Focus Your Energy

I am prone to procrastination and I have been particularly unfocused lately so it is very good timing that this weeks Take Action Challenge in Cheryl Richardson’s book Life Makeovers: 52 Practical and  Inspiring Ways to Improve Your Life One Week at a Time is about focusing your energy.

She challenges us during this week to use the first fifteen minutes of each day to create our own ritual, find a comfortable place to write and identify our top three priorities for the week. Next list the actions we’ll take to honour these priorities during the day. And finally , challenge ourselves to identify at least three possible distractions and eliminate them before we start your day.

Personally I find the prospect of doing this every morning before I go to work a little daunting at the moment so I will need to adapt it a little to make it fit into what I’ve already got going on. Which is each Sunday having a meeting with myself and my planner (I use Lisa O’Neill’s Purpose Planner) and planning out my week. So now when I am doing that on a Sunday evening I will add in:

  • What my top 3 priorities for the week are:
  • What the 5 actions I need to take that week to honour these priorities are:
  • What the 3 possible distractions are:
  • What I will do to eliminate these distractions:

And most importantly, to remember to check in with this each morning before I start my day.

 

Illustrated Discovery Journal Part 2

Sarah Ban Breathnach in her book Simple Abundance: A Daybook of Comfort and Joy reminds you that you need to create a reassuring ritual for yourself to access your inner reservoir, that place deep within you inhabited by imagination. Create an inviting one for when you work with your Illustrated Discovery Journal. Pick one night a week that you can devote to searching for the visual images that reveal your authentic preferences. Make the process as appealing as possible.

  • Put the children to bed
  • Take a long, leisurely soak in the bath
  • Prepare a special hot drink to enjoy only at this time
  • Light a pretty candle on your dresser to invoke inspiration
  • When you are comfortable & relaxed bring the basket containing your magazines, scissors, glue & journal over to your bed to work on.

Setting Aside A Personal Sabbath

Sarah Ban Breathnach in her book Simple Abundance: A Daybook of Comfort and Joy says that it doesn’t matter which day you set aside as your own personal Sabbath, it just matters that you keep one.

Here is her short guide of what you should not be doing on your Sabbath:

  • Strenuous household chores
  • Catching up on work you didn’t complete last week
  • Getting a head start on work you’re supposed to start on Monday
  • Shopping at large department stores that have slick circulars

This is what the Sabbath is for:

  • Reverence, rest, renewal, rejuvenation, reassuring rituals, recreation, recreation, revelation, remembering how much you have to be grateful for & saying “thank you”
  • Going to your  Church, Mosque, Temple, or Synagogue
  • Going on a walk
  • Going antiquing
  • Sitting in bed propped up on pillows reading something wonderful with a breakfast tray
  • Working with crossword puzzles before a roaring fire
  • Staying in your pyjamas until noon on rainy winter days
  • Attending a marvellous art exhibition or movie matinee
  • Listening to opera in the kitchen as you sip sherry & prepare a fabulous feast
  • Indulging in cake baking as a form of meditation

What matters is that you do something special that speaks to your soul and that you revel in whatever you do. Your activities on the Sabbath should uplift you and provide enough inspiration to sustain you during the week to come.

Creative Excursions

Sarah Ban Breathnach in her book Simple Abundance: A Daybook of Comfort and Joy defines a creative excursion as regular solo rendezvous with your authentic self designed to get to know her better. Where you will celebrate yourself, find pastimes that make your heart light and your spirit sing. Creative excursions require an investment in time not money and if you are too busy to find two hours a week you seriously need to reconsider your priorities. There are ways to do it once you realise that nurturing your imagination and developing a relationship with your authentic self is an investment you can no longer afford to put off.

She suggests starting with the following creative excursions with your authentic self as you follow the simple abundance path:

Plan a creative excursion to go browsing in a home furnishing and decorative accessories shop. Go somewhere you’ve never been before, so that your looking at everything with fresh eyes. What startles you, calls to you, excites you? Write it down in a small spiral notebook that you keep in your purse. Is it the shape of a teapot, the colours of a rug or the textures of a dried flower arrangement? You’ll know what you love the moment you see it, its that familiar WOW reaction. Trust the impulse, capture the encounter, record the clues, It will be important later on.

Next time go browsing at a new clothing boutique. The kind of place that intrigues you but you stay away from because its too expensive. The autumn fashions should be arriving about now, go see what’s new. Be open to authentic aspirations, record the colours and styles you like.

She also offers the following suggestions for future weeks creative excursions:

  • Take in an English period drama at the movies
  • Have an early breakfast before work at a new French café
  • Cruise the isles at an incredible Italian market
  • Browse in used book stores
  • Visit an art supply store & imagine all the wonderful ways in which you can start expressing yourself

Remember this is not about shopping, its about letting go the opinions of the media, magazines, family and friends and figuring out again what it is that you truly love.

Julia Cameron in her book The Artists Way: A Course in Discovering and Recovering your Creative Self refers to them as Artists Dates and considers them to be a very important basic tool for opening receiving and yourself to insight, inspiration and guidance. She defines it as a weekly two hour block of time especially set aside and committed to nurturing your creative consciousness, your inner artist. The artists date is an excursion, a play date that you preplan and defend against all interlopers. You do not take anyone on your artist dates but you and your inner artist AKA your creative child. Commit yourself to a weekly artist date and guard against your killjoy side trying to wriggle out of it.

She recommends for your first artists date give yourself a few bucks and take yourself to a junk store to buy silly things like gold star stickers, tiny dinosaurs, postcards, sparkly sequins, glue, kids scissors & crayons. Now you can start rewarding yourself with gold stars again , just for fun.

The also gives the following suggestions for future artists dates you might like to go on:

  • A long country walk
  • A solitary expedition to the beach for a sunrise or sunset
  • A sortie out to a strange church to hear gospel music
  • To an ethnic neighbourhood to taste foreign sights & sounds
  • Go bowling

So whether you call them creative excursions or artists dates I feel the important thing is to remember to give yourself two hours a week out in the world alone to rediscover the sense of wonderment we had as kids discovering for the first time new and exciting things that interest us.

Cake Baking Meditation

Sarah Ban Breathnach in her book Simple Abundance: A Daybook of Comfort and Joy suggests baking a cake to help bring more harmony to your everyday life. She suggests that each Sunday you try making a cake from scratch as a form of meditation. Think of the most luscious cake you can imagine, the cake you’ve always wanted to eat but never had the time to make. The cake that always seemed to daunting. Make time to take the time to make your cake. To make your cake baking meditation as inspirational as possible she recommends taking a look at Rose Levy Beranbaum’s book The Cake Bible. Put on your apron and declare the kitchen of limits to all but the artist at work. Slowly, carefully and mindfully gather the raw materials for your creation. If something is perplexing you at the moment see the situation as simply just the next step, remembering how each ingredient makes an important contribution changing the whole end product. When your cake emerges from the oven, fragrant and full of flavour consider for a moment the difference between creating one from scratch and one that’s thrown together with a ready made mix.

She also recommends starting with Jam Cake with Caramel Icing.

I decided to start with The Ultimate Banana Cake with Passion Fruit Honey Frosting from Annabel Langbein’s  book The Free Range Cook, Through The Seasons.

Walking

That simple free restorative pastime that truly is beneficial to mind, body and soul. Walking as meditation, stress relief, social activity & exercise.

Sarah Ban Breathnach recommends in her book Simple Abundance: A Daybook of Comfort and Joy that you partake in twenty to thirty minutes of walking everyday, not as exercise but as a form of mediation. That you take long strides, focus on your breath and try to quiet the voices in your head. notice birds singing, dogs barking and pretty garden. Treat the raised heart beat, increased strength and other exercise benefits as just an added bonus. She reminds us that anytime is a good time for a walk, early morning after you wake, during your lunch break or in the evening, everyone can find some time during the day that works for them.

Kimberly Crossman in her book Love You: Be your Best And Live Your Dreams has a completely different take on walking, viewing it as a great social activity that helps her connect with her friends. She recommends that instead of catching up over coffee you arrange to meet for a walk at a park or beach. She believes that by hanging out with friends and chatting while you walk the time goes quickly, it becomes a pleasurable activity and you’re more like to want to do it more often.

Caroline Jones in her book The Desperate Housewife’s Guide to Life And Love: Essential Survival Strategies for Enjoying Your Family, Career, Friends and Sex Life talks about brisk walking being one of the best forms of exercise when you’re 50+. That it is very important to stay active at this age even though you may be slightly more susceptible to fractures, your body will thank you and stay in much better shape, especially if you remember to chuck in some steps on your regular walks as well.

I really struggle to make walking a regular part of my weekly routine, even though I completely agree with Sarah and Kimberly that it is both excellent stress relief and social connecting. I do really enjoy walking with friends and family and always feel much more connected afterwards I never seem to plan these walks into my weekly routine and it is only something that happens spontaneously. Also I do bust out of the office for a very brisk walk at lunchtime if I’m having a particularly stressful day and always return feeling much better with a clearer head for the afternoon, I still struggle to add this to my everyday routine at work even though I know I would hugely benefit from this, as I never seem to do it on a good day. I am going to have to look at why I don’t make something that is so clearly beneficial to me more of a priority.

Introduce a twenty minute solo walk into your daily routine and once a week schedule it to have as a catch up with a friend.

 

 

 

Date Night

hilda loveAnother aspect from Trinny and Susannah’s mum wisdom that I thought warranted implementing into my life is the suggestion of committing to a regular date night. Now just because we are no longer at the stage where we need to take a break from the kids doesn’t mean we don’t still need to regularly take time from our busy schedules to spend some quality time together.

Trinny & Susannah in What your clothes say about you: How to Look Different, Act different and Feel Different recommend that you make time to be alone with  your partner, make dates to go out with your partner, talk to them and listen to them. You need time alone to keep romance alive and romance needs intimacy and shared experience to survive. They also suggest putting on some red lippy, dressing like a showstopper and going out dancing with him.

Jodie Hedley-Ward in You Sexy Mother: a Life-Changing Approach to Motherhood she suggests that you reignite the romance with your partner by establishing a weekly date night. She clearly stats that you first need to decide that you and your relationship are worth it, then work out what night would suit you best each week , talk to your partner about your plan and write down a list of fun things you could do over the next six weeks. She offers some suggestions: going to the movies, dinner out, sports events, comedy nights, quiz nights, theatre, ballet, concerts, art exhibitions and dancing. She also suggests having a list of people you can ask for help if required to help achieve this goal.

In Caroline Jones book The Desperate Housewife’s Guide to Life and Love: Essential Survival Strategies foe Enjoying Your Family, Career, Friends and Sex Life. She says to keep your love alive schedule lunch or dinner dates at least once a week and recommends the following dating etiquette

  • Dating should always be fun & its as much your job as your partners to do everything you can to make it enjoyable with an open & positive attitude.
  • Try not to be opinionated & avoid discussions on politics & religion on these occasions, keep it light.
  • Be a good listener & don’t talk your partner to death, ask them lots of questions.
  • Make your partner feel they are the only person in the room, by paying them lots of attention and making eye contact.
  • Stick to one or two drinks tops to get the conversation going, drinking more than this is never a good idea.
  • Avoid see through clothes, too low tops & too high hemlines.
  • Invest in a good fitting satiny bra with pretty trim that supports & shapes your breasts fitted by a professional. Avoid lace ones that can look lumpy bumpy under some clothes.
  • Show some smooth bare leg not with a miniskirt but with great shoes
  • Draw attention to your neck by wearing tops that emphasize your neck & collarbone that doesn’t dip beneath your breasts, only hint at what is concealed.
  • Wear soft, inviting, touchable fabrics like satin and cashmere.
  • Double check that clothes fit well and that you have no VPL.

As for us tonight, we are just off to the Movies, and we often do find much other more interesting things to do, it is not the quality of dates we struggle with but the quantity so the real challenge will be making them a priority and incorporating them into our normal weekly routine.