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by guest contributor Sandra Seibert

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When I was 27 years old, I decided to travel with camels in the White Desert of Egypt. I spent two weeks with a small group of other travelers and three guides in this wonderful, fascinating part of the world. The only things I had in my backpack were a journal and pen, some clothes, two books, two towels, wipes, a basic first aid kit and a sleeping bag.

For the first three days, I thought I was going to go crazy. Every night I went to sleep under the big sky of Egypt, looking up at the stars. It was so quiet in the desert that I could hear my own blood pulsing through my veins. During the day, as I rode along on my camel in a slow and steady rhythm, my eyes rested on a sparse landscape of sand dunes, rocks and small bushes. There was nothing but stillness.

 With every day of that simple life in nature, I became calmer and more relaxed. Although the heat was exhausting and there was no iced drink, no cold water or shower to refresh myself, I found so much peace in just being there and letting go of all the stress and pressure from my life at home. There were no luxuries, no shopping malls, no computers, no electricity, no distractions—nothing but the simplicity of nature far away from the modern, technology-based world. Simple meals cooked over an open fire, bread baked under the coals in the sand, sleeping on a mat... Looking back, I call this experience "my journey to simplicity." Never have I felt more connected to my inner being. It was on this trip that I began really listening to that quiet voice within—my intuition and inner wisdom.

Despite the busyness of our daily lives, it is possible to capture the same stillness to reconnect with ourselves.

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careergirlnetwork.com
Living simply means SAYING NO to overwhelming schedules and outside demands. I value the needs of my family and of myself by setting boundaries and creating space and time. Saying no to others and their expectations is often a big challenge but is essential for slowing down and inviting simplicity into my life. Less is more - less stress, fewer appointments, less pressure, less "I should/must/need" leads to more awareness, relaxation, time, peace and balance. Saying no means listening to my intuition and gut feeling, and doing what I feel is right for me and my loved ones. In being connected to myself I become aware of the times when too much is going on and when it is time to slow down. Allowing myself to do that is a big step.

Saying no means setting priorities: What is really important NOW, today or over the coming weeks? As a mom I am a role model for my sons. When I am stressed out, exhausted and running low on energy, or I run around like crazy in order to get
everything done, I am not supporting my boys because I am too stressed out and tense to be fully present. By prioritizing and rethinking my schedule, my to-do list and my own expectations, I am able to free up time for us as a family: time to spend with the boys playing games together and doing fun activities, time to talk and listen, time to catch up and connect with my husband. 
 
During the holidays it’s especially important to slow down, reflect on the past year and our experiences so that we can prepare for the New Year, and spend time with our loved ones without worrying about the decorations, table settings, meals, baking, gifts, etc. This year I chose simplicity: I decorated less but enough to create a nice atmosphere in our home, I bought a wonderful advent wreath at a local flower store instead of making my own, and I took time to play with the
kids instead of baking cookies myself. Letting go of the perfectionist in myself empowers me to slow down and take a break, to become aware of what is really important and what I want to let go of. When I choose simplicity in my life, I cease striving for more, faster, better and bigger and I find balance and peace.

Living simply also means SAYING YES to my own needs. As a mother I give and share my love all the time. In order to charge my batteries, I need to say yes to myself and practice self care. I say yes to slowing down and nourishing my soul with things I enjoy doing without feeling guilty or bad. I love to read fiction books and watch movies, to  treat myself with facials and enjoy a cup of hot tea. By allowing myself to recharge, I connect with my intuition and my own essence, which is essential for balanced and mindful living and parenting. 

As a mindful mom, I also say yes to what serves my family. I create healthy structures and routines based on simplicity. I schedule family time by having dinner together at home and arrange for times when we can talk without doing a thousand other things. I establish bedtime routines and morning routines. Young children and tweens especially need daily routines and structures. It creates a secure and safe foundation from which they can approach their daily challenges with a more balanced mindset. 

Simplicity is a lifelong journey to ourselves. Cleaning out the mental clutter and focusing on the positive simplifies our state of mind and enables us to live consciously. Living in the present moment without worrying about the past or future, and simply being without attachment to "things," old beliefs or unhealthy structures, gives us the freedom to become our true selves. When we celebrate our imperfections we can live authentically and enjoy the simple things in life even more. 

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Simplicity for me is embracing what is. Finding peace with what is. Being grateful for the simple things in life.  Simply being - joyful, authentic, free from clutter and baggage, without fear and worry, present, balanced, connected with yourself, in peace with life.

What does simplicity mean to you and how do you integrate it into your life? Feel free to share your thoughts.

Sandra

Sandra Seibert, ACC, CPC, is the Joyful Growth Coach for women, parents and expat families. She is passionate about helping women and mothers master change with joy and grace. Her philosophy is that the only constant in life is change; each challenge presents valuable opportunities to grow personally and experience transformation. Sandra believes in the importance of achieving inner balance to maintain physical, emotional and mental health in a fast paced and very technology-focused world. Her professional and personal backgrounds complement her coaching service, which she offers globally in English and German.

You can learn more about Sandra Seibert at http://joyfulgrowthcoach.com/or join her community on facebook 'Sandra Seibert -The Joyful Growth Coach'.

A gift for Mindful Mothers - join a FREE group call: "End of the  Year - Reflection ~ Make peace with 2012 and get ready for  2013."

Email her to get more information or for registration or visit: 
http://joyfulgrowthcoach.com/portfolio-items/end-of-the-year-reflection-make-peace-with-2012/


 
 
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As the holidays ramp up, it's so fun to focus our attention on all of the good times that are on the way. The joy that this time of year brings can be quite contagious. And as requests for our time and attention start rolling in, it makes it hard to say "NO" to those requests that come from loved ones who are also energized by the spirit of the season. Therefore, getting hoodwinked with an over-packed schedule of commitments can happen in a glittery, ribbon-wrapped flash! 

Baking, decorating, shopping, wrapping, volunteering, school performances, holiday parties, family responsibilities, traveling, caroling and general merriment... it all sounds like a blast!  However, when I think about all the things I'm going to attempt to cram into my schedule before the year is through, I actually feel a bit tired and anxious. How about you? Is this reflective of what the holidays are like for your family? How does a stuffed schedule make us feel? For some moms, the busyness is energizing. But for me, holiday busyness can sneakily steal my energy and attention away from living in the moment.    

On my journey toward more mindful moments, I've found it is important to sit with irksome feelings as they arise, such as feeling overwhelmed or anxious instead of ignoring them. And boy can that be uncomfortable! I am a stubborn Capricorn, so giving thought to bending the rules of "Christmas Tradition" is far from easy for me. Honestly, giving it any thought whatsoever sends my insides into a mess of knots and anxiety.  Part of me says, "This is just how it is! It's always gonna be crazy! It'll be fine. My friends and family (and children!!) have expectations, I can't let them down!" But I find that sometimes those kinds of excuses don't lead to good "end results." 

Rather than side-stepping a problem, having a mindfulness practice has taught me the power of seeing my problems clearly so that I can better "see" a new perspective; one that is full of love, acceptance, forgiveness, letting go, and (during this holiday season) plenty of strategies for simplification.       

So, I went on the hunt for ways to simplify the holiday experience (and life as a Mom, in general!). And in the spirit of simplicity, I'll list what I found in a "no frills" sorta way. Hope you enjoy {{jingle, jingle}}

Simplicity
The Four Laws of Simplicity | Zen Habits
Simple Living Manifesto: 72 Ways... | Zen Habits
Simplify the Holidays eBooklet | The Center for a New American Dream
Preventing Holiday Fatigue | Greater Good Science Center
When In Doubt, Simplify | Zen Habits
Surviving the Holidays | Greater Good Science Center

Traditions
Holiday Traditions That Raise Happiness | Greater Good Science Center
Walking the Talk: Happiness is... a Holiday Tradition | Greater Good Science Center
Unusual Holiday Traditions | Ladies Home Journal
Treasured Holiday Traditions | Baby Center

Save Some Dough
The Buy Nothing Holiday Survival Guide | Zen Habits
The Best Online Sites for Bartering | TLC
1 Simple Strategy to Save... | Far Beyond the Stars
A Non-Consumer Christmas: Simple Gifts for Kids and Grown Ups | Get Rich Slowly
Christmas Budget Worksheet | Life Your Way
Holiday Printables | Life Your Way

Gift Giving
35 Gifts Your Children Will Never Forget | Becoming Minimalist
Kids Who Are Giftless are Gifted | Zen Habits
The Ultimate Clutter-Free Gift Guide | Slow Your Home
This Christmas, Give Peace | Becoming Minimalist
Three Ways to Help Students Give Meaningful Gifts | Greater Good Science Center
Big Hearted Families

Entertaining
Planning a Potluck Christmas Party | eHow
The White Elephant Party | WikiHow

Decorating 
Minimalist Christmas Tree | Everyday Minimalist
Pinterest

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noahsdad.com
Since Christmas and the holidays are about the joy of sharing abundantly with those you love, to me, it's all about being present to the joy within the moment... not about being overwhelmed and stressed! 

Therefore, I'm committing to incorporate a few of these strategies into my family's holiday experience this year: When In Doubt Simplify, Surviving the HolidaysPotluck Christmas PartyWhite Elephant Gift Exchange, and homemade gifts (most likely found on Pinterest) :)     

Simplicity is a way of life that can help us to find more peace and love within our moments this season and all year long. Let's spread simplicity along with cheer! What simplicity strategies work especially well for you this time of year? We'd really love to hear. Simply drop us a line in the comments section below.  

<3 Caroline