Silence

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A rest – a moment of silence in a musical composition

What is silence?

Is it: A complete lack of sound?

As a human being, this kind of silence is impossible to create and exist in at the same time.

There is always the heartbeat.

There is always the breath.

An absence of machine sounds?

of voices?

As I have done since the birth of this blog, I continue in my attempt to change my perception of things in order to decrease suffering. One tool I’m exploring is silence.

“Be still…”

As a mom of a six-year-old, finding silence is nearly impossible. As a 21st century human being; doubly so.

If finding silence, an age-old tradition of hermits and spiritual seekers, is not possible in my very normal thirty-something world, how then do I rethink the concept of silence so I can find it in my life?

So you can find it in yours.

Silence in a noisy world.

The benefits are numerous and well documented.

The how; not so much.

What are your thoughts, dear readers; and your advice, as I move forward into this new rethink life project?

 

On Choice

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“If you come to a fork in the road, take it.” -Yogi Berra

Last week, I asked what people thought of Purpose; the idea that we each have a single Purpose. I received truly lovely feedback, much of which was at odds with what I think is the current overwhelming view of Life Purpose, ie:

Finding Your Purpose = Winning Life

I am obviously tinged with a certain ire, if you cannot tell from the above statement, for I believe that this focus on Purpose has been incredibly detrimental for many people, including myself. Rather than helping, I have come to wonder if this search for Purpose hurts people’s psyches more times than not. And why? Because, to put it bluntly, many of us are unable to discover that Passion, that Idea, that Thing that will bring our lives meaning and so we feel that we are somehow failing.

This idea is so huge; so encompassing; so IMPORTANT, I have fallen under the weight of it; as have others I have spoken with, all with the same weary, hallowed-eye look.

Then I realized something, something key:

Purpose is based entirely on Faith.

Faith that there is a higher being; that there is a plan; and that Something is influencing our lives and ourselves.

What do I mean? Well, Purpose must come from somewhere.

God and Purpose

“Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails” (Proverbs 19:21).

“And I did not create the Jinn and mankind except to worship Me…” (Quran, 51:56-58).

Oprah and Purpose

“There is no greater gift you can give or receive than to honor your calling. It’s why you were born. And how you become truly alive.”

** HAHAHA! **

Did I just put Oprah and God on the same level?

Only slightly.

I am pointing out that one most have Faith in God to believe His words on Purpose (whether it is a Lord’s Purpose, or the Sole Purpose of worshiping Him).

Just the same, one most also have Faith in the intelligence and wisdom of Oprah to believe what she says as well.

Faith.

Now, I came to the conclusion some time ago that faith is a choice. For example, we can choose to believe that God exists, or we can choose to believe that he does not exist. (Side note, Oprah does exist, in case you were wondering).

Personally, I decided to not make a decision on the matter. After studying for years, I came to the conclusion that there is no undeniable indication there is a God; just as much as there is no undeniable indication that there is Not a God.

It is up to Humans to decide on what we believe. Sure, society and family have key roles in belief a lot of the time… we believe in what those around us believe more times than not… but, it is still us choosing one thing or something else.

Choice.

Faith.

We get to decide.

And I think that is very much the same way with Purpose. I have spent hours in deep and dark depressions because I was trying to find my Purpose. I am not a passionate person (Passion, apparently, being the road map to Purpose); so I do not have anything that I am passionate about. I enjoy things. I like to read… some of the times. I like to watch movies… some of the times. I find archetypes and symbolism interesting… but I would not label those interests as passion.

(Even now, I am tempted to wonder if my interest in archetypes and symbolism is something Purposeful… even after hours and hours and hours of trying to retrain my brain from thinking in this way)

In the end, albeit not as thoroughly as I wish, I have come to the conclusion that Purpose is as much based on faith and choice, as believing in anything. And as such, it is a choice to believe that Purpose is a hyped up term that is propagated to help the human masses feel like there is something more to their lives and the world that they live in.

Or.

It is a choice to believe that there is a Purpose for everyone.

I tend to believe the former; which is bleak. But, it is like a story I once heard about Christian missionaries traveling to the far reaches of  Denmark. The missionaries met with these pagan worshipers as they huddled around roaring fires inside their halls, darkness howling with deep ice and frigid cold outside windows shuttered to protect against nature; and the missionaries told these Norsemen and women that the frozen wasteland out beyond their warm halls was like their pagan religion.

It was cold. Unknown. Blackness.

But Jesus Christ brought light.

The missionaries told them if they believe in the light and the warmth of Jesus Christ, that no matter the hardships of their lives, they would be met with peace and rest in the afterlife.

From what I understand, many Norse decided to believe in Christ.

They chose to believe in something that brought them comfort; and there is absolutely, positively nothing at all wrong with this choice.

As today, in the face of terrorism, and globalism, and most importantly ease of life in the first world especially, there exists a need to feel as if there is a reason for living. Any reason. And that is NOT a terrible thing.

Sometimes people really do seem to find that Purpose. I have seen it; that all encompassing joy in what they are doing in their lives.

Kudos to them (said only with a tiny itty bit of sarcasm).

But then there are the Others… cough cough… me. I start to think about Purpose and I spiral into depression because I am WASTING TIME!

I AM NOT LIVING MY POTENTIAL!

I am FAILING!

So I choose not to go down that path.

Choice.

In this day and age it is sometimes hard to remember that we have choices. When working the jobs we work, we think we HAVE to be there because we have to pay bills, and we have to support our families. Sometimes it doesn’t feel as if we have a choice when dealing with difficult family relationships, or hard friendships, or illness, or pain.

Trapped and shackled.

I am achingly familiar with these two feelings.

But, despite the risk of sounding trite and new-agey… there is always a choice in how we approach anything and all things.

For instance, lately, the fact that the U.S. President Elect is who it is, feels like a choice that has been taken away from me.  But honestly, I can choose to fight him and his administration by getting involved. Or , I can decide to try to give him a chance, or attempt to change how I view him (yeah, no).

Or I can decide to do something else.

There are always choices. And this, more than finding a purpose or believing in a God, gives me hope. I get to decide how I want to live my life. Sometimes it feels like there is something working against me, but that again is only a belief, a thought, and I can work to change that thought into something more productive, or more…hopeful.

My PERSONAL conclusion, then, is that Purpose does not exist, not for me at least, and that I will live in the moment, not worrying about if I am living Right or if I am walking the Right Path; rather, only focusing on whether or not I am living well, and by those rules that I have placed upon myself… to be kind, giving, and to never cease asking questions in attempt to understand.

And that is my choice.

Be well, lovely readers, in this Holiday season and beyond… and remember, there is ALWAYS a choice.

Musings on the Past

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The Whining Winding Road

I once wanted to be a CNN news reporter. I was twelve. I remember standing in the apartment we lived in and watching a female news reporter in some Middle Eastern country. It was the middle of the summer. I was waiting for my brother (a baby) to wake up so I could get him before he woke my mom up from her sleep (she worked graveyard). It was warm already, the sun coming through the drawn blinds, but I did not notice the light or the summer day outside, I was riveted by the woman on the screen and that rush of feeling, of knowing that she was who I wanted to be when I grew up.

I am not a CNN news reporter.

I wanted to be an educational researcher for Sesame Street. I wanted to help craft educational programs and puppets that would introduce children to the wonders of readings, and laughing, and using their imagination. I wanted to help children learn.

I do not work for Sesame Street.

I wanted to be a literature professor. I wanted to introduce individuals to the wonder, complexity, and importance of literature. I wanted to show people that literature is one of our most powerful tools as human beings to understand, comprehend, and communicate with one another.

I am not a literature professor.

There are other careers that I could highlight here, but I think you, my dear readers, get the point.

As I sit here this morning in my bathrobe waiting for my son to wake up so I can get him ready for school, I think about all those dreams that I have had through the years. These dreams have not turned to reality.

There are a lot of different reasons. I was not focused enough. I was not driven enough. I was not willing to make the necessary sacrifices. I take the full blame for these dreams burning into ash and drifting away on that breeze of time.

I do.

But sometimes I wonder what the bloody f*cking hell is wrong with me.

Like this morning.

Why did I stand in my own way? Why did I not make those necessary decisions?

Why did I not just do it!!?

I know a lot of us have similar feelings. Hell, most everyone I know regrets something in their past, but I used to not be like that… the regret thing. Lately though, it has been like a damn monkey on my back. Regret. Regret. Regret. Drilling into my head. There is absolutely nothing I can do about what I did and did not do, but I keep coming back to this idea of history being a teacher for the future.

What can I learn?

Dear readers, what are your thoughts on this?

Do you deal in regret? Do you refuse to deal in regret?

How does regret, disappointment, self-hatred play into how you make decisions in the future?

Let me know.

Healing to you today, lovelies. Though the sun is shining through the blinds this summer morning, the gloom is heavy and secure on my shoulders.

Eeyore you all, Eeyore.

Rain clouds, indeed.

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Perception

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Morning. Or evening.

Shifting perception. Not in the way of a camera focusing and then going out of focus; rather in the way of shifting your gaze minutely to the left or right.

Try it.

Stare at a point of something in front of you then shift your sight just slightly to the right.

The perception changes, if only a small amount.

I have taken this into consideration recently in how to work through my husband’s disappointment in my real estate pursuit. I really, really dislike real estate. A lot. A great deal. And as I do not have to do real estate, I have decided pretty much unequivocally that it is not for me. Even if I did have to do something like real estate, I would forego the “flexibility” of this hellish career for something a lot less flexible… like stocking shelves at the grocery store.

Anyway, off on a tangent: my point is that my husband is very disappointed and discouraged in my “quitter attitude.” I think he wanted me to be part of the real estate world because this kind of sales profession is his world. I believe, in a way, he felt a comradeship with me that does not exist otherwise. I mean, we have other connections and similar likes, but as sales is so much part of his life, my being in sales felt warm and fuzzy to him.

I feel bad about this, of course, because I hate the sales world he thrives in. He is very good at sales, and in many ways really enjoys the world.

I, on the other hand, pretty much tucked my tail between my legs and ran whimpering the other way. I should have known, of course… but as all things and every thing, hindsight is 20/20.

And now he is disappointed. And upset. And irritated.

At first, I took his reactions on as my own. I became defensive. I felt guilty. Bad. Like I had FAILED (again for the millionth time in my life), and I was down deep and dark in that old familiar way of the world sinking down on me. Thankfully, over the last four months I have regained a level of yoga practice and meditation that at least slowed the downward spiral. As such, I was able to create space and time to move through the experiences and the emotions, allowing an epiphany moment in the shower:

I must shift my perception of the situation.

As I remind my son on a pretty daily basis: we are only in charge of ourselves. We are not responsible for others and their actions. Ever.

Apparently, I need to be reminded of this daily as well, because I forgot. I forgot that my husband’s emotions of disappointment and irritation about me leaving real estate are HIS emotions. These are HIS reactions.

I am not responsible for them.

I think so many of us forget to follow our path, our instincts, emotions, body, and heart because we perceive what others think as a guidepost. But what others think is never a guidepost.

Of course, there are consequences to our actions; however, what other people think is not on you… ever. Can your actions cause rifts in a friendship, or family? Of course, and how YOU react to those things is entirely your responsibility, but never how THEY act or react.

Shifting perception.

Group think is a real and honest to goodness thing. It is an evolutionary pattern that has existed for centuries to create safety… safety in numbers, right? However, as we slowly emerge from the era of hunter and gatherer (and if you don’t think we are still in this evolution pattern, take a look around), trusting our own Truth, and our own Path is becoming something of more importance.

Now, I know my thoughts on this are very much dictated by a belief that we all have a reason for existence… a special and individualized purpose for our lives.

I also think, though, that our individualized purpose is for the greater good. As such, it is incredibly important to trust ourselves; to be able to root down, to move through life with that connection to something Bigger… despite, or perhaps even because of, how other people react.

So. Perception. Shifting the gaze just a little bit to the right.

A little bit to the left.

To see something new in something familiar.

The Art of Keep Going

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The Choke

The feeling curls around my neck. Starting somewhere in the shoulder blades, moving upwards towards the shoulder muscles, then sneaking, slowly, stealthily, along the edges until wrapping around and around the neck column to that indention at the base of my skull.

Stress.

It stabs at that throat chakra, restricting communication, shutting down the ability to express myself. The controlling aspect of my personality — the ultra logical, precise aspect of myself — likes to examine the stress as if it were a lab animal. Poking, prodding, adding stimuli to create reaction, I work my way through the restrictive tentacles.

This morning, the experimentation and the poking are not really required. I know exactly where the stress stems from, and other than attempting to distance myself from the outcome of the cause, there is not much I can do about it.

My logical self hates this kind of stress. “Nothing can be done!?!?,” my logic screams at me, and then doesn’t believe me and thinks I am lying for fun, and then goes in to the corner for a good sulk.

But truly, and honestly, sometimes there is nothing that can be done.

I mean, there is yoga, deep breathing, meditation.

Writing.

All of these are ways of coping with the symptoms. And yes, those things often help; but occasionally it doesn’t matter what you do, or how you try to handle it; sometimes it can’t be handled.

And then, you have to be okay with that too.

INTERMISSION

My mom has cancer.

Now wait, before you wonder where I am going with this, trust me.

My mom has cancer. She has chronic myeloid leukemia. If you’ll notice, the chronic suggests that this is something she will have to deal with for the rest of her life. My mom is young, super young (we are only 16 years apart), so to have a disease that will dog her step forever is a scary, mind-numbing, hard thought to process through.

She wakes up every morning and the cancer is still there. No amount of treatment or therapy will get rid of that chronic disease.

There is nothing to do but deal with the symptoms.

And I not only speak of the physical symptoms of exhaustion and migraines, but the emotional ones as well. These symptoms include defeatism, pessimism, and depression. She deals with sadness, frustration, and paranoia. Every day she has to prove over and over that she can do her job, be a mom and grandmother, and be a friend. Every day she has to remind everyone else… and herself, that she is not cancer.

And she does. Every day.

Are there days that it is harder than others? Absolutely. Sometimes she wakes up and doesn’t want to deal with any of that shit. Sometimes she wakes up and wants to go back to sleep.

But she doesn’t.

She wakes up. And keeps going.

And that is what we all have to do. Keep going.

INTERMISSION OVER

The stress this morning is choking me. I actually feel it like a pressure in my throat, pushing down at my windpipe, closing expressions, words, thoughts, and ability.

And what is causing the stress is entirely out of my control.

I treat the symptoms. I will get a good workout in today to add some happy-hormone. I will make sure to get extra cuddles from my little man. I will do things to decrease the pressure of that python squeezing the living breath out of my body.

And I will keep going. Because, in the end, sometimes that is all you can do.

So, friends, here’s to the process of moving through the day, despite what that day brings. May you find peace, contentment, and the ability to put one foot in front of the other.

Blessings!

quote-Mary-Anne-Radmacher

Existential Despair

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A California Sunset

The gloomy title of this blog is the last few words of an op-ed piece in the New York times about the declining mortality rate of white Americans. The piece is partially a stab at right-wing conservative, fundamentalist (a stab I don’t mind in the least), but it is also a pondering statement about the United States in general.

There is something wrong here.

Of course there is something wrong, many things wrong, everywhere, but the U.S. is where I live, and the U.S. is the country I am a citizen… and it is the country I would like to be proud of.

That doesn’t happen a lot.

Neil deGrasse Tyson tweeted yesterday that since 2001, there have been 3,400 Americans who have died in acts of terrorism. In the last five WEEKS, the same number of Americans have died by household firearms.

I know our gun policies here in the good ol’ U.S. of A. is a subject of much confusion in other first world countries… AS IT SHOULD BE! Those numbers are ridiculous. Horrifying even.

Yet.

Yet.

People, lots and lots and lots of people (and dare I say the same ones that have a decreasing mortality rate) cry foul at even the mention of taking their guns away.

Why?

Is this an aspect of freedom that we must hold on to? Something essential from our forefathers that makes it a “God-given right” that we can buy and use (frequently) these items that’s sole and only purpose is for killing?

I am getting off track. I did not mean to turn this into a blog about gun rights (and the overabundance of said rights); rather, I wanted to point out this existential despair that permeates the country I live in. This despair is an underlying aspect that causes, in my opinion, the unfriendly frigidity of most the people I interact with daily.

And not just in the PNW. I went to California over the weekend. My cousin and I were going over to someone’s apartment. The apartment complex had a gate with a key-code. The person we were visiting had texted me the key code but it wasn’t working. As we were trying to get a hold of this person to get the right key code, another car pulled up behind us. I waved my hand at them, and said that we had the wrong key code, could they let us in?

“Get the f*ck out of the way if you don’t know it,” was the reply we got, as the man, late 20s with his wife/girlfriend of the same age in the passenger seat, made obnoxious hand motions at us.

Why?

What made him be such a dick?

I guess we were lucky he didn’t have a gun.


The point in all of this rambling:

The despair that permeates our country, is one that compiles and spreads.

To show my age, one of the most brilliant movie quotes of all times is from The Matrix:

“I’d like to share a revelation that I’ve had during my time here. It came to me when I tried to classify your species and I realized that you’re not actually mammals. Every mammal on this planet instinctively develops a natural equilibrium with the surrounding environment but you humans do not. You move to an area and you multiply and multiply until every natural resource is consumed and the only way you can survive is to spread to another area. There is another organism on this planet that follows the same pattern. Do you know what it is? A virus. Human beings are a disease, a cancer of this planet. You’re a plague and we are the cure.”

Despair. Anger. Hate. Intolerance.

We are spreading them like a virus.

What is the cure?

A rather gloomy thought for this Tuesday, so have some more pictures I took while visiting. End on a good note.

Cheers, lovelies!

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Where Are Your Demons?

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Abyss

*Note…after I wrote this, my son woke up. With blankies and his juice, he curled up at my side and we sat together in the silence of the house. Lying his head on my shoulder, he said “love you, mom,” and in that moment, there was not a single black ooze in sight. He reminds me almost every day that amidst the darkness is a light so pure as to burn the rest away…and it doesn’t even matter if it is only for a little while.

Something to be pondered for later. For now… the demons:

This is the Way the Morning Arrived

What is your capacity for kindness?

Are you kind to strangers? To people that you know? Coworkers? Family?

Are you kind to yourself?

I have lost my capacity for kindness. I am not sure where it went or when it went, but the soul-kind has left the building. I’m not saying I am a terrible person to people (though I do have that ability), but rather that the underlying kind is gone.

I used to be nice.

Maybe.

Was there a time I did not see the dark in everything that goes on around me?

Perhaps there was a time that not everything was met with a snarky thought or an awareness of banality. I am not talking about truth, in all of its variable and changing versions, but a kind of permeation that saturates everything with insincerity and surface application.

I have done so much to tackle and try to tame the beast that is my personality and depression. I have books and books on spiritual Christain, Jew and Muslin thought. On yoga. On meditation. Mindfulness. I have worked with people on how to be nicer. I have stood in a Tree Pose. I have prayed. I have meditated.

I have worked on how to see the world with a glow rather than with a black that drips from everything in a slow ooze.

I sound like an angsty teenager.

Have I never grown up?

Lost.

Somewhere.

I am not sure where.

Why do I bring this up today?

A couple of things.

First. I was a complete and terrible human being to my husband this morning. I had dreams all night about him and his mum going off on me ala what happened this summer when we visited her for two weeks. I won’t go into the details, but suffice to say that those masks I talked about, well mine was forced onto my face whilst kicking and screaming. It took me months after we returned to even be somewhat okay, and apparently I am not okay if last night’s dreams are any indication.

Second. I went on and did my usual peruse of wordpress, twitter, facebook etc. and there were so many quotes from Buddha, Thich Nhat Hanh, and Jesus that I shut my computer with a slam. Quotes about the way we think is the way we are. Quotes about filling every step with peace, love, and joy.

All of those things that sound wonderful, that people subscribe to, that I have subscribed to on numerous occasions… but yet have not done a damn thing to disappear the darkness that I see every damn day.

I know, and I have worked, and I have meditated on my way of thinking. I have worked to change the negative to positive. I have tried, so very, very hard to create a positive outlook.

And I can’t do it.

I would like to think that once upon a time I was kind.

The way we think is the way we are.

I would like to think that once upon a time I had ability to see pureness in people.

The way we are.

Demons. Dark. Deep.

They can’t be pulled out with a tweezer of thought.

They are embedded.

They have taken life times to create chasms.

They are not eradicated by a thought.

Where do we go from here?