Self-Love: Live In The Now

The Christmas holiday is behind us for 2020, and I have to admit, I am so glad. It’s not that I hate Christmas – I’m no Grinch – I just don’t like the feeling of obligations that come with the season. Don’t get me wrong; I enjoy buying gifts for my family and friends. I’m also grateful that no one expects me to drop a fortune on them, so it isn’t even that Christmas busts my budget much. It’s just that everyone seems to think that if you aren’t happy – or God forbid, you’re depressed – during the holidays, then something is wrong with you.

But 2020 hasn’t been a fun time, although I can admit to having walked away this year with some feelings of gratitude about the lessons I’ve learned. One of those is merely trusting the process no matter how utterly fucked up it all seems to be in the moment. However, I’ve also learned that to trust the process I have to surrender to the idea of living in the moment.

Living in the present isn’t something that comes naturally to me. I battle with my demons of the past, and I constantly wrestle with my fears regarding the future. Some say that depression is caused by living in the past, while anxiety is a by-product of living too much in the future. I agree with this to an extent, although I also don’t want to negate the fact that both depression and anxiety are mental health issues caused by messed-up brain chemicals. So, there is that.

BUT…having taken a nine-day trip to the coast all by myself to search my soul and lay some things to rest…I admit to myself and you, dear reader, that there is something to be said for living in the present. And this, my friends, is where we are in our journey of Self Love today: Living in the present.

So, what does that mean?

Living in the present moment means letting go of the past and not waiting for the future. It means living your life consciously, aware that each moment you breathe is a gift. In other words, don’t take today for granted. Time, if I’ve learned anything, is not to be squandered.

In doing a bit of research for this post, I came across a post by my favorite blogger/minimalist Josh Becker, who outlined his list of ways you can develop a practice of living in the moment. You can see Josh’s list here, if you’d like. I’ve been practicing a few of these things myself since my nine-day trip. So, consequently, I’m going to share with you my five favorites.

I hope they help you, and if you find yourself reading Josh’s post, maybe you can give me some insight on some of the things I don’t mention here you have employed in your own life. After all, if you are expecting me to give you all your life advice, well, hate to say it: You’re up shit creek, friend. I do not have all the answers. Hell, half the time, I barely have any at all. But, for today, let’s pretend I do.

Here goes my best attempt at being insightful on your behalf.

1) I’ve started removing unneeded possessions. This isn’t a new thing for me, but having moved a few times rather quickly in the past few years, I haven’t ‘sorted’ out my possessions before throwing them into a box. That said, I do try to live a minimalist lifestyle, which forces me to live in the moment. How? Because I can’t just delay action to the future. I have four plates, two coffee mugs, six forks/knives/spoons, and four bowls. I can’t let my dishes pile up for a week, or I’ll be eating, literally, out of my hand. The same goes for clothing. I don’t have a lot of clothing I enjoy wearing. I get teased a lot for doing laundry so much. I do laundry once or twice a week because I’d be naked or stinky if I didn’t.

2) I fully appreciate the moments of today. I’ve started thanking my ‘customers’ for the opportunity to help them each day at work. My day job consists of fixing people’s small issues and granting them access to various technology systems. My job isn’t hard, and it’s arrogant of me to say they can’t do their job without my role. But it’s true: They can’t – and, knowing this, I can still be thankful for the opportunity to be part of easing their workday.

3) I’ve forgiven past hurts. This one was a doozy. My divorce was hard on me, and I was angry for a very long time. One day, though, I just woke up and said I wasn’t going to give this any more of my energy. When I learned my ex had remarried, I honestly didn’t care. Some thought I would come unglued – maybe some folks even wanted me to – but I really was, like, “Hmm. Meh.” And that was that. I am a Virgo, which might mean zero to you, but Virgos can hold a grudge and boy, I am no exception. However, this behavior really does nothing to serve my highest good and it took me nearly 50 years to get this.

4) I love my job. I touched on this a bit in point number two, but I can’t give eight hours a day to someone just to collect a paycheck. I’m not constantly waiting for the weekend because I have found a job that I enjoy that pays my bills and allows me time in the evening to be with my son. I’ve had harder jobs, jobs that paid more, jobs that paid less, and jobs I’ve hated. In the end, when I love my job – I am more present with my customers and with the Universe.

5) I’m doing my best to stop worrying. Some folks in my life get fed up with me saying, “You need to trust the process.”  And I get it. It’s a challenging thing to do – especially when the present situation is painful or frightening. I would never say “Everything happens for a reason” because, well, I don’t believe that at all. People are stupid sometimes, and the ‘reason’ is because they made a foolish decision. But…I do believe that the Universe has a way of auto-correcting our choices and that everything that happens doesn’t happen to us…it happens for us. If that is going to be my belief, then worrying about the future or the past isn’t going to be advantageous for me.

Learning to live in the present moment is a vital ingredient for practicing self-love. And being mindful is part of that process. I will write, eventually, about how mindfulness has played a role in my recent life changes. My own journey toward embracing self-love is firmly rooted in developing the practice of mindfulness. But for today, I will close, and as always, I’ll leave you with a song and ask you this:

  • What do you do that keeps you fixated on the past?
  • What causes you to worry about the future?
  • A friend used to say, “That absolutely could happen…but it probably won’t.” So – what are you stressed about that could happen…but probably won’t?

5 Lessons I Learned By Making Orange Juice

“The present moment is filled with joy and happiness. If you are attentive, you will see it.”Thich Nhat Hanh

The baby is sleeping a little later these days which translates into a few hours in the early morning to use as I deem fit. Mostly, I walk around the house looking for things to do because, as we all know, I don’t relax well. But occasionally, I take some of those peaceful moments to be more mindful.

This morning I removed my grandmother’s citrus juicer from its sacred place, grabbed a basket of beautiful organic oranges (a gift from a neighbor) and proceeded to make myself a wonderful glass of freshly squeezed orange juice. This is important to share because I have a perfectly good, very expensive, electric juicer sitting just a few inches from where I spent my time in mindful meditation this morning.

orangejuice

“How silly,” you might think. “You could have had that orange juice in half the time if you would have used that overpriced kitchen gadget.” Yes, you are correct. But I also would have disturbed the quiet of the morning (the overpriced gadget is very LOUD), created a mess with five moving parts I find completely annoying to clean, and…I wouldn’t have looked up from my task to find two bunnies playing in the yard. There is something miraculous that happens when one decides to take the simpler route.

At first, deciding to be mindful can be challenging. But I’ve found in my personal journey to seek simplicity in all things that true mindfulness can be really cathartic. When our attention is diffused we might be aware of something, but not really focused on it. Like me, with the bunnies. I know bunnies play in the morning. I just didn’t know these bunnies played in my yard in the morning. Get it?

Another thing about mindfulness is that it doesn’t take a degree in rocket science to become proficient. Sure, some take it to the extreme and build a hut in the middle of New Mexico to sit for days in formal meditation. Others…well…we make orange juice. I’m just saying that mindfulness can take place informally with everyday activities. Here are some ways I have learned to be mindful – and I hope you’ll learn from these too:

1. Focus on one thing at a time. Corporate America would have us believe that multi-tasking is a skill we need to move up the ladder. In reality, the multi-tasking as it relates to productivity is a complete myth. Resist the urge to do several things at once. In other words: “When walking, walk. When eating, eat.” (Zen proverb)

2. Don’t rush. Remember the tortoise and the hare? Slow and steady wins the race. The same can be applied to making orange juice by hand or with an expensive juicer. Take your time. Be present. Move slowly. Relax and focus. It is hard at first. Keep trying.

3. Forget your to-do list. The less you do, the better you are. My ‘to do list’ became a ‘project list’ after the baby was born. I only attempt one project a day. This way I focus on one thing at a time. Yes, it takes me longer. That’s the point. I also do a better job. (Today’s project: Vacuum. That is quite an accomplishment when living with an infant.)

4. Be present when you eat. This advice comes directly to you from a woman who sits with an infant in her lap trying to cut her food and eat with one hand 90% of the time. Look, I never said I was a Zen-Master, so we all have things at which we can become better. I’ll work on it if you will. One last thought on this: research indicates that mindful eating helps one to actually eat less.

5. Savor your chores. When you become mindful in the daily tasks you really start to learn to notice things you have never cared about before (shall I mention the bunnies again?). I have started folding laundry in the quiet laundry room instead of sitting in front of the television. (Didn’t realize I had so many socks with holes in the toes. Also, my ‘unmentionables’ are looking a bit ratty these days which may explain…um…never mind). Mindfulness while preparing dinner helped me realize my kitchen design was completely wrong for cooking. I ended up moving my refrigerator, microwave, and all my cooking pans to different locations.

For all of you, I encourage you to just keep at it. Mindfulness takes time. Be gentle with yourself. Decide to be completely present for one task today. Just one. Your mindful task will eventually turn into a mindful day and from that…a mindful week. Finally, you’ll realize a mindful life. But you have to
start with something. Maybe with a glass of orange juice?

This week’s challenge:

Spend five minutes each day doing nothing. Be aware of your breath. Be aware of the tension in your body. Be aware of your thoughts…your feelings…your desires. Did you emerge from your five minutes with more insight? More relaxed? More aware of the aches and pains? Take a moment to let me know.

Announcing the March challenge:

We are invoking my infamous ‘white hanger theory’ this month at our home. We wear 20% of our clothing 80% of the time. This means that, literally, 80% of the clothes in our closets are unnecessary. The white hanger theory works like this: Each time you wear something this month from your closet, rehang it on a white hanger. Do this for three months. In 90 days, you’ll see most of your clothes are not on white hangers. Decide with what you can part. Don’t have white hangers? Then try this instead.

Need more encouragement? See how others have taking the plunge and cleaned up their closet:

Tips for Simplifying Closets and Clothes
5 Steps To Decluttering Your Closet
Decluttering Tips From An Aspiring Hoader
How I Decluttered My Closet

PS…I would be remiss to not mention my new editor who has enriched my life in more ways than one.  Please consider buying her book, The Farmer’s Story.

PSS…I started to use ‘amiss’ instead of ‘remiss’ but I knew my editor would shake her finger at me if I chose incorrectly.  So I Googled it.  See how her presence improves me?  We all have someone who makes us better, right?