Saturday, January 9, 2016

What I Read in 2015: The Book List


In January of 2015, I set out to read 52 books. Essentially, a book a week. Well, that was extremely ambitious, especially with wedding planning and going back to school in the fall.

In setting a reading goal, I found out that...

  • It helps me shoot for something and provides a gentle nudge. Goals and metrics motivate me. I like having a metric to shoot for, a checklist to check off, or a project deadline on the calendar. It keeps me honest and aligned. 
  • Reading is a huge part of my life. It ties in with life long learning and the naturally introverted part of myself. 
  • I have transitioned to using the library more and don't buy books very much, simply because of space and my new relationship to stuff. If I do buy, I try to shop local, half price and used books versus new. 
I will say, I didn't reach my goal in 2015, BUT I did read some pretty great stuff. 


Memoir
  • Long Quiet Highway-Natalie Goldberg
  • Writing Down the Bones- Natalie Goldberg
  • Carry On Warrior: Thoughts On Living Life Unarmed-Glennon Melton
  • My Organic Life-Nora Poullion
  • God Is Not Here:A Soldier's Struggle with Torture, Trauma, and the Moral Injuries of War-Lieutenant Colonel Bill Russell Edmonds
  • Struck by Genius- Jason Padgett
Living & Personal Development
  • Thrive-Arianna Huffington
  • Overwhelmed: Work, Love, and Play when Nobody Has the Time-Brigid Schulte
  • Better than Before-Gretchen Rubin
  • 5 Love Languages-Gary Chapman
  • Essentialism-Greg McKeown
  • Life Changing Art of Tidying Up-Marie Kondo
  • Money Can Buy Happiness and It's Cheap-Tammy Strobel
  • Rising Strong-Brene Brown
  • Big Magic-Elizabeth Gilbert 
  • The Humor Code: A Global Search for What Makes Things Funny- Peter McGraw and Joel Warner
Spiritual Living
  • Think on These Things-J. Krishnamurti
  • Being with Dying-Joan Halifax
  • Making Space: Creating a Home Meditation Practice-Tich Nhat Hanh
  • Mindful Work-David Gelles
  • Most Intimate: A Zen Approach to Life's Challenges-Roshi Pat Enkyo O'Hara
  •  Living Beautifully with Uncertainty and Change-Pema Chodron
Fiction

  • The Signature of All Things-Elizabeth Gilbert
I am always on the lookout for reading recommendations and have a running list in Evernote of Books to Read. Would love to hear what you are reading!

Sunday, January 3, 2016

How I Step Into the New Year & 15 Lessons I Am Taking With Me From 2015


The juiciness of planning for the year ahead always gets me going. I love to see what other people do and the processes they go through. It's a potent time of year and I always carve out a few hours to reflect on the past year and plant seeds, set intentions, and design goals for the year ahead. It's always a mishmash of a process and very ad hoc. I don't follow the exact same structure every year, but there are three tenets I follow:

> Start with physical spaces. I try to do some purging and clearing out to keep energy open and flowing, especially around my sactred spaces; altar, desk, bed, closet. Recently, my husband and I have been going through the "Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up," and it is changing our lives and transforming our marriage. It's really hard work and it takes a lot of energy, but we are clearing out so many things and making our space feel more liveable.

> Find a framework that resonates. Last year, I stumbled upon Susannah Conway's Unravelling the Year Ahead. Her printable workbook works for me. Short bursts of writing, reflecting, and visioning guide me through the process of looking back on the year and setting intentions for the upcoming year. I enjoy it and it feels simple but profound. Oh yeah...it's free!

> Follow the Energy. I work on my review and my planning in spurts. I take breaks, visit friends, enjoy my time off, run errands, and eat. I can't do the marathon self-help thing anymore. It doesn't work for me and I am not in a place in my life where I need to spend 40 hours visioning what my year ahead will look like.

Find Your Process + Let Go of How It Should Look 
= Amazingness. 


Last year, I wrote this post about the gems I got from 2014. I feel sparked to reflect and cherish all that the year had to offer, so it's been a bit of a task to narrow down my 15 biggest, most favorite gifts from 2015.

1. Throw a damn good party. Always. Getting married and having a rocking wedding was by far the biggest highlight from the year. August 20th, 2015 will always have a special place in my heart. But what I took away was that it's all about your tribe. The people make the party. Period. My husband and I got really clear on who is part of our golden tribe and we felt so held, supported, and loved by all of those wonderful people this year.

2. The dark doesn't last forever. Despite all the amazingness 2015 offered (weddings, ample time with friends and family, traveling and adventure, growing dahlias, etc.), at times I felt a bit down and out emotionally. I have learned through my years of battling my own inner shitstorms that these dark spots don't last forever (thank god!) and befriending impermanence has been my own strategy. Also, learning to lean into the discomfort and inner pain is much more productive than running from it or avoiding it.

3. Travel lightly, no matter where you go. I was on the move a lot this year. Between an East Coast trip, the wedding, my brother's wedding in October, and mini-getaways and adventures, I am so much more confident in traveling lightly and have my core essentials: a good pair of shoes, comfy pants, my book, journal, headphones, water bottle, and layers, I know I can get ready in about 20 minutes. I don't spend a ton of time packing anymore for trips and the sanity I get from that is priceless.

4. I have to actively choose joy. Many years ago, I was introduced to the concept, "You are responsible for your own happiness." This year, I felt this lesson resonated and made its way into every cell in my own body. I know what feels good and what doesn't immediately. I know what invitations call me and which ones don't. I also know what people give me energy and which people suck the life out of me. I am way more present to the fact that I manifest and always have the choice to bring joy forward and into my life.

5. Nurture and tend the creative spirit. This year, I set some ambitious goals around my reading and writing, two of my most favorite, nourishing practices. I ended up surpassing my goal of 100 blog posts, mostly because I participated in the #100dayproject, but I also took more time in my days, as part of my morning routine, for journaling and free writing. I set out to read 52 books this year (Ha!) but only ended the year with 23 books. Not even reaching 50% bummed me out. BUT, I do have to be gentle; wedding planning, going back to school in September, etc. These two goals will always be a mainstay in my New year planning.

6. Let the practice be the teaching. I took a deep dive into my spiritual practices this year, specifically around my self-study and meditation. I fell in love with my sitting practice. Each day has been an opportunity to get curious about my mental patterns, reactivity, habits, and my rough edges (how fast I can bite the hook for anger, discontent, comparison, and jealousy). Anytime I come to my cushion or mat to practice, I am reminded over and over again that the practice is the teaching. There is no destination or place to arrive at. I simply show up as I am and do the work.

7. Head up, eyes open. One of the most powerful things I did this year is transform my relationship to Social Media. I took a social media sabbatical for the month of November that had lasting effects on how I show up in the world. I wrote this post about how it transformed me. I feel more in the world and present in my life and plan to do the sabbatical again in 2016.

8. Stop Waiting for the Perfect Conditions. "I'll meditate after the dishes," or "I will sit down and write when the errands are done," or "I'll rest after I get through my e-mail." All of these statements reflect this internal monster called "waiting for perfect conditions," which holds me back from following my bliss. This year, I killed that monster, mostly through committing to small, doable challenges; 10 minutes of meditation, one blog post a day, a 20 minute walk, whatever. There will never be perfect conditions. Ever.

9. Run the mental checklist when things don't feel good. A few years ago, I was diagnosed with Lyme Disease. It was a reality check on my lifestyle and how much stress I was bringing into my life. Increased Stress - Limited Self-Care = Mega Inflammation. I strive for 80/20 with my own health and I have a few barometers that let me know when things are out of whack; lower back pain, insomnia, burning eyes, crabbiness & irritability. One or a few of those things signal that something is out of whack, probably related to stress. This year, I started running my mental checklists: when was the last time I drank water? Ate? How much sleep did I get? Have I rested today? Etc, etc. It has allowed me to take on a new level of being responsible for myself and my happiness and health.

10. Know Their language. One of the best books I read in 2015 was 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman.  It changed my life. I have a deeper understanding of how love shows up for people and can make powerful requests when I am feeling unheard, not acknowledged, or pissed off. I have been recommending it to everyone I know.

11. Chop often. After our wedding, it felt good to get some more time and space in our calendars that wasn't devoted to wedding planning. I got back in my kitchen again and it was grounding, nourishing, and lovely. As we transitioned into fall and winter, I tried out some new recipes, busted out our new slow cooker, and simmered, stirred, and chopped. I love to cook and each meal is an opportunity to be creative and express love and appreciation for the people in my life.

12. Life Long Learning. If I had my druthers, in my dream world I would be a full-time professional student, pursuing degrees, certifications, and exploring new languages and concepts. In the interim, I chose to go back to school for my Certificate of Nonprofit Management. I had been thinking about going back for awhile and it seemed like a great time. Going back this past fall proved to be challenging but rewarding. I am just about to start winter quarter, and will complete in June. I am grateful for the love and support that surrounds me in my choice.

13. Play In the Dirt. We grew over 100 dahlias for our wedding. Gardening has become a huge passion of mine (although, I haven't been out much), and it nurtures me in so many ways. It's meditation, it's physical activity, it's being in relationship to energies bigger than myself, and it's fun. I can be out there for ten minutes or a full day and I will always feel better after, no matter what. Having a garden continues to teach me so much about the cycles of living and dying and letting go of how it should look or be.

14. Quality Time is the Best Gift. Whether it's a hour with a friend over coffee, or curling up for movie night on the couch. showing up as my best self and being present for the people I love, is the best gift I can give. I started volunteering again about a month ago for the food bank and am loving it. It feels right and resonates with my values. I cherish time over money, experiences over stuff. Hands down.  

14. There Is Space for All of It. Sometimes I get stingy; with my love, my time, my money, my energy. I am constantly brought back to this idea that there is enough room for everyone and for everything, including all my passions, interests, friends, work, and love. The universe does take care and there are elements of faith and trust that remain a huge part of my life. Surrendering to all of it, the good, the bad, the messy, allows us to live our lives with more grace, ease, and space.


I hope you take some time to reflect on all the gifts and lessons you received from 2015. Stay tuned for my 2016 intentions in a follow-up post. 

Blessings,
Jen