CT meditates: a comedy (24) Three things you’re grateful for?

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In multiple books including Option B, and Start Here: Life XT, I have come across the research finding that a specific practice of gratitude can be quite powerful.

The habit is: take paper and pencil and every evening before bed, write down three specific things that you are grateful for. I don’t mean “I have a good life.” More like “that person I met who gave me a 1950’s metal ukulele tuner just after my talk at Denver Health – that was amazing.” OK, or maybe something simpler like “I felt really good on the bike ride today.”

Research apparently shows that 30 days of repeated gratitude practice, of writing down three specific things you’re grateful for (trying not to repeat items) is as effective on a person’s mood, as TAKING AN ANTIDEPRESSANT.

Say again?

Not kidding. Look it up. We should all be doing this and teaching this.

This makes me think of Julie Andrews in the Sound of Music, “My Favorite Things,” which is perhaps the best musical expression of gratitude ever…

Childhood flashback; I have watched that movie EVERY December, since forever.

Remember: those coming on the journey: 3 minutes of meditation every day! I’m holding both of us accountable to this important habit!

CMIO’s take? What 3 things are YOU grateful for? Happy Christmas Eve, everyone!

CT meditates: a comedy (23) pomodoro timer

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So, maybe some of you have read this far. Thank you for coming along! One of the threads of mindfulness and meditation is developing Focus. So maybe you’ve now blocked out 2 or even 4 hours of your day to dive deeply. But once you’re here, cleared your desk, turned off your Internet, laid out your pen and paper and resources, and you find your mind wandering off. Darn! Three minutes, breathe, OK, focused again. Oh! Wandering off again! Just remembered things I have to do!

So, for those of you struggling with focus, consider the Pomodoro Timer. There’s lots to read online, and now I guess there’s a book and maybe courses to take. In short, a tomato kitchen timer is set for 25 minutes. That is short enough to trick your brain into staying on track and long enough to get something concrete done. Then there is a 5 minute break, and back at it. Four timers and then a longer break. You can then do this all day. Over time you get better at predicting what you can accomplish in 25 minutes, and then how many segments of 25 minutes it will take to do something. Then you’re less frustrated at the end of day as you get better at predicting how much can be done.

Furthermore, the quiet, insistent, calming tick of the time reminds you to stay on task. There are more tricks, like having a pad of paper handy to write down any ideas that spring to mind, to distract. Writing it down allows you to let it go and return to task.

Try it. I think you’ll like it. You can buy a IRL pomodoro timer from the store. I downloaded an app called Focus Keeper that I really like. Works for me.

From the Book of Joy pg 56: Richard Davidson, neuroscientist tells us that there are four  independent brain circuits that influence our lasting well-being.
1. Our ability to maintain positive states
2. Our ability to recover from negative states
3. Our ability to focus and avoid mind-wandering
4. Our ability to be generous

So, at least one way to well-being is a tomato timer!

Remember: those coming on the journey: 3 minutes of meditation every day! I’m holding both of us accountable to this important habit!

CMIO’s take? Pomodoro Timer is one of my secret weapons.

CT meditates: a comedy (22) Deep Work, The Shallows (book reviews)

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from amazon.com

Cal Newport’s important work emphasizes the power of disconnected, uninterrupted time. Nicholas Carr speaks of the opposite trend: that Shallow thinking has affected our brains and made it tremendously more difficult to focus because, on the Internet, it is SO EASY to click that next link, and soon, you’re looking at cute kitten videos instead of finding some important fact for a project you thought you were working on.

One of the biggest takeaways from Cal’s work, for me, was “attention residue.” Switching tasks rapidly from one to another can take away focus for up to 15 minutes. Multi-tasking is a MYTH. Worse yet, having your attention split in multiples creates a “residue” that builds up, where part of your brain continues to worry about other things and you can never achieve deep thinking about any specific project, if your browser or email client is ‘pinging’ in the background. This can only be addressed if you develop a discipline of offloading other concerns and dedicating 2 to 4 HOURS to a period of intense focus.

Listen to Cal here: https://www.npr.org/2017/07/25/539092670/you-2-0-the-value-of-deep-work-in-an-age-of-distraction

Another great takeaway for me was Leading and Lagging indicators of work. Many of us set a personal productivity goals of “publishing X papers this year” or “writing Y white papers” or (very personally) “writing Z blogs this week.” These are, apparently, LAGGING indicators; markers of work competed. Such indicators are not helpful at motivating effort. Instead, consider LEADING indicators of productivity, that can easily be measured, and that you can structure into your day, into your week. For example “Hours of DEEP WORK with email and phone and web browser turned off.” This is specific, something you can DO each day, track on a paper or calendar, and watch the hatch marks multiply. AND, it may lead to some surprising, productive outcomes.

Favorite quote from John Cleese’s talk on creativity:

We don’t know where ideas come from, but we DO know they don’t come from our laptops.

Just set an alarm so that you don’t miss a family meal …

CMIO’s take? The information worker MUST learn to be a DEEP WORK expert. Medical Informatics is so many things, among them: Leading Change, Crucial Conversations, Deep Work. (Wow, more blog posts and book reviews apparently to come!)

CT meditates: a comedy (21). Wisdom is like rainwater

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from: the Noun project dot com, By Iconathon, US

The Dalai Lama, in response to the critique about detachment and laziness: if we are going to be mindful, and then detach ourselves from immediate concerns and not take them so personally, won’t we become lazy, un-involved? What if we are ambitious and want to improve?

From The Book of Joy page 212. The Dalai Lama states:

We should also realize that the recognition of our own limitations and weaknesses can be very positive. This can be wisdom. If you realize that you are inadequate in some way, then you develop effort. If you think, everything is fine and I’m okay just as I am, then you will not try to develop further. There is a Tibetan saying that wisdom is like rainwater –both gather in the low places.

Speaking of rainwater in low places; this is the flimsy excuse I used with my spouse to justify my need to upgrade my iPhone (a few years ago: hmm; maybe it is already time again):

I was on a bike ride with my kids around our neighborhood on some dirt paths. Westerly Creek is normally a tiny stream that meanders through our area and bisects one of the biking paths. Normally the depth is about 6-8 inches, easily forded riding a mountain bike (and a nice and messy adventure for middle schoolers). However, this particular ride was soon after a major storm, and the stream seemed only slightly deeper and wider than usual. The kids were reluctant to cross. Being the good parent, I made fun of them: “Couple of scaredy cats. Look, I’ll ride to the other side and you’ll see.” I promptly rode in, immediately sank in up to my WAIST, when I floated off my bike, and then scrambled back out. My son pointed out: “Isn’t your phone in your pocket?” And so it was. And no amount of blow drying, rice-filled container packing, or finger crossing would bring it back. I was “forced” to go get a new phone. 😦 🙂

Those of you keeping track of my images on these mindfulness posts; thank you to The Noun Project (https://thenounproject.com) for being a terrific resource for Creative Commons icons licensed for public use, as long as you attribute the source.

Remember: those coming on the journey: 3 minutes of meditation every day! I’m holding both of us accountable to this important habit!

CMIO’s take? Do not mistake the calm exterior for someone who doesn’t care. Also: wisdom, unlike rainwater, does not ALWAYS gather in the low places.

CT meditates: a comedy (20). Stumbling on happiness (book)

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from Amazon.com

I love Daniel Gilbert’s work: Stumbling on Happiness. It is a collection of gems, and is interspersed with the results of clever psychology experiments that tell us how your mind works, and it doesn’t work the way you think it works!

Specifically, I enjoyed the three-part description of the components of happiness at work. Ask yourself, is your work:

  • Meaningful (do you see a greater purpose to your work)
  • Pleasurable (do you enjoy the work)
  • are you Good at it?

I remember this using the acronym “MPG.” Having work that is at least one of these, leads to happiness. Having all three is the jackpot.

Remember, if you’re coming on the 3-minute daily journey with me:  eyes closed,
with just the simple goal of spending 3 minutes in a comfortable pose, and focusing on breath. Then to watch the inevitable stream of thoughts floating by, observing each one as a puffy cloud, letting it just drift by without diving into it, and returning to breath.

CMIO’s take? I am grateful to acknowledge that my job is M, P and G. Are you working toward your MPG?

CT meditates: a comedy (19). The second arrow

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It takes my son to teach me about important concepts from the Book of Joy.

An ordinary person feels two pains, two arrows, with any tragedy. Just as if they were to shoot a man with an arrow and, right afterward, were to shoot him with another one, so that he feels the pain of two arrows.

It seems that the Dalai Lama was suggesting that by shifting our perspective to a broader, more compassionate one, we can avoid the worry and suffering that is the second arrow.

I was struggling one evening a few months ago, to explain how our minds construct meaning around any event, and that we can control our own narrative. By being present, and being grateful, and being compassionate, sometimes we can avoid making things worse in our own minds. To which my very wise child replied: “Oh, you mean the second arrow. From the Book of Joy.”

And, after spending the next couple weeks reading the Book of Joy, I concluded:

Thanks, yes, that is what I meant.

Remember: those coming on the journey: 3 minutes of meditation every day! I’m holding both of us accountable to this important habit!

CMIO’s take: wisdom comes from many directions.

CT meditates: a comedy (18). Flow!

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From Amazon.com

Have you read Flow by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi? Mihaly’s last name prompts me to remember Wheel of Fortune: “May I buy a vowel?”

Nevertheless, this classic book introduced the world to the concept of flow:

…the state in which people are so involved in an activity that nothing else seems to matter; the experience itself is so enjoyable that people will do it even at great cost, for the sheer sake of doing it.

I’m sure we have all felt this at one time or another. And the amazing thing about this: it does not occur during passive activity like watching TV or reading, but only when the task is challenging, requiring skill and concentration. There are clear goals, you get immediate feedback. Only then can you experience a deep, effortless involvement, a sense of control. Your sense of self vanishes, time seems to stop.

The components of flow thus include: challenge, enthusiasm, skill.

This occurs for me in a challenging meeting at work, where we snatch win-win victory from the jaws of defeat (Hamilton reference, anyone?), or when working with a patient on a difficult task, and achieving a breakthrough in their health.

Or, embarrassingly, when I play a video game. Yes, I admit it. I used to be an addict to Farmville, and similar games, and countless iPhone games (Clash of Clans, anyone?), and of course the classic Starcraft II. I mean, who DOESN’T play Starcraft, really?

I’ll also mention the book Reality is Broken – why games make us better, by Jane McGonigal (or watch her great TED talks: careful, her 3 talks will suck you right in). But she also connects to Flow and argues that the Clear Goals in games make Flow more common that in real life, where the rules and goals are much more ambiguous.

Remember, if you’re coming on the 3-minute daily journey with me:  eyes closed, with just the simple goal of spending 3 minutes in a comfortable pose, and focusing on breath. Then to watch the inevitable stream of thoughts floating by, observing each one as a puffy cloud, letting it just drift by without diving into it, and returning to breath.

CMIO’s take? Do you play games? (no, I do not mean consternating mind-games with your colleagues and family) Why not? How recently have you experienced Flow? Do you design your day to achieve Flow (challenge, enthusiasm, skill) as often as possible?