Well Read

One book you read this weekend can help you obtain the knowledge of a person’s entire lifetime of work. Imagine if you read another next week, and then another the next.

Breathe App- Apple Watch

Included with the Apple Watch is the Breathe app. As Apple itself describes it:

The Breathe app guides you through a series of deep breaths, and it reminds you to take time to breathe every day. Choose how long you want to breathe, then let the animation and gentle taps help you focus.
The Watch app on the iPhone lets you set the length of your sessions, and how many times throughout the day you want to be reminded to pause and breathe, and minutes are totaled in the health app.

Meditation and focused breathing for relaxation is more difficult than you think it would be. Every hour the app prompts me to take a moment and relax. I can do it at the desk, in traffic (where it is most needed!) or anywhere else.

An Apple Watch app won’t cure everything but it can help you get through the day. And these days are getting crazier.

Where Did That Idea Go?

A fellow photographer asked me recently recently if I have ever run out of concepts to capture because my photo stream implied I didn’t.

Also, a reader recently commented on a blog post asking a) how do I keep the articles flowing and b) do I ever run out of topics to talk about?

It happens. Ideas come and ideas go. There are multiple ideas and concepts going through my head but there are also times when I have none. Now what?

Remember recently when the grocery stores had empty shelves and consumers panicked during the pandemic? Same thing with your bare idea shelf. Ever get anxious when you realize that fuel gauge is closer to “Empty” than you thought? Same. Your idea tank is running low. Fear and emptiness can stop us from thinking clearly and can prevent us from coming up with an alternative solution.

I like to calm these feelings with small doses of relaxation, meditation and quiet. This moment is all right. This moment is perfect as is.

Only then can we adjust our focus and start thinking clearly again. Then I check my saved articles in my favorite read-it-later app. Anything inspiring there? How about the morgue file, epigraph or commonplace book full of notes, quotes and ideas? Tried discovering new sources of inspiration yet?

There are times when I reach out to other writers and photographers to see what they are working on or what questions they have that needs answers. Perhaps we can find an answer together and generate new ideas from those discoveries.

And again, I will turn inward to reflect on what hasn’t worked, or what was something I set aside because my mind was focused somewhere else and not ready to receive it yet. Now the ideas are flowing again.

If we take the time to stop, relax and breathe, we’ll find that the answers are usually inside of us all along.

6/6 Check In

On 2/2 I began my year long journey to create life long habits for myself and throw in some fun intentions as well. The plan is to check in every month to monitor my progress. How did I do since my last check in on 5/5?

Nutrition & Training

The gym has been closed for some time due to the global pandemic and is now re-open in stages. Limited facilities and full billing of course. I put the account on pause and am looking elsewhere, hopefully closer to home and the office so I can utilize it more frequently. Stay tuned.
Nutrition goals met are all over the place. Some good days, mostly bad days. What is it about me that can’t commit to healthier eating? On the bright side, Whataburger is no longer an issue for me. Woohoo.

Yoga & Meditation

I have really been enjoying this time to myself. I am focused on both stretching and breathing while enhancing my calm. With the Sworkit and Headspace apps I am utilizing, they offer guided practices which is a huge benefit because my brain is easily distracted.

Photography & Writing

After years of ignoring the archives, I am about 65% done with the organization. Again, the only writing I have been doing is here and in my journal. Nothing contributed to the novel or short stories. Not even micro fiction.
I blame the work from home situation. My personal space here at home has been overtaken by the work setup. I sit in the chair for 8-9 hrs for the day job. I have little desire to sit here another couple of hours to look at photos or conjure up words for the pages. Frustration.

7/7

As always, I see some progress, see some room to do better and hope that next month’s check in will be better than the last.

Contentment

“True happiness is to enjoy the present, without anxious dependency upon the future, not to amuse ourselves with either hopes or fears but to rest satisfied with what we have.”

-Seneca

Goodbye Amazon

As an Amazon.com charter member since it was created in 1994, it pains me to have been so frustrated and ultimately close the account. Too many missed deliveries and botched orders lately.

After downloading and converting my e-books so I can use them on any device I want instead of Amazon-specific formats, I have closed my 26 year old account.

Get Out

I’ve been feeling out of sorts lately so we decided to get out of the house for another day trip- this time to the ghost town of Ingalls, Oklahoma.

Even better was the fact that our destination was unknown to me until we arrived. It was so freeing to wake up, hit the road not knowing where I was going. This was a first. I’ll insist on more.


Not much is left except the general store, hotel and livery but it felt great to hit the road.

Minimalist Photography

For awhile now, I have been playing with the idea of minimalist images. This means sticking with the black and white, monochrome images but using less to compose an image with. An old friend named Brandon helped create a unique emulation of the old Kodak T-Max film as a preset in Lightroom. The idea being I would recreate the film look in my images.

This image was made in White Sands, New Mexico in February 2019.

More thoughts on a Stoic philosophy from a Roman Emperor

Wake Up Early and Get To Work

“At dawn, when you have trouble getting out of bed, tell yourself: ‘I have to go to work – as a human being. What do I have to complain of, if I’m going to do what I was born for – the things I was brought into the world to do? Or is this what I was created for? To huddle under the blankets and stay warm?’”

Take Time To Journal

“The recognition that I needed to train and discipline my character. Not to be sidetracked by my interest in rhetoric. Not to write treatises on abstract questions, or deliver moralizing little sermons, or compose imaginary descriptions of The Simple Life or The Man Who Lives Only for Others. To steer clear of oratory, poetry and belles lettres. Not to dress up just to stroll around the house, or things like that. To write straightforward.” — Marcus Aurelius

Prepare for the Day Ahead

“When you wake up in the morning, tell yourself: The people I deal with today will be meddling, ungrateful, arrogant, dishonest, jealous, and surly.” — Marcus Aurelius

The Most Important Task First

“Concentrate every minute like a Roman—like a man—on doing what’s in front of you with precise and genuine seriousness, tenderly, willingly, with justice. And on freeing yourself from all other distractions. Yes, you can—if you do everything as if it were the last thing you were doing in your life, and stop being aimless, stop letting your emotions override what your mind tells you, stop being hypocritical, self-centered, irritable.” — Marcus Aurelius

Mindfulness

“Anyone with a feeling for nature—a deeper sensitivity—will find it all gives pleasure. Even what seems inadvertent. He’ll find the jaws of live animals as beautiful as painted ones or sculptures. He’ll look calmly at the distinct beauty of old age in men, women, and at the loveliness of children. And other things like that will call out to him constantly—things unnoticed by others. Things seen only by those at home with Nature and its works.” — Marcus Aurelius

You Will Die

“You could leave life right now. Let that determine what you do and say and think.” — Marcus Aurelius

The Stoic philosophy can be summed up simply: to put each breath to good use, to live virtuously, and to accept fate is either good or bad.

Stoic Virtues

Marcus Aurelius, one of the more decent Roman Emperors, kept a journal on philosophical topics which is now known as the Meditations, such as how to live well and how to be a good leader. Some of the virtues he reflected on are just as relevant today. I am attempting to apply these same Stoic principles daily.

  • Hard Work

Hard work is a desire, not a chore.

  • Courtesy

Being polite and courteous is a recognition of how your own emotion is not any more important than anyone else’s emotions. It is a mark of equality and self-discipline.

  • Serenity

Marcus mentions the ‘Serenity of Temper’. He wants to learn to control his anger because he understands anger is an important emotion to control.Marcus could not let himself make rash and reckless decisions when overcome by anger.

  • Generosity

As the richest and most powerful man in the Roman Empire, it’s interesting he valued generosity as one of the most important virtues. He isn’t talking about material wealth. We need to be generous in our thoughts as well as our actions. Generosity is thinking the best of people, and acting accordingly. It’s giving people the chance to be the very best person possible. Instead of judging a person harshly, you judge fairly.

  • Piety

Piety is respect and dedication towards God and religious beliefs. Piety isn’t preaching your beliefs but instead quietly living them. It’s a religious devotion. It’s the application of personal belief, which could be considered pious.

  • Simplicity

Marcus was rich and powerful and knew it could corrupt. He advocates for simplicity of living ‘unlike the usual lives of the rich’. The only way to balance the extremes between riches and poverty is to live simply. Learn to live with just enough and you will always be happy.

  • Kindness

Patience is an important virtue in developing kindness because it recognizes how other people are in different stages of learning and personal development. Parents should be patient towards children, because they are still learning about the world. Others come from different backgrounds and experiences for which we should try to understand and be patient to.

Marcus Aurelius mentioned other virtues but these seem like the most important in the Meditations. Learning to live like a Stoic Roman emperor can be helpful.