Wednesday, March 7, 2012

The Art of Living Well

Today’s focus is on the art of living well, and is based upon chapter 14 of my book, Eternal Presents, which I wrote in 2006.  My Aunt Sue, whose influence upon me has been tremendous, served as the inspiration for this chapter.  She taught me so very much, including the fact that it’s essential to carve out time solely for myself—without experiencing guilt for doing so.  Tragically, we lost her unexpectedly one year ago today, an occurrence that I still haven’t come to fully accept.   The lovely artwork displayed above was painted by my Aunt Sue.  It now hangs in my home, and is one of my dearest treasures.  Today’s blog entry is dedicated to her. 

As a little girl, I loved visiting my aunt at her home. Peacefully situated in a wooded setting, her warm touches were sprinkled all throughout her charming abode. It was there that soft, relaxing background music always played on the stereo, all of the windows opened out onto beautiful views, and each room was a carefully planned sanctuary for relaxation. Her home was unarguably a haven for her and anyone entering it. Many years before Martha Stewart had even come onto the scene, my Aunt Sue had already honed the art of living well.   She also understood that living well included her own self-care; dedicating needed time and attention, each day, to the things that fed her soul like reading, creating art, taking walks in the woods, writing in her journal from her home’s backyard. 

My Aunt Sue mastered the art of living well.  It’s now my turn to hold the proverbial brush in my hand and paint a well-lived life.  Below, are my reflections about this precious craft.

Reflections on Living Well

Define what “living well” means to you.  In doing so, let your inner spirit guide you. The actual definition of “living well” will vary markedly for each of us. For me, it is the establishment of joy and peace all throughout my day.  It’s reflected in how I decorate my home and work environment, the clothing and accessories I wear, the experiences I create for myself, and the thoughts I feed my mind. 

A day lived well includes those things that bring me peace and joy, which could include a walk in nature, reading a favorite blog, expressing myself through art journaling, listening to music, establishing boundaries where needed, savoring a hot cup of herbal tea, or challenging myself with a yoga pose.

Following your own instincts will guide you in your quest to live well. Your idea of living well might be quite different from mine. In order to define it, you must first reflect upon what personally brings you the greatest happiness in your life.  Then, follow your heart’s desire. 

Live well every day in every way.  Living well is a process that affects every aspect of your life.  Infuse enjoyable little touches and practices into your world each day. Perhaps this means that you will take a ten-minute meditation break each afternoon. Maybe you will enjoy reading a good book in the evening after dinnertime or sign up for an art class. Living well is a continuous, life-long practice. Once you begin this journey, however, you will be amazed at your ability to automatically and consistently take a few extra steps to make your life extraordinary and meaningful.

Learn the value of indulging yourself. Certain instances necessitate you do something extra special for yourself--such as carve out a morning, afternoon or fully day and dedicate it just to you.  Sometimes, this need is especially great after a difficult day. At other times, there may be no logical explanation for why an added boost is needed. You simply know that an extra dose of self-nurturing is necessary.

What rises to the rank of being “special” will vary from person to person. Here are things that I find to be wonderful ways to pamper myself:  
                  ·      Take the day to browse antique and vintage clothing shops;
·        Ditch the "to do" list in lieu of a journey to the dollar store to buy stationary, cards and craft items; 
·    Visit a second-hand bookstore and search for items on my “must read” list; 
·     Get a massage, mani, pedi or facial;
·    Art journal in bed with my cat while listening to vintage jazz;
·      Journal from an outdoor café;
·      Read from a scenic spot in a botanical garden;
·      Peruse a thrift shop looking for a silk scarf or leather belt;
·      Purchase a new flavored java or tea, bring it home, brew it, then sit on my backyard patio, with cup in hand and do nothing at all--just relax; and
·      Attend an art exhibit.

Again, let your inner spirit guide you in finding these little treats for yourself. If you spontaneously feel the need to do something for yourself, go for it! Trust yourself, and do not ignore that “little voice” calling out to you. It is your wise self telling you how to live well; advising you it must be done.

When you live well, so do others. You may initially have difficulty dedicating time or efforts solely to your own self care. You might think that others deserve your time more than you do, or that work demands your attention rather than  personal relaxation or hobbies.

Remind yourself that by living well you are also doing something positive for others. How? When you care for yourself, you are happier, more productive and relaxed. This has a measurable impact upon those around you. When you feel better, it is more likely that your family, friends, employees and co- workers reap the benefits of this.

By living well, you model its merits to others—giving them permission to do the same.  My Aunt Sue
ʼs ability to live well certainly affected me in a positive way and undoubtedly many others, also.  You, too, can make that same type of impact upon the people in your life.  T.