gratitude-a-thon day 950: portable calm

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An ABC Carpet display. Makes me calmer just looking at it.

The American Psychological Association (APA) says 52% of adults who participated in its survey acknowledged that this year’s presidential election is a big source of stress.

But in between the cracks of the 24-hour news cycle and social media lies the quiet that can change you.

In this place, we are always alright, even when we’re not. Enter inside and settle, connect to your breath, and there it is — you’re ok-ness.

I’m finding meditation more helpful than ever these days. Frazzled, I jump into a breath-a-thon and within a few minutes, my shoulders have stopped hunching and my mind is re-setting to a calmer, more balanced place (my ban of all things Donald hasn’t hurt this state, either).

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No matter where you are, you can just sit on down and breathe.

Endless gratitude for this thing we carry with us, that’s always available and free for the taking. Only six days left. No problem.

gratitude-a-thon day 538: eyes & ears

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This is a quote by Thich Naht Hanh. It’s my new favorite thing anybody has ever said.

I don’t like the snow any better today, but I’m over my bad self, and have ceased the whining. Gratitude is back!

So, over the weekend, I went to the emergency room at the Mass Eye & Ear, which I am so damn lucky to live a mere 20 minutes from (less without traffic). I’ve been having weird symptoms in one of my eyes, featuring cloudy vision, and a cornucopia of other oddities, which have been plaguing (and kind of scaring) me for several weeks. So, I called up my eye doctor, Romeo Chang (I have gratitude for this guy’s name every time I call him–HOW CAN YOU NOT LOVE THIS NAME?), but I couldn’t get an appointment for two weeks, which would have been this past Monday. While nobody in my house was taking this second storm seriously, except for me, I woke up on Saturday morning and realized my appointment would get cancelled (which it did), and so decided to put myself in an Uber and go to the emergency room at the Eye & Ear. My husband was like, “You’re going to spend all day there.” to which I responded, “I’m going to spend all day worrying about my eye, if I don’t go.”

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Thich Naht Hanh, This dude has wisdom..

Anyway, there were only three people ahead of me. I think I waited a total of 30 minutes, which was kind of extraordinary (I have waited in that same emergency room for like 2-3 hours before). Cutting to the chase, my eye is fine, in fact, the doctor said that “everybody should have eyes that are as good as yours.” But he also said that my symptoms were due to the extreme dryness of the season (just another thing I love about winter) and a teeny, tiny cataract, that was actually so small, I shouldn’t have to do anything about it for 30 years (when I will be 86)! All good, I Uber-ed myself home, and would have continued on my merry way, but my vision was now really blurry from the drops. So, I just gave into it, and laid in my bed listening to the website Onbeing, which my friend/trainer/guru Colleen Quinn told me to check out. It was just what the doctor should have ordered, post eye drops.

Late to the party, I had no idea how cool Onbeing was. (Where have I been? Complaining about the winter, apparently.) Krista Tippett interviews all sorts of interesting people on this site. She has one of those voices that’s smart, soothing, and just a little bit sexy. (Completely the opposite of my nasally, ugly, and completely un-sexy voice, THANK GOD.) I downloaded the Thich Naht Hanh interview, and pretty quickly fell into this beautiful man’s arms. He is a Vietnamese Zen Buddhist monk, teacher, author, poet and peace activist.

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The lotus flower only grows in mud. If that’s not a great metaphor for life.

Sometimes the world aligns (eye drops and blurry eyes) and you get what you need (this interview). I have been struggling with keeping up my meditation practice, working too hard at settling my restless mind, resisting even the small amount of time it takes to get quiet. Mr. Hanh spoke in a beautiful accent, and talked about mindfulness and suffering in just such a way that I made all sorts of connections that I hadn’t made before. This is something that continually astounds me, how you can hear the same thing over and over and over, and then one day the right person says it and BOOM, you suddenly hear it. He talked a lot about the usefulness that suffering offers us. And what I took away, was that being mindful and going deep into the quiet, prepares you for the inevitable suffering, or rather allows you to find a place in yourself to be when there is too much suffering. This got through my noisy brain, this way of looking at mindfulness.

Gratitude is back and flowing: The Mass. Eye & Ear, Uber, Colleen Quinn, Onbeing, Krista Tippett, Thich Nhat Hanh. Snow shmow. It’s about noticing what is good. (Not what’s piled up OUTSIDE OF YOUR HOUSE, AND WHAT’S COMING AGAIN TOMORROW, oooops, sorry, slipped back into I HATE WINTER mode there for a minute.)

gratitude-a-thon day 510: same thing, new package

 

thOnce again, I am attempting to get meditation to be a natural part of my life. And while in the past, I have tried to gently invite it in, forcefully make it mine, coax it in with a promise of treats & snacks, I am taking a brand new tact with it this time around.

Instead of looking at the long haul of a new habit, I’m borrowing from the 12-step programs, and just telling myself that I am going to do it today. All I have to think about is making the choice to meditate today.

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Are you laughing? Does that sound basic and non-revolutionary? Well, it is pretty simple, but I think it’s a very non-threatening way of making this, my 1,383,469th attempt at daily meditation, a habit. Ok, then, let’s see how this goes down. As Beckett says, “Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.” Yup.

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guest-a-thon day 3: meditation

Still reeling, down here in Miami, from Monday’s events. My daughter is scared, and just wants to watch the news. Joan and I are also obsessed with any piece of information we can get our hands on. My heart is with all those people whose lives have changed because they were at one of Boston’s most happy days. I give you everything, people. I am fighting for you in my heart.

Anyway, the guest-a-thon today comes from my friend Steph, who I have known since I was 13, and who I will love until I am 113, wearing granny panties. She is the greatest person, true and real. And I love her so mucho much. She is an illustrator, a pilates instructor, and now an art teacher. A very talented girl, she is. And I think her post about meditation is apt, given the horrors of Monday.

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Name: Stephanie Peterson

Occupation: Art teacher

I am grateful for my meditation practice. It is a new practice, only 110 days old, and I missed once, or twice maybe. I started it as a auto ethnographic study for my graduate program’s culminating project.

I have always been intrigued by meditation, and intuitively knew that it was THE THING I needed to do to stay healthy, and happy. I needed it to deal with some issues that have come and gone but have been rearing their ugly little heads since menopause.

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I always have thought I was a happy person, and optimistic. After all, I have managed to create a pretty good life for myself. I’ve changed careers multiple times to fuel my interests, and have found success each and every time. I married a really great guy. I also have really, really good friends. What’s not to be happy about?

Well, last summer I found myself depressed, really depressed. In my mind my life was miserable, and I really didn’t care for living it very much. I latched onto little annoyances that happened in the day-to-day and turned them into stories written for a mini-series, and they didn’t have a happy ending. At least not in my mind. I knew I was doing it, and that it wasn’t how it really was, but I partly believed them, because I said them over and over, and couldn’t stop. Everyone does this, right?

Fortunately I have a really good and caring doctor, who helped me out with a cocktail of meds and hormones (don’t worry, not a very strong cocktail) that put me on my feet and helped me to function well enough to do what I had to do every day.

Five months later I started doing meditation, 20 minutes a day, in conjunction with a daily art making practice. I decided to follow the way of Insight Meditation, incorporating concentration (on the breath), mindfulness (connecting fully with the present moment), and loving kindness (toward my self and others).

One of my biggest realizations is that meditation isn’t done well or badly. All it really is, is a choice to begin again, to refocus our attention on the present, without any criticism or judgment. We let go of the distractions, and the stories that we drag along from our pasts and the ones we make up for the future. Meditation provides clarity and calm, and is so simple, grounding and so incredibly healing.

Nobody’s marriage is perfect, nor is their career or financial life or family. But one thing I hope to do, is not get caught up in the monkey mind I did last summer, and I think so far I am doing pretty well with it.

It’s a practice that I plan on sticking with, and seeing where it goes. I feel good again, and am comfortable with who I am, and am less sensitive in a good way. I am not making up stories, but enjoying the moments when I choose to bring my attention back to the present moment, and treat myself with loving kindness.

This week I am going to spend two days meditating at the Insight Meditation Center in Barre, MA. I am so grateful for the chance to be there, meditating with others, and for the possibility of it. I’ll let you know how it is, because I am not going to write the story ahead of time.