Back to Basics

Trees in a forest

The last month and a half has been challenging for me.  I traveled to Greece for two weeks, which disrupted my usual routines, though I still managed to do some meditating and blogging while I was there.  Then my dad was hospitalized and died, and for a while it seemed nearly impossible to focus on anything else.  I still think about my dad constantly, and my mom and I are doing our best to figure out this new normal.  To top it off, I am pregnant with my first child, making me both excited and exhausted.  Simple tasks like eating and exercising have become much more difficult than they once were.

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Summer Slow-Down: Learning to Relax

A beach with two people relaxing under a pair of palm trees

As my mom will tell you, I’ve never very been good at relaxing.  Since about sixth grade, I’ve been involved in all sorts of things.  As an adult, you will rarely find me sitting down when I’m at home.  I tend to spend my evenings and weekends working out, doing yard work, doing laundry or other chores around the house, attending a meeting or event, visiting friends, or working on some kind of project.  I pretty much never sit in front of a television, and my relaxation time is usually scheduled (e.g., yoga class, meditation group, occasional massage or mani/pedi).

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Resisting Polarization and Encouraging Compassion

Double rainbow and seagulls over Niagara Falls, with onlookers

We humans like to place people into buckets: good and bad, left and right, us and them. This seems to be an age-old tendency, and it isn’t all that surprising that the rise of social media and the proliferation of news and opinion platforms have allowed our divisions to become more entrenched and more apparent. We can choose to read and listen to only those sources that affirm what we already feel and believe, and we can respond to those who disagree while protected by a screen that keeps us from seeing and experiencing their humanity, their emotional reactions.  Our quickly typed words can be amplified through shares and retweets, carried far beyond the small circles that might once have heard them.

Many, many people have written about the heightened state of polarization in which we live these days, lamenting how destructive it is and postulating about what led to this environment.  It is distressing and disheartening.  But it doesn’t have to be this way.

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The Weekend Listen – Series Finale

A pair of wireless headphones for podcast listening

Happy Friday!  I want to give my sincere thanks to everyone who completed the reader survey.  Your feedback has been very valuable to me.  (If you haven’t taken it yet, the survey is still open.)

One of the things I learned is that most of you don’t listen to podcasts and don’t plan to start listening to them any time soon.  With that information in mind, I’ve decided to discontinue the Weekend Listen series.  A few of you commented that you do appreciate the recommendations and enjoy hearing about new programs.  If you’re in that camp, don’t despair — you can follow me on Twitter, and I’ll share some of my favorite episodes there.  Additionally, because the things I listen to inform my thoughts, I’ll probably continue to reference podcasts in my posts, using interesting interviews and discussions as launch pads for longer, more substantive posts.

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Learn How to Meditate: An Introductory Meditation Class Recap

A rocky beach with blue water and a clear blue sky

Yesterday, I attended an introductory meditation class at the Appalachian Dharma & Meditation Center in Johnson City, Tennessee. It was a lovely way to spend a Saturday afternoon. I’ve participated in group meditation sessions before, and I’ve picked up meditation tips from various books, YouTube videos, podcasts, and yoga teachers, but I had never taken a class like this. It offered a nice overview of different meditation methods. The teacher, Jody Palm, identified herself as a Tibetan Buddhist, but I appreciated that the class material was secular in nature and free from the religious and pseudo-scientific claims I’ve sometimes encountered in yoga classes.

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Infusing our Environments with Reminders of our Values

A painting of forsythia trimmings in a clear vase and a blue pitcher on a table
Still Life with Forsythia, Oil on Canvas, 2015. For purchase information, please contact Alexis.

You may have noticed that in each Monday’s Quote of the Week post, I usually include a link to an item bearing the selected quotation or other words of wisdom spoken or written by the same person.  I do this not because I want to encourage you to buy things (I am not compensated for these links), but because I like to surround myself with statements of my values and important lessons.  Read more

The Weekend Listen

A pair of wireless headphones for podcast listening

I listen to a lot of podcasts while driving, working out, and doing chores around the house. In this weekly feature, I’ll tell you about one episode I particularly enjoyed that week. (I do not receive any compensation for these recommendations.)

I had a hard time choosing a podcast for this post because I listened to several this week that were so good.  The one I initially selected is pretty short, so I decided to pick a second bonus episode this time.

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