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Spirit (9 posts)
Self-reflection is a virtue.
Whenever I misbehaved as a girl, my mother would make me go think about what I'd done. Considering one's actions is essential. I love Yeats's idea: "We make out of the quarrel with others, rhetoric, but of the quarrel with ourselves, poetry."
It's okay to lose yourself.
Sometimes I become so focused on my work, I go hours without a break until I realize the shadows are coming in at the windows.
If I could, I'd take the train everywhere.
I'm not as terrified of flying as I once was, but I do frequently dream about planes doing things they should not do.
I will read War and Peace!
I hate confessing this, but I've never gotten through it—though I own two copies, and am named for one of the main characters.
I've got spirit—yes, I do.
I was head cheerleader in college, and when I watch cheerleading on TV I feel compelled to comment on their form. It's a part of my past I have yet to let go of.
"Expect nothing. Live frugally on surprise."—Alice Walker
"When people show you who they are, believe them the first time."—Maya Angelou
"When people talk, listen completely."—Ernest Hemingway
"Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out just how far one can go."—T.S. Eliot
"Don't ever confuse—your life and your work. The second is only part of the first."—Anna Quindlen
"The best way out is always through."—Robert Frost
"Three things in human life are important. The first is to be kind. The second is to be kind. And the third is to be kind.—Henry James
"A good time to laugh is anytime you can."—Linda Ellerbee
"Be the heroine of your life, not the victim."—Nora Ephron
You can't move very fast if you're carrying a lot of baggage. I try to remind myself of that every day. It's easy to get weighed down by bad stuff from your past--an accident, a difficult breakup, family issues, whatever. But if you're tied to the past, you're not going to get very far.
When I was lying in the hospital after the accident, my surgeon, Dr. DeLong, handed me some magazines about the Paralympics and told me to think about it. I had no idea what it would take to be an amputee, let alone a sprinter, let alone a gold medalist. But I told myself, "This is your new dream. Here it is. Take the first step."
Watch a video of April training for the Paralympics
Besides, we don't actually need to do anything drastic like travel overseas or lose wi-fi just for a moment of stillness, as this interactive map proves. Created by the Guggenheim Museum, this Still Spotting map allows users to upload their own peaceful places in that known mecca of tranquility, um, New York City. It's a useful tool for residents and tourists alike, compiling not only the expected parks and beaches but also quiet building lobbies, underpopulated coffee shops, and hidden green nooks. And it's a useful reminder, too -- no matter where you live, no matter how hustling-and-bustling your existence, you don't need a field full of sunflowers to experience a pause, a breath, a piece of peace. Where's your still spot? It might be under the bleachers at a Little League game. Just remember -- it's somewhere nearby, maybe somewhere completely unexpected, and it will be there waiting for you when you need it.
10 Minutes to Tranquility
7 Gifts from the Universe that Everyone Gets
In the waters off Long Island, cameras captured a woman with flowing hair, a seashell bra—and a fish tail. The mermaid (or rather, the woman in the mermaid costume) was performing in documentary filmmaker Susan Rockefeller's Mission of Mermaids, a short film that combines a sweeping history of mermaid lore (from ancient Greece to the Disney era) with startling facts about the pollution and overfishing that threaten our seas. Rockefeller's decision to lend her project a dash of storytelling pizzazz was a strategic one. "We're inundated with statistics about global issues, and it gets overwhelming," she explains. "So I wanted to combine myth with science." The film—a sneak peek of which showed at Sundance this year—suggests ways to save our seas, from refusing plastic grocery bags to buying sustainable seafood. Recently, Rockefeller also designed a line of mermaid-inspired jewelry, available at susanrockefeller.com; a portion of each sale benefits the marine protection organization Oceana. When people compliment the pieces, Rockefeller leaps at the chance to share her enthusiasm. "You don't win people's hearts by preaching," she says. "They need to see your passion."
It was one of the most cringe-inducing moments of the Beijing Olympics: Fierce, fleet Lolo Jones, leading the pack in the 100-meter hurdles, suddenly knocking over the second-to-last hurdle, losing her rhythm and falling back to seventh place. Just like that, the favored champion was out of the race. Four years later, Jones was dreaming of redemption in London, but her spot on this year's Olympic team wasn't a sure thing: she was coming off a rocky season that involved sub-par performances, nagging injuries and sagging confidence. And yet, last week Jones finished third in the 100-meter hurdles at the track and field trials and qualified for London. We are in awe of this killer photo of Jones at the trials. This is a woman who will not let anything--repeat, anything!--get in her way.
Puddicombe, a former Buddhist monk-turned-circus clown-turned-start-up entrepreneur (we're not making this up), founded the British organization Headspace to demystify meditation for the masses. In his book, Headspace: How Mindfulness Can Change Your Life in Ten Minutes a Day (which launched in the US this month), he explains the difference between the "aspirin approach" to meditation, which is using it as an occasional cure for stress--totally fine, but limited, he says--and the more integrated approach of weaving mindfulness into our daily activities. And then he goes on to show us exactly how to do that, with exercises that range from a minute of simply "not doing" to ten minutes of more traditional relaxation (these are also available as guided audio meditations on Headspace.com).
What we like about Puddicombe, besides his self-deprecating British sense of humor, is that he's equally enthusiastic about the scientific benefits of meditation as he is about the more metaphysical perks. We also like his practical approach to mindfulness--he can find a way to work it into just about every part of our daily routine. To see what we mean, check out this "airplane meditation" he shared with us that is designed to discreetly help us relax find peace while in the air.
More mini meditations you can incorporate into your day
It's a strange thing to be so unaccustomed to silence. To associate the sounds of leaves rustling and one's own heartbeat with ominous moments in horror movies. And that's just external quiet -- how many of us can imagine taking a vow of silence ourselves? We so often go through our days in a din, our ears plugged with music, our mouths talking talking talking. Wouldn't silence keep us from communicating, prevent us from connecting with our thoughts, and, you know, scare the crap out of us?
Writer Jeremy Mesiano-Crookston posed this question (sort of) to the Trappist Monks of Oka Abbey, in Quebec. Trappist Monks are known for being the only Western order that practices silence (it's not technically a "vow of silence," as he explains). Mesiano-Crookston explains that it was "their dedication to the enshrinement of silence" that compelled him to reach out to them. He wanted to know how the silence works, and what it does for them. So he interviewed them -- via email, of course.
Their answers are illuminating: "The silence does make me aware of my inner workings, however, what we call in the monastery, 'self-knowledge.'...Silence seems to keep me from idealizing myself...I've become very attuned to the sound of bird-song, the wind, water running through the pipes, identifying unseen monks by the sound of their footsteps—just paying attention to my surroundings."
Identifying unseen monks? Wait, does a vow of silence come with superpowers? As much as the idea of so much silence makes me feel, I have to admit, immediately claustrophobic -- the way the monk describe it makes it sound like it might just be the key to something, to way to some mindful way of living and connecting to the world itself, not to mention developing your own inner resources. Another wrote: "On yet another level, silence means listening."
The monks' thoughts on silence make me wonder whether my own country-weekend aversion to silence might have been standing in for some larger noisiness in our lives. As one monk put it, "Silence is an aid and not an end in itself. It aids prayer, communal and private, and seeks to reduce distractions." We are so unused to really contemplating our own thoughts, the world around us, or really anything -- could it be the enormity of this that made a country weekend of quietude feel like a daunting prospect? According to the monks: "When there is lot of noise or movement around you, it’s tough to take notice of what you’re going through." So that's every waking moment of my life. No wonder I feel so scattered and, you know, un-monk-ish.
How might some moments of silence help you to focus on what you're going through?
For more on how silence works, and for the surprising connection the monks make between the noisy life and loneliness, read the entire essay here at The Awl.
How Silence Can Make You More Creative
The Quest for Quiet in a Noisy World
Have you heard about the most epic film of the summer? No, it isn't Snow White and the Huntsman or Prometheus. It's ... Slinky on a Treadmill. Early reviews have called it "dramatic," "affecting" and "weirdly suspenseful:)". While we're not giving up our multiplex tickets, we did take something else away from this charming little video, with its low-fi technique and orchestral soundtrack: workout motivation. Watch how the Slinky puts one coil in front of the other, over and over again, in the rhythm of determination. Note its single-minded pursuit of a goal. Pay attention to how the Slinky trips, stumbles and then regains its balance and poise, falling right back into step. The next time we find ourselves slowing to a demoralized slog mid-workout, we're going to cue up this mental video and push ourselves to...slink up the pace.
More motivation to work out:
Think of it as play!
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Try one of these addictively fun workouts