Archives for posts with tag: meditation only works when I do it

My tinnitus is bad this morning. I’ve got headphones on, no music playing, just sort of… seeking quiet. Doesn’t matter; the shimmering, ringing, chiming, faint high-pitched whine that persists in my ears 24/7 is notably loud this morning. I hear more than one frequency, more than one tone, various “noises” – a cacophony of background noise that never really lets up.

…I have another sip of my coffee, and look for YouTube content to distract me from the ringing in my ears. Listening to the tinnitus, itself, is a poor practice; as I begin to focus on it, over time, it becomes harder to hear anything else. A function of attention, perhaps, more than volume. Distractions help, some.

I notice the time, earlier than “usual” – more properly, earlier than the alarm was set. My Traveling Partner’s restless night woke me early, and rather than fight the inevitable, I just went ahead and got up. More time in the small gym at the office, I suppose. The exercise is healthy, and I value the opportunity. For now, I just chill here, with the ringing in my ears, drinking my coffee.

It’ll be time to begin again, soon enough. This moment, here, now, seems well-suited to meditation. I find something to drown out the ringing in my ears… this will do nicely. ūüôā

With the return of the rain, I have a sense that autumn approaches; seasons change.

…Unless you are ready to choose change…unless you use verbs…unless you begin again. And again. And yet again…until the thing about which you propose to be resolved becomes a quality about who you actually are. Just saying. It’s said better here, perhaps. Or here. Or here. ¬†All of them are fairly easily summarized – you can choose change, it does require verbs. There are no shortcuts, and there are no excuses.

Sometimes it feels like an uphill climb.

Sometimes it feels like an uphill climb. There are unexpected obstacles. 

The most frustrating thing about ‘New Year’s resolutions’ is that they so rarely result in real change (for many people – your results may vary). The ‘why’ of that is so simple; there are verbs involved, and a¬†requirement that our intention, our will, and our actions align to result in change. No verbs? No change. I can want to lose weight, intend to lose weight, and make a good plan to reach a reasonable goal; if I do not practice the practices that get the desired result, I will not lose weight – and the frustration and disappointment of personal failure can so easily (and thoughtlessly) be transmuted to emotion-driven over-consumption of unneeded calories. Bummer. A lot of things work that way; feelings of futility and frustration easily result in a level of ‘giving up’ that results in not only not making the desired change, but even over-indulging the undesirable behavior. Huge bummer.

It’s not easy to stick with a commitment to change, whether the change involved is quitting smoking, losing weight, or giving up being a¬†colossal psychotic raging bitch 24/7 to people you¬†say you love; the nature of the change itself is almost irrelevant to the success or failure of the endeavor. How much you want it doesn’t have much to do with whether you will succeed or fail, either; the most earnest heartfelt desire for change is still simply an emotional experience (although one that can be leveraged for motivation, still just a feeling). Add to that the discouragement of loved ones in our support system being less than ideally encouraging – or frankly skeptical of success – and it can seem an insurmountable roadblock to change, just having emotions at all! Harsh – we’re so human! How do we get past all that? I don’t actually have an easy answer there; I begin again when I ‘fail’, and use the opportunity to learn and grow. There may be an easier answer, but I haven’t found it – and at this point, I’m not looking for easy answers. I’m content with questions… and verbs.

Go ahead. Choose change. Make a resolution. Be the person you most want to be in 2016! It may not be ‘easy’. You may fail – you may fail a lot. Incremental change over time is a real thing, though, and we do become what we practice – no kidding, that’s real, too (and true of behaviors both nurturing and damaging). Begin again. Start over. And again after that. Use a verb – use a lot of verbs – exert effort fearlessly; all you have in this lifetime is this lifetime, itself. Spending an entire lifetime¬†not even making the attempt¬†to be all you most want to be (as a human being) seems pretty… empty. Pointless? Wasted. So…later in January? February? Whenever you find you’ve quit, given up, or stalled – begin again. That’s actually ‘all it takes’ – begin again. Did you fail again? Okay – begin again. Again. And again. It’s the nature of practice to require repetition. ūüėČ

One last bit on this, from a different¬†perspective… Some of you out there could stand to treat your fellow human beings better than you do. (You know who you are, and your neighbors do indeed hear you; the world sees you in action pretty much every day and very few people are actually deceived.) Are you relying on rationalizations and excuses to get a pass for¬†the mistreatment you heap upon your fellow human being? (Hormones, fatigue, alcohol, pain, illness…)¬†Maybe you just feel righteous and justified or entitled.¬†You can choose change, too. You can also refuse to choose change,¬†but you don’t get to choose to avoid responsibility or accountability for your damaging behavior from that¬†moment that your loved ones wake up to the awareness that you are in fact choosing who you are, and choosing to behave in a damaging ways to your loved ones (whether you call it abuse or not). If you have been told that your behavior or language is hurtful and you continue it, you are choosing¬†and your behavior is no longer easily defined as¬†‘unintended’; it is not an accident, and you did indeed ‘mean to’. ¬†2016 could so easily be the year you choose differently, learn to love, and learn to treat other human beings well. 2016 could also be the year that you don’t choose to behave any differently (sadly this is more likely)… but 2016 could also be the year your loved ones finally wake up to their value as human beings and that they don’t deserve to be mistreated, and don’t have to take it anymore – and walk on, to a life in which they are valued, loved, and treated well. (They are free to choose change, themselves, instead of enduring your abusive vile shifty behavior or mistreatment. ūüôā Just saying; it’s a system that works nicely with adequate use of verbs.)

Practice the practices that take you closer to being the human being you most want to be.

Practice the practices that take you closer to being the human being you most want to be.

So…here it is… the cusp of a new year. As arbitrary as that really is, it is a moment – and you can choose change. Will this be the year you become the person you most want to be? Will you change the world? Will humankind’s global experience improve in your hands? Will you love well? Will you speak kindly? If practice makes perfect, what kind of world are we¬†perfecting in 2016?

My sleep this past few days hasn’t been great. It’s been restful enough, which is sufficient, but it has been interrupted, each night, with periods of wakefulness of varied length, sometimes resulting in actually getting up, puttering around the house quietly, or writing. Last night I woke, at 2:33 am, and after meditation didn’t return me to dreamland, I got up, had a cup of tea, touched up a couple of the new paintings, and went back to bed. I never really went back to sleep, but found letting my consciousness wander in and out of brief dreams adequately restful. By 4:42 am all I could think about was having a cup of coffee, and got up ahead of the alarm.

The solitude doesn’t cause me any stress. I enjoy it a great deal. My recent camping trip, too, it was the solitude – when I had it – that seemed to meet my needs. On that occasion my usually-at-home partner had expressed concern that I might not enjoy being alone out there in the trees and assured me I could ‘call any time and get picked up’. I remember being quite astonished, and as the conversation continued, it was clear that somehow my partner didn’t ‘know me’ on the matter of solitude – and we’d been living together for some time. She directed my attention to that first month or so we all lived together, and the occasion that she and my traveling partner had gone to San Francisco for a couple of days, shortly before or after New Year’s Day, as I recall. ¬†I had a bad time of things and was mid-freak out, when they called to inquire if I would mind if they came home early – out of boredom.

Moving along past ‘how does someone find boredom in San Francisco?’ to the point I’m actually getting to… We really are each having our own experience. My partner¬†stored the recollection of those events as somehow indicating I had difficulty being alone. My own perspective is very different, because I was there. I desperately needed the comfort of solitude on that occasion. We’d all recently moved in together. All my routines and habits were completely disrupted and I wasn’t sleeping much. My PTSD had flared up partly due to the disruption of the move, partly due to finding out about my TBI – and what a big deal that has actually been all along – and partly due to the heinous gang rape in New Delhi that December that set the media on fire with some unstated competition to report as many rapes as possible, in as much graphic detail as culturally permitted; I could not escape my own history and I was in incredible emotional pain and feeling suicidal despair. As if that weren’t enough, the emotional volatility in the household in general resulted in receiving no emotional support for the state I found myself in,¬†no one to talk to,¬†and lacking any tools to really do anything about it. I was at the breaking point of what limited emotional resilience I had to work with. They went on their trip. I found myself alone ‘at home’ in what was at that time still ‘a strange house’ – everything in disarray from the work of moving two additional adult humans and all their accessories into space fully occupied by one. In the moment they departed, I took a deep cleansing breath and began to relax. It didn’t last. In the next moment, it was clear that I didn’t know how to operate the stereo. Or the video. At the time I didn’t have a laptop of my own, and couldn’t access the household network. My phone wouldn’t connect to the internet over wi-fi, and I couldn’t recall the password. The frustration of not being able to simply turn on some music launched me into a private emotional hell built on the hysteria and pain of a lifetime of chaos and damage, and lit like a bonfire soaked in gasoline with that tiny match of pure frustration, and the shame of being utterly incompetent at 49. I spent the next 24 hours in tears, aside from a couple of hours of fitful napping. ¬†I soon found I didn’t know where much of anything actually was – including most of my own stuff, and didn’t know how to work the alarm system in a house I just moved into. For hours I stalked through the house screaming at myself, crying, storming with frustrated child like rage… because I couldn’t find a pen, to write with. I felt trapped, and frightened.

At that point in my journey, I knew nothing of stillness. I didn’t understand meditation – my only experience with it was intended to increase focus and concentration, not build awareness and mindfulness, and it hadn’t done anything whatever to address the needs of my heart. I had no way to move past my rage. I was trapped. Desperate. Unwilling to reach out for help – because not only did I not know where to turn, I lacked conviction that any help was even possible.

When they arrived home, prematurely, I was relieved. ¬†There was music. There was order. Things could be found. I didn’t understand at the time that my partners – neither of whom has been with me more than a small number of years – didn’t understand¬†what was going on with me. (The weeks that followed¬†developed in a painful way for many reasons. I went from ‘feeling suicidal’ to sitting down and planning things out, and making a list of ‘loose ends’ that needed to be wrapped up ‘before I left’. ¬†Their emotional experiences with me over issues that developed around differences in communication styles and practices resulted in behavior that I try to avoid thinking about these days, it was that damaging and hurtful. I was battling coming to terms with my TBI, and doing so mostly without any help or support beyond a casual occasional brush off intended to reassure me that ‘it doesn’t matter’, and¬†prevented further conversation about a topic that was uncomfortable for them, too.)

What got lost in all that was what was up with me, why, and some really important things about my experience, and who I am. I enjoy solitude. I don’t enjoy frustration. More importantly? I am the sum of all my experiences and choices – not just the ones any one friend or loved one has been around for. ¬†Looking back it is more obvious, at least to me, but as with any small review mirror – I am the only one who sees that view.

Today, as I look ahead into a future that doesn’t yet exist, and enjoy the stillness of a quiet morning of solitude, I gently explore that past hurt in my rear view mirror. Something to share, a matter of perspective, a past moment that so clearly illustrates that however close we are as people, whatever our intimate relationship with each other, however connected we are, our perspective and understanding is filtered through our own experiences, our own choices; we create our view of the world using our own limited understanding of events and people. We don’t just create our own narrative, we create the narrative we use to understand others, too, and sometimes without getting input from the main character of the tale. A poor strategy for compassion, or understanding. The Four Agreements nails this one too, with “Don’t Take Anything Personally” and “Don’t Make Assumptions”.

So basic.

So basic.

Today is a good day to ask caring questions. Today is a good day to be compassionate. Today is a good day to recognize we are each having our own experience. Today is a good day to remember that investing in joy and contentment requires acts of will, and choices. Today is a good day to change the world.

Life doesn’t offer any particular promises beyond opportunities, choices, and change, as far as I can tell from my current perspective. ¬†The opportunities aren’t always obvious. The choices are sometimes difficult to accept, to make, or to figure out in advance. Change is, whether we reach for it, or run from it. What we recognize as our opportunities does affect our experience. The choices we make do alter the flow of events. Change… well, change simply is, whether we see opportunities or hurdles, whether we make careful choices, or stumble on our choices through despair, anger, or eagerness. Life is not ‘one size fits all’, even in the most legislative sense; we are each having our own experience, and no amount of law-making can change that.

This is a strange contemplative journey I am on, these days. When I started this blog I felt so lost, and on the edge of discarding this one life I have, in favor of an unknown of a most permanent nature. I can’t always express the difference between ‘here’ and ‘there’, but I am in a very different place in life, and with myself, than I was then. This is not a journey with a destination – that is one piece of learning I feel confident I can count on. The map is not the world. The journey is not about a destination. The metaphor is not the experience. The point of practicing is not mastery – it is the value in the practice, itself, and in the journey from ‘there’ to ‘here’ and beyond.

What a long way I have come in such a relatively short time. ūüôā ¬†It’s a moment worth celebrating on a quiet Sunday morning. ¬†How about you? I hope you are also celebrating some worthy moment, great or small. It’s a good day for it.

I found myself feeling a little lost yesterday, as late afternoon gently became evening. Metaphorically, it felt a bit like stopping in the middle of a very long walk, looking forward and seeing only horizon…looking back and seeing…only horizon, and feeling suddenly without perspective, without context, without certainty of destination, or origin, or distance traveled. It was a very peculiarly sad moment, poignant, tired, and a little child-like. I put the day on pause at that moment, and sat down with myself over a nice cup of tea. I paused the music on the stereo, put down the paints, the camera, the clean-as-I-go chores, and took a few minutes to check in with myself. ¬†(That I can do this, and take care of me so easily, is a wonderful change over how I handled challenges or feeling ‘disconnected’ before I started this portion of my journey; it, too, requires practice.) I made time for meditation; there’s no stronger Rx for the pain of chaos and damage, and I found the evening easily restored to a comfortably pleasant experience.

I don’t really think of painting as pushing myself to any sort of physical limits, it feels easy in the moment. When I was finished with the day’s creative work, yesterday, I was in a lot of pain, and feeling pretty ‘old’. My joints ached, and were incredibly stiff. My muscles were sore in unusual places. I felt fatigued. I wasn’t as aware of this physical piece of my experience until after I took a time out for me, and re-centered myself, and re-engaged my experience with greater awareness, and presence in the moment. ¬†The afternoon painting had slowly pulled my awareness out of my ‘here and now’ experience into the strange space between colors and brush strokes, artistically engaged with the new work developing in front of me, but less engaged with the experience of me, in the moment. Clearly, more practice has value;¬† I am stiff and sore this morning, and extra time with my morning yoga did nothing to make me feel ‘young again’.¬† I can move with sufficient ease and fluidity to spend the morning painting, however, and that’s more than any Rx opiate could have done for me, and I am grateful.

"Wildflowers" 12" x 16" acrylic on canvas w/glow 2014

“Wildflowers” 12″ x 16″ acrylic on canvas w/glow 2014

I don’t know how many more creative years I have ahead of me. (None of us do.) I want very much to figure out a better arrangement for creative working space. I’d value the luxury of permanent studio space, and while recognizing it¬†as a luxury generally stops me from bitching about not having it, it¬†doesn’t stop me from yearning for it. My always-available opportunity to meditate on sufficiency tends to be my¬†lack of space to paint, how much I want it, and gently and compassionately finding my way to a place of contentment and balance without it. I suspect having space to paint that isn’t ‘weekends only’, or needing to be packed into a couple small boxes and put away when I’m finished, will remain a pleasant daydream well beyond any legitimate opportunity to meet that need. Becoming attached to any other outcome has only ever caused me pain. I’ve come close a time or two, but…

I blink away unexpected tears. Wow. I’m always taken by surprised how much the struggle for space to paint comfortably, freely, an in a comfortable emotional context, is part of my everyday experience, and how much it moves me. This is clearly important to me, and worthy of my self-compassion, support, and attention. Is my near-chronic desire for ‘a place of my own’ that I can count on more about artistic space than personal space? Is the ‘getaway’ I crave so often entirely about creative space and freedom? If that’s the case, do my opportunities, and available choices change? What meets that need?

Well, another Sunday; ¬†one more day to paint before it all gets put away for another¬†time. So often I feel as if I am barely finding a comfortable pace and really exploring inspiration, and it’s already time to put it all away…

Untitled, unfinished background, 12" x 16" acrylic on canvas w/UV and glow.

Untitled, unfinished background, 12″ x 16″ acrylic on canvas w/UV and glow.

Today is a good day to enjoy what I love about who I am. Today is a good day to choose well. Today is a good day to be grateful for opportunities. Today is a good day to savor the moment. Today is a good day to change the world.