Archives for posts with tag: a worthy journey

I just finished reading After the Ecstasy, the Laundry by Jack Kornfield. It’s a worthwhile read on the topic of mindfulness. Interestingly, I happened upon an article about “why mindfulness isn’t working for you”, while sipping my coffee. The contrast was worth making a moment to consider.

Why would mindfulness practices “not work” for some people? I read on, and get to the part about mindfulness potentially being “harmful” for trauma survivors… which puzzles and saddens me; I’m certainly one of many trauma survivors wholly supported and helped by mindfulness practices – they saved my life, in quite a literal way.

I continue to contemplate these positions, so at odds with each other. Helpful vs harmful. Effective vs ineffective. Huh. I consider the following points that seem relevant:

  1. Mindfulness and meditation were only helpful for me after I found a specific style of meditation that was a good fit for me personally; it requires a commitment to practice, and it is helpful to select a practice that I’ll actually practice.
  2. “The way out is through” – I didn’t benefit from meditation and mindfulness practices because they were emotionally easy on me; a large part of the benefit was that these practices helped me process old trauma, and find my way to the “other side”. Nothing about that is emotionally easy, and there was (and is) work involved. Emotional work requires effort, and a willingness to do it.
  3. Mindfulness is not a “cure-all”; these practices are effective for what they are effective for, and only that. Beginning a mindfulness practice, or meditation practice, expecting that it will “fix everything” seems as silly as expecting to put on new jeans and be a different human being.
  4. Read #4 again. Meditation is not an escape from our self – or our life, or our need to do self work. We remain the person we are, with the challenges we have, and possibly still lugging around all our baggage, which we would still need to actually work through (if we want to let it go).
  5. Mindfulness and meditation are not “easy” practices. I mean, the fundamentals can be quite simple, for sure, and it is highly likely that those hurting souls looking for a fast fix may drop by and give meditation a try, but it’s also likely they won’t commit to a consistent practice. It’s not that the practices didn’t work, in that instance, let’s be real about that. We’re not all willing to commit to a routine or practice, in the first place.

Effective. Safe. Low cost. Yes, there are verbs involved (omg, so many verbs), and yes, there is a requirement to be consistent – and maybe even studious, if we’re serious about it. (Check out how many books on mindfulness are on my reading list!) Does it have to be hard? Well… we get out of life, frequently, a return consistent with our invested effort, in some regards. Certainly this is one of those, but a futile struggle with something that isn’t working out for you seems rather silly. If meditation isn’t working for you, find something that is? Or study why it isn’t. (Shit. More verbs. 😉 )

What are you really looking for? Are you on the path toward that goal? Those are good questions to ask, I think. If “meditation isn’t working”, it may be worthwhile to give a moment of thought to whether it was actually the most appropriate tool for the job you went into it expecting it to do. Sometimes, we grab the wrong tool, and make the job at hand much more difficult. Ask what you’re really trying to get done in the first place; doesn’t matter what tool you pick up, if you don’t know what you’re trying to get done, it’s going to be harder to finish the job.

I finish my coffee. I begin again.

Sometimes it’s not enough to reflect. Sometimes it helps to reach out and talk things over with a friend. That’s not always easy; our friends tend, as often as not, to support us as if we are reliably correct, and as if our choices, themselves, can’t be questioned. It feels good to be supported in a 100% accepting and encouraging way, even when we are indeed the person “in the wrong”, or in circumstances when our own explicit choices directed our path, but it may not be healthy. It’s complicated. Feeling supported still feels good, and has real value.

Sometimes, I find it helpful to merely have the words of a friend. Their thoughts, day-to-day, to present a counterpoint to my own, just… generally. My own words are plentiful, but sometimes not enough to gain perspective. I’ve got a couple other blogs bookmarked for that very purpose… I bet you do, too. 😉

I was recently introduced to a blog of far viewer words than mine. Sometimes I need that. Brief perspective. Like a mental coffee break. Strictly Minimal. No, no – I mean, that’s the name of the blog, “Strictly Minimal“. 🙂 Enjoy.

This morning I woke to the discovery that I’d allowed myself to run out of coffee. (What the hell??) It’s quite early, and I’m not yet at any particular risk of a headache later. Rather than panic (an old habit I’ve learned to let go of, generally), I more simply decide to get coffee on the way to work, and handle restocking as an errand on the way home. I’ll need to run a couple of errands anyway; it’s a camping weekend coming up. There are things to do in order to prepare. For me, it’s the first camping weekend of the year. 😀

It’s a lovely morning. Entirely suited to all manner of new beginnings. I’m smiling, rested, ready for the day, and feeling fairly prepared for life. Generally, in the past, this sensation and state of being have usually preceded some horrible turn for the worse. I shrug that off; each moment is its own moment, and the future is not written. I have a great many reasons to be smiling today – one of them is that it is my anniversary with my Traveling Partner, celebrating 7 years married, 8 as lovers, even longer as friends. It’s a wonderful journey, and fully worth celebrating. Celebrating more, together, will come later – for now, I sit smiling. It’s enough.

Day breaks gently, beyond the studio window. It’s time to begin again.

Yesterday I spent the day gently, most of it, on mindful service to the small creatures in my life. I spent hours on aquatic gardening: doing a water change in my community tank, some pruning, planting, tidying things up, acclimating the new tetras that have been in quarantine, and generally spending the larger part of the day with the fish.  It was soothing and serene, and I definitely needed to support my inner stillness after a morning of unexpected turmoil.  Tending the aquarium was a good choice to get back on track and feeling calm and balanced.

The secret life of shrimp.

The secret life of shrimp.

It was a moment of shared humor to find myself discussing the aqua gardening, and commenting that I doubted there were any shrimp surviving, since I simply never see them…I gestured to the tank and…there’s a shrimp, right up front! LOL I took a moment to snap a picture, because I wanted to be sure later that I didn’t doubt my recollection of having seen him. 😀  All that cleaning and moving things around must have disturbed any shrimp in the community. I found several more lurking quietly in the Java fern. 🙂

What made yesterday sort itself out in such a wonderful way wasn’t heartfelt apologies, or emotional ‘laying down of arms’, or occupying time in spaces away from conflict, although those things generally help.  For me, it was more about taking time to be deeply engaged in a favored activity, a needful task of some complexity, that I gave my entire attention to for a while to a ‘greater good’. Mindful service. In this case, mindful service to my own needs, and my aquarium. Simple gardening on some level, and gardening is something I know puts my heart and head right, when I take the time to allow it, to pursue it, and to invest in the good in it.  (Experience tells me I could pay lip service to the idea of ‘mindful service’ and just go through some motions, and perform tasks to completion, while investing in being hurt and angry, and get nothing in return but a sense of futility and resentment – will and intent matter; results also require action.)

The day was a good one, morning challenges passed quickly, comfortably, and were quickly forgotten. That’s more progress, and it feels like something I can begin to count on. 🙂  I admittedly enjoy tallying up the improvements in emotional resilience, reductions in volatility, new tools, new skills, new experiences of living in a general state of contentment, and comfort within myself…it’s been a year (368 days) since my sense of self began to unravel in a terrible way, a process that took weeks, consumed the holiday experience, and ultimately found me as only a shell of myself, considering choosing to end my own life… What a difference a year can make!  I don’t discuss those dark days in any detail with people, even people I love very much; too much pain to share, too few words to express it without sharing the pain more than the understanding. I feel hopeful that those days are well behind me now, and nothing more than a memory.

The mindfulness thing was the key. Still is. There are so many times I wish I could convincingly say “no, really, try this“, to friends and loved ones with their own challenges, their own suffering… but generally, as with my own experience in my own life, there is a state of readiness needed to even hear the suggestion in a usable way. I was once someone willing to say, with conviction and based on my own experience, that I had ‘tried meditation and it didn’t do anything for me’.  “I tried meditation…” No, no I had not. Not like this. I had always been focused on focus, focused on concentration, focused on clarity – focused on thought. I did not understand ‘awareness’, ‘stillness’, or observation. I did not understand the importance of breathing. I’m not sure what I ‘understand’ now…but I practice. 🙂  It is enough.

A lot more is ‘enough’, now. I hope to more deeply explore ‘sufficiency’ in 2014, to be more deeply and mindfully in service to home, hearth, and to myself, to ask more questions, and be more comfortable with uncertainty, to continue my studies of life and love, and to connect more deeply and more intimately with my loves, with my friends, with my family. I’ll get started today – it’s a lovely day to change the world.