No Connection

The night before last, my internet connection suddenly stopped working at my house. Unfortunately my service is through Comcast, so it still hasn’t been fixed despite my attempts over the phone to receive assistance. At first, I felt utterly lost and helpless without YouTube and Netflix. While I do have data on my phone, I live in the middle of the woods so, as you might imagine, I don’t have great signal.

While this all is very inconvenient and frustrating, it has also been a blessing of sorts. Being forced off of the internet for over a day has been therapeutic. Initially, my stress level went through the roof, but after a while, I adapted. I dug out my old laptop with all of my saved music and video files to supplement my normal background noise. (Some habits are hard to let go of.) However, despite using my computer for ambient noise, without the internet offering up unlimited possibilities, I didn’t feel as tethered to my screens as I normally do.

In fact, it actually allowed me to spend a lot more time outside, where I want to be spending my time. Normally there is an internal struggle as I try to decide whether or not I want to pause my internet browsing to go do my yoga and meditation practice outside, or go for a run, or do yardwork. Even though I know how much I always end up enjoying myself when I am in the fresh air and sunshine, there is still a lot of anxiety around the act of putting down my technology to do so. Yesterday that struggles was gone. Why shouldn’t I go outside? Finally, there was nothing holding me back from the reawakening world outside my door.

It felt so good to feel the warm sun on my skin and smell the wind. I pulled up all the weeds from my flowerbeds, which I was surprised to find brought me great enjoyment. It was so delightful to feel the cool, damp earth and the soft, green leaves between my fingers. It’s easy to forget just how immersive the outside world can be. There is so much to explore and examine even in the relatively bland nature surrounding a house. No matter how much time you spend in the garden or the woods, there is always something new to discover. Yesterday I was overjoyed to come across a strange long blade of what appeared to be grass with a small plump green bulb dangling off its tip, as if barely connected at all. I have no idea what it is, but I’ll definitely be checking back in on that plant to try to find out.

For days now I have been anxiously dreading the chores I had to do in my yard, but somehow without the internet to beckon to me from inside, I had one of the best days I’ve had in awhile doing so. I was even enjoying myself so much that I ended up doing more than I planned on. I got out my weed whacker. I started some seeds for my garden. I set up some simple d├ęcor on my back porch. I cleaned off my trampoline and swept the sidewalk. I even strolled through my yard and collected patches of moss to put in my potted plants. Something I have been wanting to do for awhile in the hopes it will help the soil stay moist and suitable for my succulents.

All of this time spent outside, especially gathering the moss, left me feeling so happy. It reminded me of being a child again. I don’t know where I got the idea, but I used to imagine one day I’d be a flower arranger or design landscapes for gardens. In preparation for this, I would gather moss, wildflowers, pretty stones, and any other attractive, interesting things I could find around my yard and create small little arrangements with them. I like to think they were the original fairy gardens that have become so popular now. Finding myself outside gathering moss again allowed me to reconnect with that childlike wonder and joy that has remained dormant in me for so long.

Thanks to my yoga and meditation practice, what once would have been an absolute nightmare of an experience, leading me to a total meltdown with lots of hysterical crying and complaining, actually turned out to be something to be grateful for. It has even been empowering in a way. It feels good to know that I don’t have to rely on the internet for enjoyment and entertainment. I have more than enough within me to make my own contentment. It also reminded me of the peace that this lack of technology allowed. Things seemed quieter before the internet. My mind seemed less busy, less distracted. And with that focus, with that stillness, came a simple serenity that now seems lost to us.

While the internet and our other advancements in technology have made the world a better place in a lot of important ways, it has also robbed us of a lot of what we once had in life. Somehow by providing unlimited possibilities we have surrendered our freedom. I can’t help but wonder what the world might be like if it had stayed the way it was when I was a child. I have to imagine that my, if not everyone’s, mental health would be much better off. Perhaps humanity would have been able to remain at least a little closer to nature and one another than we are now.

I’d like to say that this experience will cause me to take regular breaks from my devices in order to remember this newfound freedom, but I don’t know that willpower alone will be enough to break those chains that tether me to technology. As for now, all I can say is I am in no hurry to fix my faulty internet connection. I am more than happy to spend a few more days disconnected.

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Denying Myself

Last night I was able to manifest an enlightening moment of expansive loving kindness. Just the moment before that, I felt like I was on the precipice of a panic attack. I felt held together by just static and stitching. I was afraid I was going to pieces. But I managed to blossom instead. I decided to stop fixating on trying desperately to hold myself together. Instead I chose to reminisce, to remember what it feels like to feel in love with this life. To find a seat of gratitude within my soul. To shift my vantage point.

I so rarely remember that I am capable of doing this. It seems so impossible, yet so easy. I forget to even stop and consider trying. So often we feel like merely the passengers on this journey, or like we are lost at sea, at the mercy of the ocean waves far from the shoreline. We are fighting so hard to keep our head above the water, that it doesn’t even occur to us that we can choose to breathe below the surface.

Life is very similar to dreaming in a lot of ways. Maybe that’s why I am always looking for messages and lessons from my sleeping mind. Last night felt like a dream in which you realize you are dreaming. Suddenly you remember that you are in control. In waking life we may not be able to completely alter the world around us, but we can completely alter our inner world whenever we want. We are the artists of the landscapes inside of ourselves.

If this is true, why is it so hard to believe it some days? I know very well there are times when fluffy thoughts like these cannot reach me. I mentioned in my post yesterday that this loving awareness, this simple bliss, these are my natural state. These feelings are the true expression of my soul. All I have to do is allow them to flow from me, to let my heart remain open. How quickly I’ve forgotten all the profound wisdom I read in The Untethered Soul.

So often I stifle and block my own love, my own happiness, my own peace. I block off that flowing spout of energy from my heart space. I begin working with brick and mortar from the moment I awake. I am an expert at denying myself. When my thoughts begin racing with everything that is “wrong” what it’s really doing is tallying up all the reasons that I’m not allowed to feel okay, to be happy. I’ve been telling myself “no” for so long that I started to forget I had the power to say yes. I am the one who has written these arbitrary rules on love and happiness.

I don’t have to wait for everything to be perfect before I let myself be happy. In fact, I have the power to decide that everything is already perfect right now. Today is an excellent, magnificent day to be happy. Nothing can take that happiness away from me, except me. It’s always easy to be in love, to be blissful, because this is how we are meant to be. The suffering and exhaustion that accompany depression, anxiety, anger, fear, hatred, are created from the immense effort of acting and feeling so contrary to our soul’s essence. It’s always harder to be something you’re not.

I think somewhere along the line this ever-present mindset of scarcity and limited resources, led us to believe that we have to ration our love, our joy. But that well has no bottom. We never have to fear we will run out of these things, because they are us, we are one and the same. I’ve learned to let the thinking mind limit my potential. I give myself “rational” reasons not to be happy. I tell myself I don’t deserve to feel good because of (x) or after doing (y). I’ve been feeling like I have to choose between denying myself or denying reality. But that isn’t true. I can be flawed and imperfect and still happy. Love and happiness have never hurt a situation.

No matter what I am faced with in this life, no matter what mistakes I’ve made or continue to make, I still deserve to be happy. It’s not silly or selfish or wrong. Because by sharing this energy with the world, I am doing what I have always been meant to do. What we are all meant to do. What everyone has been telling us to do since we were children. Just be yourself. That timeless, limitless, ever-present, powerful self that lies at the seat of every soul, the manifestation of love, of joy, of light, of hope. All we have to do is remember. Remember who you are.

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Time to Surrender

One of the interesting things I’ve noticed since I began meditating is the importance of the length of time set aside for it. I began with a timer set for 15 minutes. I kept my meditations limited to that amount of time for years. Every now and then I would do 20 minutes. Never longer. When I’m running short on time, I’ll just sit for 5 minutes. However, this short of a meditation feels more like going through the motions to check off a box than actually being meditative.

It’s fascinating how terrifying the idea of sitting in silence with yourself can be. There are many days when I would be anxious at the prospect of beginning a simple 15 minute session. It doesn’t seem like a long time, but knowing I’d be alone with myself with no distractions was daunting. I knew the time could fly by or seem like an eternity. Most times I would feel myself relaxing into the meditation just as the time was up. Reluctantly letting my eyes open to continue on with my day.

Over a year ago, I finally worked up the courage to set a goal of daily 30 minute meditations for myself. 15 minutes just wasn’t cutting it anymore. I knew I needed to push myself to sit for longer if I really wanted to see a difference in my mental state. At first it was ridiculously difficult to commit to this length of time. It seemed so long. I felt afraid I wouldn’t be able to justify “wasting” this amount of time everyday “doing nothing.” Yet it quickly became one of my favorite parts of the day.

I’ve learned quite a bit from this decision to extend my meditation sessions. One of the most important things I particularly noticed from being too busy to sit for more than 5 minutes a day this past week is how important it is to set aside a significant amount of time. After such a long time sitting in meditation for 30 minutes every day, 5 minutes felt like a joke. It didn’t feel like I came anywhere close to a meditative state. My mind was racing the entire time. Wondering how close I was to being finished. Planning out my to-do list for the day. Running over earlier conversations in my head. At most I only achieved a few brief moments of actual concentration and mindfulness.

I want to be clear, though, I am not discrediting starting out with a short amount of time like this as an introduction to meditation. In the beginning even 5 minutes can feel scary and challenging. It’s a good way to begin integrating a meditation practice into your daily routine. And it will still make a difference. However, if you’ve been meditating for awhile already, I highly recommend trying to lengthen your sessions.

It may seem difficult at first, but I guarantee it’s worth it. When you have a long period of time to meditate, there is a different atmosphere. It seems less possible to just run out the clock by allowing your mind to run wild for a few minutes. Half-heartedly trying to reign it back in. Instead you are forced to face your fear, your anxiety, yourself.

At first my mind tries all it’s normal tricks. Attempting to escape or convince me to give up, worrying about how much time is left, dreading that time, trying to latch onto distractions, resisting. However, while this stage may consume the entire meditation when only given 5 minutes, it will eventually subside if given the more time. Eventually the mind has to accept the reality that there is nowhere to go. Eventually it accepts that the only thing to do is to surrender.

And what a beautiful feeling it is when you finally soften into that total surrender. There is nothing better. This is where the true meditation begins. Often my body will even begin to buzz and feel blurred around the edges. Just breathing feels so good. Feeling what it’s truly like to just exist. Realizing that it’s okay to surrender. Realizing there is in fact peace afterwards. Accepting that it’s okay to merely be.

Now, I still have a long way to go with my meditations. There are still plenty of days where I’ll doze off or still manage to get lost in thought the entire time. But it’s always worth it for those few moments of bliss I’ve found. Often when I notice myself finding that peace, I’ll remind myself: This is always here. This is inside of me. I can come back here, to this inner peace, whenever I need to. It is always with me. It is me.

Many times now instead of feeling anxious to begin my meditation, I’ll feel anxious as my body begins to sense my time is almost up. The last few moments are often spent fighting with my desire to cling to that internal bliss. I hope to one day soon begin giving myself even more time every day for meditation. I can only imagine what new insights, what new depths, are still waiting to be discovered within. I sincerely hope you’ll decide to give yourself the chance to discover your own. Give yourself the gift of time. Time to surrender. Time to just be. I promise you it’s not a waste. It may even find it’s the most important time you have during the day. You may find that it is the best gift you can give yourself. A true act of self-love. You deserve it.

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Learning to Allow Discomfort

Setting aside time to just observe the mind is so valuable. I have found so many glimpses of inner wisdom and true peace through daily meditation. Today as I allowed my mind to follow my breath and concentrate on surrendering fully, relaxing each muscle, I noticed one of the many cycles I go through constantly inside my head.

I saw myself finding a moment of bliss, then losing it immediately in desperation as I turned my thoughts away from the present to the future. I saw fear begin to destroy that bliss and take me away from the moment. I not only feared the unknown, I feared the fear I was experiencing. I was so desperate to get away and escape from those thoughts and feelings.

It’s usually easy to distract the mind at this point in the cycle, but the beautiful thing about meditation is that there is no where to go. Instead we are forced to deal with these difficult sensations. I got to witness what happens if I just accept those thoughts and allow them to exist without resisting them. And sure enough you eventually come full circle, returning to that bliss, that deep well of stillness inside.

Now don’t don’t get me wrong, that wasn’t the moment I found Nirvana of Samadhi or anything like that. The cycle continued and continued as expected. The point is, there is an immense comfort is being able to witness that cycle. To know that it’s okay to feel afraid. Reminding yourself that running from that fear only holds you in that part of the cycle longer. It’s an extended interlude, like a skipping record.

By resisting, ironically we are holding on. The sooner we can let go of our perception of these thoughts and feelings as “bad” and “unacceptable” the sooner we can return to that bliss that we find preferable. By no means is this an easy thing to do, however. I of all people should know that. I basically spend every moment of every day running and hiding from myself.

Yet that doesn’t lessen the significance of those few moments of clarity I am occasionally able to find. While it may be hard to remember these profound realizations when we really need them, it is still a victory to have them at all. One day I hope I am able to more often take the role of that silent witness. To watch myself through patient, loving, curious, impartial eyes. Practice makes perfect. And I intend to keep practicing. I hope that you will too.