Category Archives: Columns

The Secret to Happiness and Productivity

Unknown-1

 

Unknown

Since last week’s post, I haven’t misplaced my keys once. I’ve accomplished  some writing and sent out queries. The bills are paid, the garden is watered, and I’ve managed to meditate most days. Things are looking up. Already I feel calmer, happier and have improved my outlook on the future. Am I waking up?

I looked into the benefits of meditation and learned that it reduces stress, pain and stress related inflammation from conditions like arthritis and asthma as it lowers blood pressure and slows Alzheimer’s disease. Wow! Scientists say that mindfulness meditation might be as effective as antidepressants for treating anxiety. In The Art of Meditation  by Janice Dunn published in TIME’s Special Edition: Mindfulness, The New Science of Health and Happiness, the author says doctors are recommending meditation for insomnia and irritable bowel syndrome. She says it take about eight week of practice to decrease stress, but I’m already feeling less hurried and ready to roll with the punches with the boost of serotonin, dopamine and endorphins my mindful brain is releasing.

Unknown-1

So what is mindfulness meditation, or vipassana practice?  It’s a way to “develop stillness in the midst of activity” according to Jack Kornfield. Vipassana means to “see things as they really are”  and the practice emphasizes mindful attention and develops immediate awareness of our experience in our activities. It teaches us to be present and alive. As Alan Watts said, “. . .It consists in being completely sensitive to each moment, in regarding it as utterly new and unique, in having the mind open and wholly receptive.”

photo

The leader of my Spiritual Center, Edward Viljoen, writes in his book, The Power of Meditation, “Observing life through meditation with less ‘unnecessary added meaning’ to what was happening inside and outside allowed reality to come into clearer focus.” It “opened the door to an infinity of ideas and awarenesses,” which he wondered how he’s managed without. I’m wondering about those ideas too.

RhondaGerhardPsychotherapyI started a new five-week meditation workshop today, Resiliency and Happiness. The series offers mindfulness based meditative techniques and Yoga Nidra for finding resiliency and happiness in the midst of challenges.  It’s my second series with Petaluma’s Rhonda Gerhard, and  this afternoon we explored intention in a guided meditation. Fixing on a couple of key words and keeping them in my mind throughout the meditation, I already feel like I’m on track to living in intention.

images

I’m also energized and alert.  These are effects of Yoga Nidra, a state of deep relaxation combined with awareness. This practice calms the nervous system and allows practitioners to receive a subtle flow of energy throughout their bodies. There’s nothing like resting in a state of harmony. It’s better than sleep! Not only do your brain waves  slow down, but you can neutralize body sensations , like pain, stress, negative emotions and feelings, and even neutralize beliefs—part of that intention development. At the end of the hour, I came away with a sense of calm and well-being. Just what I needed, especially after receiving unsettling news today.

In the past I might have eaten a bowl of ice cream and veged-out in front of mindless TV after bad news. I certainly wouldn’t have gotten supper on the table a half hour earlier than usual, enjoyed a lively conversation with my husband as we ate, cleaned up and come back to the office to write my post—and feel really great about it. I’m happy to be here and looking forward to my next task too. By bedtime, I’ll have ticked off everything on my TO DO list and read another chapter of  The Power of Meditation.

images-2

Namaste!

 

Advertisements

2 Comments

Filed under Columns, Productivity

Another Half-Year Older (And what do you have to show for it?)

 

Unknown

Yesterday was  the longest day of the year. I didn’t get my writing done. I didn’t get my revision done. I didn’t get  my blog posted. What did I do all day? What do I do any day?

How can I stop churning and start winning?

Let’s consider this for a moment:

I began at 7:30 with coffee and laundry. Next I paid my mother’s bills and prepared the checks for the mail. I reordered a prescription on-line, brought our checkbook up to date and made my list of errands before showering, dressing and inhaling the breakfast my darling short-order cook made (bless his  heart).

images

“ Looking up, I noticed I was late. . . “

I jumped into the car and made it into my seat at the lecture on medieval tapestries (I’m researching a poem) as the lecturer took the podium. Unknown-1Back home, I inventoried the refrigerator and pantry while I ate crackers and apricots for lunch, planned the next week’s menus and made a grocery list for my Wednesday run to Oliver’s  (senior discount day). I started  salad greens soaking in filtered water for our dinner (served with sliced tomato, radish, egg, potato, chicken and tuna—refreshing on another hot evening) and went to my office to complete the waiting list of tasks: new bio for the new website, update my credits’ list, grab covers and web addresses for the anthologies I’ve published in.

“ Looking up, I noticed I was late. . . “ The Post Office was going to close in ten minutes.  I gathered the letters and parcels needing postage and flew. . . .

Back in the office I finished a volunteer proofreading assignment for the next Redwood Writers anthology and and returned to the kitchen (after a pass through my garden to smell the roses) and made dinner, ate and washed up.

IMG_6414Suddenly it was  after nine and I hadn’t written, let alone posted, a blog entry, worked on the book review now due, or worked on the revision of my second novel—a lot of zeros on my checklist.

Time is ticking by and I’m exhausted. I feel like a total loser because another day, another  half year has gone by and I haven’t done my work.

clipart-animated-gif-clock-countdown-1.jpg

I read an article in the Huffpost recently by Abigail Williams called “5 Secrets of People Who are Always Organized.” Here’s what she says:

  • They live by lists. The key is to keep lists manageable by breaking down long-term tasks into small steps. Maybe revising the entire book today was too ambitious?
  • They have a place for everything and put everything in its place. I’m late every day because, well, where did I leave my keys?
  • They make clear, quick decisions and stick to them. I agonize over all the options, killing efficiency. Mary Oliver opens her poem, Wild Geese, with “You do not have to be good/ You do not have to walk on your knees. . .” Just get on with it!
  • They cut the clutter. What? Clean up and keep clean my wildly creative workspace (euphemism for “totally messy”)? Now, where did I put those new file folders decorated with scenes of London, Rome and Paris?
  • They value their time. Don’t you just hate those organized people? They’re able to do it all! Uh-uh. They work smarter and delegate. And herein lies the conundrum—I’m the delegee.

UnknownSo what am I going to delegate? Certainly not the shopping, dinner preparation or laundry. I’d be thrilled to stop housework, but if not me, who? My husband is earning a living (and anyway, he takes out the garbage and mows). He’d gladly hire a housekeeper—when I earn enough to pay for her. Drop my fiduciary responsibilities to my aged Mother and our family business? But as a retired accountant I’m so well qualified. Stop volunteering? Let my garden turn into a brambly weed patch? Quit my job? No, no, and no! I love my work, and my garden is my sanity keeper.

What’s the solution? Less TV? Less sleep? Less socializing?

I’m going to add a sixth secret to Abigail’s list:

  • People who are organized pay attention.  The experts say the more time you devote to your spiritual practice, the more efficiently you’ll run your life., so meditate more often. A study done at the University of Wisconsin—Madison found “people who meditate regularly have different patterns of brain waves, potentially leading to more efficient attention-paying and learning.” Meditation then is a means to organizing your mind, exactly what I need. So if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to sit.

Unknown-1

 

 

6 Comments

Filed under Columns, Inspiration, Productivity

My Valentine

images-3

Last night while my husband and I watched the Best of Antiques Road Show, I suffered a serious sugar Jones. I twitched and squirmed, fighting the itch, but when that dear old fellow from Pensacola brought out his grandmother’s collection of cookie jars, I had to eat something sweet.

“I think I’ll put the dinner dishes in the dishwasher,” I said and slithered to the kitchen. David wasn’t paying any attention to me so I tiptoed into the pantry to see what I could find. There’s a stash of goodies tucked behind the canned tomatoes, a place David never goes.

 I forget about this hidey-hole most of the time, especially since I’ve been tracking everything I eat, but the urge for sweets had reached beyond my resistance. I opened the pantry door, flipped on the light, and inched myself into the former half-bath now painted bright orange and fitted with an Elfa shelving system. Past the cookbooks and extra shopping bags. Past the flat of V8 juice and containers of Comet cleanser. Past the two bales of paper towels (we both brought home a supply from Costco last week). I reached my trembling hand into the shelves. I felt over the beans, the tuna, the mushrooms and way into a corner darker than the shadow of Sonoma Mountain. I felt behind the crushed tomatoes with basil, the tomato garlic puree, and the diced tomatoes with chipotle. I nudged the edge of a paper bag and tugged. It pulled free and bounced across the tops of the cans and into the light. Candy!

“Ana, you should see this,” David yelled from the living room.

“I can’t hear you,” I called back, stalling as I peeked into the stash.

Hmmm. Unwrapped peppermints from before written history. Tiny bags of spicy tamarind candy we got with our check at that place we ate lunch in Mexico City three years before. Half a Figamajig that looked like the rats may have enjoyed the other half (you remember the rats in the walls?) One cornhusk-wrapped mystery candy from the local Mexican market.

Bingo!

valentines-day-candy-hearts-1

Two boxes of NECCO Sweethearts Conversation Hearts addressed: “To: Teacher      From:   Marisela” a Valentine gift saved from our class celebration last year—because I don’t really like them. But I was desperate. I took one box and pushed the rest of the stash back behind the cans.

You remember those chalky-sweet pastel hearts that come in not quite distinct flavors that we used to give and get in grade school? The ones with catchy sayings stamped on them like BE MINE, MY VALENTINE, LOVE YA and BABY BOY. Well, they’re still around and have some new messages. How about BFF or TOP CHEF or RECIPE 4 LOVE?

I sat back down on the couch, tore into the box and popped a brown MY GIRL heart into my mouth—sweet, but not exactly chocolate. Just like I remembered.

“What are you eating?”

“Valentine’s candy,” I said and passed a blue ROCK OUT over.

“Is this a hint?”

images-6

“Let’s go out for dinner this year. Maybe to De Schmire.” I dropped a pink DRESS UP into his outstretched hand and displayed a green GLAM before eating it.

He handed the pink heart back and suggested Cucina Paradiso.

images-5

“We went there for our anniversary.” I reminded him. “I’m in the mood for French.”

David helped himself to the box of candy hearts, dumped it out on top of his Sudoku book and sifted with his forefinger until he found the message he wanted— a purple POSH—showed me then ate it. I grabbed a pink one with a slightly garbled message, SO WHAT it looked like, and displayed it.

“You have a tux,” I joked.

He studied the remaining messages and selected SPICE IT UP. “How about Thai. We could go to Sea on the Boulevard.”

I ate several orange hearts in a row: TAKE A WALK, LOSER, WISE UP.

“De Schmire serves French onion soup,” I said, cajoling. David flipped a yellow I CARE heart into my lap. It fell onto the floor and the dog sniffed it then turned her head away. I don’t like the yellow ones very much either—banana. I spied a white TABLE 4 TWO and flicked it back at him.

A purple PLEASE ME flew at me.

I tossed back a yellow NO WAY.

David handed me a green SWEET TALK.

I responded with a blue MY TREAT.

“Ok, you win.” He threw up his hands. “De Schmire it is.” He made a reservation through his Droid. “But I don’t want to dress up.” He handed me a images

I passed him a pink OK and gave him a smooch.

I’m saving the white I LOVE YOU for Valentine’s Day.

images-2

First published by the Petaluma Post February, 2011

1 Comment

Filed under Columns, Humor