Finding peace in a frantic world

West Fork Trail, Oak Creek, Sedona, Arizona

West Fork Vista, Oak Creek, Sedona, Arizona

“I want to be able to live without a crowded calendar. I want to be able to read a book without feeling guilty, or go to a concert when I like.”
Golda Meir

Golda Meir, Prime Minister of Israel for ten years and active in public service all of her life was described as strong-willed, straight-talking, gray-bunned grandmother of the Jewish people.

She used to say it was a blessing to be born plain; that the pretty girl had a handicap to overcome, because people saw the beauty first, not the person. She also mentioned the lament of all working mothers: when you are at work, you feel guilty about your children at home; when you are home, you feel guilty about the work left behind.

Time, then, is precious. But time to do what? For Golda, it was time to read a book whenever she wanted, or to attend a concert. I like to think a walk in nature may be the very best use of time ever, but reading a good book comes in a close second!

When we are doing what we want to do, whether it is spending time with our children or pursuing a hobby with passion, time slows down to accommodate us. It obligingly stretches and conforms to the task at hand, giving our creativity not only time, but space as well, so that true joy can be expressed.

How would YOU spend your time, if you had enough to do exactly
what you wanted?

 

 

The sounds of silence

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Noise is on my mind recently. I’m convinced that we endure too much of it in honor of our existence here on earth.

Sometime it is the raucous chatter of politicians or the screech of advertising pushing aside real words to gain our attention for the mundane. At other times, it may be the scream of fire engines down the street or the roar of the motorcycle taking off.

When this happens too often, we dial down our senses and become numb to our world.

Let me give you an example:

For the past three weeks, city crews have been replacing the sewer lines in front of my house.

And then replacing the water lines and storm drains.

And tearing out the sidewalks with big dozers so that they can be replaced with NEW sidewalks.

When I asked the crew chief how old the sidewalks were they were replacing he replied, “Older than dirt.” I feel a kinship.

Each morning I set the alarm early so that I can dash out and move the car in order for it not to be blocked by the construction. Each day’s construction begins at precisely 7:04am with the beep-beep of yellow machines determined to disintegrate my solitude. Enormous tamper machines vibrate the very foundations of my home.

A blogging friend, Coffee Kat, writes a post about diminished hearing and I can totally relate.

One of my cats hides under the coffee table, seeking asylum from the noise and commotion. The other one sleeps through it all.

Today, though, all was quiet, except for one small bulldozer pushing dirt around aimlessly, like a kid on a playground after everybody goes home. For the first time in weeks, I could hear my refrigerator gurgle. I could catch snippets of my neighbor’s radio playing. A cardinal sang in the tree outside my window. Real sounds, at normal decibel levels. Pure bliss.

Then the noise began again. A man pounded orange stakes in the ground outside my front window to mark where the new sidewalks will be poured. He says the crews will lay the foundations tomorrow, and the cement trucks arrive the day after.

I feel rebellion setting in. I yearn to flee to the tiny Greek island of Budelli, where the caretaker has lived, alone, for 28 years, listening to the sounds of silence. What would that peaceful calm feel like, I wonder?

We need silence in our lives in order to function as human beings. As Wordsworth once wrote,

 …Again I hear
These waters, rolling from their mountain-springs
With a soft inland murmur.—Once again
Do I behold these steep and lofty cliffs,
That on a wild secluded scene impress
Thoughts of more deep seclusion; and connect
The landscape with the quiet of the sky.

 

Without silence and solitude, our souls wither and our spirit diminishes. We begin to tune out what is really important to us. We don’t live, we merely walk around.

 

Has this ever happened to you? What was the noisiest situation you’ve ever encountered?

 

I wish you a very quiet day!

 

Connecting with the physical

 

Légumes

Légumes (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’m a mind girl. Most of my life my brain has directed how I do things, where I go, what I eat, when I sleep. That worked fine when I was twenty, or even thirty. Now, it causes me problems, sometimes.

Having a long weekend with not a lot going on, I tried an experiment. I would pay attention to my physical being, I would listen to what my body was telling me.

The parameters:

1) I’d keep taking the meds the docs prescribed. Always a good idea.

2) I’d switch from coffee to tea. Since this was only for 48 hours, I didn’t want to battle caffeine withdrawal, but at the same time I wanted to be mindful of what I was drinking.

3) To quiet my mind, I planned to do meditation. But in short bursts. Twelve minutes, four times a day. Why twelve? Ten seemed too short and fifteen too long. Hey, it’s my experiment, I get to make the rules. 🙂

4) Yoga and stretching in the morning. That wasn’t new. A walk in the afternoon. That was. I wanted to challenge my belief that “if I didn’t exercise in the morning I never would.”

5) Switch from my journal on the computer to a long-hand version. This would tap into a part of me that my faster brain didn’t always access.

5) And the big one, eat only rice–as much as I wanted–and lots of water.  I wanted to examine my “mental cravings” and concentrate on eating only when I was physically hungry. Having a monotonous , short-term diet seemed a good way to do this. At the end of the weekend, I would to return to a healthy, balanced diet.

I’d keep my normal routine of household chores and weekend errands. A monk I am not.

My discoveries:

1) I didn’t make it the whole two days on the diet. I’d gone to the farmer’s market the Friday before, and there were peaches sitting on the counter, tantalizing me with their aroma. About two-thirds of the way through day two I gave up on rice with salt/pepper, rice with cinnamon, rice with Herbs Provence, and sat down to a delicious baked potato, heirloom tomatoes, organic cucumber slices, and snow peas. But I appreciated the melange of textures and the explosions of wonderful color more since I’d been away from them.

And I find I am more mindful of what I eat later in the day. I found I craved crunchy things. But maybe I can substitute carrot and celery sticks for the chips with cheddar cheese. 🙁 Well, most of the time, anyway.

2) I found I didn’t miss the coffee. I liked the variety of teas–green, Assam, oolong, English Breakfast, Earl Grey. The heating of the water  and doling out of tea leaves was a pain, though. I’m used to my automatic coffee pot. I foresee another gadget on my Christmas list!

3) The Yoga/stretching was valuable. I walked one day and found I skipped the next. But on the day I walked, I slept much better. I might try seeing if I can incorporate more of this into my regular routine.

4) Journaling was so-so. I’ll probably go back to the faster way on the computer. My fingers thanked me.

5) The biggest surprise was the meditation. interspersing meditation throughout the day allowed me to observe the thoughts running through my head and let go of some of them. Early on in the weekend, my thoughts were from unfinished business from the work week. Later on, I would concoct elaborate menus of amazing foods–until I let go of these, too, and just meditated. Last to leave were my writing ideas, including this blog entry: What would I say, how would I say it.

But even in 15 minute bursts, I found after the initial flurry of mental activity, my mind would quiet. I became calmer, happier, more able to slow down time during the rest of the day. I want to incorporate this practice within my regular daily routine.

So…it really didn’t take that much more time than my regular weekend pursuits. Since I wasn’t cooking, I had time left over to meditate. I gave up some reading time to go walking, but I still found time to read later in the evening. I was able to let go of work and enjoy the sound of an early morning serenade by a canyon towhee, and the glimpse of a crescent moon rising.

Will I do this mini-retreat again? I think so. But in addition, I’m going to add some of the things I learned to my every day living patterns. Always a good idea to take care of ourselves!