LIVING A MORE CONSCIOUS LIFE (Making Your Dream Your Reality)

River View

It is never to late to be what you might have been. – George Elliot

In February of 2015 my partner and I sat down to discuss our plans for the future. We were happy with the life we had chosen, but always wanting to live as authentically and consciously as possible, we asked ourselves, “Are we really living a more conscious life?”

We had always wanted to raise our children abroad and expose them to the wider world and we had been fortunate enough to make that happen. But to do that, we had moved into an old, debilitated condominium, in a developing country, and our world had gotten much, much smaller. We loved our lives there, but we were sacrificing some of our other values. What about our value of diversity? Our value of responsible stewardship of the earth? Our desire to be the ones to pass our values on to our children?

We sat down to come up with a plan – an ideal situation that would allow us to live all of our values, or at least as many of them as we could, at once, and this plan led us to the idea of starting our own eco-guest house.

It would be an opportunity for us to build a place where eco-conscious travellers from all over the world could gather and share ideas, while keeping us abroad and allowing us to home-school our children and spend more time together as a family. We would have a farm. Prepare fresh, natural food from local ingredients. We would welcome and break bread with families from different countries, cultures and backgrounds. We would make our dream a reality.

A month later in March of 2015, we serendipitously stumbled into, what seemed at the time, an opportunity of a lifetime. Another family, with a similar dream, had a guest house for lease, one that they had built, loved, grew and were now ready to pass on to other hands. We jumped at the chance.

And so, by July of that same year, we had moved in and were the official managers of our (temporarily) very own eco-guest house. It seemed to good to be true. And in some ways it was. But now, looking back, two years later, I am amazed that we made it happen and grateful for the experience and the life lessons we learned.

LESSON NUMBER 1: Sometimes just defining, and taking small steps towards, your dreams, opens doors you may not have seen otherwise.

If we had not had the conversation we’d had in February; and I had not typed “Running an Eco-Guest House” into a Google Search bar in March, we never would have found the advertisement of a guest house for lease. Just taking the small step of defining and researching the direction you want to go, may lead you to opportunities to get there.

LESSON NUMBER 2: Things are not always what they seem; every experience has layers.

When we dreamed of an eco-guest house, we thought about working on the farm with our children; serving delicious, healthy meals to weary travellers; sharing travel stories; contributing to the local community and adding to our own travel experiences.

What we didn’t realize was that running a guest house also involves scrubbing a lot of bathrooms, dealing with a host of local regulations, managing local staff (who may not like being managed by foreign owners) and weighing the cost of closing down when you want to get away, even for a long weekend.

LESSON NUMBER 3: If you stay positive, you can make the most out of any situation.

While the above was all a part of our experience, we also woke up every day in a beautiful valley, surrounded by mountains with waterfalls just minutes away. Our children learned to farm, guide tours and make soap. We met kind, adventurous people from all over the world. We successfully ran an eco-guest house, in a Spanish-speaking country, we’d never lived in before, and had an amazing experience doing it.

LESSON NUMBER 4: Even if you don’t get what you wish for, you may still get what you need.

We went into this experience with a dream of owning our own eco-guest house one day. We came out of it re-thinking our future plans. But even though the experience wasn’t what we had envisioned, or ultimately, what we want for ourselves, it was an incredible learning experience and allowed us to see our dream in all its reality.

Have you ever wondered if you are living your most conscious life? Have you sat down and defined your values and goals and compared them with where you are now? If you haven’t, even if some changes would be difficult, if not impossible, to implement, going through this exercise could lead to small changes, or give you some ideas, of how you can live your own more conscious life. Why not try today?

Thanks for Reading!

Sharon, Author, The Conscious Parenting Notebook

 

A Conscious Pause

Banos

We are embarking on a new (temporary) phase in our lives – to run an eco-guest house in a small town in the northern Andes – and will be consciously devoted to our guest house, our guests and home-schooling our children – until the end of our time there. I look forward to returning to writing more about living consciously at A More Conscious Life once I have the time and space for it again.

Thank you, as always, for reading!

How to Enjoy Playing with Your Children (Even When You Don’t)

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 “Men do not quit playing because they grow old; they grow old because they quit playing.”
Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr.

One day last week, after hours without seeing my children, I came home with a strong desire to play – to spend hours of uninterrupted quality time with them, just playing. But my desire soon turned to frustration when:

  • I realized that I didn’t really know what to play with them;
  • when my suggestions fell flat; and
  • when my presence seemed to cause more bickering and less enjoyment between my children.

My elation upon seeing my children and finally having some time with them, fizzled into dejection and the afternoon ended flat.

Afterwards, I found myself wishing that I was more playful, more imaginative, more fun.

I thought back to how often I’d been distracted when playing pretend games with my son and his little plastic animals;

how many times I’d brushed off my daughter’s requests to play because there was something “more important” that I had to do;

how often I’d responded to seeing my children playing happily together by going off and doing something by myself rather than joining them in their games.

And I felt even worse.

It isn’t that I don’t like to play at all – I love to build with blocks, put together puzzles, play board games or throw a ball – its more that I don’t have a playful personality or a ready store of ideas of games to play, and I don’t know how to play with both of my children at once without there being some sort of mommy-tug-of-war over who gets more of my attention.

But I know that play is important for young children, as is quality time with their parents, so I thought I would dig a little deeper. I started researching play, the importance of play (and parents who don’t like to play ), and it turns out that:

  • I am not alone, many other parents feel similarly distracted, frustrated and – dare, I say it – bored, when playing with their children;
  • It is not as important WHAT you play, as HOW you play;
  • There are a lot of great play ideas online for parents, like me, who need a little help.

I AM NOT ALONE; OTHER PARENTS REPORT NOT ENJOYING PLAY WITH THEIR CHILDREN

It was a huge relief to learn that I am not alone in my feelings, and difficulties, with play, especially pretend play.

In her post I Hate Playing with My Children, blogger Scary Mommy talks about how she feels when her daughter asks her to play pretend games, often making excuses to get out of having to play.

In her article in Red Book Magazine, Mom Confessions, I Don’t Like Playing with My Kids, Jennifer Seinhauer describes a similar dislike of play, admitting to being distracted by impatience and the lure of more adult tasks.

In her post How to Play with Your Kids When You Don’t Like Playing, another mother admits her guilt, and lack of enjoyment when playing with her children, but also, even more importantly, provides practical alternatives for parents who still want to have that quality time with their children (see below).

And these are just the parents who admit it publicly, which isn’t easy to do!

Secondly, I learned that –

IT ISN’T WHAT YOU PLAY, IT IS HOW YOU PLAY, THAT MATTERS

Many parents know that play is important for children, but don’t know why or how to go about it. In Why Playing With Your Child is So Important on Parenting.com, the author explains that play is important, not only for children’s social and emotion development, but also for their relationship with their parents. According to the author, parents who play with their children when they are young, find that they are more able to maintain a close connection when them as they grow. The author states that regardless of what is being played, that the time parents spend with their children should be uninterrupted (as much as possible), relaxed and child-led (or an activity that you both enjoy). He also reminds parents that play doesn’t have to happen at a specific time, but can happen any time of the day, when you are out walking, or shopping or doing other things.

In her post on Aha! Parenting, Playing with Your Child: Games for Connection and Emotional Intelligence, Dr. Laura explains that play is a child’s “work,” and it is often how they discharge negative emotions that build up through the day, in addition to building stronger bonds with parents. She explains that games and active-play that allow children to laugh, helps them to release any pent-up emotions they may have and also releases oxytocin – the bonding hormone – and helps to repair or strengthen the connection between parent and child (In this post, Dr. Laura also provides a list of games parents can play with children when they are displaying specific behaviors, including rough housing, role-playing and play which allows children to take on a more powerful role).

In his Psychology Today article, Playing with Children, Should You? If so, How?, Dr. Peter Gray highlights some of the mistakes parents make in playing with their children, such as letting themselves be bossed around or, conversely, taking over and directing the play. While he argues that adults are not ideal playmates for children – stating that children are often better playmates because they WANT to be involved in the play – most importantly, he says that play isn’t really play, unless both parties are having fun.

And finally in the above mentioned post, How to Play with Your Kids When You Don’t Like Playing, the author states, “The main thing is to spend time with the children in a way that is intentional and present. Find things that you all like to do and do them together.”

THERE ARE A LOT OF GREAT PRACTICAL IDEAS ONLINE FOR GAMES AND ACTIVITIES 

A quick Google search for “Things to Play with Children” yields thousands of ideas from simple indoor and outdoor ideas, to multi-step, photo-tutorials of children’s craft ideas on Pintrest. I’ve included a few of my favorites below:

In this post, Encouraging Children to Play Imaginatively and Creatively, Psychologist, Counselor and Play Therapist, Kathy Eugester talks about the importance of creative play and provides encouragement and ideas for creative play with children.

Kelly of blog Be a Fun Mom, provides parents with a list of 100 School Holiday Activity Ideas (and a wealth of information and inspiration on life with children in other posts).

Learning4Kids provides ideas for creative play and learning, separated by play category and age – complete with photos, supplies and ideas.

In a series on play, the Rachel Cedar of You Plus 2 Parenting, started an online conversation about play with parents and parent-bloggers, which evolved into a series called 28 Days of Play, where parents share their experiences and ideas for playing with their children.

And for those days when you can barely muster enough energy to get out of bed, much less play, the blogger at The Ugly Volvo provides a humorous list of Games to Play With Your Child in Which You Barely Have to Move or Talk.

If you’ve ever been in a similar situation – wanting to play, but not sure how; or not wanting to play, but still wanting to have some quality time with your children – I hope some of the information here helps!

How about you? Have you ever found your self in a similar situation? Or do you have any thoughts or resources to share? If so, I’d love to hear from you!

Thanks for reading!

Sharon, Author, The Conscious Parenting Notebook

 

Conscious Transitions – Moving with Children

 

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“She took a step and didn’t want to take any more, but she did.”
Markus Zusak, The Book Thief

Our family is about to go through some pretty big transitions. We’re moving from our home of two years in Myanmar (Burma) to a new home in Ecuador. We’re moving from a big city to a small town. We’re moving from a private home to a guest house. And we’re moving from an international private school to a home school. And in the middle of all that we’ll be visiting friends and relatives for two months, staying in seven different houses in four different states.

While just reading about all those transitions may raise the stress levels of some adults (including me!), imagine the stress on small children.

I realize that this nomadic life we’ve chosen does not provide the stability and security that many children have growing up and so I try to make a conscious effort to provide stability and security in other ways – practicing positive parenting, maintaining connections with relatives and long-time friends, fostering and nurturing connections with new friends in our new homes, creating family traditions, sharing family pictures and stories; and making, and sticking to, daily and weekly routines. But while all this helps to create a sense of continuity and security in the times when we are settled, during those in-between times of transition, it can be more difficult to meet our kids specific needs for that sense of security and familiarity…

…so I thought I would do a little research to help ease the transition for our children (and other families in similar situations).

In her article on Expat Focus – Smooth Moves for Expat Kids (Tips to Ease the Transition – Aisha Isabel Ashraf provides three key areas of focus to help children with international moves: Communication, Control and Company, so I’ll follow her example using Communication, Control and Conscious Parenting

COMMUNICATION

  • In her post Ease the Transition of Moving to a New Home Hand in Hand Parenting’s Julianne Idleman suggests that parents work to understand their own feelings about the move before the big day (or days) so they are prepared to help their children with their feelings.
  • Aisha Ashraf stresses the importance of being open to communication about the move with children, both before and after you are settled. She suggests playing a game that allows family members to share the things you like about your new home (and maybe also the things that you may miss about your old one).
  • In addition to communicating with yourself and your children, it is also important to maintain regular communication (if possible) with friends and family through letters, email, video calls, photographs, memory books and visits, to show children that just because they have moved to a new place, it doesn’t mean that they have to lose those special connections.

CONTROL

  • Moving and leaving behind friends and environments they feel comfortable in can leave children feeling like they have little control over their lives. Ashraf and authors of other articles on moving with children (Bright Horzon’s Article on Moving and RelocatingHelping Kids Cope with Moving), stress the importance of helping children feel a semblance of control over the move by allowing them to make age-appropriate decisions, such as what to pack, how to say goodbye to friends and how to decorate their new room. Other ideas include
    • reading children’s books about moving,
    • allowing children to document the move by taking pictures and making a picture book of the move;
    • making a list of people to say good-bye to and letting them plan a “going away” party;
    • letting them pack their own suitcase or toys;
    • letting them set up their rooms as soon as possible upon arrival;
    • drawing a map and/or taking pictures of their new home and neighborhood; and
    • resuming familiar routines in your new home.

CONSCIOUS PARENTING

  • In her post on Hand in Hand Parenting, Julianne Idleman recommends, when possible, to take your children to visit their new home before the move so that they will have something to look forward to and a place that feels a little more familiar when they arrive.
  • She also advises parents to give children extra special time during the move, especially time playing games in which they take a more powerful role to help them process their feelings of powerlessness, as well as being open to their questions;
  • Additionally, Idleman suggests helping children get to know their new home through play by going on adventure walks, playing hide-and-seek in their new house and making friends with neighbors and local pets.

Moving to a new location can be stressful for all members of the family, but if we work to do it a bit more consciously – including remembering that the initial chaos and un-familiarity of a new place often subside with time – it can help to ease the transition for everyone.

Thanks for reading! (And best of luck with your move! 🙂

Sharon, Author The Conscious Parenting Notebook

 

 

Conscious Meditation: What actually happens when you meditate?

Buddha Tree

The quieter you become, the more you can hear – Ram Dass

I have thought about starting a meditation practice for as long as I can remember. I have read countless articles about the benefits  – lowered reactivity, more patience, less stress, improved physical health – have been completely convinced that it is the ideal practice for my often harried mind and over stimulated nervous system. I have started and maintained a regular daily practice for about a week, multiple times. I even attended a 10-Day meditation retreat. But I never made it a regular, lasting habit.

Until this year.

This year, I decided would meditate every day, for at least 10 to 15 minutes a day.

And so far, I have.

And I love it.

But I still have questions.

  • What is the best way to practice meditation?
  • What about when I was actually sitting there focusing on my breath? What was supposed to happen then?
  • Would I see a difference in my life outside of those moments of meditation? Would I be more peaceful? Would I be more patient? Would it be easier to pause and respond in the moment instead of reacting mindlessly?

WHAT IS THE BEST WAY TO PRACTICE?

 Just like there is no “best way” to breathe, there is no “best way” to practice meditation – there is only the best way for each individual – the method that feels right, that allows you to settle into your practice and that motivates you to keep coming back day after day.

Before I began, I downloaded numerous guided meditations. I downloaded meditations from Tara Brach, Deepak Chopra, Thich Nhat Hanh and found numerous podcasts dedicated to regular meditation, such as A Quiet Mind, Meditation Oasis and Quiet…

…but I can’t speak to their efficacy because after two months, I have yet to open one. As an introverted mother of two – often rambunctious – young children, I found pleasure in retreating into meditation as a way to decompress and rejuvenate myself, preferring the silence and simplicity of just following my breath, to trying to concentrate on a guided mediation, in these moments.

And as in earlier attempts, I initially experienced some of the “monkey mind” often referred to in writings on meditation, when your mind jumps from one thought to the next, but I soon found myself settling into each practice and enjoying the peace, stillness and time to myself that meditation allowed.

WHAT WILL I EXPERIENCE DURING MEDITION?

Because meditation is such a personal experience, no one will experience the exact same sensations as anyone else, but initially it is common to feel:

  • feelings of frustration;
  • an inability to concentrate;
  • an increased awareness of repetitive thoughts; and
  • the need to continually refocus on the breathe, mantra, etc.

But as you persevere with your practice, the feelings become more pleasant, such as those mentioend by Light Watkins, in his post 5 Signs You Went into Deep Meditation, including:

  • a feeling of deep relaxation,
  • shallow breathing,

And from my own experiences:

  • a feeling of floating,
  • a feeling of vibrating energy
  • a feeling of heaviness as your body sinks into your meditation surface; and
  • an overall feeling of peace and well being.

WILL I SEE NOTICABLE CHANGES FROM A REGULAR MEDITATION PRACTICE?

I have always wondered how, or if, my life would really change with a regular meditation practice. I knew, that if I practiced regularly, my brain would change in positive ways. I know that I’d have moments of peace, as well as moments of frustration, when I was meditating, but would I see a difference in my life outside of those moments of meditation.

According to WildMind Buddhist Meditation, some of the outward signs of a progressing meditation practice include:

  • a greater ability to concentrate;
  • becoming more aware of the outside world;
  • becoming more aware of your posture;
  • becoming more aware of your actions;
  • become aware of more interesting and vivid dreams;
  • experiencing feelings of calmness and a reluctance to end a period of meditation;
  • other people noticing that you are changing – becoming more relaxed, less reactive, and more friendly;
  • having interesting experiences in meditation – like a delightful sense of rhythm in your breathing;
  • noticing a gap between stimulus and response in your interactions, and realizing that you have a choice about how to respond; and
  • becoming more dissatisfied through more self-awareness – and finding things about yourself that you want to change.

And now, after over two months of daily (albeit short) practice – although I haven’t experienced any of the above signs of a progressing practice – I can feel a change when I sit down, legs crossed, eyes closed. While there is still that initial flurry of activity, my body seems to know that this is time to rest. My limbs grow heavy, my focus turns inward, and often when the bell rings to signal that my time is up, I don’t want to move, enjoying the bliss of this trance-like state I’ve fallen into.

I haven’t been any moments where I feel, as others have written, that I am outside myself, connected through a shared energy, to the rest of the earth and it’s population. I’m still in my house, listening to the birds chirp, the horns honk and the occasional rooster crow.

But right now, that is enough for me.

How about you? Have you recently started a regular meditation practice? Or are you a seasoned practitioner with insight to share? If so, I’d love to hear from you!

Thanks for reading!

Sharon, Author, The Conscious Parenting Notebook

Back to the Well

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“It is not wrong to go back to that which you have forgotten.” — West African proverb

It has been quite a while since I’ve posted on A More Conscious Life.

Last June we left our “school year home” for our nomadic summer existence and with it, the predictable school year schedule – complete with early bedtimes and child-free nap-times. I had planned to cut down on the time I spent on the computer during our break, both because I knew I would have less uninterrupted time to myself and because I was beginning to feel that I was writing more about living consciously than actually living consciously. I loved researching, writing and learning as I wrote each post, but I wasn’t taking my practice off the page and really living what I wrote. Not to mention, that the very mindlessness I was trying to avoid was drawing me to my computer, my email, my blog, my research, and away from my life, again and again.

So I took a step back.

As we moved through June, I played, I visited, I watched, I ran, I stopped, I noticed, I lived each day without opening my computer. I went days without answering emails, I had evening long conversations with family and friends. I stopped rushing to check my email first thing in the morning, stopped spending hours lost in articles in the afternoons and stopped missing out on the pleasure of a quiet evening without obligation. It felt so freeing!

July passed in much the same way and although I felt guilty about not completing my monthly posts, I never quite worked up the motivation to get back to them. I was enjoying living unplugged, without analyzing it, and wanted to hold out just a little bit longer.

August came and with it our return home, the beginning of  a new school year and a resettling into a daily, weekly and monthly routine of schedules, obligations and the necessities of life to be attended to. I thought I would pick back up with the blog, but I didn’t.

That month we moved into a new house, in a new part of the city, where our internet connection was sporadic, if it appeared at all and when it did, we found ourselves, on our pay-as-you-surf plan, spending much more on internet than we had anticipated.

And so the blog was pushed back again.

When other obligations seemed to take up more of my time, I decided that maybe it was time to let it to for a while, physically and emotionally and come back to it at a time that was more practical, more convenient.

But as the months passed into fall, I realized that when I’m not writing about living consciously, I’m also not thinking about living consciously, which makes me less likely to actually live consciously.

And so, I decided to begin again. Maybe not as often, maybe not as regularly, but begin.

Because without the constant reminders, motivation, inspiration and community of others on this path, it is so easy to slip back into mindlessness, reactivity and regret.

And with them, it is much easier to remember that each moment is precious, each moment is a choice and each moment is another chance to pick yourself back up, dust yourself off and get back to your practice of mindful living.

I’m looking forward to being back.

Thanks for reading!

Sharon

Living More Intentionally

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You are what you do, not what you say you’ll do. – C.G.Jung

A good friend recently told us that she is proud of us for living out our dreams. After pausing to be grateful that we have such supportive friends, my next thought was, “Are we really living out our dreams?”

Last summer, my husband and I packed up our family and moved to Myanmar. Since then, we have been living abroad with our family, fulfilling a dream we have shared since we moved back to the US with our seven-month-old daughter in 2010. It was a difficult adjustment at first, but now we have built a routine, connections, happy memories and a sense of home, in a place that, just 10 months ago was “foreign” and unfamiliar.

But are we really living our dreams?

Living abroad was our dream, but not just living abroad. Living abroad and being involved in the community; giving back; connecting with local people; setting out on regular adventures; learning and growing from our experiences.

Yet living abroad – and living abroad with small children – we have learned over the past six months, are two different things.

Often when small children are involved, naptimes, bedtimes, familiar food, familiar places, and short attention spans take precedence over adventure and connecting with the community in real and meaningful ways. So we’ve fallen into a comfortable, somewhat lazy, kid-friendly routine and insulated ourselves a bit from the regular comfort-zone-stretching often involved in living abroad. But that doesn’t mean that we can’t go back and remember why we moved here in the first place; reassess our values and work to live more intentionally in the future.

And so, I have been inspired to live, or at least to try to begin to live, more intentionally in May, by minimizing distractions, creating an intentional morning routine, practicing mindful intentionality and creating an intentional life plan.

Week 1: Minimize Distractions

In modern society, there are a multitude of people and things bidding for our attention – family members, friends, work, cell phones, social media, radio, television, not to mention our own mental chatter. Living intentionally, doing what you intend to do when you intend to do it, can be difficult amid such a myriad of distractions. While a regular mindfulness practice can help us to resist these distractions, there are some proactive steps we can take to make it a little easier on ourselves to live more intentionally.

• If possible, refrain from checking email, social media or other electronic devices first thing in the morning. Allow yourself to wake up slow and prioritize yourself and the other people, if any, you see first thing in the morning.

• If possible, limit the times you check email, social media or other electronic devices to a few, specified times a day (in this post from Dr. Christine Carter of the Greater Good Science Center, she explains how multi-tasking – even when checking email – leads to a loss of productivity and less ability to focus; so when checking email, just check email).

• If you often find your evenings lost to television or computers, before turning on the television or computer in the evening, choose one intentional task or activity to complete before getting turning on or logging on.

Week 2: Create (and Follow) an Intentional Morning Routine

In his post, The Helpful Guide to Living an Intentional Life, becoming minimalist blogger reminds us that life is made up of choices. He says, “Every morning is a new day full of decisions and opportunity. You get to pick your attitude and your decisions. You don’t have to let the circumstances of your past negatively determine the pattern of your life in the future. You have a choice in the matter. You do not need to be stuck in the same pattern of living that you have been for years… realize that every morning is a new opportunity.”

In many religious, spiritual and cultural traditions, the dawn of a new day is significant. It is a new beginning, a chance to start again with a renewed spirit. The beginning of your day can be a sacred space in which you intentionally set the tone for your days or it can be a whirlwind of action and reaction. The importance of an intentional morning routine is not that it involves a specific agenda of practices, but rather that it is something that works for you, something that replenishes you and gives you what you need to start your day intentionally (check back for a follow-up post on Intentional Morning Routines).

Some examples of ideas for intentional mornings are:

Journaling;

Mindfully Drinking a Cup or Coffee or Tea;

Creating Time for “Your Bliss;” or simply

Setting an Intention for the day.

Week 3: Practice Mindfulness and Mindful Intentionality

Practicing an intentional morning routine is a wonderful way to start your day, but what happens when life gets in the way of your intention to be kind to yourself and others, or otherwise throws off your plans? That is when the practice of mindful intentionality can help.

In his post, An Intentional Life, Leo Babauta of Zen Habits describes this practice of intentionally: “Before you do the next action online or at work, pause a moment, close your eyes, and mentally say your intention. Why are you doing this? Is it out of compassion for others, or yourself? Is it to make someone happier? To improve the world? Out of gratitude for the work and kindness of others? And then, as you do the action, be mindful of your intention. This is a small step, but in those few moments, you will be living an Intentional Life.”

Week 4: Create an Intentional Life Plan

In her post, What Does It Mean to Live Intentionally, Mandi Ehman, blogger at Life Your Way explains that “Living intentionally means defining your values and making choices that reflect those values. …(and) being willing to evaluate those decisions as you go rather than just making a decision once and sticking to it no matter what.

Living intentionally and living consciously may seem to be one in the same, but for me, intentionality adds an even greater dimension of purpose to everything you do. Having, and regularly reviewing a “strategic” plan for your life can be a great way to make sure that the life you are living is in line with your values and, if it isn’t, allow you a space to plan incremental changes to move in that direction.

To create an intentional life plan:

Take an opportunity when you have a block of time to yourself (or with your partner) and make a list of the values you most hold dear. If this initial list doesn’t come easily, simply begin listing all of the people, places, activities that are important to you. Then from this list, glean more values to add to your list (e.g. if your favorite activities are hiking, swimming and camping with friends; you may place a strong value on communing with nature, physical exercise, a healthy lifestyle and close friendships).

Once you have your list of values, take time to consider each one, and whether or not the life you are living today is true to that value. If it is, take a moment to appreciate yourself for living this value intentionally; if it isn’t, brainstorm some ways that you can make small or incremental changes (toward a larger change) to live more inline with each value. Or, if your current life circumstances make it impossible, simply make a note to re-evaluate in the future. For example, both my husband and I value community service, but in our current life circumstances, it isn’t feasible for us to volunteer either as individuals or as a family, but it is something we want to prioritize when our children are older.

If you find, like us, that your current life situation isn’t as in line with your values (or life dreams) as you would like, write a detailed vision of your ideal future, and an action list of things you can begin to do, to move in that direction*. (*Note – An important piece of this future planning is to acknowledge the importance of including it in your Intentional Life Plan, but to continue to be mindful of, and grateful, for the life you are currently living, as continuously daydreaming about your Tiki Bar on the beach in paradise can seriously derail your attempts to live more conscoiusly in the present!)

For this month, my goal in trying to live more intentionally is to train myself, and my brain, to slow down and focus more on the things that matter, ultimately, as the author of 5 Ways to Live Intentionally Today writes, to live authentically and celebrate life.

For a fun guide to living more intentionally, check out Abundant Mama’s Project 52.

What about you? Do you have any tips or ideas on how to live more intentionally? If so, I’d love to hear from you!

Thanks for Reading!

Sharon, Author, The Conscious Parenting Notebook