Wednesday, August 26, 2015

JUST SAY OOPS AND MOVE ON


“In The Producers (1967), the opening scene features Zero Mostel as a cheesy, second-rate producer, reduced to wooing little old ladies to get financial backing. He is playing a racy little game with one of his elderly paramours when Gene Wilder walks in on them. Gene, playing an anxious accountant prone to panic attacks, freezes and starts hyperventilating. Zero, in a soothing voice (but with an underlying subtext of menace), talks Gene out of the room. He says “oops, just say oops, back out and close the door…”
Kate Kelly & Peggy Ramundo
from “You Mean I’m Not Lazy, Stupid or Crazy?!”
Learning to “just say oops” is not easy but it is a prerequisite for moving forward, finding peace and simply enjoying our lives.  Often, we silently, (and sometimes not so silently) berate ourselves for every little misstep, mistake or lapse in judgment. It may have started early in life by parents, teachers or siblings.  When we grow up, we stand in for those people by judging, criticizing and bullying ourselves.

The first and best way to STOP that cycle is to notice that we are doing it, in the moment that we are doing it.  Often, simply by noticing, there is an organic shift.  However, in this case, it will likely take some conscious effort to change this pattern of thought, speech and behavior.  

After noticing, the next step is to be a bit more gentle with ourselves and to give ourselves permission not to strive for perfection.  Perhaps the first step is to “just say oops” and move on. 

This shift may take a long time, but practice makes PROGRESS. 








Thursday, June 18, 2015

COLORING AS MEDITATION?

When you think about meditation, what is the first image that pops into your head? 
For most people, it's likely of a person sitting still, cross-legged, with hands resting on knees, palms up. That is certainly consistent with what many of us know and associate with classic meditation.

However, it may come as a surprise to you that you do not have to sit still for a long period of time, repeating the word 'om' or some other mantra while vainly trying to chase away your omnipresent thoughts. Don't get me wrong - despite my apparent sarcasm, I do not begrudge the people who are lucky enough to possess the discipline and capacity to achieve the consistency, stillness and zen state to which we all aspire. I simply don't happen to be one of them. And anyway, even if you do have the ability to meditate this way, you may not like or choose to. Because I have been able to meditate in the classic manner, on occasion (in the past), I do know how it feels and what a big difference it can make, and not only while you are meditating or immediately following it, but generally in your life.

Meditation provides a myriad of benefits and rewards: decreased stress and anxiety, improved physical and mental health, a sense of wellbeing, improved sleep, more self- awareness, better focus and many more . . .

The GOOD NEWS is that it's possible to meditate in other ways! It just does not need to be that complicated or rigid. (irony, huh?) ;-) Why not try what some call active meditationActive mediation is simply focusing your mind on the activity you are performing, right at that moment and not thinking about anything else. Typically, meditation is intended to create a calm and peaceful mind, but some types of active meditation can help create a calm body as well. And in my personal experience, one often feeds the other. Here are some examples of active meditation: 
  • Walking, running, biking, or any form of activity that is repetitive and does not require thought about strategy (or anything else);
  • Cleaning - the type that has you working on the same thing or set of things for a period of time (such as scrubbing, polishing or wiping);
  • Many forms of gardening and in particular, weeding;
  • Tai chi, qigong and dance;
  • Cooking;
AND MY PERSONAL FAVORITE . . . (insert drumroll) 
  • COLORING and other forms of art and creation! 
Most artists likely know that the repetitive motions of painting, blending color, throwing pots, sculpting, drawing, needlework, or decoupage often organically induce that wonderful state of just being.  When you are in this space, which some also call flow, you can lose time and are become oblivious to outside noises and activity.  Your breathing becomes more regular and if you have thoughts other than about what you are doing, they are much fewer in number and frequency than usual and what you are doing naturally beckons you back to what is (literally) at hand.  

If you don't consider yourself to be an artist or even mildly artistic, don't despair!  One of the best ways to engage in this type of active meditation is simply by coloring.  In a coloring book.  Yes, really!  :-)  It can be a 4-yr-old's coloring book or a 10-yr-old's book OR you can buy your own book.  If you do choose to buy your own "adult" coloring book, you will not have to look too hard or far to find one.  It appears to be the hot new thing and these books are flying off the shelves of stores and Amazon can't keep them in stock.  Personally, I have been "coloring" for my whole life so it's a bit interesting to me that the rest of the world seems the have 'just' discovered the pleasures and benefits.  

Although you can absolutely do any kind of coloring to relax and slow down, what is important is that that you move rhythmically and slowly.  Moving your hands in circular and spiral motions can be somewhat hypnotic, which can help you to calm and slow down.   Images with many patterns and repetition are especially helpful in fostering this relaxed state of being, so mandalas, zentangles, geometric and kaleidoscopic designs are a great choice.  It doesn't matter whether you use crayons, markers or colored pencils; use what you prefer, what works with your design or simply what you happen to have on hand. 

The following are some examples of 'adult' coloring books: 


          

Each photo is a link to Amazon, where you will find more titles than you could have imagined actually existed.  These three books make up a very small portion of my personal collection.  :-) 

If you do try any of these forms of meditation and you have good results or just want to share your experience, I would love to hear from you.

In addition, if you'd like to learn a bit more about this and to try it in a small group setting or without having to research the coloring books or make any decisions, I am running a class on July 16th called, "Coloring for Relaxation, Meditation & Focus."




Tuesday, March 24, 2015

ADDressing the Issues of Tax Season

I don't know anyone who likes to do taxes. Even some accountants I know don't like to do them.  It is likely the number one task people postpone and avoid.  Even folks who don't ordinarily procrastinate push off doing their taxes.  However for adults with ADD/ADHD, tax season can be particularly challenging. 

Surveys suggest that a significant percentage of the ADDult population didn't file taxes on time in the past 5 years and many "rarely" or "never" filed on time.  What's worse )for them) is that a large percentage of those people didn't file extensions and many didn't file their taxes at all in the past 3 years or more.  

There are many reasons ADDults struggle with doing their taxes, but most are based in their challenges with executive functions and can manifest as disorganization, overwhelm, forgetfulness and lack of interest.  Even more to blame than the aforementioned root causes are the emotional responses to these issues, which include anxiety, shame, denial, feelings of low self-esteem and self-efficacy. And, it's these feelings which lead to continued anxiety, avoidance and denial. 

Although some ADDults struggle with formulating systems to keep track of important papers and documentation, the bigger problem is NOT an inability to devise a system, but instead, the lack of maintenance of the system.  This leads to a whole mess of piles and disorganized paperwork, so in order to actually DO the taxes, there is a boatload of work to do just to gather and organize the necessary documentation and this often includes finding it.  
Even folks who hire accountants to do their taxes still have some of these issues because their accountants can't actually do their taxes until the required paperwork is received and in some semblance of order. What is great about having an account, though, is that you will receive an organized list of exactly what you need, including specific deadlines. And often, the accountants will remind you and check in on you to help you comply. (Hey, accountants provide accountability! Great tag line, huh?) 

So, if you do not or cannot retain an accountant, for whatever reason, how can you get your taxes done on time and with less stress?  The BEST way to begin to get yourself more organized, is to determine specifically how you are NOT organized.  What actually happens to create the chaos? When you figure that out, you will have a better grasp on what systems you need to put into place.  In addition, the best and most basic strategy for dealing with tasks and projects that are overwhelming is to break them down, break them down and break them down some more.  And then, START on SOMETHING.   Mark Twain said it best:

The secret of getting started 
is breaking your complex and overwhelming tasks 
into small manageable tasks and then 
starting on the first one. 


LOOKING FOR MORE SPECIFIC TIPS AND STRATEGIES FOR ORGANIZING AND PREPARING YOUR TAXES?  STAY TUNED FOR PART II OF THIS BLOG, COMING NEXT WEEK. 

Saturday, February 28, 2015

IT'S NOT ABOUT THE *%@#$&* DRESS!!!

Dear Carmela and everyone who dismissively, nastily and superciliously ordered people to stop talking and commenting about the dress

It's not about the stupid dress! DUH.  I don't give a rat's tushy about the dress.  This is about something much more important.  People are having a visceral response to this because it not only perplexes, it scares the living daylights out of people.  This reaction, Carmela,  and the rest of you pompous, holier than thou folks, is about the fact that we're being told that what people see with their very own eyes, in broad daylight, in a photograph, may not be what we actually see.  

When I was a freshman in college, I took a philosophy course.  I still remember learning about Bertrand Russell and his question about whether we are all just "a brain in a vat".  For those of you not familiar with this British philosopher and mathematician, I am referencing his musings about the existence of matter.  He challenged what we knew about ourselves and reality by asking how we KNOW we are not just a brain in a jar, and what proof we have that we are not just imagining everything.  In a way, all of this hubbub about the colors in the dress reminds me of these questions.  I mean, if what we have known to be true for our entire lives might not be so, that we really can't trust our own eyes or brains, what does that mean?  I think it's pretty scary.  We can leave the people who are actually color blind out of this discussion.  This isn't about differences in anatomy, mild variance in perception, trickery, illusion or magic.  It's also not about the age of the viewer.  That would make the explanation much easier to digest.  (From an intellectual perspective, not an emotional perspective, as I just got my first prescription for progressive lenses yesterday.) 

What if it weren't just about color?  What if objects we think we see are not actually there?  Or, what if we see objects that we are told aren't really there?  Or people???  Typically, these scenarios would warrant a psychiatric diagnosis.  Whether or not scientists are able to provide a credible explanation for this bizarre and fascinating phenomenon, it still shakes the core and foundation of what we know and trust to be real and true.  If we truly cannot believe our own eyes, what else might we not be able to believe that we never before questioned? 

So, to Carmela and everyone who said, "Enough" and "Stop" and "Who cares about the stupid dress" and anything else that ordered folks to drop the subject, not only do I say "NO", I wonder about your capacity for curiosity and more importantly, whether you actually understand underlying cause of the commotion.