Dancing outside my comfort zone

Quieting the Monkey Mind

A Gentle Shove in the Right Direction

A few days ago a friend made me promise to watch a certain episode of “Chef’s Table” on Netflix. She didn’t say why, just made me promise to watch.

Friday night rolled around and I wanted something relaxing to do while eating the Chinese food I’d been craving for days despite knowing it wasn’t the best thing I could be eating. Sometimes you just have to let the craving win and go back to better habits after! I’ve found it keeps me from binging on a lot of stuff I don’t really want because I can’t find what I do want.

But I digress. I remembered the promise and opened Netflix on my computer. Clearly they saw me coming because the show was the very first one on the opening screen. Now, she’d mentioned a couple of episodes in our conversation, so I couldn’t remember exactly which one she’d asked me to watch, remembering only that it was Episode 1 from either Season 2 or 3.

Unlikely Inspiration Via Chef’s Table

I watched the one from Season 2 and though it was excellent and very inspiring. It showcased a chef who’d overcome cancer and the after-effects of treatment to become an even better, more adventurous chef, which says a lot as he was already known for his incredible talent in creating unique, surprising dishes. Yet I felt it wasn’t the right one.

I went back to the episode list looking for what she intended I watch and found an episode about a Buddhist monk in Season 3. Bingo! I knew that was the one she felt would inspire me.

To say the episode opened my mind to new possibilities would be like saying the birth of your first child will make a few changes in your life.

Meditation Over Vegetables

The monk, Jeong Kwan, joined the monastery when she was only 17, making a life choice unfathomable to most of us. She brought with her a love of cooking she’d learned from her recently deceased mother and had internalized as an outpouring of the nurturing of a mother as well as a monk.

I really connected with her story when she talked about cooking as a form of meditation. I get the same feeling when I’m chopping up vegetables for a stir-fry and on a lesser scale, when making a pot of chili or some other batch I’ll later portion out and freeze. There’s something cathartic about chopping up fresh vegetables and combining them into a healthy, nutritious dish which is very soul soothing.

Meditating in Unlikely Places

The episode came back to me while writing my morning pages and I started thinking about other places and situations where I find the peace and tranquility of a meditative state.

The obvious ones are dancing and walking in nature. But my nature walks typically include at least one friend. In fact, every Friday, it’s the same friend, and we tend to chat most of the time we’re walking.

I was about to rule that one out when I realized it really is peaceful and there’s no set plan to our conversation. In fact, it’s kind of a vocal morning pages. We say what’s on our minds, wandering from subject to subject without thought or plan. My muscles warm as we move and our pace is steady and even (assuming we’re not climbing over rocks, of course!). When we’re done, I always feel good both physically and mentally, so why can’t that be a meditation? It’s like dancing but the music is our voices and the sounds of nature around us.

My thoughts wandered to other activities I’ve been taking for granted and I easily found two more meditative practices I’ve simply fallen into.

Sleeping Better, Waking Better

The first is my bedtime ritual. When I lay down at night, I lay on my back and do some neck stretches. Then I just let my body relax and release all of the tension from my neck, spine, and back before assuming my typical sleeping position on my side with my arm draped across one of the extra pillows. I use that time to settle both myself and the cats who snuggle with me. They take turns settling beside or on top of me and getting a few strokes. Pretty soon, I’ll have two or three of them purring softly beside me. Only then do I roll over and fall almost immediately to sleep.

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Toby

Scrappy Doo relaxing

Scrappy Doo

The second is just the opposite; my morning wake-up ritual. Quite often, I’m woken by Toby or Scrappy Doo playing the blinds or digging at the covers. Unlike humans who have used technology to subvert the demands of our circadian rhythm, cats are motivated by the rising and setting of the sun. Sure, they sleep about 18 hours a day, but in my house, when the sun comes up, they’re appetite alarms are sure to follow, despite the fact that dry food is available 24/7. Once they see I’m awake, I become the base for a cat pile of purrs and snuggles.

Like my night time ritual, by the time I’m fully awake, I’m calm and relaxed. Since I’m no longer at the mercy of someone else’s time table, I’m free to carry that relaxation into my own personal morning rituals. Part of that is the aforementioned morning pages which I also find to be strangely meditative. There’s something about having to slow my thoughts down enough to make it from brain to hand to pen to paper which is similar to slowing my breathing.

Learning to Get Out of My Own Way

I realize as I’m writing that a huge part of the black hole which absorbed any desire to write over the last couple of months has to do with something else Jeong Kwan mentioned. To paraphrase, she said that in order to be creative, you have to let go of ego. Although she was referring to the creativity of her cooking which is both delicious and beautiful, I felt one of those mental jolts when I saw her words translated on the screen.

The fears I’ve been feeling, the lack of confidence, the I’m not good enoughs…those are all my ego talking. Even my inability to answer the question Carolyn Maul recently posed: “What is your unique selling proposition (or USP for you copywriters out there)?” is tied to ego and lack of confidence. I have to ask myself, if ego wasn’t getting in my way, couldn’t I find at least a couple of things I’m especially good at which set me apart from other writers out there?

In Search of My USP

My friend Cruz is always telling me that she loves what she calls “raw Sheri” (usually when she’s kicking my butt over my lack of confidence). What I think she means is the writing I do which is unfiltered and completely honest. She prefers it when I just dive into a topic without a preface, prologue, or any other lead-in. Kind of like a cannonball into the pool, without a care for where or how I land.

But is that raw honesty enough to call my USP? Guess I’ll have to quiet the monkey mind and find the answer through one of my meditations.

Over to You Now. Share What Smooths Your Path.

How do you quiet your monkey mind? How do you still the ego so you can let your creative side out (and don’t say you don’t have one. We all do! It just takes different forms). What have you been doing that’s meditative and you didn’t even realize it? Step back and look at things you do regularly which make you feel calm and relaxed. You might be surprised by what you find.

For all I learn, for all who share, for all who read my words, I am grateful.

My gratitudes today are:

  1. I’m grateful for friends and coaches who help peel me apart from my ego.
  2. I’m grateful for friends who share things they know will inspire me.
  3. I’m grateful for the realization that there are many ways to accomplish the same thing. Some work better than others at times, but they’re all beneficial.
  4. I’m grateful for the increased energy a few well-placed suggestions from friends can give me. Sometimes, motivation just needs a plan of action.
  5. I’m grateful for abundance; energy, motivation, inspiration, friendship, self-confidence, dream manifestation, writing, reading, love, joy, peace, harmony, philanthropy and prosperity.

Blessed Be

I invite you to visit my Facebook pages, Sheri Levenstein-Conaway Author and HLWT Accounting. Please also drop by my website, www.shericonaway.com and check out my Hire Me Page. I’ve created these pages as a means of positive affirmation and would be very grateful if you’d “like” them or leave a comment! Thank you!

Feature photo courtesy of Stephen Bowler via Flickr

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