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[image from: Anubhuti retreat center]

Last Saturday, I experienced something I had wanted to do for a long time: a silent retreat.

A lot of silent retreats are entire weekends, but with my own personal anxieties I knew only a few hours would work best for me and get the results I was looking for. Back in October I took a 8-week Mindfulness / Stress Reduction course. Built into that course was one free silent retreat where all of the lessons were combined into a span of 6 hours.

To be honest, I almost talked myself out of it. My personal (irrational) fear of being away from home almost made me send a cancelation e-mail to the retreat director. I fought against it and drove the 25 minutes to the yoga studio. When I walked in, the instructor told me she was so happy to see me again. Although we would not be talking once the 6 hours began and I was in a room full of strangers, I felt comfort in the company of a familiar face.

The entire day, as it was explained, was about us. Spending time with ourselves and if someone did not smile at us today or look us in the eye, it was not personal; we were all there, quite simply, to be alone.

And from there, we did several guided meditations, walking meditations, light yoga and yoga nidra. We also had 1 hour for lunch where not a single person took out their cell phones to scroll through social media, no one made a phone call, no one took out a book or magazine. We ate in silence, scattered around the studio and some of us (myself included) sat outside. After I ate, I took a 30 minute walk around the area.


WHAT I LEARNED


I didn’t have an enlightening experience where I suddenly knew my life purpose or heard an inner voice tell me something life-changing. Instead I learned that I have complete control over my experience at any given moment.

I am lucky enough to live the kind of life where I can leave a place when I am uncomfortable, jump in my car and drive home. I learned that my anxiety can no longer control me like I believe most of the time. In fact, I have control over my anxiety because in any given moment I have a choice: to stay or to go. And whatever choice leads to reduced anxiety (obviously within reason), I will do it.

I felt the exact moment when my anxiety sparked: At 5:15pm.  We were in the middle of Yoga Nidra. After dozing for a few minutes, I woke up in a cold sweat and a state of panic. Before I even realized it, I was already planning my escape.  Fear took over and the sense of being trapped consumed me. (I am not a huge fan of Yoga Nidra, therefore, looking back on this it is no surprise the anxiety hit when it did.)

I realized completely that when that anxiety pang hits, it hits and hits hard. I am no longer a 31-year old woman but an 8 year old stuck on a Girl Scout weekend trip, stuck with a partner who is annoying and annoys everyone else.  Or a 9 year old on yet another Girl Scout weekend where I am being made fun of for having a stomach ache and taking up too much time in the only bathroom. I am the 5 year old who wants to brave staying overnight in West Virginia with her grandparents only to wake up at 1 am wanting to be home with mom and dad.

I learned that as an adult I am in complete control of my enviornment, whether to stay or to go. I don’t need to ask permission or call someone and beg for a ride home. So, after Yoga Nidra ended and the instructor announced a quick 10 minute break, I grabbed my yoga mat and meditation pillow and headed out, leaving the last half hour of the retreat behind without regret or permission.

I am utterly fascinated by the people who have elaborate bullet journals. They are so creative and use their journals as their form of art and creative outlet. I watched many videos and saved many-a-pins and tried to get into it. The truth is, I’m too much of a perfectionist to have the type of bullet journal I see online.

Bullet journal:  [source: tumblr]

The truth is I envy these creative people who can spend hours on layouts and spreads. They are quite impressive and I wish I could do it. I tried. I gave it a solid effort, but I have to give up the bullet journal ghost.


IT IS VERY TIME CONSUMING


The layouts online take a very long time. I worked on one that wasn’t even close to the detail as the one shown above and it took me over an hour. All I did were a few lines using a ruler and some attempts at calligraphy. It still did not turn out the way I wanted it to and I wasn’t inspired by it.


NOT GOOD FOR MY PERFECTIONIST MIND


Ever since elementary school, if I made the tiniest mistake on anything I had to scrap and start all over. I would try to salvage the project, but my inner perfectionist was not having it. I see some bullet journal spreads with crossed out pages, but I cannot deal… it’s either perfect or it is not.


I COULD NOT FIND THE RIGHT LAYOUTS


There are a billion layouts out there for every possible thing one may want to track.  I tried a few and no matter how much I tweeked it, combined ideas and methods the concept never quite fit my style. Combine that with the above quest for bullet journal perfection and you have a recipe for failure and frustration. Going back to reason number 1, this became a time-suck; wasted time I could have used on other hobbies that bring me happiness and joy.

 


ATTEMPTED TO TRACK TOO MUCH AT ONCE…AND FOR WHAT?


Tracking everything you do, spend, eat, read, sneeze, or drink can be a mindfu*k.  I am exaggerating, of course, but once you start down that daily tracking road it is hard to turn back.  Yesterday, I turned back. I tore out my failed-attempts at creative, Tweetable, Instagramable layouts and popped them in the garbage.

The primary reason? I already have a planner. In fact, I was tracking my spending on a note page on the opposite of the last week of April’s weekly layout. Breaking with my perfectionism, I tore that page out leaving me without a daily sheet for April 27-30th.

My inner critic screamed as I tore out the page, but I ignored her. Not having three days in my planner would not ruin my existence. I already track my spending in an old-school checkbook ledger.

[Favorite post by Cait Flanders that inspired me to move beyond tracking: http://caitflanders.com/2016/10/11/stop-tracking-start-making-intentional-decisions/ ]

I already have a planner with the best pre-designed layout that works for me. A lot of people get into bullet journaling because pre-printed layouts did not fit their style. I am one of the lucky people who these work for. I have the monthly calendar and a weekly breakdown with lots of space for to do lists and notes.

So while I have deep admiration for those of you who can do this, I am walking away and giving up the ghost of the bullet journal.

CONNECT:

TWITTER: AMANDA11762

FACEBOOK: LIFEALABODE

Happy New Year, Readers!

To start the Re-Read Project, I’ve decided to re-read Lessons from Madame Chic by Jennifer Scott (pictured below). I got this as a holiday gift (First go was a library loan) and I remember loving it and intended to buy it. When I opened the gift, I was so excited! I adore this book and I am looking forward to revisiting the pages once again this month.

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As I look back on the last few years and I see a difference between 2015 and 2016 and therefore, how I am approaching 2017.

2015 was about exploration of so many new ideas. I discovered so much in 2015 and I became a human sponge, soaking up anything and everything I could get my hands on that I felt the least bit interesting or wanted to implement into my daily life. In 2016, I began to try to implement. And everything all at once. And each at the same level of dedication. Inevitably, the last quarter of 2016 my sponge-self could soak up no more. My sponge had reached capacity.

What ended up happening was I was so involved in these new, exciting ideas that I “fooled” myself into thinking they were Me. Lifestyle ideas, thoughts, and routines were adopted that I wouldn’t have otherwise. It was as if I had adopted multiple personalities based on these grand ideas of Who I Want To Be. The truth is, I didn’t really want to be any of them. At the risk of sounding like an emotional teenager a la Dawson’s Creek, I was looking for myself and my purpose in this world.

A few days before the clock struck midnight to welcome 2017, I hit a personal, mental bottom. No, I didn’t freak out, or cry, or anything dramatic. It was like something in my brain had realigned and snapped into place and the unfocused movie image playing on my internal movie screen snapped into focus.

Foolishly, I had been living this last year trying. And failing at trying. And the irony is, there was nothing to be successful for and therefore failure didn’t exist. But I still felt I was failing. And failing who? That is what I finally figured out. I was failing to please someone who does not exist in the physical world. I’m sure this makes no sense to you, but if it does, you get what I mean.

 

There are voices everywhere, screaming in our ears, telling us who and what to be in every aspect of our lives from how we dress to what we eat. In short, I was trying to please all those voices.

 

So today, I wring out my sponge and allow all the false voices spiral down the drain. 2017 is going to be about me, my rules, my way.

The biggest lesson learned in 2016 is simply: Know Thyself.

 

 

 

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planner

Although I am only 2 weeks in to my new role – and a deceptively easy 2 weeks with the holidays – I am understanding how important it is too keep a calendar up to date and our daily tasks/to-do lists at my fingertips.

2016’s calendar was a Lilly Pulitzer calendar which worked out well. Each month had a calendar in review, then pages beyond it with blank lines for each day. I used the calendar for keeping track of appointments, workouts, when my husband travels, etc. and the blank lined pages for daily tasks that I would lovingly “cross out” with a highlighter once complete.

For 2017 I wanted to try something a little different. Now, I ordered this planner before my new job, but it seems the Universe was involved with this one. The ever-popular Erin Condren was a little too pricey for my taste, but there were negatives about the Lilly planner that I wanted different and I wanted something like the Condren planner.


Think about what your style is

Lilly’s planner was great because it was very colorful. The downside is it was too Lilly-focused, even down to marking when her birthday was.  Also, some of the blank pages had designs on them which took up valuable writing space.

I also needed the calendar days to be a tad bigger. I do use stickers, but not to the extent of some very creative people a la Elle Fowler.

When picking my 2017 planner I wanted it to be colorful, but a toned down version of Lilly’s, larger calendar days, and I needed more space to write daily tasks, to-do lists, and other notes. I also wanted it to be more neutral in theme.


Think about the size

I like one that is about the size of my purse, but not too huge that it overstuffs it and I look like a woman carrying a bag with only my planner inside – and a book of course. I like average book-sized planners because they feel more comfortable for me: It won’t get lost in my handbag and it fits my handwriting size and style.


How do you plan to use it

I have seen people on You Tube schedule time to plan their planners in their planner. That’s dedication! I don’t do that per say, but I do take a look at the current day in the morning and through out the day and plan things the night before. I also write things down as they come up in a small, separate notebook then transfer to calendar when necessary.  Personally, I use one calendar to keep track of everything; that way I do not have to keep looking at separate planners to see what I have to do on what day for what part of life.


Electronic or Pen & Paper

I find electronic calendars difficult to keep track of. I do appreciate the outlook pop-up reminders when I am due in a meeting in 15 minutes and it is a way for co-workers to send meetings to each other. Although I will have more meetings than ever before, I will still be marking them in my personal planner.


My 2017 Planner

After some research, I decided to buy a Plum Planner. I liked that it was custom-ordered and at a good price point for what I was getting.  I think my new planner and I are going to be very happy together.

In an upcoming post, I will write about how I will use this planner to combine life and work. Hopefully this will help you!