Traffic Jams

How was traffic today?

Imagine your entire day was made up of cars carrying a thought or feeling. I bet that your day was full of traffic, maybe even gridlocked, if today was stressful. Did you want to call a halt to everything? Or, if your thoughts or feelings were pleasant, did you want to go for a nice long drive in those particular cars and avoid the less pleasant ones? This traffic concept is one of the visualizations from a meditation app, Headspace.

headspace-traffi

For those with preconceived notions about meditation, I’d like you to set them aside. Not all meditation is chanting phrases with your legs crossed. Instead, practitioners are taking time (10 minutes, in the case of Headspace) from the hustle and stress of our days to take care of ourselves mentally and physically. Some call it mental hygiene. Think of meditation this way: If you take the time to declutter and clean up your car, if you shower daily and do the laundry often, why wouldn’t you do the same for your mind? Meditation can improve concentration, self awareness, acceptance (Serenity Prayer anyone?) and physical well being (e.g., lower blood pressure). By the way, contemplative prayer is one form where prayer and meditation overlap. If you grew up, as I did, reciting the Hail Mary, then you’ve practiced contemplative prayer. Does it surprise you that this is very similar to the Eastern practice of mantra meditation?

Back to the benefits of meditation – this one is important for all of us who hope to age well: In one study, it appeared to slow the aging process in practitioners, including increasing the number of brain cells. Who knew you could grow a bigger brain?

meditation-bigger-brain

Blue is better!

Meditation comes in many forms (including the aforementioned chanting). The style I prefer is mindfulness. You start by focusing on your breathing, then taking stock of your physical and mental sensations. Throughout the meditation, your mind drifts off to tasks, worries, politics or whatever and you gently refocus. By the end of the 10 minute session, I’m calmer, less likely to react to things (pick any news topic right now) and, most importantly for me, a better listener for others. When I practice regularly, I find it easier to calm down in all kinds of stressful situations.

So, let’s get back to the traffic analogy. Do you chase after cars? Attempt to stop them? Do you realize how many cars are on your figurative road? What happens if you simply acknowledge them as they go by, instead of attempting to change them? Think about how you manage all of these thoughts and feelings today. Some of those self-management habits are healthy (e.g., going for a walk), some are less so, especially if you use them too often (e.g., alcohol or drugs). Meditation is free (or relatively cheap, like the Headspace app), requires no special equipment and travels well. All you need is you and a willingness to try.

I’ve mentioned Headspace before. It’s a meditation app that offers guided sessions and also gives you tools to help practice throughout the day. This traffic visualization is one of them. Helpful, huh? They have many others, like Blue Sky (Finding Calm). It’s a handy tool for finding calm when things are tough. If you want to learn more about Headspace or other meditation tools, you can follow the links in this post or just search on the web. I wish you peace this week!

 

 

 

Better When I’m Dancing

What moves you? Is it techie or Trekky? Is it color, words or music? Is it smooth jazz or rhythm?  Can you tell when someone’s in their element, doing their thing? They light up, they dang near glow. They get lost in it, and they can likely go for hours without realizing time is passing.

My husband, Martin, and I often debate our favorite music. This started when we were dating and attended Dead concerts. Yeah, we’re that old, to have dated in the era of live Dead shows…. hush, y’all, hush. 🙂

grateful-dead-skeleton-roses

There was usually a Space/Drums transition in every show. Martin loved Space, an undefined jam with lots of woo-woo guitar and synthesizer. Space could be eerie and dissonant, it usually lacked obvious rhythm and could last for-ehv-ahhhh, at least in my view. Space was not my thing and I was known to fall asleep during it. Twice, as in, during two different shows. Seriously, not my thing.

On the other hand, I loved Drums. Mickey Hart and Bill Kreutzman (long time drummers for the Dead) were my Dead heroes. I could dance for days to anything with a beat. Even now, I still use strong rhythms to get me up in the morning and to pull me out of funks. How can you not be joyful when you’re moving to a fabulous rhythm?  I hear them in my head while I’m waiting in line at the post office, standing in an elevator or sitting behind the wheel. There was a time when you could have caught me tap dancing while I waited for a train. Time ceases to exist for me when I have a beat. Like Meghan Trainor, I feel Better When I’m Dancing. (She apparently feels the same, watch this making-of-video, where she explains that dancing makes her feel better and the inspiration for the song.)

grateful-dead-drums-bill-k

While Martin liked Drums, it wasn’t his thing the way Space was (and still is, thanks to the Dead’s prolific recordings). Neither of us is wrong or right in our love of Drums & Space, we just march to different drummers (pun intended!).

beat-of-your-own-drum

So what’s your thing? What drummer inspires you to marching? What do you seek out when you’re searching for a little joy, a little more energy to climb those mountains? Life is hard, I hope y’all find that special something to  inspire you. ❤

More Singing!

That title probably has some of you running for the mute button. Not everyone feels the joy of raising your voice. But even those of us without vocal skill (yet, there’s always hope…) can join in since it’s about the trying, especially if your friends ❤ you a lot.

singing-daily

Did you know that singing is good for you? It releases endorphins, which helps with stress. Imagine your next big meeting, everyone’s all stressy, and you start a British style singsong…. Ha! Even that little bit made you smile, huh? Singing  is good but singing in a group is even better, improving your confidence and sense of community.

irish-singsong

Let’s sing along with a few secular Christmas carols this week. I’ve got Hannukah songs teed up for next Friday and I’m taking suggestions. 😀

I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus debuted in 1952 as a Saks Fifth Avenue promotion and, did you know (?), was banned by Catholic Church in Boston for a while. After the lyricist met with the Archbishop, they lifted the ban. Here’s the Jackson 5 cover.

Up On the Housetop is the 2nd oldest secular Christmas song  (Jingle Bells is the oldest). Here’s Pentatonix’s 360 version (make sure you view with a Chrome, Internet Explorer browser since Safari doesn’t do 360).

Written by Irving Berlin in 1942, White Christmas became the best selling record of all time (Bing Crosby version). Collabro is a British acapella group with lovely harmonies.

Mele Kalikimaka (May-lay Kah-lee-kee-mah-kah) means “Merry Christmas” in Hawaiian. It’s a really kitschy song, first recorded in 1950 by Bing Crosby and the Andrews Sisters. This version by the Puppini Sisters is a great update. We grew up singing this one so it’s a personal fave. ❤

mele kalikimaka.jpg

All I Want for Christmas is a recent addition from Mariah Carey (I couldn’t resist this Carpool Karaoke version!).  This version, though, was sung on the The Voice Kids Portugal. It isn’t polished but don’t you love the way the judges got into it? THAT’s the power of joy, the power of song. It helps that the judges have GREAT voices but I howled along just fine from here. 🙂 Both versions, Carpool and The Voice show the fun of singing together…. I’m just saying, again. 😉

Let’s go make some joyful memories!