Be Prepared – A Motto for Life

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I seem to remember that the Girl Scouts motto was “Be Prepared”. I like that and, even though I was a Girl Scout for a very brief time, it has stayed with me. I remember collecting badges for completing practical tasks as I learned new skills and found new interests to explore (and let’s not forget the cookies every February). Actually, being prepared is a great motto for living life.

Of course, there are times when all the planning in the world has not prepared for the curve balls that life throws my way. These last several weeks have been an uptick in stress and crisis for me. I’ve had a feeling of being unprepared to navigate a seemingly ongoing storm of urgent requests, crises to manage, and unexpected changes. I keep asking myself if there is some way to be prepared, even for this?

I know that I like preparing – for projects, for travel, for daily meals, and for my regular practices such as meditation, yoga, hiking and writing. I gather materials before starting a project from reading a pattern, testing stitch gauge, to being sure I have the buttons for finishing. For meals, I like to have what I need for making meals ahead because I know I’ll be grazing my kitchen if I haven’t planned and prepared. For my yoga & meditation practices — turn off my phone, lay out my mat with props, choose music, and light candles. My preparations create an ease so that my life is more fulfilling and gratifying.

Most of my preparations have become steadfast habits that guide my day leaving time for spontaneity without my mind obsessing over what to eat or when will I get those stitch markers. Some of my habits have morphed into my personal rituals that are an integral part of my practice or project. Preparing the space, the list, and the plan free my energy for enjoying what I am about to do. I find I can relax more when I have done the preparations. While choosing music, lighting candles and laying out my mat I have already begun my asanas and meditation. After years and years of a daily practice, I no longer need to think about it because the preparing and doing are part of the whole.

So too, when it comes to being happy and healthy — I have practices in place that have created a firm foundation for the rest of my life. Each practice supports those times when plans go awry. The unexpected is not a question of if but the reality of when.

For example, deep yogic breathing is integral to my yoga and meditation practices. After many years, I find myself subconsciously turning to deep breathing when the unexpected happens. The breath helps me relax and clear my mind for addressing what is suddenly present.

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Another example is my practice of making lists — I love my lists. So when I need to make big decisions or head out the door for several days, I begin with a quick list. For big decisions, my lists help me weigh in on pros & cons and gain perspective on the whole picture. For travel, a list assures that I travel with most, if not all, of what I’ll need. I find security in my lists — whether a gratitude list or a shopping list — and, like my breath, I can be in the middle of a list before I realize I’ve been making one.

Being prepared when and where I can in my day-to-day is my preparation for the unexpected that is certain to come along and challenge my resilience and fortitude to handle a crisis. When I become overwhelmed by what life is serving me, I know I’ve got daily practices that become my secure river banks in the storm. These storms are part of life with some storms worse than others. What I do daily or regularly are my safety rafts and life vests when I need them for navigating the emergencies and unexpected in life.

Be Prepared — A Good Motto for Life

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Preserving Food, Attention to Detail, and Meditation: A Winning Combination

img_1099Yesterday I harvested tomatoes — a lot of tomatoes — and too many for me to eat before they spoil. So, I made tomato soup thinking I would freeze it for later. Once the soup was made and ladled into containers, I realized there wasn’t enough room left in my freezer from the fruit I’ve been picking and freezing all summer.

I decided that I would pull out my canning pot and preserve the soup in jars. Back at home after work, I prepared my kitchen for the canning process – cleaning the counters, washing jars, setting out my ladle, measuring cup, tongs, funnel, and water to boil in both the canning pot and a pot to sterilize the lids.

I don’t often think of myself as someone who pays a lot of attention to detail except when it comes to preparing food for canning. I am grateful to my mother for teaching me how to preserve food and, since she was exceptional at detail, I learned that each step of the way is important and makes the process easier.

Each summer into the fall, my favorite activity is to preserve whatever I harvest. The attention to detail makes me happy and becomes a meditation in motion for me. As I write this blog post while waiting for the full jars to process, I am aware of feeling very centered and calm like I do when I sit to meditate each evening. The detail of the canning process is so carved into my memory that each time I set about to put food by I move into a meditative state which can last for hours depending on how many jars are full and need to be processed.

I thought that this year there wouldn’t be time to do much canning. Now, I am excited to do more. I know that apples will be ripening soon which means I can prepare apple sauce and apple butter for those long winter nights when something that reminds me of summer helps to lighten the darkness. And, of course, my grandchildren love my applesauce.

I love knowing that I always have healthy food from the summer to open all year, especially when local vine or tree ripened fruits and vegetables are not available. I also love knowing that the food I’ve preserved has made me happy in the process and I do believe that happiness is in each jar when I open one months from now.

Early Morning

Cardinals welcome the day serenading anyone listening
Woodpeckers keeping rhythm from tree tops
As the sun paints pastels on the underside of clouds

The cold clear air providing a spacious echo
Green pokes through snow promising hope for the daffodils
Tiny leaves reaching forth from branches

A feast for the senses this early morning
before the sun rises over the horizon
promising Spring unfolding.

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Early morning before the sun rises over the horizon is my favorite time of day to be outdoors. It is quiet then and I continue my morning thoughts & considerations as my dog finds her way around the smells of the night. Always, I delight in the magic of early morning as the birds begin their song and I imagine they are welcoming the return of yet another day.

Today, called for a hike into the woods. So off I went. It is a cold April day with a wind chill that bites my cheeks. I keep going — legs moving, arms swinging, and my breath adjusting to both the cold and the pace. As always, the first mile is the hardest as I head up a mile before leveling to a steadier terrain.

Hiking is my ‘go to’ when, not only do I want exercise, I also want to contemplate life, process the complexities of my days, and find myself whole again and cleansed when I return. I always know that my hikes change my perspective on my life which, like everyone, has it’s share of stress and drama. Today, I took a detour through the woods to pause at the edge of a hidden mountaintop lake — gratitude fills me at the simple beauty and awe all around.

Exercise is well known to be even better to allay depression and anxiety for most people. I, personally, find that to be true. Once I get beyond the first mile or twenty minutes I can feel my body and mind let go into a rhythm of more ease and emotionally more centered. For many years, I found this release through swimming and running. Now, hiking and being surrounded by nature is my exercise of choice. I find the meditative experience that accompanies being in nature is what I crave. What is your exercise of choice?