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Alter Your Life: Overbooked? Overworked? Overwhelmed?

Overview

Even your hectic morning commute can become a haven of peace and renewal after reading Dr. Kathleen Hall's Alter Your Life. Dr. Hall's "handbook for the overwhelmed" draws on time-honored truths from a wide array of cultures and disciplines to bring us simple practices to restore balance, order, and peace to our demanding lives.

Opportunities for balance and renewal exist in seemingly mundane tasks such as washing the dishes, walking the dog, or taking a shower, and Dr. Hall ...

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Overview

Even your hectic morning commute can become a haven of peace and renewal after reading Dr. Kathleen Hall's Alter Your Life. Dr. Hall's "handbook for the overwhelmed" draws on time-honored truths from a wide array of cultures and disciplines to bring us simple practices to restore balance, order, and peace to our demanding lives.

Opportunities for balance and renewal exist in seemingly mundane tasks such as washing the dishes, walking the dog, or taking a shower, and Dr. Hall gives us effective solutions that will transform the daily grind from mundane chores to a wealth of opportunities.

The average American is overbooked, overworked, and overwhelmed. Dr. Hall shows how this common "energy drain" comes not so much from the things we do, by our perception of the thing we do. By infusing routine events with meaning and intention, she opens our eyes to the dozens of opportunities in even the most ordinary day to revive the body and restore the soul.

Dr. Hall synthesizes ancient and modern wisdom with her experience as a businesswoman, wife, mother, and author to bring us the perfect antidote to the pressures of these challenging times. Her down-to-earth stories will touch your heart, her insights will make you think, and her gentle encouragement will give you the support you need to transform your life from an overwhelming list of daily tasks to an infinite array of exciting possibilities.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780974542720
  • Publisher: Oak Haven
  • Publication date: 4/28/2005
  • Pages: 184
  • Sales rank: 1,264,021
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.54 (h) x 0.57 (d)

Read an Excerpt

ALTER YOUR LIFE

Overbooked? Overworked? Overwhelmed?
By Kathleen Hall

Oak Haven

Copyright © 2005 Dr. Kathleen Hall
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0-9745427-2-5


Chapter One

SECTION ONE

AWARENESS

Discovering the Extraordinary in the Ordinary

A Bathroom

On a cold night in 1994, I cleaned the girl's bathroom at North Atlanta High School.

It wasn't something I had planned to do.

It had been an unusually busy day for me. I was racing from a business meeting to get to my daughter's basketball playoff game that evening. It was dinnertime and I had worked through lunch. I was exhausted, hungry, and very late. As I flew up into the stands, a buzzer rang, signaling the end of the first quarter. My daughter had already scored eight points and the game was tied. I sat down by my husband, but immediately realized I just had to go to the bathroom before the game started again. I jumped up, kissed him, and told him I'd be right back.

I raced down the bleachers with my high heels clacking and my cashmere coat falling from my shoulders. I only had a few minutes to get to the women's room and back to watch one of the last basketball games of my daughter's high school career. She was a senior and quite an accomplished guard.

Preoccupied, as my day continued to swirl in my mind, I threw open the bathroom door and rushed in, only to be stopped in my tracks. It was like being hit between the eyes. Before me stood one of the most disgusting scenes I had ever encountered. The sinks were filled with used paper towels, hair, toilet paper, aim pooled brown water. The floors were covered with used toilet paper; used sanitary pads and tampons had been thrown around everywhere. The toilets had not been flushed in who knows how long, and were filled with excrement. The mirrors were smattered with obscene graffiti. The restroom was awash in filth, reeking of urine, feces, and old blood. The smell was so bad I gagged.

It was a scene that is still disturbingly clear in my memory.

Rage followed my initial moments of disgust. I was indignant and appalled and filled with judgment. My thoughts went something like this: Look at how low human nature can go. It's disgusting for any human being, to sink to this level of decadence-let alone in my daughter's school. A public school cannot look like this. Who allows it? This is simply uncivilized. Worse, I cannot believe that I allow my children to go to a school like this.

Then an even darker side of myself crept in. This is what happens when people don't have anything, I thought. This is what happens when people who have nothing come into a beautiful facility like this. They destroy it. They trash it and have no respect for this school or for themselves.

In that exact moment, at the height of my rage, as my heart was racing and my blood pressure was pounding, when the anguish and judgment were most monumental, I just stopped. I stood silent as a certain weird shift in my awareness took over my mind. I realized everything I thought and felt was wrong.

My thoughts stopped, my breathing slowed down. A profound still presence overcame me. My intense collection off rash emotions, smells and visual images in this bathroom jogged my memory, and I thought of the story of another bathroom told to me by my friend Arun Gandhi, the grandson of Mahatma Gandhi. The story was used in a scene in the movie about Gandhi's life.

In this scene, Mahatma Gandhi was firmly scolding his wife for not wanting to clean the latrines when it was her turn on the schedule at an ashram in Durban, South Africa. Gandhi's wife thought it was beneath her to clean the latrines, even though everyone that lived at the ashram had to take their turn at every task.

Gandhi believed that full participation by every human, no matter what their status, deepened compassion, humility and connection to every living being. He taught it was fundamental to the true progress of humankind that the most mundane and common activities be shared by all persons equally. Gandhi felt that these simple everyday tasks, common to all of our lives, provided essential-and often surprisingly powerful-lessons on our life journey. These principles were foundational to living an intentional life.

Suddenly, Gandhi and his philosophical ideals were no longer just words on a page, an image on a screen or a story told by his grandson. It was as though Gandhi was in that high school bathroom with me. It was a "perfect storm" moment for me. In that moment all my study, experiences and training about awareness, choice, forgiveness, compassion and service were being played out on this stage of my life in an extraordinary way. In that moment of awareness, I realized I had an incredibly powerful choice to make.

I closed my eyes and asked my teacher Gandhi, if somehow, in some small way, I would be transformed by this experiment with surrender and choice.

I saw the cleaning closet on my left. I walked over to it, opened the door, and found the cleaning supplies stored inside. I took off my coat and hung it on the closet door. I rolled up the sleeves to my suit, took a deep breath, and prayed that I could make it through this experience. I prayed to be made better in some way because of it. I started with the floors. As I cleaned up each piece of disgusting trash, I prayed for compassion and understanding. As I cleaned each sink, I prayed for non-judgment and serenity. As I began on the toilets, I prayed to stay centered and strong, as the stench enveloped me.

I practiced staying in the present moment so I would not get overwhelmed. Eventually I looked up and the bathroom sparkled.

As I closed the supply closet and picked up my coat, I felt like a very different person than the person who entered that bathroom a short time earlier. I learned that my judgment and anger could have separated me from an experience that transformed my life. I discovered that a bathroom filled with the filth of others was a classroom for me. There are people whose job it is to clean bathrooms every day, and I now have a better understanding of these individuals and a great reverence for their courage, perseverance and humility.

I walked back up to my husband in the bleachers and sat down. He thought I had been at the concession stand, or perhaps talking to another parent. I just nodded, smiled, and said nothing.

In the second half of the game, my husband leaned over to me and whispered in my ear, "Honey, I smell Clorox. It's strong. Call you smell it, too?" I smiled and answered, "Yes, dear." I said a silent prayer of thanks to Mahatma Gandhi for opening one of many doors that would transform my life.

A Dog

I was with my younger daughter one evening on the way to the grocery store. Out of nowhere, a large object appeared in the middle of the road. I slammed on my brakes. As the car slid sideways, I tried to make out what was in the road. As we finally came to a stop, I realized it was a dog, apparently it had been hit by a car and left behind.

I have had a practice for many years now of always stopping when there are dead animals oil a road, moving them back to the side of the road, and giving them back to the earth. I do this as an act of reverent respect for all creatures. It continually reminds me that these creatures are sacred and I am responsible for their care and protection. I cannot stand the thought of a dead animal being disrespectfully hit again and again by automobiles.

As traffic whizzed by, I was afraid that other cars would hit the dog. I turned the car around, drove beside the dog, stopped, and put on my emergency flashers. The poor dog was dead yet still so precious. I grabbed her two back legs and gently dragged her off to the side of the road. I then pulled her over to the grassy area and squatted down beside her.

I took a deep breath and looked back to the car as my daughter sat gazing out the window at me. After saying a prayer over the dog, I returned to the car, opened the trunk, pulled out some paper towels, and cleaned off my hands. I got in the car and we drove off in hushed silence toward the grocery store.

A few minutes later, the silence was broken. My daughter reached over and tenderly laid her hand over my hand on the gearshift. She looked at me with teary eyes and said, "You know mom, I just can't do that yet. But I will be able to someday." I smiled and thought to myself: she knows.

I'm not saying that you will find greater meaning in your life by tending to dead animals on the side of the road: that is my personal path, and it may very well not be yours. The key is that if you choose to live an intentional life of awareness, these events become simple choices you make in your daily life.

Through one simple choice, I reaffirmed my commitment to following my own personal path, renewed my connection to creation and its cycles of life and death. An unexpected gift appeared, a resurgence of energy and an opportunity for deepening intimacy with my teenage daughter.

How do we learn how to live an intentional life in our everyday activities? The process is composed of three simple practices: intention, awareness and choice.

It is essential to know the intention of your life. Who are you? What is the purpose of your life? Do you want to serve? Do you want to teach? Do you love to be near water? Do you want to work with animals? Do you enjoy working alone, or with others? What brings you passion and life? What makes your heart and mind soar? What are the intentions of your life? Your intentions lead you to your goals, your dreams, and your aspirations. Your life has infinite possibilities.

When we choose to live an intentional life, the first key is to develop the practice of awareness. We learn to listen to our lives and pay attention to what is important and what isn't.

We begin by practicing awareness. We become aware of where we are, what we are thinking, what we are doing. Many of us don't practice awareness because the more aware we become, the more engaged we are with the world around us. Though it is challenging, awareness is available to each of us. There is no longer room for pretending we can't hear, see, or smell the world around us.

When you practice awareness, the second part of the process is choice. As you develop your awareness, you bring a new light to everything you do. You see and experience things differently. You realize that you don't have to live in a pattern of habituation. You no longer feel like a victim with few choices in your life. You realize that everything in your life is truly the product of your choices. In every single thing you do, you are choosing a direction. Your life is a product of your choices. Through your choices, you become the hero of your life, not the victim.

Why should we change the way we are living in the world? Why would I clean a public bathroom? Why would I pick a dead dog up out of the road? Why should we bother to choose to live an intentional life? Is it worth the effort?

I promise you this: in the accumulation of seconds that create these moments of awareness, your intentional response can create a lifetime of joy. Your response to the everyday activities of your life can create immeasurable peace of mind, happiness and fulfillment. It is precisely these small things that create the avenues to the most fundamental changes within us. God-as they say-is in the details.

Why is this so hard for us to grasp? Perhaps because we live in a world where bigger, faster, and first are best. I choose the philosophy that suggests the smallest and the simplest things hold the greatest potential for transformation. The intentional life is uncovered in the smallest and the simplest of things in our lives. The most meaningful moments of our lives are already there, waiting to be discovered.

A Mother

I remember watching Mother Teresa being interviewed by a CNN correspondent once. He was awestruck that Mother Teresa had to date picked up some 30,000 sick and dying off the streets of Calcutta. This correspondent reverently looked into Mother Teresa's eyes and asked her, "How can you not get overwhelmed when you deal with so many sick and dying bodies? You have cared for thousands upon thousands of dying people personally. How can you continually do this?"

Mother Teresa was silent for a moment and then said, "The answer is simple, my son. I am with one soul at a time. I am fully present with the person I am with. As I look into each person's face, I see the face of Christ. I never think about yesterday, an hour from now, or tomorrow when I look into a person's eyes. It is never 30,000 people; it is one person at a time."

Her answer changed my life. We can become overwhelmed trying to do good in the world. We can become overwhelmed by choosing to give ourselves to too many causes, too many people; our lives feel flooded. Heed the words of Mother Teresa, and focus on one person at a time, one task at a time.

A Student

As a student chaplain at St. Joseph's Hospital many years ago, I dealt with a number of critical care patients. It is an intense experience to immerse oneself in the spiritual and physical needs of these individuals. I had become particularly attached to one elderly woman who was terminally ill. With no family and no hope of recovery, she lay in her room alone and despondent. Each day I went in and rubbed lotion into her beautiful old cracked and gnarled feet, read to her from her book of Psalms and sat in silence by her bed reverently listening to her shallow breathing. Her spirit seemed to grow as her body was dying. I found myself looking forward to our daily time together.

On a particularly overwhelming day, as the chaplain on call, I arrived at the hospital only to find my dear friend had died of a heart attack just that morning. As I stood before her lifeless frame, and my tears were welling in my eyes, my beeper went off. A beautiful sixteen-year-old girl had been in a tragic car accident during the night, and the doctors had declared her dead. As a chaplain, it was my responsibility to be present as we got permission to harvest organs for transplant. It was gut wrenching. As I sat with the parents and looked into the young girl's eyes, I couldn't believe the horrible pain in that room. I could hardly stand up, but I had to be strong for this family.

Barely an hour later, I found myself sitting with another set of grieving parents as we unplugged the respirator that kept their son alive. He had attempted suicide and was kept on the respirator until the doctors told them there was no hope.

As I was pulled from one tragic scene to another, I felt completely overwhelmed, unable to ease anyone else's pain. My teenage children at home suddenly seemed incredibly fragile and precious to me.

Continues...


Excerpted from ALTER YOUR LIFE by Kathleen Hall Copyright © 2005 by Dr. Kathleen Hall. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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  • Posted January 6, 2011

    A Worthy and Timely Read Stepping Into A New Year

    This book was a surprise for me as I didn't have much expectation for it. I picked it up one day when overwhelm was seeping in. this book just kind of caught my eye on the shelf. End result. this was a worthy read. I absorbed and contemplated a chapter a day and it definitely in its simplistic way helped ground and focus me on what's really important. Lesson learned. Sometimes life's simplest things can have the largest most substantial impact!

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