In Sickness & In Health

For the past week now, I’ve had a sinus infection. When I woke up feeling sick last Tuesday, I immediately tested for Covid, but it was negative. I honestly couldn’t believe it. Although I’m very grateful I’ve somehow managed to avoid Covid so far, what are the chances that someone who hasn’t been sick for ten years gets two unrelated illnesses within two months of one another during a global pandemic? What kind of ridiculous coincidence is this?

Since my symptoms felt so similar to how I felt in November, I assumed I’d be better in a few days again. I was aggravated at even that. However, now that it’s been nearly 7 days with little to no improvement, I’m starting to feel pretty silly for being upset about losing only a couple days. Apparently sinus infections last a lot longer than other colds. I’ve never had one before, so I’m at least learning a lot. I have a whole new appreciation for the people I’ve known who seem to get them all the time. I had no idea they were suffering so much. I feel even worse, because for some reason, I always naively assumed a sinus infection was less serious than a cold or flu.

The only really good thing about being sick is it makes you so much more appreciative of being healthy. It’s wild to realize I took those ten years of good health for granted so easily. Even after having quite a lot of sicknesses as a child, I hadn’t spent hardly one moment being grateful for a decade of impeccable health. And mixed within my anxious fears about how much longer I’ll feel sick and if I’ll need to end up going to the doctor’s for an antibiotic to get better is a tearful, humbling sense of gratitude. At least I can be fairly certain that I will ultimately feel better again. Now that is something to be thankful for.

There are so many people who have never known a day free from physical discomfort or illness. There are so many people every day that get sick and live with the knowledge that they won’t get better again. And despite how upset I am by the idea that I may have to go see a doctor, I’m so glad that I am able to do that if I need to. So many people don’t have access to even the most basic care. There weren’t even antibiotics a little over a hundred years ago. And soon enough, due to egregious overuse in factory farms, they will not work anymore.

So even though I’m frustrated and tired and uncomfortable, this illness has still given me something precious: perspective. It could be so much worse. It is so much worse for millions of people in this world. And one day when I get sick, I won’t have even a hope of getting better. For these reasons and many more, I am so grateful. I am so grateful for this body, for access to medical care, for medical science, and for all the countless moments free from pain and discomfort that I’ve already been able to enjoy.

Advertisement

Private Polyamory

There are many reason I identify with polyamory
primarily the science that explains it's our nature
but also because it allows me to love again
even though my love for you has never faded

Monogamy proclaims I cannot love more than one
in this model my life would have to be spent alone
or else in a horrible, shameful sham of love
because you will never again be mine to hold

Polyamory is something I am able
to practice quietly within my own heart
the alter I still gently tend for you in my soul
need not be torn down or take up all the space

I can share my love with others
without letting you go
which is a true blessing because
that's a choice I am unable to make

The feelings I have for you
are probably the best part of me
and it would be a tragedy
to discard them all together

What a relief to be reassured
there is no need for me to be alone
just because you no longer love me
while I will love you forever

What a gift to get to keep you
nestled close to my heart no matter what
to never have to lose the vivid color
of all that you still are to me

My True Nature

I truly believe I can choose to be happy
my younger self was always so
there was innocence and joy in each breath
I loved everyone and the world at once
my heart was full of gratitude

But somewhere along the way
my soul got bogged down with disillusion
bitterness encroached upon my heart
like blight creeping through late fall crops
all of life turned sour for awhile

Now I struggle with these separate shades of self
I know deep down that pure love and light remain
still it feels like a denial to turn toward it
and away from who I've known myself to be
as I've grown into the person I am today

This anger and violence I've harbored for so long
grip me so much tighter than childhood pleasures
to let it go feels like a refusal to acknowledge my own pain
to surrender to a delusion that it never existed
to favor a false sense of all pervading peace

My precious passion has turned to poison
through years of focusing on the wrong things
an all-mighty wave of indignation rises up to consume
the small voice inside that pleads for the path
towards gentle gratitude and humble happiness

Can I really learn to reconcile these two opposing forces?
Can the soft thread of unconditional love truly overcome
the violent force of white knuckled hatred?
I'm afraid of who I will become if I am unable
to turn from my current path, led by self-righteous ego

Still there is a quiet hope that stirs within
that there is still time to reclaim my one life
and use my precious gifts to create light
instead of adding to the choking darkness
that tempts me and ties my hands

When I succumb to the swirling torment
that tells me happiness is not my nature
I will strive to remember my soul's complexity
and call out for the small child that once embodied
the brave wisdom of a wide open heart 

When Gratitude Stops Working

It has been over six years since I started practicing daily gratitude. I have journals upon journals filled with lists of things I’m grateful for. After all of this, after so much time spent training my brain to find gratitude, how can it be that I still feel like a terminally ungrateful person?

The main issue I have with a lot of mindfulness practices is the way my clever brain figures out ways to get around them after awhile. It’s ironic that most of the “mindfulness” I have incorporated into my everyday life isn’t done very mindfully at all anymore. Whether it be meditation, journaling, or mindful eating my brain seems more adept at learning to avoid the conscious effort rather than learning to be more present like I had intended.

Finding Novelty

If you can relate to this issue, you’re probably already asking, “How can we solve this problem?” While I don’t yet have a definitive answer, one thing I’ve noticed is that of all the self-care tasks I do every day, the one that never seems to get stale is my yoga practice. The only difference between yoga and my other practices is that the yoga flows I do are ever changing and evolving. I don’t practice the same poses in the same order everyday. If I did, I’m sure that would just as easily become a mindless habit like the rest. So the only advice I can give to you and to myself is: Keep changing it up.

This isn’t the perfect solution, I know. It is frustrating to constantly have to be reimagining ways to keep yourself mindful. It would be so much nicer if we could just do a few short little identical practices everyday and reap all the benefits of a more compassionate, mindful, spiritual life. I guess the old saying that nothing worth doing is easy still rings true.

I’ve found that novelty is essential to keep me mindful, even if it is aggravating to have to always search for it. Luckily, sometimes that little tweak for my practice finds me on it’s own like it did yesterday. I stumbled upon a Podcast that referenced The Book of Delights by Ross Gay. In his book, he talks about savoring little things throughout our day that “delight” us. For some reason, just this small, almost insignificant shift in perception has made a huge difference for me. It’s amazing how powerful the slightest change of framing can completely shift our perspective on something.

Replacing Gratitude with Delight

Despite sticking with my gratitude practice for so many years, I noticed almost immediately that it was not providing the mental benefits I had hoped. Sometimes it even seemed to backfire. There are a lot of days where I struggle to think of things to be grateful for. This makes me feel awful, because I know I have such an amazing life. I know I should be able to come up with dozens of things to be grateful for every day. The guilt spiral begins and I end up harming my mental health instead of helping it.

The most important part of gratitude is actually feeling it. As someone who struggles to stay grounded in my body and emotions, “grateful” is a rather vague sensation for me. There are lots of other emotions that compile this more complex feeling. It’s hard for me to just drop into a sense of gratitude on demand. However, “delight” feels a bit more tangible most days. Just the word alone makes the corners of my mouth twitch into a soft smile. Delight. Now that I can feel.

Not only am I more easily able to feel delight in my body, it also somehow feels a bit more lighthearted than gratitude. There is something very daunting and serious about being grateful. Not to mention the reverse, being ungrateful, is tied to a lot of shame. Delight, on the other hand, brings up a sense of buoyancy and silliness for some reason. Imagining being delighted makes me want to giggle and wiggle my toes in a way being grateful does not. There is a joyous, uplifting, lightness about the idea of feeling delighted. It also seems easier to pick small things in a practice about delight versus a practice about gratitude. Saying I am grateful for the way a stinkbug stopped and looked at me when I tapped the counter next to it feels strange, but to say the same scenario delighted me fits perfectly.

Putting It Into Practice

Today, instead of a gratitude list, try listing some things that delighted you. I’ll go first. Here are just a few things that brought a sense of delight into my life this morning:

  1. Hitting that snooze button on my alarm and snuggling back into my warm blankets with my dog for those few precious moments before getting up.
  2. Enjoying that first hot, black coffee.
  3. Feeling my house get warmer as I waited for the furnace to get going.
  4. Listening to music and singing as I drove to work.
  5. The smell of the perfectly ripe, beautiful, big apple I brought for breakfast.

Regardless of what kind of list you write, it’s helpful to be as detailed as possible. Add lots of physical descriptions, trying to incorporate as many senses into it as possible. I have to admit, I couldn’t help but smile as I wrote down my morning’s delights just now.

My favorite part about learning about this new way to practice bringing mindful moments of pleasure into your life was the idea of sharing it with others. Yesterday I asked a few other people to tell me something that delighted them about their day. It brought me just as much joy and happiness to hear about their experiences and imagine them savoring those small delights.

I hope at least some of you find this helpful. I would love to hear about any other ways you’ve found to keep a spark of novelty in your daily practices. Please, please, please leave a comment and let me know what delights you’ve had so far today!

Peripheral

Anxiety is living life in the periphery
a mind afraid to focus on direct experience
like eyes left straining into the blurry images
produced from the outer angles of sight

Endlessly missing the opportunity
to see what's right in front of me
distracted by the desperation to see it all
before making my next move

Walking blindly into the future
while believing there is some safety
in focusing all attention on the sidelines
absorbed by unclear, obscured visions

Mastering the practice of mindfulness
the ever evolving effort to stare straight ahead
being present with what's before me rather
than apparitions hovering just out of view

Keep walking faithfully forward
syncing each breath with firm steps
resting in the reality of perpetual uncertainty
softly savoring all the surprises of life

Allowing myself to become engrossed
in the ever unfolding mirage of right now
releasing all tight tendrils of assumed control
to be submerged in this moment

Let It Be

Shedding the crackling layers of thought
the busy hum inside that separates us
from the splendid simplicity of the moment
embracing boredom as a sacred rest

Letting go of the desperate clinging
the endless search for answers and meaning
this life doesn't have to be anything besides
exactly what it is as we breathe here now

You're doing enough, you are enough
whether or not you've made a masterpiece
out of every second of your day
sip in inner stillness with the stale air

All tension comes from the stories we tell
our insistence that we should be somewhere else
when did it become so scary to nestle into silence
to spend hours watching the rain come and go

When did I begin to rely on the things outside myself
to be a signal for if I'm doing okay, if I'm allowed to be happy
hushing my internal guide to subscribe to other influences
surrendering my deep knowing for doubt

Even my sad days have their own worth
it's the struggle to escape them that becomes suffering
sitting with myself in the darkness is okay
being a friend to this form instead of abandoning her

I still don't know if unconditional love can be taught
or if it's already there beneath all the noise
but if this life is just spent searching and learning
what a beautiful experience it will be regardless
Hitomi Mochizuki – One of my favorite high-vibe YouTubers

My Temple

This body is not an ornament
or a toy to break and replace
it is the holy vessel that holds me
and tethers me to this world

A useful container that houses the soul
perfect and precious because it is uniquely mine
the one thing I fully own, my true home
the most important gift I could be given

How ungrateful I've been for
the mortal flesh that supports me
my personal window into reality
an unconscious effort that keeps me living

Belittling all that this body does
based only on shallow self judgement
centered around outward appearance
as if that even matters

The frightened animal form
my consciousness has been assigned
to protect and take care of
offering only criticism and neglect

May I be a better steward
to this living temporary temple
and learn to speak to it with gratitude
and soft caresses of loving kindness

The Rain Reminds Me

Waking to the sound of rain
a song of rest outside my window
sanctuary of subdued sunshine
a signal to soften and slow down

Dewey refuge from frantic movement
rejuvenation released from the sky
deflating this bloated baggage of worry
replaced with soothing streams of surrender

Tender tones of grey and blue
wrapping me in sacred stillness
permission to let go and listen
the soft drumbeat of water on leaves

Muffled birdsongs through the mist
relentless ethereal cadence of crickets
full bodied accompaniment to life's chorus
syncopated splashes contributed by clouds

Damp doves drying in tree branches
the whole world holding it's breath
absorbing this gift of liquid life relinquished
awe-inspiring cycle of earth's abundance

Savoring the simple gifts of nature
the last few decades of clean water
overcome with sheer gratitude for
deep exhales punctuated by raindrops

Signs and Synchronicities

I go back and forth every single day. The clarity it comes to me in choppy waves.

Aloha Ke Akua – Nahko Bear (Medicine for the People)

Last month, for perhaps the first time, I truly felt like I was receiving messages from the universe. I was open to little nudges, unseen hands guiding me toward the correct path in life. I’m not usually one to believe in “signs” or “universal messages” but the way they began to pile up and manifest themselves in exactly the right moments really had me paying attention. I was in awe at the way the small suggestions and confirmations I was noticing in my daily life seemed to be telling me exactly what to do, encouraging me to make the decisions I was making. My doubt was at an all time low when it came to this type of thing. I followed with confidence, trust, and a heart open to new experiences despite the fear. The universe was on my side.

Then suddenly this past Monday, just as it appeared I had reached the pinnacle of where the universe was leading me, all the signs started to shift. Why were they saying the opposite of what they seemed to be saying a week or even a few days earlier? Had I misunderstood then? Or was I misinterpreting them now? Or had I been kidding myself the whole time, just seeing what I wanted to see? I still don’t know. I’ll never really know. All I know for sure is that I followed them both times. Even though they started to shift in the opposite direction, perhaps contradicting all I had just put so much effort into doing, I continued to follow with curiosity and faith.

To be more specific, the “signs” I thought I was seeing were all pointing me toward a new career path, telling me it was time to break out of my comfort zone and make big changes in my life. Absolutely bizarre coincidences began appearing all around me, unbelievable opportunities suddenly manifested themselves. I was seeing synchronicities everywhere. There was an electric static feeling in the air. It felt impossible to ignore.

Like I said, on Monday of this week, it all came to a head. I had an interview to be an English teacher at a local high school, and they offered me the job. I couldn’t believe it. It had all happened so fast, so miraculously. Somehow I had applied before they even posted the job online. They were so pressed to find someone before the impending school year that they were willing to work with my unconventional licensure situation. I even had exactly the right amount of time to give two weeks notice at my current job. This was the path I had been pursuing before I found myself where I am now. It seemed too perfect, too good to be true. I had to take it. Didn’t I?

That night, my excitement slowly began to wane and turn into a tangible fear. Was I really going to do this? Was this really still something I wanted? Would I be happier somewhere else simply because it offered a bit more money and the potential for more future security? I was so flooded with conflicting emotions and I felt smothered under an impossibly short deadline to decide. I didn’t like the way this pressure was affecting my ability to make a calm, informed, confident decision. It didn’t help that all the signs I looked to to reaffirm the messages I had been receiving now seemed to do a complete 180.

At the final hour, when I had accepted and told my beloved coworkers, but hadn’t yet signed a binding contract for the position, I experienced a physical sensation I had never before experienced. The only way I can describe it is utter dread. My skin was cold and clammy. There was a strange, disgusting, static pressure on the back of my neck. I couldn’t eat that evening. I could barely sleep and woke up at 3am in a complete panic attack.

That morning I let everyone know I was having second thoughts. Somehow I found myself online investigating for the millionth time the steps I’d have to move toward for complete licensure once I accepted this position. Somehow I had never noticed until then what a convoluted, expensive, intensive, seemingly impossible process I was about to commit myself to at the risk of losing everything. That was the tipping point. I decided to back out.

The sense of relief and certainty that washed over me when I changed my decision was immense. I could finally breathe again. I was so unimaginably grateful for where I am right now, the people I get to spend my days with, the work I do, the incredible, supportive family I have. I was also so grateful that I had listened to that palpable force of intuition inside of me that began screaming for my attention.

So what happened? I thought the universe was telling me to do it, but then just before I could, it told me not to. Why? Feel free to think this explanation is completely nuts, I’m sure I would have a few years ago myself. But I still think I heard the messages correctly the entire time. The universe was guiding me toward that interview and that job. I was just getting a bit ahead of myself as to the reasons why. I was not being guided there to accept the offer, or to completely change course. I was guided there to show me something important about the life I have now.

The last few months had left me feeling very unsatisfied and frankly ungrateful for where I am in life. I felt trapped in a shitty situation, doomed to a life I had never foreseen or chosen for myself. This whole experience gave me something so much more valuable than a new job, it gave me a wake up call. I LOVE the life I have now. I’m not stuck here. I WANT to be here. The universe showed me that I have other paths open to me. I can choose a different life whenever I want to. But I don’t want to.

It’s not just complacency or fear of change. It’s because I have everything I could have ever asked for, everything I never even knew was possible for me. I have a job I adore. I get to work with people I not only get along with, but who I love as dearly as my own family. For the first time in my life, I enjoy, even look forward to going to work every day. It doesn’t even feel like work. It feels like spending time with my friends. I get to laugh everyday, feel genuine joy and connection, be my true, authentic self, have lots of downtime and flexibility, caring, understanding superiors, and even beautiful rolling fields with cows and a little pond to take walks to every day. I might not be paid a lot, but it’s enough to live, and that’s all I’ve ever wanted anyway. This job gives me the only kind of wealth that truly matters: community, love, and happiness.

After this harrowing ordeal, I’ve come out of it trusting in the universe, synchronicities, and signs more than ever. I’ve learned to trust myself and the universe a lot more. If I had just kept going, ignored the new messages I was receiving in favor of continuing to follow the old ones, I would have completely destroyed my life. Not only would I have lost everything I have now, I’m certain I would have crumbled under the pressure of everything I hadn’t realized I would be taking on.

Thankfully I listened to the new, seemingly contradictory, guidance and feel happier than I have in a long time. I’m closer than ever to my friends at work. It was beyond touching to see how sad, yet supportive they were about my initial decision, and then how overjoyed they were when I changed my mind. Now more than ever I see the true value and importance of the genuine connections I’ve made here. I got to fully realize the support and love I have from my family, particularly my mother as well. My boyfriend’s mom yelled at him when he said he wanted to turn back from the career path he had chosen. My mom embraced fully whatever path I wanted to choose, assuring me that she loved and supported me no matter what. I hadn’t understood what a rare and special blessing that I had.

Now I know I’m exactly where I need to be. No matter what happens, I am so grateful for all that I have been given and get to continue to enjoy for the time being. I feel refreshed, refocused, and invigorated to be the very best I can be and emboldened to show my undying love and appreciation for the people that give my life purpose and meaning. What a journey these last few weeks have been. Everything I’ve experienced so far in life has been necessary to bring me to where I am. I wouldn’t change a thing. Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you.

Open Heart, No Fear

Raincloud of relief
the sky opening like my heart
to soak in the cool, tranquil feeling
of overwhelming gratitude

I am exactly where I need to be
I don't need to change my surroundings
to bloom into my highest self
the fertile soil of love surrounds me

Utter bliss, staring out past the rolling fields
and softly drifting cloud formations of home
there is no future to fear, there is only right now
and I am so happy and filled with peace and purpose

Nothing can strip me of this joy
the essence of my soul revealed
no longer burdened by the looming 
pressure to sacrifice what I hold so dear

Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you
for this perfect, though impermanent gift
all fear has fled from the recesses of my heart
I've made the right decision