Welcome to the middle path

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Sporadic photos and notes from a Psyche-midwife, cheerleader, anthropologist--aka clinical social worker in therapy practice. Photos are usually mine except for those of historical events/famous people. Music relevant to the daily topic is often included in a web video embedded below the blog. Click on highlighted links in the copy to get to source or supplemental material. For contact information, see my website @ janasvoboda.com or click on the button to the right below. Join in the conversation.

Monday, January 20, 2020

January 20th Challenge: Honor the Legacy of Dr. King

Today we honor the work of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, with a challenge to stand up against injustice with love and strength.

In Virginia, tens of thousands of "Patriots" are gathering to their right to own assault rifles and semi-automatics.  Conspiracies are flying about a new civil war, about busloads of crisis actors and antifa dressed as MAGAs being protected by deepstate police-- it's all so batshit crazy that it would be laughable. 

Except people die because of this rhetoric.

And in the United States, many more die than in similar countries.  Here, we have an average of 120 guns for every 100 people.  Considering how many people DON'T own guns, that means there are a hell of a lot of people stockpiling. 

And we see the results of that every day in America.  A house full of ammo exploding in Hawaii after the resident first guns down two cops.   A bar in Texas, in California, in Ohio, in Orlando becomes a massacre site.  Churchs, malls, movie theaters, schools, workplaces have all been targeted.  Often the violence is racially motivated. 

It's hard to even talk about sensible gun control-- registering, wait periods, no stockpiling ammo or home access to semi-automatics-- without NRA activists screaming about their rights and the second amendment.  Yet the vast majority of Americans WANT these laws. 

The NRA was originally designed to teach firearm safety for hunting.  It's morphed into something far more political and scary, and the sad part is its members swallow it whole, even though behind the curtain it's all about maintaining that $52 billion gravy train.

Martin Luther King Jr was murdered by a gun-carrying "patriot".  A man of peace meeting a most unpeaceful end. 

Your challenge, if you support changes to gun violence in America, is do something, anything, toward that end today. 

If you're a gun owner, you can make sure your guns are kept in a safe, safety on, ammunition elsewhere.  Don't leave them loaded in your house or car if you're not with them at all times.  Don't carry them at all if you are untrained, impulsive, have a history of violence, are under the influence of substances, or are depressed (having a gun in the house drastically increases your chance of death by suicide).  If you hunt, consider training for a compound bow.  If you hunt with a gun, be safety-trained, and use a gun intended for a decent hunter, not something to mow down a crowd.  If you like to shoot, do it where it's safe and legal and not a disruption to other's peace.  Semi-automatics should be kept to shooting ranges.  We don't drive Formula 500 cars on city streets and highways, and we shouldn't be shooting massive rounds off into the woods. 

Call your local, state and US representatives and urge the passage of uniform waiting periods and age restrictions.  Call your local department stores and urge them to stop selling guns primarily intending to kill people.  Support and give a shout out to those that do. 

Don't argue with gun rights activists.  They won't hear you.  You can try listening deeply to them and ask if they'll do the same with you.  It make not change anyone's minds, but you never know. 

If you just can't bear dealing with the gun violence issue today, here are some alternatives:

Learn more about how racial injustice continues to affect people of color in America in 2020.

Gather in community to celebrate the life and works of Dr. King.

Read or listen to some of Dr. King's speeches.

And most importantly, be a vessel of love, open-heartedness and deep curiosity  for understanding as you stand for justice.


Sunday, January 19, 2020

January 19th Challenge: The sound of silence

When is the last time you had a quiet day?

Among the many environmental losses of the last half century has been that of silence.  Human-made noise now invades the wilderness and oceans, drowning out the mating calls of insects and interfering with echolocation of whales and dolphins.  It's not great for people either-- constant ambient noise interrupts our thoughts, raises our blood pressure, inhibits memory and appears to be one of many reasons for the alarming rise in anxiety in the past decade.  

According to acoustic ecologist Gordon Hempton, last year the US was down to just 12 quiet places in wild areas, where nearby manufacturing, chainsawing, motor vehicles or aircraft don't impinge on the sounds of the natural world.  

In our hyper-connected world, we get a verbal barrage via media.  Watch the next time you go walking-- how many of those you pass are wearing earbuds?  Restaurants and pubs are rarely the place to converse anymore, with TVs and music blaring constantly.  In waiting rooms, elevators, grocery stores-- there's few escapes from constant chatter and stimulation.

Today's challenge is to have a quiet day.  Turn off the music, the podcasts, the television, the ringers and notification dings.  

See where your mind goes when it isn't being hijacked.

Shhhh  now.


Saturday, January 18, 2020

January 18th Challenge: Look for something beautiful

It's easy to be seduced by the flashy, polished  and commercialized.  Today's challenge is to notice little bits of beautiful wherever you can.  The lilt of a voice, the musical notation in the patterns of birds on overhead wires, the bright green moss  on a concrete sidewalk,  the play of shadows on your living room wall.

Enhance your wellbeing by cultivated your awe at little surprises of beauty.

What can you see?  \


Friday, January 17, 2020

Friday January 17th Challenge: Read 12 Truths from Anne Lamott

Lonnnnnnggggg week here, which is clearly an excuse for 1) why this is so late and 2) how lazy it is.  But my old pal Jill reminded me of this good post by national treasure Anne Lamott today, and I can't think of any better 20 minute challenge than reading it.  And hopefully putting some of this good wisdom to use.   Anne is my idea of a Christian that Jesus would really like.  Just like you, she's human AND holy.  Speaking of which, early warning that Sunday's blog is about sin.  Hope that won't scare you off.
Here you go:  12 Truths.
If you're not familiar with Anne, get one of her many good books.  Traveling Mercies was one of those reads that made a difference in my life, and I've gone back to it many times.  I also make liberal use of Anne's prayers for accepting reality: "Whatever" in the morning, and "Oh well" at the end of the day.  There's lots to be mined in the linked article above.  

Enjoy, and see you tomorrow,


Thursday, January 16, 2020

January Challenge Thursday: Find or make or listen to a poem

Did you get 'er done yesterday?  I did. I completed  my uncomfortable, long delayed colonoscopy.  And I decided to see it as a metaphor made literal:  an opportunity to let go of old shit. Pardon my bluntness, but I'm a Midwesterner, and we call it as we see it.  Feels good to take care of stuff!

Today baby January is today half grown, which means we are half way through the tiny resolutions.  You can catch up on any you missed by going to janasvoboda.org.  Playing catch up is fine.  Using resolutions from other years is fine too.  Every day is the start of a new year.

We're still in the dark and wet, so Thursday's a good day to make or read a poem. That's an easy enough resolution, eh?

Choose your own adventure.  Write out a poem you already know and love and read it aloud.  Bonus points for memorizing or for sharing with a friend. More bonus points for hiding it somewhere in hopes of it finding the right person.

Many years ago I was the poetrix for a group of creative souls.  We played poet games.  Here's a few if you'd like to try your hand:
  • Translate a poem from a foreign language you don't know.  Feel the words and come up with your own, then check it out against the translation after. 
  • Channel-translate a poem of one poet through another.  Write a Shakespeare sonnet in the voice of Dr. Seuss.  Turn Mary Oliver into e.e.cummings.  
  • Write a poem based off a title you steal from a newspaper headline or a snippet of overheard conversation.
  • Do haikus about bowling.
  • Write an ode to an everyday object, a la Pablo Neruda
  • Turn a recipe into a sonnet.
Happy poeting.  Here's a beautiful piece by a man more known for his science fiction.  Thanks for passing this one on, Marcia.



Wednesday, January 15, 2020

January 15: Challenge: Do something you've been putting off

Today's hump day, so let's get over it by picking a pesky procrastination and OWNING its anxious butt.
Far to literally true in my case-- I'm having that colonoscopy I've put off a few years.
Yours need not be so dramatic.  Open or delete those emails.  Write that letter. Repay that guy you owe.  Deal with that scary piece of mail.  Pair up that mess of socks into order. return that call.
Schedule that dentist appointment. Take those clothes you're never really going to wear to goodwill.
Lighten that load of oppressing tasks you keep putting off.
Do one thing you know you need to do.  Don't think too much about it.  Pick up the phone or open the envelop or whatever.
Get er done.

Over and out--

Monday, January 13, 2020

January 14th Challenge: Mind Your Manners

The last few years have taken their toll on common courtesy.  A nasty sort of partisanship has entered our politics, and name-calling and the type of abhorrent views one knew existed but thought rare fill social media comments. There's an encouragement to distrust and a meanness to discourse. Meanwhile, regular old manners seem to be slipping away-- the use of please and thank you, greeting people as you pass, small talk and smiling.

If you've been doing the tiny resolutions, you've been working on being complaint-free (or at least mindfully reducing our griping).  Let's make that easier by being some of the change we want to see.  For today's challenge, try at least a few of these:

1)  Learn people's names, and use them.  Especially those of people you see often but may not know-- the security guard, the guy at the market you always visit, the admin assistant down the hall at work, the neighbor in the apartment next to you.

2)  Use your politeness words.  Please, thank you, excuse me, I'm sorry, I appreciate that.

3)  When you are talking with someone, give them some reasonable eye contact.  Put the phone away. 

4)  Make a little small talk.  With the cashier, the neighbor, the coworker.  It's not trivial.  When we comment on the weather, the big game, or any other common occurrence we are communicating that we see each other, that we are involved in a common experience.  If the other person doesn't want to engage, we should be able to tell.  (If you can't, learn about and practice reading body language).

5) Offer help when you see someone struggling, if you feel safe and are able.  If someone can't start their car, help them jump it or offer to call someone for them if they don't have a phone.  If someone has their arms full or is injured or frail or with children, hold the door.  As a matter of fact, hold the door for anyone right behind you.

6)  When you talk to someone, be mindful not to monologue and/or only talk about yourself. Ask after them.  Show interest in what they say.  Ask follow-up questions.  Practice the volley:  in these days of tweeting and posting, we forget that true conversation is two-way.

7)  Greet people when you see them.  Smile if you can.

8)  Be gracious.  Graciousness is not about being a martyr; it's about recognizing that other people have strong preferences, insecurities, and feelings just as we do and both parties count in a situation.  Sometimes others' needs outweigh yours, sometimes it's equal, and sometimes yours take precedence. Even or especially in the latter case, we can make that known graciously.  Examples for this:  offer your seat on the bus or at the standing-room-only event to someone who may need it more.  Don't take the last doughnut if you've had one and others haven't gotten to them yet.  Refill the coffeepot if you drink the last cup, replace the toilet paper, pick up after yourself in the common spaces at work, etc.

9) Show appreciation to others when they are kind/gracious/patient/trying hard.  Sometimes that just takes a smile.

10) Be the One Less Asshole in the room.  If someone is losing it, being a jerk, or has no manners, that doesn't justify your doing the same.  If you hold it together with grace and patience, that just means now there is one less possible jerk in the situation.

I bet you have some other ideas.  I'd like to hear them.  We'll do a day of Random Acts of Kindness later, so save those-- but do send ideas about waylaid manners we can try and remember. 

See you tomorrow,

January 13th Challenge: Get Hygge with it

Hope some of you had good experiences with Complaint Free Sunday.  I woke way earlier than I wanted and began my morning with a litany before I remembered my commitment.  Used the bracelet technique (see Complaint Free World) to keep myself in check and only had to move it a few times all day--my new personal best-- and REALLY noticed the difference. I was in good spirits all day.  Granted, I did Hyyge things like making pancakes, staying in my jammies and reading until midafternoon.  But I hadn't realized how much I'd fallen back in the habit of griping. 

If you've missed the little bestseller about it, below is the Oxford definition of the word that actually doesn't rhyme at all with "jiggy". It boils down to mindfully creating a comforting, peaceful atmosphere.  Here in the PNW, it's been dark, damp and chilly for weeks, and we're expecting lots more of  same, maybe even with snow, for the next ten days.  Time to embrace rather than resist.  Today's challenge is to put some of the principles of Hygge into your Monday evening.  Light some candles, make a hot drink, find a cozy blanket and a good book, or invite friends over for a game of Scrabble, and snuggle on down into the dark night.  Enjoy!


Pronunciation /ˈh(y)o͞oɡə/ /ˈh(j)uɡə/ /ˈho͝oɡə/ /ˈhʊɡə/ 


  • A quality of coziness and comfortable conviviality that engenders a feeling of contentment or well-being (regarded as a defining characteristic of Danish culture)
    ‘why not follow the Danish example and bring more hygge into your daily life?’
    as modifier ‘count on candlelight—almost a requirement for that special hygge experience’
  • Origin: Danish, from Norwegian.

Sunday, January 12, 2020

January 12th Challenge: Refrain From Complaints

Let's try for a complaint free Sunday.

I can't speak to other parts of the world, but Americans sure like to bitch.  I'm Olympic Class, myself.  I can generate 12 in my head before my mouth opens.  And there's plenty of studies that show that ruminating on negative concerns and expressing them is a good predictor of an upcoming bad day.

True, we have plenty of reasons.  It's scary out there, and we're less connected to people (much more so to and through machines), and at least here in the Northwest it's rained since, oh, 1997 I think, and it's dark and cold and and and and wasn't 2020 supposed to be a lot better, but already and and and....

Joe Quirk's book on evolutionary psychology posits that our chronic dissatisfaction prodded us into 
being excellent problem solvers.  We didn't like the cold, so we invented shelters, clothing, central heating.  Our brains devote vast resources to rumination and complaint, and if there isn't anything happening, we have no trouble making it up-- we complain we are bored.  Complaining has a social component beyond solving problems.  It's collaborative angst, misery loving company, but it's also a way to size up the listener.  Are we simpatico?  Do you hate what I hate?  Doesn't it all really just suck?

And speaking of sucking, why yes it does-- our time, our moods, our motivation.  The average adult human complains 15-30 times a day, say the most published stats (I'm not voucher for their accuracy because on some days, I can do that before I hit the snooze button for the 7th time).

one way to shut me up
In her book about improving relationships, Why Talking Isn't Enough", she invites couples to have a one week complaining fast.  It's not even necessarythe other partner knows of the experiment. I tried it and was astounded in  phases:  1) Thought it would be easy  2)Wow, I complain a LOT, 3)He's complaining a lot too (remember, he doesn't know I'm doing this) 3) Look at how evolved I am while he's over there all complainy 4) Huh, he's complaining less for no reason  5) Hey, sweet week.   It was surprising how much difference this made.

Every once in a while, I'd do fala Complaint Free World. (see also here). Such  a good reminder to be mindful.  Why am I saying this?  What's my intention-- sympathy, commiseration, assistance?  Filling space, making the other feel bad?And it makes me think:  How can I get what I want without whining? Or even better, do the serenity prayer analysis and what I can change and what I need to just accept as out of my control?

So this is headier stuff that it first appears.  But give it a whirl, even if you only get as far as recognizing when and how much you complain and trying to understand your intention.  Likely 80% of it is just habit.  Our brains are reall good at identifying and encoding for later retrival what causes us trouble.  They just don't feel the need to bother remembering what went right.  But try that too. "Wow, that rainbow is awesome.  Thanks, Rain!  And I got lucky with those lights, didn't have to stop once on the way to downtown.  How bout that-- an old Johnny Cash song is playing on the radio and I got to the appointment right on time!

Just give it a whirl.  Report back any findings.

Jana, complaint freer.

Saturday, January 11, 2020

January 11th Challenge: Stationary Saturday

Nope, it’s not about being a couch potato.
Today’s challenge is to write a letter to someone you love or admire. Not a text and not an email— a real letter on paper, written by hand and not computer.  Stamp it and mail it.

Listen to this poem for inspiration:  https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2014/08/25/the-lost-art-of-letter-writing

This could be a long post about all the benefits of this challenge, but I’ve got a letter to get in the mail.

Thank you Hal, Larraine, Boog, Nina, Jill, Khalila and other friends for years of Good Snail Mail.  I’m sorry I haven’t always kept up my end.  But I’ve kept every one of those letters.  They serve as a history and testament to our  intertwined lives.


Thursday, January 9, 2020

January 10th challenge: State Change

I want to be authentic with myself and with you, and frankly, I’m cranky and tired tonight.  You almost got a blog called “Furious Friday.” Anger is a legitimate response to injustice and I saw and heard way injustice this week.  But when I looked for quotes on righteous indignation, every one was about it being bad.  I don’t buy that.  Anger very often signals something is Not Right and when channeled properly, gives energy to drive change.  Rosa Parks wasn’t a sweet, simple, meek tired woman.  She  was angry.  She was a long time activist tired of injustice.  So she did something.  That you, sister Rosa.

Our culture doesn’t know how to deal with angry women.  Angry men are seen as powerful, but angry women are portrayed as bitches,  bitter and out of control. And I do have some things to say about that.  But not tonight.   I left my good computer at work and am forced to type this on my smashed IPad, and that is tedious and not improving my mood.  

What DID help today was attend Laughing Yoga with local treasure Sunita Vazdev, who reminded us that 2 minutes of laughing provides numerous health benefits.  So I will lay aside fury and tablet typing and offer you this 7 year old rerun challenge.  
Here’s to a lighthearted day,

 Friday FUNday
adults need recess too.  especially the time-traveling type.  

 "Life is Mysterious;

Don't Take it Serious"

(quote on an old rubber stamp)
In several of these blogs, I've talked about the inevitability of suffering.
Enough of that. Let's talk about the power of playfulness.

You may have heard the expression that "Kid's play is kid's work." Play is where kids learn to deal with roles and other people, fine tune communicating their ideas and needs, exercise their bodies and widen their imaginations. Why would we want to give that up as adults? Yet many groan-ups (yes, that was deliberate) see life as one unending have-to-do list. I'm not advocating shirking responsibilities, though I am admittedly expert at it. I'm encouraging righting priorities. Play, laughter, positive thinking, joy have their own rafts of research supporting the idea that a good time is good for you.

At least twice a year, I go away to play with my pals at WAR (women's art retreat), where we hold theme dinners in dress up (wedding in Vegas, Beauty Pageant, Circus Night) and write ridiculous bits. For years I participated in an on-line salon where we exchanged thematic haikus, limericks, tom swifties and wrote bad country songs. There's lots of ways to make the ridiculous sublime. A few minutes a day softens the heart and sharpens the brain.

A few links for you:
Laughing Yoga
Laughing Yoga was started by a physician in India who to promote the healing benefits of laughter for the body and soul. Here John Cleese provides a 3 minute intro to the practice.

Global Belly Laugh Day
We're not quite at the official Day (Jan. 24th), but we can start practicing. This site offers a wealth of research and related links.

Shop local:  Even if all the movies that week are dramas or documentaries, a look around the eclectic decor at Darkside Cinema holds grins for most of us. While you're there, pick up one of owner Paul Turner's books of essays or a Prancing Lavender Bunny T-shirt sporting one bad-ass buff biker bunny.

Dancing like a maniac always cheers me up.  Check out contra dances or take a Zumba or belly dancing class.

 Laughter really is good medicine.
A good belly laugh reduces stress hormones that havoc the body and soul. Researchers in Loma Linda found cortisol and epinephrine levels drop, while human growth hormones and beta-endorphins rise when people experience, or even anticipate big fun. Other research shows laughter improves relationshipsimmunity, increases oxygenation, is cardioprotective, and helps us be more alert and creative.

Laughter connects us to others, reduces social and internal tensions, shifts perspective in positive ways, and relaxes our bodies for long after we stop giggling.  And most of the time, it's free!

Humor is an individual thing, and what some find funny others will find offensive or just dumb.  With that caution in mind, here's some web resources to get you going:

Funny or Die videos
The Onion News
Tweet Me Harder Podcast
The Institute of Official Cheer 

 For a brainy look at laughter, listen to Radio Lab's Laughter episode.
You've got lots of choices and a long weekend to accomplishes a little happy.  Let me know what you can manage.  2 minute flash mob solo dance?  Play a game?  Plant a wonderful present for a friend? 
You'll figure something.

Now, go out there and don't come back until you've had some fun.


January 9th Challenge: Thankful Thursday

What are you thankful for today?

There's good research to show that an attitude of gratitude will increase your sense of well-being and optimism, and boy howdy we can use that these days.

Some of the most replicated research shows that if one practices listing three gratitudes daily for a few weeks, the well being persists long after the practice stops.  The mind gets in the habit of noticing what's good even if you aren't writing it down anymore. 

I've struggled with gratitude practices because it can easily slide into that prosperity gospel stuff I personally find harmful and selfish, more about what we've got than how things are.  But gratitude that is more of awe and less about comparison is different for me.  Aren't fingers amazing and all they can do! Isn't it fantastic that we can see suns billions of miles away!  I'm thankful tea exists, and that people make art.  So much to be thankful for, even in the midst of fear and suffering. 

And I am often so grateful for the work I get to do and the people I get to talk to.

So today, I'm going to notice everything I am grateful for as I go through the day.  I'm grateful I remembered that I didn't write this last night, and got it done.  I'm grateful that I'm off now to go teach about mental health to a community group. I'm grateful that we CAN talk openly about mental health these days. 

Put this challenge into practice in any way you like.  Gratitude lists, thank you notes, expressions of appreciation to others.

See you tomorrow,

Wednesday, January 8, 2020

January 8th Challenge: Wabi Sabi Wednesday

natural cycle of growth and decay
Today's Tiny Resolution is to intentionally look for imperfections and find the beauty within them.  This is know as working with wabi-sabi.  From the web:  Wabi-sabi is a way of living that focuses on finding beauty within the imperfections of life and accepting peacefully the natural cycle of growth and decay.”

That's some heady stuff.  We can easily get caught in not-enough thinking:  not good enough, perfect enough, big enough, small , prestigious enough blahblahblah.  Wabi-sabi reminds us that the beauty is IN, not in spite of, imperfections.  Think of traditional native basketry, where intentional differences are placed in patterns if they didn't occur naturally in the weaving, as striving for perfection is vain and foolish. Think of the mug you've used so long and caressed so much that the glaze is worn off part of the handle.  The jeans whose use shows because you actually wore a hole in the knee, rather than paid for a new pair that was "pre-distressed" (as if life requires PREdistessing).  The funky pair of shorts you made in sewing class.  

wabi-sabi mutant mushroom
Wabi-Sabi is beautiful because it tells a story of the object:  that is it old, or worn, or made by hand. That's it's connected to a person somewhere in its history.  

Pay attention to the beautiful ugly and the stories that brought them to their wabi-sabi state.  Inventory what is wabi-sabi about your own body, personality, household and where you can see the beauty in that difference.

When we can truly see and accept things as they truly are, we free ourselves from resentments, judgment and impossible illusions that distort of true appreciate.  

Scars are some of my favorite examples.  They remind us of mortality, transience, resilience and healing.  They map our lives.

Aging hands tell stories of where they have been, what they've done, what they've survived.

Take a few moments to do a wabi-sabi survey of yourself or your surroundings.  What imperfections can you learn to see with new eyes and appreciation?

Monday, January 6, 2020

January 7th Challenge: What Would Dolly Do?

From the Pass It On campaign
Hope you had some intentional mellowing of your Monday.  I did some mandala coloring with a client (her good idea) and read up on some good recipes.  I also came home to a happy surprise of great lentil soup and cornbread.

Tuesday's challenge is to imagine and then channel the trait of someone you admire today.  Think of, for example, the compassion of Mother Theresa, the calm kindness of Fred Rogers, the incredible courage of Nelson Mandela, Harriet Tubman, Viktor Frankl and Malala, the good humor of the Dali Lama, and the perseverance of writers who works were rejected over and over before becoming bestsellers.  Pick a trait you need and put it into practice today.  What would your hero do?

If you need some inspiration, check out this list of people and traits from the Pass It On campaign. 

Today's challenge occurred to me as I was listening to the radio and Dolly Parton came on.  I'm on the fence about her music, but I really admire her good-natured, sunny deposition.  I love her fierceness and genuine-ness, and her commitment to seeing what is good in people and in the world.  She's a rich woman who was born poor, one of 12 children from a family that subsistence farmed.  She never lost her roots but she knows how to move with ease in any circle, without compromising her values or her true nature.

Here are some Dolly quotes I'll be meditating on:

"When I wake up, I expect things to be good. If they're not, then I try to set about trying to make them as good as I can 'cause I know I'm gonna have to live that day anyway. So why not try to make the most of it if you can? Some days, they pan out a little better than others, but you still gotta always just try."

"I don't kiss nobody's butt."

"Funny that the poorer people are, the more generous they seem to be."

"I try to see the good in everybody, and I don't care who they are, as long as they are themselves."

"Find out who you are.  And do it on purpose."

Song for the day is one of my favorites.  Enjoy your Tuesday!

Sunday, January 5, 2020

January 6th Challenge: Mellow Out Monday

Learn anything new Sunday?  I learned a bit of Portuguese, a t shirt folding technique, and that the Oulu neutron counts are currently very high (no worries unless you are an astronaut in outer space).  The Portuguese was happenstance-- for some odd reason my facebook page switched to it as a home language, and it took me a while to figure out how to get it back to English.  If it's a prank, it was pretty harmless. I happened to have a Portuguese primer and just went with it a while.

But soon it's Monday, and if you're like me, you're going to be going back to work after a couple of days off, so let's take it easy. 

Today's challenge is to engage in a relaxing activity of your choice for at least 15 minutes.  It could be a mineral salt bath or sauna, a bit of guided imagery or meditation, reading something pleasant, having a nice cup of tea.  Whatever suits your fancy.  Give yourself a little time to let yourself be.  Learning how to relax is an excellent health skill.

Enjoy and see you Tuesday,

January 5th Challenge: Learn something new

It's Sunday, and you have a little more time, but this can still be a Tiny Challenge.

Curiosity and awe are states linked to happiness and well-being.  Today, take as long as you like to learn or practice something new.  Learn some Maori words for a peek into a community centered culture.   Practice a bit of QiGong or learn the basic positions of ballet.  Had a rough week?  Get your audio/visual medicine from the lulling voice and scenes of Bob Ross and paint some happy trees.  If your medium is more musical, learn a new song on your instrument of choice.  Don't have any instruments?  Make one.  Maybe try one of the experiments in "How to Win Science Fairs as a Grown Ass Adult".

If you feel the need to do something, er, more productive, I'll keep working on you.  Learning is about exploring the world, and the experience of following your awe, passion and curiosity to new places.  I suppose you could experience repairing that hole in your drywall or re-balance your washer.  Might be awesome to have that sucker working.  Mental Floss has a list of 50 skills you can learn on youtube, from boiling the perfect egg to teaching your cat to high five.  Or take a tip from my sweetheart and learn to roast your own coffee using an old popcorn machine.
play with makeup
send exciting packet overseas

Go local and learn the most common trees in your neighborhood, or which plants you see on a walk are invasives.  Go astronomical and find out what's happening in space weather (which we eastern Europeans take VERY seriously): check out that unexpected aurora in Norway, or learn whether you should worry that cosmic rays are nearly a record high.

This challenge brought to you via inspiration from the filmed-in-apparent-real-time Bollywood movie I just finished (thus the late late hour).  It followed three engineering students having the think hammered out of them in college as they were encouraged to memorize and regurgitate.  The themes were all about the joy of true learning and curiosity.   You think Hollywood tropes and endings are a thing?  Hollywood humbles at the feet of the Bollywood master, where the bad guys lose the girls, the job, the respect and the meek inherit the earth.  You laugh, you cry, you groan loudly at the cheap plot resolutions EVEN THOUGH YOU ARE STILL CRYING  and you inhale the cheesy characters and the twists and sing that earworm love song rest of the night. Don't CLICK THAT SONG  (notice that induction there?)

You're a bright brunch.  I'm sure you will surprise me with what you learn today, whether it's improving your winter garden soil, figuring our what colors bring out those fabulous eyes, or how to give a genuine greeting of affection to your Burundi neighbor in her native language.

Get out there or in there and choose your lesson.  Watch out for sneaky unlisted lessons regarding letting go of ego, being solely in the moment/activity with non-judgment and curiosity of what happens, and remembering the joy of new skills.

Remember.the world's your oyster.  What have you always wanted to know more about?  Hit the library, the youtube instuctables, that retired neighbor---you have everything you need to do a Tiny Challenge.  No rules except the usual: be safe, be respectful and be kind to yourself and others.

At this point my challenge is going to bed, so I'm off to try it, and will report back on what I learned.  Knowledge gained tonight: check the endtime vs bedtime before I start a movie.

ZZZZZZZZZ, zoobie doobie parampam and Kia Kaha...

Saturday, January 4, 2020

January 4th Challenge: Cook with love and mindfulness

There's few things in the world more primal than eating.  We do it mindlessly every day.

But feeding ourselves or others is an act of wonder.  We take matter and transform into into our own flesh.

We can crack open a can, pop a box in a microwave, drop into a fast food joint.
Or we can take this everyday act and elevate into the sacred.  The key ingredients are less the matter, and more the mindfulness.

Today, fix yourself or another some food, and do it with intent and love.  Find a family recipe, a dish you've never tried, or an old comfort meal.  Go to the grocer and find the more perfect blood orange, set it on the nicest surface that feel right.  Sniff it, pinch the skin to release its oils and dab some under your ears, on your neck , or your wrists.  Think of how it came to be on that plate-- did it travel far?  Was it from a small personal field of a small farmer, or machine harvested as a corporate crop?  Does the store where you bought it seem proud to offer it to you?  Really get to know that orange.  Thank it for letting you eat it.  Now it's part of you for, if not ever, a darn long while, adding fuel and microbes and nutrients.  You are in the orange and the orange is in you.,   Peel it by hand.  Notice its individual pips of pulp.  Pill them individually into your mouth, roll them around until they release their juices,  noticing how the juice tastes sweet or sour or salty depending on where it is on your tongue.  Really exp lore it before you chew and swallow it.

Or bake something from your family culture.  This east European pie tastes better than it sounds: stuffed with cabbage and mushrooms, onions and boiled eggs, spices and cream cheese, it's the culinary equivalent of a cozy couch by a warm fire on a cold damp day, the closest thing to gramma-love I can get in my kitchen.
Even if you have a Shepherd' lunch of cheese, apple and bread, give it the gravatis and thanksgiving it deserves.   And while you are eating-- just eat.  Experience what it has to offer.
Read by clicking this tasty article for some inspiration. And I'd love to hear what you made and any thoughts you had about the process. 
See you Sunday.   Eat well!

These magic socks were made with love and time by a friend
I wear them on special mindful cooking occasions to ground me
in the care that went into their existence

Friday, January 3, 2020

January Third Challenge: Be a Big Container

This is a repeat of a post from 2010, and a line many of my clients have heard. It seems especially apt today, this third day of a new year.  Wednesday the trending topics on social media were all about optimism for a new decade.  Thursday night, the number one hashtag on twitter was #WorldWarIII. 

Always, in this life, there is beauty and terror.  Let's work on our serenity by neither pushing away (denying) or indulging too deeply in negative emotions.  Let's witness them, do our part to make the world an easier place, and be a big container for all that we experience.     

Can you be a big enough container for all that life brings you? 
We are as capable of love and joy as we are of sorrow and pain.  We don't get to avoid the latter if we allow the first.  We can delay suffering, but we don't escape it-- it becomes the bandaid off slow or quick dilemma. 
Be a curious, compassionate observer of your pain.  Look for the information it delivers.

The Guest House

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,

still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice.
meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.

Be grateful for whatever comes.
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

-- Jelaluddin Rumi,
translation by Coleman Barks

Thursday, January 2, 2020

January Second Challenge: Tiny Resolutions

You made it through the first day of the new decade!  Congratulations.  Hope you had time for some reflection on the past year(s) and began crafting out some personal goals for growth and happiness for 2020.
My morning involved meditation/daydreaming in my cozy bed, going over what was working, what needed adjusting, what I was grateful for and looking forward to.  I used a burning ritual to solemnize some of what I think needs to stay back in the 'oughts.  And I'm calling out for what I want to bring in to my life this year.   Anything you throw generous attention into becomes a sort of magic. You don't go out and manifest it, you are just giving awareness which ripples out, and taking opportunities to get closer to what you want.  A couple early ideas floated up-- more time with people outside of work, for eating, playing, creating, exploring and learning together.  I want to say yes more when yes is good for me, and no more when yes isn't. 

I put these into action today by staying in jammies making french toast out of the holiday panetone (resolution category:  self-care, chill time, good food), making a quick decision to join a friend passing by on a walk (I had to put on real people clothes eventually!--Res. Cat. friendship, walking in nature, being in the moment). I got off the chair and cooked a good curry for dinner rather than making do with leftover cakes and chips.  Played the new games we got as holiday presents and put up MOST of the decoration in the attic.  I liked to dribble it out so it's not such a shock to the system to go back into the real world.  I tended to my mushroom grow kits in hopes of blue oysters elms and chestnut mushroom dinners to come.
A stellar day.

They won't all be like that.  Sometimes I'm going to throw a challenge up and life will laugh and make other plans/  That's ok  These challenges can be flexible-- some days we might do three or four, some days skip.  The point is to make a point of continuing to return to them and try, with an open mind, to see what useful you can find in them. 

If you've a mind for it, grab a fresh new journal. I  discourage really fancy ones, at least if you are like me and find yourself feeling you have to be profound.  But even a bunch of stapled together scrap paper is fine.   Jot down your challenge for the day.  Daydream about ways to meet it.  Keep an eye out for oppourtunity.  At the end of the day, write what happened-- or didn't-- and why.  be honest, not mean, if you didn't do it. What got in the way?  Did you devalue the work?  Your abilities? What emotions were associated, no matter the outcome-- pride, relaxation, fear?Out of that honesty decide if you want to try again another day.  Give yourself credit if you did.

The challenge for Thursday, January 2, is to write a thank you note to 2019.  What was good about it?  What are you grateful for? Who helped you along the way?  What did you learn this year?

Again, this can be scratched on the back of a napkin or written lovingly in your new journal or marked in any way you choose.

Bonus points:  Send a thank you to someone who helped make at least part of that year easier, more amazing, less lonely, more fun.  Send it in an envelope through the postal service.  Or at the least hand write and hand deliver it.

Again, if you don't get to this today, calendar it out during the month.  Try to do as many of these exercises as you can, even if you're not sure they are your cup of tea.  At the month, you can evaluate worth.see where the teachers and teachings show up.

See you tomorrow, and welcome to day two.


Today's quote:  "Take the first step in faith.  You don't have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step."  Dr. M.L. King

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

The January Challenge Begins!

January Tiny Resolutions Thirty Day Challenge is back 💖
Time to walk through that gate
Happy new decade!  That last one wasn't such an easy one for many of us.

Every day is a chance to start again-- but this New Year day we are beginning a whole new decade.
Surely there are things you're ready to leave behind and possibilities you are ready to embrace.

Works for me.

For January, I'll be posting some Tiny Resolutions every day to help us both get started.

Today, spend some time reflecting on what you'd like more, or less of, in this fresh start.  Set some intentions.  The best way to predict the future is to create it, but it starts with imagining it.  What are you ready to put away?  What are you willing to move toward?  How do you get in your own way?

Today's quote is from Dr. Seuss:
"You’ll never get bored when you try something new. There’s really no limit to what you can do."

See you tomorrow.  Enjoy this baby year and feed it well.