Wednesday, June 30, 2021

Meditation So Far

I resisted mediation for a long time. I was one of those that said, "I can't sit still," "I can't do the breathing" and "My mind won't stop thinking." It's amazing how much we get wrong when we hear a few phrases and think we know what meditation is. 

Now, I am no expert, and I'm not even going to try and talk about its history or what meditation is for anyone else but me. So why bother?  I think maybe this might provide encouragement to others who think they "can't" meditate. 

My company sponsored a few virtual sessions on meditation last summer, and that was when it started to make sense to me. 

To begin with, it reminded me of the relaxation exercises we would sometimes do in acting classes. We'd lie on the floor, eyes closed, and focus on relaxing the top of our head, then the forehead, etc., all the way down. 

Meditation uses different language (that form of focusing your attention on your body top to bottom - or bottom to top - is called "scanning"), but the purpose is to give your mind a singular focus. It's not about "not thinking," but about thinking about one thing at a time. 

In the business world, people talk about "flow" state. Turning off the bells and reminders and focusing solely on the work in front of you. 

That is one of the benefits of meditation: it helps you learn to focus the mind on just one thing at a time. 

Of course, it doesn't always work. That's where "noting" comes in. You don't judge the mind for wandering, you just "note" it. And then bring your focus back on the body, the breath, whatever that one thing is. 

This has been the real revelation for me! I think many of us who consider ourselves type A personalities, those of us who strive for perfect attendance, 100%, straight As...we can be rather hard on ourselves. Sometimes, we're also hard on other people, too. 

I am learning to forgive myself. I am learning that it's okay to not be perfect at this. That's why they call it a practice. And beating myself up only takes time and effort away from doing the thing. 

I do get restless, and I want to change positions or stretch out my back. So I do! I don't get caught up in doing this "perfectly," and not moving a muscle. If I have an itch, I scratch it. Otherwise, I will be spending all my energy and focus trying not to. This way, I move, then I go back to scanning the body or counting my breaths, whatever the exercise is. I'm a beginner, and I'm not going to be perfect at this. 

The whole purpose is to help me, so it doesn't do me any good if I just mad at myself. I just have to begin again. 

This is also helping me in other areas. I've started tap dancing again, and I was getting angry at myself for not getting it quick enough - for what, I don't know! Now, I just do it, practice it, and remember that I'm doing it for fun! So I should probably have fun with it. 

And, bonus, it is helping me feel a little less anger or resentment towards others. Not all the time, of course, but sometimes. Like there was a day when I was driving, and a car totally cut me off. Rather than get angry, I just thought to myself, "that guy's an asshole - noted!" and moved on with my life. Granted, calling him an asshole is indeed a judgment, but it didn't affect my own emotional state. 

Progress: recently merging onto a freeway, I had that experience where someone decided that they needed to be in front of me, even though it was not their turn. That time, I thought, "wow, you really need this, don't you? Okay, I'll give you this win. Clearly, it means more to you." Again - not without judgment, but I didn't call them a name this time - even in my head!

BTW, sorry that both of my examples are regarding driving, but (a) I live in SoCal - we spend a LOT of time in our cars, and (b) I'm still not getting out much yet! 

Of course, I still lose my temper, I still get distracted, and I'm not consistent with my practice yet. Overall, however, I'm really glad I started! 

Tuesday, June 22, 2021

Balancing the Game of Life

 We use gaming terms effortlessly in our everyday language. "She's on a roll!" "I'm a loser." "He needs a win." And, of course, every parent's favorite: "It's not fair!"

I get it. Sports are popular. Games are popular. Many people thrive from their competitive nature. It's a natural analogy or metaphor that most people understand. 

Unfortunately, it can also create an "us" against "them" atmosphere. It makes it instinctive to think that someone else's win means that you've lost something, when that's not always true. 

Yes, it can mean that you didn't get a promotion that went to a colleague instead, or someone outbid you on a house. But even then, it doesn't mean that you'll never get a promotion or a house. 

When we think of something as a zero sum game, it can create resentment that's not only possibly unfair, it hurts us more than it hurts them. 

Quite simply, it's just not a good use of our time. 

Now, I'm still about balance here. There is such a thing as healthy competition, and sometimes we can strive for more by seeing where we are compared to others. 

But when it starts making you feel bad, it's no longer useful. 

Get back to your personal goal. In the housing example, maybe it's not the right time or market for you. Could you look for something smaller or further away? Maybe wait another year and save more or pay down more debt. If you didn't get a promotion, ask for feedback on what skills you need to gain. 

Let's also remember that games are supposed to be fun! If striving for your goal no longer motivates you, is it time to re-examine that goal? 

I don't necessarily mean to give up entirely, but maybe it needs a tweak here and there. If home ownership isn't viable right now, could you move to a better apartment with more amenities? If it looks like you're at a dead end in your career, could you make a lateral move with more opportunities down the line? 

Thinking about those areas that are in your own locus of control will be way more productive than focusing your attention and energy on those that "beat" you. 

In the name of balance, go ahead and take a happy hour to vent with your friends. Everyone is allowed some time to process. 

The next day, give yourself some time to brainstorm other avenues to score your own goal! 

Yeah, couldn't help it. 

Sunday, June 20, 2021

A New Chapter

While the pandemic delayed this chapter, it seems that it might be real this time. Sylvia has once again left home for her cruise ship job, and the nest is empty!

Riley moved into her own apartment about a year ago now, so she’s fully launched, even though she’s still in college. 

Alas, I have become a cliche of sorts. I adopted two cats during the pandemic. Why do I insist upon being outnumbered? Still, I’m really glad they’re here. And they love each other deeply. My IG is all them.

I have been trying really hard to figure out what’s next, and then I was reminded how much this blog gave to me the last time I felt lost. It might be foolish to expect blogging to solve everything, but I do love to write so here I am. 

I know, nobody blogs anymore. I’m not paying attention to SEO or followers or anything like that. I just miss having this platform to process. And oh my goodness, there’s a lot to process!

I didn’t make sourdough, I didn’t buy a Peloton, and while I tried regular walks, it just didn’t click for me. I did find a few things, though. 

I started meditating. And then I stopped, and now I’m starting again. Last summer was the first time I enjoyed the practice. It reminded me of the breathing and relaxation exercises we would do in acting classes when I was younger. I finally started to appreciate this opportunity to do nothing. Well, nothing else, anyway. 

Riley got me back into bullet journaling - something else I tried before, but stopped.

I’m realizing how many times I’ve started and stopped a variety of activities, but I’m trying not to judge myself for it. I’m finding my way back to those things that I enjoy.

I almost said “bring me joy,” but that term just doesn’t work for me. I am beginning to appreciate my own pursuit of happiness in a new way.

I find that I don’t beat myself up as much when I’m blogging. I don’t call myself an idiot here, or berate myself for making stupid mistakes. Particularly now, when the world outside and in have undergone so many changes, I appreciate this place where I can focus on growing without the judgment.

A few years ago, I realized I was an introvert so most of the time, I love being home alone! I love singing whenever I want, playing my podcasts, cooking what I like to eat. I cherish living alone. 

But I need to balance that with some outside accountability. I can get into my head too much sometimes. Pushing that publish button helps. 

Oh, something else that I used to do that I’ve started again is tap dancing! I found this online workout tap thing that I am just loving. And I really needed to find something because the weight gain is out of control! I can accept some changes to my body because of menopause. I can even accept some weight gain due to the lockdown. Unfortunately, the combination was overwhelming. 

And yet, overall, this is probably the least stressful my life has been in a few decades. 

I still can’t believe I’m a homeowner! And I was able to refinance and get my interest rate below 3%. I kept working (from home) this entire time. Heck, I even got to watch Hamilton multiple times! And while a few family members did get COVID, thankfully, everyone recovered without having to go to the hospital. And I remained well. 

There is so much to be thankful for, and so much to improve. I still believe, it’s all about balance.