Savor the Season: It’s not too late

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It is about half way through summer in the Northeast US as we are about to turn the calendar page to August. How did that happen? And where did the time go?  For many of us, the excitement about the upcoming summer and the things we resolved to do (or not do) seem to have have melted in the summer heat and humidity.

You know that list — take some time off, go to the beach (lake, mountains), read a good book, get together more with friends and family, have more BBQs or just in general kick back on some nice summer nights.  And here we find ourselves looking at August with the feeling of being a bit defeated that we have not really put into action some items on that list, and may even say to ourselves “next summer will be different,” and “I like the fall better anyway.”

Some of that excitement about summer comes from when we where kids and school let out for the summer—and we stood in front of about 10 weeks of no school commitments and a nice lazy summer. Some of our expectation on summer are also fueled by the fact that it is the popular time to take work vacations and/or it was when you went away with your family and friends when you were young.

With this, we have this built-in mind-set that we have to do something fun and go away in the summer—plus we do look forward to longer sunny days and all the typical traditions (and feelings) of summer. Regardless, we—like we do on 31 December when we make New Year’s Resolutions—set our thoughts, ideas and plans for what we will do or how we will modify our behaviors or routines over the summer. leaning palms

Then it happens. We really don’t do what we set out to do or we don’t follow through on our intentions. We get bogged down in work or extra-curricular activities. We get side-tracked or distracted. We let some noise in and may even make up excuses. Maybe our expectations are set too high. We have some over-inflated series of fond memories of special summers and we are trying to recreate them.

But it is OK. We can start right now. We can do a reset and take some small steps to work in the things we had envisioned for our summers. It is never too late and we can still savor the season.  You can make time and space—even if in small batches or sprints.

Maybe as kids we had the innate thrill of the uncommon or new that the summer gave us and as we got older that thrill somehow faded as we tied ourselves up in “grown up life.” But we can work to remind ourselves of that thrill of the uncommon by simply changing up a few things. Think about that feeling and do a few things that gets you in the mindset.

This can be as simple as eating dinner outside on your patio vs standing over the kitchen sink, stop for a cold sweet treat, find a place to sit even for a few minutes in the summer sun (or shade) or take that vacation day and not use it to clean your house. Go out to the park, the beach, the lake, the county fair, etc.  And while I’m at it, these little treats of the uncommon don’t have to be reserved for the summer or have to be so uncommon. We all can work it a little “summer vacation” into our daily lives!

In Motion

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“I move, therefore I am.”

~ Haruki Murakami, 1Q84

As humans it is hard to be still. We tend to want continuous motion or progression. Maybe it is because it has been instilled in us since a very young age with an evolving list of milestones, such as first steps, first words, first dates, advancement through school, first job, promotions at work, or accolades, awards and recognition for contributions or achievements.  As we get older, we seemingly are driven to get to the next milestone, sometimes not only for ourselves but for some type of social acceptance or inclusion.

Maybe our desire for continuous motion comes from the evolutionary process of the human development, whereby we progressed our physical and behavioral traits over a period of six million years from apelike to where we are today. As we are more advanced human beings (relative to where we began and where are are now, but noting via ascension progression will continue), there are times where we feel like we are being idle or, at least, not moving forward in our personal lives. shooting past earth

In this state we seek more—to do more, be more—or to do or be something different.  We may feel that if we are still too long, we are not advancing or we are losing our “edge” and therefore losing our relevancy or sustainability. We ask ourselves are we personally becoming extinct or an “endangered species.”

It may be that we are not discontent or unhappy, but feeling bored. Our bodies and souls feel a need for new experiences, but where we want or need to have those experiences are not yet formed or built. We are waiting for various pieces to come together, and it can be difficult to see that our current experiences and people put on our path are all part of the evolution.

We can have gratitude for where we are and what we have but still feel a desire (maybe an instinct) to have forward motion. It is not that we are being ungrateful or selfish. We simply have the human desire to cultivate other things in our lives—to make a contribution, to be creative, to help others, etc., and this is movement.

If we have movement, we may feel more alive and in the moment. It may not necessarily be about advancement for more or better, but the movement is almost like a catalyst for our purpose and our existence.

Movement helps us make sense of the world and ourselves. Movement is fundamental to our sense of self and existence.

Cultivating Calm

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Many of us often find ourselves in states where our minds keep racing, we can’t relax, our bodies are tense and tend to be on high alert and we find ourselves on edge more than we like. We wake up frequently over the night or have a hard time winding down and falling asleep.

There will always be stressors and pressures, but we have to remember that how we react and the impact is up to us. As Buddhist monk and author Thich Nhat Hanh writes, “Peace is present right here and now, in ourselves and in everything we do and see. The question is whether or not we are in touch with it.”

We do not have to resign ourselves to feeling on edge or letting outside forces, people or circumstances get to us. This does not have to be an accepted (or even expected) way of living. It is not a badge of honor and it does not have to be chalked up to “this is life.”  We all have the ability to cultivate calm by practicing healthy techniques.

We have all experienced those moments of feeling that everything is right and good in our worlds, where we feel at peace and content and where the constant noise in our heads is silenced. They can be quite fleeting, but they do give us a glimpse into being calm. But through a conscious choice we can learn to emphasize those feelings in our lives. We can teach ourselves ways to achieve peace of mind from the inside, and within ourselves. Here are a few “best practices” that you can incorporate into life. zen landscape

Turn down the stimuli

There is a lot of noise in our world—constant messages and alerts, 24/7 feeds of information, traffic, etc. But you can make a conscious decision to dial it down. Step away from the TV or computer, get off of social media and carve out time to remove yourself from crowds and noisy places.

Get Outside

Getting fresh air and some sunshine does a body and mind good. Take a break even if for five or ten minutes to get outside. Take deep breaths and simply feel the sun and air.

Turn up the Beauty

There are things that are beautiful to us—flowers, a picture, music, etc. Incorporate into your environment some things that capture your senses and lower your blood pressure

Do Something You Enjoy

Finding and doing something you enjoy transitions your thoughts away from the stress. The “something” does not have to be something big or expensive. In fact, the simple things can make the biggest impact. For some it’s baking or cooking, for some reading, for some taking a hike or walk and for others just sitting in a favorite lounge chair in the sun.

Create a Mantra

When you start to feel overwhelmed, stressed out, worried—when you feel that your calm is fading—the combination of deep breathing and repeating a calming mantra can help you reset and bring you back to center.

Smile and Say Thank You

You don’t have to perpetuate (or project) your feeling of anxiety, stress or tiredness. As you move through your day and encounter others be polite, greet people with a smile and say thank you.

Visualize a “Safe Place”

Sometimes it may be difficult to break away, practice your mantra or do a favorite activity. When you are in this position, steal away to the bathroom, your car or an empty room and for a few minutes visualize a place that you love, where you feel safe, peaceful and relaxed. Give yourself permission to stay there for a few minutes to bring calm back.

I’m sure there are other suggestions that may resonate with you. The key is to build your toolbox for cultivating calm and put the tools into practice.

Be Your Own Ambassador

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Ambassador: a diplomatic agent of the highest rank accredited to a foreign government or sovereign as the resident representative of his or her own government or sovereign or appointed for a special and often temporary diplomatic assignment; an authorized representative or messenger.

As we go through life, especially once we hit adulthood, for the most part we get caught up in working for others and doing for others. This is fine, but in doing so we become brand ambassadors for others—our work, our school, our family, our friends—and we lose sight of our own personal brand and being the “authorized representative or messenger” for our sovereign selves or our individual sovereignty.

When countries speak of sovereignty it basically means their right to determine what goes on inside their borders. It is their right to exist as a self-determining, self-governing geographic area. When we speak about our own, personal sovereignty we mean our right to determine what goes on in our own lives based on who we are (our personal brand). It is not about having sovereignty over others—but being sovereign over ourselves, including individual empowerment and freedom.

As we grow into adults we increasingly take on more responsibilities, we conform to the rules and processes of institutions and systems and we get tangled up in an array of expectations. We begin to label or define (brand) ourselves by a check list of accomplishments or milestones that may not be truly ours. We begin to feel overwhelmed by the complexity of the world we navigate and find it easier to just go along with the masses, and inadvertently we stop defining ourselves. Clouds Sun Beach

In a way, we get branded by the circles or environments in which we live. Some of us may over time even feel compelled (either consciously or unconsciously) to promote or advocate for others, but not ourselves. With deadlines, commitments and overall just “doing” we forget about our identities. We lose sight of our unique value proposition. We may have a false sense of what is really important to us.

In the business world a brand is defined as a unique design, sign, symbol, words or combination of these that coalesce into an image that identifies a product and differentiates it from competitors. Over time this image becomes associated with a level of credibility and quality.

Using this as a parallel framework for how we define our own personal brand, it would be the combination of our unique thoughts, words and actions coupled with our values, beliefs and intentions that identify us and which differentiates ourselves from others. This is what you take into the world everyday. This is what you have agency over and for which you advocate as the only authorized representative of you.

I encourage you to take some time to think about your personal brand, your identity and overall sovereign self. Ask yourself if you are letting others define you and your life. Think about how much time you may be spending on promoting or advocating for others and by doing so, are you losing sight of yourself in the process. If you want change and to redefine yourself declare your sovereignty and start to be the ambassador of you.