Find Your ZZZen

Author: Kirsten K., Wellness
Find Your ZZZen 1

Zen Alarm Clock® in Burgundy

The weekend is almost here, and for most people this means the chance to sleep in without being rudely awakened by an alarm clock. I have written before about the fact that I’m not a morning person. Rising to wakefulness—even after a full night of sleep—can often feel like clawing my way up from the abyss, so the blare of an alarm in the midst of deep slumber is particularly jarring. In a case of Pavlovian conditioning, any time I hear a sound resembling that of an alarm clock, my heart begins to race and I feel a sense of panic. Just this week, I heard about a woman who wore her Fitbit to bed and found that her resting heart rate of 60 beats per minute leapt to 102 when she was jolted awake by her alarm. That’s no way to greet the day!

I pride myself on being punctual, but I’ve slept through my share of alarms. In high school, it was my father’s duty to be my second line of defense. He would come in my room to get me up after my alarm had either stopped on its own or I’d turned it off and promptly fallen back to sleep. Then he’d softly call to me and I’d assure him that I was awake…until I’d actually wake up five minutes before it was time to leave the house with no memory of our conversation, yelling at him as I ran out the door for falling down on the job.

Find Your ZZZen 2

Zen Timepiece® in New Bamboo

As a night owl who comes alive when the sun goes to sleep, I’ve managed to find employment at a number of jobs over the years where my workday begins in the late morning or early afternoon and ends in prime time, but I still need a gentle “reminder” to get up most days. Fortunately, I discovered a clock that allows me to arrive at work on time while maintaining my Zen.

Now & Zen started producing their miraculous alarm clocks and timers 20 years ago “to make a real difference in people’s lives.” Judging by my personal experience, they have succeeded. Their clocks feature either a brass bowl on a wooden base or an acoustic chime set within a hinged or triangular case. When the alarm is triggered, a gong gently strikes the bowl or chime, causing a soothing tone to resonate. Over the course of 10 minutes, the gong strikes with increasing frequency until it reaches an interval of five seconds—the terminal cycle—when it will chime continuously until the alarm is turned off.

Find Your ZZZen 3

Digital Zen Alarm Clock® in Walnut

I have owned Now & Zen clocks since the late 1990s and I don’t know how I could have survived all these years without them. My first was the original Zen Alarm Clock®, but I eventually upgraded to the digital version for its compact form and added features. It is available in a 7-inch case with a B tone chime, but I sprang for the slightly larger 9-inch version that emits an E tone. Both offer the same progressive awakening feature, where the chiming advances according to the golden ratio*. An aspect of sacred geometry, this ratio is reflected in nature as a logarithmic spiral, such as that found in a chambered nautilus. Now & Zen uses an image of a nautilus shell on its clocks to illustrate this relationship.

Find Your ZZZen 4Even with a peaceful summons to waking life, I still hedge my bets by placing the clock across the room so that I have to get out of bed to turn it off—there is no snooze button, so the danger exists of shutting the alarm off only to fall back asleep. I usually set the clock to strike three minutes before I want to get up. The first chime tickles my consciousness, so I’m already starting to awaken by the time the second chime sounds 3 ½ minutes later. On occasion, I’ve slept through the first two or three chimes, but I’m always up and out of bed before it reaches the five-second interval. Since using these clocks, the only times I’ve overslept were during a power outage or when I’ve forgotten to set the alarm (it happens).

Through the years, people have suggested I try other alarm clocks with gradual awakening features, such as a lamp that gets increasingly brighter to simulate the sunrise, but I’ve never found a reason to switch. In addition to a progressive alarm, Now & Zen clocks have interval, countdown, and meditation timers (demonstrated in these product videos) and can run on batteries or plug into an AC jack. They also come in a variety of styles, woods, and finishes. With all these choices, it’s easy to find your ZZZen.

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Now & Zen


*The progression of chime strikes is explained in detail on the company’s website and in their instructional booklets.

The Pen Is Mightier Than the MS Word

Author: Kirsten K., Correspondence, Wellness
The Pen Is Mightier 1

Woman in the Sea (felt, fabric and thread) by Marianne McCann

I have a friend in Vermont whom I lovingly refer to as My Crazy Friend Marianne™. She is a total quirkfest. A skilled seamstress who is as likely to appliqué aliens on a hand-stitched quilt as flowers, she is also a classically-trained artist who once made a paint-by-numbers of JonBenét Ramsey on a piece of wood that she colored in with nail polish. She sews many of her own clothes and throws separates together haphazardly in a style I can only describe as “Pippi Longstocking let loose in Oilily.” She talks a mile a minute, reads even faster, and has varied interests ranging from UFOs to homesteading.

The Pen Is Mightier 2

Vermont and Tupperware (acrylic on canvas) by Marianne McCann

I met Marianne when she was temping at a record label where I worked in Los Angeles. We remained good friends after we both left the company, until one day when she suddenly announced that she was moving to Vermont. She’d visited a friend there and made a spur-of-the-moment decision to pack up her son and her few belongings and relocate to New England. The residents of her small town did not know what to make of her at first, but they have embraced her in the years since she dropped into their lives.

The Pen Is Mightier 3Marianne is something of a Neo-Luddite who goes online at her local library only when absolutely necessary and can usually be found in front of the woodstove in her one-room cabin with a cat and a pile of knitting in her lap. I could give her a call anytime, but she prefers to exchange letters—“real,” handwritten letters, not emails or computer printouts. She is the last holdout in my life to the art of written correspondence.

The Pen Is Mightier 4We have been exchanging letters for years, sometimes regularly, often sporadically. I find that I resist sitting down to write a letter, thinking that I don’t have the time, but once I have pen in hand and a blank sheet before me, it feels like a meditation. The act of putting ink to paper is deeply satisfying. Words flow directly from my hand to the page and each letter has a different shape and feel. It’s a more honest form of communication, since there is little opportunity to edit. Sometimes I’ll think, “I should have left that out,” or, “I could have said that differently.” But I’m halfway down the page and I’m not going to start over, so it stays in.

The Pen Is Mightier 5When I’ve finished a letter, I experience a true sense of accomplishment. I have created something tangible that will now travel across the country and soon be in the hands of my friend. There is a feeling of anticipation as I wonder what she’ll think, if she’ll laugh, how and when she’ll respond. There is no immediacy to exchanging handwritten letters. It is a process. You send off your stamped envelope then go about your life for days, sometimes weeks, until you walk out to your mailbox one afternoon and there is a letter addressed to you in uneven script. It’s like receiving an unexpected gift. I don’t usually open it right away, but save it until I have a moment to sit down with a cup of tea to savor the news of Marianne’s latest wacky project.

The Pen Is Mightier 6I must admit that sometimes I “cheat.” I found a parchment background online and a script font that looks fairly handwritten. Occasionally, when I haven’t corresponded for a while and am pressed for time, I will type up a letter in Microsoft Word using these tools, print it out and mail it off. Of course, Marianne knows it isn’t authentic, but I hope she appreciates my effort to approximate the real thing. From time to time, she herself will send a typewritten note or a postcard of one of her paintings in lieu of a handwritten letter, but nothing is quite as fulfilling as sending and receiving the genuine article.

My Crazy Friend Marianne™ told me that I would feel better when I took the time to share my thoughts on paper in my own hand…and that was sane advice.

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Marianne McCann


If you’d like to begin a written correspondence, but don’t have a friend or relative who’s interested, consider writing to a soldier or finding a pen pal through an online service like International Pen Friends, PenPal World, or PenpalsNow.


Have Cake and Tea with Your Demons

Author: Kirsti Kay, Books, Inspiration, Literature, Wellness

Have Your Cake 1Do you ever have those moments when you could use a little uplifting, but you don’t have time to read a self-help book? Or you try to meditate and all you can think about is all the other stuff you should be doing? If this sound like you, I have a great book to share that is perfect when your soul needs a quick attitude adjustment. It’s called Your Illustrated Guide to Becoming One with the Universe by Yumi Sakugawa, and I wish I could have it permanently implanted in my brain for quick access at all times.

Have Your Cake 2The book is a collection of beautiful ink drawings with delightful ideas and suggestions for opening up your heart and finding peace and calm in a universe that is sometimes overwhelming and hard to navigate. You can easily read it in one sitting, which I did the first time. But now, when I need a little Zen, I flip through and just read a few pages. It always brings me back to center and reminds me how much there is to appreciate in this crazy world. It’s also a great book for people who would like a dreamy guide to inner peace without going full Chopra.

Have Your Cake 3With lessons such as “Have Cake and Tea with Your Demons,” Yumi deconstructs spirituality into bites we can easily digest.

Cake and tea, you say?
And by having this little party with my demon I can come to realize my demon just wanted love and compassion and time? And then we hug it out and dance? Count me in!

Each page is a sweet little present to your well-being or, as the book jacket says, “a hand-drawn path to inner peace.”

And don’t we deserve more presents?Have Your Cake 4

Yumi Sakugawa is an award-winning comic book artist and author. I’ve been following her on Facebook and love every new post. Her whimsical ink drawings (sometimes with color) are so full of life and warmth and continually display increased depth and complexity the more you look at them. Her drawings are usually accompanied by a poetic thought that makes you feel better instantly. Best of all, there are no complicated pop psychology terms to look up, no existential concepts that confuse you, and there isn’t a ton of reading to slog through to get to the point. With a lovely drawing and a happy thought, your spirit is uplifted and you are ready to move on to all the other stuff you should be doing.

Read Yumi. Feel better. Repeat. Becoming one with the universe has never been so easy or so fun.

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Your Illustrated Guide to Becoming One with the Universe



Your Illustrated Guide to Becoming One with the Universe can be purchased at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Urban Outfitters, and a variety of online retailers.


Update 11/11/15:

Have Your Cake 5Yumi Sakugawa just released a new book called There Is No Right Way To Meditate And Other Lessons, and it’s as delightful and uplifting as Your Illustrated Guide To Becoming One With The Universe. Yumi has a gift for combining her sweet drawings with simple text to explain sometimes complicated concepts in a way that makes you instantly feel better. Meditation can be daunting, but Yumi makes it accessible and fun. I read this book aloud to my husband and we both giggled and smiled, which in itself was a meditation—Yumi style.

Find out more about There Is No Right Way To Meditate, including where to purchase the book, on Yumi Sakugawa’s website.