Riding Metro North. One Car Short.

Thursday morning.
33°F. Feels like 23°F.
Out the door at 4:50 am to catch the 5:01.

Dark.

Directly across the street: new Neighbors. Young and DINK.  First things first. No curtains up, yet bright, white lights were carefully hand strung and evenly distributed across their bushes. The evergreens throw shadows on the front door. I pause. What was that? That softening, that load lightening ever so slightly. ‘Tis the season.

I board train. No open seats. At 5:01 a.m.?  Conductor announces that the train is one car short and apologizes. $15.25 for a one-way Peak ticket to Grand Central (Yes, Peak at 5:01 am.)  $15.25 and you get the privilege of standing. And standing for 55 minutes. Sigh.

I stand in the aisle, as the vestibule overflows with commuters. I set my bag down between my legs, grab the seat support, being careful not to brush against the passenger sitting in the seat.  I hover over him. He feels it. Nobody likes this.

We’re five minutes into the commute. I’m restless. I’m tired. I’m anxious. I’m not going to make it. [Read more…]

with each breath I’ll meet you there

There was a beautiful forest close…a place I would go to periodically for a hike. I tended to go there when it felt like the world was crashing down around me, when I felt overwhelmed. The woods were my escape, my get-away place of sanity. Walking under the shade of tall trees and listening to the sound of running water from rivers and waterfalls, I always had the same thought: I feel so whole when I am here. Why don’t I do this more often?

I know what makes me feel more. Why isn’t this an everyday practice for me?

In these days, it seems like we are living on the brink. Pomp and bluster seem to rule the day. There is conflict here, at home and around the world. Our very home, this tiny third rock from the sun, is in real danger.

One of the truths we know is that we live in an enchanted universe. The up-there and down-here mingle, the earthly and the heavenly mirror each other. We have no choice but to continue to redeem the world, to save the world from our own selves. We are, ironically, the cause of the breaking and just might be the channel of healing. To make the world whole, we ourselves have to become healed, become whole. Our well-being and the world being well are linked together.

To tend to our own inner lives is not selfishness; it is wisdom, it is essential, and it is unavoidable. […]

We are so attentive to our devices, making sure they are charged. Do we show the same care and concern for our hearts? Do we wait until we are running on fumes? How lovely and wise to make sure that the recharging is not through being a “weekend warrior” or even once-every-few-years vacations (both are lovely), but rather a matter of daily practice. […]

Let us, you and I, friends, find what sustains our soul. Let us find what nurtures our heart, who nurtures our heart, where our heart is nurtured.

Let us go there
daily
And make a habit of it.

If we may paraphrase the great Rumi:

Out beyond the realms of this faith
and that faith

     of no-faith
There is a field of goodness and beauty

where hearts our nourished

     With each breath
I’ll meet you there

~ Omid Safi, excerpts from Tending Our Inner Life to Make the World Whole (onbeing.org, May 18, 2017)


Notes:

  • Inspired by: “The more powerful and original a mind, the more it will incline towards the religion of solitude.” — Aldous Huxley, Proper Studies. (1927)
  • Photo: Newthom

Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.

Do you have a personal mantra?

You should.

Research shows that thinking of a word or phrase that affirms our values—and repeating it over and over—produces powerful physiological changes. It can lower our cortisol levels, enhance endurance and reduce perception of effort during physical exertion. Perhaps even more compelling, a mantra can quiet the mind…This isn’t a bad thing—as long as we’re thinking thoughts that are beneficial. But too many of us beat ourselves up, ruminating on the same negative beliefs.  Mantras can create and strengthen new neural pathways that are positive and not toxic. And that can make our brain much calmer and happier…

The earliest mantras appeared 3,500 years ago and were repetitive prayers or hymns. By the time meditative yoga developed, in the last few centuries B.C.E., mantras were being used to calm and control the mind. Modern mantras are still a sort of a prayer—for what we wish to be. They’re effective because they’re repetitive and simple, making them easy to turn into a habit. We don’t have to search for the positive thought to call up; we already have it.

People invoke mantras during times of stress…Some are just one word: “Breathe.” “Shine.” “Love.” Others are phrases: “This will pass.” “You’ve come this far, now push to go further.” How can you choose the best mantra for you? Not just any clichéd motto—“Just do it!”—will do. [Read more…]

Bigging it up

bird-in-hand-jpg

The Pantheon of Smallness was a way of thinking about smallness differently. Sometimes we make small things, sometimes there are small bird songs, but it can have an enormous impact. Sometimes you have to whisper to be heard. Our culture is very much one of “bigging it up,” always upping the noise level in order to produce a louder signal. What you see in the bird world is sometimes that the smallest tweet can actually pierce through the cacophony in a different way. That became a metaphor for thinking about art. Emily Dickinson did quite miniature work that had a very profound, almost epic, impact, culturally speaking.

~ Kyo Maclear, from How a stressed woman found solace through looking at birds (Macleans, January 22, 2017)

Find Kyo Maclear’s new book on Amazon: Birds Art Life: A Year of Observation


Photo: Thank you Sawsan @ Last Tambourine

It’s come to this…

breathe-app-watch-os-1 breathe-app-watch-os-2 breathe-app-watch-os-3 breathe-app-watch-os-4

In addition to reminding you to stand and walk throughout the day, watchOS 3 will also prompt Apple Watch users to take a minute to relax, focus and meditate with a new app dubbed “Breathe.”

When a Breathe notification pops up, users can either begin a session or choose to snooze it. A dedicated Breathe app on the app screen — as well as a new Breathe complication that can be added to watch faces — also allow users to start a session whenever they choose.

Once users begin, the app informs them to “be still and bring attention to your breath.” A series of circles on the Apple Watch display gradually expand, accompanied by taptic feedback on the wrist, letting the user know to slowly inhale.

Read More: New ‘Breathe’ app for Apple Watch reminds you to relax, focus. 


Source: AppleInsider

I want to stick around till I can’t see straight


…spending many hours — sometimes all day…while sitting in front of the screen, she told me, “I developed burning in my eyes that made it very difficult to work.” After resting her eyes for a while, the discomfort abates, but it quickly returns when she goes back to the computer. “…I’d turn off the computer, but I need it to work the frustrated professor…has a condition called computer vision syndrome. She is hardly alone. It can affect anyone who spends three or more hours a day in front of computer monitors, and the population at risk is potentially huge. Worldwide, up to 70 million workers are at risk…and those numbers are only likely to grow. In a report about the condition the authors detail an expanding list of professionals at risk … all of whom “cannot work without the help of computer.”…Studies have indicated 70 percent to 90 percent of people who use computers extensively…have one or more symptoms…The effects of prolonged computer use are not just vision-related. Complaints include neurological symptoms like chronic headaches and musculoskeletal problems like neck and back pain…the use of a computer for even three hours a day is likely to result in eye symptoms, low back pain, tension headache and psychosocial stress.  Still, the most common computer-related complaint involves the eyes, which can develop blurred or double vision as well as burning, itching, dryness and redness, all of which can interfere with work performance.

~ Jane E. Brody, Computer Vision Syndrome Affects Millions


Notes: Portrait: Nadia (via Newthom). Post title taken from Foreigner’s Double Vision lyrics:

Tonight’s the night, I’m gonna push it to the limit
I live all of my years in a single minute
Fill my eyes with that double vision, no disguise for that double vision
Ooh, when it gets through to me, it’s always new to me
My double vision always seems to get the best of me, the best of me, yeah


Flying West. Up, and Back.

Adriane Ayme

Like Kafka in his Letters to Milena, I’m trying to communicate something incommunicable, to explain something inexplicable, to tell about something I only feel in my bones and which can only be experienced in those bones.

Yet, I will try, and yes, here it is again. Deep in the marrow of those same bones.  It builds.

A sabbatical. From hands balled in fists, squeezing the reins, to ceding it all to a clean-cut pilot, his Aviator Hat tilted ever so slightly to the right: “Thank you Sir for flying with American.”

My head leans on the cool aluminum skin of the 450 ton albatross.  500 mph, and standing still. The only sign of Man, the long white breath of an earlier bird, and us, seven miles up.

Down, way down are the Badlands. The salt flats. The arid plains.  The snow capped peaks.

Earth.

The immensity of It.  The insignificance of Me.

It’s inexplicable. That soft pull.  The freeing of the twisted, braided cords.  Release. [Read more…]

Saturday Morning

rain-roof-gif

Why does the sound of rain gently tapping on the roof and windows instantly relieve stress?

It is a reminder of survival, an appreciation for being safe, dry, and warm, the most basic of needs.

Therein lies a secret to contentment; to remind ourselves regularly of the satisfaction of our basic needs, to appreciate another moment of survival, and forget the extraneous factors that cause us undue stress.

~ Vera Meum


Image: Frank Telli Blog

Saturday Morning

toes-feet-hands-fingers-black-and-white

A balanced life has a rhythym. But we live in a time, and in a culture, that encourages everyone to just move faster. I’m learning that if I don’t take the time to tune in to my own more deliberate pace, I end up moving to someone else’s, the speed of events around me setting a tempo that leaves me feeling scattered and out of touch with myself. I know now that I can’t write fast; that words, my own thoughts and ideas, come to the surface slowly and in silence. A close relationship with myself requires slowness. . .

A thoughtful life is not rushed.


Notes:

 

Lightly child, lightly

light-chest-mind

I wanted to think it was like a light bulb, life,
dangling in the chest, asking to be switched on.
But it’s not the light that’s even in question,
rather, what’s your brilliant, glaring wattage?
What do you dare to gleam out and reflect?”

Ada Limón, “The Other Wish,” from Bright Dead Things

Credits:

  • Sculpture: Ronald Ventura (Blanco, 2015. Metal, fiberglass, Resin) via Thisisnthappiness.com.
  • Poem Source: Boston Poetry Slam
  • Prior “Lightly child, lightly” Posts? Connect here.
  • Post Title & Inspiration: Aldous Huxley: “It’s dark because you are trying too hard. Lightly child, lightly. Learn to do everything lightly. Yes, feel lightly even though you’re feeling deeply. Just lightly let things happen and lightly cope with them.”

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