Relaxing Rituals: Candlelight Meditation

I can’t believe it’s already March! Where did the first two and a half months of the year go? I noted last month that a big part of my life lately has consisted of studying and taking certification exams. I’m sad to say I’m still stuck in the worst of it with a big exam coming up in just a few days. Luckily I’ll have a brief respite from testing after this one, but the light at the end of the tunnel doesn’t make it any less painful of a slog! To be honest, I’m certain I’ve only survived the grueling cycle of work, housework and studying for this long with the support of my husband (he is a saint!) and because of the habits I’d been working to build up over the last couple years. If I were to pin my sanity on just one factor, though, I would say I owe a lot of the credit to meditation.

Please don’t imagine, though, that I spend an hour each day, eyes closed and legs akimbo, in peaceful contemplation. My days are as full as anyone else’s, so I don’t think an hour a day will ever be realistic, but 5-10 minutes? Too easy! And five minutes is about all it takes for me to really get focused in the morning or get my head straight to settle down in the afternoon. Continue reading

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Life is Garbage: A Reflection on New Year Resolutions

I try to keep things relatively positive when I put things on the internet. This is in part because my life is pretty good by all accounts and doesn’t warrant too much complaining, but also because there is already enough negativity in cyberspace as it is. It occurred to me recently, though, that this isn’t just true of the internet, but increasingly of life in general, especially here in America. Our lives are full of garbage. Actually, I might even go so far as to say that life is garbage. Continue reading

The Little Things

What makes life feel luxurious? I’ve been mulling this over lately and trying to distill some formula for elevating the mundane into the marvelous.

I traveled for work recently and had the good fortune to have a beautiful room all to myself for a couple days. Despite its simplicity–the room only housed a bed, a desk, two nightstands, a television, and a couple chairs on either side of a small table–everything in the room was well-appointed. Each morning I found myself wishing I could linger a few hours longer in the plush, cozy bed, wrapped in a cocoon of soft linens and fluffy pillows. Evenings found me reading in one of the chairs, completely relaxed in its not-too-firm-but-not-too-soft goldilocks comfort. The contentment I felt in that room is a rare feeling for me outside of my own home, but I can’t say that I was surprised. The hotel got right what so many others get wrong: the details, all the little things that elevate the quality of an experience. Continue reading

An Epicurean Summer

I’ve ignored this blog for far too long! I could say that I’ve been busy–and I have, really–but that wouldn’t be a completely honest answer. The problem with making time to blog here hasn’t been one of time management, but rather a problem unique to lifestyle blogging: If you’re truly enjoying your lifestyle, blogging might not be the most enjoyable use of your leisure time. Luckily, I’ve come to realize that, to fulfill and live out my personal philosophy, it isn’t enough for me to just enjoy life and be happy–I have to help others do the same.

If I’m going to live this philosophy, though, I should first give some introduction and explanation of a certain philosopherBut Briella, I just want to live the “vita bella,” what should I care about dusty old philosophers? You should care a lot! Philosophy can teach us a great deal about happiness, not least of all when we consider the words of Epicurus. Now, Epicurus doesn’t have anything to do with that recipe website, or with the gluttony a lot of people think of when someone is said to be “epicurean.” No, Epicurus was a Greek philosopher who lived from 341 to 270 BC, and he–being the genius that he was–determined that there are only 3 keys to real happiness. He posited that one could attain peace and tranquility with only the following:

  1. Freedom, as in the freedom to make decisions for yourself without being constantly bossed around
  2. Time to think and analyze your feelings
  3. Friends, and the time to enjoy them often, not just occasionally

Now, I can’t say for myself that these are the only things you need, but if you have these three then you’re further on your way to happiness than I believe many people these days are, or could ever hope to be in our ultra materialistic culture. That’s why I decided this year to dedicate these few warm months to living an epicurean summer. What has this mean for me and my family? It means that we’ve taken jobs closer to home and with kinder bosses so that we have more flexibility to make decisions about how we spend our days. It means that I’ve committed to some brief time daily for meditation, prayer, yoga, or just some quiet time alone with a book. It means we’ve made time to eat dinner with our friends at least twice a week, laughing and talking late into the evening.

Thinking about it now, I certainly couldn’t have imagined a year ago that I’d spend a summer so full of relaxation and joy without ever leaving the state for a vacation, let alone my own neighborhood. Yet here we are. Aside from a few hiccups (well, one tremendous hiccup involving a flooded, mold-covered basement and the loss of $10,000 in personal property) this summer has been so fantastic I’m a little sad to watch it begin to fade. We’ve had a few rough moments–bad or rushed workdays, surprise dog poo on the carpet–but I would say living my Epicurus’s 3 rules this summer has dramatically improved our quality of life. For the first time in years, I fall asleep in minutes, no longer doomed to toss and turn against the insomnia of anxiety. But, then again, how could I sleep badly before a new day, when the one before it ended as happily as this?:

Carbonara Dinner
Just a night with friends around a big bowl of carbonara 🙂

What have you done to make yours a memorable summer? And what do you think about Epicurus and his philosophy of happiness?