Talk About Your Sky

This hits too close to home. I’m crying and covered in chills. “She wasn’t well enough to know how sick she was” is a 10 word summary of my life since 7th/8th grade. I started cutting and being suicidal in 8th. I had full intentions of killing myself in March 1997, at the ripe old age of 14. This didn’t come to me as an illness or symptom of an illness. This was: I’m a terrible person, everyone hates me, and it would be a favor to everyone if I just died. This carried forward til present: it still happens. I finally know symptom versus reality, but it has taken so much work to find that truth. I can’t even say medicine is how I found it. Therapy wasn’t either. It was finding myself, my true self, and seeing I was beautiful and worthy of love. Most especially from me.

People don’t understand that mental illness robs you of the capacity to experience love because it tells you no one loves you. It tells you how awful you are. People say always to “believe in yourself” but what if yourself says everyone hates you? You are evil? No one loves you. You don’t deserve love. God hates you? I believed until I finally learned my brain lies.

This is the analogy I use to explain bipolar. Imagine someone who sees the sky is pink. They call this sky blue, because everyone else says the sky is blue. You don’t know what blue looks like, because blue is pink for you. You don’t know to call it pink, you’ve never known it was a color other than blue. It’s always just been how you see your sky. How can you make someone understand their Sky could be a different color? How can I make you understand I don’t see your blue? How can we ever understand that I don’t have any capacity to understand other skies or that my sky is different? And even if my sky is different, it’s beautiful too.

Life changed when I realized my pink sky is the most beautiful one In the world because it’s mine. It’s me. My challenges made my strengths, and my pain made my beauty. This mother, lost to us forever, fought similar battles as me, and she lost, her husband lost, and her children lost. It’s stories like this that make me care for myself more, and speak louder. Everyone has different skies, none of us see the same blue, but that makes you beautiful not broken. Because all the broken parts of me are all the best parts of me too. My mind works differently. I am a genius, and I am also a person who suffers in her mind.

Bipolar affects every aspect of my life and my relationships. I have lost so many people because of this illness including the man who was my world. I can understand the pain Jon Davis in right now, because I remember the pain Evan and I have been in. Jon Davis and his wife divorced in 2016, and it’s so difficult to convey what it’s like to love someone who can’t love themselves. Medically and chemically can’t feel love. It’s like water in a holey bucket trying to get a drink when you’re dying of thirst.

Mental illness was what tore our marriage apart, and healing mental illness is what brought our marriage together. But not before I almost killed myself – either with my addictions or by my own hand. And Evan helped save my life. I hope Jon doesn’t feel the guilt that he couldn’t save hers. I could have left my kids motherless, even though saving them my pain was what started me realizing I was not well enough to realize how sick I was.

Rest In Peace Deven. You’re an angel who graced the world with beauty, until your broken wings took you home for peace and rest.

If these words resonate, start talking and don’t stop. Don’t keep this pain inside. The most beautiful part of you is everything you hide away, because the people who struggle are the people who are admired for overcoming. Talk, please. Share your story. Share your struggles. You will quickly see how many other pink skies there are. None of us are alone.

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Awakening the Goddess Within

I am pleased to share my newest poem, Awakening the Goddess Within.  The YouTube link takes you to the video with images and my voice recording. Please check it out and subscribe to my YouTube Channel for more original content.

I’ve hated my poor body for as long as I can think

I stared into this mirror wishing my fat would shrink

Diets upon diets, but they just called me fat

Until I started starving, feeling strong though I was weak

I’d jam my fingers down my aching throat

Retch burns as it burst forth

Sobbing in the toilet

Too sick to see my worth

Retching until bleeding and losing clumps of hair

But still it begged the question:

Is this life worth more than death?

I couldn’t stand to see me naked

Slivered silver stretch marked flesh

All I saw were rolls and numbers, shadowing the love

I tortured this poor body

With cuts, with men, with hate

Smiling when I’m starving

Puking when I ate

They insisted I must lose it

But all I heard was hate

I sacrificed my mind

My smiles

And my time

When they said to lose it, I sacrificed myself

When they said to lose it, there was no thought for health

Slivered silver knife wounds slice

Torturing the pounds and sense of self

For the sweetness of changing scales

Irrelevant extras vs larges

Even though I am no fool

If they want you to feel sexy, I could be a 12

But just two racks over, 18 and purging hell

The hatred coursed inside of me

A black beast upon my soul

I found those who could feed me

The pain I craved to know

If you were fool enough to love me,

I’d be sure to make you change

I love you could never fulfill me

When I hate you is what I crave

It wasn’t until I started seeing

The goddess here inside

Standing naked and resplendent

A Venus in her shell

Aphrodite’s tears are blood red

As so many of us know

They tell you you’re unworthy

They tell you to lose those pounds

They tell you that some makeup

Is the cure to all your frowns

They tell you to win the guy now

They tell you to keep him close

They tell you all the ways to hate you

Because they want you on your toes

You need to consume their fixes

Unworthy little hoes

It wasn’t until I saw the sacred

Silver slivers of a tiger

Who’s been to war in me

The scarred skin of a soldier

When the treaty begged for peace

This body has created life now

My body nurtured four

They just sat in judgement

Some called me a fucking whore

Because I just can’t win here

And I no longer care

I’m not here to please them

And I won’t make my heaven hell

I came play and love here

Because I am the goddess inside

I am naked in the moonlight

Silver slivers of my soul

Transcendence of Selene,

Transforming silver into gold

I am one with love and nurture

I am nature’s warrior soul

I’m in love with crown to root here

I cannot please them worth a damn

They say to hide away here

So I flay my soul more bare

I shine brightest in my darkness

Because I won the war in me here

And I no longer have a care

Enjoying my work? Is it resonating? Check out my other poem, Synchronicity. Please share, and connect with me across Social media via the below links:

Daina (OurBeautifulLies)- WordPress, My personal FB, OBL Blog Page on Facebook, Twitter, InstagramYouTube Channel

From Fear to Love: How my muses saved my writing

Inspiration comes to me like a flash. If I’m not prepared with something to write, I typically end up dropping everything and typing it on my phone. I’ve lost too many good epiphanies otherwise. The tough ones are when I am getting inspired out the wazoo as I’m trying to go to sleep. My muses don’t seem to have a circadian rhythm.

There are three muses in my life who similarly aren’t big on the concept of letting me sleep: my kids. Their inability to give me quiet time or an extra hour to sleep in notwithstanding, they are my everything. They are the reason I write and have been since I started. It was the mantra “My children will never cry my tears.” that started this journey.

I knew deeply if I did not stop my shit, I would pass it on to them. I remember thinking how they couldn’t know what I was doing when I was purging or starving, but the look of relief on my daughter’s face when I suggested we stop and get some food proved me dead wrong. I know how I speak to them will become their inner monologue. I’m human, I screw up, I get angry, I say dumb shit. I’ve always feared I was ruining their lives, I was screwing them up, etc. etc. Hurt people hurt people, and I was so terrified of hurting them. My pain radiated to my marriage until it imploded, it’s a natural assumption to fear what it could do to them.

All of that fear was the impetus to write, because I knew I could figure it out if I just wrote about it. I could have never expected the journey my writing has taken me on, but the more important reality is how much healing my writing has brought. I am world’s apart from the woman who started writing 2 years ago, and thank God for it.

Now, though, fear has no place in my life. Anything brought from a place of fear can only bring forth more fear, which is what happened when my mind shattered under the weight of my own pressure. This obsession with being well took me far, far down a rabbit hole of my psyche and shadows. It was a wonderful blessing wrapped in a curse. Carl Jung said, “Nothing more profoundly affects the mind of a child than the unlived life of the parent.” What he’s saying is we all project our fears on each other, most especially our kids. I didn’t want to project me not following my dreams on them. But, on my road to recovery, I connected with the reality: my writing will never be what it must be if it’s not born from a place of love. It’s only within the past month I’ve been able to write like I used to. Raw, honest, Me. I feel as though the words fall out of my fingertips and it’s meditation in action.

The shift was so simple, I don’t know why it did not occur to me sooner. Before, I wrote to save the children from my biggest fear: myself. Now, I write to save the children from their biggest challenges: themselves, society, and all the well meaning fools that will tell them now to follow their dreams. Then, as my kids get older, the instructions to chase dreams will be recanted and they’ll be told to get a real job. How many of us had our dreams shattered by a well meaning loved one? How many of us have an artist inside begging to come out while we sit behind a keyboard at a job we wish was anything else and make someone else rich, or make someone else’s dream come true?

My kids don’t listen to me worth a damn. I used to think talking about how they can do anything, etc. was enough, but the simple evidence of asking them to clean their rooms shows how well they listen. The same reality spurring my fear is the reality spurring my love: Kids watch and learn by example. If I am secretly starving myself, my kids are learning to hate their bodies. If I am sitting and writing, promoting, and actively pursuing my dream, my kids are learning to believe in themselves, their gifts, and their dreams.

This, to me, is my sacred duty as a mother. There are too many children trapped inside adults who were told they couldn’t cut it. There are too many of us full of doubt, remorse, regret, and confusion. This is probably going to sound weird, but it’s like killing Santa Claus over and over again. We tell our children there is magic in the world, we tell them Santa can do all of these incredible things. Then, when they’re old enough or when a kid on the playground decides to, we tell them it was a lie. We kill magic. Likewise, we tell the kid who wants to be an astronaut, firefighter, or artist they can do anything they set their minds to. When the chips are down, and it’s time to graduate high school, we encourage practicality and mortgage sized student loan debt.

If we starve our inner artist, or our inner child, look at the suffering we bring into ourselves. Depression and anxiety: how much of this is repressed dreams and gifts? I get so much anxiety if I am not writing, especially if I am having lots of ideas and I’m “too busy” to do anything with them. I write as much as I do just to stay on top of myself. Otherwise, I get overloaded, and I start panicking, and I’ll slump in depression. I mean, Christ, depression and repression sound pretty damn similar no?

Why are so many artists diagnosed ADHD, Bipolar, anxious, or depressed? This is our gift manifesting the wrong way. The sensitivity we have to life is our gift wrapped in a curse. We cannot express the mysteries, beauty, and perfection of art without feeling it immensely. We all know words are a pittance to reality, when we express pain or love, it’s nothing compared to truth. Yet our words come close, because of our gifts. If showing my kids the paths to their dreams, self worth, and self love is my sacred duty as a mother, writing about the beauty of reality is my sacred duty to life. Being completely authentic and truthful me, free of the bonds of people’s opinions, free of the bonds of fear, and free of repressed expression is my sacred duty to myself – my true self.

I can’t and won’t put my kids through a journey of trying to reconnect with something that was once crystal clear. When I was in 8th grade, I promised my teacher I’d dedicate my first book to her. There was not a shred of doubt I’d be a writer then. 21 years later, I’m finally “hey I should do something about that writing thing I liked to do…” I had so many dreams when I was younger. I was going to be POTUS, too. Dreams beget more dreams. I’m living my first dream now: I’m (technically) a stay at home mom raising 3 kids. I always saw that, I just didn’t understand the timing. They didn’t need me as a SAHM when they were babies, they need me now. Divine timing works that way, and it’s necessary to trust that. If you make your dreams known, worlds move to make that dream come true.

The people strong enough to step into their dream are the ones who make their dreams come true. The people who repress their dreams are the ones who have the shadows of regret and remorse. The only way I can be an example to my kids is to step into my dream and be a writer. It doesn’t matter the scale, I trust the universe on that one. They just need to see and hear me being a writer. Today. Not tomorrow, not one day. If I want to be a writer, I am a writer. Every time I press publish anywhere, I am a writer. That’s what they see. When my brain starts telling me I cannot, I picture the three of them, and I say of course I can. I have the best inspiration in the world. I have the best fan base in the world. My children.

How many of us are starving artists inside? I’m not talking financially. I am talking we have a muse, we  have a vision, we have a gift, and we are starved for expression. We take that gift, and shove it in the back of our psyche because it’s not practical.  Thank God for my children, otherwise I never would have started trying. I would have lied to myself to my deathbed and wondered where my life went. I have only truly experienced life to its fullest when I saw my dreams were already coming true, and all I had to do was step into them.  I hope, if you are struggling with your dream or believing in yourself, this inspires you to take the first steps. That’s how every journey begins.

What about you? Are you living your dreams? Who inspires you to live your dreams? If the answer is no, are you going to change it? 

Let’s connect! Follow me all around the web

Daina (OurBeautifulLies):

 

 

Marketing Art

The reason why you are struggling in your dream is not because of external forces. It’s because of a simple, logical one word answer: you. You lack marketing. You’re not marketing yourself – to yourself. How you speak and how you interact with the world is your brand, and your number one customer is you. Everyone else will follow your lead.

Coke does not tell you that they can clean a toilet bowl with their product. It’s true, but they don’t advertise that. They make you lick your lips when they talk about how badly you want that Coke and how much better you feel. They do not tell you how much sugar or calories it contains.

Are you following me? If you are advertising this shit to yourself, you will not hire yourself, you will not purchase from yourself, you will not read your poem, blog, article, buy a painting, get a tarot reading. Why would you? Why would they.

Marketing is strategic and logical. It is the left side of the brain and usually the weaker side of the brain in artists especially because they are right brained. Without marketing: internally and externally, you will not find a consumer. Research the law of 7s in marketing. Email lists, social media, everything is crucial, but finding your niche and finding your message is marketing. And you must market your art. You must network. You must be the CEO of your art. It’s balance. It’s analytical and strategic.

But it’s worthless if you don’t do it on yourself first.

Contact me if you’d like to discuss ways to better market your art, if this is of interest.

Feel free to follow me on Facebook, Blog page, I’m @mahbuttitches on Instagram and @ourbeautifullie on twitter. Let’s connect!!

❤️🧡💛💚💙💜

Would Buddha Take Medication?

This has been a question I’ve been ruminating on for well over a year. I am curious if there are others in a similar spot: for me, my alphabet soup of diagnoses led me to spirituality as did working through various addictions. Yet, I’ve found myself in a conundrum of: can I be spiritual and take medicine? Would Buddha have popped pills?

I began studying Buddhism when I realized modern psychology is basically renamed Buddhism. I figured I’d just go to the source. Buddhism is not a religion; it is a philosophy. The focus is disciplining the mind.

When I started meditating, I lived in fear of my mind. It was noisy, chaotic, nasty, and full of should have/would have/could have. I had always felt there were at least 2 me’s in existence. The mask and the fucked up girl behind the mask. When I came to meditation, my life had become a confusing blur of lies. I didn’t know who I was anymore because I lost track of the lies and reality.

In this journey, I’ve flip flopped between believing I am seriously ill and in need of help and believing there is nothing wrong with me, it is society making me sick.

The psychosis I had over a year ago was the great leveler. In that, I am forced to accept both answers to every question. There are things I saw and experienced that are so real to me even today, I shudder at the memory. Yet, no one else saw or heard these things. No one saw melting faces, or had any reason to believe the weird weather was all my fault. I can’t find the things I read anymore, yet I swear I read them. It’s a case of accepting what is: I cannot explain this, but it happened all the same.

The harder thing to accept is this absolutely started with meditation. I experienced something that I can not describe in words, and from that point on, my life was turned upside down. I did believe I was God, so it could be full delusional grandeur and mania. I also believed I was here to help people, and that too could be mania. I don’t know. The problem and solution always is: I don’t know. I’ve researched it endlessly. Kundalini awakenings resonate with what happened to me. Jung’s concept of the shadow is almost a verbatim account of the 3 or so weeks I was in psychosis. Everything, and I mean everything I was afraid of, worried about, hiding away, etc. came into my reality. It was as if my life was a Stephen King novel.

I still struggle talking about this, because I couldn’t write out everything that happened in those weeks if I had a lifetime to type. If I can one day, it will give Mr. King a run for his money.

After begging to be taken to the mental hospital, knowing if I didn’t go, I was going to kill myself: I’m still left with fear. There’s still a part of me worried I was wrong. On bad days of depression, I can worry I should have killed myself then, because at the time, I was convinced someone was going to kill my kids if I didn’t kill myself. I’ve never been more terrified of my mind. Yet, I had two choices, I could either get back on good terms with myself, or spend the rest of my days terrified of me as I had been.

It took me a long time to come back to meditation. Buddhism obviously teaches meditation, but I learned in the mental hospital. No one told me about needing a guide or a teacher. No one told me what meditation could unlock. The experience I had is very similar to what has been described as Kundalini awakenings, and there are warnings abound that this should not be undertaken without serious inner work to clear your demons. Me? I was obsessed with meditating because it made me feel good. I didn’t really know chakras or anything spiritual then.

Was it spiritual? Was it psychological? Those questions have plagued me for so long.

In reality, the only thing that did happen is all my worst fears did come true, and all the things I repressed came to the surface. I was terrified I was crazy, so I went crazy. I lost my mind. It doesn’t matter what was real or not real, because in my world, it was all true. In others, it was not. For me, I created a self fulfilling prophecy. I believed I was crazy, so crazy is what I was.

This is the nature of life. My truth is something only I have. No one sees the sky the same way, and we have no way of proving or disproving it because we can’t describe blue. This leads me back to my question. The Buddha taught how to discipline the mind to alleviate suffering. I believe he used the complete power of his focus, by watching his thoughts and choosing where he gave his focus.

The Buddha believed all suffering exists in our minds. We cling to the past and reject change, we chase the future and lose the present. We create huge expectations to bring disappointment. We live in extremes and reject reality. I have to wonder, though, how would Buddha deal with now? Look at the world we are in. He’s long gone, and many follow his way, yet does it resonate now? Ancient wisdom is wise, but does it make sense in a culture so vastly different? Would he need Effexor and Latuda to stay centered?

The world is so obsessed with labels and words. Everything has to be specifically characterized and in a box – we’ve turned ourselves into nouns and forms of grammar instead of living breathing constantly changing verbs. God is now an iPhone, I think. It’s very different from a monastic lifestyle in India. In the present, I think suffering is caused by our obsession with the word “or”. My suffering with the puzzle of my psychosis is an easy example of this. The reality is “and” not “or”. That is to say, everything I experienced was completely real, completely caused by meditation, AND bipolar. Why must they be mutually exclusive? Does mania make it false? I used to believe mania made my happiness a lie, and I would use analysis to rob myself of joy with the fear of being crazy.

In reality, to me, bipolar is a description of a particular form of suffering: attachment versus non attachment. I flee the bad days and run for the good days. Medication has helped, meditation helped, yoga helped. I don’t fear my bad days, and I enjoy the good days as they last. Non attachment.

The psychosis is forcing me to accept “and” because it’s the only plausible answer. It’s all of the above. Yet, strikingly, this is precisely what the Buddha taught in non duality. Everything in this life is a process. Sadness is necessary so that happiness is experienced. Rainy days are needed to grow flowers in the sunshine. All of the cliches. But it is truly everything. All the mental anguish I go through attempting to pick a side can easily be avoided by accepting both and sticking to the middle. Any extreme is bad for our minds. Moderation is key in everything.

If you can think about the most painful situation in your life, I am willing to bet there is an “or” you are struggling with. “Did he cheat on me because I wasn’t good enough or is he a shitty person?” Both. It’s both. He believed you weren’t good enough and that does make him a shitty person. It can be everything because it’s all part of one unified process. It’s up to us to decide and move forward. Obsessing with the why, and trying to label it disconnects us from reality and keeps us in fear of the unknown. The reality is: it is all unknown and known. Every moment is exactly as it’s meant to be, and suffering comes from constant ruminating and questioning thoughts. The only reality is action.

The rising diagnoses seem to flag this problem. As we all attempt to force ourselves in one particular box at the loss of another, trying to encapsulate ourselves in neat words and labels, we are losing our minds. Our sanity. Our obsession with words and thinking is making us insane.

Isn’t it interesting that modern psychology and Buddhism are so closely aligned? Why is meditation so crucial? Why did meditation help me go crazy? I appreciate it now, because now I have the opposite – I know what it feels like to lose my mind. I no longer need to analyze myself for crazy indicators.

Meditation is the art of doing nothing, because we all do too much. It is rare we have that counter balance. Like pushing do not disturb on a cell phone, meditation can create the space for truth and reality to shine through. The truth that we always need both. We need activity and we need stillness. We cannot be healthy in any one or the other situation.

What is the truth? What is reality? I don’t know anymore. I think that’s the most truthful I can get. This journey started whether I wanted to or not, but I’ve been holding myself back by shifting my fear to medication. I finally connected I’ve been so stifled in everything because I’m terrified the medicine I am on is changing my brain.

When I started meditating, I saw colors. So many colors. It was like hanging out in a kaleidoscope. Now, I can tell you this is called a siddhi and means very little. Since I started the medicine, I stopped seeing colors. I’ve been worried about this for so long. Yet just last night, I asked that question: if Buddha was here now, would he take medicine to help with the journey?

The answer is: why do I care what Buddha would do? This is what I keep missing. At the end of the day, it’s only me that can move my feet on this path. Buddha may be a guide, Watts may be a guide, but I’m the only one who can choose. If I believe the medicine is hurting me, of course it will. Self fulfilling prophecies are reality. I take supplements and I take medicine. Why not both? Both help me. I have a stigma against myself with the medicine, and I’m tired of bullying me about it.

No sooner did I come to peace with this – after 1.5 years of struggling and fighting with this choice to medicate, I saw colors again. Brighter and more vivid then I remember before.

The Buddha taught me to stop fearing my mind by embracing the beauty of my mind. Meditation taught me how powerful all minds are. They can create beauty or suffering, depending on your focus. In each of us is this power to create or destroy our worlds. Most of us need to destroy before we learn to stop creating our destruction with the stories we tell ourselves.

Are you pondering similar questions? Let me know in comments, I’d love to pick some brains.

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.

Everyday Miracles

I’ve been reading A Course in Miracles for the last week or 2. I’m absolutely loving it. I’m also loving reading again. I think in the last month I read more books than the last year combined. After I finish this, I have an Alan Watts book to read.

I think what I love about A Course in Miracles is how it’s helping me frame a lot of what I’ve intuited or connected on my own between the studies of Eastern philosophy with my Catholic roots. There are many who warn westerners from attempting to adopt eastern cultures because it’s such a dramatic shift from our upbringing. The Dalai Lama even said to use Buddhism to enhance your traditional practice, not replace it.

ACIM is kind of like this. It’s written from the perspective of Jesus talking to us now and explaining all the things we misunderstand. I’m also listening to Bill Donahue on YouTube explaining the Bible in these terms, asserting Jesus had learned his path from studying Buddhism and Hinduism, and his references are to heaven being inside, ala nirvana and meditation being the key. That when He says “I Am the way, the truth, the light” he was not referring to himself, but the concept of God as in I Am that I Am, or as Krishna described in Bhagavad Gita: the eternal Brahman that rests in all of us. The interconnected spirit that unifies us all. Or the great Tao, which is translated as The Way.

ACIM talks about miracles being an everyday occurrence. Jung talks about synchronicity being a confluence of events that places you exactly where you were meant to be. Ever run late and bump into the right person at the right time? Think of someone and they contact you? Think of a song and hear it? Call it what you’d like, but these are always present if you’re observant. Constant reassurance that life is working for, not against you: if your perception is attuned. If you believe everything is terrible, you’ll also prove yourself right.

I could go on forever. Philosophy is my passion. It was about a year or so ago now I stumbled on my dead husband, Alan Watts and my life changed completely. A big part of my psychosis was this ever present fear that I was going to hell because I did not follow Catholicism appropriately. This actually was described by Carl Jung in his observations of his patients, and he postulated many mental illnesses are manifestations of spiritual crises. There’s actually a tick box when you’re admitted to the mental hospital for spiritual crisis! It was checked for me last January.

Oddly enough, or cool enough, I realized just last night that when I was in the hospital, there were a number of patients experiencing the same break as me. All of us were released rather quickly after being able to sleep for a few days and regain our bearings. When I was in the hospital, I had a homeless woman tell me (she didn’t know who I was or anything about me) that my sense of humor and way of expressing myself would help a lot of people. She said it was time to stop Doubting myself and get to work.

Miracles do happen. We often overlook or forget them in the absence of rational explanations. Me connecting with Watts started this journey into philosophy and the journey back to wholeness. It was a random YouTube auto play, and yeah, I definitely think it was a miracle.

Happy Anniversary?

I haven’t shared this pic in a few years. Evan and I have been (in all technicality) married 12 years today. 3 years ago, but really probably 5, our marriage disintegrated. Or exploded. All of my worst nightmares and fears came alive. I didn’t want to be a single mom, I didn’t want to have a failed marriage, Christ, back then, I couldn’t fail period. I had to be perfect. In the last five years: I have been to the mental hospital 5 times, I cheated on my husband with a man I met in the first mental hospital, and our marriage became an exercise in masochism and sadism. Evan and I turned what once was overwhelming love – reading our posts for all our anniversaries could make me cry if I wanted to – into overwhelming hate. Our lives were the manifestation of misery: internally and externally. In the course of those years, in addition to my hospitalizations which were usually 2 or more weeks at a time with 3-6 months out of work for recovery, Evan lost his job for 3 months, I had to be out of work with no disability or pay of any kind, oh right and we have 3 kids. I don’t know how we survived the amount of stress we endured.

When the fight happened, I was relieved. Things were so bad, I was thrilled our marriage was over, but embarrassed about how it all went down. I was embarrassed about the affair, I was embarrassed about all my dirty little secrets not being kept anymore.

Sitting here now, I don’t have a single shit to give. Everything in those paragraphs are the past, and it is the vehicle that brought me to the present. In the present, I am back living with Evan and our family is together. I could say that’s a failure too: I “couldn’t handle” being a single mom, I went batshit crazy, etc. But failure is a beautiful part of life that puts you in the present. The present is always where we need to be, and it is always perfect.

Evan was there for me in the darkest nights of my soul. I was screaming about demons on my radio and people on the internet coming to kill me. He was there. He told me to come live with him when I realized I didn’t trust my own mind anymore, and I couldn’t afford my place while being out of work on disability.

How many couples could go through the hell our marriage went through? How many could come back to being each other’s best friend and support system? When we separated, once the emotions calmed down (and the court orders lifted – it was that bad) we promised each other we would figure this out. I couldn’t spend the rest of my life raising the kids and hating their daddy. I couldn’t conceive of holding on to anger that long. We promised each other we’d be friends for our own sanity and the kids. We didn’t want them seeing anymore fighting or anger. Our family suffered enough. We never divorced, we did all the custody and everything between us, and we let ourselves heal.

I never stopped loving Evan. He never stopped loving me. A year ago, we were terrified. I was moving back in and we were both scared it would be terrible. Things had gone so badly, what if….? I have a storage unit full of my stuff from Brookside, because what if I had to move out? A month ago, we started moving some of that into the house and getting rid of old stuff like our 12 year old couch. Because everything is great. A year ago, I couldn’t see me typing this. I couldnt see me happy and glad I moved back in. I couldn’t see Evan and I talking about a future or even an us.

Then I see my face in this picture. I see how blue my eyes are. I know how nervous I was to be getting married, I was 5 months pregnant with Tyler. This is my favorite picture of me. This was the happiest day of my life, and I was marrying my best friend. One thing the last 12 years has taught me is an expectation is a built in disappointment and this can work both ways. I expected my marriage to fail, because I focused on the negative. I expected my life to go to hell, because I fought everything I am, because I hated myself.

The girl in this picture is beautiful, but she wasn’t actually happy. Her insides were tortured, her mind was tortured. She loved Evan a lot, but she also thought Evan was going to make her happy. The woman typing this exceedingly long memoir is beautiful inside and out, she still loves Evan, and she knows the only person who can make her happy is herself. So her smiles are bigger, her words are truthful, fearless, and without judgement. She doesn’t give a flying fuck what anyone thinks about her, because she used to think a lot worse, and she made her life a living hell hidden behind masks and lies.

12 years ago, I married my best friend. It was the best decision I ever made. Today, I am raising my kids with my best friend, and through the insanity of this journey, I have found my other best friend: me. There are no words to express my love and gratitude for this life. It’s beyond my expectations – thank God. A lot has changed in 12 years, but the one constant has been love – even if sometimes it was standing upside down as hate.

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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