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

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.

Screen Shot 2018-10-30 at 7.50.23 AM

 

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!

 

Screen Shot 2018-10-30 at 8.03.20 AM

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

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

 

 

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

Warding off Depression in Retirement

It can sneak up on you.  Especially if your self-image has centered around your career.  Especially if you don’t have an established routine. Especially if your mind has time on its hands.

You used to have that go-to identity.  I am a _____.   

Now when asked what you do, there’s a caveat.  I used to be a _______ .  Or   I am a retired-_________.

Then there’s the auspicious question,  So now that you’re retired, what do you do all day??

Self-doubt can creep in, especially after the euphoria passes.  And with that self-doubt, depression can make a surprise appearance.  You may feel that no one can relate.  After all, you are the lucky one.

It may be a case of expectations being derailed.  This is supposed to be the best time of your life.  The time you’ve saved for, planned for.  Upon its arrival, you’ve traveled, you’ve mastered the strudel recipe, you’ve taken the dancing class.  Now too much leisure coupled with too little structure leaves an emptiness not anticipated.

You are not alone.

According to the London-based Institute of Economic Affairs, “The likelihood that someone will suffer from clinical depression actually goes up by about 40% after retiring.”   Work-life has provided the ingredients to life satisfaction — social connections, a steady routine and a sense of purpose.   When work is taken away – even by design and desire, depression can ensue.

So what to do?

Investopedia cites 6 ways to overcome depression in retirement.

Staying in shape. Being social. Developing a schedule. Giving back.  And maybe hitting the classroom or finding part-time work.

The bottom line, they say, is to get a plan.

If the depression becomes too much to handle, this plan may involve medication, talk therapy, or a combination of both.  And that’s not something to be embarrassed about.

So be aware that an abundance of leisure has to be balanced with purpose and routine — a plan to be occupied mentally,  physically, and spiritually.

Eleanor Roosevelt said, “It takes as much time to worry as it does to plan.”

What’s my plan?

First, when I feel anxiety creeping in, I do SOMEthing productive and tangible — cleaning a bathroom, getting on the elliptical, taking Codie for a walk, calling a friend.  Then I make sure my calendar has a pre-planned activity each day — this, alongside exercise, Bible reading, the occasional book club, the strategic getaway – and usually depression/anxiety is held at bay .

When someone asks, “What do you do all day?”  I can say, “I’m enjoying my one an only life!”

Today’s Takeaway –

-Depression is sneaky.  And it’s the last thing you expect during this long awaited time of freedom from traditional work.  Don’t be surprised by its appearance.

– Seek help if needed.  You are not alone.

-Codie thinks that you should definitely get a pet – preferably, a golden retriever.  Codie is a therapist on the side.

Enjoy the ride!

xox Barclay and Joy

Screen Shot 2018-09-08 at 5.23.24 PM.png

Body Image

I’ve admitted that I am a sucker for those As-Seen-on-TV products. When I hear, “If you order now…” – my credit card is out.

Some recent purchases include —

A twirly hair product for creating easy, beachy waves. (Not so easy.)

A brush that straightens your hair. (Now in a bathroom drawer.)

A facial hair removal wand. (Actually I LOVE this product.  Who knew that our post-menopausal faces would decide it’s high time we sport facial hair?)

A wand for eyebrow hair removal.  (Now in a bathroom drawer. My eyebrows apparently decided to donate their extra hair to my chin.)

I have tried products that exfoliate, moisturize, tighten, plump, and contour.

Naturally, I watch TV in a Snuggie.Screen Shot 2018-08-22 at 4.56.00 PM.png   Doesn’t everyone?

At least I am savvy about enterprises who auto-charge and auto-deliver until you have enough product to open your own storefront.  And I read the fine print.  You do NOT want to have to dial an 800 number and spend hours on hold just to extract yourself from a commitment you never committed to.

I am still at it though.  I recently succumbed to this concealer which promises model-like perfection for arms, legs, torso. Will it grant runway-status legs or make it look like I’m being prepped for a casket?

Perhaps you’ve seen their infomercials.  I can’t be the only one who finds them irresistible. Right??

Screen Shot 2018-09-05 at 10.22.24 AM.png

Body image is tricky business.

My mother once wrote an article entitled The Last Whistle.  She described walking along Lexington Ave when she heard a construction worker-type whistle directed her way.  She was well into her 50s and she felt flattered that she had drawn male attention. Her article went on to bemoan the aging process. It was her last whistle she said.

I hated that article.

What is beauty anyway?  My friend, Rita, age 96, lying prone on a nursing home bed, is looking more like an angel each time I see her.  Her teeth won’t stay in place, but her smile is the prettiest I’ve seen.

That said, let’s raise a glass with Jane Fonda and vow not to go gently into that dark night.

We will stay moving, keep reading, enjoy friendships, and wear Maybelline concealer – not seen on TV.

And rock a Snuggi when no one is around.

No one, and I mean no one, looks good in a Snuggi!

Today’s Takeaway –

-Make up and skin care indeed can give us additional confidence, but an equivalent amount of attention needs to be given to caring for the soul. That which lasts.

-Let’s aspire to be like this random internet woman.  We may not master her pose, but maybe we can touch our toes – remembering that it’s not the toe touching that counts, but what takes place on the way down. At least that’s what my 25 year old yoga teacher said.

Screen Shot 2018-09-05 at 11.41.18 AM

 

 

 

Enjoy the ride!

xox  Barclay and Joy

Having “WOW” Eyes — Developing a Gratitude Habit

Arfa Syed was pregnant with her first child and trying to find the strength to leave an abusive marriage.  She writes in Guidepost Magazine, “Life as I knew it was falling apart.”

Then she received the “sweetest gift”.

It was a journal with the word, Gratitude, on the front.  What on earth could she be grateful for during this time of acute stress?

She stretched her mind and came up with what seemed minute happenings in her daily life.  A neighbor giving her a recipe.  A random woman picking up her glove and handing it to her.

Over time Ms. Syed developed a daily practice of writing down what she was grateful for.  During difficult times, she journaled twice a day to remind herself of the good in the world.

In her article, How to Make Gratitude a Lifestyle she shares 3 additional tips to develop such a routine.

We should be present – remembering that time is precious.

We should reframe our view of obstacles – remembering that through them we develop resilience.

And this one I just love –  Ms. Syed says,  We should remember to be wowed.

“After “mamma,” my daughter’s next word was “wow!” I spend a lot of time looking at the world through her eyes—new and fresh and certainly appreciative of little wonders. One afternoon, I was rushing into the house, carrying her, when she started kicking her legs, wanting me to stop—she saw a squirrel on the tree and wanted to sit and watch it eat a nut. So, I stopped and we sat there and watched. I couldn’t help but notice the delicate green leaves on the tree branches, how delightfully the squirrel was eating and how great it was to pause and enjoy that with my daughter. What a reminder that I’m surrounded by beauty. Now, I pay attention to the beautiful river I pass on my way to work and the small joys of being a mom. Through my daughter, God shows me that even my mundane mommy routines can be wondrous.”

——————————————–

This is surely a WOW life!  As I write, Codie’s tail is thumping on the hardwood floor; an orchid on the table next to me is boasting pink and purple charm; and a robin is pecking diligently on the grass outside.

Ms. Syed’s piece ends with a quote, “Happiness does not bring gratitude.  Gratitude brings happiness.”

So instead of listing our aches and pains, let’s pick up a journal and list our blessings.  Then let’s stare at a squirrel and say to ourselves, WOW!

Screen Shot 2018-08-17 at 8.12.18 AM

 

Today’s Takeaway –

-Where’s your WOW right now?

-Take after Codie whose WOWs are found in napping, retrieving socks  from the laundry bin, placing tennis balls in strategic places around the house so there’s always quick access, sprawling on a kingsize bed, greeting all strangers as possible best friends.

 

Enjoy the Ride!

xox Barclay and Joy

 

If you need more structure to your journaling, here’re some templates to get started.  And of course there are apps for that as well.

 

Screen Shot 2018-08-17 at 8.35.07 AM.png