inspirational tools to create life balance in your everyday

2008 – finding everyday balance in october


Today my day broke open with the clouds drawing down low and big rain splattering down upon the green grass outside the French doors. I was reminded of my first years in Australia, living in a seaside town called Wollongong. Up until then, I had never seen raindrops that big falling with such weight in the heat of summer afternoons. I remember the tropical feel, eating a mango and watching the stomping rain attempt to cool down the pavement outside my dorm room. Here in Kailua, on the island of Oahu, we are fortunate to be housesitting for six weeks. The days that unfold, wake me with a tropical breeze and a blanket of petal scented humidity. The slumber of the heat can’t help but seep into the way we walk and talk and think. The physical beauty of this town calls to the imagination and the heart.

Only a short walk from our home, the beach extends white soft sand beneath green blue water that sways warm as any bathtub. Taking my morning walks along Kailua beach I feel amazed that this path has stretched out before me. It is a good reminder to me that as much as I might try, I simply do not know and will not know what lies ahead.  As I reach the lava rocks, as black as they once were hot, I turn around and am greeted by the tall Ko’olau mountain range, thick with a kind of green that is hard to describe. Some days the mountains are being held by a blanket of cloud and at other times they stand as regal as the royalty that once claimed the land stretched out at their base. Their beauty is like that of a newborn, solid and unquestionable, wooing the people that linger before them with quiet charm.

In this space where I am allowed to greet each day as my own, I am faced with the question of choice. So often our day to day is decided in part for us. We have work or family or commitments that sing the tune of our days. We can look ahead and think that we know what Tuesday means, how Saturday feels and what Wednesday brings. This rhythm brings a sense of security that we have control over the bends and curves of our life. But what happens when the parameters of our days are removed? Normally, we experiment with this on holidays or planned vacations. Often people report feeling a kind of anxiety or tenseness in those first days of time off. The feelings of “I just can’t seem to relax” or “I feel like I need to be doing something” comes up for many of us when we step out of our normal day to day. I’m getting curious about what this means about our choices in our everyday balance.

What I’m finding is that the little everyday choices we need to make take a kind of energy that we would often rather put somewhere else. When we are in our day to day lives, we know which cafe we like our coffee from, which Thai place has the best Pad Thai or which roads to take around town. This knowledge allows us to save the precious time in our days that we long to accumulate when we are busy and keeps our day to day running on a smooth track. But in that routine, do we lose our sense of intention? My concern is that we may be attending to ourselves and our loved ones in the same way that we get our morning coffee. We know what we have needed in the past, so we choose the same thing without experimenting with something different, even though it may be more rewarding.

One of the greatest gifts that we can give ourselves is to really take the time to know where we have arrived to in this moment. Having chosen to take this time out to reset my compass, I imagined that my stress would peel away in giant layers leaving a non-stressed out me with nothing to worry about. I was correct in thinking that the stress would shed itself quickly, but the worry has been harder to shake. Even amongst the swaying palm trees and the white sand beaches, my mind attaches itself to the future and the past and amazingly finds details to worry over. The concerns, aches and pains and tightness that result from this worry are no different from those that I felt in the activity of my life in Sydney. The difference is, that here in Hawaii, I have the time and the energy to follow these patterns and understand where they come from and how to start unraveling their roots.

In the quiet of these humid days, I am following the highs and lows of my experience. Each day on my walks along the beach, I watch as my mind empties itself and my mood lightens. This week when my left shoulder went out and I experienced sharp throbbing pain, I watched the resistance and fear that crept in, creating tension in my body and mind. When asked unexpectedly to teach a yoga class for a new group, I watched the dance between confidence and self doubt take the stage. Driving in the car on a sunny afternoon, surrounded by rainforest and the laughter of my husband, I noticed how at peace I feel. All of these clues to my equilibrium might normally have been lost to the rushing or pace in my day to day life. With these open plan days, the details appear as if written plainly in ink before my eyes. I am able to be less at the will of my emotions and more connected to the knowing that these feelings are transitory and that underneath them all, I am okay. I react less from a place of fear and more from a place of peace towards myself and those around me. And I ask myself, how can I take this deeper understanding of myself, into the busier more challenging times in my life?

I immediately thought of cooking. I am not a natural cook, although friends and family have dabbed me a pretty good pizza, salad and sandwich maker. Stray from those three things and I need a very detailed recipe. I’m a visual person so cookbooks without photos leave me uninspired and confused about what the end result should resemble. However, with the right ingredients and clear instruction, cooking is normally pretty smooth sailing. After making a dish several times, I’m happy to let go of the cookbook and start feeling into the flow of the dish. I may even add some of my own touches and sometimes they even make it taste better! For me, cooking is all about practice.

So when it comes to self care, I have begun to use my model for cooking as a way to keep tabs on which combinations work. Whether or not we know it or not, we all have recipes that create ease around our moods, problems, patterns and joys. By listening deeply to my own recipes for days that lend themselves to ease and calm, I’m finding more of my time spent celebrating moments rather than playing a tug of war with regrets, ailments and disappointments. These recipes for peacefulness between myself and my daily life involve me really listening to what works for me rather than observing what works for others and applying that to my life. Letting go of outside voices and really tuning into to your own can be a difficult, but an utterly rewarding task. When your own authentic voice is singing the soundtrack to your life, chances are it is a song you’ll want to be a part of.

This month, I invite you to create your own recipe cards. Literally start by going to your favorite bookstore, kitchen shop or newsagent. Find yourself a set of recipe cards or a recipe book that has blank pages for your own list of ingredients. Keep in mind that for this exercise, you won’t be collecting meals, you will be collecting recipes to look after the patterns in your life. These patterns might include looking after lower back pain, headache, anger, the flu, parental anxiety, money worries or a public speaking phobia. In another section of your book, you can balance this by adding recipes that cook up laughter, happiness, creativity, fitness and connection. Take the time to brainstorm the titles for your recipes. Make one list of common ailments (physical and mental) and another list of feelings or situations that you want to cultivate in your life.

Remind yourself that this list is a work in progress. Hopefully your recipe book will grow over time, as you begin to tune into what your strengths and challenges are. Each time you come up against something that feels tricky or is an unexpected joy, title a recipe page with that situation. Allow your unique recipe for cultivating that feeling or resolving that issue to unfold over many days. Some recipes will flow out easily and others may take years of adding a pinch of this or a dab of that while you change and grow.

An example of one of my own recipe cards is “headache”. I’ve experienced headaches on the scale of mild to severe migraines since I was in my teens. Their onset occurred at a time of overwhelm in my life and although after many years of enquiry, I have less headaches today that I have had in years, I am still learning about their cause and the best way to care for myself. On my card titled “headache” I have written several things.

The card unfolds like this: Headache: 1) rub lavender oil on temples 2) let go of any problem solving you may be preoccupied with 3) turn down the lights 4) drink water at room temperature 5) take a magnesium tablet 6) use homeopathic headache remedy 7) try restorative yoga poses with lavender eye pillow 8) use pain reliever if none of the previous have had effect 9) cancel any plans if headache has not abated within a few hours 10) If migraine aura appears at any time, use pain reliever, go to bed and rest 11) Book an appointment for acupuncture 12) Be kind to yourself and remember it is okay to ask for help!

Reading this right now when I don’t have a headache, the recipe seems obvious. However within the cloud of a headache or with the pressure of being in a work or in a social environment, it is easy to ignore the cues and subsequently the steps that are necessary to look after myself. In every situation, I know I won’t be able to use each of the tips on my card, but like any good chef, I’ll feel into the moments when a substitution is necessary, especially with practice.

Once you’ve experimented with this idea for yourself, you may like to apply it to your relationships with friends or loved ones. Particularly if there are obvious patterns in some of your most integral relationships. For instance, if you partner or a friend is prone to asthma, start an asthma card in the family section of your recipe book. Write in pencil so that you can go back and amend your recipes as you or your loved ones change and grow. Feel free to highlight what worked well in the past so that you remember next time.

The idea behind the recipe cards is to get yourself into the habit of practicing self care first. In many of our lives, self care is often neglected while we care for everyone else around us. The problem with this is that if we aren’t able to care for ourselves first, we won’t be in a well enough physical or mental state to care for those around us in a way that is beneficial. Over time this habit will become natural and the recipe cards will fall away.

This technique can also be really wonderful in the case of new relationships, particularly when children arrive into our lives. Kids are changing all the time and for new mothers, with lack of sleep and a myriad of details to attend to, writing things down can quickly become an essential strategy. Keeping a card for a high fever or an ear infection and simply writing down what the doctor recommended last time, can save you much needed time in the middle of the night making a phone call to a pediatrician or searching through the back of a book.

When working with this technique be careful not to rush it. Often we get excited about something in the beginning and lose steam as we continue. Allow October to be a month of heightened self care. Work with the titles of your cards and slowly add to them as the days pass. If you work better with deadlines, set yourself the goal of two cards per week. Remember that you don’t need to finish the card in one sitting. This is an investigative process that will unfold over many months and years. If it helps, decorate your recipe book with magazine pictures of what represents flow and peace for you and your family. Pictures of yourself or friends on a particularly happy day can also be good motivation to work with your cards. Decorating your book can be fun and a great way to prevent relatives and friends from opening it to look for the gravy recipe in the holidays! After you’ve finished decorating, seal your artwork with contact paper or a clear glue.

Checking in with your recipe book in the evening before you go to bed can be a helpful way of getting into the habit of adding to it. In the calm moments before sleep, reflect back on your day. Was there anything that stood out for you in your own moods, ailments or feelings? In the case of an ailment, ask yourself “What might have created or added to the ailment and what helped to ease the situation?” In the case of moments of happiness or great peace, inquire into what added up to those feelings. Working with our days in this way, we allow ourselves binoculars into the details of what makes each of us and our loved ones incredibly unique. By responding to what we find, we can learn how to sprinkle a more joy and peace into our lives. What could be more important? Enjoy the gifts of this unfolding.

This is a monthly inspiration piece brought to you by author Christina Adler at ‘everyday balance’. If you would like to share your experience with these tools or subscribe to this inspiration piece each month, please send your name and email address to chrisadler@everydaybalance.net or visit this website in the first week of each month. For information regarding life coaching appointments in person, by telephone or online, send an email to the above address with your name and phone number or visit the contacts section of this website. Photo by Chris Adler of the Ko’olau Range, Oahu.

posted under 2008 life balance