Friday, December 29, 2017

A Voice Within Me

Photo by Calum MacAulay on Unsplash

"I write only because there is a voice within me that will not be still." ~Sylvia Plath

I am a lot of things, and writer is at the top of the list. I've been writing in some form my whole life, even as a kid. I've written poetry and stories because in some strange way, I don't have a choice.

I get this intensity inside me, this restlessness that I can't deny. Eventually, I came to realize that that feeling was anxiety. All my life, my relief from the hold of anxiety has been to write. I didn't understand until much later that this compulsion to put my words on paper was my way of understanding the world and my place in it.

I completely understand Sylvia's voice inside that will not be still. Even now that yoga and meditation have helped me curb my anxious tendencies, I still get restless when I don't spend time writing.

Most of the time, I write for myself. I have journals and morning pages all over the place. I bookmark ideas to post about and quotes that resonate with me. I sometimes just ramble on in a stream of consciousness, just to see what is rattling around in my head.

Often times, after sitting down to attend to that voice within me, I come away with some conclusion about what to do next and then I can set an intention. This is the best feeling to me, writing is very satisfying in this way.

I think it is very interesting how differently people handle situations and emotions. For me, writing is the answer to almost anything, at least in the questioning and observing stages. However, I know others who paint or draw, who knit, run or do woodworking. We all have a hobby or compulsion that satisfies us, to help us hear that voice inside of us that can't be still.

What do you do when you hear that voice within you?

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Change, A Word That Matters

Photo by Chris Lawton on Unsplash, Edits by Amanda McCusker on Positive Practice Living


I’ve contemplated and reflected on this past year quite a bit in the last couple of weeks. This process was mostly so I could figure out where I am going from here. Eventually, I came to a conclusion. However, it is also a chance to look back and consider where I’ve been.

I came across this “Words That Matter” movement on Medium with the hashtag #WordsThatMatter2017. The idea is to summarize 2017 in a single word. They promote forty different influential views from politics, culture, tech, and business to explore this concept. Most of the articles I read through commented on the turbulence of the previous year emphasizing political matters.

I don’t appreciate the unsettled climate we have been thrust into over the course of this past year, but my mind went a little more philosophical and personal on this topic of “Words That Matter.”

Change is the word that comes to my mind when I think of the last year.

A lot happens over the course of the year. By the time we finally get to sing the Fa La La’s of December, it is hard to remember where we started in January.

My life looks a lot different this year than last. My family and I moved to a new neighborhood early in the year of 2017. This meant a different school for my daughter, meeting new friends, a detoured  route to work for my husband and a fresh routine for every aspect of our daily lives.

More than just our location, I’ve also changed greatly personally too. I am overall more intentional. I believe that is a good way to sum it up. I work harder and I’m not as afraid to try new experiences. I enjoy cooking now, a skill I never really cared to harness before. I am taking my writing to a new level. Additionally, I am overwhelmingly more calm by managing my stress and the clutter that once surrounded me.

In fact, I've tossed out many things and ideas that weren't serving me over the course of this past year. It has been a powerfully cleansing sensation. I've gotten rid of clothes and accessories that didn't fit right or that I did not truly enjoy. I also worked through some mindsets that were holding me back.

So many things have changed. Lots of them for the better.

I understand that our political environment is arduous right now. It affects us all in great and subtle ways. However, this too will change. It would be great if it changed sooner rather than later, but it surely will change. In fact, the one thing that will always be constant is change.

That right there has helped me so much. I once got so caught up trying to hold on to everything. Somewhere along the way I realized, I can’t hold onto ideas and even possessions because then I can’t change or grow to become something greater.

Now I have a peace with change. This last year has been full of it. And though it was not always easy, I am thankful for where the changes have brought me. I can now live in a state of calm and productivity, and that is definitely a good thing.

Change
#WordsThatMatter2017

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

From Holiday to Reality

Photo by Toa Heftiba on Unsplash


I’ve been on vacation the past few days with my family to celebrate Christmas. We don’t go anywhere, we just stay home and veg out on playing video games and other hobbies we enjoy, like reading and cooking. We eat way too much and drink way too much and have a great time doing it.

However, after three days, I am becoming disoriented and need to add, at least, some creativity back into my life. Writing has a way of calming me, and it helps me focus on those things in life that are most important. A few days without writing starts leaving a fuzziness in my mind and I forget what I’m supposed to be doing.

Waking up at 11 am two days in a row let me know that I was starting to get a little too far off track. Or more significantly, that it is just time to start adding some structure back into my life.

Having a couple days to completely relax and not worry about anything is good, healthy even for a balanced life. The trick is in coming back to reality. Sometimes it is hard to get started.

That is my trouble now, I’m just having a hard time getting back into the groove again.

I sat down two different times to write a “Merry Christmas” post. Both times, I ended up walking away from the computer with no more than a couple of sentences that didn’t even really make sense.

At that point, I decided to let it go. But the thing is, I really did have something to say about Christmas. I wanted to express the wonder in this time of year. It’s not because of any particular holiday recognized, but the celebration and rejuvenation that the spirit of tradition and good intention plant in us to improve ourselves and make an effort to love more easily.

It took me a few days to say, but it has been what is in my heart.

I am thankful to be writing again.

During my vacation, I experienced many lost moments where I just got caught up in what I was doing and not really thinking about anything. This, in my mind, is what it means to meditate. In this moment you just are, and that is a very peaceful experience.

I need more of that in my life. But, I also need the balance of productivity and creativity. It is important and fulfilling to spend time in meditation and contemplation, but now I need to also make use of my time and ideas. My aim is to become more productive this upcoming year while still experience calm and peace. It should be a fun journey.

Friday, December 22, 2017

Winter Solstice Reflections 2017

Photo by Andrea Reiman on Unsplash

I made a big change yesterday, at least it was big for me. I colored my hair from a dirty blonde to a dark brown. It was the first time I had ever had my hair professionally colored and it came out great! I love it and I can feel the change. My daughter came with me and had her hair styled as well, it ended up being a fun girl's day out.

The significance of this change and the timing of it comes from yesterday being the Winter Solstice. It was the shortest day of the year and the turning point between dark and light. Now the days will gradually begin to get longer. It is a true celebration of the light.

Winter Solstice can be described as "The Tide of Rest and Rebirth." I think this is a fitting depiction because it is a time for reflection and renewal. There is power in new beginnings during a celestial transition like the Winter Solstice. Getting my hair colored and styled was a big change for me and it signified a new beginning to roll into the new year.


At this point, I am getting a running start into the new year where I want to be more productive in my writing and build this blog into something I can be proud of. Before I start these new endeavors, it is important to reflect over the past year and appreciate how far I have already come.

This year has been one of great growth for me personally. I have tried lots of new things and challenged myself to do more and finish what I start. I have a confidence this year, that I have not ever seen in myself before.

I have also had a breakthrough in my attitude. I was once very anxious and hesitant in almost everything I did. Now I am learning how to be more calm and respond to a situation instead of react to it. That small change has made a huge difference allowing me to find peace even in the every day chaos.

I am physically a lot stronger than I have ever been. I have more core strength and flexibility than I did even as a kid. I am learning endurance with my running and inner strength through yoga. It has been a beautiful combination and I can't wait to see how far I can go.

I am learning how to stay balanced and the power of intention. It is very simple to tell myself to stay in the moment and find joy in the small things, but it is not always so easy in practice. Thus, this is where the tide turns from reflection to renewal.

Now that I have contemplated on how far I have come and truly celebrated those successes, it is time to look forward. I want to finish what I have begun. I want to work hard and make a difference with my words by publishing them on my blog and in my novel. 

I want to continue clearing the clutter, both physical and mental, from my life so I can focus on this moment and the things most important to me. I want to continue to cultivate an intentional flow through life where I have no expectation for the outcome and can find balance and joy in all things. I want to strengthen my body and train in a way that increases my ability, vitality and stamina.

This is where I am heading and I look forward to what happens next. I am proud of what I have accomplished and how far I have come. I am excited for the future and what happens next.

Winter Solstice provides a chance to reflect on where I have been and learn from struggles and triumphs along the way. Now it is time to renew, set new goals and move forward with intention.

Exhale the old and breathe in the new.


Do you have any Midwinter traditions that help you reflect and renew? I'd love to hear about them and how you are doing in your own journey.

Amanda

Thursday, December 21, 2017

108 Sun Salutations: Winter Solstice 2017

Photo by Ben White on Unsplash

I love the symbolism of the Winter Solstice turning darkness into light. I need that in my life and I revel in the celebration of lights.

Today will hold the longest night, but the darkness contains beauty as well. We can see the stars and witness the cosmos. T. Thorn Coyle once wrote that the Winter Solstice is “a chance to still ourselves inside, behold the glory of the cosmos, and to take a breath with the Sacred."

I really enjoy that call to be still. It is during that moment of balance when we can really begin to understand the significance of the Solstice. By exhaling all of the anxiety of the last year, we can then breathe in a fresh beginning. Then, anything is possible.

The season shifts are significant in the continuous flow of nature and are important to recognize in our own lives. We need the chance to reflect and renew within our own path of personal journey. This is a chance for us to release those things that are holding us down and begin something new. We can cleanse ourselves and our space of things that are no longer serving us and gather strength by setting an intention.

I like to do this while doing 108 Sun Salutations. A sun salutation, or Surya Namaskar, is a series of yoga poses that provide a great workout for the whole body. It presents a great opportunity to stretch, which flexes and tones the muscles. Also, it is great exercise for weight loss and finding your spiritual center. In addition, Sun Salutation is an excellent way to express gratitude to the sun and transition to its increasing light in the coming months.

This visual provides a good example of a Sun Salutation:

photo credit


108 is a sacred number in Yoga and Hindu traditions. It is the number of wholeness and completion. 108 also has significance as it connects to the sun, moon and Earth. The average distance of the Sun and the Moon to the Earth is 108 times their respective diameters. This discovery has influenced many ritual practices.

I have malas that contain 108 beads, which help me count my sequence of sun salutations. For my personal practice I do 9 sets of 12 Sun Salutations to reach a total of 108. Each set of 9 I vary slightly. This is mostly to keep myself engaged with the ritual, but it also helps to work different muscles throughout the practice.

During my practice I reflect on the last year and decide where I need to go from here. I have come to the conclusion that our lives are simply a series of checks and balances. When we know where we are heading, it is easier to stay on the path. Winter Solstice is a natural opportunity for me to observe and amend the progress of my own personal journey.

When I say Namaste, I bow to the divine in you. 

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Winter Solstice 2017

Photo by Denys Nevozhai on Unsplash

Tomorrow is the Winter Solstice, also known as Midwinter and Yule. No matter what you call the observance, it represents the day the sun’s maximum elevation in the sky is at its lowest. It will be the shortest day of the year with the longest night. More significantly, this is a celebrations of the transition in seasons. After Winter Solstice, the days will begin to gradually get longer.

This increase in daylight is cause for celebration! As we enter into winter and the coldest months of the year, it is important to honor the light as the new solar year dawns. This time of year offers a lot of new beginnings.

Once upon a time, these seasonal transitions would signify specific events to ensure our survival as human beings. Astrological events would let people know when the animals would mate, when to reap the final harvest and ensure the food reserves are appropriately full.

This time of year was an occasion of abundance. The last of the harvest had to be preserved or eaten as well as the livestock. There was often wine and ales that finally finished their fermentations and ready to be consumed. The winter months provide struggles for survival, but also a celebration of life and light.

There are many traditions surrounding this celebration and general time of year. Although everyone goes about their customs slightly differently, there is also a lot of overlap. In general, we recognize the celebration of light with festivals, gathering, feasting and our own unique rituals to honor the changing of the seasons.

Symbolic acts and ritual give meaning to life and enrich our lives. Nature is in a continuing cycle from dark to light. I am very fond of symbolism, so I love the tradition of lighting candles. This is the time of year to recognize the rebirth of the light as the days begin to lengthen and bring light back into your home and your life.

The next couple months are still going to be dark and cold, but this tradition gives us a unique opportunity to focus on our own lives and find the light in ourselves. I enjoy taking time to reflect on the past year and realize how far I have come in my own personal journey. This is a chance to accept the transitions I have undergone in the past year and figure out where to go next. I try to release all of the fear holding me back and move with the flow of constant transformation.

Then it is time to set an intention. By renewing my perspective and my goals, I can continue to achieve and grow in my personal journey. This is a great time to start something new and a chance to simply enjoy the wonder of being alive.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

This Is My Story

Photo by Jonatan Pie on Unsplash


I believe that everyone has a story. This is mine. It is not great, it is not big or fancy, but it is tale of how I overcome the little things that get me down over the years and days. It is not about the highs or lows per say but about the quest to find balance and stay there.

I spent most of my life overweight. This is important because it affected a lot of the perspective I had about myself, who I was and what I could do. I never really enjoyed physical activity, but I did greatly enjoy sugar cookies and potato chips. This is not entirely a fitness story, do not fret. However, again, this mentality plays a big part in my turning point.

It is also important to note that I grew up in rural South Carolina and was perfectly happy staying right where I was. I have always had great anxiety about change, little or big, it didn’t matter. In fact, I didn’t like to try anything new. If you haven’t guessed yet, that is not so much the case anymore.

What happened you ask? Well, this simple girl from Boiling Springs, SC grew up and moved to Seattle, WA and everything changed.

It didn’t change all at once, of course. However, three years after our move, I barely know who that shy, anxious girl was. And I have no idea why I let her stay so scared for so long.

I spent my entire life trying to blend into the background. Finally, I am not so afraid to stand out and be heard. I finally feel like I have something to say. No one may want to hear it, but I can still shout it out. In fact, I need to.

Because I have realized that the difference between fear and confidence is not one thing or one choice. Instead it is a million little decisions, it is a mindset to learn and grow and a lifestyle to expect change and keep going. By changing small habits in your daily routine and intentionally making those small adjustments between too much and not enough, you can change your whole world. It changed mine.

Since this is my story, I suppose I should tell you a few more details. I met the love of my life when I was nineteen. We got married when I was twenty-two and had our daughter when I was twenty-four. Let me just say right now, that I was living the perfect life. I still am, but it wasn’t without a few bumps along the way.

After our daughter, Zoey, was born, we tried for more kids. However, three miscarriages later, I was depressed, heartbroken and bitter. My husband, Stephen, was amazing through all of this, both understanding and a solid rock to continue building our lives on. In the end, it was writing that saved me. I started a blog called Tales from a Mother. It was about Zoey, being a mom and daily devotionals based on my Christian living.

I feel it is important now to pause and say that I related to Christianity for many years. In a lot of ways the church saved me by allowing a social outlet again and giving me something to believe in. Ironically, in the end it was also the same thing social group that sent me over the edge and caused me seriously question everything. I needed that identity to get past my losses and to build myself up again. It helped. It got me going again, more importantly, writing again.

I participated in a mom group that was great, until it wasn’t. The support I once felt unexpectedly turned to despondency. During this moment of confusion, my husband got a job three thousand miles away in Seattle, Washington. And I could not wait to go.

Zoey was about to turn five and we moved our entire world. We were an entire country way from our family and friends and yet I had never felt so alive before in my life. Whatever had happened to that point, I was ready for this complete change. I think we all were.

We quickly made friends in Seattle and Zoey started school giving us instant connections and routine. It could not have been a more perfect transition for us. It was at this point I began asking myself, who do I want to be?

Who knew such a simple question could impact me so much. It turns out that I wanted to be very different from who I was before. I wanted confidence. I wanted to try new things and go new places. I wanted to open myself to people in a way I could not have before. I wanted more. And I found it.

It took me about a year before I found yoga. I went to a free event at the Seattle Center that showcased yoga from Corepower, a local studio. I was hooked and I still am. Yoga satisfied me spiritually, but also physically. I had begun looking for simple ways to move more, and in time I would crave that exercise. It began a very important shift in my identity, to enjoy physical activity.

I learned how yoga helps me to align my body and my spirit. By learning how to breath with my body, I discovered how to stay calm in chaos and how to have confidence to continue trying new positions and ideas. I have found balance and confidence on my mat that has transformed my entire life.

I don’t question who I am or what I want anymore, now I know. I’m still not a strong decision maker, but now I know I can. I still get frustrated and depressed, but now I can identify the feeling and find ways to balance it by slowing down or becoming more active depending on the situation. Now, I realize the wisdom of living in the moment as well as the understanding that I am constantly learning and growing as a person.

Since we moved to Seattle a little over three years ago, I have lost over fifty pounds and I am more healthy, body and mind, than I have been in my entire life. I dedicate this change to a mindset I call “Positive Practice,” which is how I came up with this name, “Positive Practice Living.”

I am not perfect, I will not pretend to be. I am sporadic and can name as many faults as I can successes. I don’t make sense most of time, even to myself. And yet, here I am with a story and a purpose before you today.

I love to surround myself with positive ideas and inspirational art and motivating quotes. I find joy in learning new information about things that interest me. I am discovering a fulfillment in trying new practices, even if I fall on my face. I want to share these things. I figure, if they help me, they may help you too. We all need a little more Positive Practice in our lives.

Friday, December 15, 2017

The First Post!


I wanted the first post to be about my story. However, I'm not quite done with it yet. I'm still working on some of the content pieces. While those are coming together, I figured I would start with the design. I have a lot of fun with this part of the process too. I love learning new ways to create and share a message. I'm still learning, but the best way to grow is do. That's what this blog is about, perpetually learning, questioning and exploring. I want to share ideas and connections.

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