Amy’s Top Ten

June 24, 2014

Posted by AmySanderMontanez at 1/16/2012 6:31 PM | Add Comment

January 3, 2012

It’s that time of year.  Every where we turn there is another “top ten” list.  From the ever-present and redundant “top ten ways to lose weight this year” (the list is the same as the last ten years, in case you were wondering) to the popularity lists boasting the ten best restaurants, movies, books, beauty products, golf courses, hotels, shoes, cars, candy bars, and underwear, to the totally subjective and seemingly important top ten most sexy men and women, it seems that we are destined to hear about the top ten.

So here are my top ten.  I’m not an expert on any of the things the media think are important.  Here are the things I think are important and worth practicing in 2012.  I would imagine my list won’t change a whole lot from year to year.  If it does, I won’t bore you by repeating the whole list next year.  I’ll just post my changes.

Ten Best Ways to Live a Conscious and Balanced Psycho-Spiritual Life: 

1) Take time to be still.  I cannot begin to encourage myself and others enough to take time for quiet.  A few deep and intentional breaths, tuning in to the self, and then allowing yourself to notice and invite the presence of the Holy One to enter can change you.  If you only have ten minutes to use this way, use them.  If you can do thirty or forty, do it.  It’s not magic.  It can, however, be miraculous.  You don’t have to say anything.  Just be still and pay attention.

2) Practice the “big three”: forgiveness, compassion, and gratitude.  These three attitudes often go hand in hand. Forgiveness sets you free.  It is not the same thing as justice. It is not about forgetting, reconciling, minimizing, or dismissing.  It is about claiming your truth of something, usually some way that you were wronged, and then not allowing the negative part of that to have any power over you anymore.  Whenever I do workshops on forgiveness, people always tell me they wish they had learned about forgiveness earlier.  Unforgiveness robs us of energy, health, family, and friends.  It poisons us.  Practice forgiveness.  This usually has the benefit of yielding compassion.  Often when we practice forgiveness we realize that whoever hurt us is human just like we are and not really the awful demon we were imagining them to be. Often as we practice forgiveness, we are able to look more deeply at a bigger picture as well.  Did we, consciously or unconsciously, participate in the very thing that caused us hurt? Compassion for ourselves and others can be a life-changing action.  Compassion often leads to gratitude.  What are you grateful for today?  Everyday?  This minute?  Stay focused on what is good, pure, and excellent in your life and in the world around you.

3) Stay alert to your own inner process.  Spend a few minutes being a good detective about yourself.  What are you feeling?  Thinking?  Sensing?  Why does that girl in the next office bother you so much?  Why is it that you are so happy lately?  Or irritable and grouchy?  What are the emotional triggers for you?  What gets you stirred up?  What are you apathetic about?  Why?  One of my mentors always said, “The unconscious rules the world.”  The things we don’t allow into our consciousness will find a way to work themselves out.  When it happens that way, it can often be more painful and destructive.  So spend a little time getting to know yourself better!  Take care not to elevate or shame yourself.  Just notice.  That’s the starting point.

4) Keep moving.  Our bodies are designed to move.  Although many of us work in worlds have us stagnant much of the day long, that is not how we are designed.  So, stretch your body many times a day.  Walk whenever you can.  Take the stairs, ride a bike, dance while making a meal, sit on the floor, weed your garden, wash your car.  If you feel more daring, take a yoga class or a fitness class.  Challenge yourself.  Move in ways you haven’t moved in a while.  Your body is wanting it!  And movement will change your brain chemistry as well. You will feel better the more you move!

5) Get outdoors and into nature.  Nature deficit disorder is now considered a real problem.  We are a part of the natural world.  To be excluded from it, outside of it, is disaster for us.  When the weather permits, walk in a park or in your neighborhood.  Look at the local flora and fauna.  Watch a sunset.  Sit on a porch and listen to the birds. Stare at the moon. Plant some flowers or herbs. Go to a park or a zoo.  Wade in a river, pond, or lake.  Take a walk along the beach.  Take a hike, even one that is not strenuous can help you reconnect with your own nature.  Last spring I took a short hike with a friend that took us to a waterfall.  We took off our shoes and got under the fall.  In twenty minutes I felt like a new person, and that feeling lasted a long time.

6) Gather often with trusted friends, family, and community.  For me, one of the ways I experience the Holy One most vividly is in relationships.  Being fully present with those that I love, either to give or receive love and support, is one of the richest blessings of my life.  It is with friends and family that I remember who I am.  It is with community that I am reminded that I am connected to something much larger than myself. If your life is too busy to have quality time for friends, family, and community, you may want to regroup.  I’ve heard it say that no one ever says on their deathbed, “Gee, I wish I had spent more time at work.”  If you knew your days were numbered, how would you spend your time?

7) Be involved in some kind of mission, charity, or way of helping those less fortunate than you are.  There are more needs right in your community than you can even imagine.  Pick a cause that speaks to you and educate yourself about it.  Money is always needed and giving money to these causes is important.  Often, however, the need is for human help.  Can you tutor a child?  Help repair a neighbor’s house?   Make or deliver a meal to someone who can’t get out?  Helping others is a universally understood rule for living a meaningful and purposeful life.

8) Get your finances in order. Spend some time trying to articulate what you really believe about money.  Feeling secure about money is an important part of emotional and mental health.  That doesn’t necessarily mean having a lot of money, although it does mean having enough. (See #7 above).  Feeling secure means living within your means.  It means having a defined sense of what you believe about money, how you spend money, and how you give money away.  Money isn’t just a means to an end.  Money is an energy.  You can be controlled by it or you can work with it.  Try writing an autobiography of money.  What did you learn about money as a child?  What do you believe now?  How do you give money your energy?  What choices do you make that keep you stuck in a bad money cycle?  A great book about money: Brent Kessler’s It’s Not About The Money.

9) Have more fun.  Laughing and smiling are really good for us!  When was the last time you laughed until your sides hurt or until you cried?  Research has shown that laughter can heal people. Spend time with people who know how to have fun.  It is free!  You can watch a funny movie, play a game, tell jokes, dance around the house, do a craft, tell stories, laugh at yourself, whatever makes you laugh and enjoy the bounty and abundance of life!

10) Unplug, at least periodically.  Technology is a marvel, isn’t it?  I continue to enjoy it and be helped by it.  AND, I continue to be lured into it and to lose track of time because of it.  My colleagues and I have all said that we seem to have less time to do the things we love and that nurture our hearts and souls.  The culprit: too much screen time.  If you  think you don’t have time to play an instrument, read, sing, practice your art, cook healthy meals, pray, exercise, or volunteer to help someone, try giving up 30 minutes of screen time a day.

Whala!  It’s harder than it sounds, I know, but very, very possible.  Try a day a month of technology free hours and see what happens.

Here’s a link to a thoughtful article by one of my favorite writers, Ann Lamott.

I hope my Top Ten list will help you and inspire you.  Happy New Year!


At Least You Tried 

March 9, 2016

A client of mine drives a taxi part-time. Although it is a second job and is requiring some long hours, the job is allowing him to see many sides of life in his city, and he likes this. He recently told me that sometimes he shuttles children from homeless shelters to school if school bus…

Read More

Keeping a Discipline

March 9, 2016

It’s 9:17 Wednesday morning. I am sitting on the loveseat in my office, drinking a cup of coffee. I’ve already exercised, had my morning meditation, and gotten showered and ready for work. My office door is closed, the phone is on Do Not Disturb, my secretary knows not to interrupt me unless someone is bleeding…

Read More

Was Jesus Wise? Are You?

August 26, 2015

Dear Blog Friends and Readers, I recently preached at a Lutheran church here in SC and I have been asked for copies of my sermon. I am posting it to my blog for ease, knowing that sermons are not my typical blog. You are welcome to read it and even comment. Or if this isn’t…

Read More