Be the wordless person in the world for a moment

I borrowed the above title from a line in a guided meditation and I wish I could remember which one so I can properly attribute it. Nonetheless, it reminds me that building more space into my weekly time for reflection and writing my own work is more challenging than I thought. I am seldom the wordless person. I have lots of words. And I share them freely.

new journal - be bold
My brand new journal, given to me as a Christmas gift from my mother-in-law.

When you write your “morning pages” in your journal, you are the only one who can give yourself praise for getting your work done. Social media and the clicks and likes can be an addictive little “hit” for affirmation. As a writer, I write every day no matter what. It is like oxygen for me. But I am susceptible to that buzz that comes from others receiving the work well.

I am comforted to know that there is brain chemistry and neurobiology behind this, of course. Those clicks and likes produce a little hit of dopamine in your brain, and because we are social creatures, approval is important to us at a primal level. There is nothing wrong with that, and it is very natural. Please have some compassion for yourself if you worry sometimes about what other people think. Being part of a tribe or pack was how the mammals of today survived.

As a person who loves words, and who loves the ease of publishing that blogs can offer, it is even harder for me to be the “wordless” person. I joke to my husband that this blog is my little soapbox, so that I can express my ideas freely without subjecting him to all of my opinions. 😉  So he is grateful that it exists.

Some days, I am better off going into observer mode rather than writing publicly. It reminds me of meditation, noticing what is going on in my body, and in my mind, while not attaching to it. Emotions come and go, as thoughts do. Ideas float through and sometimes I want to grab a pen. But I sit, and allow things to flow through. My ego-ic mind can be quite impressed with my thoughts sometimes. But my higher self, the watcher, just observes and allows. No thought is better than another, they just are.

Is it challenging to be the wordless person? Heck yeah, more than I ever realized.

Cheers,

cristy@meximinnesotana.com

 

Finding your edge

As I was sitting my evening yin yoga class on Thursday, I found myself thinking about where my “edge” was. For those of you who have not practiced yin, it involves long-held poses where you relax into a pose for typically 5-8 minutes.

Typically you just soften into a pose, where eventually you find a bit of an edge, a slight discomfort when this pose is held. This allows the fascia, or connective tissue of the body, to respond to a gentle stress. It can allow for greater flexibility and release some tightness which we often develop over time, sitting for long periods, or doing repetitive actions.

I have been practicing yin yoga for 4+ years now, and I have to admit, when I first tried it, I did not like that discomfort. I was restless. I wanted to move, to come out of it. But as I practiced, I learned to sit with the discomfort, observe it, notice how it changed and shifted even when I was very still. Now I rarely miss my yin classes twice a week, I have learned to embrace that edge, and to understand the benefits of this practice.

wbl sunset edge
Sunset at the “edge” of my day today – gorgeous

When I think about life also, I believe we have a “growth edge” in our lives. We have a place where we long to lean into it, to embrace the slight discomfort that comes from trying something new or practicing a new skill. At first, our minds resist: this feels unfamiliar! Am I doing it right? What if others laugh at me? What if I make a mistake?

These are thoughts I had when I first started going to dance in 2018. I felt very self-conscious. A 40+ year old Latina that can’t dance?!? But I moved toward that growth edge. You might say I danced toward it, and decided it was quite delightful, actually.

At work, I tried new things I had never done before. Eventually I decided to strike out on my own, leave my corporate job and make my living via freelance work. *That* is definitely the biggest “growth edge” of my past year. But all the edge means is that we feel uncomfortable at first, and our brains are new to this activity. Typically the brain protests a bit, since our primitive evolution designed us to seek comfort and pleasure and to avoid pain.

As we lean into that growth edge slightly, we find that we loosen up. We may notice things we did not realize before. We may actually *enjoy* some of the new things we try, even if they are edgy at first. We definitely learn along the way, and if we persist, we may even master some new skill, discover some new capability we did not know we had. It can be very exciting, embracing that edge. Not so that we fall off, but so we can see our world in a new way.

What is your “growth edge” for 2019? 

cristy@meximinnesotana.com

Getting it done

On Thursday I finished up a short contract for a writing client that had found me through Upwork. The topic had challenged me. I had needed to do a quick turnaround literature search, read and understand concepts in a field that was unfamiliar, and produce some writing that made sense of a general audience without a medical background.

About half way into the project, I had some doubts. The material was dense and technical, a reminder of my biochemistry days in college. I remembered that brain-twisting experience of reading through research papers that were way over my head, trying to interpret them. It felt like a foreign language in a way, trying to understand complex mechanisms or experimental methodology that was unfamiliar.

But I remembered that there comes a time when focusing deeply on a topic and taking time to break it down pays off. It can take some time, depending on the topic of course. But after some time, getting to know the lingo, looking up things I do not understand, and making my way through some research review articles, the major themes started to click into place.

My brain, which had felt like mush a couple days before, trying to grasp a field which was new to me, finally began to grasp what was most important. I began to think through how to write the review document in a way that someone outside the field might grasp. 

I have to tell you though, getting it done was a relief. Focusing for this short project was a bit of a test to myself. Can I do this work? Will the client like it? Can I really make money as a freelancer? It appears the client is happy, and I expect she will leave a good review. 

Getting it done can be the best feeling. What are you most satisfied with getting done?  Can you make time to celebrate it this weekend? 

Cheers,

cristy@meximinnesotana.com

Back in the day…

Last night I needed to find a quiet place to work, a place where I could absorb literature related to oncology research and therapeutic potential for a certain plant compound. I worked in the morning at home well enough, but in the afternoon, I was unable to get traction on the work.

That sometimes happens to me. I try everything I know how, and still I am so completely distracted that I need to have a change of location (see yesterday’s post. Perhaps it’s why cube life did not suit me.). 

So I put my stuff in my backpack and headed off to the University of MN. Even though it’s been over a dozen years since I finished my master’s degree here, I love being back on a campus. I love the atmosphere of learning and growth. Even though the science library was far too crowded to find a quiet place to work, I walked around campus for an hour or so. 

The humanities library was much less busy. Ahem…

Well, let’s just say I was a science major in undergrad and a liberal studies major in grad school. My grade point was about 0.7 points higher in grad school. Also, my undergrad was at Swarthmore, where the motto was “anywhere else it would have been an A.” ‘Nuff said.

My study hide-away

As I sat in the quiet of the library, around dinner time (that must be the reason it was less busy, perhaps), I felt that familiar sense of focus and calm. I have attention issues (diagnosed late in life while I was working on the grad thesis) so focus and calm are not exactly my strong suits. Unless I’m under deadline, that seems to be a motivator.

There is something about a library, and the unquestionable nature of being here. Working at home, I always see the undone dishes, the piles of laundry overflowing, my cats that do their best to be adorable at the wrong times (like when I have a deadline). 

In the quiet library, in my study cube, there are no distractions. There is just the pile of research articles, my laptop, my water and a snack. 

Perfect environment for being on deadline with a topic that twists my brain in all kinds of fun ways.

What is your perfect environment for working?

cristy@meximinnesotana.com

Wellness Wednesday – plan time for fun

I mean it, schedule fun into each week, each day, maybe even in every hour if that is possible.

It is not optional. Fun feeds your creativity.

I used to take breaks to play and rest only when I had “earned” them through doing enough work. Probably that daughter-of-an-immigrant work ethic that many of us inherited. Work all day and then you can earn your fun.

But what it we turned that on its head?

Play at intervals, rest at intervals. Work deeply, but do so in a focused and paced way. 

Those of us with focus issues might prefer the “sprint/break” approach: work in 45 minute blocks with no interruptions (including email, social media or other distractions) and then get up and move, dance or walk for 15 minutes.

whimsical cat print
Whimsical cat print on Etsy

Others who like to work for longer stretches might work for 90 minutes take a 30 minute break. Most research says that the maximum focus for most humans sitting at one time without moving is about 70-80 minutes. Honor that. In the era of social media, it is likely substantially less, according to Cal Newport.

Knowledge work often requires sitting at a desk for long stretches, or enduring endless teleconferences that sometimes make you want to stab your eye out with a pencil (not speaking personally, of course).

What if you took a playful attitude toward work? You can inject a little creativity and some cartoons or funny videos into your (dreadful) required Powerpoint presentations. (I feel your pain. I have been there.)

One of my favorite wise teachers, Brene Brown says that “Creativity not expressed is not benign. It metastasizes.” Heed that wisdom. Plan some fun and some whimsy into your day. Your work will be re-energized and you will deliver at a higher level.

I dare you.

cristy@meximinnesotana.com