One Little Word

Taking Intention . . . On Vacation

Before Tom and I left for Alaska, I told him my one intention for the trip:  
Less screen.  More experiences.

IMG_6276
First night on the ship, somewhere outside Vancouver.

I know that sounds kind of weird. . . less screen.  What I meant, really, was I wanted to take fewer photos.  I wanted to free myself from feeling like I needed to document every moment of our trip.  There is nothing wrong with vacation pics -- and I certainly did want to take photos.  I just . . . didn't want to experience Alaska behind the screen of my iPhone.  I wanted to experience everything around me directly.  I wanted to live in the moment of the trip.  I wanted to create my own mental memories.

And, of course, I would take photos!  Here I was . . . in one of the most incredibly beautiful places I've ever visited . . .  and I wanted to capture it.  (For later.  To inspire my art.  To document our trip.)   On the other hand, I really didn't want to miss anything . . . by trying to get the perfect photograph.

So that was my intention.  Less screen.  More experiences.

And I'm happy to say . . . it worked for me.  I took far fewer photos than I normally do on a trip.  I kept my phone in my pocket much of the time.  I looked and experienced first -- then took my camera out after that.

And you know what?  Doing that . . . experiencing first . . . actually made the photos I did take BETTER.  And I know my memories about the experience are richer -- because I didn't live them from behind a screen.  

A perfect example.

In Juneau (on the evening after our Mendenhall Glacier trek), we went on an evening whale watching cruise (which also featured an amazing "Alaskan culinary experience") (so awesome) (my first taste of reindeer!).  The setting was gorgeous -- water, mountains rising straight up, sunset, eagles soaring.  Really . . . just amazing.  The small boat had comfortable seats, HUGE windows for viewing, an on-board naturalist to explain everything we would see, and binoculars.  (Also wine.)  

It didn't take long . . . and we saw whales!  Humpback whales -- spouting in the distance.  The ship's captain steered us toward the whales, while the naturalist told us all about the humpbacks and explained what we were seeing.

I kept my phone in my pocket . . . and grabbed the binoculars instead.

We followed the whales (always at a distance of at least 100 yards for the respect and safety of the whales) for about an hour and a half.  It was amazing!  We ended up seeing something that is rather exceptional on whale-watching excursions -- something called "bubble netting", which is a cooperative feeding practice of the humpback whales.  We ended up watching a group of 8 humpbacks working together the entire time!

Now here's where I'm going to be a bit judge-y.  There were about 25 people on the boat with us.  Most of them . . . watched this entire spectacle behind the screens of their phones or cameras.  Trying to get a good shot . . . of unpredictable wildlife . . . in the water . . . from a moving boat . . . at a distance of at least 100 yards.  

As Tom and I watched, we learned to (kind of) anticipate where they might surface next.  We learned to watch for the signals -- first the spout, then the surface rise, then the ALL of them coming up to the surface at the same time, then the fluke (the tail).  The folks with their screens?  They were always behind the movement because they were limited to what they could see on their phone screen.  

Eventually, the boat made this spectacular turn . . . and the lighting was amazing and the backdrop was perfect.  Whales or not, it was time for me to get my phone out and take a few photos of an incredibly beautiful landscape.  

And then I noticed it . . . 

Spouting.

IMG_4687

Surfacing.  (With bonus soaring eagle!)

IMG_4686

Rising.  

IMG_4683

Fluke.

IMG_4684 2

Yep.  I ended up getting some pretty great whale photos that evening.  But I'd like to think that I was able to capture these moments . . . because I had experienced them first.  I knew what I was looking for.  And . . . even if I hadn't gotten ANY decent photos of the whales, I'd still have the glorious memory of our magical whale watching evening.  

(We also saw harbor porpoises on that excursion.)  (I didn't get any photos.)  (Didn't even try, actually.)

I'm really glad I decided to take intention with me . . . on vacation!

 

 


Intention: Now With Extra Action

During April, my word - intention - took a decidedly action-oriented turn.

IMG_2758

At least . . . if you can call "inaction" "action." ;-)

On April 1, I launched myself into a 30-day digital de-clutter, à la Cal Newport's Digital Minimalism book.  (You can read my original post about my digital declutter here.)  I wasn't THAT bad when it came to my digital habits.  I mean . . . I'd already removed Facebook from my life (which brought me much happiness and no regrets at all).  But there were a few tendencies that I wanted to disrupt; bad habits I wanted to break.  (And I will admit to being shocked at how much time I DID use my phone every day . . . when I was finally brave enough to really look at the stats for my screen time!)

This digital declutter meant I had to be very intentional about how I was going to use my phone and the rest of the digital tools at my disposal (my laptop and my iPad).  I set up rules for myself.  I removed the most troublesome apps from my phone.  I committed myself to . . . just leaving my phone in its pocket in my bag.  It also meant I needed to be very intentional about what I would do instead of picking up my phone.  (Always having something handy to read really helped here.)

Every single thing about my digital declutter has been intentional.  And now that I'm at the end of it, I'm going to be equally intentional about what I allow back into my digital life.

Here are some highlights from my digital declutter:

  • I reduced my daily phone use to under an hour each day.  According to my at-the-end-of-the-digital-declutter screen time stats, I now only pick up my phone to use my camera, to check the weather, to meditate (I use an app called Insight Timer), and to communicate (text or phone).  And that's . . . pretty much it these days.  

    Now that the digital declutter is over?  I want to keep it that way!

  • I have completely disrupted my tendency to "Google everything."  (My kids used to call me Google Mom.)  Seriously, before the declutter I would pick up my phone and Google any "I wonder" thought that popped into my head.  (We're not talking Useful Information here.  We're talking Really Stupid and Inane Things that I don't even really care about, but that were mildly interesting in a passing way.)  I have learned to let this stupid stuff just . . . go.  

    Now that the digital declutter is over?  I don't see this tendency making a return.  I'm just not interested anymore.

  • I took email off my phone completely.  Turns out that checking my email . . . was my "gateway drug" to using my phone.  I'd check my email "real quick" . . . which would lead to a scroll through Instagram, then maybe checking out what Pinterest was recommending for me to look at, and then a scan of today's headlines -- where I would probably click in to a story or two (or three or four).  And then, well . . . maybe I should check my email again???  Total. Waste. Of. Time.

    Now that the digital declutter is over?  I'm leaving my email off my phone, unless I'm traveling.

  • I took away the "headline news" feature on my phone.  I cannot even begin to tell you how much this has boosted my happiness.  And it's not like I'm living in a cave now, completely unaware of what's happening out there in the world.  Now I pick up my news through once-daily digests from my favorite news sources.  I access the information when I'm ready to check the news, and I find that I am more than adequately informed.

    Now that the digital declutter is over?  No news headlines.  Ever. 

  • I took the Instagram and Pinterest apps off my phone..  They did remain on my laptop and iPad, but, like I discovered with Facebook a couple of years ago, I found that I just didn't access either of those sites very often during the 30 days.  (I think I never looked at Instagram, and I know I pinned two things to Pinterest from my laptop.  But that's it.)  

    I do miss Instagram.  A lot.  I miss seeing what my friends are up to, and I miss sharing photos.  What I don't miss?  People I never should have been following anyway.  (No surprise there.)  

    What I miss most about Pinterest is having it available as a reference.  I pin a lot of "inspirational" ideas that I like to access in my art classes or when I'm sketching or when I'm with my friends and want to share things I've seen  -- and not having access on my phone is a pain.  Somehow, I need to balance the handy reference feature of Pinterest with my tendency to scroll to see what ELSE is out there.

    Now that the digital declutter is over?  I'm putting both apps back on my phone.  I'll begin engaging on Instagram again tomorrow, but on a limited basis (maybe just once every couple of days).  I'll also "unfollow" people who make me roll my eyes.  As far as Pinterest goes, I'm going to have to be really careful.  I'll monitor my use, and if it becomes a problem for me . . . I'll have to take it off again.

Bottom line?  

I did this digital declutter to take control - with intention - of my digital tendencies and habits; to get my digital use "in line" with how I want to spend my time.  The declutter was super valuable for me in doing just that!  I disrupted tendencies and patterns of use, I broke habits, and I gained a TON of perspective.  You know what else?  I discovered that I have so much time for DOING . . . when I'm not glued to my damn phone.

From an intention standpoint, it was an ideal exercise for me.  I will be more purposeful and deliberate (more intentional!) about the digital parts of my life from now on.

==========

How about you?  What did you learn from your word this month?

==========

Also -- be sure to check back on Friday!  I'll be . . . Asking Questions!  
(Are you curious????)

 

 


My One Little Word 2019

How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.  What we do with this hour, and that one, is what we are doing.     --- Annie Dillard

I've been choosing a word for the year since 2011.  
That's eight words so far.  
(Move, Shine, Surprise, Possibility, Journey, Risk, Balance, Focus)  
Eight words that continue to stick with me, long after their year is up.

But none so much as Focus -- my 2018 word.  Focus . . . has brought about more thoughtful change and real, personal understanding of myself than any other word.  And I think I'm not quite finished with it yet!

Although I considered other words (because it's so much more exciting to have a fresh word for a new year), I kept rolling around to . . .  more of the same.  To the fact that there is probably more to this focus thing for me to discover.  And I decided to choose a word that kind of . . . links up to last year's word for me; a word that can allow for a further extension of my ongoing work on focus.

My word for 2019 is . . . INTENTION.

IMG_1343 2

As in purposeful, deliberate, thoughtful, considered.
How I want to act.
How I decide.
How I want to BE.

I'm eager to see where this one takes me!  It's like . . . focus . . . with MORE!

What you think, you become.
What you feel, you attract.
What you imagine, you create.
                               --- Buddha

 

How about YOU?  What's your word for 2019?
(I'll be linking up with Juliann to talk about our words on the last Tuesday of every month.  I hope you'll join us!)


Focus: A Mid-Year Update

(Okay.  So it's not mid-year yet, but close enough.)

Way back in January, I explained that I had chosen the word FOCUS to . . . well, focus on . . . for the year.  

I quoted Ferris Bueller.  

I told you that I wanted to focus on what I might be missing -- at what I'm not seeing -- because I've been too busy looking at what I'm already seeing.

I told you I wanted to . . . adjust my focus.

IMG_3760

Now I'm here to report back . . . that I'm doing just that.
Adjusting my focus!

And it's kind of fascinating, actually.

Early in the year, I worked out five basic elements to . . . focus on.  (I crack myself up.)

  • Re-thinking my priorities.  (Where do I want my focus to be?)
  • Hacking away at the unessential.  (Paring down.)
  • Ending the distractions.  (Identifying my focus-pullers.)
  • Being mindful.  (Staying focused.)
  • Paying attention to the "space between." (What am I missing?)

Although I'm thinking about all five things all the time, I pretty much started at the top of the list.  And I'm working my way down.

Initially, I did a lot of thinking about how I wanted to be spending my time and living my life by setting priorities and making some hard desicions.  I'm definitely living a more streamlined life now.  I've pruned out a lot of the unessential -- commitments, activities, stuff.  I'm saying NO more often than before, but also saying YES when it makes sense.  My actions are lining up with my priorities.

Right now, I'm taking a hard look at the distractions in my life.  Initially, I thought this would be easy.  But . . . well . . . not so much!  Turns out I'm easily distracted.  I chase shiny objects, and seek out rabbit-holes.  I like daydreaming.  And going off on tangents.  But I'm definitely making progress at figuring this one out.

So, here at (nearly) mid-year, I think I'm onto something:  This FOCUS thing . . . is working!

"Concentrate all your thoughts upon the work at hand.  The sun's rays do not burn until brought to a focus."
                                                                                                                --- Alexander Graham Bell

 

 

 


Curating My Collection

If you've been reading along here for a while, you know that I am a regular participant in Ali Edwards' One Little Word project.  I really like having a "word" to focus on each year, and I find it adds value to my personal development.

Ali, who also happens to be a storytelling-scrapbooker extraordinaire, provides monthly "thought-prompts" to help participants connect with their word through the year.  She also demonstrates some very creative and inventive techniques for creating a journal/scrapbook to document the process.

In my early years with OLW, I went along with the scrapbooking prompts, and created my yearly journals.  But after my first couple of words, I realized that . . . those cookie-cutter scrapbooks just weren't for me!  Ali totally encourages participants to do their own thing with regard to the OLW project.  She provides a lovely framework for participants, but she also celebrates those of us who totally go off the grid.

What do I do?  Well.  I'm a life-long journaler -- and after a few years of kicking around various ways to document my One Little Word, I've stumbled on to this . . . 

IMG_4680

I create a "collection" of . . . well, things . . . that help me connect with my word for the year.   I usually begin with Ali's prompts and challenges, but my own word-exploration usually takes me in other directions, too.  Through the year, I end up finding poems and quotes and photos and journal entries and cards and drawings (etc.).  

I need to create a journal that will contain my "collection."

Every year (so far) I've done something a little bit different.  This year, for example, I started with a couple of pieces of decorated cardboard, a hole-punch, and a couple of binder rings.

IMG_4678

Those binder rings?  Really handy!  They allow flexibility -- and plenty of room for inspiration.

My journal has heavy-duty dividers inside (even though I'm not quite sure what I'm "dividing" yet).  This month, I used Ali's prompt about creating vision boards to "decorate" the dividers in my journal.

IMG_4679

IMG_4686

IMG_4683

What I love best about my OLW journal this year is the flexibility.  I can add anything I want; anything that inspires me to connect with my word - BALANCE.

IMG_4681

It's like . . . I'm the curator of my own private collection!


 


Morning Ritual . . . Now With Added Tail-Wagging

A couple of years ago, I added meditation to my daily morning ritual.  I discovered that meditation was a powerful tool for me; that it helped me feel centered and prepared to meet the day.

But then . . . last year . . . lots of my regular habits and rituals started to unravel.  Including my budding meditation practice.  (Like I've mentioned before . . . I lost my balance last year.)

So.

I decided to use last month's One Little Word challenge (to develop a new habit or activity) as an opportunity to put meditation back into my daily morning ritual; to get myself back in balance.

IMG_4452

With a few exceptions, my focus on daily meditation was a great success, and the practice is now rooted in my morning ritual.

IMG_4453 2

I've discovered a few things along the way.

  • If I let the morning get away without meditation, it's much harder for me to find a way to fold it into my day later.  (Those days I missed?  It's because my morning was crazier than normal that day.)
  • It helps to have a designated place for meditation -- and a signal to let Tom know I'm meditating and not to disturb me.  (I close the door - and then Tom remembers that I'm meditating.)
  • I really like having a candle burning . . . even though I tend to close my eyes during meditation.
  • Soft, gentle music playing in the background helps me stay focused.
  • No distractions allowed.  No phone.  No Tom.  No dogs.

But wait a minute.

No dogs???

While Tom understands that a closed door means Do Not Disturb . . . the dogs?  Not so much.  They sit on the other side of the closed door and try to get in.  Loudly.  Distractingly.  (And sort of pathetically.)

After several days of trying to keep them out, I decided to give in and let them come in with me for daily meditation.

IMG_4455

We begin the ritual with some petting and tail-wagging.  Maybe a dog-kiss or two.  And then we all settle into our places.  JoJo usually to my right, and Jenny right behind me.

Turns out my daily meditation practice is enhanced with dogs.  And I think this is really okay.  Because, for me, interacting with my dogs is a great way to get into a more mindful state of being.

And I think they like it, too!

IMG_4454

Have a great weekend!

 


Wearing My Word

Each year, I look for ways to "wear" my one little word.  It's a tangible way to keep my word close -- my own little "word in the wild."  And, well . . . it's fun, too.

Sometimes I find necklaces and charms that represent my word. Sometimes I find rings.  Sometimes I find bracelets that spell out my word.  

And always . . . I find a MantraBand or two (or even four!) to wear as a motivational "chant" . . . helping to keep me focused and on target with my word and my intentions for the year.

IMG_4293

My bracelets for this year:

  • Balance
  • Live in the Moment
  • Have Courage and Be Kind
  • Alis Volat Propriis (she flies with her own wings)

These bracelents will be a perfect reminder of my intentions and my word for the year ahead -- and will blend perfectly with the bands I have already collected from years past.  (You know. . . for extra word power!)  

Do YOU have a mantra for the year?  (Because I bet there's a bracelet for it.  Just sayin.)


More or Less

Each year, at the beginning of Ali Edwards' One Little Word project, we explore our "word" . . . kind of inside-out.  I always appreciate this exercise.  It helps me connect with my word in multiples ways -- and it helps me think through my intentions for the year.

IMG_4076 copy

One of my favorite thought-exercises is coming up with a list of what we want to do . . . More or Less . . . during the coming year.  Here's my list:

More -- Reflection/Less -- Reaction

More -- Kindness/Less -- Indifference

More -- Saying NO/Less -- Obligation

More -- Risk-taking/Less -- Perfection

More -- Connection/Less -- Complaining

More -- Engagement/Less -- Apologizing

More -- Self-care/Less -- Sacrifice

More -- Simple/Less -- Fussy

More -- Going For It/Less -- Excuses

More -- Strength/Less -- Taking the Easy Way Out

More -- Mindfulness/Less -- Worry

More -- Action/Less -- Sitting on the Sidelines

More -- Doing/Less -- Scrambling

More -- Learning/Less -- Assuming

More -- Water/Less -- Sugar

Give it a try!  This kind of list is fun to put together . . . AND . . . it really sets the stage for how you want to live the rest of the year.

==========

(By the way, that drawing is one of my own.  Colored pencil.  Rocks on my meditation table.)

 


One Little Word 2017

Last year, my life spun out of control.  So many changes -- and so many of them heavy, heavy.  I was just bombarded with one big thing after another after another.

Like . . . well . . . it would've been enough with Tom leaving his career to open his own consulting business.  Yes.  That alone would have been plenty of change for any year.  (And I was prepared for that one.  I knew that one was coming!) But then, my mom got sick - and there was so much we didn't understand about what was going on.  And then, the shock of her dying -- so quickly, and without clear answers.  Then came helping my dad navigate huge life shifts and major decisions.  And all of this going on, of course, against the backdrop of the 2016 election and it's aftermath.

I tried hard to keep things together.  I was far out along that tightrope of life, y'know?  And, really, I held on for quite a while.  But, eventually . . . I crashed.

Things are coming together now, though.  I feel like I'm digging out of the rubble all around me.

Now . . . I'm looking to recalibrate.  

Trying to regain my equilibrium.

Seeking . . . 

IMG_3544

Yes.  my One Little Word for 2017 is . . . balance.

And I am so. ready. for some!


Garden Surprise

A few years ago, when my "one little word" was SURPRISE, I made a little paving brick for my garden.

FullSizeRender 88 copy

Even though I know it's out there in my herb garden, I'm always, well . . . surprised . . . when I discover it again as I put in my herbs for another season.  

It's a great way to remind myself to always be open to the surprises that happen in the garden. . . 

cilantro that seeds itself everywhere

toads that look just like dirt

weeds that actually throw seeds as you pull them

tarragon that made it through the winter

impatient robins who wait next to you for worms while you dig

what in the world THAT plant is

Good things, all.  (Except those annoying seed-spewing weeds.)

I planted my herb garden yesterday.

FullSizeRender 89 copy

And I'm really hoping NOT to be surprised by unpleasant weather-surprises.  

(Like frost.)  

(I know.)