Imperfection meditation

I’m currently in a week long meditation streak. I’ve meditated seven of the last nine days. Even in that short a period of time, I can already notice that it’s having an impact on my overall well-being.

I feel more clear-headed.

I feel more patient.

I feel more content.

And the more I do it, the more important it becomes to keep it up.

But almost every time I sit or lay down to do it, I’m reminded that it always comes with its challenges, often different ones every time.

Tonight, I decided to go with a guided meditation. I have a few teachers I like on Insight Timer, but sometimes I’ll roll the dice and just pick one at random. The description sounded great, everything checked out…on paper. Put it this way: the guy could’ve been moonlighting from his job at WKRP. So, there was that to contend with. Then, my old cat decided to join me on the bed. I was trying to emit really warm and calm vibes in hope she’d pick up on them. Maybe she did because she curled up beside me. Then proceeded to lick my hand. Then curled up and used my hand as a pillow.

This is what it looked like by the time the meditation ended.

I didn’t feel too distracted and, at the same time, I welcomed the challenge of working through a little outside disruption. It was good to measure how much more quickly I already am at getting back on track.

I know there are going to be ups and downs on this road, but I’m just glad to be on it.

Dear diary

So, my friend, go easy on yourself. You have people in your life who care about you. Not everyone can say that. I spoke with Steve and Gloria this afternoon, and they both recommend that you keep a diary – you’ll treasure it one day.

Those are a few lines from the book I read this weekend, The Gum Thief by Douglas Coupland. I wrote recently about how meaningful his body of work has been to me. It got me thinking that it would be a good idea for me to get back to reading some of it again. At the time when I wrote about it, I realized that there were a few books of his that I had never read. Once our library reopened, his name was at the top of my list for borrowing and I picked this book up on my first trip back after the renovations.

If I’m honest, I can’t say for sure whether I’d read it in the past or not. His tones and the themes are so consistent that it’s possible I’d never seen it before (it didn’t ring a bell when I picked it out) but there were times when the story seemed familiar. I could never fully decide if I was just so in tune with Coupland’s story development had worked or if it was actually a repeat. Regardless, it was very enjoyable.

But that’s not my topic today. My topic today is keeping a diary.

This is something I have always sucked at. If someone said I’d owned a thousand diaries in my life, I wouldn’t be able to deny it. If someone said I’d made fewer than a thousand diary entries in my life, I’d know in a heartbeat that was the truth. Most of the diaries I’ve owned have contained 2-3 entries and then dropped. I often don’t like the lack of continuity if I were to start over months or years later so I buy a new one instead of continuing with an older (read: already tarnished) one.

I have a friend who has kept diaries all her life. She continues to do it still to this day. When she married over a decade ago, her mother cautioned her that she thought it wasn’t a good idea. While my friend carefully considered her mother’s advice, she continued on anyway. I actually just found that out last year – I’d assumed she’d put an end to the practice after her wedding, that’s how seriously she took her mother’s counsel.

When we discussed it last summer she told me that, yes, she had thought about it, but in the end she couldn’t bring herself to do it. She also told me that she was happy she’d carried on because she still had a record of everything. She said she’d often go back and check on certain events to verify that her memory of them was accurate. She’d also go back to reference her feelings about something that had taken place. Since our perceptions often change over time, she said that it was interesting to remember with accuracy not only what had happened, but how she’d responded emotionally and intellectually.

It certainly made me feel a longing for that kind of dedication. As we’ve covered a million times, it’s hard to get me to do the same thing twice, let alone regularly.

I don’t regret not keeping journals of all of my experiences, but there are times when I wish I had a strong recollection of what happened in certain situations and the sequence of events that influenced them. As I get older and my repertoire of stories grows, I sometimes find myself working my way through the details and questioning who said and did what and in what order.

As much as I love to write and I have adopted it as a coping mechanism for working through sticky and confusing situations, I’ve never recorded it all in one place consecutively. There are files here, stories there, notes, letters – it’s all over the place.

I’d never realized this so much as I did when we started going through my stuff that’s stored at my parents’ house. There I found a number of diaries scarcely populated with cringe-worthy entries from various stages of my adolescence. It was awful. At the same time, there were some great reminders in the few that I’ve been brave enough to open.

I can’t say that I’m going to start keeping one, but I’ve definitely been giving it some thought.

Do you currently or have you ever kept a diary? How has it come in handy? Have you ever regretted it?

The woman who…

I came to a conclusion earlier this week. It was while I was sitting, waiting for my appointment with my new ND. I looked around the waiting room and every. single. person. there was staring at their phone.

As you know, my social media appeal is on a serious decline and with the exception of Twitter, I am basically totally over it. Some of it is that icky privacy piece, but a lot of it is our collective dependence on our phones. This resolution is in revolt to that.

Now, I’m not opposed to being dependent on our phones. These things are genius! They put information at our fingertips! They make communication easier than ever before! And they’re fun! They assist with organizing home life, work life, health and wellness, nutrition, even meditation – they can help with it all.

My problem is, instead, that we’re so hooked on them that even when we’re not tending to any of those great things, even when we actually have nothing to really do on them, we have them glued to our hands anyway.

I’m a firm believer in a you do you philosophy and I’m perfectly comfortable with other people prioritizing their phones over time spent with friends or quiet time away from them. Do I think it’s the healthy choice? Hell, no. But we’re all able to make our own decisions and my decision is that I don’t want to be like that.

I used to get a really bad rap for being on my phone all the time. Perhaps when cellular phones were in their early days I may have been guilty, but largely, I think I actually fall on the lower usage side of the curve. My mom still gives me shit anytime I pull my phone out even though Kevin and my brother use theirs WAY more than I do while we’re over at their place.

I thought about friends and people I respect who, even though they obviously have phones, don’t have it in their hand or on the table at all times, don’t have their ringers on out in public, don’t jump at every little notification that pings their way. And I want to be more like that. I’ve become pretty aware of the phone’s whereabouts and in one on one situations, I try to keep it out of the way and not let it interfere with my attention. I honestly don’t even know what my ringtone or text notification is because I cringe anytime I hear a phone make a sound and I will never let that be me.

So, I want to be the woman who…

  • Never prioritizes her phone over her surroundings – people, places or experiences
  • Uses her phone deliberately and with intention – not surfing or scrolling
  • Never uses her phone to avoid the situation, the moment, the silence because it’s boring or awkward

I want to be the woman whose phone is virtually invisible, never seen, but thoughtfully used.

Do you have guidelines around your phone usage? Are there bad habits that you’d like to kick? Good habits you’d like to adopt?

09.07.18

I’m a firm believer that multitasking is a recipe for disaster or at the very least, a promise that nothing will be done well. I know it makes people feel busy and important and all that, but it really is among the dumbest habits we’ve glorified in recent decades.

I knew that before, but I proved it to myself again this week.

I sometimes sit at my desk at work with fifteen things to do and zero ability to complete, or even make decent progress on any. The more I spin, the less effective I become. So I reminded myself that this is a great truth I have already learned and I stopped, took a step back and decided to focus on what I wanted to do first. I threw my whole self into completing that task and it was not only done, getting it done was also somewhat enjoyable. Then I moved onto the next thing and same. Next, same. You’re seeing the same pattern I saw.

It was actually so rewarding that I started to wonder what would happen if I did this in all aspects of my life: when I walk, when I spend time with people, when I eat, shower, read, whatever. What would happen if I gave my whole attention to exactly what I was doing in every moment? This would mean intentional decisions about everything I did. Imagine deciding to use your time for one task and completely devoting your attention to it. Not only would you actually do it – and more efficiently and effectively – but you also get to enjoy it more. πŸ™ŒπŸ»

So, I started to try to remind myself in every moment that I am where I am as a result of a series of influences and that no matter what they were there is a reason for it. I try to remain open to any signs about the how or the why.

  • This meeting is the only thing I’m thinking about right now
  • I am enjoying every sip of this water
  • Walking up this flight of stairs is the only thing on my mind right now
  • I’m taking the next ten minutes to text my friend
  • When the show starts, watching it is the only thing I will do until it is over
  • This is exactly the person I want to be talking to right now

You get the picture. And do you know what I found? It made me feel calmer and happier when I could keep it on track. If my mind started wandering, I’d just approach it like I do during meditation – acknowledge it and let it go. If something – an idea or task that I needed to give some attention to – came up, I’d just write it down to return to later.

This is the essence of mindfulness, of course. Do you make a point of practicing intention and purpose? If so, please tell me how you apply it. For me, this week and my full devotion has been a game changer.

08.30.18

I’m a bit of a Gretchen Rubin zealot. It’s kind of funny because I don’t always like her, but I always respect her and I almost always put stock with her theories. Probably one of the things I love the most is that they’re flexible. They don’t require unanimous agreement because they’re based on several different perspectives and perceptions. Everyone is unique and, even though she’s quite rigid with herself and her own habits, she supports others in what works best for them. In that, she is rigidly flexible.

If you’re unfamiliar with Gretchen Rubin, she is most well known for her 2009 book The Happiness Project that was published with the tag line Or Why I Spent a Year Trying to Sing in the Morning, Clean My Closets, Fight Right, Read Aristotle, and Generally Have More Fun. In it, she breaks down how she devoted each month of the year to improving her happiness related to a specific area of her life and how she took smaller steps to execute that. Ever since I first read it (and I’ve read it several times) I’ve vowed to do my own Happiness Project the following year. Maybe 2019?

In her follow up book, Happier At Home (Kiss More, Jump More, Abandon a Project, Read Samuel Johnson, and My Other Experiments in the Practice of Everyday Life), Gretchen (I’ve listened to about 175 episodes of the podcast she hosts with her sister so, yes, I feel like I can call her that) addresses happiness in the home using the same kind of outline as she used in The Happiness Project. Because the subject is a shared home and because that often includes children going back to school, the Happier At Home Project begins in September. As Gretchen theorizes, September is the other January.

I have to agree with her. Even though Back To School season has long been meaningless to me, I still can’t help but feel the excitement of a new and fresh start. Changes. Beginnings. Improvements. They’re all my jam.

I’m not a stringent resolution maker at any time of year, but I do enjoy moments of big change implementation, a start line after which something (or everything!) is different.

As we approach the beginning of a potentially transitional period, I like to take some time to think about what’s working in my life, what isn’t, how I’m feeling vs how I want to feel. I like to do some reflection on what I can do better or maybe even just differently.

Do you agree that September is the other January? Do you make changes in your life at the beginning of anew school year? Do you have any goals for this fall?

08.20.18

Love is inexact. It is not a science. It is barely a noun. It means one thing to one person, and one thing to another. It means one thing to one person at one point and then something else at another point. It doesn’t make sense. We are gathered here today to listen to the ineffable. I’m supposed to be explaining it, but I can’t explain it. I love you, it’s a mystery. Because it’s a mystery, we have to take care of it. Feed it. It can go missing, but we can’t tie it up. We can only tie it to someone else. Other people. Then the world is like this: full of the geometry of my rope tied to you, and to you, and yours tied to him, and to her, and hers to someone else. I love you, it’s a mystery. A moment of silence.

From Aja Gabel’s novel, The Ensemble

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A few years ago, I did a six week course in Mindful Self-Compassion which combines the practices of mindfulness and self-compassion to promote emotional resilience and general well being. Much of the training is done through guided meditations and a significant amount of time is spent comparing our inner responses (self-talk) and our outer responses (how we treat others.)

Self-compassion involves responding in the same supportive and understanding way you would with a good friend when you have a difficult time, fail, or notice something you don’t like about yourself.

This weekend I was reminded of my training when I found this exercise in a book I was reading and felt compelled to share it.

It will help for you to take a few deep breaths and place one or both of your hands over your heart then read – silently or aloud – through the following statements. Spend some time with any of them that really resonate with you. Go back to any that you are drawn to.

In this moment, I give myself permission to release and let go of all the pain that I have been carrying with me for all this time.

In this moment, I choose to be free from blame, free from pain and free from resentment.

In this moment, I choose to open my heart fully and let love flow in and out of my life.

In this moment, I love myself, I accept myself.

In this moment, I choose to release and let go of all the pain from my heart, my mind and my soul.

In this moment, I choose to forgive. I choose to let go. I choose to be free.

Once you have spent some time with these statements, notice how they made you feel. Come back to them or make up some of your own. Sit in quiet with them as frequently as you feel comfortable with and slowly try to let go of some of your pain or anxiety or fear. The more you practice, the more you might find that you’re focusing instead on the lightness, the beauty and the peace.

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The unexpected side effects of using vintage dishes

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A month or two ago, after a few visits to Cadeaux Bakery in Gastown for some delectable desserts, I found myself longing to make a switch from our regular, old, boring dinnerware to fancy, vintage china instead. I put my intention out to the universe in the most efficient way: by tweeting it.

Days later, I was over at my folks’ place and chatting with my mom. Lo and behold, she told me that she had a full set of my grandmother’s china that she wasn’t using. As we dug it out, she found all kinds of other mismatched pieces from various sets and I was the willing and happy recipient of it all.

As soon as we got home, I moved the current dishes out of the cupboards and into storage and packed the new (old) pieces in. Of course, most if not all of the china is rimmed in gold so none of it can safely go in the dishwasher. Washing dishes by hand is no big deal since we both lived without dishwashers before we moved in together and we are kind of still used to it.

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I noticed that once we started using the new (old) dishes, we started using the dishwasher remarkably less. When we were already washing a couple of plates, we might as well wash a bunch of other dishes, right? It added up and it has started to take a lot longer to fill the dishwasher.

Here’s another unexpected side effect: happiness.

From the Huffington Post Home article, How Hand-Washing The Dishes Could Make You A Happier Person:

You may be the type to put off dishwashing until the sink is jam-packed, but new scientific findings may make you more eager to clean up. A study published in the journal Mindfulness found that washing dishes mindfully could be therapeutic, increasing feelings of well-being and decreasing nervousness.

To wash dishes “mindfully” means to do so with intention and focus, contemplating the sensory experiences of the act like the warmth of the water, the feel of dishes and the smell of the soap.

This is precisely what some study participants were instructed to do while washing 18 dishes. The control group, on the other hand, washed 18 dishes without the mindfulness instruction. Instead, they were given directives relating to proper dishwashing techniques. The experimental group reported increased positivity and decreased nervousness, while the control group reported no change.

I’m going to start being more mindful next time I’m doing the dishes and other chores. I mean, it has got to be good practice to add mindfulness (and happiness) to other household tasks as well. I’m all for anything that helps make them less painful!