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?
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!
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!
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.
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!
I 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.