Fixed Mindset vs Growth Mindset

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I just watched an incredible TED talk that spoke to my under-achiever tendency  and gave me hope that I can change. Eduardo Briceno’s “The Power of Belief — Mindset and Success” used social science research to show how a fixed mindset (“I’m smart” or “I’m not good at sports” or “I’m talented at X, Y, or Z”) contributes to lower performance, while a growth mindset (“I can learn” or “I will practice”) can help catapult one toward success.

The good news is that he talks about how to change this mindset in ourselves and others. Focusing on the process rather than the result can help change a fixed mindset, which in turns helps instill traits such as grit or persistence.

This talk really challenged me to look at some of my core beliefs about myself and how those core beliefs actually prevent me from reaching my potential.

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Taking Time to Play

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Your life is like a tapestry, made more beautiful with a rich variety of colors and hues, lights and shadows. This weekend, I got to remember how important it is to play. I can be so serious about meditation, recovery, and all the day-to-day drama and problems of the world and my family. Taking time to do things that bring me joy give me a fresh prospective on what it means to be ‘in the moment.’

I do medieval reenactment with an organization called the Society for Creative Anachronism. It’s a worldwide organization involved with many aspects of life pre-17th century (primarily Europe). Playing with this group is stimulating both intellectually and creatively. I can study and research different aspects, as well as let my creativity out with costuming, painting, and any number of other crafts.

I hadn’t been able to play for a while because of injuries and ‘real life’ problems. I kinda forgot how much fun I can have and how much I enjoy the company of others in the SCA. The weekend was a mix of feeling awkward and invisible, inspired and excited, and thoroughly entertained. I feel refreshed and ready to tackle the more serious aspects of my life.

My question to you is: what do you do for fun? Find something you love, that gives you joy, and soothes your soul. Hobbies can be active or sedate. By taking time to do things you truly love to do, you may find other aspects of your life become more enjoyable as well.

Easier Together: Group Meditation

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Why do I find it so much easier to meditate in a group setting? I recently visited a local branch of Tergar: The Meditation Community of Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche. This group is from a Tibetan Buddhism tradition, yet is also heavily influenced by mindfulness meditation research.   I’ve only gone twice, but am excited about the teaching and practice I am finding there.

I frequently lapse in my regular meditation practice. Weeks (months?) go by with no ‘formal’ meditation, but merely moments throughout the day when I pause and take a quiet, reflective moment. When I do set actual time to meditate, sometimes even 15 minutes can feel like an eternity. I was using a meditation app for a while, but after a while was feeling constrained by the guidance.

When I joined the group in meditation, it felt like almost no time went by before he range the bell at 20 minutes. I felt so refreshed. This group also has a discussion period focused on different themes. There is so much to learn! I’m looking forward to learning more, meditating more, and experiencing more joy in my life.

Oh No! I’m One of *Those*

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Once upon a time, in a land far, far away, I was a gym rat. While some who know me now might not believe it, I used to be in shape and eat healthy. That was before kids and all those other life things settled in.

I’ve been meaning to join a gym for a couple of years now. My plans always got derailed by things like car accidents, having to move, or admission to the hospital. However, for a few months I was, seriously, going to join a gym. I wanted to join the Y, but then the holidays came. Having been a gym rat, I always hated going to the gym in January because it was full of those New Years Resolution folks who join the gym in January and disappear by February. I did not want to be one, so decided I would wait until at least February.

Then one day, about a week ago, my husband and I were watching TV. A silly, fun commercial came on for Planet Fitness. It was ridiculously affordable, and that gym was actually the closest one to our house.

My husband says, “Hey, let’s go ahead and join… today!”

I groan, stating how I don’t want to join in January of all months!

But he convinced me (it’s better to start in January than not start at all) and signed us up online right then. I’m so glad he did. It’s only been a week, but it does feel so good to be exercising again.

Being healthy is a lifestyle choice. All I have is today, and I can choose to make good choices. I’ll still play Assassin’s Creed on the XBox and eat chocolate, but I can be in better shape at my next birthday than I was at the last.

Feeling Safe In an Unsafe World

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It’s easy to feel unsafe in today’s world. This week’s events remind me again how dangerous it is to be certain things in America: black, Jewish, critical of the President. But more than that, it is dangerous to go to school, go to a concert, or fly in a plane. Yet, to stay sane, I have to find a way to still function despite such frightening times. The kids need dinner, bills need to be paid, and the dogs need to go outside

I was reminded yesterday that, even in my little bubble-world of privilege, life is dangerous. At a meeting about my son, the topic came up of the car accident he and I were in. I had done everything right, but someone else ran a red light. Flash memories of the pain and the long convalescence came back. Even though many have suffered far greater, I felt panic and was fighting the urge to flee the room.

The truth is, being alive is an inherently dangerous task. It will always end in death. And while it seems that today’s world is scarier than ever, is it really more tenuous than during historical times? I don’t fear plagues wiping out half the population or marauding bands raping and pillaging their way through the countryside. A saber-toothed cat or dire wolf won’t be wandering into my campsite.

But the daily news brings fresh grief for those who lost their lives while shopping and praying. I cannot afford to live in fear and despair, yet in truth, I am afraid and sad.

Searching for a solution, I find the ‘tender reed’ that has become my bedrock. I have to turn my thoughts to a spiritual purpose. I have to keep things simple and do what is right in front of me. I can do my small part to try to make the world a better place. I can vote, give words of encouragement to a friend, or write an essay. Today I can choose to walk in the sunlight of the spirit and pray that you do as well.

 

 

 

 

Not Returning To My Regularly Scheduled Program

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Feels like my life just took a break for a special announcement. When I got home from the hospital, I was thinking about how on TV, when there’s an interruption in programming for a special announcement, when it’s done they have the canned “We now return you to your regularly scheduled program.” I thought, yeah, now I can get back to my routine.” Then I realized that may not be the best idea.

Went in to the hospital for chest and left arm pain. I had also been throwing up, so after G-I tract meds did not relieve the pain, they tried nitro. When that removed the pain, they decided to keep me for more testing. The good news was that all the blood test showed no heart attack. They did a chemical stress test, and the next day a resting stress test. While waiting for those results, they gave me Prilosec to see if the pain was simply referred pain from a G-I issue.

The Prilosec actually helped quite a bit. Everyone expected the stress test would come back completely normal and I would go home and follow-up with my primary. But the stress test had an “irregularity.” They could not definitively say if there was a problem with the heart or not, so we decided to do an angiogram to make sure.

The good news is that, structurally, everything looked really good with the heart and nothing was clogged. As a side note, however, there were indications that I’ve had high blood pressure for a while and should start treating that with my primary doctor.

That all started Monday night, and I came home on Friday. I have started on blood pressure medication, but I’m thinking there needs to be more changes. Making that decision is the easy part, but where to start?

Obviously, I need to up the meditation to reduce stress, as that has lagged quite a bit. We’re also going to join the YMCA. But there’s more I need to do.

My house stresses me out. So, I hired professional to help, and this week she is coming to the house to help me start decluttering . Circumstances (two moves and a car accident that had me sidelined for several months) contributed to my home being out of control. I’ve tried on my own, but I need help.

I have visions of a clutter-free home where I can sew medieval garb, paint with watercolors, and bake fresh bread  at will. I can imagine all the family members helping with the upkeep and care of the home, dishes, and day-to-day cleaning. Then we’ll all be smiling and sitting around a table playing games to all hours of the night and life happily ever after. Right?

Well, one little step at a time. My heart is strong, and I want to keep it that way for many, many years to come. It’s never to late to try something different. Today I’ll make one small step towards a healthier me.

End of the World… or Just Under the Weather?

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It’s never when I’m feeling the worst, but it seems that when I start feeling better after being sick (cold, flu, middle-ear infection with vertigo), I often go through this period of feeling hopeless and helpless. It goes something like, “I haven’t been doing anything. I never do anything. I will never do anything. I’m a terrible person.”

It’s a feeling of impending doom. It’s that middle space between being so sick that I can barely move (and therefore am kind and forgiving of myself) to feeling well and charging ahead. I want to get stuff done, but just don’t quite have the energy to get going and get caught up with all I missed.

Anyway, that’s where I’ve been. Sometimes just acknowledging where I’m at helps. So, I’m getting back to it, all the daily stuff that keeps me going. I may not get caught up today, but at least I can stop myself from falling further behind.

Meditating While Angry

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It doesn’t work so good. I sit and follow my breath, and when thoughts arise, I’m supposed to let them drift away as if it were a cloud, or some kind of imagery like that. And my mind says, “F-*& that! I’m not done being angry yet. I’m not willing to let this thought or emotion drift away as if it were inconsequential.”

I was a little surprised at my stubbornness. I mean, it was righteous anger, what they did or didn’t do. It seems to feel good to be angry, powerful, like I am so right! I can’t let them get away with it.

But what holding on to anger really does is block me from myself. And it blocks out a presence of my higher power.

I identified 100% with “I am angry.” There was no other me other than anger.

Little by little, as I continued to sit meditations and catch myself replaying the story of how angry I was and why, over and over, I gained a sliver of detachment. I started realizing that it was just a story I was telling myself, over and over and over again.

As I started to identify with the ‘me’ that was observing this angry mind, I was able to let it go… a little. I can’t say that I’m completely done being angry yet, but I did make space for a ray of that sunlight of the spirit sneak in. I’ll take that, for now, and know that this will pass. I will allow that tiny spot of light to grow and let compassion and forgiveness sprout. It all starts at the beginning.

 

30 Years Sober

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On August 21, 2018, I celebrated 30 years sober. The secret? Don’t drink and don’t die.

It’s that simple, and that difficult.

You know what? It works if you work it, and it doesn’t work if I don’t. I’m reminded of that yet again when it comes to meditation.

We are moved into our new house. At least… all our stuff is here. We still have a long way to go before the house is settled. And the weird thing is… it’s still just sitting here. I guess I was hoping a magic fairy would come in while I was asleep and find places for everything and put everything in its place, but that hasn’t happened. More to the truth, I was hoping that the rest of the family would do the work that is mine to do. Nope. I have to do the work.

During all the chaos, meditation was the first activity to get dropped. You know, I have all these things to do. And who would have thought, my son also stopped doing his meditation. Strangely enough, my son and I have been arguing and at each other. I don’t know why. Yeah, it’s his fault, right? He’s not doing his meditation. So what if I’m not doing it either.

So, back to Day 1 of meditation. My son told me that the voice on the app I was having him use was annoying. (Not my opinion. I LOVE the Australian accent.) So I googled “meditation for young men.” I ended up settling on a site called Mindfulness for Teens.

So here I am, 3 decades of sobriety, sitting at my desk in a room full of unpacked boxes. Life still happens. Love, joy sorrow, pain, happiness, gratitude. The gift I get is to live this life. I marvel at the wonderful house God has brought me to, and I know that as long as I don’t get in the way to screw everything up, everything will be OK.

Insomnia? Me?

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It’s 4 a.m., and I can’t sleep. This is not usual for me. I went to sleep just fine around 10:30 last night. I woke up about 3:30 because my dog was whining and just couldn’t fall back asleep.

I’m moving the day after tomorrow. We’ll have the moving van here around 9 a.m., so I have one more day to get everything packed. (It’s just a local move, so if we miss a few things it’s not a huge deal. We have the old house through the weekend to finish.)

My mind was going over what furniture would go where in the new place. Then I was thinking about the kitchen. It’s a rental house, and when we looked at it, it had a free-standing pantry in the kitchen. I’m counting on that being there. What if they removed it? That’s the only reason why the house was OK, if we had that extra storage in the kitchen, but if it’s gone, what will I do?

By then, my heart rate was up and my body was tense. All of a sudden the idea crashed through all that thinking: there is nothing I can do about it right now.

Next I started thinking about the long to-do list related to the move, like changing our address on Amazon, and for insurance, and for meal delivery, and my daughter’s magazine….

Nope. Can’t do anything about that either. I still couldn’t sleep, but at least I wasn’t torturing myself with all that thinking.

I believe that the mindfulness meditation I’ve been doing helped me come to that realization sooner than it would have, say, a couple of months ago. I was able to get a bit of perspective. Am I sleepy? No. That’s when a novel idea struck me: why not just get up?

I’m usually one who likes to sleep in. I could sleep until 9 or 10 every morning if it wasn’t for my early-riser son… and he’s out of town right now. Maybe I’m getting older and don’t need as much sleep. I don’t know and don’t care.

The point is, acceptance of my situation, exactly as it is (ie I can’t sleep) can lead to action. Might as well get going with my busy day. I thank God for the clarity I have today.