Simplicity

It’s been a while since I have been here. All is well and I hope things are moving along for you too. I have fallen into an easy routine of sleep, eat, work. Not much has changed except I don’t go out. I have driven three times this month. Three. Very strange for a gal who used to commute daily to and from work and then travel to some piece of solitude in a forest somewhere with my dog. I went to a nursery for a curbside pickup, I scouted some green space locations for work, twice. That is all. It feels foreign to operate my vehicle. I long for the day when I can go on a road trip and sit in solitude again.

My baking obsession has made way for my garden obsession. I made babka on the weekend and I feel solid on my bread skills. I know what to look for in yeast, textures and slowly getting the hang of proving. I am not an expert but past Robyn can sure learn a lot from present Robyn.

In case you are wondering, Babka is chocolate bread and worth the three days it takes to make.

I have been drawn to Pacific Trail documentaries. I read Wild by Cheryl Strayed years ago and have always thought that type of quest would be good for me. When I drove from Edmonton to Big Sur, I spent enough alone time to figure things out and learn what makes me tick. What I didn’t do was act on those gut instincts. I suppose it’s all a process. I wasn’t brave enough then, but I am now. I finally acted on some of those inner voice lessons. After watching a few of those Pacific Crest Trail documentaries, I learned a few things:

  1. I like a comfortable bed and find tenting exhausting. Sure there was a time when finances prevented me from comfort camping in a hotel and I enjoyed the stars and wilderness and loud nature quiet, but sleeping on the ground or in a trailer is not my thing anymore. I’d rather be in a cottage with a front step that overlooks nature.
  2. Self exploration is a gift. It can be found through meditation, walking in nature or just sitting alone. You don’t need to walk 2668 miles from Mexico to Canada to to learn about yourself. But it can teach you what you are made of.
  3. I have spent enough alone time with myself to learn I need more alone time. I cry deeply and it cleanses something within me. It happened on a rock watching whales at Devil’s Slide, standing in the ocean at Chesterman Beach, paddling down the river at Saunders, poking my finger in a bullet hole on a church in Freudenstadt, lying in a hospital with kidney (almost)failure. Each time there was an awareness that I was part of something bigger than myself.
  4. The world isn’t going to go back to the way things were. A new way will happen and no one knows what it is yet. Accepting new things will ease transition.
  5. Living simply is easy and restful. Those people on the Pacific Crest Trail learned that by mile 1500. You don’t need much. I don’t think my family needs multiple cars. If we move somewhere more urban we won’t need any. If we move back into nature we will need a couple. I am leaning towards a more urban life where I can walk to nature, the market or the grocery store, the library and (this is where I am trying to think of what else I need but am stumbling) but I will have to drive to work unless they let me work from home forever.
  6. Making food with your own hands is satisfying and meaningful. We ate out once in two months. Was it worth it? No. The food we make is so delicious. We waste less and plan more. We also snack less – or I do, I can’t speak for my family. I make delicious baked goods and we sample that once a day rather than eat like we will never see food again. When I do for myself, I feel comfort in knowing what is in my meal. Simple. Fresh tastes amazing. The green onions on my growing table taste so good in rice, eggs and on sandwiches. I grow it and cook it and eat it. Simple food is satisfying, I can’t think of another word that works better.
Three harvests so far, #4 is for sour cream and onion biscuits.

I suppose I am consoling myself that my vacation has been cancelled and I won’t be traveling out of the country for a very long time. I live a simpler life now and decided to take a vacation in my back yard where I will stand in my garden and let tears cleanse me. Being alone in peaceful silence or loud neighbourhoods will have to be enough this year. I have enough fire wood to sit under the stars and the aurora borealis and poke the coals to enjoy a favourite pastime. Not having disappointments or drama or big expenses won’t be missed this year. A simple vacation is what I need this year.

Ritual

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I have been receiving questions about journaling and meditation from you. Either you stop to talk to me about it or you email me. I thought I would answer meditation questions here and get to journaling next time. How meditation began for me and why I continue with it. *Content warning – religion is part of that and  I no longer participate -may be triggering for some people. My spirit team helped me with the next two paragraphs – full credit goes to them.

The daily ritual is a practice by many all over the world. It brings calm and security to many and insight and relief to others. It is used as a way to bring balance. Many religions use ritual as a way to engage followers. Creating familiar patterns within their routine. These patterns are often found to be familiar and with that brings comfort. The lighting of candles, the burning of incense, and even the repetition of prayer. Finding time within your day for the practice of ritual can be a comforting way to bring order into your life.

Rituals can be rich in symbolism. But are primarily separate and have meaning to the individual. It is a way to find a mindful practice. Staying within the moment allows for a focus of presence. Being present in your life is a gift of clarity that is not readily used by everyone. We are either living in the past or worrying about the future. Using ritual to begin your day can pull you into the present moment and allow for a productive day. Often joy is associated with presence.

I grew up in the Catholic Church and it was filled with rituals. I liked not having to think about what was next, just knowing…until that one day I listened to myself repeating the Apostles Creed and I went…hey….wait a minute… I don’t believe all those things. I then attended to participate in rituals and leave out the parts of the creed that I didn’t believe. I began to feel….fake. I couldn’t go anymore because my beliefs and my ritual practice were at odds with each other. For lack of a better word, I woke up.

After I left the church I found myself feeling at odds with myself. I needed a practice that upheld my beliefs and supported my morals and values. I struggled for a long time to find this practice. I knew religion was not the answer, but my faith and beliefs were consistent with my values. This is where I could begin again.

Believe it or not, running reintroduced me to the comfort of ritual. I would stop studying every day at 10:00 am. Put my shoes on and head outside in any weather. I never ran inside. I am Canadian for crying out loud. If I let a little cold stop me, I would never see the light of day. I dressed for the weather, put one foot in front of the other and away I went.

Same…same…same…

Until one day I couldn’t anymore. Heath issues happened and running is not an option for me any longer.

I struggled again, looking for the repetitive ritual that soothed me and comforted me. Something that would give me quiet and thoughtful prayer at the same time, the way running did. Without running, situations happened that made me blind with fury. I needed to find someplace to put my anger. I would have given anything for a long run to work out my frustrations or at least the ability to have laser eyes and cut my enemy off at the knees. But that solves nothing.

I turned to ritual again. I thought about what it was about the church that I found so comforting. I loved the music, the candles, and the silence. Not being asked to answer questions, not having to problem solve…just be. Just like when I ran. I didn’t set goals to be stronger/smarter/faster. I ran to just run. Just be.

I decided to wake up early…lets back up a minute.

I was a long-time meditator and knew it could help me connect with a higher presence. I had used it in the past as a method of prayer taught to me by Sister Dominica, my grandfather’s sister who was also a nun. She lived with us and every day she sat in prayer AND in meditation. Neither was the same. She said prayer is when you talk to God and meditation is when God talks to you. I meditated when the feeling moved me. Sometimes weeks would go by before I would meditate and sometimes just a few days. I was inconsistent and never considered it to be a ritual.

I began reading about different thought leaders, Wayne Dyer was one, I watched Super Soul on a regular basis and called it my church. The more I learned about self-love and stillness the more I knew I needed to meditate with regularity…but…

BUT………..

I didn’t have time. It takes time to do this stuff. I had kids, hubs, job, home I had STUFF TO DO!

Dr. Wayne Dyer said, get up early in the morning because anything worthwhile is worth making time for. Super Soulers said, make time for you. Love yourself enough to sit in silence for 10 minutes a day because you deserve it. Take time for you.

All I could think was BUT!!!! People neeeeeed me.

I was that girl who would sleep until 8:15 and then run to school. I was that girl who had serious FOMO. I would stay up late and resist sleep. Then in the morning, I was wrecked and late and flustered and a mess.

BUT…every time I turned around I read the sign that told me to do it. Take 10 minutes for myself to prove to me I was worth it. I did it when I ran, why couldn’t I sit on my chair and do it?

December 1, 2016 I began setting my alarm 30 minutes earlier. and on December 11, I turned it off and went back to sleep. Later that day I noticed I was grouchy. I mean REALLY grouchy. I was so angry at work I left to sit in my car and have a nap. If I had laser eyes I would have used them and be the only person standing today.

December 12, 2016, I set my alarm for 5:30 am. I got up, showered and went and sat by my Christmas tree. My dog came and sat with me. This began my daily ritual. I haven’t faltered since. It changes occasionally – but for the most part it is the same.  Sometimes I meditate later in the day, but I always do it.

My day begins at 6:30 am.

  • I begin my day with water. I drink it or I bath in it. It always begins with water. When I am at the ocean, I stand in it.
  • I light a candle and set my intention for the day. Sometimes I just set the intention but it always happens with or without the candle.
  • I sit or lay down, this is dependant on what my intuition tells me. I am more focused when I lay down.
  • I thank the universe and my team for their guidance and support. Beginning the day with gratitude is the number one most important thing I do. It has changed me as a human.
  • I ask two things, “What would you have me know” and “What would you have me do”
  • Then I begin my meditation. I set the timer for 30 minutes on weekdays and 2 hours on weekends. I often step out of meditation at the one hour mark. But I leave lots of time, just in case I need longer…sometimes I do.
  • I end my practice with “thank you”.

Since I have begun this practice, I have reached 1070 consecutive days as of November 16th, 2019. I feel more joy, I am calmer than I used to be and my emotions are fleeting. I still experience all the emotions but they don’t stay around very long. I look at them from a detached perspective and watch them float away when I am done learning from them. I have very little use for lies, cruelty and hate.  I see it for what it is and try to move on from it. It doesn’t always happen. There are a couple of people in my life who still can trigger me into an insane rage. But I sit in that and then move on from it. It’s not easy but it’s easier than it used to be for me. I always ask, what do I need to learn from this…and that helps a lot. The big lesson was boundaries, but other lessons are equally as important.

My favourite part of the ritual is wooden matches. The firmness of the stick and the smell of the sulphur. It takes me back to the Church where not all the memories are terrible. I can sit anywhere for long periods of time and just be. Boredom isn’t a thing anymore because I am comfortable with my own thoughts and in my own skin.

So now you know. I am sure my ritual is wackadoodle for some of you.

That’s okay. You do you.

This works for me and I am better off for it.

Sankalpa

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I have been trying a lot of new things lately in an effort to find my tribe, my people, my kindred spirits. If you watch Anne with an E on Netfilx/CBC or have even read the book or series by LM Montgomery, then you know what I am looking for.

kin·dred spir·it
/ˈkindrid ˈspirit/
noun
plural noun: kindred spirits
  1. a person whose interests or attitudes are similar to one’s own.
    “I longed to find a kindred spirit”

     

I have always been the odd duck surrounded by people who want to hang out with me. I am the stranger in a room full of friends. Since forever I have looked for people who think like me and who share the same values.  Sharing the same interests is nice but not a requirement. I have always wanted to feel or experience a connection knowing they were the person or people who belonged like me. The tricky part is allowing this to happen and to force the situation.

I have tried out various groups and types of people and this has resulted in a very large group or base of people I like to spend time with on occasion. Allowing the situation to unfold is harder for me. I want to influence the direction in an effort to find my tribe.

Have you ever met someone that you feel an instant connection with? All you want to do is spend time with them or think about them a lot. Sometimes their life circumstances don’t match yours so you need to be apart or they are surrounding themselves with people who don’t fit with you. The hard part for me is not controlling the situation so they align better with me. Just allowing it to happen is hard for me. Maybe they will return to me or maybe they won’t. Either way, I value the time we had together and miss them when they are not in my life.

Recently I met a woman whom I connected with instantly. We share a common interest and enjoy spending time with each other. Our friendship is new but I have a good feeling about this. She is part of my Tuesday meditation circle and I look forward to attending regularly for a lot of different reasons, allowing life to unfold is a major part of why I want to attend. It has taken me 52 years to figure the art of allowing. Sitting in allowing is a new thing for me. Saying yes when an invitation arises is part of that and saying no when I feel uncomfortable is also important.

I have reached 1050 days of consecutive meditation using only three Sankalpa during that time frame. I was meditating irregularly since 1992. I started a daily practice on December 13, 2016. I sit in meditative silence for 30 minutes a day and an hour and a half when time allows for it – like weekends and vacations. I recite my Sankalpa three times to begin my meditation and offer gratitude. I end each meditation with my Sankalpa and an offering of gratitude. Three years ago, my intent was to be less angry or at least have somewhere to put the anger. I began every meditation with ‘I am forgiveness’.  Over time the anger subsided and I began to feel calm or neutral towards those who I felt anger towards. When I could think about those people without emotion, I knew I was able to move onto the next Sankalpa. That is not to say I don’t experience anger because I do, but it comes and goes like a leaf on a stream. I watch it as if I am detached. I see the anger and ask myself, what do I need to learn from this. It has been transformative and I am grateful. 

My next Sankalpa taught me about self-love and self-care. I cannot believe in me if I don’t care about me. I had a lifetime of believing what others said to me or about me. The greatest advice I ever received was “It is none of your business what other people think about you.” I sat with my Sankalpa ‘I am loved‘ since February 2019. The biggest change I see in me is boundaries. I don’t let bad things happen to me because I say no. I put me first and take care of me. This allows me to take care of others because my well is full. You can’t be kind if your well is empty.

In July a big change happened. I went back to my Sankalpa of forgiveness briefly and then resumed I am loved because I needed boundaries and I wasn’t going to let myself down. I think about 5-year-old me and she needs me to do this. So I sat daily. I found I needed a longer time in meditation. I gave myself that gift of time and went longer. I can’t explain what goes on for me during meditation because it is an experience that no one else has. Your experience will differ from mine, but we are all connecting because going inward is where all the answers are.

I began my ‘I am allowing’ Sankalpa about mid-September. I watch things float on a leaf down the stream. It is calm and peaceful in allowing. I am detached from anger and hate. I experience joy and happiness at a rate and volume I have never experienced before. I have no idea what is around the corner for me, but meditating daily for the last 1050 days has provided me with a gift I cannot explain in words. I seek out things and people that bring me joy. I allow situations I cannot control to wash over me. I ask myself ‘What do I need to learn from this’ when situations become uncomfortable. The inner me always has an answer. I trust my intuition and I know I got this. On my desk, I have a note I look at daily, “I am meant to live in peace”. You are too. It’s awesome living in peace. I want it for you too.

I am pretty sure it all starts with forgiveness.

Gratitude

As I sit here this morning with my coffee in my hands, I gaze out the window in my office that overlooks my back yard. The sky is blue, the leaves on the trees are shimmering in a light breeze and the flowers still look good considering the rain and hail they have endured this summer. One week left of what I consider summer. As an Edmonton gal, summer for me is only July and August. Even at that, it has been cooler than most people would like. I sat on my deck all day yesterday wrapped in a shawl and had a blanket over my legs. If I hadn’t been wearing shorts and a short sleeve tee, I am sure I would be fine, but its SUMMER damit and I was dressed in shorts. Even this morning, the back door is open to allow for fresh air as my pup sits and enjoys the summer’s end and its not warm.

Its been a hecken couple of weeks. Hecken is my daughter’s favourite swear word. I have taken to it fondly as well. The busiest two weeks of my summer of work things had me leaving work early on Friday and sleeping for four hours only to wake up to Fringe and then I slept for another twelve hours, ate some food and slept hard for another two. I worked hard for the last two weeks putting in all the hours the day had to offer. I still am sore and tired but I am no longer delirious and can actually spell my name: Robyn – see? It wasn’t a sure thing Friday morning.

Heading into those busy two weeks I was feeling as if I lost my best friend…I did. And I felt as if I would be alone for a really long time…I’m not. I had been meditating on loss for about a month. I was focusing on what I didn’t have instead of what I did have. I suppose grief does that for people. You look at what you don’t have rather than what you do have. I was grateful for my heavy workload because I was able to stay focused and in the moment. I was too busy to dwell on what was absent from my life. I knuckled down and got to work. I am incredibly grateful for having that at this time. What I didn’t expect was reconnecting with things at bringing me so much joy. Joy was the last thing I expected while feeling so low. I changed my meditation practice to gratitude and the most amazing things began to happen.

  1. Usually, in my line of work, you need to have a lot of plans in your back pocket anticipating failure or wrenches or bombs thrown into the mix. Sure we ended up going through plans A-H and maybe ended up with plan Q but it wasn’t stressful. It went very smoothly. There was an energy I didn’t expect. Everyone was happy, grateful and kind. It made everything worthwhile and I actually loved my job for the first time in 30 years. (I loved my first year of teaching – it went downhill from there). What do I think the difference was? Gratitude. I was never grateful for my job, my coworkers or any part of my work life. I was this time and my experience was a million times better than I ever expected. Every night as I tucked myself into bed I said, ‘Thank you”.  I was rewarded with more of the same.
  2. I continued to be grateful as the week progressed and I found myself in Southern Alberta. Everything that could go wrong from my hotel room being cancelled to not having resources to extend to those who required them. I even was detoured on my route a few times and none of this made sense. I was rewarded with not feeling angry and defeated. I even got the sense that all of these roadblocks were there to prevent something worse from happening. Who knows what that might have been. In the end, it all turned out better than imagined. I continued to say “Thank you” at the end of the day and as I opened my eyes in the morning, it was my first thought. Thank you altered my frame of mind and kept me calm. Sure it could have been better but it could have been much worse.
  3. I have been searching for someone or something for a while. I haven’t found it in the people I know. I can’t tell you what it is I am looking for because I don’t really know myself but I can tell you I will recognize when I do find it. I have been treating myself better and I have acknowledged that I deserve better than the way some people treat me. Sure they have reasons, but I still deserve better. I think I have finally broken the unending pattern of abuse I have lived with since ‘the dark times’. I kept attracting people who treated me the same way. This happened in my personal and professional life. I would end it and a new person or situation would pop up teaching me the same lesson. I finally recognized it as a pattern. I purged all those people and have left space for them if they want to change and be kinder. I don’t expect them to. I am grateful they were in my life. I learned a lot and let them go. As soon as I did that, two old friends resurfaced. They were always kind and loving but I don’t think I was a match for them. I am now. Gratitude amplified my vibration and now I feel connected to them. This makes me incredibly happy.
  4. I grew up with a sense that you have to do everything to be valued. Let me be clear, it was never told to me or expected of me, it was just something I saw and therefore placed those expectations upon myself. Do more, be more, ignore your health because you can do more when you aren’t sick. Fuck that. Being sick and nearly dying two Christmases ago taught me a valuable lesson. I matter, not my work, not how clean my house is, not how much I can get done in a day, not how little sleep I get so I can produce more, me – I matter. I am taking time after these past two weeks to sleep and rest and read and write. I am doing what I feel like, napping when my body needs it and only looking after myself at this time. Nothing matters if I am not around to enjoy it. When my well is full then I can do for others, but right now, I am replenishing the well and I am grateful for the time I have to do that.

I used to think gratitude was about being thankful for the things I have. My kids, my hubs, my home, my family, but I learned its more than that. It’s a feeling you live in. It the sun being in the sky every damn day, it’s the fresh air I breathe, its the clear taste of water, it’s having support, it’s giving when you can, its everything I touch and everything that touches me.  I am grateful for my new outlook.

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