Monthly Archives: December 2015

I Need a Mantra

After three weeks of almost daily meditation sessions, my mind still regularly runs away on its own tangents.  I thought having a mantra might help keep my focus.  I tried the traditional Hindu sacred syllable, “Om”, but it doesn’t hold spiritual magic for me and I just felt silly saying it (even in my head).  I then decided to come up with a few words, meaningful to me, that I could repeat.  Doing this on the fly during my meditation session (my mind running wild again), I came up with health (I’d been sick for three weeks at that point), joy (something I strive to recognize daily), love (no explanation needed), and creativity (a long-standing goal, a “someday” I see manifesting in different possibilities:  writing, card making, sewing, maybe even painting).

I like these four words as a mantra and it did immediately help my concentration when I focused on saying one with each breath.  However, I found myself playing games in my brain.  I’d say a word with each breath, then I’d say a word breathing in and another breathing out.  I found myself trying to make the words come out in a continual loop, rather than starting with health and proceeding, in order, with the others.  I tried starting with a word other than health and looping on from there.  Each of these thoughts led me off on another tangent of thought that wasn’t focused on breathing and mindfulness.

Maybe mindfulness meditation isn’t right for me or maybe it’s not the right beginning point for me.  I’ve decided I need to research the types of meditation.  I focused on mindfulness because that’s what first comes to mind when I think of meditation, but I know there are many other types.  I like the idea of lifelong learning, so…here we go again.  I’m not giving up, just learning and modifying.  Maybe my mantra should be “Never give up, never give up, never give up…”


The baby steps of my meditation practice took a slightly longer stride today.  I went from the five-minute session length I’ve been doing all month to a whopping ten minutes!  Five minutes has been very doable and it’s felt good to feel successful in time, even when the content of the sessions are still a bit more meandering than I think they should be.

So, how did it feel to “sit” for ten minutes?  It was definitely longer.  At the end of my five-minute sessions, the first thing I do is wipe my watery eyes.  Today, the water eventually spilled over and I felt a single tear slide very slowly down my left cheek.  Rather than wipe it away, I let it go and focused on the tear and the feeling of it sliding down my cheek.  A little later, I realized my arms had become heavier – or maybe it was lighter.  Remember when you were a kid and you’d stand it a doorway, pressing the backs of both hands against the doorjamb?  When you stepped away from the door, your arms magically raised overhead.  That’s how my arms felt.  A little heavy, but as if they were going to begin to rise above my head at any moment.

I’ve been working myself up mentally to take the plunge and double my time – a 100% increase!  Doesn’t that sound good?  A 100% increase.  Even though this was only an additional five minutes out of my day, I think I will walk around today feeling just a little more accomplished, perhaps even a bit smug.

12 Months of Somedays

As I think about my plan of tackling a “someday” every month for a year, I realize I’ve created something similar to the 12 Days of Christmas where each day something new is added and all become cumulative.  Day One:  Partridge in a Pear Tree.  Day Two:  Two Turtle Doves AND a Partridge in a Pear Tree.  For me it’s Month One:  Daily Writing Practice.  Month Two:  Daily Meditation Practice AND Daily Writing Practice.  Next month I’ll be adding in the physical challenge of a daily four mile walk/run and it goes on from there.  I see myself at the end of the year getting up in the morning and spending the first four hours writing, meditating, walking, playing the drums (I’ll need to save that until everyone else in the house is awake), practicing Italian, etc.  This could become crazy.

I have always said “Embrace the Crazy”.  Many have said my family and I lead crazy, busy lives.  But additional craziness isn’t really on my “someday” list.  Perhaps my 366 Somedays only seems a prescription for crazy.  Perhaps it is the route to sanity…wait, would that mean my life is already crazy?

Sigh.  What a year this is shaping up to be.

Voice of Fear


Month One’s goal was to write and publish a book in 30 days.  Failed to finish, but still working on the book.  It’s only a fail in terms of the timeframe.

Month Two’s goal is to develop a meditation practice.  I am meditating every morning, but don’t seem to be getting any better at keeping my mind reigned in.

Month Three’s goal (next month) is to set off on a challenge to walk or run 1200 exercise miles in 2016.  Thoughts on that?  Total fear!

I’ve been sick for two weeks and other than a short one-mile walk with the dogs a week ago, I haven’t exercised at all.  As the days pile up and I struggle to get through the basics of what has to be done each day, I’m beginning to feel a little panicky about the idea of trying to maintain an average four-mile/day, six days/week schedule starting January 1st.  I wrote about “resistance” early on and I now know to identify this type of fear as simply resistance, but I must admit to feeling discouraged about the amount of fear I’m able to generate.  I wake up in the morning with my head and chest congested, my body aching, and I think, What if I get sick after January 1st?  How would I maintain my running/walking schedule?  Two weeks of missed workouts is 48 missed miles!

Part of challenging myself to “366 Somedays” is the exploration of why we put off so many goals and desires to “someday”.  There’s the excuses of lack of time, limited resources, other commitments, but I have realized perhaps the biggest reason, excuse, rationalization, whatever you want to call it, is FEAR.  Fear of failing.  Fear of embarrassment.  Fear of “what if?”  FEAR.  I’ve also realized most of my FEAR comes from inside my head.  I’m beginning to think perhaps the most substantial growth I’ll experience this year is learning to quiet the Voice of Fear inside my head.  My goal can be summed up in a quote from Yanni:  I don’t have a You Can’t Do This voice in my head.

Zafus & Zabutons

Sometimes we don’t do our “somedays” because we think we have to buy special equipment or supplies.  On the Facebook page for my eating plan, Trim Healthy Mama, women regularly post about wanting to start the plan, but they can’t afford the specialty food items frequently mentioned.  Yet, the reality is the plan can be followed completely without the specialty items – they’re just a bonus.  One of the reasons running and walking are encouraged as good exercise options is they don’t require a massive investment.  You don’t have to join a gym.  You don’t have to buy a weight set, and, even though it’s nice when the weather is bad, you don’t even need a treadmill.  All you need is a pair of shoes and a place to run or walk (like outside).

When I anticipated starting my meditation practice on December 1st, I did buy an audible book to listen to in the car to get me started on the basics, but I figured there wasn’t really anything else I needed.  Then I found out about zafus and zabutons.  Imagine my delight at learning that I could meditate and use it as an excuse to shop!

A zafu is a round cushion used to sit on for meditating and a zabuton is a large mat on which the zafu sits.  I saw one person refer to the zabuton as a glorified dog bed.  As I mentioned in an earlier post, my meditation closet at one house is carpeted and there’s a chair, with a cushion, in the room.  The other home’s closet, however, is cold tile and the chair cushion has to be brought in from the another room.  Not undoable, but I decided the tiled closet needed a zafu and zabuton for ease of preparing to meditate and to properly enhance my meditation experience.

I’m leaving today for the tiled closet house and my zafu and zabuton should be there waiting to be unpacked.  I struggled during my meditation session today.  I’ve been sick for almost two weeks, the room was a little chilly, and my mind raced.  I’m sure tomorrow’s session will be much more productive and authentic because I’ll be seated upon my (mostly unnecessary) meditation equipment.

Baby, It’s Cold Outside

This morning I woke up with Baby, It’s Cold Outside running through my head.  I got up and headed to the closet for my meditation session.  As I lit the candle and placed the chair cushion on the floor, the song was still going strong.  I turned off the overhead light, sat on the cushion, checked my posture, took a deep breath, pressed the start button on my meditation app, and then:  I really can’t stay – Baby, it’s cold outside

Unlike the racing thoroughbred thoughts I’ve had to reign in the last few days, this song wasn’t a thought running wild, it was just there in the background.  Like the music you hear while walking through a department store.  I tried to harness it, but I couldn’t even tell where it was coming from.  I managed to keep my other racing thoughts pretty well in check today as I focused on my breathing, but I could not stop the song.  I couldn’t even get it to pause.

When I started meditating earlier this week, I thought sitting still for even the five minutes I’d allotted would be horrific.  The time hasn’t been bad, but it has been harder than I expected to keep my thoughts focused and now, today, with this background music, I realize this practice goes deeper and is even harder, in surprising ways, than I had anticipated.  Last month it was writing a book – hard.  This month it’s keeping my mind still during meditation – hard.  Perhaps that’s why we put these practices off until “someday” – they’re hard.  Unlike the song running through my mind – At least I’m going to say that I tried – What’s the sense of hurting my pride – pride or no pride, I really am going to try.

Tilting the Pinball Machine (Part 2)

As I said yesterday, I’ve been listening to Practicing Mindfulness: An Introduction to Meditation.  In addition to figuring out the best time of day to meditate and the duration of my planned meditation sessions, the instructor also talks about where to meditate.  I go back and forth between two houses and I want to be prepared at both houses.  As I thought about my options, I decided that the closet is the best place in both houses.  Interestingly, the closet at one of them is already known as the Buddha Room.  It’s the back closet in a warren of closets off the master bedroom in our very weird primary residence.  Yesterday, at the other house, I slid the bathroom rug into the closet (it’s a cold tile floor) and placed a couch cushion on the rug (in a future blog post I’ll talk about yoga cushions and my thrill at having a reason to shop).  Today, in the Buddha Room, which is carpeted, I simply pulled a chair cushion onto the floor.

A few years ago I downloaded a meditation timer app.  Yesterday morning, I logged into the app for the first time in a long time, figured out how to use it again, and set my five-minute timer.  It’s kind of fun because the app lets you know how many other people in the world are meditating right then using their app.  There are a lot!  Many of those people were also meditating for short periods of time, so I felt in good company.

I lit a candle because I can’t stand being in complete darkness, sat down on my cushion, and tapped the start button on my app.  (I was going to say, “hit the start button,” but that sounds too violent when describing meditation.)  Five minutes!  I was really worried about how I would be able to sit still for five whole minutes.  I worked on keeping track of my breath – in and out, in and out, but I have to admit my mind wandered – a lot!  I found myself thinking of my mind as a team of horses pulling a cart.  They’d run wild and I’d have to reign them back in.  In and out, in and out – there they go again!  Reign them back in!  In and out, in and out.

When the horses ran loose, most often they ran towards writing this blog in my brain.  I had ideas about what I wanted to write.  What if I forgot them when the five minutes was up?  At one point, the horses ran towards writing this blog and then I laughed at myself as I thought about writing about thinking about what I would write (does that even make sense?).

Yesterday, I was completely surprised by how quickly five minutes went by.  I thought perhaps one minute had gone by when the five-minute timer went off.  I even checked to make sure it was set correctly.   Today I wasn’t as surprised, but I realize already that I can probably extend the time, but not yet.  I’m taking baby steps with the hope of cementing this practice in my daily routine, so five minutes is fine for now.

With two meditation sessions behind me, I feel the pinball machine slowing down, at least for those five minutes.  The ball is still in play, but I’m not so inclined to go for the all-out tilt.

Tilting the Pinball Machine (Part 1)

Today I began my second “someday” – meditation.  I knew this would be a hard activity for me.  I’ve tried to develop a meditation practice a few times in the past, but haven’t followed through for more than a few days at a time.  Yet I know regularly meditating will be good for me.  Just Google “benefits of meditation” and you’ll see a plethora of articles touting meditation’s rewards.  My problem, and I’m sure many people relate to this, is my mind runs as if the fast forward button has been pushed on the remote.  I once had a friend comment she’d love to see the action inside my brain.  She imagined my thoughts as a ball inside a pinball machine – ping here, ping there, lights flash, noises go off.  Yes, I know I need to learn to quiet my mind and let that quiet ripple throughout my body.  So, on to my second “someday”.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, in preparation for this month I’ve been listening to Practicing Mindfulness:  An Introduction to Meditation.  The instructor suggests a meditation practice of 20 to 45 minutes per day.  I heard that and just about crumbled.  20 to 45 minutes per day!!??  Luckily I didn’t hit the off button immediately because he went on to say even five minutes per day was adequate to start, especially if the shorter time contributed to making the practice a consistent routine.  Okay; I figured I could handle five minutes.  He also suggests figuring out the best time to meditate to facilitate making it a daily practice.  I know I write best when I write in the morning.  I also know the only way I’ve ever maintained an exercise program is to workout in the morning.  So, it wasn’t hard to decide my meditation practice needs to take place first thing in the morning.  Since the instructor also suggests wearing comfy clothes to meditate, I figured I’d hop out of bed, make a pit stop, and head right into my meditation practice.

Part 2 tomorrow:  Place and Time