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“We can do no great things – only small things with great love.”  Mother Teresa

Where do you need to show more respect? To others or yourself? What/who needs nurturing? I’m taking this month to reflect on respect and invite you to join me.

In Twelve Mindful Months, attitudes like respect (that in yoga are often practiced along with the physical poses) are sprinkled throughout the book, but I felt respect deserved it’s own chapter. This book was written as a perpetual calendar so one could begin reading it in whatever the present month was, and also because I believe if we gradually incorporate just a few new concepts into our lives at a time it will increase their likelihood of becoming lifelong habits. And we all could benefit from occasional reminders of the qualities we’d like to embrace. What I have observed over my three decades as a personal trainer is that many women, even if they’re not mothers, tend to nurture others before tending to their own needs.

Deciding how I can show respect to others while still honoring myself is a concept I struggle with often because – like many of us – lack of time is a constant issue. As I have become more mindful I have become better at discerning how best to use my time. By staying aware I notice when I begin to feel scattered or temperamental and use those cues my body gives me as a warning to make time for myself. If I’m not respectful of my own need to balance with solitude or with creative pursuits that bring me joy and fulfillment, I am disrespecting myself. But at less critical times I ask myself if I am grasping at that concept too much, being too self-centered and neglecting to give attention or care to others. I used to think I couldn’t write unless I had a whole day or couldn’t shoot photos unless I had a whole afternoon. I never would have written my book or had the photos to publish if I hadn’t gotten away from that all-or-nothing notion. Instead, I chose to get up early 3 days a week, with a 4th day option, to write for 1-2 hours before work. This time I chose for myself is sacred. It’s when I do my best writing and thinking. And it doesn’t take away from time with my husband on my days off. Beginning a day with a pursuit that fulfills your soul makes it easy to put others first the rest of your day. Just like morning meditation or prayer it sets a positive and respectful tone for the day. But – within the daily dance of life comes compromise. So even if I have a very short amount of time to do what I need to honor myself – I do it. Ten minutes in nature, 20 minutes to journal, 30 minutes to take photos. Try it yourself. It will keep you connected to that which soothes your soul and pampers your spirit, which will make you feel complete and enable your to cultivate even more respect for self and others.

May is the month we honor mothers and on Memorial Day, those that have passed away. Until 14 years ago, Mother’s Day was a difficult holiday for me. Throughout my thirties that day reminded me that I wasn’t a mom and as I observed mothers and honored my own, I silently mourned. As I grew closer to 40 it was easier as I began to nurture my own needs in an effort to find wholeness and joy within. I accepted that my life was not what I had envisioned it would be and came to terms with it. At 40, a year after moving across the country, and in a new relationship, I gained full acceptance. Now I no longer have to hold back tears as I hold someone’s baby. Looking back I guess I was respecting my ex-husband for his desire not to have children by not listening to the friends who suggested I just get pregnant accidentally. And I respected my own desire for a different life path based on that.

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“Plant and nurture your own garden, instead of waiting for someone else to bring you flowers.”

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This was written in my journal on my 30-day Outward Bound trip on Hurricane Island in Maine. I carved it on a piece of driftwood with my jack-knife, passing time on a 3-day island solo. I was 20 years old and just beginning my journey of self-discovery. The following Mother’s day I gave it to my mother, the etched letters filled with white paint. It still hangs in her kitchen. I was fortunate to have had a good mother (and father) and still express gratitude everyday for the love and care they gave me and my siblings. This blog is dedicated to my mom, and all mothers. Raising children is an important vocation. Ten years ago, my mom said “It’s too bad you’re not a mother, because you would have been a good one.” I said “I know what I’m missing, but I’m okay not being a mother.” My mom immediately said “No, you don’t know what you’re missing.” The words stung me, she instantly regretted them, but they were truthful. She was right. But today I am able to also say that she doesn’t know what she’s missing from living my life. I guess that’s what we call mutual respect. Respecting that we all have different values, ways of living, or viewpoints.

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Planting seeds of acceptance allows stems of gratitude and leaves of appreciation to grow, and from there, the flower of joy blossoms and we find respect and peace in our heart.