Wednesday, March 16, 2016

On Meditation, 3.16.16

A few days ago, M. mentioned to me that I've seemed more stable over the last year than I've been in the last ten years. My first thought was, "Hmmm... I didn't really think I was "unstable!". But, on second thought, I knew exactly what he meant.  Just a few days before that, I had this random, passing thought, basically realizing that "Hey, I feel really good lately." Nothing precipitated it. It was like, suddenly, the sun was shining every day, no matter the weather. Crazy, I know! As you probably know by now, I am a worrier. And I had gotten to the point where I worried about everything- health, family members, family member's health, money, my job, what I said, what I didn't say, what someone said to me, what someone didn't say. You name a worry and I had probably already ruminated over it obsessively, many times over. And the worrying often led to feelings of depression. Nothing major. Just a generalized "down" feeling. Frustrating to say the least.

But, a little over a year ago, I read this book called 10% Happier (which I wrote a little about here). I thoroughly enjoyed the book because it was written by a 'self-proclaimed skeptic' of anything that seemed a little too "out-there", just like myself.  Even though I have been practicing yoga on an almost daily basis since 2009, the meditation part just seemed like a waste of time. But the book sparked some deeper thought on the subject. Then, the 10% Happier App became available. Now, I had the chance to pay $20.00 for two weeks of my own personal meditation coach and access to daily, guided meditations. I was in. I would try it for a couple of weeks, just to see how it would go, and if it didn't make a difference, no huge loss. So I did. Here are the highlights, according to me :)

Dan Harris, the author of 10% Happier, compares meditation to a kind of calisthenics for the brain. And Joseph Goldstein, who led the guided meditations, had, to me, some magic words... "Simply begin again". What they were referring to is that moment when you try to quiet your brain and just focus on your breath and then randomly start thinking about your conversations at work, what you'll make for dinner, what color you should paint your kitchen, etc.. If you "simply begin again' each time that happens, you are actually strengthening the "muscles" of your brain and teaching it to focus only on the breath, only in that moment. Those three words were, really, magic to me.

In the meantime, I also became very aware of what I exposed myself to on a daily basis. I strictly limited my time on my personal Facebook page (even deactivating it for several months) and just focused on my business page. I knew that through my business page, I only follow pages that lift me up with inspirational, positive messages,  not drag me down by exposing me to someone's rotten day, political rant or some random pimple popping video (that really is a thing!!). After several months, I knew this was good for me.

But, then...more magic.  I began following Elena Brower on Blogger and Facebook. Through her posts, I learned about the DVD called 'On Meditation'. You guys, seriously, this was a game changer for me. I can't recommend it enough if you are even remotely interested in the subject. Without hesitation, I ordered the DVD. I could go on and on and on about how affecting this DVD was for me, but since this post is already getting pretty long, I'll just share a few thoughts.

The video contains "portraits" or profiles of four people who are considered experts in the field of meditation. They are all good, but I could relate, mostly, with three of them. Here are some quotes from what I consider to be the best parts of their portraits.

Elena Brower:
Elena says a meditation practice will make you "more receptive, more amenable, more flexible and just more sweet."

And, it will make you "grateful for this sanctuary within you to which you can retreat at any time and just be yourself". (Who wouldn't want that in their life??!)

And her explanation/definition of the greeting "Namaste"..."The light in me recognizes the light in you". I've heard this before, but for some reason, it took  on new meaning in this context.

Peter Matthiessen:
I have to be honest here- everything this man said resonated with me. (You should really watch the video to hear it all.) But to sum it up, briefly, " The purpose in our lives is to help others through it". Love, love, love everything he had to say.

And, Giancarlo Esposito (yes, he plays one of the "bad guys" in Breaking Bad :)): He says, when you meditate, "Think of your breath as if it is moving in a circle." This doesn't seem like a very groundbreaking piece of advice, but it WORKS. And that's all that counts.

View the trailer here .

*All photos in this blog post are taken from the book 'Think Happy, Be Happy', a gift from my Little Man :) You can find it here

Finally, music. For me, music sets a tone for my mood. And, when you are trying to quiet your mind and focus on your breath, music becomes even more of a necessity (at least for me) to set the appropriate mood and help you relax. Obviously, this won't happen while listening to Black Sabbath or Thin Lizzy or really any kind of music that you consider to be nostalgic, because then you are going to be thinking of past experiences and how good or bad they were or how much you miss them. You will definitely have a harder time focusing on your breath. (Believe me, I know from experience.) The music I found to be the most helpful for meditation (and yoga) is music by Rick Batyr, who describes himself on his Facebook page as a " sound medium/healer, music producer using vibration to help others heal and transform". I wouldn't be able to do his music justice by trying to describe it, so I highly recommend listening for yourself, here.

I hope I didn't bore you to tears with this post. But, if it helps one person out of a "funk" or "pit" or whatever anybody wants to call it, then I'm sure you'll understand ;)

Thanks for reading and Happy St. Patrick's Day, a little early! Now, I'm off to do some breathing :)


Monday, March 7, 2016


Lately, I've been...

Making...Starting on several new paintings, gathering ideas for my upcycled tin "secrets" project and planning my next fiber piece. I'll be pretty busy in this department for the next several weeks, as I have agreed to participate in the Washington Art Walk on April 15th. Looking forward to it and crossing my fingers for positive feedback. It's nerve-racking putting my work out there- in person! It's much easier to do online, that's for sure.

I'm experimenting with collaging some stitched text onto my multi-media paintings.

This is my first large scale multi-media piece. It's definitely a bit more challenging to fill the space before everything starts drying. The next step for both of these is to add a figure. Then two more steps after that.

Drinking... Tiesta Tea Blueberry Wild Child herbal tea (so good!), Lagunita's Little Sumpin' Ale (Yum!) and my regulars- coffee, wine and water :)

Eating...I've gathered all of the ingredients for this for a change of pace for breakfast. I'm a creature of habit when it comes to breakfast and for the past year, it's been coffee and toast with almond butter. I'm ready to change it up.

Watching... so many good things. M. and I have been striking gold on Netflix and Amazon Prime lately. Our favorites: Michael Pollan's Cooked on Netflix and Spotlight and Somm: Into the Bottle (a great movie on the history and business of winemaking) on Amazon Prime.

Reading...continually brushing up on my art history for my Art Appreciation class (mainly through the Annotated Mona Lisa ;))  and this, a new quarterly magazine I stumbled upon at Barnes and Noble (Love it!)

Listening to... Rick Batyr's One Thousand and Fifty Petals (weird choice, I know. I'll  be writing a blog post about it very soon to explain).

Thinking quickly time is flying by as I get older. It's crazy to think that Peanut will be in kindergarten this year, Baby G. is now big enough to run around and play with his older brother, Baby C. and Baby L. are already one month old and my baby, Little Man, will be a Senior in college this year. Oh. My. Gosh.

Such a big boy at Kindergarten Open House. He'll be going to the same school as his Bibi , which is kinda cool!

Laughing at...watching 20 month old, Baby G. relaxing with his tablet in his new Pink Floyd t-shirt.

No caption needed here. He cracks me up!

Disliking... letting "stuff" slowly build up in my house again. So, yesterday, I worked on that. I took everything out of my closet and dresser and piled it on the bed. Then, I picked up each one and decided if it would stay or go (advice from this book). I ended up boxing up 35 items for the resale shop, filling a trash bag to donate and filled another small trash bag to take to the dumpster.  It must have impressed M. ,because today, he did his side of the closet! Yay! for clean closets :)

With what I have...okay, this is a little embarrassing, but I'll write it anyway. I have this pair of shoes from Target that I bought the summer before last. Well, the sole started the separate from the upper part of the shoe a few days ago. I could have easily gone to Target to buy a new pair of something similar because buying shoes at Target is really not a splurge, you know.  But, no, being the cheapskate that I am, I broke out the wood glue (because that is the only glue I could find that I thought might work) and glued them back together. The classiest part came when I then taped them up with masking tape until they dried. I know! Oh, well. I think it worked. I'll let you know if they hold up through a day at work this week. I'm sure you'll be waiting with bated breath for that announcement.

Loving...Continuing to be in awe of my son and how he just dove right into this Dad thing and is so good at it. He's my "tough guy", so I wasn't sure what to expect, as he was never one to gush over babies or anything. But those little girls have him wrapped around his finger already and it is so cool to witness.

Also, absolutely loving this DVD I order called 'On Meditation'. I got it in the mail after work on Friday and it couldn't have been better timing, as Friday was a hellish day at work. There are so many good things to say about this, that I'm going to save it for a blog post all on it's own (I'll also be explaining the 'Listening' choice, above), as I realize that this post will be way too long if I ramble on about now.

So, that is my 'lately'! Have a great week!    Juli

*Just a reminder that the "Lately" blog posts were inspired by this blog and  "With What I Have" is inspired by this one. Must give credit where credit is due :)