Friday, March 13, 2009

I believe...

This is one of those email questionaires that goes around...but I liked it because it requires the responder to really look into her heart and not just ask which kind of peanut butter she prefers. So, please feel free to read on and create your own. I hope it stimulates great conversations!


(Create 25 true statements about yourself and your life, and what you believe. Share with your friends, ask them to do the same, and learn more about one another. )

1. I believe that I’m far more comfortable with myself; body, mind and spirit, than I was at 16.

2. I believe that I learn more about the world around me every day, and the more I learn, the more I want to know. I realize how ignorant I have been, and am excited about the prospect of lifelong learning.

3. I believe a woman is more beautiful after she becomes a mother. Tiredness is one thing, but a loving glow is quite another.

4. I believe we have a great deal to learn from our children, if we only take the time to listen. And yet, there are times that I believe it’s perfectly reasonable to say “Because I said so.”

5. I believe in true love but that true love doesn’t come without obstacles. It’s the overcoming of those obstacles that deepen love, not diminish it.

6. I believe that sunshine and fresh air are vital to good health but also that the energy of a city is invigorating.

7. I believe that the arts are critical to the soul. Music, painting, theatre, sculpture all speak to a little used part of the brain in too many people. I also believe that schools removing arts programs will see children lack the ability to think creatively and laterally about logical problems.

8. I believe deeply in God, and that compassion, tolerance and a loving heart are the root of my faith. I do not believe that God excludes.

9. I believe that caring for animals is a window into
a person’s psyche. If a person hates dogs, it’s unlikely I will feel comfortable in her presence or that she will be a true friend to me.

10. I believe in moderation; sunning oneself, chocolate, a glass of wine and other small gifts are meant to enjoyed. Life is too short to deny oneself. However, when overused, these small joys will lose their power to bring joy.

11. I believe in smiling at everyone I meet and making eye contact. I believe in good manners, especially in saying “please” and “thank you”.

12. I believe that laughter until you cry is a vital form of expression.

13. I believe in the power of a cup of a tea and a friendly ear.

14. I believe in singing Christmas carols the entire month of December.

15. I believe in saying “I don’t know” when I am unsure, as well as “I need help”.

16. I believe in never taking one’s health for granted....and in finding ways to improve our health. This is meant as a gift to ourselves and shouldn't be thought of as punishment.

17. I believe in reading good books that will inspire me, as well the fact that books are meant to be shared. A good book sitting on a shelf, never to be read again is not a collection. But, a book grows with the sharing of it.

18. I believe I will never be a good gardener, and that I lack the basic gene to make things grow, but that I can appreciate beautiful gardens in other people’s yards. I am completely okay with that.

19. I believe in travel. The power of seeing new places, being open to new experiences, and not just surrounding oneself with the familiar (even away) is life affirming.

20. I believe in freshly baked bread and think Dr. Atkins must be a sad, sad man.

21. I believe everyone should be able to cook 3 delicious meals, even if you aren’t a great cook. It’s easy to stick to three foolproof meals when entertaining. I also believe that experimentation with cooking can go horribly wrong, and that it’s okay to say “Sorry ! Let’s order in!” when things go awry.

22. I believe in warm, fresh, clean sheets to get into bed every night, and my own special pillow.

23. I believe that there can be lessons to learn from people, even if we disagree with them.

24. I believe in destiny and I also believe that even our mistakes can lead us to where we're ultimately meant to be.

25. I believe in counting my blessings every night before I go to sleep, and every morning when I wake up…because no matter how crazy the world may seem, I have been truly fortunate.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Forever in Blue Jeans

Money talks, But it don't sing and dance And it can't walk. As long as I can have you here with me, I'd much rather be Forever in blue jeans. ~ Neil Diamond

Every now and then, I will find myself humming the above referenced Neil Diamond song. While Mr. Diamond was popular before I really came of age, I have to admit to being a fan of his music. Yet, "Forever in Blue Jeans" represents a a life philosophy so close to my heart that the words are completely embedded in my soul and in my closet. I am, most assuredly, a jeans woman. I love my jeans. I dress them up with heels and fancy tops and jewelry. I dress them down with Uggs and cozy sweaters. I wore jeans to take my children to the park when they were little, and to have coffee with friends, as we laughed and cried together. Jeans are my wardrobe mainstay and I'd be lost with my access to Lucky Jeans stores.

However, jeans aren't just about what I put on my body. It is true that many women would rather find their perfect fitting pair of jeans---that maximizes their assets and camoflagues their faults---than they would to find a good date for a Saturday night. The perfect jeans, that fit as if they were made specifically for you are the Holy Grail of the shopping world. And, when we discover that magical pair that posesses all the alchemical possibilities to make us feel tall, slim and beautiful, we reach a state of shopping Nirvana. Yet, the attitude behind a jeans-based wardrobe and life philosophy is not materialistic, once you find your denim soulmate.

Having a favorite pair of jeans, and living in them throughout your daily life, can say a great deal about your life philosophy. As opposed to wearing the Little Black Dress or the Business Suit, wearing jeans can show the world that you believe in comfort, in freedom and in dressing to please yourself, not others. Perfectly worn in jeans can mean that you aren't a slave to fashion, but prefer to set your own standards. Will Rogers once said, "I don't feel comfortable any place my dog and my blue jeans aren't welcome." I adore this sentiment and agree with it wholeheartedly. Wearing jeans can mean that you are down to Earth, believe in an open heart and a personality that says "I am comfortable with who I am, and I don't need to dress up in a costume to pretend to be myself."

This, of course, doesn't mean that we should only wear jeans, and never wear anything else. I do not mean to imply that people who aren't comfortable wearing jeans are in any way less evolved than people who do. But, I can say that there was a time in my life in which I simply couldn't wear jeans and feel at home. I felt the need to "dress up" for no apparent reason, and did not feel put together unless I was wearing clothing that said "Elegant at all times". Wearing jeans I felt heavy, messy and unkempt. What I came to discover about myself was that, in jeans, I was not heavy, messy or unkempt, except in my own mind and heart. I learned that I didn't need to wear a designer outfit every day simply to present a good face to the world. What I needed to do was to excavate my soul and find the same degree of confidence and peace in my spirit, whether I'm wearing denim jeans or a silk dress. Denim whispers and says "There you are!" to those around you. Silk shouts, "Here I am !". My father, every bit as wise as Will Rogers, once to urged me to be the kind of woman who says "There you are!" to those around me. Denim can mean looking outside our own insecurities and foibles because we completely at peace with our walk on the journey. In being comfortable with our own path, we can better help others by being the kind of person who listens before she speaks.

So, wear your jeans with the kind of approachable person with whom others feel comfortable. But, most of all, find comfort within yourself, knowing that you have nothing prove, except your own level of peaceful confidence.

And, when you do find that magical pair of jeans that flatters from every angle, buy three pair.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Exhaustion: a cultural phenomenon

In this uber-intensive age of multi-tasking, our bodies and minds are being asked to become more productive, more animated and more enlightened with every moment. We are pushing ourselves to create, to think laterally and to expand upon our abilities and talents. We are learning new technologies every day to help us more productively use our time. We are also learning new ways to waste time, using these very same technologies. We are scheduled, we are regimented and we are using every possible moment to our best advantage. Even our cars are places of 'work' now....we can use Blackberries to remain in touch with those who need information even on our drives. We have learned that we can, and must, balance relationships, parenting, career and self-improvement.

And, yet, are we happier? Are we wiser, more in tune with our authentic selves and our environment? We are closer to those we care about emotionally, simply because we can always reach them by computer or cell? Lastly, are we better off in this state of constant, frenzied productivity? Unfortunately, I believe many of us are on overload. Just as an overloaded boat will begin to sink into the water, so will an overloaded mind and body. Marshall MacLuhan wrote, "One of the effects of living with electric information is that we live habitually in a state of information overload. There's always more than you can cope with." So, what happens to us when we hit this overload or information, work, and trying to meet the needs of those around us? The answer is exhaustion.

Our bodies are a good indication of our minds. With too much information flying around our brains, our bodies can be a reflection of the strained minds many of us feel. This can be felt by an utter sense of tiredness.We can find ourselves barely keeping our eyes open at work or school. Young people are not immune to this psychological exhuastion. They are being asked to produce more, take in more stimulation and sensory overload than in any other time in history. Young and old alike are finding suppressed immune systems (leading to poor health), physical weariness and less ability to concentrate on our many tasks at hand.

The answer to this intense level of fatigue, both physical and mental, is rest. In our 'go, go, go!' culture, this isn't a simple feat. It's challenging to disentangle ourselves from our technology. It's tough to ignore voice mail, requests for our time and email. We are completely immersed in our frantic level of busy-ness, and yet, the urge to 'just check email one more time' before resting can be powerful. As tired as we are, we find ourselves addicted to the level of energy we have expended. We know we need to rest, to take time away from our vigorous lives, and yet we find ourselves compulsively drawn back to the very source of our exhaustion.

Initially, "letting go" feels like "work". We find ourselves working very hard at relaxing. This is truly a contradiction in terms, and yet, as we fight any addiction, this process can be a 'one step forward, two steps back' scenario, in the beginning of our journey to take charge of our exhaustion. Even if it means hiding your cell phone, locking up your laptop or placing the keys to the car in the freezer, it's crucial that we take the steps necessary to give our minds, bodies and spirits the chance to recharge. Just as the batteries in those very laptops must be recharged in order to operate at full capacity, so must our minds and bodies.

For some people, taking a restorative Yoga class can be a wonderful method of 'learning to relax'. Because a class is a task that can be put on our schedules, it's a good beginning for those of us who have a challenging time creating a relaxing atmosphere at home. For the 60 minutes per class, all electronic devices must be left outside the door, and with them, the mental connections to all that is pulling us away from truly letting go of the sources of our stress. During a restorative Yoga class, many instructors, myself included, will ask our students to practice inversions, such as Legs Up the Wall pose. Supported inversions have been proven to quickly reduce stress and fatigue, can assist in combatting stress induced insomnia, and can stimulate one's immune system for better health. A wise yoga instructor of mine once told our class that we spend an average of 16 hours per day in an upright position. By practicing relaxed inversions, we reverse the blood flow in our circulatory systems and can help to extend our wellness, and our very lives, by allowing our bodies the opportunities to flip that process around....quite literally. When we are overtired, we can't sleep well, and we have a difficult time turning off our thoughts. By practicing supported inversions regularly, we may find that we are more equipped with the tools we need to restore our bodies to the balance they need.

Whatever your preferred relaxation method may be, I encourage you to find time every day to allow yourself to be restored. Just as we need to reboot a computer, we need to reboot our minds, bodies and spirits. Rest is not laziness. Rest is a critical part of our bodies' methods for healing ourselves. No matter how productive you may be, by creating true, honest and deep relaxation, we will be better equipped to handle all unexpected circumstances that life can toss us. Our critical thinking skills will improve, our attitude will be more positive and our bodies will be healthier.

So, unplug the phone, turn off your cell, hide your keys and log off from your computer. Close your eyes, breathe deeply, allow your mind to focus on absolutely nothing but your breath. Your entire self will thank you for it, as will your coworkers and your family. Being restored is far more likely to endear you to all you know than being exhausted will.