Re-establishing routines

It does take time to pull out my cell phone and take a photo of what I’m about to eat, and to put them all together at night, just before bed. But I have come to appreciate that time; a moment to breathe before taking in food, 15 minutes to review my day, with eating times as landmarks. I really did miss it during the time I skipped my photo-taking, and the sense of “not enough time” affected much more than whether or not my food collages were part of my day. That was symptomatic of a larger sense of squeezing in too much, and finding time to re-establish this ritual is a message to myself that my self-care routines are worth doing.

Time is flying, while I take small steps

When days fly by and I feel like I am barely keeping up, I especially appreciate the wisdom of keeping a practice like this food journal going. It has become routine, something stable and reliable that I have committed to. On weeks when I can hardly track how I got from there to here, I have this visual accounting of the process of feeding myself to remind me of the basics. As I put together these collages from almost a week of eating, I am invited to reconnect with the momentary awareness that occurred as I took each photo and the daily awareness of putting together the collage. I have instituted a structure on which to hang my self-awareness, and I am grateful to that when my awareness feels like it could easily wander off. Right now, as I struggle with a relapse of the cold I thought I had finished with, pulling together a post with 6 days of food feels comfortable, a pattern I have established that I can relax into. The serious cognitive work of reading and responding to student posts and papers is next on the agenda, and something about finishing up this process of posting feels like a good foundation. I can feel more ready to think about other things when I have taken care of this small ritual.

When people ask why I am doing this, I usually refer to the accountability of presenting what I eat so publicly. But I know that the ritual of self-reflection that I have established in doing this is very stabilizing and reassuring, in the midst of many commitments that might leave me feeling fragmented. So to those of you seeing this, thank you for being witness to my process and providing such an anchor in my day-to-day life.


So much to do and the year just started!

There is a lot I want to achieve this year, and to avoid overwhelm I am just plugging along, doing what I can do, one step at a time. No point in getting stressed about it – that will definitely not move things any faster. Part of me wistfully yearns for some serious down time to just relax and not worry about all I have on the to-do list. But I know myself well enough to know that having nothing I’m working on isn’t great for my general well-being. Best to have projects that interest me and feel worth doing, and to make sure that I give myself enough time to get them done so that I can enjoy the creative process and not get buried under too much deadline pressure.

Meanwhile, I continue to appreciate the reflective nature of putting together these food collages. I’ve made enough of a commitment to continuing them that I created a back for my business card just for that – something I can hand to people who see me taking photos of what I’m about to eat and ask about what I’m doing.

It’s about time to put together my schedule of workshops for 2012 and send out a mailing – one of my next tasks on the to-do list! Meanwhile, I’m pleased that my Guiding the Journey workshop that is part of the Sacred Centers Immersion is in the spring (May) this year, and in northern California. We will be at Institute of Noetic Sciences’ Earthrise Retreat for the Immersion this year, and I’m looking forward to the opportunity to be there for more than the brief visits I’ve had there. I’ll also be teaching a 2-day preliminary workshop this year, Exploring Psyche and Soma: Creative & Healing States of Consciousness. This is a response to requests from those wanting an introduction to my work, as Guiding the Journey is a more intermediate/advanced level of training. If you are interested in either or both of these workshops, please feel free to contact me, or go ahead and register through Sacred Centers.

The Expense of Real Food

A friend sent me a link to a Mark Bittman article,  “Is Junk Food Really Cheaper?” that is worth reading, particularly for those who claim they can’t manage to eat real food because it is so much more expensive than processed food. It may be more “expensive” in terms of your time – it does take more time to slice up my red bell pepper from the farmer’s market, and put together my own salad with the fresh ingredients I have on hand (plus a few canned or bottled ones, like the artichoke hearts I put in my salad, and a few that I have prepared in advance, like my vinegared red onions). But in terms of price, taking time to cook up various whole grains, vegetables, and proteins is LESS expensive than fast food or packages of snack foods.

Catching up with Myself

Over the summer I spend many weeks in intense engagement with the outside world through teaching, hosting workshops, and traveling. In between, when I’m home at Skyote Mountain, I catch up with myself. Not that I don’t spend time connecting with myself while I’m away – if I didn’t I would not manage those trips and events very well. But it’s very structured time with myself when I’m away, just because there isn’t much time for it. I’m very disciplined while traveling in terms of doing my workouts first thing in the morning, and spending some quiet reflection time just before bed.

When I’m home, it’s all very unstructured, and the time can get away from me. There are so many loose ends that need tying, and various chores that need doing, and emails to catch up on – not to mention going through mail and reading. It’s easier to miss my workouts when they don’t have to be so carefully scheduled. I’m not ready yet to structure my flexible schedule on days at home, but I am exploring how to make sure my workout time does not get lost in the looseness of the full days.

Finding the Time

Another column from the past.

Finding the Time

by Selene Vega

Santa Cruz CAMFT Newsletter, Sept/Oct 1995, Therapists for Social Responsibility column

I know of someone who recently realized that he had saved up enough money from his well-paid job over the years to take early retirement. He’d been working and planning for this day – now he could stop working so hard and just enjoy his life. He hesitated for quite some time, staying at a job that was not intolerable, but also not deeply satisfying. What kept him there? Despite the rational understanding that he really did have enough money invested to manage comfortably for the rest of his life, he was somewhat fearful of his ability to survive financially without a salary. However, this was something he could work his way through, and there was a more compelling inner conflict blocking his way out of that job. He wasn’t sure what he would do with his time, or what would give meaning to his life.

What convinced him finally to take the leap were the words of several friends. The suggestion that broke through his doubts was that he take all that free time and find work that is meaningful to him without having to worry about whether or not it pays well. He had never had that luxury before, and now a whole world of possibilities opened up for him.

Even when we find meaning in what we do for a living, we can all see work that we believe needs to be done in the world that doesn’t pay enough for us to live on. Some of it doesn’t pay anything at all. The causes I support generally rely on volunteers to do the necessary tasks to create change in the world. How much time and energy any of us has to contribute to the work we believe in depends on how much we have left after doing what is necessary to survive. For some, there just isn’t anything left over after hours each day spent with clients, paperwork, managing a practice (for those of us self-employed), dealing with a bureaucracy (for those of us with agencies or organizations), and then attending to our homes and relationships.

For me, volunteering time feels essential to my sense of hope. I need to be contributing on some level, no matter how small, to the ongoing process of change sustained by organizations that are trying to do something. This can feel like a drop in the bucket, as there are many, many worthy causes, and much work to do in each of them. I can only do so much, and I am constantly aware of how limited my contribution is to the large picture. I seem to have made my choices about where to put my time and energy by following opportunities that presented themselves to me, rather than attempting to judge which cause is the most worthy. My focus changes now and then and I have relied on that to reassure myself that even if I’m only working with a small part of what needs to be done, I may find myself later in another camp, approaching the problems from a different angle.

As I work with a group of people striving towards some goal or mission, I get the benefit of a sense of community that grows out of these working relationships. This is especially important for me, as I have consistently formed my closest friendships with housemates or co-workers. Now, earning my money from my private practice and teaching, I am struck by the fact that my main contacts through work are people with whom I must keep appropriate boundaries. Clearly, my clients will not form my supportive community. Even with students, the relationship is circumscribed by situation. Only when I reach out to my colleagues for peer consultation or get involved with work-related organizations can I find a sense of community through my professional associations.

Reaching beyond our immediate work requirements to find places where we can come together to contribute creates community on another level, one where we have the satisfaction of doing our part to bring about the changes that seem important to us. For example, at the last CAMFT (California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists) meeting, as we listened to the folks from Santa Cruz AIDS Project talk about their programs, it became clear that several of our members have been volunteering their skills to help SCAP fulfill its goals. After the meeting, one of them told me that this has been an incredibly fulfilling way to do essential work and at the same time satisfy her need for community involvement.

We are so very busy, running to stay in place. If we can find just a little bit of time to reach out beyond our individual survival pathways and join in where a collective push is needed, perhaps we won’t have to wait for retirement to find a world of opportunities awaiting our involvement. Right here, right now, we can be part of a movement towards our visions for this planet and its inhabitants.