Tuesday, December 7, 2021

Just sit

There is a strong tendency to view the busy person as the right model for our culture. It suggests productivity and social connection. There's something to that.

Problems ensue however when a person is so busy that the notion of sitting still is scary. 

I think introverted types have much less trouble here. Seeking to spend time with themselves, there's more chance they might look out the window and watch the rain, do some yoga stretches and deep breathing, journal; take a bath.

You wouldn't be entirely wrong if you wondered if I hadn't set up my life so that there was at least a chance for these type of activities.

Now that I am in the officially 'old' category I give myself more time to simply 'be'. There's no guilt or shame about this (most of the time). There's relief.

I am still subjected to a mind that demands each day has some sort of 'progress' to it, even if that's just the progress of feeding family, preparing for Christmas, or getting to the end of my book club book - but I am more willing than ever to just call a particular day largely my own. 

To not go out, that's a day to my Self. (Self=one's true nature)

I heard somebody say recently, on a podcast I suspect, that meditation was an invitation to give yourself permission to do nothing. Ah yes, perhaps the Zen monk that was talking about zazen meditation!

So, in zazen meditation you just sit.  Thoughts, feelings, sensations...will occur. No need to focus on them or resist them. Just let them come...and go. No guidance, no music, no bells and whistles. Just sit.

This morning I heard 'The Urban Monk' say that meditation was a bit like growing tomatoes. Only a fool would plant tomato seeds and expect to eat tomatoes tomorrow. In 90 days, with good tending, you have yourself some excellent tomatoes. 

Just sit. Be patient. It only gets better.

Tuesday, October 26, 2021

Shining a Light

There are times in one's life that seem so easy one takes them for granted. And then come the inevitable difficult times. 

A spiritual leader I follow talks about rehearsing for those difficult times by appreciating what is good; stopping to smell the roses so to speak; like building up a fortress of contentment and ease with the present moment such that it can buttress you against the difficult times that will inevitably come.

Sometimes, difficult or sad things collide with one another creating a labyrinth of difficult issues that seem hard to navigate.

If I try to describe this feeling, it's like things are out of place; like there's confusion in the natural order of things.

Then, it's time to walk; to let the dust settle so to speak; to let the dirt settle in the jar and fall to the bottom of the jar so that the water becomes clear.

Then one sees more clearly.

Yes, a pet will die, maybe earlier than we thought. It's heartbreaking but it's a tender time too; when we savor the moments left; when love is abundant and transparent. Be Here Now.

Relationships may end. Wouldn't it be lovely if we could end those relationships with grace; with civility and a sense of love. All that love. Did it just vanish? So much abundant love, gone up in smoke? Highly unlikely, I say. Something is covering the heart; a denial that seems necessary to do what is being done, but love itself remains, even if hidden from view.

As part of the Compassion Prison Project, which I highly recommend, I exchange letters with a man on death row. I think you might be surprised at how easy it is to do this; two souls writing to one another. That's the way I see it.

Tough love. Does that really work? I am not an advocate. Teaching, showing, modelling, providing opportunities for people to dig deep into their core and be resilient; that's worth doing, absolutely, but without love in the heart, without a sense of a soul touching a soul, I am not sure you are doing any good.

We, as humans, have so much capacity to shine a light in the darkness. I wonder why we let that opportunity go so readily.

Wednesday, October 20, 2021

Love

 At bedtime last night I found myself having a bit of a scroll through my Facebook roll (probably using the wrong terms there) and I came across a little video of a story about a chimpanzee who had been abused and was being nursed back to good health. 

When he was healed and ready, he was being taken to an area which was wholly protected and where he could live out his life happily and healthily with other chimpanzees. 

Jane Goodall was one of the people who escorted him to the area. She held his hand through the crate where he needed to be for the journey and she talked to him.

When they reached the place, they opened the door and the chimpanazee walked out. He had a good look around and could see he was free. 

He went and thanked the other girl there who had taken care of him and he took a few steps away from them. 

Then, he turned back, jumped on the box and wrapped his long arms around Jane Goodall and for several seconds they hugged; the most heartfelt hug of love between two creatures.

I cried openly as I watched and I am crying as I write this.

Love is all there is. Love makes the world go around. 

All the rest is mere detail. In so many years, you won't remember the detail and the detail will have vanished. Poof poof.

Be. Love.

Thursday, September 9, 2021

Two ruts

 Listening to a Zen talk today I learned of the two 'ruts' of meditation. In the first rut, we settle into this moment in a more accepting way; opening to a sense of Self where the self is less present. Using other words, it's the well known form of meditation where we get in touch with a sense of peacefulness and presence that is always there, when we allow it; when we relax into it. In this state of mind, the Self isn't so present, if it's present at all. If you close your eyes and focus on the blank dark screen in front of your eyes, you will see that you aren't present in those moments.

Thoughts become less noticeable, less present as mind and body relaxes making way for a sense of peace to become visible to us. It is always there, of course, but hidden behind thoughts and sensations. And so, by allowing thoughts to drift in and drift out, not clinging to them, but allowing them, the mind sort of opens up to something that feels calm, restful; open.

It can be difficult to explain meditative experiences, but a simple way to put it is that when the body relaxes and when the mind is focused on something such as the breath or sounds, the mind wants to think less, at least eventually, most of the time. When we are all stirred up, it isn't going to necessarily go as we want it to go. 

In the second rut, there is a second way of looking at the meditation experience. Basically, the central tenet of Buddhism is that there is suffering. There's no-one likely to disagree with this at this time in history, except perhaps if you are deeply in denial. And so, in the meditation we allow it. In essence we use the seed of suffering to germinate and bloom into a hidden potential. Perhaps, is the thought, that by allowing the suffering in, a shift might be experienced where our hearts break open into something that could be expressed as grace.

Personally, I think it's a real game changer to blend Buddhist/Zen practices with our knowledge of the brain. We know that the brain actually wants to be balanced. It wants to achieve homeostasis. Sure, we are going to have all kinds of experiences in our lives from deeply sad to profoundly joyful, but the brain and body look to return to homeostasis. In other words, things will happen in our external world, but our brain and body want for there to be a continual return to a balanced internal world.

This kind of sounds like Rut 1, I think.

But, when the internal world becomes unsettled, or, as I see it, your gut instinct is screaming at you to investigate thoughts and sensations, it's less likely you are going to have meditations where you can just ignore those troubling thoughts and sensations.

When these thoughts and sensations showed up for me, I tried to go to a sort of Rut 1 meditation but sometimes found that I was using a visualization to do in my mind what I wasn't yet ready to do in real life. It was like my gut instinct was telling me what was the right thing for me but another 'part' of me wanted what I wanted and refused to listen. So, the meditations were like a half way house, inching me closer to acceptance of all kinds of realities.

I was trained eventually to keep a journal and write in it immediately after meditating, so there's a big book somewhere here where there is evidence that my brain was coming to terms with the issues that came up for me. And, yes, over time there was plenty of resting in a big open space, with a wide open heart, but at the same time, I was growing some adeptness in acceptance; of what it was to be me without adequate opportunity to express this.

Last night, I had at least three discombobulating dreams that I remember quite vividly. This is quite rare and I think I may be getting more REM sleep time. I think the dreams were confirmation of the growing realization that what I need to achieve - a number of goals - will only be achieved on my own. That is, as much as I love the idea that there can be this great love affair with another human being - a meeting of minds and shared intimacy on all sorts of levels - that's not my lot. 

I was very angry in the dream about this at the same time as I experienced the sense that I was being unreasonable because the other people in the dream were clueless to help me. I wanted guidance from people who had no sense how to help me. As well, they were otherwise engaged. What was so important to me barely registered on their radar.

To put this altogether, meditation and research into the brain, clarified for me what I wanted and why I wanted it. It illuminated that characters come into one's life that in fact are more like characters from one's earlier life and less like those characters that can fill your cup; a cup that needs a lot of filling since it was only ever half full in terms of childhood needs.

I think of it like a wall. There you are on one side wanting to merge and there is the other person on the other side, maybe wanting to merge in some way too but not able to, due to drivers that lead in other directions. Sometimes you see over the wall, or that maybe in a moment here or there you can go around the wall, but most of the time, the wall simply stands in the way.

In real life, it can feel like the frustration that comes upon me when I can't speak another person's language. We both try in our own way to bridge the gap but we can never truly overcome the lack of language.

But, it's not anger. Not any more. It's not resentment. It's an opening up into a sense of life and all it's complexities; the frailties of being human; the appreciation of trauma and the mark it leaves on all of us. Meditation, just being, silence...it tenderizes the heart, increases compassion; allows one to merge into acceptance; softens and opens the heart.

At the same time, it encourages, deeply, self-compassion. Here I am on this side of the wall wanting with all my heart to merge in with the experiences of other human beings; human beings who find the idea of merging, of being wholly seen, quite terrifying. When one accepts, the relationship with self is entirely authentic. I have wanted what I didn't get as a young person, that's clear to me. Loneliness can envelop me. And yet, I feel stronger than I have in many years. 

My cart functioned best when I made two distinct ruts in the dirt - going to a still mind and going into the suffering. When so much trouble in the external world abounds, it's a timely reminder, that the very beautiful lotus grows in mud.

Monday, August 23, 2021

Addiction

 I've been doing some reading and listening around the subject of dopamine and emotional intensity. To put it into simple language, it seems that our brains like to be in a balanced state, in a state of homeostasis. 

In today's culture, there is excess supply of ways to get dopamine in a not particularly healthy way. We can play a video game, watch porn, drink alcohol to excess, take drugs. Over time, and when the activity takes place often enough, when we are not doing those activities, our brains tilt over to the low side, a sort of depression or craving state.

It seems that our brains don't want to be either too low or too high in dopamine, or too low or too high in emotional intensity. How high or low our emotional intensity is appears to be dictated by our genes, but whether it is a high or low emotional tendency, it seems that our brains find it uncomfortable to be too high or too low and so people are motivated to raise or lower their emotional levels to optimal levels.

As I write this I know that I am mixing two areas of research together and seeing what might gel together. Since I can only use myself as an example since I don't know anyone else's internal state, I would say that my whole range of emotions weren't at all welcomed in childhood, and not really in adulthood either. I think that  low outward expression was learned and conditioned, but I think I also was born with a relatively low emotional intensity.

One example an article gave of low emotional intensity was someone seeing a dorm house on fire and walking to the hose and then walking back with it to the dorm. I don't tend to go into high gear when confronted with a dilemma, usually, although I don't back away from a dilemma either.

Inside, there's a lot more emotional intensity going on. I definitely experience the whole spectrum of emotions inside. It wasn't always so but I learned to tune into my emotional state in later life. I can experience intense bliss at the same time as I can feel deeply sad, and all the emotions in between those highs and lows.

I am keenly aware of what the researchers talk about, that either a low mood or a high mood can be uncomfortable for me. When it is uncomfortable enough, I seek to bring my brain back to homeostasis.

In the case of a high emotional state, for example, the sense of deep connection I felt with my husband on a difficult hike we did together, I think the brain just starts to come down quite naturally. I register the bliss as deeply fortunate and know it won't last. I savor the high.

In the case of anxiousness, or depression, I make a mental note that no good with come of this, and I distract myself, quite naturally bringing the emotional state up towards a balanced state.

Dopamine levels are a bit different, I think. When dopamine has been raised in an unhealthy way, not these natural leveling outs of the brain but an induced state of excess such as takes place with too much of any sort of drug (be that a substance, an activity or a person), it appears to be the case that a cleanse is vital: a dopamine fast.

As the medical people like to say, you are going to feel worse before you feel better. Unless it is an extreme situation a 30 day fast will mean that the first two weeks won't be pretty, but by week 3 you will start to feel more balanced and after 30 days, you will be sober, so to speak.

Then, it's about deciding where you want to go from there - abstinence or  a return to your substance of choice but with good solid boundaries in place.

Is it the emotionally intense who are subject to addiction of some sort? It seems so, yes. Emotionally intense people want variety and novelty.

A caveat here. Whilst I don't think I am a particularly emotionally intense person, I can be. I  think you can be enticed to experience emotional intensity; have a proclivity to it in the right (wrong) circumstances. 

This is a more complicated conversation for another day but generally I think that someone like me has a proclivity to be manipulated and that relates to an empathic nature and some appetite for intensity. You only know you are addicted to something or someone after it has happened. In fact, we are all capable of addiction to something.

Meditation is a time when the brain will naturally go to homeostasis, in time. Yoga is an activity that also allows the brain to reach a balanced state. Gardening tends to balance the brain; walking, maybe running (not a runner).

I think there is a very logical explanation for why the practice of meditation and yoga have infiltrated their way into our Western culture. When the seeking of pleasure in our culture can result in excess dopamine highs, we are in great need of tilting that situation back down to a balanced state.

Wednesday, August 18, 2021

Beauty in suffering

My mind can be too active (like you didn't know!) and can wake me in the middle of the night. I've found some wonderful meditation music that does the job in lulling me back to sleep; tibetan healing music.

I found the need to reach for my phone to make use of the music last night but was sidetracked by the invitation to listen to an interview. The words that enticed me were something like 'there's beauty in suffering'.

It turned out to be a long interview with someone I hadn't heard of before. He outlined a difficult childhood in England wherein school was rough and he began experimenting in various ways that led to all sorts of problems.

I had drifted off to sleep and when I roused again he had been married, the marriage wasn't a happy one and over time he found himself with three children and the payment of the house, two cars, three children and a wife. 

I think that nowadays he has found a sense of peace in his spiritual work, had been on a long and difficult hike with a master of hiking last week. He's obviously well known enough in some circles to be on the podcast so hopefully his life has turned a corner. It's not by any means perfect because he still pays for everything associated with his family though he is not allowed to see his children.

The point is that I heard enough to be able to say that he had had his fair share of suffering. I was delighted to realize that I found myself awake at just the right moment to hear him make the statement that had drawn me to the podcast in the first place.

He said something like, 'There is such beauty in suffering. When you suffer deeply, you notice the smallest good things. I think you notice them with more intensity than if you didn't suffer in that way.'

Personally, I don't think you have to be deep in suffering to notice the parting of clouds, the bees buzzing about flowers collecting pollen, the scent of a rose; the smile of a passerby. But, I do agree that these small but poignant moments of life can happen alongside suffering, possibly with more intensity.

It's almost like there is a protective part of the brain, no matter the difficulties of a life, whose work it is to say, 'Look at that! Isn't life grand?'

Monday, August 16, 2021

Nurturance

 I listen to quite a few people on topics related to integrative medicine. My husband is a big believer in an integrative approach for cancer and I instinctively feel that there is so much merit to looking at life style and the mind for a sensible approach to healthy aging and happy living.

Deepak Chopra is on the record saying, 'Emotional trauma is the beginning of disease' and I feel the same way. When we are in turmoil on the inside that's when the body and mind have little choice but to believe that something is seriously wrong with this Being.

Michal Singer said in his podcast series (I listen on Spotify) that when a disregulated feeling occurs, to go away and relax the body and let the feeling release.  

I have noticed within myself for some time a sense that I need to rely on myself. It's not just a need perpetuated by circumstance - the pandemic, for example - but a need for this Being to be quiet; deliberate; self generating.

Some examples of this are the self-hugging I learned in yoga classes; befriending myself (accepting all parts of myself as welcome), walking alone, yoga online (we are in lockdown) and looking to be alone and silent as much as possible.

A thought has been simmering away, and gaining momentum more recently, that my interactions with some people aren't really in any way equal. Equal is a loaded word. It's hard to define equality since relationships have built into them a sense of give and take, with the scales tipped in one direction sometimes and in the other direction at other times. But, I don't mean that sort of 'not equal'.

What I mean is that I began to get a sense that I was there for the other person, not for them to be a source of friendship or comfort as I was for them, not with that empathic desire that is inbuilt in me, but rather as a stable presence for them.

This feeling didn't occur with just one person but with a handful of people. When I first noticed that feeling, and for some time after, I carried on as usual. I did my best to ignore the feeling. Yet, over time, what happened was that the feeling became more pronounced. The feeling became very uncomfortable.

There is intelligence in listening to the messages of the body. I noticed that I might get to the end of an email message and feel this empty feeling in my stomach. There was no nurturance. I hadn't got a jot of a sense that I was being offered anything genuine; heartfelt. The comments felt like such platitudes it left me to feel that what was keeping me in the relationship was a sense of duty.

Last June, I was scheduled to go to a Silent Retreat for a week, and if that had not needed to be cancelled due to lockdowns this would have been a wonderful experience for me. I can try to be as silent as possible in day to day life to create a sort-of Silent Retreat, but it will never match an environment where the expectation is that nobody talks.

For empaths especially, silence is a tonic. People tend to naturally want an empath in their lives. Empaths don't ask for much from people and they often don't get much, either. I don't mean material things. I mean nurturance.

It's true that empaths like to be of service; to give. They do get a lot out of making other people happy and seeing other people happy. In my earlier years I wouldn't have thought the way I am thinking now. I was just there for people; slipped off alone when it got too much, without thought about that behavior.

I don't know if it's a good or bad development. All I can say is that I began to see interactions where I felt that something was being taken without something being given in return as like a rock clinging to my leg. I began to feel I wanted to be freed.

Friday, August 6, 2021

Insomnia

During a disrupted night's sleep I found myself reading and much like a dream, I can't remember what I read or where I read it exactly. However, the thought, which I think I read, has stayed with me. 

As I recall, a research project had suggested that people who use the word 'I' more than most were more inclined to anxiety. In it's simplest form this idea makes sense, since it suggests a preoccupation with oneself; maybe some self-aggrandizement or self-involvement.

If you look at the above two short paragraphs, there are already 7 'I's typed, so there's no doubt this sort of language is like a runaway train, and to some extent unavoidable. 

In my insomniac state the idea held some merit. So too did the work of Dick Schwartz, that our minds are made up of parts, some of which are less than useful to us. The two ideas were somehow blending together. 

Trying to do whatever might work to allow surrender to sleep I tried the idea of referring to myself as 'cindi' rather than 'I'. cindi isn't my birth name but I relate to it more and feel more authentic using that name. 

At my yoga studio I have noticed that there is a trend amongst teachers to suggest one give oneself a hug. It might happen towards the beginning or end of a class and it is a lovely, self-soothing thing to do. I think many modalities of healing are coming to see how important touch is to humans.

Blending these ideas together, I lay on my side with my arms wrapped around me and said to myself, 'it's okay, cindi, you're going to be all right'.

I felt something shift. In the past days, I had allowed myself to be rattled through external environmental factors. My internal state had become distressed. I had, through frustration, made comments that only someone with influence can make. I'm not sought for my opinions at home but rather as a place where ideas can be expressed and sorted through. No more than a word or two is necessary.

Yet a 'part' of me had demanded a voice. It was a part that hated conflict. It said things to my husband like, 'Do you really need this in your life? You're 65! Why can't you just choose joy?' It was a part that was refusing to acknowledge the facts of life; that my husband never wants to leave the arena of business; that this is his version of joy.

That's when I felt myself sinking back into that joyful place inside me. cindi is innately joyful; quiet; at peace. cindi never feels comfortable using 'I'. cindi is completely in tune with that bimbo entity. cindi hasn't a thought in her little head.

And, that's when I fell deeply asleep, awaking again at 10.56 am.

Tuesday, August 3, 2021

White light

 When fully conscious of what is going on in your body - perhaps a tightness of the chest when someone makes a comment, or an overall agitation when the need to be alone is there and can't take place - there can be a recognition for an empath that there is risk of taking on the emotions, states and traits of someone else.

When going along well, you recognize those emotions /compulsions/irritations/quirks over there with the other person without being knocked off center. 'Oh, there's that , again', you might think, but without any sort of reaction beyond that. 

That's a good outcome, as I see, because it means that you are quite grounded in the moment. In other words, you are not at risk of taking on some other emotion or problem belonging to someone else. Your day hasn't been effected and on you go.

Some vague sort of expectation, however small, is part of the issue here, too.  I consciously try hard not to have someone else carry my own emotions and states. When people ask me to carry their emotions and states, which can happen in various ways (for example, not asking how I am before launching into their day's drama, or simply being self-involved whether quiet or noisy about it), I can feel that I am not worthy of expecting something from the other. This is no good thing. There's a difference between having no expectations and  having realistic expectations.

When that happens, when I just get sick enough of the other's self-involvement (or obsessive-compulsive, anal-retentive approach), I go my way. You could call this recovery, or you could call it cleansing yourself. One way or another, the decision is made within myself that my own company will work best for a time, perhaps several days or longer.  

In an ideal world, one would hold one's ground at all times, in spite of how the other is behaving. Martha Beck spoke of this recently and she got the idea from someone else, which is completely common in spiritual circles. Nothing is wholly a novel idea. It's my own rendition below.

Here's how it goes. Imagine that someone has come to you with no interest in offering you anything but instead they want you to know that they aren't having a good day. Or, they come to you in the hope that by spending some time with you, there will be some sort of respite from their work day, more or less neutral except that you have needs of your own and they aren't going to be useful fulfilling them.

You're kind of peeved about this. You've been out all day, busily running around and you want a few moments to yourself. Their presence is kind of irritating you. You don't want to lose your  balance, to fall down to some reduced state of being.

Now. Imagine a beam of white light. It's white light that resides in an eternal and cosmic way. It's light that is a source of love and healing. Imagine the clouds parting to allow the light to beam all the way from the heavens and cast its long shard of light all the way down to the top of your head. Feel the warmth, feel the radiance on your scalp. Feel the light make its way down through your head to your neck, your chest area. Allow it to fill your heart. Feel it flow through your stomach, your pelvis, legs, knees and feet. 

The light doesn't stop there. It passes through you and down into the ground below your feet, earthing you to the light, now above your head, within you and below you. You are not only filled with the white, healing light but it has come to provide a protective layer all around you, like the shell of an egg.

You are filled. Here the other person is over there. Here you are, bathed in a white and healing light that is nourishing, protective, fulfilling.

Not only that. The other seems to intuitively know, can feel your tranquil energy, and isn't so needy any more either. Nor do you need anything from the other. You're full and complete; replete.

Notice too that when you are conjuring the white light, fully immersed in the experience, there's no physical pain. Ah! Isn't that something.

Sunday, August 1, 2021

Retire the robot

Just one quick thought which can be expanded on when I have more time. I am thinking of the work of Joe Dispenza as I write this. A good time to meditate is in the morning. 

Maybe you feel there's no time for this. In that case, when you open your eyes and realize it's you in bed, alive, don't allow your mind to have just the same thought as yesterday and the day before that. Don't allow your mind to locate and illuminate your 'problem', as if you're a robot programmed to do this.

Instead, clear your mind. Hold on to, or merge with that dream state from which you have just left and see if you can't go to nothingness.

Nothingness = you're not you. You don't have a name. You aren't a parent or a spouse, a daughter or son. You don't have a title and you aren't attached to any objects. You're nothing. Focus on the dark space in front of your eyes and blend with it.

Now, see how today goes. You might like to try this tomorrow too.

Saturday, July 31, 2021

Special moments

Time for just one thought today. I think the COVID period of our lives has made especially apparent that elusive sense of 'time'. It reminds me of this winter, also marked by lockdowns here, but also a grey, overcast winter. There are moments when one feels in the thick of it; can't see the end to it. Then, one morning, one walks out into the kitchen into bright sunlight. The memory of those grey days can be hard to locate. And there it is - this moment. A wake up call, that this moment is good.

Hard to be so 'present' in the hard moments. Bogged down if you will by being in the middle of a process, be that a hard winter, a COVID lockdown, a medical issue.

Yet, the invitation is there to be present in all of the moments, to bow down to this moment, however difficult. 'And now this.'

In the course of a life there are moments that shine out as needing more attention that others; days when the sun shines down upon you. My eldest son shared some wonderful news last night over a family dinner out at a restaurant (what a novelty these days!) and as I hugged him goodbye and congratulated him yet again he said to me, 'We are so happy'.

Whilst the goal is to be present in all of the moments, not to be too swayed off course by any moment - I highly approve of savoring the happy moments. Drink them in and be nourished by them.

Friday, July 30, 2021

A Day in the Life

 I thought I would try, without any undue pressure on myself, to try to jot down at least a thought, or an impression most days. Even when time is short, perhaps a feeling, or a small slice of insight.

I have noticed a considerable uptick in talk on podcasts about psychedelics; measured comments with much care on doing them in the right place with the proper care. All the same it is being reported there are considerable benefits from using psychedelics to tap into the psyche, the sub-conscious, and possibly making talk therapy more lucrative for the patient from this loosening of the sub-conscious.

In my case, from those times when I felt something was really wrong, a deep discomfort from within myself, to now, it took a lot of private processing and so I don't immediately reject the assistance of psychedelics.

I don't reject thinking things through. As humans we seem to protect ourselves with these outer coatings and shells, denial, so thinking it through, reading, gathering material, researching a topic, is all good stuff.

At the end of the day we have intuition; as much personal power as we can muster. We have choices; some choices. If we lead from the heart we can't go too far wrong.

There are hardships for people, difficult times. We all have them at the same time as we hang onto respite - a cool breeze later in the evening, some sunshine forecast for later in the week. There's an innate knowing that it's nearly never all bad; that you can have more than one emotion or one thought at the very same time.

Whatever ails a person, whatever must be endured, there is always the opportunity to put one's head out the door or window and gasp at the spectacular show out there; be it a chaotic street in Bombay, or the lush peace of Tuscany or simply a bird tweeting on the tree in the backyard, it's quite the show. We are lucky to have a seat at this theater we call life.

Thursday, July 29, 2021

Give and take

 A correspondent once wrote to me about the intention of a hug. Some hugs, she said, felt like something was being taken from you. She wanted a hug that felt like someone was giving something to you. 

I haven't thought about that statement since then, except to say that for some months, perhaps a year or more, I have noticed that I walk away from my husband's hugs wanting. It's an odd sort of feeling, to connect and yet to feel disconnected. I have wondered if it had something to do with the fact that he has  lost considerable weight. 

The only way I could describe it to myself until recently was that I wanted it to feel like a 'bear hug'. I wanted to be enveloped in the hug; protected; nourished. I am not sure that he is taking anything from me, but nor do I feel that he is giving me anything either. I think he wants the momentary connection, understandable, perhaps a neutral thing, neither giving or taking away. All I know is that it doesn't fill me; it doesn't satisfy the 'wanting'.

For a couple of years now, certainly all last year and this year, my husband has wanted a certain outcome in his business. It has been a transition thing and the transition hasn't gone exactly to his plan. He has worried this, strategized; tried to get things to go his way. 

It's all understandable and I realized in the past couple of days that retirement of a sort (he does have several other avenues of investment and projects to undertake) equated to him as a form of death before he died. He gets purpose from his business activities and can't seem to begin to imagine a life wherein we lived in a smaller house, traveled regularly to the country; put the focus on a much less stressed life together whilst at the same time having our own pursuits and interests. 

Some people have a compulsive personality. They feel compelled to control, to do things perfectly, to only do those things that they can do perfectly. They want to control their world and they feel anxious when they lose control. They are willing to work hard, are incredibly conscientious and don't seem to notice when relationships become unbalanced, or when friends and family leave them to their insatiable drive to achieve.

My father, who was a hotelier, had no interest in Christmas or any other celebratory day. Despite Christmas Day being one of the few days when the business wasn't open, he insisted one year, on opening on this day to trade. I feel sure it was a day when we lost money since people chose to spend the day at home, but his argument had been that if he opened every day people would be able to rely on us as always being open. I think it's fair to say our feelings on the matter didn't rate at all.

It was long before I interrogated my parents' opinions and choices. All I knew was that the day felt soul-less and sad.

I have read material that advises someone like me, who tends to put up with a situation silently to avoid any conflict, to express one's needs. I took that advise about a week ago. My husband came to bed about the same time as me, which is to say before midnight, which these days is a most unusual outcome. He likes to work until the middle of the night generally. He gave me a bit of a rub and quietly I said, 'I get lonely, you know.' Just as quietly he said, 'Well, that's not good.' 

But, it didn't make a pinch of difference and it won't make a pinch of difference. He is compelled to do what he does, and if I am honest, he has always had that compulsion.

I have to think that this was the initial attraction. I was kind, I was quiet, I was sweet. I understood his drive because I had seen it all my life. Both parents felt compelled to work. I got used to looking after myself from a very early age. The situation was never balanced, so why ask for it to be at this late stage of the game?

Something is arising within me, if only that I am being honest with myself and allowing the range of emotions to be felt.


Wednesday, July 28, 2021

Sadness

 I listened this morning to a podcast about resentment. It was no surprise to me that I do some things right. When people hurt me, and you have to be pretty darn close to me to do that, there really is no sense of resentment. I tend to see the overarching big picture. I tend to think not only of all the elements that went into them becoming who they are, and the issues around that, but also several generations before them. Maybe it is all the reading I have done, but I feel previous generations surround me and am aware they influence us all. 

In any case, people make mistakes, missteps. We all do. We're just people, in some ways more stupid than the four legged creatures. Expecting perfection is just madness.

I, on the other hand, do get sad. I have been sad lately. I think when you come to really know just how difficult it is for people to let go of compulsions and addictions, it can make you sad. Shuggie Bain made me oh so sad. I don't think you can read that novel and not feel sad. I am so grateful for a book club that pushes me through novels that might otherwise not be finished. 

I have to admit that the sadness came too from a sense of understanding the pain of those characters. I have never experienced that sort of poverty described but I am betting my forebears have. I too have seen that sort of desperation up close. I grew up on the top of a working man's pub and I saw very sad and desperate people every day.

My parents bought an outdoor play set one day. I don't know if it was for my brother and I, or for the children of the patrons of the hotel who had access to it. Either way, one day a mother who was off to drink in the women's lounge (they weren't allowed by law to drink in the main bar) brought her children out to the playset. I must have been a little older than the children and she told me that if they misbehaved I should smack them.  WTF?! 

Shuggie Bain was set in Scotland in the 1980s mostly and my story is from the 1960s. Yet, it's the same sort of story; a family in distress; neglected children. Addiction. It was tough to watch it, to be around it.

I've never been sure if I was born an introvert (my eldest son says that I am only an introvert when I want to be, since I do fine in social situations) or if my circumstances made me an introvert. I just longed all my childhood for privacy and for a normal home life; a house, a shared meal.

In the podcast this morning, the question came up, 'What's your emotion of choice?' Sadness? Anger? For me, it would be sadness. Happily, whilst I can have a day where sadness can envelop me, I can't stay there too long. There's a sense of claustrophobia about sadness and one has to get up and leave it behind. Almost like, 'look, thanks for dropping by, again, but I have things to do and places to go...'

I think I can admit this here. I am really never bored. I have this incredibly rich inner life that keeps me quite entertained. Should that become too much, I retreat to that golden silence when I close my eyes and discover all over again, that stillness and silence is where the magic lives.

Tuesday, July 27, 2021

Authenticity

 To attend a dharma group is one of life's most lovely activities. It's quite possible, should you attend, you wouldn't say a word, simply listen. You might feel compelled to say something and if you did it would be words from deep inside you. Nothing else seems vaguely right in that setting, trust me.

This isn't a place to talk about how lovely the weather has been lately, not in that chatty way we do,  sometimes to avoid saying anything deeper. We might talk about the weather, as in, 'I felt the breeze on my face as I was walking in the park this afternoon, and it felt so good to be alive in this moment'. There are lots of times in dharma group where people want to share their gratitude for life.

As well, there are moments where people choose to share their deepest fears. I am not sure that I have shared this before. One day, a woman, a brave woman, shared that she wasn't sure what love felt like exactly. She was kind and had experienced kindness, but feelings of love had been elusive  for quite some time.

I did wonder how the the leader of the group would react. In spiritual circles, love is so often spoken of, as if we should have access to that emotion all the time, and if we don't, we need to meditate on that more. Even people on the street will talk about love in such throwaway terms, who has the courage to question that we should be able to access the emotion moment by moment? What sort of a person are we, we secretly ponder, if we struggle to hold on to feelings of love, in spite of circumstances?

She didn't miss a beat. Acknowledging that her views weren't popular in spiritual circles, she admitted that she too didn't always feel love towards her fellow humans. People disappointed her, and love wasn't necessarily felt. Sometimes, she offered, it is enough to offer kindness. Kindness was enough.

It was, I feel sure, a very special moment for the woman who had opened the discussion. I am not at all sure she would have received the same sort of non-judgmental, or honest answer from family, friends or strangers. 

This is what is so enticing about a dharma group! The urge to speak one's truth is encouraged. 

And, this is what I love about this anonymous blog. I feel I can speak my mind here. I was a little alarmed over the past few weeks that my stats seem to be saying that there are thousands of people that come here in a week. I don't understand it or follow it since I have used up my storage capacity, or something, but week after week, it shows that it's not just the handful of readers I had thought. Nonetheless, I feel such peace here; such acceptance; the raw expression of my authentic personality.

Sometimes, I have written to sort of save my soul; to express that which I felt could not be said; pure venting; anger, the drive for security or connection. That sort of writing does not work out so well for me. It's a form of expression but there's no real pleasure in it.

In my childhood I had lots of time on my own and what came naturally to do was to write. Simply putting words on a page was an innate pleasure. I often read a book and quite apart from the story marvel at words beautifully strung together. Douglas Stewart wrote of the poverty of Glasgow in the 1980s. As Agnes walked past a group of women he compared the huddling of women whispering as like penguins sharing thoughts.  I thought that a stroke of brilliance. Instantly, I saw the women, the way their bodies moved into the other to share snide remarks. One imagines him on a plane coming up with the paragraph, stretching perhaps to make the writing the best it could it be, but experiencing delight at the creation of the paragraph too. (A fitting Booker Prize recipient!)

In life, I get so tired of social convention, even between people wed. All that cajoling, agreeing; the quiet and gentle veneer that hides a myriad of thoughts and emotions one dare not share for fear of reprisal, judgment or rejection. Here, you get me, my authentic self; not just the violin but the whole orchestra of an internal life.

Monday, July 26, 2021

Character building

Imagine for a moment a family which struggles. Let's put some details around that. Imagine a man looking to gain some autonomy, a man that was raised on a farm by a father that went to war; a father damaged psychologically and unfit to raise the boy. Survival of the spirit demands that the man leave the family farm and make it on his own.

The man has good intentions. He wants to succeed and he is willing to work very hard to make that happen.  There is no issue with perseverance here. He's a hard working man. The farm may require the clearing of much of the land, but he'll do it a tree at a time if necessary. He will get up early and come in late if that is what he needs to do.

He wants to do right by his children. His birth family demanded that he be responsible from a young age and he has taken on that hard work ethic message. There is a great deal of anxiousness around his responsibilities and he exhibits this with flare ups and angry words. Success is a standard that must be met, not just by him but also by his offspring. It's natural to him to expect the children to focus on work, on achievement, on grades, on the higher education he never had, but wanted.

In this environment, those children with a relatively easy scholastic aptitude and an inbuilt sense of their place in the world, most likely the first born child, will fare all right. There are issues, because that hard work ethic is likely to plague the first born child's life also, but the scholastic aptitude and the attention given to the first born are assets.

If, in the mix of the family, there is a child that has a difficulty, maybe a reading difficulty or a more soft and anxious disposition, there are likely to be considerable issues. Since academic success is the measure of a child in this family, a sense of Self will be damaged and a need to prove one's worth will be high on the agenda.

Such a child is likely to try very hard to attain academic success, or any success, in the eyes of the father. A sporting achievement might be useful here, or simply hard work; taking on responsibilities beyond the age of the child.

Imagine in this family, there is illness that falls upon the family. The empathic member of the unit, the mother becomes chronically ill, terminally ill. Imagine that she is encouraged to travel the world in what might be her last year(s) of life, leaving behind children away at school but also children at home, at the local school. 

Imagine this young and vulnerable child, academically challenged, not at all failing but struggling to get those super duper scores to impress the father, now asked to take on much more responsibility than a child of his tender years should be asked to do, without the softness of his mother to offer him the succor and support he so needs. To survive, he must, he realizes intuitively, control his emotions; keep on keeping on.

In these early years of life, born into this family with this disposition and these challenges, to not display one's emotions, to keep one's head down, to work hard, to keep aiming high and to try everything in one's power to impress makes sense. It is a child's primary goal to survive one's childhood and so the child does what he needs to do.

In adulthood, and as the boy ages over time, the strategies are not nearly so successful. There is some semblance of  flexibility with his own children in terms of what success looks like, but academic scores are still what matter. It's only when his own children begin to exhibit significant signs of creativity that he is forced to surrender to the notion that there is more than one way to live a successful and happy life. 

Hard work, long hours, relentless striving with not much recognition of day or night, weekday or weekend is his life. It goes beyond need to work. This is a striving that has a life force of its own. And, a logic of its own. Certain tasks are avoided, sometimes for decades, whilst other tasks are undertaken with a microscopic precision; the details sometimes far more important than the overview demands. The big picture is not able to be seen.

When I think about such characters for a story I find myself wanting and yet unable to get them to a place where damage is healed. If a person strongly believes that the way they live is the right way to live, what can the family do about this? Where would a therapist begin if such a man ever agreed to evaluate his thinking and strategies? This is all so unlikely.

I listen to a podcast of two psychologists shooting the breeze about various issues relating to treatment of personality disorders and it was interesting to hear what they had to say about a personality such as I have painted above. For one thing, a year's therapy was seen as a minimum, 50 sessions. The goals would be to reduce the high standards, re-scripting, which largely means re-parenting, or chair work; looking at what a healthy parent might have said or done in certain circumstances.

Another interesting treatment strategy would be for the person be set a goal but in a shorter time than they would allow on their own. The idea is to break down the perfectionism whilst also getting tasks achieved.

Pushing the notion that emotions are a good thing was another strategy; not just anger which comes so naturally to someone who has been traumatized in childhood but a whole range of emotions; re-evaluating vulnerability as a way into true intimacy. No small task.

Monday, July 12, 2021

Sexual types - kinky/energetic

I came across a test lately, via a podcast for the Heal Documentary that spoke of 5 sex languages; not the love languages we have known of for some time, but sex languages. I did the test. It turns out I am in equal parts 'kinky' and 'energetic'.

I could explain this in a couple of ways. Yes, I am kinky in that I love to be in a power dynamic. It's a great turn on for me. At the same time, I love anticipation, games; a bit of mind fuckery, together with, at times, feeling transcendence into a sacred union.

What I don't like is a quick wam bam thank you ma'am style of sex. Granted, when young this happened endless times and with a high libido, it's not a bad thing. But, as I aged, I found this kind of sex, well, soul-less. 

For someone who feels a physical/sexual urge and is good to go, we kinky/energetic types must seem like hard work. I acknowledge that.

Yet, there is so much to be had when the time and effort is taken to form a union that can be, not every time of course, transcendent.

I could write more about this, but evidentially there are countless posts in this journal that speak of arousal of the mind before the body, of transcendence and union, that I fear I would just be repeating myself.

What bothers me is that this sort of material - sexual types - is the sort of information that needs to be available to people. Those not of the other's sexual type, the kinky and energetic particularly, can feel like hard work, or out of the mainstream, or just plain wrong for not being able to be aroused and wanting penetration simply via some stimulation of the body, at a moment's notice.

A few years ago I wrote a draft post that I never posted and I came across it today by chance. I will publish here because it goes some way to describing what I mean. There's a certain level of devotion that an energetic sex type naturally gravitates to, I believe, because that's part of the sacred union desired. It's in line, I also think, with the notion of dominance and submission, because if that's your bent, you flourish in that sort of bond.

If your partner happens to be a sexual type, such as mine is, there can be considerable miscommunication and missteps. In such mismatched relationships, it's important that both partners do their best to accommodate the other. It's the only solution, as I see it; to incorporate both styles into the mix.

Anyway, here's what I wrote back then:

More than anything else what struck me about the meditation retreat I was on last week was the devotion of the couple running the retreat. John (I will call him) lost one of his legs to cancer over 40 years ago and uses crutches to get around. He has been with his second wife for 17 years, an attractive and slim able bodied doctor. Together, they make a formidable team and have provided assistance to thousands of people over the years looking for guidance with their cancer diagnosis, their physical pain and their emotional pain. Meditation is a big part of that plan though it is John who is the expert on that subject. Rachel (I'll call her) acknowledges that she is no great meditator despite all her practice over the years.

As the days began to meld into each other I became more and more impressed observing their relationship. There is no doubt that this is a great love affair that has no possibility of burning out. He is a courageous man, strong willed, forceful and somewhat intimidating to a person like me, but in a group he has a star quality. We all knew that we were in the presence of a very special man, a man who had studied, met and practiced under the tutelage of world spiritual leaders. We all knew that we needed to try our best; that if he, with all his ailments and challenges could achieve so much, well then what possible excuses did we have?

He had a tendency to make his way into the room, the top of the circle, when we were seated. He would get comfortable in his chair and immediately Rachel was there with the jug of water and a glass. She didn't fuss around him. He'd not have tolerated that and I'm sure she learnt that lesson many years ago, but she was at the ready with anything he might want - an umbrella when it rained, a reference, a word. She sat slightly behind him and to his right. Somehow she had worked out the balance of keeping the sessions lighter when the material got too dense at the same time as not interrupting his flow; occasionally challenging him in a way that he tolerated until there might come an occasion when he corrected her. 'Could you not cut across me...' and insisting on having the floor until his point was complete. She deferred immediately.

It was obvious that these two people knew each other's every nuance, and that over time she had managed to get a little movement, a little softening in what he would allow. In our last session together she openly praised him for his willingness to accept questions in teaching sessions, something rather new of late, it seems. At one point he talked about how easy it was for people to blame someone else, and with his dry sense of humor added 'For me, that is usually Rachel' and she immediately shot back 'And I like to take responsibility for everything so it works well'. 'Yes,' he added, 'it's a rather good arrangement actually.' Of course, we all laughed. They fit together like a hand in a well fitted leather glove.

In our final session we were asked to give our final impressions and when it was my turn, the second last person to speak I spoke, naturally enough, of the inspiration I had drawn from watching their marriage in practice. We had spoken on occasion of 'sacred love' and they embodied that, I said. I spoke from the heart and it simply had to be said.  The material, the meditation sessions, the learning, the food, the silence, were all fascinating, but the love and devotion is what really impressed me the most.

It is thought that there are two portals into the Higher Self, a sacred place; one is a particular type of meditation practice and the other is sacred love. When those elements are combined the results are mindblowing.

And there it is in black and white. I want more than the average bear. I want to be "mind blown". And now I have an excuse. I am a kinky energetic.

Monday, July 5, 2021

Virtues

 There are various models for explaining the brain. It feels right to me to think of each person as having parts. You might have heard someone say something like, 'There's a part of me that wants to go and there's another part of me that's want to stay home.' 

There are parts of oneself, on any given day, or in any given moment that feels insecure, or jealous, or sad, or delighted, or boisterous; sure of oneself or not sure of anything. It ebbs and flows, emotions move along, almost as if buffeted by unseen forces.

In mid-winter, as it is for me right now, I can feel my spirits rise anytime the white and grey clouds, as heavy as a dozen blankets forcing me down, part. The moment they decide to allow a patch of blue sky to be seen, it's an 'ahhhhhhh' moment for me. Nothing has ever changed the simple fact that I don't feel right under thick, dirty, dense clouds multiple days in a row. There's a good reason why those down South migrate up to Queensland in the winter.

I digress. So, these parts tend to get in the way of a content life. Let's take it for granted, since people have been saying this for thousands of years, that we are all born with a strong sense of Selfhood. You might have heard of it as 'the Self' or the 'Higher Self'. This isn't a part but rather the core of us.  It can't be broken, we are told, which I think is a most comforting thought.

This core of us has a number of noble qualities: compassion, courage, calmness, creativity, curiosity, confidence, clarity and sense of connection.

Logic tells us that when we don't feel we have one or more of these qualities at our disposal, it's a part, a Manager, that is speaking for us; trying to do the right thing by us, for sure, but probably mucking things up.

When I look at the list I feel I have many of these qualities; some in abundance, which is to say, possibly too much of that quality. I have so much compassion, most people think of me as an out of control empath. Some people call it a 'highly sensitive person'. The thing is I can often feel another person, or animal's distress. I can remember the face of a homeless person years after I saw them. I can pass a tree and actually feel a union with it. It takes up a lot of my life to process this quantity and depth of feeling.

I am courageous. I haven't been tested in so many situations, but I have been tested and I know I have courage; growing more all the time. 

I am calm, almost all the time. It wasn't always so, but I am calm. Yes, I can be internally distressed, aware of a swath of feelings, but it would be hard to tell if you saw me.

Creativity seems to be emerging more and more. I can feel more myself when emerged in some form of creativity. I need that.

Curiosity: that was never ever an  issue for me. I am the curious cat. I am curious about everything.

Confidence: now there is an issue there for sure. There's a part of me (note that) that tries to manage the possibility of judgment and failure. I know this. I am starting to talk back a little to that Manager. 'I get that you don't want me hurt, but sometimes I have to at least try. I want to try.'

Clarity: That's a hard one to assess since we all look at the world through our own eyes and have our own perceptions. That said, I feel clear about so much now. I wasn't clear for a long time but I did my research and I get what went down, why it went down. Even from a world view, there's no one force or period of time or leader that led to the state of the world as it is right now. It's the forces of thousands of years and the makeup of the human that led to now.

Connection: This ebbs and flows. I was at a concert yesterday afternoon and there was a line in a song that went something like, 'We are all walking down the track together' along with lots of drum work to accompany the singers, and I felt an intense sense of connection to all mankind; to the business of living life on this planet. And yet, on a moment by moment basis, I can still feel quite alone. I know this is where the work still lies even though I feel so much more connected than I used to.

Maya Angelou, the voice of wisdom without a doubt, spoke of the Virtues. Of all the virtues the most important was courage, since all the other virtues required courage.

Aristotle spoke of 12 virtues: courage, moderation, liberal spending, charisma/style, generosity, ambition, patience, friendliness, honesty, humor and joy, modesty of ego, and sense of justice.

I like Aristotle's list because it encompasses a whole person in a whole life. What point would there be, for example, if one had all the virtues without a sense of humor and joy: wit? And where would someone be without some sense of style or charisma? To be individual, to express the essence of you, and to feel comfortable in your own individual being makes life full and whole.

Someone recently said in a podcast, and unfortunately I can't remember who said it right now, that our society is at risk in not being able to be clear about what is true. For sure, we all own our own truth, but there is Truth too. At our core, we know what's right and wrong.

I think this is why people have been meditating for thousands of years. I really do. In that quiet space, silent and still, there's room for introspection, for reflection, for knowing one Self; for exploring the forces of  a life, good and bad; for inspecting the flow of emotions; for fostering calm and strength; for gratitude and clarity.

It makes sense to accept as a given that there is sadness and loss in every life; not to fight that reality. Seeing that as a given, we can land more fully on happiness, joy, contentment and peace; whenever and however those moments come, we can notice them, give our thanks, and not be perturbed when they leave again.

We are more alike than we know. We are all just walking each other home.

Friday, May 7, 2021

Equanimity

 A couple of years ago when I attended an Ayurveda Retreat in Kerala, India, I was asked immediately to fill out quite a long form related to my medical and emotional health. After that, two medical doctors invited me into their rooms wherein they measured this and that, felt this and that. They listened to my heart and looked into my eyes. All the while, they said things to one another in their own language. They went over the answers I had written on the long form and then they asked for clarification or elaboration of several of them.

It felt to me that they focused in on my answers related to my state of mind. I recall sharing two important snippets into my life. I shared that my husband could be exasperating. Dr Molly waved this away. This was the way of the world, she said. This was marriage!

This led me to share the other area of anxiety. I worried about getting cancer. There was no need to worry about this, she told me. I was a very healthy woman. Everything was fine. I was given two supplements to take morning and night, as was everyone else it seemed to me. Other than that, did I have ailments to report?

Yes, one. I experience a tight neck on my left side. I was told she would have the therapist focus in on this area of my body. They would fix it, not to worry.

I was given a few instructions. I was not to eat cold food at night. Well, there was no cold food at night anyway, other than dessert. Not too much salad at lunch. Dr Molly couldn't understand why I ate the salad at all. It is not enough food. No, really, I assured her. I loved the salad. She waved at the air. What can you do?

Each day the protocol was for me to come and see Dr Molly. She wanted to know of bowel movements and sleep activity. Then, she said something to the physical therapist and off I went to be massaged in some spectacularly heavenly way for a couple of hours. There were other clients ready with a list of complaints and she saw no reason to prolong our daily visitation.

It was Dr Molly, and no one else, before or since, that put into my mind that I was actually a well person. It was a very liberating thought.

In my childhood I experienced considerable ill health. There were the usual colds but I also had some sort of blockage in my ducts around my ears. This went away by itself, I think. 

I developed osteomyelitis  in a knee as a teenager at the time when I was boarding with a friend's family, when my parents went to the country to manage a business. In my second year of University I developed a benign cyst in my breast that needed to be removed. And, right after having my second child, the osteomyelitis came back.

It all seemed random, bad luck, but these days I have suspicions around the anxiety I was experiencing and the interconnection of those rather serious bouts of bad health and the way my life unfolded as part of the family into which I had been born. I can never know, for sure. What I was left with was a sense of uncertainty around my lifespan that I had trouble shaking, but Dr Molly put my worries to rest.

Of course, at the retreat I was offered only vegetarian fare and this sits well with me and suits me. I had had to go cold turkey at my first retreat five or six years ago, no meat, no caffeine, no alcohol.  I believe in a plant based diet; a little fish and even a little less meat and eggs. I keep processed foods to an absolute minimum because I feel terrible when I eat them.

Maybe I will and maybe I won't live a long life. It feels far more likely to me now that I will have a long life. My mother is still alive. The worry about all that is gone now.

For the longest time, I lived in denial of my emotional wasteland. What I mean by that is that I didn't allow, or didn't even know how to explore my range of feelings. When the emotional pain came to the surface, it was like a tsunami. It threatened to take me down. Since I was forced to do something about it or perish, I did.

There were no easy answers but rather a perilous adventure where I fully explored the trauma, the causes of it; how it felt from every angle. I went deep into the trauma. I may have gone too far, places I didn't need to navigate, but perhaps the depth of the investigation contributed to the healing. To say I understand the meaning of the term 'the dark night of the soul' is to put it lightly.

I am still investigating meditation for the traumatized person because I wonder if it could have been an easier path, and if so, how others can have an easier ride.

Deepak Chopra, in all his great wisdom, might say that embodiment isn't so important since there is no mind or body but simply consciousness, but I feel embodiment was key; feeling into the emotions felt in the body as well as being aware of the space of the body, the space around the body. I wasn't used to that. Until I explored it, my emotional life and the way it interacted with the physical body was quite closed to me.

A vital step was self love; tapping into the traumatized (neglected) child part of me; literally rescuing her from a place where, when I met with her she was always sad and inert; silent. (It was so enriching later to read of people who experienced their inner child in exactly the same way.)

I have now heard a few people say that you should meditate until you don't really need to meditate; that is to say, until your life is a meditation, and I subscribe to that. You have to let the body and mind rest and settle. You need to find those internal states of bliss, satisfaction, happiness, contentedness. You have to experience joy more and more; the taste of your coffee; the sense of being at One, One.

When you can let go of certain outcomes; of being hard on yourself, judging others, trying to engineer great results, the mind appreciates this. Kindness to self and others becomes the default. You are all in this together. You are all walking each other home. You are just the observer of this moment, resting in the moment, however it goes. Everything, let's face it, is fundamentally okay in nearly all our moments. As someone once put it to me, oh so long ago, there is nothing to fear but fear itself.

It would be laughable to suggest I don't think thoughts and plan. Right now I am thinking I best move off and get ready for an event tonight. I haven't thrown my hands up and left it all to the pixies to arrange life. I have, nonetheless, found a space in which I can most often rest in equanimity; a hard fought win.

Friday, February 12, 2021

The 'bimbo' Part

 I've been doing some free guided meditations on Insight Timer where Dick Schwartz takes the listener on some experiences connecting in with their Parts. In one meditation we were taken on a walk and encouraged to just go alone if possible, to leave our Parts at the beginning of the trail. If you are watching yourself rather than being on the trail aware of your surroundings, then a Part has come along, so he encouraged us to ask the Part to go back and wait at the entrance of the Trail.

It didn't take me more than a few minutes, even less, to realize that when I am out in nature, or even in the city but have walked long enough in a state of peace, I am alone with my Self. No Parts are with me. How do I know? There isn't any meaningful chatter in my head. I'm not devising To Do lists. I am not immersed in memory or the future. I am in the Now, aware of the trees, the twittering of birds. I am in my body, settled, secure; needing nothing. 

In the best of times, I am completely at peace. When I was in Peru on the trail, or in Telluride walking up to Bear Falls, I experienced this profoundly. It is said that when a meditator experiences pure Awareness, all they want to do is to experience it again. Yes, I have experienced Awareness in meditation, but moreso in Yoga or on trails, or walking through the coastal town I visit, stopping to stare at the ocean at certain vantage points. 

I have also experienced a complete sense of harmony, peace and tranquillity in the 'bimbo' state. Look at the c's of Selfhood - curiosity, creativity, confidence, connection,  compassion, courage, calmness, clarity. All of these qualities have been available to me in the bimbo state.

I wrote myself a diary note this morning. I wrote this:

"I think 'bimbo' is a hurt Part. She felt it was dangerous, could easily be hurt, had been hurt - so she/it became an exile - even though I now see she is a part of the Self - creative, connected, courageous, confident.

She felt rejected, more than once , and retreated - first with a soul destroying sense of loneliness and abandonment...and then the Protector took over - don't let this ever happen to you again.

And yet, 'bimbo' was a Part of feeling confident, a sense of Awareness, happiness, embodied, in the body. And, connected. When the lack of connection happened, she lost trust."

I have tended to think of attachment injuries as those that happen to young children. But, this Part of me suffered an attachment injury and became an exile... carried the beliefs and thoughts that stuck to me, as Dick Schwartz would say, "like a virus". The Protector part was able to convince 'bimbo' that she wasn't a good thing; that she needed to stay small, safe; invisible. 

It's tricky still, in my mind, because bimbo, that sexual part of me that wants to submit and experience that type of Awareness, or maybe I should say sexual Selfhood, is reliant on the Selfhood of a partner. It actually takes two people operating from the Self, the Higher Self, for this to work.

This is a tall order and yet it feels hopeful today. I was definitely onto something.

Saturday, February 6, 2021

Parts of ourselves

 I am not certain if I have written in the blog before about my reading into the human being made up of Parts. You would know instinctively that you are made up of parts but probably haven't given it much conscious attention. So, sometimes it might feel like you are feeling and operating from a small part, perhaps a wounded part and at other times it might feel like you are operating from a Higher Part; from a place of curiosity, calm, care, compassion, creativity.

I am very aware of these two operating systems. To simplify things, sometimes I am operating from my Heart Space and sometimes I am caught up in my own mind stream and in the environment around me; that is, how others are behaving and managing their Parts.

I've been following a Compassion Summit this week. This was another opportunity to follow along with Dick Schwartz as he explained the Parts of ourselves and how he goes about working with a client.

Let's start with the Inner Critic. Dick says this is the place to start; to find it in the body. Go ahead and identify where the Inner Critic sits inside you. Chances are you will find it in your head, as he says, although I felt that my Inner Critic rested in my bones. Maybe that is to stay that my Inner Critic is embodied deep in me. 

Just a word about that. My research into the caretaker mode of living, the submissive, if you will, the empathic entity in a relationship, provided abundant evidence that the Inner Critic resides wholeheartedly in such people and dominates their motivations.

How did I feel about it, was the question? The woman asked responded that she didn't like it, but I'd say more. I am tired of that critic; tired of her pushing me around; criticizing me and putting me down. It's the nastiest of parent figures; teachers; other girls; society at large. I can't begin to tell you how maddening I find her; how relentless her voice; how tired I am of her domineering ways.

Dick then explained that this Inner Critic, this voice, is a young and wounded Part; a burdened Part. Beliefs and thoughts we gathered over time have stuck to this wounded part, "like a virus". They are attachment injuries and traumas. Once hurt, we decided to leave these Parts, just because they got hurt. These are the exiles. So, your Inner Child, may well be exiled; she's vulnerable, little, so easy prey.

What did my Inner Critic say to me? Oh la la! What didn't she say?

You aren't assertive enough.

You aren't social enough.

You aren't sexually assertive.

You aren't a go-getter.

You aren't creatively productive enough.

Looking at the list, my Inner Critic simply didn't like me, as I happen to be.

Now, here's the explanation that rocked the boat enough for me to sit up and realize exactly what had happened.

"If the Inner Critic can convince you you're not any good, you can stay small, safe; invisible."

Exactement.

So, we have these Managers. They manage everything about our lives. They have exacting standards. It's the Managers, trying to keep you safe that say such things as

Don't go out unless you look perfect.

Excel at everything you do.

However, despite the tireless work of the Managers (Inner Critic) the world breaks through these defenses and triggers our exiles. Now you are pulled back into those old scenes that you tried to keep buried. Again, you are flooded with those horrible feelings: feeling little and defenseless, worthless, not good enough; not pretty enough...It's an endless list.

The work is that of unburdening. As an example, if one says, I can't write, interrogate that thought. If I don't write, even though I want to, because the Inner Critic is telling me I can't write, go ahead and write. Get curious and creative about writing.

At out essence we all have Buddha nature. If we can create an open space, another person, the Self, or the Higher Self pops out and knows what to do.

In my own words, I think it comes down to what Brene Brown said years ago. It's all about vulnerability, going into the arena and being prepared to fail. It's human to fail sometimes. Why did we think the earth would swallow us when we do?

Do you remember Russell Crowe's character in 'A Beautiful Mind'? Ultimately, he tells his two imaginary friends who are telling him what to do, sometimes supposedly keeping him safe and sometimes demanding he do what he should not (think excessive eating, drinking, sex, drugs) that they are no longer welcome.

Show your Inner Critic the door. You are wiser, bolder, better, more mature and evolved than you ever dreamed to imagine.


Wednesday, January 27, 2021

Reality

When we are young we very wisely adapt to our circumstances to stay safe and to have the protection of adults. We make use of strategies quite instinctively according to our particular circumstances. Perhaps one learns as a child to be agreeable, or not to ask for anything, or to melt into the background. At the time, that's wise.

However, the very same strategies that kept us safe as a child are not useful to us as adults. Without being able to advocate for ourselves without the burden of thoughts such as we mustn't make a fuss, or to be seen is dangerous, or maybe we are not worthy of more, we put ourselves in dangerous situations.

It was a shock to my system to finally realize, after some particularly abhorrent behavior, that I had grown up in a narcissistic family model. Both parents were self involved, and I realized that some time ago, but I hadn't been willing to see that my only sibling was narcissistic too, taking what he could get, colluding with our mother for more. It took a series of lies, and of trying to turn the tables on me to see that he was dangerous to me. 

It took finally taking in completely that my mother's sister was her 'flying monkey' and that communication with her needed to be ceased completely and immediately.

Nearly a month after what  I refer to as 'the cafe scene', I visited my mother in the Aged Care home and brought her dog, whom I had been minding for the neighbor she gave it to whilst they were on holiday.

It was a tender sort of meeting, the two of us. She wanted to talk about the above event, and I said that I was in no place to do so. But, I did correct an impression she had made up that I said she was a bad mother. I said no such thing, merely reminding her that day, that when she said she had done all these things for me, that I said it was a two way relationship and that I had done many things for her over the course of my life.

She told me said loved me, an extraordinarily rare statement from her, and I said, "I love you too. Always have". And, I hugged her.

She called my brother and asked him to come over. I was quiet. He arrived and was immediately hostile. I was incredibly upset and tears started to fall. But, I held my ground. I said to them both that I wanted nothing to do with my aunt, and that anything they wanted to say to me, they should say it directly from now on. When my brother pushed at me, using all sorts of narcissistic strategies that were obvious to me, I was ready for them.

Finally, I told them, that the argument they had used in their heads, that of rich v poor was bogus. Did they know my finances? Had they asked? I put them straight on that. And then  I added, 'This isn't about rich and poor, mate, this is about the fact that you ask for things, and I never entertained that option.'

To have expectations that people will treat you well is not realistic. Some people will treat you well and some people will not treat you fairly or well. We live and learn but to really learn something is to put it into practice, and now I know who I can trust and who I cannot. They may be my birth family but I cannot trust them. This is my reality. Yes, they were damaged. I can feel for them in that sense and have compassion but to put myself in harm's way again would be stupid. This is life.

It's no small thing to come to acceptance of this situation. I don't sleep well as yet. My mind returns to conversations and definitely not at my invitation. And yet, I have good people in my life. I am still capable of seeing beauty and kindness about me.  I still have the capacity to love and be loved. I, and you, can heal, mature; live good lives.