Archives for posts with tag: we become what we practice

It’s early. I woke around 3 am. I napped until shortly after 6 am. I’ve been cranking tunes since then, although it’s much too early for having the stereo on – sort of the whole point of headphones, so… no problem. Headphones it is.

Sunshine streams into the apartment through windows open to the morning breeze, blinds raised. The goosebumps on my arms don’t discourage me in the slightest; it’s the scent of flowers on the breeze that I’m after, and it delights me. Chilly? I would be if I hadn’t put on a sweater… it’s sort of the point of having sweaters, right? So, I put one on.

I caught a glimpse of myself reflected on the patio door, and another as I passed by the bathroom mirror. I’m not yet in the shape I’d like to be in, and my plump curves are a bit plumper than is ideal for my desired longevity and general day-to-day comfort and experience of wellness.  Yeah, middle-age comes with some of that for a lot of us, I suspect. Taking care of my health over time matters, so I make choices that meet that need, including changes in diet, changes in fitness plan, and (at least for now) getting the medical care I need to address longer term concerns about my health.

Professionally, too, there have been (no doubt are, and will be) choices to make that could better or worsen my experience of life, itself, and even my experience of… self.

I sip my coffee – it’s cold now. I’m distracted by the music, and the sunshine on morning dew drops. I’m thinking about how much fun I used to have with the “character building” part of role-playing games; the fun of being able to choose who I would become. This morning I am understanding that indeed, this is a “power” I actually have – we all do. I can choose who I will become! I can choose my hair color, the clothes I wear, what words and phrases and style I express, and what qualities I will embrace… I create my future “back story” with the things I choose to do today… I can practice different behavior, learn different thinking, and literally become someone very different than I am today. I am already someone different than I was when I was very young. I can do it willfully, through selection of behavior, values, actions… or through mindlessly repeating memes, slogans, and succumbing to advertising and literal “programming” offered by the media. I can choose who I will become – or a persona to live within, like a tiny box, can be provided for me.

We become what we practice.

We become what we practice.

We become what we practice.

We become what we practice.

What are you practicing?

Begin again.

Seriously. Give this some thought; all it takes to make the world better is that we each take steps to do so. No kidding. Just don’t be a dick to other people. Be kind. Be giving. Be open. Love. Treat all people well. Be genuine. Relax. Enjoy life without ruining it for other people. Be inclusive. Be curious. Assume positive intent. Set clear boundaries and take good care of yourself. Did I mention being kind? Yeah, do a lot more of that. Be patient. Be compassionate. Just be. Be here. Be present. Listen deeply. Recognize there is much you do not know. Clean as you go. Respect boundaries. Get consent. Be kind. Be kinder than that. Let go of assumptions and expectations. Be mindful that people are not property.

Remember the part about being kind? Do even more of that. Yep. Verbs. Omg – and all the practice? Yeah, that goes on indefinitely. Easy? Well… easy-ish. Do your best. Do that better tomorrow. Keep at it; we become what we practice.

We can begin again together, this morning, right now. One thing at a time. Start with the person in the mirror. Be kind to that person too. 🙂

…Please don’t tell me this won’t change the world. We can’t know that until we’ve actually tried. 😉

I definitely “feel 53” this morning. I’m okay with that; I am 53. 🙂 The show last night was amazing. It was not really “a concert” or.. well… it was a fantastical stage production centering around music, themed on Alice in Wonderland, attended by beings willing to suspend expectations of the ordinary for a night and just… go with it. A needed, and worthy, break from the routine. There were dancers, jugglers, performance artists of several sorts, and painters practicing their craft live, to massive fabulous bass-y beats. It was quite wonderful. I got home very late, and I had planned and prepared for this to be the case… but, there were verbs involved, choices made, and of course today I begin again.

Down the Rabbit Hole 2017 at the Crystal Ballroom

My ears are ringing like crazy. I took ear plugs with me, and when I wasn’t on the dance floor, had a comfortable vantage point from the balcony of the historic theater venue – my ears are still ringing. Experience suggests my tinnitus will be a mild impairment for at least today, then fading into the background to exist as a mild persistent distraction once again. I’m tired. I can look at the number of hours that I slept and figure I’ve “gotten enough sleep”, but I feel groggy, and inclined to return to bed – but I won’t sleep now that I’m awake and consciousness is filled with morning sunshine. I hurt all over. As I think about that, my pain worsens. That’s a practical detail worthy of consideration; if I make my pain my focus, it becomes the most important thing in my awareness, and thereby becomes more prominent. I take a deep breath and let it go; it doesn’t stop me hurting altogether, but seems to reduce the magnitude somewhat.

Why all the bitching? I smile and sip my coffee, because I know something about me and this peculiar singular journey that is my experience; when I know where I am, I am more easily able to move on from that place. The challenge is to make the observation without making the observed detail a theme, or the focus of my experience, when it is something painful, uncomfortable, or perceivably “negative”. It’s worth remembering, too, that this also opens the door to more willfully lingering over, and savoring, the nurturing, delightful, pleasant, and uplifting experiences – deliberating shifting gears to make those a focus of my experience, or a theme, results in useful changes in implicit biases. The bitching, in this case, is structured and part of a process with a clear point. (Thanks cognitive science!)

A welcome seat with a decent view; the lamp included in the shot because it’s pretty cool, also. lol

I think over the high points of the evening… dancing with my Traveling Partner (we attended with another friend)… the music… the wow factor of the varied costumes of both the performers and the attendees… soaking in the lights, the scene, the wonder… finding a good seat with an unobstructed view that remained mine more or less all evening (even though I left it and returned several times)… losing track of my partner and his friend in the crowd and dancing dancing dancing through and among and around thinking I would eventually find them, and losing myself in the music instead (I found them when I returned to my seat! lol).

Sold out show.

My tinnitus fades into the background as I linger over the recollections of the evening. My back aches less. I forget that I’m rather amusingly sitting here with noise cancelling headphones on… but not playing any sounds. Going back to bed still sounds pretty nice… My eye wanders to the list of household chores I had planned to do today, from the vantage point of yesterday morning… I chuckle rather merrily and give silent side eye to the woman who wrote that list yesterday; I’m seriously doubting I will do even one thing on that list today. I’m okay with that. Today, rest and take care of me. Tomorrow, I’ll begin again. 🙂

The barking began at dawn. It continues even now. It’s not unusual; I have a neighbor with a dog that barks any time it is left outside, which is… often. It is frustrating and annoying, and incessant. The neighbor has received many complaints about the dog and the barking, and the reply is generally the same, “Well, I’ve tried to teach him to stop barking, but it doesn’t work. Dogs bark.” I gave that some thought, at the time, and even during the six months that I was home every day, I don’t recall ever seeing that neighbor working with their dog, at all. I wondered then, and this morning, what exactly my neighbor “tried”. I don’t see anything going on that looks like practice or training.

Dogs can indeed be trained not to bark (at the moon, at shadows, at strangers, because they are lonely…), it requires practice. Do the thing. Do it again. And again another time, and again after that. Then repeat all the practicing. Begin again, again. There are verbs involved, and a practice is not a noun, however much it may seem to be based on its function in a sentence. It requires consideration. Awareness. Intention. Will. Did I mention the practicing?

I’m sure my neighbor would be irked with me to hear me suggest that she isn’t actually making any particular effort to train her dog not to bark every hour of the day it is left outside. No doubt she believes her internal narrative that she “tried everything” and “nothing worked”. Haven’t we all said as much to ourselves – and our friends and loved ones – about something? Is it really the true literal truth in fact? Have I indeed “tried everything”? Have I truly practiced the needed practices with the necessary constancy? Have I tried, failed, and begun again sufficiently often? Or… did I try, fail, and then tell myself that I tried and failed and therefore “it didn’t work”? I see a difference there. Once I noticed that difference, it became more difficult to allow a negative experience to be who I am; we become what we practice.

Yes, there are verbs involved. No, change doesn’t happen solely because I’ve accepted that change would have value, or even because I am desperate to experience change. One evening in the yard training my chronically barking dog isn’t going to change that dog’s behavior long-term (or maybe at all) – practice is an ongoing thing.  So it also is with anxiety, with depression, with anger, with emotional volatility, with disorder, with sloth, with overeating, with nail biting… Hell, any number of troubling or challenging human experiences can be eased with one practice or another – if change is actually practiced. Fail. Begin again. Practice. We become what we practice. (Not one word of that implies “easy” or suggests effort would not be required.)

It works in a subtle way; even practicing ignoring that barking dog has an outcome rooted in incremental change over time.

Is your dog barking? What will you do about it? Endure it? Change it? There are verbs involved, and the choices are yours. So is the requirement to practice.

About that barking...? (photo by Emma Harris, used with permission)

About that barking…? (photo by Emma Harris, used with permission)

A very long time ago, I “tried meditation” and “it didn’t work for me”. I went forward in life for many years (decades) quite convinced by that experience that “meditation doesn’t work”, and gave it no further thought. My PTSD symptoms worsened over time, rather than improving. After all, dogs bark. We become what we practice. I didn’t understand why I wasn’t getting any better… hadn’t I “tried everything”?

In 2012, I stopped trying. I wasn’t sure what I would do instead, hell, I wasn’t sure I even wanted to live any more. I mention it because that seems a long time ago now, although it has been only 4 years since February 2013, when I started actually practicing meditation (and some other things) – and I do mean really practicing. Daily. Reliably. Even when I “don’t have time”. Even when “it isn’t convenient”. Even though I “wasn’t sure I was doing it right”. Even though I “wasn’t sure it would work”. Even when I found myself certain “it isn’t working”. Even when I thought “my life was falling completely to pieces”. Even when I thought “love might be lost” over my chaos and damage. Even when I wasn’t sure I wanted to live at all. I kept practicing, and failing, and beginning again.

We become what we practice. By practicing calm, I have become calmer. By practicing perspective and sufficiency, I have gained perspective, and learned what is “enough” for me. By practicing non-violence, I have become more peaceful. By practicing feeling content, I have become more able (and likely) to experience contentment. By practicing being awake and aware in this moment, I have become more present in my life, and in my relationships. By practicing listening, I become more likely to hear what is being shared. By practicing kindness, I have become kinder.

Today is a good day to practice being the human being I most want to be. Isn’t every day? 😉

A steady rain falls this morning. I woke a number of times during the night, and it was raining then, too. My dreams were lively, rich in surreal detail, and graphic, but lacking in emotional content. However grim the imagery was, I felt nothing; my brain was just “taking out the trash”, clearing buffers, wiping away bits and pieces left behind that serve no useful long-term purpose. No nightmares, just data processing in moving pictures. It’s important that our consciousness be ready for a new day, it only makes sense that while I sleep, my brain is busy in cycles, resting, getting caught up on things, resting more.

(Note: I am not a sleep scientist, this blog post is not science, my subjective experience has not been rigorously scrutinized and peer-reviewed, following years of replicable research. There are people doing those things and they are very much worth reading! I’m using words, to share my subjective experience, my own thinking, lacking in any hardcore vetting against known science. My writing may serve someone a useful purpose, be helpful, or an entertaining read, but please don’t settle on me as settled science; do your homework. Use your critical thinking skills. Walk your own mile.)

I woke feeling more than usually rested. I woke feeling more rested yesterday, too. Both mornings follow days with much less involvement with my handheld device, my computer, or the internet, generally. I feel less distracted moment-to-moment. I feel less emotionally volatile. I am less easily frustrated. I feel more content. I find myself wondering how many generations of saturating all-day computer use human beings will commit to before becoming actually able to fully multi-task their consciousness, for real? (No, you can’t. There is science on that.) No doubt over time our consciousness will change with the tools we use regularly, we are adaptable. We become what we practice. Epigenetics is real. Our children’s children will have different characteristics than our Great-grandparents did. Some of those differences may indeed be cognitive. More to the point in this moment, though, is that setting aside the complicated dense multi-channel continuous streaming information into my consciousness for a couple of days has had real value on my overall state of being. I feel more relaxed. My rest is more restful. I feel calmer, less anxious, more easily able to “hear myself think”. I think I may have gotten more done, too, using my time more efficiently, and spending no minutes staring into a repeating feed full of copies, memes, and reshares for unmeasured hours of the day.

A favorite trail was flooded. It was necessary to choose another way.

A favorite trail was flooded. It was necessary to choose another way.

The rain continues to fall quite steadily. It rained yesterday, and I enjoyed the short hike I took through the park in spite of it. Time well-spent, in the wind and weather, breathing the fresh air, seeing the trees tossing in the wind, and hearing the water birds on the marsh calling to each other. This morning the rain is falling harder, enough harder that some of the fun of hiking would be washed away in it. So… perhaps not this morning…

Favorite places for a moment of meditation are flooded, too.

Favorite places for a moment of meditation are flooded, too.

I’ll spend the day taking time for being here, now, and enjoying (or enduring) what is real, and live, and in front of me. Tidying up a bit more. Taking out the trash, the recycling, and maintaining order. Those are useful practices, too. I have found that the state of order – or disorder – in my environment reflects the state of order – or disorder – in my internal world, as well. My consciousness seems only ever as ordered as my environment. Keeping my head, minding my emotional wellness, tends to result in more will to keep my home tidied up and very neat. Keeping a tidy orderly household seems to promote and support my cognitive wellness. I don’t know what the science says about all that; my experience confirms it for me, and as “ways” go, it works for me. 🙂

Today is a good day for practicing practices. Today is a good day to enjoy the woman in the mirror. Today is a good day to be open, to be kind, to be aware – and mindful that change is. It may change the world – we have that power. 🙂