everydaybalance

inspirational tools to create life balance in your everyday

welcoming spontaneous generosity – december 2009

December21

As we step through the squares of December on the calender a certain sentiment starts to rise. The soundtrack of our lives shifts into sentiment and expectations. There is the wrapping up of presents and end of year projects. There is reflection and expression through song and hand written cards. Suddenly we are gathering with friends and work colleagues and family. We step on to flights and into cars or into time off amongst our own homes. Some of it is hustle and bustle and other parts welcome solitude and quiet walks. There are patterns to fall into with people and situations and also room to break the mold and create new traditions for our hearts and our families. For some this is a time of fatigue and sadness, for others it is joy and happiness. Within the December rush, where do we find balance?

This is my second holiday season back in America. Last year we were fresh out of Australia, with tiny roots growing up around our shoes and housesitting in a dear friend’s home. We were full of all new things. The new year ahead held such big unknowns. We were trying to decide where to live, where to work and wondering and wishing to conceive our baby. The tides of uncertainty were washing over us daily and the ground beneath us felt watery and thick like the sand in shallow waves. This year we are standing with our feet again amongst early shoots, but those new seeds have been planted into fertile ground with an intention of deeper roots. We are in our own home near family and friends, have the support of a school that Peter works for and are expecting our first baby in February.  The picture is colorful in a different way this year. There are still many blank spaces needing color and shape, but the foundation is there and as we move forward into the new year we are confident that it doesn’t need to be all colored in to be beautiful.

This letting go is where I’m finding that balance often hides. I’ve lived a lot of my life with a plan, a very concrete plan. I love details. In my home, I like to know that things have a certain place, a coat closet, sections on a book shelf, a shelf where a favorite vase looks just so. I like colors that work in harmony, a meal that unfolds with grace. But what I’m learning that so many conductors or directors know, is that once the stage is set, it is in the letting go that the real magic occurs.

On Thanksgiving, my family has gathered with my grandparents in southern California or at our friends home in Mill Valley. This year the plans weren’t set. My mom invited us to her home which has always been where we would go if we didn’t have other plans. Suddenly I thought, why not have it in our home? Having lived in another country for so long, being a part of creating new traditions in my family is foreign to me. I left when I was twenty-one years old and making the leap into adulthood happened while I lived far away from my family. Being back, there is a lot of joy for me in having adult “firsts” with my family. This might be cooking a meal for someone in my home or being available on the other end of the phone for advice in the same time zone or in this case hosting a holiday in my home for the first time.

My family agreed that Thanksgiving would travel this year across the Golden Gate in the other direction. My mom came up a few days early and we gathered ingredients and made plans. She was still going to cook which I think everyone was thankful for, as her talent in this area far exceeds mine, but I was going to be there to assist and videotape! My mother is the kind of cook that works quickly to her own time. I’ve always wanted to learn her recipes, but magically the real work seems to happen just as you step out of the kitchen or when she sends you get something for her. This year I was determined to record some of this magic so that I would have some hope of replicating it some day with lots of practice. We had a great time in the kitchen and my dad and sister arrived around lunchtime on Thanksgiving day.

For those of you living in another country, Thanksgiving has been deemed by my Australian husband as the best American holiday. There is no pressure of gifts, it is simply a time set aside with family to share a meal, have a day off from work and reflect on what you are grateful for. It is as if the whole country lets out a sigh of relief. Things get quiet and candles get lit and families find themselves together.

Our dinner was put in the oven, tantalizing scents were wafting through the house and the sound of Thanksgiving football was sneaking out under warm conversations when my pregnant body decided it was time for a walk. At this time of year in our neighborhood the streets are accented by large established trees melting with multicolored leaves on to wide sidewalks. As a group we kicked through the crunchy leaves down the street until we came to a home that I had been curious about since we moved here. In front of the home there was a plaque that outlined its history beginning in the 1880’s as the site of a traditional Japanese garden much like the one that sits in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park. The difference being that this historic garden is part of a private residence now.

My mother, an avid gardener for most of her life, peaked over the fence with me and the others on tiptoe. Suddenly we were spotted and a rush of energy traveled down my spine soon to be replaced by surprise. A woman with a wide gardener’s hat paused from sweeping her leaves and leaned out from behind a Japanese Maple to say, “Would you like to visit our gardens?”

I think we were all a little bit pink in the cheeks from spying over the fence and surprised that a stranger was inviting us into her home on Thanksgiving day. We broke into spontaneous smiles with a resounding, “Yes!” As we entered the garden through their wide gate, a kind of reverence fell over us. Suddenly around us was a perfect sanctuary, a place where gratitude couldn’t help but fall on us as easily as the yellow leaves on my street. We walked slowly over river stones and, “The bridge of Eternal Peace”. We stood by rare trees and smiled for photos. We toured this beautiful couple’s dining room set for a large Thanksgiving meal that once was the original Japanese tea house. We rested our eyes on the shape of the lake that reflected a turtle, a symbol long associated with my family, and spoke in hushed voices. All of our separate lives for a moment felt connected as one, simply by the act of spontaneous generosity by someone we had never met.

On our walk home we were filled with something more powerful than a store bought gift or a perfectly presented meal, we were filled with the energy of someone else letting go and opening their heart. From this space we stood under giant trees and spontaneously threw handfuls of yellow leaves into the air like we once would have as children. In the presence of something new, we gave ourselves the permission to play.

When I look back on this Thanksgiving, it won’t be the table that I set or the food that we ate or the tidiness of the house that I will remember. It will be this walk. This holiday season, I invite you to consider how your own spontaneous generosity might spill out into someone else’s day. With only a few days left till Christmas, I invite you to give the gift of your own generosity once a day. This might be by carrying someone’s bags to their car, offering to pick something up at the store for your partner, inviting a friend who is away from their family for a meal or simply telling someone how much they mean to you in person or in a card. There are innumerable ways that we can be generous in our everyday. And this doesn’t cost a cent. Generosity in spirit is one of the most amazing gifts that we can give. Being around a loved one who is in a good mood is infectious in a way that a wrapped gift could never be. It touches the heart and changes the energy of the room. Be spontaneously generous to yourself as well. If you’ve been on your feet too long, treat yourself to a bath with Epsom salts. If you have over socialized, schedule in an afternoon of walking or simply reading a book while listening to the rain.

Take time out this year to appreciate the spontaneous generosity that you receive. As the holiday spirit starts to reach a crescendo, instead of focusing on the lines or the list of things to do, let your gaze be on the gifts in the season. Even as I write this, I have listened to my husband open the door to our home at the sound of the doorbell. Waiting there was a neighbor, Melanie, standing in the rain, who introduced herself and presented Pete with a present that the admissions team from his school had left on her doorstep instead of ours. She had heard through the grapevine that her new neighbors a few homes down were having a baby and knocked on doors till she found us. A box of chocolates, a book of Mother Goose Nursery Rhymes, a beautiful card and the thoughts of new friends and the generosity of a stranger now fill our home on this rainy Monday afternoon.

Take the time this year to enjoy the package that surprises you on your doorstep, the taste of apple cider mixed with cloves, the presence of your loved ones perfect in their imperfections and from that foundation of generosity try to hold the year that has just been in your heart. Acknowledge the highs and the lows and know that amongst all of it, you are here in this present moment able to choose on so many levels what this day will hold.

This Christmas Eve, I’ll be with my husband and my family in my parent’s home on the hill under the redwood trees. Every Christmas that I’ve been in America, this is where I’ve sat near the Christmas tree with the colored lights that accent the ornaments given to me before I was born or given to us by friends present and passed. I’ll raise my glass as my father drops the needle on the record and, “One little Christmas Tree” by Stevie Wonder spills out into the room. And this year, I’ll feel thankful not only for my family, imperfect and beautiful, sitting with me and waiting to be born, but for you who are reading these words in your own unique families feeling generosity wherever you are in the world.

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Christina Adler - Everyday Balance - Everyday Balance

This monthly inspiration piece brought to you by author Christina Adler at ‘everyday balance’. If you would like to share your experience with these tools, please feel free to email me by visiting the contacts section on the home page. To subscribe for a monthly reminder for these inspiration pieces, simply fill in your name and email address on the home page under “subscribe to everyday balance.” For information regarding life coaching appointments in person, by telephone or online, visit the ‘for life coaching’ section of this website. Photo taken by Christina Adler in Mill Valley, California.

posted under 2009 life balance

the recipe that feeds you – november 2009

November1

Recently, I went to a cocktail party where I knew only a few other people than my husband. It was a beautiful setting looking out over the twinkling lights of San Francisco. The fireplace was burning in the corner and a piano sang out into the autumn night. I enjoyed conversations with many new and interesting individuals and noticed how within each conversation the question was often asked, “What do you do?” The implicit understanding was that we were talking about what we “do” for a living, what it is that puts bread on the table. As I thought back over the evening the next morning, the parts of conversation that stood out in my mind were not the names of companies or the description of daily tasks, but what it was that actually feeds us, in less of a consumption way and more of a spiritual way. I remembered the man who described how much more difficult it is to learn the piano compared to the guitar, the woman who talked to me about her favorite restaurants and walks in my new neighborhood, the description of an individual’s love of wine and a couple’s feelings about parenting. This food for life that is our unofficial work is in so many ways a treasure. The set of ingredients that for each individual adds up to passion is fascinating. This recipe, made from a past of colorful experiences, patience and diligence is something that is often undervalued in our conversations. Perhaps it is time to examine more closely what our conversations indicate is most important to us.

Two weeks ago we moved into a home ten minutes from Peter’s work about twenty minutes from San Francisco. Finally every box and bag and parcel that we have here in America sits under one roof. I look around at the beautiful stone fireplace that sits central in our home and wonder about the stories and feelings and music and visitors that will unthread at this hearth. I feel more grounded and at the same time I am conscious of my longing for community, to feel my place in this new land. I am just entering the third trimester of my pregnancy and as our life expands into uncharted territory so does my physical shape. Each day I learn a new point of balance for my body and my emotions. There is constant movement in the tides of change and I listen hard for a rhythm that I can rest in. The question of “what do I do?” is brought up by new friends and within myself as I enter this new phase. At nearly seven months pregnant it is difficult to establish yourself in a new workplace and yet I long for the instant community that this often offers.

Instead, I reach back into that treasure trove of “What feeds me?”and I find my writing, conversations with friends, walks down crunchy Autumn leaf lined streets and the aisles of seasonal farmer’s markets feed me. I rest in the spines of my books along the white bookcase and the openness in my heart as I explore the yoga and meditation centers in the area. I’m in “recruiting” mode, looking for sanctuaries for my heart and local cafes that will feed our bodies and inspire our minds. I’m looking for my favorite tree and a walking path by the water so that I can gage the tide of my days.

Thankfully, we were given the gift that two of our dear friends from Australia arrived in the week that we moved into this new home. Their spirit and approach sung of the energy of family. We felt taken under their wings and the unmistakable gust of Australian spirit that tastes of salty air, accents and sunny optimism. Their energy swept the home clean for us to land into gracefully and the memories of their visit are now tucked into the corners of the bookcase and the dining table and the babies closet and the guest room. During our week together, I couldn’t help but wonder what part of ourselves lives in our long term friendships. The people that I’m thinking of are the kind of friends and family that you would not hesitate to ring in the middle of the night with a problem, big or small. With the arrival of Kath and Trisha, I felt a part of my spirit brought back to myself and through their eyes my life felt more grounded. In each person that we give ourselves to, is a part of our experience held alive like an ember kept safe in a fireplace? Is the air that feeds it, the quality of our trust or simply the existence of love?

I truly believe that certain individuals, whether new or old friends, come into our lives at the times when we need their perspective and energy. Our friends that visited both have experienced living in different parts of the world. They know what it is to replant oneself and the evolution of comfort and questioning that comes with that process. Their experiences which reflected the image of our present situation rocked us back into a place where we felt heard and known.

During our visit, we explored many areas of San Francisco, a city that holds parts of me from long ago. We crawled the arms of the bare headlands and gazed up under the deep orange towers of the bridge. In the midst of Golden Gate Park, I introduced Kath to the Japanese Tea Gardens, a place where as a child I discovered my affinity for fortune cookies eaten slowly and dipped in tea. As we entered the garden, we were knocked back by the change in the air. The plants and layout of the garden created a serenity packed with oxygen and life that immediately changes your mood and energy. In San Francisco the library has a program by which enthusiasts of the city can become volunteer guides. Our guide presented the garden and her history with a kind and respectful voice. We learned of the family that lived there and the energy and love that they bestowed on to the space. We learned of their sad departure from the garden when the US went to war with Japan and this family’s displacement, with only ten days notice, from a serene garden to a war camp somewhere in middle America. Years later upon their return, their home in the garden had been bulldozed and their contribution hardly recognized by the city. They lost their fortune and again were asked by life to begin again.

As I walked through the garden, I could imagine the majesty of their home amongst the various spiritual symbols of long life and good fortune. I imagined their hands shaping the bonzais that now once again plant themselves into the slope of a hill over the babbling brook in the Zen garden. I am reminded that we all are called to make new homes at different points in our lives, some more painful than others. The balance between what feeds our hearts and what feeds our pocketbooks is so important as it is our passions that can never be taken from us.

This month, I invite you to explore a shift in your identity. Ask yourself how often in each day you identify or introduce yourself by your vocation. For one week, simply notice how often you think of yourself as “a certain role”. This may be as a teacher, a nurse, an engineer or a mother. Loosen the strings around how this role defines you and in the week that follows this observation begin to strengthen your identity around what feeds you spirituality, artistically and imaginatively. Begin to speak these intuitive passions and steer your conversations towards their place in your life.

As we get closer to the holidays, our social calendars begin to fill with more events, holiday parties and catch ups with new and old acquaintances. Hold the intention of speaking about what it is that has fed you this year and learn what it is that your colleagues and loved ones practice in their free time. As you begin to consider your holiday gifts, think back to these conversations or to what you know feeds those around you creatively. Take the time to make a list of what it is that you would like to buy. If a friend once played the cello, consider buying them a CD to remind them of that passion. If a loved one once shared with you their dream of becoming a pastry chef, give them a gift certificate for an evening in a cooking school.

As you remind those instrumental in your life of their individual passions, make time in your day to foster your own. We all have unfinished business in our creative closets. Reach in and excavate a long held dream. The texture and color that this will add to your days is good compost for this time of the year. It allows our brains to switch off and dance into a space that fosters relaxation and ease. Allow this to counteract any anxiety that of the higher tempo of the end of the year may bring. As you rediscover old loves, you are also setting the stage for your January intentions in the coming year. In this exploration, you may unearth a new year’s intention that could define what is born for you in 2010.

Often in life, we think that it is the big decisions that define us. This may be what we study at University, who we marry or where we choose to live. But it is often the more subtle shifts that hold the real power, the intentions that we follow through with our bodies and minds in each day. As you explore your creativity, consider keeping a journal and recording your feelings each morning. Notice how different parts of your personality start to shine and how common worries begin to lose their allure. As I reach into my own interests and learn what new colors there are to weave, I will think of you at your own loom carefully creating a pattern that will spill into your life, one that new and old friends will wake up feeling inspired by.

everydaybalance podcast

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Christina Adler - Everyday Balance - Everyday Balance

This monthly inspiration piece brought to you by author Christina Adler at ‘everyday balance’. If you would like to share your experience with these tools, please feel free to email me by visiting the contacts section on the home page. To subscribe for a monthly reminder for these inspiration pieces, simply fill in your name and email address on the home page under “subscribe to everyday balance.” For information regarding life coaching appointments in person, by telephone or online, visit the ‘for life coaching’ section of this website. Photo taken by Christina Adler in San Francisco, California.

posted under 2009 life balance

presence for impermanence – october 2009

October1

When I was seventeen, my boyfriend’s family went away on a summer road trip. They were going for a few weeks and Greg and I were so sad to be apart for that long. He even asked his parents if I could come along on their summer vacation, but it was already planned out as a family trip. The evening before they left, we all went into San Francisco and watched a beautiful production by the Joffrey Ballet Company. We had a drink afterwards in a lovely hotel and I remember the feeling of easy laughter and unity that flowed through their tight knit family. I said my good-byes and the next day tagged along with my parents who offered spontaneously to take me with them on their weekend away to a resort in Lake Tahoe. On Saturday evening my parents invited me to go out to dinner, but I was overwhelmed by the seventeen year old blues. I said I would watch TV, but when they left I went out and sat by the pool staring up at the stars feeling a big wide emptiness in my chest. At this point, I didn’t know that perhaps the emptiness I was feeling was linked to something larger.

This was in the days before cell phones and when we returned from our trip, my parents and I began to unpack the car. We have sixty stairs down to our home and it was always a big effort at the end of a car trip to get it all down. When I entered my room, I was greeted by all things innocent and mine. There were posters of Vivien Leigh playing Scarlett in Gone with the Wind, greeting cards and dried roses from Greg taped to the wall and the Redwoods gently pressing against the windows like old friends from outside. I pressed play on the answering machine and found that there were several messages, all from Greg. His voice sounded hoarse and different. He didn’t say what was going on, but that he needed to talk me.

I ran upstairs and told my parents that I thought something was wrong. They asked me to get the last bags before I made my phone calls and I went up to the carport. As I arrived a car came around the corner driven by my friend Phil who was very close to Greg’s family. He said, “Where have you been? Get in and we’ll go down there.” I was confused and said, “Where?” He looked at me blankly and then it dawned on him that I didn’t know what had happened. He said, “He’s gone. Rick died. They were in a car accident.” I felt my body go into shock. Sheets of adrenalin rained down on me. I flew down the stairs that I had been taking in twos since I was six and in a burst of confused shock told my parents that I was leaving and that Greg’s dad had been killed in a car accident.

Driving down the hill to Greg’s house, my life tilted dramatically into the adult realm. I felt outside of my body. Walking up the stairs to Greg’s bedroom, I could feel the presence of many unknown people throughout the normally warm house. People were talking in quiet voices that felt like cool breezes. I opened the door to his room and found Greg tucked into bed with a huge gash along his chin and bruises on his body. His eyes had changed from what he had seen. There was an abyss of emotion that had opened up that was too deep for our age, but that we began to swim across. At that moment, I stepped into shoes that felt too big and for the next several months I clumsily treaded the path laid out before me.

Images from that time in my life still feel as though they are painted in a deeper hue. The feelings were so deep and new that they etched themselves into my soul. I remember being in the church for the family’s funeral and one of Rick and Liz’s dear friends sang Amazing Grace. As her beautiful voice echoed through the church, I wondered how she could stand. I looked at her legs and saw that they were shaking. I saw that what was holding her up was love. Later on, there was a public funeral held in the amphitheater on Mount Tamalpais. Arriving, we made our way down the dusty steps to the front row. We took the steps slowly. I was afraid we might stumble and fall under the weight of so many eyes.There were hundreds and hundreds of people there to celebrate Rick’s life.

Rick was a central figure in the creation of the Sierra Club Legal Defense Fund and was one of the individuals that acted as the voice for such treasures as the endangered Spotted Owl. Sitting at the top of the mountain, the sound of bagpipes echoed through the canyon. A life that was cut short was being remembered. I could see how happy these people were just to have known him.

Seeing Greg’s mom for the first time after the accident, there were no words in my heart that could come close to what I needed to say. I thought at the time that it was because I was so young, that adults would have known what to say, but I was wrong. At times like this, when our loved ones are taken too early, there is nothing to say. What becomes important, is simply each other. The presence of our love being made known is what counts to the person who is hurting. It is what slowly brings them out of grief and back into life.

As an adult, I now look back and understand how this event shaped me at such an impressionable age. My pursuit of practices such as meditation and yoga and the resonance that I feel with Buddhist teachers such as Thich Nhat Hanh and Jack Kornfield all resonate with what I learned from this experience. Life is fragile. Impermanence is something that we live with in our relationships and in our natural world each day. We see it as the seasons change and as we change as people.

One of our jobs each day is to be mindful of the moment, to be as present as we can for where we have arrived to. Sometimes it is harder than at others. We are tempted to numb out due to feelings of boredom, fear or pain. But each season has its place. When we thaw out, the new Spring blossoms will be waiting for us on the trees again. The scent of chimney smoke on the first Autumn days will urge us back into life. A babies laughter will trickle love back into our hearts. Mindfulness is the way into a richer life and the way out of a sense of disconnect.

This past Thursday night, I stood in the dining room and checked my email on my iPhone. I nearly dropped the phone as I read the news that one of my regular yoga students, Jessica Lincoln-Smith had passed away on September 22nd. She was twenty-six years old and a bright star in my classes. Jessica was one of the students that taught me how to be a teacher. She and her mother came almost every week in the first years that I taught yoga and meditation in Mona Vale, Australia.

Standing an ocean away, I couldn’t imagine that Jessica was gone. I knew what a close family she had come from and I cried for their unimaginable loss. I felt lucky to have known Jessica and for the confidence that she gave me in my teaching. I’ll never forget one afternoon when we found ourselves waiting at the same bus stop to travel together to the class I would teach. We sat across from my apartment building which sat on the beach and she told me how recently she had been at her parent’s home and looking out the window had seen a pod of dolphins in the ocean. She said without a second thought that she had gone down to the beach and swam out to where she thought the dolphins were. Not being a confident ocean swimmer myself, I was amazed at her spontaneity and spirit. When she swam out she found that the dolphins had waited and they surrounded her.

I’ve heard from friends that dolphins in the ocean are wild. They have scars and are much larger than you would imagine when viewing from the shore. Often surfers are terrified when they see them sidle up beside them. Jessica told me how she felt the opposite. She described a true sense of calm that overcame her and filled her whole being. She felt a deep connection with the dolphins that day and felt changed by the experience. Years later, I still carry this story in my heart to inspire me when I feel fear start to block my spontaneity.

Over this past month of my pregnancy, my back has gone out several times. I’ve found myself on bed rest for five to seven days at a time. Just recently, I’ve tentatively begun a gentle ten minute daily yoga practice and ten minute walk around the city block that surrounds the home in San Francisco where we are housesitting. As I approach what once were easy everyday yoga postures, I notice how the flexibility in my body has been cut in half. Everything has become shorter and tighter through the pain of the last month. I have to start from scratch and pretend that I’ve never practiced yoga before. Sometimes life is like this as well. We experience something that knocks us back so hard that we have to start again. We have to take baby steps back into life. In this there is frustration and uncertainty, but also the opportunity to discover joy from a different perspective.

On my walks this week, I’ve found myself see-sawing between frustration at the pain in my sciatic nerve and utter joy at the soothing bi-lateral motion of walking. On Friday as I walked around the first corner, the scent of freshly cut grass came at me as sun fell against my bare arms. All of a sudden calm and joy welled up. I felt gratitude in the present moment. As I walked the rest of my ten minutes, with each foot fall to the pavement, I listed something in my life that I was grateful for. My heart ached for the loss of Jessica and at the same time I knew that she was still teaching me. I couldn’t help but feel gratitude that I was able to simply to walk in the sunshine, to smell the scent of the green grass, to have had the chance to have known her.

This month, I invite you to honor the presence of joy and people in your life by taking a gratitude walk each day. Create a short loop for yourself that only takes five to ten minutes. This may be the walk that you take each day from your office to where you get your coffee. It may be the walk from your front door to the car. It may be a new walk that you take upon first waking or when you arrive home from work. Don’t overdo it. Try just setting aside ten minutes and your more likely to walk in gratitude each day.

Set yourself a target of practicing for one week or for the rest of the month. At the end of that time, take stock of your life and notice if anything has shifted or changed. As we move from taking things for granted to feeling gratitude, we shift our awareness from lack to abundance. The relationships in your life and what arrives into the window of your everyday will reflect this. Don’t be afraid to speak your gratitude as your well deepens.

Telling those around us how much they mean to us, is one of the most important gifts we can give. If you feel self conscience speaking this aloud, take pen to paper or your fingers to the keyboard. Let these words dance out of your heart and into your world. Start today. I know that I will. In fact, I’ll start right now by telling you how grateful I am for your support and presence. Thank you for reading these inspiration pieces and giving me a space to reflect openly on what is important to me and those around me and on what I feel can help our lives to feel a little more whole.

everydaybalance podcast

You can subscribe to all podcasts via iTunes by clicking the button the button below.
Christina Adler - Everyday Balance - Everyday Balance

This monthly inspiration piece brought to you by author Christina Adler at ‘everyday balance’. If you would like to share your experience with these tools, please feel free to email me by visiting the contacts section on the home page. To subscribe for a monthly reminder for these inspiration pieces, simply fill in your name and email address on the home page under “subscribe to everyday balance.” For information regarding life coaching appointments in person, by telephone or online, visit the ‘for life coaching’ section of this website. Photo taken by Peter Moore at South Narrabeen Beach, Australia.

posted under 2009 life balance

on fertile ground – september 2009

September1

When I was a child my parents had a classic style picnic table at the front of our house. It was originally painted green and then later painted over to be white. Over the years as the white paint peeled back you got a glimpse of the deepest hue of green like a hidden forest covered by fog. On quiet afternoons, I would gather up my sister and our friends and drag one of these long benches under the Maple tree outside my bedroom window. There was shade here and I remember how the light softly pulled through the bright green leaves. Surrounded by forest, there was a kind of stillness that led our minds towards magic. With careful instruction, I would line up the children at the end of the bench and then begin to teach flying lessons. The instructions were pretty simple. Step up on to the bench, walk slowly across the top, grab on to a Maple branch, swing and let go. Many times I was asked, “But, when do we fly?” and I would answer, “In the moment that you let go.” In the past two months, I have been reminded of this little jewel of wisdom that came naturally to me as a child, but that as an adult is so easy to forget.

Earlier this year, I came to a place in our journey to conceive a baby where I didn’t know where to turn. It had been three long years of trying with no result and I found myself in a state of veiled pain. After so many months of disappointment, I began to tell myself that I knew it wouldn’t happen and not to get my hopes up. I started the game of managing my and Peter’s expectations by setting them lower. For anyone who has had a dream they have struggled to reach, you know what a painful exercise this is. Trying to trick the psyche into believing that you are okay with your set of circumstances when actually there is a mountain of pain, is a costly game. In May of this year, that game was up. A kind of courage floated to the surface that was new to me. I came to a place where I was ready to ask for help. A year previously we had looked into assisted fertility options in Australia, but because ours was a case of unexplained infertility, we weren’t ready to embark on them at that time. Now we felt we were.

I rang up my health insurance provider and found that the cost of assisted fertility in America was nearly six times as high as it was in Australia. As the secretary told me the numbers, my breath was literally taken from me. I felt at once, incredibly fortunate to have citizenship in Australia and incredibly angry at a health system in America that created an impossible choice for those already in difficulty. The option for assistance in America was now ruled out, so I moved on to exploring the possibility of being an international patient in Australia. To my relief, the fertility group that we had spoke to before we left in 2008, had a doctor that not only worked with international patients, but also specialized in unexplained infertility. After many calls back and forth, we arranged for a middle of the night phone appointment, due to different time zones, with our new doctor in Australia.

We don’t take many calls at 2:15am, but the appointment went well, and although talking about your fertility in the middle of the night is not something I would recommend, we felt an immediate connection with Dr. Gavin Sacks, who was both honest and had a sense of humor. During the call, we found out that after trying for a baby for three years, there is a three percent chance of becoming pregnant naturally. Hanging up the phone that night, we had decided that on our six week trip back to Sydney this summer, we would do one round of IVF and if that didn’t go well, I would have exploratory surgery to see if they could find a problem. I would head out two weeks before Peter as he had a work conference to attend and start preparations with the clinic. Going to bed that night, I felt three things: terrified of the unknown, hope for the first time in months and thankful for our support network in Australia that I knew, no matter what the result, would support us well through this leap.

In June, we began the unbelievable task of packing up our house again. We would put our things into storage so that in returning to America after our trip, we could then move the two hours south to where Peter would begin his new job teaching fourth grade. Our world was on the move again. Peter was ending his current job, the house was in boxes and I was saying farewell to the beautiful yoga community that I had created in the Napa Valley. Life felt full. We were hurtling forward and checking in with each other on our regular morning walks through the vineyards behind our house. On these walks we would vocalize our fears and hopes for the future. Again it felt like we were spilling our lives out on to a blank canvas waiting to see how the colors would mix. I was so grateful to have Peter’s steady and optimistic hand to hold through this time.

On the Monday after a full weekend of hot air balloons, friends, family, brunches and walks, I felt full and centered. I started getting out more boxes and began packing books and clothes. But it was slow going because I was preoccupied. For the first time in years, something strange had happened. I was late. I went through all the rationalizations to keep my emotions safe, but something in me knew that this time it was different. I sat down and had a big cry as I drew hope up and into my heart again. As I cried, I remembered how a couple of weeks before I had woken at 5am and been drawn to walk outside. It was dawn and I gazed out to the tule fog hovering over the vines and the fields. I stood there for ages, the cold air of morning surrounding me, feeling awake to something new that I couldn’t put my finger on. I believe now that my body had awakened my heart in a way that my mind couldn’t understand yet.

That Monday afternoon when Peter got back from work, I did a pregnancy test that had been shoved to the back of the cupboard. And on that ordinary Monday afternoon, in a state of absolute awe, we found out the extraordinary news that for the first time we were pregnant. Even writing these words, now fifteen weeks along, I can hardly believe that they are true. We protect ourselves so well when we believe that our dreams won’t be realized, that when they do, the magic is simply overwhelming.

Sharing this unexpected news with the many individuals who had known of our journey, continues to be one of the most beautiful experiences of my life. In these moments, a kind of love covered disbelief and pure joy has embraced me. And as we shared this news, I’ve felt that not only were we celebrating in the beautiful news of this baby, but also in the mystery of dreams, against all odds, somehow unfolding.

The day after we found out, we walked in the vines just like any other day, but I felt that my pockets had been emptied of heavy pieces of emotion that I had unconsciously accumulated. My body felt so light and spacious. I had no idea how much space, my fear and my grief, had been taking up in my physical body.

Looking back on the many gifts that this difficult journey has bestowed on me, I feel that one stands out from the rest. Ironically, this is the lesson that my eight year old self could have taught me. To let go and believe in those things that you cannot yet see. As a child, the moment between letting go of that slippery course branch and my red soft soled Keds hitting the ground, was the moment that I was flying. I couldn’t see it, but I could feel it. I didn’t need to prove it to anyone because it was something I simply knew to be true.

This month, I encourage you to begin believing in a dream that you cannot yet see. This may be in relation to a job, a relationship, a home or a pursuit that by now you can hardly believe will ever come true. Start by airing this dream out and dusting it off. Sometimes, we hold on to dreams for such a long time that we lose touch with what they mean to us. Take some time outdoors. Perhaps, take a walk or go sit somewhere that soothes you and revisit in your journal or in your heart, what this dream feels like for you now.

Try to stay away from “how” you think this will manifest itself and try to reconnect simply to the importance of it for you. Allow yourself to open to the possibility that even though you cannot see it, there is support for this dream all around you. It may be in your friends belief in you, in your spiritual practices or just a sense of knowing that comes solely from inside yourself.

This month, nurture this sense that although you cannot be sure the path towards this dream or what it may look like, that there is the true possibility in its unfolding. While the world is turning and days run busily by, imagine threads to this dream weaving themselves all around you and let go of the need to hold on so tight. While this dream is being woven, dig into life like you would into your garden. Make plans, taste new foods, celebrate milestones with your friends, and try something new. By living each day in a way that feeds your soul and nourishes your relationships, you are one step closer to your dreams. Some of those dreams may be familiar and others haven’t even been conceived yet. Live in a way that conceives beautiful dreams, those you feel close to and those you can hardly believe could ever come true. Go on, reach for that branch and let yourself fly.

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Christina Adler - Everyday Balance - Everyday Balance

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, please feel free to email me by visiting the contacts section on the home page. To subscribe for a monthly reminder for these inspiration pieces, simply fill in your name and email address on the home page under “subscribe to everyday balance.” For information regarding life coaching appointments in person, by telephone or online, visit the ‘for life coaching’ section of this website. Photo taken by Peter Moore near the Pali Lookout, Oahu.

posted under 2009 life balance

sailing towards insight – july 2009

July1

A few weeks ago, I woke up to my alarm sounding at four forty in the morning. Around me the summer air was cool and still. I looked out into the early morning and found to my surprise that the night sky was already warming up to blue around her edges. Peter, Amy and Josh and I packed ourselves into the car, our dreams still lingering in our sleepy minds. We sailed down the dark lane past the sleeping cows towards the twentieth annual Sonoma County Hot Air Balloon Classic. The park was dark and people were rugged up in coats and scarves. Children were staring in awe at the fabric of balloons limp and damp against the grass. We stood with hot drinks in our hands and became those children as one after another a wooden basket with an elated couple, held gingerly inside, sailed up into the early morning. The canopy of color and smiles was followed by a distinct whoosh of great flames of fire heating these beautiful jelly fish like balloons up up and away. At one point we lay down on our backs like we used to do under July 4th fireworks. Instead of the popping and explosion of light, this was a silent scattering of giant pieces of color. Sailing above me, was each individual’s dream, clearly being lived. Their insights into their own joy shouting vibrantly against the early morning sky.

This month, I sail off towards the sky of my own dreams. On Friday, I will step once again on that mystery of a plane that will soar me back to Australia to reunite with the big blue skies, the arching harbour bridge, the white shell of an Opera House and the friends and family that represent a dear home to me. The decision to go back to Australia for six weeks is one that is good for me. It comes from a place of insight that tells me that reconnecting with the people dear to me gives me a strength that I need right now. It comes from the experience of living overseas for so many years that tells me that waiting more than a year to visit a home is too long. It comes from the place in me that delights in planning for pockets of joy in my life.

Whenever I sail up into the night sky out of San Francisco, I imagine the fog pulling off behind the plane in long scarves of white. I sit back in my seat and trust in the mystery of the plane that can take me through the night to Australia. There is a freedom in that take off and in that trust, the letting go of one country for the next. Responsibilities are set down gently on shelves, or in this case in boxes as we pack up our home, so that a grand clarity can occur. I find that I am able to see clearly the chapter I have just lived, its lessons, pains and joys. I usually spend the first hour writing in my journal or staring out the window in reflection, as if I too, have been taken up softly in a hot air balloon to look down upon my life. And as I lift off, perspective gently seems to lend a hand. It speaks softly, “See how you thought that relationship would never change, and it has…” and “Isn’t that interesting how that job unfolded even though you were so afraid to start?” and “Isn’t that surprising how that leap led to friendship and joy?” and “Do you see how fear is still stopping you there?”

This clarity and freedom of the heart is also known as insight. And insight, however it is found, leads us down an alternative path. Even if the variance in our path is only slight, over the years the gap between where we would have been compared to where we are, is wide. Insight into our own lives comes in many different forms. Sometimes it is a film that opens our eyes, or a consequence to our actions that we hadn’t seen coming or a conversation with someone dear to us. Sometimes it is standing up to face a fear that we’ve had in our pockets for years. Whatever it is that lends us insight, it is so important that we need to actively seek out opportunities for it to come through.

The things that block insight can be subtle. Sometimes it is fear or denial or lack of belief in ourselves. We ignore the stirrings of our heart towards a different direction because the old path is comforting in its familiarity. But the change needn’t be dramatic. Often the world will invite us to face our fears in a gentle way. When I was twenty-three, I was desperately unhappy in my job as a waitress that was supporting my life overseas. The people that I worked for spoke to me terribly and my self esteem was plummeting. On a Sunday afternoon, I had just gotten off the train and was walking to my writing group when I passed a little cafe that I loved. A student from my Women’s Studies class at University was sitting outside having a coffee. She asked me to join her. I had a few minutes before my group so I sat down and ordered a coffee. During the conversation, we learned that we worked for different restaurants owned by the same people. She had experienced the same treatment that I had. Something in me told me to stay with the conversation, that it was more important than my writing group that day. Over coffee and then lunch, we both were able to finally articulate the real damage that the patronizing and sexist comments that were being made towards us were having. At the end of that conversation, I had torn out the front page of my book and posted a sign on the cafe wall saying “Nanny Available” with my name, qualifications and number under it. We walked back to her parents home in Austinmer and under a canopy of leaning palm leaves, we each called and resigned from our positions.

The book that I had with me was Sharon Salzberg’s beautiful book titled Lovingkindness. I still have that copy and I read from it in my yoga and meditation classes regularly. When I open it, my hand often habitually goes back to the first page where the rough edges of that missing page still sit soft and torn. It reminds me of a slight variance in my path that was born from listening to my heart rather than my head. I did get a nanny position and a part of me was kept safe from further damage spoken unconsciously by the people I worked for. At a young age, this taught me that insight and strength are put in our paths in many different forms, we just have to be open enough to receive them. In her book Salzberg writes:

Consider how the sky is unharmed by the clouds that pass through it, whether they are light and fluffy-looking or dark and formidable. A mountain is not moved by the winds blowing over it, whether gentle or fierce. The ocean is not destroyed by the waves moving on its surface, whether high or low. In just that way, no matter what we experience, some aspect of ourselves remains unharmed. This is the innate happiness of awareness.”

I believe the awareness she describes is linked to the more authentic part of ourselves that remains the same regardless of the circumstances of our lives. It is this part of ourselves that carries a kind of strength, like that of a mountain, that is with us all of the time. We have the opportunity to come back in contact with this deeper part of ourselves, through meditation or prayer, yoga or simply mindfulness of the present moment and our innate strength within whatever life may be offering us. From this strength of awareness, not only stems happiness but also insight.

In August, when we arrive back from our visit to Australia, Peter will start a new job as the fourth grade teacher of a beautiful school near San Francisco. This job came up serendipitously, at a time when he had recognized and articulated in his journal and to me how much his teaching gave meaning and inspiration to his life. Packing up our life again into boxes this week, we’ve looked at each other and shaken our heads. The green lush vines sit plump outside the windows and our home over the past five months is difficult to say good-bye to. We know though, in our hearts, that this is the direction our lives are meant to move towards. There is a pull there that is so strong that elicits trust in the decision. A recognition through insight that tells us, that this too is a part of our path here in America.

This month, I invite you to tune into your own insight. A wonderful way to do this is to create a visual picture of which direction you would like your life to move towards. As I was packing this morning. I came across the vision boards that Peter and I made on a wonderful health retreat in January 2008. Pulling out the laminated sheets, my heart soared as I visually ticked off the pictures that represented so much of what we had experienced over the past two years. From the picture of Diamond Head Mountain in Oahu where we were given a housesit last summer to the images of Africa that remind me of the Safari we went on for my birthday not far from here to the winter trees without leaves that surrounded this home when we first arrived to the image of a swimmer that became a regular exercise of mine. These images, that once were just a thought of what we wished for, unfolded into what was. The path to them or the form in which they arrived may have been different to what we could have “thought” up, but their existence in our lives remains just as beautiful.

This week set aside an hour of uninterrupted time. Get a big stack of magazines, all kinds, from car magazines to yoga magazines. Grab some newspapers as well. If you don’t order magazines, take yourself on a field trip to your local charity or Salvation army store, where you can often pick up old magazines for ten cents. Start by finding a CD or a collection of music that has it all. Something that takes you from sentimental to motivated, from melancholy to dancing in your seat. Let the music take your mind on a journey. Movie soundtracks are great for this exercise. You’ll need a large piece of posterboard or cardboard, even a cutting off the side of a box will do. Grab yourself a glue stick and scissors and start cutting. Choose images not from your head, but that call to your heart. Don’t over think it. Cut out words that call to you. On my vision board, I have sentences like “celebrating life” and “defy the elements with delicate” and “go with the flow” and for the material girl in me “dyson” which miraculously came at a huge discount and makes vacuuming a whole new experience for me. Let yourself have fun with this exercise and draw from images that represent the many interests in your life.

When you have finished your board, post it up where you can see it. If friends or family members ask you about it, explain your dreams. In speaking your board, you may discover insights into what was behind the image of the music note or the suitcase, that you yourself were not even aware of. Laminating your board when it is finished is a good way of preserving it. Most copy stores will do this for a very small fee.

As we get better at articulating our dreams, we get closer to living them. Our insights are given a voice and we start to steer our path towards real fulfillment and a deeper knowing of ourselves. Give yourself the opportunity to take that hot air balloon flight. Look at your world from a place of magic. Take joy in the sound of the flame being lit under your sails, whatever color or pattern they may show themselves in. Discover as Rolf Gates writes that “if our concentration quiets us enough…something powerful happens. Where until now we have sought out experience, suddenly experience seeks us out instead.”

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Christina Adler - Everyday Balance - Everyday Balance

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, please feel free to email me by visiting the contacts section on the home page. To subscribe for a monthly reminder for these inspiration pieces, simply fill in your name and email address on the home page under “subscribe to everyday balance.” For information regarding life coaching appointments in person, by telephone or online, visit the ‘for life coaching’ section of this website. Photo taken by Christina Adler in  Windsor, California

posted under 2009 life balance

finding balance in heartbreak – june 2009

June1

Sometimes moments hurt. They might be impossibly beautiful or sad or hard and some part of our heart just opens wide, wider than it might if we hadn’t been swept up in the moment in the first place. Last night when two Canadian Geese flew by honking so loudly and flying so gracefully, my heart felt whole under the weight of impermanence. Behind these two geese, who appeared almost to be flying as one, were a gaggle of nearly twenty others honking in the distance behind them. These geese were flying all akimbo, no lines or partners, just one big splash of flight. They came down low and then high to miss the pine trees and then seemed to flatten out as if to taste the scent of new buds as they headed out over the vines. I stood there in their wake alive in the moment, that so easily could be missed if I had my head in a book or was cutting up the green beans. Instead this moment gets to sit in the pocket of my mind feeding this feeling of faith in the world, reminding me that when it feels like you are flying it alone, often behind you is a gaggle of support. All you need to do is open your heart.

Most of the time however, we live in our heads. The story lines of our lives are on full volume even if the station we’re tuned into isn’t particularly inspiring. Years unfold and we learn about ourselves and those around us through our experiences. When I look back over my life, often my memories are linked by a home that I lived in, a particular job or course of study and sometimes by a struggle that has been louder than the rest of markers of that time.

When I look back over the past three years, I see the markers of our home on the beach in Australia, a wonderful job and community at the yoga center that I managed, our move to America and travels around the country and yet over that, as if painted in the lightest watercolor of blue, is the journey we have embarked on to try to conceive a baby. It was three years in April since we decided with a twinkle in our eyes that we were ready to become parents. We started out with a kind of butterflies in the stomach mixed with a knowing that we were ready. There are memories in that first six months where I look back and can see the certainty of our baby in my mind. Buying a new mobile phone, I clearly remember thinking that I should buy a sturdy phone that can survive being thrown off a highchair tray. I remember looking at pregnant bellies, that suddenly appeared all around me like a field of new daisies, and feeling a camaraderie in our journey together. At the six month mark of trying, a shaving of fear fell into my mind and sat there sharp and tight. As I planned for the future, I moved around it so that it wouldn’t burst the bubble of our future plans. As we approached twelve months, I found new literature to say that infertility was now being based on the two year mark rather than one. My doctors assured me that this was entirely normal and that these things take time. I searched for signs of life in my body each month, a flutter, nausea, some tenderness that I would develop hope from. Each month, my body told me no. Sometimes this felt like a slap in the face, or a compassionate pat on the back or sometimes it was a wave so big that it took me under.

After several months in that second year of big waves, Pete saw that I wasn’t coping well with the repeated crushing of hope. He encouraged me to reach out to a counselor who was able to help me pull apart the threads of confusion and anger and grief that had grown up around our trying to have a baby. At that time, I felt like author Anne Lamott, when she said “my mind remains a bad neighborhood that I try not to go into alone.” In our lives we all will experience heartbreak and grief.  It may be in the form of a death or a dream unrealized or a set of circumstances that we could have never imagined. Amongst the comings and goings of our everyday lives, how do we balance while our hearts are hurting?

Through my journey over the past three years with unexplained infertility, there have been strong consistent tides that I’ve been working with. At first it was the tide of confusion. Peter and I didn’t actually know what was happening. With no evidence from our tests to say that we couldn’t have a baby and doctors assuring us that nothing was wrong, we were unable to get a firm grasp on what was happening to us. In this, I had a hard time talking to friends or family about what was going on. I wanted to hold on to that dream of surprising our loved ones with the news that we were pregnant. Then there came the tide of knowing. We couldn’t hide it from ourselves anymore that even though no one could tell us what was wrong, we knew there was a problem. We began talking to those that were close to us, but I felt so raw around it, that I only could talk to a handful of people in my life. After this third year, although the journey continues to be painful, we seem to have rounded a corner on to steadier ground. Perhaps it is acceptance or perhaps the last three years have taught us to know a strength in ourselves that we didn’t have to begin with.

When I think about balance and my journey with this particular grief, I know that one of the most important things I’ve learned is to be well supported. One of the easiest ways to support yourself is simply to treat yourself kindly. This kindness seems obvious, but it doesn’t come easy. Often during the times in our life when we feel grief or failure, our self talk is something like those evil horses in The Lord of the Ring’s movies breathing down our necks to do better. It gets messy. We would never speak so badly to those around us, so why do speak to ourselves this way?

In times of difficulty or heartbreak, it is particularly important to stop this negative self talk. I’ve found the best way to do this is with awareness. If there is an area of your life where you feel in over your head, start writing down what you are saying to yourself. This begins to create awareness. Ask yourself what these messages tell you about what you’re going through. Is this difficulty bringing up past struggles? Are you feeling anger, fear or sadness? An easy way to get better in touch with your inner voice is to begin journaling. As an avid journal keeper for most of my life, I often know if something is hitting too close to the bone because I will stop writing. Whatever it is that I’m going through, seems too painful to look at. Every time I break the drought of writing, insight pours through. I learn over and over again that getting the thoughts on to the page is a sure way of clearing out some of those cobwebs.

To start making up for some of the not so nice things you may have told yourself, you can start to treat yourself well. It is incredible the difference that you will feel simply by giving yourself a break. Start small. The next time that you have a difficult interaction or day, ask yourself what would you do for a friend in a similar situation. Without creating excuses, that it may cost too much or take up too much time, do this for yourself. When my friends are going through a tough time, often I will send them a card or an email to let them know that I am thinking of them. A couple of years ago, I began using special cards as bookmarks or I would display their covers around our home. I also began to keep a separate folder in my email account that says “special emails”. When I’m having a difficult day, I can go to this folder and read messages from the people that care about me. As I read their words, it is as if they are there, giving me strength in myself again and telling me it is all going to be okay.

Support is something that we can give ourselves, but also something that we need from others. One of the muscles that I’ve strengthened along this path is being able to be honest about what is going on in my life to those around me. There is often a tight cone of silence around infertility and one that I fell into myself. I’ll never forget being on a health retreat and talking to the kinesiologist about what Peter and I were going through. She told me that several other women on the retreat were also struggling with having a baby yet no one had mentioned it to one another. When our bodies fail us in a way that we don’t expect, we internalize this as something that we should have been able to control. Out of this stems shame and then silence. Breaking that silence invites greater support and encourages not only honesty, but also a better understanding from those around you. This understanding paves a difficult path with something more powerful than grief and that could only be love.

This month, if you are experiencing grief or traversing difficult waters, I invite you to support yourself by treating yourself with the kindness you would show a friend and also by beginning to speak honestly about where you have arrived to in your life. Honesty breeds honesty and you may find that the person sitting right next to you has been where you are or that you are the person that can help to make the journey a little less painful for someone that you know.

We all have suffering in our life. Like happiness it comes and it goes and even in the midst of the darkest times in our lives, there can be joy. There are moments where although the path you are walking isn’t the one you planned on, it strikes you open with its beauty and in an instant hope is alight again. Hope and acceptance can go hand in hand. I know that for myself they are both burning bright. Be kind to yourself and know that you are not alone, each of our journeys overlaps. Often I think of the quote that says, “Every blade of grass has an angel leaning over it whispering ‘Grow, grow.’” I believe that each of us also has an angel leaning over us, that whispers that we needn’t grow alone.

everydaybalance podcast

You can subscribe to all podcasts via iTunes by clicking the button the button below.
Christina Adler - Everyday Balance - Everyday Balance

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, please feel free to email me by visiting the contacts section on the home page. To subscribe for a monthly reminder for these inspiration pieces, simply fill in your name and email address on the home page under “subscribe to everyday balance.” For information regarding life coaching appointments in person, by telephone or online, visit the ‘for life coaching’ section of this website. Photo taken by Christina Adler in  California.

posted under 2009 life balance
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