A Design So Vast

I really love this blog – A Design So Vast.

Today the author – Lindsey – answered some questions about herself.  They were such meaningful questions that I wanted to share my answers.  I would love to hear your answers too! 🙂

What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?

Loneliness.  There is something indescribably heart-breaking about facing a tough battle and discovering that you are completely alone.  If I had one wish for the world, it would be that no one would ever feel alone.

Where would you like to live?

I don’t have any specific place – I would make the most of wherever I am.  I think there is always something to experience and appreciate no matter where you are.  And something you can learn, and people you can help.

What is your idea of earthly happiness?

Making someone else smile.  Kissing my sleeping little man as I go to bed. A hot cup of tea.  Meditation.  Really connecting with another living being – whether it’s a person or animal.  For me particularly if it’s an animal – it seems like time stops.

To what faults do you feel most indulgent?

People who have made mistakes that they regret.  I feel an incredible empathy, as everyone makes mistakes, and is entitled to another chance.  

Who are your favourite characters in history?

I’m actually not very knowledge about history – one of my biggest failings I guess.  It’s just something I have never been interested in.

Who are your favourite heroines in real life?

Audrey Hepburn – without a doubt.  She has been my idol for as long as I can remember – she is feminine, and kind, and gentle and classy.  She speaks beautifully and just radiates an innocence.

Your favourite painter?

Van Gough.  My favourite painting of his is Starry Night, closely followed by Starry Night Over the Rhone.

Your favourite musician?

I’m not sure I could narrow it down to one.  My favourites would be:  Chris Martin (from Coldplay), Bono, Jeff Buckley, Paul Simon and Billy Joel.

The qualities you most admire in a man?

Kindness, humour, the ability to make me feel safe and cared for, and a sense of fun.

The qualities you most admire in a woman?

Independence, Elegance, Softness.

Your favourite virtue?

Honesty, Integrity, Compassion.

Your favourite occupation?

A carer or therapist.

Who would you have liked to be?

A Buddhist Nun.  Failing that, I would have liked to have had a very simple, and honest life as a housewife/mother.  Raising children, looking after my partner, and volunteering in the community.

I would LOVE to hear you answers to these questions.

Blessings,

Meg

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A Writer, a Plumber and a Plan to Save the Planet

I just had the good fortune to read a wonderful story about a man saving the planet – one leaky tap at a time.

It amazes and humbles me the wonderful people that are out there in this world.  It certainly gives me great faith in humanity when I read stories like this:

A Writer, a Plumber and a Plan to Save the Planet

Aabid Surti is an odd character. A few years ago, the angular, bearded author was invited to meet the President of India to receive a national award for literature at a ceremony in the capital, New Delhi. He politely declined. Absorbed in writing the first draft of his new novel, he cited the reason that he did not have time. But what he has made time for every Sunday for seven years now, is going door-to-door in Mira Road, a non-descript suburb of Mumbai, with a plumber in tow, asking residents if they need their tap fixed for free!

In 2007, he was sitting in a friend’s house and noticed a leaky tap. It bothered him. When he pointed it out, his friend, like others, dismissed it casually: it was too expensive and inconvenient to call a plumber for such a minor job – even plumbers resisted coming to only replace old gaskets.

A few days later, he came across a statistic in the newspaper: a tap that drips once every second wastes a thousand litres of water in a month. That triggered an idea. He would take a plumber from door to door and fix taps for free – one apartment complex every weekend.

To read the full story, click here.

What do we REALLY need in life

After our basic needs are met, then what becomes important?

I was giving this question some thought today after listening to another Gil Fronsdal dharma talk.

In it he discusses the “4 requisites” which is what all humans need to feel safe and healthy.  And those 4 requisites are:  enough food to live, shelter, adequate clothing, and medicine.

These 4 requisites can be met quite simply.  They key though is what becomes important after these basics are met.

Is it important to you to get a bigger house?  A better car?  A more important job?

Personally I believe that once these basic needs are met, there are 2 important factors to build our lives on – caring for others, and caring for ourselves.

By focusing on our own egos and trying to pursue “more” and “greater” we are just leading ourselves to greater disharmony.  Whereas by concentrating on others, and others happiness, we inadvertently find our own happiness.

And it’s a happiness as a result of a life of service and selflessness.

There is so much good we can do in the world, by living a life of kindness and compassion.  

Once our basic needs are met, and we are safe and healthy, I believe it’s time to start giving ourselves to helping others, and making a difference in the world.

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Jessie’s Joy Jars

This is just so incredibly beautiful:

 

Jessie Rees was diagnosed with an inoperable and incurable brain tumor at age 11. As part of an outpatient clinical trial, she was asked to undergo 30 days of radiation and chemotherapy. When she found out that some of the kids in the cancer ward did not get to go home everyday, she decided to do something to cheer them up and give them hope, and Jessie’s Joy Jars was born. Before Jessie died a little over 10 months later, she had distributed 3,000 Joy Jars. The Foundation set up in her name has continued her wish and has distributed more than 50,000 Joy Jars to children all over the world.

Reach out – BE the kindness

I’m inspired to write this today after the support and friendship of 2 very special people: Jonathan Hilton and Russ Towne.

I’m acutely aware of the suffering around me at the moment.  I don’t know why, but many people seem to be having a hard time, and are not themselves.

It’s at these times that sharing love and kindness and compassion is even more important.

Who can you reach out to today?

It doesn’t take much.  A smile.  A hug.  A kind word.

It can mean the world to someone who is suffering.

 

Kindness Connection

It happens every time
I experience 
Love in Action
Whether it’s
Kindness to me
From me
Or to others by others
I feel a connection
To humankind
The spirit within me
And the universe
That makes my heart smile
Fills me with gratitude
To be alive
And part of it all.
–Russ Towne

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Things I love today

It’s Friday afternoon, I’m feeling incredibly grateful and happy, and wanted to share my favourite things today 🙂

♥  Having good health, and energy and vitality.  I’m feeling so good at the moment – I’m eating really well, juicing (love it!!), and exercising.  I am just so grateful that I am able to do this.  At the moment I am training for an obstacle course/endurance event towards the end of the year. I’m competing with my 70+ year old best friend (she is AMAZING!).

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Me (photo by my little man)

♥  This beautiful BEAUTIFUL piece of music.  Perhaps my favourite ever.

♥  A quiet Friday evening, sushi for dinner, a cool breeze blowing through the open window, and the sound of birds having their last flight for the day.

What are you finding happiness in today?

Blessings,

Meg

Thank you Lisa! This is beautiful ♥

How mindfulness can increase company profits

*** A blog post I wrote for work 🙂 ***

Mindfulness has become a popular and fashionable word in recent times. 

The mindful workplace is gaining popularity in leadership development with forward-thinking public and private sector firms such as Transport for London, Google, Harvard Business School, Pricewaterhouse Coopers, the Home Office and Toyota.

But what is it exactly?  And how can it help your practice?

In today’s blog post we will focus on these key questions.

 

Our minds are our most important tool. Being emotionally intelligent and self-aware are important for so many reasons, not least because they equip you to take action.

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What is mindfulness?

Mindfulness, quite simply, is the act of focused awareness on the flow of the present moment.

It brings out attention from the past, or the future, right here into “now”, so that we can be fully conscious of what we are doing, and what is going on around us.

How often have driven our cars somewhere, and had no memory of the drive itself?  Or walked into the shops, and then had to go back to our car to make sure we locked it (because we had no memory of doing it)?  These are examples of mindlessness.  At the time we were likely caught up in our own thoughts.  And as a result we completely missed what was happening in the moment.

It’s natural that we want to spend time thinking about past or future events.  We want to analyse the past so that we can learn from those experiences, and we want to plan for the future. 

However, as in all things, we need balance.  We have to find the “middle way”.

 

The Benefits of Mindfulness at work

Mindfulness can help us learn to manage our minds, to improve workplace resilience, focus and concentration, leading to improved performance and productivity. It’s like training a muscle – training attention to where you want it to be. 

With regular mindfulness you can:

  • Calm your mind on demand
  • Improve your concentration and creativity
  • Perceive mental and emotional processes with increased clarity
  • Develop optimism and resilience necessary to thrive
  • Increase empathy

 

And how does this relate to our work?

Greater Focus

In life, and in work, one of our biggest challenges to productivity is distraction.  And not just the phone ringing, but the distractions that our minds present us with.

We may be trying to focus on one pressing task, when we remember the 12 others that are also demanding our urgent attention.

Whilst thinking about that, it occurs to us that we should really check our email.  And since we are checking our email, we might as well check our social media accounts.  And then, we may as well make that cup of coffee since we are distracted anyway.  And so goes our entire day – in a frantic whirl of doing not much at all.

With mindfulness we learn to concentrate on one task at a time with calmness and focus.

And remember:  When you’re calmly focused on a single task, your brainpower is multiplied. Whilst it may seem more productive to multi-task, in fact it often reduces our efficiency.

 

Build better client relationships

Notice the difference when you phone client away from your computer or any other distractions.

When your only focus is listening intently to what someone is saying, you’re likely to make them feel that the conversation is important to you.

Making a genuine connection with your clients helps you build trusted relationships – by being mindful in the way you interact with your customers will have a positive impact on your business.

 

Improve memory function

Next time you meet someone new – whether it’s a client, or a new business colleague – listen ‘mindfully’ when they say their name. Pay proper attention to the conversation and bring your mind back when you find it wandering. You’ll be surprised at how much you remember about that person next time you meet them and how good your overall memory becomes!

 

Stress Reduction

A lot of stress is brought about through worry of possible negative future scenarios.  If we were to live completely in the present we would not suffer from this stress.

Stressing about future scenarios that haven’t happened is a pointless habit; with mindfulness we can redirect these negative and worrying thoughts back to the present moment and remind ourselves that the future hasn’t happened and so far is not controlling our present circumstances.

With mindfulness we can bring our focus back to the present.  Where are we now?  What’s happening in this moment (certainly not what we are worrying about).  And it may actually never happen, and we will have wasted our time and energy, and missed out on what WAS actually happening while we were worrying about the future.

 

How do we practice mindfulness?

Personal productivity begins with mindfulness, and mindfulness begins with controlling our attention. Mindfulness is our most important defence against the constant onslaught of demands on our attention.

Mindfulness means to pay attention in a particular way, on purpose, in the present moment and non-judgmentally.

 

Mindfulness meditation

Begin your own mindfulness meditation practice.

Find a quiet place, then focus your mind on the present moment. Don’t think of other things, but sit in silence. Begin with ten minutes and meditate daily. Be aware of your thoughts, but be willing to release them and stop thinking about or focusing on them.

 

Mindful Hand Awareness Exercise

Grasp your hands really tight and hold for a 5 to 10 seconds, then release and pay attention to how your hands feel. Keep your attention focused on the feeling for as long as you can.

 

Mental Focus Exercise

Stare at any object and try to remain focused on just that object for as long as possible. Keep a mental watch on when your mind starts to wander, then just bring it back to the object. The longer you can remain focused, the more your mindfulness will increase.

 

Candle Staring Exercise

Stare at a candle flame for ten minutes straight while studying everything you can about it. When your mind wanders, become aware of where it’s going, then bring it back to the candle flame.

 

You can also practice mindfulness outside of meditation. Be aware of your body, your emotions, and what is happening at that moment. Notice sensations. Reduce distractions and busyness, and practice living in the moment.

 

Here is a short video on how to practice mindfulness.

 

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Take this moment to remember that the future hasn’t happened, the past is gone and the wonderful present, is all we have and all that is guaranteed. Make sure you are part of each moment and experience the gift that is Now.

 

 

Practice and livelihood

Does your job cause benefit to others?  Is it beneficial?  Does it improve people’s lives?

This week I am focusing on the concept of “right livelihood”.

It is an area that I am having difficulty with.  I don’t harm anybody as a result of my employment, however am I benefiting anyone?

I was listening though to an interesting talk though by Gil Fronsdal, and he explored the concept that it isn’t just what we do, but HOW we do it.

We can carry out our work in such a way that our attitude and behaviour enriches the lives of those around us – our co-workers, and those we come into contact with as a result of our work.

We can work with positivity, kindness and joy.  And with gentle calmness and a sense of personal ethics.  Our work can be full of dignity and compassion.  And we can move the people around us with a sense of contentment and piece.

Our job may not itself be beneficial, but the way that we do it enriches people’s lives.

He also asked the question, “How does my livelihood support my practice?”

I would like to pose this question as well:

“How does my practice support my livelihood?”

I – like many others – don’t have the luxury of throwing in my jobs to go on a quest for the perfect job that fits the definition of “right livelihood”.  And nor would I want to anyway.  I enjoy and value my jobs.  I design and build websites, I am a personal assistant, and I also teach (and write about) personal development.

My goal this week is to use my practice to support my livelihood.  To benefit others not through what I am doing, but how I am doing it.

To bring mindfulness and kindness to my work life as well as my personal life.

I am interested to hear your experiences.

Are you satisfied with your job?  Do you feel it contributes to society?  Have you thrown it in to pursue something more altruistic?  

Meg

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Chocolate, crystals and gratitude

Hi lovely friends 🙂

Today’s post is dedicated to an AWESOME day out that my little boy and I had today.

We went to a local place in Brisbane called “Southbank”.  It’s in the middle of a city, and it has a man-made beach and lagoon, as well as fabulous eateries and shops.

We are grateful for:

♥  The bus ride in.  The ticket machine wasn’t working, so we got our ride for free :D.  This saved us more than $10.  We also got to have a lovely relaxed ride in – both listening to our iPod’s.

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♥  Wandering around the markets where we found a stall selling chocolate filled banana’s :D.  I must admit banana’s aren’t my favourite fruit, but they certainly looked pretty good!  And it was so interesting to see how they made them – drilling out the centre and inserted melted chocolate.

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♥  Followed by morning tea at Max Brenner’s chocolate bar.  Oh my goodness – this place is heaven on earth!!  I had a cup of tea, my little man had a hot chocolate, and a “chocolate lick”, which is basically a little pot of melted chocolate.  It was soooo good!!

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Chocolate lick
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Hot chocolate

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♥  Watching the people in the lagoon do water aerobics.  It looked like so much fun!

♥  Watching my little man swimming and having heaps of fun.  And making new friends.  It was just so lovely and relaxing.  And I thought often how very blessed we are to have this wonderful place in the middle of the city.  And it’s completely free!

♥  The fabulous street performer we watched.  My son is usually a very serious boy, and he was entranced watching this performer.  Well actually equal parts entranced and terrified!  The performer was juggling fire, and knives, and my son was highly concerned!  All was good though 😀

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♥  The wonderful crystals I picked up today.  It was such an interesting experience.  I was immediately drawn to a carving of a dolphin in amethyst.  Amethyst is actually my birth stone, as well as being a very spiritual stone.  I picked it up, intending to hold it while I thought about it, however it grew very warm in my hand, and I knew I had to have it.  It’s just exquisite, and I’m so glad that I got it!

♥  And I am mostly grateful for the whole experience of being outdoors, in the sunshine, with lots of other people, enjoying life and our community.

Blessings,
Meg

My lovely doggy friend

This is my lovely doggy friend Layla 😀

I am so incredibly grateful for the neighbourhood animal friends that we have made.  They enrich my lives in so many ways that I can’t even describe.  They bring us such delight, joy, and love.

We would be lost without them.

PS  Apologies for the shaky video.  My little boy was the cinematographer today 🙂

First do no harm

This week I am concentrating on the “Right Action” step of the Eightfold Path.

It’s been really fascinating reading.  I was aware of the basic aspects of Right Action – which are:

♥  abstain from killing

♥  abstain from lying

♥  abstain from stealing

♥  abstain from sexual misconduct

♥  abstain from intoxicants

 

I didn’t realise the broader applications of this step of the path though.

That “abstain from killing” can really be extended to “do no harm”.  Do no harm to yourself or others.  

Any physical action that hurts another person – vandalizing property, arson, intimidation, practical jokes – are all acts of harm.

The same as for “abstain from stealing”.  This applies not only to obvious acts of stealing – for example robbery – but to everything that we take that is not given.  Even so far as taking credit for someone else’s work.  Or pointing out if a store clerk has forgotten to charge you for something, or given you too much change.

For the last step “abstain from intoxicants”, we can look behind the words, and the obvious connotations – no alcohol or drugs – to the higher level of meaning we can find in these words. In what other ways do we “drug” ourselves?  Surfing the internet when we should be working, watching extreme amounts of TV, indulging in anything in large amounts (sugar, junk food etc) – are all ways of escaping.

On the opposite side “abstaining from intoxicants” means eating well, and looking after our bodies.  Which is a great coincidence for me, as I bought a juicer on the weekend, and have been enjoying experimenting with juices, and am trying hard to eat a lot healthier.

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I’m looking forward to exploring this more in the coming week.

For me today, I concentrated on “do no harm”.  Whilst walking to school I was careful not to accidentally step on any snails or other insects.

Upon walking home I found a snail that had obviously been injured by someone walking before me.  I picked it up gently and put it in a safe place, hoping that it would recover.

And in another instance, I found a butterfly that had been killed and was lying on the foothpath.  I couldn’t just walk past and leave it. So I picked it up and gently carried it to a nice sheltered spot on a rock a distance along the path.

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With my blessings,

Meg

 

“The basis of Right Action is to do everything in mindfulness.”

~  Thich Nhat Hanh

I adore this post ♥

MINsMASH

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[Image Credit:  Words & illustration by  Bianca Cash]

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I chose this quote for today’s ‘Mindful Monday’ because it has simple but very strong words that are great words to live by.

I’ll break it down and give my thoughts on each word and how I think I’m going with some of them:

Be Kind – I think everyone could keep working on this one.  Everyone could be a little kinder.  I think overall, I am a kind person but I could always be kinder more consistently and consciously.  What you give out generally comes back to you!

Work Hard – I’ve worked hard for many, many years juggling full-time work in the corporate world with motherhood and being a wife.  Now, I’m working hard in a different way.  No need for me to explain.  If you read my blog, you’ll know what I’m all about these days.  Working…

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Storms can’t hurt the sky

Well today is the last day of my “week of right speech”.  

I had an interesting experience today – not so much to do with right speech however.

I spent some time with a friend of mine – and I picked up as soon as I saw her that she was not in a good place mentally or emotionally.  For a variety of reasons.  

And I’ve noticed in the past that when she is having a hard time, she is more liable to criticise me.  It is something I have struggled with over time.

During a conversation we had today she made it clear – a little harshly – that she didn’t believe something that I had said.

In the past this would have hurt me.  And I would have spent some time mulling over it.

Today though I just smiled and shrugged it off.  I knew I was telling the truth, but more than that I knew it wasn’t about me.  That she was simply projecting her own feelings of being unhappy.  And I just happened to be the person she directed it towards.

I just smiled, and inwardly wished her well, and wished her the inner peace that I know she craves.  

For me this is pretty significant progress – I’m highly sensitive by nature, and find criticism especially difficult.

I just felt a sense of peace though today – and a sense of spaciousness.  Even that event – which would normally really upset me – didn’t make a difference to my feeling of equanimity.

I’ve heard before that “storms can’t hurt the sky”, and that we should try to develop this sense of spaciousness, so that these types of events just drift across our consciousness without causing us inner harm.

I’m hopeful that the daily meditation practice I started on 1st January is making a difference.

Blessings,

Meg

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Snails and badly bitten fingernails

Okay, I’ve tried to keep my quirky side somewhat hidden, but what the heck :p

I love all living things – furry things, meowy things, webbed things.  And lately – snails 🙂

I just find them fascinating – they are so majestic, and move with such slow elegance, and purpose.

We’ve had so much rain here lately, that snails are in abundance – particularly the large ones. 

Here is one I was talking to this morning:

(and please excuse my badly bitten fingernails…)

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And thank you to Jonathan Hilton for inspiring me to take photos today 🙂

Meg

Skillful listening

To speak is to articulate words that convey meaning, and to listen is to be aware of the words being spoken.

Ven. David Xi-Ken Astor

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Speech is a process then that requires both speaking and listening simultaneously in order to express ideas, emotions, instructions, and desires.  It’s the way human’s communicate – whether it’s written speech, oral speech or signed speech.

When the Buddha spoke of “Right Speech”, he was inferring to both sides of the equation – skillful speech and skillful listening.

I have 2 days left of my study of “right speech”, so for these remaining 2 days I have decided to focus on the listening aspect.

I was lucky enough to find these great tips for skillful listening:

1. Promote an atmosphere of trust. There are many ways to establish trust, but perhaps the most effective is to be genuinely trustworthy. Many people intuitively sense an authentic personality and rarely betray that trust.

2. Shut up and listen. When we interrupt, the unwitting message we send to the speaker is: “What I have to say is more important than what you have to say.” By learning to hold our tongue and become genuinely curious about what others are saying, we greatly improve our listening skills.

3. Give up control. Many people feel that giving up control in a conversation is a sign of weakness. But the biblical injunction to “Seek first to understand, then to be understood” is excellent advice for those intent on developing good listening skills.

4. Cultivate “Beginner’s Ear.” “Beginner’s ear” is a way of paying attention to the present moment with openness and curiosity—hearing it for the first time even though we think we’ve heard it before. Neuroscientists have shown that the more we practice this technique, the better our brain gets at it.

5. Double check for meaning. It is difficult not to overlay our own biases onto what we hear. One way to counter the process is to regularly double check for accuracy by paraphrasing what we hear and the meaning we make of it. Skilled listeners endeavor to reflect back a speaker’s truth and deeper reality, not simply a version of their own.

6. Listen for differences. When we listen to others, often what we listen for are the things we understand or agree with. A skillful listener deliberately seeks out and pays attention to the way others are different.

7. Ask specific clarifying questions. Author and researcher Larry Barker said, “Words have no meaning; people have meaning.” When we engage in dialogue, we frequently speak thoughts off the top of our heads. First thoughts are like first drafts—they require a good editing to clarify meaning. Asking clarifying questions can help a speaker bring their subject into clear focus.

8. Monitor for inconsistencies. Voice, tone, and body language can contradict spoken words. Skillful listeners learn to recognize inconsistencies and get to the bottom of them in a compassionate way that does not provoke defensiveness.

9. Be mindful of age, race, and gender bias. Over 100 documented cognitive biases can color everything we see, hear, and think. Skillful listeners examine how they listen to various age groups and different races or genders, then work to correct any discrepancies accordingly.

10. Cultivate patience. Skillful listeners possess a ready willingness to suspend self-expression while they focus on others without a pressing need for them to be succinct, speedy, or clear in what they have to say.

(full article here)

 

I look forward to practising this more for the remainder of today, and also tomorrow.

Take care my friends,

Meg

No harsh (written) speech

For me “no harsh speech” is relatively easy – in it’s simplest form anyway: swearing.

I stopped swearing a long time ago.  Not that I ever did it a lot – only occasionally.  However whenever I did swear, it always triggered the exact same reaction – laughter.  Because everyone said it sounded so ridiculous to hear those words coming out of my mouth.

And it really didn’t suit me.

Once I became pregnant, it further reinforced my decision to refrain from swearing.

It just sounds so unpleasant – and there are so many other wonderful, beautiful, expressive words that we can use instead.  

Although I am digressing a little….

In keeping with my “week of right speech”, today I was being extra mindful of harsh speech, and for me that was negative words – both speaking out loud, and via written words.

It’s something I have been working on lately – to REALLY think about what I am saying, and whether I could rephrase it.

Today in talking to my ex-husbands girlfriend (long story), I quickly re-typed a couple of words as I wrote the email.  I was going to say that the weather lately (lots of rain) had been “frustrating”.  I deleted that out though and replaced it with “challenging”.

When talking to a friend earlier, I was going to say that I was sick of walking to and from school in the rain.  However I thought about that – and that didn’t really sum up how I felt.  So I re-phrased it to say that the novelty was wearing off.

It’s a really interesting practice – because at first you do have to consciously think about which words you choose to use.  And to change it from negative to positive (or at least neutral).  However it soon becomes natural.  And what we say influences how we feel.  If we speak in positive terms, it changes our thoughts, and our mood as well.

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