It's "Black Friday," at least, it was when I started this post. By the time I finish and upload this, there will have been an entire weekend devoted to encouraging us to shop the right way (i.e., in a way that supports commerce). I don't buy into Black Friday, literally or figuratively, but I know plenty of people who like to use it as a way to get all of the shopping for their holidays completed. In that sense, I suppose, you could argue that it's a system for finishing something. Giving a time container to the shopping drill means a better chance of providing closure to what can be a stressful process. And if you're done with the purchasing that you will do this year, awesome. You can probably put your feet up and stop here. :)
But if not...
Wow, is this gifting tradition stressful in so many respects - both in the giving and the receiving. How many unwanted presents have I helped people let go of in the past eight years? How many people wring their hands for days, or weeks, before the annual gift-giving events we've been conditioned to respond to? We're coming into the home stretch on 2020, thank God, which in and of itself is a huge gift to me. But I've been thinking about the connections between living in a more organized, intentional way, and the whole gift conundrum.
Just for giggles, I looked a little into the history of gift-giving. I mean, I think we're all somewhat aware of why exchanging presents is a big deal this time of year - because marketing has carefully conditioned us that it is. But where did we get this idea, way back when? You know, pre-Facebook ads? I know we can talk all about the "magic of the season" or showing how much you love someone by giving them a material thing - but when did we decide that every person we've ever crossed paths with needs a fruit basket? Turns out, gift-giving at this time of the year did not start with a little drummer boy. From the Curious History website:
"Long before even Jesus stepped into the scene, ancient Romans practiced present giving, especially in the festival of Saturnalia, celebrated to give thanks to Saturn, the god of agriculture. The festivals happened for seven days (from the 17th to the 23rd of December). In addition to making sacrifices to the god, the Romans also gave gifts to each other. The most popular gifts being: fruits, nuts, candles, and cheap wines. [gee, sound familiar??] The festival went on until the fourth century when early Christian leaders phased it out as Christianity took over the Roman Empire. Even after people stopped celebrating the festival, many new Christian converts held onto the December custom."
So. Thanks, Saturn.
While this year may stack up differently, this infographic illustrates the sobering statistic that 15.2 billion dollars are spent by Americans on gifts people don't want. That's just dollars. Think about the time invested (wasted). I also found it amusing that Gen X-ers (proudly raising my hand here) receive the highest percentage of unwanted stuff. I'll go back to my Little House series obsession and remind everyone that little Laura Ingalls was thrilled with things like a rag doll, a tin cup, and a penny. I'll bet she had places to put those things, too.
So what are we encouraged to do? "Shop Small"? "Support Local Business"? Grab those "Cyber Monday" deals? Instead of listening to the external messages, what about going internally? Listen. Will your great aunt really mind if you don't get her another sweater? Who is that gift really for - her, or your reactivity to the messaging you should buy her a physical present? I might get a little hate from local retailers here, and perhaps the gift that matters most for them is making it through a very rough time. So, if there's an opportunity to spend and keep things moving forward in that regard, ok. I'm not saying we shouldn't give anything at all.
I think you could still frame it with these parameters:
A true gift would not
A true gift could
Think back - what's one of the best gifts you ever received? Did it come with a bow, shrink-wrapped, tissue-papered, or encased in styrofoam? What made it memorable?
*I have to confess...a gift certificate for organizing might do just that. Tread carefully there, y'all.
This post is a follow up to Part 1, and something I don't do much anymore: a "how-to."
It is, not to put too fine a point on it, a way to organize a beginning approach to meditation. Because frankly, the staggering amount of information on meditation makes it challenging to know where or how to start - and starting is all you need to think about, if you're new to the process. I'm hoping to take some of the pressure off by giving you a little step-by-step (with the caveat, always, that you may devise another way to go about it).
And let's revisit the why. What does meditation have to do with an organized life?
It's crazy simple: my clients who meditate regularly see results. An enhanced ability to pause. A keener ability to observe and check in with themselves. All of which, in turn, leads to greater ease in making decisions. That's not to say that it's impossible to make progress with your stuff behind the stuff if you don't meditate. Still, it's another tool in the toolbox, like a solid and reliable hammer that helps you to build your structure.
Take the weight out of this - most of us are not training to be Buddhist monks. It is not about religion (although contemplative prayer is related and can be very supportive). There is no passing, or failing, or "Best Meditator" award. To begin, all you're looking for is
So, the following is Sara's How To Start Meditating, version 1.0. Pick a start, any start:
OK, you've taken a little bit of the mystery out and satisfied yourself that meditation doesn't have to be boring, scary, or heaven forbid, woo-woo. Next, I might suggest an app.
I never start out recommending meditation apps because they have so many bells and whistles and…choices. Meditation apps are usually digitally cluttered messes, so buyer beware. But kind of like when you dig through the Everest of paperwork on your desk and find that elusive set of notes from the conference, or the last letter from your grandma, or your passport, there are gems to behold and take delight in.
Set aside an afternoon to do some exploration and learn about the different features. No kidding - an afternoon. This process is as much a self-care piece as planning your meals or figuring out a workout routine. Reserve time for this. Here are my thoughts on three of the top-rated ones:
Headspace - Lots of folks swear by this app. It offers a "Basics" series of meditations that are very brief and approachable - we like brief and approachable. You can pick a male or female voice (ack - another choice - oh well). Headspace has a nice reminder feature, too. Skip the "Sleep," "Move," and "Focus" areas for now. Forget about "Buddies" - we are learning to meditate. We can make friends another time. On the other hand, all the wacky colors and smiley faces may not be your aesthetic. The notifications may become so ubiquitous that you'll eventually ignore them. Also, this is what it set up for my profile. What the...?
My take: This is a good one if you want to be directed and led gently into the process without a lot of seriousness. Good for kids, too. A fair amount can be done for free, or $95/year to unlock everything.
Calm - I think this app is the one that's trying to disguise itself as something else (what, I have no clue) so that you don't get turned off by the fact that you're actually meditating. The interface is slick and attractive, but it's hard to know where to start if you're a newbie. There is meditation, but also...music, breathing exercises, check-ins, stretches, and something called The Spark (which seems to be mini motivational speaking segments). The sounds and visuals are indeed, calming. Warning: anything with a lock icon will invite you to fork over the $69.99 after a seven-day trial, and almost everything has a lock icon. If you like the looks of this one, sign up for the trial and set a BIG reminder at five days to either let it continue or cancel the subscription if you're just not feeling it.
My take: It is well-named and seems to have solid content, but there's very little you can explore for free.
Insight Timer - I'm biased because this is what I use. Even so, I will say that it is really easy to get lost in this app. There are over 60,000 free guided meditations, plus a regular-old timer (for when you want to try something other than guided). Even the timer has choices. But, this one is all about mindfulness. There are some talks, live events, music, and many courses - but no one will be reading you bedtime stories or sending you push notifications reminding you to be kind to yourself. It, too, has a community, but I locked my profile down as hard as it could go because I don't care about connecting. I do like sending the occasional "Thanks for meditating with me" message to someone in Rio de Janeiro, or Omaha, or Vancouver. I like seeing the map pinpointing everyone who is using the app to meditate around the world. To limit your overwhelm on this one, go to the "Search" icon and then the panel for "Learning to Meditate." It's all right there, much of it free, but since I use it daily I pay the $58.99/year for everything..
My take: Well, you just read my take. It's my favorite. But I don't recommend it until someone has established a bit of a practice.
Once you have an app pretty well figured out, you can build from there. We'll talk about where and when in another post.
Things to consider when you test out a guided one:
Give it a start. See what happens. And if you've found another method or app that helped you to get started, share it with us in the comments.
Sara Skillen - Certified Professional Organizer®, Certified Organizer Coach®, wife, mom, dog-lover, author. Learning to trust my intuition more every day. Shall we work together?