Category Archives: Journal

By Happiness

Photo by Cristian Newman on Unsplash

By happiness I mean here a deep sense of flourishing that arises from an exceptionally healthy mind. This is not a mere pleasurable feeling, a fleeting emotion, or a mood, but an optimal state of being. Happiness is also a way of interpreting the world, since while it may be difficult to change the world, it is always possible to change the way we look at it.

 

Matthieu Ricard

Autogenics

In my last blog, I talked about positive expectation, about keeping a friendly relationship with my brain so that it will keep working for me.  What I didn’t talk about is the technique I’ve learned for doing just that.

It works, and it’s so simple that I’m turning into a crusader, eager to share it.

The technique is called autogenics.  The concept has been around since the mid-twentieth century, and the core idea that makes it work is integral to many different kinds of psychotherapy.  But autogenics doesn’t require the assistance of a therapist.  It involves nothing more than talking to our brains.

Photo by Zac Durant on Unsplash

This is my version:

I begin each morning with a body scan, sitting in meditation, breathing gently but deeply.  Or lately, with cool mornings that are destined to turn into hot days, I skip the sitting meditation and do a meditative walk instead, still taking note of my breathing.

These are the phrases I use for my body scan—you would create your own—reciting them silently and reciting each phrase five or six times:

My mind is awake and alert.

My body is rested and ready for the day.

My eyes are eager to see.

My nose savors the world.

My ears delight in hearing.

My jaw is relaxed, my tongue is soft.

My throat is open.

My shoulders are warm.

My arms are strong.

My hands are skilled.

My heart is joyful.

My lungs treasure the air.

My tummy awaits goodness.

My gut nurtures my soul.

My legs love to move.

My feet stand on the earth.

I am here.

I am here.

I am here.

After doing the body scan for a time and finding it both relaxing and energizing, I tried one morning when I was despairing over the manuscript I was engaged in to add in phrases about my work.

I began simply.  Nothing specific to the problems I was struggling with, just a general affirmation.

My writing is my gift to the world

My writing is my gift to myself.

To my amazement, that day my work went smoothly.  And while those affirmations are certainly no guarantee of perfection, they keep my energy high.

What a powerful tool!

I am told that the brain does not recognize negatives, so if we tell ourselves, “I have no pain,” our brains will register only “I have” and “pain.”  But it’s easy enough to avoid negatives.  In fact, it’s good practice for other purposes, too.

I’ve found the results refreshing and encouraging, so much so that I wish I’d been taught this simple practice with the alphabet.  What matters, though is that I know it now and that it works.

These days I’m adding another element to my morning routine.  Valuing my writing can be easier, I’ve discovered, than valuing my days when no writing is accomplished.  I have long weighed my days importance according to the words I have assembled and brought to the page.  But who will I be, what worth will be left for my days when I can no longer write . . . or choose not to?

I would never weigh the worth of any other life that way.  Why my own?

And so I’m adding another dimension to the meditative conversation I have with my brain each morning.  Gratitude.  Simple and profound gratitude.

Gratitude for my body expressed through the scan.

Gratitude for the world that greets me each day.

Gratitude for the gift of my life, the gift of each breath.

And I find that nothing alters a day—and all that day embraces—more than gathering that gratitude into words.

And repeating,

repeating,

repeating,

repeating

them.

 

Try it.  It’s such an easy practice, one that fits smoothly into a life.

And it makes a difference!

The Universe

Photo by Mark Basarab on Unsplash

It’s very likely that the universe is really a kind of a question, rather than the answer to anything.

Kevin Kelly

Our Discomfort

Photo by Lucille Borderioux on Unsplash

Our discomfort and our grappling is not a sign of failure. It’s a sign that we’re living at the edge of our imaginations.

America Ferrera

Old Age

Photo by Cristian Newman on Unsplash

Old age is a ceremony of losses.

Donald Hall