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September 2017

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Yesterday was a somewhat stressful day. On top of ongoing current events, it was just hectic, full of meetings and small fires to put out. About half an hour before bed, I picked out a guided meditation from Spotify's playlist of guided meditations. I picked a "body scan" meditation, which is typically done lying down, so I lay down in bed. I woke up about 30 minutes later, having slept through most of the meditation, but feeling more relaxed than I've felt in days.

I figure I'm not the only one who can use a little relaxation, so I thought I'd share a few of my favorite guided meditations.

Guided Body Scan Meditation by Mark Williams. This was the one I listened to last night. Strictly speaking, I'm not sure how it works as a meditation, but it's excellent for relaxation and falling asleep. You can find it on Spotify, on Youtube, or buy the book from Amazon/Audible.

Banishing Depression by The Honest Guys. The Honest Guys are a little more woo-woo than I usually go for, but their guided meditations are fun because they really take you on a journey - you're usually asked to visualize yourself in some place, and very vividly imagine the sensations of being there. (They have a whole set of guided meditations centered around locations in The Lord of the Rings for example.) In this guided meditations, you visualize handing over bundles of negative thoughts to a spiritual guardian, who crumbles them into dust. I now sometimes use this as a visualization technique even outside of meditation for dealing with an anxious thought that I'm having trouble letting go of - I imagine wrapping it in butcher paper, labeling it with a Sharpie, and handing it over to my guardian, who looks at it, says, "Nope, you don't need that," and tosses it over his shoulder. (My spiritual guardian looks like a Finnish heavy metal singer. I find this mildly embarrassing and yet entirely predictable.) You can find this meditation on Spotify and on Youtube.

Guided Meditation I - Breathing Calming Body & Mind by Erica Rayner-Horn. This is a really good basic guided mindfulness meditation. It's great if you're a beginner or just want a simple meditation experience. You can find it on Spotify, on Youtube, or buy the CD/MP3 from Amazon.
My on-again off-again meditation habit is currently on again. It seems to be doing me good, but one thing it does bring home is just how very noisy the inside of my head can be. (Sample impression:"Okay. Breathe in. Breathe out. Dammit, Moonspell. Okay, focus on the breath. Wow, my L5R character is so much better at this than I am. Well, my L5R character is a monk. Which reminds me, next session - no, focus on the breath. Breathe in. Breathe out. Hello, Moonspell. Focus on the breath. Actually, this would make a hilarious post. Focus. on. the. breath." And so on.)

Then I happened to stumble across a playlist of guided meditations on Spotify, and it made me wonder if having something else to focus on would make it easier to let go of my thoughts. So, I've been throwing in a different guided meditation from Spotify's playlist every few sessions.

Mostly it's been working wonderfully, but I have a piece of advice to offer - if you start your guided meditation, and you think, "Wow, this guy's voice is a bit irritating, but I'll just go with it." Do not go with it. Bail and pick another meditation. Because by the end of 15 minutes, "slightly irritating" will become, "I want to crawl out of my own skin." Especially if you are a little bit suggestible, and Mr. Slightly Irritating breaks out "You may feel slight sensations of discomfort, such as an itch. Just hold that sensation mindfully in your awareness," which causes your entire body to itch.

I will not be trying any more guided meditations from Mr. Itchy.
I've been really enjoying the three day weekend. I think this is the first Memorial Day weekend in years that I haven't been at either BayCon or WisCon. While I sort of missed being at a convention in the abstract sense, I very much enjoyed having plenty of time to both get stuff done around the house and laze around with a book and a cup of tea.

Today I unpacked our DVD collection and arranged it in order. I think Daniel's amused that I put all the Doctor Who in the prime shelf space at eye level, but honestly, that was just where it fell in alphabetical order.

I've been doing another round of tweaking my workout routine. I discovered this fantastic Podrunner: Intervals podcast, which provides a beautiful solution to my problem of needing a way to ramp up the intensity of my workout that circumvents both my essential wimpiness and my desire not to think too hard about what I'm doing when I work out. The idea is very simple - the podcast includes a techno mix of songs at varying beats-per-minute, and you just walk/run (or elliptical) along to the beat. It works beautifully, because apparently I hate being off the beat more than I hate sweating and working hard. I've been doing this on the elliptical machine every other day, with long walks outside on the off days.

I've also been possessed by a strange desire to actually try running, but so far have persuaded myself that that would be a bad idea with my creaky left knee. (The stretches that I've been doing after exercising have been helping a lot with the creaky left knee, but still...)

I've also been listening to a lot of stuff about Zen Buddhism, which inspires very strange reactions in me. The best way I can describe my response is, "This is a load of crap, but thinking about it makes me feel better about myself and the universe." I'm not sure that the Buddha would disapprove.

This afternoon, I was seized by the conviction that chicken, bulgur, edamame, dried cranberries, and cashews would go beautifully together, and so I created this recipe. Somewhat to my surprise, it all did go beautifully together.