Living Vividly Habit Challenge January 2019

Money Matters 2

There are so many aspects to living a vivid, engaged life that carry inherent rewards. It can be easy to overlook the practical parts of life whose rewards come more slowly. The care and attention it takes to be mindful about practical things can really pay off, though, so the time has come for us to engage with one manifestation of our life energy that can often be a source of stress: money. By keeping careful watch over our finances this month, we can gain perspective about where we are directing our resources. We can become more aware of the way money moves through our lives. We can think about the choices we make, and the burdens we struggle under. This challenge offers a chance to build resilience in a very practical way: by being aware of our finances.

Habit:
Pay a bill on time

Daily:
Record (or review) today’s financial transactions

To Do:
Sort through your data, and figure out what you spend in a month
Sort through your data, and figure out what you earn in a month

Reflection:
This was one of the hardest challenges I’ve tackled–and not because of the content! From a physical perspective, the kind of computer use that it takes to muddle around with my financial records on Mint.com and put together some spreadsheets for my illumination is some of the roughest on my chronic pain. So I took this challenge as an opportunity to practice my self-discipline and patience, only working on it for 15 minutes at a time, a few times a week. And then I had to engage my self-compassion, when I didn’t get it finished by my end-of-the-month deadline! But I’m in the home stretch now, and it certainly feels good to have a better handle on the financial side of life. (Pictured below, a polka-dot plant from the botanic garden of a local college. Strolling through the greenhouse on a winter’s day was some good free fun!)

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Living Vividly Habit Challenge December 2018

Gratitude

Building a practice that focuses on gratitude can enhance your experience of life and shift the balance of your attitude towards the positive no matter what your circumstances. Like anything, it takes practice: repeated actions, not just good intentions. Let’s try it for a month! This challenge offers a chance to build mental and emotional health, a key part of building deep resilience in the face of all of life’s challenges: mind, heart, body and soul.

Habit:
Express sincere gratitude to someone

Daily:
Appreciate something you have (necessities or extras!)
Write down 1-3 things you’re thankful for today in your gratitude journal

To Do:
Start a gratitude journal (on paper or in the cloud)

Reflection:
I had been meaning to try out keeping a gratitude journal for a long time as a part of my ongoing development of a gratitude practice in my life. Making it such a small thing–just a sentence or two every night–proved to be just the right level of accessibility for me. I liked it so much that I am continuing the practice going forward! I think the members of my guild got a lot out of this challenge, too, which is why I’m pleased to revisit the topic once a year or so!

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Living Vividly Habit Challenge November 2018

Embracing Your Senses: Hearing

Our sense of hearing is often under-appreciated, yet the sounds around us are ubiquitous. What background noises fill your soundscape? Can you identify them? Are they pleasant or intrusive? Then there are the sounds we choose to surround ourselves with, particularly music. Take some time this month to explore the world of sound around you! This challenge offers a chance to get in touch with your body in a positive way, and be mindful of the world around you.

Habit:
Pause and listen

Daily:
Spend 10 minutes listening to music or voice
Spend 5 minutes listening to natural sounds

To Do:
Share music with someone (a playlist, a performance, whatever moves you!)
Listen to an unfamiliar type of music
Identify 5 bird calls

Reflection:
This challenge was lovely and I enjoyed it a lot. My new music this time was Mongolian folk rock! I particularly like The Hu and Hanggai. It’s definitely easier to catch bird calls in the summer, when the windows are open, though. I appreciate every opportunity for more mindfulness in my daily life.

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Living Vividly Habit Challenge October 2018

Cultivating Compassion

Compassion is a process of connecting by identifying with another person. It involves allowing ourselves to be moved by suffering, and experiencing the motivation to help alleviate and prevent it. Qualities of compassion are patience and wisdom; kindness and perseverance; warmth and resolve. It requires perspective-taking, and striving for understanding when someone is struggling, even when their reaction to that challenge spreads negativity. (Healthy boundaries together with compassion allow us to understand and empathize with what motivates challenging behavior even as we refuse to be treated badly.) Compassion encourages us to make generous assumptions when we don’t have all the information. Let’s work to look outside our own context this month, and cultivate our most compassionate selves.

“When we have the courage to live with an open heart, we are able to feel our pain and the pain of others, but we are also able to experience more joy. The bigger and warmer our heart, the stronger our sense of aliveness and resilience.” — Douglas Abrams, The Book of Joy

This challenge offers a chance to practice focusing outside ourselves and strengthening our understanding of and connection to the people around us through reflecting on the challenges they face.

Habit:
Make a generous assumption about the reasons for someone’s behavior
Bear witness to someone’s struggle
Do something kind

To Do:
Week 1: Watch a talk about compassion, like https://youtu.be/ipR0kWt1Fkc, https://youtu.be/vWbWPuvM7R8, or maybe something from this playlist–https://www.ted.com/playlists/447/how_to_make_compassion_thrive
Week 2: Try a Loving-Kindness Meditation – https://youtu.be/sz7cpV7ERsM
Week 3: Write down a memory of a time you have practiced compassion, and how it made you feel. (In a journal or similar, this is just for you.)
Week 4: Share in the Living Vividly Guild about your experience with this challenge.

Reflection:
This challenge really supported me in exploring more fully a way of being in the world that I would like to bring into more of my everyday life. Compassion and self-compassion are huge parts of the wisdom I feel like I’m learning as I continue on this journey of living. I hope I can stay grounded in that intention as the months and years go by: bearing witness, opening my heart, and helping wherever I can.

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Self-Care and Polyamory

What is self care? A lot of people throw that term around these days. In my working definition, self-care is acting on your own behalf to maintain or restore your physical, mental, and emotional health. Self-care is treating yourself the way a nurturing parent or caring partner would. Looking out for your long term good.

Some examples might include getting exercise, spending time in nature, making time to do hobbies you enjoy (alone or with others), physical pampering (like a spa day, or a bubble bath), listening to music, enjoying a treat, trying something new, or getting the right amount of sleep every night. Everybody’s self-care is going to look different, and that’s just as it should be. You are your own best guide to what enhances and protects your health. (But don’t forget to brush your teeth!)

Sometimes when we’re already overwhelmed, and running more on impulse than planning, we might self-soothe with things that meet an immediate need, but are not the best long-term choice. I regard these things as coping mechanisms rather than self-care. I know one of my go-to coping strategies is emotional eating, especially of sweet treats and chocolate. I see echoes of that in ‘wine-mom culture’ as well. It’s important to recognize that these things can be essential for getting through a stressful moment intact, and practice self-compassion around turning to coping mechanisms. It’s equally important to recognize that if you’re caught in a pattern of routinely coping instead of engaging in self-care, it’s worth trying to problem solve around that. Being routinely overwhelmed and backed into making short term decisions that don’t reflect your long term well being is a problem.

The aim of self-care isn’t to be happy all the time, or to only cultivate positivity, though effectively managing one’s stress may result in easier access to positive emotions. Your personal best state of physical, mental, and emotional health might look more like calm, or contentment, relief, or relaxation. You might have a feeling of greater resilience in the face of life’s little upsets, or a sense of greater competence in managing the day-to-day demands of your situation when your self-care strategies are working well.

So how does self-care relate to polyamory?

Self-care supports your best function, and when you have multiple relationships to engage in, this becomes an important responsibility. How can you show up for others when you’re falling apart? Taking care of yourself is good for everyone in your web of relationships. They always say to secure your own oxygen mask first.

Taking personal responsibility is generally highly valued in our community—it doesn’t mean you have to go it alone, it just means that final responsibility for your welfare is yours. How you choose to take care of yourself can and probably should include asking for help from the people who care about you.

One thing this can look like is making time for yourself—reserving your spot on the group Google calendar. Making time in your schedule for the hobbies you care about, and the introvert (or extrovert!) time that makes you feel good. If you have trouble staying accountable for saving aside this time, maybe your partners can help encourage you! After all, when you’re feeling balanced and calm, everyone benefits.

I also want to acknowledge that self-care can be really hard.

It’s hard to make yourself a priority if you feel like you don’t deserve it. Like other people’s problems and other people’s pain is more urgent or important than yours. It’s hard to take care of yourself if you’re legitimately overwhelmed all the time; if your life is asking more of you than you have to give; if you’re short on resources. Sometimes getting the support of multiple partners can help.

People can help each other have time to do things like get to the gym by sharing childcare or making it a gym-buddy date. They can remind each other to take time for themselves. They can split the cost of things like a visit to the hot tubs. They can cook each other healthy meals! They can set each other a good example at taking care of themselves. Peer pressure is sometimes a good thing.

And finally, one of the most important aspects of self-care in relationships is the cultivation of healthy boundaries. Getting yourself out of a toxic situation; insisting on negotiating communication that feels good to you (whether in content or in frequency); making sure your voice is heard and your needs respected by your partners—these are all profound examples of self-care. You deserve to preserve your integrity. You deserve to be seen, and heard, and cared for both by yourself and by your partners.

You deserve your own time and space to be your own person, so that you can return to your interrelating refreshed and share love and care and vulnerability with your whole heart.

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Sage

This life that leads me here—
To where I wait for my daughter in the chilly air,
Crouched in the golden autumn afternoon light,
Tenderly picking sixteen leaves of sage
For my pumpkin cream sauce,
While the goldfinches twitter to each other,
Invisible among the branches of the arborvitae—
Brings me just where I belong.

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Living Vividly Habit Challenge September 2018

Language of the Heart

One of the keys to a vivid life is slowing down and becoming open to the beauty of the world around us. I have long found that one group of people who pay exquisite attention to life and then make stirring art out of their observations are poets! Maybe you find poetry in song lyrics, or like the cadences of Shakespeare’s dialogue. Maybe the expansive small grace of haiku is more your style. Maybe you get a kick out of rhyming children’s books or Shel Silverstein poems. It’s all good here!

This challenge offers a chance to expand your mental horizons, examine small moments of beauty, and share your enjoyment with others.

Daily: Read, write, or share a poem

Reflection: It seemed like this challenge had appeal for a smaller crowd than many, but for those who participated, most found it valuable. Certainly I enjoyed reading what others had shared, and wrote a few poems this month myself (as I usually do!).

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