Archives for posts with tag: be your own hero

The barking began at dawn. It continues even now. It’s not unusual; I have a neighbor with a dog that barks any time it is left outside, which is… often. It is frustrating and annoying, and incessant. The neighbor has received many complaints about the dog and the barking, and the reply is generally the same, “Well, I’ve tried to teach him to stop barking, but it doesn’t work. Dogs bark.” I gave that some thought, at the time, and even during the six months that I was home every day, I don’t recall ever seeing that neighbor working with their dog, at all. I wondered then, and this morning, what exactly my neighbor “tried”. I don’t see anything going on that looks like practice or training.

Dogs can indeed be trained not to bark (at the moon, at shadows, at strangers, because they are lonely…), it requires practice. Do the thing. Do it again. And again another time, and again after that. Then repeat all the practicing. Begin again, again. There are verbs involved, and a practice is not a noun, however much it may seem to be based on its function in a sentence. It requires consideration. Awareness. Intention. Will. Did I mention the practicing?

I’m sure my neighbor would be irked with me to hear me suggest that she isn’t actually making any particular effort to train her dog not to bark every hour of the day it is left outside. No doubt she believes her internal narrative that she “tried everything” and “nothing worked”. Haven’t we all said as much to ourselves – and our friends and loved ones – about something? Is it really the true literal truth in fact? Have I indeed “tried everything”? Have I truly practiced the needed practices with the necessary constancy? Have I tried, failed, and begun again sufficiently often? Or… did I try, fail, and then tell myself that I tried and failed and therefore “it didn’t work”? I see a difference there. Once I noticed that difference, it became more difficult to allow a negative experience to be who I am; we become what we practice.

Yes, there are verbs involved. No, change doesn’t happen solely because I’ve accepted that change would have value, or even because I am desperate to experience change. One evening in the yard training my chronically barking dog isn’t going to change that dog’s behavior long-term (or maybe at all) – practice is an ongoing thing.  So it also is with anxiety, with depression, with anger, with emotional volatility, with disorder, with sloth, with overeating, with nail biting… Hell, any number of troubling or challenging human experiences can be eased with one practice or another – if change is actually practiced. Fail. Begin again. Practice. We become what we practice. (Not one word of that implies “easy” or suggests effort would not be required.)

It works in a subtle way; even practicing ignoring that barking dog has an outcome rooted in incremental change over time.

Is your dog barking? What will you do about it? Endure it? Change it? There are verbs involved, and the choices are yours. So is the requirement to practice.

About that barking...? (photo by Emma Harris, used with permission)

About that barking…? (photo by Emma Harris, used with permission)

A very long time ago, I “tried meditation” and “it didn’t work for me”. I went forward in life for many years (decades) quite convinced by that experience that “meditation doesn’t work”, and gave it no further thought. My PTSD symptoms worsened over time, rather than improving. After all, dogs bark. We become what we practice. I didn’t understand why I wasn’t getting any better… hadn’t I “tried everything”?

In 2012, I stopped trying. I wasn’t sure what I would do instead, hell, I wasn’t sure I even wanted to live any more. I mention it because that seems a long time ago now, although it has been only 4 years since February 2013, when I started actually practicing meditation (and some other things) – and I do mean really practicing. Daily. Reliably. Even when I “don’t have time”. Even when “it isn’t convenient”. Even though I “wasn’t sure I was doing it right”. Even though I “wasn’t sure it would work”. Even when I found myself certain “it isn’t working”. Even when I thought “my life was falling completely to pieces”. Even when I thought “love might be lost” over my chaos and damage. Even when I wasn’t sure I wanted to live at all. I kept practicing, and failing, and beginning again.

We become what we practice. By practicing calm, I have become calmer. By practicing perspective and sufficiency, I have gained perspective, and learned what is “enough” for me. By practicing non-violence, I have become more peaceful. By practicing feeling content, I have become more able (and likely) to experience contentment. By practicing being awake and aware in this moment, I have become more present in my life, and in my relationships. By practicing listening, I become more likely to hear what is being shared. By practicing kindness, I have become kinder.

Today is a good day to practice being the human being I most want to be. Isn’t every day? 😉

I woke rested this morning. I slept in. I opened my eyes slowly, thinking about love. My dreams were precious and lovely, sweet, and emotional. Tears slid down my face, not bad tears, just memories and perspective. I woke smiling. I remind myself that my emotions are not madness, nor are they a mistake. I feel. I am human.

I make coffee, and put on the stereo. I shuffled my playlist with great care recently (I occasionally do) and the song I start my mornings with is pretty close to being… a hymn. There just doesn’t happen to be a church involved. It’s just a beautiful song, and a reminder to self to be the best person I know how to be, as I start the day. It’s Saturday. I start the day with music and a smile.

Life isn’t perfect, for me either. All the practicing, all the growth, every moment of contentment reached, every moment of joy, and each new “level” unlocked, it’s still a very human experience. I struggle with my weight. I struggle not to take things personally in life. I struggle to love the woman in the mirror and the people all around me. I endure pain. I also learn and grow and love. It’s a very mixed experience, and very human. I practice. I fail. I begin again. I find myself, sometime further down the road, changed – and generally for the better (with all  the practicing of practices that nurture and support growth and change). Clinging to expectations of this or that, or some very specific standard of beauty, success, intellect or achievement is a set up for heartbreak and failure on this whole other level, in comparison to letting go of attachment to the outcome, and simply doing and being the best of the human being I am able to be.

Anyway. I’m just saying… there’s some falling down. I follow it with getting back up. The journey is mine. The destination is mine. The goals are mine. It’s not about money for me. It’s about great art, great love, and being a genuine, kind, compassionate, reasoning human being capable of managing the intensity of deep emotion with wisdom and graciousness. It’s about healing ancient pain, and embracing love right now. The success, while also mine, gets results that benefit all of us. When we are our best selves, the entire world is transformed by it.

Emotion and reason. Practice. Begin again. Be the change you wish to see in yourself. You are enough. ❤