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Everywhere You Go, There You Are

I was a cheerleader in high school. Every time we got on the bus for an away game, we would sing: “Everywhere we go, people want to know, who we are! Who we are! So, we tell them! So, we tell them…!”

As we go through our lives, everywhere we go, people want to know who we are. The question is, what do we tell them? And, more importantly, what do we tell ourselves?

I used to tell people that I am a single-mother. I used to tell people that I am a woman business owner. These are two examples of self-labeling that I stopped using.

Now, I tell people that I am a mother. What difference does it make if I am single or married? In the end, I am still a mother, plain and simple. I tell people that I am a business owner, regardless of being a woman.

The labels that we attach to ourselves can, and often do, become a burden in our lives. When people attach labels to their everyday existence, we fall into the trap of limiting beliefs.

One of my favorite stories to tell is the day I told my neighbor that I was “just a secretary”. She responded, “If you really believe that, then you will always be secretary.” Mind blown! It was true. I had limited my life to a single vocation that never had a hope of rising above it. I stopped telling people that, and more importantly, I stopped telling myself that.

What are you telling others and yourself about you? Today, ask yourself, what labels can I remove from my life?

Inner Peace Through Forgiveness

The most difficult apologies to accept are the ones we will never receive. Sometimes, so much time has passed that the person or people who hurt us are no longer a part of our lives. How do we forgive someone who has caused us pain at our deepest levels, when we can’t, or don’t want to, speak to them face-to-face?

Forgiving and forgetting are two very different things. We are physically incapable of forgetting events in our lives, especially those that have caused pain. We are hardwired to remember pain as a means of survival. This is what makes it so difficult to “just let it go”, and creates the trigger effect.

In situations where the hurt is deeply traumatic, we need to first seek out professionals to assist in processing the powerful emotions. The professional can help us to try to understand what has happened and process how we feel about it.

There is no shame in seeking professional services. Millions of people do it every day.

But, what about the every day kind of hurt and pain that is inflicted? Disagreements or misunderstandings between friends and family, or even co-workers? The key is to get the hurt out of your system, before it festers into resentment or worse.

  • Write about it. Write down every detail of what you remember happened – on paper; not on social media. Create space in your mind and life to do this. After you write it all out, read it to yourself. You may want to read it out loud. Once you have written and read it, tear it up, shred it, or even burn it. Create a symbolic gesture of being done with it.
  • Meditate on it. Using focusing and visualization techniques, imagine yourself holding your hurt as a balloon and when you are ready, let it go and watch it float away. Again, creating a symbolic gesture of being done with it, and it is no longer a part of who you are. It doesn’t have to be a balloon. Use whatever feels right for you.
  • Choose to move on. We do not have to continue reliving hurt. We have the power and ability to make the conscious decision to move on. It’s one of those, ‘that was then, this is now’agreements we make with ourselves. It won’t happen overnight, but the more we choose to acknowledge the feelings and then let them go, the easier it becomes and the lesser the hold it has on us.
  • Live Well. They say the best revenge is living well. Although we have a tendency to hold onto the hurt feelings from the events in our lives, the person who has hurt us isn’t thinking about us at all. They are living their lives as though nothing happened. Hard to accept, but it’s true. Don’t invest in resentment and hurt feelings. The key is to keep our focus on living for our own happiness.

By holding onto pain and other emotions, we anchor ourselves to our past, preventing growth and progress.

We are not saying it was okay to hurt us; we are saying we no longer allow the pain to define us.

When we seek love, beauty, and kindness in the world, the world becomes a much friendlier place. When we seek compassion, mercy, and grace, we open ourselves to positive experiences and leave behind that which insults our soul. Accept the apology you will never get by acknowledging and processing the feelings associated with the event, and then live well ~ for you.

Hygge and Lagom: The Key to Contentment

Hygge lagom comfort
Comfort and conviviality in just the right amount.

What my Great-Aunt Dagmar knew about hygge and lagom,  and why you might want to know about them, too.

‘Hygge’ and ‘lagom’ are Danish words, and the Danes have built their entire culture around these ideas. In addition, the concepts characterize most of Scandinavia as well as France to one degree or another. The concepts describe a worldview, a mindset that colors the way one sees everything and goes about life.

Books have been written about hygge (not so much about lagom) because the concept encompasses so much. But it really applies to every area of life. ‘Hygge’ means a sense of coziness  and pleasant warmth, finding comfort and fulfillment, indulging in beautiful experiences of togetherness, and feeling satisfied with just the right amount of everything. Socioculturally, it means warm friendships and family relationships, hospitality, conviviality, and loving joyful tolerance toward all.

Quality bests quantity

My Aunt Dagmar first taught me these ideas when I was a very young child. Whenever I went to her house, she served me hot milk with a splash of coffee or tea and a spicy cookie or two. Some of my earliest memories are of sitting on pillows on her comfortable dining chair, watching her hold her delicate china teacup and trying to do the same with mine.

When we drank our tea, she told me that one or two small butter cookies with cardamom, ginger, and just a touch of sugar were indulgences to be savored slowly and in the company of people we love – far better than eating an entire box of mediocre cookies alone.

She was right.

hygge lagom rose
Much sensory pleasure, but ephemeral in duration.

She always prepared indulgent food, she grew award-winning roses in her Minnesota garden, she walked barefoot with me in the stream behind her house. But she always had “just enough”, never too much. Ultimately, she was living the ideas of hygge and lagom, immersing herself in comfort and pleasure, in just the right amounts.

With regard to food, this concept is the real reason behind the so-called French Paradox. Many theories have been put forward about why the French people traditionally have eaten rich indulgent foods yet have stayed slim and healthy.

Fill your senses, not just your stomach

It isn’t the wine, or the fresh fruits, or the fresh air. The French understand the value of slowing down to prepare delicious foods, and to eat them leisurely with family and friends.

The wine, fresh fruit, and fresh air add to the pleasure. But it’s the appreciation of the complete sensory and emotional experience of eating well, together with people who mean something to us, that fulfills our deep needs for companionship, security, and meaning.

Because this gives us a sense of physical and emotional satisfaction from our food, we don’t need to continue eating to feel good.

Mindfulness is key

Mindfulness is key, being present and actively experiencing what we’re doing: cooking, eating, playing with our children, driving, visiting, working. Above all, life is about our experiences. So often we fail to be present in our lives, physically there but mentally abroad; we need to buy the mug and the T-shirt because we missed the experience.

Certainly, that realization was the greatest gift my Aunt Da gave me (other than her unconditional love and encouragement): she reminded me to appreciate the present moment — to experience deeply with all my senses whatever I was doing — by living that way herself, and by sharing her experiences with me.

So today I try to incorporate that mindful attitude toward my family and friends, spending time doing pleasant things with people I love; toward food and cooking, immersing myself in preparing wonderful comfort foods; toward gardening, tending my (non-award-winning) roses and herbs in the garden; and, remembering, most of the time anyway,  to be mindfully here in the present moment.