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

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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The Last Time I Saw You We Were 7!!

What do you say to someone you haven’t seen since you were 7 years old?!! It’s a mind blowing experience and one I had to share.

In one of my many unaccounted for retirement moments, I was thinking of people who have come and gone in my life.  Names from the past, childhood, in particular.  I had two very close friends in elementary school, one who I have been friends with since kindergarten (with a hiatus of about twenty years, but that’s a post for another day) and another who I met at about the same time.  Friend #2 moved away at the end of 2nd grade and we lost touch. I put in her maiden name, not knowing if she was married or divorced or never having been married.  A gap of this much time means you missed out on her growing up, graduating from junior high school, high school, a first boyfriend, the prom,  applying to college, getting married, a first job, a career, having children, the list goes on.

Is it curiosity, getting older and wanting to connect with people from our past or the fact that FB allows us to be super sleuths? The ability to find just about anyone from our past exists. When you find someone who was a best friend, no matter what age you are, it’s a gift.  It’s a renewal of something you once shared that only the two of you remember.

Ironically, my friend has a sister who has a weekend house less that an hour and a half  away from where I live.  What are the chances?  So,  last weekend we made a plan to meet at a local restaurant for a glass of wine.  She would be with her husband and I would be with mine. I walked into the restaurant and a big broad smile came over her face.  I recognized her immediately and she me, though we hadn’t seen each other in over 50 years!!!!  The face of the child I knew was still there.  It brought a flood of emotion to us both and we knew this was going to be a night of reminiscences, laughing and scratching the surface of two lives reconnecting.

At this phase of life friendships are more important than ever.  We have the time to see people that we may not have had while raising families.  If someone has been lost along the way, reach out.  FB and other social media make things possible and it’s an amazing tool that I still marvel at.  (no matter how lame that sounds!)

Today’s Takeaway…

There is no time like now to reach out and make someone’s day.  If you’ve lost a friendship over the years, take a chance and try connecting. The memories you shared are still there and it can be so worth the effort.

Barclay and her husband just visited us in upstate New York and I am still smiling.  It was an opportunity for our husbands to get to know one another and we could commiserate in person over our still unfigured out state of retirement!

Enjoy the ride

xox Barclay and Joy

What do I Really Need?

I have been thinking a lot (to borrow Maria Shriver’s beginning sentence leading into her wonderful Sunday post-mariashriver.com/sundaypaper) Retirement gives us the time to daydream, to muse, to preoccupy our minds with small things as well as big philosophical questions.  When working I didn’t have the time to let my mind wander. Time is money when you are in sales.  You need to be disciplined, focused, fixated on your goals and how you are going to attain them. This thinking time can get us into trouble, but it can also help us put things into perspective.

I got to thinking about possessions, what I want, what I need at this stage of life.  I don’t need a lot.  Who’s going to see my new designer blouse?  The check out girl at the supermarket? True, we do things for ourselves, but at the end of the day, didn’t I always like the office compliment, the bathroom banter over my new shoes, haircut, lip gloss  Who notices now?

The key is to do all the materialistic things that make you happy when you have a paycheck! Buy that high end moisturizer on a whim! Go to the best sushi restaurant on someone else’s expense account (I never looked at prices until I retired! Dining out in a major city is expensive when it comes out of your own pocket!)

When I think about it, I don’t need blingy jewelry (I spend the winter in Mexico so take off all my jewelry before I go-no reason to broadcast it.) I don’t need designer clothes or even a fancy car.  We are living in the land of SUVs and not ones with prestige brands.

It all goes back to living a simple life, one in which waking up in the morning, hearing nothing but the sounds of the country is bringing me a new sense of who I am unadorned, unadulterated, and understated. Maybe I could do with a little eyeliner!  You never know who might be scouting for retired publishers in Columbia County!

Somewhere, there’s a happy medium of figuring out who you are without the trappings.  I do know that I don’t need stuff to make me happy anymore and that yoga pants and a tee shirt are my outfit of choice!  The beauty of not needing more is that it saves a lot of time surfing the internet for things that I’ll never wear.

In the words of my favorite realtor in Westchester, less is more!

In the words of my colorist (of course I don’t have any gray!) if you don’t like the way you planned things, change it!  The only rules you have now are your own.

Daily Simplicity: 13 Habits That Will Make Your Life Lighter and Happier
https://www.positivityblog.com/simplicity-habits/
May 2, 2018 – “Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated.”. … One simple reason and one of the most important ones for me is that simplicity reduces the heaviness in life. … 

 

Today’s Takeaway…

. Reassess everything that made you the person you were for all these years.  Pare down, get back to basics and remember we all go out the same way we came in!

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.”

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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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