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Why Lite?

I have a long-standing joke/challenge with my close friends - give me any topic, and within 2 sentences, I can shift the subject over to smut. I decided to use this talent in a slightly different way, and make a journal that shifts any subject over into a positive, appreciative essay. It's so easy to write about (and report) bad news; everybody can find something to complain about. It's harder to think of positive things, so 1) a positive journal is a good writing exercise, and 2) a positive journal forces you to find the good in all things, which is a healthy outlook. I plan to have two sorts of entries in this journal: Mindfulness essays and Ponderings.

Mindfulness is the state of simply "being," in the moment, without thinking. Being mindful allows you to appreciate what is going on around you, without experiencing the negative thoughts that so often spoil our enjoyment of life. There are many exercises and meditations to help you learn how to be mindful, and once you learn, you never forget. The key point of each exercise is to stop thinking about everything. If you are aware of your thoughts, then you are not practicing mindfulness. It's sometimes difficult to silence your thoughts, especially when you are new to meditation. You spend a lot of time your first few attempts saying "Stop," to your thoughts and re-focusing. Then, it becomes second nature, and you begin to become mindful without having to do the meditation exercise. This is the point where mindfulness becomes a healthy way of life.

The state of mindfulness is one step on the Buddhist Eightfold Path to enlightenment. The steps, in order, are Right View, Right Intention, Right Speech, Right Action, Right Livelihood, Right Effort, Right Mindfulness, and Right Concentration - the word "right" refers to the concept of perfection or completeness rather than the concept of right vs. wrong. These steps are also sometimes grouped into the categories of Wisdom, Ethical Conduct, and Concentration. Mindfulness is simply one part of a healthy life.

Ponderings will be shorter essays on things that make me think, or things that I have learned to help me think in more healthy ways.
I have to admit: I love watching sappy Christmas movies during the holiday season! Here are some of my favourite movies (with a short description in case you have not seen some of them).
Movies!Collapse )
And no, I'm not a fan of the little boy who wants a BB gun!

Pens and Pencils

 This exercise works especially well if you are a writer, as I am, who enjoys writing longhand with actual pen/pencil and paper. 

Look around until you find a pen or pencil - writers, you may select a handful of different ones to enjoy!. Heft it in your hand to feel the weight. Is it a good, solid instrument or is it light and insubstantial? If you are very picky, you may keep hunting until you find a pen or pencil that "feels right" in your hand.

Run your fingers along the pen or pencil. Is it totally smooth along the barrel, or does it have a pocket clip on one end? Some pens have caps that extend overtop of the barrel, and some are flush. Some pens are "clickable" and have no caps. Some pens even have decorative carvings, or cushioned finger rests along the barrel. Fountain pens are often highly decorative. Pencils are usually smoother, but mechanical pencils are more like pens. Can you tell by feel alone where the barrel ends and the cap begins (if your pen has a cap)? What about the other end -- can you feel where the point begins before the actual writing tip extends from the instrument? Does your pen or pencil have an eraser on one end? Some pens have erasable ink, and most pencils have attached erasers. Is the other end of the instrument sharp or dull? If you have a pen, you should retract the point or close the cap unless you wish to have ink on your fingers! If you have a capped pen, is the cap flattened or rounded? If you have a pencil, is it sharpened, or dull, or even broken off at the point? If you have a fountain pen, what is the nib shaped like? Is it flattened on the tip, or very pointed? Can you feel the ink channel, or is the nib too fine?

Look at your pen or pencil. Is it a solid colour or a mixture? What colour or colours is it? Is there a pattern to the colours, such as stripes or dots? Some souvenir pens and pencils even have photographs or drawings of famous places. Does the pen or pencil have any writing on it? What does the writing say? It might be the name of the company who made the instrument, or an advertisement for a local business, or the name of somewhere you visited (or a friend visited), or even a pithy comment or uplifting message! Nowadays, you can order pens and pencils printed with anything you want.

Is your pen or pencil shaped like a "typical" instrument, or is it an unusual one? If you are like me, you often choose an oddly shaped pen or pencil just because it is different. Is the instrument shaped "ergonomically," or does it have any cushioning for the fingers? Are there decorative carvings or protrusions? Look at the point where the barrel meets the cap. How are they joined together? Does the cap extend out over the barrel, or is it flush? Does your pen even have a cap? If you have a fountain pen, does it look like your other fountain pens, or is it more decorative? What does the nib look like -- is it a fine-tip or a flattened calligraphy nib? Does the pen (or mechanical pencil) have a clip to attach to your pocket? Remove the cap of the pen, if it has one, and look at the rest of the barrel. Is that any different from the end that you could see before?

Take the pen or mechanical pencil apart if it is the sort that comes apart. What parts can you see inside the instrument? If you have a pen, there is usually an ink reservoir with a tip (often a ballpoint), and a spring to keep the tip extended while you write. Mechanical pencils usually have a chamber for extra leads and erasers. Can you see how the parts fit together to make a working writing instrument? If you need to take a moment, you can do a web search on the internet and look up how pens and pencils work -- you could even look up how they are made if you want to really appreciate your writing implement.

Look at your pen or pencil until you feel that you can appreciate every part of it. 

What does the instrument smell like? Can you smell ink, or graphite (pencils don't actually have the element lead -- the writing tip is made of soft graphite)? Does a plastic pen or pencil smell differently than a wooden one (yes, I have wooden pens)? If you have a fountain pen, does the metal nib smell different from the rest of the pen? If your pen or pencil has an eraser, does it smell different from the plastic or wood parts?  Could you identify this particular writing implement by its smell?

You may or may not choose to taste the pen or pencil. Personally, my writing instruments go with me everywhere, so there's no telling where I might have set them down! It's probably best if you don't taste it.

Get a piece of paper and do some writing with this pen or pencil. How does it sound when it moves across the paper? Does a sharp pencil sound different from a dull one? Does a pen sound different from a pencil? Does a fountain pen sound different from a ballpoint pen? How would you describe the sound of your instrument writing?

Once you feel that you have truly appreciated your writing implement, you may return it to its accustomed spot -- or you may feel inspired to do some writing!
Everybody has certain songs that resonate with their lives; songs that have a particular meaning at certain times of their lives. This is an incomplete list of some of mine - it's an interesting exercise if you want to try compiling your own list of songs sometime!Many, Many SongsCollapse )


I might add to this list if I encounter further songs which truly touch my soul.


Pondering: Friends

 There's nothing quite like old friends. Friends have a place in your soul. They understand you as nobody else does. A smart-ass quip says "Friends are the people who know all about you ... and like you anyway!"


I'm going to divide this post and intersperse my own thoughts with some of the quotes about friends that I find particularly meaningful.

A friend is someone who knows the song in your heart and can sing it back to you when you have forgotten the words

When you spend time with old friends, it is as if you've dipped into the fountain of youth. You return in your mind and soul to that age at which you met, when you first got to know one another. The years fall away, and you laugh like children. And when things aren't going so well, old friends truly do sing the song in your heart back to you, and remind you who you are and what is truly important.

A real friend is one who walks in when the rest of the world walks out.
~ Walter Winchell

This is so true. Your friends see you at your worst, and stand by you. Friends stick with you when the going gets tough. You can depend on old friends to have your back, and to help you get through whatever comes. You can stand almost anything with your friends at your side.

The best mirror in the world is an old friend.
~ George Herbert

When you're with old friends, you become more yourself.  You drop those false fronts you keep up to protect you from the rest of the world. You don't need them with friends. You can trust them to see you as you  really are, and to reflect back to you the truth of your being. Old friends will let you know if you're being true to yourself, or if you need to correct your life's course.

Friends accept us as we are, yet help us to become what we should.

Your friends will always love you. You can depend on them to accept you, "warts and all," as my English friend says. But you can also depend on them to help you on the path to improvement. Both of you lean on one another as you grow, sometimes one leading, sometimes the other. True friends point out when you've strayed from your course, and show you a better pathway.

I find friendship to be like wine, raw when new, ripened with age, the true old man's milk and restorative cordial.
~ Thomas Jefferson.

When you first meet your friends, there is that rocky period when you're learning all about one another. You argue, and make up; drift apart and come together again. When you have been together for years, your friendship is part of you. You cannot imagine yourself without your friends, and you cannot truly enjoy anything without sharing it with your friends. You are indeed restored by old friends. Your soul is nourished by your friendship.

True friendship is sitting together in silence -- and feeling that it was the best conversation you've ever had.

I hope that you have had at least one friend like this. It is an indescribable feeling, just being with an old friend, not having the need to speak because you understand one another perfectly. Old friends can sit for hours watching the stars, fishing, or just rocking on the porch -- and come away refreshed, as from a wonderful conversation.

Friendship is a single soul dwelling in two bodies.
~ Aristotle

Old friends are pieces of our souls which have become separate from our bodies. Old friends think alike, act alike, finish each other's sentences. They know you as no other does. Old friends never have to wonder what to get you for your birthday, or whether you will like a particular book or movie. You truly feel a part of you is missing when you are apart, and when you come together again, your soul rejoices.

I wish for you at least one true friend, one soul mate, who can travel through life with you and know the song in your heart.


Each friend represents a world in us, a world possibly not born until they arrive, and it is only by this meeting that a new world is born."
~ Anais Nin

Clouds

This will be a visual exercise (unless you have some pixie dust and can fly, that is).  Find a comfy spot where you can lean back and look up without getting a crick in your neck. And there is a BONUS section at the end for those of you who love to learn new facts: What Type of Cloud Is That?

Look up at the sky. To begin with, don't try to analyze anything: just appreciate the whole, big roof over your head. Most of the time, we bumble along without looking up, without seeing what an amazing thing this huge envelope of air actually is.  Take a few minutes simply to become aware of the distance above you.  Let your vision rise and rise, until you truly understand that the sky extends for miles over your head. Think about the fact that NASA will only acknowledge you as an astronaut if you travel over fifty miles above the earth. Can you even see for fifty miles on the ground where you live?

Now, begin to notice the different clouds.  If you wish, you can prolong this exercise and take as many days that you wish, so that you can see how many different types of clouds you can spot.  For now, just glance around and see what's up there today.  Take your time and scan the sky; pay attention to each cloud above you.  Appreciate every cloud that you see. Acknowledge that they are constantly changing, ever varied marvels of nature. Look at all the clouds to start with; we will narrow down to one cloud in a few minutes.

Now think about what you are observing. What sorts of clouds can you see?  Are they white and fluffy, or gray and gloomy?  Are some of them dark at the bottom and white at the top? Are any of them unusual colors such as yellow or purple (if so, you should be inside, because those are hail and storm clouds!)  Do they seem close to the ground, or are they miles away?  Are they sliding swiftly in a strong wind, or do they hang right over you without moving? Is there a solid cloud cover, or are there just patches of cloud in a mostly empty sky? Categorize your clouds and think about how they are alike, and how they are different.

Do you see many different types of clouds? Are some of them huge, puffy white pillows? Can you find any thin, wispy fibrous clouds? What about schools of tiny puffs that resemble fish scales? Are there massive, towering storm clouds - perhaps even with rain curtains visible beneath? Do your clouds cover the sky in a thin sheet like the roof of a tent?

Examine your clouds. Are they all on one level? Do some clouds pile up and up, building huge structures in the sky? Do some of them appear to be closer to the ground than others?  Can you see any difference in the shapes of clouds based on how far above you they seem to be? Do clouds of one sort clump together, or are there different types of cloud mixed together in one area?

Now, choose one cloud and focus on that one.  Really look at this one cloud - pretend that you will have to identify this cloud in a police line-up later, and get to know everything about this cloud that you can.  Define its color precisely.  Is it solid white, or are does it shade away into other hues? If you were going to paint this cloud, what tubes of paint would you use in order to accurately fix it onto the canvas? Take as long as you need to decide what color this cloud really is - the more you observe, the more you appreciate the world around you!

How will you define the shape of this one cloud? If you wanted to draw the outline of your cloud, what overall shape would you trace? Follow the outline of the cloud with your eyes, fixing the lines firmly in your mind.  Now, look at the cloud within that outline. What form does the inner cloud take? How do the different areas of cloud flow into one another? If the cloud is shifting in the wind, follow the movement with your eyes. Trace the changing outlines.  Watch how the different areas of cloud flow in and around each other as the cloud moves.

Can you tell how much water vapor your cloud seems to hold? Does the cloud seem full and fat, or light and wispy? Can you see how clouds and steam are the same thing? Does this understanding change the way you look at clouds?

See if you can find anything else unique about this one cloud.  Is your cloud the only one of its type? Is it a different color than the other clouds around it? Does it seem to be moving in a different direction compared to the others? Find ways to appreciate this specific cloud among all the clouds above you.

Once you feel that you truly know that one cloud, you can end this mindfulness exercise. However, if you wish, you can keep watching clouds. You can see if the outlines remind you of pictures. You can learn to predict weather by looking at the clouds. You can even memorize the names of all the clouds and see if you can find an example of each type!

Uber-Nerds: Classify Your CloudsCollapse )
 

Rodents

Yeah, yeah, I hear you squealing! Mice, rats, vermin!

You don't actually have to touch a rodent for this mindfulness exercise, but it would help for you to truly appreciate the animals.

Find a mouse or rat - if you don't know the difference, mice are much smaller and rounder.  Many pet stores will let you touch a pet mouse or rat - or you can choose a hamster or gerbil if you prefer. I don't recommend trying to touch a squirrel or other wild rodent, as they do tend to carry disease if they're not domesticated.

Look at your rodent. What is the overall shape of the animal - is it chubby and round or long and sleek? What color is the animal? Is it all one color or does it have several different colors? Does it have a tail or not? Are the whiskers long or short? Is the rodent's nose long and pointed or rounded? Are the ears pointed or rounded? Is the animal furry all over, or are parts of it "naked"? Can you see the chisel teeth that make this animal a rodent?  Take a moment to appreciate how the body is designed for survival - most rodents are small so they can hide easily and not need to find a lot of food to stay alive. They have large eyes and ears to keep alert for predators. Many have long tails to help them balance when climbing or running.

Watch the rodent for a few minutes. Is the animal alert, or sleepy? Does it look you in the eye or ignore you entirely?  Is it constantly moving, or does it seem calm?  Watch how it moves around - does it dart here and there, dig around, chew things, climb, or sit up and look around?  Be aware of how graceful the rodent is, and how energetic.

Listen to the rodent. Does it make any noise, such as squeaks, chirps, or barks? Does it make a lot of noise as it moves around, or is it quiet? Can you hear any other sounds from the animal? Many rodents are quiet animals, because predators can hear them if they make a lot of noise.

Touch your rodent. Does the fur feel soft and fluffy or coarse and rough? Are there different textures of fur on different parts of the body? Take a moment just to pat the animal and appreciate how the fur feels to your hand.

Pick up the rodent if it will let you - you may skip this step if you or the rodent are too frightened!  Most rodents will fit into your hand easily. Notice how light it feels, as if it has hollow bones like a bird does. Pay attention to the way its feet feel as it moves - most rodents have "naked" feet to help them move more easily and sense their environment better. Are the feet cooler than the rest of the body or warmer? Does it use its feet to hold onto things, or just to walk on?

Notice how the rodent uses its whiskers to sense the world around it. Do they tickle against your hand? Does the animal sniff your hand to find out more about you? Does it swivel its ears to catch any sound? Does it scamper around your hand or sit quietly? Take a moment to be aware of the rodent, and appreciate it.

If you want, you may touch noses (gently) with the rodent and exchange greeting sniffs. This is a fun way to interact with a small animal, and the whiskers tickle your nose - sometimes they will even use their paws to feel of your face and find out about you.

Gently release your rodent, and think about how these animals fit into the environment. Appreciate how amazing they are.

A Few of My Favourite Things: Quotations

Here are some quotations that I find particularly helpful when I am having trouble with my mindset:

Quotes Here!Collapse )

And perhaps my favourite quotation:

"Life is not a journey to the grave with intentions of arriving safely in a pretty, well-preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, screaming ... WOW! What a ride!”

Washing Your Car

Changing a chore into  mindfulness exercise helps you to shift from feeling obligated to feeling grateful. Often, just changing the way you look at things can help you to have a more positive mindset.

Before you start, get all of your equipment ready. Take a moment to notice and appreciate each item. What does your bucket or tub look like? Is it old, beat-up, and full of memories? Is it colorful and bright? What about the sponge or washing cloths? What textures do they make against your hands? Are they colorful? Do you use a certain type of cleaning product? What does it feel like and smell like? Do you like to play the radio or a CD or iPod while you work? What sort of music do you like?

Look at your car - we'll use the car for an exercise of its own later on. Look at the dirt and dust on the car, and picture how satisfying it will be to clean all that off. If you'd like to take this exercise a step further, you can imagine that the dirt on your car is your own negative attitude or the bad habit you're trying to kick. As you wash the car, clean your own life and start over with a fresh, shiny one. Rinse the car, and watch as part of the dirt comes off without you even having to scrub - you can change your mental outlook in the same way, just by turning on your mental hose and thinking positive thoughts instead of negative ones.

Now, fill your bucket with nice hot water and cleaner. Are there lots of suds? How does the water feel when you dip the sponge or cloth into it? Take a moment to appreciate the hot, soapy water. Squeeze the cloth a few times and let the soap suds run between your fingers. Blow some of the bubbles off and watch them float away. Experience the soapy wash water.

Run the soapy cloth (or sponge) along the car, focusing on the feelings you experience. How does the smooth paint of the car feel under your hand? Is it warm from the sun or cool from the shade? How does the appearance change as it gets wet? Does the soap leave a rainbow film over the car?

Watch as the grime and dirt scrub away under your hand. Appreciate the clean surface you are leaving behind. Pay attention to all the little areas of the car - the rims around the lights, the edges of the doors, that hollow spot under the handles - and feel the satisfaction of hunting out dirt and getting rid of it. If you like to scrub your hubcaps with a brush, put some elbow grease into it and feel the satisfaction of really getting that grime off your car.

Rinse the soap away, and appreciate the cleanliness of your car. Notice the shine and shimmer of the wet paint. Smell the fresh, soapy scent as you rinse the car. If you like to wax your car after washing it, notice how the wax smells and looks. Appreciate the difference in how the car looks before and after you wax it.

Mindfulness helps you to turn a chore into an exercise in positive thinking. You can do this with any chore that you dislike, or with anything at all in your life.

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