Monday, March 21, 2011
"Life is glorious, but life is also wretched. It is both. Appreciating the gloriousness inspires us, encourages us, cheers us up, gives us a bigger perspective, energizes us. We feel connected. But if that's all that's happening, we get arrogant and start to look down on others, and there is a sense of making ourselves a big deal and being really serious about it, wanting it to be like that forever. The gloriousness becomes tinged by craving and addiction. On the other hand, wretchedness--life's painful aspect--softens us up considerably. Knowing pain is a very important ingredient of being there for another person. When you are feeling a lot of grief, you can look right into somebody's eyes because you feel you haven't got anything to lose--you're just there. The wretchedness humbles us and softens us, but if we were only wretched, we would all just go down the tubes. We'd be so depressed, discouraged, and hopeless that we wouldn't have enough energy to eat an apple. Gloriousness and wretchedness need each other. One inspires us, the other softens us. They go together."
Wednesday, March 16, 2011
(this was beautifully read to me during marissa angeletti's yoga class and it hit in the perfect spot)
Tuesday, March 15, 2011
Your work is to discover your world and then with all your heart give yourself to it.
it's a quiet, productive tuesday afternoon here at la casa 161. my taxes are almost done (and it's my first year really having to pay them which means lots of deep breaths and trusting in my own prosperity) but other than that my body feels rested and calm. business feels good, my relationships are in order and i feel good about my place in the world. life is working well for me.
i was definitely not feeling this way two days ago.
what's changed? well, i had friends who came to visit. dear, beautiful friends who are living their lives fully and give me nothing but unconditional friendship and support. i was so excited to see them when they got in early thursday that i decided to skip my painting class and my morning writing and break my caffeine-fast and spend the morning breakfasting and catching up with them. it felt great at first. we were giggling and confiding and doing all that close friend stuff that i love. but by the end of the afternoon, i started getting these familiar creepy feelings of self-doubt and insecurity. in these past two years of giving myself fully to my dreams, i really haven't experienced too many extreme mood changes. life feels good and i take care of myself and that feeds on itself.
but this was not the case earlier on in my life, especially during my last year of peace corps. i think i've written about this before but it was a time when many of my comforts were falling away from that and i felt extremely raw. i desperately wanted out of my life, or rather i didn't want to have to do all the personal work that was needed to fix the beliefs, ideas that were causing me to suffer. these friends who were visiting were two of the people closest to me at the time and while i loved their support, i found myself envying the security of the lives and their confidence in living well. i don't consider myself a terribly jealous person but during this year i was. i coveted a different family, love life, peace corps town...pretty much everything. it was a really hard time.
as life works, i didn't get to change anything but rather i prayed and meditated and yogaed and found the strength to rebuild. it was a rocky first year+ back in the states but with my practices, i became grounded again. i can honestly say now that i am really content with my life. as you can read here on my blog, i feel like i have a lot to appreciate---work that i love, a great boyfriend, a supportive community and a housing situation that is effortlessly lovely.
which is why it surprised me so much when i started feeling this way again. i am laughing as i write this now, but i really did think that i was over feeling upset. i knew that life still entailed minor annoyances but i thought i had done my work and healed what needed to be healed. all this made me even more unprepared by how quickly i was thrown back into feeling so anti-me. i started to question everything about myself, especially the things in my life that really do sustain me. all of a sudden i felt way lame about going home early to get good sleep before teaching and anal about wanting to keep my room and my house clean.
worse, instead of accepting the fact that i was insecure and jealous, i kept trying to push it away and pretend like everything was fine. i wanted them to see that i was doing really well and not thrown back into past patterns. as a result, i went through the motions of being there but wasn't being myself and realizing that made me feel even more separate. as i have been learning recently from reading brene brown's amazing book about shame resilience, sharing our vulnerabilities are the key to connecting to the people around us. hiding doesn't get me anywhere but having to be alone with my fear.
so now enter amazing boyfriend adam. i had spent the whole weekend frustrated with him for not wanting to be more social (even though i totally didn't want to be social in those moments). he helped me to make the decision to go home early on saturday night and then helped me as i started to share with him and release all of the emotions i had been feeling from the weekend. i tearfully told him everything that i had been going through in my head and he sat with me and listened and asked questions and helped me to see the gifts that i bring to my friendships and to the world. he also helped me through sharing his own example of when he accepted that he likes going home early so he can get up and enjoy his mornings (something that i had been really hard on myself about).
when i woke the next morning, it felt better. i wrote, i meditated, i drank tea and felt even better. then by that night i was myself again. poof, it felt like i was magically i was put back together again.
i can't say that i totally understand what happened and why growth can have that funny spiraling effect where we are never fully free of our demons, but i can say that listening to buddhist teacher tara brach's message of radical acceptance really helped me to just be present with what i was feeling:
"Radical acceptance has two elements: It is an honest acknowledgment of what is going on inside you, and a courageous willingness to be with life in the present moment, just as it is. I sometimes simplify it to “recognizing” and “allowing.”
You can accept an experience without liking it. In fact, let’s say you are feeling stuck in anxiety and disliking the feeling. Radical Acceptance includes accepting both the feelings of anxiety and the aversion to it. In fact, acceptance is not real and not healing unless it honestly includes all aspects of your experience."
so it's tuesday, my tea cup of tea is now empty and i am deeply humbled by these past few days. i keeping want to prepare for the future, saying that in order to feel whole i must never skip writing or drink coffee, etc but honestly strategizing just feels like a waste of time. my logical brain's bag of tricks doesn't mean anything unless it includes an open heart to having a hard time. because i trust that as i continue to climb upward, i will dip down again and again and the best thing i can do to keep moving forward is just truly be present with the beautiful mess within me and trust that it's all an important part of the journey.
Monday, March 14, 2011
How To Stop Being Afraid—Even When The Whole World Thinks You Should Be
As I write this, I am in Tokyo. It’s been 48 hours since the biggest earthquake that's ever been recorded in Japan. Ever since the sheer terror of those five minutes in which our building shook and swayed and groaned, and I didn’t know if my daughter and I would make it out alive, I have been glued to the public lens—tv, facebook, text messages, photos—with a surreal combination of horror and paralysis. The devastation north of us is shocking. The normalcy of Tokyo is shocking, too, except that water, rice, and batteries are disappearing from the supermarkets. And looming over everything is the very real chance that a nuclear reactor will melt down and release unfathomably toxic substances into the air, water, and land.
I have been afraid—terrified, really—for 48 hours.
People, I am here to say, that is long enough.
Here is where my fear got me: my head aches. My shoulders ache. My jaw aches, from clenching it. My breath is short and shallow. My heart aches at every sad photograph, and my nervous system is at the mercy of every authoritarian voice broadcasting worry.
In that condition, I am no more useful to the world, my family, or myself than a very anxious marmoset.
So here is how I am changing my frequency. If this stuff is working for me today, it will work for you too—whether you are afraid about your finances, your future, your failing left tail light, or your embarrassing flail in yesterday’s meeting.
1. I turned off the news. I can receive up-to-the-minute information via text, and my heart is already with those who are suffering. When I read information, it goes to my brain and not straight to my primal fight-or-flight response. The music and images of TV news are geared to trigger panic and an empathic flood; I’ve decided not to let myself get triggered.
2. I cleaned my house. This grounded me, calmed me, and got me back into my body, which is a much more reliable navigation system than my shrieking reptile survival brain, what Martha Beck calls my ‘lizard.’ My lizard tells me that we are DOOOOMED. My body tells me that we need to stretch, to sing, to self-soothe with quiet rhythms. (Folding laundry works nicely.)
3. I faced the worst-case scenario. My partner and I came up with a plan for what we would do if the reactor begins to spew, or if there is a serious food crisis in Tokyo, or any of the other frightening scenarios that have been haunting me. Now that I know what I will actually do if any of those events come to pass, I can dismiss them when they clamor for my attention. And the last line of every plan is: “And if none of that works, we wing it as well as we can.” This is actually a pretty good plan.
4. I questioned my scary thoughts. My underlying thought, the one that was making my heart palpitate and my fists clench, was: “We are in danger right this very second!” I asked, “Is this true?” And the answer is, Who the heck knows? We could be, for sure. But then any of us could be in danger at any minute of any day. But what I know right now is that I am sitting in my apartment with running water, electricity, heat, and very fast internet. My loved ones are safe. We are getting the best information we know how to get. So I choose to live in the blissful sense of safety that most of us inhabit when we’re not acutely aware that the sky could fall at any moment. Believing that I am safe is no more arbitrary, at this particular moment in time, than believing that I am in danger, but it feels a lot better and it makes me more insightful, more courageous, and more wise. It lets me think more creatively and compassionately. And all those things, paradoxically, will work to keep me and the ones I love safe. If I am in real physical danger, my system will flood with adrenaline and I will be able to act on the terror I’ve been feeling and suppressing these last two days. I will run, or fight, or negotiate, or do whatever I need to do. Until then, I choose to keep breathing deep, calming breaths (Thanks, Terry DeMeo) and asking myself, “Is that scary thought even true?”
5. I took constructive action. I made up a backpack full of emergency items and our important paperwork. Maybe your constructive action is making a phone call or getting something checked out. Maybe it’s opening the scary envelope or looking at your online balance. You’ll feel better if you just do it, I promise.
6. I let my body release. Because I was with my daughter during the most frightening part of the quake (lying on the floor of our 16th-floor apartment as it pitched and creaked like a ship in a storm), I spent significant energy holding it together for her. We talked a bit about how scared we both were, and she seemed okay, but later she had a major sobbing meltdown about something inconsequential. Then she was perky again. Little kids are very wise that way. I waited until I was alone in bed that night to sob and shudder. With each heave of my shoulders and shuddering quaking tremble, I let some of my fear and tension release. Animals tremble and shudder to shake off trauma; we need to do it too, even when the trauma is only visible to us.
7. I consciously flooded myself with beauty. I listened to music that makes me want to move my body and heal the world. For me this means Christine Kane, The Dixie Chicks, and other things too embarrassing to write here. I also bought flowers today, a big gorgeous bouquet of them, in a flagrant act of flipping the bird at fate. I am buoyed and nourished by their blooming faces as I make my way through my home.
8. I grounded back into my purpose. I had a brief panic about a class I’m teaching in a few weeks, The Queen Sweep. http://www.annakunnecke.com/the-queen-sweep.html I wondered if clearing clutter would seem frivolous in light of global tragedy. I questioned its ultimate value in the world and the worth of the work I do. In other words, I freaked out. Many people are layering their immediate fear with scary thoughts like this about their future worth and their careers. Screw that. In a crisis like this, I’m more glad than ever that I know exactly where to find my passport; that my papers are in order and I’ve declared a guardian for my daughter; that we all have clean underwear and clean sheets to sleep on; and that my home is an oasis of calm and beauty. Whatever the crisis, the world needs people who are sharp, who know their stuff, and know what they can contribute. Be ready to bring what you can to the table.
9. I gazed at my daughter. She is so beautiful. She is so alive through her fear, her joy, her rage, her desire—she doesn’t shut any of it down. It’s all right there, messy and inconvenient at times, but gloriously awake.
10. Most importantly, I remembered that I am the boss of my own energy. I kept waiting for someone to make me feel better, to reassure me, to tell me what to do. Guess what? No one can declare dominion over my life besides me. I have to be the leader that I was waiting for. Chin up, deep breath, flowers on table. Here we go.
Monday, March 7, 2011
Tuesday, March 1, 2011
my highlights are the peace corps volunteers in the first few scenes, the scene of her and husband in hanging out in bed together that look so real and that she is so 100% chola peruvian beautiful and that she loves her country and her country loves her right back.
ps can you tell i am missing peru today?