How to Eat and Sleep

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“Food to a large extent is what holds a society together and eating is closely linked to deep spiritual experiences.” -Peter Farb

Having something to eat which comes from a farm in your county, or which was baked for you straight from a friends’ kitchen, or which was plucked and delivered to you directly from your neighbors garden, is a reminder of all that is still good and right in the world.

In our light-speed, invasive technology times, we spend so much of our time in “higher levels of thinking.” Our minds are so wrapped up in that strategic planning meeting I have this week, or how to solve that massive leak which is slowing down production, that we don’t take anytime these days to reflect on our most important and basic of choices: those which predicate our survival.

What we will eat (whether grown ourselves, purchased for $.99, hot, cold, local, petroleum-drenched from round-the-world-transport, nutrient dense, deep-fried to an inedible state, etc.) and where we will find shelter (whether built ourselves, purchased pre-fab, dug into the ground, covered with a tarp, expensive enough to drive us to bankruptcy, free, etc.) have become an afterthought.

Splendid Squash

These two basic tenets of the continuation of our species have now been relegated to the realm of these who are “backwards,” “old-fashioned,” or don’t have “real jobs.” Because of course, all the people intelligent enough to have a serious job should not be bothered with such low-level decisions and instead should feel righteous in their weekly (or perhaps daily) flashes through the drive-through at McHeartDisease, their favorite fast-food restaurant. Not to worry about changing their diet to save their life, because we have doctors who can write lovely prescriptions to take care of that. What’s worse, so little time is left after these ultra-busy, lightning-speed work weeks that those we love the most often get little of our time, and such warm traditions as a meal shared have become relics of the past.

I would argue that making decisions for food and shelter which honor our health, our relationships, our planet and it’s resources, are in fact very high-level and important decision making processes, some of the few which prove our species is willing to work together with all the others for the good of all. Or as some might say, it proves that we take seriously the charge to be stewards.

Not just stewards of our clients’ accounts, our cubicle, our schedule, our ladder-climb, or our persona, but Stewards of this Earth.

Forget about making the culturally-cool decisions and letting the other decisions be made for you by Monsanto, the USDA, the Real Estate brokers in your area, your Boss, or anyone else for that matter. Make the decisions that are right for you and your family. And just a hint? Start by valuing the opportunity to make the most basic of decisions: for food and shelter, and make decisions in those areas which you will be proud to tell your grandchildren about.

-M.

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Notice Life’s Beauty

“Life is full of beauty. Notice it. Notice the bumble bee, the small child, and the smiling faces. Smell the rain, and feel the wind. Live your life to the fullest potential, and fight for your dreams.” –Ashley Smith

Glass Art by a local Seattle artist on display at Pike Place Market
Glass Art by a local Seattle artist on display at Pike Place Market

These are all just photos of everyday, usual moments from my life. They were each taken along the street, or on a hike or a walk. We pass by moments like this every single day. Have you walked past a beautiful moment today and missed it’s beauty entirely?

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Beautiful wildflowers we saw on a hike in the woods near Liberty, WA

Life is too beautiful to be ignored because you’re in a rush. Life is too beautiful to be passed by because you have more important things to do than stop and enjoy a flower or a sunset.

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Sunset at Chamber’s Bay

 

Stop yourself from rushing past. Today, try to enjoy at least three beautiful moments in all of their fullness. Even if that means you actually step away from your cubicle and walk outside to take a break. Even if that means you take ten minutes for yourself when you get home from your day instead of stepping right into cooking, cleaning, or more working.

Notice the beautiful small child.

Notice the beautiful kind eyes and the smiling face.

Notice the strength of the wind and the warmth of the sun.

Notice the beauty today, and revel in it.

-M.

What My Chickens Are Teaching Me about Life today

ImageFar left: Fiona. She’s the one with enough curiosity to kill a dozen cats and enough gumption to get herself an invite to prom with the quarterback and turn him down all with one wiggle of her tail feathers.

Center: Ginger. She’s the baby of the brood, content to be shoved around about by the other gals an a little whiney when she doesn’t get attention from us human folk. 

Far Right: Mildred. She is quite the feisty one, and canbe a bit of a bully in order to prove herself the biggest and strongest.

These hens have taught me a whole lot about myself that I never really wanted to know in the first place, but am grateful I learned.

For one thing, I’m impatient. I want to them to lay me some eggs right now, not on their own timeline but on mine. Apparently Mother Nature doesn’t quite work that way, or at least that’s what Ginger’s squawking told me when I took a close-up look at her rear to check for potential soon-to-be-breakfast sightings.

Even worse than being impatient, I can also be unfair.I learned to love Fiona over the others within a few hours of meeting her. She just seemed like that bad-ass, strong, independent and curious kind of gal that I knew I couldbe friends with.

I know what you’re thinking: she’s just a chicken.

But she had so much personality! She will walk fearlessly up to a stranger if they have something resembling food in their hands, and she’s always the first one scratching at the door to get out when I’m letting them out of the coop to scratch around the yard for a while.

But after a few days of throwing the best scraps to the chicken who reminded me the most of myself *ahem*, I realized that it wasn’t the otherhen’s fault that they’re shy or grouchy. They each deserve a fair shake. So I’m learning to be kind in a more equal manner.

I’ve also realized how much I like to slow down if my brain is occupied.

My husband will tell you in a heartbeat that the one thing I might just be the worst at in the whole universe is sitting still and being unproductive. (Just writing those words gives me goosebumps like hearing nails on a chalkboard.)

It’s true, I will find a thousand things to do before I will “sit around.” But with the girls, I find myself somewhat entranced when I sit down on the bench in their coop, and just watch them mill around and squawk and peck and scratch at the ground.

Before I realize that I’ve even sat down, an hour has passed and all I remember is seeing them walk around in a big circle in their coop. I think that kind of sitting still and observing nature is entirely healthy for me. And somehow, because I am slowing down to observe something that is still active, it tricks my brain into thinking that I’m not being totally unproductive. (Good trick brain, you really got me on that one!)

 

These are some of the very important life lessons I’m learning from my *extremely intelligent* hens these days.

What are you learning about yourself from nature?

Yeah, yeah…. I know.

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Yeah, Yeah…. I know.

You’ve already heard a dozen people tell you in the past week that it nourishes their soul to spend time in nature. You’ve probably heard even more people tele you that if you are stuck in the muck of a city or semi-urban area, where we homo-sapeans don’t tend to wiggle bare feet in the grass as often as those who own a piece of grass of their own. And you’ve definitely heard someone complain this week about the weather, I’m sure of it, and how it didn’t allow them to spend nearly enough time outdoors. Whether it was too hot, too humid, too cold, too rainy, or any combination of the above, we are such experts at excusing ourselves from spending time moving our legs and breathing in fresh oxygen free of charge. So you don’t need me to remind you how silly we are, passing up such chances to go out and be as free as a bird and as light as a dandelion seed floating down the path.

Yeah, Yeah…. I know.

It’s so predictable for me to remind us that we’ll never regret spending time feeding ourselves with things made in fed in their original forms, like water straight from a spring, or an apple straight from a tree. It sounds so easy to say when you are too rushed to feed yourself because you have a to-do list to take care of, importantly trendy outfits to get dressed into, and people to meet up with who will probably also be running late and love you too much to care that you’re late anyway. So really you have no choice but to drive through a small window and ask a stranger to serve you up some unknown specimen which may or may not give you a horrible stomachache, because really, you just didn’t have the time to feed yourself.

Yeah, Yeah…. I know.

And do you know why I know?

Because I say the same things to myself, every day, and then at the end of the day when I wonder why I’m tired in an unsatisfying and not-so-unfamiliar kind of way, I remember and say, “Yeah, Yeah…. I know.” There are so many choices that I could have made today to give myself a better chance of feeling well.

I could have slept more, I could have read more, I could have eaten real foods that would give me energy and life, I could have paused to ask them how they were doing instead of rushing past, I could have checked in on that one who I know is so lonely, I could have raised my heart rate a bit or taken the stairs to work up a sweat, I could have, I could have, I could have.

ENOUGH.

Let’s stop feeling guilt and frustration for the “Yeah, Yeah…. I know”s. They will always be there. But more importantly, we won’t always be here, so let’s wake up tomorrow and choose the things that will make us more well as often as we can. And for the good things that we don’t choose to do, it is alright. We can forgive ourselves just this once, and move on to thinking about the next vibrant, healthy choice that we are going to make instead.

There are enough critics out there in the world to think the worst of you. Please, for your own sake, STOP thinking the worst of yourself. I know what you’re thinking. Yeah, Yeah…. I know.

Well, I know too. I say it for all of us: choose the best for yourself, and when you don’t, the best for you is to get back up and be your own best again.

Challenge: Tomorrow, at the end of the the day write down a list of ten choices that you made that day that improved your overall health and wellbeing, including relationships, fitness, nutrition, finances, romance, and anything else that is important for you. Now CELEBRATE those small victories, and forget all about what you didn’t do!

The Balance(ing) act: Also known as swallowing your pride and making sacrifices for healthy habits..

I hate feeling controlled.

I’ll admit it; I have a slightly rebellious nature at times, and one thing I crave more than most other things is a sense of autonomy; of self-determination. To take a page from my old friend Merriam-Webster:

(self-de•ter•mi•na•tion): “free choice of one’s own acts or states without external compulsion”

There is much to be said for the feeling of being the reader of one’s own life compass, the forger of your own trail, the captain of your own ship. In fact, I think that often the desire for further autonomy and expertise is part of what drives people to work harder and better.

In general, I tend to feel a bit suffocated by routine and requirements. I’m great at following rules, don’t get me wrong, but as I follow the rules there is a tiny version of myself with blue war paint smeared on marching around inside my brain waving a cardboard sign and chanting “Freedom!” in protest.

Sometimes excercise sounds like about as much fun as these ladies make it look like.
Sometimes excercise sounds like about as much fun as these ladies make it look like.

Habits always start out for me as an exciting, shiny new proposition which I carefully selected for myself from off of the self-help shelf at the IntelliMart, that clearly is going to be not only easy to follow but also, at times, fun! But without fail, within the first few weeks of implementing my new habit, I start to feel a smoldering grudge against being “forced” to do something lurking, growing ever bigger as I make more sacrifices in order to abide by my habits. They get less shiny, they get less new, and they start to feel more and more restricting if you allow yourself to hold a grudge against them.

However (and this is a BIG however!), I have learned that without positive habits (i.e. routines that we choose for ourselves), it is very difficult for me to find balance in my life.

Excercising in nature makes me feel as free as a bird.
Excercising in nature makes me feel as free as a bird.

I have always kept some type of regular exercise routine as a part of my weekly schedule, but for a year or two after a running injury I let myself “be flexible” with when and how often I exercised. But when “being flexible” became code for “I never go to the gym anymore and I hate it when I do go because I feel so out of shape,” that is when I started to miss the habit of running and strength training on a weekly schedule, because it offered me accountability that I began to miss (and so did the screaming seams on my blue jeans).

I love spending time in deep conversation with good friends. I have learned that it is an integral part of who I am to have serious chats with people I respect on the regular, but for long spurts I allowed myself to be starved of those wonderful times with good people because I was “so busy” with “important things to do” that I just “didn’t have time for it.” But then I realized that my loneliness was my responsibility, and I started scheduling weekly exercise and telephone dates with people whom I respect and care about so I could have those talks. Although sometimes there were weeks with nothing much to say, on the weeks when one of us needed a shoulder to cry on I was so glad that we had made the arbitrary schedule to create a space for it.

We all have similar stories, of giving up our healthy habits in exchange for the drive-thru Dollar Menu version of what can make us truly joyful. For one person that habit may have been deep breathing techniques to reduce anxiety, for another it may be something quite grave like sticking with a vow to be sober.

The habits that bring balance to your life all depend upon you. Your unique personality, needs and values determine what brings energy to your day. But as I said to the waitress at the fabulous bistro where I ate lunch today: “If this were my last meal on earth, what would you recommend that I eat from your menu?”

In the same way, if this were your last week on earth, what would you want to fill up the hours in your day with?

I believe that by simply having the desire to change ourselves and find our balance, we have already moved halfway there.

-M.

Challenge #1: Take some time to truly reflect on the activities, relationships, nourishment, and places in your life that bring you balance and fulfillment.

Challenge #2: Find time and physical space in your calendar which is filled with items that are unnecessarily keeping you from the things you brainstormed in Challenge #1, and clear them from your calendar. That’s right, just do it. If it were your last week on earth, I don’t think you’d regret it would you? Now fill that time and space with the beautiful things that bring you balance.

Would you like help thinking of ways to create more balance in your life? I would love to help. Email me at halfway2harmony (at) gmail.com to start the conversation.

Lit from within

Brightly lit Dahlia on the windowsill.
Brightly lit Dahlia on the windowsill.

This delicate Dahlia seems to have a brightness that is not reflected from without, but comes from within. In some sense we are all pursuing this kind of glow, the one that is only ours and can only come from our own unique self.

I understand that we can each access this, that unique something that we have to share with one another. You know that core thing, that burning thing that feels as though it’s just on the other side of that troublesome door inside you that you can’t quite seem to nudge open every day? That is your unique something–somethingS, plural, I should say–and you have a something that nobody else has.

Really, it’s true. Stop holding yourself back and give yourself a little more credit for how incredible you are.

Have you ever looked around at the community which you are a part of and been flabbergasted at how different and particularly talented people are? I mean, let’s be honest, every day you can find someone whom you may have known for years that can drop-your-jaw surprise you with a skill you never knew they had. This is true whether these skillful people are a part of your community at work, your school, your family, or extended network of friends.

I, for one, do not think that this is simply a result of fortune, or a figment of an overly optimistic perspective on life (such a perspective, alas, is one that I have never been accused of having). I understand that these unique somethings are there, within each of us, begging to be dug up from underneath all of our stubborn caked-on safeguards.

What is it that you have layered thickly on top of your unique something like paper mache? I do not doubt that you can still feel that burning unique something within you that must be shared, but I know that we all let our unique somethings dim a bit as we forget to balance ourselves and live as we wish to. Let’s tear off the caked-on paper mache masks that are holding us back from giving our uniqueness to our community.

Mini-Challenge: This week, seek out a way to use your unique something to help someone else. I guarantee, it will feel like that light is being re-lit inside of you. And then there won’t be any turning back.