Tag Archives: meditation

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!

Someday Stretch

In addition to the big monthly “somedays” I’d hoped I would also tackle some smaller “somedays” along this journey.  I’ve realized I have taken on a smaller “someday” without really realizing it – I have restarted a regular stretching routine.

I used to stretch daily after my morning workout, but with our move last year and the need to get into a new routine, I simply stopped stretching regularly and, boy, does my 57-year-old body feel it!  My workouts have become primarily walking and running outside instead of inside on a treadmill.  When I arrive home from my exercise time, there are dogs to unleash, shoes and coats to shed, and the thought of heading somewhere to stretch just doesn’t cross my mind.  I kept trying to figure out how to get stretching back into my daily routine and then it happened gradually without really planning right after my morning meditation session.  At first I stretched my arms into the air after my 10-minute gong went off, then I added a child’s pose.  Within days I was doing a pretty decent stretching routine and my body feels better.

Yesterday in the paper (yes, I still read a daily newspaper of the paper variety) I noticed an ad for someone who provides instruction on resistance stretching.  I bought a book on resistance stretching, but wasn’t able to do much on my own.  Was this a new ad or did I see the ad yesterday because the idea of stretching is fresh on my mind?  I don’t know, but I will stretch my comfort level this week and call the instructor to see about making an appointment.  My year of “somedays” means not putting stuff like this off.  Maybe that is settling in as a new reality.


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…”

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.

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