09 February 2012

Step 8: Connect to Your Inner Self

A full list of the Simple Living Challenge steps can be found here.

The past few steps of our Simple Living Challenge have been steadily leading us to today's post and I am thankful that Shelly of LIghtboxSF is sharing her views today. From learning to accept our imperfections, to spending time with our family, to finding time for ourselves through scheduling and organizing, our aim, be it unintentional at times, is to find inner piece. Without inner piece there is no amount of money, friends or attention that can help us be self-sufficient and enjoy simplicity.

Shelly Kerry is co-owner of Lightbox SF. She is an artist, designer, and motivator. Since 2006 she has been working to build her own jewelry design business, em’s studio, and she wants to share all she’s learned. Shelly knows that building your own art or craft business can often feel lonely and overwhelming. She also understands how much of a struggle it is to balance a “day job” with a budding creative business.

Shelly’s talent for listening and her own personal experimentation with organization and structure are your boon. She has a wealth of advice to help keep you motivated, push through those stuck times, and make the most out of your already busy schedule. Through Lightbox SF and her Creating Space program, she provides the much needed support, encouragement, and skills that will allow you to realize your dreams. Connect to Shelly via twitter or facebook.

Am I really growing into the person I want to spend the rest of my life being?
Developing a relationship with our inner being is a lifetime journey of self-discovery, questions and adventures.  We get to know ourselves by setting back and really listening to our hearts and bodies, taking risks and allowing ourselves the space to do so. How can we hear what our inner self is trying so desperately to say if all we do is run from job to job to social engagement to networking event and don’t take the time to evaluate what is actually important? Am I happy being so busy? Am I really growing into the person I want to spend the rest of my life being?

There is no time line or stop watch telling us when we should start this journey of self discovery. There is no wrong time.  There is only the right time – any age, any situation. Truly knowing you is the first step to a more conscious, simple lifestyle.

Photo: LightboxSF

My journey of self discovery
My journey of self discovery began pretty early in life.  I felt strongly at an early age that my family’s chosen religion, Catholicism, was not for me. In my twenties, I wanted to be friends with the most eccentric people I could find, so radically different from me but full of adventure and with their own unique sense of knowledge.  I also felt strongly about leaving the comforts of the Midwest and the close proximity of my supportive family in order to travel the states, re-locate to big cities and venture to other countries solo.  

My life has been fun and full of adventure but definitely not void of sorrow and heartache.  I desperately wanted to know what made me tick, what made me happy, what made me uncomfortable and the only way I saw fit was through risks, fear and pushing my own boundaries. When I look back I was non-stop. Yes, I was getting to know myself but was I yet at a place of really understanding what my body and heart were whispering?

Wanting to slow down just a little I picked up my first copy of Women’s Body, Women’s Wisdom over twelve years ago and enrolled in my first yoga class.  I began my own informal education on how the body, mind and heart interact. I started to take time to really listen to myself, allowing past experiences to just rest inside of me without judgment. 

I moved to San Francisco over 6 years ago from NYC to live in a place that I felt could better support my new journey. Maturity and a better relationship with my inner being helps me to see what works in my life, teaches me to differentiate between healthy and unhealthy relationships and how to look into the future just long enough to make better decisions today. My goal now is to always stay true to what I believe is right for me and my life feels full of the most beautiful friends and interesting opportunities. I continue to take many risks but also have a better idea of what really works for me. The beauty of this journey is that it is on-going with a simple goal of finding peace and living a life of simple pleasures.

Photo: LightboxSF
I believe we cannot truly hear what our heart is saying unless we give it the time and space. Our lives are busy and sometimes it is hard to find time to just “be.” In this economy we find ourselves working two jobs, struggling with what we want to do and what we have to do to make ends meet. Unless you make a conscious stand, information from media can be over-whelming and exhausting. Flashing billboard ads scream “You have to have this!” and can tire the mind quickly.

But if we are so busy, where do we find the time to go for a hike in the woods or a quiet lunch with an old friend in the park? You schedule it. This time should have just as much priority as anything else in our schedule. Once a week at least, you should arrange time to just sit with yourself and check in. This can be in the form of a ten minute meditation followed by a 20 min walk.  If you enjoy running, find a nice local spot where you can easily exercise and give your mind space. Develop a morning habit of stream of consciousness writing. Pick up a journal and write non-stop for 5 to ten minutes and then non-judgmentally stop and let the memory of what you wrote marinate for the rest of the day.

There is a wonderful exercise that I try to use regularly. It is a full body check in. If something happens and I start to feel anger or anxiety or an uncomfortable feeling that I don’t yet recognize, I try to stop what I am doing for a minute and sit if possible. I close my eyes and starting with the top of my head down to my feet, I ask myself how this emotion is affecting each part of my body. Is my neck tight? Am I clenching my teeth? Is my belly becoming hot with anger? Through this exercise I am giving myself the time it needs to truly connect my body with my mind and heart. Without judgment, I am giving myself the respect I deserve. Magically, in the silence something wonderful can happen and I feel more confident and clear.

Photo: LightboxSF
So now you have been going on your daily walks, spending time thinking about what is working or not working in your life and you are starting to feel overwhelmed. Deeply reflecting does not always feel so good at the time. You can become anxious or scared. So what do you do? How would you feel if I said you do nothing? Well nothing right away. I used to be a let’s fix things quickly and immediately and believe me it wasn’t always a good solution.

Again, let yourself feel these new emotions. If taking this time for yourself is new to you, what arises can feel quiet strange or uncomfortable. Just go with it. 

Remind yourself that the relationship that you are developing with yourself will result in you becoming the most confident and beautiful version of you. If you are feeling guilty for spending this time with yourself and not your family, realize that you are doing them a favor. Taking 30 minutes a day for you is nothing if it results in a lifetime of a happy and connected person.

(If you or a loved one is in danger or you find yourself in some seriously bad situation this advice is not for you. You should seek a professional and remove yourself from the situation immediately.)

Making Changes
The beauty of a good steady practice of listening to your inner being is that it naturally results in a more conscious sense of living. You become clearer about who and what should be in your life. The relationship that develops between your heart, body and mind answers difficult questions for you. Respecting yourself and your feelings brings a beautiful sense of confidence that is inspiring and viral.

Trust that you will begin to see your life filled with amazing supportive people, laughter and peace. And at the cost of what – taking a nice weekly hike, listening to yourself and sitting with your thoughts? Doesn’t sound too shabby to me!

You can do this!
Consider today's challenge as an extension of yesterday's. Look for ways to free up time, so that you can pay attention to your feelings and your inner voice. 30 minutes is what you need.  Even if you are used to being on your own, try to make a change to the routine and enhance it.

Share your experience: Tell us how it feels to pay more attention to yourself for a second day in a row. Once again, if you are used to spending time alone, did you change something in your routine today to provoke different, positive feelings?
See also:

Step 1: Embrace Your Imperfections
Step 2: Simple Living as Men's Trait
Step 3: The Rules of Simple Home Organization
Step 4: Simple Crafting for Happy People
Step 5: Simple Scheduling and Planning Routines
Step 6: Spend More Time With the People You Love
Step 7: Spend More Time Alone
Step 9: How to De-Stress 
Step 10: Learn to Live With Less and Enjoy it
Step 11: Start a Debt-Free Life
Step 12: How to Overcome Consumerism  
Step 13: Declutter Your Life  
Step 14: Get Rid of Toxic Cosmetics and Reclaim Your Natural Self  
Step 15: Wean Off Plastic  
Step 16: Celebrate Your Story  
The Final Step: Gratitude 

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  1. Shelly,
    It is not accident that I read this post this morning before heading into LA to meet my grandkids at Disneyland. I did the full body scan you recommended and found myself totally stressed. I thought I should leave early so I could make good use of the $100 ticket. But that would mean I would have to be in the middle of rush traffic which just puts my stomach in knots. Not to mention a full eight hours in 'the park'. Gads what was I thinking? So...I decided I'm going back to bed. I'll leave after rush...get there at noon...good enough...so what if I miss two hours of rides...my body is a okay with that plan. I love this post...and the wisdom behind it...Its not that I haven't heard it before...I've even taken classes in it...its just old habits are hard to break and having the reminder that it is okay to get off the hampster wheel was just what I needed! Thanks so much for your post and THANKS Sonya for putting together the simple living challange! Have a great day!

    1. Shelly gave some pretty amazing advice, didn't she! I fond myself doing the scan too. Although I am naturally a calm person (no wonder, after living in the forest for so long) I learned so much from this post.

      Thank you for stopping by and discussing, Julia. This makes the journey so much more interesting!

  2. So happy this technique has work for both of you as well! Julia you made a great decision today. Instead of meeting your Grandchildren when stressed and frustrated, you made the decision to see them at a time when you could fully enjoy the day. I love it! Habit are interesting aren't they?
    Thanks for reading and thanks for inspiring me as well!

  3. A lovely post thank you for sharing. I do the full body check each morning while I am sewing. I get lost in making stitch after stitch. It is very relaxing and centering.

    thank you,

    1. Hi Frannie, I wish I could sew but this is yet a a challenge for me. Luckily, knitting does the job for the time being. The repetitive movement soothes me and gives me space to think.

      Thanks for stopping by!

  4. Interesting technique - I am going to have to give that a try. It sounds like it is very effective. I loved the comment you had about early self-discovery and knowing that the choices your parents made were not for you. That is the same for me. Your story is so inspiring.

    Have a wonderful Thursday - Brandi

    1. It is hard to realize at an early age that you have a different philosophy than that of your parents but looking at Shelly this experience has made her a very wise person indeed!

    2. Thank you so much Brandi! Glad to virtually meet another woman with early discoveries!

  5. Hi Shelly! Thank you for this wonderful post! I just wanted to tell you not to be discouraged that there haven't been many comments. We have been doing a lot of introspection this week and your post is so full with amazing advice that I think we need time to take it all in. I know I do. I will be re reading all the simple living posts and taking notes. I love your idea of stream of consciousness writing! I have lived in both NY and SanFrancisco so I smiled when I read of your move. I totally understand!

    1. Laurie, thank you for encouraging Shelly. Her post is deep and multi-leveled. I like the calm advice she's giving - much needed in a fast-paced life. You are so right about the intensity of our Simple Living Challenge... one needs to get back and re-read not just the posts but the comments too. I feel like I have grown so much in the past days thanks to all of you, who are giving your honest support to this simple cause!

    2. Thanks so much Laurie and so sorry I have been absent for the comments. Big week here. Thanks for your support!

  6. These are really great tips!

  7. This one can be tricky for a person with anxiety issues. Mine are pretty mild, but I still have to be careful not to pay TOO much attention to what my body is doing/feeling, otherwise I get paranoid about every little thing. A way to get around that is yoga (like the author suggested!) and doing some meditating while focusing on just my breathing.

    1. It is great that you have found your way to deal with anxiety and even more exciting that it coincides with Shelly's suggestion! I remember a Spanish teacher I head who used to tell us that we don't need to learn Spanish because we already know it. We have just forgotten that we know it...

      What we are doing with the Simple Living Challenge is just that - reminding each other things that are buried deep down and we think we don't know them. Having support on the way is so much more encouraging, isn't it!

      Thanks for stopping by!

    2. It is good that you found something that works for you. I suffer from some pretty intense anxiety and panic attacks and I started this method under the guidance of a therapist. Perhaps there is something big to be said for that and I might suggest someone with anxiety to do the same. Now I do it all the time on my own and in some way it helps me feel in control when I feel overwhelmed.
      I also love doing breathing exercises. Good for you that you found something that eases you!

  8. Great tips. Thanks so much for sharing.

  9. Ahhhh. So, there really are people who think as I do, what a sweet and wonderful thing. :) I had to laugh because that was also one of the first books that I ever read regarding taking charge of your health. I found my way out of anxiety and diagnosed panic disorder by living many of these very same rules. One of the most important things I do now is assess how I'm feeling and listen to those emotions. They guide me in a way that nothing else does. I find that the ego screams, while the spirit voice whispers, so becoming calm and still is the most effective way to change the course of your life. Then following your heart becomes the only thing you can do. :) Great post, and a wonderful way to kick of the day!

    1. Oh Melinda we share some of the same thoughts. Nice to virtually meet you!!!
      I absolutely love this...
      "I find that the ego screams, while the spirit voice whispers, so becoming calm and still is the most effective way to change the course of your life."
      I am going to write that on a paper and put it next to my bed

  10. Wow, this post sounds like something my mom would write - awesome job, Shelly! ;)

    It's definitely good to listen to yourself. When I was younger and something upset me, I'd usually push it back and try to forget about it, but I've found that it's much better - and probably healthier - to take a few minutes and listen to yourself. It helps you figure out what's really bothering you, and then you can tackle the negative emotions! It's a very useful technique for growing into the person you want to be!

    Very well-written post, Shelly, thanks for sharing! :D

  11. This is a great post. As someone who really enjoys being busy, the idea of "doing nothing" was a radical and new one to me. I first was introduced to this idea from the movie, "Eat. Pray. Love." My husband enjoys solitude, and staying at home - for me it's not my first choice. However, I am learning to just sit still and do less and watch the time go by. Simple pleasures like a dinner at home with friends, or a glass of wine on the porch, are just as fulfilling as a night out, but it took me a while to realize that.

  12. Thank you everyone!! This challenge has been amazing and I so enjoy learning from each and everyone of you