The peace of the pause

I wrapped up a big theater project last weekend and Monday morning felt like I’d hit a wall – face first! Every step, every thought took effort. What was going on? I was exhausted after 3 months of intense work, 6-7 days a week. And I was sad. Ending a show feels like the end of summer camp. You’ve had a great time with a new group of friends you know you’ll never be with again in that same setting. And while everyone is still around, you grieve the moment that’s lost.

AND to make you crazy, the songs from a musical run in a continuous loop in your mind for another week or so! Torture.

So this week I’ve spent time meditating on the challenges we met, the fun we had, and the show we produced. I’ve sent out thank you notes to add closure. And I’ve tried my best to be quiet to give myself time to pause for a couple of days between projects. Continue reading

In praise of a backache

I’m directing a big Christmas musical at a local community theater. This show has taken up pretty much every minute of my free time over the past 10 weeks and I’ve loved every minute of it. Theater for me is a passion that brings energy to all of my other work and even to chores.

For the last 10 weeks, I’ve been at the theater almost every day – teaching, directing, building sets, making props. To make time for this, I’ve read less and blogged less. I’ve skipped running and meditation. And I’ve been eating on the fly and drinking coffee. I look like a bag lady wherever I go – hauling around work, my planner, scripts, and props.

I thought I was holding it together until Wednesday night when I threw out my back, and last night missed the opening of the show.

Here’s why I’m deeply grateful for this. Continue reading

How to improve your concentration

Being focused on what you’re doing helps you do good work. And it’s fun to sink deep into a project.

If you’re feeling a little scattered, here are 5 Buddhist tips for meditation that also help with concentration.

Pay attention to where you’re working
If you’re trying to do serious work in a noisy, active place – good luck! When you need to focus, give yourself the best shot possible┬áby finding or creating a calm, quiet place with few distractions. You may think you can concentrate amidst chaos, but give quiet a chance and see how much it improves both the amount and quality of your output. Continue reading

Starting a new routine

In Charles Duhigg’s book, The Power of Habit, Duhigg explains that most of what you think you are deciding is actually based on habit. What time you go to bed. What time you wake up. What you eat for breakfast. How you dress for work.

You say decision. Your body says habit.

Your brain depends on you developing habits because habits require a lot less brain power than decisions. Your brain accounts for about 4% of your body mass but requires about 20% of your total glucose for fuel. When your body goes into habit-mode, your brain runs on lower power than when you’re sleeping. Your brain likes this because it frees up glucose to solve new problems. Continue reading

Taking time to ponder

Do you wake up to an alarm? If you do, you may be missing some of your best thinking time. When an alarm goes off, your mind is jarred and any thoughts are generally lost. If you can get to bed early enough to get a solid night’s sleep without waking up to alarm, it’s fun to let your mind wander before you jump out of bed.

“Theta time” is when you’re kind of groggy but awake. If you can push yourself to stay in bed and float for 10, 20, or even 30 minutes, you might be surprised what you come up with. Continue reading

The glass is already broken

When I’m feeling too attached to something – an object, a person, or an outcome – I meditate on the Buddhist saying, “The glass is already broken.”

When you start to sweat the small stuff, and remember that it’s all small stuff, you have to know that this will pass. We’re in a constant state of change with new beginnings and new endings every day.

And, like the glass, we’re here for a short time. Continue reading

The art of deciding

You may think you make a lot of decisions, but most of what you do each day is driven by habit. What time you get up. What you eat for breakfast. What you do for exercise. How you get to work. Even the conversations you have can be driven by habit. “You say this. Then I say that. Then you say this.”

So it’s no surprise that when you have to make a decision, it can be hard on your brain and rather unsettling – especially if it’s a decision that leads to big changes – like where you live. Or go to school. Or who you date or marry. Or what you do for work.

I like living a Zen life and feeling unsettled is very un-Zen. So how do we make decisions easier? Continue reading