Spirituality & Victim-Blaming: Exploring Our Desire for Control

This morning I listened to a talk on Radical Forgiveness. I was enjoying some of what the author was saying, but this part pissed me right off:

“When I first started to do this work, I was working with people who have cancer. It’s well known that people who tend to get that are people who have a hard time processing their feelings. They tend to repress them, and they have a hard time forgiving.”

Now, maybe I’m just oblivious to all those studies that have linked cancer to repressed feelings. Last I knew, anyone could get cancer and certain things put you at more risk. And repressed feelings happen for a whole lot of people, welcome to society. Why the need to take a good idea of radical forgiveness and make it somehow relate to a disease that many people fear? Many teachings by famous authors seem to take this route of turning otherwise mindful and loving practices into magic tricks that can help you avoid certain fates. I think it comes down to a built in desire for control, which we can become more aware of. When we are more aware of it, we can notice that moment when we start blaming victims out of our own fear and shift that into actual compassion.

Drawing Correlations is Natural

People seem to be natural experts at coming up with ways of understanding the world and drawing correlations between one thing and another to avoid suffering and danger. If awesome things happen the two times I wear a necklace in one month, it becomes a lucky necklace. If I have a bad day, maybe it’s because of the food I ate. I draw connections all the time for myself to search for control.

The way that some spiritual circles draw these correlations and connect them to huge topics like cancer, accidents, or other forms of suffering has irked me for some time because even though the intention is not to place blame, it shows up like a shadow whenever someone needs to prove that their particular magic trick is working. They can have their idea for how to avoid suffering, point to someone else in a less desirable position and say “See? What I’m doing is clearly working because I’m not over there right now.”

The quest for control leads us to blame no matter how you cut it. If you are manifesting your dreams and they are all coming true, and your friend is having a horrible year of lost jobs and broken relationships, then logic would have it that your friend should simply make a Dream Board or whatever and start manifesting like you are. Because if you are in control of your good life, your friend is in control of hers as well.

Lack of Correlation & Control = Scary

It’s rather scary to think that sometimes, shit happens and it’s unfair and there is absolutely no way of preventing it or finding a pattern. It’s much nicer to feel like there’s some control and a solid reason.  You are born into devastating poverty? It’s probably past life karma, or else you just haven’t read the freaking Law of Attraction enough times. You have cancer? Maybe you should try letting go of your trauma or avoiding GMOs. You have depression? Just start thinking positively, you’re attracting too much negativity, man.

Of course we all want to be healthy as long as possible. Of course it’s nice to think that if we have it good right now, there’s a reason for that and we can somehow prolong it. Of course it’s fun to feel like we can attract what we want. But in the end, the body breaks down, no matter how much you manifest health and well being. That’s a natural part of life, and it’s the one thing that we know for certain. We can have compassion and love for others much more effectively if we aren’t in a state of blaming them or holding them responsible for their suffering just so that we can feel in control of ours.

Day to Day, not Life or Death

It’s okay for an idea to be a great idea without it also being a way to escape certain types of suffering or death itself. Learning to forgive is awesome, but it doesn’t guarantee you a life without cancer. When you say those two things are correlated, you are making people responsible for the condition they are in. Being aware of your thoughts and intentions is cool, but it doesn’t mean that you can avoid relationship issues and accidents. Pretending those things are correlated is putting the responsibility of disasters onto the people who suffer through them. For your end of the correlation to work, ugly stuff has to happen on the other side.

Personally, when I implement an idea into the day to day, it’s a lot less stressful or fear-based than when it feels like life or death. If an idea is presented to me and instigates that desire to find causality and correlation in order to avoid certain types of disasters, I would like to be more aware of the blame that inherently arises as soon as I think I have that alluring kind of control. Because without that sense of control, I do have a lot more compassion and vulnerability towards life in general.

How about you, do you think that what that guy said is as infuriating as I do?

Do you feel like you control and are responsible for the things that happen to you? Do you feel the same about others?

Did you take some time to gaze at the sky today?

 

Can Mindfulness Melt the Snowball of Numbness?

A couple of days ago, I meditated for almost five minutes. I used to do 20 minutes every other day as a bare minimum. I realized that after sitting, my mind was so much more in perspective.

I think that I’m a person who has a lot of thoughts. Maybe not more than most people, but more than some. My mind knows how to race and when I start to take every single thought seriously and try to weigh them against each other, I feel almost like I’m drowning. It leads me to making parts of songs and parts of blog posts pretty frantically, without actually finishing or loving any of them. Maybe there is no room for the stillness and experience of love when the world is racing so fast.

The sitting practice helps me to remember in a very experiential way that each thought is simply a thought, and that I can let some of them go without any horrible ramifications. It also seems that the farther I get away from that practice, the less I engage with other mindfulness activities like Yoga or even just basic stretching. I start getting addicted to the madness and afraid of the silence and stillness that I pretty much forget is even there.

It makes me wonder about addictions in general. The more frantic my mind gets, the more I start turning to alcohol and coffee and cigarettes to find some sense of comfort and ground. Of course, all of these things provide the exact opposite in most cases. But that doesn’t stop the craving for them when my mind is in such a state.  Partly because the thought “I should go get beer” is harder to see in perspective when I haven’t been engaging in my sitting practice.

Another thing that happens, which is pretty embarrassing to type, is that my mind tells me that the chaos and substances will help me to be more creative. Of course, I start writing more often sometimes when I’m in that state, but it’s not usually writing that I end up being proud of or using for any real project. It seems to be a rationalization built out of an addiction to numbing behavior, and as long as I can call it that to its face every once in awhile, it’s rather easy to get out of.

I wonder how many other people experience the swing in the way that I do, where it seems like the farther away I get from health and groundedness, the more I begin to seek out that chaos instead of things that bring me back. It’s quite interesting.

I hope you are well and I hope that getting back into my practice will leave me with more semi-useful things to blog about rather than the zillions of half-finished posts that you never get to see :)

Do you have numbing behaviors that seem to snowball into each other?

Are you just always able to be healthy and happy and motivated to be good to yourself?

 

 

 

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!

Productivity: An Escape from Death?

Productivity is very interesting.

 

Some of us are of the belief, intentional or otherwise, that unless someone is being productive then they don’t deserve happiness. Mostly those of us in that category aim this belief at ourselves more than others.

Others couldn’t care less about productivity, and some even think it’s bad.

My own relationship to productivity is rather interesting. Sometimes, I’m addicted to it. Other times, I’m thinking I need to take a break from it but even that break becomes focused on being productively unproductive. When I think of spending an hour without it, my stomach turns into a cat and tries to escape through my mouth.

Why is that? Is it the culture, my parents, my schooling? Is it my inherent uncomfortableness with my own vulnerability,  my impermanence in this world? Do I secretly think that as long as I’m doing something productive, the Death cloak guy won’t notice me on his rounds?

I really don’t know.

The nonsense of the situation hit me yesterday when I was talking to a dear friend. He said that when he gets up late, he pretty much hates everything. It’s a feeling I can relate to. If I wake up late, my boyfriend and dog stay well out of the way because I am going to be grouchy. And why? Well, because I didn’t get anything done.

But while talking to my friend, I realized that even if I do get up earlier rather than later, all I really get done is more coffee drinking and dog belly rubs and maybe some more sleepy Facebook time. Nothing really productive there, and yet, I’m mad when I don’t get the chance.

Productivity is like many emotions and substances. It can be useful and it can also be a weapon we use against ourselves to play the shame game or otherwise divorce ourselves from the tenderness of the present moment.

For me, productivity hardly has any meaning. I feel “productive” when I make songs, when I write, when I make jewelry, walk, do Yoga, meditate, practice guitar, read an informational book or a fiction book with the intention of learning from it, and when I cook. But to cultivate inspiration for some of these activities, I need time to just dilly dally and do whatever feels natural. And when I feel like I “should be” working on music, then taking a walk won’t feel productive. But when I feel like I “should be” getting “more exercise,” a walk feels more productive than making music. There’s just no way to win unless I label the feeling and let it exist without taking over my entire moment of experience.

So here is my intention to be more aware of when I use my productivity or lack thereof as an excuse to make myself feel “less than” in the present moment.

Do you have an interesting relationship to productivity?

What does the word mean to you?

and, more importantly, have you missed me? :) I apologize for lack of posts lately.

Curiosity, Meet Convenience: Hidden Stories

Remember that feeling in middle school where you introduce a friend to your parents, and you feel torn in half as you suddenly  realize there are different and sometimes incompatible versions of yourself to keep track of? Sometimes that feeling still happens when you introduce friends from different circles to each other. You are different versions of “you” with both parties and suddenly you have to find the middle ground, and it’s not always comfortable.

Blending Worlds to Deepen The Depth of the Moment

I am many people throughout the course of the day. Sometimes, I am mindful and curious and aware and gentle. Other times, I’m fast, furious, focused, and indulging in the convenient.

But the other day the two worlds met. I was eating a corn tortilla and found myself wondering how many people’s lives were involved with the whole process of making them.

From the plastic wrapper they came in to the fields the corn was grown in to the design of the package and the light switches at the factory that pumps them out. How many people were involved? Hundreds, thousands, perhaps millions if you really got right down to it (since each piece of the factory was made in another, and those people were technically involved with these tortillas…you get the idea). Who turns off the lights at the factory, what do they eat for dinner when they get home from work?

Singing Songs to the Cows

I spend half my time in a rural area. I sit on the porch and watch cows. One of them has big white spots and he’s going to turn into food someday. I watch him graze and let my heart ache a little with the awareness of his imminent demise that he has no idea about. He’s just eating grass in the sun.

But someday, people are going to eat him. They will taste the burger and not think of the girl that sat on the porch, folded book on her lap and spiderweb-filled mini-guitar singing songs to the cow as he nibbled on grass by the river. They won’t think of her or her story at all, just the food on their plate and other things on their mind at the time. How could they possibly know about her, never even mind what she had for dreams last night or for breakfast or how she gazed curiously at her corn tortillas.

I wonder about these stories that can infuse our convenient moments with curiosity. It’s easy to buy a package of corn tortillas, but it’s also possible to have curiosity for them.

Loosening the Grip of Our Own Story

In the past few days since the corn tortilla incident, I have applied this type of curiosity to other things and moments that otherwise can feel rather habitual. Brushing my teeth, making coffee, walking around the grocery store. And I’ve discovered something wonderful.

Stories are everywhere, curiosity can always be kindled. Every item on the counter, every car in the lot, every person walking by- stories on top of stories on top of stories.

It’s fun to jump into another story to see the context of our own. It can get us out of our own head, and it can bring some magic to an ordinary moment. It can also be great fuel for the imagination for writing stories and songs or working with a business problem in a new and creative way.

I feel moved to share this little tidbit because it has really stuck with me, and getting to stuck in our own story can sometimes limit us in terms of what we imagine. Imagination is great, use it whenever you can, especially when it can bring you a greater amount of gratitude and appreciation and awe for the little things in life like corn tortillas. glowy jen and zeek on couch

Are there convenient things that you take for granted a lot that may contain stories you never even imagined?

Do you think that it would be fun to look at life with this type of curiosity sometimes, or would it just make things too complicated?

Do you stare into lit up windows and wonder about the people who live inside and what they might be like?

I hope everyone is well :)