Tag Archives: inspiration

Learning to Commit

Hello everyone!

When I last posted I mentioned that I had picked up a book titled Staying Put: Making a home in a restless world by Scott Russell Sanders.  While I am only into the second chapter I will tell you right now that this book is a gem.  It is a book to read slowly and savor because it will get into your head and linger there. Mr. Sanders writes beautifully addressing the struggles many of us have as we navigate through our lives.  It is a book about putting down roots and creating a sense of place.  The book, while written in 1993, has even greater relevance today.  Our world has become even more restless and now, sadly,  much more violent.  This book is a comfort and a call to commitment in our lives.  I have no hesitation in telling you that this book will  help you to discover your own sense of home, place, and what matters in your life.  Also, be sure and check out the author’s website at http://www.scottrussellsanders.com.  Please take some time to look at his website.  His writing is thoughtful and engaging  and I was delighted to find he has authored many  books over the years.  If you can’t find the book locally, you can get it new or used on Amazon.  Let me know what you think.  I will share some of my favorite passages in a later post.

Speaking of restlessness, I want to put yes another plug in for meditation and some resources to help you.  It seems that meditative things have been appearing often in my life lately and I have been trying to pay attention to that.  As I have mentioned before, just the word meditation brings up and expectation for most of us; one that I sometimes think scares us off before we even get started.  There are many formalized practices of meditation and they all have their benefits and I am in no way discouraging you from learning or practicing them.  But sometimes it is better to ease into some disciplines that we may stay with them and flourish slowly.

A friend mentioned that even just doing a few seconds of meditation is helpful for her in situations like driving.  Taking a few breaths and quieting the mind briefly can be immensely helpful.  Try it when you get flustered or feel overwhelmed with things that need to get done.  It might be just the little break you need.

One of the churches close to me sits on a large piece of land and they have created a walking meditation labyrinth.  I believe walking can be meditative, but walking through this labyrinth has been a wonderful experience and has often helped me settle my mind and mysteriously provided clarity.  While you many not have access to a formal labyrinth, perhaps there is a circular path nearby or a space in your yard to create a repetitive walking path.

Another plug for my favorite beginning meditation and mindfulness book.  Mindfulness in Plain English by Ghante Henepola Gunaratana will eases you into the meditative process step by step.  I read parts of this book everyday and I never fail to learn something new.

And lastly, a resource that has been very helpful to me and good for those who like guided meditations.  Deepak Chopra and Oprah Winfrey to their 21 day meditation events several times a year.  The last one was all about getting unstuck and has been one of the most helpful and insightful series  have done.  They cover a variety of issues in our lives and are a good combination of helpful words, a daily thought and meditation; easy session lasting around 20 minutes.  They are also free with the option to purchase the session once it is done.  Here is the link: http://www.chopracentermeditation.com

So what are you waiting for.  Mediation and mindfulness are what you make it. You don’t need special clothes or music.  Just a comfortable place to sit.  Give it a try today.  Start slowly. If you are just wanting to do a sitting meditation start with 5 minutes and gradually build up.  It will be worth it I promise!

Find Your Inner Renaissance Person

Inspiration is found everywhere. When I was a kid, I was crazy for every new craft that I saw and dove into endless projects with enthusiasm and determination. I loved going to the fabric store and the dime store, which carried all sorts of craft supplies. For a short time I was obsessed with making layered jello creations in goblets and clear dishes. During the summer one of the schools had what I remember as a 2 week day camp for making all sorts of stuff. We braided belts, made tiled trivets and woven pot holders. You could also do ceramics and a host of other activities that kept us out of the house and having fun.
I had no problem spending my days in the craft world, or outside playing with my friends. There was never the thought that I should be doing something else, spend my time more wisely or curtail my imagination. As an avid reader I loved adventure stories and tales of overcoming hardship which further fueled my imagination. Schools at the time still taught art and encouraged creative endeavors. My 4th grade teacher loved Mexico and we spent time doing projects about the country and also learning to speak some Spanish.

So what happens as we become adults in the world? Yes, we have to face the reality of working and family and day to day living. But why do we seem to often turn our backs on the creative process, talking ourselves out of trying new things and not allowing our imagination to flow? And more importantly how can we get back to a place where we learn for the joy of it and without expectations or a cluttered mind.

Deepak Chopra talks about mental claustrophobia as one way we prevent ourselves from enjoying the creative process. We tell ourselves we can’t do something before we even get started and are often 10 steps ahead of ourselves and far from being in the present moment. Before even attempting something we let our fears about so many things kill the joy and fun we could be having. We need to find that single mindedness and focus we had has children. So much emphasis is placed on multitasking that I fear it takes away from our ability to be in the moment

Remaining curious as an adult is so important. Not everything that sparks an interest needs to have a permanent place in your life, but being open to learning and trying new things will keep you vibrant, engaged in the world, and a good conversationalist at the very least. Perhaps someone suggests a book and you wonder what on earth you would find interesting about that particular topic. That happened for me when someone suggested I read “The Boys in the Boat”. Other than an appreciation for the grace of the sport, I have never had particular interest in rowing.  But this is one of the best books I have ever read. Yes, I learned a little about rowing, but I also learned a lot about teamwork, about what it takes to make a team, to make a boat, about discipline, about the inner fortitude of an earlier generation that seems lacking in the world these days, and about the Berlin olympics under Hitlers regime. I never expected I would gain so much knowledge and insight from a book about rowers and rowing.

Have you said to yourself more than once that you would love to learn a new language? If the answer is yes or perhaps you are planning a trip to a foreign country and would like to have a basic knowledge of the language, try http://www.Duolingo.com. It is a free language learning website plus they also have an app for your iPad and phone. Lots of choices here including Vietnamese, Turkish, Polish and Portuguese, along with Spanish and Italian. Unlike all the memorization we did in high school language classes, these lessons are short and interactive, allowing you to be as serious, or not, as you want. I’ve been learning Polish on Duolingo and I actually prefer it to Rosetta Stone.

Most college and universities have separate programs for adult learning with some offering day trips or longer excursions. There are usually a wide variety of subjects often taught by one of the college professors. Some meet weekly for several weeks, other for just a time or two. Art institutes or nature centers/botanical gardens also often have one day weekend or evening workshops and/or demonstrations.

Want to give writing a try, but not sure where to start? Give http://www.750words.com words a try. Free for the first month, and only $5 a month after that, the goal is just what the title says. Sit and write 750 words every day. Of course you can go longer than that if you want. They have monthly challenges and also tell you the mood of your writing each day along with words that you repeat often. You can have something specific you want to write or it can just be free flow. I have done both and recommend it highly.

Become a renaissance person! The ideal of the renaissance man who knew a little bit about a lot of things isn’t such a bad thing. Yes, we usually need some sort of expertise in an area so we can earn a living, plus it is nice to have some expertise at a hobby or two. But don’t stop there. The sky is the limit with all the possibilities that exist. Be curious, be open, let go of perfection and have some fun. We need fun in our lives, and while you may decide not to pursue a something after satisfying your curiosity about it, you may be able to inspire someone else who may have an interest in that particular thing.

Here are a couple of other ideas that you may find interesting or helpful.

Read the Mad Man Knitting Blog http://www.madmanknitting.wordpress.com. Gregory Patrick literally knitted himself out of homelessness with his adorable teddy bears. You may learn a little about knitting (actually more about the process of knitting), but what you will learn and be inspired by is his insistence in not remaining in a dark space facing personal challenges and the challenges currently going on in the world around us. Every post I read from him humbles me, makes me grateful, and makes me try harder to be a better person in this world.

Are you a history nut or love adventure stories and/or biographies. Books can inspire us on many levels; to write, to travel, to be braver in our own lives. One book I just finished that did all three for me is Beyond the Call by Lee Trimble with Jeremy Dronfield. Many times the heroes of the world live quiet and unassuming lives. One of these men was Robert Trimble, a world war 2 fighter pilot. While he had an outstanding flying career during the war, the story of the lives he saved in Poland once the camps were liberated by the Red Army, and from right under the ever watchful eyes of the Russians is nothing short of amazing. His family knew very little of his efforts, but as an old man he told his son the story of his covert mission, and Beyond the Call is the book that resulted.  Like the Boys in the Boat, I learned about a wonderful man and hero to many, but also so much more about WW2, our relationship with Russia and an appreciation for what former prisoners endured after their release. While I have an interest in world war 2 history and Poland in particular, you don’t need either to enjoy and be amazed by this man’s story.

Setting Goals instead of Expectations

By definition, expectations are almost guaranteed to bring you disappointment. Expectations involve a disregard for reality while harboring a belief that something should or will happen simply because we entertain a thought or desire.  If you have ever watched a toddler throw a fit because he didn’t get the candy or ice cream he thought he deserved you are seeing total disappointment of an expectation.  Gradually we grow out of throwing tantrums, but sometimes it is harder to get rid of expectational thinking and we wind up being just as disappointed as adults as we were as children.

Choosing to set goals will lead you to your desire often times faster and with fewer mistakes since goals involve directing our efforts towards the end or outcome we desire. Setting a goal will still involve that original idea or desire, but instead of thoughtless and unplanned pursuit of that desire, time and effort must play a part.  Working towards and attaining a goal helps us become more confident and move forward be creating more goals in our lives.  This allows us to leave that disappointing realm of expectations and create real change and purpose.

It certainly isn’t wrong to envision the attainment of our desires, and one helpful step is to create a vision board. Simply cut out images, or print them from your computer, of what it is you want and attach them to a poster board or cork board. Anything and everything you desire  in your dreams can go on this board. Vision boards give us something concrete and material to look at; they take our dreams out of our imagination and provide a visual reminder of where we want to go.   They can be a first step in the journey of making the changes you desire in your life.  Once you are able to take a first step, the next one will be a little easier.

Taking our dreams and desires seriously demands that we act in a way that will bring them to fruition. Choosing to live in the fantasy world of expectation will bring disappointment and discouragement almost always. To have success in any area in our life takes dedication, hard work and planning. That is what goals are made of. They require that we learn new things, pay attention to our surroundings, and learn from others how to create a successful and joyful life.

As a means of encouragement I urge you to do something every day, no matter how small, to get you closer to your dream.

Here are some ideas to get you started. Feel free to expand upon them or share your own ideas with the rest of us!

Mind map your goal
Write a business plan. Start small and expand it as your plan grows. It can even be one sentence to start.
Don’t be afraid to talk to others who have expertise in your area. Many people love sharing their knowledge about how they fulfilled their goals.
Take a class.
Meditate
Get enough sleep.
Don’t worry, worrying is a waste of time.
Be organized. Know where your information is and where to access it.
Be focused.
Read everything you can about what interests you and what you feel passionate about.
Let your dream evolve and take shape as you increase your knowledge. and gain confidence. Don’t remain rigid in your thinking.

I imagine that many of you have books that you find inspiring and that don’t stray far from your reading chair or night stand. One such book for me is “Infinite Possibilities, The Art of Living Your Dreams”, by Mike Dooley. I have read this book several times, and often just pick it up and let it fall to whatever page it will. Mike Dooley’s enthusiasm is infectious and he will definitely get you thinking outside of the box and help you change your perspective into one that will help you live a joyful and purposeful life.