A mindful, holistic approach to life.
So it's officially six months of trying to spend some time on this website and figure out how to shape things into some kind of business income or career path. While I am not any closer to making that goal real, I am going to try and keep going. I've decided to end doing a monthly theme and instead share more things I'm enjoying along with the monthly read and hope that flows better.
Book of the Month
The book of the month for June is This is How I Save my Life by Amy Scher.
This small book was a fast read; I finished it in one evening. Amy does a great job of capturing the roller coaster of chronic autoimmune disease and how illness derails your life, along with the constant obsession with trying to find the elusive cure for the multiple things wrong with you that doctors cannot fully understand. She also makes India come alive so you feel as if you are there with her. Her story is heart-felt and moving, and brings hope that maybe others can also survive to figure out how to experience health again. A great read for anyone with chronic health issues and a good memoir pick in general.
Here are a couple of my favorite quotes:
"Chronic illness does not delete who you are, it covers up who you are. It lays upon you hundreds of pounds of useless weight, crushing something deep inside."
"When I decide I am ready to start letting go, I recognize that I don't even fully know what letting go means, because I am such an expert at holding on."
I also enjoyed learning about the Buddhist mantra Nam myoho renge kyo, which one of Amy's Indian doctors teaches her to use.
"It is a scripture of hope that reminds us we all have an inherent Buddha nature, the ability to access our own deep inner wisdom and live an enlightened life."
I recommend searching Youtube for a version of the chant that you like and give it a try.
We're closing in on June, and my May content has still not arrived! I've been too busy spending every free moment outside planting and trying to get some landscape going in the barren yard. After spending winter coming up with a plan, ordering plants and starting seeds, it's so rewarding to see it all come together into reality. It's a lot of hard labor, but a good reminder that dreams and plans need to come to life and be experienced in order to be complete.
What dreams or plans can you work on this month to bring them out of your head and into reality?
April Theme - Wabi Sabi Life
Well, as you can see, I fell off the wagon in keeping progress on the website going. My daily journaling ran out of steam and I have no more clarity three months in as to what this website's true purpose is and what type of business I can develop. It's been a good reminder that my Type-A worldview continues to be too goal-oriented instead of savoring the journey.
My reflection for the month is to once again focus on being present and content with life's imperfections and enjoy the journey instead of being unhappy and impatient with where I'm at; to embrace the wabi-sabi nature in all dimensions of life.
Book of the Month
The books to explore this month highlight my interest in Japanese culture and the theme of reflection and wabi sabi. Both titles allow for thoughtful reflection and offer inspiration on visual and personal development levels.
Wabi Sabi Welcome is a nice book to flip through for its serene visuals, and offers several cultural variations on the wabi sabi lifestyle in terms of decor, hospitality and entertaining guests in your home. The photography is well done and invites you to linger over the images of quiet reflection and worn imperfection in the simple lives of the featured hosts.
Awakening Your Ikigai offers many stories of traditional Japanese culture to help illustrate this more enlightened approach to life. There are five themes of Ikigai explored: 1. start small 2. self-acceptance 3. harmony and sustainability 4. enjoy the little things 5. be present. Each story represents an aspect of Ikigai as well as a tradition in Japanese culture.
Both books focus on a more thoughtful, simple approach to life, and are a welcome contrast to the shallow American culture of cheaper, faster, now.
March Theme - New Beginnings
Welcome Spring! March is such an energizing and transforming month, when we awake from our winter slumber to begin life anew. It feels much more like the new year to me than actual New Year’s day.
The theme for the month of March didn’t come through for me like January and February did. I went through my oracle decks and made some notes, but nothing really leapt out as it has before. Then, as I was listening to Lindsay Mack’s Tarot for the Wild Soul podcast Monthly Medicine episode for March, I was surprised to hear she also didn’t get a strong message for her own monthly mantra. So that made me feel a bit better, as sometimes it’s really okay not to know!
I feel like some major changes will happen in March, and in light of the Spring Equinox also taking place, the theme of New Beginnings seems fitting. It’s always exciting to welcome rebirth and creation into our lives after laying low and finally see some ideas come to fruition. After the gentle rest and reflection of winter, March will be the time to take real action and kick the door down blocking our way instead of just a gentle push to move into something new.
So ask yourself, what new beginning can I welcome this month? Where can I take inspired action and create something new? Where can I bring vital energy to a stagnant area of my life or community? Let’s be brave and action oriented and get out there and embrace change this month.
February Theme - Express Your Truth
The theme to explore this month is Express Your Truth.
As a more quiet introverted type, I like to observe, listen, and think about things. This month's theme is a challenge to publicly express myself in an authentic and creative way.
With several social justice movements recently coming to the forefront in American culture, it’s time for more people to be brave and communicate their experiences in a visible way, however uncomfortable that may be for both the person and the audience, so that positive change and growth can take effect.
But expressing your truth does not need to be heavy and serious; try sharing creative projects via social media, working on home decor projects, or getting your own website or business started.
Expressing your truth feels like settling deeper into who you are, what you care about, and making that clear to the world in some way using your authentic voice, without catering to a specific audience.
“I want you to recover what you used to be long ago, to go back to the authenticity that you had before you learned to speak, and experience the truth. I want you to go directly to your heart, and search for the truth with no words, to find your authentic self, and bring it out with all your power.”
- Don Jose Ruiz, The Fifth Agreement
This documentary on John Coltrane illustrates the idea of expressing your truth well. Coltrane went from being a drug addict who just played the notes he was supposed to early in his career, to kicking drugs and experiencing a spiritual awakening, where he was liberated to express his authentic voice and created music that was further and further off the beaten track. At the end, he may have lost some of his audience because of how avant-garde his compositions were, but he had reached the pinnacle of his own personal expression in sharing his truth through musical compositions.
Once you move into expressing your own truth, you are truly living your highest potential.
Journaling to Express Your Truth
This year I decided to commit to writing daily gratitudes, goals and inspirations. For someone that has never found journaling appealing, I decided to go with a soul-centered planner and splurged on Danielle Laporte’s because I love her commitment to graphic design and if it was well designed I knew I'd be more motivated to use it. It’s larger and heavier than I anticipated but feels worth spending the extra money for something substantial.
The format allows me to feel productive tracking tasks and also allows room for logging ideas, with prompts to allow for a little reflection daily without having to commit to a lot of long-hand writing. I prefer to keep to a formula that the planner provides of tasks, gratitudes, “soul prompts”, and my words for the year to express how I want to feel. I fill in with quotes or passages from books that are motivational in nature to try and keep my spirit higher and my mind focused on outcomes and possibilities instead of life’s problems.
Using writing to express your truth can be a great way to release your thoughts in a safe space. Your authentic voice may be quite content to be heard on paper instead of out loud or in a public forum. It’s a great way to release your inner self as well as getting things out of your head and practice mindfulness.
If you are into deeper commitment to writing for longer each day, Julia Cameron created the Morning Pages in her classic book The Artist’s Way, and her formula is three pages of handwritten stream of consciousness writing every morning.
Whatever way you choose to journal, give it a try this month and see how it helps to express your own truths and where it leads you.
Books for Expressing Your Truth
A book to consider in exploring this month’s theme is Meera Lee Patel’s My Friend Fear. This book is beautifully illustrated with more minimal text, so it's a quick and enjoyable read.
Fear can be a reason why people do not express their truth. It could be fear of judgement or even for their own safety. With her artwork and inspirational quotes, Meera shares her story of working through her fears to inspire you to gain confidence to face your own.
Another book along this theme is the classic The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. While far less colorful and a much longer read, she provides an extensive framework to use if you have lost your creativity and need to practice getting back in touch with your own personal expression.
Whatever mode of motivation you choose, I hope you're able to explore expressing your truth this month and find a little more fulfillment in your life because of it.
January Theme - Rest
I am beginning the new year with a mission of mindfulness, purpose and flow, and this month the theme is Rest.
Commonly, we begin the new year full of plans and goals, ready to conquer the world. Instead, I'm sitting back and resting, reading, and trying to use the cold weather as a way to incubate energy and ideas for next steps versus stressing myself out about what I didn't accomplish last year and why I'm not where I feel I should be in my life.
"Modern culture is often afraid of surrender and finds it difficult to respect and trust in the wisdom of nature, which includes cycles of activity followed by cycles of rest. This fear can create suspicion and judgement about rest, turning it into something we consider to be a sign of weakness rather than wisdom, of laziness rather than intelligence, of lack of productivity rather than a way to regenerate our creative energies."
- Alana Fairchild, Crystal Mandala Oracle Guidebook
As a "Type A" personality, I have not been very familiar with rest. It seemed like a waste of time and felt unproductive. Danielle Laporte has a good post about being addicted to productivity and the idea that we derive our self-worth through doing and not from our inherent worth as human beings. So taking time to be still is an act of courage in her view.
Resting can also been seen as a kind of luxury "other people" have, but is unavailable to you. As a freelancer working hourly, I usually can't afford to take days off because if I don't work, there's no income to pay the bills. Other people may be juggling work and family responsibilities that leave rest as an unattainable idea. For those of us pressed to find a half or full day free, we can try and find a few minutes here and there to mediate, read, take a walk, or even just take a bath instead of a quick shower. Any space you can find for rest will be beneficial to resorting your energy.
This month, let's focus on valuing down-time, keeping an open space to de-stress, and allow new ideas to flow.
Knitting for Rest and Mindfulness
Sometimes it is difficult to rest because we are used to being active and productive. Rest, like seated meditation, can be difficult to do without feeling like you should be doing something else and having a busy mind while struggling to sit still.
I started knitting again because I enjoy the tactile nature of creating things with my hands, and found it also is a great tool to create a space of physical rest since you have to sit still to do it. Since you have to remain present in the moment and concentrate on your stitches, it creates a space of mindfulness as well. It can be very calming to sit and focus on your stitches, the texture and color of the yarn and how it works on the needles, and the softness and warmth it provides.
I'm using Purl Soho's free pattern, Simple Pleasures hat, which worked well years ago when I knitted my first hat. It is very easy to follow and creates a soft and comfortable hat. I normally don't like acrylic yarn, but I grabbed it on a whim at a big box store. It does have some wool in it to offset the synthetic feel and has a lovely matte finish. Best of all, the colorway is called "Whisper". Perfect.
Book of the Month - January
This month, I'm highlighting Oprah's The Wisdom of Sundays as the book of the month. This beautifully designed little book exudes quiet and calm, with the text overlaid on photos of nature.
The Wisdom of Sundays takes Oprah’s Super Soul Sunday interviews into another platform with quoted excerpts from some of the guests. It’s divided into themes such as Mindfulness, Intention, Forgiveness and Gratitude.
It’s a great fit for the theme of rest because it's a book that you can read in short sections and think about, then move on to the next section, taking time to finish. So take a moment this month to sit down and read and contemplate while embodying the theme of rest.