Saturday, August 30, 2008

One Year Later

Just out of curiosity, I turned back the pages of time and looked to see what I wrote on my blog a year ago today. I was reminded that this was the weekend (Labor Day weekend) that I left Boston and started my journey across the country to California! In some ways, it's hard to believe it's only been one year!

Friday, August 29, 2008

Getting to Know You

1. When is the last time you were "off the grid", in a place with no cell phone reception and no internet access for more than 24 hours?

2. When's the last time (if ever) that you constructed something useful out of wood?

3. When's the last time (if ever) that you made a piece of clothing?

4. What's an example of something you prefer to do the "old fashioned way", if anything? (Do you bake your own bread? Do you still read the real newspaper?)

5. Where do you draw the line with technology? What technology do you refuse to buy into? (The year I lived in Madison, WI, I knew quite a few people who still didn't have cell phones. I wonder how many of them are still without?)

6. When you listen to music, what method of technology do you most often employ for it's transmission?

(me: 1. 2 weekends ago we went up to Redwood National Forest and used the phonebook for the first time in ages because there was no internet access. unfortunately, it turned out there was nothing to do, so we had no one to call, but if we had needed to, we would have had to use the landline telephone in our hotel room; 2. high school shop class, i think; 3. I'm not sure that I've ever made a piece of clothing; 4. I prefer using a piano to an electronic keyboard. I prefer using my legs to walk than pretty much any other form of transportation; 5. My dad once bought a motorized wine bottle opener. I would never buy one of those. I like opening bottles the old fashioned way.; 6. either over the internet on www.pandora.com or via CD player)

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

The Open Focus Brain

Yesterday, I finished reading a book my dad sent me for my birthday called The Open Focus Brain by Les Fehmi. The author is the director of the Princeton Biofeedback Centre. Some of his ideas are pretty intriguing (and pretty "out there"), so I thought I'd write out this little excerpt to share it with you, since you seem to like food for thought:

""Nothing" is not merely nothing. Nothing, in fact, is a great and robust healer and is critical to the health and well-being of our nervous system. Space is unique among the contents of attention because space, silence, and timelessness cannot be concentrated on or grasped as a separate experience. It slips through, permeates your attention, through all your senses. Seeing, hearing, tasting, feeling, smelling, and thinking of space, basking in it -- while simultaneously experiencing timelessness -- is a powerful way to let go, the most powerful way that I know."

Here are some examples of the exercises he gives in the book:

"Can you imagine the distance or space between your eyes?"

"Is it possible for you to imagine the space inside your nose as you inhale and exhale naturally?"

"Can you imagine the space inside your ears?"

"Gently do a mental inventory of the perceptions of all your senses. Attend, for example, to your sense of hearing. Be aware of sounds while equally and simultaneously attending to the silence between the sounds, out of which the sounds arise. Notice the direction that sounds travel toward you through three-dimensional space."

"Can you imagine the free flow of thought in the space in which it occurs, while feeling body presence and emotions and the space in which they occur as background for thinking?"

"Can you imagine where in silence do the internal voices arise from? Where the visual images are located? Is it possible for you to imagine centering your awareness on the free flow of your thoughts and at the same time experience the physical space from which your thoughts issue, attending equally and simultaneously to the thoughts and to the spatial location from which thoughts emerge?"

Dr. Fehmi's book is all about changing the way you pay attention in order to change your mindset, so that you're not continually in what he calls a "narrow objective" attention, a tense, constricted, survival mode of attention that holds us in a state of chronic stress and leads to anxiety, depression, and attentional disorders. His ideas and his exercises challenge the reader to be conscious of how you're paying attention so that you can catch yourself in this "narrow objective" attention and expand it to encompass more of the world. It's interesting food for thought.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Question to Ponder...

submitted by Celeste W.:

"Buddhism (in a nutshell) teaches us that we seek escape from suffering through the three "lords" of materialism. By seeking refuge in these lords, we deny ourselves the honest path through our suffering to truth and change. On a lighter note, we busy ourselves with this and that so that we don't really have to look hard at the things in our life that our uncomfortable- the things that might prompt us to make real changes for the better.

These three "lords" are
1. The Lord of Form (e.g. sex, food, shopping, TV, internet)
2. The Lord of Speech (e.g. -isms, political movements, feeling "right")
3. The Lord of Mind (e.g. falling in love, spiritual transcendence, getting high, etc)

Not all of these "lords" are "bad" or addictions. In fact, most are benign, or even good- they wouldn't be "lords" if we used them differently. They can be any strategy that we resort to to take our minds of what is really bothering us- to feel instantly comfortable and to avoid the larger questions.

Easy question: What are some of the "lords" in your life?
Medium question: How are they categorized, or are they pan-categorical?
Hard question: which of your lords seems "good" and "right"? What will it take for you to free yourself from the "lord" in this activity/mindset while still holding on to the positive aspects?

Overall guidance: when answering these questions, avoid the temptation to beat yourself up or to feel badly about your list."

(Reference: "The Places that Scare You" by Pema Chodron
http://www.shambhala.com/html/catalog/items/isbn/978-1-57062-921-1.cfm)

Saturday, August 23, 2008

The Dip

I just finished a book called, The dip: a little book that teaches you when to quit (and when to stick) by Seth Godin. His main point seems to be that you should pick one thing to focus all of your attention on -- something that you have a reasonably good chance of becoming exceptionally good at -- and you should quit everything else that is taking your attention and energy away from that main focus. This main thing you decide to focus on must be something you can stick with through "the dip", the difficult time you will face before you become successful, "the long slog between starting and mastery". You must decide you will persevere until you become the best in the world.

He says, "Quit the wrong stuff. Stick with the right stuff. Have the guts to do one or the other."

He says that we make a mistake in thinking "being well rounded is the secret to success." He says, "in a free market, we reward the exceptional", "...the real success goes to those who obsess." And, "the next time you catch yourself being average when you feel like quitting, realize that you have only two good choices: Quit or be exceptional. Average is for losers."

The wrong time to quit something is when you are in "the dip", so it's best to figure out if you think you can survive "the dip" before you begin. Some reasons you might end up quitting (because you didn't think ahead) are because "you run out of time... you run out of money... you get scared... you're not serious about it... you lose interest or enthusiasm or settle for being mediocre... you focus on the short term instead of the long... you pick the wrong thing at which to be the best in the world (because you don't have the talent)."

"Is it possible that you're just not good enough? That you (or your team) just don't have enough talent to be the best in the world? Sure it's possible. In fact, if your chosen area is the cello, or speed skating, then I might even say it's probable. But in just about every relevant area I can think of, no, it's not likely. You are good enough."

So, I picked up this little 80 page book because a friend had recommended it and also because there was an article in the NY Times about it the other day. I was hoping it would help me to sort out some things about my life and career focus. I have to say I found that it was making a lot of sense to me until I got to the line, "if your chosen area is the cello"... There I was reading along, deciding to make some major changes in my life, when I realized suddenly that maybe he didn't intend his advice to apply to me after all...

I had a little trouble figuring out where to take him totally literally and where to assume he was exaggerating to make a point. I know I will never be the best soprano in the world, because my voice isn't big/loud enough or high enough to compete for that coveted spot (which is obviously totally subjective anyway). But, if I re-defined what "the world" and "soprano" mean and tried to be the best singer of Handel arias or something that fits me better, it seems more feasible.

What else would I have a reasonable chance of becoming the "best in the world" at if I quit everything else and focused only on it? I think it's an interesting question. But, I'm not sure I think someone who advocates obsessing is someone I want to take advice from. I think it's probably good to streamline your life's focus and not waste your time and energy on dead-end projects, but to what end? And, what happens when you finally become the best in the world? Will you be happy?

Friday, August 22, 2008

One Hundred Push Ups

What do you think? Are you up to THIS CHALLENGE?

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Getting to Know You - JEOPARDY version

I'll supply the answers! You supply the questions!

1. Compassion.
2. A match.
3. "Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony."
4. I fundamentally disagree.
5. I felt proud.
6. Honesty.
7. Eye contact.
8. The bathroom.
9. I would apologize.
10. A walk in the woods.

[Here are some sample answers that I am making up as I go along here... 1. What is a ten letter word that begins with a "C"? 2. What would you use to light a candle? 3. What is a good quote? 4. How do you feel about politicians taking bribes? 5. How did you feel when you graduated from college? 6. What is the most important quality quality in a witness? 7. What would you want to make in order to find out what color someone's irises were? 8. Where do you usually go in order to pass water? 9. What would you do if you stepped on my toes? 10. What sounds nice right about now?]

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Hmm...

Well, either everyone is out to lunch or I asked a really sensitive question. So, here's another question which is not less sensitive at all, but I just thought I'd add it since no one has answered my first one.

If you were walking down the street and saw someone who was choking, would you consider it your responsibility to give that person the heimlich maneuver?

A co-worker told me one time she was in a sushi restaurant waiting for take out and started choking on something. NO ONE tried to help her, even though she had her hands around her neck and was clearly indicating that she was choking. She had to give herself the heimlich maneuver on a chair.

What do you consider to be your personal responsibility when it comes to strangers? If you were a doctor, it would be in your code of ethics to help anyone that was in need, but as an average civilian, what is your responsibility? Would you be more likely to help someone who looked/acted/seemed like you or someone who seemed more like they could really use help... like a homeless person...?

Monday, August 18, 2008

Question to Ponder...

What is our collective / your individual responsibility to homeless people?

"My life is part of the global life -
I found myself becoming more immobile
When I think a little girl in the world
can't do anything -
A distant nation, my community,
a street person, my responsibility -
If I have a care in the world,
I have a gift to bring -"

- Emily Saliers

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Getting to know you again (and again...)

1. Do you own a TV set?
2. Have you spent much time pondering the meaning of life? (figured it out yet?)
3. How do you feel about slapstick comedy / "stupid funny" humor?
4. Do you enjoy watching people?
5. Do you own a toaster?
6. Do you believe everything happens for a reason?
7. Are you funny? Do you ever try to be funny, but fail?
8. Have you ever seen a ghost? (Do you believe in ghosts?)

(me: 1. no.; 2. yes. (no.); 3. i love it most of the time.; 4. yes. people are fascinating.; 5. no.; 6. yes.; 7. every once in a while. all the time.; 8. i don't know. (i don't know.))

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

New to my links

Choralista
Celeste's Scramblings

Question to Ponder...

How do you feel about the vastness of the universe? Does it terrify you with your own insignificance, or do you like being part of such a huge, mysterious whole?
(submitted by Steph)

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Protein

So, this week, my challenge to myself is to try to eat enough protein. More specifically, I'm going to make sure I get at least 50g of protein every day, because I don't think I usually do.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Update on Exercise Challenge

Well, I failed to do what I originally set out to do, which was to exercise every day of this week, but I did manage to exercise three times -- Monday, Wednesday, and Saturday. I ran for 20 minutes, did push ups, and stretched. I have to admit, given my state of health, that I am happy with myself even though I didn't accomplish as much as I had hoped I would.

Friday, August 08, 2008

Tourists!

On my way to work, I go through two distinctly different sections of town with two distinctly different sets of people. Both parts of town are also frequented by a third group of people who are ubiquitous throughout the city. The first set of people are tourists, the second set of people are business folks on their way to work, and the third set of people are homeless people. Here's how you can tell them apart:

Tourists - dressed comfortably in t-shirts and shorts, often wearing cameras around their necks, often with family, often pointing, often speaking a european language, confused at intersections, meander instead of walk in straight lines, sometimes dragging a suitcase on wheels, often carrying several different bags of shopping purchases, often clumped in groups of many people

Business folks on their way to work - dressed in business attire - formal or casual, carrying a briefcase or one over the shoulder bag or purse, usually alone, usually walking at a brisk pace in a straight line, often carrying a cup of coffee in a "to go" cup

Homeless people - usually dressed in soiled clothing, bodies/face/hair are usually visibly dirty and usually quite tanned by the sun, often carrying a sign with a plea for help and/or a cup to collect change, usually stationary - sometimes sitting, sometimes standing, sometimes selling a newspaper called "Street Sheet", sometimes smell of urine

Which group of people is most annoying? Tourists! If I'm in a hurry to get to work or get home and end up behind a group of tourists, I usually have to walk into the street to get around them. They clump together and meander and do whatever possible it seems to make sure it's impossible for me to walk in a brisk straight line and get to work on time. But I don't have all negative feelings for tourists. Every once in a while I like to play the tourist and get lost in a sea of people. I love the city I live in and it's nice to see that others love it, too. Just not on my way to work...

Thursday, August 07, 2008

One Year Ago Today

Just for fun I decided to see what I posted a year ago today. It was a Getting to Know You day. Jake, Suze, Steph, and Andre might be interested to see what they had to say then. Has anything changed for you? Gosh, for me just about everything has changed!

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Veronika Decides to Die

I finished reading the book Veronika Decides to Die by Paulo Coehlo this afternoon over my lunch hour. I think this was supposed to be an uplifting book, but it sent me into a really deep depression that I think I am just starting to lift out of nearly 8 hours later. I thought it might help to write about it, but honestly I'm not really sure what to say. Without spoiling any important plot points, the main gist is that Veronika, the main character, tries to commit suicide, fails, and over time reconnects with her will to live. Along the way we learn why Veronika didn't want to live anymore and also the histories of several of her fellow mental institution inmates. The author takes us through one woman's experience of panic attacks in such detail that I almost had a panic attack reading about them. Anyway, I have read a few depressing books in my life. The Bell Jar, Go Ask Alice, and Anna Karenina are some that come to mind. I think what disturbs me most about Veronika Decides to Die is that I think it was supposed to put me in a good mood, not make me depressed. I think I was supposed to rediscover how valuable my life is and feel really happy to be alive through the process of reading it. I was actually looking forward to feeling inspired, to finding new purpose, but I'm afraid that didn't happen. What a bummer...

Monday, August 04, 2008

Question to Ponder...

Do you think that email and the internet in general have brought people closer together, or moved them further apart?
(submitted by Scott G.)

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Challenge: Week Three

This week I've decided to make a challenge for myself to exercise every day, because I really need to do it and this "challenge" method seems to be working rather well for me. My goal is to do some sort of strength training, aerobic activity, and stretching every day this week. I'm planning to alternate between push ups and pilates core strength training for the strength training part, alternate between running and walking up steep hills for the aerobic activity part, and do an assortment of yoga and runner stretches for the stretching part. I have a pretty specific plan, but I won't bore you with all the details.

I started medication for Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome a few months ago and have found that exercise definitely helps. Sitting, standing, or lying in one place for a long time definitely makes me feel crappy. I think there is some connection there to why I fall asleep so easily when I'm reading, but I don't really know. Anyway, I think that getting more exercise will be a good thing for me.

How are you doing?

Saturday, August 02, 2008

I just posted my last comment from My Second Challenge. I will report about my next challenge soon. It's going to involve exercising...

Friday, August 01, 2008

Mistakes are part of the process... (thanks, Emily!)

“We now know a thousand ways not to build a light bulb.” - Thomas Alva Edison

"What defines a master? Not making mistakes. How does one become a master? Make lots of mistakes." - Anonymousian

"You cannot become a master until you actually take the leap, do the work, make several thousand mistakes, and live to tell about it." - Suzanne Falter-Barns

"I don't measure a man's success by how high he climbs but how high he bounces when he hits bottom." - General George S. Patton

"100% of the shots you don't take don't go in." - Wayne Gretzky

"It's important not only to figure out what works, but to figure out what doesn't work." - Anonymouspam

"I care not what others think of what I do, but I care very much about what I think of what I do!" - Theodore Roosevelt

"A man of genius makes no mistakes. His errors are volitional and are the portals of discovery." - James Joyce

"If you can't make a mistake, you can't make anything." - Marva Collins

"For me the spiritual path has always been learning how to die. That involves
not just death at the end of this particular life, but all the falling apart that happens continually. The fear of death - which is also the fear of groundlessness, of insecurity, of not having it all together-seems to be the most fundamental thing that we have to work with. Because these endings happen all the time! Things are always ending and arising and ending... We have so much fear of not being in control, of not being able to hold on to things. Yet the true nature of things is that you're never in control." - Pema Chödrön