Adventures in Thanks-Living

Living the gift of life one breath at a time

Archive for the tag “mindfulness”

Simple Lent & Simple Food

If you live in North America, you live in the land of abundance. We have a staggering array of options when it comes to food. Just going to the grocery can be overwhelming if you shop at a store like Wegman’s (a store that was a guilty pleasure when I was on internship).

Maybe we have too much choice. Perhaps our choice has caused us to lose focus of the process of how our food is produced, processed, and marketed to us. Is it just to purchase a piece of fruit out of season that has traveled thousands of miles and burned a lot of carbon? Do we even remember how to eat seasonally, to put food by, or to support our local farmers and farm markets?

The shocking thing is that even in this land of  plenty, almost 49 million Americans struggle to put food on the table each day. The average SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) allotment is $4 per day per person. In the United States alone, more than 16 million children live in homes where food is scarce. The situation globally is even more grim, and increasing hunger is likely to lead to violence as people fight over resources.

What can people of faith do? First of all, we can become more aware of the situation, especially in our own communities. You don’t have to look very far to find those who are hungry in your own home town. Secondly, we can examine our own patterns of consumption. How much do you spend on groceries each month? Have you ever broken it down by day and per person? You might be surprised. Now add the amount you spend dining out and on quick snacks and luscious lattes. It will be far more than $4 per day.

How might you simplify your consumption? How could you eat more responsibly and healthily? How can you find ways to work toward the elimination of hunger? For starters, check out the work of Bread for the World, for example, and become involved in being a part of the solution. Then find your local soup kitchen or food pantry and volunteer. Plant an extra row or two in your garden this year and give that produce to the hungry.

We decided during Lent we would simplify our diets as much as possible, increasing our consumption of legumes, avoiding processed foods, and continuing to support local farmers and economies. My spouse even gave up desserts for Lent. Tonight we dined on pinto beans, cornbread, and cabbage. It was a wonderful meal that cost only about a dollar each and was healthy and filling. We are also constantly aware of our waste stream and try not to waste food. Each year we are adding another raised bed or two, increasing the size of our garden.

Sure, these are small actions, but when we all take small steps good things happen. We have the capability to eliminate hunger in our world. To do so we must all be mindful of the choices we make and of how these choices reflect Jesus’ command to love our neighbors.

Here’s an idea! Instead of going out to eat, why not invite friends over for a shared meal. You provide the entree and beverages and invite your friends to bring a dish to share. You’ll have a good meal and an even better time. If you are adventurous consider a theme that puts an upper limit of how much can be spent on each dish. Keep it simple. Keep it real. Make it fun. Nobody said Lent had to be a completely grim experience.

Above all, pray for open eyes, open hands, and a heart that is willing always to share and set an extra place at the table. The Creator of the Universe deals in abundance. As the people of God we need to live from abundance, too.

Thanks-Living Activity

Be sure to check out this new film that premieres on March 1. You can find out more at bread.org.

Photos by David Shankbone and Natalie Maynor. Thanks!

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First Fruits

So now I bring the first of the fruit of the ground that you, O LORD, have given me. — Deuteronomy 26:10a

This half verse snippet from the Old Testament passage from the Revised Common Lectionary for the First Sunday in Lent is taken from instructions for the proper celebration of the Harvest Festival. The people were to bring the first fruits of their land land labor as an offering to God and as a reminder that all things come from the Creator and ultimately belong to God.

Most of us are no longer farmers. We don’t till the soil unless it’s in our backyard and kitchen gardens. We earn our livelihood in other ways. So how, then, does this instruction apply to 21st century folk? Is it strictly to be passed off as left to the tithe–ten percent of our money? I think not, although I am a believer in giving as generously as possible of one’s financial resources, more than ten percent if possible. Besides, money is a tool; it isn’t “ground” in the sense that this passage is talking about. Money is not good soil, not rich humus, or reclaimed compost. Money is a value exchange, so there must be something more.

That something, I think, is each person, your very self, body and soul. Jesus commands us in the gospels of Matthew (22:37-40), Mark (12:29-31), and Luke (10:27-29) to love the LORD completely and to love our neighbor as ourselves. This completion of the Shema (Deuteronomy 6:4), “Shema Yisrael Adonai Eloyhenu Adonai Echad,” reminds us that we belong to God and to one another and our lives should reflect this truth.

So if our body, mind, and soul are the “land” that God has given us, then it follows that we give back to God the very best parts of all that we are and all that we have.

  • We must cultivate and tend to our physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being with diligence, intentionality, and care,
  • We must nourish ourselves with good things–prayer, worship, study, relationships, and generosity (the five basic practices of discipleship), and
  • We must return to the LORD the very best of ourselves.

I think it is this third point that is the most difficult for me, and probably for all of us. It is so easy to take “ownership” of our lives, giving the best of ourselves as we want, not necessarily considering God in the equation. Worse yet, we tend to give God the leftovers–an hour or two on Sunday when we want, whatever funds are left over after we meet our own needs and wants, and whatever service strikes our fancy or the empty spots on our already overbooked schedules.

God reminded the people of Israel to bring their best, their first fruits and say, “The LORD brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, with a terrifying display of power, and with signs and wonders; and he brought us into this place and gave us this land, a land flowing with milk and honey.  So now I bring the first of the fruit of the ground that you, O LORD, have given me” (Deut. 8-10).

Augustine, Bishop of Hippo, understood this concept of first fruits that come from God and belong to God when he said, “Let me offer you in sacrifice the service of my thoughts and my tongue, but first give me what I may offer you.”

How might we offer our first fruits this week? What is the best of your time, talent, and treasure that you may offer to God, in the name of Christ, and for the sake of the Gospel? Whatever you discern, remember these words:

Don’t give last, and don’t give God less.

Give to God first, and give your best.

Blessings on your week, on your continued journey into a Simple Lent, and on your generous sharing of your very best!

Photos by Mr. Kris and JustinLowery.com. Thanks!

Simple Lent Begins

Today is the first day of Lent. I’ve taken a short break from the blog due to an overly busy schedule and the need to prepare for this series–Simple Lent.

For those of you who don’t keep Lent there will still be much of value for you in this 40 day series. Do keep checking in. The emphasis will be on examining identity and on simplifying life by stripping away non-essentials to live the days you are given fully and joyfully.

Ashes: Reminder and New Beginning

This day in the liturgical Christian tradition is Ash Wednesday. Priests and pastors will rub the ashes from last year’s Palm Sunday palms into each person’s forehead in the shape of a cross. This simple act with its words “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return” illustrates the reality that our time here on earth is fleeting.

Every year my spouse and I undertake the duty of burning the palms and preparing the ashes for our congregations. One can buy ashes–sifted, smooth, and silky–for Ash Wednesday, but somehow it doesn’t seem right to purchase them. Just as life must be lived and cannot be bought, so too the palms should be burned, the ashes sifted and pulverized. It is dirty work, humble work, and in a way, holy work. The joy of Palm Sunday is reduced to a tiny pile of dust, changed in form and reduced to almost nothing. As I said, it is humbling to witness.

Burning the ashes raises a question that is also a lament: Why do we so complicate our time and our lives? This question has been asked through the ages, and unfortunately is nothing new. British poet William Wordsworth wrote “The world is too much with us; late and soon/Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers:/Little we see in nature that is ours;/We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!

The cross of ashes sears into our soul the bittersweet news that time is elusive and fleeting. Our days are short and are made for more than getting and spending, more than rushing here and there, and more than turning inward to focus on our temporary existence of flesh and bone.

The soul seeks more. The soul is the self burned away, the beautiful remainder of our identity as created beings designed for relationship, for love, and for sharing.

This day, whether you bear the ashen cross on your forehead or whether you simply reflect on your life and its meaning, commit to a 40 day process of stripping away that which is nonessential. Accept the invitation to reduce the adiaphora of your life to ashes.

Remember, from ashes mixed with good soil new life may spring. The seed may grow, flower, and bear fruit. But nothing new will ever grow if the detritus of life covers and chokes the garden.

What is your hope? What are your dreams? What is essential? Ask the questions. Strip away the layers. Welcome to Simple Lent.

Thanksliving Activity:

Here’s one of my favorite songs by the group Casting Crowns. “American Dream” addresses the question of what’s really important and what matters. What is your dream? To what do you cling? What legacy are you building?

 

Photos by dennysmagikland and auntjojo. Thanks!

What Price?

Who would think to  link a cheap pair of blue jeans at a local mall with a chemical spill near the Chinese city of Handan? It’s not likely that most consumers would give such a possibility a first thought, much less a second one.

Yet that is exactly what happened recently, and NYU professor and author Dan Fagin wrote about the chemical spill that  polluted the Zhouzhang River, Handan’s major water source. He also provides a brief history of how consumers and manufacturers add potential carcinogens to the cost of the goods we purchase. You can click here to read Fagin’s op-ed piece in its entirety.

We live in a complex global society, and yet we are inextricably linked with our sisters and brothers around the world by something as simple as the fabric of the gloriously colored cheap jeans on the shelves of retailers at our malls and big box stores. Someone’s health–perhaps even life–is a terrible price to pay for a pair of jeans that likely won’t last a couple of years.

How in the world do consumers decide whether a purchase is sustainable and just? What premium should one expect to pay? How in the world can a consumer who lives on a fixed income or who struggles to put food on the table even begin to add these cost calculations to the shopping cart? These are good questions and fair ones to ask. Unfortunately, the answers are not simple ones either.

This factory in Dongguan pays workers US$2 per day, including mandatory overtime. By Chinese standards this is a good wage.

Click here for a brief 2010 American Public Media Marketplace Business interview with Steve Chiotakas and Adrienne Hill about whether consumers will purchase sustainable fashion. According to Hill it’s tough to determine whether an article is truly sustainable fashion or a marketer’s green-washing. Sustainable fashion also faces the question of how to overcome its tree-hugger hippie-type image.

All of us can make a difference by understanding the true price of the clothing we purchase. We can make informed decisions that reflect our values and lifestyle. We can raise awareness without being judgmental. We can share ideas and resources, and we can work for a better future for all people by thinking about the clothes we choose to wear.

Beginning Points:

  • Think about your values. What motivates your purchases? What really matters to you? What core principles drive your life and decisions? Outline these values and principles and apply them to all future purchases.
  • Ask yourself whether you really need a new item. Can you make do with what you have? Can you trade items with a friend or have a clothing swap party? Can you refashion an article of clothing into something “new”?
  • Identify what role shopping plays in your life. Do you shop for recreation? Does shopping fill a need in your life? Do you simply enjoy the thrill of finding a bargain? Do you only shop when absolutely necessary? Do you find the whole idea of shopping challenging? If you shop purely for recreation, think of other ways that can fill your time and your need for fun.
  • Can you minimize your wardrobe to a few key mix and match items and bright accessories? Do you really need a walk-in closet full of garments, or a hundred pair of shoes? There is great joy and liberation in paring down your possessions to the things you actually use and love.
  • Can you buy “new to you”? Check out vintage stores, consignment shops, thrift shops, and charity stores. You might find older items of better quality or gently used items at a greatly reduced price. This option helps keep new merchandise out of the consumer stream and ensures existing garments will continue to be useful. Virtually all of my shopping is done this way, and I’ve found some amazing articles of clothing that I could never afford (nor would purchase) new.
  • If you must buy new, are you willing to do the difficult work of researching and paying the extra cost for sustainable, fairly traded items? Are you willing to buck consumer trends and high fashion vision for comfort and clarity of mind and purpose?
  • Check out companies like People Tree, Maggie’s Organics, Global Girlfriend, prAna, who are among a new breed of manufacturers and producers striving to provide quality clothing that makes a difference. Are they perfect? No. Are they an improvement over other options? I believe so.
  • Consider making this statement your consumption “mantra”: Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without. (Thanks, Katy Wolk Stanley!)

Photos by lifecreations and Ed-meister. Thanks!

 

Consuming Mindfully

It may seem to be a simple purchase–a cheap pair of jeans, an exotic or out-of-season fruit–but how many consumers really take the time to consider the far-reaching effects of a purchase? All “stuff” has a story, and not all stories are good ones. Hopefully, we can all be more aware of how, what, and why we consume and purchase what we do. How in the world does one begin?

Dave Chameides of Care2.com offers the following list of questions consumers might wish to ask before making a purchase. He is unsure of the original author but felt it was definitely worth sharing with others, and I agree. Thirteen questions may seem like a lot to ask, but once you do it a few times you will automatically begin to think in these terms. In fact, you may not even be as tempted to make purchases.

1. Is this purchase something I need?

2. Do I already own something that will serve the same purpose?

3. Can I borrow one instead of buying new?

4. Can I make something that will serve the same purpose?

5. Can I buy a used one?

6. Would someone be willing to split the cost and share this with me?

7. Can I buy or commission one made locally?

8. Can I buy one that was made with environmentally responsible materials?

9. Can I buy one that serves more than one purpose?

10. Can I get something human powered instead of gas or electric?

11. Can I compost or recycle it when I’m done with it?

12. What is the impact on the environment of the full life cycle of it?

13. Does the manufacture or disposal of it damage the environment?

For me, mindful consumption is part of what it means to love my neighbor as myself. Since all that I do has a potential impact on neighbors near and far, I must carefully consider the way I use my time, resources, and purchasing power.

To Consider:

What questions do you ask before making a purchase and choosing to consume?

How can we all be more mindful of our decisions and how they impact others?

Check out The Story of Stuff by Annie Leonard. This short film is well worth watching and may just change your life (and the lives of many others).

Photo by Coffee Core. Thanks!

Embracing Mystery

To see a world in a grain of sand,

And a heaven in a wild flower,

Hold infinity in the palm of your hand,

And eternity in an hour.

– William Blake

I enjoy spending time around children because they remind me of how to live each moment fully, how to examine the world with eyes of love and wonder, and how to embrace mystery as a natural part of what it means to be alive. Somehow, between childhood and adulthood, we manage to squelch this wonderful approach to living and replace it with something far less satisfying, what we term “realistic” and “appropriate” and “logical.”

Somehow along the way we build fences, construct walls, and organize life into neat categories of black and white, right and wrong, in and out, cool and uncool. Because of our human desire to “know” and control our life and destiny, we strive for certainty and mastery. We seek to acquire and cling to rather than experience and ponder. In the process, largely unintentionally, we lose our ability to embrace the mystery of the universe.

Have you ever watched a child experience the natural world? Have you seen how each flower is its own universe to be explored, how every bird and animal is marvelous and wonderful to behold? Remember how mud puddles are for jumping in–not avoided–and garden hoses are destined to be fountains rather than simply conduits for H2O? Little children don’t watch clocks. They don’t hurry past when something catches their fancy. They are honest and inquisitive and, well, real.

Children not only accept mystery, they embrace and are enthralled by it. Mystery and wonder are partners in living. Once upon a time signals a story worth listening to, and music is made to inspire a silly whirl of a dance. A child sees no reason to argue about whether the world was created in seventy days or seventy million days. The world was created, and it’s really cool; that’s what matters.

What would it take for you to recapture and embrace the mystery of life in this new year? Is it possible for you to take off your watch, shut off your cell phone, put on some music and dance like a kindergartner until you fall down exhausted? Can you spare an hour to walk in the woods, to taste snowflakes, and yes, to stomp in a puddle? Will you treasure and ponder the mystery that you are, the gift of life that the Creator has given you, and the wonders and delights of this beautiful world? I hope you will. I pray you will.

We wake, if ever at all, to mystery. — Annie Dillard

Photos by AlicePopkorn and vastateparksstaff. Thanks!

Don’t Worry…Be Grateful!

Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? — Matthew 6:25-26 (NRSV)

Yesterday I wrote about fear and how it can prevent one from living a life of joy and thanks-living. Today I want to address one of fear’s first cousins–worry. Fear and worry like to hang out together. There’s safety in numbers and misery, too.

Worry prevents a person from fully enjoying and embracing life. This emotion refuses to live in the present. While it rarely dwells long in the past, it looks to the future with an anxious eye and hesitant air. Worry’s favorite words are “What if…?” It loves to ask questions like “What if there’s not enough money?” and “What if I lose my job?” or “What if I get really sick?” or even “What if the sky falls tomorrow?”

Unless you’re closely related to Chicken Little, you have no business embracing worry as a bosom buddy or “kissin’ cousin.” Throw worry right out the door. NOW! Worry does not have your best interests at heart and certainly doesn’t want you to live joyfully and thankfully in the present moment.

Worrying about the future will not likely change anything; instead, you’ll only miss or fail to enjoy the present. And let’s face it folks; the present moment is the only one we have control over.

So skip the worry. Live mindfully in the present. Enjoy what you’ve been given. Determine that you have enough, that you are blessed abundantly, and that you have much to share with and give to others. Life is good, God is good, and you are good enough, too.

And now for something a little bit different…

If you still doubt it and feel inclined to worry, then take a listen to this classic rendition of “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” by Bobby McFerrin. See if you can identify the two other guys in the video. (Sorry about the ad. You can click to skip it after five seconds.)

Photo by Elizabeth Audrey. Thanks!

Beginning…Again

For last year’s words belong to last year’s language and next year’s words await another voice. […] And to make an end is to make a beginning.         — T.S. Eliot from “Little Gidding”

Happy New Year! How are you spending the first day of the rest of your life? What is your state of mind? To whom have you said, “I love you”? What will you do with this one precious day?

Part of living a life of thanks-living is being mindful of each day and the gifts–great and small–that present themselves to you and that you present to others. The beginning of a new calendar year is traditionally a time for resolutions and hopefulness. How about mindfulness?

What if…instead of resolving to lose weight, make more money, save more money, find the right partner, get a better job, write that best-selling novel, or whatever else you might want to achieve…what if you simply resolved to be mindful of each precious moment? What if you promised to try and be aware of the gift of each day, one day at a time?

Sure, planning is a good thing, but we twenty-first century, multi-tasking, over-booked, under-capitalized humans tend to get so caught up in looking backwards and forwards that we forget to look straight ahead into the moment. Hey, I’m as guilty as anyone else.

Instead of a resolution this year, I’m simply going to try to live each and every day as if it is the only day I have. After all, we never know how much time we do have, so let’s try to make the most of it. So…

  • Let’s put relationships first and stuff last.
  • Let’s take care of the body we’ve been given by eating well, getting enough sleep, and exercising.
  • Let’s look at our work as good and valuable and do the best possible job we can at whatever we do. If you don’t feel like you’re doing what you’re supposed to do, work mindfully at following your passions. If you live and work well, the living will follow.
  • Let’s focus on giving and sharing rather than amassing and hoarding, and
  • Let’s cultivate and nurture our sense of the holy, the spiritual, and the good (what I call faith).

As 2012 ends, however the year was for you, let’s embrace the new beginning of 2013 and make it 365 single days of joy and thanks-living. I look forward to the journey!

Want a little inspiration? Check out this You Tube video:

Photo by Sally Mahoney. Thanks!

Slow Down!

There’s absolutely no reason for being rushed along with the rush. Everybody should be free to go very slow. ~ Robert Frost

It’s finally Friday! Are you still scurrying around in a frenzied fever pitch? Is your to-do list all too handy? Do you have yourself booked solid for the weekend? Are you speeding through life as fast and furious as your little human self will take you?

Why? What’s the rush?

Think about it. You know the guy who tailgates you for several miles until he finally gets the clearance to whiz by you with an evil glare? You shake your head and drive on. Guess who ends up in front of you at the next traffic signal? Yes, that’s right. There sits Mr. Speedypants in all his grumpy glory. You just know he’s fuming. All that fuss and increased blood pressure for one car length’s advantage. What a pity!

You, on the other hand, are free to take your time, to enjoy the day, to treasure the moment. Unless you’re more prone to behave like Mr. Speedypants, that is. I will admit that I have my speedypants days, more often than I’d like to acknowledge.

But here’s what I’m learning. Speeding through life is not worth it. Savoring life moment by moment is better. Being mindful enough to slow down and really live, to truly appreciate what it means to be drawing breath and taking nourishment, is a much more thankful way to live.

You are free to go slowly and deliberately through life. You really do have a startling degree of choice about whether to rush about like an angry tornado or move gracefully and calmly through your own life.

What might it take to slow down and savor your one precious life?

  • Do you need to do a better job of saying no to excess commitments and obligations?
  • Do you need to learn to pare down your wants and live beneath your means?
  • Do you need to take all of your vacation time and quit worrying about whether your job will be o.k. without you?
  • Do you need to unplug and take a tech Sabbath?
  • Do you need to simply take a real day of Sabbath rest on a regular basis?
  • Do you need to put family and friends above money and stuff?
  • Do you need to reconnect with the natural world?
  • Do you need to lay off the fast food and enjoy some slow cooking with fresh, local ingredients?

What else might you need to decrease the speed of your days and increase your capacity for thanks-living?

I certainly don’t have all the answers, and I am a work in progress. Right now, however, I pledge to make tomorrow (Saturday) a day where I am free to go very slow, to focus on living, giving, and sharing. How about you? What can you do to enjoy a slow day, month, year, or rest of your life?

Photo by dannysullivan used under Creative Commons License. Thanks!

Mindful

A mind is a terrible thing to waste. –slogan of the UNCF

Minds are wasted through lack of opportunity, as the United Negro College Fund (UNCF) so aptly recognized in its famous fund-raising and awareness slogan. Yet minds are also wasted through abuse, neglect, and the squandering of gifts.

As a teacher I am always concerned about the development of the mind and about nurturing a passion for knowledge and wisdom. Truly, a mind is a terrible thing to waste. The mind is a gift, a part of the body not to be taken for granted, intimately interwoven with the spirit/soul that makes us human.

So tell me, are you mindful of your mind? Do you attend to its care and feeding? How do you nourish your intellect, and how do you attend to its companions of soul and spirit?

I am concerned that we in the United States have become somewhat soft when it comes to mental calisthenics. We are a nation that expects entertainment, and that thinks and responds in increasingly short “sound bytes.”

No, I don’t dislike social media; in fact, I use it fairly extensively. Twitter, Facebook, and other similar formats offer much of value and definitely have their place. What concerns me is that lose something if we become completely absorbed in the “newest and latest.”

What happens when our political discourse is reduced to manageable sound bytes? What happens when we are so cued to the visual that the power of words eludes us? What’s the difference in a Facebook “friend” and a next door neighbor? Do cyber relationships possess the same kind of potential for intimacy and transparency?

Educator Neil Postman wrote a wonderful book in 1985 entitled Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business. If you haven’t read it, I commend it to you and encourage you to lay hands on a copy. Postman’s premise is that “form excludes the content” and that we have lost something important in our cultural transition to the visual media. Think about it. People used to think nothing of listening to a two hour lecture or sermon. Now, in many contexts a preacher or speaker will lose much of his or her audience after 15 minutes.

The ability to think critically, to analyze and synthesize material, and to actively listen and to develop and sustain a rational argument seem to be endangered traits. Sure, we’re better at multi-tasking, but recent research postulates that this may not be desirable or more efficient.

Nothing, of course, stays the same, and our success depends upon our ability to adapt or change. That said, the mind needs to be exercised and not lulled into some kind or Orwellian stupor.

Give thanks for the gift of your mind–for your intellect, your ability to reason, to grasp concepts, make connections, remember, experience, and feel. Don’t take it for granted. As the familiar adage reminds us, “use it or lose it.” Read, think, work puzzles, play games, engage in lively conversation and friendly argument. Analyze the content of news, consider all sides of an issue, and think for yourself. Listen to music, read poetry, delve into sacred texts.

Yes, a mind is a terrible thing to waste. You have been given a precious gift. Use it and thank GOD for it.

For Further Reflection

Our modern minds are far more often “full” that “mindful” as we hurry through our busy days. Part of being mindful is the ability to put that 21st century multi-tasking part of your existence aside to focus, center, and simply be. Try to engage in meditation or contemplative prayer as a regular discipline. If you are not familiar with these practices you may find it difficult at first, but with practice it does become easier.

Try this simple exercise. Sit quietly and comfortably in a place with as few distractions as possible. Focus on your breathing and its gentle rhythms. Close your eyes and focus on a simple word or phrase. Why not try “gratitude,” “peace,” or “grace”? Empty your mind of all that crowds in. Acknowledge the thoughts that come but dismiss them for the moment. Aim for five minutes and gradually increase to 15 or more. You should find this time to be relaxing and refreshing.

(Photos by taufiq@eyecreation, ivanpw, and  libookperson used under Creative Commons License. Thanks!)

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