Andi Winter

Writer, Reader, Tea Drinker, Chrononaut

Month: July 2019

Three for Thursday

Man, it’s been a hell of a week. A screwball schedule combined with some of the strangest summer weather we’ve seen in the Portland area in years*, has me feeling all discombobulated.

So here’s what is helping me get through this week:

1. What I’m reading: First Man: The Life of Neil A. Armstrong by James R. Hansen. You know you’re reading a thorough biography when the author doesn’t get to the birth of the biographee until page 30. Seriously. Because we needed to go over the history of the Armstrong family name (it’s Scottish), and the history of Neil’s great-grandparents, and then his grandparents, and then his parents before they met each other. But I’m learning about Neil (can I call him that? I feel like I’m getting to know him pretty well), and I’m impressed. Getting your pilot’s license before your driving license? Getting into MIT, but choosing to go to Purdue? Playing in a ‘military’ band** to fulfill ‘military’ course credit for a Navy scholarship? Brilliant.

2. What I’m eating: Kettle Brand Kettle-style BBQ Potato Chips. I never liked BBQ chips before: they were too sweet and smoky and just plain funky.*** These are addictive. In fact, I just ate a whole bowl of them. I think. Or maybe the house elves were snacking on them as well when I wasn’t looking. Bad house elves.

3. What I’m drinking: Sunriver Brewing’s Fuzztail Hefeweizen. It reminds me of Rogue Ale’s Honey Orange Wheat, but with less orange (i.e. none)****. Honestly, it’s a perfect summer beer. And I must say, it goes very nicely with Kettle BBQ potato chips.

And now, back to enjoying a fine summer evening. At last.

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*There was “Juneuary” a year or two back, which saw June all cool and rainy. Lately (by which I mean the past month and a half) it’s been again cool and rainy, to the point of seeming more like winter than proper summer. My basil plants are wilting in the overcast damp chill. Today was the first day in awhile that was actually sunny, and even somewhat warm. Huzzah!

**He played baritone horn—the same horn I played in college marching band. We’re kindred spirits!

***Funky in a bad way. Not funky in a good way, like Earth, Wind, and Fire.

****Sunriver describes it as having grapefruit and lemon notes, so there is a citrus commonality.

Today’s haiku

sleeping fox

one day I’m moving
building shelves, tearing down walls
the next — unconscious

—on monthly energy swings

Permission granted

The other day I stumbled across a relatively new book on meditation. With a title like Bliss More: How to Succeed in Meditation Without Really Trying, I figured I had to give it a try.

I mean, why wouldn’t you try it? With emotional well-being benefits* like:

  • Gaining a new perspective on stressful situations
  • Building skills to manage your stress
  • Increasing self-awareness
  • Focusing on the present
  • Reducing negative emotions
  • Increasing imagination and creativity
  • Increasing patience and tolerance

And then add to that meditation’s ability to help manage:

  • Anxiety
  • Asthma
  • Cancer
  • Chronic pain
  • Depression
  • Heart disease
  • High blood pressure
  • Irritable bowel syndrome
  • Sleep problems
  • Tension headaches

Oh, and it’s free. Why wouldn’t you want to meditate?

I wanted to—desperately wanted to—but I struggled with it. I’ve tried Zen meditation, mindfulness meditation, and some other flavors, but I never came out of it with a happy, blissful surfer-like experience. More often I was tired, my back ached from sitting up straight, and I spent my time so focused on not thinking** that all I could do was chastise myself for thinking, which was more thinking with an added dollop of a feeling of failure.

Awesome.

The practice advocated in this book turns all of that on its head.

What if you were comfortable when you meditated? What if you were encouraged to look at a clock whenever you started wondering about the time? What if you accepted your thoughts as completely natural***, and not Dastardly Enemies to avoid or destroy? What if meditating were actually easy?

Like I said. Radical ideas.

So here’s the meditation technique:

  1. Sit comfortably (with back support)****
  2. Use an easy-to-see timing device (not an alarm)
  3. Calculate your finish time (10-20 minutes)
  4. Close your eyes
  5. Passively think the sound “ahhhhh-hummmm”
  6. Let yourself simultaneously get lost in your thoughts
  7. When you remember that you’re meditating, passively begin thinking “ah-hum” again
  8. Peek freely and often at the time
  9. Once you’re done, wait a minute or two before opening your eyes
  10. Come out slowly

Thre prescription is to ideally, meditate 2x a day (upon awakening, and in afternoon/early evening), and no more than that.

Easy peasy.

I’ve tried it a couple times so far, and so far it feels odd to have permission to let my mind ramble with no curbing it. To sit back and relax, and not keep adjusting my posture and thinking about the position of my head or the ache in my knees.

Just the idea of not trying is a revelation. No effort.

Permission granted to just sit.

Amazing.

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*Source: Mayo Clinic

**Yeah, try to have no thoughts. And no get caught up in, “Darn thoughts! Why won’t you go away? I’m meditating here!”

***Even the ones you are embarrassed to think.

****How would you sit if you were watching TV? Yeah, do that.

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