Sunday, October 28, 2012

Tip #44: Perfection is not the goal

So, the meditation challenge came and went and I did some but definitely not much. And I'm a bit upset about it, because I have done well in other personal challenges. I do have multiple excuses: much more homework to correct than last year, I'm doing yoga more often now, I do keep up with my walking and gym (that's definitely thanks to Gym-Pact), "leaf-catching"anyone? but still. I also did notice that, the days I meditated something else gave in, maybe the yoga, maybe the walking, maybe the green-smoothie. I have definitely not done any arm exercises in a long, long time. Those were the first to go (can you tell I kind of didn't really like those?).

But, although I'm upset as I said, I'm going to try to not beat myself about it. Today I was listening to Dr. Dan Siegel, in a talk part of a series called The Compassionate Brain: Activating the Neural Circuits of Kindness, Caring, and Love. Practical Neuroscience for Transformation, and he mentioned as an example someone who hurts himself in the foot and reacts by cursing himself for being so clumsy and stupid. He said that instead, that person would have to look at the situation from outside and tell himself, "It hurts, I feel the physical pain, I have been clumsy but maybe I can learn not to do this again. But I'm human, it is not that important. I can go on." Easier said than done, but he also mentioned several other mental exercises one can do to train your brain to think this way. Considering I don't feel right now like I have so much time for meditation, I guess, I'm not going to do his exercises either, but I did learn something already: it's definitely OK to do as little or as much as I can. I will continue trying to mediate, this time without a challenge. Maybe I can do it three times a week. That will be fine. Those of you who know me (probably all, thank you so much for reading!) I'm sure are thinking, "But, of course, you do so much already!!," but we just cannot see what we do, we keep beating ourselves up because we feel we are inadequate in so many ways. Dr. Siegel also talked about how society makes us geared for competition, rather than collaboration, and I feel maybe sometimes it is a competition within yourself. We want to be perfect. We need to be cured. But perfection is overvalued and a cure means really little. Are you fine now? Right this moment? Yes, you are. That's all that really matters.

So, I found that lovely quote from Leonard Cohen's song Anthem, and I'm going to try to remember it the days I don't get to do everything I had on my long list for the day. Another crack. But how beautiful is the light that goes through it.

Any other tips for me? I love your comments.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Tip #43: Go "leaf-catching"

This tip goes into the category of super silly tips, but I definitely need those as well.

Last year I learned about this British custom: if you are walking outside and see a leaf falling, try to catch it. If you do, you can make a wish. Well, as soon as I found out about this, I've been trying to do just that. And I have to say this is what I have observed: 1) It's quite difficult. 2) You have to move quite a lot. 3) You end up laughing really hard at the whole silliness of it.

And if you don't live in an area with  falling leaves, you can still make other fun wish-asking activities, like when you see the first star at night, or you find a penny on the floor, even when an eyelash falls out (which needs to be blown away as you make your wish). Do you know any others? The truth is, it doesn't even matter so much what we wish for, but we do get a moment of suspended disbelief, of magical thinking (and acting), of laughter and lightness, and all that has to be good for your happiness and therefore for good health, right?

This post is dedicated to Kate and Elaine who already heard this tip before this blog was even created and they actually liked it. It is really wonderful to have good friends. :)

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Tip #42: Avoid plastics

From this summer vacation: my sister and my son and the glass water bottle I refilled everyday.
Another super busy week, so I'm just going to write very little, give some information to read, and then you can decide for yourself.

I'm sure you all have been hearing about the dangers of BPA, an organic compound found in some hard plastics. Although it's been used for more than 40 years, it is only recently that people are starting to be aware of its dangers (A hard plastic is raising hard questions - New York Times, 2008).

But it is not only BPA. There are other compounds in plastic, like phthalates that have similar effects on our bodies. They mimic certain hormones and disrupt our natural ones. Many cancers are associated with disruption in hormones, such as breast and prostate cancers, so this is quite worrisome.

So, although it is very difficult to avoid all plastics, there are still ways to minimize their use. I now try to not drink out of plastic bottles, and instead I got a glass refillable bottle, where I put my daily tea when I go out. We also have phased out any plastic containers in the kitchen and replaced them with glass.

Here are some articles that talk precisely about using plastic water bottles, sometimes more than once:
I don't want to spread fear mongering here. But we do need to understand that, unfortunately, we all have to do our own research and decide for ourselves, because just trusting companies or the government will not really protect us. (If you do read one of the links in this post, please make it this one: The Cancer Lobby, by N. Kistof, New York Times. It is not exactly about the compounds I'm mentioning here, but the story is the same).

And here's a short video with Dr. Frank Lipman and Kyra Sedgwick talking more about the dangers of plastics.

Do you have any more recommendations as to how we can replace plastic in our lives? As always, looking forward to your comments and thanks so much for reading!

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Tip #41: Connect and learn from others

I learned recently that humans have been able to progress much more than other species because of something termed "cumulative culture" which enables us to build better and bigger things. This accumulation is generated because we are capable to share and learn from each other, and create an end product that no one alone could have devised. In a curious experiment, a group of children (three and four year old) were compared to chimpanzees and capuchin monkeys. They all had to find the solution to a puzzle box. The children were the only ones who were able to solve the puzzle, and the scientists observed that this was because they cooperated, they learned from each other and even shared their rewards. The animals never shared or cooperated and, thus, could not find the solution.

I also read that in our brains we have "mirror neurons," which help us read other peoples feelings and actions. Some scientists also think these neurons are responsible not only for empathy, but maybe also for language. In any case, it seems clear that being connected to others is an essential part of being human.

And I'm telling you all this because of my own experience with groups. If any one reading this is diagnosed with any type of disease, I really encourage you to look both online and offline for groups of people with similar circumstances. I have already mentioned my group "Metastatic Breast Cancer Babes," but I just need to keep saying how much I have learned and still learn from them. It is not just "support," which they also have provided. Through them I have learned about many of the tips I talk about in here. It would have been impossible for me to research everything I have learned with them. Not only that. It is like the children in the experiment. In the group you even learn things you didn't know you had to learn, but this is because the ladies are always sharing and willing to help. It is the same with my yoga for cancer patients group (my offline group).

These people have become my friends now, of course, but I think your regular friends also have an incredible important role in your life, but in a different way. We do need both. We are hard-wired for connection. We cannot do it alone. The more the merrier. And that's why I love you all and thank you all, because I truly need you all.

photo credit: woodleywonderworks via photopin cc