Archives for posts with tag: ACT

I am getting over this cold fairly quickly, and chose to work a partial day from home to balance the urgent needs that are to do with work, with the also urgent need to care for myself. So far so good. πŸ™‚

I woke to a misty rainy morning. I stood in the open doorway to the deck with my coffee before dawn, feeling the cold Spring draft coming up from the seasonal stream beyond the yard. It was lush. Lovely. Chilly. So very quiet, at least until the early commuters began to make their way down the road toward the city.

I worked awhile. I enjoyed my coffee, and laid plans to see work in progress through to completion, based on new information. I considered open projects, and took on tasks I was up to. I worked, comfortably. I can reliably say I didn’t get anyone else sick with this, today. πŸ™‚

In between the work spaces, tasks, and actions, there was Spring. The misty pre-dawn twilight became a rainy gray dawn. It is now a soft neutral gray morning, a steady rain falling, small stinging Spring droplets, almost just a mist, but falling densely enough to soak through clothes rather quickly. I watch it from indoors, smiling. The garden doesn’t mind the mist, the chill, or the rain at all. Seedlings sprout. New shoots break through bare soil. Birds and chipmunks explore the changes since yesterday, hoping for a bite of breakfast.

Spring.

I answer emails from friends once I’ve ended my few hours of work for the day. There is so much satisfaction in doing so. I feel connected, visible, enriched, and grateful. Hell of a good start to the week, in spite of being sick.

Spring. Today. This moment, right here. It’s enough. πŸ™‚

Well, new job… new opportunities for contagion. lol Shit. I’m sick. Oh, it’s not any sort of dire life-threatening sort of thing, just an annoying virus of some kind. It began with robbing me of my appetite night before last, but I didn’t really notice that. Yesterday the tickle in my throat, and a spectacular fit of sneezing heralded the coming of the new virus with more certainty. By midday, in the office with it, the weakness, aching joints, and fatigue, joined the party, and I went home to take care of myself. I think my Traveling Partner may have it, too, but I was too sick yesterday to be at all clear about that; he was an absolute pro at providing nurturing and care, and if he was sick, too… wow. It wasn’t obvious, and as sick as I was, we enjoyed our time together.

…I meant to actually just go to bed, and to do so early. What I actually managed to do was sit around wrapped in a fuzzy blanket staring blankly at the television for several hours, then went to bed. lol I woke too early, but also too… awake. Now? Now I’m up. It’s a new day. I get started canceling plans; I am still feeling ill, and there is no good reason to expose my friends to this. I’m already looking forward to that moment when I… just go back to bed. Self-care first, and some coffee, then I will yield to the call of warm blankets, and a quiet room.

Mindfulness will not prevent a head cold. A great meditation practice will not prevent me from feeling confused, weak, and ache-y, when I’m sick. This is just real. I keep grinning every time I consider the “new love” excitement of realizing that mindfulness practices really were helpful for me – every day, every moment, significantly improved with them – and how easily I was tempted into enthusiastic cheer-leading, and also into gradually slipping into thinking errors about what it was capable of doing for me. Great self-care means practicing all the practices that support my wellness – emotional and physical – without putting any one of them on such a high pedestal that it becomes a set up for failure, over time. I’m not dissing meditation or mindfulness, at all, I’m just pointing out that – as is often also the case even with the medicines we take – no single practice (for mindfulness, for self-care, for emotional well-being, for physical health…) can do 100% of everything we need – for everything we need. Just… It doesn’t work like that.

I’ll still meditate today, if I’ve the mind for it. It’s an important practice, a foundation of my emotional health, and I get a lot out of it. I’ll still practice mindfulness, as much as I am able to while I’m feeling ill, and whether sick or well, it’s a practice I find worthwhile for keeping me grounded, realistic about life, and able to maintain a clear perspective on the things that matter most to me. I’ll shower, and practice good hygiene. I’ll make the effort to eat healthy calories. I’ll drink water. I’ll rest. No one of these great practices will cure the common cold. It is what it is. They are what they are. Only that.

…Imagine how awkward, uncomfortable, disappointing, and frustrating it would be, if I fostered a belief that meditation would cure my cold… and then it just didn’t. I might be angry. I might give up on my practice, and lose the benefits it does provide me. I might lash out at others, or rhetorically, spreading my feelings around my tribe or community, and undermining the practices of others with the festering wound of my disappointment and my sense of failure. I would wonder if I were “doing it wrong” and whether it’s “all bullshit”. What a lot of wasted emotional bandwidth. 😦

Meditation has been a practice that has served me well, thus far. I continue to practice. I value the effect it has on my day-to-day experience. I am emotionally more well, in the context of having a committed meditation practice. It’s still only what it is, and it can’t be more than that.

Today I have a cold. At some point, I’ll meditate awhile, and when I’m done with that… I’ll still have this cold. These experiences are not related to each other, and that’s entirely okay. This? This is not my best writing. It is, however, a parable. A moment to pause and reflect on what meditation is – and isn’t – and what it do – and what it don’t do. πŸ˜‰

Once I’m over this sickness, I’ll definitely begin again. πŸ˜€

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. πŸ˜‰ )

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.

There are other voices than mine. There are other lived truths than the truth I live myself. There are other perspectives, other viewpoints, other angles from which to consider each very human moment. There are other tales to tell, told by other travelers. Each existing alongside all the others, their existence, itself, does nothing to diminish the truth of the others; these are narratives. Subjective experiences of being human, in all its wonder, glory, pain, and joy. I tell mine here, my way. πŸ™‚

A friend posted on Facebook recently that she is undertaking her own healing journey, walking that hard mile, processing trauma, seeking healing, and that she had started a blog. She started a group, to post to, understanding that perhaps not everyone wants to share that journey with her. I appreciate the consideration. I respect the journey; I’ve been on my own such journey for a while now. I reflected back on that moment when I decided to start a journey, and a blog, and considered how that “went down”, and the reactions I’d gotten at that time, from friends and loved ones (a fairly discouraging mix of disinterest, distance, and patronizing comments, generally, and a couple folks sincerely interested in being supportive). I asked myself, explicitly, “how do I want to ‘be there’ for my friend, and her experience, right now?”

I provided a reply I hoped would be welcoming and supportive, and accepted the request to join her group. Why would I not? Reluctance to be triggered? I grant you; it’s a risk. (People in my life spend a lot of time opening up to me about trauma, as it is. I’ve survived it so far.) People need to feel heard. They need emotionally secure relationships in which to open up about what hurts them. Me, too. Can I “be there” to support that? Of course I can. It’s on me to set and manage my boundaries, if it gets to be too much, and even that is a way of being there for a friend or loved one, setting that powerful example that it is also okay to set boundaries, and showing what that looks like, in practice. Practice. Yeah – and also, because I, too, am entirely made of human, I need practice, myself. Practice at listening deeply. Practice at maintaining perspective on past trauma. Practice understanding that we each walk our own hard mile. Practice at “being there” for others. Practice, frankly, at being the woman I most want to be – in every interaction, every moment, on every day. Words are just words. It’s the verbs that make changes come to life. It’s what we practice that matters; we become what we practice.

This morning I read the first of her posts (that I’ve read). I savored her voice. The difference in her style of communication. I read from a place of non-judgmental acceptance, and non-attachment. Her tale is not my tale, however similar some details may seem; she is having her own experience. I listen with empathy, consideration, compassion. I listen deeply. I recognize her humanity, her unique experience. I acknowledge the human experience beyond the words. I nod quietly, more than once. “I know you,” I think to myself. Still, I also allow her her moment; we are individuals, with our own experiences, our own pain. We’re in very different places on our individual journeys. That doesn’t matter as much as “being there” – being present, aware, and compassionate – because although we are each having our own experiences, we’re also “all in this together”. I sip my coffee and contemplate the journey stretching ahead of her.

Ask the questions. Do the verbs. Begin again.

It’s a Saturday morning. I am awake early. I make a delicious cup of coffee, and later a couple of eggs, prepared simply, with a bit of olive oil and some salt and pepper. I feel content and satisfied. I scroll through my feeds; too many memes and shares, not enough original content. I move on. I do some self-study on topics currently most interesting to me. I take time to meditate.

I feel good.

I think about these things before I sit down to write. I consider how routinely I “begin again” and how often I suggest it as a great practice, recognizing what I’m really saying is something as elementary as “don’t beat yourself up over that, just start over”, which is less succinct, and less likely to become clear programming. I find myself wondering if that’s really enough to be at all helpful for friends or readers who haven’t yet tried a new beginning in that sense that I mean, and don’t quite know what to do with that moment of transition between the end/consequence of the one moment, and the fresh-start newness of the next.

I drink my coffee and mull that over. Is it a complicated question? “How to Begin Again” doesn’t seem the sort of thing that would, generally, require explicit instruction… but… I already know I’m wrong about that, a lot. So…

  1. Step one, well, I guess something’s gotta end, or be completed, or fail horribly leaving us feeling wretched and lost, or at loose ends, or puzzled, or discontent, or… Yeah. I guess step one has to be the end of something or other. Let’s start there. πŸ™‚
  2. Now begin again.

Okay, okay. I’m being a smart ass, and a bit flippant, and maybe that’s not appropriate for you, in your circumstances, right at the moment? Got it. I’ll… begin again.

  1. Let’s go ahead and still start with something that ends. πŸ™‚ A circumstance, a moment, an experience – and hey, maybe that’s your “now”, right now, and it hasn’t ended yet, and you’re really quite unhappy and miserable and feeling beat down by life, or overcome by ennui or sorrow, or frustration… damn. That sucks. Let’s step 2 the hell out of that, shall we?
  2. Breathe. No kidding. Take a moment and just get some wholesome cleansing deep breaths. Let that other shit go, just for a moment or two at least? Surely that’s fine? It’s a choice. Take a moment for you, and just breathe.
  3. Even while allowing yourself to consider what has passed, whether success or failure, however miserable, worried, or anxious, please also work on letting go of your attachment to the specific outcome, and let go of any expectations you were holding on to. Let yourself have a clean slate on this – it’ll be okay to do that, I assure you. πŸ™‚ The map is not the world, and clinging to an understanding of an experience or circumstance can definitely color your future experience and decision-making.
  4. Go ahead and feel your feelings. Yep. Feel ’em. Emotions are not the bad guys here, and we can develop a less reactive, more awareness-based approach to our emotional life. Finding balance between emotion and reason is a very nice bonus to all this practicing. πŸ™‚
  5. Still breathing? You’ll want to keep that going, generally. πŸ™‚
  6. If you are wanting to literally re-start whatever you just failed at, now’s the time, perhaps, to consider what success really looks like – and maybe also ask yourself some questions about why you view it that way? Is that your own legitimate authentic honest assessment, or have you borrowed someone else’s opinion’s or values there? Please consider usingΒ  your own. πŸ™‚ (Much easier to succeed in life when you are pursuing your own goals.)
  7. Make a plan. Oh, I know – an ever-loving fuck-ton of you, out there, are not planners at all. I’m not saying a word about whether or not you execute a specific plan. I am most definitely suggesting that you still sketch out some sort of loose notion of what you want to get done, even if it’s only in your head, and even if you follow through completely differently. When we feel prepared, our stress level in life is generally lower. Just saying. Think it through. Consider your next steps, and your goal. Consider alternate outcomes – a lot of them. Be okay with as many of those as you are able to allow yourself to be. Consider how those alternate outcomes may also be quite okay, maybe in totally different ways. (Some people might call this “daydreaming”, but it can be done very productively.)
  8. Allow yourself to acknowledge what is and has gone well. Contemplate for some moments all manner of similar experiences or circumstances or events or relationships that have turned out quite well, based on your choices in the past. Consider them. Savor these memories of success and sort of “fill up your consciousness” with the things in life that you appreciate, and have turned out quite nicely.
  9. Still breathing? Don’t forget to breathe.
  10. Now’s the time. Whatever it is, take another lovely deep relaxed breath, recognize and enjoy your humanity, and be aware that through our challenges is our path to growth; we don’t learn much from our successes, or the easy wins in life. We don’t become stronger by way of experiences that don’t test our strength. We can’t fathom the depths of our capacity for joy or love without also experiencing the weight of our pain and sorrow.
  11. Ready? Do the thing. ❀ (All sorts of different steps and verbs go with this one, obviously. You get to choose those; that’s on you.)

I still think it’s fine to just… start with step 1 and finish with a step 2… but… I’ve been practicing for a while, and at this point, it does feel pretty natural to sort of cram all the rest of that between them. LOL

I smile and think about this journey of mine, and how far I’ve come from that hurt creature uncertain life is worth living… that was only… 5 years ago. The world isn’t really a “better place” than it was then, in most regards, and actually, it seems a bit worse, in a number of ways. Still… I feel better, about the world, about myself, about my life, about my ability to love and to heal and to nurture, and to make wise choices. I treat myself, generally, reliably well. I treat others better than I was ever able to before – or knew how to do. Strange to consider how all this progress has been built on so many small beginnings.