Tag Archives: mindfulness

Time Consuming and the Creative Process

I’m a consumer. So are you. We all are.

I’m not talking about shopping here. I’m talking about consuming time. Using it up for things that we love to do and things that we don’t love to do so much but that have to get done.

I’ve always kind of wondered where my time goes. It seems like I’m busy all the time, even when I’m not busy.

Then it hit me while I was doing eight things at once and three of those things were just happening in my brain. I hadn’t yet started to actually do them.

That thing happening in my brain? That’s the creative process.

I’m doing the family banking, organizing some files and tidying up the desk. And those are the tasks that I’m physically doing.

But all while I’m doing those things, I’m planning dinner, planning crazy hairstyles for the kids for Crazy Hair Day at school, and making a mental list of all the other physical things I have to get done before I leave for a meeting with my daughter’s teacher in the afternoon.

And time is just slipping away.

I consume it like a greasy cheeseburger from a favourite burger joint; quickly slopping into it, hunched over, eyes darting back and forth as if watching for some predator to come and steal the meat from my very hands. I lurch from one bite to the next as if starving, fully enjoying but never really savouring every bite. And then I am full. Filled with the burger that I didn’t slow down to enjoy. I’m no longer hungry, but I am not filled.

That is what time is like. Unplanned, unchecked, time slips away from us as we check off our To-Do lists and add new items to be done soon. We are never really satisfied with the consuming of time unless we can slow ourselves down to savour the time that we have.

We may enjoy checking off that endless To-Do list, but did we enjoy the task that we did? Did it fulfill us? Do we even remember doing it?

Slow down and savour each task, no matter what the task.

This will mean that there will be less time for more tasks, but there will be more space for savouring the task and therefore more understanding about what tasks should be on our To-Do lists and what tasks don’t belong there.

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When Everything is Going Wrong

That’s a big title. It’s a scary way to start a post. To reassure you, everything can go wrong and all of the everything can still be small things. Everything doesn’t have to mean a catastrophe. it’s often all those little things just coming together to make for a bad day.

Big Sister’s birthday was this week. She was sick on her birthday and the day after her birthday. She missed celebrating with her friends at school. (Thank goodness her party was on the weekend, just before she got sick.)

We made the best of it. I did what I could to be present for her given that I was sick, too. I think we both ended up sleeping almost all day.

Anyway, we mostly got over the colds and we starting to get back to normal. The kids have bible club and Big Sister wants to take cookies to her group. Which means I have to bake cookies…and I’m still not feeling 100%.

Now, cold virus aside, I know I’m better in the morning. My ankle is all rested up and I can stand to be on my feet for a bit. As the day wears on, I get tired and the pain returns. By the end of the day, I’m mostly forcing myself to keep going. If it weren’t for my kids, I’d give in and go to bed at like 6pm everyday. But evenings are family time. The kids are in school all day and evenings are the only time we get to spend together (assuming they aren’t going out to one of their activities).

So, I started off really well in the morning, with great intentions to get those cookies baked and ready to go for when Big Sister comes home from school.

Best.laid.plans.

I forgot to take the butter out of the freezer, so I had to defrost the block in the microwave, but that was taking too long and I was working with quickly dwindling time, so I tried heating the butter. That worked a bit, but not enough so I hacked off the amount that I needed, put it in a bowl and put it back in the microwave, but I forgot to pay attention (very important when heating butter that you don’t want to actually melt). Guess what? It mostly melted.

So the butter’s in the bowl in the freezer getting hard again. (Must remember to pay attention so that the butter doesn’t freeze again, because frozen brings me back full circle.)

Then I boiled the kettle for tea because, well, I have a cold and tea is good for me.

But I got distracted with warming up some roasted leeks for a quickie lunch and by the time I poured the water for my tea, it was cold, which is very disappointing to a sick person.

Onto the cookies. The not quite frozen butter can now be creamed with the sugars to create the beginnings of a cookie dough.

Just looking at it I know it’s not going to turn out as delicious as the recipe claims. I know better than to bake when I’m in a bad mood.

Ah, there it is. The admission.

A bad mood. But I didn’t think I was. My day was going along swimmingly. Where did this bad mood come from? Maybe the incredibly dreary sky that is glaring at me through every window? Maybe I’m trying to distract myself with busy-ness to get out of the bad mood that I didn’t know that I was in? I’ve done a lot today. I was feeling accomplished. Guess I was fooling myself.

But then the mindfulness.

You can’t bake or cook or craft or create or do or enjoy anything when you can’t get out of your head and into the moment.

And getting out of your head means being mindful of you, mindful of the moment, mindful of your surroundings and feelings and self.

So there I was, in the middle of my kitchen, chewing on a piece of roasted leek with my eyes closed and my focus on the soft, crunchy sound the leek made each time my teeth came together on it, breathing deeply (as deeply as one can with a stuffed up nose and a mouth full of food). My focus drifted to all the other things I had to get done: the unbaked cookies, the dinner prep, the tidying up, the crochet project for my daughter. I brought my mind back to the moment, to the soft but crunchy leek, to the feel of standing without crutches, to the silence in the house, to the sound of the rain on windows. Two more deep breaths and I open my eyes.

I am calmer. Ready. More centered. I think I can bake those cookies now without ruining them.

Living by Intention

“We need never be bound by the limitations of our previous or current thinking, nor are we ever locked into being the person we used to be, or think we are.”
― Allan Lokos, Pocket Peace: Effective Practices for Enlightened Living

Intention and simplicity have been two big themes in recent months for me. I’ve not necessarily done much along the lines of these themes, but they keep popping up, tapping me on the shoulder and making themselves known.

I think, with my surgery recovery, I’ve finally made some space to just be, to just listen to the undercurrent of my life, my rhythm, something I haven’t done in a very long time—if ever.

I’m going to back to work soon, and I’m fearful that this slight peace that has drifted into my life is going to disappear in the madness that was my life before surgery. I have been hoping that three months away from the rat race and stress was enough time to set me on a new path, but I fear that I did not do enough to cement this path. No pun intended, but when I think about traveling a new path, the last thing I want to do is put my feet to concrete and walk a road that to me seems so full of stress and anxiety.

The path I want under my feet is strewn with fallen leaves and green moss; it’s a dirt path for sure, maybe a few wood chips, but not the man-made kind, the kind that happen because a tree has fallen and small animals have chipped away at the rotting log and left their chippings and shavings all around the openings to new homes where new little creature families will be born and will grow up.

But to have that mossy green, soft, forgiving path and not the hard cement, man-made road of my previously too busy life, I have to intentionally choose it.

I’ve let it choose me over the last few months and it has been a simple, enjoyable beginning to a journey that I hope to continue. For that to happen, simplicity and intention must be my guides. I know I’m going back to work and I know that life can take over if I let it, but I would like to at least feel as though what I am doing is being done purposefully rather than just as it comes up and needs to be dealt with.

My goal for my return to the “real world” is to set an intention of simple living and purposeful living so that, at the end of my day, I feel that my day was one that was guided by my beliefs and core values rather than a day that just sort of happened to me.

Because that’s what a lot of the days fee like. Life takes over and the days just kind of go by.

There are plans, of course, and moments of connection and happiness. But for the most part, up until very recently, my days just sort of happened.

We had our family routine, and every morning we would get up and press play on that day and everything just moved along as if it were a recorded episode. The odd time we would press pause, but for the most part, we just moved along in the recorded manner.

When I return to work in a few short weeks, I want to do it differently. So I have begun to do more with intention.

One intention that I have been working on is writing. I want to write with a more regular rhythm. I’m always saying I don’t have time to write. But I don’t ever set aside that time, and writing is something I love to do. If I don’t value it enough to make time for it, then maybe it should not be part of my life. It’s harsh to think of it that way. But it’s refreshing, too. I know that I love to write, so I will have to be more intentional about it. And when I think of making time for a thing that I love, it creates in me a dedication to the enjoyment of that thing.

So, my intention has been to build a habit that supports my writing and my enjoyment of writing. I did this with one simple change. Rather than waking up at 6am and lying in bed enjoying the quiet before the rush of the day hits, I wake up at 6am and write.

Sometimes, I am interrupted by my littles who want to snuggle. And my intention for that is to let them in. I enjoy them more than I enjoy writing, and making time for them solidifies my dedication to enjoying them, interruptions and all. And since I was never writing with any scheduled regularity or intention before, why not let them in? Writing can happen anytime. Littles grow up and grow out of snuggles. But I do want to write and I do relish that time alone with my thoughts and my keyboard or pen and notebook.

So, I invite them into my writing and we make up stories; they dictate while I type. We play word games on my laptop or draw silly pictures in Microsoft Paint and learn about shapes and colours and patterns.

I may not get that hour of quiet writing time where I get to write whatever I want, but I get so much more. I get to teach and learn and inspire and be inspired. And when they are off to school and I’m alone, I get to write that story that we started while we snuggled in my bed at 6am.

Because, after all…

“We need never be bound by the limitations of our previous or current thinking, nor are we ever locked into being the person we used to be, or think we are.”
― Allan Lokos, Pocket Peace: Effective Practices for Enlightened Living

half eaten chocolate bar

Mindfulness and Chocolate

As I convalesce, I have been listening to presentations on mindfulness through the Mindfulness Summit, a 31-day project with a mission to make mindfulness mainstream.

Here I have to admit that I’m not very good at practicing mindfulness…or anything else that requires me to sit quietly.

I’m getting better, and I think the daily talks and practices in the Mindfulness Summit have helped.

I want to share with you one thing that I have learned in the last few weeks that I have known but never fully embraced…

…be present.

In my mindfulness practice and in listening to these daily mindfulness talks, I have not specifically focused on being present. However, this is what I’m taking away from these 31 days.

It is true that if you practice, you will improve. It does not matter what it is that you are practicing. And though I spend most of my evenings reminding my daughter to practice her piano and practice her singing, knowing all the while that this is what she needs to do to improve her skills in these areas, I consistently neglect practice in my own life.

Mindfulness is a skill, and one that needs to be practiced.

Without realizing it because I’m doing it as part of a daily routine of listening to the Mindfulness Summit, I have embedded the practice of being present in my mind.

I’ve written here about counting before speaking or reacting, and I’ve practiced that inconsistently over the years. It’s a similar idea to being present, but once you’re present, you are in that moment and can be in every moment if you choose it.

Here is where I get to the part about chocolate.

I love Caramilk chocolate bars. My husband brought one home for me the other night. It has been sitting in the pantry ever since.

Today, I decided to eat it.

But I found myself not wanting to just devour it as I would have in the past. I broke one square off, thinking I would slowly savour the treat.

After popping it into my mouth, I chewed it and swallowed it rather quickly. It was just so good. I couldn’t slow myself down.

I walked away from the chocolate bar. It was tempting me. Pushing me out of my present zone. Dragging me toward wanting more.

I came back a few minutes later, thinking I was ready to handle the delicious little temptress, and I took the chocolate bar to the kitchen table with me.

I sat down at the table, opened my Kindle app on my phone and proceeded to read while I ate the rest of the chocolate bar.

I allowed a couple of squares to melt in my mouth without chewing them. I was winning the battle of temptation. I was slowing down my time with this delicious treat; appreciating all that it had to offer.

But was I?

I was reading and eating. Not fulling enjoying either activity.

And all that mindfulness practice came flooding in.

I closed my Kindle app and pushed my phone away. I took the next square of chocolate and paid close attention to how much of the chocolate bar was left (half, in case you’re wondering).

I put that square in my mouth, closed my eyes and let it melt. I took slow, deep breaths. I savoured the melting chocolate, the feeling of it as it coated the inside of my mouth, the sweetness of it as it slipped down my throat, the way that it activated a sense of calm in my brain.

As I felt my mind wander away from the chocolate to the next item on my To Do list, I gently brought my mind back to the chocolate, back to the sensation, just like in the meditation practice I learned on day one of the Mindfulness Summit.

That square lasted just under a minute, but the feeling of being present in that moment with that square of chocolate and caramel will last in my memory for a life time.

As I write this, I feel a sense of calm and relaxation from the memory alone.

The other half of the chocolate bar is wrapped neatly in its wrapping in the pantry for the next time I need to be reminded of how to be present.