Day One. Reading, Writing and Meditation

I’ll be the first to admit that I lean a bit toward the odd.  In a good way I hope, but still.  I allowed myself one last moment with Jimmy Fallon (“I Gotta Have More Cowbell!”) and then broke the news to Hulu:

“I think I need a break.”

“Did I do something wrong?”

“No, Hulu – it’s not you.  It’s me.”

“You want to spend more time with Facebook, don’t you?  I know the two of you are tweeting.”

“No – that’s not it at all, Hulu!  It’s just that…well…it’s just that I want to…”

“You want to what?  Go on, Mimm.  Tell me.”

“I want to read.”

“What do you mean you want to read?”

“You know.  Books.”

“Is this a joke?”

“No, Hulu, it’s true.  I want to read books. I have a goal.  Eight books in six weeks.”

“Don’t make me laugh.  You’ll never do it.  Two days from now when the latest episode of Glee is available you’ll come crawling back.”

“I don’t think so, Hulu.  Not this time.”

At that point I said good night.  I thought I heard a sniffle as I closed the laptop, and then I set my alarm, rolled to my side and went to sleep.

Today I determined that all eight books amounted to about 2300 pages.  I have thirty-six days to make it from cover to cover on all of them.  That means reading at least sixty-three pages per day.  No problem.  I hope.

I’ve begun with Kelly McGonigal’s The Willpower Instinct.  Even though I had dipped into the book earlier, I decided to begin at the beginning.  Here’s what I discovered today:

It turns out my recent commitment to meditation is doing more than creating a calmer Mimmsy.  Meditation is helping my brain to build grey matter in the prefrontal cortex and other regions of the brain that support self-awareness.  In other words, my meditation practice strengthens my will power and bolsters any skill that involves self-control.  Like reading.

In addition to Kelly’s book I’ve decided to read a chapter per day of Bird by Bird, the wonderful book about our writing life by Anne Lamott.  Today I read the introduction.  I’ll leave you with a Wendell Berry poem, The Wild Rose.  Written for his wife but used by Anne to describe how writing feels to her sometimes – like a person – “the person who,” Anne writes, “after all these years, still makes sense to me.”

Sometimes hidden from me

in daily custom and in trust,

so that I live by you unaware

as by the beating of my heart,

Suddenly you flare in my sight,

a wild rose blooming a the edge

of thicket, grace and light

where yesterday was only shade,

And once again I am blessed, choosing

again what I chose before.

6 thoughts on “Day One. Reading, Writing and Meditation

  1. I just like the valuable information you supply for your articles. I will bookmark your weblog and check again here frequently. I’m reasonably sure I’ll be told plenty of new stuff proper here! Good luck for the next!

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  2. I look forward to hearing how the reading goes! Bird by Bird is one of my favorite writing books.

    If you haven’t read Natalie Goldberg, she’s a similarly fierce female writing about writing and the messiness of life.

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    • I have some Natalie Goldberg on the back burner – Old Friend from Far Away. Caught myself “moral licensing” on…ahem…several occasions today as well! What can I say? It’s Friday and I’ve been so good all week. Of course I deserve that…uh oh…there I go again!

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      • I recommend listening to Natalie’s books — her voice adds a lot to the story-telling. Long Quiet Highway is my favorite — focuses more on meditation practice and teacher-student relationship than writing.

        We should all license ourselves to “indulge” in thought-provoking, inspiring books more often! 🙂

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  3. Kathleen

    Let me know if willpower really is an instinct, as the title indicates. If it is, then we should be able to recognize and sharpen it, right? Or I guess I could just read it myself.

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    • That’s Kelly’s premise – that willpower is like a muscle. We can allow it to grow weak and flabby or we can strengthen it by using it. The Willpower Instinct is a good book – different from other “self- help” books I’ve read. I recommend the book for the research and information of the brain alone – even if your willpower is Herculean.

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