Try This: Keep a Journal

IMG_0109Over the next few weeks, I will be introducing a series of posts called “Try This,” a collection of ideas for you to try when you’re seeking greater joy and peace in your life.  These are things that have often worked for me, and which might be of benefit to you.

I’ll begin with a practice that I began at the age of 14, and have used fairly consistently ever since:  keeping a journal.  I have used my journals for many things:  to rant about problems, to play with solutions, to capture memories, to record my journey.  There is no wrong way to keep a journal but, if you are new to the practice, here are a few ideas:

Begin where you are.  Describe where you are sitting, how you are you feeling, what’s on your mind.

If you’re upset, angry or wrestling with a problem, try this:  give yourself some time and space to really get it out.  Express your feelings, without censoring. After you’ve done that for a few minutes, switch gears.  Find something good about the person or situation, or some lesson that you’re learning.  If that doesn’t work, switch gears entirely–try writing about something else that brings you joy, such as your adorable 2-year old niece, the party you’re looking forward to, or just the way the snow looks on the mountains.

Use your journal to express gratitude.  Simply writing down a list of things that make you happy can make you feel better.

If you’re concerned about privacy, there are apps that require passwords (I like iJournal), or you can enable password protection on many word processing programs.  Or find a great hiding place!

As with any practice, experiment with different ways of doing it, and find a way that works for you.  That could be writing every morning as you sip your coffee, or once a week as a Sunday night ritual.  You may prefer a spiral notebook, a computer or a beautiful leather book (I like fairly large pages that open flat, but over the years, there’s nothing I haven’t tried).

Have you ever kept a journal?  What works for you?  If you have ideas, suggestions or questions of your own, I’d love to hear them!

Clouds In My Coffee

IMG_0098It’s already December, the final month of 2013.  It’s been a wild ride:  completing the Martha Beck Life Coach Training Program and setting up my practice; creating the Wise Owl Book Club; traveling to San Diego, Pismo Beach, Lake Tahoe and Napa…  Well, let’s just say that I am very grateful for the shorter, cooler days (even here in the desert) and to turn my focus toward my home and loved ones.

Of course, there’s still plenty to keep me busy–holiday events and shopping, work to do, knitting projects to finish–but during this time of year I find myself a bit more comfortable taking a moment to sit by the fire, drink a cup of tea and enjoy the time I have with my family.  And that means that I can also do something incredibly valuable:  dream.

When I take the time to dream, I get in touch with myself.  I listen to the small still voice inside that reminds me what’s most important, and what I should be focusing on now, in this moment.  I relax.  I play.  I listen.  And I remember to pay attention to my nightly dreams as well, which often hold messages from my soul about the way to go.

I’ll be writing more soon about methods of dream analysis that I find particularly useful and enlightening but, in the meantime, let me just recommend this:  take the time to dream while you’re awake.  Look for those clouds in your coffee, and open your imagination to what you find there.  Not only is dreaming a good way to get in touch with a peaceful, joyful part of yourself, but it just may suggest possibilities you haven’t yet dared to imagine.

Comfort, Joy & Mindless Eating

IMG_1607Thanksgiving arrived early this year, and with it began the season of gift-giving and of holiday celebrations.  It is a time of joy, a time to gather together with loved ones, a time to share the warmth of love and laughter.

Yet for many, this is a time of excess:  too much food, too much wine, too many parties, too many obligations, too much money spent.  And so I wonder, is there some way that we can bring more peace and balance into what should be a time of light and love?

Let’s begin with those holiday parties.  Wonderful food, holiday cocktails, a time to celebrate… yet many of us either fret away the evening trying not to ruin our diets, or, instead, indulge and indulge and indulge… and regret it the next day.

Instead of this all-or-nothing approach, try to find a place of balance between enjoying the moment, and feeling good the next day.  According to Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think by Brian Wansink (one of my all-time favorite books about how and why we eat), we eat what we do because of hidden influencers:  the size of our plates, the atmosphere, the music playing, the company.  We cannot control (or completely ignore) all of these things, so the best thing to do is to fight fire with fire:  use your own tricks and tips to enjoy the holidays while protecting yourself from over-indulging.  Here are a few ideas:

1.  Make it a game.  Ask yourself–what can I do to slow down how fast I eat?  Perhaps serve yourself less than normal, and leave the leftovers in the other room so they aren’t as tempting.  Can I delay that snack I want?  Perhaps have a glass of water and see if you still feel hungry in 15 minutes.  Do I need the hamburger with cheese, bacon and avocado, or would I be just as happy with only the avocado?  Find clever ways to cut out a few calories here and there, without ever depriving yourself completely.

2.  Be patient.  Losing (or gaining) weight takes much less drastic measures than most of us believe.  The difference of a few bites can make a big difference when done daily.  Read Mindless Eating or The Four-Day Win: End Your Diet War and Achieve Thinner Peace by Martha Beck to learn more.

3.  Increase your joy.  Not only from food, but from everywhere.  That holiday party shouldn’t be about only the crab cakes and wine; it should be about the company.  Enjoy your friends, enjoy the music and the conversation, and don’t become too fixed on what you are or aren’t eating.

4.  Stay balanced.  When you get too hungry or too tired, of course your choices won’t be as good.  So take care of yourself.  Get enough rest, drink plenty of water and eat well.

5.  Create your own tricks.  Find what works and pass on what doesn’t.  I like to share meals or order appetizers; I use small plates, bowls and glasses (another Mindless Eating trick).  I try to eat slowly and take breaks so that I know when I’m full.  Doing these things allows me to enjoy everything I want, and still feel good later (and fit into my favorite jeans).

Wishing you joy, balance and all the pleasures of the season,

Jennifer

A Rebel’s Heart

Like many peace-lovers born under the sign of Libra, I’ve never considered myself a rebel.  I dislike conflict and treasure harmony.  This does not mean that I will stand aside or ignore cruelty, but I have never been one to rebel for rebellion’s sake.  Or so I thought.

The longer I write these pages, and the deeper I travel into the landscapes of peace, the more I realize that the paths of love and forgiveness are the most rebellious paths.  The world may give lip-service to these virtues, but most of our families and friends expect something different from us.  We are expected to choose sides–this politician, that sports team, this style of music, that genre of movies.  We trumpet our preferences and put down those who think differently, calling them ignorant, misinformed, lacking in taste or education.  We pick sides, and then battle to support them.

I am not suggesting that we should not campaign or vote for the politicians we believe in; cheer for our favorite teams; enjoy our favorite music and movies.  But what we can do–what it takes a rebel to do–is love the other side.  See the light that exists in them as well as in us.  Forgive where forgiveness is needed.  Educate with love rather than the rhetoric of hate.  Perpetuate kindness and compassion rather than adding more fuel to the fires of the world.

I am a rebel.  I choose love, work for beauty and treasure kindness.  I continue to believe that good exists throughout the world and that seeking it out will help it to grow.  I practice the arts of gentleness and patience with as much fierce devotion as the warriors of old.  It is a battle fought day by day, hour by hour.  It does not bring victory over others, but something far greater–all the joys of heaven and earth, for you and for those you share it with.

Wishing you your own rebellion,

Jennifer

P.S.  In just a few more days my book will be available for sale here and on Amazon!

The Three Treasures

I have just three things to teach:  

simplicity, patience, compassion.

These three are your greatest treasures.

Lao Tzu

Tao Te Ching
(translated by Stephen Mitchell)

Simplicity.  Patience.  Compassion.  These are the greatest gifts you can give to yourself and others.  These are the keys to finding peace on a windy day.  Yet in the whirlwind of our lives, we often neglect our treasures and then wonder why peace feels so elusive.

We practice so many things throughout our days.  We practice working hard; we practice mastering new skills; we practice the roles of friend, mother, worker, lover.  How often do we practice the ways of peace?

Peacefulness is a skill.  One who does not practice patience cannot expect to find it during difficult times.  One who does not practice compassion cannot expect to feel unconditionally loved.  One who does not practice simplicity cannot easily enjoy the pleasures found in quiet times and places.

We protect the things we value.  We nurture the qualities we choose to focus on.  If you want to create peace in your life and in the world, then give your attention to the practice of peace.  Nurture the parts of yourself that are best and brightest.  Then when you face challenges you will learn from them and grow stronger rather than weaker.

We live in a world of complications, but we can find in ourselves a place of refuge.  Be still.  Be silent.  Listen to the voices of the moment, and the quiet voice within your heart.  Visit the spaces that fill you with peace, savor their sights and sounds.  Listen to the music that soothes you.  Open to the joys that bring you home to yourself.  Then carry that feeling into the world so it may bless others.

Wishing you simplicity, patience and compassion,

Jennifer

Music For A Windy Day

Recently I’ve discovered a new path to peace:  the musical creations of Dr. Jeffrey Thompson.  Dr. Thompson is a scientist and musician who experiments with sound and its effect upon the body–particularly the ways in which sound frequencies, built into musical soundtracks, can entrain brainwaves and trigger various health benefits.  By using certain frequencies, often combined with beautiful music and soothing sounds from nature, we can encourage our minds, and then our bodies, to enter into deeper states of peace and connection.  I have found that this music creates a lovely atmosphere when used as background music, but it is even more effective upon one’s mental, physical and emotional state when played through headphones and used during meditation or even sleep.

Here are a few of my favorites:


I hope you will enjoy this music as much as I do!  And if you’d like, please leave any comments or musical suggestions of your own below.

*These CDs (and many others by Dr. Thompson) are also available on iTunes.

Loving Now

Would you be happy?  Then love where you are now.  Not later.  Not yesterday.  Not if only something was different.  Now, as it is, in all its imperfect perfection.

Wherever you are, however you feel, there is something to love.  And when you focus on that, rather than on what you think is wrong, you allow your awareness of love and beauty to grow.

When we focus on the love and beauty that is in front of us, we stop sending our energy into the past or future.  We do our part and let the Universe do the rest.  We accept the abundance.  We get out of the way.

The future is not under our control.  But in this moment, we have a choice.  We can appreciate what is, or we can push it away.  What will you choose?

Trust love.  Know that all you have is all you need, and that if what you want does not appear, it is because something better will.  The shadows of the past and future are not real, but this moment is.  This moment is sacred.  Choose to fill it with love.

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