Tag Archives: Mindfulness

Put a happy face on it: Pothole city

Going through old posts, I found a picture to give us a boost today.

Orange happy face painted on a pothole
Happy face pothole

It is the time of year for potholes in Ottawa, Canada where I live. The ground is thawing and contracting after expanding through the frozen winter. Road salt exacerbates the damage to the asphalt that crumbles under the wheels of cars.

On this pothole, patched by black asphalt, a happy person painted an orange happy face.

When life sends you potholes, put on a happy face.

Mind like water: Stress-free productivity

Don’t get set into one form: adapt it and build your own, and let it grow. Be like water. Empty your mind. Be formless, shapeless—like water. Now you put water in a cup, it becomes the cup; you put water into a bottle it becomes the bottle; you put it in a teapot it becomes the teapot. Now water can flow or it can crash. Be water, my friend.

—Bruce Lee as found in Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity by David Allen

Over the past year, during my work at the library or as a writer, I’ve heard comments like this:

  • I’m trying to read now that I have more time, but I can’t concentrate!
  • My mind doesn’t want to focus on anything “heavy.” My productivity has plummeted.
  • I’m supposed to be working/writing, but it’s so difficult to stick with it.

The stresses of COVID are messing with our minds, and our productivity.

Today I wanted to lie on my couch and do nothing. That sounded like the BEST plan.

I opened my phone. I clicked on an old link. I found Bruce Lee’s phrase, and I got up off the couch.

“Imagine throwing a pebble into a still pond. How does the water respond? The answer is, totally appropriately to the force and mass of the input, then it returns to calm. It doesn’t overreact or underreact.”

David Allen in Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity

If I throw a rock into a pond, the water has to react. It can’t NOT react.

COVID threw a rock into us. It was a BIG rock. We responded. We couldn’t NOT react. And we reacted appropriately to the force and mass.

Now, like water, we can return to calm. Out of that, productivity flows.

Ripples on water

Groundhog Day: Start from where you are

When we run a race, do we start at the finish line?

Of course not. We begin at the starting line, run every step (maybe walk a few), and cover all the ground in between.

Why do we want to start at the finish line in other areas of our lives? And why do we expect other people to be standing at the finish line before they have run the race?

Parents do this all the time. Children pass through difficult phase after difficult phase, with parents wishing each phase away:

  • “When will this baby ever (take a bottle . . . sleep through the night . . . wean from the breast . . .)?”
  • “When will my toddler ever (potty train . . . stop throwing temper tantrums . . . give up the soother . . .)?”
  • “When will my child ever (stop crying every day at school . . . learn to read . . . stop sucking her thumb . . .)?”
  • “When will my teenager ever (do his homework on time . . . clean up that pigsty of a room . . . stop doing drugs . . .)?”

We want our children to be perfect, fully formed people without letting them run the race.

We adults have unrealistic expectations of ourselves too. We want to be in some other better place instead of where we are.

Whether it’s losing ten pounds, playing “Moonlight Sonata” on the piano, finishing a jigsaw puzzle, or writing a book, we can’t start at the finish line. We have to run the race, go through the process.

I’m thinking about this on Groundhog Day.

This is a picture of a groundhog in summer – not in winter in Ottawa, Canada, where I live.

No respectable groundhog is showing his face around here any time soon.

I LOVE the movie (it might be my favourite of all time), but the day? What a ridiculous idea. We can’t skip over winter to get to spring. WE ARE GOING TO HAVE SIX MORE WEEKS OF WINTER NO MATTER WHAT! This is Canada, for goodness sake. Nature has to run the race.

We can’t start at finish line. That’s the theme of the movie. Settle in. Take steps over and over. You’ll get there.

All the groundhogs in this field are snoozing under the snow.

Friendship: Organized compassion

Many people choose a word for the year. For the past few years my word has been chosen for me on the first Sunday of the year at our church. For the past nine months our “church” has not been a building; it has been an online community. The friendships with people from that community have kept me strong, led me to think, and made me laugh through the pandemic.

I guess it’s only fitting then that the word that community gifted to me for 2021 is FRIENDSHIP.

Friendship is a foundation. With a solid base of friendships, a person can hold steady through stormy times.

Friendship involves a mix of generations, of old and young sharing time.

Friendships reveal truths and provide opportunities for growth. Real friends tell us when we’re messing up. They let us know if we have grown stagnant and need to take on a new challenge.

Friendships make the world a better place. Friends volunteer together, raise funds, and help others.

Friendships promote lifelong learning. In book clubs, writing circles, courses, and one travels together, friends learn something new every day.

Friendships are fun. With friends we sing, dance, tell stories and laugh.

Friendships are comfort. They are organized compassion.

With FRIENDSHIP as my word, 2021 should be a spirit-filled year.

Cut out letters on a sign: We love, We Laugh, We Cry, We Live.

Burning to see the moon

Barn's burnt down
now
I can see the moon.
—Mizuta Masahide

The year 2020 was a scorcher, wasn’t it? A heck of a lot of “barns” burned down.

So hard. So sad.

But . . . what can you see now, that you couldn’t see before?

“You may not control all the events that happen to you, but you can decide not to be reduced by them.” 

—Maya Angelou

The peace of lowered expectations

We are in a different kind of December. We can’t fill up our calendars with festive parties every weekend.

It’s strange, but you have to admit, you’re feeling more rested, and you have more time to do everything you want to do.

Maybe you won’t be making the drive to a family Christmas gathering. Maybe it will be the first time you miss it.

It’s sad, but you have to admit, it will save you a lot of stress. Christmas will be more peaceful.

The cookie exchange, the group of friends that gets together every year, the Santa pub crawl will all have to wait.

Those are tough sacrifices, but you have to admit, it will be nice to not have to bake so much, and it will be easier to stick to a healthful diet.

We are forced to let go of events, rituals, traditions. Some of them we happily set free; others we will miss terribly.

No matter what, there is breathing room in those lowered expectations.

Peace.

Advent wreath with Hope and Peace candles lit