Saturday, January 26, 2013

Driving in the moment

Over the summer, I started meditating.  It's something I'd been meaning to try for several years, honestly, but I never quite got the motivation.  Then I discovered that there's a subreddit for meditation.  There's a subreddit for just about everything, actually, but subscribing to this one is probably the best decision I made last summer.

While just thinking "I hear meditation is good for you, I should try it" wasn't great at making me actually want to start, seeing lots of testimonies about the benefits of meditation and tips on how to do it every time I logged into Reddit was a fantastic push into the world of mindfulness.

To say that meditation was "helpful" would probably be an understatement.  After starting to meditate, I slept better, was more focused (most of the time), and was significantly less stressed.  When I say significantly, I mean... since I started meditation, I haven't needed to take my anti-anxiety medication.  Since I started meditation, I also wrote my entire thesis, so it wasn't because I wasn't under any pressure.

Fast forward to last weekend.  I was driving my car down to campus so I could have an easier time getting all my stuff back home after graduation.  It's a long drive, supposedly around 18 hours but, including our detours off the highway for lunch and sleep, I'm pretty sure it took closer to 24 hours of driving... 3 very long days.

As long as the driving was, though, it wasn't painful.  It was peaceful.  Meditative, you might say.  Driving is the ultimate test of living in the moment, because when you're driving, the most important thing to pay attention to is what's going on around you - not doing this has very real and costly consequences.

Much of the drive was also gorgeous...
In addition to the need to pay attention, driving to campus was a reset, in a way - three days where all I had to do was get to the next location, and if someone else was driving, I could knit or read.  I had my phone on hand if I needed it, but otherwise I was disconnected.  I was waking up early to get where I needed to be, and I was with a couple of the people I most enjoy being around.  We even managed to stop at a beach on the last day.  It was the perfect combination of peaceful and fun.

Since the drive, I've been waking up earlier (my sleep schedule never went back to what it was before), and feeling better.  I'm looking at a completely overwhelming semester with excitement, and looking forward not just to the overwhelming amount of classwork and workwork... but to the time I'll have to spend with friends before I graduate, and the time I'll have to read and knit and do things I like to do.

Maybe I'm over-optimistic.  I think I can pull it off if I really want to.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Baby Turns vs the Big Slope

I went skiing yesterday.  It was good fun.  There was snow, and a hill, and I went down the hill.  Something like that.  A few times I went down into the snow.  The usual drill.  Nothing big.

But actually, every time I go skiing it is something big.

I don't remember wanting to learn to ski.  I remember my mom thinking it would be a good idea, socially, to be a skier - something I can do with friends, since most of my friends are skiers.  The thought of attaching my feet to long planks of wood and sliding down a hill more than freaked me out.  I didn't want to be at the mercy of gravity.  I've mentioned before that I'm scared of falling, and, somewhat related, I managed to go through the entire Red Cross Learn to Swim program without ever learning to dive.  I can do racing dives now, for swim team, but it took getting my Water Safety Instructor certification to be able to stand on the edge of a 1-meter diving board and dive off it.  No jumping, no fancy anything in the air.  It never happened.

Nowadays, I enjoy skiing, but its still a lot of work to get to a point of feeling like I'm in control. Steep slopes still scare me, even in little bits.

The first (and pretty much only) black run I went on was practically a face.  Not exactly... easy when you're scared of slopes.  But I was going down with a ski instructor and a class that was just as scared as I was, and the instructor knew how to handle it.  One turn at a time.  We worked our way down the hill in a line, only considering the small patch of hill in front of us, the skill required for a single turn.  Then stop.  Then turn again.  Then stop and celebrate one more victory over the mountain.

So it was yesterday, when I encountered a couple steep slopes that were just big enough to be intimidating.  Looking down at the whole slope was scary, but one turn is manageable.  Eventually, the slope gets shallower and I can keep going... much faster than it would if I just stared at the whole thing and got scared.

So it is in life.  Sometimes it's good to look at the big picture and not get caught up in the nit-picky details, but often we're faced with tasks that are too large and scary to comprehend all at once.  For me, right now, that task is finding a job.  "Find a job" is huge.  Updating my resume isn't.  Emailing someone to ask if they know of anyone who's hiring isn't.  Cleaning my room can be big, but picking up my jacket isn't.  And one jacket at a time, it'll get easier.

... [well written, inspirational conclusion].