Tag: Intellectual Balance

Get Out of My Head

morning meditation:

Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves. Do not now seek the answers which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them and the point is to live everything. Live the questions… – Rainer Maria Rilke

I love this quote, because grad school and scholarship is all about the questions! We’re taught that questions are more important than the answers. So to come across this sentiment in a non-academic setting is refreshing and affirming.

Anyway, the other day an article titled “NIH Spends $100 Million on Mindfulness Research” crossed my Facebook feed. It basically reinforced all the other information that I’ve read recently about the benefits of meditation. To sum it all up, here’s one key quote that explains why we need meditation:

“Recent studies published by the American Psychological Association show that people who practice mindfulness live in the present, which leads to benefits like fewer depressive thoughts, significant stress reduction, better focus and working memory, and more cognitive flexibility, to name a few.”

One of the scariest things to me as a graduate student and someone pursuing a career in academia is how dependent I am on my brain. My livelihood depends on my ability to think clearly and critically. My ability to succeed in my field comes down to whether or not I have insightful ideas to add to the conversations going on in theatre studies. Obviously I want and need to take care of my brain.

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But sometimes, okay a lot of times, taking care of my mind and body comes last when you’re a busy grad students. When I wrote my #Project29 list meditation was one of the first goals that came to mind. I already know that breathing exercises and yoga help calm my anxiety, tension and stress, but somehow incorporating meditation into my life feels like a difficult task. I love the idea of it, but I struggle to put it into practice.

Well, the other day I stumbled upon Headspace. It’s a meditation app/program that is designed for everyday people. It’s not super new-agey and doesn’t feel hokey. Headspace is actually the brainchild of Andy Puddicombe. I’d seen his TEDTalk a while back and really liked his approach to meditation/mindfulness. If you haven’t seen it yet, check it out!

The Headspace app gives you a free 10 day trial, but then you have to pay for a subscription. I’ve really like the sessions I’ve done so far and now I’m debating taking the plunge and paying for the app. I really do think that meditation would be a beneficial addition to my daily routine and I’ve never heard anyone say anything negative about it, so why not give it a shot?

Does anyone meditate on a regular basis? Anyone use Headspace? Or does anyone think it’s a complete waste of time? Just curious…

Wild Inspiration

“Tell me, what is it you plan to do
With your one wild and precious life?”

– Mary Oliver, The Summer Day

Months ago, while looking for a present for a friend I bought Wild for my Kindle. At the time I had no idea that I’d be inspired by Wild or that I’d even connect to the subject matter. It took me months before I even considered reading it. It sat on my Kindle until something reminded me that it was waiting to be read.


Earlier in the fall, I became overwhelmed with a feeling of restlessness — a feeling that actually inspired me to start #Project29. But even before #Project29, when I started reading Wild I immediately knew that I wanted to plan a multi-day backing adventure. I want to go on that sort of adventure precisely BECAUSE it would put me so far outside of my comfort zone.


This afternoon my family and I went to see the movie adaptation of the book. Hilary actually read/listened to the book on her own and when she found out the movie would be released in December she started planning a time when we could go see it together.

I’m glad we could see it and experience it together. We’ve casually talked about going hiking together, especially since it’s become a hobby of Hilary’s, but now more than ever I want to make it a reality. I’m hoping that I can go visit her in May or June and we might be able to drive to Oregon and hike some of the Pacific Crest Trail together. Making the trip (or something similar) a reality would help me cross #15 off my #Project29 list.

So after finishing the book (this afternoon!) and seeing the movie, it seemed important to write about since it helped me work through that feeling of restlessness. It reminded me that I hadn’t been outside of my comfort zone in a while and that the way I was feeling was my mind’s way of gently nudging me to take some risks, face my fears, and embrace failure.

“Fear, to a great extent, is born of a story we tell ourselves, and so I chose to tell myself a different story from the one women are told.”
– Cheryl Strayed

Katie and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Busy Two Weeks

The semester ended on Friday, but the last two weeks felt like they lasted an eternity! Somehow it always seems to work out that the two weeks between Thanksgiving break and winter break become filled with chaos, stress, and ALL THE THINGS. This last week in particular sucked because I didn’t expect it to be that bad, since for the first time in forever I am not in any courses. I think because I let my guard down, the week’s mayhem felt like a sucker-punch to the face.

Overall, I managed to keep my stress levels down during the last two weeks by making swimming and yoga a priority.


I actually went swimming as soon as I got back in town from North Carolina. I knew that if I took too many days off, it’d be really easy to fall out of the habit. I didn’t even let the dead car battery deter me from going. After AAA came and changed my battery I jumped into the car and went to the pool.


I maintained my yoga and swimming routine through this past Tuesday and then my schedule literally got so full that I couldn’t get to the gym unless I wanted to forfeit eating and sleep. Also, I take it as a good sign that on the days that I couldn’t get to the gym I was actually sad that I couldn’t go. I was craving satisfying feeling of the workout and the stress relief it provides.

And now that I’m back in St. Pete I want to keep up my fitness routine. So I called around and found out some places where I can keep swimming/working out. LA Fitness said they’d give me a 2-week pass and they have a pool at their facility. The YMCA also offers 3 day passes and some short-term memberships. Between those two options I plan to continue swimming while I’m on break.

This is the workout I’m doing at the moment:


I’m still struggling with freestyle, so I’m committing myself to doing one of each of those 75 sets as freestyle. So I’ll do 75 freestyle, 75 breast stroke. Then 75 freestyle and 75 backstroke, etc. I end up exhausted at the end. I also figured out that you can track exercise (like swimming and yoga) on the FitBit and it will increase your calories burned, which translates into more Weight Watchers activity points earned. Pretty sweet!

I will also be going to my mom’s yoga studio. They offer vinyasa and all-levels yoga, but no hot yoga.

While I need to get my healthy eating habits back on track (those took a nose dive during Thanksgiving and the end of the semester), I know if I keep working out it will help prevent me from gaining weight (or too much weight) even when I make poor food choices.

Beyond exercise, what else has been happening?

Wrapping up the semester meant saying goodbye to this semester’s students. I felt so many warm-fuzzy-feelings. It was such a joy to meet and teach all of them this semester.


If you had told me eleven years ago that one day I’d be back at FSU TAing and teaching play analysis, I would have thought you were crazy. I am so grateful for the opportunity to TA the intro for majors course this semester because it’s been a great reminder of my own journey to the PhD. Every day I am inspired by my energetic, enthusiastic, creative, passionate, and intelligent students.

December in Tallahassee is not complete without a trip to Dorothy B. Oven park. It’s pretty much my favorite place. I love all the lights.


I went with a friend and we sipped gourmet hot cocoa as we strolled through the park.

And if you haven’t listened to Serial yet, then you’re really missing out. I binge-listened to the first six episodes as I drove from Tallahassee to St. Pete and the drive has never felt so quick!

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Photo source: http://www.newyorker.com/cartoons/daily-cartoon/daily-cartoon-friday-december-5th?mbid=social_tumblr

The forecast for the next three weeks includes LOTS and LOTS of READING. You know you’re a grad student when you rush to the library to check out a big piles of books hours before break starts.


And finally, before all this happened I did manage to update about my technology cleanse in North Carolina.


Results from the Technology Cleanse!

Back to the daily grind, although I’m moving pretty slowly this morning.

I spent most of yesterday riding home from North Carolina with my parents. After Sunday’s ban on technology, I cranked everything back up on Monday and actually had a very productive day of sending e-mails while I was in the car. I’m not sure if it was because I’d taken the day off from technology or not, but it felt great to cross a bunch of to-dos off my list.


Stepping away from texting, the internet, Facebook, etc. didn’t feel painful and if anything, it was a relief. I’d say that overall I was much more productive on Sunday than I normally would have been. Despite the fact that I got roped into a LONG conversation with my mom about social media (oh the irony!) and took a walk/exploration of our property with my parents, I still read a fair bit of history and a play. I also didn’t really miss being connected all the time, I just missed the inconvenience of not being able to look something up real quick or sitting down to write (work).

I’m still trying to figure out how to strike a balance between the two extremes. Perhaps I’ll turn the internet off on my computer, iPad, and phone (and set the phone to airplane mode) during the day. If anybody has any suggestions on how to curb an internet or technology addiction, I’d love to hear them!

Trying Not to Break the Streak – A Weekly Recap

I might go get my nosed pierced today? The opportunity presented itself last night when a friend mentioned that she was going with another friend who wanted to get a piercing. She was considering getting her nosed pierced and when I mentioned my desire to do it she said I should join. The other people I was with also told me I should do it! I’m pretty sure I’m going to do it, unless I’m told that I can’t go swimming with it. I’ve been on such a roll with the swimming thing that I don’t want to do something that will prevent me from going. I know myself and if I can get myself into a good rhythm with things, then it’s easy for me to stay on track. But the minute I take a day off or something gets in the way it becomes a challenge for me to get back in gear.

But first, if you missed any posts from the past week here’s a recap:

# 5 & 6 – Committing to Listen
# 17 – The #Project29 Version of NaNoWriMo
#& & 10 – Duathlon Day
# 25 & 29 – #29 – To Pierce or Not to Pierce?
#21 – Why the Accordion?

So looking back on the past week I’m pretty proud of my accomplishments. I’ve been very active and even in just a few weeks I can see the benefits from swimming and yoga. I feel much more relaxed, but also happy with myself for making exercise and mental downtime a priority.

I got hot and sweaty everyday! Here’s my activity for the past week:


Monday – Treadmill for 30 minutes, swam for 35 minutes
Tuesday – Open Flow yoga
Wednesday – Flow+meditation
Thursday – Swam for 40 minutes/800 yards
Friday – Treadmill for 35 minutes, swam for 35 minutes/roughly 650-700 yards
Saturday – Open Flow Yoga
Sunday – Hot Yoga
Monday – Treadmill for 35 minutes, swam for 35 minutes/800 yards.

This is the swim set I’m working on right now. I ordered a book called: The Waterproof Coach: The Waterproof Workout Book for Fitness Swimmers and Triathletes. It’s waterproof and has a mix-and-match set up, so I can customize my own workout. It’s nice to have a plan when I get into the pool. It’s been helping keep me on track and it makes keeping track of the distance I’ve swam a lot easier.


Over the next week I need to continue to make swimming, yoga, and walking a priority. I’m also starting to see how the increased activity is helping my weight loss. I generally have pretty good eating habits, but sometimes they need a reality check. Am I eating out too much? Am I indulging my sweet tooth too often? Are my portions too big? Cutting out processed food and eating a balanced diet is something that I’ve been working on for my entire 20s.

I need to maintain my activity levels this week, but in addition to that I really need to shift my attention a bit to other projects like NaNoWriMo and reading more. I’m struggling with getting in my writing, even thought I’m only trying to write for a total of 20 minutes a day! I know I can do better than that!

I also found some time over the past week to play around with the accordion!


It’s fun using a book that Nain used. In some ways it’s like having her teach me the accordion, even if she isn’t actually here.

The other biggish thing that came up this past week was getting a flat tire on the interstate.


The experience made me realize that I’m a bit helpless when it comes to changing my own tire. So I told my dad that in addition to learning to drive a stick shift (#23), I also want to learn how to change my own tire.

So what are my goals for this upcoming week?

I want to continue to maintain my level of physical activity. I want to actually write for 20 minutes a day for NaNoWriMo. I want to work on establishing my morning routine. I think having a set morning routine will go hand-in-hand with meeting my writing goals.

The #Project29 Version of NaNoWriMo

I’m about six days late to the party, but November kicked off the start of National Novel Writing Month, otherwise known as NaNoWriNo.

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The NaNoWriMo project involves writing a 50,000 word novel from scratch in 30 days. While I certainly am no novelist and I don’t really have any aspirations to write a book, I could stand to incorporate daily writing into my life.

Whenever I sit down to write, either for school or pleasure, I tend to get writers block. I become overwhelmed by all the things I want to write about or I feel pressured to write something brilliant.


It’s been suggested to me over and over again that I should do free writing as a way to retrain my brain and get over the writers block. Over the summer I made it a goal to try and do 10 minutes of free writing every morning. It turned out to be a great exercise. I didn’t feel the pressure to write anything in particular, so I ended up writing some great questions and making interesting connections between the books/scholars that I was reading. Yet since the semester started, my free-writing has fallen by the wayside.

Well with November being NaNoWriMo month it seemed like the perfect time to work on another one of my #Project29 tasks and #17 happens to be writing for 10 minutes a day of both personal and scholarly writing.

So my goal for the next month (err November 7th – December 7th) is to actively work on #17. I won’t be posting any of my writing on the blog, although the blog might count for some of the personal writing, but I will be updating on my progress. Wish me luck!

Anyone else participating in NaNoWriMo?