Archives for posts with tag: mindfulness for beginners

3 days, two nights, one purpose, and I return to my apartment by the park with sore feet, aching muscles, stiff joints, and a smile that  won’t quit.

3 mosquito bites, two unexplained bruises, 1 blister over 17 miles of trails, and I shot more than 100 pictures, and spotted a rainbow’s worth of different wildflowers in bloom.

I reached my campsite and set up camp well before dusk settled in, on Wednesday evening. I managed more than 4 miles of hiking that evening, just getting my gear to the hike-in camping area, and exploring the nearest trails after making camp.

A coffee well-earned, an evening of quiet.

It rained most of the night, and I laid wakefully, contentedly listening to the rain fall, more than necessarily pleased that my tent doesn’t leak.

The rain-drenched morning didn’t quench my enthusiasm for the day ahead.

I spent Thursday meditating, after morning coffee and a short hike to stretch my legs, and didn’t do much else. I brought a journal to write in, and a notebook, a sketch pad and colored pencils for drawing, my camera, my kindle… and other than my camera, I didn’t touch any of the distractions I brought along to pass the time; I didn’t need them. Time passed just fine without any help from me. 🙂

Given the necessary conditions, I bloom in my own time. It is often enough to sit quietly and allow the moment to unfold.

I spent Friday hiking, departing fairly early in the morning to walk a new path. The trail I chose was sufficiently challenging to push me, lovely enough to be utterly worth it without any other “reason” to go the whole distance, and totally within my ability. I returned to camp in the afternoon, got my boots off, put my feet up, and made coffee. Out among the trees, coffee doesn’t seem to keep me from sleeping, ever, however late I may be drinking it. I bet there’s something to be learned from that…

Where does my path lead? It’s helpful to have a map, but the map is not the world.

…Instead of learning anything about coffee, though, I learned something different. As campers arrived to fill nearby sites for the weekend, I learned that my needs were met, and that I was “done”. I learned that I didn’t really want to sit through a chilly evening overhearing loud conversations about corporate headaches, challenges with the kids’ teachers, or sports. I learned that I didn’t find value in enduring another camper’s choice to bring a generator into the forest for the weekend.

Ultimately, we each choose our own path…

I learned, this weekend, that it really is quite okay to make my choices my way, without any pressure from my own expectations, or anyone else’s; I broke camp late that afternoon, taking my time, packing up skillfully and efficiently without feeling at all rushed. I packed my gear out of the park (taking the same three trips it took to bring it down to the campsite in the first place), still smiling when the effort was completed. I let the park rangers know I was checking out, so they could release that camp site to another camper – it’s a great spot.

The beauty in the world exists whether or not I choose to observe it. My choice to observe the beauty in the world is necessary only to my own appreciation of it.

I got home before the sun set, unpacked enough gear to begin properly unpacking a bit at a time. First, a leisurely shower. A fresh salad. A hot cup of coffee. A moment to begin the upload of all the photographs. No music. No social media. No TV. Patio door open to the breezes and the sound of birdsong. A quiet evening, alone in the stillness, aside from a few minutes checking in with a friend from next door.

Roses blooming on the patio welcome me home, rain-drenched, fragrant, and lovely.

Yesterday I woke, still feeling fairly wrapped in my own purpose, and disinclined to be particularly social. I wrote a dear friend. I unpacked some things. I meditated. I gardened. It was a chilly gray day, and I enjoyed the morning with a crackling fire in the fireplace – which I might also have done if I had remained out in the trees another day. There seemed no urgency to connect to the digital world with any haste – no one was expecting me to, in any case. (Good expectation-setting for the win!) I watched the birds come and go from the feeder.

It was a lovely day of bird-watching.

Here it is, today. (Isn’t it always? 😉 ) I figured I’d sleep in… I didn’t. I woke with the dawn. I figured I’d move purposefully down a long list of things I’d like to get done… also not happening, at least not so far. I sip my coffee, smiling softly, watching the birds at the feeder with my laptop balanced on my knees, writing from a slightly different perspective – though whether that is a matter of my laptop, a chilly morning, and cold coffee on the patio, or simply that my perspective remains altered by my time out in the trees is neither known, nor relevant to the experience.

What now? Just this. Isn’t it enough? 🙂

A patio with a view.

No kidding. I’m super cross. Grumpy. No idea why, but it is enough to pull me back to my desk. I’ve tried things. I’ve done stuff. Blah blah practices… (eye roll)… verbs. Fuck. I got hit with varying results this afternoon.

Small things are rubbing my emotional balance the wrong way, like grit or sand or finely ground glass mixed into a lovely custard; my pleasant day is unexpectedly less pleasant. I know I can get past this bad bit – and it isn’t that bad, just sort of irritatingly irritating in a way that feels chronic – and isn’t at all (and won’t become so unless I invest in maintaining this experience). So… I sit down here with words to sort it all out and if not “make sense” of it, at least gain some perspective.

My gear is packed – but it is not yet “the day”, and although I am now fully packed up and ready to hit the trees, and the trails, I’ve got a couple more work days ahead of me before that moment arrives. Irritating. Understandably so; I’m eager to hit the trail and find some quiet out among the trees, but the time is not yet now. Frustration – any sort of frustration – is my kryptonite. So. There’s that.

Soon…

“Things” have been aggravating me – and a lot of it falls rather uncomfortably into the large bucket labeled “not my circus, not my monkeys”, things I could so easily let go of entirely, if only I could entirely let them go. LOL  Friends who are dear to me descending into the steaming pile of “horrible to watch” that is domestic violence definitely causes me some stress, more so now that they are “back together”. Fuck, I have seen that terrible cycle far too many times, and lived it too many times myself. There’s a fine line between “being there” for my friends, and enabling domestic violence, and I’ve had to set clear boundaries that at this point any hint of violence will simply result in a phone call to the police, non-negotiable. (How many fewer years of violence would I have suffered myself, if my neighbors had been unwilling to silently tolerate it, or look the other way?) Still, it’s stressful to be aware of its nearby presence, and I feel uncomfortable with it, and far more so because over days it has gone (in conversation) from “violence” to “a misunderstanding” (trust me when I say that violence is no misunderstanding, regardless how it begins). The discomfort is irritating, too. Local hate crimes are also pinging on my consciousness and adding stress to my experience – and that’s a major driver to get out into the trees; I need a break from society. Politics, too, and the news, and the constant ads and “sponsored content” in my “news” feeds… all stressful, all bullshit, very little of it with any legitimate value. Irritating, indeed. None of any of these things are “about me” – letting them all go would be the ideal thing, and I’m finding it difficult to do. So. There’s that.

A huge measure of my stress was apparently hidden in concern about my Traveling Partner, too. He’d said “Monday” when I observed that his calendar said “Sunday”, last week. Okay, no problem – although the lack of calendar accuracy is more sand in my custard, because I count on that planning and explicit expectation-setting when I make my own plans. Okay, okay, still seriously small stuff… although… if anything did happen to him, I would have no idea when to act on that, and could lose precious time by waiting too long to raise an alarm or seek help. It’s his choice to manage his plans in this fashion, though, and we’re both adults. Monday. That’s today. Okay, no problem… only… when? It’s felt like a long Monday as the hours have passed without a word. Shortly after 3 pm, he reaches out, we connect, and I feel much less background stress as a result. Good enough for this moment.

Minutes continue to tick by. Breaking down the stressors into manageable pieces provides me with the perspective I need to really let all of that go, and my contentment with the day is restored, refreshed, renewed – and I can begin again. Again. lol

I’d just barely hit “publish” on yesterday’s blog post when a severe OPD storm blew in. Other People’s Drama splashed all over my doorstep, and a tsunami of emotion blasted my morning, my afternoon, and my day generally.

In moments of gloom, there are often still flowers.

I am not the sort of person to turn someone fleeing domestic violence away from a moment of safety, though, and my OPD-free zone is certainly a safe space. I invited my friend in, and started working to help her calm herself; difficult decisions in life are most easily made from moments of calm, I find. I make a point of checking in with myself regularly, too, because this shit hits all of my buttons, and I am myself on the edge of panic being around domestic violence, at all.

When conditions are right, flowers bloom.

My friend and I took a walk through the park, “enjoying” the flowers. To be more precise, I was enjoying the flowers, my friend was moping along beside me, less than fully engaged in the moment. I didn’t really intend to give up on 100% of the beauty and fun of my weekend, just because someone else has drama to choose to invest in. 🙂 It was a lovely walk, and I’m sure the fresh air and sunshine did her some good too. She talked. I listened. Sometimes I talked. I hope she made a point of listening, but it’s not something I can confirm with any confidence. We walked in silence some, too. I did my best to respect her emotional experience and be present, welcoming, and comforting.

I’m not always sure what one flower or another actually is, and this does not stop me from enjoying them.

She figured out what to do with herself in the short-term, and where to go. Her things were already packed up and ready for all of that. I gave her a ride. I gave her hugs. I gave her my time. I came home. The evening from that point was very quiet. Her now-ex is a friend, too. I know he must be hurting, and I’m here, even for him, if he wants to talk. He hasn’t reached out. I don’t expect that he will. The situation saddens me. Not my circus. Not my monkeys. Not my drama.

Sometimes, a closer look.

I slept restlessly, waking often toward the end of the night. My restlessness got me out of bed more than once, to walk through and around the apartment before returning to bed, no particular purpose in mind. It was a weird night. I sip my coffee contemplating the weekend behind me, and the day ahead. Yesterday’s investment in drama was time-consuming; I didn’t get my laundry done, and I didn’t paint my nails. I didn’t read that book I started. I didn’t get much housework done. All of that will inconvenience or annoy me this week, at some point, more than likely…but… what I did do counts too, and comes up less often; I spent time with a friend who needed me.

It’s a journey.

Still, I’m looking around the place this morning and recognizing opportunities to take better care of the woman in the mirror. Today seems like a good day to begin again. 🙂

 

Hey – good morning. 🙂 Thank you for reading my blog. Have I said as much recently? I actually really appreciate each of you who make time for me, however often that may happen to be. Thought I’d say so, and make this sort of about you, for a change of pace. 😀

I start the morning with music, this morning, beats breaking on the shores of my waking consciousness just about the same moment the sun breaks through the cloudy dawn sky for the first time. I’m smiling and feeling pleased that I remembered I really wanted to say “thanks”. I would write, trust me on this one, even if no one at all read these words; I know this because I’ve kept a private journal since I was quite young. My earliest recollections of asking to make some government-green fabric-covered blank book my own for that purpose suggest perhaps as early as 9 or 10 years old, although I only clearly recall doing so since I was about 13.  So… the words in my head flow like spice on Arrakis. I’d be writing, regardless.

I stopped writing privately, more or less completely, for a couple years…late in 2011, until early in 2014, because I had turned my words on myself as some sort of self-destructive weapon of peculiarly insidious self-harm, and it was so completely damaging that silencing myself was less painful. Without words, my painting erupted in a fierce period of production in acrylic – and emotion. I was a fucking wreck, and I was “coming undone“. I’d hit a wall by December 2013, and a period of bleak and despairing self-reflection suggested it was time to call it, to fold, to walk away from the game.

“Broken” 14″ x 18″ acrylic and mixed media with glow.

I started this blog in January, 2013. I wanted to write. I was rather afraid to just write my own words privately to myself, anymore. I was pretty sure that bitch in the mirror wasn’t looking after me, and I wasn’t sure I even cared… but I was scared of what I’d find in the privacy of my own thoughts, alone. My relationships were in tatters, one of them absolutely abusive on a level that was doing me acute immediate emotional damage daily, the other quite precious to me and promising things I could not reach or make real, because I didn’t even know how to try, or how to “hold up my end”, and I was pretty certain I was, myself, laying waste to the hearts of everyone who got close to me. Possibly on purpose, but I didn’t even know how to sort all that out. I was on the literal bleeding edge of finally going through menopause. I was at the tail end of detoxing and recovering from psych meds I may never have actually needed at all, and that had wrecked my health and poisoned me. It all sucked very much.

“The Price We Pay” 14″ x 15″ acrylic on canvas with glow, mirror, and ceramic shard details, 2013

I went down my list of things to do before I checked out. It mattered to me to attempt to minimize any collateral damage. The first thing on my list was to update my will. The last thing on my list was to see a therapist… one more try, right? “Due diligence.” I don’t really know for sure why I started this blog. I don’t remember. Perhaps in part out of resentment of a moment of cruel and annoying discouragement in a failing relationship (“Well, don’t expect to be able to keep up on something like this every day…” she’d said smugly, “I‘ve been keeping a blog for awhile, and you will probably just lose interest in a few weeks, and don’t expect that anyone will read it…”). It was not, initially, intended in any way as a lifeline – not on purpose. It became one, because somehow it added people who matter to me to my experience of life – and to whom I might matter, in return. That, itself, mattered. It mattered a lot, as it happens. 🙂

If you’ve been reading since the beginning, you probably know about a lot of this, if not explicitly, then by inference. I’m still here. I have real joy in life these days. I live a life built on contentment, sufficiency, perspective, and mindfulness. This journey, this blog, these words, are all part of that – part of me being here, now. There have been days since that dark December full of madness when the thing that kept me tied to life itself has been this blog… and one person I could not bear to let down. So… thank you. Thank you for being here.

Most specifically, thank you for your occasional comments. I’m surprised how often they come on just the right day, observing something that is astute, insightful, meaningful, and cherished long after the day the words are typed into a text box, or shared as a private message via other means. Thank you for being authentically you. Thank you for sharing. I’m delighted when I discover that someone dear to me, that I know in real life, is also reader – I don’t assume anything specific about who reads my blog; I still write for me. I am incredibly moved each time I discover that among you are people I actually know, because I know that you know more than what is written. We have shared some very human experiences, and more than likely if you know me in real life, you have those odd opportunities to see me before/after writing some particular blog post, or understanding just a bit more about the context, the subtext may be far less subtle, the metaphors blunt and obvious – and still you’re here. Holy fuck, that’s… wow. And if you don’t know me in real life, that’s no less profound for me; you read past my spelling mistakes and are never cruel to me about them. You value my words for what they are, and lacking the hints of what is going on behind the curtain still find value in my words. I am moved. I appreciate you.

Anyway. Today – just this for you; thank you. I’m glad you are here. I think of you often. I wonder how your day is going, and whether there is some way I can speak more clearly to some moment we share, in the abstract. I consider you, every time I sit down to write; it’s part of what has saved me from myself, actually. It’s you I consider when I consider my words. I seek to be authentic and real, without being hurtful or unkind to you. You have helped me learn to be kind to myself. 🙂

You matter to me. Namaste

How much of our perceived experience is mangled in translation as we struggle to make sense of who we are, ourselves, in the context of all of the everything else? Probably most of it, I suppose, but it’s what we’ve got to work with. lol

Spring, almost summer, plenty of flowers to see, to smell, to touch, to pause for.

Late in the day, yesterday, I received an anguished text message from a younger female friend. It was an emotional soup of self-denigrating words and phrases, and simultaneously angry and despairing, and somewhat nonsensical in the context of my recollections of my friend, and known details of real life. I dislike being the one to call it out, but couldn’t help noticing that the timing was almost precise; four weeks after her last major “life is shit” meltdown. Hormones. She’s in her 20s, so that’s an experience that hits hard in her life, and at a point when she may not yet have figured all of that out, herself. Fuck I hate drama – but I do love my friends. I search for calming words, something to put the emotional blast on pause, or at least assure her she is not adrift alone. The work day was nearly over, but I felt very far away.

It was still a very good day for flowers.

No kidding, when I got home I actually invited drama to come over to a cup of cocoa. LOL Yep, brought it right into my safe haven, my drama free zone… held the door open, even. 😀 We chilled together – things were already some better. That’s the way of it, like any other sort of storm, bad weather passes.

Some flowers are small….

The three of us (me, my friend, her lover) chilled in the quiet comfort of my place, talking. Sometimes there is no perceptible difference in our ages when we hang out…we’re just people, there are more important things to be aware of. Last night, I felt that peculiar sympathy and tenderness of the elder “wise woman” in the company of youth; so much of what was troubling my friend is no longer commonplace for me, but recognized, familiar, and mostly relatively (subjectively) well-understood. I shared what I learned over many years of screaming and crying on a cycle, the things I found that worked, the things that did not, and continued to reassure her that she can be okay and learn to manage this bullshit that curses us all. lol I was going for offering more hope than I ever felt myself; I didn’t have me as a mentor, or friend.

…some flowers are more complicated…

I looked back on the woman in the mirror, and recalled all the things I wished I’d understood sooner, all the many times I learned something more. I tried to share those things with calm conviction and reassurance. I served cocoa.

…some flowers decorate vegetables…

I talked to him about little things that really do make a difference, openly, comfortably, together, because this ought not be secret knowledge! The biggest thing I have to share with him? Ease the fuck up on being right while the hormone thing is going on. It’s hard, but seriously, just stand the fuck down, back off, and revisit whatever on some other day, when everyone is “feeling better”. lol How many fights wouldn’t be fights at all if lovers would let bullshit go when one or the other is hurting, and tend to wounded hearts as lovers can? The hormone thing is just not a personal attack, the experience can feel really shitty and lonely, and more than anything it’s nice just to feel loved, and feel that our lover “is there”, and understands we feel shitty.

…others are on trees…

Then I called bullshit on her bullshit, too. It’s a hard thing, but as bad as the hormone thing can be, legitimately and truly bad behavior remains bad behavior. Unacceptable behavior is no more acceptable when driven by hormones. Being a nasty mean bitch still isn’t okay just because being female has some really shitty irritating unpleasant painful aggravating experiences that push us past our personal breaking point. We still have an obligation to do our best to choose our actions and words with great care, and with mindful awareness that the person we’re interacting with is every bit as human as we are, ourselves, and also someone we love. Including the woman in the mirror.

…some are potted…

How is it I think I can say these “terrible:” things that may appear to lack compassion? Well… I just haven’t ever seen a woman treat her boss the way she treats her lover when hormones flare up – have you? I mean, seriously, full-on raging tantrum, screaming at them irrationally, or being overtly willfully nasty to them using hormones as an excuse? Acting out? Breaking shit? Weeping apathetic pessimism that halts all productive effort? I’m betting you haven’t. lol So. Some choice and freewill are clearly still available. Just saying. Feel your feelings. Take care of you. Do what is right, nonetheless, and treat your lover with an assumption of positive intent, and an awareness that they are having their own experience and would help if they could.

…their colors vary…

Not one bit of any of that is “easy”. It takes a lot of practice. Results vary. Adulting can be hard. lol 🙂 Begin again. Practice more. Say I’m sorry” when you’ve hurt someone – right? The basics.

how we tend the garden of our hearts determines what will blossom.

It was still a beautiful evening shared with friends. Drama left way before they did. No idea how they ended the evening… I woke wondering, and hoping they are okay. Young is hard… I’m sort of glad I’m not that, anymore, at least… this morning, on a lovely quiet morning, over coffee, watching the sky lighten to a cloudy spring morning. Being where I am in life is enough. 🙂

Love matters most.