going rogue

With gratitude to my friend (and former health coach) Jeff for that phrase in the post title, I too am going rogue with my meditation and mindfulness practice. Last night I went to Shambhala to listen to a public talk on the “Culture of Awake.” (“As more and more people introduce principles and disciplines of wakefulness into their lives, such as mindfulness or yoga, we are together cultivating a culture of awake. In this talk, we will explore some of the basic principles of this culture that can give deeper meaning to how we live our lives and help transform our world into a better place.”) I’ve been feeling heavy and blue, and hoped that listening to the talk would lift my spirits in some way.

Of course that’s an unfair expectation of a talk — it’s not the speaker’s job to do that for me. He was a perfectly lovely smiley man who waved his hands in circles the whole evening, and he did do this one exercise that I found meaningful, and I’ll come back to it at the end.

mindfulnessBut he opened by saying that the whole world is becoming awake, isn’t it wonderful. And he had this blissful smile on his face. He reminded us that mindfulness made the cover of Time Magazine, and you can’t be more mainstream than that! And I felt thrown out of the room by his opening premise. No it isn’t! The world is not becoming awake! Just before I left for the talk I watched news of ISIS destroying ancient art, and a report on the discovery of the identity of Jihadi John, the Brit responsible for beheading so many people.

We’re freezing and the global climate is transforming dangerously and too many Americans (and others) laugh and mock and say “then how is this ‘global warming'” with idiotic gaping grins betraying their stupidity. Morons are in charge of important subcommittees. The world looks pretty dangerous and stupid and threatening to me, and I am in pretty deep despair about the cruelty of the Republicans in charge. (The Democrats have their own problems, including naivete and being bought and all kinds of things, but they don’t tend toward the same breathtaking cruelty.)

The world does not seem like it’s waking up to me. However much the affluent white people sitting on cushions in gold-painted rooms might say it is, it just isn’t.

What is the point and purpose of meditation and mindfulness? Is it to become smug in your own practice? Is it to delude yourself into thinking this is how the world is? Surely not; that seems the very opposite of the point, at least as I understand it. Isn’t the point of it to see more clearly what is?? To get rid of the story as much as possible — and this seems as dangerous a story as any other. This is like any other delusion, surely, even if it’s dharma-ed by a dude on a cushion in front of an altar.

And so I do the exercise he taught, which he called “Finding Home:”

  1. Feel my weight
  2. Move the center of gravity from my head down to my heart. Feel my embodiment.
  3. Open my awareness out to the world — from which I’ve never really been separate.

And from that position, I try to encounter the world as it is, not as I really wish it were. I continue my own meditation practice alone, I remain mindful as much as I can, I find value for myself in these things, and I think I let the rest go, the institutional parts. I seek the lightness and kindness and compassion that meditation and mindfulness can bring, but I will do that on my own.

And sheesh.

those funny Buddhists

They are funny, you know. The Buddhists I know (not just junior-Buddhist-wannabes like me) are so light, they laugh all the time. All the time. They laugh at what they say, at what you say, at the weather. So funny, so lighthearted. I want some of that.

They’re also funny in their love of numbered lists. I love a good numbered list, don’t get me wrong, but I bow before the organization they’ve arrived at in understanding what it is to be in the world. Here’s a cheat sheet:

cheatsheet

Isn’t that great? And it’s the ‘minimal edition’! Essentially it just comes down to a couple of things, so all these various stages and kinds and precepts unfold out of that center. They’re very subtle in their thinking. Marnie studied Tibetan Buddhism in college and some of her books are still on my shelves — marvels of the outline, those philosophies. I love a good outline myself.

And have you ever seen Tibetan monks debating? It’s loud and includes this fantastic hand-slapping movement. I watched one video of senior monks debating junior monks about the hungry ghost, and OH the shouting and slapping.

Isn’t that funny? I’d love to know the origin of that strange hand slapping/sliding technique; I do know that when the senior monk stops speaking, he does that to indicate that the junior monk should respond. Such a ‘violent’ behavior for such peaceful people.

* * *

Last night I did a really beautiful Level 2 Vinyasa Flow class (“Evening Yoga Flow,” 45 minutes) with Jo Tastula, one of my favorite teachers at YogaGlo. At the end she led us through a bit of gratitude meditation, asking us first to think of one thing from our day that filled us with gratitude. Katie had sent me a video of Oliver playing with the quilt I made for him, and laughing and loving it, so that’s what I meditated on — and it’s a whole complex, that little video. Sweet happy Oliver, Katie as loving giggling mama, my lucky role in their lives, and the pleasure of having made something for my grandson that he loves. At the end of the meditation, which we did with our hands resting palm-up on our knees, we took our arms slowly out into a big circle up to touching our palms over our head, while we chanted an OM. Then as the -M rumbled in our chests we pulled our palms slowly down to namaste at our hearts. My gratitude swelled in that moment outward, to my teacher, to YogaGlo, to yoga, to my beautiful little home, to my place in the world, to my connections to others, to my beating heart and still mind, to the world to the universe to Being. I love it when that happens, don’t you?

 

I’m not saying it’s magic, but….

Remember a couple of days ago I wrote a post about sitting with feelings — the ‘you are the blue sky’ one? In that post I talked about sitting with extreme anxiety that seemed to be due to a memory trying to come back. WELL! Once I was sitting with the anxiety and I realized that all that physical stuff was the memory. It was the memory of how it felt then, that specific and horrible dread and anxiety in the night — and just to be sure I figured it out, my little mind kept making me ‘see’ a man standing in my room at night.

!!! That was the memory, how it felt. I acknowledged it, understood it, accepted it.

Since that insight, I have not had a moment of anxiety. I haven’t been waking up with it in the middle of the night, I haven’t been seeing the man, my heart has not done that pounding thing. I can breathe. I am amazed.

wonderWould I have gotten through it so quickly if I’d treated the symptoms to make them go away? Taken Klonopin constantly, had a beer here and there? Would it have passed so fast if I’d distracted myself so I didn’t have to feel it? (I’m not sure that would’ve been possible, it was pretty intense.) Would it have moved through if I’d indulged it and gone to talk to someone about this extreme anxiety? Of course I have no idea. But I think not.

Here.

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Happy Friday everyone. Stay warm if you’re in the north! And don’t be afraid of your feelings, they won’t kill you. And be kind. For heaven’s sake.

 

I do it my way

“You are the sky. Everything else is just the weather.” ~Pema Chodron

I’ve been steadily meditating on that idea since last June, and it fits so beautifully — of course — with the focus on mindfulness that has also been part of my life since June. Meditation and mindfulness help you develop an ability to be in the present and simply allow what is, to be what is. (Newsflash: it is anyway, whether you ‘allow’ it or not.) The blue sky is your clear mind, which is always available even when the sky is filled with storm clouds of stories and emotions. Your clear mind is there, behind it all. It’s available to you.

If you’re lucky, the stormy weather is ordinary. A too-busy schedule that leaves you resentful and overwhelmed. Drudgery that leaves you frustrated or resentful. A bit of trouble with a friend that leaves you feeling abandoned or hurt. A project you’re behind on that makes you fearful you might lose your job. Various issues with the kids, your spouse. Those ordinary things can feel pretty big from time to time, but they’re great to practice on. Having a clear mind and not getting swept away by the stories and emotional overwhelm can be helpful (and it certainly feels better). Sometimes ‘what is’ is dire, of course — your loved one is dying, or facing harrowing treatment. Your child has to be hospitalized and the prognosis is scary. Your child is going through anything dreadful, actually. You find a lump and you have a family history. I am so so sorry, and the fact that your clear mind — the blue sky — is available to you is probably not too helpful right then no matter how much practice you’ve done, although it’s good if you can find some of it.

see? look at the bottom corner of the storm clouds...there's still blue sky behind it. There's always blue sky behind it. And the storm always passes, no matter how terrible it is.
See? Look at the bottom left corner of the storm clouds…there’s still blue sky behind it. There’s always blue sky behind it. And the storm always passes, no matter how terrible it is.

Sometimes the trouble simply comes from within. I can provide two examples from my own life of different kinds of trouble from within. The first is my son, and my heartache and anger and worry and heartache (worth saying twice) that he has again abandoned us all and refused to communicate with any of us for the last 19 months. That’s how long it’s been since he has said a single word to anyone. My heart aches, I miss him, I’m pissed off at him, I feel helpless, I cry a lot sometimes, I’ll get caught off guard by something that reminds me of him and I feel the devastation of his absence. I imagine he’ll never come back, that something bad will happen to him and I won’t know. My helplessness overwhelms me sometimes I want to lash out, yell at him, write my anger to him, howl to the sky. That’s an awful lot of weather, and here you can surely see that calling it ‘weather’ does not minimize the very real quality of these thoughts and feelings. But I’ll tell you this: meditation has honestly helped me with this. When those feelings and thoughts come, I open my hands and just sit with them. Heartache — I sit there with my hands open and feel the heartache. It hurts, and sometimes I cry. I let it be, I don’t grab it and clutch it to me, I don’t engage in battle with it, I don’t push it away because I don’t want to feel it. I feel it, it is, I remember that I am the sky and this is the weather, I take deep breaths, and the heartache begins to ease. It was a real feeling, it is a real feeling, but without all the story attached to it (stories of blame falling all around, stories of why he’s doing this, stories of the future) it’s a sorrowful and painful feeling, and it appears and is and then fades. It will come back, but I have felt it and it passed along and my clear mind returns.

In this way, actually, I have known the heartache more clearly than if I’d done something else with it. More clearly than if I put my energy into denying it (that doesn’t really work anyway). More clearly than if I sat there clutching it and embellishing it. More clearly than if I turned my head to imagine scenarios in the future. I know my heartache, I have felt it, it hurts, and it drifts away with the moments. It doesn’t stay with me as long as when I try the other approaches, and the more experience I have sitting with it, the sting is a little less, the crushing feeling becomes bearable — because I have born it. This is my heartache. I am stronger than it.

The other inside thing I’m having to sit with is an old memory that’s trying to resurface. For the last several days I’ve been suddenly consumed with anxiety so great my hands shake. My heart has been pounding so hard it can be difficult to breathe. It’s not a panic attack. I’ve been waking up throughout the night and each time my body holds a very specific kind of anxiety, gritty, filled with dread, sickening. I’ve been thinking I see a man standing in my bedroom. I have a pretty good guess what this memory is, but I don’t know yet. This kind of experience used to terrify me, because the things I already remembered were so terrible, how much worse must be the ones that I repressed? It doesn’t terrify me any more when this happens. A friend asked if I surely want to push it back down, build a wall around it, shut it down. But I don’t. I don’t look forward to remembering, but it’s my memory, from my life — not all of which has been great, but I don’t want to know only the super happy peppy stuff, that’s not my life, then. So instead of spinning out fantasies of what the memory might be (“to prepare myself”) or pushing against it, I’ve been dealing with the sudden periods of anxiety by sitting with them. Feeling them (it’s not fun). Allowing them to be. Remembering that I am the sky and this is just the weather. And knowing that I am stronger than them, I have born others, I can bear this, and it’s simply a memory of something, it isn’t real right now. What is real right now is that I am sitting in my living room in my own beautiful house in sunny Austin filled with strength and light and I know I can bear a memory. I know I can bear a feeling. I am strong. So I feel whatever there is to feel and it passes away. And maybe I’m left with a shadow, maybe I feel tired, but it passed like a storm and I will be OK if it comes again, until it’s done. And still then I will be the blue sky. And I deepen my emotional intelligence.

And one time it was simply too much, too big, my anxiety was so huge and I could not breathe and I took half a Klonopin. Because sometimes that’s how it is. That’s real. Meditation is a process, a practice, not a one-time-fix-all, but always always worth the effort. When the physical response stilled just a little bit, I was able to return to sitting and allowing it to be.

I am the blue sky. You are the blue sky. Everything else, it’s just the sometimes-shitty weather.

fighting the not-doing

Doing savasana in Nong Khiaw. Gosh I wish I were there right now.
Doing savasana in Nong Khiaw. Gosh I wish I were there right now.

At the end of a yoga practice, you end in corpse pose — savasana. My yoga teachers always call it “the most important pose” and then they say something about integrating something something something. Before I started doing yoga in earnest, before I undertook this massive mindfulness change in my life, I thought that pose must be great because you’re tired from doing the yoga, so aaah, you get to rest. Silly me.

It’s the hardest pose of the whole practice, whatever the practice entails. Other poses may be difficult to hold, hard to find your way into, they may require a lot of hours of practice to be able to do fully, but they’re hard in such a different way, a kind of fun way. Can I balance like this today? Can my legs become a little straighter today? Are my hamstrings loosening (nope!)? But when I am moving into the pose, it focuses and holds my attention and I am doing. Rib cage lifted and shifted right (hmmm, ok), slide right hand down my leg to the floor (hmmm, ok), and voila. I’m there to some degree.

But in corpse pose, I’m meant to just be. Instead, my mind is racing with things I need to do when I get up, lists I need to make, chores to do, conversations I am in or need to be in, things I want to write. NO NO NO, be. The challenge for people my age is that the task will be completely forgotten if it’s not acted on, but . . . um, so? So what. I’ll make the list, and if something slips off it I will deal. If I miss a chore, um, so? If I completely forget the point of what I wanted to write, OK. But it doesn’t feel that way when those thoughts are pressing on me during savasana. How very hard it is not to do something.

worryAnd not just during this pose, either. When we worry, we feel like we’re doing something. Or rather, if we just stop worrying, we feel guilty because it feels like we don’t care (or however you might construct that). If we’re anxious, and all we’re doing, really, is focusing our mental and emotional energy on thoughts, it can feel impossible NOT to do that. Right? When the lawsuit was hanging over my head and would suddenly rear up again, all my energy got dark and swirled hard inside me as I imagined all the ways it could go badly, all the damage it could cause to my life. Of course it’s retrospect joy to say, “Well, and look: it all came to nothing and so that was wasted time!” But I could also note that however it turned out, all that swirl and worry was wasted time, because it had no impact on what was happening. What it did, though, was to keep me terrified and exhausted. Unless it’s a kind of focused, problem-solving thinking that results in an action that can be taken (even if the action is just a way to help yourself deal emotionally), it’s not “doing” anything. That’s a big lie. When you worry and indulge anxiety, you aren’t really doing anything. You’re indulging thoughts of all the most dire consequences. My worrying, my periods of anxiety, sure aren’t indulging thoughts of how great it might turn out. I’m feeling as if the worst has happened — and it’s not like that prepares me in some way. There have been times in my life when the worst did happen, and the consequences were not lessened because I’d been practicing experiencing them during my worry and anxiety! If anything I was so exhausted by the time they happened I was less help to myself and others.

Oh so easy to say, just don’t do it. Yeah, right. But you can practice! Savasana lets me practice, when the biggest consequence is that I won’t remember an item on a list. Meditation lets me practice, when the biggest consequence is that I will not be able to find a moment of just being. I’m now in my seventh month of nothing terribly dire happening to me or anyone I love, which means two things: (1) easy for me to say, what would I be saying if I were in trouble?! AND (2) seven lovely months of practicing, so I am likely to be able to be more helpful to myself and others when it comes, as it will.

Savasana is really just meditation, you know. Sit up on a cushion, lie down on your back, sit on the couch or in a chair, sit under a tree outside, sit in your car. Be still and present for five minutes. That is practice, and it’s harder than you can imagine.

after the thrill is gone….

….happens to be the title of one of my favorite Eagles songs from the 1970s. But I was also thinking about this yesterday when I was doing yoga. On June 27 I started a big project I kind of jokingly called the “anti-flailing project.” As of yesterday, that’s ONE HUNDRED AND TWO DAYS. First of all, a big hurrah for sticking with it for 102 days. Hurrah! Hurrah! Hurrah!

changeI have nothing new to say about the benefits, the changes I feel that seem due to this new way of doing things. But I do have something to say about the slog factor that hits once the thrill of newness fades. When I was on the yoga mat a couple of nights ago, I was facing that feeling. Actually, I faced it before I started. Ugh, I just don’t feel like it. No thrill to get me out of that chair. My focus was on how tired I felt, instead of on how great I knew I’d feel during the practice, and afterwards. A few weeks ago I went through a brief 1.5-day period of slipping back into my multi-tasking ways. Television on in the background all day, I’m sure I cooked and ate but I don’t remember, noise all around. When it hit me what I was doing, I thought nah, I’m just going to watch this show while I work. But pretty quickly, on the second day, that new wore off too. So moving as if I were wearing weights and reaching through molasses, I found the remote and turned off the television. Kinda resentful, I felt.

sloggingIt can be very hard to persist in a change when it’s no longer something new and different. When the contrast between before and now has faded in your memory. Across the span of my life I’ve tried to make changes, hit that persist point, and for any of a number of reasons just went back to my old ways. You know, they’re so comfortable! They’ve been my ways as long as I can remember! They’re normal, natural! That’s pretty seductive, especially when you feel a little weary of the new thing, when you feel like you’re just slogging along.

There are a couple of ways I have found that help me with this slog deal:

  • As in meditation, find the attitude of “just bring it back.” Just bring it back. OK, just turn off the television, bring it back. OK, just go change into your workout clothes. OK, just run to the market and get something fresh to make for dinner. No judgment of any kind (you’re not “bad!”), no stories (“well hell, I’ve ruined it now so whatever, more cake!”), just bring it back. I love that old Chinese sentiment, the best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is today. OK, maybe you’ve fallen off and that was several days/weeks ago (20 years), just bring it back (today). The “just bring it back” attitude is gentle and compassionate, and has nothing to say about what went ‘wrong,’ nothing at all. It’s not chiding. Just bring it back, that’s all.
  • If the compassionate approach doesn’t seem motivating to you, try the JFDI approach! People in an online weight loss group I belong to (now I just stay there to support the others) use that acronym on occasion and it always cracks me up. Just Fuckin Do It! As a Texan I drop my Gs, so that’s how I hear it. Now and then you might just have to be your own drill sergeant. For me, JBIB works better, but I share this in case you think it’ll help.
  • If that doesn’t work, use a cognitive-behavioral therapy technique: tell yourself you’re only going to do it for a set period of time. “OK, I’m just going to turn off the television for the next three hours.” Implicit there is that you can go right back to it when the time passes. And probably, assuming it’s something you really do want to be doing, probably you’ll remember why you were doing it in the first place! Probably it’ll feel good. Probably you won’t want to go back to the old thing after all.

Those have helped me when I stumble. To help with the long haul, though, at some point you have to let go of the words and idea “my new thing.” At some point it has to become just part of your day, part of your life, part of your identity. I am a person who tries to do yoga every day and mostly succeeds, unless I’m having an airport and flying day. (Even then I think about it and try to do some stretches when and where I can…..because I am a person who….) I am a person who tries to be present as much as possible. If the new thing can be phrased more simply (e.g., “I am a Quaker” instead of “a person who”) that’s even better. That is in fact an identity statement. The changes I’ve made don’t lend themselves to that, but the more I incorporate them into just who I am and just how I live my life, the easier it is to do the long haul. Because now it’s just my life.

Making a substantial change and sticking with it is so hard, and not all that common! Millions of dollars are spent on self-help books, diet books, and if they worked, the need for them would quickly disappear. Instead, people try this thing and then give up, so they try that thing and give up, and on and on. It’s hard. I’ve never been able to do it before, in all my years, and to be honest I’m not exactly sure why it’s been so easy this time. Maybe there’s an element of being ready for it. I’m sure that’s true.

If you have other tricks of the trade that have helped you stick with a change, please share them! Most of us are trying to make some kind of change, and we need all the help we can get. xo

meta

My friend Cindy posts a lot of things on Facebook that resonate with me. We have similar sensibilities in so many ways. The other day it was an Eckhart Tolle quote:

What a liberation to realize that the “voice in my head” is not who I am. Who am I then? The one who sees that.

That quote fell in line alongside something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately, and that is thought. (I used to think about thought in a circular, obsessive kind of way, but now I’m thinking of it from a meditation kind of direction; the former is clutching, the latter is open-handed.) So I was talking to Katie about this last Saturday, after I’d had some kind of very good idea about something. And like most of my ideas, it just arose in my mind. It’s actually hard to say that “I” thought it up — it just came to me. We say that! “It came to me.” So I didn’t feel too proud of that good idea, because it didn’t feel like “I” had come up with it.

thoughtI can feel ‘responsible’ for thinking things when I focus on a subject and work my way through it kind of linearly. Hmmm, this thing and also this, but then there’s that. OK, here’s what I think. But consider how many times things pop into your head. You’re just sitting there, driving along, walking, in the shower, and stuff comes into your head. Right? If you don’t think so, just pay attention because I know this isn’t something that just happens to me. Did you create that thought? Sometimes the things that pop into our minds are very specific to us, like a sudden thought of, “Oh crap! I was supposed to do X today!” But sometimes they aren’t, sometimes they just kind of appear, a whole new thing. And sometimes they come in dreams, like the great story about the way Elias Howe dreamed the way to make sewing machines work by putting the hole in the needle at the bottom instead of at the top. ‘He’ didn’t exactly come up with that idea, in some way it was presented to him, out of his own ground, yes, but it was presented to him.

OH, the levels of directions one could go, and philosophers and neuroscientists have probably already gone. What do you mean by ‘you’ — who else could’ve done it? What does it mean to ‘create’ a thought? Since it can only be you, the content had to come from somewhere in your mind….your mind….so even if you didn’t work your way to it, it was still you who came up with the thought. But isn’t that kind of unsatisfying? It is to me.

But the best thing about this gets back to Tolle, and it can be extended further than thought, into emotions. Thoughts arise. All kinds of thoughts arise! Because they are “our” thoughts, and heard in “our own” internal voice (doesn’t that make them seem very real and true and belonging to us?) they have a kind of primacy. But they’re just thoughts that arise. You can tend to them if you wish, or you can just let them go. If a thought that arises is a gift, like a great idea or an insight that produces an invention that changes the world, go for it! Grab that idea and use it. But not all our arising thoughts are like that.

Sometimes the arising thoughts are more like this: You’re really a sham. No one really likes you. You’re fat, look at those disgusting thighs. Who do you think you are, anyway. And sometimes the arising thoughts are more like this: You are so special! Aren’t you wonderful, there’s no one like you, people are just so lucky to know you. Even if it’s true that there’s no one like you — and there isn’t — that just is, and it’s not something to be attended to with interest and action any more than you breathe air! would be attended to. True, so what.

Meditation teaches you to be neutral toward the arising thoughts, to notice them as thoughts. That’s what this is, it’s just a thought. It’s just a thought! It has no more reality than that. Sure, it may be reality that you were supposed to do that thing you forgot to do, that thought points to a reality, but the thought is just a thought. That seems like the most obvious thing in the whole world when you work your way to it. What else could it be! It’s an ephemeral collection of connections, arisen and gone.

I was not good at this back when I was dealing with all the fears associated with the lawsuit against me. I had all kinds of thoughts, mostly in the realm of “what will happen? Will I lose everything? How can this be happening, I didn’t do anything at all! How can anyone be taking this seriously? Will I lose everything?” Thoughts, every single one. The feared outcomes were possible, but they weren’t real. Possible in the future, but not real. Had I been able to handle it more mindfully, when the thought arose, “Will I lose everything?” and the emotion of fear arose alongside it, I could have taken a breath and realized it was just a thought, and just a feeling I was having in that moment. I’m not sure that even now I’m strong enough to just let that kind of thought go, to release it, but realizing that it is just a thought is helpful on its own. It’s just a thought that has arisen in my mind like so many others, like that thought about the weather, or the thought about that dream I had, or the thought about how poetry group will go tonight. Thoughts, thoughts, thoughts, arising and capturing my attention if I allow them to do that.

And here’s the next tricky bit. “I” get to choose whether to let my attention grab it or to let it go. I’m grinning like an idiot. I kind of love this stuff, and I love even more the way it all looks so different to me than it used to. Now there’s a real lightness to it, and before there was a heaviness. And y’all? Lightness is always better.

bubble follow-up

bubblesMy last post about bubbles has been such a gift to me.  I didn’t say this in that post, but the idea came to me as a whole, beginning to end, at the end of a yoga session. I was lying there in savasana, just being as present as I could be, certainly not drifting around in my head, and it popped into my mind. It was hard to stay present for the rest of the pose, because I was so eager to get it written down before I forgot it. My mind works like that. When I finished, I went straight to my computer and just typed what had come to me in that moment, and that was the post.

Since then I’ve thought a little more about it, and feel so grateful for the specific image. Bubbles are light, not heavy. They are playful. A few times since I wrote the post, I’ve ‘heard’ myself think, bubbles about bubbles and I let go of whatever was starting to whirl in my head.

Still, there was something that the idea failed to capture. It was something important, and I couldn’t quite see it. Luckily I have the best, smartest friends. My friend Kristie (whose blog I always enjoy so much, something beautiful or delicious to enjoy in nearly every post) wrote me and filled in the gap so perfectly. She has an adorable granddaughter named Lucy, who had recently visited. Kristie bought some Crayola bubbles for Lucy — and as you’d guess, the bubbles are colored. She said she hadn’t quite looked at the fine print; if the bubbles pop against your clothing or skin, they might stain. Kristie wisely noted that “sometimes the bubbles that hit us in life are like those Crayola ones. They leave their mark.” YES, they do. And that was the missing piece. 

But I don’t think that’s a bad thing (and I don’t imagine Kristie does either). The things of life change us, shape us, color us. The older we get, I suppose the more we’re colored by those bubbles. I like to imagine a rainbow of colored spots all over us. We’re colored by the nice bubbles as well as by the dark bubbles. And this is an important way we change; Kristie’s great addition adds that important dimension. Of course who wouldn’t dodge the dark bubbles if they could, and put themselves in the path of all the light ones, but life doesn’t work that way. I am who I am, standing here today in my multicolored splendor (and it is splendid), because of all those colored bubbles.

 

it’s even LITERAL

Yesterday I wrote about finally being ready and able to leave all the old stuff behind, stay present in time. I was thinking metaphorically, but also of course about thoughts, perspective. Last night I realized there is another level, a more concrete level.

Late in the afternoon, I drove to south Austin to see the new movie The Trip to Italy (charming and melancholy, like the first, but I like the first a little better….still, quite good and worth seeing). As I was driving in that part of town, I was sitting at a stop light in a big intersection where something very dramatic happened to me as a kid. And I realized that my mind had gone back to that old story — hey, I already know it, I don’t need to go through it again — so I looked around, thinking let me see what’s actually here in this intersection right now.

yes, it was like putting on glasses
yes, it was like putting on glasses

Well! I’ve been through that intersection a number of times since I moved back and I guess I’ve never seen it as it is. I was literally seeing (and yes, I’m using the word literally accurately) the intersection from 1972. I “saw” The Rainbow Grill on the corner, where my stepmother had worked. But when I made myself look yesterday, pointedly, I saw what was actually there. I saw the intersection as it exists today — and that’s what exists, that’s where I sat in traffic, and that’s what everyone in the cars around me saw. That is Lamar and Barton Springs, Austin, TX, in September of 2014.

It was quite remarkable to me, getting an in-my-face example of what it means to get stuck in the past. It’s not just about recalling memories, it shapes the experience of real time.  So I looked around as if for the first time, because in a real way it was for the first time. Ah, so what is here at this intersection? Look at it, make mental notes so you remember if you want to come to any of these places. Wow, I want to come back and check out this place and that. So startling, and such power the mind has.

Actual traffic on actual Mopac. Horrible.
Actual traffic on actual Mopac. Horrible.

And also another mind-related deal, this one a benefit of meditation. I don’t know if you know this, but Austin has ATROCIOUS traffic. Atrocious. One of the major north-south highways is being expanded (but not nearly enough, so the moment the work is completed it’s going to be too little), which means the already-clogged ridiculous highway is often a parking lot, as far as the eye can see — and in both directions. I left my place at 4, thinking at least rush-hour traffic wouldn’t be so bad yet, but yes: parking lot. Not moving at all. What should’ve taken me just under 20 minutes took me almost a whole hour. But the relevant point is this: as I sat on the highway, unmoving, occasionally inching forward a tiny bit, the inner monologue started up. This is so ridiculous! Good grief, this is absolutely ridiculous. And my irritation developed into self-righteous anger, and took on a huge life and boy was I on the road to furious (because I wasn’t on the road to anywhere else!). Within 45 seconds I was up and running and getting madder and madder. And then I laughed, because I realized that I was telling myself a whole story. A story about the situation being ridiculous (actually, the situation was simply heavy traffic), and then fury at the traffic engineers who consistently fail to do what needs to be done, and have since the 1960s….but the fury at them was personal, as if they were doing it to me. It was the story that was riling me up, not the actual situation. I had enough time to get to the theater, I had good music on the radio, and this kind of traffic is just what it is to live in Austin. It IS, and fighting against it with stories only aggravates me. There might be other ways to fight against it — take the first exit and wind around through smaller streets, which I could do since I’ve lived here on and off for 50 years. (50 YEARS.) Meditation has helped me separate more quickly and spot the story, realize it’s a story, and let it go. And that’s kinda cool.

Do something nice for your mind today. Cut it some slack. Give it a break. Take it outside. Let it be, slow it down. Do whatever makes you breathe deeply and let go. It’s so  so good for you, and for me, and we could all stand to do it more often.

There he is! Happy and wonderful Oliver.
There he is! Happy and wonderful Oliver.

Happy Friday! I get to babysit my darling little grandboy today, lucky me, and dinner tonight is fresh corn on the cob, roasted okra, and whatever other yummy vegetables I have waiting for me. Work, yoga, seeing my daughter, loving Oliver, eating well. Peace. I hope your Friday has your version of these good things. xoxo

strong back, soft front

El Presidente, charming
El Presidente, charming

On Tuesday night Marc and I met new friends for tacos at a great little Mexican joint down in Chelsea called El Presidente, before we all went to the dharma gathering at Shambhala. I enjoyed it even though the talk kind of wandered around and didn’t have a focus, my left knee and hip screamed angrily at me during the meditation period (very un-Buddhist, knee and hip!), and as is often the case, the evening included dyadic exercises.

I hate dyadic exercises. Since I was there with Marc, I could’ve just done it with him but we aren’t “supposed” to interact with people we already know. Damn. I hate that.

Before the exercises, the teacher spoke about the point of meditation (and the gains you make from meditation) really mattering most when they are integrated into your life and taken into the world. I can sit on a cushion in a little room all day long, but the value of it is to take that into the world, into interactions with other people. She talked about being in the presence of people with very strong centers, very peaceful and aware people; she said others can feel that, it affects others too, and I know what she meant. It can feel like a physical force of peace, being in the presence of people like that. (And it can be a little disconcerting too, if you are in a very different place.)

Apparently this is a very common bit of teaching for meditation practice, but I had never heard it before: Sit with a strong back and a soft front. For the exercise, we were first told to hold that stance, strong back and soft front, and interact with each other. I was so busy concentrating on strong back, soft front (as was Matt, my very sweet partner) and the exercise felt weird, affected. Our next task was to simply sit and interact however we wished, and for both Matt and me, there was a lot of slouching (to indicate comfort and to encourage comfort for the other person) and leaning-in. We were more animated, a little less distracted. The last task was to first spend 30 seconds or so connecting with ourselves, getting anchored in ourselves, and then to simply open our eyes and interact. That was really amazing. It sounds obvious, but with that one I felt like I was ME, looking at him and engaged with HIM. You could hear the energy levels shift in the room too — it was loudest with the second task, and quiet and steady with the third. (With the first I was so distracted by trying to maintain a strong back and soft front I don’t know what was happening in the room.)

I want to think more about this strong back/soft front thing, and see if I can find it naturally in my body and experience. My back is not strong, but my yoga practice is certainly working on that, so perhaps as it begins to feel stronger the attitude will be more natural to me. The soft front part I get, easily — it’s just that in conjunction with the strong back that isn’t as immediately intuitive. But that little exercise, even though I hated it, showed me the power of taking that moment to check in with myself first. The whole “Put on your own oxygen mask before helping others” thing I guess. And of course “strong back” isn’t just literal. My literal back may be weak for now, but as long as I am solid within myself and open to others, that is the deeper definition of strong back and soft front, isn’t it?

nourishmentYou know, really I should just shut up and quit saying things — especially quit saying things as if I know anything. So often here on this blog, and in my own mind and life and conversations with people, I’ve said something about change coming about during times of trouble. That during easy times, peaceful times, happy times, people don’t really change so much. My thought was that during the easy times, people are just enjoying themselves, each other, life, and there is no press to stimulate change. But there is another possibility, too. During easy times, we have the time and space to reflect, to work with some of the consequences of the difficult times. Our attention (and intention) can be directed toward growth of all kinds: from plants in a garden to personal growth. This prolonged period of quiet and ease has been tremendous for me, and the various things I’m working with are affecting each other in a nearly exponential way. It’s kinda cool. Mindfulness, meditation, one thing at a time, quiet, yoga, food and exercise, family, peace, inner quiet. Highly recommended, and not at all overrated.

Happy Friday, everyone. I hope your long weekend has something good, something fun, something with friends and/or family, and everyone be safe!

pleasure and the spiritual path

Last night I attended a dharma gathering with the title of the post — “Pleasure and the Spiritual Path.” After the lesson/teaching, the teacher asked questions and everyone contributed their own thoughts. These are people who are [apparently] pretty advanced in their Buddhist studies, given some of the things they mentioned — things I couldn’t even understand. What is that? A class? A level? A something else? Me, I sit in my living room and do yoga. Meditate as I can. Work at mindfulness. Attend an occasional dharma gathering. I don’t know nothin’ about levels and paths.

shambhala

The whole point of Buddhism in the Tibetan lineage of Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche is that everything is impermanent. That’s the essential center of it. And suffering arises by attaching and clinging to things that are impermanent. In the discussion of pleasure and suffering from clinging, the teacher said how very much he loves summer sweet corn from out on Long Island. Oh he looks forward to it all year, and when it’s ready, he relishes every bite, wishes it would last forever. When it’s the last corn of the season, he’s sad, disappointed, etc.  (This is one thing I really love about the Shambhala teachers like him and Pema Chodron. It’s not abstract lofty stuff. It’s about sweet summer corn. It’s about the woman sitting next to you wearing too much perfume.)

So when he asked people to talk about pleasure in a lot of ways — what is it, what’s your approach to it, do you tend toward hedonism or asceticism — the responses were all over the place. Some were lofty and abstract, some were focused on specific experiences, but I was shocked by how many people said they stay away from it because they don’t trust it. WHAT?! They don’t trust it, it’s not going to last, it’s going to go away. Well duh! I’m a yoga mat “Buddhist” and the central message of impermanence sure seems to apply here, doesn’t it? And anyway, doesn’t your own life show you that it all changes?

You don’t have to be a Buddhist to know this. You don’t even have to live all that long to see that things come and go. You go up, you go down, you go up again. Sometimes the downs last a long time, or are very intense. Sometimes the ups do the same. Sometimes life is thrilling, sometimes deeply satisfying, sometimes painful, and sometimes too excruciating to bear. One of the only things you can absolutely count on is that stuff’s gonna change. Stuff’s gonna come, stuff’s gonna go. Count on it.

And what I also don’t understand is why this would make anyone not want to take the pleasure when it is presented? That just makes no sense to me at all, I can’t even begin to understand it. Yeah, happiness, pleasure, it’s all fleeting….so you grab it with both hands! You rub your face in it! You lick it and let the last drops linger on your tongue. You turn it inside and out, scour it. Use it up. Pull it on again and again until it’s too stretchy to stay on. Kiss people, hug people, smile at people, laugh with them, talk. Look look look, immerse, take all you can from it. The fact that it’s not going to last forever makes it even more important, more precious. (Right?) Avoiding happiness because it’s “untrustworthy” means you’re mainly just living in this weird avoiding state or dealing with the hard bits. How can people bear the hard bits if they haven’t eaten up the happy ones? I just don’t get it.

Not too long ago I was telling a group of friends the story about the time a TSA agent was looking at my boarding pass and asked me, “So what’s your specialty?” (I completely forgot that it said Dr. Lori ___ on the boarding pass, so she assumed I was a medical doctor.) So I stood there kind of like a deer in the headlights, figuring it was some kind of secret TSA test question that I’d better get right. I finally said, “Well…..I’m really good at being happy.” She laughed and said no, what are you, an internist, a dermatologist, what? But I loved that this was the only thing I could come up with. I’m a specialist in being happy. So a friend in the group challenged me to put that on business cards. SO I DID.

card

I blocked out the bits that would allow you to stalk me or call me on the phone.  Which you may already know I hate. 🙂

I have blue(ish) eyes and I’m a specialist in being happy. It isn’t hard or scary to me, I am lucky. But I do wish someone could explain this to me, being afraid to be happy. It’s like rice cookers; I never could understand them, and then finally someone explained it in a way that made me get it. (But I hope no one who reads this is ever afraid to be happy.)

Wednesday, yo y’all. xo

there’s always more than one way

you can find any image on the Internet
you can find any image on the Internet

Hey, yesterday’s post was number 1,400. What a nice number, and how nice to notice it, like when you happen to see your odometer rolling over a nice round number. And wow, 1,400 posts, that’s a lot. Posts from my old blog, Thrums, have been pulled in here (and wordpress just categorized them all as “big picture stuff” instead of taking the categories I’d originally assigned), and from the previous Queen of the Pillbugs blog over on squarespace. Even though I ebb and flow, and even though my blog has shifted focus — it used to be primarily a knitting blog — I am always glad to have this place to record my thoughts, and my life. So here’s to the next 1,400 posts. OY.

Over the years I’ve tried in spurts to do meditation. I wanted the benefits I heard about, wanted the stillness, wanted to find the clarity that meditaters seem to have. And of course it’s hard; people will say, “I tried, but my mind kept jumping around.” Yeah! Of course, that’s exactly the point! Your mind keeps jumping around. They call it monkey mind. That’s the point, learning how to discipline your monkey mind by noticing that it’s doing that, and bringing it back — no matter how many times you have to do it. I found it hard in a different way. When I tried to meditate, I dissociated or had flashbacks. It was very frightening, actually. And it’s not just me; many people with trauma histories cannot meditate.

I heard a very moving piece on NPR in 2009 about a psychiatrist named Michael Grodin, who works with traumatized Tibetan monks. Meditation is obviously such an enormous part of their lives, but when they tried, they had flashbacks to the torture they’d endured by the Chinese. Regaining the ability to meditate was essential to them. Eventually he found a technique that lived within their own experience. They held a singing bowl in their hand and gently struck it when they began to meditate. Of course that’s part of beginning a meditation for so many people, but not IN YOUR HAND. What it did for them was to connect them to the moment, to connect them physically to the moment. The bowl’s vibrations linger in the hand for a long time, and feeling those vibrations allowed them to remain in their body and in the moment.

So yesterday afternoon I was doing my daily yoga practice and had an insight. I was moving from upward facing dog to downward facing dog and my body felt like it was moving at “the great hinge,” which is how I experienced my hips in that movement from one pose to the other. I felt so fully in my body …. that’s not right, it’s more like my insides and outsides fully meshed or something. That’s not right either. I don’t know how to say it. Maybe it was just a different way of being fully present.

I’ve always had a very strange relationship to my body. It was invaded so frequently when I was a child and a young teenager; it was not my private body. I kind of separated myself from it in a strange way. Here’s an example: sometimes I’d say, “No don’t worry, I’m not crying, just my eyes are crying. It’s just my eyes crying.” It was so separate from me, and of course it makes great sense that I would come to feel that way during my childhood. So what occurred to me on the mat yesterday, as I felt so wholly connected in and with my body, is that being fully present during yoga, bringing my mind back when it wanders, back to the movement, to the pose, to the position, and being present right there with my muscles and bones, blood and heartbeat, well that’s a mighty good way to learn how to be present too.

So if meditation is hard for you and you want to get some of the benefits, you might try yoga — and keep bringing your wandering mind back to the pose. My mind wanders like this: “ooh, look at how the skin sags above my knees now, like my grandmother’s used to do…” Back to the pose, Queen. Mind back to the pose. Of if yoga’s not your thing, find another. There is a Zen saying, “Before Enlightenment chop wood carry water, after Enlightenment, chop wood carry water.” Lots of ways to find your way to being awake.

de-storying the re-storying

Not too long ago, July 17, I wrote a post titled “re-storying for compassion.” The whole idea there was to subvert the mean little stories I tell myself when I get frustrated with others by imagining just one other story that might be true. Instead of “she is a giant jerk,” maybe “she is stressed out because her baby is sick.” That way I don’t ruin my own day and react [perhaps] unfairly to someone else, thereby increasing my potential for compassion for myself and others. It fit with an idea I’ve held for such a long, long time — our little stories, the templates we rely on to make sense of an ambiguous world.

Of course it works to the degree I’m willing to allow it to work. If the woman at the grocery store does indeed seem to think she’s the only one who matters, and acts snotty and rude when I ask her to move her cart enough for me to get by, it becomes mighty hard to hang on to my alternative explanation. Oh, I can hear me now: Yeah, right, maybe she’s just glad to get out of the house because she’s been taking care of a sick child, but she still doesn’t have to be such a jerk. Jerk. I’d already realized that this is a flaw in my alternate-explanation strategy, but still found the effort valuable.

But a bigger issue has occurred to me, and it comes via meditation and studying Pema and listening to a number of dharma talks. One problem, one big source of our own suffering, is the story we tell ourselves—the constant stream of stories we tell ourselves. A thing happens, it is its own thing, but the story we tell ourselves about it takes on a life of its own. Perhaps a friend was supposed to call at 4, and by bedtime she hasn’t called or contacted you in any way, and she doesn’t pick up when you call. That is the thing.

  • Maybe you tell yourself a story of worry: “OH, I’ll bet something terrible happened to her, she has been having a hard time lately and she’s been kind of scatterbrained, and what if she got in a car accident?”
  • Or maybe you tell yourself a story of abandonment: “Yeah, she’s been kind of cool to me lately, and she seems to be spending more time with her other friends, I’ll bet she’s tired of me and doesn’t really want to be my friend any more.”

Both of those stories have the power to make you very unhappy, and maybe they even keep you awake through the night, twirling them around and around. You might even be responding to the same tiny clues for both stories — her mood has been quieter, a little removed. But there you are, off to the races in your head, and everything that’s happening has nothing to do with reality.

Mindfulness

One important consequence of meditation is strengthening the ability to be with what is, what is actually happening, and not running off into thoughts that take you into the imagined future, or into a version of the past. And as much as I liked my idea of telling a different story, it is still just a story. It is all made up, it’s all in my own head, and it takes me out of and away from the moment I have to live.

So the moment: Severe aggravation, acid dripping into my stomach, mouth tightening, shoulders clenching aggravation. There she is, her shopping cart parked squarely in the middle of the aisle so no one can get around, and she is not paying the slightest bit of attention. That’s what is. The mission for me is not to make up a different reality but to confront my own nastiness, my own disruption. The cart is. She is. I am enraged — what is that about? Am I really in so much a rush that asking her to move her cart is worth such inner drama? I get to practice something in that moment, I get to learn something, and I get to learn it from her. I breathe, I lower my shoulders, I pause. One second, that’s all it takes, really. My inner flailing, my inner snarl, my agitation, it all gets to take a damn break.

I never thought I would be considering retiring my ‘little stories’ idea; it has been so useful to me in so many ways, and I’ve held the concept for decades. But things change, I change, and it’s time to open my hand and let this one drift away.

Have a wonderful Monday, everyone. xoxo

pay attention to the story

storyOH where even to start with this one. The story. We are our stories, our selves comprise all our stories, that’s one reason Alzheimer’s is so cruel; it wipes away our stories and leaves loved ones strangers. Losing a shared story feels like such a loss of something real and important. I do believe this, that we are our stories. We’re a storytelling species, around a fire, or through little black characters on a white page, or performed on the stage, or listened to on podcasts. Or told at night when tucking little children in. I really love this, love the power and centrality of story to what it means to be a human being. I could actually go on and on and on about this, but this post is about a different frame for story.

Meditation — at least in the Shambhala style, Tibetan, that I’m familiar with — helps you disentangle what happens from the story you’re telling about it.  Because except for physical torture or an immediate loss like our loss of Gracie, most things that happen are just the things, but it’s the story we tell ourselves (and others) about it that causes us so much pain. Here’s an example, made up on the fly. Let’s say I email someone a heart-opened letter, revealing my deep feelings in some way (it doesn’t have to be this dramatic). And let’s say the other person doesn’t respond, a day goes by, two. The thing is the email you sent, but it’s the story that can torment. We have all kinds of stories right up on deck, ready to roll out. And we have our pet stories, old stories, stories so ingrained we don’t even realize they’re stories, they just seem like truth or reality. So no email response, a pet story might be this: “Every time I open myself up to someone they run away.” OR “I guess I must not be as important to her as she is to me.” OR “I guess everything else matters more than me.” See? Stories.

Or your stomach aches, and it’s been aching for a couple of days. Stories you might tell include, “I’ll bet I have cancer.” OR “Great, I’m really getting sick and I have so much to get done, now what?” OR “My stomach is probably hurting because my feelings were so hurt when she didn’t answer my email.”

All those are just stories. That’s all. And we just get so wrapped around the axle, we worry over it, we tell our story to others, we ruminate, it just becomes realer and realer and then it’s not a story, it has become ‘fact.’ But it’s always a story. It’s just a story. I think about this all the time.  Once I survived my childhood and got out of it, got married and started trying to grasp it all, make sense of it all, figure things out, I struggled to find the story, to even figure out what it was. And it was a horrible story, truly, with such shocking and terrible things. But what always haunted me all the years I lived with those stories, told those stories, grasped them and clung to them, was this: The things did happen, but what if I’d picked a different story out of all the events? What if the story I’d picked, right from the beginning, was WOW, look at that, look at how amazing. Look at all that survival, look at the persistence, look at the spirit, the light, the courage, the strength. Look at the creativity it took to survive, look at who I am at the end of it. What an amazing story.

But I’m not criticizing myself — the damage was so profound, so deep and severe, I had to get there in order to get there, if you know what I mean. I did then what I knew how to do. Now that I know better, I do better. I love the story I have now, and it’s also just a story. It’s the story of me, one of the stories of me, but it is a story.

If you start paying attention to this, to all the little stories you tell all day long, about things you do or things that are done to you, you’ll be amazed. We are extrapolating creatures, and all we need is a little seed and off we go into storyland. And we cause ourselves so much suffering because of them, too.

Today, Monday, I wish you good stories all day long. xoL

sitting with yourself

Recently I came across one of those lists — this one was “50 things life is really about” — and while some items were kind of strange, some felt familiar to me, deep in my gut. One was “find your own bible,” and that idea stimulated yesterday’s post about my bibles. A lot of us bookish folk find our bibles during the upheaval years of our adolescence, and if we’re lucky enough to find just the right book, it stays with us our whole lives, growing with us.

one of those dreadful nights, hard to sit with myself
one of those dreadful nights, hard to sit with myself

Another item on the list was the ability to sit with yourself. This is hard to do, for me, anyway. Some people run away very quickly into the arms of terrible distractors — drugs and alcohol, promiscuity, destructive behaviors of all kinds. Some of us eat. And oh the variety of things that make it hard to sit with ourselves! I can sit through anger and boredom, but loss drives me to the refrigerator. Inadequacy drives me to pace . . . and eventually I’m likely to find the refrigerator, though not as reliably as feelings of loss. I’ve never eaten my way to morbid obesity (or even anything approaching it), but I have definitely relied on eating when I find it hard to sit with myself. And then the spiral of shame that comes as a consequence. Oh, so hard.

I just had to end a relationship that drifted into a place I was nowhere near able to be. It was painful, because the ending hurt someone a lot, someone I valued, someone I really cared about, someone who added so much to my life. I do not like to hurt people — most of us don’t — and I’m too soft for my own good.  It was the right thing to do, but I felt so shitty anyway. He had tears in his eyes, his sorrow was obvious. I have historically not been good at doing this. As the hours passed after I told him, my stomach hurt. I wanted to pace, I wanted to eat, I wanted to distract myself any way I could. But I didn’t. I just kind of sat with it. (Actually, I just kind of lay with it. I didn’t get out of bed yesterday, I just stayed here and worked.)

Meditation helps with this, forcing you to just sit and let the feelings come, and eventually they pass through and away. It’s really funny how hard it is to tolerate those feelings, even though they’re just feelings. And they have little burrs stuck to them, nasty little thoughts. “I led him on, I wasn’t clear enough.” Yes, I tried to be, always. I wasn’t perfect, but perfection isn’t the lone standard. “I am cruel and always hurt people.” No, I try hard not to hurt people, I try very very hard. “Now what will happen to him?” He will be OK, I am not the end-all and be-all in his life. And he participated too, he heard me say the things I said, all along. I was not a perpetrator.

And I guess this is really the point. Sitting with yourself involves talking back, and knowing which side of that inner dialogue is true. If you’re like me, one side feels true but it really isn’t, it’s old voices describing a me who never was. I still feel bad, I still wish this person could  be in my life because he added so much to it, I still wish there hadn’t been a need for this line in the sand, I still wish there weren’t any pain, but that’s just not the case. My stepfather used to snarl, “Wish in one hand and spit in the other and see which one fills up fastest.” “If wishes were horses beggars would ride.”  I also wish I had a million dollars and a flat stomach, but that’s equally impossible. 🙂

Since I’m working with Jeff, my health coach, I’ve been paying close attention to the kinds of uncomfortable feelings that make me run away from myself to the refrigerator. Mostly, they’re feelings of loss. I feel loss and just want to fill it up with ice cream. Apparently. So that’s information, and I can learn how to sit with feelings of loss and not hurt myself in response.

Sitting with yourself instead of running away from yourself is a big challenge of life, and mastering it helps you be more stable, easier able to roll with what happens — because shit will happen. Loss happens, anger happens, betrayal happens, frustration happens, misunderstanding happens, unfairness happens. And sometimes they happen to you, and on occasion you are the one doing it — even if you don’t mean to. In other words: like me, you may be a delicate flower but you are not a unique flower. You are, of course, but we all participate in humanity.

I wonder — I think loss is hard for us all, anger is probably hard for us all (harder, maybe, for women). What’s particularly hard for you? Have you figured it out? What do you when that thing hits, how do you sit with it, how do you stay with yourself? I’m always looking for clues.

Happy Monday y’all. We’re approaching mid-August, can you believe it?!