As the year rolled to a close and the new one began, I spent some time reflecting. In a lot of ways 2015 was a seemingly uneventful year. For the first time in what seemed like a long while we didn’t have any major changes. No new babies, no move, no new job, or any big vacations. On the outside it seemed really regular, and actually, as I looked back I felt almost a little disappointed in myself that I hadn’t MADE ANYTHING HAPPEN! The more I think about it, though, the more I can hear the quiet whisper of my intuition reminding me that those regular days, weeks, years are what make up my life, and the lives of my children. There is such beauty and happiness in really living in the moment.
As I was trying to find the success in my year, I found this list of questions for reflection. I still don’t have answers for the first few about my single biggest accomplishment, or the single biggest challenge, because in a lot of ways my accomplishments last year were not singular or big. They were small and many, wrapped in and around my children, home, friends, and work. I realize my perspective is off too, because I did accomplish some big things. I started blogging again, collaborated with tens of great companies, hosted several fun local workshops, attended a couple impactful blogging conferences, and met some amazing new friends! My single biggest challenge my be the same ongoing challenge I’ve had forever, learning to find balance, to let go of the unnecessary and embrace fully the moment. Learning to be patient with myself and with my big dreams.
The further I went down the list, though, the better I felt. I could visualize my most valuable relationships with Dave, my kids, and my close friends. My spiritual growth felt definite. Some of the ways I enjoy and am challenged by my work also felt clear.
A funny thing also happened when I flipped the reflection questions on my kids and asked them. Milo thought his single biggest accomplishment was learning to ride his bike! Eliot’s was learning to swim (even though he’s still learning). Plum turned two, started talking, jumping, going to preschool, and wearing pig tails! Seen through the lens of my family, along with the small moments, there were also some big, important milestones met and experiences had.
One of the other questions I loved was about what my favorite books from the year were. I have a few, but the one that most recently has made a big impact on my daily thinking and actions is The Power of Now.
It’s a little philosophical, and doesn’t at all read like a story–more like a text book. But the core idea is that the only way to truly be happy is living in the moment. Bare with my while I share some pieces from the book, because I feel like it has really impacted how I view my life:
Nothing exists outside The Now.
The past gives you an identity and the future holds the promise of salvation, of fulfillment in whatever form. Both are illusions.
Since the ego is a derived sense of self, it needs to identify with external things. It needs to be both defended and fed constantly. The most common ego identifications have to do with possessions, the work you do, social status and recognition, knowledge and education, physical appearance, special abilities, relationships, personal and family history, belief systems, and often also political, nationalistic, racial, religious, and other collective identifications. None of these is you.
Love and Joy are inseparable from your natural state of inner connectedness with Being.
As I was reading, I kept feeling the core truth of the idea that TIME is what often causes me stress. Whether I’m in a hurry to get somewhere, do something, BE something different. I’ve explored a lot of different ways to manage my energy and escape some of the trial of time, but it’s still there. I’ve told Dave a number of times that when I feel like I have everything done, or my life relatively organized, and I can just enjoy the moment, that I’m so much happier. And I think that is one of the cores principles of The Power of Now, except this philosophy says that regardless of whether everything is done and life is organized, I should still enjoy the moment! Living in the moment I can be really engaged and present. I can see and smell and taste and hear my surroundings. Bring my mind into focus on what I am actually doing–rather than what I should have done, should be doing, or need to be planning on doing in the future. The only moment that really exists is the one I’m living.
I know, it’s a lot and sort of out there, right? But let that idea sit with you for a bit and see how it feels. Like right now, I’m plopped on my bed with my laptop, typing this post in the sunshine. My room smells like pine sol since the nearby bathroom floor was just cleaned. The comforter is soft, the house is silent. I’m a little sore from Body Pump yesterday, but feel alive. When I close my eyes and breath deeply, in my core I feel still. I feel whole.
My mind has been filled to the brim lately with questions. What am I doing with my life? What goals do I have for the new year? What hobbies to I want to continue to pursue, and what should I stop spending time on? Should I open a shop with handmade goods? If I did, what products would I sell? Am I good enough at anything to be successful? What would my measure of success be? Am I spending enough quality time with my kids? Are they learning the things they need to be? How should I be organizing my business? Should I add more workshops for the year? Should I make new patterns? Should I sew more? What really makes me happy? What is best for my family?
It’s really easy with all of that filling my head to not live in the moment at all, instead spend my life in my head, imagining, planning, analyzing, thinking, thinking, thinking. It’s also so easy to feel frustrated, stressed out, rushed, and overwhelmed with life when so much of what is going on isn’t actually going on, just on my mind. The Power of Now teaches some ways to get out of your head, and into your life.
I’m by no means great at it so far, but have found that just being aware of the tendency I have to pull away into my head rather than live the moment has helped me.
When we were driving home from Utah after the holidays, we stopped at a little diner for dinner. We had been in the car all day, and still have several hours to go until home. As the kids started running around the table, and complaining of hunger, my initial feeling was to feel impatient. Worried about what the other patrons would think, worried about the long drive we’d been on. Worried about the long drive ahead. Overwhelmed by the thoughts of needing to unpack, do laundry, get everyone ready to go back to school… Easily, in that one moment I could have felt the weight of the months on my shoulders causing me to need to pull away into a distraction like looking at my phone, going outside, or getting angry about not being able to do solve all of those perceived problems at once while I sat in a diner in the middle of nowhere.
Rather than pulling away, I thought about The Power of Now, and the idea that the only moment that is REAL is the one we are living. So, I decided to go INTO the moment. I got the kids attention by folding up paper napkin airplanes and teaching them how to toss them. I noticed how each of my kids look, how they’re growing up. I saw their bright eyes, big, goofy, baby-toothed grins, and how they see me with such love and admiration. We played, and talked and enjoyed the ten-minute wait until our food was ready. Then we ate and enjoyed our baskets of chicken strips and fries with root beer. I couldn’t do anything about anything else in that moment, anyway, so it was a much better choice to intentionally enjoy it than to worry it away.
I’m still thinking about and planning for 2016. And I still have a lot of questions to work though and goals to figure out. One certain goal I have is to spend more time living in the moment, and less in my head. I’m trying to figure out how to balance planning for what I want to accomplish, and then let go and live it.
I’ve always felt like multi-tasking was a poor way to accomplish anything well, and I’m realizing that sometimes even when I’ve been only doing one thing, I am still thinking about something else, and that has the same detrimental effect. I need to not only do one thing at a time, but also try to be focused on that thing as I’m doing it. Especially when what I’m doing involves my time with my family. All of us have such a different experience when we are present with each other. Looking at each other, noticing the details of the world together.
Some of my other favorite books from 2015 that all tend to lean towards the same direction were:
I guess 2015 was a year of questions. It was a year of self-evaluation and reflection, and maybe 2016 will be too. I don’t expect to figure it all out, but I do expect to give myself the best opportunities for happiness that I can, and feel like being as present as possible erases the standard to which I may often old myself, and enables me to simply be. And be happy, fulfilled, and at peace.
All the beautiful photos were from our family session by Austin photographer Chelsea Francis. She did a pretty amazing job of capturing the small moments we spend to gather at home. The ones I want to remember.