(a) secret to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness

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An admission:

Yesterday, when I took the photo of the flower above, I was in a supremely foul mood.  So miserable, in fact, that just looking at it made me angry.  I was in one of those moods where I felt like the only way I was going to feel better is if I went into my entryway, grabbed that blasted flower, and ripped every petal off of it.  The best part? There wasn't a reason for my bad mood:  you know, other than earthquakes, and volcanoes, and politics, and carrying around extra weight, and a bad hair day, and running out of eggs, and ... and ... and.

You can imagine what a joy I was.

Because there wasn't anyone home with me to slap around, I scanned my instant messenger, and realized that my friend, talented designer Laurie Smithwick, was online.  So I decided to pick on her.  After spewing a few choice profane invectives her way, she became understandably alarmed.

"Dude.  You need a break," she said.

"I do not have time for a break," I typed back, childishly.  "I have way too much work to do."

"Do you have a hammock?" she asked, ignoring me.

"No.  I have a swing ..."

"Seriously, go.  Go outside, sit on the swing, listen to the noises.  Do this for 30 minutes."



Let me tell you, it has been MONTHS since I meditated.  But I figured that there was nothing I had to lose, and the weather was cool (which, here in Houston, is not going to last), so I decided to try it.  I went outside, brushed off the swing, sat down, gratefully noted that the mosquitos weren't out yet, and I closed my eyes. I'm rusty: it wasn't easy to stay focused for more than 2 or 3 minutes or so, but I didn't give up.  I stayed that way for 30 minutes.

And afterwards?

I was calm.  I wasn't cured, mind you -- it's not like I leapt out of the swing in a fabulous mood, shooting sunshine out of my ears or anything, but I was calm.  I felt better.  And then I remembered something I'd seen over the weekend:

While in Dayton, I had the opportunity to meet a really warm, friendly woman named Suzette Martinez Standring.  We sat next to each other at dinner Thursday night, and she was telling me about her planned talk on creative writing.  It sounded incredibly interesting (the words "self-hypnosis exercise" came up), but because of conflicting schedules, I couldn't attend her session.  However, I did see a tweet during the weekend about something she said during her class:


You know what? I believe her.   Judging about how much calmer, how much less stressed I felt just taking that break yesterday, I have to think I delayed the appearance of a wrinkle by at least a second or two.  It was such a good lesson for me.

So am I about to tell you that you should start meditating 30 minutes a day?  No (although, if you feel so moved, by all means, go for it).  But I will mention that perhaps the next time you're tense or all wound up, you should do what Laurie suggested:  go outside, somewhere you can sit by yourself, and take a mental break. Close your eyes, listen to the sounds, and breathe deeply, even if it's for 5 minutes.

It may do wonders for your mood.  Trust me.


SongBreak up the concrete by the Pretenders