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You Can Tame Your Thoughts with a Mediation Practice

“It wasn’t that she’d found any solutions or experienced any earth-shattering revelations, but the act of observing her looping thoughts seemed to slow them down, until at last they came to a complete stop, and she’d found that for moments of time she thought…nothing.”

Nine Perfect Strangers by Liane Moriarty

Meditation. When my sons were pre-school age, I started seeing a therapist and she urged me to give it a try. I fought against it for years. I wish I hadn’t.

About five years ago, I finally succumbed to peer-pressure, or Facebook advertising, and tried the 7-day free trial of a meditation app called Calm. It changed me. Delighted, I rolled right into the next 30-day trial and have been buying it every year since then.

Making Time for Meditation and Re-Focus

Lately, I’ve fallen away from daily mediation instead of increasing my sit time and I keep getting reminders like this one about why I should re-focus and make time for it.

Peace.

Meditation brings me a few minutes of peace from my looping, anxious thoughts. The instructions that the Calm app gave me were different than any other in that they didn’t ask me to clear my mind or stop thinking. They said focus on something simple, like my breath coming in and out of my chest. Every time I lost my focus, I’d take a deep breath and start again. I hadn’t failed. I had built up a practice. The point was to recognize that my mind had shifted focus and bring it back. The bringing it back was the practice. And I was getting good at it.

I’m a classic “over-thinker.”

It’s actually a sore spot for me. People that point out that I’m overthinking something usually get the nastier of reactions in my repertoire. My thoughts usually run immediately to, “Maybe if more people did SOME thinking, I wouldn’t have so much on my plate to consider!” It bugs me that most people shun any type of thinking, as if those that put time into considering options and the consequences of their actions are just crazy and need help.

I want to do a little justifying myself for a moment. One reason that I overthink some things is that I hate miscommunication. I tend to fly off the handle with people. I’m reactionary. But I don’t want people to think badly of me, so now I try to consider everyone’s point of view and ask a lot of questions. I’m trying to understand. Then people get offended, as if my quest to understand is questioning their choices. I get angry and defensive and then spend more time in my head wondering what I could have done better. How can I do that without asking more questions?! Anxiety builds.

Enter meditation. Like the quote says, I don’t have any blinding revelations while I meditate. What I gain is time.

Meditation has taught me to think in one direction, realize when I’ve stopped, and refocus.

It puts time between my impressions of people and my reaction to the things they do or bring up in me. It has created a space for me to think before I act.

Why do I get up in the Morning? Books!

Books!
That’s why I get up
so damn early in the morning!

Years ago, when my children were small, I developed a habit I still carry with me. It’s grown with time and I still wonder what I’ll do with it. I read books.

I used to wake up every morning, get a cup of coffee, and turn on the tv. I’d watch the news usually. Then I had children. I’d get them a “cup of coffee,” a sippy cup of warm milk with a touch of chocolate syrup in it, and they’d snuggle down on the couch with me and allow me a precious moment to have my coffee and wake up.

As they grew and started sleeping past the crack of dawn, I still rose early so that I could see my husband off to work and grab a bit of peace before the chaos. I’d sit on the couch with my coffee and watch an hour of tv, checking my email and then adding social media while it droned in the background.

In high school and college, I read a lot, mostly horror and sci-fi novels, but some classics for school. As I got older, I stopped making time for reading and with kids…well…I thought I’d never have the peace and quiet I needed to read again.

One day it dawned on me. What if I stopped turning on the tv when I got up in the morning and picked up a book? It started with about fifteen minutes of reading a day, in the wee quiet hours of the morning. I’d stumble out of bed, grab a cup of coffee, and plop myself down with my current read. The moment the kids were up, reading time was over.

As the kids got older, I could read for at least an hour every morning before I needed to start my day. It was a great way to get my mind right. The kids almost always woke up to find me still in the corner of the couch, flipping pages.

These days, I’m typically in my place reading by 5am. I have a whole shelf dedicated to my TBR pile, and don’t allow myself to overflow it. No more space means I must hold off on ordering new books! I’ve kept a reading journal for years, making note of what I’ve read, title, author, and genre, when I read it, and how long it took me to read it. I spend about two hours a morning reading each day. And since we’re down to one “child” in the house that goes to college and works, I have started to build more time into the afternoon to read.

What will I do with all this information? I have no idea. I read a hefty amount of non-fiction: history, science, sociology, etc. I read classic literature and popular fiction. In the past, I think it has helped me think more clearly. Reading has given me a lot of peace, like meditation, it’s good “selfcare” for me. Homeschooling my sons was easier reading about education styles, history of education, and child development books. And now I’m starting to blog more about what I’m reading.

Who knows where I’ll go with it or what it will bring me in the future? Reading is the same as life. The outcome isn’t important. It’s the process; experiencing the moment. I read where my heart takes me and enjoy the time I spend in my books, taking what I need with me and leaving the rest.

Books: Another fine reason to get up in the morning.

When You’re Wrong

“We both know you only get mad when you know you’re wrong.”

Ask Again, Yes by Mary Beth Keane

That’s not true!
Wait. Maybe?
Hold on a minute. (searches through recent arguments) Dammit.

The last argument I started was over closing windows. Yes, you read that right. My husband had the audacity to close the windows and I proceeded to lose my mind. I wasn’t wrong to want the windows open. I wasn’t wrong to be irritated by his response. I was wrong to jump on him about it and then continue a screaming rant about how he ALWAYS does things like this. That’s actually what I was losing my mind about, the fact that I jumped to conclusions and escalated a battle.

When I get really mad, I’m 99% mad at myself. I can’t seem to stop the spiral downward once it starts. I feel the feeling, think the thoughts…and then the words start pouring out before I can stop them. Then I feel like I have to fight to prove why I’m right, to justify my outburst.

In the past, this behavior has gotten way out of control. I wish someone could see inside my head what’s going on when I act like that. It’s like an alter ego has escaped from prison and taken over my mouth. The real me is inside screaming, “Stop! You’re hurting them!”

Recently, as in the last few years, meditation has helped. The idea of “making space” for feelings and watching them pass by helped me change from reacting to responding. A few weeks ago, I was able to walk away from something I knew would trigger me to react. I spent an hour alone, talked to my brother, wrote in a journal, and then came back to respond to the situation in a way that (hopefully) wouldn’t make everything worse.

This last argument didn’t last long, so that was an improvement. The work continues.

How do I Deal With Subconscious Anxiety?

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Photo by Paul Neil on Unsplash

When I was a kid I had vivid and crazy dreams, and when I was under stress I had the most frightening nightmares. It’s been a long time since I had a real nightmare, but this week has brought me a good one.

I was asleep.

Of course, you were!

No, I mean I was asleep in my dream, snuggled down in my bed next to my lightly (this time) snoring husband, feather blanket pulled up around me, teddy bear tucked under my arm. Don’t start with me about Edward Tiberius. He’s not going anywhere and you can’t shame me. I have a right to sleep however I feel most comfortable!

I was sleeping soundly when an alarm clock went off and woke me up (in my dream). I couldn’t figure out what the noise was at first. We have an alarm clock in our bedroom but we’ve never used it. I looked around in confusion until I saw the clock lying on the bathroom floor.

Now, I’m not aware I’m dreaming at this point. I just think it’s rather odd to be jarred awake by an alarm clock we never set laying on the bathroom floor where we do not keep it. I casually pull my blankets back and swing my feet out onto the floor. It’s cold.

I stand in my pajamas and take the two or three steps toward the door of my bathroom. It’s one of those pocket ones, you know? The door pulls shut out of a pocket in the wall. It’s to save space and it does. I can have my laundry basket just inside and the door doesn’t swing into it and mar the old wooden dresser that sits beside it.

I’m standing in the doorway, annoyed by the braying sound of the alarm, but when I reach down to the floor to pick it up, the door quickly slides shut on my arm, trapping me. The light wood of the door shocks me but doesn’t hurt. In typical dreamlike fashion, I’m not scared by it, just confused, but when I try to open it and pull my arm out, it shuts harder and I can’t escape.

Now I’m scared. I turn away from it and call to my sleeping husband across the room. In reality, this man sleeps like the dead. I’m certain nothing will wake him. I’m envious of it. In my dream, I call him over and over again, yelling at him to wake up and help me but he doesn’t budge.

I turn to the door and try again to pull my arm out, the alarm blaring on, but it’s no use. I am stuck and trying to force my arm out is starting to hurt. I keep struggling to get free and calling for help but no one came.

I was crying when I woke up but the feeling didn’t stick and in a few moments, I was falling asleep again hoping I’d remember the dream so I could retell it in the morning.

You have probably already noticed that this was clearly an anxiety dream. I’ve always had them. My dreams typically center around no one coming to help, calling 911 and nothing happens or trying to tell someone something important only to have them turn away or not recognize me. They are always unsettling. Having them again reminds me that I’m struggling now. From the outside, maybe it seems I have my shit together, I may even be fooling myself about my state of mind, but my dreams tell me something different. It’s like a window to a part of me I close off.

We all know where the anxiety is coming from right now and we’re all dealing with it in our own ways. I’m not sure how I’m dealing with it really. One moment I’m a practiced Stoic, like Spock in a crisis. In the next, I’m a blubbering mess and need a hug.

Side note: I meant to type “need a hug” but “need a gun” is what came out. Subconscious slip? Maybe.

I’ve learned over the last twenty years that the best thing to do is wait and see what happens. Making decisions from a panicked state of mind never ends well. It’s not my nature though. I like routine. I feel more comfortable knowing what next week will most likely bring. This “wait and see” shit is not my cup of tea.

My dreams reflect my desire for someone to help me, fix it for me, and return things to normal. I know that won’t happen. I panicked in my dream the same way I feel like I’m holding back panic in real life. If I could dream it again, I’d take a breath and think about what was happening. Nothing was hurting. I was only surprised and scared. I didn’t need help. I could have fixed it myself.

In my meditation tonight, I’ll go back to it and do it again. I’ll visualize the same scene but this time, instead of panicking, I’ll take a deep breath and see what the problem is. I’ll look to my sleeping husband and use his calm state of mind. I’ll push the door back open, pick up the clock and stop the alarm. I’ll set it back on the shelf where it belongs and get back in my bed.

Regardless of what happens, the trick is not to panic. There’s always a way to respond, even if it changes nothing about the situation, it will change me and that’s all I have control over.

Practice at Bringing Things Back into Focus

I think there three kinds of people in this world: reporters, people to report about, and those that haven’t learned to accept who they are. I’m one of the ones that haven’t yet learned.

I don’t want to be a reporter. I’m uncomfortable there, looking into things, finding out what’s going on, jumping into what everyone else is doing, but I’m also afraid to walk away from the crowd. I’m afraid of being alone. I’m afraid that if I’m not out there watching and reporting, I’ll miss out on something important.

I believe that I want to be alone and creating, alone and thinking, alone and at peace with myself. What stops me? Why do I allow the other voices, the ones outside my own head, tell me what it is I SHOULD be doing, what it is I SHOULD be caring about?

I read the book “Essentialism” by Greg Mckeown last year and it began to change my outlook in positive ways. I just added it to my “re-read in 2020” list. Through it, I learned that I can pare down, not just my stuff, but my thinking and my obligations so that I can focus and do my best on what is most important to me specifically.

Everyone is different. Some people need the community, the feeling of being busy, the camaraderie, to be happy. It has only brought me anxiety and confusion. I want to be more outgoing, but it doesn’t serve me. It drains me and leaves little energy for me to create with. From the outside, it may look like I have plenty of time to help you with your project, but I don’t, not without sacrificing my own.

I need more quiet, reflective time, away from outside obligations. I can start by curbing my social media habit. I can’t sit among three hundred conversations and have a clear thought of my own. I’m reacting 90% of my week. It doesn’t feel conducive to creativity.

Funny…I know I’ve complained about this before, very recently. I’m not complaining this time. I’m making observations and (hopefully) adjusting a course. To start, I took the social media buttons off my phone’s main screen. I had to go find the button to open it, remember that I was looking out of habit, and it gave me the space to stop myself. It didn’t last long though. I noticed they were still at the bottom of my “recently used” screen and my brain rerouted the habit through there.

Over the weekend, I took a complete social media fast. That worked well. I just did not look until Sunday evening when I wanted to share something cool. I put the phone away and focused on working in the yard all day on Saturday until I was exhausted. And then Sunday was spent going out to breakfast and then shopping at Costco with my husband. Yes, that is considered one of our favorite dates! We go up and down every aisle just looking at things, laughing, and wondering if we need that or if it’s a good deal. I think we were there for three hours. We’re easily entertained, and we came out with a month’s supply of our favorite foods, a new whiskey to try (they don’t give samples of alcohol, whatever), and some new sheets.

I was feeling overwhelmed and addicted but I willfully chose to do something else than my habit. I didn’t have to make an announcement. I didn’t have to find a way to stop the app from working on my phone. I didn’t have to call in reinforcements to make me stop. I simply chose not to open the apps. I gave myself a goal and I achieved it. One day without any social media turned into two. It was the start of a new habit.

On Monday, I kept the ball rolling by making the choice to only post my article and spend thirty minutes over lunch replying and checking in with friends. Then I put it away. By Wednesday, I was scrolling here and there to occupy myself while I waited and then it snowballed. My time total on Wednesday was over an hour and a half, far less than in the past but still too much. On Thursday, I started first thing in the morning and before noon I was grumpily tapping away responses to people (in my journal, not online) instead of writing anything productive.

It’s Monday now and I’ve refocused once again. I’m looking for a reminder, like a bell when I meditate, that pulls me out of my unconscious habit and brings me back to what I choose to focus on. Like learning to meditate longer and longer, instead of getting angry or frustrated that my mind has wandered, I notice it and bring it back to my peaceful focus. Each time I do, the focus is sustained longer and longer. It’s practice. And practice makes progress.

Lean In To Fear

I checked my email just before dinner last night and there was a cool message (seeming directly at me at that very moment) from Zen Habits.

“What if we could fall in love with the way things are, in this moment?

Try it right now: notice what you’re resisting, what you don’t want about this moment. Maybe it’s stress, maybe it’s uncertainty, maybe it’s pain or anger.

See if you can turn towards it, open up to it, maybe find gratitude about it.  See if you can love it, even a little. Maybe a lot.”

What was I resisting at the moment? What is it that I fear most? Loneliness. Abandonment. When I begin to feel it, even the slightest tremor and react as if I’m being tortured. I reach out to grab something. I text, I call, I scroll through social media. If a text isn’t answered I begin to panic, contriving multiple scenarios about why it isn’t being answered, and in an effort to control the situation, I start a battle that usually ends either with me begging to be forgiven or the other party walking away from the crazy person.

I realized a few years ago that it’s an attention tactic, starting battles with people I love, and that fear triggers it. Yesterday was the first time I leaned into that fear, faced it, and let it wash over me successfully. It wasn’t on purpose. I didn’t plan on doing it. Several things just happened to fall into place at the right moment. And now I find myself sitting here wondering if I can do it again. I want a reminder to look at, something that says “lean in to fear” maybe. Something to remind me that it’s just an emotion and I can survive it. I’ve done it before.

I started test it today. Instead of my typical behavior of texting or scrolling through my Facebook and Instagram feeds when I’m bored, I’m taking a deep breath and naming the fear.

“There is that feeling that fear. I’m alone in this room, but not in the world. And even if I was, so what? I won’t die.”  And then I’m going for a walk, reading a book, working in the yard, or cleaning my house. I’m setting a timer for thirty minutes and doing something even if I might not finish it.

It seems to be working. But I’ve been wrong before. I’ll be wrong again, I’m sure.

The strangest part is that when I am alone, I enjoy it. I was raised in a busy house. I grew up in the city. I worked at amusement parks. I have loving parents, a doting husband, and children that love me. I crave being alone in a room with no one interrupting, responsibilities set aside, only myself to cater to. When the opportunity to be alone presents itself, I jump at it…as long as I have something to do while I’m alone. Drive for hours? Clean the house? Write a blog post? Sure! In the past, working alone was always nice. I could play the music I wanted to hear, focus on my task, get a lot of work done. It always felt good.

The alone I fear is in my head. It’s not being physically alone. It’s the feeling of loneliness, the feeling that no one is out there, no one understands me, or wants to know me. It’s that lack of connection I fear and the reason that social media has been so attractive to me. It’s an instant gratification when that feeling lurks in the back of my mind. At any moment I can go there and “like” and comment. I can post a cat picture and get a response. See? There are people out there. They see me. But it isn’t connection, not really. It’s a false sense of security and it’s become an addiction and a new source of anxiety for me.

It’s not inherently unhealthy. Facebook has been an incredible source of entertainment for me over the years. I’ve made new friends, found old ones, and gotten to know people I would have believed lost forever. Lately though, when I consider walking away, I have panic attacks. If I’m not posting, if I’m not getting likes, if I’m not sharing what I love and what I’m doing, am I really alive? Am I still here? There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t share something. I don’t read articles and think, wow, that was interesting and informative. Instead I think, I need to share this on my wall so everyone can see it. Only sharing can validate my experience, give me the feedback that makes me feel better. If I’m reading a paper magazine (yes, they still exist) I feel like I’m missing out because I can’t share it.

I’ve never been one to cut things completely out of my life. I’m a moderation type of gal, one that likes to work to keep the good parts and overlook the bad, use the positive aspects and leave the negatives on the floor beside the trash can.

There are things I very much enjoy there, and I don’t want to lose those. I think I’ll experiment right now in creating new habits that add so more joy to my life that the negatives get pushed out. What can I do? You know what I’m going to say, don’t you? Spend less time on social media by doing something else.

I’ve taken the buttons down from my main screen so that I have to search them out instead of habitually click. That’s step one. I’ve uninstalled them before. Doing so just caused me more problems than it solved. I am a writer and the world does operate on social media these days. I need to use it, not run and hide in the hills. If my fingers can’t automatically click the icon from my phone’s main screen, it creates a pause between the thought and the action. It works for me.

Step two is to create times when I do see what’s up on my feeds. Over lunch was perfect for me today. I munch on my sandwich while I scroll thru and laugh at all the silliness my friends and family post and then I put it away until dinner time. While I cook dinner will be another time I catch up and then put it away again.

I think that’s enough to work on for one week, don’t you? I wish I knew where this fear came from, but I doubt it would really help anything to drag that out. I don’t care how I got into the ditch; I just need to find a way out of it so I can get moving again.

I wrote a “post-it” reminder and stuck it to my computer and I think I’ll write another and keep it in my pocket all week. I’ll check back in with you guys in a week and tell you how it’s going!

Down Days

“Witness your emotions without acting on them.”

Interesting.

This came up in my meditation app this morning and I wrote it down to remember it.

I’m not having the best of emotions today. I feel pretty damn crappy actually and for no reason at all, which makes me feel worse than if I had something to be unhappy about. I’m unhappy that I’m unhappy and that makes for a pretty shitty day.

Am I acting on them? I’m not sure. I’m not changing anything. I’m not calling to tell people how crappy I think they are. I’m not on social media making the snarky comments I want to make. I’m not canceling all my plans.

I am making myself busy though. I stopped around noon today and thought (as I mindlessly scrolled through social media feeds, one right after the other), “This is a nasty feeling, maybe I should do something about it.”

Or maybe I shouldn’t.

I can’t always be thrilled to be alive. There isn’t always a reason or a trigger for a bad mood. It just is and no amount of tortilla chips and Pepsi is going to make it better (but I did get some anyway, just in case).

I focused on getting busy. I got one corner of my livingroom cleaned up from Christmas. I’m attempting to declutter the whole house and I did mutter “someone just burn it all down and help me start over” as I sorted through the old and broken ornaments. The dishes are done. Dinner is in the crockpot.

Maybe I’ll go for a walk in a bit. Or get me a nice shot of tequila on ice!

I know one thing. Bad moods don’t last forever.

“Lightning…just struck my head.”

I didn’t write my 1000 words this morning, but you know what I did do?

I did my housework in silence. No music. No podcasts. No people talking to me.

I didn’t realize it but my mind was working away at some things and suddenly, in the middle of scrubbing the shower, an idea dawned on me. Pieces of the puzzle called “the real me” came into place and clarity ensued.

Pretty awesome.

It’s Friday, My Friends! Episode #8

So…what to rant about today…it’s Friday! The Friday post is here!

It’s been a nice week. The rain went away, so that made summer a bit more bearable…a small bit. Sometimes I wonder if I’m the only person in the world that hates summer, but I find joyful little things throughout the season anyway, like the fact that we are 1/3 through it and that yesterday it wasn’t cloudy in the basin, but a damp wind was blowing from the south in the morning and it was sweet, like a giant swamp cooler. It smelled nice and kept the morning cooler longer. I finally broke down and turned on the air conditioner after 1pm, when it was 88 degrees in the house. Does that mean I’m getting used to the desert? Am I becoming one of them? One of those freaks that says, “Hey! It’s only supposed be 90 today…let’s go for a walk!”

Thing I learned: #newskill I learned how to use Instagram to promote my blog. And I’ve gained a few followers there this week. Hopefully that might turn into a few readers as well!

Thing I’m reading: “The Last Days of the Late Great State of California” by Curt Gentry, given to me by a friend who loved it when he was in high school. It’s historical fiction, in a sense. The BIG ONE hit and California actually was knocked into the sea and lost forever (that’s the fiction part). The book chronicles what was going on in the state up until the earthquake (that’s the history part). It was written in 1968, so it focuses on the 20’s through the early 60’s and it’s just fascinating to read, mostly because it shows how similar and how different politics and society was back then. Downside? I’ve added several books to my reading list because of it. One about Berkeley and the protest. The other about the LA riots.

Thing I heard: Silence. I’m trying to spend a little more time in silence lately. I need less input for a bit, as you probably have noticed in my last few blog posts. I have started small with not playing the radio in the truck when I’m driving into town. It’s ten minutes of quiet time to think, a bit of meditation on the way to the grocery store. It’s helping a lot.

Thing I want to do: Spend a weekend alone with my sweet husband. I like that guy!

Picture of the week:

This kid gets us to notice things. The sunset was nice so he went outside and sat on the tailgate to watch. I followed. Then Dad. Then his brother and his girlfriend. We sat out there laughing for half an hour. We texted the neighbor and harassed him since we could see him out on his driveway. Hilarity ensued. It was nice way to end the day.

Have a beautiful August weekend everyone!

It’s Friday, My Friends – Episode #7

Day five of the new morning routine. Can she keep it up? I think so, yes.

This week began my least favorite part of living in the desert, Monsoon Season. We may not get much rain out here, but when we do, it’s all at once in the form of large and sudden thunderstorms. It’s actually quite beautiful. Watching the clouds gather and billow up in the southeast, seeing them darken and lower and push further into the desert is a sight to behold. The wind starts to blow, bringing with it the cooler temperatures and the smell of wet creosote. Thunder rolls across the desert in a way you can’t hear anywhere else. A few pattering drops of rain begin to fall and then, CRASH, it all falls at once, dashing across the rocks in the higher hills and racing to lower washes taking everything with it. If you’re curious what it really looks like, check out this video from a couple years ago. Notice the blue sky above? What’s amazing to me is how localized these storms are. One can pass us right by and not leave a drop on my street, but completely drown the next. Watching a storm let loose on the next neighborhood is wild.

Monsoons season is pretty, but the heat and humidity doesn’t agree with me and I can get quite grumpy. During this time of year I tend to be a little more touchy and intolerant, so I have learned to retreat as much as possible. This past week I’ve had to step back from social media just a bit, a spiritual maintenance period. I just need a little less public input. And my family is a little extra sweet to me because they know I’m not comfortable or at my best.

What’s funnier is that I get angry at myself for being such a baby about the heat! The audacity of having to adjust my activities due to weather. It’s just unreasonable. I have things to do. But then, I wonder, wouldn’t it be nice to allow myself to go with the flow of the seasons, since I can? Yard work can go to the way side during the hottest months. Housework can be done early in the day and afternoons could be better spent reading in front of a fan. And I do have a nice air conditioned truck to be in when I go to do the grocery shopping. What is my problem? Refocus and relax my death grip. I am not drowning in humidity after all. Take a deep breath. And watch the storm roll in and wash over us.

Thing I Learned: There are other writers out there struggling with what to write about, or what it is that they write about. A recurring theme in my life has been…what the hell am I doing? I go through a constant cycle of finding a purpose, running with it, finding a hurdle, and then questioning why I started in the first place. Guess what? I’m not alone there. Every thinking person does this. The trick is to not get stuck on the down side, to find the purpose again or a new one more quickly and get on with running with it. I’m notorious for keeping so busy that I can’t think, so some deliberate down time really helps my frame of mind. The past few months I’ve been trying to build time into my day for reflection and am working on doing that more and more. It’s ok not to be busy. Sitting in the yard, doing the dishes quietly, walking around the neighborhood alone or with friends are great ways to jump start my philosophical motor in a positive direction. I need more of that. I’m not healthy when I’m overly busy.

Thing I’m Reading: “Following Muhammad: Rethinking Islam in the Contemporary World” by Carl W. Ernst was recommended as a good start to getting a basic understanding of Islam from the book “Religious Literacy” by Stephan Prothero. I’m devouring this book. Some books on religion are hard to read. They are either over-complicated or over-simplified and condescending and they don’t help me understand the religion or culture in a positive way. This book is very good and I highly recommend it.

“My assumption throughout this book is that every claim about religion needs to be examined critically for its political implications.”

“…governments that wish to eradicate dissent find it convenient to label their opponents as religious fanatics; this relieves governments of the responsibility to deal with legitimate grievances, because their opponents may be dismissed as irrational and incapable of reason.”

These two quotes from the first chapter of the book made me sit up and listen closely to what he has to say. I’m already two-thirds of the way through the book and can’t wait to read the next one on my list about Islam.

Thing I Heard: In my driving adventures this week (something I really need to limit, but then…podcast time) I heard two amazing interviews. The first was Tim Ferriss’ interview with Seth Godin from 2016. Seth Godin had some wonderful and encouraging words that seemed to be just what I needed to hear this week. I listened to it on my way to San Diego and it was so good that I listened to it again on the way home. I obviously can’t take notes while I’m driving, so my hope was that if I listened to it again maybe more of it would sink in. I added one of his books to my Amazon Wish List when I got home and it’s already on its way to my house!

The second was on the Creative Non-Fiction Podcast. Jenny Odell, an author I’d never heard of before now and who’s book is at this minute also on its way to my house, was interviewed on the podcast and I loved every minute. Her creative process resonated with me and boosted my confidence. I love finding that I’m not alone in the universe, that I do fit in just fine here on earth.

Thing I Want to Do: Go to a writer’s conference or workshop this year! I’ve been looking at these for a while now, but when I picture myself there my thoughts take on their usual insecure tone and talk back to me in their snarky way. “It’d be a waste of money. You’re not even a real writer. You don’t even have a college education. Who do you think you are?” Fuck that. I have a plan! I’ll find one or two people that want to go with me, a backup team, or at least a wingman, and go for it. I just need a little emotional support to show up to one of these things. They look fascinating and I can’t wait. In the mean time, I’ll keep up my new daily writing schedule so that when I do go I’ll have something to present as my work!

Picture of the week: The storm in Twentynine Palms, from my house thirty miles away!

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