Julie’s Spring Break Special: A Week of Habits, Rebooted

So, if there’s one thing I know, it’s myself. And knowing myself, I knew it would come to this. Behind on the blog. Behind in life/work. Habits abandoned, or only practiced sporadically. Seems about right for mid-March, where I left off. When I get derailed with anything positive that I’m doing, I pretty much always wallow in unhealthy behaviors for a little while instead of trying to get back up.

For the last two weeks I was frantically trying to get ready for CCCC, and then attending CCCC. I had to prepare a week’s worth of virtual classwork for my two classes. Once I got to CCCC and thanks to my Overeager Young Scholar Syndrome (OYSS, as in “OH YASSSSS I’ll do that!”—currently being evaluated for inclusion in the DSM V) I found myself with a metric shit-ton of ideas and opportunities and obligations. I got home two days ago with my usual travel migraine. Good news: this week is spring break. Bad news: my migraine and general malaise have lasted until today. Tuesday, mid-afternoon of break. There are only three days and a weekend left. My inboxes are overflowing, and my to-do list is so scary I don’t even want to open the app.

Then this appeared on Lifehacker: http://lifehacker.com/how-to-overcome-workload-paralysis-and-get-back-into-ac-169316979 It’s great advice. After thinking about it for a while. I’m going to use it to knock myself out of my work paralysis and reboot. Here’s my plan (I reordered the original list):

  • Take Small Steps: My small step today is to make a list of the things I want to accomplish in the next five days. Listing is something my mom always recommended I do whenever I got overwhelmed, and I still rely on it.
  • Prioritize Like Mad: I don’t do this in any formal way, but I think I need to. Not every passive-aggressive work email needs to be dealt with right away.
  • Pick One Thing and Finish It: Today I will finish my grading backlog. That’s daunting, but if I break it down into steps, I can do it.
  • Make Health a Priority: For the last…I don’t know, twelve years? I’ve not done this, and my body has suffered horribly. How can I work effectively when I feel so awful?
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In future posts this week (I’m going to try for one per day) I’ll be reflecting on my priority matrix and highlighting what I’ve completed.

Julie’s Week 9: Check Your Headspace

I have an unquiet mind.

Ensō, a symbol of Zen

Ensō, a symbol of Zen

I think the first time I realized this, I was trying to meditate with the guidance of a former partner who was a very devout Vajrayana Buddhist. I was sitting on a round meditation cushion, and my legs kept falling asleep while I tried to hold the prescribed posture. The minutes passed, and I couldn’t stop the thoughts from entering, and I couldn’t stop my mind from latching on and going for a ride on each one.

I don’t feel bad about my mind; Pema Chödrön herself, in one of her lectures, admitted to having an “unusually busy mind.” I’ve been reading Chödrön’s work, and the work of other Buddhist teachers and practitioners, since college. As I’ve moved away from the religion I was raised with (Roman Catholicism) and away from the others I’ve had brief dalliances with (Wicca/Paganism, Unitarianism, shamanic practices, etc.), I’ve found much of what I’ve come to believe is true echoed in Buddhism, specifically Zen. The unexpected passing of my mother has moved me to take my spirituality more seriously.

The friendly inhabitants of the Headspace app.

The friendly inhabitants of the Headspace app.

My first step is to begin a regular meditation practice. A little while ago, I purchased a subscription to Headspace, an app that offers guided mindfulness meditation programs that build skills incrementally. It also features focused sessions to help with things like sleep, creativity, and how to defuse anxiety in a crisis. I’m going to start the beginner’s “Take Ten” program at around 10:30 pm each evening. I’ll be meditating for ten minutes daily, at first, and then I’ll take up a more advanced program.

A famous quote attributed to His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama goes as such: “Do not use Buddhism to become a Buddhist. Use Buddhism to become better at whatever else in your life you are doing already.” I’m going take this to heart. Here’s to the first small step in the journey to becoming a calmer, more gracious, and more compassionate person.