Friday, September 28, 2012

September: wrap-up

Time flies. It is already end of September! I have to admit that I didn't start off on the right foot this month. But I managed to get back on track. I think I've always found it a bit cheesy when people talk about being on a path or a journey. But that is exactly how it feels like. I realize that in the past I've often turned around and given up at the slightest resistance, but now there is something that makes me want to keep on going. And I know that while I have setbacks, bad days, and disappointing moments...what matters is to accept it, learn from it and move on.

So, while the last few weeks have been incredibly busy I did make time and room for some improvements. My resolutions for September (Impeccable Work) were the following:

  • process emails and all inboxes every day
  • use my calendar and to-do list every day
  • declutter my office and my computer
  • think positively about work, and about my contribution at work
  • clear my desk everyday
  • take time to focus on an important project

The habit of processing all emails and inboxes immediately, made a huge difference. It really gave me a sense of being on top of things, and having things under control. It decreased stress and anxiety for sure. I've also been going through old emails, and while decluttering my office, I've found things that should have been dealt with and processed long time ago. I even found a couple of unopened letters, that were dated January 2011! While these were well hidden, I am sure my subconcious has been aware of that monstreous to do list that has been hiding in my email inboxes, and various folders and drawers in my office. Getting these into the daylight has definitely been a relief. I can feel that I am both more relaxed and more energetic while at work, than I was before. I am not done though, and I will continue the decluttering at the office in the coming weeks, until it feels 100% zen.

Similarly, the simple habit of clearing my desk every day before I leave work, makes it so much more pleasant to come to work in the mornings. It is like making the bed in the morning: low cost & high benefit habit.

I've yet to master the habit of using calendar and to-do list regularly. But I think that this will be easier now, when the feeling of coming to work is not so dominated by urgencey. In the past I had the feeling that I constantly had to be putting out fires and that I couldn't deal with anything that wasn't super urgent. But I am sure that there are better times ahead now.

Overall I think I was successful in having a more positive attitude towards work, and towards my own contribution at work.

I did spend a lot of time on important projects at work, but much of it was last minute work, that had to be done, and could not be postponed.

I had hoped that by the end of this month, all of my office and computer clutter would have been dealt with. It is easy to become discouraged when you do not accomplish your goals. But the important thing is to focus on the positive side. My office really looks and feels completely different than it did 4 weeks ago, and if I keep on going, doing a little bit every day, I will reach that goal at some point. At the end of the day, it doesn't really matter weather it takes 4 weeks or 8 weeks or even 12 weeks.

I've shuffled the remaining months up a bit, and decided to deal with Time and Money in October. I believe it is important for me at this point to take responsibility, and I think that being responsible for your time and money is fundamental for having a sense of freedom and independence. But more on that after the weekend...


Monday, September 24, 2012

The Anger Eating Demon

Here is a little story that I heard some time ago, supposedly first told by Buddha himself:
Once upon a time there was a wise king who had to leave his palace for a business trip. During the king's absence, a demon (asura) arrived, walked right into the palace and sat down on the king’s throne. Upon seeing this, the guards became afraid, but soon their fear was replaced by anger and they started shouting, "Get out of the throne, how dare you sit on the throne of our ruler? who do you think you are!" As the guards became angrier and angrier, the demon grew taller, stronger and more powerful. This continued with each insult and with each threat coming from the guards, until the demon had become so huge, he took up most of the room.

When the king returned and saw this enormous demon in his throne, he knew immediately what to do. He entered the throne room and said, "Welcome friend! How nice of you to visit me! Has anyone offered you something to eat yet? Would you like something to drink?" With the king's friendly words the demon started shrinking. And with each kind word and kind gesture it became smaller and smaller. The king continued until the demon disappeared completely, and the king was able to retake his throne.
(I've found several versions of this story, and this is how I remember hearing it. But you can read the "original" here).

When I first heard the story, I understood the message to be that we should respond to anger with kindness, but at the time I was thinking about other people's anger. When I was writing my last post, this story came back to me, and I saw that there is another way of interpreting this story. Perhaps the story is not only about other people's anger, but also about your own anger and inner demons. When you ignore or resist your demons they grow bigger, stronger and more powerful. But when you address your demons, acknowledge them, name them and embrace them...they start to shrink and to loose their power. Until at some point they dissolve and disappear completely.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

More on Stress. And on Practicing the Opposite.

I don’t buy magazines often these days, and when I do they tend to be either fashion - or interior design magazines. But yesterday I was at the airport waiting for a delayed flight so I decided to visit the airport bookstore. I wanted to try something new so I grabbed a copy of the Yoga Journal. If I'd had a highlighter I think I might have highlighted the whole magazine – it’s just so in line with what I have been thinking lately. Perhaps it is true what some say, that when you are open, you’ll find that the answers you need are right in front of you….:)

In particular, there was a wonderful article titled "Untangling Anxiety" - written by Sally Kempton, a teacher of meditation and yoga philosophy.

Here are some of my favorite quotes:
Anxiety can be a powerful teacher. It can show you were you’re hiding stress or holding unprocessed emotions. It might even remind you that there’s something you need to take care of. Most important, anxiety often signals the need for growth or for some inner shift.
It’s only when you are willing to bring consciousness to your anxiety – to pay attention to the bodily sensations it brings, the thoughts that go along with it, and the situations that trigger it – that you can begin to learn from it.

…many of us tent to confuse anxiety with diligence and believe that our anxiety helps keep us safe.
One day, perhaps, you might notice that what you have perceived as anxiety is, at its core, just pure energy. This energy can be experienced as anxiety, but it can also be experienced as excitement or a feeling of being keyed up and ready for action. It can signal the necessary tension, the inner fire, that accompanies growth.
The more you can be present with that tension and work with it-even, at times, allowing it to be there without resisting it-the more your anxiety can melt into its essence.
All of our energies, even the negative ones that can be so painful and limiting, have at their core the pure energy of life.
As we resolve the issues that lock anxiety into the body and as we release the emotions and mental habits that create so much of our suffering, something radical happens. These primal negative emotions, centered in the amygdala and brainstem, start to show us their other face. They point us to the energy that yoga calls shakti-the leaping, dancing energy that can make any moment a creative moment and any experience a potential doorway to joy.
In the article the authors talks about six steps to ease anxiety (or any negative feeling you might experience):

1. Body: where is tension showing up in the body?
2. Heart: Focus on the heart, the breath and energy coming in and out of your chest.
3. Question: What about my situation is contributing to the anxiety?
4. Thoughts: Bring awareness to the thoughts running through your mind, ask yourself: can I let go of that?
5. Feelings: Tune into your emotions, and name your feelings.
6. Opposite: Summon up a feeling of warmth and pleasure. Bring something good to your heart. The Yoga Sutra calls this pratipaksha bhavana, or “practicing the opposite”- countering a negative feeling with a positive one.

Cliches are clich├ęs for a reason, and reading on spirituality and self-help you often come across the same ideas again and again. I was happy to see how the message in this article lined up with the parenting book I am currently reading (How to Talks so Kids Will Listen...And Listen so Kids Will Talk). The book recommends dealing with your children's negative feelings in the following steps: 1. Listen, 2. Acknowledge (I can understand you’re upset that I forgot your favorite doll at home), 3. Name the Feeling (You must really miss her, I know how much you care for that doll), 4. Fantasy (Should we put on our fairy wings, fly home and get your doll???).

It's funny how I wasn't sure about that last step, until I read the article on anxiety. Then it totally made sense. Practicing the Opposite, countering negative feeling with a positive one. I love that!

I now have a post-it sticker on my desk that says: 1. body, 2. heart, 3. question, 4. thoughts, 5. feelings, 6. opposite. I also have a post it sticker at home that says: 1. Listen, 2. Acknowledge, 3. Name, 4. Fantasy. I'll be practicing this for the next couple of days, to see how it works:)

Tuesday, September 18, 2012


“Stress is nothing more than a socially acceptable form of mental illness”
-Richard Carlson

One way to deal with stress is to try to eliminate the causes, such as leaving things until last minute, over-committing, letting clutter and to do lists get out of control. The problem with this approach is twofold. First, no matter how much you try to control things there will always be (potentially) stressful situations that arise. Secondly, it may cause you to back away from challenges and you may consequently end up stuck in a very small comfort zone.

Although I want to use this month to work on some of the bad habits that have caused stressful situations in the past...It is more important to me to realize that stress is internal, and when I manage to be present/mindful being stressed (or rather not being stressed) becomes a choice.

It feels a bit careless not to stress about the still unprepared lecture that I'll need to give in a couple of days....but getting stressed out really has NO benefits that I can think of. It is unhealthy for mind and body. It makes me really cranky, and it actually makes me unproductive-because when I am stressed I can't focus and constantly move from one thing to the next.

My challenge now is to take a deep breath every time I feel stress bubbling up - and ask myself: What is it that I am stressed about? What needs to be done? If I can, I'll do what needs to be done. If I can't, I'll just let go of the stress and anxiety that I am feeling. Focus on being relaxed, present and mindful. Less stress, more zen.

Friday, September 14, 2012


The following is list of behavioral patterns that have caused me problems and pain in the past:

  • I have difficulty identifying what I am feeling.
  • I minimize, alter, or deny how I truly feel.
  • I have difficulty making decisions.
  • I judge what I think, say, or do harshly, as never good enough.
  • I am embarrassed to receive recognition, praise, or gifts.
  • I value others’ approval of my thinking, feelings, and behavior over my own.
  • I have difficulty getting started, meeting deadlines, and completing projects.
  • I have trouble setting healthy priorities.
  • I compromise my own values and integrity to avoid rejection or anger.
  • I put aside my own interests in order to do what others want.
  • I am afraid to express my beliefs, opinions, and feelings when they differ from those of others.
  • I give up my truth to gain the approval of others or to avoid change.

These are taken from the list "Patterns and Characteristics of Codependence." The list is quite comprehensive and I am sure most people can probably recognize themselves somewhere on the list.

Whether I am - or am not - technically defined as a codependent person, and where the causes for these patterns lie, is not really important to me. What is important to me now is to deal with these patterns.

I knew before my happiness project started, that low self-esteem was a problem. But it is really just now, as I've become more mindful of my thoughts, behavior and feelings, that I've realized how big the problem is, and how much it affects my everyday life.

So now is the time to change, time to grow, time to become happier and stronger....

Saturday, September 8, 2012

September: Impeccable Work

Less stress, more zen

I love September, I love the fall. I love the autumn rain, and the feeling of a new beginning. Although work tends to become more busy, I feel like it is time to quiet down. Less doing, more being.

But that being has been incredibly busy in the last couple of weeks, and I've been way too stressed. I feel like I am struggling to keep my head above water. Actually, at the moment, it feels more like drowning....The main goal of this month is to find more zen at work.

Getting through this month with a postitive attitude is going to be challenging enough. But I will try. And I also want to use this time to improve my work habits.

I have such bad habits when it comes to work: I procrastinate, I stress, I do things last minute (and then want to do everything perfectly), I procrastinate some more.... So:

My September Resolutions

  • process emails and all inboxes every day
  • use my calander and to-do list every day
  • declutter my office and my computer
  • think positively about work, and about my contribution at work
  • clear my desk everyday
  • take time to focus on an important project

I've also been simplifying my past resolutions, and they now look like this:

impeccable mind
meditate, write in my journal, blog, exercise, work on my co-dependency issues

(When I started exercising in June my goal was to be able to run 5k by the end of the summer. I just finished my first race and ran 5k in just under 30 minutes:))

impeccable home
declutter, make the bed, light a candle and/or play music, knit, do weekly groceries

impeccable family
sit down and play, watch my voice (no snapping), speak clearly, use cheat sheet from book (how to talk so your kids will listen....), vitamins in the morning

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

August: wrap-up

August was family month. I took a two-week-vacation and completely abondened my routine during that time. Consequently I did not do super-well on my resolutions. On the other hand, the main goal of the month was to have more quality time with my family, enjoy being with my kids, be more patient and have more fun. And in that sense, I think this month was a succesful one.

The Resolutions
I was really happy to discover that it almost took no effort for me to watch my voice and avoid losing my temper at home. This would not have been the case a few months ago!

I did spend a lot of quality time with my children, I sat down and played with them, and took some time to sing and dance and be silly with them.

I did take many many photos.

I did not manage to establish a morning routine, I forgot the vitamins almost every day, and I did not teach them much.

The Tasks
I read the Power of Now, and I am half-way through the parenting handbook: How to Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk. Both books are awesome. It is almost ridiculous how many self-help books I've read in the last couple of months. It is actually quite addictive:) But I definitely feel like I have learned a lot!

I made phone-calls to my family.

I thought about my pleasures of childhood: Playing outside! When you are a kid, there is no such thing as bad wheather. Windy, snowy, rainy,'s all equally wonderful. And being outside in nature. And then having some hot chocolate and toast after a long day outside. Playing cards with my grandmother. Making shows (singing and dancing) with my sister. Drawing, Painting, Reading. Going to the library.

I made some kind of a family mission statement: I want my home to ba sacred place, and a happy place, for all four of us. We are one, we respect one another, and we care about each other's happiness and well-being. I want to teach my children to have respect for themselves, and respect for others. I want to help them to become independent and confident individuals. I want them to be happy and at peace.

Other tasks did not get done this time. Perhaps later:)

The theme of September is Impeccable Work. I'll post about my goals for this month in the next couple of days.