hair, and the biggest blue eyes ever.  I knew she was special … but I wouldn’t know just how special until 20 years later.

The second event was September 20, 2003.  This day was the most emotionally painful day of my life – the day the physical presence of Elizabeth left me.  But, as painful as that was, it was also the day that the God of The Universe came into my life in the most real and vibrant way.  It took my breath away and propelled me through some of the most difficult days, weeks and months of my life.

Up until that day, I had a relationship with God, but he seemed to be this distant, far off deity that for a very long time I had cried out to and begged for help … but remained ever silent.  Liz’s high school years were tumultuous at best.  She was gregarious – she was a cheerleader, she got good grades … but she also smoked, she drank and she experimented with drugs.  My husband and I were beside ourselves with worry and fear.  We could never understand why she chose to do these things – couldn’t she see how they were ruining her life?

September 20th happened and it was literally the last straw.  I breathed a sigh of relief – she’s yours now God – I know you will take better care of her than I ever did.

But God was no longer a silent deity – that day he stepped into my life and became real for the first time.

He gave me peace.  Peace that Elizabeth was just fine, that I would be fine, and my family would be fine.  We would get through this very difficult, dark time in our lives, and we have.

God opened a door for me that day that I never expected to walk through … but I was offered the opportunity and I took it and once I did, I did not want to go back.

God showed me in no uncertain terms that Liz was just fine, in fact she was more than fine, she was amazing and VERY happy.  God reached out to others as well and then in turn they reached back to me.

And I could see this very real path forming in front of me – but again, it wasn’t forced on me – it was always my choice whether to take another step on the path, or completely abandon it for other avenues.  However, I have never in my entire life felt so compelled to follow a path as I have this one – I wanted to follow – I needed to follow – oh yes, I followed.

God does not disappoint.  He has led me through darkness and despair into love and laughter, but most of all to PEACE and a return to JOY.

Because he reached out to me in such a compelling, powerful, and real way, I now reach out to others through my words and my voice to share my experiences … it is but a small way to begin to repay The Universe for the abundant blessings and gifts received over the past six years.

I look forward to the day when I walk through the veil that still separates Elizabeth and me, and we are completely united.  But for now, I am so very grateful for all I have received – it is a sacred trust that can never be broken – not even by death.

Love never dies … and the bond we all share with those we love is never broken … not even by death, and that is the best news of all!

Live in PEACE – but most of all in JOY