Archives for posts with tag: awareness

I woke during the night with an unsteady tummy. I took steps to be prepared for being sick if things were to turn for the worse; I left the light on in the hall bathroom and a hair tie on the counter. It’s not the closest bathroom of the two in this place, but it is bigger, and more suited somehow to being ill. It’s near enough. Easy to get to, too. So. I was prepared, and I went to back sleep.

I woke sometime shortly past day break. 6:30-ish. I slept in. 😀 Well… that’s my idea of sleeping in. I’m usually up by 4:30 am. I woke to a tidy home, a clean kitchen, and a smile on my face. Nice. There are a few things to do today, to face the short work week ready to travel: some tidying up, laundry, vacuuming, empty the dishwasher of clean dishes… basic household care. It’s a good day for it. I feel rested. The gray featureless sky doesn’t tempt me to the trail – or to the studio. I have brunch plans, and a partially read book. Brunch and housework sounds like a fine when to spend the day, and winding things down with a quiet evening reading sounds lovely, too.

As I sip my coffee, first one brunch friend, then another, lets me know they can’t make it today. I hear from my Traveling Partner as we cross paths in the digital world, as I wake up, and he winds down from a long night. By the time I finish my coffee, brunch “with…” has become “brunch solo?”. I barely register any disappointment – and perhaps this sets me apart from some sorts of people; I genuinely value and enjoy time spent with myself (particularly now that I’ve learned to treat myself well, generally).

I pause for a moment to consider, seemingly rather randomly, that “genuinely” and “generally” positioned so close to each other in a sentence seem a tad repetitive, even though they are totally different words. Then I find cause to be irked with the frequency of -ly endings. I notice my coffee is finished. I feel irked by that and slightly irritable. I take a deep breath, relax, and allow myself to recognize that I am, actually, a bit disappointed about brunch falling through. Acknowledging the feeling, however fleeting, prevents it from becoming festering discontent. The moment needed nothing more than awareness, respect, and acknowledgement, and the feeling dissipates. Emotions are funny that way. Fight them, they fight back. Embrace them, feed them, they deepen, and sometimes take over. Resist them completely, they flare up in the background, influencing our experience of other circumstances in sometimes subtle ways, and altering our understanding of other moments. Acknowledge them with awareness, respecting the experience without fueling the fire, and they become a sign post on a journey, a reminder, and a moment observed; that tends to be what I’m going for these days.

I find myself still a bit irritable, and not finding anything in my immediate environment or experience to explain that, I pause my writing and do a quick “self inventory”. I take a moment to simply breathe and feel my feelings, both those of my physical experience (sensations) and those of my cognitive experience (emotions). Emotionally, I feel pretty at ease, and content. Physically, I find myself having to take note of a substantial amount of fairly ordinary arthritis pain in my thoracic spine. Well shit. Okay. That’d be enough to feel sort of grumpy and out of sorts “for no reason” – only, there’s clearly quite an obvious reason to it, once I am aware of it. Awareness is such an amazing tool! I continue checking in with myself, and notice that in spite of the arthritis pain, no headache. Hey, that’s pretty nice. Uncommon these days. I enjoy that experience, and allow myself to sit with the awareness of “no headache” awhile, while I decide on the morning, and what to do about the pain.

I think over the day ahead. I’ve got what I need, generally speaking. Maybe a bite of brunch and a stop for art supplies somewhere? I head to a search tab to look up my options…

It’s a great day to begin again. 😀

…Change the experience. It definitely does seem to work that way. This does not diminish the effect of a changing experience also similarly being one route to changing my thinking, this seems quite true, too. How I experience my experience, and what my experience happens to be, influences my thinking… and my thoughts influence my experience, or at least some qualities about it.

I had a ‘what now??’ sort of moment yesterday, walking from one place to another, when I noticed that my face ached rather peculiarly. I took a moment to consider the sensation without panic, and without leading myself astray with fearful thoughts about aging and health. Yep. My face aches. At the edges of my jaw mostly, and a bit more toward my cheeks also, and this is a new development… I consider it further and bust out laughing out loud, startling some geese. Sure my face hurts… I’m smiling that much. I have been smiling, just… smiling… so much since I left my job that my face hurts! That’s a hell of a ‘reality check’ on a major life decision.

Yesterday passed quickly, and also seemed vaguely timeless and enduring. It was a pleasant day and I got quite a few things done. By the end of the day, I was feeling a bit as if the day were not productive, although looking back I no longer understand why. I made room for those feelings, and didn’t beat myself up over it; I accepted that by some definitions of productive, I wasn’t, and also made a point of recognizing that I was, myself, entirely content with what I did get done. This morning as I moved through the apartment, I am struck by how much I got done yesterday, as seen when I look at things with “new eyes”. Awareness really matters. Perspective remains very helpful. “Enough” is achievable.

My traveling partner and I celebrate 5 years this weekend. The thought puts a smile on my face that lights up my heart from within. I may not write over the weekend; my attention will be on Love. We have plans, and I’m very excited about celebrating love with this being I hold in such high regard… Any excuse to hang out together, really. lol 🙂

Today is still Thursday, and an entire day away from the start of the weekend. There are Thursday things to do, some verbs to choose from, and I’ve got a list of all the many things to do that can be done. Looking ahead to the weekend makes it to the list, but it’s well down past mundane chores like ‘take out the trash’, ‘do the laundry’, and ‘do the dishes’.  Much higher up on my list of things to do today are ‘live beautifully’ and ‘enjoy the day’… those seem pretty important, too. 🙂

Today is a good day to stop and smell the roses.

Today is a good day to stop and smell the roses.

I woke ‘too early’ this morning – meaning, I really wanted to sleep later, and felt unready to be awake. It’s a weekend day, so I went back to bed. I didn’t really sleep any later, but I indulged myself in the sensuous luxury of waking up quite slowly. Worth it. When I finally got up, I felt rested, and mostly comfortable. My back aches ferociously, but for now it remains quite manageable.

My thoughts are a jumble of future considerations, past concerns, and ‘what to do with today?’ thoughts. I smile at the question; it is a Sunday, and Sunday’s mostly take care of themselves, being [for me] a day for housekeeping (both in my home, and in my thinking), and for self-care. I already have a list of things I’d like to get done today, with laundry at the top. It is a day for practical things.

The titular pain is an obvious thing and, as much as I can, I refuse to allow it to call my shots on this lovely morning; there is a life to be lived, and I’d very much prefer to live it without regard to pain. It isn’t always easy, and the good self-care practices that build and maintain emotional resilience day-to-day are surprisingly effective also at minimizing the emotional consequences of living with pain. I keep practicing. Today will be a good day for meditation, and for those yoga poses that I am still permitted by my doctor (while we sort out what is going on with my health).

The titular mixed emotions are… life. I sometimes have a more than necessarily complicated time of things with my emotional life, partly a byproduct of my TBI, partly a byproduct of my PTSD, and partly…well… I’m human. 🙂 We are creatures of both emotion and reason – and emotion generally leads. Having made a firm decision regarding my professional life, and thrown some verbs into the mix, I am investing time in considering my future choices, needs, and opportunities quite deeply. It’s not always comfortable. I am flawed… human… and hopeful. I don’t know where the journey is taking me, but I am very much on the way… somewhere. 🙂

However straight and obvious life's path seems at a glance... I can't quite see where it leads.

However straight and obvious life’s path seems at a glance… I can’t quite see where it leads.

Today is a good day for practices, and patience. Today is a good day for self-care, and consideration for others. Today is a good day to change this small bit of the world right here, and look to the horizon to see the world changing in the distance.

Life is rich with eye-opening moments. Some of them are heart-breaking (like the moment I realized I was only a resource to someone I thought loved me, many years ago). Other eye-opening moments are simply moments of greater awareness than the moments that preceded. A few are literally moments at that point at which I open my eyes – like this morning, when I woke, opened my eyes, and found as my initial eye-opening experience that I am in tremendous physical pain this morning. My arthritis. It’s not a crisis of any magnitude, and there’s not much to be done about it that would be new, or particularly noteworthy; I take my pain medication, and I head for my yoga mat. After my morning coffee, I will soak in a hot bath and hope that the saturating heat will ease my pain and stiffness further.

My arthritis is in my spine. I rarely think much about how I rely on my spine until I find myself mostly unable to make use of it in any sort of flexible way. This morning getting out of bed was complicated by both the stiffness and the pain. I rolled off the side of the bed, letting my legs drop to the floor, and leaning on the wall to slowly stand. Sitting and standing maneuvers are difficult today, even after yoga eased some of the stiffness.

The pain is another matter. Even after easing some of the stiffness in my spine, I am hurting too much to find joy in the day, so far, which makes me cross. I reach out to my traveling partner and cancel plans to hang out. I am in no mood to be in the company of others, and for the time being, all I can think about is the pain. While that may change as I practice good self-care practices, I can’t really rely on being able to hold on to a pleasant demeanor long enough to be certain of treating others well. Solitude is a good choice when I am in this much pain. I don’t mind the solitude – and I definitely dislike finding that I have treated my traveling partner poorly over something as trivial (and commonplace) as pain. It was an easy choice to make, and my traveling partner does not complicate such things with manipulation, tantrums or drama; he appreciates being treated well.

Summer flowers are everywhere; I only see them when I look. Awareness matters.

Summer flowers are everywhere; I only see them when I look. Awareness matters.

The weather forecast is for a hot day. I take a moment to appreciate the existence of air-conditioning, sip my coffee, and pretend to plan my day in some way that isn’t centered on the pain I am in – but I keep finding myself accounting for the pain in a very frank way as I figure out what I want to do with this day – I keep having to remind myself that some of the things I might like to do are going to be damned difficult if I can’t bend, reach, lift, carry, get down on the floor and back up, sit in one place, or generally move with any ease. I am irritated to be stalled by pain. I remind myself to be kind to myself; this fragile vessel can only do so much on a day like this, and there’s nothing lazy about that.

I sip my coffee indifferently, contemplating just going back to bed…but that won’t work either; it was the pain of being in bed that woke me, earlier. I frown at myself for a moment; I am not making taking care of me easy, at all. I pause and put the focus on the good qualities of the day, the pleasant features of this moment, just beyond the pain…

Clematis on a summer morning is lovely even when I hurt.

Clematis on a summer morning is lovely even when I hurt.

…It’s a lovely morning, in spite of the promised heat of the day. The early morning sunlight is clear and bright, and filters through the blinds casting interesting stripe-y shadows that I enjoy greatly. The coffee I have been sipping with such disregard is quite delightful – a darker roast than I have been drinking (I tend to prefer darker roasts, myself). I am enjoying the warmth of the mug in my hands when I pause to take a sip.  (I nearly always finish my coffee in sips, consuming it well before it cools off, most days.) The a/c kept the apartment quite comfortable through the night, and I slept well and deeply, and woke feeling alert and clear-headed. Most of the housework on my ‘to do list’ for a Sunday can be done with relative ease, even when I am hurting, and occupying my time in that fashion will quite likely take my mind off the pain for a time. I have a couple new books to read, and it looks like a great day for that, too. I can choose from  Pablo Naruda‘s “Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair”, Thich Nhat Hanh‘s “Anger”, or Naomi Wolf‘s “Vagina”. Taking breaks between chapters to do yoga will help ease my pain and stiffness if I find myself sitting too long.

It’s admittedly easier to focus on the pain; it shouts at me within my consciousness in a way that the pleasant details of the morning simply don’t compete with easily. It is worthwhile to patiently choose to be aware of more. Like so many practices, it does take practice, and there are verbs involved. My results vary. 🙂

The heavy scent of summer jasmine reminds me of my childhood home. I wonder why I haven't gotten a potted one for my patio yet?

The heavy scent of summer jasmine reminds me of my childhood home. I wonder why I haven’t gotten a potted one for my patio yet?

Today is a good day to practice exceptional self-care, and to treat myself well. Today is a good day to make choices that result in not treating others badly. Today is a good day for good choices, good practices, and an awareness that there is life beyond pain. Today is a good day to enjoy everyday moments of delight, and to practice self-compassion. This fragile vessel can only do so much, and there is no rush to complete living as though it were on my task list; the journey is the destination.

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.