Nourish and Forge Wellness

taking wellness beyond the physical

Tag: thrive

Do less. Be more.

Last Friday, I made a decision to do something new. Something risky. Something audacious.

I’ve always loved being outdoors and have backpacked many times in my life. But on that weekend, I decided to go solo for the very first time. After a quick search on the internet and a visit to my local REI, I was ready to go. (Side note: I’d always wanted to do this, but have never quite had the gumption or the courage to go for it.)

In the course of those three days in the wilderness, I felt expansive—stretched beyond my comfort zone and learning how to deal with conflict alone as it arose. I also felt peaceful—my tornado-brain calmed in a way that only nature and solitude will. But that’s not what I want to write about. Here’s a big in-your-face realization that came to me on day three as I was crunch-crunch-crunching my way down a gravelly trail in the Rawah Wilderness.

I need to do less on a regular basis. And you do too.

In the space I gifted myself, here’s what I did NOT do for three whole days.

  • Go on the Internet or social media
  • Work
  • Check off to-do lists
  • Make to-do lists
  • Feel guilty about ignoring my to-do lists
  • Check my phone
  • Talk to anyone (exception: myself, baby deer, massive moose that scared the crap outta me, tiny chipmunk corpse on the trail)
  • Analyze past interactions
  • Plan future interactions
  • Think about my future, my finances, or health insurance
  • Watch tv
  • Worry about anything except what was in the present moment (Is a bear going to attack me? Will my tent blow over? eff-bomb, I’m a little lost…where am I?)
  • Read for self-improvement or learning
  • Listen to podcasts (this was a temptation…but I stayed in the present, listening instead to the creatures and life around me)
  • Listen to music

You know what? This created a whole lot of space that I didn’t even realize I needed. The surprising part was what happened in that space. I began to notice these inner nudgings that I wouldn’t have ever noticed had I filled up that space with noise or distraction or even productive work.

Nudgings is the best way I can describe the stirrings or whispers inside of me that I began to pay attention to. What I found on that last day was that I was so much more in tune with what I wanted to do in every given moment.

That may sound strange. We all know what we want, right?

I don’t think so. The demands and details that fill our daily lives leave very little room for the nudgings that lead us to the simple and ordinary pleasures of our existence. 

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about pleasure and how we deny, deprive, indulge, and overindulge ourselves in the various pleasurable human experiences. Much of this thought is inspired by the incredible Maddie Berky, who writes about pleasure in an engaging and thought-provoking way. (Seriously like brain-crack. Check her out here.)

As I was trekking down the mountain, I realized I had invited awareness around these simple pleasures by simply creating space for them. How? I did less. For just a couple days.

Let me tell you about a few of these moments.

I noticed when I saw a spot on the mountain that begged me to sit and rest—a pair of rocks working together to create nature’s recliner—and watch a blue jay fly back and forth, pecking at pinecones at the tops of nearby trees. As I sat, I felt my shirts clinging to me and decided I wanted to be free of them for a while, to feel the sun warming my skin and the breeze cooling me. I took my shirts off and hung then on tree branches. My feet felt hot, so I took of my shoes and socks and stretched in bare feet, feeling rough rock and sharp twigs under my toes.

I noticed these nudgings towards small pleasures and I followed them. I was rewarded. With each choice, no matter how seemingly insignificant, I felt deep satisfaction. I smiled at the birds. I closed my eyes, becoming fully aware of the sensations on my skin. I relished the spaciousness of that moment.

Do less. Be more present. 

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I rested until I felt the urge to begin walking again. I slowly regarbed and donned my pack, resuming my trek downward. I walked until I found another divine place that was pulling me. This time it was curiosity that led me—a cairn lay by the trail and I wanted to know what it was marking. I was rewarded by a valley exploding with yellow aspens and green pines.

Do less. Be more curious.

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On my last bit of trail before the parking lot, I walked along a mountain stream. It called to me, I could hear it—come, cool off, play! I almost ignored it, my mind rushing ahead to the things I needed to do before the day was done (drive home, laundry, cook dinner for the fam, get some work done). But somehow, the previous two days of slowing down and doing less, prevailed.

I stopped, dropped my pack, unsnapped and stripped out of my long sleeve shirt, rolled up my black pants, and took off my hot, gritty trail shoes and green, wool socks. I stepped down into the river, gasping with utter delight as the icy water touched my skin and the rocks and pebbles at the river’s bottom massaged my aching feet.

I laughed out loud. Reaching down with cupped hands, I splashed the deliciously cold water repeatedly on my face, my neck, my hair. I scrubbed three days of dirt off my calves and feet and arms. I raised my face to the sun and threw my arms wide, taking this moment in. It was full of joy and pleasure.

Climbing out, I did not want to put those hot, dirty shoes back on…I felt a playful inner nudging that whispered, walk the rest of the way barefoot. And so I did. And it was beautiful.

Do less. Be more joyful.

happy-river

I don’t expect to always have the freedom to escape the daily grind for three days alone in the stunning Colorado wilderness.

But, I do expect to carry this lesson forward into my life: do less, be more.

Even if it’s for an hour a week, let’s do less. Let’s turn off our devices, ignore our distractions, and postpone our duties. Let’s create the space to be more.

More present.

More curious.

More joyful.

You might be surprised at how alive you feel.

 

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Where Perfectionism Ends and Life Begins

If you’re a perfectionist like me, you have an overactive shame button inside of you that, once triggered, sets off this nasty blaring judgey voice that berates you about all the things you should be and should be doing that you are constantly failing at miserably. Like not even getting close. Seriously, self…you suck. Look at all the people around you that have their sh*% together. What is wrong with you?

In the past, I’ve tried to drown that voice with some distraction (tv, or internet, or junk food, or _______) just to shut that bugger up. It works…sort of. Until the food is gone or the tv is off and it’s just me and my brain again.

This accusing voice keeps going until finally, I have no strength left, and I simply agree. It’s true: I fail so much; I am never enough. Tomorrow, I will eat super healthy, work out, be nice to everyone, kill it at work, start to lose my expat weight, and finally be good enough that people will look at me and approve. And maybe, just maybe, I will approve too.

There are lots of things that trigger my shame button. Like saying “no” to an outing with good friends because my introvert gas tank is dangerously close to empty, and I know that I will crash and cocoon in my apartment for a couple days if I go.

Like requesting a “venting window” of twenty minutes when a loved one is struggling, so I don’t end up sitting and absorbing complaints and pain for two hours, as my own power and energy slowly drain out of me, leaving me to crash and burn the rest of the day.

Like thinking about all the bajillion and one things I could be doing better in the classroom, but I’m not. (Thanks, master’s program, internet, and incredible colleagues. Heh.)

For most of my life, I’ve tried to live perfectly—tried to tiptoe around that shame button. But, here’s the thing: there’s no such thing as living up to the impossible standards I have for myself. I cannot live perfectly. I am not perfect. I set that button off every day of my life.

On October 1st of this year, I decided to try something radical. I decided that each day, no matter what happened that day, it would be enough—I would be enough.

That verdict would remain the same on the days I feel awesome—like I can freakin’ change the world—and would also apply on the days where I barely slogged through, complained, didn’t work out, ate pizza AND ice cream, watched way too much reality TV, and could claim “surviving” as my only accomplishment. At the end of every day, I committed to hearing the shaming voice if it was there, acknowledging having those thoughts, then letting them go and deciding, despite everything, that exactly what I did and who I was today is enough.

To be honest, I don’t always believe it, but I have committed to continue saying it until I do. I’ve started to reframe things that used to trigger my shame button: things I used to consider selfish in the past, I am often now reframing as self-care.

I’m giving myself permission to do the things that help me thrive, not just survive.

That means learning how to take care of myself, so that I can give my best self to the people in my life. Here are some things I now know to be true:

  • I know that exercise is paramount to my stress management and emotional stability.
  • I know that food can make me feel amazing or totally horrible, depending on my choices.
  • I know that spending time with others is incredible and important, but that my time alone and in nature is when I refuel.
  • I know that I have to make time to read and write for myself (not for class) in order to stay inspired.
  • I know that happiness will ebb and flow, and life will have its ups and downs, and now I’m starting to (finally) figure out how to feel grounded, grateful, and present throughout it all.

For me, it began with turning the love and compassion I have for others toward myself: realizing the choices I make aren’t selfish, but self-care; accepting myself exactly where I’m at, knowing I will continue to strive for better, and allowing today to be enough; and finally, finding solace in the fact that it’s all a journey, and we are simply practicing.

Perfection not required.

What do you give yourself permission to do in order to thrive?


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