Too Many Minds

A busy day at work, a rush to change, and then a brisk walk to the dojo.

Opening the door into the small hall with plain walls and a smooth clean floor of pale wooden planks, was like opening a door into another, much simpler, world.

Sensei – his long thick steely grey hair held neatly back from his face – would greet us warmly. Laugh lines around his dark eyes softening his expression, as his manner became serious and we all knelt in a row on the floor before him. Our crisp white karate gi almost crunching as it folded with the movement of our bodies.

Before reciting our dojo kun – a set of rules to be followed in our training hall, and to guide us in life – he would quietly request that we empty our minds in order to gain the most from our training, both physically and spiritually.

Upon rising to our feet, we would breathe deeply and begin our rigourous training.

There were occasions when our focus would falter. We might misjudge our blocking move in anticipation of a strike, resulting in a painful reminder of the importance of being “present” in the moment.

Sensei Endo-San, a man for whom I have great respect and hold in high esteem, would approach us and place his hand gently on our arm while looking directly into our eyes, then quietly say… “Too many minds”.

These three simple words, in the many years since I have seen him, have often echoed in my thoughts.

Whenever I sit down to write yet another lengthy “to do“ list, trying to fight off the sense of overwhelm that accompanies “too many minds”, I remind myself to “empty my mind” and focus my thoughts… The task at hand becomes much clearer. The sense of overwhelm begins to dissipate. It is easier to focus on the important and anticipate the best course of action.

Do you sometimes find yourself with “too many minds“?

Snapshot of a Koala’s Paradise.

Wow! The air is truly still. Not even a leaf in the very treetops is moving. The sky is a blanket of pale grey and the air around me is clean, clear and moist, almost as though the cloud has descended to meet the ground.

The scent that hangs heavy in the air is exquisite – the essence of a eucalypt forest. I breathe so deeply, feeling completely refreshed by the aroma, almost as if it were nutrients invisibly encapsulated within the air. This must be a koala’s paradise!

The plants are vibrant green. Greens of all shades. The thin narrow olive coloured leathery leaves of the bottlebrush trees dangle gently in threads from the rough, dark, gnarled, twisted trunks and branches. The warm deep red of the blossoms suspended with the leaves like decorations on a Christmas tree.

The asphalt of the road is charcoal black with just a glint of the moisture that has washed it clean.

My footsteps as they strike the road are dull and the bird calls are without echo. The humidity in the air seems to be holding the sound close to the ground. I feel as if I am in a room with a closed door, but that the view is infinite.

I re-live this morning’s walk as I enjoy my morning coffee… I am feeling refreshed and energised, ready for the day.

A Musing For “Man’s Best Friend“

So many times, I’ve sat with my coffee and listened to the symphony of sound (not always harmonious) that provides the backdrop to my day. The birds are quiet this morning, a breeze rustles the leaves, random drops of rain leave dusty smudges on my windscreen. A raucous whippersnipper is trimming garden edges somewhere out of sight, but not too far away.

A moment to reflect

Today will be busy, and as I take a moment to reflect over my “coffee on the run”, I look back on the life of my old friend, Max – our constant companion for over sixteen years. From pet shop puppy to cantankerous old canine, his loyalty was unwavering.

Our new workshop apprentice

Max – or “Maximo“ as our old Italian neighbour used to call him – has led a full life… He weathered numerous Top End cyclones before heading south to dodge hailstones in the thunderous south-east Queensland summer storms. He stood guard over our three young children as they grew, until it was finally he who needed a little more looking after.

Those eyes, so heavily lined in the style of ancient Egypt, shone brightly from that warm caramelised tan face. Over the years those eyes became so cloudy he could barely see and the face faded to white, but the eyeliner remained, as did his youthful personality. Although few and far between, Max still had the occasional “puppy moment”, and the strength of character to assert his position within the family.

“Fade to Grey”

More recently he passed most of his days resting quietly on a cushion in our family room, until he spent more hours sleeping there than doing anything else. We all knew his time was coming, although we didn’t really want to admit it.

Finally, a few days ago, he went to rest on that dusty old cushion in the corner. The children were at school, my partner was at work and we were home alone. The rhythmic rise and fall of his belly slowed, as it did when falling into a deeper sleep, until I heard a slight rumbling snore. I gazed at him, suddenly realising that his belly was still…

His time had come.

Farewell Max – this musing is for you.

Return to Work – Forget Fear and Trepidation… Blow Your Own Trumpet!

I’m trying to think of how to put into words the feelings that bubble to the surface when I sit and contemplate putting myself out there. I have not had to present an official resumé for about fifteen years! Before that, I have only ever really written a handful of cover letters to accompany my resumé. I’ve been very lucky in my working life.

In front of me is a blank piece of paper with a pen resting on it. Beside that sits a rich warm caramel coloured coffee to encourage motivation. I’m hoping the peaceful background of garden sounds will inspire me to write great things about myself. For that is what is required in this competitive era of jobhunting.

An inspirational environment

How do I make myself stand out from the crowd? Most of us are really happy to be a part of the crowd. Few of us ever think of standing up in front of the crowd. Those feelings of trepidation – of stage fright – are what start to churn my stomach as I think about making the phone calls, sending the emails and walking in business doorways in the hope someone will see me as standing out from the crowd – the crowd of so many qualified others trying to find gainful employment in the same places that I am.

Am I worthy? Am I good enough? Am I better than the person standing behind me? Can I really put my money where my mouth is?! So many more uncertain and self-sabotaging questions lurk in the back of my mind, driven by the fear of rejection and failure.

I take a deep breath and inhale the sweet scented garden air. I sip on my quickly cooling coffee, roughly shove those dark thoughts back in their box, and put pen to paper.

It is not so much about forgetting to be humble, but learning to be confident.

As a friend so aptly commented when I spoke with her the other day, ‘we are all encouraged to grow up to be humble about our achievements, skills and qualities, and yet what we really need to do, is learn to blow our own trumpets!’

What are your uncertainties? How are you feeling as you step out to join the new army of job seekers? How do you steel yourself, and bolster your confidence?

Recharge Your Batteries

I have been running around like a crazy person all morning – four appointments in four different locations by 10 am… I need my coffee!

I breathe

I stop. I sit. I gaze upward. I breathe in slowly, inhaling the exquisite scent of the flowering Murraya (Mock Orange) trees. Bees dance lightly from one bloom to the next, hesitating now and then to tango with one of their workmates. I am sure they must be intoxicated by the heady perfume that attracts them to these delicate creamy white blossoms. The deep green of the leaves is a striking contrast to the intense azure blue of the sky. I know the calendar has not officiated the change of season, but nature is truly heralding spring this morning. The gentle contented twitter of the birds above my head, the warm sunshine against my back and a soft breeze meandering through the foliage every now and then whispers quietly that Springtime is very near.

The adrenaline that I have been running on this morning is dissipating, being replaced with a sense of calm. Although I am feeling very peaceful, I am reminded by the hum of traffic in the distance – punctuated by the growling of large machinery nearer by – that the chaos of regular life is not too far away.

I know that being able to appreciate these few moments will equip me to take the plunge and dive back into everyday busyness.

My morning coffee musing… Recharging the batteries of our very real lives.

Why don’t you take a moment to tell me how you manage to recharge your batteries. What is your “time out“? Where is your peaceful place?

Organisation, Flexibility and Resilience

As I sit down to drink my coffee and muse for a moment, the breeze has dropped, a light smattering of clouds white wash the sky just enough to allow the sun‘s rays to penetrate through and warm my back, as the traffic hums in the distance and the birds make music in the treetops around me. After a rather hectic start to the day, I feel a sense of peace creeping in… This is my “me“ moment.

My “me” moment.

Sometimes, no matter how organised we might be, plans don’t always go as expected. My morning has not gone to plan, but with some good communication and a little flexibility, I will get back on track.

During my life, I have participated in numerous courses addressing the issue of time management. As my friends and family all know (and will probably chuckle as they read this), it is a constant struggle for me, but thanks to the necessities of parenthood and finally some of that life experience kicking in, I feel I am making headway in this area. For those of us who tend to be perfectionists and people-pleasers, time management becomes a never ending battle.

A diary will always be an organised person‘s best friend, and now thanks to the age of technology, we not only have the old-fashioned paper style available to us, but countless digital versions are at our fingertips – literally – on our smart devices. It is so easy to make use of them and to schedule “on the run“. We can even share our appointments on a “need to know“ basis at the touch of a button. These days, I would be totally lost without my iPhone calendar. My life is virtually mapped out on that device. I am not completely sure I like that fact, but nevertheless it makes my days run more smoothly, and my tasks more likely to be completed.

Ironically, I am trying to pass on this wisdom as our children progress into high school. They have so much more to remember now – more information, more responsibility, more independent activities, and definitely more homework… How do I impress upon them, given my historic disorganisation, the importance of a diary to ensure the smooth-running of their days?

A last-minute rescheduling of appointments has slightly rearranged our day, but it’s not the end of the world. In fact, it can be a good thing – learning how to “roll with the punches“ can contribute to resilience – a quality becoming increasingly valuable in our world right now.

What are your tips for getting organised?

First Day Jitters

Many of us are at different points in our COVID-19 pandemic experience. After almost two months in lockdown, our children returned to school today. Although the temperatures are cooler, we woke to a bright blue and cloudless sky. Barely a breath of breeze jostled the leaves in the tall gums. The usual chorus of birdsong joined us in greeting the day. The only real difference this morning was a louder hum of traffic in the distance as more commuters returned to the office – my partner included.

My brood displayed the whole range of enthusiasm (or lack thereof) for the return to school… My eldest was excited to rejoin her friends and was ready for school without a fuss. My youngest was a little reluctant, however cooperative, and we managed to arrive at school, if a little late. My classic middle child suffered a bad dose of the “first day jitters“ to the point where he became physically ill. I was forced to issue an ultimatum – off to school or bedrest (no devices or distractions) all day. Bedrest has been chosen and I’m hoping that boredom today will create a little more enthusiasm for tomorrow.

It is surprising how much our minds can influence our physical well being. For some it is easier than others to overcome unchecked emotions. It can be both difficult and frustrating, for those who genuinely want to help, to understand someone who struggles with their anxieties.

Some of us ventured out into the world, and our “new normal“ today, let’s hope that with a little understanding and a lot of support that we can all get a little closer to our “old normal“ tomorrow.

How was your return to school and working life? I’d love to hear…

Be Prepared

I’ve learned a valuable lesson this week… I also know it has always been staring me in the face.

As we know, removing a family member from the mix changes the dynamic, and this week I have worked hard to keep our hectic morning rush to school as calm and light-hearted as possible. The results have been great – we’ve arrived on or before time, and the kids have enjoyed a chat with their friends or a game of handball before class.

This morning, one of the children asked me if we could do this every day? I laughed and said “that is entirely up to you!”

Just now, as I muse over my morning coffee, I realise and admit that it is also very much up to me. We are all a team and we all play a part. My part is the trigger for all that follows…

My advice to myself – don’t hit that snooze button, get up and get organised straight away. Make sure I get myself a coffee (or whatever it is that gets you going). Take a moment to draw breath and know where you are at.

I’ve always thought I needed to get the kids up earlier, and that they were always the ones dragging their feet as I madly tried to get them to school on time – but that’s not the case. I have been getting them up later than usual (but not too late) and we have made it to school early every day. The key – as all those amazing parents who are already organised well know – is being prepared.

Not necessarily physically prepared with lunches already done and breakfast laid out. As my friends who know me well enough, will chuckle to themselves because they know that I am never that well prepared, I am simply talking about being mentally prepared for the day. I am talking about being calm and light-hearted within.

With all that being said, let’s hope I can practise what I preach into next week, when I have all the team back together! Stay tuned…