Stuckness

Old rainbow

This new song has double the listens of any of my others.. http://soundcloud.com/starshipjenerprise/twine-by-jennifer-stuart

A few things have happened recently.

One is that I turned 30.

Another is that I got a music fan who is 9 years old, and more badass than I’ve ever been.

A third is that my morning glories have started thinking about blooming.

I go through rapid phases of self confidence that comes from my heart and a feeling of utter insecurity and doubt. Usually they follow each other in annoying little circles.

I wonder if I’m addicted to attention, or if I’m becoming that way. Or if I’m delusional, or if I’m just very, very smart and if eventually that realization will stick.

A big lesson lately is that things don’t last. Not good things like love and dogs, but things like anger and repulsion towards someone or myself. These things pass. It becomes really clear as I continue my work in a contemplative community where being present is key.

When I’m present, I’m not attached to the mean things someone said to me last week when I see them this week. I know that anything can happen, and I know it from experience. Most importantly, the more I can let go of the assumption that the icky feelings will last, the more open I am to having new fresh exciting and possibly pleasing ones come in.

This is all for now. Thoughts, reflections. Vague, but possibly more universal than they feel at the moment. 

On a side note, I have a column in Kickass Women’s Music magazine. You can find my first entry here. The column itself is about Music and Mind and relating to various aspects of playing music with mindfulness. There’s an audio thing that pops up with a lady talking, just mute it if you want to read instead. 

I hope everyone who still reads Enjoy Life for Once is well, I hope to make more posts soon and more potent and pointed ones, but right now this is all I’ve got.

Are there any feelings that you’ve had for a really long time about someone or yourself that feel permanent?

If you could change one feeling that you have, for someone else or yourself or a situation, what would it be?

These are fun things to think about, even if you don’t want to comment on them. Just imagining the changes is sometimes a good step in the direction of actually allowing the stuck things to move.

Try it out. :)

Harness Your Inner Opposite Day!

The other day I had this thought, and it has turned out to be a really useful one.

To set the stage, it was late at night. I fell asleep reading in a cozy bed with a dog at my feet. I believe my mind was saying something like,

“God I don’t want to get out of bed to brush my teeth. I just want to keep sleeping.”

And then it went,

“I wish I wanted to brush my teeth. How would that feel?”

And I proceeded to pretend like an actress that all I wanted to do in the whole wide world was get out of the cozy bed, put my feet on the carpet and walk myself to the bathroom to brush my teeth. I even pretended to look forward to the feeling of cold water.

The result was rather amazing. It made it a lot easier to do it than when I was fighting off my loathing for leaving the coziest place in the universe.

I continued to try this with other things.

“I am going to be so nervous when my friend asks me to sing with her later.”

Pause.

“I cannot WAIT to sing with my friend later. It’s going to be so fun. I am just so excited to see what happens!”

and then, even:

“I wish I never had to sing in front of anyone, ever. I don’t want friends. I don’t want to sing. I hate the whole thing!”

Like Goldilocks and the Three Bears. Sometimes you have to play around with extremes to see where you actually want to be.

The thing is, there are always many ways to see things. But usually we just stick with the first one. “I don’t want to do the dishes.” “I wish it was sunny out.” “I am not the kind of person that would enjoy walking in the rain, playing an open mic, dancing with a stranger, eating a salad for dinner…” anything at all. We get stuck and save time by not bothering to see things in the less familiar way.

We get these fixed notions, but what about trying for fun to see the same thing in the opposite way? And then maybe, a third way? A made-up way? A way that just reminds our brain that really, the first notion we have about the way something “is”, especially when that something is as complex and lovely as our human being selves,  is not necessarily the ideal one.

Just some thoughts for a Tuesday. I’m hoping that by continuing to do this, I’ll get through some aspects of stage fright and other patterns. Even if that doesn’t happen, the process of doing this is fun and leads to some cool perceptions. This picture, if it was moving, would display me singing in front of a new friend. So clearly, something is working.

Do you ever think about things in an opposite way just for fun?

Are you going to try it?

Do you know some of your most solid beliefs or ideas that you wish could change but you are just positive that they won’t?

Do you remember being different than how you are now, and wondering if life would ever change?

I hope your week is going well!

 

 

New Year’s Resolutions: Are You On the Bus or Off the Bus?

Following the patterns of flowers, we can see that blooming happens during all times of year, depending on the surrounding circumstances.

Following the patterns of flowers, we can see that blooming happens during all times of year, depending on the surrounding circumstances.

A lot of us make New Years Resolutions. There’s something lovely about them. A fresh start with no real conflicting feelings.

Other holidays have a different charge.

Thanksgiving can make my stomach turn thinking about the grace of this continent before strip malls and highways, Easter just feels odd and lost, Christmas can be a slayer. But the eve of New Years is pretty neutral, even though the whole year thing has something to do with Jesus.

The holiday is at least not a direct celebration of that, for those who are of different faith. It’s fun for lots of people. A fresh beginning.

People want to lose weight, to quit smoking. They want to learn French, or to send more query letters out. They want to save more money, spend more time with family, get a new floor finally. Whatever it is, they want to do it, and the first of the year is a good start because last year is shed like an old skin easily and effortlessly with the drop of a glowing ball in New York City.

This, my friends, is some magic worth harnessing.

Feelings are like Touring Bands

When your favorite band goes on tour, you probably make an effort to see them. Maybe when you are at the show, you feel painful sadness ripping the insides of your ribcage as they play the songs that tore you apart when you were younger. Maybe you dance and have fun, or just film the whole performance with your i-thing. Whatever you do, you show up, and you let yourself feel things because you paid good money to be entertained and emotionally affected.

Normal everyday feelings are like that too, except they don’t sell tickets and they don’t really give you a choice. They show up and do what they want with your ribcage or your endorphins, and sometimes you film it with your i-thing. You’re along for the ride.

One thing I sometimes do with some feelings is memorize them. It’s generally so that I can better write about it later in a book where the main character happens to be feeling the same thing. How does the floor feel under my bare feet when I’m sad, how do the walls look? How is this different when I’m happy, or during that moment when sadness fades into objectivity? Can I find that moment if I pay attention to the sadness carefully enough to catch it?

It’s fun to do this for various reasons. For one thing, you might end up writing better characters if you like doing that. For another thing, you aren’t fused with the feeling quite as intensely. You are noticing how the feeling feels, which means you are bigger than it, and that’s great when it comes to trying to live your life with more awareness.

New Year’s Eve: The Power of Letting Go

Even though New Year’s Resolutions are mostly about new beginnings, built into that goal by default is the feeling of letting go. Letting go of patterns that we want to stop, letting go of addictions we want to drop. It’s as if there’s a magic bus that pulls away from our stop every December 31st at 11:59pm, and offers us the chance to succeed with ease this time if we just jump on.

But I’ve got news, folks. That bus is always running, every half hour on the dot right on your street corner. You just have to get on.  But you can’t do that if you can’t see it, can you?

Harnessing the New Year’s Passion of Letting Go & Seeing the Bus

I can’t tell you how many rejection letters I’ve gotten from fiction magazines. But the thing is, as soon as I started putting out queries to magazines about psychology and consumer issues, I got more of a response. That’s because I have far more experience with those things. Now I’m focusing on them a bit more and realizing that I was rather short-sighted while being obsessed with fiction.

Letting go of trying to become some fiction expert relieved me of a heavy burden. The rejection letters that come trickling in don’t affect me like they used to because I’m not letting them impact my self-esteem. They used to, though, to some extent. I let go of that. Which is a surprise, because I generally find it awful hard to let go of anything.

But letting go is great. Letting go is natural. Letting go gets us places because we get better gas mileage. Celebration

So that’s my New Year’s inspiration post for you guys. Remember the letting go, remember to harness the feeling of “New Years” and allow yourself to indulge in that magic bus ride to easy-change during the rest of the year as well, because just as a passion flower blooms during November in Austin and in the summer in Connecticut, year-long cycles are always beginning.

How about you?

Do you guys have any great New Year’s resolutions that you want to publicly declare in this space?

Do you think the whole business of resolutions is rather silly?

Am I wrong about this holiday being a neutral one, is there something that should really be pissing me off about New Years Eve? I’m ready for it!

And last but not least, happy New Year!

Mini-Post: Bringing Life to the Dead Zones of Routine

I’m experimenting with a mini post. Life is all about trying new things, right?

Today Enjoy Life For Once’s Facebook status was:

Pick a routine today, especially a dull one. Doing the dishes, tidying the living room, packing your bag. Devote ten seconds of the time to just paying attention. Feeling the water on your hands, feeling your legs. Notice the colors, the sounds around you. Bringing fresh attention to the dead zones of your day is a great way to start making friends with the present moment, which is where your power to change is.

Do you ever try this technique? What kind of results do you see?

How many times during the day do you think that you are unaware of things where you could be more present?

 

For me, I noticed that when I spent time paying attention while doing the dishes, the routine became more enjoyable. I felt more collected afterwards, and even felt moved to clean up the living room a bit, noticing the weight of each pillow in an enjoyable way.

It was nice.

I would like to try doing that more often, since “doing the dishes” is one of those things I always assume will be horrible.

Are there routines that you despise, that you do begrudgingly, that could perhaps get some fresh life into them if they were less bothersome?

 

The Process of Pathologizing Among New Healers: Let’s Get Clear.

Many of us are healers of various types. We want to heal with our words, our hands, our songs, our science. We want to heal and help, and this is so natural to us. Or so it seems.

Sometimes we are already wondering this..so when someone thinks they can tell us, we want to believe them.

Sometimes, we have a tendency to want to heal others because we ourselves have been wounded. If those wounds are still tender, then we may not be aware when something is triggering us to shut down, even as we try to help them.

Sometimes, I feel that someone can listen to me and pathologize my experience, especially those who are trying to help.

This is something that I must do as well, so I figured we could explore it here and perhaps find some tools for the future!

 

What Do You Mean, “Pathologize?”

Pathologizing according to the Merriam Webster dictionary is

To view or characterize as medically or psychologically abnormal.

 

If I say that I’m thinking about something a lot lately, and you ask me if I’m obsessed with it, that is sort of making me appear sick. It is taking something simple and giving it a loaded label.

The same is true if you tell me you are feeling down, and I ask you if you are depressed or worse yet, if I say something like “Wow it sounds like you’re depressed” or another statement that makes it implicitly easier for you to agree, consciously or unconsciously, than to argue with me. Really, there are better questions to ask than that and better ways of going about trying to help someone.

Why Is Pathologizing Dangerous?

Maybe it’s not dangerous. But I do think it gets in the way of a more pure and simple understanding that comes from compassion and empathy. It bypasses the process of curiosity and zips right into labels; and not just any labels. Charged labels, judgy labels, labels that you then have to talk yourself out of.
And the funny thing is, these labels can also make us feel like better healers. That’s right. If I decide that you’re depressed when you say you’re sad, and by the end of our conversation you sound happier, then I sort of cured your depression! in some messed up unconscious way. If I simply talked to you long enough for your natural mood to pass, then that’s less cool for me and my ego, but it might be the reality.

The Value of Curiosity

I realize that I am probably notorious for this process of pathologizing or else I wouldn’t notice it so sharply when other people do it. I must remember that having a curiosity for the reality of someone else is one of the best things that I can do. It teaches me to slow down and to have that same curiosity for myself, rather than to zip from “wow I’m sad in this moment” to “I must have a raging case of undiagnosed depression and I better make sure I don’t accidentally bring others down with me.”

The charged label is simply piling on layers that then become harder to get rid of, especially for those of us that are already hard on ourselves.

But Isn’t there More Anxiety And Depression?

Psychology Today has an interesting article on this topic. According to the article, depression and anxiety are becoming more commonplace because the normal human experience is being labeled as such more often, not because these states of mind are becoming more common. Furthermore, the author talks about how the labels are not meant to be taken as being solid things. They are meant to be used for the therapists to do their job more effectively, not to label people. The article is quite good, I recommend it!

With easy access to WebMd and other sources for self-diagnosis, it’s no wonder that more of us learn these terms and try to use them on ourselves, and on each other. It sounds better if we say “Sounds like you have an acute episode of a semi-psychosomatic illness brought on by environmental stressors” than if we say “I don’t know how to really relate with your experience at this moment, maybe you could call a therapist or just come over for some tea and we can hang out.” Or however it works with your relationship.

Is this from the influence of the pharmaceutical industry, who just love getting their chemicals on your neurotransmitters, or from people eating more additives in their food and having finicky immune systems? Who knows, but one thing remains clear:

We Can Stand Up For Ourselves

I know that personally, when someone gives me an insult, it can stick if it’s something that I already partially believe. For this reason, if someone labels me in a way that I’ve been labeled against my will in the past, then I may get a little triggered. I may feel the need to defend, or an impulse to believe them. Maybe I AM obsessed, maybe I AM in denial, or whatever.

I haven’t spoken to my therapist in years, and if I do, then I can hear whatever words of wisdom she has and take them in. She’s licensed, she knows me, and it’s her job. The people that may mean well but that throw out these loaded terms simply to try and understand something are most definitely not in the same position as she is to be, as they say, “going there.”

If you hear loaded terms from anyone who is trying to help you and is not a therapist, perhaps there is something that you can say back to them. Or someone you can talk to about the situation to see what they think, such as a real therapist. For now, I’m going to remind myself to use this question:

This is easy, simple, doable. Whatever someone says, whether they are my therapist or a stranger on the bus or a person I just met, I can ask them “Why use that word?” if they use a word that I find to be particularly charged.

I don’t know if that’s what you should do. I don’t want to pretend to have advice that I don’t have. I do know that if I get better at using some Nonviolent Communication, or NVC, then I might end up with more creative solutions to this issue.

I also know that trying to do this will help me at least to be aware of when the feeling of resistance or being triggered arises. If I can notice it, I can ask this question, and perhaps help the people I talk to become aware of when they are doing it, and help myself to do the same.

Do you have any experience with this, has someone ever used powerful words to describe your experience when you feel they are out of line?

Do you have friends that offer unsolicited therapy advice? Is it hard to turn it down or tell them to stop, or do you love when they do it?

Are you aware of the words that are most charged for you? (I’m not asking you to share them, though) Do you think that being aware of them can help you when people start using them unskillfully?

I hope you all have a great week!