Wandering with my eyes and heart open, searching for pieces to add to my own personal big picture.

Tag: adulting

A Walking Meditation with a Friend Invites Our Minds to Slow Down

The clouds of a storm being pushed through the pass and spreading out over the desert. Like the walking meditation, the wide open space slows the storm down.
A storm being pushed through the pass and spreading out over the desert.

When you think of a walking meditation, you probably think of being alone with your thoughts, quiet contemplation, and frequent stops to just take a deep breath. Mine are something quite different.

I’m a noticer. Go for a walk with me anywhere and you’ll see it. Even in my own neighborhood, I walk along excitedly pointing out plants, animals, clouds, and…ideas. When I have things on my mind, which is always, walking helps me sort it out.

I don’t like to walk alone.

It’s the talking that I need, getting out of the metal loop. I need that the other human that will listen and bounce things back at me.

Yesterday I walked with a friend. We took “the longer route” around the neighborhood. I had things to sort out, conflict that need to be looked at and resolved.

We headed north down the dirt road. I pointed out the place where it floods every time it rains a lot, the kind of mud that you can’t drive through because the tires slip every which way in it when you attempt to climb the driveway. And it reminded me of the track my sons raced at that had that terrible river silt mud that would slip out from under your feet or get so deep it would suck your shoes off.

We met the dogs at the end of the road and I predicted their behavior. The one leaping and barking like she’ll eat you. Rottweilers seem so vicious behind a fence, like Cerberus guarding the gates of hell, until you’re invited inside, and they commence to loving you. The older Australian Shepard runs the length of the fence, chases her tail, runs back, chases again, barking the whole time. The two will get into skirmishes about who is doing a better job and chasing off the intruders, while two goats stand watching and wondering what all the excitement is about.

Making another turn, we find the abandoned razor scooter that has been laying there for several years. I still wonder how it got there. It’s a dirt road full of sandy ruts, not the place some kid would be riding it, accidently leaving it behind.

Dogs bark behind every fence we pass, rural alarm dogs. They warn us that someone is approaching the house, but it’s usually coyotes they are barking at. After a while, every owner knows the different barks. The visitor at the door, delivery truck, large bird, invading dog, coyote, all their barks are distinct. They’ve been doing that job long before surveillance cameras.

We keep walking and talking.

When one part of my brain is busy keeping my feet going in one direction, noticing and identifying all the mundane things around me, another part of me begins to relax and open up. Then I start to talk, ask questions, and listen to answers. My emotions take a slower, more regulated pace so that I can identify them and sort them out, then I can begin to respond instead of react to the things I’m feeling.

It’s a long walking meditation where the good stuff starts to happen.

The same part of me that makes me jump from the car screaming “Real prairie dogs!” is the same part that makes me scream, “You’re not the boss of me!” and “This is the worst day ever!”

Most people don’t tell you to tone your joyous reactions down. Some do, trust me. I’ve heard them. “You’re making us look bad, Michelle. Can’t you settle down?” “Try not to be too enthusiastic. It’s hard to keep up.” They are few and far between, but I know they are still out there. I see them at the grocery store when my sons and I are getting loud about the cost of an item or that there are no Vege Tables (more like Vege Stacks, my son says).

Almost anyone will tell you tone down your anger, frustration, or sadness.

They don’t want to see that part of you. And why is that? Why do we label one emotion as good and the other as bad? Why can’t I say, “I’m sad today and the whole world sucks ass!” without someone saying, “Don’t act like that!”?

I feel like I’ve spent my whole life being told that some emotions are negative and should be avoided. The result of that has been me not knowing what to do with those emotions. Like a small child with no place for the big emotions to go, I end up having a tantrum, yelling, and looking for ways to hurt others the same way I’m hurting.

“I need attention! Help me with this feeling!” I feel myself yelling in my head. What I get in return is a time-out. I’m left alone to deal with those feelings, and nothing gets resolved. I only hurt in quiet or lash out in anger for being a human being.

I don’t blame the people around me for doing it. We don’t know any other way. This is the way we raise our children, and this is the adult behavior we get from it. You end up being good at being alone with your “bad” feelings, avoid them, or start using coping mechanisms to deal with it. None of them are healthy.

Raising my own children through Peaceful Parenting methods (and I can hear people that know me laughing at ME using the word “peaceful”) helped me notice where I lacked in relating to other people. Finding Radical Unschooling, helped me learn new ways of learning. Both approaches to raising children have changed how I develop my adult relationships.

Michelle, you’re doing it again. What does this have to do with going for a walk with a friend?

Everything! Walking with my family is the way we made time and space for the big emotions that lead to the deep conversations and connections. The longer and easier the walk the better. Now that my children are grown and on their own, I’m more focused on my adult relationships and that’s where the walking meditation comes in.

I’ve been doing it for years, but this past weekend is when I noticed the connection. We had a lot on our minds to talk about but never found the time. We’re always doing something or going somewhere. I instinctively asked for a long walk and while we were walking, it dawned on me what was happening and now I can use the process deliberately.

When I ask a friend to go hiking with me, I’m asking them to make time and space for connection. I’m saying, “Let’s talk. I know we all have things we need to get off our minds.” It’s better than a cup of coffee or a few beers. It’s focused “us” time with a bonus of exercise!

Hot Tip: If there’s some reason you can’t walk; weather, health, etc., try a driving tour. It works the same way.

Coping With Trauma

Photo by Erika Fletcher on Unsplash

Trauma happens in everyone’s life. Even in the best of situations, childhood is complicated. Just like us, our parents were doing the best they could with what they had at the time. We’ve all developed coping mechanisms to keep going. Some of them are causing more problems than they solve.

I used to have a ’69 Chevy C20 pickup truck.

When I say that people think I mean one of the carefully restored ones, but they’re way off. I started to search my files for a photo of it but got distracted by adorable videos of my children, so the above “stock photo” will have to do.

It was a work truck, white and rusted. The headliner had long been torn out and my husband had glued some eggshell foam to the ceiling to cut down the noise inside. The floor was rusted a bit. The bench seat had an old woven cover. It smelled like an old truck, a combination of metal and exhaust. I loved it.

I love telling the story of the time the brakes went out suddenly on my to work. I was driving along, slowly, along side streets on my way to work. The traffic signal turned yellow and I braked, but the pedal softly lowered to floor and had little effect. I was moving slow and the truck was heavy, so the brakes worked well enough to stop me before I rolled into the intersection. I shifted into park and thought quickly while I waited for the green light.

I couldn’t just pull over. I needed to get to work. This was before cell phones, so if I left the truck in the intersection, or someone kindly helped me roll the behemoth to the side of the road or the next parking lot, I’d still have to find a phone and call for help. The brakes weren’t completely gone, I thought, and shifting into park does stop the roll. I was only a block from work. I can do this.

The light turned green and I began to accelerate. I put my emergency blinkers on so people would know I wasn’t driving five miles an hour to irritate them, but it didn’t seem to help. Drivers have always been in a bit of a hurry. They’re only trying to get to work on time too. At the next light, I shifted into neutral and let gravity slow the truck down, shifting into park just as it stopped.

I can do it! Only one more light to stop at and then I can make the right turn into my company parking lot and I’m home free. It got done, no problem, and it made a great story about why I was five minutes late for work. I called my husband to tell him about the problem. It was his day off, so he came by while I was at work to see if there was anything he could do to temporarily fix it and get the truck back home.

I didn’t stand there screaming, looking for someone to blame for the problem. I didn’t continue to drive the same way, crash into people, and then tell them I couldn’t help it because my brakes were bad. Something was broken on my vehicle, the lack of stopping alerted me to it, and I found a way to struggle a bit and then get it fixed.

What if we lived our emotional lives the same way?

Identifying trauma is not an excuse for poor behavior. Things happen in our lives and we develop ways to cope with them. Depending on our personalities, our age, our culture, and a myriad of other things, we all learn to cope with trauma in different ways. Some of those ways do not serve us well. Some of those ways hurt the ones we love.

What I’ve learned (way too late for my taste) is that identifying trauma is an invitation to repair it. Noticing the behavior is the first step. I noticed a long time ago. I’m still learning to behave better. It’s a lifetime process.

No one was evil in my life. No one deliberately hurt me. No one is to blame. Not even myself. We all learn at different rates, with different experiences. Good teachers come and go at different times in everyone’s lives. Any growth is progress.

I don’t have any how-to advice. I’m still learning. But I do have encouragement.

Live. Love. Forgive. Accept. Be kind. We’re all simply tourists here.

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