“It is within the boundaries of reflection we are able to become aware of insights that can lead us to understanding.”
― Kat Lahr
~The Simple Sophisticate, episode #135
On the first of January with each new year, twelve months stretch before us full of potential to progress and evolve and to observe the magic that we could never predict. The year 2016 has offered life lessons in abundance. Having filled three journals over its duration, as I was trying to decide what today's topic would be, I had a long list of ideas I wanted to share, but seeing that it is the end of the year, I thought let's take a look at the year that was and the aha moments it provided, all of which are life lessons that could help provide the magic for 2017 should they be applied.
1. Sometimes what we need is the one thing we think we cannot possibly do
In previous years I have shared the benefits of meditating, and most recently, written a handful of posts which included meditation as a practice worth incorporating into our daily routines. I know some, even my previous self, dismiss meditation, each for our own reasons. Mine in my twenties was that I couldn't possibly be still with my thoughts - it was, to be frank, frightening. But as I contemplated this real fear as to why I wasn't investing in the practice of meditation, I realized it was the most important reason to begin meditating so that I no longer had to be fearful of my mind, or frightened to experience emotions or ideas that I wasn't comfortable with.
While I am by no means a guru or even a semi-proficient meditator, I do find I look forward to meditating (of which I try to do each day, but sometimes a few days each week are unable to find the time - something I am still working on). I also find that rogue thoughts (that still pop up from time to time) no longer scare me. I have come to understand how to use the tools of observing and then letting go all thoughts, as well as being more present rather than arrested by worries about the future or anguish about the past.
I had initially begun using Headspace a couple of years ago and then abandoned it citing no need for someone to tell me how to sit still with my thoughts. However, after I stopped using the app, I also stopped meditating regularly. So with the inspiration from a friend who uses it regularly, I re-downloaded it onto my phone (the first series is free and you can just loop the series again and again if you don't want to upgrade), and have been meditating with the app for the past two months (this summer I meditated each day for 5 minutes, and now with the app I am up to 10 minutes - small, but significant growth).
There are other helpful meditation apps based on what you want, and one of my go-to podcasts, The Positive Psychology podcast shares three of them in episode #72 with a detailed explanation of what each offer (one is Headspace).
2. Practice physical exercise that you love and that loves your body and mind
Stepping back into a former method of exercise this past summer was one of the best decisions I made. For me it was yoga, and while I stepped away for about a year and tried Pilates as a replacement, I soon realized it was yoga that had not only helped my physical body, but my mind as well. Most important was having instructors that were inspiring, encouraging and warm. Since August, I have been taking a vinyasa yoga class one day a week from one of two different instructors depending upon my schedule. Not only have I seen a return of flexibility, but of calm and a quiet confidence that while not entirely due to the return of yoga, certainly was encouraged with my weekly practice.
3. True friendship is a slow blossoming fruit
As someone in her thirties having relocated to an entirely different town, the establishment of friends has been quite intriguing. On one hand, I find people are quite clear about what they can and cannot do as they have priorities, responsibilities, some have families, others busy careers as they hold top positions as they rise in the ranks, but due to these same reasons, finding the time to build deep friendships is hard. Some people already have their tried and true relationships, not necessarily wanting to exclude you, but not having the time to dedicate to an unknown entity as their time is limited as is their energy. In other instances, due to people as they reach their thirties and forties coming to understand what they want, who they are and how they enjoy spending their time, connections with others who do not share a similar interest dash the potential of a friendship almost immediately. In 2012, The New York Times shared an article on just this topic, forging friendship after turning 30. However, what I have also discovered about friendships in our adult years is that it is a lesson in quality over quantity and patience over expediency.
Let me explain. Initially meeting people can begin by attending events of genuine interest and striking up conversations with those who have a similar passion. But even if you do have a similar interest, or a common connection, the determination of someone as a friend (and there are a variety of different types of friends that enhance our lives, and not all will be a person you reveal your most intimate self to) takes time.
Spending time with others whom you have just met in many ways is like dating in that you need to give yourself time for the qualifying process. I don't mean you are judging or comparing, but in many ways you are determining what you can share (remember the ping pong analogy?), observing how the neophyte relationship makes you feel while you're with them and after you've spent time with them.
It has been my experience that it is not the initial meet-and-greet that will reveal if someone should be welcomed into your life, but rather a duration of experiences and in time, any masks or façades that were presented will be worn down, if they even existed, and you will be better able to determine where or if that new friendship will play a role in your life moving forward.
4. Embrace a healthy tension when it comes to your life fulfillment
A regular Youtube series I watch for inspiration and boosts of confidence and direction with the ever-changing tech entrepreneur path I feel fortunate to be on is Marie Forleo. And it was this episode that provided a significant aha moment after more than a year of contemplating a few big questions in my life.
The topic was lasting fulfillment and she reveals that while we need to feel accomplished and successful in some of what we seek along the journey of fulfillment, we need not have accomplished everything. In fact, it is the tension that helps provide the fulfillment as we come to understand that we have the power within ourselves to cultivate the fulfillment we seek. It doesn't need to be external, in fact, it cannot be. Everything we need and are seeking already resides within each of us, we just need to discover how to tap into it. And with the help of experts in the fields we are passionate about, we can do just that.
5. It's okay to feel uncomfortable
My first experience with the French meet-up group here in Bend required of me to overcome great trepidation. My first real date after truly being open to the idea of a relationship again was nerve-shakingly absurd beyond what even I thought I was capable of. But guess what, all went well. Not well in the fairy tale sense: I still do not speak fluent French or even hold a conversation beyond the basic hello, how are you, nor am I madly in love with another, but in the sense that I was reminded that my nerves were for naught. I had worked myself up for nothing, but because I was unsure of how it would go, the events that would unfold were out of my hands, it threw me.
Maybe it was partially because I had undergone so much change in the previous year with the new move, the new job, selling my house after having dedicated so much of myself into it, but it was also because it was out of my comfort zone. And as I wrote about a handful of years ago, we are all just one small adjustment away from contentment. Jennifer Aniston's quote regularly dancing in my mind when I contemplate the idea of allowing myself to feel uncomfortable during the pursuit of something I desire, “Everything you want in the world is just outside your comfort zone. Everything you could possibly want.”
6. The mind is malleable
One valuable lesson I have discovered is that my mind, unbeknownst to me until now, was not being utilized in a manner that was conducive to the life I have been seeking. Not entirely, at least. And the beautiful reminder, after seeking out experts to help me understand more fully and completely was that I had the power to change the mental stories I had allowed to run on repeat for years and years and years due to conditioning, modeling and an unhelpful perspective.
The mind can either be our most valuable tool or our most destructive adversary. And if we don't understand why our mind falls into ruts that are not helpful, choosing to investigate and then heal and redirect them is one of the best life investments we can make.
7. Old bad habits can be overcome
Speaking of falling into ruts. The ruts will always be there, but we can overcome them. Perhaps bad eating habits, maybe negative default comments or thoughts that pop up or are uttered without even thinking about it, whatever your unhelpful ruts are, we can reroute our behavior, but it must be conscious, and we must repeat the new habits again and again until they become engrained. In repeated posts, habits (how to cultivate, which ones are worth our time and investment for a better everyday life, etc.) have been discussed in-depth on the blog. Part of being successful with the shift in your habits is understanding that it is possible to overcome bad habits, but because those bad habits have such deep ruts, we need to be conscious that we don't fall back into them when trigger-events take place. Simply being cognizant of this truth will help you avoid them.
8. There is a limit to planning our lives
As someone who is a planner and actually loves to spend an evening, morning or afternoon planning the next month, week or year, this life lesson had to repeatedly reveal itself before I accepted it as a truth. Now, not to worry, I am not going to encourage you to let go of planning. Absolutely not. In fact,when it comes to our financial stability, our careers, and our health, planning is an asset and the foundation of living well. However, when it comes to our personal lives, and even the journey our careers take us on, we have to learn to do our best and then let go of the result. And due to a handful of experiences that took place this past year, I have come to realize that we may read books about how things should work out if we do this or that, but in the end all we can do is be ourselves, do our best and then step forward when opportunities present themselves. I have found the key is to have a life, an everyday life of our own cultivation dependent upon no one else but ourselves, that we truly love living. Because if we love the life we have built for ourselves, we are better able to simply let go of the result when it involves other people. (Discover a handful of posts have been written about letting go.)
9. Bigger isn't always better
Over the past 18 months I have lived in a significantly smaller house that I had prior to my move, and I honestly have never missed one square foot that I no longer have. I haven't truly thought about it except to contemplate the goal of owning again instead of renting, but even then I am dogged in my pursuit of a small house (which is actually hard to find in Bend). The life I now have the opportunity to live is more alive, engaging and fulfilling than any other time in my life in part due to the fewer responsibilities I have to tend to if I lived in a larger space.
Again, what I find to be revealed as true again and again is that it is the quality of life that resides within the home and within the life of the individual, not the size of the house, that determines one's true contentment. A clean home? Yes. A home that is curated to the comforts and needs of the residents? Absolutely. But just as important as a roof over one's head that is warm, clean and inviting is understanding how to live fully and letting go of the unnecessary, the burdens, the false "have-to" beliefs and "must-have"s. Quality over quantity again and again and again.
10. Contentment resides within each of us
Each morning, I wake up and I pinch myself. No, everything in my life is not perfect. I still have doubts, fears and wonderings about the future, as we all do, but I don't let them percolate and muddle the truth that the life we can each create, the life I am creating and doing my best to share with you as I make the journey, is something worth savoring each day. As was mentioned in #8, it is far easier to let go when we enjoy the life we've curated for ourselves. When we've tended to all that we do have control over. When we've realized that much of the angst we have about life is self-created and we are causing more problems and worry than is warranted. When we understand the true power we have within ourselves, we open a world of opportunity to live a more fulfilling and contented life.
It does take courage to apply some, if not all in some capacity, the life lessons shared today. And as we need to remember, courage is not eliminating fear, it is simply overcoming it. Fear will always want to step in and pull us back into the world of worry, doubt and anxiety, but we have the choice to not give it its power. We have the choice to step up to the plate, put in the hard work and dance with life, because as we also know, some years we learn a weighty amount, other years we have the opportunity to put it into practice and still other years are gifts to simply savor. It turns out 2016 involved a little bit of all three. So is life, unfolding its magic so long as we participate.
~The Simple Sophisticate is taking its yearly one week vacation beginning the week of 26th. The next new episode will be available on Monday January 2nd. In the meantime, peruse the previous 134 episodes or stop by the blog next week for a year in review where I will share the top five episodes of 2016.
~Stop by next Monday to discover the TOP 5 Episodes from 2016.
~Peruse all of the past 134 episodes here.
~Discover my list of the Top 10 Podcasts I listened to in 2016 here.
~love in lowercase: a novel by Francesc Miralles
An international best-seller translated from its original language of Spanish, Love in Lowercase tells the story of 37-year-old Samuel, a professor of linguistics living in Barcelona who while certain the new year will be more of the same hum-drum quickly sees the start of January begin with an array of opportunities all beginning with the arrival of a cat who makes himself right at home in Samuel's apartment. In less than a week, this delightful novel was read and enjoyed, and with its short, topical chapters, readers who appreciate the liberal arts will find an appreciation of the thoughtful character who is more open to grasping onto opportunities when they present themselves than he ever was in the past, and that makes all of the difference.
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