Using a Tough Convo to Empower

I’m a pretty big believer in transparency with my kids. If nothing else, my alphabet soup of diagnoses forces me to be honest about my shortcomings. I can’t exactly smile and be “perfect” when depression or panic attacks are fighting my ability to be a human being let alone a mom.

My kids, like any kids, have these things called ears and eyes. They see all of the goings on, even if I don’t watch the news myself. I realized I needed to talk to them about the shootings. I am not one to brush things under the carpet with a smile and everything is just fine.

My oldest told me he’s scared someone’s gonna come in and shoot him. I overheard the boys discussing what they’d do if someone came into their school and started shooting. Like a normal mom, I immediately felt a rage in me that could make a nuclear bomb seem benign. How the fuck can it be possible that my 11 and 6 year old are discussing getting fucking shot in school? How is this a reality?

I looked my son in the eyes and I gave him the only answer I have. “Ty, the truth is at any moment we can die. There are people who are angry, miserable, and full of hatred and sadness. It’s so bad, they think hurting others is the answer. The only thing we can do for people like that is love them anyway. I refuse to waste my life being scared of mean people or even being scared of dying. I know it will happen one day, and my only wish is I live my life so well – so awesomely – that when I die, I have a smile on my face and all the ones I love know how much and deeply I love them. I feel like the only way I can do that is try to be as kind and loving as I can to anyone in my life and maybe there will be less unhappy people in the world. But I won’t let people take away my happiness. Not by making me scared about dying or anything. I won’t give someone else that power. And I hope you don’t either. I hope you live your life finding everything that makes you smile – to the point you can smile and find happiness even when everything is hard. Because you are strong. You’re awesome. And no one can take that away from you.”

I don’t know if that’s the right answer, but unfortunately there’s no “how to talk to your children about people being massacred in school” section in the non-existent parenting novel. I can’t get rid of the monsters, but I’ll do my best not to raise new ones.

Tree Hugging Hippies Are Cool

Innocent people were gunned down at school, so naturally arguing, blaming, and the media cycle makes a ton of noise but accomplishes nothing.

Fighting and arguing on Facebook and with any human being accomplishes nothing but more divisiveness. “United we stand, divided we fall”

Are guns the issue? I find myself more concerned about why so many are so unhappy, so miserable, so full of hatred, that they would take a weapon and take the lives of innocent people.

On the flip side, I have to remember in many countries, hostile armies/people/etc gun others down for their religion, skin color, etc. There are innocent people fleeing their home seeking safety from the violence and wars killing their loved ones. Children are dying everyday at the hands of hatred and fear.

It’s a truth many shrink away from. It is easy to blame the guns, but the truth is if there is no gun, there’s a bomb, or something else. If you want tighter gun laws – get off Facebook and fight your legislators. But really, our system is broken. Millions upon millions of dollars have been dumped in the pockets of the people we the people have put in power.

We have put these people in power. We forget that we are the ones with the power, even though the system is flawed and broken. We’re not as small and powerless as we like to think, because we are all experiencing this life as humans together. There is pain everywhere in the world. There is joy everywhere in this world as well. What do we cultivate and focus on? Your thoughts and focus create your reality.

I see pain and sadness. I see so many people desperately lonely. Social media has given us an illusion of connection. As we sit with our faces in our phones, we overlook people in general and the ones we love, disconnected from reality and divided from each other.

When animals and people are in isolation too long, they can go insane. Become aggressive and attack. When you say mental illness, do you truly believe inhibited serotonin, dopamine, etc. are causing human beings to take an assault rifle and gun down kids? Do you think even an illness as serious as schizophrenia could cause this?

The highest risk factor for most DSM V diagnoses is suicide. Not homicide.

These people are mentally deranged, but I think we need to stop diagnosing people via media. As awful as this is, we need to consider ourselves fortunate that we don’t live where this is a daily norm. We need to start looking at one another and smiling. Say hello, how are you. Acknowledge human beings as human beings. Hold a door. Say thank you. Be grateful.

Right now, all I see is fear and anger being spread. Fear and anger make picking up a gun and killing easy. Love and unity are our natural inclinations and we are losing touch with that reality. Compassion – not empathy – for ourselves and each other.

I probably sound like a tree hugging hippie but I can vote and write letters to legislators. Beyond that, my circle of influence is small. And in that, I am trying to spread hope and joy. Hope and joy do not incite violence. Maybe if we all felt less alone and isolated, the world would not feel scary and divided.

I’d rather allow my thoughts and focus create a reality where a smile can make a difference in someone’s day. Because that is a truth that is undeniable.

Mr. Rogers taught us to look for the helpers. It’s time for all of us to be the helpers.

11:11: Synchronicity or Inflated Ego?

Synchronicity is a term used by Jung fans and New Age Spiritualists. For Jung and spirituality, self-awareness transcends the ego to find your true self (all roads point to love) which leads to co-creating with the universe.  Synchronicity is an example of the connection of true self and God. In transcending the illusion of ego, you see that there is no separation between you and everything around you – including God.

Alternatively, your ego inflates. Inflation is another term Jung wrote about, though it’s far less spoken about then repeating numbers. Inflation is when you serve your ego as your God. Or really, you create your God in the image/projection of you.

Carl-Jung-Synchronicity-

Synchronicity is a connection to something/someone greater than you

Jung’s divine, AA’s Higher Power, Christian’s God, Hindu’s Gods, Addict’s Heroin, iPhones/Androids…

Who or what do you defer to?

Your time, money, and attention = God.

Synchronicity is: the universe works with you when you work with it. Free of ego, the truth shines: the universe works with you whether or not you go along with it.

Spirituality frees you to be present and be love. When you are present, you are free of the ties that bind – guilt from the past, worry about the future, wanting for the have not’s, guilty for the haves, and on and on. You are here now.

Jung proposed as you embraced your Dark Side/Shadow/inner Vader, you will be able to become whole (holy), and you will then work with the force as opposed to against the force (Universe/God/Higher Power). (He did not throw Star Wars references in) He used the term synchronicity to help explain coincidence is not coincidence.

“God does not play dice” – Einstein

Look at the natural patterns in nature – repeating within and without each of us. Where one can observe chaos, at another level, it is perfect order. We lack the God’s eye view of our existence. We have no way of knowing if something good is actually good, or if something bad is truly bad.

Duality (good vs. bad, light vs. dark) is more lies of ego. Our ego is conscious attention: our problem solver and scanning device. Its whole purpose is to organize our lives between the chaos of the Id and the seeming order of the Superego. It’s not an enemy; it’s a lower state of consciousness. Spirituality expands your consciousness to see the world without the filter of ego.

As your ego becomes quieter, you begin to notice the harmony of life. In becoming more aware, you begin to see patterns in your own life naturally repeating.

Synchronicity is described as being in the right place at the right time.

It’s seeing karma in action – you see a cause and an effect that means something to you and you alone, and it’s appreciated.  Without the illusion of duality, there is never a good or bad. There is a process to life and no fate.

If there is a butterfly effect, it exists as one thought flaps its wings in your mind leading to a tsunami of thoughts within your mind. As you understand yourself, your shadows, and your cycles, you begin to see reality versus the illusion of the ego. You understand your mind creates your life.

Synchronicity doesn’t happen with awakening, or ascribing to any spiritual or religious path. It does not happen as a karmic reward or lesson. The Universe and God are not bookkeepers. They don’t dish out punishment. They’re not bizarre sado-masochistic all seeing eyes of fairy dust and ball gags.

We are the judge and jury. We are the ones who create the pain or pleasure. Our thoughts lead to words and actions. Duality lies and gives labels, but truth (not repeating numbers on a digital clock) says you are always on your path.

Awareness of Synchronicity is a measure of awareness.

It’s from a level our egos do not like to exist – can’t exist really. The notion of a higher power than I? More confusingly, the power is in me and not in me? In reality, there is no me, only an idea of me?

There is too much writing about “fighting” the ego, “killing” the ego. If you go to war with yourself, you go to war. Spirituality shows you the ego does not exist, inflation shows you the ego can change. It depends on who or what that God is.

Synchronicity can help guide you back home to yourself. Here and now – you are perfect. You are always on the right path, because you are alive.

Are you checking in or checking the time?

So many articles have been written on the repeating numbers – do you see 11:11? 1:11? 2:22? I don’t mean to stick my tongue out and wag my ass, but this is a shrewd, limited, fragment of the reality of synchronicity, yet it is touted AS synchronicity.

Carl Jung died 7 years before a digital clock was invented. At the time of his death, you couldn’t look at a clock and see 11:11. 

This is not synchronicity. This is not anything but a fabrication of confirmation bias. If you put a positive association with seeing 11:11, you will see 11:11 more.

Confirmation bias, also called confirmatory bias or myside bias, is the tendency to search for, interpret, favor, and recall information in a way that confirms one’s beliefs or hypotheses, while giving disproportionately less consideration to alternative possibilities. It is a type of cognitive bias and a systematic error of inductive reasoning.

New Age spirituality can easily turn into a higher form of ego

Seeing repeating numbers on a digital clock is not significant. Taking a screen shot of these numbers and posting them on social media disconnects you from the here and now – the very purpose of connecting with self and freeing yourself of ego.

Screen shots and social media disconnect from the here and now and cling to something as impermanent as minutes on the clock. Time itself is a creation of our egos to organize our lives.

With confirmation bias, you naturally check a clock more often to see repeating numbers, reaffirming an illusion you are trying to break free of. Your ego has moved up a level. Is that bad? I don’t believe in bad, especially since the flip side is: hey you moved up. In a video game, the villains always grow harder.

In life, the villain and protagonist are the same verb: You. You’re either -ing up, -ing down, or -ing in place.

Jung’s concept of synchronicity has been placed on something as common as a clock. There are 24 opportunities in a day to see repeating numbers on a clock. That’s not significant. In checking phones and taking screen shots, illusion remains as does disconnection. In the minute of 11:11, a glance at the sky could have shown an animal that inspired you, a smile that changed your day, or an answer you had been overlooking.

A synchronicity is an every day miracle. It’s the little things you come to appreciate when you finally see how grand life is in a moment by moment basis. I find, if I’m using technology, the first post on my YouTube, the first thing I see on Social Media, etc. are far more serendipitous and productive than seeing numbers on a clock 7 years after the man who invented the term died.

Is your God above, within, or a rectangle in your palm? 

Thank you for reading, and I appreciate your likes, comments, and shares. I am on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram

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New Beginnings start with ? Not .

I try to stay away from explaining things in terms of the ego must be overcome or it must die. This sets anyone up for confusion inherently.

I question the ego:

Who are you? Don’t use your name – someone gave you that. Don’t use your job, people, stuff – all externals. Who are you that sits behind your eyes?

All of the things you would use to attempt to describe yourself you learned from someone else or someone else told you and you believed. These are not you though. That is your ego.

What are you?

Your ego is the vehicle you move throughout life in. To see this, you must become aware that you are not the I you say you are. You’re not these externals, yet you use your externals to move throughout life. When you become aware of your ego, you can then see that this is a vehicle. You use a vehicle to get to the mall, but not to take a shit.

Alone, you cannot overcome the ego. In the simplest terms, your ego is the thinking mind. Your conscious attention. Who thinks your thoughts? You cannot answer this, yet you are familiar with the fact that thoughts come and go as the please. Through meditation, you can see the observer and observed. And you see you don’t have to think your thoughts. Much like you don’t have to be your ego.

When you see through the veil of ego, you cannot answer “who am I?”

It’s the death of the separateness in I. And Then you find, “I am”

At the end of the day, ego wants you to believe you’re separate. Non ego shows were all one.

“No one’s gonna take my soul away…I’m living like Jim Morrison..” Gods and Monsters, Lana Del Rey

Changing my Christmas

I’ve looked at Christmas as being forced to spend money I do not have on a bunch of shit no one needs. This year, I have been particularly vocal about this materialist society killing everyone’s understanding of joy, happiness, peace, fulfilment, etc. No material good gives happiness. Happiness comes from within. To me, happiness and love are synonyms, and no thing shows or gives love or happiness. Happiness, love, and Christmas are actions, not words and not gifts.

Am I angry about Christmas? No. I just had the simple realization that I spent 1 or more months of my life spending money, preparing, and doing shit for one day. Christmas became a burden. It was a neverending series of compounding expectations, which ultimately created a stressed out and exhausted me. I said to a friend: “No single day can live up to that amount of effort. The ROI (return on investment) is fucked. This is why we’re all so goddamn miserable. We spend months of our lives delaying being happy for a day.

The inevitable feeling I always had to tuck away on Christmas night was “All that for this?”

There are a lot of people questioning why we have a holiday that makes us feel obligated to go into debt for our loved ones, etc. I’ve felt this way for so long, but I assumed it was me being weird. Everyone else seems happy. Clearly, my overwhelmed, exhausted, etc. state was my fault.

I have always looked at Christmas has a metaphor of our best selves. We’re all happier, more loving, kinder. Why, then, do I need to work so hard to achieve that? Why do I save it for a day? I can throw tons of synonyms to describe happiness or being happy. Or, I can give the truth: it’s your choice. Happy is a feeling which is a reaction. Every feeling you have is a reaction, and what you do with that reaction dictates your response. Your response is your choice. All feelings are transient and temporary.

Part of my problem with Christmas is the expectations I would set for myself and my family. I wanted to create amazing memories and moments as well as find the perfect gifts for everyone. I created so much anxiety and insanity for myself in this desperate need to have the best, be the best, etc. I’d have images of these perfect festive scenes that never came to fruition. Most of the time I’d be so damn exhausted, I’d feel like I was barely there anyway. Last year, I focused on taking better care of myself at Christmas time. I cut things off the to-do list, focused on meditation, yoga, and journaling to help me stay calm.

Happiness is cultivated in your mind. For years, I pretended to be happy as I ran around like a Christmas-y chicken with my head cut off. In reality, I cultivated guilt, expectations, and disappointment. It was me trying to make up for being a “shitty mom”. I don’t know why I believe so deeply I’m a shitty Mom, except to say, I look at the expectations of society and I don’t match. Now, I’m thrilled I do not match. I finally understand parenting and happiness are not one size fits all. In striving to achieve Facebook-worthy statuses, pictures, etc. I was robbing myself of genuine happiness and authenticity. I’ve found greater happiness in the smallest situations than in all the convoluted schemes I’ve contrived.

My kids don’t understand money, etc. Why would they? That’s when I saw the stupidity of my expectations: my kids have no concept of all the shit I’m doing because Santa does the work. They have no concept of money because kids do not understand the stupidity adults live in. All the expectations I would place were with all the time, energy, and money I’ve put out, and the kids have no way of understanding or appreciating that.

Christmas is a consumer-driven holiday. There’s nothing about Jesus in the money I’m spending, etc. Jesus is in the hugs I give my children, and the I love you’s and the giggles while we make a mess baking cookies. None of this is dictated by a date on the calendar – originally the solstice, which was taken by Christianity for Christmas, to drive pagans to Christianity. Now, it’s been taken from Christians by Corporations & Credit Card companies to drive everyone to debt. I was wondering how I can get away from this consumer crap. I don’t want my life dictated by shit. It could be the nicest whatever, ever, but at the end of the day, it’s stuff.

Yet, my kids want presents. I can’t say, “Well your mother has realized society is idiotic and we’re abstaining this year.” This is my problem, not theirs. So, I changed my attitude. Everything in this life is a tool or a weapon, depending on your choice. A lot of people mistake what Buddha taught regarding attachment. It’s not to have nothing, want nothing, etc.

It is to cling to nothing: no moment, no thing, etc. In the fleetingness of Christmas, my greatest disappointment was it was just one day. One hour, really. I’d spend days upon days wrapping presents, and within an hour all that time was scattered on the floor for me to clean. If the kids hated a present, I’d be upset.

I don’t think Buddha would advise me to change anything but me.

Instead of buying gifts, I thought in terms of investments. I am investing in my children’s happiness. Sometimes, you make a good investment, sometimes bad. This lets me detach from the expectation of outcomes – happy, sad, indifferent. It’s an investment, and we shall see how it goes. I did my purchases with the word “Tool” in mind.

Attachment is allowing something to control you, versus you being in control. If you are constantly chasing stuff, money, tail, this controls you.

Reaction/Response. A reaction is a base instinct. A response is controlled. It’s a higher level of being. The way words get interspersed leads to a lot of confusion in this regard. The things I purchased were with helping the kids connect with passions, hobbies, and ways of cultivating happiness for themselves. What they do with these gifts is their choice, and if it goes to waste, I’ll consider it a lousy investment. I won’t get upset, etc. because I know I did my best, and I know they choose happiness for themselves. I’ve been talking to the kids about gratitude almost constantly. Pointing out everything we all take for granted – hot water, our home, food, etc. I feel like we all so easily get caught up in the “buy me, buy me” we forget how lucky we are. I forget I’m fortunate to even be pissing and moaning about buying presents or baking cookies.

Many believed I was “anti-Christmas” this year, and I’m not. I’m anti-killing myself for a bunch of crap no one needs. I’m anti-anything that doesn’t cultivate happiness.  The way I was doing Christmas did everything but cultivate happiness. It dumped a ton of happy feelings in one day, a fleeting, transient thing. In changing my perspective, outlook, and actions, I’m showing the kids with the example to take care of themselves, and create happiness and love – every day, not just December 25th. Nothing I did over the past month was really about Christmas. It was just about being a family and loving each other. Christmas is a day. I won’t kill myself for a day anymore.

Some changes I made:

  1. No More Wrapping. Too much time and effort with NO payoff. I’m killing trees and myself for, what? A pretty picture?
    • Solution – I bought a ton of adorable cloth Santa Sacks. I put presents inside and place sack under tree. Done.
  2. I’m making investments, not buying gifts
    • Obviously, the kids got a few toys. More than that, though, the bulk of my money went towards developing hobbies: a snake for my youngest, because he’s wanted a pet, and I thought responsibility/caring for an animal would be good for him. My daughter wants to be an artist – she got an art kit and art desk, and my oldest is getting a telescope because my motherly instinct is telling me exploring the cosmos is right up his alley.
    • Not just kids, though. I focused everything I bought as an investment in someone else cultivating happiness or a better life. Re-discovering hobbies/joy they had as a kid, etc. It challenged me to be creative, attentive, and do more than just mindlessly buy crap.
    • I’m creating opportunities to teach gratitude – for the people in our lives and the tools we have to create happiness
  3. I listened to myself
    • When I was tired, etc. I just listened to my body. There is literally nothing about Christmas that is more important than my health and wellbeing.
    • I blew off friends/commitments if my energy was low
    • I did not do more than I was capable of doing
  4. I am staying present
    • The magic of Christmas and in my mind, the magic of life is in the smallest moments. I overlooked them in my hyperfocus on the “big day”. Singing and dancing to “Must be Santa” with my baby, ignoring an overflowing sink of dishes to play dolls with my daughter, etc. Christmas is tomorrow. Right now, I’m ignoring my overwhelming children and taking a time out to blab on here, because I’ve been too busy/tired to write. 😉 balance!
  5. I’m not perfect
    • I am not perfect
  6. I’m the only standard I’m holding myself up to
    • Did I do my best? Perfect. 😉
  7. I made Christmas, love, and happiness synonyms.
  8. I am grateful

This is not just about Christmas, these are attitudes and thought processes I’ve been cultivating. I’m not spending 364 of my life looking forward to 1. I said this month, I’m not spending 30 days or whatever prepping for a day. I spend 365 days a year cultivating love and happiness – in myself first, and through sound investments 😉

The Nightmare Before Christmas

One of the musings I wanted to do with this blog is my bizarre takes on music and movies/entertainment. I do not believe any fiction is pure fiction; everything is a metaphor. The beauty of fiction is you can interpret the metaphor however you’d like. Our beautiful lies – one meaning – is the definition of a metaphor. Is that not what fiction is? Today, especially since we are a week from Christmas, I thought I’d write on one of my favorite movies and some of the metaphors I’ve found for myself.

One of my favorite movies of all time is The Nightmare Before Christmas. Why? I’m an overgrown child, I love Tim Burton and Jack Skellington. I have probably watched this movie 300 times now. As a matter of fact, as I’m (barely) preparing for Christmas, it’s the only Christmas movie I’ve watched.

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Look at it as Jack trying to understand his role in life. Here he is the Halloween King, but he feels unfulfilled. He feels as though he does the same damn thing every day. Then, he finds this new, happy world. He feels a new feeling he has never felt before, and he feels “Just like his old boney self again” (I want everyone to know, full disclosure, any quotation will be from direct memory because I am that much of a dork) As he tries to understand Christmas more, he studies it, he “knows the stories, and he knows the rhymes…he knows the Christmas carols all by heart…his skull is so full it’s tearing him apart..!”

I don’t care that he’s a clay puppet, I have never resonated with a character more in my life. Jack and Sally have always felt like me talking to myself. Ultimately, Jack tries to be what he is not – Sandy Claws – and blows shit up. That’s been my life. Even studying as much as I have – I have read spiritual books, blogs, etc. yet nothing made sense. “What is this?” indeed. I have listened to probably every Alan Watts seminar, and from there I have ventured into philosophy as a whole. Reading psychology books to understand the alphabet soup of my diagnoses help me see, I suppose, I’m not alone, but I still felt as though I did not belong. I look around and I see a Halloween-town world, and me wishing I could just…get…it.

I’ve had so many moments where my world is metaphorically in flames, and I’m sitting there with my head in my hands wondering what I’ve done. Again. How in the hell is it so hard to be happy? You watch Jack trying to explain Christmas to the Halloweentown people, and they make Christmas into their Halloween version. They’re all happy just following his lead, but he knows he’s not even happy.

Jack Skellington helped me understand the great Tao.

How did Jack become happy? He stopped trying to be Santa Claus, he stopped studying Christmas, he stopped trying to Christmas, and he realized, he IS the Pumpkin King. He realized he wasn’t happy because he was too busy focusing on being miserable, saying he did not have this, did not have that, and seeing his life as a neverending chore. The harder he fought to understand “that special kind of feeling in Christmas-town” the less he understood. This is exactly how Taoism is explained. This is actually how almost any religion is explained. You cannot actually intellectually understand things like faith, belief, or God. I mean, honestly, how do you even understand Santa Claus?

“Just because I cannot see it doesn’t mean I can’t believe it!”

We use Santa as a metaphor to explain kindness, generosity, and really – magic. (Then we basically tell our children we lied, and let them lose faith in magic, but that’s another post…) These are words, though. Symbols. Representations. In truth, words are metaphors of knowledge and information. Much of our lives exist outside the realm of tangible concepts. I can show you 1+1 = 2 and I can explain it in words. Kindness and love, however, are best put in metaphors, stories, and even best: example. I can wrap my arms around you in a hug, and that’s all you need.

Jack realized after he ruined Christmas (experiential learning – not studying), he’s not Santa Claus, he had to be himself. He gained a new appreciation for who he was, and a new perspective on his life. The metaphor of the great Tao is water, as God, Tao, etc. none of these can be put in words. Jack realized he can’t study Christmas, he just has to be that feeling. Isn’t that what everything teaches you? You can’t study happiness, you have to choose happiness. You can study methods of happiness or practices that support happiness, much like you can smash a bat and turn it into a hat. You can create all the accoutrements of Christmas, but it will not be Christmas unless you are it.

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After all the studying I’ve done, re-watching my favorite movie as a kid made me figure it out. Irony! Yet that is how it all works. You cannot think your way out of a problem, we just think we can. The more you think, the harder it is, to be perfectly honest. This is why meditation, contemplation, and other practices are important. What is most important, however, is being true to yourself. Don’t act like Buddha, or act like Santa Claus. It’s far more important to find what sets you on fire and do that. If it’s overanalyzing children’s movies to understand the Tao, hey man, whatever works.

Inspiration alights in a child’s wondrous eyes.

Then, you have the iconic image of Jack and Sally falling in love on the hill in front of the moon. Once Jack gets his head out of his ass and sees the woman who loves him right in front of his eyes, that he has been surrounded by everything all along, life is pretty cool, right? Nothing actually changed, did it? Jack changed his attitude, everyone else stayed the same.

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The first two tattoos I got were Jack and Sally on my wrists.  I got my first tattoos about a month after I started writing as a Memento-esque tribute to myself. They were a mile marker of me realizing my bullshit, writing about my bullshit, and in many ways, killing off my own Oogie Boogie (my bugs! my bugs!) if you will. I chose the placements specifically because, on my left wrist, I used to cut myself. When I was feeling particularly crappy, I liked to stare at my scars and ruminate. Time has marched on, and those scars are all but invisible to anyone but me and my memory. Now, I have Jack’s smiling face and “Smile Now” looking at me on my wrist. On my right wrist, I have Sally looking sad, saying “Cry Later”.  That’s my harmony. There’s no time for ruminating on my old scars, but it’s okay to be sad. It was the first metaphor I created from my favorite movie.

This is why metaphors are important, to me. Every time I revisit a story I love, I find new inspiration. When I was a little girl, I fell in love with the story. As I’ve grown older, I use stories to help me become my own story. The greatest mistake anyone can make, in my mind, is handing the pen of your life to someone else. That includes spiritually too, for words are a copy of reality – a metaphor. They transfer knowledge, they are not the knowledge. Inspiration and interpretation are your gifts alone, as only you possess your mind. Mine, apparently, finds the Tao in Halloween town.

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…and I just can’t wait until next Halloween, cause I’ve got some new ideas that will really make them scream!

Thank you for reading! I’d love to hear your thoughts – any other metaphors? Any movies that have really inspired you throughout your whole life? I appreciate your likes, comments, and shares so much! This was an absolute blast to put together, although I was questioning my sanity pretty good. hahahaha 🙂

Speaking in Silence

When you are silent, It speaks ~Zen Poem

There are many misconceptions surrounding meditation. From my observations, people either envision Buddha meditating or they see meditation as a way of ___ing. Either is misleading.

To those envisioning Buddha: they place expectations on themselves of spiritual disciplines. Lotus postures, ascetic limitation, yoga, and so forth. Often the cart gets placed before the horse. Buddha himself said to expect nothing, yet we all tend to place the highest expectations on ourselves and our lives.

To those __ing: meditation is the opposite of any -ing. What I mean when I say that is, it is non-action. If you are trying to meditate, you are not meditating. That has been my rule of thumb since day 1. If you seek anything from meditation, you will find disappointment. An expectation is a built-in disappointment. That’s often attributed to Buddha, but it’s an AA saying. I’m pretty sure Buddha would dig it, though. With meditation being taught as a psychological “coping” skill, you are putting legs on a snake and slowing down. Inherently, meditation starts with “Am I calm yet? Am I less depressed yet?”

Am I Zen Yet?

Expectations are thoughts. Thoughts are us talking to ourselves. When I started my journey into meditation, I had a basic understanding that I was to “silence my mind”. As I tried to silence my mind, it got much noisier. In place of my usual chatter, I had new thoughts of me trying to get me to quiet down. Guided meditation helped me re-direct to my breath, and I will share some below. However, I will strongly caveat to use these sparingly. I will always emphasize in my writing that you are your own guru, teacher, master, etc. There is but one guide in meditation, and it is your breath.

I call my breath my anchor when I meditate. Thoughts will always arise. You are presented with a choice – in meditation and outside of meditation – you can think your thought and chase it with more, or you can allow it to pass. An example: A thought “I need to do the laundry” can be acknowledged and dismissed and you return to what you are doing. Alternatively, “I need to do the laundry, I forgot to get detergent at the store, I can’t believe I did that again, I forgot onions too, the pot pie you made last night sucked, you still didn’t do the dishes….”

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Meditation is not sitting in lotus posture with your hands in mudra alone. I am meditating as I type these words, and if you are reading these words, you are meditating as well. It is when you are engrossed in your thoughts – talking to yourself – that you are not meditating. When The Buddha tells us to Expect Nothing, he is telling us to stop placing these standards and ideals of the mind on ourselves. Your very inhalation and exhalation are all you need in this moment. How many disappointments have you created in your life by the very nature of your thoughts? You expected it to be one way, and it went another? I expected meditation to do xyz, and reality taught me. Meditation is nothing. It’s the only -ing in meditation.

Can I shut up so I can hear?

As I said, when I began meditating, I found so much noise. If I were to describe my mind like water, it was wave after wave of thoughts, and in trying to think away my thoughts, I created more. To type it out, hopefully, displays the irrationality of it. Prior to meditating, I never noticed how noisy my mind was because I never noticed how noisy the world was. Your mind is a reflection of your environment. You look outside from the inside, naturally what is inside is what is outside.

People are constantly talking, music is constantly playing, TV, etc. There is so much commotion in our world. Of course, it is difficult to find stillness and quiet. This is where the breath is your only anchor, much like the waves of that same ocean. Your thoughts will rise and fall like waves, rocked by your breath. As you breathe, your thoughts will naturally come to a quieter state. You cannot think them quieter, or you create new waves. The only way to create fewer waves of water is to sit and wait.

The point in being told to quiet your mind is to show you the futility of it. Most get frustrated and give up because they are doing something or they are trying to be like Buddha. In either, they’re not being themselves. They are being bound in expectation as opposed to nothing.

Meditation is a connection to yourself, your true self, free of the masks you wear in society. You cannot force a connection, nor can you think a connection. The connection comes from communication.

How do you talk to yourself?

Thinking is talking to yourself. I began to best understand this as I understood Rumination. Rumination is when you think or say the same thing over and over. I am ___, I can’t believe I ____, I should be____. These are all statements. This is not a conversation, nor is it communication. Contemplation, on the other hand, is when you ask questions. If you go through life ruminating – making statements, no one can answer the questions you are not asking. If you are living life adhering to expectations, your tunnel vision blocks you from seeking answers to questions you did not know you asked. Contemplation is a form of meditation. As you talk to yourself less, you allow more quiet, which allows space for communication and connection.

In the business (busy-ness?) of life, quiet is tough to find. I found myself afraid of it. I used the guided meditations, music, etc. at first in an attempt to drown out the noise of my mind. Yet, there is a problem too. If I’m trying to connect with myself, I can’t drown myself out. I must connect with all – good, bad, and in between. I realized, too, I use music, talking, etc. to drown out my thoughts, and make it harder for people to connect with me. It’s a form of self-preservation. If I am always talking, I don’t have to listen. I don’t have to hear what people think of me because the truth is I project an air of confidence to hide my terror. My terror that everyone knows I am as crazy as I think I am.

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I began meditating because I wanted to learn how to quiet my mind. I was so tired of how noisy my brain was. I knew I thought about everything too much. I knew I was thinking myself out of reality. Before I studied Buddhism, Jung, or anyone, I knew something was wrong with me because I could not be happy. I didn’t know what happiness was. I knew deeply that happiness was nothing I could possess, nothing I could put an ‘s, nothing I could put into words, but I knew it was something that I was not choosing for myself. I knew it started in my mind, but what I didn’t know was that my mind and the world are very much the same, when you don’t think about it.

Once I stopped talking to myself so much, I found silence. In the silence, I found myself.

Are you ruminating or contemplating? 

This is a topic I will be developing much further, so stay tuned.

Earlier posts:

Please re-blog if you enjoyed, and I will return the favor, if I enjoy your writing.  Thank you so much for your time in reading! Thank you for likes, comments, and following!

Coping Skills vs. Life Skills

Just Me is one of my first blog friends, and I am very grateful for her friendship and kindness. Specific to this post, I was mulling over what I wanted to write. I had thought about beginning my journey on this blog talking about mental health and coping skills to start. I am a believer in synchronicity, so when JM put in her comment about lies being a “coping skill”, well, I see we have a post, don’t we?

I have been hospitalized 5 times for a variety of mental illnesses. My diagnoses change pretty frequently, as do my medications, so let’s not be bored with specifics, shall we? My symptoms are more relatable:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Mood Swings/Mood Instability/Mood Lability
  • Poor Focus
  • Suicidality
  • Self Harm
  • Eating Disorders
  • Addiction
  • …And more!

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Most of my life was spent in complete and utter terror that I was crazy. How does one know that they are crazy, though? People say, “Crazy people do not know they are crazy, so if you are scared of being crazy, you are not crazy.” Fair point.

What does crazy even mean?

We all use such big words to hide reality. Currently, we say Mental Health and Mental Illness. It used to be Sane versus Insane. Normal versus Crazy.

Mental Health and Mental Illness are both euphemisms, though. They imply the versus as before, but they make it sound nicer. The presence of a diagnosis does not imply sickness. This, to me, is the crux of the mental health stigma, YET it is re-affirmed consistently through bad language and euphemisms. Part of the reason why I started this blog and named it as I did is to focus on the lies we tell ourselves and the lies we tell each other. The way we all handle “Mental Health” is an incredibly big one.

“I have depression” versus “I have a mental illness” versus “I have a mental health issue” versus “I am crazy” all make huge differences in self-talk and interactions with others. In all of my hospitalizations, throughout therapy, etc. I was taught tons of coping skills. The messaging I was not given, however, is I am being taught how to live a healthy life. I was being taught to be dependent, disempowered, and feel broken. I was told over and over that I am mentally ill. I will freely admit, I have had no end of bad doctors, etc., but I do not believe I am alone in my experiences.

Coping Skills, Mental illness: the language alone is dis-empowering. Inherently, we keep being given “less than” status.

Where does the ill part of my brain stop and the healthy part start?

Why am I broken?

Why do I need to learn how to cope with life?

Why is it that because of my brain misfiring chemicals, I am somehow inferior to the “normal” population?

Who, where, and what is normal, mentally healthy population?

What is the baseline?

Who are you comparing me to?

My coping skills are:

  • Journaling
  • Meditation
  • Yoga
  • Writing
  • Music
  • …and more!

These are NOT coping skills. They are life skills. Any human being, regardless of the chemical state of their brain, trauma or lack thereof in their history, drug usage or lack thereof, can do these things. None of these has a damn thing to do with being crazy or not being crazy.

Frankly, some of them are gifts, talents, and passions. My illnesses were aggravated if not completely caused by me being disconnected to myself, disconnected to the things that cultivated passion, happiness, and joy, and focusing solely on things that cultivated all of the symptoms I listed above. It’s interesting, though, because the flip side I have found in all of this: I am deeply sensitive, caring, compassionate, intelligent, witty, funny, creative, shall I continue sniffing my own farts? Socrates said, “Know thyself.” When I began my journey, I began writing again. This is when I started to untangle my true self versus the persona I played in my marriage, to my children, my family, my career, and so forth.

The brain that I am being told is so ILL is the same brain that is typing this. I have been miserable attempting to understand how I am ill because I am not ill. This is the language we are all using, and being told by the people we trust, and we keep parroting it around attempting to break a stigma that we are reinforcing. Anyone who goes around saying they have a mental illness, or using this kind of language is akin to a battered wife walking around saying, “It’s domestic affection, and I will stand for it!” as she leaves?

I’m not saying I don’t struggle. My brain causes me some serious pain here. I suffer. I just refuse to ascribe to this type of healthy versus ill for something as complicated as the human mind. Frankly, if you want me to believe I am mentally ill, then I would like you to show me ONE mentally healthy person. With proof.

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Coping skills are used in times of crisis. My life was an unending crisis. My depression often leads to suicidal ideation and suicidal intrusive thoughts. As I say often, “It’s not so much that I will actually kill myself, I just genuinely wish I was dead.” My old coping skills were to drink, binge and purge, love/sex addiction, you get the drift? If anything, I used to be very normal. Show me a person who doesn’t escape their problems, and I’ll show you a very “healthy” individual. I said in my first post about lying? All of this occurred while I was smiling and saying everything was fine. I thought I had it under control until I was twitching, stuttering, and on my way to the mental hospital for the first time. I was then taught new coping skills.

Breathing exercises for panic attacks, as opposed to being used daily to elevate your mood and connect the body to the breath and so forth (pranayama). Journaling for mood tracking, as opposed to connecting with your inner self and seeing how much you lie to yourself and others on a daily basis. Meditation was taught to me in the mental hospital without any spiritual guidance. This is inherently unwise. You are giving someone a limited scope of a powerful transcendental tool – much like giving someone a gift card for 3 million dollars and telling them it’s worth $100 and only showing how to use it at one store, one way. Further, you are giving them no spiritual guidance, no spiritual anything, with a tool meant to help you go on a journey within to help you connect with yourself, the God of your understanding, and no worries, it will relieve your stress.

I know in today’s society, God is often looked at as a dirty word, but CG Jung, one of my personal heroes and a dead dude who I obsessively study and helped me understand my mind, said a healthy mind needs a connection to the divine.  He said many psychological conditions are manifestations of spiritual crises. I’m HEAVILY paraphrasing. Or, to put it another way, in order to have a healthy mind, one must have a purpose if the God thing really gripes at you. Look at AA and you’ll understand a lot of Jung’s psychology, as many of the 12 steps used his work. Am I saying everyone with depression needs to go to AA? No.

I am saying, however, there needs to be a bridge between psychology and philosophy and/or spirituality. You cannot look (in my case) your psychologist in the eye and say, “I think I just don’t know what I believe in, I feel like my soul is fucking dying, and I feel like there has to be more to life than going to work for 8 hours every day, and washing dishes.” and getting “Well, you can try joining a class or something?” That was the last time I saw my psychologist. Instead, I became that bridge.

There is too much focus on an illness that must be treated. This is not being viewed as a person needing education, guidance, and direction.  Are there crazy people? Yes, and let’s stop mixing words. I have seen some SHIT in the mental hospital. There are people who are not here on this plane of existence, my friends. There are people who get in full on arguments with their right shoulder.  Crazy means “mentally deranged, especially as manifested in a wild or aggressive way.” I have seen that. We’ve all probably seen that. However, most of us think of crazy in terms of “not normal”. I think part of the stigma needs to be an allowance that there are crazy people. That doesn’t make them subhuman, but I think if we would drop the euphemisms and intelligently have a discourse about our actual states of mind, we’d find a lot of common ground.

I finally have shed that illusion and desire to be normal. Why would anyone want to be someone that is “conforming to a standard; usual, typical, or expected”?? I have lived my life in a desperate search for something I would never want to be while being terrified of something I am not. This confusion, chaos, and suffering existed purely because of how we all discuss who we are, how we are, and how we feel.

My coping skills were fear, lying, shame, self-harm, various forms of addiction, abuse, and so on. I have an obsession with language. Coping is what you do to get through things. Cope – the root of this word – is to “blow with a fist” (kolaphos – Greek). Coping, to me, is fighting, struggling. It’s odd, as the definition says to deal with successfully. We say we “cope” with trauma. I cope with hard times. I do not cope with my life. If you want to say “mental illness” is a part of your life…

Do you want to cope with life?

Fuck. That. I want to LIVE my life. I LOVE my life.  

I am a firm believer in the power of words and self-talk. I genuinely believe in being selective in how I speak to and about myself, because if I don’t believe in myself…Who the hell will? When I started tearing apart how I spoke to myself, symptoms, diagnoses, etc. I started to see how disempowering this entire industry is. I say that word specifically too, as I did not start making significant improvement until I became an educated patient (human) regarding the diagnoses, medications, etc. Then, I started advocating & fighting for myself and saw that at the end of the day:

I am responsible for my welfare, wellbeing, and happiness (like everyone human on this planet). 

As I began studying spirituality, which then turned to philosophy, a reoccurring theme is disciplining the mind. Buddhism, Stoicism, Taoism, and on and on teaches you how to understand your mind, understand yourself, to alleviate most of the symptoms (suffering) listed above. The first thing I learned in the mental hospital was meditation and mindfulness – Buddhist practices.

Not to knock anyone’s anything, but why follow clinical, watered down, industrialized euphemistic stuff, when I can go to the 49 page Dhammapada and learn from the man himself? The Buddha’s wisdom is profound and simple.

“No man causes suffering like an undisciplined mind.” Buddha

I would never tell anyone how to heal, study, recover, etc. I will, however, strongly recommend vigilance in the language you use to describe yourself and how you are conducting your life. Are you coping or are you living?

 

Since JM requested new age… I don’t know what that is, but does this work? LOVE binaural beats

 

New Chapter

I was in 7th grade when I realized how much I loved writing. Until that time, I struggled to express myself. It was never that I had trouble talking. I am a chatterbox. Talking about how I actually felt, on the other hand…. Talking about the truth, on the other hand….

I had lots of lies: white, omission, and so on. As I grew older, I became much better at lying. I remember in High School worrying that I would blur the lines between my lies and the truth. I reassured myself I could always write, and I would be fine.

Once I became a “big girl”, I stopped writing. As a matter of fact, I simply handed the authorship of my life to everyone else. I still talked, I still smiled. I was perfect, so I did not have anything to worry about. I am unsure who I lied to more – myself or everyone else. Is it actually a lie if you are simply attempting to avoid causing pain?

I did not want to deal with any of it, so I had thought perfection was the best way to cope with everything. I realize I’m being very unspecific. Why should I be specific? I don’t think much of what I am writing here is unique. I know plenty of people who paint on smiles as they die inside.

I said to a friend the other day, “I used to be a dead girl living. Now that I am finally alive, I look around and see a lot of dead people. It keeps me compassionate and humble.”

There is nothing more dangerous than the lies we tell ourselves. Yet, as I have come to find; there is nothing more beautiful than finding your truth hidden inside the lie. Throughout our lives, we have been conditioned to think everything is good or bad, but that is nonsense. Every bad thing in my life has made me stronger, smarter, happier. I’m sure the same is true for anyone who reads this.

I will keep my first post brief and vague, because what’s life if not for intrigue? No sense prattling on for years.

The most beautiful gardens grow in shit.

Our lies are only lies until we see the truth.

Mistakes can be viewed as painful or as teachers, but either way – it was a lesson.

A fool who persists in his folly will become wise ~ William Blake