Being A Victim

Being a Victim

The other day I was up at the chemotherapy ward. I had a pleasant conversation with a 61 year old man. 11 years ago, he was diagnosed with Pulmonary Fibrosis. In spite of being ill he had a great attitude. He had these words of wisdom:

“If you find yourself asking: Why me? Change the question to: Why not me?”

 

I chose to share this today because it’s a reminder of a few things:

 

1. We aren’t alone in our pain and suffering

2. We are all equal

3. The Universe is benevolent; or at least neutral

4. Anything can happen

5. Making the most of NOW is the best thing to do

 

Really, you are not a victim. If you are, then we all are.

A friend of mine who is a pastor often says, “But for the grace of God, there go I.” What does that mean? It means that despite what we want and despite all our efforts, we can end up in any situation – for better or for the worst.

I know I am speaking to a broad audience. I imagine some of you are, objectively, fairly healthy. On the other hand, I imagine that some of you are in constant pain. What do you have in common? Everything!

There will be times of life when you can be the helper, and there will come a time when you need the help.

Open your heart to this reality and may you be touched with compassion for yourself and others.

Pardon My Panic Attack

This past weekend I had an IBD flare.  I don’t deal with being sick well.  You’d think I’d take it in stride considering my illness is CHRONIC.  But, no.  I freak out.  I have a panic attack which snowballs into making things worse.

Anxiety and depression are components of chronic illness and are chronic illnesses themselves.  I tend to ruminate.  I notice every little pain and think the worst is happening inside me.  This past weekend, I thought I was dying.

When you feel so bad that you start to think you are dying, it sucks.  But in a way, it’s also the point where you may or may not be able to laugh.  Life — no one gets out alive!  It’s true!

There is a mindful way and an unmindful way to approach death.  The unmindful way was me freaking out and ushering in the suite of panic:  shallow breathing, dizziness, worsening nausea, restlessness, thoughts of going crazy/imminent death.  I started having some traumatic thoughts of choking on my “final breaths”.  That wasn’t mindful, but I’m not saying this in a judgmental way.

At such a point, what do you do?  My best solution was to reach out to another.  To just let the panic attack happen and blurt out all my feelings and worries to whoever will sit with me and listen.  Sometimes, we all lose it and need others to be mindful for us.

Different people may be or less helpful, appreciate them all.  If you pray, here’s a good time!  If you have a pet, then you are really lucky.  I have a cat.  She curled up with me and comforted me.  There is always someone that can pick up the ball when we can’t be mindful ourselves.  To seek comforting is human.  We don’t always get it the way we want, but we can appreciate the forms the universe takes in meeting our need.

Can you relate?  Who are the helpers when you are in need?  There are always helpers!

Shame, Shame

Did you ever do something really bad?  Is there a moment from the past that you don’t understand and feel sick to your stomach about?shame

I was sitting here and my mind drifted way back.  I was remembering myself as a much younger me.  Most of the time that my mind leads me back there, I see myself, and I don’t know that person.  I am not that person.  If I was that person, I am sorry.  Shame washes over me.  I can feel it warm and burning in my past.  My throat gets a lump.  My eyes fade and do not sparkle.  My stomach twists itself into a pretzel.

I sat here and in the now moment and fully felt the shame.  It amazes me how physically it manifests itself.

I did not run from the emotion or from the memory that triggered it.  What we resist persists — this has been true for me.

I started getting all guru on myself with the whole “the past doesn’t exist” and the whole “forgive yourself” and then I stopped myself.  Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with those statements, but today, I had a new lesson.

As I saw myself, and as I judged myself, I let my compassion guide me toward understanding.  I wanted to know why I was that person in that awful moment.  I thought about it and one of my conclusions was that, the person I was seeing was suffering from a complete lack of love in their life.

I thought about the distance between that me and the me I am now.  I thought about wanting to disown the me of the past.  Those who disown, do you know how violent your disowning is?  And that’s when it hit me.

I wasn’t going to disown that me.  I wasn’t going to beat up on that past me.  I was going to to love that me, because that me needed love.  And that’s what shame taught me today.

Are You Buying?

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It really is that simple; Are you buying?  Buying what?  This post is about that feeling that you are always being sold something.  Maybe it’s an idea.  Maybe it’s an online service.  Maybe it’s dinner.  Maybe it’s the Pandora’s box of sensual delights that will transform you into an ego-tripping love hustler.

What does this have to do with mindfulness?  A lot!   A key component to any mindful moment is seeing things for what they are.  Maybe you are shopping, but maybe you aren’t.  Maybe, you are being told what will give you your finally perfect egoic identity.  Maybe, just maybe, you can spot the pitches and shut them down.

The truth is that that this moment contains all that you need.  If you need answers, are you honoring your inner Buddha?  Or, are you going to Google?

If you need love, are you opening your heart to others or are you looking for the best transaction that you might qualify for either in the bar or on Ashley Madison?

If you wish to learn — who are you allowing to teach you?

I am sure you recognize that there are legitimate assaults on your sensibilities.  I notice the targeted marketing that overwhelms my email, that informs the advertisements when I use a search engine, and that really is spreading like a wild fire throughout our world and the experience we have of living.

The single most dangerous idea out there is that you are incomplete and that you can become complete by doing more, buying more, practicing more, meditating more, praying more, and so forth.  This includes all the things you are told to do less of:  smoke less, drink less, sleep less, eat meat less, weigh less, stress less, trust less, love less.  Take a moment to think about ways in which you’ve been given a message along these lines.  Sure, it’s easy to say, “smoking less is actually going to be good for me”, but is that all that you are buying?  What suggestion comes next?  Soon enough, have you enslaved yourself to some product or healthy living ideology and consented to giving away your sovereign choices over your own body?

I don’t mean to be alarmist.  Certainly, being reactionary toward all these pitches defeats the benefits of being open, authentic, and objective.  Reacting is not mindful.  Responding, or not responding, is a choice that honors truth, your values, and doesn’t treat the external world as a predator.

I am sure this post has given you a lot to think about.  If there is a single take away, it is this, you are being sold things and you can bring your consciousness to this.  Yo can make decisions that reflect your true nature and expose the delusions of not being enough, of the compulsive need for more, the obsessive anxiety for less, and the ultimate lie that you don’t have the answers.

You are sufficient in whatever form you are taking.

You have everything you need for this moment.  May the riches come forth from your heart.

Don’t worry about living a perfect life.  Just live a life; don’t overthink it.  Nobody get’s out alive!

 

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Bread

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Yep, just a one word title for today.  This post is about bread.  I have spent the past half hour unmindfully trying to find a specific quote about freshly baked bread.  I didn’t end up finding it.

The quote was something to do with the joy of creating and sharing and generosity.  It was something about the look in a hungry man’s eyes when you give him the bread that you just baked with your own two hands.

So, I am kind of laughing at myself for getting so wound up looking for a quote, that really is about the power of simple things in life.  And that’s why I am writing about bread.

Bread is simple.  Flour and water.  Add a pinch of salt and yeast.  Bam!

When I think of the many times I have baked a loaf of bread, I realize that such a simple thing, is also really complex.  How many times have I had loaves come out as bricks and fail to rise?  How many times was there that bit of center of the bread that was still dough-y.  Making a loaf of bread has it’s challenges!

And yet, think of your life.  Think of all the little things and all the big things.  Think of your calendar and your contact list.  Think of that new parenting technique or if you should change majors.  Think of that friend — that relative — that you love, but you just can’t stand.  Think of it all and let it go.

We understand quite a bit about the complex problems we find in our lives.  We find mastery through our planning, our testing, our suffering, our personal appeal to the peanut gallery.  Now I ask, can you bake a loaf of bread?  And, if you can, does it always come out perfect?  It’s something so simple and ancient and wise.  We take it for granted.

So my mindful message for today is to encourage you to bake bread.  Whether it’s your first time or you are a pro, bake a loaf with your own two hands.  Inhale that wonderful smell!  Maybe you can even give the loaf away as a gift, or maybe you’ll grab some butter and give yourself a gift.

 

 

Grief – The Big Questions

The other day I was thinking of my dear friend and mentor who passed away in 2014.  When he was alive he humored my existential and metaphysical questions.  I am convinced that each person will face a moment during their lives when THE BIG QUESTIONS hit.  For many, these questions often come during the experience of grief.

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There is a story that Jack Kornfield tells.  I’d like to share it with you.

A prominent and beloved doctor in the San Francisco Bay area died leaving his wife and a considerable community to grieve.

Just as soon as the news of his death got out, the widow’s telephone started ringing.

A friend involved in Tibetan practice said, “It’s fine.  He’s OK.  I’ve been doing the 49 recitation from the Tibetan Book of the Dead and these deep meditations that my Lama taught me, and I’ve seen him.  And he is in the bardo of the blue light of this particular bodhisattva.  And he’s fine, he really will be okay.”

The woman felt somewhat reassured by hearing this.  Then the phone rang again.

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A friend from the Christian contemplative community was calling to say, “It’s so important, I’ve been waiting to tell you.  I was doing my prayer and my meditation and I saw him.  He is with the ascended masters and wrapped in this light.  And he’s fine and this is what he said” and so forth.

The widow got a little confused.  She decided to call a friend who was a Sufi teacher.  She got him on the phone, and he said:

“He’s already in the womb.  He’s just been conceived.  He’s in the womb of a woman in Washington, D.C. and I know just where he his…”  The widow didn’t know whether to hang the phone up or cry.

Finally, she called Jack Kornfield.  He met with her.

They sat together.  She said, “I don’t know what to believe anymore.”

“Where is he?” … “What happens when you die?” she asked.

Jack Kornfield said to her, “I’m not going to give you another answer.  You’ve already got more answers than I could possibly make up.  Suppose, though, that you don’t look for an answer.  Let’s just sit and meditate for a minute.  Reflect on all the things you’ve been told and all the spiritual teachings you’ve learned and you let them go for a minute and you rest in yourself — in your own knowing.

Ask yourself, simply, is there anything you know so certainly that it doesn’t matter what anyone else says, even if Buddha came in the room and claimed it wasn’t so, you’d say yes it is?”

The woman sat there for a moment and said.  “I don’t know very much but I know that everything changes.  That I know.”

Kornfield looked at her and said, “Maybe that’s enough.  If you could live from that knowing — how Suzuki Roshi summed up all of Buddhism as ‘not always so’ — maybe that would be enough.”

 

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So I ask you, as Kornfield asked the widow, “What is it that you really know to be true?  Something that you are so certain of that it doesn’t matter what anyone else might say, you know deep within you, that it is true.

As I reflect on the pages I wrote in my journal considering my mentor and if there was an afterlife or not, I can say this:  I don’t know very much.  I’ve studied and practiced many different spiritual paths — and, that hasn’t brought me closer to any definite answer.  What I know to be true is that loss is loss, and it hurts, and that I am usually surprised where I find myself five years in the future.  Everything changes.

 

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Get a Hobby

everybodyneedsahobby

 

I often do two things:

  1.  Tell everyone to get a hobby, and

  2.   Feel a sense of anxiety for people who claim not to      have any hobbies

 

You could call me a hobbyist.  I have many interests and activities that I find pleasurable that I fill my days with.  Having physical and mental health limitations has meant that I actually have time for quite a number of hobbies.

 

jimihendrixinstudio

I play guitar, write songs, and have learned how to produce music in a home studio

 

Other times, I write.  I’ve since stopped; am I cured?national-poetry-month_inspirational-quote_typewriter-poetry_facebook_30

 

I have enjoyed the more tactile crafts

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And I spend a good deal of time researching 20th century deep politics

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I haven’t even really scratched the surface, but those are a few.  Each of my hobbies adds something to my life in a different way.  I believe — on the whole — that they give me depth and texture.

Everyone should have a hobby, but some people claim that they don’t.  I met a woman who claimed not to have any hobbies.  In fact, she claimed that she didn’t do ‘anything’. . She didn’t cook.  She didn’t clean.  She didn’t have a favourite television show, movie, or genre of music.  Her partner, on the other hand, was a fishing enthusiast, weekend car mechanic, and loved taking his nieces and nephews for outings or playing video games with them.

Who do you think was happier?  Why?

When people do things that make them feel good, like a hobby, it activates an area of the brain called the nucleus accumbens that controls how we feel about life

– Dr. S. Ausim Azizi, chairman, department of neurology, Temple University School of Medicine, PA

The definition of ‘hobby’ is ‘an activity pursued in spare time for pleasure or relaxation. The word originates around the 13th century from ‘hobbyhorse’ which either referred to an actual tiny horse or a child’s rocking horse.  The connecting notion being “activity that doesn’t go anywhere.”

In our world, hobbies can get a bad rap.  Some people avoid them because they are often a money-pit and don’t create a profit.  Others look down on hobbies because they claim that they are too busy and have more meaningful duties that they are preoccupied with.  Such martyrdom!  Common sense easily argues that this is poppycock.

One of the great things about hobbies is that they get you to DO something.  They take your focus off the problem loving mind.  When I’m absorbed in playing guitar, I am not thinking about my diseases or needing to use self-talk techniques to combat depression.  I am, if you will, in my happy place.

Do you have a hobby?

Is there something that interests you that you keep hoping to get into?

 

 

😀  Here are some suggestions if you are stuck:

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