Archives for posts with tag: mindfulness

I hurt today. I hurt when I woke up this morning. It’s autumn, leading into winter, the weather is chill and damp, and the arthritis in my spine is delivering on the annual promise of pure nearly unrelenting misery for the winter for the moment.

Perspective is a funny thing; we build our subjective experience on a web of sensations, assumptions, wishful-thinking, and straight up lies we tell ourselves, which, over time seem very convincingly true and real. We rarely pause to reconsider any of it, and sort of just bumble along thinking we’re right, most of the time. So… it’s not true.

I’m not always in pain. I’m not even always in pain all winter, ever winter.Β I’m certainly in pain more often I’d like. I’m most definitely in pain right now.

Three paragraphs about pain. Not one about pain management. lol Fuck pain. Pain shrinks my world down to the size of wherever it hurts, and keeps my attention there, to the exclusion of most anything else. That, sadly, has a lot to do with how, over time, my implicit experience of my quality of life, and my day-to-day expectations of my experience to be, is about pain. I’m focused on my pain right now, and that pain becomes a defining characteristic of the memory of this moment, and, again, over time, that adds up to a long-term perception that my life, itself, is defined by my pain.

It is not.

Pain is a small wee minuscule tiny barely significant part of my experience when I allow myself to experiences and observe other things besides just my pain.

I’m not suggesting this is easy. I even admit, my results vary; today I am in pain.

So… now what? Take fuck tons of pain-numbing drugs? Not my preferred solution, honestly. Ignore it? That’s far easier to say than to achieve. So… what, then? Other things.Β 

Yeah…like, I mean a lot of other things. I mean, taking a break from the work routine long enough to really engage a colleague in a great discussion of any other thing than either routine work matters, or my pain. Or their pain. Or pain at all. I also mean, taking a break from sitting at my desk, and giving myself a chance to move and walk around. Have a big glass of water. Read something I’ve never read before. Write love poetry.

It’s about the distraction from being trapped in the wholly subjective experience of the context of long-term pain challenges; it doesn’t have to hurt this much. So, right now, at least for some little while, I put my attention on matters other than pain. It’s not the easy choice; pain makes my world tiny, and utterly self-involved. Looking beyond that is… hard.

I guess I need to begin again. πŸ˜‰

It’s a Saturday morning. I am awake early. I make a delicious cup of coffee, and later a couple of eggs, prepared simply, with a bit of olive oil and some salt and pepper. I feel content and satisfied. I scroll through my feeds; too many memes and shares, not enough original content. I move on. I do some self-study on topics currently most interesting to me. I take time to meditate.

I feel good.

I think about these things before I sit down to write. I consider how routinely I “begin again” and how often I suggest it as a great practice, recognizing what I’m really saying is something as elementary as “don’t beat yourself up over that, just start over”, which is less succinct, and less likely to become clear programming. I find myself wondering if that’s really enough to be at all helpful for friends or readers who haven’t yet tried a new beginning in that sense that I mean, and don’t quite know what to do with that moment of transition between the end/consequence of the one moment, and the fresh-start newness of the next.

I drink my coffee and mull that over. Is it a complicated question? “How to Begin Again” doesn’t seem the sort of thing that would, generally, require explicit instruction… but… I already know I’m wrong about that, a lot. So…

  1. Step one, well, I guess something’s gotta end, or be completed, or fail horribly leaving us feeling wretched and lost, or at loose ends, or puzzled, or discontent, or… Yeah. I guess step one has to be the end of something or other. Let’s start there. πŸ™‚
  2. Now begin again.

Okay, okay. I’m being a smart ass, and a bit flippant, and maybe that’s not appropriate for you, in your circumstances, right at the moment? Got it. I’ll… begin again.

  1. Let’s go ahead and still start with something that ends. πŸ™‚ A circumstance, a moment, an experience – and hey, maybe that’s your “now”, right now, and it hasn’t ended yet, and you’re really quite unhappy and miserable and feeling beat down by life, or overcome by ennui or sorrow, or frustration… damn. That sucks. Let’s step 2 the hell out of that, shall we?
  2. Breathe. No kidding. Take a moment and just get some wholesome cleansing deep breaths. Let that other shit go, just for a moment or two at least? Surely that’s fine? It’s a choice. Take a moment for you, and just breathe.
  3. Even while allowing yourself to consider what has passed, whether success or failure, however miserable, worried, or anxious, please also work on letting go of your attachment to the specific outcome, and let go of any expectations you were holding on to. Let yourself have a clean slate on this – it’ll be okay to do that, I assure you. πŸ™‚ The map is not the world, and clinging to an understanding of an experience or circumstance can definitely color your future experience and decision-making.
  4. Go ahead and feel your feelings. Yep. Feel ’em. Emotions are not the bad guys here, and we can develop a less reactive, more awareness-based approach to our emotional life. Finding balance between emotion and reason is a very nice bonus to all this practicing. πŸ™‚
  5. Still breathing? You’ll want to keep that going, generally. πŸ™‚
  6. If you are wanting to literally re-start whatever you just failed at, now’s the time, perhaps, to consider what success really looks like – and maybe also ask yourself some questions about why you view it that way? Is that your own legitimate authentic honest assessment, or have you borrowed someone else’s opinion’s or values there? Please consider usingΒ  your own. πŸ™‚ (Much easier to succeed in life when you are pursuing your own goals.)
  7. Make a plan. Oh, I know – an ever-loving fuck-ton of you, out there, are not planners at all. I’m not saying a word about whether or not you execute a specific plan. I am most definitely suggesting that you still sketch out some sort of loose notion of what you want to get done, even if it’s only in your head, and even if you follow through completely differently. When we feel prepared, our stress level in life is generally lower. Just saying. Think it through. Consider your next steps, and your goal. Consider alternate outcomes – a lot of them. Be okay with as many of those as you are able to allow yourself to be. Consider how those alternate outcomes may also be quite okay, maybe in totally different ways. (Some people might call this “daydreaming”, but it can be done very productively.)
  8. Allow yourself to acknowledge what is and has gone well. Contemplate for some moments all manner of similar experiences or circumstances or events or relationships that have turned out quite well, based on your choices in the past. Consider them. Savor these memories of success and sort of “fill up your consciousness” with the things in life that you appreciate, and have turned out quite nicely.
  9. Still breathing? Don’t forget to breathe.
  10. Now’s the time. Whatever it is, take another lovely deep relaxed breath, recognize and enjoy your humanity, and be aware that through our challenges is our path to growth; we don’t learn much from our successes, or the easy wins in life. We don’t become stronger by way of experiences that don’t test our strength. We can’t fathom the depths of our capacity for joy or love without also experiencing the weight of our pain and sorrow.
  11. Ready? Do the thing. ❀ (All sorts of different steps and verbs go with this one, obviously. You get to choose those; that’s on you.)

I still think it’s fine to just… start with step 1 and finish with a step 2… but… I’ve been practicing for a while, and at this point, it does feel pretty natural to sort of cram all the rest of that between them. LOL

I smile and think about this journey of mine, and how far I’ve come from that hurt creature uncertain life is worth living… that was only… 5 years ago. The world isn’t really a “better place” than it was then, in most regards, and actually, it seems a bit worse, in a number of ways. Still… I feel better, about the world, about myself, about my life, about my ability to love and to heal and to nurture, and to make wise choices. I treat myself, generally, reliably well. I treat others better than I was ever able to before – or knew how to do. Strange to consider how all this progress has been built on so many small beginnings.

I’m always on and on about beginning again. (New beginnings are awesome, just as they are, so it makes a certain amount of sense to embrace the opportunity.) It’s not a matter of the clock hands moving a notch and calling it done, though, and I guess maybe it’s been awhile since I looked more closely at what I mean, myself, by “begin again”.

I mean, it’s mostly obvious, right? Isn’t it? …Isn’t it?

Is it?

Look, I fuck stuff up. I make mistakes. I succumb to my own bullshit. I overlook details that could give me clarity in a moment of confusion. I forget stuff. I get attached to an assumption or expectation, or cling to some pet idea, and find myself stressed out, feeling “attacked by life”, or just weird and broken. All of that and more. Each and every time I fall for my own nonsense, or overreact to some moment (or person), and every passing mood or moment – I have the chance to start over with that much more experience in life, that much more perspective built on that experience, and that much more real wisdom, built on perspective. Wow, right? I mean, fuck – every bad bit potentially builds a future of greater wisdom, balance, and resilience, if I view it from the perspective that I will have learned so much more, and be that much more able to make wise choices in life for having learned from my experience. That’s powerful. It implies, though, a missing step. I should clear that up…

Thing happens. I learn from it. Life improves. Okay, sounds easy enough. Here’s the thing. The “begin again” piece falls between “I learn from it” and “life improves”, not immediately after “thing happens”. The critical piece is definitely the learning. Without that step, I just keep repeating “thing happens” over and over again, without change or progress – because I’ve clearly set myself up for it, with that passive voice, right there, in my own thinking, lurking in the background, waiting for me to experience a failure or setback – “thing happens” is expressed such that I can so easily overlook who, or what, happened it; I’ve left out my agency. “Learn from it” reliably brings my agency back to me, even in the most bleak and broken moments. It’s an important detail, most particularly because of how often my own choices are a distinct part of any moment of suffering. (And yes, this includes my fairly difficult day, and experience, yesterday.) The bit about beginning again is my reminder that taking what I’ve learned from each experience allows me to move forward in life choosing my words and actions quite differently, perhaps, and most definitely based on that refined understanding. Forward momentum. Growth and change. Choosing wisely.

So many verbs involved. I’m not saying this shit is easy. I am saying, maybe, that looking back on it, it feels somewhat less difficult than it may have felt in the moment. Not gonna lie, though, it’s been a difficult journey in spots. That’s what makes each new beginning its own tiny triumph, too. Each time I fall, each time I fail, each time I cry, each time things just don’t work out for some reason, I can take another look at things, learn a bit more from what I’ve been through (or put myself through), and make (new)(different)(other) choices that get a better result over time. It’s just fucking slow progress, so I’ll call that out right now. Change is. We become what we practice. There are verbs involved. We each walk our own hard mile. Everyone’s results vary. There are no shortcuts. Incremental progress built on experience and reflection is sort of slow. Hard to see in the moment, easy to spot looking back, after a while.

Be patient with yourself. (How many times have I looked myself in the mirror with that advice?) Things didn’t work out? Begin again. Each and every time you begin again, do your level best to be the human being you most want to be, yourself, for you, based on your own values. Your results will vary. That’s just real. So start over. Yes, again. I know. Omg – so many beginnings. It’s almost like… it’s a journey. Up a staircase. πŸ™‚ If you just stand there at the bottom, staring upward at all those god damned steps, it’s pretty massively overwhelming. So, just take one step. Give that some thought. Take another. Don’t be fixated on what’s at the top of the stairs, so much, and focus more on taking that next step. Consider your missteps, and maybe don’t do what didn’t work last time, when you take that next one. It’s honestly that simple, and it’s worth some repetition, and I found, for myself, that those two simple words communicated enough; begin again.

Oh, hey, look at the time! It’s a worthy moment for a beginning, on a Friday morning, and… as it happens… I’ve just now finished my coffee. πŸ˜‰

 

*Note and reminder and words of thanks; we’re not in this life alone, we’ve got help, if we choose to accept it. Yesterday evening, my Traveling Partner pointed out choices (of my own) and recent circumstances that were very likely to result in a difficult day (for me), which I had entirely forgotten could be significant. That bit of additional insight and perspective were helpful and grounding. Definitely don’t forget that you are not alone. πŸ™‚ Not really – there are millions of us on this mud ball. πŸ˜‰

Stressed out? Blue about “who you are”? Feeling like you “never get it right”? Feeling twisted, broken, angsty, or aggrieved? I have some good news for you, and you may not be ready for it (or even willing to accept it, quite yet)…

…It’s mostly all in your head. For real. Most of our stress and weirdness, most of our chaos and damage, most of our baggage – definitely most of our baggage – is not only “all in our heads”, we very carefully made that shit up. We built our narratives from bits and pieces that “feel right” to us, that “seem true” based on our own perspective and understanding of truth. We don’t spend much time checking our assumptions, or fact-checking the circumstances we assume we understand so well. We make mistakes, and ignore them. We misunderstand, without any awareness of it. We seriously bumble around with a head full of made up nonsense we give profound names such as “this is who I’ve always been”, and “if you loved me, you’d ___”, and “I can’t”, “I always”, “I have to” – I mean, just for starters, every one of these beginnings of sentences is demonstrably false, built on assumptions, and fragments of internal narrative that may not even be based in fact, at all. We don’t notice that, much, but make ourselves live on that stew of stress and drama.

…And it’s not even tasty. 😦

How is that even “good news”? Because – and here’s where it gets kinda hard – we choose it. Since we choose it, we can choose differently. πŸ˜€

One of the key understandings to unwinding the skein of bullshit that lived in my head for so long (and keeping things generally tidied up much of the time, now), is understanding that repetition is learning. Repeat something often enough, and it seems true. What loops are you playing in your head each day, that color your thoughts about you? Maybe pick one and knock that shit off? πŸ™‚ “I’m ugly.” Says who? I mean, whose opinion counts but your own, and why the fuck would you say some shit like that to yourself over and over? “No one likes me.” Almost certainly false, and again, why the fuck would you kick yourself around in that heinous fashion? If those things are not true, but you repeat them again and again, and you grow to believe them… does this literally and actually mean that you could, in fact, choose something else, repeat it again and again, and you would grow to believe it? Hehehe. Yeah. It does.

The “positive affirmation” movement is sort of built on this basic concept, and in principle, it’s a great approach. I’d suggest making some attempt to be accurate about any re-programming you may choose to do. Really think it through. Trying to force yourself to believe you are a stunning beauty may come at a cost if “down deep” you don’t “believe” it. It’s best to take a more authentic approach. Start with undermining the negative things you tell yourself every day – by disagreeing with those rote statements playing on a loop in the background of your thinking. Add things, as you notice, that you value and appreciate about yourself right now, and get those new loops going. Reinforce what is both true and uplifting. Undermine what is not true, and what tears you down. Slow progress. Trying to get ahead on the pace of incremental change over time can sometimes result in more frustration than progress, and a fallback on “that doesn’t work for me”. πŸ™‚

It’s a lot to ask of someone to love the person in the mirror, if they’ve been talking that bitch down for a lifetime. Start slow. Maybe just enjoy some time with the person in the mirror. Maybe just go to coffee “together” in a positive moment, in the context of positive, secure, self-reflective inner dialogue. You can be a pleasant experience of “companionship” – for yourself. And why wouldn’t you be?

I guess I’m just saying – there’s a more positive experience available to you, of life and of the world, and although you may have to do a little self-work to get there, I’ve found it well worth the journey, myself. πŸ™‚

How do you get from “here” to “there”? Well, for starters, you can begin again. πŸ™‚ When you catch the negative self-talk in progress – disagree. Firmly. Out loud if necessary. Counter that knee jerk bullshit with an observable fact or experience that is quite different. Once you have, enjoy that moment. Don’t rush it. Savor the positive qualities you observe about yourself. πŸ™‚ It’s a journey. There are verbs involved. Your results will vary. Incremental change over time is a slow thing – and there’s no point giving up. You’re going to fail; we learn best from our failures. So… now…

Begin again.

Every time. Every time you fail. Every time you fall. Every time you falter. Every time you face disappointment with yourself. Learn from that.

Begin again.

 

Weird night. I woke repeatedly to answer a question someone asked me – in my dreams. Different dreams. Different questions? No idea, I was confounded each time my attempt to answer (out loud) woke me, because I could not actually recall the question I had tried to answer. My sleep cycled through this strange sequence some 5 times, to my puzzlement when I finally woke, to enjoy the day ahead. No nightmares, although my urgent desire to answer this single question was really frustrating to wake from feeling so incredibly unsatisfied.

I make my coffee. Answer a couple messages. Still feeling sort of weirdly out of step with the day, the time, my experience, I rather randomly (it felt) threw open the patio door and took my coffee with me to my meditation cushion, and restarted my day. Bare feet extending over the door sill, sipping my coffee, feeling the hints of mist-not-quite-rain tickling my skin and dampening the edges of my pajama pants, I sat a while, smiling to myself, enjoying the chill of the autumn morning with the warmth of the house at my back. One of the squirrels began to approach, but realizing the peanuts were really quite near me, without any door between us, he retreated to the deck rail to flip his tail at me rather aggressively, and chitter his annoyance in whatever passes for language among squirrels. I presume it must be a similar experience as arriving to a breakfast destination only to realize there’s a wait. lol Not meaning to be a buzz kill, I move back a bit and close the patio door, so my squirrel neighbor can enjoy breakfast in comfort.

A rainy day, a squirrel.

I sit quietly a while longer, thinking about spring camping. (You may recall, I’ve said I’m “a planner” by tendency? It’s a true thing; I’m planning my spring camping weekends as “now” as I can; it’s less than 6 months away! I frankly feel a bit rushed. LOL) This past year, my camping plans were almost entirely derailed by the regular weekend trips down to see my Traveling Partner; gas money, and time, that in other years would have been camping trips, and the usual recovery weekends between such things were spent recovering from commuting back and forth to be in my lovers arms for just a day or a few hours. My nail-biting as I review maps and details is less about nights out in forests, and more about days out on trails; I need the exercise, and trail hiking is my favorite way to get it.

Ultimately, we each choose our own path…

I figure, maybe if I put more planning under my hopes and dreams for 2019, I can enjoy more of all the things. πŸ™‚ Other things sort of got in the way this year. Break ups, moves, career changes, lifestyle changes, resource changes, business organization changes… all these sorts of things are incredibly disruptive for people, when they come up. For us (together), we handled at least one of each of those in 2018. It was an expensive, and emotionally taxing, year. In some ways inconvenient, unpleasant, and painful. Disappointing. Hard. In other ways, though, it has been a healing journey, a bit of progress, finding some better ways, forging stronger healthier connections as we end relationships and associations that were toxic or overly costly in human or social currency (or, yeah, financially). We’ve all had our own hard mile to walk this year. You, too? Probably, right? πŸ™‚ We’re all in this together, so it’s a fairly safe assumption we’ve each had our challenges.

The year is quickly winding down. There will be no elaborate “punch line” or “finish” to the end of 2018, I suspect, just a fatigued sigh and a moment of relief that it is over, that love wins, that I made it through from one crazy blow out rager of a New Year’s party at one end, to… what? What will New Year’s Eve be this year? Will I be home alone quietly, spending the holiday as is generally my practice, in meditation, contemplation of the year past, and the year ahead? Will I find myself surrounded by friends (or strangers) at some massively loud banger this year, celebrating full on with a crowd of other people, also celebrating, and all the over-stimulation that provides? Fuck – I’m still blown away by the house party I attended last New Year’s. It was… intense. lol The delicious illusion of inclusion and hopefulness that night really set the tone for what it seemed the year would become… of course, it didn’t. Because that’s how illusions work; all show, no substance. The hopes we fostered that night became the disappointments in the year ahead, but of course, we did not see or acknowledge that, then. lol Why would we? It was as if casting a spell, shared by all of us, over all of us, hoping for something much better than we’d previously had. Or… maybe it was just a party? πŸ˜‰

Mt McLoughlin, Oregon

This year I expect to be a tad more studious about my New Year, whatever I do with it. It’s always a great time to begin again. πŸ™‚ We can’t really know where our journey leads, but we’ve still got to make the journey. Sometimes what looks like a destination, turns out to be nothing more than scenery along the way. It doesn’t change the worthiness of the journey itself, to discover that our path leads past something beautiful in the distance, rather than directly to it; what we see from our own limited perspective in one singular moment may not be as real (or attainable, or desirable, or as near at hand) as we’d like to make it. πŸ™‚ There are so many more options on life’s menu than we can see from the perspective of one moment.

The map is not the world. The fantasy is not the reality.

I look over maps of trails and camps nearer to where my Traveling Partner currently resides… there are some choice locations that are wilderness, in spite of their nearness. There are choices that are very near, indeed, and so manicured, maintained, and resourced, they would be more glamping than camping. Some cool opportunities to be “near enough” that he could pop over to my campsite, or I could pop over for a few hours of partying and music, and we could still generally be doing our own thing… this is a solution that appeals to me greatly. πŸ˜€

I sip my coffee and daydream, as the gray sky shifts in tone and hue from “why are you even up already?” to “why are you still lounging around in jammies?”. Looks like it is time for another coffee…