lifestyle habits

How to cultivate cozy and content.

Last weekend I passed up a date for a cozy afternoon alone. 

This isn't rare. It's my life as I've built it over the past two or three years. Weekends are no longer spent running around feverishly trying to make up for what I wasn't able to tackle during the week. I'm not booked solid with commitments, personal or professional. I don't run errands in a panic. I'm not keeping up with the Jones' social calendar. I don't even know anyone named Jones.

After years of filling my calendar in a misguided attempt to fill some void, I stopped.

I get it. Life is busy. There is a lot to do. I know this because it's been only me doing all the things for as long as I can remember, including the years I spent living with people. Having roommates helped a bit with sharing chores but we often had different priorities. I remember when one roommate wanted me to mop the floors from the muddy mess her two large dogs made. For me, that was a "no". And even being partnered for a time didn't mean we were a happy couple seamlessly moving from thing to thing. We sometimes handled the basics ok but often bickered about dinner or cleaning the bathroom right. From what I hear, this happens more than not.

After years of roommates of all kinds, living alone again meant adjusting to solitude which I managed by booking myself solid with commitments, some fun, some obligatory, some unconscious attempts to escape the loneliness. I see this in a lot of people who run from thing to thing and book themselves on the regular. Sometimes it's pure motivation in action. Completing grad school while running a business required me to be fiercely motivated around the clock. Sometimes people want busy lives because they want to see and do a lot with the time they have.

And sometimes, perhaps more often than people care to admit, it's also an attempt to outrun something. Maybe it's a fear of failure. Or maybe moving around can help them avoid the lack of love or connection to something that feels right and good. Or a mistake they made that they regret. They drink another thing or eat another thing or do something or go somewhere, anywhere but here--because here is something to fear. I don't think many people stop to think about this. I sure didn't, until I chose to.

I chose to think about it because living alone means I need to do everything: do the laundry, earn the money to pay the bills, do the shopping and the cooking and the dishes and the cleaning, and of late the wood stacking and ash bucket dumping. I can't say I'm really bummed about that last one, haha. Or any of them, really. And because I value living my life like this, I need to make time to make it all happen, otherwise, it doesn't.

But living alone also means I've been able to cultivate cozy and content on a regular basis. It means I'm able to carve out time, wherever and however I need to, for rest and relaxation. Living alone means I intentionally sit with what and why and how I spend every moment of my time and, by extension, my life.

Mindfulness like this helps create a life of intention and meaning. When life is so busy, it's even more important for us to nurture the Skill of Stopping. All of the doing with none of the down time does get us to a point of burnout which serves no one, not us or anyone around us. We end up fatigued, not fantastic. We can end up resentment and miserable and it's no way to live. We can also end up running from thing to thing and not really seeing what we're in fact running from and why we're doing it and how it's not really serving us.

On the flip side, sloth doesn't serve us, either. Avoiding responsibility because you just can't, even, is another way to hide out from life. Being so busy that you literally don't have the time or energy for adulting.

Finding the middle way to make it all work is the goal.

Last weekend was an especially wonderful weekend of comfort for me. I live in a renovated barn and my woodstove has become a near and dear friend. I packed it full of wood and sat beside it looking out the big picture window at the two feet of new snow. I'd already been snowshoeing that morning and I could see my tracks. Winter fitness, check.

I had just received a small shipment from Amazon Prime containing three items: a book on spirituality that I started to read in the library before I moved out of Boston last year, a brand-new journal to write in and the novel, The Revenant, which was made into a movie starring one of my favorite actors, Leonardo DiCaprio. I bought those three things with a gift card that I've kept close for over six years of different dwellings. Turns out that shit really doesn't expire.

I laid myself down on the couch, opened the book and turned on the soundtrack which I bought last year on iTunes after I saw the film (twice). I played it over my Bose mini speaker which I recently got on sale with another gift card.

PS all the frugality is foreshadowing for something to come, stay tuned.

I said to myself, "this is a slice of heaven right here."

After a few hours, I worked on my taxes. Then I went right back to the couch. I read that book cover to cover in 48 hours, something I haven't done for over ten years. The required reading I did for graduate school doesn't count, of course.

There were a few moments where I felt that familiar pull to be cleaning something or doing something for my business. My brain and body, both so habituated to momentum, struggled to settle. But I sat with the urge and let it pass. I intentionally cultivated cozy and content on my terms in my own way.

Cultivating cozy takes work. After childhood passes, we have to be more vigilant to make it happen in meaningful ways. But it's worth the effort. I entered the week feeling vibrant and fulfilled despite the bleak winter and shared the story of my cozy weekend with my clients who ooohed and ahhhed and started thinking of ways they'd create a similar experience for themselves.

For the first few retellings, I said, "listen to what a dork I am, this is what I did," and then I stopped giving that disclaimer. I changed my story to, "listen to the incredible experience I created for myself this weekend."

Unlike the protagonist in the story and my former self who strived and struggled for days on end to run from something or fill my time to look busy or cool or God knows what other reason, cozy and content is the new me.

revenant cozy

Coincidence or Manifestation? You decide.

Lately alot of interesting things have been happening to me... If I didn't know about the power of the law of attraction I would think I was either one lucky person--or I would be totally overwhelmed and stupified with so many crazy coincidences.

I first learned of this from a former girlfriend. She tried hard to make me a believer but unfortunately I wasn't quite ready to hear the message. She was also very obsessed with materialism and that wasn't my thing so I dismissed the law of attraction because I only associated it with people who wanted more money and material wealth.

Then I wised up.

In the spring and summer of 2009, I was smart enough to participate in a life-changing experience. I was a student of the Institute for Integrative Nutrition in NYC and I was completing my certification program to become a holistic health coach. I had the intention to "make some side cash" while working another full-time job.

It was here I heard about the law of attraction again---only this time it was about amassing anything and everything you want in life. I liked the idea of that better. Money is great, but it won't buy happiness. Good friends, a job I love, a beautiful and supportive partner...THAT I wanted.

As the founder and director of the school Joshua Rosenthal said,

"the secret behind the Secret, is to set an intention and work your butt off to make it happen".

Is it weird then--a coincidence--or perhaps a result of my intentions that these things have been happening in record numbers. Here are a few examples:

1) Heal from my past and bring wonderful friends into my life here in Boston (and beyond). I want more honest, good-hearted, sweet people to bring me up to a higher level of being in my daily life.

Two weeks ago I was assisting a kind and beautiful young couple in Cambridge Naturals, the natural products store where I work in Cambridge, and as the thickly bearded young man spoke I looked up--jolted by the sound of his voice. I placed my hand on this stranger's shoulder, looked into his eyes and said, "I know you." He blinked, gazed back into my eyes and said, "I know you too...".  In 3 seconds I had it. We were in a high school play together. 16 years ago. In New Jersey. And I only knew him for 4 months, if that.

Now this is a strange enough testimony to the powers of my auditory memory (I have said before that I think I am a mutant/X-person) to remember his voice, but the experience is also in line with my intention to heal from my past and bring the best parts of it into my current life. I was the lead in that school play--it was one of the best memories of what was a difficult adolescence for me---and here was this young man who I only remember to be one of the sweetest most kindest souls ever--standing right in front of me after 16 years in Cambridge, MA. I mean---what are the chances? I got his contact info and will be SURE not to lose touch with him again...

Of late, I have taken a deep breath of gratitude for the pals who come 'round the store where I work just to hug me and say hi. Or txt me when they are thinking of me. Or write on my facebook wall for the heck of it. Or email me and ask an ideal time to reach me. These are good, kind people who only seek to brighten my day or let me know I am special and loved.

This is precious. Precious like a meowing kitten. That is how they make me feel---that same feeling I have when I sit beside a meowing kitten. Happy, content and humbled by that feeling of pure, unconditional love. I am grateful for the amount of this kind of love in my life lately.

2) Create a circle of wonderful practitioners as referral partners for my clients' many needs. 

Within weeks of each other, I have had the opportunity to meet with several of the most open, fun, dedicated, spiritually grounded and brilliant practitioners--who all wanted to know more about what I do to refer their clients to my practice. Of course, I need a list for my clients as well. After a couple of years pounding the pavement and lots of dead-ends, suddenly I have a circle of referral partners who are all lovelier than words can describe. And they gave me other leads as well. They appeared right in front of me. All I have had to do was make time in my schedule (which was a feat, but I did it) and welcome them to my office or meet somewhere for tea.

3) Material wealth and money.

Do you consider the smallest experience a gift from the Universe? If so, this is one for the books.

About a month or so ago I saw this wall hanging of ginkgo leaves at a Bed, Bath and Beyond store somewhere in Massachusetts that I wanted for my new office. My partner said she would get it for me as a gift, but first we needed the essentials for our new apartment. This past weekend, while visiting her parents in New Hampshire, we stopped into the BBB store there to make an exchange of some kind. We got separated in the store so I wandered around a bit to find her, came around the corner where they have those clearance racks, you know? I didn't even slow my stride as I walked by and saw it laying there, on the bottom shelf---that very same ginkgo leaf wall hanging that I saw in MA two months ago. I chuckled. I located my love, showed it to her and spent another 30 minutes (after telling the ladies behind me in line) about the gift I received for my patience. $20 off the very thing I set the intention to buy! It's a thing--but I got that thing for a song by barely lifting a finger! I just waited and there it was waiting for me!

$$$. I grew up the child of a single parent. I always had the soccer cleats I needed, the Golden Grahams that kept me 20 lbs overweight and the latest technology to feed my love for music and movies. But that abundance came at a cost: my mother's credit card debt. She got me my heart's desire and dealt with credit card debt for many years as a result. I learned those habits---to spend beyond what I had in my hand---and like my mom, in many cases I often had to charge for necessities like new brakes for my car, gas, a winter coat. That left me with some sizable debt.

After a year that has been full of surprises and changes in income as I shift from my old job/life and adjust to a new life that allows for the growth of my practice and the improved health of my mind, body and soul---I did some math recently.

This path I have followed that is aligned with my true self, higher calling and best intentions for myself, my clients and all others---has provided me with more money in the bank than I ever had when a substantial direct deposit meant selling my soul and I also managed to pay over $7,000 toward my credit card debt. In less than 3 months, I will be debt free for the first time in my life.

My lifestyle habits have changed so dramatically as I worked to improve my health and the lives of others---but this was one aspect that always loomed above my head like Eyeore's black cloud. My financial health.

Words can barely express the elation I feel from this personal accomplishment of goal-setting and actualization. I am living a life that was once so distant a dream it was only something of a glimmer and things are shaping up to only get better. Now that I have tamed this one last Achilles heel of mine--my relationship with money--my life will only continue to be full of abundance, health and prosperity. I value money for what it has taught me about responsibility to myself, first and foremost. My dollars are precious and because I have been responsible and changed my spending and savings habits, they will now provide me the means to live a life of freedom, happiness and gratitude.

As I wrap up to do some work and then welcome some of my most enthusiastic and brilliant clients later this evening, I leave you with this overused but profoundly meaningful phrase. Please take it to heart for I share it with all the intensity and intentionality these words truly seek to express:

If I can do it. YOU can do it.