The Perfectionist vs The Holidays

Snowman FamilyLots of attention is paid this time of year to giving thanks and expressing gratitude for what we have, and that is wonderful! But unfortunately, a lot of attention is also paid to “creating the perfect holiday meal/gift/home/party/…”

This can pose a huge challenge to those over-achievers and perfectionists out there who strive to give their friends, families and co-workers the best holiday experience ever. Often, they run themselves ragged by getting very little sleep because they’re up all night baking perfect pies, stressing over the minor details including seating arrangements, and running all over town just to find the right flower for the centerpiece.

Relax, not even Martha Stewart can do it herself. She has an army of assistants working to help her dazzle everyone with her “genius”.

Perfectionists obsess over every minor detail when it comes to holiday family gatherings. This can stem from a strong emotional desire to please so their homes need to be clean enough to pass the “white glove test”. Or, they might have something to prove by showing everyone that they are amazing cooks by roasting the perfect turkey, creating the most scrumptious desserts, and making everything by hand. Thinking of others before themselves, they spend days putting together seating charts and creating a list of games to play. By the time the holiday arrives they’re already exhausted.

And to make matters worse, the work is just the beginning. Often, perfectionists spend the entire time in the kitchen or flitting around fixing decorations, organizing coats, and making sure everyone is comfortable to even stop and enjoy their company. Typically, the holidays are over before they realize that they didn’t really get to spend any quality time with their friends and family. Days later – suffering from post-event depression – they think, “I want to ask so-and-so about that” before realizing the gathering is over and the opportunity has passed.

They do all this work to create the perfect day and they don’t even stop to enjoy it.

It’s okay, (and more enjoyable,) to order a pizza one night if it means spending quality time with family because in the end, it’s really more important than creating a table that looks like a magazine cover.

Trust me, it is so freeing!

Advertisements

The Head vs. The Heart

Heart ChakraThere is a battle that rages between your head and heart everyday. When everything seems to be going right for us we are in our heart. When it falls apart we are in our head.

What do I mean by this?

Simply put, when something just “feels right” and you are able to move through your day without a lot of obstacles or distractions, you are in your heart. Sometimes, you might feel a lightness to your body, or a pleasant buzzing coursing through your veins. This is what it feels like to be connected to The Universe. I find that on days like this, I always have a small smile on my face – very Mona Lisa-like – and am friendlier, more open to new experiences, and more willing to trust my gut feelings.

However, when we are in our head, we are cranky, snippy, confused, and often run around like a chicken with our heads cut off. This is because we have become disconnected from The Universe, (and the joyful energy that The Universe emits,) and have allowed our Ego – or mind – to take over the days events. We replay conversations, tasks, and ideas over and over in our head like a movie on constant repeat. This in turn can literally lead to a headache!

One of my favorite teachers, Eckhart Tolle, discusses this in great depth in his first book, “The Power of Now.” In fact, the entire focus of his book is dedicated to quieting our minds and allowing the moment, or now, to guide us.

If you’ve allowed your heart to guide you, you should be able to feel joy, ease, and lightness in what you’re doing. If not, you’ve surrendered to the mind. Try taking a deep breath and re-focusing your energy. Allow yourself to release any confused, angry, frustrated, or anxious feelings and just be. Imagine something that brings you joy and keep that image in your mind. It could be a memory, smell, person, or thought.

Remember, the heart is the boss of us not the brain!

It’s Okay to Take a Break

Rock cairns, meditation, oak creekFor many of you, school is now in full swing which reminded of how much more hectic my schedule became when my two kids went back to school. Suddenly our less-structured summer time gave way to swimming practice, band practice, after school plays, trips to the mall, and homework.

But it’s important to pay attention to your child at this time to make sure you’re not overwhelming them with too much stimulus and too many activities. Kid’s brains need downtime, and I was reminded of this the other morning.

I was sitting on my deck, enjoying the sunrise and drinking a cup of coffee. I started out by thinking of all the things I needed to get done that day, but was soon distracted by my cat, Dover. He had noticed a bird taking a bath in one of my water basins in the yard and was quietly stalking it. (He’s much slower now, so I don’t worry about him actually being able to catch the bird.)

I ended up spending about fifteen minutes watching the whole scene play out – the bird obliviously playing in the water, Dover crouching low, doing his best tiger imitation. I took great joy in this scene until I realized that what I was supposed to be doing was setting my intention for the day and working on my to-do list.

But then spirit reminded me that I don’t always have to be planning, doing, producing, or accomplishing anything. Sometimes it’s just okay to laugh at a bird and my cat doing their thing. But it also got me thinking that we spend so much of our time worrying about getting to the next activity or making sure we, (and by extension, our children,) are stimulated, engaged, and moving towards a goal that we forget to take a break.

But here’s the thing: sometimes it’s okay to just be. Sometimes what you really need most is to enjoy the sunrise, a cup of coffee and a cat playing tiger with a bird.

So don’t push your kids too hard. Give them some downtime. Encourage them to just go outside and sit, watch, and listen. Allow them to spend time alone in their room, playing with their toys, reading or listening to music. Their evolving brains need just as much downtime as ours do – maybe even more.

Be gentle, be kind, and be understanding. It’s the the best gift you can ever give your kids.

The Universe Has a Gift for You

relaxing, meditationThose little things that you alone see aren’t by chance.  The sign, the squirrel, the dragonfly; the whisper, the song, the lily.  It’s me. I’m always with you. I’ll do anything to reach you — to give you hope, keep you on track, answer your questions.

Look even closer,
The Universe

I received this lovely message by email the other day and I wanted to share it with you because it rings so true and so eloquently states what I have been trying to say for the past few months – take the time to stop, notice your surroundings and just absorb the beauty around you.

I realize that not everyone has a trickling creek and green trees in their front yard, (as I do,) but even if you’re sitting in an office, look out the window at the color of the sky. Is it a beautiful, bright blue? Are clouds building in wonderful patterns that look like dogs, flowers, or dragons? This is a gift from the Universe.  Rather than focusing on the fact that you’re stuck inside, take a moment to appreciate the gift.

My daughter took a trip to New England last Fall and she shared a story with me about finding beauty in the most unlikeliest of places – on the side of a highway during rush hour traffic. She was racing to get to Western Massachusetts after spending too much time at Walden Pond and was driving like the crazy driver that she is through the countryside. Frustrated with Friday night traffic and stressing about not making it to her bed and breakfast before dark, she realized that as much as she tried, she was not going to magically make traffic move any faster.

Rather than continue to be angry, she rolled down the window for a breath of fresh air. What she heard was a symphony of crickets. It struck her as odd that she could actually hear crickets on the side of the road instead of traffic whizzing by, horns honking and the other unnatural noises she was used to on the California freeways. The sun reflected off the long grass in the distance and as she rolled along, the sound of crickets followed her – literally thousands of them. She said that even now, when she begins to get angry or frustrated in the car, all she has to do is take a deep breath and remember how she felt on that crowded Massachusetts highway one late fall afternoon.

What gifts have you received from the Universe?

Stillness Speaks

fairey house 017“The quieter you become, the more you can hear.” – Ram Dass

A long time ago when I was a Girl Scout, we played a game called Listening Post. The object of the game was to stand with your back against a post, close your eyes, and make no noise for one minute, listening to the sounds around you. When the minute was up, we each shared what we heard and the results were very interesting. We could hear the wind rustle the leaves in the trees above, birds chirping near the creek, the roar of the waterfall a mile away and even insects digging in the logs we used as benches around the campfire. Every now and then, I still play this game and I always feel so much calmer and connected to The Universe when my minute is up.

The single most important thing you can do for yourself and your personal growth is to sit quietly for a few minutes each day and just listen.

Don’t think.

Don’t worry about “doing it right”.

Don’t compare your experience from day to day.

Don’t get caught up in the dogma of the practice.

Just Be.

The Shoulda, Coulda, Wouldas

The Shoulda, Coulda, Woulda Card from Deborah Koff-Chapins Soul Cards deck.

The Shoulda, Coulda, Woulda Card from Deborah Koff-Chapins Soul Cards deck.

We spend a lot of time beating ourselves up, thinking we should have handled a situation differently, wondering if things could have been better if we made another choice, wishing we would have taken another path.

Some people call this regret. I call it the shoulda, coulda, wouldas.

I’ve used a bunch of different Tarot decks over the past 25 years, but the ones I use now are called Soul Cards. I love that each image is open to the interpretation of the reader and the person receiving the reading.

One of the cards that comes up a lot during readings is what I call the Shoulda, Woulda, Coulda card. It has three frightful faces that look like they are yelling and admonishing you. When it appears, it tells me  that the person I am doing the reading for is not  living his or her life for themselves, but doing everything they can to meet the expectations of others. These people are prisoners of their own life, seldom doing what they want to do. And when they do try to breakout of their belief system, they beat themselves up  by saying I shoulda done this, I coulda done that, if I woulda have done this.

Try breaking out of your mold more often by taking risks. They don’t have to be big risks – I’m not asking you to tackle Mount Everest – but try taking little ones if you’re afraid of leaving your comfort zone. For example, if you’re shy, try smiling at the grocery store checkout person next time you’re in line. If you are uncomfortable in large groups, seek out another loner, (there’s always at least two at big gatherings,) and say hi. If you want to lose weight, but are afraid of working out in front of others, dance around your house for fifteen minutes.

Take risks! Let go of what you think everyone wants you to be. When you get an idea explore it. Listen to that little inner voice that says “go for it”. At least you’ll know what the outcome was instead of wondering for the rest of your life, if you shoulda, coulda, woulda.

Do You Walk Your Talk?

Sunflowers

Each morning I get up, feed the cat and dog, drink a few cups of coffee, check my email and Facebook, then set my intention for the day. Sometimes, while looking at my friends’ posts on Facebook, I find a saying I like and sometimes I click the Like button.

Which got me thinking. How many also click “like” on the kindness and understanding posts? How many people read them, like them and move on, not giving it a second thought? Facebook is full of positive messages of love, hope, trust, and compassion but how many people really pay attention to them?

When you choose to like a post on Facebook, do you take a moment to really take it in? Do you take a deep breath and tell yourself you are going to practice that idea all day?

Can you even do it for an hour?

Or do you put it out of your mind, get into your car, pull out of the driveway and start yelling and flipping people off?  Maybe you scream at the server in Starbucks because you had to wait more than a few minutes for your coffee.  Are you cross with a co-worker for no reason other than you are irritated that day?

Wouldn’t it be interesting to see how your day went if you remembered the post and followed through with practicing that thought for a day?

Try it you might like it!