Joy Held's Writer Wellness

"Be well, write well."

Creative Being

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Creativity, like beauty, is sometimes “in the eye of the beholder.” A homemade greeting card with hand printed sentiments looks cheap to some people while to others it says the creator means to share a heartfelt idea with more than just a dollar bill. Many, many people are mistaken when they believe they aren’t creative. We are all creative to some degree every day. It’s a matter of how and collecting the ideas into something meaningful to someone else.

“I’m sorry that our country and the people do not consider the arts as vital to our well-being as, say, medicine. Suffering is unnecessary. It doesn’t make you a better artist; it only makes you a hungry one. However, to me the acquisition of the craft of writing was worth any amount of suffering.”

                ~Rita Mae Brown

I wish I could draw more than stick figures. Somewhere in my grade school days, I remember a teacher saying, “Your handwriting is perfect, but the picture of the cat leaves something to be desired.” I didn’t continue to practice my drawing after that.  Today when I journal and want to illustrate my writing, I still feel frozen and hear, “I’m not good at this so don’t try.” And I cut pictures out of magazines and collage instead. It’s another means of creative expression, but I still wish I had been encouraged to continue drawing or at least left alone to discover my limits. Oh, well, onto plan B. Write. The teacher said my penmanship was excellent and that’s where my energies went. Stories, posters, poems, letters, you name it, I wrote it. And then I decided I wanted to be a teacher.

“…the creative process is an artist’s industrial secret. Why clue the competition? When times are hard, the ‘divine flame’ gets one invited to dinner and written about by art historians. Why jeopardize one’s insurance?”

                ~June Wayne

In college for my teaching degree it was important to come up with interesting ways to present the same old information to students. Writing was my go-to option and lo-and-behold, the evaluations and letters of recommendation I received from my college professors said, “Joy is very creative.” It was too vague a statement to me like people who say something is “very interesting.” It’s a veiled meaning for odd. Yep, creativity is odd? That’s one negative message I refused to hear.

“Art does not take kindly to facts, is helpless to grapple with theories, and is killed outright by a sermon.”

                ~Agnes Repplier

Must be time for me to stop trying to justify creativity and just be creative. Do you consider yourself creative?

“Be well, write well.”

~Joy

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Lost On the Treadmill

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As is my practice after car trips, I cruise by the fitness center on the way to the hotel room. Good. A treadmill and space for my yoga mat.

Unload the car and change for my workout to release the tensions of getting lost on the way to the hotel. A new highway had been recently changed and the directions we received literally took us into a brick wall. After driving a few miles out of our way because there were no other exits off this highway, we found a parking lot to turn around in and head back. We could see the hotel from the highway, just couldn’t get off the highway to find it. Several miles down the road, an exit appeared and we zig-zagged our way back to the hotel. Nice hotel and not their fault the Ohio road department built a brick wall where their parking lot used to be. Moving on.

I want some cardio first because it serves several purposes. Study after study says it’s the best for chewing up belly fat the fastest, it helps with thinking, and it releases more toxins than any other type of exercise and that is very relaxing. Plus if you don’t focus well during cardio workouts, you will fall off the equipment or stumble on a rock if you’re walking or running outdoors. I chose the treadmill over the elliptical. Ellipticals irritate old ballet injuries in my hips and glutes.

Shoes tied and step on the well-worn rubber band that will hopefully take me to sweat-city in about twenty minutes.

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Push start. Nothing. Push every other button on the panel (this is also what I do with my forehead on the keyboard when the computer isn’t responding. My husband loves fixing it when I do that.) Nothing. Try fist. Maybe the buttons are unresponsive because this treadmill shows its age with the wear on the tread, labels peeling. I don’t care as long the damn thing will just come on and start pushing me. Nothing.

I get off and look around the whole machine for a hidden restart button. Kinda like when I have to reboot my computer because I have fifteen or twenty different things open all at once and the system implodes under the strain. I check the electrical plug, thinking it may be so old that it’s a manual. If that’s the case, I’m walking around the parking lot twenty times. Seems to be plugged in alright. Then I direct my attention to the one thing I have intentionally neglected because I don’t know what it is. A silver metal square is hanging from a frayed blue nylon cord. I think it’s the heart monitor which I have no use for because I’m already aware that my heart rate is pretty intense because I got lost on the trip, it was further than I expected, the roads were….. Anyway, I cave and go to the desk and ask for help.

“Did you put in the key?” says the kind young woman behind the counter.

Sigh. The desk clerk returns to the fitness center with me and takes the metal square on the end of the cord and attaches it to a worn down image of a key. The square is a magnet. It is literally sucked into the front of the panel by the power of the magnet. She pushes start and poof, tread rolls. Outsmarted by a piece of equipment again. Such is my existence. But I felt much better after the workout and the writers conference the next day was excellent.

Has a piece of exercise equipment ever gotten the best of you? Do tell.

“Be well, write well.”

~Joy

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You’re Lost-Don’t Panic

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Getting lost is a disconcerting sensation. For many goal-oriented people, being lost means something, somewhere broken down along the lines of their motto, “I cannot cope with the worst case scenario, so, I will over-plan to be prepared if the worst happens.” While making a plan, then working that plan is a valid approach to achieving success, the best of us can get lost. Coping with the reality might be easier if we practice meditation because the feeling of being lost in our own minds and bodies but not experiencing panic is possible. Then it’s a matter of transferring that lesson to real life situations.

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The key is surrender. The first few minutes of sitting in meditation is normally a challenge almost every time we go to the cushion. That’s because we are so used to holding on to things. It’s a natural sensation to want to hold on. In my opinion, everyone is born with the desire to hold on because our bodies are constantly pulled on by gravity. It makes sense to me to hold on to things, people, and myself simply because it’s how we function in relation to the earth’s pull on our beings. Surrendering to this awareness of being held onto by gravity is the first step when sitting in meditation.

Up to the first ten minutes of meditation practice is basically about noticing gravity’s hold over our bodies, organs, and senses. Simply notice, then intentionally start at the source of the pull and work upwards through the body to relax or let go of the worry about being pulled down all the time. It’s very normal to feel everything settling downward (some people note this as being “grounded”), and it’s at this point of everything being settled down we try to surrender it all to a feeling of weightlessness. We let go of the worry. Surrender to gravity’s pull then allows the anxiety about whether or not it’s working to surface and face it. At this point, it’s possible to get lost in the lightness of being and just breathe until the session is ended.

It’s surrendering to the power of being lost and letting go of expectations that we practice on the cushion then try to recall when we get lost on the highway or in a tricky plot pattern we’re writing. In meditation we keep breathing and follow the breath to the end. In real life, we should apply the breath to keep us calm and working toward correcting the wrong turn or the wrong speech or the wrong choice. Everyone gets lost. It’s easier for some than others to deal with being off-track. A few moments of being lost in your own mind every day and surfacing to a better place, in the end, is one possible way to learn how to deal with the real world situation of losing your way no matter how much you plan in advance.

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All the outlines, maps, and global positioning devices in the world cannot teach us how to cope. Those are tools for dealing with and correcting the problem. Applying lessons learned on the meditation cushion to daily realities is one method of coping with being lost along the journey. It happens to everyone occasionally. For those goal-oriented folks like me, the key is adding “get lost” to the plan.

“Be well, write well.”

~Joy

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Easy Does It Pose in Hatha Yoga

In yoga, life is considered a series of “dukkha” or sufferings one after the other, day after day. The lessons of yoga are principally about teaching us to cope with suffering through relaxation or “sukha”. This is the art of relaxing and to yoga this means being comfortable and at ease. It means stillness (sukha) in the body and mind purposely practiced to counteract the feelings of stress (dukkha.)

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The “easy pose” is taught as a physical position to take when trying to relax. But for some people, the “easy pose” is anything but easy. So, why is it called “easy”? The “easy” translation simply means being the opposite of uneasy or busy and stressed. Although the specific sitting position is known as the “easy pose” is traditional, the mere act of sitting or semi-reclining and being motionless can be considered an easy pose. After all, not everyone can sit on the floor with their legs crossed at the ankles for an extended period of time.

An “easy pose” is one that allows us to be at ease with ourselves without the urge to fall completely asleep. Most of us are conditioned to begin snoring within a few minutes if we find ourselves lying flat on our backs. Happens all the time in yoga. Corpse pose at the end of class is regularly mistaken by some exhausted individual as nap time, and the rest of us are serenaded by the heavy, unburdened breath of someone who has fallen asleep on the mat. That’s okay, but as I’ve said before, sleep is not meditation. Sleep is sleep and meditation is an easy, comfortable state of relaxed alertness.

In meditation we are without the normal business of our bodies and minds (thoughts, movements, sounds.) Instead, we are physically still. The only movement is what’s necessary to breathe. And our thoughts are fewer and slower. Thoughts are normal but they bring with them varying degrees of stress, so during meditation the fewer the better. It requires a low level of consciousness or awareness to “quiet the mind” as desired by meditation. The lack of thoughts equals fewer opportunities to be stressed by thinking which equates to feeling at ease—without stress. An easy pose is one that is comfortable enough to bring on the sensation of ease without allowing us to fall asleep.

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Sitting cross-legged on the floor, a stack of blankets or a meditation cushion IS a comfortable pose for some. Others may need to sit in a chair with feet flat on the floor or lie back on a stack of pillows or a bolster to keep the body from lying completely flat. As long as we are physically at ease, our breath and thoughts will eventually join in and calm down. This is “sukha” or being without the suffering implied by the stress or “dukkha” of physical movement and mental stimulation.

The honest challenge is developing the stamina to remain in this position of ease for a particular length of time. Practice, practice, practice and the body will gradually remember its state of comfort and be more cooperative when asked to be still. Remember our bodies and minds are very practiced at zooming all the time. The opposite is challenging (dukkha) but rewarding (sukha.) This is balance.

What is your “easy pose”?

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Photo by Jody Purkey, 2003

“Be well, write well.”

~Joy

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“What’s at the Library for You?”

Monday Meditation: What’s At the Library for You?

 

The library is a great place, but not everyone knows what a treasure trove of wonder it is.

 

Honestly, go to the library and once you get past the humility of the massive collection of knowledge and ideas all in the same place, look around at everything available to everybody from the casual reader catching up on the daily news to the college professor checking on resources for a class he’s teaching next semester.

 

The point is that EVERYBODY belongs at the library. Everybody, that is, who respects the principle of freedom to access information. Lack of respect for the contents, the people, the equipment, the facilities, or the ideas will get you rightfully tossed out the front door by the gatekeeper known as the Librarian.

 

It’s a tough job monitoring knowledge, keeping it as safe as possible from abuse, staying on top of current information techniques, and exploding technology. But most librarians are fantastic people with a lot on their plates but always willing to help when asked a question. Granted, we’ve all run into the crusty book warden who is a bit ragged around the edges, but the librarian is a precious jewel and should be treated with appreciation. After all, she opens the doors every day and believes in the same thing writers do: knowledge and ideas are only valuable when they are shared.

 

I have soooo many great librarian stories to share. So here is a brevity list of all the ways libraries and librarians have been a great help to my careers as teacher and writer.

 

#A librarian near my hometown helped me access a primary source that inspired my first romance novel. If it weren’t for this particular special collection and this wonderful woman who let me read “The Message to Garcia” by Elbert Hubbard (1899), my novel wouldn’t have the historical accuracies it does.

 

#When my children were young and learning to love reading and writing, a wonderful junior librarian named Brenda made a point to find out what interested them and ordered books year after year that kept them coming back until they moved away for college.

 

#My favorite aunt is a school librarian.

 

#Doug at the college library where I teach never fails to amaze me at how quickly and efficiently he responds to my requests for materials no matter where on Earth they’re located.

 

#My FAVORITE librarian is my youngest daughter!

 

I’ll save more library/librarian kudos for later. What’s your library story?

 

Hug a library and a librarian every day. They are the protectors of one of the 20170311_103909most important freedoms: speech.

 

 

 

There are five primary areas of practice to the Writer Wellness plan. Every other week I will post an idea for relaxation (Monday Meditation,) creative play (Tuesday Tickle,) fitness and exercise (Wednesday Workout,) journaling and misc. (Thursday Thought,) and nutrition (Friday Feast.)

 

Be well, write well!

Joy

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Wednesday Workout: The Consequences of Exercise

Wednesday Workout: The Consequences of Exercise

 

There are five primary areas of practice to the Writer Wellness plan. Every other week I will post an idea for relaxation (Monday Meditation,) creative play (Tuesday Tickle,) fitness and exercise (Wednesday Workout,) journaling and misc. (Thursday Thought,) and nutrition (Friday Feast.)

 

 

Lots of people look at exercise as punishment for eating. That’s too bad because the brain can be overwhelmed by the message of payback for the triple cheeseburger and might not recognize the good side effects of the workout. If we regularly view physical activity as retribution for taking in nutrition, then our workouts and mental attitudes about exercise suffer. Eating and exercise should go hand-in-hand, but we taint the value of the workout by viewing it negatively before taking the first step on the treadmill.

Exercise Benefits Your Brain Too

One of the many benefits to anyone who exercises is a positive outlook on life. After an exercise session, the body is pumping all kinds of good stuff around and around inside like blood and oxygen helping revive and cleanse internal organs. The brain is super happy because it’s churning out endorphins and spilling them into the bloodstream contributing in part to the good feeling also known as “the runner’s high.” As an extra bonus, the brain literally grows new cells as the result of a good, heart-pumping cardio session because exercise breeds brain derived-neurotrophic factor (BDNF) which, according to Dr. John Ratey in his book SPARK: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain, is like “Miracle-Gro for the brain”.

 

Happiness, improved muscle tone, weight loss, and cardiovascular support. Why look at exercise as the demon and not the darling? Regular physical exercise isn’t a penalty, it’s a privilege, and the consequences of exercise far outweigh the side effects of avoiding it. But it’s important to go into a workout with a positive mental attitude. The negativity associated with regular exercise could easily negate the benefits.

Try Keeping A Fitness Journal

Keeping a fitness journal for a short while might help when we see the positive results written down. Note these things for a few days or weeks then review the notes. Think about the positive results while tieing on the walking shoes and add extra benefits to those workouts.

 

Date

Feelings/thoughts BEFORE working out

Describe the workout (i.e., twenty-minute walk in the park)

Note anything interesting that happened during the workout

Feelings/thoughts AFTER working out

 

Physical exercise shouldn’t be punishment for anything but viewed as a way to stay happy, balanced, and healthy.

 

Have you subscribed to this Writer Wellness blog yet? Get email updates when a new post is added. Click “subscribe” and leave your email. That’s it and thanks in advance!

 

Be well, write well.

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True Lies 3: Outsmarted by a 2 year old, A Diary, and Poetry at West Point

Tuesday Tickle at Writer Wellness courtesy of a great post from Bob Mayer and Cool Gus Publishing. Enjoy!

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Friday Feast: ‘Shrooms Va-va-voom and Friends

Not everybody is a mushroom fan, but this baked stuffed portabella has been known to win over a few non-fungus eaters!

‘Shrooms Va-va-voom

Recipe by Joy Held

2 large portabella mushrooms, wiped clean with the stems cut out and the gills scraped out

¾ cup fresh spelt bread crumbs

½ cup low fat mozzarella cheese

¼ cup grated parmesan

¼ cup minced onion

¼ cup finely chopped parsley

½ tsp onion powder

½ tsp garlic powder

½ tsp dried thyme

2 Tbls melted butter, salt free

1 Tbls olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste

Mix the bread crumbs, parmesan, onion, parsley, butter, and spices together well in a bowl. Cave out the mushrooms a little if necessary to make room for the filling. Divide filling evenly between the caps  and drizzle with olive oil. Bake in a 350 degree oven for 15-20 minutes. In the last five minutes, turn off the oven and turn broiler on high. Sprinkle mushrooms with mozzarella and broil to desired melty deliciousness. Don’t take your eyes off! Burns quickly!

After this treat, take a walk around the block then settle down and visit these web friends of mine. Tell ‘em I said hello. And feel free to share this recipe and spread the fungus among us (couldn’t resist.)

Writer mom NATALIE MARKEY

http://pentopublish.blogspot.com/2011/07/understanding-writing-mommy-mind-with.html

Hot romance scribe MEREDITH ELLSWORTH

http://www.meredithellsworth.com/

Fav social media chicka KRISTEN LAMB

http://warriorwriters.wordpress.com/2012/05/02/big-six-publishing-is-dead-welcome-the-massive-three/#comments

Meanwhile, remember to look for a digital or print copy of Writer Wellness, A Writer’s Path to Health and Creativity at Cool Gus Publishing.

Have you subscribed to this Writer Wellness blog yet? Get email updates when a new post is added. Click “subscribe” and leave your email. That’s it and thanks in advance!

Be well, write well.

Joy E. Held

joyeheld@gmail.com

http://twitter.com/Joy_E_Held

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How Cancer Influenced a Ghost’s Tale by Author Juli D. Revezzo

Here is a story about how life impacts art. jh

One Writer's Way

benefitsalebannerFrom Juli: Cancer. The big C. Chances are, you’ve known someone in your circle that has had it or you know someone who knows someone who does. It’s something no one wants to think about. There are several strains of it researchers know quite a bit about—breast cancer, lung cancer, ovarian cancer—and many more that they don’t. Fibrolomellar type Hepatocellular carcinoma it’s called. Ever heard of it? No? I’m not surprised. It’s a rather rare form of liver cancer and only seems to affect young people and has a very high death rate. One in particular, my little brother, dealt with it for many years. He went through every damned form of chemotherapy the doctors had for him, and quite a few experimental ones. A few years ago, the cancer killed him. Yet before that day came he enjoyed all the usual pursuits for a young man. He was…

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Door, Propped – Wide Open

Good tip on keeping your yoga mat warm! Enjoy. jh

CultFit

Good resolutions are like babies crying in church. They should be carried out immediately-

If this is your first time visiting CultFit? Welcome and I sincerely hope you enjoy your visit. If you came in search of some prophetic wisdom pertaining to life, yoga, mediation and whatever else tickles your fancy? Don’t let the door slam your tush as you scurry away

Wanting to be a super flexible yogi and actually being a super flexible yogi are two entirely different “things“. After a restless nights sleep, a twenty-five minute drive to the studio, biting morning temperatures and sitting on a frozen yoga mat (Top Tip: Bring your mat in the house …), morning yoga practice is the last thing I feel like doing. Although, on these days when I’ve given up and decided to cut myself a break to head to Dunkin Donuts instead…

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