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?

 

 

 

Going on a Date with the Unplanned

Last night I was supposed to play music at a lovely lounge with a friend. I was going to play for a half hour during his set break and was quite excited. As it turned out, the bar was closed for cleaning and they hadn’t told him.

I was caught off guard, sitting on sixth street with my guitar and a pretty dress in rather sweltering heat. My friend told me there would be an open mic in a few hours at a bar around the corner, so I decided to set up shop there while I figured out what to do.

If you’re ever in Austin and see a girl sipping a beer and furiously writing in a notebook instead of talking to people, probably with a guitar propped on her bar stool, please, do come say hi.

One of the things I began pondering was how sometimes, you just can’t force an unplanned evening. It wouldn’t be the same. Many potential plans started to arise- there was an open mic near my house, an open mic across town, a birthday party. I had to pick. I realized this particular flavor of groundlessness was something to cherish because I never would have been able to fabricate it. Deciding on going to that bar would have been in my consciousness at least an hour in advance so that I could get the right bus.

I began to think about the universe as if it was a person, or at least, a thing with a personality. I was noticing that perhaps part of this personality included a tendency to put me and maybe others in situations where they were groundless. What the incentive would be is beyond me, but perhaps it has something to do with getting us to actually be able to listen. It’s easier to listen and feel for me when I’m not in the middle of a plan.

I decided to stay at the open mic I was already at. It didn’t feel right to do

My songs are for sale at http://jenniferstuart.bandcamp.com/

My songs are for sale at http://jenniferstuart.bandcamp.com/

anything else, almost like there was a current to follow. I would get to the birthday party afterwards, since that was the most sentimentally important thing on the list. It turned out that the showcase act who would have played from 7-8pm did not show up. The gentleman running the event let me play early and ended up giving me about five extra songs, partially because most people hadn’t shown up yet for the open mic and partially (at least I imagine) because the folks at the bar were actually enjoying it. Plus I was wearing a pretty dress.

Many times I have thought that the fabric of our connected reality really does have a personality, and a sense of humor. I have seen it most in the times when I had fewer plans. Last night was a fresh reminder that there are so many options to tap into that unplanned state, and we never get to pick when they happen. We just get to pick how to relate to them and how much appreciation to give them and ourselves during those times.

Sometimes those times are linked with trauma. I don’t think the same appreciation would be possible in those cases. Instead, I think it could be directed at ourselves and our space and our ability to be open to what we need when we need it in those times.

On another note, I opened my Etsy shop. It is called Jenerprise Jems. The world right now to me feels groundless still. I’m following up on job leads and hoping to find something soon, especially if it leaves me time to keep creating necklaces and improving my ability to play music.

I wanted this to be my cover photo for etsy but it's too big.

I wanted this to be my cover photo for etsy but it’s too big.

Have you had any dates with the universe lately where plans didn’t go your way and ended up leading to new connections or inspiration?

Have you thought that the universe has a personality of sorts, and if so, what’s your favorite aspect of it?

If you do think it works that way, how do you account for all of the many terrible things that also happen? Is everything just random, is there a higher power controlling it, is that power simply unable to prevent us from doing horrible things to each other but there to guide us when we are open to it?

Maybe it’s my joblessness catching up and turning me existential..but for now this is what I can think of to write about.

Also, please do look at the sky. Especially if the sun is setting, rising, or absent.

Busy Being Humans

An old song of mine that has words related to duality http://jenniferstuart.bandcamp.com/track/let-the-noises-in-2

An old song of mine that has words related to duality http://jenniferstuart.bandcamp.com/track/let-the-noises-in-2

The Buddha pointed out long ago that we do not have a solid self. The denial of this fact can lead to suffering.

I’m noticing that we are expected to feel, often times, one way. Either hurt or happy, sensitive or tough, falling apart or totally together.

I’m noticing that this isn’t true to most of our experience.

If someone gives me criticism, it is one of the most potent times for me to notice that split. On one hand, I may really try to take in what they are saying so that I can fully absorb it. On the other hand, I may be a little hurt in a little kid way. On the third hand, I might be touched and thankful that they actually gave me feedback at all.

But it’s hard to put all of those things into a tidy sentence in the moment, or to wear it as a sensible facial expression.

When you think about how we are presenting ourselves to much of our world right now, via Facebook and texts and twitter and anything else, this idea is even more pronounced. You write a single status update, for every single friend. You send a text with no voice intonation, maybe even to someone you just met who doesn’t know the nuances of your speech patterns. We constantly seem to be in situations where having one thing to say or feeling one way is appropriate, expected, and normal.

This seems simple enough, doesn’t it? I think it’s a nice thing to think about, especially as we listen to other people talk. It’s sometimes useful to remember that every feeling has a whole lot of others that are also there, not always expressed, and not even always incredibly conscious.

My theory is that the more we all are aware of these things, the less we will feel like we are “doing it wrong” when we actually are just being humans, and the expectations apply more easily to robots. And the more we allow for this type of thing in others, the more everyone else gets to feel less isolated themselves.

I just lost my well-loved job. Now is a time of many mixed feelings. Maybe that’s why this topic is on my mind in this way. I spent a lot of the day making jewelry on my living room floor, listening to local music and thinking about the future. I have to figure something out soon, and until then, I’ll sell  necklaces at little markets and spend what I saved as little as possible while I wait for more potential work with the same organization to come back.

But yes, these are interesting times. I hope everyone is well, and I hope that I’ll be writing more often soon, I know it feels so great when I do!

Do you think that you often times feel just one way, or is it usually a mix?

Do you feel like it’s easy to express that mix in a way that people understand?

Do people ever expect you to feel one way when you don’t?

I love Facebook, but…

Image

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!

Our Un-Psychic Audience: Reclaiming the Weight We Put On Magic’s Shoulders

So often we are saying this in different words.

Do you think about the way you communicate with the people that you expect to receive your art?

If we want to publicize ourselves, we need to think about what it is we are putting out there, especially if we want more attention than we are getting. We could also stand to have less of an expectation of psychic ability on the part of our audience. Let me explain.

There are times where we are expecting Magic to fill the gaps we leave. Once we see these places, we can start to fill them ourselves, leaving Magic to do bigger and better things. Maybe we can even admit that the less-than-desirable attention we are getting is actually related to the quality and energy of what we are offering.

Once we notice these things, we have more power to stop engaging in them unconsciously.

Indirect Communication & The Expectation of Magic

People can communicate indirectly. If you have been friends with or dated people who do it often, you know how frustrating it can be. “Don’t you hate when it’s chilly outside” can mean “Please turn the heat on, I’m cold.”  There are endless variations.

A friend who was studying linguistics told me that women are more likely to engage in indirect communication than men, and I don’t doubt it.

Within indirect communication, there is a kernel of an expectation of Magic. We expect that the proclamation of how we dislike cold is going to magically send our real meaning into the brain of the other person. It’s not always conscious, of course, but it is there. And it comes up in other ways.

Expectation of Magic With Writing

This pattern of expectation can affect our writing and other art.

With writing, if we assume that the background of a scene is laid out sufficiently when it is not, the reader can get confused. If we don’t think about a character’s underlying motives and personality, their drive is unclear and the story is not compelling.

This is why my first stories were crappy. I expected people to understand how interesting my ideas were because they appeared so in my head; like a child thinking you can’t see him because he is covering his own eyes.

Giving The Magic a Place to Stand: The Value of Effort

If you wanted to do NaNo, you could talk about it all you want from January to October. If November 1st rolls around and you still have to get yourself a computer, a desk, time off of work, typing lessons and a story idea, then you are not prepared.

If, on the other hand, you cleaned your desk, defragged your computer, stocked up on your favorite foods, had plenty of tea, took a few extra days off of work, saved money to cover that loss, and told your family and friends to expect less communication during the month of November, all by the middle of October, then your scene is set rather differently. You put in the work to give yourself the maximum amount of time to empathize with your characters and let the writing happen without extra hindrance.

I am willing to make an assumption that those who put in the effort before NaNo are more likely to write something that others would enjoy reading. And the same goes for other types of art and projects.

The Difference Between Frantic Advertising & Popularity

No matter how much we advertise ourselves to the world, we are not going to get real attention if our product sucks and if we aren’t really putting ourselves out there to the extent of our ability. That’s just how it goes, in my eyes.

Brene Brown‘s work on Vulnerability comes to mind. Despite the excited freshness with which she presents herself, she did many years of research before her famed TED talk. She was not just throwing some ideas together and hoping for the best like some people do with their blog posts (ahem). She did studies, she read books, she went to therapy; and only after building all of that solid ground did she share the results and touch an audience.

Music is similar. Someone who does a live guitar solo after years of practice is going to impress the crowd even if they make mistakes much more than the person who does a solo after playing for a month or two. The past effort shows, it informs the skill of the present, and it touches us when they can show us the extent of this skill in a vulnerable and fresh way. If the second person were to sing words that they’d been thinking about and reflecting on for years with a sensitive awareness, then that may be more touching than the guitar part; it all depends on what they share and when and to whom.

It basically seems like people recognize hard work and skill when they see it; not when they are told to.

How Do We Use This Information?

Maybe we can do a more honest acknowledgment of what we are putting out there, what we put into it, and how much that shows. Then we can reduce the tendency to think others psychically know that we deserve love and attention, and actually start showing them what we do and what we offer so that they can make their own choice.

Trust the things that you know, the things that you have been studying formally and informally. Trust them and share them, but perhaps be aware of where an assumption of a psychic audience  is creeping in. If people aren’t responding, figure out why it is the case. How would you see you if you were objective and had no idea of what was in your head? What is getting held back and does it add into the whole picture?  Maybe you will notice where you may not be reaching them with the greatness that you feel you have to share.

Aside from my closest friends and my mom, nobody would like the things I began writing at first.  I wasn’t deserving of praise and attention from an objective audience, and now it is obvious. But at the time, I was confused as to why my first blog posts weren’t catching on like wildfire. But now I get it, at least partially. I hardly knew what the hell I was doing, and still don’t, but I’m closer. Even if all of my friends share my posts, the people that come back and read them are those that are touched by what they see because they found it on their own; rarely if ever is it the people who I messaged and personally asked to come by. And I know that I have more sharing to do, more vulnerability to meet, and more techniques to employ in terms of applying the knowledge I’ve worked for many years to understand.

Maybe we need to understand our non-responsive audience more effectively. They aren’t psychic, we aren’t sharing something of value to them, and when we do, they will be touched and will come back for more. If we are sharing honestly and vulnerably and nobody cares, then perhaps we need to re-evaluate what we are doing if their attention is something that we require (such as anyone who wants to write or make art for a living).

This is a new way of thinking for me and I’m trying it on to see what new actions it may lead to. The last time I explored a mindset (paying more attention to vulnerability, from Brene Brown’s TED talk) I ended up cutting off five years’ worth of dreadlocks because I realized that the comfort I was gaining from them was not necessarily something I wanted to keep indulging in.

I  realize that my old writing was full of assumptions and expectations, laying a whole lot on the shoulders of Magic, and I’m only now starting to find my voice and hold that weight myself, letting Magic do what it wants and letting the psychic abilities of my readers be used for better things than figuring out what I’m trying to say. I’m supposed to be a writer, so it’s kind of my freaking job. I may as well step up to it.

What About You?

Do you think that you are getting the attention you think you deserve for your art, writing, or other type of work? If not, do you know what you want to do better? Do you want support in that regard?

Do you think that this is crazy and I’m totally off track, and that things can get organically famous and popular without the person having spent time on the skill or figuring out how to best share it with the world? Do those of us that are beginners have any hope of reaching people? Have you ever done something as a beginner and had it have a great impact on others?

Do you use indirect communication, or do you know someone who does? Is it less annoying to you than to me?

I always love your guys’ thoughts; they have helped me learn about my writing more than anything in the past.  Thank you so very much for sharing them, publicly and privately.