Lately I've been thinking about creating positive environments. For instance, a few weeks ago I began an eating plan that supports an environment that inflammation doesn't like, where cancer cells flee in terror. After reading what I'd need to do to begin the program, I felt some panic. "How would I find my way through the maze of foods I'd need to buy at Whole Foods?" The task seemed too difficult. But then my oldest daughter said she wanted to start the plan as well. She created a food list, and we ventured to Whole Foods together. My daughter knew the store well and guided us to the correct aisles. At one point, a woman stopped us in the store, noting our cart full of organic vegetables and "good" fats. She said, (actually multiple times) "I see you're buying some really healthy food. I approve. I changed my eating habits several years ago, and I've never turned back." While somewhat taken aback by the woman's forthright demeanor, my daughter and I took this as affirmation that we were headed in the right direction, even though still slightly ambivalent regarding the value of MCT oil and ghee.
Last week we met for coffee to discuss how the eating plan was going. "It's hard sometimes," we both agreed. But then my daughter said, "Let's name the benefits." Our pants are fitting a little looser. Energy is increasing. Sugar cravings are diminishing. Skin is better. We both agreed to keep going. And now that we know better what to eat, shopping is easier. The plan is fairly simple: organic vegetables, good fats, lean, pasture-raised animal proteins and eggs. Lots of greens. The aisles at Whole Foods aren't so daunting anymore.
Also over these last weeks, I've thought about what creates an environment for peace--for spirituality, tranquility and artistry to thrive in my life--where fear, anxiety and dread run for their lives. I know answers differ for everyone, personalities unique with eclectic needs and desires. But I thought of my own personality. I'm introverted and continually battle a culture that tends to value extroversion a bit more. The cultural environment whispers, "Get out more. Socialize. Meet new people. Join groups. Fill your schedule. Volunteer. Build a platform. Increase your social media connections. Network." None of these cultural directives are inherently unhealthy. Yet I can be pressured by the perceived urgency, few of the imperatives supporting what typically help me create a harmonious and serene environment for my life.
As I walk the aisles of this culture, so to speak, a few basic ingredients that keep me sane and affirm my personaility include: embracing regular, open-ended times where I meditate, pray, read and write; consistent walks outside; spending time with people who share my passions in life; gently saying "no" to events and people that drain me of energy; letting go of the comparison game, worried about "platform," but rather valuing my own voice (especially as it regards writing). Like the food plan, the list for creating an environment for peaceful living is not long. And also like the food plan, it has benefits I have increased emotional regulation; I actually have more to "give" because I've taken care of myself; creativity is enhanced and I am more able to write consistently; I enjoy the fruit of solitude; I create an atmosphere to hear from God, to revel in His mystery, to relate more intimately with Him.
Yesterday I almost didn't take a walk. Darkness slid into the sky--the deep, clear blue that only comes at dusk. But the temperature was mild and I couldn't resist going out. I needed to be alone in nature, to process the day, to let my mind wander, to pray, to listen. Then the most lovely thing happened. A full moon rose and filled the night sky with its glorious golden orb. I ran to an open field and stood under its silvered light, my hands lifted in gratitude for God's peace. For life.