Journaling – an everyday ritual performed everyday

I can shake off everything as I write; my sorrows disappear, my courage is reborn. Anne Frank

There is something enriching about watching the sunrise and set. There is a sense of wholeness to a day when you witness both the sunrise and the sunset of a single day. To top and tail each day and create a deeper sense of wholeness, I have introduced a daily ritual that has been as enriching as seeing the rising and setting of the sun. I guess you could call it journalling.

Journalling conjures thoughts of laborious daily entries and the need for a descent amount of uninterrupted time. This daily ritual is not an arduous or lengthy practice. It’s an everyday ritual that devotes some intentional consideration and reflection at the beginning and end of each day and takes no more than five minutes at each sitting.

I began in mid December. Feeling gloomy, a lack of connection and a general malaise that had no root in the physical body I knew I was not feeding my spirit. Beginning at the end of the year I hoped to make my new ritual a devotional practice, one that would treat the symptoms and cure the ailing spirit and help me to begin the new year much improved.

The foundation of my journalling is based on the Five Minute Journal. Each morning I identify three things I am grateful for, three things that will make the day great and I write three affirmations for the day. At the end of the day, before bed, I list three great things that happened during the day and three ways I could have made the day better (I love this accountability and reflection).

Since the new year began I have included a couple of extras. Each morning I read the daily slip from You are a Badass calendar, gifted to me by my son for Christmas (I so love his endearing encouragement of me). Often times the calendar provides inspiration for my affirmations.

I include a short tarot reading in the morning or draw an oracle card. This part is definitely not everyone’s cup of tea, though for me it’s part of stepping back into ritual and reconnecting with my intuition again.

Why I like this morning and evening ritual.

Gratitude: – even when things seem bleak there is always something, even if it’s small, to be grateful for. I find this raises my spirits immensely.

Making a great day:- listing several things that would make the day great establishes an expectation that inspires action.  It also means that even though not everything may go as planned, if those small things you list are achieved, it’s been a day well lived. I like the sense of achievement that comes with this. I haven’t focused so much on making sure everything on my list is achieved but bonus points if they are.

Affirming yourself:- there is much written about affirmations that speak to their potential. I am currently enjoying this practice because it helps me to fill my head with positive thoughts. We reap what we focus our intention on. My head easily fogs up with the negative so spending time with positive intention is good for me mentally and spiritually.

Acknowledging the greatness in the day:- it’s like gratitude. Finding three good things in the day salvages even the hardest day. It elevates the heart and the mind.

Accepting responsibility:- this is awesome. It is easy to blame others or just file the day away as being shitty but when you reflect on how you could have made it better it sets you up to do better another day or in similar situations or, if you had no control over anything that happened, this part of the ritual helps you realise you can do something to make things good for you – it could have been to go out for a walk, drink more water, eat a healthier lunch.

Added bonus:-I was interested to learn the practice of journalling can improve your physical wellbeing by strengthening immune cells, decreasing symptoms of several common ailments and reducing stress. So far I am finding this daily ritual a pleasing practice.   I look forward to it each day and I will be interested in a month or so to read back over my entries to see if common threads appear.

Journalling – an everyday ritual performed everyday. Have you tried it?

 

A year of inspiration: Inspired by Tim Ferriss and The Five Minute Journal

Advertisements

Cradled by a posy of blessings

Train tracks in rural area.

If you take a deep breath, calm down and listen, all things can be dealt with in some way. Just breathe.
                                                                    Katrina Vella

Do you ever feel like you are derailing? That life is so hectic you don’t know whether you are coming or going? I’ve had a few weeks like that. I’ve been working on a wide range of projects at work (all terribly exciting and totally divergent) all with short timelines. I’ve traveled so much for work recently that one morning I woke up and didn’t know where I was. Feeling the pressure of deadlines and being in constant transit took a physical and mental toll. I felt like I was trapped in a fast-moving train heading for a cliff.  Several dear friends and family members have suffer personal tragedies, and while it’s not me experiencing that terrible grief,  it’s heartbreaking not to be able to ease their pain.

Of course I realised something had to give before I crashed or plunged into the depths of some great abyss. As I took action in that direction, the universe conspired to deliver a posy of blessings.

I took a day to find some calm. I always have a sense of unease taking a day off work, even when it is sanctioned, and this day was no different. However,  as the day unfolded I realised that I’d made the right decision and settled.

On the eve of this magical day I went to the cinema, something I don’t do often. I’d won tickets to the pre-release of a film. It wasn’t a great film but I appreciated the night out, it was fun, especially because it was out of routine. Arriving home I didn’t set my alarm for my usual 4.30 am rise and I snuggled down under a warm comforter, as the temperature had dropped significantly.

Arousing from my slumber I was surprised to note I’d slept an hour later than usual.  Feeling slightly dazed but energised I hit the pavement for my walk. It was brisk out.  I went out in my usual gear of shorts and t-shirt but others were rugged up in long pants and jumpers.  Walking later, after the sun had risen, I met a lot of people I don’t normally encounter and so had many warm interactions, smiles and good mornings from people I haven’t met before. Of course my attire was the focus of many comments. While it was brisk I was warm from the movement. These random interactions were buoying.

What was especially warming about my walk was being transported back to my childhood, and into my grandparents’ kitchens, when the distinct aroma from the Weet-Bix factory enveloped the air around me. Weet-Bix are a wheat based biscuit breakfast cereal here in Australia. I don’t eat them now and I never really enjoyed them in the warmer weather but in winter time, my grandmothers would pour warm water over them to soften them, then heat milk on the stove to drown them in, after swirling lashings of honey over the top. It wasn’t exactly food for the gods but the smell of warm Weet-Bix is divine. Being  reminded of the many winter mornings I had spent being loved and cared for by my Grandmothers was a beautiful omen for the day.

Arriving home I sent my friend a message and received a thoughtful blessing from her. She wished me an enjoyable day and “some peaceful space” with a little emoji flower attached🌸. Simple words but their beauty and the heartfelt care and concern behind them struck me.

Flicking briefly onto a social media site the first post I came across was from another friend, whose flower photo seemed to fill the room with its vibrant colour.  It was a simple flower, nothing flashy about it, but it had a stunning effect, and lifted my mood.

13177626_10153409201437186_7640727075549171753_n

I baked cookies and soon had my house smelling like a warm and buttery. I love the smell of cookies baking at the best of times but on a cold day, there’s something extra special about it.

13214558_10153642822043652_1261874500_o

I felt as though someone had picked a posy of wild flowers and delivered them to me this morning. I was caught in a net, suspended and cradled from a fall. I was reminded that amid all the sadness, the hustle and bustle and the struggles of life, there is joy and beauty and a multitude of blessings. The key is to take the time to see them and appreciate them. I was reminded too by the words of a wise woman who counsels that; if you take a deep breath, calm down and listen, all things can be dealt with in some way. Just breathe.

Wishing you a posy of blessings today too.

lovak_045

 

Begin with the end in mind

image

I held a moment in my hand, brilliant as a star, fragile as a flower, a tiny sliver of one hour. I dropped it carelessly, Ah! I didn’t know, I held opportunity. ~Hazel Lee

Beginning with the end in mind is a concept I encourage teachers to use regularly. Consider the assessment, what is it you want young people to demonstrate that they know and can do? Backward map from this to identify the facts you’ll teach and the processes or skills you will unpack for them. Then, identify the thinking processes involved; do they need to compare, analyse, deduct? From there develop learning goals and the sequence of delivery. This process ensures our young people are prepared and equipped to demonstrate their knowledge in the given task or piece of assessment. It’s also an opportunity for teachers to be clear about learning intentions and focuses their teaching.

I was recently presented with a sobering assignment of my own. I was challenged to write my own obituary (It’s a long story but it was part of an ongoing spiritual development process, that I’m really enjoying). Did I say this was sobering? As I was writing I became aware of the similarities to the above process.  Writing my obituary; how I’d like to be remembered, the qualities I’d like to stand out, the kind of person I wanted to be, the achievements I’d reached and so forth, made me realise the power in the process.

I don’t necessarily want, nor do I need, a gushing obituary (I certainly won’t be around to hear it at any rate) and I doubt there will be a huge crowd gathered around my grave to bid me farewell but what this task did for me was to shine a very strong spot light on my current behaviours, attitudes and perceptions. It made me realise how special life is, how relatively short it is, yet also, how many opportunities I have to make a difference, to change the way I do things for better results and how I can grow each day. I realised, not for the first time, the wonderful gift I have been given. We don’t just live once. We die once, we have a chance to live everyday.

Starting with the end in mind brings a focus to the now. Each action, thought and choice has power. Each moment we are presented with opportunity. Each day we get to create our lives anew; to be more, do more, love more, laugh more, help more.

Starting from the end in mind is confronting and it’s also a beautiful reminder of the preciousness of life. This task, writing my own obituary, might just be something I incorporate each year into my New Year’s Day ritual.

If you started with the end in mind, how would it shape your life?

Every day is an opportunity to make a new happy ending. ~Author Unknown

 

Breathing easy again. My journey from fear to gratitude and compassion.

I awoke this morning with devout thanksgiving for my friends, old and new.
                                                                  Ralph Waldo Emerson

If the only prayer you said your whole life was ‘Thank you’ that would suffice.
Meister Eckhart.

An incredible thing happened to me this week. I felt a great weight lift from my body and I could breathe freely and unrestricted. My heart felt lighter, my body and mind too.

You see, I returned from Nepal a couple of weeks ago. I experienced the earthquake and the devastation it wrought. There were times I was pretty scared, I guess, running from buildings in the middle of the night unsure if it was safe to return, afraid to sleep in case I should not wake in time to leave should an aftershock, or worse, strike again.  I say, I guess I was scared because at the time I wasn’t thinking, I was simply reacting. Fear really didn’t come into it until I returned home. Then, in the quiet, safe spaces of my house I felt my body and my mind crumble under the weight of what had been, what I’d left behind and the realisation that I had survived when others hadn’t.

A pressure began building in my body. I could feel a constant vibration deep within and a heavy hollowness braced my heart. The hyper vigilance persisted. I was no longer in danger but my beloved, was he safe? In the time after the earthquake I was not only reacting to Mother Nature’s rumblings but I was fearful for the safety of my beloved husband. We were not together. He was in a different part of Nepal, uncontactable. The uncertainty and the not knowing was torturous. I can’t explain the unbearable nature of the situation. Once I returned home, to safety, the weight and the agony of my fear for him multiplied exponentially. It became a physical burden. I hadn’t realised at the time what it was. I thought I was suffering as a result of my experience. I thought it was panic attacks, anxiety.

For two weeks the pain grew. It deepened and became like vice around my heart. Seriously, I thought I might be having heart issues. Then, as the days progressed and his return inched closer I could feel a little space, a little lightness creeping in. Two days before his departure there was another earthquake and a series of large aftershocks. The vice redoubled. The heaviness dropped right back in. My thoughts were scrambled.  Not only did the news from Nepal bring shock, fear and a renewed anxiousness for the safety of my beloved and his companions but I found myself transported right back to Nepal. I relived the nightmare, the guilt of having left, the sorrow and heartache for the beautiful Nepalese people who were suffering.

As his departure drew nearer, and after news of each small step closer; baggage checked, boarding pass issued, boarding the plane; I started to breathe easier. I slept, not without nightmares and not without waking through the night but it was sleep like I’d not experienced for a few weeks.  On the morning of his arrival home I realised the vice around my heart had loosened its grip, I felt a new energy seep back into my body. Could I have been feeling the weight of fear?

I’ve lived my life in fear. Fear of not being good enough, of not being smart enough, pretty enough blah, blah, blah. Fearful of trying new things, fearful of being seen, of speaking up, of being vulnerable. Its limited me, its held me back and at times its kept me safe. Safe but small. This recent fear. Real fear. Fear for a loved one. I might venture so far as to say ‘terror’, was so strong, so physically and mentally palpable, I didn’t actually know how to respond.

Why, after all these words, am I actually sharing this with you I wonder? I don’t know.  I felt compelled to write. Maybe this is my medicine? My healing? Whatever it is I think it’s also about compassion. And it’s about gratitude.

We don’t always know what others are feeling or what they are experiencing. Sometimes it’s hard to tell if someone is ailing, grieving or suffering. We are pretty good at putting on masks and covering up our messy emotions. I think this experience has taught me to be mindful and gentle with others for they too may have a vice around their heart, a heaviness in their body and be aching in ways I couldn’t imagine. This experience has caused me to feel a deep and abiding gratitude.  I have been overwhelmed by the outpouring (there really is no better way to describe it) of support, of concern, of blessings from friends, family, acquaintances and work colleagues. Messages, texts, phone calls. Hugs (virtual and real), friendly chats, offers of support. I cannot begin to tell you the comfort and the reassurance they have bought me. My eyes well with tears as I recall how, every few days, dozens of people would check in on me, ask about my beloved, and ensure I was okay.

I’ve felt compassion. I am humbled by it and I am immensely grateful.  No words or actions can adequately  relay to those wonderful people how much their support has meant to me, how it has helped me through. Except to simply say ‘Thank you’.

I have an abundance of good on my life.

I know I am blessed and I know I am loved.

It feels wonderful.

Thank you.

 

Post traumatic stress disorder can effect those who have experienced a significant threat. It can effect those who enter a place after a threat (such as aide workers) and it can effect the loved ones of those who have been under threat. I mention this, not because I know I have PTSD, but it kind of fits how I’ve been feeling, on two levels, my own threat and that of a loved one. It’s real. It’s debilitating. Again, be gentle with those around you. We can never really know how deeply anyone is suffering.

The Gift

Giving_a_gift

“A wonderful gift may not be wrapped as you expect.” – Jonathan Huie

“Someone I loved once gave me a box full of darkness. It took me years to understand that this too, was a gift.” – Mary Oliver

Often when relationships end, especially when they have ended unpleasantly, we look at all the bad, all the damage and all the hurt that was generated. Recently I was reminded of an old relationship, one that ended many, many years ago. My relationship with this person was tenuous. It didn’t so much end but dragged on unpleasantly for a long time. It was unpleasant not least of all because of the damage done to me but to others I cared for as well. I have done so much work to calm my raging heart and turbulent head. I’ve cut chords and forgiven. I’ve written letters, pouring out my angst, and burnt them, I’ve even sent some to sea. I’ve meditated and used visualisation and, well, you name it, I’ve done it. Over the years, maturity and time have healed my wounds. The rage has abated, and, while there isn’t a sense of true calm about this person, my every waking moment isn’t consumed with thoughts of them. The occasional thought no longer propels me to the edge of reason, teetering on the brink of a black hole of rage and self-destruction.

This last week, I was challenged to look at the gift in that relationship. Yes, you read it correctly, the GIFT!

Now isn’t that an interesting concept? “You mean there was gift amidst all that anger and hate and shame and agony?” Wow! That idea blew my mind for an instant. But you know, it was there. There was a gift; a tremendous and beautiful gift. One I would not have sought for myself if it hadn’t been for that person coming into my life. I spent the next week reviewing the magic of that relationship, looking at it from a new and different perspective. It’s changed my outlook and it’s amplified my gratitude for so many things.

I see now how that relationship, as difficult and fraught as it was, as agonising and draining as it was, has shaped me. It has, through the gift, rounded out my life and made me whole. What an incredible discovery to make. I now feel true forgiveness for the other person. I now know what real gratitude and love is as I can now hold that person in my heart with compassion, respect and a new sense of understanding.

Sounds a bit dramatic and over the top, doesn’t it? I can’t explain the shift that has occurred for me in any other way. Imagine what our lives would be like if we looked for the gift in those relationships that ended unexpectedly or in ways we hadn’t planned. Imagine if we looked for the gift, instead of focussing on the hurt. Imagine if gratitude took over where revenge or confusion, or heartbreak might step in. Imagine how much freer we’d be. Imagine how much lighter we’d be. Imagine looking at your life from a whole different perspective and being full of joy for what you’d learnt and gained and how you’d grown as a result of all of your interactions with others.

Food for thought.

Blessing to you,
Shannyn

Walking with Robert Frost

The road less travelled

The chosen path

The Road Not Taken

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim
Because it was grassy and wanted wear,
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

On my walk in the forest this morning I came to a fork in the path and was faced for a moment with a decision. Which way will I go? Almost without hesitation I took the road to my right. Neither path appeared less trodden, less traveled, they both looked fairly similar in terms of use and of scenery. I forged ahead on my chosen path without a second thought of what wonders the other path held. Instead, I found myself exhilarated by the journey, the sense of adventure that lay in the unexplored.  I was intrigued by the details I encountered – the small flock of finches humming their throaty song, the vibrant glow of the morning sun on my cheek and the deeply satisfying smell of the eucalypt, that always signifies home to me.

I sit now, with warm tea in hand, and  ponder Frost’s dilemma.  I do not wish to grow old, reflect and always hold that sense of loss for the path not taken. I do not wish to question, or second guess, nor do I wish to hold feelings of regret or remorse for what might have been.  There is no right or a wrong decision, no right or a wrong path. Instead, living a life of acceptance and gratitude; living life with a sense of reverence and wonder for the beauty and opportunities that are revealed  is, for me, far preferable than regret.

I will not sigh for moments lost, I will not sigh for what might have been. I will rejoice for opportunities taken and given, I will be grateful for the magic, mystery and wonders my path has held. And let’s be honest, what’s stopping me from hiking back and changing direction if I change my mind?

Wishing you a day filled with wonder.

Waves, Gardenias and Einstein

Do you ever have those times when you feel like everything is stacking up and you just can’t deal with it all, manage it all, find time for it all? Even the good stuff loses its shine and seems too difficult because there are so many competing issues to deal with, projects to begin, people to see, plans to fulfil? I’m in that spot right now.  It is like a massive wave has engulfed me and I’m rolling around inside, tangled, tumbling, tossing about without a level surface upon which to set my feet. I’m off balance.

I’m in a state of overwhelm, a state of ‘woe is me’. I’m in that place where it’s easier to throw my hands in the air and do nothing, to bury my head in the sand and hope it will all go away. Procrastination is my ‘go to’ behaviour in times like these.

Strange I should be visited by this devil, this monkey on my back now. Things have been going so very well of late. I’ve enjoyed a wonderful holiday, I’ve made some personal shifts that have been very satisfying. I had great intentions for the several projects I had in place. Why now?   Is there really a part of us that likes to maintain the status quo, that likes to keep us in a place of mediocrity, of longing, of never quite being where we want to be? If so, breaking that barrier, breaking the cycle of highs and lows is a challenge.

I know I won’t be in the whirlpool of my dispair for long. But I know if nothing changes I’ll be back at the beginning of the same pattern, the same cycle of longing and hoping that things will be different. I’ll come out of the whirlpool, I’ll pull my socks up and I’ll line up my projects again. Things will swim along pleasantly and happily for sometime, I will feel like I’m making progress  and, BAM, the wave will roll in and suck me under and into the turmoil, yet again!

What needs to change? What can I do differently to break the cycle, to cut the cord, to move on?

image

That was several days ago. I didn’t have the answers but I faced my fears and took action. Action that I saw me emerge from the depths of the tumultuous wave, with my head above water noticing the brightness of the sun rather than the murkiness of the sea bed.

Firstly, I looked for something to be immediately grateful for and something to bring beauty into my seemingly helpless, hopeless world. I wandered into the garden and gave thanks for the newly budding flowers, the lush herbs and the gorgeous smell of gardenias, lavender, rosemary and mint.  I selected three beautifuly formed, pure white gardenias and placed them in a small crystal vase near my workspace.

image

Then, beyond all impulses to run away, to hide, to procrastinate, I set about addressing the one critical task that needed to be fulfilled that day. I slowly worked my way through it, allowing time for small breaks to stretch and drink tea. I pushed aside my overwhelm to focus for the day on this one significant task and I am proud to say I achieved it. I ticked it off the list.

These two small acts, acts that differed from my past behaviour, achieved something akin to a miracle for me. Instead of being tossed about for weeks on end, sinking deeper into self pity and despair I now, just a couple of days later, have more energy, feel more motivated and have a brighter outlook than I expected was possible.

It wasn’t rocket science but maybe the key to changining the cycle is to do something different. I can see the truth in that old adage of Einstein’s:

“If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always gotten”

I raise my cup of tea this morning and propose a toast to life, to the power in taking action and to breaking habitual cycles by doing things differently, one small step at a time.

Here’s to you too. Wishing you a wonderfully pleasant and fulfilling day.

image