The best thing that ever happened to me was a life crisis that landed me in alcohol rehab – at age 19.
As a result, I’ve been exposed to a thought process in recovery that cleared a path for a life that has been better than it would have been without the darkness.
I don’t always follow the path, but even after 30 years without a drop of alcohol… I find that the world opens to me in new ways when I follow the principles of “one day at a time,” and “let go and let God.”
I’m not religious, but I believe in a divine presence within myself, and within everyone I meet. I believe in grace. I believe in guidance.
I believe in Spirit, and that we are made in the image of the Creator. We are all creative beings.
So I follow Spirit in many ways. I invite you to join me in growing a garden that blooms in spirit; always growing, full of power and light.
He is nine years old, just starting fourth grade, and after just two weeks, I’m already fighting for his right to stay “drug free” with a new teacher, and feeling frustrated that she doesn’t have the classroom freedom to explore his unique style of absorbing information.
I get it. She has twenty-two kids to work with and a short amount of time. My little guy is jiggling, chatting and Fortnite dancing his way through much of the day. These first few weeks of school are a hard adjustment for an over-active child who has been free in the world all summer.
So how do I help him make the shift and get back to learning?
I’m not qualified in any way to diagnose or make recommendations about ADHD. All I have is the experience of my six grown children, two of whom are ADHD, and were once on Ritalin. I feel it was damaging, and with this late-in-life child, I feel there’s a better way for him to manage his attention deficit.
In our case, it’s a matter of awareness. He is becoming old enough to understand that “they” want to put him on medicine which will dull his personality, creativity and excess of motion. He is old enough to understand that some of the problems he’s having at school can be corrected by his own choices, so we’re working on that – progress, not perfection.
To make myself clear, I will never expect his teachers to understand or tolerate an over-active child in a classroom setting. I also do not expect them to make exceptions or change the rules for one child. I also do not expect him to be able to do his best work in a classroom – I’m not worried about teaching him to be a perfect child. I want him to learn to be a free-thinking adult!
Do I need to recount the number of billionaires in our world today who “suffer” from attention deficit? Is it really a bad thing… or just inconvenient?
So our focus this “back-to-school season” is on just one thing: organization.
My son does do his homework. When he doesn’t, it’s because he forgot to write it down, forgot to bring home the right books, or forgot to turn it in! So, I’ve been talking with him about minimizing these problems, which are 95% of his problem with homework.
Involving him, rather than punishing him, has definitely made a difference in his awareness and the results.
I never take away privileges, as long as today was better than yesterday. Improvement is all I ask of him, and we are chipping away at the issues, one at a time.
Some helpful things have been:
At the end of each homework session, I ask him, “What is going to happen tomorrow morning. Where will your backpack be? What things might you need in class that you forgot today? What homework will you need to turn in, and where is it in your backpack?”
I say, “Let’s make a morning plan. I’ll have your uniform ready when I wake you up. Can you make your breakfast and let the dog out?” I’m finding that he gets out of bed quicker when he knows the plan, and he’ll check to make sure I did my part, then he does his very willingly. We are a team.
On the way to school we talk about self control. We’ve been listening to some adult “YouTubers” who are very successful, and he’s absorbing business tricks that work at school, like pausing before speaking, techniques for visualizing his brain settling down and focusing, and so on. He’s only nine, but it seems to encourage him that people of all ages need “hacks” to be successful. He likes that he’s getting his hacks from cool guys like Jeff Bezos and Tim Ferris.
Planning. We are currently working on cutting big assignments up into little bits to do each day. This includes projects, studying for tests, and things that are not due tomorrow, but have to be looked at daily. We are also working on trying to “think ahead” of his teacher. What will she say, what will she expect, how do we avoid the behavior notices on the class app. How do we get good ones?
I know that over the past two weeks, just talking through potential land mines before he steps on them have avoided tons of problems and strangely, it has made me his “favorite” for taking the time to try to understand what’s going wrong.
Without judgement, I’m trying to be on his side and be more understanding of the challenges he faces every day.
In turn, he is absorbing and being open to the mindfulness I am trying to teach him. At first he rolls his eyes, but later I catch him “visualizing” and doing mindfulness exercises on his own, which is helping him focus at school and at home.
Hopefully, as the school year progresses he will find his way through fourth grade in a more methodical way than he did third grade. I’ve stopped being angry and started trying to show him what I do when I’m overwhelmed and need to get organized.
It seems to be helping, and it has created a new bond between us as co-conspirators against the “system.
That sounds like a big promise. After all, how can just three things give me a better life?
But we have to start somewhere, and I get overwhelmed with the many “self-help” articles and podcasts I take in every day. There’s NO WAY to do all the things I want to do to make life better.
These three, however, make the top of the charts for me. Anything else is what we call in Louisiana, “Lagniappe,” or, a little something extra.
1. START THE DAY WITH GRATITUDE. Whatever we focus on expands. This is an absolute law of consciousness, and WILL NOT FAIL when practiced consistently.
This morning, for example, I skipped my usual half hour of journal time, spending that time hand writing four THANK YOU notes. Two were to clients, one was to someone who helped me through a real estate crisis last week, and one was to a new friend, who invited me to breakfast and shared some gardening secrets.
Sending actual thank-you notes in the mail is a lost art, and has huge impact these days on the receiver – and the sender. I picked some beautiful notes from my collection, put aside everything else, and wrote notes of sincere thanks, with detail, to each of these four people, and used my “wine country” stamps to mail them in their linen envelopes. This made me feel old-fashioned and thoughtful and kind. And it expanded my outlook for the day into creating new reasons to give thanks, based on my inbox.
Whether it’s taking time to write in a journal, a quick “gratitude walk” around the block, or a simple gesture like sending a “thank you” note… start every morning with a deep breath and a review of the wonderful things that have happened – and thank anyone who helped make good things possible. Without fail, when I do this, I am given more than I need throughout the day.
2. DON’T TRY TO MASTER THE DIET. JUST EAT ONE BETTER THING…
I’m drinking bone broth, doing smoothies for breakfast, trying to eat only organics, and taking collagen supplements right now – plus trying to remember all the beauty routines I’m supposed to be doing for clear skin, a tighter butt, better flexibility, and more energy. NO WAY am I ever going to make it through the whole regimen of self-imposed responsibilities for a healthier me. I have about twenty daily things I’m supposed to be trying!
So, rather than beat myself up about what I forgot to do consistently, or feeling ashamed of not taking any of it seriously enough… I’ve committed to start each morning with a banana smoothie, because I am dangerously low in potassium right now – and everything else will fall in place as I go through the day.
I don’t do any of it perfectly, and things fall by the wayside as quickly as I commit to them; but just by starting my day with my banana smoothie, I find it easier to drink the bone broth at lunch, then I feel like I’ve accomplished two important diet goals, and I just find myself eating a more sensible lunch – then I feel I can eat whatever I want for dinner. I’ve earned it.
It’s an imperfect system, but just ONE right choice leads to many others throughout the day. By the time I settle in for evening, I feel like I’ve stayed on track, I tend to exercise before bedtime more often, and then that leads to more mindful skin care, etc. It all starts with just one thing. Without that, it’s easy to fail all day.
3. MAKE TIME TO BE LAZY.
This is really hard for someone like me, who is always dissatisfied with something. It always seems I SHOULD be working harder at something, progressing on a project, seeking enlightenment, whatever…
But lately, I have been forcing myself to enjoy the “lazy moment.”
I actually set a timer for this. 30 minutes in the afternoon before I pick up my son from school. I don’t read. I don’t work. I don’t allow myself to think about what I haven’t done today.
I simply go outside and “chill” in my garden and drink juice or coffee. I close my eyes, listen to the noise of the city, force myself to be still and listen deeper, for the birds, conversations, the swaying of trees and the rustle of leaves. All the sounds of the country exist in the city, too, if I make myself be aware. Mindful.
Then I breath in and note the smells. I drink slowly and savor the taste of my drink. I try to name every color I can see without turning my head.
I just sit there. It’s very hard to do, but once my 30 minutes is up… I feel like I’m starting a brand new day, with plenty of energy, and I look forward to getting moving again.
This is real progress toward the more mindful life I long for. It’s all right here, I just have to notice it by forcing myself to be lazy.
As a recovering alcoholic, I give credit to my roots in AA for many of my “zen” moments. So many times, life gets in the way of my positive thoughts and best mindful practices… and I remember quotes like, “We seek progress, not perfection.”
That simple idea gives me permission to let go of my own impossible standards, accept a few failures in my journey toward better health and spiritual growth, and just move on and make improvements tomorrow.
As an example, I included a picture of the back landing off my kitchen. Eventually, this will not be here. My husband intends to put a balcony across the entire back of the house, so the stairs extending from this little porch will be moved, the roof line will change, and the railing will be replaced. Of course, the floor will be different as well.
So… imagine this space as if I had taken a “before” picture. Unfortunately, I didn’t.
If you look at the top left, you’ll get an idea what the whole area looked like… just scrap wood holding things together, the floor had been patched with two overlapping pieces of sheet metal (dangerously tacked down with nails into the rusty pieces). The iron railing is peeling and corroded.
Since it will all be replaced next year, it really didn’t make sense to spend any money fixing it up, but I couldn’t stand that this little pocket of peace overlooking our back yard was pretty much impossible to use – a complete waste of a great spot for enjoying the mural I’d painted on the garden wall!
With just $200, I decided there was no place for perfection in this moment. I just needed to do what I could for now.
I totally cheated. I threw a coat of paint around the edges of the porch, bought an indoor/outdoor rug to put down, nailed around the edges, and an inexpensive little table and chairs, along with a few hanging plants and planters.
So… far from what it will eventually be – but it’s fine for now, and a happy place to be! I spend cooler mornings out here, enjoying a cup of coffee and gratitude journal time.
Like me, it didn’t have to be perfect, just useful. By letting go of “I’ll do it perfectly tomorrow,” I was able to piece together something that the whole family uses in different ways. Bryce does homework here sometimes, and Bobby likes to check out his progress on our evolving yard, and even cooks out on the terrible grill we bought to fit the space. The steaks, burgers and fish taste just fine!
The lesson in this for me is to realize, once again, that just getting started and doing the best we can with what we have is enough. Abundance flows not from the end result, but the little steps we take along the way to make things around us better.
All the little things add up to our whole lives, and the more I let go of perfectionism, the more I see things like this little haven in my life, coming into reality as less than perfect, but beautiful anyway.
Thinking and being mindful are definitely not the same thing.
To me, Mindfulness is a practice of experience. I work on this constantly, as I’m always in a rush, rarely being mindful of what I’m doing.
The mind, however, needs nurturing, too.
We are like computers. We have two processes – input and output.
We spend much of our time regurgitating things we have learned, putting into practice our knowledge, skills and education. We do a lot of output, and in adulthood, we often feel that we are full of information that can be shared with the world. And that is true.
What is also true is that our hard drives are never full. The brain has so much capacity “they” say we only use 3% of the available ability of the mind. Just three percent!
So to me, education is a life-long pursuit. I’m an avid reader, and I believe this helps me grow in every area of my life.
But I have to be careful.
So much study of web traffic, blogging dynamics, search engine optimization… all good to know, but not what makes a good blog.
I’ve also read a million books on childhood education, ADHD, raising a happy child… and a mother with her nose in a book, or always on the computer, is not supporting her child with attention and guidance and love!
Again, balance rules everything, and I love when someone shares a great read. It helps me narrow my selections and spend less time reading things that aren’t helpful. My mind needs to be kept under control, and reading time is precious and rare.
On that note, I’ll share some of the best things I read with you here, in the Mind Garden. Hopefully, this will help send you in the direction of helpful reading to nourish your mind, without overwhelming with too much information.