Monthly Archives: October 2017

Slow and Steady

I really didn’t care for “slow” most of my life. In truth, I disdained anything slow. Progress, forward movement, change – these were my values. In that rush to work towards an imagined future free of the turmoil and problems of the current moment, the thought of “slow” was everything I was resisting. And of course we all know, what you resist persists.

Running away from “slow,” upending it, thwarting it by whatever means possible, was indicative of my running away from the realities of my life and psyche. If I could get to the time of improved conditions (though hard work, relentless effort and a whole lot of imagining), the discomfort in my mind would stop. It would have to, conditions would finally be conducive to the real me in all of my undiscovered glory.

Yeah, that never worked.

Why would I even have that expectation? How does one develop such a strategy? I see it now as a cultural affliction. I’m really sad that I’m almost 50 years old and learning what seem to be really basic tenets of health, wellness, and use of the body. Seriously, I’ve been in this body all this time and had such a superficial understanding of how it works, what it needs and what it can do. How is this not elementary level stuff? How is our educational system so focused on the 3 R’s (which totally encapsulates the probem) and so profoundly negligent on necessary information for humans on earth? We have such poor practices in cultivating healthy, thriving humans. This is evidenced by the disarray of our political, social and economic conditions. We literally ignore health (physical, emotional, mental), discernment, cooperation, respect. I mean, look at the children’s game “musical chairs.”

Today I listened to Ken Wilber discuss “The 3 Selves on the Journey to Waking Up and Growing Up” and while I have never been able to make it through one of his books, this presentation was excellent. I have to shift my self-perception a bit from “not a Ken Wilber fan” to perhaps someone who is ready to explore more of his work.

He has 4 areas of attention, Waking Up (spiritual), Growing Up (psychological health), Cleaning Up (shadow work) and Showing Up (service). Within these, we all go through the process of development to as far a stage as we are willing to work towards, including the development from ego-centric, to ethnocentric, to world-centric, to integrated. I would imagine this development as the focus of our educational system would yeild far different results.

You can’t speed through this stuff. We have to go back and sit with whatever it is we are running away from.      Sit. Stay. Heal. This is not something that is suggested in our culture. Indeed, I get pretty frustrated by our cultural obsession with individuals whose problems then surprise us (as if anyone doesn’t have problems).

This is not something that is suggested in our culture. Indeed, I get pretty frustrated by our cultural obsession with individuals whose problems then surprise us (as if anyone doesn’t have problems).

I wonder who I would be if I had not developed my fast-paced, conditions-oriented, try to ‘fix it’ orientation in the world. I would certainly be a very different person than the person I am now.

Today is very disjointed writing.

It’s hard for me to believe how much I value slowness now. It’s hard to reconcile with who I used to be, and having to “die to who I was” is really the only way I can fully accept who I am now and am becoming (because it doesn’t really reconcile with who I used to be, as in, that person would’ve hated me. i just feel a lot of compassion for that person).

As I contend with these kinds of thoughts, this kind of disjointed expression and my feelings about how it relates culturally, witness consciousness and deep breathing are really the only helpful strategies. I think I could use another session of meditation today.

 

Surrendering, with Michael Singer

No, this is not an interview with Michael Singer. But, this is a mid-book journal, reflecting on his life and experience, my life and experience and surrender as a release of selfishness and the acceptance of universal cooperation. Since looking up the definition of surrender the other day, I’ve been frustrated by the synonyms. It’s not defeat. It’s not giving in to an enemy.

Unless love itself is an enemy of the mind. And of the rational mind, yes, i guess it is. But who is the enemy to peace? certainly not surrender. the rational mind is an enemy to any potential of peace for most people.

I’m glad I didn’t know about this book in the earlier stages of my personal surrendering practice, because I may have started to fantasize about what surrendering could get me. Man, oh, man, am I glad that thought process didn’t ignite.

I realize that even my most altruistic ventures always had this sense of “and then i’ll be grand” attached to it. It’s creepy to me now. I really felt having a rosy vision of the future was important in goal setting. I thought a lot of things that I am no longer interested in and indeed saddened that I ever ascribed to.

The first company i ever started I named I. HOJON Productions. The name is an acronym for In Honor Of Jesus Of Nazareth. Coming fresh from a Japanese degree, and having that acronym sound vaguely Asian, I looked it up thinking the characters may make a good logo. The company was intended to produce cultural awareness shows for kids representing as many communities as we could. In the Japanese dictionary, the phonetic I. HOJON broke into ai (love) Ho (many definitions, one of which was *hmm.. i’m having a hard time remembering and don’t want to interrupt writing to look. maybe abundance. ho has a lot of potential definitions) and zyan (innocence, purity and/or net as in profit). Seemed like a match made in heaven!

This site, kriyativity, comes from the name of an action figure company we started to represent the heroes of Indian cosmology – truly epic superheros. But, the connection to kriya yoga made the name another shoe-in in my life.

But, names don’t matter. The idea that these ideas were coming from and for me to birth in the world with my smarty pants brain and willing to be a mule work ethic, well, it was not right. Obviously. All the good intentions in the world can’t overcome the bullshit ego crap I didn’t even know I had, much less was willing to get rid of.

I have uncountable flaws. I get this. Part of this human condition for me is accepting myself despite them, and being willing to surrender my identification with them in the moments they reveal themselves so kindly. I remember the moment when the yin/yang symbol revealed itself in my body, letting me know that I can never erase all of the black parts (and spot) and just be this glowing white being. Beginning the shadow work became less frightening with that invitation.

And still, the shadow work progresses in my life, as does the ascending work, and I trust the universe to provide me with the tools and circumstances to keep the process moving along as it should. For so many years I was sad that I’ve never had a direct spiritual teacher, that i thought i was ready but no one showed up. I learned to receive my teacher both in my heart and in the bounty of spiritual literature and that has kept me quite busy and progressing in palpable ways.

Earlier, when I said I was just a little jealous… i don’t feel that now. I can see my reliance on personal preference over the years, the personal responsibility I felt to do, accomplish, shepherd things, and painfully, the aggrandizement of my ego — not simply act as the instrument. I think i figured that because my intentions were based on understanding, learning, oneness … that my ego was spiritual and thereby deserving of sticking around. How funny is that? I mean deluded, of course. And I never recognized it. I’m pretty sure I would’ve given an eloquent and convincing (only to me) argument on why it really was appropriate. Today I both see that it’s not, and see the construct I’d set up for myself so that I could keep believing that it was. It’s a big deal for me. I’m grateful. Thank you, Mr. Singer.

Desire

This isn’t about wanting cars and status. This is about wanting peace. Enlightenment. Samadhi. This is about regaining what has been experienced in brief glimpses of eternity. People talk about flow, and the cessation of the inner dialogue, and we’ve all had these moments I guess. I know I’ve had a few. And I’ve had a few extremely powerful spiritual experiences that at once opened my heart and conversely, made me aware of what I am missing in my every day waking state.

Swami Yogeshananda, a gentleman on whom I should write a longer post because he’s quite interesting, said: “the difference between a spiritual experience and a dream is that the dream fades, but a spiritual experience is never forgotten.” Damn straight.

So, I am currently reading Michael Singer’s “Surrender Experiment” (i put it in quotes though i sense that’s not the full title).

As I began my slowing down/healing journey, I realized that spiritual practice based on reading and discussing holy books was not quite going to cut it. I needed a practice, much like meditation, that could guide my daily activities. When I found the Ramakrishna Monastery (again, deserving of it’s own post because it’s such a special place) the first talk I was able to attend was by a nun named Sevaprana and was titled, “Forgiveness.” Her talk was excellent and gave me lots of fodder to apply forgiveness in my daily life, as a practice, as my primary spiritual pursuit.

Turns out, forgiveness is quite a profound spiritual practice, and definitely another post. And as forgiveness went to work on me, it transformed itself into Surrender. This was in winter 2015 and the first book I read on the subject was Hawkins’ “Letting Go” which i think was subtitled “the art of surrender” but I’m not sure. Hawkins is one of my favorite thinkers, but not one of my favorite authors, but he described thoughts like bait on a hook, and we the fish in a beautiful river. we may enjoy the river, but if we take the bait, that hook is going to take us on quite the unnecessary journey. Not taking the bait became a mantra for me, and quite effective. I mean, we traveled for 18 months without a stitch of a plan, so, yes, Surrender became an important part of my life.

Here a few years later, it is gratifying to see that Surrender has made some significant alterations to my mind-state. In short assessments I never would’ve noticed any of them (more evidence for why it sucks to keep score). But, with the luxury of hindsight and the memory of the latent (and sometimes not so latent) anxiety that coursed through my being before these practices began, I am so grateful for the difference I could cry.

In the time prior to these practices, I wanted to read something or learn something and transform in that moment and in lieu of such result considered the reading or learning insufficient, unsuccessful. A dud.

Ah, the mentality of instant gratification…

Also during those times, I would read about someone’s miraculous transformation (often in regards to health) and I tried every single thing I could read about in search of my own transformational moment. Uhm… it never came. But what did evolve was a toolkit of techniques, oddly enough, most of which have come in handy in a micro sort of way at one point or another. Apparently big, permanent transformation was not appropriate for me. Until it was. Life is full of contradictions.

Life Itself is unfolding before us and revealing Itself to us constantly. And we sit there like, “uhm, not sure this is valid. could we get a stage? maybe some lighting… a sound system… maybe a smoke machine? then I really couldn’t deny it is You and it is Special.”

People walk around wishing for a million dollar check when God works in small, unmarked bills.

So, back to the fact that I’m reading Michael Singer’s book, and I’m enjoying it. It comes at a time in my life that I’ve practiced a lot of Surrender. I used to agonize over not knowing my broader purpose given that I haven’t been working, and as much as I love my family life I certainly always felt contribution was what created value (this value assessment conundrum being a big part of this whole Slowing Down process). Anyhow, the practice of surrender allows me to trust that what I need to do will present itself as I wholeheartedly practice engaging with life. This has been an enormous shift, and a huge relief, and a playful friendship with life instead of trying to scale the mountain of it.

Michael Singer’s book is really chock full of stories about practical surrender and remarkable results. If I were reading this book at the beginning of my surrender practice, I would be wildly jealous and immediately start doing what he did looking for the same results. But because it comes when it does, I am only a tiny bit jealous, and far more inspired. Not to try to copy him and replicate his experience, but to deepen my practices with some insights from his and let life build my own experience more easily (or at least having my experience of it more readily – i’m pretty sure everything is pretty easy for Life).

My goal is to be an instrument through which the Breath of Life sings it’s blessings to the universe itself. I am still exploring how to clean the windpipes, and after that I think I’ll need some lessons on pressing buttons or the key-shifts of whatever kind of instrument I am. I’m not sure, but with this intention and declared faith in Life Itself, it is ok letting Life show me in Its own time.

The Hardest Lesson I Ever Learned (am learning)

Worth without action. Value without a resume to fall back on. That BEING itself is enough.

Simple enough concept and incredibly difficult to internalize. Even relatively easy to see about people we love and enjoy. They don’t have to do or be anything for us to love them (and if they do need to do those things to earn our affection, we might need to rethink our definitions of love). This is especially true when I think about my nephew who made his transition almost 9 years ago. I don’t remember many specifics of the various things he did, but his being, his presence, what he felt like to be around, this I remember vividly. The fact of his being was the gift. All the activities and trails he left were tiny subsets of that powerful being.

Getting sick and experiencing long periods of inactivity really messes with one’s self-worth. Culturally, we value what people do, have done, will do. To have “doing” taken away, as in the case of physical debilitation, sent me into a very serious line of inquiry that continues to be very difficult, but now after many years of this question holding powerful attendance in my life, is completely changing the playing field of who i think i am and how i relate to the world. Very difficult. Very freeing.

Even now, as I continue to be fully committed to vibrating at the highest frequency available to me as my primary objective in this life, every now and again I want to take score. If I allow myself to take score, I invariably open a can of worms and have a long and arduous journey before I can square with who I am again. Most of the time my scorecard looks at all of the things I haven’t done and condemns my life. Occasionally, I compare myself favorably to someone or something else and my dreaded companion of egotism drops in for a spell, pees on the rug, and generally makes a mess that is no fun to clean up.

Twice this week I’ve encountered stories of people really struggling with this concept. One has MS and is losing mobility, so every bit of mobility she has is super important to her, while those in her life are trying to move in and ‘get things done’ for her. Their kind efforts are undermining her dwindling sense of independence and it’s harming the relationships. Another friend is quadriplegic and even after many years (and great spiritual achievement) still struggles with value without doing.

These seem to me to be cultural problems. You don’t have to look far to see that culturally we value achievement. I think there may have been a time when that arose from a balanced place, but I believe it’s gone off the deep end. Intrinsic value is a concept that has been stolen from us, individually and collectively. It’s been replaced by values that benefit a system dedicated to progress at any cost, which has had remarkably destructive implications for individuals (99%), society, and the earth.

This idea of wholeness, of being enough *just as you are*, of being worthy regardless of your resume, is completely radical to the value system I grew up in (and I believed my parents and community to be pretty progressive). Once, when someone asked me what i wanted to do with my life and I said, “I don’t know,” he replied, “well, think of the thing that you’ve learned that has been of the most value to you, and figure out how to share it.” I thought of travel and cultural appreciation, and started a nonprofit to teach kids about culture. And that’s always been a passion, but now, I think wholeness is that thing.

Surrender and Action

If you look at my Facebook page, it says I work at: “Surrender”

That’s because Surrender is my primary spiritual practice and I do work at it, everyday. Remembering to surrender to Life Itself is the muscle I am building, one little surrender at a time.

I get a lot of quizzical looks about this choice of spiritual practice. People can’t help thinking of defeat and surrender as synonyms, which they are not. There is great pride in fighting for what you believe in, and I’m not against such crusades, this just isn’t the time in my life for really any kind of fight. Even with the political turmoil, I am expressing my voice more than I have in decades but not with fight, just with expression. That may change. Fluidity, flexibility, and adaptability are all key elements of my modis operandi.

Another misconception about surrender is that it renounces action. Looking up synonyms as I write this post, I sortof want to come up with a new word other than Surrender for surrender because the definition and synonyms sure talk alot about giving in to an enemy and that is wildly not what I am talking about.

I look at surrender as the prefix sur, meaning above or beyond and render being to make or “cause to become.” These things I can work with. Surrender, to me, is to stop fighting for control of life. Recognizing that I am part of life, inextricably linked to Life Itself which is alive in every molecule of my being as much as it is alive in a flower or bolt of electricity. I believe that trusting in Life Itself to move through me with the same intentionality that it creates galaxies just may be a better idea than me trying to control everything to fit some picture i’ve developed from some misplaced (or even well-placed) value system.

Trusting in Life Itself and relaxing into that trust in any given situation is what Surrender means to me. With the relief that comes from that act of surrendering, that shift in attitude and perception, I can then participate in life without all the pressure.

So, surrender doesn’t abdicate action in my mind. Surrender releases action to be spontaneous and without attachment to a result. That is my favorite kind of action. I am so tired of having to assess the efficacy of my actions in creating the life i want. In fact, I am so glad I didn’t get the life I wanted. If all of my schemes had come true (female Richard Branson), I may have missed some of my favorite parts of my life. The focus I had on outward achievement may have, if it came true, shifted my focus from my kids for these wonderful few years of their youth. I had big plans, and Grace Itself shifted them ever so slightly that my life has received so many of the feeling states I wanted without all of the pretenses.  I feel remarkably lucky.

To wrap this up for today, I think that surrender is trust in life itself without struggle, and action is whatever we are inspired to do from that place of trust as an expression, not necessarily as a solution or strategy. What I’m really trying to say is that I think the two go together nicely.

Perfectly Imperfect

I am not overtly kind to my children’s teacher. I’m not actively mean to her, but I am pretty abrupt. Now, understand that my children have not set foot in a classroom in 4.5 years. We “unschooled,” or joined a charter school that registered the children but has no requirements. As in: do what you want.

It started when Jacob was in kindergarten and came home sad every day. I volunteered in the classroom and could see first hand that the teacher had too many students to be emotionally engaged with any of them. Jacob is a particularly well-behaved boy. She loved him, in part because she didn’t really have to pay attention to him. Obnoxious kids or struggling kids got all the mindshare. Which makes sense, but when your previously bubbly 5 year old comes home sad every day, you gotta make some changes.

So, I visited 11 private schools in the area. We settled on one in Orange, and gave Josie the opportunity to try it out as well. We unenrolled them from their elementary school on the last day prior to Christmas vacation, and at 3pm that day, the Orange school sent me an email “We have decided your family is not a fit for our school,” with no further communication. I was sick at that time, and had been in bed for over a week. I got that email and just about lost my mind. What was I going to do?!

Somehow some combination of search words led me to Peggy Webb and West River Academy. She told me not to worry, I could always re-enroll my kids in public school, but let’s have them take a break and just decompress. She said they would ask me to do something, and I should say “yes.” Rinse and repeat. See how it goes.

Within 2 weeks of classes resuming in the regular schools, we realized our life had been utterly transformed. We did not expect it one bit, but here it was. The kids got along better. We weren’t slaves to the school schedule. Our evenings weren’t consumed by homework and stressors. We were hooked.

Lots of things happened, including a healing event for me, and that’s what led to the ‘worldschooling’ time of travel. It was also, though, a time of maybe a bit too much change for the kids. So after 18 months when they asked if we could live in one house and they could do sports, we said “yes.” And then, when Josie asked to try high school, we said “yes.” Honestly, without the travel, and with just a few activities through the week, we needed an infusion of something new, some new practices and time considerations.

So, Josie went to high school. I don’t know if you’ve dealt with a high school lately, but let’s just say we started with a series of bureaucratic duct tape (much more sticky and annoying than red tape) and between the long days, her outside-school passion project obligations and, frankly, two completely “phoning it in” teachers, the benefits did not equal the costs. Don’t get me wrong, there were benefits. We met a couple of wonderful people and she had a couple of excellent teachers. She made friends. There were benefits. But there were also costs. Lots of them. Once again, the school schedule ran our lives.

So, we opted for online school.

Sad thing is, online school has not come very far since I was working in it in the 90’s. This is a huge and disappointing surprise to me. I imagine there is better execution than the one we are in somewhere, but I haven’t found it yet. But, I know how far technology has come. I know that we shouldn’t have to play the ‘upload/download/upload’ game in 2017. And I know that curricula should say one thing, and do the thing as they said it.

So, online school isn’t ideal. But it offers us a “learning fund” which will give the kids opportunity to do some cool activities we couldn’t budget for otherwise. Else I would take them out. Because both of them tested far above grade level in reading and at/above grade level in math. And this is without opening a traditional school book in 4+ years. So, clearly their learning wasn’t dependent upon school.

But, their teacher. She’s a perfectly lovely individual. She’s new to the school. She’s overwhelmed. She started just before the school year and hasn’t had time to do everything she needs to do. She’s really bad at time management. and she does things like tell me how many hours my kids should be on the computer (bad idea). But what really may be the end of her is that she keeps putting us in positions that aren’t ideal, and when I say “WTF” she says, “oh, yeah, everyone has had that problem, you need to x,y, z.” Excuse me, if you know this is going to be a problem, how ’bout you preface your recommendation with the caveat?

Now that I think of it this is the same problem I had with the first curriculum we encountered. It didn’t prepare you for what was to come (set the expectation). It said one thing, had a little bomb go off, then told you how to diffuse the bomb before getting to the one thing it said in the first place. Does that make sense? Probably only barely. But it’s remarkable to me the mediocrity that we’ve experienced both in traditional and online school. If my kids made mistakes like these, they’d get low grades. So, yeah, school gets a really low grade in my book. Especially in comparison to the freedom and progress unschooling offered.

We’ll see how long it lasts…

 

Slow and Empty. Who Knew?

I never really got the tortoise and the hare story. I mean, the hare’s antics seemed more like individual personality traits than being part and parcel with quickness. And then there was the Bugs Bunny version where the tortoise was quite the trickster. However I slice it, I resisted feeling that slow was in any way even equal to quick, much less better.

I’ve changed.

And it’s a substantive shift – from preferring, valuing quickness to reveling in, basking in slowness. It may be a time-of-life thing. I don’t know that this could’ve happened earlier in my life.

But the shift from valuing “full” to seeking to become “empty” may be even more surprising.

I think culture teaches us to collect attributes and concepts, and the sum of those attributes make up the bulk of our identity, so we’re always seeking to collect more and more desireable attributes. I wanted to be full of good stuff. Where’s more good stuff? Let me internalize it and identify with it and make it me.

These days, I’m all about emptying. Right now, it’s one of those things that is coming up for me everywhere (once you see it…). It started with Gene, our Tai Chi teacher. Becoming empty is key in Tai Chi. Gene is really into the self defense aspects of Tai Chi and the guy can turn an innocent touch into a death grip remarkably fast. This isn’t my focus in Tai Chi, but it is really interesting to see Gene’s skill. But it all derives from being empty. Being empty, you’re set up to notice and receive the moment.

Being full is sortof like waiting for other people to stop talking so that you can say your bit. Always wanting to express fullness actually puts you in quite a weak position. And at the very least, for a person who values fullness, when expressed it leads to emptiness and a person who values fullness has no clue how to be, and be ok, in the inevitable emptiness to come.

Emptiness, contrarily, listens, receives, responds, and comes back to empty. It seems to me to be a very generous way to live. Being that you’re always going back to empty, it lets you both fully experience fullness and be completely non-attached. So you’re interacting in the world in such an essential and full way at any given moment. And you’re always giving. There are no attacks in Tai Chi. I love that.

Being that Tai Chi principles are far more vast and eloquent than I’m doing any justice to here, this empty/full may not make any sense. But it’s a delicious concept.

Recently a friend posted about Swedish Death Cleaning. It’s about getting rid of stuff so your heirs don’t have to. With the sale of Tucker’s family home, they recently had to contend with a whole lot of stuff, none of it being as precious as it no doubt seemed in the moments his parents decided to store/save/keep it. His dad was Swedish, but it was clear no one had heard of Swedish Death Cleaning in their house.

Traveling really taught us to value emptying, too. Getting rid of the non-essentials. Because: Why carry a bunch of unnecessary stuff? It is an exercise in futility. It’s hard and senseless and heavy and in the way and just full of bad attributes, all for what? A pair of shoes I wore once?

Thoughts are obviously like this. We have so many unnecessary thoughts in our heads, swirling around, gumming up the works. Taking time to even consider emptying the thought-stream is remarkably valuable in my life. Even after all these years, my thought stream doesn’t get very empty, but in my experience, if I don’t take the time to (even unsuccessfully) empty and slow my thought stream, it just keeps getting fuller and faster until I am in some level of general anxiety. So, I know meditation is foundationally important in my life.

But as I wrote the other day, sometimes, even knowing this as essentially as I do, I will feel pretty good about things and maybe miss a day, which can turn into two. Man, I hate it when I do that. It’s the same with not walking or stretching or falling into poor eating habits. I get into a rush and/or I think I’m “full” of the good stuff and can take a day off without depleting. No, that doesn’t work for me. Ever. And so, keeping these principles move alive in my life is key to consistently following through.

It’s Always a Mirror

I was with a friend yesterday who was having a difficult time. I am always trying to make people feel better about things, and very often that’s not the best response. I mean, sometimes it’s quite useful, but “Hurry Up and Feel Better” is antithetical to this Slowing Down process I’m so excited about.

Grief, even if it’s just the grief of losing a picture of the future, needs to be processed.  Trying to move someone through it so *I* can feel better is a disservice to the process I know to be so important. It’s not comfortable, but it is important.

And so, because I know the world is always reflecting back to us that which we need to recognize and honor in ourselves, I thought, “where am I experiencing this same kind of grief and how can I recognize and deal with that so as to better support my friend?” And I was amazed at what I found. I found *several* areas in my life I’m experiencing a reflection of what she was experiencing, and I found layers of resentment and anger, sadness and combustible loathing. I was surprised. I thought I’d worked through much of what I’d found, but apparently some more has come up for acknowledgement, acceptance and tender care.

I am no expert on psychological processes. I have a number of tools I’ve learned over the years, but the only really effective thing for me right now is bringing the feeling, the experience and event, into meditation. I’ve got a number of meditative techniques for this. One comes from the book, “The Presence Process” and involves just sitting with the feeling without wanting to change it, redeem it, transform it or anything else. Just being with it. I picture myself sitting on a front porch overlooking a lake, my conscious mind and the feeling/pain/thing I’m avoiding, each in a rocking chair (sometimes smoking, because I smoked for so long and there was a social element that I still have some attachment to, I guess), just being together, watching nature in some way. There’s a “Hotel California” element because we are most definitely stuck with each other, but in that moment and for that time, we’re ok together. It softens my feeling towards it.

Another method is offering myself and the issue specifically to the altar. I begin my meditation and symbolically place the offending thought on an altar before, well, i guess now that i’m thinking about it, it’s sortof before a burning bush. Yeah, I’m not fantastic with the visuals today, but this process brings relief for me as well. I used to symbolically step into the fire representing a willingness to be transformed, but what with the inflammatory diseases, I’ve stopped that particular visualization.

And so, I’m going to work on honoring my own experience and particularly my friend’s. Not trying to make things better, just being together and honoring our inherent wholeness and completeness, despite some tough feelings. Feelings pass unless we avoid them, in which case they cling. I’m not going to try to do the ‘spiritual bypass’ on a tough feeling so we can feel better in the short term. Hopefully, we can just hold hands and go through it together. At least that way, neither of us is alone and we have the support of a loving friend, who doesn’t always need to be a little ray of sunshine.

Candy Crush, CCBT, LPT

Perhaps I have had some tendencies towards perfectionism in my life. And perhaps I have not had an intuitive understanding regarding why that might not be a good thing. I mean, of course everything should be perfect, or at least as close to perfect as possible, every freaking second of every freaking day. Doesn’t that sound right to you?

I remember vividly, and I don’t know if I’ve written this before, being in early elementary school, feeling that the world out there was a smooth running machine where everything clicked efficiently along and we were in school so that we could learn to do everything right and thereby take our place in the highly efficient machine of life on earth. That was certainly the way the teachers made it sound.

Seems like a dirty trick to play on a little kid. I mean, what did I ever do to them?

So maybe I had some effed up views on what the real world was actually like. And maybe then I felt a little superior because I cared about doing things “right.” And maybe I took it too far and made my life really a lot more difficult for really futile gains. And maybe that contributed to my body calling it quits.

Enter Candy Crush.

Ridiculous, right? Well, weirdly enough it has really helped me.

At some point during our Europe trip, someone downloaded candy crush. And I play apps when I am a passenger in a traffic jam. It’s just a thing to keep me distracted. And I would play candy crush, and I realized I was getting super mad at myself for not immediately achieving candy swapping excellence.

More ridiculousness.

Until…

One day it occurred to me just how much candy crush didn’t matter. And exactly how and where I could feel tension in my body as chocolate would eat my spotty things. And I decided that I would play the game just to train myself that IT DOESNT EFFING MATTER. And you know what? 

It worked!

I mean, it was very, very helpful. It was a low-stakes experiment that really allowed me to witness literally where in my body I got tense, how my breathing would change, what anxiety felt like as if this was a real crisis.

Because our bodies can’t tell the difference between a real crisis and a pretend one. 

And so, game after game, level after level, I could pause and (OMG) let the chocolate eat stuff while I soothed my breathing or relaxed my shoulders, and let it happen because it’s just a game and who the fuck cares

So, while this is part of the broader experiment of slowing down and relaxing into things and all of the other practices I’ve been doing

I can now play candy crush and not give a rats ass if I win or not

Which for me is a very big win.

The Realities of Suffering

So, no matter how good one gets at slowing down, bad shit still happens. The difference is, one is much better equipped to deal with it. Instead of shooting off into chaos, you can maintain some presence, some stillness, which steadies your reserves and anchors the experience. Anchoring the experience may not sound like a good idea, but in my life it seems that it allows me the opportunity to experience it fully so that when the experience is complete, it is over. Contrast that with the flailing about, trying to outrun the bad experience, managing it to whatever extent one is forced to, and running out of the experience at top speed wishing it never happened. That’s basically how I approached almost everything before this slowing down process began, and I’m pretty sure it is why I’ve had to re-address basically everything in my adulthood during this process.

Life is Suffering. That’s what Buddha said. But, he also described the end of suffering, and while I cannot expound on Buddhist doctrine, I can say with certainty that Pain is Inevitable but Suffering is Optional. Suffering is the resistance to the pain.

Approaching pain as part of the process of life, and noticing in your own experience that very often pain preceded a great breakthrough or important change in life, there is the possibility that one can approach pain with equanimity. Like, “OK, I see you’re here, and I get that while perhaps you are unwelcome you probably come bearing gifts. Not really enjoying this process, but come on in, do what you’ve got to do. I’ll do my best to be centered in myself and breathe while you wreak your havoc, knowing that when you’ve passed, I’ve got the resources to rebuild.”

Avoiding, resisting, and trying to run away from whatever it is that is happening just keeps it around longer. And even when it goes, it doesn’t really leave. It doesn’t leave until you face it. At least that’s been my experience. And facing it is never as scary as it seems. My experience is that whatever turmoil looks to me like a black pit of despair, when I take a breath and get brave and face it head-on, it’s really just a thin oil slick.

I’ve heard that when you come to a crossroads, that’s the time to really slow down. If you take the known and comfortable (and quickest) path, you’ll do a full circle and end up right back at the crossroads. I have experienced that to be true. When I make the expedient decision, I always have to readdress it in some form or another (usually bigger and with broader implications). Slowing down, finding footing on a new approach, being really present instead of trying to rush past something, I find actually becomes quite interesting.

This is not my favorite post. This is not my favorite concept, although the principles in here have made difficulty no longer my least favorite concept. Indeed, the principles here have made difficulty more interesting than threatening, evoking more curiosity than avoidance, and that is a quantum shift in my approach to life. It is uncomfortable to say the least, but staying grounded through the discomfort has made it far less painful, or using the parlance above, I experience far less suffering. Actually, it’s both. The attitude of leaning in to the discomfort minimizes the suffering which, in my case, minimizes the pain. Perhaps the pain itself (mental, emotional or physical) doesn’t change, but because my relationship to the pain changes, my experience of it changes. Dramatically. In all those categories, time and again.

There is so much potential here for a much better post, but this is what came today, through some frustrating experiences earlier in the day. I’d like to do this concept justice, but I’m grateful for the reminders this writing brings me as I engage with moving through and transforming my experience.