HApPy NeW YeAR! 🎉🎉🎉

Y’all, this is kind of an epic post.

It’s because lots of things are happening: the end of December and the December version of the LIFE project, the end of the year, the beginning of a new one, the beginning of a new month….

If you don’t have a lot of time, or prefer video, here’s a recap in a few minutes:

Recap of December’s LIFE Project Intentions

So, let me start with December: I didn’t fail in my intentions, per se, but let me just say that the technology mindfulness proved to be one of my biggest challenges as far as stepping away from it.

More on that in a minute.

the LIFE project

Getting all those steps in was challenging

November was the one month were I took the most steps overall. December? The month that I’ll have one of the fewest of this project.

In early December, I came down with the flu. I was down for the count for four full days. Those sorts of things make you especially grateful for your health.

I am also glad that I anticipated possible sick days when I was calculating the 10 LIFE Days (in which I have to complete 5 things each day, and if I don’t complete one of the activities, it’s 1/5 of a LIFE Day).

There were two other days I did not get all 10K steps.

life project

Christmas Eve – A traditional hike

On Christmas Eve, it’s a tradition of ours to go hiking. This year we went to my brother-in-law’s and climbed the mountain behind his house. Mind you, on the other side of this mountain sits an entire ski area! We hiked up through brush and rhododendron to the top. It was probably 1,000 feet elevation gain in about a mile.

hiking meditation

This is just as we started our hike – but we started from a low elevation, where the houses are down in the valley.

It took over an hour to hike to the top. I was breathing hard, sweating, and had to rest – despite feeling like I’m in the best shape of my life right now (due to this project).

hiking tradition

There were some beautiful, gnarly trees and bushes on the way up.

I have to give kudos to my brother-in-law. He is one of the most in-shape people I have ever met and he’s twice my age. The man does 100-mile road rides for fun on a Sunday morning. He hiked up that mountain and had to wait for a minute or two while J and I finished our own little trek to the top.

While we were wishing we had towels to dry off with while he was standing there barely breathing harder than if he’d been sitting in an armchair. Just as we arrived, he was ready to go again!

meditative hiking

The winter view from the top. They’re hard to see, but lots of little houses line the valley far below.

It was a quick hike back to the bottom, but my smart watch only registered about 3,200 steps! Remember, a day that I don’t get steps but get the equivalent (or more) of exercise does not count as a LIFE day. Let me tell you that rigorous (albeit slow) hiking definitely got my heart pumping and I was rather exhausted afterwards.

Christmas Day – Filled with Family Time

Christmas day was filled with spending time with family and eating good food. My subsequent food coma prevented me from getting anywhere near my quota of 10K steps.

Not getting 10K steps for four days in a row plus one more later in the month means that I have now gone through 4 total LIFE days and am starting the 5th.

Brr!

Walking has “gone indoors” due to the cold, as well as dark mornings and evenings. I am generally working during the day, so it’s hard to get out walking.

As a substitute, I jog-walk in place, and or stomp and dance to music to get my steps. It’s fun. I have to wonder why someone would buy a treadmill (though I’m not judging – to each their own!) when you could jog in place while catching up on a podcast, listening to music, or watching something.

Not only that, I’ve dusted something off that I used to use: a kettlebell. It’s fun swinging that thing around with my arms while giving my legs a workout, too.

travel and flu

I always keep notes on the progress of my LIFE days. I’ve used 4 of them.

Alas, not getting 10K steps for five total days (not counting the day on Christmas Eve) means that I have now gone through 4 total LIFE days:

Meditation is different now, too

After the guided meditation in November that I did, I returned to silent meditation in December After a session or two my mind/body were calling to do less than 60 minutes.

If there’s anything that I’ve learned with meditation, it would be this: you get great at listening – listening to your body, and to the things around you.

I think it’s important to honor that.

meditation hour

I forgot to set my timer one day (I was meditating in a different spot than I normally do, and didn’t have my timer with me), but I meditated each day in a sort of 20-20-20 way.

So, I would “sit” for an hour, but for 20 minutes I would meditate silently, for the next 20 I would journal, and for the last 20, I would write a haiku, put it to an image, and schedule (I know this last part doesn’t sound that meditative, but I have been writing daily haikus to reflect my journey each day and scheduling them).

To me, journaling has always been a meditative activity. In fact, more than ever, I’m just letting myself write stream-of-consciousness with no punctuation or capitalization to just let my mind go. The same goes for writing haikus.

Emissary of Light

I completed reading this book and I was ready to recommend it to the world, but now I have a couple reservations. It is a great story about a guy wanting to do a peace concert around Europe, and gets invited – by providence or intuition – to the war-torn former Yugoslavia.

Once there, he discovers a secret community that meditates and creates a sort of psychic shield against those at war who would discover them and their mediation on the light to help bring about peace. These emissaries of light meditate and send out peace to all the people at war: the Bosnians, Croatians, and the Serbians.

They claim that for thousands of years, they have gone and done the same thing in every war. Only now they wanted the author of the book, James (or Jimmy as they call him), to spread their message as they felt that humanity was finally ready to turn toward peace because people were changing. They were staring to really turn toward peace.

So, Jimmy writes the book, relates his experiences, and learns that he can reach a lot of people with his message of peace.

life project book

Great, right? It is…

But then I thought of a few things: why does it almost always seem to be some sort of white guy – usually – who gets the opportunity to save the world?

Why is it so rarely a person of color, or even a woman?

My next question, however, was why would the Emissaries wait all these thousands of years for a guy in the United States to come along and spread their message? Of course they would need to choose someone, but why a random person from the US? Why not someone from the former Yugoslavia? Or someone who had been known as a peacemaker or diplomat?

The Emissaries in the book made a point of saying that James was no more special than anyone else and should not be labeled as a guru. They said that humanity is ready to hear about the Emissaries, that things were changing toward humanity experiencing peace.

Except I never quite understood why it took the Yugoslavian conflict for them to come out. Wars have gone on, before and since. Though I think things are changing, I’m not so sure humanity is at the tipping point for choosing world peace.

Look y’all, I believe in spreading peace and light, and I’m a pretty bubbly person, but I gotta say, it feels like some dark times out there sometimes. Our beloved planet is telling us to chill out with our industrial ways, the US elected a mentally ill man as its president (you’re allowed to disagree, but please be nice about it), and wars are still fought over religion, or materials: water, oil, other natural resources. Our native peoples are still marginalized, racism is rampant, sexism is still a thing, to say nothing of what to do about the conflict with the Syrians or other conflicts around the world.

But I will give that book a thumbs up for provoking me to philosophize and ask hard questions. It was only after I finished the it did all these questions really sink in and make me ponder. I suppose it’s only natural to question anyone who claims to have special knowledge – I’d even question Buddha if I had the chance. He did leave his wife, after all, in the name of enlightenment.

It was a really good story and I do recommend the book for peaceful inspiration.

 

Technology and Mindfulness

The idea this month was to be more mindful of technology, specifically about using my cell phone and using the Internet.

I wanted to become more mindful with it and overall, I can say that I did.

  • I stopped using Google calendar, and bought a planner
no more google calendar

My non-technological paper planner.

  • Started using index cards again for all my to-do lists
to-do vs to be

I got a tip for an author to always have index cards on hand for note-taking, writing or drawing ideas.

  • I completely rearranged my phone so that when I use it, I am “forced” to be mindful. Everything is off of the home screen. I arranged all my apps into folders. I use either Siri or the search function to find everything, which means that it takes more time and that I must be intentional about what I am doing.
mindful technology

This is what the home screen on my phone looks like.

 

mindfulness with my cell phone

My apps are arranged into folders according to subject. But, I know that if I swipe right from the first home screen, the search function comes up and I can find apps quickly that way.

  • I used to get silent notifications and my phone would light up each time. I set it so that I have to click to open the phone and THEN look at my notifications – which would just be a text or a phone call or a message. But, it was when I CHOSE to respond or to look, not when my phone would tell me.
  • I changed the screen to a black and white wallpaper so that I don’t get distracted by graphics and colors and get immersed.
  • I pretty much almost always have the volume turned down or on silent (no vibrations, either).

But, did I step away for 24 hours like I had intended?

The answer is an honest no.

  • Due to all my jobs involving being online, I couldn’t unplug for 24 hours. Just a few days ago, I got a series of frantic emails from one of my jobs that a registration form wasn’t working on their site. I had to stop everything and fix it as this was a revenue source for them. This also means that I have to periodically check in and monitor it. Furthermore, despite being able to schedule posts, I still have to log in and respond to comments and such. This all does keep me connected, but honestly, I don’t mind because…
  • I still turned everything off and unplugged – especially that last week – for several hours each day. The last week of December, I still did “24 hours of no technology” but I stretched it out over six days (in which I’d spend at least 4 hours during the day offline).
  • However, earlier this summer, during that month of sacred travel I was off grid for long periods of time (24-48 hours usually). I can do it; I just need to be in a position to be able to do so.
  • My computer and phone were always located in my home office or in the living room – never at the dinner table or where where I sleep.
  • At night, I would close the computer, sit with husby and spend time drawing while watching a bit of television, listening to music, or chatting.
  • I actually feel like I get “mini-vacations” every day now from technology. By trying to unplug for awhile each day, I am aware of how much I use it, and make efforts to step away.

Compare these two calendars from the beginning of the month to the end:

tech mindfulness ideas

Before

tech mindfulness calendar

After

The January LIFE Project: BEING

Intending to change banks

For this month, back when I designed the project, I had intended to leave the big box bank for a local bank.

Over the past couple of months, I have been changing over to the credit union. Now, all I have to do is close the account at the old bank.

It has been a process, though. Thanks to technology integration, you find that various things are tied to your bank account and you have to get in touch with folks to sign papers and change everything.

I’m glad I did it, though. Lower or no banking fees greet me along with my bank a five-minute walk from my house is great and I’m helping to support something local.

Creating a Labyrinth

Originally I thought that I would stamp out a labyrinth out on the grass in the backyard. If I’m completely honest, I don’t know what I was thinking when I wrote that down for January. Clearly I was cozy and warm somewhere and not thinking about the brutal cold that takes over at this time of year. Folks, the labyrinth will have to wait, but it’s right there with the walking marathon: it’ll happen, just not right now.

A month of “being”

I had intended on this being a month where I work on taking time out to rest: give myself permission to read and such.

I am going to challenge myself to read two books this month, but there’s another little challenge I’m going to do: spend 10 minutes a day just being: no meditating, no reading, no watching television, no talking, no drawing. It means just sitting down and looking and staring. Getting bored.

Memoirs

A couple days after Christmas, I had the pleasure of catching up with a friend whom I hadn’t seen much in the last couple of years. She’s attending grad school and getting her MFA in creative writing out of state.

We had a lot to talk about.

I learned what an incredible writer she was: she’s going to school on scholarship and recently won a grant for $50K for her brilliant short story writing.

We spoke at length about traditional vs. indie publishing, the merits of editors and writing groups – which, I need to find one! – as well as the different types of fiction in which one could write to make a living, i.e. commercial fiction vs. literary fiction.

Friends, we’re all going to be reading her stories one of these days. Just listening to her in conversation made me want to sprinkle my own writing with descriptive adjectives and powerful metaphor and simile.

We got on the subject of journaling and I told her that I’d written hundreds of thousands of words in my journals (almost 271,000 between my three digital journals in the past three years, including 102,000 in my LIFE project “Intention” journal this year).

journaling is powerful

My three digital journals

She blinked and asked if I’d ever considered writing a memoir. Yes, I had. Yes, I have already. I wrote one back in 2009 as a way to work out my unusual upbringing having been adopted and growing up in a nursing home. Immediately after finishing stories that filled about 150 pages, I felt lighter and more free. I lost the desire to publish this content and went on with my life having completed a rigorous summer of writing therapy (though I didn’t know it at the time). I had no idea how healing that process would be!

I’ve often thought back to the idea of writing a memoir to publish. I spoke with my friend about my ideas and she said it sounds like there are multiple memoirs living in my head.

I admit, sometimes it takes another person and another perspective to ignite the spark of imagination. I genuinely want to write a fiction novel. But I feel like my strength is in non-fiction because when I try to invent other worlds, or try to invent characters, they immediately fall flat and succumb to the disease of two-dimensionalism. I quickly feel a sense of overwhelm at trying to figure out plots and sub-plots without getting lost in a veritable maze of details.

Interestingly, my friend said that she much preferred fiction and it was easy to imagine another reality and run with it. I shook my head while gushing about my admiration at her ability to do that.

After attempting at least six other novels, trying all sorts of techniques: outlining, pantsing, snowflaking, first thing in the morning, mind maps and whatnot, I am willing to admit that, perhaps, I’m not destined to be a fiction writer.

This was one of my intentions last year: “I intend to have 6 books finish by the end of 2017.”

I didn’t fulfill that particular intention, but what it doesn’t mention was that these were to be fiction novels. Visionary fiction.

I’d even made it a part of this project (the LIFE project): to write a visionary fiction novel that was supposed to have been done in August. Part of this desire was to write an incredible, inspirational story.

There are so many non-fiction books out there touting the merits of mindfulness, meditation, personal development and I love so many of them. I didn’t want to add to the heap by publishing yet another non-fiction book on one of those subjects, but rather add a story.

We all love a good story, don’t we? They’re more powerful than reading factual non-fiction text (unless it’s in creative non-fiction story form). Think, “The Way of the Peaceful Warrior” or “The Alchemist” or “The Celestine Prophecy.” They’ve made, or will make movies out of all of those.

Alas, there are times when we have to acknowledge that sometimes the best intentions pave the road to….well, complete the sentence with your own noun.

So, this month, I’m going to be reading books on writing memoirs. I want to toy with this idea, swirl it around like a red glass of wine. Then see what happens.

life project

I’ve already started to read, “The Art of Memoir” by Mary Karr. Her writing is so tantalizing and so inviting. She’s managed to create a compelling world of entertaining non-fiction while I learn new things. That takes talent. I’ll also read “You can Write a Memoir” by Susan Carol Hauser for good measure.

Intentions

creating intentions

I have all my intentions written out, and ready to hang on the Tree of Life.

I wouldn’t be properly ushering in the new year if I didn’t update my intentions (despite the LIFE Project), print the ornaments, and hang them from the Tree of Life in my living room.

new year intentions

It’s a new year and I’ve written out and hung my intentions

I wrote out 21 intentions and put them on 20 paper ornaments. They’ll hang there all year until I take the ornaments down next December and serve as powerful reminders of the intentions I’d like to address this year.

tree of life ornaments

A look at a couple of the ornaments with New Year’s Intentions

The thing I love about intentions are the fact that it’s okay if I fall short. I can dust myself off, get back up and try again. But intentions are powerful in that they set in motion something that resolutions cannot do: the will to change, a plan to do it, and intermittent steps to get to the destination.

Did I publish 6 books like I intended? No, but I published 2 and have 2 more in the works.

I intended to have more adventures in 2017. Yes and more yes! I toured the northeast, went skiing in Colorado, went on a personal retreat, went to Washington, DC for the Women’s March, and did smaller excursions locally.

Did I “make a living spreading love and compassion with creativity”? Not yet, but I’m making serious progress. I couldn’t have done it without the folks who come by here reading these posts, sending emails, comments, cards, pictures, encouragement and more. I can say there’s an incredible community surrounding this website. Words absolutely fall short of the awe that I feel.

I had quite a few other intentions for 2017. For some of them, I knocked the ball out of the park. For others, I still have work to do. But the power of intention moves mountains, my friends. It’s an incredible phenomenon.

So here’s to 2018, to powerful intentions, to community, to projects, to living a life that one intends to live!

And tell me…do YOU have a Tree of Life and intentions on it?

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