The sun, just below the horizon, paints the sky a soft orange, yellow and pink light: a beautiful day, a new creation.
As a part of her I'm Making It
program, Sandra Magsamen shares daily activities that will help you slow down, enjoy life and find both the power and beauty in music.
This day will be unlike any day that ever was or will be. Every moment is an invitation to live: to live it up, to live like it matters, to live life to its fullest, to live the life you dream about...to embrace life. Not just to get a life, but to create your life.
Miss the first 10 weeks?
Each new day is a gift that we get to unwrap—and we each do it in our own way. Maybe you tear into the day as you would rip open ribbons and wrapping paper, or maybe you proceed slowly and deliberately—following a plan, carefully untangling and refolding bows and paper.
Within this daily cycle of life lives the awesome power of possibility. This realization inspires and delights me every morning as the dawn breaks from the darkness. Every day grows and expands, becoming what it must be. Each morning is a reminder to try again, to live deliberately, to feel hopeful, to use your senses and take on the ever-changing beauty that is all around us.
Think of the morning as a lesson that is unfolding to show you the fabric of all living things. What do you see today that you didn't notice or think of yesterday? Is there something about the light? Your growing child? Your spouse? Your dog? Your own feelings?
This week, we will spend time slowing down, relaxing and allowing ourselves time to breathe and feel calm as we move through our days.
Find out how slowing down can unleash powerful, renewed relationships
When we slow down, we start to see things and relationships that we had simply run by before. Our senses become engaged and our world becomes richer and more abundant as we notice what was there all along.
I know a woman who was tired of feeling rushed and frazzled in the mornings. She'd hurriedly walk her four sweet dogs and then rush back to see if her husband had fed their 9-year-old son on time. Then she'd race off to drive him to school, but get caught waiting in traffic lines.
One day, she got creative and decided to combine two activities by walking her son to school with the four dogs in tow. All seven of them—she and her husband, one child and four dogs—became a walking "party." Each morning, they began a lively, new adventure. Cars slowed to view their parade, and the family often saw tired-looking commuters glance over in surprise, then break out in wide grins and wave enthusiastically. Once in a while, someone would honk in appreciation.
Kids at the elementary school also loved seeing the family arrive at the drop-off area. After just a few weeks, as many as 40 children would be waiting at the front gate for the arrival of their new furry friends—always telling the family about their own dog companions waiting for them back at home. It was like a traveling petting zoo.
Not only did the woman stop hating mornings, but so did her son—he started looking forward to school! Even the dogs appeared to walk with a newfound pride and purpose.
Slowing down does not require you to do more, but rather to put more meaning into what you do.
We are all so rushed. So busy. Running so fast. And when we do stop and look around, we wonder just what we have accomplished. We know that life is not a race, but we all seem to be running in one!
Lily Tomlin has said: "Even if you win the rat race, you're still a rat." Well, none of us are rats and most of us don't want to be running that race. We want to slow down and put more meaning in our lives.
Many Americans spend the bulk of their waking hours getting ready for, going to, sitting at, coming home from and winding down from work. When we're not busy performing our jobs, we're thinking of work or trying to recover from it. Yet even for those of us who love our chosen work, we want the efforts of our hands and our minds to yield something more meaningful than making ends meet or accumulating money.
Despite our exhaustion and jam-packed schedules, we want to put more of ourselves into our lives and into the world. We know there must be a way, but modern life often erodes the connection between us and our labors.
This week, you will make a shift from running all the time to walking and seeing the beauty around you and within you.
Get your activities for Week 11
Make the morning about breathing.
Today, start the day slowly. Even before you get out of bed, start to sense the day. Take three deep breaths and exhale slowly. Take in the fresh air with purpose and release the old air into the universe.
Feel the bed under your body, smell the air and slowly, when you are ready, feel your foot touch the floor as you rise.
If the day begins to speed up, stop. Take three more deep breaths before you move on. You can slow things down if you bring conscious attention to your day. It takes practice, but more than that, it takes the desire to make the change from racing through life to participating in it consciously and at a speed that is comfortable for you.
Make the day about paying attention to details.
So often, we race through the day. We get stuff done but hardly remember what, how or why. We are running so fast that the details are simply blurred.
It is within the details where life's beauty lives. If we are to fully see and live life, we have to pay attention to the details.
This is a small shift in how we approach the day, but it has a big impact on the quality of our lives.
Today, focus on the small stuff, the details. For example, taste your coffee in the morning:
- What does it taste like?
- Is it sweet?
- How hot is it?
- Is it soothing?
- Does it bring pleasure?
- What color is it?
- Do you share it with others? Who?
- How long does it take you to drink the cup?
What are the sounds around you in the morning?
- Are they pleasant?
- Do you hear birds?
- Horns honking?
- People talking?
What is the weather?
- Is it sunny?
- Are there puddles?
- Does the weather make a sound?
- Can you hear the wind or raindrops on the pavement?
Spend the day focusing on details, asking yourself questions to bring life further into focus.
Spend a few minutes writing about your day in your journal. How was today different from all other days?
Get the next set of activities for Week 11
Make up your mind to do only one thing at a time.
I know this seems like a small thing, but it will have a big impact on your day and your life.
Multitasking has become way of life for many of us. Some of us have become experts at juggling many tasks all at once—we answer the phone, read our emails, fold the laundry and pay our bills all in the same minute.
Our brains are forced to sort out all kinds of demands, and we are demanding them to function appropriately with confusing, chaotic and never-ending requests. Multitasking is just exhausting.
Today, just do one thing at a time. Try it! Give each task its own time to be what it is meant to be and allow yourself the time to focus on it.
If you do one thing at a time, this day will be less frantic and feel slower, and you will be less stressed. You'll love it!
Take a moment to write in your journal about the day. How did it feel? Was there a difference?
Make time to just be.
I know this sounds a bit wacky, but what I am suggesting is that you take a few moments and just sit and clear your mind. Rest—don't plan anything. Be still and look out the window, put your feet up, sit quietly and feel life slow down.
So many of us think we need to be moving all the time, doing something, but the truth is you don't have to. Give yourself permission to just be. Take a few moments at the end of the day to record your thoughts about just being.
Make a bath and soak in it.
Stepping out of our busy lives and into a warm, waiting bath is heavenly. Allow yourself to rejuvenate, rest, float and be in the warm water. Everything slows down in the bath, including your heart rate, your thoughts and the world.
People all over the world and for centuries have espoused the healing properties of "taking the water." You too can create a healing sanctuary by lighting candles, by pouring the perfect scented lavender oil in the water or by tuning into your favorite sonata on the radio while you soak.
Make this time your time and float away into peacefulness.
Get your final activities for Week 11
Make a date with a great book.
A wonderful way to step out of the busy pace of our day is to step into another's day. Reading is an excellent way to be transported into another time and place.
Life slows when you cozy up with a book and maybe even with a cup of tea. Read for 30 minutes or three hours if you can. Enjoy the story and get caught up in it.
Go to your library and borrow books, go to your local bookseller and purchase them and/or share books with a friend—just be sure to read.
Keep an ongoing list in your journal of the books you have read so you can easily recommend them to friends.
Make tracks and take a long walk.
Walking may well be one of the most wonderful ways to spend an hour. When we walk, we walk off stress, tension, frustration and troubles.
As you walk, you move, you make progress, you go somewhere at a pace that is organic to the situation.
Walking, unlike riding a bike or driving a car, allows you to see the details as you pass by. Notice the shape of the leaves, the frogs on the ground, the buttercups as they blossom and the pebbles on the beach.
Make walking a practice, a habit, a thing you do every day.
This week closes with a focus on slowing down. Please take the lessons of the week with you as you move throughout each day.
Live deliberately by making choices that work for you, keep a pace that you want and remember the joy of the journey is not in reaching the destination, but in the ride.
Move on to Week 12 and discover how to bring music into your day
This week, you'll learn how to bring music into your day.
Music lifts and soothes our spirits. It can call us to get up and dance, to sing and to jump around while making joyful noises.
Perhaps you've heard about the Mamapalooza festival—a musical movement started in 2001 when a 47-year-old mother with four kids nearly died from lupus and a kidney transplant. Believing in the healing properties of music, she gathered together a group of suburban housewives who all loved making music, but who had stopped playing because they had become mothers and were tied up with responsibilities like carpools and doing laundry. Several friends of the founder, Joy Rose, formed a band and played at a few parties. Another group of moms heard about it and did the same...and then another. Now it's a cultural "Moms Who Rock" movement, inspiring mom-bands all over the country. Joy says, "I wasn't trying to find the art in my surroundings, but the art in myself."
Another woman I know turns up her stereo as loud as she can on Saturday mornings before proceeding to dance her way through vacuuming the house to the blaring, soulful sounds of Aretha Franklin. Tell me she isn't giving herself some R-E-S-P-E-C-T!
The power of music can be seen in the ritual of an East Africa tribe whose members begin communicating what they feel in their hearts even before a child is conceived. When a mother wants a baby, she goes off alone and listens soulfully, until she can "hear" the song of the one she hopes will be born. Then she returns to the village, and she and her husband, the father-to-be, sing the song together as the child is conceived. As she carries the baby inside her, she teaches the song to the village women and midwives, who all will welcome the new soul into the world at birth by singing the baby's song. Throughout the person's life, at times of ceremony, joy or sadness, the song is sung, and it is the final refrain after death, as the body is laid to rest. From the beginning to the end of the soul's incarnation, the tribe communicates the message that the child is treasured and loved.
What kind of song would represent your life? Would it be parts of several different songs? A hymn or ballad? A guitar solo? What music stirs you, touches you, moves you and reminds you that life is a song and you can sing along?
This week, you will be encouraged to invite music into your life at various hours in various ways, and to meet various artists and composers.
Of course, as always, there are no rules. If you don't want to listen to the music I am suggesting, discover something new or listen to some old familiar tunes.
Get your first music-inspired activities for Week 12
Take a musical trip down memory lane.
Think back to your high school days.
- What music touched you spirit?
- What was playing on the radio?
- What albums (yes, I am dating myself) did you just have to have?
- What was your favorite song?
- What concerts did you attend?
- What songs did they play at your prom or dances?
In your journal, enjoy making a list of songs, artists and tunes you loved back in the day.
Enjoy finding them again on iTunes or among your CDs and have a "blast-from-the-past concert."
I promise, this will be time well spent. Music has a wonderful way of loosening up memories. You will recall people, times and places you have not thought about in years.
You may even want to create a folder on your computer with the songs so you can play them again and again.
Make your car a place for a concert.
We all spend a fair amount of time in our cars, so why not make plans to explore music as we drive? Bring CDs with you that you want to hear for a long drive, create a CD for the morning commute that is calm and beautiful, tune in to a favorite radio program each day at the same time or even hear a story by borrowing books on tape from the library.
Be conscious and deliberate about what comes out of your radio and stereo in the car. What you play has the power to set the mood for the day.
Create an environment in your car that nurtures you.
Make the day about exploring classical music.
There are so many beautiful songs and composers to learn about and listen to. You may already be a Chopin fan and love his Raindrop Prelude or know the works of Mozart—if so, bravo! If not, I encourage you to learn, find and listen to classical music.
Music transports us, and classical music can take you on a journey through sound that soothes the spirit.
Here are a few composers and tunes to get you started:
- Johann Pachelbel, Canon in D Major
- Ludwig van Beethoven, Pathetique Movement
- Camille Saint-Saens, Danse Macabre
- Mozart, Piano Sonata In A Major
Get your final activities for Week 12
Make a decision about what song is your song.
What song really speaks to you and expresses how you feel right now? Is there a song you could call your anthem? What does it say about you? Why do you love it? Is there more then one song that speaks to you?
Write in your journal the lyrics to the song (if there are lyrics). Spend some time reflecting on the song and about why it speaks to you.
Allow music to help you learn about yourself through sound, tempo and feeling.
Make the day about exploring new music.
Ask friends who they listen to and who they like, and explore some of the recommendations.
This is about stretching out and discovering new music that may become some of your favorites. You will also learn a lot about your friends as they share what speaks to their hearts.
Make a plan to hear and see music played live.
Hearing and seeing music played live is so wonderful. Perhaps there is a free concert at a local college, a trio playing in a park, a cellist playing in the subway or an upcoming Dixie Chicks concert.
However you choose to hear live music, remember it is a gift to yourself.
Enjoy and remember: Life is a song, so sing along!
Make a list of the music you loved this week.
Create a reference library of sorts so you can find the music when you need it.
Please continue to bring music into your life everyday.
"There is always music amongst the trees in the garden, but our hearts must be very quiet to hear it."
When I read this quote, I am reminded that music is not only found when we listen to bands, orchestras and trios, but also in nature. Please find music everywhere you go.
More from Sandra Magsamen
Printed from Oprah.com on Monday, March 10, 2014
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