Eliminating Hurry

Hurry 03For the last few days, ever since reading James Bryan Smith’s “The Good and Beautiful God,” I have been intentionally and ruthlessly eliminating hurry from my life. And boy is it hard.  I’ve trained myself for as long as I can remember to Be Productive.  Accomplish Tasks.  I bore easily.  What’s not boring?  Working under the pressure of an impending deadline.  If on Monday my deadline is Friday, then inevitably I waste hours of time checking twitter, Facebook, walking down the hall for a Diet Coke, looking up the latest celebrity gossip…  I can’t seem to focus on my document when it isn’t due for a week.  But on Wednesday?  Crap.  On Wednesday I realize how behind I am, and finally I’m able to get serious about doing the work.  On Thursday I set my alarm for 4:30 a.m. so I can get in the office for a “bright and early” start. I’ll still be sitting there 16 hours later because the deadline is TOMORROW.

deadlineWhy didn’t I start earlier? I ask myself, as I freak our about getting it done.

By Friday my stomach is in knots, I’ve made life pretty darn miserable for my secretary and everyone working around me, and I finish with minutes to spare just as the deadline approaches. “I’m never going to do that again,” I promise myself.  But, just like New Year’s Eve resolutions, I break that promise, too. My excuse? I do my best work under pressure. At least that’s what I tell myself. And when the deadline is looming over me, I don’t have time to be bored.

Never leaving myself a second to spare is an old habit, and one reinforced by a work environment that requires me to bill every tenth of an hour until they add up to at least 1800 hours of billable work, not counting the administrative, business development and other non-billable hours that must also be done. My internal pressure to be productive is presumably happy I’ve chosen a field that makes its demands for my productivity so clear. I’ve always hated to waste time.  But maybe it’s more wasteful to rush so fast through life striving to accomplish tasks that I fail to enjoy the minutes that I do have here on earth.  Maybe letting myself be bored is what’s required for me to really be fulfilled. Maybe boredom is a symptom of hurriedness.  And if I eliminate hurry, I’ll eliminate boredom, too.

Reading Chapter 9 of Smith’s book really spoke to me.  Made me realize that I’m not appreciating the life God gave me, the world He’s blessed me with, the quiet time to reflect and get to know this world I’m surrounded by.

 

Cover of "The Good and Beautiful God: Fal...

Cover via Amazon

 

Rushing, stressing, producing — all of that may enable me to check off more boxes on my To Do list but is not leaving me enough time to appreciate this beautiful life. So I’m resolved to leave five minutes early, and if I arrive early at my destination then I’ll just take a deep breath and spend the extra time appreciating this beautiful world. This week I’m trying to eliminate hurry. Ruthlessly. To soak in all that surrounds me.

imagesTo slowly enough that I can fully appreciate each moment of time. Savor it. Soak it all in. To Live.


through Travel … to Istanbul

Image

It was our last night at the Neorion Hotel Istanbul & we’d been so busy we hadn’t taken advantage of the promised “Happy Hour on the Terrace.” Once we made our way up to the hotel’s 7th floor we realized we’d been missing out on a treat, and it seemed most of the other guests hadn’t made our mistake, and there were no empty chairs.  Nonetheless, there was plenty of room along the railing and, while the wine was nothing special (though who can complain too much when it’s free?), the view of the sun setting over the minarets was an unexpected pleasure.

Istanbul was like that for me, full of unexpected “Turkish Delights.”  To paraphrase a quote from a website that summed it up nicely for me, you know that feeling you have when you arrive somewhere for the first time but it feels like you’ve already been there?  That doesn’t happen in Istanbul.  It is like no place I’ve ever been.

The first pleasant surprise was the Neorion Hotel itself.  After a wild ride racing up and down a jumble of cobbled streets barely wide enough for one car in a taxi that, as proved typical in Istanbul, had no seatbelts, we parked on the sidewalk in front of the glass doors to a hotel taking up only a narrow space along the vertical wall of buildings here in the heart of the Old City.  I’d reserved the hotel based solely on its Tripadvisor reviews.  Although Tripadvisor has rarely done me wrong, the fact that the Neorion wasn’t mentioned in any of my guidebooks meant I felt some trepidation.  Had I made the right decision when I booked here rather than at a better-known hotel?  My anxiety was immediately eased when we walked through the glass doors into a well-lit, modern lobby and the welcoming arms of Merve Bozarstan, the hotel’s Guest Relations manager.  After handing my passport to the gentleman behind the walnut desk so he could check us in, Merve lead us up a few steps into a sitting area of dark red cushioned seats and small tables, where the hotel serves tea free to guests every afternoon.  “Welcome,” she said warmly, “please select a welcome drink and then I will speak to you of dinner options and tell you about my city.”

We choose Raki, and soon we each had a flat, cylindrical glass of anise-flavoured Raki, mixed with water so that it appeared in cloudy, milky white swirls, accompanied by a glass of water.  To me it tasted like Everclear; it reminded Austin of absinthe.  It was the only Raki I drank during my trip, but I was glad I’d at least tried it once.

While we sipped our Raki, Merve gave a brief overview of the hotel and its services, as well as offering menus from various restaurants for lunch and dinner options (the hotel only serves breakfast).   Tired, we opted to find something quick nearby, and a 5-minute walk later found a kabob house full of a mix of what looked like Turks as well as tourists.  The tables downstairs were full, but the waiter led us up a narrow staircase to a large, green-walled and cavernous room filled with wooden tables, with paintings of Turkish men on the window glass.

Kabob House in Old City, Istanbul

We were the only diners upstairs, which felt odd at first.  But our waiter soon made us feel right at home.  He asked where we were from.  “America,” we said.  “Afghanstan”? he asked.  No, we laughed, and tried again, but still he couldn’t understand us.  Finally he pulled out pen and paper to ask us to write it down, but his pen was almost out of ink and didn’t write well.  I grabbed my pen for him to use and he misunderstood my gesture, thinking I meant to give the pen to him permanently.  “Oh, thank you, thank you, thank you” he repeated as he cupped the pen between his hands and made a little bow in my direction, so grateful for the gift.  He was so happy I couldn’t bear to correct his mistake, and his joy in that small pleasures was his gift to me.  It was an experience that sticks with me now that I’m back home — the gratitude, the friendliness, the welcoming nature of everyone we met.  It didn’t seem fake, or customer-service-oriented.  Although later in the week I’d run across a few salesmen who I felt were friendly in order to entice me into their showrooms and into buying a souvenir or two, almost everyone we met was genuinely kind and welcoming.  Despite the crowds and the cultural differences and the language I couldn’t hope to understand, kindness and warmth proved once again that they have the power to connect us despite our differences, if we’re only willing to open our hearts.

After a delicious (and inexpensive) chicken and meat kabob dinner, my son and I walked the short block back to our hotel and sank into the comfortable beds and, with the help of an Ambien, were soon fast asleep.   Our time in Istanbul was off to a great start


…by studying my Voice

On the phone I’m often been mistaken for my daughter… it’s nice if someone thinks I’m young enough to be my daughter when we meet in person, but not so much when they are basing it on my voice alone.  Especially for a 52-year-old law firm partner who hopes to speak with authority.  I’ve always assumed my high pitch was something that I was born with, for better or worse, and never thought about how sounding that way may have impacted my life.

That changed this summer, when someone listening to the story of my life asserted that I was afraid to stand up for myself.  Not so, I protested.  I do stand up for myself, when it’s something I care about, and I always have.  Even when it meant I’d be punished.  Rather than taking the easy way out and just agreeing to whatever my parents wanted me to say, I insisted on saying what I felt, what I knew to be right, my truth.  But it was if my words held no meaning, they were just letters strung together that didn’t have any effect.  I was talking, but no one was listening to me.

“Maybe that’s because your voice is so high,” the woman hearing my story said.  “You may have thought you were protesting, but no one was listening because your voice made you so easy to ignore.”  Huh?  I’d always focused on the WORDS I was saying, my Protest.  I hadn’t thought the pitch and tone with which my words were being spoken could be responsible for my being ignored.  Interesting.

I told the woman teaching a day-long Chakra class I was taking about what I’d heard, and asked her what she thought of the theory.  “It makes perfect sense to me,” she said.  “You weren’t coming across with authority, as someone who should be listened to, because you weren’t grounded,” she said.  “And you still speak the same way.”

So I started doing some exercises each day designed to “unblock” my first Chakra, the chakra associated with grounding ourselves.  Then I bought Maya Fiennes‘ series of Chakra tapes, and worked on Chakra 5, which is all about the voice, and speaking the Truth.  And I woke up early enough to do the exercises on the tape every single day for 43 days in a row, determined to get myself in balance.

Here’s a good blog post on Chakra 5.

According to the blog cited above, people with Throat Chakra (5) issues often have TMJ, grind their teeth, have skin irritations, and/or shoulder pain.  Check, Check, Check.  And Check.  My teeth enamel is severely worn from the years of grinding my teeth, and my checks hurt from TMJ.  And I get skin irritations whenever I’m under stress.  Again, per the blog, when the Throat Chakra is out of balance the person can have emotional issues such as shyness, self-criticism, low self-esteem and frustration.  OK, check to all of those, too.  My mother’s nickname for me growing up was “Shy-Ass” as in “Don’t be such a Shy Ass.”  But I was, anyway, much to her disappointment.  And I’m my own worst critic, never believing I’ve done well enough unless there is proof beyond a reasonable doubt.  (A 95 is OK, but I never felt I really did good unless a nice, round, perfect 100 was marked on my paper.)  And while I don’t feel like I’m critical of others, many of my past boyfriends would, I fear, beg to differ.  I never understood why they felt I was tough on them, but maybe it’s because I’m so tough on myself that I thought I was letting them off easy.

Moreover, the cited blog points out that, when chakra five is imbalanced, it may manifest in chronic sore throats and mouth and gum ulcers.  I had so many horrible strep throats that the doctor had me scheduled to remove my tonsils as soon as I was old enough.  Fortunately for me my sore throats seemed to miraculously go away for long enough to escape the knife.  But I’ve been plagued with sore throats, and the need to constantly clear my throat (my kids say they can find me in any crowd because they know I’ll be clearing my throat in an apparently distinctive way), as long as I can remember.

Clearly there seem to be reason enough to give working on improving my Throat Chakra a try.  Never one to do things half-way, I also signed up for a Voice class at the local university, and we just finished our six-class session this week.  I loved it, and my classmates seemed to enjoy my presentations, and the combination of being aware of the issue, regularly exercising in a way that benefits the throat (through neck rolls, shoulder shrugs, etc.), and working on diaphragmatic breathing, projection and all the patters and tongue-twisters my voice teacher gave us to practice has me feeling like I’m speaking with more authority already.  And it feels good.  I feel more confident.  I feel like, finally, all those things I’ve always had to say can now be said with confidence, with authority, with a voice that commands attention.  Guess I’d better be sure I have good things to say!

  • Throat (Vishuddha) Chakra (sensualblissvoyager.wordpress.com)
  • healingspiritsyoga.wordpress.com/2010/09/29/chakra-5-visuddha/

Remembering Mama Fling

The Fling Family while living in Riviera, Texas

My great-grandmother enriched my life in ways that are still evolving.  That’s my great-grandmother standing in her Sunday best (how they kept their clothes so white in such a dusty farm is evidence of the miracles of lye soap and lots of elbow grease) in the photo above, her arm protectively learning on the carriage in which my grandmother lies.  They had a hard, hard life but you would never know it. Both of my great-grandparents lived until I was 12, and lived only 30 minutes from my house, so I got to visit often.

I don’t recall ever even speaking to my great-grandfather…  he was ancient in my eyes and his worn, wrinkled skin seemed to be shrunken on his tall, thin, brittle frame.  He had a permanent look of sternness that assured I’d never voluntarily go up to him for a hug.  Not only do I not recall him speaking to me, I don’t recall him speaking at all, though I’m sure he must have at some point.  He was usually found napping in the back bedroom when we’d come to visit, a silent, mysterious man who seemed to have no connection to child that was me. But my Mama Fling was another matter altogether. Her kind, loving, gracious, generous soul shown through and I’d sink into her soft belly with a big hug when she turned around from the stove to greet me.  She was almost always at the stove, somehow managing to stretch what little they had into a Sunday dinner big enough to feed anyone that decided to show up, and everyone usually did.

After dinner (as we called lunch) I’d put on her old, old-fashioned, cotton bonnet that always hung by the back door and pretend I was Laura in Little House on the Prairie while I wandered through the backyard hunting for eggs the chickens had left, or catching a ride on a horse if one of the uncles happened to bring one by.

I’d always find a way to visit the old wooden shed out in the front yard that served as the area’s gas/convenience store, stocked with a big tin cooler of ice and soda water bottles, with candy bars and dry goods crammed on the shelves. It also had an old-fashioned gas pump, the kind with a glass ball on top that you really had to actually pump for gas to come out, though I never saw anyone actually stop for gas (this was the 60s and technology had already passed them by, but no one bothered to remove the old pump and for all I know it remains there to this day, stuck in the hard red dirt that symbolizes Turney, Texas to me).

Everyone in the small town called my great-grandmother Mama Fling, even if not actually related to her, because she made everyone feel like family.  And she loved the Lord, talking to God in prayer whenever she had a worry on her mind or a word of thanksgiving, whether over the stove as she cooked or pushing a broom around the kitchen.  Jesus was her best friend, and she called on him daily.  She spent all Sunday at the Corinth Baptist Church across the street from her house, having the preacher over to the house for lunch every week.  God was an integral part of her life every day.  She had no judgmental or hypocritical bone in her body, just a life lived with joy and love and grace.   She had no material wealth, but an abundance of love, the memory of which continues to live on.  Her children continued to talk about how blessed they were to have her as their Mother even as they were in their 80s and 90s, and how rich they felt for having been in her life.

I tried to model being a mother after her, and didn’t even come close, but I know my life is richer for having known her and I am inspired by her example to get closer to God, to focus on what’s important in life, and to remember than even if life is tough, and feel unappreciated, or worn out by work and stress and multi-tasking, and even if I never do anything to leave a mark on this earth that is remembered after I’m gone and that shows I lived life fully while I was here, I just have to remember that she didn’t write a book or create art or new technology or receive any award, many years after her death her legacy still lives on, in the hearts of all who knew her.  She was loved, and the world was a better place because she lived in it, and she enriched my life in layers I’m still unwrapping as I uncover the “wise old woman” that’s been buried inside me for too many years.  I feel that part of her lives on in me, and my desire to honor that heritage helps make me try harder to focus more on simple things, and the most complex thing one could ever hope to master, the ability to truly love.


Breathe Sculpture, UCO

Not much time today but I wanted to post a link regarding mindfulness and celebrating the miracle of life.  In many situations we are told to focus on our breath and to breathe from our diaphragms.  Scuba diving, for example.  I always end up with more air in my tank than anyone else when scuba diving because I focus on slow, deep, what-I-call-yoga breaths (mostly to ease my anxiety as I think of all the horrible things that could go wrong and to wonder if I am about to die for lack of oxygen while I am 80 feet under water).

Yoga, clearly…meditation.  Acting.  I’m taking a voice class (meant to help us with public speaking), and the first lesson and the first portion of each subsequent class we spend working on our breath, as without having good breath we cannot give voice to our thoughts or those of our characters.  As noted in the attached link, if we focus on our breath we can celebrate the fact that we are here, alive, able to breathe.  I sometimes imagine what it will be like when I take my last breath, or if, ailing, dying, knowing the end is near I will finally value the miracle that is my ability to breath in fresh air, and wish I hadn’t taken it for granted every other minute of my life.  If I am feeling down or anxious or worried, simply spending a few minutes to celebrate my ability to deeply breath helps remind me of how wonderful it is to have the seemingly simple pleasure of automatically taking in air.

Last time I was anxious and felt my stomach starting to get nervous, I forced myself to sit still for a few moments and relax and breathe, and it made all the difference.

When I gave birth without an epidural to my first child the only way I got through the pain was a combination of focusing on my breath, on his passage to life, and lots of good hot water from the shower pounding my stomach.

When I read an excerpt in my voice class and have to project to the audience in the back of the room, I can do that only if I focus on deeply breathing.

So my short blog today has lengthened by my random meanderings about the power of breath…it is one of those common miracles that is easily overlooked but well worth honoring.


Inspired By An Email Failure To Communicate

Today’s The Daily Love blog began with a quote from the Bible, then an explanation that, even if you aren’t a Christian, you shouldn’t automatically ignore the wisdom set forth in the quote.  My initial reaction was to email the blogger to question why he felt he had to “apologize” for including a Biblical quote in his post.  I got myself quite worked up about it, going so far as to email him a comment — something I’d never done in my months of reading his blog.

The email didn’t go through.  I signed off the computer and turned to the next item on my task list for this Sunday — 45 minutes of Kundalini Yoga.  And as I sat in Easy Pose doing my daily Kundalini Yoga for Chakra 5 with Maya Fiennes (she says do it every day for 40 days and see if it causes you to speak the truth)  the idea came to me (when I was supposed to be focusing on my Third Eye —  focusing during meditation is still a work in progress) that rather than emailing the blogger, I could create my own blog to express  my feelings on the topic.  Thereby checking two items off my list — venting my feelings about  how people feel they have to apologize for being a Christian but can be proud of being Buddhist or some other religion seen as more enlightened, and sitting down to write each day.  (One item that always keeps it place on my To Do List is to Relax, not try to accomplish so many things in one day.  That one rarely gets checked off.)

So as I sat in rock pose and turned my head from side to side mentally saying “Sat Nam” (Truth Is My Name) I thought of different  blog titles that would capture the journey I’ve been on for the past year or so, in a way that would tell anyone interested in reading what this blog will be about.  53-Yr-Old-Questor?  BalancingMom?  The names that came to me were all too limiting.  Yes, I’m in my 50s and I assume there are other 50-somethings in similar spots, but it’s not just a question of age.   Yes I’m a Mom and partner at a large law firm spending so many hours on work and business development and admin tasks that I’m hard-pressed to find time to read, relax, exercise, …, but that’s not really the focus of my search.   I’m an East Texan (therefore Southerner) living in Southern California, so in some ways am the proverbial fish out of water.  And a life-long Christian who grew up spending most of my daily life in my Southern Baptist church, who assumes everyone grew up singing Jesus Loves Me and celebrates Easter and has John 3:16 memorized, and is shocked about how naive I still am every time I learn that one or more of those things is simply not true.  And I’m now married to a man who spends part of each day in Buddhist chanting, who is a TEDster, who was one of those very hippies that so horrified the third-grade me (more on that to come).  And I’m on a quest to change my french-fry and burger with diet coke habit for organic, home made carrot coriander soup and other healthy foods.

Then “An Enriching Life” popped into my head, and I knew that was it.  Being a Six on the Enneagram I also worried and was in fact convinced that the name would already be taken.  But it turns out it was there, just waiting for me. It was meant to be.  Because Enrichment is a great word for this journey.  I’m seeking to enrich my life, in every way that entails.  Whether through improving the food I put into my body or learning the pleasures of cooking for myself and my family (something I’ve insistently resisted most of my life), or through using my faith in and love for Jesus in a way that, combined with Chakra work and chanting and meditative walks in nature and all the different ways each of us can seek to connect with Love, Nature, Something Bigger Than Ourselves — grows my spirit and, with it, my spirituality.  I want it to be about love and not judgment.  Comfort, not critique.  I want to be the person God meant me to be, to fulfill whatever purpose He might have had for putting me on this earth, to make the earth or my little place in it just a tiny bit better because of having been here.  Or to evolve sufficient so that in my next incarnation I won’t have to repeat lessons because I’ve learned them already, here, in this life.  Or that in Heaven I have something to say when the angel asks me what I did with all the many blessings I’ve been given on this earth.

So I’m writing a blog inspired by an email that was returned to sender.  Hopefully turning a little setback into a grand learning, joyful adventure.

And, by the way, I went back and re-looked at the blog that had gotten my dander up and realized that really the author wasn’t being apologetic.  He was just saying that no matter what you believe, you can learned from the quoted Bible verse.  And my initial reaction to it was a knee-jerk reaction that resulted from my frequent feeling that people judge me, judge Christians, in ways they don’t judge those like my husband who practice Buddhist chanting or other religions that are seen as less … I don’t know … judgmental?  I feel that people assume I am narrow-minded or worse when they find out that I am a Christian, without knowing anything about me or even about my faith.  It’s so sad that organized religion seems to have turned people away from God and that so many seem to use it for political agendas in a way that’s contrary to the truth they profess to believe.  In the end, I’m glad my email didn’t get through, because it wasn’t true, and it inspired me to start writing this blog.

There’s much to discuss, and learn.  Come with me.  I know I’m not alone in seeking an abundant, rich, fulfilling life and I’d love your support and guidance along the journey.  And hope we have many adventures along the way!