Busy Being Humans

An old song of mine that has words related to duality http://jenniferstuart.bandcamp.com/track/let-the-noises-in-2

An old song of mine that has words related to duality http://jenniferstuart.bandcamp.com/track/let-the-noises-in-2

The Buddha pointed out long ago that we do not have a solid self. The denial of this fact can lead to suffering.

I’m noticing that we are expected to feel, often times, one way. Either hurt or happy, sensitive or tough, falling apart or totally together.

I’m noticing that this isn’t true to most of our experience.

If someone gives me criticism, it is one of the most potent times for me to notice that split. On one hand, I may really try to take in what they are saying so that I can fully absorb it. On the other hand, I may be a little hurt in a little kid way. On the third hand, I might be touched and thankful that they actually gave me feedback at all.

But it’s hard to put all of those things into a tidy sentence in the moment, or to wear it as a sensible facial expression.

When you think about how we are presenting ourselves to much of our world right now, via Facebook and texts and twitter and anything else, this idea is even more pronounced. You write a single status update, for every single friend. You send a text with no voice intonation, maybe even to someone you just met who doesn’t know the nuances of your speech patterns. We constantly seem to be in situations where having one thing to say or feeling one way is appropriate, expected, and normal.

This seems simple enough, doesn’t it? I think it’s a nice thing to think about, especially as we listen to other people talk. It’s sometimes useful to remember that every feeling has a whole lot of others that are also there, not always expressed, and not even always incredibly conscious.

My theory is that the more we all are aware of these things, the less we will feel like we are “doing it wrong” when we actually are just being humans, and the expectations apply more easily to robots. And the more we allow for this type of thing in others, the more everyone else gets to feel less isolated themselves.

I just lost my well-loved job. Now is a time of many mixed feelings. Maybe that’s why this topic is on my mind in this way. I spent a lot of the day making jewelry on my living room floor, listening to local music and thinking about the future. I have to figure something out soon, and until then, I’ll sell  necklaces at little markets and spend what I saved as little as possible while I wait for more potential work with the same organization to come back.

But yes, these are interesting times. I hope everyone is well, and I hope that I’ll be writing more often soon, I know it feels so great when I do!

Do you think that you often times feel just one way, or is it usually a mix?

Do you feel like it’s easy to express that mix in a way that people understand?

Do people ever expect you to feel one way when you don’t?

I love Facebook, but…

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The other day Peaches made a post where she mentioned liking Facebook for a particular reason, and it got me thinking.

I realized that I also love it, but I have problems with the way I use it at times. I decided to make a list of what I love about it, and the things I try to remind myself to keep these things from getting out of control. Maybe you can relate.

1. I love Facebook for helping me to keep in touch with my family,

…but I also try to make sure that I don’t let this replace phone calls to hear how they are actually doing.

2. I love Facebook for helping me to know what type of activities and concerts are going on in my area,

…but I also try to let myself stay in and read a book without feeling guilty for not going out every night and taking advantage of my lively city. This can easily turn into “You’re boring for not doing enough,” and I try to watch that feeling and not let it get out of control.

3. I love Facebook for letting me share my music and writing with the world because it feels good when people give it attention,

…but I also intend to not rely on external validation to determine how I feel for the day. If I post a song and nobody listens, it doesn’t mean the song is bad or I am bad, it just means nobody listened or took time to tell me that they did.

4. I love Facebook for helping me stay aware of news topics and things that matter to my friends,

…but I also try to not get into a zone of just reading one thing after another without absorbing any of it. This causes my brain to feel numb and my eyes to hurt. Also sometimes, I am prone to getting more interested in the drama surrounding some topics than the topics themselves, which really has never led me to any new awareness.

5. I love Facebook for giving me something colorful and interesting to look at in between other things I do online or to get my mind off something,

…but I also realize that this can quickly become mindless and distracting, and I intend to not have this type of relationship with it for more than a few minutes at once. I also intend to check in with myself after using it sometimes to see if it really helped me feel more centered, or if it made me feel more fuzzy. This is especially good to pay attention to when it’s late and I’m bored. There are just better things to do.

Lesson Learned:

This list reminds me that things done with fabulous intentions can become detrimental to my overall well-being when I don’t explore the ways that I use them or have mindfulness of when usefulness melts into uselessness. 

Cleaning, for example. Today I cleaned while listening to a great album by Chris Strand and felt amazing and grounded while doing it. Other times, I clean furiously and think about things that piss me off. The quality of my energy afterwards greatly depends on the energy I put into doing it to begin with.

The same is true for so many things- dog walks, showers, drinking tea, singing in front of people. The energy I approach the activity with and maintain during it really affects how mindfully I do the activity and how grounded or present I feel afterwards.

Gentle presence is a feeling I try to cultivate because it really helps me to offer more to those around me and to feel like I’m actually living my life instead of watching it pass me by. But a baseline level of mindfulness is necessary to even catch myself as I start these activities..so it’s a big cycle, and one that I love devoting so much time to.

Do you feel like you have a healthy relationship to things that you do, and are you like me where sometimes the activities can slide into something un-useful at times?

Hope you all are well!

What Am I Doing Wrong? (or, You Can’t Outrun Something That Hovers)

This is a thought that is sprinkled in some of my days like corn syrup is sprinkled into the average American diet. It’s not the centerpiece by any means, but as soon as you start reading labels, you realize it’s everywhere.

It’ll come up for little things, like when people un-like my page on Facebook. Yeah, I notice those things. I have just a hair over 100 people, so it is obvious when it shrinks. What am I doing wrong?

Some people have lives that seem to make logical sense. They never have a problem with their reflection in the mirror, they sing without fear, they have dogs without socialization issues, what am I doing wrong? They remember to call their grandmas, they drive around to places whenever they want, they make all the money they need, they don’t get shy. What am I doing wrong? During one day or another, one of those things will be more important than the rest.

I started thinking about the question in more detail. What is the question itself made out of? If it is preserving my mindsets like corn syrup will preserve a muffin? Can I choose to eat an apple instead?

I feel like the question will have a subtly destructive effect on my mental health day by day, like corn syrup would have on my pancreas, until there is some full-blown problem that could have been avoided if I simply weeded it out and learned to live without it.

Let’s face it. Things with corn syrup are delicious until we stop eating them and realize they were addicting us with their illusive charms. What am I doing wrong may have a similar strength to keep me addicted without letting me realize how much I wouldn’t miss it if it was gone.

Maybe I think it helps me grow. Does it?

I don’t think that ever once that question has led to a productive result. It’s not an inspiring first step. Instead it seems useful to start with:

Why Do These Goals Matter To Begin With?

Values. It’s all about the values, isn’t it? Why do I have the goal of having a successful blog? Why do I have a goal of accepting my reflection in the mirror, singing, calling my grandma?

There’s a different answer for all of these. I’ll stick with the blog thing. My goal is to have a successful blog because I value the feeling of offering useful things into the world. I am fed when the people around me are fed, literally and metaphorically. If they are sitting by a tea tree lake in Australia, even better.

I value the feeling of writing something real. Of being comfortable with vulnerability.  I can’t control the success of my blog. But what I can do is realize that when I add things that I find useful, when I keep putting out the thoughts that have inspired me, I feel nourished. Then I can choose what to do next, and it will come from me feeding and following my values rather than trying to outrun my fears or self-criticism. Those things don’t even have feet, they just hover. You can’t outrun something that hovers.

Just some thoughts for a Thursday evening.

Can you relate?

I welcome all thoughts below!

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?

Checking Stats: The Deception & Addictiveness of Simplicity

I noticed an interesting event a few mornings ago when I looked at the clock the second I returned from a dog walk. “Aw, 10:15 already?” I said, but a nanosecond before looking at the numbers, my mind said “you’re going to think it’s late.” I realized that no matter what the numbers on the clock were, I was going to think it was late, because I was feeling rushed. It had nothing to do with the numbers.

Numbers affect me. I’m competitive in some ways. If we start playing a card game, I’ll want to win really, really bad. Not for any good reason. If there’s a game of me versus myself, I’ll still want to win. And that is where the stats come in.

Noticing the Impact of Stats & Numbers

Many of us use WordPress Stats, and any other social sites you are on may also have them. The musically oriented Soundcloud, for example, recently added one big box that just says “Views today” and “Views Yesterday” side by side. You can see in one nanosecond whether or not you had more views today or yesterday. That shift really caused me to see how much my brain is attracted to and affected by rather meaningless numbers.

It happened instantly. I wanted the number to be bigger today than yesterday.

The same happens with the Facebook page for my blog. There are even red and green arrows showing how many more or fewer people saw my posts each week, and they affect how I judge myself, the blog, and the value of it all. It’s not always conscious, but I want to be told “Good Job!” by the numbers just like I tried to always get A’s in school. I don’t like red arrows pointing downwards and telling me that I did worse today than yesterday.

The Difference Between Stats & Meaning of Stats

Maybe yesterday I got 800 blog hits and today I have 12. Maybe today though, someone sends me an email and tells me that because of reading my blog, they realized they wanted to stop harming themselves. Or maybe that happens and they don’t tell me.

According to the stats and my stat-focused-mind, the 800-hit day was better. According to my meaning-focused mind, the 12-hit day was better, unless I don’t know about that person and their decision. According to the dog, the best day was whichever one included bacon.

The world is bigger than those stats but it shrinks to their size pretty darn fast. They can seem to eclipse all else, at least for me, especially if I’m already in “a mood.”

What does this mean? I don’t know. Just that it’s something to pay attention to.

Why Do Some Of Us Love Numbers?

My guess is that it’s because they are concrete at first glance. It’s easy to look at Soundcloud now and say “Yesterday I did better than today” because of those huge in-your-face numbers that you can’t get rid of.

I can go to my blog’s Facebook page and look at the red arrow pointing downwards telling me that I have 357 fewer views this week than last week and feel like I did “worse” this week. This week was “bad”.

Good/bad, right/wrong, dark/light, sick/well, these things are addictive because they are deceptively clear and simple. They let us ignore the feeling of being uncomfortable, of stepping into new territories, and of facing the moment in an authentic way that does not rely on duality for judgement. stats 2

And I think the developers know that. Numbers cause an instant reaction. I get a slight rush when the numbers go up, almost regardless of what they actually indicate. A minute ego-boost happens when they go up. When they go down, I want to fix it. Like a rat in a cage trying to get pellets.

Using This In A Useful Way

On that morning I realized that the clock was going to be “too late” no matter what time it said, I made a decision inside. That decision is to pay attention to how numbers affect my mind. To remember that the picture is always bigger than the numbers, even if that’s less comfortable to perceive or acknowledge.

Since I know that my particular brain is prone to latching onto the numbers in their alluring simplicity, I can keep a special eye on that. My world doesn’t need to be reduced in that way, regardless of what imaginary safety that provides in the moment. This is not restricted to statistics.

This goes for feelings of success/failure, good/bad, awesome/sucky. Any time I attempt to judge myself in this black or white way can probably be looked at more closely because in reality, things are never quite that simple. I’m going to see if this shift helps me to react less to these numbers and to let go of some of the habitual overly-dualistic thinking and self-judgement patterns that don’t quite serve me.

Your Turn:

How about you, do you have a huge tendency to check stats and numbers? Do you have a Facebook page with those red and green arrows, and do you use them or try to ignore them?

Have you found ways of making real use of the numbers and stats for your overall purpose on this planet, whether it’s to help people or make money or make art or anything else?

Are the numbers useless?

Are the numbers just here nor there for you and they are easy to ignore or look at without getting too attached?

 

Related posts for inspiration:

A Lateral Plunge: The Natural Laws of Blogging

The Therapy Booth and their Facebook page with the Don’t Worry Clock!