Tag Archives: Meditation

Hibernation

I’ve been absent from this space for the last couple of months because I’ve been hibernating.

One of the definitions of “hibernation” is “to withdraw or be in seclusion.”   Every January, I try to remove myself from the daily insanity of connectedness to discourse with myself and ensure that my life is proceeding in the direction I want and need.  I intended this year to be just the same, but as I moved through the holidays and January to jump back into my routine, I realized I needed to make it different. Continue reading

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The Desire Map

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Let’s talk about your life.

Do you feel free? Joyful? Connected?

Most importantly, does your life feel the way you want it to feel?

When I read The Desire Map by Danielle LaPorte for the first time, my life was not feeling the way I wanted it to.

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Keep a Contented Heart in November

Well, here it is again. That time of the month. The time when I drag out my muse’s guide to finding happiness and write myself notes on the next layer of my happiness and joyful cake creation. Here’s what Ms. Muse has to say for the month of November.

Keep a contented heart.  A contented heart is a even sea in the midst of all storms.  So said William Secker in his treatise The Nonsuch Professor in His Meridian Splendor, published in 1660.  Amazing that it’s the same some three hundred and fifty years later.

a) Laugh out loud.

She’s right. I should laugh out loud more. We all should laugh out loud more. It just feels so gosh darn fantabulous when we do it. The sun seems to shine brighter for a few moments, the air seems to warm, and the endorphins rush through our bodies. It can change my whole outlook on a day.

What do I do to ensure I laugh out loud at least once a day? For starters, I have a child who is learning to read and sometimes mispronounces words in such a way that I can barely even understand what he’s trying to say. My child also loves to sing, and I mean loves it as if it’s his favorite chocolate treat. He belts out whatever tune he is listening to, and at times it’s all I can do to keep the car on the road I’m laughing so hard. Which makes him smile and sing more loudly, which makes me laugh more…. You get the picture.

I also read amusing books. Currently on my nightstand is Jen Lancaster‘s The Tao of Martha.  Ms. Lancaster is a seriously funny woman who doesn’t take herself too seriously. Consequently, when reading her books, of which there are many, I tend to laugh out loud and try to live my life with the same grain of salt approach she seems to espouse in her essays.

Laughter is good for anything that might ail us. We all need more, so I’m going to continue laughing and smiling and feeling good. It helps me get through the days when the sun doesn’t shine so brightly, which was a lot of September.

b) Use good manners.

I have my mother and Emily Post to thank for my somewhat rigid adherence to “proper” and “appropriate” behavior. My parents drilled me like they were each an Army Drill Sergeant to ensure that I knew and utilized manners. Proper table etiquette, even when all we were eating was grilled cheese sandwiches. Thank you notes for everything and in a timely manner, e.g. no later than two weeks after the event, the gift, etc.

One year for Christmas my mother found and gifted me a book on manners penned by none other than Ms. Emily Post. I still have it on my shelf with the the note-filled margins, underlined text, and dog-eared pages. I still consult Ms. Post regularly, but these days it seems that most of her advice is considered antiquated niceties that we can all eliminate from our lives due to the instantaneous and often impersonal nature of the digital age. I disagree wholeheartedly and so stick to the advice and manners that have gotten me this far in life.

Several years ago I bought the updated version of Emily Post’s book for my two step-daughters.

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I thought that as they went out into the world as young women and began interviewing for jobs, receiving engagement, wedding or baby gifts, knowing how to deal with the acknowledging and thanking people for their kindnesses would be helpful, especially since so few people attend to social niceties these days with the advent of e-mail. I gave the books with that precise sentiment.  As both opened the gift in my presence, they both said thank you, having such a resource would be great.

Two years later?  Both books are still sitting on the shelf in their respective closets upstairs, unopened. One moved out and left her copy here.  Does anybody want to purchase a slightly used copy of Emily Post’s Etiquette? I can give you a really good deal!

c) Give positive reviews.

I consider this up there with manners. If I’ve received good service or had a good experience, I say it. I shout it from the rooftops. I am a firm believer in the maxim that if you let people know they’ve done a good job, that will make them want to do it again and again to get the feel good rush from positive feedback.

Accordingly, I’m one of those people on Amazon and Yelp and Open Table who reviews service providers. If the meal, the product, the service has been good, I let the provider know. Of course, I also let them know if it’s been bad, but I think it’s just as important to put out good vibes into the world as bad.

d) Find an area of refuge.

I’m working on this. I actually reclaimed my sunroom over Labor Day weekend and made it into a sitting/reading area.

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However, it’s off the kitchen, so although it’s a lovely spot in which to have a cup of coffee and chat with Ernie Hemingway or a friend when children are playing, it’s not really a refuge. Too public. So I’m looking for different space in the house.

Our house has a central family room where everything happens. We also have a formal living room, which at this stage of our lives is largely unused. The only time it sees traffic is when the Christmas tree goes up and when packages are delivered to the front door. It also tends – like so many other open spaces – to attract junk and become a storage area when it’s not being used for the Christmas tree.

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For some time, I’ve been planning to make the back corner of the room into a quiet area where I can meditate and practice yoga. It’s sunny and bright, and the farthest corner of the house away from the main traffic areas, so it feels distant. Just what I need for quieting my mind and soul.

Of course, I have an office, too, but currently it’s situated in the laundry room on the other side of the master bath, and over the garage, so it’s not quite as isolated and quiet.

Plus, it’s cold. It is so cold that even when the heat is on, I need an electric space heater to keep marginally warm. It is so cold that once the outside temperature drops below 40 degrees, my cat won’t even hang out in there with me. It is so cold that the winter after we moved into our house we needed to install heat into our garage to ensure that the pipes for the laundry didn’t freeze. I don’t know precisely what the previous owners did about that particular problem, but I don’t care. I now have a garage that stays at a relatively balmy 55 degrees all winter. Getting into a cold car is not really a problem, unless of course, I’ve been lazy and haven’t put the car into the garage, nor is frozen pipes, truly the most important thing.

My husband decided several months ago that his office, located off the family room, should be mine so that I wouldn’t have to spend so much time upstairs away from the central living area, but it’s still got a lot of his books and other stuff in it, so it doesn’t feel like mine yet.

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Maybe I’ll work on getting the walls covered with my stuff and then I’ll want to use it more. I’ll keep you posted.

For now, though, I think my quiet area in the formal living room – or the Christmas tree room as we call it – is my best bet. I’ve got a folding room divider that I’ll put behind the couch, a meditation chair for which I’ve just redone the cushion, my super thick yoga mat, and a Bose sound dock into which I can pop my iPhone to play ocean music. Now I just need to get all the junk out of that room.

And did I forget to mention that Thanksgiving is at our house?  Namaste.

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Pay Attention in October

I’m a bit late on my October tasks, but I gave myself a break after burying my father-in-law simply to meditate on life, its wonder and brevity, and focus on helping my husband through this difficult time. Without further ado, here is what my happiness muse tells me I should focus on during the month of October.

a) Meditate on koans.

When I first read this, I admit I thought she was instructing me to meditate on financial issues. However, once I read a bit farther, I realized that I was being instructed to meditate on the big questions. A koan is a story, a question or a statement which, in Zen-practice, is used to provoke the mind, to exhaust the analytic intellect and the egoistic will, readying the mind to entertain an appropriate response on the intuitive level. Two koans that I have encountered often in general nomenclature are: (i) if a tree falls in the forest and no one hears it, does it make a sound? and (ii) the only way out is through.

The statement “the only way out is through” seems particularly relevant to recent events in my world, namely my husband’s father dying, and to a much lesser degree, my anxiety and sadness surrounding The Boy starting kindergarten and beginning to grow his independence in leaps and bounds that I haven’t seen since he first became mobile. So this month I will meditate on “the only way out is through” and in doing so, I hope open my mind to greater possibility and awareness of the ways in which grief and anxiety change me.

I realize I’m probably way over simplifying this whole task of meditating on koans, and I want to delve deeper into it, but my heart needs a little time to heal, so I will start small and meditate more and deeper as I go. Once I fix the cushion on my meditation chair.

b) Examine True Rules.

These are concrete lessons that come out of people’s particular experiences. Again, recent events are going to provide me with lots of these life rules. Perhaps the only True Rule I will find is that life is short and can be taken away at any time, so I should live every day to the fullest. I suppose that’s a cliche, but cliches are that for a reason: generally, they tend to be true, and thus become overused and cliche.

Right now the only True Rules I can come up with are (i) children grown up even when you don’t want them to, and (ii) everything changes.

c) Stimulate the mind in new ways.

This sounds suspiciously like “try new things.”  Of course, I’ve been trying new things all year long, so I’ll bite. I just don’t know what I can fit into my schedule right now ….  I’ll keep you posted.

d) Keep a food diary.

Um, okay. While I admit I’m not in the shape I was in before I had a child and I’m a few pounds over my ideal weight, I’m not sure that keeping a diary in which I record every blessed thing that goes into my mouth will be particularly helpful.  I’m stressed out enough about it already.

I’m a little more nuts about my weight and size than many.  Once you’ve had an eating disorder, even when “cured,” it never really goes away, and I find myself freaking out over my weight and calling my sister to talk me down off the ledge.  Intellectually, I know I’m a healthy weight, but I look in the mirror and see someone I don’t recognize, someone I don’t want to be.  I hate feeling the waistband of my jeans touching my waist – not cutting into it, just touching it.

Despite knowing that tipping the scales at 100 pounds when I’m 5’7″ is scary and unhealthy, I still keep that in the back of my mind as my ideal, and I admit that unless I keep that girl in handcuffs, she will sneak up from the back of the bus and knock me over the head in the name of taking over my eating and obsessive exercise patterns.  I still look longingly at the photos I have in which my collarbone juts out like a shelf under my neck and the my neck looks as if it can barely withstand supporting the weight of my head.  I fight every day, every meal, not to let that girl take over.

I don’t want my child to grow up with food issues.  I don’t want him to believe that eating or not eating will make anyone love him more or less.  So I keep those photos hidden away and hope that someday I will be able to look at them and feel that girl is gone.  I want to know deep in my heart that girl is unhealthy, and never again, even deep in my hidden heart of hearts, want to emulate her.

So, no, I will not be keeping a food diary.  I live a food diary.

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