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

Tag: meditation

It’s Friday, My Friends – Episode #7

Day five of the new morning routine. Can she keep it up? I think so, yes.

This week began my least favorite part of living in the desert, Monsoon Season. We may not get much rain out here, but when we do, it’s all at once in the form of large and sudden thunderstorms. It’s actually quite beautiful. Watching the clouds gather and billow up in the southeast, seeing them darken and lower and push further into the desert is a sight to behold. The wind starts to blow, bringing with it the cooler temperatures and the smell of wet creosote. Thunder rolls across the desert in a way you can’t hear anywhere else. A few pattering drops of rain begin to fall and then, CRASH, it all falls at once, dashing across the rocks in the higher hills and racing to lower washes taking everything with it. If you’re curious what it really looks like, check out this video from a couple years ago. Notice the blue sky above? What’s amazing to me is how localized these storms are. One can pass us right by and not leave a drop on my street, but completely drown the next. Watching a storm let loose on the next neighborhood is wild.

Monsoons season is pretty, but the heat and humidity doesn’t agree with me and I can get quite grumpy. During this time of year I tend to be a little more touchy and intolerant, so I have learned to retreat as much as possible. This past week I’ve had to step back from social media just a bit, a spiritual maintenance period. I just need a little less public input. And my family is a little extra sweet to me because they know I’m not comfortable or at my best.

What’s funnier is that I get angry at myself for being such a baby about the heat! The audacity of having to adjust my activities due to weather. It’s just unreasonable. I have things to do. But then, I wonder, wouldn’t it be nice to allow myself to go with the flow of the seasons, since I can? Yard work can go to the way side during the hottest months. Housework can be done early in the day and afternoons could be better spent reading in front of a fan. And I do have a nice air conditioned truck to be in when I go to do the grocery shopping. What is my problem? Refocus and relax my death grip. I am not drowning in humidity after all. Take a deep breath. And watch the storm roll in and wash over us.

Thing I Learned: There are other writers out there struggling with what to write about, or what it is that they write about. A recurring theme in my life has been…what the hell am I doing? I go through a constant cycle of finding a purpose, running with it, finding a hurdle, and then questioning why I started in the first place. Guess what? I’m not alone there. Every thinking person does this. The trick is to not get stuck on the down side, to find the purpose again or a new one more quickly and get on with running with it. I’m notorious for keeping so busy that I can’t think, so some deliberate down time really helps my frame of mind. The past few months I’ve been trying to build time into my day for reflection and am working on doing that more and more. It’s ok not to be busy. Sitting in the yard, doing the dishes quietly, walking around the neighborhood alone or with friends are great ways to jump start my philosophical motor in a positive direction. I need more of that. I’m not healthy when I’m overly busy.

Thing I’m Reading: “Following Muhammad: Rethinking Islam in the Contemporary World” by Carl W. Ernst was recommended as a good start to getting a basic understanding of Islam from the book “Religious Literacy” by Stephan Prothero. I’m devouring this book. Some books on religion are hard to read. They are either over-complicated or over-simplified and condescending and they don’t help me understand the religion or culture in a positive way. This book is very good and I highly recommend it.

“My assumption throughout this book is that every claim about religion needs to be examined critically for its political implications.”

“…governments that wish to eradicate dissent find it convenient to label their opponents as religious fanatics; this relieves governments of the responsibility to deal with legitimate grievances, because their opponents may be dismissed as irrational and incapable of reason.”

These two quotes from the first chapter of the book made me sit up and listen closely to what he has to say. I’m already two-thirds of the way through the book and can’t wait to read the next one on my list about Islam.

Thing I Heard: In my driving adventures this week (something I really need to limit, but then…podcast time) I heard two amazing interviews. The first was Tim Ferriss’ interview with Seth Godin from 2016. Seth Godin had some wonderful and encouraging words that seemed to be just what I needed to hear this week. I listened to it on my way to San Diego and it was so good that I listened to it again on the way home. I obviously can’t take notes while I’m driving, so my hope was that if I listened to it again maybe more of it would sink in. I added one of his books to my Amazon Wish List when I got home and it’s already on its way to my house!

The second was on the Creative Non-Fiction Podcast. Jenny Odell, an author I’d never heard of before now and who’s book is at this minute also on its way to my house, was interviewed on the podcast and I loved every minute. Her creative process resonated with me and boosted my confidence. I love finding that I’m not alone in the universe, that I do fit in just fine here on earth.

Thing I Want to Do: Go to a writer’s conference or workshop this year! I’ve been looking at these for a while now, but when I picture myself there my thoughts take on their usual insecure tone and talk back to me in their snarky way. “It’d be a waste of money. You’re not even a real writer. You don’t even have a college education. Who do you think you are?” Fuck that. I have a plan! I’ll find one or two people that want to go with me, a backup team, or at least a wingman, and go for it. I just need a little emotional support to show up to one of these things. They look fascinating and I can’t wait. In the mean time, I’ll keep up my new daily writing schedule so that when I do go I’ll have something to present as my work!

Picture of the week: The storm in Twentynine Palms, from my house thirty miles away!

“Temporarily Closed for Spiritual Maintenance”

That’s what I shared to my Facebook and Instagram feeds this morning. Is it the July heat and humidity that is making me so edgy and irritable? Is everyone feeling this way? All I know is that the intolerance, disrespect for others, stereotyping, and name calling has reached a maximum level of ridiculous for me lately and I’m starting to react in kind. I need to step away and take breather. I need to find my light so to speak.

There are things I’m doing that are not helping my attitude. The first of which is that I’ve been checking my social media first thing in the morning. I have learned in the past that this is not a healthy practice for me. I used to leave my phone at my desk until I read for an hour and had my first sips of that glorious caffeinated love some call coffee. I need to reestablish that habit! Messages can wait. I’m not an emergency room surgeon.

For a long time, I was only posting and checking my comments once or twice a day, usually over breakfast and lunch. I would put my phone to bed at dinnertime. But lately, I have made some new friends that want to chat over text in the evenings after work, so I have had my phone nearby. That’s fine, but I find myself spending the in between moments scrolling through Facebook and Instagram, shooting off immediate comments, and looking for something entertaining, instead of paying attention to the story we are watching or finishing the socks that I started. That might be fine from time to time, but I feel like the more I do it, the more negativity and ugliness I see and the more that seeps into my day and colors my own posts and comments…which triggers a downward spiral. Also, not healthy for me.

It’s fascinating to me how easily old habits can creep back into my life and take precedence over the newer, healthier habits I’ve worked so hard to establish. If I’m not careful, my whole emotional life can get messy pretty quickly. It’s been a couple of weeks since I’ve started to feel that pull downward, and only the past couple of days (since the heat hit) that I have felt it begin to accelerate into the nasty urge to lash out and retaliate. I felt it culminate this morning when I read a message and couple comments before I even took my first sip of coffee. That’s when I put it down and thought, “What am I doing?!” Luckily that was before I responded too harshly…I think.

Progress? Maybe. Writing this I realize that I seem to have learned a new trick of awareness. My morning meditation has taught me to notice when I stop focusing on my breath and start thinking. When my mind wanders, I don’t get frustrated, I just become aware of the switch and move back to what I wanted to focus on, my breath. I feel like that’s what I’m doing today. I noticed the change in attitude and I’m moving back to what I want to focus on, my immediate surroundings, my peace of mind, my heart.

What to do? What to do?

The trick is having my phone around for useful things like taking a picture, looking up words, or receiving an important text like my son needs me to pick him up. I don’t NEED it, but I want it. It makes my life easier. I also don’t NEED a social media app on my phone, but I want them so that I can read an article while I wait for something, share an awesome podcast I just heard, or entertain myself for a few moments with my friends’ fun posts. I also enjoy being the online friend that posts fun pictures!

How do I use my new found awareness here?

Just sitting here writing this, I can see my phone sitting on the coffee table. Several times I’ve gotten a bit stuck with what to write next and thought to reach over to it. I didn’t. That’s progress. Right?

How did I get that picture of it? My son walked by and I asked him if could use his phone to take the visual aid and message it to me! He looked at me strangely and acquiesced. When the text came through, I was tempted but I didn’t pick up the phone to see it. I know what it was and how I would use it, but I didn’t need it right at that moment. I knew that if I picked it up, I’d open Facebook just to see if that…person…replied to my comment. Then I’d have to see if there is a cute picture on Instagram and a whole “If you give a mouse a cookie…” scenario would begin! So I left it alone. I’ll add the picture to the post later. Right now, I’m thinking.

I thought of one device that I’m going to start using more deliberately from now on, my FitBit. I have the new one that alerts me to messages. The reason I pick up my phone and check it is because I worry that I might have an actual urgent message to respond to. What if my Mom needs me? What if one of the kids has important news? What if a friend is in trouble? Honestly though, wouldn’t they call? But what if they don’t? So my watch goes off and I can see if it’s just a friend saying hello and remember that I can answer that later. My fingers have no other buttons to push, so I easily switch back to my immediate surroundings, my family, and my peace. It’s a great way to avoid the habit, like not going to bars where one used to drink too much.

It’s now been about twenty-four hours since I posted my closed sign and I’m feeling a bit better. I didn’t stay away the whole day. I shared my blog post and replied to a couple of comments, but I did spend considerably less time scrolling, which is an improvement. This morning I woke up wondering if I should continue my limited involvement. I mean, how “temporary” are we talking here? I’m not making rule about it. I think I’ll just see how it goes. If I have a minute, I’ll check it out. If I feel negative about it, I’ll walk away. I sure wish I didn’t have to use my own willpower though. Wouldn’t it be nice if there was an app on your phone that asked you some screening questions and then delayed your posts and comments if the answers pointed to a bad attitude? I’ll just put that idea out there. Someone make it! I’ll be your first tester!

Change or Stay Miserable, Your Choice

I keep finding this over and over again; in books, on TV, in articles and social media posts.

“If you want things to be different, you’re going to have to change things. You’ll have to do some work.”

Over the years, conversations with friends have spun around the same subject. Over coffee I hear a friend talk about how frustrating her situation is. Over lunch I hear another friend complain about his life. On the internet, friend after friend posting about how they feel stuck.

Translation: “How do I keep doing the same thing, not make any effort or take any chances, and get better results?” The answer, of course, is that you can’t. You will need to change. You’ll either have to change what you’re doing, change how you think about something, or change where you are. You cannot remain the same, put no effort into growth, and become more than you were yesterday.

The whole thing reminds me of that commercial for the yellow pages. “If I advertised in the yellow pages, people might come to my amusement park.” We might look at our situation and think we want to change it but do nothing instead. We don’t take responsibility, the right to change things. Instead we wallow in our life and complain how complicated it is and how unhappy we are. Maybe because it’s easier or less scary than changing.

I’m not saying I have everything under control, no one ever does, but I have learned to be a lot happier over the last twenty years. I’d also say the last five years have been my biggest and fastest growing years, and I don’t mean my waist size, although I really should work on that. I’ve had some major ah-ha moments that have really changed how I see things and how I react to things.

It all started with meditation. I’d been mocking it for years when people had suggested it. I laughed out loud when my doctor suggested it to help me while I transitioned off of anti-anxiety medication. I’m not sure how long I heard the suggestion but at one point, about five years ago, I saw an ad for CALM for seventh time in a row that morning and decided to give their free trial a chance. It changed me. Something about the way they described practice just clicked for me. I’ve been keeping a morning meditation practice ever since. I do hope to spend more consistent time in practice, but I do what I can for now.

You’re going to laugh but almost all “self-help” books are great for me. I try to read a few every year. Books like “7 Habits of Highly Effective People” and “Boundaries” were great, as well as “Depression is a Choice” and “I Don’t Have to Make Everything Better.”

Right now, I’m reading “Warrior Goddess Training.” There’s so much there I already know but it helps me immensely to read these affirming words again and see how much I’ve already internalized and how much I still need to keep consciously working.

This morning there was a bit in the book that took hold of me and I can’t stop thinking about it. It was about the difference between “linear” and “cyclical” living. Linear living would be thinking that if you work through life just right, you’ll get great results, you’ll always be happy, and everything will go well. But we all know that isn’t true. You can make all the “right” decisions and still find yourself dealing with a crisis you don’t think you can handle.

Cyclical living is understanding and accepting that good times come and go through no fault of your own. Some days we’re happy and that’s great, but some days we’re depressed or angry and that’s ok too. It will all pass by and cycle around. Life and death, happiness and sadness, night and day, it’s all part of the cycle. We’ll be young. We’ll grow old. We’ll have kids and care for them. They’ll care for us. Love it all.

I want to create a reminder for myself that “This too shall pass.” Remembering that will help me to love the good times because they are short and the bad times for the same reason. I haven’t made my life better by making the “right” choices, feeding my kids the right food, or training my husband to do what I think is best. I’ve made my life happier by changing my outlook and seeing where I can effectively do something and where I can be lovingly accepting of the situation as it is.

Words to Live by: “Take Care of Yourself”

There was the cutest video on Facebook the other day. It was of a little girl, maybe three or four years old, working on her car seat buckle. The dad asked if he could help and she just politely and firmly says “You take care of youself.” And then she goes back to work on it, “Thank you.”

“Worry About Yourself”

I’ve watched it at least three times, showing it to my son once as well. Her little voice is so sweet and confident. I was struck by the profoundness of it as well. In her own little way, she summed up a philosophy we should do well to adopt, “You take care of yourself.”

Most of the time we are all more worried about taking care of others whether they want our help or not. What if we waited until they asked for help? What if we let people alone to struggle, projecting an air of peaceful helpfulness nearby until they reached out? How many more people would learn from their struggles and take care of themselves better and with more confidence?

And what if we did take care of ourselves first? I hear about “self-care” online several times a day, but what does it really mean? We need to know ourselves to do that, don’t we?

It seems to be one of those circular problems, to get one we need to master the other, to get that we need to master something else. As an adult, I think starting with ourselves is logical. To help anyone else, we have to be secure in our own person, have our own shit sorted out.

I’m not sure exactly how anyone does that, but I know that it helped me to start with meditating on awareness every morning. Ick, “awareness,” I know. Cliché lately, yes, but it’s true. I started on being aware of myself, my likes and dislikes, my feelings and triggers. I journaled. I started asking why I did things, why I felt certain ways. That has snowballed into some amazing, life changing ways of doing things. I started to just let a lot of things go, dealing with only the most important things, and then most of the ugliness in my life started to sort itself out. It’s been a good five years or so, and it keeps getting better.

I wrote this on my old blog a few years ago and found it today while I was scrolling through old posts. I thought it was relevant to my current thoughts.

Real, lasting peace begins with your own mind and body, extends to those in your home, neighborhood, and town, and then moves out into the world.

Until everyone finds that peace in their inner sphere of influence, there is no hope of that peace finding its way into the wider world.

Pray and meditate on how you can increase the peace of your own home before you worry about what other people are doing.

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