Sunday, July 28, 2013

Ouch!

Today I am utterly and thoroughly grief-stricken.  Heart broken.  Drenched in a watercolor sadness.  Usually when we feel something strong like this, our tendency is to want to run away or completely indulge.  The problem is we stop feeling and we start thinking, strategizing how to make the feeling go away or creating a story about how and why we feel so badly.  

For years I have been aiming to practice the Buddhist instruction of "don't act out, don't repress".  This is perhaps one of the trickiest parts to being human.  How do we just let ourselves feel completely the what is of the moment, and then like a passing thunderstorm, let it dissolve?

Descartes said "I think, therefore I am".  But he may as well have said "I think, therefore I am suffering".  Our obsession with our thinking minds leads us to create suffering upon suffering.  I could think up a million and one reasons why I feel the way I do.  Give you a laundry list of the sad and frightening things I've experienced. 

But what if I just let it be?  Whatever it is, just let it be exactly how it is without commentary?  What if I accept this gripping pain?  Tune into how it feels in my body, give it permission to move, to wash over me, to help me surrender to the moment.  Moment by moment.  

I don't have many other options.  Drugs and alcohol?  No.  Sex?  No.  Exercise?  No.  Death?  No.  Comfort eating?  No.  Television?  No.  Shopping?  No.  And my stories I've heard so many times before.  Plus I'm exhausted.  So perhaps I have been pummeled into the fortunate position of being completely alone with nowhere to go except inside, with no escape except learning to abide.  It's hard and it hurts.

Descartes was somewhat right, thinking does create the ego-sense of "I am".  Yet it's a fallacy, a misperception, the core illusion of our confusion.  The ego can't exist without the thoughts it generates.  "I am" falls apart in the absence of thinking.  Lost in thought is delusion.  Thought, and its naughty cousin, talking, keep us imprisoned.  We could get by on much less thinking and much less talking.

Drop the thinking.  Find your heart.  FEEL your heart.  Make space for emotion to move.  Let raw, naked emotions arise, crest, and dissolve.  Witness the energy and sensations.  

Let go of the urge to justify, analyze, compare, question, suppress, deny, act out, ruminate, wallow, quantify, stagnate, reject, exaggerate, minimize, modify, perseverate, review, fix, embellish, theorize, and judge.  

Look.  See.  Let it be.  Liberate.

This is how to master emotion.  Feel.  That is the big secret.  Sensation energy happens in the body in the present moment.  Resist making residue.  Love and let go.

Abide like the sky.

May we all find the fortitude to feel, to be human, to be gentle with ourselves, and to open our hearts.  Let this be our practice.  It is simple.  It is not easy.  Think less.  Feel more.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

How are you?


How are you?  It seems like such a simple, benign question.  Yet it almost always catches me off-guard.  Is anyone else as baffled by "How are you?" as I am?  I like the the memorized, robotic answer you practice when learning a new language.  Memorize the question.  Memorize the answer.  Como estas?  Muy bien, y usted?  How great is that.  When speaking Spanish, I am always very good.  End of story.

But in English, I get a little confused.  Do they mean how am I now, in this exact present moment?  How am i generally?  How am I spiritually, financially, psychologically?  How am I compared to how they think I am?  How am I compared to how I used to be?  Is the question rhetorical?  Metaphorical?  Casual?  Am I supposed to be honest? How now brown cow?

I get caught up in my own mind games just by being asked "How are you?". Sometimes it seems an invitation to list a bunch of complaints, or to list a series of accomplishments, or to list how many errands I have done so far today.  I'm perplexed.  And since it happens quite often, it seems time to face the demons.

To bring a complete end to this daily dilemma, I have devised a study.  We will call it the "How Are You Study".  It is longitudinal.  Which means it will last a long time.  Anyone can participate and you can opt out at any time.  Here's how it goes:

For the first ten years of the study, starting now, every time you are asked "How are you?"  these are the answers you can choose from...

1. Better than I've ever been.
2. Phenomenal.
3. Super deluxe.

Notice the responses you get from other people.  Write them down.

So that part lasts until July 21st, 2023.  The middle part lasts until 2033, it includes neutral answers.  Here are the replies for the years 2023 to 2033:

1. Beep beep.
2. Woof woof.
3. Oink oink.

Keep a journal of how the neutral responses make you feel when you use them.

For the last part of the study from years 2033 to 2043, we will experiment with "negative" answers.  Here are the choices:

1. Tired.
2. Overwhelmed.
3. Stressed.

But then go on and on, elaborating on why you feel that way and who is to blame for your feelings.  Write down how that makes you feel.  Remember:  you can opt out at any time.

Okay, then in 2043, we will all get together on July 22nd in a location of my choosing, probably the Canary Islands, and we will discuss our findings.  Briefly.  Mostly we will just enjoy each other's company in complete silence, watch the ocean, meditate, and enjoy delicious food.  

To officially enter the study, raise your left hand over your heart, feel its beat, breathe deeply, and say "I promise for the next ten years, when someone asks me how I am I will say either "Better than I've ever been. Phenomenal.  Or super deluxe.  I realize that all my feelings are valid and I will give space to them even when I am answering the question with the requisite answers.  For purposes of the study, I will stick to the outlined replies and see what happens."  Now walk up to a mirror and kiss yourself on the lips.  How are you? 


Friday, July 5, 2013

WOWGURT!

Reconstruction of mind, body, brain, and condo pictured above.  House and I are on the healing path...it is a daily effort and takes a lot of helping hands.  I bow in gratitude to everyone who is supporting my life, health, and happiness.  Thank you.  Merci.  And gracias.

Lately I have been pondering the myriad miracles of daily life.  I recently read "Pronoia" by Rob Brezsny and can't say enough good things about it.  The subtitle is "How the Whole Universe is Conspiring to Shower You with Blessings".  The book helps turn the mind to what is working, what is good, what is inspiring, what is amazing.

How much WOW FACTOR do you have in your life?  I say bring it on.  Pile it on.  Become a hoarder of wow.  Actually it is easy.  For starters, just think that you came from a sperm and an egg uniting somehow and then a bunch of things happened and cells started forming.  And now look.  A full-grown human body.  And for all its problems, it is actually working pretty well.

My second wow element is to invite the BIG AND into your life.  Here's how:  I have PTSD and I am happy.  I am physically handicapped and I make jokes.  I have daily pain and I am cheerful.  I get triggered, frustrated, annoyed and inspired, uplifted, amazed.  AND.  It's the new but.  Try it.

If you really want to be wowed read "Journey of the Universe" by Brian Swimme.  His eloquent, short book of how the universe began and where it is now will knock your socks off.  I mean come on, the whole universe started out as a teeny, tiny speck and now look.  A full-grown, expanding universe.  All the elements, including the ones in your body were created from stars.  We are made of stardust.

The final wow...and this is going to require some kitchen time, is YOGURT.  I read that cultured foods are shown to help PTSD.  So don't you know I started making my own fresh yogurt.  It fun, easy, and yummy AND it will really wow you.  The first time I made it, I couldn't stop opening the fridge to look at the jar sitting on the top shelf, aglow in the light, like a little miracle right in my kitchen.  Even if you don't eat dairy, make some yogurt.  I promise you will have fun and you can wow your neighbors with a gift - add some organic strawberries for extra delight.

Here's how my wowgurt journey started.  Like all good things, there were dark moments, but...i mean and, in the end, wow won the day.

I had high hopes of using local, organic, grass-fed, raw milk bottled in glass.  This is not a simple wish as it turns out.  You would have an easier time securing medical marijuana than you would getting something as wholesome and natural as milk from a happy, local cow who dines on grass, not corn and soy.  And has never ingested anything made by Monsanto.  I called several grocery stores, dairy companies, and researched the world wide web.  In the end, I compromised.  I found organic, grass-fed milk in a carton.  For now, it will do.

You might live somewhere where it is easier to get the coveted local, organic, grass-fed, raw milk in a bottle.  Perhaps that deserves an acronym...OGFRMB.  Ogfrimbee.  We must all demand it, so it finds a place in the market!

Once you have your milk, here's what you need.  The directions are simple AND you have to follow them exactly, or you won't get wowgurt, you'll get yuckyurt.  Trust me.

INGREDIENTS
1 quart OGFRMB or other best milk you can find
3 tbsp plain yogurt with active cultures (once you have your batch you can use your own)

EQUIPMENT
2 quart stainless steel or non-reactive pot
Candy or deep-fry thermometer
Large stainless bowl
Small whisk
Wide mouth glass jar with lid
Large towel or small blanket

METHOD
1. put milk into pot over medium heat, bring to boil
2. when milk boils and starts to poof up, turn off heat
3. pour into bowl, put in themometer
4. let temperature drop to 110 degrees
5. meanwhile, whisk 3 tbspn yogurt in the bottom of jar
6. when milk reaches 110, pour a little into the jar, maybe 1/2 cup and whisk
7. pour in rest of milk, put on lid
8. wrap jar in towel, place in another bowl or box to protect
9. place in warm location and if possible, turn on a warm light above it
10.  wait about 5 hours and check, if it looks thick then refrigerate, let it sit up to 7 hours longer for thicker and tangier wowgurt

HOLY COW YOU JUST MADE WOWGURT!  Isn't it fun?  And no silly plastic yogurt container to recycle.  And you can use the milk you love.  You can make extra and give to a friend.  You can strain it for extra-thick greek yogurt.  You can add flavorings.  You can reflect on the gifts nature gives us to make things.  That somehow milk can become wowgurt.  That you are made of stardust.  That the whole universe is conspiring to shower you with blessings.