I’ve often teased my husband about how he goes into his “happy place” when he’s fishing, especially from his kayak. He slips into a total trance, paddling softly, examining the shallow water for fish and lures other people have left behind. I could be drowning in the next kayak, or there could be a nuclear holocaust and he’d be completely immersed in a Zen meditative state. (I think he’s in good company with half the planet in this way.)
Well, I’ve noticed something similar about myself and what I think may be true for millions of women: when I’m on a shopping mission searching for a specific item, I’m either in a store or online, totally immersed in the experience, focused and calm, in much the same way as when I play my guitar, maneuver my kayak, ski or garden. I used to think of the shopping as being too material, but I now realize that it’s a form of meditation – retail meditation! Whenever I’m in a store I observe something similar seeming to happen for mostly other women – they sail around with their carts, looking for this or that, with contented smiles on their faces, calm and centered, in what looks like a perfect state of “flow.” I don’t know if they’re on drugs or engaged in compulsive shopping, but they sure seem to be present in the moment!
So, if you engage in the same behavior, and you’re not overspending or avoiding some other responsibility, try not to let your inner critic define the experience as shallow. You may instead be honoring a biologically wired “gathering” instinct and doing a moving meditation. If it centers and calms you, it may be just what you need at that time!
PS. If you need more help with silencing your judgmental inner critic, feel free to call me for an appointment: 603-431-7131
As the seasons change, many people I know are bemoaning the loss of “time off” they’ve had in the summer. There’s an obvious feeling of ambivalence about the upcoming season of busyness and social obligations dovetailing with work and family responsibilities. People tend to dread being over scheduled and deprived of personal time to self-nurture or play. The myth we seem to have bought into in the American culture is that one needs to be on vacation to fully experience joy, spontaneity, discovery and meaningful connection.
I invite you instead, to explore the experience of what I call “time on,” or living your everyday life with more wonder, appreciation and joy. Start by regularly taking a “snapshot” of the present moment – notice your breathing, the air on your skin, the color of the sky, the sound of the wind in the leaves. Notice the quality of the conversation and connection with the person facing you. Take a “snapshot” of this sharing as it is unfolding. Savor it. Drive more slowly and take in the tones of the changing season. Take a “snapshot” of that field of hay, or the person trying to get somewhere in the car next to you. Take a risk and smile at them and your common circumstance. Be more playful with yourself and those around you. Laugh at yourself more often. Be physical – dance, walk, run, move! Appreciate the daily work your body does for you, and treat it with kindness and compassion. Stop, and pet your dog or your cat if you have one. It will be good for both of you. Pick a wildflower and stick it in your hair. Write a poem, play an instrument. Turn off your automatic TV watching, and read a good book or listen to a symphony.
Just be present for your life each day, not just for one or two weeks of vacation in the summer. Use your “time on,” your everyday life, to be cognizant of, and grateful for your blessings. You’ll be a much happier person…….
PS. Rick Hanson, a neuropsychologist and eloquent writer, is a terrific resource for the issues of happiness, staying present and in the “now.” You can get any of his wonderful books on these subjects at my Amazon store by going to: http://astore.amazon.com/wwwsusanlagec-20
Here it is October 1st, the leaves are falling, the temperature has dropped radically, and most noticeably, it’s getting dark at about 5:30 PM. No doubt about it, the summer of 2014 has come and gone. Before we know it, we’ll be bundled up in winter coats, shoveling or snow-blowing our driveways, freezing our butts getting into frigid cars, sliding around on icy walkways, looking at a grey and white landscape and hiding out indoors. I love it!
When I admit that, everyone I know, (except for one sleepy client today), looks at me like I have two heads. They freely complain about all the above developments, expecting me to commiserate, and when instead I get all warm and fuzzy about the upcoming six-month winter, they probably begin to wonder if they’re sitting with a sane person. Some never come back for another session…
I’m convinced that I have the opposite of Seasonal Affective Disorder (S.A.D.) – the condition in which some people’s brain chemistry shifts into depressive mode around the lowered level and duration of light in the colder months. For me, I get happier as the skies get grayer and the weather gets murkier. I call it “sultry” weather – nice and cloudy and real chilly. It reminds me of happy adventures in Ireland and England. It may also be some nostalgic fragment of genetic memory from my slavic ancestry, harkening me back to the cold, dark weather in Russia and Poland where my grandparents grew up. Or, maybe I really am psychotic. But whatever the origin, I’ll share some reasons why you too might look forward to the six month “winter” we’re famous for here in Maine, instead of getting all bummed out about it:
- If it was warm and sunny all the time you’d lose the excitement about seasonal changes
- When it’s murky and cold out there’s no pressure to do fabulous things outdoors
- Grey, cold days give you space to be still and contemplative, less busy and frenetic
- There’s no need for air conditioners, fans, and other costly energy hogs
- You don’t have to tend to your garden or your lawn when there’s 2 feet of snow outside
- Without the chill of winter you’d never have an excuse to wear all those groovy boots
- Baths and hot tubs are much more delectable when you’re freezing your ass
- You have much more reason to tuck in with a good movie, book or instrument
- How would you ever experience the joy of skiing or snowshoeing without the snow?
- Without winter there would be no savoring of good soups, stews or comfort food
- There’s no earthly joy like climbing under a cozy down quilt when it’s frigid outside
- Monotone landscapes rest your eyes and brain from all those vibrant summer colors
- You pet your thankful dog, cat or hamster more when you’re hanging out indoors
- You have more time to read deep, thought-provoking blogs like this one
What more can I say?
So, if you have S.A.D. and are starting to get depressed facing the arctic blast, get one of those special lights to reset your brain chemistry, sit back and relax!
Don’t miss my next BlogTalk Radio episode tonight about the subject of dealing with life when things fall apart. We’ve all had the experience at times of dealing with crises which create a sense of chaos and uncertainty – maybe the loss of a loved one, or a debilitating health issue, or the loss of a job or business. It always feels horrible and destabilizing, and often creates a story of victimhood or bitterness for us. But the fact is that misery is just another part of life – it inevitably comes with the joy, relief, and triumph that are also part of our story.
Tune into this half hour episode tonight and join the discussion or just listen in, and hear about some attitudes and behavioral tools which may help you to accept some of these hardships as part of being human, and move through these experiences with more wisdom and perspective. Call toll-free 877-497-9046, or if the lines are busy call 760-542-4114. I hope you can join me! If you can’t make the live show, listen to it online at your convenience by going to the web player on my website, www.SusanLager.com or at www.BlogTalkRadio/SusanLager.com
I’ve recently returned from a Couples Retreat I conducted with Meredith Richardson on Star Island, NH. Suffice it to say that the whole experience was a smashing success for not only the couples who participated, but for Meredith and myself as well.
For the couples who participated it was an exercise in moving out of their own routinized ways of seeing issues and behaving with each other. It was also an exercise in opening up with the other participants, and being vulnerable in a more public way. For me, it was an experience of leaving my own comfort zone in several ways: staying on an island for several days with a bunch of strangers, working closely with a colleague who brought very different credentials, skill sets, and ways of operating, and “roughing it” in a rustic setting without hot water, without a private bathroom, with limited shower times, and with “community meals.” And guess what? No one got killed!
As a therapist I understand the value of trying new things toward creating new “grooves” in your brain, and even how novelty can ramp up pleasure and bonding for couples. I was reminded in a direct way however, about how valuable it can be to move out of one’s comfort zone, challenge the status quo, and to try new things in the service of growth. Unless you’re jumping off a cliff, what have you got to lose?
(Now, stay tuned for more terrific Couples Retreats on and off the coast of New Hampshire and Maine)……