I’ve learned over the years that I have pretty strict requirements for the amount of rest, downtime, and self-care I need in order to maintain my mental, emotional, and physical health. Compared to most people, this is fairly narrow range of tolerance for extra doing, decreased sleep, or missed routines.
This week has been extra hectic and stressful just because of the confluence of too many things all at once. I’ve been packing too much into my days, staying up too late at night, and skipping my morning pages some mornings to squeeze in a little extra rest. Missing my morning pages has left me feeling off-kilter during the day, which adds to the stress, and the lack of downtime and sleep has worn me down.
I’ve read a lot about the importance of having good self-esteem over the years, but it’s something I’ve just never quite been able to manage. No matter how well I do at something, I’m always aware that I could have done better or that there are other areas that I am not doing so well with. As a scientist, I am always looking for “proof” of whether any sense of self-esteem is justified.
My study of yoga has taught me more about the importance of compassion, including self-compassion. I find self-compassion to still be challenging to put into action sometimes, but it feels better than all my work at self-esteem ever has. New research indicates that self-compassion is actually healthier and leads to more success than self-esteem does. This week’s set of links shares more about that research and about how to put self-compassion into practice.
I’ve always been fascinated by the stories friends tell of the odd food cravings they got while pregnant. These cravings may be for things that they normally don’t enjoy or for unusual food pairings (like pickles and ice cream) or even for things that they would not normally considering eating (like the story I heard of someone craving dirt while pregnant).
I am fascinated by the stories partly because I have never been pregnant, so I have never experienced such cravings. But I am also fascinated by the specificity of the cravings these friends report. I am well familiar with that sharp edge of craving, but my cravings are too amorphous to identify and name. I hear these stories of specific craving with a bit of envy, wondering what it would be like to know with such certainty what it was that I desired.
It’s New Year’s Eve as I write this, a time when my mind naturally turns to looking back over the last year and forward to the next one. Even though I gave up on New Year’s resolutions a number of years ago, there is still something about this time of year that encourages reflection on changes that I’d like to see in my life.
As I look back on 2012, I see yet another year of much change—both external and internal. While this change in 2012 has at times been challenging and has caused me to make some fairly radical changes to where I thought I was headed, overall the year has been one of positive changes. This is especially true compared the amount of difficulty and heartbreak that 2010 and 2011 brought with them. It’s encouraging to note that I seem to have turned the corner from the process of being completely melted down to the start of the process of being rebuilt into something new in this journey through the chrysalis.
When I was younger, I used to believe that God had a perfect plan for our lives. Our job was figure out what this plan was and get with the program.
I believed that there was one perfect spouse for each of us, one perfect career path, one place we were to live, one church we were to attend, one choice in every situation that was right. All other choices were wrong and disobedient. This put an awful lot of pressure on every decision to make sure it was the one perfect one.
It used to really frustrate me to think that God had laid out this perfect plan that I was supposed to follow, but that I wasn’t given a copy of the checklist for ever decision I faced so I’d know which one was right. It seemed so unfair. To top it off, I often heard it said that God would call you to whatever you were least suited (in skills and personality) to do, so if you were actually good at what you were doing or you enjoyed it, it was a sure sign that you were on the wrong path.
I’m running my link love post a little early this week to collect resources for helping out the Hurricane Sandy victims. While many of the resources I found and have listed below focus heavily on the U.S. east coast, please don’t forget that Sandy also did a great deal of damage in the Caribbean, particularly in Haiti where many still had not recovered from the earthquake in 2010.
The resources I list here are by no means comprehensive. Many religious organizations (like Christian denominations) have their own relief funds that could also benefit from additional donations at this time and may be a great choice for people who belong to those organizations, although those are not mentioned in the lists that I found.
My book club discussed Sharon Salzberg’s Lovingkindness: The Revolutionary Art of Happiness at our meeting this month. Although Salzberg is a leading Buddhist writer in the US and a name with which I am very familiar, this is actually the first book of hers that I have read. It’s considered a classic in the field, from what I understand, so it was a great place to start.
The primary focus of the book is on the Buddhist practice of metta, which is translated into English as lovingkindness. The book covers this practice, several related practices that intertwine and grow out of a metta practice, and applies this practice to real-life situations that all of us face. It is unmistakably clear how powerful this practice can be in the way we experience the world around us and the amount of happiness that we experience.