Everyday Blessings by Myla and Jon Kabat-Zinn

I borrowed this book from my friend Melanie ages ago (about three years ago, I think). I started it right away after I borrowed it, and while I appreciated the Kabat-Zinns’ perspective, the book didn’t really hold my interest. I’d been through those difficult early years with my kids, and while the suggestions were good, I didn’t really need them anymore. It felt like old news. But there was enough there that I didn’t want to give the book back to Melanie unread, so I put it on my TBR Challenge list for 2015—and actually read it.

This time the book spoke to me, probably because I started 2015 with a view toward more mindful living, which, because I have young children, is essentially the same as mindful parenting. Apparently right now is the right time for me to be reading this book.

In the months after my first child was born, I used to pick up the La Leche League staple The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding, not because I needed help with breastfeeding—I’d paid the lactation consultants for that and was finally nursing nearly pain-free after six weeks—but because the tone was so supportive. I would dip in after my daughter had nursed herself to sleep but wasn’t ready to latch off yet, and the words would wrap around me. I would feel, for a few minutes, like I wasn’t alone.

Reading Everyday Blessings this month, I was reminded of that feeling of embrace. Myla and Jon Kabat-Zinn provide an open and honest look at the challenges and benefits of being present with our children. They don’t offer anything I didn’t already know, but they did offer reassurance. Here were people who had engaged in the same type of parenting to which I aspire, who tried and failed and tried again, over and over, and not only lived to tell the tale, but reaped benefits even from their imperfect parenting. This is comforting to me because, as much as I hope for perfection, there’s no such thing as perfect parenting. I will always make mistakes; I will always have regrets. There will always be times when I’m confused and have no idea how to proceed, but I’ll have to proceed anyway because that’s my job. Everyday Blessings reminds me that this is okay. This is just another part of the process.

Even with all of these warm fuzzies, I found myself dreading the last section, “Darkness and Light,” about the loss and grief inherent in parenting. I wasn’t sure I wanted to go there after being buoyed gently along on the rest of the book, but it turned out that this section pulled everything together well. Here is where they talked about their own fears and failures, and as much as I don’t like looking at those in my own life, it was helpful to see them presented so gently. Practicing empathy for the parenting mistakes of those who share my parenting intentions helps me have more empathy for my own shortcomings.

Coming to Our Senses by Jon Kabat-Zinn

I gave this one the old college try, but it’s just not working for me. I actually think it’s a fine book with some really insightful gems, like the excellent and succinct description of Buddhism in the “Dharma” chapter and this passage about individual experience:

“Since awareness at first blush seems to be a subjective experience, it is hard for us not to think that we are the subject, the thinker, the feeler, the seer, the doer and as such, the very center of the universe, the very center of the field of our awareness. Perceiving thus, we take everything in the universe, or at least our universe, quite personally.” (169)

That passage in particular has caused a small but significant shift in how I look at the world.

The trouble is that Kabat-Zinn uses an awful lot of words. There’s a lot to read between the gems, and I find myself getting…bored. Perhaps part of this is because I’ve already read Full Catastrophe Living, and I’ve not found much that’s particularly new in Coming to Our Senses. Or it could just be that I’m not in a nonfiction mood or that I really just want to “do” mindfulness rather than read about it right now. Whatever it is, I’m going to read the section on “Healing the Body Politic,” and maybe jump here and there, but when I go to the library day after tomorrow, I’m going to be taking this one back, no matter how much I’ve left unread.

Other reviewers (on Goodreads) recommend reading this book as a series of essays. I can see how taking it in smaller chunks might work; I just didn’t want to give it quite that much time.

For a more condensed look at mindfulness, I would actually recommend The Mindful Way Through Depression (co-written by Kabat-Zinn, Mark Williams, John Teasdale, and Zindel Segal). It’s intended for those suffering from chronic or recurrent depression, but I think anyone could benefit from the insights and techniques in the book.

The crappiest part of not finishing this book is that it’s the first I’ve tried to read from my 2015 TBR Pile Challenge list. Well, I guess this just means I’ll have to read one of my alternates. I’ve got some great alternates, so I’m okay with that.

The Elusive Middle Way

It occurred to me recently that I like extremes.

I go to extremes a lot with my diet. The strict elimination diet I did when my daughter was two-and-a-half is one example. No gluten, eggs, dairy, soy, nuts, beans, chocolate, alcohol, or sugar of any kind (including grapes). You are right to wonder what I ate during this time. Then my “meat at every meal” diet. This was actually healthier than the “cheese, bread, and beer” vegetarian diet I consumed for nearly seven years because the meat diet actually included vegetables. Then there’s my most recent (largely failed) experiment in vegan, gluten-free, no-oil eating. And in case you’re wondering, no, I do not ease myself into these dietary changes. I’m one Whole Foods trip away from a major dietary shift at any given moment. No wonder my kids refuse to eat the food I cook anymore.

I go to extremes with choices about where to live, too. I joke that I don’t travel; I move. It’s a joke, but it’s also true, and I have the six states’ worth of drivers’ licenses to prove it.

I binge-read like nobody’s business. I either check Facebook 235 times a day or I delete (or attempt to delete) my profile. I buy those yummy mini-meringues at the store and eat the whole package before bedtime. I let my hair grow to my waist and then hack it off dramatically all at once, only to let it grow out again for the next three years (by which time I need to find a new hairdresser because we’ve moved to a different state again). I stop running for eight months then immediately jump back into running 3-5 miles three times a week. I end a yoga fast by doing a 1.5-hour vinyasa practice every morning. I wake up at 4:30am for 6 weeks to meditate. And then I meditate again before I go to bed (at 8:30pm).

I’m keen on Buddhism, and when I’m engaged in these reactionary and extreme patterns of behavior, I remind myself of Siddhartha’s quest for spiritual enlightenment. After attempting all manner of extreme religious practices, Siddhartha eventually adopted a more moderate path, attained enlightenment, and started a religion to boot. The “Middle Way” continues to be at the core of Buddhism, and while it seems like a really good and simple idea, it’s a lot more complicated to apply to real life.

When I envision the Middle Way, I picture something very much like Robert Frost’s “The Road Not Taken” only with three roads diverged in a wood rather than two. The decision about which path to take should be simple: take the one that’s in the middle. But, for me at least, that middle road isn’t easy to discern. Not only is it grassy and wanting wear, it’s so overgrown it’s practically indistinguishable from the rest of the forest.

If I want to take the Middle Way, I’m going to have to keep a very keen eye on the faded blazes along the path and the subtle signs that there actually is a path here. I’ll need to have my machete handy to hack away the vines and poison ivy. The going will be slow and punctuated by frequent stops to move fallen trees off of the path and to pick off ticks that have found their way into my hair and are fixing to burrow into my skin and give me Lyme disease. (I’ve never been a fan of ticks, but moving to New England has made me remarkably paranoid about Lyme disease.)

Today my osteopath told me that the “neck headaches” I’ve been getting are caused by the extreme tension in the muscles all the way along my spine. She recommended finding ways to release tension, specifically changing my perspective on exercise from building towards something or training towards a tangible goal to being a way to quickly release tension in my body.

With this suggestion in mind, when I got home I turned the kids loose with some Wild Kratts DVDs and went back to reading Full Catastrophe Living by Jon Kabat-Zinn. I started it months and months ago, but I stopped reading when I got to the chapter about stress, which is rather amusing when I think about it.

Kabat-Zinn writes about the fight-or-flight response and the negative effects it has within the body if it’s triggered too readily and not allowed to dissipate in a healthy way. The thing that stuck out to me was the broad range of circumstances that can trigger a fight-or-flight response:

Anything that threatens our sense of well-being can trigger it to some degree. If our social status is threatened, or our ego, or our strongly held beliefs, or our desire to control things or have them be a certain way (“my” way, for instance), then the sympathetic nervous system lets loose. We can be catapulted into a state of hyperarousal and fight-or-flight whether we like it or not.

Maybe I stopped reading the book at the stress chapter because I wasn’t ready to admit that I’ve been fighting against threats to my ego and my sense of control (because there sure aren’t any tigers around here threatening me). None of the information about stress is new to me, but every time I encounter it I read it with new eyes. This time it’s in the context of my realization about my going to extremes and my osteopath’s suggestion to cool it a bit.

So, here I am at the head of these three paths, machete in hand and a vague idea in my mind. I might just stand here for a bit before I head out.

What Next?

Saturday marked the end of my self-guided 8-week Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Program (based on Jon Kabat-Zinn’s Full Catastrophe Living).

After eight weeks, daily mindfulness practice has pretty much become a habit for me. I’m making a shift to a vegan diet (this is not part of the program but since starting the mindfulness practice my tastes have just spontaneously changed, so I’m going with it). I’m more patient with the kids than I was. I, mostly, go to bed at a decent hour.

On the other side, though, I’m buying ridiculous quantities of kale, I can’t seem to remember people’s names like I used to, I still yell at my husband, and I’ve lost much of my old interest in reading. And meditation continues to be an almost daily struggle. I don’t feel like doing it even though I know I’ll feel better once I do it.

It reminds me of the summer my husband and I trained for a marathon. We got up before work (and before the North Carolina heat hit) and ran. We did two shorter (3 to 5 miles) runs during the week and a longer run (6+ miles) on the weekends, with cross-training in between. I hadn’t run more than a mile at once before that summer. I would sometimes curse and complain the entire time, but when I sat at my desk and felt the tingle of fatigue in my muscles and the intense relaxation that comes after a workout, it was worth it.*

As far as meditation goes, I know I’ve got farther to go. There will always farther to go because there isn’t a finish line in mindfulness. You just keep running and running and running. The progress is incremental and sporadic and often difficult to detect. Some days I totally feel it and others it’s like starting from the beginning. But even in meditation (to stretch the metaphor even more), every now and then there are water breaks and little packets of power gel to get you through the next leg. This 8-week MBSR program was the most recent pick-me-up of this sort for me.

Now I’m back in the “running and running” part wondering…what’s the next little boost that will come my way?

*For the purposes of this metaphor, let’s ignore the fact that my husband and I never actually ran a marathon. We threw in the towel after a 13-mile practice run during which we realized that we didn’t enjoy chafing. I’m hopeful that I’ll stick with meditation a little better since it doesn’t generally require the use of duct tape or petroleum jelly. Or at least neither the Dalai Lama nor Thich Nhat Hanh has mentioned chafing in anything I’ve read of theirs.

An Uncomfortable Silence

Today is the last day of Week 7 of my self-guided Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Program (based on Jon Kabat-Zinn’s Full Catastrophe Living). This was the week when I didn’t use any of the recordings for my yoga or meditation. While I made it through the week, I found meditating in silence to be very challenging. My mind went 770 miles an hour without Jon Kabat-Zinn’s instructions to focus on. I guess that’s the point, but I definitely found it challenging to be all alone with my thoughts. They’re very noisy without something else to drown them out.

Up to now, I’ve used a combination of several different recordings. There’s a Jon Kabat-Zinn CD I got as part of the in-person MBSR class I did (in part) in Utah. I’m not sure where my instructor got it, although it might be from The Mindful Way Through Depression audiobook. On the recording I have is a 30-minute body scan track, and then three 10-minute sitting meditation tracks that each build on the next so you can choose a 10-, 20-, or 30-minute sitting meditation practice. I enjoy using all of these tracks. I also occasionally use the Sitting Meditation track from Jon Kabat-Zinn’s Guided Mindfulness Meditation Series 1 recordings. It’s 45 minutes long and includes much of the same guidance as the choose-your-duration recording I have.

For yoga, I use one of four recordings. My favorite is Shiva Rea’s Yoga Sanctuary. I use the Lunar Practice CD and do tracks 1, 2, 3, and 6 for a 40-ish minute practice. I sometimes add in track 4, too, which is inversions, but I’m not a huge fan of shoulder stand since I had kids, so I don’t do it that often.

I also use Lauren Peterson’s The Yogi’s Companion CD, although that’s a little more intense and takes a little more concentration to keep myself from striving to do more in my practice (rather than staying present with my breath and body).

The other two recordings I use for yoga are the 45-minute yoga practices in Jon Kabat-Zinn’s Guided Mindfulness Meditation Series 1. They are very gentle and really promote a connection with the body. The only reason I prefer the Shiva Rea Lunar Practice is that it opens up my muscles more. Regardless of which I use, I feel warm and rested after I practice yoga and ready to start my day.

This week, instead of using these recordings, I mostly used an awesome free online meditation timer to keep track of my time in sitting meditation or practicing yoga. I downloaded mp3’s for 10-, 20-, 30-, and 40-minute durations (with the Tibetan Bells option, a 40-second delay, chimes every 10 minutes, and three chimes to signal the end of the practice), and burned them to a CD so I could listen to them while practicing down in the basement.

Two mornings, I tried keeping track of time by listening to music I used to use while practicing yoga back in my early 20’s. Charles Sorgie’s Odysseys Into Alpha: Prana is very relaxing and worked well to keep me focussed on my breath for a 45-minute sitting meditation (incidentally, I once listened to this on my headphones while getting a root canal). The other morning, I did a shorter sitting meditation followed by a more energetic short yoga practice. For this, I programmed some tracks from Land of Forever by 2002 and used the song changes to tell me when to move from meditation to yoga.

I liked the music pretty well, but I found I preferred the silence. Such as it was. My son almost always wakes up about halfway through my practice. I hear my husband greet him.

“Hi, Buddy!” he says.

“NO!” our son replies.

He accepts no substitutes in the morning. When I come up from my practice, I find him sitting at the top of the stairs, waiting for me.

“Mommy!” he laughs and holds out his arms.

While I prefer to have a little more time to make some breakfast and maybe—if the stars are aligned—read for little while before being on Mommy duty, it’s difficult to maintain my disappointment with his sweet little arms around my neck and a wet little toddler kiss planted on my cheek. It’s a little more challenging when he starts in with the 2-year-old “NO!” to everything I say, but after a good mindfulness practice, I’m in the mode to live in the moment and appreciate the sweetness while it lasts.

For Week 8—the final week of the program—Kabat-Zinn sets us free to choose just how we want to practice. Sitting meditation, walking meditation, body scan, yoga, music, guided meditation cds…it’s our choice.

I’m a little nervous to have this much freedom.

Week 3: Still Sitting

I was going to say I was “still standing,” but since I’ve not tried walking meditation yet, most of my Bold Plan involves sitting or lying down. Or doing yoga, which I very gratefully added this week. I had no idea how much my body needed to stretch until I started doing it!

Here’s what I’ve done so far:

WEEK 1:

30-45 minute Body Scan meditation in the morning

WEEK 2:

30-45 minute Body Scan meditation in the morning

10 minutes of sitting meditation in the evening

WEEK 3:

Alternate 30-45 minute Body Scan meditation with 45 minutes of gentle yoga in the morning

20 minutes of sitting meditation in the evening

Be aware of and write down one pleasant experience from the day

Today is the last day of Week 3. Week 4 will be just like Week 3, except instead of writing down one pleasant experience from the day, I’ll be aware of and write down on unpleasant experience from the day.

All of this is based on Jon Kabat-Zinn’s Full Catastrophe Living, which is the book he wrote outlining the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Program he pioneered at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. If you follow that link, you can find MBSR programs around the country. While I’m doing the program on my own now, I did start out in the live classes, and I think that’s probably the best way to be introduced to MBSR (although it’s probably more effective not to move across the country halfway through like I did).

In future posts, I’ll write in more detail what each of these steps entail (body scan, sitting meditation, yoga) as far as recordings and props go, in case you’re thinking of trying a meditation practice at home. Or maybe you just like details. Or maybe you’ll just choose to skip those posts. Whatever’s fine.

For now, this is what I’ve been up to.

As I mentioned yesterday, I really am enjoying myself. It doesn’t feel “Wow! This is amazing!” It just feels comfortable.

A surprisingly good mainstream article about mindfulness meditation and Jon Kabat-Zinn:

Posts by me about My Bold Plan:

The Mindful Path to Perfection: You’re Already There

“In moments of stillness you come to realize that you are already whole, already complete in your being…”

-Jon Kabat-Zinn

I have a tendency to dwell a lot on perfection. I have something of a conviction that things would be easier if I were flawless. Even when I run through the logical extremes of this kind of perfection and realize that even perfection isn’t without flaw, I still crave that state of never-erring.

In a very kind note Duane Elgin sent to me, he pointed out that another definition of “perfect” is more along the lines of complete, pure, total.

Yet another definition is having both pistils and stamens in the the same flower, so clearly not all definitions apply, but this “perfection as wholeness” definition really resonates with me, especially as I’m getting deeper into my meditation practice.

In Full Catastrophe Living, Jon Kabat-Zinn writes, “In moments of stillness you come to realize that you are already whole, already complete in your being…” In this sense, the purpose of meditation isn’t to relax or to stop yelling at my kids or to change anything at all. The purpose is to give myself a chance to recognize that I’m already whole. If more good comes from that, it’s just icing on the cake.

In the body scan meditation CD I have, Kabat-Zinn assures the listener that, “from the perspective of mindfulness practice, as long as you are breathing there’s more right with you than wrong with you, no matter what the condition of your body and its history and no matter what you are facing in this moment.”

It occurs to me that those things that never err are those things that are static, unchanging, dead.

I’m breathing. I’m living. I’m changing, whether I intend to change or not. In that sense, I’m not perfect.

But I exist in this moment, whole and complete. And if I come to recognize this wholeness through meditation or mindfulness or some other means, I’ll not only be breathing, I’ll be living.

And it doesn’t get much more perfect than that.

Mindfulness Meditation, Week 1 of 8: Done

As of this morning, I have officially completed Week 1 of my 8 weeks of mindfulness meditation.

Because part of the practice is avoiding judgments (positive or negative) about the meditation experience itself, I’m going to do my best to stick to what I’ve observed.

I have meditated every day this week. Some mornings I was conscious for more of the practice than for others. According to Jon Kabat-Zinn, this is normal, so I’m not worrying about it.

It has not been nearly as difficult to go to bed at a reasonable hour as I would have guessed it would be. Having a target wake-up time seems to be the key, although I am, naturally, reserving judgment.

I’ve not had a chance to read nearly as much as I usually do. Mostly this hasn’t bothered me. If I get much closer to the next book club meeting and have made little to no progress on Neil Gaiman’s American Gods, I may be less complacent about my lack of reading time.

I’ve not noticed any major shift in my usual mood. I’m still short with my kids and my spouse more often than I’d like to be. I’m perhaps a little less anxious than last week, although whether that’s due to the meditation or the reduced online time.

I did find that our time hiking this afternoon was particularly enjoyable. The landscape seemed more vibrant and detail-rich than I remembered it. Maybe my increased awareness during daily meditation is rubbing off on the other parts of my day.

Mostly I’ve noticed that I’m more happy, at least today. I don’t know if that will continue, but it’s nice for today.

Another nice thing today: Graham Short, the micro-engraver I blogged about nearly a year ago left a comment on my blog post about him. I felt so very grateful that he read my blog and that he took the time to comment.

Tomorrow, in addition to my morning body scan meditation, I will begin doing a 10-minute sitting meditation at another time during the day. I’m quite nervous about how I’m going to manage it, but I’m cautiously optimistic.

Mindfulness and Social Media: Reflections on the First Three Days of My Bold Plan

Pemaquid, Maine

In Full Catastrophe Living, my guidebook on this solo tour through eight weeks of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction, Jon Kabat-Zinn writes about being in the moment observing a sunset and then turning to a friend to comment about the sunset.

In speaking, you disturb the direct experiencing of that moment. You have been drawn away from the sun and sky and the light. You have been captured by your own thought and by your impulse to voice it. Your comment breaks the silence…So now you are really enjoying the sunset in your head rather than the sunset that is actually happening.

I don’t find myself watching sunsets with friends very often (I don’t spend much time with other adults at all lately). But I break the silence by mentally drafting status updates, blog posts, and tweets about whatever I’m experiencing. I knew I did this, but it became very apparent when I spent today offline entirely until 7 pm. And since I woke up to meditate at 5 am and the kids and I had no outside-the-house activities planned today, this was a loooong stretch of time.

I filled it with laundry and homeschooling and hemming a pair of pants for my husband and calling a friend and listening to hours of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Farmer Boy.

My draft update for homeschooling: My son knows the routine now: I ask my daughter, “What do we do after breakfast?” and from the other room I hear my son yell, “Flute!”

My mental blog post about hemming my husband’s pants involved me taking multiple pictures of my progress (mental only; I wouldn’t let myself get the camera), wondering at the fact that this was the first time in my life I’ve had the courage to cut rather than just roll (and roll and roll) a hem to the right height, and mentioning that my daughter was tickled that I let her sit on my lap and work the sewing machine pedal and that I was tickled we made it through the entire project without a hot iron falling on my son’s head.

I also worked on a mental book review for Elaine Aron’s The Highly Sensitive Person, which I’ve not quite finished.

So, what’s tough about my Bold Plan?

Oddly, it’s not the waking up early, at least not so far. For now it feels like daylight saving time ended and I have this extra time I’m not sure what to do with. (Wow! It’s 10:00 and our homeschooling is done! Let’s spend an hour reading Greek myths!)

And it’s not the reading one book at a time. For now I’m having a tough time finding the time to read at all, let alone to read multiple books at once.

The internet “vow of silence” is what’s toughest at this point. On the one hand, I like having the extra time and I find I have much more patience with my kids when I’m not giving myself the option of running off to the computer every five minutes. But on the other hand, the internet is pretty much the only contact I have with other adults besides my husband (and I get to spend just about fifteen waking minutes with him each day).

To keep myself from being entirely isolated, I’ve added an official addendum to my Bold Plan:

Call a friend.

This isn’t core to the plan, and it’s not really specific (Do I call one a week or one a day? Does leaving a voice mail count? Does calling my mom count?), but I’m hoping it will stave off “hermit” status for the course of my 8-week meditation challenge.

And who knows? Maybe it will deepen some friendships better than the “broadcast” method of connection in which I’ve been engaged via blogging and social media.

And you might be wondering how the meditation is going. Well, I’ve been doing it, dozing a bit, but staying conscious more of the time than I did when I was taking the MBSR class in Salt Lake City. Aside from that, I’ve been avoiding making judgments about the meditation. I’m just doing it, noting things about it (which I’ve been posting on my Imperfect Happiness Facebook Page, if you’re interested), and letting it go.

I did, however, note that my six months in central Massachusetts has made Jon Kabat-Zinn’s accent on the meditation recordings much less noticeable. I no longer giggle when he says, “comf-tah-ble.”

My Bold Plan for 2012

Like many, I feel the urge to make resolutions at the start of the new year, but I don’t like resolutions because I never keep them. Therefore, I’m making a Bold Plan instead. A Bold Plan sounds more important, anyway.

The core of the plan is completing an 8-week Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction program on my own. By “on my own,” I mean that I’m fifteen minutes away from the founding clinic of the MBSR program but I’m choosing to do the program as outlined in the book Full Catastrophe Living by Jon Kabat-Zinn rather than sign up for the classes that begin late January.

I began taking the MBSR classes in Salt Lake City, but we moved halfway through the 8-week program. The jury was still out for me about whether it was helping or not, but I’d like to give it a try again, especially since my vow to go to bed at 9:30 lasted only three nights.

What this means is that I’ve decided to wake up at 4:30 am each day. My husband gets up at that time, and with him on-call for the toddler, this should (should) give me at least one hour during which I can practice the meditation and yoga techniques suggested in the program. At the very least, I think it’s more likely to work than trying to meditate during the dinner-and-bedtime cavalcade in the evening. By the time I’d have a chance to meditate, I would just pass out. Yes, I will likely lose consciousness when I attempt it at 4:30am, too, but I’m hopeful that, in time, I’ll be able to get to bed earlier, get a greater amount of more productive sleep, and be awake and alert at 4:30am.

I am not at all sure that this will work, but I’m going to give it a try.

Along with the waking up at 4:30 plan, I’m instituting a few more guidelines to help me, maybe, minimize the distractions that keep me up until all hours every night.

At a basic level, this is a simplification plan, although I know that life will become more complicated as I implement the plan. I’m prepared for this.

I think.

It’s like when you pull a whole bunch of stuff out of a closet to de-clutter it: It looks much worse before it looks better. I’m hopeful this is the way this Bold Plan will work (although I’d be totally happy if it never looked messy at all and I just slid easily into a mindfulness-induced state of blissful calm).

Here’s the detailed plan:

1. Get up at 4:30 each morning for 8 weeks to meditate and/or practice yoga for an hour. With any luck, after eight weeks of this, I will have a firmly established meditation practice that I will be able to continue indefinitely.

2. Reduce internet use to one hour in the evenings on weekdays (while I’m nursing the toddler to sleep).

3. Plan to blog only once per week. I may well find time to blog during that one hour of daily internet use, but I won’t be planning on that. I’ll journal during the week, though, so it’s possible that, come the weekend, I’ll just go on a blogging spree and post enough to cover the prior week.

4. Read just one book at a time. This to me means one “pleasure” book at a time. I’m planning to read Full Catastrophe Living as I move through the program, and I want to keep working on the Dalai Lama’s How to See Yourself as You Really Are, because I think that with a daily meditation practice, the insights from that book might yield some pretty powerful fruits, but I’ll only read one other book besides those. I find I need fiction to maintain balance.

I am not making “go to bed earlier” part of the plan. I resist a bedtime so much that I fear putting it as a goal will just make me feel contrary and will decrease the likelihood that I’ll go to bed earlier. Instead, Jon Kabat-Zinn recommends coming up with three goals for the 8-week program, which you then set aside and actively not work towards during the program.

My three goals for the program:

1. Reduced anxiety levels (including decreased anxiety around being yelled at/tailgated/flipped the bird while driving in New England and decreased anxiety in social situations and commenting on blogs).

2. More effective sleep. Whether this means more sleep or just better sleep, I don’t really care as long as I feel better rested.

3. Responding in anger less often. I almost immediately translate fear, discomfort, sadness, lack of control, and being overwhelmed into anger. I’m hoping to let each of these things be what they are rather than jumping to the fight-or-flight response.

So, those are my goals, which I will now forget about for eight weeks.

Oh, did I mention that the mindfulness program is based in Buddhist teachings? Yes, well, that’s the reason for the indirect and paradoxical approach to achieving goals. I’m cool with it, though. I’m not great with keeping to my goals, so maybe I can trick myself into accidentally working towards them.

I’m beginning this program on January 1st, although not at 4:30 am since my husband doesn’t have to work that day.

So, there’s the Bold Plan. Let’s see how it goes.