Friday, September 21, 2007

8 Minute Meditation

I've been wanting to learn meditation for a few years now. I'd heard it was really good for you and a few speakers and authors that I read suggested it. The problem was that I didn't "get" it. I bought a few self guided tapes that really turned me off. They all had zen music in the background and two of them even had the "Ommmm" taped into them. Ick. Then somehow I saw this book "8 Minute Meditation" by Victor Davich. Eight minutes sounded good to me, something I could do. I looked it up on Amazon and all the real people reviews raved about it, so I ordered it.

I love it.

Not only do I love it, but I've finally found the answer to my swimming dilemma.

The swimming practive for my relay in Elba has been going well, but I still had to solve my boredom/wandering mind problem. I get bored swimming. Whatever workout I have I can talk myself into doing less or if I'm swimming with someone, I can become one of those people that talk for half an hour while waiting to push off again. This summer I thought I'd be able to find a solution while I was at the beach but it was actually worse . There were more distractions in the sea, and not having the certainty of the black line and the 50mt push off, I'd still stop every few minutes to look up.

8 minute meditation is an 8 week program and has you sample eight different meditation techniques. The first week was centered around breathing. You set a timer for eight minutes and the book gives you detailed instructions on how to go about the meditation, how to deal with the wandering mind, etc.

The wandering biggest problem. I sometimes have a really difficult time in concentrating on one thing at a time. I multi task like there's no tomorrow and will often get up in the middle of a project that I'm working on to go "fix" something else that's flashed before my brain agenda.

That's when I hit upon that my problem with swimming was my wandering mind and that I could maybe try the meditation while I was swimming.


It worked like a charm. Not that I get all zen while I swim, but I put my concentration on my stroke and where my body is. More importantly when all those thoughts about where I should be and what else I could be doing come up, I just take them and let them go. Then I latch back onto the stroke that I'm performing and the breathing. Yesterday I took ten minutes off my 3000mt workout so I know it's working.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

No Blame

I received several private emails about my previous entry, centered around that last phrase I wrote. I just wanted to make a clarification on it so that you don't get the wrong idea about what went on then or after.

I wrote an email to my father the other day with this being the central part of the message:

"The other day I was on my bike and I started thinking about my childhood.
I just had these flashes of things that had happened. It must have lasted about
five seconds but I had images of going to Muir Beach when I was about eight,
playing on the fire station lawn on a summer night, barbecueing at Stinson
Beach with you and Mom, all those fairs you used to take us to, La Ginestra,
that Triumph you used to cram all five of us in, hiking on Mt. Tam, all the great friends
I used to have. And I thought "what a great childhood I had".
And then I laughed to myself.
I thought it was funny because if anybody knew what we all had gone through
together, maybe they wouldn't see it that way. And I did go through a phase
where I resented it, but then I realised that whatever had happened had made me
the person that I was today and so it was all for a purpose - and maybe perfect in
its' own way."

I had what a lot of people might define as a difficult childhood. I don't want to list all the events or elaborate on who did what because I don't think it really matters anymore. You can drown yourself in blame and resentment and feeling like you got the raw end of the deal. You can actually do that for your entire lifetime and then drag it onto other areas of your life that had nothing to do with the initial trigger event because you go back and use that event as the reason why things aren't working out now. When that happens it's really difficult to let go, move on and start living life in the here and now.

I was able to let go, though it took me a while to do it. Like twenty years. And in the meantime there were more family deaths and divorces and remarriages to add to the heap.

Everybody has had some terrible thing that happened in the past, be it five, ten, or thirty five years ago. Ask. You won't find anybody that has had a perfect life. But the one's that are presently the happiest are the ones that don't put any blame on the situations.

After I let go and stopped blaming, I could start remembering all the wonderful things that had happened and it was truly liberating.

I never had a trauma because I wasn't able to say goodbye to my Mom before she was killed by a drunk driver while crossing the street. I was sad, but not traumatized. Besides, I absolutely believe that I will see her again, in one form or another. That still makes me happy to think about.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

My First Decade

My First Decade

Age 1: I only weigh five and a half pounds at birth. Considering that I would reach the height of 5 ft 10 inches by my 13th birthday, that's a lot of growing to do.

Age 2: My first memory: being in my crib, white bars, trying to crawl over and out. Never made it.

Age 3: The ice cream truck comes down the road every day at 2 pm. There's music in the air as it slowly drives down the street. I have a nickel in my little hand and make a run to the truck with my brothers. I always choose vanilla with orange sherbert on a stick. I continue to buy the same ice cream for the next ten years.

Age 4: I have a solo in a ballet recital. I'm supposed to be a girl in a painting that comes alive. Just as I'm rounding the corner on some sort of twirl my biggest fear comes true; I fall down. I'm able to gracefully pick myself up and I get a mini standing ovation.

Age 5: Kindergarten. We're sitting around in a circle and the teacher has put cream and sugar in jar. We pass it around and each have to shake it so that we can make sweet butter. I can still taste it on my tongue to this day.

Age 6: My mother does volunteer work at the school thrift store. Today the car is broken so she decides that the two of us can walk there. It's a sunny day and we walk from our house to downtown Tiburon, a three mile hike.

Age 7: We're talking about geography in class. Normally I never say a word but today I pipe up and tell this elaborate story about how in India the cows are sacred and nobody eats them like we do. Sister Cecilia knows what I'm talking about and is enthusiastic about my having this knowledge. All my other classmates give me blank stares.

Age 8: I go with my older brother David and my younger brother Billy along with two other friends from the neighborhood in Mill Valley, into San Francisco. The bus costs ten cents. We go to the Emporium to see Santa Claus. David has the most money, fourteen dollars. We all buy each other Christmas presents and pretend the other isn't really looking.

Age 9: I'm in bed with my mother, I go there almost every morning to snuggle. I tell my Mom I'm going to give her a "Hollywood Kiss". It's quite long and with our lips smooshed together. After I'm done she tells me very sweetly that maybe I'm too big to give her the HK. I'm absolutely crushed...

Age 10: The babysitter arrives at our house as my Mom is leaving to go away for the weekend up to Lake Tahoe. I'm so excited at having the babysitter there and I want to show her my secret trick! I can stop the apartment elevator between floors...but then we really did get stuck and it takes us a minute to get it moving again. We go back into the house and my Mom has already left for her trip. I think she knew I would cry and so she thought she'd take a quick exit. I never saw her again. I never did get to say goodbye.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Giovedì Gratitude Post

Piero came home tonight after ten days on the road. I hate when he drives so much and am really thankful that when he leaves again in three days he'll be taking a train. September is not my favorite month since it's is the one moment out the year when it's guaranteed that he'll be gone (for work). But I'm grateful for the three days we have together now. Tomorrow we'll probably go downtown to give a farewell to Pavarotti, may he rest in peace. Modena is now without it's number one citizen.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Just like flying

I woke up with the sound of wind banging on the windows. During the summer I sleep with the shutters closed and the windows open so that I can feel the fresh air in the house. I raced around from window to window, closing each one. I had to run out into the yard in my pajamas to save a book that had been left overnight outside on a table. I secured the lawnmower which had already been pushed up against the fence. Then the rain started to come down. It only lasted thirty minutes, if that. But I knew it was enough to scare away any prospective swimmers from going to the outdoor pool. As soon as the worst of the storm was over I headed to the pool.

When I arrived the lifeguard was busy tweezing out ingrown hairs on his legs from a bad wax job. There were a few other swimmers, but the pool is big enough that I had my own swimming lane. My very own fifty metre swimming lane! Heaven. I warmed up with 1000 metres and then did 500 metres of technique. At the end of that I decided before swimming another 1000 metres I would stretch my back out. I took a board, flipped onto my back and stretched my arms up over my head using the board to keep my arms balanced but then just did soft kicks with my legs under the water. My ears were under the water so everything was silent. I had taken my goggles off so what I saw looking up was this:

I immediately started to uncontrollably giggle. I just couldn't help myself. The sensation was one of the most exhilirating that I've ever had. I lifted my head to look around...the other swimmer was still swimming and the lifeguard had moved onto a conversation on his cell phone while massaging his pecs. I set myself up in the same position: on my back, ears under water, looking at the clouds... again came the uncontrollable giggling. And then it came to me why. It felt like flying. No gravity, clouds swirling around, silence... It's the easiest high I've had in a really long time. It only lasted about a minute because then the sun came out and I couldn't see without squinting and I couldn't get that same situation in play again...but out of all the swimming I've done this summer that will be the one moment I'll always remember.

Monday, September 03, 2007

Really really bad joke

The other night, like 1.00 am night, I watched the World Championships women's marathon. After it was over the Italian Television did an interview with the winner Catherine Ndereba. I had to translate for P:

Me: She said that it wasn't her actually running the marathon but rather Jesus Christ running in her place...

Him: Can't she be disqualified for that?

Yep, you're supposed to laugh.

She looks like an absolute Queen while she runs. For anyone who didn't watch the race, she kept cool a hundred feet back from the lead group while they duked it out for the first 35km and then she made her move. Her pace coming into the stadium was just incredible...Sigh...