Archives for posts with tag: a beginner’s mind

I am having a very good day. It’s wintry and quite cold – literally freezing – and I built my day around a practical sort of errand that didn’t turn out as planned, and another that turned out quite precisely as planned, and in between I hung out with my traveling partner for a little while. A very good day, indeed.

What matters most?

What matters most?

The afternoon sunshine streams through the patio door, heating my wee apartment nicely; it’s a wasted effort if I forget to close the vertical blinds as the sun begins to dip low, because the heat gained is quickly lost through the glass on a cold day, once the sunshine is gone. There is a luxurious quality to the passive heat of sunshine on glass that my senses tell me differs from the heat of the heater, although I have no way to confirm that very subjective perception. I just enjoy the feeling of the sunshine reaching through the glass, across the room, and bathing me in light and warmth. It’s a lovely moment, in spite of this headache, which developed some short time ago, while I stood in the cold waiting for a bus. I suspect it will dissipate with continued comfort, warmth, and a nice cup of tea or coffee… It’s a bit late for coffee; I decide on tea and put on the kettle and some classical music. Baroque – light on the ears, gentle on the soul, it fills out the background with something more pleasant that the sound of the dishwasher.

What does this new year hold, I wonder? Beyond changes in healthcare, beyond moving into a somewhat bigger apartment very soon, beyond replanting the vegetable garden in spring or pruning the roses next fall, beyond the days and weeks of everyday chores and everyday fun, I know the year holds surprises and changes that I have not anticipated or planned for. I wonder what those will be? How convenient if I really could plan for those, too! I can’t plan for the unknown as fully as I might for what I deliberately undertake, but there are a lot of little ways I can keep myself ready, generally, for all manner of changes. Taking care of me is a pursuit with a lot of layers, and a lot of potential to support me through periods of change, or a real crisis. I took time to think over a lot of that yesterday, meditating on what demands on my resources and time the move will make, and how best to prepare for it without throwing my current quality of life into the trash. Ideally, no matter what changes come my way I will stay focused on my longer term goals, and my everyday taking-care-of-me needs by maintaining the good practices I have worked so hard to build.

Again and again, I find value in the concepts of ‘perspective’ and ‘sufficiency’; I can’t know everything another person is going through, but I can listen deeply and be compassionate, and there is little chance I can ‘have it all’ in life – the vast amount of wealth required remains out of reach for me – but ‘having‘ has proven to be rather irrelevant once basic needs are met. There is so much more to a rich life than expensive goods or exotic services. “Enough” matters more than ‘more’. My understanding of ‘quality of life’ has changed. The smile on my face matters more than ‘being right’, and contentment has proven easily achievable once I let go of expectations and assumptions about life’s entitlements, and stopped letting experiences other than my own have any weight in determining my path.

There are a lot of questions still to ask. The best answers I find tend to involve kindness, compassion, treating myself and others truly well, and being engaged and present in this moment right here, with the human being(s) physically in my company ‘in real life’ – and getting enough sleep. It’s probably not a coincidence that when I began taking a closer look at how I treated people and making changes in favor of treating people better (including me), people began to treat me better, too. It’s worth noticing. It doesn’t hurt to mention that when people do treat me poorly, I no longer internalize that experience, making it about me; people who treat others badly are making a statement about themselves, and although it is an unpleasant experience to have, it isn’t ‘about me’ at all. These are small things, each taken individually – but they have mattered so much! The Four Agreements was a good starting point on this journey. I smile, recalling the day my traveling partner recommended it to me, back in 2010. We have come so far together!

Soft music, the warmth of a fire, a pleasantly fragrant cup of tea, and quiet time in which to write...enough? So much more than enough.

Soft music, the warmth of a fire, a pleasantly fragrant cup of tea, and quiet time in which to write. Some of life’s riches don’t have a dollar value.

It’s another winter day. I have a headache, but so far it’s not affecting my mood. There is a fire crackling in the fireplace now, and an early dinner in the oven. I have no special plans, and no need for entertainment or distraction; the day is fine as it is. Quiet. I am content. This is enough. 🙂

 

It’s a lovely morning, cool, and quiet. My coffee is hot, and smooth, and somehow a much larger cup of coffee than I generally make – I’m sure that’s my doing, but it wasn’t quite a deliberate well-thought out thing. I used more water than usual, in some moment lost in thought when I might have benefited from paying more attention. 🙂

This morning I am thinking about the power of questions. All sorts of questions, really, but most particularly the sort of questions where I take a moment to ask (of myself, or of someone else) for something I want, or something I need – but in any case, the questions used to ask for something. Not the underhanded sort where a leading question is used to attempt to nudge someone into delivering on a need or desire – rather the honest, open, vulnerable simple questions that honor my heart, and respect the boundaries and resources of that other person. Straight up asking for what I want, no bullshit, no games, doesn’t feel very natural to me and it isn’t encouraged in all circumstances. There seem to be quite a few rules about asking for what we want, but they are rules we have built ourselves, and often on a fragile foundation of assumptions and expectations, criticism and judgement.

Always with the questions...

Always with the questions…

I am taking time to learn to ask the simple questions, whether it is ‘will you make me a latte?’ or ‘do you want to have sex with me?’ and to take care of me by avoiding the emotional trap of waiting around for needs to be met, or desires to be magically fulfilled by wondrous mind-reading beings who always know just what I want. Sometimes it is enough to make my needs – and my willingness – clear, sometimes it is important to be quite frank and direct (because assumptions suck, and cornering someone else into having to take action based on assumptions about what I may want isn’t as effective as using my words). I spent a lot of years living with people who invested heavily in coercive or manipulative use of language, and I didn’t realize how much of the simple power of directness I had lost over time. I do like language, and am prone to poetry and obscure vocabulary – and playful misuse of words – and those things can also be an impediment to clear communication. That’s a bigger deal when it comes time to meet real needs. It adds up to time to rethink how I communicate my needs, and how I ask for what I want in life.

My efforts to change how I ask for help, or ask for companionship, or ask for emotional support, or ask for a latte, are far more effective when they are specific, simple, and without pressure. The most effective requests are those when I am able to clearly state the outcome I am seeking, without putting pressure on an individual to provide fulfillment – and still make the request clear and uncomplicated. This does require a follow-up action from me, regardless of outcome; graciousness. Gracious and appreciative acceptance that honors and values the person coming through for me on my request if they say yes. Gracious acceptance and respect for boundaries and limitations that nurtures and supports the person who declines, simply and without bullshit or games. No tantrums. No manipulation. No ‘you owe me’ games. No ‘but I deserve this’ games. Getting the gentle dynamic of effective requests and gracious reception of answers quite the way feels best to me is a balance of emotional self-sufficiency (most things I might ask of someone are things I could legitimately do for myself, much of the time, or do without) and considerate openness (understanding that anything someone takes time to do for me subtracts from the time they have to do for themselves). There’s another balancing act involved here, too: reciprocity. If we’re hanging out at your place, for example, and I ask you to make me a latte (knowing how awesomely well you make them, perhaps), then the principle of reciprocity as a relationship value requires that when we are hanging out at my place I will be prepared – and willing – to reciprocate and make you a cup of tea when you ask (or politely offer you a beverage). It’s not a firmly required exchange, and it’s not a debt or obligation…it’s something more than that; a shared experience of openness, an exchange of emotional support, a connection, a willingness to be vulnerable enough to ask, and strong enough to answer honestly. There’s a lot of power to connect people in asking for what we want in simple and honest terms, and being open to hear the answer without being invested in a specific outcome. I’m finding it very freeing…sometimes frustrating. (Learning to comfortably decline when asked, when that is what best meets my own needs, is a challenging related bit of life’s curriculum.)

Feeling my way in the dark on something that has direct effect on the shared experience with others can feel stressful. It’s worth getting past that to be more aware of myself, my core needs, and what’s really going on with me – the process of asking for something I want forces me to be more mindful of what it is I do want, and why, and whether it really has potential to meet my needs over time. Straight up asking tends to find me looking at the content of the question more closely; is the request truly worthy? If I am going to be vulnerable, and ask in the first place, it makes sense that the question be refined and clarified in my own thinking before it becomes words at all – why waste time on confusion, if that can be avoided? Do I really want a latte? Or do I want to hold hands and yearn for that brief moment of contact between fingertips as I accept the warm mug? A latte doesn’t actually meet the need for hand holding, does it? It matters to ask the most relevant question. So much to learn.

Children seem to get asking questions, more or less, but their undeveloped narcissistic and demanding approach is a poor fit for adulthood; they lack awareness that others have no obligation to serve. It’s a free will thing. 🙂 Still, not a bad start for asking…and I have been studying how it’s done by these wee experts. “Can I have a glass of water, please?” from a being too short to reach the faucet seems simple enough. As an adult, I’d likely want to be more specific and personal, “Would you get me a glass of water?” – acknowledging I could reasonably do it for myself. How often have I heard myself say, to a partner in motion, “Are you going to the kitchen?” – when what I truly intend is to ask, at some point, for a glass of water? Where did I learn to be vague, leading, and manipulative? I guess that question isn’t really important to answer. The more useful question is “what can I do to be more clear, more direct, and more specific, without conveying a sense of obligation, sounding demanding, or being misleading?”

I am a work in progress, and life’s curriculum develops in a very personal way. I’m already more about questions than answers… Perhaps it is time to also become quite skilled at asking for things, not merely about them. How much harder is it for loved ones to provide support, encouragement, or to meet needs, if they have to continuously guess what those might be? It was something my traveling partner said to me on a recent visit that got my attention on this. “Relax. If I need something I’ll ask for it.” He said, after several attempts on my part to offer hospitality of a variety of sorts. We had a much better time hanging out when I stopped trying so hard to guess what he might need to offer it to him before he asked. It got me thinking about that whole thing, though, and I recognize the potential pitfall of setting up an expectation within my own thinking that others would be behaving similarly, trying always to anticipate my needs – that’s not only unrealistic, it doesn’t respect them as individuals with needs of their own, and the power to ask.

Today is a good day to be open, vulnerable, and self-aware – and a good day to ask for what I need. Today is a good day to be gracious, whether supported or not, and understand that we are each having our own experience, with our own needs, our own desires, and our own finite resources. It’s a good day for kindness, and learning to say ‘no’ when I must, and to do so gently and without harm. It’s a good day to be appreciative when someone says ‘yes’, and not take ‘no’ personally. Will it change the world?

This morning I woke gently, and rose with a smile already tugging at the corners of my lips. I went to bed last night in a lot of pain, and on waking this morning I notice it has not diminished much. I am very stiff. I treat myself with care this morning, taking my time, and since I give myself so much of that in the mornings, there is no need to rush through any of the morning tasks or practices. Since I slowed myself down a few days ago (weeks?), my quality of life has improved.

I linger in the shower until I feel the stiffness of my arthritic spine ease. I make a point of relaxing and really enjoying the fish as I feed them, and watching them live their fishy lives. I breath deeply. I allow myself to listen deeply to the woman in the mirror, this morning – how is she doing? What can I do to make her more comfortable? What are her priorities as the day begins? I let in the fresh morning air,  opening the patio door and taking a moment to look out across the lawn; at this hour there are rarely any lights on elsewhere, aside from the walkway lights. I enjoy the pre-dawn quiet and the scents of morning, before making my coffee.

I have noticed that when my practices become ‘routines’ over time, they sometimes lose their ‘magic powers’. It’s not that they don’t really work, or that they have failed…It’s something simpler; I’m failing myself by doing them ‘mindlessly’. It’s easy-ish to fix. I have to slow down, begin again, and approach each such task or practice with a beginner’s mind, with willful mindfulness, and yes – a bit of discipline now and then, taking the time to fully embrace the task, the practice, the moment, engaged and present. I don’t berate myself over it when I drift off course – there’s no productive point in doing so. I don’t feel I have ‘failed myself’ grievously – I’m human, and these are practices for a reason; they require practicing. Going through the motions doesn’t count as ‘practice’ – or as living.

I am not a machine. I don’t actually benefit, long-term, from rigid habit, and life planned out thoroughly moment-to-moment, beyond the value toward simply getting shit done. Even for me, rigid habits and a strictly enforced disciplined approach to daily task completion are not something I thrive on – it’s just one method of coping with my injury, my poor memory, my challenges with maintaining a comfortable lifestyle over time. It’s not an ideal way to live. Living alone I can more comfortably explore life on a less habitual, less routine basis; moments of chaos and confusion are less likely to affect others, and any time I need to I can slow things way down, and be patient with myself; I don’t get stalled having to explain it to someone else. I am learning to live without the crippling burden of the [perception of the] expectations of others weighing me down.

The loss of so many small routines and habits sometimes catches me by surprise. This morning my cell phone wasn’t charged. I had remembered to put it on the charger; I had forgotten that the other end wasn’t plugged in. I changed my habit from leaving all the cables of all the kinds just plugged in and dangling all over the place to a much tidier practice of carefully putting away cables not in use . My environment is lovelier, tidier, and still quite convenient – since all the cables of all the kinds for all the chargers, devices, etc are conveniently in one location, together. It’s still a change. I forgot about the need to plug in both ends. 🙂 Surprise! I don’t take it personally, and I’m grateful for the quiet amusement, and practical perspective on the small inconvenience; there was a time it would have been enough to blow my morning, possibly causing some nasty pointless tantrum – I suck at frustration, even now. (It has been easier to learn not to be frustrated by certain kinds of things, that to learn to deal with the experience of frustration, itself. I don’t know whether that will be the wiser choice over time, but it does offer some relief now.)

Letting go of rigid fixed habits tied to time and timing, and all the expectations and assumptions those tend to support, has been a big change. The need to take great care with each task and practice, invested, engaged, aware, and fully living each moment becomes quite profound, lacking the foundation of rigid habit. Rituals exist because, perhaps, it is not so easy to approach every desirable practice in an utterly mindful way. I do like ‘easy’… but… I also really like living, eyes wide to life’s wonders, attentive, aware, savoring my experience, learning to thrive, and becoming emotionally self-sufficient. So many verbs involved. It’s scary sometimes. What if I forget my morning medication? What if I suddenly just stop doing things? What if I discover my values or preferences are at odds with the expectations of my loved ones? What if I’m not who I think I am? Well…I guess I’d begin again. 🙂

The sun is up now. I take a moment to make my bed, and tidy my bedroom. I finally feel ‘moved in’, in a very complete way. I think it is a combination of the love seat, and the wee trash cans which arrived over the weekend. I find myself wondering if the story of human progress can be told in the improvements in waste management over the course of history… I definitely feel the improvement in my own quality of life having a small trash receptacle in the bathroom, in my bedroom, and by my desk – I’d been having to walk every used tissue, bit of string, or piece of waste paper all the way to the covered kitchen trash, or recycling bin, and while it is a very small apartment and no real inconvenience to do so, nonetheless – I feel more ‘moved in’ having what seems the ‘proper’ number and placement of small trash baskets around the place. Funny which details matter to me. It’s exciting learning what matters most to me, myself.

I have time for another coffee, and some household chores that will ensure I come home to a lovely place – built for me, by me, based on what matters most to me. It’s a  nice feeling. Enjoying the moment seems to cause my brain to attempt a sneak attack, coming at me from behind with dire warnings and launching a salvo of ‘what if’ scenarios filled with house fires, burglars, unknown assailants, and all manner of extraordinarily negative [and incredibly unlikely] circumstances…I assure myself I’ll remember to turn off the stove, lock the doors, and be aware of my surroundings. My demons slink off into the darkness grumbling quietly.

Going my own way, having my own experience.

Going my own way, having my own experience, and feeling prepared to face the world.

Today is a good day to take great care with each task I face, with each practice I practice, and to face life with a beginner’s mind. I am a student of life and love. I am my own cartographer. The way I face the journey – and the direction I take – are mine to choose. It’s a very good day to set down some baggage and walk on.

I am contemplating change this morning, over my coffee. My coffee is quite good, and my sleep was restful, although I woke feeling the night was somehow too short. Pleasant easy mornings often find me sifting through the mental miscellany before the day gets going, and lately I am often considering tasks and projects associated with moving from one residence to another.

It's a process.

It’s a process.

Change, this morning, is ‘about’ the move more than it is about most other things, but the move is also a metaphor for change in general, and the necessity to bring my will to life in order to take advantage of the power of change. I find these loops of thought very pleasing, and taking time to appreciate the living metaphor helps me learn life’s lessons more comfortably, keeping me on the path of becoming the woman I most want to be.

There are verbs involved - and it is not possible to see what is around the next bend.

There are verbs involved – and it is not possible to see what is around the next bend.

So, this morning I am sipping my coffee and considering things that have yet to be done, and using the process of moving to bring order to chaos, to shore up the foundation of my contentment, and to improve on the way I life my values, and invest in a positive experience day-to-day.

Sometimes it seems a lot of work, and I'm not sure I'm on the right path...

Sometimes it seems a lot of work, and I’m not sure I’m on the right path…

A pause for writer trivia…I touch type. It’s a handy skill, and relying on muscle memory instead of looking at the keys allows me to type pretty fast. Interestingly [to me], I have the most damnable time hitting the ‘ – ‘ key. I often find myself having to light the keyboard to go find the damned thing. It’s most peculiar, particularly after actively and accurately touch-typing for so many years…except for the dash. Yep. That generally comes up as a ‘0’, ‘9’, or ‘=’ two or three times before I finally pause to look down, at least once a day. 🙂

There are obstacles. Distractions. Sideshows.

There are obstacles. Distractions. Sideshows.

I’m eager to get on with moving and get it out of the way. I don’t actually like the upheaval associated with moving, and I’m concerned how it will affect me until I am settled in. The concern itself causes me concern on top of that – does the concern hold the potential to make the stress of the move harder to take? Is being more aware of the effect change has on me more likely to make it easier to manage? I am aware, fussing within the quiet of my thoughts, that the answer to all those questions and concerns is held within the practices I practice – most particularly practices of mindfulness, self-compassion, and good basic self-care. There are verbs involved. The eagerness dances an interesting emotional tango with my chaos and damage, affording me numerous opportunities to practice practices and to plan. I like planning, it feels like a secure foundation on which to build change.

Sometimes the journey seems endless...and I have to remind myself that the journey is the destination.

Sometimes the journey seems endless…and I have to remind myself that the journey is the destination.

This morning, my thoughts pause like butterflies in a vast meadow before moving on to the next flower. Books. Paintings. Porcelain. Clothes. I think about apartment living, and how precious ‘space’ really is, and how I enjoy the luxury of space between things and room to move, and  how I dislike the clutter that seems to creep in over time. I consider how to best make use of what I have, to minimize the likelihood that I will react to the stress of moving by behaving like I need to ‘have more’. Meditation helps with that one, by quenching the shopping jones. Success requires the will to practice, and to practice more – I find it doesn’t work nearly as well unless the practice itself is committed, genuine, and authentically heartfelt and real. Your results may vary. There are verbs involved. There is definitely a prerequisite that I bring with me the will to change.

It is worth investing in me, and learning to thrive in difficult circumstances.

It is worth investing in me, and learning to thrive in difficult circumstances.

This morning the real theme is that making good choices, and building the beautiful life I want and enjoy, requires that I know what I want in a fairly clear and reasonably specific way. I don’t run from practicing practices – practice is what it takes – but I wholly dislike re-doing things that were done poorly the first time, or handled poorly due to lack of forethought or planning. So…I think, and I plan. 🙂 It’s a nice way to enjoy my coffee in the morning, and wake up to a day in which I am active in the process of fulfilling my fondest desires.

However endless the challenges seem, I choose my perspective, I choose my behavior, and I direct my will; my choices matter.

However endless the challenges seem, I choose my perspective, I choose my behavior, and I direct my will; my choices matter.

It’s a lovely morning to good basic self-care. It’s a pleasant day to enjoy the woman I am, right now, and all the good qualities I offer the world. It’s a worthwhile day to make eye-contact and share smiles – my fellow-man is also on a journey of discovery, headed somewhere of their own choosing, each and every one. It’s a nice day to see the world.

Each destination reached is the first step on another journey, and the horizon is limitless.

Each destination reached is the first step on another journey, and the horizon is limitless.

I’ve had so many lovely moments in life. Haven’t you, also? I find myself wondering occasionally how it is that the unpleasant ones so easily get the upper hand in my implicit memory, and biases over time. The ‘negative bias’ of our primate brains is kind of a big downer, isn’t it? The time taken to savor simple joys, sweet moments, pleasant happenstance, and all the bits and pieces of positive experience I enjoy day-to-day is very worthwhile; it helps shift my negative bias to a less negative place. Re-wiring, re-programming, and ‘correcting’ these sorts of things is arduous work, requiring considerable attention to details, and commitment to repetition and structured practices.  It’s the moments that follow all that practice that count so much; the result of the effort to practice my consciousness away from my negative bias isn’t always obvious… but sometimes it is obvious, indeed.

This morning I am enjoying a tasty latte, an unexpected treat made by my traveling partner’s loving hand first thing this morning, and I am considering future moments. I guess ‘daydreaming’ is another way to frame it up. I am contemplating experiences I know I enjoy, in the setting of simply enjoying my life, and letting that vision unfold a bit like a video. What does my life look like, without struggling, striving? With less background stress? With greater moment to moment acceptance, self-acceptance, and calm? If the details of my surroundings suit my taste, and meet my needs? If the colors, textures, and forms in my spaces were selected specifically to uplift, to nurture, and to evoke delight and wonder? To inspire me creatively and to foster creative work? What would my mornings be like? How would my days end? How would the trajectory of my experience change? Where would such a path take me?

Perspective is worth changing, and changing again.

Perspective is worth changing, and changing again.

If the only thing standing between you and the life you envision as most enjoyable for you is your own choices… do you change the choices you are making? Does the answer to that question change if the question is not about what you enjoy, but is more about what supports and nurtures your growth and emotional wellness, and meets your needs over time? It does for me; this troubles me because it implies that I place less value and priority on my own desires and satisfaction in life than I do on others, unwilling to make choices in my own favor unless it comes down to basic needs. It’s not a comfortable understanding of my decision-making, and feels out of alignment with my values, and it’s important to know this about myself; I can’t easily change what I don’t recognize as needing change.

I’m not mired in frustration or feeling heartbroken. It’s a lovely quiet morning. I am smiling and enjoying this time, engaged in this moment, enjoying something I love that meets many needs. This is simply a pleasant morning to contemplate developing a higher level of overall life satisfaction through better choices, more skillful quality of life decision-making about my own needs as an individual, and how best to do that without undercutting the needs and desires of the people who share the experience of life and love with me. A morning to consider consideration, and to contemplate balance, while I sip on my coffee.

I smile as I realize how far I have come that I am so comfortable even thinking about putting myself first in my own experience; it wasn’t so long ago that I would have found that quite difficult, even in thought, and closer to ‘impossible’ than ‘uncomfortable’.

Today is a good day to enjoy myself with a smile – exactly as I am. Today is a good day to enjoy each moment with a beginner’s mind, open to the possibilities, and accepting of change. Today is a good day for The Four Agreements. Today is a good day to change my world.