My morning guided meditation from Calm centered around kindness. Kindness is very much a ripple effect, because we never know how far it will reach.
When one pebble is dropped into the calm waters of a small pond, it can reach all the way to the edges. What was once still now gently bobs with the reverberation of the ripple emanating outward.
Kindness can happen in so many ways. We can smile at a stranger, wave to others as we drive down the street, or hold the door open for someone. It takes a second or two, it's free, and we have no idea where that kindness is going to lead next.
Simply asking someone, "How are you doing?", and honestly listening to the answer might just be what the other person needs. Maybe he's having a rough day and needs to vent or maybe she has exciting news to share and has been waiting and hoping someone would ask. When we come from a place of authenticity in asking a routine question, it is no longer routine. Having genuine interest in the person's response is an act of kindness.
Sending a text each morning to three people you care about gets their day started off in such a positive way. Just letting them know how much they mean to you and wishing them an amazing day is all you need to do.
The thing about being kind is that it isn't grandiose. It's not like someone jumping into the pond screaming, "Canon ball!!", in order to grab everyone's attention with a gigantic wave. Kindness is not self-serving. It is serving others. It is making them feel wanted, needed, loved, and appreciated. It is not about the person giving but the person receiving. But the cool thing is that by giving, you also feel warmth just because you've done something outside of yourself.
Kindness is not about keeping track. It's not about, "I did this for you, so you need to do this for me." It's all about the act of doing. It can be random, anonymous, and/or just jumping in when we see a need without being asked. When we go about kindness by answering the question, "What will I do to add a little sunshine to another human's day?", then we are moving in the right direction. When it becomes a way of life without even asking that question, then that's something pretty amazing.
I have an unhealthy relationship with money. I loathe being beholden to it to pay off debts, I hate having to be super careful about spending it, and I obsess over it daily.
I started reading the book, You are a Badass at Making Money, by Jen Sincero. One of her suggestions is to write a letter to money to get a better feel for what our relationship with it is like and how to change the negative beliefs, thoughts, and feelings we have toward it. Because this is definitely way out of my comfort zone, I thought if I wrote my letter and put it out in the universe to see, then maybe others would take that leap as well. So, here we go:
I don't know where to start with you. You've basically been a thorn in my side my entire life, and even though I would love to blame you for that I can't. The way I've treated you has been my fault. I haven't taken care of you the way I should have and now I'm paying for it. I suppose what I feel is embarrassment. I'm 49-years-old, and I still don't feel as if I do a very good job with you.
I've allowed you to build up debt and have not done a very good job of paying it off so that I can have a fresh start with you. I've done the minimum payments and haven't made a dent. I get frustrated and down and so I spend more of you to try to make myself feel better. All I end up with is more regret and frustration.
I think what it boils down to is that I don't think I deserve you, and I look at you in a negative way instead of a positive way. I'm working on changing that. I started a countdown to freedom which will be May 2018. In just over a year, I will be free from a huge loan, paying my mom back, and my credit card will be paid off. I know that any type of debt is not good debt, but the rest are manageable in the big picture.
I am grateful for the money I do earn and I see myself with even more earning potential, but I need to start with baby steps and this is a good beginning. Thanks for listening, Money. I look forward to changing my relationship with you!
I know writing a letter is just a start and I'm making plans to put those thoughts into action. I've put together an plan to paying off the debt I described above in one year. I've already paid off one smaller loan and for half our taxes from last year. Just having those two off my plate is a step in the right direction, and I will continue to feel better about money as I change my beliefs, thoughts, feelings, and actions.
Are you ready to write your letter?
I'm always amazed by kids. As an elementary school counselor, I'm continuously on my toes because I never know what they are going to say or do.
And then there are those times that I'm struck speechless. Today was one of those days. I was in a 4th grade classroom, and we talked about all the toolbox tools (different strategies for personal development and growth) we have learned this year. They identified the ones that they felt were most important to emphasize next year.
The first one they chose was the empathy tool. They said it was because if we are showing care for each other then no one has to worry about being picked on or bullied. Out of all 12 tools, this is not the one I thought would be on their radar, and yet it was the first one. It made me think once again about how we need to create a caring and compassionate culture in our schools. Identifying that as their top choice showed how important they think it is and that we still have work to do.
The second choice was the garbage can tool which is basically letting things go. These students said it's hard to let things go that bother them, but they know it's important to be able to do that. Sometimes they just let it build up too much and then do or say something they know they shouldn't.
And this leads right into the third tool they mentioned, apology and forgive. When you mess up or make a mistake, it's on you to own it and apologize for it. One student aptly described it as if you've broken something and you need to mend it. You need to glue your friendship back together.
I kid you not. All of these comments were paraphrased from our conversations in this one lesson. I was absolutely blown away. As we listed those three tools, we talked about how they connected to each other.
These tools aren't just for kids either. We adults could learn so much from what these students are learning and saying. As much as I get that students need to learn the academic curriculum, it's more important to be amazing human beings:
*People who are kind and compassionate toward each other.
*People who own up to their mistakes and make amends for them.
*People who have the courage to stand up for what is right in a world full of temptation to follow a negative path.
*People who recognize their shortcomings and work to get better.
*People who take a step back and remember that before they can do for others they must take care of themselves first.
This is the kind of world I want to live in and I see pockets of it daily, but it's not enough. It needs to be the norm rather than the exception. It is my hope that with these kids, we can move in that direction.
We are all motivated by different things. We might be motivated by a movie clip, a song, or a quote. Or, it could be a question.
One of my friends who reads my blog will ask me on occasion, "How's your uncluttered life?"
It's great for me to take a moment to think about it before I answer her. Living an uncluttered life is a simple concept, but it's definitely not easy to execute. I find myself answering a lot of questions about minimalism that are either curious in nature or are asking me to defend it.
One area that puts me in emotional turmoil is when I'm asked about getting rid of sentimental items. The logical answer is that the sentiment is not in the item but rather the memory that it holds. When we get rid of the item, does that mean we get rid of the memory? It depends in large part how strong the memory is. If I'm afraid I will forget, then I write down what was important about that item rather than keeping the item itself.
There are things though that I find myself not quite ready to let go of, and I don't know whether or not I ever will. One such item is the mug my daughter made when she was in kindergarten. In the picture on the mug, she has this pouty little expression that makes me smile. It's not that I use the mug, but I love that picture. I could easily be satisfied with the picture I've taken of the mug, but it's not enough for me. I need to keep the mug.
And then there are those items that I'm talking to our grown children specifically about whether or not they would want them some day. I don't want to throw something away that has value to them, either through practical use or brings back wonderful memories for them. There were a couple of things I started to throw away and then realized that it wasn't purely up to me to let them go.
I think that's somewhat of a challenge with a minimalism lifestyle. Not everyone is going to buy into it the same way you do, and that's okay. What's important is to respect the ways in which we see things differently. One of my friends had a poster in her classroom of a group of penguins with one of them holding a red balloon. The quote on it read, "Recognize the similarities and celebrate the differences."
That's something so unique about minimalism. It's not a one-size fits all lifestyle. There are no hard and fast rules, and it's a continuous journey. You're never reaching a final destination, but rather, you're growing and experiencing so much more in life by recognizing all that is out there.
So, when I'm asked, "How's your uncluttered life?", it gives me a chance to take pause, ponder it for just a moment, and then answer, "A beautiful and messy journey. In other words, it's fabulous!"
While it would appear I just typed a bunch of letters in the title, if you're Swedish you know this is a real word.
I'm not Swedish.
I came across Livsnjutare when I was looking for inspirational words for a new tattoo. I loved the definition: one who loves life deeply and lives it to the extreme.
I think it's a great reminder to appreciate life, to live it one day at a time, and to enjoy every moment. Too often we get caught up in the busyness of our days that we forget to be grateful. We think so much about our big goals that we forget to celebrate the small victories along the way.
The simplicity of living in a village of 1200 where you can walk anywhere you want to go comes to mind today. I volunteer at the library once a month, and I decided to walk yesterday. I took in the fresh air, the beautiful tulips that were blooming along the way, the mom who reminded her little girl to look both ways before crossing the street, the sadness of the funeral at the church across the street from the library, the girl who translated for her mom when they came into the library with a question, and the people who stopped and asked me for directions to the ball field just as I was arriving back home.
I would have missed out on most of those moments if I had driven my car as I usually do.
When I think about the definition of livsnjutare, I ponder the part that says "lives life to the extreme". The first images that pop into my head are extreme sports, going on adventures thousands of miles away, or taking a leap without having the faintest idea of where you're going to land. That can certainly be part of it, but I don't think it's the only definition.
Extreme can be how we go about the way we live. At the end of each day, I can ask myself:
1. Did I cultivate relationships?
2. Was I fully engaged in conversations by focusing only on the person speaking?
3. What was I grateful for today?
4. How did I focus on the moments?
5. To what extent was I fully satisfied with my day?
In other words, how did I live my 86,400 seconds today?
Reflecting in this way enables us to not go from one day to the next as if in a fog. I think of it as a production line in which each station of assembly happens mindlessly and suddenly the product is complete and you wonder how it happened. I don't want to wonder any longer. I want to be a livsnjutare.
I'm a lover of life, an eternal optimist, and I have an intense desire to add value through simple living and positive vibes.