Archives for posts with tag: I am a student

This morning I woke up feeling peculiarly disconnected and distant. I scrolled through the news, my Facebook feed, my email, all while feeling strangely uninvolved. I’ve finished my first cup of coffee. I don’t recall whether it was good, bad, or unremarkable. I swallow the last sip, but still can’t really tell much about the experience. The remaining dregs were smooth, not bitter, and tepid. Uninteresting. The apartment windows are open to the morning breeze; the forecast for the day suggests it will be a warmer one. I am only as involved as necessary to remember to cool the apartment first thing.

Am I tired? I slept well, and woke at a natural time, feeling well-rested. I’ve no cause to feel ‘hung over’ or out of sorts due to some change in medication. There’s nothing much “on my mind” at the moment, and it feels like a nice day has begun… certainly… it’s a new one. So… what’s up with the woman in the mirror, this morning? I feel as if I am a stranger to myself in some peculiar way… like commuters passing by each other on the light rail platform in the morning, on the way elsewhere; I see an impression of this person who is ‘myself’, and I continue on my way, unmoved. I have no idea what, if anything, to do about it.

One moment.

One moment.

I may see my traveling partner today. I don’t actually know. We’d made plans to connect over the weekend. Those fell through. Monday. Tuesday. We planned. Plans change. Real life happens, and gets the higher priority as an actual experience. No stress over that, but as it happens, today I lack any particular certainty that we’ll see each other. We probably will. We might not. The map is not the world. The plan is not the experience. 🙂

Yeah… I’m in a weird place today. I wonder why? I wonder if wondering about it is worthwhile? I wonder if any action is needed, or if things will sort of… just sort themselves out on their own? Change is. It’s a given that change will continue to be. I could actually quite literally simply ‘wait this out’, and change would do its thing, and at some point I will feel differently and have a different perspective. I could also act on – from? – this strange neutral place, and catalyze change in some active way. No idea whether it matters which strategy I submit to.

What do I need from me today? Some basics first, I suppose. I check the calendar for planned commitments. I look at the blank page of my task list for today, and consider what shape the day could take from that distance of minutes and hours displayed as blank lines. I hear the commuter train in the distance. I see cloud-filtered morning light bounce off blades of grass in the meadow, through the open window. I consider a second coffee, without taking action. Poor verbs, disregarded and kicked into a pile in a corner, somewhere just out of my awareness, unattended, and for now unused… Now what?

If I wait until I “sort everything out” before starting my day, it seems likely the day may never quite begin at all. Where will today take me? I’ve no idea. Perhaps if I simply begin again…

I’m sipping my coffee and staring at a blank page, waiting for my brain to kick in with actual thoughts. So far… nothing. It’s not a lack of thoughts lurking in the background waiting their turn to be given a moment, or a lack of living metaphors, or whimsy. There is surely no shortage of photographs of this and that, out and about, useful for illustrating some point…or just being a lovely image or image of a lovely moment. Quite the opposite; my head is full of things to do, thoughts, notions, observations, yearnings, fleeting illustrative imaginings, and some of the best poetry I’ve never written, too… It’s a noisy mess in here, and frankly some tidying up is in order!

I slept well last night and rested deeply. I even ‘slept in’ some, having not set the alarm and waking at the time my eyes were most inclined to open and face the day (still quite early in the morning, sun not yet up). But what is there to say about sleep, besides noting the obvious value in being well-rested? Certainly it is worth taking the time to go to bed early enough to get a needed night’s sleep; no late night programming is truly worth passing up sleep. I’ve already used more words than needed on the topic of sleeping. Waking well-rested is an excellent start to any day that may have verbs in it. 🙂

There’s the thing, right? There are so many verbs from which to choose! I could meditate – and tidy up the mess within. I could do some housekeeping and tidy up the mess that surrounds me (it is limited to my studio, and is both inconvenient, and an impediment to working creatively). I could finish getting moved in – which tends to have a tidying up effect both internally and externally (it’s just that sort of process). I could ‘mix it up’ and spend some measure of time on a variety of tasks, ‘getting ahead on things’ in a more generalized way. I could choose to do something less obviously useful, like going for a long hike, or having an at-home “spa day” and really taking care of me on a whole other level, or spending the day bird-watching from my patio, or catching up on my studies by reading (and finishing) one or two exceptional reading selections I’ve been finding highly useful and haven’t yet finished… The point I am making (for me as much as anyone else) is that there is a fairly large variety of verbs I can choose from – in most any moment, on nearly any day – and the day is only begun. I am unlikely to make ‘relaxing’ and ‘sipping coffee’ last for the whole of the day, and not only are there more hours ahead of me (as far as I know) there is ever so much more to be done…

It’s down to choices. Choices and verbs.

I sit awhile, sipping my coffee and looking at those words, “choices and verbs”, and giving myself time to consider my choices and the verbs required more fully. I open my “to do list” and my “list of things” (which is a willy-nilly ‘as it came to me’ unsorted vast sort of list of all the many things I might like to have or ‘need to get’ to improve my day-to-day quality of life, or to resolve some small household issue or another), and make an addition here or there. I continue to sip my coffee. I consolidate the two lists into one, for convenience. I continue to consider the options – and the opportunities. As I review the list, add to it, and remove items that have been completed, I find myself feeling more organized, more aware, and less at loose ends. I feel more purposeful, and more mindful of my long-term needs. I remove some things from the list that are no longer relevant; needs and plans change. Change is. This individual day facing me in this moment is mostly unaffected by the changes I make to my lists, but I feel more organized, more clear-headed, and more present in this moment, being less burdened by the lack of ‘sense of direction’ that had occurred as planning broke down in the face of change. Change is – that much is entirely unavoidable, and fighting it is an unworthy use of precious limited life force, particularly when harnessing the power of change can be such a powerful ally on a much longer journey.

It’s still about choices and verbs, and my coffee is down to one last, cold, sip. It is a rainy day beyond the window, and the sun is apparently giving all the light and warmth it can. The gray rainy day nudges me in the direction of indoor choices, limiting the list just a bit. It’s still plenty to choose from. I pause, and notice a serious omission from my list, and make a point to add it… “Enjoy the day and take care of me.” I smile. I’m eager to check that one off every day, and recognize the value in making it a priority, and taking the time to fulfill my obligations to myself.

...Making a list... checking it twice...

…Making a list… checking it twice…

Choices. Verbs. The day won’t wait for me to keep up… Today is a good day to embrace change, and to take care of me… I’ve got a list, and I know how to use it. 😉

 

This is a busy week. Doctor’s appointments, work, life, errands, decisions, choices, practices – and love – it’s a very busy week, indeed. Some of my appointments will bring me face to face with long-time concerns, some will require emotional presence – and emotional work. Work and life and errands and all the things that feel urgent or important or necessary may result in some stress to be managed. The love will be there, in background supporting me, in the foreground as something to be nurtured and invested in with good choices, consideration, and some verbs. I am a bit pre-occupied, particularly with the doctor’s appointments, and while I am hopeful that results may lead to quality of life improvements and a reduction in day-to-day pain… I don’t know what the outcome will be, really. I have questions.

I have rather a lot of questions. Maybe this queuing up of questions is more to do with any perceived feeling of being busy than all the things I am feeling busy with? Today seems a good day to ask questions. I can get on with answering them another time…any time. Some of them may not need answers at all – funny how some of the questions we ask work that way.

I list a bunch of questions. I mean seriously – a lot. Then I realize it really comes down to just a handful of questions that mostly cover it all.

What do I really want out of life from this perspective? Am I making the choices I need to in order to head in that direction? Am I willing to make different choices, or take greater risks? Do I have a good understanding of what my choices really are, and what the outcomes may be? Have I considered how each possible choice affects other areas of life – and people who matter most to me?

Walking my own path, one step at a time.

Walking my own path, one step at a time.

I “come up for air”, returning to this present moment, reminded how very ‘now’ life really is, as I consider questions that look forward. I missed two important [for me] questions…

What is enough?

Am I okay right now?

Isn't it enough to find balance?

Isn’t it enough to find balance?

Today is more about questions than answers. I am okay right now. Answering the others needn’t be rushed.

 

 

Where are you today? Not generally, I mean actually right now, as you read this. Are you here, right now, engaged in this moment? Awake? Aware? Curiously present? It’s just a question about choices, about this limited precious time we each have, about what’s to be done with it.

Simple beauty. Simple moments. Awake, aware, alive.

Simple beauty. Simple moments. Awake, aware, alive.

This morning I sip my coffee, catch up with a friend, and read a chapter further in a book I am about half through so far. The morning began with meditation, and yoga, and proceeded to coffee – that’s all behind me now. Now I am simply here, in this moment, sipping my coffee and enjoying the quiet of morning. I am practicing being present.

As practices go, ‘being present in this moment’ is fairly simple in words, and rather nuanced in practice; the challenge is to be here, without launching a lot of self-directed criticism, becoming frustrated by some detail of housekeeping or task management, becoming distracted by social media, ruminating over past moments until I am emotionally invested in some other moment than this one, or progressing to wildly fantastic daydreaming that might become unnoticed assumptions or expectations lurking in the background of some future moment. I stay in this moment, and when I notice my mind wandering, or sense elements of internal dialogue that amount to ‘self harm’, I begin again. I stay in this moment. The practice resumes.

I sip my coffee. I feel the warmth of the mug, and the smoothness of the simple white porcelain. I taste the brew, the unique subtle bitterness, characteristic and not unpleasant, the robust and subtle flavors of wood smoke, nuts, moss, and chocolate of these particular beans. I hear the subdued noise of traffic on the not-so-distant streets, and the sound of the train on the other side of the park. I hear the many frequencies of my tinnitus, always there when I focus on it; I find myself thinking about setting a reminder to bring earplugs to the concert we’re going to tonight, and pull myself back to this moment, here, now. My fingers are chilly, and I feel a sense of ‘cold’ across my shoulders; the thermostat in the studio doesn’t increase the heat until… I hear the heater click on, as if on cue, and smile, enjoying the orderly sequence of events in this simple quiet moment. I sigh contentedly, feeling my lungs fill, then empty. I breathe. Relax. The rhythm of my fingers on the keyboard reflect the practice in this moment, tap-tap-tap, pause… tap-tap-tap, pause… Feeling it. Writing it. Staying here, now, with this moment.

I’ve been feeling spread a bit thin, more than a little stressed out, and right on the edge of being overwhelmed by life’s details during a busy time; I suck at busy. This morning I recharge, and reset, using this simple practice of being in this moment.I stretch. Breathe. Relax. I observe. I feel. I engage the subtle details all around me by really noticing them: the subtle shine of light bouncing off angles here and there, the temperature of the room changing, the quality of the light as day slowly breaks beyond the window, distant sounds and sounds nearby, the physical sensations of being human, the fleeting come and go of emotions and thoughts passing through my experience. I breathe. Relax. Smile. This is a first-rate moment, right here. 🙂

I feel myself really beginning to let go of the things that are not truly important to me personally, leaving behind only the things that matter most. Urgency that sources with someone else’s agenda is not by default any urgency for me, personally; it’s so easy to forget that, because emotions are powerful drivers of behavior (and cognition). The looming work day immediately feels less stressful, which is helpful; I don’t do my best work when I feel stressed out, unappreciated, or overburdened. I now find myself much more inclined to be eager and enthusiastic about getting through the day skillfully, not taking it so personally, and ready to get on with the evening on the other side. I also find it easier to recognize that it’s time to find something that suits me better, and meets more of my own needs.

I’m no expert on being in the moment, or on mindfulness generally – I practice what seems to work best for me, personally, and study. I try new practices, and keep at the ones that have good results [for me]. There are lots of resources for good mindfulness practices – some of them are listed in my reading list. Today is a good day to be a student. Today is a good day to begin again. Today is a good day for this moment, the one right here, however simple; it’s really the only one. Yes, there are verbs involved – and choices. What will you choose for this moment, today, now?

The future, I mean. It sometimes seems ahead of me, but isn’t it really ‘just over there’, just the tiniest bit ‘out of reach’ seeming? How out of reach is ‘the future’ really? Is that apparent distance only a matter of perception, with each moment now building on the future-to-be? This seems relevant, too.  🙂

Meditation over coffee... like a sunrise in my thoughts.

Sometimes thoughts develop as a sunrise might.

I’m thinking about the future of the world and of humanity these days very nearly as much as I think about my own. When I think about my own future, I have a plan – or am generally working to build one if there is a lack. I have an understanding how my choices alter my future circumstances, and that there are consequences to my actions – and my thinking. I don’t always choose well, or choose wisely. I am not always correct about how events later will unfold based on choices now. I don’t always have a fully complete, mindful, aware understanding of the consequences of my actions – sometimes I am entirely incorrect about what those consequences will be, or spontaneously choose an action without forethought, for which I am ignorant of the possible outcomes. What I’m saying is that I am human. We each are, aren’t we?

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Each seeking illumination along the way.

I do think about the future, though, both my own future as one human female, and the future of my species. Do you think about the future of ‘humankind’? I hear people say things with a sense of futility or dismissiveness about the capability of humankind to live well, to live wisely, to choose survival…it often sounds to me that what they are saying, rather than ‘humankind will inevitably destroy itself and the world’, is ‘I am personally unwilling to take even one step in the direction of helping humankind exist, if I have to make a change, or take any sort of action or responsibility myself’. I hear it that way because I used to ‘be there’ myself. I’m not there now.

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I am not the woman I was at 14… or 40; I have changed with my choices.

Think about this for a moment; if we simply remove war, the industries of war, the expenses of war – and all the monetary give and take of waging wholesale slaughter of humans by humans and put that precise dollar amount into medicine, food, shelter, education, and global quality of life, we would solve famine, poverty, ignorance, and disease pretty quickly. So… why don’t we? I have turned this over in my head again and again, from the perspective of a lifetime of change that began with a conversation with my father at the kitchen counter about ‘utopia’ – I was 14 – and has continued through this one mortal, limited human lifetime to this present morning, sitting here, thinking again about ‘why?’ and ‘why not?’ (as philosopher types are prone to doing) and it hit me. I totally know why we don’t do that, and do it right now – it’s not a pleasing answer like ‘can’t’, but it is real and true, and it is a starting point. We don’t want to. There is profit to be made on fear, on poverty, on killing, on scrapping over meaningless utterly arbitrary territorial borders, on marketing to the insecurities we carry within ourselves that stop us doing something meaningful about what matters most, on building a bigger pile of money on which to stand and look down on our fellow humans who are exactly every bit as awesomely human as we are ourselves. It frankly sucks that we are not wiser creatures – or at a minimum, more compassionate ones. We kill and kill again, we turn our backs on each other, we treat each other badly based on stories we make up in our own heads about what frightens us… then, instead of noticing how horrible this is and choosing differently; we notice the horror, and create justification for how unavoidable it is, and how righteously we endure our choices.

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We can choose to be better human beings, or choose to excuse being what we are.

I am often seen by associates as politically ‘liberal’. I find it frustrating, because although there is some shared ground between what I think myself and the common American ‘liberal agenda’, astute friends who have known me years are aware that my own position on political matters is probably more correctly labeled (if we must) as ‘radical’. I do actually believe that we can choose differently, and that it is in our will and our choices that we are stranded as a primate species, fussing in the most primitive way over territory and assets, unaware that these totems of achievement are likely our undoing – with an entirely different future possible, and completely within reach if we choose it. Can one person change the world? Not really, no, not as one person; but for the world to change, it is those individual choices that will change it (incrementally, over time – the questions now, is there enough time left, and who will choose it?). That’s where the puzzle gets complicated. Is there ‘sin’ in profit? I don’t think so myself…but when ‘the game is rigged’ to ensure that profit reliably flows to some few hands at the expense of all, and exploiting the effort of many at great individual cost, we engineer the destruction of our species, globally. We’re watching it happen. We talk about it a lot. For every person hoping to change the tide, there are others wanting to profit from the status quo and reminding us all that the profits may diminish if we choose change. Yep. There’s the clue. Are we not ready to accept fewer dollars piled up in exchange for seeing humanity thrive? That seems strange to me.

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How much is money really worth?

For some days, I keep turning over the bizarre notion in my head, (fueled by too much political propaganda in my Facebook feed and social experience in an election year probably) that a ‘human mission statement’ might give each one of us an idea of the direction we are headed in the simplest possible terms. I mean, when I am at work I often give thought to the company values or mission statement when I am starting a project; I want to ensure the outcome of the work I am starting meets the company’s stated goals. I realized yesterday walking to work, that I do something similar when I evaluate the new year for myself, each January 1st; I look at my life in comparison to my values, and ask myself hard questions about what I am choosing in life and does it get me where I am going. (This may be something everyone does in some fashion – I’m no expert on ‘everyone’.) I think about UN “conventions” on a variety of topics and understand these to be an attempt ‘in the right direction’ as I understand that, myself…but I keep wondering…

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What are we doing?

Are we all actually in favor of humanity surviving, really? There are nihilists among us. There are profit-mongers, usurious money-lenders, and politicians acting for personal gain among us. There is hate and fear among us. There is ennui and futility. We seem to flail directionlessly, fighting over minutiae, and missing the point; we are destroying the one home we currently have, and treating each other badly. We don’t have to do either of those things – we could choose differently, this very minute, and go another direction. There are no arguments to refute. There are no rationalizations worthy of our attention. There are only verbs and choices, and each of us is making a difference of some kind; the question then becomes “Are my choices and actions such that I am promoting the emotional and physical well-being of my fellow-man in this moment, and securing the sustainable survival of humankind, and the habitat on which we rely, without damaging exploitation of resources or people, or other sentient life?” Well… that’s sure the question I hope we each ask, with every choice, every day. I see a lot of evidence that we don’t even give it a thought. Scary.

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Mindful living covers a lot of details.

This isn’t about ‘politics’ for me. This isn’t a race to a finish line, and there is no profit that justifies the destruction of other human beings, or other life, so that numbers in a bank balance grow. Gross margins and shareholders don’t matter even a little bit; people matter. I frustrate myself endlessly trying to communicate to associates who object to increasing the minimum wage that perhaps we would do better for humankind to look at the value of human lives when we talk about wages, rather than the supposed value of the work to be done; employment requires we give up some portion of our very limited life force to support someone else’s endeavors at the expense of our own (that’s why we get paid, right?). Our fragile human lives are worth far more than a ‘minimum wage’ – employers are fortunate that anyone at all wants to bother making widgets, or keeping spreadsheets up-to-date. No, I’m not ‘liberal’ – a lot of my ‘liberal’ friends are still very committed studious working stiffs who get irritated by people who don’t seem to be ‘doing their fair share’ holding down some 9-5, and this requirement to be ‘gainfully employed’ matters to them so much that they make relationship decisions based on employment status! I keep waiting for the promises of technology – touted in advertising in the 50s and 60s – to be fulfilled for humankind in the form of lives of comfortable leisure for one and all, with technology handling the daily grind, and human beings freed to pursue intellectual and artistic endeavors, to invent, create, to live and to breathe, and even to sleep… I keep waiting for humanity to actually care about the outcome for humanity over all, everywhere – because we are one species, on one mudball, and we’re all in this together. I may be waiting awhile – so in the meantime, I will do the best I can to make my own choices well and wisely, with an eye on a sustainable future for myself, for my family, for my species – and I’ll try not to be a dick, and try to avoid choices that are injurious of others, or that may rob them of their own opportunities to do and be their very best most human emotionally well selves. I’m still human, and still so imperfect…there is so often more ‘try’ than ‘do’, and a lot of practice to cover very little ground; it still matters to do the best I can.

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I come back to ‘now’, one sweet peaceful moment of stillness and contentment.

I’ve gone on awhile on this one. It’s been on my mind while I moved, and contemplated how very different effort supporting my own agenda feels, in comparison to effort in support of an employer’s agenda, and how very easily I could contentedly fill my own time, every day, doing the things I love…writing, painting, reading, hiking… How do we successfully monetize our passions? That’s not the question I most want to answer, myself. I’d like to know why we have to, at all? 😉

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Taking time to take care of me matters, too; it doesn’t have to be at the expense of the future of humankind – or of the world.

Today is a good day to be. Today is a good day to enjoy each precious moment, each simple joy, and each smile. Today is a good day to understand that indeed, I can change the world… even the small changes count for something. 🙂