Sinking or syncing

Does your mind need a tune-up? Are you plagued with anxiety? Are you sick of that constant annoying internal chatter? Do you strive to become calm, peaceful, wise, and able to navigate effectively through our busy modern lives? Do you need a brain massage?

Like many people I try to meditate towards achieving this peaceful state. I have practiced meditation for many years in a haphazard, inconsistent, and irregular pattern achieving a varied level of success.

It is undeniable that stilling the mind helps. But actually stilling the mind is the challenge. Always the internal chatter associated with our daily life interrupts.

As I try to sink into the deeper levels of consciousness my thoughts appear; sometimes I can notice them then let them drift away; other times I get caught up in the churning thoughts for awhile until I jolt myself back to the practice of stilling my mind.

So I have just come across binaural beats. I don’t know why I have never heard about these before, because it is not a new concept, discovered in 1839 by Heinrich Wilhelm Dove according to Wikipedia. These are now produced and published by several organisations of which Holosync™ is one. So what is Holosync™? This blog post describes it well I think.

Here is a beautiful example:

So the concept is that you listen to the sound track, wearing stereo headphones, that have various soothing sounds such as rain, gongs, bells, birds chirping, the sea, etc. But underneath the soothing sounds are sound waves that correspond with the natural brain waves and these ‘sync’.

There are various apps that can be downloaded and of course most require payment. But there are free trials that will give you an idea of the experience.

The first time I listened to a recording, I managed to easily still my mind and cease the ridiculous chatter. The sounds of rain and bells resonated through my brain. I felt like I had been given a brain massage. It was indeed bliss. This tool allowed me to reach the calm state with a still mind much quicker and more effectively than just trying to observe my breath.

So today I decided to do a little bit of research into the topic and found lots of information and demonstrations on YouTube as well as lots of controversial opinion about it all.

What to make of all this then? I suppose it is just another step in the journey towards being at peace in this world. Many people in our society are plagued with anxiety and this is completely understandable. So any tool that helps people to manage their doubt is a good thing I think. And most of us are not Zen Masters able to devote hours towards this pursuit. So 15 to 20 minutes spent listening to gorgeous sounds is manageable in my busy day and if there are additional benefits that lead to more clam, balanced and mindful living then that is a bonus.

What’s your dog’s name?

Visiting the pristine Wilsons Promontory National Park in Victoria last weekend, I was happily soaking up the peace, gazing at the gorgeous vistas, deeply breathing in the natural fragrances, running along Norman Beach, taking dips in the crystal clear waters, and wondering what else makes me love this place so much.

Wilsons Promontory National Park

Wilsons Promontory National Park

Then it hit me – THERE ARE NO DOGS!!! Hallelujah! PERFECTION! And further to that thought; no dog owners trying to convince everyone how adorable their mutt is and how it wouldn’t ever possibly bite or snarl at anyone. Yeah right!

Please Please Please powers of bureauracy never ever ever allow dogs into Wilsons Promontory National Park. No matter how much they try to convince everyone that it would be a fair thing.

What’s not fair is that so many people are not obeying local laws thinking their lovely smelly slobbering fleabag is the exception to the rule. Our beaches are plagued with them. Dog non-lovers (and there are a few of us) are ignored and forced to share our beaches with dogs at all times of the day despite the rules.

Recently I was sitting near two little girls on the beach on a hot summers day and a lady was blatantly walking her dog along the beach without a lead in the middle of the time of day when dogs were not supposed to be there at all. The little girls father was out in the water with his little boy, and a long way away in terms of supervision or protection of the little girls. One little girl said to her sister, “I’m scared of dogs.” The other sister replied nastily, “Get over it.” The point is that the little girl should not have been made to feel scared at the beach. She should have been able to enjoy the experience unthreatened. If something had happened the father was too far away to be of any use whatsoever. But that is another issue.

So beautiful Wilson’s Promontory I will keep returning to have my soul renewed with natural beauty quietly confident that it will continue to be a sanctuary, not only for the Australian wildlife that lives there, but also for the people like me who do not share a liking for dogs.

A kick from an Information Flaneur

Back in August last year I responded to a blog post by another Librarian – but didn’t publish it. It sat in my files forgotten and the busy-ness of life took over.

Now six months later I notice that this Librarian has not published anymore content on his blog. I wonder why? Perhaps some of the possibilities I suggested in my response could have made an impact. But I’m only guessing based on my own imagined restrictions. Here is my response:

So yes Hugh I agree! I agree with everything you said. And I love the term you have coined “Information Flaneur”. It is the perfect label for this concept of today’s librarian that you promote. It has that sophisticated French ring that resonates with the ideological salon discussions for which the French are famous. And who would not love a random wander around Paris? Pick me!

And….I love the minimalist design of your website – very cool! (Maybe about to undergo a facelift, refocus, or hiatus?)

So to the content of your blog post; because our job is all about the content don’t you think? Here is my response to your challenge:

I wrote back in 2008, that I see the “reference interview” as a unique conversation of shared discovery. So I agree with you. There is no pat model for new librarians. We need to find our way in a flexible, open, responsive, and helpful way that suits the needs of the customer. Our small advantage, even in this era of easy access to the information pile, is that we understand the architecture of how that information is created, gathered, stored, and distributed. So that allows us to be able to take some shortcuts that others might not know. We can shine a torch on our partnered wander in the dark, and hope not to end up in the catacombs – unless that is where we’d want to go; or where we enjoy going by accident.

I love this notion that you suggest by using the term “flaneur”; we can browse, not knowing what it is that we will find, and then be inspired to learn something new and random that could launch our lives into a direction previously unperceived. We don’t know what we don’t know. I love searching the subject headings in library catalogues using terms like “resilience” and then discovering a new book and author that I had not previously heard about. Such as Magical Journey: An Apprenticeship in Contentment by Katrina Kenison. It is a great read for older women, empty-nesters, new at grieving for lost friends and family.

Back in 2011 and 2013, I researched Aussie Librarian bloggers because I enjoy reading about current trends and thinking in our field (like you). I wanted to know who was saying what. I was searching for opinion, but found little, except for a handful, of which yours stood out; and I complimented you for that.

Back in 2013, I researched library podcasts and found these and still listen occasionally.

You set the bar high Hugh. You are insightful, knowledgeable, well-read, and articulate. You display a generosity of spirit by inviting others to join in the conversation. But I think you do not want “yes-men”. Your online jousting with heavy-hitters such as R. D. Lankes about the pros and cons of 3D printers in libraries makes me think you enjoy getting your adrenalin pumping from these kinds of debates. You want to have your mind challenged and opened with new insights provided through passionate discussion, somewhat like the French salons of yesteryear. Me – I prefer mulling quietly.

So here are some possible reasons or excuses for the lack of meaningful and well-considered opinion online that we crave:

  • Organisational Policy – have you read the Social Media Policy of your governing organization? Silly question – of course you have. It is so restrictive that who would want to even peep (or tweet) about anything that could be remotely interpreted to be about work by your employers? And I have worked on a committee that created a Social Media Policy and Procedure for local government, so I realize both sides of the discussion. I notice though, that your posts talk about our profession rather than your employer. You are smart in that regard, but it would deter many others.
  • Time constraints – after a week of full-time work, who has time? How much time is left in a day after commuting, exercise, grocery shopping, cooking, eating, yoga, meditation, chores, reading (for pleasure and work), watching the next episode of Breaking Bad legally borrowed from the library, watching my son play football, and more. Who gets the time to write a well considered blog post, let alone read any?
  • Blank stares – you know that look you get when you say the word “blog”? You and I know it is all about the content and the web is just the platform and distribution media. Maybe we need to come up with a new term for blog? Got any French terms that would fit?
  • Powerlessness – further to the discussion about the mechanics of blogs is the lack of awareness there seems to be about how to harness the power of blogs by using software platforms and apps such as Feedly. This is another area where Librarians excel and can lead the way (if we manage to work past the glazed eyes). It astonishes me how many library professionals don’t know about this simple tool and how to use it for personal and professional development. To me it seems like a gardener who doesn’t use a wheelbarrow. (Although my wheelbarrow is a bit full and needs emptying and refilling.)
  • Self-protection – how open do you want to be online? Do you really want to reveal everything? You don’t and nor do I. But where do you draw the line? There is a valid push for people to be authentic online, and I applaud that approach. But really? And who cares? And what about trolls, haters, fraud, and opportunists?
  • Work versus personal – it’s important to have a focus for a blog I think, and our profession is perfect for writing about online, but even when you try to focus on our line of work, without discussing our employers, over time personal stuff gets in the way and affects what is on our mind and what we are willing to put up for public knowledge. I can think of a few blogs that I enjoyed reading that were sidetracked because cancer came into their lives. Over recent years I have had enormous personal life changes that have influenced the circumstances of my professional work.

So there you go Hugh: how’s that for a comment? I hope others in our industry jump to your little challenge. It has only taken me six months.

P.S. Good luck with the changes in your work scenario.

Instagram Magic

A picture is worth a thousand words.”

Who said that I wonder? A quick and dirty Google search tells me that it is attributed to Frederick R. Barnard who published a piece in 1921, commending the effectiveness of graphics in advertising. Imagine what he would have to say in this connected multimedia world.

This is a picture of me and a friend at the age of about three.

Carlina and Susan 1963

Carlina and Susan 1963

I am the one crying. The other cherub is clearly enjoying the moment. I remember this incident and why I was crying. I didn’t want my photo taken. I didn’t know what having my “photo taken” meant. I didn’t like being forced to have this done. The photographer was the father of the happy girl, our neighbour, a school principal, and a huge bear of a man, of whom I was frightened. So it was a traumatic experience for me as a small child and I remember it well.

I have never liked having my photo taken since. I am not photogenic, nor fit the popular notion of what is attractive. So I don’t take many #selfies. And I don’t often post them to social media. I prefer to be at the other end of the camera lens.

On Instagram I am @queuingforbliss. This nom de plume originated in my pursuit to find beauty in my life. This began with a blog I created titled French Accent where I was trying to define what that pursuit for beauty really meant for me. It led to a trip to Europe in 2008 with my husband. We would queue gladly and expectantly to see master works of art and architecture: Michelangelo’s Statue of David in Florence Italy; Leonardo Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa at Le Louvre in Paris; the Sistine Chapel at the Vatican in Rome; Le Tour Eiffel; and much much more. And I remember sitting in the town square in Beaune France cocooned in a cloud of bliss, feeling like I was in love, realising I had indeed found my bliss. Back in Australia the challenge for me has always been to find that je ne sais quoi here at home. My quest is a daily one that persists. Instagram helps.

I love Instagram. I love the immediacy of being able to see moments around our world as they happen and through the eyes of others. I appreciate the transient nature of this experience. There is no need to archive. I love that it represents a snapshot of our world moment by moment and we get to share that with everyone. I don’t see the point of locking down this social media tool as a private domain. The joy is in the shared experience.

I have always responded well to visual stimulation. Like many people I love colour and beauty. I love this Earth. I love detail, patterns, texture, art, landscapes, still-life images, shapes, and design. I don’t mind if the image has been enhanced with filters or other software applications. The detail is in the eye of the creator of the image, and if it is an image that stimulates further artistic creativity, then that is a perfectly reasonable aspect of this creative stimulation that Instagram inspires.

Some people have a natural eye for detail and capture excellent snapshots. Others have a gift for photography and some earn a living as photographers and it is good to see those on Instagram too. And while I enjoy following National Geographic @natgeo@nasa and other organisations, it is the everyperson daily snaps that seem to carry the most interest for me. I don’t like sales on Instagram or personal promotion, and if it is a key component of the content then I will unfollow that person.

Instagram offers food for the soul.

Some of the Instagrammers I love to follow (in no particular order) are:

Review of 2014

As I sat at the beach on the first day of 2015 I felt real peace. As soon as I became aware of this unique feeling I tried to identify why. I had just been for a swim in the ocean followed by a walk with Archie the dog, and I was waiting for my husband to return from his run. The sea was calm but the sky was overcast and grey. No jet skis or boats were out yet. A slight breeze blew the sand dune grasses making the little cottontail grass heads flick back and forth happily. Archie sat quietly near me watching other people and their dogs. I felt happy but tired from dancing the night before until after midnight greeting the New Year at a local venue with some friends. 2014 had been a difficult year and many of the difficult hurdles were now behind me; completed with mixed results.

Last year I was inspired by the ladies on the Up For A Chat podcast to do some forward planning after listening to their episode #40 Manifesting Matisse. I followed their idea to write out a “wish-list” of 32 items on a single piece of paper that is divided into 32 squares (by folding the sheet of paper).

Here are my 32 items with the results at the end of the year – with only four actions that I did not start:

Activity Result
1 Get a new job Found a great job
2 Design a new house House design completed
3 Sell parent’s house Parent’s house sold and settled
4 Execute the Will Will execution finalised
5 Drink no alcohol Alcohol free period for 6 months
6 Paleo diet Consistently trying
7 Eat no wheat Ate less wheat
8 Photo archive Started
9 Exercise regularly Regularly but not enough
10 Write my blog 20 blog posts
11 Create a new blog Did not do
12 Build new house Still waiting for planning approval to begin
13 Learn digital SLR photography Started
14 Start writing a book Did not do
15 Do yoga Weekly sessions with gap mid-year
16 Meditate Regular but not daily
17 Walk Regular but not daily
18 Walk the Peninsula trails Walked many of the Peninsula trails
19 Visit Peninsula art galleries Visited some art galleries
20 Cycle every week Cycled most fortnightly Saturday mornings
21 Read 20 books Read 38 books
22 Garden new block Obtained formal landscape plan for block
23 Learn French Did not do
24 Paint Did a few water colour sketches
25 Start sketch book Started a sketch book
26 Whole 30 Did the Whole 30 eating program
27 Be positive Consistently moved towards positive thoughts
28 Be kind Consistently tried to be kind to everyone I met
29 Learn online Did not undertake an online learning course
30 Go to ALIA conference Yes
31 Write letters to friends Yes
32 Family dinners Yes

 Here is what didn’t go well:

  • We continue to jump through hoops trying to comply with the ridiculously convoluted and slow planning process of the local Council in order to obtain permission to begin to build a new house.
  • Our family relationships have deteriorated in the aftermath of my parent’s departure from this earthly plane; despite honourable intentions and repeated and prolonged efforts to make amends and be kind and positive.
  • Dealing with the possessions of my parents was a huge undertaking that took time, energy, help from my brother and husband, and a respectful attitude.

Here is what went well:

  • My parent’s house sold extremely quickly, making it easy to move on with our own lives.
  • We moved into a new townhouse near the beach in a place we love.
  • I have a perfect new job with great colleagues.
  • Being involved with reading lists for book clubs.
  • Our new house design is brilliant.
  • Regular yoga and cycling.
  • Time spent with some great friends – new and old.
  • I continue to enjoy listening to some great podcasts here, and elsewhere that provides me with some important information and inspires me to keep on track with my efforts.
  • My favourite movie of the year was Inter Stellar – a rare masterpiece in my opinion.
  • I read some interesting books (here are the two I rated 5-star):

So I have once again taken a sheet of paper and folded it into 32 squares, then listed my 32 things, and pasted it into the back of my journal. So come what may 2015…

Books read in 2014

GoodReads is a fantastic online tool for keeping track of your reading and I have been using it for the last couple of years. By contrast LibraryThing is great for recommending books that suit your reading and uses crowd tagging extremely effectively.

I used the reading challenge within GoodReads setting my goal at 50 books for the year. I am not an especially fast reader and tend to abandon a book if it doesn’t grab me in the first chapter. With this challenge I was encouraged to read books to the end, and this worked well for the most part. I read 28 non-fiction books; 10 fiction books; and I did not finish (abandoned) 4. Only two received five-star ratings: one non-fiction and one fiction.

Also note the prevalence of self-help books. This is no surprise as it is a genre that I have always been fond of reading, ever since my father first introduced me to the book “The Power of Positive Thinking” by Norman Vincent Peale. The last two years have been a challenging time for me personally trying to come to terms with the deaths of my mother and father, and life without them.

This tendency to read self-help books has been validated by the efforts of the Reading Agency in the United Kingdom, where their “Books on Prescription” program and the “Mood Boosting Books” program show the power of reading to lift us up out of habitual and damaging thought patterns.

So here are my results in order of preference:

TITLE AUTHOR RATING
1 The Goldfinch Donna Tartt ✪✪✪✪✪
2 An Astronauts Guide to Life on Earth Chris Hadfield ✪✪✪✪✪
3 Magical Journey: An Apprenticeship in Contentment Katrina Kenison ✪✪✪✪
4 10 Day Detox Diet Success: How to succeed on the 10 Day Detox Diet Mark Hyman M.D. ✪✪✪✪
5 Into Thin Air: A Personal Account of the Mt. Everest Disaster Jon Krakauer ✪✪✪✪
6 Love With A Chance of Drowning Torre DeRoche ✪✪✪✪
7 The Big Fat Surprise: Why Butter, Meat and Cheese Belong in a Healthy Diet Nina Teicholz ✪✪✪✪
8 The Fast Diet Michael Mosley ✪✪✪
9 Paris Letters Janice Macleod ✪✪✪
10 Why Mindfulness is Better Than Chocolate: Your Guide to Inner Peace, Enhanced Focus and Deep Happiness David Michie ✪✪✪
11 The Tenth Door: An Adventure Through the Jungles of Enlightenment Michele Hebert ✪✪✪
12 Walk Like a Buddha: Even If Your Boss Sucks, Your Ex is Torturing You, and You’re Hungover Again Lodro Rinzler ✪✪✪
13 The Age of Miracles: Embracing the New Midlife Marianne Williamson ✪✪✪
14 Demons Wayne Macauley ✪✪✪
15 Bringing the Sacred to Life: the Daily Practice of Zen Ritual John Daido Loori ✪✪✪
16 The Beethoven Factor: the New Positive Psychology of Hardiness, Happiness, Healing and Hope Paul Pearsall ✪✪✪
17 The Power (The Secret #2) Rhonda Byrne ✪✪✪
18 Gone Girl Gillian Flynn ✪✪✪
19 Wishes Fulfilled: Mastering the Art of Manifesting Dr. Wayne Dyer ✪✪✪
20 The Best of Me Nicholas Sparks ✪✪✪
21 The Gospel of Joy Amanda Gore ✪✪✪
22 A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose Eckhart Tolle ✪✪✪
23 Radical Forgiveness Colin C. Tipping ✪✪✪
24 Using LinkedIn Patrice-Anne Rutledge ✪✪✪
25 The Inside-Out Revolution: the Only Thing You Need to Know to Change Your Life Forever Michael Neill ✪✪✪
26 E-Squared: Nine Do It Yourself Energy Experiments That Prove Your Thoughts Create Your Reality Pam Grout ✪✪✪
27 Still Alice Lisa Genova ✪✪
28 Fitlosophy 1: chasing Physical perfection in a World of Gluttony Sharny Kieser ✪✪
29 The Breakthrough Experience: A Revolutionary New Approach to Personal Transformation John F. Demartini ✪✪
30 What Westerners Have for Breakfast: Five Years in Goa John McBeath ✪✪
31 Dying to Know: Is There Life After Death Josh Langley ✪✪
32 The Husband’s Secret Liane Moriarty ✪✪
33 A Long Way Down Nick Hornby ✪✪
34 Why Is God Laughing? The Path to Joy and Spiritual Optimism Deepak Chopra ✪✪
35 My Son and the Afterlife: Conversations from the Other Side Elisa Medhus M.D. ✪✪
36 Driving Under the Influence Jenna Martin
37 Elizabeth is Missing Emma Healey
38 Sisters of Spicefield Fran Cusworth
39 Blink: the Power of Thinking Without Thinking Malcolm Gladwell abandoned
40 The Cuckoo’s Calling Robert Galbraith abandoned
41 The Word Exchange Alena Graedon abandoned
42 After Darkness Christine Piper abandoned

I plan to use GoodReads again to challenge myself once again in 2015 and I think that the target of 50 books remains a good one for me.

Paris Letters

Janice Macleod, the author of the book Paris Letters, inspired me to try my hand at a bit of drawing once again. She makes a living selling her letters online. These letters are hand written and illustrated with simple pen and water colour sketches. And of course this all began in Paris.

I love using Instagram to share beautiful photos of our world and so I thought I could begin by copying some of the photos I had already taken. I love this one of cherries in a glass bowl for it’s cheery Christmassy feel. Here is the original photo taken by me, and my sketch. And this I used for Christmas cards this year.

Christmas cherries 2014

Christmas cherries 2014