Archives for posts with tag: being and becoming

I was sipping my morning coffee in the dim of dawn, sun not yet peaking over the horizon. I was thinking about a friend who often seems to default to negative self-talk, and assumptions about others that are built on suspicion, fear, and mistrust. I know enough about my friend’s personal history to have some limited understanding why they would hold such a bleak perspective on life, relationships, and yes, even on the person in the mirror. I hold my friend in very high regard, and our mutual affection and appreciation has lasted many years…but even I am not immune to being the recipient of my friend’s mistrust, suspicion, and doubt.

My thoughts this morning, after recently having coffee together, were less about how uncomfortable it can feel to be viewed as an adversary, unexpectedly, and absent any input on my part to justify or support that view, and more about how unpleasant it must be to go through life that way, living in the context of some implicit certainty that everyone, eventually, is an enemy. It saddens me, and I struggle to balance my understanding and compassion with my feelings of helplessness and frustration – and lack of being understood clearly. My own communication challenges don’t make it easier. My own emotional baggage and personal history with relationships with other human primates don’t make it easier, either. I sipped my coffee, breathing, exhaling, relaxing, and consider my perspective, and where I can, also the perspective my friend expressed, with as much depth, and understanding, as I am able to do.

Perspective changes what we understand of the world.

I think back to articles I’ve read about mindfulness, and the handful of those that point out that undertaking a mindfulness practice can throw emotional health and balance into chaos for some people. I even accept that this is one of the potential experiences people may have; when we have adapted to darkness, the brightness of being flooded with light is not necessarily and immediately helpful, comfortable, or pleasant experience. Some of the things we keep to ourselves over a lifetime, dismissing our concerns, diminishing our sense of self, or building our narrative on a ton of self-serving made-up shit to compensate, perhaps, for the bleakness of our sense of doubt and futility, end up being powerful (and possibly successful) coping mechanisms for the hardest shit we don’t want to face – and having coped with, we don’t have to. Then along comes some “healthy” mindfulness practice that sounds awesome, that our friends are into, and we hop right into it, eager and enthusiastic… then, we find ourselves face to face with the darkness being dissipated by a light so bright we can’t see what it hides from us, and… we run, terrified and damaged, fearful of change, resisting what so bright a moment of illumination might really show us. After all, we’d coped with all that bullshit. We’d found a way. Now, here we are, facing our self, unexpectedly. Not always a pretty picture, and we’re not all ready for that.

Changing our own perspective doesn’t always feel comfortable. Whether or not “mindfulness” can be said to “work” is more than a little bit dependent on what we expect it to do, and whether that is what we actually want – or are ready for.

My friend and I talked about my journey, and theirs. We spoke of expectations, and of “reality”. My friend had, at one time, been a huge advocate for me finding my way to a more positive perspective on life. At that time, they seemed so unbelievably positive to me that it was hard to understand the thinking behind those words – wasn’t it a matter of “character” or personality? Wasn’t my personal history “real”, and sufficient to justify my chaos and damage… and negativity? Wasn’t my cynicism perfectly “reasonable”? Here I was sitting over coffee, after far too long out of touch, and I was the positive one, the contented one, the one bouncing back. My friend seemed overly negative, and out of touch with their own emotional experience, lacking in a certain authenticity and “presence”, that felt strangely dishonest and uncomfortable to me. The conversation came around to meditation, and mindfulness practices, generally. “All that’s bullshit,” my friend said firmly. “I tried that stuff back in the day, and it only made me cry a lot, and made me doubt my relationships.” I sat quietly listening (which can be difficult for me), then replied “What did your therapist say about that experience?” My friend answered abruptly, “I quit therapy. It was expensive, and kept making me doubt my place in the world, and my relationship with my partner.” She gestured vaguely, something like waving off that topic with her hand. “I didn’t need all that, I’m unhappy enough without help. Self-reflection bullshit just made me rethink everything. Who needs it?”

I keep turning the conversation over in my head, in the time since. So much of what she had shared seemed unhappy, and infused with a sense of having failed herself in some mysterious way, punctuated by occasionally accusations of some other person setting her up for failure. If she is so deeply unhappy in life, in her relationships, wouldn’t she expect self-reflection to hold up that mirror, and show her precisely that? Doesn’t that open the door to the potential that change could be made – chosen – and offer the chance to walk a different path?

No answers, this morning, really. Just questions, and self-reflection, and the illumination offered by shining a bright light into my own dark corners. There’s always an opportunity to begin again. 🙂 I am my own cartographer; I choose my path.

I woke early. I felt well-rested, so I got up. It’s still quite early. So far, a lovely quiet morning over coffee. More than enough to start the day well.

I sip my coffee and think about spring; it will be on its way soon enough. I think about flowers, and roses, and squirrels on the deck. I have new pruning shears. Perhaps this afternoon, after work, I’ll get out on the deck and prune the roses. It would be ideal to do it before they open new leaves, and it is obvious that will be very soon. I think about seasons. I breathe, exhale, relax, and savor this pleasant moment.

This moment? It’s one of the easy ones. I make a point to enjoy it. There are so many fewer difficult or unpleasant moments, these days. I’ve put in a lot of work to get here. Hours of meditation. Many hundreds of pages of reading material. Long hours of reflection and contemplation. Hundreds of thousands of written words. So much therapy. All of it to get here; a relaxed, contented morning, enjoying the pre-dawn stillness, lacking any hint of anxiety, or dread. It’s nice.

I’m not bragging. Let’s be clear about that; I’ll have shitty moments, dark days, or troubled times in future moments. We all do, now and then. I’m just saying; there are things we can choose to do that hold profound potential to ease our day-to-day suffering, if we choose to practice those practices, and to make use of those verbs. We don’t have to remain mired in the worst of our experiences of life. 🙂

I sip my coffee and smile. This? It’s enough. Sufficiency. Perspective. Mindfulness. Good self-care. Investing my time and effort in my own qualify of life, and self-care, has been a worthy use of time, and attention. I’ve been more able to appreciate and care for others, and to be a generally decent human being. I’ve enjoyed life so much more, too. There are no secrets to success. Instead, there’s only a reading list, and a handful of reliable self-care practices, and my sincere hope that you find something of value in the words – mine, or those resting nestled in one book or another – and a lot of practice. 🙂

Are you ready? (Am I?) It’s time to begin again. 🙂

I’m sipping my morning coffee thinking about pandemics. lol Weird start, but whatever; it’s starting point enough for the purpose. 😉

Most of us will not ever have the chance to address an outbreak of disease, or some scary new pandemic virus, by curing it. The odds are against that, for sure; few of us are those doctors, scientists, or researchers, even if we happen to be, generally speaking, doctors, scientists, or researchers. Just saying. It’s a bit like football; lots of people love the game, few of those make it to the NFL to play it. So… what chance does a “regular person” have to seriously fight disease? Well, how about all the small things any of us can do? Washing our hands thoroughly, and regularly. Always having well-washed hands to prepare food. Covering coughs and sneezes (no, for real though, and not just putting up a hand and creating a “cone of death” to blow germs past). Taking exceptional care of our own health, and the health of loved ones too young to do so themselves. Keeping a clean kitchen. A clean home environment. Avoiding endlessly re-using glasses, mugs, cups, and other drinking vessels, and eating utensils. Avoiding and controlling insect vectors. Avoiding the spread of zoonotics. (Yes, including not allowing your own dogs to lick your mouth, and washing your hands after emptying litter boxes or cleaning up shit or vomit. Seriously, people, what the hell?) All of these small steps matter for controlling the spread of disease. We may not, individually, have much shot at being the person who cures a deadly virus, but we can sure be part of controlling its spread, through our individual commitment to good health practices. It’s small, but it’s truly something we can each accomplish, and it’s a worthy endeavor.

So… having said that… You may not be able to cure “anger”, but there are practices you can practice that result in experiencing less of that, and in being less easily provoked to anger. 🙂

A lot of things, actually, work this way; there are small steps, small actions, simple practices, and a journey of incremental change over time, that any one of us can make. Meditation. Exercise. More nutritious healthy eating habits. Education. Emotional resilience. Small changes still result in change. Practices, being practiced, change who we are. Sure, it’s slow, and it’s small, and it can seem inconsequential, until that moment arrives when change, having been made, becomes obvious. 🙂

It’s actually a pretty pleasant thought, on a pretty pleasant Tuesday morning; I can make big (future) changes by way of small changes in my practices (right now). The choice to practice being the person I most want to be is mine to make, in every moment. If I miss my mark in this moment, there’s another moment yet to arrive – and I can give it another go, then. More practice? More skill. Over time, change is made. That seems almost effortless as words on page, and I don’t want to mislead anyone; there are verbs involved. Real effort. A commitment to change reflected in real choices, not just wishful thinking. I get it wrong, a lot. I suppose most people do. I keep at it; the things I most want to be, I keep making that attempt, knowing that eventually, I’ll get there. The things I most want not to be, I practice not doing/being those things; I practice what is antithetical to those things, on my path to becoming something quite other than that. Best to keep an eye on the general direction of such progress; it would not do to become something worse. 🙂

The morning unfolds with my thoughts. I check the time. I was up early, and have a moment for a second coffee at home, before the drive to the office, downtown. I feel rested. Relaxed. I feel an ease sense of readiness, for the day ahead. I like the feeling, so I sit with that awhile longer. 🙂 And after this moment of contentment? I’ll begin again. 🙂 It’s always a good time for more practice. 😉

It’s the sort of statement that sums up most things; this won’t last forever. The current presidency? Won’t last forever. That fantastic sale in a flyer that came in the mail? Won’t last forever. This rainy morning? Won’t last forever. The nuts I put out for the squirrels? Won’t last forever. American “Democracy”? Won’t last forever. Western civilization? Won’t last forever. A terrible moment of panic or anxiety? Won’t last forever. The saddest thing about all of that that is the vast number of lovely things that also won’t last (and how many of those we overlook, in favor of yielding our attention to things that suck). The most precious thing about that is that we do get to enjoy those lovely experiences, and all of life’s joys, if we slow down long enough to notice they are happening. That, and the comfort in surrendering to the awareness that however bad things may seem… it won’t last forever.

“This, too, shall pass.”

We have choices, though, and the choices we make determine, often, how fleeting the worst of our experience may be, and even how enduring our joy can be. Something to think about. What are you choosing? What do you practice?

If we are permanently focused on the the things that stress us out the most, full-time, continuously ruminating on the disasters humanity seems mired in, or the shambles our own life is in, or how terrible this or that experience is, in some limited moment, we put ourselves at risk of coloring the entirety of our experience in this way. Tragedy and terror and sorrow can become the whole of our experience, and could do so regardless what percentage of our lived minutes are actually of that character or quality. Think about this with some care; if you spend all your content-consuming minutes watching the news, spun in a way to engage your attention, and evoke an emotion, and don’t make some effort to lift your head to experience your own actual moments, here and now, what will the quality of your experience become?

…I’m not saying don’t be angry about the things in life that warrant anger, and change – for sure, lift your voice in protest. Take action to make a change in the world. Definitely do that! Just don’t sit around allowing your own life to slowly crumble under the weight of the world’s exaggerated decay.

I’m living my life these days far more than I spend time reading or watching the news. I already know our government is corrupt. I already know that war is a terrible thing and that the cost is always too high. I already know that far too many people are willfully cruel to others, with the flimsiest justification. Human primates can be pretty fucking horrible creatures. I do my best to be better than that, myself, with my own choices, in my own life. It is, if nothing else, a starting point.

This morning, a quick glance at the headlines assures me the world is burning, and humanity is doing little to stop that from happening. Perhaps we really are rushing headlong to our own destruction (and doing so for the sake of power or profit, for fuck’s sake – damn we’re stupid creatures, sometimes). This morning, my morning, doesn’t have to be marred by any of that, in this moment. Instead, I’ll walk and consider how best to be the woman I most want to be, myself, in spite of all that. I’ll consider how to treat others well, with great consideration, and also without ethically compromising myself, and without being dishonest. Seems a good goal to have in life. (I’ve heard worse.)

I sit watching the rain fall, thinking about what trail to walk, this morning, waiting for the rain to stop, drinking coffee… and thinking about beginning again. 🙂 The thoughts are nothing, unless I get some verbs involved. True of walks. True of political protest. True of ethical behavior. Nothing lasts forever – but we sure don’t have to wait around for forever to prove that.

I think about the weight I’m losing, slowly, steadily… I think about the pain I am in. Focusing on one results in feeling encouraged and upbeat. Focusing on the other pulls me down, infuses my moment with futility, and frustration. Whichever I choose colors my experience.

What do you want of the world? What do you want of yourself? If you don’t see it in your life right now, what will you choose to do to bring change? It’s always a good time to begin again.

I’m still chuckling about getting all the way to work yesterday without realizing I had forgotten my phone. 🙂 You know what? I totally survived it, and there was honestly no actual stress involved. lol It was interesting how wholly unprepared for the morning I actually was, yesterday, though. I’m not sure why… I didn’t feel particularly groggy, or tired. I bumbled about my morning routine fairly unconvincingly, as though it were all new, or maybe… an afterthought. All good. The day happened, without regard to my readiness for it. 😀

Here it is another one. Good cup of coffee. Good night of rest. I feel comfortable, and from the vantage point of just waking, not in much pain. Nice. Good start to the day.

I get lost in my thoughts for a few minutes, staring into the pre-dawn darkness beyond the window of my studio, drinking coffee. This is not wasted time. It is time spent in a contented reverie, relaxed, calm, and present. I smile, partly because the smile feels good, and partly because this moment feels a bit like an achievement. No anxiety. No doubt. No seething unsettled unsatisfied rage. Just a woman, a moment, and a cup of coffee in the morning. This moment feels like a destination arrived at. My smile deepens in a moment of self-directed encouragement and quiet joy.

Sufficiency. Contentment. Perspective. These can be built, worked at, and nurtured, so much more easily than one can “chase happiness”. Having built them over time, I find them a durable foundation to explore joy, to find “ease”, and to experience fearless presence in my own experience. A worthy journey, thus far. I enjoy the morning’s wee quiet celebration.

I think ahead. I can’t see beyond the “fog of the unknown” future ahead of me, not really. I trim away expectations, and regularly check my assumptions, looking for hints that I have mislead myself, and making corrections before fanciful self-deceits can sabotage my experience. Gently vigilant. Still so human. I’m not even frustrated by that. Not this morning. Not over this good cup of coffee, in this pleasant moment. I laugh at myself joyfully, for no real “reason”.

Without warning, in an instant… and we can only be prepared for so much.

Emotional resilience is that quality which allows us to “fill our tanks”, or build a healthy foundation, to be emotionally able to withstand life’s unexpected moments, occasional crisis or trauma, and to bounce back with our sense of self and general “wholeness” intact. It’s that resilience that allows us to hear the sound of a glass door unexpectedly shatter, breaking the peace of a work morning into countless fragments, broken, chaotic, and then from that wreckage, to retrieve a perfectly excellent day of work, and life, and love. I happen across the photograph, and recall the moment that I heard the “crack!” of that door, a corridor away, as it yielded to some force of physics. I’d already forgotten about it, and in a moment when I later walked past the shattered door, my eye saw only the beauty of the patterns of the fractured glass. Having forgotten my phone, I asked someone else if I could use their phone to photograph it… which created a joyful space for a conversation about art, and life. It’s rare that the woman in the mirror gets to be the artist she is, in the place she works for a living. It was quite wonderful, and somewhat distracting, and I finish my coffee pondering the happy coincidence that I had forgotten my phone. That worked out nicely. 🙂 I was present – for all the moments.

Later, after I returned home, my Traveling Partner and I relaxed and enjoyed our shared evening. My phone was still forgotten on the charger. I was still present, enjoying the moments my partner and I share. Quite delightful. I hope I learned some things… It’s already time to begin again. 🙂