One Girls Journey – Learning To See

by alexis

We don’t have to change what we see.
Only the way we see it.
– Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts

…Dimly lit lights.
…Soft hum of music through the house.
…Watching candles dance on the mantle over delicious fireplaces.
…The stillness of trees outside the window.
…The rhythm of rest – with no threat of breaking.

A weekend away in the mountains of Vermont affords little hardship in counting gratitudes. Moments when the whirl of life has slowed and day’s demands have been abandoned; where woodstoves beckon and trumpet melodies offer steady company; all chaos and fluster of days and weeks sits, stilled. Who struggles to count the things they cherish then?

But what of gratitude when stress is raging? When dishes aren’t done and schedules overflow; when coffee is bitter and almond milk’s gone bad; when no one is seeing the gifts you are giving, steadily giving, of self and life and resource? What of it when no sweet sun streams in window shades cracked – and all that’s seen are cracks in table glass?

…the habit of discontentment can only be driven out by hammering in one sharper. The sleek pin of gratitude.

- Ann Voskamp

Gratitude is a decision, not a feeling. Thankfulness is not a matter of circumstance, but of focus. The mindfulness to slow ourselves long enough to consider the subtle gifts of life – the sacred, the simple – takes practice. Our lives are too full – our busyness too blinding – for the gifts of life to bring themselves to our attention without some intentionality. And the probability of meetings running late, traffic backing up, and cranky tantrums raging loudly is unfortunately greater than projects finishing themselves, dinner showing up miraculously on the table, and bags packing themselves for the morning.

How then do we practice gratitude?

“Seeing is … very much a matter of verbalization. Unless I call my attention to what passes before my eyes, I simply won’t see it…I have to say the words, describe what I’m seeing. And…if I want to notice the lesser cataclysms of valley life, I have to maintain in my head a running description of the present.”

- Annie Dillard

Naming that which is in front of us gives us the capacity to be grateful for it. A thing, a moment, a conversation, a gesture – by naming these things we recognize their meaning and value, allowing ourselves to see more fully the worth they hold. And in naming that which we would otherwise miss, ‘the invisible becomes visible.’ So, we name those things we relish! – and relish the things we may not value at first glance – till we let ourselves look long and hard enough to see the gift wrapped tightly in each valuable moment.

Over the extended Thanksgiving weekend, my heart was provoked to look long and hard for blessings. My senses, much more attuned than they’ve been for the past six months – thanks to a serious intake of plant matter, sleeping a regular pattern of seven hours nightly, and daily tasting of movement as a nutrient – were capable of recognizing gift after gift with notable ease! – a cherishable gift in itself!

I began what became a precious record of sweet flavors and precious songs, moments shared with my mother on the driveway, and hours spent with my dad by the fire. As I stood at the counter chopping onions one morning, I realized I was looking – searching – for the next gratitude to count – the next gift to praise God for – the next hidden treasure waiting to be named. And, like little miracles, I found them all through the weekend:

…Garlic in burlap sacks, hanging next to bicycles in the basement.
…Dad’s sneezing (and sneezing!), with a body fighting hard to keep him healthy.
…Nervous tummy calmed when being asked to Grace our Thankgiving meal for 22.
…Pain on mile three of the turkey trot, reminding me the gift of running with Dad.
…Later-than-I’d-like night driving, affording headspace to think and pray and sing.

Gratitude for the seemingly insignificant is a seed that plants a giant miracle. Do not disdain the small – the whole of the life – even the hard – is made up of the minute parts. And if I miss the infinitesimals, I miss the whole.

– Ann Voskamp

There is much to see. And much to be grateful for. Here’s to adjusting our mind’s eyes to discovering such gifts – Thanksgiving weekend and beyond.

Author Ann Voskamp, whom I’ve quoted through out this post, offers a few magnificent ways to help practice gratitude:

iphone Gratitude App

YouTube – Figuring Life Out

One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are

One Girls’ Journey

by alexis

Preparation is important, but execution is everything. –Dr. Stephen Franson

I’ve been working with the Bonfire Health team now for a little over three years. I can tell you pretty much all you need to know to live a healthy, vibrant, optimally functioning life – eating, moving, and thinking like a rock star. But there is a vast difference between knowing the facts, and practicing them.

You’d think that after three years of working for a phenomenal wellness program, I’d have everything down. That I wouldn’t battle keeping my workout schedule regular.   That I wouldn’t stay up late, screw up my sleep patterns, and mess with my hormone balance; That I would never consider looking at sugar because I know of its life-threatening effects – the insulin secretion, the fat storage, the blood sugar overload, etc.

But it’s funny…our health is such a fabulously dynamic thing: a progressive, ever-changing entity, shaped daily – hourly! – by our lifestyle choices, in a culture with countless unnatural options. With new flavors and fixes and temporary calms offered, and a pace that offers little space for thoughtful choice, I struggle. Our culture lives in such a state of “Choose-now! – Fill up! – Quench your cravings!” – at times I still find myself caught in its whirlwind. Then after I’ve craved and caved, I’m off my good rhythms and looking for my next fill, weaker and sadder than I was before.

Every day, with every choice, I know I am shaping the only life I’ve been given to live. The opportunity stands, readily available to me as it is to you – to give life to our bodies; to grant them health and nourishment; to bring to life the soul beneath our skin and build into our remarkable existence! Or to give in to what we’re sold.

 “Practice is the hardest part of learning, and training is the essence of transformation.”  Ann Voskamp

I know all too well the bafflement that comes with feeling like the body you are in is not your own. When your senses have grown numb to the interactions of the day. When excitement has been replaced by the monotony of routine. When your body craves movement, but no part of you can muster the courage (or find the clothes) to grace the gym with your months-of-unexercised presence. And if you do get there, your feelings could equate with those much like an elephant on a trampoline. And that’s just during the warm-up.

But I also know the beautiful life of vibrancy that lives inside my body – that comes out when I’m making right choices and giving my body the essential nutrients it needs. I’ve tasted of the freedom that fills those days. The lightness on my feet and extra room in my jeans; the puffy cheeks replaced by a vibrant, genuine smile; the sore knees replaced by strong quads; the ease with which I can lift my favorite little toddlers, juggle grocery bags, or jog to my car; the clearer thinking and greater capacity to be present with the people I love – with all of my senses attuned.

“Listen to your life. See it for the fathomless mystery that it is – touch, taste, smell your way to the holy and hidden heart of it. Because in the last analysis – all moments are key moments and life itself is grace.”  Frederick Buechner

So, humbly, I’ve decided to begin again. To choose what I know is best for the body I’m the only steward of. To choose those things that give life to my cells! To no longer let that which I’ve allowed to stress my head, stress my health – nor rob me of the life I know I have full capacity to live. To step into the gloriously optimal functioning life I talk so much about.

….And I’d love for you to join me. 

My Three WHYs:

… Because I long to be authentic. Truly authentic. To live what I teach and teach what I live. Period.

… Because this season deserves all of me. Transitioning from one great season of life to another, I long to be fully present. For my senses to be fully awake and able to deeply relish sweet moments with the precious people around me; for a clear head and well-rested heart; for the capacity to articulate my gratitude for the treasures of this last season; to unwrap each of life’s gifts slowly and with full awareness of their value.

… Because wellness is more than just fitness for fitness sake. It’s about learning how to live life well and care for the body I’ve got, in order to discover all that a healthy body can do! What kind of capacity it’s got when it’s unburdened by lethargy and sickness, drugs and disease! The people it can serve! The lives it can touch! The calls it can answer! I want to discover what the healthiest version of this body can achieve…

“When it’s over, I want to say: all my life 
I was a bride married to amazement.
 I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms. When it is over, I don’t want to wonder 
if I have made of my life something particular, and real.
 I don’t want to find myself sighing and frightened,
or full of argument. I don’t want to end up simply having visited this world.”  Mary Oliver

Let me encourage you – before you start – to consider your WHYs:

Why are you really doing this program?

Where are you now?

And where do you want to be at the end?

Here is a Bonfire Health_ Initial Assessment to guide you through the process of setting yourself up.