Clearing Clutter: An Education in Pieces

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This season of Summer passed much more quickly than I expected.

I have spent a lot of time inside this summer. Inside at work, in my house, exploring the inner space of my mind. 

One tends to learn a lot when they take the time to listen. 

This has been the case for me.  After breaking my toe, abandoning “getting back in to dancing” (the activity that caused me to break the toe), taking time off from running (due to the toe fiasco), and going on a solo trip to Sisters, Oregon, I had a lot of time to think and ponder what was really important for me. I even started reading The Desire Map by Danielle LaPorte, and am working on completing the workbook – which has created space for more inner contemplation (more on this soon, when my words form into something more solid and communicable).

But this time of solitude and reflection was interrupted.

I reconnected with an old flame on my way home from Sisters – and that is going great. I went back to work for a week. Then, with a week to prepare and buy a plane ticket (and thank goodness for AirB&B by the way), I had the good fortune to join a good friend on a trip to Italy, where I hiked the hills of El Cinque Terre, and ate bread like nobody’s business. (Chocolate croissant and cappuccino for breakfast daily. I know what you’re thinking: “But you’re gluten-free!” You’re right, I am … In America. In Italy, I ate croissant, pasta, and bread consequence-free. The experience was incredible, and I will never forget the focaccia bread pesto topped pizza in Manarola…).

The best pizza ever.
The best pizza ever.

While away, I heard from my Mother that my Grandma was not faring well, and a friend passed away. By the time I returned home, I spent 24 hours in my city, and while not yet unpacked from my recent trip, grabbed my bag of toiletries and a few clean t-shirts, and headed North with my sister to be with my family for a week through Grandma’s transition. Then home for five days, then North again, to spend more time with family, which was quite wonderful and healing. Another week home, and word of my Grandpa’s passing.

Another visit with family (again, therapeutic), and my weekends have been spent working on building a relationship, trying to get back into running, dwelling in the past, and thinking about the future.

Somehow, I left self-reflection behind and began exclusively focusing outward again.

Every time I find myself yearning to work on the Desire Map workbook, I put it off until later.
But when is “later?”

I know that the practice of reflection and taking time for myself makes me all that much more available to other people who are important in my life. The challenge is actually making time for myself. 

I make time for (some) chores, sleep, and occasionally cooking. And I made the promise to myself to schedule time for painting, dancing, writing, singing, all the artistic endeavors that keep me sane, happy, and feeling fulfilled, and have not yet made these activities a priority in my daily life. Heck, they’re not even priority in my life on a monthly basis.

I have been slowly removing things from my home – creating space.  For some reason, this feels necessary in order to start creating art again. I need a clean slate and the clutter (of things and thoughts) is driving me insane.

Fall cleaning is in full force in this house.

This weekend, the special man and I are headed to the coast – staying in the cabin from my childhood, and I am really looking forward to being away from all the clutter of my daily life to take some time turning inward, and to be present. I am taking my workbook, with the intention of working on those important things again. Time to re-center my focus on the here and now.

How do you get yourself back on-track after de-railing life happenings?
What activities keep you centered, happy and feeling whole?

Have a great, heart-full weekend, my friends.

with love,
Alaina

Soaking in Stillness: the Effect of a Power Outage on Best-Laid Plans

This week for our Yoga Teacher Training, we have been reading about Pratyahara and Dharana in The 8 Limbs of Yoga: Pathway to Liberation by Bhava Ram.  In fact I was reading this book, at lunch (by myself) as below:

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At the very beginning of the chapter on Pratyahara, Bava talks about our to-do lists and how they never end and we keep adding to them…

We have forgotten how to be Human Beings and instead have become Human Doings.

I was reading on a short break between checking things off my to-do list (while waiting for my lunch), with the to-do list laying directly under the text telling me to be more present.

Convenient to have such a clear message in front of me.  (I am still carrying around that list… and adding to it).  Have I learned anything?

Tonight as I got home from class, I had planned the next few hours: cook dinner, bake some bread, maybe even a sweet treat as well for the rest of the week.  After pouring quinoa into a pan, preparing to rinse, my apartment went dark.  The power went out, and the electric company had no idea why, and I had no idea when I would be able to turn on a burner to heat the water to do any cooking.

And something else – on that list of tasks to accomplish were the words “take a bath”. Yes, my life has become so full of things to accomplish, that I had to plan to do something so simple. And the truth is, I have been putting off a simple, pleasurable, self-care bath for over a month.  So tonight when the power went out, I sliced an apple, ate it with almond butter and a slice of fiber-rich, gluten-free bread, scrubbed the tub and took a candlelight bath.

And it was so nice.  I sat in silence for a while, then started singing some Bonnie Raitt.  Totally cathartic.

Tonight’s power outage was a lesson in being present – enjoying what I have available to me in the moment, soaking in the stillness (and silence of no electronics!), and taking care of myself.  I am learning slowly, one step at a time.

When was the last time you did something for yourself?
Do you have a practice of self-care, and spending time in stillness?

As always, I would love to hear your story.

with love and light,
Alaina

Living Life, Minding the Present; Be-ing and Vulnerablilty

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Many of my years as a child, growing into adulthood in my teens, and pressing further into my life as a career-person, aware and contributing to society, have been spent in a constant commentary with Ego.  It has taken a lot of reading (my large collection of self-help novels is yet to be unpacked in my new apartment), listening to motivational speakers, and connecting with others to finally recognize this aspect of myself.  I used to identify my “logical, critical thinking” with reasoning, and I am beginning to see this as the opposite.  This past year, I have been un-training myself to trust “reason” and let go, attempting to learn to listen to my subconscious and intuitive thinking.

Man, is it hard!

For someone who has always analyzed every situation, weighed the pros and cons, and rationally chosen the direction to walk down a path, choosing to feel my reaction and to literally go with my gut has been a challenge.

On the other hand, freeing my mind and following my body’s response has been extremely liberating.  I can still see my mind go into analytical mode, and I am nowhere near as good at this as I would like to be, yet, I am getting better at acknowledging the thoughts, and letting them go.  The physical response to words, actions, ideas, thoughts, anything introduced to your surrounding is always present.  

Since making the choice to live this way, I surprisingly have more time in each day.  Being less in my head has freed my hands to do other things, and my mind can better occupy time with thoughts of the here-and-now, rather than floating off into the oblivion of the unknown future questions and hypotheses.  I feel relieved and happy to have time to write more often!

Have you felt yourself shift?  Do you notice a difference in space and time when you stay present?

One of the side-effects of staying present is not having the time to prepare and protect.  One is forced by nature to remain vulnerable in each setting because nothing else is important.  We are able to truly experience our feelings (feel the gut reactions!) and process them in real-time, not wondering what may come next or how that will affect us.  We are free to Be.  What a wonderful way to live!

Now, I’m no Guru, but I have listened to the advise of a few of these knowledgable people, and hope I have gleaned enough to start making a difference in my life.  When I want to talk with someone, I will call them.  If I am pulled to respond to a text in a longer format to convey that I care, I will.  

Most importantly, I have learned, when someone has significance in your life, to let them know.

This holiday season, I am going to take a cue from a good man, Evan Sanders at The Better Man Project, and write to my loved ones.  Writing is a much more expressive, and eloquent, method for communication for me, and I want to let each and every special person in my life know that I appreciate them.  Because you really never know when your next opportunity will come.  (Thanks, Evan, for the brilliant idea, and reminder).  

Today’s top three:  Be present with those you love, wear your heart on your sleeve, and follow your intuition.  

with love, light, and delight,
~Alaina