Here I am again! Work load, exhaustion, and finally getting sick have kept me from blogging during the past days, and I feel in need of a holiday! Actually, I have not had a real break since Christmas last year, because my jobs and studies are keeping me busy, and I also worked on most weekends because those are usually the times when I finally come to my own things. The progress with my thesis is not as fast as I would have liked, due to all the other stuff on my schedule – organizing and running experiments for my student assistant job, statistics and piano teaching, social life – that affords its time and partially also drains energy.
Since it is not possible to take a couple of days off in a row, what keeps me going is island hopping: To stay calm within troubled waters, it helps to have little islands of peace where you can anchor every now and then, whenever you need it, and find some recreation and tranquility of mind that fuel you to tackle the next episode of your life story.
I try to have island time every day, at least two or three hours, and if there is an opportunity, I may even have a whole island day. So today, I am just showing you my favorite islands.
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This one is perhaps the most important island for my mental and spiritual health because it not only relieves my mind from the ongoing clutter and chatter but also serves as an emotional outlet. After an hour of piano playing I feel refreshed and content, and it also makes one of the columns my sense of self is grounded on: When things do not go so well in other parts of my life, the piano is still there and gives me happiness.
I am very sensitive to sounds and noises and hear everything more intense and also hear a wider range of pitch compared to most other people. When I was a child, I noticed my dad coming home before he entered the house, because I could hear from the inside how he stepped on the door sill and burrowed into his pockets for the keys. I could hear what my parents were talking about in the dining room two levels deeper while playing in my room above. I wake up when the flower next to my bed drops a blossom. You get the idea.
Therefore, being in the city with all the people hustling by, sitting in the tram or in a train with scraps of chatter filling the air, or working in the office against the backdrop of keyboard tapping, mouse clicking, and the noise from the main street coming up through the windows, is very tiring for me and gives me a headache.
Music helps with this and works as a protecting cocoon I put around me: I basically change hundreds of simultaneous, competing, and irregular noise sources against one constant, predictable, and pleasant source of music, and that is the whole trick – fading down the world around me.
Since I have started mindfulness practice almost two years ago, it has become a reliable source of energy that is available anytime. I usually spread moments of mindfulness practice throughout the day to prevent the stress from piling up, and this works very well.
This is a new one: Until recently, the idea of lying down on my bed or even taking a nap during the day has seemed rather unattractive and deterrent to me. Now I do it. Just 10 minutes of lying on my back, feeling warm and comfortable, and relaxing all my muscles works wonders.
Thanks to mindful eating practice, I am finally able to enjoy my meals and experience meal times as recreation times. Whenever possible, I do not eat while doing something else anymore, but take 15 minutes or so for just enjoying a meal, and I feel that the food agrees with my tummy much more. Additionally, I am still very careful to stick to compatible foods what basically is lots of vegetables, a lean protein source, healthy fats, reduced carbohydrates, and little sugar.
~ office lunch: lemony turkey roast with tomatos and parsley ~
At home, this is very easy, and on office days, I usually take a lunch box with food I have prepared the night before, along with a bottle of almond milk and a big thermos bottle with tea.
I am taking more and more pleasure in cooking and trying around with various ingredients and seasonings. Cooking is creativity, and when I cook, I like to go to my spice shelf and open some jars and sniffle to find out which flavors might go well together, or I just compose everything in my head.
~ two boards of my spice shelf (there are more …) ~
By now, I have developed the habit to set up a stew, a pot roast, some kind of goulash, or a big pan with several servings of stir fry in the evenings, so I always have nice food at hand I can pack for a lunch box.
I am no person for heavy exercise – jogging, biking, weight lifting do not make me happy. But I need my daily moving. Earlier in my life, I used to do yoga regularly – the sun salutation, directly after getting up. I loved it because the alternating bowing and stretching of all muscles and joints really made me wake up. But then, I got an elbow joint inflammation – due to eating foods on a daily basis I did not know I was allergic against at that time, and this gave me chronical inflammations for many years, some of them being in my joints – that resulted in the mucosa producing free joint bodies which against shredded a nice part of the cartilage. Since then, my elbow joint has been a constant source of concern, and I cannot burden my right arm anymore. So, walking is my favorite kind of exercise now. I have always liked it, because it challenges my body without draining my energy resources, and it is so meditative. So I just decided to make walking my favorite kind of exercise.
Real friends are the people who just like me how I am. I do not have to pretend anything when I am with them, I am just perfectly alright. If I am tired and exhausted and not at all entertaining, they still like me. They care for me and want me to be well. They leave me on my own when I need it, but they are constantly there for me. I have a handful of friends like that, and that is perfectly enough. You know, friendships are about quality, not quantity. Spending time with my friends feels like stroking my heart.
~ dinner with friends enjoyed the other night ~
We talk, cook together, enjoy a glass of wine, or watch a movie and discuss it, and the most important thing is that we mutually respect and appreciate each other. There is criticism sometimes, but it is aimed at getting to know oneself better and being more content and in peace with one’s life. Or to just sustain and get through the things that are challenging currently. I am blessed with these friends.
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So, these are my islands that keep me from being gripped by the drowning flood of life. What are your islands?