Driving the speed limit

For the past few years, I’ve been driving at or below the speed limit.

“How quaint,” you say. And how very fascinating for me to experience the world from the vantage point of a complete misfit.

Speed limit sign: 45 MPH

Image in public domain

This is Massachusetts, after all—where road rage and rudeness can rival any other place on the planet. Our drivers are famous for defying all attempts at civilizing the asphalt and concrete commons.

So I mosey along in my hybrid Toyota Prius, coaxing every mile per gallon that I can out of the electric motor coupled with gas-fired engine. Watching the computerized display, I see that when I exceed about 55 or 60 mph, the fuel efficiency drops significantly.

But even more to the point, I’ve made a conscious effort to insert some ease into my driving and my experience of the road. Rather than attempt to keep up with the other drivers who race past me at least 10 miles above the speed limit, I motor along feeling relaxed and safe.

Instead of the trees and birds and buildings rushing by in a blur, I have time to notice details, to be curious about back roads and new happenings along the route.

My driving the speed limit drives other drivers crazy. That gives me a glimpse into the level of insanity that is the norm among people in our culture today.  People have become so accustomed to rushing through their lives that they have habituated to a level of speed that is beyond what is safe or what is reasonable in this era of high gas prices and wars fought for oil.

Try this: Next time you get into the driver’s seat, create a clear intention to drive at or below the speed limit. As you drive, notice what happens within you and around you, and how easy or difficult it is to follow your intention.

Then share your experience by leaving a comment on the blog.

To your ease!

Pat Daniel, Ph.D.

© 2011, Pat Daniel, Ph.D. and wizardofease.com.
Posted in Stress Management, Travel | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Declare your independence

Yesterday in the U.S., we celebrated Independence Day, a recognition that our nation was born of a desire for freedom from tyranny. Yet many of us have our own personal struggles with some form of “oppression” that gets in the way of our sense of freedom—our sense of ease.

U.S. Declaration of Independence

Image in public domain

What interferes with your feelings of self-determination? What saps your energy and your options in life? Perhaps it’s one of these:

  • A habit or addiction that drives your decisions and leaves you feeling out of control
  • Unfinished tasks that cause guilt and overwhelm
  • Limiting beliefs or old thought patterns
  • Chronic problems with money management and debt
  • A relationship or job that’s going nowhere

Try this: Write your own personal Declaration of Independence. Here’s a template to get you started:

I hold this truth to be self-evident, that I am endowed with certain unalienable rights, that among these is the pursuit of happiness. That to secure this right, I must be released from the tyranny of _________ in my life.

The history of my experience with _________ is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of a tyranny over me. To prove this, let facts be submitted to a candid world.  Specifically, my experience with _________ includes: _________, ___________, and ____________.

Thus, _________, whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free person.

Nor have I been wanting in attentions to _________:

  • I have attempted to fix _________.
  • I have read books about _________.
  • I have hired or asked someone else to repair _________.
  • I have ____________.

Yet _________ has been deaf to the voice of justice and rationality.

Therefore, I, ___(your name)___, do solemnly publish and declare, that I am and of right ought to be free and independent, that I am absolved from all allegiance to _________, and that all connection between me and _________ is and ought to be totally dissolved.

And that as a free individual, I have full power to take actions to insure this independence, including _________, ________, _________, and to do all other acts and things which free individuals may of right do.

And for the support of this Declaration, I pledge my sacred honor.

Signed ______________________    Date ____________

Continue reading

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Does your weekend include time for a nap?

Princess of Ease (cat) nappingAdvice from the Princess of Ease:

Don’t be one of those humans who suffers from fatigue, weight gain, irritability and other health problems due to lack of sleep. Instead, pay attention to your body and do what I do.

When you feel drowsy, take a nap.

Posted in Physical ease, Stress Management, Taking it Easy with Time | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

In praise of scissors

Ah, the lowly scissors. I picked up a pair this morning and cut some paper, then paused to marvel—perhaps for the first time—at the simplicity and value of this tool.

Four types of scissors

Image in public domain

Since I was a preschooler, clumsily wielding blunt-edged paper scissors, I’ve used this tool—for cutting tape, rope, paper, thread and fabric, food packaging, flowers, hair, and all sorts of other materials. I’ve used scissors, shears, snips and clippers, all versions of the same basic design.

In my lifetime, I’ve seen the demise of the mimeograph machine, the rotary dial telephone, keypunch machines, computers that occupied entire rooms to do what a laptop or smartphone can do now, and loads of other outmoded technologies.

Yet scissors remain a time-tested implement unsurpassed for their effectiveness in kitchens, operating rooms and clinics, artist studios, sheep pastures, and mail rooms throughout the world.

According to Wikipedia, scissors were probably invented in ancient Egypt in about 1500 BC. The original design was not cross-bladed, but in about AD 100, the Romans came up with that innovation. The modern-day pivoted metal scissors date back to the 1700’s in Europe.

So what does this have to do with ease? It’s about the use of tools, and the importance of choosing the right tool for the job. And the ways in which the use of tools promotes ease.

Have you ever insisted on doing something without the right tool, only to be frustrated by ineffective attempts and the length of time it takes to get the job done?  Admitting the need for a real hammer or screwdriver or scissors, then taking that quick walk to the toolbox or office supply drawer, significantly decreases the time and frustration of doing the job.

Ease is using the right tool to get the job done.

Gratefulness is appreciating some ancient Egyptian who had the crazy idea to put two blades together — and for the endurance of a simple tool that’s still reliable after thousands of years.

To your ease!

Pat Daniel, Ph.D.

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What would Doris say?

Grappling with a question; turning it over in my mind. Then a small airplane flies overhead — an opportunity to remember my mom, who was a WASP (Women Airforce Service Pilots) during World War II and an Alaskan bush pilot after the war.

What would Doris say in answer to the question?

Illustration of small airplane

Image in public domain

When wrestling with a problem or life challenge, we all need someone to talk to–someone whose advice we respect.

In my case, Mom fills the bill. She was a careful listener and could tell what was right and  compassionate and true. So I sometimes ask her (in my imagination) how she would handle a certain situation or problem. Usually a clear answer pops into my head, and I am grateful.

After she died, I found myself being more attentive to small aircraft because they drew me into a moment of remembering her. I’ve also noticed that they often show up at a time when I need to be reminded of Mom’s wisdom. Go figure.

Who is your “Doris”– the person who represents a gold standard of values and rightness for you? Just putting yourself in the mindset of how that person would advise you is a way of promoting ease.

Special note:  This technique is not the same as being concerned about what other people think about you. In that case, you are measuring yourself against some standard of comparison or competition that may be more about seeking approval than wisdom.

Try this: Frame a question and pose it to your “adviser,” then be aware of what emerges in your intuition or thinking or feeling. If that person is alive and available, you certainly could have the conversation in person, but it may not even be necessary.

To your ease!

Pat Daniel, Ph.D.

© Pat Daniel and wizardofease.com, 2011.
Posted in Mental Ease | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

First, breathe

Next time you feel stressed out, try checking in with your breathing.  You’ll probably notice that it’s one of these things:

  • Shallow, with only the top part of your chest moving as you breathe
  • Rapid, as if you’re walking at a good clip (but here you are, sitting at the computer instead!)
  • Stopped altogether (not good, huh?)
    Animation of lungs and diaphragm during breathing
    Diaphragmatic breathing, by John Pierce  [GFDL (www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-3.0 (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)]

When we’re anxious, stressed, or feeling frenzied, one of the first things to go is good solid breathing. The opposite is also true, that when you start breathing again, you’ll begin to turn around those negative feelings.

Just as an experiment, stop reading this and just focus on your breathing. Put one hand on your belly, below the navel, and notice whether the abdomen expands and contracts with the breath.

If if doesn’t, or the movement is so slight as to be imperceptible, then you’re probably not getting full breaths.

It’s supposed to work like this:

  • Inhaling coincides with the diaphragm (a big muscle below the lungs) dropping lower into the abdomen, which balloons out to make space for it. The lungs fill with air, all the way down to that extra space created by the diaphragm’s movement.
  • On the exhalation, the air is expelled from the lungs as the diaphragm moves up and the belly gently contracts.

When it doesn’t work the way it’s supposed to, we get shallow breathing at the tops of the lungs, not enough oxygen into the system, and not enough expelling of stale air from the lungs. These in turn exacerbate other stress-related problems in the body, such as hypertension and immune system disorders.

Get into the habit of noticing when you’re feeling stressed, then saying to yourself, “First, breathe.”  First, because before you do anything else, you need to activate your body’s ability to tame the stress, and that starts with the breath.

Besides, just the act of deep breathing gives you a few moments of relaxation and calm. Then, no matter what the problem, it’s easier to deal with.

To your ease!

Pat Daniel, Ph.D.

© 2011, Pat Daniel, Ph.D. and wizardofease.com
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