Archives for posts with tag: understanding

I am sipping my coffee – this morning it seems very ordinary, and at some earlier point in life I might have spent some measure of time inclined to troubleshoot the coffee-making, or perhaps poured it out in frustration and made a new cup of coffee. This morning, I am sipping my coffee and recognizing that it is adequate, not bad, just not worth raving about…but some coffees are like that, right? Good enough to drink…not quite good enough to write a favorable review.

I slept well this morning, with few interruptions and no nightmares. I woke slowly, and took my time with my yoga, meditation, and shower. It doesn’t seem the sort of morning that requires rushing through things – it’s rare than any morning actually requires rushing through things, but some of them seem to want it. Rushing is not my preference. I take my time. I sip my coffee and grin at my awareness that taking my time is not, by itself, what makes a great cup of coffee.

A moment of reflection over coffee

A moment of reflection over coffee

There’s something on the edge of my consciousness, and understanding of something that I haven’t quite managed, perhaps, waiting to be recognized more fully, and embraced, or perhaps shared…like the way my nose tickles before I sneeze, I sense the understanding on the edge of my awareness. The morning is chilly, and autumn approaches. There are other things crowding into my experience, begging to be noticed: the sweater I am wearing to work wraps me in softness, paintings I hung last night tug at my senses yearning to be viewed again, the stiffness in my spine that characterizes nearly every morning at this stage in my life, the soft ping of incoming email… The rich immediacy of the moment has so much to offer that I find it quite difficult to try to focus on something on the extreme edge of my awareness, teasing me that there is more to understand about myself, or the world. I’m okay with that; understanding comes with time, and waiting on it doesn’t wear it down, or make it less worthy.

Autumn approaches.

Autumn approaches.

I love the poetry of language, and the nuances available in a rich vocabulary. It is possible to say so much, so clearly… Sometimes I fail my intention, and lose the meaning in the words. It’s actually quite common. I am practicing simpler ways of communicating in direct conversations in my relationships, and not because the poetry of language has no value on its own, but rather because I actually enjoy it when my needs are met in my relationships. Sometimes that requires fewer or simpler words. I find myself wondering if my traveling partner has noticed any change? Simple, practical, direct – and not in an unkind or terse way – is useful in day-to-day communication between friends, lovers, family, co-workers. I guess that seems obvious… I find it a challenge, more often than I would like to. I sometimes come across as terse or abrasive when I am being direct. Sometimes simple and practical language, coming from me, sounds…child like, or over-simplified. There’s balance to find, and I have not yet found it. I like colorful language and clear descriptions and don’t necessarily get why there is an improvement in describing someone as having ‘curly hair’ versus ‘she is surrounded by vast clouds of soft brown bouncing when she talks’. If two curly haired women were standing side by side, you would know immediately which of the two was the one I meant if I use the poetry language has to offer. I have much to learn about language, and communication. I could just point and grunt, I suppose…but I do like words.

Simple words are beautiful, too. They require greater skill to be poetic. Coming to that understanding finds me exploring shorter formats poetically, and in prose; can I say it with fewer words? Can I communicate accurately – and simply? More of life’s curriculum. I absolutely detest “tl:dr” finding it an extreme discourtesy.  I also like being heard – and there is great value in being able to easily communicate in the broadest possible circumstances with the greatest number of people. I am still a student, even of words, even of language – even of poetry. This amazing journey offers much to learn.

Even the flowers know autumn approaches.

Even the flowers know autumn approaches.

I have a long weekend ahead. I plan to paint this weekend, after I run a couple errands on Friday. I will likely spend much of the weekend alone, which means far fewer words. Where will inspiration take me? I am eager to invest the time in me, no timers, no alarm clocks, no calendar…just an artist at work. Simple enough.

"Monochromatic Flower" 18" x 20" acrylic on canvas 2010

“Monochromatic Flower” 18″ x 20″ acrylic on canvas 2010 . A single color on canvas seems simple enough…very challenging to photograph. (It’s a metaphor. 🙂 )

Today is a good day for simple words, and simple things. Today is a good day to savor simple pleasures. Today is a good day to communicate big ideas with fewer syllables. Today is new and fresh and exciting – and wide open with possibilities…what will I do to change the world?

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.

We have language. It’s one of the interesting features of the creatures that we are, and of our experience. Words have extraordinary power; our understanding of the world, and of our lives and who we are, rest heavily on the words we choose to express that understanding.

We even understand how limiting that can be, and our understanding is portrayed in a simple bon mot, “A picture is worth a thousand words.”  We love words, we use words, even knowing our words cannot tell the entire tale.

Atlas?

Atlas?

I probably use too many words. Even using so many, I sometimes find myself struggling for clarity, or to express myself accurately. Precision and poetry are two very different tools to tell a tale. I tend to be very frank, to the point of lacking common boundaries. I also tend to favor ‘pretty’ language, to the point of sacrificing clarity for something that ‘sounds better’ to me. My TBI has a thing or two to say about the way I use language and why, another tale for a different day. I bet it can be difficult for people to understand me, more often than I’m aware.

I’ve been more about questions than answers for a while now… how nice for me, I suppose, only… some questions function best immediately preceding an actual answer. lol I mean… “How do I get to the train station?” is likely to be most efficiently followed by actual directions, or a simple “I don’t know” than anything else.  I’m honestly not sure I’d do that well on it, if it were a test.  With me it might be something more like this:

Person “How do I get to the train station?”

Me “I rarely ride the train, these days, although I prefer it to flying. Well, unless you count the commuter trains…”

Person “How do I get there?”

Me “You’d have to get downtown. If you want Amtrak.  If you’re just using the light fail, you could grab it a lot of places. Where are you going?”

Person “To the train station. How do I get there?”

Me “To the train station? Or down town?”

Person “To the train station!”

Me “Oh, the same way as if you were going to go down town – you take the light rail.”

Person “Where do I catch the light rail to the train station?”

Me “Right here.”

Once upon a time at a train station...

Once upon a time at a train station…

Oh, yeah. So me. I do try to answer the questions I am asked as simply as possible, although it wasn’t something on my radar until a couple years ago. I often thought it was strange how jacked up people could get over ‘a simple conversation about a [train station]’.  Someone who loves me very much, enough to care that I be able to communication easily with other people, finally sat down with me and explained what he saw in our conversations – with actual sketches, diagramming of sentences, and propositional calculus; I got it.  Fixing it is an entirely different matter. Sometimes it is as basic as a preferred sentence structure, a syntactical detail, that confounds real understanding simply by being unexpected to the listener, or inexplicably uncommon in general speech. lol Sometimes ‘pretty’ gets in the way of conveying information. Pretty is distracting.

One of the bits of weirdness I am working on is a clear preference verbally for ‘phrasing things in the negative’. For example, if asked “How are you?”, I would be more likely to say “Not bad, thanks!” than “Good, thanks!”.  It’s pretty consistent with a variety of types/intentions of questions, too. I regularly reply to questions using negatively phrased replies, that seem to satisfy the question, mostly by way of dismissing it, rather than providing information. I don’t think I have a spare lifetime to study the phenomenon, instead I am simply working on changing how I reply to questions.

(Is it important whether the challenge I have with answering questions is a byproduct of a traumatic upbringing, or a brain injury? How many hours of my life have I wasted trying to source something solely because I wasn’t satisfied with it, instead of simply acknowledging my dissatisfaction and acting to change?)

The title? Oh, that – well, simply this: Dune would have been a very different movie, wouldn’t it, if, when Paul is asked “Tell me of your home world, Usul,”  he had replied “It’s not like here.”  I realized, upon considering it, that finding balance, contentment, satisfaction, and meaning is a different journey, and a different experience, when I am living what it is – rather than what it is not.

Well…here we all are. Here I am, anyway. There are opportunities to wonder about the rest of it. It’s been a year, to the day, since I started this blog. I was somewhere very different as a person one year ago. My understanding of myself was – and remains – incomplete, but certainly I am in as different a place with that as a journey of 365 days could possibly make, for me. Very different, indeed. Change, as comical as it looks on the page, is a constant.

People do change, therefore they can change.  It is not a given that they will change. That last is rather dependent on their own desire to change, for their own reasons, succeeding based on their will and actions.  These seem obvious enough observations, but I did not have that understanding a year ago.

We are each having our own experience. That, too, seems damned obvious to me in 2014, but I have an understanding of myself that recognizes and acknowledges that this was not ‘always’ my understanding of things.  It’s difficult to be certain quite when I became really sold on that understanding – that we are each all having our own experience. It feels like I ‘always’ understood this – but I can prove in my own journals and past writing that I did not, and also that the lack of this understanding in prior years was something that really had an effect on my ability to learn compassion, to build intimacy, to provide emotional support – even impeded my ability to listen well to others and respect or value their perspective.

Every step I take illuminates another step to be taken – like walking with a flashlight in the dark. I can recall, at some past points, saying something casual or flippant about ‘being a work in progress’, generally to minimize some mishap, or the consequence of some poor decision. This past year I’ve spent a lot of time learning what a very active thing progress actually tends to be – there is so much more to it than being aware it needs to happen, or reading up on some process for getting it done.  ‘Work in progress’ is an incredibly active thing, with a lot of verbs involved, and a hearty helping of will and action, and practice doesn’t lead to mastery, it leads to good habits and improvements over time.  I do not always feel up to the task, and I am surprised and even satisfied with myself for how far I’ve come in a year.

I feel powerfully committed to myself (that’s very new), and to building a good life, good relationships, a good heart, a compassionate nature, and to leave when my time is up able to say the world is, in some small way, the better for having endured my humble efforts. This is the most concise statement I know how to make about ‘who I am’ at the end of this one year.  I doubt I’d have made such a statement in any earlier time in my life.

Words like ‘mindfulness’ and ‘compassion’ have become everyday parts of my vocabulary over the past year.  I am learning new things; listening, caring, understanding, empathizing, sharing – no strings, less baggage.  It still seems strange to me that so much of what I’ve needed all along has come from within… and that ‘taking care of me’ isn’t about being ‘selfish’, defensive, territorial, or confrontational, but is very much about living a contented life, and enjoying a sense of well-being, by ensuring I see to my own basic needs with as much commitment and skill as I do the needs of others.

I am spending time today contemplating this one year journey because, as journey’s go, it’s been it’s been one of the most meaningful I’ve ever taken, and one that I understand more clearly now to be both ongoing, and worthy of more active participation. It’s my life, after all.  Sure, had I understood some things more clearly earlier in life, I’d have made some different choices perhaps, or had some very different conversations, but there is still so much ahead – many more moments, opportunities to choose, to talk, to act – to change. My will is truly my own – when I use it.

So are my words. This year I’ve used this blog to explore my world of words in a more honest way, with greater vulnerability, learning to share my experience without using emotional weaponry, and with consideration of possible outcomes beyond words on a page. Using my words to understand my experience more clearly, myself, without endless rumination or becoming mired in some momentary drama, and without over-burdening the emotional resources of my loved ones has been eye-opening regarding the limitations of words and language, and how it can direct my experience – and how I can learn to use those words to direct my experience,  myself, from within.  (Thanks for helping with all that, by the way, I appreciate you, and the time you’ve taken to share this journey with me in some small way.)

Soft jazz in the background, a latte gone cold on the side table, a soft gray morning sky on the other side of the window, the household sleeping… just one year? The distance between where I was a year ago, and where I am this morning can’t really be measured in time or distance.  The journey isn’t even completed – there is so much more to learn, to do, to experience, to share, to understand, to contemplate, to enjoy… This is just one moment of many. 

There is a lot to enjoy. This has definitely been a year to explore how very true that is.  There is a lot to enjoy.  Enjoying life is also a choice.

Here's to free will and good choices!

Here’s to free will and good choices!

Today I…