A few years ago, I was introduced to the concept of mindfulness. I really liked it. The idea of being fully present in every moment, and using our thoughts, senses, and experiences to appreciate every minute that we can. Practicing mindfulness has helped me in many ways. It turns out that when I am fully present in any given moment, my thoughts don’t race as much. I don’t get overwhelmed or fearful, at least not as easily.
Also, I have found, the more I practice mindfulness the more things I have to be grateful for at the end of the day. A difficult conversation went better than I expected. The flowers in the park were exceptionally pretty as we drove by. I got seen for a medical appointment quickly instead of having to spend a long time in the waiting room. A cute kid at Target responded with a huge smile and a belly laugh when I said hello. A particular food that I have been craving was absolutely delicious at lunchtime.
Good things are easier to find when you make a point to look for them. Mindfulness has been a good strategy for me.
Another idea that I discovered a few years ago came from bestselling author Debbie Macomber. For more than 20 years, Ms. Macomber has picked a word at the beginning of each year. Call it a theme maybe, or simply something she wants to put some energy into. But she starts thinking about it around Christmas, and then, after some thought, she picks her word for the year. Some time back, I decided to give it a try.
In years’ past, some of my words have been “peace,” “believe,” and “real.” As all of those words melted into my soul, they each helped me to take a step closer to who I wanted to be. Once I pick a word, it has been amazing to see how it manifests itself in my life. For example, when “peace” was the word I was concentrating on, I had one of my caregivers write it in big letters on an index card for me, and then I had that card laminated and I put it in my purse. That meant I saw it several times a day.
On numerous occasions that year when I felt myself getting angry or upset or flustered, an image of the index card would flash in my head. As I concentrated on peace, I could usually feel a sense of calm flood through me. It happened more and more frequently as the year progressed. These days I can usually get to peace pretty quickly.
The word for 2017 took some thought. There has been a whole lot going on in my life lately. Some of it is chaos and some of it is profoundly cool. Because of both, I wanted this word to be solid and secure in my head. While trying to come up with the perfect choice, I asked myself some challenging questions.
What do I want to attract this year? What do I want to let go? What goals am I working for? What kind of life do I want to create? What kind of people do I want around me? How do I want to feel at the end of each day?
I was clear about one thing. I want to continue to practice mindfulness as much as I can. To notice the details. To tune into emotions that people around me are feeling as well as my own. I want to raise my awareness.
As all of those thoughts were swirling in my head, the word came to me. Intention. As much as I want to be mindful, I want to live each moment with intention. What can I offer? How can I listen? Can my knowledge bring something to the table in any given situation? How do I want to serve others? How can I make sure that people leave an interaction with me feeling positive and feeling empowered? What good things can I do inside myself to make sure that I can give good to others?
Some of those questions will only be answered with time, but I know that I want to live a life full of love and joy, and I want all my actions this year to reflect that.
Hopefully, in the months ahead, I will have a book out. The first draft is complete. It was important to me to share my experiences with people who will find them useful. My target audience, at least at first, is college students who are going into helping professions, and those who work with people with disabilities.
My hope is that If I can teach the people in my target audience specific ways to focus on abilities as opposed to disabilities, then a large group of kids and adults will end up feeling empowered, and other people will feel empowered in the process.
At least that is my intention.