3 Things

I would really like to meditate. And I’ve tried. And I’ll keep trying. But I find it really, really hard to work-out my meditation muscle (i.e. your brain?). My thoughts run rampant and wild and trying to convince them to all just stay quiet while I breathe in two-three-four and out two-three— they are already up and running around and tumbling over each other and pushing each other out of the way vying for attention. My breath has no chance against the monkey brain.

When I’m finding it hard to quiet my brain, and very tempted to just drown out the noise with a Netflix binge, I turn to other things that pull me outside of myself (and away from the unruly monkey brain thoughts): enter illustrator Maira Kalman, poet Mary Oliver and art historian Sister Wendy. They always make me realise there are bigger and better and more wonderful things happening away from the dull roar of unnecessary (and sometimes petty) thoughts running amuck in my noggin. Here’s just a taste:

Maira Kalman

Images from Maira Kalman’s blog posts in The New York Times

Mary Oliver

Wild Geese

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
For a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about your despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting —
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.

Sister Wendy

These ladies are good.

Let me know what works for you when you need to ground yourself a bit and stop the go-go-go. What are the bananas for your monkey brain?

13 thoughts on “3 Things”

  1. Oh man, do I ever hear ya!!! Perserverance and guided meditations have really worked for me with meditation. On those days where I am calm I can usually manage on my own, I do go off sometimes, but manage to bring myself back, which is fine. Mostly I use guided meditations though and think that finding the right calming voice is really important, so you might have go go through a few.
    For those periods in my life that I can’t drown anything out, my monkey food is chick-lit. Not sure why, but I find it massively relaxing and can really escape into the worlds spun by the likes of Jill Mansell, Meg Cabot and Sophie Kinsella. When I’m in the “wrong” headspace I can rip through those puppies in a night or two and then usually resurface in the right headspace and able to silent the monkies again. LOL!

    1. Michelle, I am so impressed by your meditating! I have used the apps Buddhify and Headspace which I found very good. Starting with guided meditation seems like a good plan.
      Chick-lit, yes! I do this too. My go-to is Mary Kay Andrews because she makes me feel like I’m right back in the American South again. I’m totally going to check out your authors too! Great, great monkey food!

    2. I LOVE Meg Cabot and Sophie Kinsella!! Whenever I need a pick me up, I grab one of their books to read (I own several) and they (embarrassingly) make me tear up and feel happy, all at once! lol. I haven’t ready Jill Mansell or Mary Kay Andrews, I’ll have to go to the library soon! For Sophie Kinsella – if you haven’t read “Twenties Girl” I totally recommend that one. One of my favs!

  2. What?! You’re a Sister Wendy fan, too?? Man! She got me through my senior year of high school; made that 7am art history class sooooo worth waking up for. Book recommendation for you: I’m reading The Goldfinch by Donna Tart right now, and — I was just saying to my husband the other day — one of the [many] things I love about it is how every description of a piece of art in the book has a lot of the same characteristics of a Sister Wendy interpretation: dramatic music (in my head), saucy backstory about the artist, and that eternal optimism she possesses with regards to humanity. I highly recommend it, from one Sister Wendy devotee to another.

    1. Hi Erin!

      YES! I’ve been a HUGE Sister Wendy fan for years — decades almost. I grew up seeing her on PBS and watching her with my mum. And through the years I’ve read a few of her books. I was even an art history major in undergrad and I owe much of that to her.

      I loved The Goldfinch for exactly the reasons you say — the Sister Wendy-like descriptions of the art! I love any books or movies about art but I haven’t found any new greats of late. I like a bit of Iain Pears art history mysteries. Donna Tart is better, but they are nice to dip into every once and a while

      Sister Wendy fans unite ;D


  3. I always think one day i’ll be amazing at meditation, but that’s like saying one day I’ll really be in shape. Eventually i’m going to have to do the work to be even half way good at meditation!

    I love Maira Kalman’s illustrations – I wish I could be so creative! And Sister Wendy always makes me so happy.

    I feel really illiterate that I’ve never heard from Mary Oliver before. I love that poem! I feel like I should spend some of my time reading poetry instead of binge watching TV ;P

    1. Hi Cath

      Do NOT feel illiterate. Mom has mentioned her a few times and then I was listening to an On Being podcast where Krista Tippet interviewed her and that sealed the deal. I need to buy one of her books now. I think she would make for great bedtime reading.

      It totally is a muscle — learning how to meditate. When I was doing the Kris Carr cleanse a few years back, part of the cleanse is meditating in the morning and I got better at it. But I lack the discipline now.

      Miss you oodles. We’ll get together and meditate soon!


  4. Whenever I feel all over the place mentally, I think of an analogy an old yoga teacher used to use. She compared the mind to a dog: it needs to be trained so it doesn’t wander away from your yard. If you find the dog has wandered away, just call it gently back. I don’t know why, but picturing my mind as a happy-go-lucky dog that needs to be called back to the yard is oddly soothing and effective in calming me down.

    1. Hi Lisa

      I totally agree with Michelle. It’s a perfect analogy. I like monkeys but much prefer dogs and it makes the idea of wrangling much easier (and cuter).

      Thanks for the genius-pants advice!


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