Can Mindfulness Melt the Snowball of Numbness?

A couple of days ago, I meditated for almost five minutes. I used to do 20 minutes every other day as a bare minimum. I realized that after sitting, my mind was so much more in perspective.

I think that I’m a person who has a lot of thoughts. Maybe not more than most people, but more than some. My mind knows how to race and when I start to take every single thought seriously and try to weigh them against each other, I feel almost like I’m drowning. It leads me to making parts of songs and parts of blog posts pretty frantically, without actually finishing or loving any of them. Maybe there is no room for the stillness and experience of love when the world is racing so fast.

The sitting practice helps me to remember in a very experiential way that each thought is simply a thought, and that I can let some of them go without any horrible ramifications. It also seems that the farther I get away from that practice, the less I engage with other mindfulness activities like Yoga or even just basic stretching. I start getting addicted to the madness and afraid of the silence and stillness that I pretty much forget is even there.

It makes me wonder about addictions in general. The more frantic my mind gets, the more I start turning to alcohol and coffee and cigarettes to find some sense of comfort and ground. Of course, all of these things provide the exact opposite in most cases. But that doesn’t stop the craving for them when my mind is in such a state.  Partly because the thought “I should go get beer” is harder to see in perspective when I haven’t been engaging in my sitting practice.

Another thing that happens, which is pretty embarrassing to type, is that my mind tells me that the chaos and substances will help me to be more creative. Of course, I start writing more often sometimes when I’m in that state, but it’s not usually writing that I end up being proud of or using for any real project. It seems to be a rationalization built out of an addiction to numbing behavior, and as long as I can call it that to its face every once in awhile, it’s rather easy to get out of.

I wonder how many other people experience the swing in the way that I do, where it seems like the farther away I get from health and groundedness, the more I begin to seek out that chaos instead of things that bring me back. It’s quite interesting.

I hope you are well and I hope that getting back into my practice will leave me with more semi-useful things to blog about rather than the zillions of half-finished posts that you never get to see 🙂

Do you have numbing behaviors that seem to snowball into each other?

Are you just always able to be healthy and happy and motivated to be good to yourself?

 

 

 

Is Predictability Addictive?

I was musing about this on my blog’s Facebook page recently, and it seems to be a rather intriguing topic.

Predictability is great, and in some ways, it can also deaden a lot of other things like spontaneity and adventure. Like Mike Freeman mentioned on my last post, some things make great servants but awful masters. If it’s true of Facebook, perhaps it’s true of predictability.

There are a lot of angles to take with this. On one hand, we have the inherent value of predictability.

Value of Predictability

If you know that when you go to your local grocery store, you can go to the back left corner and get your bread, and then go to the far right and get your miso, and stop somewhere in the middle for chips, then you are on a roll. You can get in, get out, know what to expect, and spend your time thinking about other things like what to make for dinner or what that text really meant.

You had to start somewhere, and then you found the route that made sense. You repeated it. You found that it worked.

Does Predictability Get Addictive?

It seems to me, at least in my world, that things can get addictive. This usually happens when they help me feel different than I already feel. Like coffee, or alcohol, or feeling grouchy while doing dishes. Some things happen over and over and over.

Why do these things seem so appealing? Maybe it’s because they help me escape the uncomfortableness, however temporary, of the present moment. They make me feel something I can count on (at least for awhile), and they let me know what to expect, which is nice because it gives an illusion of certainty to the near future. I say illusion because it is; we never know quite what is going to happen or exactly how it is going to feel when it does.

Predictability and a routine does cut down on stress to some degree. Not knowing what’s going to happen or where anything is can be a bit intense, especially if it happens for a long time without stopping. If you have traveled to a foreign country, you know the feeling of culture shock. Suddenly the things that you take for granted daily, such as how close a stranger will sit to you on the bus, are not a given. It takes extra brain power just to keep up with it all.

There’s an article on Psychology Today called Routines: Comforting or Confining?

That article talks about how some routines are beneficial, but it’s also good to re-examine them. What I’m more interested in is noticing the feeling of when I’m acting based on predictability, because when we know what to expect then we aren’t necessarily aware of the moment in all of its unique freshness.

Scary..or Fun?

Some years ago I was painting as a profession with a friend. At one point I had to stand on a ladder in the middle of the room to paint a rafter. I pointed out that it was rather scary. “Scary, or fun?” the other painter said. He had made an excellent point. The feeling of scary was the same feeling as “fun,” except fun would be something I choose and scary was something that was happening to me. As soon as I embraced my increased heart rate and hyper-awareness of balance, it felt more fun. But for me, “scary” is a predictable feeling. I go to it a lot in the day to day, but if I’m aware of that choice in the moment it happens, I can switch it over to “fun” sometimes.

Predictability takes so many forms, physically and emotionally, that it can be hard if not impossible to catch all of the ways in which we indulge in it. But you’ve gotta start somewhere.

My main point is this. A lot of times patterns are formed because they make something take less work one time. That feeling of predictability is preferable to feeling like everything is happening for the first time. But a balance is always key; and it’s nice to remember that there is always more than one way to do something. Just because repeating an action once helped the world feel stable doesn’t mean that it’s a good long term solution.

On a side note, it’s been hard lately to blog as much as I did before and to keep up with as many of you as I’d like to. Feel free to post a link in the comments of any posts you made that you think I’d like, I love when you do that!

Do any of you struggle with predictability, or pay attention to it at all?

Do you feel like you have a solid ability to keep things interesting and stay in the present without getting sucked into routines?

 

 

Five Things Cigarettes Will Never Do

For the past week or so, I have been quitting smoking. I have been rather successful, and I will say that the electronic cigarette is probably the main reason for that. It helps me during those moments when I may otherwise break down or just get fired.

As these days have passed and I have felt the rainbow of feelings that are associated with the physical and psychological aspects of weening myself off of cigarettes all together and nicotine gradually (because of the e-cig) I have come to some conclusions. To anyone who smokes, I know that you know these are true. To anyone who doesn’t smoke, well, maybe you can relate them to some habit that you feel addicted to. Either way, here they are.

 

1. Smoking Will Make My Bad Mood Go Away, and Probably All Other Bad Moods I Would Have, Till the End of Time

This is one of the thoughts that basically crossed my mind 134, 786 times during the first couple days of not smoking. I felt grouchy, I assumed it was from quitting, and I also assumed that smoking a cigarette would instantly fix the whole issue. Obviously, not true. Otherwise, I would have always been happy as a smoker. And really, I was a pretty pissed off smoker.

If you ever assume that going back to your habit is going to make you permanently happy, well, just imagine how you felt when you had the habit.

2. A Cigarette Will Make me Feel Better

Another thing I would assume at first while quitting, and, who are we kidding, it still crosses my mind, is that a cigarette will make me feel “better”. The only thing a cigarette will do is make me feel like crap, and make me want another cigarette with more of a vengeance than I currently have.

What helps is to actually look at what I want to feel better from. There were some issues with my job when I first stopped smoking. Even though it felt like a cigarette would make those problems go away, it would not. The problems would still be there, the cigarette would just be an additional problem. Perhaps distracting the attention away from the real ones, but still, it wouldn’t really fix them.

When I feel that a cigarette would make me feel better, now I try to look at what is actually going on, and the case remains true that a cigarette usually has nothing to do with it. This helps me to address the real issue, work with it accordingly, and let it freaking go, rather than stuffing it behind a cloud of guilty disgusting smoke.

3. I Can Have a Drag of a Cigarette and Then Not Do It Again for A Long Time

No. Plain and simple. I have known a few people throughout my life who are true “casual smokers” and they every so often have a drag or two and then don’t touch them again for months or years. Who knows. Those people are not me, and never have I taken a drag and enjoyed it on its own. It is only enjoyable because it introduces a craving that only it can fix. Then, the next one is enjoyable. But by then the addiction is back. Who needs it.

4. Smoking Will Stop Me From Getting Fat

This one happens to me all the time when I quit. I stop smoking, suddenly I have more feeling in my body, and I start to think that I’m getting ridiculously fat. I’m sure other ladies have had this happen as well, even while smoking. Cigarettes can replace food. You can get skinny while you smoke and stop eating, but then as you get older, from what I’ve seen, this pattern somehow reverses itself for some people. Either way, not a good long term plan.

The thing is that when you stop, you can actually exercise more. You can take walks and not be out of breath and you can do pushups and not stop before your muscles are actually tired just because your lungs can’t catch up.

So really, smoking is not going to stop me from getting unhealthy. Smoking is just going to make me want to keep smoking. Being healthy is a choice that is up to me, and smoking instead of eating food has never been a good way of staying healthy, for anyone.

5. Smoking Will Make Me a Better Writer, a Better Artist, a Better Anything

No it will not. Having an addiction means that for a big chunk of the day, you are thinking about that addiction. I would think about when I could smoke, where I should smoke, how much I was smoking, how guilty I felt for smoking, how many more cigarettes I had left in my tin, all kinds of things. Now, those thoughts do not have to come into play during the day.

Which means more time for thinking about other stuff. What I want to write about, how I want to learn to write, what I want to read, songs I want to learn, and countless other things. There is more time, there is more space, there is more health, and I can feel things. Nothing beats that.

So the bottom line is that I am happy with my choices at the moment, and I hope that I can soon apply them to other things in life. I hope that I will have great things to write about, and that all of you have a wonderful time letting go of things that you want to let go of as well!

 

-assuming that smoking would make me smarter, a better writer, a better artist, a better anything.