I know, I know, I said blog every week, newsletter every month — but this felt like more of a letter topic than a blog topic, so I’m cheating and using it as both. I want to talk a little about mindfulness. Don’t worry. Remember I co-host a podcast about cults, so set aside any innate need to cringe at a word that is, by definition (truly), so sincere.
There’s been a piece circulating about burnout, tying it specifically to millennials, and yet every freelancer of any generation I know has nodded along to it saying it resonates with them too. In a time when we’re reminded constantly about the importance of balance and given endless hacks on how to achieve it and yet so few of us feel it on any kind of regular basis, of course we’re stressed out. So stressed out that when we’re in those rare moments when we might have achieved it (worked, been to the gym, done stuff with friends/family!), we probably start immediately worrying about when it will end and why we can’t make it last. I’ve been using the “a writer on the high wire of life” description for myself for more than a decade now, and only just realized that it’s a true and useful way of describing myself — I appreciate more the process of balancing while moving forward, that’s when I feel most content. Not when I’m trying to achieve some mysterious state known as “balance.” The process is just life, modern life especially, balancing this and that and the other and realizing how lucky I am to mostly get to choose what I’m walking the wire to get to at any given moment.
Anyway, the age-old segue, I managed to get Christopher to come with me to a coven meeting. I kid, it was a workshop on Living Mindfully being held by my friend Mandy at Sora Aerial Arts as part of a “kick the new year off right” series. He likes to say he placed first among men (he was the only guy there). I high-fived him.
I can suffer from a lack of mindfulness, sure, but often for me that manifests as *overthinking*. Too much thinking, not enough doing. Just enough thinking to get in my own way. But there’s also certainly a type of mindlessness being overcorrected, feeling the need to check the various services and read all the news without any particular goal in mind. Overthinking? Go be mindless for awhile. This is not a good solution, really. So I’m trying to do better on both scores, but it’s hard in a world (and profession, and with a mind) determined to encourage both tendencies.
We did a meditation exercise — for just two minutes — at the beginning of the session, where we all lay back in a circle staring at the beams and rigging of the silks studio and then closing our eyes and focusing on the words Green Grass and then on the space between the words, as Mandy talked us through it. Later, when we talked about having trouble sleeping, I revealed that I’d spent the night before bed googling and reading endlessly only phone about how to increase deep sleep, prodded by my fitbit’s revelation I haven’t been getting much (and I quote, “I knew it was wrong, but it felt so right”). Sometime during the workshop, I realized that obviously we were just talking about being present. The word mindfulness is intimidating or perhaps goofy or perhaps serious, depending upon the day of the week or how much sleep you got last night, but being present is really all it means. Stopping to remember you are in this moment and you are doing this thing and appreciating that and letting it be, not letting the anxiety of what came before or what might come later overtake it. And this is a space I need to be in with my writing. I’ve been hovering a little outside my page when I’m working lately and it’s become harder as a result to make progress. DUH. This week I’ll work on being present at the page — walking on that high wire — and letting the rest of it go until after. Green Grass. Be in it, between the words, in a hidden pocket where presence and progress happens.
Whenever I’m thinking deeply about something, I have a tendency to seek out poems–which only makes sense, I suppose. There’s a particular kind of being present that a good poem demands. I ended up finding these two lovely, sharp poems from searching the word “mind” at Poets.org that add up to a nice pairing so I’m sharing them with you.
Should you want to easily find them later, here are links to both: How the mind works still to be sure and I See You in the Field of My Mind Baby Moo Cow.
And now we’ve all been present experiencing the same poems together. Magic.
Other notable things this week:
– I checked out the Maurice Sendak exhibit at the Central Library; if you’re local, make sure you go before it’s gone!
– I’ve been watching Dix Pour Cent, a delicious French show retitled Call My Agent! here. It’s subtitled, but absolutely addictive — about a French entertainment agency, and on Netflix.
– Books: I inhaled Christina Lauren’s My Favorite Half-Night Stand, Sam Maggs’ Girl Squads: 20 Female Friendships That Changed History is wonderful, and I’m j’adoring Jeff Ford’s latest novel, the odd and delightful Ahab’s Return.
I’ve also been working on spinning:
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