Mantras

As the absence of posts on this site indicates, I’ve been struggling to find my writing groove for the past six months or so. My academic writing progresses at a glacial pace (flow not melt). I completed a book chapter that will be published later this year, I have been editing a paper for conference submission, and I’ve stared at and put down a paper that I’ve been slowly preparing for journal submission. But, the longer my writing here went dormant, the more difficult I found it to return to. I’m sure that many readers can relate to this experience! The biggest challenge for me as an independent scholar and writer is the absence of externally imposed deadlines. The biggest challenge for me as a blogger is an attitude that approaches “don’t post til its perfect.” This week I’m taking some steps to attempt to alleviate these two challenges. First, I had my colleagues (my children, aged 7 and 8) give me a deadline and a consequence for failing to meet it. So, I had to post something here on my blog by afternoon bus pickup today or they would take away my Nintendo privileges for the weekend. My oldest and I have been a little obsessed with Zelda: Breath of the Wild lately, so it was good motivation. Second, in an attempt to alleviate some of the self-imposed pressure to make each post “substantial” enough, I am giving myself permission to write more “one paragraph posts” and to be a little bit more personal and less “issue” oriented on the blog from time to time. If you visit for the philosophy, though, don’t worry. There will be plenty of that too. Thanks for your patience, readers. My hope is to return to posting every one to two weeks, with the help of accountability to my kids and the deadlines they help me set and keep. So here’s my one paragraph submission, then I have a side quest to complete!

Last week posts centered around a viral Twitter conversation kept coming up in my social media feeds. Here’s the tweet that started it:

People expressed legitimate surprise that not everyone thinks the way that they do, and found it nearly impossible to imagine the alternative. Personally, the idea that not everyone has a constant internal monologue is almost incomprehensible to me. I wonder about the binary the tweet sets up. Are these two possibilities comprehensive? Mutually exclusive? Surely not, but I can’t really escape my own way of thinking in order to imagine anything else. But this twitter conversation had me thinking about why a recent habit of mine has been so effective. My thoughts are relentlessly narrative and this can sometimes be tiring, distracting, anxiety-inducing, etc. When I need a break, or to re-center, I’ve taken to repeating a little mantra: “I have arrived. I am here.” It reconnects me to the moment when my monologue is struck in the past or concerned about the future, and has a serious calming effect. I have always found other kinds of mindfulness extremely challenging. The words work for me, because I think in words. Duh! But this just “clicked” for me this week. With this realization I intend to revisit Thich Nhat Hahn’s Present Moment Wonderful Moment: Mindfulness Verses for Daily Living. Reciting the poetic verses the Buddhist monk provides might help me quiet other thoughts for a little bit, be present, and find contentment in the task at hand. My next task of the day is lunch. Here is the verse for the first step: looking at your empty plate.

My plate, empty now,

will soon be filled

with precious food.

 

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