Tag Archives: meditation

T-minus 10 Days

I am preparing to go on a meditation retreat. I leave in 10 days. A mini set of goals for the period from now until then.

1. Get butt on cushion.

Even if it’s just for 5 or 10 minutes. My body can really get overwhelmed by meditation, and I’m signed up for 16 straight days of it. I’d like to at least remember how to focus and settle my mind.

2. Get Italy travel plans in place.

I’m going to Italy this fall with my folks to celebrate their 60th birthdays! We leave in mid-September, which will be less that two months after I get back from retreat. My mom and I want to have all the lodging in place before I leave, because the good places are already starting to get booked up.

3. Get fundraising letter finished

I keep writing and rewriting this one. I have many things I want to say, many of which are not appropriate for a fundraising letter.

I also need to figure out the mailing process, and who/how the approval process will work while I am gone.

4. Schedule some posts from all the writing I’ve been doing

All that writing I’m doing does belong SOMEWHERE, even if not in a fundraising letter. I’d like to write up some of it for posts on my work blog.

I also have some posts to write for Treasure Island. There is writing and more writing to be doing.

5. Have some fun!

Online dating is still (mostly) fun, and I even met some new folks the old fashioned way – hanging out in dance clubs!

I’d like to hang out with several of those folks before I leave, if possible. I worry that if I don’t keep the fires stoked, I’ll lose any steam and folks won’t be interested in hanging out when I get back. Especially folks who have already played the waiting game through my other various trips the past month.

My travel & meditation schedule is putting a serious crimp in my dating life! I may have to curtail travel for the second half of the year (besides Italy of course) so I can actually hang out with people here for a change.

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It’s Good Not to Achieve the Goal

This month, wanted to get off Facebook.

Facebook is just one of many indicators that I am feeling lonely or overwhelmed or stuck. It’s an easy one to notice, and one that I don’t have a lot of guilt or shame around. While my progress on specific goals below has been spotty, I’ve made a lot of progress on noticing when I’m turning to Facebook and choosing to do something different instead.

As happens with practice, the more I notice my habit with Facebook, the more I start to notice my other, more complicated habits as well.

1. Nurture local friendships

When I checked in mid-month, I was sure I was doing poorly on this one. I’ve been sitting a lot with loneliness the month, so it seemed like a sure thing that I had not spent time with anyone. I was wrong.

Again, I feel like I have not been nurturing local friendships. There’s both a sense of loneliness, and a sense that I’ve spent a lot of time engaging with people who don’t live here.

But. I spent last weekend hanging out with three different sets of people I know locally. I also had dinner with a friend, and connected with several people at various gatherings.

I am coming to realize that the people I feel most at home with are the people I’m connecting with around engaged Buddhism. I am resisting this, since I want some amount of work/life balance and I work all day on engaged Buddhist issues.

I want to find some resolution to this, where I can both connect deeply with folks and feel balanced. So far, it seems like I need to establish that balance moment to moment, rather than switching to a new mode at 5pm.

2. Walk or meditate in the morning before getting online

The rain continued to make walking difficult. I often headed for a shower or breakfast as a way to start my morning without Facebook.

Meditation has not been as solid this month. Instead, I’ve been really focused on ease. I’d like to find a balance next month of easeful meditation. I’m not sure if that means shorter sits, more walking or guided meditation, or perhaps trying out a few sanghas.

Even though it’s been hard, I’ve still been sitting 2-5 times per week for 30 minutes. I continue to celebrate this as a success.

3. Writing 5 minutes every day

Tracking two daily goals (meditation & writing) seemed to make both of them hard. I didn’t work on tracking this at all, though I did some writing 21 of 31 days this month.

I wonder about:

  • Tracking these two together – 30 minutes of meditation + 10 minutes of writing happens at the same time. (Ahhh! It will take too much time!)
  • Focusing on only meditation for awhile, until it feels more solid

I totally forgot that I did some focused writing in response to a call for articles. It actually felt like the kind of writing I would like to be doing. Perhaps setting this goal created more movement than I realize?

Sometimes achieving the goal is less important than setting the intention. Especially when the goal is a baby step like “write for 5 minutes.” This really isn’t my long term intent. I wouldn’t be happy if I spent the rest of my life writing for 5 minutes every day.

What would it mean to set a writing goal I would be excited and energetic about? But would still have the spirit of doable within my current capacity?

4. Practicing restoration when I’m tired

This month has been all about rest and restoration. I feel fantastic that I have ended a busy, busy month at work still feeling excited about my job and not in a space of burnout. This is so important, as I didn’t want to bring a new co-worker in to a culture of burnout and exhaustion.

I want to track my need for rest this next month. Will I still need completely and total restoration in the same way? Can I recognize that need quickly, and get myself what I need? Do my needs change as my social energy at work changes? How does the weather affect my needs for rest?

I am Surprised I am Not Failing

This month, I’m trying to get off Facebook. I am not planning to delete my account. But I want to spend less time turning to Facebook as a way to distract myself from loneliness and hard work.

1. Nurture local friendships

At first blush, I wasn’t sure I was doing very well at this. But looking at my calendar, I’ve had 3 coffee dates in the last 4 days with a mix of new people and people I’ve been getting to know. Last Monday, I had dinner with some friends I hadn’t seen in 3 months (they were kind enough to only give me a small guilt trip). Earlier this month, I went to a couple of events where I was open to connecting with new people – and did.

This is where setting goals and checking in is so important. According to my internal sense, nothing had changed. I was pretty sure I hadn’t hung out with anyone. As often happens, I was wrong.

2. Walk or meditate in the morning before getting online

This was going awesome, until it rained for a week straight. When I didn’t have walking as an option, I fell back in to old patterns.

I felt especially hard hit with the combo of rain, daylight savings time, Mercury retrograde, and changes at work that finally are giving me some space to breathe. I didn’t want to get out of bed all week, and when I did get out of bed, I wanted to do something soothing and mind numbing.

Even with the challenges, I felt more conscious of switching to Facebook this week. Awareness is the first step of behavior change!

When it’s raining out, my morning routine will now include time in front of the light box.

3. Writing 5 minutes every day

I am not sure how to evaluate this goal.

I certainly have spent a ton of time writing at work. But I think this is for personal writing.

I have written something nearly every day either in my journal or online at the Floating Playground. It feels like a secret, sneaky way to count up the writing I have done.

Yet, I think this should count toward my goal: “I want to be writing more. I have so much to reflect on right now, tons of blogging material …. In setting this small goal, I get worried that there is not enough time.”

The goal is to get me reflecting on my life, in some small but measurable way. To prove that this is doable, even with everything else going on. And I have – at least 14 of the first 17 days of the month. Given that I’ve turned so much of my attention to rest and restoration, this is actually pretty amazing.

4. Practicing restoration when I’m tired

This month has been a lot of practice in saying, “I’m tired! Of course I’m tired! Anyone would be tired if they had been doing everything I have been doing. It’s time to rest!”

Rest has meant:

  • Reading fiction while relaxing in a warm bath
  • Creating safe rooms for the part of me that’s super tired and overwhelmed
  • Getting some new bedding that helps my bed look like the safe room I keep envisioning – super soft feathery bed, covered in piles of white pillows and the softest blankets
  • Faking a nap
  • Sleeping in
  • Not worrying about any of these goals, or meditating, or anything else that I remotely feel like I’m supposed to do

I felt especially worried about not meditating. It has been such a stabilizing force for me, and I worried it was gone forever.

My catastrophizing mind is surprised to see that I just had 2 days where I didn’t meditate at all, and 4 days where I meditated less than my 30 minutes per day. But over the course of the last week, I’ve meditated for 30 minutes 3 out of 7 days. Not bad.

I am seeing a pattern where I’ve done limited meditation on Thursday and Friday the past two weeks. I may want to be more intentional this upcoming week about incorporating at least a small sit on these days. And notice what is making sitting hard. The end of the work week? A perception that I need to let loose?

Getting the Hang of Level Two

This month’s goals looked different than I expected. I rewrote January’s goals, wanting to deepen into them. I got what I needed, even if I didn’t exactly achieve these goals.

1. Meditate for 30 minutes every day. Including (and especially) while on vacation with my family.

While I found it hard to maintain meditation while on vacation, I meditated two more times than I normally would have. Progress.

Even more exciting was how easy it felt to return to meditation after I got home. I’ve meditated every day, a minimum of 15 minutes, and 30 minutes or more most days.

I’m finding it hard to talk to people about how easy meditation feels right now. For folks who are struggling with meditation, it touches their pain at how hard daily practice can be. People who have been meditating daily for ages don’t remember when their practice solidified. I’m so excited about this, and it’s hard not to easily talk to people about it.

2. Use the even greater cuts at work to focus on what is absolutely essential.

At my mid-month check-in, I changed this to “How do I relate to work in a way that is sustainable?”

In addition to meditation, I also started some daily practices to help with entering work mindfully, and finishing the day by releasing it. Some combination of these practices are allowing me to interact with my work in a different way. While the work is still impossibly hard, I feel a lot more spaciousness around it.

I review these phrases daily:

  • I forgive myself for any pain and suffering I have caused myself or others due to my own ignorance and confusion.
  • I ask forgiveness from all those whose pain and suffering I have caused due to my ignorance and confusion.
  • May I show kindness and patience for the world by being kind and patient with myself.
  • May I show love for the world by loving myself, just as I am.
  • May I learn from any mistakes I made today, and use what I have learned to benefit all beings.

3. Ask (everyone) for help.

I am getting a lot of help. It’s sometimes hard to fully take it in, as I am not getting help from some key places where I am expecting it. It’s easy to get sucked into the stories of pain that come up when I’m told help is coming and it doesn’t appear.

But that’s not all of what’s happening. There’s a lot of help coming from unexpected places. And there’s even more help available, if I just ask for it.

I’m noticing I feel a lot more ease in asking for help, in identifying who to ask for help, and taking it in. I think it’s about time to drop this story that I’m bad at asking for help.

In the spirit of receiving for help, I’m looking for a few good folks to step up as my posse in my latest journey.

4. Be Nourished By Everything

In my daily practices for entering and exiting work, I start the day with five things I’m grateful for and end the day with five things I have learned.

Naming the small, beautiful things in life reminds me to be nourished by all that is good in my world. Framing the hard parts as lessons learned helps me remember how fucking up nourishes me too.

Level Two is Hard

How is Level Two going?

1. Meditate for 30 minutes every day. Including (and especially) while on vacation with my family.

I am back from vacation, and feeling disappointed about my success here. Out of seven days, I meditated one day for 30 minutes and a second day for 10 minutes. The other five days contained no sitting meditation.

Small victories: two days of meditation is better than my typical practice of zero. I practiced presence in other ways, sinking in to the physicality of sand and salt water and sunshine.

Key observation: My worst fear came true. I went out to meditate on the beach on the afternoon of my first full day at the beach. After 30 minutes, I came back inside. I felt assaulted on my way in, “We were watching you! Did you see this or that? We were tracking your every movement!” After this, I felt self-conscious about meditating outside again. I tried a stint in my bedroom, but mostly felt too overwhelmed to sit still.

As I settle back in to my practice – and I am heartened to feel how I can return now that I am home – I feel the waves of anxiety from just sitting still again. I know these will pass eventually, but it’s hard to feel like I’m starting over.

2. Use the even greater cuts at work to focus on what is absolutely essential.

My original thought here was to answer the questions: “How can I demonstrate what can be done by one person? How can I do that in a way that does not require that one person to burn out in the process?”

At this point, the answer is “this work isn’t meant to be done by one person.”

The question now is, “How do I relate to work in a way that is sustainable?” One answer may be focusing on the essential. But it is likely not the only answer. Or even the most important.

3. Ask (everyone) for help.

I am getting help with my dilemmas with relationships. I am getting help at work. I have stretched to ask some people for help, and weathered the hard responses (often the hardest being the lack of response).

As people return to work, as friends have more space to talk through things with me, it’s easy to ask people who are convenient for help. The lesson of this difficult time has been – stretch beyond what’s comfortable to ask for help. It’s the best way to bring people closer.

My intent is to continue to stretch – to ask people as a way to connect them closer. And to remember that this is not just about work!

4. Be Nourished By Everything

I spent the week being nourished by the ocean. By dolphins chasing fish in the waves. By nephews running in circles, popsicle smeared on their faces. By parents providing everything they know how. By Rilke‘s reminder to “live the questions.”

And I also felt the lack. The emptiness. The confusion. The stagnation. The hunger for something, anything.

“And you should not let yourself be confused in your solitude by the fact that there is something in you that wants to move out of it. This very wish, if you use it calmly and prudently like a tool, will help you spread out your solitude over a great distance. Most people have (with the help of conventions) turned their solutions toward what is easy and toward the easiest side of the easy; but it is clear that we must trust what is difficult; everything alive trusts in it, everything in Nature grows and defends itself any way it can and is spontaneously itself, tries to be itself at all costs and against all opposition.” – Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet.

And so there is nourishment to be found in solitude, in confusion, in difficulty. I don’t yet feel that, but I see a glimmer that it might possibly be true.

Level Two

I feel torn in setting February’s intentions. I am proud of my successes in January. Part of me thinks I should just repeat my goals from last month, as they are still relevant and I would hate to lose my basis in meditation, self-care, focus, and nourishment.

Another part of me feels like they at least need slightly re-worked, to be sure they are fresh and compelling for this month, which will present its own set of challenges.

It’s like I’m moving from Level 1 to Level 2 on the video game.

1. Meditate for 30 minutes every day. Including (and especially) while on vacation with my family.

Even when I’ve had other successful meditation practices, my practice gets dropped when I travel. I don’t want that to happen this time.

I will be at the beach. There will be oodles of spaciousness. The only thing standing between me and my meditation practice are my own set of fears around being judged or misunderstood. Looking at this before I go seems likely to be helpful.

2. Use the even greater cuts at work to focus on what is absolutely essential.

This comes out of a need to feel like all this difficulty has a purpose. Shouldering an organization on my own, unexpectedly, is proving difficult, but not impossible.

How can I demonstrate what can be done by one person? How can I do that in a way that does not require that one person to burn out in the process?

3. Ask (everyone) for help.

If I think I should ask them for help, I should just ask them for help. Even when it feels awkward, uncomfortable, possibly misunderstood, or beyond their capacity.

Fundraising Rules of Thumb State: At least half the people I ask should be saying no to me before I start even start thinking about scaling back my asking.

Note: This is not just about work.

4. Be Nourished By Everything

By friends. By food. By movement. By reading. By the ocean.

Also notice how I might be nourished by difficult people. By hunger. By stagnation. By silence. By busy-ness.

I’m not even sure I understand what this means. Or believe it to be true, that I could be nourished by everything. But I would like to notice what it is like to approach the world with this frame. And see what might be true.

Intensity + Practice Brings Movement

January has been an intense month. I started the year with family in Indiana, having also just traveled to Colorado to visit friends. I came back and stepped into greater leadership at work. I also started working at home full time, which has its own set of challenges. All this intensity has been coupled with a lot of emotional and energetic movement. All kinds of old stuff is being released (yay!), but it’s been intense.

My intentions this month have been critical in supporting me! How did I do?

1. 30 minutes of meditation. every day.

Since I started January 4, I have meditated 30 minutes or more for 24 of 26 days. One of those days I had an intense somatics session in which I was deeply in touch with what was going on in my body. The other day, I meditated 15 minutes, before I ended up in bed trying not to get sick. Both of those “failures” actually seem like great examples of bringing mindfulness of the body off the cushion and more fully into my life. So I will count them as successes.

This is an amazing transformation in my life. Just three years ago, I was working on a daily meditation practice in which I would meditate 2 minutes per day. Working my way up to 10 minutes was a major achievement. For major periods, I have had no daily practice and have just tried to attend as many meditation classes as possible to make sure that I get regular mindfulness classes in. To have sat for 30 minutes nearly every day, mostly at my own house on my own cushion, and to have that flow with ease – this is a testament to the intention I kept even when my practice seemed so minimal. I kept doing intentional practice anyway, and it’s finally bearing fruit.

2. When in doubt, “What’s the next right thing to take care of myself?”

As I noted, this worked in the most sneaky way possible. I get completely lost about the next right thing sometimes. Especially if I’m torn between taking care of myself and taking care of something on my to do list.

This month, I took the decision making power out of my hands, and just randomly decided. I don’t care if it’s sneaky, because it’s totally working.

3. Be laser focused at work

I have had to be even more focused than anticipated, as a co-worker has been out sick for 10 days. That leaves just me to do everything.

A lot of my “I’m all alone!!!” buttons have been pushed this week, exacerbated when some of my requests for help have been turned down. As has been true of a lot of my buttons that have been pushed recently, it’s really just the last remnants of an old button that has been healed. The one last step is to notice that the structure of the button is still there and needs dismantled. It’s been a review of all my old issues, and a confirmation of all the healing that has happened.

4. Be nourished in friendship

I have both taken in a lot of connection this month, and felt really isolated this month. Some of the isolation is very specific – I have few people to process work-related things with, without feeling like my friends should start invoicing my workplace.

I also am just reaching that one year mark after moving, and I know the typical feeling at this point is that I have many local acquaintances, but few local people with whom I can be fully, authentically me.

Given those challenges, I feel like I’ve done a good job at taking in the nourishment that is available to me, and seeking out additional support and connection even when it feels awkward. I made several new connections with people that have the potential to deepen into the kinds of relationships I want. And that feels good.