Tag Archives | breathing

So Long, Farewell, Auf Weidersehen Goodnight to 2014

(In case you don't know–what, you've lived under a rock for the last umpteen years? Kidding, just kidding–my title is a take-off of a song from The Sound of Music, the best musical of ALL TIME, and no I'm not talking about the stupid rip-off live version with Carrie Underwood in it.)

The-sound-of-music-1920x1080This is the last time you will hear from me this year.  And I thought it might be fun to look back at what inspired me, perhaps inspiring you to think about what inspired you this past year and what might inspire you in 2015.  I've been doing a lot of work with goals (there is nothing I love more than planning and pondering) for the new year, and an important part of that is looking back to see what happened in the last year.

I've had a few disappointments, goals that didn't get accomplished and progress not made in certain areas.  But I really prefer to dwell on the positive, and besides I have it on good authority (I read it in two, count them, two different places on the interwebs and we all know how reliable that source is)that 2014 has been a year of discovering what it is you truly want while 2015 will be all about accomplishing it.  

Here we go with my inspirations (in no particular order except for the way they came out of my brain):

1.  Indie publishing.  As the year began, everyone, all over the webs, was talking about making it as an indie writer.  All you had to do was throw shit up on Amazon and it sold and made you a millionaire!  I was intrigued.  Then, in March I went to AWP in Seattle and heard Hugh Howey, the poster child for indie publishing speak.  More enthusiasm! Much excitement! He made $150K in one month with his books!

I was intrigued enough to experiment with putting a wee bit of effort out, and posting a story for sale.  While I didn't get rich selling it, I do like to think that it has introduced some new readers to me.  Maybe.  Not sure.  

Now, as we head towards 2015, I hear much less noise about how easy it is to make tons o' bucks on Amazon and I think they may be due to their Kindle Unlimited option.  I don't know the exact details but it is something to do with customers getting all the Ebook downloads they want for free with a Prime membership.  Yeah, that might put a crimp in author's royalties.  Ya think?

However, I still applaud the indie publishing movement.  It's going to continue to be fascinating to watch the battle between Ebook and print, and indie versus traditional publishers as the future rolls along.  And I am planning to publish my MFA novel myself, because it is sitting on my computer, so why not?

2. France.  'nough said.  No, wait.  Not really.  Because, France.  And Paris.  And writing with a group of like-minded people.  It really is the best.  Getting away from your regular routine and devoting yourself to writing in an exotic location rocks.  That's all there is to it.  (You can still join us–3 spots left.)

3. Family.  Always and forever.  I am blessed, no doubt about it.

4. Splashy Success.  Not mine, not yet, but as the year ends I've got people like Cheryl Strayed on my mind. She is, of course, the author of the memoir Wild, which burst splashily upon the world when Oprah reinstituted her book club in order to feature it.  And then Reese Witherspoon made a movie of it, which premiered recently.  I saw the movie a couple of days ago and I liked it.  The film is about courage–the courage to confront the demons of your past and put one foot in front of the other over and over again while you do so.  

By all accounts, Strayed, who is a Portland resident, is a woman who went from so-broke-she-couldn't-buy-Christmas presents to millionaire status seemingly overnight and has maintained a lovely even keel throughout.  

5. Writing Fast.  The class I took about it was a bust, but never mind.  More and more I'm seeing that writing fast without thinking too much is the way to go.  Because, rewriting.  Once you get the words on the page, then they are there for you.  As Henry, my 3-year-old grandson would say, of course.  But we so easily forget that of course and allow our writing to stall as we stare out the window at the 27-degree morning because we don't know what words to put on the page.  These days, when I catch myself stopping to think, I force my fingers to fly across the keys.  There's nothing more satisfying to a writer than toting up a massive word count for the day!

I'm in the midst of rewriting my novel at the moment, (on page 209 of 305 and I'm aiming to complete this rewrite by the end of January) so I'm not actively writing a rough draft, though every so often I do write 1K words or so on a new idea I have.  (New ideas are one of my tragic flaws. Bright shiny object!  Let's abandon this WIP and start a new one! I really have to be careful with this tendency.)  But, in September, when I took the above-mentioned class that really was more like a support group, I batted out 24, 280 words in the first two weeks of September.  Then I got on a plane to France and that was the end of that.  However, the novel is waiting for me on my computer and when I complete the current rewriting project I shall return to it.  The story needs a lot of work, and I've had ideas that will take it in a new direction, but again, all those words are sitting there waiting for me.  Woot woot!

6.  Breathing.  I'm going to brag here for a minute, so avert your eyes if that bothers you.  But, many, many years ago now I bore two children.  And I brought each of them into the world without one bit of anesthetic.  Completely natural births (though I did have to have Pitocin the second time through, because he got stuck and it turned into an emergency, but that's another story).  And how did I accomplish this?  Through breathing, of course.

So I find it ironic that all these years later I have realized how often I constrict my breathing.  I just did it as I wrote that sentence!  I hold my breath at the throat as I write and I'm not sure why I've developed this habit.  Anyway, I've been working on becoming aware of it and changing and also just taking deep breaths throughout the day whenever I think about it.  The results are quite wonderful, though I confess to backsliding a bit during the holidays.  It is something I will continue to work on in 2015.  (I wrote about it earlier in the fall, too.)

That's it.  I know there's a lot more that inspired me, but those are the things on my mind as the clock ticks toward a glorious new year.  I wish you all the very best for next year and I thank you for reading my blog.  Why not take a minute and share–what inspired you in 2014?

A couple of quick notes:

–Don't forget to download my book of free writing prompts!  There's one for every day in January. Fun, fun, fun.  (And it will help you with writing fast.) Go here.  It is free, free, free.

–And for anybody who lives in Portland, I'm having a signing next week!  My Twitter friend (and guest poster here) Tam Holland and I will be signing books, drinking coffee, and chatting with "fans" as the wonderful coffeeshop owner calls them on Wednesday, January 7, at 4 PM.  The location is the Rain or Shine coffee shop on SE 60th and Division.  Come meet us!

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Wednesday Within: This Will Save Me

Crazy-breath-mask-923023-lI am a woman of great passions.  Some of them, like writing and reading, have lasted a lifetime. Others, like gardening or knitting, wax and wane.  And still others (Jazzercise, anyone?) have their brief moment in the sun with me and then I lose interest.

And then there are the things I find that I'm certain will save me.  Things like an eating or exercise plan. Or some kind of meditation.  A different kind of prayer.  A new book that has all the answers!  If only I follow the directions exactly, I will be a new person.  

The problem is, I'm not at all good at following directions.

I've been through all kinds of food plans, the most recent being the Paleo diet my daughter is forever trying to foist on me (love you, sweetie).  France made me ditch that one (no bread allowed on Paleo). To be fair, I do lean towards eating this way, I just hate following externally-imposed rules.   I could go on and on about how I was certain that making home-made sauerkraut and consuming raw milk kefir would be the answer to all my problems, or how running three times a week was just the ticket, or how attending church would remake me.

Okay, so that last one actually has worked pretty well.  But turns out there's only a few kinds of sauerkraut I like the taste of, raw milk is illegal in Oregon, and running is really, really hard on my knees.  And yet, the momentary obessions continue.

Do you do this? Please tell me you do this.

But, just because I'm in a revelatory mood, here are my latest obsessions: the ukelele, bone broth and breathing.  I've not made much progress with the uke yet, though my friend Kate has leant me one and I am entranced with these videos.  NEED LINKS.  Apparently, ukeleles are a thing. And part of that thing is gathering together and playing and I really like that idea.

Bone broth you can probably live without, though I'm convinced it is going to save my afore-mentioned knee problems which are really lower back problems caused by one leg being shorter than the other.  I make it in the slow cooker with bones, amazingly enough, and vegies and let it simmer for 24 hours.  I'll spare you more on that.  But read this link if you are interested.

But we do need to talk about breathing.

Because it is something we all should be paying attention to.  I'm quite sure it impacts our writing, because it impacts everything.  Think how amazing–we don't have to stop and ponder how to breathe, it just happens.  But along the way we get into some bad breathing habits.  I tend to be a breath catcher.  I lightly hold my breath in my throat and my stomach, and I do this when I'm writing. I've looked at it a lot, trying to figure out where this habit arose, and I think it has to do with excitement.  You know how you catch your breath when something exciting happens?  Like that.  And I get excited when I'm writing, so this habit has resulted.  (It's not just when I'm writing, either, I find myself doing it all the time.)

I've read estimates saying that most of us use only 10% of our full breathing capacity.  Yet, because it is our breath, and we do it unconsciously most of the time, we don't think much about it.  But imagine how you would feel if you were only eating 10% of the food you need?  Or getting 10% of the sleep you require?  Yeah, not so good.

The easiest way to breath better is simply to take full, deep breaths whenever you find yourself catching your breath or chest breathing (a good, deep breath goes all the way into your belly).  You can also commit to taking 20 deep breaths three times a day if that suits you.  It's so simple, really–yet since breathing is at the basis of all our life, you'll find results such as increased energy, more ability to focus, and a tuned-up metabolism.

Ask the Google for more information.  A good place to start is here.

What is "saving" you these days?

Image by hypertypos.

And a quick addition: My friend Kevin Johns interviewed me for a podcast and it just went live! Listen here, and read my review of his book here.

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Living With Ease: Interview with Sandra Pawula

It is my pleasure and honor to offer you this interview with Sandra Pawula.  Sandra writes one of my favorite go-to blogs, Always Well Within, where I find spiritual wisdom and inspiration.  She's a writer herself, so everything she shares speaks to creatives.  Sandra has a new e-course that starts September 9th.  I'm planning to sign up–it's just $21.  Please check it out.  And read her informative comments on easing stress below.

You've been writing a popular blog for quite some time now. What made you decide to offer an E-course?

The purpose of my blog, Always Well Within, is to help others tap into their own inner spring of true happiness and freedom. A blog post can inspire, encourage, instruct, and spark change. But, you can only go so far in a blog post.

I’ve already been facilitating online meditation courses for more than five years. It feels natural to extend that into an e-course via my blog so that I can support people to grow through a process of positive change that occurs over a period of time.

I’ve led a high stress life, and I know it’s not easy to turn stress around, which is the focus of my course. You need a more concentrated immersion and an ambiance of care and support, to begin to retrain these long-held patterns.

What is the greatest enemy to living with ease?

Your own mind. Marcus Aurelius said:

“If you are distressed by anything external, the pain is not due to the thing itself, but to your estimate of it; and this you have the power to revoke at any moment.”

This hasn’t changed since the time of Marcus Aurelius, thousands of years ago, and it will never be different now or in the future. Yet, many of us suffer needlessly because we don’t realize we are responsible for our own thoughts, emotions, and perceptions and have the power to change them. Instead, we function on automatic and in a reaction-triggered mode, feeling like a victim of circumstances, relationships, and our own turbulent mind. This can adversely affect your mood, your body, and your overall sense of well-being.

That being said, it’s important to know that some people are genetically predisposed to having a stronger stress response or a weaker relaxation response. Some immune-related diseases may diminish your ability to respond to stress as well. Early nurturing or lack thereof can also impact one’s capacity for resilience. A series of strong stresses that arrive one after the other can also wear out your ability to cope effectively with adversity.

If stress plays a big role in your life, you may be dealing with a unique mix of factors like some those above. If so, it’s critical to take this into account, and at the same time to know it’s still possible for most people to see significant improvement through the mindful use of stress reduction practices.

Stress is endemic in modern life. Physical, emotional, mental, and circumstantial stresses will always occur in your life. But you can learn to intercede and diminish the stress response. The long-term impact of stress can be so debilitating it’s foolhardy not to do so. Stress can be a key element in the development or exacerbation of many disorders like heart disease, diabetes, depression, anxiety, skin conditions, and inflammatory bowel disease, among others. Not to mention it can totally wreck the quality of your life and relationships.

Is it really possible to reduce stress in our crazy new millennium lives?

Absolutely! More than 30 years of medical research has proven this to be so. Here’s one example of cutting edge research from the Harvard Medical School News, which provides an unequivocal yes to this question:

“A new study from investigators at the Benson-Henry Institute for Mind/Body Medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center finds that eliciting the relaxation response—a physiologic state of deep rest induced by practices such as meditation, yoga, deep breathing and prayer—produces immediate changes in the expression of genes involved in immune function, energy metabolism and insulin secretion.”

It’s true that our highly active digital engagement – even digital addiction – adds a new dimension to the activation of stress, but we can learn to disengage from time-to-time as part of our personal stress reduction strategy.

Can you share one tip for living with ease?

Breathe! It’s simple, it’s cheap, and it’s always available. Pausing to take a slow, deep breath immediately begins to change your biochemistry. It tells the brain that danger has passed, and it’s OK to relax. But, it's not enough to just breathe once! You need to learn how to breathe, and turn it into a regular practice.

And finally, since my audience is made up of creatives and writers, can you speak to the unique stresses that we face?

Stress takes on so many possible forms in a creative life: Fear of rejection and rejection itself, deadlines, an erratic work flow if you are a freelancer, resistance, lack of motivation or inspiration, finances, juggling your craft with a “real” job. These are just a few ways that stress can manifest for writers and creatives.

If you find stress creeping into your creative life, regular use of mindfulness-based stress reduction techniques will help tremendously. But, you also have to dig deep and be willing to look at what triggers you. Once you know, you can begin to deconstruct the old stories that keep you struck one at a time, or put practical strategies in place that head-off the stress response. Through doing so it will be so much easier to find your flow.

Sandra Pawula is a freelance writer and inner explorer. She writes about finding true happiness and freedom at Always Well Within. Her new e-course, Living with Ease: 21 Days to Less Stress begins on Sept. 9th, and you can register right now.

How do you deal with stress?  Does writing ease it for you as it does for me?  Please share!

Photo by hirekatsu.

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