Mindfulness Study: What’s Your Rhythm?

My theme for this year is renewal and rebuilding. Last year, I spent a lot of time saying yes to new opportunities. Like Amy Poehler, I love to say yes, but sometimes we have got to say no. This year, I’ve taken a step back and am using what extra time I have to study and practice mindfulness. Here are some new concepts I’ve run across. I hope they also benefit you!

Rhythm vs. balance. In Overworked and OverwhelmedScott Eblin details how we can incorporate mindfulness into our daily lives – he focuses mostly on work, interviewing CEOs and other top leaders, but there is a lot of relevance to daily life as well. He talks about finding a rhythm vs. finding a balance. This resonated with me. There are many times I don’t feel overwhelmed, because I’m focusing on the present moment. When I am able to sit with my thoughts and emotions rather than let them take over, I am able to feel gratitude for the full, rich life I live. (This thought is also echoed in The Upside of Stress by Kelly McGonigal: a stressed life is a rewarding one.) Yet there are also times when I feel consumed by my work or by my children’s needs. There is an ebb and flow to life, and we must learn to go with it, surviving the tough times and relishing the good times.

Repetition of positive loops. This concept is from Mind Hacking by Sir John Hargrave. I will be doing this 21-day program with my staff at the library in March – it’s very cool and available for free online. One of the exercises talks about the negative thought loops we all deal with. They are pervasive and frustrating, and they seem to exist no matter what we try to get rid of them. Hargrave suggests using positive loops to replace them: coming up with mantras that you repeat, over and over, until you start to believe them. For example: I am calm. I am at peace. I am a good worker.

Coming to terms with the gravel. As my life becomes busier, my tendency to want to complete everything to a high standard becomes harder. I want to have all the laundry done now! The house should be perfectly clean at all times! I should answer all e-mails the moment they appear in my inbox! When you think about it, this is clearly not possible. And there are so many interruptions in our day, it’s difficult to focus even when things are going right. Make peace with the “gravel” – all those little things we have to do in life. Stay in the present moment while you’re doing them, even if your brain wishes you were somewhere else. Let email pile up and address it all one or two times a day. Do laundry once a week, and you don’t have to do it all, as long as you have enough clean clothes to get you through. This is also from the Eblin book.

Guided meditation.  Even after studying mindfulness, I thought guided meditation was kind of lame. I didn’t think I could focus on it. But then I tried the Headspace and Calm apps. While they both have premium content, so far I have done the free stuff, and it is great. The library has guided meditation CDs you can borrow or download too. The guidance helps my brain think in different ways, getting me out of any ruts or loops I might be in.

A new definition of leadership. This is also from Eblin. At one point, he refers to leadership as a dual responsibility: defining reality and inspiring hope. In a world where some people seem to be confused on what a great leader is, this is a standard I aspire to.

How do you find your rhythm? What are your favorite ways to stay mindful?

Don’t Call It False

I started having contractions last Saturday night. Exhausting, painful contractions. In the week that has followed, I’ve had them nearly nonstop. And the worst part is that I probably have three more weeks of this to look forward to. I’m only 37 weeks. It’s not “real” labor… or is it?

In my Internet travels, I have discovered that this is a whole different category of labor. I am not a midwife, doctor, or doula, but according to everything I have read and my consultations with birth professionals, I have learned that prodromal labor is real labor. It is NOT Braxton-Hicks. Braxton-Hicks contractions are a painless tightening of the uterus. These painful contractions start and build in waves, then ebb. They contribute to dilation and effacement. They are just… really slow. This is how my body prepares for the main event, and I need to learn to relax and deal with it.

I had these with Henry, and I remember being frustrated with them. But this time, I’m older and have a three-year-old to chase after. I’m tired. Doing anything physical causes these things to get into gear, so I have to take frequent breaks. I’m also psychologically tired. I don’t know how I will deal with three more weeks of work, but I have to work because I want to save my time off for when the baby is actually here. (Although at least I’m not scheduled for any more time on desk, so I don’t have to worry about walking patrons to the stacks.) I feel guilty because I don’t want to travel, just in case, but my family all lives far away, and I’m missing out on holiday events. I’m having trouble keeping Henry entertained. And I’m having trouble keeping me entertained – once the kiddo goes to bed, I can’t focus on anything!

So, the answers to all your burning questions: Yes, I could have the baby any day now, but “any day now” could be tomorrow, or it could be December. Yes, I’m in labor… sort of. No, contractions do not mean the baby is coming. And if you are in the same boat, this doesn’t mean you are weird, and you are not crazy! Relaxing is hard, but I’m doing my best – and enjoying what little sleep I am getting, because soon I’ll have even less!

Home Chef Adventures

Since I was diagnosed with gestational diabetes, dealing with food has been difficult. I am on a highly restrictive diet, with testing of blood sugars four times a day. My friend Kristy graciously offered to make me dinner one night so I wouldn’t have to worry about cooking, and she made me an amazing recipe from Home Chef. Of course, I immediately wanted to know what this was all about.

Home Chef is part of the growing revolution of subscription products that are delivered directly to your door. They have a few competitors – Blue Apron, Plated, and Hello Fresh are the ones I ran across when doing research. But after having tried the food, I knew I wanted to try Home Chef first. Kristy got me a coupon, so my first delivery was less than $10 for three meals. They send them to you once a week, unless you skip a delivery or pause your account.

Check out this lovely unboxing video that my husband and I made. You can see everything that comes in the box, including the stay-fresh ice packs, recipe cards, and everything you need to make the meals.

I made the Brasserie-Style Steak with Green Beans and Frites. This is a meal delivery service, but the catch is that you actually have to cook the meals yourself. I like to cook, although I haven’t been able to do as much of it since I had Henry, and I imagine when the new baby comes, I’ll have even less time. I am not a very good cook, either. My version of the recipe did not look nearly as beautiful as the picture on the recipe card, and we had to throw the steaks back on because I didn’t cook them long enough. Still, the recipe was easy to follow, and the food was incredibly tasty. I liked having the ingredients perfectly portioned and dummy-proof, and I liked that there was food I wouldn’t normally think to buy. I also tend to skip on ingredients from recipes if I don’t think they’re necessary, but I’m afraid I have been missing out on flavors and combinations I didn’t know about before.

I’m excited to cook the other meals for the week. I have to skip next week’s delivery since I won’t have enough time to cook due to other commitments. Plus at about $10/serving, the cost is comparable to eating dinner out – I don’t think I could do this for three meals every week. But I will definitely check my account weekly, at least until the baby is born. It’s nice to have something to fall back on in case I’m not sure what to eat, since they have low-carb options, and the food is very good. The week of my birthday, there is a blue cheese steak!

UPDATE: We have now made all the meals for the week. My favorite was the rosemary chicken with roasted squash and apples. I just finished eating that, and it was amazing. I can’t wait to make it again. I never thought to roast squash and apples – it was so easy! I have reviewed the meals for the rest of November and have decided to order twice this month, once for my birthday week and once for Thanksgiving. I’m excited to see more of these awesome meals.

I did not receive any compensation or free items from Home Chef. Just a curious consumer.