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

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

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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!

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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.

 

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Retirement Truth or Dare

Beware of these Retirement Lies:

I am too old to…

No one needs me.

The best is behind me.

I can’t learn anything new.

Ok, it may be too late for medical school.  And your marathon days are likely over.

But here’s the truth about this season of life —

  • You CAN learn new things.  Your brain will thank you. Ballroom dancing?   Spanish?  Cooking?  Painting? Writing?
  • We tend to romanticize the past.  (Oh, when the kids were young…)  THIS could be the best time of all.  It’s all about our attitude.  Jane Fonda, age 80, touts the opportunities of this Third Act. Check out her TED talk.
  • As long as you are breathing, you CAN serve others. Find them in soup kitchens, schools, nursing homes, pet shelters, horse barns.  Check out the RR post, Making a Difference
  • Granted, a 4 hour marathon is gone, but keep your butt moving.  Walking, stretching, dancing, doing jumping jacks. Check out this RR post, Keep Moving!

CNN has reported that older brains are able to “see the big picture”  We are like fine wine. But we cannot just sit on the wine rack.  According to CNN we must, “Nudge our neurons and keep doing different things.”

Have you seen the documentary, RBG, about Ruth Bader Ginsburg?  At age 84, she’s giving her neurons a run for their money – working out with a trainer (we’re talking push-ups and planks), studying and writing until 4AM, going to operas, granting speeches and interviews, and serving on the highest court in the land.  She’s a two-time cancer survivor, a widow, a grandma, and an icon with rock star status.

So let’s live an RBG life.

We don’t have to stay up until 4AM and no one is asking for our dissent opinion – but each day we can say along with the psalmist, “This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.”

And in the face of those outright lies about this season – let’s shout with RBG enthusiasm,  “I DISSENT”.

I dare you.

Today’s Takeaway –

-RBG and Jane Fonda are modeling how to leave a legacy.  Let’s try to do likewise.  Millennials are watching us.

-Today is the day.  Choose to rejoice in it.  Sip coffee from an RBG mug. And be notorious!

Enjoy the ride!

xox Barclay and Joy

This RBG trailer should whet your appetite for more.

And Jane is equally notorious!

Laughing at Ourselves

It was my first day of work at John Nuveen and I was quite impressed with myself.  Granted, I was a mere secretary (or administrative assistant as I preferred to call it) but hey it was a foot in the door. I was a clueless 22-year-old envisioning myself as Mary Tyler Moore tossing her hat high into the Minneapolis air.  You’re gonna make it after all.

As I walked toward my wee little desk in the research department I noticed a lovely spread of fruit and breads.  What a wonderful company I thought as I took a large bite out of a particularly moist lemon cake. My horrified tongue immediately informed me that I had just ingested a quarter of a stick of butter.  Looking around, my mouth bulging, I saw only fancy offices and boardrooms; no ladies room in sight.  I briskly walked past the executive suites, not making eye contact, until at last I found a bathroom.  My tongue still hasn’t forgiven me.

Then there was the time I went through an entire day of teaching, complete with IEP meetings sitting beside the principal — oh so professional – except for the fact that my dress was on backwards. There was a pocket on the back, butt level.  I became aware of this when 3rd grader Isabelle asked, “Mrs. Marcell, why is there a pocket on the back of your dress?”  I didn’t miss a beat; I turned around and placed a pencil in the backside pocket.  “I keep pencils there.”  Isabelle chuckled.  3rd graders can be quite mean.

I have signed my name, “Barclay Marclay”.  In front of people at a bank.  In pen.

I have driven our car into the garage with great conviction only to remember that there was a Christmas tree tied on the roof of the car.

And one day, late for school, I plowed the car backwards into the the sitting garbage cans at the end of the driveway; and following that, in the presence of my 8 and 10 year old, I emitted a loud utterance that starts with F and rhymes with luck.

And there’s more.  My advice  —

  • Do not talk to inanimate objects like a column, especially during a job interview.
  • It is not advisable to take your 2-year-old to a high-church liturgical service. When he starts grabbing bills from the offering plate, do not get flustered.  And do not yell.  Sound travels in those old sanctuaries.
  • Mascara does not serve as lipstick.

The longer we live, the larger our list of faux pas’s — times we’ve tripped, forgotten names, mistaken sour cream for cream cheese.

The Huffington Post says,

“Being able to laugh at yourself may be a sign of an optimistic personality and a sense of humor, and it might even improve your mood. Humor has also been identified as a possible factor in the development of personal resilience.

And Susan Sparks, the author of Laugh Your Way to Grace says, “If you can laugh at yourself, you can forgive yourself; and if you can forgive yourself, you can forgive others.”

So share your embarrassing moments and laugh out loud.   Think of the personal resilience you’ll develop!

And you may just find joy therein.

 

Today’s Takeaway –

-Our mouths turn downward as we age making us appear grumpy.  Laughing exercises facial muscles and will make us look younger.  How’s that for a win-win?! (Check out this RR post, Exercising your Face! It’s a Thing!)

-Share your stories here!   What’s your most embarrassing moment?  Let’s laugh together!

 

Enjoy the ride!

xox Barclay and Joy

 

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Dreaming Small

Mary Rose filled our glasses and we knitting ladies (loosely termed as I am an awful knitter) toasted Michelle on her retirement.

“What are you looking forward to most?” we asked.

Michelle described a few “more’s”.

Sleep more. Knit more.  Travel more.

Sounds great.  But after the initial exhilaration, some retirees find themselves with more Netflix than more Grand Canyon.

Here are some ideas to get us off our asses (Peggy’s infamous descriptor) physically and mentally.

Say Yes.

Have you seen the Jim Carey movie, Yes Man, where the main character has to say yes to everything?  He finds himself interacting with exhilerating people and having wild-ride experiences.

My friend, Cathy, has said yes to political marches, travel, and continuing her social work.

Jeanne has said yes to tutoring, RV living, and volunteering for Avenues to Independence.

Gina has said yes to bike riding, gardening, and urban renewal projects; Mary Rose – to cradling babies and hanging with her granddaughter; Sally – to travel, family, golf, and taking her beloved dog to nursing homes.

What’s your YES these days?

(A caveat — make sure your YES is not that people-pleasing, forced-into-it type, but comes out of an open heart and a desire to be courageous.)

Find your mission.

What gives you joy?

What are your unique gifts and talents?

What moves you?

Maybe what gives you joy is exactly the spot where you make the world a tad better for others.  One theologian describes this intersection as follows –

“The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.”― Frederick Buechner

My brother, Charlie, a philosophy professor, plans to teach classes to prisoners once he retires. Jeanne, a reading teacher, is helping kids with dyslexia.

It’s OK to Dream Small

Diane says yes in small ways each day.  She is intentional about chatting with grocery store clerks; she shares uplifting  messages on FB, she smiles at strangers.  Her random conversations sometimes end with the other person saying, “I was just meant to talk to you today. I feel so much better. Thank you.”

There’s a song titled Dream Small —

Live well
Loving God and others as yourself
Find little ways where only you can help
With His great love
A tiny rock can make a giant fall
So dream small.

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Whether we visit the Grand Canyon or to the Grand Grocery Store, let’s look for more YES moments.

And then we can check out what’s trending on Netflix!

Today’s Takeaway –

-What a wonderful life I lead.  I can’t wait to do this again tomorrow.    Said no one – ever – after watching 6 straight hours of Netflix.  (I speak from experience…)

Enjoy the ride!

xox

Barclay and Joy

Finding your Zen

We were the generation that was always looking for something else, a higher power, peace, contentment, Zen.

After all, it was the Beatles who introduced us to the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi and Transcendental Meditation. I certainly can’t see parents of the 50’s questioning the here and  now, wondering if there was more to life, spirituality. They were too busy coping with day-to-day life. For most typical 1950’s families, the father earned a living, the mother took care of the children, grocery shopped, managed the household, prepared the meals. Who had time for philosophical discussions with oneself!

We started the exercise craze with running, walking, stretching those limbs, bicycling, roller blading.  We wanted to keep moving, get our figures back fast after childbirth, be relevant, be vital,be in touch, be present, mindful.  

Suddenly, yoga mats were everywhere, apps for meditation, supplements for de stressing one’s life, retreats to get in touch with yourself, spas to unwind, massage therapy, aromatherapy, pet therapy, …  

A newly released study conducted by the Yoga Journal and Yoga Alliance shows that U.S. yoga practitioners increased to more than 36 million up from 20.4 million in 2012. That’s a lot of rubber mats being sold!

Many Baby Boomers returned to the religion they were raised with, having veered from it as young twenty somethings.  It answered that need for more. Maybe we couldn’t do it all without a little help from a higher being? Maybe praying brought peace and hope.  It all makes sense when you think about the tumultuous times we grew up in and the rapid changes we were witnessing.

A 2000 New York Times poll reported that 70% of Americans described themselves as more or equally observant of religion as their parents.  81% expressed a belief in the after life, and 30% say they meditated regularly. To cap it off 90% participated in private religious experiences and a majority believe in miracles.  Wow, is the life we lead on a day-to-day basis not fulfilling enough, lacking in someway? I ask myself these questions because I have the time now! I didn’t before and so while they may have entered into my head, they were tucked away for a later date.  Retirement!

I remember my father in law’s wife (whom my husband and I never liked -another family story for a future blog) reading books on Buddha and Hinduism. I thought it odd, but now that I reflect back, I realize she was seeking something too. Though not a Baby Boomer herself, she was a person searching for more, not content with the present. This being about twenty-five years ago, it became clear to me that I am the age she was then!! So my conclusion is that we push these big thoughts aside until we have the time to reflect on them. This desire to achieve contentment and peace of mind is in our DNA.  How could we, the doers, the activists, the advocates, be anything but searchers in this next chapter of life?

Following in our footsteps, but getting a jump on the future, Millennials are not waiting . They are seeking happiness from the get-go.  I’d like to think it’s because we were good role models, but maybe it’s because they see how stressed out we are (were) and how we cope – in this technological world of split second  decisions and expectations of immediate gratification,

Interestingly, more Yale undergrad students registered for a first class on happiness  than any other course in the university’s history.  Nearly ¼ of Yale’s undergrads enrolled.

Now, if that doesn’t give us hope for the next generation, nothing will!  

Bravo Millennials!

Today’s Takeaway—

.Be a searcher, a seeker, always look for that place that gives you peace and contentment.  Don’t accept things the way they are. Unless you are in Nirvana already, there’s always room for improvement!

.Don’t judge other people’s practices, whatever they may be.  What’s right for one person often doesn’t work for another. Find your Zen and embrace it. 

Enjoy the ride!

xox Barclay and Joy