Monthly Archives: May 2018

it would be funny if it wasn’t so sad

as i become more and more present, situations reveal themselves in new ways/interpretations. opening our hearts to more than a fixed perspective starts to let you see more things..obviously.  and being willing to look at whatever is smack dab in your lap is a brave state of being. Let us aspire…

i can see things now I didn’t see before. some of it I am more comfortable with than other parts. One thing i noticed is that I get mad at myself – i can feel anger/disappointment chemicals flood my body – for things as ridiculous as finding a towel that should have gone in that last load. seems like a real misappropriation of chemical cultivations. certainly, i’d like to unplug that. i mean, disappointment is real and allowed, but shit happens. getting upset is optional. no real benefit comes from being hard on oneself. people talk about needing things to prod oneself on, but i think that’s sortof masochistic. doesn’t stop me, though. but maybe now is the time. Yes! now is the time! of course it is, or it wouldn’t be in my awareness. but what an old and deep habit, in such insidious little corners of life! I can’t express the moment of recognition of the physical feeling of the anger of not having done it “right”. I probably create 100 or such little moments throughout the day. little ‘is this going the way i want it to go’ moments, times to bring out the scorecard and see where we’re at. what a waste of effing time.

i know that being present, slowing down, being open. being. i know this is the way forward. i need to write about it, talk about it, think about it and PRACTICE IT as often as possible. every moment i spend pays handsome dividends in the present. as ACIM says, it releases the past in the present and thus creates the future. So many good resources. so many good tools. thankful for the habit to turn to the breath, the mantra, presence itself…

Sometimes I fall off my good intentions. even some of the practices. sometimes I just screw up. and sometimes I even don’t get mad at myself now. i like uncovering areas where i do, so that i can release it, but sometimes i fall off the wagon. usually i don’t (and that is because when i do, i typically pay for it at some point – and navigating that point has been a constant source of curiosity these last many years). so tonight I ate a lot of weird food. then, having done so, ate a bunch more. I feel pretty sick. It is completely self-imposed. and i could be mad at myself. it’d be justified. but i’m going to opt for compassion and understanding, and the recognition tht life is messy. that’s what i got tonight, and i’m kinda glad for it.

Willingness is half the battle

Slowing down includes not running from uncomfortable emotions or situations. The bad news is that it can not feel very good. The good news is that it passes. And when it passes, it actually goes away; the charge plays itself out in real time (often, even this last bit for me, much shorter a time than I imagine it will take) and is then done.

When I think back to unfortunate situations I’ve been involved in, often I can very quickly re-establish connection to the energetic signature of the event. That’s a fancy way of saying I connect to the exact same thing I felt whenever the event took place. There is a reason for this: unprocessed emotions STAY EXACTLY WHERE YOU LEFT THEM.

I have a friend in a happy marriage of more than 20 years. They get along really well, but every now and again a certain moment from *when they were dating* comes up. A fight. And as she tells the story she becomes visibly upset. She is still mad at him for that behavior. And she can forget about it, but when she remembers, watch out. It is exactly where she left it. It’s not often that she revisits it, but the problem is she revisits it! Don’t revisit! Process! When she finally goes through the effort of fully processing it, a) she probably won’t remember anymore and b) if she does, it won’t bring her whole body chemistry back to that anger – indeed, she might even laugh.

Processing difficult emotions can happen hundreds of different ways. I intend to do an emotional processing section on this site some day to look at the many resources available to us. My first three suggestions (other than therapy, which, if you find a skillful practitioner, can be wonderful because *healing happens in relationship*) are all googleable: 1) The Work by Byron Katie, 2) Radical Forgiveness worksheets from our friend Colin Tipping, and 3) Tapping, or the Emotional Freedom Technique. All three are free tools and can dramatically reduce the “emotional charge” that drives you directly back to the offending event.

I have old worksheets of each of these modalities. Things that REALLY FREAKED ME OUT when I began doing this. I am so glad I’ve saved the worksheets (and I recommend you do, too) because now I can go through and look at them and see just how well they have worked. Most of these things would evoke tremendous emotions at the time of writing, and as I read them now hold no charge at all. I read it and think, “I am so glad that doesn’t haunt me anymore!”

The distinguishing factor in all of those releases though, is willingness to leave that old emotional charge behind. As evidenced by the simple fact of taking a step to disengage with the identity that is so caught up in the offending thought/emotion/state of being. I’m not sure it matters what strategy you employ – that willingness itself is what snaps open the curtains and lets the light begin to shine in. The rest are just details…

it’s worth it

Being that I am wanting to advocate slowing down for a living, I have to deal with the fact that slowing down brings up people’s emotional baggage. It’s a good thing overall, but a sensitive thing and often an unpleasant thing, as I am currently demonstrating for myself and others….

I think a baseline of a little extra deep breathing isn’t going to confront many people, but if slowing down takes hold at all, we need a support system in our outer world, and a toolset for our inner world.

I have found the cadence of turmoil to be actually quite gentle. As I acquire and use new tools it seems *just enough* difficulty comes up for me to sit with and address. This surprises me every time. At least a handful of times in the past 6 months I’ve had some issue come up and thought “oh no, this one is probably going to be pretty intense” and then it processes relatively quickly. I’m pinning this on my willingness.

During our trip there came a point where the kids seemed to feel they were obligated to purchase something at every shop/giftshop we entered. Uhm, no. The litmus test became “are you willing to spend your own money on this?” If yes, I’m happy to buy it -none of their money required. If no, well, then, let’s not spend my money. It was great. Maybe every 10th time I’d actually make them spend their own cash (probably times when I was less than enthused about the item in question).

I feel a similar dynamic in this emotional processing work. When I am willing things go far more easily than I expect. When I am resistant (like this week) things take a bit longer. When I am willing intellectually but resistant with everything else it gets a little complicated. But slowing down, leaning into it, staying present – from what I can tell this strategy leads to lasting change and ever-deeper layers of resolution. My mental audio track continues to diminish WHICH MIGHT BE THE MOST IMPORTANT THING OF ALL.

Lesson #1: Don’t believe your thoughts.

That really is where all of the damage is done.

New agers have a lot of the ‘positive thinking’ stuff going on. More and more people are understanding the importance of the tenor of our thoughts – crappy thoughts generally produce less desireable outcomes. It’s not rocket science. The way we think – our worldview and the tenor of the inner dialogue – makes all the difference. So, between “don’t believe your thoughts” and “the universe is friendly (at least maybe)” and “we’re all just doing our best/walking each other home” the mental channel can be relatively at peace.

The heart channel is really important, too. About 3 years ago I had a distinct distillation of what had always been intellectually-intensive spiritual contemplation into a much more somatic experience of devotion – In Vedanta this is the distinction between jnana yoga and bhakti yoga. It changed my experience dramatically because spiritual experience is EXPERIENCE, not a concept. Concepts are neat and all, but this is a different animal entirely.

Probably 5 years before that I began a meditative practice wherein I would try to move my locust of identity from my mind/head to my heart (because hearts don’t think), so the brain could continue to produce thoughts without the benefit of my attention. I really liked this technique. I’m guessing my shift from jnana to bhakti started with this meditative technique.

That’s the story for another day, because I think now with my head and heart being tended regularly the new challenge is around the dan tien – this is a much longer post about the power centers in our lives.

BUT, even with all of the discomfort, the fear that keeps trying to overtake my mind (Thank God for the many tools I can employ), the disdain for the past behaviours, etc – for all of this yuck, it is worth it. Slowly but surely freeing myself from the bondage of my past is uncomfortable indeed, but the freedom – there is actual freedom there. And that is a very big deal indeed.

But the caveat is about having a support system and a toolset so that we don’t fall into crisis and jeopardize whatever peace of mind we’ve been able to achieve thus far…

Advice for difficult times….

I actually don’t have any. Every difficult time is unique. It’s got its own set of subtleties, nuances and intricate systems that no one can really predict, probably least of all the person in the difficulty. Tai Chi is like that: there is no rulebook. You simply need to be in the moment and respond naturally. That mindset has helped me enormously this week, that and my therapist’s advice.

I started seeing a therapist at the beginning of the year because I was advocating therapy for people I love and I was following the Ghandi “don’t eat sugar” story. [short version: lady comes to Ghandi and asks “please tell my son to stop eating sugar!” Ghandi replies, “come back in 2 weeks” so 2 weeks later she makes the trek again, he tells the kid to stop eating sugar and the mom says “why didn’t you tell him 2 weeks ago” and Ghandi says “because 2 weeks ago I was still eating sugar”). Anyway, little did I know when I made the appointment the depth of need I would have for this resource before all was said and done.

And this is key: it is never “all said and done.”

We humans keep looking to tidy things up, forgetting perhaps that life is this ever-flowing, ever-dynamic profusion of change. It’s like Mr. Incredible… “can’t the world stay saved for 5 minutes?!” Not that I’m saving anything, but I do fall into the trap of wanting to get to “happily ever after” as if everything stayed put in that dynamic. It’s a strange proclivity of us humans, especially given the fact that all of nature is demonstrating that that is not the way things truly are.

I am not particularly used to emotional upheaval. I certainly was as a child, and I developed a lot of strategies that were very helpful at the time, but which I outgrew without taking off. This last decade has been a slow roll of identifying and releasing those patterns and I am super grateful, but, geezohmy can we please be done sometime soon?

What has been most helpful this week – well 3 things – the first is prayer. Normally I enjoy a nice mantra with my issues, but this one was so deep and heavy, all I could get to was “Lord Jesus Christ have mercy on me.” Very helpful. If my mind is reaching for God in any way, I can feel better just for that fact.  Helpful thing #2 was my therapist’s homework: “Today’s homework is TODAY” not the past, not the future. Focus on today until we shore up the resources to address the past or future with a clearer head. Maybe the best advice I’ve ever gotten. Helpful thing #3 is the idea that evolution only occurs in one direction. Any attention to any direction other than love and moving forward  is attention ill-spent. And since my only objective is evolving, any of those other thought-stream traps I used to chew on is participation in a drama. The drama is compelling. The drama seems valid. The drama is not what I want. Thus, my 3 things are saving me.

I absolutely Must Stop making Grand Pronouncements

You’d think I’d’ve learned this by now. I seem addicted to Grand Pronouncements (“I will never <insert bad habit> here” “We should do <insert good habit here> every week” “I no longer <insert annoying trait” etc). I seem to love doing it, given how often I do it. I’ve been wanting to stop for some time now, but actually haven’t put much effort towards it beyond catchy post titles (and further proclamations).

The right person could easily come into my house and make my kitchen towels bright white. And probably other dull things like t-shirts that used to be bright white. I literally have no idea how to do it, and the few time’s I’ve used bleach I’ve just ruined and spotted things. It’s not my forte.

I’ve spent a long time trying to determine what my forte is, but mostly what I have come up with are all of the shortcomings. So I’m pretty clear on the long list of what my forte is NOT. I think it’s time for that to evolve a bit and get into discovery. Mostly because I am pretty clear on my overall next steps – to develop more kindness and compassion as I practice, practice, practice slowing down and connecting to Presence. I’m not sure exactly what that is going to look like, and this blog is actually my first baby step. But the rest of it: the big picture: is elusive. And I am sick to death of making “this is it!” pronouncements. I’ve got a long list of failed entrepreneurial ventures (and a few little successes to treasure) and now I just want to be curious.

My brain is not in charge anymore, or at least not with the complete dictatorial madness it’s had over the years. My body is totally in on the game through all of these practices (FINALLY. Seriously, I had no idea) and my body is not into grand pronouncements at all. It’s into feeling out the present moment and responding in kind. Such a better plan than the control freak who was at the wheel for So. Freaking. Long.

I honestly have very little clue what the next period of time looks like. Things are shifting for our family on so many levels, mostly based on choice but also based on circumstance. I don’t want to take a step and proclaim the mission, because the next step shouldn’t be encumbered by that limited idea of step one. This needs to be a dynamic, unnamed process. I think it’s my only chance at true being-ness. And being, growing, evolving is a path that doesn’t try to predict or control the future, but revels in the NOW, no matter what that looks like (which is hard).

maybe the scariest day I’ve had

Today, while reading about repression I had a moment. Or perhaps the moment had me. All of the sudden, my body started to shake. Well, actually, it took me about 10 attempts to read this one paragraph, and a full half an hour to get through the page, and then the stuff started in my body and then i experienced the emergence of a lie I told, something i had rationalized and minimized and thought I’d addressed sufficiently to be “over.” Yeah. Not so much in my body. My body let me know today that it was NOT OK.

My body has been letting me know for years that I have things to address to be the person I want to be. Part of me has felt for some time that the journey of illness – well, that the body is on my side and that anywhere this journey takes me is someplace I need to go. And I have been brave. and relentless. You will have a hard time finding a rock I have been unwilling to turn over. Until today. Then about 20 little rocks poured down – little bits of shame and frustration, absolute aghastness at what an asshole I can be and have been and  seem to not be able to shake being.

I had an experience several months ago with trauma in my elbows. It had been a physical experience that was traumatic, but quick, and so I sortof mentally blocked it out as over without fully processing it. I was surprised – because it was so long ago. and over. I barely even remembered it. I didn’t recognize the trauma much less its lack of resolution. My range of motion in my arms opened up significantly and a certain level of pain stopped. I have been dumpster-diving every single stinking thing in my past, and the stuff that has tripped me up, and comes to be  “healing events” are SO unexpected. This? This is what it got me stuck? Seriously? OK. I guess so.

My whole body has been shaky all day. There’s something here. And oddly enough it is requiring me to rethink everything i think i know about myself, re-look at stories I had spun to make more acceptable. I’m practically a professional at re-spinning stories.

Luckily, I’m also practically a professional at surrendering to Life Itself. Because without the deep and consistent practice I have been cultivating these many years, I have too many reasons to hate myself today, too many stupid things I’ve done, too many bull-in-a-china-shop moments, too many acts of total unconscious foolishness and fear. All those things. And for every redeeming quality I might have, I can match it with so many moments of Just. Plain. Wrong.  All I can do is surrender. Surrender and stand in amazement at the quality of friends in my life, the utter amazingness of my husband, the patience of my family.  I have not made this life easy on those around me. I have difficult ways of being. And because Tucker is so patient with me, I guess I got to thinking I wasn’t so difficult.

And so, tonight, as I lay me down, I have no choice but to surrender. I know that wallowing in my thoughts is literally the most foolish thing I can do. I know believing our thoughts is the source of our suffering. And my dear teacher Byron Katie’s Work will have me know that the opposite of whatever I am thinking is at least as true. We are, all of us, equal. We are, all of us, imperfect. We are, all of us, doing more than we understand with our limited minds. Life is so much bigger than we know. All I can hope to do is evolve. To love better, bigger, more fully – ever greater expressions of love, freedom and relationship. To Love itself. Expressing and evolving. As and through us. Even when, sometimes, we are idiots.

 

i don’t believe my thoughts, therefore I am…

What I am noticing today is that the less I believe in my thoughts, the grander they become to try to get my attention. and maybe i start to believe it a little bit before, phew! oh, yeah! just a thought! phew. And then another. and then another. but, again, how far down the rabbit hole I go before “choosing” as the Ascension people would say, or turning to God. Turning to God, again and again. If there is anything I want to get mastery in – i want turning to God to always be my experience, opening to Life itself, knowing it as the all-loving creator’s embrace. Tai Chi is next, but somehow I think tai chi would just be a natural part of being fully present in God-consciousness.

People like Byron Katie are really a boon. To systematically choose bliss, snip, snip, anything else. it all leads back to bliss and we can talk about it all day but witnessing it brings it more alive. Trusting the universe so completely because IT IS WHAT IS and it’s doing a splendid job of unfolding, as evidenced by its unfolding, regardless of any commentary you could bring about why it should be another way. Loving What Is. Radical.

Gene talks about Tai Chi wanting to be known. That even people very new to it can have some advanced tai chi moments in moments of need. I also think stillness wants to be known. that’s why i think every breath counts. If you take even one deep, intentional breath each day – with the objective of noticing your body breathe in and noticing it breathe out, and not being in the ‘thought stream’ for just that noticing. I think i need to get better descriptors of that, or more, but anyhow, i believe just that one breath will act as a supermagnet. it will find ways to make you want to add to it. at least for me.

a lot of people don’t want to slow down, and a lot of people can’t. but everyone, i think, wants to know how to truly relax. and that might just be a really important framing for this work. getting into the car/brakes metaphor, you need this skill – and people don’t have it and consequently extra stress, people with insomnia… deep rest, full-body relaxation, that’s a really essential capacity of this human form. and it’s a capacity I spent a lot of years paving over, and really stopped my capacity for. and as i am developing capacity the busy world keeps dancing in front of me, trying to get me to think this worry is something that needs my attention! It might be life-changing! All. The. Time.

Which is why I need so many cues. It’s why I’m always developing new ones. My habituated tendency defaults to action, to accomplishing. As soon as I feel better I should be accomplishing more. Still. After a decade.  But a decade wherein I built a structure that makes it less and less “the sky is falling” and more and more “this should be interesting…”

believing our thoughts

A really bright writer and Buddhist named Natalie wrote about finally coming to study under a revered Buddhist saint. Just a few weeks into her study with him, during his dharma talk after a meditation session he said, “you know, as I was meditating, I got to thinking that I’m going to quit teaching. I mean, sitting is good, but i think i can serve life better in another way…” and Natalie (oh, man, I need to look her name up. i really enjoyed her books but it has been a LONG time) begins thinking, “What? I just got here! You can’t quit!” and various other things that are running through her head. And after some time exploring all of the reasons to stop teaching the holy man says, “and then I realized: just another thought.”

PHEW!

Thoughts. People think they’re active, but they’re passive.

Presence. People think it’s passive, but it’s active.

We humans are fascinating creatures. I mean, we have some magnificent programming and some really, really confusing programming, and we’re pretty predictable, except when we aren’t, and wow, thoughts and beliefs really are powerful and can take us on powerful rides. And to what end? Drama? maybe. excitement? certainly. experience? in some form or another…

Wanting to evolve, and knowing evolution is the most natural thing in the world, and just trying to stay pointed toward the sun, toward love, freedom, relationship… all of these things become curiosities. I love the times when I can feel the distance between me and the thought and i am curious and not defensive. I can investigate it. And knowing I am human and flawed and evolving, I can hold it so as to let it go. Better still, the times the thought isn’t even interesting. isn’t even a factor. moments of being. those are threshold moments, I think. And I think the best way to get them is by practice. making myself available to them. building the container. knowing it will fill. being selective about what it fills with.

It really is a journey that never ends. and we can’t help but be what we are. and we are always becoming something new. Life is amazing, and it is showing itself in so many trillions of examples every minute of every day. It’s paradoxical to me the fullness that i believe i am just a drop in a wave, and the fullness that I believe that together we are the ocean. And a lot of smart people talk about we are both the drop and the ocean, the particle and the wave. and that we are one- yet each individual the one fully powerful and fully expressing. that is above my current pay grade, but i am studying up and hoping for a promotion. Or is this where the “understanding” will no longer apply and only experience can crystalize it?

So the wonderful thing about feeling awful is that you can notice it. And noticing is the first step before understanding you can make a different choice. And there are just so many tools, but the easiest is: stop believing your thoughts. It’s the thoughts taking us on all of these crazy mind trips. And some of them are true and some of them are not and some are partially true, but all of those things are just thoughts, too, and at our essence we are just organisms sitting, standing or lying down, present to the world unfolding around and within us, breathing in and out.

The downside of slowing down is I really am coming more and more face to face with the parts of myself I really haven’t wanted to face. But this is 10 years in, and as I have slowed down, I’ve developed both capacity and a toolset for when I am out of my depths.  But, make no mistake, “out of my depths” is not unusual. It is conversely related to the dedication and length of my meditative practices. So, while it is uncomfortable it is also very exciting.

“Awareness is the healing agent.” Good Lord, I hope so because I really have no idea how to undo my lesser qualities or attributes. And I’m squaring with the fact that we all contain the fullness of the yin/yang (or am I circling around that fact?) I have habits and attributes for which I am grateful, but I have plenty which make me cringe. And being dedicated to evolving, to slowing down, being present to what is, and being faced in the direction of evolving towards ever more love, freedom and relationship – this is my best bet at transforming those cringe-worthy attributes, and certainly my best way to experience or share my life.

Yesterday at the monastery, there was some debate over the validity of the TM studies correlating a certain amount of meditators in a city with a drop in crime rate. While the talk went on I realized, “the more I meditate, the lower my crime rate” crimes against myself, my loved ones and the world at large. It sortof makes it both a privilege and sortof an obligation – in the best possible way – to be wholehearted in showing up in the world, doing what works and lifting even the cringeworthy stuff to it’s rightful place in the wholeness that we each are.

Craziest thing? I

signals and signs

I’ve spent the last decade teaching myself to use events of my life as cues to move into deeper breathing, mantra, relaxation or some other life-positive pivot. Sometimes it is physical pain. Sometimes it is emotional. Sometimes it is old and sometimes feels new. By embracing the discomfort of the moment, the confusion or the pain, and letting it be and recognizing I am part of life and life has cycles — it typically takes me off the mental bus of 1,000 scary stories and puts me in a more receptive mood that maybe doesn’t take everything to mean everything.

I am so grateful for the training.

Those thoughts are just as distracting as they were before I ever started these practices, but the tools (perhaps because i have so many of them) derail them. And they come back and another tool, and as I said yesterday, how quickly I can apply the tool – how much suffering I let myself endure first – and this cycle has new potentialities. The channel of underlying stress in my mind and my body is not the thoroughfare it used to be, and if I am going to be well, i need to be diligent.

Sometimes, during a flow period, I wonder why I am ever sad, life is so tenderly unfolding before us. Then I get into one of these ebb periods, and perhaps the ebb period is defined as not feeling that way, but the habit of my psyche is to worry, to project and to blame and defend. And much like the yin yang symbol, there’s still some ebb in the flow period (I somes still behave defensively when I am feeling great) and the flow in the ebb period is the practice – is the connection to the fact that I am simply, and quite out of my control, an expression of some larger creative force that is alive within me as evidenced by my being alive. All this other stuff is self-generated. and that’s fine. but it’s not real. it’s like my kids playing videogames. They get all worked up about something completely imaginary.

The feminine power class has had me going back to whatever disenfranchised portion of my psyche initially registered the wound, and i’ve had a lot of interesting and soothing experiences employing that practice when the cue of mental discomfort pops up, but I don’t have the energy for that today. Today, I just want to be with it and overlay it with mantra. I’ve got a nifty ring-based counter and i’m going to try to get to 1,000 mantra repetitions today. That’s a lot. but as i said, it’s been a decade of practice (and I secretly hope I go to 1500. wish me luck.)

one thing i do know: after 1,000 mantras, the situation is going to look a little different.