Archives for posts with tag: read a book

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. ๐Ÿ˜‰ )

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. ๐Ÿ™‚

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“.ย  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. ๐Ÿ™‚ 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. ๐Ÿ™‚

What’ll it be? There’s a next step ahead of you, right now… will you take it? Do you have something in mind? Is the future as yet unscripted, unplanned, undecided…? Where are you headed?

The map is yours to write…

So… What’s next? It’s time to choose something – big or small.

Journey

It’s not about how many steps you take, so much as it is about where the journey takes you.

It’s time to begin again. ๐Ÿ™‚

Yesterday was weird. I was angry all day; I’m a women, living in a nation that does not respect or value women, facing the possible Supreme Court appointment of an accused rapist. Well, shit. We’ve already got that very same sort ofย grotesquerie seated in the Whitehouse, and unknown, uncounted, unacknowledged numbers of that very same bullshit in our Congress, the Senate, our government agencies, our workplaces, and yes, even in some of our homes. Don’t be afraid to feel angry; this shit is worth our anger.

Be angry.

Vote.

Anger is weird toxic shit, though. As with a proper fairytale curse, it inevitably spills back in some way on the deliverer. We carry our anger in secret – problematic – then explode – inappropriate, ineffective, and generally the consequences are unpleasant. We end up doing a lot of “damage control” and repairing our angry words with excessive apologies, even pleading, and submissive posturing. We could do better with our anger. We can learn to be more skillfully, relentlessly, effectively angry. I’m not there yet – but I believe in the possibility, and the helpful folks of the rich white guy frat boy club currently holding office are totally here to help; they are keeping me seriously angry. I’m getting lots of practice.

One challenge is holding focus and keeping my anger relevant, limited, and correctly directed where it belongs. Preventing my anger from spilling over everywhere, into every relationship, is sometimes hard. The lines between actual harms, and perceived slights, become blurry. Anger is powerful shit. Wielding it skillfully tends not to come very naturally to me after a lifetime of being told I can’t have mine, that it’s not appropriate to express my anger, that my anger is unreasonable… being told for a lifetime to stop talking, to sit down and shut up, to restrain myself… being shouted down and talked over, for a lifetime, in most relationships (whether work or professional)… the underlying chronic persistent repression, being robbed of personal agency, being provided a restricted set of human and civil rights (just for lacking a penis, for fucks’ sake)… Yep. Harnessing that massive seething roiling pent-up body of lifetime rage and very carefully directing just so, at a particular moment or movement or person… is fucking hard.

One challenge is not being convinced, by those well-meaning loved ones inconvenienced by – or frightened of – my anger, to dim my light, to mute my voice, to stifle my rage. Rage is scary shit. I’m keeping mine, thanks. I’m fucking angry. I’m not going to shut up about it. You can walk on if that’s a problem for you. I’m okay with that.

No yelling though. No yelling in the house. No yelling in the morning. No yelling in frustration. Just… no yelling. Yelling is triggering, and generally, once a person is reduced to yelling, no communicating is happening at all. Knock that shit off. It’s not useful.

Seriously. Man or women. No fucking yelling. Take a deep breath. Give yourself a moment to calm the fuck down, and try again – without yelling.

I want to live my life well and beautifully. I want to enjoy moments. I want to indulge in life’s pleasures. I want great conversation, with close friends, and people who care passionately about things in life that also matter to me. I want to enjoy lovely emotionally relevant art. I want to feel joyous and empowered. I want to approach my life as a journey that belongs wholly to me. I don’t want to be swamped by my anger. I don’t want to be incapacitated or overwhelmed by it. I don’t want it to become a festering wound that deepens over time. There is much to consider.

I sip my coffee and consider it.

I sip my coffee and consider the friendship of women, too. So many of us struggle with that; women have been divided, often. Women are powerful together. It’s time we reach out more easily to each other. Forge lifetime friendships that support, encourage, nurture – and take back our world. ๐Ÿ™‚

Last night I enjoyed the company of two women. One I’d met before, briefly, and one I had not met previously. Women of great heart and emotional depth. Women with something to say about themselves, and about life. Women with a trajectory – a vision of their desired future. Women who care. Women who laugh. Women who “get it”. We had a great evening of conversation. We were authentic and vulnerable. We were real and frank, and funny. We forgot to go to dinner. We overlooked the time. We talked – continuously, delightedly, eagerly – in that very specific way that generally leads to, in other homes, on other evenings, some man breaking in to announce he “can’t get a word in edgewise”, or to make a “playful” accusation that we talk to much, or to request some service or task that he could easily handle himself, or to point out that we are “chattering away” in some dismissive tone – as if our words with each other matter less than our willingness to put our attention on him. I am so fucking done with that. (Keep up, bruh, or listen politely and maybe learn something.)

This Kavanaugh bullshit has gotten me – a lot of women – pretty angry. We don’t feel heard. We don’t feel supported. It’s become too hard to avoid recognizing that women are specifically not valued, and are specifically perceived as property, even now, and even by the men in the fucking government (why the fuck have we elected this??). It’s hard. So… I converse. I converse with women. I’m not making any particular effort in those moments of conversation to make room for the care and consideration of men; I need to be heard. I also need to be educated… or… un-indoctrinated, at least.ย So I’m also reading. The titles are very telling, I suppose: “Down Girl: The Logic of Misogyny“, “Rage Becomes Her“, “Eloquent Rage: A Black Feminist Discovers Her Superpower“… I am clearly not alone in my anger. I have spent far too long on the words of men. For balance, though, I’m also keeping “Resilient:ย How to Grow an Unshakable Core of Calm, Strength, and Happiness” close at hand. I do seek balance. Utility. Function. Effectiveness. I am not looking to loose the wild anger of my ancient pain on the world – just see through some changes that would improve the world for women, and thereby for all of us.

If you’re a man hoping to be some part of some sort of solution, listening is a good starting point. Really listening. Making room to understand that we (women) are having a very different experience of life than you are. (Please don’t push back on this with some sort of statement about your experience and your needs; we fucking know already, we live that reality for you every fucking day, it is part of our daily indoctrination, and even our formal educations. Knock it off for a bit, okay? That’s specifically the ask here; give us a moment of your time, really. Authentically. Listen deeply. Hear us.)

Enough with that. I’ve probably said enough. ๐Ÿ™‚

This morning is lovely and quiet, following a merry evening of lively conversation with beautiful well-spoken women. Powerful. I enjoy my coffee smiling quietly. It’s a good morning. I feel content, and whole. I am aware of my anger in the background – it does not rob me of this lovely quiet moment. It’s an extraordinary place to be with myself. I’ve come a long way as a woman, and as a human being, over the past couple years, and this feels like a reward for a lot of committed focused effort to be the woman, the person, I most want to be. I eagerly look ahead to seeing my Traveling Partner sometime soon, and sharing his energy, here, in this lovely space. We’re good together, and it feels good to be supported, valued, nurtured… Fuck. I miss him.ย  ๐Ÿ™‚ I’m betting that this visit won’t find my anger crowding out my love; there is room for all my emotions to exist in my experience. I am a human being – a creature of both emotion and reason.

“Emotion and Reason” 18″ x 24″ acrylic w/ceramic and glow details, 2012

It’s time to begin again. It’s time to change the world. โค

In video games new levels sometimes look really different. Handy. It’s less obvious with birthdays. Sure, sure, I’m “a whole year older”, but that work is behind me now, and 55 is basically all but one day entirely ahead of me. Everything looks entirely the same. ๐Ÿ™‚

Perspective on the day. A familiar view.

I had things planned that took me downtown in the morning. Those plans toppled like carefully arranged dominoes, but not soon enough to spare me the trip. lol My day was entirely spent indulging myself gently from there, gardening, reading, and generally delighted with the lovely day from moment-to-moment. I missed my Traveling Partner, and far more the person, himself, than the gift he’d sent (that he had alerted me would likely not arrive in time). (I do like presents, but missing him is not about material things.)

It was a lovely day in the garden.

My mail carrier surprised me by being early. Packages. ๐Ÿ˜€ A gift from a friend, and a wee package from my Traveling Partner; his gift arrived on the very day. I eagerly opened them both. Earrings and a book. The earrings are lovely heart-shaped peridot earrings that sparkle in the sunshine, and go very nicely with my mop of messy layers and waves of colorful hair. The book is how I ended up spending much of the delightful day reading, trying in part to puzzle out why this book? A birthday mystery. lol

I did not end up readingย this book, but this is the book I was gifted. ๐Ÿ˜€

I spent the day gently, enjoying my own company. Time well-spent. Facebook filled with birthday well-wishes over the course of the day. Each “happy birthday” made me smile, and take note of the good wishes of my friends in a bigger way. My Mom phoned. We talked for about half an hour, really taking time to catch up. It was a great start to a new year, a new level. By the end of the day, plans that had gone awry were no longer part of the experience, at all. ๐Ÿ™‚ I spent the day very present, in my own experience, with myself. It was quite lovely. I find myself wondering how best to incorporate that into every day, into every experience with myself…? I’m betting there are verbs involved. lol No doubt it will require practice. ๐Ÿ™‚ I’ll probably need to begin again… a bunch of times. I could probably get started on that now…

…”Now” is an excellent time for beginnings. ๐Ÿ™‚