Monday, January 2, 2012

Year-end Reflections

Here are ome things I learned in 2011


1)  I learned a fewthings about my job.  One is that I canget away with goofing off at work, but I don’t feel good about it when the dayis done.  The other is related and hashas to do with my attitude towards my low self-esteem.  SometimesI think I’m not good enough to be pursuing my profession and that I’m no longerrelevant and I should free up the space/funding for a younger person (yes, alldumb thoughts but fairly common in my competitive field). I decided that whatever I think of myself, I should still try to do thebest I can, because I feel a lot better about myself after a good day’s work,than after a day of goofing off at work.  So my plan for 2012 is to be the best astronomer I can be.  And if I’m irrelevant after that, then I willhappily pursue something else.

2)  I had my ownversion of a happiness project (the name of a popular book, which I am readingnow too).  I read several“positive psychology” and meditation books in the spring and summer.  I’ve posted about some of these here.  The meditation books were by Mingyur Rinpoche.  He is the first meditationauthor that got through my dense brain in a way I could understand.  I’d previously learned the concept ofmindfulness but I didn’t learn to meditate. Whenever I tried it, I got bored within a minute, and wanted to dosomething else, and quit.   Two things gotme going on finally starting a practice: First, I learned from MingyurRinpoche’s books that meditation is simply learning to being aware of yourthoughts.  You don’t have to empty yourmind or reach nirvana, you just have to watch the thoughts go by, and when youforget and then notice it, you say, oops, and the more you say oops, the moreyou are aware.  One advantage I noticedabout meditation is that you start to see fallacies in your thinking, forexample, negative thoughts about yourself.  The second thing that got me going in my practice was that a tergar practice community started up this Fall in my town with meetings once a weekright across the street from my office!  This tergar community is based on Mingyur Rinpoche’s teachings, the sameguy whose books I had just read!  I thinkI felt so lucky about this that I jumped in with both feet.  I worked on daily meditation and eventually found I can consistently do a 20 minutepractice right after I get up in the morning. I worked up to that, starting with 2-3 minute practices.   I’m very happy with my adventure intomeditation and I plan to continue this in 2012.  Even though I still feel like a novice, I cansee that it has helped me a LOT already. Our next class module is about meditating on loving kindness.  How awesome does that sound?

3)  I had the bestholiday season ever.  On the outside, itwas no different than any other.   But onthe inside I had a completely different attitude than before.  I cherished my time with friends and family.  I adored our tree full of ornaments fromfriends, family, vacations, full of memories. I considered our tree a piece of art. I enjoyed listening to Christmas music. Contrast that with my cynical attitudes from previous years:  I endured my family time; I viewed thedecorating and shopping as dumb chores forced on me by society to boost theeconomy;  I viewed the whole season as something to get through and thenget back to my life.  What a difference an attitude makes!

4)  I learnedsomething about emotional eating.  Ilearned what we all already know:  I feelworse when I eat the wrong things and overeat for emotional reasons, than whenI don’t.  Easy to say, hard to change.  But worth trying because each time yousucceed, it gets easier next time.  Ialso learned that for me, making certain foods forbidden is a bad idea.  Even Dr. Fuhrman says in his books thatnothing is forbidden.   I have a goal togo 12 weeks without eating sugar or refined grains because that is the time ittypically takes to break a food addiction according to Dr. Fuhrman.  But it’s just a goal.  I told myself I can have an occasional treat,as long as it’s with the Eat to Live parameters, that is, under 5-10% of totalcalories.  I figure the really unhealthystuff should be well under 5% of calories. I’ve been doing this long enough that a once-a-month treat is enough tosatisfy me.  The funny thing is, sinceit’s not forbidden, it loses a lot of its appeal, or maybe the downside becomesmore apparent:  e.g., the cookies Iusually crave are actually kind of dry and not all that tasty, etc.  I’m about 5 weeks into this 12-weekabstinence goal, and don’t have cravings, but even during this time, nothing isforbidden.  If I really want a cookie, Ican have one.  This was an importantinsight for me.  I’m hoping in 2012, thatnot just my eating, but my behaviors and attitudes toward eating will bemeasured and healthy.

I hope we all have a happy and healthy 2012!