Category Archives: Mindfulness

5 Reasons Why You Should Become a Reviewer for Long and Short Reviews

Today’s post is a little off the beaten path when compared to the topics I normally blog about here, but it’s something that I’ve been thinking about discussing with my followers for a while now.

First of all, you might be asking yourself what this site is and why I’m telling you about it. Well, Long and Short Reviews is a book reviewing site that I’ve been a huge fan of for many years. They are the most professional, trustworthy, and well-run review site I’ve discovered so far, and I’ve spent countless hours researching this topic.

Long and Short Reviews comes to mind every time one of my author friends talks about their need for more book reviews. There are so many amazing stories out there that really deserve more recognition. One of the best ways for them to be discovered by people who would love them is if reviewers take the time to write about them. The more reviews an author can get, the more chances they have to find their perfect audience.

There Are Many Books to Choose From

Long and Short Reviews receives more requests for reviews than it’s current pool of reviewers can read.

Whether you’d like to read erotica, romance, mysteries, science fiction, paranormal, horror, fantasy, young adult, or children’s stories, there’s something for every reader there.

They have short stories, novellas, and full-length novels in all of these genres, too. The vast majority of the books they have available for review are e-books, so it doesn’t matter what part of the world you’re from. Any reviewer who is comfortable writing in English is encouraged to apply.

Every volunteer reviewer is also free to review from as many or as few genres as they please. Some of them only read one genre while others are known to write reviews from a wide variety of genres. No one is ever assigned a particular story. They are always free to make that decision for themselves.

All of the Reviews Are Honest and Snark-Free

One of the biggest reasons why I like Long and Short Reviews is their policy of only posting honest, snark-free reviews.

If one of the reviewers notices an issue with a story, they aren’t afraid to speak openly about what didn’t work for them and why that part of the plot, character development, pacing, or other aspect of the storyline could use some more development.

Nothing is sugar-coated, but it’s also never snarky. Any criticism a book might receive is always written with the goal of helping the author become a better writer in the future.

The kindness of their reviewers is seen in every review, from the ones that receive the highest possible score to the ones that receive the lowest possible score. I’ve seen multiple examples of authors thanking reviewers there for pointing out the parts of a story that didn’t work for them and explaining their reasons for feeling that way.

It’s a Great Way to Support Authors

As I alluded to above, writing reviews are one of the best ways to support authors. I have a wide circle of friends who are writers, and many of them talk about the difficulties of finding potential fans out there.

Every review that is published increases the chances of someone stumbling across an author they’ve never heard of before but are going to love.

I always read the reviews before I buy a new book or borrow it from the library. Doing this has steered me towards certain titles and away from other ones on many occasions.

Not every story is going to appeal to every reader. By taking the time to type up reviews of the types of books you like, you increase the chances of them being discovered by other potential fans.

Yes, I’m including less-than-stellar reviews here as well. While some criticisms that are objective like not using standard punctuation marks, many other parts of the reviewing process are highly subjective.  One person’s pet peeve in a particular genre might be stuff that another reader doesn’t mind or even really likes.The more reviews a book has, the higher the chances are of it being found by new fans who are in the market for that exact kind of story.

The Community Is Warm and Supportive

The comment sections of the reviews and blog posts on Long and Short Reviews are a wonderful place to browse if you have some free time this week.

I’ve met so many interesting people as a result of spending time on this site.

Some of the authors there have been submitting their books for years. They’ve built up relationships with the reviewers and their readers over that time that occasional spills over into the comments section.

There are also relationships being built in Saturday Seven, the weekly book meme this site created a few weeks ago that you may have noticed I’ve been participating in. It’s going to be a lot of fun to see how that community grows in the future.

You May Discover New Favourite Authors

This is by far the most subjective point on this list.

I obviously can’t promise when it might happen for you or even if it will happen at all. So much depends on what you like to read and what kinds of tales are sent in for possible review in any given month.

With that being said, Long and Short Reviews has many Indie authors and small publishers who are regularly featured there. I’d never heard of most of them before I began following this site.

A few of the authors I first discovered on this site have since been added to my very short list of authors on my I Must Read Everything They Write list.

Given how much of my free time I spend reading and how high my standards are for my must-read list, this is a pretty big compliment. If an author makes it to that list, they’re virtually always bound to stay there for good.

If You’re Interested…

If any of my readers are interested in signing up to become a reviewer, this page has all of the rest of the information you’ll need to apply. Go check them out on Twitter or the book reviews section on Long and Short Reviews to get a feel for the kind of casual, conversational writing style they’re looking for.

Don’t hesitate to speak up if you have any questions. The people who run that site are quite friendly and helpful. Of course, I’m happy to help you out, too!

An Update on My Difficulties with Meditation

Wow, it’s been six weeks since I last blogged about meditation. I knew it had been a while when I first began working on today’s post, but I had no idea that so much time has passed.

The last time I blogged about this topic, I talked about the possibility of taking a break from meditation. It turns out that I was far too stubborn for that option.

I didn’t want to make any drastic changes to my meditation habits until I’d figured out if I was going to continue meditating or give it up for a while. There are a lot of fantastic apps and other services out there, but I don’t want to pay for something I won’t use regularly.

If there was a way to begin feeling more relaxed after my sessions again, I was going to keep using my current app until I figured it out.

Now that I have the answer to that question, I have to decide how to change this part of my daily routine.

No, I’m still not back to my regular habits yet, but I am still meditating and I have noticed an improvement over the last two months. Today I’ll share the techniques that worked for me. I’ll also talk about some other ideas I’ll be trying in the near future.

Going Through the Motions

While I know that going through the motions is generally used to negatively describe how someone is performing a certain action, I don’t think of it that way for this particular situation. Sometimes going through the motions is a perfectly valid response when something isn’t working out the way you hoped it would.

There were days, especially back in early December right after What Should You Do When Meditation Isn’t Working? was first published,when I listened to my guided meditation app without consciously trying to clear my mind or participating in the process at all.

As odd as this might sound, listening without trying to participate in any way was helpful. I like the soothing voice of the woman who narrates the sessions on the app I use, so it was nice to hear her talking even if I wasn’t reacting to the routine the way I typically would.

The more I listened to her without expecting myself to join in, the more interested I became in trying again.

Comparing Meditation to Exercise

This section could almost be expanded into it’s own blog post, but I’ve noticed an interesting correlation between meditation and exercise.

Both of them require effort long before you see many results at all. It takes time and dedication to build muscle or lose weight. Even then, there have been times when my progress slowed or even temporarily halted in those areas for any number of reasons. Training your mind requires the same level of determination. There’s no quick fix for it.

The last few months seem like they were a plateau for me in this area of life. Yes, it was frustrating, but once I figured out what was going on I wasn’t nearly as annoyed with the process. I expect it to take a while to notice a difference in many of my fitness goals, after all.

Meditation should be held to the exact same standards.

Remembering What December Is Like for Me

December is my least favourite month of the year for a few different reasons.

One, I live far away from my family, and I miss them terribly over the holidays.

Two, my mood dampens a little bit every year between the end of Daylight Savings Time and the Winter Solstice. My body doesn’t like having that many hours of darkness in a day.

Three, I used to work in a field whose busiest time of the year was between October and the beginning of January with December being the peak of it all. While the actual number of hours I worked in December were only slightly higher than normal, there were multiple times when I stumbled into bed at 2 or 3 am only to go back into work at 11 am the next morning.

The shifts themselves were hectic, too. We dealt with many furious people over the course of the average day, and there was never enough time to do half of the things we were expected to do. I still associate those memories with that month, and it’s not a pleasant association.

Due to these factors, everything is a little tougher than normal for me in December. I should have thought of that when I was blogging about this at the end of last November, but for some reason it didn’t cross my mind until I began working on this post.

Now that I know more about why this plateau happened, I’m ready to start tweaking my meditation routine to see how it can be improved even more than it’s already improved for me since last November.

Other Adjustments I Want to Try

I’ve been doing guided meditation exercises since I first began meditating regularly. My very first attempts at meditation from years ago had been without any guidance at all, and they didn’t go well at all. I quickly became bored and gave up on them. Maybe it’s time to try self-guided meditation again now that I’m better at releasing stray thoughts when they appear?

Right now I’m meditating every evening. As much as I love winding down my day that way, a morning or afternoon session might work better. I’m even thinking about meditating for short periods of time more than once per day to see how they affect me.

If I do continue to use guided meditation, is it time to start exploring other meditation apps, Youtube channels, or other services? I’m using the free version of my current app, and it only offers the same few sessions to people who haven’t paid for a subscription. A few years ago, I signed up for a subscription to my current app, but I didn’t find their premium content worth the expense.

I don’t know how long it will take before I update you on this development in my life again, but I will let you know what I find as I continue to play around with my meditation habits.

What Should You Do When Meditation Isn’t Working?

Lately, my meditation sessions haven’t been doing much good for me at all.

I sit for the usual amount of time and do my best to exist without entertaining any stray thoughts that might pop up, but at the end of it I don’t feel any different than I did before. My brain is still churning out images as regularly as ever, and I don’t feel any more relaxed than I did when I began.

It’s frustrating.

I remember what it felt like to open my eyes and feel refreshed and relaxed after previous sessions. It would be so nice to get back into that habit, especially as we move into the holiday season and I begin to need the peace that comes after some meditation sessions a little more than usual.

The good news is that this is completely normal.

There’s no such thing as constant progress in life. Everyone eventually reaches a point where they face a setback, appear to be plateauing in their skills, or need a break in general.

I can’t give you a sure-fire list of steps to get back into your meditation routine, but I can give you a purposefully contradictory list of ideas to try based on the research I’ve been doing on this problem.

  1. Focus on maintaining the habit of mediation, not on what you get out of it.
  2. Try another form of meditation.
  3. Stick with it and see if you can push past it.
  4. Remember that everything ends eventually. This, too, will pass.
  5. Take a break. It can be a long break or a short one, but sometimes it’s easier to find the motivation to meditate if you can reset your habits.
  6. If you’re following some form of guided meditation, listen to the session without trying to follow along with it.
  7. Choose a different position. I find it easier to mediate while lying down on days when I’m having more trouble with it than normal.
  8. Spend some time reading about meditation.
  9. Move to a new location. Last spring, I had a lot of luck with walking mediation in the park. It’s too chilly to do that most days now here in Toronto, but you might find renewed motivation if you’re in a less familiar environment in general.

I’ve been spending plenty of time on #1, #6, and #7 myself. There is something to be said for going through the motions if it keeps you in the habit until meditation becomes easier for you once again.

Today’s post is purposefully short because this is still something I’m trying to figure out. I hope I’ll be able to write a follow-up post soon that details how I began getting more out of meditating once again. In the meantime, I’ll keep plugging away at it. If you’re having trouble with your meditation, I hope you also figure out a solution for yourself soon.

How to Stay Relaxed in Crowded Places

Today’s topic comes from a search engine query that a new reader did recently that lead them to this site.

With the holidays rapidly approaching, I thought this would be a good thing to discuss as there will be plenty of crowded parties, shops, malls, group dinners, and other places and events in many of my readers’ not-too-distant future.

(Please don’t ask me to explain what’s going on in the photo on the right. I honestly don’t know. It fit the theme of this post nicely, though).

Like many folks, I’m not a huge fan of very crowded places. Large groups of people tend to be boisterous, and it bothers me to be surrounded by so much noise without being able to figure out what any of it is supposed to mean. Loud music is one thing, but hundreds of conversations all blurred together will never be something I enjoy.

I also find it draining to constantly need to weave my way through a crowd. Anatomically modern humans have done a lot of amazing things over the last 40,000 years, but figuring out how to efficiently herd thousands of people who are slowly meandering through the mall on a lazy Sunday afternoon is not one of them. Ha!

With that being said, there are occasions when you need to pick something up at the store during a peak shopping time or attend a holiday party. I have a few tricks for doing what I need to do on these days without spending an inordinate amount of time in a situation that I find unpleasant.

Arrive Before (or After) the Busiest Time

You might be surprised how quiet stores in Toronto can be even right before Christmas if you show up to them first thing and finish your shopping quickly. Many Torontonians don’t seem to begin running their errands until later in the day even when they only have a handful of shopping days left before a big holiday, so getting a head start on them is a great way to avoid the crowds.

This effect is only stronger in smaller communities. I spent a big chunk of my childhood living near or in a town of about 16,000 people, and the stores there barely had any customers in them at all for the first few hours after they opened up most mornings. It was the perfect time to browse peacefully or get help from the store employees.

I’ve also had similar luck when it comes to timing my arrival at parties. It’s simpler for me to get into the festive spirit of a party if I plan it so I arrive a little earlier or later than most of the other attendees. I like warming up to big groups gradually, and it’s easier to do that if I don’t spend the whole time surrounded by a huge crowd.

Have a Plan

One of the many lessons my mom taught me when I was growing up is that shopping requires a plan. Neither one of us are people who ever shop as a hobby or a way to kill time. If she needs to buy something, she adds it to a shopping list and tries to acquire it as efficiently and frugally as possible.

I have the same policy. There’s nothing wrong with replacing something when it wears out or buying something I expect to use regularly, but I do not dawdle during the process. If I can’t find what I need, I stop shopping and go do something fun. There will always be another day to try again.

Mom reads this blog, so she might be smiling by now at how much she affected me in this part of life. Her efficiency really rubbed off on me, though!

Stick to the Perimeter

I don’t know about you, but I prefer being on the edge of a crowd instead of in the centre of it. There’s something comforting to me about knowing that I could quietly slip out a side door if I needed a few minutes of peace and quiet before wandering back into the event or building. In fact, simply having this available to me as an option makes it unnecessary for me to take a breather from the crowd in many cases.

It’s also nice to see who you meet on the perimeter of a party. While I don’t have any scientific data to back this up, it’s been my experience that you’ll meet a lot of likeminded people on the edges. Folks who love the energy of a crowd and want to be the centre of attention tend to wiggle into the centre of the room and more-or-less stay there.

People who aren’t so enamoured with that experience tend to congregate on the perimeter. They’re exactly who I want to start a conversation with once I’ve figured out who they are. As much as I love watching the life of the party do his or her thing, it’s nice to find kindred spirits when I’m feeling a little overwhelmed or want to find my footing in a conversation.

Find a Distraction

This is where I’m going to appear to contradict myself. One of the best things about people who thrive in big crowds is that they can be incredibly entertaining if you’re looking for a distraction.

While I wouldn’t necessarily want to follow them around all day every day, I really appreciate it when they spontaneously start organizing a few rounds of karaoke at a party or amusing bored children with a game or story while sitting in a food court.

They have such a wildly different approach to large crowds that I can’t help but to be fascinated by how their minds work. Would they feel as out of place in a quiet room as I do in a loud one? I’d bet they just might!

If there aren’t any interesting people to observe, I’ve also distracted myself by spotting animals* or by counting the number of people who are wearing an article of clothing that’s a specific colour. There is always something to occupy your mind if you pay attention to everyone around you.

*This is Toronto, after all. Dogs are welcomed nearly everywhere. Sometimes you’ll see a cat, snake, rabbit, or parrot being carried around as well, and this doesn’t even begin to count all of the wild birds in this city who have been known to wander around on the subway, at the library, or in other indoor places.

Be Patient

Anything from walking to the other side of the room to getting a specific goal accomplished will almost certainly take longer than they would if you were in a less busy place.

Breathe. Remain mindful.

Don’t try to tamp down your thoughts. Lots of other people there probably feel a little irritated or overwhelmed as well. Even if you’re literally the only person in the room who feels this way, it is still much better to acknowledge those emotions than to hide them.

Be patient.

It will be okay.

How Meditation Helped Me Soothe a Pulled Muscle

I woke up feeling stiff and sore one day last week. While I’m not still sure what caused it, it hurt to move my head in certain ways when I got up that morning.

A few years ago I experienced a more painful version of this injury after sleeping in an odd position, so this time I didn’t delay in following the home treatments that had worked so well back then.

It was better to treat it immediately than to do nothing wait for it to slowly get worse like it did last time.

The Cycle of Pain and Muscle Spasms

Here’s the problem with this kind of muscle strain: the pain, stiffness, and limited range of motion feed into each other in a cycle that can be tricky to break.

The pain made my muscles in my neck and shoulder tense up and spasm. This was even more true in the evening when I was tired and feeling more sore than I had when the day began.

My muscles contracting made the strain hurt even more because I didn’t have the full range of motion in that part of my body.  Positions that felt good for my muscles could be uncomfortable for my spine, and vice versa.

Not having the full range of motion in my neck and shoulder also made it difficult to truly relax. It was hard to turn my head in certain ways, for example, and sleeping in some positions was simply impossible.

Consciously trying to relax is also hard to do in this situation because I was so focused on how uncomfortable I was feeling.

The Treatment

One of the first things I did for myself after taking some over-the-counter pain relief medication was to find my microwave-actived heating pad. It’s a piece of cloth that’s filled with magical little beads. I don’t know what the beads are made of, but they warm up beautifully  and can be wrapped around any sore part of a body. I especially enjoy the gentle pressure that this heating pad provides since sitting or lying in certain positions were simply not happening for me at that point.

The medicine and heating pad were temporary fixes, though. What I really needed to do was to break the cycle of tension and pain.

That’s where meditating came in very handy. While the heating pad and medicine were doing their work of temporarily making me feel better, I opened up my meditation app and started using a session in it called “Body Scan.”

“Body Scan” is a guided meditation program that begins with asking you to focus on your breathing. After you’ve done that for a minute or two, it has you methodically relax every single part of your body beginning with your scalp and working your way down your body until even your toes have gotten some attention. If you feel any sensation in a part of your body, you’re supposed to take note of it without labelling it as good or bad.

This is a lot harder to do than you might imagine when the sensation in that area is objectively painful! It is an important part of the process, though.

I’d never thought I’d spend so much time thinking about everything from my ears to my fingers to the small of my back, but it really does work if you focus on the speaker’s voice and follow her instructions.

This wasn’t a quick fix. With that being said, it did help me to relax some tense muscles that really needed to be soothed.

Finding Relief

Time is by far the biggest healer of injuries like this, of course, but I also noticed another feedback loop developing that was much more positive than the first one.

Every time I meditated, my muscled relaxed a little more than they had in the previous session.

As they relaxed, my pain levels dropped even after I cut back or  fully stopped using medication and only relied on heating pads for relief.

As my pain levels dropped, I was able to move my head in ways that had been difficult the day before.

As my range of motion slowly improved again, my muscles spasmed less.

I have no idea how – or even if – this would work for more severe or longterm types of pain. It was a nice bit of relief for a temporary injury, though, and I was very grateful for it once I got into the habit of meditating more than once a day during he duration of this injury.

How has meditating improved your life lately?

Mindfulness on a Rainy Day

Today’s post is going to be a little shorter than normal. Why write more words than you have to? As I mentioned last week, the weather here in Ontario has been unusual in all sorts of different ways over the last few years. We have finally seemed to drift away from the summer-like heat of… Read More

Now Is the Perfect Time to Start Practicing Mindfulness

The autumn and winter holiday season is right around the corner. In the past, I’ve felt kind of like discombobulated like the glass of water in the picture on the left for several different reasons: I’ve felt pressured to participate in religious rituals I disagreed with; I do not enjoy the wasteful, commercialistic side of… Read More

Who to Follow on Twitter If You’re Into Mindfulness and Meditation

A few weeks ago I started a new series of posts on this blog about Twitter accounts that share the same theme. This week I’m going to be recommending accounts that are about mindfulness and meditation. There aren’t as many mindfulness and meditation suggestions as there were for the science fiction and fantasy version of… Read More