My Year In Review: Working from Home

Five things I love about working from home cover.001As the year comes to an end and I am reflecting on what worked and what didn’t in 2015, what I’ll do differently next year and what will remain. I kept coming back to working from home, as something that is a real privilege and has so many benefits. So I thought I’d put together a list of the pros and cons of working from home. If you are considering working from home, this list might help you decide.

It’s mostly pros, but I don’t want to get all Pollyanna on you.  [Read more…]

A Digital Detox? Spare Me! I Have Bigger Plans Than That…

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It’s about half way through the 21 Day Meditation Experience. Today is Day 10, I’m on Day 8.Yes, that is a confession – I missed last Thursday and Friday. But I had already made the decision not to be hard on myself if I did miss a day, as that defeats the purpose of meditating in the first place. So I’ve just picked up where I left off and it was so much easier to continue on when I didn’t have his negative self-talk going on.

But missing two days got me thinking. Last Thursday and Friday I did manage to check my emails. I also managed to look at Facebook (more than once, on both days), I think I also managed a glimpse at Instagram, so why did I not find the time to meditate?

Arianna Huffington, in Thrive, talks about a study done by James Roberts and Stephen Pirog on technological addiction. According to this study we check our phones 150 times a day, which averaged out to checking it every six minutes. Now I don’t think I’m as bad as all that, but it was a statistic that left me reeling. I immediately thought ‘so if we are so distracted by our phones, what other projects, hobbies, people, are suffering because of this lack of complete engagement?’

Light bulb moment! Ahhhh, that would be my meditation practice – for one. There is also a pile of new novels sitting by my bed (they’ve been there for more than a year), so yes, reading for pleasure is another. More importantly, I confess, shamefacedly, my children have suffered because of this. (Don’t judge me, please!) It is not uncommon for my poor children to have to repeat what they have said to me two, sometimes three times before I comprehend because I’m distracted by my iPad. Linda Stone  coined the term ‘continuous partial attention’, the concept both shocked and resonated with me.

But the battle is not a personal one. I’m not a disengaged person – in fact, the opposite, I’d describe myself as an extrovert. I feed off the company of others, I love conversation, but we are fighting a global battle against the rather crude FOMO! For those of you who don’t know what this is, it is a Fear Of Missing Out. But our fabulously modern age perpetuates this – there is an undercurrent of fear that something might happen and you won’t witness it. It is completely irrational, but nonetheless, it is there.

But worse than that, oh the pain… when you realise you have missed something! Because there it is, on Facebook, unfolding before your very eyes, and you are stuck at home!!

The FOMO in all of us, realise it or not, has left us in a permanently elevated state of anxiety – hence the compulsive checking of social media and use of technology. Arianna Huffington explains that technology ‘crowds out the time and energy we have for real human connection’. It is affecting our ability to connect with real people and have real and meaningful interactions.

The downside to continuous partial attention is myriad and worthy of an entire separate post, but I am just considering a fraction of its negatives and I am going to attempt to do something about it.

I hate the term ‘digital detox’ because it suggests that just taking a break from technology will fix things. And then you can switch everything back on and ‘retox’. It suggests that we live in desperate deprivation of our technology, only to be counting the days till we can switch back on. But I’d like to reset my patten of engaging with technology.

I’ve read suggestions to check social media for just one hour a day, but applying these limitations only makes me edgier in my hour ‘on’, then more desperate to get back on for a sneaky ‘Facebook binge’ in the evening.

So I am switching off everyday, at 6pm, for a month. The plan is that it will reset my neural pathways and then if I want to look at social media after 6pm (after my month of retraining), I can do it without angst or guilt. I’m hoping I won’t be that interested; I’ll be too busy meditating.

Have you retrained your neural pathways regarding your use of technology? I’ll report back in a month and let you know how things changed for me.

The Stress of Meditation

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I have to say I’m a huge supporter of meditation. The benefits are endless: it can reduce symptoms of depression, assists with seeing life in a more positive light, it aids self-acceptance, helps forge connections with others and boosts our ability to be compassionate, it will help build your creative energy. A calmed mind allows ideas to flow more freely, as those ideas are not crowded out by incessant internal chatter. I could go on. And on.

I’ve experienced those benefits first hand. But it’s probably more accurate (and more honest) to say I’ve experienced them second hand. My husband is a walking, living example of the wonderful benefits of meditation. He is calm, centred, loving, giving, generous, optimistic, realistic, focused, kind, gentle. Again, I could go on, but I think you get it now. Before he started meditating (around 10 years ago) he was also all of these things, but in a less pronounced way. I’d say meditation has brought out the best in him, and helped bring these qualities to the surface. And now he owns them. But without presumption or righteousness. He just naturally radiates these qualities.

But he deserves to because he has practiced his meditation with dedication and commitment; most days, for a long long time. I, on the other hand, have not. I start with commitment and end, sadly, with distraction. I aspire to meditate regularly, but I’m yet to get into a routine with it. But I do think my time for meditation is dawning because for the first time in a very long time I am being kept awake at night. And not just by my children, but largely by my thoughts.

I eventually abandoned my meditation practice because I’d decide that I was going to do it every day, then I’d miss a day or two. Then I’d beat myself up over missing a day or two. So I’d reset my commitment and the cycle would continue. I’d miss, then get cross with myself. So I decided that meditation was just causing me too much stress. And I opted for a glass of wine instead. The stress-relieving benefits of a glass of wine can’t be underestimated. BUT, it doesn’t still my mind. And usually if I double up on that glass of wine (due to its superior stress relieving qualities, of course!) the insomnia actually increases. So not only is the internal chatter keeping me awake, so is the wine.

So, I ask, how do I still my mind? The answer is simple – meditation. Yes, but how do I still my mind enough to meditate? Again, the answer is simple. Meditate. And so it goes. Meditation is one of those things that doesn’t come naturally to anyone. To become good at it, you need to practise. So I’m starting again and today is Day 2 of the Deepak Chopra 21 Day Meditation Experience. It’s for people like me who struggle to maintain their regular meditation practice. If you want to meditate, you can join. It’s free and you just need an email address. Once you register you’ll be sent a guided meditation to your inbox, click the link and all you need to do is make the time. You can join here.

I’ve written about the difficulties of meditation before, if you want to catch up on that, you can read it here.

I’d love to hear of your experiences with meditation. I really believe it is the antidote to the crazy, frenetic lives we’ve all signed up for. I’ll keep you updated on my progress as I go. Please share if you join up. We can all debrief together!

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Diary of a (Novice) Meditator

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Everyone who meditates extols its virtues. Mental clarity, reduced stress and anxiety, better sleep: the list goes on. But when someone says “You should meditate”, it’s the same as saying “You should do more exercise” or “You should drink less”. We all know what we “should” do. Actually doing it is something else all together. I knew I needed to do something to manage my stress. Last year, I had my third child and lost my mum suddenly, in the space of four months. My husband and I were already in chaos as our baby daughter rarely slept, day or night – but when Mum died, things started to spiral. We got through it with the help of a supportive community and friends, but my pattern of thinking had changed. Lack of sleep combined with shock and grief meant my thought processes had completely changed rhythm. I needed a way to iron out the kinks, and meditation seemed to have the answers. The 21-Day Meditation Challenge, hosted by Deepak Chopra and Oprah Winfrey, appeared at this crucial point. Once registered, each day a link to a guided meditation is sent to your inbox, and you then meditate for 20 minutes at a time that suits you. Each Challenge has a theme, and this one was “Finding your flow”. Here’s my Challenge diary.  

 

This article was first published in Sunday Life Magazine on June 1, 2014 (Fairfax Media) and can be accessed on the Daily Life website