Friday Five

1. Life is short. An inspiring, SHINE-worthy video created by a small business in NYC called Holstee. It will brighten your day. Promise.

I love their story. Here, in their own words:

 In the months leading up to the summer of 2009, Holstee was just a small side project. We had sold a hundred or so shirts, mostly to family and close friends looking to support us. Having just quit our jobs without a plan or idea of how we would spend our days, we were filled with a ton of raw energy, emotion, and ideas – a feeling that we never wanted to forget. So the first thing Holstee’s three founders – Mike, Fabian and Dave – did was sit together on the steps of Union Square and write down exactly what was on their minds and the tips of their tongues. It wasn’t about shirts and it wasn’t about their old jobs. It was about what they wanted from life and how to create a company that breathes that passion into the world everyday. It was a reminder of what we live for.

2. In eight days we went from this…

To this…

To this…

To this…



3. I voted. I cast my ballot on Tuesday like many of you in the U.S. Here in NYC we’ve finally caught up with the rest of the country and gone electronic. For the first time I filled in the little bubbles on what reminded me of those scan-tron tests of my high school days, then slid it into the scanner. Et voila! My vote was received.

Even with this “modern” innovation, why don’t we vote online? We bank online. We shop online. We can watch porn online (hypothetically, of course). I don’t mind going to the polling place, which is in the nearby elementary school. There’s a little thrill of being in that room with neighbors all taking part in an important ritual (a right that women didn’t have when my grandmother was born) and it gets me a bit misty-eyed. But maybe if voting was permitted online, even more people would be inclined to vote.

If online voting was an option, would you do it? 

4. The world’s happiest man. Happiness is no longer just an amorphous, unquantifiable feeling. No, no. Now it can be measured by science. Scientists from the University of Wisconsin have located the world’s happiest man. He’s former molecular geneticist turned  Buddhist monk named Matthieu Ricard. After testing his brain, neuroscientists discovered that Ricard produces a level of gamma waves — those linked to consciousness, attention, learning and memory — that have never before been recorded. The secret to his success in achieving bliss? Meditation, he claims.

In fact this research was part of a larger study of the effects of meditation. They found that people who meditate long-term have actually been able to change the way their brain is wired to the “happiness center,” although you don’t need to be a monk meditating hours each day to see results. According to the neuroscientists, they can see improvements in brain function even those who have meditated for just three weeks.

What’s a simple activity that consistently makes you happier?



5. 21-day mediation challenge. I bring this up because I am in the middle of a meditation challenge. For three weeks, I’ve committed to meditating about 15 minutes each day. The challenge provides me with guided meditations for each session.

So far, so good. I can’t say that I will be classified as the world’s happiest woman any time soon, but I haven’t yet run screaming from the room. My main issue is the “monkey mind.” This is what practitioners call the busy, random thoughts that hop from thing to thing when the goal is to quiet those thoughts. I’m told it’s common to have your mind jump around: nor’easter, Easter, Easter is early next year, chocolate, chocolate rabbits, Peter Cottontail, cotton balls, I’m out of cotton balls, and tissues, and Reggie’s treats, Reggie needs a bath, bubble bath, candles… Does this ever happen to you?

Sometimes I get a clear patch when my mind is still, and I’m hoping to string more and more of them together. At this point, I’m only 5 days into the challenge, but already I have noticed small changes which I attribute to the meditation. I can get anxious and irritable when I have a long list of things to do, but I’ve been feeling much calmer and less overwhelmed.

And since we’re on the subject, happiness guru Gretchen Rubin of The Happiness Project is coming to my neighborhood in a few weeks to talk about her new book and I was able to get tickets! That makes me happy. I know many of you follow her blog so I’ll have a full report for you.

Have you tried meditation? Have you seen benefits from it?

Have a great weekend, everyone!  

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34 comments

  1. I would certainly vote online, if I had that option. Also, that series of photos about where NYC has been in the course of 8 days is disturbingly powerful. Looks like a wasteland. Hope all is well in your neighborhood. I have tried meditation, but I haven’t had a lot of success. I need to give it another try. Congrats on the challenge! Hope you have a wonderful weekend, as well.
    Hugs,
    Kathy

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    1. My neighborhood has fared well, considering what’s been going on elsewhere. Now we have gas shortages which I don’t really understand. This morning I heard a stat that only 25% of gas stations in NYC are open. I’m glad I commute by subway!
      Have a great weekend, Kathy! Give Lucy and Ralph a pat from me and Reggie.

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  2. Note to self: Become Matthieu Ricard’s friend. I’ve heard so many great testimonials of meditation, I would love to give it a try. So far the quieting of the mind part trips me up 🙂

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  3. Those photos… The weather is so crazy.
    I went to a meditation retreat a couple of weeks ago. 15 minutes a day seems feasible. The teacher we had said we should make it 45 or it’s useless which discouraged me. Maybe in the future but at the moment I cannot do that daily. Good lick wih your fifteen minutes. I think they can make a difference.

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    1. How wonderful that you went on a meditation retreat! Did you find that you were able to maintain the benefits of the retreat when you returned home?
      The man leading this challenge meditates for 2 hours every day! I don’t think I’ll find that kind of time. So far 15 minutes is manageable and seems beneficial.

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  4. 15 minutes of meditation. That sounds relaxing. maybe I should give it a go. Not sure I could fit in 45 minutes. I can’t believe the weather you’ve experienced lately. What the? I remember my last summer in Boston we had a tornado, earthquake, and then hurricane. I was waiting for the locusts. Be safe and have a wonderful weekend.

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    1. After the hurricane, the nor’easter just felt like the last straw. The trees had it and we had even more coming down — all that wet snow on the leaves. I’m ready for a few sunny days!
      I hope you’re having some bright spots before the gray, rainy winter sets in.

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  5. There’s been this 70 year longitudinal study by Harvard on happiness, following a series of people through their entire lives. It’s yielded some interesting results. I wonder what it’d be like to be in that study but wind up as “Well, you’re miserable and here’s why.”

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  6. That video made me want to get my bike out of the garage, dust it off, pump up the flat tires, and actually ride it somewhere.

    “If online voting was an option, would you do it?” Yes, but only if there was a candidate that was an enlightened individual and made me feel as if s/he really had the countries best interest at heart. Maybe Matthieu Ricard could run.

    Wow, your monkey mind is much more sweet and fuzzy than mine. Mine’s more like a great ape, unfortunately. A great ape with a ‘tude, some days. But, yeah, meditating’s the best, isn’t it? 🙂

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  7. So much to think about and reflect on, as always, my friend. You know my thoughts continue to reside with you and your neighbors while the struggle continues for so many…

    You know, I may be in the minority here but I think it’s vital we keep voting the way it is and not resort to online voting. There is something, IMO, so powerful and important about leaving our homes and standing shoulder to shoulder to cast our vote. Sure it’s not always quick or without its trials, but it brings us together. (And I say this after waiting in line for 2 and a half hours to vote:))

    Happy weekend to you and Sir Reggie!

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    1. That’s quite a line! What a great point about the community aspect of casting a ballot. There is something powerful and active about doing it in person that can’t be matched in cyberspace — a sacrifice for convenience.

      Years ago I wrote an article about Elizabeth Cady Stanton. She fought for suffrage for most of her adult life, but didn’t live long enough to cast her ballot. I always think of her when I vote.

      Sir Reginald Von Dog wishes you a lovely weekend!

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  8. Those are such startling post hurricane photos–wow! And such interesting information about the happiest man alive and meditation. I don’t meditate but maybe I should because I do have monkey mind and would sorely love to be at least the 10th happiest woman alive! I’ll be curious to hear how it goes!

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    1. What I’m finding so interesting about meditation is that it carries over into my daily life. I’d assumed that the effects are only realized when I’m in the process of meditating, but so far, it’s helping me to feel calm even on the subway, which is saying a lot!

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    1. Since I’ve been meditating, I realize that I have the same sensation when I write fiction. When I’m writing a story I can get into a zone and lose all track of time and space, even if I’m in a noisy coffee shop.

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  9. I would probably vote online> I do love to actually go to the polls though, and see my neighbors etc.

    As for meditation, I’ve practiced it off and on most of my life. I am currently trying to fit in 10 minutes a day and it’s so hard to shut off the ‘monkey mind’! But the more you do it, the easier it gets. You eventually get to a place of no thoughts. And it’s an incredible place to be! I firmly believe meditation is key to overall well-being.

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    1. I’ve heard other people say that same thing: meditation is a key to overall well-being. It’s taken me a while to understand that probably because meditation is not “exercise.” I’m not sweating. I’m not out of breath. Yet, it’s as challenging as any 5k run!

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  10. One of these days I want to do a 10 day vipassana retreat (buddhist meditation). I used to do a lot of yoga and *should* get back into it. I can only imagine what it must be like in NY at the moment. Hopefully it will bring people together. Here in Australia it’s amazing to us that you guys in the US have optional voting – here it’s mandatory and you get fined if you don’t!

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    1. I know someone who went on a 7-day Buddhist silent retreat recently and found it so relaxing and rejuvenating. All that quiet must be strange at first, but then it must feel just wonderful.

      I had no idea that voting in Australia was mandatory. Do you have the option to vote online?

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  11. Wow, you’ve been through a lot! How did Reggie handle the extreme weather?

    I’ve got a couple of things that make me consistently happy, but the main one is walking or playing with Rosie. She’s such a happy dog, that she makes me feel better too.

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    1. Isn’t that the truth? Whenever I feel stressed or anxious, I look over at Reggie and he’s snoring away or chomping on a bone, I remember to enjoy the simple things in life.
      Surprisingly, he was mostly fine with the crazy weather. We didn’t get any thunder with the storms which is his real bugaboo. Does Rosie get upset during thunderstorms?

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  12. I’m pretty sure I live in a perpetual state of monkey-mind! Seriously… it keeps me up nights – I can’t seem to successfully ‘turn-off’ the ‘I should be working on this’ or the ‘here’s an idea for that’ function(s). I wouldn’t be too surprised if I started to grow a tail at this point!
    🙂

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  13. Great video, Jackie.
    You’ve reminded me that I need to get back to meditating. I’ve heard that 15 min. a day is definitely beneficial, so I’m sticking with that. Monkey mind haunts me too–my brain just won’t shut up. 🙂 Chanting is supposed to help with that.
    Would definitely vote on line, but it seems too easy to tamper with.
    Glad you have power and the subway is running again.

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