Who says you have to be serious? Learn how to love life early to find joy.

My sister and I were sitting around the living room, chatting about aging and getting old. She had it all planned out. She knew who she was going to be and was excited to get there. “I’m going to be one of those eccentric old ladies when I get old dressing up in a fur coat and sweats to go shopping.” We started laughing. A memory of our aunt surfaced.

O.k., let me tell you about my aunt. My aunt was the definition of eccentric until she got old. Then she became the docile, homebody, trudging around in age-appropriate clothing and driving a clean car. But up until then, she was the crazy, non-conformist aunt. Of course, my sister and I were in our late teens and early 20’s and had the good fortune of staying with her up on Tai Shen Mountain.

How her home got the name “Tai Shen Mountain” is a different story, and maybe I’ll find time to tell you about it sometime.

My aunt had hit that milestone in life where her doctor labeled her as obese. You might know about that milestone. It kind of sneaks upon you, and you are unprepared for it. One day you are in the doctor’s office, and she is taking notes. You know you’ve gained weight, but all your friends are great liars and say you look great.

Your doctor has to check on something and steps out, giving you the necessary time to flip the computer screen and look at her notes. Since it’s about you, and you can get a copy, everything seems fine until you read the notes, “Patient is obese.”

Excuse me?

Well, my aunt had hit that milestone in life where weight made non-elastic pants too restraining. Her wardrobe had graduated to clogs and sweats. Not even nice sweats. The thick, bunch-at-the-ankle sweats you bought at Costco in a variety of colors. Like the colors would make them stylish or something. Top it off with white sweat socks and a pair of Birkenstocks, and she was up and running for the day.

I can remember her yelling out to us as we sat on the back porch doing nothing of importance, “Kimmy, Lisa, do you want to go to Costco?!” It wasn’t until she was much older that she was comfortable doing things by herself. But my sister and I had nothing better to do, and a ride to Costco might be a nice change.

Sitting idly and chatting in the car on that warm fall day in Southern California, we waited for my aunt. It was weird. You could almost feel her presence before looking up from whatever had captured our attention.

I felt a small gasp leave my throat. My aunt stood blocking the sun, casting her face into shadows and highlighting the threads of her tightly curled, dry, frizzy hair, making it appear as if electricity was running through it. There was an air of defiance in her stance.

But that wasn’t the only thing that was disturbing. She was bigger than she should be. She was much bigger. There was this massive blob with a small frizzy globe on top.

My sister and I waited. When she was sure she had captured our attention and punctuated it with a period, she sauntered to the driver’s door. That was when I saw it, what was making her so huge.

It was an old, 3/4 length, mink fur coat. What? It was California and warm. It wasn’t fur-wearing temperature. In fact, it was never fur-wearing temperature in Southern California.

I could feel myself start to sweat, watching her as she pushed herself behind the steering wheel. It was amazing. Pink sweats, sunglasses, Birkenstocks wrapped up in an aging mink coat, and carrying a purse.

There was no getting out of it. We had said we were going, to try and jump ship now would have ignited her indignation. We would have paid for it in creative little ways that even we couldn’t have imagined. Like maybe dinner would be peas and liver. Or, she would consume the only television for days with Rural Farm Delivery (RFD) and livestock auctions.

So, facing forward with windows rolled up and air conditioner blazing, we took off.

“So, what made you decide to wear that coat?”

“It’s my coat, and I can wear it if I want too,” a small smirk traveled across her lips. “Why, don’t you like it?”

Ah, defensiveness, obviously she knows there is something wrong with her decision-making skills. And that’s when it got even better. Suddenly, small tufts of black hair got caught up in the gale-force wind coming out of the air-conditioning vents. My aunt swiped across her face to remove the little hairs capturing her nose. Some managed to get caught in her mouth as she was talking. Flicking her tongue, she tried to spit them out.

The coat was so old and so poorly taken care of, it was shedding.

We stared at her, not saying a thing, and just as suddenly as she appeared, she started laughing. She was all in.

I got to give her credit. She was creative, and life was a band with everyone playing a separate tune.

My sister and I would laugh every time we remembered that crazy Costco adventure with my most gifted aunt. I learned a lot from my aunt. I learned life didn’t have to be defined by anyone else, and everything you do is going to make a memory. Try to make them fun. I learned there was no point in taking yourself too seriously. And under all this, I learned about joy.

I think that adventure made a lasting impression on my sister. That carefree freedom, I don’t care what you think. My sister was going to be that crazy grandmother and torment her daughter and grandchildren in the same way our crazy aunt tortured us.

Here’s the thing, joy isn’t waiting for you at the end of your journey. Joy only happens in the here and now. You can’t dream your way to joy. I think that is important for you to know because you see, my sister and I were having that conversation three months before her passing.

We were pretending those dreams were a possibility when we both knew they were never going to happen. We were pretending what clothes we would wear and where we would go drinking our mixed drinks on the deck overlooking the ocean. And I loved sharing her dreams with her and learning who she was deep inside. Learning what her desires and wishes were and how she had wanted her life to go.

Two weeks before she passed, when her body was failing her, and she could no longer climb the stairs, we sat on her bed feeling the ocean breeze waft between the bedroom curtains talking about what she wanted her funeral to be. Before, she had always said she had never thought about it.

But she had. She had thought about it a lot. “I want my ashes scattered in the ocean.”

“What about the forests of the Northwest?” I remembered our last trip to the ancient Doug Fir forests in Canada. If I wanted to, but she wanted some of her ashes shared with the ocean.

“Why do you want to be shared with the ocean?”

She paused, capturing her breath and thoughts. The tiredness was making it hard for her to focus and breathe. “Because I’ve always felt so constrained in this life, and I can go anywhere in the ocean.”

I thought about our conversation three months earlier and how she wanted to be that eccentric grandmother who threw caution to the wind.

You don’t get to plan for joy. If you want joy in your life, you have to see it right now in everything you do. If you think you’ll be that person someday, you won’t. If you want to be that person, you better start practicing now.

Test it out. Wear outrageous shoes. Put on a headband and braid your hair with multi-colored yarn. See how it fits you. Everything in this life is your creation. Who knows what is really going on out there.

Let’s say you try it out and feel a bit embarrassed or insecure, but still want to do it. Then come in, and let’s open up your chakras and release your old programming. Let’s open up your heart again and find the joy that brought you into this world.

Seven months later, I was able to honor her request and release a part of her into the ocean. I watched her ashes quickly spread to the currents. It was almost as if I could feel her sigh of relief.

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The Art of Conflict in the New Age – When Your Marriage is at Risk

It is a matter of life and death, a road either to safety or to ruin. Hence it is a subject of inquiry which can on no account be neglected.

Sun Tzu

What have we learned about handling conflict? I was wondering about this last night. Psychology has helped up realize that many behaviors adult exhibits are learned behaviors and what we learned as children are the behaviors that most impact us as adults. 

So, we spend years trying to work through our past and see the problem from a new perspective. How do you know if you can look at a situation from a different perspective?

I had a set of married friends, and I thought they would always be married. They were both brilliant, strong-willed, and creative. In all their uniqueness, I couldn’t see them with anyone else. And then it happened. They got a divorce.

It is estimated 50% of all marriages in the United States end in divorce. If this is your first marriage, 41% of them end in divorce. Second marriages, 63% of them end in divorce. By your third marriage, 73% of those end in divorce.

The data suggests that what we didn’t learn in the first marriage gets magnified in subsequent marriages. When you get to your third marriage, it’s not that you are more likely to divorce, it’s more you will divorce.  

The Commander stands for the virtues of wisdom, sincerely, benevolence, courage and strictness.

Sun Tzu

The one thing I learned that made a marriage successful is flexibility. It takes flexibility. Love is essential, but love without flexibility is still a divorce sentence. 

Not all of us get great parenting. A 2012 study found 10% of our children live with an alcoholic parent. But it’s not just alcoholism that damages parenting. Pharmaceuticals and street drugs add another layer of substance abuse. The 2009 Showtime series Nurse Jackie followed the world of a nurse trying to deal with substance abuse. In 2017, it was estimated 20 million people needed help with substance abuse. 

Estimates of adults suffering from mental illness are at about 30%. Child sexual abuse, criminal activity, selfishness, and it starts to look like great parenting is more an anomaly than the norm. I’m always so appreciative and impressed with parents who raised great kids because the rest of us have to work at it.

So, we take what we’ve learned of conflict management and bring it into our adult life where 50% of all marriages end up in divorce. What does that say about our conflict management skills? 

All warfare is based on deception.

-Sun Tzu

I got to be honest, I’m in the first marriage divorce statistic. I know why we got a divorce. Our conflict management skills sucked. We really didn’t know how to do it or how to give or take feedback. We both came from families where feedback was criticism. We both came from families where we were not heard, and family norms overcame respectful treatment. 

Oh my gosh, we would get in disagreements and dig up crap from two years ago. Arguments would tumble into a waterfall of, “Well, you did this 2 years ago!” “Well, five months ago, you did this!” “You did…you did…you did.” All incredibly not helpful. And we each had our learned behaviors from childhood on how we would handle criticism, and these behaviors were not helpful.

There is no instance of a country having benefited from prolonged warfare.

-Sun Tzu

So, we divorced and took a two-year hiatus. 

It was during this hiatus that we both learned something. The grass wasn’t greener on the other side. We were invested in each other. You could teach an old dog new tricks. 

So, some of the critical distractions which highlighted our first experience in marriage were addressed. We learned something about flexibility. Flexibility is understanding there are no absolutes in any situation, and a more effective solution takes into account all sides.

We decided to take a second run at this marriage thing. But we did it differently this second time. We were both confident that our upbringing gave us pretty crappy conflict resolution skills. To make it this time, we were going to have to work at conflict management, which meant we were going to have to work on ourselves and really be able to see our stories from a different side because conflict escalates when you can only see a story from your side.

Do not swallow bait offered by the enemy. Do not interfere with an army that is returning home.

-Sun Tzi

The next time you have an escalating discussion, realize conflict can only stop when you stop limiting yourself to your story. 

This certainly hasn’t been an easy road. When we got stuck in conflict, we started reaching out to others with better skillsets than us: counselors, church, training, friends. We expanded our reach to alternative providers. These providers took us past the limits of traditional resources. We used Non-violent communication training from the Mennonites, spiritually through Taoism, Meditation, Gurus, and Classical Chinese Medicine. 

When we did that, stuff about our own behavior would come up, which didn’t feel great. This stuff that came up is precisely why it isn’t easy work. To see another side, you have to walk through your own ickiness. 

No one wants to feel icky. And being human, you just have some icky behaviors. Some people have more icky practices than others! But, when you’re in conflict, and it’s escalating, undesirable behaviors are happening  that need to be addressed. 

There are five dangerous faults which may affect a general: (1) Recklessness, which leads to destruction; (2) cowardice, which leads to capture; (3) a hasty temper, which can be provoked by insults; (4) a delicacy of honor which is sensitive to shame; (5) over-solicitude for his men, which exposes him to worry and trouble.

-Sun Tzu

I started listening to people more. Bullying has become rampant. But that is a learned behavior. How could it become rampant? Well, because most of us do not grow up in exceptional parenting situations. Besides that, just the fact we are human means we have needs and desires that we want to fulfill. Bullying is trying to force someone to do something you want, even if it is not in their best interest. 

You know that couple I thought would stay together forever? Bullying. When I look at the conflicts between my husband and me, what were the worse offenders? Bullying. And bullying isn’t the black and white playground antics we attach to bullying. We are much more sophisticated than that. Labeling, ignoring others, ridiculing, belittling, discounting can all be forms of bullying.

We do it so much in our society that we can’t even see it anymore. And we are sure it is icky behavior. Who wants to see icky behavior in themselves?

There are other reasons for conflict. Lying is another one that is rampant in our society. Here’s another one you do because it is more comfortable. When you do it, you call it little white lies as opposed to big black lies. You didn’t get a report done at work, “I’ve got it at my desk. I have a couple meetings. Can I email it to you this afternoon?” That gives you the afternoon to finish it. You don’t want to go to work, “Hey, I’ve got a headache and feeling nauseated.”

I come back to the divorce rate in the United States of 50% with each subsequent marriage having a higher divorce rate. Right now, my husband and I have beaten the statistics. Second marriages last an average of 8 years. We’re double that. 

We are currently beating the divorce statistics because we are willing to look at ourselves and look for external input and face our ickiness in short contained bursts!

At some point, the ickiness is no longer so significant. Maybe because you’ve become more empathetic with yourself. You realize you just are not perfect, never will be. You start to know you, and everyone else is human and has the opportunity to grow. 

There are not more than five musical notes, yet the combinations of these five give rise to more melodies than can ever be heard.

-Sun Tzi

The next time you are in a discussion and escalating, think about bullying and lying. 

Like I said, bullying is not the playground antics we are socialized to acknowledge. Bullying can be phrasing like, “You never complete what you started.” Instead of voicing a concern, “This really concerns me because we have kids we have to support right now. How can we do this and know our financial security will still be here?” Bullying is dismissing someone’s thoughts for lack of value like, “Oh come on, seriously?” Bullying is name-calling or labeling.

Lying can be evading the truth to avoid taking responsibility. “I got stuck in traffic.” “I have a late meeting.” “I don’t know what happened with that.” 

It’s weird, but we are so socialized to accept this kind of communication even though it breaks down trust and disconnects us from the other person. Our fights get worse, and our relationships get torn down. 

When my husband or I called each other out on our actions, the more accurate it was, the more we would fight. The more valid the statement was about our behavior, the more willing we were to escalate the argument and tear down our relationship. Again, who wants to see icky in themselves? The other thing we would do is deflect by attacking someone outside our circle and criticizing them. The deflection was the same thing, just turned towards a safer target.

These behaviors lead to our divorce. 

When an army is overthrown and its leader slain, the cause will surely be found among these five dangerous faults. Let them be a subject of meditation.

Sun Tzu

So, there are a couple things that happen in fights that are escalating. First, any conflict that escalates is personal. It’s threatening something the person usually doesn’t want to face. Second, bullying and lying are about growing up in an environment where you were not heard. So, part of bullying or lying is this desire to be heard. Of course, you’re doing it in an icky way. So, when it doesn’t work, you escalate. Lastly, these behaviors disconnect you from the other person. These can be your friends, family, acquaintances, anybody.

What are some of the behaviors that highlight you are doing this? Blaming! Discounting the other person by saying things like, “Oh, come on I didn’t mean anything by that.” Or, “A little sensitive, aren’t you.” Name-calling! “Well, now you are just acting like a baby.” Another tactic is trying to justify your actions as right instead of trying to find a solution. 

Good-luck. Only you can change your future.

RESEARCH

 Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). Data Spotlight: More than 7 Million Children Live with a Parent with Alcohol Problems, 2012. Available at: https://www.samhsa.gov/data/sites/default/files/Spot061ChildrenOfAlcoholics2012/Spot061ChildrenOfAlcoholics2012.pdf. Accessed 12/2/19.

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2018). Key Substance Use and Mental Health Indicators in the United States: Results from the 2017 National Survey on Drug Use and Health.

https://www.nami.org/nami/media/nami-media/infographics/generalmhfacts.pdf

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Wondering What the New Normal Is? I Think I’ve Figured It Out.

How are you handling the pandemic? We are four short months into social distancing and isolation. Some of us are coming to a new realization. The pandemic is going to go on for a while.

It’s bringing about a new type of mental health that feels more like resilence. I’m still walking the one foot in front of the other mode and just pushing on. But, I’m also seeing I may be doing this one foot in front of the other thing for a long time.

Unlike a hurricane or tornado, you can’t see this natural disaster, and it doesn’t have a timeline. If you sat down and looked into the future to figure out when this will be over, you don’t know. These two things, the lack of a tangible, visible force, and the uncertain timelines make this disaster unique.

Your daily life has changed. It’s not about wondering what the new normal is going to be. I use to sit and think this will be kind of over, and there will be some things that will have to change in my life, but we’ll all work together and figure out what the new normal is.

I just started realizing that it is not going to happen. A leader is not going to be allowed to rise and unify us at this time. A leader is not going to help us find this “new normal” that was the social media hype a couple of weeks ago. I just started realizing that we are on our own.

We will have to be our own grassroots effort of the new normal for ourselves and the world. And the new normal is this. It is precisely what we are experiencing.

I haven’t been to a war-torn nation. Yet, I’m thinking they have some pretty good ideas on how they survive and thrive in chaos. Here are some of my thoughts.

You can only do that hardcore push of one foot in front of the other for a limited time. A few months, maybe a year, and you start to show signs of breaking.

Two years ago, my role as a caregiver for my mother and support for my sister came to an end. My caregiver role was very challenging, with no breaks. The stress for my husband and I was crushing, and by the time it was over, I had run myself so thin with worry, trying to accomplish 4x’s more than I could, sinking in fear knowing they would pass any day, and every other emotion you can imagine there was nothing left.

I wrote a book on my journey and how I handled the emotional stress, the surprise emotions I didn’t know were coming, the letdowns, and every other emotion that comes in tidal waves for caregivers. You can find my book on Amazon. The book shares Taoist perspectives that helped me find balance amid chaos.

Afterward, this pandemic thing happened, and it brought back all the emotions I experienced as a caregiver. For those of you in a caregiver role today, my heart goes out to you. In a situation already overwhelming, this can tip you over the edge.

I’m going to share a couple of things I’m doing to help me stay on track and cope.

First, you have to give time to yourself for your spirituality. Stress is a formidable foe. Stress puts so much pressure on you, and you spend time pushing back. It gets too exhausting to push back, and all you want to do is curl up in a ball and try to forget; or, keep pushing yourself to stay distracted.

When you start to experience this, don’t give up. This is the time you need to take a few minutes and focus on your spirituality. Whatever your spirituality is, get it and focus on it.

This morning I was doing great until I read the news and did social media. I know that every day is going to step up the crazy. I know that each day is going to bring something more unbelievable than the day before. I know that each day will threaten my safety and security, and these threats will challenge my position on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.

The things that happened this morning were just so surprising. They dropped me right back down to the bottom of Maslow’s hierarchy.

I started distracting myself. I started working on insurance and other things in the office, and the anxiety started creeping up. Then I stopped. I realized it didn’t matter. Everything was going to still be here in a half-hour. I put everything down and went and did my spirituality for a half hour.

It got me back in balance just before my first client came in for the day. It got me back in balance just in time because every one of my clients is having similar thoughts.

So, give time to your spirituality. The stress is going to continue to ramp up over the next few months. Don’t let it own your life. Don’t let it dictate who you are going to be. The best way you can do that is by spending time with your spirituality once a day. Maybe you want to spend five minutes reading verses or doing deep breathing. It can be longer. Just do it every day.

The next thing that has helped me and the world is a random act of kindness. Say hi to the people you meet on the street or in the stores. Wave to people. Help someone with their groceries. Support local businesses.

Thirdly, practice being accepting of others. It’s hard to see other points of view right now. I was reading an article on the medieval plague of the 1300s. They talked about how people handled the situation. There were two camps. Some people quarantined in small family groups, and some people went on the pursuit of pleasure and satisfaction of their desires.

This duality of response has always existed. In Chinese medicine, it is the energetics of yin and yang. These two polarities are needed to create life and movement in the world. They state that everything starts in the dao, and to materialize, energy is required to create life. The opposition of yin and yang, the pulling force of these two opposites, creates the energy that establishes life.

Try to realize different views are typical. They have always been here. In general, democracy is based on the importance of different opinions. When I read the article on the medieval plague, it hit home for me. What we are experiencing is not new.

It would just be nice if we weren’t at opposites. There is so much more pressure and force when in strong opposition. It would be nice if we could find some middle ground to help diffuse some of the intensity today.

The last thing I want to share is my intentions. Each morning I am stating one intention for the day. Just one thought based on mindfulness or Taoism that could help me create a better day for myself. If one hits home for me, I may make it my intention for multiple days.

Today, I remind myself to be grateful. I look around my life and identify why I am thankful. I only meant to identify three things. But I thought I would take one minute and identify reasons I am grateful.

This is part of the last part of learning to live the new normal. Our lives had become so rich and full, that the simple things in life were lost. They weren’t good enough. I’ve watched people think they need a 3,000 or 4,000-foot house, the latest car, the new technology, clothes, and any other thing their heart may desire. I’ve watched them forget about their children and their spouse. In a matter of four short months, all of that was taken away from us. Over the next four months, more will be taken away.

Did you ever hear the statement, “No use crying over spilled milk?” I did growing up. Every time I whined for some material thing that I had lost, I would hear this statement. I think the new normal has ideas of simplicity. The new normal is reawakening our attachment to our families and our community. The new normal is being grateful you and your family are alive. The new normal is forgetting about impressing neighbors and friends with new stuff. The new normal is wiping up the spilled milk and deciding if you can find joy in the simple things in life.

Today, I intend to remind myself to be grateful.

I am grateful that I live in a small town that has low transmission of COVID-19.
I am grateful no one I know has been scarred or lost their life to COVID-19.
I am grateful my husband and I are healthy.
I am grateful I can run my business have strong support from my clients.
I am grateful this morning was a beautiful morning.
I am very grateful I have health insurance.
I am grateful that I can find places to walk in nature where I don’t run into other people.
I am grateful I have the internet.
I am grateful the small business owners I know are still solvent.
I am grateful all my clients are healthy.
I am grateful that I have a spiritual practice that helps me see the light in times of darkness.

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Independence Day spending a little time on Memory Lane

Last year, this time, I was back in Minnesota, laying my mother’s ashes to rest in the family cemetery, along with her kitty, who had passed a few months before her. It was the first year I had ever been back to Northern Minnesota gravesite and not consumed by mosquitoes. It was almost like the world said, “O.k., we’ll give you a break because we know this has been hard.”

I had wanted to go back to Minnesota on the 4th of July weekend because when I was young and my family was still alive, we use to go up to Northern Minnesota and Leach Lake. Every year for the 4th of July weekend, we would pack up and head up there for the holiday. My Dad’s family grew up in Northern Minnesota, and we had relatives up there. Probably my favorite relatives.

I made a run of it. I re-visited a lot of the past. It was so weird.

When I got off the plane in Minneapolis and headed south to visit the boarding school I had attended, it almost felt like I was going home and if I just kept traveling, I would be back, and my Mom, my Dad, and my sister would be there waiting for me along with our dogs and horses.

I couldn’t shake that feeling for the first few days. And I didn’t want to. It was nice to believe that I could still go home and find them there.

I didn’t go back to the old farmhouse. I had been back a couple of years earlier. Someone else lives there now, and like my husband and I with our little old house, they had been busy redoing the property. It was their property now with only faint remnants of what had been our property.

I traveled up to Leach Lake. There is an old hotel there, Chase on the Lake that opened in 1922. When my family and I were vacationing there, it was still the same hotel from the 1922’s. The rooms were small and cramped with some sporting bathrooms and others not. The stairs creaked, and the colors were dark.

The hotel was still there. But it had changed. The rooms had been renovated and expanded. Now they were comfortable suits to house families and fun, some with full kitchens and multiple rooms. They had built on to the hotel, and only part of the hotel was familiar. It was much bigger.

I was going to meet my cousin the next day and decided to go on a walk from the hotel to the city park. It was the same walk I would take with my brother and sister when we were less than teenagers. I could remember the cracked sidewalks, every house along the way with their overgrown vegetation and slightly European flair. The houses had gazebos, trellises, closed in porches, all encased in thick layers of shrubs, trees, and grapes.

I remember walking past my cousin’s house. It had been my Aunt’s house. The light was on, and I thought it weird that he hadn’t invited us over. I wanted to wander up the familiar walk to the familiar doorway, that same doorway I walked in and out of a hundred times as a kid. But, I thought better of it. Maybe he needed his space. I’d see him tomorrow.

Everything had changed on the walk to the park. New owners with new tastes had bought these lake view homes. The new owners preferred big, open spaces, not the privacy, and quiet of the previous generation. Trees and shrubs had been cut down and pulled. Now the houses opened up to the street with grass lawns and less shrubbery. The sidewalk was still cracked.

I met my cousin the next day, not at the house. Outside of town at a different place. He had sold the house about a year ago. He had written to tell me about it. He had written to my mother to tell her about it. My mother probably never read the letter or, if she did, couldn’t bear any more loss, stopped understanding things, and tucked the letter away conveniently forgetting about it.

I had come here to honor my mother’s last wishes and put her urn in a grave next to my father. I knew it was a final chapter. I knew I was closing the book on my past. But, I didn’t want to let go.

There weren’t any mosquitos at the gravesite. The site is mosquito heaven where mosquitoes do planned attacks and try to carry you away. The world kept saying, “I know this is hard for you, but you have to let it go now.”

Probably the last straw, the last hope for some remnant of the past was that house. That house that my family and I would visit every 4th of July holiday when I was young. Losing that was indeed losing the past. Now all of it was gone. When I put my mother in the ground, it would all be over, and I had to let go.

No one knows how long your grief will last. Honor and accept that pain of losing those you love.

You know, our Independence Day is really about honoring those who sacrificed and fought for us so we could have the freedoms we have today. How appropriate. How appropriate that I would visit my family and lay my mother to rest on Independence Day honoring her last wish and my family for all that they did to allow me the life I have.

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Simple Meditation Techniques to Find the Rhythm of Meditation

Click here to watch the vlog!

Hi, my name is Kim, and I’m a specialized Chinese Medical provider and Taoist practitioner. This channel is all about you and sharing solutions and information from the Chinese Medicine cabinet of healing remedies, helping you figure out how to use Chinese Medicine in your everyday life.

I want to share with you a simple meditation technique that I’ve been using to get myself focused again. Sometimes there is so much going on in your life that it is difficult to quiet your mind. That can become a problem when you’re trying to sleep. Have you fallen asleep only to wake up a couple of hours later and be unable to go back to sleep? Your mind churns away, and the clock keeps ticking away, and you start stressing out because you have to get up in a few hours, and you’re going to be exhausted.

Well, the last two weeks in the office has seen a lot of stress. People are overwhelmed. Everyone is coming in with neck pain, shoulder pain, or some other pain related to stress. And it’s excruciating. Everyone is complaining about sharp, stabbing pain that is almost unbearable. 

I’ve been putting videos out here to give you a bunch of tools to help you unwind. 

Now I use this technique to help quiet my mind. A couple of years ago, when I started meditating again, this was how I started. And I started with this because it uses simple instructions. 

Now, I was pretty far gone when I finally could start meditating. The stress had become overwhelming, and I couldn’t focus or stay grounded. When you’re that noisy, you may need help calming and quieting yourself enough to meditate. 

What can you do then? Especially when you can’t sit in a room and stop thinking. There are two simple solutions. Meditating with others can be beneficial. If they are focused and grounded, you will find it easier to focus and ground yourself. The second option is out in nature, and this can be as simple as your backyard. I grew up in rural America and naturally gravitated to nature. 

Chinese Medicine incorporates nature into Medicine. At the turn of the century, nature was considered the best doctor, and today we are beginning to hear these comments again. 

And there is more to nature than just going out to nature. You’re going to gravitate to different landscapes based on what you are going through. Great grief likes the openness of the sky. It gives grief the ability to open and release into the vastness of space. It allows grief to lift up and out of the body in a healthy way. For me, right now, I’ve been gravitating to the depths of the forests. To learn more about how nature helps balance your emotions, I have a book by me on Amazon: Caregivers Survival Guide. I’ll put a link in the vid description below.

Maybe I can practice with Buddha, but I will get to sit under the magnificent Doug Fir tree instead of the Bodda tree.

So, find your place to sit. I’ve been focusing on sitting instead of lying down or some other method because it keeps me focused. It offers just enough muscle tension. 

The first thing to focus on is the breath. What I like about my Youtube channel is I finally have enough content that I can refer you to different videos to get in-depth background on a particular topic. To get more information on why meditation focuses on the breath check on my video on breath 

It will go through this exercise specifically and why I use it. 

While you’re sitting, breathe in for 4 seconds, then breathe out for 4 seconds. You want to breathe in through your diaphragm, down into your stomach. You want to feel your diaphragm pull down and open up, allowing your belly to expand. 

This is step one, and depending on your stress levels, it can take many days to get to the point where you are just thinking about your breath and sinking into the movement of your breath. 

For me, when I get to the point that I’m focused on my breathing, I feel different. I spend my conscious time or waking time thinking. In me, the energetics of that feels very superficial, light, and agitated. When I’m thinking, I’m always trying to find more or problem-solve or worry. There is an underlying call to action with thinking that creates a subtle internal agitation. It feels very superficial, light, and very active like a one of these little pine siskins flying around seeking seeds and interacting with each other. 

When I finally get to focus on my breath, I feel grounded. It’s like I found a place to rest, like sitting under a giant doug fir tree. There is comfort and calm. There is no longer that light, airy distracting sensation that comes with thinking. I like to think of it as a vacation for my mind.

This breathing exercise is a mind training exercise. It is about training and focusing your mind. You’ll learn the theory on why it is a mind training exercise when you check out the Breathing video link below. When you have done this exercise long enough, it will be automatic, and you will not have to think about it. 

When I first practiced this exercise, I think it took me six months. After that, it was easy to get back into the swing. Until this last time. You can see from the breathing video that I hooked you up with; there were more things I had to do even with my physical body to get back to being able to practice this breath. 

Now, before I go on to the next step, I may practice breathing for days or weeks to get to a point where I’m comfortable with my focus. I do that because this next step is focused on mindfulness exercises and is very much about bringing you to the right here – the here and now. It brings the external world and thinking back into the picture. The thinking part can go against what you are doing in the first part unless you are feeling solid with the breathing. 

My next step is to start listening to sounds around me and accept them. You are still maintaining your breathing and breathing while listening and focusing on different sounds. You can listen to the sounds one at a time or all at once. When I finally get to be present, I don’t get distracted in thought, and suddenly, I hear everything at once. I’m not selectively cutting out different sounds. I hear things that I didn’t even know were making noise. It’s very gratifying and relaxing. It brings an overall calmness to me. 

Both of these tools are patient. And that’s a little bit about retraining yourself and maybe learning to be less fearful and accepting of your own space. Perhaps less obsessive or focused on poor outcomes or insurmontable obstacles. That is the truly miraculous thing about meditation, it reparents you.

O.k., so there you have it. Two simple and amazing tools including the theory and reasoning behind why you use them. So, you can better understand how they are helping you. When you’re stressed, it’s everything that I talk about on this channel. These are additional amazing tools to help get you back to your nirvana. There gentle, and they deliver wins every time you meditate. There patient and accepting of your own space and time.

O.k. until next time, I’ll catch you on the other side! 

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