It’s About Mindfulness

Ten Points to a Simply, Higher Quality of Life

ONE: Take only what you need.

Understanding that some need more than others.  Don’t judge those who seem to you to be “possession happy” or conversely those who seem “possession poor”.  If you are satisfied with what you have, then be happy.  Who cares about the others?  Their seeming glut or lack is their concern NOT yours.  For me, what I need is a job to pay the bills.   For me what I need is a job to pay the bills I have, buy food and generally be able to sustain in a middle-class sector of society.  I’m not indicating the less you have the more likely you are to be close to what true happiness is.  Those on welfare generation after generation are not getting what they need because they are not getting it themselves.  Others are and there’s something not quite right with it in my opinion, and that’s all it’s worth. 

TWO:  Don’t be drawn into another’s expectations. 

You’ll always disappoint yourself. Easy enough to understand and I think I wouldn’t get too much argument on this point. But, I think this one is the hardest ones to overcome or, at the very least, the most difficult to recognize. Once you do realize you are living up to other’s expectations it takes all you’ve got to stick by your convictions to follow what you know to be your path in life and try your hardest not to give in; to attempt to please those around you. 

I had lived most of my childhood and adult life this way…and for what?  For the sake of avoiding being yelled at or lectured! When I was 18 I declared I wanted to be an actress.  When that was put down as an impractical career choice too tough and so fiercely competitive I was, unknowingly, scared into a life of searching for my stable, sensible career choice. What I ended up with was a series of jobs ranging from dead-end to stressful high pressure work.  I was fulfilling my need to help others in most of these jobs. They were customer facing but all of them did one of two things to me: bored me out of my mind or stressed me to panic attack levels. One day my panic was so great that I couldn’t even get out of the car to go in to work. I had my husband drive me home. I called in a vacation day. I reasoned it was a mental health day. It was a Friday and I could use the weekend to re-adjust myself. The truth was no amount of 48 or even 72 hours away from that job could cure what my problem was. I was caught in the trap of trying to please everyone, with one obvious exception- me. Twenty years was enough and really too much, but you can’t cry over spilt milk. All we have is the present and from the present we can act for our future. Once I started to meditate and journal my thoughts out daily, my life began to alter in very remarkable ways. I developed my natural creative writing ability and through that envisioned my place was not in corporate America but working from home as a writer. To my family it was about as impractical as acting. Though I had fallen for that line twenty years ago, I was not about to trash my vision of a writer’s life. I still have resistance from them today though age has affected the vehemence of their protests to low sarcastic grumbles. That’s why it is so important to stick to what you feel is right for you. Think about it, as a well-adjusted, productive and competent adult, how can anyone know what is best for you? As the saying goes, better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all. Better to die knowing “What an awesome life!” than wondering “What if…?” Meet death with an exclamation point not a question mark.

THREE: Have friends, love family and share thoughts often.

It’s one of the big reasons why we are here. Though after five decades and a handful of years, I’d caution you to choose the ones you share with carefully. Seek out the open-minded ones, younger ones and those you have seen show their beliefs in action. When you align yourself with like-minded people you can feel free to share. Also, remember the sharing works both ways so be equally prepared to listen without judgment, truly.

I have many types of friends and share different parts of my life with these different types of friends. This is not to suggest I hold back or that I’m being deceptive. For example, sharing your fandom for Star Wars with a friend who has never seen the movie; obviously you talk about mutual interests with like-minded people. That said we all have various interests and that’s fine.  And if you made a faux pas sharing a Star Wars quote or joke with your non-Star Wars fan, no real harm or foul. Yet, up the stakes to a more controversial subject like political views… look out! Now you may be in for a real row, but that can be okay too as long as you’re among respectful, open-minded, equal opportunity listeners. I know- I know, they are rare and rarer still are the ones who believe in this to their core but trust me you know what the opposite is because you are either related to them or have had them as friends. We’re talking toxic here! Not just- oh I think you’re wrong and here’s why and let’s have a biting debate about it then still smile and shake hands. No, I mean toxic to the point of slamming your head against a concrete wall! No prisoners and NO survivors! STOP! Just stop! It can be difficult but do not engage those who refuse, put down or worse ridicule your thoughts and feelings that you’ve shared. You know who they are, the ones with “good intentions” and “for your own good” and “oh dear you are horribly mistaken!” I know who they are in my life and my life has been far more enjoyable without them or at least not seeing them as often. I call it settling into a natural drift. When you must engage these toxic wonders devote yourself to the old adage: the less said the better. If you are directly addressed; polite, short answers will suffice. If pursued further use “Excuse me, so sorry, I need to use the restroom.” And hope, to all that’s holy to you, when you return they’re focusing on another who’s blundered into the trap of toxic nicety or just plain toxic tirade.   

FOUR: Never retire. 

What does it mean anyway?  You can retire from a certain activity, but never from life.  Dictionary says roughly, “to sleep, relax”.  That’s okay for a time but it can get boring.  Life is much more when you are contributing and “doing” something.  Thus, I will never stop making money.  As long as these hands move they can create should I derive income, disposable or otherwise great! My future income is assured- that’s why we hold a job or career to provide a stipend after we retire from that activity called work!

FIVE: Consider not squirreling away huge sums of money.

To what end? Okay, okay put enough aside so your survivors can live a decent life, but not massive sums of excess for those survivors to plunder or waste and get angry fighting over. I’ve seen that and I should never want to know I left that much behind for people to squabble over for months and years. Only the lawyers get wealthy. (This point is related strongly to point one)

SIX: Devote time to your passions.

Don’t do something because it’s the trend or what’s supposed to be done. Live a life by the heart and you’ll love your life. Pepper it with intellect and voila…! You are now a rich tapestry of memories and experiences to share and remember with those who want to listen. So, if the trendy thing is what you want then by all means, do it. And don’t ever be ashamed to do and embrace what makes you happy.

SEVEN: Humor- Have it, keep it, use it… frequently!

EIGHT: I am where I am because I ended up here with what I did.

If you really want to be somewhere else, odds are you’ll find a way to change it. If it feels unduly forced or difficult, perhaps you didn’t want the change anyway.  (Remember #2 and figure out whose expectations you’re trying to live up to.)

NINE:  Seek you own Truth and live it freely.

No one can tell you the meaning of your life.  If they do, you’re living their life.  Also, be prepared to live with the consequences of living your Truth or if you choose, another’s Truth.

TEN: Please note…

The points I’ve stated are my opinion, my viewpoint, based on my experiences from 36 years and now- at 57 years- I still agree with my younger self. If you happen to embrace them and agree that is a beautiful thing to me.  If not, you will find your own path in your own way.  But this I know as a universal truth…We must all look within to discover our true happiness and we are not seeking a destination. We’re on the journey of life and creating our best way of living individually and with those who we love (and -yeah- those we just like to hang out with too).

Between Fear and Desire

What you fear and what you desire are the extremes. What you need is in the middle and when you know yourself well enough to know your authentic needs then you are balanced.

Fear (extreme bad) —Authentic Needs (balance)—Desire (extreme good)

It’s now 11:39am an hour and a half after the above “AHA”. I’d go so far as to call it a “click” or life epiphany for myself. Basically, between fear and desire are authentic needs. Lately, all the time I’ve been focusing on balance and non-influence has brought on this epiphany. Just prior to when I wrote down the above, I had left the thought on my Facebook page “No matter how far the extreme, balance is inevitable.”

Which was a response not only to my personal overall experiences of my life but also in thinking of a friend who, at last message, was stuck on stand-by in an airport. The bad news email sent advised me of all the unfortunate, unhappy details of the flight home and a couple of incidents of her falling on the overseas sight-seeing tour. Which was intended as an extremely joyful jaunt courtesy and gratis of the friend accompanying her. The Universe always balances. I can see now in light of her mishaps that an “even up” is due. Swinging as far in opposite directions as my friend does though, especially emotionally, her story will likely unfold as it always has; as a drama of high, highs and low, lows. She may enjoy the drama (doesn’t seem to though) but if she could recognize to balance with the Universe she may be able to tame the extremes of her life. That’s what I did…

My life was unfolding like a roller-coaster too until I realized (and maybe only clearly just now) I am in control of these swings. So regaining center (balance) knowing well now what that is and how the outer world exists around me when I am balanced; I can go with a natural swing or sway to the way my life unfolds and adjust accordingly. Think of a pendulum. It’s hard to control in wild sway but subtle movements bring it to center and sway it smoothly. When you focus and balance, you have control of the sway between fear and desire. And you know fear is easy, you can understand how it is dangerous when out of control. You don’t recognize desire out of control until it is too late (at least for me it was). Then the Universe or karma brings you back to balance with a trauma or an ending or an accident or delays. Depending on how far you indulge the desire, investing in the emotion, becomes the equal force of down to balance up.

Again, keep it in control and you manage the sway and stay in a range of balance. But! Let “it” take control and you will inevitably soar unchecked with desire then get reigned in by an event or person when something fearful happens and then you recognize you’re out of control. How do you stop? With awareness, by meditation, retreating, pausing in thought then you get back to center. This may be the intent of the phrase “Stop the world I want to get off!” Also, living in the extremes of desire and fear- because they are connected as opposing forces- when out of control you will not sleep very well.

I reached this conclusion: while my life may not look exciting to you, I sleep soundly at night. I’m grateful and blessed to have very few troubles and very few desires. And when one or the other rises to a level where I might lose control, I express the emotion (desire) or get working on a solution (fear). Tended to right away, small problems stay easy to remedy. Waiting, ignoring or hoping it may just go away only creates a greater swing. So, having the appearance to others of a boring life is not a bad thing if your authentic needs are being met. The tools to regain control from a swing in either direction will also gift you the answer to the question: what are my authentic needs?

Creatively Inclined?

“I’m not creative.” “Creativity skips a generation” “You are creative because your grandma is creative.”

These are the things my mother used to say to me when I was growing up. What did I know? I was a kid, she’s Mom, so it must be true. I have been aware I was creative since about 5 years old. Probably because my mother told me. She was right too, BUT she was completely wrong about herself. Even though she’d never admit it she was (and is) creative- everyone is and we all use it. Maybe not in what you think is a traditional sense (the arts) but in the very living of life.

I don’t care if you are aware you’re using it or not; everyone has creativity within that is being tapped. The degree, the extent, how it is being used is what most people are unaware of.  Perhaps it’s stress or something negative in your past blocking your awareness but trust me it’s in there and becoming aware of it, how you already engage it with the world around you is all that stands in the way of releasing it fully to transform your life.

Dan Poynter (d. 11-4-15) said, “I believe everyone has a book inside them.”

I agree with Mr. Poynter and just writing down thoughts is a great place to start the journey into your creativity. You may not write a book- and being a writer may not be your best form of expression- but everyone has creativity that needs expression; whatever form it takes.  Were you encouraged as a child to be creative?  What were you doing when you lost all track of time?  When you wished Mom hadn’t called you in for dinner or Dad told you to clean up that “mess” (your project) on the table so the family could eat dinner on it?

Whatever “that” was it’s likely how you expressed your creativity in childhood.  Just spend some time thinking about it and then write a few pages about what you recall and see how you feel remembering that.  Consider looking on the internet to see what’s new and going on in that hobby you gave up years ago or an outdoor activity that gave you joy.  Joy is often the sign you’re getting close to your best form of creative expression.  Stress, overwhelm and hectic schedules will block your ability to rediscover the creativity you thought was lost or gone years ago when you had to get a job and pay the bills.  If nothing comes right away don’t worry. Just keep mulling over “What was that fun thing I used to do?”  The answer may come to you while in traffic or the bathroom, but trust me it will hit you and be worth your time. However that creative spark, encourage it to come forth; play with it because you know you’re worth it.

Check out this website for inspirations that may help unlock your traditional creative expression. Then, if you want to dig deeper contact me sharon@srichardsllc.com to be your guide to unwrapping the gift of your creativity and utilizing it to cope, heal and transform your life. –Sharon Richards 8-10-21

The Stress Limit

I don’t know about you but sometimes I get up earlier than the alarm. And then I do a few things like an errand to avoid traffic. During the holidays when so many of us have a tendency to rush around I wanted to take it easy so to foster this I was out around 6am doing my deliveries and pick ups, places like that are open 24 hours like FedEx, Kinkos and the Post Office self-serve. Now you wouldn’t imagine anyone would be in a hurry at that time but there was. I live in an area of the city called Waterford and there is this wonderful street called Waterford Chase Parkway and this is a long and twisty road which extends, depending on your point of view from a road called Lake Underhill to another called Avalon Park Blvd. If you happen to live there too you know that it’s a two lane road and the speed limit is 25 miles/hour- you can’t pass anyone. This particular morning I met up with another car also out early for whatever reason. And we were doing nicely going 25 making the turns and twisting the lines heading towards Lake Underhill. We both made the left turn to head through more Waterford neighborhood entrances until…

Suddenly! From nowhere came up a car careening around us at the fantastical speed of quite possibly 50 miles per hour. Now perhaps this person was heading to the hospital and had someone in the car that was dying or perhaps they themselves were in pain. Who can really say? But more often than not this isn’t the case. And I suddenly realized this car passing both of us quite easily and quickly that quiet December morning a few years ago, that at least one source of a huge amount of stress is impatience and the other attachment to an outcome. Even if he was rightly so speeding to get to the hospital, the urgency caused him great impatience, definitely the pain- and he was very attached to the outcome of getting to the hospital to resolve whatever medical issue it was. And that’s okay, if however, he was merely careening around the other cars doing the well more than the speed limit just to get there a little faster or was he possibly running late for work to some appointment at 6am? I don’t suppose I’ll ever know but I do know that an awful lot of stress is caused by my impatience and attachment to an outcome. Glad to be writing this from home and not on the road. – SLR 2017

And Further to Point Out…

We become so accustom to stress that we don’t recognize its true purpose. We don’t recognize that its a warning sign to stop heading in a certain direction. We get so caught up and dead set on a certain goal going down in a certain way. Then when difficulties arise we think oh- I need to press harder and be more stubborn, then you stress out and get dogged determined to get it done in that way or… die!? IS that really a good idea? Your body is in a constant state of sending you messages and the Universe attempts to reinforce these messages by getting you to stop and consider what you’re actually doing. To slow you down take a moment to seriously consider the facts and rethink if this is the way your goal should be pursued. IS there a better way??

If you’re looking for a better way to engage you came to the right website www.yourhobby.com

Got something to share or ask? Contact me via email: sharon@srichardsllc.com

If you’re curious, maybe I can help. If you’re a skeptic, I can’t. It’s got something to do with you not letting me-;-) SLR-8-22-21

The Write Habit

You know how it gets surfing the internet going places you didn’t intend to then a happy accident happens and BOOM! Gotta share! So here’s the article’s link first https://www.trackinghappiness.com/can-journaling-be-harmful/

And here’s the comment I left…

I’ve been journaling by pen on paper since 1977. I made my first journals, calling them diaries at the time. I have ALWAYS found some benefit in them. It might sound terrible but by writing in my sloppy cursive way my dyslexic spouse can never read any of what I’ve written. Yeah, you can call me lucky because I’ve saved thousands of dollars in therapy and any good therapist I ever had to see recommended – at the very least- write down when my emotions change and what was the external factor that instigated that change. MANY times I have gone to the blank page feeling absolutely, horrible and down on myself and somehow writing it out the “magic” of the positive wins out. For me if I don’t journal I find I feel physically weighed down in my thoughts. The very act of spilling my raw thoughts to page relieves my burdened mind. No, I’m not – nor have ever been- compulsive about it. I give myself three pages and 20-30 minutes. There have been times when I’ve had to write more and sit longer and conversely times when I don’t fill 3 pages and even- yes- skip a day! (horrors- lol). Suffice to say 45 years and more than 150 journals in (not counting my “kid” diaries) I find it an extraordinarily useful tool  and one of the best self-improvement skills one can employ to reach a goal, deal with ANY emotion and situation. I’ve had moments like others where I’ve considered this is all BS and what’s the point. Then I go to hand-write it in my journal and suddenly I conclude- this IS the point- to make a note of it see the absurdity of life and then the sublime shows itself unexpectedly when a revelation, ah-ha, or some other remarkable idea hits me. Can journaling be harmful? Only if YOU let it. Is journaling for everyone? Certainly not! BUT why not try it, then if you don’t like it you can knock it.  Thanks for your wonderful blog and I wish you well and many years (as I have had) to find journaling is simply too vital for your well-being to ever stop!

And I Will Digress…

I mention in my comment that I write by hand -old school pen to page- in my journals (.88 notebooks from Walmart). I wanted to comment further WHY I do it this way but I think I left enough for others to consider there. Fortunately because I have my own blog I can share here the “why”. And here it is- because there is nothing quite as visceral and connective as scribbling across a page. Call it making an impression on a surface. Maybe it’s why kids used to carve their initials into a desk or left in bold black marker made messages in the school’s restrooms. I’m too old to know if it still goes on -and as I think on it- my son is also too old to know! Geeze I am old!

Aaaanyway, I guess the point I’m trying to make is when you physically write with a pen on paper there is a more emotional connection. Now, I’m not deriding those who like to journal electronically; especially for privacy and/or storage reasons. BUT! What I am saying is by hand writing in physical journals you can get so emotional that you could tear a page with anger, emphasize joy with deeper impressions of the pen as you make those multiple exclamation points and underlines. If you’ve been journaling as long as I have maybe some of those pages have dried tears on them too or blood… can’t argue it means something when there’s physical evidence associated with emotions. Obviously, I use the computer with great ease too in expressing myself. I did try one of those journal programs once around 2002 but it just wasn’t the emotionally impactful and relieving experience that I find writing in a “hard-copy” journal has been since I was young.

Got questions on this or any of my other blogs? email me: sharon@srichardsllc.com