Archive for the 'reflections on life' Category

Trying to ‘Get’ Mindfulness

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Mindfulness is quite ‘in’ these days. Articles, courses, references – it seems to be everywhere I look. I wasn’t really sure what it meant/involved. I thought it was something about being aware in that moment but more than that was unclear to me. I knew more about “Willful Blindness” than about Mindfulness. For a fantastic discussion on that, you should follow Margaret Heffernan and/or read her book, ‘Willful Blindness: Why We Ignore the Obvious At Our Peril”. I’ve heard her speak and she is FANTASTIC. But I digress. *grin* How like me.
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Yesterday at work we had an entire day devoted to learning – personal learning and corporate learning. I confess I was skeptical about the event. I thought it was going to be all ‘live’ presentations of folks droning on and on. It was nothing like that, and I was extremely impressed with how well it ran and the wide range of topics available to pursue. Folks who worked in large locations gathered together in party-like atmospheres, while us remote folks made do with our own kitchens (and cats). One of the options under the Personal Development track was a 45-minute session on Mindfulness. I decided to take that session. (Most of the offerings were a combination of pre-recorded presentations and reading materials, plus other relevant tasks or suggestions.)
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This particular session seemed to be aimed at how one could practice mindfulness at work. The goal of practicing mindfulness would lead to a feeling of calm, the ability to focus, reduction of stress, and overall better health. All of which would make you more productive, in all aspects of life. At least, this is what I took away from the session. As is my habit, I took screen shots of material I wanted to remember and revisit. I saved “10 mindfulness habits that will make you more productive at work”, “7 things mindful people do differently”, and “Some mindfulness exercises”. Although one of the ‘habits’ is ‘practice humility’ I’m arrogant and prideful enough to believe that I actually practice the 7 mindful habits most of the time. *laughing* Maybe a good part of the time if not most of the time. A lot of it sounded much like things my therapist used to advise me to embrace.
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‘Approach every day things with curiosity and savor them.’ That would probably be something I stop and do deliberately, or when I’m taken by surprise. I do love to learn how different things work and function and to watch skilled people practice their art. ‘Accept that things come and go.’ Oh yeah, that sounds like Howard for sure. “Accept”. He was always reminding me to accept how people are, to accept what I can’t control, to accept the decisions I make. Which leads, of course to another habit: ‘Make peace with imperfection, yours and others.’ ‘Make peace’ is another way to phrase one of Howard’s mantras: Accept, don’t Expect. 🙂
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I think the next 4 are really expanded commentary on the others. ‘Forgive mistakes, big and small’; ‘Show gratitude for good moments and grace for bad ones’; ‘Practice compassion and nurture connections’; ‘Embrace vulnerability by trusting others’. I’d like to think that I have made progress on these over the years. I probably have the most difficulty with forgiving and trusting. Being vulnerable is an uncomfortable feeling. On the other hand you don’t want to be all locked away, because that is suffocating.
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The 10 habits are ways to practice the 7 guides above. Many of them are ways to “be present”, “stay in the moment”. If you are working a specific project, it’s not that difficult. I imagine most of us can hone in and focus on something we are trying to accomplish. But mindfulness appears to be about staying in the moment and NOT working. And that is very, very difficult for me. My mind is all over the place the minute I try to “relax”. *laughing* I always tell this story about my first yoga class, at one of the local high schools. The first instruction was to stretch out on our mats and relax, and let our minds relax too. Well. Although Ahuva and relax both have 5 letters, other than the ‘a’ there’s not much else they have in common. As I lay there on the floor, I started worrying about my car. Did I lock it, was someone going to break in, what is this relaxing thing anyway, this is boring, what am I supposed to be doing, what am I supposed to be feeling, is everyone else getting this, why am I not getting this. By the time the instructor told us to sit up, I was hyper-ventilating and completely stressed. *grin* I never went back to that class.
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I cheated on completing the Mindfulness session. I marked it complete without doing the 10-15 minute practice. I decided I’d try it at home (even though I am NOT a trained professional). 🙂 I decided to give it a try in the hot tub at night. One of the suggested exercises was to take several deep breaths, counting as you inhale, hold it, exhale. That is something I learned 2 years ago when I re-attempted yoga and I do that when my mind begins spinning downward into the vortex. I thought I’d try a different exercise: Mindful observation. Pick an object and observe it for one minute, noticing color, texture, shape, smell, etc.
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There’s not much to touch in the hot tub. (Do NOT go there.) I was going to stare at the trees, but they weren’t offering much inspiration. I decided to close my eyes and LISTEN, not LOOK. That I COULD do. It was lovely. I don’t know what creature produced the sounds I heard. One was definitely crickets or cicadas. I don’t know what the other very interesting insect-sounding noise was. I was able to sit there and let go of everything but the moment. I focused on the sounds, I focused on the water moving against my hand, I ‘tracked’ the plane that flew overhead, I heard more bird/insect noises further way. I noticed my breathing, without trying to control it. It really worked. *smile* I sat there for SEVERAL minutes (I think), simply being. I would open my eyes after a bit, move about, settle down and close my eyes and begin again. I felt relaxed and refreshed after I got out of the tub, and did NOT have difficulty falling asleep afterwards.
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Today at the office I tried another of the suggestions – Notice 5 things in your day that you don’t typically notice. There are probably a lot of things inside the office that I don’t usually notice, but there are also probably very good reasons why I don’t look there. 🙂 I decided to try to focus during a walk – LOOK at things on my walk, feel the sun and wind, smell whatever might be there (and of course hear the pterodactyl yelling from the warehouse next door).
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It went surprisingly well. For starters I walked much more slowly than I usually do, and I made a point to look at the plants, the asphalt, the stones and trees. I saw many plants that I don’t usually notice, and noticed the bark on the trees, the pine cones, little seedlings, spider webs. It wasn’t just the noticing. It was the not having anything else churning in my mind. Usually I’m obsessing about what I have to do and what I’m feeling and why am I feeling that way. There was NONE of that. I was moving slowly, focused on seeing, not thinking, feeling the sun and the breeze. The most thinking I did was when I thought about aiming the camera to take a picture to share. It was incredibly restful.
tree bark with fungus

I stayed focused on seeing, feeling, sensing, for easily 25 minutes. Near the end of my walk I realized that I was losing my ability to stay focused on what was in front of me. I’d been thinking about what I needed to write, about curating the photos I’d been taking, wondering if I could escape down the shore one of these days. That was the point when I checked the time and saw I’d been out there for my usual 30 minutes, but nothing about it felt ‘usual’. I hadn’t even realized how much time had passed. In any case, I think there is a lot here that could be useful if I can figure out how to make it work for me. Huh. There may be something TO this mindfulness thing. *smile*
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Office Reflections

winter skyline

distant mountains.

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Although I still miss the lake and the trees at my previous location, this office can enchant. Whether it’s when I walk in on Monday morning and am greeted by the distant mountains at the end of the hall, or when the sun breaks through after a rainy day, casting late-day shadows on cubicle walls, I’m grateful to have glimpses of nature.

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schflera shadowI do prefer lots of long days of sunshine, but there is pleasure to be had walking out of the office at sunset on a winter’s day. The sky is filled with color, and the windows capture the flames.

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office windows at sunset

Taking Another Step Away

I treated myself and bought a new computer. It arrived yesterday – a Lenovo Yoga 730. I got the active pen as well, about which I know nothing. 🙂 I gather it lets me draw on the screen. IMG_9869How can someone be so ignorant about their new computer? I don’t pick my own computers. I (like Blanche DuBois) often depend on the kindness of others, in this case coworkers, not strangers.

Way back at the end of the summer I asked a former coworker for advice on a new computer. He’d given me great advice when I was searching for a hard-core gaming computer to handle Second Life and Open Sim. That was all the way back in 2010 and I got an Alienware. I still have that Alienware and it is still going, but I can’t upgrade it and USB ports are a bit different now, and so are operating systems.

Somewhere between then and now I bought myself another computer that could handle gaming and virtual realities. That one was the same machine that we’d bought our son, with a few enhancements added.IMG_9871 I never got a chance to use it. First my son broke his, so I gave him mine. Once it returned to me, my sister’s computer ceased to run her programs so I lent her mine. Permanently. 🙂 I love my sister. So here I am, without a modern functioning computer. I back up all my iThings to the Alienware, but I’ve discovered that I cannot write from it to the iThings. I had to do my last phone update by using my work Mac. It’s time already for a new machine.

I took the list of suggestions from the first coworker and showed it to my former teammates, whose opinions I have ALWAYS sought and trusted. I told them all that the only thing I do anymore is read mail, blog, social media, and process photos. They all agreed on the Yoga 730 and they all told me “buy the pen, you’ll like it”. Okay, I did. IMG_9872I haven’t even opened the box yet, *grin*, but I’m sure one of these days I’ll figure it out.

So why “another step away”? Because I suspect this machine will NOT run Second Life. I loved my time in SL. I’ve written about how much fun I had, how it challenged me, changed me, shaped me. I’ve written about the friendships I made that exist today and moved from virtual reality to RL reality. I still, foolishly, maintain my premium membership, although I have surrendered all my land. I want to go back, but there is no “back” – we have all moved on. Some of my friends are virtually dead, others have passed away in physical reality. Buying a non-gaming computer is yet another step away from the past.

You can take the woman out of SL, but you cannot take the SL out of the woman. No matter WHICH computer she buys.

Why We Compost

I do the majority of the grocery shopping for our household. I use a shopping list, I check the shelves and stocks before I go.IMG_9861 While I shop I have a general idea of the week ahead – what I think we’ll be doing, what meals will be needed. Yet somehow I always seem to be led astray in the produce department. The fresh fruits and vegetables are so appealing that I’m SURE we will be running short before the next grocery trip. I’m often wrong in that assumption. A few years ago I began composting. This has alleviated a lot of my guilt about ‘wasting’ the produce we don’t eat. I don’t consider composting “wasting”. I love to garden, I need fresh soil every spring. It’s my own little circle of life – produce to dirt to produce.
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I’m NOT Hiding

Am Yisrael Chai
jewish starI’ve written this post over and over and over. I started with growing up, I started with the past weekend, I started with the wonderful Shabbat service I attended last night with my congregation/community. But it all comes down to one thing – I will NOT hide. I will NOT live in fear. You hate me and want to kill me? That’s on you. I may have my moments of despair, but I will not fear and I will not hide.

AM YISRAEL CHAI!!

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THE PEOPLE OF ISRAEL LIVE!!

Am Yisrael Chai lyrics

A Little Ray of Sunshine

Yesterday was, in the words of a famous children’s book, a Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day. It was extremely frustrating and infuriating. There were a few moments of respite (such as falling asleep on the chiropractor’s table) but for the most part it was a day filled with chest pain, headache and fury. I arrived home still seething, unsure what I could possibly do to relax.

As I got out of my car, I heard my name being called. I looked up to see my 2 young neighbors running up the sidewalk, calling to me. They were very excited because they were having dinner DELIVERED but also a bit frustrated because they’d “CALLED AN HOUR AGO”. *smile* I commiserated with them and mentioned I was going to go inside and have leftovers. G, the little girl, looked up at me and asked “Can I have a hug?”

Well. Cue the sunshine, the flowers, the hearts, the rainbows, and all things warm and wonderful.

“Of COURSE you can have a hug”, I replied. I started to bend down to deliver the hug and stopped and said “let me put down all this stuff and give you a proper hug”. I dropped my bag, my laptop, my other bag and picked up this adorable, wonderful ray of sunshine and gave her a very big, long hug. I put her down and we smiled and she ran back to her house.

I needed that.

Reality…. Is it worth it?

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More headlines I’d prefer not to see because there are WAY TOO MANY headlines I’d prefer not to see, but they keep on showing up, day after day after day. I do need to bring the renovation information up to date (no, it is NOT 100% done yet). It keeps raining and raining and raining and by now that, too, is a bummer. They are promising sunshine this weekend so perhaps reality will be a bit improved.

Was an Oklahoma Woman Killed By a Pack of Small Dachshunds?
And I thought the deer in our neighborhood were brazen.

Woman on antibiotics develops a ‘black hairy tongue’ in bizarre medical case
I regret deeply that I did actually click through on this and saw the picture. I have sworn off antibiotics.

The CDC is warning people to stop reusing and washing condoms
Sigh. Really, this shouldn’t have to be said. Ever.

Man Arrested for Having Sex with Injured Beaver
I WOULD have said “only in Florida”, but this happened in Washington state – a continent away from the usual totally bizarre behavior that gets reported on my less circumspect news feeds.

“Vampire facials” at New Mexico spa may have exposed customers to HIV
Gross. Totally ick. And as far as *I* am concerned – the only place to hang out with vampires would be in Bon Temps, LA.

Teenage Pageant Girls Who Kill and Skin Rattlesnakes
Yet another reason why Texas is NOT on the list of places I’d consider for my retirement. And this must also be why I did not win the beauty contest I was in at my swim club the summer I was 13 – I forgot my dead rattlesnake

Watch a Moth Suck the Tears Out of a Bird’s Eye, Because Nature Is Metal
I’m not sure I have any problem at all with the moth drinking the bird’s tears, that seems somewhat ‘cool’, actually. “Nature is metal”??? Not really liking that accolade.

There you go. This is the best I can muster for you after this week. There were some absolutely lovely moments during this week, but there were far too many more that belong in the “I’d rather not see/know/hear” category. On the other hand – I’ve just typed this up with a purring black cat in my lap. 🙂 There is much that is right in the world.
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