Archives for posts with tag: mindfulness for beginners

The quality of the sleep I am getting seems good. I’m not waking during the night. I’m getting to bed at an hour that results in no less than 7 hours of sleep, which I seem to be getting. I’m consuming carefully measured quantities of caffeine, and limiting that to early in the day. I mentally run down the list of carefully selected good sleep hygiene practices that I rely on to get the most out of my resting hours…

…Regardless of all that, I am particularly groggy upon waking to the alarm these last couple work days. My body feels rested. My brain feels unready for the new day. I’m doing my best to properly wake up, to be thoughtful, coherent, ready for the day. So far this is more an exercise in effort than any sort of effective achievement.

A moment in the garden on a summer evening.

I sip my coffee and contemplate the summer heat. The garden isn’t as lush as I’d like it to be. Summer heat. I’m often away all weekend. The time taken to water during the week, before work, and again in the evening as the heat slowly begins to fade to cooler night-time temperatures, really makes a difference when I’m not at home to do it on weekends. This past weekend many of the roses bloomed in what seems a rather early second blossoming of loveliness and fragrance. I take a moment to feel grateful to have gotten to see it.

This year, just one flower.

Peeking out from the summer foliage, a single flower blooms on Nozomi, a delicate miniature rose that is a long-time favorite that I’ve had since… 1993? This year she’s only bloomed this once; she is usually among the most prolific bloomers among my roses. I make a mental note to re-pot her this winter.

“Feeling overwhelmed” is an experience fairly common to being human. Seems more common these days, for more people, although I’d begun to experience it much less myself. Starting in November, 2016, it has become, once again, plenty common for me, as well. “It’s all just too much” is the feeling. I give myself a little internal moment of real understanding, because, as feelings go, the most appropriate response to the feeling of “it’s all just too much” is simply “yes, yes it is” followed by “we’ll get through this, together”. A deep breath. A sigh. I move on from the moment; every moment passes.

I think over an interaction with a friend from earlier this week. She was feeling overwhelmed to the point of tears. “It’s all just too much!” A moment of sympathy and support rather quickly became quiet frustration and puzzlement, as it became apparent that she was investing in her feeling of being overwhelmed by building that and growing it, rather than sorting it out and easing her own suffering. Attempts to support and help her weren’t seeming either supportive or helpful, as she quickly interrupted anything helpful, soothing, or perspective-offering, (that could have just as easily been used to calm herself) to reinforce her self-inflicted, home-grown, utterly subjective internal experience with quick contradictions, veering tangents, and distractingly vague exclamations of distress. She quickly shored up her powerfully negative narrative each time I attempted to bring clarity or calm to the shared moment together. So frustrating. Eventually, the time-sensitive nature of schedules and calendars intervened. I went on with my day. She went on with her tears. I am still puzzled at the whole thing; it’s hard to fathom someone not actually accepting the help and support they’ve sought out. I still just don’t get it.

…I don’t have to “get it” – a lot of what is going on just isn’t at all about me. Not my circus. Not my monkeys. That’s not only okay, it’s necessary; I can’t shoulder the burden of all the world’s chaos and damage alone. I manage my piece as skillfully as I am able. I try not to add to the pile. πŸ˜‰

Still groggy, I check the time. Well, damn. It’s already that time again. I hit that metaphorical reset button, look out the window into a pre-dawn sky that reminds me summer will end, and likely sooner than I expect. It’s a good opportunity to begin again. πŸ™‚

I often think of life as a metaphorical garden. (Isn’t it?)

I sometimes stray down the path without tending the garden.

The healthy tilth is a good starting point; planting seeds in crags and rocks may not yield a generous crop of fruits, vegetables, or flowers. Understanding what is fertile ground, and how to prepare ground for planting has value.

Composting scraps and garden waste skillfully results in more fertile soil… but which scraps are suitable, and which will ruin the compost? Not all that is waste or scrap is worth keeping.

Lush and beautiful, chosen with care. We reap what we sow, and how we tend our garden matters.

Choosing seeds and plants with care, understanding the climate, and the seasons, locally, in my own garden, really matters; however fertile the soil, planting something that can’t thrive in my climate puts my garden at a disadvantage.

A weed in one context may be a crop in another.

Taking care, every day, to nurture my garden, to fertilize when needed, to water, to cut back spent blooms, to weed out noxious or invasive intruders that consume resources, but yield nothing, matters greatly over time. If I am not present, some plants may thrive, willy-nilly, coincidental to the luck of the rainfall and the weather, but the outcome is left to chance – other plants will wither and die. My harvest may not be plentiful. My blooming season limited.

My roses suffer my lack of attention; this is true of most things that require attention.

Self-care works very much in this same way. I don’t suppose I need to spell it all out more factually – if you already keep a garden, you already get it. πŸ™‚

My results vary, as does the weather.

I haven’t been home much, lately. Most weekends I am away. I travel to see my Traveling Partner, catching up with him wherever he is. I travel to see friends. I travel for this or that event or festival. I travel on a whim. I catch myself yearning to be at home, in my own garden…

…Yes, it’s a metaphor. πŸ™‚

This weekend I am at home. I am in my own garden, tending it with care, making up for lost time, present, and appreciating this moment, right here. It’s enough to be here, now, and there is no need or time for self-criticism, or what-ifs, or if-onlys. This is now, and now is enough, and I am here, enjoying it with the woman in the mirror – who has been missing this quiet place, and time.

Be present. See wonders. Experience the moment, fully.

The morning started slowly, and auspiciously enough; I slept in. I woke gently in the twilight of a new day, the room turning light in spite of the curtains, as day broke. I got up. Showered. Found my feet carrying me toward the car as soon as I was dressed. Coffee-to-Go and a breakfast sandwich on a hilltop looking out across the countryside, with a view of Mt Hood beyond. Bare feet. Damp grass. Contentment. No firm plan, and coffee finished, I found my way to the farmer’s market, then heading home with fresh local strawberries, fully ripe – the sort one never finds in a grocery store. The scent fills the car.

I arrive home, smiling so hard my face hurt, in spite of the peculiarly moody dark sky, threatening imminent rain (that has only now started to fall, some hours later). I make a Turkish coffee, melt some chocolate, and feast on strawberries dipped in warm chocolate, sipping coffee, in my garden. I raise my cup cheerily at a robin who joins me, watching me from the deck rail. There is work to do in my garden, metaphorical or otherwise, and I have been away far too much for my own good. I finish my coffee, then finish the spring planting, finish the weeding, finish the watering, just in time to head indoors before the rain comes. I leave a strawberry, fat, juicy, and fully ripe, on the deck rail… in case of visitors. πŸ™‚

Rain is definitely coming.

Inside, my metaphorical life-garden greets me, and here too there is work to be done. Untidiness has crept in, a corner here, a stack of paperwork over there, a piece of gear that was not put away, a book askew from all the rest, a stray sock left where it fell, unnoticed, and so much laundry that very much wants to be put away… I’m still smiling. It’s a good day to begin again. πŸ™‚

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.