Reality Reflection: Taking it Slow

We’ve arrived in June and one of the things that people used to really associate with summer were long rides off in the country. Now that’s something that people who ride bikes do more than those of us with cars, but many of us have a memory of being in the country on a road trip or just taking that Sunday drive. The thing that always awed and perplexed me was how there wasn’t necessarily always a destination. That people would just drive for a couple of hours, see whatever they saw and that was the whole point.

As I was thinking about long summer drives in the countryside I also got to thinking about how we move through stages of our lives. Sometimes we have seemingly little choice and it’s all thrust on us and we have to move quickly in a period of days or weeks or at most 6 months, while other times it seems like days are twice as long and years take decades to pass. But there’s a difference between things progressing slowly and choosing to move through things slowly and with care.

Sometimes the best thing is to take it one day at a time, to not plan a lot into the future, to work one small change into your life each week or month and slowly build on it, knowing that your future will be built on these small moments. Maybe we’ve got it wrong that we don’t do Sunday afternoon drives anymore or just laze by the lake. Maybe we need to build more of those slow tours into our lives rather than rushing and constantly trying to beat the clock. Maybe what we need most is the patience and willingness to stop and smell the roses rather than just focusing on a destination.

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A Life of Mindfulness

One of the things I enjoy about Lent is how it encourages us to really be mindful about our lives and what goes on in them, where we go, what we say, how we live, the choices we make. People talk about the importance of taking time to meditate, and I certainly believe that quiet time can help you work thoughts or problems out or just help to find a little peace in all the chaos of life today. But some people struggle to find time to meditate and some struggle with the concept of sitting and being still and quiet. Which is where being mindful comes in.

Being mindful means that you’re attentive and aware according to the dictionary. Mindfulness is an opportunity for anyone to be more present in the moment, to be more conscious about what’s going on around them and what they’re doing and how they’re treating others, to think more before speaking or acting, and to be more appreciative both to the universe/God and others.

While most of us have (many) more tomorrows in front of us all we’re promised is the moment we’re living now. Being mindful can help you enjoy today and all yoru days more thoroughly, to make better decisions that will serve you both presently and in the future, to invest in the relationships that add the most value to your life, and make decisions that will positively impact the people and world around you. It can also help you be more even tempered and more at peace even with the chaos of the world and all the commitments we take on.

If “right now counts forever” as Dr. R.C. Sproul said, what are you doing with your right now? Is it something that you want to look back on forever? Will it help you build a better tomorrow? Are you working for more peace in your life and the world? What are you doing with your day today?

Let’s Be More This Year

I was thinking today about what would make this year better or how to make this year better, avoiding the usual ‘lose weight’ and ‘set goals’ comments you’ll hear at this time of the year. They are great things to think about, but both are kind of vague and often feel like a losing battle or constant tug-of-war. So I thought about what would make my life better this year and what would make the world around me a little (or a lot) better, and is doable for everyone to see victories, and here’s what I came up with:

Be more patient-even just taking an extra 20 seconds to park the car, drive to a destination, meet with someone, listen to my partner, do the job right, or not rush the results can make a big difference to yourself and someone else.

Listen more-we’ve gotten really good at talking and we’ve got more ways than ever to express ourselves, which is great. But if we listened more we’d have fewer issues, better understand each other and be able to make more happen.

Enjoy more-we’re so blessed to be in the world at this time, there are so many great opportunities and so many ways to experience the world. In line with the first idea it’s about more than trying to cram all the stuff you can into this life, but about taking time to savor and appreciate.

Have a better attitude-we can’t avoid all the issues in the world or the fact that things will go wrong, but I think we can learn to approach life better and treat each other better, or at least reserve judgments on each other until the evidence has really proven guilt, and be willing to forgive and let people make a new start.

Take action-dreams and ideas are great, but they can’t be successful if we don’t make a plan and put it into action to fulfill the dreams and make the ideas turn into reality. If we worked to take just one more action each day we’d accomplish more this year than possibly in years past.

Love more-I don’t know anyone who puts on their ‘to do’ list to hate more people, and yet that’s how it seems to go. Each year we’re faced with more examples of people hurting others in a variety of ways, some that come to light from years past and some that happen as the year continues. Loving doesn’t mean you have to like or appreciate everything about someone but it means that you’re willing to see the person for more than your personal opinions or preferences or what you might see as flaws.

What are you going to do or be this year?

A Little Quiet Health

When it comes to health we spend a lot of time talking about what to do, or the actions to take to become healthier.  In 2016 that’s a really important thing to do because of all our technology, desk jobs, TV habits and other sedentary pleasures.  Don’t get me wrong, I love those activities (I love reading), do them myself and spend a lot of my day sitting or being less mobile (it’s not great to be huffing and puffing on the phone with a client).  So it’s important that during the hours we are mobile and “doing” health activities that we really do make the most of it.

That said, just doing, blindly or not, isn’t the goal with health.  Health isn’t just about “doing” the right thing (though sometimes actions are required), it’s about a state of being, about how you feel and about how you see and interact with the world.  If you have your day scheduled from one health activity to the next you may be missing out on the opportunity to find peace and mental health.  That’s only found when you take breaks and have fun.

I know it may not seem fun to do things like meditating, napping and sitting quietly, but those times of peace and reflection help you understand your goals and if they’re really what you want or if you need to make an adjustment, and work through the challenges and situations you are experiencing in your life (rather than just reacting to them), as well as take a break from the action of the world.  Let’s be honest: when was the last time you had a good break?  Do you make time for them on a regular basis?  If not you should, even if it means you have to get a sitter for the kids or trade off with another family or your partner.  Some people choose to get up early or stay up late because that’s the best time they know to find quiet.

The other thing I mentioned was fun.  Having health means you have more opportunities for fun, and health isn’t just about ‘chores’ that have to be done.  You can make them fun family activities, like getting dinner ready together, taking hikes in the national parks near you or visiting farmer’s markets to check out new foods to try.  Health is also a great couple’s activity, like long walks, cooking classes and quiet time together.

But before you run off and get active this weekend, take some time to consider how you can work a little rest, reflection and relaxation into your life.  You’ll find it easier to get through the challenges as they happen and feel better about all the things you have to do to be healthy or become healthier.

“Ceaseless activity, constant mental and emotional commotion, is not just the avoidance of our unwanted sense of emptiness, but (it is) also complicit in its continuing cause.” Guy Finley

Choosing What Matters

I’ve been really busy for the past month or two, busier than usual, which is a good thing in some ways, but challenging in others. It has forced me to make choices about what I have time for and what I don’t, as well as consider if there are ways to do things quicker or better. More people than ever in this day and age are overbooked, overworked, over tired and frustrated. Unfortunately much of it comes from one thing: lack of self-discipline.

Not sure that could possibly be you? Chances are really good you have yes-itis. That’s the first issue: that you can’t say the “n” word. “No” is one of the most powerful words you can use, one that you probably don’t use enough if you’re overbooked. It can be challenging to say no if you don’t think anyone else will step up or you think it’s a great opportunity for you or your kids. However, as much as every opportunity is probably great, and as much as you might be right that no one will step up, you can’t do it all.

So what choice do we have? We have the choice, the power, and the freedom to make some rules and boundaries for ourselves. Like how late we stay up, how much TV we  watch, to exercise every day, to spend time with our partner every day, to only accept or sign up for one activity a week for the kids, or saying no to opportunities that, as great as they may be, just don’t line up with our goals or values.

Beyond just saying “no” is the concept of being disciplined to get what we have accepted done. This means showing up for practices, turning in quality work, and learning how to not procrastinate and work more efficiently. So learn what works for you, write down what’s most important to you and practice saying “no” so that you can say “yes” to the right things, the things that will fulfill you in the biggest and best way.

“With self-discipline most anything is possible.” Theodore Roosevelt

Finding Hope in Balance

It’s been kind of hushed up over the last few years but every so often someone will bring up the concept of balance.  Many people roll their eyes, others feel frustrated and a few are thankful for the reminder.  I’ve personally learned that balance is essential to life.  Maybe not the zen-like balance some people try for, but the balance that means you know more to life exists than one thing or person.

A few years ago the big word being thrown around was balance, now it seems engagement, social, and culture are.  Just because it’s super popular doesn’t mean it’s wrong or right, and in the case of these watchwords, there are some truths to both sides.

The thing that the concept of balance recognizes is that there are ups and downs, highs and lows, ins and outs, strengths and weaknesses.  We’ve never been very good at accepting that the bad has to come with the good, but without the bad would there be good?

Balance doesn’t mean that things are boring, lazy, uninvolved or status-quo, rather it indicates that there has to be an accounting/feedback for the things that do happen.  As I’ve said before, if we think that we can get away with working 24/7 for a long period of time without damaging our relationships or health, we’re wrong.  Balance doesn’t mean that we can’t work 24/7 on a project or our relationship or our health for a short period of time, it just means we have to recognize that that can’t be all we do forever.

It’s kind of like seeing yourself as just a father, mother, sister, wife, husband, employee or boss.  These things are part of who you are, but they can’t be the only things that define you.  You are much more than the label most people see you as.

Don’t be afraid of the bad stuff or fear the good stuff because it means the opposite has to happen as well.  Instead, let it remind you that you are more than just this minute, more than your last conversation, and more than your best/worst day.

“Even a happy life cannot be without a measure of darkness, and the word happy would lose its meaning if it were not balanced by sadness. It is far better take things as they come along with patience and equanimity.”  Carl Jung