My friend Pauline was trying Zentangles—doodling exercises that promise to pull your concentration into drawing in a way that frees the rest of your mind to come up with creative ideas. Since I’d been stuck in a creative block for months, I decided to follow her lead.
As I waited for my workbook to show up, I thought about how creative longtime practitioners of Buddhism tend to be.
Stretching, meditation, and gratitude make up this simple daily ritual.
One truism of a genuine pilgrimage is that the wisdom we bring home is completely unexpected. We depart determined to figure out how to be more effective at work, only to find ourselves coming home to quit our job before we head to Spain to tutor Basque kids. We head to Tibet determined to leave behind a lover, only to call her a month into the trek to tell her we are finally ready to commit. We ride our bike across the country to mend a broken heart and learn how to be on our own, only to meet a fellow cyclist on the road and fall in love—permanently.
When I was little, my family lived in Cincinnati, Ohio. Every summer day, without fail, my mother would load my little sisters and me into her blue Nash Rambler and head to the municipal swimming pool. We’d always get there early enough to mark our turf with a combination of old towels, sunblock, and toys. By noon the pool was so crammed with kids that I had bruises from all the kicks, elbowings, and thuds from my sisters trying to learn how to swim underwater with their eyes closed.
Two months before my 38th birthday, I was offered the job of my lifetime: joining the marketing and management consulting staff of a large, well-regarded international consulting group.
Election years are years of melodrama. Whenever the presidential election circles around, I swear I can measure in decibels and number of arguments how much scrappier we all become. A deluge of unkind television ads, radio rants, and vitriolic op-ed pieces fill the air. We’re exposed to so much mean-spiritedness that it seems to crawl under our own skins, somehow making us more mean-spirited as well. I watch opinions harden, including my own, and most of us say them out loud more often, since that’s what everybody else seems to be doing.
I’d like to think that I am extremely mindful. My new mega-pants tell a different story.
A year and a half ago I became obsessed with the size of landfills. (This could be the result of too much time on my hands to simply think about things, but still.) I had seen some photographs of the largest ones in places like India, South America, and the Pacific. Resulting nightmares about our sweet planet becoming covered in kudzu-like garbage brought on the obsession.