Me vs. me

The most frustrating aspect of bipolar or mood disorders (including ADHD) is there are essentially at least two diametrically opposed personalities in your life. There’s the person who can handle it and the one who can’t. They’re both you, it’s not multiple personality disorder, but one you is on the ball and trying to improve and the other you is overwhelmed, anxious, and wondering how the hell to get half of what was done before done now.

This has been an ongoing battle in my life. When things are good, I’m on the ball, organized, house clean, and dotting all my lower case j’s. When things are not, I don’t even know where to start. I call it going down holes. It’s frustrating because as far as I can go up is as far as I can go down. Most of this year has been me trying to teach myself baseline. An area where I can manage and cope without too much pressure either way. Things that are easy on good weeks are difficult on not good weeks. I make commitments on good weeks that are impossible on bad. And then I have to dig myself out of the holes my moods can go to.

Buddhism taught me impermanence and to relieve myself of expectations. The largest part of my suffering was in comparing myself to myself and to others. I am not the person I was five minutes ago, let alone last week. This frees me to just do my best every day. It doesn’t matter what I did or didn’t do previously. It’s also okay to be overwhelmed, because I have a lot going on. Carving time to meditate creates space to just be and allow myself to be however I am without fixing me.

I am not my house or my to do list. Some days, I just need to cope with my Newtonian moods watching me go up and inevitably come down. Ram Dass said his stroke is a grace from God, because he finally learned to ask and receive help. He is paralyzed on his left side saying this is grace. I’ve been pondering his beautiful words for a month, and I agree.

Bipolar is my grace from God. If I had not gone into full blown psychosis, I would never have started asking for help. If I hadn’t started seeing my mood swings, irritability, and suffering, I would never have turned to Buddhism for help. I would have followed the path others laid for me, and never become me. I would have never accepted me. I would never have expressed me. I look at the weeks I go down in the hole as me just needing rest. Does it suck to have to dig out and try to get back to baseline? Sure. But I have a baseline now. I know when I’m off, and I know what to do when I’m off.

And I know how to ask for help now. I’m not ashamed for needing help. I am not ashamed that I can’t do it all. I’m not ashamed of myself. None of this would be possible without the grace of bipolar. My creativity, problem solving, personality, empathy, and compassion all come from being “batshit crazy” as I called myself before. There are kind of two or more me’s in here, and at least we’re all playing nicer in the sandbox. Even if I gotta pick up my slack sometimes.

I believe our greatest challenges are our greatest strengths. This becomes apparent when we stop fighting with ourselves and love the good, bad, ugly, and all in between.

Bring the Inside Out

I just watched this fascinating video on why “today’s music” sucks. The gist of the video was that almost all the biggest pop hits are written by the same 2 dudes. Each popular song has an entire marketing machine behind it, and in truth, they all follow the same formula for success. Admittedly, I do like a good amount of pop songs, but now I’m wondering how much my enjoyment is mine and how much has been shoved down my throat by the marketing machine. The video was pointing out how these songs play everywhere constantly, so after awhile, it grows on you.

I’m eclectic – I will listen to anything but country, and there are even a couple country songs I can tolerate. My first loves, however, are metal and rock. Right now, I’m on a HELLYEAH kick because I’ve been so sad about Vinnie Paul dying. For the last few days, though, it’s been weighing on my mind how metal is ostracized by the majority while pop is so embraced by the majority. I listen to the magic these musicians create, and I’m overwhelmed by the talent, feelings, and places this music can take me. I don’t mean to sound like a curmudgeon, but I struggle to understand how a drum machine is more popular than the incredible beauty Vinnie Paul created, or the raw, beautiful power of Chad’s voice vs the autotuned crap on constant rotation. There is so much talent kind of ignored.

Then I wonder, though, if that is actually an industry tactic, to make metal fans believe we’re rebellious outsiders while being fed the same type of formula. Maybe that sounds tinfoil hat mentality though. It just confuses me how a two chord song can outshine the deep complexities of melody, harmony, and a full band experience. In order to hear my favorite music, I have to go to YouTube or Spotify, because it’s never on the radio.

Pop music works for me if I’m in a good mood, bored, or if I’m trying to ignore my problems for a bit. Metal, on the other hand, makes me feel the shit I don’t want to feel. Ponder realities I shy away from. Admittedly, there are metal songs that are just heavier pop, feeding that mentality of fuck ’em all, etc. Despite my eclectic ways, I am picky about vocals and lyrics. Rap, Rock, Metal, Pop all can fall into repetitive traps of “let’s get fucked up and party” I prefer shit that makes me think and feel. The music industry now tells us what we like and plays repeated hits to the point of nausea. Anytime I turn on the radio, I hear the same songs from 3 or more years ago. There’s been no change, save 1-2 “monster hits of the summer” or whatever. 

I love to disassociate from reality. I spent many years feeling like a caged up bird looking in this world. I can still shut myself down effectively to the point I am numb. When that happens, I have no personality whatsoever. The only way I can help myself snap out of it is listening to music. I’ll find the song that sings my feelings until my feelings come back. I love songs that make me sob or make me feel less alone. I don’t often get that depth from Pop music, though. Pop lets me stay in a disassociated state, because it has no emotional resonance for me. My life has been very fucked up for a long time, so fucked up people are who I love to hear. I think everyone is fucked up to varying degrees, but not many like to admit it. Yet, our scars are what make us unique, precious beings in this world. Why do we try so hard to be the same, when not even our fingerprints match another person. This is how creativity changes lives: we tap into what makes us feel like ourselves. The more I can express myself here in writing, I am even more expressive in life. The very things I tried to hide away before are the things people like to read or hear about. Because we all feel less alone when it can be related to.

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My idols have all taken their demons and painted beauty. In Jungian terms, their creative self expression brought light to the darkness, and released them from the past. Every time I create something – hell it can be a good dinner – I feel better. Even then, I fight myself and fight my creativity. I get scared to write, because I don’t know what I want to write about. I feel like an imposter attempting to follow a dream half-assedly. I doubt myself because I can come up with things to write about so easily, and create it in 15 minutes. That makes me believe I suck, it shouldn’t be this easy. But what if that is the essence of our gifts? With practice and expression, it falls out of us like water poured out of a pitcher. What if we all lie to ourselves about our gifts, keeping them pent up inside, leaving us feeling hollow and lost?

I learned awhile ago that the only way I can heal myself is to express myself. Talk about what is actually on my mind, write what is actually on my heart. No masks, no social media perfection, just who and what I am at the time of writing. I’ve grown up admiring band after band, author after author, yet always telling myself I cannot possibly be like them. The proof of my self-delusion is constant: every band I love takes pain and transforms it to something beyond themselves. It’s alchemy, it’s transformation, it is the power of creativity and self expression.

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I’m going to go on a limb here and wonder if the rising rates of mental illness and deaths by suicide is correlated with an inability to express ourselves. Doesn’t anxiety often feel as though you have a million things caged up inside you? Doesn’t depression often feel as though you have no purpose in this life, so why go on?

Isn’t this a war most of us have? Jekyll and Hyde? Yin and Yang? I feel as though I have two diametrically opposed me’s in my life. I feel crazy admitting that, but it’s the truth. There’s one who digs the shit out of life, and the other one that likes to tell me how much everything sucks. Music is the only middle ground for me. Music takes analytical precision (left brain) with infinite creativity and connection (right brain). I suspect most of us suffer from being too left brained, leaving our very notion of creativity up for analysis and speculation.

The ego – the talking voice in our heads – will never let us feel sufficient. The ego was formed to protect us, keep us alive, and analyze the environment for threats. The ego is our problem solver, so when we stay stuck in ego-based thought circles, we lose connection to our intuition and inspiration. The ego can’t trust that, because there is no past data to support it. If anything, ego compares others to make us feel defeated before we began.

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I’ve been reading a lot on hemispheres. The right brain cannot speak in words, but can recognize faces, images, and so forth. The left brain can communicate and problem solving. The problem stems from the fact most of us don’t understand the ego is your conscious attention. It analyzes everything for potential threats. So then, the ego attacks our creativity in the same way the music industry is attacking music. The ego wants predictable and safe. If they are investing 500k to 3million dollars in marketing, they want a guaranteed hit. The problem is, they just repeat everything. Lyrics, backing tracks, personas, etc. The only way we can truly express our creativity IS to take a leap of faith. That’s not something the ego is capable of doing, but every artist, actor, musician, author, business owner, inventor, etc. had to take a leap of faith to get to the other side.

What the music industry is doing to music is what the left brain attempts to control our lives. Analyzing the past to predict the future outcomes. This makes us completely batshit crazy, because we have no sense of reality. We live in two states: past or future, with no eyes on the present. I’m not surprised that music is this way anymore, because we are all choosing to ignore the present moment in order to feel safe. Life and music have the same purpose: experience. Music has no purpose beyond listening and enjoying. Great music makes you think bigger than your problems. Great lyrics can make you think and feel that you are not alone. Music quiets the perpetual argument of left and right brain, which is what I suspect is the constant chatter going on in my head. Ego doesn’t want us to express our feelings and truth, because that transcends the idea that we are weak and in need of protection.

Music can unite people – how many friends have you made because you both like the same band? I met my husband at Ozzfest. Our relationship started with music, and fell apart when we stopped listening to music. We both were so miserable, we disassociated from our primary coping skill. Music can unite your left and right hemispheres, because both are needed to enjoy the experience. It’s theorized music existed before verbal communication. I personally think life should be like music, a perfect balance between analysis and logic from the left brain, and creativity and expression through the right. “A perfect union of contrary things” is what Pythagoras defined music as. It is math and creativity brought together in harmony. I also think that’s a metaphor for all our lives, but most of us eschew creativity for the safety of logical analysis, which will all tell us creativity is not part of survival, of what needs to be done, etc. The left brain limits self expression because it lacks emotional resonance and looks for sure bets.

How many of us stay in jobs we hate, because we don’t know what to do with our lives? How many of us have something they’ve always wanted to do but told ourselves they couldn’t? I listen to so many metal lyrics telling all of us, essentially, you can do this too. Anyone can do this. The biggest hurdle is the fear of the unknown and the fear of failure. Yet failure is a guaranteed outcome if we don’t express ourselves, if we don’t allow our unique gifts come to light.

I don’t have any answers on how to change the music industry from cookie cutter manufacturing personas, lyrics, and beats. I do, however, believe very strongly everyone needs to take their creativity back. As focus and attention span are being undermined, it is harder and harder to find the courage to just be yourself and express yourself however is fitting. Hell, look at the formulas so many of us are trying to follow with blogging. Keeping word counts in certain ranges so people will pay attention. Fuck that, I’m done pandering. I’m just writing what my fingers want to write, and if someone enjoys it, cool. If someone doesn’t, cool. My measurement of success is achieved every time I push “publish”

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I think a lot of us get defeated by measuring ourselves to the end goal. No one picks up a pen and becomes Stephen King or the lead singer of ___. Everything about transforming life, focus, and mental health is a process that is ripe with ups and downs. Life progresses like music. The low notes offset high notes, the progression of chords, lyrics, and beats flow together, just like our lives.

I believe each of us has a gift, and it is our duty to ourselves and happiness to express that gift, whatever it is. I believe anxiety is often unexpressed creativity. If any of this makes sense or resonates, then go back to childhood, pick the thing you loved then, and start there. The best way to not make a dream come true is to say “I wish I had just ____” Look at how the world has changed now, anyone can create an account on WordPress and be able to write. Anyone can create a YouTube channel and put their songs, thoughts, animations, whatever up. There is no barrier into the creative world. If anything, the only barrier to creativity is the belief we can’t do it. The more I express myself authentically, I am getting healthier. I don’t care what happens with my writing, all I care about is that when I write, I have peace. Buddhism taught me to have no attachment to outcomes, and no expectation of outcomes. So I write whatever I feel like writing, because at least I have honored my gift.

What lies are you telling yourself about your dreams? What limiting belief can you let go of to start working towards a dream? What small act can you do today that may influence a better tomorrow? What part of you are you disconnecting from reality? How often do you listen to the opinions of others versus yourself? No one broke through by playing it safe and predictable.

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Pay Attention

Do you know what your greatest gift, asset, tool, etc. is? Do you know the most powerful part of you? Do you know the one part of you, that if you use it wisely, it will change your life?

It is your focus.

Focus is something most of us struggle with immensely. The climbing rates of ADHD diagnosis in adults and children are testament to our struggles with the power of focus. Most of us pride ourselves on our abilities to multitask, but the reality is multitasking, over-committing, and generally being too busy is one of the biggest reasons we are miserable. (No shit Sherlock). The reason, though, isn’t because we are tired or stressed. It’s because we are maligning our greatest and most powerful gift.

Take a moment and think of people you deem wildly successful, the people you wonder how they did it, or what their secret is. There’s a common denominator: focus. Take a musician: they focused on their gift and passion until it became their reality. They don’t just work in music, they live music. They tour, write, perform, and embody music. How did they get there? “I never gave up, I never stopped believing in myself, I practiced every day…”

Most of us dismiss them as “lucky” or how we can’t possibly do that because “here in the real world…” However, we overlook the simple trick they use that can change everything for us: focus.

Do you fixate on things? Do you ever wonder why sometimes you just want to do the same thing, and other weeks it barely crosses your mind? Do you have interests that you want to incorporate in your life, but you can never seem to find the time?

These fixations are your inner compass, and they are a blessing, a gift, and guidance. Call it God, your higher self, intuition, the Holy Spirit, or channeling divinity. I don’t care. What your fixation or focus is trying to help you with is what you need to do to help yourself to be happy and fulfilled.

When we multitask and overwhelm ourselves, we erode our powerful focus, and like a muscle, lack of use creates weakness and lack of results. Our society loves to erode our focus. How many times do we check Facebook or even just our phones in a day? How many times can you say, “I just did one thing for like an hour.” When you go to work, how many things are you doing at once to be productive. Are you actually productive? How is your energy?

Have you ever watched a kid actually playing? Not video games, I’m talking driving a car on a floor, building a puzzle, or taking Barbie on a date with Ken? The outside world doesn’t exist to these kids. As a matter of fact, the kid doesn’t exist to the kid. There’s no mental observer, “I am making Barbie perfect, but up next I really must see about my muffins in the oven and good God that laundry!” It just doesn’t happen. They’re focused and immersed, which means they, and all their problems (kids have problems too) don’t exist.

What happens then? They’re happier! Have you ever dealt with an overstimulated kid? It’s fucking hell! My kids are constantly overstimulated, then they overstimulate me, and I want to go weep under a blanket for a month, pondering how to simultaneously be a great mom and hermit in a mountain, and if there’s a wawa located in any mountains.

Why wouldn’t we realize if kids can get overstimulated and turn into dickbags, most of the dickbags you encounter in your life (especially yourself!) are also overstimulated, unfocused, and outta their damn mind. We’re all chocolated-up toddlers demanding nap time 24/7!

We lack focus. Without focus, we’re generally ships without a compass lost in a world of circular thinking, rumination, habitual confused behavior, escapism, and in need of that nap.

Or, perhaps, more accurately: our focus is squandered in the wrong place. When you have that rare five minutes of quiet time, what do you focus on? Your blessings, or your problems? If you’re a resident of this planet, I bet problems are the more likely answer, although you’d try to caveat it with, but I’m really happy with my life, it’s just….

Focusing on something is transformative. In that, your focus takes you away from your idea of yourself, or your ego. We all have imaginary worlds we live in, where expectations run the show and expectation and reality are perpetually two ships passing in the night. When expectation and reality don’t align, frustration is a constant. When you focus on something and come away from your chattering monkey brain, suddenly shit makes more sense. Why? Because our brains can’t actually solve problems. Our ego, our idea of ourself, doesn’t do anything but take past data and attempt to answer a question. This just puts us in circles. This is what we all do when we have a problem, and it never actually solves our problems.

If anything, what if we create the outcome we don’t want? If you have a situation, and you’re focusing on the thing you don’t want to happen, how often does the thing you don’t want to happen come to fruition? When it does, do you feel a sick satisfaction that, although you’re miserable, at least you were prepared for it?

What if you made it happen though?

Your focus isn’t just what you’re doing, it’s what you’re creating in your life. Focus on peace, you will find peace. Focus on not wanting to fight about the dirty dishes, how many times did you end up fighting about dirty dishes? Focus on too much, and you end up confused and tired.

If you think about driving: if you focus on not hitting a pedestrian, you’ll find yourself inevitably steering away from the pedestrian you are somehow drifting towards. Where you set your focus is where you go, and focus doesn’t understand not. You’re staring at the pedestrian saying, “I don’t want to hit this 90 year old gentleman carrying his groceries”. Your focus says, “oh you wanna go to that guy? Got it!” Next thing you know, you’re jerking the wheel after startling someone’s grandpa. Google target fixation motorcycles and you can see this concept repeated in thousands of articles.

I think everyone has ADHD to varying degrees. ADHD is not a lack of focus, it is a lack of focusing on what someone else wants you to focus on. This is why school age children have these letters. The little bastards just don’t want to sit in a chair for 8 hours listening to someone talk about shit they’re not interested in. I don’t know any adults who struggle like that 🙄 Hell, this is a longer post: how well are you getting through it? Are you still reading? We all try to write less to keep our readers’ attentions because none of us have any!

ADHD, when framed properly, is a superpower, and we all have access to it. How many artists, musicians, and entrepreneurs have either ADHD or bipolar? How many stories have you heard where some wildly successful person sucked at school? Why is this? Their focus didn’t give a shit about anything but their focus, and they listened to it. An incredible musician can’t be incredible if they don’t play their instrument constantly. That’s great, because that was their focus. An inventor doesn’t give a shit about anything but making an iPhone. That’s great, because that was their focus.

We all have this to varying degrees because no brain is the same. Your focus could be as simple as wanting to drink a cup of tea and write in your journal. You put it off because your busy, and you end up grumpier than usual, because you didn’t do what you wanted to do. That urge did not come from your brain, either. We all know there’s a place in us that we can’t quite put into words, and when we don’t listen to it, it becomes a “man, I wish I had just….”

Focus is key. Our egos love to plan, dictate, tell us or shortcomings and problems. When we listen, we find lots more shortcomings and problems, and we create more of the same. Why? That’s where the power of our focus was squandered. If you do sit and journal with your tea, you may just find the answer to the question that’s been bugging you. If you go to that class you said you didn’t have time for, go to the gym, write the blog, etc: epiphanies can happen. You didn’t think of it, no amount of rumination did it. It wasn’t until you used your focus to not focus on creating problems did you, in fact, see through the problem.

Once I tapped into focusing on what I want versus what I didn’t want, life got better. Don’t get trapped by instant gratification. I didn’t practice yoga once and I am a billionaire with no cares in the world. My problems are exactly the same, I just see them differently. For me, focus and fixation come in approximately 1-2 week bursts. This week, my fixation has been practicing yoga nidra. This is something I had practiced when I started meditating, but didn’t know what it was called. It just made sense to lay down, close my eyes, and chill the fuck out. The week before was yoga. I pick one focus – whatever is pulling me the most – and I let that dictate my week. I’m busy, and I’m a mom. I don’t have tons of time. I keep my practices simple, I don’t let them become a guilt factor or burden. I just let it be my focus. Everything still gets done, but I redirect and focus on the fixation of the week when I start ruminating. Some weeks it’s cleaning my house, or writing, or journaling. I call my week whatever fixation I have, and it is my compass. I cut back on the shit I don’t need to make time for the shit I do. I can’t and won’t do everything I want or should do, so I pick one and I let my day focus on that. If it’s a yoga week, I plan my schedule around getting to yoga. If it’s a writing week, I wake up and write before I get distracted, etc.

What have you been wanting to do? What do you keep putting off? Where is your focus being squandered? If you had more time, what would you be doing? Start focusing on these questions, and I’ll bet things begin shifting. Keep focusing on the things you don’t want, and don’t be surprised when you told yourself so. Your focus will create your reality. Start using it to your benefit. What can you focus on today? Hit me up in the comments, this is my current fixation, and I want to talk more!

Up next, I’ll give you some more personal examples of my focus and fixation, a couple steps I took to get my focus back, and what changes I’ve observed since. Thanks for reading, and share the love if this was enjoyable, relevant, or semi coherent.

Using Your Body to Discipline Your Mind

Yesterday was Summer Solstice. At my yoga studio, Shanteel, we did 108 Sun Salutations to welcome summer. This was my second time – the first was for Spring Equinox. It’s a very challenging practice, taking about 2 hours to complete. It’s also deeply healing and eye opening.

Yoga is not about getting in better shape, although it helps. It’s not even about getting in proper postures, or looking like the Instagram pictures. Yoga teaches using the body to discipline the mind. I think when any of us are doing something repetitive and challenging, our brains love to comment on its difficulty and our inability to do it. If we listen to the chatter, the difficulty grows exponentially. Every ache, muscle, etc becomes screaming resistance.

It becomes a mind over matter situation, and yoga demonstrates this perfectly. As I was thinking how hard this was, I was struggling until I caught myself. I went to child’s pose, rested, and changed my internal monologue to a simple “I can do this”. I whispered it to myself as I was in downward facing dog. Eventually, thoughts ceased and all that remained was the sensation of my body, with my eyes closed, moving through the postures. I became focused solely on alignment and positioning, and allowed myself to just move without commentary. I stopped when needed for water or rest, but I was acutely aware of how many more sun salutations I did, how few rests I took, and how much my practice improved since spring.

I didn’t have to modify by dropping my knee in lunges, I could stay up. I was keeping my elbows hugged in for transition. More importantly, my internal monologue became kind and encouraging as opposed to critical and belittling.

Nowadays, it seems difficult to hear ourselves think. I didn’t notice it until I started meditating. I never noticed how critical and mean I was. On the outside, I was so nice to everyone, but on the inside, I was downright mean. This sets you up for terrible projections. If you are constantly criticizing and hating yourself internally, you’ll project those feelings unconsciously on the people you love. Their words and interactions will be perceived with negative intents where none were present. It’s inevitable.

It’s only by bringing awareness to the mental chatter that you can change it. Yoga helps because as much as you may feel good after a practice, it’s rare you want to contort your body in bizarre ways, sweat in places you didn’t know you could, all while trying to breathe and quiet your mind. My mind loves to tell me how hard it all is, yet not once have I lost a limb or died in practice. I generally get sore and relaxed.

This experience carries into day to day, as you become more aware of your monkey brain and realize that your thoughts are messing with your reality. Sure, my house is messy, but in my thoughts, it’s an insurmountable Mount Everest of dishes and laundry, my kids are bound and determined to drive me insane with messes, and I’ll never ever know what it’s like to be done cleaning. In reality, some music and a few hours of focus gets me where I need to be.

I never would have thought I’d be capable of 108 sun salutations. I remember struggling to even commit to 3 as I practiced on YouTube. I was scared of even joining a yoga studio. I thought I was too fat, too this, too that to join a studio. I thought I wouldn’t be able to keep up with the classes. Yet, there I was, in reality, flowing through 108 sun salutations with my community.

If I had listened to my brain, I wouldn’t have a family at Shanteel. I wouldn’t have found my home, where I go to find myself daily. I wouldn’t have found my strength or beauty. I would have just sat around letting my brain kick my ass, as opposed to kicking my ass on the mat to see how much further I can go beyond my thoughts.

Last night was even more special for me. I promised myself I was going. I negotiated if I had to miss regular classes, I’d go. Because this is the week after my period, which means it’s depression week. Awareness of my cycle has helped me plan around my hormones. I know these weeks are tough for me. My energy is low, my mood is typically low, and life is harder than usual. My house is a mess, because I didn’t have the energy to keep up. My kids are home, and I had to let them do screens more than I’d like so I could rest more than usual.

Normally, depression weeks are harder to practice yoga for all these reasons. I’ve promised myself to try to get to 2-3 classes/week versus my normal 5-7. I’ve promised myself to rest without judgement, and listen to my body without criticism. I had to nap most of the day yesterday, but I got to the 108. All day, I was thinking of reasons I couldn’t or shouldn’t. All day, my brain wouldn’t shut up, and all day, I had to ignore it, because I promised myself I was going.

Depression used to be a call for mania, where I would force myself to hide everything away and pretend everything was great. I’d pile on activities and do anything to distract myself and hide it. Depression was 75% of the time for me. As I pushed, intrusive thoughts would begin screaming at me, I’d become suicidal, and driving would be a challenging experience of internally telling myself why driving into a phone pole or oncoming traffic was a terrible idea. Once I stopped that insanity, and allowed myself to feel depression, I became aware of how debilitating it was. I felt sad for all my body has been through as I fought. Once I accepted depression as a state I go through, episodes become shorter and less debilitating.

After about a year of regular yoga practice, almost 2 years of regular meditation, etc etc. I just did 108 sun salutations while I was having a bout of depression. This practice is about releasing what no longer serves you. What no longer serves me is telling myself I can’t be everything I want to be. What no longer serves me is being a slave to my thoughts and endless brain chatter. I am way, way stronger than I think I am. We all are. The only true limits that exist are the stories we tell ourselves.

Full Moon Tarot Reading

Since it’s the Full Moon, thought I would do a full moon spread for everyone! If you enjoyed my reading, please feel free to share and contact me to book a personal reading ❤️ hope this helps guide you to greater insights as the Full Moon energy guides us all into a new phase.

1. “What should you release?” X of Wands

Look at the chaos and obscurity of all the Wands. It’s difficult to see the light. It’s time for you to listen to yourself. Who or what is blocking your path right now? You know the answer with barely a thought or hesitation. We all know our focus and intention is our guiding light, but it is easy to lose both by allowing too many priorities or influences in our path. Is there someone draining your time and energy? Is there a situation doing the same? It’s difficult to allow our passion and fire to come alive when it’s being obfuscated by too much “crap”. Libra is balance and that’s our full moon this month. Help yourself restore balance by giving yourself permission to say goodbye to the people and situations that are draining you. This will make room for what does.

2. “What should you retain?” III of Wands

Look at the difference from the first card to second! The balance and harmony of your intuition is the anchor and insight you need at that time. The same little voice that spoke to you on the first card is also guiding you to the place within you that needs your focus and intention. By clearing out the imbalance, you have unity and harmony: body, mind, soul/self, others, divine/etc. it is a time to hold close to your own inner wisdom. There is a path unfolding at this time, it is up to you to hear that call. Create balance and harmony if it is off kilter, so that you can hear yourself more clearly. Spend time with yourself. Are you journaling? Are you taking care of yourself? What is out of balance and needs correction? What is in balance and needs celebration? What activities do you need to bring focus to, and what activities can you allow to fall to the wayside? The more you can quiet yourself and listen, the more benefits you will have at this time.

3. “What is coming in to your life? The Magician (I)

The alchemist and master of the elements. An ability to bring into reality the dreams, intentions, hopes, and wishes you hold inside. A leopard cannot hide its spots and you can no longer hide the beauty that resides in you! We are all here for a purpose and this card is telling you it is time to live yours. You are not a billiard ball getting knocked around by the forces of fate. You are fate. You are the master of your own individual universe. You can and will create the life you need. With the work of the prior two cards, your inner wisdom and divinity is shining forward and you will be pulled to run towards what makes you shine. It is your choice to take the steps or not. Your life is always that of your choice and intention. Do not allow yourself to fall prey to victimization, blaming, and powerlessness. You’re a master of your reality and, as the poem Invictus says “a captain of your soul” opportunities, people, and situations are coming to teach you this. Are you going to rise or hide away? The choice is yours.

4. “What influences are surrounding me?” II of Pentacles.

Another balance card. Look at the repeated infinity symbol between magician and this card. You are surrounded by wisdom and guidance, it’s for you to be aware of it. There is a natural harmony to everything. In every moment, you are exactly where you need to be. You can choose to lament or celebrate, but everything is there to teach you and help you grow: like it or not! You are undergoing a transformation, so be attentive to who and what is going on in your life as a willing student. Don’t lament the bad or even celebrate the good – just learn. Keep going. The caterpillar turns to goo before the butterfly emerges, so even if it feels like everything is against you: seek to learn. Stay focused on your own growth and transformation and treat everything as the sacred teacher it is.

5. “What should you give?” V of cups

Give forgiveness and release to the people or situations that are hindering you or blocking you. Even the “bad” stuff in your life is a teacher. It teaches you the most! If you touch a burner, it’s not the burners fault. And the pain on your hand taught you not to do this anymore. There’s no bad in your life, but there are things that don’t serve you anymore. Don’t analyze it, don’t lament, just say goodbye. Be grateful for the lessons learned, but “do not let the door hit you where the good lord split you” is a good mantra 🤣😉

6. What is beginning for you? The Hanged Man (XII)

The hanged man is upside down, and he sees the world differently. It’s time for you to see things in a new light! The full moon is all about letting go, libra calls you to balance all aspects of your life, and there is an energy of new beginnings and fresh starts. Let the old

Crap go. You are under no obligation to be who you were a minute ago, let alone days, months or years! Your body changes perpetually: cells die, cells are born. You physically aren’t the same person, so don’t let the past define you. Take a look at the world now. Be here now, and see life as it is. Your eyes see the world your way, and it’s time to let your own perspective come out! Don’t be scared of being weird or unliked. Come out of your shell and be weird, different, unique. Just think: no one sees the sky like you do, so own and embrace your way of seeing and being.

7. “What is the lesson of this full moon? 🌝 “

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Life is yours for the taking and making. You are the creator of your life, no one else. You choose everything, and everything is actually to your greatest good, when you frame your mind that way. A “failure” is a lesson, and a “success” is a lesson on not giving up. Everything is your teacher and nothing is against you, so embrace your life in this exact moment. Love yourself and be grateful for everything. Good, bad, in between. It’s all your unique, wonderful, amazing, chaotic mess of life. Celebrate everything big and small. Be grateful. Smile. Trust you are where you are supposed to be and allow the flow of life and your unique light to glow.

Accept and love yourself and don’t accept anyone or anything that falls short! Happy full

Moon!

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.

 

Rest In Peace Tripp-a-Doo

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I wrote this on my Facebook, and I’m putting it everywhere. There’s so many people who loved and followed this family, and I think it’s a collective pain, though pales in comparison to what Stacey and Bill and so many parents have and are experiencing. I have followed the story of Tripp, Stacey, and Bill for years. They have been such a source if inspiration and love for me to see. I remember donating to these same charities as I was in recovery before. I’m so sad to hear of Tripp’s passing, and I don’t want to send only prayers when I can help in any small way.

I just figure anything to shed some light on dark days is worth it. I’m going to hug my kids a little tighter today.

Tripp Halstead/Team Boom Donations

Sunshine On A Ranney Day

Ride To Give

Also my local food bank: Pennridge FISH

 

Lies Are Rarely Intentional

Words are so powerful and paradoxically completely worthless. We give all of the power to the words but fail to see if we give them power, we can take them away. In truth, almost every word we share with ourselves and each other is a lie. I’d like to play a game, shall we?

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About 2 years ago, I climbed a mountain for the first time. There are two important facts you should know: I am terrified, and I mean out of my mind terrified, of heights. I was also wearing heeled boots. I was not expecting to climb a mountain. My boyfriend at the time and his friends decided to climb a mountain, and I tagged along. In my boots with the heels, not fur. I was out of my mind terrified. Visions of sprained/broken ankles danced through my head. I could feel my lungs tightening as a panic attack started creeping on me – both because I was short of breath (I’m a heavy smoker) and because I was going up high (I have literally had a panic attack going up a slip and slide at a carnival. Ask me about the time I climbed the Brigantine Lighthouse!) I focused on my feet with Tetris-like precision. Every rock formation and my foot were precious combinations I was not going to screw up. When I got to the top of the mountain, the scene was breathtaking. The sky was a combination of pink, and blue, and orange. I’ve never seen or felt anything like it. I had never hiked before, either. My enjoyment was only marred by my fear of going back down the mountain and breaking my ankle. I forced myself to sit on the rocks and quietly take in the scene. My purpose in climbing the mountain, if I’m honest, was trying to impress my boyfriend. I remember him looking back at me as we climbed, and saying, “She can do it, she’s a fucking bad ass.” I remember the smile on his face and for the first time in a long time, a rush of feeling like someone believed in me. I think his words had helped me climb higher than my fear. Looking back now, I climbed higher than my fear.

Sounds great, right? I write well, I think.

Let’s try this:

I climbed a mountain in heeled boots. I thought I was going to break my ankle, and I could not believe how stupid and irresponsible I was. The entire time I climbed, all I could see was 2 dudes carrying me down a mountain with a broken ankle. Visions of all the other times I’ve sprained my ankle by the sheer act of walking were flashing through my head. Strangely, all I could see was Samuel L. Jackson as Mr. Glass with my face on his body. My boyfriend was being a dickhead that day. He had been giving me attitude all day, and even after we climbed, he bought all of his friends a banana but me. I don’t know why that bothered me, its’ a 33 cent banana, but it really kind of hurt me. He had told me before I met his friends not to “be weird” so that told me to just “be quiet”. He finally acknowledged that a) I existed and b) I was climbing not too shabbily for a woman wearing heeled boots. When I got up to the top of the mountain, my brain went silent because it was so beautiful. I was still scared to climb down especially because I knew the sun was setting, and darkness with heeled boots felt more like suicide in fancy footwear. As I went down the mountain, I felt confused. I couldn’t understand why my boyfriend was the way he was, why I put up with how he was, and so on. Fortunately, I was so terrified of breaking my ankles, I forced myself to focus on my footing, and in doing that, I experienced quiet mind for the first time.

Or this:

I am equally an idiot and a jackass who climbed a mountain in heeled boots. Looking back, it was one of the craziest and coolest things I ever did. It started a love for hiking that I never had, and it was too beautiful to describe.

We put so much weight into the noise of words and emotion, but the reality & truth is this:

All of these stories are lies of omission because I cannot give you the full story. My memories and words are being placed to align (intentionally or unintentionally) with the emotion. This is how we all communicate. None of my words adequately convey how beautiful it was up there. None of my words even adequately convey how I felt. If I close my eyes, I can see it and feel it as clearly as if I was there.

If we live purely in the realm of our thoughts and words, we omit reality. I don’t think anything can be more harmful than missing our reality. It does not mean coming up with better words to describe a situation. It means being fully present to experience it. Your focus (awareness/consciousness) dictates your reality. When we experience the world, we do not need words for it. Anything that is put into words is inherently a lie of omission.

Try this for yourself. If you think back on something you did that was hard/challenging/sucked, depending on how you speak to yourself or others about it, will determine your emotions on it. From paragraph to paragraph, the same experience changes with the emotion we express. If you focus on any positive in a memory, the memory will have a pleasant association, just like a word. Look at how different my ex-boyfriend and I seem? Yet both are equally true, only what I shared and how I shared it changed.

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Definitions, connotations, and context will always change depending on who is hearing it. Context and connotation mean something different to every person, regardless of what Websters tells us. People who are “literally dying” are a great example. We don’t even use words according to their definitions anymore.

download (2)My favorite definition of a metaphor is “a beautiful lie” (hmm…feels like I used that somewhere) Literally every word you use is a metaphor for your existence. You are using metaphors with every syllable. The key to being happiness is not to confuse metaphors with the point.

In either way, a metaphor and words are grammatical and literary devices. We confuse our reality with grammatical and literary devices, making ourselves hapless victims of an unseen author instead of being our own authors.

Actions and experience are all we have in this life. By choosing our words and memories, we can turn any experience into a lesson or an opportunity for growth. By seeing how powerless words and memories are, we can see nothing in this life is actually bad. That is an illusion of our thoughts.

It doesn’t matter how I describe it because climbing a mountain in heels made me see I can climb mountains on my couch with a laptop. I can climb anything anywhere, but in the future, I will be more mindful of my footwear. I hope this game shows you a deeper understanding of the game of life and the games we play with ourselves. Don’t confuse reality with metaphors, and just climb.

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Related:

We Are All Warriors

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My brain did not want to go to yoga tonight. My brain was a mess. Thursday and Wednesday I had two “phase six” panic attacks. My really bad panic attacks culminate in me stuttering (“i … i…. I… I can’t …I can’t..I can’t…breathe) and twitching. I haven’t had this scale of panic attack since probably January of last year. Part of my anxiety lies in hormones, and part lies in my ability to manage life. I am easily overwhelmed by just about everything. If you talk to me, you will smile and laugh – because I smile a lot and I am funny. What you will not often see is me twitching and stuttering. I do. It haunts me, if I allow my brain to dwell. When I talk to people, I find myself scared sometimes that they will see the “real” me. The real me that sometimes can lose an entire day to sleeping through depression, or an entire day in a crying anxious fit.

Do you see the woman in the pink shirt down there? That woman was stuttering yesterday. Yet today, she went to yoga. Why? Because she did not listen to her brain. Because she knows that these problems are temporary. These problems aren’t her. The easiest way to see her is when she is breathing through her discomfort – in warrior II or a phase 6 panic attack. The real me is both calm and a chaotic mess. I love all of me, because the chaotic mess brought me to yoga today.

Shanteel brought me to yoga today. If I was practicing at home, I could have talked myself out of it. I have friends there now, and I wanted to see my friends. I didn’t need to tell them about my panic attacks – I was overjoyed to see them, hug them, and gush about Alan Watts to them. I got to be strong with them.

I cannot be anything that I am without the strengths and weaknesses that make me who I am. If I did not have those crippling panic attacks: attacks which have hospitalized me a literal handful of times, attacks that have pushed me to the verge of nearly killing myself…I would not have found yoga. I would not have found meditation. I would not have found that I am not my panic attack. I am not my anxiety. I am not my depression.

I am a human being. I have highs and lows like everyone else. No one sees the mess but me, and no one can love the mess better than me. Chaos creates balance. I would not come to my mat if I did not know I needed to find myself on my mat.

It is not often you find a psychiatrist who is supportive and encouraging of holistic health. My doctor was thrilled when I joined the studio, saying “This is everything you need to help you find your footing and your way forward.” I have had no end of issues with medications between side effects, reactions, and feeling as though my soul itself was turned off and I was a fleshy robot. My doctor is trying to find a medicine to support me without changing me. He is also encouraging me to try supplements and be mindful of my diet: Tumeric for anxiety/depression, Fish Oil, Magnesium (Epsom salt baths or a topical oil), and I’m going to add B12. (Note: do your own research, talk to your own doctor, I am a woman wearing Pilsbury Dough Boy pajama pants relaying my personal supplement path. I am not a medical professional – I am a pajama professional)image

He says, “everything you do affects your mind. Many doctors think only medication can work, but let’s say diet and exercise offers 5% better results, why wouldn’t we get you that 5% too? I do not want you on medication your whole life. My job is to help you find stability.”It can take anywhere from 1 to over 2 years to recover from psychosis, and no doctor has technically stabilized me yet.

However, I am stable. See me in that pose? My diagnoses are one facet of my life, and it’s a big facet: this affects relationships, day to day life, etc. I have felt isolated and scared most of last year until I found support. “It takes a village” does not apply to only children. We all need community.

The community I have found is helping me stay out of the hospital and on my mat. How does one express gratitude for that? By coming to your mat. My mat and this community are helping me see the light and strength in me.

Strength is not hiding the mess. Strength is awareness of the mess and loving her. Living her. No matter what her brain says. I’m not my brain, either.

I am a warrior because we are all warriors. We all fight battles we don’t see. We don’t share. We don’t sometimes even know. We will only know it if we stare at the chaos in stillness and breath. Every warrior has scars, and I’m so grateful to never, ever be ashamed of those scars. Look how far we’ve come.

Thank you to anyone who reads and shares my journey with me. Writing always makes me feel like myself. Calmly Chaotic 😊

Namaste.

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