Cultivating Peace

                As I was pondering what to write about for this month’s blog, I thought about all of the negativity and conflict surrounding the election, all of the horrible acts of violence we see on the news, in movies and video games and all of the unspoken violence that occurs behind closed doors.  I also thought about all of the conflict that arises when families get together for what is supposed to be enjoyable family time during the holidays and I thought of peace. How can we find and maintain peace during stressful times or when we are inundated with violent images, words and behaviors?

                The first thing I thought of was shutting off all electronic gadgets that bombard our senses with so much violence.  Our brains need a break from all of the negativity and violence.  We have become so accustomed to seeing and hearing it that we have become desensitized to it.  We don’t realize how much those images have been absorbed into our psyche and affect how we feel and how we respond to the world.  We have become less compassionate toward ourselves and others.  We have learned to shut down our feelings because if we allowed ourselves to feel the pain we witness through the media every day, we would have difficulty functioning.  We may find ourselves in tears curled up in a ball with blankets over our heads, withdrawing from the world.  Although we may not go to this extreme, there are many ways that we withdraw.  How about those electronic gadgets that everybody carries with them, constantly looking at them and answering every little beep, buzzer, whistle or musical tone?  Don’t we use them as an escape from the violence and pain?  We may use them to escape, but do we find the peace we are seeking when we are scrolling through emails, social media feeds and watching YouTube videos?

                The next thing I thought of was the beautiful fall weather, the crisp air, the golds, reds, purples and oranges of the leaves as they turn and let go of the branches to which they have been bound.  We enjoyed a day trip to Indian Cave State Park yesterday.  Although we missed the height of the fall colors, it was still relaxing to get out in the fresh air and see the natural beauty that we forget exists when we are cooped up indoors with all of our indoor comforts and distractions. The crunching leaves underfoot as we hiked up a steep trail, the smell of campfires, watching the squirrels scurry around collecting acorns and nuts for winter, the birds flying overhead, woodpeckers looking for food in dead trees, the river current carrying fallen leaves downstream, and the absence of traffic noise brought a sense of peacefulness and calm to my family.  My son commented, “We need to do this more often!”  He is a “millennial” and is accustomed to being on electronic gadgets, but out there, he got a break.  There is no Wi-Fi and the cellular connections are limited.  Disconnecting from technology and connecting with nature can offer a sense of peace.

                The last thing I will address is taking time for yourself, to have fun, to have quiet time doing something you enjoy, to get lost in something creative.  In other words, slow everything down, stop doing so much and just “be” in the moment.  I had a professor, Kent Estes, who once said to me, “Kolleen, you are a human being, not a human doing.”  I have remembered this and have used it often as a reminder to myself and to my clients.  We are bombarded with so much information every second of every day that our senses have become overloaded.  In order to find peace, we need to take a step back from everything, take a look inside ourselves to check in and get in touch with who we really are, breathe deeply and remind ourselves that “all is well.”

                As we prepare to go to the polls next week and we get ready to celebrate Thanksgiving with family and friends, take time to relax and connect with your inner peace.  If you haven’t tried meditation, this may be a good time to try it out, even if it is just for three to five minutes a day.  Unplug, literally, from all of the negative images and commentary that steal your peace of mind and spirit.  As one of my childhood favorite church songs says, “Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me.”

May Day, May Day!

When we were children, May Day conjured up images of May baskets full of candy and popcorn left on doorsteps by friends who either rang the doorbell or knocked on the door and ran, expecting us to chase and try to catch them.  As adults, May Day may conjure up different images, such as a ship in trouble with the captain using the radio to seek help before the ship sinks.  When you think of May Day, what images come to mind for you?  Are you excited about the delicious treats coming your way?  Or are you feeling overwhelmed as if your ship is about to sink and you are crying out for help? 

As we quickly approach the month of May, I am looking at the calendar and am realizing how busy we will be all month.  Raising a teenager in the month of May can feel overwhelming when you see multiple activities each day and no open days to just relax.  So how do you get through the month without calling the Coast Guard?  I have a few ideas to help you, not only survive, but to look forward to some treats.

First, don't focus on the whole calendar at once.  Take it "one day at a time" and focus on what is most important each day.  Are there things that you can let go of, things you have been telling yourself you "should" do but really aren't that important?  When you release yourself of this burden of guilt and shame, you are free to enjoy whatever is most important that day.  Think of this as dumping the excess baggage overboard to lighten your load and to keep you from sinking.

Next, make sure you are getting enough sleep.  We tend to think we can get by on very little sleep, but we only do ourselves, our families and our work a disservice when we don't get adequate sleep.  When we run ourselves down, it's like a ship without an engine that relies on the wind (or lack thereof) to blow it to where it wants to be.  Do you really want to be at the mercy of something that is so unpredictable?  Or do you want to be the captain of your ship and take control of it so you can go where you want to go?  Part of being the captain is taking care of the vessel, which includes making sure the engine is oiled and running smoothly so it doesn't break down.

Finally, take time to have fun and replenish yourself!  Each day, schedule some time for yourself, even if it is only 20-30 minutes.  Do something that is just for you and doesn't require that you take care of others or accomplish tasks on your "to do" list.  You may schedule one or more of the following "treats":  a walk, lunch with a friend, reading, gardening or enjoying the outdoors, watching a favorite movie, playing with your pets, kids or grandkids, dancing, yoga, a bubble bath or hot shower, engaging in a hobby or any other ideas you may have.  The possibilities are endless!  Choose something that makes you smile when you think about doing it, then put it into action.  Even the captain of the ship lets his first mate steer so he or she can get a break to replenish before taking the wheel, again.  Without taking time to refresh, the captain may not be able to navigate the waters smoothly and effortlessly.

May Day doesn't have to be a cry for help but can be a time to look forward to filling your May basket with some treats.  Take it one day a time, get plenty of sleep and take some time each day to replenish yourself by relaxing and having some fun.  Dump the excess baggage, take control and take care of your ship so you can navigate your life easily and effortlessly. .

This article was posted in the Coach's Corner of the ASTD Newsletter for May 2014.  You can reach Kolleen through this website, Linked In, Facebook or by calling her at (402) 499-5547.  She offers workshops, small groups and individual life coaching on a variety of topics to help you create the life you dream of but haven't been able to achieve.

Summer Self-Care

Now that the school year is coming to an end, we can all take a deep breath, especially those of us who are parents.  Use the summer schedule to relax and enjoy some down time.  It is too easy to fill up the summer schedule with activities.  STOP!  Don’t get caught in the trap of “busy-ness”!!  Kids and parents both need down time!!

Some of us are so programmed to be busy, that we have forgotten what down time is.  It is unscheduled time, time to exist without “doing” anything!  It may also be called “free time” which implies we are free to relax!  Do you remember the freedom of childhood?  Childhood for many of us allowed us to be free from activities so we could dream, explore, play, read, be artistic, enjoy the outdoors, exercise for fun (such as riding bikes or swimming without it being an organized practice involving coaching), read for fun, hang out with friends, play games, etc.  Does any of this sound familiar?

Unfortunately, today’s children don’t get much down time and therefore, neither do the parents.  How about giving the gift of free time back to ourselves and our kids?  Enjoy!