When ‘Ordinary’ is Enough

Everywhere we turn we are immersed in a world that tells us we must be bold, stretch beyond our limits, do whatever it takes to be an extraordinary person living an extraordinary life. If we don’t, we’re doing ourselves a disfavor, selling ourselves short.

The zen teachers say the way to enlightenment is to “chop wood and carry water.” I’ve given this considerable thought over the last months, and I’ve come to understand something:

If you can’t find peace in the ordinariness of your everyday life, you won’t find it by moving to Tahiti, buying a new sports car, or trading in your current spouse for a new one.

This understanding has three parts:

Part 1: Ordinary is Enough.

I’m happy to “be” an ordinary woman, going about my “ordinary” day – tending to my body, mind,  spirit, and family in ordinary ways, practicing ordinary tasks and processes in my business. I’m content with who I am and what I do, and am, these days, striving to simplify in any way I can. It is amazing how little we really need.

Part 2:  Ordinary is Not Boring.

Giving ourselves over to the ordinary – to washing dishes, changing sheets, mowing the lawn – brings moments of release and realization. Years ago I wrote a blog post titled “My Now and Zen Kitchen” that speaks to this phenomenon. Slowing down, stripping away the noise of advertising and the pressure of keeping up with the latest whatever, brings a level of peace and calm that is anything but boring – this is the space where creativity brews and thrives!

Part 3:  Ordinary People can and do live Extraordinary Lives.

There is no contradiction in this statement. When we are content with what we have and do, when we are no longer striving for more or bigger or better, our energy patterns change, opening the door to our dreams – and beyond that door is where extraordinary things happen.

How do you get to a place inside where Ordinary is enough?  Can you spare five minutes? Oh, yes, you can.

Sometime today, take yourself to a place where you can be undisturbed – even if you have to leave the office to sit in your car. Sit still and quiet for 5 minutes, focusing on your breathing. As thoughts bubble up – the distractions of “this is stupid, you should be doing…” let them go. Stay focused on your breath. Breathe in, breathe out, breathe in, breathe out. When your mind wanders, and it will, just be aware of it and go back to breathing in, breathing out.

If the car thing isn’t your thing, forgo the dishwasher and wash your plates and pans by hand. Focus on the motion – that “soap on, soap off” motion. Feel the slipperiness of the suds on your hands, see yourself washing away the leftovers and scraps of your day.

As you continue to find ways to slow down and let the ordinary things of life be enough – even if it is just for five minutes at a time, your life will change.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this  topic, and your experiences!


Love the Lemons in Your Life

Image of lemons on a lemon treeWe call the bad things, the dysfunctional things “lemons.” We say, “When life hands you lemons, make lemonade,” meaning throw a bag of sugar over it so you don’t see the dysfunction, the mechanical failures, the sourness of your situation.

Lemons grow in warm climates, their juice sour and acidic – much like the emotions we experience when things that we perceive as “bad” happen to us or around us. But that sour taste, that lip-puckering tartness, can play another role – an amazing role – if we embrace it. Lemons are teachers, messengers, angels sent to reshape us. Welcome them, love them, and squeeze out every bit of juice they offer.

I was handed a life-sucking lemon – a diagnosis of Stage 3C uterine cancer – in July 2009.  Over the next three years, I lost my business, my retirement fund, and in the end, my home. I tell you it was awesome – because the destruction of those years led me to the life I live today.

I could have viewed cancer as a death sentence, but chose instead to turn myself into “Lindiana Jones” on a wild and dangerous adventure that would prove my tenacity and strength.

After the radical hysterectomy, I could have handed my life over to my oncologist.  I didn’t, opting instead to do my own research on treatments and creating – with my oncologist’s hesitant agreement – on a plan that worked for me instead of the standard protocol.

I could have isolated myself to avoid infection or, even harder to endure, the fears of family and friends.  I didn’t do that, either. There were weeks during the year of chemotherapy that I was relegated to home with dangerously low blood counts. The rest of the time, I was out as often as my energy level allowed.

I chose to turn the most sour year of my life into a positive, life-affirming experience. It wasn’t easy, but this is what I learned:
When life gives you lemons, find someone with vodka, and throw a party.