On Taking a Time Out

My posting frequency has declined, but for very good reasons.  I’ve been spending time with friends, new and old, and fully enjoying this wonderful summer of less responsibilities than normal.  Even so, I’m still working at the job I had during the school year, planning my master’s project, volunteering, doing maid-of-honor duty for my good friend’s wedding, and generally staying connected and informed about the world.

Sometimes constant repetition of habits can become grating on one’s soul.  I’ve written before about the benefits of mindfulness and yoga practice.  For a few months, I’d been meditating first thing in the morning for 20 minutes every day, and doing a vinyasa practice 5 times per week.  Eventually the monotony started to wear on me.  I still firmly believe in the healing and peace-making power of mindfulness, but I’m now a bit more lenient about my practice schedule.

I started meditating a bit less frequently, and have varied the time of day and location of my meditation to suit my feelings.  My knees started bothering me and I felt a grating dissatisfaction with my vinyasa practice, so started focusing more on yoga nidra and gentle yoga.  Both of these changes have renewed my love for my meditation and yoga practices by allowing me to stay connected with the things that I love and receive from them.  I do yoga to connect with my body and breath, and have had to allow myself to take a step back physically when both my mind and body require it.  I meditate to connect to myself and be freed from my thoughts, so rigidly requiring myself to meditate for the same period of time every single day seemed to be a symptom of the type of mindset that I seek to soften through meditation.

One of the overall goals of a mindfulness practice is to listen to what my body and mind truly need.  I was afraid that this experience of dissatisfaction with my mindfulness practice would cause me to abandon it altogether, and feared that changing the practice to suit my evolving needs would result in its dissolution.  That has not been the case, however.  By allowing a little more flexibility in my meditation and yoga schedules, I’ve been able to enjoy them more, which causes me to want to do them more.  After a couple weeks of yoga nidra, restorative, and gentle, I’m now easing myself back into the world of vinyasa.  I’m seeking a balanced yoga practice that incorporates all of those types into a yoga routine that is both peaceful and energizing.

I have another large time out coming up in my life.  I will be spending a month at the Mystical Yoga Farm in Guatemala, and then traveling for a week at the end of my stay.  Spending time with new interesting friends in my grad school program pushed me to become a better and braver person.  One thing I’ve always wanted to do is travel by myself, but it’s also something that I’ve feared.  I hope to expand myself through living in a spiritual community and experiencing a new mindfulness routine.  I hope to learn about myself and become comfortable knowing no one (initially) in a foreign place.  I hope to miss my wonderful friends and family (but not too much) so that when I come back, I appreciate them all anew.

There are many ways to take a time out, by making more time for yourself or choosing to spend more time with others.  By beginning a mindfulness practice or decreasing the intensity of a current practice.  By spending less time online, eating healthier, exercising more, or spending more time volunteering.  Dissatisfaction can also be resolved by spending more time in gratitude meditation and being mindful of all the wonderful things in your life.  I feel very fortunate for all of the lovely people and experiences in my life, and I feel equally fortunate to have the opportunity to explore something completely new this summer.

Learn How to Focus, it’ll Give You More Energy

Do you ever come home from a long day of school, work, bicycling around, hanging with your friends, or you know, generally doing interesting and tiring things, and feel really burnt out but still feel the need to immerse yourself in the internet or otherwise generally waste time?  And do you later realize that the time wasting made you feel more tired?  It’s because when you waste time by watching TV, poking around the internet, or getting sucked into some other form of entertainment, you’re burning up limited cognitive resources.  You’re burning the candle at both ends, friend, and it’s probably why you feel so tired all the time.

Energy is a limited resource.  What’s the point of working an 8+ hour day, getting to and from work, if you get home just to watch TV, end up exhausted, and not have enough energy to cook dinner, see friends, or do things that you really enjoy?  I think there’s very little point.  Then you’re living only for the weekend and 5/7 of your life is lived in an information clogged stupor.

So how do you avoid it?  Realize that you have a limited supply of cognitive resources.  When you spend several hours surfing blogs, checking Facebook, Googling endlessly, you’re burning up your energy supply which means that later you won’t have as much energy to see friends, exercise, cook dinner, or generally do healthy and fulfilling things.  If you realize that your energy is limited, you will begin to understand that spending your time in certain ways prevents you from spending your time in other ways.

Prioritize.  Set limits for yourself.  I personally installed an app to Google Chrome called StayFocusd.  You can mark certain sites as ‘blocked’ and allot yourself only a certain amount of time for each of them.  I get 25 minutes per day for Facebook, Twitter, and the Mr. Money Mustache Forum (what can I say? I’m a frugality nerd).  When I began this, my mind fought against it wanting to waste time and goof around.  The longer I’ve had it (I even cut down from 30 minutes), the less I feel the need to go on those time-suck websites since every time I’m on there I constantly remember that I shouldn’t be.  I also decided to make my bedroom a computer-free zone.  This means that my computer now lives in the living room and is much less available for casual time-wasting, especially since its battery life is terrible.

Energy management is also very important in work settings.  When you interrupt yourself to visit various websites or check your phone, you’re burning up resources that otherwise could have been spent finishing tasks more quickly.  If you’re feeling burnt out at work, do you really think that reading something online is going to make you feel refreshed?  When I’m feeling burnt out at work I do a couple of things, depending on where I am and how much time I have.  If I have a little time I like to take a walk, or go to a private area and do 10-15 minutes of yoga.  If I don’t have much time, I’ll simply sit still and meditate on my breath for a couple of minutes to focus myself, and then return to the task at hand refreshed.

Mindfulness practice can help you refresh your energy and make better energy decisions.  Since I’ve started monitoring how my energy is spent, I sometimes can really see the forces at work in my body.  Recently I came home from a busy day and felt very strongly that I wanted to go read some blogs and watch a couple TV shows on my computer.  I thought, “Man, I’m tired, I want to waste time.”  I actually thought that!  I was able to catch myself then and say, “Okay, I’m tired.  Wasting time probably won’t make me feel better.  Maybe I’ll take a nap!”  And nap I did and it was wonderful.  I woke up refreshed and able to have a great evening with friends.

I now tend to generally plan out my free time a little.  I think about the day and schedule in bicycling, yoga, cooking, and friend time.  It doesn’t give me a lot of left over time to spend on the computer and I feel much better about how I’m spending my time.  I certainly feel like it’s a journey, and no effort is too small.  Once you start focusing more in one area of your life, it will become easier to keep the ball rolling in other areas.  Certainly a regular mindfulness or meditation practice helps, as it trains the mind to become calmer and more centered, but any small effort to make your mind less tumultuous will bring you more peace and energy.

Integrating Exercise into Every Day

Here’s a confession: I used to have a gym membership.  I would shell out $58/mo for my YWCA membership to go work out on the same elliptical 3-4 times a week.  I’d sometimes take a yoga class.  I’d often lift weights.  I got in better shape, lost a little weight, but I NEVER enjoyed it.  I’d blast whatever peppy songs I’d been listening to lately on my iPod while I tried to forget about the fact that I was working out.  While I was doing this, I kept thinking, “This is it?  I’m going to have to waste 4-5 hours at the gym every week for the rest of my life?”  But I’m happy to tell you that this is not the case!  You do not need to be a slave to a gym that sucks up your money and time.

When I quit the gym something interesting happened: I stopped ‘working out,’ I got into better shape, and I enjoyed myself much more.  How?  I started integrating exercise into my everyday life and found that I get much more exercise than I did before, it’s more useful, and I actually enjoy it now.

Working out is boring.  There’s no way around it.  Working out, to me, is any individual activities that take place at a gym.  The sole intent of working out is to increase physical fitness, which is great.  I did it for 1.5 years.  While I enjoyed being more physically fit, I didn’t enjoy having to set aside time each week to spend at the gym plugging away on the elliptical machine and doing the same arm exercises.  It was so boring!

During the time I went to the gym, I biked quite a bit but never had to bike all that far.  I started discovering that biking can be an amazing useful tool to both get you places and serve as your exercise for the day.  Last summer I biked to work for several weeks, 12 miles each way, and was excited about the fact that I wouldn’t have to come home and go to the gym since that served as my exercise.

When I started grad school, I began biking 8 miles round trip 5 days a week.  I got in better shape, felt more fit, and saved time because my commute also counted as my exercise time.  The other part is that I enjoy biking outside; you get to look around and notice what people are doing and what’s happening in the neighborhood.  It’s much more interesting than staring at a wall in a gym.

Utilitarian exercise is also much more sustainable than recreational exercise.  Sure, I love to go for a sunny bike ride around the lake, go for a pleasant jog, or take a stroll downtown, but I don’t always have time to do those things.  On the other hand, I always need to get to school.  Biking is faster than taking the bus and allows me more flexibility in my schedule; therefore it is the obvious choice for school transportation.  Even when I’m not able to do recreational exercise for awhile, at least I’m still getting exercise, and usually a lot of it, because it is well integrated into my life.

I also don’t feel like I exercise all that much.  I do yoga about 5 times per week and I bike 30-50 miles per week, but it never feels like exercise.  When I bike places, it feels like I’m transporting myself while getting fresh air.  When I do yoga, it feels like a mindfulness practice that happens to move my body.  I sometimes think that I need to exercise more because I never register my physical activity as exercise; it’s simply what I do to get around or be happy.

It’s really hard to motivate yourself to do something several times every single week, especially when it’s not something you particularly enjoy.  Finding enjoyable exercise that can become well integrated into your life is a very positive way to ensure that even if you’re strapped for time, or tired, or cranky, you will still be getting the exercise that your body needs, probably without even thinking about it.  So how can you do this?  Get a bike.  Bike to the grocery store, to run errands, to work.  Walk to your friend’s house or to the library.  In the winter, go ice skating instead of sitting inside watching TV.  Spend time doing physically active things with friends: take a walk, go for a run, take a yoga class (hell teach each other yoga moves), climb a tree, or go rock climbing. Some of these things are free, which makes it a great way to be social while being frugal and healthy.

Once exercise is well ingrained into your life, you won’t even notice it’s there.  You’ll start exercising for recreation on top of for utilitarian purposes and become even healthier.  You’ll save time and money not going to a gym.  You’ll be sexier and more interesting.  I promise.

Negative Thoughts and Obsessions

“It can be particularly helpful to keep in mind from moment to moment that it is not so much the stressors in our lives but how we see them and what we do with them that determines how much we are at their mercy.  If we can change the way we see, we can change the way we respond.” -Jon Kabat-Zinn

Negative thoughts can have an unnerving hold on your mind, and stresses, anxieties, and obsessions can arise regarding anything.  Negative thoughts have obsessive power over people, whether the problems that initiated the thoughts were small or large.  The interesting thing about cultivating a mindfulness practice is that you are able to distance yourself from your thoughts a bit, and can then observe their strength and the way they change over time.  This awareness is vital in dealing with obsessions and negative thoughts.

Sometimes I get sidetracked by negative thoughts, and my immediate reaction is to share these ideas with other people to commiserate or gossip.  However, these thoughts can be like little seeds planted in your mind.  The more you dwell on something, that might otherwise be insignificant, the more you are cultivating and caring for this seed of anxiety, bitterness, stress, or resentment.  As you think and talk about it, it grows, and takes up more room in your mind.  As these seeds grow they get stronger, and therefore gain more strength to draw your mind back to dwelling on them thereby creating a negative feedback loop.

When this is the case, there are a couple of things you can do.  One is to become more self-aware of your thought processes through mindfulness.  This way you’ll be able to take a step back from negative thoughts when they occur.  You’ll be able to understand that you are not your thoughts or feelings, and will be able to think to yourself, “Interesting, I’m very upset about this thing that happened.  I don’t know why I’m so upset or why I feel so angry, but I’m going to accept that this is how I feel right now.  Just because I feel this way doesn’t mean that who I am is defined by these thoughts or feelings.  They are just feelings and they will leave soon.”  When you can bring non-judgmental self-awareness to small obsessions, you can acknowledge them, feel what you’re going to feel, and process them enough to move on to focusing on something else.  The second way to deal with these seeds is to burn them up through physical activity or any other energy generating venture.  While being physically active, you project that energy onto burning up these obsessions and work to create space in your mind that is free of those thoughts.

It is helpful to remember that feelings are feelings, and they are not good or bad.  Whatever you feel is what you feel, and approaching feelings in a non-judgmental way will make it easier to process certain emotions and understand when additional action needs to be taken on an issue.  In this vein, we can further explore this topic by seeing anxieties, negative thoughts, and obsessions as cues to draw our attention to certain things in our lives.  When you feel obsessive about something, it might be a signal from your body that something in your life is not right.  If you try the above strategies and the issue keeps arising, it may be a message to you.  It may mean that you need to bring up hurts or concerns with another person, you need to clarify a relationship, or you need to seriously consider ending a relationship.  When issues repeat themselves in your mind over and over, despite your attempts to bring mindful awareness to them, it might mean that they need to be acted upon in some way.

Obsessions can be your mind’s way of telling you when you are not living in a truthful and honest way.  This may mean that you need to work on not obsessing over small things and growing them into large issues, or that you need to take action in your life to right some relationship or situation.  When you are able to acknowledge the source of obsessions and anxieties, you have an opportunity to make changes in a way that will allow your mind to quiet down and allow you to live in a more peaceful and honest way.

On Being Bold: Bold Moves March

I’ve mentioned the beauty of being present and mindful, but I haven’t mentioned the beauty of being bold.   This is an important category to explore, especially for single ladies who are dating around at present like myself.

My friend Haley and I discussed her plan with a friend to act on “Bold Moves February,” but there’s something about cold weather and a lack of alliteration that made that less-than-appealing.  However, we both decided that Bold Moves March would be our thing, and as March is now over I thought I would report on our success.

The intent of Bold Moves March (BMM) was for us, as single ladies, to put ourselves “out there” in a way that would allow us to meet friends and acquaintances in a more efficient and interesting manner than usual.  The results of BMM for me were: meeting a good study buddy/friend connection to a whole additional group of friends with whom to spend time, meeting a man-friend with whom I had an amazing time but who, unfortunately, moved temporarily to Argentina, and spending a lot of time with the aforementioned Haley and building a wonderful friendship with her.

Every attitude worth cultivating requires practice and strengthening.  Building frugality muscles requires discipline and dedication, and the same goes for boldness muscles.   Walking up to an unknown person in a crowded bar can be difficult, but mastering this skill will make you more comfortable approaching someone in a tame coffee shop situation.  Becoming bold requires effort and risk, but results in increasing your ability to meet people and strike up meaningful conversations in unlikely scenarios.  Here are a couple of things I have learned from BMM: the vast majority of the time, when you approach someone new to start a conversation, they will be receptive to your effort and will relish the opportunity to get to know you.  In situations where this is not the case, you will have a sense of bravery and will feel stronger for the attempt despite any small rejection.

My mindfulness practice has allowed me to contemplate the ever-changing nature of everything.  I’m specifically aware of the transient nature of the wonderful relationships I’ve formed so far in graduate school.  Many of these people will move away, and even if they don’t, our relationships after graduation are likely to change significantly.  I’ve been overcome with acceptance of this fact, but have noted that it is difficult to meet people in Minneapolis without some sort of group membership.  Boldness can help ease the fear of changing relationship dynamics.  When you are bold, you know that you can meet people in all situations, and you can be brave and intrepid on your own.

Despite the end of the beautifully alliterative Bold Moves March, as we parted ways on our bikes tonight Haley and I yelled at each other “Bolder Moves April!” and “Boldest Moves May!”  I hope to continue my boldness indefinitely, and to strengthen my boldness muscle to a point where I feel no shyness talking to any strangers anywhere.

The Book I Recommend to Everyone: If The Buddha Dated by Charlotte Kasl

You might be skeptically criticizing this book already. Yes, it is a dating/spiritual/self-help book and includes occasional requisite discussions of uncommon religions (like Quakerism and Sufism).  But it is so much more than that!  Charlotte Kasl brings a warm compassion to every reader of this book. She holds your hand and helps you peel away the masks you’ve created for yourself to get closer to true happiness.  This just so happens to be a good strategy for dating, but the book is quite applicable to other relationships and life in general.

I was introduced to this book by a good friend while studying abroad in Northern Ireland, and the concurrent reading of this small dating book made our friendship so much richer and more rewarding.  This is honestly the only book I will ever need when it comes to living life in a spiritually and emotionally healthy way; it is also the only book I’ll ever buy about dating.

Essentially this book discusses how to remain mindful and honest in dating situations.  This first requires you to examine past relationships and set yourself right.  It guides you toward understanding what you’re looking for in life and in relationships.  It teaches you how to be authentic, shedding the masks that conventional dating books and popular culture tell single people that they must don in order to be attractive potential partners.

The most important piece of this book for me has been her lessons on attachment and acceptance.  She discusses how attachment to an idea, a person, or a feeling will inevitably cause suffering.  However, if we live moment to moment, consciously grateful and aware of the lovely things in our lives, and able to welcome new things and let go of losses, we will suffer less.  Unhappiness and heartbreak will come into our lives, and if we aren’t so attached to being always happy, the presence of these feelings will not cause in us so much suffering.  She also advocates acceptance of whatever we’re feeling in the moment, and not judging ourselves for feeling afraid, or angry, or depressed.  Instead she says that certain feelings are cues for us to examine more closely.  We might think, “Interesting, I’m very angry about that, why is that?”

Kasl discusses that when you get wrapped up in thinking or in your thoughts, you might start thinking that your thoughts define reality.  You might think, “I need to keep this relationship.”  This causes you to alter your relationship with reality and with your partner.  We are adults, and do not need any one other person, and if this relationship were to end you would be sad but would eventually heal, and become stronger, and move on.  When we get wrapped up in thoughts like this we do not act in accordance with our authentic self and we may end up clinging to a relationship that is not right for us, simply because of a fear to be alone.

As I’ve been lately trying to be more mindful, through regular meditation and yoga practices, I’ve found some surprising benefits.  I’ve been more focused, productive, peaceful, and happy.  I’ve had a greater awareness of and appreciation for my surroundings and have been surprised by spontaneous bursts of happiness and gratitude.  I’ve only been practicing mindfulness for a short while and it has greatly enriched my life.  However, as a cautionary note: pursuing mindfulness for any goal can be an attachment in itself.

One part of this book that I particularly enjoy discusses how to be alone (which is discussed elsewhere, in poem form).  This part speaks to my heart:

“Sometimes we open our heart, date lots of people, and stay true to our path, yet no lover is forthcoming.  This tests our faith and our ability to accept what we are given…  There may be absolutely nothing wrong – no deep block, no problem, nothing you could have done differently.  It’s just not your time right now, for no particular reason.  Your path is to find acceptance, to be at peace with yourself.”

“Ultimately, life is about knowing who we are and being able to accept the inexplicable rhythm and pulse of our journeys.  We move from asking Why me? to reflecting on what befalls us.  We learn to say, This is my life right now.  What can I make of it?  What can I learn from it?  How can I feel joy? “

The Art of Making Do

This article will explore the careful assessment of minor disasters in order to cut costs and clutter.

How many times has something you own broken?  Hundreds of times?  Thousands?  I wonder what it would look like if we could follow the pathways of all of these broken toys, clothes, tools, and utilities.  What percent do you think were fixed, and what percent ended up in the trash?  I’d bet that in the vast majority of each of our experiences broken items end up relegated to the realm of garbage to be swiftly replaced.  I’m here to advocate something different and it starts with one important thing: patience.

Cultivating patience is hard.  In our society it is so easy to find whatever you need on a whim without any further thought or contemplation.  Patience requires mindfulness, and mindfulness in all things is difficult.  Being present and putting thought into our predicaments, however small, will eventually bring us more peace and wellbeing than giving in to our every fleeting desire.  If we approach these situations with patience, we can teach ourselves a few lessons:

First, we will increasingly value what was broken.  When my iPod recently broke, I missed the presence of portable music in my life dearly.  I spent a week missing my favorite tunes in the shower and found my morning routine to be missing its jubilant soundtrack.  I spent time on the bus staring out the window missing the ability to actually listen to the song that was bouncing around in my head.  Luckily my dad doesn’t often use his so he let me borrow it for a couple of months until I get an iPhone for my birthday.

Second, we will assess the impact of discarding the item on ourselves and the environment.  Mending clothes, fixing broken electronics, and generally favoring “reusing” instead of “replacing” is healthier for the environment on two ends.  Materials are not being harvested to make whatever will be replacing the broken item and the broken item will not take up space in a landfill and (in the case of some electronics) poisoning the environment as it does so.

Third, we will have an opportunity to ask for help.  Asking for help is so underrated.  When you ask for help, you bind yourself with whomever you are asking.  It can make you very thankful for their generosity and give you something important to share with that person.  Asking to borrow something frequently unused will often be met with generosity.  A good friend posted on Facebook this fall that her apartment was freezing so I gladly offered up a spare space heater.  Sure there are times I would have liked to use it this winter but knowing it was keeping her warm in her drafty apartment more than made up for the loss.

Fourth, you’ll find ways to purge your life of unneeded things.  When I had an iPad, iPod, smart phone, and computer I would sometime pile them on top of each other and feel overwhelmed by the sheer number of electronic internet-accessing devices that I owned.  Since I sold my iPad and my iPod broke, I’ll have the opportunity to simplify my life into having one computer and one phone/music player.

Fifth, it will give you time to shop around and make the best financial decision to remedy your situation.  I have become much pickier as to what items I am interested in purchasing in the last year.  I once would buy clothes or other goods because they were the only things available.  When you are able to be mindfully patient, you can wait until you find the perfect fit for your needs, meaning that there will likely be less waste and less clutter in the end.

And sixth, it will allow you to develop skills in fixing broken things.  Self-efficacy is wonderful and learning how to fix and mend things make you feel more efficacious and capable.  The only thing better than figuring out how to fix something on your own is inviting over a knowledgeable friend who can teach you while socializing and drinking beer.

The next time a button pops off of a favored shirt, your lampshade gets a tear, or any number of breakages happen in your life, take a moment to reflect mindfully and cultivate some patience.  Even if you do go out and buy a new ice cream scoop right away, at least you’ll have concluded that the absence of an ice cream scoop from your life was too big a loss to bear.  Then the next time you’re scooping some Oreo ice cream, you’ll be grateful.

Time is counting down until you need to plug your laptop in!

Why I Like My Computer’s Terrible Battery Life

There’s nothing like the thrill of hearing the sweet chirp of your computer’s battery monitor telling you that you have three minutes until your computer completely shuts down due to a drained battery.  I’ve heard this chirp often lately.  It’s hard to tell if my computer’s battery life is getting worse, or if I’m just using it in charger-less situations more frequently.  Either way, my computer’s battery lasts for 1.5 hours maximum, and usually less.  That chirping noise is supposed to happen when I have 10% battery left, and for some reason is often delayed until I have 5% battery life left, which functionally means that the chirp will happen quite belatedly after my computer has died and been turned back on after being plugged in.

So you would ask why, why would I possibly like this lovely feature?  There are three reasons.

First, the computer that I have has worked splendidly.  It’s an Acer Aspire 5532.  When I bought it brand-new from Best Buy in May of 2010 it was less than $400 including tax.  Sure it doesn’t have a web cam, but my old computer didn’t either so I already had one.  Yes it only has two USB drives, but that’s enough for filling up my external hard drive, so good enough for me.  It has a 17” screen which is fantastic for watching the Daily Show and the other various videos that one might watch online (ie. Baby Sloths).  It’s not bad looking either.

Sure, sometimes I get somewhat jealous of people who have MacBook Pros or iMacs, but there is no way that I could ever justify such a purchase.  Let’s assume that people replace their computers every 4 years.  My <$400 17” screen Acer will average out to less than $100/year, while a $1799 15”MacBook Pro will average $479/year (after tax) and a $1199 13” MacBook Pro will average $319/year (after tax).  Even considering the fact that MacBooks have greater resale value, a brief Ebay search indicates that a 4-year-old 15” MacBook Pro can resell for an average of $780, which still results in a yearly loss of $284.  I understand that some people do interesting things with their computers, but I don’t and I know that the vast majority of friends and acquaintances with MacBooks use their computers for the same things as I do: listening to iTunes, writing Word documents, checking Facebook obsessively, Googling things, Wikipediaing things, Youtubing things. Which brings me to my next point:

Second, a crappy battery life is an amazing way to meet people at coffee shops.  If you frequent coffee shops that have ubiquitous electrical outlets, this does not apply as much.  But if you, like me, enjoy independent and local coffee shops with sporadic electrical outlet placement, having a computer with poor battery life provides you with a great excuse to speak with that cute guy or girl sitting next to the nearest outlet.

For example, one day I was at Espresso Royale in Dinkytown, a place infamous for its lack of outlets.  I was working away on grading some undergrad discussion forum posts when my computer died without even chirping first.  I spent several minutes with computer cord in hand wandering the coffee shop, seeking an elusive outlet.  The only one I could find was at a two-person table where a fellow was sitting by himself, working away on his own laptop.  I asked if I could share his table and outlet, and he willingly obliged.  This fellow, Jesse, was very friendly and the entire endeavor was quite satisfying.  We chatted, worked, and watched each other’s computers while the other went to smoke (him) or went to refill a water bottle (me).

This is not necessarily just a tactic for those who are single and looking.  There’s something about having a connection with community that has become more and more important to me as I’ve been learning to navigate the world on my own.  While being in grad school has blessed me with an abundance of lovely friends and acquaintances, many of them will someday move away and I’ve been especially aware of possibilities for meeting new friends once this happens (and before!).

Third, I’ve been trying to spend my time a lot more wisely lately.  I try to do some sort of physical activity every day, usually including at least one hour of yoga and some running or biking.  I’ve found that both meditating for 20 minutes every morning and being physically active make my mind more able to focus on work or homework that I might need to finish, which makes me overall more productive than if I had forgone the physical activity and meditation and tried to spend all of that time working.  One of the major features of this new lifestyle trend has been to cut down the time I spend online.  When your computer unexpectedly dies or starts chirping that it is about to, you are able to assess what you’re doing and evaluate whether that activity warrants the retrieval of a power cord to continue.  In many situations I realize that what I’m doing (watching the Colbert report, re-reading Mr. Money Mustache blog posts, looking at friends pictures on Facebook) isn’t something that I really want to spend more time doing, so I leave my computer dead or plug it in and turn it off.  Having this time limit helps me be more productive and provides a great reminder for times when the internet sucks me in.

Having a great computer battery life is probably a necessity for some people, but I’ve found that the monetary as well as unexpected social and personal benefits from a poor battery life are not insignificant for me.

How to Read This Blog

I suggest you wake up.  I suggest you open your window and stretch your arms high above your head.  I suggest you sit down at your computer with a hot beverage, being careful not to spill on your keyboard.  You spilled that one time and man, did that turn out poorly.  I suggest you settle in.

I have one many-faceted intention: it is health, mine and yours and the health of the environment.   I want us all to be physically, mentally, emotionally, financially, socially, and spiritually healthy.  I have found that these intentions have interesting intersections in the world.  Finding ways to further more than one goal at once makes me (and hopefully will make you) happy.  Happiness, too, is important.

So this blog will suggest that you wake up.  Wake up to the ways in which how you act and live affect your life detrimentally.  Wake up to being alive and present, to being healthier and happier, to acknowledging the effect you have on the world around you and taking responsibility for your actions.  Wake up to a new way of thinking about the world, placing much less value on things and much more value on health: your physical health, the health of your relationships, your financial health, and the health of the environment.