Tag Archives: peace of mind

Serenity in motion

10 Feb

Last weekend, my boyfriend and I spent an evening at a couple of casinos at Tunica, Miss. I’ve never been a fan of casinos — the energy is wrong.

Tension that pierces the nerves like glass needles, over-the-top emotions, desperation, despair … that even more than the gloomy haze of cigarette smoke tightens my chest and steals my calm, my breath. And I just know some of the glassy-eyed people slumped at the slot machines had slipped way, their spirits lost in some soulless triple-line exchange. Made me wonder if there was a body detail lurking behind some door, waiting to slip in and scoop up the dead losers while the ones still breathing were distracted by a frantically wild craps shoot.

Many might consider the drive back to Little Rock through the winter-bare Delta to be a bleaker experience, but that’s where the beauty lives, the energy feels right, I’m able to focus and breathe, recapture calm.

Setting things right were sweet moments of serenity in motion like this on Hwy. 70 near Brinkley, where we happened upon a flock of geese resting in a flooded field.

What casinos?

Catching a breath

Serenity in motion

Today’s resolution: An unburdening of sound

29 Sep

Blessed quiet. (2011/RO)

While this is a photo of snow — specifically, Simone’s footprints in snow — it doesn’t mean that I want snow. No, I’m wishing for quiet. Quiet of mind and spirit and body, all of which are hard to come by at times. The brief near absence of sound that arrives with the first fall of snow reminds me of what that’s like.

Quiet.

Meditation sometimes brings the quiet, or allows my mind to settle down enough to release static built up over hours or days as I work at the computer. I don’t have to be among people to become overwhelmed by the world. It’s right here in front of me, pixels and bytes, intricate roping and twisting flows of information at my fingertips, this web that captures and holds me rapt.

I love it — all this information within my virtual grasp. But it wears me out. For the past week, I’ve been traveling link to link, following paths of explanation — Mashable, Social Times, Mari Smith, TechCrunch and more — about ways to manage social media for marketing, branding, reaching out to consumers with content, content, more content.

I’m in a perpetual learning curve in my latest career incarnation as social media manager. I love it. But it’s exhausting. My mind has growing pains.

So today I took a break, settled down with instrumental music for meditation. Quiet. That’s hard for me to find, achieve. Not only were the electrons snapping, crackling and popping but I had to contend with tinnitus made worse than usual by lack of sleep.

You have tinnitus? Then you know what I mean. You don’t? Think of this: It’s neverending, neverwaning cicada song … in my head. Can’t imagine it? Go to this link and turn up the volume. Close your eyes. Listen. LISTEN.

That’s what I hear every second of every day. Most of the time, I tune it out. But when my mind overtires, I’m incapable of ignoring it. So, meditation.

Music makes meditation possible by giving me another sound on which to focus. Only when my mind finds that pathway can it slow and settle and … then I pass beyond that focus into a place of drifting thought, an unburdening of sound, a shushing snowfall of quiet.

shhhhhhh

I got there.

Today’s resolution: In synch with introversion

21 Sep

Every morning, I read my horoscope in the newspaper — out of habit, mostly, because it’s so general that it rarely has any relevance for me. But an occasional message resonates, like today’s:

“Planning ahead for an event might be your saving grace. This requires more thought that simply how you’ll get there and what you’ll wear. Consider who will be there and what you’d like to talk about.”

Actually, that made me laugh. Welcome to my life — or life as an introvert.

This mural near the Santa Barbara Beach speaks to me. Wonder if the artist is an introvert. (2011/RO)

Everything I do that involves interaction with other people requires preparation. If I’m going to a party, for example, I always think about who might be there and what we have in common so that I have an idea of what we might talk about. I’ll flip through my memory and review our last conversation for reference points. It’s not far out to say that I spend more time on the mental preparation than I do on getting dressed and made up.

Prep work for social and other occasions calms me and is a way of making sure I’m not overwhelmed in a social situation. If I’m overwhelmed, I shut down, go blank. Oh, it’s not pretty.

I’m sure that sounds strange to some, especially folks who thrive on being in crowds of people, who can chat up anyone and who think while talking.

Introverts like me — type INFP —  spend a lot of time looking inward. We’re constantly evaluating and reflecting on our behavior, attitude and reactions. We want to understand — on a deep level —what we’re thinking, feeling and experiencing.     

We can’t help it. To us, it’s essential to understand ourselves because we see the world and other people through the lens of that understanding. It’s how we figure out the external world.

Believe me, being introverted isn’t easy. Someone once asked me if I’d rather be introverted or extroverted. I answered that I’d rather be introverted — that’s what I am, after all. But, honestly, I will admit there are times when I wish I could change, that I could be an extrovert — extroverts make everything look so effortless.

I try to imagine would it be like not to not overthink every decision, every conversation, every word I speak or write. I wonder what it would it be like to never be at a loss for words, to draw energy from being with other people instead of feeling drained, to not need to understand everything.

But, on the other hand, I enjoy the thinking and the fact that I don’t require a lot of external stimulation, activity and people for fulfillment. I’m happy to have accepted that I’m an introvert, instead of living life dissatisfied with myself, feeling out of synch with others and actually believing something is wrong with me because I want — and enjoy — a significant amount of time alone (although, please understand me, there’s more to introversion than a need for solitude).

Before I found out about the different personality types, I thought needing to be alone more than my friends meant I was depressed or destined to become the weird cat lady of the neighborhood. The fact that solitude replenished my energy didn’t factor in. I judged myself on standards set by a society that values sociability, being a team player, living a go-go-go! lifestyle.

Understanding what it means to be introverted flipped my self-image from negative to positive, although that didn’t happen instantly.

***

Even though we need time alone to recharge our batteries, that doesn’t mean introverts want to feel like or be  outsiders. Discovering our true nature and learning that others think and feel like we do can be liberating. It was for me.

Over the years, I’ve spent countless hours reading other introverts’ insights about introversion. There’s one writer who refers to introverts as “my people.”  I like that. We’re a people. We’re together in being energized by the internal world of ideas, impressions and emotions. We’re not alone in our desire to understand.

That understanding is our holy grail. To that end, introverts are constantly questioning why they react to certain things as they do — for example, why do introverts use Facebook? Why do introverts often feel more lonely when they’re with other people than when they’re alone?

What fascinates me about this — in addition to my inherent interest, as an introvert, in introversion — is that extroverts don’t need extensive internal reflection, plus they don’t seem to need or want to talk about their extroversion with other extroverts. It’s not that extroverts live lives free of self-reflection, but deep knowledge of themselves isn’t essential for relating to the external world. And the majority (I know some exceptions) don’t talk about that.

Out of curiosity, I searched Facebook and Twitter for groups focusing on introversion and found them on both. I also searched for groups devoted to discussions of extroversion. I found none — not one. Everything that included the word “extrovert” in its name was related to an activity or person. One FB page was for a musical group named Extrovert.

On Facebook, I participate in an introvert group of about 800 people. Facebook works for us — the majority of us would rather be forced to listen to John Tesh than have to attend a physical meeting together. We’d all blank out from the pressure.

Online, however, we’re able to interact at our own pace and when we choose. We discuss myriad aspects of introversion and share ways of coping with expectations in the workplace, at home, at school, in our communities, and so on. Our discussions are aimed at understanding, of course, but also have a support aspect. For example, members in densely populated countries with cultures or religions that push togetherness find validation and comfort in our virtual musings.

While some people may think that external validation is contrary to the nature of introversion — surely introverts aren’t people who need people? — it’s not. When you live in a world that places a premium on social skills, it’s incredibly affirming to know you’re not the only one for whom a certain amount of solitude is as necessary as air.

***

I first learned about introversion nine years ago when a friend (also an introvert, although a different type) pushed David Keirsey’s book Please Understand Me II at me, saying in a do-not-argue-with-me tone, “Take this test.” I was annoyed and almost blew her off, but her insistence made me curious.

I took the test — which contains questions such as “Is it better to be just or merciful?” — and found out that I’m an INFP, specifically the Healer variant. Was I happy? No. Healers make up about 1 percent of the population, which, to me, meant the chances of ever being understood were one in never.

But as I continued to learn about my personality type, I relaxed. It explained so much. Although everything wasn’t spot on, the author seemed to be describing me. I realized that so many things about me that I had always thought were wrong weren’t. They were simply personality traits that run contrary to expectations of a society dominated by extroverts — who make up 70 percent of the population, to be precise.

Since then, I’ve done a lot research into introversion, and talked to many, many introverts. I’ve gotten to where I can recognize a kindred introvert almost immediately — even if the other person doesn’t know he or she is an introvert. I often feel like I’m on a mission to help other introverts feel good about their introversion. By the way, trying to make things better for others is a characteristic of the healer personality.

One of the most helpful books I’ve found for introverts is The Introvert Advantage. In it, Marti Olsen Laney provides the results of scientific studies — actual tests on brain function — that reveal physiological explanations for why introverts and extroverts approach life differently.

But that’s a topic for another post. For now, fellow introverts, focus on not judging yourself harshly for being yourself. Accept. Nurture.
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Today’s resolution: Discover a secret garden

26 Aug

“Stillness will meet you for tea or a walk by the ocean. You must be gentle when you approach her. She is more sensitive than we can even imagine and she does not explain herself much. Sometimes I bring her flowers — not because she needs them (she tends several gardens) — but because I am better able to meet her when I am carrying flowers. Her favorite time is dawn.” — J. Ruth Gendler, The Book of Qualities

Rose garden, Valencia, California (2011/RO)

Today’s resolution: Beads. Beans. Beauty.

19 Aug

I start making jewelry on a whim in 2000 after wandering into a bead store in California. The beads, stones and metals dazzled me with their colors, shapes, textures. I loved the look and feel of them. I wanted to take them all home, but ended up with a few inexpensive ones that I used to make my first pieces, stretchy ankle bracelets that my sister and I wore to a pool party.

Since then, I’ve learned a lot about the craft and have made more than a thousand pieces of jewelry. The visual and tactile experience is quietly enriching; one in which I lose myself for hours.

I love color, texture, shimmer. (2011/RO)

Every year, I make a pilgrimage to a bead market where there are mountains of glittering, glimmering, shimmering natural and manmade beauties in rich, bright and muted hues. I feel such delight from simply looking at the beads and stones, even the findings and tools, that touching them and choosing what to take home makes me breathlessly dizzy.

The last couple of years, I haven’t been able to work with the stones as much as in the past. For one thing, I started my own writing/editing business, which currently takes up most of my time — start-ups require intense dedication and attention if they’re to ever be more than start-ups, so I’ve had to let some things slide.

A bigger problem has been that I have arthritis in my hands, which makes it impossible to spend long stretches pinching tiny objects between thumb and forefinger. All the typing I have to do for my work wears them out so that I rest them whenever possible. I don’t like it, but that’s the way it is.

My grandmother had the same problem. Like me, she worked with her hands — she gardened, then shelled beans, shucked corn, cored tomatoes and peeled peaches to cook and preserve. She also knitted, crocheted, embroidered and sewed. She went through so many crossword puzzle books that we had a hard time finding new ones for her.

I can see Grandmother stretching her fingers, kneading the air to keep them limber — not easy to do for inflamed joints knotty with calcium deposits.

“I have to keep working them or they’ll be stove up,” she’d say.

It took me a while to realize why she always insisted on washing her dishes herself, even when it got to the point that she had to half-sit on a stool because she could stand for only a few minutes at a time — the hot water was soothing and eased the pain.

I think about her a lot as I stretch my fingers, knead the air, do the dishes. I’ve also got a hot paraffin bath for my hands; some days, I dunk my hands in it three, four times. Keeps the joints moving. Right now, they’re so sore that I keep having to stop typing and give them a break. I’ve gotten used to it.

Like Grandmother, I take a heavy-duty prescription anti-inflammatory drug and natural supplements. If I didn’t, my fingers would be stove up, too stiff to move. As it is, some days they feel like they’re twice as big as they look.

Pinto beans

Grandmother eventually had to quit sewing and crocheting, but she shelled beans to the end of her life at age 86. It was a simple thing, something a lot of people would find boring and tedious, but being able to shell a bowl of pintos was satisfying, fulfilling even. As the bowl filled with beans, she’d sink her hands into them, bring them up and let the beans flow through her fingers. She liked their look and feel.

She found pleasure from their smoothness, their mottled pink and white coloring — an occasional all white, green or red one making its way into the mix. She even liked the shells plump and bumpy in their fullness before being stripped clean.

This wasn’t where I thought I was going when I started writing. I was merely going to mention that I’m setting up the jewelry table this weekend, spreading out my glorious finds from the last bead market so I can start making fall and winter pieces. My hands will hurt and I’ll have to stop often, but I’ll keep doing it. Creating beauty soothes and satisfies.

I’ll run my hands over the stones and beads, pick up a few and hold them warm in my palms before letting them slip slowly from my fingers onto the velvet beading board. I like their look and feel.

Today’s resolution: Time for contentment

17 Aug

“Contentment has learned how to find out what she needs to know. Last year, she went on a major housecleaning spree. First, she stood on her head until all the extra facts fell out. Then, she discarded about half her house. Now, she knows where every thing comes from — who dyed the yarn green and who wove the rug and who built the loom, who made the willow chair, who planted the apricot trees. She made the turqouise mugs herself with clay she found in the hills beyond her house.

“When contentment is sad, she takes a mud bath or goes to the mountains until her lungs are clear. When she walks through an unfamiliar neighborhood, she always makes friends with the local cats.” — J. Ruth Gendler, The Book of Qualities

Squash in Connecticut (2009/RO)

 

 

Today’s resolution: Satiety

13 Aug

“It is the law of heaven to make fullness empty and to make full what is modest; when the sun is at its zenith, it must, according to the law of heaven, turn toward its setting, and at its nadir rises toward a new dawn.” — I Ching, 15, Ch’ien

2011/RO

Today’s resolution: Slow, stop for beauty

12 Aug

Unmon instructed the assembly and said, “‘To realize the way through hearing a voice, to enlighten the mind through seeing color’ — Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara comes with some small change and buys poor rice cakes. If he throws it away, he will get nice manju cakes instead.” — Shoyo Roku (Book of Equaminity)

Hibiscus at friend Laura's house in Quapaw Quarter (2011/RO)

Living the moment

22 Mar

While trolling the AARP website earlier today, I came upon an article titled  “7 Ways to Live in the Moment: Discover peace of mind by focusing on the here and now.” I read it thinking it might offer something new about the philosophy of living in the moment.

The seven suggestions, however, were mundane, same old, same old. They included the expected — meditation, yoga, a walk in the woods, doing something out of the ordinary, and so on. Those are all great ways to relax, to take a break and focus on one thing at a time. And doing them consistently has longterm benefits, but all are merely momentary.

The article, while attempting to inspire and uplift, made “living in the moment” seem transitory and activity-related. I realized the phrase doesn’t adequately or accurately describe this point in my life although, until I read the article, I thought it did.

But I’m not simply living in the moment. I’m living the moment.

Living the moment centers not on a particular point in time as in “this minute,” but means being so focused on the current project, objective or whatever that the worries about the future and regrets of the past fall away. They’re there, but have less immediate emotional impact and resonance.

I can’t remember the last time I felt so good.

I want to sustain this feeling and level of focus for as long as possible. My life now is so satisfying and productive, which isn’t at all how I could describe life during the first 16 months after I was laid off by my employer of 30 years. During those months, I worked hard at finding a job — unaware, or desperately afraid to acknowledge, that I didn’t want one. I don’t mean that I didn’t want to work. I did.

I just didn’t want a  job.

A few months ago, I began entertaining possibilities of what might happen if I gave up the job hunt. I researched how to start a business, talked to folks at the Small Business Administration, consulted with friends and colleagues.

During lunch with a friend who had recommended that I apply for a job with her employer, I found myself explaining why I didn’t think I was qualified for that position even though I had applied. Then I started telling her about my ideas for articles, for all the exciting, fun writing projects I could focus on when I had the time. I couldn’t stop talking.

She listened to every idea, even the crazy ones, and when I finally wound down, she said, “Do you really want a job?”

No. I really didn’t. Not what most people consider a “real” job.

As soon as I got home, I called SCORE — the volunteer Service Corps of Retired Executives — and made an appointment to find out what I needed to do to set up a full-time business and market myself. Structure, to me, equals commitment.

So, a month ago, I registered with the secretary of state as the sole proprietor of a limited liability corporation that I named Wordsense. It’s all mine. I’m using the skills I developed during my journalism career and I have the job I want. I love it.

Every day is scary, sometimes frustrating and full of melt-down moments. There are unfamiliar business and financial details to tend to, plus unending organization and planning to make sure all assignments are done well and on schedule.

Every day, too, is full of possibility. I’m completely focused. Now. Living the moment.