everydaybalance

inspirational tools to create life balance in your everyday

the winds of change – november 2010

November14

Right now I’m sitting at the computer, the sound of rain mixing with the music as night kisses the cold windows. Music is a good friend to me. In my childhood home, the record player was the gathering spot for our family. In the evenings, shiny black saucers would spin round and round and our favorite songs would join us like old friends. From this upbringing, music has always had a way of making me feel relaxed and connected to a deeply authentic part of myself. This evening I was feeling open and spent, longing to feel more grounded after a big week. Thankfully something in me told me to turn on some music. My spirits lifted immediately. From this space of connection, I was able to reach out to another comfort, spilling these words on to the page. Music and writing are like hot tea and a cold night, they work well together. Music helps to bring my feelings to the surface and writing helps me to process and understand those feelings. We each have these unique comforts in our lives. When we reach out for them in times of imbalance, it can be as comforting as turning on a light in an otherwise dark room.

These past four months my writing has gotten swallowed up in my day to day life. I’ve been looking for it in between the grocery shopping lists and the changing of diapers, the laughter of my daughter and the joy of relatives visiting, the daily walks and the grieving for a family member, but it was hiding. I’ve been worried that it had gone permanently, but my experience kept telling me that when it had gone on a holiday before, it had always returned. Today, I caught a glimpse of an evening that was open like a window in summer and thankfully I was able to hold on to it. I sat and breathed and welcomed the voice of writing back into my life. Now, sitting here, black letters appearing rapidly on the screen, I can remember that with big change comes smaller changes and that sometimes they need time to settle.

In February, I had my first baby and she has been an absolute joy. She has turned up the volume in so many areas of my life, that some days I struggle to hear the steady beat of what used to be my day to day rhythm. Over the past few months, I’ve noticed that accompanying this shift of focus have been “guilt trips” in my self talk. The tasks that I used to accomplish with ease haven’t been fitting in amongst all the new activities that come with a baby. As each day goes by without completing the writing I’ve wanted to do or the heap of laundry in the baskets or the emails that I’ve wanted to return, I’ve been prone to giving myself a hard time. We all do this from time to time and it never feels good. The heaviness around the “not doing” of these activities can actually be blocking them as much the lack of time to do them in. One of the keys to start moving away from negative self talk is to simply realize that we’re doing it. By acknowledging the pattern, we can start to be aware when those thoughts arise and work on reframing the situation to put it in perspective.

Looking back on the major changes that have occurred in the last eight months, I can’t help but have a little giggle to myself that on some level I expected that everything would get done the way it had in the past. I’ve been expecting that the same strategies that worked in my life without a baby would work with a baby. I’ve realized now that this is a great time to start getting creative. Time no longer is often offered to me in large chunks so my activities have to downsize as well. Simply by being more aware of what is present often offers an alternative to feeling bad that the old approach is no longer working like it once had.

Yet with change, comes adjustment, and often with adjustment we feel a sense of discomfort. Our minds and our hearts need to be given a chance to catch up when we’ve experienced something life changing. In my case, I need to adjust my expectations to meet the reality of my time available. With this kind of consistant change, we can plan for it and adjust our expectations, but what about when it is an emotional change that we’re not ready for?

This past month, I experienced one such change. During dinner on a Monday evening, we received a call from Australia telling us that Peter’s grandfather Ray, or Gadam as he was known to the family, was ill. He had been taken to a hospital in Manly after the fluid in his legs reached a level that prevented him from walking. My heart clenched at the news. I feared the loss of someone so dear and so far away. Two days later, with many of his family members at his bedside, Gadam passed away. At the time, Peter, Ruby and I were walking down the leafy streets of Burlingame. We were talking about Gadam and the times we had spent with him when we received the news from the shaky voice of Peter’s sister over my mobile phone. Amongst the tears, I felt thankful that we were all together. If Peter had to endure this news, at least we could hold each other with Ruby sandwiched between us, her little heartbeat a reminder of the cycle of life. Her blue eyes a reminder that Gadam would always be with us.

Gadam was someone that was easy to love. He had a laugh and a smile that broke your heart open to join him in his joy. He lived close to us in Sydney and was a part of our joys and sorrows. Each time that I think about him not having met Ruby tears well up in my eyes. They would have been fast friends. I can see how there smiles would have mirrored each other for hours, calling out like bird songs that only they could understand. The morning after he died, Ruby lay in her crib and chatted and laughed and cooed. Peter and I lay in bed as dawn cracked its light through the windows and listened to her on the monitor. In my heart, I hoped that Gadam was there with her, leaning his tall frame over her crib and whispering the secrets of how he had lived a life so full of love to our precious girl.

In times like this, it takes time for our hearts to heal, our lives take time to adjust. When we lose someone, we need to give ourselves “down” time. Time away from challenging ourselves or tackling projects or our to-do lists. A week after Gadam passed,  I rang my mom and asked her to come help. She drove an hour to our house and created a time for me just to rest. My head hit the pillow after a week of decisions and grief and looking after Peter and Ruby and I slept deeply for two hours. Because of that rest, I was able to reflect and feel new space in my emotions. When we have a big change in our lives, we need to give ourselves the kind attention that we would offer a friend.

Looking back now, I can see that after having a baby, in some ways I expected my regular patterns to hum along like they always had. I could acknowledge aloud that I needed to approach things differently, but internally I was still giving myself a hard time. I didn’t give myself time enough to observe first so I’d know how to approach things in a way that would work in the new set of circumstances. My emotions got battered around a bit and some days I felt like I was swimming up stream. What I needed more of was trust.

Trusting that our lives will find their balance again, when we’re amongst new waters is a difficult thing. We haven’t been there before so we don’t know how it’s going to turn out. Trusting in what we cannot see takes practice. We have to hold on to our core intentions and loosen the reigns a bit. We have to let what is here now to have its voice rather than straining to hear the voices that we have known in the past.

This month, this was illustrated to me in the midst of tough decisions. Being here in San Francisco this month, especially for my husband, was truly painful at a time when we needed to be surrounded by his extended family. From the moment we received news of Gadam going into hospital, we were torn about whether we should jump on the next flight to make it for the funeral. There were obstacles at every turn. Pete only had five days off from work and Ruby didn’t have a passport. When friends offered Peter a standby ticket so that he could arrive a few hours before the funeral we came to the decision that Pete would fly on his own with a quick turn around in Sydney. He was torn about being this far from eight month old Ruby who didn’t have a passport. Exhausted by emotion on Friday evening after having a long conversation with his Grandmother, we got a text from our friend saying that the standby seats were no longer available. She wrote how surprised she was. The business class seats on a Saturday flight hardly ever get booked out. Pete wasn’t going to be able to fly.

We both looked at each other awash with mixed emotions and wondered if this had perhaps been Gadam letting Pete know that it was okay to stay with his young family, a country away from where he felt he should be. We talked about how we could be at the funeral without actually being there. The next day, Pete tucked himself away and sat with his grief. What came out was a beautiful letter to his grandfather. My contribution would be a poem. I took Ruby for a walk next to a reservoir where I often go to clear my head. As I walked, Gadam’s voice started playing in my head. Beautiful memories spanning the last thirteen years bobbed up to the surface. I looked out over the tall white reeds and my mind rested on the gray water so still that it reflected the clouds. I spoke into my recorder and weaved parts of a poem from the flood of memories that played through my head. In the midst of this, my phone rang. Pete’s mum’s voice landed in my ears. I could feel how heavy her heart was. I wanted to write something not only for Gadam, but for the people that had lost him as well. A few days later, when we pressed send on our email, we hoped that the heart in our words would reach those that needed us far across that ocean.

The day of the funeral was Halloween here in America. Everything felt upside down and gray. We could hardly comprehend that someone who only fourteen months earlier had celebrated with gusto when we had told him we were finally pregnant, wouldn’t be there anymore. At the time of the funeral in Mona Vale, we sat outside at our picnic table underneath Ruby’s window and lit the same candle that we had lit when we heard that Gadam had gone into hospital. We held it between two heavy hearts full of love, not knowing how to say good-bye. I thought of an email that my friend Denita had sent and I told Pete that from now on, we would tell Ruby that the brightest star in the sky was her great grandfather, Gadam, that he was twinkling at her from above, looking out for her in the way he had always done for us.

When the funeral ended, Pete received a call from his sister, Kylie. She said, “There is someone here to talk to you.” Across the phone lines came the voice of our dear friend, Juliette, who we had known since the time we had met over twelve years ago at University. Jules without telling us, had gone to the funeral. She had gone to represent Pete and I and the friends of ours that had known Gadam. Kylie told us later that when she arrived at the church, they were confirming who would read during the service and she was nervous because they were without someone to read my poem. Kylie felt at a loss for what to do and then as she looked up Juliette walked unannounced into the church. Kylie said that she suddenly knew that Juliette was there to read my poem. She asked her and Jules said “Yes.” Even with us being miles away, a part of Pete and I walked into the church. I don’t think Pete or I could express to Juliette how much this meant to us. When we spoke to her, we felt suddenly that we weren’t so far away. Though this, I learned that in letting go, there is a kind of magic that happens all on its own.

This week, with Gadam’s memory close to my heart, I am newly inspired to revisit those things that I am passionate about in a way that fits into my life now. A life where my baby girl sleeps soundly in a room above me and where someone who I hoped she would know, now will need to be known through me and the rest of our family. I am actively letting go of the shape that I “think” these activities should take and actively letting go of any guilt that surfaces when I don’t get as far as I’d planned with things. When we lose someone important to us, we are reminded that it isn’t the little day to day worries that are important, but it is the way that we love and the way that we embody that love amongst the day to day tasks that matters the most.

This month, and especially this week as we celebrate Thanksgiving here in America, I invite you to join me. Think about an area of your life where you may have been fighting with yourself a bit. Have you been playing a tug of war with your emotions at work, in your relationship, or amongst your life’s goals? Ask yourself if it is possible to let go a little? Try setting down that rope that you’ve been holding on to so tight and simply sit down around your expectations so that they can sort themselves out a bit while you have a break. Life moves swiftly and the tides can change at any time. It is normal to take three steps forward and two steps back with our goals. Make sure that while you are taking those steps that you are really there for your life. Let the celebrations sink in and sparkle and take the time to pause and care for yourself when there is sadness.

We deserve this, each of us. Our lives are unique to us, they keep their own beat with lyrics that surprise and delights us. Writing my poem for Gadam, I didn’t pause once. There was so much that I could say about him that sang of poetry. I can’t think of a single time that I was with him where he didn’t have all the time in the world to be present for what I had to say or how I was feeling. It is this kind of presence that I hope to bring into my today and my tomorrow and I hope you’ll join me and invite it into yours.

This monthly inspiration piece is 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 free 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 Mateo, California

posted under 2010 life balance

the keeping quilt – june 2010

June9

This morning I woke up at 5:30 a.m. when Ruby started calling out her chorus of little bird sounds.  Sitting in our living room feeding her, the light came in with a kind of still yellow hue, first making shadows of light across the wall and then falling upon us like a warm calm blanket. Opening the door I was greeted with the scent of jasmine and roses and a wetness to the air that felt new, reminding me of similar mornings in Sydney. Sure enough the day bloomed humid and warm. This was the first hot day of spring. In the afternoon, Ruby’s body went limp with tiredness and heat and I placed her down wrapped in a pink muslin blanket on the cool sheets of our big bed. The new plump rolls in her tiny arms had the softness of pillows of unbaked bread. Her little head smelled like newborn and the windows were open wide so that the white curtains billowed with the humid breeze. I lay down next to her and we slept through the afternoon, my hand as big as a third of her body blanketing her little chest and rising and falling with her breath. I woke up before her and if magic had a sound, it would be the sound of the sighs my daughter makes in her sleep. They are so sweet and content that I long for the days when she can tell me about her dreams. The last three months that Ruby has been with us have been a mixture of climbing unfamiliar hills and then resting in beautiful valleys like this afternoon. Looking back over the time since Ruby’s birth I know I couldn’t have enjoyed days like today without the support of a community we didn’t even know that we had around us.

Landing in our new town of San Mateo in October we walked into an empty house surrounded by unfamiliar streets. Pete had only just begun teaching at a new school and we were expecting our baby in just under four months. I worried that we had leapt out of our support network an ocean away in Australia at the time in our lives that we would need it the most. We didn’t know what having a baby would be like and everyone continued to tell us that it would be the hardest and most wonderful thing we would do. Everything was so new around us and there were times when I worried that the streets we had moved to wouldn’t provide the parachute we would need if we fell.

I couldn’t have been more wrong. The first few months of having a baby have been the most beautiful and the hardest, but out of the woodwork came one of the richness support networks that we could have hoped for. Not only did our friends and families around the world line our life with cards and gifts and phone calls and gentle reassurance, but a support that we hadn’t been counting on bloomed right under our feet. This was the fourth graders and their families at Pete’s new school.

At Christmas when Pete was missing his family and my pace started to slow down, the parents of the students in the class Pete taught gave us a gift certificate to one of the finest restaurants in San Francisco. Serendipitously, this restaurant which is booked out months in advance, had a cancellation on the Friday night of my birthday. As a very pregnant emotional woman, I was treated to an incredibly memorable birthday experience. At one point our table was crowded with at least five different types of dessert that I had been craving, a decaf latte piled high with foam and a full tea setting for Pete. I had indulged in several of their non-alchoholic cocktails and we walked into the San Francisco evening full of beautiful food and generosity.

As the months ticked by, the children became more and more interested in the pregnancy that Pete talked so much about. One day in my third trimester, Pete brought me in for show and tell. I read a few of my poems about the pregnancy and forty-two hands took turns resting on my belly. In response, Ruby stretched out her tiny sleepy hands and feet to the sounds of their smiles. After this visit, the children reached back by creating a book for Pete titled, “How to be a great dad”. Each child contributed a page describing what to do and what not to do as a parent. Some of the children shared by making illustrations, some drew charts, some had bullet points, but all of them were made with authenticity and love. Phrases like “A great dad does Koala Days…koalas sleep eighteen hours and eat the rest.”, “Instead of video games, play board games.”, “It means a lot to just tuck them into bed or be there when she is sad.”, ”Give her a potato to play with.”, ”Star gaze at night.”, “Let her choose what she wants to do but guide her to the right decisions.” and, “Read parenting books because a book by 4th graders probably isn’t the best you can get!” 

Sitting alongside “What to Expect – The First Year” and many other parenting books, this is the book we have referred to the most. Having this book on our shelf reminds Pete and I how to navigate the coming years through the wise eyes of a child. I’m sure in years to come, Ruby will also use it as a reference to get us back on track. As if this gift wasn’t enough, each child then bought Ruby their favorite children’s book and because of that, nearly every day since she was born, she has been read a story.

In the days leading up to the birth, Pete received emails from the kids asking, “Is she here yet?” and “What are you going to name her?” They were incredibly patient when I went six days past my due date and only five days after Ruby was born, the children wrote her letters telling her about her father. One student  wrote “You have many things to look forward to. Your dad is a great guy. I have to say his is my favorite teacher I have ever had. Pete makes me cheer up when I am down! You are a lucky girl to have Pete as a Dad and Chris as a Mom! 4th grade can’t wait to see you! Pete and Chris are SO happy to have you! Have fun in your new life! Remember 4th Grade is cheering you on! ” The rest of the letters were just as heartfelt and beautiful.  Ruby’s letters are kept in a special red box so that she will know that from the very beginning of her life, a special group of fourth graders were already believing in her.

In the first few weeks after the birth, when Pete began to show signs of tiredness, the parents gave him advice and normalized how he was feeling. One parent even set up a meal roster. He received emails from staff members with children on how to set up a good sleep schedule and beautiful clothing and stuffed animals began to line her room. But without a doubt, the most surprising and supportive gift has been the food. We couldn’t believe that on top of the wonderful gifts and support we had already, that two to three times a week for the last two months, we have been brought dinner. Somehow these meals seem to arrive on the days we need them the most.  We have had home cooked meals, food from restaurants, pizza hand delivered by a father and groceries lining our refrigerator that have all spelled out love. There were nights when I was so tired and hungry that when a big bag of Mollie Stones’ groceries arrived on our counter from a co-worker or a rich Indian curry heated up on our stove, I broke down in tears from the gratitude that I felt. I will never forget being fed in such a nurturing way by this class and the friends that came to visit Ruby. One my favorite books is “Like Water for Chocolate”. In this story, the author describes how the emotions that are present when the food is prepared are felt by the people that eat them. Over the past few months, love and support have been fed to us one spoonful at a time and this has given us the chance to give Ruby a start to her life more rich in love and gratitude than we ever could have hoped for.

As the days tick down to the end of the school year and summer warms up, I’ve been reflecting in my journal on how I will tell Ruby about the staff members, children and their families that helped pave such a smooth time for us when she was born. On a Friday afternoon after I had been writing about this, one of the most beautiful gifts Ruby will ever receive arrived home with Pete.  This is her “Keeping Quilt.” This is a quilt made for Ruby based on the Sydney Taylor award winning book by Patricia Polacco titled ,“The Keeping Quilt”. In this book, a family who immigrated to the United States makes a quilt out of the pieces of clothing that they had brought with them from Russia. The story tells of how their clothing was cut into pictures of a dog and a flower and a boy and hearts and a fish and all of these were sewn into the quilt. Over the years the quilt is handed down through generations and always there to wrap around each new baby and present at the most special of occasions.

Ruby’s “keeping” quilt is a sunny yellow with a blue and white daisy backing. On the yellow side are cut out pictures made of material by the children which were sewn on with love and care by one of the children’s grandmothers who lives in Florida. Around each cut out image is a wish written by the children for Ruby’s life.  Around the snail is written “so that you will live in the present moment”, around the orange it reads “so you will know sweetness in your life”, around the butterfly “may you always be free”, around the bird “I wish for you to be wise like an eagle” and around the sun “hope your life always shines.” I know that this blanket which she now kicks and waves her arms on as a baby will follow her, lining her crib, her first big girl bed and off to her own home to hand on to her first baby. These phrases that so succinctly write out what Pete and I wish to fill our daughter’s life with, will be read to her at bedtime so that she will always know how a small group of people coming together can make an important time in someone’s life so much richer simply by providing food, love and presence.

This month I invite you to embody this kind of generosity. Take an afternoon with your journal and reflect on the people in your life, those you know well and those you know even a little. Ask yourself what are the key times in a person’s life that they most need your generosity. Write a list of the people in your life experiencing one of these times. Who would benefit the most from your generosity? This may be the neighbor who is ill next door, or the friend taking brave steps in a new career. It may be someone nearby and it may be someone far away. Explore in your journal the times when generosity has entered your life at a key time and how it changed that time for you. At the end of this journal writing, make a list of how you as an individual express your generosity the most authentically. If you love to cook, it may be by bringing food. If you are a painter, it may be by giving the gift of your art. If you are a gardener, it may be by planting someone’s flowerbed. If you are good at fixing things, you might ask for a list of things that need to be done and fix that creaky door or broken rain gutter. Look back at your list and let two names call out to you. Reach out and let a little bit of light from your life spill into theirs.

At the end of the month, reflect on these experiences. How did they differ? How were they the same? Notice how the relationships that you gave to may have deepened and changed. Ponder how this might become a regular practice in your life and also how you can be as generous at receiving as well as giving. More often than not, there is generosity waiting for us in the pockets of our lives, but by trying to do it all on our own we don’t notice the sincere offers of help. I know that in myself, I often have a hard time saying yes when I am offered help. Before I had a baby several people said to me, if people offer to help, say yes. Each day I’m getting better at this, but it is still hard at times. As I become better at receiving, I find that not only am I more likely to spontaneously give myself, but that my days are filled with a richness I didn’t know before. So with these words and the inspiration of a group of fourth graders, I invite you to walk into June with your hearts open to receive and your hands ready to give.

This monthly inspiration piece is 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 free 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 in San Mateo, California

posted under 2010 life balance

birth day – finding everyday balance in may 2010

May1

It is difficult to find the words to write about meeting the most important people that come into our lives. Often the details are a blur of color and emotion and sound. On February 26th, I met my daughter for the first time. When she was placed on my chest and I looked into her eyes the world shifted with a kind of presence I will never forget. Suddenly there she was, awake and seeing her daddy and I for the first time. The weight of her body against me felt like what love should weigh. For my husband and I, there were times when we didn’t know if we would get the opportunity to meet our baby like this. Many of you supported us through this journey. Finding out that we were pregnant was one of the most poignant times of our life together and we were in awe as we watched the seeds of our dreams come true. And at 4:30 a.m. on that important morning in February we made the call to the hospital to ask if we could be induced and let the next journey begin.

When the hospital rang us back and told us that they were ready for us, I felt my body coiled with the anticipation and the power of a woman who has watched her body grow more and more pregnant for ten months. In moments like these that you have looked toward much of your life, the details of the world around you begin to shine.

Leading up to this birth day we read several books on childbirth and it wasn’t until the final three weeks that we found our inspiration between the pages of an Australian book by JuJu Sundin and Sarah Murdoch titled “Birth Skills”. Their incredible book is widely read and used in Australia and I now know why. The pages of this book not only outline how to empower yourself by using movement, sound and visualizations, but it is sprinkled with stories by inspiring women and it was their voices that lined my body with courage.

My anxiety about the birth had been escalating for weeks as by nature I am a worrier. I wondered if there would come a time when I would set the books aside and feel confident. It happened the day before I was induced. All of a sudden, there was a break in my day where everything was quiet and I knew in my heart that I was ready. There was a kind of restlessness in my hands and feet that felt the way I did in grade school standing at the beginning of the track on field days. I walked around our home gathering circular items measuring three to ten centimeters and lined them up along the wooden dining table. Before me stood perfume bottles, salt shakers, candles and chutney jars. One by one I used these items to help me visualize my way from three centimeters, which was where by body was currently dilated, to the ten centimeters that I would need to reach before the baby could be born. With my colored markers and paints, I created a multi colored mandala of centimeters to birth and in between each band I wrote phrases from JuJu’s book and my own meditations.

That same afternoon, Peter and I travelled to our doctor’s office and we found out that because of low fluid levels in the placenta, it would be safest for the baby if I was induced the next day. That evening, Pete and I took photos of my pregnant belly and went out to dinner to celebrate the months and years leading up to this moment. There was something sacred about dining that night, knowing the huge shift that was about to occur in our emotions and our relationship. Maybe it was the joy exploding from my husband’s face or the focused energy curling through mine, but I will never forget the taste of the spring rolls presented in a martini glass or the purple orchid that adorned the Panang curry dish that later that evening would rest on my meditation shelf while I tried to center myself enough to sleep.

Arriving at the hospital the next morning, we were laden with bags and expectations. The day was overcast and the valet mentioned to us that a huge storm that was blowing in. My heart secretly soared for this declaration of weather. I have always felt more grounded on rainy days and this was no exception. There is something about the low clouds and the rain washing across the windows that supports a day spent inside. Some of my most cherished days have been spent on both sides of raindrop splattered windows.

We were given a beautiful spacious room and Peter began unpacking our things. The nurse, who felt like an old friend, began the induction and labor began slowly. I was already 4cm dilated on arrival and I tried to conserve my energy by lightly walking the halls and swaying side to side in my room as I gazed out the windows. I was attached to a monitor that sounded out the baby’s heartbeat into our room and it felt like she was speaking to us in her own underwater language. The steadiness of that beat was the soundtrack for our day and night. Gazing out our windows I could see strong tall Redwood trees looking out over a lawn of fog and cloud. Sheets of rain danced the sky and all that was green became awake and alive.

Four hours into my labor the next nurse checked me to see how dilated I was. Her face was set as she told me that I should prepare myself for a C-section as I had only dilated one more centimeter and she felt that the baby’s head was not progressing. Those words hitting the air of the room slapped me awake. Everything in my body told me that this baby was going to be delivered naturally. The dunk, dunk, dunk of the babies heartbeat continued rhythmically and I asked to speak to my doctor. Dr. Chien rang me a few minutes later and she calmly talked me through some options. I took a deep breath and asked her if we could have an hour so that I could get more active and try the techniques that we had prepared. I trusted Dr. Chien and I felt she would understand that I needed to come back into connection with my body. She said yes.

We told the nurse that our doctor had given us some time to try yoga and activity and asked her to leave us for the hour. Pete shut the door and I laid out my yoga mat on top of a blanket on the floor. Immediately the familiar rubbery texture of the mat triggered something calm inside me. I felt the power of years of a regular yoga and meditation practice greet me at the mat. Sitting back in child’s pose with my eyes closed, I knew that my first job was to let go of the fear that was clouding my body. The nurses’ words had thrown me into a defensive fearful place and I needed to let that go. I let the tears come and I cried out the fear until I arrived back into a softer place. I could feel the gentle contractions of the baby moving like waves through my body and my breath beginning to calm. The pain wasn’t bad and I felt that the baby was still preparing herself. I felt strongly that by opening and relaxing my body she would be able to move through me safely.

For an hour Peter and I worked on progressing the labor. We used acupressure points to bring on contractions and I practiced the yoga postures that intuitively invited themselves to my mat. I used chanting and movement to let go of my anxiety. Suddenly it was time for the nurse to check me again. Peter held my hand and we both held our breath. The baby’s heartbeat seemed to grow louder in the silence of the room and our anticipation. It is rare for people to admit that they have made a mistake and the honesty in those moments sometimes will disrobe any ill will that we feel towards that individual. This was one of those moments. The nurse said to us that she was surprised. I had dilated two centimeters in an hour. She told us that she was rarely wrong, but in this instance she was. We were told to keep doing what we were doing. It was working.

Over the next several hours we kept up the yoga, using the fit ball, walking and chanting. I spoke to the nurse about recipes and the weather, about our life in Australia and rode the waves through my body with distraction and movement. The pain was still very manageable and I felt inspired by where we had arrived to. The rain continued to come in waves across the afternoon sky for my eyes to play with. It was just after seven pm when I noticed that darkness had fallen. The nurse checked me and again planted the seed that a C-section might be inevitable. I was eight centimeters and she felt the baby had not dropped enough. While the nurses changed shifts, the contractions began with new intensity. During these stronger contractions I couldn’t speak and I used breathing, stress balls and movement with every contraction. The new nurse Cindy arrived and her energy was exactly what I needed in that moment. She spoke with confidence lined in softness and I knew that she would see us through the next phase well.

Shortly after she arrived I moved into the shower and labor became very strong. In that moment, my husband Peter stepped into the shoes that he had always spoken confidently of, those of my birth coach. As I write this, tears well up for me when I think about how well he guided me through the next few hours. I know that our connection as husband and wife and the deep trust we have built over twelve years allowed me to travel through those next few hours. Between my contractions he consistently brought me back into the positive by saying to me “Isn’t this amazing! This is the birth of our little girl!” and “Chris, this is incredible, look what you’re doing.” Those couple minutes in between the contractions, he focused me, over and over again, to where I was and the amazing reality of the moment. During the contractions, he told me inspiring stories of things that I had accomplished over the years that I never thought I would. He used visualizations that brought me back to Sydney where a lot of my strength lies and counted me through the sixty seconds of each contraction so that I knew when each one was coming to an end. He was there for me to lean on, to cry with and to borrow strength from. Using presence, words and energy, he danced me through to the parts of myself that held the strength that I needed to bring our baby through her last steps in the womb and out into the world.

With a kind of synchronicity that I look for in the most important moments of my life, my doctor arrived at the time that I needed her most. There was nothing that I could to do to stop my body from pushing. She guided me to the bed and confirmed that I was ten centimeters. I’ll never forget her looking me in the eyes and saying, “There isn’t time for an epidural Chris, the baby is coming now. You’re going to do this naturally.” Her words and belief in me gave me confidence and new energy. I knew that with the support I had in the room, even though it might be the hardest thing I ever had to do, that I could do it. We were finally going to meet our daughter.

With Peter holding me on one side and nurse Cindy holding me on the other and Tim Burton’s Om Namah Shivaya playing, our baby was born after twenty-six minutes of pushing. Born with the cord in the nuchal position, tightly around her neck, she needed attention right from the start. I’ll never forget Peter’s hand tightly squeezed in mine as we watched a team of physicians work on our tiny baby. And just like the miracle of her being conceived, in a matter of minutes they had the color coming back into her body and were welcoming her back into good health. I could see the wet curled hair along the top of her head as Peter and I waited for the doctors to step back. Those minutes held the most intense concern and relief we have ever experienced as a couple. When they placed her little wet body against mine and I looked into the eyes of Ruby Lanikai for the first time, with Peter’s hand on both of us, I felt a sense of completeness I had not known until that moment. Our baby had arrived to us.

Ruby’s middle name “Lanikai” means heavenly sea. We named her after the beach that we spent so much time at when we lived in Oahu in our transition between Australia and America. Peter and I have always had a connection to the ocean and we have lived near the water through most of our relationship. It seemed right to name our little one after a peaceful beach set between her two countries where we had seen the sunrise so many times promising a beautiful day. The time that we spent in Lanikai was touched with a kind of special presence that happens during a transition. The days following Ruby’s birth in the hospital had that same kind of presence. There was a slow and easy balance between the three of us and the staff that cared for us at the hospital. When my parents and sister visited, I felt a deep breath hit my heart as I watched the line of our family extend. As each email and phone call arrived to celebrate Ruby’s birth, I felt another piece of love welcoming her to the world. I knew that her family already extended way beyond that room.

The days and weeks since Ruby’s birth have unfolded with the greatest emotion I have felt in my life. The immediate overwhelming love for a person so small paints our days with a purpose beyond ourselves. Her presence changes everything, from the taste of a raspberry to the presence of a slant of sunlight that catches her eye as it falls on the couch. My formal meditation practice on the cushion has turned into a meditation of the rituals that we move through slowly each day. Feeding Ruby, I concentrate on my breath. Finding a moment to shut my eyes and sleep, I am present for the fact that I am able to sleep. Waking up in the night to her cries, I bring myself back to the presence of this beautiful baby who for so long I wondered if I would have. I have never experienced such fatigue, such joy, such overwhelm and such connection all at once, and in the midst of this I am in wonder at how time moves so quickly.

My husband’s father, David, said to Peter after Ruby was born that “ten years looking forward is such a long time, but looking back happens so quickly.” As children’s books crowd our shelves and little tiny socks sprinkle our laundry, I already wonder at how the last nine weeks have passed. In this I understand again how important it is to be aware of the present moment.

This month I invite you to look back on the times in your life that changed the tide of your feeling. Those times that stand out as if colored in a different brighter hue. This may be when you moved or met an important person. It may be after experiencing a birth or a death. It may be a time that you were on a holiday or an afternoon that lives in your memory because of circumstances aligning. It may be as simple as a walk you took or a conversation you had. The times in our lives that our most important don’t take the time to explain themselves, they simply are important. The heart decides.

When you have reconnected with this time, grab a journal or a few sheets of paper and allow yourself the freedom to revisit the vividness of that time. You can spend a few minutes or a few days exploring between pen and paper and memory what this time held for you. Let it unravel as if you are shaking out last season’s sheets that have been tucked away for some time. Let the details recreate themselves without editing. You can compliment your words with photos and even use the thick blank pages of a photo album to soak up the ink of your words. As you write, you will be surprised by the details that revisit you. Allow what was important from that time to be as important now. Notice after writing if anything has gotten lost, if you have started to take whatever once inspired you for granted.

If you are recalling the time when you first met your spouse, let that memory allow you to see them again in that fresh loving light. If it is the time when you first discovered what you wanted to do for a living, let that memory return you to your earlier passion for your work. If it was a time when you felt happy simply for a beautiful holiday, let that lead you to remember how important taking time out can be for you. If you connect with and enjoy this type of writing, begin the project of writing down more of the milestones in your life. Your words are treasures and the details you collect now will sing to future generations. Don’t be afraid to line your shelves with the chapters of your life that you and others would like to read again and again.

Notice if in recalling these details there is a moment during your experience where you are in contact with a stronger sense of self. Often in our day to day movements we lose connection to this part of ourselves that knows what we need and how to ask for it. It may be through routine or lack of interest, but often we set ourselves on autopilot and let the tide carry us along. Welcome the feeling of your stronger sense of self back and explore it in the days to come. Start small by giving your full attention to something that is important to you each day. Explore using your voice to ask for what you need around what is important and watch as more of your time unfolds into a place where you are experiencing what you had hoped and dreamed of.

We need not wait for the times in our lives that have a spotlight on them for us to feel the ecstasy of what is real and important to us. This month you will find me cherishing the new sounds and smiles of my baby, watching my husband grow into a father, enjoying the weather becoming spring and being present for what surfaces in me in the new role of a mother. I will be using my voice to explore what I need in this new role and using my pen to record the amazing details. Throughout this I will be present, breathing in and breathing out in each moment, knowing that this life that I’m living today is the only one worth wishing for. I look forward to imagining you doing the same.

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 Half Moon Bay, California.

posted under 2010 life balance

brave new chapters – january and february 2010

February1

Meditating this morning, the house was quiet around me. The pillows stacked beneath me gave my spine height and my body support. I could feel the breath coming in and out of my body and my mind following that rhythm as thoughts floated in an out like letters wanting to be opened and read. I could feel the strong shifts of my baby moving and waking up. I stayed with the sway of the breath and the shifts of movement in my belly as much as I could, allowing that tide to bring me closer to the moment, more into my physical body. The everyday swing of our thoughts can be like this as well, moving from one emotion to another can feel so strong. Like palm tree fronds in a storm crackling side to side, our moods and feelings can change so easily from one moment to another. As we move into a new year, we have a wonderful opportunity to set new intentions or reinforce those we have already planted. Often we focus on “what” it is that we would like to accomplish. Over the last few years, I have written about techniques and strategies on how to effectively reach those goals. This year I’d like to shift the focus from “what” you would like to achieve to “who” you would like to be as you reach your goals.

Think about the people that you admire the most in your life. Ask yourself what it is about them that rings true for you? For myself, the people that sing out in my mind are those that I feel good around, the kind of people that make me feel more me. In their presence I feel more inspired towards my own authentic path. The kind of people that I admire most, tend to ooze generosity. They are living from a space that isn’t about trying to be recognized or to get something, but from a natural abundance that they embody with ease. These people accomplish so much by simply being true to themselves and letting others around them be who they are.

My husband and I recently attended our first birth preparation class. As you can imagine there are a lot of heightened emotions in a room of very pregnant women. There were nearly ten couples in the room, many arriving directly from work, and most of the women were in the last two months of pregnancy. The childbirth teacher introduced herself and was immediately an open book with the group. She made an effort to learn people’s names and to share the knowledge that she had accumulated after attending hundreds of births. After our three hour evening of listening and interacting with Patty, what struck me most wasn’t the techniques that I learned or the stories that she shared, but instead her genuine presence for a group of people who she had only just met. I walked out feeling that she wanted very little from me, but was willing to give me as much of her time, knowledge and energy that I needed without a price tag attached to it. This felt unique. She offered each participant her phone number and said to call at any time and I truly felt that she meant it. She even offered to be at our births as a doula, if she was available, and with the invitation to only give her what we could in return.

After completing Patty’s classes it was clear to me that she was living an authentic part of herself. She loved helping women and their partners bring their babies safely into the world. Often we forget that each of us has this unique strain of love coursing through our beings. For some it is the love of helping to care for the environment, the passion for teaching children how to read or a love of baking food that comforts and delights the people that taste it. For everyone it is different. We are born with these beautiful unique pieces of passion in ourselves. When cultivated they bloom into something that others can feel exploding directly into their hearts. When we are in the space of that unique passion, either in the creation process or sharing it with others in speech or action, we often are our best selves.

Recently, at my baby shower, I was reminded of how unique we all are. At a table in our kitchen we had fabric markers and paints set up and a selection of white onesies and baby t-shirts. Throughout the shower, when our friends were feeling creative, they could sit down and create their own design on a tee or sleep suit for this baby in my belly. It was so wonderful to feel that creativity in our kitchen and to watch the color spill on to the white background of the fabric. Each piece reflected the unique personality of that individual. Some were funny, some zany, some just plain beautiful, but all of them had tapped into the play and the color that is always waiting inside of us. These little outfits will be cherished and worn with so many smiles because they reflect so much of the support around us.

Finding what it is that enhances us to be our most authentic self can be a journey. When we find it, we know it and sometimes it stems way back to the time when we wore those baby t-shirts. When I am writing or teaching yoga and meditation, I feel that I’m tapping into the part of myself that is uniquely whole. My insecurities and fears fly off and away and I am left with a grounded sense of what I truly believe in. Connection with this part of yourself on a regular basis can feed you in a way that spills out into the rest of your life. Not all of us will work in the area of our greatest passion, but the time outside of our work can be spent nurturing this area so that during our nine to five occupations we are filled with an inner knowledge of the fulfillment of this passion.

This month, I’d like you to think of the year ahead as a blank book. There are twelve chapters in this book of which you have been given the gift to choose the content of. This is the truth. You do get to choose. Although we can sometimes feel that our days are being dictated to us by our jobs, families or previous choices, this is only at the surface. In each moment, you have the ability to choose an intention for yourself and your day. Intentions can be very powerful. In tiny increments, they can change the direction of our entire lives simply by making slight shifts in the way that we carry ourselves, voice our needs an values and interact with the world.

As you consider this blank book of 2010, consider the title page first. Visualize how you want to embody this year of your life. Will your title be “Art and Exploration” or “Speaking the Truth and Self Care” or “Trying New Things?” Will you choose the title from last year or the year before or boldly embrace something new, something perhaps you haven’t embodied since childhood? Could your title embrace playfulness or peace or bravery? It is your choice. Often we become caught in the image of ourselves through other people’s eyes and we let go that part of ourselves that perhaps only we know to be true. It may be a very faint ember, but with time it can grow into something that others recognize and speak about with ease. This is your blank canvas and it asks to be colored in each day.

For myself, I find that it helps to take time out at the beginning of each day to come in contact with my intention for that day or for the month. I do this by sitting in a corner of my bedroom in front of a cedar shelf that holds items that remind me of what I truly believe in. I have a bracelet made of healing stones, books that inspire me, a tiny sand dollar that reminds me of my connection to the ocean and other supportive books or symbols that change throughout my days. I also keep a pen and paper here and a stack of small white pieces of paper. When I am struggling with something in my life, I write it down and set it in a special spot on this shelf. In my own way, I am saying that this situation is too big for me and that I need help with the solution to this particular problem. By taking it out of my head and writing it down, I set the intention that I will receive guidance or help with that issue. Over the years I have found that the solution or a shift in my thinking arrives shortly after I have practiced letting it go.

During this quiet time, when I meditate and read at the beginning of the day, I am able to reconnect with my deeper intentions. The irritation that I may have felt for a person in my life or the frustration I feel towards an illness might be transformed into an intention for patience or a new strategy that I can use in the day ahead. Instead of letting my strongest feelings choose the color of the page, I am able to actively choose what best will care for me and those around me. Over an entire year, I’ve found this creates ease, understanding and a deeper meaning to my days that would otherwise be lost.

This year, I invite you to begin a daily practice of setting an intention of “who” you will be in your everyday this year. Let go of “what” you will accomplish and allow “who” you will be to lead you towards richness in the chapters of this year. The time that you set aside daily can range from between five minutes to an hour. Often, I sit down for twenty minutes during the week and longer on a weekend. When my life is twirling at full tilt, I grab five minutes directly after getting out of bed.

To gain motivation to create this new practice, draw from the passion in your life. Think about how wonderful it would be if you could bring the same self you have for the activities you enjoy the most to the times when you lack that connection, like when you are in a long line at the post office. Think about how that feeling of fulfillment brings out the best not only in yourself, but in the people around you.

Setting intentions for yourself more regularly will not only allow you more time with those activities and people that you are most passionate about, but it will open new doors for positive feelings to walk through. As we look towards the year ahead, we may feel overwhelmed by what already exists in our life or the largeness of what we would like to accomplish. Try not to get overwhelmed by this. We all sometimes feel this way. It is with tiny changes, that big shifts take place. If you set a goal for each of the twelve chapters of the year, ask yourself first “who” you need to be to accomplish them.

This year, open your heart to the knowing that what may appear as certain may be uncertain and what appears as uncertain may indeed be a certain. Set your intentions for the person you would like to be this year and let magic and new truths unthread themselves amongst your everyday. This year, I look forward to setting a title page in my own life and imagining you doing the same. Mine will read “The Journey of Motherhood.” What will yours read?

As Maya Angelou wrote “It is the belief in a power larger than myself…which allows me to venture into the unknown and even the unknowable.” This year take a brave step with each chapter you write and know that you are supported not only by the power of friends and family, but by people and experiences you are yet to meet. Believe in this and yourself and I promise that the energy will come that will support your most authentic goals.

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 Mateo, California.

posted under 2010 life balance