• The children at the school near my apartment have a few free days this week. I am used to the school. While I passionately hate the bring-and-pick-up times because there's so much car traffic from more or less annoying parents, the noise of kids playing during recess doesn't bother me much. But I do notice how QUIET it is when there's vacation or a few free days! Also, families around here tend to go somewhere else for vacations, so there's less general traffic/movement/busy-ness during those times.
  • I'm planning to move sometime during the next couple of years, and I notice that "quiet" is at the top of the list of things I'm looking for in a new house. Not on a busy street (this is not only because I have a dog!), and if possible adjacent to fields or some kind of open land. As few man-made sounds as possible (this really makes a difference). As a person who is often too reactive, I notice that I don't reach a peaceful state or flow state easily if I'm constantly hearing things around me. Last week on a sunny day I was out with my dog and more or less forced myself to sit quietly in the sun on a bench looking out on a natural landscape. I heard a plane once in a while, but that was about it. It made me realize how much I need that quiet. 
  • Reactive people (there's overlap with Elaine Aron's concept of "highly sensitive people"("hsp's") need to create the silence that's so important to them. It may be literal silence, or a beautiful view, or it may be a day without appointments. The effects of the stress of "too much" are even more obvious once we've experienced the calm and the flow. As a kid, I got "absorbed", as they used to call it, in many of the things I did. I read a book in my bedroom and didn't notice that the neighbors' house was on fire. I could look at bugs for hours, just noticing what they did. My challenge is to create in my adult life the circumstances I need to be able to reach this state again. And I realize it's not just about saying "no"; it's also about saying "yes" to the things I need. Like sitting on the sofa and looking out on the garden. Or really reading an article or a chapter in a book (not just skimming!). Or playing music and feeling what it does in me.
  • How much silence do you need? What kind of circumstances do you need to be able to be silent? Do you have your permission to create them?

Who are you??

  • Just curious: who are some of the people reading my "thoughts"? I know where you are, hehe, maar who are you? Drop me a line!


  • This morning I was sitting on the sofa with Border Collie, who was lying on his back hoping I'd do a long-term scratching session. I scratched a little, and then the pile of read newspapers on the coffee table caught my eye. I decided to get up and put them in the recycling bin. But then I stopped myself. I was able to ask myself: what's more important at this moment: putting the newspapers away, or enjoying my dog (and giving him enjoyment)? I had the time to do some extra belly scratching, and the choice became clear: I'd be more fulfilled by scratching right now. 
  • It's something I'm always working on: how do I decide what to do at a given moment? As I've said recently, I tend to be pretty reactive: basing choices on external stimuli. Gotten a mail? Quick, see who sent it and probably answer it right away. Laundry lying next to the washing machine? Get that out of the way before writing. Horse needing some kind of care? Has to be done before I plan my meals and do the grocery shopping. I often have trouble deciding for myself what my priorities are and asking myself whether what I'm doing contributes to achieving what I want. Reactive instead of proactive. That's why I often mention "Getting Things Done" and similar books/sites, which I like to read for ideas on how to answer these questions and go about getting what I really want and/or need.
  • The biggie for me is often the short-term reward of having something "fun" to eat, versus the long(er)-term rewards of a healthy weight, and less joint inflammation. Really working on that one.
  • What are your  challenges being proactive/reactive? How are you trying to achieve the balance you want and need?


  • So yesterday I worked with Horse again for the first time in several months in the round pen, using a kind of "natural horsemanship" system I've been trained in. The attractive part is that the horse is completely free within the ring or area you're using (not on a long line) and he/she is not wearing a halster or anything else. The horse can therefore choose its response to what you're doing. And what you're doing: it's body language, asking the horse to change gait and/or direction. This video shows the general idea, although the woman in the video (not me!) is using a much larger area than usual. As you see, she's not shouting directions or using a whip; she's using body language to ask the horse to do different things. (The rope is to emphasize her arm movements, not to hit the horse with.) Anyway, I enjoy doing this and Horse is very good at it. She kind of exploded with fun/excitement at the beginning, since she's full of energy and hadn't done this for a while, but she finally settled down.
  • She's been coughing some recently, probably some kind of dust allergy. The vet is going to check her tomorrow. Luckily money grows on trees....

Time out: why? how? when?

  • Why take time out? During the last couple of crazy weeks I've been confronted (yet again!) with the consequences of just going on and on without enough rest, or breaks, or whatever term you prefer. It just doesn't work. Actually, it does work temporarily, which is the sneaky part. You get stuff done, are happy about it, and just keep on truckin'. But at some point it will bite you in the butt. None of us is exempt, so don't think you are. People who work out know, or should know, that rest days are necessary to let the body recuperate, repair muscle fibers etc. The same thing applies to mental work. If you just...keep...going, at some point you start noticing there's something wrong. Your concentration goes out the window. You get crabby. You forget things. You don't take basic care of yourself (showering, doing the shopping and eating in a reasonably healthy way). These are signs that you've already let things go too long. The best thing is to prevent this situation, but OK, we're human. Sometimes we have to turn the tide when it's already gone pretty far.
  • How and when? There are lots of ways, depending on whether you're going for the prevention angle or having to do damage control. 
  1. One of my favorite tips, even though it's hard for me to implement, is: don't go online first thing in the morning. If you do, you're likely to start the day in reactive mode and end up chasing your tail the whole day. The best thing is to start the day quietly (literally) and just let the ideas about today, this week, whatever, surface in your thoughts. I tend to turn on the computer as soon as I get out of bed, mostly because Man and I communicate often by e-mail. That's a pretty legitimate reason, but I admit I also just can't wait to see what's in my inbox. That actually makes me dependent on the actions of others and tends to get me all fired up before my own day actually begins.
  2. What about during the (work) day? Ideally, we stop doing what we're doing ("Step awaaay from the computer!") and take a real break, ideally involving something like talking to another human being, or playing with the dog or cat, or breathing some fresh air. Failing that, we can use the computer environment to help. I like the site that invites you to do nothing for two minutes. You get an ocean picture on your screen and ocean sounds from your speakers. The site counts to two minutes. If you do anything with the computer during those two minutes, the counter starts over (and you get a red "fail" on the screen; I haven't decided whether this motivates or punishes). You can also use a mindfulness bell (even if you're not Zen-oriented) to gently invite you to take a break. Even the simple TinyAlarm (for Mac users, but there are surely similar Windows applications) can be helpful, and you can set the alarm to use different sounds (the gentle gong is my favorite). Speaking of sounds, I find that turning off the incoming e-mail warning sounds is a huge step towards reducing stress, especially if you tend to be a reactive type like me.
  3. And long-term? Not everyone can afford frequent vacations, but people who work at home can turn off their work mail on the weekend or during a designated free day (or days). Avoiding distractions in general, and keeping focused on the task at hand (planning and goal-setting) can reduce stress. There are lots of suggestions and plans out there; this article on nuking laziness without becoming a workaholic is a place to start, and of course the classic is Getting Things Done and variations thereon. 
  • The basic idea is to be aware of what you're doing, and why. Keep that Dr. Phil voice in the back of your head: "How's that working for you?" If it's not working, dare to change it. And to tell me all about it!

I'm still here!

  • Hello, faithful readers; you've had to miss me for a couple of weeks, but I haven't forgotten you. I got caught up in daily life, big time. Recovering from the rib thing, dealing with the kitchen thing, big work project, but also enjoying the company of Man as he stayed here for a ten-day sort-of-vacation. I got an amazing amount of stuff done, just didn't write during that time.
  • I've been brainstorming about lots of stuff and hope to share ideas with you during the next weeks/months. Stay tuned! And I'm always very happy to have comments!