Wandering with my eyes and heart open, searching for pieces to add to my own personal big picture.

Tag: self help Page 1 of 2

Final Thoughts on The Power of Now

Let’s see…how do we begin this? I didn’t just “pick up” The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle, I ordered it from Amazon on my phone while I was still out. I’d heard it mentioned on the podcast I was listening to, which now I can’t remember the title of. I found it in my mailbox two days later, a miracle in my neighborhood, and added ten minutes of reading it into my morning routine, just after my meditation time.

the power of now

Did I love it? Not really and I feel a little bad about that. If I had not impulse bought it, if I had come home and researched it a little, I probably would have moved on to something a little less…spiritual. What did I expect from a book with the subtitle A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment? But then again, if I had, I would have lost the gems I did find in it.

“I cannot live with myself any longer.” This was the thought that kept repeating itself in my mind. Then suddenly I became aware of what a peculiar thought it was. “Am I one or two? If I cannot live with myself, there must be two of me: the ‘I’ and the ‘self’ that ‘I’ cannot live with.” “Maybe,” I thought, “only one of them is real.”

Who is this person that I can’t live with anymore? It’s my mind! Around the same time I started reading this is when I also started talking to her in kinder tones. We’ve been getting along much better lately.

“Emotion literally means “disturbance.” The word comes from the Latin emovere, meaning “to disturb.”

Think about that for a second. You’re a spider on a web, and there’s a disturbance. You turn in that direction, wait, see if there’s anything there that needs your attention. And then move on.

“Don’t get stuck on the level of words. A word is no more than a means to an end. It’s an abstraction.”

We could be trying to express the same emotion but using different words and actions. What if we try to get understanding instead of attacking each other over semantics?

“The inner equivalent to objects in space such as furniture, walls, and so on are your mind objects: thoughts emotions, and the objects of the senses. And the inner equivalent of space is the consciousness that enables your mind objects to be, just as space allows all things to be.”

I wrote this one on a post-it and keep it close to my desk. “Pay attention to that space between things.” Silence is the space between thought. When we’re paying attention to the space, we allow more peace in, and we tend to relax and see the bigger picture.

“Most people pursue physical pleasures or various forms of psychological gratification because they believe that those things will make them happy or free them from a feeling of fear or lack.”

This one hit me like a brick. I’m the one that says, “If you just texted me…” “If you just did the dishes…” “If you…” That’s not what makes anyone happy. The happy comes when you accept the world around you as it is, without conditions. That doesn’t mean you take all the crap that comes and live miserable. There’s more about that in this book.

“A victim identity is the belief that the past is more powerful than the present, which is the opposite of the truth. It is the belief that other people and what they did to you are responsible for who you are now, for your emotional pain or your inability to be your true self.”

The world just is. What are you going to do now? I refuse to call myself a victim of anything.

“When a condition or situation that the mind has attached itself to and identified with changes or disappears, the mind cannot accept it. It will cling to the disappearing condition and resist the change. It is almost as if a limb were being torn off your body.”

When I’m sad about how something is going, I can feel it in my body like I’m having a heart attack. It really sucks and causes panic, which I respond to and then create more drama. I recently tried NOT doing that, sitting with the pain, knowing it was my mind, feeling it all over, and then…it left me. More magic. Emotions aren’t real. They are primal warnings to things that may or may not be there.

“Don’t look for peace. Don’t look for any other state than the one you are in now; otherwise, you will set up inner conflict and unconscious resistance. Forgive yourself for not being at peace. The moment you completely accept your non-peace, your non-peace becomes transmuted into peace. Anything you accept fully will get you there, will take you into peace. This is the miracle of surrender.”

This last one was my favorite. It sounds totally nuts, but it works. I tried it myself. One morning I woke up grumpy. I had a bad dream, didn’t sleep well, felt like an ogre. In the past I would have begun a downward spiral. “This isn’t what I want! I should do better than this! All this practice is for nothing!” Angrier and angrier until someone in the house said or did something that irked me even more, and then BOOM. Michelle is on a rampage and hating herself for it.

What I tried this time was to say to myself, “Yeah, that night sucked. I’m tired and grumpy. I’m human!” And then I altered my day a bit, chilled more, read more, watched my favorite show and had some popcorn and a cola. When my husband asked me how my day was going, I said, “I am feeling grumpy and tired, so I took the day off. Let’s go get tacos!” I surrendered and accepted my feelings instead of fighting with them.

There were so many little sparks to capture in this book. I wrote many more down but tried to distill it to only my favorites here. I wasn’t a fan of the spiritual bend this author takes. I felt like he was trying to pull in several different religions to explain things instead of letting them be based in psychology or human nature. I wouldn’t recommend this book to anyone just getting started with meditation, but it does have a lot to teach if you have the patience to wade through. But if the spiritual speaks to you, it might be right up your alley!

A Little Self Awareness Exercise

A self awareness exercise is a great way to connect with others, don’t you think? The better I know myself, the better my chances of finding places we intersect.

Yesterday, as I was scrolling through the WordPress Reader wasting time…not really, I was relaxing. It’s so hot and humid, you guys. I’m just not used to this. What happened to my dry desert heat?!

self awareness
Self Awareness Tip: I have found it isn’t HEAT that bothers me, it’s HUMIDITY.
This is out my back porch yesterday afternoon.

…sigh… Acceptance of what is. Complaining doesn’t help. Reframing thoughts.

Since it’s so hot outside, I spend a lot more time indoors drinking large glasses of ice water and reading, both books and other blogs. That’s when I found My Rollercoaster Journey’s post about Self-Awareness Questions. Reading their answers and becoming inspired, I started to think… Maybe it would be fun to write my answers and link back!

And here I am!

It looks like these questions came in a newsletter from Social Self, a company founded by David Morin to improve mental health and relationships. I don’t know much about it, but it looks interesting. Always good to find new input. And it seems everyone around me is struggling with the same problems lately, searching for answers to life.

I’m on that journey as well. The more I look around me, the more I see how much awesomeness there is in this world, and how little I have appreciated it in the past. I’ve had bouts of awareness and clarity, but my inner peace has always been generally shaky. I’m learning and growing every day, though, eager to share what I’ve found with anyone that will listen, much to my immediate family’s dismay. Sorry guys! I love you!

So, without further delay, here are MY answers:

What am I really proud of in my life?

My life’s work, aka my family. I chose to focus on being a mom and wife above everything else, and I would not change that for the world. For my efforts, I have two sons and stepdaughter out in the world making their own way. Hopefully, we gave them a head start in this world. I like to think we have, because they seem like pretty awesome people on every level.

What would I like to go back in time and change?

That old question. It’s hard because, like they say, your past is what made you who you are today. There is one thing I regret most in my past and that was how I dealt with my stepdaughter. Our relationship was strained from the get-go, and I was not the person I wanted to be. I would do everything differently, knowing myself the way I do now.

What made me happy as a child, and would that make me happy now?

Holidays made me happy. Big parties with aunts and uncles, cousins, people that were our relatives, but I wasn’t sure how. What is your mother’s cousin’s kid to you?! Sometimes I only saw these people a few times a year. And I didn’t realize back then that it wouldn’t always be this way. All day parties that start early with some of us cooking in the wee hours of the morning, breakfast casseroles made the night before, people that stay all day, and others that come for a few hours.  Food, kids, and chaos everywhere.

That’s what would make me happy now. It all ended long BCB (before covid bullshit). Families grow apart, I’m told. How can I start it all up again?

What word would I most like others to use to describe me?

Happy and curious. That’s how I feel most of the time, but I’m afraid it doesn’t show up in the nice ways I hope that it would.

What word would I be most unhappy about others using to describe me?

Judgmental and overthinking. I know I have a tendency to judge others and I’m working on it very hard. And I’m introspective, I tend to think about things other people don’t notice. It bothers some people and that makes me sad.

What is my most unconventional/unpopular opinion, and why do I hold it?

I think public education (in general) is a load of bullshit that we accept as a necessary evil. Why do I hold it? Because I hated every single day of school, so did my husband. My stepdaughter had to attend school at her mother’s insistence, and it was soul crushing to watch. Most people I have talked to as my kids grew up without school only commented that “We suffered through it and lived, why shouldn’t our kids?” I think this is a sadistic answer and I refuse to participate. Our sons were raised without school at all, and they are fine, upstanding men without the twelve wasted years and emotional damage.

Yeah. Strong opinions there.

What would I change about myself if I could?

I recently found a description for my problem. I’m “love blind.”

In the same way that some people cannot tell the difference between red/orange or blue/green and have to find a person they trust to tell them that their socks don’t match, I have a very hard time seeing that people truly love me, that I’m needed and appreciated, and need people I trust to tell me that I’m not being left behind. How do you find people that you trust when you can’t see that you are loved?

Before you cry for me, I’ve found a key that does help. I’ve started to learn to love and trust myself first. That has begun to open so many doors, but please, wave a magic wand and make me see it easier. Or at least go back in time and help me see the issue more clearly earlier and give me people I can trust to guide me in the right direction.

What wouldn’t I change about myself under any circumstances?

My enthusiasm for life. I’m naturally excitable. That means that same tendency to scream, “Oh my GOURD! I can’t take it anymore! What is wrong with you and me?!” Is the same one that makes me run in circles and exclaim the virtues of the prairie dogs I see in the field or the brand-new flavor of cereal that I’m fanatically in love with this week.

What couldn’t I change about myself and still be ‘me’?

My love/hate of people in general. Spend some time with me and you’ll see, my rollercoaster relationship with world around me is…well… Have you ever been to a Six Flags park? One day I’m inventing new ways to serve mankind, help those around me grow, expand the world around me, and then I’m planning on how serve mankind up for a dinner to whatever ravenous beast I can find.

I’m not sure why. A close friend once said that she thinks it’s because I have such high expectations of people. I see what they could be, what we could do together and become, but then they fail those expectations, and I just can’t get over the disappointment. They aren’t even trying!

I’d love to tame that rollercoaster and make it more family friendly. Then maybe I’d still be “me” without so much drama.

What values are most important to me?

Honesty. Love. Trust.
I think they all go together. Can’t have one without the other and they make the world a far better place while we’re here.

So, there you go. Do you know me any better? Are you afraid?

Thanks, My Rollercoaster Journey, for sharing your answers with the world. I’m glad to have met you this way.

The Tao of…Me

What is Tao? My understanding comes only from my initial reading of The Tao of Pooh, so it’s pretty limited, but Wikipedia says, “Tao is the natural order of the universe whose character one’s intuition must discern to realize the potential for individual wisdom, as conceived in the context of East Asian philosophy, East Asian religions, or any other philosophy or religion that aligns to this principle. This intuitive knowing of life cannot be grasped as a concept. Rather, it is known through actual living experience of one’s everyday being. Its name, Tao, came from Chinese, where it signifies the way, path, route, road, or sometimes more loosely doctrine, principle, or holistic belief.”

I can be translated as “The Way” and I find it fascinating.

Yesterday’s epic adventure was unexpected, but highly satisfying. It started with a simple breakfast date and Target run but ended up with seeing my boys again, experiencing a bit of engine trouble (no worries, we got this), and getting home FAR later than expected. That last part, the driving home in the dark part, needs to not happen again until I get new glasses. Yikes!

The best part was…

Wait for it…

I have found my purpose!

Let me tell the story. Short version? Sure.

My son needed me, and I was available. That’s it. As we sat there in their kitchen eating burritos we’d picked up across the street, I told them, “I found my purpose.” My oldest chimes in, “Your Tao?”

Hmm…yes! I’ve been wondering for years, maybe my whole life, floating from one thing to the next, not really seeing the big picture. But yesterday, when my son called and I offered to come down and lend moral support, all the pieces fell into place.

I’m the friend that hosts the party. I’m the one that calls and texts to ask what you’re up to and if you’d like to meet for lunch or a hike. I’m the one that picks up the phone when you call and drops everything to make some cookies and visit. I’m here.

My youngest son says, “You’re Pooh, mom. You visit.”

I sighed and smiled. I guess I am. My copy of The Tao of Pooh that they had borrowed was sitting on the table nearby. They’d been reading it.

You’d think that wouldn’t be much of a purpose, but it is. It’s very important. And from now on, instead of grumbling that I have no real mission in this existence when I’m at home alone reading a book or working in the yard, I’ll sit back and realize that I’m resting between projects. At any moment, I may be called into action.

And what about this blog? Is it part of my purpose?

Yes. Listening to The Knowledge Project podcast on the way down to my breakfast date (which is a regular thing I very much look forward to), I heard Sarah Jones Simmer interviewed. I had such a plethora of notes on this podcast, but there were three that stood out to me as somehow connected. Before I went inside, I took a moment to capture the idea with some added commentary.

Note #1 “Just because you question things, doesn’t mean you have the answers or think you know better than others.”

I’ve withheld my thoughts, limited what I write here, because I don’t have the answers, but I question things. Curiosity and questioning (contrary to popular opinion right now) is a good thing. Gender identity, politics, war, public education, Covid…the list goes on and on, I have questions and concerns. Asking out loud things like, “Why are we doing this?” “Is this right?” “What will be the outcome of this kind of thinking?” “Is there some other way?” is not a subversive or malicious activity. The day we all just go along with everything that is happening around us and NOT question it, is the day we begin to lose everything.

New slogan: “Questions and curiosity are not a crime!”

Note #2 “Let’s not let the craziest and loudest of us take over all the conversation in the world. Keep speaking your thoughts and quit hiding your light.”

It’s terrifying to speak your mind (especially online) these days and more of us (including myself) need to start facing our fears. We cannot let the lunatics run this asylum.

Another podcast I was listening to last week mentioned “fringe ideas” and related them to garage bands. 99.99% of garage bands suck, but garage bands are where the great new music comes from. It’s the same with ideas. If we ban them, silence voices because we disagree, shut down people we don’t like, we miss discovering the .01% that results in awesome innovation. We need to allow people to speak their minds, throw ideas around, and be crazy, but we also need to know most of those ideas won’t work, they may even be really bad ideas, but if we ban them, ban books, ban speech, ban blogs, we end up throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

I speak/write from a place of curiosity, empathy for others, and with positive intent to understand and respect others. Yes, sometimes I’ll hurt feelings, make someone mad, or even make a mistake in judgement. I am still a good person, and so are you.

Note #3 “Do I have coaches? Coaches help you arrive at your own decisions and create a safe space to talk thoughts and ideas out.”

If coaches can be books, magazines, blogs, and podcasts, yes, I do. For me, this blog counts as a relatively safe space to talk out some ideas. And I have a few very close friends and family that I can bounce ideas around with face to face and they mean the world to me.

These ideas are in no way fully formed, but they led me closer to understanding my Tao, my own personal way of taking up space in this world. So, even though things did not go as I had expected them to yesterday, it ended up being a very productive day and all because my son needed me.

Before I get the look from people about kids becoming adults… He didn’t call me because he isn’t smart, mature, or capable of taking care of himself, but because together is always better than alone. Interdependence is what works best. Community is more efficient. But that’s a whole other blog post.

Today I’m relaxing in the peaceful quiet of home and reading more of Disneyanity by Douglas Brode. I may even watch a Disney movie!

Valentine’s Day Thoughts

It’s Valentine’s Day so, of course I need to post something about love. Right?

A letter, a poem, what? Reflections? I’m still thinking as I type.

Valentine's Day
I found this expression on a mountain trail.

I woke up this morning feeling full of love and excitement for the day to start, not because it’s Valentine’s Day, but because I am in love with life. Cliché and silly, but exactly how I feel. There are so many people to meet, so much to feel and experience, and so little time. It’s Monday and I had a beautiful weekend. Today, my husband works in his office all morning. There’s nothing I need to do, no place to go, no one to take care of but myself.  

That doesn’t mean that I’ll sit on the couch all day. I’m far too much of a squirrel for that. I’ve already read, done my yoga and meditation practice, posted on Instagram, and read some more. I’m writing now, will probably have breakfast, then share these thoughts with you. The rest of the day will be filled with household chores, conversations and plan making with a few friends and family, and I need to get out and paint the trim on the new shed.

It’s all just as I would wish it to be, for the most part, and nothing like I thought my life would ever be. I’m happy, satisfied, not grasping at a better life, a better feeling, more of anything. It’s a high I’ve chased before and for a moment, I have it. But will I grasp it so tightly in my hands that I smother it? Once it starts to wriggle free, as it inevitably will, will I crush it trying to keep it close? I don’t think I will, not this time.

What’s different?

For the first time I can remember I know that I’m happy and I know why, and I’m aware that things will change. The seasons will change around me, the ground will shift, the sky will cloud up and get dark.

What changed?

I’m not sure. Somewhere along the way it dawned on me that we are all only here for a short time, and every single thing changes, no one escapes alive. People come in and out of our lives. Our hormones and brains change our feelings and thoughts day and day out.

And I’m starting to really love and trust myself. I’m not feeling so insecure about myself, who I am and what I like. My only regret right now is that I didn’t learn earlier that to really love others and feel the security of being loved, I had to love myself. I’ve always had a hard time accepting who I am and how I feel.

Valentine's Day
Enjoying the view from the top of the mountain.

This morning, reading a few pages of Wherever You Go There You Are by Jon Kabat-Zinn, I found this:

“The weather of our own lives is not to be ignored or denied. It is to be encountered, honored, felt, known for what it is, and held in high awareness since it can kill us. In holding it this way, we come to know a deeper silence and stillness and wisdom than we may have thought possible, right with the storms. Mountains have this to teach us, and more, if we can listen.”

The weather right now is pleasant, so I’m sowing seeds and growing the crops, taking it all in and experiencing it to the fullest, not in fear of the future but in preparation for change. I love his mountain analogy. I’m being the mountain in some ways. I’m here, doing what I do, and watching the world swirl around me. It will no matter what I do. I may as well enjoy the show.

Happy Valentine’s Day! Love on your fine selves a bit. You’re awesome and you’ve come so far!

Minimalism in Things AND Relationship: Final Thoughts

“They focused less about things and more about our relationship with things and people.” That was my final thought as I closed Love People Use Things by Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus. I was not disappointed by this book about minimalism; it just wasn’t what I had been expecting and I’m glad it wasn’t.

Minimalism

I believe the relationships we have with things reflect our relationship with people. A house crammed with stuff you don’t need or use, collections, castaways, bins of old things you no longer need, but…what if?! Your relationships people are probably similar. Old friends and new, people you’ve outgrown, people you thought were going to be great that turned out to be not so much. We keep them in our lives through social media contacts, email lists, and Christmas cards at the very least.

The opposite is just as unhealthy. The truth is we need some things, and we need some people. Finding out what is needed and what is not and crafting a healthy relationship with those things and people, is the key. And it’s complicated.

Love People Use Things isn’t just a self-help book of how to get rid of your excess stuff, it’s a personal story about how they got where they are. They don’t give a list of rules. They help you find your own principles of minimalism and then actively use them to build a life of intention.

“Minimalists don’t focus on having less, less, less; they focus on making room for more: more time, more passion, more creativity, more experiences, more contribution, more contentment, more freedom.”

I think of it as having space to move.

“…we feel threatened by the freedom of others. So we protect our hoard, we question anyone who approaches life differently, and we cling tightly to the status quo because we’re scared that someone else’s nontraditional lifestyle is an affront to our own. If that person is free, then we are not. But we forget that freedom is not a zero-sum game.”

I’ve experienced this from people since the day we decided not to send our kids to school. And I still experience it every time I explain to someone that my sons never went to school as children and still have jobs, travel the world, and go to college. My choices are mine alone. They are the way I wish to live. They give me the kind of freedom that I feel comfortable with. It is not a condemnation of your choices. We can both be living the “right” way.

“Allowing others’ expectations to shape our desires and behavior and, ultimately, our lives, will always lead to guilt and shame because we’ll never be able to live up to everyone else’s conflicting values.”

Best to decide what’s best for you, what you personally need, and run with it. You’ll never win the “making other people happy” game. I’ve opted out of that game for a long time now. I will admit, though, it’s very hard. I still long to be accepted and validated by others. It’s human nature. But I’d rather be alone than to not be myself. I’m still learning who I am, what I want, and how to present that to the world without the need for approval.

“Fear is the antithesis of freedom; it is, by definition, constricting.”

I’ve lived with my fear meter up on full my whole life. It’s exhausting.

“The pause is just as essential as the action.”

Minimalism can give us the time to pause. That’s where we think. It’s where we take in information, formulate plans, and make decisions. It’s where we look back and take stock, admire what we’ve done, how far we’ve come. Pause and look around.

“We’ll never ‘get there.’ Because there’s no there there.”

We’re born. We grow. We live. We die. There is no finished. There is no complete. There is just life.

“Never-ending growth says we must grow at any cost; intentional growth happens when we grow in accordance with our values.”

That goes for personal growth, gardens, businesses, non-profits, economy, and government. Having one house and keeping it nice for fifty years is fine. Having one child is ok. Doing one thing well for a long time is great. We don’t need to keep growing just to be growing.

“Just like it’s important to make conscious choices as a consumer, it’s equally important to create consciously. Otherwise, you’re just adding to the noise.”

I struggle with minimalism as a blogger. It’s also another reason why I gave up social media and only write here. If what I write is valuable, it will be looked for, found, and shared. Social media is just noise. This chapter on creativity was a bit of downer for me. I got reflective and judgmental on myself. I’d like to re-read and think on it more.

“The Three Relationships: Primary, Secondary, and Peripheral”

Life is a story. Who are your main characters, supporting roles, and walk-ons? And don’t forget all the extras! This made far more sense to me than family, friends, and strangers.

“Many of us navigate different roads toward joy, but even if we travel separate routes, it is important that we appreciate the journey – not only ours, but the journey of everyone we love. When we appreciate others for who they are, not who we want them to be, then, and only then, will we truly understand.”

Every. Single. One of us. (do not sing Devil Inside)

The last chapter on people was my favorite. Yes, minimalism relates to the people in your life. You don’t have to keep everyone you ever meet in your life. It validated a lot of my thinking and made me feel a little less alone in the world. Something I crave beyond anything is to be accepted by others, for someone to see me, the real me without any masks, and love me. This book made me realize, I DO have that from the main characters in my story. And those are the relationships that matter.

So, yes, I enjoyed reading this book. The Minimalists podcast has been a favorite of mine for several years. They inspire me with their peaceful discussions and the feeling of joy I sense between them. Like the few families I met years ago when I started my unschooling journey, I see them and wonder how they got there, listen closely, and adopt the pieces that work for my life, to get where I want to go.

Minimalism: No rules, just principles, self-reflection, and adaptation.

Want to go back and read my first thoughts on this book when I started? Click back to Love People Use Things: A New Read

Shortcuts and Compliance = Lazy

Yes, I said it. Shortcuts and compliance are signs of laziness. Take control of your own life and do the work to do what’s best for you.

“The consequences of every shortcut are greater than its temporary benefit.”

“Compliance is easier than questioning their solutions. And their solutions were much easier than taking ownership of my own life.”

This.

I’m not sure I can add anything to those two quotes from Love People Use Things, but of course I’ll try!

Let’s talk about shortcuts for a second. Shortcuts are for driving and that’s it. (Wait. And computer desktops.) But then…if everyone took the shortcut, it would lose its value, wouldn’t it? It would be crammed with vehicles and make the trip longer than if you had just stayed on the highway.

When we take shortcuts for learning, we lose the value we get from the experience of study. When we take shortcuts on our diet, we lose the weight quickly, but we also lose the experience of learning to live in way that keeps that weight off and makes us healthy instead of just thin. When we take shortcuts within our relationships, sending a gift instead of connecting over lunch, posting to social media instead of calling and relating with individuals, we lose the real meaningful connection with others that we crave.

Shortcut’s suck. Funny…I just heard that same idea on a podcast I was listening to. I wrote about it in my post “Travel Anxiety Ended: Podcast Roundup #3.”

And what about compliance isn’t taking ownership of your life? When we blindly go along with whatever everyone else is doing, whatever the “authority” says you should do, we give the power of our lives to someone else. Don’t get me wrong, there is much good in taking the advice of experts and making informed choices that look much like what others around you are doing. What I’m talking about it is doing what others say you should without thought, even with the feeling that something is not right in your heart and mind, it’s just what one does, so you do.

What kind of things? Everything. Going to college, a career choice, joining the military or a church, getting married, having children, sending those children to school, going on vacation, what you eat, where you live, how you live. The list goes on and on and on.

When we give the power of making choices to others, when the results come in, we can say, “Well, that’s what happens. It’s not my fault.” I call bullshit. It is your fault. Everything we do is a choice, whether we are conscious of it or not. Take back your power.

If you’d like to read some of my other posts about quotes from this book, click back to “Love People Use Things: A New Read” to start at the beginning. At the bottom of that post, you’ll find links to others.

Love People Use Things: A New Read

Podcast marketing convinced me to not only buy “Love People, Use Things” by Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus, but to pre-order it! I’ve been listening to The Minimalists podcast for a long time and when I heard them start to talk about their new book, I knew I had to have it. I didn’t think it would have anything other than the things they talk about, but I knew it would bring me some joy to read it in print. Besides, how else can I re-pay them for all the greatness I listen to every week? I pre-ordered it so early, that when it came, I didn’t know what the package from Amazon was!

Love People, Use Things
In my defense, this room is in transition.

If you’re interested in them, check out their “Start Here” page. The organization of that page is one of the reasons why I love these guys and I so happy that I stumbled across them completely by accident.

Those who know me would probably laugh hysterically when they heard me say I listen to a podcast about minimalism on a regular basis. If you saw my house, you’d know I’m not what you might define as a minimalist, but I am! Everything is relative, right? Compared to some I’m a hoarder and to others not so much. But the comparison that matters most is mine. I’m more conscious of what I gather into my home, into my body, and into my mind. That’s the mental space these guys have helped me get to.

One of the things I’m minimalizing so that I have more space for other things is social media. Staying connected to people from my past like that is like holding on to childhood toys or that old shirt. You’re not going to use them anymore, that shirt doesn’t fit. There’s no reason to keep them. They take up space and deplete your energy. Send them on their way to bring joy to someone else.

The one thing I miss about it though is having a place to share the articles and books I read, or the interesting podcast and website I found. I don’t want to write a post about, I just want to share that I read it and think it’s awesome…you know, social stuff. I’m not sure what to do about it. It may just be one of those things I have to let go.

I’m looking forward to reading this book over the coming week. I’m about thirty pages in right now, and the introduction makes me love them more. The relate minimalism to everything, not just physical objects, but our relationships with other people. And they aren’t ones to say “THESE are the rules. Follow them and you will be happy like us!” They are more like guidelines, things that have worked for them and may make sense to you.

Are you a minimalist? Have you heard this podcast? If you decide to read Love People Use Things by Joshua Fields Millburn & Ryan Nicodemus, let me know what you think in the comments. I’d love to hear from you.

The following are links to posts I wrote related to this book.
Letting Go & Making Space
Shortcuts And Compliance = Lazy
Minimalism in Things AND Relationship: Final Thoughts

Listen Like You Mean It: Another New Read

“Listen Like You Mean It – Reclaiming the Lost Art of True Connection” by Ximena Vengoechea is my next read and I’m very much looking forward to it. It seems to be exactly what I need right now!

"Listen Like You Mean It" book cover on a desert background.

Something I have very hard time doing is listening in a conversation. I’m a talker. I’ll talk all. Day. Long. Non-stop. In fact, just yesterday I spent literally all day talking. I talked on the phone with one person as I drove down to have breakfast with another. I talked on the way to lunch with another friend. And then on the drive home with someone else. Once I got home, I talked about the whole day with my husband and talked with my son about his day as well.

Did I run out of words? Nope.

Can you guess what my biggest complaint is about the world? My immediately family will laugh and tell you, in my voice, without hesitation, “No one is listening to me! I feel so disconnected!”

Enter, “Listen Like You Mean It.”

Will this book help me out? Thirty-five pages in and I’m thinking, yes.

My first note in this book was, “I wonder if I can make reminders for myself, like a tattoo on my hand or a button on my purse.”

Two quotes from the first pages that have shown me that I’m on the right track:

“When we are on autopilot, we hear enough of what the other person is saying to hold a conversation, get our work done, keep in touch with our friends, and stay polite with our neighbors and shopkeepers.

…we tend to react based on how we wish to be treated, rather than respond to what our conversation partner is actually saying or in need of.”

“We may, for instance, assume that others relate to things in the same way we do, our of a desire to bond over a “shared” experience (You had a pet as child? Me too. It was great, right?).”

That’s me. I know I’m doing it and I’m believe that I’m doing it to show you that I’m just like you. We have something in common! But not everyone is telling their story to connect that way. They may feel upstaged or not heard.

Another thing I don’t do well is ask questions and get people to explain what they mean or how they feel. And that is a direct result of my surface listening. I’m only listening enough to connect what you’re saying to something I have done or felt, then getting ready to tell my side.

The very thing that I do to connect with others is the thing that makes most people feel unheard and discouraged from adding to the conversation. I’m creating my own feedback loop!

Listen Like You Mean It is going to be a game-changer for sure…if I can only remember to implement what I’m learning!

If you’d like to read along with me, go get the book at Thriftbooks.com and leave me a comment. I can’t wait to hear your stories!

Read more posts about this book!
Patience and Trust: Not Every Thought Is Essential
Listening Skills to Practice
Final Thoughts

Making Space for Ourselves to Better Control Our Emotions

Identifying what we’re feeling is the first step to taking better control of our emotions. If we know what we’re dealing with, it’s easier to find a solution. But what do we do when there are loved ones around us that want to help?

Book quote on desert rocks background.

“There is no worse experience than to have someone shout at you to look out for something you don’t see.”

The Admiral on the Wheel by James Thurber

I’m standing on the stage, coiling cable, minding my own business, when I hear a shout from behind me. “Look out!” I jump up and look around to find what it is I’m supposed to look out for.

I’m walking a hiking trail in the mountains, watching birds, thinking the deeper thoughts that the quiet walk allows to the surface when I hear from behind me, “Look out!” For what? I turn to look and am confronted with a mountain biker.

It happens everywhere, every day. You’re warned by another human to “look out” for something you don’t see. It’s not helpful. All it does is startle you into a “fight or flight” mode, at which point you must quickly look around you to assess the threat, and then decide an action. It takes too long. By the time you’ve turned around to see, the threat is on you and you have no time to react well.

What’s a better thing to shout in an emergency when you need someone to quickly act? A precise direction. “Duck!” “I’m on your left!” Or “Don’t move!” That requires the person giving the warning to be aware of the need and communicative enough to express it quickly and well.

The same principle works well when you are trying to better control your emotions.

When you are angry, jealous, or tired, it is better a better thing for the humans around you to hear what you need them to do, instead of “Look out!”

And that requires that you know what you want or need and be willing to speak it and the work through it. That’s rarely the case for me when I’m having those feelings. It’s something I’m working on, something I get frustrated about too. I’m 48 years old and only just starting to get a handle on dealing with my feelings in a more positive way. Why is that? Why am I so slow? Everyone moves at their own pace, I suppose.

But I have discovered a new trick lately, a way to let those in my inner circle know that I’m dealing with something I’m not sure how to explain and that I don’t yet know what I need them to do to help. I say, “I’m trying to remember that there is no spoon.”

Remember “The Matrix”? There’s a scene with the little boy bending spoons. He says the trick is to remember there is no spoon and then you can do whatever you want with it. In the movie, the reality they are experiencing is only in their heads. They are all in a simulation and the physical world isn’t what they are experiencing in their minds. What they see is just computer code fed to their minds. Once you can understand that you can change the code as you wish. It’s not easy, and few can do it well.

I’m not certain our physical reality is a simulation. I know there is talk of that on the interwebs, but that’s not what I came here to sing about. I’m here to talk about the draft.

No, sorry, an Arlo Guthrie song got into my head there.

I’m a firm believer in the human ability to use their minds in amazing ways. Like being in the matrix and manipulating the code, it isn’t easy. Emotional states are reactions to the code your mind has built through experience, culture, and the world around us.

They are real, yes. I am disappointed that I didn’t get to do the thing. I’m jealous of the attention you are giving someone else. I’m worried that this might happen. But because we created them, we can change them. We can think, “There is no spoon.” And reimagine.

When I tell people, “I’m trying to remember there is no spoon,” I’m saying that I’m feeling something I’m not sure is healthy or useful and I’m attempting to reassess. I’m in need of patience while I try to make adjustments to my thinking. Is this feeling useful to me? Does it get me where I want to go? Can I change how I look at things and adjust? How can those that love me help me get where I want to go, emotionally?

They give me a little extra love, a pet (because my most prominent love-language is touch) and let me figure it out. Then we go for a walk and talk it out. It’s working so far. Mostly. It is still a new skill and I know it will take time to master. I’ve made little reminders to help me not yell, “Look out!”

There will be many days in the future when I will think to myself, “But I like the spoon. It’s so much easier just to accept what I see and not attempt to change the code underneath.” But then I remember those emotions don’t get me where I want to be, and I put my shoulder to the harder work again. This time though, I have the support of those that love me because I’m able to warn them in useful ways that I’m doing the work.

This book was filled was some wonderful short stories and memoir pieces that sparked my creativity and inspired my thinking. Want to read more? Go back to my first post about it, “The Thurber Carnival” by James Thurber.

If you want to read more about him and his work, check out his website James Thurber.org.

Learning to Concentrate by Being Alone

learning to concentrate quote from book on a desert background

“The most important step in learning to concentrate is to learn to be alone with oneself without reading, listening to the radio, smoking or drinking.
Besides such exercises (meditation), one must learn to be concentrated in everything one does, in listening to music, in reading a book, in talking to a person, in seeing a view.”

The Art of Loving by Erich Fromm

In writing a blog post.

Learning to concentrate and focus.

That’s my trouble right now as I write this. I have too much to do today and the thought of that list of things to do is keeping me from getting anything done. I’m unfocused, so everything I do is taking longer to get done AND not getting done well.

I’m certainly not very good at being alone with myself. It’s something I have been actively attempting to cultivate. Living in a small house, married with children, and sharing space with my mother-in-law, hasn’t led to much time to practice in the past, that’s for sure. These days, things are different. Life is getting quieter, which has led to some fairly serious panic attacks.

In my search for peace and focus, I’ve learned to meditate and make space for these feelings.

It’s strange, really. All these years of having so much to do with the family, just wanting a few hours of quiet to myself, and here I am panicking the moment I start to gain that time. What happened?

If I could start my life over, I’d learn to be alone with myself, and be happy about it, before I moved in with a partner or got married and had kids. I don’t think that was ever presented as an option when I was growing up. Every fairy tale, book, movie, and song was about finding your person, your people, being part of a whole group. I think it would have been easier if I had built up a better sense of who I was as an individual before I voluntarily became part of a community of any kind.

I think, I hope, I gave that to my children. In choosing to home educate and keep our children outside of any school system as small children, it was my intention to allow them to develop themselves as individuals. The point wasn’t to create self-centered monsters, as many assumed would be the outcome, but to give them the space to know themselves before they voluntarily chose a community. And it seems to be working so far.

For myself, I believe doing that for them also did the same for me. I learned a lot raising them with my husband, and I’m learning even more as I watch them go off into the world to continue to follow their own path.

It’s my turn to focus on myself more, to pursue my passions and interests.

It started with mediation and continues with yoga, walking, reading, and writing here. It grows every day in ways I never expected, in ways that delight and inspire me to do more. Sometimes I get overwhelmed and worried about where the path will lead to. It feels futile and excruciatingly slow paced. “What is the point of any of this?!” I frequently scream to myself and scribble in my notebook.

There is no point. It just is. I refocus on the task at hand, do what I can, and see what happens. I’m learning to enjoy the process itself, not reach for an outcome.

My next project? Learn to listen better and react less. There’s room for everyone.

If you’d like to read more of my thoughts on the book, “The Art of Loving,” check out the following links.
Where Did Our Words For Love Go?
We Cannot Give What We Do Not Have
How to Parent by Respecting the Individual
Can More Faith in Yourself Lead to More Faith in Others?

You can find “The Art of Loving” by Erich Fromm at Thriftbooks.com.

Have you read this book? If so, leave me a comment. I’d love to hear what you think.


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