I know I posted about meditation last week (on that note, the Deepak & Oprah 21-day challenge started yesterday: so far, so good!) but clearly the universe is trying to tell me something as I have come across another sort of meditation site with one of the coolest domain names ever: calm.com. I really think it’s worth having a look if you get a chance – especially if you’re having a not-so-great day and need a virtual getaway.
You can choose either a 2 minute, 10 minute or 20 minute ‘guided relaxation’, then you select your ‘scene’ from a whole range of images and background sounds (that go together). You can pretend you’re relaxing on a deserted beach (without any pesky seagulls), or chillin’ by a mountain lake, or watching the rain come tumbling down (without getting your hair wet). The moving image is accompanied by gentle sounds that really do take you to another place. Until that annoying colleague taps you on the shoulder or that pesky person next to you on the bus starts to eat an egg and tuna sandwich.
This is a sign on Sydney buses. I’d never really looked at it closely before, but now that I have, I say welcome aboard, Man with 1.5 legs, Wobbly person with a bag and stick & Lady with wide hips singing “I’m a Little Teapot”…
I really like the idea of meditation. I struggle with the execution, but I really like the idea. So many people swear by it as a key to happiness, health and wellbeing – and I don’t know about you, but that’s definitely a key that I’d like to have. As with a lot of people, I have one of those ‘monkey minds’ that finds it a bit tricky to slow down and focus (or not focus, I guess) on meditating.
A few years ago, I was doing a course at the Happiness Institute here in Sydney (where the unhappiest person was actually a nun, whose convent-mates sounded like a pack of she-devils – but that’s another story for another day) and one week the class was about meditation. We had to sit there and meditate – on cue, sitting on the uncomfortable hard chairs, under the glare of fluorescent lights, tired and distracted after a day at the office (or convent). I tried, I really did. But all I could do was hear sounds from the outside world – oh, there’s a garbage truck; hey, that’s a bird; aha, the door just opened; what a crazy ringtone. That kind of thing.
I was optimistic that I’d be a star meditator when I was rested and relaxed during a week at the fabulous Gwinganna health retreat in Queensland a couple of years ago. After dinner one night, they brought in a monk (I think he was a monk) to lead us in a meditation. It was a freezing cold night, we were sitting on a hard wooden floor, we hadn’t had caffeine or alcohol or sugar for days and nearly everyone was twitching. And throughout the meditation session (we weren’t meant to close our eyes), the monk kept CHECKING HIS IPHONE. Uh huh. Not sending messages or playing Angry Birds or anything like that, but leaning over and touching the button to check the time. I wondered if he had maybe booked back-to-back meditation sessions on that cold mid-week night up in the remote Gold Coast hinterland.
But I’m not giving up on meditation – I’m trying again. With the big guns, Oprah Winfrey and Deepak Chopra, no less. They’re offering a free 21-day Meditation Challenge through the Chopra Center, including daily emails with guided meditations and inspirational bits and bobs from Oprah and Deepak. It kicks off on 11 March and if you’d like to get on board, you can sign up here. I don’t know much more than that, to be honest, but it’s gotta be worth a try, right?
I discovered Kid President via this You Tube clip and when I looked a bit further, it turns out that Kid President seems to be part of Soul Pancake, a funky website dedicated to stuff that matters. Soul Pancake was actually started by Rainn Wilson (the quirky guy who plays Dwight in the US series of The Office) and a couple of his mates back in 2008. I think they can best explain the idea behind their very cool site: Our brain batter of art, culture, science, philosophy, spirituality and humoris designed to open your mind, challenge your friends, and feed damn good.
The Soul Pancake peeps are trying to encourage interaction around “Life’s Big Questions” – through video, art, words and live events, they’re harnessing the talents of a whole range of people to get us talking about stuff that matters. I like this idea a lot. And don’t worry about it being all ooooh-wah-ooooh mung beans and rainbows, the site features fantastic design and graphics and is lots of fun to look around.
But back to Kid President. Apparently, he releases videos each Thursday in an attempt to make grown-ups less boring. More power to you and your mission, Kid President. And what better video for the beginning of a new week than A Pep Talk From Kid President To You. Awesome. You can check out Soul Pancake here.
A confession – I think I am addicted to an app. It all started out innocently enough – I was talking to my 7 year old niece about my new favourite game, Jewel Mania. (You have to match coloured jewels to remove them from the screen and win points – I assure you that it’s way more fun and challenging than I just made it sound.) Anyways, as I showed her, Ells said that they had found an even better game – similar to Jewel Mania, but with lollies. Sounded pretty perfect to me, so I searched the App Store and found what she had been talking about. And that was the beginning of the end.
Candy Crush is a brightly coloured game filled with jelly beans and a heap of other lollies, including – if you’re very lucky – chocolate freckles that can magically destroy all of one colour on the screen. I know, AMAZING, right? At first, it’s easy and you can fly through the levels. Then, the challenges get harder and since I am unwilling to pay money to play the game (I have some limits, see!) it can take a while to get through a level. If you’re willing to pay real $ for your fake candy, you can accept the advice of the patronising prompt that appears from time to time – something like “You seem to be struggling with this level. You can buy a [insert crazy sounding candy weapon here] for only $12.99!” But I’m old school, so I’ll save my money and take my sweet time (see what I did there?!) to get through the game using just my wits and my broadband data allowance, thanks very much.
When I say I’m addicted, I don’t mean that I have my phone out all the time, playing the game. Mostly because I just can’t do that – if you don’t pay any real world $, you can only make five attempts at the level before you are ‘locked out’ and have to wait some hours before you can play again. So, I can still function in the real world – go out to dinner, work, see a movie, drive the car. I could stop playing any time. If I really wanted to stop, I could. Just like that. Truly.
One of my favourite features of the game is actually the soundtrack – there is some kooky background music and occasionally a voice that sounds eerily like Barry White compliments you on your moves, cooing sweet nothings like “Tas-ty“,”Sweet” and “Divine”. He’s very encouraging, if a little creepy, that Candy-Barry-White.
Anyways, I wanted to share the good news that this morning, I finally passed Level 34, on which I had been stuck for at least a week. I had come close before, but after an embarrassing number of attempts (thankfully, they don’t tell you how many), I finally made it. Now, I’ve never run a marathon or won a Nobel Prize, but I imagine that’s pretty much what it feels like. It’s going to be a good day!
(As an aside, my sister S currently runs a very successful virtual farm, my sister Jo used to run a fancy and very busy virtual clothes shop and I have successfully managed some very challenging virtual restaurants, diners, hairdressers and hotels. Still trying to find the best way to detail our extensive business experience on our CVs, though.)