Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Developing a Meditative Practice

Mindfulness is the practice of being present and enjoying what is happening around you. 
Meditation is the practice of being present and enjoying what is happening within you.

At various times in my life I've tried to develop a meditative practice. Most have been met with limited success. I actually can sit still for a period of time, but my problem is finding a place where I can sit uninterrupted. I am continually surrounded by people.

At work the phone rings, people email or stop by to ask questions and there are meetings to attend. At home there is homework, lunches, rides to events, laundry and a dog that wants attention. I have tried body scan meditations, eating mindfully, guided meditations, walking meditations and gong meditations. I've discovered I can only do abbreviated versions of any type of meditation.

The only body scan meditation I have time for is for me to ask myself, "Where are your shoulders?" I will immediately drop my shoulders and take a deep breath. I have no time for eating mindfully. If I can take one bite of a chicken nugget in the car on my way to getting the girls to their next activity, I'm doing well.

Guided meditations distract me. I don't want to be listening. I find myself arguing with whatever the message is. If I'm to be at the beach, I think about how I prefer a stream. If I'm to watch a flame slowly flow down my spine, I think about how, once I lay down, the flame is burning up my sternum.

I love walking - with a purpose. I will drop off overdue library books, walk to the farmer's market, buy a coffee, etc. I am not good at walking just to walk, and I certainly don't like to walk to get in a certain number of steps on some type of tracking device. I love being outside in nature. I hate the mall. So even walking meditations are complicated for me.

I have found two forms of meditation that I absolutely love. I love a gong meditation and I love walking a labyrinth. Gong meditations are great, but I cannot partake in them daily. I have to track one down and they are cost-prohibitive.

A labyrinth is a perfect form of meditation for me. There is a beginning, a middle and an end. It is free, doesn't take a lot of time, oftentimes I can walk it alone, and it can be done daily, if I can just get to one. Earlier this spring I was driving to a local labyrinth before I went to the Morton Arboretum for a long walk. I got pulled over for speeding. When the officer asked me where I was going so quickly (at 6:10 on a Saturday morning, with no one else on the road), I said in a frustrated manner, "I'm trying to create a meditative practice!" I, clearly, need one.

This weekend, I started building one in my yard.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Welcome to Someday

When I was twelve, the movie Star Wars opened at the LaGrange Theater. My mom took my sister and I to see it. I was not a fan of the sci-fi shows on tv at the time and I certainly did not want to see a movie about aliens and outer space.

I loved it. It was larger than life. It was epic.

Since then, I have stepped out of my comfort zone hundreds of times. I have tried all sorts of things. I've been hang-gliding, rafting through the rain forest, hiking in the Canadian Rockies, scuba diving in the Great Barrier Reef, traveled by myself, left a job or two, taken on a leadership role in my community, and read a series of books about a boy wizard.

I've loved some things whereas others, not so much.

A week from Friday I fly to Spain and begin a pilgrimage on the Camino de Santiago. Like many times before, I've been asked, "Are you ready?" I don't know. For everything I've done in my life, I've never thought, I'm ready. And, as my Aunt Lyn pointed out, "You'd better do it while you can still move."

I know so many people who have put off doing things until retirement, or until their children are grown and out of the house, or until they are good at something, or until "someday." I don't wait. I don't want my children to wait. "Do or do not. There is no try." - Yoda

Welcome to Someday.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

First Things First - going out of town

When I was fresh out of graduate school I went out of town one weekend per month. I wouldn't go anywhere terrific, but I would drive to see a friend in Madison, Des Moines, St. Louis, etc. Every 4th month or so, I could afford a plane ticket. I flew to D.C., Denver or Santa Fe. I only visited places where I knew someone I could stay with, as I couldn't afford to travel and to pay for a place to stay, I joined in and did whatever my friend was doing. I attended graduation parties, wedding receptions in the basement of churches, laid saltillo tile in a kitchen, shopped for new steel guitar strings, and drank a lot of coffee.

Once I became a mom, the weekend get-a-ways slowed dramatically. On my list of 50 things, traveling monthly has been reinstated. Since getting my notebook I've gone to Traverse City and split wood, San Francisco for a birthday party, stayed in an Air B&B in Hyde Park while at a conference listening to Kate Braestrup, ate burritos every meal while in Taos, and drank a lot of coffee. Nothing tremendously special, but time away from my own laundry piles and papers to be filed is always good for the soul.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

An Introduction - I Turn 50

I turn 50 this year. I work full-time, I have two teenaged daughters, I live in the suburbs of Chicago, I am completing a four-year stint on a board, and two years ago I joined not one, but two book clubs. I have no time to be in one book club, let alone two. I try to read every night. It lasts about 90 seconds and then the book hits me in the face, I turn out the light and try again the next night.

I am a regular patron at the public library and I carry a book with me all of the time. The one exception was in August. I was going to sit down for one hour for a pedicure. I checked my car, my glove box, my trunk and my purse. No book. Luckily, I was next to a "dollar" store of some type. I went in and bought a notebook/journal. Over the next hour I started a list of 50 things I wanted to do in my 50th year.

I am fortunate, very fortunate. I try to express my gratitide and be grateful daily. But even I, with my priviledge, support system, and means, cannot complete 50 new things in a year. When I looked at my list, I thought, in reality, I could only complete about 6-11 new things. I decided to expand my scope to give myself a decade to complete 50 things. 

So that is where I begin. A $1 journal. A list. A pedicure. A decade.