Tag Archives: well-being

Whatcha reading?

One of my greatest pleasures is reading novels. I think life is always better when I have a good book going. Sometimes, however, life gets so busy that pleasure reading falls by the wayside. These are precisely the times that reading can be most helpful, providing a momentary escape into someone else’s life. In case you are looking for some recommendations, here are some of my latest reads:

Small Great Things, by Jodi Picoult — This is a fascinating tale told from the perspectives of a black labor and delivery nurse who is targeted as the scapegoat for an infant’s death and the baby’s parents who are angry, white supremacists. It was a challenging book that brings to light both the blatant and subtle effects of racism and white privilege. It’s eerily timely, given the events in Charlottesville, VA with protesting White Nationalists.

Lucia, Lucia, by Adriana Trigiani — about the love, family, work life of a young Italian-American woman fashion designer in Greenwich Village in the 1950’s

Orphan Train, by Christina Baker Kline — page-turning parallel stories of two resilient girls from different eras in the foster-care system

Circling the Sun, by Paula McLain — historical fiction about the fascinating life of Beryl Markham, the first woman to fly east to west across the Atlantic

Body Surfing, by Anita Shreve — quick read, especially perfect for the beach with its setting on the NH seacoast and its bodysurfing scenes

The Monk Who Lived Downstairs, by Tim Farrington — a sweet book about a single mother landlord and her former monk downstairs tenant

Good in Bed and the Next Best Thing, by Jennifer Weiner — humorous, light reads about the ups and downs of a plus-size columnist and a scarred, first-time Hollywood TV writer, respectively

Our local library had a book sale recently where I picked up a number of books by some of my favorite authors. It’s probably a good thing that I only had a $10 bill on me, which limited on how many books I could buy. I’m making my way through that stack. Once I finish, I’ll be looking for some book recommendations.

I’d love to learn what good books you’ve been reading lately,  so please share any recommendations.

 

Living Well

Once on our way home from a Vermont ski weekend, we stopped for gas at a service station that offered two welcome perks. What initially drew us in was the covered self-serve island, which kept the sloppy mix of snow and rain off my husband as he filled the tank. The added bonus was a set of speakers on the outside of the building broadcasting music. I’m not the biggest fan of country music, but I was a captive audience that day. I found myself listening intently to George Strait’s catchy tune and poignant message: “There’s a difference in living and living well.” During our trip home, I reflected upon the distinction between living and living well and I invite you to do the same.

How would you define living well? Although what first came to my mind were scenes from glossy travel ads of idyllic tropical beaches (I’m sure that had something to do with our chilly weather) and luxurious spas, I quickly thought of some more everyday, low-cost examples of family and friends living well:

• My father, who settled into his recliner every evening with a sigh and an interesting library book
• Friends who sit out on their deck every summer evening to watch the sun set
• My German host parents who have perfected the art of leisurely mealtimes (gemutliches Essen)
• My friend who makes a nightly ritual out of taking a bath by candlelight

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As you think about your own life, what current evidence do you have that you live well? You might include things often taken for granted: your health, a good night’s sleep, the unconditional love of a pet or more obvious indulgences: a fine bottle of wine, a decadent dessert, silk lingerie. I hope that the length of your list pleasantly surprises you.

What would help you move from just living to consistently living well? There are many small steps you can take that can make a big difference. A shift in thinking is one example. Instead of focusing on what’s lacking in your life use an affirmation such as “All is well. I live well.” and you’ll begin believing it. What are things that you currently do (think eat, drink, sleep, bathe) that with more intention and attention could begin to feel like nurturing rituals instead of routines? What do you have access to but aren’t currently taking advantage of that could contribute to living well? Here’s a list that get you thinking:
• Fine china
• Music—to listen to or play
• Babysitter
• Comfy coach
• Jacuzzi
• Yoga mat
• Exercise videos or equipment
• Unredeemed gift certificates
• Bread machine
• Crock pot
• Fresh flowers

My challenge to you is to not “get through” the coming days, weeks, and holidays but to live them and live them well!

What Fills Your Rain Barrel?

I’ve never been so happy to have rainy days as I’ve been this week.  We’ve had an unusually long spell of hot and dry weather in our area, creating extreme drought conditions.  Lake Cochichewick, our town’s reservoir is fortunately quite large, however, even with a voluntary water ban for most of the summer, the water level is noticeably lower.  We have relied on our rain barrels to supplement watering pots, gardens, and foundation plantings.  At times, our rain barrels ran dry.

To me, rrain-barrelain barrels seem like a metaphor for our own inner resources.  At times during this busy summer, I felt as if my rain barrel was empty.  Even though this season was full of so many blessings—visits with friends and family, a coaching Summit, a retreat, travel, work, gardening, camping, and swimming,—there were times when all of that activity and doing became overwhelming.  As I returned to the meditation cushion after a few very hectic days when I let my practice lapse, I could sense that my rain barrel was beginning to fill again.  I made a mental note of this and for the rest of the summer I did my best to find ways to incorporate some moments of stillness or sky-gazing into every day.

To navigate this transition period between summer and fall with more balance and joy, consider:

What fills your rain barrel?

What depletes it?

What commitment(s) do you want to make to yourself to insure that it doesn’t run dry?

What’s Your Body’s Message?

anatomy-254120_960_720I’m still reeling from a week earlier this month in which a fellow swimmer died, a neighbor had open heart surgery, and my husband suffered from lower back pain and spasms.

My swimming buddy (we shared a lane during an adult swim class) had taken about a month’s break from exercise in between sessions.  I swam with him twice before the next round of classes was to begin.  He said he was having a hard time getting his breathing back.  He was using a heart rate monitor and I recall him taking long rests whenever his heart rate got too high. I may have been one of the last people to see him before he died suddenly of a heart attack, leaving a wife and three children.

My neighbor was fortunate to also be wearing a heartrate monitor when he began having some cardiac symptoms. An ambulance took him right to the hospital for tests which identified the problem. He was lucky to have a successful bypass surgery in time. They were told that with the type of blockage he had, people often just drop dead of a heart attack. Looking back, he and his wife have been able to identify earlier signals, such as pallor, chest pain, and shortness of breath when exercising (which doctors thought was exercise induced asthma.)

My husband, Bill, went into back spasms the day after celebrating his 60th birthday with a party with his mountain biking friends. He’s always been very active and enjoys challenging himself. For example, he recently did a “tri-peak” event where they rode up and down three mountains in one day.  His back pain may have been from his mountain biking or lifting a heavy rock while trail building. He’s never been one to stretch much or do yoga, but he’s becoming more open to it now. He has already benefited from a “yoga for back pain relief” practice that a yoga teacher friend of mine shared with me.

Our bodies are constantly giving us messages.  Sometimes we fail to notice them.  Other times we choose to ignore them.  What I’ve witnessed over and over again is that if we don’t pay attention to the whispers or subtle signs, our bodies will keep turning up the volume until we finally hear the messages.  For instance, I ignored headaches and resisted admitting that alcohol, (even just one drink or glass of wine) is like poison to my body.  It took routine blood work revealing elevated liver enzymes and a thermogram (which I do instead of mammograms) showing a lot of congestion to finally make me serious about healing my liver.

What’s your body’s message?  I invite you to take a few moments to tune into your body:

Close your eyes and slowly begin to scan your body from head to toe.

As you bring your awareness to your body, listen.  Where are the whispers or shouts?

Focus on one area at a time, beginning with the one that’s clamoring for the most attention. What sensations are you feeling in this part of your body?

What emotions might that be expressing?

If this area was trying to tell you something, what might be the message(s)?

What does your body want you to do?

Repeat the process for any other areas of your body that want to be heard.

I highly encourage you to then heed your body’s wisdom!

Gift of Peace

self carePeace, Love, and Joy.  Those are supposed to be the hallmarks of the season, yet are these truly filling your heart at this time?   What ripple effects are you currently setting in motion, beginning in your household, and expanding out to your workplace, community and beyond?

If Mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.” Is a quote from Ron Hall that especially hit home during the years when our boys (and often an exchange student, too) were under our roof. I found that the added pressures of holiday preparations would often leave me feeling overwhelmed and cranky.  I’d dissolve into a puddle of tears at least once or twice before the New Year and know that I brought everyone else down with me.

Now, I feel that my deepening work with meditation has given me more tools and greater self-compassion to accept and ride out any strong waves of emotions.  Goodness knows, there are always ample opportunities for practice, especially since feelings of loss and yearning are often amplified during the holidays (hi-low-days).

In study after study, meditation has been proven to reduce anxiety, stress, and pain and promote feelings of relaxation, peace, and well-being.   So I encourage you to give meditation a whirl (or a second chance) if you’d like to cultivate and spread more peace, love, and joy.

I believe that there is no one right way to meditate; there are many paths. Too many people give up on meditation because they haven’t found an approach that really works for them or stuck with it long enough to realize that some sessions will feel better than others and to form a habit.

Just as we have different learning styles—visual, auditory, and kinesthetic–which make some methods of delivery work better for taking in information, the same may hold true for meditation.  My personal theory is that our learning style(s) may correlate with our preferred meditation style(s).  Someone who is an auditory learner, might do well with guided meditation, chanting, reciting a mantra or prayer, or listening to a recording on headphones with binaural beats to reach an alpha or theta brainwave state.  A kinesthetic leaner might find it torturous having to sit still to meditate, but might love circling to center with a labyrinth, doing yoga, focusing on the breath, or engaging in mindfulness, walking meditation, or guided relaxation.  A visual learner might resonate with visualizations, staring at candle flame, focusing on a flower or other natural object, or creating or experiencing mandalas or other art.

Also consider:

  • What approach(es) have worked well for you before?
  • What approach(es) would you like to explore?
  • What time of day appeals most to you for meditation?
  • Are you drawn to solo practice or meditating in a group?

I love to create opportunities for people to experience meditation.  I’ve become very active in Great Pond Sangha and coordinate a free drop-in silent and walking meditation in North Andover on Friday mornings.  This fall I also began offering weekly drop-in meditation sessions at a local company.

I’ve recorded a short, guided meditation which combines several of these approaches.  May it help create peace, love, and joy within you so that you may spread this to others this holiday season and beyond!  I’d be curious to hear about your experiences.  Please let me know if there’s anything I could do to support you on your path.