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Discover #28 ways meditation improves your life: Mindful Queers Reading Circle

#28 Mindful Queers and Allies Reading Circle

For the past 4 months I’ve been organizing and participating in a queer book club on meditation and mindfulness. Not only has it fostered a small but great community centered around kindness, gratefulness, and honest practice, but I’ve gotten to read some really great books!

So far we’ve read Being Peace by Thich Nhat Hanh, The Mindfulness Sampler by Shambhala Publications, Waking Up to What You Do by Diane Rizzetto, The Tao of Pooh by Benjamin Hoff, and The Force of Kindness by Sharon Salzberg. In the beginning we were meeting twice a month, but after a while we decided to go to once a month to make it easier to finish the books. If you’d like to participate, follow the link and request to join the Facebook group!

https://www.facebook.com/groups/mindfulQ/

Anyway, I find that when I spend more of my week dedicated to being mindful, or being calm, or being kind, I am more persistently satisfied with life, and capable of handling it’s ups and downs. For example, this fall when I was not practicing yoga or meditation very regularly, I would frequently become anxious with an irrational fear of being fired for small infractions, despite repeated reassurance from my boss that I was doing a good job. I was very nervous about performance reviews, and became very stressed for a month in December/January when my progress reports were being sent back for edits. I remembered something my old principle told me much less gently than any of the messages I receive from my boss now, “you take things way too personally, Cheyenne.” Every time I think it my knee-jerk reaction is, “No I don’t!”, but when I really think about it it’s true. When my boss says, “Cheyenne, there were X and Y small mistakes on your progress reports, I’m going to need you to reread them, make corrections and send them back,” it doesn’t mean, “you’re headed for disciplinary action.” But that is what the judge in my mind things.  I would worry and worry about something I said making it worse, or whether it meant that she was disappointed in me and might even cut my hours. As the observer more and more these days I can clearly see now that my fears were irrational, but that doesn’t erase the mental and physical toll they had on me at the time.

Our ability to propel our attention into the future, or hold it in the past is uniquely and beautifully human, and it has conferred us with tremendous biological advantage throughout history. But so can it be disastrous for our mind and body. Our stress reaction is designed to help us react quickly and smartly if we’re in immediate danger – say for example we’re being attacked by a bear. Stress definitely helps us fight or escape the bear, but stress doesn’t help us in our worry about the past or future. And prolonged stress is a major contributor to just about every modern disease there is! So learning to let go of our stress as we walk through life also has a major biological advantage!

How have I let go of the stress without removing the so-called source? Well I had to come to terms with how it made me feel, and switch off the judge in my mind while at the same time engaging the observer in my mind. Simply trying to ignore your problems instead of observing them doesn’t work either, your stress just manifests itself in self-medication and possibly even mental or physical illness down the road. So when we turn off the judge we have to engage the observer, watching our thoughts and emotions while trying not to get caught up in them. The good news is the more you practice, the better you get! And I’m not saying sit for an hour in silence! If you can sit for even 5-10 minutes a day it will surely improve your outlook and mood, and if you can’t simply try to “meditate-on-the-go,” by consciously breathing on your commute to and from work, when you get a moment’s break, or even in the shower!

As an added bonus, my recent endeavors to practice meditation and mindfulness more regularly have increased my metacognition, my creativity, and perhaps even my ability to do sudoku! What benefits do you get from being mindful? Comment below!

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Learn #15 New Things: Freelancer or Entrepreneur?

Learn #15 New Things:

Are you a freelancer or an entrepreneur?

The concept of freelance work versus entrepreneurship is something I didn’t really understand until recently. I envisioned myself creating a career as an entrepreneur but was going about it from a freelancer point of view…

Last week I listened to a podcast called Seth Godin’s Startup School and I learned a lot about the difference between these two types of work. Author Gordin said, “Freelancers get paid when the work, they don’t get paid when they don’t.” And that really hit me. In the business of providing doula services and yoga classes I would be a freelancer. Also according to Godin, “Entrepreneurs build something bigger than themselves – they make money when they sleep.” My current model involves a lot of getting paid when I work, and very little getting paid when I don’t work. Perhaps this is the nature of my business, but perhaps I can be both.

What really resonated with me is the idea that you can be both. Like Seth Godin, I would eventually like to spend 80% or less of my time as a freelancer, and 20% or more of my time as an entrepreneur. To do that I need to corner a market and provide something different or better than anyone else. What will people cross the street to get from me? I’ve been looking at my competition in the prenatal yoga, childbirth education, and doula fields and considering my options. Always on the back-burner is my idea to incorporate a space or community center for queer and trans nonprofits and organizations. I continue to let these ideas marinate, and perhaps someday soon my true path with unfold itself to me.

As I continue to save financially to undertake my dreams, my next step is to really narrow down my goals and consider what I can realistically (and successfully) accomplish. My overarching goal this year is to get out of credit card debt and start saving! While I won’t reach my goal of having $600 saved for yoga teacher training by the end of March, I have significantly reduced my credit card debt by freelancing on the side of my regular job. As a tutor I make between $20-30 an hour, which helped me pay over $1,000 toward my credit cards this month. Through conscious thriftiness over 6 months we’ve paid off over $3,000 in debt. It’s been a long road, but when you have a concrete – AND AMAZING – goal in mind, it’s not so hard.

If you’re considering getting out of debt or starting to save to start your own business, let me know in the comment below!

Sorry guys… I’ve been busy! Catching up with #13, #26, and #22,!

Never in my life have I felt so simultaneously busy and at peace. I have chosen to put a lot onto my plate right now and I am managing it well. I have taken on 2 doula clients due in April and June, and I am awaiting the birth of my good friend’s baby in May. At Brightmont Academy we have had an influx of students and I have been working around 35 hours per week consistently. I also have 2 private tutoring student’s who are keeping me busy with 3-4 additional hours each week. Add to all that my monthly Mindful Queers and Allies Reading Circle (even though it does focus on meditation and mindfulness), planning a fundraiser for SPIRAL Collective, and hosting guests for 2 nights through AirBnB, and I’ve really had my hands full this month.

Managing my calendar, my sanity, and my home life have required immense focus and vigilance on my part. Even though I tried to take care of myself by sleeping and eating well, I still ended up with mild cold symptoms by the end of week two. With a full weekend of rest I am feeling myself again today, and I have vowed to take it a little easier moving forward. My Midwestern American upbringing urges me to work hard and work long, so I can have trouble truly relaxing once it’s time. That’s where meditation comes in.

Once you’ve completed your work for the day – and this isn’t defined by when your to-do list is complete necessarily, but by when you decide to call it quits for the day – try sitting in a quiet space and consciously reminding your mind to let go of your (busy, stressed, recurring) thoughts. Each time you are reminded of an idea, or something you should have done, simply try to let it go. If imagery is helpful to you, imagine this: each time you have a thought, place it on a cloud and watch it float away. You can also observe your breathing if this helps you direct your thoughts; think to yourself, “In, out, present, moment” with each in- and out-breath. As you watch your thoughts, try to watch them as a mere observer, not a judge. If your mind keeps returning to your work or your day, don’t get frustrated. Meditation isn’t the lack of thought, it’s this continual return to being the observer of your thoughts.

– Cheyenne

So what have I accomplished in this busy month? Many things!

Perfect #13 Recipes and Go on dates with friends #26 times 

I was asked to bring my famous Sausage Puff Pastry to Queer Vegan Thanksgiving, after my friend E.G. and her girlfriend Jenn were over for dinner at our place! I wanted to impress them, so I picked one of my fanciest cookbooks: Vegan Junk Food!

Vegan-Junk-Food

Everyone at dinner loved the sausage puff, which is simply veggie sausage, Vegenaise, herbs, and onions wrapped in a puff pastry roll! I was so happy when everyone asked for the recipe. Not only did our Thanksgiving centerpiece follow the Buddhist principle of “doing no harm”, but it was ad decadent and delicious as any Turkey I can remember from my childhood! If I’m going to enjoy the nostalgia of my childhood foods, the modern equivalent better damn well be delicious!

NEXT!

I also was…

My Unabashed-Self #22 Times in Public…

At an Ugly Cookie Party in December! Once again my friend E.G. was gracious enough to host us for a food-related event. I am so #grateful to have such wonderful vegan cooks around me that love to share their home and recipes!

So E.G. supplied the Ugly Cookie materials – everything from the cookies to the frosting and sprinkles. All we and her 12 closest other friends had to do was make the worlds nicest – or more likely ugliest – cookies in the world! It was a great opportunity to show my complete ineptitude at making frosted sugar cookies! And ugly or not, they were still Mmmmmmmm-rific! If you’re in the Twin Cities area and you’d like the invite, hit me up on Facebook!

I hope you enjoyed my long-overdue somewhat-holiday update!

Dont

I’m BAAAAAAACK!

See, aren’t you glad you signed up to get email notifications when I post a new blog?

If not, I hope you weren’t waiting around for 4 months, checking in every day to see if I’ve posted!

Just because I haven’t posted doesn’t mean I haven’t been doing things!

I’ve been busy as all get-out, but I’m back now so stop worrying already! Here’s a sneak peak into what you might see in my upcoming posts:

I bought some new work clothes….

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Moved back to Minnesota!

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Started a new job…

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And a whole lot more!