TBT – Do you have a few minutes?

***This edited blog was originally posted in February 2018***

When we get to February I always feel a surge of optimism. Spring is not so far away now, and those of us who get a little “cabin fever” this time of the year start noticing more light in the evenings.

In February of 2017 I started a habit of daily meditation. I had meditated before that occasionally. But last year, I committed to a minimum of 5 minutes per day. It was a do-able goal, and I count my yoga sessions as part of my practice, so with 3 classes a week, that made the goal easier as well. In February of 2019 I will celebrate 2 years of daily meditation.

It has changed my life, particularly since I have struggled with a.d.d. in the past. Meditation has helped me calm my mind and become less reactive to the “bouncing” thoughts. I can observe them and not follow them. I notice when I am caught in a story that I am spinning, and start to question whether that is even true. I hold less judgment about my mind, and more curiosity.

To those who have been thinking about starting a practice, I encourage you to start small. Literally commit to only 2 minutes the first time, focus on your breathing. It may not be easy at first! Add a minute a day, and see how this changes the quality of your days overall. It may take a few weeks before you really start to notice benefits, so give it at least 30 days.

zen flower
Photo credit link

People used to tell me I needed to have at least 15 minutes. That was a barrier. I could not imagine how I would fit that in every day. Now I average a lot more than that. It is not always easy, and sometimes I feel “too restless” to want to do it. But those are the times I am most likely to benefit, I now realize.

Last fall I read Altered Traits: Science Reveals How Meditation Changes Your Mind, Brain and Body (Goleman and Davidson). For a clinical researcher, I loved learning about experiments, past and present to demonstrate the value of meditation. The authors actually critique some of their early studies, the bias and the lack of proper controls. They review the field and conclude that, even with some flawed studies in the beginning, reliable science is beginning to emerge on the benefits of meditation.

If silent meditation is not your cup of tea, there are many guided meditations available at the Insight Timer app that I use. Jon Kabat Zinn has a book called Mindfulness for Beginners with some guided meditations that I really like also. Another resource that was great for me about 2 years ago when I first wanted to commit to practice was Mindfulness: An Eight-Week Plan for Finding Peace in a Frantic World.

For those of you who have a regular practice, I would love to hear how you got started. As I like to say about sleep, doing more of it is like a super-power! If only I had known when I was younger. I know now. So I will continue to encourage people to try it, and see what works for them.

cristy@meximinnesotana.com

 

 

 

Outsourcing our dream-time?

I am researching sleep this week as part of a project contract. I finished Dr. Rubin Naiman’s book Healing Night and it really got me thinking about the hazards of our dream-deprived (REM state) sleep habits. 

Recent CDC reports indicate that over a third of U.S. adults receive less than the 7 hour minimum recommended by the National Sleep Foundation. As a matter of fact, that range is actually more like 7-9 hours and is highly individualized. So I suspect probably over half of the population is not regularly receiving a necessary component of a healthy life.

Unfortunately, much of the science focuses on quantity and not always on quality of sleep that people are receiving. I get it. I like numbers. I actually track the sleep I receive every night in an attempt to understand what influences and affects it. Generally I know I want more of it, and feel fabulous when I get at least 8 hours.

But quality matters too, and when we do not receive enough deep sleep, which allows us to get into the REM (rapid eye movement or dream) state of sleep at least a 2-3 times in a night, we become dream-deprived. This is a state that can lead to depression when prolonged and also has links to cancer. 

Further, it can interfere with our creativity and vitality in life. Ironically enough we have myriad entertainment options outside us, “Dream Works” and other sources of artificial dreams that we indulge in to escape our lives.

I started to wonder: 

Would we need to escape our lives if we felt refreshed and allowed for our proper “dream time” at night? Would we need to rely on external entertainment if we felt our creativity were not drained from sleepiness and fatigue? 

To me it is a troubling proposition, but all too often a reality if we feel our lives are over-scheduled and that we must sacrifice some sleep in order to attend to our “to do” lists. My advice: get your sleep if you can. Do not sacrifice your precious dream time, or outsource it to the entertainment sources. It is all yours, it is necessary and it is sacred. 

I shall write more about the topic this week. It is on my mind, and I am an even stronger believer after doing more research. I hope to convince you as well if you are not there yet. 

cristy@meximinnesotana.com

Healing Night

This weekend I am reading a book that is related to the writing contract I have on the topic of sleep. I am still incredulous that the universe saw fit to send me paid work on a topic that fascinates me. I am embracing it, and really letting myself delve fully into the topic.

I finished the first phase of the work yesterday, the preliminary reference list. This week I ordered this book by Rubin Naiman, PhD because it has been on my “wish list.” Since it was directly related to this writing contract, I splurged and went for it, despite trying to be mindful of my book budget. 

I am so happy I did. What a beautiful book. I look forward to finishing it this weekend. But I shall try not to stay up late reading as I did last night (ironically enough). Here’s my favorite quote in the book so far: 

If God, angels, or extraterrestrials were indeed monitoring us from above, the most profound change they would have witnessed on this planet since it’s creation is the metastatic illumination of our nights. We have responded to this quieting offer of night with an innervating program of excessive artificial illumination. 

From Chapter 1 of Rubin Naiman’s Healing Night

Yes. Naiman’s main argument is that we undervalue our nights and our night consciousness. This has in turn impaired our sleep and our dreaming, to the detriment of our physical and spiritual health. I am so intrigued and fascinated because this resonates for me. Night and shadow are part of our rhythms as humans. We ignore them at our peril.

Have a fine weekend, friends. Be sure to allow yourself plenty of rest. Savor your sleep. Enjoy that beautiful process of snuggling down into a warm bed at night. 

cristy@meximinnesotana.com

Accessing your dreams

Lately I have been getting more regular and deeper sleep. I have made a commitment to allow my subconscious to work on things for me while I am in dreamland.

It can be a very incredible thing to write down my dreams, and consider what they are telling me. Since I no longer use an alarm to wake up, and tend to drift awake naturally, I remember my dreams so much more often. I am pretty convinced I am accessing a more intuitive part of my consciousness. It is really fascinating. But some of them need a little more processing before I share them here. 😉

Do you write down your dreams? What are they telling you? 

imagine and dream.jpg

Happy weekend, all.

cristy@meximinnesotana.com

Wellness Wednesday – morning light baths

Hello Friends,

It is Wednesday and this is a post to encourage you to get outside early in the day for some light. For those of us in Minnesota, we enjoyed a gloriously sunny day yesterday, a welcome change from the cloudy gloom of last week.

I got out for a run, but a walk is just as good. Getting out in the fresh air is good for your soul, your body and your mind. Absorbing some natural light, especially in the morning or early in the day is especially helpful for setting your body’s natural “clock” of waking and sleeping.

As it gets a bit darker earlier this time of year, it can be challenging to get out for some natural light. I like taking a break over the lunch hour for a little walk if possible, especially if I have been at my desk or not moving in the morning.

Philips goLite BLU
This is the Philips light I use.

For those of us who struggle with winter blues a bit, augmenting our natural light for the day may be necessary with light therapy. I use a Philips goLite BLU device for only 15 minutes in the mornings and it seems to help. Very important not to use these devices late in the day though, as they can disrupt natural melatonin production.

Equally important in the evening is to indulge in some natural darkness and not to expose yourself to much artificial light. Put the phone away an hour or two before bed. Log off of the laptop. Read an old-fashioned book. Dim the lights at home if you can and relax into the space before bedtime.

There is more darkness than light this time of year in Minnesota. I like to be mindful of the seasons and allow for more rest, respecting the rhythm of nature.

cristy@meximinnesotana.com

 

Wellness Wednesday – What is essential?

How often do you ask yourself the question in your life:  What is essential? Or a variation: what is essential for me right now? 

I just listened to the audio book (and am re-listening, because it resonated so much) that many of you minimalists out there probably already know, called “Essentialism: the Disciplined Pursuit of Less” by Greg McKeown. It is resonating with me on so many levels. essentialism.JPG

We can find a life of greater meaning, purpose and satisfaction with the mantra “less but better.” McKeown echoes many of the concepts of mindfulness as well as other wisdom I have discovered in other books like Deep Work by Cal Newport and The One Thing by Gary Keller. I find many applications here in how I am thinking about designing my new life and work for the future. The principle of essentialism is deeply connected to our personal wellness so I will focus on that aspect.

We face a plethora of choices every day about what to do and how to spend our time. There are many more options for what we can do in any given day and so many more decisions we are thus privileged (some would say forced) to make. Each hour, each minute, even in one breath, we choose. Do I meditate? Do I listen to a favorite podcast? Read a book? Finish that article I’m working on? Join that online webinar? Attend a yoga class?

And yet choose we must. Decisions are a part of life. We want to “have it all” and indeed many advertisers try to convince us that we can. But this is folly, because by attempting to do everything, we focus on nothing. It all becomes noise, and it is insignificant. It produces no real results, and we become frustrated at a lack of progress.

When we think we *have* to do it all, we are lying to ourselves. When we choose only what is essential to us, and pare down what is extraneous, we are rapidly able to better discern what is important. There are applications in terms of possessions, commitments, activities, memberships, or even new habits we are trying to implement. When we are spread too thin, we devote less attention to what is important. The problem is that many of us believe the illusion that everything is important. It is simply not true.

So to answer the question of what is essential for me, I would boil it down this way: sleep, play/creativity, rest, relationships and work. I was going to put work before play. But I realized I am not technically working (for money) now, and I am doing just fine.  Sleep, play and rest have been essential to my sabbatical. Since I worked and saved, I am able to rest and play now for a period. I know that reflects some privilege. But it also reflects choices I have made in my life about what is essential.

What is essential to you? How can you focus more deeply on that today? 

cristy@meximinnesotana.com