Archives for the month of: October, 2014

This morning I woke hurting. The hot shower didn’t do much to ease my stiffness, nor did the yoga. Meditation felt natural and balancing and vaguely routine. My coffee is tasty, but lukewarm already. It’s Halloween, and I’m not in costume. (Not out of any meanness or because I’m taking a stand about this or that, I just didn’t because I generally just don’t.) No headache this morning; just the arthritis. I find myself feeling fairly hopeful about the day ahead, based on the beginning bit right here.

I’ll have the house to myself this weekend. I’m neither enthusiastic about it, nor am I concerned; it simply is. I will enjoy the solitude for meditation, painting, and listening to music that falls into the category of “no one else here actually likes this stuff”, and probably turning it up louder than usual. I’ll spend much of the time on household tasks; I dislike coming home to a house that hasn’t been cared for as well as it would have been if everyone was home, so I attempt to get the same workload done that would have been done anyway, to prevent my family having that experience. I’ve never asked anyone if they need that from me. I sometimes work beyond the point at which resentment begins, which seems a poor choice. I make a promise to myself to question that impulse if it arises this weekend…and to ask my family, sometime, what they actually want/need of a homecoming after a weekend away. Perhaps indentured servitude isn’t actually on their list? Silly human primate… mindful service to home and hearth – and love – is on my list.  Mindful service, however, doesn’t cause resentment. lol

The pain I’m in colors my experience, and my words. I feel less fun, less thrilled with life in general, but it isn’t really a big deal – it’s just pain, and I find myself dissatisfied with just allowing it to call the shots this way. I do more yoga, focusing on postures that I know are most likely to ease the pain, and reduce my stiffness. My Rx pain medication starts to kick in, too, which helps.

"Like dreams dying.." I said bleakly one day. "Like dreams drifting within reach" she replied with love and compassion.

“Like dreams dying…” I said bleakly one day. “Like dreams drifting within reach” she replied with love and compassion.

I’m in the middle of a grand adventure, with an exciting story arc, and amazing unpredictable plot twists… it’s my life. Learning to live it, eyes open, engaged, present, and in use of both intention and will, is an adventure like no other. I’m learning so much! Since I started this post without a specific clear inspiration, and in pain, I take a moment between each paragraph for another yoga posture, or a few minutes of meditation, or some moments contemplating a recent good experience or feeling in fullness in the hope of improving implicit memory and reducing negative bias. All of it ‘works’ – meaning to say it is all effective at driving those subtle internal changes of heart, of experience, of… default settings. It all requires practice.

That’s the thing, isn’t it? Practicing doesn’t stop, and there is no ‘perfect’ to reach. Mastery isn’t the goal. The practices themselves are both the experience and the goal. Life is the journey – and the destination. We are here. Now. I am. This is. It’s so easy to stray from what works… a catchy article on Facebook can so easily get my attention before I pause to meditate, and find me having used up all the time I planned in the morning for meditation… days later, I could easily find that I’ve stopped meditating in the morning, and begun reading the news. Again. Frankly, reading the news in the morning correlates directly to the very factual and real experience of my blood pressure going up, staying up, and requiring medication. Meditation, on the other hand, does not. Quite the contrary, once I gave up reading the news as a practice, my blood pressure has since tended to be quite normal, and I don’t take blood pressure medication any more. It’s easy to fall back on poor choices, not because they have more value than good choices, but because [and this is my own experience, only] they were practices I practiced for so long before practicing better practices that they easily become the practices I return to; neurons that fire together, wire together. Habits are habitual. We become what we practice most. What we practice is easiest to do.  Reading the news is just an example of one problematic practice I struggle to let go of; I read so chronically, that words in my visual field are incredibly difficult to refrain from reading. You probably have your own problem practices, or old habits that don’t support taking the best care of you, or foster your development to become the being you most want to be.

So, here it is Friday. The weekend is imminent for many of us. What will I do with it to become more the woman I most want to be? What will I choose to practice that will tend to result in being more kind, more compassionate, and treating myself and others truly well – no strings attached? What practices will I commit to each day that ease my suffering, and the suffering of others? What choices can I make that improve the world I live in? Today is a good day to commit to being the best of who I am. It’s Halloween. Today is a good day to take off the mask.

Last night when I settled down to meditate, I found myself faced with a fairly child-like challenge; I was restless. I found my mind had wandered from meditation again and again, and I would bring it back to my breath each time. I also found, more than once, that I had changed positions, was actually fidgeting like a child, or in motion on my way between fidgeting and having changed positions. Suddenly, meditation was hard.  I felt distracted, and easily distractable. I paused and set a timer, and committed to being disciplined with my practice for that time period; neurons that fire together, wire together – the practicing itself matters.

When time came to sleep, I had a similar-but-different experience; I kept finding myself in a state of meditation, instead of drifting off to sleep!! Funny primate.

I didn’t sleep through the night in any continuous way; my brain stayed pretty busy. Hot flashes, night sweats, and surrealistic dreams helped pass the time between wakeful moments, and the rest I got seemed of good quality in spite of the weirdness. I woke twice in a way that somehow required me to get up, and ‘check the house for monsters’; I know that’s not really what grown ups think we’re doing when we wake in the night, prowl the house once, get a drink of water, and go back to bed, but if you can tell me how it’s actually different, I’ll be impressed. I just go ahead and call it ‘checking for monsters’. 🙂 There were none to be found, and I easily returned to sleep.

I woke fairly easily, to the alarm – that’s getting to be fairly common these days – and the morning has been pleasant enough. My coffee is very good. Everyone else is also awake, in the background of my consciousness I am aware of it, but the house is quiet in spite of the activity. I ache, the dull continuous ache, and crunching and grinding of arthritis sets a standard of tolerance for the headache, and the throbbing and burning of my ankle; none of it is enough to be truly noteworthy, but as a matter of awareness and perspective, I take note and make a point to take care of me by being compassionate, and alert to my needs. It would be nice to wake without the aches and pains…I don’t remember when the last time was that I did wake entirely pain-free. Has it been that long? Do we always hurt?

Building perspective with questions, and awareness; I have doubts about answers.

Building perspective with questions, and awareness; I have doubts about answers.

I find myself noticing that it is actually a challenge to take on a perspective I just don’t have…and as a curious exercise in thinking, I am wondering if building perspective can be harnessed to somehow be more aware of not being in pain, when it does occur; is a negative bias tending to overwrite those pain-free moments in my recollection? Now I am also thinking about carts and horses, chickens and eggs, and mathematical orders of operations, and other such things that don’t permit argument. lol

Hell of a beginning to a Thursday.

Today is a good day to think, and consider, and wonder, and take notice. Today is a good day to be open to something new, or fantastical. Today is a good day for whimsy, and novelty, and creativity, and the joy and delight of what is strange. Today is a good day to observe and enjoy the world.

I slept heavily last night and woke with effort to the insistent beeping of my alarm. My joints snap and crunch as I move through my morning routine; I’m stiff and have a headache. I feel vaguely aggravated, but aware that it is all biology, and there’s really nothing ‘wrong’ aside from the simple realities of aging, and paying the price of youthful misadventure. My coffee seemed to go cold as soon as I pulled the shot, which, while irritating, is irrelevant; I swallow the bitter brew in spite of that, preferring to avoid the headache that I could expect later if I chose to dump it out. I suppose I could have started over…

I feel far removed from a sense of contentment.

Yesterday evening was lovely. Dinner out and family time hanging out at home afterward. The evening looked promising for romance, too, but without any real agita it didn’t go that way after all.

I feel restless and annoyed, although there doesn’t seem any real reason for it. Yesterday, too. Hormones most likely, and at the tail end of things there’s no easy way to be certain of that; I just accept what is, and practice good practices, and hope that in simple practices of mindfulness, and continuing to return my attention to what is good and satisfying, I will perhaps let go of what is not with greater ease. Can I learn to be satisfied with less and less of what I think I want and need, until only satisfaction remains, whatever I may actually have?

I feel so human.

In a photograph of flowers it always looks like spring.

Let’s take a moment for something else…

Imagine yourself anywhere at all, right now, doing…something. Whatever you like. No limits. Sink into it. Make it real. Build it in your imagination with words and feelings; you know you can, it’s how thinking works, and most of our experience in based on this, more than what is ‘real’. So. Where are you? What are you doing? I am sitting at a small bistro table, on a pleasant morning, with a very good latte and enjoying the sunshine and flowers of my cottage garden, on the edge of some small friendly village. I’d be relaxing with my partner, conversing about whatever, feeling the breezes and waving to passing neighbors, and maybe sharing a warm scone while we talk about love. At least this morning, that’s where I’d be…some days I yearn for something different. Today I yearn for love, Love, and romance, and a quiet cottage garden.

Today is a good day for honest heartfelt yearning, and also a good day for contentment and satisfaction, and recognizing that what is can be amazing when I am not chasing what isn’t. Today is a good day to seek perspective, and for recognizing it when it is found. Today is a good day to smile in the face of my challenges; life’s curriculum would teach nothing if it were too easy. Today is a good day to accept that the challenges of this day become the strength of character I rest on tomorrow. Today is a good day to take another look at how I see the world.

Actually, it’s not that bad, I just woke feeling cross. Most likely cause, based on the sort of out of sorts that I am, would be hormones. That seems unreasonable and frustrating from the perspective of being ‘post menopause’…but I just barely claimed that prize, and I know the machinery is still winding down. I made a point to handle things very frankly, as gently as I could, and in clear simple language and a mostly cheerful tone when my traveling partner inquired how I am doing this morning. It actually required considerable effort not to launch emotional weapons of mass distraction, and since the effort was successful, it was also entirely worthwhile. No hard feelings, everyone safe and cared for; I am taking the morning to care for me, quietly.

A quiet bit of writing often puts my head right on the nastiness day…when I have something I feel moved to say, or reflect on, or even simply when some interesting bit of word play is stuck in my recollection from my dreams, or from the prior day’s interactions with others. Today… I don’t feel very inspired, just very cranky. There’s really nothing amiss. I slept well. I woke on time and feeling reasonably comfortable physically. My coffee is hot and tasty. There’s nothing more than the usual things coming up in the work day ahead of me, as far as I know now. It’s a day. A Tuesday, actually. Dinner out, after work, and I’m looking forward to the outing. Still, for now I am rather cross with myself, and potentially inclined to blame the world. It doesn’t seem very fair, and it isn’t very pleasant.

Meditation does help. I still don’t relish company in this state, and I continue to pass the time quietly, keeping to myself without rancor; I enjoy solitude, more than a little, and it is ever so much harder to hurt people I love casually through my irritability when I give myself room to have that experience without forcing it on them, too. I take deep cleansing breaths, do some yoga, too, and flip through pleasant images – beautiful photographs of things, places, flowers… my own pictures. I have no idea why they delight me so, and I find myself wondering what power they hold that such is true, and could I ‘reinstall’ my memory from my photographs, if ever there were a need?

The colors of autumn.

The colors of autumn.

Although it is more challenging to go through the steps when I feel so raw and irritable, I find significant value in the practical exercises from Rick Hanson’sJust One Thing” and “Hardwiring Happiness” this morning. The difficulty is just going through the steps in an open and sincere way, without caving to cynicism, doubt, or letting the irritability that I feel undermine the simple goodness that exists in the world – it so often seems just out of reach when I am cross. There is value in making the effort. Each success, over time, results in improvements in my implicit memory – my default settings are becoming more positive, more content, and I am less prone to volatility. I sometimes find it emotionally painful to consider my prior perspective; the pain and discontent I endured as part of my everyday experience seems pretty horrific now. Noticing now, that I am noticing that, I take time to feel compassion for that hurt creature for a moment, and to accept that she is me, and understand that I’m not there now. No tears, just a moment of compassion, and recognition, even some gratitude for having the strength to go on long enough to find my way somewhere else in life.

Patterns exist. We have choices.

Patterns exist. We have choices.

The irritability begins to recede into the background, and slowly starts to dissipate. There was a time when that alone would seem so significant I’d rush into the world eager to restore contact, and find myself overwhelmed, unprepared, and not in the great shape I thought I was in. I would rush myself, mostly out of some sense of obligation to others. This morning, I take time to enjoy the improvement, without hurrying to the next thing, recognizing that I’m still dealing with the challenges, and being patient with myself. It’s a nice change to take care of me. It’s seems somewhat amusing that the irritability got my undivided attention so readily. As it recedes, I notice the headache and the nausea that seemed so unremarkable when I woke. This makes day 5 of something vaguely like morning sickness…and another reason I feel fairly certain the morning’s crankiness is likely due to hormones. The machinery is winding down. Sometimes that seems sad, this morning it simply is.

Today is a good day to take care of me with the same loving kindness and compassion I would show a partner, or lover, or friend – or human being. Today is a good day to accept my very best treatment from me – and from anyone else treating me well. Today is a good day to make a clear distinction between how I feel in the moment, and the actions I choose to take. Today is a good day to invest in a genuine smile, because smiling even feels good. Today is a good day to change the world.

Subtleties matter in language. There is a distinction to be made between one thing and another, and we use language to make that distinction clear to others. An example? ‘Point of view’ versus ‘angle of view’ – they mean different things, yes? Or…no? How about the difference between ‘being critical’ and ‘critical thinking’? That seems a pretty important distinction to make; those things are not the same at all, they just take advantage of language by sharing a word. Some differences are about how something feels within us, like ‘irritable’ versus ‘angry’; making that distinction helps us communicate our state of being more accurately to others. Some difference seem more a matter of precision about something outside ourselves, but I’m often unclear on the line between ‘within’ and ‘external’, not due to any particular madness of note, but simply because so few people communicate clearly in language sufficiently precise to account for those nuances – or are unclear themselves on the subtle differences between their internal experience (“this is uncomfortable for me” for example) and their external experience (“this is wrong or impermissible, and being imposed on me” for example).  I am learning to listen carefully, and to apply mindful awareness to opportunities to connect and enjoy people in the moment.

It gets complicated when I consider that the words I don’t say have nearly as much impact on other people as the words I do say.

It gets even more complicated when I consider that the tone with which I deliver those words changes their meaning to the person hearing them.

I’m still sort of feeling my way around in the murky shadow lands of good communication, actually. I tend to be strangely ‘face value’ about what people say, much of time. I don’t tend to see/hear subtext very easily, although I can quickly craft numerous alternate meanings or explanations of something said, it’s a very abstract thing. When I have more data, I can be more accurate, but it isn’t really about that other level of understanding for me; I am guessing. Maybe we all are? Those pesky assumptions can really fuck us up!

A journey, a path, a way, an experience.

A journey, a path, a way, an experience.

This has been a lovely few days for beautiful words, too. My partner has showered me with lovely ones, meaningful loving profundities of all kinds, hyperbolic assurances of value, appreciation, worthiness, and fondness. He’s also lobbed a few my way in moments of frustration or hurt that were just flat-out human and mean. I definitely hear the mean part first, and have to fight not to react to that before I catch up with the rest and hear his frustration and hurt; speaking to what is has more value than allowing myself to be chased by my own demons.

Right now, Hardwiring Happiness is the most important book in my kindle. I didn’t realize how little time I was spending really enjoying, savoring, and appreciating the good things, the beautiful words, or the best moments, and how very many minutes I would spend on what hurt, what frustrates me, what makes me sad, what weighs down my heart, or makes me angry – whole hours and days in fact, resulting in implicit negatively bias so extraordinary that I developed a hair-trigger response to frustration that resulted in nasty tantrums, irrational fits of rage or despair, and a lot of irritability because life often felt like it just sucked. I don’t generally feel that way much these days.

Whimsical porcelain figurine; Meissen on display at the Portland Art Museum.

Whimsical porcelain figurine; Meissen on display at the Portland Art Museum.

Words are magical – and not always well-received, or understood at intended. Life’s curriculum is often built on the power of words.

Today is a good day to use fewer words, with more clarity. Today is a good day to use gentle words, with more kindness. Today is a good day to use words with great precision, and great honesty. Today is a good day to change the words.