everydaybalance

inspirational tools to create life balance in your everyday

the gifts in silent retreat – december 2008

December1

Writing near the window looking out over the mountain. I am in a quiet home with only the sound of the gentle rain tapping on the roofs near and far. I am filled with a well of emotion so full that in moments when I least expect it, I brim over with tears. Tears of joy, tears of sadness, tears of longing, tears of serendipity and abundance. On the eve of Thanksgiving, I write with so much gratitude in my heart for the year nearly past. This has been one of the bravest years of my life and my body and mind feel stretched like a canvas by the leaps into new work, a new country, new relationships and a deep yearning for people and places far from where I sit. And yet, it all is as it should be as we round the corner into December again. Somehow fear, comes, and she goes leaving us often in a moment we are ready to arrive into.

A couple of weeks ago, my husband and I were staying in my family home on Mount Tamalpais with my parents. I have been away from this home for many years, but still I take the staircase down the stairs with the same rhythm that I created at five years old. The floorboards creak in the same old places and the deck is still held around the tall Redwood tree. This particular Friday, I was preparing to go on a week long Vipassana and yoga retreat that I had been given a scholarship to only a few days before. I am a chronic last minute packer, so on the morning of, I was gathering the bits and pieces that would prepare me for several different scenarios that my mind had frantically come up with. My friends often joke with me that my handbags are like Mary Poppin’s carpet bag, if you reach in deep enough, you’ll be able to bring out anything you need. My suitcases unfortunately tend to be the same. I was tinkering around trying to find a flashlight when my mom found me at the bottom of the closet where we used to keep them as kids. She started digging through and then gave a yell out to my dad, “Do you have a flashlight Chris could borrow?”

He came out of his home office and before I knew it, I had been pushed out of the way and my parents were digging through the bottom of their closet comparing the pros and cons of each flashlight. The mag light, my dad remarked is also used by police to protect themselves…not likely needed on a meditation retreat, but good to know for future. My mom thought the large yellow wide light would be best, nice and light for the suitcase, just perfect. Dad thought not, it streams too wide of a beam and might disrupt the other meditators, no need for spotlights. This went on for a while and then the discussion of batteries came up. How many extra would I need? My dad began testing many of the old batteries in the flashlight, confessing softly that as a child he really loved flashlights, he loved to watch the light appear as if by magic.

As I watched my parents kneeling at the bottom of the closet, I was suddenly struck by the fact that it had been a very long time since they had had the chance to care for me like this. Leaving home just out of college and living far away in another country for the past thirteen years, the support they were able to sprinkle on me was through phone calls and cards. The yearly or two yearly visits were always so busy, that there was no time for conversations at the bottom of the closet. Realizing this, suddenly I stopped fidgeting and had all the time in the world to discuss the merits of the flashlight. It is rare that we are cared for so unconditionally. It is rare that the people in our lives will drop what they are doing so completely to give your welfare their full attention. A half and hour later, I walked away with a mag light (you can never be too careful) packed lovingly with alive batteries and a new pack of four D batteries to support any circumstance that might arise. In my hand, I held a flashlight, but it was in my heart the light had been turned on.

Later that afternoon I arrived at my retreat, my mind was full of the ideas and decision making and emotion that had made up the past eleven months of 2008. From packing up our life in Australia to saying good-bye to our friends and loved ones to moving through the past five housesits and our travels around the United States, I was full of busyness keeping me from seeing that I had been uprooted and those roots had been dangling for some time. The grounds at Spirit Rock Mediation Center appeared to be the perfect soil to sink my roots into for a week. The Center is set in the foothills of the San Geronimo Valley in Woodacre, California. The hills at this time of year unfold golden and silent, home to the most abundant, varied and relaxed wildlife. I was given my own room, which in itself was a gift, as I haven’t had a room full of only my own things for the past five months. I gingerly set up my closet and my bedside table and made my bed. Taking my yoga mat and meditation blanket I set out to the meditation hall to find my spot to meditate for the following week. I chose a spot by the window so that on one side I looked towards the trails that the deer would use and on the other side I had a view of tall Redwoods peering towards the windows like wise advisors.

Over the week, that square of space became a home to many feelings and sensations. There was space for every kind of emotion to arrive. They ranged from fear to sadness, frustration to anger and compassion to joy. The retreat was completely silent except for two half an hour small group meetings where our teachers checked in on how we were doing and the amazing dharma talks that we listened to each evening. In those interviews, we chose our words with care, breaking the silence like skipping rocks along a lake. In the days before I had arrived at the retreat, I had worried aloud to my husband that I might go crazy not talking for a week. I came up with all kinds of excuses for why I probably shouldn’t go, even pointing out that I might have a dental emergency and then what would I do?! It was at that point that I think Pete probably thought, “okay she already might be crazy and well now you really need to go…”. He assured me that this was what I did before many of the most amazing experiences in my life. He assured me that I would love it. Deep down, I knew this was true, but my worrying mind was really having a field day.

When the silence was announced on the first evening of the retreat, I tentatively felt joyful. I had my own room in a beautiful space for a whole week. Something in me told me this was exactly where I was meant to be. The past few weeks had been alive with decision making. So much so that I didn’t know what in the world I wanted to do. We had laid out a number of different pathways that we could take in this new chapter of our lives and I was having trouble seeing the wood for the trees. I felt caffeinated and unfocused. I felt out of touch from my intentions and true self. Later in the retreat, I saw a Hummingbird moving very fast from branch to branch. She seemed to be concentrating on so many things at once while not really stopping to see where she was. I was reminded of how I had felt before the retreat. On that first night of silence, I felt all of the balls that I had up in the air, slowly start to lose their momentum and fall down around me. Pete wasn’t there and I couldn’t speak to anyone so there was no one to toss those balls to. I surrendered my need for planning and began rediscovering the present moment.

What I found was colour and taste and sound and breath and stillness. Over the first couple of days, I felt the tightness in my neck and shoulders melting like butter on a summer’s afternoon. By the third day, I had more rotation in my neck than I had in years. My yoga postures were awakening new muscles in my body and I felt as if I were unraveling from the inside out. In the stillness I began naming my emotions. I would name sadness, and then habitually begin to create the story around that sadness. A couple days later, I noticed that it was enough to simply name the feeling, without getting involved in the story. Feelings that once only existed in my mind, now had permission to enter the totality of my body. What a relief to allow the emotion that much more space, rather than tightening so much around the feeling that it became a physical block, I was letting it be okay to have a feeling even if it wasn’t pleasant. In this openess the feelings were able to be felt and then released.

After five days of silence in one of our walking meditations, I came across a family of deer. The smallest one of the pack seemed to be causing a lot of havoc. It was jumping back on its heels and doing wheelies and then knocking branches or the smaller deer around. I was riveted by the family of six so close to me on their afternoon outing. I watched them bathe each other and hold each other and eat from low lying branches. After so little outside interaction, watching these deer was like watching an episode of Grey’s Anatomy. I was engrossed in every interaction, it was Deer Anatomy and I could almost hear David Attenborough’s voice whispering “and now the male deer will look to the female deer to control her young. She does so by gently brushing her neck against the fawn who subsequently moves to the back of the pack…” The deer were accustomed to the walking meditation of people on retreat, they held no fear. It was a wonderful opportunity for reflection on the interconnectedness of all beings.

On the last full day of the retreat, I was walking to the meditation hall when I saw woman bent down near a garden bed. We weren’t supposed to initiate eye contact as a gesture of keeping silence. Still she gestured with her hands and eyes for me to join her. I moved closer feeling like we were the naughty kids in the playground. We stood staring at a pile of dirt to one side of a little hole the size of my fist. Not having lived in California for such a long time, I stood there with the awe of a child, really having no idea what would come out of that hole. Would it be a snake, a bird, or a mouse? I had no clue. Who needed T.V., this and the deer were the best entertainment I had experienced in years. My breath came out in cold billows and the new winter cold kissed my cheeks. I waited as if a friend were about to tell me long awaited news.

After several moments, suddenly out of the hole came a bouquet of fur. He had buck teeth and bright eyes. He was all Disney and what I could only imagine must be a gofer. Over the next forty minutes he continued to pop half his body out of the hole and gnaw on the branch of the little bonsai like plant he had burrowed beneath. Then he would dive deep beneath the earth kicking more dirt out of the hole. This was serious work. Winter was around the corner and there were no breaks on his shift. After a week of stillness and internal focus, this incredible act of housekeeping brought the widest smile to my face. The bell rang signaling it was ten minutes until our next meditation. My feet were firmly rooted into the path. As my fellow retreat members walked to the meditation hall, a few glanced over at me smiling unabashedly down at a little hole. Curiosity got the better of quite a few people and over the next ten minutes one by one a line of people began to fan out from where I was staring into a little hole. I watched as each serious face stared with question at an empty hole and then erupted into cascading smiles when our friend the gofer would appear for his encore. People came and went, but I stayed, not for the gofer but for the experience of watching the wonder and the joy on the faces of those whom I had lived with in a gentle silence for a week.

Reflecting later on, I knew that each one of these people, propelled by there own questions, struggles, sorrows and their thirst for peace, had made the choice to take time out from their lives to come on retreat. I knew, even more so than when I had arrived, how inextricably our lives were all part of the same fabric of life. The colours and designs of our squares of quilt might appear quite different, but our edges were sewn together and our actions had a great effect on one another.

This was echoed by our meditation teachers who reminded us that the people in our lives, and really all beings, were cheering us on in our quest for more understanding of ourselves and the world around us. To sit peacefully for a week, to make time for the thoughts to quiet, to come in touch with nature and what is important in your life is such a gift. There were moments when I was overwhelmed by love for the friends and the family in my life and the possibilities in everyday life. Coming closer to what was real for me gave me a direct path towards my intentions, values and beliefs. From this space, I know that the next chapter of my life will flow. It will be less obstructed by what I think my life should look like, and more in touch with what my life could look like in alignment with my hopes and dreams.

On Monday evening, a few days after my return, my husband and I received an email letting us know that our dear friend Michael Moxey had past away. The news was a shock having only spoken to Michael a few weeks before, so full of life and love, as he always had sounded. Michael was our first landlord and had provided us a home over looking the water in the off-shore community of Elvina Bay just outside of Sydney. Michael was larger than life and always bragged about having an American poet living in what he called “The Ritz”. This was our modest studio cabin with a sleeping loft and an expansive deck where the Cockatoos landed and woke us each morning. This home, that we boated to and from the mainland to, provided us the most wonderful space to start the first four years of our relationship.

When I think about Michael, it is not anything material that I remember him giving me. It is the stories that he wove for me about his experiences living around the world. It is the way he cared for animals and named the python that slept in our gutters “Monty”. It is the way that he was always honest with people, even if he ruffled their feathers, but always settled into their hearts with a quiet presence. It is the food he prepared with such gusto and the Christmas where he treated us like family. It is the way he called me “pet” and the nip of scotch he gave me as we waited to see if Pete would make it across the water in our little boat during a howling hail storm. But mostly, it was simply the beautiful friend he became and how he always laughed from his heart to his blue blue eyes.

This holiday season, I invite you to find your everyday balance by giving the gift of your unique presence. Often we focus so much on the material gifts that we can give and strain our emotional well being and our wallets to do so. This year shift your focus to what you can give that people will remember as uniquely being an extension of you. If you are an award winning quiche maker, give mini quiches that people can freeze as a gift. If you weave beautiful wreaths out of branches and leaves that you find on your morning walks, lay that under your loved ones trees. If you are good with children, give your friends an afternoon off and have a cookie making party for several of your friend’s kids. If you know that a friend or family member has had a difficult year, make time to have a cup of tea and really listen to how they feel about this past year. You may find these to be the most meaningful gifts your dear ones receive.

To approach this, create your own silent retreat. This doesn’t have to be a week or even a day long. Set aside a half and hour or longer to sit peacefully, at the beach or in your favourite place in nature. Let the thinking mind quiet down, observing your thoughts without judgment and letting them pass away like bright clouds against a Spring sky. When you feel in contact with your breath and discover a sense of peace, open your eyes and write down the people you would most like to give to this December. This may be the person that does your dry cleaning or your parents or a dear friend. Let it flow and leave your wallet behind. Write down one act of gratitude next to each name and then write in the times in your calender when you can fit this in. Some will occur spontaneously and others will be planned.

From this space of gratitude and service, watch as abundance blooms. The holidays are about bringing joy into your everyday. Allow this to seep in not necessarily by spending money, but by giving parts of you, pockets of time that you have to give. Know that in doing this, that as you lean into the lap of your holiday whether it is Christmas or Hanukkah or simply a day of gratitude, that you will have made someone elses life more peaceful simply for your presence. This is what people will remember. The unexpected gift simply of you. Enjoy the spontaneity and the wonder and in this season find time for quiet and time to laugh, as my old dear friend did, mindfully from his heart to his eyes.

Happy Holidays from everydaybalance. Thank you for your gifts all through the year in your words of support for my poetry and inspiration pieces. I couldn’t do it without you. May your family be healthy and well and I hope that our paths cross soon. The photos that I took of my retreat at Spirit Rock Meditation Center are available at: www.flickr.com/photos/everydaybalance

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 grounds at Spirit Rock Meditation Center.

posted under 2008 life balance

electing yourself – november 2008

November1

Writing from under a canopy of leaves. The sun shines outside my bedroom window in a way that makes the rainy trunks of the Redwood and Oak trees seem black and their green leaves shine lime. I am safe under the blanket we received as a wedding gift, warm as the cool Autumn air sneaks through the crack in the window bringing the scent of a cornucopia of leaves and branches and all things alive. I am waking late after arriving late last night into an Autumn evening in San Francisco. The airport had been closed due to fog and plane after plane had been cancelled at Denver airport where we were to fly from.

When we were finally cleared to make our decent into the city of tiny lights, our vision went from darkness to light, the thick white beards of fog were worn along the wings of the plane then shrugged off like a child too warm in their winter coat. Staring through the tiny airplane window, my mind went from calm and clear at the sight of the golden crescent moon to edgy and hot at the totality of emptiness that came as the fog again hugged in tight. If I couldn’t see anything, how could the pilot? I knew he had monitors and buttons and charts all lit up like Christmas lights, but I sensed that in this he would also be feeling his way like one would in a dark and unfamiliar room. The uncertainty of the moment felt familiar after these past few weeks where the world around me hangs in the balance, not only personally as I fashion a new life in a new country, but also politically as my country of birth holds its breath until it chooses the next president of the United States.

This coming Tuesday, people will vote. Not everyone, but in my lifetime, I believe this will be the biggest turnout that I will have seen. Last February, I sat at home on my day off in Narrabeen, Australia. The winds were howling around our apartment near the sea. I opened an email from my father with a subject that said simply “Obama”. In the email he sent me a link to a video made independently by actors, songwriters and people of the music community without Obama’s knowledge. It was called “Yes, we can”. I opened up the YouTube link to the largest screen I could and turned it on.

This was the first time that I had seen Barack Obama speak. By the end of the video I had tears running down my face. I shared it with my husband the next morning and we were able to find a link to the entire speech that had inspired the video. We watched the speech and I felt something real and alive in my body. I felt awake at the words I was hearing and the integrity behind those words.

In my lifetime, I had never felt inspired by the political leaders that had run for president, that is until that moment. I literally sat there staring at the computer screen as my husband pressed play again. We watched the speech and the music video many times totally in awe that this poet, this man of substance and charisma was choosing for his footsteps to walk the grueling path into the American political race for president in our lifetime.

In a time in which history books will catalog as being blanketed with fear, all I can say is that I felt that at the end of the tunnel there was suddenly a spark of light. Regardless of your political affinity or country of origin, I encourage you to watch this video by clicking on the link above, not just for a moment of inspiration in these last days before the election, but as a way to inspire you towards your own goals.

Over the last year, I’ve followed the political race from Australia and now from America where we have been living. It is a unique position to know that not only are there millions of Americans holding their breath on both sides of the race, but also that countries around the world will be watching knowing of the impact that this decision will have on their own daily lives.

Over the past two weeks, I’ve had the gift of being able to experience a myriad of places and people. In our search to create our new home, we’ve made an effort to connect with the friends and family that we love to give us some grounding in this new country. In Hawaii, we were blessed with weeks of tropical days. We walked and talked along lush green walkways and white sand beaches. I smiled as four black wild pigs stood eating grass on the side of the Pali Highway oblivious to the cars swinging past. We met people in Oahu that sprinkled our days with smiles and ease and connection. Driving from San Diego to El Centro to visit with my extended family, we drove with my sister through the desert towards the Imperial Valley. At one point we were surrounded completely by pyramids of rocks, piles and piles of rocks creating mountains and valleys around us. The air was dry as we dipped below sea level in the dry pale shadows of this pathway through the desert. When I looked closely, tucked amongst these pale mysterious rocks, green shoots grew. I was reminded that even in the starkest of times, new things can be born.

We stayed in the town of El Centro where my grandparents live and walked new streets where on the lawns political signs greeted each other shoulder to shoulder supporting political measures and candidates that sung the opposite song to the bumper stickers and signs of Hawaii and San Francisco. Driving along the highway towards Arizona, our mouths swung into smiles at the sight of a cactus standing tall along the road. Rounding the bend we found not only one, but a forest of Cacti littering the hillsides like comical characters cheering up the desert and the divide that was deepening between political parties.

Flying to Colorado we landed into the high altitude that hugs the towns outside the Rocky Mountains. We made our home with dear friends in Fort Collins where the leaves on the trees shone brighter than Christmas lights allowing you to feel as if your are walking through a magnificant painting. We sat at a cafe on the corner of this small town American street and felt cool air kissing our cheeks. All around us, like snow, fell giant crinkly yellow leaves like letters from the sky. The conversations in the booths behind and around us supported all sides of the political debate as we ate and drank our way across these states.

As the messages on the lawns and bookstore displays and the t-shirts sang on, I felt myself relax and bristle and worry and wink. I went from feeling safe to feeling scared. And in that fear I felt my body shift towards tightness and to scarcity and to planning and the worst. And then something would catch my eye. It might be the new words of a child or the beauty of the moment while biking near the long white bodies and bright yellow leaves of the Aspen trees. And thankfully in that moment I would see that everything was exactly as it should be. I would feel back into the present moment away from the papers and the bathroom graffiti and the tall square signs. And I would remember that under all of our hopes and all of our dreams, we are the same. We breathe and love and yearn and cry. We long for our dear ones to be safe and for the opportunity to follow our dreams. We want the sand of the beaches to stay white and the Redwood trees to continue to grow so tall. We want the mysteries of the desert to awe our children and the forests of Cacti to surprise and delight. We want the air to be clean and the seasons to paint us into a live watercolour of trees.

So on Tuesday when I cast my vote, I’ll take off my armor and my judgment and my fear and it will just be me feeling inspired back on that February day. And this November I ask you to do the same. Take time out for your everyday balance amongst the emails and the papers and the conversation and the signs. Get on your bike or read to your child or take the time to sit still and reconnect to the fact that every moment is new. Let go of who has won or who has lost and feel back into what you can do to find that inspiration that isn’t worth losing at any cost.

In this month where we elect a leader we think can do the job, take the time to elect yourself and write down what is your cause. Each day this November in your calender in ink, write down one small way you can help to shape what it is that you think we need to move forward towards a vision of future and safety and peace. Then take what you’ve written and share it over the year. Imagine that instead of looking upward and outward and elsewhere with fear, you can look into that mirror and see the candidate that you know you can count on and cheer. Act on your passion, and inspiration and watch what will appear.

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 Peter Moore of a table at the Democratic Voter Registration outside the Sausalito Art Fair.

posted under 2008 life balance

2008 – finding everyday balance in october

October2

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

2008 – finding everyday balance in september

September3

I am writing today as the heat sweeps the city. September has crept up and sounded a lullaby to the wind and fog leaving bright hot dry days. Thinking summer had past me by under a blanket of fog, I wake up feeling like I’m stealing these summer days. In the middle of San Francisco, where we have lived for past fortnight, these balmy dry desert days appear like puppets popped up from behind a stage and the sound of city can’t help but be stilled with awe.

But I’ve found that even beyond this heat, the city sounds to a very different beat than that of the long mountain curves where my parents live or the straight salty stretch of beach at Narrabeen where we lived for years. There is movement and colour and energy streaming in wide strokes up and down these streets of the Mission neighborhood where we are housesitting. The grocery stores and French bakeries and flower shops and ice creameries dangle lazy summer lines out of their doorways like birthday ribbons. People chat and shout and shutter and huddle and hug in a myriad of languages. Emotions are worn out loud and the differences between the individual lives lived here beat out brightly like paintings on an opening night.

I am more alone and at the same time more at home amongst this realness of city streets where the pressure to be any one thing disappears in the presence of everything. However, in the days that have past, my old friend fear crept up quite suddenly. The unfamiliar streets, the lack of routine, the not knowing how this year will unfold all combined and what emerged every so slowly, but every so loudly was fear. Quite dramatically, I felt the bottom drop out of my day to day calm leaving me new corners to round.

I tried, as my husband encouraged me, to simply let the fear wash over me. To feel it and let it move. This is much more difficult than stuffing it somewhere underneath those red Chinese couch cushions. Yet, I have the time to observe right now, so I experimented with letting fear sit with me on my meditation cushion, trying hard to let the judgment pass for feeling the fear at all. Last week, I really sat with it. I allowed that cloak of fear to wrap around me, to truly feel its weight on my shoulders. Normally this is something that I would try with all my might to avoid. I would busy myself, move towards more productive thoughts. It was strange to just feel the fear of everything. The fear of not having a job, of not knowing where home will emerge and mostly of not knowing if some of the things I longed for in my life would come. Someone very wise once taught me that what isn’t in our consciousness, controls us. I was inviting what I was afraid of to be on stage so that it couldn’t control the scene from behind the curtains.

I wrote about what I was afraid of and all the stories I had in my mind about their unfolding. I let this fear have its place in my life. And you know what? It helped. The wonderful thing about impermanence is that everything is changing and moving all the time. My fear having been allowed its moment on center stage, seemed pacified and then just like that it eased. I woke up one morning and looked around for the cloak I had been wearing and it was gone. As I got dressed that morning, I noticed that not only was it gone, but that it had been replaced with a deeper kind of joy, simply for the act of really feeling it. Fear is a such strange feeling. It can be debilitating and motivating. We sometimes feel frozen by fear and at other times are incredibly moved by it. The fear of not being happy might motivate us to pursue new activities or connections with the people we love. In contrast, the fear of change might leave us frozen in a set of circumstances we’re not happy in for years. I know that fear will again return, as all things do, but I’m hoping that I’ll be brave enough again to allow it to have its dance.

In August, watching the Olympics, I was incredibly inspired by how the athletes faced their fears. On the biggest stage in the world standing with feet dug into a dirt track, poised under the net waiting for the serve of a ball, balanced on top of a set of uneven bars or standing at the edge of a diving board, they embraced the moment and fled past their fears. Their courage made me want to try harder, to find what I was capable of that I had not yet found. I began looking around my life for a bit of courage that I could apply to something I had always wanted to conquer and that I could feel proud of.

Naturally after watching the Olympics, I thought of physical activity. I mean really compared to the grueling schedules these athletes were achieving, I wondered what was I doing with my time?” Surely, a set of push ups or pull ups could be tucked in somewhere in my waking hours. I thought back on the Olympics and what had felt particularly inspiring to me. Two moments of the Olympics really stand out for me and they both took place underwater. Appearing first that week was Micheal Phelps, a young swimmer I had never heard of. It was incredible to watch his heart lead him through the eight races he swam. At the beginning, I remember thinking it will be amazing if he wins even half of the races that he is aiming to swim. As he continued through the week, it seemed that lining his lanes, there was just a little bit of magic. Of all the circumstances that these athletes face, in every race, it is incredible that his legs kicked, his mind sought and his heart stretched to reach for gold every time.

Later in the week, I watched another swimming race. This time the pool was set naturally for the rawness of the open water marathon. What was incredible to me was swimmer Natalie du Toit. Natalie is a twenty-four year old swimmer from South Africa. Seven years ago, while riding her scooter to school, she was run into by a car. As people rushed to help, she said she knew, what eventually became true, that she had lost one of her legs at the knee. Natalie narrowly missed qualifying for the Olympics in Athens in 2004 and then went on to become the only amputee who qualified to swim the open water marathon in the 2008 Beijing Olympics. She is one of the world’s fastest distance swimmers. Watching her swim in this race and carry the South African flag into the stadium, I felt my heart wide open. Her commitment and passion for the path she had chosen in her life, despite enormous challenges, overcame her fear. She inspired me to remember that in our own lives, each day we can choose one small step toward overcoming our catalog of fears.

It isn’t a coincidence that the swimming was the most inspiring part of the Olympics to me. While other things have come naturally to me, swimming has always been something I’ve struggled with. In fact as a child my first swimming debut was the first instance in my life that I can concretely remembering having to work with my own fear. At the age of four, my mom signed me up for swim lessons with my best friend from my play group, Amy Berger. Fittingly, today it is at Amy’s house that I am living in while she is watching the Olympics in China. Amy, who is five months older than me, has always been someone I’ve looked up to. She was a great swimmer from the very start of swim lessons. Even the owner of the pool recognised this and mentioned to her mom how amazing her stroke and breath were for someone at the age of five. Being her best friend from the age of three, I of course I wanted to be a great swimmer as well. The swim lessons at The Anne Curtis Pool were pretty standard. They were set over the summer months so parents could enjoy a break and just aiming to get kids to breath and kick and float, but there was one thing different about these lessons, there was a prize.

As we all know, every kid loves a prize. At the end of this particular batch of swim lessons, each child that jumped off the diving board was awarded a fabric “Ann Curtis Swim Patch” that your parent could sew on to your swim suit. Now in those days, you kept your swim suits for a few summers if you didn’t grow out of it. It was passed down to siblings and generally held in the family for some time. Each morning of swim lessons, I dreamt of the legacy of my light blue swimsuit having that patch in the corner. This patch was the gold medal of those summer lessons and Amy and I looked towards it with anticipation. At the end of swim lessons each day, we were given the opportunity to jump off the diving board and swim to the side of the diving pool. The diving pool was set a part from where we had our stroke lessons and was a deep square pool without a shallow end.

On the first day that we had the chance, many of us lined up, intent on our prize and one by one each of the kids jumped. I remember shivering in the line, my legs starting to shake, and letting other kids go in front of me. I remember watching Amy confidently jumping and the splashing as she made her victory swim towards the side of the pool. I remember my feet on the steps up to the board and the wet sandpaper feel of each step, the smell of the chlorine filled pool, the slippery warm sun screen streaked metal bars at the top and then that long pale blue board stretching out over the deep end of the pool. Towards the end of the board there were no railings to hold on to. And I remember each day that week, stepping back down those little white steps and finally being able to breathe as my feet shakily felt the hot concrete beneath them. It was pretty awful. I really wanted that patch. I had no idea that a fear of heights runs strongly in my family. This was why I had tantrums at the top of escalators and why my Mom passes out in glass elevators. So the diving board for this four year old wasn’t looking good. However, I was a pretty determined kid.

On the last day of swim lessons, I knew it was my last chance until the following year. I don’t remember how I got myself up those stairs or how I faced that thick wall of fear. I do remember the splash as I clumsily fell off the board into the deep end. I remember I sunk pretty far, took in a lot of water and then coughing kicked with all my might back to the concrete side. I remember my hands feeling that gorgeous summer sun sinking into the concrete. I also remember the way my patch looked beautiful when my mom promptly sewed it on my swimsuit that night and how it was years before I asked for it to be replaced.

Recently, I found out that Anne Curtis who owned the pool was an Olympian. She won two Gold medal’s in the 1948 Olympics in London. In the 4 by 100 relay she came from behind to win for the USA and then set up her swim school in Marin. I have no idea how at four years old I found a way to overcome my still active fear of heights, but maybe their was a little magic in the water at The Anne Curtis pool that made you want to keep trying for your own personal gold. Years later when I look back on that situation, I’m reminded that we all find our own unique way to our goals.

A week ago, I found out that one of the only public pools in the city sits at the end of Amy’s street here in the Mission District of San Francisco. It is shaded by a graceful Eucalyptus Tree and tucked behind high stone walls covered in a colourful mural of men, women and a child bathing in sunlight. These amazing murals colour many walls in this area of town. The building doesn’t look very flash, litter lining its lawn and graffiti here and there. The first day that I entered the pool, I brought my kick board, goggles, towel, and both my fear of swimming and of doing new things. I hadn’t swum laps for years, yet the vision of Natalie du Toit made me want to try.

Over the past week, walking down to the Mission Street Pool each day, I have carried with me the passion of all of the athletes that I’ve watched these Olympic games. I haved step gingerly into the slow lane and kicked awkwardly down the length of the pool. I’ve been surrounded by people of all different backgrounds, colours, strengths and goals. We’ve all manage to coordinate our laps around each other. One woman keeps her head down with a bright blue snorkel on for the whole time I’m there. She never moves her arms, just kicks up and down. An Asian man with a wide smile waits for several minutes at each end of the pool after every lap ushering people in front of him with a wide grin as he adjusts his second pair of goggles. A larger man in red swim trunks labors up and back and then comes out with his own personal cheer for himself. We seem to have our own club in the slow lane and as I’ve swum with my own lopsided stroke, sometimes clutching to my yellow kick board, feeling the fog kissing my cheeks and the sirens singing in the neighborhood around me, I have to smile to myself just for getting back into the pool.

This month I invite you to meet one of your fears. Invite it out of the closet and on to the page. Like sheets stuck at the back of the closet, fears sometimes need to be taken out and given a good shake. What helps to remember is that we all have so many fears in common. Sometimes it is the fear of learning something new, sometimes it the fear of taking on a new role, other times it is the fear of owning how you truly feel. The categories of fears are endless, but the reality is that they are always shared. If you feel alone in your fears, often the best remedy is simply to talk to a friend, a loved one or counselor. Chances are they will understand where you have arrived to.

To work with this exercise, create a safe environment in your home. Choose a day when your feeling strong in yourself and put on your favourite music. Take the pen to the page and give yourself the time to write down one thing that you are afraid of. Let the details pour out. Write down the times you have felt this in the past and the worst case scenario. Shake out all the corners of this fear. Then close your journal and take yourself on a brisk walk. Breathe in the fresh air and as you breathe out visualize yourself letting go of your fear. Feel your feet against the earth knowing that with each step forward you are grounded and consciously facing your fear. Open yourself to the resources in your community to support you in facing this fear. When you return from your walk, write down five tiny steps that you can take towards clearing this feeling of fear. If your fear is of going back to school, you might ring and have a course catalog sent to your house. If you are afraid you have lost a friend, try writing that person a letter. If you are afraid of a physical ailment, look for ways you can ease your pain.

Often times we may find ourselves in fear simply because we don’t have all the facts. A way to combat that fear is simply to get more information about what your afraid of. This may involve doing some research or speaking to an expert. When we are afraid, we tend to fill in the blanks with less than savory ideas. By getting more information we can know exactly what we are facing and therefore be more likely to take steps in the direction of a solution. And sometimes, as in my situation a couple weeks ago, when there isn’t a concrete solution available, you can simply invite that fear up. Let it wash over you and really get to know it. The feelings that we avoid have a way of popping up after we stuff them down. By simply sitting with whatever it is we are afraid of, we give ourselves the chance to feel it and lessen the impact it may be having on our day to day lives.

In Amy’s office where I type this piece, I just turned the calender page to September. The new page has a picture of the Chinese symbol for change. It explains that “the symbol for change began as a pictograph of a lizard, an animal that changes colour as the light changes. It is similar in meaning to the Chinese cosmology of yin and yang-that there are two opposing universal forces, one of light and one of dark, that constantly battle each other, causing all the changes that occur in life.” Our fear is simply that, a universal force that we all have in common balanced by the universal force of love. So tread lightly this month, inquire into your fear with a sense of love. Take with you the courage and the grace of the Olympians, who all faced their fear in their own individual way, taking home their unique medal of gold simply for showing up.

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 Peter Moore of the San Francisco Mission Pool Building on 19th Street.

posted under 2008 life balance

2008 – finding everyday balance in august

August1

Giant Green Sea Turtle

Writing at the window of my childhood bedroom I am filled with a kind of ease that comes from knowing a place for a very long time. The Maple tree outside the window still shades the square panes of glass that as a child I fit my small hands against. Following this move from Australia to America, my eyes are as wide open as that little girl.

Over the past weeks I’ve felt awake with wonder at the sound of my mother’s voice in the next room, my father’s laughter next to me during a movie, my sister casually meeting me for breakfast in the middle of the week and my husband scattering his love amongst my extended family. It has been so long since these important relationships have been this close, this casual, this carefree and my heart soars at the ease that paves the days that I have walked since our arrival.

Having lived on the ocean for many years, living in my parent’s home which sits on the lip of a canyon, what we notice most is the silence. The caw of the blue jay from across the hill echoes into the midday sun, reaching us even as it’s wings flap in the opposite direction. A woman calling to her daughter slides into our pockets from several streets away. In the absence of the sounds of neighbors or the louder wildlife, the ticking clock or the tentative steps of a deer through the redwood brush is all that can be heard. In this silence there is a kind of emptiness of sound which mirrors the emptying of our life that we just experienced. Words seem to hold more meaning when spoken against such a blank canvas. And the theme of emptiness resonates with the place in my life that I have just recently arrived to.

Previously, this idea of emptiness held sadness and fear to me. The fear of leaving the job I loved so much, the emptying out of our home, the walking away from our car, the empty key ring as I boarded the plane. But in the act of emptying our home of our material possessions, some stored, some sold, some shipped, I also experienced a kind of freedom of spaciousness. Letting go of our much loved workplaces, a gap was opened that feels uncomfortable and yet the love and support provided there continues even in a country oceans away. Stepping away so far from our friends and family in Australia, a space was created, yet the voices and friendships still feel near.

This idea of emptiness is something that I’ve been sitting with gently. I’m someone that loves a home full of warm objects that remind me of the special people and interests in my life. I love familiarity. I relish the routine of buying my tea at the same cafe, the expected ring each day on my phone from my dear friend Jo, the supermarket aisles that hold the food I love, the familiar faces that arrived at my work with stories of their lives, the feel of the wooden floorboards that stretched the yoga room where I held my morning practice, the unfolding of my yoga class on Wednesday mornings and the energy of my students who held the space for me to teach, the sound of the waves changing with seasons rocking us to sleep. All of these details, so familiar, were swept up into my heart leaving wide open days, journals with blank pages to write, shelves to be filled, new roads to walk and new souls to meet.

And lets get this straight. This is not my strong suit. And at first even writing on this idea of emptiness felt daunting. But as the days have unfolded, it seems that the universe is persistent in encouraging me to embrace this idea of working with the concept of emptiness. On my first morning in my parent’s home, I made myself a cup of tea and on the end of the string of my tea bag was a message that read “Empty yourself and let the universe fill you.” The next morning during my meditation practice, I opened the book I read daily from called Meditations from the Mat by Rolf Gates and the quote that greeted me was by Lao-Tzu saying “We shape the clay into a pot, but it is the emptiness inside that holds whatever we want.” Rolf Gates goes on to say “that before we can learn to appreciate emptiness, we must first learn to let go.” He continues by saying that as we let go of our expectations, we open ourselves to a new understanding of old situations. For me this sings of the possibility that as we let go, we then open to a new appreciation of what we may have once considered mundane.

This past Monday evening, at Spirit Rock Meditation Center, we arrived to the regular meditation evening to find a new woman speaking. Her name was Marlene Jones. The topic she kept returning to was embracing emptiness. She asked us to sit in meditation for forty minutes, encouraging us to let go and to sit with whatever came up in that space. I sat still and was able to drop deep into my meditation. There was silence and there was not knowing. My heart felt unsteady, tears felt near. Yet I heard a message coming through the letting go of thinking and planning and remembering, that encouraged me “to have faith, this is the right path.” Marlene encouraged us to simply sit with the not knowing, to let the emptiness be filled of it’s own accord, to get comfortable with the absence of sound. “Have faith” I heard over and over within that emptiness and I tentatively tried the concept on like a pair of new shoes.

I sat for several minutes saying the word “in” on the in breath and the word “faith” on the out breath as my knee began to hurt and my mind began to tire. I continued to focus on my breath against the tide of unknowing. I sat until Marlene brought us back into the room and told us her story of starting anew each day. She spoke of how in the face of a difficult situation in her life, she is working on waking up each day and embracing emptiness. She tries to greet each day as if it were her first. She tries to shake off her likes and dislikes and what she thinks she knows in place of giving it all another chance. I listened knowing that this message was really important for me in this new phase of my life. It helped me to understand emptiness not as a concept of “without” but as a concept of “allowing” whatever arises just to be without the prior judgements that might have been held, to have faith that each situation or person has arisen for a reason.

This was confirmed even more strongly when Marlene asked us to split into pairs, to greet someone you had not met before and to tell part of the story of how you had arrived to that moment. I introduced myself to my partner, a woman with jet black hair and kind eyes. “My name is Chris,” I said and I told her my story of crossing a wide ocean and leaving the life I loved to take this leap of faith to a new place. She said in return “my name is Faith.” And that was all I needed to hear as she began to tell her tale.

This month, I invite you to have faith by embarking on something unfamiliar, something new. Often times we hug the familiar aspects of our lives like an old orange life raft. Floating along the surface of our lives comfortably without peering at the wonders that may reside beneath the surface. The definition of faith in the red Webster’s dictionary that still sits on my childhood shelf is “believe, trust”. Often I think we could all use a little bit more believing and trusting in our lives.

A few weeks ago in Maui I took a chance and literally dived through that surface by believing and trusting. My husband, Peter, asked me to come snorkeling with him in a bay close to our hotel. I ummed and awed, not that comfortable in the water and tired from jet lag, really in the end only going with him to make sure he lived through the experience and wasn’t taken by a shark. We got to the bay and had to time our entry into the deep water with the tide, the waves would die down and then come back, crashing with gusto against the rocks. With trepidation I stood there staring out to the expansive bay. Pete said “trust me” and when he gave me the signal to go, I jumped and swam with all my might out into the dark water of the bay. Pete followed close, familiar with my paranoia of all things wet and slippery looming in the ocean, and we took off with fins flapping.

Within a few moments, through my mask the largest turtle I had ever seen made it’s way up from the darkness below me and swam towards the light. Its presence filled me with peace and suddenly my body felt more relaxed than it had in years. I kicked hard and followed the turtle like I was the new Jacques Cousteau. Over the next hour, almost alone in the bay, we swam with a family of ten giant green sea turtles. They took time to nap on the tops of coral or large rocks and then would glide so fluidly, so lovingly and so patiently to the surface to come nose to nose with our masks. I felt held in an ancient dance. I felt so thankful to have shaken that life raft and sailed beneath the surface.

This month, start to work with emptiness by writing down one new thing that you would like to try and one old thing that you would like to let go of. When deciding on your new activity, try to stay away from those things that you know that you’re good at. Listen out for the activities that your heart soars around rather than your head. Try stepping out of your comfort zone. If you’re a wonderful dancer, try mountain biking instead. If you always have painted, try taking a sculpture class. If you are an expert chef, why not take a lesson in archery?

Follow those wild whims of your heart and feel what it is like to walk with the new. Notice the emptiness that accompanies the first steps of a new task, no expectations, no old habits, just a sense of abandon and anticipation. Embrace this emptiness and have faith that it will be filled with emotions and experiences that you may never have felt or seen from atop that orange life raft. As you decide on something that you can let go of, pay attention to what you were drawn to as you chose a new activity. Is there a passion there that is being blocked by something you are holding on to? Would clearing out the garage of your paints that you haven’t used in years make room for a photography darkroom?

Practice letting go without knowing what will fill the space. Try creating a few hours just for you on the weekend without making plans. Practice watching what fills that space. Let go of a piece of furniture that you’ve never really liked. Allow there to be emptiness in its place and trust that it will be filled. Allow this practice of working with emptiness to be one of trust and believing. Get comfortable with the blank spaces in your life, not rushing to fill them right away. From my experience over the past few weeks, creating this space in your life, you will be surprised at the wonderful people and opportunities that will come your way.

Use your journal to write about both your experience of letting go and trying something new. If one of the practices is particularly difficult or new for you, set yourself a second task. Get into the habit of stretching your wings and before you know it, you’ll be like the Blue Jays in this canyon, leaping off and ready to soar. So step forward, the month of August is waiting for your spirit, your courage, for this leap of faith.

Please Note: In the move between Australia and America, my inbox for everyday balance and part of my mailing list for these inspiration pieces was unfortunately lost. If you regularly receive a monthly reminder and did not in August, please send an email to chrisadler@everydaybalance.net with “please subscribe” in the subject space. If you sent me an email and I didn’t respond, there is a chance that I may not have received it and would love for you to forward it on. This problem has been fixed and I’m now set up in the northern hemisphere. My contact information has also been updated should you need to contact me by phone.

For new readers, 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.

posted under 2008 life balance

2008 – finding everyday balance in july

July1

Welcome Home Lark

This morning I went for a walk around Narrabeen Lake. The wind had quieted and the water was still. Even the trees stood motionless as if working on their posture, each leaf in place. I felt that the world had tidied up over night leaving me with a well swept path to walk towards a new space. As I walked my pace began to slow. The activity of the past week both physically and emotionally was catching up with me and I felt my feet finding a quieter rhythm. The ducks were still, the swings at the park empty, the water a giant mirror.

I remember a similar day walking up the arm of Mt. Tamalpais. There, the earth was wet with shade and fern and the air smelled of Redwood bark. I was twenty-one years old and ready to set out on a brave journey all on my own to a new place called Australia. I remember the slippery thoughts in my mind swishing between fear and anticipation. I wondered and worried about the decision I had made. I was opening a new chapter.

My first day in Sydney, I walked around the Opera House with wide eyes. It was as if the tide had gone out and washed up an amazing white shell. The water was a deeper blue than any I had seen before and the sky opened up into a wide arch that I knew would fill with many rainbows. The botanic gardens stretched out before me as my first case of jet lag settled in. I stretched out under a canopy of leaves and rested my eyes. When I woke, it was to the sound of screeching. A sulfur crested cockatoo sailed by. My first thought was that it must have escaped from the zoo and found the gardens as its home. Shortly after, several more cockatoos filled the sky, they weaved and ducked and screeched and I knew that this chapter would be one of magic. In that garden, on that first day, I thought to myself “I might live here a very long time.”

That was thirteen years ago. And next week, I farewell this lucky country that has become my home. It is hard to describe the many emotions that I’ve walked with over the past several weeks. There is fear, sadness, love, gratitude, happiness and anticipation. Not dissimilar at all to how I felt all those years ago.

Except today I know that from a handful of seeds I gingerly planted over the years, a beautiful garden grew. Over the past week and throughout the week ahead we are gathering with many of our friends, family, teachers, students and colleagues. What I have experienced thus far is a celebration rather than a farewell. I feel looking around at what has become family, grateful and humbled, not only for the presence of these people in my life, but that their support for our decision has been so wholeheartedly positive.

Taking this leap from our little beach house in Narrabeen, we feel just as lucky that we are able to land in San Francisco to the presence of our dear friends and family. Their love has been so expansive over the years, made of emails and phone calls, tucked between short passionate visits always with numbered days. Many of these people made the long flight over the ocean to experience the part of this country that we have been so enchanted to call home. This created an overlap between worlds for me that I have so much gratitude for.

So it is with a full heart that I write this piece. The reality of living between countries for me has been one that has challenged me on many levels and also enriched my life in so many ways. I feel that the gift that has shone through most brightly from this has been mindfulness. Mindfulness of the people in my life when they are present and mindfulness of the connections that can be felt even this far away. Certain moments have even shown me that an ocean apart isn’t far between hearts. One day my sister rang urgently to tell me about a vivid powerful dream she had of our childhood home. With emotion in my voice I told her that the night before, here in Australia, I experienced the same dream. So many times my heart has heard the presence of someone and then the phone has rung bringing me their voice. These moments have taught me that love reaches across even the widest of oceans and also how important it is to be truly present with those that sit across from you.

Moments of being reunited with the special people in my life are so precious, as are the feelings when I have to say good-bye. In this process, I feel as if my awareness is turned up to a high volume and I can feel how precious the connections we have are. Meditating, writing, and practicing yoga all support the importance of mindfulness in my life. I now can feel in myself when I have become ungrounded and am living in the future or the past. There used to be comfort in those moments, a vacation for the mind, where as now I feel a loss. The loss is of the present moment which I have not embraced, moments that I can’t get back once they are gone.

This month, I invite you to strengthen your mindfulness of your life as it is right now. Look around and discover the gifts that are waiting in the corners of your life that you many not have noticed after having worked so hard to create them. Slow down like the ocean has done today. Let go the rushing and the ripples and lay flat for a while. Look around. What do you see?

Often we are so busy working hard to make our bodies, our minds, our families or our homes shine that we forget to stop and enjoy the result of all our hard work. This month give yourself permission to take a break. Breathe easy and enjoy the fruits of all of your effort. There will always be more to do, to see and to improve upon, but what you will remember at the end of each day are those moments that you actually enjoyed what you have created. Some of you will be saying to yourselves, “Yes, but maybe next month when I’ve finished the kitchen or lost the weight or found the right partner.” Try to quiet these voices and listen to the one underneath them. Listen to the voice that feels even a little peaceful with what you have already accomplished. As you listen more and more, this voice will begin to speak louder, until it will be the only one you can hear.

Start by imagining what you would do if you had one month left in this home, this job, this relationship, this family or with these friends. What would you say, do and celebrate? Write three things down and try to fit them in this month. It may be that you would like to tell your partner why you love them, finally visit that art gallery you can walk to from your house, paint the blank canvases in the garage or create that extra something that makes work more enjoyable for you and your colleagues. Whatever comes to mind first, honour it and allow it to bloom.

This month is all about enjoyment as we walk gracefully into the second half of 2008. If you set goals for everyday balance at the beginning of the year, this is a really nice time to revisit your list. Look at what you have accomplished already and update the goals you have remaining as your intentions may have changed. Allow yourself room to play with these intentions as these should exude you and only you. For more detailed instructions on how to set goals see “finding everyday balance in january”.

I’d like to finish by saying thank you to all of you for the beautiful support you have given to me while writing these inspiration pieces. I will be continuing to write “finding everyday balance” each month from our new homes across the globe. We will be traveling between San Francisco and Hawaii over the next several months and I look forward to sharing my insights on this journey.

As the next eleven days unfold in Narrabeen, I will continue my walks around the lake. Nature teaches me that there are natural cycles of change in all things and I’m listening with an open heart. I look to the moon and the sea and the trees, in their constant states of change, and I try to emulate their acceptance and ease with this process.

For those that we are leaving, your words and your hearts and your presence in my life, even across an ocean, will remain the reason why each day I feel so grateful I took that leap at twenty-one. Not only did that leap bring me my beautiful husband Peter, but also a family in you, as wide as any forest. For those that we sail towards, thank you so much for believing in me over so many years and helping us to write these next chapters with the love and support you so naturally give. To everyone reading this, enjoy this month; let it shine for you as a beautiful canvas that you have already painted, one of celebration and one of love.

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 the author of a banner made by Peter on her return from her last visit to America in 2006.

posted under 2008 life balance
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