Painful patience, a life spent waiting small sudden leaps forward make the stretches of stagnation insufferable Sharp pain of perpetual sunrise when I'd rather be left dreaming unconscious haven stripped away Forced to face that throbbing ache that settles back over after sleep growing greater as the day goes on Shuffling onward by the sheer force of peaceful midnight prophesies I only half-heartedly believe Hope finds a way to keep on hurting it's still so tempting to surrender all of myself to shadows of love whispered sweetly as I dream
Range of Motion
Everyone keeps telling me that I get to make the choice that happiness and peace are only one option away It's frustrating to then find myself in moments that don't seem to offer the possibility of different ways of being and I'm hopelessly overcome with old patterns I've been asking myself why I'm not strong enough to make the right decisions instead I just keep stumbling But I think I finally realized when people say we all have a choice that doesn't mean the choices are limitless or that we all have the same options Sometimes at first your scope is small I still can't choose unconditional compassion when my heart is sealed closed with anger but I can make the decision to be mindful I can witness myself from a few steps off in a way I never was able to before I can get curious about my intention and question my automatic reactions Sometimes I can stay silent and still or even smile as I watch these impulses swiftly rise, then subside and pass by right now the changes I make are subtle Mindfulness is a muscle that with effort will provide a wider range of motion new choices will arise naturally if I am patient and keep practicing
Third Level Anxiety: The Paradox of Overthinking
Anxiety and overthinking go hand in hand. It’s a chicken and the egg scenario. Does the anxiety cause the overthinking or does the overthinking cause anxiety? Hard to tell. In the end, I’m not sure if it even matters which comes first. The result is the same, discomfort, distress, and inability to make decisions. The prefrontal cortex shuts down in that all consuming sympathetic nervous system reaction triggered by the amygdala, or the emotional center of our primitive little lizard brain.
Over the years, anxiety has a way of building. The pathways between stimulus and response get more and more defined. My anxiety used to be directly related to specific instances. I would get anxious in social situations. Soon that anxiety would begin to bubble up at just the thought of being in said situations. Now it’s transformed into more of a vague fear of the anxiety itself and trying to avoid all situations in which I may start to feel anxious. I’ve reached third level anxiety, fear of the fear of the fear. This stage is practically paralyzing. It can cause you to avoid your life completely just in an effort to avoid anxiety. It can manifest in a covert way, such as the inability to make decisions.
I have to admit it is humorous to realize I’ve always tried to “fix” my anxiety by somehow thinking myself into a sense of ease. But it’s pretty hard to use logic and reason to defuse a completely illogical physical reaction. It’s counterproductive to try to think your way out of overthinking. But what else can you do?
Learning to Cope
One of the reasons I have my doubts about Cognitive Behavioral Therapy’s effectiveness when it comes to my mental health specifically and anxiety disorders in general is the focus on the thinking mind. CBT’s primary method is changing the way you think in order to change your behavior. But you can’t solve the problem of too much thinking with more thinking. A lesser known therapy called Dialectical Behavioral Therapy or DBT feels like a better fit. Rather than teach you how to reframe your thinking, this therapy helps you cope with and understand your emotions so that you can feel safe and accept yourself.
Even though in the moment anxiety feels like it’s demanding action or some solution, I’ve learned by now that there really isn’t anything I can do or think that can dispel my anxiety completely. The frantic effort to avoid it only causes more mental suffering. The only real way I can learn to handle this fear is to let myself feel it. More than any catastrophic imagined outcome, I’ve become afraid of the physical sensations themselves. I’m anxious about feeling anxious. However, that quickly dissipates when I face those feelings rather than try to run from them.
How to Face the Feelings
Coincidentally, I’ve found the advice from my previous post about how to help yourself focus and be mindful in a calm, neutral setting works just as well when you’re lying in bed on the edge of a panic attack. This time rather than being unable to focus because of the vague sense of disinterest or boredom at the everyday objects around me, it’s the exact opposite. It’s hard to focus because everything just seems so overwhelming that I don’t know where to begin. But nevertheless, imagining I have to describe what is happening in that moment as if I’m writing a story is tremendously helpful.
The next time you find yourself feeling anxious, overthinking, or distressed by indecision, take a moment to step out of the thinking mind all together. Accept that the solution you’re desperately trying to find with your mind is not in the mind at all. The solution is surrender. It’s accepting that sometimes there is no solution but to sit with the sensations. Try to describe the feelings of anxiety swirling around in your body to someone who has no idea what anxiety even is. Be as detailed and creative as possible. Get curious. What is anxiety? Where does it manifest in the body? What does it physically feel like? How long can it last? Does it ebb and flow? Does it get stuck in your chest, in your throat?
Avoid concentrating on what it is that’s making you anxious. That is irrelevant once you’ve determined that it is irrational. Let it go. Show yourself that you are capable of feeling these difficult feelings. Even if they don’t go away. That’s not the intention. It’s learning that you can handle them. When I slow down and breathe into my anxious feelings, I often realize that the feelings themselves are no where near as bad as my struggle to avoid them. I can befriend these sensations by simply allowing them to exist.
I know all this is easier said than done. It’s hard to do anything with intention and mindfulness when your brain and body are on red alert. However, knowing that this is an option available to you is the first step towards practicing it. You won’t be able to every single time, but the more you notice the opportunity to sit with your difficult feelings instead of trying to fight them, the easier it will become. Give yourself the time and the space and the permission to experience even unpleasant situations with patience, curiosity, and equanimity.
A coyote cuts across the foggy highway a life held inside indecision, a moment's hesitation could be a violent end of everything all at once Sulfurous air that once shrouded out the sun a sudden impact that swallowed the earth in many decades of dark, lifeless winter Time has a way of emphasizing the absurdity of right and wrong when final outcomes are impossible to predict Half the suffering I've known has been an inner upheaval of moral outrage resistance to the evils of this world My stormy turmoil subsides if only I can learn to surrender all judgement and accept my place as a humble passenger Who am I to hold dominion over the way life is supposed to unfold? I prefer the role of patient witness anyway To watch with curious eyes and an open heart ready to embrace all of life with equanimity a grateful submission to existence beyond understanding To play my small part with a soft hand extending a gentle, hopeful intention of pure love prepared to let go of any and all expectations Tender feet along the balustrade, balancing between engagement and surrender too often falling into indignation and anger The perpetual repetition of life can be tedious but it offers endless chances to keep trying precious lessons linger behind a door that is always open Every failure is an opportunity to find grace there is no permanence, perfection, or wasted effort everything is as it should be, everything is as it should be
Where Am I Trying To Go?
It’s hard to find a moment where I’m not rushing blindly into the next. As if there is some final destination that I’m frantic to reach. Without even realize it, I’ve spent half my life in fast forward. It just feels like the past and the future are somehow more tangible and quantifiable than the present moment ever can be. I’m afraid to rest here precisely because it is so fragile and fleeting. Fearful that if I live in this moment, I won’t have anything to show for it a few years from now. But focusing on an imaginary future can never serve me. The happiness I say I desire above all else, can only be found right here.
For someone who is so caught up in mental machinations, it’s extremely hard to settle into the simplicity of bodily sensation and experience. Language and logic cannot hold onto the slippery, ineffable value of being just as I am. The effort to try to make sense of everything pulls me out of every moment and places me in an artificial bubble of self-awareness, severed from the here and now unfolding before me. It feels foreign to forget myself in the soft feeling of fabric against sensitive skin. My mind has become so powerful and proficient at wrestling my other senses into stale submission. Finding myself suddenly surprised to scan my body and realize, once again, I’ve bitten my finger until its stinging and bleeding. How can I continuously be so cut off from the physical manifestation of me?
Never would I have imagined that one of my life’s greatest challenges could be participating in it. I’m much better at meticulous planning and pushing and pulling myself than planting my feet mindfully in front of me with every step. How bizarre it is to attempt to do nothing, and fail so reliably. Sitting on the bank of a river, utterly unable to keep myself from casting a line again and again. Not even noticing that I’ve been fishing, then suddenly coming back to reel my over eager hook back in for the thousandth time. Not even finishing setting my intention to be silent and settle into the stillness before realizing that damn bobber is already back on the surface of the water. The stamina of my persistence and patience needs to be built up, and that will take time. I’ve been strengthening my practice of falling into frustration these past 28 years. I must allow myself to surrender to the possibility it may take 28 years to rectify that habit.
It seemed simple and exciting when I first stumbled upon the ancient knowledge of yoga, mindfulness, and meditation and learned all that I truly desired was already mine. Little did I know that getting to a point where I was capable of granting myself permission to enjoy it would be a tremendously tedious and time-consuming trial. I must constantly remind myself that my repeatedly frustrated efforts, my failures, my relapses, my misdirections are all worth it. I want life to be easy, but I need it to be challenging so that I may learn and grow and develop into a being I can be proud of.
Every moment can be a celebration, a chance to be grateful, when I remember that I’ve already reached the destination I’ve been striving for. Every time I take a deep breath and notice the world around me is a victory. I won’t be discouraged by my many mistakes and missteps. They cannot spoil the joy contained within the rare moments where I manage to be fully present. Small successes still count. Whether I feel like I’m moving forward or backward, in the end I will always be right here. And right here is the only place I need to be.
This time apart was meant for me I'm not yet ready to have you There are so many things this solitude is teaching me preparing me for our perfect reunion I can wait I can be patient in this pain for as long as it takes for you to return to me Perhaps this is my punishment for proving I couldn't appreciate you or the way we were back then to be fair, I deserve far worse But if this is all that's left if I linger on in loneliness with only the memories to keep me company That's enough your fading image these pangs of pure feeling are gifts that I will continue to cherish Leftovers, mementos of better times breathe life into me still the ghostly gifts of all that you've given me
Spirituality is religion without shame detaching from the dogma to discover the true essence of the soul a soul that's not sinful and soiled but a small part of the grander perfection that swirls throughout the cosmos and stitches the universe into one cohesive cloth deconstructing the hierarchy propped up by people with impure intentions a recognition of my inner light in the eyes of all others a curious innocence allowing everyone to be their own guide, their own fractal of God energy not offering ultimate, immutable answers but instead offering peace and patience in the shared presence of the unknowable the loving awareness of uncertainty merged with a deep, yet inexpressible inner knowing a humble surrender to our own unanswered prayers
Winter’s gonna end, I’m gonna clean these veins again
So close to dying that I finally can start livin’An Attempt to Tip the Scales – Bright Eyes
Why has anyone chosen to live in a place where it’s winter? Where half the year is a living death. Where the color bleeds away with the leaves, dissolving deep into the soil before the freeze. Without my even noticing, the bird songs have all gone silent. I hardly ever realize until I feel that fluttering joy in my chest in the bleary moments of morning as they slowly begin to return bit by bit. A half asleep smile reminds me of the sun.
I see flashes of it through half lidded eyes. Those days where the air was warm and thick. When the light penetrated everything and soaked us all in pulsing heat. The heartbeat of existence ever so lightly touching the finest hair on exposed skin, tickling and translucent. These memories are stale now like old photographs. A hollow nostalgia for what’s been lost.
Abandoned each season by love, by heat, by life itself. Left alone in a silent, grey vacuum. The absence of everything. Even what’s inside. The very air around me, turned sharp. I must tether myself to hope, to the reluctant reassurance of spring. Glistening diamonds spread across snow remind me that the sun still lingers here. Whispered promises of her return.
Soon the earth with burst forth from this frozen tomb. The colorful explosion of unfurling leaves, the small scurrying sounds of our mother’s smallest beasts. The air will fill again with song. And surely, surely so will my heart.
Pushing Through Inspiration Stagnation
It feels like it’s been a long time now since I’ve felt passionate about my creative endeavors. Sitting down to write each morning used to be one of my favorite parts of the day. Now it feels as though I am just going through the motions. I’m not particularly proud or excited about any of the posts I’ve made this past month. I think that is partially due to the pressure I put on myself to perform. The longer this dry spell goes on, the harder it is to just relax and allow myself to enjoy the act itself rather than the product that’s produced.
Inspiration and the creative process are very amorphous things to me. I really don’t know what causes me to feel motivated and excited about my work one day and completely disinterested the next. Sometimes I’ll sit down with a great idea only to find myself unable to get my ideas out on the page. Other times I’ll sit down with absolutely no expectation of creating anything worthwhile and discover I’ve come up with some of my best work. The only thing that seems like a constant is that the more I force it, the more impossible it seems to find that flow state.
I was listening to a podcast the other day about this and I really liked the way the guest speaker described the creative process. Sitting down to create isn’t about productivity or expecting any particular outcome. It’s about making space. It’s about getting out of the way and allowing the universe and whatever else might be out there to flow through you. Many artistic geniuses throughout history have been hesitant to take credit for there most renowned works. When asked how they came up with them, they say that it was as if they had no control over it. Some unknown energy was simply moving through them.
In times when you don’t feel particularly inspired to make art in whatever form that may be, don’t get too discouraged. There is no need to try to force that creative energy to flow. It’s out there and it is within you. Time spent on creative endeavors even when you don’t feel motivated, still is not time wasted. In these moments our focus should not be on whether or not we produced an impressive or moving work. The point is to sit down and make yourself available to whatever force it may be that possesses us and causes us to create miraculous things. All we have to do is be there, go within, and wait. You inspiration, your muse, will surely find you again. Just have patience and allow.
I’ve spent a significant portion of my adult life agonizing and lamenting some awful decisions I made. Thankfully as time continues to pass, I’ve been able to gain the space I needed to find perspective. Eventually we are able too look back on our younger selves with compassion rather than shame and regret. We begin to realize that we have to forgive ourselves for not knowing what we didn’t know.
As a child, my family had five dogs at one time. We lived out in the countryside and a lot of our dogs ended up with us because people would drive down our road and abandon them there. Ultimately we were being kind in taking care of them, feeding them, making sure they had all their shots, etc. But my parents would not allow them to live inside the house. It still haunts me to know that those dogs spent so many cold winter days and nights with only a plastic dog house filled with hay to keep them warm, chained in one small area for most of their lives. I still live with a lot of guilt about this which manifests itself in the form of reoccurring dreams where dozens of animals are confined, sick, dying, starving, and forgotten in dirty cramped cages.
I had always blamed myself for the way those dogs lived. Although my sister and I constantly pleaded with my parents to let them live inside, their response was always that if we were so concerned about it, we could give them away. Given this decision I always felt I should have allowed them to find new homes that would have treated them more properly. I was too selfish to do what was right. One day my sister made me realize something though. She said, “That was not our fault. We were children. We shouldn’t have been expected to make such a difficult decision. We loved those dogs and we did our best.” Until that conversation with my sister, I had never really considered the fact that we were merely children. I still have to remind myself of that fact from time to time. Now I’ve even begun to look back at my adolescent mistakes and realize that I was just a kid.
Only since finding another person that I truly love deeply and unconditionally, have I been able to look back at my time in college without immense pain and regret. For a very long time I thought I had destroyed my life. Even though the boyfriend I had back then was incredible and still one of the greatest loves of my life, I cheated on him. Not only that I cheated on him with two different people. Neither of which gave a single shit about me. Ultimately I broke up with that boyfriend in order to continue to explore what else was out there without guilt.
I can’t say what might have happened if I had stayed. All I know is that the years that followed were filled with disappointment, frustration, and heartache. But with my extremely limited romantic experience, how could I have known what I would find? How could I have known that the relationship I had was so uncommon and wonderful? If I hadn’t made the mistakes that I did, I may still be unaware of that. In the end, I’m grateful for the painful lessons I’ve learned through my mistakes. They have allowed me to become the person I am today and to be with another amazing person whom I love dearly.
I’m sure that I will continue to stumble and fall as I move along this path called life. There will be many more difficult lessons for me to learn. I only hope that part of me can remember that despite the pain, time will transform it into something worthwhile. I can recover from my mistakes, learn from them, even be grateful for them one day. But we don’t have to wait for that shift of time and perspective to be kind to ourselves. Punishing or belittling ourselves over our mistakes does not serve us. If nothing else, mistakes are an opportunity to practice self-compassion, self-acceptance, and self-love. It is also a reminder to be gentle with others as they make their own mistakes.