Thursday, August 26, 2010

Experiment I: practicing happiness -- UPDATE

Here's a progress report. I made it through the first two days ok... though I fell alseep both times. I'd decided to start with a 5-minute mindfulness session first, to warm up, and then go for happiness.

It was fine, I suppose, but I wasn't as dedicated as I hoped. I had no routine, being in law school orientation and newly moved in, etc.

Then a whole week passed during which I felt guilty about not meditating, instead of actually doing it. Whoops!

Rather than have a sitting-time deficit intimidating me from ever finishing, I've decided to just start over, and this time I have a little routine going, both for it and in general. I also have a proper chair in my room so that I can sit up straight (instead of sitting poorly on a bed and within moments just lying down).

I find the feeling almost overwhelming, during the meditation. So wonderful! I'll detail my methods a bit later when I feel more prepared to explain them. The carry-over affect has been more subtle than it was when I started, say, mindfulness training, and it's coming through in slightly-unexpected ways.

I'll update again in another week or so.

STILL my bday!

Yesterday at Duke's Convocation (read: free booze party), a friend who couldn't make the big party last week wished me happy birthday, and proclaimed that this entire week is still to be considered my birthday.

This might be the longest bday fest yet! Looking at 23 days if we count her proclamation!

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Experiment I: practicing happiness

A year or two ago I realized that I had actually figured out how to be happy. Like, how to go from blasé or even just plain grumpy to a place of downright satisfaction.

The answer, of course, is not through some sort of temporary cravings appeasement or gratification.

The thing is, I only rarely get around to making myself happy like this! Sort of dumb, really. So I'm going to do an experiment, along the lines of an online inspiration of mine, and try to track some of the progress and results here. (tIC does this well, too!)

The Experiment
Every day for the next 30 days I will take at least 10 minutes to practice a form of meditation that we'll call "happiness meditation". Just practicing being content and satisfied! If I miss a day, I'll make it up the next day.

I've found with other meditation that there is a significant flow-on effect, whereby whatever I was practicing while sitting continues to occur over the next several hours. Part is that training the mind during meditation actually works (hence "practice") and part is that I tend to meditate in little 5 or 30 or 60 second intervals even when I don't "have to", if I have been meditating a lot during that general period.

So hopefully I'll be happier overall, as well as occasionally finding myself slipping into bonus meditative periods.

Friday, August 13, 2010

presence: the bday "present" (har har)

Well, dear faithful blog reader(s), let's continue our story. I'm typing this on the road, having driven about 10 of the 16 wheelhours required to move to Duke University for my last semester of law school!

Actually, let me tell you about where I'm staying tonight, because it's pretty awesome. I don't mind long solitary car trips that much at all, except that sometimes I get stiff sitting in more or less the same position for hours and hours and hours. But the scenery is gorgeous, and it's excellent thinking time.

Often I write up a little list of topics to ponder, giving each maybe half an hour. Music off, mind-chatter still, just a nice calm driving meditation.

I wasn't going to make the whole way today, so I decided I'd stay the night at a place sure to be especially gorgeous: West Virginia. Somewhere in central Indiana (a state that took A LONG TIME to drive through) I stopped here

and took a moment to select my lodgings for ce soir. I wanted a motel, just off the freeway somewhere in WV, cheap. Not much is cheaper than the Red Roof Inn. $59.99 for a non-smoking room sounded great.

Then my iphone wigged out on me and I could NOT for the life of me find the place. First I went to the wrong part of Huntington, and really really really had to pee but was instead standing around a parking lot right by the river hearing Travis Tritt in live concert, echoing into the warm August evening hills.

I nearly died several times finding the actual location, so many surprise red lights and sharp turns and piled up traffic! But you know it's going to be good when it feels like a magical trek to get somewhere.

Now, I don't know about you, but when I think "$60/night motel" and "Red Roof Inn" and so on, I don't think "comfort" or "quality". More along the lines of "hopefully serviceable". But let me tell you, there is just so much RIGHT about this place!

First, the guy at the front counter, having fielded some half dozen increasingly-angsty calls patiently confirming the establishment's location, was beaming like an angel when I arrived. Chubby-cheeked Russ, he's a legend. I have never seen so many pearly teeth all smiling steady. Excellent! Happy people!

Courteous people!

Well, the room is massive. Two double beds! And they are very comfy. I'm pretty fucking hardcore as you obviously know, and the first thing I did once I got settled here was do a 90-minute yoga session. Because you know what? This place not only has two beds, a pleather armchair, a desk, drawers and a safe, but it also has PLENTY of room for yoga.

I even could do headstand practice right there, without having to squish or turn to go against a bed or something!

Ok so that was great. Then I needed a shower. Sometimes you sort of resist going into the WC in cheap hotels, fearful of what you might find if you turn on all the lights. This bathroom is small, sure, but NEAT! Floorboards (probably plastic but they look real)!!! And one of those convex shower curtain bars that makes the shower so much more spacious! The soap smelled so good -- SO GOOD -- that I broke off a small piece to use and saved the rest for myself for another day. That's fucking RARE.

Next, the area was so clean that I actually took a bath. I took a goddamn bath in the cheap-ass motel bathroom, and it felt GREAT. Happy bday, self!!! <3 style="font-style: italic;">tasteful decor? (Given the circumstances...)

Maybe I'm delirious from driving so much, and maybe I contracted some sort of fungus or pathogen in the tub and my car is being robbed as I type, but I gotta say that this place is pretty fucking rad.

(Oh, and free wifi, need I even mention!)

A+, Would Lodge Again.

I'll get back to the frozen eggs and so on next time. Maybe. I dunno, ok here I'll just cut to the chase. Frozen eggs (still delicious -- his fridge was on the fritz):

Mushroom hunting with Chuk's quasi-gf:

(They're called "chicken of the woods" and their texture and taste are both IDENTICAL to those of chicken. We had some with dinner.)


This post was pretty indulgent, but I guess that's what you need to be expecting during the Birthday Festival: indulgence.

Stay tuned, and try not to get any (more) neck tattoos in the meantime.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

birthday festival without any packaging

If you're following my twitter, you've been flooded with self-congratulating tweets about all the awesomeness I've been experiencing for my birthday already. My actual bday isn't until the 14th (MARK YOUR CAL NOW, I'LL WAIT, GO DO IT) but as I learned in Australia, it's important to drag these things out from a one-day holiday into a multi-week festival.

Travelling a lot makes this pretty easy.

And as I learned from my estranged-but-still-lovely husband, it's appropriate to give oneself a bday gift as well.

The problem is that I don't like physical items. I have way too much stuff, too many clothes and toiletries and knicknacks and art supplies and decorations and yoga accessories and books and technology items and whatever. Or maybe it's that I have a normal amount but I just dislike having surplusses more than most. Plus I move around a lot and will move again within 6 months and this makes "stuff" unattractive.

What I do like is experiences, food, good company. A few hours playing Scrabble with some mates means more to me than any new clothes ever could. Hahaha this puts my parents at a loss, and in the end they did get me some things.

Well, so, ok, anyone reading this who wants to do something for my bday I'd love to just get a 2-line email, or draw me a picture (!!!), or if you're nearby come hang out for a few hours. That would be SO AWESOME!

Well the festival officially kicked off in New England where I met a dear friend and we had an adventure driving in the rain, getting coffee and yummy sushi, running around some bible college, and petting horses. Here's me with one of the horses later:

It was pretty rad. After sleeping like an angel in a huge comfy room at the horse place, one of my very best pals ever, Chuk, came to collect me.

His family farm is still one of the coolest places on earth, and I got to hang out with some pigs and chickens!

But Chuk doesn't live on the farm anymore. Instead he lives in Squalor. Hahaha. Sorry, love.

Chuk is a carpenter, probably the only Carleton-educated one in all of New England. Way brilliant for his trade.

Chuk: So I'm like a big fish in a small pond?
Me: No, you're like a whale in a bathtub.

See? He's vaulted the ceiling and will soon add three skylights. (The door is the front door, the room is the living room.) It's actually really neat seeing the house come along since I visited last December!

Well, Chuk and I hung out with his housemate and fellow tradie Jason, who plays a mean guitar. He's also a master painter.

I was slugging through some life lessons about expectations and disappointment and these two blokes set me straight, keeping me Present and In The Moment for three solid days. Thanks dudes! Talking about your woman-woes made me forget my man-troubles! Plus we just had a blast hiking around and doing nothing.

This is the best kind of birthday gift.

(Story will continue in a future post, including mushroom hunting and frozen eggs!)