Cultivating a Contemplative Approach

Do you enjoy going to museums, being immersed in a work of art? Or a symphony, where you are plunged into the music? Are you content to just be in nature, surrounded by beauty? Or, do you start to feel bored after a roomful of paintings? A bit anxious by the third movement of the piece? Ready to have phone signal only an hour into the hike?

I know I struggle to pay attention to these offerings of beauty in the world: and I’ve noticed that the more I’ve been on email, phone, social media or tech, the harder it is for me to be present to the world around me.

Art, nature, beauty – these things require a contemplative stance: our interior posture has to shift from activity to receptivity, from doing to being. We have to choose reflection over analysis, sitting-with rather than taking-on.

It doesn’t come easily for most of us. Continue Reading

Want to Feel (and Be) More Productive? Maybe You Need to Change How You Measure Success

How do you measure a job well done? How do you judge, at the end of a day, if you’ve been “productive” at your work?

(Of course, being productive isn’t always the end goal. Sometimes just being is what’s important. But sometimes, we do have to work, and when we do, it can be helpful to think about how we measure our success.)

This came to my mind recently because I’m about to take up a long-neglected project that, to be honest, isn’t at the top of my priorities list. It isn’t something I’m enthusiastic about. But, frankly, it’s something that needs to be finished.

This is one of those situations where I do want the goal, but I don’t want the process. But in the grand scheme of things, I am almost done, and my husband reminds me that an undone project can lead to being unsettled – and I definitely don’t want to keep being unsettled.

So, as I sat on my sofa, wondering how I could motivate myself not just to finish the project (I’m definitely motivated for it to just be done already), but to do the project so that it will be done, it occurred to me that I need concrete measures for success along the way. Continue Reading

No Take-Backs and the 24 Hour Rule

Did your school lunch consist of healthy snacks – apple slices with peanut butter and home-made granola bars? Or were your parents “cool” enough to send you with pre-packaged Cheetos and Skittles? (Or the holy grail of packed lunch, Lunchables?)

I got pretty lucky for the most part – including a year of sugar cereal packed in a plastic container when I refused to eat sandwiches “with birdseed on the crust” as I called it. I was definitely cafeteria queen that year.

That year, I did not participate in the complicated snack bartering process taking place every day over the laminated tables. But the birdseed years? Yeah, those were the years when I desperately hoped to get lucky and emerge from the elementary school market openly gloating over a bag of Cool Ranch Doritos snagged in place of generic pretzel sticks. On those occasions, the “no take-backs!” rule was shouted as soon as the prepackaged goodness hit my hot little fingers.

You made a mistake? You don’t even like pretzels? Too bad! No take-backs! Better luck next time.

Sometimes I find my email making the same claim. Didn’t mean to hit send? Wrong recipient? Reply instead of Forward? Too bad! No take-backs! Better luck next time. Continue Reading

Think Outside the Box: A Tip for Staying Organised

If you happen to be in my kitchen looking for the cinnamon, you won’t find it in the spice cabinet. It’s with the coffee. And if you reach for a water glass, you’ll also see the vitamins. I don’t keep them in the medicine cabinet.

Since our kitchen also happens to be smaller than the average elevator, I’m not organizing it for anyone else but myself, so it’s pretty rare to have anyone confused by where to find the cinnamon, or surprised by finding the vitamins – but even if we did have a kitchen that could fit more than 1.5 persons, I’d still organize it the way I do.

Staying organized in your own space means putting things where you can find them, not where they “should” be. Many of us try to work with a system we learned in our childhood, or one we’ve seen work in our friend’s home, or one that an organizing expert insisted was the best. But a lot of the time, those systems just don’t work for us. Continue Reading

7 Ways Hand-Writing Can Improve Creativity

We’ve all had mental blocks. Whether it’s writer’s block, a total lack of ideas for projects, or just feeling “stuck” about what to do next, everyone experiences creative dry spells. In those moments, I’ve noticed that a pen and paper, rather than a blank screen and blinking cursor, are an immense help. Here are seven reasons why. Continue Reading