The Road to Wholeness is Bumpy.

The Road to Wholeness is Bumpy.

I’m Too Busy For This   

 

We live in a busy world that values busy culture. I’m busy. You’re busy. Every day I think of all the things I should be doing, could be doing, and not to mention all the things I forgot to do. My dive into “busyness” really took a turn when I became a mother. By the time this happened for me, I was well into my career. I knew I wanted to continue on this path so going back to work right away was a no-brainer for me. But I quickly found out that as much as I could balance my life on paper, it was much harder to actually do it. A statistic I recently saw said being a mother is the equivalent of 2.5 full-time jobs. So I have this BIG job, plus my career, and now… I’m left with no time or energy for me. My life went on like this for a while and, to no surprise, I lost sight of what it is that makes me happy. Of course my children and family make me happy. What I am talking about are the parts of myself that make up my personhood or my whole self. In the last year, I have made intentional efforts to understand my wholeness (or lack of it). It seems like a simple concept, and really it is, however, the crux of wholeness can be hard to fully understand. In my world, wholeness is comprised of my emotional, intellectual, physical, social, spiritual, and occupational wellbeing. I am still searching for and learning about my whole self. Here are some things I have realized along the way. 

 

I’m not the same person I used to be.

 

When my “new normal” life as a working-mother felt manageable, I started to incorporate some of the things I used to love to do. Some of my old hobbies and habits like reading and discovering new music came right back and that was cool. Some of the things I used to love didn’t make sense for me anymore like leisurely drinks with friends after work or lofty craft projects. It took me a while to understand why certain things didn’t give me the same visceral response that they used to. It’s because I am not who I was. At first, I felt sadness, like I lost a part of me in the transition. However, I did not lose these parts of myself; I chose to leave them behind when I made major, life-changing decisions. I turned the chapter on my life and my inner person evolved. When I look back on the former version of myself with a grateful heart now  I see youth and ambition and I love that woman. I also love whoever it is that I am meant to become in the rest of this story and look forward to discovering what new hobbies make her happy. 

 

I’ve got time for calm.

 

Someone wise once told me that we all have the same amount of time, and it’s what we do with it that matters. This statement has become so important on my quest toward my whole self. I am a person that loves ideas. I have so many good ones, and I want to do them all. The new version of me needs TIME to be CALM. I need to carve out time where I can process my “busy” life. I need time to check-in with myself and make sure I am taking deep breaths. I need time to sleep. I never knew before how much I needed time to be still and calm. This means I have to say “No” to so many great ideas and plans. I do experience FOMO (fear of missing out) sometimes. But I am actually living in my JOMO (joy of missing out) and it turns out it makes me really happy. 

 

One moment does not define me. 

 

One thing you hear in mindfulness practice is to approach situations with a “beginner’s mind.” We actually say this at the Butterfly House on a weekly basis (it’s one of our core values!)  but it wasn’t until I saw it in my own life that it became clear to me. In the wake of my new role as a mother I also lost my job. I was certain that everyone could see the failure in my eyes. I actually believed I was a failure. This false perception of reality made me recoil from all the things that brought me joy because I believed I didn’t deserve to be happy.  This is where the beginner’s mind comes into play. Beginner’s mind is an approach to something as if you have no prior knowledge of it. In beginner’s mind, you have no existing bias towards the situation. When I look at my whole life with beginner’s mind I see that I am actually pretty great. This one moment in my story doesn’t define me. I’ve taken risks, and I am resilient. I am capable and I am evolving. Sometimes you have to step back and observe, without judgment or bias, to see the real picture clearly. I do deserve to be happy. Just because I have failed at something does not make me a failure.

 

It’s a bumpy and beautiful road

 

My path to wholeness is a bumpy road. It’s also beautiful. Even though I am nowhere near a perfectly balanced life, it feels good to just be aware that my whole self is alive and well.  Some days I spend a little more time on my emotional self. Some days I really dig into my spiritual self. Some days I just give my efforts to the part of my life that needs it the most at that moment. I make an effort to find time to reflect on my life, and I use a beginner’s mind to not cast (as much) judgment on myself. I found this easy exercise to help me gauge where I am in each area of my whole self (I’ve linked this exercise below so you can do it, too). During this exercise, you rank each area (emotional, intellectual, physical, social, spiritual, and occupational) on a scale of 1 to 5 depending on how much joy you perceive. Once you’re done, a circle is formed that represents your wholeness. This exercise can help you find an area you want to focus on and make a start. Just know that your circle may never be perfectly round. Your circle, like mine, is probably a little lumpy…and that’s ok. 

Whole Self Circle Exercise

A Holiday Meditation

A Holiday Meditation

Each week our team at Mind Body Align gathers on Tuesday afternoons for a brief group mindfulness meditation. It’s a chance to connect not just as colleagues but as humans “being”.  This was my week to lead and I really felt pulled toward this fabulous meditation from Jack Kornfield as our monthly topic of gratitude was coming to a close plus we are all about to celebrate Thanksgiving.

I love the way it reminds us to begin our gratitude meditation by recognizing the way we feel and how we have cared for ourselves, then we express gratitude for all things and finally we move to express gratitude for others and wish them joy.

We were so moved by the words that we began our Coffee Talk with the meditation and now we want for you to be able to access it throughout the holiday season and beyond.

Meditation on Gratitude and Joy by Jack Kornfield

Let yourself sit quietly and at ease. Allow your body to be relaxed and open, your breath natural, your heart easy. Begin the practice of gratitude by feeling how year after year you have cared for your own life. Now let yourself begin to acknowledge all that has supported you in this care:

With gratitude I remember the people, animals, plants, insects, creatures of the sky and sea, air and water, fire and earth, all whose joyful exertion blesses my life every day.

With gratitude I remember the care and labor of a thousand generations of elders and ancestors who came before me.

I offer my gratitude for the safety and well-being I have been given.

I offer my gratitude for the blessing of this earth I have been given.

I offer my gratitude for the measure of health I have been given.

I offer my gratitude for the family and friends I have been given.

I offer my gratitude for the community I have been given.

I offer my gratitude for the teachings and lessons I have been given.

I offer my gratitude for the life I have been given.

Just as we are grateful for our blessings, so we can be grateful for the blessings of others.

Continue to breathe gently. Bring to mind someone you care about, someone it is easy to rejoice for. Picture them and feel the natural joy you have for their well-being, for their happiness and success. With each breath, offer them your grateful, heartfelt wishes:

May you be joyful.

May your happiness increase.

May you not be separated from great happiness.

May your good fortune and the causes for your joy and happiness increase.

Sense the sympathetic joy and caring in each phrase. When you feel some degree of natural gratitude for the happiness of this loved one, extend this practice to another person you care about. Recite the same simple phrases that express your heart’s intention.

Then gradually open the meditation to include neutral people, difficult people, and even enemies until you extend sympathetic joy to all beings everywhere, young and old, near and far.

Practice dwelling in joy until the deliberate effort of practice drops away and the intentions of joy blend into the natural joy of your own wise heart.

You can read the original post on Jack Kornfield’s website here

Awakening Within The Fertile Silence Of Nature

Awakening Within The Fertile Silence Of Nature

“I would love to live like a river flows, carried by the surprise of its own unfolding.” -John O’Donohue 

We were four days into a week-long backpacking trip in the White Mountains of New Hampshire when Aurelio busted his ankle descending Tuckerman’s Ravine, a craggy glacier cirque just south of the summit of Mt. Washington. Before us was a mile of talus deposits, like staircases for giants, that we would have to negotiate before Lion’s Head trail merged into the more pedestrian section of Tuckerman’s Ravine Trail. It’d be another two miles before we reached Hermit Lake Shelter, where we would stay for the evening. 

There was no way for help to reach us, so Aurelio ground out the last few miles by leaning heavily into his hiking poles. He didn’t utter a word of complaint so that Cameron and I were surprised when we reached camp and he removed his boot, revealing an ankle twice the size it should have been and a dark purple bruise spreading across the bottom edge of his foot. 

With Aurelio unable to hike, we decided to set up a more permanent camp for the remainder of our trip. The next morning, we abandoned the established trail and headed deeper into the forest, until we found a secluded spot along Peabody River. There we slung our hammocks and fell into an unspoken rhythm of camp chores: scrubbing pots, filtering water, washing clothes, and building fire. 

We spent the afternoon relaxing on boulders in the middle of the river, listening to the immense volume of water rushing by, ever so slowly bending those enormous stones to its will. Aurelio submerged his bum ankle in the cool water. We each kept a journal at our side and would stare into the eddies of water like soothsayers for hours before finally jotting down a line, an insight, a revelation. 

That evening, as we sat together in the chiaroscuro of firelight, it occurred to me that we had hardly spoken a word to each other all day, yet I had never felt closer to my friends. I suggested that we read a few poems, as is the tradition for us on the trail. As I read my poem, the words seemed foreign. All form and no content. Usually, we relied on the poetry to draw us deeper into the moment, deeper into connection with one another, and to remind us of the holiness at work in all of this dirt and sweat, but now the words only seemed to efface the profound silence that had already settled over us. As the words faded away, becoming but felt memories in the tiny bones of our ears, we settled back into the fertile silence of nature like deer, having awakened to the fundamental interconnectedness of all things. 

“The ancient rhythms of the earth have insinuated themselves into the rhythms of the human heart. The earth is not outside us; it is within: the clay from where the tree of the body grows.” – John O’Donohue 

In the West, we have the tendency to prioritize our minds over our emotions and physical bodies. We tend to see the brain as the primary organ, and the thoughts that the brain secretes become the dubious foundation for our sense of self. But what about the ancient rhythms of the human heart; the way joy and sorrow precipitate one another? What about our forgetfulness, which allows for the beauty of the world to be continuously rediscovered? What about the landscape of the human body: its pleasure and pain, the secrets held in its musculature, the way it always tells the truth? The body is a universe of sensations that precedes any labeling done by the mind. 

There is a practice in Tibetan Buddhism called Dzogchen, in which the practitioner breaks through or sees through to their natural, primordial state of awareness. In Dzogchen the symbolic and imaginary layers of human perception drop away and there is direct knowledge of the ground of Being. Dzogchen is the clarity and wakefulness of the senses left to their natural state. It is faith in the flow, ease, and spontaneity that naturally arises when we surrender our hypervigilance and obsessive mental reflection. In Dzogchen the individual’s way of being-in-the-world is as simple as a tree producing fruit. 

I believe the concept of the soul, in the Judeo-Christian tradition, can bring us into a way of being that is similar to Dzogchen. If we become silent enough to listen from the soul, the delusions of ego fall away and we can become directly connected to that deepest part of ourselves, to our true and authentic core. Whatever actions arise out of this mode of listening-from-one’s-soul will necessarily be of the spirit of love, will be of God. This is not the surface level mentation about morality and ethics, but the spontaneous compassion and wisdom that arises from the soul’s natural goodness. 

In the west, we tend to fear this spontaneous action. We distrust our instinct and view the unconscious as a realm full of shadows that must be contained, tamped down, and repressed by our ever-vigilant mental activity. Nature, therefore, is important because it teaches us to accept the epistemic limitations of the mind. Nature insists that we stop identifying with our capricious mental arisings and enter into a deep engagement with the truth of our heart and body. Nature insists we fall in love with the mystery of Being. 

When we nurture a consistent connection to nature, we are reminded that we too possess the same simplicity of being that is present in the birds and the trees, the same uncomplicated is-ness of the natural world. We begin to feel intimately woven into the emerging pattern of all existence, connected to all things in this present moment as if by an umbilical cord stretching back to the singularity. 

We all have access to the fertile silence and stillness that nature inspires. Don’t worry, it doesn’t require that you spend weeks in the wilderness, I just happen to be a tough case when it comes to awakening. An occasional overnighter in your nearest state park or evening strolls in your local nature preserve might be all that you need. Perhaps tending to a small garden is enough for you. As the Buddha taught in his Flower Sermon, when we enter nature, listening attentively at this soul level, a single flower is enough to awaken us to our natural great perfection. 

 

Travel Light

Travel Light

Travel Light. These words are the signature to my correspondence whether it is a blog, email or a letter. People often ask if I offer tips for how to pack luggage lightly when preparing for a trip after seeing these two words. That can definitely be one interpretation, but not my intention.

While on the road traveling for work over a five-year period, I am grateful to say that I have explored my fair share of cities. There were periods that I was in the same place for a few months, sometimes only a week and more commonly a day. With this active travel schedule and long work days, I thought I would create a blog so I could share photos and stories with friends and family while on the road. I decided on BohemianBabeTravels.com as the name of the site. Bohemian because it seemed to be the perfect fit for my unconventional lifestyle and Babe as a reminder to always find something to be in awe of in the world around me.

When I set out on the road to organize events, I had two storage units and more household type items at a friend’s place where I would stay when coming home for a quick family visit and to swap out luggage before hitting the road again. I had enough stuff to comfortably furnish a three-bedroom house at this time. While living as a road warrior, I came to appreciate and be content with the two suitcases of belongings I had. It was an adjustment but taught me how to live in a more simplistic way.

While managing an event, I met a nine-year girl who began asking me a ton of questions like curious children often do. After talking for a few minutes and attempting to understand my current lifestyle, she asked, “You mean you don’t go home every night? Where is all of your stuff? What do you miss the most?” As basic as these questions might have sounded, it stopped me in my tracks and I paused before answering. This child was referring to a material object and I couldn’t think of one thing that I actually missed. Not one. At that moment I couldn’t actually even think of one thing I owned that was back at my home base. The list I missed that popped into my head was game night with my family, holding my puppies, going out with friends, celebrating birthdays, holidays, life events together, and seeing faces, hearing laughter and sharing simple moments with those I loved. I came to realize that although I had accumulated all of this “stuff’, none of it held meaning for me nor made me happy. Creating memories with my tribe is what I missed the most, not material belongings.

Through my travels, I met a lot of different folks. I am the person that others refer to as, “that girl has never met a stranger.” I will pretty much talk to anyone. It is my babe view on the world; my lust to learn, and knowing that everyone has a story to share. Some of the most prolific moments in my life came through “random” encounters with “strangers.” I learned more in these times than any formal classroom could have ever taught me. There is much to gain in practicing presence and simply listening. I am grateful for the chance to have connected with people from all walks of life and the things I learned along the way. The stories people shared, the advice they gave, the dreams they aspired to achieve, and the hardships life presented them with were all pivotal in shaping the person I am today and essential in preparing me for the road that lay ahead. 

The buzz phrase today is “being present.” This can often be hard to achieve when we go through the motions of our routines. We get comfortable in doing what we know and less willing to adventure outside of that safety zone. Even if people are unhappy, they will at times choose to stay where they are just because it is familiar. This is fine, but it can lead to getting stuck. When we aren’t moving forward, we become stagnant and cease to grow. It is easy to say “break out of the routine, hit the road, and discover yourself.” Please know while this is a dream for most, it is also not always practical and not at all what I’m saying. I would like to invite others to recognize the world – with those babe like eyes and get your bohemian on – by choosing a different approach to your routine. Break out of that comfort zone and allow yourself to view the world through a new lens. Perhaps it is something as simple as going boho by taking an alternate route to work that day, or being a babe by walking outside during your lunch break to establish a connection, whether it is within a flower, a cloud in the sky or even someone passing. Recognize the essence and beauty of its being. Traveling light doesn’t require a trip anywhere except within yourself. Let go of the stuff that doesn’t serve you. When you choose to hold onto it, it is really holding onto you. Let go and grow. Just breathe and be. This is the discovery of something awe striking when you align with your own divine light.

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