Meditation and the Monkey Mind

I (Barclay) downloaded an app called “Insight Timer” which offers 400,000 meditations.  Where to begin?

Then I noticed they had a course called “Learn How to Meditate in Seven Days” which sounded doable.

Day 1: The timer is set for 10 minutes.  A woman’s voice, slow and monotoned, tells me to breathe in through my nose and exhale through my mouth.  Feel your tummy rise with each inhale. After a bit, I peek at the timer.  7 minutes left. My phone says enough-of-this and beeps a reminder to put the laundry in the dryer – which I do.

Day 2:  The woman suggests we “explore the mind”.  Let your thoughts drift past, she says. Watch them but don’t attend to them.  Wait! What’s that? An ant scurrying for cover. If I don’t nab it, word will spread to other ants.  Good-bye Ant.  And good-bye morning meditation.

On Day 7  I mute the voice.

So there’s this thing called the Monkey Mind that Psychology Today suggests is our inner critic.

“It’s the part of your brain most connected to the ego, which contends that you can’t do anything right. It’s also the part of you that stifles creativity and prevents you from moving forward with your passions. The monkey mind insists on being heard, and sometimes it takes a lot of self-control to shut it down. It is also the part of your brain that becomes easily distracted, so if you want to get anything done in life, your challenge will be to shut down the monkey mind.”

For some of us, this is near impossible.  I think my mind is more elephantine than monkey.  My thoughts are constantly racing-what medicare  plan should I take when I turn 65, what should I make for dinner, what if my children never get married, will I have enough money if I live to 90!!-just to be clear-Joy chiming in here.

They say that to tame our monkey mind we need to practice ……..wait for it……mindfulness.  A buzz word that’s lived its full 15 minutes of fame.  (Wouldn’t you just love to coin the next buzz word or phrase that means exactly the same thing??)

But that said, we should give mindfulness its due especially in tackling a monkey mind that’s bent on hijacking our meditation.

Author, Marelisa Fabrega, offers practical suggestions at her website, Daring to Live Fully.)

Let your monkey mind “run amok” for 10 minutes a day, she says.  Journal your thoughts.  Then if the MM starts up again, you tell it,

“Your session for today is over. Wait until tomorrow’s session. I’ll listen to you then.” Soon, your monkey mind will realize that it’s completely futile to make a fuss at any time other than during your journaling sessions.

We should also question our MM.  When it raises a grievance, ask why it’s upset.  Counter your MM’s points using the ABC method.

Day 8:  I am breathing to the count of 4, holding for 4, exhaling for 4.  I have the sound of a babbling brook on my phone.  My Monkey Mind tells me that I am late in paying a bill, but I ignore it.  5 minutes passes.  Victory.

Clearly, I won’t be hosting a seminar on meditation any time soon.

But hey, it’s a start!

Today’s Takeaway:

-Set apart time for daily reflection and meditation – whatever duration and practice is right for you.

-Let’s put some serious thought into inventing the next buzz word to replace “mindfulness”.  Just think of the best sellers we will write and the talk shows we will grace!!

Enjoy the ride!

Ommmmmm…..

xox Barclay and Joy

Music is Chicken Soup for the Soul

Plato must have known a thing or two. The quote above resonates today and will as long as there is music to be played. Not bad for a philosopher who died in 347 B.C.  I wonder if anything I’ve said will be remembered long after I’m gone!

My memory of music in my home goes way back to my dad listening to cantorial records , as well as Herb Albert’s Tijuana Brass (Whipped Cream, my favorite cover of his!) in the living room piped out of a human size speaker and hi-fi equipment.  My children will read this and go, what’s a hi-fi?!!

Much has been written about music having the ability to move us, emit emotions, joy, sadness.  It crosses boundaries, it doesn’t require words  nor pictures. You feel it in your core, your bones, your heart.

Stanford University Study  shows that music helps us make sense of a chaotic world and soothes our senses.

This is meant for one of my very dearest friends (no names mentioned) who is suffering through a very difficult period of time in her family’s life.  It struck me that my love for music might resonate with her. We all go through grief in different ways and how we deal with it is very unique to our own individual personalities. People feel all kinds of emotions during the course of a day, a week, a month. No one is happy all the time, or despondent all the time. Music is almost an emotion in itself. I see music as an escape for a minute or two. It can be for however long you desire. I used to lie in the dark in my living room and play records (mostly show tunes that I knew every word to!)

Music has been called a way of life for certain human beings. Some of us have musical talent and others don’t, ( I played the violin in the school band only because there were no more flute parts! First chair was never going to happen!) but those who do can share their emotions through  expression. The way music effects our everyday lives can be almost incomprehensible at times.

One time in particular stood out to me when I thought of examples of what impact music can make on our lives. The concert held in New York for the September 11, 2001 tragedy, in a sense, brought our country together. So many famous musicians wrote songs dedicated to the tragedy. Through music people were able to express their feelings easily in a peaceful, yet effective way. It wasn’t for money or publicity, it was simply for a good cause. Also, it was one of the best ways to prove that our country can come together in a time of crisis. The concert helped people who were grieving and even touched those who were not directly involved with the attack. Not only did it bring New York City together, but also it brought our entire nation together as one.

The same was done for World Aid’s Day and Coca Cola used it beautifully in its ‘ I’d Like To Teach The World To Sing- several variations on this iconic commercial, which was created in the early 1970’s. Now, try to get this tune out of your head!~!!

 

 

Today’s Takeaway…

. Hum a few bars of a melody that you hold dear, roll down the windows of your car and sing, or resort to the proverbial shower aria!

. It’s always available to you and it will put a smile on your face, I promise.  A lot fewer calories than eating a bag full of Oreos!

Enjoy the Ride

xox Barclay & Joy

To Nap or Not to Nap

My mother was a professional napper.  Peggy would retreat to her bedroom, take a 20-minute snooze, then reappear in heels and lipstick ready to discuss politics, books, shopping.

When I try to nap, I either fall into a deep sleep, arising with puffy eyes, a lovely wrinkle in my cheek from face scrunching, and a fuzzy brain.  Or I simply stare at the ceiling while my inner critic takes great pleasure in replaying life’s regrettable moments.

Post nap, I am beyond the intervention of heels and lipstick.  I am done for the day.

We know that research has shown the benefits to taking a snooze.  The National Sleep Foundation tells us that we are actually sleep deprived.  And though a nap can’t make up for a poor night’s sleep, the NSF says napping can “improve performance, mood, and alertness.”  Did you know that Winston Churchill, Thomas Edison, John F. Kennedy were nappers?

Napping does NOT connote laziness.  Author Brendan Brown says that taking daily naps will NOT turn us into George Castansas from Seinfeld!  “The humble nap,” he says, “will help you get more stuff done later that day, and make you feel a whole lot better in the process.”

So how do we non-nappers get started?  Is there an art to napping?  Is it a skill we can learn and practice?

Brown provides 7 steps to achieve the Perfect Nap.

First, we must decide on the duration.  This visual from his blog site can be our guide. Notice that there are unique benefits to each nap duration.

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He suggests that the ideal time frame for napping is between 1pm and 3pm.  A nap at that time will not disturb our nighttime sleep and can help revitalize us for the rest of the day.  (Companies such as Zappos, Google, and the Huffington Post are snooze savvy and have created rooms for power napping.)

We should also set an alarm and make our surroundings free from distractions.

Then how about this fascinating tip…..  to avoid post nap fogginess, Brown suggests we drink a cup of coffee before napping.  Yes, coffee.  The caffeine will kick in 20 to 30 minutes after drinking – the perfect time for waking up.

Check out his site for more suggestions.

 

 

So, I hate to admit it, but Peggy was right, yet again.   Napping reduces our blood pressure and can ward off heart disease.  She lived a vibrant life to the age of 96, napping throughout!

 

Codie, too, is a proficient napper.   And I challenge you to find a happier creature in all the earth!

 

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Today’s Takeaway –

  • Napping is good for us!  And anyway, George Castansas was a funny guy…
  • Peggy reminds us to sleep on our back to avoid face scrunching. That way we won’t need an alarm.  Our vigorous snoring will jar us awake.

 

Enjoy the Ride!

zzzzzzzz   Barclay and Joy

In A Split Second

I volunteer at a wonderful therapeutic riding center in upstate New York twice a week.  Therapeutic riding offers kids and adults who have cognitive, physical and emotional disabilities the opportunity to strengthen their muscles, follow instructions, and bond with a beautiful animal. Sadly, most of these programs are not covered by insurance, but that’s another discussion entirely.  (for when Barclay and I decide to become political and alienate some of our beloved readers!)

This week I was tasked with spotting a child who is severely disabled with the aid of another volunteer on a trail ride. Since daylight savings is around the corner and darkness will be descending upon us way too early, this was to be the last trail ride for the season.  (the class takes place late in the day)

The child sits in a chair much like a throne on top of the horse strapped in so she doesn’t fall, but able to use her hands for steering and holding the reins, as well as her leg muscles as much as she possibly can.  I had seen this rider enjoy her time in the arena looking happy and proud of her accomplishments.  (how wonderful is that for anyone, but particularly a child with a serious handicap)

To set the stage and allow you our reader to visualize what happened next, picture this.  There are about 6 kids of varying abilities on horses being spotted by volunteers in case their quick response time is needed or the horse needs a little reminding of what he or she is supposed to be doing. The child at the back of the line is a confident rider and decides to move up rather than being at the back of the line. That particular day there aren’t enough volunteers  so she is on her own, but she is a more experienced rider.  Horse A (I am using fictitious names to protect the innocent!) gets a wee bit too close to Horse B and is in his space.  Horse B (I’m the spotter for Horse B) bucks and the child falls to the ground while I am kneed by the hind quarter of a 300 lb animal who is pissed off!  I attempt to block the child’s fall to the ground, but due to my lack of upper body strength I can’t hold her back.  It happens so fast and in the blink of an eye a pleasant trail ride turns into an accident.  Thank God I am the only one injured (a black and blue and an egg sized lump on my upper thigh which looks like cellulite)  The rider is a bit shaken, but not a tear in sight.  I marvel at this trooper, who after a few minutes of catching her breath is ready to be positioned back in her chair and continue riding.  What was an uneventful afternoon trail ride has taught me to expect anything that comes your way, keep those reflexes sharp, and don’t invade a horse’s personal space.

Today’s Takeaway…

. Always be on your guard.  Expect the unexpected. Never underestimate what volunteering your time means to someone else.

I was beginning to think my time at the riding center was routine and that no one cared if I showed up or not.  Yesterday, made me see how one person can make a difference in someone else’s life.

Enjoy the ride

xox Barclay and Joy

 

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Join the Pickleball Craze!

It’s the fastest growing racket sport.  Maybe the fastest growing sport ever!  And it has our name all over it..

BOOMERs!! As usual we are leading the pack in a sport that is gentler on our knees, but still allows that competitive spirit that many of us thrive on. It’s social and it gets the body moving, something we have reiterated over and over,  Get that blood circulating!

When I tell friends I’m playing this game with the funny name, many have never heard of it.  Now that Barclay and I have this incredible following  (thank you readers) we thought we would take the opportunity to tell you more about what we are so excited about.

The game started during the summer of 1965  (clearly, it took a while for it to catch on considering I hadn’t heard about it until 2 years ago!) on Bainbridge Island, Washington.  at the home of former state representative Joel Pritchard.  He and his two friends, Bill Bell and Barney McCallum, retuned from golf to bored families.  They attempted to set up a badminton net, but the shuttlecock could not be found.  Instead they improvised with a wiffle ball, lowered the net and constructed paddles from plywood from a nearby shed.  Ingenuity is the mother of all invention for sure!  So, basically for lack of a shuttlecock pickleball was born!  Good to know boredom can lead to something positive!

So you’ve never picked up a racket?

You’ve never even played ping pong, much less tennis?

NO worries!

Within 5 minutes, you CAN play this fast-moving, fun, engaging game!

Why, you ask?

It’s social.  You’re close to your teammate and opponents.  Lots of fun interaction.  Next thing you know and you’re out having a beverage with your new pickleball pals.

It’s a great workout.  You can work up a sweat with a smile on your face!

It’s like a chess match.  Tons of strategy which means your brain cannot sit on the sidelines minding its own business.

It’s something NEW to learn.  Your brain will be grateful.

Check this out —

ANYone can play with ANYbody.  I have a retired girlfriend, a former tennis player, who is a pickleball ambassador – going to tournaments, making new friends, staying in great shape.  And she has a bad knee!

Did we mention, pickleball is cheap!?   You can buy paddles and balls at Pickleball Central.

Many park districts have dedicated courts outside where you play for free and indoor courts during the winter with portable nets and lines on a basketball court  – practically free – maybe $6 for a couple of hours.

OK, the rules and the scorekeeping seem a bit funky at first.  But after a single game and you’re good to go.

No offense to conventional tennis or paddle tennis   – BUT pickleball wins in terms of accessibility and learning curve.  Perfect for family gatherings.

And perfect for us BBs with our ongoing battle with arm flab, treadmill fatigue, and isolation.

Intrigued??

Here’s how to play –

See you on the court!

Today’s Takeaway –

.Never ever think you are too old to learn something new.  You can teach an old dog new tricks!!  As long as he or she wants to learn!

.We are too young to be sedentary and we need to challenge ourselves physically and mentally in as many ways as possible.

Pickleball is supposedly becoming an Olympic sport. So my best running days may behind me and I may never do a head stand like my show off yoga certified daughter, but watch out world, we may be the next pickleball champs!!

Enjoy the ride

xox Barclay and Joy

 

 

Forget the Treadmill – Take a Bubble Bath!

You’ve heard that exercise alleviates depression.  Well, it turns out that taking a hot bath works even better!

A new study found that taking a hot bath twice a week can significantly lift your mood – more so than exercise. It has to do with altering the body’s temperature and circadian rhythm. Plus a hot bath is more appealing for some folks than an arduous sweat-filled workout. (Acupuncture, massages, and hot showers by the way also release endorphins – as does laughter!  So maybe laughing your head off while soaking in a hot bath might be the medicine for chasing away the blues!)

You can also read in the tub and thereby escape the grasp of that incessant cell phone.  No cable news. No email. No political ads. Just you in sudsy bliss in the company of a great book.

And speaking of books, C.S. Lewis famously said, “We read to know we are not alone.”    Reading is an additional antidote for depression whose best friend is isolation.

What are Joy and I reading these days, you ask?

We highly recommend Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman. It’s light reading and it makes you smile, even chuckle. It’s on Reese Witherspoon’s list and may soon be a movie. That gives us the opportunity to envision who might play the characters we have come to know. It’s an account of growth and courage;  reinforcement that we are not alone. Reading a book such as this is like being invited into someone’s home you don’t know and hiding behind the curtains as they tell their story.

A word about book clubs… I (Joy) am finding that if I have to convince myself to read the book, perhaps I should come up with my own selection! On the other hand, book clubs force us to read something outside our usual genre.  If it’s a good discussion group, maybe a probing question or two might be raised and debated.

 

So run that bath, grab a book, pour a glass of vino, light a candle. Bubbles add another dimension to the overall experience.  Now that we know the heat of the bath is key, make sure it’s hot before you get in.  I hate tepid anything!  Turn on music.  Music soothes the soul and it puts us in the mood to relax. Think of it as water therapy.    Close your eyes and indulge.

Who had time for a bath pre retirement?!!

And in the immortal words of L’Oreal, “You’re worth it!”

Today’s Takeaway…

. Be open to exploring new ways to relieve stress, anxiety, depression. If all it takes is a dunk in a hot tub and the world’s problems melt away, why not?  What’s the worst that can happen?  Shriveled toes and fingers! No prescription needed!

Enjoy the ride!

xox Barclay & Joy

 

Check out The Great American Read for more bathtub books!

 

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Marathons, Memories, and Metaphors

“Looking good!”

“You got this!”

“Go, runners!”

It was mile 23 of the 2018 Chicago Marathon – a drizzly, 50-degree Sunday afternoon.  Some of the runners looked like they had no business signing up for this endeavor.  It was 4 hours into the ordeal and they clearly needed all the encouragement we could muster.

Plus a little levity.  One sign read,  “Hell, you’ve come this far.  Might as well finish!”

Finally we saw Alex. Looking strong and spirited. She turned to her older brother, “Jared, jog with me. Give me a pep talk!”   Which he did.  Enough to melt a mother’s heart.

If nothing else, a marathon conjures up memories and metaphors.

It seems like yesterday Joy and I ran a marathon together. We were 27. Alex’s age. On the cusp of careers, parenting, and life events we never anticipated.  Spending hours on that jogging path set the stage for a lifelong friendship.

Now for the tired metaphor.  We Baby Boomers are at mile 23 and we want to finish well.  Leave a legacy.  End strong.

According to Jonathan Rauch’s  Happiness Curve, we may have fallen prey to discontent and malaise in our midlife —  but come Mile 23 — in our 50s/60s, we can experience a sense of well-being – a deep satisfaction with life (major caveat here says Mr. Rauch — he is assuming all things have remained equal, meaning crisis-free).  We savor relationships and value community; we put the corporate ladder aside in favor of pursuing passions.  The author says we substitute “competition for compassion”.

We retired folks (or TRBs — “Those Retired Bitches” – as one working friend describes us)  have time for compassion.  (Oh and also for watching Hallmark Christmas movies in our PJs!  9 days to go as I write this!)

Small and big acts of kindness.  Brett plowing snow beyond our house – anonymously;  Joy at the horse barn assisting kids smiling ear to ear from their high perch;  Stef tutoring a teenager from Syria; Jim, unasked, driving us to the airport; Jeanne raising money for adults with challenges; Cathy honing her social work skills at grocery stores; Sally taking doggie love to the nursing home, Joy and David volunteering at a dog shelter and naturally leaving with a puppy.

That’s Mile 23 living at its best.

So as the sign said, “Hell, you’ve come this far…you might as well finish!!”

And finish strong!

 

Today’s Takeaway –

-Look for ways to spread joy today.  You don’t have to come home with a puppy.  (But maybe that’s not the worst idea ever!)

-Savor friendships.  Like red wine, they get better with age.

Enjoy Mile 23!

xox Barclay and Joy