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  1. Random Thoughts While Meditating #10

    May 30, 2021 by Diane

    Imagine your mind as a library. Within that library are books that are funny, scary, inspiring, depressing, philosophical, romantic, encouraging, bleak, full of wonder and full of ire. Which books are you checking out, and which books are you renewing time and time again?


  2. Zen in a Body

    May 15, 2021 by Diane

    Image by Ralf Designs from Pixabay 

    All this sheltering-in-place has made some of us soft and flabby. Now that we’re taking off our masks, we’re also sucking in our guts.

    It’s all those snacks we ate out of boredom or anxiety or to lift our sagging spirits. All those microwaved meals scarfed down in front of the TV because we were burned out working from home or playing teacher for our kids. It’s the lack of gym access or motivation to get off our duffs and do some squats and planks and brisk walks that has morphed us into something doughy.

    And don’t get me started with cable news. We may have gorged on that, too, digesting angry words from talking heads who spouted their opinions over the airwaves. Poison to the brain.

    After digesting these poisons, we might have loaded up on supplements to keep us out of doctor’s offices. Pills for heart health and brain health, pills to keep our joints mobile and our hormones balanced. We may have even reached for Zen in a bottle, when all we really needed was to turn off the television and get moving.

    Others among us managed to resist the lure of treats and television, opting instead to ride a bicycle, walk the neighborhood and climb actual or metaphorical mountains. These more adventurous souls braved the Farmers’ Market, prepared their nutritionally dense food while classical music wafted over the airways, and ate their meals seated by a window with a garden view. You’ve seen these people. They radiate calm, as if lit from a candle within. Zen in a body. Maybe you’re one of them.

    I strive to be like that. While my landlady chows down in front of the television watching her angry television shows and I’m in the kitchen preparing my dinner, I strive hard to remain calm. Sometimes I succeed. I hum uplifting tunes to drown out the angry voices. Or I quietly close the door between the rooms.

    Other times, I find my blood pressure rising, my heart rate accelerating, my stomach muscles clenching and I’m chopping my vegetables a little too harshly, banging the pots and pans a little too loudly. When she cranks up the volume on the divisive rhetoric, I find myself trumpeting my own opinions from the peanut gallery.

    I can choose not to be in the kitchen. In my own room in my cottage I can eat muesli and fruit from my Japanese bowl, drink Tulsi tea from my palm-sized cup. I can fortify my softer self with something that doesn’t require kitchen use. Bite-sized brownies, for instance. After all, my landlady has a right to her entertainment choices.

    Although, when I glance at her thirty bottles of supplements lining the counter—including the bottle of Zen—I want to offer my advice. Turn off the TV.

    Instead, I retreat to my cottage to eat in peace. I tune into soothing music rather than the news. I make an effort to start the day with a meditation and end the day with inspirational texts, and in between, walk in nature. If I succeed fifty percent of the time, I try not to scold myself for the other fifty. I can’t change my landlady’s behavior to suit my comfort levels. All I can do is try to be an example of what I’d like to see reflected in other people. 

    You may have seen the bumper-sticker version of Gandhi’s quote: “Be the change you wish to see in the world.”

    What Gandhi actually said is: “We but mirror the world. All the tendencies present in the outer world are to be found in the world of our body. If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him. This is the divine mystery supreme. A wonderful thing it is and the source of our happiness. We need not wait to see what others do.” 

    I can let my anger fuel me into trying to change my corner of the world. Or I can be the candle burning brightly. To preserve my health and sanity, I choose to be the candle, to start by changing the world within. 


  3. How to Ease Fears in a Fearful World

    March 20, 2020 by Diane

    These are challenging times.

    As humans, we’re meant to roam with our tribe, something our primitive brains seek to ensure because there’s safety in numbers. Now, with the threat of coronavirus, the government is forbidding togetherness except with people in our immediate household. If you live alone, you may feel further isolated from human touch.

    Please know, you are not alone. We’re all a little afraid, a little anxious, a lot unsettled.

    But here’s the good news: there’s something we can do to change fearful thoughts into a sense of calm, to shift from feeling unsettled to feeling grounded. And this is where I want to turn our focus now.

    Here are five tips to help you navigate the next several weeks as you shelter-in-place.

    Claim your power 

    While sheltering-in-place may leave you feeling powerless, based on current knowledge, the only way to flatten the curve of the rapid rise of coronavirus is to stay at home. So, in a sense, it’s an act of power. You are taking back power by defeating the spread of this virus. And together, we can do this. Think of yourself as a superhero! Strike the pose every morning when you get out of bed. If nothing else, it may make you feel silly, which is a very good way to start the day.

    Choose your words wisely

    The words you use have an immediate effect on your mind and body, and on the minds and bodies of those around you. When feeling overwhelmed, stressed or anxious, replace those scary, stressful thoughts in your head with uplifting words and phrases such as:

    I look forward to the time when I can see my loved ones in person.

    I’m so grateful for the internet and telephone, so I can keep in touch with family and friends.

    This moment in history is an opportunity for us all to support one another, offer healing thoughts and prayers, and discover how strong and resilient we really are.

    Above the clouds, the sun is always shining.

    Distraction is an antidote to fear

    Rather than ruminate on something you can’t control, find ways to distract your mind to give those fired-up synapses a rest. Here are twenty distracting activities to try:

    • Check in on a family member, friend, or neighbor via phone, text, or email.
    • Mail a letter to a friend. Who doesn’t love receiving a handwritten letter!
    • Send an email to a loved one, saying “I probably don’t say this enough, but I love you. I’m here for you.”
    • Visualize a relaxing place you’ve visited, or one you invent in your imagination, and bask in that image for twenty minutes.
    • Do crossword puzzles.
    • Learn a new language.
    • Play cards and other games. Monopoly can go on for days.
    • Check out e-books and streaming videos from the library website and have a movie night, snuggled on the couch. 
    • Play with children and pets. If you don’t have children or pets, play like you are one.
    • Take a walk outside to broaden your perspective and get those feel-good ions from nature.
    • While walking, see how many species of trees you can name.
    • Read uplifting literature or motivational biographies.
    • Watch movies or television shows that make you laugh or that feed your soul. One of my favorites is the old Dick Van Dyke show. Van Dyke’s physical comedy never fails to make me laugh out loud.
    • Invent something.
    • Paint something.
    • Write a poem or song or short story or some other form that’s all your own.
    • Teach something to someone else.
    • Start a virtual book club.
    • Do 2 pushups. The next day do 3. Keep adding one a day.
    • Declutter your living space. Or at least your desk.

    Habits help you feel grounded

    What habits have you developed or would you like to develop?

    Rising at the same hour every day, eating at specific times, going to bed at the same hour every night: these habits help normalize life. You can add other habits, too, such as writing for fifteen minutes every day after breakfast. Make a big X on a calendar every day you complete the habit, and don’t break the chain of Xs. Make it a game with yourself!

    Take tiny steps. Doing only 1% can make a huge difference in the long run. Which brings me to my final tip.

    Tiny actions cause a ripple effect in the world

    You’ve probably heard of the Butterfly Effect. A meteorology professor at MIT, Edward Lorenz, posed a question: “Does the flap of a butterfly’s wings in Brazil set off a tornado in Texas?” He ran a computer program simulating weather patterns and then left his office to get a cup of coffee while the machine ran. When he returned, he noticed an unexpected result which led Lorenz to a powerful insight about the way nature works: small changes can have large consequences.

    What small change can you do today that can result in a more peaceful, joyful world around you in the future?

    I don’t know about you, but just the evidence of hoarding in local grocery stores has amped up my anxiety. It’s a clear manifestation of people’s fear. In Whole Foods one evening, the produce section was empty except for one banana that two guys fought over until they realized the banana was banged up.

    What if, instead, we bought what we needed, trusting in abundance rather than scarcity, and left enough for everyone?

    What if we smiled at the cashier and expressed our appreciation for their hard work? In turn, that cashier may brighten the next person’s day.

    What if we found humor in the day to day and sent out ripples of laughter?

    What if we practiced meditation, prayer, or another contemplative practice to radiate peace and calm? Every day at noon, sit for twenty minutes. Tell your family and friends to sit, too. I’ll be sitting, focusing on peaceful images and thoughts, or just observing my thoughts as if they were clouds drifting by, or a movie reel unscrolling. We don’t all need to be in the same room to spread calming vibes into the universe.

    Together, with tiny actions, we can help our community heal. And who knows: we may very well set off a tornado of good feelings around the globe.

    Blessings to you and yours.

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