Archives for posts with tag: Buddha’s Brain

What a week. Glad it’s behind me. Relieved to feel satisfied, pleased, and accomplished, instead of terrified, anxious and regretful. It could have gone differently. I am content with the outcome.

Stress is a weird thing, though, right? I mean… once I’m stressed about A, then it’s far more likely that unrelated experiences B, C, or D may also feel more stressful, or seem to be cause for concern. I crashed out last night feeling terribly blue, struggling in a sticky web of anxiety-lies and insecurities being launched at me from within, by an anxious, stressed, fatigued brain. I wept. For the world? It seemed so at moments. Other moments, I just felt “cracked open” and unable to hold anything back however small, however simple – even some lovely tender moments felt like pure heartbreak, and I cried, merely because there was too much emotion to hold back any longer. My executive function limitations hit me in my emotional life pretty hard. This week that was more obvious than most weeks in recent months. It’s been a peculiarly emotionally stable year.

I went to bed worried, even, about my relationship with my Traveling Partner. No reason for it, really. At least, nothing I could easily identify. I woke this morning without that insecurity or doubt, feeling rested, anxiety gone; I’m excited about the road trip ahead of me. 3 day weekend with my lover? Yes, please! Sign me up. 🙂 

Fuck, I am so glad my “default setting” is no longer despair. I feel fortunate to have survived the first 50 years of my lifetime. Emotions come and go. Like weather. “Who we are” is less volatile, less mutable, and sometimes feels rather… permanent. It isn’t. It’s more like climate; tends to be what it is, but still changeable over time. We become what we practice. No kidding. It’s a slow thing to change the climate – but it can be done. Choose wisely. 🙂

Are you unhappy? Make changes. There’s no map on this journey… it’s rather like setting off on a road trip to see someone you love, unclear of specifically where they are, but with a direction in mind… generally. lol This may help. 🙂 It’s a favorite of mine for reinforcing healthy basics; do the opposite of everything it suggests. lol (Here’s a follow-up on that…)

Maybe something simple this morning? One thing that could be easily improved by one little change in your decision-making, habits, or actions? Start small – committing to a marathon, while breathless from walking across the street may be a bit unmanageable. It’s so easy to become discouraged. I’ve been there…

After years of frustration, despair, and inactivity, I decided to go to the Farmer’s Market, one year. My feet hurt all the time, stupefying medication and unmanaged pain had pretty much nailed me to my couch between work shifts. Doing so would mean a two block walk uphill (barely) from the light rail station. I look back astonished (because I regularly go to the Farmer’s Market quite easily and comfortably, now, and often walk miles, not just blocks) – it seemed hard then. It required effort. Commitment. Patience with myself.

I don’t look at it the same way now, at all. My perspective has changed with my experience over time. Incremental change over time; it wasn’t easy the first time, the second or third times, the fourth time… but eventually, it sure didn’t seem hard, and then… at some point… almost unnoticed, it became quite the natural thing to easily and comfortably do. (For my less physically able readers out there, I’m using an example familiar to me, only, and part of my personal experience, no intention of falling short of being inclusive, but I see where my example could be. I regret any aggravation, or sense of being left out of my consideration that this may cause. Start small, is all I’m saying. 🙂 )

It’s a good reminder for me, too. There is further to go. There is more to do. I still struggle with my weight, health, and fitness. There are changes to make. There is future progress out there on the horizon to be experienced. Incremental change over time takes both time – and verbs. A lot of fucking verbs.

Oh hey, look at the time! It’s definitely time to begin again. This journey won’t make itself. 😉

I finally gave in to sleep a little earlier than usual last night. I set my alarm for a couple of hours later than usual, ensuring that I would be up early enough for plans, and also able to fully relax and just sleep until I woke, knowing there was an alarm set. I didn’t expect to wake to the alarm – it would amount to 10 hours of sleep! lol

Then...night.

Then…night.

…The beeping of the alarm continued for sometime until I realized it was a real, actual, ongoing sound reaching me. I woke slowly, and without stress – or any particularly grogginess – and feeling very restored. (Go sleep!!) My first moments today have been quite delightful. I greeted myself in the mirror this morning with a rather astonishing spontaneous moment of contentment and calm joy. I found myself gazing upon this relaxed, beautiful, curvaceous woman – clearly adult, wearing it well, smiling softly, plump with sensuous curves – an odalisque, a goddess, a warrior, a sage, a woman. Damn. 🙂 A lovely moment of recognition, acknowledgement, and enjoyment – all from within – is an excellent way to begin a day and I strongly recommend it (your experience, and your results, may vary). I stretched, smiled at my reflection, and ran my hands over curves that defied a lifetime of dieting before I finally yielded to the inevitability of being beautifully curvy, and discovered the wonders of beauty’s variety and splendor – beautiful curves don’t stop strong lean athletic angles from being beautiful, too.  As with art – there are many sorts of beauty, all quite beautiful to someone.

I am sipping my coffee and enjoying being comfortable for the moment – whether I am actually having a rare pain-free day (or moment) or merely in a position in which my pain is eased is irrelevant right now; I am relaxed and feeling comfortable, and letting it be what it is. Seems worth enjoying for as long as it lasts. Enjoying what feels good is an excellent practice – simple, and of course, there are verbs involved. 🙂

A really first-rate practice I picked up a couple of years ago, and continue with even now, because it just matters that much day-to-day, is taking the time to genuinely enjoy the best moments life offers, however, humble, complicated, or fleeting. The ‘negative bias’ human primates are equipped with tends to color our implicit memory far beyond what we’re aware of – and that colors our entire experience. I don’t need to practice dwelling on some awkward or uncomfortable moment, I don’t have to practice going over a troubling bit of conversation in my mind a hundred times, or practice obsessing over some detail of mistreatment in the course of a lifetime; my primate brain will make sure I do these things without any prompting or practice by me. On the other side of things, so often the best bits are glossed over – they have much less ‘survival improvement potential’ to be gleaned from further review… but… when we rush past the wonders of life, the excitement of a romantic moment, or even a fleeting moment of self-approval reflected in the mirror, we continue to build and enhance only the negative bias in our implicit memory. The practice I learned to practice is to specifically and willfully take the time to savor and reflect on beautiful moments, great emotional experiences, wonders, joys, things of beauty, gratitude – all manner of pleasant, joyful, delightful things honestly. All of them. I take real time out of my day to focus on the good stuff, to relish it, to enjoy the thought and memory of it, to share it out loud as a storyteller – building on the positive in my implicit memory has been a large component of slowly shifting my background ‘ambient experience’ away from one heavily weighted toward stressful vigilance, fear, and frustration, and the avoidance and prevention of those experiences. (As it turns out, they are far easier to prevent when I’m not so focused on them as commonplace, too.) Try it – take a moment for you, and think over something wonderful that happened recently – big or small, doesn’t matter – and really recall it in detail, feel the good feelings, and imagine they are soaking through you as you consider this lovely moment. You probably won’t notice anything much except that it’s nice to think about something pleasant, and emotionally nurturing to appreciate our experience. It’s a practice; incremental change over time is a real outcome. 😉 I will observe that this is one of my most favorite practices, feels great to do, and… well… I am not very like the woman I was 3 years ago, and this practice is one of the more profound (if simple) changes I have made in that time.

Let me be clear for a moment, really frank with you; I’m not promoting any practice I practice, or treatment method, or means of [emotionally] getting ahead in life for my own financial gain. (Not yet, anyway… lol) Most of these practices are not of my own creation. My reading list (see up there at the top, or in the ‘menu’ drop down?) has the source for most of them. In this particular case, several sources recommend savoring pleasant moments in some form or another – I practice it as a practice. You can find it, and many other great practices, more clearly explained and with references cited (yep, there’s science on this stuff), in The Happiness Trap, Tiny Buddha, Hardwiring Happiness, or Get Some Headspace. All fantastic starting points for improving one’s outlook on life or self.  I’m not pushing you – I’m just saying, I think you’re [probably] awesome [definitely human!] and I am eager for you to enjoy everything about living your life. (Almost exactly what I said to the woman in the mirror, more than 3 years ago – a lot more than three years, really – it took awhile to get to this morning, and a wonderful moment with the woman in the mirror.)

🙂

My coffee this morning is tasty, well-made by a woman who really cares about me, and whose company and turn-of-mind (and phrase) I genuinely enjoy. The day seems to unfold ahead of me pleasantly, without anxiety, or pressure, well-planned and comfortable; learning not to over-commit myself has been another good way of taking care of me.

Distractions and obstacles take a lot of forms... I'm fortunate when the path is obvious. :-)

Distractions and obstacles take a lot of forms… I’m fortunate when the path is obvious. 🙂

Today is a good day to practice practices that have taken me so far – so far. Today is a good day to smile at strangers – aren’t they people, too? Today is a good day to be patient with myself, and with my companions on this strange projectile hurtling through time and space. Today is a good day to enjoy the journey, and stay on the path. 🙂

I am sipping my coffee, listening to the demands of crows beyond the open patio door. The aquarium, behind me here, trickles softly; I almost don’t hear it moment-to-moment, I am so used to the sound of it. The sound of distant traffic is a hushed murmur still farther beyond, and not a disruption of the still morning – although when I am most stressed out the sounds of humanity are more than I can bear, even at a distance. I sift through ideas, and notions, musing contentedly about this-n-that, unconcerned about the passage of time and the still blank page. There is no point hurrying life, really, is there? Eventually the passage of minutes will take me to the edge of some moment that requires action, but that is not now.

“Now” is for hot coffee, birdsong, and words if I find them.

I have lived alone for a bit more than a month. Thinking about the date reminds me that I must pay the rent on my way to work…and that marijuana became legal in Oregon today. I’m not sure which is more directly relevant to me, today; I will spend the day at work, and certainly neither cannabis nor rent factor in that experience. It’ll be nice to come home to a home, though – so rent is clearly important. I’ll be coming home to cannabis as well, inasmuch as it remains the only medication that eases many of my PTSD symptoms, especially if I am in crisis. I don’t write much about it. I’m not sure I know how. I do know it works, and as of today being a consumer of cannabis is just a little bit less stressful in Oregon.

Worth paying for. The sticky note on the inside of my front door this morning says 'don't forget the rent!'

Worth paying for. The sticky note on the inside of my front door this morning says ‘don’t forget the rent!’

This morning I continue to experience a feeling that has been lingering in the background for a couple of days now; I feel a bit ‘over loaded’… or something. Maybe a bit distracted…by something…or something. I’m not sure quite what the feeling is, but I notice that what eases it most is solitude, and stillness. I get the solitude fairly easily by canceling plans and choosing to be alone. The stillness seems a tad more problematic, lately. The world throws distractions at me almost continuously, and I am again facing mindfulness as a beginner – perhaps I always must? No stereo this morning, or yesterday – I love music and dance, but those are not stillness. The last couple evenings I have struggled to choose wisely, often finding myself flipping on a video that I then do not actually watch, instead restlessly doing other things, and half listening to it. Sometimes I sit down to read, and manage a page or two before sleep finds me…or distraction pushes the book beyond reach and I pursue some other activity, but without real focus. I take steps to paint, and find myself hanging paintings instead, or only sketching rather distractedly.

I am frustrated in a small way by my lack of focus, but I don’t view it as any sort of personal failure or character flaw; more likely my broken brain is working on something I can’t quite get at directly, and the overwork in the background of my thinking fractures my conscious direction and intent. The stillness is needful, getting to it requires verbs, and more verbs after that – particularly some verbs that give every appearance of lacking actual action. Meditation. More meditation after I meditate, and perhaps, some more meditation after that. No, I’m not kidding, but I’m also not certain that I quite have the well-developed adult will and discipline to do this simple thing that I need for and from myself. I am a child. I am a beginner. I am unrealized potential. The choice is in front of me and there are most definitely verbs involved. There will be more practice. Everyday practice, every day.

I am not feeling critical of myself, and I am not disappointed with my choices thus far. I am keeping a lovely home for myself, and I have been enjoying cooking for one – and in some cases taking on some rather more complicated recipes that I might have, had I been concerned about the needs or expectations of others. It’s been fun playing house with myself. I tend my beautiful garden, and eat healthy food. I practice good practices and keep good company. I am enjoying my experience – but on another level I have been sort of ‘taking it easy’. There is more ‘work’ to be done sorting out the chaos and damage, and I have been, in a very real sense, taking a break from all that to settle in here, and get a feel for living solo. My recent level of distractibility – and willingness to be distracted – has been an emotional vacation of sorts. This morning I recognize it so clearly, and with the good-natured tolerance of any parent, I am ready to look into the face of the child within and remind her there is work to be done. There will be no shortage of healthy meals, good rest, excellent self-care, and fun – but there is a purpose to choosing this lifestyle that goes beyond contentment, and it is time to get back to work.

"The Shelf" - everything I need for being and becoming.

“The Shelf” – everything I need for being and becoming.

I suspect that my sudden urgent desire to organize the books on my book shelves was fueled, in part, by my recognition that it is time to get back to the demanding work at hand of healing, and nurturing this broken brain, and this fractured soul. The shelf nearest me while I write holds all the most critical [to me] reference material on which I rely for information regarding my brain injury, mindfulness practices, cognition, language, and relationship building (with self and others). No book ‘makes the shelf’ unless it proves itself worthy – otherwise, there is plenty of room on other shelves along the wall. My kindle also has ‘the shelf’; a collection of similarly prized and limited tomes, some of which are duplicated in real books in my library, others which I could not so easily afford to own in any format besides digital. (Some of the science books are quite expensive.) I am ready. I am capable. The trick, of course, is that there is only ever ‘now’ during which I can work on me, effectively. 🙂

The sweet fruit of commitment, will, and action await me.

The sweet fruit of commitment, will, and action await me.

It is a lovely summer. I have everything I truly need (and more). I am safe in my home and free to pursue any endeavor I care to. I have ‘now’, and I have all the words in the world. I have any measure of stillness I am capable of embracing, and sustaining. Today is a very good day to get back to work on this amazing project I call ‘me’.

 

It’s a progression, isn’t it? Who we become over time. How we get from ‘here’ to ‘there’. Our progress in work, in life, in being. This amazing journey of discover we are each on is… yeah. Amazing.

...This is also a journey that can get very 'real'...

…This is also a journey that can get very ‘real’…

I spent much of my time out in the trees meditating. (Less on yoga than I’d have liked to…admittedly, because I didn’t really want to get down on the ground with the bugs and leavings of creatures passing through; no time for hantavirus this year, thanks!) Meditating, and study. One of my partners had recommended some TA (Transactional Analysis) reading, that he has been finding value in. I understand the value of shared language (and the axiom that ‘language functions by agreement’ seems supported by my experience), and I regularly read books and article recommended by significant others of a variety of sorts in order to maintain a shared understanding of the meanings of things in my personal dictionary. Earlier exposures to TA didn’t provide me with much direct benefit for healing or growth, and it doesn’t seem to be a system that is really about that, as much as it is useful for troubleshooting pattern behaviors in small group dynamics – and it’s very good for that.  Having caught up on that bit of reading over the course of a day, I moved on to something that is more specifically suited to actual treatment and/or rehabilitation of my TBI – and stuff that suits that need tends toward the practical, the positive, and things built around repeatable exercises that have clear cognitive or behavioral outcomes, and changes over time to brain structure/function. In this case, I picked up “Hardwiring Happiness: The New Brain Science of Contentment, Calm, and Confidence” by Rick Hanson.  I’m adding it to my reading list today – it’s that big a deal already.

Few books move me immediately, and most of the time practical exercises contained in study material can be a tad generic, or feel a bit forced. My experience with Hardwiring Happiness has been quite different so far; every exercise attempted from a place of commitment and sincerely and wholeheartedly undertaken has resulted in real success and a sense of immediate improvement. Nice. Easy. How much stuff in life actually feels easy? How we pursue growth and change matter. What we fill our heads with matters. The actions we take matter. Our intentions matter, too. My time in the trees felt – and still feels – significant and important to me. I feel, too, as if I have gotten ‘unstuck’ from something I was struggling with on an existential level about the nature of emotional hurts, ancient pain and rage, long-carried baggage, and the nature of forgiveness. This is a nice place to be on a Tuesday morning. I am taking a moment to recognize and celebrate my progress along a difficult journey, and to honor my will to carry on, my goals off in the distance, and my strength carry me onward.

Taking a moment to consider the path ahead for perspective.

Taking a moment to consider the ground already covered and the path ahead for perspective.

The desire to achieve some measure of improved emotional self-sufficiency almost requires that I pause now and then to give myself a moment of recognition and celebration; I’ve worked hard to get here, from somewhere quite different, and it hasn’t been an easy journey. It’s been day by day, book by book, moment by moment, epiphany by epiphany, restful pause by restful pause, appointment by appointment, breakthrough by breakthrough, meltdown by meltdown, choice by choice, change by change… always practicing practices, studying, and taking care of me. The journey stretches far beyond what I can imagine, from where I stand now, and will continue until some time as I choose to quit, or the clock stops ticking altogether; it’s definitely a good idea to stop once in a while along the way for a moment of gratitude, appreciation, self-awareness, and praise.

Getting stuck happens. I had reached a point some weeks ago, where I was having more difficulty, more of the time, suffering more, and feeling as if I were just at the edge of ‘really getting it’ in some way that I couldn’t quite reach…and struggling. Losing ground on emotional resiliency, taking more stuff personally, feeling more of the lingering hurt and frustration in the background becoming more significant in the right-now moments of my everyday experience – and somewhat inexplicably so. Life was pushing a particular lesson at me, hard, and it was as if I couldn’t read the blackboard from where I was seated.  The weekend grieving and painting was important to express myself beyond the limitations of words. This past weekend in the trees helped me find new words, and to contemplate new ideas, and recommit to ideas I know work for me. It turns out that even this area of my life, there are processes I can count on. I remain a student of life, more about questions than answers.  My commitment to mindfulness and approaching each moment eyes wide open to the possibilities of now, and facing experiences as a beginner, open and with a humble heart, still gets me some amazing results. I got unstuck. This is good stuff.  I am hoping to apply the large-scale basics to smaller situations, the sort that blow up out of nowhere leaving everyone feeling sad and lost and wounded, that happen quickly, and dissipate, leaving emotional disarray in their wake. It would be good to build that level of emotional resilience and responsiveness, for my own experience, and for the value it holds for my relationships with others.

Like a paved trail on a sunny day, some of this may seem obvious; it doesn't hurt to check the map once in awhile, anyway.

Like a paved trail on a sunny day, some of this may seem obvious; it doesn’t hurt to check the map once in a while, anyway.

Today is a good day to share progress. Today is a good day to celebrate the many things I do well, get right, and find value in each moment. Today is a good day to make what nurtures the best within me a higher priority than my challenges. Today is a good day to make choices in favor of what meets my needs over time. Today is a good day to change the world.

It is a quiet morning, following a quietly productive Sunday. I spent the afternoon between household chores getting ready for the work week, and tidying up the loft for improved space to paint and to create ‘guest space’, and a bit of painting, too. We have a house guest for a couple weeks, a friend visiting for work. I felt strangely aware of how loud the espresso machine really is, as I made my coffee this morning. 

This morning I had that strange vertigo again, that I had yesterday morning. It’s very unsettling, and although it cleared up quickly, I am concerned because it is new. I guess I can expect some bits and pieces to start showing signs of wear; this mortal body is a fairly fragile thing, and I’ve not treated it well over the years. 

When my partners alerted me they were on their way home last night, it was clear they’d be home a bit earlier than I had expected, and my willingness to adjust for that allowed me to greet them when they arrived home. I’m glad I did. It was lovely to welcome my traveling partner home, and feel his strong arms around me, and the warmth and love in his embrace. It was a relaxed, happy homecoming and definitely worth the later bed time. I made a point of heading to bed promptly once they had arrived home; staying on schedule and getting enough sleep really matters for me. Making the effort doesn’t always assure success, though, and I was wakeful until after midnight, aware of the presence of our house guest. I managed not to be irked with myself about it, and eventually drifted off to sleep. It was a short night. I will be mindful of that as the day progresses, and make a point of getting to sleep on time tonight. 

With just one partner at home, I’ve gotten pretty good at ensuring I meditate, do yoga, and take care of me. I’ve been easily distracted in the past, from self-care and practicing what works to maintain my emotional resilience and perspective, when they are both home. I’ve had weeks of practicing practices and perhaps over time I’ve become sufficiently practiced – comfortable with new routines – that they will be an easier fit with everyone home? I’m hopeful. 

It was wonderful to cuddle my traveling partner, now returned home, to find myself experiencing that very particular presence that is his, and to share this love we have. Quite wonderful. This morning, it feels like ‘everything’, and certainly ‘everything’ is enough. 🙂

"Compassion" Harkness 1972

“Compassion” Harkness 1972

Today is a good day for love. Today is a good day to enjoy what feels good without hesitation. Today is a good day to be the change I wish to see in the world.