1) I learned a few things about my job. One is that I can get away with goofing off at work, but I don’t feel good about it when the day is done. The other is related and has has to do with my attitude towards my low self-esteem. Sometimes I think I’m not good enough to be pursuing my profession and that I’m no longer relevant and I should free up the space/funding for a younger person (yes, all dumb thoughts but fairly common in my competitive field). I decided that whatever I think of myself, I should still try to do the best I can, because I feel a lot better about myself after a good day’s work, than after a day of goofing off at work. So my plan for 2012 is to be the best astronomer I can be. And if I’m irrelevant after that, then I will happily pursue something else.
2) I had my own version of a happiness project (the name of a popular book, which I am reading now too). I read several “positive psychology” and meditation books in the spring and summer. I’ve posted about some of these here. The meditation books were by Mingyur Rinpoche. He is the first meditation author that got through my dense brain in a way I could understand. I’d previously learned the concept of mindfulness but I didn’t learn to meditate. Whenever I tried it, I got bored within a minute, and wanted to do something else, and quit. Two things got me going on finally starting a practice: First, I learned from Mingyur Rinpoche’s books that meditation is simply learning to being aware of your thoughts. You don’t have to empty your mind or reach nirvana, you just have to watch the thoughts go by, and when you forget and then notice it, you say, oops, and the more you say oops, the more you are aware. One advantage I noticed about meditation is that you start to see fallacies in your thinking, for example, negative thoughts about yourself. The second thing that got me going in my practice was that a tergar practice community started up this Fall in my town with meetings once a week right across the street from my office! This tergar community is based on Mingyur Rinpoche’s teachings, the same guy whose books I had just read! I think I felt so lucky about this that I jumped in with both feet. I worked on daily meditation and eventually found I can consistently do a 20 minute practice right after I get up in the morning. I worked up to that, starting with 2-3 minute practices. I’m very happy with my adventure into meditation and I plan to continue this in 2012. Even though I still feel like a novice, I can see that it has helped me a LOT already. Our next class module is about meditating on loving kindness. How awesome does that sound?
3) I had the best holiday season ever. On the outside, it was no different than any other. But on the inside I had a completely different attitude than before. I cherished my time with friends and family. I adored our tree full of ornaments from friends, family, vacations, full of memories. I considered our tree a piece of art. I enjoyed listening to Christmas music. Contrast that with my cynical attitudes from previous years: I endured my family time; I viewed the decorating and shopping as dumb chores forced on me by society to boost the economy; I viewed the whole season as something to get through and then get back to my life. What a difference an attitude makes!
4) I learned something about emotional eating. I learned what we all already know: I feel worse when I eat the wrong things and overeat for emotional reasons, than when I don’t. Easy to say, hard to change. But worth trying because each time you succeed, it gets easier next time. I also learned that for me, making certain foods forbidden is a bad idea. Even Dr. Fuhrman says in his books that nothing is forbidden. I have a goal to go 12 weeks without eating sugar or refined grains because that is the time it typically takes to break a food addiction according to Dr. Fuhrman. But it’s just a goal. I told myself I can have an occasional treat, as long as it’s with the Eat to Live parameters, that is, under 5-10% of total calories. I figure the really unhealthy stuff should be well under 5% of calories. I’ve been doing this long enough that a once-a-month treat is enough to satisfy me. The funny thing is, since it’s not forbidden, it loses a lot of its appeal, or maybe the downside becomes more apparent: e.g., the cookies I usually crave are actually kind of dry and not all that tasty, etc. I’m about 5 weeks into this 12-week abstinence goal, and don’t have cravings, but even during this time, nothing is forbidden. If I really want a cookie, I can have one. This was an important insight for me. I’m hoping in 2012, that not just my eating, but my behaviors and attitudes toward eating will be measured and healthy.
I hope we all have a happy and healthy 2012!