Being the change through choices

I’ve had to make some big changes in my life over the past year–changes that needed to be made in order for me to function at my highest and best.  I’ve been a vegetarian for over 25 years, but even with that kind of healthy diet, there were things that were creating difficulty with my health.  I discovered that salt was a big problem, creating edema, headaches and other aches and pains.  I know this now because when I have taken just the salt out of my diet, many of those symptoms fade or go away.  There are other things in my diet I’ve had to say “bye, bye” to lately, as well.

Being a vegetarian all of these years has not been hard for me at all, but taking the salt out was my personal kryptonite. It has not been easy, mainly because I was addicted to it.  I always preferred salty over sweet, and so sugar was not something that I craved or wanted. I CRAVED salt and didn’t know how much until I took it away. And it is in almost every prepared vegetarian whole food that I’ve found–except things like canned beans or tomatoes (no salt added).  While I’ve always loved fresh veggies, fruits and grains, that’s my diet now. Pretty much, I have no prepared sauces or foods (when I say prepared foods, I mean prepared whole foods), salad dressings, or eating out. I loved eating Asian, Indian, Italian and Middle Eastern food out, and that’s gone now. I order a salad when I find myself out or at a meeting and put lemon juice and olive oil on it.  I was a vegetarian foodie (gourmet vegetarian cook and loved eating out), and I’ve gone through the stages of letting go, discomfort, even some grief, and a bit of whining. But I’ve come to the simple understanding that it is what it is.

Why am I writing about something as mundane as this? Because the human being of me is letting go of the things she loves–letting go of things that brought much pleasure–not really wanting those choices but having to make them. Newer and clearer awareness of my body being a temple and making choices that are best for me out of that awareness is an important part of it. It’s true, I’m healthier. I feel better. I’ve lost weight (almost 45 lbs. to date). My mind is clearer.  A very big gift is the empowerment within me of the awareness that I’m bigger than this is, or the very wise words that are thousands of years old,  greater is that which is within me than that which is without.

This is all about communication.  Lots of communication with myself and some communication with others. What I’ve found drives all of this is love. I didn’t make these choices because I didn’t like what I looked like or because I wanted to fix myself–which seems to be the biggest motivating factor for many in our culture for making changes like this. The deepest and most sustaining force in this change for me was love for my life and to be functioning at my highest, best, healthiest and strongest.

The world changes by us changing ourselves, and what I’ve found in my life to be the most lasting change for the highest is always and ever the change made because of and with love.

© Mary Claire  O’Neal

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Fearlessly letting go of information

stack of books with post its sticking out of the pagesI’m an information pack rat, and I’m out of control. I’ve recognized that I have a fear of not having the information I need when I need it. Because of that fear, I have stacks of magazines, journals, papers, and clippings that have either practical information to make life easier (like how can you use olive oil a hundred different ways in your household and, er, how to simplify and get rid of clutter) or ideas for travel and leisure. I also hoard professional journals, thinking that I’ll find the time to read them all.

The problem is that this stuff takes up space, clutters, and cleaning has to be done around it–not to mention the fact that I feel a little stressed when I look at the stacks and wonder when I’m going to find the time to read it (thinking that I’m missing out on something that will streamline my life or make it more efficient). The irony here is pretty transparent.

Some people like clutter and really thrive in that type of environment—finding the chaos stimulating. I’ve tried that. Clutter just doesn’t work for me. I’m relaxed and more creative in a fairly well organized environment.  My mind is released from the stuff. I really appreciate the zen-like aesthetic of almost empty rooms. Peaceful. No distractions. I may never have that kind of decor, but just to see most of the floor in my office would be a huge step. Huge.

It became clear that I needed to have a serious talk with myself. I did, and I’ve  figured something out about my information collecting.  What have I to fear?  There’s the internet, library and my husband, who is a wealth of information (or knows where to find it). I just googIed “practical uses of olive oil” and within seconds found that olive oil can prevent stretch marks, relieve jelly fish or man-o-war stings, remove paint from hair, and the list goes on and on. “Eureka,” I cried!

I just need to courageously plunge into the stacks of paper and know that the best way to make my life more efficient and easier is to fearlessly toss the paper   into the recycling bin and drop off magazines that might be an interesting diversion for sick people at my doctor’s office. The professional journals will be harder to part with, but I will have to be brave as I quickly look through and clip for files.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I will still buy and read magazines and journals, but if they’re hanging around after about three months—I intend to clip and then toss them in the recycling bin. Books are dear to my heart, and I will continue to buy, read and write them. There’s always the used bookstore for those I won’t read again.

I’ve realized that the clutter in my life is baggage–baggage I don’t need as I travel through my days. For instance, recently cleaning out my office closet took me two days of concentrated work on a weekend. Now my work is so much more efficient because it is no longer a struggle to search through all the stuff to get to what I’m looking for. I try to think symbolically when I go through stuff, like, ”I’m giving away this old computer software because I’m changing the ‘software’ in my mind by thinking differently, and I no longer need the old program.” The software served me well in years past, but it is obsolete for my needs now. Also, an added benefit of perspective is that by giving it away, it may end up in the hands of someone who can use it.

After that very important talk I had with myself, I’ve been trying to simplify, even in small ways, everyday. Some days I only have five or ten minutes to spend on simplifying, and that’s okay. I’m working up my courage as I write this to dive into the stacks of paper and publications I’m staring at. I must be fearless.

© Copyright, Mary Claire O’Neal

Mary Claire O’Neal is a communication consultant, speaker,  coach and is the author of the award-winning book, Becoming What You Want to See in the World. For more information: www.maryclaireoneal.com

Take a snapshot of the big picture of your life

When we are faced with a challenge or difficulty in our lives, it’s good to give it focus so we can find solutions. However, it’s easy to slip down the slippery slope of giving the challenge too much attention so that it is amplified and magnified, appearing bigger in our perception. When that happens, it can lead to overwhelm or even fear. One really quick, easy way to regain a balance in perspective is what I call, Taking a Snapshot of the Big Picture of Your Life©.  You simply start writing down everything that is good, that is working, that is joyful. Write down all the things you are grateful for in your life.  Make the list as long as you can.  Soon you will have a very long list. When you look at all these things, you can see more of the “big picture” of your life and then see the challenge as only one thing or area in the very large picture.  This can immediately help create a balance in perspective, giving the area of challenge a more realistic proportion. This balance in perception will bring more clarity, and one can more easily find solutions, options and choices in dealing with the challenge.

© Mary Claire O’Neal

Mary Claire O’Neal is a communication consultant, coach, speaker and author of the award-winning book, Becoming What You Want to See in the World.  For more information:  www.maryclaireoneal.com