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Sunday, January 18, 2009

"And late December can drag a man down, you feel it deep in your gut"

It feels like, in the winter time, I have two modes. I either fall into a terrible funk, or I busy myself so much that I can't fall into a funk. This year, I chose the latter. However, being so busy means losing a sense of mindfulness. It also means some pretty unhealthy stretches of days where sleeping becomes a fond memory and I eat an apple for lunch and fried pickles for dinner.

Today, at the suggestion of an old friend, I took a conscious "brain vacation" day. How did I spend it? I'm so glad you* asked!

1. First, I slept in. I woke up early, but saw the snow and turned back over. Like a groundhog.
2. I was going to walk to church and meditate on the way, but I was running late. So I drove. Only to find out I had gotten the mass times wrong. So I parked my car and took a Meditative Sensory Walk.

When I stayed with the Sister of the Good Shepherd back in 2004, some of the best things I learned were different ways of praying and meditating. The Sisters were big on incorporating Eastern techniques into our Western, Judeo Christian practice. One of the coolest things we did was learn to take long walks and concentrate on only the present, only the here and now, through each of the five senses. We did this in the woods and in New York City.

This morning I had a really hard time and realized I am way out of practice. I kept letting my mind wander to the past, or to the future. Or, an even worse habit I have, I began narrating my walk as if I was already journaling about it. "I made my way up the snowy street past the frozen pond..." I had to focus on seeing, smelling, tasting, hearing and feeling things without thinking the words for them. Which is hard to do, to process sensory input without turning it into descriptions. Just to feel, and to know that you are feeling, and to not allow the mind to make it anything else. Great practice especially for someone like me who takes an unhealthy pride in the amount of multitasking she is able to accomplish.

3. I attended Mass, and actually tried to attend Mass in the same way I meditated.

4. I went grocery shopping for the first time since I got home from Japan**. I bought all kinds of healthy and delicious things, and straightaway ate lunch at my cozy kitchen table instead of at my desk. NO COMPUTERS ALLOWED.

5. I drank a TON of water all day and even took a nap.

6. Later, I worked on a video editing project. Yes, the verb is "worked," but this was an important part of vacation. This particular project is purely creative. Unlike everything else I am doing, there is no deadline; it's not for Three Hole, or IB, or IA or BHCHP. It is just for me. Art for art's sake! It engaged me visually, aurally, and critically. Exactly the type of activity recommended by experts to create a better brain.

The takeaway? I feel a lot healthier at the end of tonight than I have other nights. But I would get bored quickly if every day was like this.
* Hi Mom!
** Yikes! I know. I have no excuses to give you. I need to stop eating four meals a day at Java Jo's.

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