The other day I mentioned taking walks while listening to Headspace meditations, and the friend I was talking with was puzzled because those are intended for sitting meditation. There is certainly much to be said for sitting meditation, and Headspace has taught me how to appreciate and enjoy it, but walking meditation just feels perfectly designed for me. Sitting meditation feels like using weight machines instead of free weights; it builds capability and endurance, but only in very specific ways that aren't necessarily broadly applicable. Walking mindfully feels like much better practice for moving mindfully through the rest of my life. And I'm always happiest while walking, through a park or through my city.
How to adapt one to the other: Whenever the guiding narration says to rest my focus on the rhythm of the breath, I rest my focus on the rhythm of walking instead. That's it! The rest of the practice is entirely the same.
I've been doing Headspace Pro recently, which is unthemed and includes long periods of silence. Nearly every afternoon, ideally after eating lunch and before the sun gets too low, I go to the little park down the street and walk for 20 minutes or so, very lightly guided by the minimal narration, experiencing the park and the change of seasons and the people and animals that pass by. It's just lovely. I dropped the practice in the summer, because I don't need a reason to get out and walk--I do plenty of it without even trying--and my schedule is often so packed that it's hard to find even 15 or 20 minutes for myself. I expect I'll drop it again next summer for much the same reasons. But I'm so glad to have it for the fall and winter and spring, and I hope to bring FutureKid along with me on many future walks (without headphones in, obvs).
Today I started reading Thích Nhất Hạnh's The Miracle of Mindfulness
. I was looking for his book on walking meditation and couldn't find it, but this was sitting right there (we actually owned two copies). It feels like something I would have nodded along with in the past, but not really viscerally understood. Now that I have an actual meditation practice to link it to, I think I'll get more out of it. In the meantime, it's just enjoyable to read. And it feels so validating to read things like this that both echo my experience and provide gentle direction:
When you are walking along a path leading into a village, you can practice mindfulness. Walking along a dirt path, surrounded by patches of green grass, if you practice mindfulness you will experience that path, the path leading into the village. You practice by keeping this one thought alive: "I'm walking along the path leading into the village." Whether it's sunny or rainy, whether the path is dry or wet, you keep that one thought, but not just repeating it like a machine, over and over again. Machine thinking is the opposite of mindfulness. If we're really engaged in mindfulness while walking along the path to the village, then we will consider the act of each step we take as an infinite wonder, and a joy will open our hearts like a flower, enabling us to enter the world of reality.
I like to walk alone on country paths, rice plants and wild grasses on both sides, putting each foot down on the earth in mindfulness, knowing that I walk on the wondrous earth. In such moments, existence is a miraculous and mysterious reality. People usually consider walking on water or in thin air a miracle. But I think the real miracle is not to walk either on water or in thin air, but to walk on earth.
I'm looking for an exercise buddy who's also doing exercises at home and wants to hang out over Skype or Google Hangouts while we work out together. Not a lot of conversation, just keeping each other company. I can't think of any other way to motivate myself to do my PT exercises, which I really need to do.
I'll be exercising at about 6:30 p.m. Eastern Time on Mondays and Fridays, for half an hour to an hour. If you're interested, leave a comment with your Skype handle or Gchat address. All comments are screened.
All bodies welcome, all exercises welcome. My only rule is no vocally deprecating oneself or others. Expressing frustration: sure! Calling yourself a wimp because you're doing light exercises, or putting down your body: not out loud, please.
I did my week of not reading Twitter, with the exception of my mentions and the very small group of people I follow from my private account. It was awesome.
In fact, it was so awesome that I locked my main Twitter account.
Everyone who was following me still has access to my tweets. If I post something, people see it and respond. But I don't get followed by spammers, and I don't get trolled, and I don't hover over my RT and fave counts, and people can't embed my tweets in their blog posts and articles. It's everything I like about Twitter without everything I don't like. It's perfect
With 5300+ followers, I still think of it as public; of course anything I tweet can be screenshotted and passed around, and I have no idea who many of those followers even are. But I can still relax and unwind a little. I also took my professional affiliation out of my bio. That account is just for me now. In theory it always was, but in practice it was very hard to separate personal and professional. Locking it makes that separation clear.
I'm still not reading most of Twitter. (I glimpse it occasionally via my phone's Twitter app, because Tweetdeck on Chrome for Android is deadly slow and checking my mentions on the app is much faster.) I know there are things I'm missing. For example, I didn't hear about Ferguson Is the Future
until after the fact, and it sounds incredible. But even if I had heard about it well in advance, I wouldn't have been able to go. So I mostly don't feel bad about missing the news and gossip, because I wouldn't be able to do much with it anyway. And when I'm itching for a conversation, I start one.
I am sad about missing milestones in my friends' lives. But there's no way to filter Twitter for only those things, unfortunately, and I can't really expect people to remember to tell me everything individually in addition to broadcasting it. I guess I'll just have a lot of catching up to do once I'm ready to be social again.
What I'm doing with all this free time and brainspace:
Catching up on work. I'm taking a week off from work in October, which means I need to start working ahead now. And our annual Best Books feature is coming up alarmingly soon.
Reading books! I read a book last week and another one last night and another one tonight. I don't think I read three books in the entire month of August. It feels so wonderful to be gulping down books again.
Thinking a lot about my own book, and tentatively moving toward working on it again. I figured out how it ends! That was a huge relief, and knowing the ending removes a lot of my hesitation and anxiety around the actual writing.
Snuggling with J and X and X's belly (there are very definitely 3.5 of us now). Doing relationship maintenance, and savoring our last months of adults-only time. Getting the house ready for the baby. Being cozily domestic.
Cooking. It's cooking weather and I can't wait to cook up lots of soups and stews to freeze for January, when we'll have a tiny baby and be too exhausted to safely handle knives or fire.
Walking all over the city, loving the cool breezes. (Autumn at last, at last.) Going to PT. Trying to get back in the exercise groove.
Spending time with family and close friends. It's the high holidays and there's a baby shower coming up and J's mother is in town and lots of other people are visiting in the next few weeks. I don't lack for socialness right now, which makes it much easier to step away from social media.
I might even start knitting again. Today at work I spotted a book of one-skein knitting projects for babies. It literally had not occurred to me until that moment that the entire vast realm of cute baby knitting projects is open to me now. So that could be a huge timesink if I let it. I'm very tempted to let it.
There are definitely times when I feel like I ought to feel guilty for the way I'm using Twitter now. It's arguably very selfish of me to tweet things and hope for replies while not even reading most other people. But I don't feel guilty at all about this generally being a very inward-facing time for me. Everyone needs to focus on self and/or home sometimes. I'll come back when the pendulum swings the other way. By then some folks may have unfollowed me or otherwise moved on; that happens. And other folks will say "welcome back!" and pick up where we left off; that happens too. It's all fine.
- thinking about:
body.exercise, experiences.reading, experiences.work, food, food.cooking, mind.wiring, people, people.groups, people.groups.twitter, people.kit, places.home, projects.crafts, projects.crafts.knitting, words.books.valour advances, words.writing
"My arms aren't that
sore, I can totally go to the gym and work with a new personal trainer," I said on Monday.
"Ow, ow ow
ow," I said on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday.( Arms blah )
Other than my perennially cranky limbs, my health's been very good. I've been moving around enough to keep my knees happy. I don't remember the last time anyone in the house had so much as a cold. My ears are being very well behaved. I have a weird ongoing thing where it sometimes feels like food is caught in my throat, but my ENT checked it out and says it's just congestion.
I finally went to a decent allergist (after years of thinking I should) and learned that I'm allergic to roaches and dust mites; we don't have roaches but we do have a lot of dust, given all the books and all the cats, so I guess that's a good reason to change my sheets weekly, have the sainted Angela over to clean the house monthly, and maybe get an air purifier for my room. I could also get allergy shots but there's no guarantee they'll help, I hate injections, and it just seems like more than I can emotionally cope with right now. Ask me again when I've slept.
Still not caught up on sleep post-RWA. Hoping to fix that this week.
=====( Being good partners )
J went out of town for a week. Every day he was gone, Alex got more and more vocal and unhappy and lonely and affectionate. When he came back Alex glued himself to J and would not leave his side until J went to bed and shut the door. Then Alex plunked down sadly outside J's room, looking woefully at me every time I walked by. Apparently he has decided that he's J's cat. J wasn't consulted about this but doesn't appear to be displeased. He still gets to pick our next cat. :)
The cats are generally getting along very well. There's still occasional chasing and swatting and hissing, but you know, they're cats. Sam and Sophie generally hang out on X's bed all day, grudgingly managing to get within a foot or two of each other. Alex sleeps in my room at night, up on top of the dresser; Sam sleeps on my bed or windowsill.
We still have no idea how they'll all react to the appearance of a baby. We'll figure that out when it happens, I guess.
=====( Baby prep )
And because I totally needed a new side gig while all this is going on:
Introducing Reading While Cooking
and I are collaborating on this literary and culinary advice column. Submit a request with your preferences and restrictions, and we'll recommend books and recipes for you. The first post went up today
and we plan to do at least one a month, maybe more.
We're very grateful to the people who have put requests in our queue, since we couldn't really do an advice column without people who want advice. If you want some tasty things to read and eat, send us a request
It's the first time I've tried using Patreon; so far we have one backer who's pledging a whole $2 per post. :) But it's a start. If we're not profitable by the end of the year, we'll probably consider the project a glorious failed experiment--as so many books and recipes are--and move on to something else. In the meantime, we're having fun.
- thinking about:
behavior.being useful, behavior.love, behavior.planning, body.allergies, body.arms, body.exercise, body.hands, body.health, body.pain, body.sleep, body.strength, experiences.annoyances, experiences.marriage, experiences.work.freelance, food, food.cooking, people.cats, people.josh, people.kit, people.xtina, places.home, projects, projects.reading while cooking, stuff.books, stuff.tech
Readercon is like my New Year's, in that I say "After Readercon I will totally go low-carb again/get to bed on time/start going to the gym/start meditating again/stick to my daily and weekly schedule". So far I've been doing pretty well on the sleep, and Wednesday and today I went to the gym (trying to get in the M/W/F habit), and yesterday I started Headspace over from day one. I'm still catching up on work but determined to really get and stay on track, and good sleep at good hours is helping with the scheduling. I also ate pasta for dinner and half a bar of chocolate for dessert, so I remain an imperfect human being. It was really tasty and I regret nothing.( Pumping iron, with numbers )
I'm doing Headspace as walking meditation, or on the exercise bike on gym days, so that gets me out of the house and moving around every day. The three of us are also going to try to get in the habit of post-dinner walks on family dinner nights. Yay, solidarity in fitness. :)
So far I think the exercise and meditation is making it a lot easier to calmly wind things down and go to bed when it's bedtime. I have not played a video game in over a week, which is pretty major. I've only had a couple instances of opening Twitter or leaving it open well after I'm supposed to be asleep. Setting up my new phone led to a couple of days of my alarm not waking me (my "sleep" profile in Profile Scheduler+ was blocking alarms, oops), so I've been very well rested if also somewhat late. :) I just need to stay on track.
- thinking about:
behavior.accomplishments, body, body.arms, body.body clock, body.exercise, body.legs, body.pain, body.sleep, body.strength, events.cons, events.cons.readercon, food, food.nutrition, food.nutrition.carbohydrates, stuff.games, stuff.games.video games
Today was a fucking epic rockstar day.
1) I slept. Not a ton, but it was good sleep and I got up feeling well-rested.
2) I did every single thing on my to-do list plus two things I had forgotten to list, and every part of the day that was about timing went like clockwork.
3) I bought plane tickets for the London trip!
4) I went to lunch with zia_narratora
, and ate spicy curry, and my ear unblocked! And the curry was yummy and the conversation was too. Tea is such a lovely person.
5) I had exactly enough time for a haircut between lunch and workout, and Yelp led me to a great barbershop. My head is finally fuzzy again! Five weeks between haircuts is really way too long.
6) At my workout I did PUSH-UPS. And TRICEPS DIPS. And they felt so good that I did them again. And I still had enough arm afterwards to high-five Chelsea, the awesome trainer I've been working with. (I also had a less fun moment when I was doing a lot of core work, which means tensing my abs--those very same abs that I have carefully taught myself to deliberately relax as an antidote to panic attacks--while leaning against a balance ball. Being literally wobbly amplified the emotional wobbly and I had to take a breather. Chelsea was lovely and brought me water and then stepped out of the room so I could center myself. I sat there and thought, Well, I have paid $85 to have this studio for an hour, and if I want to spend 20 minutes of that hour crying I can do that. But I don't think that's how I want or need to spend that money and time, so let's keep going.
We did and it was just fine. So I call that a net win.) Chelsea even gave me homework, so I can keep working out my arms in between sessions. I cannot even explain how exciting this all is. I never thought I would do another push-up, ever. Today I did thirty of them! From the waist, not full-plank, but still. Tremendous.
7) I edited 4000 words of the book I'm working on.
8) "At some point I must try Julia Child's chicken waterzooi," I said
, and tonight I did, since J and X and I were dining with friends who weren't interested in fish. The creaminess of it reminded me of many years ago when Mi Cucina on Hudson & Jane was a good restaurant and served utterly sublime pollo y rajas con crema with wonderful crispy cubes of potato (if there's a name for those in Spanish, I don't know it), so crispy potatoes became our side dish. We drank Thomas Henry chardonnay
, with which I promptly fell in love--glorious notes of caramel!--and sopped our bowls with French bread and it was very, very good.( Crispy potatoes )( Chicken waterzooi )
Both recipes supposedly serve four, so we doubled them. They just barely served six. Fortunately the waterzooi is intensely rich and we had bread as well as potatoes, so no one went hungry.
(recipes crossposted to omnomnom
Afterwards we went out for gelato. I am so full, my goodness.
Many thanks to our hosts d_aulnoy
(who shopped) and schrodingersgnu
(who helped with cooking) and our dining companion vschanoes
(who cleaned), all of whom made delightful conversation as we stuffed ourselves. What a marvelous evening.
9) I briefly entertained the Gnubaby and felt only somewhat awkward and at a loss. This is an improvement over my usual interactions with babies. I am not a native speaker of baby, but X is planning to have one in a couple of years, so I'm taking every opportunity to learn. (This is an extra reason why I'm really looking forward to hanging out with my friends in London who are parents, and especially the poly parents.) The Gnubaby was getting a bit tired-cranky, but I distracted him by tapping his shoulders in waltz time, which worked very well. d_aulnoy
says we can come over and practice baby anytime we like, and I think we may take her up on it once X is out of crunch mode at work and J and I are done traveling.
10) On the way home, J and X helped me sort out some of my feelings about charging for advice. More on that in another post.
11) I brushed the cats and now they are all sleek and soft. Well, Sam was already soft, but now she's softer. Java's getting lazy and arthritic in his old age and he doesn't always crane his neck all the way around to lick his back, so he gets mats there sometimes, and I like to brush them out. He tolerates it. Sam doesn't need the brushing, but she loves it and boofs the brush and purrs like a Harley and is all cuddly after. They are such good kitties.
And now I have stayed up far too late reading the archives of "Scandinavia and the World" because I sent the link to schrodingersgnu
, so I will feed the kitties and pass the out.
- thinking about:
behavior.accomplishments, behavior.planning, body.arms, body.ears, body.exercise, body.hair, experiences.joy, experiences.socializing, experiences.travel, experiences.work.freelance, food, food.cooking, food.cooking.potatoes, food.cooking.stew, food.cooking.stew.waterzooi, food.drinks, food.drinks.wine, food.recipes, mind.wiring, mind.wiring.anxiety, people.cats, people.children