Archives for posts with tag: mindfulness for beginners

It’s a true thing that we become what we practice – and it’s true whether our practices are willful, carefully chosen, and positive, or whether our “practices” are merely a matter of habit, reactivity, and part of endless destructive cycles we’ve long forgotten were chosen, in the first place. Repeat specific thinking or behavior often enough and it becomes a defining characteristic of “who we are”, everything from how we tend to our living space, to whether we are violent with loved ones; we practiced who we are. We worked hard to get here.

This is quite good news, really… It means we can choose change. πŸ˜€

What will you practice differently today? Will you stick with a chosen change long enough for that more desirable behavior, thinking, or way of using language to become truly part of you? Are you wholly the person you most want to be? πŸ™‚

There are verbs involved.

…You can do better. (I can, too.)

I woke this morning feeling rested, but pulled from a sound sleep. It was hard to yield sleep to waking, today, but so much less so than yesterday, and I don’t recall waking during the night. My sleep was of better quality (far better) than recent nights. I feel both relieved and appreciative. I’m ready to start the work day, although I’m a bit ahead of schedule on that; it’s not yet time.

The sky begins to lighten above the trees beyond my studio window. I consider the day ahead with a smile. I’m ready to begin again.

Yesterday was rough. Well… no. Sort of. Not really. Well… not entirely. Just there at the end.

It was a great Monday in most respects, actually, and I was looking forward to my afternoon appointment with my therapist (really just a “check-in & catch up” sort of thing, and very much worth looking forward to). Hell, I even got there without any real inconvenience, and found a great parking spot, right away, (in a terrible neighborhood for parking). So far so good.

We sat down together and I started talking. I talked until I was hoarse. The words just kept coming. The clock ran out on our time. (Those hours always seem so much shorter than any other hours on the clock. lol) I left my therapist’s office, and stepped out into the pleasant warmth of a sunny spring afternoon… and into a wall of anxiety. Fuuuuuuuuck. Breeeeathe. Breathe-breathe-breathe-breathe-breathe. Shit. Damn it. I sit for a moment in the car, but this doesn’t much help my anxiety, roasting myself in the heat of the sun-baked car interior, with cars turning the block at regular intervals, seeing me sitting there, and waiting for a moment, hopefully, then driving on looking aggravated. Nope. Not helpful.

I set my GPS to take me home. It wants me to take the freeway – it’s 2 minutes faster than not taking the fucking freeway. I don’t want to deal with rush hour traffic on the freeway, and I’m pretty certain my GPS is being rather optimistic about the drive-ability of that route. I attempt to set my GPS for “no highways” – and can’t find the options. Damn it. I’m started to feel frustrated and rage-y. I’m also already driving. I half follow/half fight my GPS, which is generally a poor choice. Being aware of this frustrates me further, and I finally just shut it off and begin following side streets in the general direction of “east” based on the compass display on the rear view mirror (true thing, works okay-ish-ly), until I reach a fairly direct, more or less major thoroughfare that isn’t a highway, that will also get me home. In fact, after about 20 minutes of struggling with the GPS, I am, actually, on my regular route, some distance down the road from my typical starting point. lol Because my GPS has a human voice, I lecture it sternly about how dissatisfied I am with the experience of the day, crossly noting “I can do a better job of finding my way, generally, without your fucking “help” you bullshit piece of machinery”. I even feel a moment of awkward disappointment with myself to find myself willing to be so callous and cruel-of-tone; it was probably doing its best, more or less.

I am irritated with devices and technology when I finally arrive home, a bit later than usual. I dither awhile, still awash in anxiety and frustration, and feeling also… incredibly tired.

“Baby Love”, a favorite rose in my garden, and a moment of contentment and joy.

Meditation doesn’t ease my anxiety much. Still tired, too. Some dinner? Still anxious. A pleasant, cooling shower? Still anxious. I start going down the list of good basic self-care practices… finally noticing it is 7:00 pm, or a little after. Fuck it. I decide to yield to fatigue and just go to bed, after spending a few minutes in the evening sunlight. Oregon’s winters are sort of long and drizzly and gray. So is Spring. So, too, is Autumn. Vitamin D, precious warming healthy sunlight is a treat in this climate; I linger on the deck, appreciating the first roses blooming, and enjoying the sun. It feels nice. I begin to really relax. My thoughts begin to untangle themselves from the anxiety. Anxiety is a liar. It teases and irritates my consciousness with a very hostile, fearful, view of what may be, and generally with no real basis in fact. It is a poor framework for thought. As the anxiety recedes, my thoughts become more ordered, more useful, and begin to the take the form of plans to get things done that were nagging at me in the background. There are dishes in my sink. Enough to stoke my anxiety by itself, easily remedied on the way to bed, so I am not bothered by them in the morning.

All these practices help. Therapy helps. Taking better care of myself helps. I still have a brain injury – and no amount of meditation changes that. My c-PTSD is still a very real thing – all the practicing of practices I can think to practice doesn’t change a traumatic, haunting, past. There is no “cure” – there is improvement over time. A lot of that. Enough of that to almost feel like… yeah. Hopeful. Positive. Whole. Strong. Contented. All of that and more. Still not a “cure”, and I still have to deal with some shit sometimes… but don’t we all? Incremental change over time is still a thing, and I can still count on it, and it’s still so much better now than it ever was before. Resilience is about bouncing back.

I knew this morning I could so easily begin again. πŸ™‚ I think I’ll do that. It feels good to be so sure I can. πŸ™‚

I woke early this morning. Like… really awake. Rested. Alerted. Not sleeping. Inconveniently enough, at 2:17 a.m. on a Saturday morning. I wandered around the house in the darkness for a few minutes. Finally decided to go ahead and just be up and retrieved my glasses from the nightstand. I am up too early to take my morning medication. I make an iced coffee, black. I set a reminder about the medication.

I scroll through my “news feed” on Facebook and wonder if maybe Facebook should stop calling it that? I close the app, done with it, and committed to avoiding the old practice of just… endlessly scrolling. There’s nothing new to be gained in doing so, and much time to be lost. I sip my coffee. Cold, refreshing, served in a wine glass.

3:00 a.m.Β It has its own feel, doesn’t it? It does for me. The “quietest point in the night”. Stillness. Darkness. It’s rare to live with people who are awake at 3:00 am. I often am. I knew someone once who referred to it as “the bottom of the night”. I don’t remember who.

Other people feel differently about “the strange hour” of morning. Is it night? Is it morning? Should I be wakeful? Oh no, I’m not sleeping! I used to find maximum anxiety sleepless at 3:00 am… that was rather a while ago. Maybe a long time. These days… if I’m awake, I’m awake. I’ll sleep another time. Clearly not now. I sip my coffee in the studio and look over the work I have laid out, work in progress, the open sketchbook on the extended work surface created by storage cabinets filled with paintings. I smirk at my artistic productivity and feel a moment of sympathy for whoever has to deal with that when I’m gone. I make a note to keep better notes, to archive more meticulously, to practice better practices as an artist, not just as a human being. I am awake, being me, at 3:00 am. Who else would I be?

My open inbox on an alternate browser tab sits ready in case my Traveling Partner is also awake. It is undisturbed except for the trickle of spam emails from businesses and whatnot, arriving one by one during the wee hours. As they come in, conveniently one at a time, I unsubscribe. It seems too much effort when faced with a full inbox at 5:00 am on a week day. 3:00 am on a Saturday morning, one at a time? Ideal for unsubscribing (your results may vary).Β  (Turns out my Traveling Partner is awake, and he pings me back cute loving emoji; he’s working the trailing end of a Friday night gig, too busy for more, even at 3:00 a.m.)

This delicious quiet time took years to develop; it exists beyond the anxiety about sleeplessness, beyond the anxiety about “why am I awake?”, beyond the anxiety about “how will I go on?” and beyond the anxiety about all the things that plague a tired mind struggling to sleep at 3:00 am. This delicious gentle peaceful quiet time only exists because I created it for myself. Yep. You get to create this experience – choose it, build it, enjoy it – if you want it. Or, alternatively, you can also choose to dwell in anxiety in the wee hours. πŸ˜‰ Not my call to make for you.

There are other versions of 3:00 a.m., of course. The Party People know what I’m talking about. The performers know. Ravers. DJs. Bands. The graveyard workers know too. The breakfast cooks and bakers getting the day started before the dawn, they know. So many versions of 3:00 a.m. Sitting in the quiet darkness of suburbia, windows dark in the neighborhood, and only the eerie light of occasional streetlights glowing, marking the way for the stray early morning traveler, all I hear is quiet. The busy street at the end of my driveway is silent. It won’t last. The Saturday adventurers headed for fishing, hiking, camping or road trips, will begin to make their way up the road around 4:00 am. The community will slowly wake, a bit at a time, as the dawn unfolds. But right now? The stillness wraps me, effortlessly. I linger in it, luxuriously.

Coffee #1 for the day is almost gone. Coffee #2 is only a daydream, a hint of a plan, a thought that perhaps a lovely hot mug of coffee out on the deck, in the chill of pre-dawn darkness, listening to peeping frogs and early birds waking, would be a nice start to the Saturday. I laugh, realizing I started Saturday some time ago. Before 3:00 am. I hear the traffic begin and notice the time – 3:56 a.m.

It’s time to begin again. πŸ˜‰ It’s 4 in the morning.

This morning, I got up, did some yoga, showered, dressed, made coffee, and sat down to write. Half an hour later, I found myself watching this video. Omg – I laughed and laughed. Then I made a frowny face at myself, because I’d been noodling around mindlessly on the internet for half an hour before video content provoked me to take yet another still closer look at what I am doing with my time.

Well, shit. Fuck you, Internet. We’ve got to come to an understanding. I have shit to do, and Adam Conover is right. Thanks, Adam. Clearly, I needed another reminder.

It’s not really the Internet that’s to blame, though. We’ve begun carrying a computer literally everywhere (so handy!) and rely on it for all sorts of communication and task management. Super useful, no doubt, but… I don’t know about you, but I do literally rely on my device these days. Perhaps “too much” (that’s pretty subjective). There are things about connectivity that I really appreciate, cherish, enjoy, and which enhance my quality of life… then there’s the time drain of mindless scrolling, checking, and clicking. That’s where the problem lies, for me. Content providers know it, too, and since their purpose is to engage me (repeatedly) and keep me engaged (as nearly continuously as possible) for profit (or data)… well… it’s on. I’ve got to take my time back.

Shit. More practices. More practicing. lol

I already do some things to limit mindless internet time-losses, but clearly not enough. It’s not the Internet that is “at fault” and the content providers are not “to blame” for my lack of attention span these days; it’s the mindlessness.

Here’s a question; is mindful internet use a thing? Can I learn to do that? I don’t have an answer to that question (yet), but it seems one worth asking. I’d certainly like to have my time, attention, and focus, back. I’d like to more skillfully curate the content that seeps into my brain through my faces holes. (Fuck, how much less angry would we all be if we a) didn’t continuously pump outrageous stimulus into our consciousness and b) gave our fucking brains a real rest now and then?)

My job is “connected”; much of what I do during a work day requires both basic connectivity and also browser-based tools. I’m skillful at remaining focused on work-tasks (and tools) on the clock. That’s a start. Discipline. Practice. Boundaries. Okay, I can do this, right? But… do what exactly? First I guess I need to have a clearer picture of which specific behaviors, moments, or circumstances are problematic, and address those quite directly…

Today I head back to the office with a question in my head. A purposeful undercurrent in my thinking that has the potential to offer me vast improvements in quality of life and available time for the things that matter most. By itself, this energizes me and fills me with purpose. These are feelings I enjoy. I pause to appreciate them, because savoring this moments is a worthy way to enjoy my time. (Far more so than scrolling through Facebook yet again!)

I’m concerned that “the damage is already done”, but aware that we become what we practice. This isn’t a hopeless scenario. I can craft so much of my consciousness – with practice, and incremental change over time. Today, I’ll go to work and return home, and make a point of being very mindful about my internet use – just today, very specifically seeking to understand more clearly the magnitude of the challenge ahead. πŸ™‚ Every journey needs a starting point. This path looks promising…

It’s time to begin again. πŸ™‚

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. πŸ™‚

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. πŸ™‚ 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?