Your oasis is anywhere you are

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Oasis.”

Finding the Calm.

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“Meditate Schmeditate”, my mother-in- law, Dora once said to her son, my husband, Mark as he headed off one summer day in Long Beach to find a quiet bench on the boardwalk to attend to his twice daily meditation practice. From that day on, every time Mark would go sit down to meditate he would say to me, “I am going to go “meditate-schmeditate” and we would both laugh about it.

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Twenty minutes a day, twice a day for over thirty years. Rarely did Mark miss taking time out to do his Transcendental Meditation practice. When he was an educator in the New York City Public Schools, he rose 45 minutes early to meditate then showered, shaved, dressed, made his coffee and peanut butter sandwich (for the energy he needed in his high-stress –very- hectic- job as school principal) and then pack himself an apple, a few clementine oranges and some almonds. He would then get into his silver Volvo 240 to drive to East New York, Brooklyn.

In my eyes (and the eyes of many others I bet)  Mark was a true enlightened warrior.

Mark took his training for Transcendental Meditation in Manhattan in the early 1970’s. Once, when I asked him what meditation was for him, he said something like this, “It helps me to focus. Meditation rests my mind. It helps me to relieves stress. TM helps me to get things done.” I often noticed he seemed happy and more relaxed when he completed his daily meditations. I admire how he stuck with it day in and day out.

When I asked him if meditating meant he turned off his thoughts he said, “No, the opposite, what it does is that I just notice my thoughts and let them go while focusing on a mantra. “ A mantra is a syllable or sound to keep your mind from wandering over to list-making and looking ahead to the busy-ness of the day ahead

Meditation,  a practice thousands of years old available to each of us in endless permutations and possibilities, has become a bit of a buzzword.And I say, “none to soon”. Mark was onto something 40+ years ago.

In a recent interview at the 92nd Street Y, Ariana Huffington spoke about the many CEO’s who meditate including most famously the late Steve Jobs.

Studies using MRI’s have shown that the brains of Tibetan Buddhist monks who meditate daily and for long periods of time have shown brains with increased gamma wave activity, which help with many cognitive functions including increased compassion, improved memory creativity and test taking abilities. In short, Gamma brain waves are those that get you “into the zone “.

To my way of thinking that can only be a good thing, doesn’t your brain deserve a spa treatment?

There are health benefits. Science has shown that meditation can reduce stress, helps to lower cortisol, adrenaline production and in turn lower blood pressure.

In recent articles in the New York Times, The Path meditation center in Manhattan focuses on networking for fashion and tech millennials, through meditation. According to the article, many post-meditation deals have been made and jobs have been found. In Los Angeles, there are “Drybar” style meditation centers popping up.

This is an interesting development really just a twist on ashrams. From where I sit making new friends and business contacts at a place like The Path or Suzee Yalof’s place in LA  is a happy alternative to a loud bar or restaurant. People who meditate tend to enjoy being here now. There is a shared experience when meditating in a community. It’s a peaceful practice.

In  another article in the NY Times it was shown that meditation has the potential to help students to increase their scores on the big tests such as the SAT and ACT exams.

It seems that Mark was really onto something so many years ago. Meditation served him well throughout his life, working in some very complicated situations in the NYC school system. When Mark  was battling cancer, meditation he remained strong , calm and uncomplaining. Though sometimes he just lost it too.

Hey he was only human.

It was because of Mark that I began my 30 year journey to yoga and meditation. As someone who is high energy, active and has the need to move, I found that for me to meditate I had to do a little yoga to limber up and release excess energy and then I could sit and enjoy the stillness. I am grateful to Mark for starting me on my yogic path.

While for me, my favorite way to meditate is in a group with my fellow yoga practitioners, it is at home on my own that the practice really unfolds for me.

For those who want to give meditation a whirl there are many places to look. There are many different types of meditations to try on youtube.com, where you can practice in your living room.

Do your best not to judge yourself. According to meditation teacher and American Buddhist teacher, Jack Kornfeld, it takes many lifetimes to master meditation so why not just enjoy it? There is no right way to do it.

It can be as simple as just following the breath for 5 minutes a day while sitting still. Do this: Just sit quietly, follow your breath and it will unfold. If your mind wanders to your to-do list, just come back to the breath. Five minutes a day will get you started. After 21 days of 5 minutes of focusing on the breath, it will become a habit, like brushing your teeth.

Meditation helps us to “take out the trash” in our minds to  get access to creativity and our best selves. What’s not to like?

The UCLA Mindfulness Awareness Research Center is a good place to get some free training and introductions to meditation, marc.ucla.edu and look for the link to Free Guided Meditations. Look on iTunes for both free and paid meditations. Or youtube.com

One thing I know for sure, meditation is neither weird nor complicated.

There’s an APP for that.

Here are few apps to try some are free and some charge a fee: Breathe2Relax which is great for practice working with the breath, Buddhify 2 with lots of good information and various meditations that run from 5 to 20 minutes, Omvana has music, talks, guided meditations and much more. Search your APP store to see what’s available read reviews try a few different types of meditation.

Find your calming place, I am betting you will be glad you did.

http://dealbook.nytimes.com/2014/01/31/more-mindfulness-less-meditation/?_r=0

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/11/16/fashion/unplug-inventing-a-drybar-for-meditation.html

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Thank you to the New York Times! You do care.

A few months back I wrote that I was getting home delivery of the New York Times even though I did not want it. I also accused the New York Times of not hearing me.

I TAKE IT BACK. Once I sent my blog post via email in August to the publisher- the unwanted papers stopped.

Yay, I felt heard and cared about. In this age of text only conversations this is no small thing.

Thank you New York Times. A happy digital subscriber-one day I may want the actual paper again, till then, thanks for listening.

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Regards,

Nancy of Fancy Nancy’s Good Things

Customers (we really don’t ) Care

This is really for anyone who has wrestled with a “customer care” situation that made you want to tear your hair out.

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After Mark died, there were so many activities and actions that needed my attention. It’s so odd, how difficult it is to unravel even the most organized life when that life ends, I was glad I was able to go on autopilot for while, he set me up pretty well for which I am thankful everyday. When Mark died just under two years ago I was in zombie-land

One task I took care of right away was convert our New York Times home delivery subscription to all digital. I did not want the actual papers because that involved a series of tasks above and beyond the reading of the paper.

Mark always read the paper: he picked it up from the curb and when he was done it, he tied it up and took the neatly stacked New York Times to the curb for recycling.

Even the seemingly simple things turned out to be fraught with complications due in part to the fog of loss in which I was shrouded.

For one, I could not figure out the garbage schedule. The way it is designed is confusing. Little circle to indicate one kind of pickup, highlighted squares for another and then asterisks regarding holidays and Mondays or something. I was quietly feeling quite deranged back then.

Reading anything at all was beyond me, I was just wrung out and stunned from Mark’s death, even though I knew it was coming it was like a house fell on me.

Mark liked to cut articles out from the Times and send to friends and family or leave them on the kitchen counter for me with a little drawing and note. My favorite thing was when he would read me an article and we would talk about it.

That was over now and it was time to make a change.

Thanks to the internets, it was easy to make the change to digital.

Checked off that box on the To DO list.

Or so I thought.

Some things are just out of our control though we, as humans, like to think we can control everything.

We can’t control a thing. Not the weather not the post office. We can control our attitudes and how we view what happens to us. That’s really it.

In a recent very moving gut -wrenching piece in the New York Times called “Afterlife”, the father finds himself holding onto the junk mail that comes addressed to his son who died at the young age of 21.

I could relate to the feeling, the wanting to keep the connection going even if it meant receiving unwanted junk mail.

Here is a challenge for you. If you are on a list try to get off, even If you are dead you can never end your relationship with insurance companies, AARP, catalog subscriptions, credit card offers, non-profits and political parties looking for donations, anyone you ever gave money to or whom you thought you might.

No. Not. Ever.

My favorite is the Viking River cruise offers to my mother and father in law. Most recently my mother-in-law, Dora who died two years ago at age 93, was offered a great deal on a brand new Mercedes Benz, trouble is she didn’t drive.

Then there are the: “Get this before it’s too late! It’s the deal of lifetime offers,” Um-er it’s too late guys. But this problem is part of a larger problem of digitizing and depersonalization of communications to the point that no one is listening to anyone.

It seems all our posting on Facebook and Twitter are then translated into marketing opportunities because of what we view, what we click and who we follow. Does anybody really know what time it is?

My email and phone call exchanges with The New York Times Customer Care department is a perfect example of how no one is really listening to anyone, anymore.

While customer service representatives are quite polite and eager and some actually help us immensely and I want to acknowledge them. Some are not charged with any real power they look at a computer screen and tell us how wrong we are in making our requests. Having been in marketing and gone to B-School I know one of the basic tenets of “delighting” customers is to put a good tag line and title on something and people will believe you care even if you may not or cannot.

For example at the New York Times, customer care is just a nice phrase for “not going to help you, because I am completely powerless to do so, but doing it ever so nicely and hopefully not misspelled.”

Here’s what happened to me with the New York Times and my digital subscription. I sent this information to The Haggler Column in The New York Times a few weeks ago hoping for help, but none has arrived just yet. Maybe he is on vacation right now, it is August in New York. Read: Empty city.

On May 1, 2014 I started receiving daily home delivery of the NY Times again even though I had cancelled home delivery about 18 month before, switching to digital only.

At first I thought it was a promotion because of the launch of Times Premiere and when I didn’t sign up for it the promo would end.

Then I thought the delivery person must have an extra paper and is giving one to me.

When the papers continued I then started my campaign to stop delivery of the actual physical newspaper and below the following email “dialogue” with the New York Times Customer Care department. (NYTCCD)

After much to-ing and fro-ing the NYTCC D response to me was that I cannot stop delivery of the paper because I am not Elaine Kottler, the account holder.

My guess is: there was an input error when Elaine Kottler became a subscriber and may live on the same named Road in another town, for sure she does not live on my street even thought the Customer care rep told me to go down the block and look for her. (Really?)

It has been suggested to me that I might not want to look a gift horse in the mouth i.e. a free daily paper which is the upside,  however the serious downside is I cannot stop or pause it when I go on vacation and don’t want the paper piling up on my lawn.

As a widow you tend to want less work and added activities. Especially if your guy was anything like my husband. Mark was one of those guys who did everything and it’s like losing both arms when you lose a guy like that you love and adore.

I don’t want to have to tie it up and bring it to the curb.

Of course the good news is that the New York Times is great for using to wash the windows of my car, and if I spill a quantity of water, the New York Times soaks it right up. I am sure there are a million and one uses, perhaps you have some ideas dear reader.

Since I get the paper  tend to pay more attention to what is going on in the world with it front and center every morning. Extra  bonus are the great plastic bags I use when I take Clinton on his morning walks they are a perfect size and tie up very easily.

Still I would like to have control over the account. Not being able to pause the paper when I go away for a few days really bugs me. I tried giving the paper to my neighbor every morning but he didn’t want it either and when I go away I want to avoid the paper pile up that says. “Burglars stop here, no one is home!”

This email exchange went to the Haggler again today

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I made numerous calls and actually received more emails to a different address. I am sure you get the point.

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I appreciate any help you may be able to give me in this.

My best regards,

Nancy Mindes (not Elaine Kottler)

My account number for MY account –

DIGITAL SUBSCRIBER NANCY MINDES

Is

  Xxxxxxxx93

________________________________________

Elaine Kottler  account number YOU SENT ME  for this account is xxxxxx9

 

PLEASE FIX THIS.

THANK YOU

 

From: Customercare <Customercare@nytimes.com>

Subject: Your New York Times Inquiry

Date: June 15, 2014 7:20:42 AM EDT

>

Reply-To: Customercare <Customercare@nytimes.com>

You have your information wrong.

There is no Elaine Kottler here

There is a XXXX Road in Roslyn NY too

Your records are wrong , please fix error.

Sent from my iPhone

On Jun 11, 2014, at 3:36 PM, Customercare <Customercare@nytimes.com> wrote:

Dear Nancy Mindes,

Thank you for contacting NYTimes.com.

In response to your inquiry, our records show that you have the same address as a Home Delivery subscriber. The Home Delivery account has Monday-Sunday service. This account is under Elaine Kottler. The account number for this account is XXXXXX95.

You can also visit our website at www.nytimes.com/myaccount to receive information on your account 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Please follow the instructions to register if you have not done so already.

If there is anything else we can do to help you, please e-mail us at help@nytimes.com or call us at 1-800-591-9233 from 6 a.m. to midnight Monday-Friday and 6 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday & Sunday (ET).

Your satisfaction is very important to us.

Sincerely,

Christina Gorman
Online Customer Care
The New York Times
help@nytimes.com

Dear Nancy Mindes,

Thank you for contacting us. In response to your inquiry, T

Thank you for contacting us. In response to your inquiry, we are unable to make any changes to the account for Elaine Kottler because you are not the account holder. If you have any other questions or concerns please contact us at the phone number below. We apologize for the inconvenience you have experienced. .

You can also visit our website at www.homedelivery.nytimes.com to receive information on your account 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Please follow the instructions to register if you have not done so already.

If there is anything else we can do to help you, please e-mail us at customercare@nytimes.com or call us at 1-800-NYTIMES (1-800-698-4637) from 6 a.m. to midnight Monday-Friday and 6 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday & Sunday (ET).

Your satisfaction is very important to us and we thank you for your feedback.

Sincerely,

William Hurt

Online Customer Care

The New York Times

www.homedelivery.nytimes.com

> Subject: Re: Your New York Times Inquiry

Dear Kirsten Kirkland,

It’s official I asked my letter carrier if there is an Elaine Kottler (letter carrier being an employee of the US government) and she said no there is no one and never has been anyone named Elaine Kottler on Blankety Road in Rockville Centre, NY. You at the NYTimes Customer Care need to find the record for this person and get it worked out. I am assuming she is paying for the paper I have been receiving.

there it a Anytown Named Road in every town in USA. I looked in the Nassau County phone book, the actual book everyone else throws out and there was No Elaine Kottler.

Sincerely,

Nancy Mindes

Dear Nancy Mindes,

Thank you for contacting us. In response to your inquiry, our records indicate there is a home delivery account going to the address 5 Anytown Road. The account is under a Kottler. If you have neighbors that have the same address or know someone, they have an active account. 

You can also visit our website at www.homedelivery.nytimes.com to receive information on your account 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Please follow the instructions to register if you have not done so already.

If there is anything else we can do to help you, please e-mail us at customercare@nytimes.com or call us at 1-800-NYTIMES (1-800-698-4637) from 6 a.m. to midnight Monday-Friday and 6 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday & Sunday (ET).

Your satisfaction is very important to us and we thank you for your feedback.

Sincerely,

Kirsten Kirkland
Online Customer Care
The New York Times
www.homedelivery.nytimes.com

> Date Sent: 06/11/2014 14:51

> To: customercare@nytimes.com

> Cc:

> Subject: RE: Please tell the driver to stop!

>

Dear Customer Care,

I have called about this 4 times and sent an email to no avail.

This is now my eleventh try.

I am receiving the NYTimes daily and on weekends seemingly in an effort to get me to request home delivery again and I have asked your customer care representatives repeatedly that the driver STOP delivering to my address PLEASE.

Am a paid digital subscriber and very happy with that and do not want the paper on a daily basis-even for free.

Am not sure how to get the point across except to perhaps stand on the lawn at 5 a.m. and wait for the driver to come and then tell her to stop! Or perhaps put up a giant SIGN?

 

Please make sure I am not being charged for this unwanted service for the past month and please stop delivering the NY Times to my home.

.

Maybe if we would just look up from our computer screens, our smartphones and tablets for a moment and pay attention to what is being said, caring about what matters to the person in front of us, we would keep connections going and help each other when it matters. Meanwhile I am all set for the weekend. Thank you Elaine Kottler where ever you are.