Bored AND Overwhelmed? Declutter Your Life

We are now in the fourth week of social distancing here on Long Island, NY in order to stop the spread of COVID 19.  As we’ve been settling into this new reality that will likely continue for weeks and maybe months, my friends and I have begun to experience a new combination of emotions:  Boredom and restlessness intermingled with a sense of stress and being overwhelmed.  

In my last article about maintaining a sense of serenity during the pandemic (Cool, Calm, and Collected during COVID-19: A Strategy) I said that one of my personal strategies was to maintain a sense of self discipline.  I’m doing my best to balance work and rest, limit social media and news interaction, exercise and get outside as much as possible, and enjoy creative pursuits.  (I started a sketchbook, which I am loving.) All Good! But truth be told, I can’t completely escape sudden pangs of boredom during in-between hours, or the feeling that the walls are closing in on me and I can’t breathe!  When the weather is nice, my spirits soar and I fill gaps in my day by taking sunny solo strolls. On the days that we’ve had those classic April showers, I’ve turned a cathartic alternative to pass the time. 

My plan of attack involves the continuation of a project I started last summer as a means of developing my personal mindfulness practice.  How does one live more fully in the present moment, free of the burdens of past and fears of future? DECLUTTER… EVERYTHING… And what better time to tackle this behemoth than now?  You can’t run off to the mall to avoid the job, people. It’s time. Let’s crank the music up and clean. Now although closets are a good place to start, they are not the only storage spaces of our lives creating useless distraction and keeping us from living serenely in the now.  Consider the following:


Physical Space

The closets are, as I said, a place to begin.  As a simple rule, if you haven’t used it or worn it in over a year, ditch it.  Since this isn’t the time to donate belongings due to the virus, I have put items into different, labeled donation bags and I put sticky notes on the larger things I plan to give away or donate (some exercise equipment that I bought thinking it would miraculously make me fit, not considering the effort needed on my part!)  Visual clutter is the next to be tackled. Charming sentimental items here and there on walls and shelves can be very hygge, but overdone, can also create a feeling of claustrophobia and distraction (and extra dusty surfaces. Eew!) If you really can’t let go of those “tchotchkes” for good, rotate them. Free up shelving and mantles of half of these objects for now and swap them out in a year.

Digital Space

No, you will not go back to those emails… ever.  Seriously. If there are over a hundred read and unread messages in your inbox, you’ve got work to do.  Google let’s you delete in bulk from single senders. Or if you really can’t let go, create settings that push certain messages into folders.  Next, dive into your Google Drive or other storage and treat it like your email; delete what you can and put the rest into digital folders (or folders within folders).  And before you shut down your computer, get rid of all the nonsense on your desktop. Do you regularly click on all that appears when you log on? Your cell phone is another hot spot for distracting clutter.  Delete old text threads and clear your voicemail box. And now the difficult part: contacts. Will you (or should you) ever call that ex again? No? Delete.

“Personal” Space and “Head” Space

Think social distancing on an energetic level.  It’s not easy to let go or steer clear of people in your life who don’t appear to be particularly harmful on the outside, but it is important to protect yourself.  Energy vampires are real. In the same way you need to stay six feet away from people who may be asymptomatic carriers of COVID-19, you need to protect your energetic self from people whose attitudes instill fear, panic, or the “poor me’s by ceasing or limiting contact with them.  Clear your “head” space by tackling grudges, resentments, regrets, and worries. Take out a pen and paper and begin writing as a means of physically drawing them out of yourself and either burn them or toss them out with the trash. And finally, meditate, meditate, and meditate some more.

Clearing space in your life is an ongoing task.  As we continue to live and have new experiences we continue to scoop up objects and people and memories and resentments.  All are necessary parts of our path which help us to grow. They make up the intricate fabric of our lives, like colorful threads in a woven blanket.  But even though a blanket can keep us cozy, warm, and protected, it can also become stifling, hot, uncomfortable, and distracting. Decluttering keeps us at a nice, neutral temperature, physically, mentally, and spiritually.  You’ll sleep easier.

Now get to work!

Cool, Calm, and Collected during COVID-19: A Strategy

One week ago today my colleagues and I sat around the circulation desk of my middle school library wondering if our district would close school on Monday for a “deep cleaning.”  We chuckled at the seeming futility of such an act to prevent a flu-like illness that is transported from human to human and is airborne. We considered the loveliness of getting to sleep in late on a Monday.  The weather was predicted to be beautiful that day! One of our primary concerns was whether or not this would count as an “unused snow day” and in turn shorten our Memorial Day break. We were thankful the school play, scheduled for that weekend, would still go on.  The kids worked so hard! I jokingly shared a story of a woman next to me at the grocery store the day before whose cart nearly fell over, it was stacked so high with canned goods and toilet paper. We guffawed, only a little nervously, and exclaimed, “people are nuts.”

Exactly one week later… things have changed.

As of today, Thursday, March 19, 2020, all schools in New York State are closed until April 1st.  All movie theaters, bars, fitness centers, casinos, and restaurants are closed (with the exception of take-out in some places).  Broadway has shut down all of it’s shows. Gatherings of 50 or more are prohibited. (My sons informed me that a group of women doing zumba in the town park were broken up by the police yesterday.)   Jones Beach has become a drive-up testing site for those suspecting they have contracted Covid-19, but only under certain circumstances as there is a shortage of tests. The Long Island Railroad has stopped cash payments as a means of deterring passengers from riding.  Supermarkets have restricted hours open only to the elderly and high risk individuals. All businesses for which it is humanly possible (or in some cases not) are encouraged to shut their doors and function remotely, from home.

On the horizon: Total home isolation for weeks to months…

Ok, breeeeaaathe… (Literally, stop reading, close your eyes, and take a long deep breath before continuing.)


My simple strategies for coping through the first few days of what will undoubtedly be a historic event to generations to come, are what I intend to continue to practice.  First and foremost… REMAIN GRATEFUL.  I live in a modest apartment.  My oldest son has his own bedroom and my youngest sleeps in a converted den.  We have two full baths. My surrounding neighbors are quirky but lovely people who have already displayed their care and camaraderie during blackouts and Hurricane Sandy’s devastation.  We have stacks of unread books and board games collecting dust and itching to jump off their shelves. Our little patio overlooks a pond brimming with birds and wildlife. Just last night, on the eve of the vernal equinox, we heard the first froggy chirps through the windows (to my delight and my son’s chagrin).  Need I mention the greatest gift of all in times like these? Hello internet, social media, Netflix, and Hulu; some things will take grossly for granted.  


If my brain even dares to go to the fact that we don’t have a full, finished basement with a pool table, I give myself a virtual slap across the consciousness and thank the powers that be for what I do have!  Working in a school with mixed demographics has made me keenly aware of the realities of home for different people with disadvantages and illnesses.  I won’t get into the details of the horrors that make up homelife for many Long Island children; children for whom the only place that feels safe, comfortable, or nurturing is school.

If the image of me slapping myself in any way didn’t make you chuckle or at least smirk, the memes circulating on social media right now will.  Coping strategy number two: FIND HUMOR!  Although I’ve taken a bit of a break from Facebook this year, during the past week I have found myself scrolling more than usual, as many have with this excess of time and the need to feel connected and informed.  A particular colleague of mine with a sense of humor that makes her a favorite among students and faculty alike has been posting a barrage of memes that have had me rolling! I informed her of the fact that my gut literally hurts from laughing at her posts and she simply replied, “That’s the point.”  I’m grateful for people like this who recognize that humor connects us and indeed heals us in times of fear and pain. Wish I could actually order a “Panic at the Costco” t-shirt! LOL!!


My third strategy for coping with the realities of a global pandemic: PRACTICE SELF DISCIPLINE.  This means more than refraining from devouring food stores out of boredom.  One you’ve sufficiently scrolled through facebook memes and had your laugh, put the phone down…  These devices have already hijacked our brains during the best and busiest of times. Barring scheduled check-ins, I have had to consciously remove myself from my device.  Although it can entertain and keep me connected, incessantly checking the phone can work against me by fueling my fear. Although the ideas were swirling in my head for this very post, it took a lot for me to drop the phone and get typing.  I need to schedule time to write, be creative, meditate, and get physical.  For me, this means walking outside each day while that’s still an option (I’ve hiked miles and miles this week at various parks) or at least doing some yoga and stretching.  

So for now, remaining grateful, finding humor, and practicing self-discipline will be my primary strategies for pushing through these uncertain and rapidly-changing times.  I intend to follow up soon to share my experiences and strategies for facing parenting challenges as social distancing protocols affect my kids. In the meantime, I’d love your feedback via this blog or my email,  Be well, readers.


Cathartic Creativity


Being able to express ourselves artistically is a big part of what makes us human.  We pour complex thoughts and emotions into a medium for others to then experience with their senses.  The result is a conjuring of similar thoughts or emotions that remind us that we are not alone… in our joy, pain, happiness, sorrow, or any of the other myriad emotions that again, make us human.  

As a former English teacher, I used to always remind my little writers to take into consideration their audiences during formal writing assignments; that they should aim to choose just the right language to elicit just the right response.  People with real skill and talent as writers have the ability to shake others to their cores and move mountains through masterful artistic expression. So much emphasis on the end product, however, whether written, painted, or sculpted, fails to take into consideration one critical element of being creative… 

The powerful gift of creation to the creator.

Being creative satisfies an innate need; our desire to be productive for productivity’s sake.  By pouring ourselves into some form of artistic expression, we release feelings, ponderings, memories, and ideas that we hold inside.  How cathartic! It’s like a powerful session with a therapist or allowing a free-flow of ideas to pass over a cup of coffee with a best friend.  The difference, is the creator is not limited to the sometimes clumsy limits of the spoken word.

Unfortunately, our tendency to focus on the end product is what often keeps us from picking up that paint brush, pen, or ball of clay.  “I don’t do art. I’m not artistic,” becomes the excuse. I’ve watched my angry son toss sketches into the trash because they, “didn’t look right.”  (Of course through my mommy goggles, they WERE in fact, masterpieces!) The need for public approval in today’s world where “likes” have become a powerful form of self-validation make art for art’s sake seem pointless to some, as does pressure to publish or be displayed in public.

I think about the therapeutic effects of journaling, or free-verse poetry, or doodling, or even just coloring.  These forms of expression are not intended for a major audience, but serve an emotional and even spiritual purpose because we are leaving something of ourselves in the physical world.  I think of Emily Dickinson, squirreled away in her room pouring her soul out into the most heartfelt poetry, and who only gained her fame posthumously.  She never intended it to be read!  Or I think of the original mandalas that Tibetan Buddhists created as a form of meditation; incredibly intricate designs and colors, created with sand, intentionally impermanent, with the sole purpose being created for creation’s sake.

Creative expression, putting something out into the world for its own sake, is not limited to visual and linguistic expression.  The math-minded can use code as their language to create a digital masterpiece. Blocks, clay, trash, anything can be molded built into a sculpture.  Beads or simple string create jewelry or macrame.

The clever lure of, and easy access to (bombardment) of all types of media, coupled with pressure to produce only masterpieces, have inhibited our drive to be creative.  Hopefully schools’ heightened awareness of the need to address student wellness will allow for more opportunities for kids to be creative. The lack of creative writing and free-writing opportunities in ELA classes, without the pressure of a grade, truly saddens me.  Reflective journaling after reading class novels was one of my most rewarding “assignments” for kids when I used to teach.

In the meantime, reader, pick up those colored pencils and get scribbling.  Write a poem about your cat. Build a tower with your kid’s Legos. No one needs to see it.  Just create and see how it makes you feel.  I personally think it would be great if readers out there find this piece inspiring or can identify with it in some way, but I can tell you truthfully, the writing of it filled me with a sense of accomplishment…  mission complete!  



Osmosis… According to Merriam-Webster, osmosis is defined as, “a process of absorption or diffusion” or the less sciency definition, “a usually effortless, often unconscious assimilation.” It’s a sciency term most often used to describe the way tangible substances combine with and absorb one another. As a school librarian, I’ve often heard the phrase “learn by osmosis” comically thrown around when referring to the impossible act of learning content simply by being around it. As a Reiki practitioner and spiritual seeker with a passion for understanding human psychology, I’ve come to know of another “osmosis”: as real as the sciency type yet as invisible as the type referenced in the “learn by osmosis” quip. What I have both observed and experienced in my journey is the osmosis of PEOPLE. 

Working in a middle school, I see this all the time. Developmentally, kids at this age are undergoing physical, mental, hormonal, emotional changes at a dizzying speed. The lanky, voice-crackly, teens filtering in from the 8th grade wing to return overdue books don’t even resemble the meek, tiny 6th graders they once were. Still adjusting to where their growing bodies fit in physical space, they walk the halls in awkward diagonals, ping ponging off of each other, the lockers, and occasionally, a straight-line-walking me. It’s no wonder they have no clear idea of exactly who they are. How do they find out who to be? Like shopping for the perfect outfit, they try on identities that they “absorb” from the people around them. During this stage of development, they take on attitudes, tastes, values, behaviors, and even mannerisms of their peers. Over time, the hope is that they keep what syncs with their truest selves and discard the rest. 

Now how has this observation helped me on my personal journey as an adult? Well, looking back at my life, I have tried on many many hats (and shoes, and dresses, and accessories…). In high school I wore flashy clothing, big hair, and gaudy jewelry. I listened to cheesy dance music, and spent a lot of time journaling (writing for NO ONE to see…) while daydreaming about my writing being turned into movies that would make me rich and famous. I valued popularity. In college I wore Dr. Martens, ripped flannels, black chokers. I listened to dark, depressing rock music. I spent time doing… stuff, reading all sorts of classics, and had perfected my Academy Award acceptance speech for my screenplay. I valued all things anti-establishment (so hip at that time…) 

At 45 I’ve settled into my most highly evolved incarnation. I’ve learned what is truly important to me. I can differentiate between what I really like and what is just painfully trendy. I behave in ways that I feel are appropriate and acceptable, regardless of societal expectations (within reason, of course.) I love being in nature, which I consider my church. Hiking a scenic trail is how I channel a power greater than myself and find peace. I love writing and have even gained the courage over the years to publically share, as I am now. I care less about the traffic to my site and more about sharing a cool idea with like-minded folk. I value mindful living and constantly strive to overcome materialism and superficiality (“Strive” is the operative word here.). I believe that experiencing all things new – locations, cultures, foods… is the best way to learn and evolve. 

Since we are inherently social creatures and can’t survive in a vacuum, osmosis happens whether we like it or not. Even as fully-formed adults we inadvertently take on others’ “stuff.” So what to do?? 

Choose your company wisely. 

The people you surround yourself with will rub off on you in subtle ways. The whiners at work who complain and never assume responsibility will turn you pessimistic. Stick with those who are passionate about their craft. In my case, the people who see the opportunity to teach and inspire children as a gift. Period. The friends who partake in anything to excess, be it crazy partying, risk-taking, slothful inactivity, or even excessive spending or toxic eating, will drag you below a healthy existence. I personally try to surround myself with nature-loving, mindful, spiritual, healthy, readers, who love to explore (or at least some variation of this. I am a realist. No one is perfect!  Ha!) 

Most importantly, the company you chose should both inspire and encourage you to be the best version of yourself, whatever that may look like. And remember that healthy competition should not be laced with judgement or sabotage. Find your tribe, dodge energy vampires, and live your best life. 

Walking the Walk

So here I am, back to the blog after a full calendar year, ready to reflect on the wonder of walking wordlessly a while for wellness, without wasting energy worrying about WordPress work (Ha!).

I have always loved language.  Reading and writing have been passions of mine for as long as I can remember, enabling me to feel a connection with my fellow humans through linguistic expression.  This is why I felt that blogging about my ideas regarding mindful living, seemed like a real no-brainer. I could marry two of my passions in a purposeful way and foster a connection with like-minded folks from near and far!

What I learned, however, is that when you write for an audience, or (I hate to admit this one) profit, purpose can become skewed.  Mindfulness is replaced by stress and ego pushes out authenticity. In my quest to learn from and connect with other spiritual seekers, I have come across a handful of mindfulness “professionals” and “teachers” who knew the jargon, could name the gurus, and list the retreats, but who were completely stressed out multitaskers riddled with worry and expectation.

During a year away from writing for and attempting to monetize my blog I learned a few things…

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Lesson One  

The most enlightened, mindful people rarely, if ever, talk about enlightenment and mindfulness.  They are people who walk the walk without talking… at all. A friend told me that we are all monkeys and monkey see, monkey do.  Just be sure to choose the right monkey to follow! I’m following the folks I see stopping in front of gardens on their way to work so they can literally stop and smell the roses; the ones who give small children their rapt attention when they are speaking without correcting, giggling, or dismissing; the people who make eye contact, smile, and nod when passing people outside; the people on trains who look out the window as opposed to scrolling through nonsense on their phones.  These are the folks who are truly appreciating life, moment to precious moment.

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Lesson Two

We can not underestimate the restorative power of being in nature.  Schools need to realize this. Workplaces need to realize this. EVERYONE needs to realize this.  

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Lesson Three

Personalized practice matters.  How you choose to live your best life and become your best self is entirely personal.  I’ve met people who are so preoccupied with the details of meditation, from purchasing the right cushions to sit on, the right music, the right app, even the right incense to align the right type of energy, that the most important part of the practice gets lost.  It’s tough to be mindful with a mind full of meditation merch. For me personally, a mindful walk outdoors is a cure-all during which I can effectively connect with self and source in the present moment.

Now if something in this post struck a chord with you, kindly repost, link, share, like, tweet, and comment so I may maximize traffic to my site!  (Lesson Four – Humor is the spice of life! 🙂

Tech Addiction and Digital Well-being

The other day we finally had a glimpse of beautiful, spring weather.  I literally pried the Xbox remotes from my sons’ hands and shoved my boys through the front door to go play with their neighborhood friends outside.  In addition to recognizing their dire need for a dose of vitamin D, my concern about their overall well-being, particularly a need to unplug from electronics, moved my hand to lock the door behind them!  After changing into shorts and sneakers, I headed out myself for a jog. Twenty minutes later, a few doors down, I jogged past my sons and their friends sitting on the grass in the shade of a tree… STARING AT THEIR PHONES!

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For a while now, a big topic of conversation has been the pros and cons of technology as it has come to shape the lives of kids today.  As a school librarian, experiencing the shift from “book lady” to “digital turnkey,” I have experienced how my newer role in the lives of my students has shifted as well.  I have witnessed firsthand the profound benefits of access to diverse and reliable information in an instant, the breaking of boundaries through long-distance communication and seamless digital collaboration, and the realization of visions and dreams through access to cutting-edge technologies.  Sadly though (devastating, actually), is the subsequent “brain hijacking” that can result from over-reliance and escapism through tech. I must confess that I, myself have been among the afflicted. Many a night I have found myself scrolling through nonsense while a half-read novel sat unopened on my nightstand.

At Google’s Annual Developer Conference, Google I/O, this past month, an interesting thing happened revealing an interesting shift in perspective on the part of those responsible for hijacking our brains.  

Sameer Samat, Google’s VP for Android and Google Play, gave a firsthand account of the surprising relief he experienced when compelled to surrender his phone on a vacation.  His story was a prelude to the unveiling of a collection of new features falling under the category, “digital well-being.” Placing your phone face-down will activate “Shush” mode so you will not hear alerts. You can also track your usage and even place limits on time-sucking applications.   

In addition to special features such as the ones Android has introduced, there has been a surge in new apps targeted toward users seeking a little zen.  During the Google Play Award Ceremony, one of the winning apps was Simple Habit Meditation app, founded by Yunha-Kim. The app contains guided meditations for a host of life situations ranging from “Calm Nerves” to “Breaking Up.”  The app also has meditation timers, reminders and a calendar to track progress. It is just one of a number of apps offering similar features.

As exciting as these new considerations for the tech user are, I firmly believe that the only real way to foster well being is to teach kids to do just that… to “be,” WITHOUT the distraction of any device. The first solution to ANY problem, however, is awareness. Tech companies earnestly acknowledging “digital wellness” is a step in the right direction.

Alas… when I think of brain hijacking and digital wellness, I think back to Hurricane Sandy which decimated much of Long Island.  Although my home did not endure major damage, there was the upheaval of two solid weeks without power in my development. My sons did not yet have cell phones.  It wasn’t fun all the time for certain, but there was something magical about watching my kids fill the place with origami cranes and boats and tripping over board game pieces that got away.  Lego projects resurfaced. We had longer conversations with the neighbors than we had had in all the years I had lived there as people came outside in search of human contact because they lost the digital distraction that was TV.  In short, I loved observing my children and neighbors being mindful and PRESENT.

Zen Pencils: Cartoon Quotes From Inspirational Folks, by Gavin Aung Than


As any teacher can attest, it is often infinitely easier to manage and “teach” our students than it is to teach our family and friends.  In my home, this is no exception. I have not-so-inconspicuously left books about mindfulness around my house so that my clan might pick them up and instantaneously become enlightened, and well,… no such luck.  This is until I brought home Zen Pencils.  With its graphic format, I successfully conned them into thinking this book was NOT a book of inspirational quotes and anecdotes like the ones that adorn every wall in our home, much to their chagrin. As the blurb on the back cover promises, this book will “inspire and motivate even the most cynical of readers.”  Truth.

The compilation of text here is impressive in and of itself.  We have an eclectic collection of words of wisdom from the likes of the enlightened Confucius, to historical phenoms like Theodore Roosevelt and Marie Curie, to literary geniuses like Neil Gaiman and Jack London.  The book even contains an awesome comic titled, “Who’s the Crazier Man” by controversial performer Henry Rollins which begs the reader to question what it means to BE “at all times.”

Gavin Aung Than’s illustrations, which vary in style from simplistic to realistic, and vibrant, contrasting color to analogous color pallets, serve a purpose greater than that of grabbing the attention of the reluctant reader.  They are designed to push your thinking about the text to another level. (Fans of Zen Pencils can browse through more of Than’s art on his site, My personal favorite comic in the book that illustrates this is The Most Astounding Fact, by Neil deGrasse Tyson for which Than artfully depicts the universe in the eye of a newborn child.

Question:  How do you engage cynics in timeless and universal lessons about mindfulness, perseverance, courage, confidence, sacrifice, and dignity?

Answer:  Give them Zen Pencils: Cartoon Quotes From Inspirational Folks.

Here is a book that this librarian will NOT hesitate to buy for my friends for Christmas.  They will actually read it!

Let It Go…


Mindfulness is about paying attention.  Sometimes, however, when I think about mindfulness I sometimes get caught up in thinking about about it as a state of being that has to be grasped or “attained.”  Even though the practices of meditation and mindfulness require practice, what I need to remember is that the mental, emotional, spiritual, and physical benefits of mindfulness come from a conscious effort that isn’t reaching or grasping, it is simply LETTING GO…

Things To Let Go Of


Attachments lead to yearning and emptiness due to the perception that there is a void needing to be filled.  If you fixate on something you do not have, your mind forms the assumption that something is missing, when in fact, you have all that you need.  That car, that job, whatever it is your neighbor has… Our Western society perpetuates a sense of entitlement. Even the perception that one needs to be part of a traditional family structure in order to be “complete”;  In reality, the only one thing we do need is other people in the form of meaningful relationships of any kind.

The Past

Clearly, holding on to guilt and resentments hurts us.  Although our foibles are our greatest teachers, there is a difference between remembering what is done, and continuing to linger in the feelings of what is done.  This applies to the positives as well.  I think of the people who dwell in the glory days of their youth.  Reminiscing is fine and good and shared experiences can create and maintain bonds between people but living in that time robs you of creating new beautiful experiences.  Who wants to find themselves saying, look at all the fun we had looking back at us looking back at us looking back?

Ill Feelings Toward Others

Anger.  Resentment.  Jealousy. I like to think of the Buddha quote, “Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned.”  Harboring any sort of ill feelings toward others robs you of your own joy. And note: what others think of YOU is none of your business. Those who matter don’t judge, and those who judge don’t matter.  Just do you…

Gratitude Is The Solution

We must always employ mindful awareness to see the beauty in the things that are right in front of us.  Always. And there is ALWAYS something beautiful to see. If we can truly appreciate even the smallest blessings in our lives, even when there is the pain of tragedy and loss, we can enjoy peace and serenity through mindfulness.  

Let’s sum up with an analogy.  If you think about your life and the passage of time as a river, you don’t want to swim against the current, because you will exhaust yourself and get nowhere. If you grab hold of a fast moving boat, you will exhaust yourself with holding on and miss valuable ports along the way.  If you let go and float, the current will carry you and you will save your valuable energy.  Let it go…

Looking at Mindfulness: Twenty-five Paintings to Change the Way You Live, by Christophe Andre

Looking at Mindfulness: Twenty-five Paintings to Change the Way You Live

 I love art.  We can all appreciate some type of art as it is a reflection of the things that make us human.  For myself, as a person with a passion for sketching since I’ve been able to hold a pencil, I have always appreciated the incredible amount of skill required to create realism from splotches of pigment using brushes on a two-dimensional surface.  Now the artist who selects subject matter that evokes deep and profound feelings, is nothing short of a magician. I remember being in the Smithsonian Museum of Art and witnessing a woman moved to tears while looking at a painting on a wall. Whatever she saw, tapped into her soul the way certain literature and poetry does for me.


And now for the book.  I confess I bought Looking at Mindfulness: Twenty-five Paintings to Change the Way You Live because the title implied content that would target art teachers in my school building; I didn’t imagine that this would be the impactful, mindfulness lesson it proved to be for me.  Like all truly wonderful books, this one has shifted my perception; of art slightly, and of life tremendously. Such a simple but profound analogy! Gaze upon the seemingly small, insignificant moments of life as you would stop and gaze at works of art with mindful appreciation.  


How it this done?  Using paintings of a variety of styles and spanning historical and geographical time periods, the author teaches valuable mindfulness lessons.  With each painting, the author invites the reader to perceive the big picture first, then literally zooms in on details which bring a deeper meaning.  Quotes and actual instructions (lessons) also accompany each insightful analysis. My favorite of which is when the author invites the reader to literally halt before physically turning the page of the book in order to physically check in.


Instructions and lessons include the importance of immersive awareness, during which you attempt to “feel without thinking,”  the importance of listening as a means of gaining presence, and allowing and acknowledging painful feelings like sorrow or anger.  A topic of particular interest to me is the author’s addressing of the quality of attention and how today’s society bombards us with fast-moving, flashy, irrelevant content.  This, which the author refers to as a “psychotoxic environment,” has the ability to not only rob us from fully experiencing the present, but can in fact significantly damage our well-being.


The challenge, as I’ve been learning daily during my personal quest to live mindfully, is to remember to consciously employ these mindful living lessons.  In a gallery, art on the walls is motionless and the placement in the gallery invites undistracted contemplation. Real life moves by quickly and catching all of the beauty and nuance requires attention, attention which can only be achieved by mindful moment-to-moment awareness  characterized by freedom of distracting, biased thoughts.

I was delightfully surprised to find this book to be, for me, the most enjoyable series of lessons on mindful living yet.  Andre succeeds in conveying deep ideas both clearly and beautifully. Stay tuned for a review of his follow-up, Happiness: 25 Ways to Live Joyfully Through Art.

Purchase on Amazon:

Looking at Mindfulness: Twenty-five Paintings to Change the Way You Live