Not Comparing Myself to Myself

I notice as I start feeling better, I add more good things in. When depression is going on, I’m not able to do much, but I don’t get worked up about it anymore. I tend to tell myself it will get done when it gets done. Whatever it is. I tend to set a goal of one thing on those days. It might just be “take care of the kids the best you can”. Which really isn’t a just, but in the list of things I can do in a day, it’s pretty short. This week is an awesome

Week, by contrast, and I’ve been cleaning and organizing the house, cooking meals, practicing at Shanteel everyday, and running errands during the day. A bad week tends to find me sleeping, making sandwiches or leftovers for dinner, and helping with the kids as best I can. Yoga practice tends to be forward folds all day (great for depression) and lots of yoga nidra. It works.

With this being a good week, I’m refocusing on diet. I can only add things in when I can focus, and depression makes it really hard to focus. I started intermittent fasting last week – no eating past 7:00 PM, and smoothies for breakfast (I never eat breakfast) to cut down on coffee and start the day with a vitamin boost. I’m making sure I’m taking all my vitamins because they make suuuch a difference in moods. But again, shit like this is hard when it is. I’m eating Buddha bowls again, and I’m cutting back on cheese and meat. I genuinely don’t like how addicted to cheese I am.

The biggest difference is I trust myself now. I don’t stress if I don’t get to Shanteel, because I know I’ll go back. I don’t stress that I didn’t do anything, because I trust I will. There’s so much less fighting that way and I bounce back so much more quickly. I am getting away from comparing for any other reason then reporting symptoms to my doctor. It doesn’t matter what I did yesterday in context of today. Yesterday, I did a lot, but that doesn’t mean today I have to. I’m not in competition with myself or anyone anymore. Today is a day, and when I can look at each day With fresh eyes, it’s like a whole new level of freedom.

I use the good times to build habits I can lean on in the opposite times. The simple things like basic hygiene can be challenging on days I don’t even want to get out of bed. So, I try to simplify everything then. I take really good care of myself when I can and assume it balances out when I can’t. The end.

Sometimes, it gets frustrating watching these fluxes. I wonder what my kids think

When they watch me go from Supermom to ZombieMom. But I remind myself: what if any of them grow up with similar struggles? Do I want to teach them to criticize and judge themselves? Or do I want to show them

Acceptance and love no matter what? No one is the same day to day, we just tell ourselves that and hold ourselves to standards that don’t actually exist anywhere besides our minds.

It’s amazing how comfortable it is when the good times and the bad times aren’t that big of a deal. The amount of energy I’d waste hiding the symptoms, escaping the symptoms, or lying to myself… I actually can do so much more now just from saving that energy and being myself As I am that day Being comfortable in your own skin and mind is a freedom that so few can enjoy. With or without mental illness.

A Tale of Synchronicity (Part 2)

A Tale of Synchronicity (Part 1)

Yesterday, I wrote about the overall connections and experience of the mural. Today, I am honored to share the poem inspired by the mural. This poem was written sitting indian style watching Leah & Rachel paint at about midnight or so at Shanteel Yoga Sanctuary. 

I don’t think I have ever written a poem more easily. The words fell out of my pen. This mural is a vortex of honesty, inspiration, and authenticity. It’s as if your soul has to leap out of your mouth by its side. Shanteel has that effect on you. There is no room for a mask in her. Our hearts and souls are in every brushstroke, and I’m so honored to have been included in the manifestation. Now, on to the poetry!

Feel free to subscribe to my new YouTube channel – I will be posting more original poetry, and possibly doing some random videos. 

Synchronicity

When you close your eyes, what do you see?

The glistening pools of infinity,

Or are you mourning upon a desolate sea?

Where do you come from?

Who is your home?

Where is the space between you and your soul?

Who are you without the name you were given?

What is the space between your heart and your living?

Have you ever met someone and found destiny?

Did anyone tell you you’re too blind to see,

Cascading the ripples in your blackened sea,

Triggering a sensation of the web binding you and me?

There’s no time too distant

No day too long

No one to break it

The ties too strong

Breathe in, embrace it

Breathe out, face it

Your destiny has happened,

Don’t let your thoughts replace it.

The wheels start turning

The moment sparks ignite

Let presence consume you

The wrongs will always be right

Trust in yourself

Trust in other

The world is creation

A space beyond limitation

See the human behind the eyes

Rise above your own wolf lie cries

We’re a tapestry interwoven, perfection’s bliss

Spots on canvas, lips of inspiration’s kiss

Paint your dreams into realities color

See yourself when you hear another

When you close your eyes, know it’s the space you’re creating

A dream in the stars, or nightmares unabating

In the darkest night, the dawn of new moon

Open your heart, let your dreams make you swoon

Whisper dreams to the brightest star

Trusting and Knowing that’s who you are

Make your wish, it is granted

As a tree born when the seed is planted

As stardust in sky, your tears were collected

Remove the dust cloths of the dreams you neglected

Our Mother will guide you to divine destination

The only delay is your own hesitation

Feel the wisdom inside of this rhyme

The only separation is the illusion of time.

Social Media Links – Let’s connect!!!

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

Rachel – Instagram

Leah – Instagram, Facebook

If you are nearby, please experience: Shanteel Yoga Sanctuary – Website, Facebook

A Tale of Synchronicity (Part 1)

If synchronicity is an unfamiliar term, I’ll summarize it like this: seemingly unconnected events that work together to put you in the best (or worst) place possible. Carl Jung said, “Synchronicity is an ever present reality for those who have eyes to see” For me, it has always been: everything happens for a reason. Synchronicity taught me to come away from the illusion of instant gratification and trust everything serves to bring me where I’m supposed to be, even if it makes absolutely no sense at the time. It makes it easier for me to relax and be present in the moment. Synchronicity is often talked about it relation to repeating numbers, probably the most popular one is 11:11

There is no end to possibility when you trust that all is well. I could not say that until I finally stopped doubting myself – I was seeing repeating numbers constantly and literally asking out loud “What the hell could possibly be okay, I’m a mess!!!!” and it wasn’t until I accepted I do not know better than the universe, and if She’s telling me everything’s okay, I should say thank you. Once that click happened, every piece of the puzzle I will attempt to tell fell into place within months. This story is a series of dominoes, with even more connections I am leaving out for the sake of clarity and brevity.

Leah Painting

Did you ever meet someone and have a feeling they are meant to be in your life? I have always held a belief that everyone I meet is for a purpose because I believe everything in life happens for a reason. I learned this when 19 and placed my first daughter with her adoptive parents. I understood the pain was worth it, because if I had not dated her biological father, I would never have met my husband and had my three children. I have always been able to find the bright side of life, so to speak, and I have always found when I sought it, I would find it rather quickly.

That was until I met a man named Jake. I cannot explain why I felt the way I did about him, or why I allowed the relationship to become what it was. He somehow a catalyst to me going on a journey of looking harshly at myself in the mirror, healing my traumas, battling my demons, whatever term you’d like to use. I finally started writing again after giving up on myself, I stopped killing myself with alcohol and eating disorders, allowing myself to be used by men, and on and on. I started, instead, practicing yoga, meditation, journaling, and on and on. The pain of unrequited love is exquisite. It pushes you to darkness you did not know existed. There are so many songs and works of art distilled from the place of a broken heart. Sometimes I would joke my emotional poetry about him alone was worth the price of admission.

I’ve spent two and a half years becoming myself. After my life shattered and I went to the mental hospital again, I tried to rebuild the pieces. I scrapped that and decided to just be who I wanted to be, instead of what everyone had told me I should be. I think that is a journey we all must go on. Maybe not to the extremes I had to go to, but I’m stubborn. I really liked being miserable, clearly. I’ve always been grateful to him for that.

The pain of Jake helped me become who I am, but I struggled with accepting that as closure. I could not get over this dude, it was like MRSA. It would get a little better, then come back with more crap. I spent 2 years pining for a man who literally told me over and over he did not love me. I spent 2 years begging, messaging, stalking?, a dude that blocked me, rejected me, etc. But this taught me how pain and beauty are an inseparable process. Pain teaches you to appreciate the beauty, and beauty heals the pain.

This week, the pain taught me to appreciate the beauty when this journey and chapter came to a close. I had met a woman named Rachel through Jake. I kept in touch with her since  because the second I met her, I knew she was special. Have you ever had that? Where you just know this person is meaningful? We barely saw each other – 2 times since! But, she stayed in my heart and mind thanks to Facebook. She posted an incredible mural earlier this year. My friend Claudine, who owns Shanteel Yoga Studio, mentioned she wanted a mural, so I did not hesitate to recommend Rachel.

This is Rachel’s first mural. If you don’t see why I recommended her immediately and why Claudine hired her immediately, please get your eyes checked. It’s almost impossible to believe she and Leah could outdo this!

A few months later, Rachel and her friend Leah began work on one of the most beautiful and inspiring pieces of art I have ever seen. When I think of synchronicity, I think of stars aligning. It’s a series of events that put you in a place you are meant to be. In this instance, Jake put me in a place to meet two women who created a masterpiece, and changed my life for the better. The three of us – Rachel, Leah, and I – spent the week of the mural creation bonding,  inspiring, and changing each other’s lives. I am not exaggerating when I say, I’d go through this all over again for this project, and to meet these women. The pain I have overcome makes the appreciation of the sweetness, beauty, and magic that much more pleasant.

I keep thinking this is only the beginning. This mural came from a place of healing, opening our hearts, and expressing our souls. The only way this is possible is from synchronicity. I went from doubting myself, doubting my belief in how the world works, to seeing I was being impatient. Everything happens in the time it must. There were so many pieces of this puzzle that had to fall in place. Shanteel opening, Rachel painting, Leah and Rachel meeting, and me recommending them. The synchronicity of these events alone is a magnificent work of art, and my words don’t do it justice. The mural they created, the poetry it is inspiring, the healing, and the loving connections and community this is building is transcendent. A chance meeting while I was on a bad date began a  journey towards immortality. Leah, Rachel and I put our souls in the mural. In art and love, we are eternal.

This story taught me the greatest lessons: patience, trust, but most importantly: to appreciate the ever present reality of synchronicity – this week gave us all eyes to see it.

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Please follow along as I develop this story further. This is one tiny piece of the mural, a silly selfie of me (glasses) and my two new sisters.  We will all be unveiling more pictures across our social media in the coming days. They say a picture says a thousand words, but I say this one has only one word: Joy! Please follow us on this amazing journey by following these links and experiencing beautiful art:

Daina (OurBeautifulLies)- WordPress, My personal FBOBL Blog Page on FacebookTwitterInstagram

Rachel – Instagram

Leah – Instagram, Facebook

If you are nearby, please experience: Shanteel Yoga Sanctuary – Website, Facebook

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.

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.

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.

Don’t be a Slave to Should

5 years ago, I went to the hospital for bronchitis. Over the course of a week, my “normal” life was flipped upside down. The hospital cold turkey’d me off the lexapro I was taking, because I had finally accepted after decades of hell that the depression was more than “just being lazy” or “needing to stop being a baby”.

Lexapro withdrawal can be pretty severe. The hospital mistook my withdrawal symptoms for a worsening cold. They were giving me klonopan and finally asked me (as I’m laying in a hospital bed) why I wasn’t taking the lexapro. Things worsened. I started having panic attacks, I couldn’t walk myself to the bathroom from being so dizzy. The albuterol for breathing made me felt like I was on speed, and my cough was so bad, I burst blood vessels in my eye and started having migraines. Things came to a head when I called my mom at 5 am hysterical because I could no longer pee and had a catheter. After I got discharged, I was a wreck. I had never had a panic attack before that hospital stay.

When I was discharged, I had them constantly. I had no coping skills, I had never seen a therapist or psychiatrist. My panic attacks can make me twitch and stutter. This hospitalization led to my first stay in the mental hospital, because nothing could stop the panic attacks. Ativan, Xanax, Klonopan, nothing helped. I began hearing, what I described as, voices telling me to kill myself. Many years later, I’d learn these were intrusive thoughts, something I had deemed myself as crazy for since they started happening when I was a teenager.

5 years later, I am a walking DSM-V. I don’t take any shit from doctors, because I’ve been through too much to be talked down to. I advocate for myself by speaking intelligently about my symptoms. By referring to intrusive thoughts as “voices”, I was diagnosed with schizo-affective disorder at the mental hospital. That is schizophrenia and bipolar combined. I was put on a cocktail of anti-psychotic medication and basically was so drugged, I practically drooled on myself. I don’t think I’ve ever been so scared and convinced I was crazy as I was then.

Crazy is the word that I’ve run from my whole life. I think the biggest hurdle to treatment is not knowing that what you deal with on a daily basis doesn’t have to be that way. Imagine if you only ever saw the sky as green. How could anyone help you see or understand it’s actually blue? The way my brain works is how it works, and I blamed myself for all the faults and problems. This is how suicide can come to be. I’m nothing short of blessed that my suicidality never succeeded, and that went on until literally my last hospital stay in January 2017, as I was trying to strangle myself with my hoodie strings in the horsham clinic bathroom.

It’s difficult to convey what it’s actually like in my brain. Five years ago, I was forced to start talking. I didn’t tell the doctors about the constant bulimia combined with hours at the gym, because I was obsessed with not being fat. I didn’t talk about how I was working 80 hours a week, cleaning my house constantly because it had to be right, and in constant fights with my husband. I blamed it on the hospital stay. I didn’t tell the doctors how much I wished I was dead, or how most days I cried before I got out of bed, cried in the shower, and cried myself to sleep. I definitely didn’t tell them how afraid I was of being crazy because deep down I knew I wasn’t okay.

5 years later, none of this is my reality, and I am really glad that hospital stay fucked me up so badly. I don’t know how else I could have been forced to say the three words that can change your life: “I need help.”

We all like to think we can handle it all. Kids, jobs, home, life, society etc. but the truth is, we all need help. None of us can do it alone. Yoga has shown me just in the last few months how I still don’t like to ask for help – even from a brick wall, foam block, or a cloth strap. I don’t like to go to child’s pose. But Monday night, I was forced to child’s pose, because my body was done, like my mind had been done all those years before. I wasn’t beating myself up about it, I just knew I needed to listen to myself and take the help of the floor.

This must have been weighing on me this morning, because I had a panic attack first thing. No twitching, no stuttering, no two week hospital stay. 10 minutes of meditation with alternate nostril breathing every hour, yoga nidra, and letting the kids be lazy while I

Took care of myself, without guilt trips of

What we should or could be doing. I know what I need, and I know if I don’t listen, I can go to the hospital. There’s no more fighting through it for me. The kids will see me

Have bad days, and they will see me

Cope, and God willing, they’ll follow the example I set now. There is nothing like the self induced hell you create when you push yourself beyond your capacity while telling yourself it should be better. Some days you can barely be mom, let alone super mom. Some days, you do let the kids be lazy because you gotta be lazy.

Don’t be a slave to should. Honor yourself and ask for help. Even if it’s an iPhone or Thor ragnarok on a nice day. I need help is not weakness, it’s strength. Like a muscle, we all get torn and broken, but only with rest can we truly become strong.

Thanks for reading ❤️

Teaching Fish to Swim

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

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

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

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

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

Allow. Allow. Allow.

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

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

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

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

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

That’s us.

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.