24/7 Mindfulness

The hardest place to be is right where you are. In the space between the finish and the start.

Half Alive

A few months ago, in an effort to recover from my disordered eating habits, I began practicing mindful eating. Mindful eating, for those who don’t know, is essentially exactly what it sounds like. Rather than watching TV or reading or even talking to your partner, you focus all of your attention solely on the act of eating. I did a pretty good job of doing this for a month or so, but since then I’ve fallen back into my old habits to some extent. I still practice eating my breakfast and lunch mindfully, free from distraction, but I’ve started to only eat half of my dinner in this way. Allowing myself to go back to watching Netflix or something afterward.

Although I am proud of myself for the progress I have been able to maintain, I can’t help but be a bit frustrated I haven’t been able to keep my mindful eating practice going entirely. When I ask myself why that is, the answer I always arrive at is that it’s just too tiring to be mindful for so much of my day. Despite that being how I genuinely feel, it still doesn’t make total sense to me. How is focusing on one thing more tiring than spreading out my attention and multitasking? Shouldn’t that be the other way around?

Any time I try to imagine leading an entirely mindful, present life, this is the obstacle that I envision. It just seems like too much work. But why does it seem like that? Logically I don’t see how there could be that much of a difference between focused attention and scattered attention. Either way I am still awake and conscious and processing my surroundings the entire time. I wonder if there is a difference in the amount of energy we exert between the two or if this is just a false perception I employ to avoid myself.

I find myself giving the excuse, “I just need a break,” when I want to skip out on a mindful dinner. But how is eating and watching Netflix more of a break than just eating? Why does it seem like such an effort to just be still? I’m sure a lot of it has to do with unconscious conditioning, but it feels like there is more to it than that somehow. Where do I go when I am not being mindful? When I’m zoning out? Sometimes it feels as if my consciousness dissipates and I am just floating by on autopilot. And to a certain degree, I enjoy how that feels. It’s nice to not have to focus on anything. Even though I truly believe a more mindful life is inevitably a happier one as well. Why then do my mindless moments hold so much importance for me? Why does it seem like a nightmare to imagine being mindful 24/7?

It makes me wonder what the consciousness of a monk might feel like. Have they reached a state of perpetual mindfulness? Is that even possible? What might that be like? Considering this also brings to mind a quote from Aldous Huxley’s book, The Doors of Perception:

To make biological survival possible, Mind at Large has to be funneled through the reducingĀ valve of the brain and nervous system. What comes out at the other end is a measly trickle of the kind of consciousness which will help us to stay alive on the surface of this particular planet.

The Doors of Perception; Aldous Huxley

If you’re not familiar with this book, in it Huxley is describing his thoughts and experiences while under the influence of psychedelic drugs, particularly Mescaline. From Huxley’s description, this drug allows the doors of our perception to be flung wide open. We are aware of everything all at once. All of the sensory information that the brain would normally filter out is being noticed. And while this is a profoundly beautiful and moving experience according to Huxley, it is also quite overwhelming. That is why he believes our normal conscious mind is filtered through was he has labeled the “reducing valve.”

I don’t know if this is truly relatable to regular, every day consciousness, but that is how mindfulness feels to me sometimes. It has the ability to make even the most mundane, monotonous moments beautiful and profound, yet it can become tiresome and overwhelming trying to remain in this highly focused state for too long.

Then again, perhaps mindfulness is more like a muscle. Maybe the more I practice, the less of an effort it will seem to be. Just like doing a 150lb. deadlift might seem impossible at first, if you keep slowly increasing your maximum weight, you’ll get there eventually. There is still so much that I don’t fully understand about mindfulness and the obstacles standing in the way of it for me. I am hopeful that with further practice and contemplation, I will be able to uncover some of the answers I’m looking for.

What is Mindfulness & What's its Role in the Workplace

Racism & Sexism

I had a very interesting thought while driving to work today, that I wanted to take a bit of time to dissect. I tried to look up some studies on this theory. I know they must be out there, but I guess I couldn’t find the right key words to get the search results I was looking for. So I apologize for my lack of data, but hear me out because I would love to open up some discussion on this topic and see what everyone else thinks about it.

Okay, so here’s what I’ve been thinking about this morning. I was watching commentary videos about misogynistic tiktoks, you know because who wouldn’t want to use that to set the tone for their day, right? Anyway, I started noticing a lot of similarities with one of these sexist content creators and one of my coworkers at the other office. He definitely strikes me as the kind of person who would enjoy this man’s videos. Yet, given that he works with mostly women every single day, it confused me to try to conceptualize how men would even be able to have so much contact with women in their lives and still hold on to such harmful stereotypes about them.

I was unable to find any statistics to support this, but for some reason, I am thinking that racism and bigotry is most prominent in racially and culturally homogenous areas. I mean maybe this isn’t true, but this is the framework I’m working of off. (Please correct me if I’m wrong.) Logically it just seems to make sense that it would be easier to typecast a group of people and feel hatred towards that group as a whole if you didn’t have any personal relationships with these people. It just seems like most white supremacists don’t know many (if any) black people. Most people that hate and fear Muslims have never met one. We fear what we do not understand or are not used to. Even I had a general dislike of children when I didn’t have any experience personally interacting with them. I think we all build strawmen in our minds of others that we don’t quite know in a meaningful way.

This is something I’ve never really thought about in the context of sexism though. Once I did, I was very interested in the idea. How is it that sexism is just as prominent, if not more prominent, than racism when literally every human being in the world has at least one close connection to a woman in their life? Shouldn’t that simple fact mean that all people would have more compassion and understanding of women even if they themselves are male? A white man may live his whole life never having a real conversation with a black man. In that scenario, it would be understandable that he may also fear and dislike someone that he doesn’t know, “the other.” Someone you don’t know is much easier to demonize than someone you do. However, every man has a mother. Every man has at least one female relative, friend, or coworker. Knowing that, it blows my mind that so many men are still somehow able to view women as “less than.”

I spoke briefly about this idea to a male friend at work and he had an interesting insight. In his opinion, men are frustrated by women because subconsciously they know that for the most part men are physically stronger than women. So when a woman is equal to them or holds power over them, their reptilian brain revolts and feels cheated and restrained. They know deep down that they are unable to use their full power to come out on top, even though they could. While I don’t think this fully explains sexism in society, I do believe that there is some truth to that perspective.

I would love to get some feedback and hear what other people think about this. I genuinely don’t understand it, not that either racism or sexism makes sense. But I can at least see the subconscious thought process behind fearing what you don’t know, whereas hating/stereotyping women while simultaneously loving them and intimately interacting with them every day is quite baffling to me. I suppose it’s also interesting and confounding that sexism is able to persist and be such an integral part of societies all over the world when women are not a minority group. Exerting power over a group that is smaller than yours makes sense, but it fascinates me that sexism has been able to prevail for so long.

Anyway, those are my rambling thoughts for the day. Let me know what you think about all this in the comments. I would love to discuss it with other people and perhaps gain a more clear understanding of the mechanisms behind these forms of social oppression.

Everyday sexism in the tech industry | CWJobs

I Am Going to Have a Good Day Today

Each morning when I sit down at my desk, laptop in front on me, WordPress open and waiting, I struggle to think of something to write about. I have a list I keep of a few ideas I could expound upon, but a lot of them seem too depressing to dwell on first thing in the morning. I keep losing sight of the reason I started writing again everyday in the first place. This is for me, this is to amp myself up, to get excited, to have fun. I don’t have to find a new fascinating topic to delve into every day. It really doesn’t matter what I write at all. Rather it’s the simple act of creation, of pouring myself into words on a page, with no other goal than to enjoy doing so.

I mentioned before how visualization before bed has helped me to wake up feeling better, more animated in the morning. Today I wanted to try that same visualization but in order to prepare me for the rest of my day. I have taken the next few days off from work because I had some PTO hours I needed to use up before July. Even though I am always excited for a day off, I never seem to let myself enjoy it. I get all in my head about every little moment, feeding my anxiety all throughout the day. I’m hoping that by sitting down, taking some mindful time first thing in the morning to mentally walk through my day, I’ll be able to feel more present and happy as I move through it.

Today is going to be a great day! I got to sleep in so I am feeling nice and rested. What a beautiful gift to be able to dream all through the night and wake up gently of my own volition. It’s a rather chilly day outside so I am going to spend my time warm and cozy indoors. I am going to have a very productive day. It will be a delight to clean up my house and organize things later. It will be an act of self-love. Tending to my nest so that I can feel more at home, more at peace. It will also be a great joy to show off all my hard work to my vegan boy tomorrow when he comes over again. Once my work is all done and the day is winding down, I’ll reward myself with a relaxing evening playing my new favorite video game.

Before I start my cleaning for the day, I have a lot of wonderful self-care to complete. I do most of these things every single day, yet the intention behind them has faded over time. Theses small acts aren’t supposed to be more chores for me to begrudgingly trudge through. These are small gifts to myself, chances to be present, chances to appreciate myself, my life. Today I am going to be mindful of this sweet, loving intention as I move through my to-do list.

I’ve noticed that a lot of the time while I am going about my business, I’m holding my breath! Or I’m breathing very shallow and quick. Today I am going to keep coming back to my breath. How might it feel to breathe mindfully, lovingly for an entire day? Won’t it be fun to try it out and see? Yes, fun. Above all I want to have fun today. I’m going to keep a light heart, a soft eye, a kind energy. I’m going to be curious and playful, grateful for this new day to spend with myself. My yoga practice today is going to be a celebration of this life I’ve been given, a beautiful flowing dance in tribute to my lovely body, my mother Earth. My meditation will be a much deserved rest, a surrender to that sweet mother. As I kindle that inner fire, that prana, with my workout today I will rejoice at all my body is capable of doing for me. The theme for today is passion, fire, playfulness, admiration, devotion. Each a simple word, yet able to bring such powerful emotions bubbling up to the surface.

One last intention to set before I finish up and move into the rest of my day. Today is just one day. I will focus on the time I have, not the foggy future to come. Perhaps I will have time for everything I’ve got swirling around in my busy mind eventually. Perhaps not. Either way, all I am able to do is focus on the day in front of me. There is not enough time for me to do everything. Instead I will concentrate on doing what I can. Doing it well, with deep breaths, and with many sips from the well of my own self-love.

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Signs

Isn’t it funny how certain experiences in life tend to stand out at us? We’ve all had moments that made us wonder if some higher power is at play, nudging us along or drawing our attention to something important. Whether you believe in any particular higher power or not. I certainly haven’t for the majority of my life, yet still these moments continue to present themselves. Even though I learned all about the psychology behind why we feel this way about some events, but not others, I can’t help but wonder.

If I remember correctly, the scientific explanation for these “signs” we notice, is simply that our brains are placing more attention on certain events that fit our narrative, while ignoring all the others. It isn’t that we are doing this on purpose. It’s mostly unconscious. It is similar to the way we often feel like every time we are late there is traffic, and only when we’re late. In reality there is probably traffic quite often when we aren’t late as well. We just don’t notice it as much, or make a mental note of it like we do when it’s an extra inconvenience. Or maybe a better example would be when people share all of the supposed times prayer has miraculously healed people. These miracles are attributed to prayer, but all of the billions of times prayer didn’t work are ignored.

So when we notice “signs” in our lives, this is more than likely the same mental process behind it. Even so, it is hard to ignore that tingling intuition that there is something more meaningful at play. It’s quite frustrating to be honest. I like to think of myself as a logical, rational person. However, when it comes to this one situation, all of my rationality seems to fly out the window. I’m trying not to get into specifics, but I feel it’s going to get too confusing if I don’t.

Surprise, surprise, I’m referencing my relationship with my old high school sweetheart yet again. I swear, it makes me feel so pathetic and insane to even think about him at all. Part of this strangeness surrounding him is that I do seem unable to let him go. Despite my shame and my occasional hatred of him, he is still probably one of the people I think about most. Even when it felt like I had finally moved on a few years ago, it seemed like the universe conspired against me to place him back in front of me again.

That was probably the most significant and hard to shake of the “signs” I’ve experienced in relation to him. It had been years since we’d spoken. I had him blocked on all social media. I really hardly even thought about him anymore. My heart felt like it was finally at peace. Then one night, I had a vivid dream about him out of nowhere. Exactly one week later, he made great efforts to contact me out of the blue. I even tried to ignore his attempts, but he wouldn’t stop. Apparently he had even planned to appear at my house if I continued to be silent. Although I was happy in the end to get an apology and explanation from him and to have him in my life again, I still can’t help but feel cheated by that whole situation. Why was I dragged back into his orbit, just to be set adrift once again with renewed pain?

Since then there have been a few other, less impressive “signs” regarding him. I don’t pretend to know what these signs even mean, however. Perhaps simply that he is to be an important part of my life whether I want him to be or not. A year or so ago after newly mending our friendship once again, I found a blue and purple marble on a path I often walked in the woods behind my house. This seemed significant because it was just after I decided to talk with him again. Not only that, blue and purple are the colors I once assigned to him for his aura. This marble was dead center at the start of my hiking trail. No one else uses this trail besides me, certainly no children or anyone who would be carrying marbles into the forest. I had walked it just a day or so before. Never had I seen this marble which would have been easy to spot if it had been there all along. Certainly I would have noticed it earlier.

The most recent and frustrating of these “signs” happened just a few days ago. Once again I was beginning to feel like I was managing to let him go. I have a wonderful new vegan guy to talk to and I’ve been happy for the most part. Then I discover that my vegan guy is actually going to be moving 5 hours away from me for a new job he applied to before we met. Even though we’re going to try to do long-distance, I have little hope it will work out now and am desperately depressed about the whole thing. Then just two days after receiving that heartbreaking news, I run into my ex’s girlfriend at the grocery store.

At first, like the marble, this may not seem like anything significant. But the context matters. Since I’ve graduated high school, I don’t think I’ve run into a single classmate. Not only that, but my ex and this girlfriend don’t live in my area. They live two hours away now. This girl just happened to be in the area, in the grocery store, at the exact same moment and spot where I was, a few days after my new romantic relationship took a nosedive. It just seems so ridiculous. I’m sure I still sound crazy, but at least my mom sees the absurdity of all these things as well.

The most frustrating part is when something like this happens, it makes me wonder if I am supposed to do something about it. I’ve spent the last two days wondering if I should message my ex. Ultimately I’ve decided not to. Part of me worries that I am ignoring important direction from the universe or whatever. My mom thinks that whether I act or not, the universe will have it’s way, so I don’t have to worry too much. I hope she’s right. Although I don’t even know what I want to happen. Right now I mostly just want these strange occurrences to stop because whatever they are, they cause me so much pain.

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Biting Your Tongue

One high school memory that still haunts me to this day is from my junior year photography class. We were going on a field trip to the Andy Warhol museum. I never like Andy Warhol’s art. I still maintain that he’s not a good artist, he just became famous for being a weirdo that people were interested in. I kept professing these kind of sentiments and complaining that this was where we were going. Eventually my teacher cut me off. Irritated, he said, “Bite your tongue.” I felt so ashamed and honestly wished I would never have to speak again in that class. I wanted to disappear.

The reason this memory sticks with me is because it seems to mirror similar situations throughout my life. There have been many times when I’ve ended up embarrassing myself or making my own life more difficult because I seem to be unable to bite my tongue. It is usually when I am feeling angry or irritated about something. It is very hard for me to just let things go for some reason. I feel compelled to voice my displeasure. Loudly and whenever I get the chance.

For example, today I have to stay late a work for what seems like the thousandth time because of a particular CPS worker that likes to take advantage of my friend and coworker’s good nature. We will stay after hours to do emergency interviews. Sometimes a child is in immediate danger and it’s necessary that we talk to them as soon as possible so we can make sure they have somewhere safe to go. However, this CPS worker just uses the word “emergency” to manipulate and control us so that things work better for her schedule and deadlines.

The interviewer I work with is a very nice, easy-going man. To him it’s never a big deal and he takes pride in the fact that he never refuses to do an interview. He always says that I don’t have to stay and he can do it all himself, but it just wouldn’t feel right for me to let him do that. So here I am, stuck doing two interviews at 4:30-6 or 7 today when our office closes at 4. And surprise, surprise it couldn’t be further from an emergency. The children are completely safe.

My problem isn’t even that I have to stay late without pay (we are a very small non-profit that only gets paid for 40 hours each week no matter what), it’s that this horrible woman continues to take advantage of us for her own convenience. In my nearly two years with this organization, no other CPS worker has asked us to stay late. Not only that, but this specific worker does it practically every single time we get a call from her. It just makes me feel so furious that someone even has the nerve to do this continuously to such nice people like my coworkers.

On matters of injustice or unfairness, I have an especially difficult time biting my tongue. It’s one of the reasons I still struggle to do so when I hear idiotic comments about veganism. I get a familiar rumbling, hot sensation in my chest that causes viscous language to spew out of my mouth like a volcano. It never makes anything better though. The anger continues to build. Not only that but when I speak out I also start to pile on feelings of shame and self-hatred. I’m embarrassed by my uncontrollable outbursts, and by the way others look at me when they see me so angry.

I’ve always clung to the idea of operant conditioning and to the idea that staying quiet and complacent is the same as condoning a behavior. At least those are the reasons I give myself to rationalize my violent reactions to these types of situations. I feel it is my duty to do something, to protect myself and others from injustice or abuse. I feel very passionately about it. But I don’t want to feel this way when the result is that I become spiteful and vindictive. The outcome is never restoring justice, it simply ruins my day and possibly the image that others have of me as a person.

When days like today happen, I have been trying very hard to use them as an opportunity for personal growth. These are the moments that I’ll need to utilize in order to begin to create new, more healthy, productive, socially acceptable pathways in my brain. It’s never easy. I still get caught up in brooding over all the reasons that I shouldn’t be put in this situation, finding fault, blaming others, and coming up with ways to make these things stop happening, or at the very least to get revenge. I feel a great resistance bubbling up inside when I try to transition away from these thoughts to more positive ones. Something inside of me is always dragging its feet, insisting that if I allow myself to be okay with this, it will happen even more, and the injustice will continue to expand and grow larger. Part of me still tends to believe that’s true, but even so, I’m missing the point. Does it even matter if these things happen to me more if they no longer produce such toxic emotions?

I am trying to stay curious. Rather than getting wrapped up in the spiral of self-justifications, I ask myself, “Why is this so hard for me? What is it that keeps me from letting this go? Wouldn’t I rather be happy than right?” That’s really what it comes down to, that last question. Sometimes it’s hard for me to remember that being happy is better than being the smartest person in the room or being right or even having control. When I start feeling like I am helpless and powerless in a situation that is out of my control, I just need to remind myself that I am always in control. Maybe not when it comes to what happens to me, but I get to decide how I react to those things. That is what is truly important.

As I continue on with this unbearably long day, I am going to choose to focus on all of the things I have to be grateful for instead of the few small irritations that I have to put up with occasionally. I love my job. I love the people I work with. I love (most) of the people in the other organizations we work with. I can get away with coming in 15 minutes late everyday. I can leave early another day since I’ll be staying over tonight. I got to work from home for nearly a year. My job is usually easy and not stressful. Yesterday I got to spend the whole day at the office chatting with my lovely work friends. We even got lunch delivered to us from Panera thanks to one of the board members. I am so grateful for having the opportunity to be a part of this place, even if that means learning how to bite my tongue sometimes. This is a valuable skill, one I genuinely want to learn. So I should also be grateful for these opportunities to practice it.

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