Meditation and Mindfulness

Recorded on January 4, 2022

Today, I’m going to talk about the importance of cultivating time for meditation and mindfulness in your life. Okay, first, I want to make this very clear - cultivating time for meditation and mindfulness are instrumental for a healthy balanced life. I’m going to say that again - meditation and mindfulness are instrumental for a healthy balanced life. There is no doubt about this. There is a ton of research which demonstrates this scientific fact. So why is it so hard to do it?

 

Well, here is one way of looking at it. If it wasn’t so hard, then it wouldn’t be so necessary. This reminds me of a story, from when I was in grad school. I was working 80-90 hours a week or more on my research, I was really obsessed with it. And my ex-husband and I (when we were married) used to attend religious service on Friday evenings at a local temple. We had started doing this every week once we got married. In order to attend, I would need to leave work early, at like 5PM, and make it home in time to have dinner so we could then go to the service. And, Friday at 5PM, just felt like a really inconvenient time. That was often when I was really on a roll with my weekly experiment data analysis, when I would start to get manic and consumed by it and want to do nothing else but focus on my research. And I would sometimes say to him, You know, I don’t have time to go to service right now. I need to keep working. And he would look at me, and he would reply, Laura, if you think that you are too busy to go to religious service, then that just shows how much you need to go.

 

And he was right. And so I would always go. And afterwards, I would always be grateful. Because it would give me the opportunity to take a step back and realize that my work is not what my life should revolve around. Going to religious service gave me defined sacred space and time to pause and reflect on my life and how I was living it.

Now, that is not exactly what meditation is about, but meditation is a time and space to pause from the crazy going on in your head, and take a step back from what your ego is currently convincing you is important, and breathe, and quiet your mind and be still.

 

And I know - that is hard for people in our society. Anyone who is watching this video, it is probably hard for you to quiet your mind and be still. I know it is hard for me. Which is why it is so important. Because if it wasn’t hard for you to quiet your mind, it wouldn’t be so important for you to do it. 

Here’s the thing that we forget. Maybe you haven’t even realized this yet. You are not your mind. You are not your ego. You are not your thoughts. You are not your feelings. Those are all just constructs you create that are designed to try to keep you safe in this world. But they are primarily based in fear. And they are usually about worrying about the future or dwelling on the past. They are not about being in the present. Meditation and mindfulness are about being in the present.

Even if you just take five minutes a day, find a time to quiet your mind and breathe. You don’t need to worry about doing it right. You can listen to some relaxing music. I like to paint a way to quiet my mind and clear my thoughts. It’s why I paint abstract designs that I don’t have to actually think about. But find some way to be still, and get out of your head, and just be present in your body.  

How blogging enables me to feel connected with others

Recorded on February 1, 2022

Hello there. My former students know that I love sharing my stories with people. I love sharing the many lessons that I’ve learned over the years. I knowingly expose my own vulnerabilities, my own fears, my own mistakes, in the hope that there might be others out there that can connect with what I share. 

This world can feel like a lonely place sometimes, especially these days. But we are not alone. We are part of a bigger picture, a bigger community, a bigger force of being in this world. We are all connected.

I’ve been using these videos, off and on, for the last two years, to connect with people. But a couple months ago, I began a blog. And I’m finding that writing in this blog most days has been a really cathartic medium for me to connect with my community. And I decided for this video, I would share with you one of my first blog entries.

It was about how reading and writing the written word that can feel so satisfying, such a source of connection. This year, I was fortunate to be accepted into the BU faculty Narrative Writing Program. Each month, about a dozen faculty meet and discuss assigned readings, practice writing, and get advice and support from each other. It’s a lovely group and I’m really enjoying it. We usually are given a few writing prompts during the session. Back in November, the prompt was to spend five minutes writing about any line from a book chapter that we had been assigned to read (Bird by Bird, by Anne Lamott). I was excited for this prompt because I had actually been thinking a LOT about one of the lines I had read.

I had read it a few days prior, in the car while waiting for my son to get out of school, and I laughed out loud. A joyous happy laugh. The type of laugh that I hadn’t experienced in awhile. I had been struggling in that period, struggling with trying to find self-compassion and finding moments of pure joy. But in that moment, I was absolutely delighted. So, here’s the line before the one that made me laugh - “I have a tape of a Tibetan nun singing a mantra of compassion over and over for an hour, just 8 words over and over, and every line feels different, feels cared about.” But that wasn’t the line that made me laugh. It was this next line – “You never once have the sense that she is glancing down at her watch, thinking, ‘Jesus Christ, it’s only been fifteen minutes.’ ” This line made me so delighted that I laughed out loud when I read it. I immediately took a snapshot of the page and shared it with several people in my life. But when I shared it with my boyfriend, he asked me, “What’s so funny about it?” At first, I was surprised at his response. I thought, what? Doesn’t EVERYONE think this is funny? I tried to explain to him why I found it so amusing, but the true explanation escaped me at the time. I ended up saying something along the lines of how it spoke to my own impatience, my own goal-oriented way that I struggle with at times. But then, after some reflection, I finally realized why I was so delighted. It wasn’t the idea itself that was delightful, but that another person, this author, Anne Lamott, this stranger to me, wrote that. That she got me. That there was someone out there in this world that I felt connected to, just by reading her words. That is why I laughed out loud with such delight.

So, I share my stories, both in these videos and now in my blog, in the hopes that someone else will feel connected to what I share and realize that you are not alone either.