Category Archives: Meditation

Yoga: The “Someday” Not Taken

Way back toward the beginning of this 366 Somedays journey, I had to make a choice between two “Somedays”:  yoga and meditation.  I felt the two were too closely related to do both as valid “Somedays” on their own.  I ended up choosing meditation because I know my mind pings out of control too frequently.  I have not continued a daily meditation practice, though I have used what I learned so I’m able to sit meditatively for five to ten minutes in the morning on days when I feel overwhelmed.

Yoga was still sitting out there as a “Someday”.  As it’s hovered there in my desires, I’ve found myself increasingly stiff.  This stiffness began a few years ago and it has just continued to get worse.  I felt I needed to stretch more, do more strength training.  My body was feeling old and I was grasping at straws without really making the effort to grab them.

Then, earlier this month, a friend’s blog on quilting popped up in my email inbox as having a new post.  I clicked on it and read what I think will be a life-changing account of her decision to commit to 31 days of yoga and to pursue becoming a yogi (one who regularly practices yoga).  My friend is using Yoga with Adriene’s online (free) YouTube videos for her 31-day commitment.  I checked it out and immediately signed up, sequestered myself from the rest of my family, and did the first session.  I’d like to have some witty words for how I felt, but all I can come up with is, “Wow!”

I’m two weeks into the program and I feel great!  I am light years away from being able to do the poses and transitions like Adriene does, but I’m moving along and I can tell I’m making little steps of progress and, best of all, I am not feeling nearly as stiff as I was just two weeks ago.  I’m not taking my yoga practice out in public.  The sanctity of my private space is perfect for my humble attempts at graceful movement, but I will continue this practice.  Am I sorry I didn’t make yoga an official “Someday”?  Not at all.  If I weren’t taking this journey and allowing myself to be open to new activities, I’m not sure I would have so readily jumped on the bandwagon when my friend wrote about it.  It seems silly to pose this as a “mini-Someday” because it’s definitely not “mini”, but I’ll take it as a “mini” or a “monthly”.  I’m excited where this will take me and that really is the purpose of this journey.

Gold Stars & To Do Lists

In an attempt to accomplish all of my accumulating “Somedays” as well as the regular imagesday-to-day stuff that needs to be done (cleaning, bookkeeping, errands, cooking, etc.) I’ve been searching for little ways to improve my productivity and keep myself on track.  I’ve come up with two that seem to be working:  gold stars and a To-Do list.

Remember gold stars from grade school?  When you’d accomplished a task or exhibited a good behavior you got to put a gold star on the chart.  I specifically remember the reading chart.  Students names were listed down the left-hand side of a large paper and numbers were written across the top.  Each time a student finished a book and filled out a little form about the book, she got to place a gold star next to her name.  Some people didn’t read at all and had few gold stars.  I read voraciously and had stars across the page.  I loved the gold star system.  So, I made up my own little chart with a few of the daily activities I want to be doing:  writing, drumming, stretching, meditating, etc.  Every time I accomplish one of these activities, I get a gold star.  It sounds juvenile, but that’s okay.  I don’t mind acting like a kid now and then.

In addition to these daily activities, there’s also all the other stuff that must be done – bring in the To-Do list.  The list I found has two columns:  To Do Now and To Do Later.  I’m using the To Do Now list for the little things needing to be done around the house, like pay the bills, hang the mirror, finish the laundry, clean the whole frigging house (okay, some of the items aren’t “little”).  The To Do Later list has items that I want to remember to do at some point in time:  call a window cleaner, file papers, organize garage.

I’m getting gold stars on several lines, but not so many on some others.  I’m also checking off To-Do list items right and left (literally right and left, from both the “now” and “later” sides of the paper).  The problem is, I’m not really prioritizing what I’m doing.  There are some things that are not negotiable.  For instance, my daily walk/run has to happen or my four dogs become unruly, bills must be paid or my credit will suffer, grocery shopping must occur or we don’t eat.  However, other activities too easily get left to drift out of my awareness, if not off the list.

So, there you have it:  I love my gold stars, I’m crashing through my To-Do list, but I still need to prioritize!

“Someday” Report Card

Today is the last day of my first trimester of “somedays”.  I’ve finished four months and it’s time to grade my progress.

Month 1 – Write and publish a non-fiction book in 30 days.  Grade:  Incomplete

Even though I didn’t finish this project in the time allotted, I’m not going to give myself a failing grade.  I am still working on the project and it will get done, so “incomplete” seems a more fitting grade than “fail”.

Month 2 – Begin a meditation practice.  Grade:  B

I’m meditating almost daily, but most of my meditation practice is now walking meditation.  I like walking meditation, but I also think sitting meditation has its benefits.  In order to receive an “A” grade I need to work more sitting meditation into my practice.

Month 3 – Begin 1200-mile Club challenge.  Grade:  A+

The goal is to walk or run 1200 miles this calendar year.  I worked that out to 4 miles per day, 6 days per week.  As of yesterday I have walked and run 227 miles putting me 27 miles ahead of my goal pace.

Month 4 – Learn Italian.  Grade: F

I’m beginning to think there are some “somedays” which should remain a goal for some other day.  Or, perhaps, they should be set aside with the realization that it just ain’t gonna happen.  Italian may be that type of “someday” for me.  I struggled all month and I cannot even count to ten or carry on the simple get-to-know-you conversation I had set as my goal.  I’m not going to get rid of the Italian language books and tools I purchased, but I’m not going to say this will be an on-going project, like writing a book.  I may pick the books up again at some future date, but I will no longer say, “I’m going to learn Italian someday.”

My Loosey Goosey Goal

There’s a theory about setting and reaching goals that says to not only set your goal, but make it quantifiable and also chart out the path you’ll need to take to reach the goal.  As I lay in bed this morning thinking about the day ahead, I realized I have not charted a path for this month’s “someday” of learning Italian and I’m struggling to make any progress.

In November my “someday” was to write and publish a short non-fiction book.  I didn’t reach my goal, but it’s still in progress and, now that I think of it, I realize I didn’t have a charted plan for how to reach it – not even so much as “write for an hour a day”.  December my “someday” was to establish a meditation practice.  That in itself is a plan.  To establish the practice, you have to meditate – and I did (and still do).  On January 1st I began a 1200-mile walking/running challenge.  I calculated I would need to run/walk four miles per day, six days per week in order to reach 1200 miles by the end of the year.  I set up a spreadsheet to input my miles and to calculate how far ahead or behind I am (right now I’m 20 miles ahead of plan).  That’s a completely quantifiable plan.  Then I came to February and my “someday” is to “learn Italian”.  Really?  Learn Italian?  Obviously I’m not going to become fluent in a month, so what is my real goal for the month?  I didn’t set one!  I didn’t set a quantifiable goal and I didn’t set out a plan for how I would achieve my loosey goosey goal.

I had hoped I could “learn Italian” by listening to audiobooks during my many hours in the car.  That didn’t work, so I bought a book and some grammar aids, but I still didn’t set a plan of when and how I would use them (they’ve been sitting on the counter, untouched, for a week).  Now, here I am, right about halfway through the month and I realize I messed this up.  I need an actual goal and a plan.

So, here we go.  My goal for learning Italian will be to be able to count to ten and carry on a simple “get to know you” conversation.  My plan to get there will be to set a time period for studying Italian.  I’m a morning person, so I do my other practices first thing in the morning:  writing, meditating, walking/running.  Once I’m up and taking care of business during the day, it’s hard to stop.  However, just before I go to bed, I spend time browsing social media and playing Sudoku.  I can give up that routine and allocate the time to studying Italian and, research shows, sleep helps cement what you’ve learned right before bedtime.  I’m going to get my Italian book off the counter and put it on my nightstand right now.  I will now study Italian for at least a half-hour every weeknight.  And, who knows, not using an iPad before bed might help me sleep better.  Retain Italian and sleep better – this could be a double win.

A New Sense of Calm

I was humming a tune
Photo credit: Me

This week I’ve noticed a foreign sense of calm within myself.  Once I realized it, I looked back to see if I could pinpoint when it began.  I can’t pinpoint a date, but I do know it’s been building for the last few weeks.  I say it’s foreign because my mind is usually racing, my nerves tied up with plans and worry, and something else – perhaps a heightened negative sense of some sort.  Now, my mind is still functioning, but it feels like it’s gently flowing, not racing.  My nerves?  I think of nerves as stress – again, flowing, not stressful.  And the “something else” is now this overall sense of calm.

I wonder if this is simply a matter of aging.  I’ve read that people tend to feel happier as they get older.  Is this new sense of calm simply me getting older?  As I read the research on this phenomenon, I really don’t think it applies to me right now.  One of the reasons people tend to get happier as they age is because they lower their expectations and accept their achievements.  Here I am, in the midst of my 366 Somedays tackling new goals every month, so I haven’t really lowered my expectations and accepted my past achievements as all inclusive.

I’m almost afraid to say it, but I think my new calm stems from the activities of my 366 Somedays.  I think my meditation practice, especially the loving kindness meditation, is having a positive effect on me.  I know daily exercise makes me feel good, but adding in the singing last week has changed my walks from exercise to a spiritual experience.  And yesterday I noticed that, when I’m not singing, I’m humming and humming also has therapeutic benefits.

I hoped the challenges of my 366 Somedays would bring satisfaction, but I wasn’t expecting calm.  This is another sign that stepping out and trying something new is good for us.  Now, if I could just whistle.  I read that whistling is also good for the body and mind.  Maybe learning to whistle should be one of my “somedays”.  No, let’s not push it!  I’ll meditate, I’ll sing a happy song, and I’ll hum a tune, but I don’t need to also whistle while I work.  Especially since, with all due respect to Lauren Bacall, there seems to be a lot more to it than “just put your lips together and blow.”

Singin’ in the Snow

I was surprised yesterday morning when I woke up and realized it was already after 6:30.  I’m normally up between 4:00 and 5:00, so 6:30 was sleeping in for me.  Since it was so late, I decided not to do my ten-minute meditation session right then.  I thought I’d do it later in the day, though I knew in my heart I probably wouldn’t.  A few hours later, out on my walk, I realized I had the opportunity to practice mindfulness, making it a walking meditation.  The area where I live is still covered in snow.  The trails are clear in places, but I’m still wearing my cleated shoe covers.  As I walked I paid attention to the sound my cleats make: click-click on the bare pavement, crack-crack on the ice, and crunch-crunch on the snow.  I listened to the sound of the slight wind in my ears and the greater sound of the wind in the trees.  I looked up into the trees, hoping for a porcupine, owl, eagle, or hawk sighting.  I eventually shifted my walking meditation to a loving kindness meditation.  Normally, I do my recitation in my head, but since I was trying something new, I said my phrases out loud.  It felt good to hear myself saying the words.  Then I started singing out loud.

SingingI saw this on a friend’s Facebook page yesterday morning so, as I walked and finished up my meditation, I thought I might as well give it a try.  I’m notorious for not knowing the lyrics to songs, so figuring out what to sing was a problem.  I can sing along to songs on the radio because I can just mumble-mumble through the words I don’t know.  Singing out loud without music and not knowing the words is a little harder.  I realized while I often have a song running through my head, it’s just a portion of the song.  I don’t know very many songs from beginning to end.  However, from somewhere deep inside my brain, I began singing some of the songs sung regularly when I was a Camp Fire Girl some forty years ago.  I sang Flicker of the Campfire and Kumbaya.  Let me tell you, singing Kumbaya while walking in the snowy silence…pretty profound.

Luckily there aren’t many people out on the trails this time of year and luckily my dogs love me enough not to mind my poor singing.  Like grandchildren, my dogs think my singing is wonderful.  And that’s a good thing – they might just be hearing more of it.

New Month, New “Someday”

The calendar has flipped over to a new month which means it’s time to add a new “someday” to my journey.  This month I’m going to begin learning Italian in earnest.  I’ve piddled around with language in the past, but it’s not something that comes easily to my brain.  I’ve tried for a week or so (much like dieting), but I’ve always given up.  I love Italy.  I love the pace and the beauty of Italy.  I love traveling in Italy.  I would love to speak Italian so I can communicate better when I am there and also to keep a piece of Italy with me.

Reviewing the last three months, writing, for my blogs and in my journal, is moving along smoothly; writing my book (November’s “someday”) is lagging.  However, I have been giving the book’s content a lot of thought and my writing is usually done in my brain before I even begin to put words to screen.  I am meditating regularly (December’s “someday”) and feel the practice has taken hold as part of my daily routine.  I am walking and/or running daily and I am ahead of plan on the 1200-mile annual challenge I started last month (118.76 miles to date).  Now, it’s time to add language lessons and practice.

To begin this month’s “someday”, I’ve downloaded an Italian language program to listen to in my car.  I’m in my car a lot, so that seems the most reasonable way to get started.  I also joined an online language program I’ll use to supplement the audio program.

I’ll keep you posted.  For now, ciao!


As my meditation practice (December’s “someday”) continues, I’ve been researching different types of meditation to come up with what works best for me.  Last week I discovered several guided meditations available through a service I’m subscribed to.  I’ve been using them intermittently with my mindfulness practice.  I like the idea of sometimes being guided instead of having to rein in my thoughts myself.

This morning, I clicked on a “loving-kindness” meditation and – wow!  In this meditation style you basically select a few phrases or wishes which you first direct at yourself and then at others:  someone you love, someone who is neutral, someone with whom there is discord, and, finally, the entire world.  The list of phrases from this morning’s guided meditation was extensive, but the list can be whatever you choose:  may I be healthy, may I be strong, may I feel peace, may I feel joyful, may I be free of mental suffering, etc.

This type of meditation appeals to me as a way to bring positive energy into myself and then send it out to others.  It feels like a form of prayer directed to the universe instead of a deity.  This might be a little too woo-woo for some, but I thoroughly enjoyed my meditation session this morning and I’m filled with excitement to pursue the idea of loving-kindness throughout my day.  Maybe if you’re standing in line in front of me at the grocery store today you’ll feel a little shot of peace and joy run through your heart and wonder where that came from.

Buddha said, “Like the moon, come out from behind the clouds – shine!”  I find it interesting that I found so much joy (perhaps found my inner self) in this meditation practice that is actually reaching out to others.  So, if you feel that little shot today, it might just be me shining.

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.