Monthly Archives: September 2017

A Change of Scenery


“The dream was always running ahead of me. To catch up, to live for a moment in unison with it, that was the miracle.” ~ Anais Nin ~

For me, the dream is always travel. I have a wicked case of wanderlust that never seems to be fully satisfied.  I’m always in the process of planning another trip.  It makes the day-to-day stuff easier to manage.  How to create magic in the mundane is the key….

Most of my time is spent being pulled in a million directions by all the things I want to do, both personally and professionally.  My husband and I are very ambitious and have a highly successful professional life.  We invest and manage our portfolio well. We give as much of our time and money as we can spare to various charitable organisations. We spend a lot of time on our individual pursuits, which include recreation, personal and professional development and at least twice a week we go on dates to make sure we stay connected as a couple. We ensure we hang out with our kids as much as they will allow (they’re teenagers after all) and we make time for play. 

My life is extraordinarily abundant, yet I always manage to get way off balance somewhere along the way, and then find I’m breaking apart.  Then, when I’m travelling, I’m able to put it all back together again.  How do I go about bringing the “holiday” spirit into my day-to-day life to prevent the break down altogether?  I know it’s all about balance, but boy, do I struggle with this! What exactly happens while on holiday that enables the reconstruction process, seemingly without effort? The obvious answer is that no one is asking much of me. I get to meander through my day, no minute by minute schedule, no issues I need to address, no problems I need to solve, other than what do I feel like doing today?  Don’t get me wrong… I’m grateful for the ability to be able to handle as much as I do and be of benefit wherever I can, but I get worn out. In my most grouchy place, I feel like the more I give, the more gets asked of me. I think sometimes if others know someone is there to handle it, they don’t bother doing it themselves. This is especially true of my kids. Left to their own devices and they’re quite capable.  But when I’m around, they can’t remember their phone number….

My beloved teacher, Geshe-la, says that if my motivation is correct, I won’t run out of loving kindness and compassion.  I guess the trick is to look deeper into why I am doing whatever it is I’m doing on a day-to-day basis and see where I’m getting off track.  Where am I being self-cherishing (motivated by ego), fearful or dishonest? If I can uncover this and correct my motivation, this should enable me to keep my balance better.  Also, I need to be sure I’m setting good boundaries and saying no when I need to. Sounds like a piece of cake, eh?  Mmmmmm…. cake.

Over the years my husband and I have repeatedly found that when we “help” too much, we enable and cripple others. We need to be diligent on when to offer guidance and support and when to allow others the space to figure out and manage their own problems. It’s the process of trial and error that leads to good problem solving skills. We don’t need to be super heros in anyone’s lives. And this is where checking our motivation is helpful… ensuring we’re not feeding our egos and calling it help. 

So, going forward, my path is a little clearer now. I will slow down and create more space between my words and actions and ensure I have enough quiet time to meditate, reflect and recharge my batteries. I will allow myself and others the space to make mistakes and learn from them. I will cultivate emotional maturity and intelligence. I will diligently shut down my inner critic as soon as she pipes up. I will practise patience (I say practise because I’m no damn good at this).  I will monitor my motivation to ensure it’s pure and I will make more time for spirit-enhancing activities.  All the busy work manages to somehow get done. I don’t need to stress about it. The questions I need to ask myself often are, “Will this matter in a year, 3 years, 10 years? Will I regret doing this, or not having done this when I’m on my deathbed? If the answers are NO, then why worry about it? His Holiness, the Dalai Lama says, “If a problem is fixable, if a situation is such that you can do something about it, then there is no need to worry. If it’s not fixable, then there is no help in worrying. There is no benefit in worrying whatsoever.”

Good advice.

Om mani padme hum 🕉

ARE YOU AN ADDICT TOO?

Definition of Addict (transitive verb):  to devote or surrender (oneself) to something habitually or obsessively.

Does this sound like you or anyone you know?  How about everyone you know? I’ve been clean and sober for over 24 years and throughout my sobriety I’m often asked about addiction. What I mostly hear from people is that they just don’t have an addictive personality so they can’t understand how addicts think or why they just can’t stop doing whatever it is they do that is destroying their lives. 

Now, this comes from people (assuming they’re people I know fairly well) who I watch on a consistent basis obsess about this or that.  I watch them give in to cravings, worry compulsively, constantly look at their phones instead of engaging the person in front of them, desperately cling to old, wrong ideas despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, or repeatedly read news flashes that appear on their phones, even though it’s invariably negative and upsets them (with the excuse that they should be well informed). They spend enormous amounts of time making excuses, rationalising their behaviour by trying to blame it on someone else, they create drama, gossip, smoke, berate themselves and bite their nails or other fidgety, compulsive habits.  So this is what it looks like to not have an addictive personality?

As a self-confessed addict, let me share some of my addictive tendencies with you….  I repeat arguments in my head over and over and over again until I prove to myself I’m right, which includes negative self talk about my mistakes and failures. I will spend an hour looking for the smallest accounting error even though it doesn’t matter in the least.  Once I get started on lollies and biscuits, there is no stopping me.  In fact, you might lose a hand if it gets in my way.  Then comes the self-loathing when I’m feeling sick to my stomach after. Why did I do this to myself yet again??  I pick my nail cuticles and obsessively write to do lists and even include things I’ve already done so I can feel the satisfaction of ticking them off. I run, even when I’m injured or sick. Sometimes I imagine horrible things happening to my husband and kids and am wracked with all the suffering and fear those dark imaginings bring, even though it didn’t happen.  And I’m only scratching the surface, but I won’t bore you with all my crazy in one blog post.

I’ve spent the better part of my life researching, contemplating and meditating on why I do what I do.  It all comes down to one simple reason. I want to move away from whatever stress, pain or fear I’m feeling in that moment.  Not that I’m always conscious of any particular feelings, as I’m often on auto-pilot and just doing the habitual thing. But if I pause for a moment, after I’ve caught myself in any of the aforementioned habits, I invariably find that I am in a negative mindset. When I’m conscious, mindful and happy none of this behaviour surfaces. Simple as that.  The irony is, in our attempts to move away from our discomfort, our habitual tendencies only enhance it. 

I believe all human beings are addicts. We believe we are different than those “addicts” in the street because our habitual patterns play out differently, but we are all the same… seeking relief from suffering.  That is all addiction is: the desire for something that will help us move away from an uncomfortable feeling, wherein the attainment of that something increases, rather than decreases the discomfort, leading to more craving for something to bring relief.  It’s a vicious cycle. Pema Chodron, the Tibetan Buddhist nun defines addiction as, “Addicted to a firm and fixed view of ourselves (ego) and the world.” Whenever this fixed view is challenged, we cling tighter to our viewpoint, which only leads to more suffering.  And in that suffering, we engage in our addictions, whatever they are.

I’ve found that creating space in my life makes me more aware of my negative patterns, or addictions if you like. This space allows me to do something different than my habitual thing. By choosing a new way of addressing my discomfort, I create new positive habits.  It’s like the saying goes…. “Doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results is the definition of crazy.” 

I create space by being quiet.  I meditate every morning, which helps me develop the habit of stopping the mental chatter and just listening. This is my sacred time to touch base with my mind and cultivate a loving kindness toward myself and others.  I don’t look at my phone first thing in the morning.  In fact, it goes on “do not disturb” every night at 7 pm until 7 am the next morning.  Other people’s emergencies do not have to be my own.  Believe me, if there is a true emergency, somehow I always find out. Setting boundaries is another way I create space.  I don’t allow other people to fill my life with their drama. I take time to nurture myself by exercising, getting regular massages, meditating, doing yoga, eating nutrient dense foods and engaging in activities that fill my soul, like hanging with my family and friends, attending teachings, travelling, writing, reading, running and hiking, to name a few.  When I get too busy for self-care, which I confess is far too often, I’m a big grump!  Surprise, surprise. 

So, go forth and get in touch with your own inner addict and see what he/she has to teach you about yourself and the universe.  

Namaste. 

Practising Wellness


“In dealing with those who are undergoing great suffering, if you feel “burnout” setting in, if you feel demoralized and exhausted, it is best, for the sake of everyone, to withdraw and restore yourself. The point is to have a long-term perspective.” ~ Dalai Lama

Today I woke up with such a sense of urgency for all that I had to get done.  I hit the floor running and almost skipped my morning meditation. I decided I’d just do a short one to save time. I chose a 10 minute guided meditation from my favourite app, Insight Timer. Whether you’re a beginner in meditation or are a long time practitioner like me, this app is the greatest! Anyway, I digress….. 

After spending the entire 10 minutes lost in thought and feeling quite grumpy after, I decided to try again with a much longer meditation. Why the hell am I in such a hurry anyway?? It’s Saturday for crying out loud! Where did this habitual behaviour of putting my To Do List ahead of my mental, spiritual and physical well-being originate?

After an hour of meditation, I finally began to feel the grumpiness and hurried energy melt away and be replaced by a sense of calm and serenity. Perseverance is key. I then decided to do an hour of my favourite yoga practice. Why not transmit this wonderful energy into movement?  What struck me during a particular pose wherein you curl into embryo to rest a moment, was that I rarely rest a moment. I have to be told to do this. Once again, I was reminded that I stink in the self-care department!

Now, I can waste enormous amounts of time on social media sites and watching TV and call it rest, but I’m kidding myself. Not that I believe there is anyway wrong with either of those activites. I love Facebook and Instagram. I love how easy it is to stay in touch with my friends and family overseas. I love chilling out in front of the telly sometimes too. But calling it a wellness practice is rubbish. It doesn’t nourish my soul. It merely strengthens the habit of distraction… the habit of moving away from instead of into self. I have dozens of books on my shelf that I want to read and a dozen books in my head that I want to write, but I get lost in busy-ness and call it work. Working mainly from home brings the added challenge of knowing when to call it a day.  There’s no quitting time and there are always “productive” things I could be doing. Self-care doesn’t seem to rank very high in the “productive” category.

Then comes the crash. This is the part where I’m wracked with exhaustion, which leads to grumpiness, headaches and poor sleep, which leads to more fatigue and overwhelment. I know this is a typical cycle with the modern day working mum and that I’m not alone.  There is a certain pride we take in thinking we are Super Woman “doing and having it all.” And we can do it all, but at a very high price. The price being all the afflictions we suffer today at epidemic proportions…. Cancer, heart disease, weight problems, diabetes, depression, anxiety and mental illness. We’ve been conditioned to believe that self-care in any form is selfish and a sign of weakness.  We should just take a pill and get on with it! Men seemed to have figured this one out pretty well. Most of them don’t seem to be wracked with guilt for going golfing, surfing, fishing, or whatever they like to do to relax and have fun.  Most of them haven’t been raised to believe their job is to take care of others at the expense of themselves. They intuitively understand that without taking time for themselves, they’re not going to be on top of their game or at their best.  We could learn a lot from men, but instead we resent them for our failure to speak up for ourselves and take time for self-nurturing.  It’s not their fault we run ourselves ragged. I’m particularly blessed with a phenomenal partner who always encourages me to take the very best care of myself that I can. He’s my biggest supporter in that because my happiness is very important to him. It also doesn’t hurt that when I’m in my happy place, I tend to be a nicer person to be around. He’s no dummy!

The bottom line here is to remember that self-care, in whatever form, is an act of love, not selfishness. If I am to be of greatest benefit to others, I need to be drawing from a full well. All that busy work will get done in its own time. Besides, I’m far more efficient and effective when I’m rested, happy and nourished. 

So, go forth and nourish yourselves and drop me a line to let me know all the ways you feed your soul. I’m always looking for new wellness tools. 

Namaste. 🙏🏻🌈🕉