Stuckness

Old rainbow

This new song has double the listens of any of my others.. http://soundcloud.com/starshipjenerprise/twine-by-jennifer-stuart

A few things have happened recently.

One is that I turned 30.

Another is that I got a music fan who is 9 years old, and more badass than I’ve ever been.

A third is that my morning glories have started thinking about blooming.

I go through rapid phases of self confidence that comes from my heart and a feeling of utter insecurity and doubt. Usually they follow each other in annoying little circles.

I wonder if I’m addicted to attention, or if I’m becoming that way. Or if I’m delusional, or if I’m just very, very smart and if eventually that realization will stick.

A big lesson lately is that things don’t last. Not good things like love and dogs, but things like anger and repulsion towards someone or myself. These things pass. It becomes really clear as I continue my work in a contemplative community where being present is key.

When I’m present, I’m not attached to the mean things someone said to me last week when I see them this week. I know that anything can happen, and I know it from experience. Most importantly, the more I can let go of the assumption that the icky feelings will last, the more open I am to having new fresh exciting and possibly pleasing ones come in.

This is all for now. Thoughts, reflections. Vague, but possibly more universal than they feel at the moment. 

On a side note, I have a column in Kickass Women’s Music magazine. You can find my first entry here. The column itself is about Music and Mind and relating to various aspects of playing music with mindfulness. There’s an audio thing that pops up with a lady talking, just mute it if you want to read instead. 

I hope everyone who still reads Enjoy Life for Once is well, I hope to make more posts soon and more potent and pointed ones, but right now this is all I’ve got.

Are there any feelings that you’ve had for a really long time about someone or yourself that feel permanent?

If you could change one feeling that you have, for someone else or yourself or a situation, what would it be?

These are fun things to think about, even if you don’t want to comment on them. Just imagining the changes is sometimes a good step in the direction of actually allowing the stuck things to move.

Try it out. 🙂

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?

 

 

I love Facebook, but…

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The other day Peaches made a post where she mentioned liking Facebook for a particular reason, and it got me thinking.

I realized that I also love it, but I have problems with the way I use it at times. I decided to make a list of what I love about it, and the things I try to remind myself to keep these things from getting out of control. Maybe you can relate.

1. I love Facebook for helping me to keep in touch with my family,

…but I also try to make sure that I don’t let this replace phone calls to hear how they are actually doing.

2. I love Facebook for helping me to know what type of activities and concerts are going on in my area,

…but I also try to let myself stay in and read a book without feeling guilty for not going out every night and taking advantage of my lively city. This can easily turn into “You’re boring for not doing enough,” and I try to watch that feeling and not let it get out of control.

3. I love Facebook for letting me share my music and writing with the world because it feels good when people give it attention,

…but I also intend to not rely on external validation to determine how I feel for the day. If I post a song and nobody listens, it doesn’t mean the song is bad or I am bad, it just means nobody listened or took time to tell me that they did.

4. I love Facebook for helping me stay aware of news topics and things that matter to my friends,

…but I also try to not get into a zone of just reading one thing after another without absorbing any of it. This causes my brain to feel numb and my eyes to hurt. Also sometimes, I am prone to getting more interested in the drama surrounding some topics than the topics themselves, which really has never led me to any new awareness.

5. I love Facebook for giving me something colorful and interesting to look at in between other things I do online or to get my mind off something,

…but I also realize that this can quickly become mindless and distracting, and I intend to not have this type of relationship with it for more than a few minutes at once. I also intend to check in with myself after using it sometimes to see if it really helped me feel more centered, or if it made me feel more fuzzy. This is especially good to pay attention to when it’s late and I’m bored. There are just better things to do.

Lesson Learned:

This list reminds me that things done with fabulous intentions can become detrimental to my overall well-being when I don’t explore the ways that I use them or have mindfulness of when usefulness melts into uselessness. 

Cleaning, for example. Today I cleaned while listening to a great album by Chris Strand and felt amazing and grounded while doing it. Other times, I clean furiously and think about things that piss me off. The quality of my energy afterwards greatly depends on the energy I put into doing it to begin with.

The same is true for so many things- dog walks, showers, drinking tea, singing in front of people. The energy I approach the activity with and maintain during it really affects how mindfully I do the activity and how grounded or present I feel afterwards.

Gentle presence is a feeling I try to cultivate because it really helps me to offer more to those around me and to feel like I’m actually living my life instead of watching it pass me by. But a baseline level of mindfulness is necessary to even catch myself as I start these activities..so it’s a big cycle, and one that I love devoting so much time to.

Do you feel like you have a healthy relationship to things that you do, and are you like me where sometimes the activities can slide into something un-useful at times?

Hope you all are well!

A Little Rant about “Positive Thinking”

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A song that loosely relates to this- feeling strong without feeling positive. – http://soundcloud.com/starshipjenerprise/before-the-flower

 

There have recently been a whole slew of “positive thinking” things in my Facebook feed. I’ll admit it. They irritate me. Here’s why.

Controlling Thoughts

Anyone who’s spent more than five minutes in meditation practice knows that thoughts arise whether or not we really have a conscious say in them. They come up. When we watch them, we realize that they sometimes have patterns and some level of predictability, but other times they don’t.

Some of us have really powerful imaginations. My own imagination seems to have moods of its own.

One day I’m imagining great things for songs, stories, posts and pictures. Another day, I’m imagining terrible things about my own demise or other disasters. Is that my fault? Am I not “positive” enough?

Value of Intention

I think that there’s a great value of intentionally thinking about some things. Like how it would feel to have a successful book, or how it would feel to not be afraid of singing in front of someone. Sometimes intentionally having these thoughts can make it easier to take steps of action towards those goals, or to loosen the grip of habitual self-depreciating thoughts.

But there are limitations, and also, I believe, dangers to clinging to this too strongly.

Limits of Intention & Effort

To keep propagating the idea that we can control our thinking to any large extent is just a little obscene to me. There is so much more to our experience than just thinking, and the thinking itself is one of the hardest things to control. Plus, if you try to force your brain into a certain pattern that is just not taking, maybe it’s the relationship to the thoughts that can be worked with.

I know for me, when I try to run away from my anxiety or negative thoughts, they sometimes get much worse and more powerful. When I see them and breathe into them, letting them be, they tend to have more of a chance to dissipate, or at least to not ruin my day with anxiety. But if I try to change them into “positive” thoughts, it feels rather like trying to wear jeans that are a size too small just because I want them to fit.

Find me one person who has successfully jumped on the “positive thinking” train and never looked back. But if you do find them, please just take a picture for proof but don’t bring them anywhere near me, because they would probably be rather irritating.

The Dangers of This Expectation

To me, the danger of this movement is similar to the danger that the media creates when it portrays people looking happy, healthy, young, and flawless all over the television. People start to assume that they are damaged for not being like that. They start counting calories and judging themselves harshly for not having the illusive “just got out of bed” look when they really just got out of bed.

The idea that “thoughts create reality” makes some sense, but on the other hand, what I tend to see is a lot of rather privileged people saying this as if their own blessed lives were of their own making. Sometimes, they were. But sometimes tragedy happens, regardless of how positive the person was during their lives. Other times, life turns out perfectly for those with lots of “negative” thoughts.

The Temptation to Think Thoughts Control Things

It’s fun to think that thinking controls our reality, but it also feels that such a belief is giving the holder an illusion of control over their fate that they really don’t have, while also creating an onslaught of shallow positivity that clings to itself for fear of waking up to the messy reality that sometimes shit happens no matter how much we didn’t think about it.

I think my point is this. If you are similarly bombarded with these “positive thinking” pictures with curvy handwriting and bright colors, and you find yourself feeling bad for your continued indulgence in the occasional negative thought, please don’t beat yourself up anymore than you would for not having Pantene-commercial hair even after using the same shampoo.

Controlling thoughts and feelings is very hard, if not impossible. Cultivating acceptance and actions that bring us where we want to go is a little more doable, at least for me. I just don’t want people to move from feeling bad that they aren’t perfect like people on TV to feeling like they are being too negative and inviting disaster into their lives because of it when really, disaster comes sometimes. Relating to the moment in a friendly way cuts to the chase and helps those negative thoughts have less power over our experience, without trying to fight them off for the sake of being positive.

There’s my rant. Thanks for reading.

I’d love to hear your experience. Maybe I’m seeing the whole “positive thinking” thing in a skewed way, and projecting my own negativity onto it. Maybe you can share how it’s worked for you, or how you think I’m wrong about what I think of it.

Feel free to rant below! 🙂

 

 

 

Productivity: An Escape from Death?

Productivity is very interesting.

 

Some of us are of the belief, intentional or otherwise, that unless someone is being productive then they don’t deserve happiness. Mostly those of us in that category aim this belief at ourselves more than others.

Others couldn’t care less about productivity, and some even think it’s bad.

My own relationship to productivity is rather interesting. Sometimes, I’m addicted to it. Other times, I’m thinking I need to take a break from it but even that break becomes focused on being productively unproductive. When I think of spending an hour without it, my stomach turns into a cat and tries to escape through my mouth.

Why is that? Is it the culture, my parents, my schooling? Is it my inherent uncomfortableness with my own vulnerability,  my impermanence in this world? Do I secretly think that as long as I’m doing something productive, the Death cloak guy won’t notice me on his rounds?

I really don’t know.

The nonsense of the situation hit me yesterday when I was talking to a dear friend. He said that when he gets up late, he pretty much hates everything. It’s a feeling I can relate to. If I wake up late, my boyfriend and dog stay well out of the way because I am going to be grouchy. And why? Well, because I didn’t get anything done.

But while talking to my friend, I realized that even if I do get up earlier rather than later, all I really get done is more coffee drinking and dog belly rubs and maybe some more sleepy Facebook time. Nothing really productive there, and yet, I’m mad when I don’t get the chance.

Productivity is like many emotions and substances. It can be useful and it can also be a weapon we use against ourselves to play the shame game or otherwise divorce ourselves from the tenderness of the present moment.

For me, productivity hardly has any meaning. I feel “productive” when I make songs, when I write, when I make jewelry, walk, do Yoga, meditate, practice guitar, read an informational book or a fiction book with the intention of learning from it, and when I cook. But to cultivate inspiration for some of these activities, I need time to just dilly dally and do whatever feels natural. And when I feel like I “should be” working on music, then taking a walk won’t feel productive. But when I feel like I “should be” getting “more exercise,” a walk feels more productive than making music. There’s just no way to win unless I label the feeling and let it exist without taking over my entire moment of experience.

So here is my intention to be more aware of when I use my productivity or lack thereof as an excuse to make myself feel “less than” in the present moment.

Do you have an interesting relationship to productivity?

What does the word mean to you?

and, more importantly, have you missed me? 🙂 I apologize for lack of posts lately.