Adding to my routine

City of Palm Springs Aquatic Center
I miss our beautiful Palm Springs city pool.

For one week, I’ve gotten in the pool each day to kick. Tuesday I went back to the Y for the first time in months and lap swam.

Why did I stop with the lap swimming? Mostly it was the weather. Summer in the Arizona desert is cloudy with daily thunderstorms and lightening. Not ideal outdoor swimming weather.

If it’s not storming it’s brilliant intense sunshine which I tend to avoid. Before I knew it, I was out of the lap swimming habit.

I’ve been following “The Artist’s Way” by Julia Cameron for years. At least most of her routine of morning pages, prayer and daily walks. The thing I’ve been missing is the “artist’s date.”

My excuse before was COVID shutdowns.

Now I have no excuse. The artist date is to go out — alone — and experience something to feed your muse. Cameron’s suggestions are looking in antique and fabric stores, go anywhere that will fill your senses and spark your creativity.

I’m going to try a once-a-week date with myself. I’ve added two days of lap swimming, and three days of kicking — now an artist’s date. I think that’s quite enough for now!

What is your morning or daily routine? What would you like to add to it?

The routine

diving off the blocks at a college meet.
My daughter off the blocks at a college duel meet. She’s the one with the pointed toes.

My daughter had a job interview yesterday. She called me afterwards. She brought up a compelling point. They asked her how she handles stress or pressure on the job.

“I go to a private place, take a deep breath and shake it out. Then the anxiety leaves and I can prioritize what needs to be done,” she said.

She told me that was exactly what she did before the interview. She followed her pre-race routine. I’ve seen it a million times. She would stand behind the blocks, shake out her right arm, her left arm. Put her right leg on the blocks and stretch, repeat with the left leg.”

I remembered taking golf lessons when my kids were toddlers. My golf pro established a pre-hit routine for me. Each time I “addressed the ball” I would take two baseball swings with my golf club to loosen up. I’d take a deep breath and stand over the ball.

If you watch swimming, golf, or other sports — you’ll notice most athletes have a routine before they move. It frees their mind from thinking. It’s a signal to put their game face on and react physically, letting go of negative thoughts or any thoughts at all.

Six or seven years ago, I read “The Artist’s Way” by Julia Cameron, former wife of Martin Scorsese. She preached about morning routines. I began morning pages back then and have stuck with the routine. When I wake up, I reach for a journal and write three pages of whatever is on my mind. It can be a to do list, about my dreams, my prior day or anything that jumps into my brain. It releases anxiety and clears my head for more creativity.

Also, my morning routine includes prayer and a walk.

I feel centered and grounded and ready to carry on for the rest of the day.

What routines do you have in your life? What benefits do you see?

Unintended consequences of mindfulness

The baby quail are growing up. Bird watching, especially the babies, helps me relax.

I have two mindfulness apps on my phone. They are supposed to help me with anxiety and stress. One is called Mindfulness, the other Headspace. I’m not very good about using them. I’ll go through a phase where at the end of the day, I’ll sit down and turn on the app for a five minute mindfulness session. Then the next week, I forget about them.

I saw a headline in the Washington Post that caught my eye:

An unintended consequence of mindfulness

Sometimes it pays to contemplate other people’s feelings — not merely your own by Andrew C. Hafenbrack

Here’s an excerpt:

You’ve had a stressful day at work, so, like millions of other people, you open up Calm or Headspace on your smartphone and do some mindful meditation — concentrating on your bodily sensations, “observing” your thoughts in the moment. Research has shown that this is likely to have benefits: Mindful meditation reduces anxiety, depression and stress; more pragmatically, it can also improve sleep, decision-making, focus and self-control. This helps to explain why so many companies have jumped on the mindfulness bandwagon, incorporating it in corporate wellness programs (and why Calm was valued at $2 billion in 2020). But what if, in the course of your stressful day, you acted like a jerk toward a colleague at a meeting? Could all of that inward focus cause you to downplay the harm you caused that person, letting it float away like a leaf on a stream?

That’s exactly what my research colleagues Matthew LaPalme and Isabelle Solal and I found in a series of eight studies, involving more than 1,400 participants in the United States and Portugal, slated to be published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. Across a range of laboratory scenarios and online experiments, we found that asking people to engage in a single session of 8 or 15 minutes of mindfulness meditation — focusing their attention on the physical sensations of breathing — reduced their self-reported levels of guilt (about incidents warranting guilt). It also reduced their willingness to take “prosocial” steps to remedy harms they’d done. The research suggests that people ought to be careful about when they use mindfulness meditation, lest the comfort they derive from it come at the cost of their connections with other human beings.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/outlook/2022/05/18/mindful-meditation-guilt-amends/

The writer is an assistant professor at the University of Washington’s Foster School of Business. In his studies he discovered that Meditation led feelings of guilt to subside, along with the desire to rectify the situation.

So meditation is good at making us feel calm, but it may get rid of guilt when we hurt someone else’s feelings. Sometimes feeling guilty is good, especially if it’s warranted. The emotion of guilt can prompt us to do the right thing like apologize. The inward trend of mindfulness can lessen our empathy to those around us.

I had never heard this perspective before and I found it interesting.

What are your thoughts about mindfulness? Do you find it helpful? Do you think it alleviates feelings of guilt or not?

cardinal in Arizona back yard
Cardinal in my backyard.

Ash Wednesday: do you give something up — or give?

Ash Wednesday ashes

Today is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of 40 days and 40 nights of Lent for many Christians. Do you give something up? Or what are you going to do?

The three things I’ve heard about Lent are to fast on Ash Wednesday and Fridays, carve out more time for daily prayer and do good works.

I get hungry on Ash Wednesday and Fridays, craving a fat juicy steak that I’d normally not care about. It’s a funny thing when you can’t have something, you fixate on it.

Second, I will find time to pray more. If you believe that prayers make a difference in this world, then more prayer should be easy.

Third, there is the part about doing good works. I think that is most difficult of all. Off the top of my head I don’t know what “good works” I can do. I will keep my eyes open and look around me to see small ways where I can make a difference. 

I’m going to Ash Wednesday services for the first time since the COVID shutdown. There’s a church less than two miles from our house that I’ve never been to that has four Ash Wednesday services.

I remember when my daughter was young she said she was giving up piano lessons for Lent. She hated piano. In the past, I’ve given up Facebook, Diet Coke, wine and chocolate. I haven’t decided what I’m going to give up or do this year. I’m working on it.

What you are doing for Lent? What good works are you going to do? Or what are you going to give up?

heartfelt note to a soldier from a gold star child
A heartfelt note from a gold star child to a soldier.