Posts Tagged ‘resolutions’

I will set my alarm each morning to awaken me with this:

I will leave no trick un-exploited in my efforts to finish this book

  • I will use the laundry trick (that’s 34 minutes to wash-write, and 28 minutes to dry-write)
  • The captive audience trick (any time I’m in a waiting room; why else do I have a MacBook Air?)
  • The just-5-minutes trick (what do I have to lose?)
  • The muted Law & Order trick (I know I’ll turn it off to concentrate)
  • The change of scenery trick again and again and again (the living room, the dining room, the guest room, the bedroom, the courtyard, the Starbucks, the other Starbucks)

I will resist watching this:

And this:

And especially this:


Every time I hear myself say any of the following:

You’re not a writer, you know

That sentence totally sucks

Um, wait, I think you missed a chance to gaze at your navel

No one wants to read this shizzle but your mom

I will drop and give myself 20



Read Full Post »

When I was younger, I recall my Dad loosely quoting Benjamin Franklin, There are two things you can count on in life: death and taxes. This was expressed with a sense of resignation and discomfort, as if these things would be better avoided, but that eventually they would get the better of us all.

Fast-forward about 3 decades and I find myself regularly repeating my father’s words. So much of what I’m learning about Buddhism is about how to face the inevitable. About growing up and dealing with the facts of life. And yet I notice how much of my day-to-day thoughts and actions seem to run counter to this. How I avoid dealing with the fact that eventually – and likely far too soon – I will age, get sick, and die.

Ironically, right now I’d much rather think about death than taxes. This year, I decided to do them myself, to save a little money, to find as many deductions as humanly possible, and prepare myself for a nice fat refund. This is not how it went down.

I completely botched my taxes and realized this only after I submitted them. I omitted several important forms, failed to report some dividend income, and wound up owing much more than I anticipated. Worse than this, I realized my error in the presence of someone else, someone I admire.

What I felt was a combination of stupid and screwed, something I would much rather experience in private. Sort of like going #2. And to have my stupidity and screwed-ness revealed in front of another was like having someone walk in on me in a public bathroom.

Interestingly I had also just read a recent article in Shambhala Sun magazine entitled Life Is Tough: Six Ways to Deal With It, in which Norman Fischer highlights six of the lojong mind-training slogans that are particularly useful in dealing with life’s difficulties.

The first of the slogans jumped off the page at me: Turn all mishaps into the path. Fischer highlights the tendency to practice happily when things go smoothly but how quickly we fall apart when life takes a turn for the worse. When I realized I was feeling stupid and screwed, and that someone else had witnessed this, I acted as if a bee had flown into my blouse. I wanted it gone! I was physically and emotionally uncomfortable, wanting nothing more than to rid myself of the discomfort, anxiety, and negativity.

In order to turn all mishaps into the path, Fischer suggests practicing patience:

“…Patience is the capacity to welcome difficulty when it comes, with a spirit of strength, endurance, forbearance, and dignity rather than fear, anxiety, and avoidance. None of us likes to be oppressed or defeated, yet if we can endure oppression and defeat with strength, without whining, we are ennobled by it. Patience makes this possible. In our culture, we think of patience as passive and unglamorous; other qualities like love or compassion or insight are much more popular. But when tough times cause our love to fray into annoyance, our compassion to be overwhelmed by our fear, and our insight to evaporate, then patience begins to make sense. To me it is the most substantial, most serviceable, and most reliable of all spiritual qualities. Without it, all other qualities are shaky.”

With this in mind, I tried to practice patience. I watched my feelings and behavior. I forgave myself for having Swiss cheese capabilities, in which taxes happen to fall in one of the holes. I allowed myself to recognize that taxes (and money in general) are a source of anxiety and avoidance for many people and that I was not alone in this. At one point I found myself crying to my dad while shoving a turkey sandwich into my mouth, but eventually I came back to practicing patience.

When I file my amended tax return, it will be with a sense of humility, dignity, and forgiveness of my imperfections. And the resolution to use an accountant next year.

Read Full Post »

When I was writing a nutrition book several years ago, I spent a lot of time not writing. I cleaned, napped, drank, anything to avoid what I knew I had to do (and actually really wanted to do!). I thought I was an expert procrastinator until I completed a questionnaire at the end of Robert Boice’s book Professors As Writers, entitled The Blocking Questionnaire. The Blocking Questionnaire is sort of a Myers & Briggs test for your writing personality. Based on your answers to multiple questions regarding overt, cognitive/emotional, and social signs of blocking (as in writer’s block), you are scored in several areas, including work apprehension, procrastination, writing apprehension, dysphoria, impatience, perfectionism, and rules. While all of these things are likely to affect writers to some degree, typically one quality predominates.

Based on my results, I found that what I thought of as procrastination was firmly rooted in perfectionism. I was finally able to complete my book once I heeded Boice’s advice: “perfectionists learn to laugh at their perfectionism and to put it in its proper place – toward the end of the writing process. They do so, at least in the short run, by confronting their internal critic and by writing around him or her.”

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a post called Practicing Imperfection. At that time, I had reached a tipping point regarding the unrealistic standards I hold myself to. In drafting my declaration of imperfection, I seem to have touched a nerve, with myself and several others. And, as often happens with me, it wasn’t until after I had written it that I realized just how true, important, and poignant this issue is.

I find that much of my internal monologue is about perfection, how I should be able to achieve it, yet how incapable I am of it. Case in point: for the past several years I have dreamed of writing a book about my experiences quitting drinking, beginning meditation, and learning to lean into my real (though messy, unpredictable, and often uncomfortable) life. While I have every logical reason to believe I am capable of this (past book writing experience, basic ability to string together sentences, an encouraging and supportive network), I have delayed the actual writing of the book.

My inner perfectionist doesn’t think it’s worth writing if it’s not a best-seller, if it doesn’t land of me on the present day equivalent of the Oprah Winfrey show, and if basically everyone doesn’t love me for writing it. Again, I spend much of my time and energy not writing this book. Instead, I do research so that I won’t omit any important information when I do finally commit to writing, I play with shifting the focus of the book proposal this way and that, and I furtively scan recently published book titles assuming one day I’ll find someone has beat me to it.

Who could live with these expectations? I would never place such pressure on someone I love…isn’t that a mouthful? While I can’t say that I will no longer be a perfectionist, I am committing to making imperfection a practice, much like meditation. What this leads to remains to be seen.

Read Full Post »

Normally when I practice meditation, my experience consists of trying to reign in swarming thoughts and to focus on the breath. It often takes some time for the swarm to settle down and for my mind to quiet a bit. Until that happens – and it doesn’t always happen – my practice is a continuous process of noticing, remembering, and redirecting. Occasionally during this process I have realizations that help me to understand myself a little better.

Recently, as I sit to practice, I have noticed just how sticky my mind can be. Rather than simply acknowledging and releasing whatever thought is buzzing by, I often become attached to it, particularly if I feel there is a problem to be solved.

I have long approached life as a series of problems to be solved. Like a lost character from Adam Hargreaves’ Little Miss and Mr. Man series of children’s books, I am drawn to problems like a turkey to glitter. This helps to orient me and gives me purpose. At the same time, my Little Miss Fix-it mind tells me that everything can be improved upon, nothing is ever quite good enough, “better” is always a possibility.

I don’t have anything against self-improvement. In many ways, this approach has helped me accomplish a great deal. However, the belief that nothing is ever enough is particularly dangerous, and it feeds the false belief that goodness, perfection, and wholeness are things that reside somewhere off in an unspecified and distant future. At the same time, this problem-solving mentality can be a very expensive distraction in terms of time and energy.

Last week I introduced the concept of practicing imperfection. In doing so, I am playing with the idea that things, including myself, are fine just as they are. They are good enough, right now.

Similarly, during sitting practice, when my mind sticks to various problems and attempts to solve them, I send some love to my inner Little Miss Fix-it. Then I practice letting go, refocus my attention on the breath, and remind myself that, right now, I am meditating.


image credit

Read Full Post »

It occurs to me as I continue to look at my life as objectively as possible that I often hold myself to unreasonable standards of perfection. As much as meditation has softened me to situations and other people, I continue to take an unforgiving approach to my own thoughts, experiences, and even my own body.

The following is a pact I have made with myself to practice imperfection, to embrace the things about my real life I often try to strong-arm into compliance, and to be gentler with my own damn self. Please feel free to add your thoughts or to create your own pact:

  1. I will no longer, at a distance of a quarter-inch from my bathroom mirror, try to rid my skin of every last blackhead, flake of dry skin, and stray hair that may or may not exist
  2. I will not try to “make good time” everywhere I go
  3. I will not maniacally remove an otherwise fine manicure because of a microscopic chip nor will I discard articles of clothing because of pulls, small holes, and other minute imperfections; rather I will wear both with pride
  4. I will not scuttle after every Darwin-colored tumbleweed of cat hair that rolls across our matching hardwood floors
  5. When I step on a piece of cat food, people food, cat litter, or other unidentified object, I will not obsessively retrace my steps with a dust buster
  6. I will not try to anticipate every food, beverage, and entertainment need of my significant other, cats, or houseguests; rather I will place the onus on them to “use their words”
  7. I will (try very hard to) not obsess over the size, shape, and texture of various parts of my body
  8. I will not chase with a lint roller anyone who sits on our cat-adored couch
  9. I will not insist on finding a 10th way in which I will practice imperfection

Read Full Post »

« Newer Posts - Older Posts »


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 678 other followers

Powered by WordPress.com
%d bloggers like this: