Tag Archives: Breathe

Putting it to the Test

Bomb threat.

On a wing and a ...

The plane was about to take off.  We had already begun taxiing down the runway, the instructions about face masks and seatbelts barely audible above the “where did you put my sandwich” and “you know you really do have to turn off your cellphone now!”  And then:  Bomb threat.

Well, actually, that’s not what he said.  It’s just what I thought.  My seatmates also.  And they hailed from a part of the world that’s been taking security measures seriously for a whole lot longer than the tsa’s been checking our shoes…

Calmly, he said, “Please exit the plane.  Take your belongings.  No, don’t.  Yes.  No.  We’ll put them back up for you.”

Lots of officers in uniform.  Not lots of information.  Lots of stress.  Lots of opportunity to practice all the nifty stress reduction and breathing tips I’ve been offering up all these years.

And here’s the thing:  they work.  Really.  They do.  And I gave ’em quite the workout…

Then again,  just might be I’m breathing easy now because it all ended with happily ever after.  At least for now…

Copyright © 2010 Marlin S. Potash. All rights reserved.


Multi-tasking taking its Toll? Psychological Survival Skills for the Recession – and Beyond

Juggle too much, you drop the ball. These are stressful times.

Oh, forget that! It’s always stressful times for some of us: not enough time, too much to do, not enough energy, too much pressure… Things have sped up so much, for so many of us. Michael Winerip quotes Nina Lentini in today’s New York Times , “Everybody works like this now. This is just the new reality.” http://www.nytimes.com/2010/02/21/fashion/21genb.html

Which is why you laughed when your father told you to complain to your boss about your hours. 9 to 5? Ancient history. 8 to 8? Starting to look like pretty good hours, if you are really done at 8. Because this is closer to the truth: online, on the cell, on duty, 24/7.

The truth about multi-tasking: More does not equal more; more equals less. We do too many things at the same time, and do each less well than we think we do. We juggle too much, and sleep too little. And it’s affecting our health as well as our disposition (tired person = cranky person). http://videos.apnicommunity.com/Video,Item,1091439491.html. We need to sleep more, multi-task less.

How to get the incentive?
Try an experiment. Two weeks. Get to bed – and sleep – an hour earlier than usual. And try doing one thing at a time. You know, what Mr. Graessle told you in 10th grade Science class. Two weeks. See if it makes a difference; you know it will.

How to get the sleep you need?

Take it. Decide to get up earlier rather than stay up later. You’ll accomplish more when you’re not exhausted.
Imagine it. As you close your eyes, repeat to yourself, “I am falling asleep now, and will sleep restfully through the night.”

How to get the rest you need?

Take it. Take a 24-hour break from technology: no cell, no computer, no ipod, no alarm clock. This is what used to be called the Sabbath…
Take it. Just say no. No more. Not now. Not until I’ve finished this. No, it’s enough.
Take it. Breathe. Meditate. Focus on one thing at a time. Like watching the sky…
Imagine it. As you start to tell yourself you can squeeze in just one more thing, imagine how you’d feel if you just didn’t. Just this once. Or maybe not…

Copyright © 2010 Marlin S. Potash. All rights reserved.


stopIs it just me, or does it seem that everything is revving faster and faster by the day? I know that as we age, even baby boomers don’t move or think as fast as we once did. But I am starting to think it’s more than my just getting older and slower and crankier. It seems to me that the number of emails and texts and twitter alerts keep increasing exponentially. That the computer or handheld or cellphone – or all of them – seem to be on all the time, in every room, no matter what other activity’s the main event.

Witness: Despite a sign in my waiting room, and the expensive and rare luxury of an hour devoted exclusively to them, more and more patients “have to” leave their phones on during session: the kid might call, the market might fall, can’t miss anything at all.

Witness: Even people who a year ago vowed never to be “one of them” now text (they’ve been talking on the cell phones they vowed never to get for some time now) while crossing 96th and Madison. Or Times Square. Like your Aunt Harriet, model of decorum and good sense. Or your chill yoga instructor.

Witness: Despite tragic reports of car and subway and train crashes, drivers still convince themselves that, as long as they’re talking hands-free, they can pay sufficient attention to three things at once: the road, their phone conversation, and whatever else is going on in the car.

Witness: Despite numerous research studies that show multitasking is in fact less efficient than focusing on one thing at a time, we cling to the fantasy that we can somehow squeeze more into our day if we do two, three, even four things at once. That continually shifting gears, or paying attention to multiple things at once, helps us learn, when it fact it hinders learning. (How much do you miss about your dinner companion when your eyes are scanning every cute girl walking by?).

And it’s not just about the limit to what we can assimilate, or the eye strain from staring at the screens, or missing the eye contact you only get when you are only talking with the person with whom you are talking. No, what’s also bothering me is the sinking feeling that we’re all working for our technology, rather than the other way around. Everyone else does it, so we have to, too, to keep up. But there’s just too much to absorb before we’re saturated. And unfortunately, there’s still more and more to absorb.

I don’t know about you, but I need a rest. I want a rest. It’s summer, and I want time to just do nothing and stare at some clouds, wonder if they look like trees or if they’re cumulous or not…I want to enter into a conversation with no goal or agenda in mind, and no “excuse me’s” for the Blackberry calling, or a bevy of Iphones to the right of the soup spoons…

I want unplanned and unpaced time. I’m even starting to get nostalgic for the old days around the family dinner table before answering machines and cell phones and computers and more (well, not the quarreling part, or the “eat your dinner because of the starving children in ___ part). When the phone rang, there were glances around the table to see that everyone was accounted for, and some adult said something like, “Let it ring. We’re all here, having dinner. Whoever it is, if it’s important, they’ll call back.”

To do what you are doing when you are doing it… to only do what you are doing, fully and completely, trusting that, if important, they’ll call back again. That’s the break that refreshes, when the noise and the busyness stop…Now that’s today’s ultimate luxury: being in the moment, with no beeps or ringtones to interrupt quiet time, a quiet mind.

Copyright © 2009 Marlin S. Potash. All rights reserved.

On Blowing Bubbles in the Real World

bubble_colorful_colors_221291_l1You can’t walk into a job interview in your suit while blowing those drippy summertime bubbles that come in a hot green plastic container. You can’t give your elevator speech to the new networking contact with a qualified, live lead while sitting on a bench in Central Park blowing bubbles.

Or can you? Should you? (You can see where this is going…)

You need breaks from real life: to play, to float above the problems, to not deal. And you need breaks from taking breaks: to get up off the sofa and write that document, make that tough phone call, run the numbers. Most of the time, you oscillate between the two. It’s easier that way. Work while you’re working, play while you’re playing. No distractions, in control, not too sloppy.

But what would happen, how would life feel, if you infused the two? If you didn’t wait for Saturday night to have “time off” or wait until Sunday night to “plan the week?”

What would happen if – just for a moment, here and there – you dealt with the hard realities with a smile on your face and a bubble wand in your hand? Well, for one thing, you’d notice who thought you were nuts and avoided you (though arguably in New York that takes an awful lot), and who smiled along with you, maybe even wanted a go at the wand.

To make the largest bubble you can before the thin film breaks, you have to breathe easy, deliberately and deeply. You slow down, you focus, you let go (For a moment. You can easily get it back, all that tension, if you need it). With conscious awareness, you take a breath and focus gently on the ephemeral here and now. You know all too well the bubble’s going to burst. They always do. That’s part of the challenge, the pull, maybe even the fun. You try yet again: for a bigger bubble, a bunch of tiny bubbles, two intersecting bubbles. Or a laugh, a smile, even. Just to yourself. Or, maybe even better, a shared glance with a kindred spirit.

It only takes a conscious moment. Just a few moments can make a big difference helping you get through these tough recession days, shifting perspective, giving you a much needed and appreciated breather. So that when you return to the challenges of your daily life, you do so refreshed, energized, feeling less frantic and more positive. By creating a sort of resiliency reservoir, the same daunting challenges don’t feel the same.

It’s easy to lose the smile when the demands of daily life crank up. And they seem to more and more these days. Financial woes, 24/7 email and cell phone and internet, the markets open somewhere pretty much all the time – all of them demanding your attention. And someone else nipping at your heels – evaluating you at your job, dumping their job on you, lying in wait for your job. Seems as if there’s never enough time or bandwith. No wonder you get edgy, short-tempered, exhausted.

Who’s got the time or energy for anything besides accomplishing something or vegging out in front of the tv? Who’s got time to be conscious and focused on the little joys? Maybe you do, just for a moment. In fact, just imagining it might almost do the trick.

Copyright © 2009 Marlin S. Potash. All rights reserved.

On Seduction, Trust and Other Homilies

SEDUCE– verb
Persuade to do the inadvisable; lure away from duty, principle or right behavior
Entice into sexual activity; induce to have sex

An act of winning the love or sexual favor of someone; conquest
Enticing someone astray from right behavior

— ORIGIN Latin seducere ‘lead aside or away’

“Seduction is often difficult to distinguish from rape. In seduction, the rapist bothers to buy a bottle of wine.”
Andrea Dworkin: Letters from a War Zone (1988)

Seduction is easy. All it takes is charm, magnetism, a connection to your own sexuality, knowing your subject, an act of will – and focusing the laser beam until you fry your prey… Easy. It’s a challenge, a one-time contest in which the person with more time and intensity and dedication and single-mindedness and willingness to do whatever it takes to win wins. And then it all stops, falls apart, from lack of attention. It’s no contest at all… Easy.

But keeping it up, that’s difficult (and oh so much rarer and truer). In the light of day, over the long haul, 24/7, after the initial buzz has worn off and the orgasm’s over (because they always end, no matter how many you might have in a row) it becomes crystal clear: seduction is the wooing and winning, but it cannot hold a candle to the loving and staying. Scrape a bit, and you see that seduction is all shiny surface, a coat or two of temporary lacquer. But loving runs right down to the roots, spreading deep below the ground.

Seduction is easy. Love, on the other hand, is simple.

Love’s not about the getting and having, it’s about the “getting” and giving, caring and sharing, trusting and knowing and being known. It doesn’t have an end game, or concern itself with what’s fair or whose turn it is. It’s not about artifice, it’s about real. And that’s not easy; it’s just so very simple.

What could be more tempting than beyond temptation? There’s really no contest at all.

Are you loving – or seducing? Are you being loved – or seduced?
In these tough economic times, it’s all the more important to know the difference. Because at the end the day, it’s great to come in out of the cold, cruel world of work – or looking for work – let down your guard, and count on feeling known, cared for and safe. It’s awfully good to be able to trust someone, especially the someone you’re supposed to be able to trust.

Copyright © 2009 Marlin S. Potash. All rights reserved.

Flying Solo

772-1233160885yy0lYou’ve just lost your job. Or your relationship just ended. Or maybe your kid has left for college or gotten married or moved to another state.

You’re alone, and you are not liking it at all. Cut off, cut loose, and not cut out for all this time alone. You’re feeling out of touch and out of sorts, and if one more person tells you to be optimistic you are going to scream.

Well, here I come. Scream away. Because there are some terrific things about being alone, even if it’s not your first choice (or your dying wish). So if you are alone, for now, you’ve really got two choices: bemoan your fate, or revel in it. Oh sure, you’ve got to do the whole lamenting, grieving, accepting thing; but that isn’t supposed to take the rest of your life. If things have changed, and you’re now one of one, instead of two or many, well, time to get on with it! Enjoy the ride!

We are born alone (unless we’re a multiple), and we die alone. And in between, it comes in really handy to be able to know oneself, to take care of oneself, and to like oneself. So use this time alone to do just that. Get to know yourself, not defined by your work or your relationships and how other people see you. Get to know how you see yourself. And if you don’t like it, well, change it! And if you can’t change it, accept it and move right along. Because it’s time to know your own mind, follow your own heart, and do your own thing. It’s time to believe in yourself, be good to yourself, and hold yourself to the standards of your own, internal “shoulds” rather than anyone else’s.

Fly solo. Take the measure of your strengths and vulnerabilities, appreciate the solitude, and soar…

You’re not going to be alone forever. When the time comes to be “with”, well it’s nice to know you’ve come to know and enjoy the pleasure of your own company.

Copyright © 2009 Marlin S. Potash. All rights reserved.

On Bubbles – Bursting and Otherwise

bubble_colorful_colors_221291_l1The economic bubble has burst. And we are, so many of us, anxious and overworked (or underworked), racing and multi-tasking, facing realities difficult and painful. As it should be; we need to be out in the world, effecting change, making the good things happen. After childhood, living in a bubble doesn’t protect us from the real world, it isolates us from it.

But sometimes we yearn to be in an emotional bubble: protected from and rising above the cacaphony of life. In the bubble, time stands still. Time out of time, that feeling that this is the only moment. Tenderly creating and sharing our own discrete and peaceful space, here and now. We float gently together, a graceful respite from coping and working and having and doing.

In our shared bubble, we let go – of control, of fear, of separation – no longer knowing or caring who is who, or whose is whose. In our shared bubble, there is no trying, just being. We trust; we lighten up and float freely with no agendas or demands, no reticence or false separations. And in this fragile and delicate shared moment just we two, we each gather the strength to reenter the world…

Copyright © 2009 Marlin S. Potash. All rights reserved.