August 2010

I’ve had this incredibly strong urge recently to clean out things – closets, cabinets, bookshelves. I am in pare down over-drive. All possessions are fair game.

Part of this energy has been motivated by the theme of much of my reading of late. (See Robin Recommends below.) Part is a throwback to my past life as a school teacher.

August has always meant that it was time to consider wrapping up the summer thoughts and activities and to prepare for the newness afforded by the start of the school year. The delicious anticipation of all the possibilities.

I feel on the verge of something; a breakthrough, a new plateau, a profound awareness. And, though the vision is still shrouded in mist, I am celebrating the journey.

I have given myself permission to discard things that no longer add value to my life!

I want to be surrounded only by things that have special meaning for me. I am going for quality over quantity. I feel lighter, more free with each cardboard box I send on to a new home. I am making room for what really matters, for things that truly reflect who I am in my life right now. I am creating a personal space to make room for new adventures, new growth, new memories — the ever-evolving new me.

So, my challenge to you: What can you eliminate from your life to make room for the you that you are becoming? How can you make your surroundings a more accurate reflection of what you hold most dear? What might you be able to welcome into your life with this new spaciousness?

Accessing the Power of Gratitude

thank you card

The practice of gratitude as a tool for happiness has been in the mainstream for years. Long-term studies support gratitude’s effectiveness, suggesting that a positive, appreciative attitude contributes to greater success in work, greater health, peak performance in sports and business, a higher sense of well-being, and a faster rate of recovery from surgery.

But while we may acknowledge gratitude’s many benefits, it still can be difficult to sustain. So many of us are trained to notice what is broken, undone or lacking in our lives. And for gratitude to meet its full healing potential in our lives, it needs to become more than just a Thanksgiving word. We have to learn a new way of looking at things, a new habit. And that can take some time.

That’s why practicing gratitude makes so much sense. When we practice giving thanks for all we have, instead of complaining about what we lack, we give ourselves the chance to see all of life as an opportunity and a blessing.

Remember that gratitude isn’t a blindly optimistic approach in which the bad things in life are
whitewashed or ignored. It’s more a matter of where we put our focus and attention. Pain and injustice exist in this world, but when we focus on the gifts of life, we gain a feeling of well-being. Gratitude balances us and gives us hope.

There are many things to be grateful for: colorful autumn leaves, legs that work, friends who listen and really hear, chocolate, fresh eggs, warm jackets, tomatoes, the ability to read, roses, our health, butterflies.

What’s on your list?

Some Ways to Practice Gratitude

  • Keep a gratitude journal in which you list things for which you are thankful. You can make daily, weekly or monthly lists. Greater frequency may be better for creating a new habit, but just keeping that journal where you can see it will remind you to think in a grateful way.
  • Make a gratitude collage by drawing or pasting pictures.
  • Practice gratitude around the dinner table or make it part of your nighttime routine.
  • Make a game of finding the hidden blessing in a challenging situation.
  • When you feel like complaining, make a gratitude list instead. You may be amazed by how much better you feel.
  • Notice how gratitude is impacting your life. Write about it, sing about it, express thanks for gratitude.

As you practice, an inner shift begins to occur, and you may be delighted to discover how content and hopeful you are feeling. That sense of fulfillment is gratitude at work.

“You simply will not be the same person two months from now after consciously giving thanks each day for the
abundance that exists in your life. And you will have set in motion an ancient spiritual law: the more you
have and are grateful for, the more will be given you.”

Sarah Ban Breathnach

Robin Recommends:

I’ve always had a proclivity toward architecture, my dad’s profession. I was fascinated by how blueprints could turn into something tangible, with presence. So, I hungrily dove into
The Not So Big House, by Sarah Susanka, recommended by my friend as a starting point for designing my future home in New Mexico. The concepts are very simple: creating a smaller house that feels bigger and “homier”, and more fully a apart of our lives. This is accomplished by placing emphasis on quality over quantity.

Imagine my delight when I serendipitously discovered the not so big life ! While I haven’t yet completed the book, I am fascinated with her juxtaposition of building/remodeling a home and building/remodeling a life. The analogies are so appropriate: identify what isn’t working, ditch the clutter, improve the quality of what you have, create time and personal space, rebuild, and maintain your new perspective. So simple, yet so powerful and life changing.

Interested in more? Here’s her blog and other pertinent links.