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Unguided Meditation Update #1

A few weeks ago, I blogged about experimenting with unguided meditation. Now that I’ve been doing it regularly for a few weeks, I thought it would be a good time to give an update on how it’s been going.

When I talk about unguided meditation, I’m not talking about meditating in perfect silence.

That is something I’d like to try at some point in the future, but for now I prefer having some sort of background noise that isn’t a human voice when I meditate.

Deep Breaths Aren’t Peaceful

A couple of weeks ago, I briefly tried a section of my meditation app that plays three different tones over and over again. The first tone prompts you to breath in, the second prompts you to hold your breath, and the third prompts you to exhale. There is otherwise no noise in it. Yes, this technically isn’t unguided meditation, but i thought it would be an interesting and possibly quite helpful transition from the fully guided routines I’ve been doing.

As much as I loved the idea of this, it turned out not to work for me at all. I was so focused on remembering which sounds signalled which action and anticipating what would happen next that those sessions didn’t go well at all.

On a slightly humorous note, they reminded me going to the doctor and being asked to breathe in deeply while your doctor listens to your lungs. There’s something about that experience that always unnerves me a little bit, possibly because I’ve had pneumonia in the past and know how miserable it is to have even the mildest form of that disease.

Deep breathing works for me if I’m timing my own breaths, but I ended up really not liking being told when to breathe in and out again.

Rain Is Peaceful

The meditation app I use has a setting that plays the sound of rain falling. While it isn’t as strong or heavy as a thunderstorm, it isn’t quiet rain either. You can hear the drops splashing as they hit the puddles on the ground. The sound is gentle, soothing, and beautifully repetitive.

It masks all of the unavoidable distractions that come with living in a urban environment and in a building where noises from one apartment can easily carry several floors away if the conditions are right. Someday I do plan to meditate through dogs barking, the elevator door pinging, people having loud discussions, and someone dropping something heavy on the floor a few floors up, but for now it’s nice to dampen these things.

Just as I suspected, I absolutely love this section of the app. Listening to rain fall is my favourite sound in the entire world, and I find it very easy to clear my mind and simply be when I have something so soothing playing in the background.

There have been multiple times when I was surprised by the quiet beep that alerts me when I’ve reached the end of my session. The time passed much more quickly than I thought it would, and I could have kept meditating without realizing how long I’d been doing it.

I will continue using this feature regularly. As you can probably tell, it’s working well for me. Honestly, I wish I’d tried it ages ago.

 

 Next Up: Trying New Positions

So far, I’ve been doing most of my meditating either while I’m walking or while I’m lying down. Yes, I know that these aren’t conventional positions for meditation, but sitting meditation failed terribly for me the first several times I tried it. I’ve also been dealing with some minor muscle twinges and aches that make certain positions uncomfortable for me to remain in for long periods of time.

The next goal I’ve set for myself is to slowly transition to sitting meditation if I can do so without aggravating my muscles.

I will update you all again in a few weeks!

What Is the Perfect Reading Spot?

Today’s topic is a lighthearted one.

My idea of the perfect reading spot has evolved over the years. I thought it would be fun to tell brief stories about where I used to love to read, why I chose those spots, why my preferences changed, and where I read today. Feel free to leave a comment with stories about your own favourite reading spots!

Behind the Couch

My grandparents were lucky enough to become grandparents at a fairly young age. They still had a house full of children when I was born, so they never bothered getting rid of a lot of the stuff that parents accumulate while raising kids. Many of the toys and books my mom and her siblings enjoyed were saved for us grandkids and, later on, the great-grandkids! My grandmother’s living room has a few large couches in it. They had, and still have, a cupboard filled with children’s books behind one of those couches.

Some of my earliest memories that have to do with reading involve climbing behind that couch and finding the same editions of classic fairy tales tucked back there that my mom read when she was a child. I read them over and over again while the adults chatted in the next room.

Underneath the Piano

As soon as I outgrew the small space between the couch and the cabinet full of books, I moved onto a spot beneath my grandparents’ piano. (Have you noticed the pattern of my early reading years yet?)

It didn’t look exactly like the piano in this photo, but it did have plenty of room to sprawl out underneath it if you were six or seven and unconvinced that social mores should always be followed.

The adults thought it was funny that I kept finding hiding spots to read.

I liked the fact that I was simultaneously close enough to listen in on their conversations while also in a place that was enough out of the way that no one would try to take my spot.

Reading underneath the piano also meant that I was a little closer to the kitchen. This came in handy when I read about some delicious treat that could only be found in a science fiction or fantasy book and needed to find a snack that actually existed here on Earth instead.

In a Beanbag Chair

My parents moved far away from our extended family when I was seven. We spent four years living in Laramie, Wyoming, and I’m convinced that I spent at least one of those years reading in a bean bag chair.

Where did that bean bag chair come from? I have no idea. It was probably a gift from someone, although I don’t remember what the occasion was or who might have given it to me.

It was the most comfortable reading spot I’d discovered at that point in my life, though. I sat in it over and over again until it finally wore out completely. My siblings and I were still homeschooled back then, so there were many hours of reading time to be had once our lessons were finished. This was even more true during the very long and snowy winter season in Laramie. There’s not much else to do other than read in the middle of a blizzard or when there are a few feet of snow on the ground.

I remember seeing the little white beads on the floor, so I think my beanbag chair either leaked or popped after a while. At any rate, this was roughly the same point in my life that my family switched from homeschooling to public schooling.

At the Library

By far my favourite part of attending public school was getting to visit the school library. They had hundreds of books there, and you could check them out as often as you wanted to.

I have a few memories of being in that library without my teacher. Maybe she gave a few of us permission to go there after we finished certain lessons early since our classroom was right down the hall from the library? At any rate, I read as much as I possible could there before the school year ended. If I could have visited during the summer, I would have.

Luckily, Laramie also had a well-stocked public library that my family visited regularly. My strongest memories of it are as follows:

  • Sitting in little wooden chairs and reading quietly while my siblings finished picking out what they wanted to borrow.
  • Looking at a sculpture of a large apple that had a big bite taken out of it. There may have been a worm crawling out of it, too. This piece of art was in the children’s section, and it utterly fascinated me.
  • Sneaking into the adult section of the library once to look around and being surprised when none of the adults noticed or cared. For some reason, I was convinced that the librarians would have disapproved of a child looking at books meant for grown-ups.

In a Hammock

My family moved back east where many of our extended family members lived when I was eleven.

The house we lived in had a large backyard full of trees that overlooked a lake. I bought a hammock with my savings, and my parents hung it between two trees.

I spent the next few years of my life reading out there whenever the weather was decent. It was such a peaceful place to read, especially when I occasionally glanced up and saw a neighbour swimming or boating past our yard. We’d never lived right next to a lake before, so it surprised me a little bit every single time that happened.

At the Park

The best reading years of my childhood began when I was fifteen and we moved away from the countryside and into a small town.

Our house was a ten to fifteen minute walk from the public library, so I could finally go to the library as many times each week as I wanted to  without having to ask anyone to drive me there.

This meant that I sometimes went every day in the summertime! There was a small park right next to the library, and a bigger park about halfway between our home and the library.

I spent a lot of time hanging out in them when the weather was nice. Our community was far too small to have festivals, parades, or other large events more than a few times a year, so it was nice to have all of that free entertainment at my fingertips.

On My Smartphone

These days I’m all about ebooks and reading online in general.

The beautiful thing about having a smartphone is that I always have something to read if I’m stuck in a waiting room or on a delayed subway car. Carrying around a book isn’t always practical, especially since you can’t always predict when you might suddenly have twenty minutes to spare and nothing to do during that time.

It’s also nice to have dozens of books at my fingertips. Whether I want something serious or lighthearted, it’s easy to find online if I don’t already have it in my virtual library.

Where do you like to read? How have those preferences changed over the years?

Saturday Seven: Funny Quotes from Books

Saturday Seven is hosted by Long and Short Reviews.

If a book contains a funny line, conversation, or passage, the chances of me becoming a huge fan of it are large. Sometimes I will reread a story I’ve already read many times before for the sheer joy of eventually finding my way to that witty scene again.

Today I’ll be sharing some of my all-time favourite humorous quotes from various books that I’ve read over the years. I hope you’ll share your favourite quotes in the comment section, too!

This planet has – or rather had – a problem, which was this: most of the people living on it were unhappy for pretty much of the time. Many solutions were suggested for this problem, but most of these were largely concerned with the movement of small green pieces of paper, which was odd because on the whole it wasn’t the small green pieces of paper that were unhappy.

― Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

“No sight so sad as that of a naughty child,” he began, “especially a naughty little girl. Do you know where the wicked go after death?”

“They go to hell,” was my ready and orthodox answer.

“And what is hell? Can you tell me that?”

“A pit full of fire.”

“And should you like to fall into that pit, and to be burning there for ever?”

“No, sir.”

“What must you do to avoid it?”

I deliberated a moment: my answer, when it did come was objectionable: “I must keep in good health and not die.”

― Charlotte Brontë, Jane Eyre

 

There are some things you can’t share without ending up liking each other, and knocking out a twelve-foot mountain troll is one of them.

— J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

 

“He’s stuck out there. He thinks he’s totally alone and that we all gave up on him. What kind of effect does that have on a man’s psychology?” He turned back to Venkat. “I wonder what he’s thinking right now.”

LOG ENTRY: SOL 61 How come Aquaman can control whales? They’re mammals! Makes no sense.”

―Andy Weir, The Martian

Mr. Wonka: “Don’t forget what happened to the man who suddenly got everything he wanted.”
Charlie Bucket: “What happened?”
Mr. Wonka: “He lived happily ever after.”

― Roald Dahl, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

“We’ll never survive!”
“Nonsense. You’re only saying that because no one ever has.”

― William Goldman, The Princess Bride

“Begin at the beginning,” the King said, very gravely, “and go on till you come to the end: then stop.”

― Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland

Suggestion Saturday: February 17, 2018

Here is this week’s list of poems and other links from my favourite corners of the web.

4 Ways Roger the Alien Taught Me to be Bi Better. I haven’t seen every episode of American Dad, but Roger was the most entertaining character on that show.

A Guide to Hanging Out with Cloth Ears via ‪thebeasley‬. There are a lot of things that people who can hear can do to include those who are deaf or who have hearing loss in social situations. This blog post was full of practical tips.
The Anti-Suffragist Movement via ‪GeorgiaRoseBook‬. Go read this link and then tell me if you’ve ever heard these arguments before on modern day debates about women’s rights. I sure have heard them.
And Then Life Takes Over via ‪parul2411‬. Sometimes grief sneaks up on you when you least expect it to. I liked how this blog post showed how this happens.
No matter how long your reflection time might happen to last, just read. Read anything. It’s by far one of the easiest things you can do to boost your intelligence and stay on top of your game.

From Chinese New Year:

There is no grief in this, only the old year
   consuming itself, the door knob blazing
in my hand beneath the lightbulb’s electric jewel.
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