Saturday, January 12, 2019

Guilt

In an episode of Wanderlust we see Joy in a session with her therapist where she is eventually confronted about a "pattern" that her therapist has identified. When something awful happens to Joy in her life (for example, the funeral of her mother when her father said to her in the car on the way to the church that 'nobody wanted her to make a fuss today'; or the time her client rang Joy (who is also a therapist), she didn't answer the call and he promptly decided to suicide off a bridge), she goes into a non-feeling state and subconsciously enacts various other crises in her life so that she doesn't have to feel the really awful thing.

Joy may be unaware of her own patterns but she is smart enough and educated enough to see the truth of what she is told in this session. This new awareness of her behaviors throughout her life shocks Joy into a deeply felt feeling state which then leads to a complete breakdown of emotion where she cries intensely. 'It feels good to feel, doesn't it, Joy?'

I was entranced throughout this episode by the brilliant writing and the even more brilliant acting abilities of Toni Collette who I have always admired for her courage to lose herself in a role. How clever to have the audience watch all her missteps, baffled by how dumb a therapist could actually be, only to be discover that her mind was, in all its deceptions, protecting her from discovering the deep emotional pain hidden inside.

In the more immediate experience in Joy's life, where she didn't answer the call from her client and it was the last call he ever made, she was later told by the police, a sense of betrayal, a sense of letting down this man, of possibly being able to save him, was too much for her mind to take in. It was a deeply sensed feeling of guilt. She felt responsible, when, as we know, his choice to take his life was his responsibility and his alone. Still, responsible types, empathic types, are always going to feel strongly, almost unbearably, responsible for the other.

So, the episode, as all good drama does, pointed out a fundamental truth; that some of us hold ourselves responsible for the behavior of others, so completely sometimes that we are prepared to make a good old mess of our own lives.

Will does a similar thing in his life. Beaten and battered by his father, Will hides his deeply troubled emotions behind a veneer. He lets the girl he loves, and who adores him, head off across the country and seems powerless to change, until his therapist, the much missed Robin Williams, manages to get through to him finally that "it is not your fault".

I am personally familiar with this dynamic; with this feeling of responsibility, at the same time as I register the irrationality of the thought. The mind twists and turns trying to make sense of things. I remember someone saying this to me, "It is not your fault. You did nothing wrong." 'I know, I know," I said, almost in the exact way as did Will. So she repeated it, much like Will's therapist, until it finally sunk in.

Guilt. Responsibility. What powerful words they are for humans!

At this juncture in my life I do better with simply letting go; with accepting that there are some things over which I have influence, but I can't, nor should I, change what cannot be changed.

It is what it is. It will always be thus. Who I am to think I can alter the grand scheme?

Monday, December 31, 2018

The end of the first decade

It's been over 10 years since I began this online journal. Thinking back, I think I was just so happy to be living in an authentic way - expressing overtly what I had held in for so long - that it was pure delight to share the journey with any potential reader.

These days, it's rare that I suddenly am motivated to share my thoughts in this way, but I am still here; still happy to have the journal in an online forum for any like minded soul who happens to come across it.

Over a ten year span none of us is the same person. I am certainly not that giddy person I was at the outset ten years ago. Age tends to mellow most of us and once we get into our 60s there is a tendency for most of us to take the long term view. We know a few things by then. We've started to identify patterns in ourselves, in others, in our long term relationships, in the world at large. If inclined towards the positive, we are happy for each new day. We delight in a bunch of roses, a grand baby's smile, a good night sleep.

Personally, it's been a ten year journey more intense than I had bargained for, yet one that I had no alternative but to pursue. Good times led to confronting times. I started to see things, to feel things, and I had to understand.

I have done the most enormous amount of reading. Until several years ago, I was a keen literature buff, but now I can barely read a novel a month. I simply had to get to the bottom of behaviors and feelings and to work out what had become so confusing for me. I have a small library of psychology and spiritual books now, all very well read.

There were times along the way when I felt I may have no choice but to exit from the lives of a person, or two. I was changing, growing, learning. Their presence in my life, triggering in me intensely difficult feelings, seemed untenable.

But, I am a fighter, not a quitter, not to mention that these same folk, I loved. So, I went on, trying to understand them, what it was they were inducing in me; why the Universe had transpired to put us together; why the Universe had insisted I walk this incredibly painful path.

I would have made a bad Nun, but I am drawn to a contemplative life. There is no doubt about that. It began when I was very young and I got something out of being in a Church; something more than the rest of my life offered me. So it went all my life and yet the material world was what was there before me. Family life kept me busy and it was not until the children were grown up that I had a chance to explore my sense of the spiritual; something deeper.

In these ways, psychology and the spiritual merged for me. I learned about abuse - more emotional abuse than physical - and what that does to a child's mind. I learned how to be whole in myself, how to carve out boundaries, to self-love and to self-soothe. I learned to practice unconditional love at the same time as I held onto some private hopes that I'd see progress in others too. It's not an expectation but rather just a little bit of hope; a little bit of swaying on my part towards good outcomes.

The biggest change of all? The past is not important nor is tomorrow nearly as interesting to me as it once was. It's this moment that fascinates me; the breath, the sensations, the possibility that the thoughts that wander in and out of my mind will be intriguing to me but in no way weigh me down.

I am aware of unwanted thoughts - an angry or resentful thought, a sense of disappointment or frustration - at the same time I am observing having the thought. It passes. I rarely get stuck on the thought. The thought passes and I return to a sense of quiet contemplation.

When life it too busy for my sensibilities, and by that I mean too busy to effectively direct my attention as I like, I suffer. I once thought I'd like to have a writer's life but all those thoughts demanding the attention of going down onto the page would exhaust me.

Instead, I write, sort of, meditative scripts that I can share with others, though so far the best scripts are those that come up quite naturally; a written script perhaps but then put aside. I speak of space, of connectedness, of presence, the present moment, the senses, of letting go of identities and roles; of awareness, an open heart.

When living in the present moment, as I aspire to do, one notices most of the little flaws; the little impatiences and frustrations. One aspires to do and to be better without making it a big time ME project these days. We're not robots. We're not perfect. I don't beat myself up about what I notice but I do note it and hope I do better.

I've explored kinkiness and mental illness. Where an excessive need for control is found - either giving to or taking from - so too is often some level of mental illness. Coming to know that, I needed to explore my own damaged being and to heal.

Well now, completely at peace with my level of mental health - my level of self-love, my boundaries, my functioning and state of mind - kinkiness prevails. It is perfectly possible to have both. I am certain of this.

I love to experience my submissive soul - to be held down, to be spanked, to have to speak certain words of reverence; to be turned on by all of it. I still revel in it, whenever it comes my way.

In this way, I enter into the next ten years of this journal hopeful for a long life. I've got the living of this life, my life, by the throat now. I am happy and content; not without joy, not at all.

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Searching

From time to time, the conversation between my husband and myself will wander onto our early childhoods. His happy memories relate to the natural world. He spent considerable time watching the life of bugs. He loved to ride horses. He enjoyed being outside. Inside, he remembers baking with his mother.

Most of all, I think his happy memories are about a sense of freedom in the wide world; being on the farm and taking the cousins to hunt for rabbits, for example. Maybe, in those situations there was no worry or concern about his role in the family, about accomplishing much of anything; about the expectations of others. For those moments, I think he was in a state of Being.

Now that I have access to that feeling - to simply Be - my mind will sometimes try to return to any feelings I might have naturally experienced of Presence as a young child, before I made it a mission to find that freedom for myself in later life.

Unfortunately, I must come to the conclusion that that sort of freedom really did elude me. I remember certain moments; the pleasure of a meal made by an Italian woman who prepared me my meals; the relief of a cool change after a particularly hot day; getting off my school socks and shoes; soaking in the bath. I don't think I was especially open to the sensual world of the five senses, but nor was I closed to it.

But, that's not exactly the same thing. Sure, we can experience a state of Being through the senses, the natural world, but I am referring to a state of Knowing, where, regardless of how life plays out, there's a sense of peace that sits behind that. I didn't have that at all.

In fact, I think that it is more the case that there was an overwhelming and pervading sense of anxiety, of something not being quite right about me, that I didn't fit into the family; that I was being asked to live a lifestyle that didn't suit me at all, and when that was noted, that I felt shunned for noting it.

I'm not complaining here, what would be the point of that? Rather, I am making note of the fact that when I began 'the search', became a 'seeker', it was with a sense that there had to be more than I had experienced so far.

I don't mean travel, since I had done that already. I don't mean motherhood, which of course I had experienced in spades, or amazing sex, which I had also been privileged to experience many times. Rather, I wanted to know what it felt to be 'free', to feel at peace, to let go of expectations (which I had already gathered in my 20s was an important thing for me to accomplish).

In some respects, this was about my desire to let go of 'shoulds'. I should be more gregarious. I should be more ambitious. I should be more talkative. I should be more relaxed around strangers. I should always put others first. I should try harder to keep all the balls in the air, not relaxing for the great fear that I should drop one of them; that I should make a mistake; that I should let somebody down.

In an important way, the search was about learning to be comfortable with being me and presenting myself to the world just as I am; fallible and carrying shame about being Me.

In another important way, the search was about accepting my vulnerabilities - that I tend towards being overly empathic - and that I had somehow instinctively come to believe that someone else - a very special relationship - would enable me to live in peace, to finally experience the Freedom that had eluded me in childhood, and which I had erroneously believed all children were capable of experiencing. Perhaps the word for that state could be 'innocence'. I didn't have that.

The special moments of joy I have experienced cannot be forgotten. Sometimes they have been in BDSM spaces and sometimes not at all; sometimes out in nature with my husband; sometimes alone on a mountain top; sometimes in meditation. The joy fills every cell, radiates everywhere in my body. I call these experiences full body orgasms. It's like the sun has warmed me from the inside out.

I am happy to report that now, as well as those rare moments of pure joy, I often simply glide through my life, regardless of the days events, soaking in a quiet sense of Presence; a sense of all being well and as it should be which sits underneath the happenings of life; a sense of stillness and aliveness together with a sense of Isniss; no desire at all to make it more, or better, than it is. The word for that state could be 'acceptance'.

This settled sense of life, my life, has been hard won. It began as misery, agony; more emotional pain than I wondered if I could bare. It is said it often goes this way. This is how it starts. In this way, I have made sense of my life. It not only went the way it went. It could not have gone any other way.

Sunday, December 2, 2018

Parent-child relationships, repeated

As I interact with my new grandson I find my mind going to the natural process of bonding of a helpless little being, completely dependent on the goodwill of those around him. The dear babe must develop a sense of trust in his caregivers that allows him to be vulnerable, to demand that his needs be met so that he can survive and have new bold experiences.

I like to send him on a space ship, made of my protective folded arms, hurling through the air. He loves the sensation and although technically he can't smile at a month, he certainly seems to be smiling. In the same way, I play slightly roughly with him at nappy changes. I blow kisses on his tummy and I roll him to one side and say something like, 'Well T what happens now?' On cue, he rolls back onto his back and I tell him what a clever little boy he is to have moved. I offer him new experiences and he goes with the flow because he has developed trust in me.

Imagine now a small child who very quickly comes to see that his protector is actually a source of danger, physically or emotionally, or in both ways. What option is there but to navigate himself or herself to a sense a safety? It's far too dangerous to blame the protector and so who else is there to blame but himself or herself? In anxious obedience, he or she must attach once again to the frightening adult as a survival mechanism.

As an adult, people who behave in rather frightening ways are sort of the norm to that poor wee child, now grown. Frightening people are not foreign to people who have gone through such a situation repeatedly in their childhood. In fact, it feels kinda 'right' to their minds, kinda comfortable, normal, at least for a time.

Of course, there is the reasoning rational mind that tells someone that relationships are not meant to be about fright, about a sense of discomfort. But, versed in the habit of blaming oneself or someone else, certainly not the loved one behaving badly, the 'victim' instinctively blames himself or herself for the lack of the control of the partner. It worked to keep them safe as an infant and throughout childhood, why not now?

I think this may be why some people remain in romantic relationships when those friends and family members who care about them beg them to go.

Of course, other factors are at play: their financial situation, their lifestyle, their self esteem issues, their place in their society without the relationship, keeping the family going. They can't see their way out. They can't imagine a better future. They make a decision about whether to stay or go based on the position of least resistance emotionally.

For these reasons, they bargain with their fate and organize their lives around pleasing that person who behaves badly to them, as only they know how to do.

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Self love

I am coming to know, albeit slowly, a lovely woman who has known Ram Dass for many years. As a younger woman it was while she was having lunch with him that she shared a regret; that she wasn't going to have a child. He was somewhat dismissive of her concern, saying that there is always something that we want that we can't have. That's life. It's challenging to be told this by someone, anyone, and yet it's the truth; the cold, hard facts.

In fact, it's not a new notion to me; my father said the same thing often. He, for example, could never manage to get himself a race horse that won races, but if this was the something he couldn't have, he was comfortable with that. He said something similar when our house was spared in the 1983 bush fires. At home with the idea of luck, he felt our turn of good luck had occurred at just the right time.

Occasionally, a family member buys a ticket in Tattslotto or at an airport to win a luxury car. I nod and watch as they buy the ticket but I have zero expectation of our luck being demonstrated in a winning ticket. You have to be in it to win it and all that, but I don't expect it to ever happen. I've no faith whatsoever in it happening.

My husband wanted to go to the Oaks this week and I said a similar thing to him. I've got four healthy and happy children, a new perfect grandson. I've had plenty of good luck in life. It would be selfish to ask for more, nice to back the winner, but small potatoes in the scheme of life.

It is the case that we all have needs and desires. There is nothing wrong in that but when our deepest needs and desires are not met we go looking for substitutes. That's what the human mind does to try to settle itself. It might be a new dress or a bowl of ice-cream; a bottle of gin; drugs. It can be so destructive and yet we do it in a bid at self-survival. If I can't have what I really want, then I need something to drape over all this emotional pain, is the way the mind loops and weaves; justifies.

Like any situation it pays to stop and think about what is going on. If there is agitation, and that's how I experience it, then pause long enough to notice the agitation and call it out for what it is. I don't mean to self flagellate here; on the contrary I recommend giving yourself some comfort at this point.

'There, there, dear. This is hard for you. I know this is very hard for you'. Take some deep breaths. Sit with the agitation a little and see if it might shift. In other words; pause; don't go into overdrive with the need for relief before you give yourself a chance to self-soothe.

Another way of thinking about this is, if your tendency is to do something with negative consequences to yourself, your body or a close relationship, what could you do instead that might turn you back towards a feeling of relief, of ease?

Self-discipline isn't a sexy message but in some ways it is necessary for every person to cultivate enough self discipline to not be self destructive.

Meditation is in fact a form of self discipline as well as being a form of self love. My training had an element of the boot camp about it, and I suppose, I survived and thrived to tell the tale. But, I don't recommend this way of going about self learning of the mind. I wouldn't recommend sitting through  very much pain at all; a tiny bit is inevitable.

Most importantly, I'd recommend learning to meditate and keeping up a meditation practice with a group, led by someone quite sweet in disposition who won't scare you or put you off. Meditation can be a heavenly experience when a guide can lead you to a gentle place; a healing place too.

The Buddhists are correct. In life, we all suffer, but then if we suffer enough we demand to know how to stop suffering. This leads to a spiritual life; backbone along with kindness towards self and others.

Oddly, this approach can lead you back to your desires and the attaining of your desires. Perhaps it won't be the version you carried around in your head all those years, but you won't turn on yourself for having those desires.

In time, you'll be quite comfortable in your own skin, taking responsibility for your own sweet self and that which makes you you. You won't be demanding, internally or overtly, that someone else make your life how you want it. You'll figure out how to do this for yourself. Don't expect all the answers today, just start walking down the path of being good to yourself in ways that you, deep down, know to be good for you.

Self-flagellation is not the answer. Leave that to someone more proficient with a whip.

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Kink

My guided meditations in a group situation have been a huge hit. It's delightful to hear that the group participants enjoy them. I certainly love to give them. It's a very professional situation but it's also a message from the soul dimension. At first, I had  note cards but then I realized that I needed to trust myself - to let it come up from deep within. So far, so good.

This is not a brag session; on the contrary. This is evidence of my theory that when you talk to a healing practitioner of any sort it is important to realize that they aren't some sort of special person who has perfected the business of living. Knowing the 'theory' so to speak is a little different to being able to put what you know into practice every minute of the day.

Another way of putting all this is to say that I have some great days and I have some not so great days when in spite of a lot of knowing about living in the moment, I have no alternative but to notice that it is, quite simply, one of those days.

I can say that my emotions don't spill out at all. I have no impulsiveness that I actually act out. Rather, I am aware of what I call unwanted thoughts running through the mind. There are a couple of ways to deal with this:

- I could notice the thought, register that I am not my thoughts and refuse to interact with the thought.

- I could sit and be with the thoughts, feeling into the emotions that come along with the thoughts until they fall away, which they will do.

- I could go for a walk, which is the strategy I am about to put into action; perhaps otherwise known as distraction.

If I were to interrogate the thought and come up with a rational mind interpretation of the day I might conclude that there is a sort of  'soul loneliness' today; that what I really need (want?) is a sense of deep connection that isn't available to me at the moment, even if I were to reach out. It's the last part of that sentence that probably made it inevitable that I'd feel a bit off today.

It's the kinky part of my being looking for satiation. I know this feeling well. Often I can override it with the joy of living; other times not.

It's a small thing really; so much to be grateful for. I am sure this gratefulness thought will deepen as I feel the wind on my face this afternoon; the lull of being carried along by the train; walking on crowded streets. The feeling will dissipate as all feelings do. I am fully aware it is just a silly repetitive thought that offers me nothing. If only I could pay someone to take it away for good!

I have had so many wonderful moments with this kinky body of mine, but sometimes I do long for the disposition of the vanilla mind. What a bother it is to be ravenous for the kind of food that is so often out of season!

Monday, August 27, 2018

Joy

A sense of joy seems to come out of nowhere, almost unrelated to the events of the day or of a life. Sometimes when in the city, for example, I stand waiting for the green light to give me permission to cross Collins Street. I look up the hill of that relatively long street and I feel a sense of joy. It has happened  several times over a long period of time and I've never quite known why it should happen at that particular moment. Perhaps I once felt joy in that spot and all the other moments in that spot are repeats of that moment of joy...

Having had the experience of joy just appearing on my horizon for no particular reason on many occasions I find it curious that it has decided to pass me by of late. I still function relatively fine. I enjoyed very much having a family brunch yesterday for one son's birthday. I enjoyed seeing him happily cocooned in our love.

I have a number of reasons to be excited about life right now. Well, I am still here and that's enough in and of itself. But, beyond that, my daughter is expecting the arrival of her baby very soon, and I am traveling soon. Spring is on its way. The three ugly trees in our yard have gone and now we can get on with creating a pretty garden. If one were to make a list of reasons to be grateful it would be long, for sure.

Yet, no joy, no little bubbles rising up and giving that sense of aliveness. I suspect it is a little bit of what is commonly known as 'depression'. It stems, I think, from having to accept certain realities; to face facts; to come out of the fog, which is a good thing long term but disorienting right now.

We can, of course, control our behaviors and our thoughts. We can distract and steer our thoughts. We can motivate ourselves to do positive and productive things. We can jig ourselves out of a funk. I've done it countless times. I tend to navigate towards the positive side of the street simply because I am so much more comfortable there.

We can notice the little things. Right now, the sky is blue, the air is clear; as I breathe in and out my inner world is calm. I have a certain amount of influence over my state of mind.

I can't will joy however. I can't make her come to me, overtake me. I can simply be open to the experience, confident that she won't stay away forever. She certainly never has before.