What Is Mindfulness?

Late last year I began exploring ways I could find more inner peace. I was listening to a podcast where the host was discussing the power of meditation and the impact it had on many of his guests’ lives. I always thought mediation was for Buddhists or hippies or people who were highly anxious. I was none of those, although I do feel I am becoming somewhat of a hippie these days. Shortly after listening to the podcast I began reading a book and articles about mediation and figured that I had nothing to lose by trying it.

Since then I am still unsure whether I am meditating correctly. My mind is constantly racing with multiple thoughts and sometimes this is all that happens during my meditation. However, once in awhile I will catch myself without a thought, simply focusing on my breath and in these moments I definitely feel the peace. What I have learned about meditation is that at the heart of it is mindfulness.

What Is Mindfulness?

Mindfulness has Buddhist origins, however these days everyone from monks to fortune 500 CEOs are practicing it. I have definitely jumped onto the mindfulness bandwagon. Mindfulness is the ability to focus on only what is in front of you in the present moment. Therefore, you do not think about the past and you do not think about the future. Earlier this week I shared that one of my new year’s revolutions was to live more in the present moment. Although I still have trouble doing this from time to time, being mindful has helped me work toward this.

Growing up I was always told and had always believed that multi-tasking was a great skill to have. I did everything I could to become a great multi-tasker. After learning about mindfulness and incorporating it into my life I have come to realize that I get so much more done when I only focus on what is in front of me and I actually enjoy the different aspects of my life so much more.

How I Have Incorporated Mindfulness Into My Life

I still have a long way to go in mastering mindfulness, however just like life, mindfulness is a journey and not a race. As long as I know that I am putting in the effort to be mindful, that is all that I can ask of myself.

Before discovering mindfulness I would wake up and immediately check my email and social media accounts. This could sometimes last for hours. I am guilty of still doing this from time to time, but these days I instead try to acknowledge that I am awake and feel grateful that I was given another day on earth. I try and get five to twenty minutes of meditation in in the morning before the kids and Nic are fully awake because this helps set the tone for the rest of the day.  

Mindfulness has helped me to detach from my phone more often. I try to only look at my phone every three hours instead of mindlessly scrolling through it all day long. Doing this has helped me to fully pay attention to my kids and to not feel like I am going crazy when one of them is throwing a tantrum. It has helped me to try and be more understanding with Nic and to not always let my impatience get the best of me.

In addition to my relationships and my morning routine, mindfulness has also helped me to question and think about the food I put in my body and how my actions make an imprint on the earth. It has changed my perspective on life, helped me to be more grateful and challenged me to be a more compassionate and caring human being.

Did I Put On Some Rose-Colored Glasses?

If you are anything like me prior to discovering mindfulness, all this positivity and gratefulness may sound like I put on a pair of rose-colored glasses and simply decided not to see the world the way it really is. What I have learned with true mindfulness is that you actually see the world’s injustices even more clearly.

In addition, being mindful does not mean that you no longer feel negative emotions like anger and anxiousness. It means you are able to recognize them and let them go without allowing them to take over the situation or your life. I used to have moments where I would what I like to say “freak out”, which means I get extremely angry or anxious about a situation and horrible things spill out of my mouth. The victims of my freak outs were usually Nic, my kids and my immediate family. It’s really embarrassing writing this out because I have always tried to portray a got-it-all-together character but this was definitely my sore spot.

Since having started being more mindful I recognize my feelings when I think I may freak out and have learned to control them before all hell breaks loose. I focus on my breathing and try to get it to a slower pace and if needed I try and put myself in the other person’s shoes and show compassion regardless of whether I think they are in the wrong or not. It’s amazing how this technique has changed my life and I could only imagine what kind of world we would be living in if everyone practiced even a little bit of mindfulness.

 

For further readings on mindfulness I would recommend the following articles:

The Mindfulness Revolution” and

Can You Be Mindful and Still Feel Angry?”

 

2017 New Year’s Revolutions Part Two

Yesterday I posted about three of my new year revolutions. Today I am finishing off the post with the last two points I hope to incorporate more into my life this year in order to achieve the most intentional life possible.

  1. Be More Mindful of What I Consume

Last year one of my new year’s resolutions was to give up processed food and although I do eat it on occasion, I’m amazed by how easy it actually was to stop eating these food items the majority of the time. For 2017, I will no longer eat any processed food that contains corn syrup or high fructose corn syrup. I also will no longer feed these to my children. The reasoning behind this is because cheap unhealthy very processed foods usually contain this ingredient. In addition, corn syrup and high fructose corn syrup are not very good for anyone.

The focus on my health somewhat fell off in the last quarter of 2016, however I am determined to bring it back on track and to never let it fall again. It is especially hard to focus on health when I am at a social event and desserts (my weakness) are staring me in the face. This year I hope to ask myself more of the why I want to eat things that may not necessarily be good for me. I know I will give in from time to time, however as long as it does not become a habit I will be satisfied with myself.

I was also unsure of whether I wanted to share this piece, but I feel a calling towards it. This year I am going to explore the possibilities of becoming vegan. I will save the explanation for another post, however I believe that committing to a vegan diet will be beneficial not only to me but the world at large. I plan on 2017 being the year of my best health because without my health, I have nothing.

  1. Nurture My Marriage

This last one may be the most important one. In May of this year Nic and I will have been married for five years. As I type those words it is somewhat unbelieveable. Not because I didn’t think we would make it this far, but because so much has happened during those five years that I don’t even really remember my life before him. We went from one year with just the two of us, to two babies in a little over two years, to moving across the country and starting a new life.

As most mothers know, when you have children they become the center of your world. For Nic and I it is almost too true. We love our babies so much that often times we neglect ourselves and especially our marriage. It’s easy to take my partner for granted when the household runs as smoothly as it does for me. I know that I would not have the same kind of joy and happiness I have in my life without Nic and this year I will let him know that more.

I will plan date nights and date days where we will actually talk and continue to get to know each other. I will listen to him more just to listen and not to listen in order to respond. I will share my feelings with him more often instead of bottling them up and getting upset because he has no idea why I am feeling the way I am.

All in all, I will appreciate him more because he is one of the greatest human beings I know and I know I truly scored when he chose me to be his wife. I will be grateful everyday for our marriage and this beautiful life that I know only he could have given me.

2017 New Year’s Revolutions – Part One

When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be” – Lao Tzu

2016 was by far my most life-changing year. I discovered so much about myself and about life last year and I made so many changes. However, I feel that I have only scratched the surface. I view life from a completely different perspective than I ever have before. I am excited to dive deeper and discover more in 2017.

Last week I read this article which stated that new year’s resolutions “hardly ever work beyond the first week of January”. The author then stated that in order for our goals to stick for the long-term we need something more radical – “a new year’s revolution”. Although the topic of the article was related to work-life balance, I believe that I can use this revolution approach to my everyday life and with regard to my hopes and dreams for this new year. With that said my new year’s revolution includes the following:

  1. Live In The Present Moment

In 2017 I plan to live in the present moment as much as possible. I am a planner so I am constantly thinking about and planning for tomorrow. However, the only moment we are guaranteed is the present moment, so if I am constantly thinking about the future I may very well miss everything that life has to offer.

As part of living in the present moment I am also committing to using my phone less and not at all when I am in the presence of others. I am so guilty of mindlessly scrolling through social media for hours and looking up random things on the web. My phone, the internet and social media are get tools but only if I am aware of when and why I am using them. When used mindlessly they can be huge time wasters.

If I am lucky enough to be in the presence of others I have recognized that these people deserve my full attention. When I am on my phone while someone is talking to me I am not really paying attention to either them or the phone and therefore this is very disrespectful to whomever I am with.  

It’s easier said than done to live this mantra out, however I plan to continue to remind myself to step back and enjoy whatever is in front of me. Whether that is six inches of snow, a crying baby or an endless day of laundry I will try to embrace it. I may fall back into old patterns every now and then, but any progress to being more present is good progress.

  1. Surround Myself With Positivity and Let Go of Judgement

The world can be a very negative place if I let it be. It can also be a very positive place. If I fill my world with negativity through my thoughts, what I read, and the company I keep my world will likely be grim. In the last few years I noticed that I had become very pessimistic. This year I am devoted to thinking positively, focusing on positive sources of information and surrounding myself with people who are trying to live lives that are positive and true to them. I am happiest when things are positive and at the end of the day that’s what I’m striving for.

In addition to surrounding my life with positivity I will also stop being judgemental. I have always been a very opinionated person and figured that judgement was just an extension of that, but it isn’t. When I am placing judgement on things that I am not knowledgeable about it is simply ignorance especially when it relates to someone I don’t know. The world doesn’t need more any more ignorance.

  1. Live Out My Life’s Mission

Many of us are on a quest to discover the purpose of our lives. With so much noise in the world today from television to phones to the opinions of others it is often hard to realize what that purpose is. In order to discover my purpose I had to break free from the noise and look within myself to determine what truly brings me joy.

Ever since I was young I enjoyed learning. Whether it was in school, learning to play a new game or sport or learning about someone’s background – it all amused me. When other kids dreaded research reports, I loved them because I could dive deep into the subject and add to my knowledge base.

My joy of learning has not stopped and I am always looking for ways to become a better version of me. I continually dive into different types of books and listen to others’ perspectives. I definitely do not know it all, but when something sparks my interest I usually know where to find out more about it.

As I sat and wondered how I could take this joy of learning and benefit the world outside of myself I discovered my life’s mission. To share what I learn and to help people. Whether it is through health and wellness, minimalism, living intentionally or finances, my hope is that through this blog and through my real life I can share more of what I learn this year and help as many people as possible.

Stay tuned for tomorrow where I share my last two and maybe most important new year’s revolutions.

My Reaction To “The Opt-Out Generation Wants Back In”

Shortly after discovering Lisa Belkin’s 2003 New York Times article, The Opt-Out Revolution which discusses highly successful working women leaving the workplace in order to focus on motherhood, I learned of a follow up article written a decade later. The article titled The Opt-Out Generation Wants Back In focuses on three women, one of whom was discussed in The Opt-Out Revolution. All three women left their high-paying successful careers in order to focus on motherhood. A decade later, the women were ready to rejoin the workforce only to find that they were not able to jump back in as conveniently as they had liked.

The tone of The Opt-Out Generation Wants Back In is a bit discouraging for mothers who may be considering opting out of the conventional workplace. The main message that comes across when reading the article is that these women did not really think things through when they decided to opt-out and now each have some regrets. They all had made a decision based on what they felt they had to do in order to keep their families and marriages running.

I am only a little over three months into my opt-out life, and although I can’t say for sure whether I will have any of the same regrets in the next 10 years that the women in the article had, I honestly believe that I am exactly where I was meant to be. Since taking the plunge, my daughter has grown in so many ways that I would have missed or would have been too tired to pay attention to had I been working. I also feel that my view on life itself, not just my career and motherhood, had changed so drastically prior to making the decision to opt-out that I would find it hard to have some of the same disappointments as the women in the article.

Money, Success and Big Futures

The Opt-Out Generation Wants Back In briefly discusses how a news anchor had described the women who opted out of the conventional workplace as “giving up money, success and big futures” in order to be home with their children. This is one of my first issues with the article. It puts an extremely high importance on money, stereotypical success and materialism.  

The article starts out discussing Sheilah O’Donnell who was featured in The Opt-Out Revolution. Sheilah “tells herself that her new home, a townhouse…isn’t really all that bad.” However, sometimes Sheilah refers to her home as “an apartment…when she’s reminded of her former life with her ex-husband in their custom-built six-bedroom home”. Sheilah has three children. Therefore, the big question may be whether five people really need a custom-built six-bedroom home.

To say that one sacrifices money, success and a big future to raise her own children can be a bit misleading. Nobody’s job is guaranteed forever, you can be a successful human being without having a high powered career and raising children to become independent self-sustaining compassionate adults sounds like a pretty big future to me.

Privilege and Minimalism

I know that I, along with the women discussed in both articles, are privileged to be able to even have the option of opting out. There are countless women out there who do not even have the choice. In my case, this decision would not have been possible had I not learned to save aggressively in my early 20s and had I not realized after the birth of my daughter that society’s idea of money, success and a big future were no longer things I desired, ever.    

Some call it minimalism, others call it mindfulness, whatever you may call it, it should be realized and internalized before making a decision like giving up a six-figure career. We live in a society where bigger is better and you can never have enough. However, once you discover what enough is or at least start the process, you begin to realize how happy you can be with less. People (i.e. your spouse and children) and your relationship with them become what life is truly about.

Follow Your Intuition

Unfortunately for Sheilah it seems that she opted out of her career because she thought it would save her marriage. She and her husband would have “ugly fights about laundry and who would step in when the nanny was sick.” She felt that these fights were becoming ridiculous given the amount of money the couple had earned and saved. I am not a marriage counselor or a psychologist, however I do believe that when you are having fights over laundry and which spouse should take care of the children, there is likely a bigger underlying issue than a career getting in the way of family life.

If you are considering opting out of the workplace I would urge you to discover why. It will likely not save your marriage if you are having problems. I believe the only reason a woman should opt out is because her intuition is telling her that with her children is where she needs and longs to be. If that single reason is not there I would not be surprised if she has the same regrets and disappointments that Sheilah and the other women in the article have about their decision.

We live in a society where we are taught to focus on what we do not have. We never have enough money, our houses are too small, our cars are too old, and our partners do not do enough to understand us. If you are considering opting out I urge you focus on everything that you already have. I urge you to realize what you will be gaining by being with your children on a daily basis through their most formative years. I urge you to question what society has been leading you to believe you are meant to do with your life. If you do this you just might discover that what you have is more than enough and that there is no price you could put on what you will receive from your children and from life when you begin to live a life that is true to you.

Thoughts On The Opt-Out Revolution

The Opt-Out Revolution, written by Lisa Belkin was published in the New York Times in 2003. I’m over a decade late in discovering this article, but I feel that it is still completely relevant to some of the issues faced by women and mothers in the workplace today. With the new year upon us, I hope that we as a new generation of workers will feel empowered to discuss these issues within our organizations or at least among our peers.

What Is the Opt-Out Revolution?

The Opt-Out Revolution focuses on the trend of educated women (having at least a master’s degree) with high-powered careers leaving the workforce in order to care for their children. These women are choosing to put their careers aside in order to focus on motherhood. Most of these women do not feel that they would be able to both work and raise their children successfully given the way most high-powered careers are currently structured.

I don’t have a master’s degree, but I do have a bachelor’s degree. I also dropped out of law school for some of the very same reasons discussed in the article. As someone who has always believed in education and being ambitious when it comes to a career, opting out was not an easy choice. However, given the way most workplaces are structured today, I also did not feel that I could be both a conventional professional and a focused and present mother.

Prior to having children I never thought twice about the way the conventional workplace is set up – 40 or more hours of work a week, five days a week, two days to yourself, constant connection to work before and after hours, two weeks of vacation, and more. Maybe it was because I was okay with this way of work or maybe it was because as the article states “the talk of this new decade is less about the obstacles faced by women than it is about the obstacles faced by mothers.”

Struggling for Compromise

Before opting out, I like many women in the article tried to work out a schedule with my company where I could work at home a couple of days a week. One woman in the article talks about how she asked to work part-time and the television station she was working for said it was all or nothing so she walked away. Another woman, an attorney, tried to reduce her hours to part-time and even drew up a proposal which she presented to the partners. The proposal included a discussion on whether her part-time hours would count as time toward partnership. She continually had to ask about the status of her proposal and eventually decided to also walk away.

I, like the attorney, also never received an answer on whether my request would be accepted. I couldn’t wait any longer for someone else to confirm whether I could live my life the way I desired. Given my personal experience and the examples from these women who were trying to find some middle-ground with their companies, I have to question why it is so hard for companies to come up with or accept these solutions that capable, hard-working women are presenting to them.

Redefining Success

There is no question that the idea of success is slowly changing. However, I do believe that most people still see success in its traditional form. This includes having a high-powered high-paying career, being able to afford a huge house, two cars and having a couple of kids to go with all of this. Traditional success is highly centered around wealth and material possessions. The more you can earn and the more you can buy determines how successful you are.

The Opt-Out Revolution states that the mothers who are opting out are “redefining success and therefore redefining work”. I also held that traditional view of success for many many years. It wasn’t until after the birth of my daughter and my struggle to balance work and home that I really asked myself what was the point of everything I was doing. Was working the way I was really worth it? I felt like I could not truly enjoy my home life and my family, so my decision was to opt-out.

Success for me today means having a healthy work life balance. It means I don’t have to do it all. It means some days may be more work and some days may be all about family – my days are not determined by a rigid schedule. One of the women in the article describes this balance perfectly. She states “I decided to leave that full-time job in the newsroom for a more flexible freelance life writing from home, and I must admit that it was not a change I made only because my children needed me. It’s more accurate to say I was no longer willing to work as hard — commuting, navigating office politics, having my schedule be at the whim of the news, balancing all that with the needs of a family — for a prize I was learning I didn’t really want.”

The Gray Area

When it comes to work and family things are never black and white. They are almost always gray and I honestly believe that this gray area is starting to spread like wildfire. One woman states in The Opt-Out Revolution that her fantasy includes a world where there are two types of people, those who want a career and those who want to stay home. Each type could only marry the other type, but never the same.

I have to wholeheartedly disagree with her fantasy because that was my reality and I was still not satisfied. My husband was a stay-at-home dad, which did ease the pain of having to return to work, however it did not dismiss my desire to want to be a central part in raising my children. I believe mothers may have a greater need to want to be with their kids, however I feel that fathers are also longing for this more and more today.

Therefore, to simply assign one spouse the role of child-rearing and the other spouse the role of bread-winner is no longer the answer to the question of who will raise our children and who will provide. In my personal experience I have found that neither of us were truly satisfied when our lives were set up this way. I believe that this is why the dialogue concerning these issues are so important.

I will leave this post with a quote from the article. This is something that I feel companies and we as their employees should ponder on: “Sometimes I worry that we’re really just a little bit lazier,” Sears says. “But in my heart of hearts, I think it’s really because we’re smarter. Maybe evolution has endowed us with the ability to turn back our rheostat faster, to not always charge ahead after one all-consuming thing. To prefer a life not with one pot boiling but with a lot of pots simmering; to prefer the patchwork quilt, not the down comforter.”