Solitude: Taking Time To Enjoy the Gift of Silence

Solitude. I was blessed with the gift of silence and solitude a few days ago when I happened to show up thirty minutes early for a dance class.

Fortunately, another class had just ended so the studio was open. However, when the dancers left the studio, I was alone. Really alone. There wasn’t another human being in the entire building. I began to feel a little anxious and upset.

Where was everyone? Why weren’t people arriving for the ten o’clock dance class? Did I drive the forty-five miles from my home in Denver to Boulder for nothing? My anxiety escalated as I watched the dancers from the previous class get in their cars and drive away and I realized I was alone in an empty building. That was not a comfortable feeling. It was even a little bit creepy. Maybe I should just get back in my car and drive home.

Then I realized that I had been given a rare and wonderful opportunity. The opportunity to be alone with my thoughts. There I was, in a beautiful, sun-filled space with time for quiet introspection. What a treat!

I had a full twenty minutes of sweet solitude.  I was able to relax, refresh, and enjoy the sensation of the sun on my face while I listened to the rhythm of my breathing and the sound of my heartbeat. The sound of the building answered my rhythm with its own. It was a lovely somatosensory experience. My anxiety quickly melted away.

I was enjoying myself so much that I was almost disappointed when my teacher showed up. Apparently I had the time wrong. Class didn’t start until ten thirty. Oops. However, if I hadn’t made that mistake, I would have missed out on an incredible opportunity to refresh myself. As well as a reminder that it’s good to spend time alone.

I think I’ll make a habit out of spending time alone more often. It’s amazing how even just a few minutes of solitude can clear your mind, refresh your spirit, and rejuvenate your soul. There is nothing quite like solitude, and the gift of silence. It’s so good for the health and well-being of your body, mind, and spirit!

Toastmasters, Table Topics, and the Talk of the Town

Table topics. It was a term I had never heard before. At least not until I attended my first Toastmaster’s meeting six weeks ago. I was planning on visiting a few different clubs, just like the website recommended, and see which one was a good fit for me. I was also planning on keeping my mouth shut until I felt comfortable around the members.

This is probably hard to believe, but I always get nervous when I meet people for the first time. Especially in a professional setting like a networking or business group. The thought of going to a Toastmasters meeting filled me with anxiety, even though the website made it clear that I didn’t need to participate in any capacity. I was welcome just to observe.

However, I was still a bundle of nerves when I got in my car to drive to the meeting site. I should mention that I also get high anxiety when I am going to a new destination. I calmed myself down, reminding myself that the meeting location was only about ten minutes from my house. What could possibly go wrong?

I got road raged on the way to the meeting. It wasn’t too serious, but it was enough to shred what was left of my frail confidence and rattle my tattered nerves even more. I almost turned around to go home and hide under my bed. But then I realized this jerk would have achieved his goal. So, I put on my big girl pants and headed to the meeting location.

I pulled up in front of a large, austere, and intimidating office building. Once again I wondered if I should just turn around and go home. Hiding under my bed seemed like a pretty good idea right then, especially after enjoying a nice, relaxing Chardonnay. I took a deep breath and got out of the car.

There was a sign in the lobby instructing visitors to check in on the 6th floor. I took the elevator and landed on the 6th floor just as a major hot flash hit. I walked into a small group of strangers red-faced and sweating. What a way to make an entrance! I wished I had gone home.

Until the meeting started. What a great group of people, and so much fun! I actually relaxed and began enjoying myself. Finally, they introduced something called Table Topics. Volunteers are asked a random question, and are given one-two minutes to answer it. It challenges your ability to think on your feet and come up with an engaging topic as well. To add to the challenge, the rest of the group votes on who gave the best talk.

Two people volunteered. When they finished, the Toastmaster asked for another volunteer. No one spoke up. Everyone looked around the room. Throwing caution to the wind, I volunteered. When I was done, we voted. I was feeling pretty proud of myself just for getting up in front of the group, but I almost fell out of my chair when it was announced that I won first place for best Table Topics! I got a ribbon and everything.

I participated in Table Topics the following meeting. And won the prize again. The following meeting, I won again. What a way to gain some confidence! All three of those ribbons are hanging on my wall in my office next to my desk where I can see them everyday.

Those ribbons represent how I went from being terrified to being the talk of the town. Or at least around the conference table. I learned a lot from that first day. First of all, don’t let a bully get in the way of your goal, even if he does road rage you. Next, don’t judge a building by it’s cover. A cold building can be warm and welcoming inside. I also learned not to worry so much, but we’ll see how that goes. Finally, I learned that when you are yourself and you speak from the heart, magic happens. Don’t you agree?

Springtime in the Rockies, and Feldenkrais for One and All

Ahhhh, springtime in the Rockies! It’s a beautiful time of year, and one that I love dearly. Springtime anywhere is always special, but here in the Rocky Mountains, you just never know what to expect. And you have to be ready for anything.

It’s important to be prepared for any kind of weather or event that might surface, and it is also important to be flexible. The Feldenkrais Method can help you find the flexibility you need. Not just for the weather, but for every situation that comes up in life.

I had the distinct honor and privilege to spend a beautiful springtime afternoon last week in my favorite place in all of Colorado, Estes Park. I had been invited to teach a Feldenkrais class at their remarkable library for their Wellness Program. Of course, I accepted. I love Estes Park, and never miss an opportunity to go there. And I surely never pass up a chance to teach a Feldenkrais class and spread the word about this life-altering method. Besides, what a wonderful way to honor the upcoming birthday of the man behind the method, Moshe Feldenkrais himself.

So I happily packed up my teaching materials, and began the 70 mile drive north from Denver to Estes Park. I had no idea what to expect. I didn’t know what the room would be like, how many people to expect (if any), or what the participants wanted from a Feldenkrais lesson. Assuming people did show up. Nor did I know what to expect from the weather. Like I said, springtime in the Rockies is quite unpredictable. It can turn from a bright, sunny day to a blizzard in a matter of hours. Yikes!

But, it’s okay. I am a Feldenkrais practitioner and have been for a long time. I am flexible, and I can handle almost any curve ball that gets tossed my way. Even if no one shows up for a class I have planned and drove 70 miles to teach. Not that it mattered, because at least the librarians would be there.

Well, people did show up. Quite a few of them, in fact. I shared a wonderful standing lesson with them titled “Unlocked Knees” or “Let Your Knees Be Your Teacher.” As always, I learned a lot from that teaching experience, and I had a great time. I was even invited to come back. That’s when you know things went well.

As I said my farewells and packed up my car to drive the 70 miles back “down the hill” to go home, it began to snow. Big, fat, soft, fluffy flakes. I stood outside for a few minutes just to enjoy the lovely weather, the sensations of the snow falling on my face, and the satisfaction of enjoying a job well done in my favorite Colorado town. I love Feldenkrais, I love Estes Park, and I love springtime in the Rockies!

How Would You Answer The Call to Serve?

How would you answer the call to serve? I recently had the opportunity to answer that question for myself, when I was called to report to jury duty. Oh, I’ve been called before. Actually, I have been called many times over the years. However, I have never been selected to serve. I’ve never even made it close enough to be interviewed as a possible juror. Who in their right mind would ever pick me as a juror? I have a look on my face that screams “GUILTY!”

I simply can’t help it. My face is an open book, and the pages read “GUILTY!” So, I wasn’t too concerned when I received the summons to report for jury duty early in January. I just rolled my eyes, marked my calendar, and resolved myself that a Monday morning would be wasted. I don’t see clients on Mondays, so it wouldn’t impact my business. It would, however, keep my from going to ballet class that morning, but I supposed I could deal with that.

Imagine my dismay when I received another summons to report for jury duty in February, just 4 weeks after I had to report for County Court. This time the summons was for Federal Court, and it was for an entire month! How in the world was I going to manage that? I’m self-employed. If I don’t work, I don’t get paid. Even worse, I received the summons on Christmas Eve.

I texted my attorney. I asked her how they could do this to me, and if it was legal to require a citizen to report to jury service twice in 4 weeks. Her advice was to appeal (so to speak) to County Court, as they might take pity on me. Then she advised me to buy a lottery ticket.

I was in full-blown panic mode. Although I was certain I wouldn’t be picked as a juror, there was no way I could manage my business and take care of my clients while I was at the beck and call of the Federal government for 4 weeks. It would ruin my business.

Much to my dismay, I was picked to serve on a jury for a trial that was scheduled to last 3 weeks. As I raised my right hand to take the oath, I was so nervous and upset I was afraid I would throw up, pass out, or wet my pants. I also realized that I was being asked to do something that was so much bigger than myself, and my petty concerns. This was going to be an incredible sacrifice, not only for me, but for the 13 strangers standing along side me.

I didn’t know how I was going to get through the next 3 weeks. But I did know that there were millions of Americans  over the years who sacrificed a lot more than 3 weeks in service to our country. It helped me put things into perspective, and made me almost honored, and most definitely humbled, to serve. The next 3 weeks proved to be one heck of a rollercoaster ride.

And when it was all over, I was proud of myself, my fellow jurors, and the judicial system that each and everyone of us are a part of, whether we want to be or not. That’s how I answered the call to serve. God Bless America!

Old-Fashioned Kind of Girl

I’m an old-fashioned kind of girl. And I have a love/hate relationship with modern technology. Especially since I consider myself technologically challenged. While I sincerely appreciate the miracle of modern technology, it still overwhelms me a bit. And sometimes it creeps me out.

I feel like we don’t have any privacy anymore, at least not like we did in the good old days when I was growing up. When we were kids we didn’t text, message, or snapchat. We communicated the old-fashioned way. We stood on our front porch and yelled to our friends down the street to come out and play. Or we stood on our side porch and looked down the hill to see who was going to the swimming pool so we knew when it was time to join them.

We didn’t have answering machines, let alone voice mail. If we missed a call, they would simply call back at a later time. And under no circumstances would we answer the phone during dinner. It would have been considered the epitome of bad manners. Unlike today, where a family of four could eat dinner without even looking at each other, because they are so preoccupied with their cell phones.

The truth is, cell phones continue to perplex me. I can use one, but only on a limited capacity. I suppose it would help if I hired a ten year old to teach me a few things. But honestly, I kind of miss the rotary phone. It was so much easier back then. I miss the phone booths on every street corner. I even miss the party lines that some communities had, where you could listen in on your neighbors’ private telephone conversations.

On second thought, maybe we didn’t have as much privacy back then, either. But at least we aired our dirty laundry in our neighborhood and local community instead of blurting it out for the whole world to see and hear. And have it put in someone’s data base somewhere.

I really am an old-fashioned kind of girl. I prefer face time over screen time. I prefer holding a hand instead of a smartphone. I find the sound of a voice is so much sweeter than the sound of a keyboard. Most of all, I prefer lively conversation to the silence of a written response via text or email. Besides, I can talk a lot faster than I can type, and with a lot less mistakes as well.

I’m also a people person. I love meeting them, talking to them, and working with them. It is my life’s work. I need to embrace that part of myself just as I continue to embrace this wonderful but often confusing high tech world we live in. And to remember that there is always a person behind the machine.

Mistakes….Making Them and Moving Along

I hate making mistakes. Unfortunately, I make a lot of them. The good news is, I also learn a lot from each and every mistake I make. It took a long time for me to fully accept and understand that making mistakes are an important part of the learning process. It’s bad enough to make a mistake in private, but none of us want to look silly in public. And I’ve done it more times than I care to admit.

For example, I was late to embrace modern technology. Six years ago the only thing I could do on a computer was to send and receive email. I certainly have come a long way since then, and I am proud to report that I am completely self-taught. Which means I have made a lot of mistakes along the way.

I have unknowingly breached online etiquette, unwittingly looked like a nit wit, and sometimes appeared downright ridiculous as well as unsophisticated. But, I learned a lot. Even when I occasionally fell flat on my face, I always was able to get back up, shake it off (eventually), and move along.

At this point in time, I find myself at a major fork in the road of life, with several outstanding opportunities looming in front of me. All I have to do is step forward and receive them. All I have to do is say “yes.”  But, there’s still that nagging little voice in the back of mind, whispering those dreadful words, “But, what if you fail? What if you make a mistake, or fall flat on your face?” 

I’m tempted to give in to that voice, and to throw in the towel before I even begin. After all, what if I do make a mistake or fall flat on my face? Then I realized that it wouldn’t matter. Of course I will make mistakes–a lot of them. I’m not perfect, and could never hope to be. Nor would I want to be. Because it is through trial and error that we learn. It is through our mistakes that we build character. And it is through falling on our face that we learn how to get up again.

So, I think I’ll just tell that voice in my head to shut up and mind her own business. I have better things to do with my time, and so do you. So, go ahead–make some mistakes, take a few chances, and fall on your face. Remember that every obstacle is an opportunity to learn and grow. And do remember to stay positive, and tell the negative voices to mind their own business.

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