Harness Your Inner Opposite Day!

The other day I had this thought, and it has turned out to be a really useful one.

To set the stage, it was late at night. I fell asleep reading in a cozy bed with a dog at my feet. I believe my mind was saying something like,

“God I don’t want to get out of bed to brush my teeth. I just want to keep sleeping.”

And then it went,

“I wish I wanted to brush my teeth. How would that feel?”

And I proceeded to pretend like an actress that all I wanted to do in the whole wide world was get out of the cozy bed, put my feet on the carpet and walk myself to the bathroom to brush my teeth. I even pretended to look forward to the feeling of cold water.

The result was rather amazing. It made it a lot easier to do it than when I was fighting off my loathing for leaving the coziest place in the universe.

I continued to try this with other things.

“I am going to be so nervous when my friend asks me to sing with her later.”

Pause.

“I cannot WAIT to sing with my friend later. It’s going to be so fun. I am just so excited to see what happens!”

and then, even:

“I wish I never had to sing in front of anyone, ever. I don’t want friends. I don’t want to sing. I hate the whole thing!”

Like Goldilocks and the Three Bears. Sometimes you have to play around with extremes to see where you actually want to be.

The thing is, there are always many ways to see things. But usually we just stick with the first one. “I don’t want to do the dishes.” “I wish it was sunny out.” “I am not the kind of person that would enjoy walking in the rain, playing an open mic, dancing with a stranger, eating a salad for dinner…” anything at all. We get stuck and save time by not bothering to see things in the less familiar way.

We get these fixed notions, but what about trying for fun to see the same thing in the opposite way? And then maybe, a third way? A made-up way? A way that just reminds our brain that really, the first notion we have about the way something “is”, especially when that something is as complex and lovely as our human being selves,  is not necessarily the ideal one.

Just some thoughts for a Tuesday. I’m hoping that by continuing to do this, I’ll get through some aspects of stage fright and other patterns. Even if that doesn’t happen, the process of doing this is fun and leads to some cool perceptions. This picture, if it was moving, would display me singing in front of a new friend. So clearly, something is working.

Do you ever think about things in an opposite way just for fun?

Are you going to try it?

Do you know some of your most solid beliefs or ideas that you wish could change but you are just positive that they won’t?

Do you remember being different than how you are now, and wondering if life would ever change?

I hope your week is going well!

 

 

Finding Nourishment in the Roots of a Facebook Status

Sometimes there’s pressure to put on a certain face for the public world. But how do we really feel?

Lately I’ve been thinking a bit about Facebook statuses.

Maybe it’s because a lot of my friends seem to be sharing things that otherwise would never be known. Secret drunken laundry dance parties, for example.

Maybe it’s because the person doing secret drunken laundry dance parties is my sister. Who knows. The point is, a lot of my friends are doing well and having fun; this I know from their statuses. All of my friends that I talk to, however, are having hard times here and there.

Why do we share what we share, especially on these quick statuses?
Sticking with the theme of this blog, which is learning to see things in new ways and not be too automatic (sometimes for the sake of writing better material), I am going to write here about how we may gain psychological nourishment and extra story material by looking at why we choose to make certain Facebook statuses.

The Example of the White Gecko

Here is something I’ve been thinking about writing on Facebook as a status:

“For the first time ever, there was a pink gecko in the bedroom!”

Instead of writing that status, I analyzed it. Why, I said to myself, why do you feel the need to tell all the people that there was a gecko in your bedroom? You certainly wouldn’t call them and tell them. Except for maybe your sister. So…

Here’s what I came to while trying to deconstruct my impulse for posting about the pink gecko:

1. It shows that I am living in a place that is unique for me, because Geckos don’t live in CT or MA, where I came from.

2. It shows that craaazy things happen in my life, therefore, I am interesting.

3. Geckos are cute and perhaps people will smile just thinking of one.

4. I just want people to acknowledge my existence in this strange and fleeting life.

5. Was it really pink? Maybe someone will explain the process of color-changing to me.

Now, none of this was really conscious at the time of thinking “Gosh darn golly gee, I should write about that gecko!” Instead, it was just an impulse. Just like my impulse to quote certain lines of songs by Tom Waits and Bob Dylan quite often, which I also refrain from doing.

It seemed that what I really wanted was to tell a story. I really wanted to share something, to be seen, to be acknowledged, and to project a certain image through that. Like my sister and her drunken laundry party. She might have been hanging out alone, but at least everyone she ever met knew that she was having a good time.

I’m finding that that the impulse to post a photo (or just to get a photo) of a sunset, or the rainbow, or a cool view of the city skyline, is much the same. It usually breaks down to some combination of:

-My life is fun, believe me, here’s proof!

-I am interesting; please, god, friends of past, present, and future, agree with me that I’m interesting!

-I’m doing well, don’t worry, I’m happy in some moments, like this one, which you get to see in full color in all of its instagrammed glory!

-Smile, darnit! You are my friends, you should be smiling! Maybe this will make you smile!

A picture that my Facebook friends never got to see..

And others. I am never quite disappointed with the resulting feelings of asking myself  “Why do I feel I should post that particular status or picture to Facebook?”

Memories of External Validation

I think we’ve all had the  “If that person thinks I’m awesome/pretty/smart/interesting, then I will finally feel like it myself” feeling. For me, it happened a lot when I was younger.
Now when it happens, it seems to be related to work-stuff a lot. A boss, an organization, a magazine. “If they take my manuscript/essay/short story, I will truly feel like a good writer!” and it goes on.

Now, why is this? It is clearly repetitive and illogical. A sunset is gorgeous whether or not all of my friends see it too, a gecko on my wall makes me smile even if nobody else sees it, believes it, or can even empathize with it. The same story that one magazine rejects may be perfectly acceptable to another.

External validation has never worked, nor will it. So why keep trying, and is there any harm being done?

Do We See The Extent of It?

I remember reading a study about people feeling worse about themselves after seeing the very best pieces of all of their friends’ lives on Facebook. This is a big deal to me. It’s a lot like those studies of magazines many years ago where the psychologists basically watched girls’ self-esteem go down the more pages they looked at of mainstream magazines.

The reason it matters is that it affects people I love, and it also might be a factor in helping to be aware of the causes of depression or bad moods in myself.

So, when we try to extract the happiest and most validating moments of our lives, our friends see that. Then, they get an unrealistic idea of our lives, and judge their own based on that lens that everyone contributes to. They choose to then show their happiest moments, and we feel that we need to also be that perfect. This keeps compounding itself.

The more we show our best sides, the more one-dimensional the whole situation seems to become. That’s why I’m rooting for honesty and examining my intentions before leaving any type of status to see if it really will meet the need I expect it to.

Usually what I come up with is that I need to validate my own joy and interesting-ness, so I end up doing things like making faces with materials that fall from the trees at the coffee shop to make myself smile. But I’m not going to show you those.

Turning The Mirror Around
I think that in terms of writing fiction, thinking about this kind of stuff matters. The world seems to be moving me in a direction of more automatic behavior. Instead of reading street signs, I can just watch the arrow on my GPS. Instead of dialing each number of someone’s phone number, I can scroll to find their name. These are little things. But they add up, as I’ve mentioned before.

So before I start making automatic status updates to try and reach for some sense of validation or present some image that I’m not, I may as well think about where those are coming from. It helps me to see inside some of my characters for the various fictional pieces I’m working on. Because what are our characters besides pieces of ourselves, and how are we going to know their true and genuine responses to things and motivations when we are not exploring our own?

We can start with what motivates us to make a status, if we want. I’m starting there, and my stories have been pumping out like crazy since the cancelled gecko status. It may be cause and effect, it may not be.

How about you?

Have you ever explored the feelings behind why you make certain statuses? Do you feel like you are completely honest in them, or that you are showing your best or most upset sides?

Do you feel different after looking at Facebook for ten minutes than before? Does it help you feel more connected to people, or less?

And also, I lied about not showing you the face made from fallen objects at the coffee shop.

Sometimes, you just gotta sit alone and make an acorn face.

Nothing Is Ever Lost: Multiple Manifestations Of The Subconscious

Ray Bradbury- Quote from Zen in the Art of Writing

I have been reading Zen in the Art of Writing ever since reading Vicki Winslow’s awesome post about it.  The book is a collection of essays, all by Ray on writing, and I have been working my way slowly through these precious pages. There is one essay called “Run Fast, Stand Still” which has been sitting like dew in my brain cells; and that essay is the inspirational backbone of this post.

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Blogging As A Mindfulness Practice: Why I Left You A Comment

Awareness

Everything you do can be used to help you wake up to the present moment. Why not make blogging into a mindfulness exercise?

 

This blogging world is pretty new to me. It’s so new that I don’t even know if it’s obvious that it’s new to me or not. I’m still learning everything from how to keep track of posts I like to finding a blog a second time.

When I first started making posts and actually putting effort in, I got a handful of followers. Some of them, who are probably reading this, were great people who actually read the post, actually liked it, maybe commented, and in either case, kept coming back for more.

Other new followers had blogs which I instantly checked out; I found something rather peculiar. A tiny handful of them had somewhat interesting posts, sure, but they also had loads, and I mean loads, of comments which were unanimously: “thank you for following my blog!”

Oh, that’s what this is, I thought. People aren’t following me because I’m an as-of-yet-undiscovered-genius; they are following me so that I follow them. Then it hit me, aha! I have had this feeling before!

I was sitting on the dirt next to a tree on the sidewalk in downtown Madison, Wisconsin. It was night time, so the only lighting was a juicy mix of streetlights and store lights, maybe some Christmas decorative lights as well, even though it was the later part of sweet early June.

I was selling necklaces that I had made; living out of a van with my guitar-playing gypsy boyfriend and a new puppy. A girl came up to me that evening and spent a lot of time asking me about each necklace; where I was when I made it, where I got the beads, how they would affect someone’s energy, and so on. She just wanted to know it all, and I was incredibly touched that a stranger was so kind and curious; and yet there was something strange. She was asking question after question, but wasn’t really engaging with the answers. I was just happy to be talking to someone.

After about a half hour of this flowery girl talk, she told me that she had come to tell me that there was one true savior and that he wanted me to be saved. My heart broke. It broke in half and fell to the bricks, oozing down into the crevices with leftover cigarette ash and dog pee. It made me hate her and anyone like her. I would not have minded had she walked up to me with a bible, stating her point, even if she wanted to yell at me or make fun of me. But she took the trouble to engage me in conversation, to find what mattered to me, and only then tell me her true purpose for starting the conversation.

That was the feeling I got when I looked at a person that had just started following me and realized that they had made a day of following any blog that had made a new post. Except the girl at least had looked me in the eye.

Now, it’s really not such a big deal. I may even be imagining that there is anything wrong with that approach to blogging; maybe it is just a common practice and I am in the dark.

My concern that since habits start to form around the ways we relate, the more time we spend on social network sites, the more that these patterns become part of the fabric of our being. We start getting careless and mindless in one arena, and slowly that mentality spreads like a stain on the rest of our lives. I believe that we can use the act of blogging, and of doing anything on the computer, to become more aware of the present moment.

My suggestion is that we all spend a teensy bit more time being aware of the things we do and the way we relate to people on our social media network. The quality of the things we write; the effort that goes into them and how that effort ends up impacting us when we leave the screen. There are so many things we can pay attention to in order to enhance the other parts of our lives. For instance, the more honest and clear I can be with a comment, the more it helps me to express certain feelings in my novel. Here is a list of a few things that you can pay attention to as you blog:

  • Your posture as you read, write, and work.
  • How you eat your food, if you eat by the computer. How you chew, swallow, and digest.
  • How it feels when your eyes move from the screen to the surrounding areas of your home.
  • How  it feels in your body when you stop to pet your dog or cat or pay attention to other people in the room.
  • How your stomach feels right in this moment.
  • How your feet feel on the surface or air that they are touching.
  • How it feels in your belly or chest when you think about a sentence that you want to type; how it feels to type it.
  • How it feels in your body when you listen to the noises happening around you.
  • What the air smells like.
  • How high above you the ceiling is; or the sky.
  • The feeling of your head on your shoulders.
  • How tense your shoulders are.
  • How tense your upper arms are.
  • How tense your forearms are.
  • How tense your hands are.
  • How tense your pointer finger is.
  • And so on.

There are literally endless aspects of this moment that you can pay attention to. So why not try it? Why not try out how it feels to follow other blogs mindlessly, and how it feels to read a random post, read what it says, and comment on how it affected you even if it is a post you never would have read otherwise?

Since trying to leave more meaningful comments and make more meaningful relationships with my blogging world, I have felt better in many writing-related ways. I have gotten over a huge blockage I had in regards to working on my book, and I feel more able to write my silly articles without bitterness for my job because I can take little breaks and leave a meaningful comment or two. It is my little exercise of verbalizing how I feel from a present state of mind.

The internet is a fabulous tool, a wonderful way of getting your voice into living rooms, coffee shops, parks, and minds all over the world. Pay attention to how you relate to it; and maybe you will learn more about how you relate with the rest of your daily scenery and relationships.

So let’s try to add a dose of awareness to the cocktail of all the things we are doing. Let’s be aware of our intention, our attention, and our inattention.

Sometimes it is tempting for me to read a post and love it, and simply hit “like.” But when I do that, the person doesn’t get to know how their words really affected me, sitting here in my hot little city with my feet on a dog and a glass of iced wine at my side. So I try to be honest and clear. It helps me in the rest of my life; and I think that those that don’t take advantage of such opportunities are missing out. That is why I left you a comment.

Investing Wisely: Mindfulness, Money, and a Porch Garden

A recent porch garden

My little organic porch garden complete with Rosemary, Sweet Basil, Spicy Basil, Lemon Basil, Sage, and Oregano.

There is one thing that I have neglected to do in my life; and that is make financial investments. My money is all in my bank account, and half of it just got spent on a bed.

There are times that this truth makes me worried. But lately, there is something that is becoming abundantly clear.

I have spent the last fifteen or so years investing in my emotional well-being in the event of disaster.

I know, I know. Nothing quite beats a big cushion of cash when the you-know-what hits the fan. Your house gets blown away, you can buy a new one. Your spouse wants a divorce, you can get a fancy lawyer. You get tired of your repetitive job, you take off to a new country for as long as you feel like.  Money can do a lot of things.

But it can’t really save you. Not really.

A mindfulness meditation practice, on the other hand, fills in the eerie and often denied missing space left behind by money. While money is a giant robot tromping through a field of wild flowers, mindfulness meditation can slip behind it and nourish all the broken stems back to health. Where money comes in to throw a big electronic plate in front of the sun for relief, mindfulness practice strolls by and hands you a brand new pair of classy shades. Money wants to pave the world in rubber to protect your feet; mindfulness gives you a new pair of cruelty-free shoes. Mindfulness wins, hands down, because it gives you the power to deal with the things that money tries to shield you from.

I have a porch garden. Bet you thought I’d never get to the point of the picture. My porch garden, as you can see in, is quite small. It consists of a few plants; all of them go good in spaghetti sauce, and each has a wonderful way of growing towards the sun.

This porch garden has led to a lot of thinking on my part lately. You see, it makes me feel happy. When I walk out with my wine bottle full of water, ready to touch the soil and keep it all appropriately wet, I feel like a little off-shoot of mother nature herself. When I untangle the stems and try to figure out how to take what I need from the little guys while helping them to grow better instead of hurting them, I feel like a mad scientist of nature; some kind of fairy-winged Einstein. These things make me good, no matter what type of day I am having.

Maybe it is the fact that I care about these little dudes, and I want the best for them. Caring about any creature is a cool thing to do, but usually the creature bears more resemblance to ourselves. Plants enjoy water and sun, and that’s about as much as they have in common with us. Of course, they are made of cells and love chlorophyll and there are other similarities; but the point is that they are not as similar to us as, let’s say, a dog or a hamster. Those creatures have two eyes, cute little hands, an appetite for cookies, and a nose and other things. The plants are just sitting there, growing, drinking, and sunning themselves happily. Some humans do that; but not the interesting ones.

I have been realizing lately that the things I have invested my time and energy into, such as my Reiki practice, my massage practice, my writing, my mindfulness practice, and my brief little relationship with EFT, all go a long way to helping me when disaster strikes.

Of course, it would be nice to have lots of money to rely on too. But would that really help? At this point, I am not so sure. I am wondering if it would actually just make it easier for me to avoid life itself and seek the next “solution,” the next “thing” that would get me to feel “better” when really, all I need is a whiff of basil.

A lot of recent conversations that I’ve had have revolved around the fact that worry and anxiety are rather useless. If something “bad” happens, you can deal with it in the moment. If I want to worry about my dog, my car, my boss, my friends, my street, etc, then anything can happen and there is no way for me to act appropriately in order to prevent it.

If I trust, however, that I can deal with whatever does happen when it happens, then suddenly I am free to enjoy the moment. Suddenly, I have my power back. For it is impossible to decide to take responsibility for your feelings when you are living in the past or the future, living in worry or anxiety or panic; it is impossible to then make a choice about what to do, how to feel, and how to love. It’s like being trapped in an out-of-whack time machine when all you really want to do is make a cup of tea and watch the sunset on this very evening.

If you are aware that it is the present moment, and you are enjoying it without fear or hesitancy for the future, then you have your power. You can choose what to do, with or without money, because you will still be fine. You will face and deal with whatever things arise because you are there to deal with them. If the stove catches fire, you can deal with it. If your dog freaks out, you can deal with it. If someone close to you is hurt, you can deal with it. It doesn’t make it so that “bad” things don’t happen; because that is not up to you. But it at least lets you only experience them when they are actually happening, rather than when they are not.

It is like uncovering a super power. And all you have to do is invest; not your money, but your time. A few minutes a day of meditation, or of mindfully coalescing with your plants. A little bit of Reiki meditation for those that are trained, or of research into a Reiki class near you if you are not.

We are brought up to see that money can save us, that money can be there when problems arise. But the secret to all of it is that you can be there too; your brain and soul and being can be there to work with what happens in the event without trying to run away with things that money can buy.

Mindfulness meditation is my investment for the future. It is my way of knowing that no matter what, I will be able to be present to the best of my ability, and to work with what is happening with integrity and authenticity.

What type of emotional, financial, or educational investments have you made? Are there other types that I haven’t thought of? How are they working out for you?