Tag Archives: being busy

* Please note: If you're coming to this post from the Tokyo Mother's Group Newsletter link - the information contained in the newsletter is not fully accurate. This event is a workshop (not a summit) and it is NOT being held at the US Embassy, but rather the Embassy compound in Roppongi. Please see below for full details. Thank you! Hope to see you there.

It’s such a cliché, but every parent knows it’s true – time goes too fast.

Author of The Happiness Project, Gretchen Rubin, published the video above a few years ago and it brings me to tears every time I watch it. As adults, we often lose the ability to see that living is now, that the moment we need to pay attention to is happening right in front of us, that the answers lie, not in tomorrow or the next day, but in what’s in our hearts at this very moment.

When we become more mindful, we wake up to what is happening around us. We can put a child’s eye to the moment – not to forsake all the things we’ve learned in life thus far, but to open up to new levels of creativity to solve challenges we face each day.

Most people know this, but it can be difficult to know where to begin.

My Mindful Parenting Workshop is designed to give you that starting point.

In this workshop we will:

  • Explore the link between mindfulness and creativity
  • Create a vision for how you hope to parent when you’re at your highest and best
  • Learn 6 simple mindfulness techniques for in-the-moment awareness
  • Practice an easily accessible tool (The Critical Moment Dialogue) for connecting to your vision and choosing the best action for you when you're facing difficult situations.

This workshop is about:

  • Brushing up on skills you were born with
  • Developing new skills to see possibility when you’re feeling stuck
  • Reminding yourself that you have everything you need to be exactly the parent you want to be
  • Connecting more deeply with life as it happens
  • Sharing with others and creating community around a common goal - becoming a more mindful parent

This workshop is NOT about:

  • Telling you how to parent
  • Making you feel alone
  • Pointing out mistakes you’ve made
  • Giving “expert” advice on what to do with your kids
  • Creating a problem-free existence

The spirit of this workshop is one of learning. I take the approach that we are all in this together. I have children, but I am not a parenting "expert." I’ve been fortunate to have developed my mindfulness practice personally and professionally (as a clinical social worker and certified life coach) over many years, beginning right after my oldest son was born almost 12 years ago. It is a daily journey.

Moreover, I am committed to offering an open, supportive and thoughtful small group experience. It's not always easy to decide to learn new things, to stretch yourself or to admit that some days it all just seems like too much. My intention that this space is supportive and open to all.

I know you will like what you learn here and I'm certain you’ll find it 100% applicable to your daily life.

The content for this program comes from the Personal Leadership framework for intercultural communication. PL is used throughout the world in schools, universities, international corporations and community programs. You can read more about it here. Read my recent blog post on the PL facilitator's training here.

Mindful Parenting Workshop Details

Date:

Thursday, May 11 & Thursday, May 18 from 9:00-11:00 AM

Where:

US Embassy Compound – Roppongi

Workshop Fee:

$60 USD (¥6,000 if paying cash at the door)

Register here.

NOTE ABOUT PAYMENT:

If you'd like to pay online now using credit/debit card or PayPal, you may do so by clicking the Buy Now button below (no PayPal account is needed). Please note that if you use a non-US based card, the fee will be converted to your card's currency and additional fees may be added.

Alternatively, follow the link to the registration form (above) for information on other payment options.




We’re all watching the world go by. We absentmindedly read the news, scroll through Facebook, eat lunch with one eye on our laptops and drive home without even remembering how we got there.

To be fair, it’s a little bit harder to become fully zoned out when you’re living outside of your home culture. Not paying attention could land you eating some bizarre, new food or telling the cashier, “I don’t need a bath,” instead of “I don’t need a bag” (true story). So naturally expats tend to be a bit more observant.

But, no matter where we are, we get into habits in our daily routines. We take our feelings, our thoughts and our actions for granted. Much of the time we don’t even notice that the strain in our neck came after the disagreement with our spouse or that the third cup of coffee fuels the sloppy emails or late night media binge.

I believe there’s an additional layer to this for people who are living away from home. Our thoughts, feelings and actions are complicated by the unpredictable and unusual way in which we live. There are more distractions...and simultaneously more ways in which to pay attention.

Often, people who thrive in this lifestyle do so by learning to pay better attention and by adopting a level of intentionality in their daily lives despite all of the spinning around them.

When I talk with people about this, no one ever disagrees. Yes, of course, we should pay attention to what we’re feeling and thinking. But, how? Should I journal? Talk with a friend? What about going for long walks…listening to woodwind instruments over the sounds of the sea…drinking one less gin and tonic?

Sure. But really, it doesn’t have to be that complicated.

There are surprisingly easy ways to adopt a higher degree of intentionality in the things we do. And, contrary to what you might think, it can start in small and specific ways at any point in the day.

When we’re able to pick a couple of things to do on purpose, we’re strengthening the part of our brain that pays attention. At first we simply pay attention to a couple of seemingly innocuous events, but before we know it, that heightened sense of awareness has come to support us in noticing the more significant ups and downs of our daily experience.

But pay attention to what?

I like to say, "Think of yourself as a scientist."

In that vein, paying attention can be anything from really noticing the sensations of washing your hands to making a head-to-toe scan of your body when you sit down at your desk each day. It can include actually observing yourself making your coffee or sitting on the train, noticing the world around you (not reading your phone).

Brainstorming a list of ideas is a great way to start. And there’s nothing that says you have to choose everything you write down. Maybe just one to start and then add two or three as the weeks progress.

What you’ll notice is that the noticing, instead of the brushing-aside, becomes the habit. The paying attention starts to feel normal. It’s an exceptional way to tune in to your daily experience. And that, in turn, creates greater insight and can improve decision-making and relationship building.

None of this happens over night. It’s like doing push-ups. You get stronger and more skilled, little by little, until (before you know it) you’re aware of things you never noticed before.

If you’re stuck - this exercise might give you some insight into how to try out paying attention.

I also love this TED talk about developing habits. I watched it as part of a Personal Leadership program I’m participating in. While he’s not exactly talking about paying attention, the presenter's ideas for micro-practice could help you establish a regular routine for paying attention.

And, if you want to get a better sense of how to observe your thought and emotional patterns, check out this activity from my book, The Expat Activity Book, here.

blog-post-out-from-under-the-boxes

Today, with the clouds overhead and the slow drizzle that is another typhoon-season rainy day in Tokyo – I begin to crawl out from under the pile of boxes that has been my life since mid-June. I’m thanking my lucky stars!

Whew! This transition summer has been the most challenging I think I’ve ever faced. This was the first summer I found myself with no childcare, no long vacation away (although we did enjoy 4 nice days at the beach), and no real down time. We went from our home, to 6 weeks in a temporary apartment to now our final destination. I’m worn out….but I am so excited to be here!

And – I am ecstatic to get back into the swing of work. I cut back on just about every aspect of work-life over the summer and I miss it! I miss sitting down to write, I miss my workshops and I miss my group and individual clients terribly!

I’ve also learned so much.

For one – the idea that I could do all of this without childcare was…wrong! That’s a big lesson. Even as my kids get older I find that with lunches and snacks (which is a whole, crazy experience for us beyond the norm – read about that here), and negotiating screen time, and all of their little projects, and all the lovin’ it takes to support these sweethearts who have moved more times than your average adult – WOW! – it’s a lot.

I’ve also learned (again) that work is not optional for me. When I’m not engaging my creative side, when I’m not changing my pace and creating space for people to find their voices through the coaching process and when I’m not writing – I just don’t feel like me. My professional life is not a side-gig. When I set it to the side, I feel the profound and nagging sense of having misplaced my keys or forgotten to turn off the stove.

And, on top of it all, I’ve been reminded of how much learning just goes on and on and on. Sometimes we have an opportunity to gain new knowledge about the way we work, live and love. And at other times, we’re simply being reminded of lessons we’ve learned in the past. That, in my mind, is the most rewarding way to live – never thinking it’s all wrapped up, but rather a series of tiny wrappings and unwrappings every day. And let me tell you – wrapped or unwrapped – I am happy to be out from under all these boxes!

So – let’s get this back-to-work party started! Join me for one of my upcoming workshops, groups or individual coaching opportunities! Click HERE for details.

Don't forget the detours.

The first thing my daughter said when she woke up this morning was, “Momma, will you take me to school on your bike this morning?” I so wanted to…but I also didn’t. I could see all of these excuses in front of me – I don’t really know the bike route to her school, the bike is new and I don’t yet have a patch kit and supplies, I don’t have a good place to store a water bottle, I had a client session scheduled for 10:00 AM.

I told her I would think about it. That’s all it took. She was so enthusiastic – looking at the bike, telling me it looked sturdy and ready to go, getting dressed and following all of my instructions to make sure she was ready on time. “Please Mommy,” she kept saying.

Between dishes and lunches and beds and backpacks, I was able to sneak a peak at the trail map. It looked pretty doable. I figured at any rate, if I got lost I’d just get up on the road. It wouldn’t be that big of a deal if she were late to preschool. We probably weren’t going to have a flat or an accident. The ride’s only an hour round trip, I couldn’t get that thirsty. I'd definitely be back by 10:00.

I found myself saying yes.

Normally, I’m a big believer in saying no to the things that you’re not super enthusiastic about doing. But, this is one of those cases where I had the exact opposite feeling. In my heart, I wanted to take her, to spend time with her, to get in a great workout, to be out in nature, to try something new.... it was just different than what I had planned on for the morning. As I went through my mental list of excuses, I realized that all of them were really excuses based on the fact that I’d already planned my morning and a bike ride wasn’t initially part of that plan.

While I was getting dressed, I took myself through my mental list of excuses and realized that none of them really prevented me from taking her to school on my bike. The only thing stopping me from having a pleasant morning with my daughter was me and my silly plan.

To be honest, changing the plan made me a little anxious. We’re at that place where we’re starting to transition. I don’t feel over-scheduled, but I do feel fully scheduled…if not logistically, at least mentally. It’s that time where you feel like any small shift in the plan could set the whole thing tumbling on the floor like an unstable pyramid of oranges in the produce section.

And yet, we took the bike. And it was awesome. We got a little lost at one point – that’s what maps are for. It was hot and steamy, but it didn’t rain – it was a good workout. After dropping her off, I skidded on a rocky incline, fell and scraped up my knee – it actually feels kinda’ nice… like being a kid again.

I needed this reminder today. I love our life, but the packing and moving never get easier. I’ve gotten better at managing the moves, at knowing where the ups and downs will be and at staying true to myself in the midst of transition – but it remains challenging. Today was the day that I was reminded that one fool-proof way to live through it is to say yes here and there to the detours and when you find yourself on one, you might as well go ahead and have fun.

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It’s fall in Washington, DC right now and the leaves are changing. I really, really love the changing of the leaves. I actually don’t know if words can express how I feel about the changing of the leaves.

For most of my life I haven’t lived in places where we have true fall. As a result, the whole thing is still kind of new to me. I’m quite awe-struck by it.

But I find it’s not just the fact that it’s so pretty and incredible. Nor is it the fact that, if you think about the science of it, you’re bound to be completely blown away. The truth is, I’m also amazed by the everyday-ness of it. We’re all going around, doing our thing and there the leaves are – doing their show, bright and blowing in the cooling wind.

This combination – of awesomeness and ordinariness – is really such an incredible metaphor for life. There are all these ways in which we should probably be more awestruck by everyday things like breathing and eating and sleeping and talking. And there’s all this incredible stuff that we get to see that’s totally not our typical daily experience – from the tiny degrees of separation between people (the interconnectedness of supposed strangers NEVER ceases to amaze me) to the fact that places like the Amazon Rainforest and the Sahara exist.

Our lives are such a sweet combination of nothing new and something new. And, you know, I think when we allow the line between those two distinct experiences to get blurry we really enjoy the full flavor of life. That’s exactly the time when we begin to realize there’s nothing really ordinary in the stuff we do every day and, truth be told, we’d see a lot of amazing stuff happening all around, if we’d just take more time to see it.

Still.
Still.

Here’s a place we’ve all been at one time or another – confronting the feeling of, “I can’t do this anymore. Something’s gotta’ give!” Whether it’s too much work, school, parenting, partnering, loving, caring, hating or even having fun – too much (or, frankly, too little) of anything can send us reeling toward change. Reeling, flailing, careening, spinning…kicking and screaming?

I think sometimes we have the common collective knowledge that discomfort brings about change. It’s that whole idea of hitting rock bottom. You have to get to the most miserable place in order to climb your way out and regain your sense of freedom and happiness.

But I’ve been thinking lately about how we sometimes skip a very important place in the middle. When we get to the point where we know we need to make a change, that change is often born out of the spinning of our brains. In a sense, it’s like we’re drowning and looking for anything to hang on to. Maybe this is the answer! Or this! Or, I could do that!

At some point we just end up choosing something. Sometimes it’s the right thing - the world rebalances and we’re on our way. Other times we quickly find ourselves right back where we started – in the whirlpool, grasping for driftwood.

Why? The answer may be different for each of us, but in my own life this has often been that I’ve missed an important step – stillness. When change is upon us we often go into fight or flight mode. We’re in it for survival and, instinctively, that means – RUN! But, often there’s a part of us that just needs to slow down, stop, watch and wait.

When we slow down and listen we can discover that change isn’t something we control, it’s something we go along with for a time so that, upon arrival, we’re more clear-headed and openhearted about which paths most suit us next.

So next time, before flailing (or after just a little bit of it), try being still. You never know – perhaps good things really do come to those who wait.

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Eight years ago I decided to give up.

Here’s what happened.

Right after my oldest child was born, I missed a meeting I’d scheduled. I’ve long since forgotten what the meeting was, but at the time, the pure fact that I had forgotten it appalled me. Who had I become? How in the world was I going to save the world, be the best, run my own business, become executive director of…something, if I couldn’t remember to keep a meeting?

Then, when my son was about 6 months old, the straw broke the camels back. We were grocery shopping. It took me two hours to do something that I’d always prided myself in completing in less than 30 minutes. Pride? Craziness. As if grocery shopping is a race. And, anyway, I worked at that store for 4 years in college, so completing a 30 minute trip gave me a significant competitive advantage over my…competition?

And then I gave up. Approximately 90 minutes into the trip and after at least 2 diaper changes, one nursing session and (maybe) a few tears (mine and his), I stopped and looked at him there. I was at the culmination of too many years trying to do way too much. And the words came to me out of nowhere: I do not have to be the best. I only have to do my best.

And now it’s my mantra.

I know that every day I do the best I can with the information I have available. I find this view brings me comfort in letting things go that used to drive me crazy. Mistakes used to freak me out. I’d play them over and over again in my head. Now I’ve worked out a process for bidding them goodbye. I’ve always been impatient. I still am, but I do my best to keep impatience as a piece of inspiration and not a set of handcuffs. I surround myself with people and experiences that bring me joy and try to take it easy on the ones that get me down. In the decision to stop striving so hard for the things I wanted, I found the freedom to accept my dreams when they landed at my doorstep. And, sometimes I actually fail. And that’s where giving up is so rewarding. I’m not the best and never will be, but even in failure I’ll know I was (and am) trying my hardest.

 

 

Lately I’ve been seeing so much in the media on the topic of being busy. Here’s one from the New York Times – I wrote about it here. I posted this one on the World Tree Coaching Facebook page last week. And, I love what this woman has to say about how she’s going to get her life under control (I especially identify with her descriptions of what it feels like physically and emotionally when she’s on the busy wheel). As a culture, we’re driven by this running around, never feeling like it’s enough, wishing you could just take five minutes to ourselves.

Here’s a conversation I had with my mom one day last week at around 10:30AM:

Mom: Ugh! I’m so busy today. I have so much to do.

Me: Really? What’s on your plate?

Mom: Well, I have to go get a haircut, then I need to stop at the store and pick up some things and then I have to bake a pie for Bible study.

Me: Wow. That is a lot. Why don’t you just pick up something for the Bible study? Do you really need to make a whole pie from scratch?

Mom: I’m NOT going to just pick something up.

Me: Why not?

Mom: I just feel like that’s tacky. I should make something.

Me: How is it tacky? You can get really good pies at the bakery or even HEB (our local supermarket).

Mom: I don’t know….

Me: Tell me this – when you get to Bible study is a single one of your friends going to say, “Oh my God! Vickie just brought a store-bought cake. She must be so lazy. I can’t believe that.”

Mom: (laughing) No.

Me: Okay. Go to HEB and pick up a cake…or a pie…or some cookies.

Mom: (laughing still) Okay.

This is what I’m talking about here. Every single one of us knows that we must get off the busy wheel. We don’t like it. It’s not satisfying. If it’s not killing us literally, it is killing our souls. It’s forcing us to continue to live our life in the wrong direction – also known as someone else’s direction.

So remember, it’s never too late to make a change. Ask yourself the big questions – Why am I doing this? What happens when I say no to one more task, assignment or project? If I gave up half of what I’m doing now, how would I feel about what’s left over? Do I love myself enough to just take better care of me?

My guess is you can do this. More living. Less doing. Yes.

I used to say yes a lot. Flat-out, no-questions-asked, I-can-do-it, YES! Big surprise, this type of yes often left me resentful and annoyed at feeling compelled to do things I didn’t really enjoy. It also took away all the opportunities I may have had to do the really nice things that I do like to do. And, not just the things that I wanted to do for myself or my immediate family, but the things I wanted to do for other people in my life…even strangers. Saying yes in this way left me in the position of racing from one over-scheduled moment to another so there was no chance I’d stop and notice the things in life that really needed noticing. It also took away the fun of saying yes to the things I really, really wanted to say yes to – like coffee with a friend, a last-minute play-date for the kids or an early bedtime with a good book.

We hear a lot about the importance of learning to say no. Saying no is important, but the other side of saying no for most of us is looking at when, where and how we want to say yes. What I realized about myself is that I’m kind of a yes person…I just needed to get better at my yesses.

During university, I was part of a life-changing theater program. We often warmed-up with a game called “The Yes Game.” The game is about living in the moment. When one of your fellow performers makes a suggestion everyone chimes in “yes!” no matter how silly, exhilarating or strange. In that moment, you give in to fun, to experimentation, to something new. I like that game. It inspired me in my process of figuring out how to better say yes.

For me, the journey from unproductive, unhappy-yes to all-the-right-yesses has not been about flat-out-nos so much as better yesses. I like to get excited about things. I enjoy saying yes to something that inspires me, motivates me or brings me joy. So better understanding my yesses has been about examining my values and making my yesses really count. And, it’s been an experience of trial and error. Today’s energetic yes could become next week's never-ever-again and, trust me, I’ll let you know. As much as possible, I give in to the outcomes of this trial and error. Sometimes I might feel over-scheduled, but with each yes failure I know a bit more about improving my yesses.

How do you sort your yesses from your nos? How do you know when you’re off track? What helps you get back where you want to be? Which yesses excite you and which ones make you groan?

Perhaps Shel Silverstein said it best:

The Yesees said yes to anything
That anyone suggested.
The Noees said no to everything
Unless it was proven and tested.
So the Yesees all died of much too much
And the Noees all died of fright,
But somehow I think the Thinkforyourselfees
All came out all right.

A Facebook friend recently posted this article from the New York Times and I’d like to offer it up as food for thought. The piece is over a year old, but the idea of the “busy trap” is nothing new.

It’s easy to read the article and think, “Of course this guy doesn’t have to be busy. He’s a professional writer. He works for himself. He has the freedom (and probably the funds) to set his own schedule!”

But, the truth is, whether we’re rich or poor, cramming in 60 hours a week at the office or sauntering into Starbuck’s at 10:00 AM to sit down to our laptop for a few hours of work, we’re probably much more in control of our level of busy then we care to admit. We don’t really fall into the busy trap so much as jump…with our eyes closed…and without a parachute.

So next time you feel yourself being pulled into something you really, really don’t want to do, ask yourself, “Is this really necessary?” Maybe your answer will be a resounding, “Yes. This is important to me because ____________.” But on the other hand, maybe you’ll find yourself deciding to skip out on yet another pointless meeting. And, if you do, maybe then you’ll find yourself, quite pleasantly, doing nothing at all.