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Ilenya Marrin, DSS

Faces of Living Love #1

29.7.2017 | 01:01


I’m Back
First, I am back after a long break.  Most of February, March and early April I stayed in Texas with my 97 year old mom in her final two months of life.  I am so grateful I could be there for her!

After the funeral, I began a schedule of frequent travel, for book promotion, family business, and retreats for self-nurturing.  My short stays at home have seemed like catch-up-with-myself breaks!

Routine, Maybe
Now I am sort of, almost, maybe, back to a normal routine for a little while.  I had lunch with a girlfriend last week, and I have actually been cooking dinner for my husband and myself most nights!

Nurturing Myself through Creativity
Just now, nurturing my creativity through photography brings me great joy.  I’m inspired to capture “Faces of Living Love.”

The man the world sees in passing.

As part of a Street Photography class taught by master photographer Doug Robertson through the City Arts program, I recently found Jesse near downtown Wichita.  At first, he did not want to be photographed.  He said, “I don’t like what I am.”

Jesse’s Story
But his kindly face intrigued me.  Here is a bit of his story.  A Vietnam era Army veteran, he later worked for several aircraft manufacturers and then at his favorite job as a custodian at a school for children with disabilities.

Jesse described chatting with a young blind girl in the hallway.  A few days later, they passed in the hall again.  She said, “Mr. Jesse, aren’t you going to stop and talk to me?”

Amazed, he asked how she knew it was him.

“I recognized your step,” she said.

Hand on his heart, Jesse shared his amazement, wonder and appreciation of our human adaptability.

A boy with multiple sclerosis once told a joke to Jesse.  This student had a hard time getting the words out, but when Jesse realized the joke, he cracked up laughing.  The boy’s face lit up.  And Jesse’s face lit up telling me the story.

Jesse lost his apartment three months ago and hopes to get help to have a room off the street again.  Meanwhile, his kind and quiet manner has won many friends among the homeless of Wichita.  About ten men quietly lined up against the wall beside us to listen as Jesse and I chatted.  They thanked me profusely when I shook hands and said farewell.

Jesse, the man with stories to share.

Jesse’s Philosophy of Love and Goodness
Jesse’s sunny disposition and optimism shone through our discussion. He believes the world will soon be a better place with caring and respect for all humans.  He does not consider himself religious or affiliated with a particular church, but sees himself as deeply spiritual.  Without a doubt, he thinks love and goodness will soon win out in our world!

Jesse, a man of love and light and hope.

Faces of Living Love Photos
I took my first photo of Jesse from a distance before we met.  Then we talked but I did not snap any more pictures until, after sharing our thoughts for quite a while, Jesse agreed to let me make a portrait.  He said, “You are the exception.”

Jesse’s is the first of what I hope will be many Faces of Living Love on this blog. Connecting and capturing the light and love in people’s eyes brings me great joy. It nurtures my soul.

Remember to Nurture Yourself
Stay tuned for more as I explore with random humans and discover more Faces of Living Love.  And do find ways to nurture yourself, perhaps with creativity, or with healthy eating, exercise, prayer or meditation, positive thinking, self-forgiveness and more.  If you have not already, please check out my book, Nurture Yourself First: Gentle Steps in Personal and Planetary Transformation.  Then, grab a copy of 111 Gentle Ways to Nurture Yourself, under the Free Gift tab on this site.

Advice to My 26-Year-Old Self

23.2.2017 | 05:13


Mrs. Lee’s Gardens
Today was a journey into the past and an amazing afternoon of being present with beauty. About 44 years ago, when I was 26, I discovered Mrs. Lee’s flowers near Gladewater, 800- some acres of daffodils carpeting the East Texas hills.

Years ago, Mrs. Lee ordered a box of bulbs from Holland, received a boxcar load, and proceeded to carpet her ranch with spring gold. I am older and hopefully wiser, but the meandering four mile trail, now preserved by a foundation with dedicated volunteers, is still breathtaking.

Mrs. Lee’s Gardens near Gladewater, Texas.

Today, I am looking after my 97-year old mom, keenly aware of mortality, the fragility of life, and the blessings of long and active years. I’m looking ahead to my own later years, and back to my younger self.  I’m sitting here typing, reflecting, in a pool of light from the same lamp as when I sat here in high school and college. Even when I was 26, married with my own small house, I was in and out of this house often.  The chair is different.  The wall decorations have changed some.  Yet this house has been a touchstone while I have migrated through about twenty cities and two marriages.

What did I need to learn in those days?
If I were to write a letter to my 26 year old self, what advice would I give?

Honey, all those things you are doing that seem so important are fine, but it is more important to follow that yearning that you feel for something more.  Like when you sit in your pale yellow bedroom alone and want to write poetry, and your husband is drinking beer and watching television in the front room.  All that shows up on the page are the words, “I am.”

You don’t get answers to the “I am” questions by getting married or unmarried, by doing terrific work, decorating your cottage, sewing your own clothes, partying, cooking, reading voraciously, or playing with the cats.

Who Am I?
Pay attention when you wonder “Who am I?”  Pull on that thread.  Your poetry tries to capture it.  Your curiosity leads you forward.  You look into many ideas and philosophies, try adventures in your daily life and in the novels you devour.  At least you are ruling out a lot of who you are not.

All these experiences, the bumps and bruises, the joys and the despairing moments are really just opportunities for learning.  You are discovering what works and what doesn’t.

Follow your heart.

Learn Consciously
So get conscious about learning from your life.  Quit stumbling along blindly, thinking that a happy marriage will fix everything.  Follow your heart.  Cut the dead wood from your life.

Look Inside
Look for the innermost Self of you. That’s what you are here for. When you love, look for the source of the loving.  When you feel joy, trace the bubbles back to your core. Light yourself up from the inside out.

After the storm is more Light. Forgive yourself to release the clouds.

Forgive Yourself
Sure, you may have some junk inside that you don’t like, or are ashamed of. Get off the judgments. Forgive yourself for your screwups, and stop being so hard on yourself.  You are always, always doing the best you know how in the moment.

Get Quiet, Find Peace
Let yourself have some peace. Find out how to go past your fine mind and the ever present thinking, the chatter, the second guessing.  Get quiet and let the peace arise from that natural reservoir of your being.

Give yourself moments of tranquility.

Be True to Yourself.
Screw what other people think you should do. Take the time to find out what is important to you and to do that.  Even if it seems silly.  Even if only for a few minutes a day.  Do that.

Take Risks.
Dare. Don’t be stupid. Have a plan and a way out in case the shit hits the fan. But dare to go and do and be, beyond what you have so far. Yes, you may fall on your face, but you will get up again and you will learn more by daring than by reading in a small room.  Life is still a grand adventure, so get with it!

Remember, You Attract People Like Yourself.
Remember that you are a good, good person.  You attract good people into your life. Especially when you are true to yourself, you find people who are full of integrity and who support your process.  People you can love without inflicting yourself on them or vice versa.

Get It Together from the Inside Out.
So focus on getting your own act together, from the inside out.  Get in touch with that loving being inside and give love and truth to yourself. Then you will find fewer disappointments from others. Ruthlessly treat yourself the way you want to be treated by others.

You Will Turn Out Fine.
And be sure that it is all going to work out fine if you just keep on breathing and taking each next step as it appears.  I, your future self, am living, loving proof!


A Prayer of Remembrance

16.2.2017 | 20:22


Sometimes inspiration comes unexpectedly.  I awake at midnight or in the wee hours with words to share.

Often, we need to get up above the clouds! Remember to ask for altitude and direction going forward.

This time it was for a dear friend who has unexpectedly taken on care of a young child. For readers who relate to the Christ, you might like this little prayer, to use as a remembrance to keep tuning in to your spiritual inner awareness.

Christ of love,
Awake in my heart.
Show me your way,
Fulfilling this day.


Time to Be

16.2.2017 | 18:58

Slowing Down Is Self-Care

Spending time with my beloved 97-year old mom has helped me slow way down for the past two weeks.  She often has the television on, and she spends much time in her easy chair. She is mobile and cares for her personal needs, so I am not in a full caregiving mode, just taking care of the house and being a companion for her for a little while.

Time for cloud gazing.

One of my goals is to assist her but to leave a small footprint here, to fit into her lifestyle with minimal intrusion. So I have let go most of my usual activities.  Shopping, cooking and chores are minimal. I have few social obligations here. I am grateful to be taking care of myself this way even while assisting Mom.

Nurturing the Luxury of Time

Having time simply to be is a great luxury today.

There was a time when I barely slowed down to sleep for a few hours. Where are you in relationship with time? How do you interact with time? What helps you to slow down and simply be?

Six Ways to Slow Down and Just Be:

If you long for a break from your hectic routine, one way to nurture yourself is to slow down, at least for a short period of time.  Here are six simple ways to get yourself into the slow lane for a little while. Self-care is so rewarding when your personal life and environment seem stressful or chaotic and confusing!

  1. Focus on your breath.  Pay attention to breathing in and breathing out.  You need not change your breathing pattern.  Simply observe it.  Be with your breath for a couple of minutes.
  2. At your desk, close your eyes, and without pressing on your eyeball, cup one hand over each eye . Lean forward with your elbows on the desk and relax for two or three minutes. You might want to “breathe into” your eyes to help yourself relax.
  3. Walk . . . to recalibrate to a gentler pace of life, one step at a time.

    If you normally drive or take public transport, walk somewhere outside your normal route.  Savor the silence of a country road, the swish of tires in a suburb, or the rumble of engines on a city street.  Talk to the cat in a stranger’s yard. Notice the sparrows and beetles, the taxis and delivery trucks. Notice the smell of garbage, of oil on the street or chemicals in the air, the coffee in a sidewalk cafe. Be alive to what is present on your walk.

    Hanging out with turkeys in my yard.

  4. Take a time out.  Declare an hour for yourself.  Nap. Meditate. Color. Knit. Paint. Sand a piece of wood. Stare out the window at a yellow brick wall, bare cottonwood branch, or cloud-dotted sky.  Set aside anything digital and rest or gently entertain yourself with a physically monotonous activity.
  5. Hang out with a trusted friend with no particular agenda. Talk or be silent. Sit on a park bench or a beach. Be aware of the mutual support as well as your surroundings. Find a rhythm of shared space. Notice if your steps match as you walk, or your conversation flows easily, naturally. If you are lucky enough to have an accepting friend, this can be very nurturing.
  6. Become a neutral loving observer.  If your mind won’t leave you alone, use it to help you slow down! Mentally observe or talk to yourself about whatever is going on in your inner and outer worlds.  Neutrally look at what is happening. Bring an intention of loving to your observation.  Try to not judge, positively or negatively. Simply observe.  I notice that I am typing.  I notice a sore spot below my left shoulder blade.  (More about this in my book, Nurture Yourself First: Gentle Steps in Personal and Planetary Transformation.) 

    Slowing down on a spring morning.

Assignment: List more ways you could nurture yourself by slowing down, or changing your relationship with time.  Pick one of your strategies and use it to care for yourself as needed.

Tongue Breathing Video

1.2.2017 | 00:42

If Einstein can do it, you can do it!


In 111 Gentle Ways to Nurture Yourself, I shared a suggestion to breathe in while sticking your tongue out.  This seemingly foolish trick has helped me relax my uptight jaw and breathe more freely.  I continue to retrain my body in this natural way of breathing.

No, I do not go around sticking my tongue out all day!  After a few practice sessions in private, I easily learned to drop my jaw and extend my tongue a bit over my bottom teeth, lips closed. Same relaxing results!

I learned this technique about six or seven years ago from Michael Hayes.  This short video is of Michael and his wife Alisha demonstrating how to do the tongue breathing and how it works.  It is one of my favorite small, gentle steps for nurturing myself and has made a big difference in my ability to relax physically over the years.  Check it out.

How to Meditate Part I: Introduction

31.1.2017 | 23:18


Helpful Hints

This is a series of posts originally called Helpful Hints for Meditation, updated from my earlier website,

My desire to share in this format goes back a long way! As a girl, I loved helpful hints in my mother’s Ladies Home Journal.  I still read them avidly — from hacks on Pinterest to tips in magazines on my many interests.  Take whatever might work for you and experiment!

Boost Your Meditation Practice
These tips are offered with the notion that you have already chosen some form of meditation practice. They are not meant to be all-inclusive. They are simply strategies that have worked for me for a long time and I hope you will find a nugget or two that will fine tune your practice!

The inner peace of spiritual exercises or meditation. Serene skies inside!

Throughout this series of articles, please do not get hung up on my words! If my words don’t quite fit for you, please simply substitute ones that you prefer. Go for the essence of your own uplifting and relaxing experience here!

New to Meditation
If you are totally new to meditation, you may wish to sit with eyes closed, breathe gently and naturally, and silently, inwardly, repeat one of the following words:

One (from Herbert Benson’s The Relaxation Response)
Om (a Sanskrit word meaning the whole world and the self of all things and traditionally used in many Eastern forms of meditation
Ananda (Sanskrit for bliss)
Ani-Hu (empathy with God)

Alternatively, experiment with:
Simply observing your breath.
Exploring a meditation practice from your faith.
Listening to a guided meditation.

My Background with Meditation
I started meditating daily in 1975 while living in England. I had tried it a time or two based on information in a yoga book, stretching flat on the floor and breathing through my body for relaxation. But in London, a blind date introduced me to meditation and I was instantly captivated. He shared a meditation

What my first meditation looked like!

practice involving gazing at a candle flame. I could hardly wait the few days until I could go for proper instruction in a form of mantra meditation with a specific group.

When I went for my instruction, the facilitators were a lovely married couple. The woman literally glowed. I saw radiant light all around her. I’d never seen anything like that before, and I instantly knew, “I want whatever it is that she has!”

I followed the suggested pattern of meditating about twenty minutes morning and evening. We were told that regular meditation would not only help with relaxation and spiritual growth, but we’d have more energy and need less sleep. Since I was 29, single and out almost every night attending movies, concerts and late dinners with friends in an exciting cosmopolitan city, I figured it would be great to have more energy!

What actually happened? I received instruction on a Saturday afternoon. I meditated at home that evening, twice on Sunday, and again early on Monday morning.

No more night owl times for me! The deep rest of meditation made my body demand a more balanced way of life!

I went to work as usual but I was incredibly tired and sleepy. In fact, after lunch, I could barely hold my eyes open. My colleagues eventually decided I was useless and sent me home to rest!

I slept for 36 hours.

When I resumed my routine, I could no longer “burn the midnight oil” the way I had. It’s as if when I started meditating, I got the deeply refreshing rest and renewal and my body said, “MORE! I WANT MORE OF THIS.” My new consciousness of meditation and my body cooperated to insist that I create a more balanced and healthy lifestyle.

I loved the experiences of peace that I found through meditation. I became a teacher at the introductory level. One evening I was scheduled to teach and had a moderately severe upset stomach. I was tempted to call in sick. But I decided I’d better go, as I didn’t think anyone else was prepared to replace me for that evening.

I drove over to the meditation center feeling woozy and nauseated. However, as soon as I started teaching my small group of newcomers, the illness vanished.  This started a trail of many small miracles or happy coincidences that I associate with meditation!

Heart Opening
I was in a rather stormy relationship with the man who had introduced me to

My heart opened through tears.

meditation. At one weekend retreat, I began crying each time I would meditate. I cried quietly, and not even about anything in particular. It might have been triggered initially by some comment by the boyfriend, but it just went on and on!  The experienced facilitators said, “Your heart is opening.”

Indeed it was! I quickly outgrew that boyfriend, and my meditation practices supported my emotional growth as I explored a much healthier relationship and eventually met and married my wonderful husband.

Spiritual Exercises, an Active Meditation
I continued with my initial meditation practices for several years, until hearing a man in Las Vegas speak about “the Light and Sound of God.”

He shared a slightly different practice, also involving chanting a sacred sound.  This resonated so deeply with me that I dropped my long time mantra and began chanting this sound for two hours daily, which turned out to be the beginning of my current Spiritual Exercises, (considered an “active” form of meditation) which are the richest part of my life to this day.

Over the years, I’ve participated in many different kinds of meditation. I’ve taught several meditation classes, including university adult education. For me, meditation and/or spiritual exercises are absolutely essential to inner peace and well-being.

Begin Your Meditation Now
What I’ve learned since 1975 is that it doesn’t matter where you start, just begin. You will gain immensely from some form of meditation. A remarkable teacher named John-Roger has said, “The only wrong way to do spiritual exercises is not to do them.”

Five minutes is enough to begin! Gradually increase as you get used to your practice.

So, start with five minutes if that’s all you can spare, or the longest you can sit still. Or do a walking meditation, or yoga with a breathing meditation. Relax and enjoy this interlude of just being. As you get comfortable with it, gradually expand your time and explore a bit more. Find what works for you and use it help you relax, tame tension, release stress, enjoy more mental clarity and emotional balance and awaken spiritually,

While you will likely feel some shift in energy and relaxation immediately, consistent practice will lead to more profound experiences.

Meditation and spiritual exercises are peacefully dynamic. You will find changes in your practice and in your life as you open to deeper levels of your own inner awareness. You may find answers to perplexing dilemmas, guidance for your future, help with letting go of the past, help with physical health issues, all coming forward because of your consistent practice of meditation.

Explore and Keep Going
You may quickly find a practice that appeals to you and that you are motivated to use daily. Or, you may need to experiment and check out a variety of meditation practices. If you are sincere and continue questing, you will surely find a practice that suits you. It may support a healthier lifestyle, or enrich your faith. It may help you to be more open to the flow of life and more resilient in dealing with stress.

I encourage you to explore freely and pay attention to your inner experience. Let your loving heart provide the wisdom for your next steps. As you get involved with various groups, let loving lead your way. When you meditate, you can begin to combine the intelligence of your loving heart and the wisdom of your soul for marvelous inner awareness and fulfillment and outer success with less stress.

I hope these posts are helpful as you journey inward with meditation!

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Ice Storm

16.1.2017 | 01:19


Ice on the young river birch in our back yard.

Today slid by in slow motion.  A mild version of the predicted-for-two-days ice storm arrived, coating trees with frozen water, dripping icicles in many shades of winter. I did longer than usual spiritual exercises. The dogs never got their walk.

When my husband called me to come and see, I watched four short videos of The Piano Guys on YouTube, including their take on Frozen, with a white cello and white grand piano in a snow-filled scene. Brrrr. I read about how to heal wounds without antibiotics, using poultices and teas, then made Irish Stew with quinoa instead of barley, for an early dinner.

Layers of ice in the woods and the nearby trees.

A friend from California just called to see if we are okay as Wichita’s ice storm accidents have made national weather news. We have not even had the television turned on. Blessings of Light for the highest good for all who have been negatively impacted by the ice here and everywhere!

There was a time when I would have chafed at the inactivity, but I count this day as satisfying, nurturing, a day of rest and restoration.  By morning, the ice will be gone and life as usual will resume. That is soon enough for me!

Winter Wonders

15.1.2017 | 23:14


Wednesday I had to get out of the house!  I’ve had a very painful rib out of place for about a week and I was tired of loafing and lounging waiting to feel better!  So I took to the road, a sure self-nurturing strategy! Here are the highlights of my self-nurturing afternoon.

Cat tails at McLaughlin Park.

This brave goose did not run from the dogs.

First, I take my antsy greyhounds, McMan and Too Cool Cathi, to nearby McLaughlin Park for a nice stretch. We admire the cat tails and watch a fearless goose.  It’s a brisk walk, but with plenty of time to sniff every bench and tree.  A great mid-day outing! Now I drop off the four-leggeds at home and set out again for myself! While our beloved greyts are good company, when I am shepherding them on walks, I pay more attention to them than to my surroundings.

Unemcumbered, I cruise north on Broadway for thirty miles to reach Newton.  I note hundred year old and contemporary homes side by side, plus cattle, horses and giant rolled bales of hay. At 55 mph, I can read local signs and glance sideways into brush-lined creeks as I cross bridges.  I feel relaxed, at leisure.  Whatever happened to the old Sunday drive with the family?  That’s how I feel.

In Newton, I first check out Centennial Park, hoping for interesting photos, but with bare trees and wide stretches of yellow grass, it seems bland.  I head to the historic downtown area and pop into the ReViews Bookstore, a volunteer-run, new and used store on Main Street.  I do not find a particular fantasy author, but I get several ideas for scenic spots in town from the manager Cheryl and a volunteer named Leda.

A thaw serves the ducks on Sand Creek in North Newton.

This time of year I see vistas of yellow grass, grey-brown waters and a pale blue sky, not much contrast in the matrix.  But the openness and simplicity of the winterscape intrigue me. What beauty can I find today?

Checking out Leda’s recommendation, I poke around behind the Amtrak station, park and walk along Sand Creek, which winds through Newton and ultimately south into Wichita where it joins the Little Arkansas River. Now, mallards and Canadian geese call it home.

Canadian geese lifting off from Sand Creek.

My most exciting moments are when a huge flock of geese takes off in shifts of eight to twelve members. Over and over, they flap mightily to hoist from the water, gradually gain altitude, then soar northward into the wind.

Half an hour later I find a more rural piece of Sand Creek near Bethel College, with views of a typical Kansas countryside.  Clouds and creekside compete for my attention. I walk a quarter mile snapping lots of views.

I love getting out like this! I like exploring, checking out new things, meeting lovely new people. I adore the fresh air and nature’s unending beauty.  I like sparkles of light on the creek, and the ever shifting skies. I get excited about shifts in the light, from bright to moody cloud cover.

Peace is in the wind over Sand Creek.

When I started, the temp was about 58 degrees Farenheit, which is part of what lured me outdoors. As the afternoon progresses, the temperature drops and I shorten my forays in the prairie winds! Reminder to self: bring a warmer jacket.

I feel colder but restored! I’ll do it again in a flash.


Ottmar Leibert! Gehsundeit!

7.12.2016 | 02:19

Today, my husband Alf entered Jimmy John’s to grab a sandwich, recognized the guitarist on their piped-in music, but couldn’t place the name.  As he ordered, frustrated by not remembering, he swore out loud.  He picked up his sandwich, headed for the exit, and as he touched the door, suddenly recalled the musician.  He proclaimed, “Ottmar Leibert!” A room full of lunch customers swiveled in surprise.  He quickly recovered himself and simply announced as he left, “Gehsundeit!”

Too funny!

Too funny!

When he shared this story, I laughed out loud.  He so easily expresses himself and thinks quickly on his feet, often expressing great joy in the moment.

Laughter by Osmosis
In 29 years with this amazing man, more or less through osmosis, I have learned to laugh more freely and appreciate the lighter moments in life.  Sometimes Alf’s expression is too outrageous for my comfort level (talking to a stranger at the shuttle stop on our first ski trip, about having the trots) but he breaks the ice and gets people laughing and smiling.

No More Pushing to Perfection (Well, Not So Much . . .)
An introvert, I have learned to do social niceties, but I recall in my early social work days interviewing a restaurant owner to confirm employment and character of a child’s father.  As I launched into my interview in all-sincere-business mode, this guy literally told me, “Whoa!”  He then coached me.  “How about a little, ‘How are you? How’s your day going?'” I needed the lesson badly.  Even then I was pushing myself to perfection!

These days, I am making a point to walk upstairs to my husband’s office and peer over his shoulder at comedy acts or a song he likes on YouTube. I sometimes feel I am wasting my time; I need to start dinner or walk the dogs, or go write.  But when I pause to spend the time with him, my relentless tension eases.  I feel delighted or touched.  Sharing a lighter moment with my husband is a way of nurturing myself.

How Do You Nurture Yourself?
How do you nurture yourself in the midst of a demanding life?  What lighter moments do you allow yourself?  How could you do a little more?

Grab My Book
For additional strategies on self-nurturing, from self-forgiveness to creating your own plan for transformation, grab a copy of my book, Nurture Yourself First: Gentle Steps in Personal and Planetary Transformation.


Grandma, Embroidery, Poop Bags and Nurturing Focus

30.11.2016 | 02:19

What do these topics have in common with Self-Nurturing? With helping you if you are a go-getter who needs to let go?  A caregiver who needs care?  An over-achiever who needs some down time? A single mom juggling and struggling, in need of heartfelt TLC?

My Grandmother Hazel at 18, stirring memories.

My Grandmother Hazel at 18, stirring memories.

A black and white photo of my grandmother Hazel gazes at me from the wall above my desk.  She is about 18. Born in 1897, she died peacefully in her sleep in 1973.

“Many hands make light work,” she said as we children helped to carry bags from the sturdy Oldsmobile she and Grandaddy Carl drove cross country to visit us one winter.  She put her own hands to work helping my mom, cleaning out cupboards, installing shelf paper, making baby doll pajamas for me and my sister, baking, rewiring a lamp.  Laughing often, especially at herself, Grandma brought joy, energy and purpose to every room she entered.  Decades before Nike, she advocated, “Just do it.”

She taught me basic stitches and gave me a wooden hoop so I could embroider my own handkerchief.  I focused intently to follow the printed violet’s contours.  I have forgotten embroidery since my twenties.  No time, I tell myself.  But I still have a small woven basket with dozens of colored skeins of thread.  I adore the colors!

With embroidery I practiced focus. I engaged intently with that large needle and glowing triple thread. Stitch by stitch, I created beauty.  Now, I sit for spiritual exercises, my form of meditation, and sometimes all I have is a busy, busy mind. Today at lunch, my friend Nancy swore her mind is not a monkey mind but an ape on steroids!

Grandma as I remember her in the embroidery lesson days.

Grandma as I remember her in the embroidery lesson days.

ADHD-like Symptoms
Some research suggests that our multi-tasking, digitally distracted lifestyles create symptoms of ADHD.  Though lacking the still unexplained ADHD brain wiring or chemistry, we exhibit similar distracted thought patterns and behavior.

I distract myself dozens of times a day.  In our garage, we recently relocated the garbage and recycle bins.  I walk our greyhounds and scoop up poop.  Good citizen behavior, right?  Half a dozen times last week, my husband retrieved carefully double-bagged doggie treasures from the recycle bin where I had tossed them.  Once I caught myself in the act and made the correct toss to the garbage.

What happened to my focus?

I was thinking of something else.  While doing mundane tasks, I am often thinking of the next three things I need to do.  How can I nurture myself into being more conscious while doing all those things I can do almost automatically?

Permission to Pause
As I reflect, I am giving myself permission to slow down and stay conscious.  Permission to be aware of what I am doing in the moment.  Permission to focus on the glowing colors of now — even the bright blue or neon orange of a poop bag.  Permission to pause and ask myself what next?  Permission to wait a moment for the next task to come fully into view.

I do not have to be in go-go mode all day.  Some tasks will wait, as I have proven many times already.  I do not have to be doing one task and thinking about the next six items on my list.  Nor do I have to interrupt kitchen clean up to attend to the laundry just because the dryer buzzed.  I do not have to check my phone for emails every hour.

Making a list helps.  But once I get going in my day I do not necessarily look at the list again until evening.  I just do the next thing in front of me, interrupting myself if another next thing pops into view.

And I forgive myself for judging my process.  I forgive myself for judging myself as not being present.  I forgive myself for judging myself as fearing dementia!  I forgive myself for judging myself as creating an ADHD lifestyle.  I forgive myself for forgetting that I am doing pretty darn well despite the distractions!

Pause and notice both your outer and inner environment.

Pause and notice both your outer and inner environment.

Nurturing Focus
I just made sticky notes saying Focus, Slow Down! and Poop Bags Here Please.  The first two are in my kitchen where I do lots of multi-tasking.  And of course the third is on the large garbage bin in the garage.  I am smiling.  These should help me remember to pause a few times.  When he sees my notes, my husband will tease and get me laughing.

Strategies from Nurture Yourself First
In case you haven’t read my book, Nurture Yourself First: Gentle Steps in Personal and Planetary Transformation, I have just demonstrated at least five steps in self-nurturing, which I am highlighting in italics.  In the book, I detail how to use these strategies and many more to nurture transformation in your life.

Pause. Focus. Listen inwardly. Ask good questions. Get answers. Make your next steps practical.

Pause. Focus. Neutrally, lovingly observe. Listen inwardly. Ask good questions. Get answers. Forgive yourself. Make your next steps practical.

Five Steps in Self-Nurturing
I sat to write a blog post with no particular topic in mind.  As I neutrally, lovingly observed my immediate surroundings, I noticed photos of my grandmother, which triggered the rest of this reflection.  I listened inwardly and gently retrieved memories of embroidery and focus then, which contrasts with my recent lack of focus on the maritally sensitive subject of poop bags!

asked good questions: What happened to my focus? And, How can I nurture myself into being more conscious?  Answers came easily.  This is not rocket science.  It is common sense.  Again, I listened inside.  The very process of reflecting on how to nurture staying more conscious led to giving myself permission to slow down, to pause, to stay present with my task of the moment.  I forgave myself for subtle, half-conscious self-judgments.

Then I made my new plan practical.  I put reminder notes where I will be sure to see them.  Self-nurturing can be this simple.  If I forget, I can start over the next day, and the next.

Questions: Do you have a stressful, ADHD-like lifestyle?  Reflect: How can you learn to be more present with each task as a way to nurture and care for yourself?

Meditation: Push the pause button on your busy life and sit quietly for about three minutes. Close your eyes if you wish. Ask or intend that this brief inner adventure unfold for your highest good.

Breathe.  Let your neck and shoulders relax.  Imagine a sunny, peaceful day in a lovely, peaceful place.  Imagine that all you need to do for these few minutes is get in touch with the beauty in this place.  Perhaps you are picking up seashells or autumn leaves, touching rose petals or smoothing the fur on a kitten.  Whatever shows up as beauty in your imagination is fine.

Keep breathing.  Ask yourself gently how you can bring this kind of peace and focus into your daily routine.  Pay attention inwardly for any answers in words, pictures or feelings. Be aware that sometimes answers may come later, in the course of your activities.  Keep breathing and enjoying the peace and beauty. After about three minutes, open your eyes and be present in your normal awareness.

Make a quick note of any answers that came to you.  If any of these answers make sense for you, take one small practical step to explore or experiment with this answer.



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