Morning Pages #CompassionateSunday

Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life by Karen Armstrong
A process for developing personal compassion to engage in compassionate community for a more compassionate world

Welcome to Compassionate Sunday. We’re working through Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life by Karen Armstrong, one step per month.

If you live in the St. Louis area, an in-person study group started working with this book and will continue for the next few months. Let me know if you’d like to join us and I’ll you hook you up!

If you’d like to share a post about what you learned about compassion (The First Step), what you’re seeing in your world (The Second Step), self-compassion (The Third Step), empathy (The Fourth Step), or mindfulness (The Fifth Step) use the link list below. Or join the discussion in the comments or on Facebook.


It’s the last Sunday of the month. That’s the day that I take a piece of advice from the Reading Group Guide found on the Charter for Compassion’s website:  to resolve to introduce one new practice into my life, an action that will be “a dynamic and positive force for change.” At the end of the twelve months, I’ll have twelve new compassionate habits.

All month, I’ve been wondering what habit I could take on for the Fifth Step, Mindfulness. I’ve been more mindful this month because it was the theme for the month. But that won’t last if I don’t have some structure to support it.

The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron
The original source for two great ideas to support a creative life: Morning Pages and Artist’s Dates

A few days ago, I re-discovered a structure that I know will work: Morning Pages. If you’ve ever been exposed to Julia Cameron’s The Artist Way, you know about Morning Pages — three journal pages handwritten first thing in the morning to process whatever your mind wants to explore.

I wrote Morning Pages in black sketch books for years. I have a stack of 44 of those books sitting in my office. Then, I stopped for a long time. Then, I used 750 Words for more than a year. And, then, I transitioned into an approach where I use a Word file to log my day. That’s working for me, but it doesn’t quite give me the moment of mindfulness that I got from Morning Pages.

Many of the tools that I’ve discovered during this project on compassion are useful to me:

It’s unlikely that I will do all of these every day, but I would benefit from a moment when I ask myself if one of these activities, or something similar, would help me. That moment, the last few days, has been as I write Morning Pages for a half hour or so to start my day.

Rather than simply free-writing, most mornings I’m choosing from a list of tools or exercises that I know work for me.

Friday morning, I used the Head Office exercise to help me process the unexpected fear that arose after the surprising success of Brexit.

Another morning, I worked the Serenity Prayer when I was feeling overwhelmed.  I figured out what I couldn’t change in order to accept it.  Then, I figured out what I could change in order to make a plan that reduced the overwhelm.

So, my new habit for Mindfulness is to write Morning Pages. What habits work for you to increase Mindfulness?

 



Growing Old in Film #BriFri

British Isles Friday logoWelcome to British Isles Friday! British Isles Friday is a weekly event for sharing all things British and Irish — reviews, photos, opinions, trip reports, guides, links, resources, personal stories, interviews, and research posts. Join us each Friday to link your British and Irish themed content and to see what others have to share. The link list is at the bottom of this post. Pour a cup of tea or lift a pint and join our link party!

Last week, I talked about Brexit (by the time you read this post, we may know how it turned out!). Heather reviewed the alternate history Arabella of Mars  — what if Britain colonized Mars in the 1600s? Tina reviewed the classic novel The House on the Strand by Daphne du Maurier. Jackie finished sharing her photos from her 2005 trip to Ireland with lots of sights in Dublin.  For Father’s Day, Sim shared stories about her well-traveled English father. Becky was all over Britain last week. She watched the film Testament of Youth, the mini-series And Then There Were None, two Winston Churchill movies, and the 8-episode Beatles Anthology documentary.  Becky also read two children’s books by Roald Dahl:  Matilda and Fantastic Mr. Fox.


The Lady in the Van film
Maggie Smith, as the title character, plays a quirky, secretive homeless woman.

Several of us have noted in  our British Isles Friday posts that the British portray a greater variety of interesting faces in their films and television productions. Hollywood, in contrast, seems interested in showing only a narrowly-defined notion of beautiful people. I suspect this accounts for a greater willingness among British film makers to tackle the concept of aging. Older faces are beautiful, if you’re inclined to appreciate the unique marks of character and experience.

We watched two British films recently that featured older people.

The Lady in the Van stars Maggie Smith in a part almost polar opposite of the Dowager Countess of Grantham role she played in Downton Abbey.  This was a reprise for Maggie Smith — she also played Mary Shepherd in a West End play production of The Lady in the Van and a BBC radio adaptation.

Based on a true story, The Lady in the Van parked her van / home in the driveway of author and playwright Alan Bennett, played by Alex Jennings (except for a brief appearance by the actual author near the end). Alan Bennett is famous for a number of things, but for book lovers, I recommend the delightful The Uncommon Reader.

We enjoyed The Lady in the Van for the humor, poignancy, and mystery. I also enjoyed the on-location set in the Camden Town neighborhood of London.

45 Years film
Charlotte Rampling and Tom Courtenay star as a long-married couple making new discoveries.

45 Years takes place in the few days preceding a couple’s 45th wedding anniversary party — and the few days after the husband receives word that the body of a woman he’d loved and lost to a fall in a glacier has resurfaced due to global warming. This film takes place in Norwich, Norfolk and the surrounding countryside — and, now, I want to visit!

Neither of these films are particularly helpful as a “how to grow old” model, but they can help start difficult conversations that might make aging easier. Personally, I’m going to try to avoid living in a van. Although, I have to say, I’m glad to know it’s an option if all else fails.

What films help you contemplate growing old?



More Hot Days Coming #ReadersWorkouts

Readers' workouts
banner designed by Isi

Welcome to Readers’ Workouts, the weekly event where book lovers share workout stories, goals, successes, and challenges.

We’re supposed to hit 100 degrees a couple of times this week. We sometimes go all summer without a 100-degree day, and our hottest days are usually in July and early August. This is shaping up to be quite a hot summer. I’m still walking every day, but I may skip one of those 100-degree days and do some stretching and strength-training — I haven’t had enough variety in my workouts recently, so that will be a good excuse.

How is your exercise going? Are you dealing with hot days, too?



Stress, Sadness, and Mindfulness #CompassionateSunday

Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life by Karen Armstrong
A process for developing personal compassion to engage in compassionate community for a more compassionate world

Welcome to Compassionate Sunday. We’re working through Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life by Karen Armstrong, one step per month.

If you live in the St. Louis area, an in-person study group started working with this book and will continue for the next few months. Let me know if you’d like to join us and I’ll you hook you up!

If you’d like to share a post about what you learned about compassion (The First Step), what you’re seeing in your world (The Second Step), self-compassion (The Third Step), empathy (The Fourth Step), or mindfulness (The Fifth Step) use the link list below. Or join the discussion in the comments or on Facebook.


It was a sad week in the news:

  • the massacre at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando
  • a child lost to an alligator attack in Disney World
  • the assassination of Jo Cox, a British Member of Parliament, while she met with constituents in her district, apparently over a disagreement about Brexit
The Compassionate Life by Marc Ian Barasch
The first book club selection for the Global Read in 2016 hosted by the  Charter for Compassion.

Mid-week, I read about a Buddhist meditation called tonglen in The Compassionate Life by Marc Ian Barasch:

….an imaginative exercise that calls for breathing in others’ suffering and breathing out lovingkindness.

If you’ve done yoga at all, that sounds like the opposite of the normal instructions which are to breathe in light and breathe out negativity. Barasch quoted a Tibetan teacher’s response to that method:

“Well, then you’d just be like a polluting factory, taking in all these good resources and spewing out your gray cloud on everyone else.” ~Chögyam Trungpa

Heh. So, I tried it this new way to me.

  • Breathe in the grief of families and friends who must cope with the sudden loss of a loved one, breathe out support
  • Breathe in the pain of the injured, breathe out comfort
  • Breathe in the trauma and fear of the witnesses to tragedy, breathe out protection and calm

With this month’s emphasis on mindfulness, I observed the change in myself. Before, I was feeling all this news as stress in my stomach. After, I felt it as sadness in my heart.

And, here’s the surprise: sadness is better than stress. I think I’ve spent my whole life stiffening up to ward off sadness, but it turns out that it’s not the worst feeling in the world. After all, won’t we all watch a video recommended by a friend even when he or she said it made them cry? Those kinds of videos, of course, invoke tenderness rather than sadness — but the crying shows that the two emotions are closely connected.

Sadness is tender and bittersweet. Sadness draws on deep connections between myself and others, people close to me and people I will never know. Stress walls away all of that, causing me to miss opportunities to experience life to its fullest.

Sadness, it turns out, won’t kill me in spite of my fear of it. Stress, on the other hand, very well might.

Once again, as in so many of these posts on compassion, the benefits of compassion are counter-intuitive. The more I practice compassion toward others, the more my life improves in unexpected ways.



Banana Muffins & Mayhem #BookReview #WeekendCooking

Book:  Banana Muffis & Mayhem by Janel Gradowski
Genre: Cozy mystery
Publisher: Gemma Halliday Publishing
Publication date: 2016
Pages: 123

Source: e-book ARC from author (I’m a happy member of Janel’s Street Team)

Banana Muffins & Mayhem by Janel Gradowski
The latest addition to the Culinary Competition Mystery series featuring Amy Ridley, contest winner and amateur sleuth

Summary: In this fifth novel in the Culinary Competition series, Amy Ridley discovers a body in a dumpster. The recently deceased, television celebrity Phoebe Plymouth, visited the small town of Kellerton to headline a festival — and then managed to be mean to pretty much every person she encountered.

Who killed Phoebe Plymouth? Perhaps, her producer? Or, could it be one of Amy’s friends who helped organize Phoebe’s visit only to be embarrassed and annoyed by the VIP’s bad behavior?

The police think it was Amy’s husband since the dumpster was in his business parking lot. One thing’s for sure, Amy isn’t going to let her beloved Alex stand accused when she can use her famous baked sweets and her charming personality to get the suspects to reveal their secrets.

Thoughts: I loved the foodie metaphors in Banana Muffins and Mayhem. Amy, our heroine, just naturally thinks in terms of ingredients, cooking processes, and utensils.

Amy’s optimism wilted a bit more–baby spinach leaves under a flood of hot bacon dressing. p. 70

“She didn’t come right out and say it, but her point was about as sharp as a knife in a Michelin star restaurant.” p. 82

Her husband’s presence would surely steady some of the frayed nerves. He was like that. The cooling sour cream when life turned into a too spicy burrito. p. 109

Appeal: Readers of cozy foodie mysteries will enjoy Banana Muffins and Mayhem. I suggest reading this series in order because Amy and her friends go through life changes in a long story arc through the books — those are more fun to encounter chronologically. Janel posted the full list of Culinary Competition Mysteries.

Banana Muffins and Mayhem by Janel Gradowski blog tour

Blog Tour: As part of the blog tour, I get to contribute a letter to the treasure hunt.

The Treasure Hunt letter for Joy’s Book Blog is: A

Collect all of the letters to spell out the Treasure Hunt word then use it to gain extra entries in the Grand Prize giveaway. You can find all of the blog tour stops and enter the giveaway at Janel’s website.

new Weekend Cooking logoCheck out today’s Weekend Cooking links for more foodie posts from around our kitchens to around the world.

Have you read this book? What did you think?

Signature of Joy Weese Moll

Brexit #BriFri

British Isles Friday logoWelcome to British Isles Friday! British Isles Friday is a weekly event for sharing all things British and Irish — reviews, photos, opinions, trip reports, guides, links, resources, personal stories, interviews, and research posts. Join us each Friday to link your British and Irish themed content and to see what others have to share. The link list is at the bottom of this post. Pour a cup of tea or lift a pint and join our link party!

Last week, I reviewed the British detective series River.  Heather reviewed an alternate history paranormal where the British efforts in WWI were helped by a squad of Ghost Talkers who retrieved war intelligence from recently killed soldiers. Jackie shared photos from Killarney in Ireland. Georgie Lee shared the over 300 -year-old wine shop in London that she used to inspire a setting in her novel-writing. Becky reviewed Return of the King by J.R.R. Tolkien and described her favorite British children’s shows. Sim took us to London’s Chinatown with a quick peek into the colorful M&Ms store. Jean reviewed Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman in advance of her trip to London.


Brexit: (n) combination of “British” and “Exit,” a referendum next Thursday on whether or not the UK should continue to be part of the European Union. UK voters will have the ballot choice to Leave or Remain in the European Union.

The Washington Post put together this video to help Americans understand what’s going on, with the pros and cons, and the potential effect on the US:

Flag of the United Kingdom
The Union Jack is the flag of the United Kingdom. It combines the crosses of St. George (for England), St. Patrick (for Ireland), and St. Andrew (for Scotland). The patron saint of Wales, St. David, isn’t represented because at the time of the adoption of the flag, Wales wasn’t a politically separate entity from England.

There’s a certain romance with the Leave vote, a Great Britain that stands strong and alone. Leave advocates believe that Britain’s economy will be stronger, in the long-run, with home-grown regulation. There’s also an anti-immigrant element, occasionally ugly, to it. In good economic times, the UK (like the US and all aging, low-birth-rate countries) needs immigrant labor in order to have enough workers to contribute to the economy and care for the elderly. The Brexit vote gained energy because in poor economic times, including the continued aftermath of the 2008 crisis, the migrant workforce gets blamed for any up-tick in unemployment and for stagnant wages.

Flag of Europe
The Flag of Europe features a circle of stars. The number of stars has no particular meaning, it’s the circle of unity that we’re meant to focus on.

The Remain vote is mostly about having no clear picture about how, exactly, a Brexit would play out structurally and what impact that would have on the UK and world economy. The world stock markets are jittery this week because of this upcoming vote, so it’s not just the UK that has to deal with the massive uncertainty. At a minimum, trade deals will need to be renegotiated between the UK and all other countries. It’s not at all clear what happens in the interim. At a maximum, a Brexit might be the first pulled stitch in an unraveling of the European Union, multiplying the complexity.

Most US officials and companies prefer the status quo but, of course, it’s pretty much always true that officialdom and business prefers the known over the unknown.

This reminds me of the referendum about Scottish independence that happened while we were visiting England in September 2014. I did some research in advance of our trip. We watched, from our hotel in Birmingham, the BBC coverage of the vote that turned out not to be quite as close as everyone had predicted — 55% in favor of staying, 45% in favor of independence. Depending on your point of view, practicality won over romance or fear won over boldness.

Sadly, as I was researching and writing this post, the news broke that Jo Cox, a 41-year-old Member of Parliament, was shot and stabbed by an attacker. Later, she died. According to the BBC, both the Leave and Remain campaigns suspended their activities while the British population absorbs this horrific story.  She was a member of the Labour Party. The leadership of Labour, including Jo Cox, supports the Remain side, but many of its members are leaning toward Leave.  As I write this, it’s unclear what the motive of the killer was.

Are you paying attention to the Brexit vote? Do you feel that you know enough to have an opinion?



Hot Days #ReadersWorkouts

Readers' workouts
banner designed by Isi

Welcome to Readers’ Workouts, the weekly event where book lovers share workout stories, goals, successes, and challenges.

We had a couple of days in the upper 90s already. It’s a little cooler now, but the highs for tomorrow and Thursday will be at or near 100. I’ve been out every day, mostly walking, and I’ve been fine so far. Staying acclimated is part of the key for me. If I skipped a few days in a row, I’d have a much harder time getting out in the heat again. But, by being out for 30 minutes to an hour every day, I retain my ability to tolerate it. Also, lots of water!

Are you dealing with hot days where you live? How are you handling it?



Mindfulness #CompassionateSunday

Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life by Karen Armstrong
A process for developing personal compassion to engage in compassionate community for a more compassionate world

Welcome to Compassionate Sunday. We’re working through Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life by Karen Armstrong, one step per month.

If you live in the St. Louis area, an in-person study group started working with this book and will continue for the next few months. Let me know if you’d like to join us and I’ll you hook you up!

If you’d like to share a post about what you learned about compassion (The First Step), what you’re seeing in your world (The Second Step), self-compassion (The Third Step), empathy (The Fourth Step), or mindfulness (The Fifth Step) use the link list below. Or join the discussion in the comments or on Facebook.


The purpose of mindfulness…is to help us to detach ourselves from the ego by observing the way our minds work. p. 105

The suggested method is meditation. Fortunately, since I have such a huge resistance to sitting meditation, Armstrong considers mindfulness a “form of meditation that we perform as we go about our daily lives.”

Here are some tools that I know work for me to examine how my mind works, in the moment that it’s working.

I was surprised to encounter several of the issues that I’ve read about in Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life in a PBS Newshour segment this week on power.

Studies find that if you’re enthusiastic and you’re open to new ideas and you listen really well and you express gratitude and you share resources — really simple strategies — you rise in the ranks in just about every context that’s been studied.

Some real-world experience bore that out for me this week. A group of us presented a proposal to a local school district that we hoped would help correct the discipline gap where students of color are suspended at higher rates than white students, often for the same offenses. We discovered that the administrators, at least, were hungry to converse on this issue. I got the impression that they just didn’t know how to bring it up in a productive way and were thrilled that the community did it for them so that they can now bring their existing efforts into the open and build on them. Our attitude of enthusiasm, openness to learn, and willingness to share resources, gave us an unexpected boost of power to make an impact for students.

I trace a direct line between the work I’ve done in mindfulness since reading  A Blueprint for Your Castle in the Clouds to the empathy meditation that I worked on last month to community organizing to having the power to make things better in the world. That’s a big impact for something that started out in my head.

What helps you develop mindfulness? What benefits do you draw from being mindful?



River #TV #BriFri

British Isles Friday logoWelcome to British Isles Friday! British Isles Friday is a weekly event for sharing all things British and Irish — reviews, photos, opinions, trip reports, guides, links, resources, personal stories, interviews, and research posts. Join us each Friday to link your British and Irish themed content and to see what others have to share. The link list is at the bottom of this post. Pour a cup of tea or lift a pint and join our link party!

Last week, I talked about my unexpected fascination with the Welsh detective drama, Hinterland. Speaking of mysteries, Tina enjoyed, for the most part, the book Missing, Presumed by Susie Steiner. Jackie shared more photos from her 2005 trip to Ireland, including some really clever flower boxes. Sim’s fantasy walk in London taught us about the Noses of Soho and the roots of the place name of Picadilly Circus. Becky reviewed the omnibus, The World of Winnie-the-Pooh.


River
BBC Detective show with a dramatic twist

I devoured the six episodes in the first and only, so far, season of River. It premiered on BBC One in October last year and on Netflix a month later.

I recognized several of the cast members from other shows and movies. Stellan Skarsgård who plays DCI River was in many Hollywood movies — I saw him, most recently, in The Railway Man.  Nicola Walker had a recurring role in Scott & Bailey.

Unlike Hinterland, this show makes me smile all the time, even though the stories are quite tragic. DCI John River has an unusual quirk that I’m not going to reveal. The first ten minutes or so of the first episode are more fun if you get to discover the secret for yourself.

I love the relationships between the characters. DCI River needs help and, sometimes, he even admits it. Something about him makes people, including the viewer, want to be there for him. From the perspective of the plot, it doesn’t hurt that River’s quirk sometimes gives him a special edge for solving the crime.

London gets a starring role in this series with delightful shots of the skyline and recognizable places like the Millenium Bridge.

Have you seen this series? What did you think?



Summer Fun #ReadersWorkouts

Readers' workouts
banner designed by Isi

Welcome to Readers’ Workouts, the weekly event where book lovers share workout stories, goals, successes, and challenges.

I’m on track for 1100 minutes in June but, so far, every minute has been walking. I suspect I’ll get some variety in on the weekend. They’re promising us high temperatures in the upper 90s. That’s not unheard of in St. Louis, but it’s usually July or August before we see temperatures that high. I may decide to do a workout of dancing and stretching so I can stay in the air conditioning.

How is your exercise going? Share on your blog and link your post below. Or tell your story in the comments. Be sure to visit the other participants for support and encouragement.



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