Learning to Live with Intention

Intention.

Intentions.

Intentional.

This word, these words…are words that I have often struggled with, but also words that often present themselves during counseling sessions. My personal struggle with the word intentional is that I have never felt like I was intentional enough as a friend, sister, daughter, wife, mother, etc. I am not an awesome gift giver. I typically do not function with a great deal of advance notice, like 48 hours in advance is my average planning time. I may throw something on the calendar further out but the nitty gritty planning and prep happens last minute. This is not a representation of how invested in or how much I care about something, it’s the way I am wired. But I OFTEN say, we may be susceptible  to selfishness, forgetfulness, or other weaknesses but that does not mean that we cannot take steps and make changes so that we are better and ever-evolving humans.

I feel so loved when people are intentional with gifts, gestures, and acts of service. I am quick to compliment what I see as intentionality. Making intentionality a priority for me in regards to relationships continues to present me with a great deal of room for growth. It’s a work in progress. I love with enthusiasm, but planning ahead with creativity is something I am continuing to focus on. Because of this focus, my 2017 One Little Word was Intentional. If you have never heard of the One Little Word experience, check this wonderful website out. This is something I focus on each year.

I chose this word to focus on external relationships; I had no clue that perseverating on the word intentional would change my relationship with — ME. Studying and meditating on the meaning of intention and bringing intention into multiple spaces and places for me led to:

  • Recognize the thoughts that drove my decision and behaviors.
  • Focus on being present in interactions with others.
  • Bring attention with intention to my needs, my rhythm, and my purpose.
  • Appropriately gauge my expectations, in turn, reducing opportunity for resentment.

The perfectionist people pleaser chose a word to improve the way I poured out love but drawing awareness to my thoughts, words, and actions allowed me to grow in my understanding of my inner self. I was over simplifying the meaning and importance of intention. My journey with this word and concept allowed me to recognize the needs and expectations associated with relationships. The coolest part – in gaining awareness of my own needs and expectations, I believe I have become a better friend, sister, daughter, wife, mother, etc.  Not in the way I planned, but in a manner that promotes long term health in my relationships.

Recognize the thoughts that drive you.

Do you ever stop to consider what drives a decision or behavior? Why do you need to have that fight? Why do you need to take that drink? Why do you need to make a drastic change in your life? Why is saying those words important at this moment? What are your intentions? Is there necessity, purpose, or kindness in your intentions? Taking pause to consider the driving force behind our actions is monumental and simple. Think before you speak. Consider the collateral damage of your potentially misguided intentions. If you gather, after taking pause, that your decision is necessary, kind, or purposeful then keep on keeping on. However, if you draw awareness to lofty, selfish, or cruel intentions…maybe it’s a better idea to reflect on how you got to that point rather than reacting.

Focus on being present in your relationships.

Intentionality can be broken down and as simple as eye contact and avoiding distraction during quality time with those that you love. The willingness to focus and give the gift of time to someone is becoming more and more priceless with each addition of technology that makes work, news, to-do list, and noise more accessible. While we all have obligations and responsibilities, setting aside precious moments with your family and friends to sincerely hear them and respond thoughtfully is necessary. Promoting moments of genuine and focused connection helps those you love to feel valued.

Bring attention to your needs, rhythm, and purpose.

Are you intentionally finding moments to connect with YOU? I believe that when we are not in tune with the parts of us that make us unique we become incapable of holding authentic space with family and friends. If we cannot identify our needs, if we are out of touch with our individual rhythm, and if we have lost sight of our purpose…how can we have meaningful connection with others? Talk about imposter syndrome? Journaling, meditation, music, dance, nature, exercise, and a variety of other outlets can help us develop an inward awareness. Find moments to recognize the parts of your heart and mind that feel real to you. Recreate these moments as often as you can. When we grow in familiarity with ourselves, it can help to enhance emotional regulation because of the deeper level of understanding we achieve regarding our feelings and reactions.

Gauge expectations and reduce resentment.

As a people pleaser from way back, I can tell you a thing or two about resentment. Not clearly gauging and communicating expectations, leads to feelings of disappointment and resentment.  Check your expectations. The best example of this I have heard comes from Brene Brown’s book, Rising Strong. She tells a personal story about parenting. When one spouse is out of town, the other spouse can manage to juggle all the roles and responsibilities with minimal stress. They make it work. When both parents are in town, busy weekends end up leading to increased conflict and frustration. The root of this is when we know we have to make it work alone; we manage with minimal emotional reaction. When we anticipate that having our partner around will make the busy weekend stress free because they will manage half of the responsibilities  AND we do not clearly communicate these expectations…we end up feeling ALL the resentment. We must create realistic expectations and have assertive communication about said expectations. No one is going to read your mind. Without sharing your hopes and dreams for days, weekends, or life in general with the people that you do life with, you set the stage for bitterness and resentment.  This is wrapped up in the word INTENTIONAL, because this behavior was something I had to intentionally implement into my life, specifically my marriage. My hubs is great at a lot of things, reading my mind is NOT one of them. If I clearly express my plans and the role I hope for him to play in those plans…we have the chance to either agree to move forward or make amendments to my unrealistic ideas. This level of intentional and assertive communication has been meaningful in minimizing resentment and enhancing our connection.

In my One Little Word journal, I listed these synonyms for intentional: conscious, purposeful, willful. If we set out to live a mindful life…we must learn to speak, act, live, and love with intention. We have power in choosing our reactions to the waves that crash into our lives. Enhance your awareness, define your values, and live with intention. I am thankful to have had this journey with these words. Exploring these concepts with an open mind led to a complete different end result that I planned on and it was such a necessary lesson for me to learn.

Let me know your thoughts on the meaning of intention. How do you implement intention into your life and relationships? I want to hear from you and I would love for you to subscribe to my blog!

Peace love and laughter,

Megan

photo credit: angiedevon (instagram)

Being a Mindful Mom: The Total Truth

I have not written as much this past week, my life has been jam packed. Saturday in particular was crazy busy. Softball, birthday parties, wedding. Each event too far from the previous for any level of convenience. Early to the softball game, late to literally everything else. Food on the run. Changing clothes on the run. Making plans for childcare on the run. We hustled through almost every step of the day. We forgot to get a gift ahead of time and thanks to the late ball game…I had my kid hand the newly 4 year old cash for his present, nope not even a card. I had to make the struggle filled choice of being an additional 10 minutes late or settling for no card, no gift, and a mere 35 minutes late. Yup, not my finest moment. My kids made it to the super cute zoo party and got to feed the goats and eat the monster cupcakes. Half of Maya’s cupcake landed right above my left boob, and it was black icing so you could barely see it right?! Between the cash, the icing, and the half hour late arrival…I am pretty sure people are envious of how much our family of five has it together. Like who wouldn’t want to be us? But…we laughed, we explored, and we made memories. We may have seemed like a mess but we showed up to enjoy the moments and we showed up for the sweet family that invited us.

I have zero doubt that as the kiddos get older, our lives will become increasingly insane. More games, more parties, more jam-packed weekends. More moments that may or may not make people question my competency or ability to plan ahead or just my overall presentation. My daughter will not always have a bow on her head; my son may WILLINGLY and with my consent wear 2 un-matched shoes; my house will not always be pristine; and there will be some weeks where fast food or cheesy tortillas happen more than once, or twice, or however many times is necessary for us to survive that particular moment of life. I may not be the most organized and I may continue to pile up things in the garage waiting for a free weekend with the right weather to have a garage sale. My kids may get to school right before the bell rings 90% of the time. But I will show up for them, love them deeply, and try my best to teach them about joy in the present moment which is hard to do in the current world of distraction and constant stimulation.

Becoming a parent brought a great deal of self-criticism to the surface. Sometimes I add more to my plate than I should. Sometimes our schedules seem ridiculous, but I want to show up.  I want to create fun memories with my babies and teach them how to show up for people. I have this fear that writing a blog focused on mindfulness will send the false image that I am always at peace, always in control, and that I have mastered the art of being a mindful mommy 24-7. This is so stinking far from my reality. I may or may not drop the F bomb in front of my children and I lose all the chill from time to time. I have a temper and I get overwhelmed and I get tired and I do not take care of everything I need to each day. I think my husband may have courageously uttered the words, “Where is your mindfulness now?” the other day.  These are all the reasons why mindfulness has been so necessary for me, why self-care has been so meaningful for me, and why the willingness to be authentic has been so refreshing and freeing for me. I do not want to feel shame for the many ways in which I fall short on a day to day basis. I want to pour into my children and husband, but also been incredibly honest about MY needs. I want to walk alongside other mothers, fathers, women, and men that recognize the need for more truth in our lives and less judgment. I want to empower my children to love themselves and release the need for perfectionism. I want to achieve the balance between building meaningful connections and people pleasing. Seeking joy, experiencing moments of peace, spreading love and kindness, and honoring the worth that each and every one of us bring to the table has encouraged me to share my thoughts in this forum.

Being a Mindful Mommy is, perhaps, the opposite of achieving perfection. It is about recognizing your limits, being authentic and speaking truth about your needs and desires, and taking moments to dive into self-care. To adequately achieve these things, we must be in connection with ourselves. We must quiet the noise and check in with our bodies, hearts, and minds.  We need to risk being 5 minutes late to let our kids LITERALLY smell the roses and we should totally join them. We need to breathe in our surroundings and stop missing out on the beauty of each passing moment. The gluttony of busyness can be all consuming and I am so personally guilty of this sin, but I have recognized that missing out on the beauty of BEING PRESENT is not worth being 100% consumed with tasks, duties, and distractions. It is necessary to collide with the reality of the numbing nature of busyness. Perhaps we are running from shame, fears of inadequacy, lack of intimacy in our relationships, depression, etc. Filling our days with to do lists provides distraction from the battles we genuinely need to face and conquer. Brené Brown says “When you numb your pain, you also numb your joy.” This is a tough truth to face, but the healing that can emerge from confronting the dark parts of your story that you insist on running from can lead to exquisite joy and refreshing peace.

I am not sure that I will ever have a moment in which my plate is completely empty…but that is exactly what makes my ability to seek out the quiet moments to allow myself to be still even for just a few moments each day so valuable. I have challenged myself to breathe in my surroundings, relish in joy as it happens, and call a time out when I feel myself becoming overwhelmed. Each of these challenges looks different for each of our unique lives, but I ask you to join me. Be present. Be mindful. Be authentic. Confront your fears. Release the expectations of perfectionism, release the desire to people please, release the belief that you need to be all things to all people…be present and enjoy what is immediately around you before this moment is gone.

Peace, Love, and Laughter,

Megan 🙂

Understanding Our True Self

I am currently participating in a 21 guided meditation through The Chopra Center. This particular meditation, “Shedding the Weight: Mind, Body, and Spirit” is a collaboration between Deepak Chopra and Oprah. I am on day 7 and loving it. Oprah and Deepak talk through the concept of balance, lightness, and shedding the heaviness that interrupts our joy, self-kindness, self-awareness, and wakefulness on a day to day basis. Today they spoke specifically about the role of self-care in the pursuit of balance and lightness. The most beautiful parts of my journey with mindfulness have been the moments that allow me to acknowledge (with kindness) parts of me that previously led to insecurity or discomfort. In today’s words, Deepak shares that self-care must be about “inclusion rather than denial or rejection.” Self-kindness is not about pretending we are perfect or allowing ourselves to continue on unhealthy or inappropriate paths. Self-kindness is wrapped up in loving ourselves enough to grow and acknowledging our areas needing growth without judgment. The Centering Thought for today is “My true self leads me to an inspired life.”

Let’s explore ways to understand our true selves. The first step is awareness. Awareness of our bodies and minds helps to guide us to a deeper level of understanding about who we are, what needs we have, and what speaks to our souls. Clearly…mindfulness and meditative practices are a key step to achieving a heightened level of awareness. Implementing practices that encourage us to press pause on our hectic and fully consumed lives to come into a moment of stillness and peace in effort to acknowledge where we ARE in the MOMENT helps us find presence and understanding. There will not necessarily be an AH-HA moment when it all clicks and your questions about who you really are will finally be answered. It is more visceral than logical in my opinion. The questions, fears, experiences, trauma, heartache, failures, etc. all muddy the waters that separate us from remembering who we are outside of our habits and experiences. I think Deepak says it best:

We are the thinker behind the thought, the observer behind the observation, the flow of attention, the flow of awareness, the unbounded ocean of consciousness. We spontaneously realize that we have choices, and that we can exercise these choices, not through some sheer will power but spontaneously. Through meditation, we gradually bring harmony, laughter, and love back into our soul and, in the process, rediscover our unconditioned self, which can never really be lost.

Life can leave us feeling lost. The busyness of the day can leave us feeling numb. Our habits, addictions, and fixations can lead us to a place of shame and discontentment. We so easily exist in a place of unbalance. When we quiet the noise and distractions both literally and figuratively…we get closer to rediscovering the parts of us that get lost though our worldly experiences. I encourage you (with everything in me) to pursue a practice that encourages these moments. There are so many methods, outlets, and guiding points to get you there. From The Stop Method I previously introduced, to the Body Scan Meditation, Yin Yoga, to The Chopra Center Guided Meditation and a million other resources…find a mindfulness practice that fits your lifestyle and personality. The benefits are uncanny. Not only do you achieve increased balance emotionally and spiritually…your body can achieve a greater sense of balance. The impacts of chronic stress can be relieved. Studies have shown that mindfulness slows the heart rate, lowers blood pressure, provides relief for chronic pain, lowers cholesterol, reduces the level of stress hormones and toxins in your system, enhances immunity, and so much more. I had multiple influences in my life’s journey that encouraged this practice. I was resistant and stubborn. I told myself I was “bad” at meditating and got stuck in a place of judgement rather than opening my mind to this opportunity. Now that I have been able to reap the benefits of practicing mindfulness, my only wish is that I had been open to this lifestyle sooner. I was craving the stillness. I needed to get back in touch with who I was underneath the baggage of my past and fears of the future.

When I think about the idea of TRUE SELF, I think about children. I am surrounded by my own dynamic and vibrant children so often that they are often on my frontal lobe and in my thoughts. Children are brave, joyful, excited, non-judgmental, and decisive. They are inspired. They are hungry for life experiences. I want to not only get back to the parts of me that laugh out loud and dance without hesitation; I want to inspire my children to cling tightly to their true selves. I want them to be less jaded and influenced by the outside world. When I struggle with committing to my self-care and mindfulness practices, I remember the inherent value that this journey has provided me and my family.

Outside of mindfulness, there are some other fun ways that I have gotten to know myself more and obtained a deeper understanding of what makes me tick. One of my favorite practices (in my personal life and in my counseling practice) is the Meyers Briggs Type Inventory. I was able to take the full version of this inventory in graduate school and taking this test was such a meaningful moment for me. Not everyone wants to invest in the cost associated with the official inventory, so the alternative is the 16personalites.com. This is a brief quiz that will let break down different components of your personality and provide you with 5 letters that make up your personality type: Mind (how we interact with our surroundings,) Energy (how we see the world and process information,) Nature (how we make decisions and cope with emotions,) Tactics (our approach to work, planning and decision-making,) and Identity (how confident we are in our abilities and decisions.) Taking this test provided me with a great deal of insight into how I engaged with others, where I get my energy from, why I view the world the way I do. I definitely recommend taking some moments to head over to 16personalities.com and giving this test a go! I think you will find it both affirming and encouraging. It is nice to recognize the unique components of your personality in the type you fulfill and it helps you feel connected and understood. Clients always ask, “Did I get a BAD personality type?” And I always respond, “There is not a negative type. The world goes around with all kind of kinds. Our purposes, preferences, and personalities are unique and suited to our purpose. We can always grow and learn to engage our strengths in a purposeful way, but there is no BAD personality.” I happened to be an INFP and have been each and every time I take the quiz. The accuracy is mind-blowing. I LOVE to search INFP on Pinterest to find new quotes, articles, and comparisons that speak to me or make me laugh. Try it out and tell me your thoughts.

I encourage you to take the time to gain a deeper understanding of yourself, your personality, your values, and your true self. Self-care is dependent on inclusion. To obtain balance, live out self-compassion, and live our best lives…it is necessary to have self-awareness. Be inspired by your truest self today. Life out your dreams and pursue your goals with the inspiration of knowing your inner self. Release the expectations of others, fears for tomorrow, and shame from yesterday…actively pursue an understanding of who you are in the truest version of yourself.

 

Peace, Love, and Laughter,

Megan