Archives for posts with tag: read a book

I slept in. It’s a lovely summer morning, before the heat sets in. Water is heating for coffee. Internal plumbing means I have hot water on tap for a refreshing shower, and air conditioning keeps the place comfortable for the heat of the day. I caught sight of a bunny down in the yard, from the deck this morning, as I watered. I’m not in any particular pain, right now. I feel good in my skin. So much goodness in this one moment.

A chipmunk grabs a quick bite before darting away.

A bit like small, timid, creatures expecting to be hunted, sometimes we handle our best moments fearfully, ready to dart away at the first “sign of danger”, waiting for disaster to strike, or convinced we don’t “deserve” it, or that it isn’t real. :-\

This morning? I’m just enjoying the moment, and this fine cup of coffee, which I’ve only now finished making. It feels like summer, and I am content to enjoy that. I’ll also note that “this”? It didn’t come naturally. I used to face all the good life had to offer me with terrible anxiety – certain that it would all be “taken away”. Soon. That perspective made it super hard to really relax, and really wholly enjoy myself. Contentment stayed out of reach. Happiness was largely out of the question. Life felt harder than it had to.

I’m not sure how to convince or persuade that there is another way, besides living another way, making other choices, and sharing my experience. Your results may vary. We each have to walk our own hard mile; we are each having our own experience. Still. This is a great place to begin a new journey. Or this. Hell, if you’re into reading, there are stepping stones and mile posts all along this path. Yes, it does require effort. Yes, it’s work you’ll do the rest of your life. I’m not trying to discourage you by calling it “effort” or “work”, either, just being real, reading about doing what it will take is not at all the same as doing the things it will take. Still… the effort, for me, has been very much worth it.

…It’s a lovely sunny day. My coffee tastes good. My heart is at ease. It’s time to begin again. 🙂

Tomorrow, 56. Today? The end of 55. It’s been a very much better than average year, actually… seems worth noticing at least that. 🙂 So, my grim titular reference isn’t all that; it’s just a way of pointing out this year has been filled with days, and the last of those is today.

Contrary to what the sign says, I’m pretty sure there’s more than one way. 😉

I’m taking a few moments this morning to take stock of the year, much in the way I do on New Year’s, and with a “summer ahead” sort of perspective. It’s time to let go of lingering petty foolishness, and time to revisit old lists of shit to do, and either do what has not yet been done, or scratch it from the list and move on. It’s a good time to celebrate a year of accomplishments, personal and professional. It’s a time to “reset” on whatever I can, and move forward from “here” and on to the next year. 🙂

Flowers fade, sure, and flowers open. The endings are also beginnings.

I sip my coffee and watch the sky begin to lighten, awhile. No pressure. No hurry. Just me, this cup of coffee, and this moment. 🙂 I think awhile about last year, around this time. It wasn’t about me. Really – none of it was. lol I’m even okay with that. It was a year to wake up, to make changes, to move on, and to level up. I learned a lot, and sustained very little damage in the process; I count that as a win. 😀

I’m tempted for a moment to hop forward to tomorrow, ahead of time, and to contemplate the future, and being 56. I grin at myself, and let that go. Tomorrow is tomorrow; I also want to wholly experience today. 🙂 The last day of being 55. I won’t be “here” again, however long my lifetime may be. 😉

So much goes into this journey…

I glance at the clock. I’ve got time to water the garden before work, and the forecast is 95 F (35 C). The garden is so lovely this year; it was the heat that provided the magic fail sauce last year, and my frequent time away. I’ve committed to doing better this year, and clearly, here I am, ready for that…

…New beginnings still need some verbs. It’s time to begin again. 😀

It’s a lovely morning, so far. The sun isn’t yet up, and there’s a bit of mist in the trees beyond the deck. My coffee is hot, and satisfying. I feel pretty good, generally, and aside from some stiffness, and awareness of mild discomfort here and there, even my pain level is pretty low. An excellent start to a Saturday – and brunch a bit later. 🙂

I’m thinking a bit about the funhouse mirror of social media, and the way it turns so many people into emotionally demanding narcissists unable to support themselves through emotionally self-sufficient practices day-to-day. Leaving Facebook is eye-opening. I’ve stopped using it, and expect, today, to finish off the last of the data entry into my contacts list, then move on with deleting my account.

…Hell, I already have the page open to the “delete my account” action, ready for me to click it. (One last click for ya, Facebook. lol)…

One of the nicest things so far, about leaving Facebook I mean, is the increase in authenticity in my affected relationships. Already. I like that. Sure, it’s more effort to “stay in touch” – but if the only “staying in touch” we’re doing is eavesdropping on each other’s lives from a distance, lol’ing at memes, and amplifying each other’s outrage… are we really “in touch” with each other, at all? How much slower is the progress toward any personal goal, or our journey to be our best self, if we’re constantly seeking – or waiting for – likes, clicks, and views along the way. Very distracting. I just… can’t. Too much I’d still like to see, do, achieve, complete, stumble on, enjoy, share in real life, savor without comment, and reflect upon without further input, honestly, and when all that is added to the mish-mash of bullshit, misinformation, racism, sexism, trolling, data-mining, and drama that Facebook has been built upon… omg. So over it.

So. Here I sit. Realizing, in this moment, that I’ve already downloaded the historical content I wanted to save – all the conversations I’ve had with friends over this past 10 years, inclusive of all the contact updates – I’m ready. Ready to end this toxic relationship and move on with my life. 😀 No last good-bye. No final statement as I depart. No dramatic exit. Just a Saturday morning, a cup of coffee, and a couple of mouse clicks. 🙂 Easy.

…And just like that, Facebook has no power over me. 🙂 Nice.

This one is a new beginning (and then some), but also an allegory and a metaphor; do what matters most for you. Make your choices wisely, using wisdom you have acquired in years of living. Consult when you must – but living ones life is not a matter of consensus, likes, clicks, or trending views. Being present in the moment may not be the instantly gratifying shot in the brain chemistry that having all your friends (and a bunch of strangers) comment favorably on a post on social media may be… but it’s tangible, and authentic. It’s real. It’s also a choice, and I’m making mine. Doesn’t have to be yours; we each walk our own path. Mine diverges from Facebook, right here. 🙂 There are a lot of reasons why, really, the largest of which is that although my friends add to my experience, Facebook twists that, and then adds a layer of toxic cognitive goo, and then a shitload of advertising. lol I am all about saying “no” to that.

I’ve got a hearty and well-filled contact list full of friends of many years, some old, and some new. I’ve got addresses, email addresses, phone numbers, a calendar… and the time with which to begin again. 🙂

I just finished reading After the Ecstasy, the Laundry by Jack Kornfield. It’s a worthwhile read on the topic of mindfulness. Interestingly, I happened upon an article about “why mindfulness isn’t working for you”, while sipping my coffee. The contrast was worth making a moment to consider.

Why would mindfulness practices “not work” for some people? I read on, and get to the part about mindfulness potentially being “harmful” for trauma survivors… which puzzles and saddens me; I’m certainly one of many trauma survivors wholly supported and helped by mindfulness practices – they saved my life, in quite a literal way.

I continue to contemplate these positions, so at odds with each other. Helpful vs harmful. Effective vs ineffective. Huh. I consider the following points that seem relevant:

  1. Mindfulness and meditation were only helpful for me after I found a specific style of meditation that was a good fit for me personally; it requires a commitment to practice, and it is helpful to select a practice that I’ll actually practice.
  2. “The way out is through” – I didn’t benefit from meditation and mindfulness practices because they were emotionally easy on me; a large part of the benefit was that these practices helped me process old trauma, and find my way to the “other side”. Nothing about that is emotionally easy, and there was (and is) work involved. Emotional work requires effort, and a willingness to do it.
  3. Mindfulness is not a “cure-all”; these practices are effective for what they are effective for, and only that. Beginning a mindfulness practice, or meditation practice, expecting that it will “fix everything” seems as silly as expecting to put on new jeans and be a different human being.
  4. Read #4 again. Meditation is not an escape from our self – or our life, or our need to do self work. We remain the person we are, with the challenges we have, and possibly still lugging around all our baggage, which we would still need to actually work through (if we want to let it go).
  5. Mindfulness and meditation are not “easy” practices. I mean, the fundamentals can be quite simple, for sure, and it is highly likely that those hurting souls looking for a fast fix may drop by and give meditation a try, but it’s also likely they won’t commit to a consistent practice. It’s not that the practices didn’t work, in that instance, let’s be real about that. We’re not all willing to commit to a routine or practice, in the first place.

Effective. Safe. Low cost. Yes, there are verbs involved (omg, so many verbs), and yes, there is a requirement to be consistent – and maybe even studious, if we’re serious about it. (Check out how many books on mindfulness are on my reading list!) Does it have to be hard? Well… we get out of life, frequently, a return consistent with our invested effort, in some regards. Certainly this is one of those, but a futile struggle with something that isn’t working out for you seems rather silly. If meditation isn’t working for you, find something that is? Or study why it isn’t. (Shit. More verbs. 😉 )

What are you really looking for? Are you on the path toward that goal? Those are good questions to ask, I think. If “meditation isn’t working”, it may be worthwhile to give a moment of thought to whether it was actually the most appropriate tool for the job you went into it expecting it to do. Sometimes, we grab the wrong tool, and make the job at hand much more difficult. Ask what you’re really trying to get done in the first place; doesn’t matter what tool you pick up, if you don’t know what you’re trying to get done, it’s going to be harder to finish the job.

I finish my coffee. I begin again.

Monday stretches out ahead of me like some sort of… Monday. I’m okay with that. There have certainly been times in my life when each Monday (or, that is to say, the starting day of each work week) carried a very specific signature dread. It didn’t seem associated with the job I had, the boss I worked for, or the circumstances, generally. Mondays felt “cursed” in some way. It was reinforced, although I didn’t understand it for a long time, by the cultural jesting and aphorisms about Mondays. Thinking Mondays are any worse than any of the other days is an illusion, though.

Think of the mind’s eye as functioning mechanically; to see, it would need a lens, and a focal point, and one might well expect that adjusting the focus would bring things into view more clearly. It’s a pretty good analogy. We become what we practice, and by extension, we do tend to see what we are looking at, and it may not always be entirely obvious if our perspective is in some way “out of focus”. Is there dust on our mental lens? Are we focused more specifically on something outside the frame? A loose metaphor attempting to capture how thinking errors, and an unwillingness to allow our perspective to be well-informed by what we can see (when we observe) and understand (when we permit ourselves to be open to new information). Happy Monday – use it wisely. 🙂

Monday is Monday. It’s just a day. We gave it a name. Rotate the wheel a turn and it lands on another day – couldn’t that one have been “Monday”? It’s rather arbitrary labeling, and wholly fictitious; we made that shit up. Let it go. Let Monday be Monday, and also just be a day in your experience. Another new beginning. A new starting point to begin a new week. Let go of what is not now – past or future – and take a deep breath before you head to the office, the job site, the unemployment office, an interview, your studio, a wilderness trail, a retail outlet, a cafe, a library, a doctor’s office, a classroom, or whatever destination Monday might take you. Have your experience with an open mind, and an open heart. Choose to have your own experience, your way. Choose to be the person you most want to be – authentically. Make the choices that take you there, however slow the progress may seem to be.

What one thing could you choose to do, or change, that nudges you gently in the direction of your goals? Are you doing that, today? No? Something smaller? Incremental change over time is built on small choices – millions of those, over hours, days, weeks… until we have transformed ourselves. I’m just saying – you have amazing power over your experience, even when you feel you have little power over your circumstances.

I’ve just started reading “After the Ecstasy, the Laundry“.  I’m ready for this one, now. I wasn’t, earlier. The new commute provides me with more time to read, since I take the train. I’d been very much wanting to refocus my attention on the written word, and really make more time – take more time – to read. Study has great value, and I find that reading from printed works seems a more effective learning strategy for me, personally, than most video material can actually compete with. It’s not a given that a medium that grabs my attention in a visceral way (like tv, movies, and YouTube content) will also teach me; hasn’t seemed to be the case, at all, in practice. Books work. Your results may vary. Perhaps it is to do with something about me, as an individual (likely not, honestly, we’re all very similar in most ways), or something to do with how the mental process of reading works in human brains? Anyway – I read. It works for me. I talk about what I read, which reinforces what I’ve learned and runs it through all manner of critical thinking drills, to validate that new information. I never regret the time I spend reading. 🙂 Maybe that’s enough reason to read?

So… I’ve got Monday ahead of me, a book in my backpack, and… I think I’m ready to begin again. 🙂