Archives for posts with tag: The Reading List

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 woke ahead of the alarm, and realized groggily that I never wrote a word that wasn’t in the service of my employer yesterday. Wow. So unlike me. I’m tired. The lovely weekend comes at a price, and that price is fatigue. My disrupted sleep unavoidably has its moment to weigh in on my well-being.

I scroll lazily through my feeds, not really reading, just skimming headlines and posts in the weird “I used too few words” extra-large font. I’m not yet awake. The delicious fragrant mug of chai tea (with almond milk) definitely takes longer than a cup of strong coffee. I’m sneezing a lot this morning. My throat is a little… raw. Shit. I hope I’m not coming down with a cold. The timing is poor; I have a life to live and shit to get done. lol

Walking and thinking – a favorite practice for gaining perspective.

Yesterday, I forgot I had a late meeting on my work calendar, and got into the office at the usual very early hour. Early enough to get a lovely 2 mile walk in, along the waterfront. Early enough to get back to my desk, still quite a bit earlier than I had planned to be in – or needed to be. It was a long day, with very little leisure in it. I was pretty glad, by the end of the day, to have taken that walk in the morning. I was less pleased with the commuter traffic when I hit the road heading home around 5:30 pm. Wow. So glad I am generally home earlier. lol

This morning I find a lot to be content with, and it feels good.

I sip my tea and let my mind wander to the day-to-day misery and drama of being a woman in America. My feed is filled with it. Fuck. I’m grateful for menopause, and being generally beyond many of those storms now. You could not pay me to go back to being in my 20s (or 30s), particularly if it meant also having to return to that volatile emotional world of extreme highs and lows, and strange chaotic emotions. I wish I could sit with each of my agitated, distressed, sorrowful, wounded, beautiful friends, listen and let them feel truly heard, give them hugs, and maybe, just maybe find some way to share practices – or perspective. It’s a chasm that is quite difficult to cross, though. I can remember so many similar situations in which an “older sister” or elder in my life did attempt to communicate to 20-something me that this would pass, that I could master and, yes, even control my reactivity – with practice. I could not really fathom what was being said to me. I didn’t believe what I heard when it was shared with me. I did not follow through on any of the practices that were suggested. It was all completely out of reach. I wasn’t ready.

(I still try.)

I’m not saying their experiences “aren’t real” – not at all. Those chaotic emotionally difficult experiences are wholly real, in the sense that they are being experienced, for real. Totally real. Even, in fact, and like it or not, entirely appropriate and reasonable, from some points of view. Culturally, we don’t treat women well. This has unavoidable outcomes in the emotional health of women. We each play a part in creating that culture, and hurting our women. We could do better. (They can do better, too, but it’s a tale for another day, perhaps.)

This morning, I’m just sipping my tea and trying to wake up, and wondering how it is that so many of us, as human beings, being human, are so terribly unhappy… and wondering what I could do to help in any small way. Incremental change over time is slow. So slow. Change does happen, though, and we do become what we practice…

It’s the practicing that’s the challenge, isn’t it? Yeah. Here, too. I do “try”… but… and this is a thing… it’s really more about doing. Many of the practices that have helped me most with emotional volatility require me to “let go” – to practice non-attachment – which means having to yield to circumstances, and give up that righteous feeling of whatever I am feeling so righteously. lol An urgent desire to “be right” – and holding on to that feeling – creates so much fucking misery, and often on many sides of a discussion. I noticed more than once or twice that once I am attached to feeling righteous about something, I’m no longer willing to listen at all, and everything I hear is run through a filter that demands my position be defining for everyone’s experience. I gave up, quite purposefully and deliberately, the “need” to be right. It’s not helpful. (I learn more if I’m wrong, anyway, and often circumstances just aren’t even that clearly defined.)

Listening is hard. It is quite frankly one of the most demanding practices I practice each day. I often thoroughly suck at listening deeply, listening with my full attention, listening skillfully… It takes a ton of practice. Here’s the thing, though, a lot of my experiences of contentment, and balance, have their source in listening – and rarely have their source in talking, in expressing myself, or in “being right”. (Here’s where I slip in a reminder that “listening deeply” needs to be something I also do for myself; really hearing the woman in the mirror, understanding my experience and needs, also requires practice.)

One very cool thing about practicing practices, though? It doesn’t matter at all how many times I fail to “get it quite right”… I can keep practicing. I can begin again. 🙂

I like the sound of the phrase ‘The Art of Being’. I find something contained within those simple words that hints at more than the practical details of practicing practices and the slow pace of incremental change over time; it suggests nuances of self and experience that exist beyond the logistics of resources and effort in practices. As lovely as it sounds, however, the Art of Being remains tangled up in practices that need practicing. As with being an amazing singer, or gifted artist, perhaps, the beauty of raw talent is a wonder that holds potential to be further improved upon with skill, craftsmanship, and experience…all things that come from practice, and possibly some coaching or education.

Sorting out ‘art’ from ‘science’, and taking those next steps from talent (or good fortune) to skill and craftsmanship, to design and engineering, is an experience of its own. It is the journey from awareness to real understanding. From “I’m doing it!” to “Of course, I’ve got this.” From asking questions to… understanding, or at least to the threshold of building real understanding. To be clear, I am still asking questions, and still approaching my circumstances and experience with a beginner’s mind in every  moment that I remain mindful to do so; there are still practices involved, still requiring verbs, will, and choice.

I am rereading the Four Agreements; a worthy starting point on any journey of self.

I am rereading The Four Agreements; a worthy starting point on any journey of self.

For me, now, the ‘art’ in The Art of Being speaks to an increased level of ‘ease’ within myself, and how I approach my experience moment-to-moment. It implies a heightened level of acceptance, of self-compassion, and self-appreciation. It implies a reduction in assumptions, expectations, and attachment resulting in an increased level of calm, contentment, and even merriment. I expect to find that someone skilled in The Art of Being will be emotionally self-sufficient, accepting of themselves and not inclined to take the emotions or experience of others personally, and to be so without doing emotional harm to others thoughtlessly or by intention.

I feel a bit as I do out on a long hike, checking my map for significant landmarks, intersections, places I’d like to stop, or turn toward another direction…I’ve got my eye on the next turn, the next goal, and the signpost I am looking for reads ‘The Art of Being’. I’m not discontent on this path so clearly marked ‘Practicing the Practices’, and it is an important part of my journey. This is, however, a journey; there is more life to live, more ground to cover.  I am my own cartographer, and I am placing an ‘x’ on this particular spot…right over…here. The Art of Being seems a good direction to head, a worthy goal, and a good place to find myself farther along the way. This is not a journey about destinations as much as it is about steps, and continuance, and walking on…

Taking time to consider the journey, to rest, to observe, to enjoy, all have value of their own; there is no need to rush life.

Taking time to consider the journey, to rest, to observe, to enjoy, all have value of their own; there is no need to rush life, now is lovely.

One of the challenges for me day-to-day is remaining committed to the practices that seem most effective, and not allowing myself to become distracted by old patterns, ineffective programming, and moments of distress caused by the clash between historical expectations and change over time. It is almost inevitable in the context of relationships that (because we are each having our own experience) I may occasionally feel a bit like some mysterious quantum particle – I’m not quite in the place I’m expected to be, as a person, but it isn’t obvious ‘where I’m at’ until a specific outcome is observed – but having made the observation, I may have already moved on to better things by way of that very observation, itself. Similarly, I may have a sense that I’ve ‘come so far’, only to observe that in some moment, the incremental change is far smaller than anticipated, at least right then. It’s hard to keep up with, myself. I continue to practice the practices that are most effective, and I am learning to set aside the expectations altogether and give myself a break from constant criticism, and demands, and enjoy the journey in my own good company.

I am using my current search for a live/work space to promote deeper understanding of where I am in life, now, as well as putting focus on ongoing challenges with attachment; investing willfully in my own needs feels powerful, and provocatively hints at growth to come, in an environment uniquely suited to me. Although it feels ‘overdue’, I don’t allow myself criticism of the relevant decision-making that put it off so long; each of those decision-making points in life have been important, and each one handled in the way that seemed best at the time, based on my understanding of events, and of self, in that moment. Regret and bullying myself over past choices drives stress, feeds attachment, and continues the sort of self-defeating beat down that impedes clear thinking in the present. Besides – I deserve better than that from me. When I treat myself badly, I also make it much more difficult to treat others well.

The weekend was pretty good. I enjoyed it a great deal. I had a couple challenging moments yesterday, both missed opportunities to more skillfully manage my emotional experience, and to more clearly express myself, both very illustrative of how much further there is to go on this journey, and how much value there is in love. Wonderfully, they were both moments, and moments pass, in fact – in the case of yesterday, both challenging moments passed by like spring showers, and didn’t linger. Progress.

There is more to do, and farther to go. There is life is to be lived, and there is pleasure to be enjoyed, and further progress to make. There is a woman I love, to smile at in the mirror. I’ve got practices to practice as I continue down this path, on my way to The Art of Being.