On Meditation: Part One

Meditation is the art of reaching a state where you are free from thoughts, emotions, and stresses —

Yeah, right.

That, my friends, is not meditation. That is nirvana, enlightenment, or whatever you want to call the ultimate phase of the human soul. Very few have ever reached this state.

No, meditation is a journey or an exercise. Meditation is simply acknowledging that for a few moments, you can let go of all the stressors in your life. You can detach yourself, and in doing so, can allow yourself to observe the now. We spend so much of our lives worrying about the future or ruminating about the past, that we don’t allow ourselves to feel the present.

Meditation has great benefits, both mental and physical, that I won’t go into here. Just know that every once in a while, you need to stop and just be. It’s kind of like when you work out–you don’t actually build muscle until you allow yourself to rest. It’s the healing of those torn muscle fibers that allow your to gain form and strength. The same is true for your emotional well-being. We can’t learn or grow as a person unless we give ourselves time to rest and and heal from the little tears that happen everyday to our non-physical being.

Even if it’s just for five minutes a day. Stop, take a few moments to observe your breath, observe how your body feels right now. Allow yourself to be quiet. And if your brain or your heart starts screwing with you, tell those pesky organs to calm down. Label the intrusions as thoughts or emotions – or be more descriptive. The more specific you can be with your labeling, the easier it is to push those interruptions aside and you can refocus on the here and now.

My meditation hammock

You can meditate anywhere at anytime. There’s no strict rules. Personally, my favorite time to meditate is in the evenings around dusk. I love to go outside and listen to the sounds of nature – crickets, treefrogs, the distant ducks and geese. I meditate in my hammock, on my porch swing (which is where I am now), or on the deck adjoining my bedroom while I sit on a pillow. I meditation anywhere from 5-15 minutes usually. From the time I close my eyes until I take that last deep breath and reopen them, the change in the sky and my surroundings is drastic and inspiring.

So I encourage you, find a place where you are peaceful and comfortable – a room in your house, on the bus on your commute, on a cushy bed of moss under a willow tree (beware of chiggers!)-and give meditation a shot.

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Fighting an Unknown Enemy

Sneaky, awkward selfie while sitting in the waiting room.

I’m currently sitting in the waiting room at my doctor’s office. It’s a familiar site for me. This is my fifth visit here over the past month, in addition to a sojourn to the emergency room for heart palpitations.

There’s some off in my body.

Now I sit here, waiting to be called back for an ultrasound sound on my gallbladder, and I know how strange it may sound, but I sincerely hope they find something.

The pains, the fatigue, the shortness of breath, the foggy mind–I thought I had beaten this last year–The illness that threw me for a loop for three months. Three months where I, a decently active individual, had my life disrupted. I stopped working out, I stopped hiking, I stopped eating right (frozen meals take less energy to make).

When my symptoms finally disappeared, it was a still struggle to get back on the wellness horse,  but I did it.

Now here, 15 months later, I’m smacked down with similar symptoms once again, but this time  I have a renewed resilience. I’m attacking with vigor, trying to find the truth of what’s going on inside my body.

And if it is my gallbladder then finally I can put a face to my enemy, so to speak. I can fight to take my body back,  and restore my best life. I can plan, I can treat, and I can cure myself.

I am strong.

I am wise.

I know my body.

I will overcome.

I will persevere.

And I will be better for it.

 

 

Yoga

On Sunday, I engaged in a a 30-minute yoga routine. It was my first decently long yoga session in a long time. I’ve been practicing yoga on and off since I was 16. I love yoga. I love the balancing, the stretching, the breathing, and the mindfulness of the whole practice. I love the way it makes me feel afterward. But it always seems to take a back seat when I focus on muscle strengthening or cardio routines. Or really, yoga becomes my five minute cooldown, if I have the time.

But for the past few weeks, I have been suffering from a recurrence of a mystery illness that I suffered with for three months last summer. At least, it feels the same. This time, however, I’ve been vigorously pursuing a diagnosis.

I’ve also been vigorously pursuing and nourishing my personal wellness a lot more. So while I do not have the energy bandwidth for strenuous activities such as running or weightlifting, I have been getting in 15 minute yoga session every morning that I feel able, and 30 minute sessions on my recumbent bike in the evenings.

So this past Sunday, with autumn finally descending on Southern Appalachia, I had a glorious outdoor yoga session.

And man, I felt it on Monday! That rewarding soreness is a welcome ache when you’ve been down for the count.

My Happy Place

It’s a cliche that when you’re angry, you should try to find your “Happy Place.” But a tired joke this sentiment is not. Recognizing and defining your happy place is essential to resetting and realigning yourself when necessary.

Being able to stop yourself, to take a moment to close your eyes and breathe deep, and  to visual yourself in a place where you find calm and peace is a powerful technique. But before you can do this, you first have to identify where and what makes you content.

This could be the ocean on your last beach vacation, the lapping waves, the breeze, the gulls calling, the smell of the salty air. Or maybe it’s sitting on top of a tall mountain, overlooking a vast range, the sounds of song birds in the air, a patch of summer sweet blackberries behind you where hummingbirds take a break from their long summer sojourns. Or maybe it’s lounging in a big comfy chair in front of a roaring fireplace, snuggling in your quilt with a steaming hot cup of mulled apple cider in you hands.

Personally, I have a couple of visualization that I consider my happy places. The main one that I visualize when I need to check my emotions or thoughts, however, is my home. Specifically, I close my eyes and think about the wooded view I have from my back porch and of Mount Yonah  the lonely mountain, lording over the towns below, my husbands arms wrapped around me in a warm embrace, birds chattering in the forest that surrounds us, and the light scent of butterfly bushes in the air.

The Loebick Lodge
My happy place

A good happy place visualization should include all the senses, or as many as possible. Focus on the visual part of the visualization,  yes, but also the sounds, the smells, the tactile sensations, and yes, you should include taste if your happy place calls for it.

So why does this work? It’s thought to be a type of placebo effect. You brain reacts the same way to both experience and memory. So simply recalling the effects of a certain event can release the same hormones, endorphins, and  cause all sorts of chemical reactions (this can also be a bad thing, like when you remember traumatic events, but that’s a different topic all together).

Practice make perfect. The more that you take you mind to your happy place, the more reflexive the technique becomes, so that the next time you’re feeling overwhelmed or experiencing an anxiety spiral, can can call up your happy place to help pull you out of the darkness.

*Disclaimer: The happy place technique is a supplement and not a substitute for proper medical advice or medications. Chemical imbalances are real. Please treat yourself accordingly.

The Return of Loebick.com

It’s been two and a half years since the last time I logged into the admin dashboard of Loebick.com. The site has just been sitting here, taunting me. Each December, I get the notification for renewal and I would struggle with the decision to cancel the hosting and domain, but there’s always that hope of renewal. And finally, while lazily swinging in my hammock outside my idyllic cabin home this evening, I realized that now was the time.

I often read the long-form posts that some of my friends write on Facebook, their impacts of the day (#IOD). I got inspired almost every day. I wanted to contribute to this movement, but it had been so long since I had written anything of substance.

What do I have to share?

Should I start posting about my hiking in Southern Appalachia once more? But I don’t hike as much as I used to. Those posts are also major time syncs, and I don’t have the energy bandwidth to do them immediately after a hike.

Should I post more about books? But reviewing just doesn’t appeal to me like it used to. Reading for review takes some of the enjoyment out of reading.

Should I write about my corgis? I pretty much cover everything corgi in my life in picture form over on my tumblr (dailywaffles) and instagram (@aloebick).

I’ve recently started kayaking, should I write about that? But would that be enough to consistently write about?

Should I write about how far have I come in the past two and a half years? How about I write about my personal relentless pursuit of self-improvement? How about I write about what makes me happy, what makes me stronger, what makes me wiser? How about anything and everything and all of the above?

The Loebick Mindset.

So I’ve decided to try to post consistently about my journey for self-improvement, and maybe, just maybe, I can make an impact on someone else.

 

 

 

Y: Yard Sales

Today is the one year anniversary of my my Grandmother’s death, so for my Y entry, I’ve decided to repost “Yard Sales in Heaven.”

Original Post from April 29, 2013:

At 12:15pm today, my grandmother died. I wasn’t by her bedside, or even in the same state. I was in my office, waiting for the call I’ve been dreading for the past day and a half.

Several times on this blog, I’ve mentioned my passion for going to yard sales, especially in search of books. I got this love of riffling through other people’s old things from my grandmother, who was an avid connoisseur of yard sales, rummage sales, and estate sales. I loved going to visit her, knowing that we would spend all day Saturday driving around the neighborhoods of Maryville, TN looking for thrifty treasures. She knew all the best neighborhoods, and would always scan the yard sales listed in the local newspaper, looking for the best sounding ones and planning out our entire day beforehand. We would pick her up from her house (a house who’s land backed up right to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park), and she would climb into the car, armed with her newly-purchase purse (95% of the time she had gotten it from a yard sale a few weeks beforehand) and the clipped classifieds section, the best yard sale advertisements circled in pen. From 8am to lunchtime we’d prowl the subdivisions, and then go back out and search for more after lunch. No one had a better garage sale sign radar than she did.

Growing up, it was always my dad who drove. My dad has a tendency to hurt himself, or, he would rile me up enough to where my little-girl fist would somehow find that perfect spot on top of his shoulder. Any time my dad got hurt, it set my grandma off into giggle fits. She couldn’t help but laugh every time he cried out in shocked pain.

Over the years, she gave me many small presents, treasures that she had found at yard sales and knew they were perfect for me. She got me dinosaur figurines and jewelry, books and fancy boxes, beautiful pens and silly notepads. Each thing was special, especially since it only cost twenty-five cents.

Later, my husband took the reins of driving us around, at the same time we drove him crazy. “GARAGE SALE SIGN!” one of us would shout, forcing him to react quickly (his radar isn’t nearly as tuned as ours). It was on one of these adventures with my husband that my grandma said something that has stuck with my husband and me ever since: “Monkey Fuzz.” Where most people would say something like “Ah damnit, lost my lipstick!” she would pipe “Aw, Monkey Fuzz!” in her unique sweet and high-pitched voice. There’s hardly a day that goes by that one of us doesn’t use this playful curse.

One of the first books that I ever picked out for myself was during one of these yard sale excursions with her. It was the fourth book in the Babysitters Club series, Mary Anne Saves the Day. I have bought many books from yard sales since, and I don’t remember where or when. This one was special, because it was my first. I remember that it was an old farm house, shaded by old, mossy trees. And I remember that my grandmother was there.

I continued the tradition of going yard saleing with my grandmother up through my early adulthood, and I would still go with her if I could. I inherited several things from my grandmother (the allergy to penicillin being one of those things), but my love of yard sales is one of the best things she ever gave me. I won’t be able to stop at strangers’ houses looking for cheap stuff without thinking of her. I love her and I’ll miss her dearly.

Mamaw, I hope you’re enjoying all those yard sales in heaven.