I really thought I had this meditation thing down, or at least was making great progress. For a while I felt I could keep my focus for minutes at a time. And now… not so much. Which is fine, it’s part of the process, and just means that I need to find another way to shift how I approach my meditations.
For today’s happiness exercise I chose a meditation on self-love, intentionally looking for one that isn’t too long. I can’t say that my focus was much better for this guided meditation than it had been for my morning un-guided one, but that’s ok. Small steps…
Take A Vacation
I’m tabling for a non-profit for the third and final time today, which eats a big chunk out of my day. Even after all these months, I still tend to see a commitment like that and think I’m too busy to take a vacation today.
Which is crazy. The vacation doesn’t need to be any longer than ten minutes; it’s just a tiny piece of time set aside to be deliberately removed from stress and productivity. I feel like I need to remind myself of this almost every time. Today my plan is to take my lunch and my book outside and enjoy a little reading time by myself before I go.
Most Moments Are Positive
There’s a brief description of this exercise here.
This exercise overlaps a bit with Hardwiring, but I think of it as being less specific. I’ve been using it in a couple of way this morning. First, I’ve been collecting positive moments or impressions: the clear blue of the sky when I went outside, the satisfaction of doing just a little better on my morning jog, the pleasure of hugging each of my children as they wandered out, bleary with sleep.
I’ve also been trying to notice and dismiss my negative thoughts. I felt “must get everything done” tension this morning, which, once I identified it, I could see leaking into negative thoughts about both the past and the future. It was helpful to remind myself that right now I am ok. That tension is its own thing, and needs to be dealt with, but its presence doesn’t mean I need to revisit old issues or imagine future ones.
My mother-in-law leaves today, and it feels natural to write her a note of gratitude, letting her know how much I appreciate her. In working on this note, I noticed that it feels vulnerable to write these things; in our culture we often don’t speak from the heart. But I’m reminding myself that this is just the kind of social risk that can pay off big time, in increased happiness for both her and me.
I can’t quite bring myself to watch her read it, though. I’ll give it to her when I drop her off for her flight.
Today’s happiness quote is from Notes on Bliss:
The greatest gift you can ever give another person is your own happiness.
Today’s TED talk is by BJ Fogg: Forget big change, start with a tiny habit.
Repeat and Recharge
I really enjoyed the process of Interrogating A Fear this week, so I’m going to do that again today. It didn’t magically make my fear vanish in a puff of logic, but simply working through the process still felt liberating.
To recharge, I have a chance to head out to the library for some alone time, and I am going to grab that with both hands. I want to catch up on a little reading and do some thinking about various projects in my life and where I want to go with them.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
I tried a new CBT worksheet today, found on one of my favorite CBT sites: Socratic Questions. Some of my most pervasive thoughts deserve a good, hard analysis. I’m not actually under the illusion that I can permanently dispel my pervasive thoughts, but it’s helpful to have some really good counter-arguments primed and ready for when they arise.
Today I took aim at a common one: I can never get everything done. This is an insidious one because it’s arguably true, and yet packed full of fallacies. I noticed that with my mother-in-law here I’d created a mental list of all the things I would get done, as though having a guest (even a helpful one) would magically increase my productivity. Then when those things failed to be accomplished, I began to feel discouraged about how they would never be done. So today I’m going to pick apart that thought a bit; and then I’ll take the next small step on my project and feel satisfaction from it.
There’s a brief description of this exercise here.
Once a year my mother-in-law visits, so she can spend time with her grandchildren. It’s a not-insignificant trip, and her health isn’t perfect, so spending a week once a year is the most that works well for her.
She is one of the sweetest people I’ve ever met, entirely defying negative mother-in-law stereotypes. It feels natural today to focus my gratitude meditation on her, reflecting on all the qualities that make me glad to have her in my life.
Three Good Things
Mindfulness practice is a good thing. Where in the past I would spend large parts of a day like today snappish and frustrated about everything that crossed my path, I am now much better at realizing my state right up front: I am under-slept and grumpy.
With that in mind, I made the effort to take a walk outside this morning, did a guided meditation to help myself focus better, and got right on my Three Good Things exercise. My three good things for today:
- My friend and I had a good talk about family and friendship and helping out, and both agreed to more easily accept help from each other.
- Yesterday evening the kids and I walked to the park where they met some friends, and I watched my children have a wonderful couple hours of play. There is something magical about evening play outside.
- I found my tuner, which had been missing for over a month. It’s amazing how its absence made me really appreciate getting it back!
Interrogate A Fear
In Mo Gawdat’s Solve for Happy, he spends a chapter on fear, and how it controls us. Sometimes that control is obvious, and sometimes it’s more subtle. But being controlled by fear always incurs a cost. It may be a a material cost, in the choices we make for ourselves, hedging our bets; at the very least there’s a mental cost is worrying about futures that never come to pass.
Gawdat is a proponent of facing our fears in order to liberate ourselves from them. He also suggests interrogating fears using a series of questions:
What is (realistically) the worst that can happen?
If that does happen, so what?
Is there anything I can do to prevent this scenario?
What will happen if I do nothing?
What is the best-case scenario?
Today I’m going to work through this list for one of my fears, and see if I can loosen its hold on me.