Mini-Post: 32 Flavors of Judgement

I was a bit proud of a post on my blog’s Facebook page a few days ago. It went a little like this:

If I judge myself based on the eyes of society, I fail because there are too many opinions.
If I judge myself based on my own criteria, I still fail because my mind changes moment to moment.
But if I learn to identify and recognize the particularly sour flavor of ‘judgement’ as it arises, I can spit it out and take a sip of water, savoring the complicated colorful glorious mess of perfection that takes judgement’s place. And then maybe I can do something from the heart.

If we learn to smell judgement, no matter how cozy it looks, we can put the cup down!

If we learn to smell judgement, no matter how cozy it looks, we can put the cup down!

This idea was rolling around in my head for a few sleepless hours during the night, and I was excited to wake up and explore it. It was inspired by the most recent blog post in some ways.

 

The Lose-Lose Situation of Judging Yourself Lovingly

I feel like a lot of times in self-helpy circles or new-age ones, there’s this idea of “The only person’s whose judgement matters about you is your own.” But see, that doesn’t work for me.

Because if I judge myself, I’m still judging, and judging is kind of a lose-lose situation. I’m either better-than or worse-than something or someone else, and neither of those feels good. When I feel worse-than, it seems like I should feel “happy” once I’m better-than, but if such a thing does happen through some quantifiable event, it still doesn’t feel good, because then something or someone is in the worse-than slot.

Maybe I’m a hippie and December 21st 2012 is coming, but I really am feeling like duality is falling away from me like an old skin. It’s still always going to be there, but there seems to be a light beyond it. There seems to be a choice now.

There is a line in a song I recently made that says “Duality only goes so far, and it always seems to stop just shy of right where you are.” That pretty much sums it up. We are never in an either/or better/than situation, so those words and judgements are never going to fully feel real and present. Reality just isn’t that way. Or as Greg Brown says, “This life is a thump-ripe melon. So sweet and such a mess.”

But What if I’m Only Thinking Happy Judgy Thoughts?

If we want to see ourselves as lovable and worthy, that’s great. I don’t think that’s the same as “judgement” if we are really feeling that sense of love, because feelings are not felt in words. Does that make sense? Thinking “I must be lovable!” creates a natural void where “not-lovable” lives, and we can fall into it at any moment as long as Judgement is our shaky wildly unpredictable ground.

But feeling lovable, even for a moment, is not creating an opposite, it just is. Maybe making the choice to feel the things we want (or try to) is better than thinking them with our all-positive-yet-forced judgement.

Those are the thoughts for this mini-post!

Your Turn!

Do you have feelings about judgement? Do you think that you are your own best critic, as they say, or do you think that something else is?

Do you like feeling “better than” other stuff, even if it’s just your previous selves that you are “better than”?

Do you think it’s possible to live outside of duality for more than a few seconds at a time? Do you think those seconds are valuable anyway?

Does the whole concept of duality just confuse you and make you want to go find a cozy blanket and watch the Alien anthology?

Eye Contact, I Contact, iContact: The Clash Of Privacy Ideals

Last January when I first moved to Austin, my dog rudely ran up to some girl on the sidewalk and started sniffing her feet. I told her that he was getting used to living in a city. This was because I was embarrassed that he had gone up to her at all.  I was also probably indulging in one of my favorite pastimes of dog-projection.

Now, I can be standing at the traffic light next to someone for three and a half minutes and not say hi or even look them in the eye. Granted, my dog isn’t sniffing their feet, because we have been pretty much avoiding the common sidewalk; but still. I’ve got that “New York Stare” or whatever. This post has some cool citations that verify the experience that in cities, people are just less likely to look you in the eye and talk to you. It’s a commonly known and unexciting fact.

Learning About Eye Contact & What It Can Convey

Eye contact is important.

  • Sales people can use it to manipulate and influence your feelings.
  • Public speakers can use it to feel less embarrassed by anchoring to one person in the crowd at a time.
  • If you are on a date, you can use it wisely to help someone feel comfortable and at least not creep them out any further.
  • Dogs can use it to make you think they’re people.

There are endless ways of using eye contact and many benefits it can bring.

NLP, or Neuro Linguistic Programming, is something I was introduced to in a trailer in the Rockies long ago. There was a book in a free pile, and me and my friend pored over the pages by candle light trying to learn all the tricks; I never succeeded. The NLP website  has a detailed system of how to use eye contact and eye movements to learn about what someone is even thinking about.

The eyes are the doorways to the soul, someone once said. It’s not too far from true.

Sharing, Contacting, Connecting: The Current Ideal of Accessibility

In many ways, sharing and connecting with people is supposed to be cool and fun. It is encouraged. We make profiles on Facebook and WordPress, gathering friends and contacts like corn in a satchel to bring home for sustenance. We keep ourselves known, current, and available.

Today I was listening to an old Ani Difranco album and one of my favorite songs, “Cloud Blood,” came on. Here is a verse as I hear it (I lost the liner notes):

Stopped on the top of the ridge
Just to feel the wind on my Rand McNally.

I feel the air go cold
as I drift in to the first blue, blue valley
And you’re wondering how far down you are on my
call back list,
but you don’t realize
Every time I find I’m by a phone

the landscape shifts.

That verse used to be one of my favorites. I would think of the person I had a crush on and remember times of traveling through mountains and forests, unreachable until I came along a pay phone.

Now, we are all reachable. All of the time. Most of us, anyway. Anyone reading this probably is. Gone are the days of Rand McNally maps, pay phones, and actual phone numbers. Here are the days of online contacts, emails, GPS, Facebook messages and online diaries. Even when people are on some adventure far from society, we can see a new post every day on Facebook or Instagram detailing their spiritual and enlivening journey. Zillions of apps exist so that we can advertise where we work out, what we are eating, who we are with, even which games we are playing.

This is fine. I am not against this. In some ways, it helps people stay healthier and become motivated. What I do not appreciate is double standards and underlying conflicts and contradictions that make perfectly grounded and sensitive people feel as if they are going a bit nuts.

What’s the Problem?

On Facebook, we are encouraged to identify ourselves, where we’ve been, where we plan to go, who we are hanging out with, what brand we purchase, and which coupons we want to claim. (This clip of a Pete Holmes bit illustrates what I mean)

The information we share goes to thousands of people and many companies. We never have to see the people or make eye contact with them, but we advertise and share with them just the same. Even on Skype we can’t make eye contact.

This standard of share-everything doesn’t quite apply when we meet people in real life, though. In that case, the rules are generally: Don”t say hi, don’t start talking, don’t randomly ask how their day is. They’ve already told thousands of people on their mobile Facebook; they don’t need to tell you! (There’s a recent Onion article, “It’s not Okay to Just Start Talking To People You Don’t Know” that nicely displays this side of it)

The Future: A Society Of Control Freaks?

I think this is going to affect us later on more than we may realize. We are turning into control freaks. Online, I can connect without having to worry about the feeling of actual connection. My Screen/No Screen post covers this as well.

But what is happening to our real day to day experience of each other? What type of control are we becoming reliant upon in order to feel “comfortable” connecting with people?

I realize that Austin is a rather friendly city, and at certain coffee shops or parks, there are definitely more chances of starting a conversation or having eye contact. But I see other people pretty much every single time I leave my house, and usually, conversations do not happen and neither does comfortable eye contact.

Waking Up & Aiming Towards Resolving The Discrepancy

It doesn’t matter if you feel comfortable sharing every last detail about your day on Facebook or on your blog if you can’t sit next to someone on a park bench and engage in some type of connection without funneling all of your attention straight into a device; at least in my opinion.

To try and resolve this discrepancy in myself, I am going to be making more of an effort to allow those strange feelings of “connection” to arise when I am near strangers and to smile more often when I do happen to make eye contact with someone.

I realize that sometimes, this may lead to some type of creepy misunderstanding; but more often than not, it won’t. It will lead to connection; to two humans seeing each other and not turning away simply because of fear or awkwardness.

How do you feel about eye contact? Do you live in a place that has lots of friendly eye-contacty people, or do you live in a place where it doesn’t happen at all?

Does it depend on what part of town you are in, or what type of location you are in? Maybe the time of day, or the way you feel?

Do you think that our ability to talk to random people on park benches should be improved, or should it be left to whither in the dust while we all get really, really good at sharing details of our lives with faraway strangers?

If You Don’t Want to Be A Zombie, Wake Up!

Have you ever been talking on the phone with a good friend and they start laughing for no reason, then get very focused on something else, and then their voice trails off mid-sentence…and it all seems to have nothing to do with what you are saying?  You suddenly aren’t sure if you are crazy or if maybe they are.

Your Friend is Not, In Fact, A Zombie.

You find that they are actually playing a video game, watching a show, looking online at videos, or texting someone. It dawns on you that you could have better spent your time talking to the dog, because at least he would be paying attention. You feel silly for having been talking at all; duped out of some of your precious minutes on this planet talking to a zombie that temporarily took over your friend.

Our ability as humans to multitask is rather phenomenal. But I fear it can get out of control. Have you seen the movie Wall-E? In it, people are riding around on hovering chairs, talking on the phone to each other even if they are a foot away. Food gets served automatically, and their feet never touch the ground. They don’t have to use their muscles, and they are doing everything all at once.

Have you ever texted someone just because they were downstairs and you didn’t want to get up? I have. It starts there, and only gets worse.

I was talking to my sister about making this very post, and as I was talking to her I was also writing a zip code on an envelope; my voice trailed off and the taste of hypocrisy rushed in. She hardly noticed of course, because she was playing a game on her new iPhone and listening to some horrible music. Zombies talking to zombies.

What to Do?

My goal is to start to become more aware of when I am multitasking and when I am not so that a choice can be made.

Maybe I’m fully capable of talking to someone while checking my WordPress stats and also looking at Facebook and researching something for my job. But what about just talking to my sister, what about just looking at Facebook, what about tasting the feeling of one thing at a time? I can choose to do this more often than not if and only if I am aware of the difference. But why is this effort even necessary; why not just live in a multitasking frenzy?

Writers Need To Experience Things

The best writing, to me, is in tune with reality. Whether it is fictional, fantasy or non-fiction, it is using elements of reality to evoke a response.

Details are going to come through in my writing more successfully when I witness them fully. I want to be aware of how it feels to speak to my sister, to hear the nuances in her voice, to listen to what she is saying and how her voice rises and falls depending on the topic. I want to feel my own heart beat faster as we start laughing about something, to feel the edges of my face lift in a true smile as she tells me about one of her accomplishments. These are things I cannot notice if I am half-listening to her and half-checking to see how many people are clicking on my blog’s fancy new Facebook page (hint, hint).

Let’s Look Out For Each Other, Shall We?

This can be a community effort, on some level. Your friends don’t want to disrespect you. They don’t want you to hang up the phone feeling awkward and misled. But you need to tell them how this makes you feel; we need to stick together so that we don’t end up as a bunch of osteoporosis-riddled people on hovercrafts with no ability to look each other in the eye.

In order to be a good writer, you need to be willing to live, to listen, to experience. Otherwise, all you have to go off of is hearsay. And that is boring; even a zombie could do better. Let’s not let that happen.

Do you prefer to multitask and get lots of things done at once?  Does that somehow help you improve your skills as a writer, blogger, mother, artist, or any other talent?

Do you think that you have a good ability to do one thing at a time?

Do you think it really matters, or am I just bonkers?

I’ll Take a Side of Mindfulness With That: Food, Mood, And Writing

Everything that you feel is fuel for your writing, and everything that you do affects how you feel. So if you want your writing to feel differently, perhaps you can play with the things you put into your body and mind.

Sometimes writing is incredibly fun and nourishing, even if we are doing it for some non-fun reason. Other times, writing an email to a close friend feels like a burden. Why is this?

Your life is a giant three-dimensional puzzle of causality. Everything you do affects other parts of the puzzle. Food is one of the things that has the most measurable and dramatic effect on our mood. If you go for a swim in the morning and then eat some mango, the afternoon will feel different than if you ate pizza for breakfast while watching Jerry Springer.

But how mindful are we of how this food affects our bodies, outside of the initial moment of tasting it? And what does this have to do with writing? We are not writing in a vacuum. We are writing from our bodies, always. If you sprain your wrist, it will show in your writing. If you are in a bad mood from eating too much sugar, it will show in your writing. So how can we work with this?

Continue reading

Investing Wisely: Mindfulness, Money, and a Porch Garden

A recent porch garden

My little organic porch garden complete with Rosemary, Sweet Basil, Spicy Basil, Lemon Basil, Sage, and Oregano.

There is one thing that I have neglected to do in my life; and that is make financial investments. My money is all in my bank account, and half of it just got spent on a bed.

There are times that this truth makes me worried. But lately, there is something that is becoming abundantly clear.

I have spent the last fifteen or so years investing in my emotional well-being in the event of disaster.

I know, I know. Nothing quite beats a big cushion of cash when the you-know-what hits the fan. Your house gets blown away, you can buy a new one. Your spouse wants a divorce, you can get a fancy lawyer. You get tired of your repetitive job, you take off to a new country for as long as you feel like.  Money can do a lot of things.

But it can’t really save you. Not really.

A mindfulness meditation practice, on the other hand, fills in the eerie and often denied missing space left behind by money. While money is a giant robot tromping through a field of wild flowers, mindfulness meditation can slip behind it and nourish all the broken stems back to health. Where money comes in to throw a big electronic plate in front of the sun for relief, mindfulness practice strolls by and hands you a brand new pair of classy shades. Money wants to pave the world in rubber to protect your feet; mindfulness gives you a new pair of cruelty-free shoes. Mindfulness wins, hands down, because it gives you the power to deal with the things that money tries to shield you from.

I have a porch garden. Bet you thought I’d never get to the point of the picture. My porch garden, as you can see in, is quite small. It consists of a few plants; all of them go good in spaghetti sauce, and each has a wonderful way of growing towards the sun.

This porch garden has led to a lot of thinking on my part lately. You see, it makes me feel happy. When I walk out with my wine bottle full of water, ready to touch the soil and keep it all appropriately wet, I feel like a little off-shoot of mother nature herself. When I untangle the stems and try to figure out how to take what I need from the little guys while helping them to grow better instead of hurting them, I feel like a mad scientist of nature; some kind of fairy-winged Einstein. These things make me good, no matter what type of day I am having.

Maybe it is the fact that I care about these little dudes, and I want the best for them. Caring about any creature is a cool thing to do, but usually the creature bears more resemblance to ourselves. Plants enjoy water and sun, and that’s about as much as they have in common with us. Of course, they are made of cells and love chlorophyll and there are other similarities; but the point is that they are not as similar to us as, let’s say, a dog or a hamster. Those creatures have two eyes, cute little hands, an appetite for cookies, and a nose and other things. The plants are just sitting there, growing, drinking, and sunning themselves happily. Some humans do that; but not the interesting ones.

I have been realizing lately that the things I have invested my time and energy into, such as my Reiki practice, my massage practice, my writing, my mindfulness practice, and my brief little relationship with EFT, all go a long way to helping me when disaster strikes.

Of course, it would be nice to have lots of money to rely on too. But would that really help? At this point, I am not so sure. I am wondering if it would actually just make it easier for me to avoid life itself and seek the next “solution,” the next “thing” that would get me to feel “better” when really, all I need is a whiff of basil.

A lot of recent conversations that I’ve had have revolved around the fact that worry and anxiety are rather useless. If something “bad” happens, you can deal with it in the moment. If I want to worry about my dog, my car, my boss, my friends, my street, etc, then anything can happen and there is no way for me to act appropriately in order to prevent it.

If I trust, however, that I can deal with whatever does happen when it happens, then suddenly I am free to enjoy the moment. Suddenly, I have my power back. For it is impossible to decide to take responsibility for your feelings when you are living in the past or the future, living in worry or anxiety or panic; it is impossible to then make a choice about what to do, how to feel, and how to love. It’s like being trapped in an out-of-whack time machine when all you really want to do is make a cup of tea and watch the sunset on this very evening.

If you are aware that it is the present moment, and you are enjoying it without fear or hesitancy for the future, then you have your power. You can choose what to do, with or without money, because you will still be fine. You will face and deal with whatever things arise because you are there to deal with them. If the stove catches fire, you can deal with it. If your dog freaks out, you can deal with it. If someone close to you is hurt, you can deal with it. It doesn’t make it so that “bad” things don’t happen; because that is not up to you. But it at least lets you only experience them when they are actually happening, rather than when they are not.

It is like uncovering a super power. And all you have to do is invest; not your money, but your time. A few minutes a day of meditation, or of mindfully coalescing with your plants. A little bit of Reiki meditation for those that are trained, or of research into a Reiki class near you if you are not.

We are brought up to see that money can save us, that money can be there when problems arise. But the secret to all of it is that you can be there too; your brain and soul and being can be there to work with what happens in the event without trying to run away with things that money can buy.

Mindfulness meditation is my investment for the future. It is my way of knowing that no matter what, I will be able to be present to the best of my ability, and to work with what is happening with integrity and authenticity.

What type of emotional, financial, or educational investments have you made? Are there other types that I haven’t thought of? How are they working out for you?