Frantic is the New Calm

Everything is chaotic and frantic. Busy-ness is held in esteem and stillness is viewed as laziness. For over a year, I have not worked because I am on disability and every day, I give myself a mental barrage of why I suck for how little I am doing. I am not accustomed to life like this. I am accustomed to jam-packed schedules. Frankly, I feel best when I am racing around like a lunatic because I feel “productive”.

Yet, I’m not productive. I’m running around like a lunatic. Sure, I’m accomplishing things, but I’m not producing. Sure, I’m doing things, but I’m not living. To live is to experience. How much do any of us actually experience on a given day? How often do we look around and experience our lives versus doing our lives?

I tend to think in terms of my obituary. Will any of the stuff I frenetically do even remotely go into the paragraph that sums my life? My job most likely won’t even be mentioned. What accomplishments will I even have? Happily, I think on how all these problems that I think are so huge and need so much fixing will also die with me, so I stop stressing about them. My life will be represented by a date – date. What fills the dash?Realistically, the people I am surrounded by will go into my obituary. I will be a “loving mother, beloved daughter, and loving wife (maybe)” But will have actually lived those words? Will you?

How often do we even experience the people around us? Do we experience life and love with them? Do any of us actually understand the meaning of love? We all say it a lot, but do we live it?

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Aren’t life and love synonyms? Our grammar has limited our understanding of both because they have both been filed as nouns, not verbs. Both life and love are experience and action. Yet, how do our actions contribute to either? As we jam pack our schedules, do we create space and time for life or love?

For most of us, we believe love is the opposite of hate. I disagree. Apathy is the opposite of love. Apathy is how most of us exist. How do you feel when you hear birds singing? How do you feel when your children are talking to you when you are trying to check Facebook? How do you feel when you are eating dinner quickly to get to the next thing? Apathy pervades our consciousness more than any other emotion.

It is not intentional; it is worse: it is a byproduct of our refusal to experience life. In our incessant need to get to the future, we lose the here and now. Everything is a building block to some eventual reality where happiness will be. Everything is a means of escaping whatever reality we do not like. Apathy is a relief from misery, which is the more common reality for most of us. Misery is so commonplace now, it feels like happiness. Is it really happy to not hear birds singing? Is it really happy to not have conversations with people where you hear what they say and respond? Is it really happy to be doing as many things as possible at once?

A computer runs multiple processes, and we have created ourselves into the best damn computers in the world. We are more robotic than human. We go from one prompt or command to the other, with no experience of either. It is a fear of idleness that pushes us to constant extremes. We have to have something to show for our lives. We have to do something. We have to be something.

What if the purpose of life is to learn how to live? What if the purpose of life is to learn how to love? If we honestly look at our lives to this point, do either hold true? Are we beloved and loving nouns, or are we dynamic verbs of experience with ourselves and those we say we love?

Until a year or so ago, I operated under the belief I would die and go to heaven and THEN it would all make sense and be better. Then, I came to wonder if earth is heaven. The Buddha sat under a mangrove tree and achieved enlightenment/nirvana, which was right here on earth. Jesus did not say we had to die to get to heaven, he said we had to become like children to know heaven. The Hindi view of life is that we are all gods playing life. No one is pointing up in these explanations. Each is pointing in.

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Each is pointing us to love and innocence, yet even our kids are overwhelmed schedule-wise. They are smaller versions of adults now and not in a good way. Yet, when you watch a child play, you can see the wisdom of aeons. There is no tomorrow or yesterday as they drive a car and smash it into whatever imaginary villain they’ve created. Their imagination is unfettered, and so too, are they. The only fetters that exist for our children are the ones we “wise” adults place on them. All that we have in this life came from imagination. Every tangible object in our existence came from someone’s mind and imagination. The very screens most of us are addicted to lived in Steve Jobs’ mind.

When was the last time we sat and imagined? When was the last time we were productive in the sense of producing/creating? When was the last time we indulged a dream as more than “childish crap”, ignoring the fact that the very man many kill, fight, argue, and hate in His name told us to do the childish “crap”? It’s kind of funny, isn’t it?

We all think of ourselves as wise because we are grown-ups, because we have more years than kids, yet what do we have to show for those years? Anything I created outside of this blog was to make someone else richer or make someone else’s dreams come true. It certainly didn’t make a lick of mine come true.  But my dream of being a writer was silly and unrealistic. We ask kids what they want to be when they grow up, and smile somewhat condescendingly because we all know the truth is we’re going to ruin these kids dreams just like we ruined our own.

It’s not our fault, look how busy life is. How can any of us have time to dream? We have to live! We have bills to pay! We have to make money to survive! We have to work 40+ hours a week to (most of us) exist in an asston of debt, rarely have fun, and rinse and repeat daily. We may go to church and hope for a better reality after we die, or attempt to live as Christians or Buddhists or whatever now, while we miss loving and living. We follow the rules, not understanding they were given to us as guides to help us find life and love at the exact moment of now. Not a minute from now, or years from now, or after our death, it is wherever you are reading this as you read it.

The painful truth we all know deep in the back of our minds, as we race around avoiding it is that it IS our faults. We each created the life we live, because consciously or unconsciously, we create our lives. It is through living our dreams that we can consciously create happiness, but most of us ignore that and blame everything else for our own created misery and imbalance.

It is difficult to realize how imbalanced we are because it is rare for us to be balanced. If we knew what it felt to be balanced, we would not want to feel any other way. The Pythagorean definition of music is “A Perfect Union of Contrary Things”. The creativity and flow of music are balanced by the harmonic precision of each note, adhering to a time and beat, that was created by years of discipline and practice (or autotune). We have two sides of our brains: Logic centered left, and creative centered right. In order to be balanced, both must be utilized, but most of us exist solely in left analysis with all right creativity dismissed as childish crap.

Is there anything more beautiful than a good song at the right moment? Is there anything more beautiful than the spontaneity of a laugh? How often do we allow that experience to permeate our being? The opposite of action would be inaction, and the opposite of busy would be idle. When do we bring these opposites in our reality? Why do we view these opposites with scorn and dismay? Vacations must be earned. Downtime must be earned. We teach this to our children now, and then we wonder why mental illness and diagnoses on the autistic spectrum are rising at alarming rates. How many kids do we know with ADHD? We have to medicate our kids to get them to conform to this sick reality we have all created for ourselves. Can any of us sit still for 8 hours straight? Most of us can’t even do one task at a time anymore, and we are lauded for our multitasking abilities.

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How can we experience anything when we are so busy doing everything? How can we experience balance when being imbalanced is required to survive?

It is time for all of us to make serious changes, and it involves doing less and being more. As Lao Tzu said,

“You should meditate 20 minutes a day, unless you are too busy. In that case, meditate 1 hour.”

It is time for the opposite of frantic to come back into our lives, and it is time to live and love life the way we were intended to, as grown-up children. Fully capable of experiencing and appreciating the gift we have in every moment.

 

Teaching Fish to Swim

Our thoughts, our emotions, and the people in our lives have literally no impact on happiness. We think they do. We say they do. This is an illusion. If we make our happiness contingent on something, we will never be happy. “If I think less I will be happy” – no. We are already happy. And once we see this, feel this, and acknowledge this, thoughts will
be less of a bother. We all go backwards. We think if we do X, then y(happiness) will come. It’s not how it works. Happiness is always x, and y will be whatever y is.

We place conditions on happiness and quite Literally drive ourselves insane. Our thoughts will never cease through our efforts. If we exert effort to cease thought, we’ve successfully created more thoughts. There is no such thing as thinking thoughts away. It’s like beating water to make the waves calm. If we attempt to fight flee or watch thoughts
always be there. It is what it is. We can allow them to pass like clouds in a sky. Or we can engage with them which is what many do. People and busy-ness can serve to distract from emotions and thoughts, but there is no greater distraction then thinking we need anything to be happy.

Mindfulness is not “no thought” it’s awareness. Awareness is open and non analytical. We see a tree and it is a tree. We don’t need to judge the trees goodness badness or aesthetics. It’s just a tree. This is how it can be with life. We don’t need to judge a person’s qualities or labels. We can just be aware. Nothing can distract from Awareness. Awareness is all of us. It’s all part of experience. Experience is the only purpose of Life.

Judging experience is a distraction. People, TV, radio are not bad nor is distraction meant to be a bad word. It means we can lose our focus on awareness by mis-identifying ourselves as other, as emotion, as thought. We forget we are responsible for ourselves and suddenly another person’s emotion becomes a burden. This is Not So. Another person’s happiness, anger, sadness is theirs and theirs alone. It has nothing to do with us. We cannot make another happy no more than we can breathe for them.

The great paradox for most: Don’t change. Don’t fix. Don’t do.

Allow. Allow. Allow.

The observer changes nothing; just observes. By observation alone, change occurs. All that anyone could desire or want to fix will happen organically without force without effort if it is allowed.

The trap of spirituality is the desire to change, the desire to grow, the desire to know. We all set on a path with a need to stop some form
of suffering without seeing we have always been on this path and that very suffering was necessary for us to grow. Change will come if it’s just allowed. A snake doesn’t force himself
out of his skin. He sheds when it is time to shed just like Ram Dass has said.

The Buddha spoke of not even seeking the fruit of karma. Desiring nothing. Karma is not a celestial scorekeeper of rights and wrong. It’s not a bitch. It’s not a payback. Karma is action. The fruit of karma is the result of action. If practicing yoga is karma, my lovely butt is a fruit, but I don’t practice for a butt. I practice to practice. I read to read. Whatever changes occur or knowledge I absorb I do. It will apply when needed. I don’t change, I don’t plan change. My diet is changing because it’s changing. I’ve cut almost all meat out. It wasn’t planned or structured. Just happened.

That’s how change happens truly. We just think we do it. None of our thoughts do anything. None of us do anything. We’re all guided along our path. We just think it is the other way around.

I think that’s what is so difficult to grasp. Nothing changes of our volition or will or
effort. All you do is become aware of that which has always been so all along. Like a fish learning what water is. The fish has always been in water, spending his life seeking water. The fish can only become aware of water, the water did not change. The fish did not change. The fish now sees the water supports it and is the very means he swims. Awareness and experience.

That’s us.

First World Problems

With this Nor’easter supposedly coming through, I’m really excited to get gardening. I love the site of fresh green shoots of hyacinths bedazzled with old snow. All this talk of freezing rain and heavy snow has me thinking of getting my hands muddy.

There is a dark cloud looming over these picturesque visions. I am completely out of eggs and almost out of milk. This is a Pennsylvanian’s worst nightmare. A French toast-less blizzard.

For me, I’m generally irritated because I WILL go buy milk and eggs before a storm because my coffee don’t get drank without milk, and snow doesn’t fall without baking cookies. These are priorities!

I’m a really bizarre baker – in that I only bake in inclement weather. Is it your birthday? Enjoy this delicious store bought cake. Is it a polite and classy gesture required event? Entemann’s raspberry crumb danish twist thing may not say much, but it tastes of what I’d imagine the nectar of the gods to be. Is hurricane Sandy destroying the East Coast? Well you better believe Zucchini Bread, Pumpkin Zucchini Bread, Banana bread and pumpkin chocolate chip cookies are coming out of my kitchen! This storm has a 100% chance of sugar cookies and chocolate chip cookies if I can survive the dairy aisle gauntlet unscathed.

It’s inevitable. I cannot explain the compulsion, nor do I mind stuffing my face with chocolate chip cookies while I get snowed in. It’s genius, if you ask me. It’s terrible, if you ask my pants. (That’s a lie, my pajamas love me no matter how many cookies I eat)

Now, I did make a box batch of brownies for my dad’s birthday on Friday and I attempted to get classy and make ganache. I screwed up by not allowing enough time to chill the ganache, and by attempting to be classy on a sunny day. (I only make completely homemade brownies during blizzards, duh) I was also in the middle of making corned beef with cabbage and potatoes as well as sauerkraut in another pot. I wanted my dad to have a Reuben or corned beef and cabbage for his birthday.

As the brownies weren’t coming out right, I was simultaneously convinced my corned beef was tough and my brownies were burnt. I was so irritated with myself, and felt like a completely useless asshat. BUT, then I reminded myself it is actually the thought that counts and maybe I should chill along with the ganache. (Literally my new favorite word)

Once I chilled out (unlike my ganache), I went to my parents and my dad told me my corned beef was awesome. The next day, I ate a brownie and it was the best ganache I have ever had. I literally concocted two abysmal failures in my brain. Neither actually happened or existed. Aww, look how metaphorical cooking can be!

I stopped the drama by making myself laugh at myself. My mom and I tried to bake a cake for my dad forever ago. It was this hamburger cake. It was the most depressing impersonation of a hamburger. I’m talking worse than McDonald’s. It tasted like sugar died. I was ranting to my mom about my illusory failed meals saying my dad choked down our hamburger cake he can choke down my corned beef. It was enough of a chuckle to make me stop the stories.

As the first day of spring approaches, with the traditional raging nor’easter, I’ll hear the chirping birds of wind, see the green tufts of snow, feel the warm kiss of freezing rain, and I will be celebrating new beginnings. New beginnings always start at the end. Now that winter is ending, I’ll hopefully not lose power and bake those cookies. Hell, I’ve gotten better at baking thanks to Pennsylvania’s bizarre weather and my compulsively storm infused sweet tooth. I’ve also gotten better at laughing through the storms – literal or metaphorical.

I had always thought my problems were menial in the face of others, but then I realized my first world problems would have been third world problems to Siddhartha Gautama, a former prince turned Buddha. A man who was waited on hand and foot taught of suffering, because suffering is a gift we all give each other regardless of demographic or storm baking proclivities

So….I just cannot believe I have to go to the store tomorrow. But I appreciate that I can. #blessed

Women’s Day (Part 3 – Tips)

Do you need some tips to get started? 

  • Do it.
  • If you are not sure how to do it, ask someone who does it
  • Make time to do it, and do not negotiate with yourself
  • If you negotiate with yourself, you will lose
  • Do not be attached to an outcome.
  • Success is not measured in money
  • Success is measured in your smile
  • The act of doing it makes it – if you want to write, write. Viola, you are a writer
  • Your self-talk is your gateway to success
  • If you tell yourself a failure, hopeless, etc. you WILL ALWAYS PROVE YOURSELF RIGHT
  • You will always prove yourself right
  • You will always prove yourself right
  • Everything you think and say become self-fulfilling prophecies
  • “If I only had the time” will merit you always wishing you had the time
  • “If I had more money” will merit you always wishing you had the money
  • The Universe can answer questions; no one can answer a statement
  • People can answer questions; no one can answer a statement
  • Nothing is more powerful than a question
  • People who answer their own questions are geniuses
  • Genius is the ability to create what does not exist in this world
  • Anything you create is an expression of your genius
  • Nothing beyond doing is required to be a genius

Part 1

Part 2

Women’s Day (Part 2 – It’s Okay to Be Selfish)

You have to be selfish to be creative

I’ll tell you: you are you. There is no one on this planet like you. There is no one who sees the world through your eyes. There is no one who has your perspective, your history, and your abilities. Sure, there are people who are better than you at things, there are people who are worse than you. Who cares? We all are completely unique independent beings. It does not matter what anyone else says or does. If you create competition, you will always lose. If you view everything as a force against you, you will always lose.

If you place yourself first and lose the word selfish, you will find your voice – however that is. Our voices and our expressions are a gift that no one can take from us but ourselves.

What does selfish even mean?

self·ish
adjective
  1. (of a person, action, or motive) lacking consideration for others; concerned chiefly with one’s own personal profit or pleasure.

I think it is time for a reality check: We. Are. All. Selfish.

Do you go to work out of some sort of grandiose intention to better your coworker’s lives? No, you go to work for personal profit. If you are fortunate, it’s your pleasure too. Did you have kids out of some benevolent intention of populating the world with minaturized versions of yourself that invetiably drive you batshit crazy with WTF and OMG I love them? No, you did it because you wanted to be a parent. Do you help people for no reason other than to help? No, you don’t. At the end of the day, we all help people because helping makes us feel good.

You – your self – is the vehicle through which the universe comes into the world and the world comes into you. There is no capacity to live without being selfish. It’s not a bad thing to want to do good things for yourself. It’s not a bad thing to want to do better for yourself. It IS a bad thing to deny yourself for the sake of everyone else. EVERYONE loses when this happens. What if you can create something that will benefit you AND everyone else? You don’t know until you open the taps to your own expression and creativity – whatever that is to you.

Your obituary, children, loved ones, etc. will not remember your impeccable house or whatever roadblocks you have set. Do you want to lie in your deathbed telling everyone how glad you were that you worked your whole life and were a dedicated employee making someone else’s dreams come true? Do you want to take your final breath knowing you lived someone else’s life?

The only way for a priority to happen is for it to become a priority. If you are feeling pulled to write, paint, sing: the only way it happens is if you make it happen. If you put it off for laundry, deadlines, others, etc. it will never happen. No one will make it happen for you. No one will make you a priority if you will not make yourself. Most importantly: no one will believe in you, if you won’t believe in you.

There is a negative connotation with selfishness, and that’s okay. There are negative aspects of being selfish. If you truly do not have a crap to give about someone else, there’s nothing positive to be said of this. But the people reading and resonating with this are people who genuinely love people so much, they forget to love themselves first. This is why I am telling you it is okay to be selfish. It is okay to do the one thing you are feeling guilty about doing, or you don’t have time for, etc. It is okay to be selfish. You will teach your children more by your “selfishness” then your “selflessness”.

Do you want your daughters and sons to not express their dreams? Do you want them imprisoned in their minds with “what if”, “could have” or “should have”? Then it is certainly not selfish to take time to yourself to be the person you want to be. It is not selfish to show them that you take time for yourself, to teach them to take time for themselves.

If you keep yourself locked inside of your mind, as the churning tides of thoughts become a cacophony, you will drive yourself crazy. Not in a good way, either. Anxiety, depression, busy minds: these are all manifestations of us not bringing the inside out. Inside of you is the limitless possibility of expression. To me, a thought is an unexpressed intention. What is the purpose of a thought if nothing comes of it? Everything in this world is a physical manifestation of a thought. This laptop I am typing to you on, WordPress itself, all existed first as a thought. How many thoughts have you had that do nothing with? It all builds, it all becomes noisier, and it all becomes a vicious self-defeating cycle if you keep repressing yourself. Anxiety and depression come with artists because the artists’ biggest struggle is allowing themselves to be what they are.

Creativity does not just mean paintings and art, though. Look at Deepak Chopra, or Oprah, or whoever. These are people who pursued their latent gifts and passions – medically, TV personality, chef, whatever. Each of us has gifts like this. The difference is some run with them, and some run away from them

Part 1 – Women’s Day (A Day Late)

Part 3 – Tips

Women’s Day (A Day Late)

As per usual, I’m running late on life. I find it adds to my unique charm. I wander the earth in PJs and post relevant content when it’s no longer relevant. 

Yesterday, when it was actually International Women’s Day, I wondered: “What exactly are we celebrating here?” I could go on a rant about rights (I won’t), or toss my hat in the #MeToo movement, or anything, but instead, I just want to focus on where I think most women need to focus:

Our Creativity

I feel as though the Universe has been nagging me to write on this. I have had more than a handful of women ask me how to start blogging, how to write, how to be creative, etc. If this is you, wonder no more…

When I hear the word equality, I get irritated. What, exactly, is equal for women at this moment? If I were to flash back to any point in my adult life prior to January 2017, my life was anything but equal. I had the privilege of working 40+ hours a week, caring for my children, cleaning my house, and cooking.  Those responsibilities rested solely on me. When did I have time to express myself or be creative? I suppose I got creative with cooking, which I do love and enjoy. As a woman who has dreamed of being a writer since 8th grade, where does one acquire the energy to dream when they lack the energy to even “live up to my responsibilities”? When, exactly, was I to have time to do anything I wanted when everything I needed to do ate all of my time. When I “selfishly” would flop on the couch in exhaustion, or maybe attempt to scratch out a few words in my journal, I’d mentally berate myself for the house still being a mess, or whatever.

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None of that was actually me, though. That was me attempting to live what I believed I was expected to live. As we put on all of these hats, we tend to forget to take these hats off. My writer hat was overshadowed by the Mom, Wife, Career Woman, etc. hat. I fully subscribed to the notion that I had to be more human than human to make it. Equality is supposed to mean equal, yet I think the push for equality has pushed women over the edge. I don’t see how any of us make mental, emotional, or spiritual ends meet when the material world dominates every fiber of our being.

I am not even focusing on working moms here – if you are a Stay at Home Mom, you are now expected to “make up” for the fact that you don’t work (you lazy slob you…raising your children! get a job!) (KIDDING) As a Working Mom, you are expected to overcompensate for your guilt at not raising your children, while still meeting the standards of a Stay at Home Mom, because who does it if you don’t? As a woman who is not a mom, you are expected to justify why you are lazy and don’t have children, or why you aren’t “more successful” with the free time you have.

Women are expected to do more to catch up with men. We are supposed to be the same, but do more to be the same. We don’t get to clock out at the end of the day and flop. We have responsibilities that could run us 24/7, if we allowed. Don’t think I am blaming men here, either. I blame the gender-neutral collective of society. We all – male and female – are really getting screwed. We all seem to bust our asses to not have time to live. Those of us who pursue dreams, creative endeavours, etc. are scoffed until we make bank. Suddenly, we’re inspired geniuses. download (17)

We’re also not supposed to get paid for creativity until we prove we’re decent. All of us here on WordPress likely have a dream we will be discovered/published/turn this into a paid gig and we keep putting out words and content with intentions of getting attention and hoping that attention will one-day garner dollars. These endeavours are easily back-burnered for things that “really pay” or “actually have a purpose”. When you combine this reality with all of the responsibilities we juggle, how does one make creativity a priority? How does one stop from being discouraged before starting?

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I think step one is realizing that none of us is the same. We are all equal in the sense that we all get this life to do with as we wish. We are equal in the sense that we are human. Society and life, however, do not give us all the same deck of cards to play from, and I think it is a disservice to every person on this planet to keep forcing the notion that we do. Some of us have way more adversity to overcome than others. All of us have a myriad of strengths and weaknesses that deal with our gender, psychology, physiology, and on and on.

Women are different than men, and I think it’s time we start embracing and hell, emphasizing what makes each of us uniquely same creatures. I am tired of trying to be a man to be successful! I did. I was the breadwinner in our house. It emasculated my (now ex) husband (Get your pitchforks, he does suck for feeling the way he was trained to feel by society, he should have empowered me and sucked it up, right? Eye roll.) It caused no end of fighting because I felt as though I was never supported or assisted. I did not feel like I had a partner because he came home and did not seem to help me.

Or did he? I couldn’t tell you anymore, it was years ago. It doesn’t matter: I see the same feelings repeated by so many women. Now that I am on disability, I STILL won’t even express myself creatively because I feel guilty for not cleaning more. I feel guilty going to yoga because I should be folding laundry. Do you think for a second my ex has communicated this to me? Hell no! I have communicated this to me. I have set these expectations for myself and I am the only person limiting myself from expressing myself. This is true for everyone who is feeling like they cannot make themselves a priority. The only one doing this is you.

I am writing this as a prompt to you, any you, who is reading this. There are no pre-requisites to expressing yourself. Your ability and talent can only be attained if you begin leveraging it. If you set conditions on yourself – not until the house is clean, not until x, not until y, you have effectively told yourself you will never be able to express yourself. Why? Because everything you say is a self-fulfilling prophecy. Equality is something you hold for yourself. If you feel you must work harder to achieve anything, then that is your reality.  Your beliefs will shape your reality, and if you believe you are inadequate, you will always prove yourself right. Equality is only expressed by you. If you look for equality external to you, you will always be lacking. Why? Because you are your own judge and jury.

Creativity is an element of the divine feminine, which is innate to all of us. We all have the capacity to create, we all have the capacity to express. This comes from a connection to whatever you have a connection to. Women have the physical capability to give birth, which is also an ability to give birth to ideas, projects, etc. We also nurture. We want to care for everyone, but we often forget to care for ourselves first. Selfish is so often thrown against us, that we prevent ourselves from being everything we want to be. Who are you to do what you want when so many people are counting on you?

Part 2 – Let’s get rid of selfish, shall we?

Part 3 – Tips

 

The Struggle is Real(ly a choice)

Why do we all struggle? Why do we all suffer? Why is everything so hard?

 If you have spent any time reading any sorts of new age, spiritual, Buddhist, even some Christian philosophies too, we collectively have a notion that suffering or struggling is something that is to be overcome – like our egos. In either the ego or suffering, we feel we must “do” something to “get” something.

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We can use many different words aside from overcoming – accepted, given over to God, surmounted, etc. It doesn’t really matter, because rarely is the word “played” or even “enjoyed” applied, yet those are the best two words to both understand and find liberation in.

The ego (I realize I’ve written about this several times now in my ever inconsistent blog) can mean a myriad of definitions depending on the perception of the eyes grazing my meanderings. To me, the ego is the very idea of me. The person who types these words is not my idea of me. My idea of me is very conflicted and ever-changing. My idea of me is a person with very unstable moods, easily distracted, easily overwhelmed, rife with anxiety and depression, and generally a fuck up in every sense of the word. The flow of the words presently, however, come from a calmness that I can only experience when I stop thinking about myself.

In that paragraph, I have nothing positive to say about my notion of myself. However, that notion of myself also includes a very funny, very sarcastic, incredibly intelligent, insightful, excellent chef, and sexy ass bitch. Like cooking, I can sprinkle any of these ingredients in however I’d like. But, deep in my self, I feel and I have always felt none of this was truly me. I feel as though sometimes my notions of me and wardrobes go hand in hand. “I feel like being the girl who wanders the earth in pajamas me today”

Liberation comes from seeing that none of these is you. You are an incredible actor playing yourself in the world. We are so accomplished and effortless at playing ourselves, we’ve made it serious business and hard work. This is how we are so perpetually conflicted. Many of us believe a struggle is necessary. Without hard work, sweat, suffering, etc., we cannot achieve greatness. I doubt my abilities to write because I do it easily, so I literally think anything I write sucks because it flew out of me in a few minutes.

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Most of us feel like we have to fight for love, suffer for love. Remember Self-Esteem by The Offspring? “The more you suffer, the more it shows you really care…” Yet, Buddha and Jesus taught us we do not have to suffer. We simultaneously believe we must struggle and suffer, should not struggle and suffer, and cannot achieve anything without struggling and suffering. As with parenting, most of us kick our asses coming and going. No matter what we do, we think it’s wrong, and we suffer.

I heard this chillstep mix (opens in new tab, if you want to listen). This quote, “It’s not pushing the wheelbarrow that is the hard part. It’s thinking about it.” I have tried to ignore thinking about things, but if I think about not thinking, I create new thoughts. At first, I thought about how hard yoga was as I practiced. I would focus on how much my leg hurt, or how difficult it was breathing, and so on. Yet, if I remain solely focused on my breathing, I do not feel pleasure or pain. I feel sensation and awareness with nothing else. How is this possible?

In yoga, if I breathe, I allow a calm focused center to emerge. My body and mind react continuously, but I become aware of what I struggle to be aware of at other times. I call it the eye of the storm. It is the space within you that you feel looks out in the world, yet doesn’t quite feel like anything else. It’s this part of you that is paradoxically your favourite sweatpants that do not quite fit. The reality is, however, that center is always you, it’s always choosing the wardrobe/ego, you just are the pants telling yourself you are not the pants, or maybe you are? This is us thinking to ourselves. We make a statement, question, statement, and almost never actually make a decision. Decisions seem to come from a place that is not a parrot talking to its reflection.

So much confusion and seeming contradiction stem from attempting to put what you are in words. This is because none of us exist in words. None of us exist in the thinking mind. We think we do, but just because we think it doesn’t mean it’s real. I can think I’m a pirate, but if I dress like one, I might get escorted out of work one day. Our thinking minds cannot comprehend our ability to know and be, because knowing and being are realms outside of words and thinking can only happen in words.

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Pain is only pain because we label it as such in our thoughts.  Sometimes, this is imperative. If someone were to stab you in the hand and you decided to take a zen approach to being stabbed, you may continue to be stabbed and ultimately die. The purpose of our ego is to keep us alive. It is a scanning device ensuring the idea of you is still in existence and protecting the idea of you. The reality of you is that you can hear your own ego, therefore you are not the ego. If you were your thoughts, how could you hear yourself think? This is the confusion many face as they embark on spirituality: the ego is NOT BAD! If someone is stabbing you in the hand, you should not accept that, you should feel the pain and you should definitely do something about it. Pissing and moaning about a sore ass due to chair pose, on the other hand…..Either way, they are sensations and stimuli, and either way, you can choose your response accordingly.

Good and bad are illusions of the ego. They are labels we apply to sensations and stimuli. A sore muscle can be bad because it is uncomfortable or good because you know you exercise. The sore muscle hasn’t changed, just the labels we applied in our mind.  It’s incredible how differently we all see the world. We have no way to prove each of us sees the same blue when we look at the sky. How can you describe a color? That’s where I was missing the fun part. Our egos, right now, controls most of our perception of the world. Perception is our view of the world. It’s like sunglasses for the brain.

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Our egos make us feel disconnected, yet it is through the ego we experience the world. How can we transcend the ego? As we become more aware of the mind, we can see the power that perception has. When we perceive that we are struggling, or in pain, or something is negative, we want to change it immediately. Yet, if you find the way to change the perception of the situation alone, the situation itself will no longer bother you. This is where choice comes in to play.  As the selector of your ego, of your wardrobe, of your thoughts, of everything you allow in your existence: you can either chose to struggle or you can choose not to.

How can any of this be enjoyed or played? I said that is where liberation lies. If your perception dictates your suffering, this means your perception can be attuned to finding the fun, the positive, the joy in every situation. If you are not your ego, then everything you do and view through your ego is a play – in the theatrical sense. You can stop taking yourself so seriously when you see that it is perfectly normal that you are a conflicted confused mess of ego while simultaneously being the eye of the storm of your own creation.

We all strive for more complicated answers: “It can’t be that easy, I haven’t done x,y,z, that’s why it’s all still so confusing” etc. Yet, the truth remains unchanged regardless of the words we put in front of it. The words are what makes it confusing, positive, or negative. Coming back to the sore muscle, you are only aware of that part of your body because it is sore. In any situation that is causing you a negative reaction, it is because you are aware of the negative. You can simultaneously be aware of the positive and become neutral again. This same correlation can then be applied to our ego. If we realize that our thinking is what is causing the notion of the struggle itself, we can see that we do not need to struggle anymore.

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Gratitude is not an attitude

This morning’s focus at yoga was gratitude. If the massive nor’easter hitting me in PA and surrounding states hasn’t been a huge call for gratitude for all of us; I don’t know what could. I’m so thankful for the teachers at my kids school, all schools that stayed with the kids and obviously put their own safety at risk with driving to make sure everyone was safe. I cannot imagine the fear and anxiety for the bus drivers with loads of (I’m sure noisy) kids driving in this mess and getting them all home safely. There were so many cars abandoned, so many without power, some were stuck in their cars for hours. I’m thankful for the people out in this to restore power. I’m thankful for the doctors and nurses and anyone who had to work regardless of the weather that make our lives what they are. Most of all,I am thankful my family is warm, safe, snuggled up and snoozing while I am up late listening to the wind sing. I’m grateful for the eerie quiet with the roaring wind. It’s breathtaking.

In all of this, we can see a call for annoyance or one for gratitude. In gratitude, we can start to see reality as opposed to the illusions we live under in our ego mind. However, you must consistently apply gratitude in all situations, so It becomes second nature. But really, nature. We were all made to enjoy this world and live it and we often focus on the negative aspects of life. I know I have often struggled. Like every skill or practice, you need to retrain your brain. With consistency and discipline to always seek gratitude regardless of your externals.

My biggest saving grace from the mental hospital was starting to journal again and writing at least 3 gratitudes a day. It became 3 pages and I started feeling huge shifts. It’s an easy practice to forget though. This is why yoga helps us all find our true joy and happiness. It teaches us to slow down and breathe. Feel how much you can do when you breathe. Feel how much you can do in stillness. Accept your mind. Be present, so you can see all the gifts, blessings…. in our lives every day. If you practice this daily, this is an amazing first step in quieting your ego to see your true authentic self. It is a key factor in staying in the present. It reduces anxiety. This is an amazing, low energy/low key way to help starting climbing out of the next unexpected sinkhole or life. I went from wishing for my car to veer into a telephone pole to writing and journaling consistently. This is all a journey of learning.

As the storm was ramping up, I was lying in savasana allowing all I am thankful for to surface. Me. My kids. Evan. Shanteel. All of my new friends and family. The list was so big immediately I started crying. A year ago, and really most of my life, I felt like a dead girl walking. Now, I’m smiling at the wind, grateful I have so many blankets. Grateful I can write this for anyone who likes my writing. Grateful I can write

In the storms of our lives, external and internal, we are always the eye of the storm. We are always the calm in the storm. The best way to see that is to stay thank you for reminding me I am stronger than I think I am and more importantly, thank you for for reminding me how to love.

Gratitude is not an attitude, it’s a way of life.

If you want to stop focusing on your ego, start saying thank you and see how much we all truly need one another to survive. We aren’t islands.

Namaste everyone. Hope you are all warm and safe. So thankful for you all.

These two songs nail it 😊

https://youtu.be/u05S9cq2bLY

Successfully Failing at Life

When you finally sit down to write and your laptop won’t boot…I guess you start writing a post on your phone because impatient should be your middle name.

Yesterday, I was watching a Netflix documentary – On Yoga: An Architecture of Peace. This rattled me to my core: “…all of our fears ultimately are a fear of death…I think the purpose of life is learning to accept death…”

It’s interesting because the thing I kept wanting to write (but kept opting to allow OCD to run me by the nose and clean my house instead – seriously, if you wonder why I barely write, I’m cleaning…just call me the Scrubbing Buddha or perhaps Sweeping Buddha) was about failure. Sitting in my messy living room, this concept feels pretty all consuming.

I am in the midst of a complete internal tug of war. The cleaning I mentioned is how I’ve spent months of my life since moving back in with my ex. I used to write for hours and hours daily, and now I’m trying to get some kind of consistency beyond “I think I wrote something a week ago”. When I cannot calm down, I clean. My brain likes order and neatness, otherwise my anxiety goes haywire and I tend to get obsessed with people, memories, thoughts, or whatever.

I talked through this all will my psychiatrist and came to realize this is my mania. Mania has always been described to me as being happy and thinking you are God. When I described myself as feeling as though I’m in a hamster wheel in hell, my psych explained this is my mania. I cried a lot after that session. Mania is not necessarily happy. Mania can also be described as “extreme restlessness” and for me, it triggers OCD. I don’t check the oven. I clean and ruminate, AKA think the same thoughts over and over. Alternatively, I obsess about people – my kids, myself, my exes, whatever.

My moods swing from hamster wheel in hell to “I think I bathed a few days ago. I just need to go back to bed, really”. Intermittently, I’ll have “good” days where I’m not too much one way or the other. More often, I have a combination of a severely depressed hamster in hell. That whole cleaning thing? I am a mom of three kids. Cleaning with 3 kids is akin to building a sandcastle next to a tsunami and telling yourself it will stay just so.

Buddha speaks of impermanence. Every parent knows impermanence so well. It’s that kitchen you cleaned and mopped that now has some form of liquid sugar spilled all over the floor or the sparkling toilet covered in pee thanks to a small child who apparently thinks peeing with their eyes closed is a good idea.

Buddha says the suffering comes from clinging to that which will always change. After cleaning for 6 hours straight just to clean up dinner, I get it. I stopped bemoaning that my house is only clean if no one is home, and hell, my moods change faster than songs on the radio. I wouldn’t know stability if it smacked me in the face. I’ve said for a long time: Motherhood is a crash course in Buddhism. Nothing shows the constant nature of change like looking at your 11 year old who you swear was an infant a couple days ago.

I’ve accepted it all as best I can. I’m human. I am going to get pissed off when I feel like all my efforts are wasted even if I understand the truth is change is happening constantly. My only offense and defense in this is acceptance and awareness. In the time I wrote this, I’ve changed. Cells died or divided, thoughts have come and gone, and I’ve calmed down slightly by typing. I know my obituary is going to say nothing about my immaculate countertops, but sometimes I can’t stop scrubbing them. I am aware of my behavior, but instead of being attached to the outcome, I use it as a form of meditation, so I accept it. “It is what it is” is my mantra.

This is life and it’s what we all struggle with. As much as anyone says they want to change something, their deepest struggle is against changing it…and of course: failure. Suffering comes from fear and fear is often the fear of change. Yet, when you see life is constantly changing, you can see your fear is holding you back from living.

Our egos developed to keep us alive. The notion of “I” is attached to your body, your life, and all that you perceive in your realm of being. When we die, our ego ceases to exist as does our bodies. Naturally, our egos fear change and fear failure.

The Buddha spoke of non-duality. That there is no good or bad, everything “just is”. Our egos are our thinking mind. In our thinking mind, we need judgement and labels. A plant is a plant, that person smells badly, and my feet itch. When we were fighting to survive, these judgements and labels kept us alive. That thing will eat me, that plant will kill me, run.

The thinking mind is always there, and many of us are led by the nose by our thinking mind. If you think I sound ludicrous for spending 8 months cleaning all day every day, (it’s cool, I do too) muse on how much of your life is spent thinking. Thinking, labeling, and judging are parts of our life and necessary. If you are driving and think “I should not run over that pedestrian” and slow down, this is helpful. If you are sitting on your couch thinking you are a failure, this is not.

We have gotten so lost in our thinking minds, we have lost connection with what words actually mean. We rely so heavily on connotation, we have lost sight of the power of our words, actions, and thoughts. The best moments and worst moments of your life are likely inadequately described by words. “Holding my child in my arms for the first time was too beautiful for words” right? What words can you use to describe a sunset adequately? What words can you use to describe how you felt when your lover kissed you for the first time?

Our words truly only have the power we give to them. Calling someone a complete and total douche canoe, on the surface, makes little sense, yet I bet you’d not feel happy if I called you one. This is true of everything in life. Everything only has the power we give it. This is the crux of non duality. Something is only bad if we label it as such and our efforts to pursue or avoid it are the root of suffering. Douche canoe has no meaning beyond what you apply to it.

Did you know the actual definition of failure is: lack of success or the omission of an expected outcome?

To the first definition, the only person who can define success is you. To the second: in this life, we have only one expected outcome. Death. By that understanding, every inhalation and exhalation, you successfully fail. Your life is one successive failure to achieve the only expected outcome you truly have: death. Ultimately, you will succeed by dying. Kinda fucked up to think about it that way right? Yet how much of your life has been labeled with that word?

How can I say the only person who determines success is you? You could argue “if I don’t get my work done, my boss will fire me, he determines the success there.” Yet, by choosing not to do your work, you chose not to be successful, so you did that. Beyond that, we’ve all been told enough times that we learn more from our mistakes/failings than our achievements. So if you get fired, you got a lesson, so there is a success.

“Failure is not an option” – well, death is always an option, but would trying whatever has been pulling at your soul kill you? I opt to clean instead of write because I’m terrified of showing the world how absolutely batshit crazy I am (again). Yet the Buddha has taught me to bring the inside out. That happiness is in being. It can truly be as simple as speaking your mind. “Attachment is the root of all suffering”-Buddha. My attachment to my suffering is keeping me suffering, which means I just need to stop being attached to…me. I’m no one. Me and all my problems have an expiration date. In enough time, the kitchen I scrub won’t exist. I’m not my ego, I could not tell you who I am, but no matter what happens, I am happy, because it is my nature. I just like to think I’m not.

All of this is the only way I stay sane while being a depressed hamster in hell. I have spent so much of my life trying to change, be better, and so forth. Sitting here not cleaning and writing in my “old house” with my ex, I feel like the worlds biggest failure. I would have never expected my life to turn out as it has. I’m not even working right now. There are so many things I can label as a failure. Unlike before, I am glad. As long as I am failing, I’m living. As long as I am living, I am changing. By accepting change, I can be happy no matter what, because I understand my immaculate kitchen will never last. Nor will the bad day. Nor will the good day. No amount of thinking will change that. Without thinking about it all, I have more energy to do the things I care about like impatiently writing all of this on my phone. The true self typing this is inspired, even if my ego is twitching to clean…(Sorry for typos, shitty formatting, etc!)

I hope you all are successful failures today!

21 Days – Tippy Goodness

21 Days Makes a Habit

What can you do in 21 days? Here’s how I helped myself:

  • Black and White thinking is toxic to progress. It doesn’t allow you to see incremental growth in every step of the way.
  • Don’t focus on what you did not do, focus on what you did. It doesn’t matter big or small, your focus dictates where you go. If you focus on what you did not do, you will continue to not do.
  • Don’t think about 21 days, don’t even think about tomorrow. Focus on today and today alone. Today will set you up for tomorrow without you thinking on it.
  • Structure your day around your commitment. This eradicates life getting in the way. If you want to do something at 7PM, plan your day around 7PM.
  • If you can’t make it one day, or something happens, focus on how you can bring smaller versions into your day. If you need an hour and you can’t do it, do 6 – 10-minute versions, and be happy if you only did 1 – 10-minute version.
  • Everything you do is more than you ever did before.
  • Thank yourself and your God, or whoever for everything you accomplish and you will always accomplish more.
  • EXPECT NOTHING. Don’t let your ego run this show. Don’t assign any outcome (i.e. lose 10 lbs) to this practice – whatever it is. You will always disappoint yourself. Your imagination tends to be more creative than your reality.
  • APPRECIATE EVERYTHING. Your ego likes to think you are in charge and you are responsible for everything. Appreciate every step you take in this process – forwards or back because a movement is still movement.
  • Just do the thing – don’t wait for circumstances, don’t carrot your happiness. You have a new beginning every day, every minute if you want. Do it.

 

Shanteel has helped me place the first nut in the right spot. My psychiatrist said the grounding I will find from yoga will make me as unmovable as a 200 lb bull dog. In that case, I guess I don’t need to be worried about nuts at all..

 

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