Blog

Decluttering House and Mind

Many of you may be familiar with Marie Kondo’s books which guide us to declutter our home enabling us to simplify and organize our living spaces once and for all.  She offers this simple question to help us purge — “Does this item spark joy?”

I’ve recently had a big garage sale in preparation for my upcoming move and I found it pretty easy to part with items I have been dragging around for years by honestly answering that one question.  Admittedly, there was a strong sentimental attachment to some items like my wedding china which has been moved  5 times over the past 18 years and were used maybe a dozen times.  It was stored in padded covers in closed cabinets.  The china didn’t spark joy — the memories of how Skip loved to shop for it is what really sparked my joy!

Those memories take up no space and do not have to be carefully transported once again to yet another dark closet.  My kids didn’t want the china and neither did my closest friends.  Seeing the joy that it brought to a woman who yearned for good china all her life and who entertains her large family quite often made parting it with it all the easier.

What has happily surprised me is that I feel happier, lighter and freer now that I have parted with a lot of “stuff” and am enjoying a minimalist approach to my living space.  My reward for accomplishing this daunting task was a huge bouquet of freshly cut, fragrant flowers.

Being completely candid, it is probably easier for me than most to pare down like this.  After all, I foresee myself living in a small apartment and traveling often over the next 5 years or more.  So from a practical standpoint, it just makes sense to simplify my possessions.

Now picture me sitting in my uncluttered space and asking myself one more very serious question.  If I can declutter my home and part with possessions that are not sparking joy, could I also declutter my mind and part with well-worn habits that are not serving me well?

When I start to ruminate or recall a painful memory, could I stop myself and ask — is this helping me live in the present moment enjoying a peaceful, joy-filled life?

When I procrastinate on dealing with a challenging person or situation, is it really helping me move forward or is it keeping me in quicksand?

Recognizing that old habits and conditioned responses are cluttering my mind and eating up a lot of real estate in that busy brain of mine, it was time for personal clean up.

Mindfulness has been the key in helping me move on from a failed relationship over this past year.    It’s many benefits include improved physical health, stronger family relationships, deepened personal friendships and greater enjoyment of my activities and projects.

So I laughed at myself and acknowledged that there’s still more work to be done.

A yoga instructor once wisely pointed out that we improve physically and spiritually through small increments over long periods of practice.  One day we realize that we can do that backward bend much farther than we once did, but it did not happen overnight.  It happened over months — with lots of committed practice.

The same is true with mindfulness.  We can effect some pretty remarkable changes in our lives by rewiring our brains through awareness and mindfulness practice.

The common thread boils down to intention.

When purging my house and personal possessions, my intention was to eliminate material things I didn’t need or want anymore.  There was tangible evidence that I was accomplishing the goal because my house was uncluttered.

The challenge with a mindful intention is that my busy mind wanders far and wide throughout the day.  It is all too easy to get caught in an old familiar loop of thinking and feeling and the next thing you know, I have eaten half a bag of salty potato chips instead of the healthy carrot sticks so meticulously prepped in the morning!  Worse yet, I wasn’t even hungry – just bored or upset.

Striving to utilize Marie Kondo’s sparking joy theory, I’m paying more attention to my thoughts and actions as part of my daily intention.

All my hopes and aspirations, my values, principles and my character reside in my brain and in my heart.  It’s also where all those priceless, precious memories are stored.

Housecleaning my mind frees up valuable space so there is expansive room to invite new experiences and positive, mindful living into my present and future life.

It’s going to take a lot of practice and I’m betting I’ll get a lot of chances throughout each  day to work on it:)

 

 

 

 

 

Intuition

I got a healthy dose of inspiration about intuition this morning thanks to a video from Brendon Buchard, one of the world’s top personal development trainers.  I’d been doing a lot of journaling lately about hindsight and what I have learned about myself and the choices I’ve made over the years, looking for clues to help me make better decisions in the future.

Oddly enough, I was thinking a lot about intuition and how I used to feel like I was pretty tuned into my own years ago, but that somehow I had stuffed it away and forgot that intuition is a valuable life resource.

While mindlessly sifting through some social media, Brendon’s video popped up and I opted to play it.  Wow — I thought he was talking directly to me!  “Hey, Amy — want to reconnect with your intuition?  Let me give you some insight.”  (Well, at least that ‘s what I heard)

Brendon shared how to distinguish intuition from fear. Intuition operates on 4 planes:

  • Trust
  • Social intelligence
  • Positive growth
  • Tied to your faith or values and beliefs

I listened to his video several times and I encourage you to do the same if you find this to be insightful and helpful in your own life. (brendon.com)

Then I did the hard work of looking at my past to observe where I ignored my intuition.  I was curious as to why I turned a blind eye to such a valuable resource.  What I discovered was mind-blowing and I am so excited that I get to tap into my intuition going forward with a sharpened awareness of what is most important to me.  I’ve got to believe that I will now consistently make good, informed decisions.

Trust

Brendon gives very good, every day examples for each of the four planes.  He encourages us to distinguish between a simple thought and strong vibe.   You might be talking to someone and ask yourself — “Do I trust this person? Am I getting a negative vibe?”

I decided that I better start the “trust” question with myself — Do I trust myself to make a good assessment — of people, of decisions, of choices?    All the work I have been doing on mindfulness over this past year has really helped me to create a short, meaningful list of my values.  I can call these up anytime and ask myself — am I being true to my values as I make this decision or observation?

I know myself well enough to know that I have a lot of empathy for others and most always give others the benefit of the doubt.  I also have tremendous patience and and that can be a blessing and a curse.  I am a natural born caregiver. Too many times in the past, I have trusted that someone will rise to the occasion, or meet my expectations if I just give them a chance.   I often ignored my intuition or did not take the time to learn more about a person so that I could make a wise decision. I was too busy rescuing.  As a result, I made poor hiring decisions, acquired negative and needy friends or life partners who did not share my core values.

Social Intelligence

This plane really grabbed my attention.  While I am very good at personal relationships and maintaining diverse friendships over many years and miles, I failed to recognize a problem that was thwarting my happiness.  I was plagued with codependency.

Codependent relationships are a type of dysfunctional helping relationship where one person supports or enables another person’s addiction, poor mental health, immaturity, irresponsibility or under-achievement.

The “aha” moment for me was recognizing that all this time I thought I was being a good caregiver and running around rescuing people in the hopes that they’d get happy and productive, I was tolerating behaviors that were in direct conflict with my core values!

Not surprisingly, this ties right back into the first plane — Trust.  Trusting myself to invite people who genuinely want to be on the path of self improvement and are willing to do the work must be the first filter.  Paying attention to my intuition when it is literally screaming at me –“Why are you accepting this draining, disrespectful behavior?”

I intend to blog more about codependency at another time but for now I will just say that my childhood had a lot to do with those tendencies.  As with any experience, one can extract both good and bad skills and habits.  I am a pretty decent and balanced person in spite of childhood family dysfunction since I was motivated to be quite different from my parents.  On the other hand, I also became the ultimate caregiver and did not acquire the necessary filters to respect my own boundaries.

So, I have some homework to do now — how exciting!  I need to take my social intelligence to a whole new level.  I want to become a much better assessor of character as I invite new people into my life.  Oh, and I am resigning my position as caregiver:)

Positive Growth

I’ve had a few setbacks in my life that ultimately ended up being a launching pad for a growth spurt.  Perhaps this is one area of my life where my intuition served me well.

After being diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer at age 40 and successfully beating it, I got very involved with a variety of cancer research and awareness organizations, volunteering my time to raise funds and inspire others through motivational speaking.   While I knew I was giving to others in a positive way, I may not have been aware of the impact my courage and strength was having on my three children (ages 5, 15 and 16 at the time).

Then at age 50, I was suddenly widowed.  I lost my best friend and the love of my life.  It took a while to find a silver lining in this devastating loss.  I finally decided that I needed to help others in order to fill the huge hole in my heart.  I quit my 25 year career in financial services and opened my own business – a lingerie and breast care boutique.  It had been a long time dream of mine to create a beautiful shopping environment for women who had faced breast surgeries that was feminine, compassionate, dignified and emotionally uplifting.  My daughter and I poured heart and soul into Annabella’s in Paoli, PA.  We accomplished all of the goals we set for ourselves and then some.  As I reflect back on being an inspired entrepreneur, I never made a lot of money — I made a difference.  That’s my personal definition of success.

In his video, Brendon says that this 3rd plane of intuition – Personal Growth – should make you feel excited, energized, connected!  Just hearing the enthusiasm in his voice as he encourages us to listen to that intuition, gets the blood pumping!  I literally wanted to dance around the room with joy as I thought about this next chapter of my life!

I’m having a growth spurt!  It’s a time to change, a second chance!

And then Brendon offers words of wisdom.  While your intuition may be spot on about Positive Growth, your decision making may not be right.  He cautions us to explore and pay attention.  Decision making decides how to implement a new goal.     Ask yourself this question he says:  “What is my next right action of integrity?”

I loved that — integrity really resonates with me.  It ties right back into my core values of treating myself and others with trust and respect.

Brendon shares that “intuition operates best after effort than before”.  That’s pretty powerful stuff.  He suggests that you take small steps toward a larger goal.  Along the way, stop and ask yourself and your intuition how it feels.  If you are still feeling inspired, excited and energized, you are on the right path!

Judging by the enthusiasm I have for this blog post right now, I’d have to say that my recent, carefully planned decisions are confirming I am on the right path.

Tied to Your Faith or Values/Beliefs

Over this past year of mindfulness and mediation, I have often had to ask myself if I was really being my best self.  What did I need from my environment, my racing thoughts, my family and friends to be my best self?

Trusting your intuition and paying attention to how your body feels, how you are reacting to others and to life’s events, being honest about bad habits — these are all guideposts for living your life in balance with your core values and beliefs.

Brendon says if you realize that you are just not being that good for those around you, pay attention to your intuition and see if you are genuinely connected with your values and beliefs. If not, tell yourself “I am better than this.”

He offers that we need to rise through the difficulties of the day and be a role model for others.  Pay attention to how we treat people.

A close examination of myself a year ago revealed to me that my environment was full of drama, negativity and conflict.  As a result I was resentful  because I was emotionally drained, publicly embarrassed and deeply hurt by unnecessary family disharmony.  My core values of trust, respect and positivity were not being supported.  No wonder I was sad, tired and physically strained.  That certainly was not my best self.

Heeding my intuition, it was time to leave and and give myself a peaceful, predictable and happy living environment.  That was a big first decision.  Next I had to stop kidding myself and dig deep into self-awareness and self-improvement.  Mindfulness and meditation played a big part in this process.  It was not a quick fix by any stretch of the imagination.   In fact, it was like yoga — small, incremental improvements over time.  Then one day, I realized that I was definitely moving in the right direction and actually making significant progress.  I was rewiring my brain and learning new skills and habits to rid myself of old habitual responses.

Six months into my transition, it suddenly dawned on me that the whole codependency thing was still with me.   While I had made a lot of positive life changes and was returning to my normal, happy positive, energetic self I was still tethered to this “caregiver” role. I’ll confess that it took a lot of effort to sort out the pieces of myself and come to terms with a big distinction between being a compassionate, empathic person and the person that blindly jumps into rescue mode before assessing the situation.

Today, I take every opportunity that I can to test myself and my intuition to ensure that my hard work is sinking in.  If I get a knot in my stomach or a red flag flapping in a 40 mile an hour wind, I smile and invite intuition to sit down with me and explore.

I am grateful that I watched Brendon’s video this morning because it reinforces my commitment to self improvement and this new chapter of my life.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ready, Set, Go — I’m a Blogger!

I’m just getting started in building my blog about all the changes I’m currently making in my life.  The past year has been full of self awareness, mindfulness and redefining my purpose and my dreams.  It’s my hope to share insights, some hearty laughs, and a little wisdom along the way.

images-4

Mindfulness will be the cornerstone of my foundation as I reshape my life and I’ll be sharing ideas of how to incorporate mindfulness into our busy, every day lives.  It will come as no surprise that often means getting our faces out of our phones:)

 

Finding meaning and purpose in retirement will be another aspect to my blog.  I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about what I’m doing each day that makes me feel like I’m contributing in a positive way to my family, my friends and the world in general.  Conversations with friends and folks I meet while traveling have really sparked my interest in exploring this topic more deeply.

Creative writing is something I have enjoyed all my life and I am working to accomplish two goals with this hobby  The first goal is to write children’s stories that incorporate mindfulness into the message. My hope is that we can teach children to deal with their emotions in a healthy way, to be kind and respectful to others, and to be resourceful in problem solving.  I’ve wanted to write children’s stories since my boys were little and I have had a few false starts along the way.  It is my adorable granddaughters that have really inspired me to get make this happen!  This goal also ties into finding meaning and purpose in retirement so that gets me even more motivated.

images-7

 

My second goal is to write whimsical stories about funny everyday experiences that often happen to us when we least expect it.  Erma Bombeck was always my inspiration for my amusing anecdotes, so I am hoping to do her some justice and spread a little humor along the way.

 

 

When I originally decided to launch a blog, it was intended as a way for my friends and family to keep track of all my adventures as I am about to relocate once again.  Now I have a much more definitive purpose to my life and my blog.   I want to extend a hearty thank you to my daughter and son-in-law and to my many friends who listened to my ideas, who encouraged me and gave me food for thought and inspired me to keep going…and growing.