Slow Down, Summer!

Lazy summer days

Here’s how summer usually goes.

“Oh, the phlox are in bloom! Summer, finally! Yay.”

Next comes a flurry of manic activity:

Clean the garage.

Mow the grass.

Have a yard sale? Yes? No?

Have visitors.

Go visiting.

Go to Farmer’s Market.

Plant stuff.

Eat outside.

Beer.

Wine.

4th of July.

Then suddenly…drums. And trumpets. The marching band is back and practicing up on the hill.

The sumacs are burgundy already. Asters, vervain and goldenrod are blooming in the roadside ditches.

What happened to the daisies? And the cornflowers? Did I miss them? (I totally missed them.)

Where was I? What happened? Where did summer go? How the hell is it Labor Day already?

Every year, this same nausea. Every year summer flies and I hardly see it. So this year, 3 weeks ago, to be exact, I sat down and drew up a 3-Pronged Strategy for Slowing Down Summer. I do not ever want to get to Labor Day again and feel that autumn nausea.

Because summer doesn’t have to fly. It really doesn’t. Summers didn’t always fly. I remember childhood summers that were almost too long. And even as an adult I remember draggy hot days spent arranging lettuce leaves on platters, watching bird life, and listening to gravel crunch under my sneakers, waiting for the inexorable day to end.

And it’s not like I don’t I know how to slow down time. I do.Sit on a meditation cushion and set a timer for 20 minutes. That’ll do it. And, on the flip side? To vaporize time? Jump on the computer “just for a sec to check FB and email.” There you go. 2 hours. Poof. Vanished.

When I notice everything as it happens?  Time slows down. Live like a mindless robot? Miss the daisies.

So this year I needed a strategy. I couldn’t just tell myself, “I’m going to notice things as they happen this year.” That doesn’t work for me. I’m weak.  I slip into old patterns and habits too easily.

So, after a lot of thought, here’s the plan:

  1. Mindful Mondays
  2. Read fiction
  3. Take a photo a day.

Let me explain.

Mindful Mondays start Sunday night when I stop eating at 8PM and don’t eat again until 2 PM Monday except for a cup of Bulletproof coffee. Nothing slows down time quite as effectively as being hungry when there’s still 3 more hours before food time. On Mondays I also double my meditation time from 20 to 40 minutes and severely limit screen time to 1 hour in the morning and 1 hour at night and no screens while eating.

Read Fiction. I am a non-fiction reader by choice and inclination. However, this summer I am reading novels exclusively because novels take me out of time. It’s not just that they slow it down, novels remove me from time entirely. Reading a novel in a hammock seems to give the ultimate middle finger to time.

Take a Photo a Day. To take a photo is to pay attention to something. I have to stop, get still, breathe, and really look at something. I’m not that concerned with the artistic quality of the picture. What’s important is the moment of stopping and paying attention. I’m using the Photo 365 app on my iphone to keep track of my daily photo.

And that’s it.

I’m 3 weeks in and I think it’s working.  I plan to post here every Wednesday for the rest of the summer  and report on how this is all playing out in my life. Follow this blog to get my weekly updates via email.

What do you think? Do you have a strategy for slowing down time? I am really interested in this topic if you care to share.

 

The Real Challenge of a Yoga Challenge

“Commitment is doing the thing you said you were going to do long after the mood you said it in has left you.”

—Darren Hardy, The Compound Effect

I think it is fairly easy to go to yoga every day. It might not be easy on the body, or the ego, but it is easy to surrender. Once you catch your breath and drop into the present, all you have to do, is what you’re told.

When people think about doing something like a 30 Day Challenge, I think the first worry is how their body is going to respond. Will it be able to do what the teacher  suggests?

Next they worry if they can persist. Can they stay motivated?

This year, the stated motivations of the participants range from trying to revive a dead practice, to curiosity to see if  practicing daily will make any difference, to wanting to shake off winter’s lethargy and revive their sense of self-command.

They quickly discover that it’s not the physical practice that’s the problem. The true challenge is fitting in the time to do it. Making time by making some hard decisions about what is more important, this? or that?

It takes a village to support a person in a yoga challenge. Everybody has to cooperate: bosses, babysitters, spouses, friends, and family all have to adjust their schedules, and their lives around you, so you can do this thing.

This thing you committed to.

This thing you were so looking forward to.

This thing that they encouraged you to do at the beginning, they are now sick of. They are looking forward to high-fiving you across the the finish line, and then going back to normal.

But here’s the thing: the person who is nearing the finish line?  They’re not done. They’re different now. They don’t want this to end. Maybe in this draconian format, but they’re not ready to break this streak they’ve built. No. The streak needs to continue. Everyone agrees about that.

They worked hard to make this happen, and they did the thing they said they were going to do even when, as Hardy says, the initial excitement wore off.

The challenge part starts now, after these 30 days are over.

The question now becomes: What is going to happen on on May 1st?

Will the mat get unfurled? Will the head bow? Will there be a conscious decision to surrender?

From my perspective as the teacher, what I want to know is if I’ve been successful in teaching them how to unglue themselves from linear time for at least an hour, and drop into real time, which is no more, or less, than this moment, this breath, this situation.

And then, can they make a life out of that.

Gadgets and Gizmos and Chicken Soup

I’ve been reading Bringing Home the Dharma in the mornings. It’s my new ritual, this reading in the morning. I have broken my Ultimate Yogi streak and am now contemplating  starting all over again and trying to make it to 108 Days.

I have a hard time when my streaks end. There’s a lot of mourning and self-recrimination. I have my rules and all, but it’s still hard. With the Ultimate Yogi it was a matter of not being able to fit in the hour-plus every day. All of my problems are with time: the desire to do so many things, but then running out of day.

Why is it that some people seem to have, or are able to fit in, so much more into a day than I can?

Time Management. Energy Management. Putting the Big Rocks in first. Battling the Resistance Monster. These are my ever-recurring themes.

Part of the problem is that I tell myself that there are certain conditions that need to be met before I can do other things. Like I need to start cooking in a clean kitchen, so dishes need to be done first. Or I can’t work on writing or computer projects unless my surroundings are neat and orderly. But taking time to pick up and put things where they belong takes time away from the activity that I want to do once the space is free of clutter and chaos. And there is never a lack of clutter and chaos.

And how come it is that once I’ve created order, I have now run out of the time to do the activity that required the order? And on top of that, I have now expended so much energy cleaning, that now my tank is totally empty for creating?

Errrr.

Okay. Switching topics.

G comes home today. Here is what I have been doing in her absence: I have eaten cookies. And the pie she baked (and left). I also ate a bagel with cream cheese. I have had 2 glasses of wine every night. I have been drinking caffeinated coffee. I have also been enjoying my Verismo and my frother.

In the past month or so I have acquired a number of new gadgets: a Kitchen-Aid Stand Mixer, a Cuisinart (which is not actually “new” it’s just been sitting in a box in the basement because I wasn’t psychologically ready, until now, to deal with learning “blades.”) I have also recently gotten a Verismo and a milk frother. Add this to the VitaMix and the Juicer and I now have no counter space. But, I have a shitload of gadgets.

Just to clarify. I love gadgets, maybe even more than I love the word “gadget” itself. I also love the word “gizmo” and I often have “gadgets” hang out with “gizmo” so that they form a little two-thing gang called “Gadgets and Gizmos” kinda like Bloods and Crips, but friendlier.

The other day I made a homemade chicken noodle soup with a leftover rotisserie chicken. While the chicken was cooking down in a pot of water, I sent 4 huge carrots through the slicer on the Cuisinart, followed by 3 stalks of celery. I then changed out the slicer for the chopper blade and chopped an onion. I minced 4 cloves of garlic in my hand mincer and in the blink of an eye I had saved myself a good half hour’s worth of chopping.

I used the “Heady Garlic” olive oil I got at F. Oliver’s to saute all that veggie wonderfulness, and the resulting soup was so so rich with flavor I wanted to invite the whole neighborhood for lunch. I boiled up a big batch of fillini (which is my fave “soup pasta–egg noodles are gross, I think) and kept them in a separate container and just add them to the individual bowls of soup so they don’t flab out, or muddy the broth with starch.

That’s going to be the “Welcome Home” dinner for G tonight. Maybe I will even stop at Wegman’s  on the way to the airport and get a nice loaf of crusty bread and a little “sumpin'” for dessert.

(Do you know that “desserts” spelled backwards is “stressed?”) Turns out the antidote is contained right inside the poison.)

Excellent.

A Box of Time

So, it’s over. (Xmas, that is.)  It was sweet –and certainly buttery!

I got some techy gifts (a new internet router and a new version of Wanda, my GPS) some clothes and of course, books.

But what I really wanted was not under the tree.

What I really wanted, and ask for every year and never get, was a big Box of Time.

I wish Amazon sold gift cards for the time it takes to read all the books they sell.  Wouldn’t that be amazing?  I think they need to get on that.  Seriously.

I did get a book entitled, The Time Paradox by Philip Zimbardo, which says it will help me “Reclaim Yesterday, Enjoy Today, and Master Tomorrow.”

I really doubt it, but who knows?  It could happen.

But that’s not what I really want to do: I don’t want to reclaim yesterday or master tomorrow, I just want to feel like a day is a really long amount of time.

The last time I felt time slow down to the point where everything took it’s fair share and not more, or less, was when I was on retreat at Springwater.

When you go on retreat, you put your life on “hold” for awhile.  You get off the gerbil wheel.  Everything stops moving.

At first it’s unnerving and you hate it and try to make believe you’re still  very busy and everything is critically important. You try to make the retreat into a job and you try to do everything perfectly and efficiently and ahead of schedule.

And then you realize that a day is already perfect in design and proportion and you just have to insert yourself into it.

On retreat I would spend  whole afternoons, and I mean from 1PM to 4 PM, just lying on my back on the lawn, looking at clouds.

And at night, I’d sit out and look at stars.

It took an eternity to eat a bowl of oatmeal.

The day started before dawn and ended after dark.  A day there was actually 24 hours long.  An hour there took a whole hour and not it’s usual 15 minutes.

(I once worked for a woman who used to describe being “over-booked” as trying to “stuff 10 pounds of baloney into a 5 pound bag.”  That’s a good image. I like the word “baloney” too.  It resonates.)

I know it’s silly of me to want a Box of Time.  Every day is already an empty box filled to the brim with time.  The “art” of living a conscious, productive, amazing life, is to fill the box neatly and carefully.

It helps to imagine that all your activities are eggs.  Each one needs its own spot.  You can’t jam too many in, or they’ll all break and you’ll have a colossal mess on your hands.  Only so many eggs can fit in a box and there has to be a little bit of space, a little bit of padding, between each one.

Part of my hope for this New Year is to pack the eggs better.  I want to fill my basket with lots of eggs and have no broken ones at the end of the day because I will have calculated properly the length, breadth and depth of a single day.