A Virtual Colloquy - What are YOU reading?!

Tag: self-awareness Page 1 of 3

Who Are You, Really?

“Carmel wasn’t wearing a body. It was so wonderful and relaxing not wearing a body. No thighs. No stomach. No bum. She was just Carmel, without her body.”

Nine Perfect Strangers by liane Moriarty

This book was one of those stories where the whole picture was beautiful. It has been difficult to pull out a quote and riff on it because it wasn’t the line that triggered my thinking, it was the whole chapter.

This quote is a perfect example. Just reading that line without the context probably wouldn’t have given me any of the feels whatsoever. I’ll elaborate on this one anyway and see if I can’t convey the idea through my own lens.

Who are you?
Are you a collection of traits and attributes?

I think we are far more than that.

With a bit of encouragement, we can easily wrap our minds around the idea that we are not the car we drive or the house we live in. But when we look in the mirror and see our strangely shaped nose, over-curly hair, or much too wide middle, we immediately thing, “I am hideous!”

And it’s not just a female thing. Men have a rough time when they feel like they don’t measure up or they’re getting older and feel less attractive.

But how we look is not who we are.

Who we are is much more elusive. The concept of “soul” or “spirit” is closer to who you are. Need proof that we are not our bodies? Identical twins look exactly the same, but are they not different people? I wonder…if we could clone an adult human, replicate one sci-fi style, would they not be different people? What would it be like to talk to that person?

We put on a physical body and use it.

We’re all born as that “person”, whole and complete the moment we enter the world. We put on a physical body, use it (wisely if possible), decorate it like a high school pee-chee folder, and when we die we leave it behind and move on to…who knows where.

That person that feels, makes decisions, considers, and stores up information…that’s YOU. What would it be like to just be you without the body, without the stuff? Hard to wrap my brain around, that’s for sure.

You Can Tame Your Thoughts with a Mediation Practice

“It wasn’t that she’d found any solutions or experienced any earth-shattering revelations, but the act of observing her looping thoughts seemed to slow them down, until at last they came to a complete stop, and she’d found that for moments of time she thought…nothing.”

Nine Perfect Strangers by Liane Moriarty

Meditation. When my sons were pre-school age, I started seeing a therapist and she urged me to give it a try. I fought against it for years. I wish I hadn’t.

About five years ago, I finally succumbed to peer-pressure, or Facebook advertising, and tried the 7-day free trial of a meditation app called Calm. It changed me. Delighted, I rolled right into the next 30-day trial and have been buying it every year since then.

Making Time for Meditation and Re-Focus

Lately, I’ve fallen away from daily mediation instead of increasing my sit time and I keep getting reminders like this one about why I should re-focus and make time for it.

Peace.

Meditation brings me a few minutes of peace from my looping, anxious thoughts. The instructions that the Calm app gave me were different than any other in that they didn’t ask me to clear my mind or stop thinking. They said focus on something simple, like my breath coming in and out of my chest. Every time I lost my focus, I’d take a deep breath and start again. I hadn’t failed. I had built up a practice. The point was to recognize that my mind had shifted focus and bring it back. The bringing it back was the practice. And I was getting good at it.

I’m a classic “over-thinker.”

It’s actually a sore spot for me. People that point out that I’m overthinking something usually get the nastier of reactions in my repertoire. My thoughts usually run immediately to, “Maybe if more people did SOME thinking, I wouldn’t have so much on my plate to consider!” It bugs me that most people shun any type of thinking, as if those that put time into considering options and the consequences of their actions are just crazy and need help.

I want to do a little justifying myself for a moment. One reason that I overthink some things is that I hate miscommunication. I tend to fly off the handle with people. I’m reactionary. But I don’t want people to think badly of me, so now I try to consider everyone’s point of view and ask a lot of questions. I’m trying to understand. Then people get offended, as if my quest to understand is questioning their choices. I get angry and defensive and then spend more time in my head wondering what I could have done better. How can I do that without asking more questions?! Anxiety builds.

Enter meditation. Like the quote says, I don’t have any blinding revelations while I meditate. What I gain is time.

Meditation has taught me to think in one direction, realize when I’ve stopped, and refocus.

It puts time between my impressions of people and my reaction to the things they do or bring up in me. It has created a space for me to think before I act.

Why do I get up in the Morning? Books!

Books!
That’s why I get up
so damn early in the morning!

Years ago, when my children were small, I developed a habit I still carry with me. It’s grown with time and I still wonder what I’ll do with it. I read books.

I used to wake up every morning, get a cup of coffee, and turn on the tv. I’d watch the news usually. Then I had children. I’d get them a “cup of coffee,” a sippy cup of warm milk with a touch of chocolate syrup in it, and they’d snuggle down on the couch with me and allow me a precious moment to have my coffee and wake up.

As they grew and started sleeping past the crack of dawn, I still rose early so that I could see my husband off to work and grab a bit of peace before the chaos. I’d sit on the couch with my coffee and watch an hour of tv, checking my email and then adding social media while it droned in the background.

In high school and college, I read a lot, mostly horror and sci-fi novels, but some classics for school. As I got older, I stopped making time for reading and with kids…well…I thought I’d never have the peace and quiet I needed to read again.

One day it dawned on me. What if I stopped turning on the tv when I got up in the morning and picked up a book? It started with about fifteen minutes of reading a day, in the wee quiet hours of the morning. I’d stumble out of bed, grab a cup of coffee, and plop myself down with my current read. The moment the kids were up, reading time was over.

As the kids got older, I could read for at least an hour every morning before I needed to start my day. It was a great way to get my mind right. The kids almost always woke up to find me still in the corner of the couch, flipping pages.

These days, I’m typically in my place reading by 5am. I have a whole shelf dedicated to my TBR pile, and don’t allow myself to overflow it. No more space means I must hold off on ordering new books! I’ve kept a reading journal for years, making note of what I’ve read, title, author, and genre, when I read it, and how long it took me to read it. I spend about two hours a morning reading each day. And since we’re down to one “child” in the house that goes to college and works, I have started to build more time into the afternoon to read.

What will I do with all this information? I have no idea. I read a hefty amount of non-fiction: history, science, sociology, etc. I read classic literature and popular fiction. In the past, I think it has helped me think more clearly. Reading has given me a lot of peace, like meditation, it’s good “selfcare” for me. Homeschooling my sons was easier reading about education styles, history of education, and child development books. And now I’m starting to blog more about what I’m reading.

Who knows where I’ll go with it or what it will bring me in the future? Reading is the same as life. The outcome isn’t important. It’s the process; experiencing the moment. I read where my heart takes me and enjoy the time I spend in my books, taking what I need with me and leaving the rest.

Books: Another fine reason to get up in the morning.

Relativity – The Speed of Time

“Time went by so fast these days. There was some sort of malfunction going on with how fast the earth was spinning. Decades went by as quick as years once did.”

Nine Perfect Strangers by Liane Moriarty

I loved this book. Seriously. It was beautiful. And, strangely, it came up from another reader in my Instagram feed just a few days ago. She hated it! I always find it fascinating that people have such completely different views about a book. It’s encouraging to a writer. Stories are subjective. It’s not that my story sucks rocks…it just hasn’t found its reader yet, the people that it speaks to best.

This quote. You’ve felt it, haven’t you?

Time is relative.

Time seems to speed by sometimes. Maybe it’s because you’re so busy with life that you lose track. Some months feel like they are creeping by but then when I look back…holy Toledo…it’s almost Christmas again. Honestly, summer does that to me every year. Maybe because I hate the heat so much. I’m trapped indoors and feel like it will never end and then BAM! Fall is over.

How do you slow time?

They say time speeds up as we get older. Maybe we realize our mortality and, in our rush to accomplish more before our time runs out, we miss the calendar changes. Would slowing down and savoring each day help? Seems counter-intuitive, doesn’t it?

If I slow down and do less each day, will I accomplish more? Probably not. I will actually be doing less with my time, but I might enjoy what I’m doing more. If I savor that dinner with my husband, enjoy the books I’m reading as if I have all the time in the universe to finish them, really be with the sewing, yard, or house project I’m working on, maybe I’ll experience more of them and stretch out time, metaphorically anyway.

That song by They Might Be Giants runs through my head constantly these days.

“You’re older than you’ve ever been and now you’re even older, now you’re even older, and now you’re even older. TIME is marching on.”

Like a fine meal, expertly prepared, we can’t save it for later, but we can savor each bite and share it with the people around us.

Why Do I Get Up in the Morning – Episode 9

You might think that I know exactly what my Monday post will be about each week, but you’re so wrong. Like the rest of my life, I have a basic structure and a set of principles to guide me in general, but I let things fall as they may (as much as possible). It’s a system that has taken me most of my life to develop and accept, but it has certainly served me well.

The basic structure of the Monday post is that on Sunday I go through my pictures (I take a lot of pictures…of everything) and think about my week. Then I sit with my computer for thirty minutes and see what comes up.

The principle I follow here is “positivity.” What has triggered a sense of happiness, peace, or joy? What reason did I have this week to smile?

This week it was snow. And not JUST snow, my feet in snow. The sound of fresh snow as I take a that first step onto it and it crunches and compacts beneath my feet.

I grew up in Southern California. Snow is a foreign concept to us southern coastal types. Now that I think about it, cold in general is a bizarre notion to us. Dressing warm means the heavy sweatshirt and possibly socks.

The first time I remember experiencing snow was when my Mom moved away, and I went up to visit her. I was about twenty years old and had flown up to see her. It was snowy cold at the airport, but not spectacular, nothing beautiful. It was when we arrived at her house and stepped out of the car and onto the snow-covered grass. My foot sunk into the inch of snow with a quiet crunch that I could feel in my shoes. I stopped immediately and listened as I purposefully sunk my other foot into the snow. It was a sound I had never heard before, and I was fascinated.

Where I live now, it snows about once a year. The first time there was enough snow on the ground to perform the crunch, I ran out with my children and took video of them experiencing it themselves. I was excited to say the least and to my joy, so were they. To this day, every time it snows, I’m excited to go out and feel it again. I usually take a quick video of a step or two to send to my mom.

I don’t know why it makes me smile. It just does. Maybe if I lived where it snows heavily all winter every year, I’d grow weary of it, but I don’t. It’s still new to me every time. The quiet rural air muffled even more by a blanket of soft snow. The crisp feel of the icy air in my nose. I stand on the porch ready to take my first step into frosty white. Heel first… a rolling crunch…it’s just so strange. It’s not a true crunch. Can you feel it? It’s more of a rough sliding, compacting of fluffy ice.

This week, as I drove home from a visit with my mom, I stopped at a roadside rest area covered in snow. It was 17 degrees outside and all I had on was a hoodie, jeans, and tennis shoes. I shivered as I ran to the bathroom and was ready to run straight back to the truck, but there before me was a big patch of untrodden snow. All alone on the side of the road, not a soul in sight, surrounded by snowy hills and huge trees, I smiled and took that step…crunch…ahh…so satisfying.

How does a sound transport one so quickly? I can see myself at 90 years old, my grown grandchildren taking me out of the home for a picnic, but I make them stop at patch of new snow just so I can feel it again. I hope they know why.

“Search Your Feelings…”

“When you feel hurt, avoid jumping to conclusions and lashing out in anger.”

13 Things Mentally Strong Women Don’t Do” by Amy Morin

Sounds so easy. Duh! Of course! But we don’t. That’s the thing about pain. When something hurts, our instinct is to lash out in an attempt to make that pain stop…immediately. And many times, all we do is push the pain to others, or extend the pain’s timeline.

I’m thinking of instances where I can build up this skill. A text not answered. A message received. A social media post that makes me cringe. These are some of the things that trigger my “anger.” But what’s the initial feeling behind the anger?

“Search your feelings, Luke.” Star Wars comes up a lot in my daily thinking. I think the Jedi were onto something.

Much of what I react in anger to comes from hurt or embarrassment. My ego has been bruised somehow. It wouldn’t be so bad if it was only me lashing out, but it seems that every human on this planet is hurting in varying degrees and we all react to pain by causing more, creating ripples that turn into waves of more pain.

What can I do? Take a step back and ask myself, “Why am I angry?” And then sit with it awhile. Maybe use that meditation technique, make some space for that feeling to move around in and see what it shows me.

Using Anger as a Shield

“Anger is a powerful protective shield. It feels better to be angry than sad or hurt. Anger gives you energy, but just below the surface, fear, embarrassment, and pain often lurk.”

13 Things Mentally Strong Women Don’t Do by Amy Morin

Why is that? Because anger isn’t vulnerable and sad or hurt is. When you tell people your angry, they react. You have a right to be angry. Something has offended me and, dammit, you better get to fixing that right now!

But tell someone you feel hurt by their words or actions? Or, worse, tell someone you feel sad about something that has happened? Imagine that reaction.

“Sticks and stones…don’t be so sensitive!”
“Into every life, some rain must fall…it’ll pass.”

When I tell someone that I’m sad or hurt, I’m opening myself up to criticism. It’s me with the problem, not you. I am the one feeling. And usually, all I want is a little compassion, a pat on the back, a hug, or a shared look of love and support while I work through it. What I usually get is condemnation for … for what? Allowing myself to be vulnerable? For asking for support instead of toughening up?

You know what pulling myself up alone leads to? Resentment and then anger. I can get righteous attention for my anger. People jump up and listen when I start shouting, in person or online. And I’ve created a habit of projecting anger at the first sign of any feeling. All it’s done is helped me build bigger and bigger walls between the people around me.

What do I do these days when I feel that anger rise up in my chest? I have a few tactics lately. One is to write it down before I speak it and sit with it until the next day. I ask myself, “What is this anger in reaction to?” Sometimes I can see the hurt or fear just beneath and tease it out of hiding. I’ve even had the chance to express that fear instead of reacting in anger.

And guess what? Most of my fears are unfounded. And most of my sadness is just a mood that passes. All I really needed was to express my actual feeling around people that know me best. I’ve learned to ask for what I need, not wait for someone to guess…and then get angry about their lack of mindreading abilities.

Why Do I Get Up In The Morning? – Episode Eight

There are days when I wish I had more friends to invite to a party. Wouldn’t it be nice, I think to myself as I sip a glass of whiskey, if this porch and house were filled with people? Maybe.

Then I look around me. There aren’t many of us here every week, but the feelings fill the room. A couple of us are here every weekend, some come occasionally, some stay for an hour, and some stay well into the night.

We are fortunate to live in a place where an “outdoor livingroom” can be a thing, and we’ve used it to our advantage. Just about every week we cook, we drink, laugh, and talk out there. We share stories, listen to music, shoot pool and keep a tally of winners and losers. “You marked that one down, right?!” is often heard yelled across the patio as the winner goes to pull another home brew from the keg and the loser reaches for the rack to set up the next game.

There is only one rule on Friday nights, “No bullshit.” This is the place we leave the outside world’s shit behind. We may talk politics, but we do not fight about it. You may bring your kids, but we don’t share opinions about parenting choices…unless we are asked for them. Fighting with your spouse or girlfriend? Leave it outside. There have been a few flare-ups. Even good friends disagree, but it passes quickly because we are all the type that forgive and forget offenses.

This is the time and place to celebrate simply being alive. Come if you want, or don’t. Bring a friend, or not. Bring food, or not. We’re all here to relax and enjoy each other’s company for a few hours.

The night starts with food, proceeds through games and beer, and then people start trickling out the door. It usually ends with the last of us laying on the couch snoring. It’s a wild bunch.

Would it be more fun to have a larger group of people? Possibly, for a time. But this small group of neighbors is irreplaceable. I can’t imagine the week without them.

Let Go of Being “Right”

“The need to be “right” is the result of trying to protect the image we want to project to the outside. We have to impose our way of thinking, not just onto other humans, but even ourselves.”

The Mastery of Love by Don Miguel Ruiz

Strange that we create a world for ourselves that seems so real that we’ll do anything to protect it.

“A good life looks like this.”

“A family works this way.”

“Relationships progress through these steps.”

The list goes on and on and everyone’s list is slightly different.

What if we didn’t set expectations for things? What if we simply allowed life to progress without constraints, without “should be” and “must”? It’s hard. Even when I know I’m protecting an image, when I’ve worked out a plan to deviate from the old path I had created for myself, sometimes I lose focus and revert to habits I have built over a lifetime, habits built over previous generations habits. It’s frustrating.

But it’s worth the effort. Every time I catch myself and keep going in my chosen direction, knowing that it is, in fact, chosen, I get stronger and more capable of passing that strength to others. I’m creating a light in the world for others to see by, instead of paving a road for them to follow.

Quotes from The Mastery of Love – Two

“We learn to pretend to be what we are not, and we practice trying to be someone else, just to be good enough…”

“Soon we forget who we really are, and we start to live our images.”

“The woman has an outer image that she tries to project to others, but when she is alone she has another image of herself.”

The Mastery of Love by Don Miquel Ruiz

Taking this quote out of context makes it sound so sinister, as if there is some evil forcing all of us to mold ourselves into something horrific, as if there is some force out there hell bent on changing us all so that we don’t achieve our greatness as humans. Maybe there is.

But to me, it’s just human nature. Somehow over the millennia, it was important for us to adapt to each other and stay in a homogenous group to survive and thrive, but things have changed. The world, technology, human needs, have all changed and so should we. Unfortunately, change takes a lot of time. Generations even.

My parents changed a little and so did theirs. I’m changing a bit more in the hopes that my children will take that torch and do more with it, or theirs will.

This generation has more time and resources to discover who they really are and who they want to be than every generation before. I plan on using it as best I can. I used to think I should have started earlier, I would have gotten so much more done, but these days…I’m starting to see that I did. I’ve always been evolving into who I was. We all are.

Awareness takes time, small steps are hard to see, and we all move at our own pace.

“The emotional body perceives emotions, but not through the eyes.”

“Children feel emotions and their reasoning mind doesn’t interpret or question them.”

The Master of Love by Don Miguel Ruiz

Have you ever asked a child, “What are you crying about?” Or “Why did you do that?” They rarely have a logical answer and I’ve heard parents (way too often) get angry and accuse the child of lying, hiding, or being ridiculous. If I could change one thing that adults do to children, it would be this.

Children are primal little beings. They simply feel things from the very start. They are attuned and primed to fear…everything. They are born helpless and they instinctually know this. As adults, we teach them that there are things they can count on, things they never need to question or fear: the first being that this large person nearby will help, sooth, and care for them. And then their brains begin growing and developing into the higher being that they are.

As we grow up, we learn to feel the primal emotion and instead of blindly following it, like an animal, we learn to use our logical minds to decide how to use that emotion to the best of our ability. In my opinion, this is what sets us apart from other animals. It is what religions call the spark of being human, the god within every one of us.

Fear is our first emotion and without a loving and kind adult to show us there is comfort in this scary world from the very start, we learn to dwell on that fear. And you know what Yoda says, right? “Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. And hate leads to suffering.” I know, it’s corny, but it’s true. If we learn to face our fear, work through it, we tend to be less angry, and less angry leads straight on to less suffering in every single instance.

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