Making Space: The Genius of Silence

coffee lakePractice makes perfect.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve relied upon this little nugget of wisdom as a parent when my kiddo whines about not being able to do something. My response has always been; “How do you think I got so good at it? Practice makes perfect; get to it.

Yesterday I was anxious. The kind of anxious that feels like you have a thousand bees buzzing in  your head telling you all of the things you need to do, have to worry about, and can’t control. I was miserable; inside and outside.

Fortunately for me, I had a few hours of quiet time at the end of the day .Quiet for me is heaven. Quiet in the morning gives me time to meditate, and to take in just how fortunate I am.  It’s never a process whereby I sit cross-legged on a cushion wearing a mala made in Bali or a tunic made of hemp. No. It’s simply sitting with my thoughts.

Last night, in the quiet of solitude, I was able to spend some time reading the words of Thich Nhat Hanh.   It reminded me that my practice is not perfect. Far from it in fact. Just because I studied at the temple, attended dharma classes and go to silent retreats does not mean that my meditation muscle is exempt from a good workout on a regular basis.

As adults, we forget that our health as a whole is something that we need to practice on a regular basis.

It’s time for me to make space for some of the books and advice that I’ve gotten in the past. It’s time to make an effort again putting theory into practice.

It’s time for the genius of silence, and for my practice of peace to become a little bit more perfect.

Your True Self

doitlaterWhen did the dreaded mid-life crisis start rearing it’s ugly head in our thirties? Seriously.
Recently I’ve spoken with a handful of thirty-somethings in the middle of what I will call spiritual crisis. Oh, and forty somethings and fifty somethings…
I think you get it don’t you darlings?
Our day-to-day has become a constant battle of trying to convince ourselves that life is hap-hap-happy. When really, we get up and go to jobs that require more and more of us, or no job at all, neverending bills, and to-do lists that make the activities and the relationships (friendships) we once loved seem like dreams that we can’t really take time to enjoy.
This morning as I stroked another thing off my to-do list, I had a call from my wonderful friend the Amazing C, and we had a good girl talk. I miss her and she misses me. The old her, and the old me. The broke, single, carefree, laughing our heads off ‘us’.
Neither of us could have planned out how our lives have played out. Neither of us feel completely connected, or hopeful at this stage. But what I think we shared was feeling connected,  because someone out there  does indeed understand our bitching, our heartache, and our complete frustration in the moment. And then I asked; is this who we really are? Is this our true ‘self’?
I write this on the tail of my previous post, and share with you a portion of an email exchange with another dear friend…
Thank you for your email. Thoughtful as always. I haven’t been calling as much because I know that you’re in a difficult place right now.
As you can likely tell, I’ve been in a bit of a dark place too, feeling like there is little meaning in my life… Sadness is the only way I can describe it…I let it overwhelm me sometimes and then I realize that I’m letting it take over my life, that I’m allowing the cycle to continue.
While I was taking my Buddhist classes, they taught that in their philosophy, those who commit suicide come back and have to endure the suffering over and over again until they live out that particular lifetime. To which I thought; Fuck off and son of a bitch.
At the retreat I just attended, I decided that I did not want to speak in our evening dharma groups, that I just needed to ‘retreat’ and listen. Ironically, this year they asked me to be one of five speakers.  Anyway, during our dharma group chat I was able to remain silent, and one lady spoke of how she lies awake in bed at night, quite often lost in anxious thoughts of the future. Oh boy, could I ever relate. … And then she said what were the magic words for me in that moment; “I know that these thoughts aren’t’ real. They’re just thoughts”.  For me that was really important as I often make up scenarios in my head about all of the things that I’m afraid of coming true.
The other thing that came to me during my time in silence was that I’ve never felt good enough. I’ve never felt pretty enough, or smart enough, or good enough for anyone or anything, and quite frankly, when I look at my life, I think I’ve been exhausted my entire life just trying to ‘be good enough’. It’s a shitty way to feel and to live. I haven’t figured out how to change that, but at least I’m aware of it now. That awareness is like having a big turd on the living room floor and not being able to get rid of it. That awareness just sits there like a big, stinky, piece of shit…
I’ve also realized that in the moment, I’m not any of those things either. It’s a constant struggle to shake off where I came from and be in the present, looking forward to anything.
I don’t know why I’m telling you all of this. Maybe I hope that something will resonate, and you won’t feel as alone as I do sometimes.
So having reflected on all of this, I’ve decided that there is only one solution. Shenanigans. Yes, darlings. That is all.  An afternoon on a patio with a kindred spirit, a girls weekend with the women who make me feel like a kid again, and lots and lots of time on my little patio, looking at the world and letting the reality of just how wonderful things really are. In. This. Moment. These experiences and feelings of joy are very much also part of our true selves, it’s just time to let them in, because we are good enough.

Fear – You Show Me Yours & I’ll Show You Mine

storytotellFear is a slippery little fella. Sometimes you need to hang on to it so you don’t get damaged, and other times, you need to set it adrift on a flaming raft with an over-zealous shove and a one-fingered salute.

This past weekend, fear crept in and tried to snuggle up in my heart. Good thing I can be a cold-hearted, logical gal when I need to be. Good thing I have friends who remind me not to let my imagination get the best of me and conjure up all sorts of possible ways that my happiness can be sabotaged. Good thing I didn’t turn tail and run. Good thing.

Regardless of what we identify as being bountiful or lacking in our lives, we live within the comfort zone of the known. We live rooted in the identities that we have crafted for ourselves. We cling to our wounds until they no longer serve as shields.

The truth is, we often cling to our wounds long past their expiry date, and we do this because that is the only way we know how to go on living. We do this often without knowing we’re doing it. We fear leaving what is known and comfortable to seek what is meaningful.

During the past 48 hours I  have received calls, and had coffee with friends who have all experienced some sort of crisis rooted in fear. I was an addict. I’m drinking too much. I keep winding up in toxic relationships. Today I heard all of these symptoms, and I offered as much compassion and humour as I could. After all, being fearful is normal. We need to tell and re-tell our stories. We need to be the storyteller, and we need to be the witness to the life-stories woven by others. Change is scary, and we need our friends to walk beside us when we don’t know if we have the courage to take another step on a path that leads to goodness-only-knows-where-but-there-had-better-be-margaritas-and-a-bed.

Fear of feeling, dealing with the here and now, or not having someone to prop up an ego seem to have been  served up a la carte over the weekend. It’s  a menu everyone eventually gets served; long in the planning and very bitter. It keeps popping up on the menu until you get tired of the bitter aftertaste and are inspired to take over the kitchen.

brokenThe most curious of fears is the fear of getting what you want. It means letting go of an identity that was defined by lack of the thing itself; career success, loving relationship, independence, you name it. You have to be brave enough to break down the walls protecting your own kingdom of fear.

While trying to shake off the snug embrace of a well-known-and-outlived-it’s-usefulness-fear-of intimacy which had slithered it’s way into my mind, I had a rather synchronistic encounter.

After zenning out and treating myself to some self-care paraphernalia at an over-incensed and herbal-tea’d hippie hang-out, I wandered back to my car completely and utterly distracted. Rationalizing with oneself can be very engrossing, and I was neck deep. I was not going to half-ass this one. I was going to face this thing down even if it meant a haze of incense, tantra-drumming, and Buddhist-throat-singing loud enough to scare the bejeezus out of the neighbours. While I was getting all bad-assed and spiritual with this fear, I was being watched.

Two men of questionable intent approached my car, one wedged between the driver’s side door and the car next to me, pulled on my door handle and banged on my window while the other stood at the right side.

Thanks to good habits, my door was locked, and the car was started. Thanks to a friend who was texting an invitation for a drinky-poo, I was head-down-distracted, allowing these two men to target me.

Hours after I had safely pulled away and caught my breath from the initial shock, I sank into the corner of my couch and cried. I sobbed and relived those few seconds of that man’s face just inches from my own.

But why? I was safe in my own space now. I was ok.

I cried because the threat of harm pulled me back into the rational fear I had developed throughout years of abuse and  assault. It was like someone tossed me back into the arena to face another hungry beast after I thought I’d finally made it out alive.

What I did next was remarkable. I reached out. Well, I reached out the best I could. Via text of course, because I couldn’t bear to speak and have anyone hear my voice tremble. My pride wouldn’t hear of it.  “I kinda need you.”

It’s rather ironic that my fear of letting someone in was challenged head on by someone literally trying to get in.

presence.jpgPart of healing and kicking fear in the ass is learning that it’s ok to be vulnerable sometimes.  It’s a lesson that I have found extremely challenging. But with true self-compassion, vulnerability can be the greatest warrior in the battle on the front-line of fear.

There is a spiritual alchemy exchanged every time we offer support or receive it. This alchemy is grace in action, mercy in motion, the very human breath of compassionate and spiritual living. It is the greatest enemy of fear. It’s ok to kinda need someone, they kinda need you too. Trust me, if you show them yours, they’ll show you theirs.

 

 

 

 

It’s the Little Things

mabye it's caffeineSomeone recently suggested that yours truly was depressed. I insisted this was nonsense, and that it was surely just my  anxiety-overdrive that was making me more crazy than usual.

For ‘Type A’ personalities, anxiety is like being on alien-strength caffeine pills. My mind zips around like an Italian in a German sports car, making random stops and leaving a wake of unfinished business.

Believe you me, I don’t need someone pointing it out to me, I know. I live it darling, Anxiety and I are old friends. We relate intimately on a profanity-using-first-name basis.

The sad part is, it annoys the crap out of my loved ones. My constant; are you sure? Are you double sure? Are you triple super sure?, not only annoys the shit out of me, but I’m sure it makes them want to want to shove a gin and tonic down my throat, complete with an entire lime wedged at the opening of my trachea for good measure.

I think this is genetic, stemming from my maternal side. My granny used to ask you if you wanted something umpteen times, and when she finally heard the last no she could handle (being a giver can be so unsatisfying), she would respond by saying, “Well, suffer then!”. I think that was the Methodist in her. Thank the good lord that’s not genetic.

theastonishinglightWhen I get really anxious, and really aware of it, my twisted imagination kicks in, I fumble in the fog of my mind back to my meditation practice, and grasp at any cute little inspirational saying just to keep my thoughts from turning into a stomach-churning carnival ride from hell.

Today I decided to take stock of all of the things I’m grateful for, besides the biggies (my kiddo, my partner, my friends). I decided to be grateful for little things and to list them so that maybe it would help someone in the blogosphere remember to be grateful for little things to.

Here goes…

I’m grateful for;

  1. The gentleman at the fitness centre who was gracious enough to obey my panting request to turn on the air conditioning.
  2. That a book I wanted was actually on the shelf at the library when I went in.
  3. Ria Mae for an awesome song to distract my whirling thoughts as I drove back to the office from a meeting.
  4. That I only owed $2.35 for cancelling a gym membership that I never use…and that I finally remembered to cancel it.
  5. Remembering to put barrettes in my bag so that I could tame my humidity-loving-ringlets when I arrived at the office.
  6. Crazytown’s Lemonface for dragging my chubby buns through the last five minutes of my run.absolutelylovely
  7. Ok, I gotta go for the big ones; my partner my cousin and my besties L and the Amazing C for taking time to talk when they’ve got a plate full of life themselves.
  8. My blender and protein powder for being an easy dinner when I was feeling too meh, to cook for lonely little ole’ me.
  9. Letters to write to people I care about.
  10. The scent of my true love’s pillow.

Wishing you peace in your mind and in your heart.

Beach Buddha With a Side of Fry Sauce

Tneversaidthathis weekend I made my annual pilgrimage to the lake to enjoy a fresh fish dinner, drink Mackie’s famous Orangade, and dunk my fries in their special fry sauce.  Instead,  I got caught up in a whirlwind of worries.

In the moment, with the sun shining in a clear blue sky,the lake calmly offering refreshment, and soaring seagulls, my meditation training came back to me in a snap. This moment is it. It’s all we’ve got.

To be present right here, right now, holding all of our fears and worries, all the while appreciating how fortunate we are to have what we do, now that my sweet peaches, is the art of living.

Holding hope and loss at the same time seems paradoxical, but it’s the essence of the human mystery. I don’t preach this from living a blessed life. Loss is not a stranger in my life. Loss is a ruthless teacher and a sneaky sonnuvabitch.

Anxiety is the residue that gets left over when loss finally packs its oversized bag and leaves.

So often we associate  loss with death, and forget about all of the other losses; home, love, jobs, and hope.

Hope. Yah, that’s a tough one. Loss often packs a good one-two punch, with a kick to the groin – it always blesses us more than once in a very short period of time, leaving us feeling vulnerable, fearful, numb and hopeless.

With each loss we lose hope in the story of our lives; what we hope to do with our loved ones, how we hope to grow old and with whom or that old wounds may somehow heal with reconciliation.

As a young adult I suffered major losses. Journeying with someone I love as they experience new losses in the shadow of my own,  I began to wonder whether it was easier as a young woman than it is now.

But it’s not about easier or more difficult. It’s about different. Different as in; as we age we process loss much differently in the lengthening shadow of our own mortality. With each loss, our perception is that time offers us less opportunity to recover. Perception is the key word here. Loss can cause despair, and on the other hand it can be used as an opportunity to start fresh, put new building blocks in place (think Lego – it was my favourite toy when I was a kid), and write a new story.

Within the period of a few months, loss has snuggled up in our home, poured itself a drink, put its stinky feet up on the coffee table, and helped itself to an unfair portion of our sanity. It’s like the dreaded overseas relative come to stay for an unknown period of time. To celebrate the arrival of our special guest, my anxiety dressed itself up, rolled out the red carpet and said,  “Welcome, what can I get you? My sleep? A cozy blanket of  pathetic weeping perhaps, or how about some home-cooked fear”?

Despite my anxiety, I am aware of my blessings; my child, my love, my friendships, my life as I know it.

As the Buddha at the beach reminded me, it’s not impossible to hold hope and fear. It’s best just to let them both gently go and appreciate the moments as they are.

Wishing you the presence to practice letting go, being present, and keeping love and hope alive in your heart.

Anxiety & Depression: Catch Someone Doing Something Right

 

fortune cookiesEach year my mumster takes us out to a Chinese restaurant at Christmas time. It’s a tradition that we look forward to every year, including the passing around of fortune cookies, and reading them out loud. Mum’s hubby has added the advanced silliness of adding, “…in bed“, at the end of each fortune.

As the sun seeks longer periods of shelter from her shining down on the northern hemisphere, my good mood also fades, and I’m left with anxiety and depression that is even more hard to clothe in something fabulous and breathtaking. During the winter months those two aspects of my psyche stand as huge grey pillars in the flat landscape of my mind, poking up new outcroppings along paths that in the past were clear.

It’s been a doozy of a winter to navigate darlings. Bourbon, bubbly and boys just get in the way. It’s a raw journey that one must always make alone.

Mumster’s Christmas dinner always marks the beginning of the dull, dark, grey months, so the fortune is something light and lovely, and I always, always, always, tuck it in my wallet and keep it until the next year. It’s a reminder to keep things light.

youwillberewardedFortunes often promise something, but this year it issued  a task. This year, my fortune read; “Catch someone doing something right”…in bed. That’s not fun! That’s more work? I have to actually do something? Well, I never…!!!

The fortune hit home, and it caught me off guard. Catch someone doing something right.

I hadn’t done that in a while. I hadn’t acknowledged just how right some things were going, and being done around me. Instead, the bleak landscape of winter had taken over my very own grey matter. Grey, bleak and as always, it seemed like it would never end.

As much as a fortune can be, I use it as a guidepost, a koan, and do the best that I can for what it has to offer.

I caught little Willie Nelson the cat curled up in my white duvet this morning, so that’s gotta be doing something right.

Reading Kelzbelzphotography this morning, I felt less alone in my suffering, even if I did feel a little indignant about some of the comments,  “Think of your children….chin up…” , one of them read. Oh please, save the platitudes. Buh-arf! But the short post was something right. Sharing these thoughts and feelings is difficult at best. Kelzbelz did something right by making the rest of us feel not so alone.

Catch someone doing something right, snuck into my head, and I began to think of all the things people do right;

1) My pal’s offer to drive to the movie theatre yesterday

2) An invitation to a birthday get-together

3) An invitation to a business lecture to help grow my fledgling writing business.

4) Texts despite being busy

5) Willie Nelson the cat, just being himself

6) Being lent a waterproof camera for a much-anticipated vacation

7) Someone else doing all of the planning for said vacation

8) Someone being my diet buddy

….the list goes on and on. I have so many wonderful people in my life who tolerate me during my expeditions into the depths of winter doldrums, that it’s hard not to find someone doing something right all of the time. inbed

Even though I may not have told you, and you all know who you are, I catch you doing something right all of the time, and I am grateful. Winter sucks, and you are the marshmallows in the warm cocoa of life.

Go ahead, try to catch someone doing something right, and see how it changes the landscape of your grey, winter mind. Who knows, I may even catch someone doing something right…in bed!

 

Cure found for Impending Pandemic

      “Follow then the shining ones, the wise, the awakened, the loving, for they know how to work and forbear.”~Buddha~

“Follow then the shining ones, the wise, the awakened, the loving, for they know how to work and forbear.”
~Buddha~

They say that the pandemic of our time is loneliness. I think, in this case, they may, actually be right.

More than ever, our social lives are not the rooted, traditional, sanguinous relations bestowed on us by the great universal punnett square.

Our families are smaller, and spread over the globe.  Or our families are bat shit crazy and the last people you’d ever want to confide in.

Our economy dictates less reliance (although the pendulum is swinging back) on traditional, generational roles,  and there you have it, we are more independent, autonomous, and alone.

The reality is that here we are, all grown up, and feeling disconnected.

Depression and anxiety plague every person on the planet to some degree. That’s why we have overspending, liquor stores, whore houses, internet porn, a mani-pedi shop on every corner,  and  thousands of square feet of bookstore shelves full of self-help books.

Ah yes. Hello adulthood. Thank you for introducing me to anxiety, depression, broken-hearts and disappointment. Most of all, thank you for making me feel like I have to plaster on a happy face and pretend I don’t feel any of these things. Thanks a lot.

But wait. Just hold on a second my sumptuous little crumpets.

It doesn’t have to be like that.

Every single person that I know and would call ‘friend’ has suffered some kind of depression. Every single man I’ve had a relationship has struggled with feelings of loneliness, anxiety, depression or that restlessness we like to attribute to a mid-life crisis.

I can hear your charming selves thinking quietly, “Ms. M., just get to the point.” Well, grab your icy gin and tonic and pull up a chair my sweet ones. The point, are you ready for this? The point is that feeling like hell about yourself, your accomplishments, your family, blah-dee-blah-dee-blah, is normal. So is feeling really great. Nothing is permanent, it’s just that the bad stuff seems to take more time and energy.

Yes, just sip your little cocktail darling and have a quiet think about that.

Acting like some hopped up southern cheerleader and plastering on a smiley face every day  is not normal. Frankly it scares the shit out of me, and gives me flashbacks to my trauma-laden childhood. Ooga-booga!

I’m not saying you should go around complaining incessently about what hasn’t gone right, but I am suggesting you make an effort to be in the moment as much as possible.

Enjoy the sunshine. Relish a hot meal and a tasty glass of wine. Don’t rush your conversations with friends. When you open up, to your friend, or to your lover, you realize you’re not alone in your fears or insecurity. When you discover this, you connect, banish loneliness and discover joy.