Archives for posts with tag: recommended reading

My Traveling Partner and I recently watched a video that made some bold claims about the “harms of mindfulness” as a “culture” or as a self-help service available for anyone… at a cost. I rather expected I’d disagree throughout; I’ve gotten a lot out of mindfulness practices. Instead, I found myself nodding along. See, here’s the thing, “mindfulness” practices really don’t need to cost a single cent. Google “mindfulness”, watch some unbranded professional quality “not selling you shit” content, and start practicing – it could be that simple, and that close to being wholly free. It gets expensive when you start adding on self-help “professionals”, new age “gurus”, spiritual “healers”, and their many mindfulness centers, methods, systems, and… fees. What’s so crazy to me is that in general, much of this seems to come out of a genuine interest in making mindfulness practices available for the betterment of people who are suffering. (Scammers will always do what scammers have always done; grab an idea, gloss it up with an emotionally engaging pitch, and start raking in the profits at the expense of many who can’t legitimately afford that.)

Break free of the sales pitch, the expensive retreats, and the costly subscription service. Just be. Breathe. Exhale. Relax. No, it’s not a cure for everything. Hell, it’s maybe not a “cure” for anything at all. Does it feel good? It can. Is it helpful? It may be – it is for me, personally.

Maybe you think you are “doing it wrong” and that’s why it “isn’t working” for you? What do you mean when you say “working for you”? If you think it is going to solve all of your challenges, stop you ever shedding a tear or feeling hurt or knocked down in life, you may want to reconsider what you expect of this simple humble healthy practice. Let it do what it can, and stop right there.

…I’m saying this because I have considered, now and then, the monetary potential in having a successful mindfulness blog…what would that take? What would it look like (for me)? I always come back to the place I started; I don’t have a hunger to make a profit on the suffering of folks who are struggling to find balance or peace. That just seems like a shitty thing to do (to me). I mean, seriously? I’d be writing anyway. I write. I’d be meditating anyway. It has worked for me. The concepts are not new, and aside from the price of a handful of books, they haven’t cost me anything much. Why wouldn’t I share my knowledge (whatever I’ve got) and my words freely? I’ve considered writing a book. If/when I take that step, sure, pay me. LOL Fair.

One thing I didn’t like about the video we watched was the way the content was written to explicitly mock certain concepts or exercises used in one program or another to teach mindfulness practices. I found that unnecessary, misleading, and in poor taste generally. (We live in a world that seems to place value on misleading words in poor taste that are not helpful or necessary… which sucks, but that’s a different bit of writing for another day, I suppose.) I’m thinking specifically about the “eating a raisin” exercise that appears in MSBR coursework and other places.

As for “doing it wrong”…? Are you?

Any comfy cushion will do.

Here’s the thing about the “eating a raisin” exercise (in my opinion) – it isn’t at all about the raisin. Nothing to do with raisins in any way. Choose your fruit. Choose whatever taste or sensation you care to explore more deeply. The exercise itself is about being present, aware, and engaged entirely with that sensory experience. That’s it. You could do it with… oh, say… a cup of coffee. (If you’re a regular reader, is it now dawning on you that perhaps my frequent starting point of observing that “I am sipping my coffee…” may have significance you didn’t previously realize?) Yep. I practice this exercise often – with my coffee – to become more engaged, more “grounded”, more present in my physical reality, more “awake and aware” – because I frankly need the fucking practice. I was irked that the content creator we were watching tear down the simple (and admittedly somewhat silly) “eat a raisin” practice missed the whole fucking point of the exercise.

…I did appreciate that the video was explicitly opposed to financially exploiting the emotional pain of people seeking solutions through mindfulness, though. Don’t spend money on free shit, people. You don’t have to put yourself through that. If you want professional mindfulness coaching and you have the money and are willing to spend it on that? Get a good therapist. Period. Pay for what has legitimate value. Want to take a luxury retreat and practice meditation and mindfulness? Book a comfortable hotel on the coast somewhere, and take yourself there and be mindful. Enjoy. It doesn’t need to cost thousands of dollars, have a “name brand guru” smiling on the brochure, or require a waiting list. lol Seriously. What did you think my “going coastal” adventure days were about? That’s me taking a “meditation retreat” more often than not. 🙂

Sufficiency. Perspective. Mindfulness. Wrapped up in a bow. 😀 Enjoy. Please don’t just give your hard-earned money to charlatans, fake gurus, or slick salespeople. It’s not necessary.

I take one last sip of my ill-chosen coffee. It has gone cold – a fitting fate for a lavender Americano (turns out I do not enjoy the flavor of lavender in my coffee as much as I enjoy the scent of it). I sit with the feeling of a quiet start to an ordinary day for a moment longer.

Now I begin again.

I am sitting with my thoughts, taking a moment for myself out of a busy day. I’m contemplating life, love, art – you know, the important things. 🙂 I smile when I recall the new book I’ve only just started reading, which promises to satisfy other creative impulses than those fulfilled by paint and canvas.

It brings back long-forgotten memories, too.

I contemplate a tiny art project I am undertaking.

The studio is not yet ready for larger work… I think I can make room for something very small.

I take time for brilliantly blue autumn skies.

…And passing clouds.

I let moments overtake me. Breathing. Relaxing. Letting my mind wander a bit. Soon enough, it is time to begin again. 🙂

Hey, don’t forget to upgrade your software. You know we become what we practice, sure, but don’t forget we can upgrade our own software anytime – through the magic of reading! It’s true. It’s even a wonderful time for it; it’s Banned Books Week!

If you’ve been following along, you’ve already watched this video, and maybe you’re also experiencing some difficulty getting into a book (and maybe you remember when it was much much easier to do)… It’s not too late to take back your attention span. It’s going to take practice, and it’s going to take a very specific new beginning. Are you ready for it? Here’s how it works:

  1. Turn off your device, or at least silence your notifications.
  2. Pick up a book.
  3. Begin reading.
  4. Keep reading.
  5. Go back to reading.
  6. Seriously, are you not reading?
  7. READ!

Yep. It’s that easy. 😉

If you’re not sure where to start, there are plenty of lists you can start with… here. Here. Here. Over here, too. One thing there is no shortage of? Books. Read some!

The ease and convenience of the Internet is no substitution for learning a subject with depth, or enjoying a long involved tale, or riding the emotional roller-coaster of poetry. Kind of a similar magnitude of difference as between “small talk” and deeply intimate conversations, actually. No need to coast through your existence being unimaginably facile, though; books exist (and so do deeply intimate conversations between very authentic people).

I’ve got a stack of books that I’ve not yet read.

Books, rather pleasantly, also give one time to soak things in, and give full consideration to new learning – no rushing necessary. I often set one aside and come back to it with greater appreciation or understanding, or having taken time to cross-reference a point that needed some clarification (or just to look up a word I didn’t understand in that context). Books don’t “turn it into an argument” if I disagree, either, they just wait for me to turn the page and learn more, which may broaden my perspective.

…You may be getting the impression I’m a huge fan of reading. 🙂 I am. It’s true. It’s a thing. I love to read.

I don’t read as much as I once did. Internet. I can clearly correlate the decline in my reading to the increase in my time online. Huh. I bet my software is way out of date as a result. It’s time to upgrade!

It’s time to begin again.

What are you reading?

This guy writes way better than I do, and this morning I am reading his work; the new post from Wait But Why. He knows the map is not the world, but also understands that we are each our own cartographer. He writes using allegories, metaphors, and analogies. He’s funny, smart, and on point.  So, this morning, I am just going to enjoy my coffee and read. Totally time well spent. Join me? 😉

I am sipping my coffee, listening to the demands of crows beyond the open patio door. The aquarium, behind me here, trickles softly; I almost don’t hear it moment-to-moment, I am so used to the sound of it. The sound of distant traffic is a hushed murmur still farther beyond, and not a disruption of the still morning – although when I am most stressed out the sounds of humanity are more than I can bear, even at a distance. I sift through ideas, and notions, musing contentedly about this-n-that, unconcerned about the passage of time and the still blank page. There is no point hurrying life, really, is there? Eventually the passage of minutes will take me to the edge of some moment that requires action, but that is not now.

“Now” is for hot coffee, birdsong, and words if I find them.

I have lived alone for a bit more than a month. Thinking about the date reminds me that I must pay the rent on my way to work…and that marijuana became legal in Oregon today. I’m not sure which is more directly relevant to me, today; I will spend the day at work, and certainly neither cannabis nor rent factor in that experience. It’ll be nice to come home to a home, though – so rent is clearly important. I’ll be coming home to cannabis as well, inasmuch as it remains the only medication that eases many of my PTSD symptoms, especially if I am in crisis. I don’t write much about it. I’m not sure I know how. I do know it works, and as of today being a consumer of cannabis is just a little bit less stressful in Oregon.

Worth paying for. The sticky note on the inside of my front door this morning says 'don't forget the rent!'

Worth paying for. The sticky note on the inside of my front door this morning says ‘don’t forget the rent!’

This morning I continue to experience a feeling that has been lingering in the background for a couple of days now; I feel a bit ‘over loaded’… or something. Maybe a bit distracted…by something…or something. I’m not sure quite what the feeling is, but I notice that what eases it most is solitude, and stillness. I get the solitude fairly easily by canceling plans and choosing to be alone. The stillness seems a tad more problematic, lately. The world throws distractions at me almost continuously, and I am again facing mindfulness as a beginner – perhaps I always must? No stereo this morning, or yesterday – I love music and dance, but those are not stillness. The last couple evenings I have struggled to choose wisely, often finding myself flipping on a video that I then do not actually watch, instead restlessly doing other things, and half listening to it. Sometimes I sit down to read, and manage a page or two before sleep finds me…or distraction pushes the book beyond reach and I pursue some other activity, but without real focus. I take steps to paint, and find myself hanging paintings instead, or only sketching rather distractedly.

I am frustrated in a small way by my lack of focus, but I don’t view it as any sort of personal failure or character flaw; more likely my broken brain is working on something I can’t quite get at directly, and the overwork in the background of my thinking fractures my conscious direction and intent. The stillness is needful, getting to it requires verbs, and more verbs after that – particularly some verbs that give every appearance of lacking actual action. Meditation. More meditation after I meditate, and perhaps, some more meditation after that. No, I’m not kidding, but I’m also not certain that I quite have the well-developed adult will and discipline to do this simple thing that I need for and from myself. I am a child. I am a beginner. I am unrealized potential. The choice is in front of me and there are most definitely verbs involved. There will be more practice. Everyday practice, every day.

I am not feeling critical of myself, and I am not disappointed with my choices thus far. I am keeping a lovely home for myself, and I have been enjoying cooking for one – and in some cases taking on some rather more complicated recipes that I might have, had I been concerned about the needs or expectations of others. It’s been fun playing house with myself. I tend my beautiful garden, and eat healthy food. I practice good practices and keep good company. I am enjoying my experience – but on another level I have been sort of ‘taking it easy’. There is more ‘work’ to be done sorting out the chaos and damage, and I have been, in a very real sense, taking a break from all that to settle in here, and get a feel for living solo. My recent level of distractibility – and willingness to be distracted – has been an emotional vacation of sorts. This morning I recognize it so clearly, and with the good-natured tolerance of any parent, I am ready to look into the face of the child within and remind her there is work to be done. There will be no shortage of healthy meals, good rest, excellent self-care, and fun – but there is a purpose to choosing this lifestyle that goes beyond contentment, and it is time to get back to work.

"The Shelf" - everything I need for being and becoming.

“The Shelf” – everything I need for being and becoming.

I suspect that my sudden urgent desire to organize the books on my book shelves was fueled, in part, by my recognition that it is time to get back to the demanding work at hand of healing, and nurturing this broken brain, and this fractured soul. The shelf nearest me while I write holds all the most critical [to me] reference material on which I rely for information regarding my brain injury, mindfulness practices, cognition, language, and relationship building (with self and others). No book ‘makes the shelf’ unless it proves itself worthy – otherwise, there is plenty of room on other shelves along the wall. My kindle also has ‘the shelf’; a collection of similarly prized and limited tomes, some of which are duplicated in real books in my library, others which I could not so easily afford to own in any format besides digital. (Some of the science books are quite expensive.) I am ready. I am capable. The trick, of course, is that there is only ever ‘now’ during which I can work on me, effectively. 🙂

The sweet fruit of commitment, will, and action await me.

The sweet fruit of commitment, will, and action await me.

It is a lovely summer. I have everything I truly need (and more). I am safe in my home and free to pursue any endeavor I care to. I have ‘now’, and I have all the words in the world. I have any measure of stillness I am capable of embracing, and sustaining. Today is a very good day to get back to work on this amazing project I call ‘me’.