Friday, November 30, 2007

Occam's razor

"All other things being equal, the simplest (and most logical) explanation is usually the best."

Ain't that the truth?

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Happy Place

This morning, Susan wrote an interesting post about meditation in which she describes her "happy place". I was thinking that would be a really good exercise to add to my list of things to do when I feel stressed and unhappy -- sit here in my chair with my eyes closed and imagine myself somewhere where I feel happy and content. I have done exercises in the past in which I tried to imagine the place I most wanted to be and in the past it usually was on a sunny beach. But Susan's post made me realize the beach isn't really my happy place at all. I think it's this:

I have just taken a hot bath and I am wrapped up in a large, soft blanket, lying in bed with my head propped up on a pillow. My kitty, Jezebel, is stretched out on my chest with her paws reaching towards my face. I am warm. I am comfortable. I feel happy. I drift off to sleep.

What's your happy place?

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

New Therapist

Since I'm totally broke and can't afford to go to a regular therapist, I've decided to start getting much-needed advice and encouragement from ELIZA. I think she really knows what she's talking about! What do you think?

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Cure for a Bad Mood

This morning I'm in a really bad mood. I'm tired. I don't feel well. I don't want to be here. I'm mad at everyone. I want more sleep and I feel like telling everyone (including you!) who got more sleep than I did last night to go get stuffed. I need help.

I did a google search: [remedies "for a bad mood"] and here is a mish-mash compilation of the advice I found on many different web pages:

- Make a list of things you're thankful for
DID THAT ON THANKSGIVING
- Smile
NO
- Do something nice for someone
I HELD THE ELEVATOR FOR SOME GUY THIS MORNING
- Listen to your favorite song and dance to it
NOT POSSIBLE
- Eat chocolate
CAN DO - DOING THAT
- Exercise
TOO TIRED
- Breathe deeply
OK - DOING THAT
- Take a nap
VERY FUNNY
- Take a walk
I JUST WALKED HERE TO MY DESK
- Sing a song
RIGHT
- Meditate on the suffering of others
Ommmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm...

Ok, so I'm feeling sorry for myself. There are lots of other people who are much worse off than I am - people who went to bed hungry or had to sleep outside on the sidewalk in the cold or who are grieving the loss of a loved one or who have a sick child or parent or friend. There are people who didn't get a good night sleep because they feared they were in danger or because they were up all night coughing or having trouble breathing or because someone they know is in danger and they are consumed by worry.

It's so easy for me to be overcome with emotion, particularly negative emotion, when I'm tired. I forget that my situation is temporary, that I can help myself feel better if I make an effort to do so - that eventually I will sleep comfortably and wake up feeling rested and refreshed. I just need to be patient. I just need to stop wallowing in self-pity.

So, maybe for now I should make that list of things I'm thankful for again. Maybe I should force myself to smile. Maybe I should play a favorite song in my head and do a little dance in my office chair. Maybe I ought to do deep breathing and stretches here in my chair. I can't take a nap, but I could close my eyes for a few minutes. I could do a loving-kindness meditation. I could pray for strength and courage -- for peace in my heart -- that love guide my every thought, word, and deed.

Peace.
(Sorry about what I said before. I don't want you to get stuffed anymore.)

Monday, November 26, 2007

Getting to Know You

1. What are you reading these days? &/or What's the last book you finished?

2. How many books do you typically read at once?

3. Do you prefer fiction or non-fiction?

4. Do you tend towards any certain genres? (i.e. sci fi, mystery, victorian, etc.)

5. Do you like to browse around in bookstores? If so, what are your favorite bookstores?

6. Do you have a library card in the town you currently live in? If not, when's the last time you had a library card?

7. Are there any books you'd like to read that you don't have your hands on yet?

8. Do you like to get/give books as presents?

(Me: 1. I was reading Bill Bryson's A Walk in the Woods, but put it down before/during the move and haven't resumed reading it yet; 2. I usually read one book at a time. I may glance through or read part of 20 others, but I only dedicate myself to finishing one book at a time; 3. I go through phases where I prefer one or the other; 4. i am more likely to tend towards certain authors and read most or all of their works if i like their style regardless of the genre; 5. yes yes yes! i admit i like the big chains because there are so many books to look at, but i prefer the indy chains, like trident and brookline booksmith in boston and a room of one's own in madison. i also like used book stores, like books & memories in syracuse and ravens books in cambridge; 6. no. brookline/boston; 7. yes - i'm looking forward to checking out oliver sacks's new book about music; 8. yes/yes.)

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Oh, dearest piano...

How do I love thee?


Offending Musicians

Scott Adams wrote a really, really offensive post today that pretty much insults all musicians. I'm planning to write something in the comments, but I'm not sure where to begin. Just thought I'd point it out to you in case you are interested. I'm curious to know if you're as offended as I am.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Quotes!

“The most precious gift we can offer others is our presence. When mindfulness embraces those we love, they will bloom like flowers.”
- Thich Nhat Hanh

“Ever since happiness heard your name, it has been running through the streets trying to find you.”
“I wish I could show you when you are lonely or in darkness the astonishing light of your own being.”
- Hafiz

“To love is to suffer. To avoid suffering, one must not love. But then, one suffers from not loving. Therefore, to love is to suffer; not to love is to suffer; to suffer is to suffer. To be happy is to love. To be happy, then, is to suffer, but suffering makes one unhappy. Therefore, to be happy, one must love or love to suffer or suffer from too much happiness.”
- Woody Allen

“Forever is composed of nows.”
- Emily Dickinson

“Loving a child doesn't mean giving in to all his whims; to love him is to bring out the best in him, to teach him to love what is difficult.”
- Nadia Boulanger

“In a mad world, only the mad are sane.”
“Man is a genius when he is dreaming.”
- Akira Kurosawa

“The best way to find out if you can trust somebody is to trust them.”
“Happiness in intelligent people is the rarest thing I know.”
- Ernest Hemingway

"Only the wisest and stupidest of men never change."
- Confucius

"The best way to predict the future is to invent it."
- Alan Kay

“Normal is getting dressed in clothes that you buy for work and driving through traffic in a car that you are still paying for - in order to get to the job you need to pay for the clothes and the car, and the house you leave vacant all day so you can afford to live in it.”
- Ellen DeGeneres

“I think it's wrong that only one company makes the game Monopoly.”
- Steven Wright

“Don't seek God in temples. He is close to you. He is within you. Only you should surrender to Him and you will rise above happiness and unhappiness.”
“If it is true that there are as many minds as there are heads, then there are as many kinds of love as there are hearts.”
“Let us forgive each other - only then will we live in peace”
- Leo Tolstoy

“Close the door. Write with _no one_ looking over your shoulder. Don't try to figure out what other people want to hear from you; figure out what you have to say. It's the one and only thing you have to offer.”
- Barbara Kingsolver

“Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor.”
- Anne Lamott

“There's very little advice in men's magazines, because men don't think there's a lot they don't know. Women do. Women want to learn. Men think, "I know what I'm doing, just show me somebody naked."”
“To me, if life boils down to one thing, it's movement. To live is to keep moving.”
- Jerry Seinfeld

Happy Holly Days

Do you find the holidays stressful? If so, why? If not, why? Just curious. What do you look forward to the most? And, what do you dislike most about this time of year?

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Good-bye Subaru...

So, it seems that I must get rid of my car. The expense of keeping it in the city is just too great for my poor self. I would actually be saving money if I were to invest in a $200/mo parking space -- and that's just craziness. This city is making lots of bucks off car owners - from the 25c it costs for 5 minutes (or 10 minutes if you're lucky) of parking meter time, to the way inflated cost of car repair ($440 for new brake pads and rotors - just in front), to the $340 I was charged because I accidentally parked at a meter which is reserved specially for trucks on weekdays from 9-4 (that's for the towing "service" and the parking ticket combined). Add to that the very high price of gas (I think I paid $3.75/gallon last night?) and the hassle of myriad rules and regulations about where you can and can't park which leads inevitably to the occasional parking ticket ($40 x 3) and you've got the reason why I have to sell my car. My Dad gave me the car as a gift the summer after I graduated from New England Conservatory (2004). It's a green 1997 Subaru Impreza with some significant rust and a few dents where people crashed computer monitors into it :-). It originally belonged to my father's late wife, Joan, who died of cancer in 1999, so it has significant sentimental value. It's a good car. It runs well. It has served me quite well -- taking me safely on many long trips, including my most recent journey across the whole country. I hate to part with it. But, I think of all the good that will come from living without a car. More exercise, more money, less hassle... And, there's always ZipCar.

Monday, November 19, 2007

I am the Winnner

After reading this article (and Scott Adams's reference to it), I've decided to change my name to Pamela Winner. I think that should cover everything.

Or... Pamela Awesome (suggested by Ian)

Salt and Soda

More than 10 years ago, back in what seems like another life, a spiritual guru of sorts recommended to me that I take hot baths in a pound of sea salt and a pound of baking soda to cleanse my aura. I did this regularly and then occasionally for many years and when I did so, I found that these baths made me feel really, really relaxed, to the point that I would often fall right asleep afterwards and always wake up quite refreshed. The other day I was reading an article about homeopathy which talks about whether or not there is any science to support that homeopathy actually works. The article got me thinking about how many of the "remedies" I have tried over the years have actually worked and how many might, alternatively, have been cases of placebo effect. Is there reason to believe that taking a bath in such a large volume of salt and soda would have more of a healing effect on my body than just, say, taking a hot bath? And, is the fact that I knew I was trying to "cleanse my aura" and knew I would be allowing myself to take a nap after the bath most of the reason I found it so refreshing? (Or is there a valid chemical reason for this? I notice that salt baths of varying kinds are popular health store items.) Just thinking about how relaxed I felt after those baths makes me want to go buy some sea salt and baking soda so I can try it tonight... Ah...

I've had an interesting journey in terms of my experiences with western vs. alternative medicine. When I was in high school, my Mom got very interested in alternative therapies and as a result I was exposed to some things I most likely wouldn't have known about had I been another "regular" kid in my town. Yoga classes, massage, nutritional therapy, "touch for health", homeopathy, Bach flower remedies, and chiropractic were among the things I got to try out. These experiences were fun and interesting and opened my mind to different cultures and alternative medical traditions. My interactions with many of these practioners also often led me to a great distrust for western medicine and a hyperfocus on all that it lacks. After college (what seems a lifetime ago), I became a student of alternative medicine for a year. The school I went to taught a mix of a therapy akin to Reiki and required a great deal of deep personal process work of its students. Interestingly, the head of the program didn't discount western medicine entirely at all, but rather was very interested in her system of healing as a complementary therapy -- which made me think a lot about all the components that need to come together to make a whole/healthy person. I still believe there are many things which are often lacking in western traditional medicine -- like just warm, personal attention and a look at the whole picture as opposed to just the place where symptoms are most acute. But, I catch myself at times having to re-think why I might think an alternative therapy would be more effective than a traditional one. Is it because the idea of it gives me a warm fuzzy of some sort? Or, is it because it actually works? Or, is it partly just some residual fear of western medicine?

Friday, November 16, 2007

Thursday, November 15, 2007

YAYAYAYAYAYAYAYAYAY!

We got a piano!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Small Steps

I have been thinking this morning about some more good advice I have received. I think the best advice is simple advice and these two examples both fall in that category.

The first was something I read in one of Tony Robbins's books. I think (ironically) it was in Giant Steps, but I don't have the book anymore and can't be sure. He was talking about how to get out of being "stuck" and said that when you are feeling overwhelmed by all that you have to accomplish and that is causing you to be unproductive, the best thing to do is to just do something - anything - even something really small. So, you can't figure out which one of the eighty million things you have to do you should do first. Instead of sitting there thinking about it, wash the dishes or make the bed or brush your teeth or pick up the clothes on the floor -- or cut your toenails or do some stretches. By doing something active, you get into the mode of accomplishing things, which puts you in a more positive frame of mind and helps you get going with the rest of your list.

The second piece of advice came from my Mom. For a long time she has been interested in positive thinking and the movement around all of that. I think the best thing she has shared with me from her studies is that it's important, when you're thinking negatively, to find something - anything - positive to focus on. So, you're lying in bed and you're really, really tired and you really don't want to get up and you are totally miserable at the thought of going to work. But, what is good about that moment? The bed feels so nice under your body. Your body is really relaxed and comfortable. Your breathing is calm and deep. Your partner (or cat/dog) is there with you and it feels nice to be next to him/her. You can see outside and it looks like a beautiful day. Mmmm... that coffee you made in the automated coffee maker smells good. Ahhhh... the CD playing in your CD alarm clock sounds nice. Etc. etc. etc. If you just start the ball rolling with a few positive thoughts, it sets things up in your brain so that it's easier to keep thinking positively.

On a related note, I have started practicing the loving kindness meditation and so far it has been wonderful. By thinking about directing thoughts and feelings of love towards myself and others, I start to feel more at peace right away. I am a very emotional person and someone who can be totally overwhelmed by negative thoughts and emotions. It's hard sometimes to get to a state of mind in which I can even begin cultivating loving kindness, but I am trying and I'm going to keep trying. I can tell already that it's well worth the effort.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Deep Thought of the Day

"Grasping at things can only yield one of two results: Either the thing you are grasping at disappears, or you yourself disappear. It is only a matter of which occurs first."
- Goenka

Morning Choral Fantasy

Some days I get music stuck in my head and I just can't make it go away. Sometimes I don't want it to go away and I wish it would get louder and envelope me in its beauty.

This morning, these choral anthems have been running through my head:

"Totus Tuus sum, Maria, mater nostri Redemptoris,
Virgo Dei, Virgo pia, mater mundi Salvatoris."
(the Gorecki setting)

"Rise up my love, my fair one, and come away.
For lo, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone.
The flowers appear upon the earth.
The time of singing of birds is come.
Arise my love, my fair one, and come away."
(the Healey Willan setting)

"And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes.
There shall be no more death,
neither sorrow nor crying,
neither shall there be any more pain.
For the former things are passed away."
(I can't remember who this anthem is by)

This morning all I want is to lie down with my eyes closed and listen to these anthems really loud. The music is SO beautiful. I wish I could describe it for you in some way. When I think of it, I think of total peace. When I sing these anthems, I feel at peace. The longing is so great. It almost hurts.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Awake (A Mondacular Meditation)

What does it mean to be truly awake?

Some years ago (I honestly am not sure when it began), I started a phase of my life in which I feel sleepy much of the time. Sleepy because my contacts aren't quite right and my vision is rarely clear? Sleepy because I just actually haven't had enough sleep? Sleepy because I've had too much sleep? Sleepy because my body is sluggish -- maybe I have Epstein-Barr? Sleepy because I don't get enough exercise and therefore have bad circulation? Sleepy because I exercised too much? Sleepy because I have low metabolism? Hypothyroidism? Who knows? All of these are possibilities. But, none of these things is necessarily the cause.

The times when I have been clear really stand out to me. I was alert during conversation with someone. I was able to explain something interesting and complex -- how the vocal folds function or how we breathe, for example. I gave some good and much-needed advice. I made some important decisions that helped solve a tricky situation. I was there. I was awake. I was "on". I felt alive. The way I feel most of the rest of the time is like I'm in a fog. I feel like I'm covered in a kind of energetic goo - some sort of blanket that makes swift moving difficult - that makes it difficult to think and to act. I am slow. I mumble or make incoherent sentences. I can't remember things that have happened in the short term. I can't think of what I want to say.

What does it mean to be awake? (Does it mean I've just had a cup of coffee?) We all function at different levels. We all have different expectations of ourselves and how we'd like to fit into the world. I'm obviously still functioning in this world. I have a graduate degree, hold a job, have friends, get things done, etc. etc. I'm not in a mental institution. It's not like I have some sort of serious medical condition that is preventing me from living a normal life. So, perhaps the reason I feel I am not awake is because I know I can function at a higher level than I do and I really, really *want* to. I know I am capable of more and I won't ever be satisfied with less. Well, ok, and I'm sleepy a lot.

But again, what does it mean to be awake? Is it about being in synch with the pace of the busy city around me? Honestly, living in the city makes me feel much more alive than living in a smaller town. I wonder if the city itself helps bring my energy level higher? But, sitting on top of a mountain looking out at the valley below (or walking in the forest or standing by the ocean) makes me feel really alive, too, so then maybe it's just about being able to tune in and resonate with my surroundings. Is feeling awake about being aware -- being fully able to drink in my environment and interact with it (as opposed to just watching the world go by)? Is feeling awake about recognizing where I am in the universe -- being able to own my unique space in the cosmos and step out of the human routines that make me forget the larger picture? Is feeling awake about owning the choices I have made for my life and knowing that I'm free to continue making my own choices? Or, is it simply about following the proper formula? 8 hours of sleep + proper diet and exercise + Magic Pill = Awake

What does awake mean to you?

**PS - I just ran across an article about how napping can increase your longevity. I have often thought that taking a nap in the middle of the day would help me feel less sleepy. But, where do I take a nap in the middle of the day? Should I just spread out my sleeping bag on the floor of my cubicle? on the sidewalk? in the back seat of my car in the company parking garage? or just lay my head down on my desk? I've heard about places in Japan where you can rent a cot to take a nap in the middle of the day. As far as I know we have nothing like that here.

Friday, November 09, 2007

A Calm Mind and a Peaceful Heart

I have been thinking a lot about my post from the other day and what it means to be "more loving". I've been thinking about how to have a calm mind and a peaceful heart, how to be compassionate to myself and to others, and how to express what this means to me in words. Today I stumbled across a Wikipedia article about Loving-kindness that I thought I'd share with you because I think it summarizes some of how I think a person might go about becoming more loving -- and what a person might hope to attain by becoming more loving. The idea, I think, is that by meditating on feeling loving kindness towards yourself and then towards others in your life -- those who you have positive and negative feelings for -- and then gradually spreading that loving feeling towards all of the planet and then the universe, you will become more calm, peaceful, and loving. (Was that redundant?) Makes sense to me!

Here's a short excerpt from the article:

"The object of mettā meditation is to cultivate loving kindness (love without attachment, non-exclusive love) towards all sentient beings... It is a good way to calm down a distraught mind because it is an antidote to anger. Someone who has cultivated mettā will not be easily angered and can quickly subdue anger that arises. They will be more caring, more loving, and more likely to love unconditionally.

Buddhists believe that those who cultivate mettā will be at ease because they see no need to harbour ill will or hostility. Buddhist teachers may even recommend meditation on mettā as an antidote to insomnia and nightmares. It is generally felt that those around a mettā-ful person will feel more comfortable and happy too. Radiating mettā is thought to contribute to a world of love, peace and happiness...

Indeed, Mettā is a tool that permits one's generosity and kindness to be applied to all beings and, as a consequence, one finds true happiness in another person's happiness, no matter who the individual is."

The article goes on to say,

"The six stages of mettā bhāvanā meditation which are most commonly found involves cultivating loving-kindness towards:

1 - Yourself
2 - A good friend
3 - A 'neutral' person
4 - A difficult person
5 - All four
6 - and then gradually the entire universe"

I actually find undirected, free-form meditation very difficult and find that I am usually enormously unsuccessful at it. But, meditating or praying with specific thoughts in mind (or specific prayers) is something I find quite calming and wonderful. I wonder if there are other ways of doing this -- meditations or prayers similar to this with a similar intent, from this tradition or others. And, I wonder, how does one cultivate loving kindness?

58,000 gallons

As you probably heard, a container ship hit the San Francisco Bay Bridge on Wednesday dumping 58,000 gallons of heavy-duty bunker fuel oil into the bay. Reports say the cause of the accident is a mystery and that it's highly unusual, though also that the pilot of the ship has a record of other "incidents". Today, my heart goes out to the as yet unknown quantity of birds, fish, and marine mammals who have been coated in oil because of this accident and as a result are sick and/or dying. It makes me feel ill just thinking about it.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Listening is an Act of Love

This morning on my way to work I had the radio tuned to NPR. Unfortunately, because of fatigue and road noise, I wasn't able to listen too carefully to the stories until I heard the announcer say, Listening is an act of love. It stuck out to me as though someone had hi-lighted it with a bright yellow marker. The rest of the story was faded and garbled to my ears, but every time the announcer said, Listening is an act of love, I was moved. It had it's own meaning to me -- one that might have been related to the story, but I don't know.

In reading Erich Fromm's book The Art of Loving, I became familiar with his idea that love is not an emotion or feeling that you fall in and out of, but rather love is "an interpersonal creative capacity" comprised of "care, responsibility, respect, and knowledge." Love is work. It takes discipline to love well. And, what is more loving than to listen with respect and empathy to someone you care for? And simultaneously, what can be more challenging at times? It's difficult when you try not only to hear what the person is saying, but also try to listen to what is beyond the words. What does this person need? And, more specifically, what do they want/need from me? I want to listen well, but it's not always easy for me. And, I think for some, it may be particularly hard with loved ones or others you see every day, because the times when you're trying to listen aren't usually special appointments meant specifically for having a conversation. It's not like those times when you haven't seen someone in a while -- when you are really, truly interested in catching up and learning about what the other has been doing since you last met. In many cases, it's easier to listen well to people you see less often. With those you see everyday (or regularly in some way), you've probably heard what they've said before. You may know already how they'll react if you say x or y, so you may not even try to give input. With people you're really close to, listening requires patience. It takes discipline. It's hard sometimes to want to make the effort to stop what you're doing, look the person in the eye, and listen. In this modern world of cell phones, text messaging, email, and chat, we may find that it's easier to communicate with others without eye contact -- that having multiple conversations alleviates the need to be patient with one particular person. And, with some, it may be possible to have a good relationship entirely devoid of physical proximity for a long time. Technology is opening up the possibilities of many diverse communication styles. And, I think there are good things about that. On that note, how *is* listening different when you're not in the same room with the person you're communicating with? Are you really able to communicate as intimately and as effectively when you're not physically together with someone? And, on that same note, what if you're together but not making eye contact, not paying attention? Is it the same as not being in the room at all? I have been thinking about how teaching has been a real challenge for my listening skills and patience. My ears are acutely tuned in for musical errors, but there is so much more to teaching lessons. Listening to students to accurately hear what their questions are, what their goals are, what their worries are, etc. takes much skill and effort. (Knowing what the answers are is another story!) I can easily diagnose a musical problem without looking into the eyes of my student, but I don't think I could ever understand the larger issues and what they really need if we didn't make eye contact.

Listening is an act of love because it requires discipline and takes effort. To really pay attention and really listen to someone is a rarity in this modern world. It could be the greatest gift you give to someone today.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Traditions

I get really sad sometimes when I think about the family holiday traditions from my childhood that we are no longer able to keep on because of deaths, marriages, relocation, etc. As a child I spent every Thanksgiving either at my own house in Syracuse, NY or at my Aunt and Uncle's in Potsdam, NY. And, we all spent every Christmas at my Grandma and Grandpa's place in Galesburg, IL. (We drove there from Syracuse/Potsdam every year.) We were always together. Now we are all spread out -- in Florida, Virginia, New York, Michigan, Colorado, and California -- and the traditions we continued well past my college graduation have now become impossible to maintain. But, when I start getting all weepy and nostalgic about it, it occurs to me that perhaps I need to make an effort to let go of the past. So, I've decided it would be fun to dream up some new holiday traditions. Wanna help? What do you think would be a good holiday tradition to begin?

How about:

- Thanksgiving eve cinnamon toast party
- Thanksgiving turkey stuffed with lo-mein
- Sledding through the streets of SF (we don't need snow... we've got enough hills)
- Annual toothpaste smoke-a-thon
- Holiday caroling with tri-tone harmonies
- Advent wreath with sparklers
- Advent calendar -- shot of whisky a day
- Boxing Day pillow fight and jell-o wrestling

Do you have any favorite traditions?

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

I am a person prone to anxiety, to worry, and to paranoia. It runs in my family - particularly in the women on my mother's side. It's something I will probably always have to work on, because I have very high expectations of myself and am very critical of myself, and since I am also naturally a fairly low-energy, low-key person, I feel a great need to consume caffeine in order to be productive and energetic, which is the worst thing an anxiety-prone person can do. Finding a drug (or something else) that would allow me to be more alert, but which doesn't cause anxiety, (and which I could use on a regular basis) is a dream of mine.

In the meantime, I was thinking today about my anxiety and what I think might be some of the best advice I have ever received related to alleviating it. For people who are anxious, one of the hardest things to do (in my experience) is to keep things simple. We tend to overthink things and dwell on the negative. Thus, the following advice was much needed and extremely helpful to me perhaps partly just for it's lack of complexity. It came from a therapist I saw in Syracuse, who is a wonderful man I have much respect for. I don't recall exactly what I was talking about with him at the time, but I do remember that I was overwhelmed by some difficult decisions I was trying to make and by incessant negative thinking. I don't recall precisely all of what he said, but mostly just that he thought it would be helpful for me to breathe more deeply, to live in the moment, and to simplify my thoughts. I do remember clearly that he said,

"All you really need to do is just be loving and take care of yourself."

For months after the appointment, that phrase became a mantra for me. I would become anxious. I would be thinking too much. The thoughts were incessant, annoying, intense, critical, worrisome, leaving me paralyzed in a prison of self-pity and loathing...

What am I doing? Where am I going? What should I do? Why aren't I more attractive/lovable/talented/intelligent/successful/etc.etc.etc.? What if x,y,z happens? What if I never accomplish m,n,o,p?

But, then I would think of it:

"Just BE LOVING and TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF. That's *all* you need to do. It's ok. Everything is exactly as it should be."

And, suddenly I would relax. Suddenly, I would see the people around me as just humans, as flawed as I am -- not better or worse. I would appreciate them for all of their goodness and respect them for all of their struggles. And, I would think to myself,

"What do I really need to feel better right now?"

And then,

"How can I be more loving?"

It can be *so* helpful to simplify things. Most of the time I find it almost impossible to take life one step/one moment/one day at a time. I get overwhelmed thinking about everything at once. I get way ahead of myself in my thoughts and then make no progress at all because I can't see clearly where I am. I don't acknowledge what I am really doing with my time and energy -- the ways in which I *am* giving my heart and soul, the ways in which I *am* trying my best and doing a good job. I have a tendency to focus just on what I lack, on what I am not good at, on the ways in which I am failing. I have no concept at all of what the next step should be. I feel like I am in the midst of a tornado. It would be better to just hold on.

When I ask myself what I really need to feel better -- what I need to do to take care of myself, the answer is inevitably simple. It is often something related to my physical comfort, like adjusting how I am sitting, going for a walk, stretching, drinking tea or water, or taking a hot bath. Sometimes, I need to take care of my emotional well-being by reaching out to a friend or writing or talking through my feelings. Sometimes, I really, really just need to sing or listen to music.

And, it's only then, once I've taken care of my own needs, that I am really able to give anything of substance to another person (to people, to the world) -- to really be loving. And, perhaps this all means that love is the cure for anxiety and that anxiety indicates the absence of love. I don't know.

“Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.”

- Rumi

Monday, November 05, 2007

Study Finds Working At Work Improves Productivity

Your thoughts?
Just for fun, I decided to go back and see what I had to say on this blog one year ago today.

It was pretty interesting.

(This link is actually for the whole week because I can't seem to change my archiving options anymore...)

I think maybe I'll go and look at all of your blogs now and see what you wrote about a year ago.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Sometimes my best friend, Lara, and I like to reminisce about old times. We were roommates in college and did many, many very silly things together. One thing that still makes us laugh is remembering some of the pick-up lines guys tried on us at parties and such when we were in school.

Here are a few favorites:

"I've been dreaming about your feet for weeks."

"I like the way your hair just sets there."

"As far as I'm concerned, the night is still young."

"So, how long have you lived in Bethesda?"

(If you're reading this, Lara, please help me remember some more!)

Have any you'd like to share? What kinds of silliness do you like to remember from your past?