books + reading · reading

I Can’t Stop Reading Notorious RBG #mind #spirit

I am often mocked for the size of my handbag.

I almost always carry a huge, heavy purse – heavy because I carry my planner, a journal, and at least one book everywhere I go.

I even bring my books to work, even though I know I won’t get to read while I’m there.

For the past week, every day at work I’ve had at least one moment at work when I’ve looked longingly at the book sticking out of my bag:

Why have I not always been obsessed with RBG?

I’ve been in a reading rut lately.  Work’s been crazy (ugh) and there hasn’t been a lot of time to really sink into a book.

That changed with NotoriousRBG: The Life And Times Of Ruth Bader Ginsburg.  I’m not usually that into nonfiction, but I ate this book up.  READ IT.

books + reading · reading

The Great Book Project #mind

I love books.  That is a long-established truth.13227156_1240992875918652_6615662842851939933_n

I have a problem that is probably common to many book lovers.  I have a bunch of books – two shelves full, currently – that I bought at one point with every intention of reading it cover to cover, and then I got distracted and never read any of them.

However, these two shelves of books have survived many, many Marie Kondo-esque tidying projects.  So, there’s something about them that consistently appeals to me.  I always plan that I will read them – someday.

Then someday never comes.

So, after I Marie Kondo’d all my books, I was left with these two shelves:

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I developed a plan for The Great Book Project.  I would press the pause button on all book buying and library usage, and I would read the books on these two shelves, one by one.

The first book I chose was If You Want To Write, by Brenda Ueland.  (You can see it on the top shelf, a skinny blue book tucked between Each Day A New Beginning and Flow.)  I’ve been meaning to read this book for years.  So one day last week, I picked it up and read the first five pages.

Less than a day later, I found myself at Barnes and Noble buying a brand-new book.  (Work, by Thich Nhat Hanh – so good so far!)

I came to the realization – and I probably should have realized this a long time ago – that there’s probaJust Not Into Youbly a good reason why I haven’t read a lot of these books.

In reality – I’m just not that into them.

Nothing against these books.  They’re wonderful.  They’re great.  It’s just – I’m just not that into them.

I had this experience with If You Want To Write, and then also with The Holy.

Does that mean The Great Book Project is over before it’s even begun?

Well – no.  I looked over the titles on the shelf today, and there are definitely some I still have aspirations of reading.  However, I’m going to ease up on the project, because what I’ve found is that by trying to reach a bunch of books I’m not that into, I end up not reading anything at all.  And what fun is that?

yoga for book lovers

books + reading

A Tidying Update #mind #soul

So, I KonMari’d all my books!

It makes me really happy to look at my bookshelf and know that every book is one that sparks joy in my heart.  13055607_1222519804432626_41022608125231565_n

This tidying task has triggered something unexpected – The Great Book Project Of 2016.  (Title will likely be changed to something more catchy later!)

When going through my books, I found myself with a stack of books that fit the following criteria: sparked joy and yet-to-be-read-by-me.

Some of these books have just gotten lost in the clutter and shuffle.  I borrow books from the library every week, so sometimes will be in the middle of reading three or four borrowed books.  Meanwhile, there are stacks of wonderful books on my shelf that I plan to read someday.

So, my challenge for TGBP of 2016 – read ALL the unread books on my bookshelf!  This will require me to take a break from the library (fat chance), and to be honest with myself about whether or not I really do want to read these books.  (Like Dancing In The Streets, by Barbara Ehrenreich.  It’s about celebrations of joy in various cultures, which sounds awesome.  But I have a feeling it’s just a sociology textbook with low readability.  Do I really want to read that?  We shall see.)

I’m going to do my best to chronicle this adventure and keep track of which books I read and decide not to read and why.

See the books that are part of this project in the following two photos:

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books + reading · meditation · mindfulness

#10%Happier #mind #soul #takeaways

I just finished re10-percent-happierading a nonfiction book.  This is a rare occurrence for me.

It’s called 10% Happier: How I Tamed The Voice In My Head, Reduced Stress Without Losing My Edge, And Found Self-Help That Actually Works – A True Story.  It’s kind of a memoir-slash-self-help-book by journalist Dan Harris, and it’s about his journey through the self-help world, which ultimately ends with his discovering the power of meditation.

love this book.  It’s inspiring me to take up a daily meditation practice, which I’ve done before but have never been able to maintain for too long.

Here are my takeaways from 10% Happier:

Understand that ‘it is what it is’ – and then do what you need to do next.  

A lot of Harris’s writing is about his struggle to balance meditation with the ambition and productivity associated with everyday life.  He writes about how meditation is about acknowledging feelings and accepting thoughts as they are.  But then he writes about doing what needs to be done next.

You can accept where you are, and then you can do the next right thing; acceptance and action are not contradictory.

Learn to respond, not react.

Harris writes: What mindfulness does is create some space in your head so you can, as the Buddhists say, “respond” rather than simply “react.” In the Buddhist view, you can’t control what comes up in your head; it all arises out of a mysterious void. We spend a lot of time judging ourselves harshly for feelings that we had no role in summoning. The only thing you can control is how you handle it.

As my work week creeps on, I find myself struggling to respond rather than react.  I do a pretty good job with it on Mondays; I struggle a LOT on Fridays.

A really awesome definition of mindfulness.

I’ve read and written a lot about mindfulness, but Harris’s book gave the best and easiest to understand definition of mindfulness I’ve ever heard.

He writes that mindfulness is like looking at your thoughts from behind a waterfall.  Picture the mind like a waterfall: the water is the torrent of thoughts and emotions; mindfulness is the space behind the waterfall. 

So, if I am practicing mindfulness, I can watch my thoughts and my feelings flow by without becoming swept away by them.

Simple – but challenging.

-Do one thing at a time.12509431_1011472385587227_7921394802468337843_n

Harris writes: [Janice Marturano – founder of the Institute for Mindful Leadership – recommended something radical: do only one thing at a time. When you’re on the phone, be on the phone. When you’re in a meeting, be there. Set aside an hour to check your email, and then shut off your computer monitor and focus on the task at hand.

Another tip: take short mindfulness breaks throughout the day. [Marturano] called them “purposeful pauses.” So, for example, instead of fidgeting or tapping your fingers while your computer boots up, try to watch your breath for a few minutes. When driving, turn off the radio and feel your hands on the wheel. Or when walking between meetings, leave your phone in your pocket and just notice the sensations of your legs moving. 

“If I’m a corporate samurai,” I said, “I’d be a little worried about taking all these pauses that you recommend because I’d be thinking, ‘Well, my rivals aren’t pausing. They’re working all the time.’”

“Yeah, but that assumes that those pauses aren’t helping you. Those pauses are the ways to make you a more clear thinker and for you to be more focused on what’s important.”

I love all of this.

-Ask yourself if your thoughts are useful.

It’s all about being in the present moment – right?  However, Harris poses the question: What about when you need to think about the future?  You’re considering your career – or you’re planning how to be on time for your flight home to Maryland.

One of Harris’s meditation mentors, Joseph Goldstein (well-known teacher and author, co-founder of the Insight Meditation Society), answers this question.  His response was (not verbatim) yes, wonderful, think about your flight.  But when you’re running through your route to the airport for the seventeenth time, be mindful of this and consider if this thought is useful.

This reminds me of one of my rules for things to say out loud: Ask yourself – is it kind?  Is it helpful?  Is it true?  

It also is a pretty great method for measuring when you’re thinking in a healthy, productive way, and when you’re thinking in an unhealthy and unproductive way.  I can just ask myself – is this useful?

Observe The Ten Pillars of Cutthroat Zen.

In the final chapter of 10% Happier, Harris writes a list of recommendations for using meditation and mindfulness principles in everyday life and the workplace.  I put quotes for the book in parentheses where I thought explanation was needed

1. Don’t be a Jerk.

2. (And/But …) When Necessary, Hide the Zen.  (“Sometimes you need to compete aggressively…it’s possible to do this calmly and without making the whole thing overly personal.”)

3. Meditate.  (“Meditation is the superpower that makes all the other precepts possible.”)

4. The Price of Security is Insecurity — Until It’s Not Useful.  (“Mindfulness proved a great mental thresher for separating wheat from chaff, for figuring out when my worrying was worthwhile and when it was pointless. Vigilance, diligence, the setting of audacious goals— these are all the good parts of ‘insecurity.'”)

5. Equanimity is Not the Enemy of Creativity.

6. Don’t Force It.  (“It’s hard to open a jar when every muscle in your arm is tense.”)

7. Humility Prevents Humiliation.

8. Go Easy with the Internal Cattle Prod.  (You can get a lot further when you practice kindness and self-compassion than when you are beating yourself up all the time.)

9. Nonattachment to Results.  (This is HUGE!  Work hard – but understand that the results won’t always go your way, and that letting go of your attachment to outcomes makes life so much happier.)

10. What Matters Most?  (Listen to your inner voice.  It does not lie.)

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books + reading

SNAPSHOT #heartsoulmindbodyspirit

Yesterday I got a book in the mail from a stranger.773038

The book is The Seven Laws of Spiritual Success, written by Deepak Chopra, and it was sent to me as part of a book lover’s chain letter.  If the chain works correctly, I should receive at least four books in the mail from strangers – so fun, and a great way to read books I wouldn’t normally pick up.

I haven’t been blogging recently, so there’s definitely lots to discuss in this snapshot.

-My nephew’s holy communion was last weekend, providing lots of good family time.  He was, of course, adorable.  

-One of my best friends came to visit Wild Peace Farm with her sons and her parents that same weekend.  Looking at the farm through her oldest son’s eyes was so much fun!

-Everything has been crazy and stressful at work.  Usually, I feel pretty centered and grounded on Mondays.  I can feel myself getting stressed by Tuesday, but am still okay.  By Thursday evening, I’m guzzling diet Cokes and hunting for chocolate.  By Friday evening, I’m talking on the phone with a co-worker in the bulk candy aisle at Wegmans, absent-mindedly filling a plastic bag with nonpareils.  THIS IS NOT A SIGN OF GOOD BALANCE.  MUST BE ADDRESSED.

-In an effort to deal with the aforementioned stress (cue sigh), I’ve been going for a run every morning.  This has been fantastic.

-I just finished a great book – 10% Happier, by Dan Harris.  It was wonderful; look for a blog post devoted to my takeaways soon!

Oh, self-care and balance – how you elude me!  But, I strive.  #progressnotperfection

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books + reading · reading

I Would Be A Terrible Detective #mind

You guys – I just read the best book!READY PLAYER ONE

It’s called Ready Player One, and it’s written by Ernest Cline.

The main character, Wade Watts, is in the middle of a crazy scavenger hunt.  He has to use his wits and his computer skills to decipher clues and read hidden signs.  I tried my best to solve the puzzles Wade faced and to predict what would happen next – to solve each mystery as the book presented it.

Here’s the thing about me: I love mysteries – in books, in movies, anywhere.  I find them so intriguing and exciting.  Serial, Making A Murderer, Monk, Encyclopedia Brown – I love them all.

Here’s the other thing about me: I would be the worst detective in the history of the world.  No contest.  Hands down – worst detective ever.

I’m not that observant.  I have to tell people this, somewhat apologetically, all the time – when I don’t notice their new haircut, or when I can’t give them landma10325666_10153747607766291_6660091271841028219_nrks when I’m giving directions.  I will not notice if you’re wearing a new outfit – if you are limping – if you’re wearing colored contact lenses.  If I ever witness a crime, the cops are going to assume I committed it – because why else would I claim to have noticed absolutely nothing about the crime scene?

My lack of observational skills is, in part, why I abandoned my original career goal of journalism.  Too many of my stories included lines like, “People were there.  I don’t know how many or why.”

I actually like this weakness of mine – my lack of observational skills.  It protects me from annoyance frequently, and it keeps me focused on the things that really matter to me.  It keeps me from making judgments based on appearance.

It makes me look silly at times – when I can’t explain directions properly or when I notice, for the first time, an aspect of someone’s appearance that is blatantly obvious to others.

But, all in all, it makes me happy.  And it allows me to relish mystery novels, because I never, ever, ever pick up on the clues enough to solve the mystery before the detective does.

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books + reading · meditation · mindfulness

#mind #soul

I’ve been reading How To Relax by Thich Nhat Hanh – a tiny, beautiful book of meditations on mindfulness.  (One of my Powell’s purchases!)41IZUZgUAmL._SX330_BO1,204,203,200_

There have been a lot of amazing passages so far.  Like this one: We human beings have lost confidence in the body just knowing what to do. If we have time alone with ourselves, we panic and try to do many different things. Mindful breathing helps us to relearn the art of resting. Mindful breathing is like a loving parent cradling a baby, saying, ‘Don’t worry, I’ll take good care of you; just rest.’

My favorite takeaway so far from How To Relax is this – my daily life, conducted with mindfulness, is a gift I give myself.  I can’t remember if this is a passage I read in the book or a realization I had while reading it; probably the former.

I haven’t been giving myself a daily gift of life conducted in mindfulness lately.  My mind has been crowded and scattered – all over the place.

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I am hoping to go to a training on Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction sometime in the near future.  I want to learn more about mindfulness as a psychological strategy and an academic concept.

But with the day-to-day of mindfulness – I know exactly what I need to do.  I need to focus on the present moment.  The challenge is actually doing it!

I can get very caught up in my head; it’s a big struggle for me to keep myself in the present moment.  I get stuck in the past or in the future rather than staying in the peacefulness of the now.

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Be more present – this was one of my resolutions for 2016.  And I think I’m doing okay with it – good, but not great.  One of my defaults when I’m stressed or overwhelmed is to rely on background noise – usually TV or a podcast – and I have been doing somewhat better with this habit o’ mine.

I find that when I’m doing something that forces me into the present moment – my evening walks with Tee, most of my work day, a doctor’s appointment – I can stay there and exist there happily.  However, when I have the option to multi-task, I usually take it.  (Right now, the fifth season of The Office is playing in the background as I type.)

My quest for mindfulness is ever-present.  Someday (hopefully!) I will be, too.