May 31, 2015

The Lost Art of Puttering

You know what you don't hear of a lot of people doing anymore?


You hear of rushing and running and going and doing. But you don't hear a lot of puttering. As in:

"What are you up to today?"
"Oh just puttering around the house."
"Thought I'd putter in the garden this morning."

I think we need more puttering.

putter [puht-er] verb (used without object) 1. to busy or occupy oneself in a leisurely, casual, or ineffective manner: to putter in the garden. 2. to move or go in a specified manner with ineffective action or little energy or purpose: to putter about the house on a rainy day.

We're always doing something these days. Always being productive. Or we're checked out in front of some electronic devise. But I bet if you had asked my grandma on just about any given day, at some point during that day she would have described herself as puttering.

That's not to say that my grandma wasn't busy or productive. She was. But it seemed, somehow, different. A part of life, but not all of life.

Puttering, for adults, is the equivalent of being bored, for kids. And research is telling us that kids today don't have enough of that...that downtime, that time to do nothing and be nowhere. And I'd venture to guess that we adults need more of that too. Time to do nothing and be nowhere.

Time to putter.

So, I'm bringing it back. Puttering, that is. In honor of my grandma. And my wellbeing.

Until next time, go occupy yourself in a leisurely and ineffective manner. It's good for you.

May 21, 2015

Multi-Tasking: The Nemesis of Mindfulness

In today's plugged-in, hurry-up culture, I'd venture to guess that multi-tasking is an epidemic. And, what makes me kind of sad, now that I really think about it, is that for many years I have actually prided myself on my ability to multi-task. Now, I'm not so proud of it...and I'm finding it a really hard habit to break.

As I've started to pay more attention to things lately, to become more aware of what I'm doing and how I'm doing it, I've noticed how often I am multi-tasking. I eat my breakfast while checking email or getting the kids' breakfast or driving the car. I unload the dishwasher while talking on the phone. I clean up the kitchen while cooking dinner. I look at my facebook feed while brushing my teeth. Heck, like most moms I can make dinner, talk on the phone, empty the dishwasher, fix a toy, help with homework, and make my grocery list all at the same time.

Impressive...or sad?

I used to think the a badge of honor. Now, I think the latter. How distracted are my conversations? How many things do I miss doing things with half- or less- of my attention. And what is it doing to me? To my brain? To my well-being?

I recently watched an interview with Jon Kabat-Zinn about mindfulness, which referenced an interview with Michael Pollan I had watched a few weeks earlier when he too had talked about mindfulness. And my main take-away from that interview, the mantra I carry with me like a minfulness touchstone, is this: When you're stirring the pot, stir the pot.

Which basically means, quit multi-tasking. Don't do 5 other things while you're cooking dinner. When you're cooking dinner, just cook dinner.

When you're stirring the pot, just stir the pot.

Don't do other things. Don't think about other things. Be there, in the moment. Be aware. Pay attention to what you're doing. When you're stirring the pot, stir the pot.

This shorthand for what mindfulness is, at its essence, drives home for me how often I am living in a...what's the right word for it...state of mindlessness? And not just when I'm accomplishing tasks, but also when I'm with my kids. How often am I typing a text while listening to something my kids are telling me? Do I sometimes check email while we're playing a board game? Do I cook dinner while listening to my daughter read? Do I fold laundry while spending time with them? Do I half watch them playing at the park while I'm on my phone doing...whatever?

There is always so much to get done that multi-tasking often feels like the only option. Just like rushing.

But maybe it's not.

Maybe I can go back to doing one thing at a time. To giving everything (or at least most things) my full attention when I am doing them (or being with them). Put down the phone and look at the person talking to me. Just brush my teeth...nothing else. Eat my breakfast without distraction.

Stir the pot.

This morning I ate my yogurt while sitting quietly at the kitchen island. For the five minutes this took, I did not do anything else. No email. No book. No nothing.

It was good yogurt.

And I'm pretty sure those five minutes did not put me behind schedule on anything.

But can I expand this to the other things in my life? Can I simply play the game, listen to the book, talk on the phone...can I simplystir the pot?

I would imagine it's going to take some real effort, but I think I can. I'm certainly going to try.

So I am pledging here on MamaManagement to do my very best with this goal:

No more multi-tasking.

Instead, mindful awareness and attention (and intention) throughout my day.

Join me.

Let's go back to a time before we were all trying to accomplish five different things in any given moment. Or maybe let's go forward to a new time. A time of awareness and attention and intention. A time of mindfulness. A time of enjoying life's little pleasures and life's everyday tasks.

And let's do it together.

Until next time, just stir the pot.

May 14, 2015

A Thank You Note to Oprah

Dear Ms. Winfrey,
I cannot begin to fathom how many thank you letters you must get. Sadly, I would imagine you get your fair share of nastygrams too. But hopefully someone just tosses those in the recycle bin with nary a glance. I know that this note will never reach you, and that's okay. Because I know you, of all people, would understand the idea of simply sending the goodness out into the universe and letting it do it's own thing.

So here's some goodness...

I pretty much grew up watching The Oprah Show. I was right there with you when you started the book club. (I still remember getting Wally Lamb's She's Come Undone right after you chose the book for bookclub and devouring it on the couch in our family room in one day. I'm not entirely sure I even took breaks to eat.) You've introduced me to so many wonderful books, and for that I say thank you.

I find I'm naturally drawn to anyone who shares my love of books and reading and learning, the way that you do; so it's no surprise that I've been drawn (like millions of others) to all the things that you do...your shows, your book club, your magazine.

But I've watched you grow and evolve over the years, as I too have grown and evolved. And I could easily get lost in all of the various ways in which you've impacted me and my life, both little and big, (like introducing me to the work of Elizabeth Gilbert or that damn Oprah Chai...OMG that stuff is good!). Or I could wax poetic about how amazing it is that you have impacted, and will continue to impact, so many people that you will never even meet. What a gift.

But that's not why I'm writing this note.

Though there are many things I could thank you for, I am writing to say thank you for your program Super Soul Sunday.

My husband teases me about my love for this show, which I hoard on my DVR and then binge watch when he travels for work (or, like recently, when I am sick). I am tough though, so I can take the teasing. But here's what I need to say to you...

Thank you for giving me a church. I've never been one for organized religion. While I love the idea of the community and I would love a place to talk about all things spiritual and universal, I have never found a church doctrine that I could wholly adopt. And while Super Soul Sunday does not give me a local community to be a part of (I wish it did!), it does give me the fodder for thinking and discourse and text to learn from. It is a virtual church...and school.

I am continually amazed by the things that I learn and the ah-ha moments that I have when watching your show; and the kismet-like way in which your topics or guests often perfectly align with what I need to hear, or think about, or learn about at that given moment in my life.

This past weekend I binge watched four episodes of the show while laying in bed enjoying Mother's Day.

It was bliss.

On one of those episodes you interviewed Jon Kabat-Zinn (whose name I've always thought sounds like a delicious wine) and you talked about mindfulness.

The concept of mindfulness has been dancing around in my head for a few weeks now. Ever since I had the thought, following a vacation, that I would like to bring the vacation mindset into my day-to-day, not-on-vacation life. And it occurred to me, after a conversation with a friend, that being mindful is really what the vacation mindset is all about. It's living in the moment. It's being aware and present. It's not worrying about yesterday or tomorrow or what's on the to-do list because you are right here, right now. This is it. This is life. Right now.

So I dug out Kabat-Zinn's book Wherever You Go, There You Are from my bookshelves stuffed with past-reads and decided to (re)learn a little more about being mindful in my daily life. And even before reading the book, I'm already becoming more aware throughout my day of where I am...someplace else in my head, or right here, right now, in this moment. Thanks to you and Super Soul Sunday.

I also watched your interview with Dr. Christiane Northrup about her work and her newest book Goddesses Never Age. I was not familiar with Dr. Northrup's work and found it fascinating. Because, guess what? I've been struggling with aging since turning 40. It's been on my mind a lot lately. And your conversation with Dr. Northrup got me thinking differently about a few things when it comes to getting older. See what I mean? Kismet. It's kind of freaky, really. So, thank you.

I have similar thoughts and feelings after watching most of the episodes of Super Soul Sunday. My eyes open to something new. My soul sending out little waves of gratitude toward you and the person you've interviewed.

So, long-story-longer, I want to thank you.

Thank you for your show. And thank you for all you do.

You do good.

Amy Lorbach