Cats seem to go on the principle that it never does any harm to ask for what you want.
Joseph Wood Krutch
Here’s the question: Do you think it does harm to ask for what you want?
Always, never, under certain circumstances? Be specific.
Practice: Visualize the parents and neighbors and great aunts and great uncles and teachers and strangers and buddies and business owners who taught you that it wasn’t safe to ask for what you want.
Identify what their lessons have cost you.
Related practices: Please, A glass of water
I can no longer travel, can’t meet with strangers, can’t sign books but will sign labels with SASE, can’t write by request, and can’t answer letters. I’ve got to read and concentrate. Why? Beats me.
Either we set limits or others, including miscellaneous robocallers, set them for us.
Practice: To reclaim your time, discard an activity. Drop a subscription. Quit ironing. Make a topic a no-go zone. Declare yourself too busy to babysit — or clear your schedule so you can devote more time to it.
Advanced practice: Stop explaining the limits you set, even to yourself. “Beats me” is sufficient. As is a shrug.
Related practices: Done, Self-attack, Authentic
Never forget that the whole purpose of TV is to make you want to spend money.
Different strategies for dealing with attraction and addiction work for different people. What matters is having a strategy, whether it’s muting commercials, watching without snacking, doing isometric exercises during credits, or getting movies and shows you like from the library.
Practice: Write out what you intend to try and for how long. Leave it on top of the remote to help yourself remember. Does it help you remain intentional?
Advanced practice: To identify what you get out of watching television, interrupt your existing pattern. Turn off the morning news. Stop watching after dinner.
Related practices: Done, Perfect
Being an optimist is hazardous duty these days.
Practice: This one is simple — hard to do, but simple. Notice what feeds your optimism. A media fast? Stories of heroism? Political action?
Watching clouds and reading detective novels top the list of things that feed my optimism. What feeds yours?
There is only one very good life, and it’s the life you know you want and you make it yourself.
Horst P. Horst, 1979
“The life you know you want” is an ambitious statement. How do you know which life, among all possible lives, is one you want?
What if you want more than one?
Practice: Identify one property of your — and it’s essential that it be your — good life. Start small and be specific. Is it an activity? An accomplishment? The view from a window?
How about a sound or an aroma?
In the absence of organized religion, faith abounds, in the form of song and art and food and strong arms.
Structures house faith, but faith can outgrow structures and once-reliable structures can fail the people who loved them.
Where to turn then? Alexander lists song, art, food, and strong arms.
Practice: Come up with your own where-to-turn list and put it someplace you will find it the next time you get that itchy, ungrounded feeling that says you need an injection of faith. (For me, live music works better than a Vitamin B12 shot.)
Advanced practice: No matter what your mood at the moment, do one of the items on your faith list. Now. While you’re thinking about it.
Related practices: Need, Please, Alert Emptiness
… what does it mean that so many voices out there insist that your body, my body, everyone’s body is something to despise because it’s too fat, too ugly, too sexual, too old, or too brown?
You probably find your body wanting in some way: Too many influences insist that our bodies are defective for most of us to remain intact. Or embodied. But there are ways to move forward.
Practice: Focus on something you admire about another’s physicality — a toddler’s fearlessness, an Olympian’s extension, the graceful way someone powers a wheelchair — and find a personal equivalent. Something about your body that, with effort, you can appreciate.
(If trying to appreciate your body makes you squirm, go right ahead. Squirming is as physical a response as any other action.)
Related Practices: Please, The Only Spring
We should never speak badly of people that we have allowed to behave badly.
We cannot control other people’s behavior, but we can take charge of our own.
Practice: Identify something, anything, that you consider bad behavior. The size of the offense doesn’t matter, nor does whether anyone agrees with you.
Next identify what you do that permits the behavior you dislike. Remaining at the counter while a clerk chats on the phone comes to mind, but you no doubt have a list of your own.
Moving at whatever rate is right for you, change your behavior. Leave already, or ask for the manager, or shop elsewhere. Or. . .
Changing your own behavior is more demanding than bad-mouthing another’s. And far more effective.
Related Practices: Intensify to Identify, No Easy Jobs
Self-care means what it says on the tin.
The intention to care for oneself comes with a couple of problems. What’s nourishing keeps changing. Yesterday’s solutions don’t work, except when they do. Plus you have to be present for self-care to do its magic.
A woman once called me, exasperated, from her front porch. She had banished herself, she said, and didn’t plan to return to her house until she found her way back: inside her skin, in the present moment.
Practice: Notice what you think of her decision.
How closely does that assessment parallel how well (or poorly) you take care of yourself?
Related practices: Done, Authentic, Walking Companions