Archives for posts with tag: meditation

By the time I got home from work last night, the anxiety that had been in background much of the afternoon had deepened and begun to take over. It was a visceral experience of anxiety, and mostly only that; I felt anxious. There seemed to be nothing much supporting it, and I probably prolonged it more than necessary by continuing to insist to myself that “it’s nothing”. Well, so what if it is “nothing”? I was still feeling it – and that’s something.

I disconnected from the digital world and began to practice very self-care focused practices with the specific point in mind of reducing my anxiety. Nothing much seemed to be helping. My Traveling Partner phones. A few minutes of gentle conversation seems to ease my anxiety almost entirely. Okay, well… that’s awesome. 🙂 We end the call.  Later, I end the evening…

…I laid awake feeling anxious for some time. Weirdly, I’d get sleepy, and as soon as I even started to doze off, the anxiety surged back and woke me. Fuck. Damn it. …Did I have too much coffee? …Am I stressed over work?? …Am I not “anxious” at all, but actually excited and not discerning the difference? …The weather? Troubleshooting anxiety doesn’t really help matters at all, that’s not how anxiety tends to work (for me). Trying to find answers to “why am I anxious” just puts all my attention on the anxiety, which makes it the focus of my experience. Yuck.

Strong steps seemed necessary if I wanted to sleep. I got up for a little while, went out onto the deck in the cool-not-quite-cold night air with my meditation cushion, and sat quietly in the cold, just… being. I went back to bed, and to sleep, shortly afterward.

This morning I woke without the anxiety lurking in the background. I don’t reach back to mess with the “why” question any further. I’m content to be without the anxiety. This morning, my thoughts are on the weekend ahead. The sound of bird song outside my window. How satisfying my coffee seems. Finding out the “why” of an anxious afternoon holds more potential to create another anxious day than it does to answer any profound questions about the nature of anxiety. lol I let it go and move on. It’s not as if there hasn’t been ample stimulus in recent goings on for anxious moments. I totally don’t need “reasons” beyond that. 🙂

I look at the clock, and notice that it is time to begin again… the weekend ahead of me… love, adventure… choices. All of that and more, just beyond this moment. 🙂

I’m sipping my coffee and staring at this blank page (well, it was, it isn’t now…). The future is a perpetual blank page. I hold the pen in the present. Whatever narrative I jot down, whatever map of the world I attempt to draw, it is done from this moment, from this perspective. It has so little to do with the actual future that will actually happen. It’s easy to overlook that detail, but it is significant and worth keeping in mind.

I spent the weekend in the studio. I didn’t finish anything. I started a bunch of stuff. It was a delightful and productive weekend, creatively. I am content and nourished by the time spent painting. I’m finding it rather challenging to “get my head right” for the compressed work week ahead; I am yearning for some vacation time, and the good company of my Traveling Partner and friends. I am distracted and energized, like a toddler after an espresso shot. lol

People are peculiarly resilient and adaptable. Have you noticed that? It’s an amazing quality. We can endure quite a lot, and still be hopeful. We can suffer immense trauma, and still find ourselves positive about life, and able to enjoy it. We can break trust, and rebuild it. We can choose poorly, act badly, or go to pieces – and often put things right nonetheless. Pretty amazing stuff. Yes, of course, there are verbs involved, and our results vary. Our intention, our will, and our actions all matter. Our words matter. The content of our character and the values we choose to live matter. Still… we’re pretty fancy primates with a lot of potential.

Today you can begin again. Today you can choose to be your best self. Today you can live your life on a path to the person you most want to be… You only have to choose to do so. 🙂

Choose. Begin again.

I woke with a headache. No arguing with that; it’s a headache, it hurts, I feel it. Being a positive person isn’t about pretending there is no headache. That’s silly game playing that lacks consistent results. It’s more about… being aware that the headache is a temporary thing, that it will pass, and that it is only a headache. My choices still matter more than the headache itself.

We can do a lot to predict outcomes of events and choices, given a willingness to be self-aware, honest, and true to the data. Our choices still matter; our choices change the outcomes. Predictably enough, predictable outcomes change over time, as our choices are made, and our will brought to action. There’s no reason being angry about an outcome we’ve chosen, ourselves, with our actions; we could have seen it coming, generally, as human primates are fairly predictable. Even the unpredictable ones, if you’ve observed their specific ways long enough. Hell, the predictable nature of unpredictable people is so predictable, in fact, that fairly realistic scripts can be written of such things, for our amusement.

I sip my coffee and wish my Traveling Partner well. Day break soon. It’s been a rough couple weeks as his Other’s mental health declined, and her behavior spiraled out of control; that shit gets ugly fast. It was also fairly predictable, taken in the full context of my own experience of her. I take a deep breath and relax. He’s okay. Our friends are okay. Material losses are just things. Hopefully all that ugliness and stress is behind them, and everyone can move on with healing. Done with that.

Emotional resilience in times of turmoil is a big deal. If I don’t have it, I don’t bounce back from stress, and if I am not easily able to bounce back from stress, it begins to wear me down over time, becoming harder and harder to deal with, and as smaller things begin to loom larger in my daily experience, I become raw, emotional, off-balance… and I start to take shit very very personally (and almost nothing at all in life is actually all that damned personal). It all spirals downward from there. How is it that emotional resilience isn’t a common every day emotional wellness talking point? Why is there not elementary level course curriculum in emotional health in public schools? Why has it been such a struggle to get health insurers to cover mental health care fully and without limits? Who the fuck came up with the idea that emotions are the bad guy? Our ignorance about our emotions is far worse than any single emotional experience ever could be. Our personal demons are less likely to be our actual emotions than our lack of emotional intelligence, our lack of cultivated emotional resilience – and the ensuing chaos as our intellect attempts (and fails) time and again to “cut to the front of the line” in every experience. Reliably, our emotions get there first. Visceral. Raw. Real. Felt. Unavoidably we feel our emotions. (That’s why we call them “feelings”.) What we do about them is a wholly separate matter.

…Emotions are still only emotions, though. A reaction to stimulus. Sometimes that stimulus isn’t a high quality of “real” at all. We react emotionally with equal intensity to actual events as we do to imagined ones. Our internal narrative drives our emotional experience every bit as much as actual events and interactions do (for some people, less tied to reality, more so). This is problematic when our own lack of emotional intelligence, or a lack of developed emotional resilience, results in being unable to discern the relative value of whatever is the source material of our emotional experience.

If I am thinking about my Traveling Partner, and imagine losing him… forever… and I evoke an emotional reaction in myself with that thought, I may briefly feel a terrible grief. (No kidding – it won’t be anything like the real deal, but I won’t discern that difference in the moment I am feeling my momentary emotion.) Is the grief not real? Oh hell yes, the emotions are real! That’s what often undermines our ability to maintain resilience in the face of storms of hormones, as women; our emotions are entirely “real”. What is questionable is the quality of the source material driving that experience. Our emotions are bio-chemical. We’re literally on drugs when we’re enraged. On drugs when we are euphoric, in love, experiencing “new relationship energy”. On drugs when we are sad, feeling low, and overcome by ennui. Emotional intelligence is the quality that allows us to understand ourselves sufficiently well to say “omg this sucks, I’m not myself today, I need some space (or I need some hugs) and I’m sorry in advance – I’m feeling a little less able to find my center today”… without laying waste to the experience of our loved ones in a shitty moment by weaponizing our emotions and attacking the world. Over time, “I’m sorry” isn’t enough, if you regularly treat your loved ones poorly. Eventually, too much damage is done, and no apology eases the hurt feelings, or restores the lost trust.

“Emotion and Reason” 18″ x 24″ acrylic w/ceramic and glow details, 2012

We are creatures of emotion and reason. Understanding the complex interplay of intellect and feelings, of reaction and resilience, of emotional intelligence, cognitive skill, and intellect, goes a long way to making us seem more rational while we are also experiencing a rich and varied emotional life. Trying to tip the scales in favor of one or the other is an exercise in futility that weakens our ability to adapt to change and to overcome trauma. Avoid or shut down our emotions, and we become distant, tend toward callousness, prone to clueless insensitivity, unable to fully experience intimacy in relationships with others. Suppress our intellect, eschew a factual basis to life, and we find ourselves chaotic, reactive, and unable to gain perspective. Either of those results in our treating everyone around every bit as badly as we treat ourselves. (Well, yeah, because it’s a true thing that we do generally; we treat everyone as badly – or as well –  as we treat ourselves). Fuck all that – it is a more comfortable experience to walk my path mindfully as much as I am able, aware of my emotions, appreciative of my intellect and cognitive gifts, able to balance and use them both comfortably. I am able to bounce back from stress and trauma with greater ease. It does take practice. Yep. And, you guessed it, there are verbs involved. (And maybe a meditation cushion. lol)

Real is real. I still have choices. You do, too. 🙂

It’s time to begin again.

I found myself having a tense moment yesterday. It could have gone very wrong. I caught myself on the edge of making a point very clear that would not benefit from being over-stated, and the circumstances themselves had done enough. I took a breath. Another. I relaxed as I exhaled. The moment passed. It’s not the answer to every challenge. It’s not the solution to all the problems. It doesn’t answer every question. It also definitely doesn’t hurt anything to take a moment – and a breath – before moving on with things. 🙂

I got home fairly tired yesterday. My headache was aggravating. I did what I could to ease it. I finally just gave up and went to bed early, hoping that a few minutes of quiet meditation in dim light would put things right enough that I could sleep. I definitely slept, so I must have been tired. I woke 9 hours later, seconds ahead of the alarm going off, feeling rested – and for the moment, headache free.

Having been told with some firmness and plenty of diagnostic data that this headache is likely neurological in origin, I am treating it as something I can resolve – given the right practice(s). So, I deal with it, right now, as with any trying circumstance or condition. First – and it’s a powerful tool – I pay real attention to moments that are headache free. I take deliberate notice. I am observant, and aware, and make room in my consciousness to appreciate the lack of that headache, on the chance that over time, the experience of the headache may have grown to fill my awareness, simply by focusing on it too much. It’s not a cure, but sure enough, moments that are entirely headache-free do apparently still exist in my experience day-to-day. There’s a chance that focusing on those moments, versus the ones with the headache, may hold the potential to grow them larger in my implicit awareness, over time. So, this morning, I am enjoying my coffee, and the awareness that my headache isn’t there, right now. 🙂 If nothing else, why the hell would I not take a moment to appreciate not having a headache?

Our implicit biases are powerful things. They handle a lot of our day-to-day, moment-to-moment decision-making, and we don’t even notice that we’re on auto-pilot. Everything from that suspicious stranger, to the specific foods we don’t eat, and all manner of other things we react to immediately with a sense of certainty, without having paused to consider anything at all, is part of that system of implicit biases that exists in our “programming”. Those things aren’t “real” – it’s not actually a fact, or any sort of certainty, that lima beans are gross. I just don’t happen to like lima beans. Actually, let’s be clear, I have learned to insist that I don’t like lima beans without having put a lima bean into my mouth in… more than 40 years, for sure. I can say I don’t like them, and maybe that’s actually true, but… I was so firm on not liking them so early in life, and have held on to that understanding of myself for so long, that it has become an implicit defining truth of myself that entirely lacks any basis in fact. At all. Seriously? How the fuck do I even know if I do or don’t like lima beans? That’s sort of my point. I actually don’t. Clearly, I’ve got some bias against the idea of lima beans – but that should hardly be the basis of my decision-making without some sort of legitimate validation. Otherwise? It’s just a bias. It’s not truly a preference – how the fuck do I even know? I simply don’t. I’m just saying words, and holding on to some construct in my personal narrative that lacks basis in fact. People do it all the time. Doing it with one’s food preferences is fairly harmless, but it’s not a great cognitive habit, generally.

Test your assumptions. Fact-check what you are certain of. Explicitly confirm expectations. Take your life and your consciousness off auto-pilot. You may discover a world of flavors (and experiences) that you would otherwise miss entirely. You may lighten the burden weighing down your heart. Yes, of course, there are verbs involved. Your results may vary. You may find yourself hurting in moments that you’d previously be so certain were full of wonder. Disillusionment can be an awkward sometimes painful process – and it can set you free.

I begin the day feeling well-loved, well-rested, and ready to begin again. I’m curiously eager to try lima beans (nothing like a good metaphor to kick off personal growth). lol I wonder where the day will take me?

I’m sipping my coffee and listening to the rain fall. The dawn is gray, and it’s hard to accept that day break is past, and this… is it. Morning. No “sunrise” in any obvious way. The sky is a drizzly homogeneous featureless gray. I woke planning to paint. I still feel peculiarly energized to paint, and likely will. I’ll probably “go off script” from there, though, and “just paint” instead of working with purpose, plan, and structure on pieces that I have already sketched out in my head. I know what works for me, artistically.

I contemplate conversations with friends from yesterday. The afternoon was spent wrapped in warmth and intimate affection, connected close friendships, easy hang out time. We shared a bite of late lunch-not-quite-dinner, sufficient to fuel the afternoon hours without the distraction of hunger to throw off the genial vibe. Both very good friends of mine, neither had met the other previously, and we all had a great time – it was a well-connected, deep, experience. The conversation was lively, fun in spots, serious in others, and quickly exceeded any sort of “getting to know each other” limitations to become fully invested, authentic, and yeah – deep. Really talking over life. Love. The world. It was soul-nourishing time.

Hanging out and talking, watching cartoons, listening to music – these are very much favorite activities of mine to share with friends. Yesterday was a day well-spent.

I miss my Traveling Partner. I smile, feeling the warmth of his love as a sort of carrier wave on which the details of my experience travel across my consciousness. He would have been so welcome, yesterday. He remains so welcome today. He’s just hundreds of miles away, is all. lol I wish him well, and wrap the thought of him in my love. I would enjoy sharing coffee with him, this morning, and talking over yesterday – and tomorrow. lol Soon enough.

Openness is one of my “Big 5” relationship values. It’s a tricky one – what does that even mean, “openness”? For me, it means both acceptance and non-attachment. It means listening deeply, not just waiting to talk. It means being willing to change my thinking with new information. It means being observant in the moment, and prepared to “go with it” when circumstances or people reveal something more about themselves. It means embracing authenticity, myself, and sharing who I actually am, with others who are sharing who they actually are, too. It means creating an emotionally safe environment for that authenticity to exist. It means learning to communicate without tools like criticism, discouragement, or ad hominem attacks. It means “yes, and…”, instead of “no, but…”. There you go. Go forth and be open! LOL – I know, I know, it isn’t that easy, it does take practice, and your results will definitely vary. 🙂

This morning I got schooled on being open in the most delightful way; I woke to a message asking me where my boundaries may be, on the subject of “getting closer”. Gently handled, clear, frank, and worded such that there just wasn’t any chance of being hurt by the inquiry, or any possible mistake about the intention – quite the contrary. I live pretty openly with this being I have grown to become over time, and I’m not surprised someone besides me would like to be closer. Going beyond the platonic relationship we share now is an exciting thought. No need to rush things along; that’s sort of new, mixed in with all this extra adulting I’ve learned to do. I offer reassurance that I’ve got no preset rules against growing closer, and no objection to it. I find myself wondering if I were sufficiently gracious about it – did I communicate my appreciation? For the desire? For the question? I smile. Everything’s fine. There’s no room for pointless anxiety here. There is always time enough for love. 🙂

The rain intensifies, and perversely I now want to be in the garden. lol Instead, I set a course for the kitchen, a second coffee, and my meditation cushion. It’s time to begin again. 🙂