What does it mean to live in alignment? What happens if I do things that are counter to my values and ideals? This is something I have been grappling with for awhile now. It is very important to me to be genuine and to live my truth. Yet as a natural born people pleaser, I also have spent much of my life trying to make others happy. As my therapist/mentor has often said ‘you don’t have to take a pole for everything you do’…in other words – follow your intuition…do what feels right for you and the rest will work itself out.
View from my meditation spot
I am learning to have some grace with myself as I work towards that alignment and with the times that I am functioning out of that place but still doing my best. That may be a parenting moment where I get frustrated or impatient and react instead of maintaining a steady calm which would be my preference. Let’s be honest – this is not an occasional occurrence! Or it may be when I am eating ‘safe’ foods instead of challenging myself to try something new. Or it may be when I am using my phone as a distraction instead of cleaning the bathroom or paying bills. 🙂
So what helps to keep me in alignment? My go to practices are:
1-Meditating – this allows me to sit in the quiet (or relative quiet as my mind may be active and fighting stillness). it helps to take a break from the distractions of life to be in tune with what really matters most. It allows space to hear my inner voice… inner guidance… intuition, speak to me. It is calming, even if only for a short while. Meditation improves physical health, increases self-awareness, mindfulness, and concentration.
2-Movement – whether it is yoga, running, a walk or skiing, movement helps me feel grounded and present. I do have to work on this as it can also be compulsive and disconnecting if I get focused on miles/time or performance. When I focus on being present, being in my body and enjoying the movement, it is energizing and centering. And it is an added bonus if it is an outside activity because the fresh air, potential sunshine, and peace of nature boost mood, reduce stress/cortisol levels, and lower blood pressure.
Getting ready to ‘race the train’ – a fun event to raise money for our local Dollars for Scholars
3-Journaling – I have journaled since I was 9 years old and it has always been helpful for me to write what is going on in my head. It is not something I ‘must do daily’, but rather something I do when I feel the need to release, to process or to express myself in that way. I found when I was very young that when I wrote something in my journal, it was like taking a step towards a goal. This hit me when I was 12…. I was so scared/embarrassed to ask my mom if I could get a bra – for months I tried but could not get the words out (when the opportunity with no brothers around arose!) but as soon as I wrote about it, I was able to ask my mom that night. It was then I realized the power of writing. The one rule I have always held with journaling is that it is for no one else’s eyes, that penmanship, grammar, readability does not apply. Even if it was so illegible that I could not go back to re-read it myself, it has still served its purpose. The release is the part I am looking for – not re-reading and learning from the past. I have told Steve I want my journals burned when I die – these are not books I would want to have published that’s for sure!!!
A box of my old journals
4-Gratitude – Practicing gratitude is all the rage right now – and for good reason. It helps us keep perspective, to feel more positive and to better cope with the things that are not going well. It reduces depression and increases a sense of well being. I have recently been writing daily on gratitude and it is definitely helping me with the roller coaster that is senior year!
5-Sleep – This is one of my most challenging areas. I am an early to bed and early to rise person which suits me because I love the calm and peace of the morning. I am one who loves the ‘Fall Back’ time as it gives us slightly more sunlight early in the day and I do not look forward to “spring ahead’ because I am happy to have it dark in the evening so I can put my PJs on and get to bed early without feeling like I am missing something 😉 But life often calls me to stay up a bit later and my body naturally wakes up early regardless. And once I wake up..I am up. Plus my bladder wakes me several times a night (hello 50!) though thankfully I can fall back to sleep when that happens. I know that adequate sleep decreases stress/cortisol levels, improves mood and concentration, boosts immune system and just overall feels better so I am definitely working on improving this area.
6-Food – I tell my patients that sleep and nutrition are the foundation of healing. If we are not adequately nourished and rested, our brains will not function well, our bodies will suffer and we will not feel grounded no matter how many of the above activities we practice daily. I have lived this in the past and know full well what it is to not have these basic needs met. So I am working on nourishing myself with all the food groups – grains, veggies and fruit, proteins, fats and yes…sugar :). I have a sweet tooth and denying that would only lead to feelings of deprivation and preoccupation.
It’s all about balance 🙂
7-Connection- Being with people I am close to fills me up. Sometimes though, it means just connecting on the phone or through text. Having my peeps who know me, understand me and are there for me is beyond the greatest gift. And trying to have a balance of it all – family time, couple time, extended family time, girlfriends time, social time….there are certainly seasons where one of these things seems to dominate, but over the long haul, I have balance there and appreciate the connections I have to travel this journey with.
Girls weekend at the Cape 🙂
Of course keeping these practices as part of my world, but not becoming just another item on my ‘to do list’ is another challenge. My tendency is toward routine, which is a blessing and a curse. I want to be experiencing these moments, not just going through the motions. I admit I am guilty of that some days…but again I will have compassion for myself and be aware that keeping these habits may mean sometimes ‘going through the motions’ but as long as I continually strive to be present, to be conscious of what I am doing and why I am doing it, then I am on the right path. It is a continuous journey and in doing this, I am feeding the love.