When my husband and I got married over 16 years ago, we had very little belongings. What little savings we had, we spent on the wedding and on buying paint for our new home.
We had no furniture, not even a bed.
Any help we were offered by friends and family was refused by us. We knew exactly what furniture we wanted and saved every penny to buy furniture piece by piece. We made numerous trips to Ikea just to fantasize about how our house would look like furnished. We went to work and cooked a meal together and ate it while we sat on the kitchen counter or on the floor. Life was uncomplicated in those days. If I had to make a list of my possessions back then, it would have probably fit on one page. And I am not sure if that page would have been full.
With every year that passed my house started filling up with things: furniture, tableware, linen, and baby furniture, toys.
More and more stuff came in through the door: clothes, kitchen supplies, books, videogames.
Suddenly my house was full and my life had become complicated. Some of my days felt like an endless list of chores, schedules, and mostly decluttering. I felt suffocated by the amount of things I owned. I started longing for the simplicity of those first days when my life (and my house) wasn’t filled with so much stuff.
It wouldn’t have been a problem if I hadn’t had such a hard time with throwing things away. Many of the things I owned held memories for me. I can go through my things and tell you a story about every item. About the way I felt when I purchased it, I can tell you who gave it to me or why I desperately wanted to have it. My memory is selective that way. I cannot say exactly in what year I graduated, but ask me about any toy my kids have and I can tell you exactly where or who they got it from.
It was little over a year that I took a good look around and decided I wanted a change. At first I started clearing out and organizing my closets. After a while I started throwing out more and more things. With every closet I cleaned out, with every bag of clutter that left the house, I felt happier and lighter. Since then I have devoted myself to simplifying my life.
On Pinterest, where I spend more time than is probably considered healthy, I discovered that my new found strife for simplicity actually has a name: minimalism. I now know that minimalism is about far more than having less things. Minimalism for me is the art of letting go. Being content with living in the here and now not clinging to the past or hasting your way on to the future. Minimalism is embracing simplicity in its purest form. Pausing, breathing and enjoying the essentials. And surrounding oneself with nothing more than that. After all we should carry our memories with us, there is no use on stacking them ten feet high on shelves in boxes that we never look in. Minimalism is about trust, about not having to be prepared for every little thing, not having to keep everything because you might need that one item one day in the future.
I have been trying to convert myself from a compulsive hoarder to a content minimalist for over a year now. I have a long way and many stacks of clutter to go but I will get there. I even have a name for this journey. I named it: Project Simplify and it is definitely to be continued.
Tell me your thoughts: What is your experience with clutter? Do you have difficulties with throwing things away?
This is an original post for World Mom’s Network by Mirjam from the Netherlands.
In an interview, a renowned academic in my field once said that when he was young he was certain about two things: 1) he didn’t want to teach, and 2) he didn’t want to write too much. He went on to teach in several famous universities and ended up writing 20 books. I found this very funny because although I have always loved to write, I always knew I didn’t want to teach, but I have been doing it for several years now.
This is something that comes to mind when I try to respond to some questions my husband and I often ask ourselves, as I listed in Part I of this post. Are we still living according to the same principles we followed when we first met (especially in relation to the environment)? Or are we fleeing our responsibility of making a difference in the world? Have we left our ideals aside in exchange for modern, middle class comforts? Are we still being true to our dreams? Above all, how can we be true to our dreams and ideals while at the same time guaranteeing a decent life for our children? And what is a “decent life”? Can’t we live a simpler life? The list goes on. (more…)
World Moms Network has teamed up with the Heartfulness Institute as a media partner for their upcoming meditation conferences in the United States. As part of this partnership, World Moms Blog will feature a meditation related post each week through the end of June. This week, World Moms Senior Editor, Kyla P’an, sat down (virtually) with Heartfulness trainer, Tonia Anne, to have a deeper conversation about meditation. Here’s what Tonia had to say about her journey:
Tonia is a terrific example of a World Mom: she is half-Irish, half-French, her husband is Indian and they live across the river from the Melting Pot of America, New York City. She is raising two children, ages seven and four, and has been practicing meditation for more than twenty years. Talking with Tonia is a little like listening to classical music, it’s melodic and soothing. She’s delightfully at peace and put together but she says her life hasn’t always been so.
“In my early-twenties, life seemed quite confusing. I was a sensitive young adult quite lacking in self-assurance. I was studying and working in the professional theatre and life felt complicated. In this context, my mom, who had started practicing meditation a few years earlier, encouraged me also to try meditation.”
When Tonia’s mom put her in touch with a Heartfulness trainer, Tonia was surprised to discover how easy it was to get started; all she had to do was meet with a trainer for 30-minutes each day for three consecutive days to learn how to do this heart-centered meditation. After the three sessions, Tonia knew how to meditate on her own. The trainer encouraged her to join weekly group meditation sessions, which she did. There was a lot of support.
But Tonia didn’t become a regular meditator overnight. Just as acquiring any new skill, it took practice. “I didn’t do it every day at first but I did find myself looking forward to the good feeling I got from meditating, so I found ways to fit it in,” she reflects.
“Heartfulness meditation is so utterly simple. There is nothing complicated about it. You connect with your heart, rest your awareness there, the ongoing thoughts recede into the background. You are still; and at the same time you are receptive to your heart, which enables you to capture its guidance. Progressively there’s a growing sense of clarity and peacefulness,” says Tonia.
“It feels like the most natural thing to do, like following an inner compass. Like bringing yourself back to yourself.”
To hear Tonia describe meditation makes you realize, perhaps anyone can do this successfully. She’s convinced they can. Meditation, after all, is tuning into a quality of being rather than making something happen.
To help non-practitioners better understand what happens with thoughts, Tonia provides a simple, visual image:
“Picture a river with a bridge over it. Crossing the bridge are lots of little cars. These cars are your thoughts and rather than focusing your attention on any one of the cars (thoughts), you can step back and notice that the river flows nonetheless. At any given moment you can choose where to direct your attention, here we rest our attention on a single point in the heart.”
“We work well with patterns and routines,” she adds. “If you create a place for your meditation (a comfortable chair, a room, a specific spot on the floor), and set a regular time each day to practice, be it 10, 20 or 30 minutes, then soon enough, it becomes a routine.”
Twenty years in, Tonia now meditates every day. Her practice starts when she naturally wakes up before 6 a.m., “before everyone else in my house gets up; before the hustle and bustle of the day; before the e-mails and schedules, when the mind is calmer.” This is the time she takes for herself and she does it by settling into a designated chair in her family room for a thirty to sixty-minute session. She says it makes her feel centered and gives her poise. It sets the tone for her day, and the whole family seems to benefit.
“We are constantly being solicited, especially as moms. We are constantly nurturing and attending to others’ needs. Meditation is my time to be nurtured. Setting aside time for myself in a deep way, where I am connecting with my deepest longing, helps me find balance and deal better,” says Tonia.
When asked how she decided to make meditation such an integral part of her life, Tonia’s answer was simple and beautiful:
“As a child I would wonder in awe at life, at this life that had been given and that I was in, and have a sense that there must be something to make of it…a sense of a diffuse dream. Meditation is like remembering the dream and living more on purpose.”
To learn more about the Heartfulness Institute and their upcoming US conferences, please visit their website: www.heartfulness.org
If you’re a parent, or a child, or anyone, you may have heard the phrase. “It takes a village” (to raise a child). After reading a post written by a fellow contributor, KC, I remained in thought about this village that’s needed to raise our children.
KC is currently a stay-home-mum to a precious toddler, so you know she has one of the most rewarding and challenging positions in the universe; one weighted with a lot of responsibility, as well. Thankfully she takes the time to write about some of what’s going on in her world as a mum, a woman, and as a person, because out of her writing I found something I want to discuss, too. Check her out at http://www.mummyintransit.com. She is a really good writer, and she’s funny too.
In reading KC’s post I thought about my own experience as a child in Italy, a teenager in Tanzania, and an adult and parent in the United States. What was my village like? Who did my mum include in forming my personality and my worldview?
When I was a teenager/young adult I wanted to change the world (as it happens with so many youngsters). And changing the world usually meant Doing Big Things.
Now, three kids and more than twenty years later, my saving the world efforts seem so distant. I grapple with alternating days when I stay home with the kids, sorting socks and washing dishes, and days teaching classes at the university, advising students’ research, and trying to do some research of my own.
At one point of my life I thought my career would be in the non-profit sector; i.e., I would be a professional environmentalist, forever. By then my volunteering efforts had evolved into parallel paying jobs related to social-environmental issues, and this kind of lifestyle went on for 12+ years.
I continued on to graduate school not because I wanted to become an academic, but because I thought it would be a great addition to what I already did. I found it exciting to go from project to project, often working on more than one at once. I felt almost repulsed by the thought of staying in the same job for the rest of my life, always doing the same thing. I even got a certain thrill from not knowing where my salary would come from after the current project ended.
My husband (who worked for the same NGO) was not as thrilled and dreamed of the day at least one of us would have a more stable job. Since I was already on the academic path in one way or the other, that person became me.
When I first became a professor I wasn’t overjoyed. Although I love to do research, teaching is a different story and it was very hard in the beginning. At this point I already had three children and the “saving the world” type of projects were in the past. Another dream that I tried to pursue (to become a professional writer) had also been buried. I sadly realized I wasn’t really passionate about anything anymore – except, of course, my kids.
By this time my husband had gotten a relatively stable government job, although he didn’t really love it. We were finally okay financially and we were living a comfortable life. Nevertheless, we began to question ourselves about our choices.
Were we still living according to the same principles we followed when we first met (especially in relation to the environment)? Were we fleeing our responsibility of making a difference in the world? Had we left our ideals aside for modern, middle class comforts? Were we still being true to our dreams?
At first I had a good excuse to avoid these issues because two of our kids were very small and I had to deal with all of the related motherhood issues. In parallel, I tried to make the most of my job focusing on the good things: stability, flexible hours, and the possibility of quantity time with my children even if that meant doing a lot of work at night and during the weekend. I told myself (and I still do), that there are many means to make a difference, even if in “small” ways.
After all, in practice, there are no real big things. Big things take place in small steps and often need more than one person involved. Also, what seems like small, local things, often involve a lot of work and may have a greater impact on the world than expected. No wonder one of the most popular environmentalist mottos is, “Think global, act local”.
Today, in my attempts to continue to be of service to the world, I try (for example) to be a good listener to my students because sometimes I sense they are more in need of a friendly ear than anything else. A great number of students suffer from depression and other related disorders, for instance. And it’s not that I serve as a psychologist or anything, but I frequently feel that just treating them kindly and making an effort to advise them extra well regarding academic issues makes a significant difference.
Yet the fact is, regardless of how we do in our present jobs, the sort of questions I listed before has been haunting us for the past few years. Now that our youngest is past three, these questions have resurfaced. The biggest issue that remains is how to be true to our dreams and ideals while at the same time guaranteeing enough food on the table (and healthcare, and a good education etc., etc.)?
This post will be continued in Part 2.
Please share your story below on how you have managed (or not) to follow your dreams, personally and professionally.
This post was inspired by two other posts: “Surviving the turmoil” and “My frame world”.
This is an original post to World Moms Blog by Ecoziva in Brazil.
Photo credit to Claremont Colleges Digital Library. This photo has a creative commons attribute license.
Recently I started practicing Heartfulness Meditation. It is when you are trying not to think about anything that you truly realise how your brain is never quiet! No matter what we’re doing, there’s a constant commentary going on. Most of the time we’re not consciously aware of these thoughts, but they do have an impact on our mood and behaviour.
Sadly, we are often raised to be very hard on ourselves, and our “self-talk” tends to be negative and critical. We would never be as cruel as we are to ourselves towards anyone else! This begs the question, why do we think it’s okay to be so mean to ourselves?
Many point to the way women are portrayed in the media, and how we’re somehow expected to be “perfect” – totally able to be a brilliant mother and an outstanding career woman whilst keeping a husband happy to boot. The truth is that nobody is perfect, and nobody truly has the life that we imagine they do!
A while ago I read something that truly resonated with me – “Don’t compare your behind the scenes to somebody else’s show reel.” Think about this for a minute … none of us really know what goes on in another person’s life, we only know what they choose to share with us.
Obviously people tend to share whatever makes them look good, and not what they’re ashamed of. So we look at another person and think “why can’t I be as good / brave / fit / successful or whatever as this person?” without knowing that they are probably thinking the same thing about us!
The good news is that as soon as you become aware of a bad habit, you can choose to replace that habit with one that is better for you. With regard to negative self talk, there are two steps to mitigate it. The first is to become more aware of the “soundtrack” going on in your mind. The second is to refute the nasty comments.
For example, if you make a mistake and find yourself thinking “I’m SO stupid!” you should counter that statement with something like “I’m not really stupid, I made a mistake, I now know better and I’ll do better next time.”
I also think it is very beneficial to carve out a few minutes every day to try and quieten the mind completely. This is usually accomplished by means of meditation, but it doesn’t necessarily have to be anything esoteric. It’s enough to sit in a quiet and comfortable space and just focus on breathing in and out. As soon as you become aware of a thought, you just bring your attention back to your breathing. There are many variations to this, for example in Transcendental Meditation a teacher gives you a mantra that you must repeat. No matter what you choose, the aim is the same, to try and get rid of the “soundtrack” (even if it’s just for a couple of seconds) so that you can reconnect with your authentic self.
Sometimes my soundtrack is made up of snippets of songs, and that can occasionally be rather amusing. Recently I tore part of my big toenail away from the nail bed. I kept it taped up to try and prevent my nail from falling off completely. I’d only left the tape off for a short time when I snagged the same toenail again and ripped it even more! Despite the pain, all that my brain had going on in a loop was the line “Oops, I did it again.” from the Britney Spears’ song!
Did you ever notice yourself thinking about a particular song in response to what is happening to you or around you? If so, can you give us an example?
Have you ever tried any kind of Meditation? If so, did you find it beneficial?
This is an original blog post for World Moms Blog written by Mamma Simona from Cape Town, South Africa. Photo credit: Kirsten Doyle