What I Learned When I Started Decorating My Planner

I’ve been messing with my planner. Messing with, as in decorating it. 

I’m into washi tape at the moment. I’m creating little borders around my To-do lists, and ornamenting my Goals. 

 I’m really not this person. I don’t have the patience for decorative crafts. So what’s going on here?

I think it might be procrastination. It’s a lot easier to put a washi tape border around my List of Things To Do than it is to actually do those things. 

 But there might be more to this than simply work avoidance.

It takes time to stretch a decorative border around a group of words. And some focused attention. It’s not a hard thing to do, so I can relax, and in that relaxed space, muse on those words, give them time to reverberate.

While I’m ornamenting a page, I have to consider how to segment it, and where to adjust. I often flip back to other days, compare this page with that, and peruse other lists. This allows me time to reconnect and review all the stuff I was planning yesterday, last week, and as far back as I want to go. Then, with that info, I can consciously design this day .

Right now I’m trying to customize a Daily Goals refill template I got from Levenger. The category set-up of this page is just not working for me, so I’m using wahshi tape to make different sized and labeled rooms to fit my particular content. 

For example, I need a special space of honor to inscribe my foundational practices everyday: Writing, Reading, Yoga, and Meditating. 

Then I need a small box to list appointments.

After that I need a long piece of vertical space to list my Ta-Das, my actual accomplishments.I know To-Do Lists are default in all planners, but they only make me feel worthless and depressed. 

And finally, I need one small, eye-catching area to hang a target or two, —some daily achievable thing that will make me feel like I moved the needle forward, if only a smidgen.

But here’s the thing. A few days ago I didn’t even know I wanted to track these things. I didn’t even think of my day this way, as something I wanted to monitor and measure.

 I only discovered this by playing around with markers and washi tape, creating layouts, dinking around.

Now I spend the first ten or twenty minutes of my business day ornamenting my planner with washi tape and markers.

My planner is starting to look more colorful and inviting. I want to hang out with it. And the more I linger, the more I think about why some things are on there and others not. Some days I try to imagine what it would feel like to actually do those tasks, and how my life would change if I did.  

I think this is a good use of my time. Especially at the start of the business day. It feels almost like a meditation. Or if not a meditation, at least a mindful ritual.

 I’ve always been a bullet points and arrows kind of girl when it comes to writing down goals. Lots of big angry asterisks, lots of exclamation points and heavy underlining. Mine is a no pain, no gain philosophy when it come to goals. So it’s a shock to open my planner now and see dancing paisley elephants cavorting around my big hairy goals.

It’s funny, this, and it’s causing all kinds of cognitive dissonance.

All my serious targets, festooned with shiny gold stars and blue polka dots? What is going on here? Is it possible that goals can be contemplated in a spirit of whimsy? With color and light and ornamentation?

Maybe.

3 Things That Sparked Joy This Week

I like that phrase “sparked joy.” It comes from Marie Kondo. She’s the phenomenal Japanese woman convincing people to de-clutter. And apparently she’s so successful that landfills are starting to overflow, and even shut down, because people are getting rid of their stuff in such a big way.

So here are my 3 joy sparkers this week.

1. My circa system planner from Levenger.

It’s not perfect, but I like it. The only bad thing about it is the fragility of the holes, or notches in the paper. You have to be gentle with them,  pull them straight back towards you, and gently nestle them back onto the disc, two or three at at time.

But the thing that makes this whole system magic is the hole puncher. You have to get the hole puncher or else it’s pointless.

With this system I now have an easy way to deal with all my papers. And as the taxman approacheth, it’s been nice to go through my papers, punch them, and put them in notebooks. 

Ever since I started with it it a few weeks ago, I’ve punched up all my class plans, workshops, and inspirational readings and now I can actually see what I have, and move things around to suit my needs. This has made class planning so much more enjoyable.

2. The Sprocket printer. I asked for it for Christmas wondering if, and how much, I would actually use it. Turns out, quite a bit. I would never have guessed that a tiny 2×3 inch sticky picture could have so many fun uses.

I send these pics in cards to the kids. I’ll take a picture of Stella, put a caption under it, and send it off with a stamp. The kids like getting mail, and Emily said it’s like Instagram for them.  Insta Gram? Get it? Heh.

I’m also using them in my planner. I put pictures of the books we’re reading in the book group, for instance. And to commemorate the snow day, I have one of G pushing the snowblower after the storm.

G snowblowing

Another use I thought of but haven’t done yet is inclose a small pic of me using or wearing a gift in a thank-you note to the giver.  That would be cool.

 3. The third thing that pleased me was an essay I read on Medium called,How to Seem Like You Have Your Sh*t TogetherIt was really good. I wish I had written it. She described 20 areas of your your life to look at to see where there might be room for improvement. Some of her points were obvious, but still insightful. 

It made me think I might need to pay more attention to Medium. I’ve been a member for a long time, but I don’t check the feed much, so I’m glad this piece broke through the noise.

What’s been sparking joy for you? Please share in the comments. I love hearing about stuff that makes people’s lives more fun and efficient.

The Yoga Of Shoveling

We just got a big dump of snow. Everyone’s buzzing. People here like snow. Especially since it’s only snowed once, back in November. 

Snow days, when the snow is actually falling, are slow days: soup, hot chocolate, movies, naps, games.

But that’s only when the snow is actually falling

When the snow stops falling, and clean-up begins, that’s when a lot of people tend to lose their zen.

Here are some things you might want to keep in mind in the aftermath of a big snow dump.

1. Take your time. There’s no rush. It’s not a race. Do a little bit at a time and focus on your bio-mechanics. Lift with your legs, take a lot of breaks, and do some counter-stretches. Shoveling is a continuous act of forward bending, so you need to counter that. So stop. Take a breath. Look at the sky.  Then take a slow, shallow, little backbend. Do this at regular intervals. 

2. Ta-Da rather than To-Do If you have a lot of snow to shovel it’s easy to get discouraged when you look at what you have left to do. Switch your perspective. Look at what you’ve done thus far instead. Give yourself credit for even a modest effort. Don’t get discouraged. Just keep going, slowly, one shovelful at a time.

3. Become one with the machine.If you’re using equipment, it’s important to pay attention to how your equipment is operating and how you are operating your equipment. Take your time. Pay attention. Don’t get sloppy and go barreling through on momentum. Be deliberate and careful. It’s better that way.

4. Pat yourself on the back.When you’re done, admire your work. Even if it’s not done. Admire what you did. Take some more counter stretches. Then take a hot bath, preferably with epsom salts. Soak away any soreness. 

5. Enjoy a reward. Find some soft clothes to snuggle into and make a nice beverage and get comfortable and do something relaxing: read, watch a little TV, cook, take a nap, look out the window. 

The clean-up after a storm can seem like a daunting task, something you definitely don’t love. But it’s easier to fall in love with your reality if you can find little ways to make your reality easier to love. 

Being a Yoga Teacher Is A Great Gig

On Monday I had an amazing yoga class. 

Here’s what happened.

I started them in Mountain pose. There were about a dozen of them, a mix of men and women,— mostly people who’ve been practicing together for years.  

They know each other. 

They like each other. 

They’re yoga friends.

I started them in Mountain pose and then I called on them, one by one, to take us into the next pose. 

 It was like a Choose Your Own Adventure class. 

Nobody could predict what was coming next, or when their name would be called. They had to be thinking all the time: What will I do next if she happens to call on me?

And I had to be thinking all the time: Who is going to pick something challenging here? And: Who is going to pick something easier?

So I was kinda orchestrating it, based on what I knew about them, and what kind of practice they like.

I told them at the start the only 2 poses that were off-limits were Child and Savasana. 

They groaned. Then laughed.

What transpired was freaking amazing.  

Warriors, a triangle, a balance pose, and a Surya B.

There were some lunges, pigeon, and a bridge. Then fish, and a twist. 

Each person talked the class through their pose. Their sequencing was intelligent and fun. I did it with them. 

It was awesome. They were amazing. I’ve been telling everyone who will listen, about it.

I’ve had a perma-grin since Monday.

Being a yoga teacher is the best gig ever. 

Especially here. With these people. 

I’m so lucky.

Struggling With Consistency

I can’t seem to get any traction going. I can’t seem to get consistency on my big rocks

My scorecard this week: 

Writing 7/7, 

Meditation 5/7, 

Yoga 3/7. 

I blogged last week, so Blog 1/1 

The writing is the easiest. The blogging is the hardest, but since the blogging is only once a week, I managed, at least for the first week, to gut it out.

I credit Nanowrimo for getting me in shape to write 1K a Day. After having to hit that 1667 word-a-day benchmark every day in November, a thousand words a day is puh. 

As for the meditation, even though I haven’t been consistent, I really like the new meditation app I’ve been using. It’s Sam Harris’s Waking Up Course. There are daily, ten-minute guided meditations.  And even though they are talkier than I would normally be able to tolerate, I find, at this stage in my meditation practice, I kinda welcome his intellectual guidance. Having spent decades on the cushion doing zazen, and other techniques, and not quite understanding what the hell I was  doing, Sam’s guidance is causing some of the the mist to dissipate. 

My greatest resistance is to my 30 minute daily personal yoga practice.

Is it that I just don’t want to confront how inflexible I’ve become? How physically weak? 

Could be. 

I haven’t come up with a good time-slot for it, either, and that is a stumbling block. Plus, I have this thing about changing my clothes. I hate changing clothes. It takes everything I have to get out of my pajamas into day clothes. And then when it’s time to teach,  I resist getting out of day clothes into yoga clothes. It’s a ridiculous struggle. 

I was talking to a fellow yoga teacher friend and she practices first thing, in her pajamas.  But I don’t like yoga first thing. I like yoga, like third thing, after writing, and meditation. But then the puppy needs a walk, and then the day often derails.

The solution would be to take a regular yoga class. Plop down a lot of money and commit. I’m an Obliger. I need accountability. But there is no regular class or teacher around here. Mine are the regular classes. I am the teacher. 

This needs to be figured out. 

Mantras For The New Year

I spent a lot of time yesterday trying to think about what my word for this year would be.

People like me who don’t make resolutions sometimes pick a word or a theme to guide them through the year as a kind of north star.

 I was having trouble this year. I shuffled through my Feeling and Needs cards, but nothing resonated. 

Then I noticed a Thich Nat Hahn book on my side table: This Moment Is Full of Wonders.

I flipped through it and found some juicy contenders:

Listen

Mindful

Let go

Be Free Where You Are

Go As A River

Are you sure?

Now Is The Time

This Moment Is Full of Wonders 

No Mud No Lotus

This Is It

 No Mud No Lotus made me smile. Yes, I thought, this is perfect for times when I struggle; for times when I want to jump ship, and abandon the project.

Mud stands for hard work, darkness, not knowing, not being sure. Mud is lack of clarity. 

Clear as mud.

Lotus is the flower, the fruit, the result of the hard work, the deep introspection.

No mud no lotus.

So I decided this would be my mantra for 2019.

But it seemed a little dark, a little hair-shirty.

I needed something for the times when I wasn’t in deep struggle.

This Moment Is Full of Wonders.

I liked that. I liked that a lot. 

I like the word wonder

Wonder is an attitude of amazement. It is also a attitude of questioning, of not knowing. And that’s a space I’d like to learn how live in more comfortably, for sure. 

If it became my mantra it could remind me to look for those wonders in every moment. 

I could use it on the yoga mat, This moment is full of wonders, as I’m breathing in a posture. 

This moment is full of wonders as I’m filling the dishwasher. 

This moment is full of wonders as I fold the laundry. 

This moment is full of wonders as I walk Stella through the town and countryside. 

Today I road tested it  as I sat in the periodontist’s chair: This moment is full of wonders: the light glinting off the adjustable lamp, the sand-colored paint on the walls, the sound of the sonic tooth blaster thing, the dentist office’s version of Bohemian Rhapsody playing softly on the radio. 

This moment is full of wonders.

If I were forced to pick just one word for this year though, it would have to be Wonder. 

Wonder in the sense of amazement, like in the Mary Oliver poem where she wants to be “a bride married to amazement.” 

But also Wonder in the sense of curiosity and not-knowing.

So for 2019, it’s 2 mantras and Wonder. I think I’m off to a good start.

Happy New Year.