Archives for posts with tag: morning coffee

It’s a groggy slow-ish sort of morning. The commute was easy. The coffee adequate to the purpose. My thoughts are still fuzzy around the edges and glitchy with sampled dreams from a night of continuous sleep. I listen to the sounds of freeway traffic beyond the window of the office, as I get my day started.

It is too early for deep thoughts, or complex emotions. I still have them. Attempting to “stuff them down” or suppress them is ineffective; I neither manage to entirely put them aside, nor do I satisfy them. I redirect my attention to work tasks, but find myself still distracted by the internal demands for my attention. Interesting. Clearly, there’s something on my mind that wants to be given attention. “Another time.” I tell myself, but I also know how fickle this brain can be; later today I won’t even remember this moment. It’s such a small thing. Finite. Momentary. Fleeting. Unimportant. ­čÖé I let it go, again.

I sip my coffee. As of tomorrow, a year at this job. Nice. ­čÖé I’m still enjoying it. Even nicer, still. ­čśÇ

This is also a moment to recognize that my Traveling Partner and I have been close – intimate friends, lovers, partners – for 10 years, now. It’s just a little mind-blowing to recall where we were as people, ten years ago. Who we hung out with. Where we lived. What our relationships were like. What sorts of things we were up to, day-to-day. Life is quite different, then, and now. A reminder that so much more of life is built on impermanence than ever rested on an unchanging “happily ever after”. ­čÖé I’m not unhappy about the changes over time – most of it has been an obvious improvement, with the occasional detour through challenging circumstances that provoked a lot of personal (and shared) growth.

…10 years, though…? That’s quite a chunk of lifetime. I sip my coffee and wonder how often my Traveling Partner questions the desires and decisions that brought us together, and keep us together now? Does he ever wonder what life would be like without the encumbrances of attachment? Does he ever yearn for some place or experience that feels out of reach in the context of our relationship? Does he feel loved and supported in our relationship? Does he ever consider walking away from “all of this” – not out of any hurt or animosity, but simply to feel the path beneath his feet take him somewhere entirely new?

I glare into my coffee mug with some annoyance… cold office-quality drip coffee is less than ideally satisfying. Another sip finishes it. I expect I’ll get another cup, anyway, soon enough. I laugh out loud in the stillness of my office, reminded of cups of coffee that were both much worse for drinking, and far more costly (than “free”)… the moment of gratitude becomes a smile of appreciation. This is definitely one of those “this could be much worse” moments. I yield to the gratitude, and invest my attention there. It’s very nice having coffee available. It’s quite lovely to have enjoyed 10 years with my Traveling Partner – and I hope we enjoy many more, together. It’s a comfortably secure feeling to have a job I enjoy, and to be with it for an entire year and still enjoying it. All of it very much “enough” – it’s a good life. I’m grateful for it – I’ve been in far worse circumstances.

…This coffee cup isn’t going to refill itself. I suppose it’s time to begin again. ­čÖé

 

This morning I woke gently, and rose with a smile already tugging at the corners of my lips. I went to bed last night in a lot of pain, and on waking this morning I notice it has not diminished much. I am very stiff. I treat myself with care this morning, taking my time, and since I give myself so much of that in the mornings, there is no need to rush through any of the morning tasks or practices. Since I slowed myself down a few days ago (weeks?), my quality of life has improved.

I linger in the shower until I feel the stiffness of my arthritic spine ease. I make a point of relaxing and really enjoying the fish as I feed them, and watching them live their fishy lives. I breath deeply. I allow myself to listen deeply to the woman in the mirror, this morning – how is she doing? What can I do to make her more comfortable? What are her priorities as the day begins? I let in the fresh morning air, ┬áopening the patio door and taking a moment to look out across the lawn; at this hour there are rarely any lights on elsewhere, aside from the walkway lights. I enjoy the pre-dawn quiet and the scents of morning, before making my coffee.

I have noticed that when my practices become ‘routines’ over time, they sometimes lose their ‘magic powers’. It’s not that they don’t really work, or that they have failed…It’s something simpler; I’m failing myself by doing them ‘mindlessly’. It’s easy-ish to fix. I have to slow down, begin again, and approach each such task or practice with a beginner’s mind, with willful mindfulness, and yes – a bit of discipline now and then, taking the time to fully embrace the task, the practice, the moment, engaged and present. I don’t berate myself over it when I drift off course┬á– there’s no productive point in doing so. I don’t feel I have ‘failed myself’ grievously – I’m human, and these are practices for a reason; they require practicing. Going through the motions doesn’t count as ‘practice’ – or as living.

I am not a machine. I don’t actually benefit, long-term, from rigid habit, and life planned out thoroughly moment-to-moment, beyond the value toward simply getting shit done. Even for me, rigid habits and a strictly enforced disciplined approach to daily task completion are┬ánot something I thrive on – it’s just one method of coping with my injury, my poor memory, my challenges with maintaining a comfortable lifestyle┬áover time. It’s not an ideal way to live. Living alone I can more comfortably explore life on a less habitual, less routine basis; moments of chaos and confusion are less likely to affect others, and any time I need to I can slow things way down, and be patient with myself; I don’t get stalled having to explain it to someone else. I am learning to live without the crippling burden of the [perception of the] expectations of others weighing me down.

The loss of so many small routines and habits sometimes catches me by surprise. This morning my cell phone wasn’t charged. I had remembered to put it on the charger; I had forgotten that the other end wasn’t plugged in. I changed my habit from leaving all the cables of all the kinds just plugged in and dangling all over the place┬áto a much tidier practice of carefully putting away┬ácables not in use . My environment is lovelier, tidier, and still quite┬áconvenient – since all the cables of all the kinds for all the chargers, devices, etc are conveniently in one location, together. It’s still a change. I forgot about the need to plug in both ends. ­čÖé Surprise! I don’t take it personally, and I’m grateful for the quiet amusement, and practical perspective on the small inconvenience; there was a time it would have been enough to blow my morning, possibly causing some nasty pointless tantrum┬á– I suck at frustration, even now. (It has been easier to learn not to be frustrated by certain kinds of things, that to learn to deal with the experience of frustration, itself. I don’t know whether that will be the wiser choice over time, but it does offer some relief now.)

Letting go of rigid fixed habits tied to time and timing, and all the expectations and assumptions those tend to support, has been a big change. The need to take great care with each task and practice, invested, engaged, aware, and fully living each moment becomes quite profound, lacking the foundation of rigid habit. Rituals exist because, perhaps, it is not so easy to approach every desirable practice in an utterly mindful way. I do like ‘easy’… but… I also really like living, eyes wide to life’s wonders, attentive, aware, savoring my experience,┬álearning to thrive, and becoming emotionally self-sufficient. So many verbs involved. It’s scary sometimes. What if I forget my morning medication? What if I suddenly just stop doing things? What if I discover my values or preferences are at odds with the expectations of my loved ones? What if I’m not who I think I am? Well…I guess I’d begin again. ­čÖé

The sun is up now. I take a moment to make my bed, and tidy my bedroom. I finally feel ‘moved in’, in a very complete way. I think it is a combination of the love seat, and the wee trash cans which arrived over the weekend. I find myself wondering if the story of human progress can be told in the improvements in waste management over the course of history… I definitely feel the improvement in my own quality of life┬áhaving a small trash receptacle in the bathroom, in my bedroom, and by my desk – I’d been having to walk every used tissue, bit of string, or piece of waste paper all the way to the covered kitchen trash, or recycling bin, and while it is a very small apartment and no real inconvenience to do so, nonetheless – I feel more ‘moved in’ having what seems the ‘proper’ number and placement of small trash baskets around the place. Funny which details matter to me. It’s exciting learning what matters most to me, myself.

I have time for another coffee, and some household chores that will ensure I come home to a lovely place – built for me, by me, based on what matters most to me. It’s a ┬ánice feeling. Enjoying the moment┬áseems to cause┬ámy brain to attempt a sneak attack, coming at me from behind with dire warnings and launching a salvo of ‘what if’ scenarios filled with house fires, burglars, unknown assailants, and all manner of extraordinarily negative [and incredibly unlikely] circumstances…I assure myself I’ll remember to turn off the stove, lock the doors, and be aware of my surroundings. My demons slink off into the darkness grumbling quietly.

Going my own way, having my own experience.

Going my own way, having my own experience, and feeling prepared to face the world.

Today is a good day to take great care with each task I face, with each practice I practice, and to face life with a beginner’s mind. I am a student of life and love. I am my own cartographer. The way I face the journey – and the direction I take – are mine to choose. It’s a very good day to set down some baggage and walk on.

Waking up was hard again this morning. I don’t know what’s been driving these groggy mornings; they seem associated with deeper sleep, and sleeping through the night. Is the trade-off worth it? Well… perhaps, all but the first hour or two of the morning, when I am finding myself struggling to wake up, to remember medication, to drag myself through yoga, a shower, and making coffee… Once I am really awake, it’s no longer of any concern and doesn’t seem to affect my day. (Damn it – ‘affect’ or ‘effect’??)

I am waiting for water to heat up for coffee – it feels like a long wait. Rationally, I know that the water likely takes approximately the same time to boil each morning – or close enough that I would not be able to tell the difference without some sort of calibrated measuring device. Still, subjectively, from the perspective of a groggy morning, it seems quite forever taking. ┬áI wait and consider the evening shared with my traveling partner, and smile.

We had a great time together: dinner out, and back to my place for some hang out time, and a show. We enjoy each other a great deal, and the time was well-spent. He’ll be away the weekend – we both definitely wanted to get some time together before he went. Thinking of his weekend out-of-town, I suddenly miss him dreadfully – even though I know that A.) his geographical location has not yet changed and B.) if it had, it wouldn’t be different for my experience right now in any practical way. Emotions don’t sign up for classes in logic and reason – they have their own way. It is a wonder to me how deep the connection we share is. I smile recalling his ‘complaint’ that he does not want to be put on a pedestal, that he is ‘just this guy’. I never can quite communicate that I am well aware of his humanity, and although I adore him well beyond any reasonable measure – I’m adoring a man, a human being, flaws and all. That’s okay with me. I know his heart. I’ve never needed him to be more than the man he is – I like that man, enjoy him, and hope to share the journey a good long way.

I smile. Sip my coffee. Let my thoughts move on.

It’s almost 6:00 am these days before the sky looks as it did shortly before 5:00 am, when I moved in here. 76 days of finding my own way – most of them alone, and most of them quite content and comfortable. 76 days of meditation, of writing, of walking, thinking, working, sleeping… 76 days of living, of thriving, and being this woman in the mirror. 76 days of living in a household where 100% of every adult┬áis completely supportive of the health, wellness, and quality of life everyone else in the household, the goals are shared, and everyone is committed to The Big 5 values (respect, consideration, reciprocity, compassion, and openness) and making a commitment of both will and action to treat everyone else well…

What could be more worthy than being the woman I am in the most authentic possible way? There are no others quite like me.

What could be more worthy than being the woman I am in the most authentic possible way? There are no others quite like me.

 

I went on to write considerably more, but recognized that at some point I had begun to write in a detailed way about a prior predictable train wreck of a┬árelationship. Poignant and heartfelt words – but a serious overshare with potential to be hurtful in ways I would not be skillful at identifying. Where break ups have been concerned I have maintained an adult practice of not pouring gasoline on fires, not rubbing salt in wounds, and making every possible effort to continue to practice The Big 5; I avoid venting about prior relationships┬ábecause it is pointless, ugly, and reduces me to acting on base impulses.┬á┬áI find that┬áneedlessly┬áhurtful, and try to ‘be the good guy’ in a legitimate sincere way. When I face the woman in the mirror I don’t want to have to make excuses for my behavior later, or rationalize how some bit of nastiness ‘is okay because they…’ – because making the excuse doesn’t really excuse the bad act, the poor behavior, or the meanness, and all those things are loaded with potential to diminish me as a human being. This life is my journey, and I’d like to make it a good one. I’d rather continue to be compassionate, to be reasonable, to seek understanding – and to take care of me by not investing further in relationships that are damaging to my mental, emotional, or physical health. No drama required. It’s unnecessary; it is by our behavior that the world knows us, the words are extra.

Where will my path take me?

Where will my path take me?

The weekend ahead has my attention. My traveling partner will be away. The summer weather is forecast to be summer – but not an inconveniently health-threatening inferno. I am geared up to go camping, myself, and having my traveling partner’s┬ácar for the weekend I also have more options. Where will the weekend take me? I don’t yet know the answer to that question – but I know I’ll come back with pictures!

Today is a good day to explore the options. Today is a good day to remember that taking shit personally is a choice. Today is a good day to appreciate the things that work. Today is a good day to recognize what isn’t working – and do something else. Today is a good day to change the world.

I could as easily ask ‘what time is love?‘ – same answer: at the tone the time will be…’now’. It’s always ‘now’, actually, and never any other moment…unless, I suppose,┬áwe count the possibility of time travel, or perhaps the influence of huge quantities of certain hallucinogens. So… sure, okay, a few things may shake the unavoidable ‘now’…but…generally…’now’ is the time. Here we are. This is it. Whatever it is…it is. ┬áThis morning, ‘now’ came early – at┬á3:17 am, actually. I turned off the alarm once it was clear I was definitely entirely awake, and headed for the shower.

It’s still ‘now’. A shower, yoga, meditation and preparing coffee…and although it is later, it remains very much ‘now’. I can look ahead…it’s still simply ‘now’. I can look back…still, here I am, fixed firmly in the ‘now’ moment. Wherever I turn, ‘now’ is what I really have to work with. It’s not that the future is unaffected by ‘now’ – it is most definitely affected by ‘now’; every choice I make ripples through my future. Even the past is altered by ‘now’; my perspective changes with experience, with new information, with the passage of time itself. Still, however busy life is, all I have to work with, to enjoy, and to live is ‘now’.

Taking a few moments to consider an idea.

Taking a few moments to consider an idea.

What time is it? Right now it’s coffee time. My coffee this morning is quite dreadful. I am considering pouring it out and making a fresh cup. ‘Now’ matters that much; if I am not present in the moment, my actions may not be sufficiently relevant to my needs, and I may be unaware even of what my needs in the moment actually are. Me, personally, at 4:43 am…I need coffee, and frankly, my preference is that it be, if not exceptional, at least quite good. So…now I am going to make a fresh cup of coffee because this one… yeah… it sucks. It’s definitely important to pay attention while making coffee if using something that requires an artful touch, and some precision, as with a pour over. “Paying attention” is one way to describe mindfulness.

Second cup, no second thoughts – and it is still very much ‘now’. That’s how it tends to be – ‘now’. What will I do with the moment? I rarely pause to consider it, I simply do and be much of the time, and I don’t make that observation with any hint of criticism. I find life is to be lived. I strive to live well, and mindfully, and mostly doing so is more pleasant than not, and tends to result in a certain sense of worthiness to the entire endeavor – which seems worth having, and reason enough to work at it attentively, investing in good self-care practices, and learning to cope compassionately with my injury and my damage. ‘Now’ has become a pretty big deal.

Here’s something noteworthy about ‘now’, though – it’s easily wasted. It can slip away in an instant and become hours that have passed me by without action, without effort, without any investment of will and intent, and without significant result, or activity worthy of later recollection (I’m looking at you, television!). I find that almost any moment spent mindfully aware, even the painful ones, and yes, even the ones spent in stillness, meditating or watching clouds drift by, is a moment well spent. I remember more when I am awake, aware, and present. I have the sense that I am doing or achieving more, regardless how much ‘got done’. Life feels lived – as though the noun itself comes alive and gets all verb-y straight away – when I approach it mindfully, aware of my choices, deliberate in my actions. Time itself passes more slowly – and ‘now’ becomes of even greater value, extended, prolonged, and significant.

There’s nothing actually ‘easy’ about mindfulness. It’s also not actually ‘difficult’. It isn’t expensive to pursue it, and it requires no costly memberships or equipment. It need not be attached in any way to profit-generating activities, although it is clearly finding its cultural moment, and along the way many people are finding ways to market mindfulness or profit from it. The current popularity of mindfulness as a word, as a concept, and as an endeavor don’t make it any more likely that people will actually practice the needed practices to become more mindful – though many will say that they will, or do, or are. I don’t worry much about any of that, although I am sometimes frustrated to read articles that seem critical of practices I find have such value, myself. I worry, sometimes, that people innocent of the marketing bullshit, the hype, and the inevitable disappointment of people who expected it to be ‘easy’ or to ‘fix everything’ will result in someone who really needs what mindfulness has to offer not finding┬átheir way to it – that was my own experience. I didn’t get ‘here’ sooner; I was distracted by other people losing their way, being discouraged, and because I was discouraged, myself, the first time I was exposed to meditation┬á– there were verbs involved, and more than one sort of practice, and… and… and… it’s not easy! (“Isn’t there some prescription, or…?”)

Mindfulness practices can be┬ávery simple and very basic. My own favorite meditation is not any sort of elaborate guided meditation with a soothing voice, lovely visual image, or lofty conceptualization – it isn’t necessary that it be such, and those don’t ‘work for me’ in the sense that although they may be soothing and pleasant, what I need myself is to become very centered, present, and calm within myself. I rely on meditation to keep me from standing on the precipice, to pull me back from the brink of disaster, to clean up the chaos and damage; the only world I am looking to change with any urgency is the world within. My own favorite meditation is simply to focus on my breath, to remain in this ‘now’ moment until I achieve stillness and inner calm. Yes. I have to keep at it. Yes. My mind wanders. Yes. I am sometimes distracted by physical discomfort, noise, stray thoughts, having to pee, and suddenly remembering other things that arise in my recollection attached to a sense of urgency. There’s no rush, no pressure, no report card, no internal criticism; I just keep at it until I do find that inner stillness. If’ I’m uncomfortable, I adjust – and begin again. If I am distracted, I take another breath, and begin again. If I have to pee, I take care of that biological need and begin again. If I remember something important that has been forgotten, I take a note and begin again (and often meditate with a notepad very near at hand for that reason). It’s called a practice for a reason – and there are most assuredly verbs involved.

“Does mindfulness work?” is a question with similar value as “what time is it?” – It really depends on what you are trying to find out. I find mindfulness practices very effective, myself, but the outcome is entirely dependent on my actions, my own investment in practicing the practice, and how well-chosen the practice is for my needs. If I were to discontinue the practice of meditation, would meditation┬áitself be less effective because I stopped practicing it? Um…no. I might be less effective – but it would be a choice┬áI make for myself, not a failure of meditation as a tool or practice.

The Stillness Within

“The Stillness Within” 8″ x 10″ acrylic on canvas w/glow 2014

The time is ‘now’. If one practice has failed, try another. If the ‘failure’ is simply a lack of actual practice, easier still – begin again. There are verbs involved, and there is all the ‘now’ in the world to use them. ­čÖé

 

Life is rich with eye-opening moments. Some of them are heart-breaking (like the moment I realized I was only a resource to someone I thought loved me, many years ago). Other eye-opening moments are simply moments of greater awareness than the moments that preceded. A few are literally moments at that point at which I open my eyes – like this morning, when I woke, opened my eyes, and found as my initial eye-opening experience that I am in tremendous physical pain this morning. My arthritis. It’s not a crisis of any magnitude, and there’s not much to be done about it that would be new, or particularly noteworthy; I take my pain medication, and I head for my yoga mat. After my morning coffee, I will soak in a hot bath and hope that the saturating heat will ease my pain and stiffness further.

My arthritis is in my spine. I rarely think much about how I rely on my spine until I find myself mostly unable to make use of it in any sort of flexible way. This morning getting out of bed was complicated by both the stiffness and the pain. I rolled off the side of the bed, letting my legs drop to the floor, and leaning on the wall to slowly stand. Sitting and standing maneuvers are difficult today, even after yoga eased some of the stiffness.

The pain is another matter. Even after easing some of the stiffness in my spine, I am hurting too much to find joy in the day, so far, which makes me cross. I reach out to my traveling partner and cancel plans to hang out. I am in no mood to be in the company of others, and for the time being, all I can think about is the pain. While that may change as I practice good self-care practices, I can’t really rely on being able to hold on to a pleasant demeanor long enough to be certain of treating others well. Solitude is a good choice when I am in this much pain. I don’t mind the solitude – and I definitely dislike finding that I have treated my traveling partner poorly over something as trivial (and commonplace) as pain. It was an easy choice to make, and my traveling partner does not complicate such things with manipulation, tantrums or drama; he appreciates being treated well.

Summer flowers are everywhere; I only see them when I look. Awareness matters.

Summer flowers are everywhere; I only see them when I look. Awareness matters.

The weather forecast is for a hot day. I take a moment to appreciate the existence of air-conditioning, sip my coffee, and pretend to plan my day in some way that isn’t centered on the pain I am in – but I keep finding myself accounting for the pain in a very frank way as I figure out what I want to do with this day – I keep having to remind myself that some of the things I might like to do are going to be damned difficult if I can’t bend, reach, lift, carry, get down on the floor and back up, sit in one place, or generally move with any ease. I am irritated to be stalled by pain. I remind myself to be kind to myself; this fragile vessel can only do so much on a day like this, and there’s nothing lazy┬áabout that.

I sip my coffee indifferently, contemplating just going back to bed…but that won’t work either; it was the pain of being in bed that woke me, earlier. I frown at myself for a moment; I am not making taking care of me easy, at all. I pause and put the focus on the good qualities of the day, the pleasant features of this moment, just beyond the pain…

Clematis on a summer morning is lovely even when I hurt.

Clematis on a summer morning is lovely even when I hurt.

…It’s a lovely morning, in spite of the promised heat of the day. The early morning sunlight is clear and bright, and filters through the blinds casting interesting stripe-y shadows that I enjoy greatly. The coffee I have been sipping with such disregard is quite delightful – a darker roast than I have been drinking (I┬átend┬áto prefer darker roasts, myself). I am enjoying the warmth of the mug in my hands when I pause to take a sip. ┬á(I nearly always finish my coffee in sips, consuming it well before it cools off, most days.) The a/c kept the apartment quite comfortable through the night, and I slept well and deeply, and woke feeling alert and clear-headed. Most of the housework on my ‘to do list’ for a Sunday can be done with relative ease, even when I am hurting, and occupying my time in that fashion will quite likely take my mind off the pain for a time. I have a couple new books to read, and it looks like a great day for that, too. I can choose from ┬áPablo Naruda‘s “Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair”, Thich Nhat Hanh‘s “Anger”, or Naomi Wolf‘s “Vagina”. Taking breaks between chapters to do yoga will help ease my pain and stiffness if I find myself sitting too long.

It’s admittedly easier to focus on the pain; it shouts at me within my consciousness in a way that the pleasant details of the morning simply don’t compete with easily. It is worthwhile to patiently choose to be aware of more. Like so many practices, it does take practice, and there are verbs involved. My results vary. ­čÖé

The heavy scent of summer jasmine reminds me of my childhood home. I wonder why I haven't gotten a potted one for my patio yet?

The heavy scent of summer jasmine reminds me of my childhood home. I wonder why I haven’t gotten a potted one for my patio yet?

Today is a good day to practice exceptional self-care, and to treat myself well. Today is a good day to make choices that result in not treating others badly. Today is a good day for good choices, good practices, and an awareness that there is life beyond pain. Today is a good day to enjoy everyday moments of delight, and to practice self-compassion. This fragile vessel can only do so much, and there is no rush to complete living as though it were on my task list; the journey is the destination.