Digital De-Clutter Update: Week 1

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The good news: Instead of trolling Facebook, I’m reading Homer.

The bad news: I’m still sneaking into news feeds.

But here’s the thing: Instead of wallowing and rolling in that dirt for hours, I’m now getting in and out as fast as possible so I don’t get “caught” hanging out in there.

And as nuts as that sounds, and as nuts as it is, it’s working.

I’m getting back at least 2 or 3 hours a day to do stuff I can really control. And that feels incredible. Two to three hours a day. Think about it.

Plus, my mind doesn’t feel all polluted with garbage I can’t control. It feels clearer to work on things I can control.

(See above reference to Homer.)

My Findings So Far

1. Facebook and Instagram are not addicting for me. I can check in once a day for 10 minutes or so, and get off. No problem. I could go a few weeks without missing either.

2. My addiction is news. First, online news in the form of the Times and the Post. Then, Twitter. I am really jonesin’ for both.

At the end of this experiment I am going to fall back into the arms of both of these bad-boys, for sure. I know it.

But I think what I’m learning now, is that my problem isn’t news, it’s when I consume the news.

My peak hours of cognitive productivity are from 10 to 2, so if I give any of those hours to news reading, I’m giving my best hours away.

If that’s prime time, I definitely shouldn’t let news in there anymore. So now I know: News and coffee first thing are a no-no.

Somebody in yoga told me she reads all her news feeds at night before bed. That would be okay, except for the small matter of sleep. I would never get any if I did that.

I remember my father read the newspaper, in his chair, before dinner. But I don’t have that kind of a life. It can’t be during primetime, and it can’t be too late at night.

Something I have to work out.

In the 2 to 3 hours a day I was able to save by not reading news, I read The History of Love by Nicole Krauss. A-mazing.

I also read another novel, not as good, but decent, called The Yoga of Max’s Discontent by Karan Bajaj.

Now I’m sailing into The Odyssey, a new translation, and the first translation by a woman.

This feels good and right. The struggle is still real, though, I cannot lie. Proof? I bought the Wolff book. It’s a book, right??

How I Spent my Self-Designed Summer

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I freakin’ nailed it. Best summer in a very long time. When I heard the drums of Autumn (the marching band practicing), I was not the slightest bit queasy.
So, if you’ll remember, my problem going into summer was this: Since time seems to speed up in the summer (and I love summer so much and never want it to end) how could I slow it down?
My strategy consisted of:
Mindful Mondays (which included:)
*Intermittent fast
*Severe limits on screen time
*Double meditation time
Plus:
Champagne Thursdays
Photo-A-Day
and
Read fiction
And it worked. It totally worked. I am astonished that it took so little to make me so happy. I noticed the wildflowers (and took pictures of many of them).
I paid attention to my rhythms, especially hunger and satiety (intermittent fasting was great for that). I scheduled time for self-indulgence (Champagne on the deck every  Thursday after yoga, and long afternoons spent reading novels in the hammock).
Now all my needs for relaxation and rejuvenation and fun have been met in spades and I am going into this next season feeling generous and ready to take on new projects and challenges.
Now, what to do about Fall and Winter? Could I do the same thing? Could I design those seasons too, and make it so they don’t seem to drag and feel so dreary? Is there anything I could do, any rituals I could perform to prevent Fall and Winter from killing this nice summer fire?
I do know that all my deepest thinking and reading and creating happen in the fall and winter, and I do love and appreciate the deep interiority of winter, but I also hate not feeling sparkly and energetic a lot of the time, particularly in January and February. If there were only more daylight hours to play in, or at least more bright sunlight in those days, that would help a lot.
But the reality is that I’m not going to move from the cloud belt of northern PA this winter, so I need a…I almost said “survival plan” but what I actually need is a “sur-thrival plan.” Survival isn’t the issue. The issue is how to thrive, and flourish, and appreciate, and get important work done, and nurture relationships, and have a whole lot of fun doing it?
I’m wondering if there’s a way to blend fun and sparkle into introspection and interiority?
I’m challenging myself to come up with a plan. Stay tuned.
Do YOU do anything specific to ease the transition from summer to fall?  Do you have any habits or rituals or ways of motivating yourself? Tell me in the comments. I’d really, really appreciate it.

The Novelty of Reading Novels Has Worn Off

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First novel: Depressed woman locks herself up with hawk. (H is for Hawk)

Second novel: Blind girl and her father flee Nazis carrying a diamond. (All The Light We Cannot See)

Third novel: Fat boy tries to lose his virginity during the bloody reign of Trujillo in Dominican Republic. (The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao)

Fourth (and current) novel: 2 guys try to defeat Hitler and get rich writing comic books. (The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay)

Literature-wise, it’s been quite the summer. I went into this novel-reading project in an effort to escape time, and it’s worked.  But..

I’m not happy.

Of all my strategies to slow down time this summer, this has been the hardest and, psychologically, the most uncomfortable.

It’s not been hard to read. Hell no. It’s been easy to dive in and and become immersed. It’s been easy to succumb to the captivating artistry of first-class storytellers, to live for long stretches in their  virtual worlds. It’s been easy to while away weeks of afternoons in the hammock, swaying to the mind-music of literary virtuosos. It’s been pure heaven in a lot of ways. It’s reminded me of the Nancy Drew summers of my youth..

And it’s not been hard psychologically because all these novels have been a bit on the gloomy side. No. It’s really not that.

It’s totally because of me, and the the way I am.

I can’t seem to drown out the voice in my head that says that this novel-reading time might be better spent reading about neurobiology, and about what motivates people, and how to achieve mastery, and how to get into flow, and how (maybe) technology can take us there, or (maybe) not.

I keep staring at this pile of books that’s been accumulating on my shelf for the last 6 months or so.

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These are the kinds of books that I attack with a pen in a my hand and an open notebook at my elbow.

These are the books that I scribble in, underline, and argue with. These are the books whose ideas I try to articulate and practice in my notebook to see if I’ve really understood them. These are the books that help me with the stuff I wonder about in the shower, and when I’m driving, or planning a yoga class. These are the books that completely jazz me.

In comparison, novel reading feels like polishing off a pint of gelato with a spoon while binge-watching Orange is the The New Black. So,so gooooood. So deliciously fun.

But now?

Now I feel it’s time to steam up some broccoli and brown rice.

So today I made a decision. I am going to finish Kavalier and Clay, and for the remainder of July, dig into this non-fiction pile. I’ll return to novels when I go to the beach later this summer, and then again when I have to fly to the West Coast.

It was a good plan, this reading project. Time has definitely slowed down in a very good way.

 

Who Cares?

“Who cares?”

“So what?”

These are the questions that have derailed me every time I got to the point where I was ready to put my work out there. I’d read my stuff and get the sinking feeling that it was all bullshit. “Who the hell cares? So what?” I’d ask myself.

And then I’d quit.

Knowing this was my MO, I had to create some kind of strategy to de-fang these questions so they wouldn’t poison my progress this time.

I thought of the Simon Sinek TED talk my friend Anthony David Adams turned me on to a while ago, and I watched it again, and then ordered the book.

Start With Why is my “warm-up read” these mornings.

To read is to prime the pump, to tune my ear to word-music, to align my mind with how ideas look in print-space. After an hour of reading, I am ready for the pen or the keyboard.

Sinek says to start with “Why?” Why are you writing? Why do you do anything? He says people don’t care what you do, or how you do it. People care WHY you do it.

If you can articulate your WHY, you will attract the people who believe what you believe, and these are your people. They’re your readers if you’re a writer; they’re your customers if you’re in business. These are your allies, your tribe, the people you influence, help, support, and care about.

I got to my Space Chair by 9 and worked on this question doggedly with the pen.

What is my Why?

Answer: To help. This, first and foremost.

I have felt the nauseating indecision of not knowing where to direct my energy.

I have waited for someone to call my name, to anoint me, to identify my vocation for me, which was a complete and utter mistake.

I believed I wasted precious time doing crappy jobs. (There is no such thing as wasted time, and even crappy jobs show us the way.)

Then I found a better way, a different strategy. And it worked for me, and I think it might work for other people, too. It’s not complicated. It’s not earth-shatteringly original, but it’s fun, and interesting, and it will result in increased self-knowledge, if nothing else.

During today’s scribble I discovered that it is easier to describe my WHY when it comes to teaching yoga than it is for writing. But I also learned that the writing and the yoga teaching are intimately linked.

It turns out I do everything for the same WHY. My vehicles may change, but my WHY is always the same: to help.

Sanibel Bound

Tomorrow we go to Sanibel Island, Florida.  Never been there. It’s supposed to have good shells.

I am looking forward to sitting under an umbrella, my toes in the sand, the sound of the surf in my ears, and reading voraciously, and then staring out at the horizon with equal absorption.

I am looking forward to being warm, and floating in blue water.

I am looking forward to walking on the beach.

I am looking forward to getting out of my routine.

I am looking forward to diving into books, and writing with a pen, and thinking onto paper.

I am looking forward to being quiet, and talking to G, and riding bikes, and sleeping, and eating seafood.

I am looking forward to exploring a new place.

I am bringing Resilience (which I am almost finished), Start With Why, The Power of Small, and Euphoria.

We shall see what gets read.

Yesterday  my daughter and son-in-law put a bid on a house, and today that bid was accepted. It is a sweet house bordering green-space with extensive bike trails. I am so happy for them. Tomorrow is Em’s birthday and this could not be a better present.

Tonight in Gentle Yoga I confessed what happened with my Apple Watch last night. I took the watch off and marched it over to the other room to the cheers of my class.

It had to be done.

Technology is wonderful, and magical, and helpful, and fun, but it is also intrusive and disruptive and a distraction in a yoga space.

There is a time and a place for everything, right?

(Right.)

What are you reading these days?

One of the things I love most about G’s dad, Owen, is his love of reading. He always has a book going and when he is not out fishing, or fixing something in our house, or making a run to the dump with G (all things that happened this morning) he is on the couch engrossed in a book (he loves thrillers and mysteries). I think he must go through a book a week.

When I see him reading, I feel like it gives me permission to curl up with my own book for awhile. And I just love that.

As I child, I was an avid reader, but reading wasn’t encouraged. When my mother “caught” me reading, she would yell about all the stuff I should be doing instead: cleaning my room, washing the dishes, vacuuming, mowing the lawn.

Reading was goofing off, being idle, doing nothing. So I had to fit my reading in at night or when she wasn’t around.

(My mother was an idiot. Clearly.)

My daughter is a reader. So is my son-in-law. If I give them a Powell’s gift card for their birthdays, they are in heaven.

These days I see more people messing on computers or phones than reading books. When I mention the books I am reading, no one tells me about the books they are reading. I just have to assume that they don’t have a book going. It’s okay I guess, but I really miss talking about books.

I should start a book group. I have seriously thought about it. It would be have to be a group that likes to read the same kind of stuff I do, though, which is mainly non-fiction about finding your passion, peak performance, the search for self, navigating uncertainties, developing focus, and inspired leadership.

I should really do that. Put something out on Facebook. See who responds. In the fall, maybe.

When summer comes though, I like to take a break from all the non-fiction and lose myself in novels. So I am asking for some recommendations. What should I read this summer? No junky fiction, please. Last summer I read The Goldfinch, The Bees, and The Signature of All Things. I am looking for fiction of that ilk. Great fiction. The new Haruki Murakami isn’t coming out until August, so I need something NOW.

Suggestions? Please?

How To Own The World

The Healthy and the Focused are going run the world. They will be the only ones who will be able to. Who else will be able to run companies and businesses, create art, make breakthroughs in science and technology? Who else will innovate?

In addition, the Healthy and the Focused will  be the only ones able to parent healthy and focused kids, who will then become the next generation of world leaders and dominators.

Think about it: If you are always sick (and the population in general is getting sicker and sicker—hello Type 2 diabetes!) you won’t be able to work consistently, reliably, or well.

If you are unhealthy you won’t even BE at work half the time because you’ll be in bed, or running to doctor appointments all the time. And whenever you DO manage to drag your sorry butt to work, you will probably suck at it because you’ll be so depleted from being sick. You will have no energy and you won’t be able to think clearly. You will be nothing but a barnacle, a parasite, a worthless burden to your employer.

If by some miracle you are able to hold on to that job, good for you. But terrible for any enterprise that depends on your work, because your work will be miserable. Like you.

But say you are relatively healthy, but your problem is that you can’t stay focused long enough to get your work done. You have the attention span of a gnat. You spend all day putting out little brush fires, or dealing with office politics, or doing other tangential minutia–work that doesn’t ask that you sit down, focus, and try to solve a problem.

Lots of people think that focus isn’t a skill that needs to be learned and cultivated. Lots of people think that they can just make up their minds and do it: 1, 2, 3—Focus!

But this is a fairy tale. Focus is something that has to be cultivated. Like big muscles. You can’t have killer biceps if you don’t lift heavy things. You can’t focus on a job and stick to it unless you’ve trained your brain through meditation, or yoga, or even reading.

I read a great piece this morning called, “Why can’t we read anymore.” The answer?  Because we are addicted to the dopamine hit we get from social media and email. We are addicted to distraction.

The writer of this piece was bemoaning the fact that he himself only read 4 books last year, which is ironic because he curates 2 websites about public domain books, and making print and ebooks, and he even wrote a book about the future of books.

But even he has fallen under the spell of Facebook and Twitter and email because those sites give him a big dopamine hit of The new! The shiny! The exciting!  But he is also smart enough to know that this is the path to slavery and despair and he is now setting some boundaries around his media consumption to free up more time to read.

He quotes Werner Herzog as saying: “Those who read own the world, and those who watch television lose it.”

I live in a place where the diabesity epidemic is everywhere I look, and I am worried. Cops, fire-fighters, clerks in stores, cooks in restaurants, people who make the goods and services I consume and depend on, may all be sick and distracted most of the time.

Yikes. I hope I don’t have a heart attack or a fire. I cross my fingers that the chef in my favorite restaurant isn’t germing up my food. I hope the mechanic who fixes my brakes doesn’t overlook something.

If we are going to own the world, we have to stay healthy and focused.

Let’s work on that, okay?