Monday, March 27, 2017

Allow me to introduce my Self



Unfortunately, Erik has been sick this week, so we didn’t have a coaching call. I emailed him some train of thought creative writing based on the prompts. I’m sorry to say that I haven’t heard back from him, which I interpret to mean he’s really not well. Also, I think he was in Spain last week, so hopefully he’s getting good care. 

In the garden I was able to reconnect (after being in the city with no nature)
relatively quickly to my little internal space of silence and nonverbal mental murmurs

Then I realized that I needed to focus on the question at hand
because it was so easy to just let go of thought and move in space
AHH!! 

I am, I am,,,  
more and more content to just be 
-not busy, not preoccupied, not holding on to ego wants and whines 
nearly as long as years ago me 

I am perceptive and attuned to the details of details 
which does have it's hazards, like rabbit holes and time consumption
and does have it's benefits when I can hold them objective, knowing there is always a lens.

I am a spirit having a human experience
like a slogan on a bumper sticker I recently saw, which I resonated with
if only more bumpers in the world kept me in touch with that insight
- it's sometimes hard for me to preserve my morale 

I'm searching for the words that aren't adjectives
optimistic, yet prone to melancholy
take joy in using melancholy for growth

My Self likes to sense the vibration of people, of each person and resonate
to make something -a bubble, an orb without words
to use movement, play and pretend and theater to find meaning
to learn and dissect and find synergy
My Self is intolerant of pretenses and routines. 
I have an inkling fantasy that I know what to do here
it feels phony to say it. 
In some sense I've known for a long time the shape of it 
and the feeling quality of it
but sorting out the real life details has been a struggle
(I've taken the jewels from the struggles) 

This person wants to sew together her intuitive spirit with the hard and fastened 
"real world" to find her right livelihood and give and give without ever pooping out
-Or move to Scotland and raise sheep and live in a little cottage
and read everything 
Either way is totally welcome. 


I find it very easy to feel my own inner nature with people I don't know
- I'm entertained by the challenge of breaking small talk into talking like good friends 
in the time it takes to ring up groceries.
I'm deeply challenged by family and people who live with hostility in my community
I 'm developing the ability to do what I just described above with them
which means laying aside the way that those interactions hurt for a later time when I can soothe them. 
Sometimes there isn't enough soothing and I want to leave forever!! 
But I always believe in the sweetness of people, I know that I have a way 
of being down to earth, accessible, thought provoking just outside of the regular ring of everyday thoughts
I never presume to know the highest possibility of a person, but I hold space for them to get bigger when they are around me, 
which means they are seen by me, the value of seeing details within details
I never presume to know what anyone is thinking, but phrase a possibility in a question 
so that they can sort through their senses and find their own words. 

I'm thinking of my neighbor, Debbie, who we call "Duchess of Hazard" because we always hear her screaming streams of profanities from down the street. When I saw her this week on the sidewalk I asked her how she was doing in a tone that said I really meant it. We had only a few meters to walk before my house. She turned and looked at me for a glance and I felt that she knew my sincerity. Her sister just gave birth to a boy and she's going to see them in Florida. This was good news to just soak in! I think she continued on just a little lifted. 
My brother left for Colorado this past week, my family gathered for dinner. Emotions were running a little high, and some of us are a bit dysfunctional together. It's typically my role to steer us away from tension and back to the point of the gathering. But not at our dinner this week, I just had to hold space for the outbursts and shouting match. I gave an attempt at breaking the field from 2 to 3, but the family disbanded into different rooms. My brother caught on, a little, which was certainly a shift. I think that they all think they just shrug off the tension. But they really don't let go of the dynamic and try new approaches. I think this is partly where I developed my eye for interpersonal dynamics. The highest possibility that I've always wanted isn't likely, I've had to reassess what is realistic.

~~~

Andrew

Andrew is truly great to work with. He admits when a coaching concept is over his head and frequently reveals in his affect that this upsets him. He’s not at all self deprecating, but is pretty open about his struggles school and in life -and also his strengths. 

One of the things I enjoy about working with Andrew the most is that he writes notes while I’m speaking. What an honor! Andrew is completely new to the concepts of mindfulness and meditation, and he’s open about fumbling through communication skills. It’s not generally seen favorably when someone admits that they don’t know, but that they’d like to. Clearly, this class has put him on a new trajectory. Even if he doesn’t meditate in the future, he seems to have a deeper sense of himself, that something more than busy thoughts and life beyond working for the post office as a mail deliverer. 

The tricky aspect of last week’s prompt is putting word to the essence of our being. He felt exasperated that he had no clue what that could mean. We agreed that Dialogue Processes encompasses many simple behaviors that are very complex. I encouraged him that, yes, this IS a sophisticated realm full of nuance, and experience is key. “I am…” can go much, much deeper than “a mail carrier, a son, a musician” or even a list of adjectives, like, “I am funny, determined, depressed.” (my examples) Over time, the inner landscape becomes more familiar and orienting oneself is more of a wonder than an obstacle course. 

Last semester, Andrew and I had Philosophical Thinking together. I reminded him of a conversation that I and another classmate had about the Atman, the deepest inner essence of each and everyone of us, indelible, unique and pure. In Indian Philosophy, the Koshas are imaged as concentric rings. The Atman is in the center. A person who is interested in accessing the quality of their Atman reflects on the purpose of each ring as a way of life, until each ring is mastered. This practice was one of ancient sages and devotees, so taking on this pursuit in our modern, plugged in culture has challenges. Namely, distraction  -it’s probably easier to attain the state of Atman on a remote mountain top with round the clock meditations and a pristine diet. However, I noted, what’s the point of attaining all that if you have to isolate? 

So, Andrew just simply had no idea what to say about his self, Self? I offered that it may be more reasonable and appropriate for him to scale back a few steps. Before sifting through the nuances for that fine quality of light, we need to know how to look for the space that the quality resides in. (By the way, I didn’t deliver it this formally, it has to interest Andrew’s sensibilities!) He admitted that he didn’t feel like a very good meditator, so we turned our focus onto something he could grasp in his daily life. 

Andrew’s interests are rock music, guitar, writing, watching films, among others, probably because these are the modalities he learns best in. When he does any of these activities, I explored, does he feel a deeper calm, and settled into himself? Is there any activity that he does that gives kind of a vibration, that feels true and good? He ponders and quietly nods, yes. My suggestion to him was to go to those activities and notice with curiosity the sensation that rises. He asks if the sensation he’s looking for is happiness. No, happiness is transient, the sensation we’re looking for is always there, it just feels a little stronger when we notice it. Just because we like happiness doesn’t mean that is our highest self, or necessarily an appropriate goal. The meditation style of sitting silently and inviting thoughts to drift by trains the awareness to distinguish between runaway thoughts and intentional thoughts. It’s is just one of many ways to meditate. Another way could be to watch yourself do what you do with curiosity, with no judgment. Maybe while he’s delivering mail he’ll spontaneously look up above the trees and feel a “ping.” 

An example, a friend of mine was making a similar self inquiry. She was playing with her baby nephew one day and noticed that she felt very vibrant and alive. She didn’t want children, or to be around babies all the time. She became aware of a sensation that felt undeniable and hard to explain in simple words. She kind of memorized the feeling, and went on to find more sensations in her life. 

Andrew made notes of all of this. I encouraged him that mindfulness isn’t necessarily something to be “good at doing” though a person can eventually feel more trust in their mind activity as they practice more. Maybe we will check in on his progress later, and maybe this little depth-charge will continue on-goingly with no desire to move to “the next level.” It all depends on what type of person you are, how you learn, and practice. 

That’s why they call it practice, Andrew says. 

Exactly.


I really like doing this. 

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Working with Andrew is rewarding. I can’t tell him that yet because he’s working very hard and humbly ~ I don’t want anything to disrupt that. Maybe he can just sense it. 
Andrew approaches his inquiries with refreshing openness. I can see in his affect/body language/ facial expressions that he is willing to lay aside previous notions to try new behaviors and frames of observing. I must add that guys who are able to commit to gaining insight this way are rare- at least in my world. He told me about a scenario at work where he practiced active listening, but received feedback that he looked distant and unconcerned. This boggled Andrew. So he asked me to tell him about something while he listened in the way he had in the scenario. Okay, yes, I could see where that feedback came from. There was nothing in his eyes but vacancy, he didn’t nod as he considered my descriptions, didn’t sit up straight or lean in. (In fact, this gave me the exact same feeling I get while talking to Josh, who listens in the same way. I will lay this aside until the end of this post.) So I told Andrew what his body language said to me -that I wasn’t particularly interesting an the was planning an escape to get a nap.
Andrew explained that he was actually listening intently, and just doesn’t express himself with all the nodding and “uh-huhs” and that he prefers to listen in a way that feels genuine. I indicated that I know the feeling, but there is a common unspoken agreement and value in doing these behaviors to show listening. Maybe this is another reason this listening is called, “active listening.” We are acting and moving, not being still and silent. Andrew nods his head, blinking. I say, “Even that slight gesture you just made unconsciously says you are listening and integrating. When you blink, it’s as if I can watch ‘the coin drop’ and the idea is becoming meaningful to you. 
I think it would be so great if Andrew was as willing to be exposed in his life outside of coaching. I can't and shouldn’t say for sure that he isn’t, my hunch is that he doesn’t readily admit that he doesn’t know how to show that he is listening because exposure is so scary for EVERYONE. It’s such an honor for me to be able to straight talk with Andrew and be real. I had a strong sense that Andrew requires no-nonsense conversation, but since that can be hard to come by, he’s coped without. Sometimes people take on a sense of cool when a genuine conversation is historically hard to come by. He says his close friends are “Movers” like him. It’s awesome to witness his transition to “Listener.”
The part of our conversation where he shows me how he listened taught me something about how I feel when I’m speaking. I’ve spoken to people who listen just the way he demonstrated, and I become so insecure! Just as he explained, these people in my life explain, this is how they listen!

So, HUH! Maybe now I can return to these listeners and let them listen their way without feeling unheard? Being able to tell Andrew that this type of listening doesn’t really feel present or pleasant was very therapeutic for me - especially that he earnestly listened and reflected. Maybe I won’t have that moment of truth in my own relationships. But being able to put my words out there made me feel less of a need to. Thanks Andrew!  

Containers, spaces, anchors, high fives

I’ve been practicing suspension of thought in conflictual conversation for a long time- out of unpleasant necessity. The couple’s counselor who introduced this concept described putting my thoughts in a car in a parking lot. That just didn’t click. The trust that I’d be heard, the my feelings were valid and important just wasn’t there. Waiting for my conversation partner to finish what felt like a tirade felt more like making myself open to a barrage. Tons of meditation, practice with making self validation all I need, and separating the words spoken from an attack on my identity got me to the place I am now. Having written that, this process is very much like telling a child that the mean names and teasing that other kids call out really means nothing, especially if you know who you really are. It’s so hard to grasp how that can be true when words hurt or seem to have malicious intention. 
Erik and I spent a bit of time working out a scenario that I presented from the prior week, which was a better example of frustration that remained in Field 2, than my ability to suspend thinking. In my first example I was able to suspend judgement and thinking for a long while, but eventually I can’t. It’s like I’m holding up a dam that just cracks and floods. What makes this process even more frustrating is that its not a small issue, and it’s been ongoing with no progress. So each time we encounter the topic again, the threshold for patience is thinner. I told Erik that it’ been painful to see my classmates integrating these concepts readily in the workplace and with their children, while I’m in an apparent stale-mate with my partner. Especially frustrating that I know I have these skills from my experience in couple’s counseling, but my approaches have been ineffective. I’ve been wanting this conflict to shift into the 3rd Field for weeks. 
Then I realized that the prompt wasn’t, “Laura, have you gotten that conversation into Field 3 YET???” And recalled that I had a great example of being a very strong listening container. I shared with Erik about the evening when Josh and I were painting our living room, and he silently grudged and built resentment, even though I invited him to tell me what was going on. He didn’t want to- until finally he exploded about his difficult week at work, how I was doing everything wrong, how he wants to be in his art studio… I had a few things going on, too, but absolutely trusted that I could soothe myself. I fully listened to Josh spew his unchecked frustration. Later he came to me to ask if I needed to say anything. Honestly, I didn’t. And if I’d said anything, it would’ve taken the air-space that his words desperately needed. His words needed much longer than a pause, I explained to Josh. His thoughts were (still are) important to me, and needed to have the space of the full evening. Josh is typically pre-emptive and perennially armored for backlash. So my response significantly deviated from his expectation. Later, he told me that it took a lot of courage to say what he said. Without any alterior motive I acknowledged that, yes, it IS scary to bear out thoughts, not knowing how they will be received. I decided to “take my turn” even later. 
Erik reflected how sometimes the presenting issue actually isn’t the issue that needs to be addressed. The problem isn’t “who let the pizza burn” it’s something deeper and systemic. Figuring out which to address and how is a challenging skill! In the scenario I shared, the obvious issue that needed tending was helping Josh feel heard and safe to speak (in this case shout) and build a container slowly, layer by layer. The long standing issue will be there later. When it comes to laying aside the real issue to put out immediate fires, I tend to feel like the child in the playground with no buffer against the man names other kids are calling out. I do take it to heart that a relationship gets stuck in superficial tension, rather than seeing the elephant in the room. This is where my Buddhism practice helps me let go, even it’s my nuclear family in strife. 
I admit now that I entered the conversation with Erik feeling very protective and private about the conflict -not wanting to get far into relationship squabbles and diminish Josh’s dignity- even if Josh doesn’t know he’s being talked about. Erik gave me the go ahead, so I trusted him. 
At first I didn’t get Erik’s suggestions…maybe they weren’t clearly articulated for me, or I didn’t see myself doing what he put out. Then he described helping them see the beauty of what they were doing. My own words for this is to highlight the fact that we are two sweet people just trying to figure out something very important, and maybe frustrating or painful. And this is okay. And we can have compassion for this. 
Something specific that I implemented from one of the readings in a conflict with Josh was to say “I- I” statements. I know better than to use “You”…and even “When you ___ I feel ____” doesn’t help. So when Josh and I returned to talking things out, I only said, “I notice right now that I am ____.” The argument didn’t escalate, and it gave ME a container -one that I needed to cultivate badly, since the lack of progress has been wearing me down. Erik reflected a scenario with his girlfriend, where he thought to himself, “I am only a healer.” 
I instantly took to this suggestion because it shifts any victim mentality to the empowered role of serving. I envision literally stepping out of the upset and hurting me, and into the healing me. Healing Laura has a wider vantage than victim Laura. When I’ve provided a safe container in the past, I imagined the other person as a glass jar, just simply showing me it’s contents- totally neutral and accepting. As I’ve said, I felt too workout to continue this and Victim Laura needed to go take a nap.
I tell Erik that I notice how I feel so much more at ease in my body than when I told him about the scenario. I felt more optimistic. We compare our thoughts on anchors- mine is the yoga dristhi - a non moving focal point to concentrate on during a pose. A less spiritual way to describe this is to keep your eyes on the prize. We keep riffing on the idea of anchors, and then- I notice that we are in the generative field!! Whoo-hoo!! 
It IS possible to high-five on Google Hangouts!

Since then, Erik has written me an email about how he was able to diffuse tension using the things we talked about. In my own scenario, Josh came to me with new insights, so my ability to create a container for myself and for us made the key difference. Being out of town for two days surely helped, too. Sometimes that space to speak needs to be very big.

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Like most everyone else, my Dialogic role shifts according to the scenario, circumstance, and how at ease I feel in a given moment. Generally, I am a Follower. Listener to a fault, very much invested in what the person in front of me is saying, what their sharing might feel like for them, and the effect of their shared experience on areas of their lives beyond the immediate. I’ve had to practice extracting myself from conversations that I’ve unconsciously encouraged with social skills that seem like common courtesy. I’ve been a Follower in the general definition, also, a great assistant, supporter behind the scene. 
As a classroom art teacher, art teacher to adults in community center, and a recent year-long gig as an artist-in-resident at Baltimore Museum of Art, my Following changed it’s shape. In these environments, my role is to walk with my students or museum guests. I guide to an idea communicated with art. I allow the student or guest to walk ahead a few steps and contemplate independently while I observe from a distance, looking for signs that my assistance is needed, or that a thought has come up. Then we walk together, I ask questions for clarification and to excavate details. I listen, record, walk, follow, watch, reflect and hold. 
The hazard of developing the skill of attunement, is that its hard to turn off. 

One could argue that the Follower is actually giving the Mover momentum, and without the Follower, the Mover would be talking to the air. I’ve already practiced Standing-By, not investing, perhaps merely overhearing and chiming in once- mostly just watching the talking pass by. 

I’m always craving my day to Move- or better, to Oppose! How does a nurturing empath do that?! Getting sick of stupid shit helps. Here’s where I admit that most times I don’t let minor things bother me until there’s a big pile of minor things, so is resentment. Resentment doesn’t need to get into the conversation, it’s just my threshold signal that something needs to be Moved or Opposed -like a boulder on my foot. 

This week an opportunity to Move and Oppose came to me. I didn’t just walk up to it and start shoving it, because I’m concerned about feelings in confrontation. My habitual expectation is that no matter how I approach, some form of backlash will put me back in the role of Following. Maybe this has become a self fulfilling prophesy. 

With new tools gained from a few weeks of class, I am ready to try afresh. The intended goal takes a terrific amount of sustained focus. Simultaneously holding validity, compassion, air-time for myself and my partner in conflict, all in a container is like lifting a bar bell in my own body weight. My emotions flood in for a moment or two, then I compose, and create another angle to gently apply. It’s beginning to be clear that I’m not a master, though I’ve had a good deal of practice with defensive people. 

Spontaneously, the conflict turned a corner -I really can’t recall that tiny nano second. I’d been trying to Move my message clearly and respectfully. I began to think of third party interventions, to walk out, but I think what changed the direction of the conflict was my ultimatum. My point of view is that we really do work with degrees of unspoken ultimatums. You treat me like a friend and you can be my friend. You act thoughtlessly, then I move on. Its sort of the other version of The Golden Rule (particularly for people in my personal sphere). It’s not about passive aggression, it’s about establishing that respect is mutual.  

I really think what changed the course of our conflict was that I spoke an ultimatum. Something like, “I thought we were going to be able to talk about this constructively, but it looks like we’re just going in circles. I don’t want to go in circles.” To be honest, I’m sure that’s when I started to cry. Do Movers cry? Hmmm. I really don’t aspire to use that as a technique! In fact, I get mad when tears interfere with my poise. 

Whatever that nano-second held, afterwards my partner in conflict became receptive. And then I was really able to Move to risk exposure and be honest. I could see that my words were now being Followed. Could it be that my honestly spoken ultimatum became a container? 



Working with Erik on the opportunity to try a new role means getting past the polite speaking quickly, and going right for “the jugular". For me, the “going for the jugular” means allowing myself to be exposed on a personal level for the sake of skill development. As impressed as I am by Erik’s perceptiveness, I am in equal measure squirming at the close attention. That is an “interesting” inner dynamic to witness. Hooray.

I suppose being exposed is a part of Moving, so I allow it a little. I describe the scenario of conflict in which I practice being Not-a-Follower, but initiating a conversation about a conflict. The other word I’ve heard for this is confrontation,  I use no names or suggest the relationships of anyone in my semi- revealed story. 

Erik asked if I’d had an opportunity to try a new role. I responded that I had, and felt satisfied that even though I might not have filled the new role, I’d seen myself come out of the old one. Transitions take time, and increments of transitions are important to make note of. 
I continued to the part where the conflict changed into a sharing and receptive conversation. What made that change happen? I didn’t know exactly, but since I’d been kind of initiating and Moving, I’m pretty sure it was something I’d done. I explained that by that time I’d tried every trick up my sleeve to help the conflict improve. Erick suggested that it must've created the Container of Safety. Looking back after our session, I think it was actually a Container of Realness. How could I have created a Container sooner in the Movement?  I have ZERO clues. 
That is an honest answer. 

So, we backed away form that story and I told a different one about interacting with a cousin who’s political views offend me (and mine offend her, as she makes clear). On one occasion she ranted about the how meaningless the recent Women’s March on Washington was. She’s a happy, powerful woman, no one is telling her what to do with her body, and she’s not giving up her Glock. So why did I feel the need to march because its stupid…My response was that I marched so that she could keep feeling exactly as she does. That there is a danger that soon she may not, if resources are taken away, etc. Then I shared my experience with a resource that has helped countless women, and if I hadn’t been there, I’d have been in chemo by the following year. Erik thought for a moment, and reflected back a similar experience. I think we both simultaneously arrived at the conclusion that speaking to the issue is more effective than speaking to the person. (Like Kate’s “Play the ball, not the man.”)

Erik is really great at listening and picking up on things I might yet be blind to. He inquires with genuine concern and curiosity. I will keep that in mind and practice trusting.

At the near end of our session, we determined that trying on the role of Mover may be a growing edge to check in on for future sessions. When I encounter openings to Move how can I crate a Container sooner, or right away? 


Andrew and I needed to go with the flow this week, so we split our session into two parts. They were ideally supposed to be 15 minutes each, but as conversations go, they were twice as long. The benefit of having two sessions was checking in and making a reasonable and interesting goal for Andrew, which was to be a Bystander, not a Mover. WE thought about his week and when he was around people for opportunities to interact. He’s a postman, and therefore on his own most of the day. So we thought of various places where he could essentially hunt for a conversation need of a Bystander. 

Another thing I learned about Andrew is that his work schedule is very demanding. Through the week I wondered how he found time to eat dinner and do school work. 

Just before our session one, part two, I emailed Andrew to give him kudos on some work he did (he’s n both of my classes). What grad student doesn’t feel the benefit of some praise? 

Now we’re on Skype, reviewing posts he’d made about a scenario at work where he Opposed. According to Andrew’s story, his workplace has a lot of regulations and standards that don’t really have weight. Typically, he hears the empty threats of authority and goes on his way, knowing that nothing comes of them. Typically, he is unfazed. However this time, he shared his thought, “Either way, I’m good.” And his supervisor was upset by his ‘insubordination.’ So Andrew and I explored why she might have been upset by his words. 

We sorted through his story of the Opposition he practiced with his supervisor. By the way, it was originally his intention be a Bystander, but this situation came up and he found himself in the dynamic of Opposition. How did she react? Was she red in the face and yelling back at you? No, he said. She just threatened to write me up, and that doesn’t do anything.

At Andrew’s office, The US Postal Service, authority is confusing, over used, and too many people seem to have authority. One person might have ten direct supervisors to answer to, and each of those ten have ten more supervisors above them. So on and so on. It sounded to me like a recipe for a lot of pressure from higher ups and stress. So, I borrowed from my coaching to ask Andrew, What would it be like to find common ground with your supervisor the next time she confronts you that way?  If you were in her place, all you would want to do is go home and put your feet up- just like you do now, am I right? Andrew considers earnestly, which is great feedback for me that I’m connecting. So how would you interact with her , if you could edit the conversation in your mind? Andrews voice becomes less aloof and more warm, I’d say- and he tries out a couple of phrases. I see empathy happening. 

Then he tells me he’s “difficult”, which is an honest admission. He says, “I don’t rally like authority.” And I get to tel him that I’m no good with authority, either. So we compare what we think is over use of authority, and at what point is it bothersome/annoying/provoking. So, it seems like the challenge for Andrew in his work place is to practice Opposing authority without seeming disrespectful and insubordinate- because that won’t get he results he wants. He knows this, I’m just acknowledging it. 
I asked him how he felt about he praise I’d given him for his creativity in school this week. He appreciated it. Something I think I understand about Andrew is that praise is good for him, and authority is problematic. I know this feeling first hand, “a problem with authority” doesn’t necessarily mean being openly rude or disobedient. For some, authority is a dark shadow. I think Andrew will perform best when he knows he is doing these exercises for himself,  and that his effort will be seen as such.   

~~~
Tuesday

My meditation practice must start with some kind of movement, even if it’s in the morning. I typically wake up at 6:30, have a cup of coffee, about an hour of Ashtangha and about an hour of meditation. This is on a good day when sleep is good and I’m not distracted. There is a beautiful devotion to Durga, the Mother of Shakthi Goddesses that helps me get into the right space in my mind. Some form of movement is necessary to clean out the mind chatter. 

Recently meditation has been difficult because I’m not sleeping well. I start as usual in front of my small altar, sometimes light a candle. I hope to find my root chakra and go from there, sometimes this never happens. 

This morning, Tuesday, I was sleepy, but went to the altar. Probably within ten minutes I began slipping into a light doze, but just enough awake that I could watch myself do that. Sometimes rigorous yoga makes me too relaxed. I kept sipping my coffee because it was still hot. Some would say this is not a meditation in the strict definition, but I say it can be. It’s in service to my body while sitting, and I did’t gulp it down without considering it. It was pleasant to “hang” between awake and asleep, sometimes I think I might actually find a new space in my mind- or at least get on a deeply restorative brain wave. 

Then I didn’t hear the music. So I made myself sit up and basically asked myself if I was going to meditate or not. (It’s true that doing the same yoga vinyasa each morning is meditative, for sure!! But it also has completely different textures and embodied sensation. I do really like that in Ashtangha the breath carries the movement, and sometimes it’s a lonngg movement. The breathe pumps, rather than sips.) Focusing on my contact with the floor didn’t help, which is usually part of my approach. I skipped that and focused on the inhale coming down like a giant U shape, and then up like an inverted U. I didn’t try to go up past my heart chakra, it’s kind office to stay there instead of ambitiously thought the head and also down through the earth. I need to “see-feel” the breath, this time I did more feeling with imagining because it didn’t quite connect. 

I didn’t sit for a full hour, I’ve been too restless to sit for long or even sleep well. I know the purpose isn’t to time myself, it’s to check in. So feeling like sitting any longer would be cross purpose, I just moved on. 

During the day I felt some anxiety creeping in, so that means get moving around! I’ve been working on painting my house in small stages for many weeks now. So I listened to the class podcast and an audio for another class while cutting in the edges of my steps with light blue paint. The painting is pretty mindless, so it doesn’t distract me at all. For me, this is good and purposeful- it often helps me picture what I’m hearing, and how much sitting can one do in a day, anyway? I’m accustomed to moving much more through my day, so being able to do both simultaneously is a treat. 



 ~~~
Wednesday

I know that yesterday’s prompt was to be in my body, but it didn’t dawn on me, because I’ve used breath as my primary anchor for so long. This morning instead of doing my normal yoga routine and making myself tired and sleepy, I laid on my back and experimented with different arm and leg movements that I could cycle my breath with, while keeping my back firm on the floor. I guess it was a little like Pilates, but I was making it up as I went. A lot of yawning! Which is ether very good for dispelling or a sign of sleepiness. I’m going with the former. I’ve been holding tension and believe that yawning and exhaling are built-in remedies.

While meditating today I didn’t listen to my music because it was so quiet outside- as if I could listen for miles and not hear anything. This is something special when you live in the city.

It seems weird to verbalize what happens during a specific meditation. Something about doing this is making me too analytical while I’m wanting to be curious and accepting. I have various “goals” if you’ll allow me to use that word here, and different things I like to explore. These days, I’m really interested in finding and feeling my Sushumna Nadi, sometimes I get it really clearly and strong. I have’t felt it in several days. It’s like I’m sensing the front of my torso, but I know that it’s actually somewhere closer to my back. It’s interesting to do a “depth charge” of this filament. 

Because I practice yoga and meditation, I really know and feel how awesome breath is. I like to just breath consciously for a while before I open my eyes in the morning…its the BEST part of the day. The weather outside is warm and windy. I walked a bit today and found my breath long and my pace was up. My district is pretty commercial and not very pretty, but walking and breathing today was like food. 

As far as shifting my place in a struggle…this is a really big topic for me that I could fill pages with. Because of my PTSD, breath is often the first thing to go in a panic attack. Panic attacks don’t come of relational situations, necessarily. So, my primary conflict is fear for being triggered and losing control when I need to be present and accountable for something. Hearing someone say they “expect” something of me, usually lines me up for a future panic attack. I know its my fear of fear, and that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself. But people tend to interpret that like, “Oh it’s only fear, so get over it.” And then wonder why they struggle. It’s because this is an unkind message to oneself. Fear is irrational, it gets in the body. And so, it takes a great deal of practice to bring presence here to break through the cascade of autonomic responses. Anyway, I guess my point here is that breath absolutely does make a difference all the time, but in this scenario, prompting breath really isn’t the best place to focus. I find that feeling my fat on the ground or any other contact points helps me feel solid, worthy and equally vulnerable as everyone else. — For that matter, this is where I also start in conflict with others. Breath is one of many choices to anchor.


I’m hoping that tomorrow’s meditation can block out the running commentary to use for these posts, and that I’ll have some better sleep. Common issues, I know.

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Thursday

This morning I did something different- not intentionally, but maybe it’s a good thing to try another time. While having my coffee I doodled. I bought myself a little spirograph kit and have made a few designs that I decided to embellish while I woke up. (Mornings challenge me). In a sense, this is a meditation, too, especially because of the repetition of loops in a balanced geometry. I outline the pencil and then give the loops layers and dimensional space. It’s quite soothing, and could be a go-to when my anxiety ratchets up. 

So no yoga this morning. 

My sleep was good, that temperature outside is a perfect, cool, chilly, fresh Spring. We didn’t have any snow, which disappointed me because hibernation is so great. Since it looks like Spring is actually here and it’s not just a warm Winter, I can lean into it. I found out yesterday that the temp is due to La Nina. 

There was no resounding emotion- a clarity, a sweetness, maybe optimism. It’s easy to feel gentle when there are birds chirping outside. I remembered the mountains where I used to live, and missed them- sad and yet, comforted. 

I’m hungry this time. My posture is clean and Im sitting, always directly on the floor for good contact, with a triangle base- seat and knees. My thoughts gift me away in little trails, but nothing convincing. My spine pops and aligns in a few breaths, a little oxygen fills up small areas in my mind side ribs. Then my belly expands , but my chest tightens and breath shortens. So I allow myself to slouch just a little into normal posture. 

*Space*

My base becomes more solid and heavy, and sinks into a firm cushion sensation. It’s a large cupped hand. I go with it, it supports my back. If only everyone could feel this sensation just once.

I sink lower, the support becomes a pond. This image is one that I’ve had recurrently. The water is moves just a little, it’s up to my shoulder blades. Somehow my arms rest on top of it like a table, but not in actuality. 

In Vipassana it’s advised not to be fascinated with imagery because that leads to thinking. In The Kashmir Shivist tradition the imagination serves to access the wiser self, the Shakthi, and even Kundalini . I appreciate the sifting out of thought and thinking that Vipassana teaches- especially for being in the world and knowing the difference between the thought/thinking and the thinker, or the self/Self. After learning other meditation methods that felt juicier, and allowed me to use my strength- imagination- Vipassana is good for beginning the sit, and then I let my body murmur. It’s important to get out of the brain, and in my opinion, to get into the body. 

I sat up suddenly and felt that was the end for today. I came right over to my computer to record this and still feel the grounding in my pelvis and lumbar. It’s so great when meditation doesn’t feel like effort..I know that there is no such thing as a bad meditation, but this kind is so great. 

Last night as I drifted to sleep I started remembering dreams that I had earlier this week. Driving on a highway with exits that could either take me to a stream on one side, or to an unfamiliar part of town that made me feel upset. After a few rounds on the exits I discovered another lane in the middle. If I timed my speed just right between oncoming cars, I could cross the lanes and go from one side to the other easily. I mention this here not only because my sleep supports my morning meditation, but because it was a similar mind observation. I kind of looked into the window of my sleep thought and discovered a narrative I hadn’t noticed before hand. The only reason I can see that this is related is that when I really do sit, my ability to hang in this middle state is long enough, and I am aware enough to remember my dreams. 

Compared to recently past years, my work with emotions isn’t as pronounced on a daily basis. There was a LOT of loss and acceptance then. Meditation and my spiritual development was about burning away what no kept me from healing and expanding. 

These days my meditations and basic mantras are “sthira and sukha” - steadiness and ease. Also, just the amazing sound of Om. Nothing can top the meaning of Om in my mind. Occasionally I”m startled to look out of my car window at the cityscape and feel that it’s absolutely sacred. Then I blink and it goes back to plain ol’ Baltimore. But the perspective shift is so encouraging given the amount of fear I cope with. Especially since Baltimore and I have an unfriendly past. i lost my innocence here and vowed to never live here again. And here I am. 

On a macro level, meditation cultivates a palpable feeling of worthiness- that I am a child of God (not defining, just knowing the creator is not me), and that all of life is sacred- even my own suffering. I guess this means that my meditation creates a container for me. I’m always building new container for my current challenges. I say, “Grow, Fill Up, Grow, Fill Up.” My study of Buddhism and Hinduism help me understand that “The Pain” is impersonal, like the rest of the human range of emotions. and that we all have the gift of experiencing them as humans. Then I cultivate that while sitting. 

On a micro level, meditation gives me tools to ride emotions- grounding, breath, hearing, body scanning and self soothing. 

My current growing edge is to nourish myself in a new community where I have yet to meet others who have similar intentions. Particularly in a city that is as harsh as this one, and also triggers my fear like this place does. 

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Travelled early on Friday, skip
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Saturday

This morning I sat.  I pressed my re-set button several times, and ended my mediation feeling basic goodness. I’ve described previous sits and don’t have anything particularly different to add. Each of my mediations have the gamut of breathing, feeling tight chested, sensing contact points, legs falling asleep, ME falling asleep, ——- and I know that’s all useful. I do think of inviting my chakras to light up and that’s very close to thinking instead of being. Eventually, I let go if it doesn’t happen. 

I don’t make explicit verbal intentions the way my friends and my yoga teachers do. I think arriving at my altar to sit is enough intention. Ultimately, I just want this space to be friendly to myself- I like “hearing” my organs and bones murmer- it’ like another form of dreaming!  

Maybe if I continue to journal about my meditations it will be so normalized that it won’t interfere. 

Maybe I will do that! 

I’ve grown so much through mediation and therapy and finding more ways to live in my body and reading, and scraped away so much crud, that sometimes I think I’ve become too sensitive and nuanced- ? And maybe that has made me think that I have no blind spots. I admit.  Apparently, Virgos have that tendency. To what end do I challenge my thought and when? Opinions and biases. Things I think I need. Narratives that hurt. I don’t think I’ll ever have as much mastery as Eckhart Tolle, because I like a touch of drama. What bar does Ekhart Tolle hang out in, anyway? Does he have three bowel movements a day because his body and mind are free? 

I am/We are scaffolded by thought. I do EMDR and keep a figurine of Durga, Goddess of boundaries, lines in the sand, dispelling of illusion, clear communication, and no nonsense. After that, I like to take breaks from thinking about my thoughts. Enter Netflix, books, making things with my hands, playing with my funny cat and dancing like a fool. It gives me balance to acknowledge thinking and then go on because I’m prone to hair splitting and leaving the here and now. 

My most recent Buddhist teacher and excellent friend, Cynthia is a master of being. Its frustrating and hilarious- she’s likely to leave a pot on the stove and start a house fire while wandering off and becoming absorbed in something else, just being. Its not ADD or scattering thoughts. She knows she does this and owns it with laughter and an eye roll. She also has a bigger sense of time and space, and it’s evident in her physical ease and centeredness. Her biggest conundrum is managing to just simply be in this world. I told her she needs to live in a mud hut and use shells and pebbles for bartering. 

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I think I’ve slipped past answering the prompts in some respect. If these questions had come to me two years ago, during a really big life change, I’d have had more concise observations. If the prompts were about applying meditation and mindfulness to healing from trauma, or art making I’d have more emergent discoveries to share. I think I might come across as a verbose know-it-all, who hasn’t shown my work. But this is all genuine to me. I'm honored that you read all of this!